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The Mess That We'll Become Will Leave Something To Talk About

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Brendon is running late. Again. Spencer is going to shout at him about morals. Dallon will whine insatiably about how he’s wasting his time in an empty studio rather than with his wife and family. Brendon doesn’t really care about either of these things; he cares about his morning cappuccino a lot more. In his mind, Spencer shouldn’t be so uptight, and Dallon shouldn’t have joined a very sexually oriented, unpredictable band if he was still a full-operating Mormon boy. But, no one else cares what Brendon thinks on the matter, seeing as he is single, arrogant and lazy.

He runs into the nearest Starbucks, pulling out his membership card in anticipation, shuffling his beanie around on his freshly-trimmed hair thoughtfully. He glances around the coffee shop, the light slinks through the windows, the students stare vapidly at screens while middle-aged businessmen slurp coffees pretending to read the politics section in the newspapers. Brendon waits impatiently at the end of the line, tapping his card against his fingers in a beat that vaguely resembled Vegas Lights, his latest song.

“And how can I help you today, sir?” the too-young barista asks sunnily from behind the stained wooden counter.

“Medium double shot, wet, soya cappuccino please - I’m Brendon.” he replies, not bothering to fully replicate the barista’s tone, she is, after all, in a mediocre service job that probably leaves her feeling unfulfilled and underappreciated. Again, Brendon doesn’t really care.

He doesn’t care up until the voice that startles him from his thoughts. A voice he hasn’t heard in over 4 years.

“Medium skimmed caffe latte to go, please, Aria.” Brendon’s eyes widen, and he turns to face his ex-friend/band-member/confidant/lover.

“Of course, Mr Ross.”

“Please, Aria, how many times have I told you to call me Ryan?”

Brendon swallows. Hard.

 

Chapter Text

Brendon stays stock still, wondering if maybe he is still enough, he’ll vanish into thin air and the inevitable won’t have to happen. However, fate is not on his side, as no sooner has he decided chameleon mode is the best way to go:

“Brendon? Cappuccino’s here.” Brendon spares a fleeting glance at the male barista who hands him his white paper cup, but when he turns back, Ryan is looking at him. Straight at him. Brendon wonders for a moment whether Ryan will freak out and run away, but as a grin set its way across his face, Brendon doesn’t really know how to feel.

“Holy shitballs, Brendon Urie. How the hell are you, man?” Ryan extends his hand, grabbing Brendon with an unnecessary amount of force, pulling him into a bro-hug that twists into an awkward too-many-limbed embrace. As Ryan pulls away, Brendon gets the chance to look at him properly. Ryan has cut his hair much in the same style as Brendon has, and he silently sends up a thank you for the cold weather making him wear his beanie. Ryan’s clothes have changed dramatically. Gone are the scarves and chimney-sweep hats and fingerless gloves; they have been replaced with a white ‘I <3 LA’ t-shirt, tight fitted leather jacket and slightly low-riding black jeans. He looks good.

“I...I’m fine. Wow, it’s been ages, dude. What are… what are you doing here, man?” He knows he sounds stiff and mechanical, but seriously… Ryan. For 2 years Brendon had been convinced Ryan was it. Ryan was everything to him, and then that all changed. The stress of their relationship spread over the whole band; infecting it like a virus with no cure. In the end, they’d decided to split: both the couple and, indeed, the band.

“I, er… I’m here with some friends, bought a house not far from here. Been living with Shane and his ‘partner’ for a while. Started up the solo career, and if that doesn’t fly, well fuck it, I’ll go into interior design or some shit. How’s er… how’s Panic?” Brendon doesn’t really know how to respond. Panic is fine, he supposes. Apart from the apparent inadequacy and certain unreliability of their lead singer.

“Panic’s...er… fine. We’re in the process of writing a new album. Well... I’m writing it. There’s not very much… guitar in it. It’s more of a techno thing. But it should sound good. I hope it will anyway.” Ryan nods along politely, carefully not raising his eyebrows too high when Brendon mentions ‘techno’. Techno had never really been Brendon’s thing, but if he was trying it, why not.

“Wow, techno, ha, things really have changed since Pretty Odd, huh?” Ryan lets out a short, sharp laugh, something that sounds hostile to Brendon’s ears, but is really just more reminiscent.

“Yes. Techno. I think it’ll be good for us as a band. Anyway, I should go, Ryan, I need to get to the studio.”

“You’re late?”

Brendon doesn’t look directly into Ryan’s eyes, but he can see the knowing smirk the cocky bastard is wearing like his old ‘fever’ makeup.

“No. Of course not. Just will be if I stand here chatting pointlessly to ghosts of my past. Makes me feel like fucking Ebenezer Scrooge.” Ryan laughs again, making a face that could be understanding, but is contorted with slight disbelief.

“Well, sorry, Mr Scrooge, I’ll leave you to get on with your day. Tell Spencer I said hi, if he is, indeed, still in the band.” And with that, he grabs his caffe latte, thanks the barista and strides out the coffee shop indignantly. Brendon stares after him, frowning with rage and regret.

“Fuck me.” he mutters, and then moves to leave the coffee shop, turning right to make his way to the studio. He is, by now, insanely late. But he doesn’t give a flying fuck. He’s just seen Ryan. And that is kind of reason enough to be late to a rehearsal he scheduled.

 

“Brendon where in the hell have you been? We’ve been waiting for nearly an hour! I know you think you run this band or some shit, but usually when you say we’re going to have a rehearsal, you turn the hell up!” Spencer is red with fury, his hair tousled and sticking in all directions suggesting he’s been running his hands through it in frustration. Brendon shrugs and pushes past him into the cramped studio. Dallon is sitting on the sofa, scrolling through something on his phone. He looks up as Brendon enters, his features softening into a fatherly disappointment.

“Brendon. You really need to cut the tardiness. It’s becoming a serious issue. Breezy doesn’t believe I’m here when I say I am because whenever she calls it’s complete silence where there should be, um, I don’t know... music. Brendon, when I agreed to be a full-time member of Panic, I thought you’d be a little more… professional?” Brendon rolls his eyes pointedly, before sighing and falling down into the under-stuffed armchair.

“I went to get my coffee.” He replies stubbornly, sipping his cappuccino.

“For probably the billionth time, your caffeine dependency should be secondary to your band. Not your first priority.” Brendon decides to ignore this comment and continues slurping his drink.

“I ran into Ryan.”

Spencer’s eyes go wide and his mouth moves a lot, forming words that don’t really reach the point of articulation.

“Ryan as in Ryan Ross? Your old…friend?” Dallon is always odd when Brendon or Spencer mention Ryan. He never really knew him, and finding out his current band-mate was in an extremely open, gay relationship with some mystery guitarist scared him quite a lot more than it probably should have.

“No, Ryan Reynolds. Of course Ryan Ross, dickweed. He was at the coffee shop when I was getting mine. Right behind me. He saw me and we had possibly the most awkward conversation I’ve ever been a part of.” Brendon pouts and Spencer scoffs, finally regaining the ability to produce sound.

“Brendon, all your conversations are awkward, you just don’t realise it. And totally serves you right for being late to our practice to go get your precious coffee. Karma, bitch.” Brendon glares at Spencer, then leans forward onto his knees.

“This is serious, Spence! I haven’t seen him in 4 years! What do I do?!” Brendon squeals. Spencer sighs and flops down next to Dallon, who squeaks a little.

“Band practice is also serious, Bren. This is our life. Ryan used to be… used to be part of it and now he’s not. Let it go. You’ve already let him go it’s not like this is realistically going to change anything.” There’s a silence that follows the statement that puts Brendon on edge. He used to think Ryan would always be a part of Panic, a part of their lives. He and Spencer had known each other since forever, and then Brendon had come along and fawned and yearned like a 15 year old girl and split the band in two.

“What if I see him again?” Brendon finally replies after several minutes. Spencer groans and rubs his face with both hands.

“If you see him again, just smile and walk away. I’m sure he doesn’t want to see you as much as you don’t want to see him. Now can we please get on with this rehearsal? I want to leave this studio before I turn 30.” Spencer heaves himself off the couch and moves towards the recording studio, Dallon following swiftly after giving Brendon one of his ‘what can you do?’ faces. Brendon feels a little peeved. He’d been expecting something a little more insightful from his supposed best friend. Still, he tears off his beanie, rubbing his hair back and forth several times before going after his band mates to salvage the session.

 

Dallon has just gone home to see his family, as he hasn’t quit whining about them all afternoon. Brendon invites Spencer to join him for a drink, have a little down time. Spencer readily agrees, but only to coffee, much to Brendon’s disappointment.

“It was just so weird seeing him again, Spence. He cut his hair, you know. And changed his look. I dunno, I kind of digged the whole paisley shirt thing. But he does look hot in a leather jacket, I’ll give him that.” Spencer sighs into his Americano, pushing stray sugar granules pointlessly around the table top.

“Brendon, don’t you think you should stop thinking about him? I thought you’d gotten over him?!” Spencer’s voice rises painfully and Brendon flinches un-noticeably.

“I have gotten over him. Just… I don’t know. There was something. But I fucked it up, of course I did. I always do. So typically me. I just wanted to impress him, you know? Show him I was doing fine after he left.”

Spencer leans back into his chair, staring into the distance thoughtfully. “Okay, I have a confession to make.”

Brendon frowns, narrowing his eyes at his friend. “What is it? What did you do?” The younger man rolls his eyes and glares at the singer.

“You accuse me like you think I’ve killed someone. It’s not that bad, just…”

“Spencer. What is it?”

“I’ve been keeping in touch with Ryan all these years. You guys broke up and I wanted to support you, because of the band, but also Ryan was my best friend for years. I couldn’t leave him, so we kept in contact, texting and Facebook and dm-ing on twitter. I knew he was coming here, and I didn’t say anything because I knew you’d freak out. So… sorry, I guess.” Brendon blinks a few times and then giggles. Just a little bit, at first. Spencer frowns and cocks his head minutely to the side, obviously confused. Brendon then proceeds to break into a fit of small, disjointed chuckles.

“Brendon? Are… are you okay, man?” This is when Brendon’s previously restrained laughter turns into all-out, booming hysterics. He has tears pouring down his cheeks and his features contorted in dark humour. He sniffs at Spencer’s question and ends up laughing more, looking away from his friend.

Spencer doesn’t really know what to do. People are staring. Not that people haven’t stared before, there’s been the occasional person who recognises them for Panic, but this is more of a disdainful glaring than the usual awestruck doting looks he’s used to.

“Brendon, you’ve gotta calm down.” Brendon’s laughter turns back into a hiccupping snigger, and he wipes his eyes with the back of his sleeve.

“Nah, I don’t think I will.” And with that, Brendon rises from his chair, and staggers to the door, patting Spencer slightly too harshly on the shoulder as he passes. Spencer slumps in his seat, wipes his hand over his face and pulls out his phone from his back pocket. This action includes awkwardly thrusting his hips in the air to reach the device. He quickly selects a contact and composes a short and concise message before sending it, downing the rest of his frankly sub-standard coffee, leaving a tip on the table and walking out the coffee shop into the brisk air.

Spencer’s message travels from his phone, to the tower on the control channel, from the tower to the SMSC and from there to its destination. Precisely 5 seconds after Spencer pressed ‘send’, Ryan Ross’s phone beeps violently on the table in Shane’s house. He picks it up, smiles at the sender name, then frowns when he reads the message.

“Well… whaddya know.”

To: Ryan, From: Spenny Smithers

So.. I told Brendon.

Chapter Text

Ryan pours the uncomfortably tepid coffee into a mug of dubious sanitation, wincing at the taste as he takes a large gulp, more for speed than enjoyment purposes. He scrolls through his emails on his new phone (he’s only just learned how to access the internet on it after several intense technology-introduction sessions with Shane and copious hours scrolling through Wikihow) and deletes all the spam and pornhub notifications. He can’t be dealing with all that ‘update your subscription’ crap right now. Right now he has to get his ass down to the studio to record his single, ‘Where I Belong’. He’s pretty confident it’ll fly, but he wants to make sure it’s perfect; done exactly how he wants it. Something Brendon and Panic could never understand or achieve.

Speaking of, Spencer had texted him the a few nights before claiming to have told Brendon. Obviously, Ryan immediately knew to what Spencer was referring: their ceaseless contact after Panic’s split. Ryan doesn’t mind Spencer has only just revealed this information to Brendon. He doesn’t think Brendon would have handled it particularly well before their chance encounter in the coffee shop the other day. Ryan smiles slightly at the memory, then he catches himself and dissolves the smile on his face. He can’t be happy about seeing Brendon again. Brendon ruined him. Brendon ruined the band. Brendon ruined everything.

Ryan steps from his front door onto the grey street in the too-brisk September air. He flicks the collar of his jacket up around his neck, which feels a little bare. Even after all these years, he still kinda misses the scarves. They made him feel important, covered and protected. Now he feels oddly exposed. He doesn’t believe in Vampires, but he’s seen enough Buffy to at least be wary of a surprise Vamp-attack.

He moves swiftly in the direction of the studio, rubbing his hands together (misses the gloves as well, however fingerless they may have been) to warm his weirdly long fingers. He’s always been a little self-conscious when it comes to his hands and spindly, spider-like fingers. Of course, when he was dating Brendon they were at least useful but now… He quickly wipes that thought from his mind. He most definitely cannot be thinking about Brendon’s ass right now. That’s too weird. Too… risky.

The Starbucks he passes is too tempting not to go into after the disappointment that spilled from his coffee machine. He tells himself he has time, he can have his caffe latte and still make his studio appointment on time. The warm air that rushes over his face is so relieving and welcoming he smiles despite himself. He walks calmly up to the counter and waits in the line patiently. He turns to survey his surroundings. He seriously does not want a repeat of the other day when he ran into Brendon.

“Looking for me, Rybow?” Ryan turns back around to the queue behind him and breaks into a smile at the sight of his best friend of forever standing grinning back at him.

“Spenny! What’re you doing here, man?!” Ryan doesn’t wait for an answer before he pulls Spencer into a tight hug in which he attempts to convey all his feeling for the man. He doesn’t think it works, but a guy can try, right?

“I come in here for coffee sometimes, plus Brendon scheduled a rehearsal in the studio for 10, so I figured if I arrived by 10:45 I’d be pretty much bang on time.” Ryan chuckles lowly, shaking his head and smiling at his friend.

“Yup, sounds about right. How are you doing then? Is he still talking to you? After you told him, I mean.” He rushes the last part out, trying not to sound too curious, but pretty much failing miserably. Spencer frowns a little, then rubs his hand across his forehead in an action that Ryan recognises as frustration.

“He hasn’t spoken to me since I told him. We… we were in this coffee shop off Main street, and I told him and he laughed. He laughed. He was fucking giggling like a flirting schoolgirl. Then he got up and left. I didn’t hear from him for two days and then he emails me, fucking emails me, the pretentious twat, telling me there’s a rehearsal at 10am today and I should ‘be there or be square’.” Ryan raises his eyebrow at Spencer in querying mocking.

“Be there or be square?” He keeps his tone light yet derisive. Spencer responds as he should, rolling his eyes and pushing Ryan’s arm playfully.

“Shut up. You know what I mean.” Ryan smiles and then jumps a little when the barista calls for the next person in queue, which happens to be him. He orders quickly, pays then waits while Spencer places his order. He asks for some fancy-schmancy coffee-espresso thing Ryan’s never heard of, then turns to his friend and sighs in further exasperation.

“I dunno what to do about him, man. When you were there…. he just listened to you, ya know? Sure, you got a little stressy… and kinda scary, but he listened. Back then, it was like we were properly part of a band; like we were a unit. Working together, making our sound ours. Now… he just makes it about him. He does his own thing, how he likes, when he likes. I feel like all I am to him is a walking, talking pair of drumsticks.” The look on Spencer’s face is enough to make Ryan’s stomach drop violently, and his heart find refuge in his throat.

“Wow, I didn’t know he’d be like that. I mean, I could tell something was different about him. He held himself differently, acted like no one else in the world mattered unless they directly affected him. Weird… he used to be such an awesome, amazing little dude. Things really have changed for us all then, huh?” Spencer snorts at the reference and shakes his head noncommittally.

“You could say that again. Speaking of ‘us all’, how’s Jon?” Ryan shrugs.

“I don’t really know. He’s releasing a single, I think, and he’s having a kid or something crazy like that. I think out of all of us, including Brent, he’s the one that actually grew the fuck up and lived his life.” Spencer nods, a look of understanding and something that looks suspiciously like longing crossing his face.

“Hmm, I sure miss the cheeky bastard. He was so fun to be around. Course, Brendon doesn’t look back on him with such fondness.” Ryan frowns a little, moving up in the queue to what he refers to as the ‘catchment zone’ where you pick up your order.

“Why not? I thought it was impossible to even consider hating Jon?” Spencer shrugs again, something he seems to be doing a lot more now, Ryan notes. He puts it down to being tired, but it might be that he just doesn’t know Brendon anymore.

“Yeah, well, Jon always took your side, remember? That’s a fact that gets ol’ Brenny-boy a little apprehensive nowadays.”

“Jon didn’t take my side!” Ryan defends.

“Yeah he did. He wanted to go for that more sombre, psychedelic-rock sound, and you were offering that. I guess Brendon always held it as a grudge.” Ryan nods, mulling over everything Panic did in their Pretty. Odd. phase. He’d always really liked Pretty.Odd., it was a great album. A little weird… okay a lot weird, but it was fun. They’d had a lot of fun playing it on tours, and heaven knows Ryan had had a helluva time writing it. What he refuses to admit now, is that his favourite part of writing that album was when he told Brendon he wanted him to write a couple songs for it. Brendon’s face had lit up and his smile was so wide it could’ve broken his jaw but didn’t. Granted, Brendon’s songs on the album had been fairly mediocre, but watching Brendon go through the process of creating a tune, adding instrument and trying to get everything to fit in, had been just adorable.

“I don’t really associate Brendon with grudges. It doesn’t sit well in my mind.” Ryan replies despondently.

“Wow, you’re in for a huge surprise then. You know he blocks people on twitter who tweet him more than once if they mention you or Pretty. Odd?” Ryan’s eyes widen as Spencer makes a face of part disgust and part ‘I know, right?’

“Sheesh, that’s lame. I mean, why bother? It’s twitter, like anyone really cares.” Spencer nods his agreement and takes his drink from the barista who hands it to him. The two men then make their way to the door, staying in a mutually comfortable silence that neither wants to break.

“So, which way are you heading?” Spencer finally asks.

“Oh, I need to head East, so I’m catching the subway at Hollywood/Vine and taking it to 7th then walking towards 5th. So… left.” Ryan trails off. Spencer is doing that weird thing with his eyebrows where it’s kind of a frown, except one eyebrow goes up and the other goes down. It’s kind of intimidating. But Spencer keeps it going, and doesn’t say anything for several seconds, thus putting Ryan on edge.

“What?! Why are you looking at me like that?” Spencer then morphs his eyebrow-thingy into a frown, then it vanishes completely and is replaced with a coy smirk.

“I’m headed in the same direction. You wanna save some money and catch a lift with me?” Ryan’s a little suspicious, but who is he to turn down an offer which means he could save a few bucks and his legs?

“Sure,” he shrugs, “if it means I don’t have to face the hideousness that is the subway on a Monday morning.” Spencer grins and leads his friend to his weirdly shiny car. Ryan marvels at this for approximately 0.5 seconds, then folds himself into the car, so he’s riding shotgun. Spencer slides in next to him and starts the car with what Ryan can only describe as a purr.

“Pretty sweet ride, huh?” Ryan shrugs emotionlessly.

“What happened to the Audi?” He asks in a monotone. Spencer laughs and slaps his shoulder.

“If you don’t appreciate it, feel free to get out and walk.” Ryan holds his hands up in submission, chuckling softly to himself as he does so.

“All right, all right! Point taken. Now, my dear Branson, it is time to drive.” Spencer puts the car in gear and shoots Ryan a questioning look.

“Oh, come on. Don’t tell me you don’t watch Downton Abbey? That show is fucking mint.” Spencer shakes his head, laughing quietly as he starts to his destination.

________________________________________

“Here we are!” Spencer chirps happily as he pulls up outside the studio. Ryan nods as Spencer cuts the engine, then turns to his friend, smiles and sighs.

“It was good to see you, Spence. It’s been too long.” He smiles again, then unbuckles himself and starts unfolding himself from the passenger seat. Spencer replicates his movements, managing to exit the vehicle marginally more gracefully than Ryan, however.

“What’re you doing?” Ryan queries, frowning softly as he sees Spencer exiting the car.

“Walking you in,” his friend replies breezily. Ryan’s frown deepens.

“I thought you had a rehearsal to get to?” Spencer responds with a shrug, like it’s not his job to turn up and play an instrument in a band he’s been in for coming up to ten years.

Ryan waves it off, and makes his way to the door of the weirdly beige building, Spencer following closely behind, their shoes crunching rhythmically on the gravel. Ryan pushes the door open with a difficulty he neglects to show. The receptionist behind the pane of Perspex glass looks up briefly as the two enter, smiling gloomily and insincerely and waving the men past as she turns her attention back to the magazine in front of her.

They make their way through the small network of white-walled, blue carpeted hallways to some waiting rooms. The waiting room on the left has white painted door on the far wall with a metal sign reading ‘Studio 1’. The waiting room on the right has the door closed, but Ryan assumes it is an exact replica of the room but with the door reading ‘Studio 2’. He doesn’t really care, as it isn’t his waiting room, and there are probably people in the room already waiting for their studio time.

“Okay, well this is me. Thanks for the lift; it was really nice to catch up. I don’t think I’ve had a normal conversation with someone who isn’t Shane for months.” Ryan turns speculatively to Spencer, who has his hands stuffed in his pockets, and is nodding at nothing in particular. As Ryan finishes speaking, Spencer raises his head and smiles this small, sideways smirk that he’s so famous for.

“It’s fine. Don’t worry about it, I had fun. You’re better to talk to than some people I know, that’s for certain. Plus, I’ve missed you, man. It’s been far too long.” Ryan nods his agreement, then begins to turn to his room. Just as he is, though, the other waiting room door opens, and Ryan hears a painfully familiar voice chime out.
“Spencer fucking Smith. There the fuck you are. I thought I fucking told you 10am sharp, bro?” Ryan freezes, refusing to turn around and get bogged down in the shit that will, no doubt, ensue.

“Just giving you a taste of your own medicine, Brenny-bear,” Ryan can feel Brendon’s wince at the old nickname. He attempts to move his feet, get the fuck into his waiting room and hide under the couch until he’s called for studio time. However, his traitorous body has other fucking ideas, leaving him stuck to the ground like there’s superglue on the soles of his $20 brogues.

“You know, I don’t think you can reach your drums from that fucking high horse you’re sitting your ass on. Unless, that is, you have some seriously stretchy limbs.” Spencer sighs audibly and then reaches out to clasp Ryan’s shoulder with a little more force than it strictly necessary.

“You know, I didn’t think you could sing into a mic with your head shoved up your ass, but here you are, proving me wrong.” Ryan wants to laugh, but he’s afraid if he laughs, he might also break into tears or shit himself. Brendon’s a sassy bitch.

“Urgh, will you just get in here?” Brendon’s tone softens a little into more desperation than fully-fledged anger. Spencer retracts his vice-like grip on Ryan’s shoulder to pat it several times.

“I’m coming, I’m coming,” Spencer begins, and then leans in close to Ryan’s ear, “I’ll see you later, I can give you a ride home if you want. We get off in 3 hours, if Mister I’m-always-in-the-right-and-everyone-should-worship-me decides to stop being so fucking pernickety and actually let us get through more than ½ a song.” Despite himself, Ryan giggles a little, and this swiftly prompts a reaction from Brendon, who’s still leaning in the doorway of waiting room 2.

“Aren’t you going to introduce me to the friend that’s apparently so much more important to you than band practice?” Brendon’s using this voice that is so full of venom, Ryan’s convinced if he looks Brendon in the eyes, his own skin will burn.

“Sure, but I think you’re fairly well acquainted already.” Ryan closes his eyes tightly; wishing what is about to happen won’t. Unfortunately, the wish fairies are taking a day off, and Spencer is talking again:

“Brendon, this is my love-me-longtime BFFL, Ryan.” Ryan stops being able to hear either him or Brendon breathing, so just assumes they’ve both stopped. Then, because he wants to make things worse, he turns, very slowly, around on the spot to face his ex. Brendon’s face is a picture of complete and utter disbelief and kind of anger.

“So… um… hi? Again, I guess?” Brendon opens and closes his mouth several times, then decides impersonating a fish isn’t the best way to greet his… his… Ryan, and coughs, shaking his head and closing his eyes in incredulity.

“Wow, it’s hilarious how much I don’t wanna deal with this right now!” Brendon finally squeaks out. He proceeds to rub his eyes with his hands, up and down, round and round, it’s kind of hypnotic.

“Look, I – I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were gonna be here! I just was told I was here, for 11am, in – in Studio 1. That’s it! I didn’t think - I wouldn’t have come if I’d known.” Ryan’s hands have made their way in front of him, palms open and facing Brendon, in what he hopes looks submissive and not patronising. He’s trying to diffuse tension, not create it. Brendon heaves an exasperated sigh, rubs his face then makes a little ‘whatever’ gesture companioned with a shrug.

“Don’t worry about it, I guess. But, Spencer, we need to get in there right the fuck now or I swear to God.” He points his finger menacingly at the drummer, who simply rolls his eyes in response.

“Yeah, yeah,” Spencer chants, “nothing I haven’t heard before, brah. See you later, Ryan. Have a good recording session.” Ryan nods dumbly, shoots a placating, closed-mouth, half-smile at Brendon before spinning on his heels and practically leaping into the waiting room.

Chapter Text

As soon as their waiting room door clicks closed, Brendon rounds on Spencer, his cheeks burning red and his (seemingly endless) forehead thunder-clouding magnificently. Spencer, however, adopts an air of nonchalance and teenage contempt, folding his arms over his chest and raising his eyebrows in a way which, to Brendon, simply screams ‘well go on then’. Brendon doesn’t like to be challenged, he likes to win. He almost always wins, and he decides this is going to be no exception.

“What the hell?” He practically screams, carefully keeping his voice low in tone so as to minimise his sounding like a frustrated girl. Spencer rolls his eyes so hard it hurts his head, but he doesn’t let that show.

“Brendon, please, can you cut it out? He’s my friend, he always has been. He was coming here so I offered him a lift. The fact he’s now living in the same state as me means I’m going to be seeing him a lot more.” Brendon takes a confident step towards Spencer, carefully staying far enough away so he doesn’t have to measure himself against Spencer again… Brendon’s still small despite how much his ego grew.

“I don’t care you’re seeing him,” Brendon lies, “I care that seeing him makes you late for the rehearsal.”

“You were late to our last rehearsal!” Spencer retorts.

“Yeah, and guess who made the special appearance in that story, huh?” Spencer huffs in Brendon’s wide-eyed face, and then scrubs a hand across his chin.

“Whatever… can we please just get on with this recording session? The sooner I get out of here the better.”

“You mean the sooner you get out of here the sooner you can see Ryan.”

“Brendon, just leave it.” The singer throws his hands in the air in mock surrender.

“Fine! I’m leaving it, I’m leaving it! It’s your life to ruin.” Spencer heaves an overly-heavy sigh and turns to the recording space. He can’t bother to argue with Brendon anymore. It’s too much time and energy wasted. Time and energy that he can’t help thinking used to be spent on making music.

Things have changed for me,” He sings in his head softly. But it’s not okay, and things haven’t been the same for years.

 

Their rehearsal goes pretty much as Brendon had expected. It moves slowly, Spencer hits his drums with less fervour than a Catholic nun with syphilis and the man at the recording panel knows less about a beat than a cat knows about astrophysics. 3 hours in, Brendon is truly exhausted. He can’t help but wonder back at how it used to be. Sure, it was tough, but no one was half as ignorant or childish. Except him, that is.

He used to challenge Ryan on every choice he made: disagreeing on almost every single aspect of the album, apart from his own songs. Brendon knew his songs were… mediocre at best, but… Well, but. Ryan had made him feel like he’d written a fucking platinum record. He didn’t fault them, ever. He even offered to play the harmonica on ‘Folkin Around’, and that was an interesting discovery. But he did play it, and he played it weirdly well. Despite all the times Brendon had blamed Ryan for everything, Ryan was never really the one at fault.

Brendon sighs, and bangs his head softly against the bathroom wall where he’s been hiding. He needs a moment. He is so angry, all the time, and he doesn’t want anything else adding to his stress. Everything was going just fine before Ryan came to LA. His friends were on his side, he was writing one of his best records ever and now everything is going to shit. He needs someone to sympathise with him.

He pauses in his head-banging when a stroke of inspiration hits him. Well, less inspiration, and more a last resort. He plucks his phone from his pocket and locates the right contact, tapping ‘call now’ briefly then holding the device to his ear. It rings once, twice, three times, fou-

“Heeell-o!” The greeting is so cheerful Brendon instantly begins feeling better.

“Wentz, hey,” He hears some shuffling on the other end, and Patrick’s faint voice grumbling something along the lines of ‘I swear, if that’s your mother I will leave you’.

“It’s Brendon, Pat, chill. Hey Brendon.”  Pete is the guy responsible for Brendon’s (and Panic’s) success. He signed them to his label and they kind of just… became. Pete is also one of Brendon’s best friends. Pete’s band, Fall Out Boy, despite being completely insanely good, are also renowned in the music world for their openly gay tendencies. This kind of helped make Panic’s very gay on-stage tendencies look kind of less… weird.

“Pete I need to talk to you. It’s serious so don’t make any dick jokes or I swear to God I will throttle you in your sleep.” Pete scoffs at Brendon’s empty threat.

“Fine, shoot, but if you do throttle me in my sleep, can it be a sleep after legendary, bed-bouncing butt-sex with my incredibly hot boyfriend?” There’s a brief chorus of ‘Do you ever think of anything other than sex?’ from Patrick, followed by the reply of ‘No’ from Pete. Brendon is starting to think he’s made a poor decision in calling Pete.

“No, just for that, I deny you that pleasure.” Pete whines but it quickly transforms into his calm, melodic laughter.

“Whatever, what did you wanna talk about?” Finally, he can get on with his agenda.

“Cool, okay, it’s Ryan.”

“What’s Ryan?”

“It’s about Ryan.”

“Right, what about Ryan?”

“He’s in LA,” Brendon sighs, “he moved to LA.”

“And that’s a problem?” Pete sounds increasingly incredulous.

“It’s not a problem... it’s… an issue.”

“That’s the same thing.”

“No, it’s not!”

“Yes, it is. Brendon, I don’t understand why Ryan being here is such a big pro– issue for you?”  Brendon rubs his forehead with his fingertips, feeling the creases there that demonstrate just how big of an ‘issue’ Ryan is to him.

“Because! The breakup was awful! We argued the entire time and ended up basically hating each other!” Pete sighs down the line, and Brendon can hear his soft, muffled foot-falls that signify he’s moving to another room, possibly away from Patrick, but more likely to get himself a strong coffee.

“So what?” He finally responds.

“What do you mean ‘so what’?”

“I mean so what? You’ve both moved on, haven’t you? It’s been 4 years, I mean… you said you’d moved on… you have, haven’t you?”

“Yeah, no, of course I’ve moved on, it’s just-”

“Just what?! He’s Spencer’s best friend, and… well I think it’d be nice to see him again. It’s been so long and he was a lot of fun when… well when he wasn’t around you actually.” Brendon scoffs, he doesn’t like being blamed for Ryan being a dick, that’s all on Ryan.

“Brendon… listen, okay, he’s back. But, he was a part of your life for a long time; he was part of Spencer’s for even longer. He let you sing his songs… and I remember he didn’t like to let people see his songs before he met you. I know you two ended badly, and that sucked, man, but ya gotta learn to forgive and forget. For your sake and everyone’s around you.” Brendon doesn’t really have anything to say to that. So, instead, he thanks Pete a little bitterly and hangs up. He proceeds in his head-banging until Dallon tells him to ‘piss faster and get the hell out here’ so they can continue recording. He reluctantly complies.

 

Panic! At the Disco finish their recording session after Brendon decides he needs a break from the demos to ‘refine’ his songs a bit. Spencer thinks this is a bunch of bullshit, but he also thinks he doesn’t care. He crosses the corridor from his waiting room to Ryan’s, wondering whether his friend will still be recording. He doubts it, but he knocks anyway.

“Uh, yah?” Ryan’s voice carries from behind the door, and Spencer pushes the wood open and walks in. Ryan’s looking closely at several pieces of paper in his hands, his brows creasing together in either confusion or concentration. Or both. Spencer shuts the door, and Ryan glances up, smiles a little, then returns his attention to the paper.

“Hey,” Ryan starts, shifting the paper from one hand to the other, “your session finish?” Spencer nods.

“Yeah, Brendon eventually got tired and told us to get out so he could ‘improve his sound’.” Spencer uses his aristocratic, head-up-his-arse, museum curator voice to imitate Brendon, and Ryan snorts at the attempt.

“So, how’d your recording go?” Ryan looks to Spencer then. His bottom lip has been pulled into his mouth by his teeth, and his eyes are wide and Bambi-like.

“Oh, it was fine,” he starts, shuffling the papers back together into a not-so-neat pile, “I managed to get the whole song several times, then we had a break and I discussed what I wanted, the sound, tone, pitch, compilation et cetera. Then I previewed the other demo I’m releasing on the EP, ‘Off My Mind’, which is entirely instrumental.” Spencer nods along complacently, caring about Ryan just enough to make the listening face worth the effort.

“Can I hear it?” Spencer asks, more jokingly than serious.

“Um, I’m not sure how interesting you’ll find Off My Mind, but you can hear Where I Belong, if you want? I’m just going over some of the paperwork, but the demo CD’s in my bag on that chair over there, and the stereo’s just on the far wall, it’s track 2. ” Ryan points vaguely in the direction of both the items to which he has referred, as he goes back to meticulously studying the papers in his hands.

Spencer makes a grunting noise of thanks and makes his way to Ryan’s flashy leather-look satchel that’s been dumped on one of the disgusting, dusty, moth-eaten foam chairs the waiting rooms sport. He leafs through paper, some empty gum wrappers, a wallet, broken designer sunglasses, several sets of keys and at least a dozen sachets of Demerera sugar before he reaches the CD that’s been conveniently hidden between two folders marked ‘PRODUCTION’ and ‘MARKETING’ and under some receipts for a 7/11 in Jefferson. During the excavation, Spencer discovers he has some unidentifiable substance on his fingers that’s sticky to the touch and, after a brief examination, he decides could be some congealing sweet or chutney.

He then crosses the room to the stereo and, extremely carefully, places the CD in the holder, making sure not to get any of the sticky-ness on the shiny, unblemished surface of the CD, and skips to track 2. He pushes the tipped-over triangle, or in other words the play button, and turns away from the stereo and towards Ryan as the intro begins playing.  It’s not bad.

“Hey, Ry,” Ryan grunts his recognition, “I was wondering if you wanted to come to mine tomorrow night for drinks with some mates? Just a, er, small gathering, but I thought it might be nice.” Ryan looks up, pouting a little and drawing his eyebrows together whilst simultaneously making them rise in the middle like a little face-triangle.

“Who’d be there?” Spencer opens his mouth, then shuts it again, “So, Brendon.” Ryan fills in. Spencer nods minutely.

“Then I think I’ll pass. If his reaction to me today is anything to go by, he wants to spend as little time with me as humanly possible. The last thing I want is to annoy the bastard.” Spencer sighs as Ryan’s attention immediately returns to the papers.

“C’mon, just ignore him. I’ve already told him I’m going to be hanging around with you a lot more. He’s just gonna have to get used to it.” Ryan tips his head to the side and makes a ‘meh’ noise.

“I’d rather he get used to it before I shove myself in his face,” Ryan flicks his head up to Spencer again, eyes wide, “I didn’t mean, like – not sexually or provocatively, God, no, just, I meant-”

“I know what you meant.” Ryan wavers a little, then returns to the papers in his hands. The papers are seriously starting to piss Spencer off. They’re getting more of Ryan’s attention than he is, and they’re inanimate, non-sentient objects.

“I would just really appreciate it if – Ryan could you look at me and not those fucking documents for five minutes, please?!” Ryan looks up, slightly startled, but obliges: neatening the pages together and folding them in half and throwing them onto a chair a few feet in front of him. He then crosses his arms and turns to his friend.

“Okay, carry on then.” He’s lost the joviality from his voice, and Spencer kind of regrets being so sharp.

“Sorry, I’m just… stressed out.”

“It’s okay. I can tell. I was just a little engrossed.”

“I’m still sorry, but… Will you come? Please? Pete and Patrick are coming. They’re really looking forward to seeing you again. I promise it won’t be awkward between you and Brendon, I promise. Just – please?” Ryan rocks back and forth on his feet, stoically placed shoulder-width apart. It’s a defence/offence stance, shows he’s strong and ready for confrontation. He adopted it and perfected it during his relationship first with his father, and then with Brendon. There was a lot of confrontation in both instances, some more physical than others.

“As long as you promise not to do anything dumb, like… shot games or strip poker or anything, okay?” Ryan has his eyes playfully narrowed, and Spencer knows he’s in.

“Aw, gonna have to fucking re-write the party schedule now!” Ryan grins at him and they laugh their laugh and they know they’re okay.

“Cool, just need to ask everyone now.” Ryan’s playful eye-narrowing turns to a more serious glare.

“You mean you haven’t asked?” Spencer gulps as Ryan takes a small step towards him.

“Not exactly, but-”

“So Pete and Patrick are just probably going to come? And Brendon may or may not accept and be pissed to see me?”

“Ryan, it’s not – ”

“Spencer, this has been really tough for me, okay? I left Panic because of Brendon, I moved away because of Jon, I quit Young Veins because of the public, I started making music because of Shane, I moved here because of my producers and I’m finding I’m making fewer and fewer decisions myself. I’ve done things for other people my entire life and… the fact that I’m the… awkward variable of the plan, it just… Never mind.” Spencer tilts his head to the left slightly and looks at Ryan through a sympathetic frown. He then cautiously makes his way to his friend and places his hand encouragingly on his shoulder.

“I’m sorry, Ry. I… I didn’t know you felt that way. I didn’t mean to offend you, like, at all, I just wanted to make sure you were gonna come because this is kind of a reunion type thing.” Ryan looks up at Spencer from under hooded eyes and a string of drooping hair.

“It’s okay. I’m sorry I outburst-ed. It’s just… these papers, they’re… I’m basically signing over my entire life and work to some guys in suits I don’t actually know. It’s... frustrating.” Spencer squeezes Ryan’s shoulder shortly then shakes him a little.

“You know you can talk to me, right? Remember when we started out and we were signing things left, right and centre? You are allowed to ask for someone to help you, Pete’ll offer! He did it for us, right? And, I don’t want you to feel bad about the gathering, if you don’t want to come you don’t have to. I just wanted to make sure you were in before I made any definitive plans.” Ryan sighs and rolls his shoulders back in a way Spencer recognises as ‘stress-release’.

“As long as everyone’s okay with me there, of course I’m in. And maybe I will ask for Pete’s help, he always knew what he was doing.” Spencer nods encouragingly then turns slightly towards the door.

“D’ya wanna get outta here?” Ryan runs his hand through his messy hair and shakes his head in a furious yes.

“Kay, you grab your things and sign out with whats-his-plot and I’ll be out by the car, I gotta make a call.” Spencer leaves Ryan to gather his things and makes his way through the winding corridors of the recording studio and out to his car. He has pulled out his phone in anticipation and presses call. He leans against the passenger door and holds the phone to his ear.

“Y’ello,”

“Brendon, hey, it’s Spencer.”

“Ah, calling me to apologise?” Cocky bastard.

“Not really. I’m calling to invite you to mine for some drinks tomorrow night.”

“Pft, why should I go?” Spencer rolls his eyes.

“Because everyone’s going to be there and as annoying as you’ve been lately, I want you to come.” Brendon huffs down his receiver and waits a few moments, contemplating his answer.

“By everyone I assume you are including Ryan?”

“Yes, that’s not a problem is it?”

No, more of an issue, Brendon thinks, but doesn’t dare say that to Spencer.

“Of course not, I’ve gotten over him, haven’t I? I’ll be there. What time?” Spencer breathes out a sigh that could be relief but might also be exasperation.

“8 at my place, I trust you can get down there okay, and feel free to spend the night seeing as there will be drinking and probably very few designated drivers.” Brendon nods, and ends the call with a courteous salutation. Spencer feels a little conflicted. He wasn’t expecting Brendon to act like he did, and the fact he seemed okay with Ryan’s presence suggests something is up, but he’s also glad he didn’t have to deal with any fuss or long lectures about his responsibilities as a band member or a friend.

Ryan doesn’t take long gathering his few belongings and notifying Shane he’s leaving, so when he makes it to the carpark he sees Spencer staring down at his phone like it used to be a chocolate bar.

“You okay?” Ryan asks cautiously. Spencer looks up, expression unreadable and nods slowly before gesturing extremely vaguely to the car and wandering round to the driver’s side. Both men clamber in and Spencer once again begins the journey to another destination, his faith in his party kind of partially newly restored.

 

 

Chapter Text

Ryan looks tentatively at his watch, seeing the time is 8:19PM, technically, he’s late, but he knows he’s not really. He decides to make a move. He’s been winding himself up about tonight for the past… 26 hours, and now it’s time to face the music; the loud, hot, heavy, terrifying music. He practically flings himself out the car door, knowing that if he doesn’t get out the car now, he probably never will. He makes his way slowly towards the front door, his 1460-style Dr Martens slapping loudly against the paved driveway. He stands stoically just outside the threshold, his nose practically scraping the wooden panelling on the door. He takes a deep breath, a step back and shakes his head to clear his mind a little. Then, he knocks. One, two-three.

He can already hear the thumping beat inside the house, and he considers turning around and running away, but then Spencer heaves the door open, beer already in hand, with a huge smile on his face.

“Ryan! You made it!” Ryan’s always thought this greeting slightly odd, as there’s not exactly many things that could prevent him from travelling the 10-15 minutes from his house to Spencer’s. Plus, if he had been mysteriously held up, he would’ve called. Still, Spencer pretty much drags him across the threshold, flinging his arm over Ryan’s shoulder chummily.

“Almost everyone’s here, but we’re still waiting on a few people so at least you’re not last to you own INITIATION!” Spencer booms the last word out into the living room, and its’ occupants cheer drunkenly. Ryan cringes into Spencer’s arm, smelling the alcohol on his friend’s breath.

“Um... what initiation?” He offers timidly.

“Your initiation into LA, buddy!” Spencer leaves Ryan’s side to stand in front of the group, all of them plastering smiles to their faces that could rival the Cheshire Cat’s.

“Yeah, I didn’t agree to that. I agreed to some drinks with some friends, not… whatever the hell is gonna happen next.” Spencer rolls his eyes and spreads his arms wide, gesticulating wildly to encompass the whole room.

“We’re all here for you! And we are going to have fun, and you’re going to have your face painted.” Spencer grins again and the living-room group stagger around some, talking and patting one another on the back. Spencer seamlessly becomes part of the crowd and then the music gets turned up. Ryan is still lurking silently in the doorway of the lounge when there’s a knock at the front door. Nobody else appears to have heard it, so he uses his initiative and moves to answer it. He half-jogs to the door and opens it smoothly. His eyes meet Brendon’s without delay, and they both stand for a moment contemplating their next move.

“Hello,” Ryan starts,

“Hi,” Brendon supplies, “I was expecting Spencer to answer the door…”

“Oh, yeah, he’s in here, he’s just – he turned the music up and didn’t hear the door, so I came to answer it.” Brendon nods and bites his lips together in the awkward way he does. Ryan can’t take his eyes off Brendon’s mouth, and when he lets his lips go, smacking them together in the process, Ryan thinks he needs a drink.

Soo…” Ryan blinks and looks back at Brendon’s eyes. The singer has his eyebrows raised expectantly and then shakes his bottle of whiskey pointedly in Ryan’s face.

“Sorry, I just – come in.” Ryan steps aside and Brendon twists so they’re as far away from each other as possible in the confined space of the corridor.

“Wasn’t asking for your permission, but,” Brendon mumbles as he swaggers to the living room, where his arrival is greeted by a drunken roar from the guests. Ryan trails him through the house, lagging behind a little so as not to crowd him or to make it seem like he’s following his ex around. Because he’s not. Really.

Brendon heads towards the kitchen, and at the same time Ryan decides he feels like a glass of something. He strolls into the room to see Brendon’s back, as he arranges some of the bottles on the countertop.

“You cut your hair,” Brendon spins around, wide eyed, clutching his chest with one hand.

“Jesus, couldn’t ya warn me you were in here before scaring me like that?!” Ryan tilts his head down, keeping his eyes looking up and smiles a closed mouth smile that stretches his face a little. It’s his ‘apologising-to-Brendon’ face. Brendon recognises it and turns back to the counter.

“Why are you in here anyway? I only came to put my drinks here.” Ryan pushes off the door jamb; arms crossed across his chest, and takes a few steps towards the other man.

“I liked it before, all shaggy, you kinda look a little like a cress-head now.” Brendon snorts a laugh and turns to face Ryan, stuffing his hands in the front pockets of his jeans.

“Says the guy who has literally exactly the same haircut.” Ryan chuckles his response and raises his hands, once again, in surrender.

“Touché. Still, why’d you cut it?” Brendon sighs.

“Felt like a change, is all. You know, because some people never change and I didn’t wanna be one of those people.” Brendon’s tone is laced with venom, and Ryan feels the sting with painful clarity.

“Brendon, don’t-”

“Don’t what?” He laughs, “I know what that album was about, Ryan, I’m not an idiot. Defiance, Cape-Town, Lie to the Truth? I can read between the lines, but doesn’t mean I had to.”

“Well it’s not like you were so subtle with Vices and whatever! I Wanna Be Free, Bittersweet, Trade Mistakes, and you used my song! It was my song! It was a private song.”

“It was a song about me; I don’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to use it if it was a song about me. And not a nice song about me, either. You used to write nice songs about me and then I found that one and – never mind.” Ryan can see Brendon’s eyes lined with tears, and he instantly feels terrible. He hadn’t meant for Brendon to find the song, it had been in his private things, and it was a spur of the moment creation. He hadn’t meant it… hadn’t meant most of it.

“No, you found it and what?” He doesn’t know why he’s pushing, but he feels like he’s owed something. Something from Brendon to him as a sign that he was as terrible as Brendon made him out to be. Brendon flicks his eyes up at Ryan’s from his position by the counter. He sniffs and rakes a hand through his hair.

“I found that one and it made me feel mean, and inadequate, and used. There was all this history between us, good history, Ryan, and then there’s this song saying you regret every moment of that history! Well, no, not that, you didn’t regret the sex, because apparently that was all I was good for. Making you feel good. And then even that wasn’t enough.”

“Brendon, I never cheated.”

“Don’t fucking lie to me now you asshole! You pulled that crap with me for 6 months, don’t think I’ll start believing it now!” Ryan doesn’t move, he just stands emotionless in the middle of the room. Brendon’s voice is raised dangerously high and the wetness around his eyes is something both men are trying really hard to ignore.

“It wasn’t meant to be like this,” Brendon finally squeaks.

“What wasn’t?” Ryan’s voice is soft and consoling, like cotton wool or a feather duvet.

This!” He gestures wildly between them, eyes widening with each movement.

We were meant to be different!” He takes a breath, steadying himself in body and mind.

“We were a sinking ship no one wanted to be left going down with. We took the life-jackets and we fucking jumped.” There’s a stretch of tense-eye-contact silence for several of the longest minutes in either man’s life, before it’s interrupted by some random guy Ryan’s never met staggering in blindly to inform them there’s a game of FUBAR commencing in the rec room and they’d better get their asses there before their asses get dragged there. Brendon stalks out the room first, leaving Ryan slightly dazed with wracking guilt and overwhelming remorse.

When everyone is arranged in the rec room Spencer starts shouting out the rules. Ryan quickly realises that this is, in actuality, a shots game. He strictly mentioned no shots. Yet here he is, about to participate in the weirdest sounding shots game in the world. Fortunately, with Spencer being already drunk 1 hour into the party, he keeps going off on tangents and mini-rants, and Ryan steps to him during one of these moments.

“Spencer, I said I didn’t want to play any shots games. I… I don’t drink like I used to.” Spencer’s sporting a drunken frown, and there are boos and whines from the gathering crowd.

“But – but… you have to play!” Spencer pouts like a petulant child, “Why won’t you play?” Ryan scratches the back of his neck awkwardly, surveying the faces around him.

“I don’t drink like that anymore. Being drunk always made me into a horrible person, and I don’t wanna be a horrible person anymore. I’m done with that.” Ryan’s eyes stray silently to where Brendon is standing, arms crossed, brow furrowed. Their eyes catch for just a moment, and in it, Ryan can see Brendon’s recognition, his confused amazement. Brendon always hated it when Ryan drank. Things would be said, hurtful things no one meant, and sometimes things would be thrown, feelings would be hurt on both ends and it never ended prettily.

Ry-annn, c’mon pleeaasssee!” Spencer wails, crouching enough to imply begging.

“Spencer, no, it makes me into my dad and… that’s the last person I want to be like.” Again, as Ryan glances to his surroundings, he gets trapped in Brendon’s stare. His expression has altered to pure disbelief. Ryan turns back to Spencer and makes his pleady-eyes

“Spen, he doesn’t have to play if he doesn’t want to.” Ryan swivels round and sees Brendon, standing forward, one hand in his pocket, the other outstretched, kind of pointing towards the space between Spencer and Ryan. Spencer’s face scrunches into even more of a frown, while Ryan adopts raised eyebrows and a sideways smirk.

“But –”

“RYRO!” The voice seems to break the very fabric of the room and Ryan turns his head to see its’, very small, source.

“Heey, Pete… Patrick,” Patrick nods his head at Ryan’s recognition, obviously he’s the designated driver, while Pete just bounds over and embraces Ryan with enough force to make him question whether Pete was a wrestler in another life and doesn’t realise he’s now a 5’6” mini-man.

“RYRO! YOU’VE BEEN AWAY SO LONG!” Pete squeezes and buries his head in Ryan’s collar bone.

“It’s nice to see you too, Pete.”

“Pete, make him play the game with us!” Spencer pipes up, pointing at Ryan in childish accusation. Pete’s head removes itself from Ryan to look at the man’s face.

“Rybow, you have to play, we made it for yoouuu!” Ryan sighs as Pete makes a weird, demented pouty/kissy face right next to his ear. Then he starts murmuring and Patrick moves forward to pull his boyfriend off the boy he’s clinging to.

“Pete, he doesn’t have to play if he doesn’t want to,” Patrick interjects, giving Ryan an apologetic look.

“Yurs he does!” Pete springs forward out of Patrick’s grip and jumps on Ryan’s back, laughing maniacally. Ryan stumbles forward, thrown by the sudden molesting.

“Pete!” Patrick cries, clearly at his wit’s end.

“Okay! Fine, I’ll play, just – get the hell off me!” A cheer ripples through the room, missing Brendon completely. Pete jumps down off his friend’s back and pats him on the shoulder instead. Spencer continues his vague, and extremely complex, breakdown of the rules to the shots game, FUBAR. Eventually, everyone is arranged in a large circle around over a dozen bottles of booze, over 50 (large) shot glasses and 11 pint glasses, (one for each person), and a deck of cards. Basically, you shuffle the cards and then someone picks one from the top and each card is associated with a challenge, usually drink-related. Butch shuffles the cards together, since he’s relatively sober, thus retaining some hand-eye coordination.

“So, Ian, you’re going first, so take a card.” Ian leans forward and selects the first card on the deck. He turns it over to reveal the 8 of spades, which means it’s categories. Ian says ‘types of dog’ and everyone goes round the circle naming a type of dog. The game goes round the circle to meet Brendon, who’s sitting, scowling into his empty shot glasses. He reaches out to select a card. He turns it over, and it’s the 6 of hearts. He looks to Spencer, who grins.

“6 is I never!” He squeals. Brendon rolls his eyes minutely, then gets a look of determination on his face.

“Never have I ever cheated on anyone in a relationship.” He says it with as much arrogance as ever, and six or seven people take their shots, all smiling awkwardly. Ryan thinks this is a load of bullshit as he rolls his eyes pointedly and doesn’t touch his drink. Brendon narrows his eyes in Ryan’s direction.

“Ryan, you have to drink, that’s the rules.” Ryan snaps his head to look at Brendon, scrunching his features into a frown.

“No, you have to drink if you’ve cheated on someone in a relationship. I haven’t, and therefore, I shall not drink.” Brendon’s bitchface comes out in full force, and Ryan cringes away like it’s a physical blow.

“Fuck that bullshit! Take the shot!” Everyone is silent as Ryan and Brendon hold their stare-down.

“Brendon, I’m not taking a shot because I didn’t cheat on you, for the last time, you were just being paranoid!” Apparently, this is the wrong thing to say, as no sooner have the words left Ryan’s lips than Brendon is turning bright red and his forehead is thunderclouding to the point where Spencer is convinced it might induce an actual storm.

“Still with the denial! I don’t understand how you can have so much of a fucking masculine pride complex shit that means you can’t accept what you did!”

“I – Brendon, I didn’t cheat!”

“Stop lying to me!”

“I’m not lying!”

“Why should I have any reason to believe that?!”

“Because I’m telling the truth!”

“Yeah, cause you’re so well known for being liberal with the truth.”

“What the hell’s that supposed to mean?!”

“You know perfectly well what I mean!”

“I don’t think I do!”

“Kids, please!” Spencer butts in, tired of the men being at each other’s throats. It’s his party, and he wants fun, not weird unfinished ex-lover’s feuds. “Can you shut the fuck up so we can get on with our game?” Both Brendon and Ryan share one last glare, only to be glared at by Spencer, so they proceed to stare awkwardly at the ground.

“Pete, I believe it’s your go.” Pete nods dazedly and picks up a card. It’s the 6 of clubs. He smirks mischievously and glances sideways at Spencer, then Ryan.

“Never have I ever written a ‘fuck you’ album about one of my exes.” There’s some dappled snickering followed by Ryan reaching quietly for his shot. He glances across at Brendon, who’s picked up his shot, if reluctantly. They both down the liquid dispassionately and unenthusiastically.

 

 

It turns about 2am and everyone who’s staying over has passed out in various positions around the house. Anyone with a designated driver has been driven home, which leaves Ryan pretty much alone. He’s sitting on a cushion against one of the couches in Spencer’s lounge, Ian’s hand hanging beside his face, feeling pretty crappy. Since the shots game, he’s been a little off. He feels bad because he made Brendon get all worked up, he feels bad because he ruined Spencer’s gathering, he feels bad because of a lot of things. These things put together mean he can’t sleep.

He decides after several thoroughly boring minutes of sitting, that he’ll get up and walk to the patio outside the sliding doors in the kitchen. If he can’t sleep he might as well watch the stars from the back of Spencer’s house. He’s always liked the stars, they make him feel calm.

He walks slowly through the lounge to the kitchen, being careful not to trip over any legs or stray bottles. He manoeuvres through the mess of limbs and discarded cups to the relative emptiness of the kitchen, and then pads towards the sliding glass doors. They’re unlocked and slightly open already, but he’s too tired and preoccupied to really notice that detail.  He opens the door wider and steps through, closing it slightly so it’s only left a little ajar. As he turns towards the railing that lines part of the patio, he tilts his head up skyward.

He can’t see all the stars, there’s too much light pollution in this city. Ryan’s kind of sad about that. Before he moved to LA, he had moved east to Gaines just outside Rochester in New York. There were loads of fields there, and he could see all the constellations from his porch in the autumn night sky. It was a refreshing change from the Nevada desert. Gaines had been just fine, until Shane turned up on his doorstep 2 years ago saying he wanted to make music again because he was going broke.

Ryan sighs and cranes his neck, looking around, surveying the blackness dotted with shining white pin pricks. He’s always liked to think they were like tiny holes in the fabric of the sky, letting the light from the sun shine through the veil that’s been pulled over the world. He inhales deeply, smelling the night and booze and car fumes.

“Still like the night sky, huh?” Ryan turns quickly, seeing Brendon appear from the darkness round the side of the house.

“Jeez, you scared me!” He stage-whispers, trying to keep his voice low just so he doesn’t break the beautiful semi-silence of the night.

“Getting you back for earlier in the kitchen,” Ryan nods and smiles bemusedly, “I just came out for a smoke.” Brendon continues. Ryan draws his features into a frown, but doesn’t say anything, turning back to watch the garden.

“I’m sorry,” Brendon finally whispers. Ryan turns to Brendon, eyes searching.

“For what?”

“For what I said, earlier. It’s just… it’s been difficult having you back near me again. I never really thought I’d have to deal with being near you and then you show up, saying you live here now and… it freaked me out. So, I’m sorry.” Ryan nods and smacks his lips together, sighing.

“I’m sorry, too, for what it’s worth. And I know how you feel. I wasn’t really expecting to see you. When I told Spencer I was coming – I didn’t think we’d be living in the same town, pretty much. I thought we’d have this undercover friendship and I wouldn’t have to deal with the part of my past that included… you.” Ryan sees Brendon nod and take a heavy drag on his cigarette in his peripheral vision.

“You know those are really bad for you, and incredibly addictive.” Brendon lets out a small, choked laugh, blowing smoke out along with it.

“Yeah, well, you’re both those things, and yet here I am.” Ryan lets out a clean laugh, tipping his head back, then bending it forward. Brendon’s eyes trace the movements hungrily, he fiddles with his cigarette and inhales sharply to keep his hands and lips occupied.

“You’re still funny as ever, you know.” Ryan comments, still giggling softly.

“No… I’m not. I lost my sense of humour after you left.” Ryan stops giggling and draws his eyebrows together.

“I lost a lot of things after you left.” Brendon continues, looking out over the small, patchy lawn. Ryan watches Brendon, noting the way the lines around his eyes and mouth and forehead have become more pronounced, his skin looks duller and more tired, his whole demeanour seems to have sagged. Brendon looks up to where Ryan’s eyes are on him, smiling slightly then stubbing out the butt of his cigarette.

“It’s too weird seeing you again. After all this time.” Brendon sighs on his outward breath.

“Good weird, or bad weird?” Ryan questions.

“I don’t know. I haven’t figured that out yet. I still haven’t figured you out, and the two are pretty much mutually exclusive.” Ryan nods understandingly. The two men stand in a comfortable silence for several minutes, both gazing at their surroundings contemplatively.

“I’m also sorry for the album,” Ryan starts, Brendon looking over to him with wide, unexpecting eyes. “Take A Vacation. I’m sorry I wrote all those things. And I’m sorry I wrote Nearly Witches. I didn’t mean for you to see it, and I know that doesn’t make it better because I shouldn’t have written it, but I didn’t mean it. I was angry. That’s all. Take A Vacation was more because I was mad at myself. Mad that I let you go without putting up a proper fight. You slipped right through my fingers and I didn’t – I wish things had gone differently. But… I’m sorry.” Brendon stays still, not really knowing how to process the apology. He used to wonder about how Ryan would apologise for the stuff he wrote. He noted Ryan wasn’t apologising for the stuff that happened in their relationship, and he was glad about that. He didn’t want Ryan to apologise for their relationship. Eventually he nods and glances sideways at his ex, who’s looking at the palm-tree silhouetted horizon.

“You’re forgiven,” Ryan casts Brendon a side-on smirk, and Brendon smiles fully and laughs a little, “and I also apologise for writing shit about you in Vices and Virtues. I was upset and wanted sympathy from anyone and everyone. I painted you as the villain, while the guy behind that particular mask was actually me.”

“You weren’t the villain, Bren… don.” Ryan hesitates, not knowing whether the nickname will be positively received after all that’s happened. Brendon inwardly fireworks when Ryan stops at Bren, then he feels something shatter a little when he corrects himself.

“We weren’t compatible back then, we just fought over everything for no reason. We were both to blame.” Ryan seems calm as Brendon’s mind carousels wildly, screaming backthenbackthenbackthen, we weren’t compatible back then. They lapse back into their silence until Brendon can’t take it any longer.

“So, how’s your recording going?” Ryan sighs heavily, and casts his eyes downward, inspecting the railing with curious ferocity.

“It’s not as fun as I remember,” Brendon sighs out a laugh, making Ryan smile, “I’m writing all this stuff about my new life, and now I’m signing it all over to some guys I don’t even know. When we started, we had Pete, and we knew Pete and now it’s just some greasy old guys in suits. I feel like I don’t even own myself anymore, you know?” Brendon involuntarily thinks back to when Panic did get signed. It seemed so glamorous, the sitting signing pieces of paper they hadn’t really read. It seemed ludicrously exciting because it was all so new and exhilarating. Brendon could see how now that Ryan was more experienced and on his own, it could lose its original charm and turn into imprisonment.

“Why don’t you talk to Pete about it? He’s still signed to Fueled, he’d be more than happy to offer you some advice.” Ryan shrugs.

“That’s what Spencer said, I was going to talk to him today, but he was pissed by the time I got here, so maybe later would be wiser.” After Ryan says this, Brendon can’t really think of anything to say. He’s desperately searching for something when he realises maybe Ryan came out on the patio to be alone, to clear his head, and maybe Brendon shouldn’t say anything because Ryan’s finding it intrusive and irritating. Then Ryan sighs this content little sigh and Brendon needs to fill the peacefulness or he’ll explode.

“The stars are pretty tonight.” He mutters, not even really convincing himself. Ryan waits a moment, tilting his head side to side then landing his eyes on Brendon.

“You’re pretty always.” Brendon cuts his eyes to Ryan’s, simultaneously blushing furiously and laughing as if unconvinced. Fortunately it’s dark and cold, so the blush doesn’t show.

“I’m serious,” Ryan continues, cutting off Brendon’s slightly hysterical laughter, “you are, B, you’re as pretty as the stars, as bright as the sun and as calming as the sea at night. I don’t know how I got you, but I should never have let you go.” Ryan reaches out his hand, brushing a stray hair from Brendon’s big, hazel eyes. His fingers linger, then run down the side of Brendon’s face. Brendon subconsciously leans into the touch, revelling the tingling his cheek is experiencing as Ryan’s fingers glance over its surface. Ryan’s hand stops on Brendon’s chin, tilting it upwards so the two are face-to-face. Ryan’s eyes shift from Brendon’s eyes to his lips and then up again. After a second or two of gazing, Ryan starts leaning forward, moving his face towards Brendon’s. Brendon panics a little, wondering what the hell is going on. His heart is trying to beat its way out of his chest and he’s frightened by how much he wants this to happen, how much he’s affected by Ryan’s touch.

Just when their lips are about to meet, Brendon jerks his face away abruptly, stepping backwards frantically. He brings his hands together in front of himself, wringing them desperately. Ryan briefly looks down at them, a little confused, and then Brendon is shouting.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?!” Brendon’s eyes are wide and scared, he’s shaking, but it’s cold enough that Ryan writes it off as nothing more than a chill.

“I-I’m sorry, I just thought – ”

“Well you shouldn’t be thinking like that! We’re over! Done, through, finito, ended, over. You can’t pull something like that after all these years, you asshole! I’m not some toy you can play with then throw aside when you get bored with me!”

“Brendon, I’m sorry! I thought I was getting some signals and I read them wrong, and I fucked up, I’m sorry! Please don’t let this get in the way of us becoming friends!” Brendon flinches at the word. He doesn’t want to be ‘friends’ with Ryan… but thinking like that is entering dangerous territory. Territory that he doesn’t want to enter.

“Just… leave me the fuck alone.” With that, Brendon storms back into the house, and leaves Ryan looking after him, pretty fucking confused. Ryan sighs and rubs the back of his head and decides he’s very tired and needs some sleep. He closes the sliding patio doors on his way back into the house, locking them shut, and moving back into the lounge where he repositions himself against the sofa occupied by Ian and his weird long arms. Ryan falls into a disturbed and uncomfortable sleep, thinking about how he could have done things differently and how he’s fucking things up for the billionth time with the guy who’s haunted his dreams for four years.

Chapter Text

It turns noon, and everyone’s gone home after Spencer’s party. Ryan decides to stay behind and help his friend clean the house, thus giving him the opportunity to ask for some guidance and Spencer’s opinion regarding the whole ‘fuck up’. He’s still feeling shitty after what happened with Brendon the previous night. Spencer has handed him a black bin-liner and pointed him to the living room when he finally speaks up.

“Hey, Spence,” Spencer pokes his head round the door from the kitchen, “I need some advice.”

“Oh yeah?” Ryan nods, “What kind of advice?”

“Well, I did a stupid thing and I need to know how to fix it.” Spencer frowns, moving his body to catch up with where his head moved into the door frame.

“How stupid was the stupid thing?” Ryan sighs and rubs his free hand through his hair, Spencer makes a hissing noise. “That bad?” Ryan nods.

“Okay, lay it on me.” Spencer moves further into the room, crossing his arms over his chest and flicking his head back, a habit he picked up from when he had long hair and which he hasn’t dropped yet. Ryan breathes out and braces himself.

“Last night, I – I went out back to look at the stars, because – I couldn’t sleep and I needed a distraction, so –”

“Ryan. Point.”

“Yeah, um, so, I went out back and Brendon – we talked and then I may have… well the mood and um…”

“Ryan!”

“I may have tried to kiss him.” There’s a heavy silence that falls over the room. Ryan doesn’t look up and Spencer doesn’t blink.

“You… tried to kiss him.”

“Yes.”

“I feel I should be concentrating on the word ‘kiss’, but my mind is seriously stuck on ‘tried’. How – could you elaborate?”

“Um, well, we were talking and then I said he was pretty and I just got caught in the moment, and he looked like he was gonna be okay with it and everything, and just as I was about to kiss him he – well he ran away.” Another pause.

“He… ran away?”

“Yes.”

“Umm…”

“Look okay, he was pissed and he ran back into the house, so I just went back to where I was sleeping.”

“Did you try to-?”

“Yeah, no, of course I tried! But he wasn’t having any of it! He just shouted at me then ran into the house… so now I need you to help me.” Spencer sighs audibly and scratches his cheek.

“Okay, yeah, okay I’ll help, give me your phone.”

“Thank you so much you have no idea how much I just – I don’t wanna freak him out.” Ryan reaches into his back pocket and holds his phone at arm’s length, where Spencer walks over and plucks it from his friend’s hand. He alternates glancing at the screen and Ryan as he texts.

“Whaddya mean?”

“Wh-What?”

“Whaddya mean you don’t wanna freak him out?”

“I don’t wanna scare him away.”

“You wanna get back together with him?” Spencer asks, eyebrows raised, a little surprised really.

“No! No, I mean, I thought I did. But I don’t. Being rejected I – I think I wanted to get back together with who he used to be. I realise that now. I don’t wanna ruin my chances of a friendship with him.” Spencer’s never heard such a blasé friendzoning before, but he decides not to say anything.

“There you go,” Spencer hands Ryan’s phone back.

“Thank you, Spin, you’re the-”

“You’re meeting him at 3:00pm tomorrow at the Starbucks round the corner.” Ryan’s eyes widen hugely, he then scrambles wildly with the device, opening the sent texts. He transfers his rabbit-in-the-headlights eyes to Spencer, who shrugs nonchalantly.

“What did you do?!” Spencer smiles a little.

“I helped you, asshole!”

“No you didn’t you fucking-” Then Ryan’s phone starts ringing. His ringtone is actually ‘Only the Good Die Young’ by Billy Joel which startles both men. Ryan glances at the caller ID, seeing Brendon’s name flashing menacingly. Ryan swallows.

“I… Spin I can’t!” Spencer sighs and puts his hand on Ryan’s shoulder.

“You have to. It’s the only way it’ll get sorted, sorry, bro, but you got no choice.” With that Spencer grabs the phone, clicks ‘answer’ and hands it back to Ryan, who flails a little before pressing it to his ear.

“H-Hello?”

“Ryan? Hey, it’s Brendon.”

“Yeah, hey.”

“Um, so your text?”

“Yep. What about it?”

“That was you, right? Like… you actually wanna meet?”

Ryan glances nervously at Spencer, who raises his eyebrows and smiles encouragingly.

“Yes. Yes that was me and yes I do… wanna meet. I need to talk to you.” Brendon laughs that small little covered-up chuckle Ryan used to tease him about.

“Um, okay then. Jeez, Ross, don’t need to sound so ominous ya know? So, I’ll see you tomorrow, 3 o’clock at the Starbucks near Spencer’s.” Ryan nods, then remembers Brendon can’t see him.

“Yes, that’s… what I said. See you then.” Ryan doesn’t wait for Brendon before he hangs up and throws his phone at Spencer, who catches it a little awkwardly.

“You’re an asshole.” Spencer just laughs.

“But that’s why you love me, gay-boi!” Ryan tries really hard to conceal a grin, but fails miserably.

“Oh my God, that joke still isn’t funny!”

