It's one day, just another day on tour, just another day of suspiciously dirty jeans and a T-shirt that doesn't smell quite as rank as the others, of digging through his bunk for clean socks and borrowing Spencer's girly-smelling deodorant, and sliding through the lounge to meet up with Rick before sound check. And Shane says, "Dude, Brendon, at least get him to buy you dinner first!" and then laughs as Spencer drives Princess Peach right over a cliff.
Brendon's heart's in his throat, just from that, because, like . . . it had never really occurred to him before this moment. That someone might want to buy him dinner first. Because no one ever had, not really. These dudes are his best friends in the world, but even Ryan had just . . .
And he's not a stupid guy, not usually, but he feels like a fucking idiot.
He casts around in his brain desperately for a comeback that isn't awful, that won't make Shane think he's the biggest slut in the world, and then Spencer --
"Brendon just loves 'em and leaves 'em," says Spencer. "Fuck, I am going to kill you!"
Brendon still meets up with Rick and blows him in a windowless closet -- okay, it's not just another day, it's St. Louis, and they're at the Pageant, so everything smells like Church's Chicken, except Rick, who smells kind of like Jon, which is weird, because Brendon doesn't really want to blow Jon. He spits jizz in the corner -- near a mop, so it's not like it's really dirty or anything -- and is on stage on time, voice only a little raspy for sound check.
After that, though, he's conscious of Shane's eyes on him every time he leaves to hook up with someone, and he keeps hearing Shane's voice in his head at the absolute worst times, like when someone else's dick is in his ass.
He really fucking likes sex, but Shane is ruining it with his stupid looks and his stupid -- stupid stupidness. Brendon doesn't need anyone to buy him dinner; he's a rock star and can buy his own dinner. And, yes, he is also perfectly aware that Shane was talking about metaphorical dinner.
When Shane offers them his family's cabin for the second album, on the condition that he can film them and make a documentary, Brendon almost votes no, no, absolutely not. He likes Shane a lot, but the way Shane looks at him. Fuck. They go anyway, though, because it's a cabin in the woods, and Ryan has this idea for a concept album and thinks they should be sequestered, and it's just . . . easier. Easier to go along with it and grin and talk about trees than explain to Spencer and Jon (and Ryan, ugh, Ryan) why he doesn't want Shane watching him 24/7.
He packs his favorite bong and a lot of really good weed for the first few weeks. They're supposed to fly to Georgia and play the Final Four and then take a redeye back to the cabin at the end of March, so he's probably overestimating the amount of weed he'll need, but he'd rather . . . well, it doesn't matter.
It turns out that the cabin is not so much a cabin as it is, like, a mansion. It's gorgeous and it has great acoustics and the first thing they all do is climb out onto the roof with Shane and his video camera and light up, leaving all their stuff in the middle of the living room in a big pile.
They lie on the roof long enough that the sun sets and stars come out, and the moon. It's freezing, but it's gorgeous. Ryan, Spencer, and Jon go inside for beers, and Brendon rolls over onto his side. There's something digging into his ribs, but he's too comfortable to really get up unless he's going to go inside. Which he should. He will. In just a minute.
"I always forget Nevada can be so beautiful," Brendon says sleepily to Shane's camera.
"Why is that?" Shane's voice asks him, strangely disembodied. The camera has a bright light clipped onto the top, just like Jon's dSLR has a big flash, and it shines in Brendon's eyes.
He's too stoned, which he realizes only after he confesses to the camera's bright light, "Because being here feels like being in a prison."
Luckily, he shuts his mouth right after that, and doesn't tell Shane -- doesn't tell the camera; Shane already knows a little bit -- about being young and ugly and having bad hair; about being Mormon and stupid and smoking up and drinking too much to try to calm down and fit in; about tagging along with Ryan to parties and sleeping with Ryan on a tiny, smelly mattress in a tiny, smelly apartment; about his parents and family and being alone and being lonely and feeling worthless and translucent.
Brendon knows he's still translucent; anyone who wanted to bother could see right through him, but no one ever looks.
Shane is awesome and Brendon really likes him, and he has this really great smile and really shiny hair, but he makes Brendon nervous, which Brendon hates. Because he's this great guy who could be a good friend, but nevertheless Brendon can't get comfortable around him.
