Spencer isn't there the day that Brendon gets Bogart, but he gets a camera phone picture within the first hour of Bogart actually being Brendon's. It's slightly out of focus, Bogart's nose too close to the viewfinder, his half-stub of a tail a blur in the background.
He waits another half hour and then gives Brendon a call.
"I love my dogs, Spencer," Brendon says as soon as he picks up, and he sounds a little breathless, his voice edged with laughter, in that way Spencer knows means he's been giggling for quite awhile.
"They've been fucking chasing each other around the house for the last twenty minutes. They think-- they think they're in, like, the fucking Indy 500 or something. Or maybe Dylan's just embracing her greyhound heritage?"
"Could be," Spencer says. He's smiling already, because in the background he can hear yips and quiet whoofs, the sounds of doggy nails on hardwood floors. "It's about time she embraced her roots."
"It is," Brendon says. Then, "Dylan! Bogart! No!" Spencer pulls the phone away from his ear for a moment, but then Brendon's saying, "Sorry, they're trying to use the end table as a, like, fucking hurdle or something." Then, "Bogart! Stop it!" Then, "And now they're practicing slip-n-slide on Regan's throw rug." Then, "Dylan!" Then, "Sorry, they're--"
Spencer's laughing too hard by this point to truly hear what Brendon's telling him. He says, "Dude. You go, I'll catch you later, okay?"
"Yeah, yeah," Brendon says. "I should-- Bogart! Yeah, um. I'll talk to you later!" He hangs up, and Spencer spends a few moments grinning at his phone.
Ten minutes later, Brendon sends him another picture. This time, it's of Bogart out in the yard, Dylan a blur behind him. Again, the picture is mostly nose and mouth, but this time, there's a nasty ass tennis ball clenched in Bogart's teeth, already slobbery and dirty and chewed.
Spencer texts back, lovely.
A minute later, his phone beeps. Another picture, Dylan and Bogart together, a tangle of doggy limbs and tails on the grass. Spencer smiles and puts his phone in his pocket.
The first time Spencer meets Bogart, it's just a little past o'dark thirty in the morning, closer to dawn than nightfall, and Spencer knows that there are reasons and advantages to doing the redeye flight thing, he really does, but he's sure as fuck not remembering them right at the moment.
So, he takes a cab from LAX to Brendon and Shane's, spending 45 minutes staring blurry-eyed out the windows as the highways and streets pass him by. The skyline is just starting to be edged pink-orange-blue when he finally gets to the house and he wonders if he's going to have to ring the bell, wake everyone up to announce his arrival. He's lucky, though, because when he opens the car door, he sees a light on in the kitchen, Shane at the table there, and when the cab driver slams the trunk of the taxi closed, Shane looks up, waves. By the time Spencer makes it onto the front stoop, the door is open and Shane's giving him a hug, saying, "Dude, fuck. It's been too fucking long."
"It has," Spencer says. Because it really fucking has been. Before he can say more, though, he hears the somewhat muted sound of nails on linoleum, click-click-click, the thump of a tail hitting furniture, and when he looks down he sees Dylan and Bogart walking out of the kitchen, tails wagging cautiously, as if unsure whether anyone who arrives this early in the morning is truly welcome.
It only takes a moment for Dylan to recognize him as a familiar person, though, as a friend who can usually be conned into giving out doggy treats when Brendon and Shane have put their respective feet down, and then she yips and bumps her head at Spencer's knee, tail speed moving up more than a few gears. Spencer laughs and crouches down--so tired he sways just a little with it--and then Dylan is balancing her front paws on his knee, nosing at his chin, and it's impossible not to laugh, so he does.
Bogart seems to take this as his invitation to do his own greeting, but since he's never met Spencer before he spends more time at it, sniffing Spencer's shoes, then hopping up onto Spencer's thigh, trying to balance all four paws there while nosing at Spencer's hand and neck, then swiping a tongue up Spencer's cheek. Both dogs end up on the floor pretty much immediately at that point, as Spencer wipes his face on his t-shirt, but neither seems to care. Indeed, Bogart just rolls over onto his back, tail thumping the ground, and Shane says, "I think he likes you."
Spencer grins up at Shane, leaning down to rub his fingers over Bogart's ears.
"He is pretty cute," Spencer says.
Bogart's tail thumps more loudly against the floor.
Spencer decides that Bogart is somewhat less cute five hours later, when he wakes up to the view of a doggy nose right the fuck there, almost pressed to his own. He's startled, okay, which is the only reason he scoots as quickly back across the air mattress as he does.
Because, see, he just wasn't expecting a Bogart so early (late) in the morning, is all. Especially since he decidedly remembers shutting the door behind him, he does, when he'd finally gone to bed.
This is about the point at which he registers the sounds that Brendon makes when he's trying really fucking hard not to laugh and is failing somewhat miserably.
"Fuck you," Spencer says, rolling back towards the center of the bed and burying his face in his pillow for a moment.
"Your face!" Brendon says, and he's totally giggly, too fucking awake for Spencer to deal with right now.
"Fuck you," Spencer says again more forcefully, despite the fact that his voice is still muffled by the pillow. He hears a snuffling sound, feels a wet nose against his ear, and Spencer would push Bogart away, he would, but Bogart's lying down next to him now, curling up against Spencer's side, and Spencer's still too fucking exhausted to do more than think about moving.
"Sorry," Brendon says, not sounding sorry at all. "I just. I was going to run down to the store and thought I'd, you know, say hi before I left. And tell you that I was leaving, so you wouldn't wake up and think we'd, like, fucking abandoned you already or something?"
"And also try to scare the shit out of me with your dog," Spencer grumbles.
"That too," Brendon says. He laughs again, and says, "Come on, Bogart. Come here. We're going to let Spencer sleep some more. Come on."
Bogart presses back against Spencer for a brief moment, a flash of resistance, but then he's hopping off the bed and trotting after Brendon, barking as Brendon closes the door again.
Spencer falls asleep to the sound of the two of them walking down the hall.
Spencer doesn't really have a plan for his time in California. It's more, Brendon had said, "Yo, you should come stay for awhile," and Spencer had said, "I could?" and the next week, he'd woken up on Brendon's floor.
So. He doesn't have a plan, but it's not like he's really a guest either, and it only takes him two or three days to slot himself into Brendon, Shane and (most days) Regan's routine.
After that first morning, he usually gets up around ten, when Brendon and Shane do. He takes his turn in the kitchen rotation, pulling cereal boxes out of the cupboards, milk out of the fridge, turning on the coffee pot, filling the dogs bowls. Twice a week he actually cooks, making eggs or pancakes or french toast or something.
"You're spoiling us," Regan says during the second week, dabbing at her mouth with her napkin, trying to smear the powdered sugar from the french toast away. Spencer ducks his head, not-quite-blushing.
He starts going to the beach with them, too. Not every time they go, but most of them, and it only takes him two days before he rents a surfboard and wet suit and tries his hand at this whole surfing-as-a-lifestyle thing.
The first day he tries it, he comes back to Brendon's sore as fuck, feeling bruised from head to toe. He takes a hot shower, then collapses on the couch to watch Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmare repeats on BBC America, only moving when Dylan hops up next to him and drops a red rubber ball between his face and the TV. It rolls with the dip of the couch, of course, coming to rest against his neck, ugh, and Spencer manages to maneuver his arm so that he's able to pick it up, toss it lightly across the room. Dylan leaps after it, sliding across the floor, knocking against the coffee table as she passes it by, and then Bogart comes trotting into the room to see what all the fuss is about.
After that, they're both chasing the ball, tackling each other in an attempt to get to it first. They're well trained enough now, though, that whichever one of them does get it brings it back to Spencer, dropping it on the floor by his hand.
An hour later, Spencer wakes up to the sound of a camera clicking, and he has to blink twice before Brendon comes into focus. Brendon's grinning, looking far too pleased with himself, fond, and that's when Spencer notices the two warm weights on his chest, the twitch of a tail against the skin of his inner elbow.
"Shut up," Spencer says, raising a hand to flip Brendon off.
Brendon takes another picture before Spencer realizes what he's doing, and when Spencer waves his raised finger a little more firmly in Brendon's direction, Brendon laughs.
So, Spencer settles into a routine, but during the third week, he's totally minding his own business, sprawled out on the couch in the living room, reading Good Omens for the 10th time, when he hears the sound of something metal being dragged across the floor, then feels something else entirely being dropped across his foot.
He looks down and sees Bogart sitting at his knee, wagging his tail in his most ingratiating manner, his leash at Spencer's feet.
It's not like Spencer hasn't helped take the dogs for walks before. It's just that usually he's been accompanying Brendon (most of the time) or Shane (once or twice). He's just--he's more the person who gets asked if they want to come along, who says yes, who makes the very impatient dogs wait five extra minutes while he finds his socks, his shoes, his jacket.
So, Spencer says, "Go ask Brendon."
Bogart tips his head to the side, ears in full triangle mode, like he's trying to figure out exactly what Spencer's saying to him, like he doesn't totally fucking know. Spencer leans down, cupping Bogart's face in his palm.
"Bren. Don," he says slowly.
Bogart barks once, sliding back a step with the force of it, then shifts forward again, paws almost dancing in place. He barks a second time, then bends down to nose at his leash, pushing it closer to Spencer, before looking up at him again, more hopefully than before.
Spencer stares back, but Bogart's tail just keeps twitching, and Spencer can see the tip of his tongue sticking out, can hear the small whine that he makes, too excited to stand it, and--
And Spencer sighs and marks his place in his book, setting it down on the coffee table.
"Brendon!" he yells, standing up. "I'm taking your dog for a walk!"
"Okay!" Brendon yells back, or at least Spencer thinks he does, because his answer is almost completely drowned out by the sound of Dylan running down the hallway to the living room, skidding around the corner on two paws, barking, Me too! Oh, oh, me too!
"Yes, fine," Spencer says, laughing now. "You too."
So, that becomes part of the routine, too.
On the third walk he does by himself, Spencer discovers that there's a dog park not too far from Brendon and Shane's house, and so Spencer starts taking the dogs there a few evenings a week. Five thirty is their time, and it's mostly the same people every day. There's the lady with the dog that looks like a wolf, the three labs, the yorkie, the corgi, the basset, and the labradoodle that sits on the benches with the people and watches all of the other dogs play.
On his third visit, Spencer brings a can of tennis balls to donate to the communal cause. On his fourth, the owner of one of the labs brings an extra frisbee for Spencer to use, since Bogart keeps trying to get in on the game with the labs.
On his sixth visit, one of the ladies says, "Oh, oh, your dogs are so adorable!" and Spencer thinks about saying 'thanks,' or 'yeah, aren't they?', but Dylan and Bogart aren't his, they aren't, so he just says, "Thanks. They, um. They aren't actually mine, though. They belong to some friends of mine? I just. I like having an excuse to get outside for awhile, you know?"
The lady nods, and when he asks about her dog, the basset, she smiles widely, and they spend the next half hour trading dog stories. It's a good way to spend an afternoon.
On Spencer's eighth visit, Brendon comes, too.
"I need to see where you're stealing my dogs off to every week," he says very seriously as they walk the four blocks between his house and the park. "I wouldn't be a responsible dog parent if I didn't make sure you weren't exposing them to unsavory influences, right?"
Spencer flips him off, then bumps their shoulders together, which makes Brendon laugh and elbow him back.
They sit at the far end of the park, on a bench under one of the trees, watching Dylan and Bogart play tag with the yorkie and a new puppy, a springer spaniel. Brendon leans back after awhile, his eyes closed, and he sighs, breathing in. A few minutes later, he turns to look at Spencer, blinks his eyes open, and says, grin wide, "You know, this is nice."
The second week Spencer's there, they replace the air mattress with a futon. The third week, he stops closing his door at night and starts waking up in the morning with Bogart pressed to the backs of his knees.
During the sixth week, Shane sits down at dinner one night and says, "Regan and I are, um. Her lease is up in July, you know, and we were thinking that the time might be right for us to, well--"
Spencer looks over at Brendon quickly, because he's lived with Shane for fucking years at this point, he'd fucking followed him out to California, but there's no trace of regret on Brendon's face. Instead, he's grinning and saying, "Dude, fuck, it's about time."
When they're watching Project Runway reruns on Bravo that night, though, Spencer notices that Brendon keeps Dylan in his lap longer than usual, lets her hold onto his arm, lick his hand until it's as clean as she can get it.
A week later, Brendon finds Spencer sitting in the TV room, Bogart curled up next to him, his head on Spencer's thigh. He's been dreaming, twitching, his paws kicking out every few minutes, like he's running. Spencer wonders if he's chasing a rabbit, or a cat. A ball.
Spencer looks over when Brendon sits down on the couch next to them, carefully, apparently in an attempt not to wake Bogart up. Brendon nods once at Spencer, then relaxes back on the couch.
Spencer's not even truly sure what he's watching, but during the next commercial break, Brendon says, "So, um. I guess in July I'll have a real guestroom, huh? With, like, a bed."
Bogart twitches against Spencer's leg, partially rolling over, and Spencer sees that Brendon's rubbing his belly, tracing the small cowlicks of hair.
"Or, you know, if you wanted to stay," Brendon says. "For like, you know. A while. You could, um. You could have first dibs?"
"I could," Spencer says, and he's not quite sure whether he's agreeing to stay, or to have first dibs, or-- "Yeah," he says. "I could-- that would be. Yeah."
When he looks over at Brendon, Brendon's grinning, and he maybe rubs Bogart's tummy just a little too hard, because Bogart startles, sitting up sleepily, then scratching at his ear. It only takes him a moment longer than that to register that his very favorite person has joined them, and he climbs up into Brendon's lap, licking at his chin, and Brendon says, "Bogart, Bogart, Bogie, hey."
So, it's not the first fight they have about album number three and Spencer knows that it won't be the last, not by a long shot, since they've barely even gotten started on the whole process.
It is, however, the first fight they've had about it while Spencer's been crashing at Brendon's house.
It's also the first time in a long time that Spencer doesn't have his own space to go back to, mountains to wander through, or a roof to climb and a joint to smoke. He can't drive to his parents house, sit at the kitchen table and watch his mom cook, or tease his sisters about their boyfriends over dinner until he can replace the memories of Ryan and Brendon's annoyed glares with their own.
This time, he has to spend an hour in the car with Brendon as they wend their way back to Santa Monica, and it's not that Brendon's even mad at him, Spencer knows he's not, but it's more the whole situation. Because, see, Ryan and Jon have notebooks full of lyrics, the beginnings of melodies that they've been working on for months. They've written harmonies for Brendon and Ryan, some for Jon. They've been busy, taking the foundations of Pretty. Odd. and continuing down that path, and they've spent the last few days laying it all out for Brendon and Spencer and they're so fucking proud of what they've got and Brendon--
It's not the music that Brendon wants to sing.
Spencer knows this. Brendon hasn't explicitly told him so, not in so many words, but Spencer can tell.
And it fucking sucks, okay. It sucks a whole fucking lot. Ryan kept looking at Spencer, waiting for Spencer to back him up on this since that's what Spencer's always done, and Spencer just--
He wants to play.
He wants to experiment.
He wants to bang the shit out of his drums and make music that slides from jazz to pop to rock and back again, with maybe a little Latin beat thrown in, and he and Brendon have been fucking around with some stuff, too, songs that don't fit in with Ryan's overall vision, and--
Spencer fucking hates this part of it.
After over 15 years of friendship with Ryan Ross, though, he also knows how the creative process goes: how Ryan and Brendon push at each other and keep pushing until they're nearly bleeding with it, and how their music ends up being the better for it.
But, it's not easy. It's never been easy.
So, Brendon's too loud on the drive back to LA, singing along to the Peter Gabriel playlist he brings up on his ipod. He smiles too widely, the corners of his mouth sharp with it, and Spencer's not surprised when, three minutes after they step through the front door, Brendon shuts himself in his room.
Spencer stands in the front hall for a few seconds longer, long enough for the dogs to come greet him, for them to look hopefully at their leashes, so eager they're nearly dancing in place.
Instead of succumbing to their obvious wishes, though, he says, "Not now, not now," and thinks about going to his own room. Before he gets farther than a step or two in that direction, though, Dylan barks and races for the door leading to the backyard. It's habit by now for Spencer to follow behind, to let the dogs out, and all it takes is one breath of fresh air for him to step outside too. He finds a ball in the corner of the deck and tosses it, watching as Bogart leaps over Dylan in an attempt to get there first.
When Bogart brings it back, dropping it on the toe of Spencer's shoe, Spencer says, "Good dog," and leans down to scratch Bogart's ears. Bogart wags, wags, licks at Spencer's wrist. He barks once, then nudges at Spencer's hand until Spencer finally picks the ball up, until he finally tosses it across the yard again.
The dogs take off running again and Spencer watches them go.
In the morning, Brendon's smiling again.
He's smiling, dancing around the kitchen to one of the little songs he likes to make up on the spot: this one is about the can of Iams that he's currently using to fill the dogs' bowls. The dogs are dancing at his feet, so excited, and Spencer just leans against the doorway into the kitchen, watching.
Brendon doesn't startle when he sees Spencer, but his grin is a little strained for a moment.
He says, "Sorry about--" and he would probably say 'yesterday,' but Spencer shakes his head and cuts him off, because Brendon has nothing to apologize for. It's part of the process. Spencer knows how the process goes.
And that's what Spencer says. "It's part of the process. We're just getting started. We'll make it work." Spencer swallows once, then continues. "Besides, you fucking know I'm going to back you on anything that can never in any way, shape, or form be played with a tambourine, right?"
Brendon laughs, sharp and surprised, and Spencer smiles back.
And Spencer's right: things get better.
Things always get better, this much Spencer's learned over the years, and they're going to fucking Africa, right? Which is so fucking awesome Spencer's not quite sure how to handle it.
Because five years ago, see, if anyone had told Spencer that this is what he'd be doing with his life--that he'd be flying around the world, making this his living--he probably would have said something like, "Dude, I fucking wish, you know?" But somehow he's really, truly here, and it's awesome, and just--
It goes too fast.
Because there's the show, and they take in a safari or two, and see a corner of the world that Spencer's only ever dreamed about and--
And then they're back in LA, and they're feeling so inspired, so ready to do this, to get the next album started and--
And Spencer's not sure what happens, actually, because one minute he thinks things are progressing better than they have in months and then the next? The next there's yelling, and then Brendon goes cold and silent beside Spencer and even from across the room Spencer can see that Ryan's mouth is too tight, his shoulders at awkward angles, and he's looking at Spencer like he's betraying him for not agreeing with Ryan's carefully constructed ideas, and Jon is staring at Spencer helplessly, and Spencer--
And as Spencer sits there, he starts to realize that it might actually be possible for Ryan and Brendon to push each other too far. For them not just to bend with it, but, in fact, break.
And that is a fucking scary revelation that Spencer's not quite sure what to do with.
He's even less sure what to do when Brendon stands up and says, "I can't--I just can't fucking do this with you right now, Ross. I just--" And then he's walking out of his own music room, up the stairs to the main floor, and Ryan's looking at Spencer like he's about to go off, and Spencer's about ready to tell him that he doesn't want to hear it, because he really fucking doesn't, when Jon says, "Ry."
Five years ago, it would have been Spencer saying that.
So, they leave. It takes Spencer another twenty minutes to venture upstairs, to find Brendon sitting on the grass out in the backyard, Dylan in his lap, Bogart curled up at his knees.
Brendon looks at Spencer as Spencer sits down, as he pats his knee and waits for Bogart to take the invitation, which Bogart does, gladly.
"I just-- I'm not sure that I can--" Brendon starts, quietly now, his knee brushing Spencer's as he shifts his weight. He sounds just as scared as Spencer feels.
Spencer nods, feels Bogart lick at his knuckles. "I know," he says.
Later, he's not sure if that's the exact moment that he realizes that this time, things might not actually get better in the end. If it's not, though, he thinks that it probably should have been.
Jon goes back to Chicago, and Spencer would hate him for that, for escaping like that, but he can't. Not when it's been a long planned trip. Not when he wants to do the exact same thing. Go home. Hug his mom. Have her tell him that everything will be okay.
Instead he has Brendon acting like Spencer's going to bolt at any moment, go back to Ryan's side; he has Ryan, who's not calling, not responding to Spencer's texts, who's talking about being in the studio with Alex and Mike. He's just--
It's easy to lose himself for bits of time. They go bowling; they go out for drinks with Regan and Shane. They carry Shane's cameras and sound equipment around for him on an afternoon shoot and Shane talks about how he has to get the two of them in front of the camera at some point.
In the evenings, Brendon will challenge Spencer to a game of Mortal Kombat, and they'll end up pressed shoulder to shoulder, elbowing each other as they attempt to kick each other's asses. Or maybe they'll watch a movie, sprawled out at opposite ends of the couch, kicking at each other as they each attempt to take up as much room as they can.
But there are other times: times when Spencer's phone beeps, telling him he has a new text message, and he wonders if it's Ryan; times when Brendon goes down to the practice room without Spencer and just plays; times when Spencer goes down to the practice room by himself and does the same.
Those are the times when it's hard to forget.
So. He begs off of an afternoon surfing session and takes the dogs to the dog park, tosses the ball until they're too exhausted to run any longer, until they've finished one of the bowls of water between them and are collapsed at his feet. He watches the yorkie chase the corgi, the labs chase the frisbee from one end of the fence to the other.
He stays there for an hour, two, longer, then pulls out his phone, dials an always familiar number, and when it's picked up, he says, "Mom?"
The day after Spencer arrives home, Jon sends him a picture from the beach: Brendon and Shane, surfboards under arms, dogs trailing at their heels. He writes, wish you were here.
Spencer thinks, me too, because it's true, it is. But he can't be there, not right now. He writes: catch a wave for me.
Half an hour later, Jon sends him a picture of a wave. He writes, caught.
The third day he's home, Brendon starts sending him pictures of the dogs.
The first is of Dylan asleep on Shane's chest, a half chewed rawhide caught in the crook of Shane's elbow.
The second is of Bogart at the dog park, trying to wrestle one of the labs to the ground to get the frisbee first.
The third is of Dylan and Bogart at the ends of their leashes, tails held high, pulling at Brendon's hand, which is a blur at the edge of the frame.
The eighth day, Jon sends him a picture of Brendon's practice room, empty, and when Spencer calls him, Jon says, "They're just-- I want--"
Spencer sighs, nods, and says, "I know."
He wishes he didn't.
The ninth day, Ryan sends Spencer an email. For Ryan, it's an apology. He doesn't say the words, because Spencer knows him, knows that he doesn't think he's in the wrong, and maybe he's not. Maybe none of them are. He explains his vision again, words flowing, painting the picture, and Spencer knows what Ryan's saying, he does.
He's not sure that that's what he wants anymore, and it's still as fucking scary a thought as it was a week ago.
That night he helps his mom wash the dishes, then sits down with her at the kitchen table and says all of the things he's barely let himself think. His mom nods, looks sad, places her hand over his and squeezes.
She doesn't tell him it will all work out, but she says, "Honey, whatever you decide, it will be okay."
It's not until midnight that he actually checks his phone and sees the picture that Brendon sent at some point during the day. Bogart, asleep on Spencer's futon. Spencer stares at it for several long minutes, starts to write several things: :) and I'll see you in 3 days and good night, but it's not a good night, and he doesn't feel like smiling, and Brendon knows that Spencer will see him in three days. So, in the end, he thumbs his phone off, then reboots his laptop and opens up Ryan's email.
He writes I know. and I think we need to talk when I get back to LA. and Lunch?
He wishes that he didn't know exactly what he wasn't saying.
For a minute after Spencer lets himself into the house, he thinks that no one's home, that maybe Brendon and Shane have gone to the beach and that they took the dogs with them. Only for a minute, though, because then Spencer hears Dylan's familiar yip, Bogart's bark, and he leaves his bags in the middle of the entryway as he makes his way to the back of the house.
Neither of the dogs are at the back door when he first opens it, but they're almost halfway there by the time he steps outside. Dylan reaches him first, throwing her head back and scolding him, with a series of yelps, for being gone for so long. Bogart contents himself with standing up on his hind paws and balancing himself on Spencer's knee, muddy claws leaving tracks on Spencer's pants as he slides down again.
Brendon's sitting at the far side of the yard, on a lawn chair that's been dragged from the deck to a new spot underneath one of the trees. He's got his guitar balanced on his knees, his eyes closed, but Spencer doesn't believe for one minute that Brendon doesn't know that he's there.