 

 

Ryan waits impatiently in the coffee shop, tapping his fingertips restlessly on the side of his white mug. He’s sitting at a table that’s pressed right up against the right hand wall. He’s facing the front of the shop so he can see when Brendon arrives. Ryan glances at the neon numbers on his phone several times in one minute before Brendon finally walks through the door. He looks round briefly, rubbing at his hair self-consciously, then his eyes land on Ryan, and he breaks into a guarded smile.

Ryan waves him over, gesturing slightly to the coffee cup that’s already in Brendon’s seat. Brendon can’t help the smirk that falls over his lips at the sight of the pre-ordered coffee Ryan bought him. He knows Ryan will still remember his exact coffee order, God knows Brendon spent enough hours reciting it to Ryan until he got it right.

“Hey,” Ryan sighs when Brendon’s near enough to hear him. Brendon offers a small, side-wave and Ryan kind of stands up. This action is followed by an awkward moment with neither man knows whether to engage in a hug or a handshake. After several seconds of intense silence, Brendon points at the table.

“Maybe we should, uh…?” Ryan widens his eyes and then exclaims a little ‘oh!’ followed by a ‘yeah, sure’. They slide into their seats, Ryan re-assuming his position with fingers curled tightly around his, still-warm, mug. Brendon looks curiously into his cup, smiles secretly and then takes a large sip.

“So,” Ryan starts, unsure how he’s going to broach the subject.

“So,” Brendon replies easily, “what are we doing here? You haven’t sneaked me out on a date, have you?” The sad part is Brendon’s not sure what answer he realistically wants to hear. Ryan flounders for a moment, and then seems to find himself.

“Ha, um, no. I – actually I need to talk to you about what happened the other night at Spencer’s.” Brendon’s playful smile drops from his face fast.

“Oh,” He chokes out around the growing lump in his throat, “Sure – okay, yeah, what about it?” Ryan sighs and stares meaningfully into his mug.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to faux pas, I thought I was… yeah, I’m sorry.” Brendon can feel something weighing itself down in his stomach. He doesn’t want Ryan to apologise for what he did. But he can’t say that out loud. Instead, he simply nods and forces the fakest smile in the history of ever and croaks out a reasonable reply.

“It’s all right; really, don’t beat yourself up about it. Mistakes happen. We move on and deal.” Ryan seems to relax exponentially in front of Brendon’s eyes causing him, in aggressive response, to straighten his back and harden his gaze.

“Are you sure? Because – I just want us to be friends.” If Brendon wasn’t already rebuilding his walls, this statement would have done it. Metaphorical bricks and mortar fly around him, encasing his feelings and hardening him to the world.

“Um, yeah, sure. Sounds… nice.” Brendon kind of reaches a loss of words. ‘Friends’ was never really something that worked between Ryan and Brendon. They’d met each other through Spencer, and then they’d flirted shamelessly and relentlessly for a year until they started going out. They went from strangers to lovers without any real in between, and then they’d broken up and hadn’t had to consciously deal with the physical after math. They buggered off out of each other’s lives, and there’d never been any need to be anything other than what they had been.

“Cool, well. So, how’s your album going? I didn’t ask before.” Brendon really doesn’t want to humour the man, but there’s something so unexplainably charming about Ryan that means Brendon can’t help but want to impress.

“Yeah, no, it’s going pretty good. I’ve written 9 songs, the label want 12, so I don’t know where they’re going to come from, but still. We’ve recorded 5 already, and we’ve got booked recording time over the next 3 weeks. We should be finished on time, but-” Brendon stops, staring into his cup, filtering his thoughts so as to compose something that won’t offend Ryan.

“But what?” Ryan prompts, hunching over a little to give the illusion of confidentiality and security. Brendon looks up slightly, peering cautiously at Ryan from under his eyelashes.

“But… I feel like Spencer and Dallon aren’t into it as much as they should be.” Ryan frowns and Brendon winces at the reaction. He doesn’t want to be mean, but it’s how he feels.

“What do you mean by that?” Ryan doesn’t sound pissed, not really, just kind of curious and confused. Brendon hesitates momentarily, opening his mouth several times attempting to articulate.

“I mean that they’re always fighting me. Because I decided to make the record predominantly with synthesisers as opposed to only instruments, they felt that I was cutting them out. I’m not, I’m just… I used to try to sneak in some synthesised beats on the old tracks, but I was always stopped, and now I’m writing the songs, and I just – I wanted them how I pictured them, you know? I don’t want them to feel cut out. They’re not. They’re still the band. We’re still the band. I just don’t know how to get that through to them anymore.” Brendon stops talking and starts shifting sugar granules along the table with his finger in anticipation.

“Wow. I didn’t know you – Maybe, instead of talking to me about it, you should talk to each other? I had pretty much this exact conversation with Spencer last week. I think you guys have some stuff you really need to sort out.” Brendon risks a small glance up, and Ryan catches his eyes with an ease that tells of his experience.

“Yeah,” Brendon sighs, defeatedly, “you’re probably right.” Ryan smiles something warm and reassuring, and Brendon can’t help but offer a small one in return.

“Anyway, how are you? I never asked about your transition into LA?!” Ryan chuckles at Brendon’s renewed interest and raises his eyebrows before beginning.

 

 

“I’m leaving.” Brendon’s arms uncross themselves from over his chest.

“What?” Ryan scratches the back of his neck.

“I, I-I-I can’t do this anymore, B. I just can’t.”

“Can’t do what?” Brendon’s tone is scared and agitated, his hands clenched firmly by his sides.

“Can’t do this! Can’t do us! It’s too –”

“Too real?” Ryan’s eyes trail from the floor to Brendon’s face.

“Don’t do that.” His voice is soft and pleading, begging almost.

“Don’t do what? Tell the truth?”

“That’s not the truth and you know it, B!”

“Well what is the truth, Ryan? Enlighten me.” Ryan sighs and drops his hands down from his face.

“I’m not in love with you anymore.” Ryan’s words are like a sledgehammer to Brendon’s heart. Everything is too-tight and too-hot. He can’t breathe. His brain whirs furiously, trying to comprehend, but nothing comes out, nothing can explain.

“I… I don’t… Why?” Small, unwanted tears dribble down Brendon’s cheeks, flowing effortlessly out his eyes without even a blink of encouragement.

“We fight. All the time. I can’t do that anymore. I love you, I always have done, and I always will -”

“Don’t you fucking dare! Don’t you say that fucking bullshit to me, you asshole! Don’t pull out the fucking standard break up line after 5 years, you prick!”

“Brendon, you’re doing it again!”

“Doing what?!”

“Fighting! Calling me names, getting angry!”

“You just fucking said you’re not in love with me anymore, I think I have a fucking right to be fucking pissed the fuck off!” By this point Brendon is crying so hard he can’t see through the blurriness and his voice is shaking with heaving sobs.

“Brendon-”

“No, Ryan, please, you… you can’t leave me. Please. I’ll… I’ll do anything,”

“Brendon-”

“I won’t fight you anymore, I’ll -”

“Brendon…”

“I’ll take out the trash, and cook and clean and ask you about your day and… and-”

Brendon!” Ryan holds up his hand, eyes wide, voice booming. Brendon’s face is the picture of desperation and disbelief.

“Please, Ryan, we have to try!” This is Brendon begging. His voice so soft Ryan has to strain to hear it, wavering in the middle while trying to be strong. He has tears dripping carelessly down his face, and his mouth is hanging open slightly. He looks… crumpled. Ryan takes careful steps towards him and slides his hand through Brendon’s hair to cup the back of his head. Brendon looks him in the eyes the whole time, searching for something, anything, to cling onto.

“We did try, B, we really did,” At this Brendon starts shaking his head, eyes screwing up and bottom lip trembling, “we tried, and it still doesn’t work. I’m so, so sorry, but I can’t be in a relationship that hurts so much. Love doesn’t hurt this much.” Brendon gives up all semblance of dignity and just throws his arms round his (ex?) boyfriend. He lets gut-wrenching sobs wrack his body, and lets his tears stain Ryan’s shirt as proof of the pain he’s caused.

“Please, don’t go.” It’s always the smallest shard that cuts you the deepest, embeds itself in your skin, and Ryan holds those three words so close to his heart that it rips and tears him. He closes his eyes, letting his tears fall into the secrecy of Brendon’s hair and clings for dear life.

The following morning, his things are gone like he’d never even been there, leaving Brendon feeling empty and abandoned, staring at the apartment and cursing the ghosts whispering in his ears.

 

 

Brendon and Ryan talk for the best part of an hour. They kind of get lost in how easy it is to talk to one another. They talk about everything, from work to pets to home-life to memories of how it used to be. Neither one is bitter, both are naïve and ignorant. They’ve just finished sharing a story of when Jon’s cats found their way into their luggage on tour and they ended up caring for 3 kittens for a month, when Ryan checks his phone to see the time.

“Oh, shit!” Brendon frowns and tilts his head slightly.

“What is it?”

“Shit, I – my meeting with Pete starts in 10 minutes and I need to get about halfway across town, shit!”

“Oh, well, okay. I’d, um, offer you a lift, but I came here on my skateboard, so.” Ryan stops midway through packing up his satchel and stares at Brendon for a while, eyes narrowed slightly, mouth picking up at one corner.

“You… came here on… on your skateboard?” Brendon rolls his eyes.

“Shut up. You need to go.”

“Yeah, I do…” Ryan’s bag is packed and he stops moving for a second, eyeing Brendon carefully.

“Thank you, Brendon.”

“For what?”

“For agreeing to meet me. I just… I want to make things right. Not just for us, but for everyone around us. I really – Thanks.” Something squeezes uncomfortably in Brendon’s chest.

“No worries, man. I had a lot of fun.” At least he’s being honest.

“Yeah, me too,” Ryan’s stare lingers a second longer and then his eyes widen, “Shit, I really need to go!” Brendon barks out a friendly enough laugh, which Ryan replicates, scrunching up his eyes like he used to when he laughed. Like he used to before the fighting started.

“I’ll see you soon, yeah?”

“Yeah, see you.” Ryan slings his satchel over his shoulder and walks towards the door, waving a little at Brendon as he steps onto the street. He starts running slightly, checking his watch desperately. It’s while he’s looking intently at his watch that he walks straight into someone. They collide with painful force, sending the boxes the guy is holding spurting all over the sidewalk.

“I am so sorry! I wasn’t looking where I was going!” Ryan starts, bending down to help pack up the CDs that have scattered along the concrete.

“It’s fine, really, I was in my own world, I should have been looking where I was going!” Ryan stops stacking the CDs to look at a few of the cases.

“Why do you have so many CDs?” He asks, looking up at the guy he just ran into. He’s cute, an angelically sculpted pixie face with a little cleft chin. His hair looks like silk, curling at the end of the main body which has been combed over to one side.

“I, er, just, I’m moving out of my ex’s house. We broke up a couple weeks ago and I’m still reclaiming my belongings.”

“You mean these are your CDs?” Ryan’s voice is high and full to the brim with awe and admiration and also kind of attraction.

“Urm, yeah?”

“Your music taste is incredible!” The guy coughs out an amused giggle, and as Ryan places the last of the CDs into the boxes, they stand up.

“Thanks, I guess, Travie… my ex, never appreciated it that much. He preferred rap and hip-hop, ya know?”

“Seriously? Cute and musically tasteful? You’re halfway to being perfect!” The man blushes shamelessly, smiling that smile everyone reserves especially for when they’re being flirted with.

“You’re sweet, where have you been all my life?” Ryan laughs and makes his smirk a little less predatory.

“I, er, I’m Ryan, by the way, Ryan Ross,” He sticks his hand out from where he shoved it reflexively in his pocket.

“William… William Beckett. It’s nice to meet you, Ryan.” William takes Ryan’s hand and they shake clumsily, smiling unabashedly at one another outside a Starbucks on West Washington Boulevard.

Meanwhile, inside the Starbucks on West Washington Boulevard, Brendon is sitting scrolling through his phone. He’s texted Spencer saying everything went fine with Ryan and neither one of them got stabbed with a plastic spoon. Brendon’s sitting fairly inconspicuously when he notices someone watching him from the other side of the room. At first, he dismisses it as someone recognising him and checking whether they’re right, but it soon transpires that is so not the case.

Brendon catches the stranger’s eye a couple of times, innocently he swears, before the stranger decides to come and sit with him. He’s striking, with prominent cheekbones and a long face. His hair is styled a little like Brendon’s, only less extreme, and there are traces of dark circles under his shiny, mischievous eyes. Brendon looks up cautiously as the guy sits down in Ryan’s vacant seat.

“Hey there,” he’s using his goddamned flirt voice for God’s sake.

“Hi.” Brendon replies in a disinterested monotone.

“Couldn’t help but notice you’re all on your ownsome?”

“My… friend was here a minute ago, he had to leave.” Brendon offers a small, smug smirk, hoping this guy will leave him alone.

“I saw, and just so you know, he’s dumb as hell for leaving a pretty little thing like you for someone else to nab.” Brendon frowns at the kind of almost blush that just dapples his cheeks.

“We’re not… romantically involved.” He eventually spits out.

“No, I could tell. The way you looked after him as he left… you may not be together, but you wanna be.” Brendon is, by this point, kind of at a loss for words.

“I don’t –”

“Don’t worry about it, Thumper, I know what it’s like.” Brendon raises his eyebrow first at the pet name, and then at the open confession.

“You do, do you?” The guy looks up, eyes wide and innocent.

“Yeah, my baby Mikeyway. He was an asshole but I love ‘im.” Brendon nods and curls his fingers protectively around his empty coffee cup.

“Where are my manners?! The name’s Gabe. Full name Gabriel Eduardo Saporta. Although Gabe is… is fine.” Brendon giggles a little at the name, it’s the way this Gabe guy says it; confidence and self-satisfaction. He’s pretty cool.

“Brendon. Brendon Boyd Urie. Nice to meet you Gabe.” He sticks out his hand, if a little gingerly, and they shake.

“Hey, Brendon Boyd Urie, would you mind terrifically if I gave you my number? You don’t have to call it but – but it’d be pretty awesome if you did.” Brendon smiles a little wider and nods his head.

“Sure. And I think the chances of me calling it are pretty high, you’re cute, why wouldn’t I?” Gabe’s smile is wide and warm, if a little intimidating. They talk for a few minutes before Brendon makes some dumb excuse about needing to be somewhere. He really just needs to go somewhere where Gabe can’t see the ridiculous, goofy grin on his face.

Chapter Text

Ryan wakes up to the sun in his eyes. He doesn’t lift his lids yet, feeling the warmth across his face and the redness stinging behind his eyes. He sighs, contentedly, stroking his thumb up and down the soft skin of his lover’s arm. He feels the comforting weight of William’s head on his chest, rising and falling with his breaths. He slowly cracks his left eye open, squinting massively in the painful light. He glances slowly round the room, lifting his head slightly off the pillow, straining his neck in his attempt to keep his torso still.

There are clothes flung over every surface, jeans on the armchair, underpants on the armoire, it’s the picture of a lover’s romantic evening. Ryan lets his fingers trace patterns on William’s skin, feeling the small, soft hairs graze his calloused fingertips. William makes a quiet, whining noise and rolls away from Ryan a little. Ryan takes the opportunity to shuffle closer to the edge of the bed, William rolls all the way away from him, and Ryan shuffles until his legs and butt are off the side of the mattress. His top-half then follows the rest of his body until he’s kind of crouching on the floor by the bed. It’s now he realises he is, in fact, really very naked.

He glances round the room, and decides opening the drawer to retrieve new boxers might wake William up, which is something he doesn’t want to do. Instead, he stands up slowly and fishes yesterday’s boxers off the lamp on the night-stand. He steps into them carefully, checking for dried come stains that definitely could be there. They’re all-clear and so he makes his way to the door, tip-toeing comically being careful not to tread on the creaky floorboards he knows are lurking somewhere.

The trip from the bedroom to the kitchen is tense. Ryan’s trying desperately hard not to make any noise that could wake up the sleeping man in his bed, and it’s becoming pretty taxing. He enters the kitchen and immediately turns on the coffee machine out of pure habit, and then it starts whirring maniacally, making enough noise to stir a drugged rock from a coma. He jumps around a bit, shushing the machine to no effect (obviously) as he presses buttons frantically. Eventually, he resorts to just pulling the plug and the cacophonous noise dies in a gargled whimper.

Ryan takes a cautionary look at the ceiling, but there’s no tell-tale noise, so Ryan assumes he’s succeeded in leaving William sleeping. Shane and his ‘partner’ are at a friend’s house for what they claim is a double date, but what Ryan’s pretty confident is a gang-bang.

It’s been a week since Ryan met Brendon at the coffee shop, meaning it’s been a week since he met William. William is… pretty much perfect. He’s sweet, charming, funny, cute, confident, and has the most amazing taste in music. They’ve had a few dates, and this is the second time they’ve slept together. They’re in the wild, emotional period of their ‘relationship’, making sex last for far too long, alternating between soft and gentle and rough enough to make the headboard creak and the bed springs protest.

Honestly, Ryan’s having fun. So far, he’s got on incredibly well with William and he’s kind of happy-ish. He knows he’s not on rebound, because he’s done that already, and this feels like something different. He doesn’t know how he and William are going to be… how their relationship is going to go. He’s only ever had destructive sexual relationships, where there was fighting and crying and anger and a painful kind of love that hurt him to the bone. William’s different. He’s gentle, considerate, empathetic and encourages Ryan’s endeavours instead of criticising them.

Ryan moves stiffly round the kitchen, stretching every now and then to rid the creak from his joints. He checks in the fridge, seeing it’s fuller than he’s seen it since moving in. There’s a note propped against a cheesecake container, and Ryan reaches in and plucks it out. It’s a familiar looped cursive that Ryan recognises as Shane’s writing; he’s always had great penmanship.

Ryan,

Left you this stuff to fortify you and your lov-er. Make sure he can walk home ;)

We’ll see you tomorrow… probably.

Shane (xoxoxo)

Ryan snorts at Shane’s bluntness. He’s done nothing but encourage Ryan’s relationship with William, in truth he never really liked Brendon… or Spencer… or Jon… or anyone, really. But William is one of those people that charm your pants off by just saying ‘hello’.

Ryan scrunches the note in his hand and throws it somewhere on the counter. He then takes the stuff out of the fridge, noting Shane bought the expensive kind of bacon as opposed to the crappy off-cuts they buy if they want bacon. He retrieves the eggs, sausages, cheese and loaf of bread from the shelves and picks up the orange juice from the side holder with his two free fingers, holding the condiments under his chin so he can turn around and hit the door closed with his hip. He unloads his armful onto the island in front of him, bending over the counter-top so as to minimise the noise created by the food hitting the faux-marble.

The next task is pans, which isn’t going to be quiet, no matter how hard Ryan tries, he will not be able to remove the pans from the back cupboard without making a certain amount of noise. Still, he wants to make a good impression, he feels he may owe William for last night, he must be feeling at least a little sore.

Ryan opens the cupboard with the pans and casserole dishes, moving things aside as carefully as he can to reach the two big pans at the very back (of course they’re at the back). He makes some small clinking noises when the pans bang gently against one another, and he thinks he’s going to make it.

“What are you doing?” He doesn’t mean to scream, really he doesn’t, he’s just not expecting William to be there. The scream is complemented by the pans clanking together and falling to the floor in a thunderous chorus. Ryan turns to look at William, who’s staring, wide-eyed at Ryan’s sprawling body on the floor.

“Sorry, I – I didn’t mean to scare you,” His apology isn’t entirely convincing when accompanied with a mischievous grin, and Ryan mock-glares at him.

“You suck.”

“Your dick, yes, I believe I do.” Ryan blushes and lets his face fall into a coy smirk. William is standing above him, hands on hips, grinning from ear to ear.

“What are you doing with the pans, anyway?” Ryan doesn’t bother trying to get up, just shifts his legs under himself and starts rearranging the pans that have fallen onto the floor.

“I was going to make us breakfast. A nice breakfast, and I didn’t wanna wake you up, it was gonna be, ya know, romantic and spontaneous,” William raises one eyebrow sceptically, “Okay, well whatever, I was trying to impress you, and I owe you for last night.” William chuckles a little.

“Sweetie, if anyone owes anyone for last night; it’s me that owes you.” It’s Ryan’s turn to raise his eyebrows, although his are in shock.

“Wh-Whaddya mean?” William scoffs.

“Are you kidding? Best. Night. Ever.”

“R-Really?”

“Really. I don’t think I’ve come that hard since… well since a while.” Ryan blushes again, and then pushes himself up off the floor. He places the pans on the side and takes a few steps towards William.

“Pinky swear?” His voice is low and gravelly, eyes dark as he moves his hands to William’s sides.

“Cross my heart.” Ryan smiles at the sincere look on William’s face and then tip-toes up and forward to press their lips together in a soft kiss. For a few moments it’s just that innocent, lips on lips, moving gently with one another until Bill twists and backs Ryan into the counter. He slides his tongue along Ryan’s bottom lip, and pushes his tongue into his mouth, stroking Ryan’s tongue with his own. Ryan makes this (in William’s opinion) adorable little whining noise, and pushes desperately against the older man.

When William pulls away, he’s smirking, and breathing heavily. Ryan’s eyes are still closed, fluttering under his lids; his mouth is red and lips shining with saliva. He breathes out shakily and licks his lips, still tasting William’s mouth on his.

“Okay, I believe you.” Bill chuckles and strokes down Ryan’s side to the top of his boxers, moving his hand round Ryan’s back and dipping his fingers just slightly below the elastic. Ryan gasps a little in William’s ear, simultaneously trying to get as close to William as he can while also pushing into his hand.

“You want me to blow you, Ryan?” Ryan whines, which turns into a gasp when Bill’s fingers venture lower.

“Hm? Do you?” Ryan nods his head vigorously, eyes still closed in bliss.

“I want you to say it. Tell me what to do.” Ryan moans and shudders at William’s authoritative tone. He swallows a lot before he can form coherent words.

“I… I want you to – to”

“To what?”

“Suck my dick… get on your knees and-and blow me.” William smiles into Ryan’s neck, fingers circling lower before he pulls his hand from Ryan’s pants. Ryan briefly expresses his displeasure at the loss of contact in a whimper, but when William’s on his knees, unbuttoning his boxers, he suddenly doesn’t care anymore.

He’s already semi-hard due to the fondling and the kissing, and all it takes is a few jerks and the feeling of William’s breath hitting the head of his cock to get him riled enough. William moves his hand to the base of Ryan’s dick and grips tightly, but not tight enough for it to really hurt. With his free hand, he moves his hand down to Ryan’s balls, and starts massaging them gently, earning a truly filthy moan from Ryan. William moves his hand from the base of Ryan’s cock to stroke up the underside of the shaft, applying enough pressure on the vein to make Ryan whimper again.

“Fuckin’ do it already.” Ryan swears, breathy and wrecked.

“Patience, grasshopper.” William replies, making sure to mouth his words along the shaft of Ryan’s dick.

“Patience my ass, blow me.” William laughs against the head of the younger man’s cock, bringing his hand that’s not still fondling Ryan’s balls to spread the pre-come over the head and as far down the shaft as he can get it. Ryan’s hips jerk forward a bit, and William abandons everything else to press his thumbs into the hollow just beside Ryan’s hipbones. Then he leans closer and licks tentatively at the slit, he swirls his tongue a couple of times then pulls his lips over the head. He brings his left hand down to the base of the shaft again and moves his head forward, flattening his tongue against the underside of Ryan’s dick and taking him in his mouth as far as he can, choking a little when his mouth reaches his hand. Ryan moves one of his hands from where it’s clenched against the counter keeping his balance, into William’s hair, gripping for dear life as his head falls back, mouth open, enjoying the sensation.

William carefully starts bobbing his head, creating a small amount of suction and rubbing his tongue against the skin. He grazes his teeth lightly on one pull-back causing Ryan to release an impressive moan that makes William laugh around his mouthful. The vibrations he inevitably makes send little lightning bolts through Ryan’s legs and he tightens his grip in Bill’s hair. William continues alternating between sucking for his life and gently swirling his tongue around for another couple of minutes until he can feel Ryan jerking more frantically and moaning his name more often and less coherently. He licks the head again, noticing the throbbing and the leaking, knowing Ryan’s closer than he’s letting on. He goes in for one last suck and then Ryan’s pushing at his head and then his shoulder, mumbling something that sounds like ‘so fucking close’. William pulls off and jerks Ryan off until he’s coming, spurting over himself and the floor in front of him, moaning like a true porn-star. His legs turn to jelly and he’s only kept up by William’s strong grip on his hips.

“You should probably go clean yourself up. I can make breakfast.” Ryan’s a little too dazed to really understand, but nods noncommittally and shoves his dick back in his, now stained, boxers.

“Okay, but now I owe you, Bilvy.” William giggles at the nickname and watches the other boy walk to the door and up the stairs, scratching the back of his neck as he goes.

“You don’t owe me anything, baby.” He sighs as he stares after Ryan, and then starts on breakfast for the both of them.

 

 

They get dressed after they’ve eaten, talking about plans for the day, and arranging another date to meet. Ryan offers William some of his clothes, since they’re kind of the same size, but William has brought some clothes with him, which Ryan then feels the need to comment on.

“Presumptuous or hopeful? Might I ask?” William sighs and leans onto his left hip, jutting it out in a way that Ryan most definitely finds provocative.

“Cautious, you prig. I didn’t wanna get in a situation and have to walk home with come stains on my jeans, thanks.”

“Sorry, Bilvy, just lemme know when your toothbrush takes up residence in my bathroom.” Ryan picks up the laundry basket and runs out the room with it before William can respond. Ryan’s left the room when his phone starts ringing. At first, William doesn’t know whether to pick it up or let it go to voicemail, or run after Ryan hoping it’ll ring long enough.

“Ryan? Phone!” He doesn’t receive a reply and it’s still ringing so he decides to pick it the hell up.

“Hello?” Is that how he should answer? Should he say it’s Ryan’s phone, William speaking? They might not know who ‘William’ is?

“Ryan?”  And it’s a voice he doesn’t recognise.

“Um, no, sorry, it’s Ryan’s phone, but… he’s downstairs, should I get him?” There’s a sigh on the other end of the phone and William tugs at his shirt awkwardly. He glances to the door, battling with himself over whether it’s worth running to get Ryan before this person decides.

“Um, no, don’t worry about it. It’s all right.” It’s not really the reply he’s expecting, and it troubles him enough to continue the conversation a little.

“If you wanna leave a message, I’ll be happy to pass it on, or – or I could get him to call you back?”

“No, really, it’s okay. Have a nice day.”  Before he can reply, the guy’s hung up and all he’s getting is static in his ear. Ryan chooses this moment to walk back in.

“Who were you talking to?” William looks up as Ryan enters, his hair is all ruffled and his clothes look too baggy on his tiny weeny frame.

“Someone called. I answered and was gonna come get you, but they said it was okay.” Ryan frowns and puts the empty laundry basket down by the bed.

“Did they leave a message?” William shakes his head.

“No, they said not to worry about it. Maybe they’ll call back though?” Ryan hums and then his phone springs to life in William’s hands, causing the man to jump in shock and Ryan to smile at the action. William throws Ryan the phone and he answers it, still smiling.

“Hello.”

“Hey, Ry, it’s me. Sorry, I was trying to reach you but couldn’t.”  Ryan smiles wider, causing William to frown in confusion and mouth ‘They call back?’, Ryan responds with a nod and William seems content enough with that.

“Yeah, sorry about that, I was doing laundry.”

“Nah, man, it’s cool. So, anyway, I wanted to know if you’re still gonna come to Gee’s opening tonight?”  Oops, nearly forgot about that.

“Yeah, man, wouldn’t miss it for the world.” Ryan claps a hand over his eyes in embarrassment. Thank God for Mikey Way.

“Awesome, I knew you’d forget so Frank told me to call you. He gave some bullshit speech about priorities and friends and blah, blah-blah, blah-blah. After a while it’s just noise, ya know?” Ryan can’t help but laugh, Frank’s really not that bad, he’s just…. Fussy?

“Cool, I’ll be there,”

“That’s great, I just need to get Frank off my ass for 3 seconds.”

“Oh, hey, and Mikey?”

“Yeah?”

“Is it okay if I plus-one?” There’s a moment of silence where Ryan can practically feel Mikey’s grin.

“Yeah, man, that’s cool. May I ask who the lucky lady is?” Ryan rolls his eyes, it was one time in college, he didn’t get the boob-hype and wanted to try it out. Can’t hold a moment of heterosexuality against a guy forever.

“Fuck you, his name’s William and you’ll love him.” William pokes his head out the en-suite door at the mention of his name and flashes Ryan a smile that’s all teeth and scrunched eyes at the last part.

“Sure, bring him. But, if you value him, do not; I repeat do not leave him alone.” Ryan salutes the air even though Mikey can’t see him.

“Aye-aye, sir. See you there at…”

“Seven,

“Yep, seven. Bye, meat-head.”

“Bye, crack-whore. And with that he hangs up. Damn him and always getting the last word. Ryan locks his phone and shoves it in his pocket.

“All good?” William asks from the en-suite doorway.

“Yeah, it was just Mikey calling to remind me of his brother’s opening.” William raises an eyebrow suspiciously.

“His… opening?” Ryan rolls his eyes and shakes his head, laughing.

“You dirty minded fuck, his comic book got published, there’s a party thing with drinks and pricks galore.” Bill does his ‘impressed’ face and shrugs.

“Sounds nice. Have fun.” He turns to go back into the bathroom.

“Waitwaitwaitwait, and I plus oned you, dinkus. It’s like a date, only with more people and less sex.” William appears to ponder this for a moment before his starts breaking into a grin he’s trying to hide.

“Yeah, all right, I’ll come with. Can’t leave you alone, don’t want nobody stealing my baby away.” He pulls Ryan’s shirt closer and bumps their lips together in a sweet gesture that kind of ingrains itself in Ryan’s brain so he won’t forget it.

“Like I’d go for any of those guys when I got you.” Ryan mumbles against William’s lips. They smile and kiss a little longer before William says he has to go or he’ll be late to work. He used to work writing jingles for adverts, but then he got scouted by some agency to write soundtracks to films and TV series’. He’s good at his job and loves it, and the glint he gets in his eye when he talks about it makes Ryan catch his breath. They say goodbye at the door after William refuses 6 times to let Ryan drive him home, and immediately when he’s gone, Ryan slides down the door and calls Spencer.

“He’s amazing, Spin, like totally amazing.”

“I’m glad, Ry, you deserve to be happy, I wanna meet him though. You can’t hide him from me forever.”

“Well, he’s coming to Gerard’s comic opening tonight, if you wanna meet him there?”

“Yeah, I might actually come. I know Brendon’s not going so you should be fine.”  Wow, Ryan actually hasn’t really thought about Brendon since he met William. He guesses he shouldn’t have, but with him so recently back in his life… Whatever.

“Honestly, even he couldn’t ruin my night, bro. But I’ll see you there seven?”

“Yeah… see you.”  Spencer’s a little thrown by Ryan’s sudden change in mood, especially since he had been freaking out about making a move on Brendon only a week earlier. Still, he wants to meet the mysterious William/Bill/Bilvy, and he also wants to see Gerard’s comic because he’s a nerd and… well free comic book.

He isn’t lying, Brendon’s not going to the comic opening, he’s going out with Gabe. Spencer doesn’t really dislike Gabe, he’s sure he could be a really nice guy, but… Well Brendon and Gabe are kind of alike, and when you put two showy-assholes together, it isn’t always pretty. Brendon insists they’re not a couple, that they’re just friends and it doesn’t mean anything. But Spencer’s seen the predatory look in Gabe’s eye whenever someone goes near Brendon, and if Brendon doesn’t notice it soon, well… shit’s gonna go down.

But Ryan appears to be settling. He’s (finally) found someone who doesn’t make him insane in the bad way. From what Spencer’s heard, William is level-headed but knows how to have fun, compliments what is owed compliment, and generally makes Ryan feel good about himself. It’s what he needs right now anyway. After Ryan’s eye opening meeting with Pete, things have been gradually getting better. Things are falling into place, and Spencer likes it. But he still wants to give William the ‘best-friend’ okay before Ryan does anything drastic. Spencer’s word means a lot to Ryan, and people usually respect that.

Spencer throws his phone down onto his sofa and then collapses, face first, onto it, groaning with exhaustion and confusion. He just wants to sleep and for everything to be easier. Brendon’s still being a bitch about the songs, and won’t write the 3 songs they need to complete the album. Normally, Spencer would intervene, but things have been hectic and he hasn’t had the opportunity. Plus the fact Brendon’s being a pissy-cunt who won’t listen to anything he says, it makes the whole situation a lot less pleasant.

So, instead of calling Brendon and pestering for the new songs (again), he decides to call someone he hasn’t talked to in a really long time. Someone unaffected by his current ‘situation’ who was always available to talk to/at and who always had good advice. He found his number through a lot of different people and hasn’t yet worked up the courage to call it. But today is kind of a low, and Spencer doesn’t really have many people to fall back on who are dependable and/or close-by. He retrieves the phone from where it’s lodged under his stomach, which requires some awkward digging and a rest in the middle whereby he just lies on his hand. Eventually he comes out victorious and dials the number slowly, listening to the ringing on the other end with a certain ‘butterfly-in-the-belly’ feeling.

“Hello! What can I do you for?” Even the greeting makes Spencer feel better.

“Hey, it’s, ah… It’s Spencer.” There’s a moment of silence before he replies.

“Spencer as in my gorgeous boy Spenny Smith?

“Um, yeah. Hi?” There’s some laughter, the deep, open kind that kind of screams ‘family man’.

“Well who’d have thought?! How the hell are you, man?” Spencer relaxes into the conversation, seeking refuge in a friend he thought he’d long ago lost.

 

 

Chapter Text

Ryan’s standing in front of his bathroom mirror, wrestling with his tie to no avail. He hasn’t worn one in a while and he’s kind of forgotten how to put it on. He went over and round and then in and under and then it turned into a knot and wouldn’t come undone for five minutes and he was seriously considering cutting it off because it was starting to asphyxiate him, and he resorted to pulling it apart and it just fell undone.

He’s beginning his third attempt when the doorbell goes. Shane’s out again, boozing it up with another set of friends, so Ryan has to answer it, even though he’s not ready. William is standing in the doorway, looking hot as hell. He’s holding a large envelope and his tie is done up perfectly, dammit.

“Hey, sorry I’m a little early.”

“No, it’s fine, don’t worry about it. Come on in.” Ryan steps aside and ushers William into the house.

“I didn’t know what to bring, so I decided a signed sketch of an unpublished comic would work well, right?” Ryan’s eyes are wide as William makes an unsure, yet still hopeful face.

“What – er, who signed what now?” William shuffles his feet and turns to Ryan as he closes the front door and steps further into the hallway.

“I heard that Gerard was a big fan of comics as well as being a fan of making them. So, I did a little research and he said one of his favourite comics is Doom Patrol and it happens I know some people. I got the signed artwork of one of the unpublished volumes. I hope that’s okay?” Ryan mouths something he thinks could be clever if he could only articulate.

“Wow. That’s… Wow. Yeah, no, that’s… wow. Dude, you really went all out.” William blushes and smiles a little.

“Well, I wanna make a good impression and it’s pretty cool he allowed me to even show up, so. Yeah.” Ryan’s mouth spreads into a grin and he is kind of in awe of his – William. It’s such a nice gesture, especially for someone he doesn’t even know.

“Bill, you know you didn’t have to, right? We’re there to appreciate the art. So people can see it’s hella awesome and make Gerard feel accomplished.” William colours even deeper and shrugs.

“Well, still, I signed the card from both of us, by the way.”

“Why’d you do that?”

“Well, we’re a couple, right?” Ryan nods, “And – and couples give gifts together, so. Yeah. Hey, do you need some help with your tie?” Ryan glances down at his tie when it’s mentioned, but he can’t get over the ‘couple’ thing. They’re a couple. They’re in a relationship. That’s awesome.

“Yeah, um, yeah, help would be appreciated.” William smirks and then starts walking towards the kitchen, patting his thigh and making a little ‘come on’ gesture at Ryan.

“I’m not a dog, you know.” William laughs, running a hand over his hair self-consciously.

“You’re right, dogs are harder to train.” Ryan flips him off and promptly smiles. He thinks back to how in any other relationship, that comment would have sparked a flame of annoyance and derision. But coming from William, it’s just playful ‘banter’.

“Shut up and help me.” Ryan whines, waiting while William puts the envelope on the counter then turns back to him.

“Have you actually tried tying it up?” He says, coming up close and holding both ends of the tie in either hand, pulling experimentally.

“Yes! But I could only seem to tie it in a noose. I nearly died.” William raises his eyebrows at the comment and pulls the tie a little harder, causing Ryan to sway forward on his toes. William holds him there, keeping a firm grip on the tie.

“Poor baby.” He mumbles, making sure to catch his lips on Ryan’s as he speaks. Ryan leans forward a little more, but at the same time William pushes him backwards and pulls his face away, leaving Ryan feeling like a spring is coiling in his stomach waiting to be released and his fingers are tingling with remembered sensation of William’s skin.

“Now, see you have to make sure this end is short,” William’s eyes are focussed on Ryan’s tie, his expression serious and concentrated, “Then you go over and around, then over once more and through. You pull this bit under this knot and pull. See? And you tighten it by pulling the shorter end. Et voila! Beautiful.” His eyes finish locked on Ryan’s, he strokes the tie down one last time and then moves his hand to retreat into his pocket when Ryan catches it in his own.

“You’re something else, you know?” William shrugs and offers a small, sideways, closed-mouth smile.

“No, don’t do that. Don’t act like it’s nothing.” William’s eyes turn sincere and a little afraid, “You’re incredible, Bill, you are so improbable and it… sometimes it scares me how much I like you. I’ve never really been with someone who just… gives. Someone who doesn’t expect me to be more than I am. You accept me and everything I was and that in itself is a miracle. You’re my miracle.” William sniffs and smiles genuinely, eyes shining in the way that makes Ryan’s stomach decide it’s auditioning for gymnastics in the Olympics.

“If I’m your miracle, you’re my angel. C’mon, we better get going or we’ll be late.” Ryan nods and quickly pulls William into a kiss before he moves away.

“Sure, let’s bounce.” They turn to the door, holding hands and make their way to the car. Ryan’s thinking about the future on the journey there. He looks over occasionally to stare at William, whose profile is just as stunning as front-on. He thinks about them moving in together, having a good, normal life. But there’s a voice whispering at the back of his head, like a warning, asking him whether he could ever truly love William with everything he has. Whether he could say the words, let him know, reassure him that it was only him forever and ever. Could he say it? After everything, could he say the words that ruined him?

 

 

They arrive at the venue a few minutes after seven, there is a small red carpet leading to the grand-looking double doors flanked by some expensive looking gold and red rope barricading. Paparazzi and fans are lining the ropes, making far too much noise and there are enough flashing lights to give a blind man with his eyes closed an epileptic fit. William looks a little shaky, eyes wide and colour draining from his already-pale face.

“It’ll be fine, just walk behind me and walk fast.” William nods sheepishly.

“Wh-Why can’t we hold hands?” Ryan feels a little bad, he looks so hopelessly lost.

“Well, it’s new that I’m back in LA, and though I don’t have anything near a big following, there are some pretty high-up people here. I don’t want the paparazzi following us around and releasing it that we’re together before we want it to be released.” William’s frowning but appears to understand.

“Okay, whenever you’re ready.” Ryan offers him a comforting smile and lifts his hand to his lips where he kisses it gently and reassuringly.

“Let’s go.” Ryan gets out the car first and hands his keys to the valet who’s already waiting. He stands and waits for William to extricate himself from the passenger seat and walk round the car. They smile briefly at one another, then walk comfortably to the small red carpet. They both put on their camera smile and make quick work of the several steps to the open door into the relative calm of the gallery hall. Gerard’s a pretty prestigious comic writer, and can afford to be a little showy. This particular do is to celebrate Gerard’s new comic collection which has been published by an esteemed company who are paying him a whole lot more money than his last employers.

The hall is tall in the middle with a domed ceiling decorated lavishly with gold and ceramic sculptured roof-holdings.  There’s a large, expensive looking chandelier in the centre of the ceiling, held up by a gold chain threaded with golden flowers. There are several other, smaller domes with matching chandeliers dotted around the main body of the hall. The floor is white marble with a dark rouge carpet running down the middle, adding an air of elegance and prestige.

There’s a long bar in the right hand front corner of the room, with hundreds of bottles lining the wall. There are a few people in fine dress seated on the plush red stools surrounding the bar counter. At least 50 tables are arranged at the back of the hall, each sporting red roses in intricate vases and small plates and wine glasses with gold and red rims and linings. There’s enough room left for a small stage on the left wall where an elegant looking jazz/orchestral band are playing a tune Ryan doesn’t recognise, and a dancing/gathering area where some people are grouping to chat and sway to the unfamiliar music. As the pair enter, they’re greeted by a huge comic book display, stacks of the new comics on the nearest tables, some open, others closed and just showing the artwork. Gerard and Frank are standing beside one of the tables, greeting people as they walk in, Gerard’s holding a black Sharpie, suggesting he’s signing some of the copies the guests pick up. Because it’s a publicity event, there’s a free copy of the comic for anyone that wants to take one. Due to the high-class guest-list, most of the invitees are too up themselves to care for comic books, so there aren’t many copies leaving the displays.

“Hey, Gee, hey, Frank.” Ryan greets, smiling widely at his old friends. Their faces were previously tired and frowny, but when they see Ryan, grins spread across their mouths and their eyes light once again.

“Ryan! You made it! Nice to see you, man. It’s been too long.” Frank runs over and they embrace warmly. They actually met through Pete, who knew Mikey when they were younger. He introduced them and they all kind of hit it off; they all knew what it was like to be in a band, they knew how to let off steam and have fun, they knew how painful some of the homophobic comments could be, and they knew how to appreciate art. My Chemical Romance was Gerard’s old band, it included Mikey, Frank, this guy Ray and this other guy Bob. They split up when they all agreed they’d had a good run and they’d done some incredible things, but there were other things they wanted to do, and MCR was holding them back. Plus, when the band split, it relieved some of the pressure on Gerard and Frank’s relationship, which made them happier as a result. This is a fact Ryan envies.  

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world! How’re you holding up?” Ryan finishes hugging Gerard and Frank puffs out his cheeks while Gerard sighs and rubs his face.

“It’s insane. There are so many people here. I don’t even know who half of them are. Half of them didn’t know who I was either. It’s ridiculous.” Gerard looks a little sad. He loves his art, he’s proud of what he’s achieved and he hates people who turn up to public events just to be seen. He’s passionate and believes in what he does, and that’s part of the reason Frank fell in love with him.

“Well, at least you’re getting the publicity you deserve. Everyone should know about your stuff.”

“Thanks, Ryan. That’s sweet,” They’re both smiling at nodding at Ryan when Frank’s eyes flick over to William, “Oh, er, who’s the cutie you brought with you?” Frank’s using a flirting smirk and Gerard scowls at him and smacks his arm.

“Ow, what?”

“You’re using your foreplay face, stop it.” And that’s something Ryan definitely could’ve lived without hearing.

“Sorry, but he’s cute.”

I’m cute.”

“I know you are, baby, and that’s why I’m with you and not…” Frank raises an eyebrow at William questioningly and draws out the last syllable in expectation.

“William. My name’s William.”

“Yeah, hey, and that’s why I’m with you and not William.”

“You couldn’t be with William anyway, because William’s with me.” Both Frank and Gerard’s eyes travel back to Ryan, wide and curious.

“Well, I say well done to you, man,” Frank remarks, looking William up and down in a weird, hungry way.

“Okay, you’re going away now. Go check on the wine or something.” Gerard starts pushing Frank away, who whines a little before complying.

“Oh, um, we brought you something. Just to celebrate your incredible achievement.” Gerard raises an eyebrow, glancing quickly at Ryan to shoot him a look. William, meanwhile, is brandishing the envelope; arm shaking slightly in what Ryan thinks must be nerves.

“Thank you, you know you didn’t have to?” Gerard takes the envelope gently and turns it over in his hands a few times. William shrugs at the comment and puts his hands down by his sides, clenching them sporadically.

“Well, it’s polite and we thought why not, seeing as this is something you could actually really like.” Gerard makes an impressed face and tucks the envelope in the inside pocket of his designer suit.

“I’ll open it later, if you don’t mind. I don’t wanna lose it or spill wine on it or anything dumb like that.” William nods his head in understanding.

“That’s okay. I hope you have a good time, I might take a comic, for my niece, if that’s all right?” Gerard nods frantically.

“Of course! Just as long as she doesn’t photocopy it and sell it illegally, I’m down with her having one.” William smiles sunnily, plucking one of the comics off the pile.

“She’s a big fan, she’ll never believe I was here and actually met you.” Gerard simply glows with pride.

“D’ya want me to sign one? For her? I can do that!” Ryan swears the look William gets on his face is one he never wants to live without.

“Really?! You’d do that! Wow, thank you so much! Her name’s Genevieve and she’s six, but she’s really bright and she loves art and I think she wants to be an artist but she really loves kind of aliens and monsters and gore and she has every single one of your comics.” Gerard looks so impressed and signs the inside cover quickly and expertly.

“Tell her thank you for supporting me, and I sincerely hope she enjoys the new plots and characters. I hope you guys have a lovely night, the both of you. Mikey’s over by the dance-floor with Pete and Patrick, thank you for the gift and thanks so much for coming!” Ryan grabs William’s hand and waves at Gerard as he jogs off to, presumably, extricate Frank from the flirt-match he’s having with the waiter handing round glasses of champagne.

“C’mon, I want you to meet some people.” Ryan tugs gently on William’s hand, and he comes willingly.

“Are all your friends like…”

“Like Frank? No, fortunately. I think Gerard must’ve been withholding sex or something.” William opens his eyes wider, if that’s possible.

“Why? Why would he be withholding sex?” Ryan shrugs and dodges them past some girls shimmying on the make-shift dance-floor.

“He probably wasn’t doing it intentionally; he might’ve just got engrossed in his comic and getting it published and forgotten to pay any attention to Frank.” Ryan stops behind a veritable wall of humans, tip-toeing up to see if he can see any of his friends. William’s making a pouty-contemplative face.

“You wouldn’t do that, right?” Ryan glances to him momentarily, frowning in a weird, sneery way.

“Do what? Publish a comic book?” William shakes his head.

“No, I mean. Withhold sex? Forget to pay attention to me?” Ryan stops peering over the crowd and turns to properly face William, taking his other hand.

“Of course I wouldn’t. How could I ever? I stop paying attention to you and my whole world would turn to shit, Bilvy. You come first. Scout’s honour.” Ryan takes one of his hands and holds his pinky down with his thumb, making the scout’s salute. William bats his hand away and smirks.

“You didn’t go to scouts, dinkus.” Ryan laughs slightly, and then makes himself serious again.

“But really, William, I mean it. Cross my heart.” William lifts one of his hands and draws the small ‘x’ over Ryan’s heart.

“Okay. Now, show me your friends.”

 

 

They find Patrick first, which Ryan is silently thankful for. Patrick’s the most… normal of Ryan’s friends, along with Spencer.

“Patrick, this is William. William, Patrick.” Patrick holds out the hand that’s not holding his glass of champagne, and William grips it enthusiastically.

“It’s nice to finally meet you, William. Ryan’s been raving about you non-stop since you two met.” William lights up noticeably when Patrick says this.

“Has he now? That’s funny, because he hasn’t told me a lot about any of his friends. I was starting to think he didn’t have any.” Ryan scowls and sticks his tongue out, which prompts William to wink and blush a little. Patrick watches the exchange with a closed-mouth smile, eyes glinting with familiarity.

“So, William, what do you do for a living?”

“Oh, I write songs and scores for movies and TV shows. I also sometimes help scout out artists to sing them.” Patrick nods, frowning a little in attentive concentration.

“That’s interesting, do you work with a team or is it primarily solitary?”

“It varies, I usually work with a team of two other composers, but it greatly depends on the director and what they want. What about you? What do you do?”

“Well, Pete owns a small sect off Fueled by Ramen, the record company, and we opened a recording studio nearby, but we’re actually in a band. It’s nothing too fancy, but we tour sometimes and when we’re not touring we’re either writing music or recording it. It’s a pretty sweet deal.” William is obviously impressed and it’s kind of adorable.

“That’s incredible. So you and Pete? Are you two…?” Patrick laughs and shakes his head.

“What do you think?” William opens his mouth to say something when Pete bounds over and, jumping slightly on Patrick’s shoulder, presses a sloppy and probably uncomfortable kiss on his boyfriend’s mouth.

Ryan, who’s been standing kind of awkwardly looking around for people he recognises, stands to attention when Pete’s in the picture. Pete is kind of the friend he’s been worried about introducing to William.

“Who’s newbie?” Pete pants, apparently he’s been dancing rather energetically with Mikey, who lumbers over, looking positively mortified.

“Pete, Mikey, this is William. William, uh, yeah, you get it.” They all shake hands and Pete proceeds to eye up the new guy.

“Jeez, Ross, you sure pick the tall ones don’t you. I feel like a munchkin.” William laughs but looks a little uncomfortable.

“Ah, sorry, my mom says I was like a beanstalk and always grew out of my clothes too fast.” Ryan smiles at the anxiety-induced factoid and places his hand on William’s back, just to remind him he’s there.

“Mikey’s kind of the same, right Mikes?” Mikey’s expression remains neutral as he nods.

“My mom had hell. Between me and Gee, we went through more clothes than Posh and Becks.” Patrick snorts into his glass, while Pete just looks outright confused.

“On that… note, has anyone seen Spence? He said he was coming and I don’t wanna miss him.” They all shake their heads no and Ryan sighs, giving a cursory sweep of the room with his eyes.

“Okay, well… man, I hate to do this, but can you look after William while I go check by the front? I may need to call him and there’s no signal here.” Patrick nods reassuringly while Pete just grins.

“Hey, I’m not a dog!”

“You’re right, dogs don’t talk back.” William sticks his tongue out and scowls a little.

“And how do you know there’s no signal here? I haven’t seen you on your phone.” Ryan shrugs as he starts walking backwards.

“You and Patrick were talking work and I got bored!”

“You have a really short attention span.” Patrick interjects, then falls victim to Ryan’s glare and practically buries his face in his flute glass.

“I’ll be back soon, please don’t scar him? I actually really like this one.” He winks coyly and starts jogging away. He’s confident it isn’t a good idea to leave Bill alone with Pete and Mikey together with only a slightly tipsy Patrick mediating, but he needs to find Spencer.

Ryan makes his way through the crowds of people, dodging the arms and legs that appear out of nowhere. He gets stopped a few times by people who think they recognise him, and also by some people who do recognise him. He notices Gerard and Frank standing rigidly, nodding at something an old couple are saying, Gerard is pale and Frank looks ready to burst. Ryan decides he doesn’t want to get into it, or be associated with the murder of an old man.

He climbs the stairs, staring at his phone and trying to comprise a reasonable text without bumping into anyone. He fails, but fortunately he bumps into the right person.

“Spin! Hey!” Spencer is holding Ryan’s shoulders after the near accident, smiling broadly and looking pretty damn smart.

“Hey, Ryan, what’s got you in such a hurry?”

“You, actually, I was coming to find you.” Spencer moves one of his hands from Ryan’s shoulder to straighten his tie.

“Well, you found me now. I wanna meet the infamous William.” Ryan lets the corner of his mouth lift when the man’s name is mentioned. It’s embarrassing but like he cares.

“Yeah, sure, but first I wanna say a few things.”  Spencer nods, expression serious.

“Of course, do you wanna sit down or go somewhere a little quieter?”

“Um, we could go to the bar, I’m not drinking, but there’s champagne and I saw some whiskey somewhere.” Spencer smiles and guides his friend to two free bar stools. He orders himself a gin and tonic on the rocks and sits to attention, facing Ryan, showing he’s listening.

“Okay, so, it’s about William.”

“You’re not going to dump him, are you?” Spencer cocks a brow, that doesn’t sound good.

“No! No, of course not. I just need to tell you a few things before you meet him.” Spencer takes a sip of his drink, relishing the slight sting at the back of his throat.

“Sure, shoot.” Ryan takes a deep breath and stares at a point on the table slightly beyond where he’s wringing his hands together.

“Okay, well, yeah, okay, well,” breathe, “Okay, so, I really like him. Like, he’s so totally perfect sometimes it makes me think maybe this isn’t really happening. Like, maybe I’m hallucinating or something, but… well… I’ve only ever really been in a relationship with someone who’s hurt me, and who I’ve hurt in return. I don’t wanna hurt him, Spin, I want to… like, protect him or something. And, maybe that’s not what he wants, but I don’t think I can hurt him.”

“Why is that a problem then? Sorry, Ry, but it’s kind of how healthy relationships work. You don’t want to see them hurt, let alone be the one causing the hurt.” Ryan rubs his eyes, frowning, then he holds out his hands, fingers splayed, eyes hooded and dark.

“I know, Spence, but… I guess I’ve always hidden behind the hurt. It’s been easier to hurt than to admit anything to myself. You remember the whole fuck up with Brendon, I just…” Spencer leans in, trying to understand what his friend’s trying to say, because he’s saying it poorly.

“You just what, Ryan?”

“I don’t think I can let myself fall in love with him. I mean, I can see us spending the rest of our lives together but… I don’t think I can say it. I don’t think I can fall in love with him.” Spencer goes quiet and leans back, both men look at the floor in silence for several seconds.

“Hey, I thought you were only gonna leave me with those lunatics for a short time?” Ryan spins round, although he recognises the voice like he knows his own. Spencer jolts his head up, then finds himself kind of gazing at the guy standing there, because honestly. Wow.

“Is this Spencer? Hi, I’m William!” William sticks his hand out and Spencer dazedly obliges, shaking firmly and sending Ryan a sort of look.

“It’s nice to finally meet you, Spencer. Ryan’s told me a lot about you.” Spencer flashes his most dazzling smile and sits up a little straighter.

“Ryan’s told me a lot about you, too. I feel like I already know you!” William’s smile widens to match Spencer’s and they kind of just grin at each other for several seconds before Ryan interjects.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to leave you, They weren’t that bad, were they?” William starts to grimace, but then remembers these are Ryan’s friends, and he should probably be more accommodating. He quickly covers his face in a smile and shrugs.

“They weren’t that bad, no, just… missed my baby.” He leans down and pecks Ryan’s cheek, Spencer snorts and downs the rest of his drink.

“So, William. Tell me more about yourself.” William opens his mouth to answer when Ryan, once again, interrupts. 

“Hey, can we move back over to the seating before we begin this? I’d like to be somewhere comfortable-er and with other friends before you start your long, potentially boring, talk.” William rolls his eyes in perfect synchronisation with Spencer and Ryan kind of grimaces.

“Fine, but I wanna sit with Spencer, Pete kind of scares me.” He blushes and ducks his head a little.

“Fine by me.” They all stand and make their way across the ballroom, if slowly. Ryan’s thinking about what he told Spencer. He’s worried. He told Spencer before he met William, which was a good thing, he thinks, but now they’re meeting and… William is too nice not to like. He’s devilishly charming and sweet, funny and kind, careful and caring, beautiful inside and out. Generally, this is a good thing, but when you’ve just told your best friend you don’t think you can fall in love with your boyfriend, this kind of doesn’t work to your advantage. They talk for what seems like hours, and Ryan passes the time talking to Pete, who’s a little unintelligible, but sober enough for it to be kind of worthwhile. Patrick’s sitting next to Pete, murmuring something that could either be about the ‘flamingo in the suit’ or ‘fake eagle on the roof’ but Ryan’s not really sure. They’ve been sitting for what, realistically, is about an hour and a half, when Gerard approaches their table. He looks so happy he could burst and Frank is trailing behind him, looking like he’s not sure whether to be happy or to break down in tears.

“Ryan!”

“Gerard!” Ryan stays seated as Gerard races forward, he pretty much glides to his knees and hugs Ryan round the waist where he sits in his chair. Ryan pats Gerard on the back awkwardly, staring at Frank with wide, confused eyes, mouthing ‘what the hell’, when Gerard removes his head from where it’s pretty firmly lodged in Ryan’s stomach to look at him.

“Thank you! Thank you so, so much! I mean you didn’t have to but you did and it was so thoughtful and it’s amazing thank you so much!” Ryan smiles his scared-as-hell-by-a-crazed-fan smile.

“Gerard, get off the nice man.” Frank chides, pulling at Gerard’s shoulders, glancing up at Ryan apologetically.

“Gerard, what are you on about?”

“Your gift! The envelope you gave me!” Ryan’s mouth forms an ‘o’ as he heaves out a long and understanding:

“Oohhhhhhhh, right.” Gerard’s face instantly lights back up into its excited smile.

“Yeah, see, that wasn’t me.” Just like that the smile vanishes.

“Whaddya mean?”

“William got you that. He just signed the card from both of us and presented it saying it was from us both, but… it was just from him.” The blankness turns into a coy, sly smirk.

“I see. So, I’m hugging the wrong man’s groin?” Ryan nods slowly, making that face that’s pulling your lips in and puffing them up and to the side.

“Cool. See ya.” And with that, Gerard leaps round the table and bounces in front of William till he stands up so Gerard can hug him properly. Frank huffs out a sigh and turns to Frank.

“Your boyfriend is magic, Ryro, I swear he has not stopped fucking vibrating since he opened that goddamned magical envelope. You found yourself a miracle-boy.” Ryan nods, then looks at his thumbs, wrapped solemnly in his lap.

“Yup, that’s what I got.” Frank doesn’t seem to notice his dry tone, else he doesn’t care, and pats the side of Ryan’s head fondly but forcefully and goes to save Ryan’s boyfriend from his own. When Frank and Gerard finally depart, (meaning when Frank finally manages to physically drag Gerard away from William) Ryan goes over to William, standing just to the side of the chair he’s sitting in.

“Wow, that was weird.” William starts, leaning his head against Ryan’s hip.

“Tell me about it. But I’m glad he liked your present so much, you’ve really ingratiated yourself now.” Ryan smiles down at the top of William’s head, and then juts his hip a little into Bill’s temple to make him look up.

“He said you renounced your claim to the prize?”

“Yeah, well his head was in my crotch and it was your gift anyway. You should get credit for it if it was your idea.” William’s gaze turns kind of sparkly, and Ryan turns to where he can hear a clinking sound and someone coughing into the microphone, he places his hand round William’s back and onto his shoulder, squeezing softly.

“Ahem, um, hi? I’m Gerard… the, er, comic writer, the one you’re here celebrating, so… hi,” there are a few scattered laughs as Gerard smiles and runs his hand through his hair.

“So, um, firstly, I wanted to thank you all for coming tonight. It’s been amazing to see some familiar faces, and some unfamiliar ones, all commenting on what an achievement this is. Gotta say, I do agree,” laughter, “I’ve worked my whole life for change and something better. I was in a band, as most of you probably know, and we changed lives. We helped, and when I quit that, I wanted to continue making a contribution. I know this isn’t much, but it’s a start, and I seriously appreciate all of you coming here today to support that cause and to celebrate with me.

“I’d like to just say thank you to all the people who made this possible. My publishers and editors, producers and secondary artists, printers and really the list goes on. There are too many people to thank individually, so I’m going to do it as a toast,” He raises his glass above his head, smiling slightly, “Thanks, you guys, for making my dream a reality.” The crowd raise their glasses with him, clinking and chatting mutedly.

“There’s also someone else I’d like to thank,” Gerard continues, bringing the attention back to him. He looks nervous.

“I wanna take a moment to thank the person in my life that’s really encouraged me. Who inspires and motivates me even when I feel useless and dull. Who loves me unconditionally, and who I love unconditionally in return. He’s been with me for so long, and seriously, I cannot understand why he hasn’t got sick of me yet, but he hasn’t. He’s comforting me when I feel like crying and giving up, and he’s right beside me when I feel like I could conquer the world. He’s the real brains behind the operation, and he’s the only one I can ever conceive spending the rest of my life with. Frank, would you come here, please?” Frank shuffles shyly on stage, glancing round the room with wild, expecting eyes. “Round of applause for the boyfriend, don’t you think, people?” There’s some raucous clapping, along with wolf-whistles and hooting.

“Frank,” Frank opens his mouth to say something but Gerard waves a hand at him, “No, don’t speak or I’ll cry or lose my nerve and this will all turn terribly embarrassing. Frank. I love you…. It’s kind of as simple as that, I don’t really feel the need to embellish it. I love you with everything I have, and I only have one thing left to offer you. And that’s myself. Forever. Just yours, and only yours. So,” Gerard fishes in his pocket and pulls out a small, purple, velvet box. He sinks to one knee, if a little awkwardly, having to stop in the middle to pull up his trouser legs, and holds out the open ring-box. Frank is staring down at him, eyes glistening and hands shaking violently.

“Would you do me the tremendous honour of marrying me?” There’s a moment of silence when the crowd simply holds its breath and Frank stays silent and still. No one makes a sound.

“Yes.” It’s croaky, and quiet, but definite and Gerard simply glows at it. His smile could break his face and his eyes shine like stars. Frank doesn’t even give him enough time to put the ring on before he’s pulling him into a bone-crushing hug and kissing him feverishly. Ryan can see, from his vantage point, Frank mouthing ‘yesyesyesyesyes’ again and again between kisses he exchanges with his fiancé. Of course, the crowd goes wild, wooping and cheering and whistling and applauding with all their might. It’s kind of a beautiful moment.

“That could be us, someday.”

And the moment is gone.

Chapter Text

Ryan doesn’t mean to say it out loud. Really, he doesn’t. In fact, he doesn’t want to be even thinking it. He stares straight ahead as the words filter into William’s ears. He stiffens noticeably at the comment, and his grip on the back of Ryan’s suit jacket tightens a bit. Ryan feels like he could cry, but he doesn’t know how to rectify the situation without hurting William’s feelings or digging himself further into the hole he’s created.

“Um…” He begins, noting the way William hasn’t breathed in a while. “I… I didn’t mean, like… Ermmm…” Ryan huffs out a breath and shuffles from foot to foot. He knows this is giving William’s head quite a moving but he’s really nervous.

“Bill, look, I- man, sorry, it just came out. And with the mood and everything and,” he turns to look down at William, who moves slightly so his head comes off Ryan’s hip and his grip loosens on the jacket. “Just forget I said it, ‘kay?” At that, William looks up, his eyes aren’t glassy and cold like Ryan kind of expects them to be, but shiny and illuminated.

“How could I?” William whispers, moving his head back and away from Ryan’s body to better look him in the eye.

“What?” Is all Ryan can say. He’s confused, he’s allowed to be speechless.

“How could you possibly think I could forget you said that?” He doesn’t sound mad, Ryan notes… more disbelieving.

“Well, I guess because it’s not something you want to hear from someone you’ve been dating for a week?” Ryan tries, attempting to salvage the shred of dignity he thinks he has left somewhere.

“Ryan… I know it’s unorthodox… but, you’re unorthodox. You’re completely unlike anyone I’ve ever met, and… well if you’ve thought about us being there,” he points to where Gerard and Frank are still embracing, “We must be doing something right. I mean… I know we have a long way to go, and things could still go wrong, but… right now? Right now, things are good and if you think you’re gonna scare me away by saying you could see us getting married, well you’re gonna have to try harder, because that doesn’t scare me.” Ryan stares at him. He looks so sincere, like he genuinely doesn’t mind. Like it actually wasn’t some horrifying experience he’s already trying to repress.

“So… you’re not freaked out?” Ryan queries, still not really believing William can be taking this so lightly.

“Really not freaked out. I’d say more honoured than anything else.” Ryan’s still not convinced.

“Are you absolutely, 100% sure?” He asks again, one eyebrow raised. William just rolls his eyes, shoots him a look and grips the end of Ryan’s tie.

“Yes, dear God, man.” He pulls less than gently on the tie in his grip, making Ryan lean forward uncomfortably. When he reaches William, they kiss innocently, reassuringly, and Ryan’s seriously conflicted about his feelings.

 

The night draws to a close, and Ryan and William say goodbye at the door. Ryan’s going home with Spencer and lending William his car. This is kind of because he doesn’t wanna send his boyfriend home in a cab, and partly because it gives him an excuse to go to William’s house for possible blowjobs.

Ryan slips into Spencer’s car, tipping his head back against the head-rest and sighing in exhaustion.

“Long night, huh?” Spencer asks, turning the key in the ignition and putting the car into drive.

“You could say that again. I’m beat, man.” Ryan closes his eyes, then opens them again to fumble clumsily for the stereo controls. He flicks on the radio on some weird indie-rock channel, but can’t be bothered to lean forward and change it once he’s slumped in his seat once again.

“D’you want popcorn when we get back or do you wanna go straight to bed?” Ryan tilts his head sideways to look at Spencer with one eyebrow raised.

“Dude, like that’s even a question. Why do you think I’m even coming back to your house? I have my own!” Spencer chuckles and turns a corner softly and carefully.

“Fair enough. Plus I wanna talk about what you told me tonight.” A moment of tense silence follows Spencer’s after-thought.

“Yeah… I guess I need to talk about it too.” The rest of the drive is filled only with the weird track playing through the clear car speakers.

They reach Spencer’s house shortly after midnight, a comparatively early night considering, and the duo trudge their way along the path and into the house. Spencer throws his keys on the side table by the door and Ryan takes off his shoes, purely out of habit rather than manners. Spencer heads straight to the kitchen to make the popcorn pretending not to notice Ryan checking himself out in the hallway mirror.

“So, maybe you should start at the beginning?” Spencer starts, retrieving the popcorn from the cupboard under the hob and putting it in the microwave on the correct settings. He props his elbows on the counter as he waits for Ryan to approach and sit down across the top from him.

“Yeah… the beginning.”

 

 

“Ryan, hey, can I talk to you for a minute?” Brendon’s hand clasps Ryan’s bicep, and he turns from the force.

  “Um, sure, I guess. What do you want?” Ryan’s kind of anxious to get home, his dad doesn’t like him being late home, and he doesn’t really want to face the consequences again.

  “Well… um… so, I was thinking that – we’ve known each other for a while and um… well things have been going pretty good with the band lately and… You like the Beatles.” Brendon’s eyes are wide and expectant, like that was meant to mean anything to Ryan at all.

"That’s… nice?” He frowns, not really understanding what Brendon is trying to get at. Brendon sighs when he realises Ryan doesn’t appear to speak telepathically.  

“No, I mean, it is nice… it’s what makes you nice and I like nice things because who wouldn’t, I mean nice things make the world a nice place to live in because otherwise it would be not nice and that’s… well, not nice.”

“Brendon.”

“I-I-I-I I’m trying to say something here!”

“Hold that thought.” Ryan adds calmly, pushing past Brendon to reach for a notebook that’s been left on the table. He quickly scribbles something down, and Brendon watches from the doorway, frowning and thinking how this is totally not going how he had planned.

“Ryan? I’m trying to articulate something really profound here.” Ryan glances up and Brendon can practically see the light-bulb springing to life. Brendon sighs and walks over to where Ryan is hunching over the notebook. He peers over the boy’s shoulder and sees a few words scrawled over the page.

“That’s when you stutter something profound? To the support on the line and with the way you've been talking every word gets you a step closer to hell… Ryan what is this?” Ryan turns abruptly to face Brendon, who doesn’t have enough time to move away and so gets caught a little, but Ryan catches him before he stumbles backwards.

“Bren, you are totally my inspiration.” It’s blunt and clumsy and probably not as romantic as Brendon imagined it, but he’ll take it.

“Wow, Ry, you really put your pen to paper and charm your way out of most situations, you know that?” Brendon’s gaze involuntarily darts from Ryan’s eyes to his lips because they’re right there and well, Brendon’s only human. Ryan notices and leans forward just enough to catch his lips on Brendon’s.

“It’s time for us to take a chance, right?” He leans forward the last millimetres and presses their lips together. There aren’t fireworks or a sudden moment of explosive love, just a warm tingly feeling that aches through Brendon’s chest as he moves his arms up to hold Ryan’s face in his hands.

“A chance sounds good.” Brendon sighs as they take a breath before diving right back into a little chaste-ish making out. So, fuck the consequences, Ryan thinks.

 

 

“But, I don’t know anymore, Spin. I really like him. I really, really do, but…”

“You’re scared?”

“I guess.”

“Of what?” Spencer’s got this superior frowny face going on while he shovels popcorn in his gob. Ryan sighs and rubs his face.

“I dunno. Commitment? That would make sense, right? Like, it wouldn’t be the first time?” It’s Spencer’s turn to sigh as he pushes the popcorn bowl away and stands a little straighter.

“Ryan, you can’t compare William to Brendon. It’s not fair. They’re two completely different people.”

“But I was in love with Brendon… what happened with him that isn’t happening with William?” Ryan’s puppy face is kind of soul-crushing, and there’s only so much looking at it one person can take before it’s too sad.

“Ry… please don’t go there. You fucked up with Brendon, I get that… but, you can’t hold onto him forever. William’s an amazing guy, you really need more time. When you first met Brendon you didn’t really like him, and look where you two went. Give it a month and then get back to me. You never expect to fall in love and then it happens. It’s unexpected and you can’t decide whether or not you want to fall in love with someone.” The unfortunate thing is Spencer’s incredibly wise and his advice is pretty much always 100% accurate.