What he really needs is a good dose of Spencer Smith's down home practical wisdom to set him straight on this and fix whatever is broken.
Spencer snorts when Brendon tells him this. "You have a crush on him," Spencer says. He's putting bananas on a peanut butter and jelly and Nutella sandwich, which is disgusting, and he's so stoned that his eyes are almost totally pupil.
"Do not," replies Brendon automatically.
"Brendon, I promise you, no one else describes Shane as having a great smile and shiny hair. For example, if you asked me how to describe Shane, I would say . . . he is a guy who can fart along with 'Paint It Black' and actually enjoys drinking cider instead of beer." Spencer reaches into the fridge and grabs the package of pre-cooked bacon and layers three strips onto his sandwich while he's talking, then stops to consider it before looking up at Brendon. "Therefore, my practical, down home wisdom is to ask him out for dinner. Just the two of you. If he says yes, he wants to bone you. If he says no --"
"Can't I just ask him to bone?" interrupts Brendon.
"Aren't you a little old for that?" Spencer frowns, then looks down at his sandwich. "Oh, pickles."
Brendon gags a little and runs away. He finds Jon in what Shane calls the "rec room"; they're using it for practice space, except they haven't even touched most of their instruments. Brendon's got an acoustic guitar in his bedroom, and he's only used it for noodling around and playing himself to sleep at night when he can't relax. Spencer plays the drums for an hour every morning when he wakes up, because, as he says, "I am a dedicated motherfucking musician, you fools."
Jon is sitting at the keyboard, playing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" over and over again. On the third repeat, Brendon sits down next to him and plays a version of "Lying" he'd toyed with last year -- slow and in minor key, more depressing than a dirge. Over Jon's schoolboy "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" it sounds even more ridiculous.
He stops in the middle, and so does Jon. "You okay, B?" Jon switches the keyboard off and leans on the keys.
"Just thinking. Do you think it would be a big deal if I --" Brendon stops and sucks on his teeth. "Spencer says I have a crush on Shane."
"Dude, just make sure you use a condom." Jon grins.
"I always do," says Brendon, a little grouchily. He doesn't, not for blow jobs, anyway, but whatever -- he's not the one who had syph last year and had to have Zack send a fixer for a doctor in the middle of Australia.
"Whatever. Who cares, anyway? This isn't junior high. What, do you want to ask him to prom or something?" Jon shakes his head.
Brendon comes up with a lot of shit to say to that -- shit like "I didn't get to go to my prom, and that sucks even though I didn't even want to" and "I've never been on a fucking date" and "What do you do when you might actually like someone and not just want to fuck them?" and "I think I'm tired of just fucking people and leaving." But he doesn't say any of it, just kisses Jon on the side of the head and leaves the room.
Ryan and Shane are both out -- swimming, Brendon thinks, or maybe just smoking up near a body of water. He lies on his bed with the acoustic and plays Fall Out Boy songs until his wrists cramp. It works, though; music always works.
Shane has his own hang-ups, but he doesn't have Brendon's hang-ups, so he eventually asks Brendon out -- right after Brendon and Ryan get back from doing the opening of the Pearl with Gwen motherfucking Stefani. They pack a picnic and go out to the middle of the woods and Shane films him doing handstands against trees and back flips off low branches, and then, just when Brendon is expecting to blow him, or get fucked, or at the very least spend a long time making out and jerking each other off, Shane basically kisses him at the door and goes to his own room.
Brendon spends the night lying on his bed and staring at the bare wood of the ceiling, wondering what that meant. He's never had a boyfriend. The closest he's ever come was Ryan, for a couple of weeks at the beginning of 2005, when they made out and Ryan jerked him off, and they had sex. Brendon . . . can't even really remember exactly what happened anymore, even though at the time he'd've sworn that he'd never forget how much it hurt when Ryan fucked him and blew him off.
Since Spencer and Jon weren't any help, and Brendon knows better to even bother asking Ryan -- who's sequestered with Keltie and planning a trip to LA for tattoos anyway, instead of writing -- by six am, he's decided that there's only one answer to this problem. He should just fuck Shane and get it out of his system, and then they can both move on.