Spencer takes the steps down to the yard slowly, dogs circling his feet, and he says, "Hey," when he's halfway to the tree. Brendon does open his eyes then and he smiles at Spencer, but it's a fragile look, one that Spencer doesn't know how to fix.
"Good flight?" Brendon asks and he meets Spencer's gaze as Spencer sits down on the grass beside the chair, but only for a blink, two, before he looks back down at his guitar.
"Yeah," Spencer says. "Yeah, it was fine."
Brendon nods. He's resting his fingers on the guitar strings, and he strums a chord, then another, quietly enough that Spencer's not sure Brendon's even aware that he's doing it. As Spencer listens, he thinks that there are things that he should be saying now, things he needs to be saying, but he's not sure how, still doesn't have the words.
Finally Brendon says, "Ryan and I had another blowout while you were gone. Um. You should probably be glad you weren't here."
"I should have been here," Spencer says, because he doesn't know what else to say. And maybe he should have been. It doesn't seem quite right that in the future, Brendon, Ryan and Jon will probably all view that argument as the final nail in the group's collective coffin whereas Spencer will get his final moment tomorrow.
He can't really think of any other way for the next day to go.
Brendon shrugs and plays a line of something that Spencer doesn't know; he could very well be making it up on the spot.
"I'm going to have lunch with Ryan tomorrow," Spencer says, and Brendon does look up then. His fingers stop where they are on the strings, melody cutting off abruptly. His eyes are wide, and he's biting at his bottom lip, and he has to know what they're going to be talking about at the lunch. He has to.
"We'll be okay," Spencer says. "You and I, we'll be just fine." He tries to smile, but it's a weak one and he knows it is.
Still, he keeps looking at Brendon until Brendon nods, ducks his head, and starts playing the melody again.
The day of the lunch was never going to be a good day. Spencer knows this.
Spencer fucking hates this.
Brendon's already gone by the time Spencer finally makes it out of his room in the morning, and Shane's working in his studio, music turned up loud. Also, there are only so many times that Spencer can flip through all 350 channels on Brendon and Shane's cable without finding a single thing that he wants to watch before he admits that he probably needs to get out of the house, too.
So, he drives. He drives the half hour to the restaurant that he and Ryan are meeting at, and gets there an hour early, so he feeds the meter and then sits in his car and calls Jon. Jon, who also has to know what the outcome of today is going to be. Jon, who was here when Spencer wasn't.
Jon picks up on the third ring and he sounds… not wary, but sad, and yes, Spencer thinks, he knows.
Spencer says, "I'm meeting Ryan in about an hour."
"Yeah," Jon says. "Yeah."
Jon won't be the one to say the words, and he's not the person that Spencer needs to say them to first, so he just says, "Yeah."
Jon is Jon, though, and so he only lets the silence last for about 30 seconds before he says, "Did I tell you about what Clover did the other day?" and Spencer wants to tell him that now is not the time for cute cat stories, but then he thinks, if there ever was a time for cute cat stories, this is it.
Twenty minutes of hearing about Dylan, Clover, and Marley shenanigans, though, don't make it any easier to hang up and actually walk inside the restaurant. He gets seated 15 minutes early. Ryan slides into the chair across the table only five minutes after that.
Spencer's been imagining this conversation since that night in the kitchen with his mom, maybe even before that, and he thinks it will be short, really fucking painful. Instead, Ryan smiles, like this is any other lunch, any other LA afternoon. He tells Spencer about the things he's been doing with Alex and Mike, about some of the people he's met, the parties he's been going to. Spencer tells Ryan about Jackie's new boyfriend, a kid who'd tried to engage Spencer in a discussion about cars of all things, and Ryan laughs with him about that in a way that only Ryan can.
And then, an hour and a half later, after they've finished their meal, their desert, after the ice cubes have completely melted in their water glasses, Ryan darts his gaze to the side and says, "This isn't working anymore, is it?"
Spencer says, "No, it's not."
They stare at each other for a long moment then, and Spencer thinks that Ryan's going to tell Spencer he can come with Ryan, that they can still do this, but Ryan doesn't, so Spencer's spared having to actually tell him no. They both know that Spencer's already made his choice.
Instead, Ryan says, "I want--we want to do something different, you know? We want--"
And Spencer says, "Yeah," nodding. Except he doesn't know, because he's really only ever wanted Panic. That's what he knows.
He takes a deep breath then, and he hadn't been planning on asking for this, he really hadn't, because the band had originally been Ryan's idea, and it was Ryan's name, but--
"We're keeping the name," he says.
Ryan looks like he wants to protest, because he has to know that if they keep the name, they keep the tour, the FBR support, everything that they've worked so hard for over these last few years.
But Ryan said it himself. He and Jon want to try something different. So, it only takes a few moments for Ryan to nod and say, "Yeah. Okay." He's not looking at Spencer as he says it.
So that, quite simply, is the end. Too easy, too soon, and Spencer knows they'll be having more (many, many more) discussions in the coming days: about the name, the upcoming tours, the songs that they wrote together. They'll have to tell Pete, the label, the lawyers.
But for now it's just the two of them, and it's an end.
So. They go their separate ways and Spencer thinks that he's doing okay, thinks he needs to go back to the house and tell Brendon what's going on, but as soon as he gets behind the wheel of his car and starts driving, he sort of forgets about stopping. He heads towards the 101, heads north up the coast, enjoying the twists and turns, the way that he has to keep the car under control as he goes. He drives until he's no longer shaking, until his knuckles are no longer quite so white against the black leather of the steering wheel, and then, finally, he heads back to Brendon's.
The dogs are out in the front yard when he gets there, running up to him and leaping at his knees, barking. He reaches down to scratch at their ears and when he looks up, he sees that Brendon's sitting on the front stoop, staring at him.
Spencer's breath catches, just a bit, because--because Brendon's actually looking a little wary, like he's not sure what Spencer's going to say. And Spencer's not quite sure what to say. He swallows, then sits down on the stoop, too, staring at the Mazda parked across the street.
"Ryan and I talked--" he starts, then closes his eyes, because obviously. He takes a deep breath, then keeps going. "We agreed-- The two of us? You and I? We're keeping the name." It sounds so weird to be saying that, so wrong, but at the same time, he almost feels relieved. Almost. "I think we should bring the exclamation point back. I think, you know, that that might be a fun thing to do."
"I--" Brendon starts, and Spencer can see the emotions flitting across his face: pain, relief, complete and utter fear, relief again. Spencer's not quite up to smiling yet, but he nods and Brendon nods back, and then he visibly relaxes.
"Fuck," he says, which pretty much sums up Spencer's thoughts exactly.
A moment later, Brendon sits up straight again. "What would you say to putting a jazz interlude on the album? And, um, you said you liked the beginnings of that Sinatra song, right? Like, maybe we could work up a demo of that?"
Spencer feels like it should be too soon for them to be talking about this, but he nods. He nods and then says, "Fuck," too loudly and possibly a little wetly, because Brendon's wrapping a hand around the back of his neck, squeezing, and Bogart's suddenly trying to climb into his lap, lick at his cheeks, and Spencer, he can't help but laugh at that. He can't.
"Fuck," he says again, more softly, and Brendon just rests his head against Spencer's shoulder and says, "Yeah."
It still sucks the next day, a whole fucking lot.
Possibly because there are a few minutes there, first thing in the morning, when Spencer forgets. He forgets that Ryan and Jon won't be coming over later in the day, or that he and Brendon won't be heading out to Topanga Canyon. He forgets that they're essentially two duos now, rather than a cohesive foursome, and it--
It really fucking sucks.
When Spencer does get up, finally, rousing Bogart from his place draped over Spencer's ankle, he makes his way to the kitchen and finds Brendon sitting at the table already, drinking OJ and attempting to work the crossword. Brendon doesn't look much better than Spencer feels.
Spencer gets the cereal out of the cupboard, pours himself a bowl, and then sits down across from Brendon. He's eaten half it before Brendon says, "So."
There are several things for Spencer to say to that: that they need to talk to Pete, the lawyers. That they need to go down to Brendon's music room and start doing more than just fucking around, tinkering with songs that they know don't fit in with what Ryan and Jon have planned.
The more Spencer thinks about it, though, the less hungry he feels, so he pushes the bowl away and says, "I think--I think this is a day to go to the beach. What do you say?"
Brendon nods, perhaps too eagerly, and it feels so easy to grab the boards, the wet suits, to get in the car and drive. Because this, this feels like any other day. It doesn't feel like they've woken up in this whole brave new world place, where nothing is as it's supposed to be.
And it's a good day. They laugh maybe just a little too loudly at each other's jokes, try a little too hard to keep silence from falling; they ride the waves, lose themselves in the rush of the water, and--
And Spencer makes it until about three, until they're collapsed on the sand, staring up at the blue of the sky, and then he says, "We need to talk to Pete. I--we need to, sooner rather than later."
Brendon's silent beside Spencer, but when Spencer looks over at him, he's nodding. His smile's gone and his knuckles have gone just a shade or two whiter, bunched in his towel. Spencer wants to take the words back, he does, but Pete will excuse them for not telling him in the first 24 hours. Most likely. Longer than that, Spencer's not so sure.
So right there, sitting on the beach, watching the waves come in, he calls Pete.
Pete sounds happy enough when he picks up, saying, "Yo," and "What's up?" and "Dude, Bronx just totally banged out the drum line for 'Dance, Dance' on the PlaySkool drum kit that Andy got him last week, you should have heard it."
He sounds somewhat less happy after Spencer says, "Um. We, Brendon and I, the three of us need to talk. Um. Any chance you're free tonight?"
It goes better than Spencer thinks that it's going to. Perhaps because Pete just lets them talk, lets them tell their side of the story. Spencer has no doubt that Pete will be calling Ryan as soon as he leaves, if he hasn't already, but for now, Pete just listens.
Regan and Shane make themselves scarce before Pete gets there, so they start off in Brendon's dining room, poking at takeout from down the road, while Pete listens. When they move out to the backyard for beers, the dogs follow them, Bogart stopping on his way out the door to pick up a tennis ball in his teeth. Spencer watches as he carefully drops it on Pete's shoe as soon as they sit down.
Pete looks down at Bogart for a long moment, long enough that Bogart shifts his weight four times, forward and back again, before barking once, sharply. Pete laughs then and bends down to scratch at Bogart's ears, ruffling them. It's only when Bogart's barked a second time that he picks up the ball and tosses it most of the way across the yard.
Then Pete says, "So," and Spencer nods.
"Brendon's been writing," he says finally. "We've both been-- The two of us, we haven't just been sitting around--" He pauses and takes a deep breath, looking over at Brendon. Brendon's scratching at the label on his beer, starting to peel it away from the bottle. He'd been talking earlier about some of his thoughts and ideas, about a few songs that they'd let get farther than simple melodies, but he's quiet now. "We're going to be okay."
"I have no doubt about that," Pete says, sounding almost amused. "You dudes, all of you? You make things work for you."
"We can have a few demos for you soon," Brendon says, and Spencer's a little surprised, because Brendon's been quiet for what feels like several minutes at this point now, even if he has been nodding along. "Maybe by next week? So you could get a feel for the sound?"
Spencer nods. "We have been working, too," he says again, reinforcement, in case Pete thinks that they're trying to rush it, getting something out to him that soon. "It's just, what we have wasn't fitting with what--"
"Yeah," Pete says. "Yeah."
Bogart chooses this moment to bump his nose against Spencer's wrist and when Spencer looks down, he sees that the tennis ball is resting against his shoe now, just waiting for him to pick it up. He does so, gingerly, because it's already wet, a little muddy, before he tosses it again.
When he looks back across the table, Pete's grinning at him.
"What?" Spencer asks, and Pete shakes his head. "Nothing. Just, he's got you well trained."
"Yeah he does," Brendon says, and then he leans forward, looking more lively than he has all evening, and he starts telling fucking (mostly) lies about how much Spencer is wrapped around Bogart's little furry paw.
"Lies," Spencer says. "Lies."
"Don't believe a word he says," Brendon says, trying to slap a hand over Spencer's mouth. Spencer bites at Brendon's fingers as Pete laughs loud and long and says, "Dudes."
The next day, Spencer is expecting it to be just as difficult to face the idea of going into the music room, or doing anything Panic! related, but it's not. Maybe, he thinks, it's all finally starting to sink in. Or maybe the talk with Pete made the whole thing seem more real than it had before.
Maybe if Brendon hadn't essentially told Pete they'd have something for him to listen to within a week, or if they didn't have a tour coming up, or-- Well. There are a whole lot of 'or's. Maybe if those weren't there, it would be easier for them to go to the beach again, or to spend the day wandering Amoeba Records, or to go out to lunch and spend an afternoon people watching.
Brendon did tell Pete, though, and they do have the tour coming up, and so after a late breakfast, they look at each other, then head down the stairs. They stop in the doorway to Brendon's music room, looking at the spread of instruments: the drums in a corner, a rack of guitars off to the side, three keyboards propped up against various walls.
Brendon's the one to walk into the room first, but Spencer's just a step behind, and it feels weird and wrong (weird and wrong) to sit down behind his drums, but only for a moment. Only until he actually picks up his sticks, and from there it's natural to start playing. A simple roll moving into a more complicated line, and Brendon's following right along, playing something on the piano to match the beat, and maybe this is what Spencer needs: to just jam. To remember that he loves this, that he's good at this.
They lose themselves for a while, just playing, before finally (finally) starting to fiddle with a few of the bits and pieces that they've been working on over the last several months. This, more than likely, will not be a song that goes on their (oh god, their) album--Spencer knows this; not with the memories that they'll both forever associate with it--but it just. It feels good to write. To get the creative juices flowing.
So, they stay down there for hours, longer than Spencer realizes, until finally the door at the top of the stairs opens and Shane calls down, "Hey, so. If you're at a stopping point? Regan brought pizza?"
Brendon's stomach growls at the mention of food, making them both laugh, and Spencer's just standing up to follow him out of the room when he hears the clatter of nails on wood. Bogart is suddenly dancing around his feet, whining just a little with his excitement, like he's actually missed the two of them, what with the door being shut for most of the afternoon.
It's fucking habit by now for him to bend down and pick Bogart up so he can carry him back up the stairs, so he does, settling the dog in the crook of his arm. When he looks over at Brendon, to make sure that Brendon's ready to go, he sees that Brendon's smiling at him, looking fond.
"What," he says, maybe narrowing his eyes more than a little, which makes Brendon giggle as he says, "So wrapped around his paw!" before he makes a dash for the stairs.
Spencer thinks about trying to catch him, but Bogart's leaning back against Spencer's chest, sniffing at Spencer's ear, and, well.
He looks down at Bogart and says, "Your person is fucking nuts, dude."
Bogart whines and licks at Spencer's chin.
So, they start writing the new record and it's fucking terrifying to be doing it without Ryan's lyrics and opinions, without Jon's steadying influence in the corner. But it gets easier.
It gets easier as they begin to go through Brendon's notebooks and binders and fucking shoeboxes filled with words and thoughts written on scraps of paper. They spend hours sorting through them, pairing phrases and lines together, trying to spark ideas, rhythms, and make things fit. In a way it feels like they have a box filled with pieces from a hundred different puzzles.
They spend more time just playing in Brendon's basement, though, letting the music flow, recording everything in case they stumble across something that they have to save for later.
And it seems like it's working, see. It's actually working in ways, perhaps, that Spencer had never even let himself contemplate it working, because it was never supposed to just be two of them. It's always supposed to be four, always, and fuck.
And it's too soon, too soon, the shock of the change not yet worn off, but the truth is that Spencer's pretty sure that he's having more fun than he wants to admit to having, because it feels like he shouldn't be enjoying himself this much, that it shouldn't be working this well already, it really shouldn't, but it seems to be, and--
See, there are times when he's giddy with it, but there are also times--moments, hours--when it hurts like hell, where he feels like he's missing two limbs and is pretty sure that Brendon feels the same. So after two days of progress, on the fourth day in this new reality, Spencer stands at the top of the stairs down to Brendon's basement and it's just--he just can't.
He stands there for a long minute and then says, "I think-- I think today I need some fucking fresh air, you know? Do you think the dogs'd like a walk?"
It's a stupid question.
Spencer hadn't even been speaking that loudly, but even before Brendon answers--the 'um, duh' is clearly visible in his expression--Spencer can hear the thundering of little doggy paws headed towards him. Spencer laughs and says, "Yeah, okay, okay."
From there, it's a race to get to the leashes, and Brendon gets them hooked up while Spencer goes to get his shoes. When he makes his way back to the front hall, Spencer thinks for a moment that Brendon's going to invite himself along. Spencer wouldn't say no, of course, but maybe Brendon's feeling the need for a few hours away from Spencer, too. Maybe he needs to breathe just as badly as Spencer does.
So, Spencer takes hold of the leashes, Dylan and Bogart dancing around his feet in fucking joy and when they leave the house, they turn in the opposite direction of the dog park, up towards the hills, towards a trail that Shane showed Spencer a few months ago.
It's long, quiet walk, and that, more than anything, is what Spencer needs now.
At the top of the hill there's a small park, little more than a bench overlooking the city and a cluster of trees, but still, Spencer sits. He sits and looks out towards the ocean, barely visible on the horizon. He sits and stares and breathes and then, five, ten, twenty minutes later, he takes his phone out of his pocket and calls Ryan.
Ryan picks up on the fourth ring, just as Spencer's about ready to hang up, because he's not sure he wants to leave a message. Instead he says, "Hi," short and awkward.
"Hi," Ryan says, sounding equally awkward, and it's not supposed to be this way. The two of them aren't ever supposed to be awkward, especially when they only talked a few days ago. There were times between them when a day had been too long. A week would have felt--does feel--like forever.
"Can I say that it's been too long if it's only been a few days?" Spencer asks, and Ryan laughs.
So, they talk. Random stuff. Stories about Jon's cats. About the records. About how Jon and Ryan are getting ready to demo; about how they've got Rob coming in to produce for them again.
And Spencer talks about the songs they're working on, about how they're mining Brendon's trove of lyrics. He talks about the things that Ryan's not asking about, and Ryan says all the right things in all of the right places, but it sounds like it's as hard for him to hear about Spencer and Brendon's work as it is for Spencer to hear about his and Jon's.
Spencer thinks: too soon. And then he says, "Brendon and I, we're still going to the Blink-182 party. We're doing the tour."
And maybe that, in the end, is the reason Spencer had to call today. Why he'd stood at the top of Brendon's stairs and just hadn't been able to go down them. Because there are conversations that they all still need to have, and this is most definitely one of them.
Ryan's silent for a long moment, then says, "Okay." He doesn't sound surprised, not exactly, but he sounds like he might have been expecting them to pull out. Because right at the moment, they're only half a band. Fuck.
"Okay," Ryan says again, and five years ago, Spencer thinks Ryan probably would have hung up at that point. He would have ended the call and Spencer wouldn't have heard from him for three or four days, and he would have spent hours hanging around his house, sulking, until his mom finally kicked him out, told him to go outside. And then on day five, Ryan would have called back, and it would have been like the week between conversations never happened.
Today, though, Ryan just takes a deep breath and says, "Eric and Jon and I, we've also been fucking around with some covers and stuff. Not for our album. Just for-- For fun. We're talking, maybe, about posting them to MySpace?"
And now it's Spencer's turn to swallow, and it does hurt, it does, but he also mostly means it when he says, "I want to hear. You should totally send them to us."
"We will," Ryan says, and Spencer thinks he maybe sounds relieved. Spencer feels a little relieved.
And, over all, Spencer supposes that it is a good conversation. It's a needed conversation and Spencer does feel better when they hang up. Still, he stays on the bench for another twenty, thirty minutes, the dogs asleep at his feet, before he rouses them and heads back down the hill.
Brendon's in the living room when he gets back, playing Dance Dance Revolution with Regan, and they're mostly trying to elbow each other, kick each other off beat, and so Spencer sits down next to Shane and watches them. He's laughing before thirty seconds have passed.
After the next song ends, it's Shane's turn, and Regan readjusts her ponytail and says, "Okay, Valdés, you are going down."
Brendon flops down on the couch beside Spencer, patting his lap until both Dylan and Bogart jump up to join them. He's still breathing heavily, the corners of his mouth still creased from smiling so hard.
"You get some air?" Brendon asks. Spencer nods.
"Yeah," he says. "I did." He takes a breath, then says, "I told Ryan we were going to the Blink party on Monday."
Brendon goes still beside Spencer, and Spencer knows that if he looks over, Brendon's smile will probably have faded.
"It's good," Spencer says. "We're good."
It takes a moment, but then Spencer hears Brendon release the breath he'd apparently been holding.
"They're--Ryan, Jon and Eric--they've been fucking around with some covers and stuff. They were thinking of posting to MySpace? I told Ryan that we wanted to hear. So, you know, they might be sending those over?"
"Good," Brendon says. "That's… good."
So, they go to the Blink-182 Summer Tour Launch Party, and fuck. It's like.
Eight years ago, when he and Ryan were just starting to get the feel of their instruments for the first time, if someone had told him that he would be going to, well, first, a tour launch party of any sort whatsoever, and second, a tour launch party with Blink-182 and Weezer and the dudes from Taking Back Sunday, Spencer would have laughed his fucking fourteen-year old face off.
Somehow, though, here he and Brendon are and it's not as happy a day as it probably should be, what with Spencer still feeling like he should be looking over his shoulder and seeing Ryan and Jon crowded close behind them. Brendon's good at mugging it up for the cameras, though, and somehow they even end up doing, like, fucking prom poses while the guys in Taking Back Sunday egg them on, and--
Spencer has a good time. He does.
Inside, away from the media, Mark corners them and says, "Wentz told me what's been going on. Fuck, you know?"
Brendon's not smiling now, and he's not quite leaning into Spencer, not like he was for the pictures outside, but he's standing close enough for Spencer to feel him tense up.
"It's for the best," Spencer says, because it is. He does believe this and no matter how hard it is some days to realize that, he knows.
Mark nods, then does a little snort-laugh. "Didn't I fucking tell you guys that we were going to be, like, fucking touring together and playing on each other's records and shit. Didn't I tell you that two years ago?"
Brendon grins again at that, wide. "Well, you got the tour part right anyway." He doesn't mention that it was Ryan and Brendon that Mark said those things to. Or that it was Spencer and Ryan who were the ones who started out as a Blink-182 cover band. Spencer appreciates this.
Mark slaps Brendon on the shoulder and says, "So you should talk to me when you have some shit together for the new record."
Brendon opens his mouth, then closes it again, like he has absolutely no fucking words, so it's up to Spencer to say, "Yeah, yeah, we will. Of course we will."
"I'm going to hold you to that," Mark says. "I'm going to know exactly where to find you for most of a month, after all."
And that right there, it's--
Brendon's still buzzing with it when they get back to the house that afternoon, where Shane and Regan are both waiting for the rundown. They may have been in the business for years now at this point, and they can both now count several of their teenage idols as friends, but there are some things that just can't be played off as merely 'cool' or 'won't that be fun.'
This is definitely one of those things.
So, they sprawl out on the living room floor, Bogart climbing into Spencer's lap even before he's sat all the way down and, after they recount the afternoon, Shane says, "You're fucking shitting me. Holy fuck. That's awesome."
Brendon's giggly with it, totally lost in his excitement, and after Regan's done hugging them all, she says, "We need to go celebrate. Drinks?"
And if there was ever a reason to go celebrate, this is it. So, they go.
They don't get home until late that night, and as Spencer gets ready to turn his phone off before he goes to bed, he stares at it for long minutes. He thinks about calling Ryan, Jon. About telling them now, tonight. Even two weeks ago, they would have been the first people he called. Two weeks ago, they would have been in on the excitement together.
He stares at it for another long moment, a deep breath, two, and then turns his phone off and goes to bed.
After that, things move quickly.
Because no sooner do they hand the first few not-even-demos over to Pete, than JD is calling Brendon, telling him about a movie that's coming out, and do they have an unreleased song that could be used on the record?
Spencer's hanging out in the backyard, trying to coordinate the tossing of two balls at the same time, one for Bogart, one for Dylan, when Brendon comes outside to tell him the news. He takes one of the balls from Spencer's hand, grimacing a little bit as he touches the soggy fuzz, and tosses it in the complete opposite direction as the ball Spencer tosses. The dogs start after Spencer's ball first, then hear Brendon's ball bounce, and then they move in zig-zags for a few moments, trying to figure out which direction they should be going in.