“I guess you’re right. But it’s not just me I’m scared about.” Spencer frowns at his best friend.

“Oh?”

“No, I mean… What if I’m not right for him? What if, because I’ve only ever known romantic relationships that involved copious volumes of pain, I hurt him? What if I ruin him? What if we’re a massive mistake and I know it and I’m writing it off as me not trying hard enough?” Spencer leans over and rubs Ryan’s shoulder comfortingly.

“You’re thinking too hard. Enjoy the honeymoon phase with your boyfriend while it lasts. You can ask the more serious questions later. You don’t always have to know the future when you head into something new.” Ryan nods and makes some lame-ass excuse about needing rest for his hair which doesn’t even nearly make sense, but he’s too tired and confused to care.

In his heart, Ryan knows he has the capacity to fall in love. He’s done it before, he thinks. As far as he’s aware, he’s been in love and he’s loved people. But he’s never loved someone like William; he’s never loved someone who is just good, he’s always loved flawed people. That’s been fine, he’s felt adequate with the person he’s been with and that was fine. But now… he’s not entirely sure.

He knows he has the capacity to fall in love. He’s done it before, with one guy. He’s been in love and he’s loved people. But he’s never fallen out of love; he’s never lost the buzz that vibrates under his skin, or the clattering of his heartbeat when he’s near them. Never lost the falling-off-a-cliff-in-a-good-way feeling or the dizzy happiness, and maybe that’s why he doesn’t think he can let himself fall in love with William. Maybe because it’s like cheating. And Ryan Ross doesn’t cheat.

He heads up the stairs and into the spare room Spencer always has made up for him. It’s 1:30 when his head hits the pillow, and he’s well and truly out for the count. Brendon Urie, however, is only just getting started. The club Gabe dragged him to in the sketchier part of LA is completely overflowing with slick, sweaty bodies all crowding round one another, like if they get close enough to everyone else they’ll all merge into one big, partying blob.

Brendon was drunk about 4 vodka shots ago, and Gabe blended into the background about 7 ago. He stumbles around the club, feeling crowded and confused, the dance-floor is suddenly all around him and there’s definitely someone writhing around near his ass and he’s getting uncomfortable. Fortunately, he sees a familiar face grinding with another familiar face, and he stumbles over to them, shouting incoherently.

“Nate! Alex! Hemme!” Nate is the first to look up, smirking at Brendon’s dishevelled and clearly drunken state. Alex notices the sudden lack of friction and turns his gaze in Brendon’s direction, putting on a smirk to match his not-boyfriend-but-still-dating-it’s-not-weird-shut-up’s smirk.

“Brendo! Whattya doing? We thought you were with Gabe?!” There’s a certain level of shouting over the music, and Brendon barely catches the words Nate manages to scream.

“He runned away from me!” Brendon pouts, causing Alex to explode in a small bubble of laughter, hiding his face in Nate’s shoulder.

“He’s over by the DJ set, last I saw. Might wanna catch him before he tries to chat up some cutie with a cutie patootie booty.” Nate shouts, smacking Alex’s arm playfully. Brendon simply nods and frowns.

“Why would I care if he’s chatting someone up?” Alex and Nate share one of those looks and Alex sighs.

“Never mind, just leave us alone!” Alex calls, and resumes grinding against Nate, who quickly follows suit. Brendon throws his hands up in complaisance and starts walking towards the DJ set, where, sure enough, he spots Gabe chatting to some tall blonde guy in a too-tight white t-shirt. Brendon practically runs up and jumps on Gabe’s shoulder. The uptight Hollister model wannabe scowls at the sight, but Gabe just smiles easily, turning to Brendon and throwing an arm round his shoulders chummily.

“You left me, Gabey!” Brendon slurs, then decides to start biting at the side of Gabe’s chest.

“Yeah, well, you found me, didn’t you? I was just talking to…”

“Justin.”

“Yeah, Justin! I was talking to Justin and telling him about this music video I’m directing and he’d be great for one of the parts.” Justin smiles this sickly, dirty smile that Brendon responds to with a scoff.

“Pft, ‘s probably porn. Gabe, you can’t scout poor, innocent,” He drags out the word and Justin flinches, “boys for your weird ass gay porn.” Gabe smiles awkwardly at Justin and pets Brendon’s hair.

“Brenny, please, leave the talking to me, hunny,” Gabe notices the worried expression on Justin’s face, “He’s just drunk, don’t worry about him, it’s not porn, it’s a music video, scout’s honour.”

“Pft, you didn’t even do scouts!” Brendon interjects childishly. Brendon faintly hears some mumbling and then watches Justin stalk away, a surprised and slightly disgusted look on his face.

“Brenners, you can’t just scare away my potential clients like that. It’s not fair.” Brendon huffs into Gabe’s shirt, spinning out from his body to look at him properly.

“You mean your potential fucks. I know how it works, Gabe, I am a gay man working in the music business.” Gabe rolls his eyes and walks with Brendon over to the wall separating the men’s and women’s toilets.

“Why would I need to find potential ‘fucks’, as you so delicately put it, when I got you right here.”  Brendon frowns as he’s pushed up against the wall, pinned between the peeling paint and Gabe’s… fragrant self (seriously the man smells like flowers).

“Gabe, we – I don’t – we’re not like that?” Gabe slides his leg between Brendon’s and pushes up a bit, making Brendon gasp and Gabe smile that coy smirk.

“Oh, please, you crave me, B.” Brendon stops. All that fills his mind is Ryan calling him ‘B’, cooing it softly or, like Gabe’s currently doing, growling it lustfully. Craving him, want and love overriding everything. He pushes Gabe away harshly, tears brimming in his eyes from the heightening of his emotions due to the alcohol.

“Gabe, we’re not like that. And don’t call me B.” He storms off, ignoring Gabe’s protesting shouts. He pushes through the gyrating crowd, over to the door, where he grabs his coat and leaves. He doesn’t know where he’s going, nor does he particularly care, he just wants to get away from Gabe. Memories of Ryan and their relationship are still fresh in his mind, taunting him endlessly. He doesn’t want to remember, he doesn’t want to be haunted by the things that have happened.

As Brendon walks down the cold, hard street, he thinks about how he tried to get over Ryan. It had been a sudden and painful split, and Brendon coped with it the only way he knew how: music. That had been his darkest period of song-writing. He’d filled dozens of notebooks with twisted metaphors and angry sorrow. He’d blamed everyone for breaking him and Ryan up, even though it wasn’t anyone’s fault but their own.

Before he knows what he’s doing he’s standing outside his studio. He’s rented it for the duration of the album, and he hasn’t spent very long in there since he put the deposit down. It’s the studio him and Ryan used to fantasise about renting for when they were writing their 10th platinum album, and when Brendon saw it, he couldn’t help himself. He enters the pin and pushes through the front door, taking the stairs up to his room two at a time. He searches his pockets and eventually finds the key hidden in the pocket of his wallet, jamming it angrily in the lock and twisting both ways before the door gives way. He’s still a little drunk, and stumbles from the force, picking himself up and switching on the light to illuminate the (slightly dusty) room.

He walks around, running his hands over various surfaces to collect the dust on his fingertips. He makes his way over to the desk and sits down with a thump, flicking on the lamp and staring at the blank pieces of paper he put there when he first entered the room. There’s a pen beside the paper, and Brendon can’t think of a reason why not, so picks it up and writes a few words. It’s nothing, really, but his head is already formulating a tune and a beat and the rest of the words.

It’s not meant to be about anything, but he knows it is. It’s so personally impersonal, so relevantly irrelevant. But it’s words, his feelings about his life and it’s his. He sits for several minutes, looking at the words on the page and noticing the pang in his chest as he misses. It’s not a long song, not by any means, the lyrics are few, but the meaning behind them is greater than anything.

“What the fuck am I going to do.” The words echo round the empty room, reminding Brendon of how stupidly alone he is.

“So, I won’t be alone.” He whispers, having a bit of a light-bulb moment. He rushes up, shoving the song in his pocket and grabbing his phone and keys hastily, dashing out the room and locking up swiftly. He practically jumps down the stair and when he reaches the relatively empty street, he’s nearly running. He’s quite far away, and he doesn’t think he can realistically run that far, so he hails a passing cab and tells the address in a hurry. He doesn’t want to think about whether this is a good idea or not, so he just bounces in his seat excitedly. It takes about 7 minutes to reach the house, and he pays the driver in record time, telling him to keep the change, and bounds up to the door.

He knocks. It’s tense. It’s also pretty damn early, so he’s not entirely convinced anyone will be home. Then, the unmistakable sound of footsteps, and soon the door is being pulled open to reveal a very sleepy form.

“Hey, um… yeah hey.”

“Brendon? What are… Brendon?”

“Yeah, hi!”

“What are you doing here?”

“I’m here to see you.”

“Why?”

“To see you?”

“Oh… well, okay. Come on in.”

“Thanks, Sarah.”

“Whatever, I was horny anyway, least this saves me having to go out.”  She grumbles, already halfway through taking her shirt off.

‘Well,’ thinks Brendon, ‘at least I’m not alone anymore.’

Chapter Text

Ryan wakes up in Spencer’s guest room, his phone buzzing maniacally on the bedside table. He reaches blindly for it, knocking a can of deodorant and a bottle of moisturiser in the process. He unlocks it, then accidentally locks it again, and finally succeeds in unlocking his screen to type in the code to read the message. He’s still pretty tired and his hand-eye coordination isn’t great at the best of times, so the whole code thing lasts quite a while. The message is from Mikey, asking Ryan and Spencer to join him for a Way/Iero engagement breakfast.

 “Mrpphhh.” Ryan groans into his pillow. He loves Frank and Gerard, and it’s awesome that they’re finally getting married… but it’s really fucking early. He types out a reasonable reply, briefly summarising his delight and acceptance of the invitation yada-yada-yada.

He groans again before he manages to roll ungracefully out of bed and onto his feet. He didn’t dream of anything he can remember, but he feels languid and relaxed, something he doesn’t feel often. He stumbles about the bedroom, yanking on his jeans and a shirt Spencer put out for him, half tripping over his own feet trying to jam them into the legs of his trousers. Spencer hurumphs from the next door room, and Ryan bangs on the wall telling him they’re going out and he better get his ass up or there’ll be hell to pay.

Ryan’s downstairs drinking one of those lattes from a sachet when Spencer appears, dressed casual in skinny black jeans and a grey button down with the sleeves rolled up to the elbow. Damn him and looking smart as hell with minimum effort. Ryan spent a solid 15 minutes solely on his hair.

“Yo, so where are we meeting the happy couple?” Spencer chirps, annoyingly chipper for so early in the morning.

“Um, Mikey said we’re having ‘brunch’ at Denny’s, that diner on Crenshaw Boulevard. Apparently it’s where Frank and Gerard had their anniversary date or something equally mushy and sickly.” Spencer snorts at Ryan’s derisive tone and shakes his head.

“C’mon, Ryan, you think it’s cute don’t lie to me. Okay, and what time are we meeting them there?” Spencer moves over to the coffee machine Ryan kind of forgot was there, and Ryan checks his watch, nodding and shaking his head and making thinky-face.

“Um… 10:15 ish? So in about 20 minutes.” Spencer looks over to his friend, sitting calmly and statically in his chair.

“Well then Ryan we should probably leave. Or we’re gonna be late. Ya doofus.”

“Oh. Yeah. I guess.” Spencer smiles at his friends sleepy-morning lack of enthusiasm and hurries him to the front door yelling ‘andale! Andale!’ (which is ‘come on’ in Spanish) which, unsurprisingly, doesn’t make Ryan move faster.

They arrive at Denny’s a tad late, but not enough that it’s really noticed much by the ridiculously sappy couple. They enter the diner to see Mikey banging his head on the table and Frank and Gerard making googly-eyes at one another next to him. Ray’s flicking through his phone, trying his hardest to ignore everyone else and Bob’s eyeing up some waitress who’s bending over to clean the floor. Ryan and Spencer share a look before sidling over to the table only to be ignored.

“Hey, guys!” At Ryan’s loud exclamation, Gerard turns round and smiles broadly.

“Hey! You made it! Thanks for coming, it really means a lot to us.” Spencer moves to sit down, causing everyone to shuffle round to make room. Ryan just opts for the ‘bring a chair over’ approach because he appreciates group sitting, but he’s pretty sure if the guys squidge up any more, Mikey and Ray will merge into one form.

“No problem, plus I mean, you’re our friends and this is a big occasion, and Spencer didn’t have any waffles in his house so…” Mikey snorts from his position with his forehead resting against the edge of the table.

“Trust me, bro, it’s not worth the waffles being here. They’ve been staring into each other’s eyes and making out for the past 10 minutes. It’s disgusting. My poor, virgin eyes.” Mikey whines, bringing his head up to gaze sleepily at Ryan, who looks a little dazed himself.

“Mikey, your eyes are anything but virgins.” Ray comments, smirking coyly. Mikey flips him off and proceeds banging his head against the table. Ray just rolls his eyes and smiles in that familiar, mock-exasperated way. Ryan recognises it from Spencer. Although usually Spencer’s not mocking being exasperated.

“Can I get some food now? It’s early and Ryan woke me up this morning by crashing into fucking everything in his fucking room.” Spencer bitches loudly, finally causing ‘Frerard’ (which Ryan thinks is an unfair ship name and shouldn’t it be something like Frarard or Gernk) to disentangle themselves from each other more permanently.

“Yeah, sorry, it’s all kind of new and exciting for us right now, sorry.” Frank’s voice sounds small and wavery compared to how it normally sounds, and Ryan feels a little twinge of sadness and happiness run through him simultaneously.

“Order whatever you want, it’s on us.” Gerard pipes up, but Spencer simply frowns.

“Why are you paying for our meal? You’re the ones we’re celebrating, we can pay for our own food, bro.” Gerard makes a face at Spencer, but Frank kicks him under the table and he sighs a kind of defeat.

“But I feel bad. We dragged you from your homes for this, we should pay.” He has this pained expression that Ryan thinks must hurt.

“Yes. You should, you PDA assholes.” Mikey groans, his head now tipped back against the neck-rest of the dark red cushion of the seat. Ray elbows Mikey in the ribs and looks back to Gerard and Frank.

“We’ll pay, guys, it’s okay.” Ray says in his ‘final’ voice. Frank smiles dumbly and leans his head on his fiancés shoulder.

“Awesome, thanks! Now, order away chums!” Bob tears his gaze from the waitress’s butt for three seconds to raise an eyebrow at Frank, who sturdily ignores it. Ryan takes a good long time scanning the menu, even though there’s literally only two things he would ever consider putting anywhere near his face. When the waitress finally comes over (the waitress Bob was so intently watching), everyone orders swiftly and in matching monotones, well except for Frank and Gerard who practically squeal their orders. They talk about mindless stuff mostly, but their conversation inevitably leads back to the only thing anyone appears to care about: exes.

“One of Mikey’s exes was a right douche, d’ya remember, Mikes?” Mikey turns to Frank and makes a face.

“He really wasn’t that bad. We just were too different. He had too much… energy. It was boring.” Ryan chuckles into his filter coffee and shares a look with Spencer.

“Oh, c’mon, he was a total asshat!” Frank protests, bouncing in his seat a little.

“Frank, be nice. He was fine, they just didn’t work out.” Gerard tries to calm Franks vibrating form.

“Well, if you ask me it was a narrow escape,” His eyes turn to Ryan, “You had a narrow one a while ago didn’t you?” Ryan opens his mouth to speak, but then doesn’t really know what to say.

“Which one, dude? You’re gonna have to be more specific.” He settles with.

“You know, the one with the weird thing for chains.” Frank adds and Ryan sighs in fond remembrance.

“Ooh, Kevin. Yeah, he was… interesting.” Interesting would be an understatement

“Dude, the guy was into bondage with chains, you could have died.” Ryan waves Frank off and makes a ‘pft’ noise.

“He wouldn’t have done anything stupid. He knew what he was doing. Unlike Oli who was just a pyromaniac obsessed with circus acts. That was a recipe for disaster.” Spencer shakes his head, chuckling a little uncontrollably. Ryan kicks under the table, earning a little yelp from Ray, and Ryan winces apologetically, which only succeeds in making Spencer laugh harder.

“What about Brendon? Didn’t you guys go out for a while?” Bob interjects, frowning slightly. Everyone’s eyes widen all around the table, and there are several moments of awkward shuffling before Ryan clears his throat, frowning, and leans on the table.

“Um…er… yeah, we did. For a while. Long ago. In the past.”

“What happened?” Bob presses, clearly not feeling the tension at the table.

“Bob, seriously shut up.” Mikey chides, giving Bob the ‘stop-talking-now-or-I-will-kick-you’ scowl that makes anyone back down.

“Mikey it’s okay, I don’t mind, really.” Ryan placates, trying to sound blasé and only really succeeding in sounding kind of freaked out. He turns back to Bob, who’s looking majorly confused, and smiles coolly.

“We fought all the time, said horrible things we didn’t mean and generally made each other miserable. We hurt and called it love. Eventually, we had to call it quits… well, I called it quits. He mostly just… cried. But I made the right call. We didn’t know what love was.” There’s a silence that follows where Frank and Gerard look severely uncomfortable. Until, that is, Bob speaks up again.

“But, like, what made you realise you weren’t in love? I mean, like, if you were the one that broke up with him, that means you were the one that fell out of love with him… so… how did you know?” Bob’s tone is so… innocent and genuinely interested that Ryan finds it hard not to answer him. He spares a glance at Spencer and takes a deep breath.

“I realised we weren’t in love when I started falling in love with him.” Bob makes a little ‘o’ face and stares down into his lap.

“But… why was that a bad thing?” Bob adds, making Mikey groan and Gerard roll his eyes.

“Bob, would you leave it already! Ryan obviously doesn’t wanna talk about it!” Mikey moans, but Ryan’s waving him down.

“Seriously, man, I don’t mind.” Mikey doesn’t look like he believes him, but Ryan continues regardless.

“It was too hard. We toured together and lived together, and we were never apart. We thought we were in love and that was fine, we were happy to pretend, but as soon as pretending turned to reality, things got messier. Love complicates everything,” Ryan sends an apologetic glance over to the happy couple, “Um, well it complicates everything if you’re me and Brendon.” Frank smirks and presses his nose into Gerard’s shoulder.

Spencer’s sitting quietly in his seat, thinking over what Ryan’s just revealed. Well, Spencer already knew it, since Ryan told him before he broke up with Brendon. It hadn’t exactly seemed logical at the time, and it just sounded plain dumb when he relayed it to new people. The thing was, Ryan had been falling in love with Brendon, but Brendon had been as in love with Ryan as he thought was real. It was complex and messy, but it had been pretty darned real. Ryan had just been afraid, like always. Ryan didn’t like letting new people into his life romantically, and in trying to get away from the closeness, he pushed away what was possibly the love of his life.

The waitress chooses this moment to bring the food over, ending the conversation with little complaint from anyone. Ryan’s got this sad, faraway look in his eyes, and when Spencer nudges him and communicates his concern through frowning, Ryan just smiles and shrugs like it’s nothing. It’s not nothing, but Spencer can always ask later. They eat in relative silence, only speaking when there’s something dire to say, like to comment on how if Bob stares at the woman’s ass any longer his eyes will turn to butts, or some such mature remark.

“So, what we really wanted to talk about,” Gerard starts when everyone’s pretty much finished with their food, “Was the wedding, actually. We need to talk about best men and stuff.” Everyone sits a little straighter, and Frank smirks smugly at Mikey who sticks his tongue out at him.

“I mean my best man’s gonna be Mikey, kind of obviously,” Mikey grins at his brother, turning to mime laughter at everyone else, “But Frank still has to choose, and we need ring-bearers and page…men. So, that’s why you’re here, you lucky bunch!” Ryan knows they’re excited, he knows, but Gerard sounds like an idiot and he doesn’t want to be part of the wedding. He wants to sit on the sidelines and eat cake. That’s fine, that’s what he does.

“I ain’t wearing no ruffles.” Bob says abruptly, crossing his arms over his chest and clenching his jaw tightly.

“I think we can leave the ruffles to Ryan, Bob.” Mikey says, smiling evilly in Ryan’s direction. Ryan flips him off and scowls.

“I don’t wear ruffles anymore, dickweed. They make my head look too big.”

“Ah, and your ego already does that for you, so you don’t need any more emphasis?” And so Mikey falls victim to Ryan’s bitchface, but doesn’t appear to be affected by it. Annoyingly enough.

“Whatever Mikeyway, you’re just jealous because you never had the guts to wear them.” Mikey rolls his eyes and they turn back to Gerard and Frank, who look a little miffed.

“As we were saying, Frank still has to choose.” Gerard gestures round the table pretty vaguely, in a way that seems to mean ‘and you’re going to have to fight for your roles’. Unfortunately.

“So y’all better ingratiate yourselves with the groom, because otherwise you’ll find yourselves left outta the wedding.” Frank summarises, and then takes a large gulp of his coffee, only his coffee is scalding and he has to take several, open-mouthed breaths to soothe his burning tongue.

“Can’t we just call dibs? We always call dibs, and it always works!” Ray whines, slumping in his seat.

“That’s different, Ray, we call dibs on things like last doughball or who gets to pick the movie we watch on movie night. We don’t call dibs on my best man, that’s more important.” Frank rolls his eyes.

“Only marginally more important, though,” Ray mutters, earning a pointy elbow in the ribs from Mikey.

“Why am I here?” Spencer says suddenly, looking up from picking at his napkin.

“Because you won third prize in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant, of course!” Ryan squeals, framing his hands under his face and batting his eyelashes cutely.

“You’re here because you’re in the running… okay no that sounds like you really are in a pageant,” Gerard responds, “I mean, Frank’s considering you as well.”

“But, like, shouldn’t it be one of your closer friends, like, I mean, we’re friends but, like… I dunno.” Spencer throws his hands up and leans back in his seat.

“Spin, you’re being weird,” Ryan whispers, leaning closer to Spencer so no one else hears, “Accept the compliment of being considered and shut your trap.” Spencer looks up and catches Ryan’s gaze, communicating his want to be away.

“Hey, guys, sorry, we’ve gotta go, I’ve got some studio time in about an hour and I need to get there early. It was really nice to come celebrate with you, and congratulations on your engagement, it’s awesome. Have fun choosing between us gorgeous guys and we’ll get together soon, yeah?” Everyone nods at Ryan’s statement, and he pulls Spencer to his feet, mumbling ‘come on’, and waving to the crew as he departs.

As soon as they clear the diner doors, Ryan turns to his friend, keeping walking all the time.

“Okay, what’s up with you?”

“Whaddya mean, Ry? Be more specific.”

“I mean, why are you being so pissy to Frank and Gerard? It was nice of them to consider you to be involved in the ceremony and here you are acting like someone gave your puppy away.” Ryan frowns at his friend, bringing his arms round himself to ward off the cold.

“Urh, I don’t know… I know it’s nice of them but… I don’t want to.” Spencer’s eyes are firmly trained on the floor, and Ryan makes a face.

“Why not?” He asks, trying to work out why this is such a big deal, good God.

“It’s not my place.” Spencer whispers, kicking a pebble along the cracked concrete sidewalk.

“Pft, well you could at least pretend, that’s the polite thing to do, jackass.” Ryan bitches, swinging his legs out in a really spazzy way in order to splits-walk over a big, jagged gash in the floor.

“Ryan, did you ever think about getting married?” He doesn’t say it in an accusing way, it’s casual sounding and unimportant.

“Nah, man, could never decide on whether I wanted a frilly or lacy garter.” Ryan responds, keeping his voice light to counteract the dripping sarcasm. Spencer shoves him towards the road, Ryan giggles and slides his sunglasses onto his face, squinting into the sun.

“What do you want me to say, man? ‘Yeah I thought about it?’ What does it matter? I didn’t get married so it makes no difference whether I thought about it or not.” Ryan scuffs his feet along the ground as Spencer remains silent.

“Did you ever think about getting married?” Ryan queries, genuinely intrigued. Spencer shrugs noncommittally.

“Yeah, I guess. But I never had anyone specific waiting under the veil, you know? It was always just… people from around. No one special.” Spencer sighs and Ryan hums in a vague, disinterested way.

“Do you ever think you made a bad decision?” Spencer suddenly asks when they’re at the car. Ryan doesn’t say anything. They get in the car.

 

 

 

Ryan’s phone bleeps pathetically on the couch cushion, singing out to tell its news. Ryan picks it up and sees the first line of the text he’s just received, contemplating whether it entices him enough to read beyond the ‘…’ of the continued message. In the end he decides it does because he’s bored and needs a distraction from the loud ‘ur-ee-ur-ee’ of Shane’s bed springs.

To: Ryan, From: Soph<3

Little birdy told me a certain someone *cough cough* Brendo *cough* been hooking up w/ Sarah again. SLUT. Call me if ur round :*

Ryan’s not entirely sure what an appropriate reaction to this text is. It could be lies, Sarah tends to steer clear of male company, or it could be true, which isn’t unlikely as Brendon and Sarah have a bit of a colourful history. He decides to reply and check Sophie’s information source.

To: Soph<3, From: Ryan

Wud th@ b a little birdy called Audrey?

He receives a reply pretty much instantaneously, which makes him wonder whether Sophie knew he was going to ask and had pre-written her reply.

To: Ryan, From: Soph<3

Uhuh. Cheeky mutherfuker by th name of Gabriel he nd Bren r close now.

The name only rings a bell in the holy, angelic choir sense, so he doesn’t ask any more questions. Besides, if Brendon’s really desperate enough to hook up with Sarah, he must be more affected by the stress of the album more than Ryan originally thought. He replies easily to Sophie, until she says she has to go, and her virtual presence is replaced by William’s, who invites Ryan over pretty much immediately.

Ryan accepts before he can think about it. At least he’s not so desperate he’s fucking his ‘bisexual-but-leans-more-towards-women’ ex-girlfriend who never really gave a shit about him or his life. William’s great. He’s great. Just great.

Chapter Text

Spencer’s throwing another party. Brendon is invited. So is Gabe. Brendon knows Spencer didn’t want to invite him, but Gabe’s been a pretty integral part of Brendon’s life, so he’s coming; invitation or no. The party’s at 8pm, at Spencer’s house because his is the biggest, and you have to bring booze to be admitted at the door. An annoying rule, but one Brendon has employed many a time over the years.

It’s casual dress, which means jeans and a plain t-shirt basically. Not that Brendon would have dressed up if it had been formal wear. Because… well suits weren’t worth the effort unless you were performing or at a premier.

After Brendon’s liaise with Sarah, he’s been feeling shitty about himself. Well, that’s not strictly true. He’s been feeling slightly shitty about himself. He’s mostly just been feeling kind of smug. I mean, he got laid, and, granted, he did it because he was feeling sad about a certain someone… but he’s over that now.

“Gabe? You ready to go? We have to get all the way over to Spencer’s before 8.” Gabe grumbles from the next door room, saying something about it being fine, they’re going to make it, but Brendon stoically ignores him. It’s been kind of weird between him and Gabe since he ran away at the club to go and fuck Sarah. Gabe didn’t necessarily mind, he found some other ‘Justin’ equivalent to screw and he didn’t really think much of Brendon’s dash for the door. If anything, he’s persistent.

“C’mon, Gabes, I don’t wanna miss this. Spencer’s my friend and I promised I’d be on time this time.” Okay, so technically he promised no such thing, but Gabe can need some persuasion every now and again. “There’ll be hot boys there? If you get in early before they’re all taken.” He tries to make it sound as enticing as possible, coax Gabe out the house with the promise of cute, drunk boys.

“Why do I need hot boys when I got you, Bden?” He sounds tired, but serious. It makes something twist uncomfortably in Brendon’s stomach whenever Gabe says something like that. It’s the same twist he used to get when he would cheat on his girlfriends/boyfriends.

“Shut up and get your ass out here.”

“My cute ass, right?” Gabe clarifies as he saunters out the living room into the hallway, where Brendon rolls his eyes at him.

“Yeah, sure, your beautiful, awe-inspiring hiney that gives me reason to live. Move it faster.” Gabe smirks that sideways smirk at Brendon’s joking and moves past him to the front door.

“Come on, Brendon, or we’ll be late.” And with that he opens the door and strides to the car. Brendon heaves a put-upon sigh and follows Gabe, shaking his head wondering how he managed to end up babysitting the most sexual 4 year old in the history of ever.

Their car journey is slow but filled to the brim with too-loud, off-key singing along to songs on the radio they don’t know the words to, and not much talking. That’s what Brendon appreciates about Gabe; he’s kind of simple, no complications. What you see is what you get. With Ryan there were all these emotional layers and hidden meanings and sarcasm and book references and it was all really complicated and hard to follow.

Brendon stops thinking about Ryan. Nothing good comes from thinking about Ryan. He turns his attention to the road they’re driving down, only 100m away from Spencer’s house. There are lights spilling out onto the front drive and the thumping beat of some non-descript techno track pulsing down the street.

They pull up in a spare spot a little ways away from Spencer’s house and walk down the street in comfortable silence, hands stuffed in pockets and shoulders hunched against the cold.

When Brendon knocks on the door, there’s a bit of a wait before Spencer yanks it open and smiles an open-mouthed smile that shows off all his teeth and makes his face seem squished and wide.

“Hey! You’re here! On time! Nice one!” There are too many exclamations on his friend’s behalf for Brendon to feel wholly comfortable, but he smiles back graciously and steps forward to hug the host.

“Yeah, had to bust ass to get here, but we made it on the dot!” Not strictly true, but Brendon doesn’t want to start the evening badly.

“And for that, I applaud you. Now come on in, lots of people are already here, so make yourself comfortable and drop your booze in the kitchen like before.” Brendon says thanks and drags Gabe to the kitchen to arrange the bottles they brought. Jack Daniels, Smirnoff Apple Bite and some weird Brandy thing that Gabe says has been in the back of his cupboard for a while so if anyone dies they know who to blame.

“Who can I meet first?” Gabe asks, bouncing around like a 5 year old on a Sunny D high.

“Um, well, we’ll see who’s here, and then we can decide, heh?” Brendon responds, perfectly level-headedly. They head out into the living room to see people Brendon doesn’t really want to talk to, so they move to the rec room, which is entirely more prosperous. Andy, Joe, Pete, Patrick, Ian, Shane, Butch and some other random guy are dotted around the room, engaging in various activities. Pete and Patrick are trying to become one life-form (as far as Brendon can tell), Andy and Joe are playing foosball while Ian, Shane, Butch and Newbie are standing and talking animatedly.

“See anyone you recognise?” Gabe whispers in Brendon’s ear, and when Brendon turns to look at him, his face is kind of scared. That’s new.

“Yeah, um, everyone except beardy over there,” Brendon replies, pointing subtly at newbie.

“Cool, so… who first?” Gabe looks kind of wired, so Brendon makes his decision quickly.

“Ian and Butch, they’re great, they’ll talk business but they’re mostly pretty laid back. I’ll introduce you so don’t bother asking me who’s who, got it?” Gabe nods and they make their way over to the small huddle.

 

 

Brendon gets bored very quickly when they start talking about finance and management, he’s never really cared for that side of things, he likes writing, listening, touring. That’s always been his thing. He mumbles something about needing a drink, receiving a few hurried recognitions as he slumps off. Pete and Patrick are still cuddled fiercely together, so close that it doesn’t look like Pete has his own head because Patrick’s is covering it.

The living room is more lively when Brendon re-enters, he notices Spencer talking to some cute, tall guy with beautifully combed hair and starts over there when he realises the cute, tall guy has his arm wrapped around someone Brendon wishes he didn’t have his arm wrapped around. He swallows nervously.

He heads for the kitchen, dead-set on fixing himself a cocktail of something strong. God, he really doesn’t want this to affect him as much as it does. It’s so… infuriating. He gets that Ryan was the one who dumped him, he gets that. But… urgh, he’s just so angry. And a person can get really tired of being angry all the time.

He pours himself whiskey and vodka in one glass and drains it, wincing at the absolutely vile taste and heated burn at the back of his throat.

“Mmnglarugh,” is all that comes out as he dances round the kitchen, pulling silly faces, “Motherfucker, that is disgusting.”  He sticks his tongue out and full-body shivers before shaking his head and breathing deeply.

“You all right there?” Brendon swivels at Ryan’s voice, still making a sourpuss face, which Ryan promptly scoffs at.

“Obviously not,” He adds, smirking as Brendon shakes away the rest of the taste, “Sorry, came in here to get a drink.”

“That’s okay, I’m just leaving,” Brendon kind of growls, his voice still gruff from the spirits. He coughs, then coughs again, then wheezes, then makes his way to the sink to get a glass of water. He drains it and turns to see Ryan watching him.

“What?” He asks, feeling better after the water.

“Just… doesn’t that kind of defeat the point of the alcohol?” Ryan asks, raising an eyebrow.

“Maybe, but I’d kind of like to keep my throat, my whole livelihood kind of rests on the thing in my throat.” Ryan laughs and rolls his eyes.

“You’re an idiot.” Brendon tries to be offended, but can’t really find it in himself, so he just smiles.

“Yeah, well, you already knew that.” They stand looking at the floor for a few moments before Ryan speaks up.

“Oh, hey, there’s someone I want you to meet,” Brendon inwardly flinches, it’ll be adorable, lanky, and probably spiritually fulfilling from before and he’s not sure he can deal with that right now.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah, c’mon. Oh wait, drink, um. Scotch?” Ryan seems flustered, so Brendon feels more than comfortable cracking a joke.

“Ryan, what have I told you about trying to sneak me out on dates, for the last time it’s not going to happen.” Ryan snorts a laugh and rolls his eyes, pouring something that really could be anything into a plastic cup.

“In your dreams, Urie. You don’t even like scotch.” He says it so offhandedly Brendon almost passes it off, but it’s the little things that get to you.

“Pft, I could develop a taste, Ross, you don’t know me.”

“Hah, yeah I do. You always said scotch tasted like piss with fermented coke in it.” Brendon shrugs because it’s true and follows Ryan out the kitchen and back into the living room.

“Don’t hate it because you ain’t it.” He remarks, pulling a stupid sideways duck-face, which Ryan kind of frowns at.

“Are you high?” Ryan asks, tone serious, as they shimmy and squeeze through the, now enormous, crowd in the room.

“High on life, yes.” Ryan shakes his head and resolves to ignore Brendon until they reach Spencer and skinny-cute kid from before sitting on the sofa. Ryan seems to light up, and passes the cup to the boy, sitting beside him on the cushioned arm of the couch.

“Here, I don’t know if it’s scotch, but if you start feeling numb I’ll call 911 for you.” The boy rolls his eyes fondly, accepting the cup and taking an experimental sip. To his credit, he only coughs a little and doesn’t put the drink down.

“Ry, you haven’t introduced me to your friend.” The guy comments, bringing Brendon back to himself. Spencer’s standing quietly; face strategically buried in his cup, eyes flicking between Brendon and Ryan. Ryan starts and turns back towards Brendon, eyes wide and innocent. Fucking prick.

“Brendon, this is William, William, Brendon.” Brendon smiles briefly, but William grins and sticks his hand out to shake. After a moment of contemplation, Brendon takes his hand and shakes. But that moment of hesitation is what William notices.

“It’s really nice to meet you, Brendon. I haven’t heard much about you other than how you’re a great musician.” And, damn it, Brendon really wants to hate this guy, but he looks and sounds so genuine that it’s kind of hard.

“Well, thanks, not entirely sure that’s something you heard off either of these guys, but the sentiment’s appreciated.” Brendon glances at Spencer, but he’s looking at Ryan. William laughs and it’s fucking angelic, someone seriously has it in for Brendon tonight.

“You underestimate your friends, they’re actually very complimentary.” William slides his arm round Ryan’s waist and leans his head a little closer to Ryan’s body. Brendon blushes, which he indisputably puts down to being complimented, nothing else, and shuffles from foot to foot.

“Sure… So, what do you do, William?” Urh, it’s even a nice name. Screw Ryan and his great taste in guys. William’s eyes brighten just a little bit and Brendon can see Ryan’s face practically sparkle at it. Fucking romance is so fucking disgusting.

“I write songs and scores for like movies and TV and stuff. And sometimes they let me scout out artists for films if they’re having trouble finding someone, or they can’t be bothered. It’s a lot more interesting than it sounds, though.” William blushes at himself and Ryan fucking rubs his arms, it’s pathetic.

“I never said it didn’t sound interesting,” Brendon retorts, feeling the need to defend himself, “It must require a lot of musical talent and good taste though, right? I mean otherwise you could be writing every score to the tune of Metallica, right?” William snickers a little, then gets this little frown between his eyes.

“Yeah, but, they do ask for specific things. It’s not like I wander into a studio and write whatever the fuck I want because I feel like it. I have guidelines I have to stick to.” William might mean it perfectly neutrally, but Brendon sees it as an attack and goes on defence/offence.

“I don’t think creativity can be confined to strict rules, I think you need to be able to interpret things according to your opinions and stance.” Brendon’s tone is a little sharp and William looks kind of afraid and confused. Brendon feels a small pressure on his arm and turns to Spencer who looks stern.

“Brendon,” He uses his warning voice and Brendon deflates a little.

“Sorry, William, that sounds cool. Have you done any films or anything I might have heard of?” William glances speculatively to Ryan, who’s staring at Brendon, then looks back to Brendon and shrugs.

“Depends if you’ve ever seen Avatar, the Twilights or The Hangovers,” Brendon’s mouth hangs open a bit because wow. That’s a hard resume to beat. It’s not even like William’s bragging, he just sounds curious and kind of proud.

“Wow, okay, yep, heard of them,” Brendon huffs a laugh and William smiles along with it, clearly more comfortable with the tension diffusion. “Seriously, bro, that’s awesome, you must be really talented.” Brendon says it without malice or any malicious intent, and it is received as so. Ryan’s giving him a weird, faraway look which he’s trying really hard to ignore, and Spencer looks like he won a million dollar bet.

“Thanks, yeah, well, I mean, I’m pretty average, but I worked on The Amazing Spiderman and they’re doing a number 2 which is released next year and I’ve been allowed to scout the people for the song.” He’s bouncing around in his seat and Brendon’s reminded of himself when he used to talk about music.

“That’s cool, not average. Who’d you scout?” Brendon is kind of genuinely interested because he’s a nerd and he loved The Amazing Spiderman comics as a kid.

“Um, an Australian band, they’re making it pretty big now, Tonight Alive? They’re gonna sing the film’s song ‘The Edge’ which I helped them write. If you want the demo I’m sure I can pull a few strings, I heard you’re writing an album right now?” Urh, why couldn’t William just be like a pothead or a megalomaniac or something? He’s so… normal.

“Yeah, that’d be really awesome. I’ll definitely check them out as well, The Amazing Spiderman was my hero, dude,” Spencer raises his eyebrows at Brendon and he coughs a little, regretting mentioning his love of the superhero (although he’s glad he doesn’t mention that he always preferred Peter Parker because he reminded him of himself), and turns his eyes to the floor, “Yes, we’re writing an album. It’s due out in about 3 weeks, which is pretty cool and we’re really excited.”

“How many songs you having on it?” William asks, frowning slightly and taking a sip of his drink, which he grimaces a little at.

“We’re supposed to be publishing 12, but we’ve only got 10.” Brendon shrugs, but his comment prompts a reaction from Spencer.

“I thought we only had 9 songs?”

“I wrote another one.” Brendon replies easily, watching the space next to Spencer’s head with meagre attention.

“Huh,” Spencer squeaks, and Brendon’s about to move on, when, “What’s it called?”

“Does it really matter?” Brendon knows it comes out icily and sharp, but he isn’t in the mood to discuss it now. He didn’t even mean to say 10, he didn’t even want to include the song, but he guesses they need the material and whatever.

“S’pose not, I was just curious.” Spencer mumbles, taking a gulp of his drink and looking to the door. They stand in a seriously awkward silence for a while, William leans further into Ryan’s side, and Ryan rubs his boyfriend’s back comfortingly, while Spencer gazes towards the door like he’s willing someone to knock.

Then someone does knock. Which is kind of frustrating because it means Spencer leaves and Brendon really doesn’t want to be stuck with the happy couple. Urh, life sucks.

“So, how’d you two meet?” God, he really doesn’t care. He’d rather scrape his eyes out with a rusty spork than actually hear their story. Fortunately, Ryan understands.

“Brendon, don’t bother, it’s weird and you don’t really give half a shit.” Brendon feigns a hurt look, but it’s too much effort and quickly dissolves into a half-hearted eye-roll.

“Yeh, you’re right, but I thought it would be polite to at least offer.” Ryan raises one eyebrow.

“Since when did you care about what seemed polite or not?”  

“Hey, I’m allowed to be charming and considerate, just because I wasn’t when we were going out doesn’t mean I can’t be now.” In fairness, Ryan only scoffs a little bit, but William goes pale and Brendon sticks his tongue out at Ryan.

“Y-You guys used to - to go out?” William stumbles over his words and grips his cup a little tighter. Ryan’s eyes widen slightly and he whips his head round to face his boyfriend. Brendon looks to William as well, because William’s staring at him, but he doesn’t transform his smile into anything else quick enough so he comes off as kind of a dick.

“Bill,” Bill? Seriously? “No, well, yeah, but like, ages ago. We hadn’t talked in 4 years till I came to LA to do my record.” Ryan’s waving his hands around emphatically, while Brendon frowns his ‘this-is-serious-and-I-agree-with-everything-being-said’ frown, nodding his head every other word to really emphasise his agreement.

“We’re over with a capital O-V-E-R.” Ryan looks over to him and narrows his eyes, telling Brendon he’s not helping and he should leave, except then he can’t because he’s stuck to the floor in shock. Spencer’s standing in the doorway with an old face. Ryan notices Brendon’s astonishment and follows his gaze to see what he’s looking at. Spencer smiles at them and brings his guest over to the sofa.

“Guess who I found?” He coos, smiling with his whole face.

“Um, hey? Long time no see!” Brendon opens his mouth several times, trying each time to say something, anything, that will express a sentiment similar to his feelings, but each time to no avail. Ryan’s in the same predicament, alternating between opening his eyes wider and flaring his nostrils a lot.

“So, articulate as ever, I see. My absence has changed nothing. I love it.” William chooses this moment to awkwardly get up.

“Ima go over… there, and get something to… bye.” He scampers off, leaving Ryan’s arm hanging limply by his side.

“Guys, c’mon, this is no way to treat your friend. I mean, I got the gang together! How insane, right!? So, say something!” Spencer’s tone is too happy, too easy. Brendon’s still having trouble catching his brain up with his eyes right now.

“It’s okay, Spence, they’re just shocked. I must admit, I’d be in the same state were it me you’d ambushed with ghosts of band members past.” Spencer looks sceptical, but understands where his friend’s coming from.

“Still, I feel like they should be at least trying to say something.” Spencer huffs, and Ryan finds himself capable of speech.

“Jon Fucking Walker, I cannot believe my eyes. You must be an apparition, leave this place and go towards the light!” Jon smiles as Ryan gets up, theatrically throwing his arms around, and they hug with matching smiles etched on their faces. Brendon still doesn’t know how to react.

“Hey, Rybow, how ya been? Heard you’re making music again? Always nice to know you’re getting on with your life again.” Ryan half-heartedly punches Jon in the arm, but continues smiling.

“Yeah, more music. But you, man, you’re married and a kid and music you’re living the dream! Well, except the ‘married to a woman’ thing, because, ew, weird.” Jon smiles his billion watt smile and shrugs.

“What can I say, man? I like pussies.” Ryan rolls his eyes and snorts.

“You’re an idiot. But seriously, congrats. We’re all proud of you.” Ryan sounds sincere as well, and puts his hand on Jon’s shoulder in a brotherly fashion. Jon smiles, (closed mouth this time) and turns to Brendon.

“And how’s Uri Geller from Panic! At the Dildo? Not getting into any trouble I hope?” And despite himself, Brendon laughs. Jon was always a good guy, he was never meanly sarcastic or insulting, he was just kind of… awesome.

“Fuck off, I’ve been fine. Come here, man.” Brendon moves forward and they embrace warmly.

“Wow, I can’t believe you guys are on album 4. It seems like just yesterday I was saving your asses by agreeing to be your bassist. How time flies.”

“The reason Jon’s here, fyi, is that it’s his birthday party so like, say happy birthday.” Spencer jumps forward, wrapping his arm round Jon’s shoulders and smiling like a goon.

“Oh, okay, happy birthday, Jon. Welcome to your birthday party, sorry I didn’t get you a present, only we didn’t know this was your birthday party.” Brendon offers, sending a pointed and disapproving glare Spencer’s way. He ignores it but the sentiment remains.

“Yeah, we would’ve gone all out if someone had only told us. How old does that make you now then?” Ryan adds, shuffling round, apparently having a dilemma about where to put his arms.

“Um, 28, and don’t worry about presents, Spencer told me I was a surprise. I know it’s usually the other way round, like I’m not supposed to know about the party and you are, but whatever.” He doesn’t say it being mean, he says it being teasing and light-hearted and Jon. It’s refreshing.

“How about I go get you a drink, and you three can catch up on all the lost years or whatever.” Spencer scuttles off and they pretty much do as he says. There’s a lot to talk about, and Brendon thinks it’s nice not having to think about work or boyfriends or unrequited crushes, just talking to his old-time friends and being comfortable. So what if it’s the calm before the storm? Everyone’s always telling you to embrace what you’re given, why can’t you enjoy the calm? The calm is good. Calm is nice. Nice things are nice.

Yeah.

Chapter Text

They talk for what Brendon clocks as about an hour, before more people filter through the door and Jon gets dragged off to catch up with someone who recognises him. Brendon’s left with Ryan, which is more uncomfortable than he’s trying to make it out to be.

“So… William, huh?” Ryan rolls his eyes as Brendon scoots closer to him on the couch.

“Brendon, don’t even start.”

“Hey,” Brendon says, holding up his hands in defence, “Wow, just curious, keep your chill, man.” There’s a moment of silence where Brendon takes a swig of his beer.

“He’s nice.” Ryan’s staring at his hands, and Brendon glances at him speculatively.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Ryan catches Brendon’s eye and they don’t say anything for a while.

“You really like him?”

“Yeah,” Ryan breathes, “Yeah, I do.”

“Well,” He starts, “That’s, er, good. That’s good.”

“It is. Spencer says I need someone who’s just… good.” Ryan sounds haltingly plaintive, and after so many years of knowing the guy, Brendon picks up on it.

“But, there’s a difference between want and need, right?”

Ryan doesn’t reply.

 

 

Mikey saunters over 10 minutes later. Neither Brendon nor Ryan have moved since Jon left and look up, slightly startled, when Mikey starts talking in that monotone he sports.

“My ex is here.” His face gives away nothing, except that his cheekbones would cut your hand if you slapped them, but Brendon already knew that.

“Join the club, bro.” Brendon gestures to Ryan, who rolls his eyes  and snorts.

“Which ex, Mikey?” Ryan asks, sending a final desperate glance Brendon’s way.

“The one I was talking about at the diner. The one Frank doesn’t like.” Mikey glances over his shoulder in what Brendon suspects for anyone else would be a nervous gesture. For Mikey it’s kind of just… looking.

“Wow, wow, wow, which one you were talkin’ about where?” Brendon jumps in, eyes wide and excited. Ryan rolls his eyes, again, and Mikey looks down at him.

“I had a boyfriend a while ago who, according to Frank, was an asshat. He wasn’t that bad he was just kind of over-excited,” Mikey cocks his head to the side and squints, “Kind of like you, actually.” Brendon scowls at tall-and-lanky and huffs back in his seat.

“I’m not over-excited, I’m just the right amount of excited. Like a puppy on a high.” Mikey just frowns, which makes Brendon sink further into his seat.

“I’m going to get a drink,” Ryan says, getting up, Brendon sends him a look which Ryan shakes his head at and adds, “Of water. Idiots.” Brendon holds his hands up again and Ryan walks off, followed by Mikey, which doesn’t bother Brendon because Mikey can be kind of underwhelming at times.

Brendon gets bored of sitting alone and so gets up, possibly to find Gabe, possibly to find someone else who’s drunk enough to talk to him. He wanders around, noting Pete and Patrick still curled together, at least he thinks it’s Pete and Patrick… it could just be one, really big, hairy person… with four legs, yeah it’s Pete and Patrick. The music is too loud and kind of oppressive, and Brendon finds himself drawn outside onto the patio. Ryan likes the stars, he used to say Brendon was his favourite star – he was the biggest and shone the brightest in Ryan’s world. It was incredibly cheesy, but it also gave Brendon that feeling of warmth and comfort and just… he guesses it was contentment, although it felt a lot like love. Which is dumb. Brendon’s never been in love.

“Brendo, oh my God, your friends are awesome! That guy, Butch, is like the coolest dude I have ever met! You know he worked with Weezer?!” Gabe gushes, bouncing up and down and causing his drink to spill over his hand in all the excitement.

“Yeah, dude, I know, I’ve been working with him non-stop for the past, like, 7 months. But you liked the, er, various, er, peoples?” Brendon asks, cocking one eyebrow and shuffling backwards to avoid the spill-zone from Gabe’s drink.

“You know some cool people, Brendon, cool people with lots of booze.” Gabe raises his eyebrows to emphasise his point and Brendon shakes his head at his friend, “So, where’d the people you were talking to go?” Gabe continues, looking round like they’re hiding somewhere nearby.

“Oh, they, er, went to get drinks,” Brendon shrugs, “I came out here to clear my head; it’s too loud in there.” Gabe nods understandingly and moves over to the railing, leaning over it and giving Brendon a great view of his ass… were he looking, of course.

“I always thought LA nights were prettiest. They don’t boast anything too special, they’re modest and just sorta there.” Gabe drones, staring up, cricking his neck at an awkward angle.

“That’s weirdly poetic for you, Gabs. How much have you had to drink?” Brendon joins Gabe against the cool railing, craning his neck skywards also. He tries not to think about the last time he was here, looking up at the polluted sky with a warm body next to his.

“Shut up, it’s my guilty pleasure,” Gabe sighs, taking a moment to look at Brendon, whose features are curiously illuminated by the light pouring out of the French windows. He can see the outline of Brendon’s nose, the slope and stoop of his lips, chin and neck. Gabe decides Brendon’s pretty for a guy, all curved lines and soft contours. He looks weathered, but that’s all part of the job, and it’s not like Gabe’s any spring chicken himself.

“If you were a superhero, what would you be?” Brendon asks, jolting Gabe from the weird, romantically artsy moment he was having.

“Disaster Boy. My superpower would be the ability to make good girls go bad,” after a moments consideration, he adds, “and good boys. I consider myself pretty lenient on the whole ‘gender’ thing.” Brendon scoffs but it quickly turns into a laugh.

“You’re an idiot, but I respect that.” Gabe laughs at Brendon’s serious, contemplative tone and sighs into the night.

“So, what would you be?”

“I used to think I’d be like Spiderman; nerdy on the inside, but super cool on the outside, making the world better. I guess I was that for a while… but… I guess I’m not really a superhero. I’m more the villain.” Gabe creases his forehead and scrunches his nose.

“I don’t get it. You’re not the villain. Villains don’t exist, Brendon. I think there are two types of people in this world: good people who do bad things but are sorry, and insecure people who drive themselves to do bad things and don’t care. I also think that no one knows which they are until they meet someone clever enough to change their view. Villains are supposed to be evil; pure, unadulterated evil… but that doesn’t exist. You’re not a villain, idiot.” Brendon’s not certain what he’s supposed to have taken away from this insight. He thinks it’s something along the lines of whether he’s good or not, but it’s hard to pick up on the threads of Gabe’s conversations, they tend to be a little tangled somewhere in the middle.

“I’m not a good person.” Is what Brendon eventually decides is a good enough answer.

“Have you done bad things?” Gabe questions, narrowing his eyes quizzically.

“Yeah,” Brendon replies with feeling.

“Do you feel guilty about them?” Brendon pauses for a second.

Yeah.”

“Well, I think it’s pretty simple then.” Gabe finalises, turning away from the railing and slinking back into the party. He’s quickly replaced by Jon, who mumbles something about needing to get away from all the smoke because he has a wife who will kill him if she thinks he’s been smoking pot again. Brendon smiles half-heartedly at him and swirls the drink round the bottom of the cup Gabe left. It’s murky orange and smells really bad. It could be some whiskey/rum combination, Brendon’s not sure.

“What’re you doing out here, B? I thought you were the ‘party animal’ now?” Jon’s tone is light and mocking, and he nudges Brendon’s forearm with his elbow.

“Shut up, Walker, you know my name not my story.” Brendon puts on his cali-girl-sitcom voice and Jon laughs, deep and real.

“Sure, because that time you drank too much hot chocolate on tour and threw up in one of Spencer’s drums isn’t part of your ‘story’.” Brendon scoffs, and then looks out across the garden, remembering that time.

“Man, he was so pissed. I thought he was gonna jam his drumstick through my throat.”

“Mhm, angry men with pointy sticks is never a good combination.” Brendon laughs his agreement and wheezes a little before regaining his composure.

“Is he still like that?” Jon asks, looking intently at Brendon.

“Like what?”

“Short tempered? I mean, I know you bring out the irritated male in all people you interact with, but his was more nature. Is he still like that?” Brendon shoves Jon, pouting magnificently.

“Yes, he’s still like that. Well… after you and Ryan left he was way more like that… it’s died down a bit, but occasionally Spin-cycle gets turned on.” Jon nods understandingly and looks out over the garden with a frown on his face. The nickname for Spencer came about because Ryan kept calling Spencer ‘Spin’ and then one particularly shitty day, Spencer went all berserker in the studio and all Brendon could think to do was crack a joke. It hadn’t helped, per say, but it had been funny at the time. So, whenever Spencer went into one of his red-faced fits, they referred to it as the ‘Spin-cycle’ getting turned on.  Like a washing machine? Yeah, it wasn’t Brendon’s finest pun moment.

“You gonna go back in?” Jon asks after several minutes of mutually agreed silence.

“Um, yeah, in a minute. I might just stay out here a bit longer. It’s not all that often I get to be by myself.” Jon nods and pats Brendon on the back as he makes his way back through the French doors and into the kitchen.

Brendon just breathes. He knows someone will come out soon and he’ll be surrounded by people again, so he makes the most of just standing in silence. He never used to be like this, he always used to want more noise to fill up the silence that comes with loneliness. He guesses he’s grown out of that now. Or, Ryan had a permanent effect on him… that’s the explanation he’s hoping it might be. He stands for 15 more seconds before he hears shouting coming from inside. It’s not the usual, drunken slander-match he’s used to, this sounds more serious. He sighs and heads indoors, coming in just in time to hear someone shout ‘I WOULD HAVE IF MAYBE YOU’D PUT OUT!’ which maybe isn’t the thing he really wants to hear.

Brendon rounds the corner into the living room to see most everyone at the party gathering in various spaces round the room. The only people moving and/or speaking are Mikey, Gerard, Frank, Gabe, Spencer and Butch. Mikey is shouting at Gabe, Gerard is trying to pull Mikey away, Frank’s standing between Mikey and Gabe, while Spencer and Butch are on either side of Gabe trying to yank him into the hallway. Pete is standing looking pissed, Jon looks scared and Ryan has this weird, unreadable expression on as he stands with his arm round William’s waist.

Brendon just watches them for a second as he wonders how this even happened. He leaves for 10 minutes and the party turns into a screaming match. He pushes through the throng, who move willingly, and gets to Gabe, who’s still screaming at Mikey.

“IT WASN’T LIKE YOU MADE ANY EFFORT WHATSOEVER TO BE NICE TO MY FRIENDS! YOU WERE TOO BUSY FUCKING GUYS BEHIND MY BACK!” Gabe’s cheeks are red and his eyes dark and warning.

“OH, FUCK YOU! LIKE YOU NEVER CHEATED! SURE AS HELL WASN’T MY BLACK, LACY THONG I FOUND UNDER THE BED, ASSHOLE!” Mikey’s lost the bored monotone, screaming like his life depends on it.

“OH SURE, TURN IT ON ME, LIKE ALWAYS! DON’T RIGHT YOUR WRONGS WITH MY MISTAKES!”

“MISTAKES? MISTAKES?! THEY WEREN’T MISTAKES, GABE, THEY WERE DISASTROUS IDIOCIES!”

“DON’T GO ALL DICTIONARY ON ME NOW, I WILL NOT FEEL BELITTLED!” Brendon takes this opportunity to grab Gabe hard by the forearm and pull. Gabe doesn’t even flinch.

“YOU’RE SO OBLIVIOUS, IT’S INSANE! I REALLY LIKED YOU AND YOU COULDN’T SEE PAST YOUR STUPID JEALOUSY TO NOTICE ME! I… I thought you were a good guy. Huh, wouldn’t be the first time I made a bad judgement call.” Mikey dies down and swiftly stalks out the room. Brendon pulls harder on Gabe’s arm; he’s had enough of all the fighting.

“Gabe, come with me now or I am going to feed you to the lions. And by lions I mean Frank, Pete and Andy. All of whom can throw an enviable punch.” Gabe looks at Brendon briefly, before looking at all the faces watching him, then looking out the door at where Mikey left.

“Fine. I’m coming. Sorry, I – Okay, I’m – yeah okay.” Gabe hangs his head and lumbers compliantly after Brendon, who drags him down the hallway and out the front door. Brendon can come back in a few seconds to say goodbye to everyone, this is slightly more pressing.

“What the hell was that, dude?” He doesn’t shout, because shouting isn’t what Gabe needs right now. He learned that in all his time with Ryan.

“I… I just saw him and – I wanted to talk, but – but he was so blasé, ya know? And I knew he would do that, I knew. Then I kept talking – like now – and he got all mad and then there were people watching and… man, I’m such an asshole.” Gabe stops walking with Brendon towards the car and cradles his head in his hands, bending at the waist and groaning. Brendon turns to look at him and sees himself, 4 years ago, crying over the first chance-meeting he had with Ryan after they’d broken up. It was awful.

“Gabe… what you did… wasn’t smart,” Gabe snuffles out a laugh, and Brendon continues, “But, I know why you did it. I know how… frustrating it can be. But you’ve gotta make your peace with it. Mikey’s not with you anymore, and arguing about who did what and why isn’t going to make anything better. It’s only gonna make it worse. Trust me.” Gabe drags his hands down his face to look at Brendon, smudging tears down his cheeks as he goes.

“You’re right. I know you’re right I just… I just wish it wasn’t so hard.” Gabe shakes his head and sighs a couple of times.

“It’ll get easier.” Brendon reassures, stepping a little closer to the other man.

“How do you know?” Gabe asks, narrowing his eyes sceptically. Brendon just shrugs.

“Because it has to.” Gabe watches him with an intent gaze for a while, licks his lips, and moves forward. It’s not a really spectacular kiss or anything. It definitely could have been better, but neither man is really thinking about that. Gabe’s lonely and upset, and Brendon’s confused and a little dejected. There’s no ‘asking for entrance’ or ‘tongue battling for dominance’ because that’s cliché and untrue. It’s lips and teeth and lots of hurried grabbing.

“Oh… er… Sorry, I didn’t mean to – Spencer wanted to know whether you were coming back.” Brendon breaks away and stares, wide eyed, as Ryan scratches the back of his head awkwardly. He takes a step back from Gabe, who looks hurt by the action, and then moves round towards Ryan, who takes a step back from Brendon.

“Yeah – I was just… I’ll be back in in a sec.” Brendon stumbles over his tongue, and Ryan looks unimpressed.

“Okay. I’m just gonna – yeah.” Ryan spins on his heel and practically bolts back to the house.

“Sorry.” Gabe mumbles.

“No, it’s… You can sit in the car, I’ll be right back, I need to say bye to some people before I go.” Gabe nods and heads sullenly to the car, jingling the keys nervously in his hands. Brendon spares him a small glance, then jogs back to Spencer’s. The door is unlocked and he walks in, expecting music but greeted by murmuring voices.

“Hey, sorry, I just had to get him to the car,” Brendon announces to Spencer, eyes flickering over to Ryan, who’s got his eyes firmly trained on William.

“That’s okay dude. Thanks for getting him outta here. I was seriously expecting having to hire that carpet cleaner to get the blood stains out.” Spencer shrugs and looks over to where Gerard is talking to Mikey, who’s stoically un-teary.

“Sorry for bringing him. I didn’t know he knew anyone here. And I certainly didn’t know he’d react that way if he did.” Spencer sighs and rubs his forehead.

“It’s all right, Brendon. You didn’t know. Wasn’t exactly what I was imagining when I was planning this party… but it’s not fair to let you and Ryan be the only people to compete for most hostile ex-couple!” Brendon pushes Spencer’s shoulder and snickers.

“Shut up, but I am still sorry this happened. I’m taking him home now, I’ll probably call you tomorrow. Is Mikey okay?” Brendon looks over to the Way boys, Gerard’s hugging Mikey fiercely, but Mikey’s not really hugging back.

“Um, he’s a little traumatised, but nothing a glass of something strong won’t fix. Make sure Gabe’s okay, too. I don’t really like the guy, but it takes two to tango.” With that, Spencer side-hugs Brendon and goes off into one of the back rooms. Brendon walks through to the rec room where he finds Jon.

“Hey, Jon, sorry your party got ruined.” Brendon sighs, shoving one hand into his pocket and motioning the other in a gesture that means ‘as you can see, all the chaos’. Jon ‘pft’s and makes a stupid face, waving off Brendon’s apology.

“Dude, you didn’t even know it was my party until, like, 2 hours ago. Plus, it was kind of hilariously entertaining. That Gabe guy, man he blew his top! But seriously, don’t worry. It was nice to see everyone again.” Jon sounds so sincere, but Brendon’s still sorry.

“Gabe… I didn’t know he knew anyone here. I thought he would be a complete stranger and it would be fine. But no he had to have a messy history with someone!” Brendon rubs his free hand through his hair and leans his head back, groaning. “Man, I wish I knew someone no one else knew. Anonymity makes life so much easier.” Jon frowns playfully and gestures to Brendon’s whole being.

“Says the worldwide hit pop-star. Sure. You’re such an expert in public obscurity, good job on that, by the way.” Brendon swats his hand in Jon’s direction, but Jon moves as quick as his cats and easily dodges the half-hearted swing.

“Whatever. You suck. But I’m still gonna go, I need to get Gabe home. It was really nice to see you, and we should keep in touch.” Jon nods and smiles gently. He then pulls Brendon into a hug and pats his back in a brotherly fashion.

“It was really nice to see you, B-dawg. Have a nice rest of the night.” Brendon nods, replicates the sentiment and heads to the door, bumping into several people on his way, so he says bye to them too. He accidentally catches Ryan’s eye on his exit route and nods, smiling and moving his hand in an aborted wave movement. Ryan nods back, attempting an incredibly fake smile that Brendon just imagines is real.

Brendon jumps into the car, shaking his head as if that will clear the cold that clings to it. Gabe is sitting in the passenger seat with his head leant against the window. He doesn’t look like he wants to talk, so Brendon doesn’t push it. He turns on the car and pulls into the road, sparing some glances at Gabe because he looks a little dead.

“Yo, bro, you all right?” Brendon asks as he brakes at a stop sign. Gabe grunts and rolls his head around a bit. Brendon smacks his lips and nods.

“Okaay then,” He shifts the car into gear and turns left, heading towards Gabe’s house, “You know, I’m sorry about before. When Ryan came I just got a little… freaked.” Gabe grunts and rolls his head round to face Brendon, his eyes are half closed and his mouth is all frowny.

“Can you stay over tonight?” Gabe grumbles, completely disregarding Brendon’s apology. Brendon frowns and ‘er’s for a while.

“Um, er, I don’t, er, know if I should,” But Gabe pouts and generally looks like a kicked puppy, “But I guess if it’s only for, um, for tonight, then, er… yeah okay, sure, fine.” Gabe looks less upset as Brendon trips over his own tongue, and proceeds to roll his head back against the window. The rest of the drive is in silence because Brendon can’t think of anything inoffensive to say, and Gabe’s not exactly talkative.

When they get to Gabe’s house, there’s nowhere to park so they have to drive around for a while, but when they eventually get out the car, Gabe’s all sluggish and has to fumble with his keys for about 2 minutes before Brendon plucks them out his hands and opens the door for him.

“I think you should go to bed, Gabe, you look tired.” Gabe nods and heads straight for his room, which has an ensuite, so Brendon doesn’t have to worry about peeing or anything. Brendon heads for the kitchen because he hasn’t eaten anything in a while, and finds some bread that hasn’t gone mouldy and some peanut butter in one of the cupboards. He’s halfway through his ‘meal’ when Gabe reappears in his pjs (which consist of an old Misfits tshirt and whatever boxers he’s wearing), leaning against the door jamb looking really tired.

“I thought you were going to bed?” Brendon says, although it’s around a mouthful of peanut butter bread so it comes out more like ‘Bi foubt boo ber poing pa beb?’ which doesn’t make any sense, although Gabe seems to get it.

“Restless,” Gabe replies, shrugging in that noncommittal way that scares Brendon a little.

“Um, well maybe you want tea or something?” Brendon offers hopefully, but Gabe rolls his eyes and pushes off the frame to move closer to his friend, he still lumbers in that sombre way people do.

“No.” Brendon frowns at Gabe’s unresponsiveness and puts down his peanut-butter bread on the counter.

“Well, what do you want?” Brendon’s face reads pure confusion and concern. Gabe takes the opportunity to move forward.

“I want you to come to bed with me.” And, okay, maybe that’s not exactly what Brendon was thinking when he asked.

Chapter Text

The album’s out in two and a half weeks, and Spencer’s worried. Brendon’s been acting sketchy since the party and won’t talk about the new song he’s written. The new song gives them 10, they may be able to skate by with 10. Butch won’t mind if they’re two or three short, he’s a forgiving kind of guy.

The studio session is tense and unforgiving. Dallon keeps asking why they haven’t gone into post-prod yet, Alex is pestering them about the photo shoots and music video, and Brendon won’t say anything.

“I just don’t see why we can’t deal with the songs we’ve got,” Dallon’s arguing, “We can make the album off of 9 songs, right?”

“No,” Butch interjects calmly, “We need at least 10 songs. 9 isn’t enough, I want the 12 but it doesn’t appear as though I’m going to get them.” Butch looks pointedly at Brendon who’s staring vapidly at the floor.

“Well, we have 10,” Spencer remarks, “Brendon’s written the tenth, but he won’t show it to us.” Butch looks to Spencer, then stares more curiously at Brendon.

“Brendon, we need that song.” Butch says, emphasising their ‘need’. Brendon doesn’t say anything, just catches Butch’s eye, taps his foot really fast for a second and shrugs. There’s a moment of apprehensive silence before Butch smacks his lips and raises his eyebrows in that way people do when they’re so disbelieving it makes gravity stop working on their face.

“Okay then, looks like we got our 10. I’ll pull a few strings and maybe we can puzzle an EP together late in the year. The label might be pissed, but I’m sure a tour or two will placate them some.” Butch nods decisively, silently dismissing the band back into the recording space.

“Brendon,” Spencer whispers, nudging his friend with his shoulder.

“What is it, Spencer.” Brendon sounds more tired than normal, scraping his face with his hands with a frequency that rivals Gerard Way’s mad hair-rubbing.

“The song,” Spencer starts, but is halted by Brendon rolling his eyes and sighing loudly.

“Spence, just – just don’t, okay? If we need it, we need it. I’ll write more to it and we’ll record it within the week. Just – leave me alone.” Brendon starts walking away, but Spencer catches him by the elbow, making Brendon turn and grumble.

“Brendon, what happened?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ve been acting weird since the party. What happened when you went home?”

“Nothing.”

“Doesn’t sound like nothing to me.”

Brendon pulls out of Spencer’s grip and walks away.

 

 

Ryan’s waiting outside the studio when Spencer finishes their session. He’s leaning against his car and flicking through Sophie’s Instagram feed, waiting for his friend. Spencer bangs out the double doors and smiles when it doesn’t even warrant a reaction from his best friend.

“Yo! Ryro, let’s go! Hey that totally rhymed.” Spencer calls, feeling oddly elated at the simple sight of Ryan.

“Kudos. Just for that you get an extra gold star.” Ryan keeps his gaze firmly fixed on his phone, but speaks loud enough so his voice projects across the parking lot.

“You have gold stars?!”

“No, dumbass, get in the car. We’re gonna be late.” Ryan slips his phone in his pocket and twirls the keyring round his finger, waggling his eyebrows as Spencer approaches.

“Pft, like Pete even cares, he’s just excited to be getting more alone time with us young folks.” Spencer slips into the battered Ford Focus Ryan ‘borrowed’ off Shane; Ryan does the same and snorts loudly.

“Because we’re so down with the kids. You wouldn’t know something ‘hip and chic’ if it smacked you in the face.” Ryan uses that haughty tone that pisses Spencer off because not only does it sound pretentious, it’s called ‘haughty’ which is just pretentious anyway.

“Whatever do you mean, blud. WESTSIDE 5EVA.” Spencer attempts the hand sign, but fails because he can’t cross those fingers on command and apparently doesn’t know which way up a W is. Ryan sends him a mocking glare and puts the car into drive.