But that is a terrible idea, because he kind of doesn't want to move on. Shane's pretty awesome -- he's funny and smart and makes really bad jokes. He sometimes films his friends' homemade porn movies and never keeps copies for himself. He likes the same greasy Chinese and spicy Mexican food as Brendon, and the same stupid movies with fart jokes and boogers. And he likes dicks -- particularly Brendon's dick, or so Brendon thinks from the whole dating thing.
What if Brendon didn't just fuck him and move on, but tried to . . . date him. Or something. Maybe not date him. Except Shane took him on a date. A picnic date. And kissed him at the door and everything.
He stays in his room almost all day. As the sun rises outside his bedroom window and heats him up, he strips off his clothes until he's lying in his yellow briefs. Then, as the sun leaves, he starts to get colder and colder until he has to squirm under the covers. His phone buzzes with texts, but he ignores them. It's stupid to be this torn up about dumb shit like who to sleep with, and ever since Ryan -- in fucking high school, so years ago -- he's refused to do it.
But he is torn up, so he gives himself until dinnertime to sulk, and catnaps under the heavy quilt until his phone rings at four.
"Pizza's here," says Spencer.
"You couldn't just knock on my door?" demands Brendon. He slides out of bed and steps into a pair of sweats. "I am literally three feet away from where you are standing right now."
"First of all, you don't know where I'm standing, and second of all, the pizza is here so come out instead of arguing with me, dumbass."
"I predict you're standing at the breakfast bar," says Brendon, then shuts his phone and races out of his room to see Spencer standing at the breakfast bar -- which is not three feet from Brendon's door, exactly, but it might as well be -- on top of which is four pizza boxes, and a bunch of foil-wrapped things, and a big stack of six-packs of Coke. "Knew it," says Brendon smugly.
"You're a dick," says Spencer. He pulls a box from the middle. "This one's for you and Shane. Barbeque tofu that they swear tastes like chicken."
Brendon looks at the box skeptically. "They swear it's not actually chicken?"
"That was one place in North Dakota, and they did not even know what vegetarian meant there, Brendon. Take the pizza." Spencer shoves it at him, and then hands him a six-pack of Coke, and one of the foil-wrapped packages. "Go before Jon sees I gave you all the garlic knots or Keltie comes out naked again."
Brendon flees. It is the better part of valor. Keltie is extremely hot with her clothes on, but with them off she's all sinew and muscle and boobs, and Brendon is only human and finds that kind of scary. Okay, he finds all girls kind of scary, and weird, and wet and soft in ways he doesn't exactly find appealing.
But, he reasons to himself, he doesn't hold that against them, just as he hopes they don't hold his penis against him. And thus there can be peace on earth.
He knocks on Shane's door and waits for him to yell "Come in!" before entering. Unlike his bandmates, he has manners.
Shane's hunched over his laptop at his desk. This room is actually his, and has been for years, so it's decorated for a nine year old boy, with spaceships on the comforter and sheets, and glow in the dark stickers on the ceiling. The desk is also for a nine year old boy, three-quarter-sized like a starter guitar for a kid.
For a moment, Shane just stares at Brendon, and Brendon can't figure out what's going on. Like Shane's going to eat him, or kill him, or -- something.
"Pizza. Spencer swears the pizza place swears the barbequed tofu tastes like chicken." Brendon holds out the box and walks into the room, plops down on the bed. He pushes open the box and the twin scents of barbeque sauce and mozzarella cheese waft into the air. "Come on, dude. Spencer gave us all the garlic knots, too."
"You didn't come out of your room all day," Shane finally says. He turns around in the tiny chair, stretching his legs out on either side of it. His toes are painted with Keltie's sparkly pink nail polish. So are Brendon's, but it looks more incongruous on Shane's craggy boy feet, Brendon thinks, than on Brendon's pale, almost-hairless toes.
"I was thinking," says Brendon. The tofu doesn't look like chicken at all -- it's just big chunks of tofu that had been marinated in barbeque sauce. He decides to pick the tofu off and eat the rest of the pizza. Maybe he can throw the tofu in with some vegetables and make a stir fry or something later. If they even have any vegetables.
"Okay," Shane says, and swings off the chair to come to the bed.
"No, seriously. I had a really good time with you," Brendon says. He very deliberately doesn't look at Shane. How had he thought he could avoid this conversation? Shit.
"Sure," says Shane. He sits down on the other side of the pizza box, reaches out and snags a can of Coke, pops the top. Brendon can hear his throat working as he swallows.