Brendon says, "I was just talking to JD. Um, apparently FBR's trying to coordinate the soundtrack for the next Diablo Cody movie? With Megan Fox? And they wanted to know if we had a song they could use?"
"We?" Spencer says, "Or we."
"We," Brendon answers, and Spencer's stomach clenches just a bit because it's one thing to be planning a tour without Ryan and Jon, or to be starting work on a CD that won't see the light of day until probably next winter. It's another thing entirely to be putting together new music that will be out there in the next few months. That's just. That's--
"That's awesome," Spencer says, because Brendon's practically vibrating with his excitement. Because they could actually have a song on a movie soundtrack and possibly even in the movie itself, highlighting some scene, rather than being just on the CD, like their song had been for Snakes on a Plane.
Then the question becomes, "Do we have a song?" Because Spencer's pretty sure that he's seen most of what Brendon's written recently, and he's certainly seen more than enough of the bits and pieces that have been lying around.
Brendon looks like he's thinking, then nods, says, "Yeah, there are a--I have a few? That, um. They're not, I didn't think they were really Panic! songs? But, well. I mean, one of them is from, fuck, like two years ago? Maybe? But if you wanted to take a look?"
So, they go back down to Brendon's basement and Spencer watches Brendon go for the bookcase where they've been keeping all of their lyrics, their thoughts and words and written out melodies, and he pulls down a notebook that Spencer's not actually sure he's seen before. It's a real music book, staff paper, and Spencer watches him flip past more than a few songs, pages with inked in words and notes, titles, before finally stopping at one about halfway through.
Brendon shakes his head before going over to the wall to grab his guitar, sitting down on chair in the center of the room, taking a few minutes to get it tuned. He clears his throat, twice, then says, "Um. I had this dream? And I was inspired. So I wrote this."
Then he plays.
It so completely not something that ever would have made it onto a Panic (or even Panic!) record, Spencer knows. He doesn't want to call it too poppy, but even in an acoustic form Spencer thinks it sounds more surfer-rock than the sort of music they've ever done, ever. Spencer likes it, though, and he's pretty sure he can imagine ways to tie it more into their sound: piano, layered vocals.
Instead he says, "Fast forward to the part where you go down on me? Really?"
Brendon waggles his eyebrows at Spencer, his grin wide. "It was a good dream."
"Obviously," Spencer says, his voice somewhat dry. Then, "Let me hear it again, okay? And then tell me what you were thinking for the drums?"
Brendon begins strumming his guitar again, starting over from the beginning, and Spencer watches him as he plays.
So, things are going well and they pretty much fall into a routine: a late breakfast, an afternoon spent writing, an hour or two for dinner, then back downstairs, working on the music, practicing songs they've already written until far into the night.
They take breaks of course, but the days where they spend an afternoon at the beach, or a long lunch in Santa Monica, or let Shane and Regan drag them out to fucking Rock 'N Bowl for the midnight dance and bowl party, well.
It's blowing off steam.
It's not escaping.
This is why Spencer's surprised one morning when he gets up at the normal time and doesn't find Brendon already in the kitchen, or the TV room, or the music room, or the backyard. He doesn't hear Brendon at all, and that is about the point where he realizes that he doesn't see the dogs either.
He stands in the middle of the entryway, trying to figure out if people went surfing without him (they didn't; the boards and suits are still in the garage), or went to run errands (there are no notes to this effect on the door of the fridge, which is where these notes always seem to get left).
Finally, after thinking about it for longer than he'd like to admit, he goes back up to his room and grabs his phone off of the floor by his futon. He turns it on and starts dialing, not even waiting for the text messages that inevitably came through during the night to arrive. Brendon answers between the first and second ring.
"Yo," he says, and Spencer--he's not mad, he's not, but.
"You aren't here," Spencer says. He wants to make it a question, but he knows that Brendon's not here. And if Spencer's calling Brendon to fucking, you know, find him, Brendon knows that Spencer knows he's not there.
"I'm not," Brendon says. "Bogart wanted-- Shane's trying to prep this shoot, right--" Spencer does know this; Shane's been talking about it for the last several weeks. "I told him I'd take the dogs for a walk this morning before you got up. I'm just-- Fuck, I didn't realize it was quite that late. I can be back in 20?"
This is the point at which Spencer hears dogs barking in the background, more than one of them, and he knows those sounds.
"Are you at the dog park?" he asks.
"I am," Brendon says. "Yeah, they always come back seeming like they've had such a good time with you, I thought--"
"I'll meet you there," Spencer says. He's already heading back up the stairs to get his shoes, and he waves off Brendon's protests before hanging up and sliding the phone into the pocket of his jeans.
It takes him about ten minutes to get there, which is a lot faster than he usually makes the trip. On the other hand, he usually has two dogs attached to his wrists that are very into smelling every blade of grass known to man.
There's a different crowd at the park in the morning. Spencer sees two German shepherds, a poodle, a floppy something or other, and Dylan and Bogart, right in the middle of it all. It takes him a moment to spot Brendon, but when he does, he sees that Brendon's sitting at Spencer's usual bench, a baseball hat pulled down low over his face.
Spencer lets himself in, getting a few odd stares from pet owners, probably since he doesn't have a pet with him, but then Bogart's dashing at him, barking joyfully--hey, hey, you found us!--and when Spencer kneels down to say hello, that seems to eliminate any lingering suspicion.
Bogart leads him over to Brendon, Dylan trailing behind, still half-playing with the floppy rug-looking thing, and Brendon raises a hand to wave when Spencer's only a few feet away.
Spencer sits down next to Brendon and the dogs walk back and forth in front of them a few times. When they realize that nothing more exciting than talking is going to happen, they run back to join the rug on paws in further games of chase.
"So, you needed some air?" Spencer asks when Brendon doesn't immediately say anything.
Brendon huffs a laugh and he's smiling enough when Spencer looks over at him that Spencer feels something inside of him relax just a little. Brendon groans then and rubs his hands over his face. He knocks his hat out of place with his wrist, takes a moment to resettle it.
"I don't know what the fuck I'm doing," Brendon says finally, after another moment. He leans forward as he speaks, balancing his elbows on his knees, and stares at the ground. There's more dirt than grass in this area of the park and Spencer can see the valleys where Brendon's been scuffing his feet back and forth, for however long he's been sitting here.
"With what?" Spencer asks, even though he's pretty sure he already knows the answer. He probably should have expected this, he thinks. He probably should be surprised that they didn't have this conversation two weeks ago.
"This," Brendon says. "Us. I-- We're trying to put out a Panic! at the Disco album without Ryan. I mean, I have songs, but I look at them and I think, these aren't Panic! at the Disco songs, and I--they're all I have." He takes a deep breath. "And I don't know what the fuck I'm doing, because I thought I could do this, I did, but I, I don't fucking--"
He cuts off when Spencer drops a hand onto his shoulder, squeezes. Brendon looks up quickly, then drops his head again.
"What if I--"
"We," Spencer says, because there is no 'I' here; they are both in this together. For better or for worse.
Brendon stops again, biting off whatever he's trying to say, and looks at Spencer. His eyes are maybe a little wider than Spencer would like.
"We," Spencer says again, with more emphasis. "You are not the only one trying to put out a Panic! record without Ryan's lyrics, dude."
"People are going to look at my words," Brendon says, and Spencer would say 'ours, our words', but Brendon's right on that one. The words are mostly his. "They're going to look, and they aren't going to be Ryan's, they aren't going to be Jon's, they aren't going to have the same witty turns of phrase, and what if people fucking hate them because they won't sound-- Or us, because our music won't sound anything like the last two albums--"
"And who the fuck cares?" Spencer asks, and it's perhaps a little more harsh than he means it to come out, but really. "Who cares if it sounds anything like Pretty. Odd. or, Fever, because they sure as hell didn't sound a whole fucking lot like each other at all, right?"
Brendon snorts at that, because it's true. It is.
"But they still had Ryan's lyrics," Brendon says.
"And yours," Spencer says, because Brendon had fought for his two songs. Spencer had fought right along side him. Spencer had helped with the album's lyrics, too, of course, even though he'd mostly been content to put his attention towards the drum lines, but Ryan wasn't the only lyricist in the group.
"And this time there aren't going to be any of Ryan's," Brendon says softly, "and if this whole thing gets fucked up, I'll--"
"We" Spencer says again and the next thing he knows, he's wrapping an arm around Brendon's shoulders, pulling Brendon to him, and Brendon's collapsing just a little bit, and he's got his head on Spencer's shoulder, and Spencer just holds him there. "If it gets fucked up, we will be the ones to blame, because we are fucking in this together. I'm not going to let you put out a shitty album, okay? Pete won't let you put out a shitty album. But I know you, okay, and you are not going to put out a shitty album. You're Brendon fucking Urie. You and music and shitty do not go in the same sentence. I've known this since we were 17."
Brendon does laugh at that. "Brendon fucking Urie, huh?" he asks, his voice small, and after another moment, he slowly pulls away. He's mostly grinning at Spencer again, so Spencer nods.
"Brendon fucking Urie," he says.
"Good to know," Brendon says again, sounding slightly more normal. "And you won't let me fuck this up?"
"Not on your life," Spencer says. "You--you've got, fucking, shoe boxes full of lyrics, dude. You honestly think we can't come up with the bones of eight more songs out of that?"
"If worst comes to worst," Brendon says, "I could try writing an ode to this dog park, I suppose. Something about chewed tennis balls and unstrung rackets? And frisbees falling out of the air."
"It'd be classic," Spencer says, and he lets himself relax a little more, because Brendon's starting to loosen up. His shoulders are slumping and he's leaning back on the bench again, sprawling, until he's invading Spencer's space on the bench, too.
"It would," Brendon says. "It could be our next single. We could use Bogart and Dylan as our backup singers." He laughs for real then, sitting up and clapping his hands together twice. "I bet we could get Pete on board if we wrote a woof-line for Hemmy!"
"Fuck," Spencer says, letting his own head fall back with his laughter. "Oh, god, can you even imagine?"
"Fucking classic," Brendon says, relaxing back again, his bicep coming to rest against Spencer's.
Bogart and Dylan come running up right then, perhaps drawn by Brendon's claps, and Dylan jumps up in Brendon's lap without any invitation whatsoever. Spencer looks down at Bogart, who's standing on the toe of his shoe, as if waiting for an invitation. Spencer sighs and pats his knee and Bogart doesn't wait.
"You're spoiling my dog," Brendon says, and Spencer nods agreeably.
"I am," he says.
The next morning, Spencer comes into the kitchen to find Brendon there before him. He's got the paper open to the crossword, a glass of juice in front of him, a half eaten slice of toast on a plate pushed to the center of the table. The dogs are over in the corner, still finishing their own breakfasts, so Spencer thinks that Brendon might not have actually been up for too long already.
Brendon doesn't look up when Spencer sits down across from him, though, and maybe doesn't even realize that Spencer is there, and when Spencer looks more closely, he sees that Brendon's not actually filling in the crossword, or trying to figure out the words that might fit the jumble down below. No, he's writing strings of words down the side of the page, quickly enough that the ink is smearing when his fingers rub over it, and Spencer knows this zone: he got used to Ryan going there when they were 14, pausing whatever game they were playing to just make some notes, really, I swear, Spence, give me just a few seconds.
Brendon's always gone there, too, but usually it hasn't been where anyone could see him. It'd be on mornings off, or he'd go to his room for a few hours in the cabin, or he'd come into practice sleepy-blurry and fingers stained blue or black or, like, purple, and he'd say things like, "Late night, you know?" But he'd be smiling, relaxed.
So, Spencer watches as Brendon writes, and he can't read the actual words, but Brendon's humming under his breath, a nameless little tune that Spencer imagines he'll probably be hearing more fleshed out in the not-too-distant future, and--
Spencer watches until Brendon runs out of room in the newspaper margins, until he starts looking around for something else to write on, and he seriously jumps when he notices Spencer sitting at the other side of the table.
"Fuck," he says, but his sharp breath is already stuttering out into laughter. "You are seriously a fucking ninja, dude," except then he notices Spencer's empty cereal bowl, the open carton of milk next to it. "Or possibly I was just really, really not here."
"Ding ding ding," Spencer says, which makes Brendon flip him off. Then, "You want me to leave, so you can finish our next hit single?"
Brendon stares at him for a moment, opens his mouth like he's going to say, 'it's not', but perhaps some of what Spencer said the day before did get through, because Brendon shakes his head and says, "No, no, I've mostly got it. Um, if you want a look? There might be something to build off of here?"
Spencer has no doubt that there will be, but he takes the proffered newspaper and turns it sideways, so that he can read Brendon's scrawl. The words have a nice flow going, he thinks, and yes, he can tell that there are some lines that will need to be reworked (or they'll need to come up with some super funky beats) to deal with the extra syllables, but.
"That works," Spencer says. "This is really fucking good, Brendon."
Brendon smiles, wide and bright, and says, "I was thinking dancey, you know? I miss fucking dancing on stage. I want to dance, Spencer Smith."
"Then let's go write you a dance song," Spencer says.
Spencer's not expecting the call from Jon, but he's smiling when he picks up. "Hey, dude," he says. "What the fuck is up?"
The thing is, it hasn't even been three weeks since he and Jon last talked, since their whole world changed, but it feels like longer. Jon's been going back and forth to Chicago, though, and it's sounded like he's been busy recording things with Ryan and Eric, and--
Spencer should have called.
"That's what I was going to ask you," Jon says, and he's laughing. "Hanging out with Mark Hoppus?"
Spencer laughs, because yeah. Pete'd invited a few people over the night before for dinner before a trip to see 'The Hangover', and since Pete and Mark appeared to be on a BFF kick, Mark had been there. With Spencer and Brendon. (And it's moments like those when Spencer still wants to say things like, holy fuck, my life.)
"Yeah," he says. And then, because Brendon and Shane are off seeing 'Up' with Regan, he adds, "You maybe want to hang this afternoon?"
There's a moment of silence and Spencer can picture Jon checking his mental calendar, then he says, "Yeah, yeah. Should I come there?"
It feels a little weird for Spencer to be inviting Jon to Brendon's house, but then he reminds himself that in a month, it will be his house too. If Brendon doesn't change his mind and decide that he no longer wants Spencer as a roommate, that is. Spencer's pretty much 100% sure that Brendon's not going to change his mind.
It only takes about an hour for Jon to arrive at Brendon's, and he looks a little awkward standing on the stoop when Spencer lets him in, but then Dylan and Bogart are tearing through the house as fast as they can to come say hi. Jon bends down and starts scratching at their ears, and Spencer says, "How's Marley doing?"
"Worst dog in the whole world," Jon says, but his grin is so wide, Spencer doesn't believe him for a second. It's only after the dogs have gotten their required pets and scratches that Jon stands back up and gives Spencer a hug.
"Too long," Jon says. "Too fucking long."
Spencer nods. He leads Jon through the house, offers him beer, or water, or juice, and they sit down in the backyard for a bit, but only a bit, because Bogart decides to be a pushy little dog and bring his leash to them, a very not subtle hint. Spencer rolls his eyes and folds the leash up, putting it up on the table, but Jon says, "Hey, no, we could?"
"You'll be their favorite person ever," Spencer says, but he's already standing, whistling for the dogs, and that is how the two of them end up walking down towards the dog park.
It's not Spencer's normal time to be there and Spencer thinks about stopping, but when they get there, the park is empty, and that just isn't as much fun. They stop for a minute or two though, long enough for Jon to look around and say, "I've never found anything quite like these in Chicago, you know?"
Spencer can believe that. He sort of thinks as these--the opulent-ness of them--as being an 'only in California' thing.
So, they keep walking, and Jon's perfectly happy to spend an hour just wandering the streets of Santa Monica, letting the dogs go at whatever pace they prefer.
"So things are going well?" Jon asks finally, about the time Spencer thinks that they should probably be heading back towards Brendon's place. "It sounds like they're going well."
Spencer's been talking about the days he and Brendon have spent at the beach; how Brendon had been tongue-tied for about thirty seconds the night before, when they walked out onto Pete's porch and saw Mark Hoppus sitting there; about Brendon's notebooks full of lyrics, the four songs that they've got most of the way done, the bits and pieces that they've been playing with, this fucking awesome drum line that he's been working on that he thinks he might actually need a bigger kit for? About how good Brendon's voice sounds.
"They're going well," Spencer says, decisively. Then, because this is one thing he hasn't mentioned. "You, um. You heard about the single?"
"Brendon was holding out on us," Jon says, his tone mild, and Spencer wants to agree, he does, but he also knows why Brendon held it back, kept it for himself. It was not a Ryan and Jon song. Which is fine--that's why they're two groups now, instead of one--but still.
"It's good," Spencer says. "It's--it's got a fun vibe. It's pretty poppy. And I think live? I think I'm going to get to beat the shit out of my drums, so. Plus."
"Definitely a plus," Jon says.
There's a few more moments of silence, not long enough to become awkward, until Spencer says, "Ryan was telling me you've got most of your songs demo'd. That you're thinking about scheduling studio time?"
Jon's face lights up at that and then he's off. They've demo'd 12 songs already, with another six or seven in the pipeline, and Jon's actually been playing the drums, and Spencer really should have let him in on that shit years ago, you know. He totally would have been down for a more active role in the drum line, okay? And they've got a Beatles sound going, with maybe some Kinks thrown in, which is just fucking awesome, and--
They're having a good time.
Spencer is maybe a little jealous. Possibly. Because he always used to be the one that Ryan would do this plotting and planning and playing with, but on the other hand, he's not, because he couldn't be happier with the sort of music that he and Brendon are creating.
"That's good," he says. "I'm glad. Brendon and I, we're having a good time, too."
He smiles as he says it, but he doesn't think it's a special smile in any way until, that is, Jon says, "Um, is there something, um. Is something going on with you two?"
Spencer laughs, of course he laughs, because really, he's not making comments about Ryan and Jon's little bromance now is he? He says as much out loud, which makes Jon laugh, too, but he's still looking at Spencer in a way that--
It takes them another half hour to get back to the house, and by the time they get there, Brendon, Shane, and Regan have returned. Brendon looks really surprised to see Jon, despite the fact that Jon's car is still parked outside, but then Jon is wrapping him in a hug and Brendon is slapping at Jon's back. Shane and Regan are grinning, too, and Jon gets invited to stay for dinner and, for a few hours at least, it feels like nothing's changed. Except for the fact that Jon is talking about how his and Ryan's first single is going to be called 'Change' and Brendon says, "Because apparently great minds think alike?" and how, at the end of the evening, Jon leaves to go back to Ryan's, and Spencer's already where he, well. Belongs.
Later, after the dishes have been cleared, Spencer collapses on the couch next to Brendon and says, "Jon called while you were gone, to rib us for hanging out with Mark last night."
"And you? For getting kicked out of the theater?"
"No," Spencer says, with quite rightful indignation, because it wasn't his fault he was the only one in their row to actually get caught texting. Really now.
Brendon's face creases up with his laughter, and they're tired and relaxed and that, Spencer thinks, is the reason that Brendon's head falls over onto Spencer's shoulder. Spencer rolls his eyes fondly at Brendon, but he doesn't expend the effort to make Brendon move. And that, of course, is about the time that Spencer remembers Jon's words from earlier and he thinks, oh fuck.
The problem, of course, is that once the thought is there, it's really fucking hard to make it go away. Which is why Spencer spends most of that night lying awake in his bed, staring up at the ceiling, thinking, no, no, fuck no, and again, no.
Not because having feelings that go beyond friendly for Brendon is a bad thing (except in the way that unrequited crushes on friends always fucking suck) but because three weeks ago, his band broke up. Because it's him and Brendon against the world now. Because the last thing Spencer's life needs is more complication, and--
If he'd had this realization two years ago, Spencer would have climbed out on the roof of the cabin and smoked a joint with Jon until he was too relaxed to think of anything serious at all. He would have locked himself in his room for a day or two, told Ryan some bullshit about needing to reclaim his creativity, and in the middle of the night, he would have gone to the music room and played until his arms were sore, his hair dripping with sweat. It only would have taken him a few days to talk himself out of this whatever this is, and no one would have been the wiser.
If he'd had it a year ago, while they were on tour, he would have had the option of hanging out with the other bands for hours on end. He would have shut himself in his bunk, headphones on, or he would have begged off of the group outing for the day and after a few more days of being trapped on a bus with everyone, too few showers, not enough stops at laundromats… it would have been fine.
Now, though, now he's fucking living with Brendon, and he's working with Brendon, Brendon, and only Brendon. Brendon's friends have become Spencer's friends and it's--this is really not something he wants to call Ryan up about, because, well. Okay, a month ago, Ryan would have laughed his face off, and would have tried to drop, like, subtle hints at Brendon or something. Now, Spencer thinks that Ryan would probably stare at Spencer frowning, and possibly also ask, "Is that why you--?" Stayed with him? Chose him over me?
Which, just, no.
Jon would listen, but he'd probably be thinking (if he isn't already, since he fucking called Spencer on this the night before) the same things that Spencer doesn't want to hear Ryan ask.
Because the answer is still no.
So, basically, Spencer's stuck. He's stuck with this whole fucking realization and--and, they'd just taken the day before off, okay, so it's not like Spencer can really ask for a second day. Not when he doesn't have a good reason. Not when they're trying to get as much done as humanly possible before they hit the road, before the shit hits the fan when they make the announcement that Panic! at the Disco, as the fans know it, is in fact no more.
So when Spencer gets up the next morning, his eyes gummy from lack of sleep, his head hurting from thinking too hard, he has no choice but to actually spend the day with Brendon, working. He has a few hopeful moments right after he gets to the kitchen, finds himself alone, that Jon was just full of shit, seeing things that weren't there. He thinks that maybe, possibly, the flutter in his stomach that he'd felt the night before could be blamed solely on that, on the fact that Jon had got Spencer wondering. He is so, so hopeful, but then Brendon comes bouncing into the kitchen, humming a little--something or other, Spencer thinks he hears the word 'soap' in there--under his breath, and he just smiles at Spencer, and Spencer really can't help but smile back.
And it really fucking sucks, because now that the thought is in his head, he can't stop noticing Brendon. The way his nose has freckled from his hours spent out in the sun, the flex of his muscles underneath his tattoo, the way his hair is sticking up at all odd angles because he obviously has not had his morning date with a brush yet.
When Brendon suggests that they finally go down to the basement, get started for the day, Spencer nods and follows behind. In a way it feels almost like relief to get back to that known domain. But now that they're down here, Spencer seated behind his kit, he has no choice but to pay attention to Brendon and only Brendon. The way Brendon bounces from one idea to the next; the way he keeps looking to Spencer for fucking approval; the way Spencer's heart feels just a little bit too big when he's just fucking around with a beat on his toms and Brendon says, "Fuck, Spence, do that again. We need to get that on tape."
It would be easier, Spencer thinks, if it was a bad day, because if it was a bad day, he could escape early, beg off of doing anything, go deal with his frustration in private. It's not, though. They get a lot done and it's sounding good. They're developing a sound that's not quite Fever (not as many jagged edges) and not quite Pretty. Odd. (not quite as mellow) and he really, really likes it. He's having a fucking blast playing it.
So, Spencer has no reason to beg off of drinks at the Otheroom with Regan and Shane after they call it an evening, so he doesn't. He folds himself into the back of Regan's car and listens to Brendon try to, like, fucking beat box the percussion line to the one they've tentatively titled 'Oh Glory' for Shane's benefit.
Shane says, "Fuck, fuck, I need to get this on tape, where's my fucking camera," and Regan says, "Don't make me laugh this hard while I'm trying to drive, Urie!" and Spencer's laughing so hard that he has tears in his eyes.
He can't decide if it's better or worse when they actually get to the bar and Brendon crowds into his space, his knee brushing Spencer's under the table. It's a good night out with good friends, though, so Spencer can't complain.
Still, that doesn't stop him from picking up Bogart on his way to bed that night and carrying him into his room. He settles back on the futon and settles Bogart on his stomach, and then says, "I am so, so fucked, bud. I am so, so fucked."
Bogart whines and swipes his tongue over Spencer's wrist.
It gets easier, though. Things, Spencer has learned, always get easier. Because a few days pass and Brendon doesn't start acting any differently, so apparently Spencer doesn't have a neon sign over his head that says, 'So! So! Fucked!'
