It begins as most things do, Brendon's discovered, at Monday Night Dinner.
Halfway through the main course--chicken, tonight, but Brendon and Andy are eating pasta, like always--and Brendon's right in the middle of spearing a green bean with his fork, and when the doorbell rings, Beckett pokes Ryan in the shoulder until he actually gets up and goes out into the foyer to answer it.
If it had been sorority girls at the door, Brendon knows, Ryan would have been back almost immediately, ringing the bell that they keep on the table by the door, saying, "Gentlemen, gentlemen, we have visitors." It's not sorority girls at the door, though; it's Chad: blond, tall as hell, back too straight. He's wearing an IFC polo shirt, carefully pressed khakis, and he looks around the room, nods at Pete, then smiles in a way that Brendon imagines is supposed to be charming.
"Gentlemen," he says. "Good evening."
There's a mumbled 'hello' from a few of Brendon's brothers, but for the most part, there's silence.
"My name is Chad, Chad Brubaker," he says. "I'm a member of Sigma Chi, but tonight I'm here as your Inter-Fraternity Council President."
More silence. Spencer, Brendon sees, looks like he's trying to build a log cabin out of his green beans. They have too much butter on them, though, and they keep sliding back into their natural mountain form.
"As many of you know--or should, anyway--IFC elections are coming up at the end of the month. Wentz will know all about it if you need more details, but I just wanted to tell you that we're accepting nominations at our open Council meeting, October 30th, and you can find application packets in the IFC office, in the student union. Those are due November 9th. Interviews will be on November 11th. Any questions?"
More silence. Toro, off to the side of the room, coughs. Brendon watches as Bob punches him on the shoulder.
"I know FBR used to have a long tradition of participating in IFC," Chad says, "and we'd love to see some of you all come out this year."
Then, he smirks.
In a way that Brendon interprets to mean, ha, ha, *right*.
After that, thank goodness, he leaves. As soon as the front door closes and Ryan slips back into the room, the room sort of… bursts with laughter. Beckett places his hand over his heart, saying, "We'd just *love* to see some of you join our precious little council," and Gabe sort of bats his eyelashes, mock swoons.
Pete taps at his water glass with a spoon, then, and says, "Listen, I know, right? But that'll be enough of that for tonight, okay?" and they all shut up, turning back to their dinners.
Spencer, Brendon sees, has managed to get to the third level of green beans on his log cabin. Ryan is back to cutting his meat into tiny little pieces. Travis, though, sitting on the other side of Spencer, is staring at his water glass, holding a half-eaten roll to his lips.
Later that night, after the Chapter meeting, when Travis and Brendon are in their room, ostensibly doing homework, but actually watching The Bachelor narrow down his choices from 12 to 8, Travis says, "Fucking Chad. What a prick, right?"
"Yeah," Brendon says, because he agrees.
"He wouldn't know what to *do* if one of us ended up on IFC, you know? He'd probably have a fucking coronary. I mean, can you picture any one of us wandering around in those fucking khakis? That monogrammed polo shirt?"
On the TV screen, one of the rose-less women starts talking about how The Bachelor was her One And Only, and his face and his eyes, and why couldn't he *see* how much he meant to her. Travis, Brendon is pretty sure, isn't paying attention. Usually he stands in front of the TV, attempting to mouth along with the words, wiping fake tears from his eyes.
"I could see Spencer wearing a monogrammed polo shirt," Brendon says. Possibly Ray Toro, too, but Brendon will never tell him that, because Ray Toro is a senior, and Brendon is only a lowly freshman, and also, he's pretty sure that Ray Toro could crush Brendon with his thighs.
"Smith, ha," Travis says, and he grins, laughs a little, but he's still staring at the wall behind the TV, and yes, it's a very nice poster of Pamela Anderson, but it is on the wall in their *room*. It's not like Travis doesn't see it every single *day*.
Also, Brendon's not stupid.
He watches Travis watching the poster and thinks, huh.