"Look, come on, you've known me for a while now. You know I'm fucked up." Brendon doesn't chance looking up, just keeps staring down at the slice he's picking the tofu off of, at his fingers covered in brownish-red barbeque sauce.
Shane snorts and coughs Coke out of his throat. "I don't think sleeping around counts as being fucked up."
"That's not --" Brendon looks up now. Shane's being serious. Brendon . . . weirdly, Brendon had thought Shane had seen more than that, understood more than that, from that day in St. Louis. Maybe it had just been a stupid, offhand comment, and Brendon really is an idiot. "Well, I don't just want to sleep with you. I want to date you. If you want to date me. If you just want to sleep with me, I guess that's okay, but I'm so --" Brendon's voice shakes, and it's embarrassing as hell, but he forces himself to keep going, because that's what he does -- he decides what to do and then he pushes through it, even when it's hard and when it sucks. "I'm really over being jerked around and ignored and hurt, you know? So, like, if that's your plan, let's just stay non-sex friends and watch Shaun of the Dead on your laptop."
"Seriously, you think I'm that guy?" asks Shane. His voice sounds pretty disbelieving, so Brendon feels kind of shitty. But.
"No, but I can be pretty bad at reading people, and I thought maybe I'd try being totally honest right up front," he says, still looking at Shane. Well, at the Coke can Shane's holding. That counts. "Ryan fucked me up a while ago -- I let him, I was stupid, but I was seventeen, and I didn't fucking know anything and neither did he. But I'm over it, and I want something else. I can't come out publically or anything, but I don't want to have to -- I don't --" He stops, frustrated, and goes back to picking at his pizza.
"You don't . . . want to hide?" guesses Shane. Brendon nods, feeling totally ridiculous. "Hey. Brendon. Hey. C'mon." When Brendon looks up, Shane grins at him. He's not the most attractive dude Brendon's ever seen, or even the most attractive dude Brendon's ever fucked (well, he hasn't fucked Shane yet, but) -- but there's something about him Brendon is really into, the way he's confident and cute and broad. The way he's really nice to Brendon and how they're friends in a way that Brendon's never really had a friend before -- a guy who hangs out with Brendon because he likes Brendon, not because he necessarily cares that Brendon's in a band (or in a band with Ryan).
"I know I'm an idiot," Brendon says miserably. "Sorry."
"No, hey. Communication is really hot," says Shane, and then he puts his Coke down on the bedside table and leans over the pizza box to kiss Brendon. It's just as hot as it was the night before, his mouth wet, and strong, and -- Brendon loves it, he just loves it, and he pushes the pizza box until it slides off the bed. He sucks the taste of Coke out of Shane's mouth, pushes him back against the pile of pillows in their spaceship pillow cases, and pulls on Shane's knit cap until it comes off. Shane's T-shirt is scratchy against Brendon's bare chest, so he tugs on that, too, tugs it off and throws it in the direction of the hat and pizza box, and their bare skin pressed together is awesome, warm and soft and --
Brendon has to pull his head back and catch his breath, and the movement pushes their hips together. Brendon only just turned twenty; it is totally okay that it only takes him one second to get hard. Shane is getting hard, too, which is also hot -- so much hotter, Brendon thinks, because he knows that Shane is really into him, not just into getting off. It's stupid that high school sex ed has any relevance to this moment, but it does -- not that Brendon would really take back anything he's done, because he believes in . . . well, he doesn't know what he believes in, but he is pretty sure that everything comes together to make him who he is. So his past is who he is, part of who he is, and he's mostly okay with that, but this is still incredible.
Being with Shane is pretty amazing. Sometimes, when they go for walks in the woods, Shane holds his camera in one hand and Brendon's hand in the other. Sometimes, when they're sitting and watching TV, for no reason at all, Shane will hold Brendon's hand. And he doesn’t mind when Brendon's clingy, doesn't push him off and curse at him, or roll his eyes. He gets cold at night, so he doesn't care that Brendon is a furnace, and he's a dude, so he understands Brendon has needs and doesn't mind that Brendon jerks off all the time, even on days when they've had sex in the morning or plan to have it at night. Not that Brendon's ever really had a real girlfriend or boyfriend who gave a shit about him, so maybe that's normal -- he doesn't know.