And, okay, so maybe Spencer finds himself tuning out once or twice (or five times) while Brendon's talking about the new Regina Spektor record because he's been looking at the way Brendon's lips are forming the words. Maybe he finds himself staring at Brendon's fingers as they tap out unknown rhythms on the edge of the breakfast table. Maybe he feels like he's laughing too hard at Brendon's jokes.
Still, it gets better, and this knowledge moves from the sudden shock of realization to a more subtle awareness. It probably helps that they still have a fuck load of things that they need to get ready to do. Like choose whom they're going to ask to join them on tour. Choose who's going to take Ryan and Jon's places on the stage with them.
It's probably not a coincidence that they choose to have the discussion while playing an epic game of Mortal Kombat. Because it's easier to discuss things like that while trying to beat the shit out of your opponent.
Pete has actually been good about not pressing them too hard, but they're getting to a point where people are going to need to make arrangements, plans, learn their fucking songs. Pete had sent over a list of people he knew who were currently without bands, or who were on hiatus from their bands, or who are studio musicians who Pete feels deserve to be more. There are some that Spencer knows, others he doesn't, and--
Really, no matter how pleased he is with what he and Brendon have accomplished over the last month, he suddenly wants to call Ryan up and tell him to go fuck himself. Because they shouldn't have to be doing this. They'd been perfectly happy with their band lineup since they were, what, 15? Surely they could have waited another three months to go their separate ways?
The more rational part of his brain is telling him that they made the right decision at the right time. That it was better to part when they did, as friends, than to keep pushing until they exploded beyond any sort of repair. And Spencer has no doubt that that is what eventually would have happened.
It really fucking hurts to sit here, jabbing his fingers at his controller, trying to kill Brendon's character, as they go through Pete's list. Guys they know, guys they don't know but whose bands they've liked, guys who are (or were) in bands who they've never even heard of.
"Or," Brendon says finally, "we could just ask Ian."
Spencer nods. "We could."
He and Brendon are pretty much agreed that Ian's one of the best guitarists out there right now, and perhaps best of all, Spencer knows he has no desire to join another band at this time, especially this soon after leaving The Cab. He wants to do his own music, his own style, and--
It could be perfect, actually, because there's been no talk about replacing Ryan and Jon yet--Spencer's going to need to be really, really drunk to have that talk--and it would be nice to tour with a friend who knew that it wasn't going to be anything permanent.
"And maybe, if we're looking at our friends," Spencer says, looking over at Brendon as they wait for the next level of the game to load. "Dallon?"
Brendon's grin at that is bright. "Oh, fuck," he says. "Yes, yes, we totally have to ask Dallon."
He'd spent a week on the Honda Civic Tour, visiting with Alex and the rest of the guys in Phantom Planet and, well, pretty much, he'd cracked all of their shit up. Totally weird in that way that Spencer totally understood.
"Can you even imagine?" Brendon's asking, and Spencer's thinking yeah, yeah. Because this tour, it's really more about proving that he and Brendon can do this, that they can get out on stage without Ryan and Jon. That the two of them can be Panic! at the Disco. And having friends out there with them, friends who would be there to back them up… that would be--
"I think we should," Spencer says. "I think, yeah."
And he thinks that they're good choices. He does. But despite that, the thought of going up on stage without Ryan and Jon right there beside them--a thought that is suddenly feeling more and more real--fucking hurts. And maybe Brendon realizes it, too, because he pauses the game, puts down his controller, and slides over to where Spencer's sitting propped up against the couch. Brendon bumps his shoulder against Spencer's, then shifts so he can settle his head on it, and Spencer tenses up, thinks that he should really discourage Brendon from doing this, because it's not helping Spencer, but. But it is, at least tonight. So Spencer leans his head on top of Brendon's and they stay there for… Spencer doesn't even know how long.
A long time.
Until Shane comes out of his studio, Bogart and Dylan trailing at his heels. He stops in the doorway to the living room, then raises an eyebrow at Spencer as Brendon slowly pulls away, already asking, "So, do you think Ian might be interested in going on tour? Or do you think it's too soon?"
Shane holds Spencer's gaze for a moment longer, before dropping it so that he can look over at Brendon. So he can say, "I think you should ask him."
So, it gets easier, this whole new way of looking at Brendon fading back to something manageable, something that Spencer can just let be while he deals with everything else that needs to be dealt with, except.
Except that on Saturday they go surfing with their group, the group that Spencer now considers his own, and it's totally normal, exactly like any number of days they've gone surfing since Spencer arrived in California at the beginning of the year. And it's a good day. It's a fucking awesome day. Not too warm, not too cold, the waves just on the challenging side of manageable.
Mid-afternoon, though, Spencer, Joe, and Regan are the ones to make the trek to one of the kiosks along the beach to get food for the whole group, while the rest of them stake out a good stretch of sand. When they get back, Spencer sees that Brendon's saved him a spot on a towel, which is fine, totally normal, and not something Spencer would have thought about at all two weeks ago. Still, Spencer finds himself sitting down a little more carefully, conscious to leave space between them, only in part because Shane is watching him again, just like he's seemed to be watching Spencer more recently, with an almost knowing look in his eyes.
Spencer really doesn't want to do anything that's going to prompt conversations about Brendon with Shane.
Still, it's not like this day is any different than any other day they've spent out with this crowd, but Spencer's maybe just a little bit more aware of where Brendon is in relation to Spencer's space. And then suddenly it's completely different, because Amanda's sitting on the other side of Brendon, telling him some story, Spencer thinks he hears mention of skydiving, and Brendon's laughing just a little too hard, and Amanda's reaching over to ruffle his wet hair, and Spencer just--
When Brendon glances over at him, to see if Spencer's sharing the joke (Spencer's not), he knows that his smile is more than a little strained.
So Regan, pretty much, is a lifesaver, because she chooses that moment to sit down on a spot of sand next to him and start asking something about their latest song. With her there, it's easier for Spencer to tune out the conversation happening on the other side of him, which Spencer is grateful for. It makes it easier to pretend that this really is just another normal day, albeit one where Spencer's conscious of every centimeter that Brendon seems to migrate towards him, the sound of his laughter loud in Spencer's ear.
Still, Spencer's doing just fine, really, until their whole crew is packing up for the day, attaching boards to cars, trying to de-sand themselves as much as possible before heading home. That's the point at which Amanda asks Brendon if they're heading out to dinner now, and Brendon says, "Yeah, yeah, sure." Then, "Spence? Shane? Regs? Joe? You in?"
Shane, Regan, and Joe are agreeing already, everyone else in their group nodding along, but Spencer--
He's totally fine, okay, but he just can't go out to dinner and sit and listen to Amanda make Brendon laugh for the next however many hours. He has absolutely no desire to do it at all.
So, he says, "Actually, I'm feeling-- I think I'm going to head back to the house. I mean, um, the dogs are probably going a little stir crazy in the backyard, right?"
Brendon's smile fades almost instantly, a little line forming between his eyes, one that Spencer knows only appears when he's concerned. And Spencer really, really doesn't want concern, or for Brendon to think too hard about this, so he tries to grin, to look like he's telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
"I'm just tired," Spencer says, which isn't totally a lie, so he doesn't feel badly telling it.
After staring at him for another moment, Brendon finally nods, still frowning slightly, then looks at Shane and says, "You can give me a ride, right?"
Spencer feels like a little bit of an ass, making Brendon catch a ride back with them just because he's feeling, well, whatever it is that he's feeling, but apparently not like enough of one to change his mind. So, he just says goodbye and then he heads back to the house.
They'd let the dogs out into the backyard before they left that morning and, indeed, they are beyond ready to be let back in. Bogart and Dylan circle Spencer's feet, tails repeatedly thwapping against his thighs, until he kneels down and actually scratches ears. As soon as she's licked his hand a few times, Dylan throws her head back and starts barking, probably telling him about her day and how much it had sucked being out in the yard, and they are never to leave her out there for so long again. Bogart, on the other hand, is content to try to get Spencer to scratch every inch of his back, and his flanks, and his chin, too.
Spencer indulges them for about five minutes before finally standing up again. He heads to the shower first, feeling grimy with sand and ocean water, and when he gets out again, both of the dogs are lying on his futon. He gets dressed, ready for bed even though it's only six o'clock at night, and then pads down to the kitchen to see what's there. Not much, but there are the makings of a salad, so he puts that together, then goes down to the TV room to collapse.
Bogart tries to crawl into his lap as soon as Spencer sits, but Spencer elbows him away. He turns the TV on and flips through the channels until he hits the CSI Miami marathon, then drops the remote onto to the cushion beside him.
It's easy to lose himself in the mindlessness of the show, for one episode to fade into the next, but he thinks he's only on episode two of the evening when he hears the front door open again, the sound of footsteps on floor.
Spencer's lying down at this point, Bogart curled up against him, between his arm and his chest, and he doesn't look up when Brendon comes into the room. He does lift his head just a little, though, when Brendon picks his feet up off of the couch, slides underneath them, and then sets his feet back down in Brendon's lap.
Spencer raises an eyebrow at Brendon, a question, but Brendon is looking resolutely at the TV. At least for that moment, because it's only a few seconds later that he starts tapping out a rhythm on Spencer's sock-covered foot, which means that Spencer's pretty much obligated to call him on it.
"I didn't think you'd be back for another few hours," he says, and Brendon shrugs.
"I was tired, too, I guess," Brendon says. Then he does look at Spencer. "I had Shane drop me off. He, um. He's meeting everyone else back at The Otheroom. I was, um, ready to call it a night, though? And, I mean. I wanted to make sure everything was all right? Everything's all right, right?"
Spencer wants to say no, no, everything's not all right, but he also knows this look on Brendon's face: skittish, like he's ready to bolt. Or he thinks that Spencer's going to bolt, because of course Brendon would think that this was something having to do with everything else going on in their lives. It makes sense. Even if Spencer can't tell him how wrong he is.
"Everything's fine," Spencer says. "Just. Tired, like I said." And he is. Maybe not as tired as he was, now that Brendon's got a hand resting on his ankle, now that his touch is pretty much all Spencer can concentrate on, but still.
It does feel good just to relax in front of the TV and turn his brain off.
"Good," Brendon says. Then he smiles at Spencer, shyer than Spencer's used to seeing on his face. "I was--it's not like you to beg off, you know?"
Which is pretty much true, especially recently, because he's needed this group of people as much as Brendon has, as much as Ryan's apparently needed the group of friends he's been building up, and Jon's needed his Chicago crowd.
"I'm fine," Spencer says again, pulling his leg back and kick Brendon lightly. "Dork."
"Dork yourself," Brendon says, flicking at Spencer's ankle, and Spencer thinks that they might have actually devolved into a kicking war at that point, except that Horatio Caine says something oh-so-profound on screen, and Brendon's attention is diverted.
He starts talking to the TV, softly, in a way that Spencer's learned to tune out over the years, and Spencer spends more time watching Brendon watch the show than he does actually watching himself, and it's nice, it's really nice. Especially when Brendon apparently unintentionally starts drawing an unknown pattern on Spencer's leg, his fingertip a light warmth through Spencer's pajama pants.
It's apparently a soothing gesture, too, because at some point later, Spencer wakes up to the sound of muffled laughter: Shane, giggling, his voice too loud for him to be even the slightest bit sober.
When Spencer slits his eyes open to see what's so funny, he sees Brendon conked out at the other end of the couch, Spencer's feet still in his lap, and now both dogs are curled up against them, Dylan draped across Brendon's legs, head on Spencer's ankle, and Bogart having somehow balanced himself between Spencer's hip and the back of the couch.
"Shhh," Regan says. "You don't want to wake them up!"
If Brendon was awake, or Spencer was admitting to being awake, Spencer thinks that one of them would absolutely be telling the other two to shut the hell up at this point, but Brendon's not and Spencer won't.
Instead, he just closes his eyes again and pretends to fall back asleep, until he actually does.
In the morning Spencer wakes up alone on the couch with a crick in his neck; the throw pillows that Brendon and Shane invested in, as comfortable as they are to lounge against, are really not meant to be slept on all night long.
He spends a long moment staring up at the ceiling, listening for the usual morning sounds of the Urie-Valdés household, but the house, as far as he can tell, is quiet. He takes another few seconds to disentangle himself from the blanket that someone had draped over him at some point in the night, and then cards his fingers through his hair as he makes his way up the stairs.
And the thing is, see, given the quietness of the house, he's not expecting Bogart to be in the kitchen eating his breakfast, Shane at the table, drinking the milk from his cereal bowl.
If he'd been expecting Shane, he might have spent more time downstairs preparing what, exactly, he was going to say right now. Or, more likely, he probably would have headed right past the kitchen, up the stairs to his room for a change of clothes. He would have entered this moment feeling far more ready to face the day. Or, well, he would have taken his time, lots and lots of time, in hopes that Shane might not actually be in the kitchen any longer when Spencer finally did decide to descend.
Instead, Spencer's already stepped through the door and there's absolutely no way to turn back without Spencer looking like he's fucking running. Because Shane's looking at him with that knowing expression on his face, and Spencer does not need this right now, okay? He needs to just keep doing what he's doing (it's mostly been working well so far, right?) and--
"Hey," Shane says. "Sleep well?"
It sounds like an innocent question, it does, but--
Spencer shrugs and brings a hand up to rub at his neck.
"I guess?" he says as he walks across the room to the fridge to see if they have any bread. He's thinking it's a toast sort of day. Maybe. "I must have been, uh, more tired last night than I thought."
Shane makes a 'hmm' noise and for a few brief, blessed minutes, Spencer thinks that Shane is going to leave it at that. That he's not going to call Spencer on the fact that he spent who knows how long asleep last night with his feet in Brendon's lap. Or that he'd bailed on dinner and drinks because he'd just needed to be… not there. Or--
Spencer is not that lucky, though, because despite the fact that he takes his time getting his toast buttered and pouring his glass of juice, Shane is still there when Spencer sits down. As Spencer takes his first bite.
Spencer's just about to ask, 'what?' as grumpily as possible in hopes of discouraging further conversation when Shane asks, "How long?"
Spencer swallows once, hard, then says, "How long what?" before deliberately taking another bite of his toast. Because he doesn't know what Shane's talking about. And maybe he really doesn't. Shane could be asking about lots of things, right?
Shane just keeps looking at Spencer, though, until Spencer lets his gaze drop. "It's nothing," he says. "It's… it's nothing, you know?"
"It's not--" Shane starts, then breaks off. "I know you both well enough, I think, to know that it's not nothing."
"It is," Spencer says, because it will be. Eventually. Maybe. He tries to make himself stop talking there, he does, but maybe this has been building up inside of him for too long, and the lure of actually being able to just say these things is too great.
"It has to be, because we're fucking-- You know everything that's going on and the last thing we fucking need is for me to complicate anything by making him feel fucking, I don't know, uncomfortable, and I-- I refuse to do anything that will make this--"
Shane is the one to drop his gaze this time and when he looks back up, Spencer thinks he looks… sympathetic? Pitying? Something which Spencer really can't deal with. He puts his toast back on his plate and pushes it away, his appetite gone.
"Brendon wouldn't--" Shane starts, then looks away again. "Brendon might… You could talk to Brendon, you know? I don't think he'd--"
Care? Spencer wants to ask. Return your feelings?
Because yes, on top of trying to deal with the breakup of their band, Brendon really needs to be thinking about how Spencer sometimes has a hard time looking away from Brendon's lips, or he finds himself checking out Brendon's ass, or how when Brendon comes up with a particularly awesome idea on one of their songs, something that makes them both so excited their shaking with it, what Spencer really wants to do is push him up against the music room wall and kiss him until they're both breathless with it. Because that's really something they both want to be dealing with right now.
Which is why Spencer just stares at Shane, one eyebrow raised, until Shane sighs.
"I think Brendon might surprise you, is all," he finally says, and Spencer shakes his head. Because--
Because he's dealing with it. He is. Maybe not well all of the time (now, for instance), but he is.
"Just--" Shane starts again, then meets Spencer's gaze. "Think about it." And with that, he stands up from the table and leaves his dishes in the sink, before walking out of the kitchen.
After he's gone, Spencer stares out the window, watching the people across the street leave for work for the day. The girl that's skipping rope, relishing her first few days of summer vacation. Bogart, as he starts nosing a rawhide around the kitchen floor.
When he picks his toast back up again, it's gone cold.
The problem is, Shane said think about it, and Spencer--
It's totally futile to hope for anything more, Spencer knows, but once--
Well. Once the idea's in his head (see: that fucking conversation with Jon fucking Walker that started this whole mess) it won't fucking leave. So Spencer wonders. Because hope springs ever-fucking-eternal, right?
Like, when Brendon sits down next to him on the couch for their late night video game battle, and his knee is pretty much pressed against Spencer's, is it because he's Brendon and Spencer's Spencer and they've lived in each other's space for too long for there to be any boundaries left? Or is it something else?
Or the next night, when Brendon begs off dinner out with Amanda and Joe to watch an evening full of Cartoon Network with Spencer, is it because Brendon's as tired as he says? Or is it because Ryan fucking tweeted about playing guitar on one of Eric's tracks and it's still as hard for him to hear about it as it is for Spencer? Or is it something else?
He only gets to wallow in his wondering for so long, though, before it's back to business, because Pete invites himself to the studio one afternoon, to see what they've been working on, and it's not that Spencer's worried?
It's just that he's really fucking worried.
But it's only because-- Okay, it's not that they're a band without a direction, see, or that Spencer doesn't trust Brendon to get the job done (he does, more than he can put into words). It's just. Everything. It's not that he feels like they're auditioning again, or getting songs ready for the audition. It's more, just.
It's more that Spencer so desperately wants Pete to like what they've come up with that he can't really stand it. Also because he's not quite sure what will happen if Pete doesn't like it.
Pete seems intent on drawing out the torture, too, because he doesn't let them drag him down to the music room when he first arrives. Instead, he insists on going out to the backyard and shooting the shit for awhile, where 'shooting the shit' means that Pete tells them approximately 5,000 Bronx stories, and then lets Bogart entice him into a game of tug of war with a ratty old knotted rope.
And it's weird, okay? Because Spencer starts to relax with the conversation--it's hard not to laugh at the tales of Bronx's antics--but the desire to just get the music portion of the afternoon over with just coils more tightly inside of him.
Eventually, Pete seems to have had enough of a social hour, and he lets Brendon lead them all downstairs. Pete is the one to shut Bogart--he'd proudly followed them down the stairs ready to continue hanging--out of the room, and then he sits down in one of the chairs in the corner as they start to tune their instruments.
"Hemmy would be starting to howl right about now," Pete says. "Which would set Bronx and Rigby off. Which is probably why I will never be doing another demo in my house until Bronx is in kindergarten. Or at least preschool."
Spencer laughs, then starts his warm-ups, watching Brendon out of the corner of his eye. He's acting mostly relaxed, mostly, seeming just a bit frazzled around the edges, but given the way that Spencer's feeling, he's pretty sure that that's to be expected. Spencer has no doubt that even that will fade away once they actually start playing. Indeed, by the time Brendon grins at Pete, his 'on stage' smile, he already seems looser, ready to let the music flow.
They start with the song they submitted for the Jennifer's Body soundtrack, because Pete hasn't heard it live yet, and from there they move into 'Oh Glory' and then on to the Sinatra piece, the cabaret, and the one that Spencer's been trying to develop more of a Latin beat for.
And Pete, whenever Spencer looks over, is nodding his head in what Spencer considers to be all the right places. Midway through, he starts tapping his foot along with the beat and--
"Yeah," he says, when they finally break off. "Fuck, yeah." His grin is wide.
Spencer feels a tension he hadn't quite been aware he was carrying around with him drain out of his body. He feels giddy with it and Brendon looks just as giddy as Spencer feels and all Spencer wants to do is just hug the fuck out of Brendon, because if Pete likes it--Pete, who's believed in them from the very start--the chances of other people liking it are--
So, Spencer doesn't even think. He just stands up from behind his kit and goes over to where Brendon's standing, putting his guitar back on the stand over by the wall, and maybe Brendon's feeling exactly what Spencer is, because Brendon's the one to wrap himself around Spencer, holding on as tightly as he can.
Spencer doesn't let go until Pete clears his throat behind them, rolling his eyes good-naturedly. He says, "So, I think we need to celebrate. Tonight? The two of you want to come on over for dinner at our place? Get some Bronx stories of your very own?"
"Absolutely," Brendon says, then looks at Spencer for confirmation. He's still standing in Spencer's space, their shoulders brushing, and Spencer nods. "Yeah," he says.
Spencer has no doubt that there's going to be more to the dinner than celebration, that there will be talk about the announcement, the 'what next'. But for now, Spencer's content to let things play out as they will.
As soon as the door to the music room opens, Bogart is bounding in, barking his hellos, and then he leads the way back upstairs as they show Pete out.
"Six o'clock," Pete says. "We'll see you there."
"You will," Brendon says. "Absolutely."
Then Pete's gone and it's just Brendon and Spencer again, and Brendon is bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet, and he looks like he wants to give Spencer another hug, so Spencer opens up his arms and says, "Come here."
He presses his nose to Spencer's neck, so Spencer allows himself to do the same. And again, he just holds on. The two of them just stand there, for who knows how long, and Spencer just breathes.
Ashlee greets them at the door, Bronx balanced on her hip. She says, "I would give you guys hugs, but my arms are a little full right now." Her smile is wide, her hair up in a sloppy ponytail.
"Bah," Bronx says, as if agreeing with his mom, and he holds the sippy cup full of water that he's currently got clutched in his hands out to Brendon. Brendon says, "Thank you, Bronx!" then holds out his hands to take the baby from Ashlee. Because he's Brendon, and one of the things that Spencer's learned over the years is that Brendon and babies are pretty much magnets for each other.
Bronx giggles as he makes the trip from Ashlee's arms to Brendon's, then immediately makes a grab for Brendon's glasses. "Yeah, no," Brendon says, disengaging Bronx's fingers as gently as possible. "We've got to leave the glasses alone, okay? Okay?"
"Bronx takes bribes," Pete says from the doorway to the dining room, and Spencer starts, because he'd apparently been so wrapped up in watching Brendon and Bronx that he hadn't even heard Pete approach. Although, in his defense, Pete can be a sneaky fucker when he wants to be.
"Toys," Ashlee says. "Walks."
"Songs," Pete says. "I bet he'd totally leave your glasses alone if you sang him a lullaby later tonight. Just, um. Don't let him know it's a lullaby, 'cause he's not really down with the whole bedtime thing."
"Because all of the exciting things in life happen after he goes to bed," Ashlee says. Brendon nods, like he knows what they're talking about, and Spencer feels like he should, but it's been a long time since his sisters were this little, and he's not that much older than they are.
"So if I sing you a l-u-l-l-aby tonight, you'll leave my glasses alone?" Brendon asks Bronx very seriously, and Spencer watches Bronx watch Brendon for a long moment, before he starts giggling and kicking his feet.
"Okay," Brendon says. "It's a deal." He sticks his finger out for Bronx to grab, then shakes it, like they're sealing the deal. A moment later, Brendon looks over his shoulder at Spencer, his smile so bright, and that's when Spencer realizes that he's already smiling back. And, well, it's not like he didn't acknowledge his change of feelings days ago, weeks ago, but he can't help thinking it again: so, so fucked.
They move to the back porch pretty much immediately, because that's where Pete and Ashlee do most of their entertaining. Spencer takes the chair facing back towards the house, leaving Brendon, Pete and Ashlee to fight over who gets to sit next to the baby. Ashlee wins, of course, by virtue of raising one perfectly groomed eyebrow in her husband's direction. Pete pouts, then motions for Brendon to take the other seat.
"He's going to try to steal your pizza," Pete says. "You'll probably have to bribe him with another song tonight, just to get him to leave your food alone."
"I made pizza," Ashlee says. "In case that wasn't obvious already."
"And it's going to fracking rock your taste buds," Pete says. "Or scorch them." He winces, then, and given the calm smile on Ashlee's face, Spencer's guessing that she just kicked at his leg under the table.
"One time," she says. "One time!"
"But my taste buds died happy," Pete adds, nodding sagely. At which point, Spencer hears the sounds of a kitchen timer, and Ashlee jumps up.
Brendon gets up, too. "Do you need help with anything?" he asks, but he's already following Ashlee into the house before she responds. Which leaves Pete, Spencer and Bronx out on the porch.