Actually, it might be Pete's (and possibly Jon's) fault, really, because they were the ones who decided that Brendon would make a good assistant IFC representative. The fourth Tuesday of the month, he dresses up in a pair of nice slacks and a button down shirt and he and Jon make the ten-minute walk to the student union. They sit in uncomfortable chairs for an hour, at least, listening to members of various fraternities talk about their upcoming philanthropies, or their visits from nationals, or representatives from other organizations talk about service opportunities. Chad will talk about whatever business he has, then they'll open the floor up to new business, and then they'll go home.
Tonight, though, instead of sending them home, Chad says, "And now we'd like to start taking nominations for next year's Inter-Fraternity Council." Then he sits back in his chair and waits.
One by one, members and representatives of several of the houses stand up and say names of people Brendon's mostly never heard of before, and when, after about five minutes of this, it seems to be tapering off, Brendon sees Chad leaning forward, ready to close the nomination portion of the meeting.
Which is when Brendon stands, his chair scraping over the tile of the floor.
Pete, sitting near the front of the room, with the rest of the chapter presidents, raises an eyebrow. Luckily, he looks amused. Brendon can feel Jon staring up at him.
"I would, uh," he starts, then swallows, then smiles widely, because when he was younger and suffering from a case of nerves, that was what his mother always told him to do. "I would like to nominate Travis McCoy of Phi Beta Rho for the Inter-Fraternity Council."
Brendon hears Jon snort beside him. Pete, Brendon sees, is suddenly covering his mouth with a fist. Chad is looking a little speechless, actually, and that pretty much makes this whole thing worth it, in Brendon's opinion, even if Travis decides to kick Brendon's ass for this. Or short sheet his bed. Or something.
Chad, though, manages to compose himself, then says, "Are there any other nominations? No? No. Then I guess we can call this meeting over."
So, like, Brendon was pretty much hoping he'd get back to the FBR house first, so he could find Travis and, you know, break the news to him gently. Or something. And he does get back to the house about five feet ahead of Pete--mainly because he runs up the front walkway, rather than, er, walking--but then Ryan waylays him in the foyer, and by the time Brendon manages to get away, Pete is already upstairs.
Already upstairs and *in Brendon's room*.
"Dude!" Pete's saying; Brendon can hear him all the way down the hallway. "Did you have political aspirations I didn't know about?"
Travis' reply is muffled, but Brendon can hear Pete's bray of laughter. "Your little roommate, man, he totally fucking nominated you for a spot on the IFC council next year. You should have seen Chad's face! He looked like Troh did that one time, after he'd fucking swallowed that goldfish."
Brendon really doesn't want to hear Travis' response to this, not without Brendon presenting his own side of the story, so he steps through the doorway as quickly as possible and says, "Don't tell me you weren't thinking about it. You were totally thinking about it. You were thinking about it so hard you were letting The Bachelor break Carmella's heart without comment! That says something!"
"The tears?" Pete asks, and Brendon nods, very seriously, and Pete looks a little impressed. Then he nods, as if he's made a decision, and says, "Okay, so you go get your application tomorrow, and then we start planning your campaign strategy."
Travis is looking back and forth between them, his mouth partway open, and Brendon thinks he's about to protest, so he says, "You know who we should get to do posters? *Gerard*!"
Because Bob's roommate is Gerard, the crazy art major, and they're sharing an awesome little house just a few blocks away, and since Bob is Spencer's Grand Big, that's totally a connection they can use to their advantage.
Brendon's willing to bet that the *Sigma Chi's* didn't have any crazy art majors at *their* beck and call.
"Dude," Pete says, "yes, totally!"
At which point, Travis says, "Dude, I--"
Pete interrupts him, though, saying, "This is going to be *awesome*."
The thing is, Travis doesn't go and get the application packet. And he doesn't go and get the application packet. And he doesn't go and get the application packet. Three days, four, a week, and on November 7th, Brendon says, "I didn't nominate you as a joke, you know."