Shane likes to watch him jerk off, likes to sit in his desk chair and watch Brendon jerk off on his bed, on his spaceship sheets, under the glowing stars on the ceiling. He really gets off on it, and Brendon gets off on how much Shane gets off on it.
Cassie comes out, and so does Haley, and Ryan gets a cute dog, and Brendon is so happy with Shane it's kind of sickening, he thinks, probably, maybe, but he doesn't care, because fuck the rest of them, they've all been in relationships before and have been with their girlfriends for ages already. This is the first time anyone's wanted to be in a relationship with Brendon who Brendon's -- who Brendon's liked, who Brendon's really . . . Brendon is just really into him, and the way he sometimes plays the piano keys on Brendon's arm, and the way he grins when Brendon tells a stupid joke.
It would be totally perfect, if they weren't supposed to be writing an album. Instead, they're getting high and fighting and retreating to their separate corners of the cabin. The cabin is making them fucking crazy. Even Pete, who is only there for twelve hours, notices it. He's supposed to stay for a couple of days, but he tells them his plans changed at the last minute, and that Ryan's concept musical -- the stuff they've managed to record, anyway, enough material for at least two albums but none of it gelling -- is "a little oblique, don't you think?" Brendon wonders if he's the only one who can hear everything Pete doesn't say to them, but from the way Spencer and Jon went away with little frown lines, he doesn't think so.
"Maybe you guys have to leave?" suggests Shane one night. He's being the big spoon, even though usually neither of them like to spoon, because Brendon is curled in on himself and is pretty sure that if he stretches out or moves at all, he'll break down into a total panic attack that his band is falling apart.
That afternoon, Ryan had smoked two bowls, smashed Spencer's bong, called Brendon "a useless wannabe Patrick Stump twit," and threw a glass at Jon's head. Then Jon had told Ryan to fuck off and find another band to torture, and stormed out. Then Spencer had looked at Ryan and said, "Fuck you, asshole," and also stormed out.
Ryan had looked at Brendon and said, "What, are you going to cry? Poor little baby Brendon --"
Brendon had been horrified to realize that there were tears in his eyes. He left the room, too, but didn't even bother to slam the door -- just went right to his bedroom and curled up on the bed, under the heavy quilt even though it was warm and.
"Everything sucks," he tells Shane for the millionth time. "I really hate it here. I just -- hate it here."
"Yeah," sighs Shane into his hair. "I know." He resettles himself so that he's more curved over Brendon and holds him really tightly -- so tightly that Brendon knows he will never be able to float away or disappear.
The next morning, Ryan knocks on doors and gathers together the band -- no girlfriends allowed.
("Shane is not my girlfriend, you know that, right?" Brendon had said, instead of the million other things he wants to say.
Shane had gasped in mock horror. "Are you ashamed of me, Brendon?" he had asked in a high falsetto. "Because you should know -- I'm pregnant and I am keeping it!"
Brendon had started giggling, while Ryan just rolled his eyes and stomped down the hall to bang on Spencer's door.)
Instead of apologizing -- Of course he isn't going to apologize; he's Ryan fucking Ross, thinks Brendon -- Ryan tells them solemnly that writing a musical in a cabin has put a curse on them and in order to get the curse off, he's going to have to burn his guitar, and they should all pick something to burn too.
Brendon mentally rolls his eyes, but picks a small, wooden, child's tambourine he'd bought at the tiny local grocery store when they'd first arrived. There's no way he's burning any of his actual instruments; Ryan would be certifiable to expect him to do that.
Spencer brings an huge cardboard box full to the top with broken drumsticks; Brendon hadn't realized he'd been keeping them, and raises his eyebrows. Spencer just shrugs. Brendon's pretty sure that Ryan being a jackass is harder on Spencer than on any of the rest of them, despite how awful Ryan is to all of them, because lately Ryan's been meaning it.
Jon brings a bunch of SD cards and an old, worn harmonica. He also shrugs when Brendon raises his eyebrows.
Shane brings a camera.
Ryan brings his guitar, his real, beloved guitar, and while Shane tapes them, Ryan smashes the guitar over and over onto a tree stump and then throws it onto the bonfire with everyone else's stuff and watches grimly while it burns.
Except it doesn't really burn down to nothing, so the moment is pretty anticlimactic when Ryan turns to them and takes a deep breath and says, "I think we should write a totally different album."