“I think that proved my point.” They drive for half an hour before they reach Pete’s house. Pete and Patrick moved out to Encino after they migrated to LA from Chicago. Pete wanted to go somewhere ‘creatively inspiring’ because apparently neither downtown New York nor Mid-town Los Angeles could fulfil his criteria. Patrick was always kind of annoyed that Pete had to go and base his label on the other side of the country from where they lived, but they played enough shows in New York that it wasn’t always a complete bust.

Their house is pretty big, Pete wanted to buy some crazy mansion, but Patrick made that face and they settled for a comfortable two-story stone house with those nice tiles on the roof. Their front garden is big enough to accommodate their two cars and the trampoline Pete insisted they needed, and the back garden is edged with flowers Patrick planted (and which Pete promptly trampled) and has a small deck with a bench, three deck chairs and a small, round table.

The inside of the Stump-Wentz home is a weird mixture of elegant and refined alongside bold, statement and downright crazy. Patrick had let Pete do some of the interior design, much to everyone’s horror (when asked why, though, Patrick just blushed and mumbled a lot then ran away) and so they’d ended up with a lot of seriously odd carpet/paint/artwork choices.

Ryan and Spencer get ushered in by Patrick, who’s looking suspiciously rumpled.

“Pete’s just through there in his, er,” Patrick smiles a little bit, and runs his hand through his hair, “In his, um, office. You can go on through I’ll be in the studio.” Patrick turns away and shuffles towards his studio, which is on the other side of the house from Pete’s office. Mainly because Patrick can play pretty loud, and Pete can get very angry when he can’t think of lyrics or if there’s a tricky crossword clue. Ryan and Spencer stand outside Pete’s office for a second as Spencer tries to convince Ryan it’s okay not to knock because Pete’s expecting them. Ryan’s not so sure; he’s walked in on someone before and has paid the price.

“Ryan, if you’re going to fucking knock on the door, knock on the motherfucking door. Just let’s do something, for the love of god.” Ryan rolls his eyes and knocks on the door.

“You know I could hear you from in here and you could’ve just come in, like, 5 minutes ago.” Pete calls through the door, making Spencer giggle and raise is eyebrows at Ryan in an ‘I told you so’ way.

“Whatever, it was still polite,” Ryan mumbles, pushing past Spencer into the office where Pete is sitting writing in a notebook, the margins of which are filled with doodles of ripped flowers, smiling suns and pierced hearts. It looks like a nine year old girl’s diary, if Spencer’s being honest. Pete gestures to Ryan and Spencer to sit down in two old chairs Pete put in the office to make it look more ‘client-friendly’ in Patrick’s words. The pair sit down and Pete leans forwards, smiling that smile that’s awkwardly too big for his face.

“So, Ryan, new album, huh?”

“Yeah,”

“Sorry I couldn’t meet with you earlier, my schedule’s been… full at best,” Pete rubs his hand across his head, but he’s got his pen in his hand and accidentally rubs ink in a line along his forehead.

“I see that,” Ryan says through his hands, trying to muffle a giggle.

“Yeah, okay, so, now that I have you here, what can I help you with?” The line is still smudged across Pete’s face, but neither Spencer nor Ryan want to point it out.

“Well, I’m writing the new album, and, every time I do something there’s more paperwork to sign and, well, you helped Panic! At the beginning and I was wondering whether you’d be willing to go through some of the contracts and just help me to get down what I’m signing.” Pete nods along contemplatively, seeming uncharacteristically serious.

“Cool, well, did you bring any of the paperwork with you?” He asks, putting his pen down and splaying his arms wide.

“Yes,” Ryan responds quickly, rummaging around in his satchel, “I brought a couple, the couple I’ve been having most difficulty deciphering, but I can bring any combination of the stuff I have.” Ryan hands the papers over to Pete, who takes them warily, carefully eyeing the sheer bulk of paper.

“Jeez, Ross,” Pete frowns, “You’d think you were signing your soul over with all this shit! Yeah, man, I’ll have a look through it. It shouldn’t be too difficult; I am a professional, after all.”

Ryan laughs and shrugs. “Why we came to you, plus it helps that you’re a familiar face.”

“A beautiful familiar face, right?” Pete clarifies.

“The beautiful-est.” Ryan responds earnestly.

“Nice language skills coming from the guy who wanted to do a Ph.D in English and Comparative Language at Columbia University.” Pete jokes, Ryan snorts and throws his hands up in a ‘what can I say’ gesture.

“I still wrote, didn’t I!” Ryan defends. “It wasn’t like I gave up my passion or whatever.”

Pete grins and leans back in his chair with his hands cradling his head. “Never said you did, bro, you just had such massive dreams, I can’t believe you didn’t go straight back to that after Panic.” Ryan sobers up a little, snubbing his nose and leaning his elbows on the arms of his chair.

“Yeah, man, well, life ain’t always as… convenient as everyone makes it out to be.” Spencer and Pete frown at each other and Ryan continues. “But whatever, I’m still doing the things I love, so whatever. All I need is to understand those papers and I’m set!”

“Oh yeah,” Pete pipes up, “You got that new beau as well, don’t you! Man, you’re doing pretty well, dude. All things considered –”

“All things being after Brendon basically dragged my name through the mud, yeah, all of those things considered, I’m doing fine.” Ryan’s tone is sharp and callous, making Pete flinch a little.

“Woah, dude, didn’t mean to strike a nerve, I just –”

“You just thought I was over it? Yeah, seems a lot of people been assuming I’m over that.”

“Ry,” Spencer starts, trying to placate his friend. “Pete was just saying you’re doing seriously well after all this time. You’re making a great comeback, he didn’t mean it nastily.”

Ryan sighs, “No, man, I know. Sorry, Pete. I didn’t mean to snap, I just… He’s been really bugging me, you know? He was there at your party and… I know I should’ve acted nicer, but he was pretending to care about William and just – I wanted him to leave it alone. I want to try to be his friend again, but shit keeps getting in the way.” Ryan pauses for a breath and neither Pete nor Spencer say a word.

“I mean, I’m over him, right? And, I’ve got this awesome thing with William and it’s like this is the first time I’ve been happy, like properly happy, but… There’s this thing that’s holding me back, and it feels, somewhere, like I’m cheating or something. But I’m over it… maybe I just need closure? That’d make sense, right? Closure?”

“Do you not have closure?” Pete asks cautiously.

“Maybe not. I thought I did. I thought after all this I would have closure but. Man, he’s such a sly little prick.” Ryan’s being all serious and shit and then suddenly Spencer just can’t contain himself anymore. He bursts into a little fit of giggles that erupts into full-blown hysterics. Pete manages to hold off for about 5 seconds before he joins in with Spencer, leaving Ryan trying to suppress the laughter that comes bubbling up in his throat.

None of them really knows why they’re laughing. It’s not like Ryan’s life is particularly comical or anything like that, it’s just – it’s been a while and, well, it’s just kind of funny. Spencer’s heard Brendon and/or Ryan bitching about one another for a solid 3 weeks, and it’s just funny. Neither of them will talk to the other because they’re too busy pretending to be fine and nonchalant and ‘over it’. And it’s just so funny. Spencer feels like he’s never heard anything funnier in his entire life. And Pete and Ryan appear to agree.

All three of them sit, hunched over with laughter, for more than a few minutes. Each time one of them begins to calm down, they’ll maintain eye contact with someone else and immediately dissolve right back into their giggling.

“I’m s-sorry, man,” Spencer blurts between gasps for air. “I just… Man, I don’t mean it like,”

“Dude, it’s fine, I am so sick of hearing myself talk about it! I seriously needed that laugh, it’s good.” Ryan leans over and slaps Spencer’s shoulder comfortingly. Pete is bright red in the face, still vibrating occasionally with aftershocks.

“Wooh! Okay, back to whatever the fuck we were talking about before that outburst.” Pete manages, shaking his head and then getting out of his seat and going over to the bay windows stuck on the side of his office. It overlooks the garden and Pete stares out wistfully for a while.

“So,” Pete drags out the ‘o’ for a while before continuing, “You really like William, right?”

Ryan smirks, “Sure I do. He’s pretty awesome, dude.”

“Gotta agree with you there, Ryro,” Pete concedes, “He was really polite at Gerard’s comic thing. Patrick really likes him. Which, okay, may piss me off, but also shows you got great taste.”

Spencer frowns, “Why does Patrick liking him mean Ryan has good taste? I mean I’m not arguing that William isn’t a rare find, because he is, but Patrick likes everyone?”

Pete tsks and spreads his arms out, “Because Patrick likes me, so obviously his taste in guys is top notch, Spenny Smith!” Ryan laughs and shrugs at the ‘Pete Look’ Spencer throws him.

“Hey, you know what we haven’t done in a while?” Pete pipes up, pointing at Ryan enthusiastically.

“What?” Ryan frowns, getting a little scared, because there’s a lot of things they haven’t done with Pete in a while because they were a serious health and safety risk.

“Poetry Slam,” Pete’s voice is scarily plotting. Ryan groans. “You. Me. Let’s go Ryan Ross!”

 

 

“I’m just saying, Ryan, Aud says Brendon didn’t get back home the night of Spencer’s, and Sarah was hooking up with some guy in Silver Lake so… where was he?”  Sophie’s really nice, Ryan knows she is, she just has a tendency to get… overexcited where potential gossip is concerned.

“Soph, he went home with some guy Gabe, they’re friends so he probably stayed overnight to make sure Gabe didn’t do something stupid.” Ryan’s sitting on his couch, trying and failing to write an intelligible email to his producers, as Pete had suggested.

“Wait, Gabe? He went home with Gabe?” Sophie’s voice has upped in pitch, which really concerns Ryan.

“Yeah, his friend Gabe. They came to the party together.”

“That’s the Gabe that told me Brendo was hooking up with Sarah again.” Ryan’s concentration fleets from the email and is solely fixed on the voice on the other side of the phone.

“I thought his name was Gabriel?”

“Yeah, doofus, shortened to Gabe. Gabe that went out with Mikeyway and it ended terribly? Gabe the guy that fucks anything with a heartbeat, but is pretty lenient with even that? Gabe the guy that has wanted to fuck Brendon senseless ever since they met but has been rejected up until after Spencer’s? Ryan, please tell me you’re getting this now?” Ryan’s kind of speechless. How the fuck did he not piece that together?

“Oh,”

“Oh in-fucking-deed. Jesus, so they really did it. Wow. Didn’t actually see that one coming, if I’m honest.” Ryan’s still kind of catching up his head on the situation.

“So, they really did it?” There’s an uncomfortable lump lodging in Ryan’s throat. It’s not dread, so much as… something more bitter than disappointment, but less bitchy than betrayal.

“Well, Gabriel’s had his ‘I just got laid’ smirk on for a few days now, but he’s also been walking like a kicked puppy.”

“Sophie,” Ryan whispers, hunching over his phone, “Listen closely because this is the only ever time you will ever ever ever hear me say this,” There’s silence on the other end of the line suggesting Sophie’s complete and utter concentration, “I need you and Aud to do some snooping for me.” Sophie gasps.

“What… What kind of snooping?”

Now, there’s nothing Sophie and Audrey like more than snooping. Ryan knows this, Spencer knows this, hell, Patrick even knows this and he’s a veritable hermit. However, no one asks them to do some snooping unless they really, really wanna know something. And that something is never, ever, something good.

“Gabe. I wanna know everything about him. I wanna know where he’s from, who he’s fucked, hell, I wanna know if he’s ever even so much as looked as a bottle of hair dye. But, more than anything, I wanna know what happened after Spencer’s party.” Ryan pauses, waiting dramatically but also seeing if Sophie has anything to say. “Can you do that for me?”

“Is the Pope Catholic?”  Ryan smiles devilishly and sighs down the phone.

“That’s my girl.”

 

 

William stays at Ryan’s place a lot. Shane’s never really in, and Ryan gets lonely what with Spencer recording 24/7 and all. He doesn’t have that many friends in LA and, well, William gives him blowjobs. What’s not to like?

It’s not until the mysterious toothbrush appears in Ryan’s bathroom that Ryan even really notices how long William spends in his house. He’s brandishing said toothbrush when William hurries in.

“What’re you doing with my toothbrush? Because if this is some fetish I am totally not into it.” William cocks out his hip and waggles his finger in Ryan’s direction.

Ryan looks to the toothbrush, then up at William. “This is your toothbrush?”

“Yes,” William frowns, “I just said that. I was – are you okay?”

“Hm?” Ryan continues switching his gaze between his boyfriend and his boyfriend’s toothbrush. “Yeah, I just.. it’s your toothbrush.”

William’s face is just one big frown by this point.

“Okay, what is it? You don’t have, like, germophobia or anything do you? Because, I accept that, but dude it’s not like I’m wiping my ass with that thing or anything. I do wash it.”  

“Mysophobia,” Ryan responds automatically.

“What?”

“Mysophobia, the fear of germs is mysophobia… not… germophobia or whatever. And no, dude I don’t – I just, it’s your toothbrush, man.” Ryan doesn’t think he’s articulating himself very well, and William’s frowny face would suggest his agreement.

“You… don’t like my toothbrush?” William offers, slowing his words down like he’s afraid he’ll say something wrong.

“No, yes, I do, well, it’s a toothbrush, I’m kind of neutral towards it, I mean, other than the handy job it does of maintaining good oral hygiene… It’s just that it’s in my bathroom. Your toothbrush in my bathroom.”

“If that was some kind of twisted euphemism, I’m not getting it.” And, okay, Ryan’s shitty with words sometimes, but he didn’t think he was this bad.

“No, like, I mean, it’s like the next step isn’t it?” Ryan’s moving his eyebrows a lot, hoping they’ll convey the message he’s so desperately trying to send. “In our, like, relationship? Right?” And finally, finally, William appears to understand.

“Oh, okay, yeah, no, I get it. Wow, okay, that took a long time. Yeah,” William pauses and looks into his boyfriend’s eyes, “Yeah that would be the next step. Congratulations, you’re half of the hottest couple in Hollywood.”

And, okay, Ryan only grins a little bit.  

Chapter Text

2 days. 2 days to go and Brendon’s freaking out. After seven hours of huffing he gave in and handed Butch the song. Butch hadn’t said anything, but he’d given Brendon that look that made him feel like a scolded child at school. Okay, so the song was a little different, that didn’t give Butch the right to criticise Brendon for it.

Spencer still questions Brendon about it, but Brendon doesn’t wanna say anything. They have managed to be fairly discreet about the whole album, only releasing ‘This is Gospel’ and ‘Miss Jackson’ as the cover tracks. No one’s heard track 10 yet. Press is only just getting heavy, and they’ve already got their first tour booked. November. Not far off.

“Brendon?” His eyes flick to Dallon, who’s frowning and clicking his fingers near Brendon’s face repeatedly.

“Yeah, sorry, what?”

“Jeez, man, you totally spaced,” Dallon chides, shaking his head. “I was saying about the release party, how we’re going to hold it in Vegas. Right?” Oops, maybe Brendon should be listening.

“Wait, what? Vegas? Why Vegas?” Brendon sits up a little straighter in his seat, taking note of Butch’s tiredly exasperated expression and Dallon’s picture of disbelief.

“Were you literally not listening to a single word we’ve just been saying?”

“Um, no, I guess not,” Brendon admits, shifting in his seat some. “Seriously, Vegas? Why?” Dallon rolls his eyes and sighs pointedly.

“We’re having it in Vegas because that’s where the album’s based? We thought it would be interestingly atmospheric. You know, like, in a club on the strip all casual with dark lights and shitty champagne?” Dallon’s getting all excited and really, Brendon can’t care less.

“Yeah, sure, whatever. Sounds great.” Brendon’s monotone doesn’t bode well with Butch, and he leans forward in his seat.

“Brendon, listen, I know you are going through… something. I mean, god knows what because you won’t tell anyone shit,” Brendon moves his eyes from Butch to the floor. “But dude, this album is really important. We’ve got to get good publicity. It’s a completely new sound for Panic, and if you’re not excited about it then we’re in deep shit.” Brendon flicks his eyes up to Butch in time to see the guy’s pained face. He feels bad, but not bad enough to let it show visibly. He knows he’s been acting off, he knows that, but fuck it, he’s allowed to. Things have been confusing recently and he can never catch a fucking break so excuse him if he’s a little tense.

“No, Butch, man, of course I’m excited, it’s just that this has been kind of taxing for me. I’ve written the songs, and played the instruments and I’ve had Spencer and you and Dallon and fucking, fucking Ian on my ass, bitching about how I’m not doing good enough and fuck me it’s been kinda stressful dude.” Brendon rakes his hand through his hair and huffs out a breath.

“Nah, man, I get it. Maybe… maybe we should postpone?” Brendon flicks his head up to catch Butch looking deadly serious. Dallon looks like he’s about to shit with nerves, but Butch looks part concerned and the other part completely genuine.

What?” Brendon squeaks.

Butch splays his hands in front of himself in an attempt to maintain peace, “Not for long, just a couple of weeks? You look like you could use some serious R&R, Brendon, maybe this is stressing you out too much? I need you fighting fit for the tour and I’m not getting that vibe right now.” Dallon is vibrating in his chair, eyes wide and pleading. Butch is looking all fatherly concerned and Brendon is rubbing his face with his hands.

“Butch, we can’t, man,” Brendon finally drawls, talking through his fingers, “We’ve worked too hard on this album, I can’t do that to everyone just because I’m fucking-” Brendon fishes for the word, he doesn’t really know what the fuck actually is happening to him. “Fucking, sensitive or whatever.” Dallon looks ridiculously relieved and Butch appears to visibly collapse and retreat.

“Okay, sure, whatever, Brendon. If you really don’t want to break for a bit, then we won’t break. The album’s out in 2 days, we have press pretty much non-stop until that point, get some sleep while you still can. Now get out my office, I have paperwork to sign.” Butch turns away from the boys, rubbing his forehead with his forefinger in that exasperated way he does. Dallon and Brendon stand up and file out the door like high-schoolers escaping the principal’s office.

Dallon nudges Brendon’s shoulder on the way down the corridor. Brendon doesn’t nudge back.

“Brendon, please,” Dallon reaches for Brendon’s elbow but his friend pulls out of his grasp, “You’ve got to talk to someone about this, it’s getting out of hand.”

“Just - just stop it okay! I know, all right! I know! But I can’t. I can’t talk to anyone about it. I only fucking told you because I was piss drunk and fucking feeling the hurt. But – it’s not making me feel any better about it when you bring it up every five-fucking-seconds. What happened was-was bad, I get it, but I wanna move past it. Life sucks, we move on. That’s how it goes. Just… please, dear God, leave me alone.” Dallon squirms and rubs the toe of his shoes into the worn rug.

“Brendon… he tried to-”

“DON’T! Dallon… don’t. Don’t- don’t say it. Okay?”

“Because it makes it real?”

Brendon doesn’t reply. He stalks down the corridor and to his car. It smells like three day-old beer and whiskey. Pot smoke still clings to the upholstery and Brendon thinks about how he’s gonna have to buy a new fucking car. He thumps his head against the steering wheel and then pulls out of the parking lot, turning right and heading home.

 

Ryan’s been touchy all afternoon. Not touchy in the angry sense, just… getting in Brendon’s personal space, putting his hand on Brendon’s knee, putting his face in Brendon’s neck. It’s vaguely annoying, but at the same time, Brendon is seriously not complaining. When Spencer finally gives up and heads home after the Ryan insists ‘Les Gens Normaux N’Ont Rien D’Exceptionnel’ is the film to watch, Brendon and Ryan are alone, snuggled closely on the pull out bed in the basement.

Ryan shuffles closer to Brendon about 5 minutes into the film, sighing contentedly right by Brendon’s ear.

Brendon tries really hard to ignore Ryan’s weird touchiness, but when Ryan starts tracing his nose up Brendon’s jaw, that’s seriously all he can take.

“Ry, what are you doing?” His voice wavers all over the fucking place, letting on how much a simple touch affects him.

“My nose is cold.” Ryan mumbles, dragging his lips purposefully across the taut skin of Brendon’s throat. Brendon swallows hard.

“D’ya want me to turn the heating up?” Ryan huffs a warm, giggling laugh into Brendon’s neck, making him shiver involuntarily.

“Really? Are you teasing or just naïve?” Ryan taunts, pulling his head out of the crevice between Brendon’s jawline and collar bone to look him in the eye.

“Um…” Brendon’s mind isn’t really fully caught up with the moment and Ryan smirks.

“I’ll take that as the latter.” Ryan slowly shifts and gets up so he’s sitting in Brendon’s lap. Brendon flutters his hands awkwardly before Ryan catches them and places them firmly on his hips. “But don’t worry, baby, I’ll teach you.” And, oh god, if Brendon wasn’t already dying for this boy, that voice would have fucking done it. Low, rasping, so sinfully suggestive.

Ryan leans down and Brendon meets him eagerly half-way. They kiss hard, not really knowing how to take it slow, there’s biting and messy tongues meeting somewhere in the middle. Ryan worms his hand all the way up Brendon’s shirt, alternating between stroking and scratching, nails digging painfully into Brendon’s flesh. It shouldn’t be hot, but it totally is. That’s when Ryan grinds his hips down, just a small pressure, rolling forward, down and back up, but it draws an almost visceral growl from Brendon’s throat, his whole body alive with it. Ryan whimpers and kisses harder, knotting his free hand into Brendon’s, now messy, hair, pulling a little harder than is strictly necessary.

“Nngghh, Ry-Brendon moans, moving his hands up Ryan’s back, rucking the t-shirt up till it sits around Ryan’s skinny ass shoulders. Ryan takes the hint and breaks away from Brendon momentarily in order to yank his shirt over his head, he throws the article across the room and hurriedly returns to Brendon’s mouth, rocking his hips down again to create some semblance of friction. Brendon groans and rakes his fingernails down Ryan’s back, leaving stark, red lines along the alabaster skin. Ryan makes a noise, a cross between a whine and a gasp, arching into the pain minutely, tugging Brendon’s hair again. Within the next 5 seconds, Brendon’s shirt is halfway across the room and Ryan’s fumbling hurriedly with the belt securing his friend’s jeans.

“Ry- what, you – hnnggg -Brendon moans, moving his mouth along Ryan’s cheek, eyes closed in serene bliss. Ryan shifts so he’s mouthing at Brendon’s neck, biting occasionally and then licking his mark.

“Want me to stop?” Ryan teases, licking a warm stripe up to Brendon’s ear so he can bite and mouth some more. Brendon gulps and slides his hands down Ryan’s back, dipping his fingers into the dimples at the base of Ryan’s spine.

God no.” Ryan smirks coyly and moves back to kiss Brendon some more, sliding his tongue everywhere it can reach. Ryan picks up pace, grinding his hips down harder, tearing filthy moans from Brendon’s throat. Brendon’s hands run up and down Ryan’s back, occasionally slipping down under the waistband of Ryan’s shitty boxers.

“Pants… now… off,” Ryan gasps between grinds. Brendon nods lazily, not really doing anything as Ryan pops the button of his jeans open and tugs persuasively. Brendon arches his hips so Ryan can pull his jeans off, but ends up groaning as it causes his crotch to collide with Ryan’s. After more harried groping, both boy’s jeans are off, flung around the room in the sexual frenzy. All that’s between them is two pairs of cheap boxers and a total 32 years of virginity and sexual inexperience. The air around them is hot and slick as Ryan reaches down the front of Brendon’s underwear and wraps his hand round his cock.

Ryan pumps slowly, squeezing and twisting in this sinful way that has Brendon squirming and gasping kind of like a fish on the shore, which totally shouldn’t turn Ryan on, but makes his dick twitch visibly, which would be embarrassing if he weren’t so turned on he could explode. Ryan’s wrist is trapped between him and Brendon, bending it at an awkward angle.

“Bren… can you…” A small frown forms in between Brendon’s eyebrows, but he seems to get Ryan’s meaning, shuffling around a bit before gripping Ryan’s thighs and flipping him so he’s laid down on his back on the bed. Brendon rocks his hips into Ryan’s crotch, pulling his boyfriend’s lip between his teeth and pulling.

“Better?” He growls, smirking when Ryan whimpers and nods, mouth hanging open in an obscenely porno way. Brendon then reaches down between their two bodies, tugging Ryan’s boxers down his legs, and rubbing a thumb over his slit, wet with pre-come, before wrapping his hand round both their dicks and setting up a steady(ish) rhythm.

Ryan mewls and whines and generally turns Brendon on more than he deems should be humanly possible. After a certain amount of alternatively stroking and pulling, biting and licking, Brendon’s hand aches and he’s moving in short, jerky movements. Ryan’s hand joins his when the pace gets sloppy and they finish each other quickly, moaning a string of curses and each other’s names as they climax pretty much together.

“Fucking hell, that was hot,” Ryan manages to sigh after several seconds of heated panting.

“You’re telling me,” Brendon slurs into Ryan’s neck.

 

Brendon forgot to turn on the heating before he left for the studio in the morning, so his house is about 5 degrees centigrade when he walks through the door. All the lights are off and all the doors are closed. It looks like no one’s lived there for a while and when he experimentally runs his finger along the mantel in the hallway, and inspects it to find a thin sheen of dust coating his fingertip, he’s even more sure he’s just walked into an abandoned shack from a horror movie.

He sighs and walks into the kitchen, turning on lights as he goes. He rubs his hands together for warmth and hums under his breath. The kitchen is disappointingly empty, the shelves collectively holding little more than two pots of marmalade, a painfully old tin of cocoa powder, some balsamic vinegar and an empty cracker packet.

“Fuck my life.” Brendon mutters, moving over to the fridge to discover the last bottle of beer sitting forlornly in the right-hand shelf. He picks it up and heads to the living room, tapping the answering machine button as he goes. The first message is from Ian talking about his outfit and haircuts, all boring managerial stuff that Butch can deal with later. The second message is from his mother, asking whether he’s thinking of coming home for thanksgiving (he’s not, he’ll have to remember to decline that particular invitation). The third message takes a little while to start, beeping and then silence… well… silence interlaced with heavy breathing.

“Hey, Brendon,” Oh, and that would be why, “It’s me. Look… I’m sorry about what happened all right? I thought – it doesn’t matter what I thought, I was still out of line.” Brendon barks out a laugh.

“Out of line? Understatement of the fucking century!”

But, I haven’t seen you in a few and I’m worried,” Sure, Brendon thinks, the prick’s worried now, “Me and the guys are going for some drinks later. You should come. You could stand to let off some steam. You’re too tight right now, B.” And if that’s supposed to be some twisted joke, it is so unfunny Brendon wants to cry.

Call me if you’re game, I just wanna be sure you’re okay, dude. All right, see ya.” And then he’s gone. Brendon stares into space. Fucking Gabe. A month ago, Brendon was fine. He had no issues, and now… everything is a fucking test. Everything’s hard and complicated and scary and painful.

So, he deals. Brendon wrenches himself off the couch and goes to the fake as fuck Ming vase that sits awkwardly on one of the side tables by the stereo. He tips it upside down and watches the eight ball of coke fall gracelessly to the floor. So what if it’s stereotypical: singer in chart-topping pop band does coke to get himself through the lonely nights. He’s not a poet, he’s a realist.

He tips the coke onto the nice, glass table he found in the back room of JF Chen Antiques in North Highland, cutting it into thin lines with the credit card he pulls out of his wallet. It’s not like he wants to be fucked up, just that sometimes you don’t get a choice in how your ghosts haunt you. He snorts the first line, feels his eyes rolling in his head already. The world tips a little before settling again. He shakes the buzz from his ears and leans down to snort the second line. He’s going too fast, he’ll give himself an aneurism but really he can’t bring himself to care. He knows the coke will take a while to kick in, and when it does it’ll feel like he’s on top of the world, he’ll be overly arrogant and pissy but he’ll be fine. It’s just that he can’t wait that long right now. He snorts the third line, then bounces to his feet and sniffs a lot. It’ll kick in soon enough. Soon enough. Not soon enough. Soon enough.

Chapter Text

“Brendon?”

The voice is fuzzy and faraway. Brendon doesn’t wanna wake up.

“Brendon?!”

It’s getting more insistent, nagging at Brendon’s subconscious like a petulant child.

Brendon?! Can you fucking wake the fuck up!” Brendon groans at the shout and that small concession is what brings him back to wakefulness. The person is pushing at Brendon’s shoulder, causing his entire body to wobble around on the… bed? Sofa? Floor? Who the fuck even knows. Brendon cracks his eyes open slowly, pulling his lids insistently against the stiff glue of sleep. Dallon’s face is mere inches from Brendon’s own, eyes sparkly and bright against his frown.

“Wha?” Brendon croaks, dissolving his speech into a groan when his head pounds its furious response.

“Dude, it’s midday you’ve gotta get up or you’ll miss the interview!” Oh, yeah, press. Brendon doesn’t move.

“D-ugh waa g’up.” Brendon moans into his pillow, stretching his toes and legs experimentally. They’re all there, thankfully. Dallon sighs and puts his hands on his hips. He means business.

“Brendon, if you don’t get up right now I swear to God I will drag you up and out of here myself, and I might not be compassionate enough to let you get dressed before we get to that motherfucking interview.” Brendon risks a glance under the covers and sees he is not wearing very much, he then risks a glance at Dallon’s face to see the guy is not joking about dragging his singer to the interview.

“Fine, I’m up, I’m up.” Brendon pushes himself upwards on his elbows, dragging his hands down his face, wiping gunk from his eyes and the drool from his cheek.

“Good. I’m making coffee. Be down in 10 minutes.” Dallon stalks out of the room and Brendon hears his feet pattering down the stairs and into the kitchen. So he’s in bed. That’s reassuring. Maybe. He waits a few moments before throwing the covers off himself and pushing up onto his feet. The floor is cold and the soles of his feet protest a little, sending chills up the backs of his calves. Brendon stretches out his aching muscles, feeling the soft spots and the crunchable bones. His head is pounding. Unfortunately, 10 minutes is not long enough to take a long, hot bath, so deodorant and some Advil is gonna have to do.

There’s some black jeans hanging in the closet, they don’t look dirty, and they don’t smell too bad, so Brendon slips them on. A shirt is more difficult. All his shirts are scrunched at the bottom of his drawers, all with various stains on them, all with the faint stench of alcohol and marijuana clinging to their fabric. Fortunately, Brendon finds one clean shirt hidden on a hanger inside his sparkly, copper suit jacket, he slips it on, applies copious amounts of deodorant and cologne and heads downstairs to find Dallon at the counter with two cups of coffee.

“Drink this quickly. I found some clean… ish, socks in the laundry room and I trust you can tie your own converse? If that’s too much of a struggle then I think your Chelsea boots might be okay, just not the ones with the holes in the toes okay?” Dallon leaves Brendon with one extremely plaintive look before swivelling and going off down the hallway, opening the door and heading to the car. Brendon looks after him for a second before downing his coffee. It fucking burns. It is hot as motherfucking hell.

“Holy motherfucking shit! My goddamn tongue!” After a long string of decorative profanities, Brendon’s yanking on his Chelsea boots (laces are fucking hard to tie, okay?) grabbing some coat off the newel post and is running out the door. It’s fucking cold as well, frost sits conspicuously on the shrubbery, making everything glint in this really fucking annoying way that reflects in Brendon’s eyes and gives him a headache.

Dallon’s waiting by the car all nicely wrapped up in his big, woollen coat... asshole. Dallon raises his eyebrows at Brendon in a ‘can we go now’ way, and twirls his car keys round his finger.

“Hey, where’s Spencer?” Brendon asks, the absence of their drummer only now hitting him.

“He had breakfast with… some friends, he’ll be at the interview, we’re just getting there separately.” Dallon looks uncomfortable for a second before he walks round the car to get into the driver’s seat. Brendon knows what Dallon’s neglecting to say. Spencer was with Ryan and William. Man, Brendon does not know why he hates that guy so goddamned much. He’s nice and normal and probably perfect at everything, but also completely modest about it. Brendon’s going to put it down to his name. It’s always the names of people that put him off. He used to know this kid at school, Big Bill was his nickname (I know, the imaginations of some kids these days, simply awe-inspiring), he was this bully of a kid, used to pick on Brendon all the time because he played trumpet. ‘You just love blowing shit so much, don’t you Bren?’ that was Bill’s line. Sincerely pathetic, but it hurt Brendon’s feelings and also made him worry whether his parents took it seriously (they couldn’t tell he was gay, could they?). So, yeah, that’s why Brendon didn’t like William. Name had bad connotations.

“So, where is this interview? I mean, like, who’s it with?”

“Billboard? Haven’t really heard of them, neither had Breezy, but you’re interviewed and then we play a song. It’s fairly standard.” Brendon nods and Dallon taps his fingers against the steering wheel.

“Yeah man, I’ve heard of them. Not surprised you and Breezy haven’t, though, you two practically live under a rock. Which is weird considering you’re y’know, like, in a chart-topping pop band.” Brendon rolls his eyes and fiddles with the radio knob on the dashboard. Some weird Christian hymns channel comes on first and Brendon frowns, sending Dallon a look that he completely ignores.

“Whatever dude, all I gotta know is what song to play and I’m cool. And shut up man, if you don’t like my radio choice, don’t get into my fucking car.” Dallon turns the car right, waving to someone in the other lane, his eyes fixed in concentration.

“Yeah, yeah, Lord be my shepherd, praise Jeebus I know the drill, I was a Mormon once you know.” Brendon finally finds the radio station he’s been looking for and leans back in his seat. Dallon sends him an exasperated glare and presses his foot down on the acceleration, slightly unintentionally.

“Yeah it’s why you have such great teeth, loser.” Dallon smirks and Brendon flashes him a sly grin, showcasing his teeth.

“Like fucking Donny Osmond,” Brendon screams, “It’s in my blood!” Dallon shakes his head and stops at a traffic light.

“Hey, Brendon, I’ve gotta talk to you about something,” Dallon says, tensing up slightly, warning Brendon to the nature of this talk.

“What dude,” Brendon says, resolving to stare out the window in order to avoid eye contact.

Dallon sighs, “I know what you were doing last night. I mean, in the sense that I know what you did and what you did. Right?” Brendon rolls his eyes and rubs his forehead.

“Dallon, seriously, don’t bother, okay? It’s fine, just leave it.” Brendon presses his head against the window and wishes he was somewhere else.

“See, the thing is that you’ve been asking me to ‘just leave’ things quite a lot recently, and frankly, I’m not prepared to let it all slide anymore. I’m worried about you and I want you to confront that something might be wrong so we can get you some help.” The excruciating tone of Dallon’s voice makes the statement so much worse. That fucking word. ‘Help’. Never did nothing for nobody, Brendon being no exception. His parents had gone through this whole ‘denial’ period where they’d sent Brendon to various psychiatrists to ‘rid him of his sin’, ‘fix the problem’, ‘make him normal again’. None of it had worked. He liked dick, what could he say?

This is no different, he guesses. It’s not a problem it’s… an issue. But not a big issue. A little, extremely handle-able issue.

“Seriously, bro, I’m fine. I’ve got everything under control.” Brendon eventually replies, keeping his voice level and as pleasant as he can manage.

“You have exactly nothing under control, you proud asshole. First you lose your shit over Ryan, you go out with Gabe and drink yourself under the table to try to deal with Ryan being over you. Then you go round fucking Sarah, of all people, to prove some weird macho pride shit. You… get defiled by some prick who thinks that shit’s okay, and finally you snort so much coke I had to physically drag you to your bedroom! Oh, but the cherry on top of this particular sundae is that then you deny all of the above and pretend you’re ‘fine’. I’m not fucking buying it, Urie.” Dallon seethes from the driver’s seat and grips the steering wheel with terrifying force.

It seems worse, Brendon thinks, all laid out like that. Everything he regrets over the past month and a half all itemised down like some fucking shopping list. He didn’t mean for everything to escalate like it has done, but… well but. But it has and he hasn’t made any move to stop it.

Brendon curls into himself slightly, pulling his knees up almost protectively. He wraps his arms round his torso and squeezes his eyes tightly shut.

“I’m not asking you to ‘buy it’, Weekes, I’m asking you to leave me alone.” Brendon whispers, his voice wavering all over the fucking place.

“Is that really what you want?” Dallon asks dolefully, “Do you really just want to be alone?”

No.

“Yes.”

Dallon heaves a put-upon sigh, but doesn’t press the subject further.

 

 

“I don’t know what to do, Pete. I just need someone to tell me what the fuck I should be doing.” Brendon’s hiding in the toilets again, calling Pete. Spencer didn’t come to the interview, calling Butch and telling him he had something far more pressing to do. Butch was fine, they didn’t really need Spencer for the interview or the set so he was a free man.

“Brens, I have no idea what to tell you. You refuse to tell me what is wrong and it’s kind of hard to advise someone when you don’t know the context.”  Brendon sighs, because that seriously wasn’t the answer he was looking for when he’d called Pete.

“I just –“ Brendon doesn’t finish because he’s busy doing his agitated breathing down the phone.

“Brendon – don’t, just – hold on, stop freaking out – dude I’ll help you, seriously I will, just – calm down it’s okay.”  It takes Brendon a few moments to gather himself fully; all the while Pete is crooning quiet, nonsensical things down the phone. It’s oddly reassuring; lies tend to have that quality.

“Okay, so, tell Uncle Pete all your problems.”  Brendon huffs out a laugh and leans against the wall of the bathroom stall.

“I… guess I don’t really know. Well, that’s a lie, I do know the exact problem, it’s just not something you’re gonna wanna hear.” Pete makes a confirmatory noise, urging Brendon to continue.

“C’mon, Pete, don’t make me say it.” Brendon whines, not comfortable with really saying the words out loud.

“Brendon, I can’t predict what you’re going to say. Plus, the first step towards repair is admitting the problem.”  Pete sounds so wise, except for the fact Brendon’s fairly sure those were dissected All Time Low lyrics.

“Urgh, you suck.”

“Brendon, this’ll go a lot faster if you just tell me.”  Brendon allows himself a few more seconds of contemplation before giving up.

“I’m in love with Ryan fucking Ross and he hates my guts and it’s basically killing me.” Pete doesn’t say anything, just breathes down the receiver. Brendon takes it as silent encouragement to continue.

“And if that weren’t enough, I hate his new boyfriend! For no reason! I just hate him! And because Ryan’s got this new… new… boytoy, I’m going round trying to find someone to flaunt in Ryan’s face, but I definitely chose the wrong guy to do that with, and then Ryan doesn’t even bat a fucking eyelash! Just sits there nuzzling his new beau right in front of me and making me out to be this giant asshole that completely ruined his life and that is totally not my fault, okay? Let’s not forget that he left me.” Brendon’s running out of steam by this point, breathing heavily and red with frustration.

“So it’s good old fashioned jealousy, eh? Man, I love me some jealousy.”  Pete sounds almost triumphant on the end of the line. It’s kind of annoying.

“I’m not – it’s not jealousy, it’s just…”

“Jealousy. And an inability to let go of the past. Don’t worry, Brendon, it happens to all of us.” Pete sounds so calm and it really pisses Brendon off.

“Yeah, but not all of us have to face our ex-fiancés getting cosy with some new playboy on a daily basis, the ex-fiancé that left us 3 weeks before the wedding! The ex-fiancé that then ran away for, like, 4 years without so much as a thank you, ma’am!”

“Maybe because no one says ‘thank you, ma’am’ anymore.”  Pete doesn’t sound like he’s joking. Bastard. Brendon thinks he made a mistake in calling Pete.

“Pete, I’m being serious here! I’m in love with a guy who said he made a mistake ever loving me! This is…” Brendon pauses, searching for the right phrasing, “A messed up situation.”

“Got that one right, sweetheart.” Pete mumbles, and Brendon has to bite his lip to keep from screaming. “Look, maybe you’ve just gotta try harder? Yeah, the whole… Ryan thing was bad, but I seriously think it’s time you moved on. He has, you should. Hate him if you have to, if it makes it easier, but B, you’re not gonna get better until you learn to live with the past.” And that was why Brendon had called Pete. When push came to shove, Pete always knew what to say to make it all better. Well, his advice wasn’t always well received, but at least he had the right end of the stick most times.

“Seriously? That’s it? Move on? Do you know how many motherfucking times I’ve heard that from people?” Brendon scoffs, exasperated.

“Well, y’ever think they’re saying it for a reason?”  

“Pete, I’ve tried for 4 years to forget about Ryan. Look where it’s got me! Motherfucking nowhere, I’m just as in love with him now as I was when I was 18 years old. And, before you say anything, I know it sounds tacky and corny as fuck, but I can’t help that okay?”

To his credit, Pete doesn’t say anything nasty. He waits a beat before replying, carefully choosing his words so as not to offend Brendon.

“Listen, I know it’s hard to accept, because you’ve liked him for so long, but he’s back and he’s got someone new. Someone he’s happy with. If you really love him, then you’ll let him be happy. You’ve written it in your own goddamned song, Brendon. Maybe you should listen to your own advice once in a while and stop bothering me when I’m trying to a) write, b) get laid.” Pete laughs at himself towards the end of his speech, silently encouraging Brendon to take it easier. He knows about the booze and the sex and the drugs, and he doesn’t really mind, so long as Brendon doesn’t take it too far and knows when to stop. The issue is never starting, it’s always stopping.

“But how? How does one… deal?” Brendon says, his voice taking on an exasperated edge. Pete makes a huffing noise and Brendon hears some crackling down the receiver, indicating Pete rubbing his face with his hand.

“Well, you deal with it the way you’ve always dealt with your emotional shit. You write and you sing and you tour and you find yourself some pretty little thing that treats you way too nice. You ditch those awful people you hang out with and you deal. There’s no magic formula to make this better Brendon. It’s all about soul.”  

Brendon thinks that would have been really, sensationally inspiring had Pete not finished off with a Billy Joel quote.

Well, maybe ‘sensationally’ is too strong. It would’ve been motivating at least.

“You’re sure?”

“Well, no, but you never know until you try!” Brendon manages to roll his eyes and smile before Pete’s talking again, “Look, dude, I gotta go, Trick’s looking particularly seductive right now and I gotta make a move before I explode.”  Brendon giggles when, in the background, he can hear Patrick shouting ‘I’m literally reading the newspaper in my pajamas’ and Pete’s loud and clear response of ‘mhm, baby, just like that’, then Brendon can practically hear Patrick roll his eyes.

“Okay, bro, I’ll leave you two to it, I don’t want more mental images imprinted there forever, thanks.” Pete laughs, but concedes Brendon’s point and they say goodbye. Brendon thinks they probably went to have sex. Patrick acts all innocent and exhausted by Pete’s antics, but whenever Pete makes that face and walks in that way, Patrick’s putty in his boyfriend’s dirty hands.

Brendon looks at his phone for a second after he hangs up, just as he’s about to lock it, it pings with his text alert. He clicks on the message to see it’s Dallon. Fucker was only in the next room, damn it.

To Brendon; From Dallon

Been called out 2 a friends thing. S is w/ R, call either of us if u need 2. I’ll b back l8er c u bro

Brendon wonders which friend and for what thing. Dallon doesn’t seem like the kind of person to have many friends; for the most part he either hangs around with Brendon or Breezy. He never was a particularly social bean, some things never change.

He decides sitting in the toilet isn’t going to make anything better and gets up, walking through the studio where he chose to hide. He doesn’t know why he went to the studio to hide. It’s the only place where he feels really comfortable and safe. Now, he needs to get out, he needs to take a walk and clear his head. Never thought that would be something he’d ever think.

He shrugs on his jacket at the front entrance, pulling his beanie further down towards his eyes. It’s one more day until the album is released and Brendon is relishing the final turns of solitude. The tour starts soon and he wants some alone time. People are hard work.

The streets are crisp and cool; the people bustling about are wrapped up just enough for the bitter wind that whips around knee-height. Brendon’s old, copper tinge boots scuff along the sidewalk, picking up a rhythm to match his walk.

Everything looks brighter and cleaner in the daylight. For a moment Brendon wishes he had someone to say that to. For one moment he aches so painfully and forcefully that his whole chest constricts with it and his mouth turns sour and tight. It’s a fleeting moment, gone almost as soon as it arrived, but it was there and it hurt.

Brendon turns down several streets, planned at first, then turning randomly as he realises he doesn’t care where he’s going. He’s got GPS and cash, he’ll be fine. There’s a small park not too far from the studio, and somehow Brendon winds up there, even though he swears blind he went in the other direction.

The park really isn’t that bad, it’s just that when he was little he never went to parks. Las Vegas isn’t exactly renowned for its rolling hills and abundance of greenery, coupled with the fact he spent much of his pre-adolescence in church, Brendon isn’t exactly well experienced with shrubs. But this park is okay. It’s a weekday in the middle of the afternoon, so there aren’t many kids running around, it’s just a couple on a date and friends chatting. The sight of one particular group of twenty-something’s makes Brendon feel a twinge of something akin to jealousy and want, but he bypasses it soon enough.

There are four palm trees marking the corners of the park and Brendon leans up against one before flipping out his phone to a) check his messages, b) check his twitter, c) play candy crush. He has a message from Butch telling him that the interview was great and it’ll be posted on YouTube within the next few weeks. He has another from Kara telling him to get back to his mother, she’s ‘disappointed’ he hasn’t replied to her gracious invitation. Sure. Finally, he has a text from Dallon:

To Brendon; From Dallon

Hey do u no where 2 buy a tux?

Brendon frowns. As it happens, yes he does know, but why the hell would Dallon want one? Well, another one?

To Dallon; From Brendon

Yh y?

Dallon’s reply clicks through a few seconds later, like he was anticipating the question.

To Brendon; From Dallon

Just got the job as an usher @ my m8s wedding :D need a tux

Brendon groans. Weddings. I.e. HELL. But, Dallon is his friend and he will support him in all his endeavours. If that means buying him a tux so he can be an usher to some pansy’s wedding, then so be it.

To Dallon; From Brendon

Cngrts. Where r u? I’ll meet u nd take u 2 the place I no

And another job for Brendon for someone else’s benefit. Everyone calls him self-centered, but he spends a lot of time doing things for other people. Prime example: he put up with Ryan’s bitching about the albums for 5 years, all for the sake of their relationship, the band, the fans and Spencer.

To Brendon; From Dallon

Thank you so much! Kay I’m in Ground Zero on Child’s Way. Can u get here or shud I come 2 u?

Fortunately, Brendon knows where the Ground Zero Performance Café is. Whenever they were in LA as a young band they used to go for the milkshakes and open mic nights. It held good memories. Few places held many of them anymore.

To Dallon; From Brendon

Cool I’ll come 2 u. I’ll b there in 20. DON’T MOVE.

Brendon sends it and tucks his phone in his pocket, pushing off the tree he was leaning against and taking one last look round the park before moving off in the direction of the café, heading first towards West Adams Boulevard and remembering to turn down Severance Street. His phone vibrates in his pocket but he doesn’t make any move to check it, it’s probably Dallon saying thank you a million times, it’s not urgent.

 

 

Brendon arrives at the café in just under 20 minutes, though not by much. It’s still as run down and cosy looking as 4 years ago. He pushes through the door and looks around, catching sight of Dallon with some other people towards the back of the café near the make-shift stage for mic nights. He starts over there when he recognises the people sitting at the table. Oh, well, that’s nice.

Brendon recognises the black scraggle of Frank’s hair, the lemon is new, but beside them are the unmistakable Spencer, Ryan and William. God-motherfucking-damnit, Weekes, couldn’t he pick friends that didn’t include Rilliam? Brendon groans and kind of dances around on the spot for a second before sucking it up, embracing Pete’s words and heading over to the group.

“- thought you were getting the drinks?!” Spencer says between giggles, causing the whole table to erupt with laughter. Brendon stands awkwardly, slightly away from the table, but then Dallon sees him and breaks into a grin.

“Brendon! You’re here, awesome!” He calls, causing the majority of the table to stiffen or stop laughing. Ryan’s smile slowly turns bitter as he snubs his nose and spares a quick glance in Brendon’s direction. William looks over, smiles this ridiculous, huge, genuine smile and nods his head at Brendon. Spencer tries to maintain his smile without making it look too plastic (he fails miserably) and keeps jittering his eyes over to Ryan nervously. Frank turns almost 180 degrees to crane his neck to see Brendon, prompting lemon-head to look round as well (oh, it’s Gerard, that makes sense). Both men break into wide-mouthed smiles and gesture Brendon to come closer.

“Yeah… hey… sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.” Brendon says, moving forward shakily.

“Nah, dude, you’re not interrupting! More the merrier!” Gerard exclaims, shuffling his chair so he can see Brendon better.

“No, I… I can’t, I just came here for Dallon.” Brendon points to where Dallon is sitting. Ryan glances up once and then fixes his eyes on the table. Spencer stares at Ryan, trying to telepathically ask if he’s cool. William stares at Brendon, completely oblivious to any tension in the room. “Congratulations. On the engagement, I mean.” Brendon adds, gesturing vaguely towards Frank and Gerard, then flopping his hands in front of his body and twisting them.

“Thanks! Yeah, Dallon agreed to be one of our ushers, which is super cool! We’re really excited!” Gerard enthuses, bouncing in his seat a little before Frank places a hand on his thigh and stills him.

“That’s actually why I’m here, dude said he needed a tux. Also, sorry I couldn’t make it to your comic opening, I was otherwise disposed.” Brendon sways from foot to foot, not sure whether to move forward and engage himself more, or whether to back away and run for the fucking hills.

“Nah, man, don’t sweat it, we just hope you can make it to the wedding, right?” Frank looks over to Gerard for a second and then back over to Brendon, his eyes are wide and sincere.

“Um,” Brendon says, “I mean… well, yeah, sure, but… yeah, no, of course, Dallon?” Brendon almost whines his friend’s name, sending him a puppy-dog look, trying to convey his discomfort.

“Yeah, sorry, I’m coming.” Dallon replies, standing up and grabbing his coat off the back of his chair. “Thanks guys, for the coffee, I cannot wait for the wedding this is so awesome! Um, I’ll see you soon?” Dallon’s looking at Gerard, who’s nodding vigorously.

“Absolutely, I have some more comics I need to show you soon anyway, any opportunity to see you, dude.” Gerard runs a hand through his blonde hair, then settles back against Frank’s arm where it’s wrapped around the back of his chair. Dallon shuffles out from behind the table and stands next to Brendon.

“Really nice to see all you guys, William, it was a pleasure to meet you,”

“Likewise, Weekes.” William grins.

“Spencer, I’ll see you tomorrow, no excuses. Ryan, bye, I guess.” Dallon shoots Ryan this very particular smile, almost guilty, and then claps Brendon on the back, indicating their leaving.

“Yeah, see ya guys.” Brendon adds dutifully. With a few more waves and mumbled goodbyes, Brendon and Dallon walk out the café and onto the October street.

Brendon says, “Wow that was awkward.” And Dallon doesn’t really have anything to say. He wants to contradict him, but really that was the most horrifically uncomfortable experience he has lived through, possibly ever.

“Sorry.” He says, in replace of any faffing.

“It’s okay.” Brendon replies. They carry on walking until Brendon points out the tuxedo place and they head inside.  

Chapter Text

“I’m telling you, William, he’s bad news.” Ryan says, gesturing with his hands as William walks around the end of the bed.

“I’m not so sure, Ry. He seems perfectly nice to me! A little troubled, maybe, but who isn’t? It can’t be easy being in his position; I think you should cut the guy a little slack.” William advises, passing his balled-up shirt from one hand to the other before throwing it into the laundry bin. Ryan turns a page in his book and flickers his eyes up at his boyfriend.

“You have too much belief in people, Bill, sometimes there’s not more than meets the eye. Brendon is one of those people.”

William rolls his eyes, “No, you just don’t have enough belief in people. There’s always more than meets the eye, people do have levels you know.”

“What like an onion?” Ryan muses, smirking to himself.

“No, that’s layers, moron. And don’t reference Shrek when we’re trying to have a mature, moral conversation. It’s distracting. Makes me sing ‘I’m a believer’ in my head.” William shakes his head, as though trying to physically dislodge the song from his brain. The mattress dips as William climbs on, causing Ryan to start rolling ever so slightly. He catches himself before he rolls too far (he’s got his legs crossed at the ankles, so any type of falling is going to be ungraceful to the extreme).

“I can reference whatever I want, whenever I want. I am a grown man, dammit,”

“Move over,”

Ryan moves over.

“I am a grown man and I will not be told what to do.” Ryan thumps the mattress for emphasis but only earns a coy smile from William.

“You’re just a walking contradiction,” Ryan rolls his eyes, William grins, “See what I did there? Man I love that I can slip your own lyrics into our conversations. Makes me feel like I’ve accomplished.”

“What, and you haven’t otherwise accomplished?” Ryan asks, cutting his eyes to look at Bill speculatively. William frowns.

“Well, I suppose I’ve had a good job, and I’m pretty well off, but relationship-wise, I haven’t really accomplished much.”

“Pft, what about having the sexiest boyfriend ever right in bed beside you? How is that not an accomplishment?” Ryan makes this dumb as fuck face which only prompts William to try to kiss it off, but Ryan’s not really complaining about that.

“I suppose I could class that as a triumph, Daniel was pretty sexy, after all. Hey! Stop it!” William shouts when Ryan starts poking him painfully in the side, “Wow! I was joking yes of course I count you as an achievement, Jesus, chill out!” They both have to laugh for a bit before they regain their composure enough to continue the conversation.

“But seriously, Ry, Brendon’s had a tough time. He’s probably just looking for a friend right now. I know I would be.” William shrugs, hitching one shoulder up, and leans back against his pillow. Ryan closes his book and sits up straighter.

“Whaddya mean?”

William looks up, “Huh?”

“What do you mean you know you would be? You would be what?”

“Looking for a friend.” William says, frowning.

“No, but you said it differently,” Ryan shuffles his butt back so he can turn more to look at Bill. “You said it like ‘I know I would be’.”

“I don’t understand.”

“No, like, you said it stressing the second ‘I’, that makes it sound sexual. But you also said ‘friend’, so what?” William shrugs, putting on this innocent as fuck face which only succeeds in fuelling Ryan.

“I meant it like, I would be looking around for someone to let off some steam with as well, that’s all.”

“Brendon’s not – he’s not ‘letting off steam’. He’s – he’s not with anybody!” Ryan’s voice goes a little shrill. William shuffles around frustratedly, struggling to sit up, he can’t have this conversation lying down.

“I’m not saying – Ryan all I’m saying is that he’s obviously looking around for someone to help him relieve the stress. I didn’t mean it specifically in a sexual way, it’s just that there was that girl round here talking about his relationship with that guy, Gabe. I just assumed, I’m sorry if I was wrong. I didn’t think it would be this much of a big deal.” William looks like a kicked puppy and Ryan kind of deflates.

“It’s not – it’s not a big deal, I’m sorry. You’re right Sophie was round here talking about them, I didn’t know you were listening, I’m sorry. I just – it’s weird, you know? I don’t like Gabe, there’s a guy that really doesn’t have any layers. I didn’t like finding out what happened between them.” Ryan curls his legs round, leaning his head against the headboard and watching the window. Bill’s expression fleets from hurt to sympathetic.

“Look, I know you knew him for a long time, and I appreciate your concern for him, really, I do. But… he is a grown up now, Ryan. He’s not some teenaged virgin touching himself to his Backstreet Boys CD and then hiding the sock he cleaned up with because he’s worried his mom might find out. He is capable of making his own decisions, and although they may not be the best decisions, he’s the one that will inevitably make them, and he’s the one that will have to deal with the consequences. Not you. Okay? I know it’s hard but you’ve got to leave him alone.” The pillow lets out a whoosh of air as William collapses back onto it, leaving Ryan staring at the far wall.

“But what if I don’t want to leave him alone.” Ryan says in this tiny voice that barely carries. William watches Ryan closely for a second, swallowing past the tightness in his chest.

“Well then what I am doing here? If you’d rather have Brendon Pothead Urie laying beside you what the fuck is the point of me? Huh?” William’s scowling violently, his tone causing Ryan’s head to snap towards him.

“What the fuck?!” Ryan’s incredulous expression riles William up more.

“I take you on dates, I tell you you’re gorgeous, I make you laugh, I put the fuck out. I am a good boyfriend, Ryan, but apparently I’ll never live up to the sky high standards left by Mr Brendon Urie. I don’t know what else to do, Ryan! If you’re not talking about your job or how tired you are, you’re talking about Brendon!”

“William, that’s not –“

“I tell myself, every time you talk about him, I tell myself that you’ll get over it. The novelty will wear off and you’ll forget about him. Every day it never happens and I’m starting to think it never will.” William is sitting cross-legged now, staring right at Ryan, who stares right back.

“It’s not like that. Me and Brendon –“

“Pine over each other endlessly while pretending you’re not. I get it.” William climbs off the bed and runs his hands through his hair. Ryan follows suit and gets off the bed, careful not to get too close to William.

“That is totally not what the situation is, Bill.”

“Well then tell me what the situation is, Ryan! Because I’m through with guessing, okay!” William shouts, opening his arms wide (psychological technique to make him look bigger and more intimidating).

“We’re… we’re not even friends! We knew each other a long time ago and now he’s back and we happen to spin in the same circles. No biggie. You need to stop worrying.”

“Stop worrying?! Seriously?! That’s your apology? For me to stop worrying?”

“Since when was I apologising?” Ryan scowls, prompting William to put his hands on his hips and scowl right back.

“Oh my god, are you being serious right now?”

“Yes, I’m being serious! I don’t think I should have to apologise for me and Brendon. If you want an apology, the best I can give you is that I’m sorry you’re jealous.” Ryan knows as soon as it leaves his mouth that it’s something he’s going to regret endlessly. Bill takes a step back like he’s been physically hit and makes this face that is so utterly disbelieving it’s painful.

“I am good to you, Ryan,” William says, voice level and calm, “I am good to you even after you’ve told me all these terrible things about your past relationships. Even after Spencer has told me terrible things about your past relationships, even after Pete and Patrick and Mikey and Dallon and all those guys have told me terrible things about your past relationships. Throughout all of that, I’ve stood by you and been good to you.

“I really like you. A lot, and there are times I wish I didn’t. For my own sake, times I wish I didn’t. But I can’t help it, because you’re charming and attractive and funny and dedicated, but you’re also so deluded. You’re hung up on a guy you went out with 4 years ago, I’ve tried looking past it, but it’s a pretty massive fucking boulder to look past. I think you need to take some time to figure out what you really want from me, for the benefit of us both.” William stays still for a second longer, almost waiting for Ryan’s reply, but none comes. He picks up his shoes and shirt and legs it from the bedroom. Ryan hears his car door slamming a few moments later, and the distinct rumble of an overused engine.

He just stands by his bed, thinking about all the things William just said to him. The truth they may hold.

He thought he was over Brendon. Over over him after the Spencer’s house disaster. Maybe he just needs to try a little harder.

 

 

He calls Spencer in the morning, but Spencer doesn’t pick up. Then Ryan remembers it’s the day of the album release and he leaves a voicemail saying he hopes it all goes well and the album rocks and it’ll be a massive success etc. He doesn’t mention the fight with William, there’s no point adding more stress to Spencer’s life, it’s not worth it.

Ryan doesn’t really have anything to do today, he considers going to a gallery or the park or something, but that sounds like a lot of effort that could go into something more financially productive. He heads out to the apartment he rented 10 minutes from his house with Shane. He had a fair amount of foresight concerning him and Shane living together. He had foreseen that Shane would be out with people a lot, but also he had foreseen that when he was at home, he would be boozing it up, or he’d have a hangover. An apartment for himself was a good idea.

He elects to walk to the apartment, relishing the stabbing briskness of the stark air against the back of his throat. He slides his sunglasses over his eyes, not because it’s particularly bright, but because he doesn’t want to be accosted and/or caught out for staring at people.

The apartment is kind of cold because no one’s been in there to turn on the heating and everything clunks with the new strain of being used. Ryan turns into the study and flicks on the light, shrugging off his jacket as the radiators kick into life.

There are several large stacks of paper on the wooden desk against the wall, the window has the blinds down, exposing the stains and rips in the material. There’s a sofa against the right hand wall and a fluffy, blue carpet in the middle of the panelled floor. The lamp over the desk is plain silver with a coned cover and Ryan flicks it on as he sits down in the average as fuck leather chair.

Blank page syndrome is a serious condition as far as Ryan’s concerned. Nothing is more daunting than a blank piece of paper and no starting point. However, Ryan powers through, knowing that once he has something down this will all be much easier.  And once the floodgates open… in about 20 minutes the page is littered with little phrases and lines for songs, notes put above certain words to get a feel for the tunes or pitches.

In another 20 minutes, Ryan’s catching up on disturbed sleep he missed the night before due to fretting.

 

 

Spencer checks his phone as soon as he’s allowed. Well, as soon as Butch isn’t looking and able to give him the glare. The glare is scary.

There are a few texts from various people wishing him luck on the album, including his mom and sisters. He reads those ones, laughing at the typically familial tone that accompanies them. He also has a voicemail from Ryan which he listens to as soon as he works out how to use voicemail.

It’s disappointingly generic, for Ryan.

Wishing you luck…. It’s a great album… You’re all average musicians, I guess.’ That kind of thing.

Spencer has a kind of seventh sense when it comes reading Ryan’s emotions. So he knows pretty much immediately something’s wrong. Ryan sounds… more tired, or, bored? Spencer thinks it’s pretty difficult to explain unless you know what you’re looking for, what it sounds like.

He resolves to call Ryan back as soon as press is done, which it won’t be until 4pm. Fuck.

“Dallon,” Spencer calls, “Dallon, hey, do you think we could leave early if we had a super emergencical emergency?” Dallon scrunches up his face.

“Well, for starters, I’m not 100% convinced ‘emergencical’ is a word,” Spencer rolls his eyes. “But, maybe. If the emergency was completely, super-duper, absolutely, 200% emergencical.” Dallon crosses his arms and nods, making the ‘serious’ face he makes when he’s trying to look like one of those guys from the films that does sketchy business deals a lot.

“Cool, I’m thinking maybe if I can get out by 3? Maybe 2, or is that pushing it?” Spencer rubs his hands together, already psyching himself up for the terrifying task ahead.

“Spencer, what is this ‘emergency’ you’re trying to get out of press for? Because Butch will have your head if it’s anything less than mass inter-familial homicide, I’m not joking.” Dallon says, eyebrows drawn close together.

“It’s just… something, you wouldn’t understand, but it is important.” Spencer raises his voice a little to convey it really is important. Dallon seems to understand and backs off.

 

2 o’clock rolls around and they’re still sitting in interviews, trucking between radio stations and shitty TV and YouTube studios. Spencer is slowly losing the will to live.

Fortunately, so are Brendon and Dallon.

“Just, please, someone stab me in the eye with this microphone,” Spencer groans, “It would be less painful than this, and then I could be in hospital and get their awesome food.” Brendon thumps his head against the wall they’re standing beside.

“Only if you promise to knock me out with one of those chairs after.” Brendon says.

“Wouldn’t that really hurt?” Dallon interjects.

“At least I would be feeling something other than this soul-crushing boredom.” Brendon mumbles against the wall.

Then Spencer’s phone rings. Butch sends him a threatening glare, but it’s doing nothing at this point. Spencer answers in time to hear William babbling rapidly down the receiver.

“Wow, wow, chill out. What?” Dallon looks over, concerned, and Spencer shrugs.

“I can’t find him, I left last night, Jesus, I was so mad but now he’s gone and he’s not answering his phone and have you seen him, because I thought that maybe he’d gone to you and told you and done that whole ‘seeking comfort’ thing, and then I thought what if he hadn’t gone to you and he’d done that whole ‘seeking comfort’ thing and then I freaked out and please I just –

“William, seriously, slow down, Jesus, who are we even talking about?” Spencer has to raise his voice in order to cut William off. He doesn’t, however, miss the derisive scoff Brendon makes.

“Ryan! I can’t find him! I thought you’d know where he went!”  William is shrill and more hysterical than Spencer really wants to deal with.

“Well, he’s not here but… hey wait, William would you class this as an emergencical emergency?” Spencer says, tone harsh. Dallon rolls his eyes.

“Well, I don’t know what ‘emergencical’ means, but yes, this is an emergency. SOS worthy crisis. Urgent situation of the highest priority.”  Spencer grins because, hell yes he just got himself the afternoon off!

“I’ll be there as soon as I can. I presume you’re at the apartment?” William says he is. “Cool, just stay there, I think I know where to go, maybe.” Spencer hangs up and fist-pumps the air.

“See ya losers.” He calls as he heads off to tell Butch the good news.

 

 

Spencer’s half relieved and half confused at how little time it takes to convince Butch he is needed elsewhere really urgently. He decides to stick with relieved and clambers into his car with a grin on his face. He remembers William’s terrified tone and worries only a little bit; the guy’s really nice, but he tends to overreact when presented with the opportunity.

Spencer drives to Ryan’s house fairly easily, only stopping once or twice to check his phone for directions. There’s very little traffic in the general area, so the ride is only 10-15 minutes tops.

William is sitting on the front steps of Ryan’s place, tapping his phone with one hand and chewing the nail of the thumb on the other.

When Spencer pulls up to the curb, his eyes dart up frantically, his face visibly falling when he recognises it’s only Spencer in the car. Nice. William bounds over regardless of his slight disappointment.

“I thought you were going to get him?” William starts by way of conversation.

“I told you I was coming here first to pick you up?” Spencer says levelly. “Or do you not want to come with me?”

“No,” William shakes his head, “You said I should wait here, you didn’t say you would come and get me.”

Spencer sighs.

“Okay, well I’ll go off and find him, I think I know where he is. Do you want to come with me or not?” Spencer waits a moment as William chews the corner of his mouth in contemplation.

“I don’t know.” Bill finally says.

Spencer sends him a ‘you dumbass’ look and says, “You don’t know.”

“No.”

“Right, well why not?” Spencer rubs his eye with his knuckle.

“We just had a fight and I don’t know if he wants to see me or not. I was such a bitch, Jesus.” William looks scared and Spencer leans out of his window further. He didn’t bother getting out of the car, William came to him.

“Wait, you guys had a fight?” Spencer frowns, not sure if he’s right about what he heard.

“Yeah, it was really dumb, I just got mad and he didn’t do anything to stop me and so I walked out, but not like walked out because it was just one stupid fight and that’s not going to get in the way of anything, right? Because as soon as I did it I regretted it, but he didn’t try to stop me so I just kept walking and then he didn’t call me and – ” William babbles until Spencer interjects:

“You had a fight?”

William rolls his eyes and leans his weight onto one of his hips.

“I literally just said that.”

“He didn’t tell me.” Spencer says, and William feels bad because Spencer looks kind of dejected.

“Maybe he didn’t wanna worry you? He didn’t call me either, don’t feel bad.” William leans over and rubs his hand on Spencer’s arm in what is supposed to be a comforting gesture, but is actually just kind of weird.

“No, I mean, he called me but he didn’t say anything was wrong.”

William stops rubbing.

“Wow, wait, he called you?”

Spencer looks up, “Yeah, to congratulate me on the album. It’s release day today.”

“Fuck that!” Spencer flinches at William’s volume. “We had a serious fight and he doesn’t say jack-shit and then he fucking calls you!”

“We didn’t talk! He left me a voicemail, that’s all!”

“Rather a voicemail than radio silence, know what I’m saying?” Then William’s storming round the front of the car and depositing himself in the passenger seat. “Right, let’s go.” It takes Spencer a moment to catch up with the events that have just happened.

“I take it you’re coming too, then?” William glares at him and Spencer puts the car into gear. “Off we go then.”

 

 

Ryan’s making coffee when the buzzer for the front door goes off. He flaps about for a second before abandoning the coffee on the side and going to the door.

“Yeah, who is it?” Ryan asks, pressing his face close to the speaker. There’s a crackling when he lets go of the button, and another crackle when the person at the other end presses their button.

“Ryan, it’s me. Let me up.” Spencer calls uncertainly into his speaker. Ryan bristles briefly, then realises of course it would be Spencer, so he lets him up. He leaves the front door open for Spence and walks back into the kitchenette to revive his coffee.

“Ry?” Spencer calls from the doorway.

“Yeah, in here.” Ryan calls back. Spencer hurries over to the kitchen and crosses his arms in his friend’s direction.

Ryan looks up and startles, “Wow, what’s with the glare, Grumpy?” Spencer ignores the name and shifts onto his hip.

“You know perfectly well why the glare, Dopey.”

“Not sure I do,” Ryan says, leaning back into the counter and sipping his coffee.

“Yes you do.” Spencer declares, putting on his ‘I am not taking any of your shit’ face.

“Well, you appear to know, so go on, enlighten me.”

“William.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah,” Spencer says, triumph lacing his tone. “He called me in the middle of press, he was freaking out because he couldn’t find you and you weren’t answering your phone. I had to come all the way down here with him.” Ryan swallows and puts his cup on the counter beside him.

“Shit, I didn’t know he’d freak out that much.”

“Well, you had a fight and then disappeared; he didn’t know what to think!” Spencer says, voice raising in volume enough for it to be getting a little scary.