The problem is, it's become a bit of a joke within the house: Gabe and Beckett cornering Travis in the dining room to talk about grand plans for world domination through the IFC council; Joe talking about how good this will look on Travis' resume, and oh my god, does this mean they'll actually have to think of positive things to say about all of the IFC mandated trainings, if they're going to have one of their own on the council and all? Andy starts talking theories of politics whenever Travis is in the room, about how you have to crush your opponents like a bug, but still seem like you're open to negotiation.
Bob has brought over mockups of three posters that Gerard has designed, one of which Mikey started putting on *buttons*, which Tom and Jon and Pete have started wearing around campus, even though Travis still hasn't gone to get the application packet.
"I--" Travis says, and he's lying back on their couch.
Brendon is sitting at his desk, knees bent up under his chin. He's got a Bio textbook open in front of him, the pink highlighter uncapped in his fingers.
"I nominated you because I thought you'd be good at it."
Travis runs his fingers through his hair, sighs. "I," he starts again, then stops. "Can you even imagine? Like, can you picture their faces when they'd have to interview me? I'd have to get up there and give a fucking speech, too, to convince them that I'd be the best choice for the job, when you *know* Chad's already probably, like, handpicked the entire slate for next year, so why even--"
"But Chad doesn't get final say," Brendon says. "It's the whole President's Council you'd have to convince, and yeah, okay, you've got Sigma Chi and Sig Ep and Theta Chi, but you've got Pete's vote, and it's not like there aren't 15 houses on the council, too. You could, you know, show them what they've been missing!"
Travis stares at Brendon for several long moments, enough that Brendon starts shifting under his gaze, but then Travis sits up and runs his hand over his hair again, and he sighs, too, because he really does want it, Brendon knows, and says, "If I get totally humiliated, I will kick your ass, Urie."
"And when you win, I'll get to say I told you so," Brendon says.
This is what Brendon doesn't understand: the application doesn't ask for you to specify what position you would like to run for. It just asks for experience, goals, motivations, some of those 'here are ten reasons I'm an awesome person!' essay questions, and yeah.
*Apparently*, according to Pete, the people who do the interview decide what position you should be running for. Brendon doesn't understand this, but okay. Whatever. He knows Travis, so he's thinking, like, Vice President, or Judicial Affairs (because Travis can be a scary, scary man) or, like, Director of Athletics (Travis does intramural basketball and bowling every year, or so he's told Brendon).
Travis comes back looking a little shell-shocked, though, and not just because Brendon and Pete were waiting for him. As he loosens his tie, he says, "So apparently they're really fucking desperate, or they really want to sabotage my chances, because they asked me to throw my name into the ring for Recruitment Chair."
Brendon sort of, well, blinks, but Pete throws his head back and *howls*.
"Dude," he says. "Okay, you won't get any grief from me if you want to drop out, because that, that is one job I would not fucking want, you know?"
But Travis just says, "Heh, yeah, but I might as well go down in a big ball of flame, you know?"
So, the campaigning starts in earnest. Not like it really matters, of course, because the only people who get to vote are the IFC council and all of the presidents, but Mikey makes buttons for everyone: a cartoon version of Travis, complete with tattoos, inked by Gerard, with the words "IFC *this* - McCoy '08" curving around the edge.
Brendon puts one on his backpack, and pins another on the front of his sweatshirt every day--and then the girlfriends start wearing them. Or, at least, Haley does, and her roommate Greta. And Vicky T, from Delta Gamma. And Cassie, Jon's girl, who works in the sandwich shop just off campus.
Then some of the guys from the fraternities they're friendliest with start asking for them: Delta Tau, Pi Kapp, Lambda Chi, Fiji. Brendon's even seen some buttons on the backpacks of people he's never seen before in his life.
"Apparently it's becoming a collector's item," Travis says one night, a week before The Big Speech. He rolls his eyes, but Brendon can tell that he's pleased.
Still, it doesn't really matter, though, not until The Big Night, because the only things that matter are the 25 votes being cast in the President's Council meeting. It's an open meeting, for once, so that everyone can hear the speeches, and Brendon and Gabe and Jon sit in the very back row. There are 10 positions to fill, with three people giving speeches for each position, and even with a limit of 3 minutes per person, Brendon still knows it's going to be a tedious several hours.