Pete closes his eyes for a moment, letting his head fall back, then says, "I know I said that this was going to be a celebration, but at some point we're going to need to talk about when to announce."
Spencer nods. He was expecting this, after all.
"Have you dudes talked about it at all?"
"Not yet," Spencer says, and he knows that there were good reasons for not announcing the split immediately--mostly so that all of them, both bands, could get a firm grip on this post-split world, without their fans, the media, everyone analyzing every move that they make. There will be more than enough analyzing for all of them, Spencer's sure, to come in the future.
Now, though, when they've been sitting on the news for almost six weeks, Spencer almost wishes that they'd just gotten it over with already, because if they had, they already be through the worst of everything. They could just… concentrate on the music. Get ready for the tour.
"We talked to Ian about going out on tour with us," Spencer says.
Pete nods his head, like it was a logical choice. In Pete's head, it probably was. Ian may not technically be on DecayDance anymore, but Spencer wouldn't be surprised if Pete weren't ready to offer Ian a solo contract the moment it looked like the kid might actually take him up on it.
"He said yes," Brendon says, coming back out onto the porch, carrying an oversized salad bowl in one hand, three bottles of dressing clutched in the other. "In case you were wondering."
"Like he'd be crazy enough to say no," Pete says. Whether he means saying no to playing with Brendon and Spencer or going on tour with Blink, Spencer doesn't know. And Spencer has to swallow then, because there are at least two people who chose not to. He looks up, meets Brendon's gaze, and Brendon's smile is a little tight, too.
"And on the most important instrument on stage?" Pete asks. He sounds a little more carefree than he had a moment ago, like maybe he'd realized what he said could have possibly been interpreted the wrong way.
"Do you know Dallon?" Brendon asks. "Weekes? Of the Brobecks? He's, um. He's friends with the guys in Phantom Planet?"
"Of course he is," Pete says. "Because you dudes all like to keep it in the family. I mean, what, Ryan's been talking about hanging out in the studio with Alex, and--"
"We like Dallon," Spencer says. "And he's, you know. He's not looking for anything. He's already got a band."
"That's good," Ashlee says, and Spencer hadn't actually noticed her bring the pizzas out: two of them, one balanced on each hand. "You all, you just need to get back on your feet, you know? Get back out there on stage."
"We do," Brendon says. "That is so exactly what we need."
"But," Pete says. "They've got a new song, which is fuc-- um , awesome, and their demos are--You've got to let Ash listen to the cabaret one, okay? She's going to love it."
"Because cabaret is the way to a girls heart," Ashlee says. Then, "You aren't going to talk business all night, are you? Because I was pretty sure this was supposed to be a celebration?"
"And it is," Pete says. "So I guess we aren't talking business anymore."
And while part of Spencer feels like they need to keep talking business, that they should, more of him wants to thank Ashlee for putting a stop to that conversation. Because he really just. He wants to celebrate.
So, they start talking about pretty much anything but the next few weeks. If Spencer thought Pete had a lot of Bronx stories, Ashlee has even more, and Brendon starts chiming in with tales of his nieces and nephews, and then Hemmy and Rigby decide to join them out on the porch, which starts up the dog stories, and then the dog and baby together stories, and Spencer just lets the whole conversation wash over him. Because it does feel good to be sitting here, with friends, just hanging out.
Until, that is, Pete pulls out his phone and starts flipping through the 80 million pictures of Bronx (and really, Spencer thinks that 80 million might be an under-estimation), to find the one of Hemmy and Bronx fast asleep together in the middle of Pete and Ashlee's bed.
At which point, Brendon pulls out his phone and starts flipping through his own pictures (mostly of his dogs, Spencer's pretty sure), until he apparently finds the one he wants because he then says, "Ah ha! I see your sleeping Bronx and Hemmy and raise you a sleeping Spencer with two sleeping dogs."
And Spencer wants to say, 'What?' He wants to say, 'What the ever-loving fuck?' because-- Because the only picture that he remembers Brendon taking of him and the dogs, when they were all asleep, was way, way back when, right after Spencer had moved in.
"Shit," Pete says when he takes Brendon's phone to look at it, and he's pretty much cackling, and then he shows Spencer the picture, and indeed, it's that one from his first day of surfing, where he was too tired to move. "That is fuc-- um, fracking awesome, dude. You totally need to send me a copy of this. We can put it in the Clandestine holiday card."
"The fuc-- um, hell you will," Spencer says. Then he looks at Brendon, one eyebrow raised, and his heart is beating maybe just a little bit faster than he'd like it to be, and he's sure there's a perfectly good explanation for why Brendon still has that picture on his phone. Really. Like he just hadn't cleaned out the files in awhile. Or. Something. And he should really just leave it alone, he knows, but before he really thinks about it, he says, "You took this, like, months ago." He leaves the 'why do you still have it?' unsaid.
He expects Brendon to laugh it off, give his excuses. Instead, Brendon ducks his head and turns just a shade pinker than he was a moment ago; not enough, Spencer thinks, for Pete to notice and call him on it. But Spencer, who's known Brendon for so long now that he almost doesn't remember a time before Brendon; Spencer, who feels like he knows Brendon better than perhaps anyone else right now--
Well, Spencer can tell.
"My dogs," Brendon says just a moment too late. "They're fuc-- um, flipping adorable. I can never have too many pictures of my dogs. You know this. You know how this goes." He carefully does not look at Spencer as he says it, and Pete says something in response, but Spencer doesn't hear it, because he's too busy thinking, huh.
Because Shane had said--
Because if Shane had--
If Spencer thinks--
Before his thoughts can continue along that path too far, though, Bronx starts to get fussy, twisting and turning, first in Brendon's grasp, then Pete's, and finally Ashlee's, moving the conversation from pictures to soothing words. He starts crying three times in ten minutes, calming down relatively quickly each time, but still, Spencer's not surprised when Ashlee says, "Okay, baby, I think it's time for you to go to b-e-d."
"So I get to sing now?" Brendon asks.
"Absolutely," Pete says, and somehow that turns into all of them heading up to Bronx's bedroom after Ashlee changes him into his PJs and gets him one last bottle. It's a fucking huge bedroom for a seven month old, but that also means that four adults can crowd around the crib and it's not actually so crowded.
Spencer doesn't start to feel slightly out of place until Brendon sits down in the rocking chair and Ashlee puts Bronx down on his lap. Then Brendon says, "I, um. There's one I used to sing to my nephew? Way back when?"
"Go for it," Pete says, and Ashlee nods. She's leaning against Pete's shoulder, and he's got an arm wrapped around her waist, and Spencer feels even more like this is an intimate moment, one he shouldn't be here for, except then Brendon starts singing. Softly, more tenderly than Spencer's used to him singing, and Spencer watches as Bronx goes from shifting restlessly in Brendon's arms, looking for his parents, to staring up at Brendon's face, smiling.
Brendon sings a second song without being prompted, and Bronx stays quiet throughout, his hand fisted loosely in Brendon's shirt. Tiredly. Spencer can already tell that he's fading.
He only starts feeling awkward again when Brendon falls silent, because Pete is leaning over to give Ashlee a kiss, and Brendon's just sitting there and holding the baby, and--
"So basically," Pete says a minute later, quietly, because Bronx is pretty much settled now, "we need to just employ you to come over every night and sing our baby to sleep. Think you might be interested?"
"Of course," Brendon says. "Except that might be hard, what with the whole touring musician thing and all."
"So we'll just get a recording," Ashlee says. "We already have Patrick's lullaby; we can start a collection."
"I would be down with that," Brendon says, and then Pete, Spencer, and Brendon take their leave, while Ashlee puts Bronx to bed, for real.
They don't stay too much longer after that, and when Pete shows them to the door, he says, "This was fun. I think we need to do this again next week, yes?"
"Yeah," Brendon says, and Spencer echoes him only a moment later.
The ride home is quiet, Brendon still humming the lullaby under his breath for the first few miles, before he puts on the new Imogen Heap and starts singing along with that. He's tapping his foot on the gas pedal, his fingers on the steering wheel, and Spencer, he just can't stop looking over. So, eventually, he doesn't stop trying; he just watches Brendon, knowing he looks far too fond, because half an hour ago, Brendon had been singing Bronx to sleep. Because Brendon still has a five-month old picture of Spencer on his phone. Because Shane had said Brendon might surprise him, and for the first time, Spencer's actually letting himself think that Shane knew what he was talking about.
Finally, at a red light, Brendon looks over at Spencer and says, "What?"
Spencer shakes his head. "Nothing," he says. "Just. It was a good night."
Brendon grins at him, bright. "It was," he says. "It was." Then, "So, when we get back, do you want to help me record a lullaby?"
"Of course," Spencer says.
They don't get up until late the next day. Spencer wakes up at 11 to find a note on the fridge from Shane, saying that he and Regan are off looking at furniture for their new place, and no sign that Brendon has rejoined the world of the upright and awake. So Spencer makes himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, pours the dregs of the coffee pot into a cup, and goes outside to sit on the back porch.
It's calm, quiet, muted sounds of the city around him, and he sits there, staring out at the yard, thinking.
About Brendon. About Shane's comments. About all of the little things that he'd decided that he was reading too much into, really, no really.
And they're good thoughts, ones that make warmth curl in his stomach, his chest. Ones that make him smile out over the yard as Dylan wrestles Bogart to the ground, head butting him repeatedly, then yelping as Bogart retaliates and starts chasing her. And he-- He lets himself think what might happen if Shane actually knows what he's talking about.
In his mind, it's easy to test it: he'll crowd up close to Brendon in the kitchen and Brendon's breathing will quicken, catching in his throat, and Spencer will have no choice but to push him back against the counter and kiss him. Or maybe they'll play an epic Guitar Hero match and when they beat a tricky song on hard, there will be celebrating, hugs from which Spencer does not let go. Or maybe--
There are a hundred different ways for this to play out, Spencer thinks, most of them badly or awkwardly, but the ones that don't… The ones where Shane is right, where Spencer is not reading too much into anything, where he actually takes the chance and Brendon doesn't run away, doesn't let things get awkward, doesn't decide he can't work with Spencer and embarks on a solo career or goes back to Ryan and Jon, well--
Which brings up the other, less happy thoughts.
Because Pete's right. They do need to talk to Ryan and Jon; they need to make it official. Because they're joining the Blink tour in five weeks, and FBR is already talking about a date to release the single, and-- And Spencer has never had any doubts that they made the right decision, that the split is a good thing, but six weeks into this new world order, there has been no talk of getting back together, reconciling. And Spencer knows (knows) that if it was going to happen, it would have happened already.
It's not going to happen.
These are the thoughts he's thinking when he hears the door out onto the porch open again. When he looks over his shoulder, Brendon's standing there dressed in sleep pants and a ratty t-shirt. He's got a mug in one hand, a cup of yogurt and a spoon in the other, and Spencer-- if he was thinking about anything else, anything at all, he'd let himself look. Well, more.
As it is, Brendon's smile fades just a little in the face of Spencer's serious expression, but he still comes forward, still sits down in the chair next to Spencer's. He opens his yogurt, then looks at Spencer and asks, "Everything okay?"
Spencer nods, then shrugs. "We need to call Ryan and Jon," he says. "We-- we need to make the announcement soon."
Brendon stills, then he jerks his head up and down, once, twice.
And after that, there's really not much for Spencer to do but go into the house and get his phone. He sits back down in his chair, looks at Brendon who's studiously looking out at the dogs, playing, then takes a deep breath and dials.
Ryan answers on the third ring, sounding giggly and out of breath, and Spencer can't help his wince. Beside him, Brendon shifts in his chair and when Spencer looks over, he sees that Brendon's watching him with a concerned expression.
"Spence!" Ryan says, and Spencer takes a deep breath before he makes himself smile and say, "Ry, hey."
"What's up?" Ryan asks, sounding more serious now, like he's able to tell that quickly from Spencer's tone that this isn't a social call. At some point, Spencer thinks, they will be able to call each other up again and shoot the shit, laugh about respective recording stories, tour stories. At some point every word they say won't be weighted with, well, everything else that's going on. History.
"We--" Spencer starts, then looks back down at the boards of the deck beneath his feet. He rubs his toe lightly over the grain of the wood. He swallows, then says, "Brendon and I, we were over at Pete's last night, and he pointed out-- We need to make the announcement soon."
There's silence on the other end of the phone, and for a moment, Spencer wonders if Ryan's feeling regret? Anger? Because five years ago, the idea of hanging out at Pete's was just about everything Ryan had ever wanted in this world. And now Spencer and Brendon are the ones who are doing that. They're the ones who have Pete coming into the studio to listen to them.
"Yeah," Ryan says. "Yeah, we do."
"FBR's talking about announcing our single," Spencer says, and the words taste sour on his tongue, because fuck. For the best or not, it still fucking hurts. It still feels completely fucking wrong. "They're talking August drop. They want to get the word out there."
"That's--" Ryan starts and he doesn't sound giggly anymore. He swallows audibly, maybe biting back what he really wants to say. Beside Spencer, Brendon stands up, the legs of the chair scraping back loudly over wood. Spencer thinks he's going to go inside; that's what Spencer would do. He wants to be pretty much anywhere else, not having this conversation.
Brendon doesn't go inside.
Instead he walks over to the corner of the porch and picks up a bedraggled tennis ball. He bounces it once, drawing the dogs attention, then tosses it across the yard and sits down on the steps, waiting for one of the dogs to bring it back. His knee, Spencer sees, is bouncing up and down spastically.
"So we need to announce," Spencer says. "We should, um. The four of us should probably get together, you know? So we can figure out exactly what to say."
And it shouldn't be that hard to suggest meeting up, Spencer thinks. The idea of the four of them getting together in one room should never be something he worries about like he's worrying now.
"I'll talk to Jon?" Ryan says. "We'll get back to you?"
And it's-- it's not the answer Spencer wants, but he says, "Okay, yeah. Let us know."
"I will," Ryan says. And then there's a pause, like he doesn't know what to say, and Spencer--they didn't even fucking part on bad terms. This isn't the way it's supposed to be.
"So, um, I'll talk to you later," Spencer finally says, and Ryan says the same, and then Spencer's hanging up. He's hanging up and staring at his phone, then closing his eyes and tipping his head back so that he can feel the sun on his face, hoping it dissipates this sudden chill that he's feeling.
He opens his eyes when he hears Dylan bark once, sharp, and looks over in time to see Brendon toss the ball again. Bogart barks at Dylan, as if scolding her for getting a head start on him, and Spencer, well. He smiles.
He also gets up and walks over to where Brendon's sitting, then sits down next to him. Brendon doesn't look over at him; instead, he's sitting with his arms almost wrapped around his knees, looking down at the ground. His shoulders are tight, his foot jerking up and down, his leg trembling with it.
"Ryan's going to let us know," Spencer says.
Brendon nods, but doesn't say anything. Doesn't look over at Spencer.
"It'll be fine," he continues, and he thinks he sounds pretty sure of himself, because as much as it still hurts to hear about Ryan and Jon's stuff, well. He is happy that they're getting to do what they want to do. Just like he's happy that he and Brendon are getting to do what they want to do.
Bogart brings the ball back this time, after taking a detour through most of the yard, Dylan right on his tail. Brendon reaches out to take the ball from Bogart's mouth, then tosses it again immediately before wiping his hand on his sleep pants and letting his legs drop back to the ground.
"Brendon?" Spencer asks, and they're sitting close enough that Spencer can almost feel the deep breath that Brendon takes, the way he steels himself with it. Then Brendon's looking at him, an expression in his eyes that Spencer hasn't seen since that day in the dog park, when Brendon flipped out about whether or not he'd be able to carry the album.
"I--" Brendon says, and he's sitting up so fucking straight. "I'm, um. I'm going to do something now, and Shane said that I--he said that you might surprise me and--"
And Spencer thinks, oh fuck, because suddenly he can guess where this is going. He opens his mouth to say, well. He's not sure what. Something. But Brendon's still talking.
"I mean, if you, like--I need to do this now, because, I mean. It's not too late for you to go with Ryan and Jon, right? I mean--"
And now Spencer's frowning (despite the fact that he'd been thinking similar thoughts earlier), because seriously.
"And I just, I--"
And even though Spencer had been this close to just leaning over and kissing Brendon to shut him up, he's actually caught off guard when Brendon closes the space between them, when he feels lips pressed to his. It doesn't start out as a good kiss, because it's an awkward angle, and Spencer's nose is bending against Brendon's, and Brendon's too tense, as if he's expecting Spencer to pull away now, now, any second now, and Spencer--
It takes him a moment, but then he raises his hand to Brendon's cheek, thumb brushing against Brendon's stubble, and he manages to tilt his head just a bit to the right, keeping Brendon where he is, and then, there, and he hears a moan, and he's not sure if it's Brendon or him. He decides that it doesn't really matter, though, because Brendon's bringing a hand up to Spencer's shoulder, and Spencer's hand is sliding from Brendon's cheek to his neck, fingers slipping through Brendon's hair, and it's so easy for Spencer just to hold on, to let his lips part, for one of them to deepen the kiss.
Spencer's not actually sure how long they stay sitting there, kissing, but they don't pull back until they hear a sharp bark. Spencer doesn't know which one of them actually breaks the kiss, but they stay sitting there, foreheads pressed together, for another long moment. Spencer lets his eyelids slip open, watches Brendon's lashes flutter against his cheeks, and then they're eye to eye, nose to nose, and Brendon looks a little dazed, but it fades quickly into a fucking huge grin.
"Um," Brendon says, which makes Spencer laugh. "Yeah," he says.
Bogart barks a second time, and when Spencer looks down, he sees the dirty old tennis ball at their feet, ready to be tossed again. Spencer rolls his eyes and picks it up, lobbing it in a long arc about halfway across the yard.
He turns back towards Brendon and sees Brendon watching him, looking--not uncertain, but a little confused maybe, like he hadn't expected that reaction from Spencer at all.
"Shane possibly told me I should talk to you weeks ago," Spencer says. "That you might surprise me."
That makes Brendon laugh. "Fucker," he says, but fondly. "He totally knows how fucking gone I've been on you for fucking--I don't even know how long." And Spencer wants to say, 'me too. I'm totally fucking gone, too.' He doesn't, though.
Except all of a sudden he realizes that he could. That he can. Because Brendon is-- Because Brendon feels-- And that, Spencer's pretty sure, is a thought worthy of a kiss right there, and that's something that Spencer can do now.
So he does.
Spencer's not sure how long they've been kissing, how long Brendon's been pretty much sprawled out on the deck, Spencer lying most of the way on top of him, when his phone rings. Brendon's the one to groan, thumping his head down on the wood once, twice, then making a small noise of protest as Spencer starts to pull away.
"I don't have to--" answer it, Spencer starts to say, already leaning back down again, back to Brendon, but then the second round of ringing starts and, well.
"It could be Ryan," Brendon says, and Spencer--he'd actually forgotten what had prompted all of this. That Ryan was supposed to be calling him back. And if it is Ryan, he can't ignore it. So he rolls away from Brendon again, then stands up--which, fucking ow, because this deck was apparently not designed with making out times in mind--and. Well.
"Hey," he says, trying not to sound like he's grinning stupidly, because this is not a moment for stupid grinning. He can't force the grin away, though. Not yet. Particularly when he's pretty sure that it's going to be hard for him to do anything besides grin whenever he looks at Brendon ever again.
"Hi," Ryan says, and he sounds sober enough that Spencer makes himself look away from Brendon. Because Ryan deserves for Spencer to be serious about this, too.
"Jon's heading back to Chicago for a few days later this week," Ryan says. "He'll be back for the Fourth, though? Will you both be around then?"
"We will," Spencer says. He and Brendon haven't talked about it, but he thinks he'd know if Brendon had plans. "That will be good. We can talk. We can put together our statements, right? We'll--"
"We'll figure it all out then," Ryan agrees. It's only a minute later that they hang up and Spencer spends another long moment staring at his phone before he slides it into his pocket. He looks over at Brendon and despite the fact that a moment ago, all he'd wanted to do was climb back on top of Brendon, feel the press of Brendon's fingertips on his shoulder blades, the way Brendon apparently likes to put a little bite into his kisses, a habit which makes Spencer want to return the favor, now he--
He's still staring at the deck when Brendon comes up beside him and slides his palm against Spencer's, wrapping their fingers together. "Come on," Brendon says. "I think this might be a good afternoon for the two of us to record a lullaby."
Spencer wants to protest, because five minutes ago, he'd been wondering how long the two of them would last before one of them suggested taking this upstairs to Brendon's room. Now, though. Now. Well.
"Yeah," he says. "Yeah. That sounds good."
What Brendon really means when he suggests that the two of them record Bronx's lullaby, though, is that Brendon will record the lullaby, while Spencer works the controls.
Because that's the way the two of them work.
And actually, Spencer's pretty grateful for it, because it means he gets to sit and watch Brendon play his guitar and sing without having to play the drums, or be prepared to offer constructive comments. It means that he actually gets to watch in ways that he's desperately been trying not to let himself watch for the last several weeks.
So he watches Brendon run through the song a few times, hums along lightly when Brendon sings, "When you arise, you will be home," and then Brendon motions for him to start recording, so Spencer presses his buttons, and, well, because Brendon is Brendon, he pretty much nails it the first time out.
They listen to the whole two minutes worth of song after Brendon's done, but before Spencer can do more than give Brendon a thumbs up and a smile, Brendon says, "Actually, I have an idea?" Which is how they end up spending another half hour recording Brendon singing fucking harmonies for a lullaby, then another two hours mixing it all together, layering the vocals.
An hour in, Spencer realizes that he's pretty much just sitting there, watching Brendon work: the way his eyes light up, the way he can be this involved in something and still completely fail at sitting still. Everything.
By the end of it, when Brendon's sending the file off to Pete, Spencer's lying on the floor, his eyes long since closed, because it's a fucking relaxing song, okay? And he's probably listened to it about 50 times by this point.
He's actually relaxed enough that he doesn't even startle when Brendon lies down next to him, elbowing Spencer's shoulder as he tries to get settled. Spencer does crack one eye open and glare at him, because he's Spencer and no matter what he and Brendon have going on right now, he's not going to stop what comes naturally to him. Brendon giggles a little before shifting his weight a few more times, then finally letting out a deep breath.
"I," Brendon says finally. "I can't fucking believe that I'm saying this, okay? But I want to do this right. I just. I don't want to rush into anything?"
Spencer's first thought is that they wouldn't be rushing anything; they're fucking living together already, after all, and--
And he understands what Brendon's saying. With everything else that's going on around them, they really aren't in the most ideal place to start a relationship. (Even though Spencer could probably make a compelling argument that they've actually already been together for months at this point. Just, you know. Without knowing it.) So, he nods. He wants to ask what limits Brendon has, but Brendon's continuing:
"That doesn't mean that I don't think we shouldn't go make out on the couch until Shane gets home. I think it would be really fucking hilarious to offend his delicate sensibilities with this. And after his rather faily attempts at matchmaking, I think he deserves to walk in on us."
Spencer really can't say no to that.
So after Brendon helps Spencer up off of the floor, they head upstairs. An hour after that Shane walks into the living room, saying, "B? Spence? Anyone here?" Then, "Oh fuck! My eyes."
"Fuck off," Brendon says, sounding more breathless than giggly. He raises his middle finger at Shane, lifting it up past Spencer's shoulder and the back of the couch, so that Shane can actually see it.
When Spencer raises his own head far enough so that he can see Shane, Shane's grinning, looking quite pleased. "It's about fucking time," he says. "But no fucking on the couch, okay? That shit is mine and is also moving with me. Deal?"
"Sure," Brendon says, in that way that Spencer knows means he's lying through his teeth. Or that he's trying to make you think he's lying through his teeth, so you don't actually know if he's lying or not. Because Brendon can be a dick like that.
"Fuck you," Shane says. "You're going to pay to get it fucking disinfected, okay?"
Brendon wiggles his eyebrows in a way that makes Spencer laugh, and then Shane says, "So, hey. If you two lovebirds actually feel like, you know, socializing with the rest of the world? Regs is in the car. We were thinking food. Sushi?"
"Food would be good," Spencer says, looking down at the swollenness of Brendon's lips. The redness of the skin around his mouth, his cheeks. "Give us ten?"
"Twenty," Brendon says, trailing a finger down the back of Spencer's neck.
"Twenty," Spencer echoes.
Shane sighs, so very put upon. Then he says, "We'll meet you there?"