“He – how did you know we had a fight? And wait, wait, you came here with him?” Ryan leans forward, spitting out his words.

“He told me you guys had a fight! Seeing as you didn’t see fit to tell me yourself! And yes, I brought him with me. Well, I offered and then he got pissed at you so decided to come.”

“Oh, gee, thanks. Bring the angry boyfriend round to rip me to shreds more than he did last night. I owe you one.” Ryan drawls, sarcasm like venom.

“What was I supposed to do?! He was worried out of his mind and you were all radio silence!” shouts Spencer, getting his wild eyes on.

“Urgh, fine, where is he then?” Ryan finally concedes, after about 15 seconds of staring.

“He’s downstairs in the car. I told him to give me 10 minutes with you alone to just smooth things over, then he’s coming up and you two are going to thrash it out.”

“Right. Well what part of this conversation is ‘smoothing over’? Spencer, you’re failing.” Ryan says, his serious face giving out to the smile that was too hard to contain.

“I’m getting to it, okay? So, first things first, what was the fight about?” Spence sits down in the bar stool by the counter and looks expectant. Ryan says nothing for a moment, studying Spencer, then groans and leans forward.

“He got pissy about me and Brendon. He thinks I’m still, like, in love with him or something.” Ryan waves his hands about in a nonchalant manner.

“But you’re not?” Spencer asks.

“Not what?”

“Not in love with Brendon?”

“Jesus F Christ, no! How many times do I have to say it? And can we please not, with the whole emotions talk, please? It emasculates me.” Spencer snorts, but quickly apologises under Ryan’s bitch glare. Sure, it’s the emotion talks that emasculate him.

“Okay, so why did he leave?” Spencer continues, brushing past the B-love for the moment.

“Um, he told me to cut Brendon off, basically, and I said I didn’t want to. He’s your band-mate and Dallon’s as well. I wasn’t about to just cut him out my life, things don’t work like that. So he got mad and said maybe I’d prefer Brendon with me and I said it wasn’t like that and then he was shouting about how I was hung up on Brendon and I said I wasn’t and then he left.” Ryan finishes with a shrug and picks up his cup from behind him, sipping thoughtfully.

“Well, seems pretty standard. You just spend less time with Brendon, don’t talk about him and concentrate on William some more.”

“Spin, doesn’t that kind of contradict everything I said I wouldn’t do?! I don’t want to cut Brendon out!” Ryan says, agitated.

“You wouldn’t be cutting him out, per se,” Spencer quickly clarifies, “You’d just be spending less time with him. It’s more like fazing him out. It’s kinder, in the end.”

Ryan opens his mouth to say something, frown all prepared on his face, when there’s a knock on the door. Spencer gets up to answer it, and opens it to find William shuffling from foot to foot, looking sincerely frightened. Spencer steps aside and William walks hesitantly into the room.

“Hey, Ryan.” He starts, shoulders hunched and body angled awkwardly in the stoop of the door.

“Hey,” Ryan replies, setting his coffee mug down and standing up straight. Ryan goes to say something at the same time as William, so they both end up opening their mouths, seeing the other, laughing at saying ‘you first’.

“Seriously, you first,” William says, rubbing the back of his head with his hand uncomfortably.

“Okay, well, I’m sorry, I guess. I didn’t mean to freak you out or anything. I had a bad night because of the fight and then I needed to clear my head today. You gave me a lot to think about.”

William nods, “I’m sorry I got so mad last night. I didn’t mean to, it was the psycho, jealous girlfriend inside me I suppose. And I don’t mind you came out here, really that’s fine, it’s just that you didn’t call me or anything! I thought you’d gone off to… y’know, seek comfort in the arms of a tall, dark stranger.” He barks out an uncertain laugh, gauging Ryan’s reaction carefully.

Ryan pauses then says “I’d never do that, Bill. I couldn’t. For one thing, I’m not a cheater, and for another, why would I have any reason to? I’m sorry I didn’t call you, I was kind of in a guilty, sleep-deprived trance.”

“It’s okay. Can we just… I don’t know, put this behind us? I didn’t mean most of what I said –”

“But you did, Bill. And I’ve been thinking about it, and I know what I’m going to do.” Ryan says over the top of William’s sentence, glancing at Spencer momentarily. “I’m going to spend less time with Brendon; less time being with him, less time talking about him, less time thinking about him. I’m going to concentrate that energy on something else. Like you, or my music, or my friends. You were right, you can’t look past him because he’s not off the road yet, but he will be. I promise you that.” Ryan stares at William, who looks like he’s been paused on a TV.

“Seriously?” He finally replies, voice small.

“Seriously.” Ryan asserts, expression hard. Then William, in Ryan’s opinion, goes bat-shit because he giggles furiously, runs and jumps onto Ryan like he’s a fucking climbing frame. Ryan’s not exactly what anyone would class as ‘strong’, per se, well he’s got some arm muscle because he’s played the guitar for over 10 years, but he’s not about to go entering a weightlifting championship. Fortunately, William doesn’t weigh very much, so the task of holding him up while he clings to Ryan like a baby koala isn’t horrendously difficult, it’s just a tad inconvenient and uncomfortable.

Over William’s shoulder, Ryan sees Spencer, red and shaking with laughter. He tries to flip him the bird, but he can’t move his hands from where they’re gripping William’s thighs, so he settles for a scowl.

“I’ll leave you two to it then,” Spencer calls between giggles. “But you’ll have to find means of getting home because I brought my car and I’m leaving.” William climbs down from off his boyfriend and turns to face Spencer.

“Spin, it’s like a 10 minute walk from here to my house? Why would I need a car for that?” Ryan replies, not bothering to prevent the sneer from marking his face.

“Really, only 10 minutes? Oh, okay, then bye.” Spencer waves and walks out the door. William turns to Ryan slowly, a sly grin on his face.

“Now, to get on with what I wanted to do last night.”

And, really, who’s Ryan to protest?

 

 

Chapter Text

Brendon is stiff and sore after the interview day. It seemed literally never-ending, he's not 100% sure he's even alive/awake right now.

He sits on his couch, eating some shitty Chinese takeaway and watching America's Next Top Model on TV. It's the series from 2 years ago, so all the contestants have gone off and got careers by now. Brendon can't really bring himself to care. He's watching it regardless. The guys are pretty hot, as well, and for some reason, they're always taking their shirts off and suddenly there are six-packs everywhere.

Spencer didn't return after he was called off so urgently. He did, however, call Brendon to inform him that he was going out that night and Brendon was invited. Brendon politely declined, saying he'd rather have a night in, he was completely beat. Spencer hadn't sounded exactly convinced, but, again, Brendon didn't really care.

He's deciding to quit the party scene. Well, cut down on it. His experience with Gabe was only bad, so he's learning from his mistakes and treating himself nicer. Pete always has good advice.

Brendon thinks there must be a link between how wise someone is and whether they're in a healthy relationship. Pete has Patrick, ergo, he is very wise. By contrast, Gabe can't hold a guy/girl down for more than a week and he couldn't advise you on which movie to see if he'd just seen them. Brendon thinks he needs a relationship. He also thinks he needs a beer. He then thinks maybe beer constitutes a relationship, ponders over that for a while and decides that, yes, beer can constitute a relationship: it makes you put on weight and you don't have sex with it.

The phone rings. He can't be bothered to pick it up but maybe he should. He waits too long deciding and the phone goes to voicemail.

"Hey, Brendon, it's Gabe. I was wondering if you could call me back. I haven't heard from you in a while and I just wanna know you're okay, dude. Me and some guys are going out tomorrow night, if you wanna hang. I've got my eye on this cute little thing I met last night and he's gonna be there tomorrow." Brendon notes the small pause that follows which he knows as Gabe stopping in order to bite his lip and waggle his eyebrows suggestively. "Anyway, call me or text me, or something. I wanna hear from you. Right, take care." The line goes blank and then there's silence.

Nice to know Gabe's moved on when Brendon is finding it considerably harder. He supposes maybe that's just the way he is. He has difficulty getting over emotional... trauma is too strong a word, maybe hardship is better.

The thing with Gabe is that he did do something Brendon considers wrong. Well, something a lot of people would consider wrong. It's not that it was, well, rape, it wasn't really, Brendon reasons, it was just... he didn't say 'yes'. He didn't say yes and Gabe did it anyway. He didn't say 'no', but he didn't say 'yes'. Gabe kind of just jumped him and then they were kissing and then they were fucking and Brendon tried to push him away, but Gabe was insistent and then it was over and Brendon was lying on Gabe's bed while Gabe stretched and grinned and smoked a fucking cigarette on his balcony.

Brendon wipes the memory from his mind, turning the TV off and placing his take out on the glass coffee table. The noodles were disappointingly greasy anyway. He resolves to write some music or something, so he heads to his private studio and turns on the keyboard. He pokes at a few notes before testing a chord, and then another and then he's playing 'This is Gospel' and although he starts only whispering, by the second chorus he's belting out the words to an empty, echoing house and it sounds too lonely, so he sings louder, plays louder.

The night comes quickly, engulfing the house in a pervading darkness that Brendon fails to notice. 2am rolls around and he's still sitting at the piano, playing methodically through his repertoire until he reaches 'A Whole New World' and decides maybe he should go to bed.

He turns off the lights as he goes, making the night seem more oppressive than before. His bed has cold sheets which bite at any and all exposed skin. Sleep comes quickly, crowding his thoughts with promises of small vacations from the harsh reality.

 

 

The phone, again, is what wakes Brendon at a punishing 7:45am, trilling out its annoyingly chirpy ring. Brendon groans into the pillow and squeezes his eyes shut, wriggling his legs around and groaning again. The phone continues ringing incessantly, and Brendon decides that it's probably less painful to pick up the phone and tell the person on the other end to fuck the hell off, than to lie, sort-of awake, and listen to it ring.

He flings his arm out to the bedside table and pats around until his fingers land on the device. He still has his face planted in the pillow and picks up his phone blind, sliding where he thinks the lock is. He then presses the phone near to his face and muffles out a "'Lo?" and waits for the reply.

"I was wondering when the fuck you were gonna pick up your goddamned phone, asshole." Spencer shouts, making Brendon move the phone away from his ear.

"Good morning to you, too." Brendon says, picking up his face so he can breathe and talk.

"Whatever, you need to get up." Spencer says briskly, losing all pretence of, albeit slightly aggressive, banter.

"No, I need to go back to sleep, it's not even 8am yet." He'll be damned if he gets up any earlier than 9.

"I am fully aware of the time, thank you, but you still need to get up. We're going out." Spencer doesn't usually fuck around, and Brendon's learned that when he says something in his 'seriously don't mess with me' tone, you should probably do as he says. Unless you're not particularly fond of your genitalia.

"What do you - going out?! Fuck you, I'm tired." Brendon moans, snuggling farther under the duvet as if to prove his point.

"I don't care. We're going out and I'm coming to pick you up in 10 minutes so you'd better be ready. If you're not, then I'm dragging you out the house in whatever you're wearing. Bye." Spencer hangs up and Brendon groans again, like it's going to do anything. This will be the second time this week someone's threatened to drag him out the house in his pajamas. It's almost like people want to see him naked. Well, Brendon thinks, muzzily, they could just ask.

 

 

There are, miraculously, some clothes in the dryer, and Brendon puts them on sleepily, tugging at the t-shirt until it's sitting the right way round on his body after only 3 attempts. The coffee in the machine is cold and kind of seriously disgusting, but it's got caffeine in it which is all that matters.

Spencer, true to his word, arrives 10 minutes after he called Brendon, and sits outside Brendon's house honking his horn obstinately. Brendon hurries out, tugging on his coat and sprinting down the driveway so as to avoid any neighbours shouting at him... again.

"You took your sweet-ass time," Spencer says, putting the car into gear and speeding off almost before Brendon's closed the passenger door.

"Fuck off, I was so speedy. Especially considering it's still fucking early and it's pretty insane I'm even forming coherent thoughts right now." There's still a slight, sleepy slur that clings to the beginnings and ends of Brendon's words, which Spencer only smiles at.

"Sorry, Sleeping Beauty," Spencer says sarcastically, "didn't mean to wake you from your beauty sleep, God knows you need it." Brendon throws a half-hearted punch aimed at Spencer's arm, but misses when Spencer dodges, and ends up awkwardly thumping Spence's thigh instead.

"Nice aim, nimrod." Spencer scoffs.

"Fuck off, I'm tired." Brendon whines, snuffling into his coat and leaning his head against the window. A peculiarly familiar position, he thinks absentmindedly.

Spencer frowns a little then says, "Yeah, why are you so tired? I mean, I know it's pretty early, but it's not that early and you used to get up at 5 to practice singing for Ryan anyway." Brendon sighs.

"I was up late last night, that's all. And, fuck you, when I got up to do those singing exercises it was for the whole band, y'know? Plus, that was 4 years ago, when I was younger and more able to drink large amounts of Monster without needing to piss 5 minutes later." Brendon rolls his forehead more against the window and breathes out. Spencer sends him a worried glance.

"Why were you up late last night? Did you go out? I asked but - you weren't out with Gabe were you?!" Spencer's tone takes on an irritated, condescending tone at the end of his sentence. Brendon flicks his eyes open.

"What is this? Brendon-watch? You guys keeping tabs on me now?! What does it matter what I do?! I'm allowed to do whatever I want, I don't have to tell you guys. As a matter of fact, I was up playing piano. I wasn't..." Brendon pauses. "What exactly has Dallon been telling you?"

Spencer opens his mouth, then apparently decides against it and closes it again. He makes a soft huffing noise and looks over to where Brendon's still watching him, expression furious.

"All he - he just said you were having some... issues with some bad things. He was worried you were getting in too deep with Gabe, that's all. He didn't do it in a spiteful or patronising way, Brendon, he was just concerned. We all are." Spencer keeps his voice soft and soothing.

"You all are? Who's all of you?" Brendon spits, crossing his arms.

"Just, like, me and Butch and Ian and Pete and y'know, those guys." Spencer hitches up one shoulder in a shrug and prays Brendon drops it. Brendon doesn't drop it, he's thinking over the list. Those guys. Suddenly, more pieces fit together and Brendon's remembering the awkward, guilty look Dallon shot Ryan at the coffee outing he interrupted.

"He told Ryan? Are you fucking kidding me?! Since when was my private life fucking gossip to you people?!" Brendon's shouting and Spencer flinches before remembering Brendon is, like, 4 foot tall and about as threatening as a munchkin and he doesn't need to flinch.

"It's not gossip, Brendon! Dallon came to us with a problem and in order for us to help he had to tell us what it was!" Spencer is maybe quite close to literally roaring and Brendon can feel himself losing courage like sand through his fingers. "Ryan happened to be there and, yes, okay, it was wrong for Dallon to talk about it so openly to just everyone, he should have acted with more discretion, but you can't change shit now. Now stop acting like a pussy bitch and shut up. We're nearly here." Spencer breathes out harshly, nostrils flaring, while Brendon glowers out the passenger window.

The scenery isn't familiar, Brendon thinks, although every part of LA looks completely different, so it's not much of a surprise. There's plenty of buildings lining the road and people walking along the pavements, some holding hands, some walking dogs, others pushing buggies. Pretty standard life-scene.

Spencer turns right and they head down a small road, past some truly enormous houses and turn left into one.

"Where the hell are we?" Brendon says, venom in his words.

"Gerard and Frank's. This is where they live. C'mon." Spencer unbuckles his belt and gets out the car. Brendon frowns in confusion and scrambles to get out the car as well.

"Why are we at the Iero-Way residence? And why so fucking early?" Brendon asks, jogging to catch up to where Spencer is almost at the front door. Spencer just rolls his eyes and knocks on the door. There are faint noises from behind the door, footsteps and muffled talking. Brendon sways around a bit, still not fully awake, he needs more coffee.

"Coming!" Calls a voice from inside, causing Brendon to startle into standing upright. Spencer chuckles beside him and Brendon scowls at the door.

"Guys!" Gerard says, opening the door wider than is strictly necessary. "You're here! Come on in!" He ushers them inside and shuts the door behind them. "Frank! Spencer and Brendon are here! It's really nice of you guys to come so early, um... Brendon, can I get you some coffee? You look worryingly dead right now. Frank! Get some coffee on!" Gerard takes their coats and hangs them in the nice coat cupboard that's tucked safely under their stairs. "Coffee's already on, doofus, with our collective coffee addictions, there's never really a time when there isn't coffee brewing somewhere." Frank answers from around a corner.

It's a curious exchange, Brendon thinks, both parties calmly aware of the other listening to when they call. It's not malicious shouting, just something inherently coupley.

"Ray and Mikey are in the other room with Frank, the others should be here shortly, I think they were kind of annoyed I made it so early, but I'm busy in the afternoon, so whatever." Gerard says, heading for the kitchen. "Just round that corner, I'll bring the coffee in in a minute. How do you take it?" Gerard waves an expectant hand towards them. "Black with one sugar." Spencer says breezily and walks round the corner into the living room. It takes Brendon another moment to gather himself and register the inquiring look Gerard is throwing him.

"Oh, er, black, 2 sugars, thanks." Brendon mumbles and follows where Spencer went, watching Gerard turn 180 degrees and walk down the hall to where the kitchen must be.

The living room is more homely than Brendon was expecting. With Gerard's crazy imagination and artistic manner mixed with Frank's obsession with the surreal, Brendon imagined their house would look like an extra from a Tim Burton movie. But it doesn't, because it looks like someone's home. The walls are this really nice grey-ish blue with one wall that's been wallpapered (a stripy blue pattern that looks cool and kind of vintage), the floor is a light, polished wood with a blue carpet in between the couch and TV (which is gigantic), underneath the coffee table which appears to be some kind of Captain America's Shield novelty piece. There is a piano in the corner and 3 lamps arranged artfully around the room.  The mantelpiece runs along the wall adjacent to the TV and is littered with cute photos; some are family, some are friends, some are single portraits. The majority, however, are couples photos: Gerard and Frank on holiday, Gerard and Frank in the garden, Gerard and Frank at Thanksgiving etc. Brendon's not jealous. The wallpapered wall carries about half a dozen prints and posters for old films, all tastefully arranged and all vaguely matching.

The couch in the middle of the room is a light cream colour with 3 seats and sits opposite a matching armchair. Ray is sitting in the chair and Mikey and Frank are on the sofa. Spencer is standing, chatting and pointing to something on the low cabinet that runs along the wallpapered wall.

"Yeah, new clock, my mom brought it round and I didn't have the heart to tell her it didn't go with the decor. Gerard says I'm too OCD about it, the living room doesn't have to match, but all the other rooms in the house do and this is where we entertain guests, it has to look nice." Spencer nods at Frank's earnest and slightly wistful tone. Brendon glances over to the clock, he'll admit, it's not the same colour wood as the flooring, but it's not horrendously out of place or anything. Brendon thinks Gerard's right, Frank is kind of OCD.

"You can always move it somewhere else? Bring it out when she comes round?" Spencer suggests.

Frank shakes his head "I'd forget, and that sounds like a lot of effort. I'll just learn to love it. Worked with Gerard."

"Hey," Gerard protests as he walks in carrying the coffee on a tray. "You couldn't help yourself! I was too irresistible and you couldn't resist my masculine charm and allure." Gerard sets the tray down on the table and sinks to the floor, kneeling up. "Yeah, yeah, sure, absolutely irresistible." Frank mocks, rolling his eyes but also smiling.

Spencer shakes his head, laughing, and sits on the floor, back against Ray's legs. Ray only protests for a second before giving up in favour of making grabby hands at the coffee.

"Brendon, come and sit down." Gerard urges, beckoning Brendon with his hand. Brendon jolts a little and moves over to the couch, Mikey and Frank shuffle to the right in order to let him sit down on the side seat. "Everyone take your coffee, again, sorry it's so early, but I appreciate you coming. The others will be here any second, but until then, we can discuss things." Gerard looks around the room, eyes wide and gleaming.

"Um, sorry to, like, interrupt or whatever, but, what 'things' are we discussing?" Brendon says uncertainly, leaning forward in his seat a bit. Gerard smiles and tucks some of his hair behind his ear.

"Yeah, um, the wedding? Did Spencer not tell you?" Gerard throws a look at Spencer, who just shrugs and sips his coffee. "Um, no, he more just dragged me out my house with no explanation and drove me here." Brendon explains, rubbing his hands on his thighs. Gerard laughs, and Brendon can see Frank and Mikey and Ray all vibrating with it a bit.

"Well, I did tell him to tell you, but since he didn't: people who are involved in the ceremony, we're gathering to organise tasks and plans and stuff. I want to get as much out of the way as possible before I start going psycho on everybody under the stress. So, we're going to start with... um... flowers? Or, like, colour schemes?" Then Gerard produces this massive fucking flowery book from somewhere and flicks to the fifth or so page to reveal a collage of pictures of flowers. Brendon can't hold back a snort. Gerard's head shoots up, eyes serious.

"Sorry, I mean... really? I had to get up at 7:45 to become part of the prissy parade?" Brendon scoffs. Spencer looks over to him, eyes saying 'what the fuck dude, shut up', but Brendon apparently can't stop. "We're really here with a 9 year old girl's wedding planning book looking at flower arrangements?"

Gerard glances self-consciously at his book and Frank rubs his shoulder comfortingly, whispering "I like the book. It's organised." at which Gerard smiles a little.

"Dude, if you don't wanna be here, leave." Mikey says, voice harsh. Brendon squirms.

"Mikey, it's okay. Brendon, if you have anything to suggest concerning the wedding, say it now." Gerard says evenly, fortunately not having taken Brendon's comments to heart.

Brendon flounders before saying, "Okay, well, considering you two are like... not exactly conventional, like, you're not into all the traditional, boring stuff. Maybe instead of flowers, you could make it more personal?" Gerard frowns and tilts his head to the side. "What do you mean?" He says.

"Well," Brendon continues, getting into it now, "You could have origami flowers on all the tables and in the venue. But also, they could be made of something cool, like, comic pages or something. To add, like, personality and stuff." He trails off and waits for someone to say something.

"I like it." Gerard says firmly. He turns to Frank, "Don't you? I think it's cool. Original. More... us." Frank smiles and nods. "Cool. We'll do that then. Nice one, Brendon."

Brendon smiles. Hell yes, he is the King of wedding planning.

10 minutes pass and more ideas are thrown around, colour schemes, cup choices, lame, lame and more lame. Brendon decides he hates wedding planning. He remembers when he and Ryan decided to get married and they just kind of decided to take a weekend in Vermont and sign the papers and that would be it. There was basically no arrangement involved. They weren't ones for big, public displays of love and whatnot.

However, the door rings and Brendon practically dies of relief. A pause in the frantic insanity that is wedding planning. Brendon looks around to see the other guys looking about as bored and crazed as him, so that makes him feel better. Even Frank had dazed, wide eyes on, hair sticking up from too much rubbing hands through it.

Gerard answers the door and everyone hears him cawing and cooing at whoever's there. Frank pushes himself off the couch, "That'll be the others, I'll go get more coffee." and he walks out the room.

"Who are the others?" Brendon asks, watching with muted fascination as everyone looks at each other and no one says anything. "Guys?" Brendon insists, leaning forward and looking around more. 

Eventually, Spencer holds his gaze and sighs, "Look, don't be mad, but Dallon and Ryan were invited as well. That'll be them." Spencer flinches in anticipation of Brendon's reaction. Brendon doesn't react.

"Oh, okay." Brendon says coolly. Ray sputters on a laugh and Mikey smiles a little bit. Spencer looks, wide eyed, mouth opening and closing like a goldfish.

"Is Spence all right?" Gerard says as he re-enters the room, Dallon and Ryan trailing behind. Ray's busy cracking up and Mikey just shrugs. "He's fine," Brendon says, "We're just joking around, that's all." Gerard shrugs and walks past the couch to resume his position by his book. Dallon jumps into Frank's vacated seat, saying Frank shouldn't have left a prime spot if he wanted it when Mikey points it out. Ryan stands in the doorway for a moment before going over to Spencer and sitting next to him, cross legged on the floor.

A minute later, Frank comes in carrying the coffee. He briefly protests being shoved onto the floor, but quickly accepts it in favour of sitting next to Gerard, head on his fiancé’s shoulder. Gerard flicks to the page he was on and moves his finger down the page, making this weird, clucking noise with his tongue until he finds where he was.

"Right, okay, so we were on colours for the chair decorations." Gerard says and Frank closes his eyes and frowns a little bit. Ha, Brendon thinks, welcome to the Hell that will be the next few months.

"What are chair decorations?" Spencer says, stretching his legs out in front of him and rubbing his knees.

"Um," Gerard starts, eloquently, "Well, I think we want those ribbon things round the chairs. Obviously it won't be in a chapel, so we don't need to work around pews or anything." Something in Gerard's speech stutters, almost imperceptibly, when he says it won't be in a chapel. Brendon knows they knew it wouldn't be, no church in America is going to condone that. Brendon also knows that, although he might not be anymore, Frank was raised a Catholic and Gerard grew up with religious influences.

If there's one thing Brendon understands, it's being gay if you're from a biased religious background; he's been there, done that. Still, it hurts a little bit when Gerard says it so sadly. He wouldn't have picked up on the tone if he hadn't been listening for it, though. No one else seems to have noticed.

"I think because the waistcoats are red and grey, maybe they could be coordinated?" Gerard suggests. Brendon thinks, absently, that Gerard is totally the fucking girl in the relationship. He's way too into wedding planning. These decisions are dull as shit and he's making it sound like they're planning a trip to Disneyland.

"Why don't you, instead, have coloured cushions or something?" Ryan proposes, "It can get really painful sitting down on an uncomfortable chair for too long, and this way it doesn't look too..." He trails off, searching for the word.

"Gay?" Mikey suggests, earning a glare from Gerard.

"No, Mikey, not that." Ryan says, rolling his eyes. "I meant cliche. Or frilly, sometimes it can look too cheap if you overdo it, that's all." Yeah, cos you'd know Brendon thinks spitefully, but he quickly pushes that thought away before he has time to articulate it. He's not bitter, he's not bitter, he's not bitter.

Gerard scrunches up his nose in thought and Frank looks at him and chuckles silently. "I'll write it down, but it does sound like a good idea." Gerard scribbles in his book and Brendon wonders for the umpteenth time how the hell anyone can read Gerard's writing. It's so scrawly and pointy and Brendon would probably rather stab himself in the eye than read a letter written by Gerard.

They continue painstakingly flipping through the book, stopping on each topic to spend time discussing and evaluating. Brendon is falling asleep by the time they reach the discussion about food.

"I was thinking for the hors d'oeuvres a vegetarian selection and a fish selection." Gerard enthuses, eyeing Frank in particular, who nods. "I know a lot of people like meat -"

"Meat?" Brendon interrupts suddenly. He really had been falling asleep, but the prospect of meat rouses him enough to comment. There's scattered laughter and Gerard rolls his eyes.

"No, Brendon, we're talking about food for the wedding. Were you sleeping?" Frank asks, smile light across his face.

"No," Brendon lies, wiping his eyes with the heels of his palms. "But I am hungry." He hasn't eaten since last night and coffee only does so much for the morning munchies.

"Um, there's some food in the kitchen, you can go help yourself." Gerard says, eyes back on his book.

"Maybe I should go with him?" Frank offers, getting up. "No," interjects Ryan who's already on his feet. "I'll go, I could use some sustenance also. Plus, you're a groom, you need to be involved in the decision making, Frank!" Ryan shoots Frank a mocking grin and Frank glares. Brendon's already halfway to the kitchen when Ryan catches up.

"You know where you're going?" Ryan asks, stuffing his hands in his pockets and following behind Brendon.

"Yeah. Well, kind of. I watched where Gerard went when we arrived." Brendon explains, turning through the doorway into the kitchen/dining room. "It's a big house, but it's pretty open plan, I figured it wouldn't be too difficult to navigate." He heads straight for the fridge and opens it to find: half a loaf of bread, orange juice, a cauliflower, carrots, a hell load of chutney, butter, and a small action figure beside the eggs. "Weird food choices, but if you feel like orange and cauliflower cookies just ask." Brendon comments, looking over his shoulder at Ryan who's rummaging through one of the lower cupboards.

"I was thinking more like cereal, but if you're into weird, mismatched cuisine I am not going to stop you." he replies, emerging triumphant with a, mostly full, box of Lucky Charms. "There's some Cookie Crisp in there as well, but I figured you don't need that much sugar - you'll go hyper and it's too early for that shit." Ryan mumbles between munches, kicking the door closed with his foot and moving over to the middle counter.

"Hey, I can hold my sugar thank you very much. Times have changed, Ryan, I am no longer the excitable puppy who goes wild at the merest scent of donuts. I've grown." Brendon channels the inner serious man inside himself in order to get that sentence out straight. Ryan just scoffs.

"Sure, and I no longer correct people's grammar. C'mon, B, some people don't change like that." Ryan digs his hand into the box and licks up a few pieces of cereal.

Brendon can't help the short skip he feels in his chest when Ryan says 'B', but he stomps down on the feeling, telling himself it's just a memory of what he used to feel.

"People can change, Ry, you've just gotta look hard enough." Ryan pauses for a second and turns to look at Brendon, but the guy's already got his head in another cupboard, pulling out some waffles and waving them like a victory flag above his head.

"Jackpot!" He shouts, ripping the packet and stuffing half of one in his mouth, grinning stupidly around it and then getting out a glass and filling it with water.

"So," Ryan starts conversationally, "What're you doing here?"

"Same as you, I guess. Getting bored to death by Gerard droning on and on about the particularities of his goddamned wedding." Brendon complains, taking another bite of waffle.

"Hm, kind of brings back memories doesn't it?" Ryan mumbles, not meeting Brendon's eye.

"Don't, Ryan, it's not worth the fight."

"You know, I realised the other day I never apologised for that?" They meet eyes this time, Ryan's gaze hard to read.

"Yeah you did."

"No... I thought I did, but I didn't. I apologised for a lot of things, but that wasn't one of them." Brendon lets his eyes linger on Ryan for a second longer, then looks at the table instead.

"Don't worry about it, man, it's in the past now." Brendon thinks he's being really awesome, sucking it up and moving past it.

"No, I feel bad. I really am sorry, it was totally wrong of me to leave like I did. So close to... I didn't mean to hurt you."

"Then why did you?" Brendon asks, not sure whether he wants to hear the answer. Ryan hesitates and closes his eyes.

"Seriously, don't worry about it. I handled it, didn't I? And look where we are now, huh? Probably all the better for having gone through it." Brendon clasps his hands tightly round his cup. It's a physical effort to lie to Ryan, especially about something so close to the bone.

"But I don't wanna talk about feelings, and how sorry we are. C'mon, we're celebrating two people making a lifelong commitment, that's pretty cool."

"Yeah, no, really it's spectacular." Ryan agrees, picking at the Lucky Charms, he only wants the 4 leaf clovers.

"And you know what they say," Brendon sing-songs, nudging Ryan with his elbow, "One wedding brings on another, eh?"

Ryan snorts, "Aw, fuck off. Not even nearly."

"You not man enough for him, Ross? Is he starting to complain about the sex? Because, seriously, if you want me to talk to him about it I'd be glad to-"

"Oh my god, shut the hell up!" Ryan laughs, pushing at Brendon's shoulder. "Besides, it's hard to hear complaints above the sound of him screaming my name."

Brendon laughs loudly, but can't quite cover the red tinge that takes up residence over his cheekbones.

"Oh, Ryan, stop it! You're making me blush!" Brendon squeals, deciding to play it up rather than admit the embarrassment of his... embarrassment.

"But enough about me, what about you? You got anybody on the horizon? What about that Gabe guy? He was cute." Brendon shakes his head at the questions.

"No... er... didn't quite work out. He was nice, but... y'know." Brendon twirls his glass around in his hands, rubs the back of his neck and doesn't meet Ryan's eye.

"But as of yet, no one else."

"What about Sarah?" Ryan inquires, surprising Brendon into looking at him.

"What about Sarah?" Brendon fires back.

"I heard you and her were back in business."

"No." Brendon automatically responds, then remembers that he did go to Sarah and makes a face. "Well, yes. Briefly. More of a one-night thing than a serious get-together. We never were serious, it was always just fun." Ryan nods and eats a few more 4 leaf clovers.

"Right. Hey, um, I don't wanna be rude or anything, so tell me if I'm out of line, but..." Ryan pauses and looks at Brendon in this really intense way that has Brendon wanting to squirm. "Dallon said you -"

"Jesus Christ, no. Forget what Dallon said, okay? He's being an asshole." Brendon explodes, causing Ryan to shut up abruptly. "One teeny thing happens and he completely loses his shit. I just... just don't talk about it. It's fine, I'm fine." Ryan just nods as silence seals round the two men.

"We should probably go back in." Ryan suggests eventually. Brendon nods. "Yeah, yeah we should." Neither one of them moves for a second.

"Sorry," Brendon says quietly.

"It's okay." Ryan replies, equally quiet.

"Right."

"Right." And they both get up and return to the living room and sit through 2 hours of Gerard's overly-enthusiastic wedding planning without making snide remarks or rude comments. They surprise themselves, really, with how civil they can be with one another.

Maybe, thinks Brendon, maybe we could make us work... just as friends and it sure is a lot more hopeful than them not working at all.

 

“Come on, puppy.” Spencer calls, patting his leg playfully and beckoning Brendon over.

“Fuck you, I’m nobody’s bitch.” Brendon sneers, crossing his arms and stopping halfway down the driveway.

“Brendon, you’re my bitch and you know it, now get in the car, I’m taking you home.” Spencer turns to the car and unlocks it from the driver’s side (it stopped being able to lock/unlock wirelessly about as soon as Spencer bought it).

“I don’t wanna go home now,” Brendon protests, swaying his head around in a particularly childish way. “I’m too jumped up on coffee, we should go somewhere fun!”

Spencer rolls his eyes at Brendon’s excited tone, “Absolutely not. You’re going home, not least because I don’t think you ironed your clothes and you look kind of homeless. And you smell. C’mon, get in the car.” Brendon groans in the defeated way he does and stomps forward to the car. “Fine, but I expect cake or cookies or something sugary when I get home.”

Spencer smiles at his friend and says, “Absolutely fucking not.” Then he puts the car into reverse and they retrace their steps back to Brendon’s house.

 

Spencer hurries Brendon out the car and into his house, pushing his back forcefully and ignoring Brendon’s whines of protest.

“Hey, pokey, what’s with the poking?” Brendon finally squeals, batting Spencer’s hands away, turning the two men against each other in a particularly lame slap war.

“You need to pack,” Spencer manages between slaps.

“Why?” Brendon asks, slapping Spencer one last time before stopping. Spencer slaps Brendon’s face and smiles.

“We’re going to Vegas!” He grins, patting Brendon’s cheek one last time before heading towards his friend’s house. Oh yeah, Brendon forgot about the opening party in Vegas. Man that was a bad idea.

“Fuck, seriously?” Brendon pouts, trailing unenthusiastically behind Spencer into his house. “Yes, Brendon, you agreed to it when it was raised, so now you have to follow through with it. We’re going to Vegas tomorrow morning on a 09:20 plane, business class, chill out. Me, you, Dallon, Butch and Ian, leaving from LAX and arriving in McCarren International. Two days in good ol' LV and then back. Now go and pack your shit.” Spencer pushes Brendon towards the stairs and then heads towards the kitchen. Brendon wonders absently how Spencer got the key to his house and then remembers he gave him a key and walks into his room humming Daft Punk under his breath.

It turns out he doesn’t have very many clothes to pack. After calling to Spencer asking him what he’ll need in Vegas and finding out he really only needs pajamas, underwear and one pair of jeans, Brendon quickly fills out his suitcase with his essentials. He then moves on to luxuries: hair products, books, CDs, magazines, laptop, backup iPod, and portable synthesizer.

Once his bag is full enough, Brendon heads downstairs to see what Spencer’s doing.

“Yo, I got lunch,” Spencer chirps from the kitchen when Brendon enters. “Well, I mean I called up the pizza place and ordered something for us. You’re cool with Neapolitan, right?” Brendon nods his head in response and sits at the counter facing Spencer.

“Cool. Hey, how much are we spending on this release party anyway?” Brendon asks, casually, and Spencer makes his thinking face.

“Um, close to $30,000, I think? Including hotel, flights, venue, and food/drinks. Butch said it was normal, and not to sweat it, so I didn’t.” Spencer is currently unloading Brendon’s dishwasher (which he doesn’t remember loading) and shrugs nonchalantly in Brendon’s direction.

“Jesus, $30,000? That seems like kind of a lot, don’t you think?” Brendon remarks, picking at a stain on his countertop.

“It’s Vegas, Brendon. It was always going to cost a certain amount. Plus, it’s a party! Vegas parties are always pricey, you know that!” Spencer’s smiling and laughing at Brendon’s apparent naivety. They’ve been in this band for 10 years and he didn’t know how much it cost to organise something like this? It’s funny, that’s all.

“I know, but doesn’t 30 grand seem like an inordinately large sum of money for an album that cost about 2 grand to make?” He says, looking at Spencer with an odd expression Spencer doesn’t know what to make of.

“Seriously, Bren, don’t sweat it. Butch has been doing shit like this for pretty much his whole life. He knows our budget and he knows what the label wants. If he’s not worrying, we shouldn’t be either. We’ll make a bunch of money from the tour and album sales and stuff, we’ll be fine.” Brendon seems to drop it after that, silently rubbing his index fingers along the counter, making pictures and smiling to himself.

“Okay, what’s wrong with you?” Spencer finally asks, hands menacingly placed on hips, eyebrows up and questioning.

“What?” Brendon asks, head lazily picked up to rest on one of his hands.

“What’s wrong with you? You’ve been weird since Gerard told us we could leave. I thought you’d be jumping for joy and instead you’re all resigned and morose. I don’t like it.”

Brendon tips his head to the side and hitches one shoulder up. “I don’t know. I feel too fast, or slow, I don’t know. Everything’s blurry around me and I can’t make any sense of it.”

Oh good, Spencer thinks, another feelings talk. “Well, when did this start? This… blurriness?”

“I don’t know. I think when Jon came to visit. He just… he moved on, y’know? He went out and did things, real things, and I guess somehow I still feel like that 16 year old boy with stupid, red glasses who has no idea what he’s doing and is basically just pissing about waiting for someone to come along and make everything make sense.” Brendon sighs and rubs his eyes with the backs of his wrists. “Sorry, you don’t really want to hear it. Everything’s been confusing since we started this album and I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ll get over it, it’s probably writer’s block or something.”

“Or loneliness?” Spencer says, his menacing pose transforming into something more reassuring.

“What?” Brendon asks, looking Spencer right in the eyes.

“You could be lonely, Brendon. I know you’ve got all of us around you all the time, but there’s a difference between being lonely and being alone, right? I mean, you’ve started writing this album, and it’s all about being around people and revisiting this place where you grew up and you knew everyone. There are songs on it about love and being with someone and you don’t have that right now. Doesn’t mean you won’t have it in the future, but right now you don’t. I get how that might impact you more than you want it to.” Spencer places his hand gently on Brendon’s shoulder over the counter, but Brendon flinches away.

“How could you possibly – you don’t understand. I’ll be fine. I’m fine.” Brendon pushes off the counter and gets up off his stool.

“Brendon, you just said – ”

“I know what I said!” Brendon shouts, turning on Spencer with a red face. “I know what I said, and I shouldn’t have said it. I – I wasn’t thinking.” Brendon pauses and hugs his arms around himself, clutching his hands in his shirt. “You should leave.” Spencer blanches for a second before scowling.

“Fine, if you really want me to go, I’ll go.”

“Good. You know where the door is.” Brendon spits, taking steps back until he’s pressed up against the back of the couch.

“I’ll see you tomorrow morning. Dallon’s picking us all up, so be ready.” Spencer hesitates in the door and looks over his shoulder at his friend. “I wish you could talk to us Brendon. Really talk to us. It’s not helping anyone for you to suffer on your own. Have a nice evening.” And with that he walks down the corridor and out the door.

Brendon stands against the couch for a while before he realises he’s shaking.

“Get a grip!” He screams, walking frantically over to his shelving unit and throwing a vase across the room, watching as it shatters everywhere. He screams again and grips his hair with his hands, still shaking.

“I’m okay, I’m okay, I promise, I’m okay,” He rants, collapsing onto the floor and rocking back and forth.

The phone rings. It rings three times before Brendon crawls over and picks it up.

“Yeah,” He practically moans down the phone.

“Brendon? You okay?”

“Gabe. Hey. Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Sure?” Gabe asks, voice laced with concern. Brendon coughs and sniffs and sits up against the wall.

“Yeah, no, of course. What’s up?”

Gabe laughs, “What’s up? Dude, I haven’t heard from you in ages?! I left voicemails, but you didn’t reply. How are you?”

“Fine, just packing.”

“Ooh, where are you going?”

“Las Vegas, for our album release party.”

“Sweet! Oh, yeah, I listened to the album, it’s really good, dude! I managed to persuade the DJ at Express to play some tracks from it. He totally digs it!” Brendon smiles wearily at Gabe’s unwavering enthusiasm.

“Thanks, dude. Hey, d’ya wanna come, maybe, to Vegas? For the party, I mean? We come back on the 17th and I can set you up with a hotel room and stuff?” Brendon doesn’t mean to say it, and he certainly doesn’t mean to ask it, and desperately at that.

“I don’t know, Ben-B, I don’t think your friends would be particularly thrilled to see me there, I get the distinct feeling they hate me.”

“They don’t hate you, Gabe.” Brendon argues.

“Well, if the death glares weren’t evidence enough, Sophie has relayed things they’ve said, I’m not smart but I’m not an idiot either.”

“Please, Gabe. I’d feel better if you were there. Everyone’s getting on my back right now, and I just need a friend, especially at a party. Please?” Brendon’s voice cracks a little bit and he blushes even though Gabe can’t see him.

Gabe sighs down the receiver, “Okay, for you, okay, yeah, text me the details and I’ll be there. Not going to leave you alone in this if you need me.”

“Thank you, Gabe, I really appreciate it.”

“It’s okay. Okay, I’ve gotta go. You know that cute guy I said I’d seen? I’m meeting him in a while and I gotta make myself look cute as hell. See you tomorrow!” Brendon says bye and hangs up the phone. He feels better knowing he’ll have someone there that doesn’t constantly bug him about his feelings and shit.

“Fuck I need a smoke.” Brendon mumbles as he rubs his face with his hands and gets up from the floor. He pads across the floor to get his weed from in the study, he steps carefully over the broken china across the tiling, making a mental note to clean it up later.

He lights a spliff and sits in the chair in his study blowing smoke in fun patterns and then wafting his fingers through them.

He spares a moment to think that the pizza will arrive soon and he’ll have to pay for it while completely off his face, but his high brain doesn’t dwell on it for long, and when the doorbell does ring, he manages to exchange money for food with minimal difficulty, waving his hand as the guy rummages for change Brendon can’t be bothered with.

The pizza is good and although a lot of it seems to end up on the floor/himself, Brendon can’t bring himself to care.

Brendon looks at the spliff in his hand and rolls it between his thumb and forefinger.

“Tonight, just be the death of me.” 

The rest of the day is spent in come-down, monotonously cleaning up the mess on his floor and trying to ignore the buzz of fright and excitement bubbling in his stomach in anticipation for tomorrow.

Chapter Text

Shouting. There’s always motherfucking shouting. Spencer wonders how long it’s been going this time and thereby how much longer it will go on for. He doesn’t bother trying to pick up on what it’s about, it’s probably about a lot of things; there are a lot of things to fight about.

“Will you assholes shut the fuck up!” Spencer hears Jon yell from the other side of the room. “We are leaving in 3 hours and I haven’t slept in a week! I am not above hitting you both over the head with a large, heavy object if it means I can get some fucking peace and quiet around here!” Jon, by all rights, can be fucking scary when he wants to be. He’s usually all Zen in his flip flops and organic hair products, but when he’s sleep deprived he is an animal.

Spencer knows when Ryan and Brendon re-enter the room because they’re mumbling ‘sorry’s and collapsing onto their beds.

Ryan’s bed is right next to Spencer’s, so he cracks open an eye to see what Ryan’s face looks like.

“What was wrong this time?” Spencer whispers, voice groggy from lack of use.

“I don’t know. The apartment, I think? Something about where we were going to go when we got back home.” Ryan turns onto his side to face Spencer and rubs his nose with his wrist. “I’m so fucking tired, Spence.” Then Ryan closes his eyes. Spencer waits a moment before replying.

“I know, Ry, I know.”

The shrill ring of Spencer’s alarm clock rouses him at 6:45am and he reaches out blindly to turn it off. They’re going to Vegas today and, honestly, there’s nothing Spencer would rather not do.

“Fucking… pissing early,” he grumbles wiping the sleep out of his eyes with the heel of his hand.

His bags are sitting forlornly by the end of the bed and the radio turns on to KIIS and Spencer hears the tail-end of some pop song before Ryan Seacrest’s voice comes tinnily through the speaker.

“That was Clarity by Zedd featuring Foxes for you all. It’s 6:47am here in Los Angeles, 59 degrees out, looking to be sunny and we’re wishing you a good morning! Coming up on this morning’s show…” Spencer tunes it out as background noise and swings his legs out of bed, arching his back and listening to the clunk and grind of his spine. Ew.

When he manages to haul himself off the bed and into some clothes, Spencer drags his bags down into the hallway by the front door. He didn’t do it last night and now he can’t remember why. He heats up some coffee from yesterday and downs it in several large, ungraceful gulps. Dallon will arrive any minute.

Spencer’s slightly worried Brendon won’t make it, or refuse to go or something equally as dramatic and infuriating. It wouldn’t be the first time.

“Brendon, fucking come on!” Spencer shouts from outside the house. Brendon lumbers into the doorway and crosses his arms.

“I’m not coming.” He says, calmly.

“Brendon don’t be stupid, come on, we’re going to be late.” Spencer chides, dragging the luggage closer to the Range Rover. Brendon doesn’t move.

“What’s the point, Spence? He’s gone so there’s no point.” Brendon’s voice is small and childlike. Spencer doesn’t have time for this shit.

“Listen, Brendon, I know this is difficult, but we agreed to carry this on regardless. We all agreed this. So get your ass out here and get in the car.” Spencer turns back to the car.

Brendon waits a beat before shouting, “He left you too, Spencer! How can you not be hurting from this?! How come you’re not finding it even a little hard?!”

“I am hurting, asshole! I’m hurting all the way through but I’m trying to carry on with my life like we all agreed. Like I want to. It’s not just you in pain here, Brendon, so don’t think for a single second that it is!” Spencer’s bright red and looks rumpled and Brendon cowers in the doorway for a second before literally just breaking down into tears. His knees buckle and his hand goes to his eyes. Spencer gives up being angry and runs over to catch his friend.

Brendon’s whimpering and choking on his sobs and Spencer holds him under his arms and puts his face in his hair. “Shh, shh, it’s okay, B, it’s okay.” Brendon cries out and gasps a bit.

“H-How is it okay, Spencer?” He wails into Spencer’s shirt. “He’s gone! How can it ever be okay?” Brendon buries his face further into Spencer’s chest and just sobs.

They’re silent for a while before Spencer sighs and says “Everything you promised everyone you’d be, you can still be. It’s not much, but pain doesn’t go away immediately, B, you’ve gotta work for it.” Brendon pushes his nose into Spencer once before pulling back and looking up through teary eyes.

“I want it to go away, but I want him back, Spence. So bad, I want him back.” Spencer nods and pulls Brendon back into a hug.

“I know, B, I know.”

Dallon’s car pulls up just outside Spencer’s driveway and he stumbles out the door, dragging his bags behind him. He locks the door and heads over to the back of Dallon’s car to dump the bags in the boot, he then jumps into the middle seat and rubs his hands together. “Hey Dallon, hey Breezy. Thanks for driving us to the airport it’s really appreciated.”

Breezy smiles over her shoulder and puts the car into drive, heading down the street. “It’s no problem, Spencer, it means I get to say goodbye to Dall, so really I have no complaints!”

Spencer’s about to say ‘but it’s so early’ then remembers the Weekes family get up early to pray and doesn’t say anything. They drive around for a bit and Spencer looks out the window watching the houses whizz past. Brendon’s house is actually disproportionately large considering Brendon’s size and Spencer wonders why he ever bought that monster.

“I’ll go get him.” Spencer says, unbuckling and hopping out the car when Breezy stops.

He knocks on the door and, almost immediately, Brendon opens the door, hair washed and combed, clothes clean and ironed, basically looking good. He smiles when he sees Spencer and leans behind him to grab his suitcase.

“Does this go in the back?” He asks, back turned to Spencer as he locks his front door but gesturing to the bag. Spencer flounders momentarily.

“Um, yeah. Yeah, it does. Breezy’s in the car so we’re sitting… in the middle, are you okay?”

Brendon frowns at Spencer and walks towards the car, “Yeah, man, I’m fine. Jeez, you guys have got to stop asking me! It’s getting ridiculous!” Except he’s laughing, so Spencer can’t take it seriously.

“Right. Sorry. I guess.” Spencer rubs his forehead and follows after Brendon, who's striding down the driveway jovially. This can't be good, Spencer thinks, calm before the storm, it's gotta be.

They make pointless small talk on the way to the airport, the radio turned off because Dallon only really listens to Christian radio stations and, although they've known him for, like, 5 years, Breezy's still worried it'll upset them or whatever.

The airport is pretty busy when they arrive, as it's pretty prime-time to be catching a business flight, so Breezy says goodbye to Dallon in the car, kissing him on the lips (Brendon makes a really childish face at and Spencer averts his eyes; it's weird) and pushing him out the car door.

"We're leaving from Gate 7... I think," Dallon says, studying his ticket closely and stopping in the middle of the crowded hall. Brendon nods and heads off towards that gate, but Spencer grabs his collar before he goes too far and yanks him back.

"Hey!" Brendon squeals, tripping backwards into his friend.

"You're not going anywhere until we find Butch and Ian. We're meeting them here and I don't want to get on the wrong plane because that would make this experience just about a billion times worse than it already is." Brendon huffs but stays still, leaning against Spencer and humming.

Dallon's craning his neck a lot, using his height to his advantage to scout out the missing producers. Sometimes Spencer wishes he just had a few extra inches on him, to even it out a little. Then he thinks about wearing heels and styling his hair like Brendon's. Then he thinks heels look uncomfortable and Brendon looks like a tool and he feels okay again.

Butch and Ian are standing on the other side of the airport when Dallon spots them, waving their arms encouragingly. Dallon points and smacks Spencer in the stomach to get his attention. "Dude, they're over there, let's go." Dallon moves off towards the others and Spencer follows, dragging Brendon behind him.

"Dude, gentle with the collar!" Brendon yelps, managing to haul his bag along with him before Spencer wrenches him too far away from it.

"Everyone here?" Butch says when they reach him, "Good, right, we're going through security now so stay together. The seats on the plane are all together so we won't be separated. Ready to go?" Butch smiles at his own joke. Brendon rolls his eyes and Spencer groans, "Dude, it wasn't funny 2 years ago when that song came out." Butch simply shrugs and keeps smiling.

"Sure, now come on or we'll be late. Move them money-making asses, boys!" Butch enthuses, rallying them towards their gate.

The plane journey to Las Vegas is quite quiet, it's mostly businessmen and people hoping to get in some gambling before Christmas. Brendon sits and listens to his iPod, staring out the window being generally uninteresting. Dallon flips through the safety manual a hundred times, reading every section and occassionally acting out the little picture guides. Spencer is bored; he doesn't like the middle seat, although fortunately he doesn't have some annoying kid kicking him in the spine every five seconds, but the muted chatter of the couple a few rows back isn't much better.

As they land, Dallon grips the arm rests like they'd save him if the plane crashed. Brendon takes his iPod out, but continues to be distracted by the runway outside the window.

Las Vegas: welcome home.

Butch herds the boys to the exit once they've walked the two billion miles across the airport to baggage reclaim. They're greeted at the exit by a nice, big rental van, which they climb into happily.

"Okay," Butch starts, when they're all seated in the van comfortably, "I'm going to lay down some ground rules before we get to the hotel. Number 1, no drinking till you're paralytic. Number 2, no sex with anyone that isn't in this van, hopefully that means no sex at all." Brendon snickers, looks at Spencer and waggles his eyebrows. Spencer rolls his eyes. "Number 3," Butch continues, "No free copies of the CD, I cannot stress how annoying it is to clear up that shit, guys. And finally, number 4, no drugs. I can't be dealing with any kind of band-scandal right now. Keep your noses clean, smile in the pictures, and tell everyone how amazing the album is, 'kay?"

Everyone nods dutifully, although Brendon seems twitchier than normal.

"Dude, sit still." Spencer complains, about 5 minutes into their journey. Brendon whines and shimmies about a bit more.

"I can't," Brendon says, "I'm restless. It's weird being back here, man. I feel all... itchy." Spencer laughs at his friend. "That's it, no more energy bars for you ever." He says decisively.

Brendon snorts, "When the cat's away."

 

The Wynn hotel is kind of really nice and Spencer feels like a bit of a tramp as they walk in. Butch tells them that, due to hotel restrictions, they could only book 3 rooms and that Spencer and Brendon are sharing.

"Ha!" Is Dallon's immediate reaction, while Brendon goes for a "What? Why us?!" Butch raises his eyebrows at them and crosses his arms.

"You two have known each other longest and at the moment, Brendon, I do not trust you not to break at least 3 of my 4 rules."

Brendon stares at Butch for a little moment longer before huffing. "You suck and I hate you, but fine. Which room are we?"

"The Encore Resort Suite. It's a double, don't worry. It's on... actually I have no idea which floor it's on, you'll have to ask. Ian, you're with me in the Wynn Tower Suite, and Dallon you're in the Wynn Executive Suite. We're meeting back here at 6pm so you can dilly around till then, just make sure you're ready for tonight." Butch makes this gesture with his hands and turns into the lobby to call someone.

Brendon shrugs and goes to the desk for his key, smiling seductively at the attractive blonde behind the counter. Well, Spencer thinks, at least he's over Ryan.

Their room turns out to be about 3/4 of the way up the hotel, so they stumble over to the elevator and press the button for their floor.

"Hold the door!" Someone screeches from the lobby, and Spencer puts his arm into the gap to stop the doors closing.

"Thank you so much!" The woman says as she reaches the elevator. She's a little breathless, but her smile is unwavering. She reaches one hand into her hair to smooth it down and uses the other to de-wrinkle her skirt. "Floor 10, please." She says, still grinning. Brendon has pressed himself into the back corner and is looking at his phone. The woman moves further into the elevator and then stops.

"Brendon Urie, is that you?"

Brendon looks up from his phone and widens his eyes in shock. "Audrey? Oh my God! It's been so long!" Before Spencer knows what the hell is happening, Brendon is hugging the woman tightly, rocking back and forth and smiling like an idiot.

"What are you doing back in Vegas?" She asks when they let go of one another, "I thought you moved out to LA or NYC or somewhere?"

"We're here to promote our new album." Brendon replies, still smiling.

"Oh, yeah, I've heard of it! I was in LA recently and they were talking about it on the radio." Audrey enthuses, leaning on her bag a bit.

"We've been doing crazy press. But, enough about me, what are you doing here?" Brendon asks, eyes wide and interested.

"I'm here on business, actually," Audrey says calmly, "I work in a company that's based in LA but I have some contracts to sort out here in Vegas so I popped down for a long weekend!"

The elevator pings then, signalling it's reached floor 10. "Oh, well this is me, but we should catch up while we're both in the same city!" Audrey grins, stepping out the elevator. Spencer puts his arm against the door to stop it from shutting.

"Well, I'm free till 6 tonight?" Brendon answers.

"Okay, I get off at 3, so how about we meet then in the lobby?" Audrey suggests. Brendon nods enthusiastically. "Yeah, yeah, of course! See you then." They both smile crazily at each other for another moment before Spencer lets the doors shut and they continue their journey up the hotel.

"Who was she?" Spencer inquires.

"Hm? Oh, Audrey Kitching, we used to date, remember?" Brendon kind of leaves it at that and Spencer turns back to face the doors of the elevator.

He does kind of remember Audrey. She was the girl before the fame, she was also kind of really weird; fucking beautiful, but weird. But there had been some fuck-up concerning her fidelity and then she'd been out of the picture.

"And you're going to go out with her again?" Spencer asks as they near their floor.

Brendon shrugs, "I don't know. She was fun, and it would be nice to catch up after all this time."

Spencer inwardly scoffs as they get out the elevator and Brendon unlocks the door to their suite. The last time Brendon caught up with someone from so long ago, it was Ryan, and wasn't that just peachy.

 

Brendon went out with Audrey half an hour ago and Spencer's lounging around the Strip, moving from cafe to cafe, texting Ryan to prevent himself going insane. Ryan agreed to come to the CD 'premiere' (his words, not Spencer's) but insisted on getting as late a flight as possible.

William agreed to come as well, claiming it was in support of Ryan's friends, but Spencer suspects it's really a ploy to keep an eye on Ryan around many young, attractive starlets. Of course, when Spencer had told Ryan this, he'd denied it wholeheartedly.

"Shut up, Spin," He'd said, "He's doing something nice for you and Dallon, he's trying to integrate himself more." Spencer had rolled his eyes and scoffed.

Spencer's in the middle of typing out a text to Ryan when someone sits down in the seat opposite. Spencer flicks his eyes up to see a flustered Dallon straightening out his jacket. "Sup," Spencer says, focusing back on his phone.

"Dude, we need to talk." Dallon declares, fixing Spencer with a firm stare. Spencer holds Dallon's eye contact then looks back to his phone.

"Shoot," He says disinterestedly.

"Spencer, pay attention," Dallon insists, waiting until Spencer has sighed and closed his phone to continue, "We need to talk about Brendon." That gains Spencer's attention pretty quickly.

"Go on," Spencer replies.

"I think we should get him to see a professional. I think he needs to talk about what happened, what he's been doing." Dallon looks concerned and leans forward.

"Well," Spencer mumbles, shifting in his seat, "What, specifically, has happened? What has he been doing?"

Dallon bites his lip and looks around a lot, not meeting Spencer's eye. "Well, there was the incident with Gabe, and then there was the drugs, and the booze, and the smoking, and Sarah." Dallon rattles off, watching Spencer's reaction carefully. Spencer sighs and covers his mouth with his hand.

"Right. We'll start with Gabe. What... exactly.. happened?" He says.

"I don't know," Dallon admits, "But I know someone who does."

Spencer raises his eyebrows, "Really? Who?"

"Ryan," Dallon mumbles.

"Why does Ryan know?" Spencer asks, forehead creased into a frown.

"He asked his friend Sophie to snoop and she asked Gabe and Gabe told her and so she told Ryan. He knows more than I do." Dallon rests his head on the back of the chair and whistles.

"Well, then we ask Ryan," Spencer suggests. Dallon looks at him without moving his head, which causes a really attractive double chin, 12 year old boy selfie, look. "What?"

"Yeah," Spencer continues, "Ryan's coming out here anyway, I could ask him to come a little earlier and we could make him tell us the story."

Dallon ponders this for a moment before nodding. "Wouldn't hurt to try."

"Good, okay, well what about the other things you said? Drugs, booze, Sarah?" Spencer rubs his face again and slumps a bit.

"And smoking," Dallon adds. "Well, the drugs, he's mostly doing coke, I think? I saw some on his coffee table when I dragged him from his living room to his bed before the album was released. Booze, well that's pretty self-explanatory, he's been going out with Gabe too much. And Sarah, well, that's new realms of desperation, don't you think?"

"Sarah - she's not desperation, she's familiarity. I admit, he could have had better judgement when it came to her, but people tend to lose sense of standards when they're lonely." Spencer defends, he himself has been known to make some bad calls concerning women, he's going to try to preserve his friend's dignity. "As for the drink and the drugs, I think the best thing for him would be rehab. However, due to difficult circumstances, meaning Butch, that's not about to happen so close to tour."

Dallon moans and kicks at the floor, "Why don't we just send him to a therapist?"

"You make it sound like we're his parents, Dallon," Spencer admonishes, "We can suggest he go to see a specialist, it's up to him whether he goes. I know he's had some bad experience with therapy, but he's had bad experience with pretty much everything, so."

"Well, he could go see someone before we go on tour? Just to get some advice and support, then we'll go on tour and get away from it all for a while? We'll be able to keep an eye on him and he'll be away from all the inner-city temptations and.. distractions." Dallon's eyes are wide but hold an edge of worry and discomfort.

"As I said," Spencer proceeds, "It's really down to him. Although, I do agree he should see someone. Seeing as he won't talk to any of us, speaking to someone outside of the situation would probably be beneficial." Dallon nods then points to Spencer's phone.

"You gonna call Ryan now?" He asks.

"Well, right now I'm talking to you, and isn't it kind of rude to start a conversation with someone when you're already engaged in a previous conversation?" Spencer challenges.

Dallon makes this face and rolls his head on his neck a bit, "Yeah but do it anyway, I'm chill here." Spencer rolls his eyes and pulls out his phone, pressing speed-dial 2 to call him (speed-dial 1 is reserved for the cafe that does deliveries for urgent situations). Ryan picks up on the 3rd ring.

"What do you want now?" He intones, sighing, but Spencer can sense the smile.

"Hello to you, too." Spencer snaps, smiling as well because it's so typically Ryan.

"Seriously what do you want now?" Ryan persists.

"I need you to come a little earlier. To LV, I mean." Ryan scoffs down the line.

"You're joking, right?" Spencer doesn't say anything, "Please tell me you're fucking joking." Spencer still doesn't say anything. "Fuck you, man! I'm not hauling ass over to LV before I really have to! Why the hell'd you think I left there in the first place?!"

"Oh, come on, Ryan! I need a favour! You totally owe me!" Spencer pleads. He's not sure Ryan does actually owe him, but it's worth a shot.

"Oh yeah? And what do I owe you for?" Dammit.

"Um..." Spencer fumbles for an excuse, then gives up, "The point is we're friends and you should do me this favour. Please?"

Ryan groands loudly, "Fine. I'll transfer my flight to an earlier one. Where should I meet you?" Spencer clicks at Dallon and does a thumbs up, Dallon smiles and tips his head back onto the chair again.

"Wynn Hotel, about 10 minutes from McCarren. Thank you so much, you rock."

"Yeah, yeah I know. Just make sure there's donuts or coffee or biscuits or something when I get there because I swear to - " Ryan's getting his bitch voice on, so Spencer hangs up.

"He'll be here as soon as he can manage. We're meeting him at the hotel so." says Spencer, slipping his phone into the pocket of his jeans.

"You're the best, Spence!" Dallon chirps, getting up.

"Woah there," Spencer protests, "Where are you going?" Dallon stares innocently and pauses midway through putting on his jacket. "Um... out?" Dallon tries, sounding unsure. Spencer shakes his head.

"Nuh-uh, you're staying with me. I'm bored and lonely. We're going to hit up some of the joints I visited as a kid." He says decisively.

"Why can't you go with Brendon? I didn't even grow up here!" Dallon objects, yanking his arm through the arm of his jacket petulantly.

Spencer fixes Dallon with a stern look and says, "Brendon's on a date, and you not growing up here is the perfect excuse for why you should come with me." Dallon does a double take and hangs his mouth open slightly.

"Brendon has a date?" He bleats, standing still as Spencer circles round him to the door.

"Yeah, he ran into some ex girlfriend and they organised to meet again today. Ergo, date." Spencer explains pushing out the door and not waiting for Dallon to follow. Dallon does follow, out of sheer curiosity rather than willingness to be shown around 'Sin City'.

"Wow, well I guess that sorts out the issue between him and Ryan."

"Yeah, thank God. I've had it up to here with their whining and fretting and palpable sexual tension." Spencer bitches, leading Dallon left along the Strip towards a bar he and Ryan used to sneak into with their, in retrospect, horrendously awful, fake IDs to drink cheap beer and wince at the taste.

"Do you reckon he's doing it to get back at Ryan?" Dallon spectulates, dodging past a heavily made up transvestite in an honestly gorgeous red, glittery dress.

Spencer frowns, "I don't think he's smart enough to think of doing something like that. I mean, like, no offence to him or anything," Dallon scoffs.

"You can't just insult someone and then say 'no offence'. That doesn't act like a free pass to slag someone off."

"I didn't - I'm not slagging him off! I'm just saying, based on my years of experience, I don't think Brendon has the mental capacity to formulate a grand scheme in order to make Ryan jealous."

"I don't know. People can surprise you. What I've learned, based on my years of experience," Spencer rolls his eyes at the dig, "What I've learned is that if someone wants something bad enough, they can do pretty much anything in order to attain it."

They walk in idle chatter the rest of the way to the bar, and then they move on to the clothes shop where Ryan bought his first waistcoat, and then the sweet shop where Spencer took Brendon after he had his first couple's fight with Ryan. Dallon nods along attentively while Spence relays his city's history enthusiastically.

 

Ryan's waiting in the lobby of the hotel when Spencer arrives. He looks severely pissed off and Spencer's genuinely quite afraid.

"Hi," Ryan snips, crossing his arms and leaning his weight on one hip.

"Hello," Spencer replies, waving his arms around his body in a circle.

"Well,"

"Well,"

"Spence, what is it that you brought me down here for? I could be with my other friends right now and here I am, in Vegas, doing bugger all. With no donuts, might I add."

"Pft, what other friends?" Spencer pushes, causing Ryan to smile despite himself.

"Seriously, why am I here?" Ryan persists. Spencer points to where Dallon is lingering by the elevator on the other side of the room to the elevator Spencer and Brendon took up to their room hours earlier.

"Come with us and we'll explain," Spencer says by way of explanation.

"Dude, you sound like you're kidnapping me," Ryan remarks, following sullenly behind Spencer as he heads over to Dallon.

They ride the elevator in silence, Ryan tapping away on his phone absently, leaving Spencer and Dallon to exchange worried glances up all the 17 floors.

Dallon's room is nicer than his and Brendon's, Spencer thinks to himself. It's more open plan, more space and the colours are a softer beige. Ryan immediately sits himself on the sofa, splaying his legs over the arm and sighing deeply. Spencer rolls his eyes and stands above Ryan scowling.

"Bro, stop scowling for 2 seconds and enjoy the world." Ryan breathes, eyes closed. Spencer kicks Ryan's thigh hard enough to make him yelp and open his eyes. "Fine, tell me now why I was brought here."

"We want you to tell us about what happened between Gabe and Brendon," Dallon states, straight up, no nonsense. Spencer sends him a look of incredulity, but Dallon just shrugs in response.

Ryan squirms into an upright sitting position and blows out a long whistle. "Wow, really?" Spencer nods yes. "Okay, well, where do I start?"

"At the beginning," Dalllon says in this 'what do you think, dumbass' voice and Ryan makes his 'seriously, you idiot' face in return.

"I mean how much build up do you want? From when they met or from after Spencer's party for Jon?"

"Oh," Dallon falters, sitting down on the desk chair and spinning slightly, "Vague from when they met, detail after Spencer's." He says with finality. Spencer nods agreement.

"Right, well, they met the same day I met William, Gabe was in the cafe we met up in, the one Spence told Brendon to meet me in. They went out a few times, well, quite a few times, got pissed and Gabe introduced Brendon to all his friends. All the friends are basically like Gabe but a little more refined, might I add. Brendon and Gabe got kind of... touchy, but nothing more than a few gropes here and there." Ryan shuffles to lean his back on the arm of the chair, coughing to clear his throat.

"The same night as Gerard's comic book opening, Brendon went and got shit-faced with Gabe and his friends. Gabe made a pass at him, but he got all pissy and ran away to fuck Sarah," Ryan splays out his hands in a vague gesture and continues, "So I'm told."

"What happened after that?" Dallon asks, intrigued now. Ryan rubs his neck.

"They got over it. Gabe said he didn't mean to freak Brendon out and Brendon said it was fine, no biggie," Ryan widens his eyes derisively to accentuate his obvious disbelief and frustration. "Anyway, they went out some more, not as much, and Gabe hooked Brendon up with some bad stuff; drugs, illegally imported booze, and slutty guys and/or girls. We then reach Spencer's party round 2. Brendon brought Gabe because he wanted to show him his friends and shit, not realising Mikey was going to show or that Mikey and Gabe had this twisted, messy breakup. Gabe and Mikey fought, as we all know, and Brendon got Gabe the fuck out of there." Ryan halts for a second, staring at his hands awkwardly before continuing.

"I went out to get them, as Spence asked, and they were making out, so I left again. I didn't think much of it then, but all things considered it's an influential event. Brendon came back inside to say goodbye to everyone and then they left." Ryan stops again and looks at both Spencer and Dallon.

"Okay, this is where we're not sure exactly what happened, and by that I mean the nitty-gritty details, because Gabe wouldn't tell Sophie. As far as I know, Gabe came onto Brendon in his house after Brendon had taken him home. Brendon resisted a bit, pushing Gabe away and stuff, but he didn't stop. They fucked, basically, and Gabe says Brendon didn't say no so he's in the clear. Sophie tells me, however, that Brendon didn't say yes either, and he did try to make Gabe back off. I don't know whether it was guilt or pity or sheer terror that kept Brendon quieter than he would've been, you'd have to ask him, but I know it was sex with dubious consent and it fucked Brendon up." Ryan points a finger towards Spencer and takes another breath.