Things move along relatively quickly, though, even if after the first two, the speeches seem to be working towards a variation on a theme: what positions they've held in their houses, what leadership experience they've had since, oh, kindergarten, what their Grand Plans are for the future, etc.
Forty-five-ish minutes into the whole deal, though, Travis stands up. He's wearing a sports jacket and jeans, and as he stands up in front of the crowd, he pushes his sleeves up past his elbows, displaying tattoos.
"So," he says. "I wasn't president of my senior class in high school, and I haven't been editor of the paper here on campus, and the only position I've held in Phi Beta Rho is social chair--even though we've had some pretty fuc-*frakking* awesome parties in the last few years, if I do say so myself--but I also think I'd make a pretty, um, frakking awesome Recruitment chair. Here's why."
The IFC advisor, from the Office of Greek Life, doesn't seem to be amused by Travis' Battlestar Galactica references, but at least half of the presidents (at least the ones Brendon can see) are grinning, Pete most of all, and Brendon's not sure, but he thinks he even sees Chad's lips twitching.
"I wasn't going to RUSH when I was a freshman," Travis says. "In fact, I said, 'hell no' several times during high school, that summer. But then I was really f-frakking bored one day and these guys, these Phi Beta Rho's were having this movie night. I was like, hell yeah, I can go spend the evening with some frat boys for free popcorn and a movie, right? So I went, and you know what? They were really f-frakking funny. And I was like, you know, I could do this.
"And now, as I'm starting my senior year, I can say that joining FBR was one of the best decisions I ever made. F-for frakking serious. Here's what else I know: probably every single one of us would say that our house is not the typical fraternity. We'd probably all be right, too. But those people coming in? Those people on campus who look at us and say, 'hell no'? We need to show them we aren't. We need to get them to see us as more than the fraternities we see in movies. We need to show them that we are not what frat boys are portrayed as being--I mean, look at me! Would you look at me on the street and think frat boy? F-frak no! And there are guys out there who need to know this, guys who, if they'd just give us a chance, would make our houses proud. And I know this, and I want to work to get the word about how f-frakking awesome we are out there. Because we are frakking awesome. All of us."
And then he sits down.
Gabe, of course, stands, shouting encouragement, Jon by his side, and Brendon claps as loudly as he can. Everyone is clapping, Pete, perhaps, the loudest of all, and Chad is too--maybe, Brendon thinks, even a little bit more than politely.
And then, since Travis is done, they slip out the back, go home, tell the rest of their brothers exactly how well Travis did.
That's not the end, of course. No, it's more like the beginning of the pause. A several hour pause, while the other candidates finish giving their speeches, then hours more, while the council and the presidents work to get the positions filled.
Pete comes home at, like, eleven, but he refuses to come into Brendon's room. Instead, he shuts himself away in his and Andy's room, and Brendon doesn't know if that's a good sign or not.
The phone call comes at midnight. Travis, of course, is the one to answer it, while Brendon and Ryan and Joe and Gabe and Jon and Tom and Beckett all get as quiet as they can, and Brendon watches Travis' face as he says, "Hello?" Then, "Yeah, yeah." Then, "Yeah?" Then, "Yeah, absolutely. Yeah."
When he turns back to face all of them, he's looking a little shell-shocked. Pete, whom Brendon hadn't even noticed coming into the room, is the one to say, "Congratulations."
At that, Gabe yells in triumph, and all of them pretty much leap at Travis, crushing him in an FBR huddle, and then more of their members come in, and there's really not enough room for that many people in the room, but Brendon *so* doesn't care, because Travis is looking really, really excited.
After the initial rush has passed and there's actually room to move again, Pete starts picking his way over the people on the floor to give Travis a hug of his own. Brendon is close enough to hear Pete whisper, "Unanimous, dude," in Travis' ear. "Even Chad."
Travis lets out a loud laugh at that, but when everyone else in the room turns to look at him, he just grins, says, "FBR's takin' over, yo."
"Frak yeah," Brendon says.