"God, finally," says Spencer. He turns on his heel and walks away.
"Where are you going?" yells Ryan to Spencer's back.
Spencer stops and turns slightly. "To pack, asshole!" he yells back. "We're going back to Vegas tomorrow!"
When they get back to Vegas, Ryan gives Jon a key to the condo he'd bought right before they left for the cabin, and then he and Hobo disappear for several days. Brendon is definitely not sad about that. He needs a break from the guys. He and Spencer and Jon text a couple of times every day, and it's enough. Brendon spends most of his time with Shane, at Shane's apartment, which is hilariously above a sex shop. It's closer to Brendon's old apartment from his Smoothie Hut days than he's really comfortable with, but whatever. It's not like he ever has to go there.
He and Shane don't really spend all day, every day together. Brendon goes out for lunch with his parents one day, and does not mention that he and Shane are dating; the fact that his parents are meeting him for lunch and being really nice and asking about his band and showing him pictures of his nieces and nephews is a lot. Brendon has tried and tried not to care about whether or not his parents want him in their lives, but he just can't stop.
"They were your parents your whole life," Shane had pointed out to him in his annoying "I'm a reasonable adult" tone the night before; "It makes sense that you miss them."
But that's not all of it; Brendon isn't sure how to explain to Shane that it's part of the problem, that he can't have a relationship with his parents now without it being all tied up with then. Even though now he's twenty, his parents look at him and see a hyper, overactive kid they couldn't control, or a rebellious, unhappy, mostly friendless teenager.
They can't even meet him on his own terms as an adult -- the words that describe him are words they cringe from, words they pray their god will magically lift out of his life, words like gay and atheist. He drinks and smokes and fucks men and likes it, likes his godless, heathen, sinful life, and they can't reconcile that with who they dreamed he'd be when he was born and first smiled at them.
And it's not all their fault, because he doesn't even miss who they really are, who they are all the time -- he only misses who they were, who they were when they were at their best, most loving, most understanding, and those moments were few and far between, but he judges them harshly against those memories. He knows that's not fair, but neither is not being able to introduce Shane as his boyfriend, or tell them why he's so happy even though he and his band came home from Mt. Charleston with no album.
As for Shane, he spends some time working -- a lot of time working. But he never minds when Brendon comes up behind him at the computer and twines his arms around Shane's neck and kisses him on the ear or drops to his knees and blows him right there. And Brendon is getting better -- trying to get better -- at not taking it personally when Shane says, "I can't right now; ten minutes." It helps that when Shane says ten minutes, he means it; he shuts down what he's doing and comes to Brendon and that's it. It really helps. It only stings a little.
He understands better, too, when he has to tell Shane that he can't film them getting together for the first time outside the cabin. He wishes Shane could come -- especially when he has to pull the car over to the side of the road and park in the lot of a seedy strip club to calm down on the way to the practice space. They didn't have the space very long before they went to Maryland, just a few months, but the drive there is so familiar, Brendon can almost smell the old socks and rotten fruit from spilled smoothies scent of the old purple minivan, can feel the desperation and hopelessness of being seventeen and living on his own and knowing that this band would be his last shot -- what would he have done if they hadn't made it? If Ryan hadn't been the most determined person Brendon had ever met?
Brendon rests his head on the steering wheel and breathes, plays scales on an imaginary piano in his mind until he can drive the rest of the way to the space and park his car, which is neither purple nor a minivan, because he's twenty and a motherfucking rock star and he borrowed his hot filmmaker boyfriend's car.
Spencer's little green Prius is already at the space, and so is a huge old blue rust bucket Taurus with a half-scraped-off COEXIST bumper sticker.
When Brendon steps inside, he's expecting to feel like there's been a time warp or something, but the place has been refurbished and they're not even in the exact same studio space because some of the rooms have been rearranged, and it's really nice. They don't even smoke up before they start, although Jon brought a stash of Red Bulls and a couple of bottles of Dr. Pepper and some kind of hoity-toity hipster soda pop for Ryan in glass bottles with actual bottle caps and flavors like "vanilla peach" and "lavender celery."
It's awesome -- and productive. The music they start making doesn't sound anything like Fever or Ryan's weird concept musical, but none of them leave frowning.