"You said he was distant, that's because he was in denial or retreat or something, I don't know the specifics. I'm just saying that if it happened to me, I would have gone and done drugs and drunk until I couldn't see just to pretend it was all a dream." Ryan puts his hands up and shrugs. "That's all I know."

"So he was raped," Spencer half-asks.

"He probably wouldn't put it that way," answers Ryan.

"No, he wouldn't. Didn't, in fact." Dallon mutters, standing and walking over to the panoramic window.

"Shit," Spencer says.

"Yeah," Dallon concurs.

"This is a weird conversation to be having, can I just say," Ryan remarks.

"Oh, we were deciding whether it would be good for Brendon to see a professional before we go on tour." Dallon explains, nodding out the window.

"Huh. Yeah, that might be a good idea," Ryan agrees, making Spencer raise an eyebrow his way, but Ryan's not looking. "But, you know you can't force him to see someone, right?"

"Yeah, we know. But we still think he needs to get it out his system, especially with tour coming up. Tour can leave you emotionally vulnerable on a good day." notes Dallon, coming away from the window and sitting back down by the desk.

"Where the fuck is he anyway?" Ryan asks, scanning Dallon and Spencer's faces.

"Um," Spencer replies, "He's on a date."

Ryan pauses in shock for a good 10 seconds before continuing. "Well then, surely he is getting over all this debarkle then, isn't he?" He reasons.

Spencer frowns, scrunching his face up in thought. "Well, we still think he needs a qualified psych to really... you know... evaluate his mental stability. He doesn't talk to us about his problems, and we all know storing up emotion isn't a good way to deal with it."

Ryan nods and then gets up. "I'm leaving," he states and heads towards the door. Dallon looks shocked, but Spencer moves into Ryan's vacated seat. The door shuts with a muffled click.

"What the fuck?" Dallon says, disbelieving. Spencer flaps a hand at him. "He does that sometimes; if he's bored, or has anything better to do." Dallon continues to look a little baffled, but goes over to his mini-fridge and grabs some crisps before plonking down on his sofa next to Spencer.

"We have to be down in 30 minutes." He states. Spencer nods. They don't move for another 29.5 minutes. Brendon's already there when they get down. He looks smug. It's reassuring, knowing he's moving on, but oddly annoying. Spencer wonders briefly why he's annoyed Brendon's leaving Gabe behind, but quickly busies himself running up to Butch who looks more than a little pissed off. Oh well, only a few minutes late.

Chapter Text

Butch bitches at them for a while before giving up and leading them to the car that will take them to the venue. It’s a Mercedes this time, not a van, and Brendon climbs in carefully, ducking his head because it took him a solid 15 minutes to do his hair this well. Butch tells them they’re not going straight to the venue, but rather to the Las Vegas Country Club for a small bout of press before the party.

Brendon’s never been in the LV Country Club before, and is excited although a little frightened. He sits silently staring out the window as the garish lights of the Strip beam down at him even though it’s still light.

The country club is not all that impressive, as they all find out when they enter. It’s all faux grandeur and snobbish coat-clerks wrinkling their noses at Brendon’s polyester jacket. The greens beyond the bay windows in the tea room are gorgeous; hilly and lush, except they don’t get to go out on them because they’re not members. They may be celebrities, but that doesn’t count for much in Vegas. You spit on the Strip and you’ll hit Elvis Presley.

The interview is boring as hell. It’s a stuffy dude in a tweed jacket asking about finance and whatever happened to all the “religious influence, Brendon?” Brendon’s seriously glad it’s only a 10 minute interview otherwise he would have broken the sixth commandment before you could say ‘Thou shalt not murder’.

Everyone shakes hands when the recording device is turned off and Butch harries everyone into the Mercedes again.

“Wow, sorry guys, I wasn’t expecting that to be quite so…”

“Insulting?” Brendon supplies. Butch fidgets. “Well, yeah, actually. I am sorry, he sounded nice on the phone and he completely checked out. All his past interviews were great, I guess he must have thought since this is your home city he can say whatever he likes.”

Brendon shrugs and looks out the window again, “It’s not my home city. It’s my birth city, but it’s not home.”

“Deep,” Spencer says in this really fake cool guy accent. Brendon laughs and thumps his friend in the ribs. “Ow, dude, chill!” Spencer protests, batting Brendon’s hands away when they venture too close to his ribs.

Butch checks his watch and sits silently, tapping his fingers against the seam of his jeans. Brendon hums quietly under his breath, moving his head in time occasionally. Spencer notices what the tune is and taps out the beat on his legs, humming along. Brendon smirks when he notices and hums a little louder, turning it into singing when Dallon joins in, singing the basic notes.

“I came in like a wrecking ball!” Brendon screams, pointing at Butch emphatically. Butch rolls his eyes and laughs, “I never hit so hard in love!” continues Brendon, causing Dallon and Spencer to wheeze and shake with uncontrollable laughter. “All I wanted was to break your walls! All you ever did was wre-e-eck me! Yeah, you, you wre-e-ecked me!” The car stops abruptly and Spencer places a hand on Brendon’s shoulder across the seats.

“Please stop singing before we get out. I am not mentally or emotionally prepared for another repeat of Stockholm, ‘kay?”

Oh, Brendon had nearly forgotten about Stockholm. The Klubben theatre, March 2007: Brendon had been singing David Bowie when they got out the van, and someone had heard from the queue and joined in. Within 10 minutes Brendon had around 6000 people belting out the verses to Space Oddity, and within 20 he had the Swedish Guard coming to calm them down. Spencer had been mortified, and the band had nearly been forced to cancel the show. It was not good.

“Dude, everyone loves a sing-a-long!” Brendon protests now, slipping out the car smoothly.

“The Swedish Guard doesn’t, we learned that the hard way.” Spencer grumbles, pushing at Brendon’s back to move him into the venue behind Butch.

The venue itself is nice enough, there are 15 or so waiters milling around, moving platters from one table to another, checking drinks and so on. Butch moves off to one of the tables, pointing at something very specific that Brendon’s not looking at. Dallon stops and the others follow suit, loitering in the doorway awkwardly. Butch returns a few minutes later, rubbing his hands together.

“Okay, so the DJ is over in the corner, he’s interlacing some of your songs from the new album with some top hits, some remixes from artists who are coming tonight, and he’s been paid by some independent artist to play one of their originals. I don’t really mind what he plays as long as Miss Jackson and Vegas Lights get played as well. The drinks are over on the far wall and there are various canapes dotted round the room along with waiters patrolling regularly. People will start arriving in an hour, your clothes are in the back, just ask Ian, he’s around here somewhere.” Butch takes a breath, “You good?”

Brendon looks like a rabbit in the headlights, Spencer thinks, and Dallon has that cool, unflappable expression on that Brendon’s always jealous of.

“Clothes?” Brendon asks meekly. Butch nods and puts his hands on his hips.

“The suits I ordered specially, they’re in the back so go shift those asses.” Butch claps his hands at them and Brendon does this ridiculous prancing, deer-like hop in order to scurry away. Spencer and Dallon follow in a calmer manner, reaching Brendon before he scampers off too far.

The back room is kind of shitty considering the prestige of the venue, but they’ve been in shittier places when they were touring. The suits are hanging on one of those moveable rails, all wrapped carefully and neatly in those bags they put your clothes into at the dry cleaner’s. Brendon finds his first, the massive label with ‘Urie’ written on in black marker is kind of a giveaway. He races to the bathroom, keen to maintain some form of privacy, even though they’ve all seen each other naked before, in certain scenarios, more than was strictly necessary.

The suit is a fine two-piece, black slacks and a strikingly electric blue jacket. He thinks it’s the one he wore for some photoshoot a week or so ago, but he’s not entirely sure. The jacket is a little tight (he’s been complaining to Butch that the measurements the suit makers have been taking have been consistently wrong), but the pants are comfortable enough, more like jeans than anything he would consider definably formal. The shirt sits smoothly under the jacket, and there’s a tie already around the collar which Brendon briefly considers trying to tie, and then can’t be bothered. As he goes to exit the bathroom, he takes a cursory look at himself in the mirror, fiddling with a strand of hair that’s not following the grain. Ryan used to call him narcissistic. Brendon doesn’t think it’s narcissism, he prefers to call it pickiness, or a strive for perfection. Maybe that’s pushing it a little.

Spencer is in a fairly modest black suit, matching pants and jacket with a white shirt and tie the colour of Brendon’s jacket. He’s pushing his hair along his scalp when Brendon reenters. Dallon’s moved behind one of the stands and Brendon can hear some muffled almost-swearing and clattering coming from that general direction.

“Nice suit,” Spencer comments, doing up the button on the jacket and then undoing it again.

“Nice suit yourself,” Brendon replies, picking up one of the magazines from the coffee table. Spencer plonks down on the moth-eaten sofa and flips out his phone with a huff. “Can you tie a tie?” Brendon asks suddenly, attracting Spencer’s attention once again. Spencer rolls his eyes.

“Of course I can tie a tie Brendon, I’m not a complete invalid.” Spencer looks back at his phone and Brendon shuffles from foot to foot.

“Could you possibly -”

“No.” Spencer interrupts before Brendon has time to finish.

“But otherwise Butch’ll -”

“No.” Spencer says again, “If you want your tie tied, tie it yourself.” Brendon whines and huffs and Spencer is reminded somewhat fondly of Brendon’s stupid dog he insisted on buying after the Vices tour.

“But I can’t!” Brendon continues, dragging out the ‘a’ in a particularly petulant way.

“How the hell did you manage throughout literally your entire life?” Spencer asks, putting his phone in his lap and frowning confusedly.

Brendon squirms, “There was always someone willing to tie it for me. Be it my mother or
Audrey or Ryan or someone, I never had to do it.”

“That’s the most pathetic thing I’ve ever heard,” comments Spencer, turning back to his phone.

“Aw, Spence, don’t be mean, I think it’s kind of hilariously adorable.” Dallon interjects, emerging from behind the stand in a smart, but not intrusive, shiny black suit with an electric blue shirt.

“Dallon, will you tie my tie?” Brendon pouts, tugging on both ends uselessly and tipping his head back into it.

“Sure I will, come here,” Dallon beckons his friend over and sets to work.

“No, it’s still pathetic. A grown man should be able to tie his own tie,” Spencer pipes up from the sofa.

“You know what’s more pathetic,” Brendon retaliates, “A grown man who’s too afraid to dive in the deep end of a swimming pool for fear of sharks.” Spencer turns to glare and flips off his, currently decided, ex-friend.

“I hate you,” he spits, “Anyone can be afraid of the water, it’s not just me.”

Brendon laughs, “Dude, Bronx was in the pool and he was fine and you were shrieking like a pissbaby every time you got near the deep end. Even a 5 year old knows there aren’t sharks in swimming pools.” Spencer huffs and sinks further into the sofa.

“Well, if you guys didn’t want me to be afraid of sharks in the pool, you shouldn’t have shown me that James Bond film. That’s what fucked me up.” Spencer mumbles, flicking through Ryan’s instagram to see he’s posted some new photos of his old Vegas haunts.

“Well, you shouldn’t have stayed to watch them, then!” Brendon retaliates, “Ryan introduced it as an ‘international movie franchise marathon’ it was doomed from the start.”

“I thought it would be fun,” Spencer defends meekly.

“You thought you could stop me and Ryan having so much sex,” Brendon corrects, straightening the tie as Dallon lets go, “Thanks man, but Spence you can’t blame us. Sean Connery is suave as fuck.” Spencer rolls his eyes and Brendon flops onto the sofa, causing Spencer to bounce up a little.

“You two had way too much sex. And always on movie night. I thought if I at least made an effort to maintain our tradition, you two wouldn’t ruin it with your saucy endeavours.” Spencer struggles up into a comfortable sitting position when Brendon leans his head on his shoulder.

“Movie night was totally just a front anyhow. It was the only night our parents knew we were together and actively didn’t try to stop us. If my mom had known I was spending the hours supposedly watching French films actually sucking dick, she wouldn’t have let me see any of you ever again.” comments Brendon, fiddling with the cuff of his shirt.

“You guys were weird before I joined, you know that?” Dallon tells them, picking at a stain on the wall and then grimacing and stopping.

“You’re just jealous, Weekes,” Brendon retorts, smirking into Spencer’s shoulder.

Butch comes to get them when the venue is ready and they’re actually incredibly surprised by the progress. The lights are coloured and more intermittent, the food is placed strategically around the room on tables and stands, and the DJ at the turntables has his headphones on and is skipping through tracks in a slightly annoying way. There are slot machines along one wall, along with a casino-like backdrop and other games. The waiters walking around are dressed in sparkly waistcoats and there are a few waitresses in very little; Brendon keeps his eye on them for the moment.

“You guys good?” Butch asks, and everyone nods, “Good, just remember: mingle, and don’t be an asshole.” Seems simple enough.

The guest list isn’t exactly A-list, but there are enough famous faces in the crowd for the group of paparazzi outside to be larger than anyone could warrant comfortable. Pete is one of the first to arrive, dragging Patrick behind him in a decidedly childish manner.

“Dude, this is sick!” He shouts at Brendon, taking another awe filled look around the club.

“Thanks! I hope you enjoy it, there should be plenty of potential clients here anyway!” Brendon hollers back, Patrick cups his hand around his ear in order to catch what they’re saying, then nods and smiles.

“Thank you for inviting us, Brendon. It’s nice to get out of LA once in a while, even if it is just to LV.” says Patrick, holding his mouth close to Brendon’s face in order to be heard. The club isn’t really that loud, they just happen to be standing right next to a speaker. Brendon actually did this on purpose, advocating that if he’s standing somewhere where it’s difficult to speak, no one will speak to him. Of course, Pete had been too enthusiastic not to at least try, but Peterick move off soon enough in favour of talking to some ‘old friend’ Patrick spots.

So, Brendon doesn’t ‘mingle’ very well in social scenarios. If he’s introduced properly, and the person is interesting enough to keep his attention, he’ll get along fine. But usually there has to be at least one other person in the conversation. In the past, it was all right because him and Ryan walked around together, or Spencer would be there to back him up and make sure he was okay (he drank a lot on the Vices tour and Spencer got kind of insanely worried something horrific was going to happen to him). Now he’s on his own because he’s 26 and should be able to take care of himself, or so everyone keeps telling him.

Gabe arrives at 9 o’clock, pushing through the crowds to get to Brendon. “Hey!” He yells, causing Brendon to look over, startled. “Thought you looked a little lonely over here so decided to spread the Saporta love!” Brendon breaks into a grin and the two embrace warmly, lots of patting on the back and some swaying.

“I was starting to think you weren’t coming!” Brendon admits, letting go of the other man’s shoulders slowly.

Gabe makes a face, “And leave you here to fend for yourself among all these crazy people? I may be an idiot but I’m not a monster!” Brendon claps him on the back once more before leading him further into the club.

“The journey here was okay?” Brendon asks, heading towards one of the tables with drinks on it.

Gabe nods and smiles, “Yeah, it was fine. I was on the same plane as that cute little thing I’ve been courting. We weren’t sitting next to each other, but he definitely saw me.” Brendon frowns, “The guy you’ve been chasing is in Vegas? Why?”

“Um, I guessed he’d be here for this, actually. He said he was in the music business, so it would make sense.” Gabe clarifies, and Brendon smoothes over his features. He doesn’t know who Gabe’s new beau is, he kind of wants to, but Gabe’ll introduce him when he’s ready.

“You seen him in here yet, then?”

“Nah, not yet. I’ll try to find him later on though. I’ll wait till everyone’s a little tipsy before striking. I think he has a boyfriend, but like that’ll stop me.”

Brendon takes a sip of a scarily green cocktail and makes a face when it turns out to be deceptively sour. “Vegas what the fuck?” He grumbles into his glass.

Gabe hangs around with him for the next hour or so, occasionally pulling Brendon over to meet someone new or introduce him to someone. Spencer spots them but doesn’t go over to say anything, just scratches his cheek and moves away. Midnight arrives with no sign of the party slowing down. The DJ is taking requests and playing what is a basically a pile of shit in music terms.

“I wanna leave,” Brendon groans into Gabe’s shoulder where he’s been leaning for the past minute and a half.

“Too bad, puppy, I’ve spotted my prey. You go talk to your mates, I’m pouncing.” And with that, Gabe stalks off and leaves Brendon unfortunately alone.

“Wow, who pissed in your drink?” Asks a familiar voice as someone sits down at Brendon’s table.

“Oh, fuck off, Ryan. I really don’t need you here right now.”

Ryan holds his hands up in defence, “Hey I didn’t mean to piss you off, dude. Noticed you were alone and thought it would be nice to talk, that’s all. No strings.” Brendon looks up groggily.

“Since when have we been able to talk nice, Ry?”

“Since now. C’mon, I’m about as bored as you right now, so we might as well make the most of it.”

“Fine. How’s your life?” says Brendon, leaning his chin on the heel of his hand.

“Um, good, I guess. I’m saving up to buy a new guitar and rent a private recording space, which is cool. What about you? Heard you were back on the horse, eh?” Ryan smirks when Brendon narrows his eyes.

“Who told you that?” He asks with more than a hint of spite.

“Spencer, duh,” Ryan mocks, taking a sip of his red gradient drink, “How is Audrey? I haven’t seen her since… about when she tried to sleep with Brent actually.”

Brendon rolls his eyes, “She never tried to sleep with Brent. He was exaggerating, asshole. And she’s fine. She’s running a business in LA where she both designs and models for big brand companies. She’s done well for herself; she actually managed to make a ‘thing’ out of the pink hair.”

“Jeez, I was kind of hoping she was homeless and ugly now,” Ryan half-jokes, “But I’m happy for her, she was always nice to us. Are you going to see her again?”

“I don’t know,” Brendon replies honestly, “I hope so.” They sit quietly until the track changes to Queen and Ryan has to get up and go because it’s, “like, my favourite song ever”. Brendon carefully turns down the invitation to dance and Ryan goes off to find Spencer because he loves the song as well and he won’t be a killjoy and not dance.

Ryan and Spencer decide to dance literally about 3m away from Brendon, so he has no choice but to watch them. They look stupid. Really stupid. It’s almost adorable. Almost. Brendon gives up and heads to the bar where he orders something which is more like pure ethanol than anything remotely classy or drinkable. Still, it’ll get him drunk and that’s all Brendon’s aiming for right now; no one’s looking out for him or keeping an eye on him in case he takes a trip off the wagon, and Butch was practically begging him to break one of those stupid rules. He downs three shots of the disgusting drink and winces. It’s almost not worth drinking it. Almost.

The rest of the night passes in a blur: Brendon drinks until he starts genuinely hallucinating (Vegas is fucking weird enough without seeing talking boxes and magic parrots in eyeliner alongside that), Dallon notices at about 3am and drags Brendon’s protesting body to the back room without drawing much attention from anyone important, and Spencer gets Ryan and they help Dallon heave Brendon up to their room in the hotel, which is quite an achievement.

“Shtoo- pt, d-n’t wan go ‘nywa,” Brendon sputters as Spencer physically carries his friend’s dead weight across the threshold of their room.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. Just go to bed, Brendon. You’ll have one killer of a hangover tomorrow, but you kind of deserve it at this point.” Spencer groans and pushes Brendon onto his bed, tugging off the guy’s shoes and tie.

“Is he gonna be okay?” Ryan asks, sounding concerned.

“He’ll be fine,” assures Spencer.

“He drank quite a lot, Spence, are you sure he’s not got alcohol poisoning or something?”

“Ryan. He’ll be fine.”

“I’ve never seen him drink like that before,” notes Ryan, “He always said he hated people getting drunk. He said they turned into different people, a kind of Jekyll and Hyde deal.”

Spencer sighs and sits on his own bed, adjacent to Brendon’s. Brendon is hazily awake, stroking absently at some invisible object a few centimetres from his face. “Well, Ry, I mean, things have changed a lot. He’s going through a rough period right now,” Spencer rakes a hand through his hair, “I’m starting to think maybe we should postpone the tour and send him to rehab. I mean - God, I wish he wouldn’t do stuff like this!” Spencer explodes, standing up off the bed and dragging his hands down his face. “I wish he would just grow up, you know? I think he thinks the whole ‘band’ deal gives him an excuse to be overly dependent on other people. The man can’t even tie a goddamned tie!” Brendon flops onto his back and Ryan goes over, flipping him back onto his side so he doesn’t die. Brendon reaches out and strokes Ryan’s face, Ryan lets him.

“Spence, I think you’re being too harsh on him -”

“I don’t think I am, Ry! I think I’m being perfectly reasonable with him! If he fucks around with these things, he’s not just affecting himself, but the whole band, I-,” Spencer pauses and deflates a bit, “I just - he’s like my brother, Ryan. He’s like my little brother and I’ve got to take care of him, and seeing him do this to himself is killing me.” Ryan doesn’t say anything, but bats away Brendon’s hand as it caresses his jawline. Spencer sits down on the end of his bed and puts his head in his hands.

“After you and Jon left, it was me and him. Just us two, and I know I kept talking to you and everything, but physically it was just us. I helped him through what was possibly the worst time in both of our lives and we came out the other side closer than ever. But now… now I don’t know how to make it better. I don’t know how to help him, and I can’t lose him, Ry, I can’t lose anyone else.”

Ryan stays silent and Brendon whimpers out this long, incoherent vowel sound, Spencer smiles a bit at it. “You know, the first tour after you guys left, I took him to a bar and we got shitfaced the first night. We were in Denver and we didn’t really know our way around, Butch called us about a million times and we didn’t reply until about 2am and even then we only mumbled something about… um… something irrelevant. Everyone was so worried about us and when they managed to find us thanks to the GPS Butch had installed on Brendon’s phone, they told us to go to bed and they’d deal with us in the morning.” Ryan smiles at Spencer’s reminiscent look and waits for him to continue, he’s sure there’s a point in there somewhere.

“It was the most juvenile I’ve ever felt in my entire life. It was like being 9 years old and getting told off by my mother for putting green dye in my sister’s shampoo.” Ryan laughs at that because he remembers the week Crystal walked around with that hat on because the green streaks didn’t complement her skin tone. “The point is, we were treated like little kids, so we acted like little kids and I suppose we’ve never had the opportunity to be adults so we didn’t become adults. I mean, I’m trying, really I am, I’ve got a great job, great friends, and I’m looking to settle down, but… Brendon’s still floating around. I’m worried he’ll never just be content staying where he is.”

“Y’always had sush preetty hay, Ry. Why’d’dya cut’all off?” garbles a thoroughly drunk Brendon, fiddling with the ends of Ryan’s hair.

“He was only ever serious with you, Ryan. That’s the only time I’ve ever seen him serious about something that wasn’t what flavour slushy he wanted.” Spencer takes off his jacket and falls back onto his bed. Ryan pushes his fingers along the side of Brendon’s head in an oddly familiar gesture.

“It was puppy love, Spin, nothing more.” Brendon makes a contented noise into the mattress and rubs his head against Ryan’s fingertips.

“I don’t think so,” Spencer says. Ryan stays silent and strokes Brendon’s scalp a few more times until he falls asleep.

“I need to go,” he says, getting off Brendon’s bed, “William’s downstairs, I told him I wouldn’t be long. I’ll see you in the morning, make sure he doesn’t die.” Spencer waves his acknowledgement and Ryan leaves.

“I mss ‘m.” mumbles Brendon, startling Spencer a little bit. “Really, really, mushly.”

“You’re just drunk. You won’t even remember this conversation in the morning, you’ll be too busy puking your guts up.” Spencer intones dully. “Just sleep, loser.” Brendon complies, for once, and Spencer gets a whole 7 hours of sleep before waking up to the soundtrack of Butch hammering on the door and Brendon puking his guts up in the bathroom around the corner. Ah, familiarity, Spencer thinks as he gets out of bed to answer the door.

Chapter Text

Butch is thoroughly unimpressed. He has a bitchface on that would scare even Ryan Ross, Queen of the Bitchface. Brendon is splayed across the sofa with some ice on his head and a bucket on the floor beside him. Spencer is sitting on the arm of the sofa furthest away from Brendon. Butch continues glaring at them because neither one will say anything.

"Well? He snaps, shifting his hands from where they were crossed across his chest to rest on his hips. No one says anything. "I want an explanation from one of you right now." Again, they remain silent. Butch rolls his eyes, "For the love of God, one of you tell me what the fuck happened to my lead singer that has left him incapable of speech and/or movement, because if you don't I swear on my grandmammy's grave I will beat it out of you." Spencer rubs his arms and looks at the floor.

"I got drunk, Butch, what the fuck do you think happened?" comes Brendon's disembodied voice, gargled against the fabric of the sofa.

"I told you, in no uncertain terms, that none of you were to get paralytically drunk. Yet, here I am, in the midst of a press storm that has 2 band members and 1 ex-band member physically dragging the lifeless form of their singer up to their hotel room at 3am," Butch takes a breath and Spencer gulps, "I want to know what the fuck you were thinking when you decided to drink the bar dry, Brendon, and why I was not contacted when you lot found him." Butch points accusatorily at Spencer and raises his eyebrows in this 'I am so not fucking around right now' way.

"I drank 'cause I was bored, Butch," Brendon mumbles, shifting his ice pack around on his forehead.

"And why was no one watching him?" Butch asks, looking pointedly at Spencer.

"I wasn't bored?" Spencer offers a little pathetically.

"And you didn't come to find me when he keeled over because..?"

"You would've only gotten mad at me and made the whole situation a billion times worse," Brendon helpfully supplies, closing his eyes and sighing.

Butch stares at him disbelievingly and wipes his forehead with his hand, "I can't believe you left him alone with a bar full of liquor, if I'm honest."

"Hey!" Brendon starts, but it quickly dissolves into groaning as his head thuds its protest to the movement. "Hey, Brendon is a big boy and is allowed to make his own decisions."

"Brendon is also capable of not speaking in the third person however hungover Brendon may be," Butch jeers.

"Spencer would like to say this is more juvenile than he was expecting and wants to go now, please."

"Oh no," Butch says, standing up when Spencer makes to leave, "I have to spend the morning cleaning up your mess, and so your punishment for that is to look after this vomiting, moaning heap of man. Our plane isn't till tomorrow so you have 1 day to think about what you've done. I don't want you leaving this hotel without my express consent, which I'm not going to give you, fyi." Spencer doesn't have time to protest before Butch is out the door and Brendon is whimpering at the noise.

"I hate you," Spencer says to Brendon's unmoving form.

"Yeah, well I hate booze." replies the breathing hangover.

"Whatever," Spencer sighs, and sits on his bed. Then he gets an idea. Butch said they couldn't leave, but he didn't say they couldn't have people coming over. He texts Ryan and basically pleads for him to come hang out - bring William, even. Ryan responds saying fine because the boy hates Vegas anyway and couldn't think of anything worse than having to show William around.

"Hey," Spencer calls to Brendon, who grunts in response, "Ryan's coming over in an hour. If you want peace and quiet, well you're not gonna get any. You can move into the bedroom if it's better for you or whatever." Brendon grunts again and Spencer can't tell if it's in agreement or disapproval. In all honesty, he doesn't really give a shit.

Spencer pisses about on his phone until Ryan comes round. Brendon takes a few trips to the toilet because despite having a bucket beside him, Spencer doesn't want him to get puke on the expensive looking carpet. When Ryan eventually arrives, Brendon's bent double over the toilet, making a hacking noise but nothing appears to be happening. Spencer answers the door.

"Thank you so much," Spencer starts, but Ryan waves him off.

"You owe me twice over, but I don't actually mind that much. Vegas is not where I wanna be. I forgot how big and ugly the Strip was." Ryan pushes through the door into their suite, William trailing behind looking a bit sheepish.

"Hey, Spencer," He mumbles, sticking his hands into his pockets and walking into the living area.

"So, Brendon's in the bathroom right now, he may not be coming out ever, so hold your bladders if you need the toilet." Spencer warns, sticking a thumbs up at his guests. Ryan scoffs a laugh and William forces a small smile.

"How angry was your manager?" Ryan asks, taking a seat on the sofa and kicking his feet up on the table. "Mad," Spencer replies, widening his eyes to emphasise his point.

"In all honesty I'm not surprised," Ryan admits, "I've never seen Brendon so drunk in my life." Spencer sits down beside Ryan on the sofa but William stays standing.

"I don't know why he got so completely hammered. I mean, I know he likes pissing Butch off, but this was a little too extreme." says Spencer, kicking his feet up on the coffee table alongside Ryan's, poking his feet against Ryan's and smiling when Ryan pokes back.

"Cry for attention," William suggests, then laughs nervously and wrings his hands. Spencer looks at William with a curious expression and Ryan frowns with a smile.

"Um, yeah, I suppose it could be that," Spencer concedes, glancing nervously at Ryan in an 'and he said that why?' way. "William, please, sit down dude, you're freaking me out with all the standing. I feel like I'm being interrogated or something." William glances around the apartment and moves backwards in order to sit on the desk chair a couple meters from the couch.

"How you liking Vegas then, Bill?" Spencer asks, crossing his ankles over.

"Well, I was here once before, and I've come to the conclusion that once is more than enough." William laughs, and Ryan joins in.

"Yeah, that tends to be the case," Spencer chuckles, throwing an arm along the back of the couch. "What made you realise Vegas was a craphole the second time round?"

William pauses for a second, thinking, "Um, maybe the people. I met some scary characters at that party, let me tell you." William wipes his hands on his thighs and Brendons stumbles out of the bathroom groaning.

"Ah, Chunderella returns from the ball at long last!" Spencer cries dramatically. Brendon flips him the bird incredibly half-heartedly. Ryan smirks, watching Brendon over the top of the couch.

"Fuck off, Spence, I'm tired and ill and I think my brain is trying to claw its way out of my skull." Brendon rubs his head, reiterating his distress.

"Well, you only have yourself to blame, my friend. If you'd only attempted to have fun then this wouldn't have happened." Spencer shrugs.

"No, if only Gabe hadn't ditched me for some hussy this wouldn't have happened." Brendon retaliates icily. Spencer narrows his eyes. "Gabe was there?"

"Yeah," Brendon mumbles into the door jamb, "He came because I asked him to and then at, like, midnight or something he ditched me to go find the boy he's been stalking obsessively for the past few weeks. If he hadn't gone off to stick his dick in it, I wouldn't have resorted to drinking the bar dry."

"Who's the aptly nicknamed 'hussy'?" Spencer asks, waggling his eyebrows at Ryan as they catch their eyes.

Brendon makes this weird, growling noise and wipes his face with the heel of his hand, "I don't know, he won't tell me." From behind them, William sighs audibly. Spencer and Ryan turn to look at him, frowning at the slight look of relief on his face. William remains very still and looks at Brendon, who's frowning like the others but in a more intense, analytical way.

"Anyway," Brendon continues, still looking at William with a penetrating gaze, "He left so I was alone so I drank. And where the fuck was Butch in all this, huh? If he was so certain I was going to break his rules, why didn't he watch me? Stupid pri-" Brendon is cut off mid-cuss by an ominous belly-gurgle, and he promptly twists on his feet and jumps into the bathroom. Spencer grimaces.

"Nice,"

"Do you guys have a TV here?" Ryan asks offhandedly, turning his back to where Brendon ran off.

"Um, yeah, it's one of those ones that's hidden in a cabinet," Spencer points to the cabinet, "It's really fucking weird, but it means if you're drunk it's harder to break." Ryan makes a pathetic grabbing gesture at the TV cabinet and Spencer rolls his eyes when the guy doesn't make any move to get up and turn it on himself.

"You lazy piece of shit," He grumbles, heaving off the couch in order to turn on the TV. He throws the remote at Ryan, who doesn't catch it and gets hit on the shoulder by the heavy plastic oblong. "Ow," he squawks, raising his eyebrows at Spencer who shrugs apathetically.

"Really? You came all the way out to Vegas to watch TV?" William scolds, Ryan hitches one shoulder. "They have more channels here. Plus, it's free." William rolls his eyes.

"I gotta agree with William here, Ryan. You complain at me for being dragged out here and then you don't even make the most of it." Ryan turns his eyes to Spencer and presses a button on the remote in an exaggerated manner. Toddlers and Tiaras: Vegas Edition blasts through the television's speakers and Ryan maintains arrogantly triumphant eye contact with Spencer.

"This hasn't been aired in any other city yet. I am completely and utterly making the most of this trip."

The day passes slowly; Brendon dithers in and out of the bathroom, occasionally staying long enough in the living room to join in a bit of conversation or watch 5-10 minutes of whatever Ryan's left playing on-screen. William sits awkwardly stiff in the corner the entire visit, and Ryan doesn't really pay avid attention to anything. Spencer feels relaxed and warmly comfortable when Butch comes up at 4 o'clock to say they need to pack for the plane back tomorrow.

"We should probably get going lest we find ourselves coerced into helping you pack," Ryan announces, labouring up off the couch and looking at William expectantly.

"Wow, you're all heart," Spencer drones, sticking his leg out to trip Ryan up when he tries to get to the door. "Can't you just stay and watch?" Spencer pleads when Ryan's regained his balance and kicked Spencer's ankle.

Ryan appears to ponder it for a moment, "Nah, you'd make me do something. Or Brendon would come in and play up his headache to make me feel guilty." Ryan looks to the bathroom where Brendon is hiding, "Which wouldn't work, by the way!" He shouts to make sure Brendon can hear him.

"Fine, go! Enjoy your evening while I labour away, packing not only mine, but Brendon's bag as well." Spencer flings an arm over his eyes in a melodramatic gesture that Ryan rolls his eyes at.

"You can't guilt me into this, Smith, you know me. C'mon William, let's go!"

"I'm not your dog, Ryan," William bitches, following obediently.

"You're right, dogs don't beg as vocally as you," Ryan teases, waggling his eyebrows in a thoroughly suggestive way. It's kind of their joke, the dog thing. They're both a little controlling so whenever one of them says something that's getting close to crossing the line, they joke about it with the 'dog' thing. Every time they do it, the other laughs, it's their little joke, right? This time, William looks upset and smacks Ryan's arm harder than Ryan can consider a jokey gesture.

"You can't say things like that," William whispers angrily, turning away from Ryan's astonished, confused gaze and stalking down the corridor. Ryan looks to Spencer, mouth still in a surprised 'oh' shape. Spencer shrugs and gets up from the sofa.

"Maybe he's a bit of a prude?" Spencer suggests, coming closer to Ryan and putting his hands on his naturally curvaceous hips. Ryan wipes at the bit of hair in front of his ear - pathetic attempts at sideburns, really.

"I don't know, we've been weird recently. I think it's my fault, I tend to not say what I'm thinking/feeling." Ryan confesses, looking up demurely (which totally doesn't fit with Ryan's character - like anyone's ever considered describing him as 'demure').

"Ain't that the truth," Brendon adds unhelpfully as he emerges from the bathroom. Ryan scowls.

"Hey, I can talk about feelings if I want to!" Ryan retaliates, pointing accusatorily at Brendon, who smirks and shrugs.

"I don't doubt you can, but when push came to shove you were always like one of those clams with the pearls inside," Ryan and Spencer raise their eyebrows at this comparison. Brendon continues regardless, "I mean, like, it's all closed off and detached, but you know there's something really cool inside, you just can't establish how to get it out which is frustrating and eventually you have to let clam meet hammer." Brendon does this speech all in one breath and then takes the time to demonstrate his point with his hands, forming a fist and smacking it down onto his open palm - making a squish sound upon impact.

Ryan is momentarily speechless. "Well, I'm not sure what I'm supposed to have taken away from that, but I think it's somewhere in the region of I need to work on my communication skills." Brendon puts his fingertip to his nose and points at Ryan in the age-old 'you got it' gesture made popular by the amazingly terrifying game Charades.

"Cool, see you guys." he dashes off down the hallway after that and Spencer closes the door behind him.

"I see you're better," he comments, looking Brendon up and down as the supposedly deadly hungover guy totters around the room, picking up rubbish and mislaid items of clothing.

"Dude, I was better, like 4 hours ago, I just didn't want to spend all my time in the living room with you losers."

"Why?" Spencer asks, frowning lightly and joining Brendon in his quest to clean up the hotel room.

Brendon looks at Spencer incredulously, "You can't see it?" Spencer shakes his head, "Can't see what?"

"I dunno dude, maybe I shouldn't point it out if you can't see it. It's not really my place to tell. I mean speculate." Brendon turns into the bedroom and Spencer stays still.

"Hey, that's not fair!" He calls, "You can't pique my interest and then discard the subject! You owe me an explanation!" Spencer hears Brendon's infuriating scoff of laughter and storms into the bedroom. Brendon is folding shirts - both his own and Spencer's - expression neutral and stance relaxed.

"So?"

"So what?"

"Tell me!" Spencer whines. Brendon sends him a look but Spencer ignores it.

"Fine, you wanna know, I'll tell you. But I'm not allowed to be in any way responsible for what happens after I tell you, okay? If you tell anyone I am to be an anonymous source and none of this is allowed to be my fault, 'kay?"

Spencer looks suspicious, but nods in agreement, "'Kay, just tell me!"

"William's a dirty, cheating, scumbag!" Brendon's voice is filled with glee as the colour drains from Spencer's face.

"You're lying, you've got to be. You're making it up!"

"Hey! You wanted to know, so I told you! Don't shoot the messenger, man. I call 'em as I see 'em." Brendon returns to folding clothes and Spencer stands in utter disbelief.

"How d'you know? I mean, how can you be sure?" he challenges.

"His whole demeanour. I mean, I've cheated a fair number of times, so has everyone I've ever known - I know what a cheater looks like. William was jumpy, distant, he wouldn't look me in the eye particularly - which, I know, is not a great indicator as we're not what anyone would call 'best buds' but tells me he a) is worried I'll find out and b) knows I would relish the opportunity to tell Ryan exactly what he's doing." Brendon cocks out his hip and smirks haughtily.

"Who's he cheating with?" Spencer needles, leaning further over the bed as if getting closer to Brendon will make him reveal more information.

Brendon's posture changes, "Oh, I don't know. I think it's someone we know, though, otherwise he wouldn't be so jumpy. Specifically, I think it's someone I know quite well, otherwise you would be the main threat and not me. Oh my God, how funny would it be if William was Gabe's new boytoy?!" Brendon squeals gleefully.

"Oh, come on, Brendon. William has higher standards than that. And, you know, some common sense."

"Whatever. I still wanna find out who it is though, Ryan will wanna know as soon as -"

"No!" Spencer interrupts suddenly. Brendon jumps.

"What the fuck?!"

"You absolutely cannot tell Ryan." he growls in a hushed tone.

"Why not? He deserves to know he's being played!"

"No. Not until we have solid, undeniable evidence. He's happy with William, Brendon. I'm not giving Ryan grounds to end this relationship on speculation. I am a better friend than that."

"But you're not a good enough friend to tell him he's being led a merry dance by a devil in angel wings? Nice, really respectable." Brendon shakes his head and returns to folding the clothes, albeit more angrily this time.

"I can't risk it, Brendon. You may be right, but you may also be wrong. I can't take away the best thing that's happened to him in forever because you had a bad ex-boyfriend feeling." Spencer keeps his tone consolatory and understanding; Brendon looks up at him cautiously and huffs out his defeat.

"Yeah, okay, whatever you want - so long as it doesn't come back to me, do whatever you want."


They arrive back in LA somewhat out-of-sorts. Spencer returns home to an empty house and a voicemail he listens to with mild attention. Brendon goes home to a house that reeks of stale beer so he elects to clean up - a new idea for someone like him. Dallon goes home to his family blah blah blah blah.

What's really on all their minds is the next hurdle they come to: Tour. Butch has booked in an extra few dates at the beginning of the month and so they are all slightly on-edge.

The days leading up to tour pass quickly and uneventfully. Their lives divided into something like this: 70% of time spent practicing in the studio, 10% of time spent sleeping, 8% of time spent eating, 6% of time spent drinking, 4% of time dating, and 2% of time spent with Spencer worrying about Ryan and William's relationship.

After the night Brendon told Spencer his suspicions about William's fidelity, Spencer has been agitated. Brendon has been extremely relaxed about the whole situation, occupying the 2% of time Spencer spends fretting by texting Gabe or Audrey.

"This is totally your fault," Spencer accuses. Brendon's texting Audrey and ignores Spencer - who's been going crazy over this 'William' thing.

"No, it's not," Brendon replies coolly.

"Yes, it is." Spence retaliates, "You told me about William and I haven't stopped thinking about it since."

"I told you when you asked that it couldn't come back to me, I was very clear that it was not to be my fault."

"Y- Well, I don't care. I still blame you." The drummer sighs heavily and flops ungracefully onto the couch. They're currently taking a break from rehearsing and the studio Butch booked has a few pieces of random furniture dotted around the edges of the room.

"Whatever."

Spencer glances over Brendon's shoulder to see what he's typing. "Who're you texting?" He croons.

"Audrey. We're organising to meet. Not that it's any of your business, but it's probably better to tell you now instead of after when your suspicion will be at a high and you won't ask rational questions." explains a sincerely disinterested Brendon.

"What are you guys going to do when tour starts?"

"We're going to be mature about it. I'm not going to be gone for very long in Europe, so I'm hoping there won't be the same on-tour jealousy. Plus, because it's early in the relationship, we don't have as much baggage to deal with." Brendon returns to his phone when it beeps with a reply.

"Aw, my little baby's all grown up!" Spencer coos, ruffling Brendon's hair in a mock-affectionate manner. Brendon, predictably, ducks away and sneers.

"Dude, my do!" Brendon protests, chuckling softly.

"You know you love it B-Bear," Spencer reprimands before Butch comes over and basically picks them up by their collars and drags them over to the stage where they're rehearsing.

"So the thing is that I've booked a few more dates because the label were a little less than thrilled about your drunk hijinx, so tour begins in 24 hours. Be ready." Then he walks away.

Brendon and Spencer stand unmoving for a minute trying to process what just happened. Butch was akways one for surprises, but this is quite an inconvenient, extreme surprise especially considering (although contrary to popular belief) they do actually have lives outside the studio.

"Well, poop." Brendon sums up eloquently. Spencer nods; that pretty much covers it.

Chapter Text

And so tour is upon Panic! at the Disco. Their first show is somewhere they've never heard of in the middle of Mexico and Brendon suggests to Audrey that she come too. She less-than-politely declines, meeting Brendon at the airport with the ever comforting final words on the matter of 'and if you are held hostage by Mexican drug lords don't call me for the ransom because I won't give it to you'. Spencer likes her.

Spencer also falls victim to one of Brendon's looks and scurries away as he spots Ryan entering the airport. He looks over his shoulder - just checking, honest - and they're kissing. Brendon and Audrey. Making out. Well, actually, it's gentler than that - it's really just kissing. Spencer almost makes this really fucking lame sighing noise that is so notorious in crappy chick-flick movies when the protagonist kisses the guy with the tight ass.

"Ew, who's Urie sucking face with?" Spencer startles at Ryan's voice and turns to see his friend grimacing.

"New girlfriend," Spencer explains, then frowns, "Well, technically old girlfriend. Girlfriend: take 2." he corrects. Ryan looks more confused.

"Who?"

"Audrey... Kitching, I didn't recognise her to begin with, it's the hair, I think." Spencer crosses his arms and nods. Ryan squints and then shakes his head to clear the image from his head.

"Weird, anywho, I came here to wish you luck on your tour. I hope you have a horrifying time and you come back with tales of how many drum technicians you've murdered to spare the world their infernal incompetance." Ryan claps Spencer on the shoulder and smirks smugly.

"Shut up, it'll be fine. Brendon's looking... better, so we won't have to worry about him as much, and Dallon never really treats tour as anything worth fretting over. He's very blase about pretty much everything. It would be annoying if it weren't so intriguing."

"You promise you'll keep me updated on all the goings on buswise?" Ryan asks in what could easily be miscontrued as a concerned tone, his eyes darting to where Brendon is stroking Audrey's face in a decidedly coupley manner.

"Of course, but you have to keep me updated on all the home-shit, right?" Ryan nods at Spencer's request and smiles but it's frail and insincere. Spencer is so tempted to blurt out what he knows, tell Ryan now before he's not there to witness it, back Ryan up. He doesn't, though. He knows if he says anything it'll make whatever's happening worse and then there'll be a shitstorm he won't be around to help clean up.

"Man, I can't believe he's going out with Kitching. What a weird step back to ten years ago." Ryan's wistful tone brings Spencer back to reality and he throws a smile at his companion.

"I know, right. I just don't get how they can pick right back off from where they started, though. I mean, there's been years between each relationship, I can't fathom how they've got so quickly back into it." notes Spencer, leaning on his suitcase with a pondering gaze.

"You'd be surprised how easy it is to fall back into a routine of knowing someone, regardless of how many years have passed." says Ryan in an oddly wise voice, and when Spencer glances over to look at him, he's staring off towards the happy couple.

"Hm, yeah, I s'pose. Anyway, you're here to say goodbye to me not reminisce on Brendon's old girlfriends."

Ryan smirks and hugs Spencer tightly, telling him to stay safe and be a good boy on tour. Butch calls them over after that and Spencer is torn away to security - he spares one moment to wave over his shoulder at Ryan's receding form and heads to get on his plane.

As soon as they've taken off, Spence receives a text (he knows he's not supposed to have his phone on, but sometimes being a rockstar is just enough) from Ryan. He checks it and chokes out a laugh.

From: Rybow, To: Spinmaster
I always thought the girlfriends were a cover-up as well.

Spencer speed-types a reply and hides his phone under his thigh as a stewardess passes by him.

To: Rybow, From: Spinmaster
U afraid he's less gay than u?

Butch is looking at him with a calculating stare. Spencer smiles brightly and leans back in his seat hoping Butch'll leave it. He does, fortunately, right as Ryan replies.

From: Rybow, To: Spinmaster
Well yes, obviously. I can't be more gay than Brendon take-it-up-the-ass Urie that's just embarrassing.

Spencer shakes with laughter, but turns his phone so Brendon can't see the screen. The last thing he needs is a singer with a temperamental attitude blowing up over his ex-boyfriend's dig.

To: Rybow, From: Spinmaster
Well ur the 1 w/ the bf ryro. u might have 2 accept it.

The stewardess walks down the aisle the other way and Spencer feigns interest in the safety manual. Butch glances over again, more suspicious now.

From: Rybow, To: Spinmaster
Accept TIT don't you mean ;)

Spencer rolls his eyes.

To: Rybow, From: Spinmaster
Ryan u've liked dick as long as i can remember. u gotta embrace who u r and accept urself.

He can imagine Ryan's exasperated laugh as he sends his text, his phone carefully hidden in between his thigh and the armrest of the chair next to his - Brendon's.

From: Rybow, To: Spinmaster
yh yh, no one will respect u until u respect urself, i know the fuckin drill. doesn't change the fact that he was the straighter one in the relationship and that has weirded me out.

To: Rybow, From: Spinmaster
U no u've had gfs as well right?

From: Rybow, To: Spinmaster
Changes nothing.

From: Butch is Butcher than a Butcher in a Putsch, To: Smith (drummer)
If u dnt stop txting right the fuck now i stg i will break ur phone.

Spencer looks suddenly over to where Butch is sending him the death glare. He gulps and sends two final texts.

To: Rybow, From: Spinmaster
brb butch threatening to kill me

To: Butch is Butcher than a Butcher in a Putsch, From: Smith (drummer)
aye aye capitaine.

Spencer stows his phone away in his pocket and waggles his device-free fingers in his producer's direction. Butch nods and settles back in his seat, startling a little when Spencer reaches into his carry-on bag and produces his laptop. They're in business class so there's a medium-sized table in the back of the seat in front where Spencer rests the laptop. Butch narrows his eyes and shakes his head, but Spencer shrugs innocently and opens up his IM to talk to Ryan.

Brendon joins the conversation about 7 minutes in, announcing his arrival and asking Spencer to announce it to Ryan. The conversation goes:

S: Brendon says hello
R: Hey brendon
S: he says are you coming to any tour dates
R: no. i hate ur music remember
S: he asks if you're joking
R:...
R: of course I'm joking idiot
S: just making sure
R: is ur producer still trying to mangle your devices?
S: that sounded dirty
R: only to you
S: no he's not
R: when does ur tour end again?
S: dec.
R: beg. or end?
S: beginning so i won't miss xmas with u
R: wow wait ur having xmas with me? what about ur fam?
S: they're coming down to LA this year, u r invited.
R: really?
S: yes.
R: i'll think about it.
S: i hate you
R: nah u love me
S: brendon says hey
R: hello brendon.
S: he asks if you're thinking of going back to skl?
R: why would i be?
S: for when your album inevitably fails.
R: funny.
S: actually r u ever gonna go back to skl?
R: i dunno, maybe? I wanna try dj-ing first though. supposedly a lot of money in that line of work.
S: there's also a lot of money in a prostitute's line of work, changes nothing.
R: Spencer.
S: sorry.

"Wow, wait, what?" Brendon interrupts.

"What do you mean what?" Spencer retaliates.

"What does he mean 'Spencer.'?"

"What do you mean 'what does he mean'? He means Spencer, jeez, Urie."

R: it's oka
R: *okay
R: ?

"You were talking about money, why did you apologise?" Brendon continues, determined to get an answer.

"Brendon, really, it's nothing."

R: r u two fighting?
R: please, fellas, there's enough Ross love to go around.

"It's not nothing, tell me!" Brendon starts poking Spencer's shoulder, trying to annoy an answer out of his friend.

"Brendon, oh my God drop it!"

"No! This is serious!"

"And none of your concern!" Spencer retaliates.

R: if you're not going to answer i'm going to leave
R: consider this your warning.
R: screw it, william's here, see ya.
Ryan Ross signed out.

"He's my friend too, you know!" Brendon pouts, folding his arms over his chest in a petulant way that has Spencer's blood bubbling.

"More like fuckbuddy." Spencer mumbles, reading the messages on screen and shutting down his laptop.

"Don't you dare," Brendon fumes, "We were so much more than that, asshole."

"Sorry." Spencer concedes, knowing he overstepped the line on that one.

Brendon sighs, "It's all right. Let's not get into a fight before tour's even started, 'kay? I really don't want to have to deal with that right now on top of everything else."

"D'ya want to call Dr Carden when we land?" Spencer suggests, placing a hand on Brendon's forearm in a friendly, comforting gesture. Brendon nods.

"Yeah, I might do that." Brendon sighs, leaning back into his seat.

Dr Carden, as you might have guessed, is Brendon's psychiatrist. Brendon had actually considered seeing him before Spencer and Dallon had thought of the idea of a shrink. Brendon had been feeling pretty low and decided that he didn't have to feel that way and it was only impeding on his performance and ability to do his job.

"Has he given you a contact number or do you have to call the office?" Spencer continues, tone soft and light.

"Yeah, I got his number," Brendon smirks, "See, if it were any other guy I'd be smug saying that, but... man it's weird. Spilling my guts to a guy with a pen whose only promise to fix me is some framed certificate on a brown wall in the middle of Los Angeles."

"Well, when you put it like that..."

"I don't see how there's another way you can put it." he mutters. "You haven't told anyone, right? Ryan included."

"No. I haven't. I wouldn't, Brendon." Spencer frowns at the lack of trust there appears to be on Brendon's side. They're best friends, they can tell each other anything safe in the knowledge it'll remain a secret. Brendon just nods and bites at his finger.

"Okay, good... good."

They land and find themselves bombarded at the airport by fans and banners and boobs and luggage and annoyed older couples on holidays. The typical scene, really.

The hotel they're staying at is fairly low-key, 4 rented bedrooms and a storage compartment. Brendon's sharing with Spencer again, not that they'll see much of the room as soundcheck begins pretty much as soon as they've dumped their stuff on their beds.

"Mexico, Mexico, They've got muchas, muchachas, amigos," Brendon's at the microphone, checking the sound because he's a douche and always insists on doing it himself. "Latin features, never saw such adorable creatures... Love to dig, ooh... the nights here." Someone turns the volume up and the guys at the sound-desk find a track for maracas, which promptly join in to accompany Brendon's singing.

"We live it up and love it up, amigo. Life begins when you're in Mexico!" Brendon looks as if he's going to sing the next verse - and from that probably the whole song - but Butch intervenes.

"Thank you for that wonderful rendition of 'Mexico', Brendon, but we need to move on to the other instruments as well." He's standing in the audience pit and looking up at the stage, hands on hips. Brendon smiles goofily and wiggles his hips.

"As long as you keep the mic on, I'm fine with that." Butch rolls his eyes at the singer's antics, but obliges.

"What instrument goes next?" Brendon calls to the technicians, who are pretty much doing nothing because they're all 17 and don't know how to hold a guitar.

"Um... rhythm guitar?" One spotty, scraggly guy answers uncertainly. Brendon rolls his eyes and retrieves the silver guitar.

He plays the first few chords of what Spencer recognises immediately as 'I Want It All' by Queen. "Adventure seeker on an empty street," Oh God he's doing the voice as well, "Just an alley creeper, light on his feet. A young fighter screaming, with no time for doubt. With the pain and anger can't see a way out." Brendon's no Brian May on the guitar, so has to play the very simplified version of the awesome guitar intro, but still gets his message across.

"It ain't much I'm asking, I heard him say, gotta find me a future move out of my way. I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now. I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now!" Brendon does a ridiculous vocal screech thing, then coughs and Butch gives him a serious look.

"Brendon, please don't break your voice before we've even started." He reprimands.

"But he didn't even get to the butt-kicking guitar solo yet!" Dallon cries from the wings, a look of humoured devastation on his face.

"Well, we need to test all these guitars, and if you're going to sing 60 seconds of Rock'n'Roll for each one, we're going to be here for a long time."

Brendon looks at Spencer with an 'oh well' expression and says, "Not sure I could do the butt-kicking guitar solo anyway, I can't move my fingers fast enough." Spencer tries and fails to stifle a giggle and Butch sends them an irked look a father might send a disobedient son.

They do manage to get through all the instruments, and by some miracle Brendon doesn't start singing for every single one. Only about 85% of them.

The first show of the tour; always a nerve-wracker. Spencer's heart is jittering in his ribcage even though he knows it'll all go fine, he's done it a million times before. It's still exciting, though, still manages to put him on the edge of his seat, jiggling his leg up and down in a manic way just to release some tension.

The support acts are loud; good, but loud. The band can hear them all the way from their backstage dressing room. They can also hear the crowd: the crazed fans, the screaming girls, the impatient boys, the hilariously enthusiastic everyone in between. It would be nauseating if it weren't so addictive, so thrilling.

"I could totally get off to that sound," Brendon declares, rolling his head on his neck, eyes closed in weird bliss.

"That was a disgusting and completely unneeded piece of information, thank you, Brendon." Spencer quips.

"Oh, come on, don't tell me you couldn't?!" Brendon says aporetically.

"I couldn't."

"Yes, you could. No use lying to me, Smith, I know what you like. We nearly had sex that one time, remember?" Brendon smirks, Spencer groans and hides his face in his hands, and Dallon squeaks out a 'you did what?!'.

"Brendon, oh my God, don't." Spencer warns. Brendon ignores him.

"Well, Dallon, we were, like 17, and I had this crazy crush on Ryan, and one night we all got piss drunk and decided to play 7 minutes in heaven. We decided to coordinate it so me and Ryan would go in, but it went wrong. Me and Spencer went into the cupboard instead of me and Ryan and I thought why not make the best of a bad situation. It was kind of awkward on my behalf, until..."

"Brendon Urie, I swear if you say another word I will rip your vocal cords right out your throat with my bare hands."

"No, wait, what happened?" Dallon asks, leaning forward in anticipation. Brendon and Spencer are having a stare off, Spencer more glaring and Brendon has mischief in his eyes.

"He popped a boner," Brendon rushes, then jumps up and runs around the dressing room to escape Spencer's violent and somewhat random throwing of punches. Brendon squeals and leaps around the room, dodging Spencer's attempts to grab him.

"I hate you so much right now, Urie." He grunts, catching Brendon's calf with his hand as he rolls over the sofa. Brendon wobbles and falls awkwardly to the floor. Spencer pounces, trapping Brendon's abdomen between his knees and pinning his wrists to the floor. Brendon looks at him in an arrogantly assessing kind of way, like he thinks Spencer won't try anything.

"Wanna bet?" Spencer hisses, then makes an odd, suctiony noise which makes Brendon's arrogance give way to terror.

"Smith, oh my fucking God, don't you dare," He starts struggling, but the thin line of drool is already making its way from Spencer’s mouth towards Brendon’s face. “Spencer! Stop! Don’t do it, man!” Brendon twists his face violently in each direction in a desperate attempt to avoid the spit inching itself closer to his face.

“Spencer. Get off him and put your saliva back in your mouth.” Butch drones from the door, arms crossed over his chest. Spencer obliges, sucking the train of drool back into his mouth, smirking, and jumping off Brendon who stays shocked on the floor. “You guys are up in 5 so come on over to the backstage and we’ll can prepare you.”

Dallon is first out the door, followed by Spencer who encourages Brendon with a “Hurry up, Urie or I’ll spit on you in your sleep,” which gets Brendon up pretty damned quickly.

The set goes fine, no one messes up, the crowd go wild (as per), and Brendon makes some jokes about not knowing any Spanish.

“I don’t speak Spanish! How do you say that? No me speakey el Spanish?” He guesses. Some people laugh and a few people respond with the actual Spanish. Brendon leans into the crowd to hear it better.

“Yo no.. what did you say? Hablo? Yo no hablo Espanol! Did I get it right?” There’s a cheer and Brendon does a victory dance. “Nice one! Yeah I can say things in other languages.” The rest of the show continues standardly; Spencer hits his drums, Dallon plucks his bass, and Brendon prances about the stage singing their songs.

The night draws to a blissful close and they trot off the stage sweating, panting, and smiling.

“Show numero uno, done!” Brendon shrieks, skipping to the backroom for first dibs on shower, which he always, always calls.

“Did someone give puppy some energy drink today?” Spencer mocks, elbowing Dallon playfully in the stomach.

“Hey, don’t look at me! I’m not even going near him with a Monster after the last time.”

“Man, that was one of the worse nights of my life. I cannot believe he thought it would be a good idea to make a castle out of red vines and golden syrup. The mess, seriously, I mean… wow.” They reach their changing room and the shower is already running. The door’s barely closed before Butch bustles in with his clipboard.

“Is Urie already in the shower?” He asks, eyes fixated on the board in his hands.

“Yeah,” confirms Spencer, sitting down on the couch with difficulty.

“Damn,” Butch swears, “Well, we can continue without him. So, what’s happening now: you’ve got about two hours to kill here while we pack up and head off, so there shouldn’t be too many kids outside, but we’re never going to get away clean so we’ll set up some barriers. When we reach the hotel you need to not unpack because we’ve changed plans. Basically, we’re getting an early flight to the next venue, so no staying overnight, I’m afraid,” Dallon and Spencer groan in annoyance; they’d really been looking forward to a night in a hotel before the craziness of the tour-bus.
“Once we arrive in our next city, we’ve got some hotels booked, so you can spend 1 night there before you move full-time onto the tour bus.”

“Why are we spending one night in a hotel and then moving onto the bus? Why don’t we just move straight to the bus?” Dallon asks, ever the man for practicality over comfort.

“Because that new guy in tour management fucked up and didn’t book the bus until 3 days ago and by that point they said we had to wait. This is purely an administrative error, nothing to do with you guys and your comfort.” Butch clarifies, a coy smirk looking out of place on his usually all-business expression.

“Wow, you’re all heart,” Spencer jokes, grabbing a towel from one of the underage techs who’s braved it into the dressing room. “Where’s the next date, anyway?”

Bucth checks his clipboard, “Cologne. That’s in Germany for those of you who didn’t do so well in your Geography exams in high school.”

“Which theatre?” Spencer asks while rubbing his head with the towel.

“Dee-ayy.. die work-stacht. I don’t know if that’s even close to how you pronounce it, but that’s where we are.”
“You pronounce it ‘dee verk-shtatt’,” interrupts a dripping wet Brendon, “And it means ‘The Workshop’ in case you were wondering.” He continues and drops the towel he was using to dry his hair on the back of the couch. His jeans have little drops of water on them from where he probably shook his hair near them.

Butch sends him an intrigued look, “Where’d you learn that, Urie, you uncultured swine?” Brendon smirks and shrugs.

“We’ve played there before, and Ryan used to make a point of knowing all about the venues we played at – specifically how to pronounce them and what that meant in the native tongue. I guess the habit has stuck.” Brendon moves over to the spare rail of clothes he requested to be placed in the dressing room. He picks up an old ‘Miami Marlins’ shirt with green sleeves and tugs it over his head, getting lost somewhere near the armhole and having to struggle and shimmy to rectify the situation.

“Weird. You guys kind of never cease to amaze me, you’re all so weird.” With a perplexed shake of the head, Butch departs into the corridor to check on something or other.

“So, Germany,” Brendon chimes, jumping down so he’s partly on top of Spencer, who groans and pushes at Brendon’s shoulder.

“Yup, Germany.”

Chapter Text

Tour: Day 6/52

It’s the first England date. They’re in Nottingham, Rock City to be precise. They’ve played here several times before; it’s quite a popular venue. Brendon sometimes wonders why they only ever tour in the same places in Britain. It’s not as big as the US, not by anyone’s standards, but there are more than 5 cities in it.

Yesterday’s date – Paris – had been hard-going. They’d visited Paris a lot on old tours, and it holds a lot of memories; memories Brendon would rather draw a line under.

Nottingham is cold; cold and dreary and damp in a way Brendon’s not used to. The clouds hang heavily over the city, suffocating in a distinctly melancholic fashion. The venue is nice, as usual, with spacious dressing rooms and plenty of nice coffee machines dotted round the backstage maze.

“Man, I love it when they cater to our basic, human needs,” Brendon praises as he splays himself on one of the couches, coffee in hand.

“It’s great, isn’t it, coffee that doesn’t taste like a tramp’s shoe,” Spencer mocks sardonically.

“Mmm,” hums Brendon over the top of his paper cup.

“Did I pack my chargers with your stuff, Brendon? I can’t find them and I’m worried I left them in Paris.” Dallon despairs from the other side of the room where he’s rummaging haphazardly through his bags.

Brendon just shrugs, “I don’t know, Weekes, what’s the trouble anyway? Just buy new ones?”

“I don’t want to just ‘buy new ones’, Brendon! I want the old ones. You can’t solve a problem by throwing money at it.” Dallon reproves. He’s wearing a fatherly expression that reminds Spencer bitterly of how Dallon has a family and people he can return to who love him and miss him when he tours. Even Brendon now has Audrey, as remarkable as it is they’ve survived the first few days of tour away from each other.

“Whatever, you can borrow mine if you can’t fine yours,” says Spencer who just wants Dallon to be quiet because it’s not often they get moments of tranquility on tour and he wants to enjoy this brief moment of silence.

“You’re up for final checks and earphone fittings in 5, guys,” the assistant tech informs them. England has more competant in-venue techs, but Brendon supposes they’ll never be as good as he hopes they’ll be.

“Man, I’ll have to chug this coffee or throw it away,” Brendon complains, staring solemnly down into his cup, which is still ¾ full.

“Make your decision quickly, Urie, we need to get out there. People to please, music to play, fans to remind why they worship us…” Spencer gets up and heads for the door, leaving Brendon to decide the fate of his coffee. He gulps down a mouthful, but it’s hot and he gives up on the rest. He follows Spencer out and before he recognises how much time has passed they’re in the middle of ‘Hurricane’ and he’s dancing on stage like a madman – shirt already halfway to being thrown side-stage. Another day in the life of Mr Urie.

 

Tour: Day 18/52 – Athens, Greece

“I. Hate. Europe.” Brendon chants from the side of the fuel pump. They’ve had to stop for fuel and Brendon has taken full advantage. He hasn’t been out of the bus for a solid 7 hours and he’s starting to go stir-crazy.

It’s hot and it’s bright and they’re all tired and ratty and the air on the bus hasn’t been breathable in 2 days.

“No you don’t,” Spencer assures him, returning from the store with some water in his hand. “You just hate being hot and tired in an unfamiliar environment.”

Brendon thinks that pretty much amounts to the same thing, but just groans in response. Tour is too long, it’s barely been 2 weeks and he’s already longing to be back in his Los Angeles house with air conditioning and food and all his stuff.

“C’mon, back on the bus. We’ve got to be at the venue before 2.” Butch coaxes them all back onto the bus, which is practically steaming by this stage. They sit in acrid silence for a good hour before Spencer gets up and turns on the TV so they can make fun of the Grecian weather channel – European networks always have the funniest animations to depict weather.

 

Tour: Day 17/28 2005 – Antwerp, Belgium

“Brendon you get out here right the fuck now!” Ryan screamed, banging on the door to the bathroom angrily.

“Dude. Oh my God. It’s 3am, shut the fuck up.” Brent moaned and pushed his face further into his pillow.

“I will not shut up until he gets out here and explains himself!” Ryan continued, not letting up with the door banging.

Brendon stayed in the bathroom, hiding from Ryan.

“What’s he done now, oh my God.” Spencer mumbled and turned onto his back to look at Ryan, shaking with anger.

“He stole my notebook and took some pages! I want to know why, and I want them back.” Ryan turned to Spencer, face like thunder, hands on hips ready for a screaming match.

“I did not steal your notebook!” Brendon called through the wall, forcing Ryan to turn all his attention back on the closed door.

“Yes, you did!”

“No, you said I could look at it, then you went to put on your pajamas and I… borrowed a few pages.”

“Why?!”

“I liked the lyrics, I thought – they looked like they were about me. But then you got all angry and I got scared so I ran in here.” Brendon’s disembodied voice faded out and Ryan softened immediately. Everyone knew Ryan couldn’t hold a proper grudge against Brendon, it was against his nature.

“It’s not finished.” Ryan said, voice lowered and mouth pressed close to the door. Brendon started to say something else, but gave up in favour of opening the door and waiting there awkwardly, framed by the light from the bathroom. Ryan stood for a moment before disappearing into the bathroom after Brendon.

Spencer turned back over onto his stomach, knowing by now the pair wouldn’t emerge for at least another 20 minutes. They did it a lot – fight and make up. They never fought over anything particularly serious though, they liked each other too much to have a real falling out.

“So it is about me?” Brendon asked once the door was safely closed.

“Well… us, yeah.”

“Why didn’t you put it on the album?”

“I want it on the next album.”

Brendon raised his eyebrows questioningly. “There’s going to be a next one?”

Ryan chewed the corner of his lip. “I was hoping so, yeah.”

“And this’ll go on it?” he clarified, pulling out the crumpled sheets from his pocket and pointing at them. Ryan nodded. “What’s it called?”

“The album or the song?”

“The song, idiot, what’s the song called?”

Ryan frowned, “I don’t know, yet.”

Brendon smiled, “Well, we’ve got time to think about it.”

 

Tour: Day 31/52 – Tokyo, Japan

“Oh my God have you seen these toilets?!” Brendon comes out from the bathroom with the look of a child on Christmas morn. Spencer barely bats an eyelid.

“They’re wonderful, Brendon, truly revolutionary.” He drones, twisting the magazine he’s holding from side to side, like he can’t really work out which way up it’s supposed to be.

“You’re not even looking!” cries Brendon, waving his arms like a petulant child.

“That’s because I don’t care!” Spencer mocks, finally deciding on which way up the magazine should be.

“Urh, you’re so boring after the halfway point. You always do this, and it’s so annoying.” He huffs in a way that almost succeeds in gaining Spencer’s attention, but just misses the mark.

“I’m trying to read here, Brendon.”

Brendon sneaks a glance over Spencer’s shoulder to look at the magazine, “It’s all in Japanese. You can’t even read Japanese, you moron!”

Spencer rolls his eyes and pushes Brendon away by smushing his hand in the singer’s face, “Leave me alone, would you? Go talk to Audrey or something, annoy her for a change.” Brendon just pouts.

 

Tour: Day 37/52 – Singapore

“How are you, then?”

“Fine, I guess. It’s boring without you here, though. Quiet and peaceful and calm, but boring.”

“Well, we’ll be back in, like, 2 weeks. You won’t have to miss my beautiful face for much longer.”

“I don’t know what will have happened in 2 weeks, though, Spence,” Ryan sighs loudly, “I didn’t expect it to be so frustrating, you know?”

“Mmm, well just hold out till I get back and then I’ll see what I can do.” Spencer resolves, shifting his ass when he feels the cramp starting to seep in.

“It had better involve copious volumes of ice-cream and the entire Season 2 of Buffy.”

“What else d’ya think I’d bring?”

“Spencer? We’re on in 10. Butch wants you off the phone now.” Dallon calls, twizzling his pick between his fingers in a practiced gesture that must’ve taken a lot of time to master perfectly.

“’Kay I’m coming,” Spencer replies, “I’ve –“

“Gotta go, I know.” Ryan fills in, huffing out a short laugh that sounds forced even down the crappy phone line.

“Two weeks, Ry, then we’ll be back and we can sort shit out.” Spencer senses the nod from the other line even if he can’t see it.