"You got it," Brendon says.
"We won't wait for you," Shane adds, which, well. Spencer thinks that's probably a bright idea.
For the last seven weeks or so, Spencer's felt like his life has been in a bit of a holding pattern, but now that they've got a date set to meet with Ryan and Jon, now that the true end is on the horizon, Spencer feels like someone hit the fast forward button, because they have way, way too much shit to do.
He and Brendon both want to get as many songs demo'd for their new album as possible. They actually need to practice the songs they're going to play, get their set together. They need to learn 'New Perspective' backwards and forwards, until they're able to play it in their sleep, and while Spencer's certainly happy with the cut that they sent in for the soundtrack, he's having a good time further developing the drum line, making whatever changes he wants. Which is to say, to quote Daft Punk, making it harder, better, faster, stronger.
And then, of course, there's Brendon.
See, Spencer knows how new relationships go. He knows the fluttery excitement that settles into his muscles, the wanting to learn every last thing about the person, the wanting to spend every single moment together, the smiles, laughter, flirting.
But it's Brendon, see, who's never believed in personal space to begin with, and Spencer gets paid to spend all day with him anyway, and Spencer's been smiling over the breakfast table at him for years. He knows how Brendon takes his coffee, how many hours he can go before he needs to break for something--a trip to the park with the dogs, a game on the Wii, an afternoon alone. He knows Brendon. And he realizes that, well, despite this whole new aspect of their relationship, there's not a whole lot that's going to change.
On day three, Brendon invites himself into Spencer's room for late night talking and sleepy making out, and in the morning they wake up together. The waking up together isn't new, but the thrill that winds it way through Spencer's stomach when he feels Brendon's fingertips against a patch of skin beneath his t-shirt, well.
On day four (or maybe it's five, since they don't head to bed until after two), Spencer follows Brendon into his room, because, you know. Bed.
And consciously falling asleep together, ankles pressed together under the thin sheets, Brendon's arm around Spencer's waist?
And, well, Brendon seems to be inside Spencer's space more often. Spencer can't stop reaching out to touch him, brushing fingers over his shoulder, neck, elbow. His cheeks are actually starting to ache a little, what with the amount he's been smiling.
Those are all new.
And Brendon, see, he likes to kiss. Spencer has known this since they were eighteen and Brendon fell head-over-fucking-heels for Audrey. He's watched Brendon with other people, watched the way that he's glommed onto them. It's not like Spencer's never been the focus of Brendon Urie's full attention before, but it's different when Brendon's straddling his lap, fingers hooked around Spencer's head, holding on.
That is all new.
If this were any other relationship, with any other person, happening at any other time, Spencer would allow himself to get lost in it. He would. And maybe he does let himself, just a little. But they do have to work, they both know this, particularly since the rest of the world is going to be watching in just a few days.
They conscientiously spend time down in the music room, getting songs six and seven demo'd and continuing to develop eight and nine. In the afternoon, Spencer makes them leave the house for a while. Usually, this is in the company of the dogs, because they are very much over this whole 'the big people are shutting themselves in the basement for hours on end and ignoring us' thing.
So, they take walks up Spencer's hill.
They go to the dog park and toss tennis balls and frisbees and laugh when Bogart faces down a golden retriever puppy over a small branch that had fallen from the tree. It's too big for Bogart to carry, but when he wins the staring contest, he drags it over to Spencer and Brendon's bench proudly.
One afternoon, when they've walked most of the way to downtown Santa Monica, Brendon sees this yellow hat in a store window, and that, somehow, becomes the inspiration for song number ten. Spencer manages to keep the dogs occupied for another hour while Brendon tears a flier off of a power pole and starts writing down words as fast as he can.
A week to the day from his last visit, Pete comes over to hear their new stuff, and he's just as enthusiastic as he was before. This time, Brendon's the one to come to Spencer, and instead of the endless hug, he gives him a kiss, a quick peck on the lips. When Spencer looks over at Pete, Pete's smiling.
Spencer has a brief flash of wanting to tell Pete that this is okay, that they won't let it affect what they're doing, but then Pete's saying, "It's about damn time. Jesus, I thought you kids were going to dance around each other all tour and drive the rest of us up the fucking wall!"
They head over to Pete and Ashlee's for dinner again. Take out, since Ashlee's been on the set all day and Spencer's not actually sure that he wants to eat anything that Pete concocts in the kitchen. This time, Brendon doesn't fight Pete for a spot at Bronx's side. Instead, he takes the seat next to Spencer, lets their knees brush under the table, and when Bronx makes the inevitable rounds from lap to lap (because sitting in one place is boring), Brendon leans against Spencer's side when it's his turn to hold the baby, his head pretty much on Spencer's shoulder.
This time, Spencer doesn't have to think, 'so, so fucked,' as loudly as he's used to thinking it. He still thinks it, of course, but now the mental words are accompanied with a smile.
It's a lazy evening for the most part, with only a little business talk: Pete, glad that they're talking with Ryan and Jon soon. Pete, totally willing to offer up his services and advice if needed. So they drink wine, and then, because they're all musicians, after Bronx goes to bed for the night, Ashlee breaks out the guitar and the next thing Spencer knows, Pete's verbally poking Brendon into singing. Brendon defaults to Sublime, because that's what Brendon does, and Spencer doesn't mean to, but he finds himself clapping along, singing once or twice, too.
"Dude," Pete says to Spencer when he turns his computer off, because of course he was recording it. "You can take the drummer away from the drums, but you can't take the rhythm away from the drummer. Fuck."
"Dude," Brendon echoes. "I know, right?"
Spencer quietly flips him off.
Ryan and Jon are supposed to arrive around one, since they're apparently going to Vicky T's Fourth of July party later that afternoon, and Spencer spends most of the third cleaning. The next morning (late morning), he even fucking makes the beds, which Brendon thinks is pretty much the funniest thing ever. Possibly too funny, but given the day, what they're getting ready to do, Spencer's not going to call him on it.
"Have you made your bed since you were a kid?" Brendon asks. "I don't think I've ever seen you make your bed, like, ever in the whole fucking time I've known you."
"Shut up," Spencer says. It's-- He needs something to do besides pace, and the last thing he needs to do is start getting the dogs worked up with a game of ball, when for all he know Ryan and Jon could arrive at any minute.
Brendon nods, then steps forward and crowds Spencer back against the wall, stretching up to kiss him. It's a calm kiss, for them, because while they may not have actually gotten completely naked together in Brendon's bed, or on the deck, or on Shane's couch, they've been getting closer. Spencer closes his eyes in the moment, lets his hands come to rest on Brendon's hips, and lets himself drift. Which works really well, until the doorbell rings.
His lips unconsciously follow Brendon's mouth when Brendon pulls away, before Brendon let's his forehead come to rest against Spencer's shoulder. Spencer hears Brendon take a deep breath and he raises a hand up to squeeze Brendon's bicep, comforting, and then--
Then it's time to go answer the door.
The dogs are already there, of course, barking up a storm, in case Spencer and Brendon hadn't heard the doorbell. Spencer can see shadows through the frosted windows that edge Brendon's door. He takes a deep breath, then opens the door, and then, for the first time in two months, the four of them are together in one place.
Brendon's the one to invite them in. Jon's smile is mostly easy, especially when he holds up a fucking cheese and cracker platter, what the fuck. Ryan has the beer.
"We brought munchies," Jon says and Spencer, he laughs. He can't help but laugh. A sudden release of tension, maybe? Or maybe it's because Jon is laughing too, and when Jon laughs, it's really hard not to do the same.
"We made pizza," Brendon says. "It's not in the oven, yet, but I can go do that." He starts towards the kitchen, and Ryan raises an eyebrow at Spencer, as if to ask, really?
"Ashlee made pizza when we went over there two weeks ago," Spencer explains. "She apparently got Brendon hooked on the idea. He's been experimenting. Today's, I think, is bell pepper and pineapple?"
Jon nods, while Ryan looks thoughtful.
"So, we thought we'd go out on the deck, maybe? It seems like it's a nice enough day?"
"Sounds good," Ryan says, starting through the house, like it hasn't been two months since he was last here. Spencer and Jon follow, and Brendon's just a few minutes behind, bringing out napkins and cups, not that they need them yet.
It feels. Well.
Part of Spencer feels like they should just get down to business, but the last few conversations with Ryan have felt so awkward that Spencer would do pretty much anything to make that better. So, instead of asking, 'how are we going to do this?' he asks about the music. Because he knows that will get Ryan talking, and he does want to know what Ryan and Jon are up to, as painful as it might be to hear. Except, he really can't begrudge Ryan and Jon anything right now, not when he and Brendon are… he and Brendon.
It only takes three false starts for Ryan to get in the music-talking groove, but when he does, the words pretty much just come spilling out. He's painting his vision with words again, the original ideas modified to fit just him and Jon, and it's-- Spencer's glad. He is. And he'd be willing to place money on Brendon being glad, too, despite the fact that he's sitting far too still in the chair next to Spencer's.
It's Jon who asks about their album, and Spencer might be a little peeved about that, except Ryan actually does look interested. And he is, Spencer's sure. Enough so, probably, that he couldn't ask about it. Because Brendon and Spencer are keeping the name. Because they're the ones going on tour.
"We're doing really well," Brendon says. "We've been polishing songs four and five? And Spence is developing this wicked awesome Latin beat sort of thing? It fucking rocks."
"Brendon wrote a song about a yellow hat the other day," Spencer says. "I had to keep Bogart and Dylan entertained in downtown Santa Monica for an hour because the inspiration hit right then, you know?"
"It's not about a yellow hat," Brendon says. "It was inspired by a yellow hat. There's a difference." And he's grinning at Spencer so fucking wide, and if Spencer didn't care about adding even more layers of tension to this meeting, he would totally lean over and kiss Brendon right then. It feels wrong not to.
And so they talk. They eat cheese and crackers and talk until Brendon's phone beeps and he says, "Um, pizza? I'll be back in a few?" And Spencer, because this is his house too, gets up to help him. He walks into the kitchen as Brendon's already leaning over the open oven door, pulling the pizza pan out with ratty old mitts. He waits while Brendon sets the pizza on another serving tray, then lets himself step into Brendon's space. He rests his chin on Brendon's shoulder, tilts his head just slightly so he's leaning against Brendon's cheek, brings his arms around Brendon's waist. Brendon leans back, just for a moment, a breath, before he seems to steel himself for heading outside again. He takes the pizza tray; Spencer brings the plates and silverware. On the way past the living room, he also grabs a notepad and four pens. Because Ryan and Jon are here for a reason.
Indeed, the mood seems to shift as soon as Ryan sees the paper and pens and Spencer thinks that in that moment, it becomes just slightly more real for all of them. They're all silent as Brendon slices the pizza in front of them, as he offers Ryan the first slice. Ryan takes two, then Jon does the same. Spencer starts with one, his appetite already having fled a bit, but Brendon takes two also.
Because the pizza is still too hot to eat, Ryan says, "I think that Jon and I should post the first message. I mean, I think the two of us should post a joint message. And then, if you two wanted to, you could post a message."
Spencer wants to ask why. Why Ryan should get the first words, because as far as the world knows, the band still belongs to all of them; they could share the first words. But, initial feelings aside, it makes sense, because Ryan and Jon are the ones leaving. They should get a chance to make their case.
"Okay," Spencer says. His knee bumps Brendon's under the table, and out of the corner of his eye, he sees Brendon loosen up just slightly.
"The musical differences need to come first," he continues. He knows that Ryan and Jon know that, but it doesn't hurt to remind them. Because people are going to read far too much into this. He's relatively sure that by the end of whatever day they do end up announcing this, half of the people who care are going to be sure that they all hate each other.
On the paper Ryan has in front of him, he writes: To whom this may concern:
It takes them two hours and approximately 15 pieces of paper. One of the pens runs out of ink. In the end, though, they have two statements: Ryan and Jon's and Spencer and Brendon's. They talk about friendship being more important than the music, about how excited they all are for the future. The statements are entirely the truth.
It's fucking hard, though. It fucking sucks to be doing this, but then they're done. They're fucking done.
Which is when Jon asks about the tour.
"We're still getting our set list ready," Brendon says. "We've asked Ian and Dallon, you know, Weekes, to come out with us. They said yes. Obviously. Or else I wouldn't be telling you that they were going to come on tour with us."
Brendon's babbling and Spencer wonders if he can see the press of Ryan's lips getting tighter, thinner. Even Jon doesn't look quite as comfortable with the conversation now that they're talking about a tour that Ryan and Jon will never go on. That will have other people playing under the Panic! at the Disco banner.
"They're good," Ryan says carefully, and Spencer wills Brendon not to say anything about how awesome either of them are. Because that is not what Ryan and Jon need to hear right now. Perhaps Brendon's psychic abilities have developed, because indeed, he just nods.
"When are you all going on tour?" Spencer asks, because it feels like when he's in doubt, turning the conversation back towards Ryan can't hurt.
"We haven't made plans yet," Ryan says. "We want to record our album first, you know?" And there are all sorts of things that Spencer could read into that--about how some of them will be touring on their own music, not music created (in part) by others--but he chooses not to. Because that is not what they need today.
Brendon's tense beside Spencer again, though, and it--the problem is, Spencer hasn't had to censor his touch around Brendon for almost two weeks now, so he's reaching out to squeeze Brendon's knee before he thinks about it, stops himself. And Ryan and Jon, they just stare.
They stare, and Spencer feels his own shoulders tensing, which makes Brendon respond by reaching over to squeeze Spencer's hand, which is maybe not the most diplomatic thing Brendon could have done, but Spencer appreciates it, because Ryan is looking betrayed in a way that he hasn't look betrayed in months, since Spencer didn't back his original grand vision, and fuck.
Fuck, fuck, fuck.
"How long?" Jon asks, and he's looking hurt, too. Like maybe Spencer had hid this from him, back when Jon had originally called him on it.
"Two weeks-ish?" Brendon says. "Not quite. I, um."
"Jesus," Ryan says, and then he's laughing, but in a pained way, like it's either that or yelling. Spencer's actually not sure which he'd prefer. "Of course you guys got together now. I shouldn't be surprised. You've only been building towards it for fucking--"
"Ryan," Jon says.
"It had nothing to do with--" Spencer starts, except Ryan cuts him off. "Of course it didn't." He says it vehemently enough that Spencer can't actually tell if he's being sarcastic or whether the emotion of the day has finally just become too much.
"Ryan," Jon says again.
"It had nothing to do with the way this worked out," Spencer says again, but this time he's looking at Brendon, because as much as Ryan needs to know this, Brendon needs to know it more.
Spencer watches as Ryan takes a deep breath. Brendon is still holding onto Spencer's hand. Finally Ryan says, "I'm sorry. I'm-- I should probably be saying congratulations, right?" Then he seems to deflate some, and when he speaks again, he says, "Jesus, I'm sorry. I am happy for you, really. You both deserve to be happy. You, um. You should come over for dinner some night, okay? You guys and Kate and I, we'll have dinner."
"Yeah," Spencer says. "Of course." Because he can tell that Ryan means what he says. Just like Jon means the hug he gives them both when he leaves. When he says, "See, you should always listen to me," softly in Spencer's ear.
"Yeah, yeah," Spencer says, and he--he doesn't want to be happy that they're going, he's not happy that they're going, because this just feels like another ending to add to the ones they've already built up between them, but.
He's glad when he can collapse against Brendon, just a little. When Brendon can rub his shoulders and kiss the back of Spencer's neck. When they can sprawl out in front of the TV and watch yet another CSI Miami marathon, where Brendon keeps talking back to Horatio Caine.
Bogart joins them on the couch during the teaser of the first episode, Dylan only a tail wag behind, and during episode two, when Spencer lies down on the couch, he puts his head in Brendon's lap. Bogart takes that opportunity to walk up Spencer's chest, curl up there, his nose almost touching Spencer's chin.
"My dog likes you," Brendon says. "We both like you." He runs his fingers through Spencer's hair.
"The feeling is entirely mutual," Spencer says.
Brendon's smile lights the room.
And so, on Monday morning, they make the announcement.
Spencer wakes up at the now unheard of hour of nine a.m. and consciously does not keep refreshing their webpage, waiting for that fateful post. Instead, he takes the dogs for a run. An actual run. Where he puts on shorts and a fucking, like, shoes that are actually made for running, rather than his usual pair. He leaves a note for Brendon and Shane on the fridge, then sets out. At first, Dylan and Bogart aren't quite sure what to do with this sudden change of their usual pace, more used to meandering walks with lots of smells than this sort of exercise. Dylan has racing in her blood, though, and Bogart is never one to be left behind, so soon enough they've got an actual pace going.
Which is awesome. Except Bogart is not a greyhound, and also has short legs, and thus is done with this whole running thing far sooner than Dylan and Spencer.
Essentially, the moral of the story is, Spencer could either carry Bogart home, or he could call Brendon for a ride, providing coffee as a motivator, because he's pretty much collapsed outside a coffee place right now.
He opts for calling Brendon. Because--because it's almost eleven and Ryan and Jon will be posting the announcement at any moment now, and Spencer's not really feeling the whole 'being alone' vibe anymore.
Brendon sounds sleepy when he answers, but he answers, so Spencer counts it as a win. He sounds more enthusiastic after Spencer promises him coffee, with lots of caramel, and also whipped cream.
"I'll be there in 15," Brendon says, which Spencer translates as probably being closer to 25, so he just keeps sitting for a few minutes longer. Eventually he ties the dogs to the railing outside the store and goes inside, ordering pastries and coffee for both him and Brendon, as well as two plastic cups of water for the dogs. He takes a table outside, moving the dogs so they're right there with him. And ten minutes after that, Brendon slides into the seat across from him.
"Hi," Brendon says, and he looks as jittery as Spencer feels. Perhaps it's not a day for coffee, but Spencer, well. He needs coffee. He needs something to keep his hands busy.
"Hey," Spencer says.
"You got up early? Or I'm assuming early, since you are all of the way the hell out here and I was… not."
"I did," Spencer says. He's got his phone on the table and he keeps looking at it. He assumes that Ryan or Jon will call him when it's done. Either that, or people who know his phone number will start calling, to the point where his only option will probably be to turn off his phone.
Brendon, he sees, is looking at Spencer's phone, too.
"They're probably reading through it again," Brendon says. "You know Ryan. His words have to be perfect." Brendon doesn't sound bitter about it; it's more a simple statement of fact. It is fact.
"Probably," Spencer says. "Yeah."
And he looks at his phone again.
They're halfway through their coffees and Spencer's broken his piece of pound cake into about 5 million pieces, looked at his resolutely dark phone about every other second, and yet somehow, he's still surprised when it rings, Ryan's name on the screen.
Spencer closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and then says, "Hey."
"Hey," Ryan says, sounding less awkward than Spencer's expecting. Less awkward than he's actually sounded in months. He sounds maybe even a little relieved? "It's done."
Spencer's breath catches in his throat, and he has a brief last moment of thinking, 'no, no, we shouldn't fucking be doing this, surely we could have done something', before his relief settles in too.
It's really fucking done.
"Okay," Spencer says. "Okay." Then, because he has to say something else, he does: "We had a good run."
"We did," Ryan says, sounding just slightly nostalgic. "We did." Spencer can hear him swallow. "Ball's in your court now, I guess?"
"Okay," Spencer says. And that's it. That's the real, final and forever end.
He ends the call and sets his phone carefully down on the table. He doesn't realize his hand is shaking until Brendon covers it with one of his own, rubbing his thumb across Spencer's palm. Spencer takes another deep breath and then says, "So, any chance you might want to be in a band with me?"
"Dude," Brendon says, "You fucking know it."
They don't leave immediately, not until Spencer's actually finished eating his five million crumbs, and when they do leave, Brendon doesn't seem to be in any hurry to get home. So, they take the long way back and when they do actually get to the house, Spencer opts to take a shower rather than turn on the computer.
And then, of course, they have to read Ryan and Jon's announcement, and read through their own about 50 more times, to make sure every word is in the right order, to make sure it says exactly what they want it to say. And even when they're sure it looks exactly like they want it to, when they're ready to upload it to their website, they still reread it another ten times.
Spencer's been the one sitting in front of the computer for the last hour, but when it actually comes to posting their note, he just--sits there. He's not even sure for how long, but eventually Brendon rests his hand over Spencer's and presses down on Spencer's fingers, making them press down on the mouse, and then it's done.
Brendon's head tips forward, until his forehead is pressed to Spencer's neck, and Spencer raises a hand, rests it against Brendon's cheek, ear, and--
Spencer can already see the messages piling up from Facebook, MySpace. He doesn't even want to think what his Twitter inbox looks like. So, he shuts down the computer and says, "I think we should--Um, you want to go record something?"
It's a stupid question, of course, because Brendon is always up for recording, and that is how they end up in the basement, Brendon singing 'Three Little Birds', while Spencer mans the controls. Because it's been--Spencer doesn't even know what today has been, except maybe emotionally draining. Still, everything is going to be all right, he knows it. Brendon knows it. Ryan and Jon and Pete and Zack know it.
So, Brendon sings, and they post it to Twitter, and--
Spencer never really thought that the day that they announce the end of their band would be the calm before the storm, but.
But, for the last week or so, Shane's stuff has slowly been moving to the house that he and Regan are renting: a bookcase here, a box full of cameras and film and audio equipment there. Half the Wii games. Two of their fucking, like, eight Guitar Hero controllers.
The day after the announcement, Shane knocks on Brendon's door at some god awful time in the morning and says, "Yo, dudes, you're totally helping me pack."
So, they do. Spencer takes the bookcases in Shane's bedroom, leaving the common areas to Brendon and Shane, because they're the ones who actually know what belongs to who. Spencer's on box number three when he hears the sound of doggy nails on wood and looks down to see Bogart standing in the doorway, a rawhide bone in his mouth. His tail is wagging hesitantly, because he knows, of course he knows, that something is very, very wrong with his world.
Bogart drops the bone in the box, when Spencer's back is turned, and really, the only way for Spencer to respond to that is for him to take the bone out into the hallway and toss it. The sound draws Dylan, who's spent most of the past 18 hours curled up on the couch, her head between her paws, and that's why, fifteen minutes later, Brendon and Shane find Spencer sitting with his back to the linen cupboard, the dogs half running-half skidding down the hall as they go after the bone.
The movers are actually coming the next day, so they stop around three, and head out for a late lunch. When they get back, Shane and Regan take the dogs for a walk, and Brendon and Spencer head down into the studio, because it's--it's what they need to do. It's later than Spencer thinks it is when they actually come back upstairs, and they find Shane and Regan playing a cutthroat game of Mortal Kombat II. It doesn't take them that long to settle in, defending their own honor.
That night, Brendon curls into Spencer's side a little more forcefully than he usually does, and lets Spencer run his fingers through his hair.
The next day, they follow the movers the whole five blocks to Regan and Shane's new house, and spend most of the morning unpacking the same boxes they spent the previous day packing up. They bring Bogart with them ("Tomorrow he's going to be an only child," Brendon says. "He needs all the quality Dylan time he can get!") and the dogs, joined by Regan's dog Indie, run back and forth through the house, checking out every last nook and cranny.
"Ugh," Brendon finally says, collapsing on the couch next to Spencer, which is about the time Spencer's phone rings, and then Brendon's phone rings, and then Shane's phone goes off, and that's never a good sign.
Ryan's on the other end of Spencer's line, but even as he's saying, "Hey, what's up?" he hears Brendon saying, "Pete?" and Shane saying, "Walker? Yeah, they're here?"
"I'm sorry," Ryan says, and he sounds frantic in a way that Spencer hasn't heard in fucking years. "I'm so fucking--"
"Ryan," Spencer says. "Slow down, what the fuck?" His phone is beeping in his ear. Another incoming call, or a text message. Then another. Jesus.
"There was a picture," Ryan says. "We took it a few weeks ago, Z and her girls and I? We were at a party, and none of them fucking noticed, okay?"
"Oh no they didn't?" Brendon's saying, and he's leaning towards Spencer, elbows brushing, and Spencer consciously presses his shoulder a little more firmly against Brendon's. Because he has a feeling that he's going to need the contact just as much as Brendon does. "Perez?" Brendon continues, and oh my god, Spencer thinks, what the fucking hell, Ryan?
"They--" Ryan starts, hesitating in a way that Spencer's pretty sure actually means 'we'. "There was some coke at the party. Fuck."