Shane is big on communication, which Brendon can kind of appreciate -- it means they have a few awful conversations sometimes, uncomfortable and weird, and sometimes Brendon has to lock himself in the bathroom and take long, burning hot showers, or go outside and run around the block a few times in order to fall back into himself, to feel better, to feel less like he just turned himself inside out.
Like the one a couple of weeks ago when Shane had said, "Why don't you ever want to fuck me? Does my ass gross you out or something?" and Brendon had choked on his own tongue because they had just been at home, eating Japanese takeout and talking about what movie to watch that night, not doing anything or talking about anything that would naturally lead Shane to say something like that.
And Brendon had said, "I never really -- you know. I don't need that. I figured that if you wanted it, you'd ask for it."
And Shane had said, "But what do you want?"
And Brendon had said, "I don't know? I just -- I don't want to ask you for too much."
And Shane had said, "Are you fucking kidding?"
And Brendon had said, "Dude, I'm kind of worried? That, like, if I'm too needy or want something gross or whatever, you'll leave me. Which is stupid? But I feel that way anyway?" He'd made every statement a question, hoping that maybe Shane wouldn't get pissed, but he had anyway, had let out a long breath and walked quietly out of the room and into his studio, hadn't even taken his beer with him.
Brendon had finished his beer, and Shane's, too, and then went out walking, his fists balled up in his hoodie pockets. He had walked out to the Port O'Subs near the cheap gas station, and eaten what felt like his weight in veggie subs and drank practically a gallon of sweet tea and felt a little calmer, and a lot stupid. It was kind of amazing how saying shit out loud made it sound so much dumber than what it sounded like in his head. Which was probably the point of Shane making him say stuff out loud.
When he'd gotten back, Shane had been sitting on the couch, the TV on mute.
"I'm sorry," Shane had said. "I won't ever leave you because you want something in bed. I swear to you, Brendon, you are fucking hot as hell and there is nothing you could ask for that I wouldn't try at least once."
"What if I want you to drink my piss?" Brendon had asked, and Shane had raised a dubious eyebrow until Brendon giggled and threw himself onto the couch, his head on Shane's leg. A few days later, he'd said, "Hey, I wanna fuck you," and it had been incredible, all tight heat on his cock and Shane making noises Brendon had never heard from him before.
Brendon is pretty sure eventually their communicating will stop having such positive outcomes, though, so every time Shane gives him his look of serious communication, Brendon's palms get sweaty.
"Hey," says Shane. He looks over the top of his computer at Brendon, who is seriously kicking ass at Rainbow Islands on Shane's old original Nintendo. Brendon pauses just as his character is throwing a rainbow at a bad guy and the screen flickers.
"What's up?" he says. He tilts his head and rests it on the couch, still looking over at Shane. He crosses his eyes and sticks out his tongue.
"Nothing," says Shane. "I just . . . this is going really well, right?"
"Yesssss . . ." Brendon draws the word out, a little worried. "Is there a problem?"
"Noooo . . ." Shane draws his word out, too. "I was just -- I mean." He squirms a little, and Brendon is fascinated. He thinks maybe this is the first time he's ever seen Shane look so profoundly uncomfortable.
"Dude, spit it out. What's going on?" He thinks about asking Shane if he wants Brendon to drink his piss, but Shane looks pretty serious, and Brendon's now sure how well a joke would go down right now.
"Do you want to move in? Like, officially? And live together?" Shane blurts out.
Brendon can't breathe. Like, he literally cannot take a breath in. He cannot force his chest to move. Or his eyes to blink, for that matter. He stares at Shane until his vision goes swimmy and he slides down onto the floor.
"Oh my god," he chokes out.
Shane's face peers at him from up above, where Shane is crouched over him, on the couch, leaning down.
"Yes," he wheezes, and Shane kisses him right there, like Mary Jane and Spider-man, upside down.
A few months later, they get a tiny dog together and name her Dylan. When she nervously chews up the living room curtains, they have to go shopping for new ones -- and even though they end up with plain white curtains with cheerful blue stripes, and not, like, paisley or flowers or anything, and even though Brendon's in Panic at the Disco and they had all of the Nothing Rhymes With Circus tour, he's pretty sure that curtain shopping with his boyfriend and tiny dog is pretty much the gayest thing he's ever done. It's awesome.
(This is not the end, because life keeps going.)