“Yeah.. I hope you kill your show. I’ll see you in a fortnight.” Spencer barely has time to reciprocate the sentiment before Ryan’s hanging up.

“Everything OK back home?” Brendon asks curiously, having just entered from talking to a tech in the corridor.

“Dandy,” Spencer grits.

Brendon frowns and glances at Dallon, “Spencer,”

“Really, Brendon, don’t worry yourself with it.” Spencer stares Brendon down with a ‘seriously back down I don’t want to talk about it’ look and Brendon knows well enough to obey.

“Just… if you want to talk-“

“Thanks, B, but really, you wouldn’t be able to help with this one.” Then Butch calls them out into the corridor to fit their mics and check they’re ready for the show ahead.

 

Tour: Day 40/52: Return to the USA

“Man, it feels good to be back on American soil.” Brendon says as he prances off the plane.

“We’re not even at ground-level yet, Brendon.” Spencer reminds him with a smile in his voice. “American carpet then, whatever.” He corrects with a roll of his eyes.

They stroll through the airport, retrieving their bags and trekking to the exit. They only run into, like, 100 fans, which is pretty good considering. They’re in New York because their grand return has to be executed in the city where, as Butch said: ‘S’all happenin’.

“I just love the NYC venues,” Brendon comments, bouncing on his feet excitedly.

“You love everything, Brendon,” Spencer reminds him.

“Not true,” Brendon argues, “I don’t love those Furbie things. They are creepy as hell.” Spencer nods in agreement. It had been about 2006 and some European fan had sent the band Furbies that ‘represent each your individual personalities’. Needless to say it had been equally terrifying and intriguing.

“But NYC. The Big Apple. The Loudest City on Planet Earth. The City That Never Sleeps.” Brendon and Spencer share a concerned glance as Dallon rambles.

“Sure, Dal, sure,” Spencer pats his shoulder and walks off, snickering with Brendon.

“So,” Spencer starts, “How’s Audrey?” Brendon smiles.

“She’s fine. We’ve been talking all the time we’ve been away. She says she misses me.”

Spencer quirks one eyebrow, “You miss anyone else?” he says, wrongly assuming Brendon reciprocated Audrey’s feelings of longing.

“No, no missing anyone else.” Brendon assures himself as well as Spencer, clambering into the car after Ian.

He’s determined not to miss Ryan, but Brendon’s not really sure where he and Ryan stand anymore. Ryan was kind of ignoring him before tour, but they were civil enough. The thing is that, despite his best efforts, Brendon can’t get rid of his feelings for Ryan. There’s just so much to feel – so much history that Brendon knows counts for something, for everything. He wants to be over the guy, really he does – that’s partly what Audrey’s for (unfortunately for her) – but he’s finding it frustratingly difficult.

Spencer smiles proudly, “I’m happy for you, bro.” Brendon feels slightly guilty, he does miss people. He misses Gabe, Nate, Alex, Adam, but mostly Ryan. He guesses he might always miss Ryan – maybe that’s the price he’ll pay for loving someone he can’t have.

“Hey look, our hotel is actually not a shit hole!” Dallon exclaims, drawing attention away from Spencer and Brendon’s conversation, thankfully.

“Ey! Finally!” the band roars, everyone in the car enthusing quietly about the clean sheets, towels, showers, beds, they’ll experience in this hotel.

“I can’t wait to perform America again,” sighs Brendon, “There’s only so many phrases I can learn in foreign languages before it becomes a real chore.”

“Dude, you know you didn’t have to say a phrase in another language every night? You could have just chosen, say, 4 venues.” Spencer reminds the singer, then stares happily out the window.

“But where’s the fun in that?”

 

Tour: Day 45/52 – Kentucky

To: B-bear, From: Aud <3

I can’t wait till u get back. I hv so much I wanna do ;)

Brendon sighs and locks his phone. He doesn’t want it to be like this – all about the sex. He wants some solid, emotional connection with someone. Gabe would say it’s lame, but Brendon doesn’t care.

They go out after the show to a nearby pub in order to get shit-faced. Butch wasn’t thrilled by the idea, but had no power to stop the merry proceedings.

“I just – I wanna have a boyfriend, or a girlfriend, that’d do as well. I wanna have someone,” Brendon’s garbling to the bartender, who looks hilariously disinterested. “Someone who I can love and treasure and marry and have babies with and grow old with. Y’know?” Brendon looks expectantly at the barkeep with lazy eyes.

“Okay, buddy, you’re cut off.” Brendon moans in protest, thudding his head against the wooden bar. “Trust me, bro, you’ll thank me in the morning.” The guy slips his dry cloth onto the spot of bar where Brendon’s smacking his head in an attempt to prevent any major bruising and/or damage.

“Nnghh,” Brendon growls into the wood, rolling his head along the cloth instead. The bartender leaves, departing in favour of serving a couple some fancy-sounding shots. Brendon digs out his phone and fumbles with the buttons before managing to press call.

“Hello?”

“Heeey there!”

“Brendon?”

“Heeey Ryro!”

“What are – are you drunk?”

“Only like… this much,” Brendon holds his finger and thumb half a centimeter apart, squinting in order to do it properly.

“Brendon, you should… go back to your hotel. Find Butch or Spence or Dallon. Hang up, drink some water, go to bed.”

Brendon smirks, “In that order?”

“Dear God – Just… go get sober, asshole.”

“Ry, wait, please,” In his drunken state, Brendon’s voice takes on a plaintive, childish quality Ryan can’t help but pander to.

“What is it, Brendon?” he asks, voice considerably softer.

“I- I wanna talk.”

“About what?”

“Us, dum-dum.”

“What about us?”

“I’m sorry.”

“Sorry for what?”

“For being a shitty boyfriend. If I’d only listened to you you wouldn’t have left me. You wouldn’t have gone.” Brendon’s on the verge of tears, the alcohol unlocking his over-emotional, lovelorn teenager.

Ryan stays silent before replying, “It wasn’t your fault, Bren, it – I didn’t leave because of you. You can’t blame yourself for my decision.”

Brendon sniffs, “Do you regret it?”

“Regret what?” He asks, even though he knows exactly what.

“Do you ever regret leaving? Leaving the band? Leaving me?”

“Brendon, I-“

“Brendon? Give me that phone right now.” Dallon is using his authoritative voice, plucking the phone from Brendon’s hand and hanging up. Brendon whines unhappily.

“He wasn’t done! He didn’t say he missed me!”

Dallon doesn’t look phased. “You’re coming with me. We’re going to the hotel.” Dallon pulls on Brendon’s elbow and damn-near drags Brendon out onto the street.

“You’ve gotta be careful, Bren,” Dallon warns, “You should take it easier. Especially since you’re recovering from an extremely recent addiction.” Brendon smooshes his face into Dallon’s shoulder in response. Dallon heaves a sigh and hails a cab, shoving Brendon in once it has stopped.

“You’re so good to me, Weekes,” Brendon drawls.

“I know. It’s my one and only character flaw.”

“That and the snoring.” Brendon states seriously. Dallon laughs.

“Yeah, that too.”

Chapter Text

Homecoming shows are always awesome – especially after a painfully long almost-but-not-quite world tour. LA looks brighter than Brendon remembers, shining magnificently in the early morning December sunshine.

Home, sweet home, Brendon nearly said upon arrival. He didn’t want to, though. It was the wrong moment. Spencer’s in a sleep-deprived ‘I will bite you if you come too close’ mood and Dallon’s frazzled.

“Brendon?” Butch looks expectant. Brendon rewinds through his memory, trying to piece together what Butch has asked.

“Um… I didn’t do it?” he tries. By Butch’s reaction, Brendon guesses that was the wrong answer.

“I said, if you have anyone you want to put on the VIP guestlist for tonight say them now.”

Brendon thinks for a second; he could invite Audrey, but he doesn’t really want to mix her that close with his work yet. “No, no one,” he concludes, ignoring Butch’s raised eyebrow.

“All right then. You have sound check in 15 minutes. Plus, we’re using some more pyrotechnics this performance, so we need to check them and make sure you’re all okay with where and when they are, ‘kay?” Brendon nods obediently and Butch moves off, satisfied.

“Not bringing anyone backstage, Brendo?” Jake, one of the hired hands, asks.

“Nah, no one who would really appreciate the experience.” he replies, kicking his feet onto the chair in front of him. They’re in a kind of outdoor-alcove with 10-15 chairs and a small garden. Brendon doesn’t know why it’s in the middle of the backstage area, but he’s not complaining.

“Man, I would be bringing everyone I knew back here if I were the one up there playing.” Jake marvels, wrapping some wire from an amp round his arm. Brendon smiles and nods, knowing what that feeling felt like. That want to show everyone your life – include everyone in the magic just to say ‘Ha! See where I got!’.

“Yeah, well, things change as you get older, Jakey, it’s appreciation over rubbing it in people’s faces.” Brendon kicks his feet off the chair and gets up, shoving his hands in his pockets. Jake laughs and continues winding the wire around his arm.

“I guess you’d know. You are the rockstar, after all.” Jake throws Brendon a friendly, albeit slightly star-struck, lopsided smile and Brendon can’t help but return it.

“Yeah, I am.” Brendon kicks at the floor and Jake continues actually doing his job. “How old are you, anyway?” he suddenly asks, startling the boy in front of him.

“Um, 21. I started college but had to drop out when my dad got into an accident at work.”

“Dude, that sucks. What were you studying?”

“Um, Mechanical, Aeronautical, and Astronautical Engineering at Stanford.” Brendon suddenly feels extremely inadequate and embarrassed for having bragged about being a rockstar. This kid must be a genius.

“Holy fuck, dude, that’s insane! What are you, some mini-Einstein?” he screeches, watching as Jake goes red and looks down.

“Well, I mean, I guess I’m smart,”

“Only ‘guess’, really?” Brendon interrupts. Jake picks at the wires he’s holding.

“Well, not smart enough to get a scholarship there.”

“Oh, come on. You can’t dwell on that! You got in, didn’t you?”

“Yeah… but then I had to leave, which sucked.” Jake shrugs in a nonchalant way that Brendon knows is fake. He feels bad for the kid.

“Why don’t you go back?” he asks, voice more ‘concerned adult’ than ‘enthusiastic twenty-something’.

Jake sighs and rubs his hair, “I can’t. I need this job, man. I’ve gotta pay for my dad’s medical bills and my sister’s school fees. I don’t want her ending up like me as well. She at least deserves to have all the opportunities I’m missing.” Jake finishes winding the wires around his arm and moves to leave. Brendon makes a flustered noise and grabs the boy’s arm.

“Wait, why don’t you just go to a local community college? I mean, I’m sure this place would be more than happy to arrange your hours so they fit in with classes?” Jake looks touched by Brendon’s concern, but his overriding expression is one of melancholy.

“That would be a great idea,” he starts, “If it were only here I would have to juggle with classes.”

“What do you mean?”

Jake laughs, but it’s forced and dry, “I have two other jobs, man. One at the shoe place on Hollywood Boulevard and one doing a really early morning job at the bowling alley downtown. It’s a nice dream, but, sometimes our dreams don’t come true.” Jake shrugs again and heads off into the venue.

Brendon stands, slightly shellshocked. He didn’t realise people actually had to do things like that. He always assumed people in menial jobs were there because they didn’t have the abilities to do better things. Now he realises some people are there because they have no other choice. It’s actually ridiculously heartbreaking.

He heads to sound check, but he’s preoccupied. He’s thinking about all the people who he’s dismissed as being lesser than him because they weren’t in fancy, glamorous jobs. He feels like Ebenezer Scrooge after his visit from the ghost of Christmases yet to come – ready to redeem himself in the eyes of the people.

“Brendon, would you pay attention, please?” someone calls and pulls Brendon out of his internal turmoil to focus on sound check. It was Butch speaking and Brendon smiles an apology, continuing with whatever it was he was doing before he got lost in his own head.

Spencer, after sound check, asks if Brendon’s okay. He says he’s fine and goes to the back lounge to piss about for a while. The VIPs will be arriving soon and he doesn’t really want to be there when they do. Brendon remembers the first time they played a homecoming show, right after their first tour with Fall Out Boy. Spencer and Brent invited their parents and siblings and they’d all showed up, crowding the backstage corridors and dressing rooms. Brendon had left various messages with his parents and siblings, but all had declined or not answered. Kara had said she would have come if she hadn’t been babysitting for one of her best friends.

He had been really upset until, that is, Ryan had come and sat with him, saying his dad had said no as well. They’d spent the rest of the build up to the show together, Ryan squeezing Brendon’s wrist comfortingly whenever he looked for too long at Spencer or Brent interacting with their families after not having seen them for ages. Brendon had been very openly grateful to Ryan for distracting him even though he had just as much cause to mope and brood as Brendon had had.

Brendon hears when they arrive; loud, excited chattering filling up the winding corridors. Brendon can hear Spencer’s friend, Linda, squealing and giggling animatedly from his seclusion in the back room. Dallon invited Breezy, who had to find an emergency babysitter because she refused to miss her husband’s returning show. But she’s definitely there, her caramel voice trickling through the door.

Everyone’s enjoying themselves with their chosen VIPs when Brendon hears footsteps coming towards his dressing room. Someone knocks twice and cracks the door open.

“Bren-donut? You in here?” It’s Breezy, sounding concerned and loving as usual. She sticks her neck round the door so it looks like she’s a floating head, then smiles. “We missed you out there. Dal said you were in here, so I came to retrieve you.”

He smiles lopsidedly and shrugs, “I’m okay. No retrieval necessary.” Breezy rolls her eyes and steps into the room fully.

“Afraid that’s not an option, mister. Either you come out to say hello to everyone and interact like a normal human being, or everyone comes in here and invades your personal space and has to suffer the dreadful smell of week-old socks.” She places her hands on her hips menacingly and raises one eyebrow. Brendon can see now why her kids are so well behaved.

“Okay, mom.” He grunts, pushing himself off the couch and trudging over to her. She smiles triumphantly and pets his head.

“There’s my good boy!” Then she pulls him into a ferocious hug and sways from foot to foot. “I’ve missed you all so much, I can’t believe it’s been so long!” She finally lets go of him, but keeps him at arms length. “You’ve kept your hair cut short, I see.” She runs a hand down the side of Brendon’s head then taps his shoulder, “C’mon, we’d better get going else Dallon’ll be in here complaining about why I’m spending more time with you than him.” She laughs and pulls Brendon after her into the corridor to meet everyone else.

Breezy greets Dallon with a kiss on the cheek and he slides his hand around her waist, pulling her close. Spencer’s talking to Linda, who’s smiling like a maniac (which is hilariously cute because seriously, Spencer and Linda have been dancing around each other for the best part of 2 years) and touching his arm. Butch is holding a clipboard and talking to a guy in huge cans (cans are headphones before anyone says anything).

“So, we’re still waiting on two more VIPs,” Butch says above everyone speaking. “Although Spencer assures me they’ll be here soon.” Butch sends a confirmatory raised eyebrow at Spencer, who nods back. “Good. Okay, your clothes are all set up in the back room when you’re ready, and visitors can I just check you have your lanyards?” Linda and Breezy hold up their lanyards and Linda even wiggles hers in a celebratory fashion. Butch nods at them and walks off to talk to some other people in headphones.

“Who are the other 2 people we’re waiting for?” Brendon asks Dallon.

“Um, one of them is my friend Dave, and the other is Spencer’s guest. I don’t know who, but I’d say I could make a pretty safe bet.”

Brendon curses to himself. He knows what that means and it’s not something he particularly wants to think about. Why couldn’t he have been free of the stress for another week or so? Dammit, Spencer.

“Right, well, when that does happen, I’m leaving ‘kay?” Dallon rolls his eyes at Brendon’s sissy attitude.

“You know you can’t avoid him, right? I mean, you could try, but it’ll only make you look like you’re afraid of him.”

“And I am perfectly okay with that.” Brendon responds, summoning his last shreds of dignity in order to put power behind his words.

They make some small talk for about fifteen minutes, Linda and Spencer coming over to join in their conversation after a little while. Then the remaining VIPs arrive. Dallon races over and hugs Dave, while Ryan tiptoes in, looking lost. Spencer sees him and drops the conversation like a hot potato in order to rush over and embrace his friend.

“Awh, look at our boys, so cute,” Linda muses, leaning her head on Breezy’s shoulder.

“I know,” Breezy sighs, “Although sometimes I feel more like I’m caring for another child than a husband.” Linda laughs.

“I completely understand. Except for the part about ‘another’ child. And ‘husband’.”

Brendon runs away into the back room with the excuse of getting changed. He closes the door behind himself and breathes out the breath he’s been holding. He walks over to the rail of clothes and picks his outfit off the rack.

He lays the plastic covered suit over the back of the couch and pulls his t-shirt over his head. He’s fiddling with the dry-cleaner’s cover, trying to prise it off the hanger to extricate the shirt, when someone comes in. He doesn’t look over for a second, too used to people walking in while he’s in various states of undress to remember there are VIPs here. Specific VIPs who he doesn’t want to see.

Unfortunately, it is exactly that. The unfairness and predictability of my life, he thinks, looking at Ryan who’s staring at him with a strange, calculating look.

“Can I help you?” Brendon asks, pushing out the little voice in his head that squeals No, but he can help you. He can also imagine the little winky face his brain puts at the end of that thought.

“I, um, saw you run in here after I arrived,” Ryan says after an instant of silence, “Spencer was talking to Linda, and they said you didn’t have anyone come for this show. Reminded me of-“

“Yeah, I know.” Brendon cuts in, leaving Ryan with a skating look of hurt. “I didn’t want anyone here.”

“What about, um,”

“Audrey.” Brendon supplies tersely.

“I remember her name, Brendon.” Ryan replies with equal bitterness.

Brendon doesn’t say anything for a second, “What about you? Didn’t you want to bring Bill along with you to experience the magic?”

Ryan pulls at the long piece of hair by his ear, “Yeah, he was busy tonight. Probably out cheating on me.” Brendon goes still. Did Spencer tell Ryan about William? He thought they’d agreed they would keep it to themselves? Spencer explicitly told Brendon not to say anything.

“What?” He settles for, brain too confused and muddled to say anything else.

Ryan sighs and waves his hand in a ‘forget it’ gesture. “Never mind, it’s nothing.”

“Ryan that doesn’t sound like ‘nothing’ to me.” He forgets about his shirt and moves around the couch to sit down across from the seat Ryan’s flopped into.

“Just speculation.” Ryan inspects the zip to his jacket to avoid looking at Brendon’s face.

“Have you… told Spencer?” Brendon asks, figuring that’s probably the way to figure out what Spencer’s said to Ryan.

“No, I didn’t want to worry him.” Huh.

“But you didn’t mind worrying me?” He says it with a hint of a smile, trying to lighten the mood. If Spencer didn’t say anything that means Ryan came to the conclusion all by himself, which is somehow worse.

Ryan finally looks into Brendon’s eyes, smiling sheepishly, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to.”

Brendon shrugs, “It’s okay, I don’t mind.”

“Used to it, huh?”

“Something like that,” Brendon laughs, rubbing a hand through his hair.

“Glad tour’s almost over?” Ryan changes the subject, and Brendon moves with it eagerly.

“Man, like you wouldn’t believe.” Brendon collapses back onto the couch and looks at Ryan, who cracks a smile and a laugh.

“Yeah, I remember that feeling. Hey, do you remember the time we drank 5 packs of red bull the night before our homecoming show so we’d be wired, but we timed it all wrong and had to play with the biggest come-down in history?”

Brendon snorts out a throaty laugh because that had been one of the worst shows they’d ever played. “Oh my God, and that time Spencer’s drumsticks kept breaking, and he went through all his emergencies in the first 3 songs, so for I Constantly Thank God he was hitting the drums with the broken ends of wood he had left.” They both break down into fits of giggles because Spencer’s face had been absolutely priceless. The techs couldn’t find any replacement drumsticks and then someone wouldn’t let them on-stage in the middle of the set. It was a disaster.

“How come we have so many more tales of tragedy than we do success?” Ryan asks, and Brendon has to genuinely restrain himself from saying ‘because I write more sins than tragedies’ because, seriously, that doesn’t even make sense.

“I think it’s more that we remember what went wrong better than we remember what went right.” Brendon reasons, finally getting up to put his shirt on because he’s feeling awkward sitting, shirtless, talking to Ryan about the past. It makes his brain assume things that are completely wrong.

“Hm,” says Ryan, “I guess.”

Brendon’s shirt this evening is black to match his gold jacket with black lapels. He pulls the shirt from the hanger and sticks his right arm in. He accidentally looks up and Ryan’s watching him. His expression is pretty neutral, but it’s the lack of any protruding emotion that makes Brendon uncomfortable.

He shoves his other arm in hastily, trying to speed up the process and in doing so only really succeeds in getting stuck. He’s pushing his hand through the hole between the end of the shirt and the buttons at the cuff.

“Do you need some help?” Ryan asks from the chair, already getting up because in Ryan speech, the question mark isn’t really there. He crosses the dressing room, and Brendon nearly takes a step back, nearly says ‘No, it’s okay, I got it’. But he doesn’t, he lets Ryan come closer and pull the sleeve down a bit so Brendon can remove his hand and thread it through to freedom.

Ryan proceeds to button Brendon’s shirt for him, starting at the bottom and making his way slowly up until he’s looking at Brendon’s throat and doing up the last button.

“Thanks,” Brendon croaks when Ryan’s done, but not moved his hands from the collar of Brendon’s shirt.

“Do you have a tie?”

Brendon nods and points a little helplessly to the bag on the couch. Ryan fishes it out and rubs the fabric between his thumb and forefinger momentarily before hooking it over the web between the two fingers and turning back to Brendon in order to turn the collar up. He brings the tie around until he’s got the tie around Brendon’s neck; the power to pull, squeeze, tighten.

“You learned how to do one of these yet?” He whispers, catching Brendon’s eyes though his head is tilted down to concentrate on the tie.

Brendon swallows, the movement painfully obvious from Ryan’s vantage point, “No, not yet.” There’s no point lying, Brendon thinks, as it would only make this exchange way more awkward.

“Good.” Ryan whispers, sounding defensive, although Brendon can’t fathom why. He pulls a little harder on the ends of the tie, then starts wrapping them together. In Brendon’s mind, he’s reliving every single occasion Ryan did exactly this, the type of tie varied over the years, but the process was always the same. In Ryan’s mind, per contra, he’s reliving the time William did up his tie before Gerard’s comic premier.

He finishes the tie and pats it once. “There.”

Brendon doesn’t look down, “Thanks.”

“No problem.”

“Is it just me or is it really hot in here?” And, oh my God, what was that? Brendon’s head suddenly fills with internal voices screaming Are you actually serious right now?! and Brendon doesn’t know why the hell he just said that, but now Ryan’s smiling and laughing and looking down and being fucking cute as hell.

“No air-con.” He says, kind of pointlessly.

They don’t say anything for another minute – Brendon too afraid he’ll word vomit again, and Ryan just content standing, slightly invading Brendon’s personal space.

Another minute in silence and Spencer bustles in, causing the two to jump apart guiltily even though they weren’t doing anything. Like seriously, they were doing absolutely nothing.

“Oh, that’s where you guys went. Nice.” Spencer pushes past them to grab his clothes off the rail and head into the adjoining bathroom to change. He’s quickly followed by Dallon who says all visitors need to meet with Butch for some safety talk. Ryan nods and smiles a small, secretive smile at Brendon before heading off to find the other visitors. Dallon looks at Brendon then at the doorway Ryan’s just walked out of several times before narrowing his eyes and snatching his clothes off the rail as well.

“You can’t hide from me, Urie.”

Brendon opens his mouth in protest, but Dallon raises his eyebrows and points at Brendon’s perfectly tied tie. Brendon closes his mouth.

 

The show goes well; they remember what songs go where, the hit the right notes, Brendon strips in front of 10,000 people – It’s all fairly standard.

They bounce off stage, full of remaining energy, dripping with sweat, the roars of the crowds still ringing backstage.

“Tour 2013, you are COMPLETED!” Brendon booms, gratefully accepting the towel he’s offered by a scared-looking, sweaty tech.

“Congratulations, kids, we’re officially done.” Butch adds sedately.

“Woo!” Brendon screams, punctuating his earlier statement.

“Calm down, Shoeshine Boy, and go sit in the dressing room and wait for me, I need to talk to you all.” Butch hushes, smiling a little because he’s glad they’ve had fun, and he’s fucking overjoyed it’s over.

Brendon gallops into the dressing room, completely ignoring that that’s where the VIPs have been herded. He bounds through the door, side-stepping roung the couch and yelling ‘Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe’ off-tune and out of time.

Breezy startles and then giggles, Linda sits in shock for a moment not moving, Dave doesn’t appear phased, continuing to pour his coffee, and Ryan tilts his head slightly in the direction of the door when Brendon enters, eyes following him round the room.

“And this is a good day…” Spencer grumbles, heading straight over to the couch where Linda is sitting. Dallon follows after, still laughing, and goes over to Breezy when she smiles at him.

“Great show, guys,” Dave comments, saluting his coffee in their direction.

“Thanks, man,” Dallon acknowledges.

“I can feel the changes. I can feel the new people around me just want to be famous!” Brendon’s screeching, getting up in Spencer’s personal space. “You can see that my city found me then put me on stages. To me that’s amazing, to you that’s a quick check with all disrespect let me say this-“

“Stop. Now. Brendon, stop.” Butch holds up a hand, putting a stop to Brendon’s god-awful ‘rapping’. Brendon, miraculously, sits down and only jiggles his leg a bit.

“Right, I called you all in here to say a few things. Number 1, please, please don’t go and get so drunk tonight you can’t see tomorrow morning.” The band groans, but Butch continues, “I’m not saying don’t go get drunk, by all means do that, but we have an interview tomorrow morning and I can’t cancel because one of you had a little too much sauce the night before.” This is a fairly reasonable request, one they are going to completely ignore.

“Number 2, I’ve been talking to the Powers That Be, and they’ve said we need to write a small on-the-side EP to go with ‘Too Weird To Live’, but we only need two extra songs and we’ll fill it up with Nicotine and a Nicotine instrumental, because what kid doesn’t love to karaoke that shit? And, finally, number 3, congratulations guys, that was a really great tour. If you ever tell anyone I said this I will kill you, but… I’m really proud of you all, it was a long tour and extremely mentally, physically, and emotionally punishing on everyone but you got through it and you should be happy with yourselves. You’ve worked really hard and it’s definitely paid off.” Butch tapers off and there’s silence until Brendon goes: “Aww,” really quietly and Butch rolls his eyes, but smiles and rubs his forehead.

“Whatever, just go, okay? Shower, change, and leave me alone for a week.” Butch doesn’t waste anymore time and leaves the dressing room. As soon as the door has safely clicked closed, Spencer and Brendon burst out laughing. Dallon snickers, but tries really hard to hide it.

“You guys are so mean to him,” Breezy says, smiling, “He’s only being nice.”

“He’s being a fucking dad is what he’s being,” Brendon chokes between hiccuping laughs.

Dallon stops laughing long enough to frown and say, “Hey, what’s wrong with being a dad?” This prompts Brendon to laugh harder, curling over himself and completely shaking with it. Spencer is in a similar state, nose all scrunched up and tears just about visible in the corners of his eyes.

“Man, I am glad I do not have to be stuck on a bus with that anymore.” Dallon says, pointing at the individual lumps of vibrating male.

It takes another minute or so of uncontrollable laughter for the boys to regain their composure, sighing at wiping their eyes theatrically.

“Oh man, okay, woo, okay, I’m good,” Brendon shakes himself out of it and whips his towel off from around his neck. “I need to get clean.”

“Hey, why don’t we come home with you so you can shower and then we can go out?” Spencer suggests, looking to Linda, Ryan, Dave, and Dallon for approval.

“I’m going to go home and see the kids, thanks guys.” Dallon declines, although everyone knows when he says ‘see the kids’, he means ‘see Breezy’s boobs during the sexytimes’.

Spencer turns his eyes to Ryan, “You game?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Linda?”

“Yeah, all right, sounds like fun.”

“Dave?” He nods.

Spencer circles back to Brendon, who’s moved around and is now putting a clean shirt over his head. “Brendon?”

“Nah, I think I’m going to enjoy the pleasures of my own bed and all my shit. But you guys have fun.” He says, shrugging nonchalantly.

“Awh, c’mon! It’s the end of tour!” Spencer winges, bouncing a little bit and pouting.

Brendon smiles fondly, “Dude, I’ll celebrate when you have a hangover and I don’t tomorrow for our interview.” He picks up his bags and then his phone starts ringing but the strap of the handheld is awkwardly capturing his thumb next to his wrist. He flails and his phone jumps out of his pocket and skids across the floor, landing at Ryan’s feet.

Ryan leans down and picks up the phone, he looks up to see Brendon still juggling his bags and so elects to answer the device. “Hello?” Brendon stops and watches Ryan expectantly. “No, um… no Brendon’s just here… yeah… Ryan?... um, yeah…” Ryan frowns and everyone’s watching him carefully, Brendon especially (who looks kind of puzzled).

“Yeah I know her… What?... How do you-… Oh my God, Audrey!” Ryan exclaims loudly and smiles, Brendon frowns harder. “I am so sorry, I didn’t recognise your voice over the phone! Yeah-… no, we’re still at the venue… I was invited?” Ryan looks at Brendon questioningly and Brendon waves his arms wildly in a ‘cut it out, shut the fuck up right now oh my God’ way, causing things to fall randomly out of his bags in the process.

“I got-… no, Butch made a special exception for me… Yeah, next time,” Ryan sends Brendon a disappointed and silently berating look which Brendon cowers from a bit. “Hey, he’s here now, do you want to talk to him? Yeah, okay…yeah it was nice to talk to you, too… say hi to Sophie for me if you see her… Kay, bye,” Ryan holds the phone at arms length and covers the mouthpiece. “You, Brendon Urie, are an asshole. You owe her big.” Brendon snatches the phone and sticks his tongue out at Ryan.

Brendon’s still talking to Audrey when everyone decides to leave to go to their various destinations. Spencer goes into the corner where Brendon is to tell him they’re leaving, coming close enough to hear Brendon saying: “Just… calm down, okay?”

Spencer taps Brendon’s shoulder to gain his attention and points to the door, mouthing ‘We’re going now’. Brendon gives a thumbs up and a tired smile then turns back to the phone conversation.

Spencer shrugs when Ryan sends him a confused and expectant look, and they head out to a local bar/club to drink to their success.

Chapter Text

Brendon’s sitting cross-legged on the floor of his living room, pajamas on, sorting through his laundry from tour. The pile of ‘so dirty if you don’t wash it now it will grow lifeforms’ is worrying large, and the pile of ‘could probably last another day or so’ is big, but manageable.

Bob Dylan is playing in the background and he’s humming along, jiggling his knee in time to the beat. Tour ended three days ago and he’s been pretty busy up until now, so he hasn’t had the opportunity to clean out his luggage. He picks up a pair of crumpled shorts that he doesn’t remember packing or wearing, and throws them into the ‘could probably last another day or so’ pile, wipes off his hands on his thighs and looks up when the doorbell rings.

He doesn’t bother turning off the music, people know he listens to music 24/7, it’s just the way he unwinds. He plods barefoot to the door and opens it to find a sincerely bedraggled Ryan. He suddenly feels oddly exposed in his penguin-print pajama pants and worn, grey t-shirt.

“Ryan?”

Ryan sniffs and nubs his nose with his finger. “Can I come in?”

Brendon steps aside wordlessly and Ryan takes the hint, walking in woodenly.

“What’s up?” Brendon asks conversationally. Ryan plays with his fingers, looking down.

“Can we go sit down or something?” he asks, shifting awkwardly from foot to foot.

Brendon nods, “Yeah, sure, the living room’s this way.” He leads the way down the corridor and into the living room which joins onto the kitchen. Brendon sits on the couch, but Ryan hovers in the middle of the room, seemingly unsure.

“Oh, ignore the piles of dirty clothes, just sit down. It’s okay, I don’t bite.”

“Much,” Ryan replies instinctively, blushing when he realises what he’s said. “Sorry, I didn’t mean-“

Brendon waves him off, “Dude, it’s okay. Just sit down, tell me what’s up.”

Ryan sits down and takes a deep breath, leaning his elbows on his knees and making a triangle with his hands to rest his mouth there. “Okay… so… okay, yeah, okay.”

“Take your time,” Brendon says, not really sure what’s happening, but getting the distinct feeling it’s not good.

They don’t either of them speak for another couple minutes, both preparing themselves for what’s about to be said.

“Okay… so the thing is that… okay, wow, okay…” Ryan’s turned pale and Brendon leans in, genuinely worried. “Okay, so, basically… um, William left me for your friend Gabe.”

Um…

Brendon, for once, is actually completely speechless. He cannot think of a single thing that he can realistically vocalise. Oh dear? Sorry? I always hated that guy? Nothing seems appropriate.

“Ryan…” He ends up saying, which is basically what he meant anyway.

“Yeah… so, wow, that sucks.”

Acting solely on instinct, Brendon reaches out his hand and rests it on Ryan’s shoulder, squeezing gently. “Ryan, I am so sorry.”

Ryan barks out a laugh, eyes trained on the floor. “It’s not your fault, is it.”

“Well it’s not yours either.” Brendon assures, wondering how the hell something like this even happened.

“No, it is. We were going through a rough patch and… I must’ve pushed him away, I’m always fucking doing that.” Ryan buries his head between his knees, making aggravated noises. Brendon rubs small circles onto his back, imagining various ways to castrate and maim fucking William fucking Beckett and fucking Gabriel shitdick Saporta.

“Ryan, no, seriously, look at me. Look at me.” Ryan removes his head from where it’s lodged and stares at Brendon with wide, frighteningly hopeless eyes. “This is not your fault. This is William and Gabe’s faults. Not yours. You did nothing wrong, okay, nothing.”

Ryan doesn’t look convinced. Brendon thinks about how, in another world, he would lean in. He would look into Ryan’s eyes and tell him everything he’s been hiding for the past four years. He would lean in and they’d kiss, and maybe fuck, and it would be for all the lost years, all the ‘I love you’s that never got to be said, all the time they denied. But he doesn’t. He doesn’t do that because that’s not his life. His life is Audrey and Spencer and pretending blindly that he doesn’t love the man who’s sitting right in front of him. His life sucks.

“Then why did he leave?” Ryan pleads, voice cracking painfully.

“Because he’s a blind idiot who has no idea what he’s leaving behind.” Brendon answers truthfully. Ryan looks into Brendon’s eyes for what feels like a lifetime, searching for some grain of a lie. He doesn’t appear to find one, however, as he sits back a bit, relaxing just a smidge.

“Brendon,”

“Yeah?”

“Spencer… well, he said that… on tour, you know… that song…” Ryan swallows and Brendon looks down at his lap, removing his hand from Ryan’s back.

“Which song, Ryan?”

“Um… The End of All Things? You didn’t sing it at the homecoming show, but Spencer sent me a video from one of the previous dates.”

“What do you want to know about it?” Brendon asks tiredly.

“Is it about me? Us?” Ryan looks at Brendon quizically, half expecting some denial, and half craving confirmation.

Brendon looks at Ryan with an expression that doesn’t suit his face; it looks too wise, too knowing. “Do you want it to be?”

Ryan doesn’t have a response to that.

Brendon sighs a small laugh. “Hey, why don’t we go out tomorrow night, eh? Get a few drinks and bitch about betrayers?”

A persistent smile twitches at the corner of Ryan’s mouth, and that’s all the agreement Brendon needs.

“Cool. Pick me up at 8, we can grab pizza when we’re there. I have the perfect place.” Brendon looks so excited Ryan doesn’t want to say no, so he nods and smiles and leaves to go home.

William’s toothbrush is in the glass on the sink, Ryan stares at it for a good 3 minutes before picking it up and running his fingers along the bristles. He throws it in the toilet and flushes. He doesn’t care if it blocks up the drains, he’ll deal with that another day.

 

 

“But I haven’t seen you since you went away!” Audrey whines, managing to stress that she is also frustrated at Brendon for blowing her off.

“I’m sorry, Aud, but Butch’ll kill me if I skip this meeting. He’s only just stopped hating me because we had a good tour, I can’t risk it. I’ll definitely come see you tomorrow, though, ‘kay?”

“I just miss you.” She pouts, Brendon rubs his eyes with the heel of his hand.

“Yeah, miss you too.”

“You’ll see me tomorrow?” She clarifies.

“I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Promise?”

“Yes, Audrey, promise.”

She finally hangs up and Brendon checks his hair in the mirror, trying to calm his wildly beating heart. His irrational brain has seriously misinterpreted the combination of attention to detail and Ryan, and is now insisting this is a date, even though Brendon’s rational brain is saying the exact opposite.

It turns 7:59 and Brendon can hardly control himself. His heart is in his throat and his chest feels like a suit jacket that’s 4 sizes too small. He’s tapping his phone against his fingernails and singing random little bits of songs; he does that when he’s nervous.

At 8:02 the doorbell rings. Brendon leaps around the corner of the living room and gallops down the corridor to answer the door. He yanks it open and there’s Ryan.

Good God, that boy brushes up so nicely. He’s wearing not-too-tight black jeans, a white shirt with a skinny black tie, and a complicated looking leather jacket. Brendon is quickly noticing how many leather jackets Ryan now appears to own.

“Hey,” he says, fiddling with the zip, pulling it up and down.

“Hi,” Brendon replies, not letting go of the door handle as it feels like the only thing that’s anchoring him to the floor. “Let me just get my keys and jacket and I’ll be ready. Oh, come in if you want.” Brendon heads back down into the kitchen to snatch his keys off the countertop and reaches into the coat cupboard to pull out his black sports jacket.

Ryan has stayed in the doorway, not wanting to come in because it’ll freak him out and he’ll probably cry or something equally embarrassing.

Brendon pulls on his jacket too quickly and gets a little caught, but manages to untangle himself before Ryan tries to help him again. Then he heads to the door, smiling slightly.

“You ready?” He asks Ryan, who looks a bit spooked.

“Yeah, but I don’t know where we’re going?”

Brendon grins cheekily. “Then I’ll drive.”

Ryan doesn’t want to trust Brendon with Shane’s car, which he borrowed to get over to Brendon’s house. I mean, Brendon rides a skateboard, what does that say about his vehicle-driving abilities?

“Hm…”

“C’mon, Ryro! Lemme drive the car!” Brendon pleads, tugging on Ryan’s cuff to exaggerate the childish act.

“Hm… All right, fine. But if you crash it is totally not my fault.” Ryan points his finger menacingly to drive his threat home.

“Of course, of course!” Brendon chimes, grabbing the keys from Ryan’s jacket pocket. He knows they’re in there because Ryan’s been fiddling with them ever since Brendon locked his door.

The drive is calm, they talk a bit then Ryan turns up the radio so they can hear the lyrics. Then Brendon starts singing over the top of the songs and Ryan turns the volume up to make Brendon sing louder – not that he’ll admit that’s why he does it.

When they reach their destination, Brendon turns off the car’s engine and Ryan looks out the window, surveying his surroundings.

“Please, please, dear God, tell me you’re joking?” He turns to look at Brendon, eyes pleading, but Brendon’s biting his lip to stop a full-blown grin stretching his face. He shakes his head ‘no’ and Ryan half sighs, half groans.

“Man I hate you.”

Brendon jumps out the car and Ryan has no option but to follow; it’s not like he’s going to spend his evening sitting sullenly in the passenger seat of his friend’s car.

The Ground Zero Café is alive with music and the chatter of happy people. There’s a girl at the microphone, screeching out a rendition of ‘California King Bed’ and completely massacring the lyrics. Brendon heads straight for the bar and orders himself a rum and coke then turns eagerly to Ryan, who orders a lemonade.

“I guess the whole ‘get pissed and moan about our betrayal’ doesn’t really work when you don’t drink, huh?” Brendon muses, leading Ryan over to one of the tables closest to the stage where people get up and sing. Ryan cringes at the proximity to the screeching girl, but Brendon doesn’t seem phased.

“Brendon, why are we here?” Ryan asks once they’re seated.

“Because I know you love it here and we haven’t been here together in forever.” Brendon responds easily, sipping his drink and smiling devilishly.

They’re silent until Rihanna wannabe steps off the stage to very little applause and makes her way back to her seat.

“So,” Brendon starts.

“So,” says Ryan, sipping his drink.

“What happened?” Brendon asks, looking at Ryan with a painfully innocent and sincere look in his eyes.

“Well… I went home after I went out with Spencer the final night of tour, and William was asleep in my bed, and I did my whole ‘going-to-bed’ routine, and it wasn’t until I actually got into bed that I realised he was… y’know…” Ryan wiggles his eyebrows in a way Brendon takes to mean ‘without clothing’. “I didn’t say anything because I thought it was perfectly innocent.” Ryan stops and squints, “Well, not innocent, but, like, you know what I mean.”

“Please continue past the bed nakedness,” Brendon groans, causing Ryan to blush and hide a smile.

“Sorry, anyway, the next day, everything was really awkward, and he was being really distant. I went out and when I came back that night, he wasn’t there. He’d left a note, though. It said ‘Won’t be back till tomorrow. See you.’, such wonderful manners. I didn’t think much of it, I mean, I thought it was a bit rude, but not horrifically out of the ordinary. I carried on my routine as normal, and then the next day…” Ryan peters off and Brendon reaches across the table to touch the back of his hand comfortingly.

“Go on,”

“The next day, I got back from a meeting with some of my producers, they’ve been giving me a hard time, but that’s another story. Anyway, I got home, and he was sitting, crying in the living room, bags packed, coat on, key on the counter. I asked what was wrong and…” Ryan takes a deep breath. Brendon squeezes his hand, seeing how hard this is for Ryan to say. “I asked what was wrong and he said he couldn’t do it anymore. He said it was for my own good, we didn’t work together. He said he loved me, but that wasn’t enough, I needed to love him back. I told him I could, that I just needed a little bit more time, but he kept telling me no. I asked why we couldn’t try again, be better… but… then the doorbell rang and it was Gabe. Your fucking asshole friend Gabe.

“I said ‘What the fuck’s going on?’ and William said he’d met this guy and they were in love, and they were running away together to San Diego to start fresh. I fucking… I lost my cool, Brendon, I was screaming at him for being so heartless, for cheating on me and then saying it was my fault we couldn’t try again, couldn’t try. Gabe got pissy because I was getting violent, and then he just… he just…” Ryan takes several deep breaths and Brendon waits patiently for him to finish.

“He just walked away.”

Brendon gives up all semblance of poise and scrabbles round the table to give Ryan a hug. He grips his shoulders and presses his face into Ryan’s neck, breathing harshly. Ryan sits stonily, not crying like Brendon was expecting, more just blankly looking at the stage where no one is currently embarrassing themselves. When Brendon eventually lets Ryan go, he moves back to his chair and looks at Ryan with his sad, puppy-dog eyes.

“Ryan, I just… I wish I’d never met Gabe.” Ryan laughs.

“Don’t say that, Brendon, maybe this was supposed to happen.”

“Cruel tricks fate pulls, huh?”

“Yeah.”

Brendon’s face is all twisted in concern and anger. He only has one idea of how to make Ryan feel better; it’s probably not his finest idea, but he’ll take it.

He bounces up out of his chair, Ryan frowning as he does so, then he leaps up on stage and goes through the karaoke list, yelling triumphantly when he finds the exact right track, thinking idly (again) how his life is so predictable.

The microphone buzzes on, and he taps it experimentally. “Hello? Hey, hi. I’m Brendon, and I’m going to sing you a song. This is dedicated to a very special someone, and I hope you all enjoy it.”

There is so little warning before Brendon starts singing, Ryan doesn’t have time to figure out a reaction… and then… oh God.

“Hey! Hey! You! You! I don’t like your girlfriend! No way! No way! I think you need a new one! Hey! Hey! You! You! I could be your girlfriend!” Brendon is doing this ridiculous stomping thing, and then mimes the guitar part. Ryan covers one of his eyes with his hand, the mortification seeping into his bones. Ryan barely listens to the rest of the beginning, only drawing back his attention for the first verse.

“You’re so fine, I want you mine, you’re so delicious. I think about you all the time you’re so addictive,” Ryan’s stomach clenches at the memory of that night on the patio. The song passes painfully slowly, the ringing in Ryan’s ears only subduing long enough for him to hear Brendon practically moaning, “I can see the way, I see the way you look at me. And even when you look away I know you think of me. I know you talk about me all the time again and again!” Brendon smirks and winks in Ryan’s direction. Someone in the crowd wolf whistles. “So come over here and tell me what I wanna hear, better yet, make your girlfriend disappear! I don’t wanna hear you say her name ever again!” On this line, Brendon does this ridiculous ‘come hither’ motion with his finger, then waggles it like he’s telling someone off.

Minutes of stomping and air-guitaring and provocative gestures later, Brendon’s bowing and everyone is on their feet, clapping maniacally. Ryan even joins in, but only when Brendon shoots him a look of feigned hurt. When he finally manages to get back to the table, he giggles and wipes his head.

“So?” He pants.

“So what?” Ryan replies, going for unenthusiasm and ending up more along the lines of dryly amused.

“What did you think of my performance?” Brendon persists, shuffling closer to Ryan.

“Meh.”

Brendon grabs his heart and gapes his mouth open, “Ryan Ross, how dare you ‘meh’ me! That was for you! That was from the heart! That was my soul beared to you in the form of the wonderful miss Avril Lavigne! Meh! The insolence!” Brendon was always one for theatrics, Ryan can’t help but laugh.

“Fine, it was wonderful, I’ve never seen anything so beautiful in my entire life.”

“Except for me, right?”

Ryan pauses. “Yeah, except for you.”

Brendon nods, and the night continues extremely pleasantly. Brendon only makes googley-eyes at Ryan, like, twice, and Ryan doesn’t think about William more than once. Overall, it’s a nice evening.

It’s the end of it that’s difficult. Brendon can’t drive because he’s over the limit, so Ryan offers. He makes it to Brendon’s house, and Brendon invites him in for coffee. He says yes because, well free coffee, and they sit in Brendon’s kitchen drinking coffee for a good hour before Ryan notices the time.

“Shit, I should probably get going, it’s getting pretty late.”

“Oh, yeah, man, sorry. I just… tend to get a little caught up in conversation.” Brendon rubs the back of his head and smiles sheepishly.

“Nah, don’t worry about it, I’ve had a great time.”

Brendon’s face lights up, “Really? I helped? Nice.”

“Yeah. Thanks, Brendon, you didn’t have to help me, but you did and that’s really cool of you.”

“Seriously don’t worry about it. I had fun too.” Brendon closes his mouth and Ryan takes one last sip of his coffee before Brendon speaks up again. “When are you going to tell Spencer?”

Ryan stills, “I don’t know. I haven’t had a good opportunity yet.”

“You’ll tell him soon, though?” Brendon needles.

“Yeah, soon. When I’m ready.”

Ryan gets out of his chair and picks his jacket off the back of the couch.

“Ryan,”

“Yeah?” Ryan turns at the sound of his name, and Brendon walks over to him. A tense moment of silence passes where neither man does anything, then Brendon moves forward, one hand falling to Ryan’s wrist and the other to the join between his neck and shoulder. Then he leans forward.

Holy shit, yes. Is all Ryan’s brain can compute – not that it can compute much more coherent thought most times – but then there’s that voice at the back of his mind, that fucking tiny little nagger that sits at the back of his brain and screams about rationality and sense and morals. It’s yelling at him: You can’t do this right now! You’re getting out of a serious relationship and he’s in a serious relationship! You, George Ryan Ross, are not a cheater!

He pulls away.

“Sorry… Brendon – I can’t… I’m sorry, I can’t right now – it’s wrong.”

Brendon looks so rejected, Ryan can’t deal with it.

He bolts out the door and drives far, far away and sits in his car, breathing heavily.

Fucking shit-bollocks.

Chapter Text

“Margghhh,” Ryan moans into the pillow.

“You’re an idiot.” Comes Spencer’s ever-soothing voice.

“I know.” Ryan moans once again.

“I can’t believe you told him before you told me.” Spencer almost-whinges.

“Spencer, you would’ve gone all ‘Mr Irrational-o’ or something.”

“I’m pretty sure that was an attempt at a coherent thought, but I want to tell you now: it completely failed.”

Ryan throws his pillow at Spencer’s head, which is a really bad idea because now he has nothing to cover his ears with, or bury his face into.

“All right, Mr Grumpy Gills, I’ve put your coffee on the bedside table, I am not done with this conversation either. I want a full, sensible reason why you did not tell me before Pete Fucking Wentz when you get downstairs.” Spencer leaves and Ryan’s left with the sun filtering through the gap in the curtains into his eyes.

“Mrph.” He grumbles, listening to Spencer walk down the corridor and into his kitchen.

It takes about 10 minutes before Ryan summons the will to move out of his cosy nest of blankets, but the sun is persistent, and so is the alluring smell of fresh coffee. He struggles into his jeans and a white t shirt Spencer left for him; it’s a little big around the waist and arms and everywhere else, but it’s clean and dry and it’s the thought that counts. Once he’s in his clothes he stumbles, bleary-eyed, to the kitchen to meet Spencer and offer him an explanation for his uncharacteristic behaviour.

“Spill, now.” Spencer demands, not even looking up to see if Ryan’s come in.

“Okay, but it’s really not a big deal, Spin,”

“I don’t care, I want to know why Peter Poet Wentz knew about this before I did.”

Ryan rolls his eyes at Spencer’s annoyed inquiring face and sits down at the island.

“So, basically, I went to a meeting with my producers and they just laid it all out in front of me; how I wasn’t expected to meet my quota and therefore they needed to take their share before release, so I would have to write and record more songs to make an EP by March, which is pretty harsh. I was upset because I didn’t think it was possible, so I called Pete. Who, if you’ll remember, was the one who helped me in the first place, so I thought it logical to call him again when things went tits-up.” Ryan levels Spencer’s glare and holds his chin a little higher, eyes dark and concentrated.

Spencer doesn’t blink. “Fine. I guess that counts as a reasonable excuse. But I would like to be first to know in future, thank you. It’s my best friend perks, and if I’m not getting them, I’m forced to rethink my position as your best friend, which is a shame.”

Ryan rolls his eyes again. “You’re a loon, but I love you. Anyway, I’ve got to be getting home, else Shane might think I’ve moved out, if he’s even noticed I’m not there.”

Ryan gets up and slides his coffee cup towards Spencer, who picks it up and puts it in the sink.

“You’re still coming to Gerard’s tonight, right? I refuse to discuss outfits without you. I will kill someone if I have to face it alone.” Spencer maintains eye contact and looks menacing. Ryan grabs his jacket and checks his phone’s still in the pocket, then he salutes Spencer with two fingers.

“Aye aye, sir. I will still be there.”

“Are you bringing William to the wedding? I mean, because if so, you could bring him to Gerard’s so he’s up-to-date with the costume – I mean outfit¬ choices.”

Ryan stills and gulps. “Um… he’s busy today. Another time, maybe.”

“Well, you’d better make notes because I’m sure there are going to be various, explicit instructions about colour coordination William might appreciate knowing.” Spencer winks and turns to the sink to do some washing up. Ryan pulls on his jacket stiffly, trying not to think about William and Gabe.

He walks out the door before he starts crying again.

So, the thing is that he hasn’t exactly told Spencer about the William/Gabe thing yet. He’s completely dying to, obviously, but after two nights ago with Brendon and everything… it’s all a little messed up. He doesn’t really know what to do, or how to broach the subject in order to ask what to do. It’s all just royally screwing up his life, if he’s honest. It’s also kind of depressing to go to your mate’s house to discuss their wedding right after you’ve broken up with your boyfriend. But anyway.

Ryan heads home, banging as many doors as he can upon entering to find Shane face-down in the middle of the living room. They have a voicemail, so he clicks ‘play’ and ignores Shane’s groaning.

“Hey, losers, it’s Jeremy. Me and some mates are going out tonight and wondered if you wanted to hang? I say that as a question, but I’m dropping by your house anyway to pick you up because we haven’t seen you in forever and I’m starting to forget what your ugly faces look like. Anywho… see you at 8.”

Ryan sighs; he can’t go, he promised Gerard and Spencer he’d go to their wedding planning thing.

He could call and plead sick, but he doesn’t really want to pile on the lies at this point. It’s hard enough lying to Spencer by omission, he’d rather not have to lie convincingly. Plus, if he claimed sickness, Spencer would probably insist on coming over and nursing him and convince Gerard to skype the whole thing so they didn’t miss any important decisions.

No, it’s better if he just calls Jeremy and says he can’t make it.

Except, Brendon’s going to be at Gerard’s tonight, and won’t that be awkward.

Hm..

“Shane.”

“Murgh?”

“I can’t go out with Jeremy tonight.”

“Murgh.”

“But I need to get to the studio right now, so can you call him and tell him?”

“Mmh.”

“Thank you.”

This is, unfortunately enough, how about 89% of their conversations go. In all honesty, Ryan’s kind of tired of living with someone who he only sees when they’re too hungover to form sentences. It reminds him of the early days with his dad. That’s never a good memory.

Ryan showers quickly, dresses in some clothes he’s not too embarrassed to be seen in, grabs a piece of bread from the counter and heads out to meet with his producers and talk things through. His producers kind of suck. They’re basically the people Shane works for, and that means they hate Shane. They’re also the people Eli Edwards works for (Shane’s ‘Talent Manager’), which means they hate Shane even more because Eli can be kind of a dick.

However, Ryan’s trying to win them over because Shane’s hungover half the time so won’t talk to them, which is resulting in a massive shit storm.

He talked to Pete about it, who said he could sort some meeting out to hammer out the details and find out what the suits really want. They’re threatening to pull out of the funding and marketing etc., which is a pretty big deal because Ryan can’t afford to support the EP on his own. Neither can Shane.

The meeting room is small and grey and smells like cheap coffee, and the people sitting round the table match that description. Pete’s there, much like he promised, brandishing Ryan’s documents and several folders worth of other documents, which Ryan asks about, but Pete just taps the side of his nose in response.

“Let’s get started then, shall we?” says Pete, once they’ve all sat down. He has a very commanding voice, Ryan thinks, when it come to serious business matters. If he didn’t have the voice, Fueled never would’ve let him have Decaydance affiliated with them. “Mr Ross’s contract states very clearly his entitlement to a 3-6 song EP organised and funded by your company. The details of which were, I believe, verified by Mr Shane Morris, the CEO and founder of the organisation ‘Beautiful Majestic Dolphin’, which agreed to manufacture, record, and distribute the EP after your agreement of funding.”

Ryan twists his fingers in his hands and looks cautiously around the table. There are five men, three are producers, one is an attorney, and the last is their financial manager. They all look severely surprised someone like Pete (who really doesn’t ever look overtly professional) is spouting all this knowledge with such conviction.

“The issue we face now is your potential breach of Clause 3, Section 2, Sub-Section b)ii, which states-“

“We know what it states, Mr Wentz, thank you.” The stuffy guy on the right says, holding up his hand in a motion to stop. He’s the attorney.

“Well, if you know what it states, you should know how you are in danger of breaching it. Which, I might add, will lead to legal repercussions on Mr Ross’s behalf.” Pete remains calm, pointing to the clause on the open file in front of him. The producer in the middle (who’s approximately 5’10, 65, and 175 pounds), looks worriedly over to the attorney, and then sighs and turns back to Pete.

“We understand your concern, Mr Wentz, but in turn you must understand ours. After looking over our payments to… Beautiful Majestic Dolphin, we were advised by our financial manager to introduce an incentive. At the rate the album is currently moving, we are not expected to meet our quota until May. This, as I’m sure you can understand, is a grave situation to be in.”

Pete reaches into his bag and pulls out one of his mystery files. “Well, then it seems to me like you should be organising a new financial plan, rather than pressuring Mr Ross into extending his album and paying your share before said album has been released.” Pete slides one file across the table where it’s caught by the producer on the left. “Fortunately, financial plans are my forte. If you turn to page 3, you will find the contract for a new plan, a better plan, that will ensure you receive your share in or before February 2014 and will also manage the rate at which Mr Ross is recording. It also includes the option of a representative from your firm, who can oversee the recording, but has no direct input into the album.” Pete leans back in his seat, triumphant, and gives Ryan’s leg a sneaky squeeze. Ryan looks over and Pete winks. The man is a goddamned genius.

“This is… very thorough, Mr Wentz, although I’m not sure we should be signing papers constructed by someone other than the man we’ve been doing business with up until this point: Mr Morris. He, after all, is the one who has signed Mr Ross, and therefore the one who makes any final decisions on Mr Ross’s album.” This is Mr Producer on the left, who’s shrugging in a decidedly ‘what-can-I-say?’ manner. Pete doesn’t appear to react.

“I don’t see why that should be an issue, seeing as Mr Morris is no longer Mr Ross’s manager; I am.” Pete says it so nonchalantly Ryan, for a moment, feels like he knew that, but he didn’t. This is totally new information… that’s being dropped on him in the middle of a very important meeting with his producers… nice.

The producer in the middle raises his eyebrow. “You are?”

“I am.”

Tall and wiry shares a look with the attorney, who shrugs. “Well, that does make things easier. We will take a day or so just checking over the contract, to make sure everything is in order. If it is, we’ll get back to you as soon as we can and continue from there. It’s been a pleasure doing business with you Mr Wentz, Mr Ross.” All three producers stand, straightening out their jackets as they do so, and lean across the table to shake hands with Pete, who’s standing and pulling on Ryan’s arm to do the same.

“You too, we look forward to hearing from you.” Then Pete pulls on Ryan’s arm to drag him out of the conference room and into the corridor.

“Pete, what the hell?” Are Ryan’s first vocalised words.

Pete looks hurt, “You’re welcome, dumbass!”

Ryan flinches and waves his hands in the air between them, “I didn’t – never mind, I’m sorry, I just… Thank you, but-“

“No, no ‘but’s. I’ll sort it all out.”

“But Shane-“

“Leave Shane to me. I’ll let him be affiliated, but he won’t be the ringleader on this.” Pete places his hand on Ryan’s shoulder in a brotherly fashion. Then he smiles that creepily wide grin that stretches his mouth. “Congratulations and welcome to Decaydance Records, you’re now part of the family.”

“Pete that’s-“

“Ryan,” Pete interrupts, shaking his head at Ryan’s confusedly grateful expression. “Don’t bother thanking me… It wasn’t my idea.”

“Whose idea was it then?” Ryan frowns, watching as Pete walks away and turns around long enough to shout: “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

That seems to be the end of the conversation, annoyingly enough.

 

Ryan turns up to Gerard and Frank’s house gripping a bottle of really expensive elderflower cordial. It’s not alcohol because he can’t bring himself to go towards the alcohol section of any store, let alone choose something and then buy it.

He knocks twice, tentatively, knowing he’s one of the last people to arrive if the voices from inside are any indicator. He waits patiently, scratching the top of his arm in an old nervous tic he picked up at the very beginning of Panic. Someone calls from inside, something incomprehensible that was probably ‘coming!’ but sounded more like ‘cargragh’.

Frank opens the door and smiles, his posture leaning to the side as he slumps onto his hip that’s leaned against the door. “Hey, Ryro. Wondering when you were gonna show.”

Ryan hitches up one shoulder. “Well, fashionably late and all that.”

Frank laughs, “Sure, c’mon in.” Ryan takes one step into the house and then holds out the bottle a little awkwardly.

“I bought you this.”

Frank’s eyebrows pull together in a tiny frown, but he counteracts it with a sly, sideways smirk. “Thanks, buddy, really appreciate it. The, er, the others are through in the dining room this time. Gerard inconveniently wanted to have both enough space to brainstorm and eat dinner with 9 other people. He doesn’t seem to understand that little thing called ‘logistics’.”

Ryan laughs and pats Frank’s back twice before heading into the dining room while Frank shakes his head and moves off into the kitchen to stow the bottle in the fridge. The noise from the dining room is dense and clamoring, slightly more oppressive than Ryan would like, but he’ll deal with it because it’s his friend’s house and y’know, manners and all that.

“No, you cannot bring my mother’s friend as a date!” Gerard cries, causing the whole table to erupt into laughter, excluding Bob, who’s shrugging but smiling nonetheless. Ryan lingers for a moment in the doorway before Spencer catches sight of him and smiles broader (if that’s possible), beckoning Ryan over.

“Dude, I saved you a chair because I am the best friend ever that this world has ever seen ever. Did I mention ever?” Spencer bites his lip and raises one eyebrow, tapping the seat next to his. Gerard looks up and waves, Dallon smiles mutely, the rest of the guys smile and wave too, but Brendon doesn’t even turn around in his seat. Ryan pretends it doesn’t hurt as much as it does.

“Hey, everyone, sorry I’m late, meeting ran a little long.” And, technically, it’s not a lie, it’s just not the meeting they’re all thinking of. He had to talk to Shane about switching over to Decaydance, which was awkward to say the least.

“Don’t worry, the food’s not done yet, and neither is this discussion, people!” Gerard clarifies, watching as Ryan sits down next to Spencer, right across from Brendon. Goddammit.

“Dude, you’re super late, I thought your meeting with your producers ended at, like 12?” Spencer whispers like a child trying not to get caught by a teacher; which in a way it kind of would be. Gerard can be scary when interrupted, much like Ryan’s old History teacher. Ryan imagines it for a moment, Mr Way: Teacher Formidable.

“It… ran on.” Ryan lies quickly, turning his attention aptly to where Gerard is going over the pros and cons of coloured shirts. Man, he really hopes the cons outweigh the pros.

Frank comes in a second later, tea-towel thrown over his left shoulder, and goes straight to Gerard, lying his arm along the back of the chair and cocking his hip against the leg of it. Gerard instinctively moves closer and Frank’s thumb strays from the back of the chair to Gerard’s shoulder.

“The food’ll be ready in 5 minutes, ‘kay, babe?” Frank says, looking down at the book that’s lying open in front of Gerard. Gerard nods and turns a page.

“Okie dokie,” he mumbles, and Frank drops a kiss to the top of his head before walking back into the kitchen. There’s silence once he’s gone, and Gerard glances up to see everyone watching him.

“What?” He frowns.

Still no one says anything until the guy, Dave, who was at the concert sighs and says: “Dude, you’re so cute.”

Gerard blushes and ducks his head back to look at the book. He’s still smiling when he says, “Yeah, well, wedding c’mon, focus.”

Mikey rolls his eyes and looks over to Ray, who’s got a smile like a little boy on Christmas morn. Spencer hits Ryan square in the stomach and whines out an “Aww”.

“Ow?” Ryan protests, slapping Spencer’s shoulder in retaliation. Spencer just gives him a sincerely unimpressed look.

“Really, Ross? You think your puny arms are going to hurt me?”

Ryan reaches over and pinches Spencer’s bicep, twisting the skin and causing Spencer to yelp and swat Ryan’s hand away. “Ow!” he squeals.

“Well, you totally asked for it.” Ryan reasons, folding his arms and smirking to himself. On Ryan’s eye’s journey from Spencer to Gerard to the door Frank’s entering by, he finds himself locked on Brendon, who’s staring right back at him. Instead of looking away, like Ryan expects him to, he holds the stare, like he’s trying to make Ryan uncomfortable. Which he probably is.

“Food ahoy!” Frank shouts, arms filled with plates all loaded with nibbles, vegetarian of course. He lays them along the length of the table so each group of two people has a plate in front of them for sharing. It looks amazing, and smells even better.

“Thank you, chef,” Dallon says, licking his lips.

“Man, if only I could cook like this,” Frank laughs, “I bought these from the shop down the road. As much as I’d love to take credit for this, I can’t cook for shit.”

“And passing someone else’s work off as your own is wrong.” Gerard adds, taking one of the nibbles from the plate and basically throwing it onto his plate because he realises, belatedly, it’s fucking hot.

“Yeah, that too.” Frank concedes, still smiling. He sits in his chair, which is on the right hand side of the table right next to Gerard, and puts his napkin in his lap because he’s a good boy who remembers his manners.

Spencer reaches out and grabs a few quiches from the plate, swallowing down the saliva that’s been collecting in his mouth since he laid eyes on the food.

“Hey, don’t we say grace or something?” Ryan whispers, afraid he’ll offend someone if he asks it outright.

“No, dude, they’re fine with it. They don’t believe in forcing religion onto people who don’t want it.” Spencer replies coolly. “Plus, I mean, they have two Mormons at the table, it’s not like our religious quota isn’t filled.”

Ryan doesn’t really understand this logic, but he picks up a quiche regardless. It’s delicious and he’s starving, so what?

They plan and eat at the same time, Frank occasionally running off to the kitchen when he hears the pinger no one else can ever hear. Gerard gets through a large portion of his wedding planning book before they decide they need a break.

“Okay, go stretch your legs, have a piss, get some air, and we’ll reconvene in 10 minutes?” suggests Gerard, then he looks at his watch and sets himself an alarm for 10 minutes, which is a little extreme but whatever.

“I have been dying to go outside for, like, an hour,” Ryan mumbles to Spencer, who chokes on a giggle and pushes out his chair.

“I’ve needed to pee for half the meal, dude, my bladder’s about to burst!” Spencer promptly scurry-limps to the bathroom and Ryan catches Frank’s eye, pointing to the door outside asking silently for permission to which Frank nods his head in affirmation. Ryan smiles and opens the door, stepping into the cool air gratefully. He gets overwhelmed very quickly nowadays; it doesn’t take much for him to lose his cool, especially when he’s plonked across from Brendon two days after their… weirdness, then it’s a little difficult to keep the aforementioned ‘cool’.

Ryan takes a deep breath and leans against the back of the house. He enjoys a total of 1 minute of serenity before he’s interrupted.

“Ryan, we need to talk.” It’s Brendon, and he’s closing the door behind him as a warning to the others inside that this is a private conversation and they should not interrupt on pain of death.

“We do,” Ryan says, although he means it more like, “We do?”

“About the other night, I- I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. It was-“

“Spur of the moment,” Ryan supplies, again missing off the question mark he means to put there.

“Yes… and no… I just. It was…” Brendon makes a face.

“Are you going to finish that sentence anytime soon?”

“Just…” Brendon huffs a little, “It’s your fault.”

Ryan startles, “Hey! How’s it my fault?”

“Whenever I’m around you I can’t ever seem to say what I’m trying to say. You- you mess up my words.”

“Articulate.” Ryan drawls, causing Brendon to make this half whiney half growly noise.

“Seriously, it’s infuriating!” Brendon continues, then stops and leans against the wall next to Ryan, breathing quietly.

“I know… I mean, I wasn’t, like, opposed to it.” Ryan says, making Brendon whip his head round to look at him. “I just – I don’t cheat, Brendon. And… this whole… this whole William thing is- it’s complicated, and I’m pretty confused right now about… well, everything, actually, and I didn’t want to mess this up because of it.”

“What do you mean ‘this’, what’s ‘this’?” Brendon asks, twisting his body so he’s more leaning his shoulder against the wall rather than his back.

Ryan takes a moment, he looks at the proximity of Brendon’s shoes to his own, looks at how their body language says more than bumbling tongues connected to fuzzing brains. He looks up at Brendon and licks his lips accidentally.

“Us. And not just me and you, like… all of us. It’s… Audrey as well, I don’t want her to hurt because I made a mistake.” Ryan’s voice trails off, more unsure of itself now it’s revealed more than it probably meant to.

Brendon swallows and Ryan fixes his eyes back on his feet. Brendon does the same.

“Me and… me and Audrey, we’re… not. Together, I mean. Anymore.” Brendon clears his throat and Ryan raises an eyebrow at his $20 boots.

“No?” He asks cautiously.

Brendon waits. “No.”

Ryan stays silent.

“Does that… does that change anything?” Brendon asks, a little hopeful, a little scared. Ryan moves his eyes up to meet Brendon’s, even though he knows if he does he’ll only have one response to Brendon’s question.

Brendon’s eyes are sparkly in the light, big and expectant in a way that’s so trusting and naïve Ryan wonders for a second why there was any doubt in his mind that Brendon wasn’t it.

He takes a breath and resists the temptation to close his eyes against the look on Brendon’s face.

“Yes, that changes some things.” He breathes, carefully not moving in any direction else it be misconstrued as any more of a come-on. Brendon’s gaze flickers between Ryan’s eyes, looking for something, Ryan’s not sure what.

“Does it change the right things?” Brendon whispers, breath warm and so close.

“It changes everything, Brendon.” Ryan rushes, not caring what he sounds like: wrecked, broken, weak.

Before either one of them can convince themselves this is a terrible idea, they’re kissing. Comforting, forgiving, warm, delicate; nothing like the frantic kisses they used to share. They’re slow and hot against one another, Brendon breathing out erratically against Ryan’s cheek, mouth moving skilfully, pausing only once to suck tentatively at Ryan’s lower lip. Ryan’s hands have moved, skimming thin cotton and denim to their resting places: one low on Brendon’s hip and the other pressing against the top knotch of his spine where his back meets his neck. Brendon’s hands, however, are both squeezing Ryan’s waist, holding him like he’s afraid if he lets go Ryan will disappear.