And Spencer's heart freezes, because. Because fuck. It's not like Spencer doesn't know a whole fuckload of people who do coke, or have done coke, or who think that the best way to spend a weekend is to get totally fucked up out of their minds. And Spencer, obviously, knows the joys of the pot. But those people are not the people he's known since he was five. They aren't Ryan.
"It leaked today," Ryan says, and now he's sounding slightly defeated again. "It--Oh No They Didn't has it. Perez has it. I just. Wanted you to fucking hear it from me."
"Ry," Spencer says, and he's not sure what he wants to say: fuck you, or it will be okay, or--"or what. He's not sure what he has a right to say anymore.
"It's--we'll be fine," Ryan says. "It'll be fine. I'll take care of it." He's sounding falsely confident now. "Who knows, maybe it will give me some scene cred?"
"Ryan," Spencer says, more sharply, but Ryan's already saying, "I'll--I've got to go, okay? But I'll talk to you later." And then he's hanging up. He's fucking hanging up, and Spencer--"
It takes him a moment to realize that Brendon and Shane are already off the phone, both of them looking at him in a concerned manner; even Bogart's sitting at his feet, looking up at Spencer, his tail twitching in a way that he fucking knows is cute.
"Fucking hell," Spencer says, and then he starts laughing, because it's either that or punching out a wall, and Shane and Regan's landlords would probably not appreciate that so much. Brendon's leaning more heavily on Spencer's shoulder now, silent support, and just. Fucking fuckity fuck. Really.
"I'm sorry," Brendon says finally, after Spencer's calmed down some. "I'm--"
Spencer shakes his head, because none of this is Brendon's fault, not at all, and he's not the one who needs the sympathy. And Spencer, he doesn't know whether to feel badly for Ryan, or really fucking pissed, or sad, or--
"Everything's going to be all right, right?" he asks, and Brendon looks at him for a long, long minute before nodding. Then Brendon says hesitantly, "I think Regan's got a bookcase she's trying to build? If it might help to hammer something?"
Spencer thinks that sounds like a good plan.
For dinner that night, Regan makes grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, because she wants to try out their new kitchen.
"You need to start like you mean to go on, right?" she asks, and Shane nods. "We're going to try to embrace the home cooked lifestyle."
And dinner is good, calm. They don't talk about Ryan, don't talk about the picture which Spencer hasn't been able to bring himself to look at yet. Brendon sits too close, tries too hard to make Spencer laugh, and it's--it's not good, not in the way everything was eight hours before, but Spencer appreciates it more than he can say.
Part of him wants to go home now--it truly is his home now, because with Shane moving out, Spencer becomes Brendon's true roommate, not just the friend who showed up and never left. At the same time, it's Brendon's last night with Dylan, the last few hours that he can truly call himself Dylan's person, so Spencer waits. He waits through the movie that they watch with Dylan sprawled out over Brendon's legs, her head resting on his wrist. He waits while they talk and talk and talk, Brendon's fingers repeatedly scratching at Dylan's scruff. He waits until Brendon stands up, until he says, "So, Spence and I should probably get going."
Spencer nods, and walks towards the door with Shane and Regan, Bogart balanced in his arms. They wait there for probably five minutes, trying not to listen to Brendon speaking softly to Dylan in the living room, saying things like, "You be a good girl, okay?" and "I'll be by to see you soon," and, "You know I love you, right?" Finally, he joins them in the hall, Dylan in his arms, and he's smiling, he is, but his eyes are red-rimmed, wet. He gives Dylan one last squeeze, then hands her over to Regan, who promptly hands her to Shane so that she can give Brendon a hug, then takes her back so that Shane can do the same.
"We'll talk tomorrow," Shane says, and Brendon nods.
"Absolutely," he says.
Then it's Brendon and Bogart and Spencer in the car, Bogart on Brendon's lap while Spencer drives, and Spencer tries not to notice how tightly Brendon's holding Bogart, though when Brendon says, "I guess it's just the three of us now, huh?" he nods.
Then they're back at the house. It seems strangely silent when they walk in, almost empty, and Spencer wants-- Well, originally, he'd been thinking of ways that he and Brendon could celebrate having the house to themselves. But, to say that he's not in the mood would be an understatement.
So, while Brendon takes Bogart out into the backyard, Spencer turns on his computer and clicks on the first email from Pete, the picture attached. He's written: so u dont have to readthe comnts. And there it is: the dish, the little white lines. He stares at it and stares at it, until Brendon and Bogart come in from outside. Then he swallows and turns off the computer, following Brendon up to bed.
That night, they both hold on.
And life just keeps going, to a beat that Spencer almost feels like he can't keep up with. Because, see, on Thursday, Pete suggests that they leak a snippet of one of their songs, and Spencer, well. Quite honestly, he'd rather do that than pay attention to certain other things that are happening in their world.
So, he and Brendon stay up until four, tweaking the demo until they're as happy as they can possibly be with it, and then they, well. Post it. They post it and proceed to go surfing for most of the afternoon, because if there's one thing that Spencer doesn't handle all that well, it's waiting for that initial feedback to come in. Especially when this is, well, him and Brendon, what they will eventually be in the future.
Especially when Brendon is as jittery as Spencer's seen him in month, unable to keep his leg still, unable to relax even when Spencer presses thumbs deep into his shoulders in an attempt at a massage. So: surfing with Joe and Amanda, Bogart digging about 50,000 holes in the sand while they're otherwise occupied in the water.
Brendon's still tense and jittery when they get back to the house, but he's also pretty exhausted, so Spencer feels safe opening up his email, checking their website. And there are--they got a fuckload of hits during the day, and when he actually delves into the comments on Absolute Punk, they're surprisingly positive (which Spencer wasn't really expecting at all) and--
"We might actually be able to pull this off," Brendon says at Spencer's shoulder, and Spencer feels this swell of pride that just totally overwhelms him, because they are totally going to be able to pull this off, and these are Brendon's words, and--
He kisses Brendon, tasting salt and sweat and an afternoon spent out in the sun, and it's-- Between Brendon's request that they start out slow and everything else that's been going on, the days have just sort of seemed to slip away.
Enough is really fucking enough, though, so Spencer keeps kissing Brendon as he stands up, as he backs Brendon towards the stairs, and maybe Brendon's on the same page that Spencer is, because there's an urgency to this that hasn't been there before. It takes them far too long to actually make it up the stairs, particularly since Spencer keeps pushing Brendon up against the wall, and Brendon keeps retaliating by holding Spencer against the railing, his hands wrapped around Spencer's wrists.
When they actually make it to the top of the stairs, Spencer thinks about stopping, asking Brendon if he's sure this is really what he wants to do right now, but Brendon refuses to pull away from Spencer, won't stop kissing Spencer long enough for Spencer to get any words out. So.
So, they go into Brendon's (their) bedroom and shut the door, even though they don't have to, because it's their house now. It's theirs, and--
And, well, they don't get any studio work done that evening.
So, they release the snippet of 'Oh Glory' and then, on Monday, Ryan's first interview with MTV hits, and it's--
Spencer reads it, then stands up from his computer and whistles for Bogart, and finds a tennis ball at the edge of the deck, which he tosses and tosses and tosses until his arm is tired. After that, he lies down on the wood, absorbing the sun, and smiles when Bogart climbs up onto his chest, nosing at his chin first, then licking at his beard. It tickles, and he's halfway tempted to push Bogart away, but instead he just scratches at Bogart's ears and says, "Good boy, good boy, you're such a good boy."
"There's going to be more tomorrow," Spencer says, when Brendon finally joins them, looking just as serious as Spencer feels. "And the next day. You know J Mont likes to spread his interviews out."
"We'll have to give one eventually," Brendon says, and Spencer nods. Bogart stands up and turns in a circle three times, paws kneading Spencer's chest as he moves, before finally flopping down again.
"Not yet, though," Spencer says. "Ryan needs to--" Ryan's the one who has to defend his decision the most, because the world always seemed to view Panic! as being his band, rather than belonging to all of them. And Spencer has, to the eyes of the world, chosen Brendon.
Indeed, there is more interview the next day, and the next. Ryan doesn't tell the whole truth about everything, but then Spencer doesn't think that everyone needs to know everything, either. The important point is that they're all still friends, they're all happy, they're all making the music they want to make. The party line, at least, is true.
Then, totally out of the blue, John Janick calls them up one morning while they're still sitting in the kitchen, drinking their coffee, and says, "So, what do you think about taking a trip to Comic Con?" which is just--
Spencer has no words. Because Comic Con. Seriously.
Shane has no words either, when they tell him. When he finally does find his words, though, he says, "You need someone to record that shit, right? Right?"
"Fuck yes!" Brendon says. Then, "You know you're always welcome to tag along, right? You're totally my entourage, Valdés. You know this."
"Fuck off," Shane says. "You're totally my entourage, not the other way around."
"We'll be each other's entourages," Brendon says diplomatically, while Spencer rolls his eyes.
Anyway, they suddenly have an actual performance on the horizon (or, well, Brendon has a performance) and they have to get ready for that. And then the next day, John calls back and says, "So, video shoot?" and Brendon says, "Yeah, um. I guess the day after we get back from Comic Con would work?"
And really, Spencer's starting to think that maybe he misses the quiet days of even two months ago, because he's almost forgotten what this is like, you know? The constant rush-rush-rush of everything involved with getting a record out and publicity and touring.
So the only solution, obviously, is for Pete to show up at their door at fucking, like, eight o'clock in the morning, Shane in tow, and say, "I'm totally stealing you dudes for the day. You ready to fucking rock this town?" Shane presents them with the script, a whole three pages worth, and Spencer starts to wonder if they ever actually should have introduced Pete and Shane.
"Weekend at Bernies!" Brendon says. "I fucking love that movie."
"You don't have to follow the script, though," Shane says. "Just, you know, be yourselves."
"Except totally fucking selfish," Pete says. "You're going to steal the scene, you know?"
They only spend four hours filming, but Spencer doesn't get home until 17 hours later, and even Brendon's tired enough that they pretty much just fall into bed, Bogart curled up at their feet.
And then, suddenly, they're actually leaving for Comic Con--which still seems totally fucking unreal--and they play their party and Brendon makes comments about Megan Fox (but catches Spencer's eye when he sings certain lines during the song, wiggling his eyebrows) and get drunk at the bar and--
And then they have to get up far too early to shoot the video, and someone makes Spencer get his hair cut (it was just fine how it was, thank you), but he's actually really digging the suits that they make them wear and when they have one of their five million minutes of downtime, he says, "So, what would you say to wearing suits on tour?"
Brendon looks Spencer up and down, maybe a little too interestedly, and says, "I think that would be a good change, definitely."
Spencer thinks so, too.
And then, before Spencer knows what's happening, 'New Perspective' is actually dropping, and it's-- They post it to MySpace before they go to bed, for the same reason that they had to leave the house after they posted the 'Oh Glory' snippet. This time, see, Spencer has new ways to actually distract Brendon from his nerves, and he employs all of the weapons in his arsenal, until Brendon's pretty much boneless, lying sprawled out across the bed, and Spencer's pretty sure that he's not going to be able to wipe his own grin off his face for, well. A long time.
Somehow, they actually sleep, and when they wake up in the morning, Spencer takes his time getting breakfast, eating, before turning on his phone, the computer. Within the first minute, his phone starts beeping, indicating unread texts, unheard voice messages. The first thing he does, though, is go to their MySpace page and--people are actually listening, holy fuck. There are several thousand listens already, and--
And Brendon's smiling, really, really wide, and Spencer is pretty much helpless in the face of that, particularly since this is Brendon's baby, the first true test of what their band is going to sound like now.
It's a fucking huge rush, especially when he starts reading the comments on Absolute Punk and Alt Press, and they're really pretty positive. Then he gets Ryan and Jon's tweets and realizes that they've posted their song too.
At first, Spencer's fucking pissed, because yes, they may have changed the release date for their single, but still, the July 28th date has been out there for quite awhile. Ryan and Jon had to know that. They couldn't have picked any other day?
Except then he remembers Jon's tweet, oh, ten days ago, about ten more days, and Spencer thinks that maybe, at least unofficially, Ryan and Jon had reserved the day first. So, he's not feeling mad anymore when he and Brendon sit down and actually listen to the song.
It is catchy, pretty Beatles-esque, and it's--
It makes it even more obvious, Spencer thinks, that this split was for the best. Because all anyone has to do is listen to these two songs and they'll see that Panic! at the Disco and The Young Veins were really, really not on the same page at-fucking-all.
"Ryan and I would have fucking killed each other," Brendon says, sounding almost a little amused, and Spencer nods. It's true.
And then, they get their own James Montgomery interview. Or Spencer does, anyway. He takes it outside, sitting on one of the chairs on the deck, his feet kicked up on another one, and it's easy enough to just talk, after holding all of this in for so many weeks. It's time to get his and Brendon's side of the story told.
He talks about how excited he and Brendon are about their music, how much they like The Young Veins' music. He talks about how Brendon has music in his blood, how he's making up little songs all the fucking time, about how the split really was amicable and how they're definitely all still friends. He talks about the upcoming tour and how excited they are to have Ian and Dallon joining them.
J Mont makes noises of agreement whenever Spencer pauses to take a breath and Spencer really hasn't missed this part of the whole being a professional musician thing, but in a way it's easier now, too. He only has to speak for himself and Brendon; he doesn't have to worry about making statements that are agreeable for all four of them.
Their interview gets spread out over three days, too, and Spencer listens to the first audio file and realizes that he maybe says 'kind of' a lot. When he tells Brendon this, Brendon giggles. "Kind of," he says. "Maybe. Just a little."
"Fuck off," Spencer says, punching Brendon's shoulder.
And the thing is, there are things that Spencer would like to be doing right now besides working on music--the weather's beautiful, and their group is spending more and more days out at the beach, catching waves, and Spencer would love to be out there, too--but Ian and Dallon are getting ready to come out to LA, and Spencer knows they'll start spending every last minute practicing for the tour once they arrive. He and Brendon won't have time for themselves.
So, they stay up late in the studio, and the night before Dallon and Ian's planes land, Spencer and Brendon take their time: touching, kissing, losing themselves in each other, because they aren't sure when they're going to have a chance to be this close again. Not for another four weeks or so.
The next morning, they're still awake, but only barely, when the light coming through Brendon's window starts to fade from black to gray. They've just been talking for the last half hour or so, Spencer enjoying the feel of Brendon's fingers carding through his hair, and it's nice. It's just-- It's really fucking nice.
And as he listens to Brendon's breathing even out, his fingers coming to a stop behind Spencer's ear, Spencer thinks that there is pretty much nowhere else he'd rather be in this moment than right here, in this bed, with Brendon.
They offer to come meet Dallon and Ian at the airport, but Dallon says he'll rent a car and grab Ian when he lands, give them some new-pseudo-members of Panic! bonding time. Which leaves Spencer cleaning the house.
"Seriously," Brendon says. "Is this a nervous tick I never knew you had? Because I thought I'd learned all of your nervous reactions years ago. I mean, you never tried to clean our dressing rooms, right? I didn't just totally fucking blank that?"
"No," Spencer says. Back in the beginning, before they'd truly learned how to deal with their nerves, he'd spent a lot of time in the bathroom throwing up. "No, I think I was too busy, you know, trying to keep my stomach inside me back then to worry about cleaning, you know?"
"Fuck," Brendon says, grinning wide. "Those were the days. I--I was going to say that I miss those days, but actually, I really, really don't miss those days."
"Yeah, no," Spencer says, because while things had been a lot simpler back then, and Spencer's world had still been on what he'd thought was the correct path, he's also mostly sure that he wouldn't pass up this place that they're in now for anything.
Brendon, of course, keeps pressing.
"So the cleaning's more of a what? A 'wasting time until people get here, while also hoping to impress them with our spotless abode' thing? Because I'm pretty sure that Ian and Dallon would not be surprised to see me living in a pit of filth and pizza boxes. Just, you know, so you know."
Spencer has no good retort to that, so instead he says, "Shut up."
Brendon wiggles his eyebrows in a 'make me' fashion, which is a challenge that Spencer just can't let pass, so he walks over to where Brendon's standing in the front hallway and leans down to kiss him. Brendon rests his hands on Spencer's hips, holding on, and they just stand there, really, kissing slowly, deeply.
Until, that is, Spencer's startled away from Brendon by the sound of two car doors slamming. Until he belatedly realizes that he'd also heard a car pull up into Brendon's driveway not that long ago, he'd just pretty much ignored it. As he'd already been occupied.
He watches as Brendon wipes the back of his hand across his mouth, as if that will wipe the signs of the kiss away, like there's a chance in hell of that working. Besides, Spencer thinks, it's best for Ian and Dallon to know what they're getting into right away.
Brendon opens the door before Ian and Dallon make it very far into the front yard and heads out to help them with their bags, Spencer just a step behind. He grabs Ian's bag, and he doesn't think that he looks any more thoroughly kissed than Brendon does, but the kid takes one look at him and starts laughing.
"So apparently we should have driven around the block a few times on our way here?" Ian asks.
Spencer feels his cheeks heat just a little, which is probably yet another sign that he's been off of touring too long, if even mild teasing is getting to him. He still knows how this goes, though, so he just flips Ian off, then looks over at Dallon to see his reaction.
Dallon's just grinning, wiggling his eyebrows in a totally unsubtle way.
"Don't fret, young Crawford," Brendon says, totally unconcerned. "We'll let you know if you ever need to go drive around the block a few times. Now shall we get you two settled?"
"That will work," Dallon says. Then he looks over at Spencer again, gives him a thumbs up, and Spencer thinks that this tour is probably going to work out just fine.
Or, at least, as well as can be expected, because when they actually make it down to the practice room an hour later, it's really fucking weird, okay? And not necessarily in a good way.
Because, see, when Spencer looks over to the right side of the stage, to the lead guitar spot? He's supposed to see Ryan, tall and gangly, short hair. He's not supposed to see Ian, short Ian, with his fro. And when he looks to Brendon's other side, it's supposed to be Jon that he sees, moving his flip flop-covered feet mellow-ly to the beat of whatever it is that they're playing.
That is just the way it's supposed to be.
He ends up spending most of his time during that practice looking at Brendon, because that's safe; given what he already knows about Ian and Dallon, he expects that he'll get ragged for it later, but for now (maybe they realize how hard this must be for him and Brendon, or maybe just him) they keep playing.
Spencer's issues aside, though, for a first practice with four musicians who've never played together before, it works pretty well. Much better than Spencer's expecting it to, anyway.
Maybe he and Brendon are good at choosing touring musicians. Or maybe Ian and Dallon are just that good. Maybe it's a little bit of both.
Spencer thinks that that is probably the case.
Later still, he thinks that Ian and Dallon really do understand what's been going through his (and Brendon's?) heads, because when they're done for the day, Spencer's muscles pleasantly sore from the workout with his kit, they don't protest when Brendon says, "Do you think you guys can take care of yourselves for the evening?"
It's probably more than a little rude sending their two newest (temporary) members out to fend for themselves in the wilds of Santa Monica on their first night in town, but Spencer doesn't actually care. Not when he's spent the last four hours trying not to see Ryan and Jon out of the corners of his eyes. Not when Brendon's looking at him like he's been feeling the exact same things Spencer has been. Spencer's really glad it wasn't just him.
So Ian and Dallon head out and then it's just Brendon and Spencer in the suddenly too quiet house.
"You okay?" Brendon asks, finally, and Spencer feels like he should be the one asking Brendon that. Really. Brendon's looking at him, though, eyes wide, not-quite-frowning, and so Spencer tries to nod, tries to say 'yes, yes, everything's fine' believably, if not enthusiastically, but.
He feels wrong for being glad that Dallon and Ian apparently fit in as well as they do. He feels wrong that he's still looking for Ryan and Jon. He feels wrong that he wants to not be looking for Ryan and Jon. He--
"I will be," Spencer says. "You?"
Brendon nods. "The same, about. It just--"
He trails off, but Spencer can't imagine that their thoughts are too different on this score, so he says, "Yeah."
He thinks that they need to go out, get food. They have to start packing, too. He has a list of things he needs to do before he leaves on tour, developed through the years, and as of today, four days before their show in Milwaukee, he's crossed far too few of the items out.
"Come here," Brendon says, except Spencer doesn't have to, because Brendon's coming to him, wrapping his arms tightly around Spencer's body. He presses his nose to Spencer's shoulder, breathing in and out three, four times, until Spencer starts relaxing against him, until he can feel his muscles start to loosen.
"You should go turn on the TV," Brendon says when he finally pulls away, and Spencer wants to protest, wants to say no, to list the things they both know that they need to be starting in on, but when he opens his mouth, he says, "Yeah, okay."
He lets himself sink into the couch, pulls one of the throw pillows into his lap, then turns on the TV. He goes to Comedy Central, because Reno 911 reruns will never get old, and he's actually feeling rather relaxed by the time Brendon returns, Bogart trailing at his heels.
"I ordered pizza," Brendon says. "I hope that's okay."
Spencer nods. It is.
He almost expects Brendon to curl up at his side, but in reality, Brendon sits down at the far end and then pats his lap. "Come here," he says again and Spencer does. Brendon starts running his fingers through Spencer's hair, like he hadn't been doing that exact same thing up in their bed 18 hours ago, and Spencer feels even more tension drain out of him; he pretty much just wants to melt into the sofa. A little while later, he feels a warm weight at his ankles and when he lifts his head--just slightly, because he's too relaxed to do much else--he sees that Bogart has settled between his feet and the back of the couch, his head on Spencer's leg. He's holding on to Spencer's toes with one paw.
"We'll get used to it," Brendon says during the next commercial break, and Spencer knows this, he does.
"I don't know if I want to," he says.
"I know," Brendon says.
Zack arrives for the full crew rehearsal two days before they leave and Spencer's grateful for his presence, really, because Zack knows all of the shit that they need to get done before they hit the road.
He's less grateful for all of the knowing looks and smirks and eye rolls that Zack keeps sending his and Brendon's way, or the way that Zack keeps sighing in a put upon manner, promising that he'll give them a ten minute warning before entering any room.
He starts doing this while they're still in Brendon's house, actually. Even when he'd only left the room five minutes before. Even when Ian or Dallon are still in the room with them.
"Ten minute warning!" he says. "I will be entering the room in ten minutes. Please be fully clothed." Of course, when he'd only left the room five minutes before, or he knows that Spencer and Brendon are not alone, he comes in even as he's saying the words.
"Fuck you," Brendon says.
Still, with Zack there, they get more tour-related preparation done than they have in the last several weeks, because Zack arranges trips to Walgreens and Wal-mart and Target. He goes to the supermarket and buys a suitcase full of snack food. He creates lists for all of them that say things like: 18 more pairs of underwear than you think you're going to need. Deodorant. Tooth paste. I am not packing extra toothbrushes, so if you don't have your own, you're using your finger. Earplugs, so you don't have to listen to Spencer and Brendon.
When Dallon sees this, he laughs and pulls a pack of earplugs out of his bag. "Like this?" he asks, and Zack says, "I like you, kid."
In the past, Spencer's really only had to worry about getting himself ready for tour. He's not used to, you know, packing and closing up a house with someone. He's not used to Brendon asking him if he wants to come along while he takes Bogart over to Shane's, since Shane and Regan will be watching him for the next month.
He says yes, of course, and not just because Bogart knows that things are afoot, that the suitcases have come out, and thus has been following both Brendon and Spencer around the house, trying to wag his tail and pretty much failing. Bogart looking so pathetic, though, might be why Spencer takes ten minutes he really doesn't have and looks under every couch, his old futon, and behind the entertainment center in the basement, trying to find Bogart's favorite bone.
And his favorite ball.
And the remains of the rawhide Spencer had bought him the week before.
And the tie-dyed tug toy.
Just the essentials, of course.
That's the excuse he gives to himself anyway.
It certainly doesn't have anything to do with the warm feeling that he gets when Ian rolls his eyes at him and says, "You two and that dog…"
"Like you're any better about Skywalker," Spencer says, because has he or has he not looked at approximately 50 pictures of Skywalker in the last two and a half days, one (at least) for each day that Skywalker's been Ian's? He most certainly has.
Ian nods. "Point," he says.
Spencer and Brendon abandon Ian and Dallon to Zack's nearly epic pre-tour lecture while they bundle Bogart and his bag of toys and his dog bed and his water bowls and his bag of treats and the new can of tennis balls that Brendon had picked up at Walgreens all into the car.
Bogart sits in Brendon's lap and Spencer maybe, possibly, reaches over to scratch at his ears at a few red lights. Maybe. And then, too quickly, they're at Shane's, and Regan's opening up the door to meet them. She says, "Bogie!" and Bogart jumps out of the car to meet her, Brendon following behind, leaving Spencer to carry all of Bogart's worldly possessions into the house.
He's not exactly expecting them to leave immediately; they rarely have short visits with Shane and Regan. He is surprised, though, when, after Brendon does his goodbyes--lots of head scratches, ear scratches, belly rubs--he finds himself kneeling down, too. Saying, "Be a good boy now, okay?" Bogart bumps his head against Spencer's wrist and Spencer rubs his fingers through Bogart's coat, and then, well. They leave.
"We'll be back in a month," Brendon says, like Spencer shouldn't be telling him the exact same thing. Because Bogart is Brendon's dog, after all. "And you get to be the one to pick him up, you know." Because Brendon's going to visit his parents after the tour is over.
"I know," Spencer says.
"It's going to go really fast," Brendon adds.
"I know," Spencer says.
Brendon would probably try to say more soothing things, but then his phone rings. He picks up with a "'lo?"
Even through the space between them in the car, Spencer can hear Zack:
"Where the fuck are you two? Just because you've heard my speech 500 times already doesn't mean you don't need to hear it 501. Or do I need to remind you of what happened last year in Des Moines? Do I?"
Brendon actually looks a little horrified. He says, "We're on our way."
About ten minutes after they leave LAX, before they've even hit cruising altitude, Spencer decides that nine months is too long to have stayed away from touring. Sure, they'd played shows here and there (okay, Africa, which is still just about the coolest thing ever), but there's nothing like being on the road, miles being eaten up by headlights and wheels.
And yes, Spencer still feels just a little bit like he did that first practice, when he peers through the space between his and Brendon's seats and sees Ian and Dallon behind them, rather than Ryan and Jon. It's a little easier, maybe, Spencer thinks. Or maybe he's just nearly used to Ian and Dallon being there. Because they had three days of practice, and the four of them? They're fucking ready for this.
It doesn't hurt Spencer's state of mind, of course, that Brendon spends most of the flight trying to work the LA Times crossword puzzle, asking Spencer's opinion every other clue or so. Because when he does that? He leans close enough that he might as well be telling Spencer a secret. Which, you know, can be pretty distracting.
By the time they land, Spencer's ready to get this whole show on the road, and he's the first one into the chauffeured car that's going to take them to the venue. The four of them (and Zack) crowd together in the back seat, Ian looking a little wide-eyed. "This is so much better than that fucking van," he says.
"Dude, yes," Brendon agrees. "The day we got our first bus? Happiest day of my whole fucking life."
Spencer thinks about raising an eyebrow, because surely that statement deserves some comment, right? On the other hand, no longer having to share a van with at least three other guys and boxes of merch and dirty laundry and fast food wrappers and needing to sell CDs for gas money?
"It was pretty fucking awesome," Spencer says.
Their bus is parked in a lot full of identical busses, which is parked next to a half-lot of big rigs, which apparently hold all of the stage equipment needed for the tour. The Nothing Rhymes With Circus tour? That had been pretty elaborate. But it's nothing (fucking nothing) compared to this. Especially compared to their recent tours, since on Honda Civic, their big extravagance had been a few oriental rugs, picked up at a store next to the Warfield in San Francisco.
"Home!" Brendon says, as soon as they step onto their bus, pretty much throwing his arms up in the air. "Fucking finally!"
Spencer watches as he tosses his stuff onto his preferred bunk, then makes room for Spencer to do the same in his preferred bunk, and after that, as Dallon and Ian are claiming their own spots, Spencer looks around. It's becoming more and more apparent to him with every passing moment that he had really, really fucking missed touring. And given the look on Brendon's face, the way he meets Spencer's gaze and doesn't look away, the way his smile is pretty much splitting his whole entire face, Spencer thinks that Brendon's feeling the exact same way.
Spencer's just thinking about suggesting that they take leave of their bus, head out into the wild tour yonder, when he hears a knock on the door. Zack answers, of course, because that's what he's there for, but when he says, "What's the fucking password?" Spencer knows it's a friend.
"I'm your fucking boss?" Pete says, and Spencer watches as Zack nods.
"Good enough," Zack says. Then, "Kids? You have company."
Pete bounces up the steps into their domain, and immediately pulls both Spencer and Brendon into hugs. "It's about time you fuckers got here. Our lives have been a sadder, grayer place without you two dudes. Plus, you brought new dudes with you!"
Ian's spent enough time with Pete in the past to know how to stand up to the full on Wentz assault, so it's Dallon that Spencer keeps an eye on. Dallon is pretty much awesome, though, and Spencer's learned very quickly that Dallon can give as good as he gets, if not moving just a step beyond where others are willing to go.
Pete shifts from older brother to boss for about point-five seconds as he greets Dallon, welcomes him to the tour, but then it's back to business as usual, as Pete fills them in on what they missed the last few days: the war that's going on between Chester French and Blink's techs, how the guys in AAR have been intimating that they did something before they left, pulled some nasty ass prank, that no one's managed to discover yet. How Patrick's actually started willingly talking on stage, which it only took Pete six years to train him how to do.
Pete would probably stay longer, keep talking, except one of the Blink crew knocks on their door and says that it's time for Panic! to sound check, and suddenly this takes a turn from summer camp-style catching up to being really completely fucking real, holy fuck.
Spencer is trying really, really hard to keep his inner fanboy in check here (because it's not like he hasn't hung out with Mark now, right? It's not like Mark isn't going to be producing one of their fucking songs), but he allows himself one more moment of indulgence as he and Brendon walk over to the stage, Ian and Dallon going on ahead.
"I can't believe we're actually fucking doing this," Spencer says, then leans into the touch when Brendon bumps their shoulders together.
"We totally fucking are," Brendon says.
Spencer's not used to being an opener anymore, even if opening for Blink means that they'll be consistently playing in front of larger crowds than they have in the past. So, they sound check, and it goes just roughly enough that Spencer thinks it's going to translate into a really fucking awesome show, and then they watch Fall Out Boy sound check, then part of the Blink sound check--
"It's almost like our own private concert," Brendon says, as Ian and Dallon nod along.
--and everything is going well, it is, and once they get to the dressing room to start getting ready for their set, do their warm-ups, Ian and Dallon only look mildly freaked and Spencer's starting to feel butterflies in his stomach, yes, but they aren't overwhelming, and--
And that's when he notices that Brendon's looking just a little bit gray around the edges. He's trying to hide it, of course, bellowing out his usual warm-up play list, everything from Justin Timberlake to Frank Sinatra, but.
But Spencer's pretty sure he wouldn't have fallen for Brendon's brave little toaster face even when they were just starting out; there's not a chance in hell of him being fooled now.
And really, it's not that he doesn't trust Brendon to pull it together before they go on stage, because Brendon always does, always, but when Brendon takes a break to grab a drink of water, he takes a moment to encourage Brendon over to the corner of the room. He sits down, knows that Brendon won't, not with as much pre-show energy as he's channeling now, and says, "You okay?"
"Yeah," Brendon says, too quickly, his voice not quite squeaking. "Fine, fine. I'll be fine. I mean-- It hasn't been that long since I've done a show, right?" He laughs nervously.
"Right," Spencer says. This show is a whole different beast, though, and they all know it. Now is not the time for further discussion, though. So, he reaches out and grabs Brendon's hand, squeezing it, and he really doesn't care if Ian or Dallon point and laugh, or make cooing-gagging noises or kissy sounds.
Brendon's hand is cool and damp in Spencer's hand and Spencer takes a moment to wipe his thumb over Brendon's palm, then presses down, almost massaging, trying to will some of the tension he can feel there away.
He doesn't hear Ian come up behind him, but then the kid's saying, "B, the last crowd I played to? Was five hundred fucking people. I think if I'm not shitting my pants, you don't have any room to talk," and then Dallon's saying, "Besides, they all already like you guys. I'm the one who they're going to be looking at saying, 'who's that freak without the flip flops? We signed up for a tour with a flip flop wearing bassist, what the fuck?'-- you know?'" and then Ian's continuing, "Come on, you guys, you know we're going to fucking rock this."
And that is pretty much the moment that Spencer realizes that he might not have actually been in the market for a new band, and that this one is really only temporary? But no matter the past and no matter the future, for the next three weeks, the four of them are a band.
"We are," Spencer says. "We are going to fucking rock this."
And, suddenly, with those words, he feels the excitement truly start flowing through him in a way it hasn't yet, because they are on tour, the biggest tour of their lives, everything he used to dream about when he was in fucking middle school, and he's here, with this band, sharing it with Brendon, and--
This is it.
"Rock and roll," Brendon says, and Dallon grins bright, too. "Rock and fucking roll."
And they do fucking rock it.
The crowd is not there for them, obviously, but they don't get booed, and they don't get bottles thrown at them, and by the end of it, he sees a lot of people dancing. Dancing is good. Dancing fucking rocks.
Especially when the crowd's reaction is positive enough that it keeps making Brendon look over his shoulder at Spencer, grinning, looking more alive than he has in fucking weeks.
"Thank you, thank you," Brendon says as they hurry off the stage, and Spencer's totally planning on waiting until they get back to the dressing room before, well, he lets Brendon know just how much he enjoyed the show, but as soon as they make it into the venue wings, Brendon jumps him, literally, arms around Spencer's neck, legs wrapped awkwardly around Spencer's thighs, already sliding back down towards the ground. It's a deep kiss, wet, half excess energy, half celebration, because they--
They fucking did it.
"Dudes," Zack says from somewhere in the distance, "I think you're forever scarring my oh-so-virgin eyes." Which, ha. Spencer's also pretty sure that he can pick out the sounds of Ian and Dallon making rude noises in their direction.
"Hey, love birds," Dallon says finally. "Some of us would like to get a shower before we have to get back on our bus. Think we could maybe move this along?"
"Fuck off," Brendon says, pulling away from Spencer, and Spencer just grins.
Spencer's a little bit amazed at how quickly he settles back into the tour routine, falling asleep in one city, waking up in another state entirely. For instance, they're still in Wisconsin when he falls asleep that night, and when he wakes up the next day, they're parked outside of a fucking mini golf place, and Zack is saying, "This? This is the true rock star lifestyle. Hookers and blow is so five years ago."
Spencer really sort of loves his life.
Then in Boston, Patrick knocks on the door to their dressing room about five minutes before they're supposed to go on stage and says, "So, Brendon, um, I heard you actually know your Journey songs?"
Brendon practically floats through their performance that night, and he makes Spencer hang out side stage with him until it's time for the Journey cover that's fast becoming a regular part of the show. If Spencer thought Brendon was excited by the prospect of performing it once, though, it's nothing compared to the absolute glee he's radiating when he leaves the stage three minutes later.
He tries to make Spencer give him a piggy back ride, which works for all of about five steps, Brendon pressed warm to Spencer's back, but Brendon's a heavy fucker, so Spencer is reluctantly forced to let go.
And Spencer knows how tours go, see. How for the first few days, it feels like the best thing in the whole entire world, but then how after several days of living on top of everyone else, how he's ready for some time to himself. In the past, though, he's always been touring with Brendon as a friend and band mate rather than Brendon as, well, Spencer's. As someone whom he's used to having to himself for several hours every day.
So he's not really expecting it when, a whole three days into tour, as they're flying back to Vegas, he's already feeling a little bit of that clawing need to get away, just a little bit. To not have to be around other people. He thinks what he needs is quiet time, just him and a magazine, so he finds an empty room at the venue, promises Zack he won't open the door for strangers, and then just… is.
He's really not expecting it when someone actually knocks on the door half an hour later, and Spencer wants to tell them to fuck off, that he doesn't have to be anywhere for an hour and a half yet, but then Brendon's coming in and Spencer feels something inside of him relax.
"I made Zack take me to Port o' Subs," Brendon says. "I told Ian and Dallon that we were going to have a date hour."
Spencer snorts a laugh, because seriously, a date hour? Really?
But given that he's laughing now when he wasn't ten minutes ago, and he's already feeling that clawing inside of him lessen, well. He thinks Brendon might be on to something. So, he unwraps his sandwich, and sits on the floor across from Brendon, watching him eat, listening to him tell about his phone call with Shane and how he'd totally talked to both Bogart and Dylan over the phone and how Bogart had, like, licked it or something? Whatever it was he'd done, Shane hadn't been pleased. And Brendon might now owe him a new phone.
It doesn't feel like that much longer before Zack knocks on the door and says, "Ten minutes, dudes," which makes Spencer roll his eyes, but apparently inspires Brendon, because he gives Spencer a wicked grin and says, "Oh, Spencer! Yes! Spencer Smith! Right there! Yes!"
Spencer throws a balled up napkin at Brendon just about the time that Zack pounds on the door and says, "Fuck you, Urie. Just for that, you two need to be back in your dressing room in five."
Brendon's high-pitched laughter can probably be heard halfway down the hall.
So, Spencer settles into the routines of the tour, both new and old.
If they're on the bus, he'll make an effort to get up when Brendon does, so that they can drink their coffee together in the morning, so Spencer can totally fail at helping Brendon figure out the online USA Today crossword clues.
Every other day or so, they steal away from everyone else for an hour or two, get lunch from catering, just sit back and talk, maybe make out behind one of the million and five Blink trucks.
Brendon goes on with Fall Out Boy every night; Spencer spends every night watching from side stage.
He discovers the true bliss of hotel nights, in a way he hasn't appreciated them in a long time, and makes a habit of not leaving his room for anything.
He watches as Joe and Ian hit it off really fucking well, and it's not like Spencer hadn't been expecting to spend a fuck-load of time with the Fall Out Boy guys, but now there are evening jam sessions, where Joe and Ian will play, Brendon will sing, Dallon will harmonize. Or Joe will bring Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe over, and suddenly none of them are going to bed until four.
Pete comes over a lot, too, and Spencer gets used to waking up in the morning to find him conked out on their couch. Or still up. Most of the time he just wants to talk about Bronx and Ashlee or this new band that he heard a demo from the other day, and would Spencer give it a listen?
And then, at the beginning of week number two, after their show in Hershey (a.k.a., the fucking wettest show ever, seriously), Brendon comes and finds Spencer in the back lounge of the bus and says, "Um. So. I was skyping with Shane? Do you want to come say hi?"
Brendon's acting shifty, which means Spencer approaches Brendon's laptop a little more hesitantly than he usually would, but Shane is actually on the screen, so Spencer doesn't quite get it. Until he sees that Shane is actually holding Bogart in his arms, what the fuck, and Spencer loves Bogart, seriously, but--
"You were skyping? With your dog?"
"He missed his daddy," Regan says in the background and then her head is appearing on the screen, too. "He missed both his daddies, isn't that right, Bogie? Can you tell Spencer how much you missed him?"
Bogart barks, wiggling in Shane's arms. Shane, Spencer thinks, doesn't looked nearly embarrassed enough about doing this. Because Spencer would be totally embarrassed, except, um, he's also saying, "Hey, Bogart. You being a good boy?"
"The best," Regan says. "Aren't you, Bogie? Aren't you such a good boy?"
"Of course he is," Brendon says. "He has me for a role model." Then, as Spencer, Shane, and Regan all crack the fuck up, he adds, "Hey now."
So, um. That becomes a part of the routine too. Not, you know, that Spencer intentionally seeks out Brendon when he's skyping with Shane, but if he happens to be in that part of the bus (he's always in that part of the bus) when the conversation's going on, he'll say hi.
And maybe, when Bogart actually barks as if in answer to Spencer, Spencer might say a little more. Maybe.
And when they have afternoons off, they continue to indulge in the mini golf and bowling. And apparently they sound like they're having enough fun that everyone else decides they want to come too. So when they leave Hershey and drive past a driving range? With 15 balls for 5 dollars? What feels like half the tour gets out of their busses and joins them.
"We are total trendsetters," Dallon says.
"We are," Brendon agrees, as he hits yet another ball straight into the lake.
The shows are getting better, too, as the four of them grow more comfortable on stage together. Dallon actually does some dancing during the songs now, and Brendon's getting a little more fluid with his stage banter. And best of all, the crowds really seem to be digging them.
Not in the way they dig Fall Out Boy and Blink, of course, but their pits are getting a little more rowdy, the crowds are starting to surf, girls continue to flash Brendon, which Brendon studiously does not comment on. Instead he talks about liking having sex. With dudes. Or ladies. Or dudes.
Spencer just grins behind his drum kit.
That night, when they're in the lounge, Brendon's head on Spencer's leg, Spencer asks, "You felt the need to announce to the whole world that you like sex with dudes?"
"It's the truth!" Brendon says, "and we should always tell the truth, right?"
Spencer just shakes his head and goes back to watching the movie.
And then they hit Chicago.
First of all, it's a fucking huge show, okay? Biggest on tour by far. And, like, it's a Blink-182 show, right, but it's almost just as much a Fall Out Boy show, since it's their hometown and all. Spencer's used to it being their pseudo-hometown, too, although he supposes it's really, really not anymore.
He started looking at his phone in Pittsburgh, wondering if he should call Jon, except he doesn't actually know if Jon is making one of his frequent trips back to see Cassie, the cats, and Marley. He could be in Vegas, because he and Ryan have certainly been working hard, if their tweets are anything to go by. Or he could be in Chicago.
Brendon gets a little more manic, too, and Spencer is grateful when Zack tracks down the Chester French guys to borrow their bikes, then drags Brendon out to burn some energy. They sound check, then head back to their dressing rooms, and--
And then, five minutes before they're supposed to leave for the stage, Zack opens the door and ushers in Jon Walker.
Spencer and Brendon both freeze and then Brendon's face fucking lights up, holy fuck, and given the way his cheeks are feeling a little stretched, Spencer's pretty sure that his look is mirroring Brendon's.
"So, I heard there was a little show going on tonight?" Jon asks, then laughs. "That's a big fucking crowd out there tonight. I hope you all are prepared."
"Of course we are," Brendon says. "We're professionals, don't you know?" He's walking over to Jon as he talks, then wraps Jon in a hug, and Spencer doesn't really realize that he's moving, but when Brendon finally lets go, it's his turn. When he pulls away, he says, "You remember Dallon, right?"
Jon nods and his smile isn't quite strained--not as strained as Spencer's sure his own will be when he inevitably meets Ryan and Jon's new drummer--but he is polite. He nods. He says, "Hey, yeah. It's been awhile." Then, "Alex has been filling us in on some of the behind the scenes tour scoop."
Because Dallon was friends with Alex before he ever met Spencer and Brendon, of course. Because it's a small fucking world.
Then Zack says, "We really need to get going, guys. Walker? You hanging out with me?"
Jon looks uncertain for a moment, but then he nods, as if making a decision, and that's how Jon ends up side stage, just within Spencer's line of sight, smiling, singing along, and--
It's a good night. Spencer's really glad that he can say that.
They go from Chicago to Council Bluffs (he'd never really thought that a pavilion in the middle of a corn field would breed that crazy of a concert, but okay), then onto Minneapolis, Indianapolis, and--
They get a hotel the night before the show and it's right before they're ready to go to sleep, lying tangled on the bed that they hadn't made use of earlier, that Brendon says, "I don't know if I want to go home yet."
"Me either," Spencer says, because this has been--He's been having more fun than he knows how to handle, he fucking loves this tour, and--
They do their unofficial goodbyes after the Detroit show, but for Dallon, it turns out to be a real goodbye, since his flight leaves way too fucking early in the morning. Ian, Spencer, Brendon and Zack all take a taxi to the airport together, then say their goodbyes as they walk down the concourse, leaving Ian at his gate. Brendon and Zack hang out with Spencer until his flight is called, and Spencer waits as long as he can before boarding.
It's a full flight, but Spencer's not--he's not lonely; that would be fucking ridiculous a whole ten minutes into his journey, but he feels sort of off? Like he has his personal space bubble all to himself for the first time in longer than he can remember? Like he's feeling like there's something wrong with that?
He's still feeling unsettled when they land, when he catches a taxi back to Brendon's house. He lets himself in and it's so fucking quiet, wrong, wrong, and the air is stuffy, and he would open the windows now, get some air, but he promised Shane he'd be over to get Bogart as soon as he got home and, well.
It's not a long drive to Shane's, but Spencer's still feeling unsettled with no clue how to cure it, and then, well. When he pulls up into the driveway, Shane opens the door to the house, and all Spencer sees is a blur of white before he gets tackled around the knees by a whole thirteen pounds of dog.
He's laughing before he realizes it, crouching down to rub at Bogart's ears, even as Bogart throws his head back and starts scolding Spencer like there's no tomorrow. You've been gone and where have you been and I've been waiting and waiting and you were still gone! Then Bogart tries to climb into Spencer's lap, which unbalances him enough that he kind of sits down on Shane and Regan's driveway. They're laughing at him (kindly, though) and Dylan and Indie come out to see what all the fuss is about, and it's only after Bogart is done wiggling around, smelling Spencer from the top of his head down to his elbows, that he climbs out of Spencer's lap and proceeds to go grab his tie dye tug toy.
"He's missed you," Regan says. Shane nods. "He has."
"We've missed him too," Spencer says. "Brendon's really fucking missed him."
Both Regan and Shane nod. This, obviously, was a foregone conclusion.
"So," Regan asks as Spencer stands back up, "do you have food at your house yet? Do you want to stay for an early dinner?"
Spencer makes it back to the house a little after six, and it takes him longer to lug all of Bogart's belongings into the house than it did his own, earlier. Bogart spends the first few minutes in the house running all around, probably looking for Brendon. Definitely looking for Brendon, Spencer thinks, when Bogart comes and lies down on the couch next to Spencer, looking up at him hopefully, like Spencer will be able to find his other person. Spencer scratches Bogart's ears, then grabs his phone and takes a picture.
He sends it to Brendon via Twitter.
It takes Brendon less than an hour to respond. Two minutes later, he gets another text message, this one not fed through Twitter, that says miss you guys too.
The next day, when Brendon gets back, Spencer's actually taking a nap. Or, well, he was taking a nap, because before he even hears the taxi arrive, Bogart's racing through the house barking as loudly as he can, nails skidding on wood floors. Then Spencer hears the car door. Then he's wide awake himself.
Bogart's pacing frantically when Spencer actually makes it to the door, and he's whining by the time Spencer gets it open. Bogart moves more quickly than Spencer thinks he's ever seen Bogart move before, and Brendon actually has to drop his suitcases in the middle of the driveway when Bogart reaches him, because Bogart doesn't just try to tackle his knees, he makes a leap for Brendon's chest. He might be a little dog, but he can really fucking jump.
When Spencer gets close enough, he can hear Brendon saying, "Hey, hey, Bogart, it's okay, I'm home, it's okay." The words are muffled, though, because Bogart keeps licking at Brendon's face, ears, neck. His barks are sharp, high pitched, and Spencer knows that Brendon's getting a different sort of scolding than the one that Spencer got the night before. I made it home and you weren't here. Where were you?
Finally, Bogart calms down enough to jump out of Brendon's arms, but instead of running into the house to grab his favorite toy of the day, he comes running for Spencer. He places his front paws on Spencer's shoe, then barks once, twice, and looks over his shoulder at Brendon.
See? I found him! You can stop looking now.
Spencer-- Okay, Spencer will admit that Bogart's got him well trained, because he can't help but crouch down and scratch at Bogart's ears. The weight on the toes of his shoe shifts, then Bogart gives a softer bark.
When Spencer looks up, he sees Brendon looking down at him, this really stupid grin on his face.
"He missed you," Spencer says. "I told you that your dog missed you."
"Our dog," Brendon says, and Spencer feels his heart freeze, just for a second. "He's our dog. He was waiting for us to come home."
Spencer doesn't realize that he's standing up, doesn't realize that he's walking across the yard to where Brendon's standing. He just--one moment he's too far away, the next he's not, and then Spencer's kissing Brendon, he can't help it, and it's only been a little over 24 hours, but that was way, way too long, and Brendon's holding onto Spencer's shirt and Bogart's tail is hitting Spencer's leg over and over again with the force of his wagging and he's barking, too, and--
When Spencer pulls back, he rests his forehead against Brendon's, feels like his smile is never going to leave his face.
"Hi," he says, and Brendon rubs their noses together, making Spencer laugh as he says it again. "Hi. Welcome home."