They stand for minutes, but it doesn’t feel like that long. Ryan eventually breaks the kiss, having to pull back twice because the first time Brendon didn’t let him get very far away before he was diving back in.

“You- you’re okay with… this, right?” He pants, making sure to catch Brendon’s eyes so the boy can’t lie.

“Oh God, yes.” He moans, pulling Ryan infintesimally closer.

Ryan laughs, “Yeah, okay- yeah, cool. Just checking.” Brendon leans in for one last kiss and Ryan wonders how he ever thought he could let this go. Why did he ever let this go? This seems like all he’s ever wanted laid out in front of him, begging him to take it.

Oh yeah, but he’d been afraid of commitment. He didn’t want to love and lose and in doing what he did, he did exactly that. Brendon was everything to him, he was all he ever needed and Ryan walked away. He could formulate all these crappy excuses, but in the end, it was his decision and it only really ended up hurting them both more than was necessary.

“We should probably go back inside.” Brendon says when they pull apart. Ryan nods, but neither of them move. “They’ll be wondering where we went.” Brendon continues rather pointlessly. Ryan nods again. “We could just leave?” he suggests. Ryan grins. “Fuck, my car’s outside, let’s go.” Brendon pulls on Ryan’s hand, who puts up a bit of resistance.

“Won’t they wonder where we’ve gone?” his voice wavers and Brendon smiles smugly at it.

“Yeah, but since when was it their business what we did?” Brendon pulls more insistently on Ryan’s hand, and he can’t really argue with that logic now, can he?

There’s a gate around the side of the house which is open and they sneak through it. Ryan quickly thanks his friends for being stuck-up enough to buy a detached house with a gate, but not careful enough to lock said gate. Brendon flicks the latch closed after Ryan’s walked through it, then proceeds to lead Ryan by the wrist towards his car. And boy is it not a purple minivan. It’s a BMW 4 Series Coupe Sport, and it’s been available for purchase for a little over a month. It’s the classic over-compensation car. Ryan kind of wants to laugh hysterically for 10 minutes and make jokes about how this is why Brendon never gets laid. Fortunately, he tones that down into one short, derisive scoff.

“What?” Brendon asks, unlocking the driver door.

“Just… seriously? This car?” Ryan keeps with the incredulous tone, hoping it’ll relay to Brendon how bad his taste in vehicles is.

“Whatever, it was an impulse buy.”

“Fucking expensive impulses you got there,” Ryan mumbles, walking round the front of the car to get into the passenger seat. The car is disappointingly average on the inside, the control panel not offering any new or exciting features like Ryan was expecting. It has the various displays and dials and things, but for the look (and price) of the car, one can’t help but prepare themselves for some fire-engine setting, or an ejector seat; something cool.

“My place isn’t too far from here,” Brendon reassures, putting the key in its slot and pressing a few buttons – one of which turns the radio on, which Ryan is glad of because he’s not sure he can contain himself right now.

The car drives smoothly, Ryan’ll give it that much, but the sound system is all weirdly wired and he can’t get the… whole feeling.

“I just want you to know,” Brendon splutters after the first song on the radio has reached its chorus. “That… I didn’t mean this to happen. I mean, I didn’t start that conversation with the aim to… to… yeah.”

Ryan strokes his hand along the black, leather lining on his door. “Yeah, I assumed as much, otherwise you probably would’ve waited until the end of the evening.” Ryan turns his head to look at Brendon and smirk. Brendon’s smiling too, though, so it’s okay.

“What can I say?! I’ve always been impatient.”

“You don’t have to tell me that, I lived with you for 4 years, dude.” He says, turning back to the window to watch the lights all bleed into one another.

“Yeah…” Brendon sighs. Cue the awkward silence. Ryan wonders whether this is proof he should never, ever make an impulse decision ever again ever. Except then some random song comes on the radio, and Brendon only starts off humming, but… it quickly becomes singing. Ryan looks over to him, trying to be subtle (failing, but trying) but Brendon’s focused on the road ahead of him. He starts getting really into it as well, harmonising in thirds and then ‘bopping’ out the techno beat and chords Ryan can’t even detect under the clash and clamor of the synth.

It’s completely one of those horrifyingly cliché moments when Ryan sees Brendon’s profile framed just right by the darting lights of LA’s streets. He doesn’t gasp or catch his breath or hold it or anything. In fact, quite the opposite. It feels like he’s been holding his breath for years and then there’s that image and he can exhale again. He can take a new breath, start over. As if in slow motion, Brendon turns to look at him, smile quickly taking up his face when he notices Ryan staring.

“Sweet nothing, you’re giving me such sweet nothing!” Brendon sings along, eyes darting between the road and Ryan’s eyes.

Ryan reaches his fingers out and brushes the tips against the skin just above Brendon’s ear, dragging his nails a little, going with the grain of his short crop.

Just as suddenly as the contact is initiated, it’s ended, Ryan removes his hand and places it back in his lap. Then he rolls down his window all the way and lets the wind buffet his face, reaching his hand out to feel the waves of air cascading against his skin.

They pull up to the house minutes later. Ryan’s cheeks are numb and his heart is strangely quiet, beating steadily rather than erratically. Brendon gets out the car first, like he can’t bear to be so close to his ex-boyfriend with the promise of… that so prominent. Ryan follows swiftly, swinging his legs out first then pulling his torso out by gripping onto the top of the car.

Brendon hesitates before unlocking his door and going inside. He flicks on the hall light and goes through his normal routine of putting the keys into their bowl, hanging his jacket up and turning the heating up. Once he’s done this, he turns back to Ryan, who’s standing with his leather jacket in his hand, surveying the inside of the room.

“Do you want me to hang that up for you?” Brendon offers, coming closer to his guest and gesturing to the jacket. Ryan looks at it like he forgot it was there.

“Oh, yeah, thanks.” He doesn’t make any move to hand the jacket to Brendon, so Brendon rolls his eyes and walks down the corridor to where Ryan is in order to grab it from his arm and hang it in the cupboard.

“So…” Brendon starts, rocking onto the balls of his feet. He doesn’t get any further because Ryan’s kissing him hard, hands cradling Brendon’s face with nails digging in slightly painfully. They walk backwards until Brendon’s pressed up against the wall, Ryan’s body pressing against almost every inch of him. Their tongues wrap together without prowess, breath hot in each other’s mouths.

“Bed.. room, up… upstairs.” Brendon gasps, edging sideways towards the stairs. Ryan smiles and fists his hand in Brendon’s shirt.

“Lead the way, Juliet.” Ryan moans, laughing when Brendon protests that he’s not the girl, but leads Ryan up to his bedroom anyway.

The door closes with a definitive ‘click’, signifying this is the point of no return. Ryan pushes Brendon backwards onto the mattress, then pulls his t-shirt over his head and throws it to the floor. Brendon watches with clouded, lust-filled eyes, his only thought the overwhelming feeling of want. He gestures for Ryan to come closer, then hungrily skims his hands over pale, smooth skin. Ryan reaches down and pulls at the hem of Brendon’s shirt, tugging it over his head with ease.

“Lie back.” He instructs, kicking his shoes off as Brendon does what he’s told. Always such an obedient boy, if you asked right. Brendon’s not wearing a belt with his jeans today, making Ryan’s life easier when he frees the button and pulls down Brendon’s fly slowly, laughing when Brendon makes a comment about how his dick doesn’t really comprehend ‘going slowly’ and would like to hurry the fuck up please.

“Impatient, impatient.” Ryan tsks, tugging the jeans down Brendon’s legs. Getting them over his feet requires a little more concentration as, although the jeans may not be as tight as in 2003, they’re still pretty form-fitting right down to the ankles. Once they’ve been removed, however, Ryan clambers back to straddle the young man splayed out in front of him.

“Your turn.” Brendon enthuses, grabbing blindly at Ryan’s crotch (which makes Ryan squeak in surprise) and somehow managing to open the trousers and start pushing them down Ryan’s legs. As soon as they’re on the floor next to Brendon’s, Ryan leans down to kiss around Brendon’s jawline. Brendon makes a noise that could be leniently classified as a moan, but to Ryan’s ears sounds more like a squawk. He presses down his hips and rubs very slowly and deliberately upwards, feeling along the length of Brendon’s cock through the two layers of cotton that separate them.

“Ryan… can we – ohmygod – please?” Brendon gasps, throwing his head back into the pillow desperately, but also thrusting his hips up; trying to get away but also trying to get closer.

“Yeah – um, where?” Ryan levers himself up onto his knees, but keeps one hand stroking back and forth on Brendon’s crotch. Brendon’s open mouth curves into a smile, laughing, but his eyes are closed in bliss so the laughter is kind of wasted.

Brendon points a flailing, uncoordinated hand to the dresser. “Third drawer, under ‘Damned’.” Ryan widens his eyes in silent mocking because, really? I mean, he knows Chuck Palaniuk writes in an ironic, sarcastic way, but, that’s kind of pushing the joke isn’t it? Regardless, he opens the drawer and moves ‘Damned’ to reveal condoms and a notably half-empty bottle of raspberry flavoured lube. Ryan grabs them and drops them on the mattress, but not before coughing until Brendon opens his eyes and pointedly waving the bottle in his direction.

“Whatever… it was the last one in the shop and we were desperate.”

Ryan doesn’t ask who the other 50% of the ‘we’ was.

Brendon’s underpants come off easily (they’re an obnoxious pair of expensive Calvin Klein’s with the name written on the waistband) and quickly join the jeans and tshirts scattered haphazardly on the floor. Ryan’s follow once Brendon somehow manages to hook his toes over the elasticated waist and, stil using the digits on his feet, drag them suitably far enough down Ryan’s legs that he can kick them off from there.

Ryan decides, somewhat miraculously in his mirage of lust, to put on a condom before opening the lube because if he’s learned anything from experience it’s that condom foil is fucking hard to rip when you’ve got slippery fingers. The condom rolls on (after he’s checked the CE mark and sell-by date of course, safety first, kids) and then he pops open the raspberry lube, having to shake it like a ketchup bottle in order to squeeze some onto his fingers.

He wishes, briefly, that there were music playing or something. It seems inappropriately quiet with only their ragged breaths to soundtrack the moment. But then Brendon spreads his legs and, Jesus Christ he looks beautiful like this; gleaming and ecstatic and practically sparkling in the pale yellow glow from the streetlamp outside.

With less hesitation than either of them were expecting, Ryan pushes his finger carefully into the warm, giving entrance. A thought flits through his mind that it’s not as tight as it was 4 years ago, but then he thinks of coursse Brendon’s had sex in the last 4 years, Ryan, get a grip.

Most guys Ryan has been with in the last 4 years didn’t enjoy prep as much as they probably should have. They always rushed and prodded, seeing it more as an inconvenient necessity rather than the intimate act of foreplay Ryan saw – sees it as. Plus, Brendon always made these hysterically amazing noises while getting fingered, and Ryan is delighted to discover he still does.

It doesn’t take long, Brendon’s body giving and easing around Ryan’s three fingers, and Ryan’s relieved because the gasping-whines Brendon was making were driving Ryan’s dick completely insane. He pulls his fingers out and half-crawls up the mattress so he’s poised over the writhing boy beneath him.

“Okay?” He asks tentatively, not knowing whether he’s pushing it.

“Fucking hell, Ryan, we left ‘okay’ a few hundred fucking miles ago,” he breathes, rubbing the back of his head against the pillow and simultaneously (and Ryan likes to think instinctively) wrapping his legs around Ryan’s torso, bringing him closer.

Ryan laughs, “Just checking.” He clarifies, then carefully lines up.. careful… careful… except Brendon clenches his muscles and pulls his ankles straight towards his chest, forcing Ryan to lunge in unexpectedly.

HolyMotherofJesusChrist Ryan is going to Hell so hard.

“Ohmygodohmygodohmygod, missed – shit – missed you so fucking much, holyshit, mhmm, ohmygod Ry,”

Ryan thrusts in, dragging his teeth along Brendon’s chest, pearl on silk. The pace is set, lights out, the only sounds the laboured gasps they’re both taking and the rustle of the bed clothes mixed with the smack upon impact.

It’s amazing, it always was, they knew each others bodies so well; how to lever hips at exactly the right angle to hit the prostate every single time. They can so easily break each other to pieces, wreck each other in record time.

They’re both pretty much wimpering fragments of themselves by the end, screaming each others names blindly into a cold, silent room, panting harshly and shining with sweat. Both of them managing, only just, to avoid saying three words that could ruin (or affirm) everything.

Before Ryan gets too ‘melted-butter’, as he describes it, he rolls off the condom and gets up to throw it in the bin. Brendon snatches his hand from behind his head and grabs Ryan’s forearm as he’s exiting the bed.

“Where are you going?” he rushes, looking at Ryan with slightly frightened, wild-rabbit eyes.

Ryan smiles softly. “Throwing this away.” He assures, waving it to confirm. Brendon relaxes and leans back into the pillow.

“Don’t be long.” He almost whispers. Ryan pretends it sounds pleading as he heads to the bin in the bathroom which is inconveniently along the corridor.

It’s really just sheer luck that the brief period he’s up, Brendon’s mobile, which fell out his jeans pocket at the top of the stairs adjacent to the bathroom, starts buzzing with a text.

Chapter Text

Ryan’s head flicks in the direction of the forgotten phone, and he stoops to pick it up off the floor. The screen is alive with activity, text after text arriving one after another. It’s really only because it’s such an unusual number of texts to receive that Ryan even bothers to look closer at the display. He starts back on his route to the bathroom, frowning at the phone.

It’s Audrey. Audrey as in Brendon’s Audrey. At first, Ryan thinks it must be the ‘angry text’ phase she’s going through – not dealing with the fact Brendon and her are over. But he looks closer and that’s not what they are at all. 

Aud <3 now - Been thinking bout u all day ;););)

That’s only the first one:

Aud <3 30s ago - Cant wait 2 c u tomorrow ;)

Aud <3 1m ago - How ws Gerard’s?

Aud <3 1m ago - How r u? x

Aud <3 2m ago - Hey baby :* xox

Ryan feels sick. He stands in the middle of the bathroom floor, stark naked, holding in one hand a symbolic promise of something new, in the other an ugly shadow of something not quite gone. How could Brendon lie to him like that? He knowshow Ryan feels about cheating, he knows. Why did he betray not only Ryan, but Audrey as well 

Ryan’s head swims and he throws the condom somewhere near the bin and sits on the closed toilet seat, head in the hand that’s not holding the phone. He scrolls through the messages again, reading every letter carefully and trying to come up with some other meaning they might hold. He can’t bring himself to believe that Brendon would lie to him. Something must’ve happened. It must’ve.

Another text pings through:

Aud <3 now - Shall I come @ 1 or 2? Xox

Ryan wants to cry. He’s been used. Brendon cheated on his girlfriend with him. He was the instrument by which Brendon has ruined some poor girl’s relationship.

He decides he can’t sit on a toilet seat forever, especially naked, so gets up and slowly staggers back towards Brendon’s bedroom. He’s not sure whether he can do it. Go into that room and see him, glistening and sated and ignorant. He pushes on the door and walks slowly inside.

“Hey, I was wondering what was taking so long.” Brendon sighs upon seeing Ryan enter. His smile is lazy and happy and he sinks back into the pillows a little. Ryan remains standing, wooden and terse as he closes the door behind him. Brendon notices Ryan’s awkward and detached demeanour and sits up, frowning. “Ryan, what’s wrong?”

That clicks something. Like a magnifying glass being flicked into focus, concentrating all Ryan’s energy on his feelings of anger, betrayal, hurt. “What’s wrong? What’s wrong is you’re a double-crossing asshole who lies through his fucking teeth in order to get what he wants.” His voice remains a terrifying monotone, no emotion seeping through even though Ryan’s insides are a veritable maelstrom.

“What?!” Brendon yelps, instantly sitting up, sheets falling low on his waist and hands braced parallel to his shoulders to keep him up.

“You lied to me, Brendon!” Ryan yells, holding the phone out accusatorily. “You said you’d broken up with Audrey! But you haven’t! You just said that to get me to sleep with you!” Sharp stabs of pain shoot through Ryan’s eyes, reminding him he’s expressing too much emotion and it’s quickly getting the better of him.

“How did you…” Brendon trails off, eyes fixed on the treacherous machine in Ryan’s shaking hand.

Ryan cackles, harsh and foreign, “Funny story actually,” Brendon flinches, “There I was, throwing away the condom I used to fuck you, when from the floor your phone buzzes. I pick it up, thinking I’ll bring it in to you once I’ve finished in the bathroom and you can text back whoever it is, although at the time I thought it was Spencer or Gerard or Dallon, but I look at the screen and… and there’s her name, Brendon. Her name which still has that fucking… fucking heart symbol by it, and she’s texting you things that exes don’t text exes. She’s texting you things girlfriends text boyfriends.”

Brendon looks utterly miserable, shame lining every feature, but Ryan’s too distraught to care.

“Do you know how much that hurts, Brendon?” He asks angrily, face contorting into a viscious glower. “Do you know how shitty that makes me feel? That I – I was the tool you used to break her heart?” Brendon stays silent, looking up at Ryan with tortured, dull eyes.

“You’re a lecherous prick and you don’t deserve her, or me, or even that fucking pig Gabe. I just – I can’t believe…”

“Ryan, please,” Brendon pleads, standing up shakily and holding his hands out towards the man opposite him.

“No! You don’t get to say ‘please’ or ‘just listen’ or ‘it’s not what it looks like’! You bullshitted and now you’ve been found out!” Ryan’s voice is scratchy and broken, his eyes damp. Brendon closes his mouth and Ryan stands up straight, finding he’s leaned forward while shouting. He wipes his face with the back of his head. “I need to leave.” He whispers, then he throws Brendon’s phone onto the bed where the sheets are still warm and crumpled from where they… Yeah.

He starts fumbling around the room hurriedly, picking up his underpants and yanking them on without checking whether they’re the right way round or not. Brendon, upon seeing this, appears to kick into action, finding his own underwear and then crowding up to Ryan, trying to grasp his arms.

“Ryan, wait, c’mon, stop it.”

“Fuck you!”

“Ryan, please, where are you gonna go, huh? We came here in my car, how are you gonna get home?” Ryan briefly stops rummaging around on the floor and glares at Brendon’s sympathetic, pleading face.

“I’ll fucking walk.” He snarls. Brendon rolls his eyes.

“C’mon, don’t be stupid, just stay here for tonight, I’ll drive you home in the morning.”

“I’d rather walk the fucking 10 miles on broken glass, barefoot and blindfolded while being periodically jabbed in the stomach by a white-hot poker.” Ryan spits. Brendon swallows and backs away.

“I’m sorry, okay, I’m really, really, really fucking sorry.”

Ryan scoffs. “I don’t want your fucking hollow apologies, Brendon.”

“It’s not hollow, Ryan!” Brendon shouts, causing Ryan to jump and stop doing his jeans up. “I didn’t mean for this to happen, okay? It’s just…you were there and you said you didn’t cheat and I knew, I knew, but then you said you didn’t mind when… when I tried to kiss you and…” Brendon stutters to a halt, takes a deep breath and claws a desperate hand through his sex-hair. “I just panicked and I lied and I’m really fucking sorry because I know how much it hurts to be lied to, especially when you really believe in something, but I was scared and I just…” Brendon takes another breath and appears to calm himself. Ryan watches, eyes cold and calculating, not ready yet to accept any apology. “I love you, Ryan. I’m completely and utterly, embarrassingly, tragically in love with you, and I have been ever since you appeared, cynical and covered in eyeliner, all those years ago in Spencer’s fucking basement. I love you and the thought of having to… to not because I was dating Audrey it just… it made me realise how much I needed to have you, needed to be with you again. Please, try to understand.” Brendon’s hands drop to his sides, signifying the end of his pleas.

“But you are dating Audrey, Brendon. Not past tense. I can’t just bypass all my morals because you… because of that. I don’t cheat. And… I just need to be away from you right now.” Ryan’s soft voice cracks, tripping over the words and desperately holding back the reciprocation of Brendon’s confession. Brendon nods and looks at the floor, he sniffs then looks at Ryan as he starts crying.

“Please forgive me.” He whispers. One final lament. It’s always the smallest shard that cuts you the deepest, embeds itself in your skin, and Ryan holds those three words so close to his heart that it rips open wounds he thought were healing.

“Just give me time.” Ryan murmurs, not looking Brendon in the eye as the boy starts wiping furiously at his eyes. He grabs for his tshirt and turns swiftly for the door. He makes it to the downstairs corridor before he’s crying so hard he can’t see where he’s going. He turns blindly for the door, wrenching it open and stepping unsurely into the cold night. His phone is in the back pocket of his jeans, and he pulls it out, fumbling with the touchscreen due to the combination of cold, shaking hands, and tear-wet fingertips.

“Hello?”

“Spence – Spencer, hey, hi. Um, so, I, er, um.” Ryan wipes his nose on his wrist and sniffs.

“Ryan? Well, hey! You and Brendon ran out of here so fast we had to just carry on without you. I’m still bitter.” Spencer laughs down the line and Ryan tries to crack a smile but it’s not coming.

“Yeah… sorry… um, anyway. I need you to… to come pick me up.”

“What happened? Where are you?” Spencer questions immediately, voice commandeering an all-business tone.

“I’m fine, I’ll explain when you get here… I’m - I’m at Brendon’s.” Ryan hears the sigh at the other end of the phone and feels the guilt and self-pity pool in his guts and stay there.

“I’ll be there in 10.” Spencer says decisively. “Just hang on, okay?” Ryan nods.

“Yeah, okay, thank you.” Spencer hangs up.

Ryan looks back at Brendon’s house, then starts walking away. He realises, belatedly, he’s left his jacket in the coat cupboard in Brendon’s hallway, but he can’t go back and get it now. He’ll have to rely on Brendon returning it out of the goodwill of his heart.

Spencer arrives in record time, picking Ryan up from a corner near Brendon’s because Ryan couldn’t stand to wait outside the crimescene.

“So, what happened.” Spencer asks as soon as Ryan’s seated and the heating has been turned on full.

“He came outside after me, at Gerard’s, and he said all these things. He also said he’d broken up with Audrey. So we go to his place, and… well… you can guess there.” Spencer makes a face, but it’s not as mocking as maybe Ryan wants it to be. “Anyway, then I’m up going to the bathroom, and his phone’s on the floor and it starts buzzing and I look and there’s all these messages from Audrey that clearly show they’re still together. I confronted him and then I left. I’m just so – I’m so angry at him, Spencer. He lied to my face to get me into bed! Then he says he loves me and it’s like, well I don’t believe you because up until now you’ve given me nothing to believe in.”

Spencer stays silent, having known Ryan long enough to know he’s not done.

“The thing that sucks is that I thought this would be different, you know? I thought: ‘Maybe this time, we’ll be better. We’ve both grown up, and we’re both going into this with our eyes wide open to the possibilities. We’ve made mistakes in the past, but we know each other so well and this time, this time will be the one.’ Then he goes and throws that all back in my face. It hurts like hell, Spence…I feel like I’m dying.”

“Are you going to forgive him?” Spencer inquires tentatively.

“I don’t know yet. Maybe? In time, I guess. But I was hoping… never mind what I was hoping. Hope’s never gotten me anywhere before now, why should it suddenly help me today.” Ryan buries his face in his hands and Spencer reaches one hand over to softly pat his back.

“I know this hurts right now, but you’ve got to remember that things get better with a little time and perspective.”

“But how do you know it’s going to get better?” Ryan cries.

“Listen, Ryan, I’m going to tell you something I told Brendon after you left; Panic, that is. Everything you promised everyone you’d be, you can still be. It’s not much, but pain doesn’t go away immediately, you’ve gotta work for it.” 

Ryan, if he’s completely honest, doesn’t really understand what that means, but it’s so frustratingly comforting to hear the words Brendon heard in his darkest hour of need. Somehow that makes it feel like they’re closer, like they’ve shared something traumatic but they’ve both got out the other side, emerging together not apart.

Spencer drives to his house, herding Ryan into the guest’s bedroom he spent the previous night in.

“Sleep now.” He says as he turns off the light. But Ryan has a sudden thought.

“Wait.. Spencer, how come you’re not freaking out about me and Brendon? I didn’t tell you about…”

“William? No, you didn’t. In fact, William told me about William. I called him up to check if he wanted me to take notes and he said he was in the middle of San Diego with Gabe Saporta buying a house and that he wouldn’t be coming to Gerard’s wedding so he didn’t need to know the details of the flower arrangements. As for you and Brendon… we always knew it would happen, sooner or later. You two were always meant to come back to one another. Right from the start.” He closes the door and leaves Ryan by himself, wallowing in his own thoughts and worries.

The worst part isn’t even the lying, it’s the breach of trust. It’s not like Ryan trusted Brendon with his life beforehand, but he trusted him enough to believe he wouldn’t do anything that would make Ryan uncomfortable. Now that’s all gone. Ryan doesn’t trust Brendon not to do something similar in the future were he to forgive the guy for his deceit.

He’s just so angry. Angry at Brendon for lying, angry at Audrey for getting in the way, angry at himself for thinking it could be so easy. That last one is the one causing the most problems in Ryan’s mind.

Love is… frustrating. The falling part, that’s easy, it happens of its own accord. The recognition part, that’s harder. If you’ve fallen for someone you shouldn’t have fallen for… well you don’t have much choice; you can either tell them and hope for the best, or store it up and pine helplessly for years until you fall out of love or die of heartache. Ryan doesn’t recommend the latter. If you do choose to tell the person you’ve fallen for, this stage is called action, it’s quite a difficult conversation. It’s pretty awkward luring someone to a secluded corner and blurting out ‘So, hey, I’m in love with you’ without sounding slightly mad. Sidenote: the ‘just-go-in-for-the-unexplained-kiss’ method is risky, you can come across as a molesting asshole.

However, if you get past the action stage with some dignity remaining, there comes The Relationship. This is, by far, the most volatile stage. It requires a lot of dedication, perseverence, humility, patience, and more than a few sub-stages. You’ve got to coordinate pace, touchiness, dates, reassurance, proximity, etc. Ryan doesn’t like this stage, it’s what ruined him and Brendon the first time.

The thing about Love, however, is that despite how frustrating it is in almost every sense, it’s also the best feeling in the world when it’s reciprocated. It’s addictive and warm and when you’re a part of it you feel invicible and like you’ve been waiting all your life to feel exactly like this, forever.

Ryan wishes he had thought it through, standing on the patio of Gerard and Frank’s Los Angeles house, Brendon soft and kind beside him and lying through his teeth, he wishes he’d stopped and thought and said ‘Maybe we should wait. We’re both getting over serious relationships and now isn’t the best time to dive right back into this, us.’ But he didn’t. He didn’t say that, he’d kissed Brendon and then fucked him and now everything is in tatters on the ground because his fucking treacherous heart told him to do something without consulting his rational brain first.

He turns onto his side and pulls up the covers to his nose, breathing in the sheets that smell weakly of him from the night before, and also of Spencer’s detergent. He feels wretched, like he’s cracking and there isn’t enough glue to hold him together. But he’s been cracked and broken and put back together so many times. Most times by either Spencer or Brendon, a few times by Jon, once by Keltie. He doesn’t know who’s going to bother doing it this time. Who has the energy anymore?

It doesn’t take long for Ryan to fall asleep, his body being too physically and emotionally exhausted to even bother being kept sleepless due to worrying.

 

 

The next morning, Spencer wakes Ryan up at 9am and sits him down on the sofa with a mug of steaming coffee and a pile of chocolate pancakes he made before waking Ryan up.

“Right, we’re going to have a conversation about you.” Spencer says decisively as he sits adjacent to where Ryan’s curled in the corner of the couch. He nods at Spencer, who smiles a little and leans forward in the armchair. “So, I am still quite mad at you for not telling me about William. Let’s start there, shall we?”

Ryan looks into his mug and gulps. “Okay… well… things with him had been shaky for a while, he was getting more distant and stuff, then after you guys got back to LA, we basically didn’t see each other. Two nights after we went out to celebrate the end of the tour, he told me he was leaving me. He said he had fallen in love with some guy and they were eloping to San Diego. Kind of a pathetically tiny elope, but whatever. I got mad at him and then found out the guy he was running off with was that slime Gabe that Brendon knew. It was humiliating and I felt awful afterwards.” Ryan’s voice feels croaky and tight, partly after all the shouting he did last night, and partly because this story still makes his heart ache.

“What did you do then? Did you tell anyone?” Spencer asks somewhat incredulously.

“I went to Brendon’s the next night. I’d spent the whole day shouting and smashing things, and for some reason it seemed like a good idea to go to him. He was always there, Spence, through all my shit he was always there.”

“I was there, too, Ry.” Spencer mumbles, eyebrows pulling together in a confused and concerned frown.

“I know! I know you were, but he was… he was always Brendon. He was always mine. He would always smile and hug me and try to take my mind off of whatever the fuck was bothering me by putting on The Little Mermaid and telling me how that was his worst nightmare, not being able to talk. And I’d say it was my dream come true and he’d pout and laugh and mess up my hair to get back at me. Then, once we’d stopped laughing, he’d hug me again and tell me that I’d be okay, we’d get through whatever it was. I always thought it was corny, but it was so damned reassuring. I thought that would happen again, I thought maybe we could be that. Again.”

Spencer sighs. “You know what this means, don’t you?”

Ryan looks at his best friend with miserable, gleaming eyes. “I’m falling for him?”

Spencer leans up out of his chair and clips Ryan around the back of the head. Ryan widens his eyes in shock and slowly raises his head to glare at Spencer.

“Dude, what the fuck?!” He screeches, rubbing the back of his head.

“You’re an idiot!”

“You just fucking hit me!”

“Because you’re an idiot!”

“How am I an idiot? I’m in pain! Now in physical pain as well as emotional pain!”

“You’re an idiot because you’re not falling for Brendon, you utter ignoramus. You’ve already fallen for Brendon, and did so about 10 years ago. You didn’t… urgh, you didn’t stop loving him when you left him, and you didn’t stop loving him when you left us, and you definitely didn’t stop loving him when you started going out with fucking William Beckett, who I never liked, by the way. You’re so completely incompetant and oblivious to everything around you and it makes me want to hit you. So I hit you.” Spencer has tinged his face red with annoyance and is waving his hands in front of Ryan.

“What do you – Spencer I wasn’t in love with him at the beginning, that’s why I left!” Ryan argues.

“No, Ryan. You left because you were afraid. You spout all this BS to people about how you weren’t in love with him and then you starting falling for him so you left. Then you spout all this BS to him about how you fell out of love with him so you left. The truth is, you loved him all the way through and he really loved you, and then one night you went out and got shitfaced with that guy, Alex, who had broken up with his girlfriend of 7 years and he told you all about how shitty love was and how you give up everything you have for someone and then they ruin you or leave you or something. You listened and then you felt bad and you came to me and said you’d made Brendon give up everything he had for you and what if it didn’t work and that was the first time you looked at me and told me you loved him so much it hurt you and you meant it, Ryan. You really did.

“I told you that he was happy to be with you, he’d left his family because he believed in something and someone and he was following that. I told you that you two were fine, you were happy, and you said that you couldn’t be happy if he felt like he’d sacrificed everything for nothing. I said if you felt that way then you should address it, talk to him. And you did, but you did in that you broke up with him. The worst thing I ever did was do nothing to stop you. I let you leave because you promised me that it was what was best for you, and I didn’t want to stop you doing what was best for you, even if it wasn’t what was best for Brendon. So I stayed with him, and you went with Jon, and you ruined both your lives in the process. That is why I motherfucking hit you.” Spencer’s breathing heavily, nostrils flaring and eyes wild. Ryan sinks into himself, defeated.

“Oh.” He says softly, barely even forming the sound.

“You’re a complete idiot, Ryan, but you’re also my best friend and I love you. That’s why I can’t let you make the same mistake again. I can’t let you leave him again. What he has done is completely wrong and he deserves to suffer the consequences, but not forever. You’re absolutely allowed to be fuming mad at him, but at some point you’ve got to know that you’ll have to let it go. You two love each other, that kind of thing doesn’t come along very often, and you’ve got to grab it by the balls when it does. You’ve got to know where you belong.” He lowers his voice to lessen the pissed-off tone he’s slightly acquired.

Ryan pulls his knees closer to his chest, having abandoned his coffee and pancakes on the table. “But I’m scared, Spence.” He confesses quietly, avoiding looking in the direction of Spencer’s face because he’s not sure he can deal with what it’ll look like right now.

“That doesn’t have to be a bad thing, Ry.” Spencer coos, leaning over the arm of the chair and stroking the back of Ryan’s neck to calm him down. “I’m not saying that you have to get over this immediately, far from, but I do expect you to come to terms with it. I know it sounds harsh, but I’m trying to do what’s best for you right now, Ryan. I only want you to be happy.”

“How? How am I supposed to get over this? How is this what’s best for me? I don’t trust him, Spence! He lied to my face about something he knew I cared about!” Ryan yells, voice clawing up his throat.

“We all make mistakes, Ryan!” Spencer shouts back, startled.

“We also all have a choice! He didn’t have to lie to me! He could’ve been the man I thought he was and break up with Audrey before trying to screw me!” Ryan’s hands start shaking so he stuffs them under his armpits so Spencer can’t see. Spencer’s already seen them, though.

“Ryan, calm down, yes what he did was bad-“

“Bad?! It was thoughtlessly destructive! It was so carelessly erroneous it’s a miracle I’m reacting as mildly as I am!” Ryan gives up on sitting down and stands, spreading his arms wide and then gripping his hair violently.

“Ryan, please, I know you’re upset-“

“Upset?! You think – you think this is just upset?! He’s totally extirpated any semblance of hope or happiness I may have had. He… he crushed me, Spence.” The end of the sentence experiences the break of Ryan’s voice as the cracks spiderweb out from his heart, small lines stealing across porcelain flesh until he inevitably falls apart. But Spencer’s there to catch him, enveloping him in a warm and hard hug as soon as Ryan’s bottom lip trembles. His knees shake and then give in to the pressure of his heaving form, but Spencer’s there to lower him down gently, so they’re sitting with Ryan leaning into his friend’s comforting body and Spencer leaning on his heels.

Spencer shh’s him softly, rocking back and forth as Ryan clutches at his shirt and cries. Spencer’s seen Ryan cry exactly four times, this occasion being the fourth. The first time was the second night Ryan’s dad had come home, angry and drunk, and hit him against the counter, splitting his eyebrow. Ryan had run all the way to Spencer’s and bawled his eyes out because he knew it hadn’t been a one-off. The second time had been when Pete signed them; Ryan had been so sure Pete was going to say they were terrible, not be satisfied with the one point five songs they had. Ryan had sat in Spencer’s room and cried because he was getting away, getting out of the suffocating life he’d become accustomed to.

On the third occasion Ryan cried, it had been the night him and Brendon had had their first real fight and Brendon had walked out. Ryan called Spencer in a wild panic, saying he messed everything up, he’d ruined everything and he was sorry but he couldn’t find Brendon. Spencer had gone to find him, he was sitting on the curb outside his apartment and he’d been crying so hard he hadn’t seen that Brendon was actually walking down the street at that moment. Ryan had spluttered and choked and Brendon had frowned and looked so guilty and then Ryan threw himself at Brendon and said he was sorry, he didn’t mean it and he’d make it up to him.

“I love him, Spence. I love him so much.” Ryan sniffles, still clinging onto Spencer for dear life.

“I know, Ryan. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you for the last 8 years.” Ryan coughs out a laugh at this, and Spencer can’t help but crack a smile in return.

“This doesn’t mean I forgive him, though.” He confirms, voice harsher.

“I wouldn’t expect you to.” Spencer agrees, smiling fuller now that his friend has calmed down.

They’re silent for a minute, waiting for Ryan to compose himself. Once his breathing has regulated, he softens in Spencer’s arms, breathes out a heaving sigh and sniffs.

“Why didn’t you tell me you didn’t like William?” He asks quietly. Spencer guffaws a laugh and leans his nose against the top of Ryan’s head.

“Oh my God, I couldn’t tell you that! I’m your best friend and he was your boyfriend! You seemed to really like him and I didn’t wanna piss on your parade!”

“What was wrong with him?” Ryan continues, still unsure of what it was exactly that Spencer had against the cheating prick… I mean guy. What Spencer had against the guy.

Spencer shrugs. “He was so dramatic and clingy and cutesy. He just got on my nerves. He was like 17 year old Brendon without the insane talent, adorable hyperactivity or insatiable love of Disney.”

Ryan pulls away from Spencer in order to raise his eyebrow at him. “Really? Adorable hyperactivity? That’s what you’re going with? Adorable?” Spencer rolls his eyes and pushes at Ryan’s shoulder.

“Whatever. I thought it was sweet, especially how he couldn’t contain himself around you. That was so cute.”

“You and me have very different definitions of ‘cute’.”

“Be that as it may, it worked didn’t it? He got you on a date in the end.”

“Hey! I didn’t know it was a date.”

“Ah, yes, that’s right. You thought you were two completely platonic friends going out for a romantic, candlelit dinner on the roof of the publishing building. I understand now, silly me, so obvious.” Spencer’s sarcastic voice is frustratingly well-tuned and he accents it beautifully with a skeptically raised eyebrow.

“Shut up. Honest mistake.” Ryan tries to recover, but doesn’t manage it.

“Totally.” Spencer intones. “Anyway, eat your goddamned breakfast you string bean. We’re going to buy icecream and pizza and watch a film of your choice.” Ryan opens his mouth excitedly to suggest a film but Spencer cuts him off with: “It’s not allowed to be ‘Bonjour Tristesse’. Forget that. It’s too depressing.” Ryan snaps his mouth shut and pouts. He likes ‘Bonjour Tristesse’, so what if it’s morbid? It’s a mid-20th century French novel, of course it’s morbid. That’s what makes it so good. He attempts to relay this to Spencer for the millionth time, but Spencer’s response is to grab one of the chocolate pancakes and forcibly shove it in Ryan’s mouth, thus preventing him from arguing any further.

If the pancake weren’t so damned good, Ryan would probably complain more. As it is, he chews silently and picks ‘Mary Poppins’ instead.

 

 

Chapter Text

Brendon feels awful. He didn’t mean to lie, really he didn’t, he just got caught up in the moment. Ryan was just… just right there, inviting and compliant and eager and the only thing between them was Brendon’s attachment to a girl he doesn’t even like. It was stupid and he regrets it, but he did it so he has to pay the price.

Brendon knows Ryan went to Spencer’s because Spencer called him at 11pm saying Ryan was safe and asleep. Brendon had been so relieved he hadn’t even bothered to hide it in his voice. Spencer had asked what happened and Brendon had just replied with ‘I messed the fuck up, dude’. Spencer had left it at that.

This morning, though, Brendon’s guilt washes him anew. He barely slept last night, shame and not-yet-faded memories bombarded his thoughts, he couldn’t even step foot in his bedroom, knowing what they’d done. He knows he has to tell Audrey, he knows that, but the right thing to do isn’t always the easiest. It’ll either break her heart, or she’ll be so nonchalant it’ll break his. At this point, he’s not sure which will be worse.

The sun rises at 7:37am, he’s up when it happens, curled up on the window ledge of his music room, eyes barely visible above his knees. He’s not hungry, really, more empty. He wants to call Ryan. He wants to convince him he’s really, really, sorry for what he did and he’ll make it up to him. He only wants to make it up to him. But before that he probably should tell Audrey, get her out the way – as mean as that sounds.

He looks around his music room, the room he always felt most comfortable in. Now, the instruments seem to mock him, looking so delicate and untarnished. The fucking synth is on the table and Brendon can’t resist it. He turns it on and presses out a bass-line, then some accompanying beats, drum lines, intricate tune. He works out a bridge, a chorus, a verse. He moves it over to the computer to tweak it some, then he burns it onto a disc and listens to it for an hour, trying to think of the words. Trying to think of a story.

“You’ve got to tell them a story, Brendon, that’s what they’re for, the words. Without a story, what’s the point of them?” Ryan’s eyes are glinting in the half-light cast by the moon and the stars above their heads. He’s wearing an impish grin and tousled hair that Brendon wants to touch.

“But what story do you tell?” He asks, twisting so he’s leaning on his right elbow with his left arm slung round his chest so his hand is over his right shoulder. This is a better angle to look at Ryan.

Ryan shuffles on his own elbows, ducking his head to tuck some hair behind his ear. “You tell your story. You tell the stories of people you know, people you love, people you hate.”

“What about the stories of people you don’t know?” He questions, half-hoping Ryan will catch on to the double meaning of that.

“There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met.” Ryan whispers, turning onto his back to stare at the sky.

“Huh.”

It was a William Butler Yeats quote, Brendon found out later. It stuck with him for a long time before he bothered to type it into Google to see what would come up. Sure enough, the second entry down was the little quote. Brendon didn’t know whether to be elated that he’d found the origins of his inspiration, or disappointed that they hadn’t been Ryan’s words that inspired him, only the words of a stranger. Or a friend you haven’t yet met. Brendon’s brain had chanted traitorously.

It’s thinking back on this memory that Brendon decides how to finish his song. It’s a song, he’s decided, the music will form to a song. And it’ll tell his story. Properly this time, without the glaze of anger and embarrassment, but in the clear and pure light of desperation.

“I’ll make it up to you is all I should’ve said.” Brendon murmurs, scribbling furiously on a notepad that’s been under his chair for a good six months for no particular reason. “I awoke, a blinding light.” This song is different to the emotion in Folkin’ Around, he thinks. Folkin’ Around was about memories, happiness, and the tainting of happiness with too much pressure. It was about Ryan, sure, and it was written after a snipping fight they’d had over how to produce the record. It was a rubbing-it-in-your-face song; Ryan, if he’d noticed (which he undoubtly had), hadn’t said anything about it though. Just fiddled around with one of the beats and recorded the harmonica part.

This song, this song is enlightenment and realisation. It’s addressing your demons and defeating them by punching them right in the goddamned face. It’s about Ryan, sure, but it’s also about Brendon, and his parents, and his band, and his whole goddamned life and everything in it condensed down to 2 minutes 45 seconds.

His phone interrupts him at 11:56am, he didn’t realise so much time had passed. It’s buzzing with a text and he’s kind of reluctant to pick it up, after last night. His rational brain gets the better of him, though, and he picks it up to see Spencer has texted him.

Spencilcase now Have you talked to Audrey yet?

Brendon sighs and unlocks his phone, tapping out his reply.

To: Spencilcase, From: Brendoncaster

I’m seeing her today. Is Ryan ok?

He’s nervous about the reply. Obviously Ryan’s not ‘ok’, not if last night’s display is anything to go by.

To: Brendoncaster, From: Spencilcase

Gd. He’s better, I managed to calm him down some. He’s still mad tho

Well, Brendon was expecting him to still be mad. Brendon’s still mad at himself. He doesn’t think he’ll ever really get over that.

To: Spencilcase, From: Brendoncaster

I didn’t mean to hurt him spence. That’s the last thing I meant to do. Is he gonna forgive me?

It takes longer for Spencer to reply to this text, and Brendon gets nervous.

To: Brendoncaster, From: Spencilcase

I know bren, but uve hurt him real bad. Ur gonna hve 2 talk 2 him urself to find out

To: Spencilcase, From: Brendoncaster

Will he talk 2 me tho?

To: Brendoncaster, From: Spencilcase

Give it a week.

As sad as it may seem from afar, those four words are enough to reignite a magnificent flame of hope somewhere in Brendon’s chest. Spencer is pretty good at reading Ryan, since they’ve known each other for what is basically their entire lives. If Spencer says ‘give it a week’, Brendon will give it a week, with the uncertain but certain enough promise Ryan will talk to him at the end of it.

He abandons his song, he’s mostly done with the lyrics now anyway, and decides on his course of action; proactivity to win Ryan back, that’s the plan. He texts Audrey (somewhat reluctantly) and asks her to meet him in an hour at the park three blocks from his house. They had a date there right at the beginning of their relationship, Brendon bought them each some disgusting hotdog from a street-side vendor because Audrey had complained that she was hungry and, no, thank you, she wasn’t a sheep and she refused to eat like one.

She readily agrees, putting lots of kissy faces and ‘xo’s at the end of the sentence. His throat tightens until it’s hard to breathe. He doesn’t want to tell her. He has to tell her. He doesn’t want to lose Ryan. He has to tell her.

He gets up and heads to the door to grab his shoes. He goes to the cupboard to grab a coat, the weather’s been a little temperamental as of late, and sees Ryan’s leather jacket hanging on the first hook. He left it behind he was in such a hurry to get away from Brendon.

“I’m not going to cry at a jacket, pull yourself together, Brendon.” He whispers to himself. Thing is, it’s a really nice jacket, and it goes obscenely well with his outfit… He plucks it off the hook and carefully slips it on, marvelling at how soft it is due to being worn so many times. He pulls the collar up around his neck and smells Ryan’s cologne mixing with his shampoo.

After a certain amount of awkwardly lame jacket-sniffing, Brendon grabs his keys and leaves the house. He sits on the bench he agreed to meet Audrey at for 20 minutes before she arrives. He wants to be there when she turns up, but if he stayed in the house any longer he would’ve gone insane.

“Bren! Hi!” Audrey chirps, speeding to a staggering jog as she nears the bench. Brendon swallows down a grimace and smiles at her, getting up off the bench in order to greet her. Her smile takes up most of her pretty, oblivious face, and Brendon hugs her so he doesn’t have to look at it. They part from the hug and Audrey goes in for a hello kiss. Brendon turns his face so her lips catch the corner of his mouth.

“Audrey… um… sit down.” He moves to the side and beckons for her to sit. She frowns a little but remains smiling.

“Okay,” She sits down after having assessed the bench. She’s wearing expensive looking real leather trousers, a grey t-shirt and a thick knitted cardigan under a grey marl coat. Her shoes are respectable (but probably obscenely expensive) black biker boots and she’s styled her hair perfectly. Brendon wouldn’t usually notice any of these things, but he’s so busy trying to distract himself from looking in her eyes that he’s taking all of it in.

“Bren, are you okay?” She asks, sounding genuinely concerned. Brendon looks at her face and clenches his teeth.

“Audrey, I need to tell you something,” he starts, speaking past the nausea that’s creeping up on him.

“What is it? What’s wrong?” She pleads, leaning over to put her hand on his thigh.

“I don’t… I don’t think that we – I think that it’s better if. I think we should break up.” He holds still and waits for her to react. She’s stiffened, he knows that much as the comforting hand on his leg is now a fucking claw.

“What… um, why? Um.. What brought this on, Brendon?” Her voice is angular and sharp. Brendon flinches.

“I just… things between us haven’t been… good, for a while. I know you see it too. And. I feel like we could do better. Both of us. Could do better.” He looks slightly past her head so he doesn’t have to look directly into her eyes which are starting to burn.

“You met someone else?” She questions incredulously, eyes narrowed.

“No! No, that’s not it, I just-“

“Think you can do better than me? Right, yeah totally, because I was always fucking second best with you, Brendon, ain’t that right?”

“What?” Brendon’s getting lost in this conversation. She wasn’t supposed to get angry.

“Right from when we first started dating! I was always second to the fucking band, second to Ryan, and now here you are, and…” She trails off and narrows her eyes even further. Brendon gulps and fidgets under her stare. “Are you wearing his jacket?” She scoffs and leaves her mouth hanging open. Brendon glances guiltily down at the jacket and then back up at Audrey.

“Um…” He hums. She widens her eyes and presses her forefingers into her temples.

“I. I cannot believe this, oh my God, how the hell could I have been so stupid!” Her voice kicks up a notch, veering towards screeching.

“Audrey, wait, it’s not-“

“How long, huh?” She bites. “How long has this been happening behind my goddamned back, Brendon?!”

Brendon’s eyes are wild and a little bit scared. “Audrey, no, nothing has been-“

“So when you were going to see Butch, to go see Spencer, to go see Gerard, you were really fucking him?!” She squeals and balls her hands into clenched fists.

“No! It was just last night!” Brendon shouts, then covers his mouth with his hand and they both stare at one another.

“Last night?” She spits venomously. “Just last night? Are you fucking kidding me?!”

“Audrey, please,”

“No, Brendon! You just! Infuriate me!” She grabs her hair and tugs a little. “The first time round, this exact thing happened, Brendon! And now. Now you’re telling me it’s happened again? I swear to God, Brendon!” She goes to stand, but Brendon grabs her arm.

“Listen, Audrey, please. Just. Hear me out.” Brendon tries, pulling on Audrey’s sleeve to get her to stay. She pauses and looks down at Brendon.

“What is there to say, Brendon.” Audrey scoffs.

“Please, Audrey. I need to make this right.”

“Like I care.” She turns to go again but Brendon gets up and physically blocks her.

“Audrey, I don’t need you to forgive me, I just need you to listen.” She looks startled by Brendon’s sudden urgency and she stops and rolls her eyes.

“Why should I, Brendon.”

“Because you can do so much better than me, Audrey.” He starts, frowning in passion. “You’re beautiful and funny and so interesting, and you deserve so much better than me in every way, but in return for that, I want to be with the man I love.” Audrey softens visibly, biting her lip and tucking her hair behind her ear. “And in order to be with him, I need to get closure with you. I made some horrifically bad choices last night, and I need to atone for that. Step one is being honest with you. And not just because it would make me feel better, because that’s way too selfish, but because you completely deserve it.”

Brendon takes a breath and looks at Audrey’s understanding expression. “I was a bad boyfriend, I know that, and I am so sorry I played you around like that, I shouldn’t have, but I’ve realised now I have the opportunity to be happy with someone I love, and I… I hope you can understand that.”

She sighs in a melancholic way and slowly reaches out to stroke down Brendon’s face. “As far as apologies go, Urie,” Brendon looks at her hopefully, “That one wasn’t horrible. I hope you and Ryan are very happy together. And you’re right, I do deserve better, I guess it just took a desperate measure for me to see it.”

Brendon shrugs and Audrey says goodbye. He knows it was justified, her saying he was a low, he did cheat on her, after all. He stays in the park, occasionally tipping his head to α the side to sniff Ryan’s jacket under the guise of looking at the trees or the cyclist across the street.

He doesn’t have anything to do today. He considers going out to start buying Christmas presents for his family and friends, the festive season is upon him. Less than two weeks to go until the most simultaneously depressing and irrationally jovial day of the year. He missed Thanksgiving with his parents, so he knows he’s not going to be able to get out of Christmas. Back to Vegas for a torturous 3 days of sitting in silence thanking the Lord, eating until no one can feel their feet, and arguing over whose turn it is to do the washing up because the dishwasher’s broken again.

Before he vacates the bench, however, he sends a quick text to Spencer saying he’s talked to Audrey and sorted things out with her. Spencer doesn’t reply, but Brendon knows he’s seen the message.

The streets are relatively busy, with desperate looking women and overwhelmed men trawling the pavements like ants. It’s cold, and Brendon pulls the jacket closer around him, pretending for a moment it’s like Ryan giving him a hug – that hasn’t happened in a while, yeesh.

He passes a vintage store and something in the window catches his eye, and upon closer inspection he simplye can’t resist.He heads straight to the desk at the back of the shop and makes eye contact with the guy at the counter.  

“Excuse me, sir, I was wondering if I could inquire about something in the window?” Brendon asks, polite tone in full force.

“Ah, of course, what was the piece you were looking at?” The clerk replies, shuffling around to the side exit of the counter. He’s about 100 years old, but his eyes look younger.

“The little, um, pocketwatch?” Brendon explains, following the clerk patiently to the front of the store and the entrance to the contents of the window. “Yeah, that one there.” Brendon points somewhat vaguely and the clerk nods slowly.

“For a special little lady, eh?” He smirks, picking his way slowly through the display, his ancient legs and back not quite looking like they’ll make it.

Brendon laughs awkwardly but knows well enough that it’s usually easier to lie. “Yeah, very special.” The clerk retrieves the pocket watch and dangles it in Brendon’s line of sight.

“It’s an early 19th century Swiss verge with a three colour gold dial and pearl set case. Full plate gilt fusee movement with a pierced and engraved bridge cock with steel endstone. Not that I think you understood any of what I just said, but it’s a fine timepiece. Very hard to come by making its value pretty high.”  The man smacks his lips together and smiles (disgustingly smugly, in Brendon’s opinion). Brendon just nods and smiles back.

“Well, how much are you selling it for?” He asks, trying to sound at least somewhat confident.

The clerk’s lips turn down at the corners in a calculating frown, then he tips his head from side to side and hums. “I’d say in the region of three and a half thousand dollars?”

Nu-uh, Brendon ain’t falling for that. If there’s one thing he’s learned, it’s that people in retail are con-artists. Another thing he’s learned: he can haggle.

“I’ll give you two and a half.” He says bluntly, relishing the shocked look the clerk makes.

He splutters before answering, “It’s worth more than that by a mile! I’d be making a huge loss!” Brendon raises and eyebrow. “Okay, 3.2 thou, that’s as low as I go.” The clerk folds his arms and Brendon mirrors him. Fortunately, Brendon’s about 2 or 3 inches taller than this old codger, so he uses it to his advantage.

“2.7 and you can throw in those scarves over there free of charge.” He jerks his head in the direction of the scarf rack with 5 scarves adorning it.

“3 grand and you can have one scarf.” The clerk replies. Brendon sucks his teeth and winces.

“3 grand and four scarves.”

“3 grand and three. Final offer.” The guy swings the watch from his finger as Brendon pretends to contemplate the deal.

“Deal.” He says with finality, sticking his hand out and shaking it with the clerk who’s smiling a little dazedly. “I shall pick out my scarves and then pay for it all. I assume you take card?” The clerk nods and heads back to the checkout desk at the far side of the shop.

The scarves are actually really nice, he only really included them in the deal because the sign said they were being sold ‘from $100 each’ so he figured he was getting a good deal. Two of them are silk and three are cashmere, all pure, all in good condition. One of the silk one’s patterns is of lots of old types of transportation; penny-farthings, old cars, etc. Brendon picks it up and drapes it over his arm. One of the cashmere ones is dark red and has a little stitching on the bottom of it, and once Brendon notices it’s depicting some small birds flying away from the corner, he puts it over his arm with the other one. The final one he chooses is another one of the cashmere ones; it’s tweed and like Brendon can resist. Having chosen his three, he heads to the back of the shop where the clerk is waiting.

“Would you like a bag, sir?” He asks rather icily.

“Um, yes, please.” Brendon answers politely. The guy shoves his purchases into a bag (Brendon sees the pocket watch has been carefully wrapped and put into a small, blue box), and slides the bag across the small counter to Brendon.

“Card?” The clerk persists, Brendon hands over his credit card and smiles when it beeps through. Butch may give him trouble for spending three grand at some vintage store, but it is totally going to be worth it.

“Thank you for shopping at Ragg Mopp Vintage, I hope you enjoy your purchases and please, come again.” The derision in the guy’s tone is something Brendon finds more amusing than intimidating, and he leaves the shop happy and three grand lighter.

He enters a few more shops until his feet hurt and his stomach is growling because he hasn’t eaten in about twelve hours. He doesn’t really know where he is, so taking a bus might not be a great idea, he’s also not 100% sure he’s remembered his tube card, so taking a train would be slightly pointless. He elects to call a cab, reasoning that if it turns out he’s really close to his house, he can feign a limp or crippling back pain to save face.

The cab totals at about two dollars, so Brendon hobbles a little ways up the street after he’s paid the driver, making sure the guy can see the way he rubs his hip pointedly.

He feels kind of skeezy, pretending to be in ill health to hide his idiocy and inability to open Google Maps on his phone, but he’s done enough bad things recently to make it seem pretty trivial in comparison.

He enters his house to the sweet sound of his answering machine beeping. Sometimes he misses having a dog in the house. Bogart used to snuffle at his ankles and smile and sing at him whenever he came home from something. But then they started touring more and Spencer said it wasn’t fair on the dog to be hustled from kennel to kennel without ever really seeing Brendon. So, reluctantly and tearfully, Brendon had given him away to a nice family from the suburbs with two kids and a big back yard where he’d be happy.

He reaches the living room and presses the play button on the answering machine, not bothering to stand beside it and listen, but instead heading to the kitchen to make a sandwich and listen from there.

“Hey, Brendon, it’s Dr. Carden here. I’m just checking in because we have an appointment on Monday… that’s the 16th, and I was hoping you might call me before then, just to update me because last time you called it was the day you got back from tour and you said you had some stuff to sort out. Anyway, give me a bell, you know where I am. All right, bye.”  The message beeps out and the mechanical woman’s voice replaces Dr. Carden. Brendon makes a mental note to call his psych, he’s a good guy, and Brendon feels comfortable with him. He’ll definitely need to update him on the whole ‘Ryan’ debarkle as well.

The next message beeps through. “Brendon? Hi! It’s Gabe, if you couldn’t tell. I haven’t had much opportunity to contact you, but… I thought I should call. I guess you’ve probably already heard about me and William… I’m sorry, I didn’t know Bill was your friend’s boyfriend, I didn’t mean to cause any… tension. But, as it is, I guess I called to say that we’re doing good out here in San-D, you’re welcome to visit if – if you want. And, well, I’m getting married in, like, a week, so if you want to come to that I’d love to see you there. Um… I hope everything’s good with you… sorry I didn’t see you before I left… I guess, call me? Okay, bye.” Brendon’s muching thoughtfully on a cheese and pickle sandwich as the message beeps off. He hasn’t much thought of Gabe since Ryan came, blank-faced and distressed, to his door that night. In retrospect, Brendon’s kind of glad Gabe chose William to fall for and elope with. If William hadn’t left Ryan, Ryan wouldn’t’ve gone to Brendon, and then Brendon wouldn’t have taken Ryan to the open mic night, and things wouldn’t have been awkward and Gerard’s, and Brendon wouldn’t’ve followed Ryan onto the patio, and Ryan wouldn’t’ve admitted he wanted to kiss Brendon just as much as Brendon wanted to kiss Ryan.

When put like that, Gabe kind of saved his relationship with Ryan.

But it’s a terrible thing to be happy for Ryan’s betrayal.

Brendon finishes his sandwich and reaches for his phone. He has a text from Dallon which just says: ‘Daayyyyy offffgtyuio’ so he assumes that was sent by one of Dallon’s kids. Or drunk Dallon. No, definitely one of Dallon’s kids. He then proceeds to call Dr. Carden.

“Hello?”

“Hey! Carden! It’s Urie.” Brendon grins, already imagining how nice it will feel to get some of this shit off his chest to someone who actually cares.

“Urie! You got my message then, I take it.” Dr. Carden’s cheery voice chirrups through the receiver and makes Brendon feel just a little bit happier.

“Yeah, just listened to it a moment ago, thought why wait?!”

“So, talk to me. How are things?”

Brendon sighs. “Well, we got back from tour and I was fine, kind of. Then a couple days later Ryan turns up on my doorstep.”

“This is Ryan as in love-of-your-life Ryan, right?” Carden clarifies.

Brendon nods, “Yeah, that one. Anyway he shows up at my door and tells me his boyfriend’s left him for mi amigo, Gabe.”

“The one who…”

“Yeah.”

“Okay. And how did you feel about that?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, obviously Ryan came to you to seek comfort, I presume he saw you as a figure he could trust, but he consequently disregarded the fact that the news would affect you as well. He came looking for someone who would sympathise with him, overlooking that you have history with Gabe that this might remind you of.”

“Yeah… see… the thing is that… I haven’t exactly told Ryan about what happened between me and Gabe. He… he doesn’t know.”

“Brendon…Look, I know you’re… I know you are looking to start something with Ryan, but you can’t – you can’t start a relationship without having revealed something like this. You… you said the reason you and Ryan didn’t work the first time was a lack of, of basic communication and retaining information that should’ve been shared. You. You now can’t try again with exactly the same ethos. That’s not going to work.”             Carden lets out a frustrated sounding breath and Brendon rubs his eyes and sits on the couch.

“I know, I know. Just… I’ll tell him, I just need—I just want to finish the story, Carden.” Brendon whines, waiting as Carden laughs and asks Brendon to continue. “So he came round and was all upset and then I offered to take him out, so the next night we went to the Ground Zero Café for open mic night and I sang him a song-“

“I’m sorry, you sang him a song?”

“Yes,”

“What song?”

“Does it matter?”

“Yes.”

“Really?”

“Completely essential.”

“…. Girlfriend by Avril Lavigne.”

Dr. Carden breaks down into giggles but composes himself enough to say, “Phew, okay, wow, okay, continue.”

“I’m not sure I want to.” Brendon complains.

“C’mon, Brendon, go on.”

“Fine. We sat and talked a little more, then he drove me back to my house and I invited him in and tried to kiss him and he got freaked out and ran away. The next day we were both at my friend Gerard’s house to plan his wedding and halfway through he went outside to get some air, so I followed him out there.”

“Not creepy at all.”

“Dude, you’re my therapist, you’re supposed to be empathetic.” He whines, disliking this judgmental tone the doctor is taking.

No, Brendon, I’m supposed to be realistic. I’m supposed to listen to your problems and help you sort through them and overcome them. Nowhere in the manual does it say I’m not allowed to make snarky comments. It’s probably not encouraged, but then neither is home-calling, and I do that anyway. So please, continue.”

“I hate you, but I’m nearly at the end now. We talked and I told him I was sorry I made a move on him, and he said he wasn’t opposed to it or anything and I guess I got excited because then I told him I’d broken up with Audrey and then we were making out.”

“And I’m presuming from your guilty tone that you haven’t, in fact, broken up with Audrey.”

“Well, I have now, but at the time… no, no I hadn’t. So we were getting our mack on and then I asked if he wanted to come back to my place and he did and, well… you don’t need the nitty gritty details.”

“Well, actually-“

“Shut up. The problem then was that he found my phone and Audrey was texting me all this stuff and he said I hadn’t broken up with her and I said well, no, I hadn’t and we had a big ol’ argument and he left. Again. I didn’t sleep very well… meaning at all, and in the morning I wrote a song and then went out to break up with Audrey. That pretty much brings us up to date. Thoughts so far?”

Dr. Carden whistles out a long note and laughs, once. “Well, you sure have been having an interesting week. We’ll have lots to talk about on Monday. Firstly, though, I wanna ask: what made you lie to Ryan? And how did you feel about having sex with him after you lied?”

Brendon swallows, he doesn’t lie to Dr. Carden, the guy’s only got his best interests at heart, it would be unfair and completely idiotic to be untruthful. “Well… I guess I lied because I wanted him. My want for him blinded me to the hurt I was going to cause. As for. As for how Ifelt, I guess I felt a little guilty, but mostly I was just excited. Excited to finally be experiencing that with him again. I’ve waited so long for him. For him to be that with me again… I guess after we did it, for a moment I felt like it was 5 years ago and we were a proper couple, but then Ijust felt a bit awkward, we don’t really know each other… I don’t know, man, it’s really confusing.”

“Don’t worry about it, we’ll talk this through on Monday. It’s a difficult conversation to be having via telephone. Your appointment is at 11, is that still cool?”

“Yeah, that’s fine. See you there man. Thanks for the chat.” Dr. Cardon says goodbye as well and Brendon hangs up. Again, he’s left with not much to do. He could go back and work on his new song, but he’s listened to it so many times today already, he feels a little bit like he’s going insane.

He resolves to clean his house. He’s still feeling a little anxious from Ryan leaving last night, and anxiety tends to make him want to clean. He starts in his study and pretty much immediately finds a poorly hidden bag of weed. It was jammed between the back of the radiator and the wall. Not entirely sure why he’s cleaning there in the first place, Brendon throws the weed onto one of the chairs, deciding he can think of what to do with it later, once he’s finished cleaning.

The bedroom’s the hardest. The linen is still crinkled and there’s a tiny, almost imperceptible spot on the covering sheet that Brendon thinks might be his. He strips the bed, briefly considering burning the mattress and buying a new one, and throws the dirty sheets into the laundry basket by the door. He pulls up all the blinds and opens all the windows, not a great idea seeing as it’s mid-December and there’ve been some pretty chilly winds recently, but he wants to air out the room. It seems less oppressive and judgemental once flooded with clean air and light. He knows there’s Febreze somewhere in his house, so he sets out on an expedition to find it. He’s pretty sure it’s in the cabinet under the sink, so he heads in that direction.

Note: the cabinet under the sink is a scary place. There are at least 3 bottles of bleach, all full, which makes Brendon wonder when he ever decided to get ready to clean up a crime-scene, there’s also some weird stain remover specifically for delicate fabrics like silk and lace (again, when did Brendon decide to switch to womens’ underwear?), and a full, unopened packet of J-cloths, which he must have picked up from when they were in the UK one time, because the Wal-Mart near him doesn’t sell J-cloths (nor, as far as he knows, do any Wal-Marts around the country). The bottle of talcum powder intrigues Brendon’s inner child too much, and he can’t resist pulling it out from the depths of the cupboard in order to play with it.

“Brendon?!” The door opens and Brendon hears footsteps that hesitate in the hallway and then continue into the study.

“Dallon? I’m in here!” In his excitement, Brendon squeezes the talc bottle and, unfortunately for him, the cap’s open so talcum powder shoots right into his face. He’s temporarily blinded by the burst of white powder, even though most of it misses his eyes and gets around his nose and mouth. He presses down on one nostril and blows out air , shaking his head in surprise.

“Brendon?” Dallon’s tone has changed to something Brendon can’t quite identify. He puts the talc back in the cupboard and labours up, wiping at his nose and sniffing hard, trying to rid the chalky dust from his airways. He pokes his head up and takes one last, large snort.

“Wassup, dude?” Brendon begins, smiling, only noticing belatedly that Dallon’s expression is one of disappointment and frustration. Brendon frowns, and in their stillness, his eyes travel to what Dallon’s holding awkwardly in his hand. It’s the bag of weed Brendon was going to get rid of but forgot about in his cleaning episode.

“Brendon, what is this? Why is it in your house? I thought we’d gotten over this, B?” Dallon cuts to the chase, shaking the bag in Brendon’s direction. Brendon is temporarily shocked into silence and thus allows for Dallon to notice his occasional sniffing and traces of white powder everywhere. “Have you—have you been doing coke? Sometimes I just don’t know how to get through to you! We were over this! You were getting help, getting better! You just—it infuriates me so much that you think you’re so untouchable and impervious to harm and you’re just,”

“Dallon,”

“You’re just not, Brendon!”

“Dallon,”

“So don’t think that I’m going to brush this under the rug, we’re going to address this in a proper—“

“Dallon!” Brendon interrupts, then he laughs. He sputters and then splutters and then breaks down into a fit of giggles. Dallon looks distinctly unimpressed, his frown completely carved into his forehead.

“Brendon, this is completely serious. Are you… are you relapsing?” Dallon takes one step closer and tilts his head to the side.

Brendon stops laughing and walks forward to pat Dallon on the shoulder. “As bad as this at first appears, I have reasonable explanations for everything you have seen thus far.” Dallon remains looking unconvinced but Brendon powers on. “Me and Ryan had a fight last night and you know how anxiety makes me compulsively clean things?” Dallon nods. “So, I was cleaning my study and I found that and before I could get rid of it I moved on and forgot about it and so that’s why it’s there.” Dallon raises an eyebrow and shifts his gaze skeptically between Brendon and the weed in his hand. Brendon desperately tries to keep the giggles down.

“And what I saw when I came in?” Dallon questions, “That has an explanation, too?”

“Yes,” Brendon nods, “I was trying to find some Febreze or whatever and I was looking through the bottom cupboard and I found some talcum powder and when you came in I must’ve squeezed it because the cap was off and it sprayed straight into my face. It’s just as innocent as that I swear.” With hands splayed in front of him, Brendon pulls his most honourable face and waits for Dallon to stop frowning like that, seriously, it’s so distracting.

“Hmm,” Dallon says. His face has contorted into something amusingly dubious. “And why am I supposed to believe that?” He queries, folding his arms across his chest and therefore swinging the bag of weed around his body and briefly catching Brendon’s eye.

“You can taste the ‘coke’,” he uses air quotes to exaggerate Dallon’s misinterpretation, “That’s currently on my face, if you really want. Then you’ll see it’s really just talcum powder.”

Brendon’s not expecting Dallon to reach out his finger and drag it down Brendon’s nose, then stick it in his mouth. “You’re right, just talcum powder.” Dallon concludes, smiling a little maniacally.

“You know,” Brendon begins, “That would have been super hot, if it hadn’t been you.”

Dallon scoffs, “Don’t pretend you don’t find me completely irresistible, Bren, I know you, and I know me. You’ve wanted to jump me ever since I joined this band.”

“Sure, Dall, sure.” He shakes his head and they decide then they need to do something with the weed, like, burn it or whatever. Dallon suggests the burning and Brendon asks if Dallon actually knows how weed works, which is a hilarious conversation.

In the end they flush it down the toilet due to Dallon’s fear of it growing a tree were they to bury it in the garden… Idiot.

Chapter Text

Spencer thinks he should make plans the day Brendon has his therapy session. He finds it encouraging that Brendon’s still sticking with the path of recovery, despite his earlier scepticism. Spencer’s bored, and since Brendon won’t be free for another hour or so, he resolves to pick Ryan up and they can go shopping. Spencer remains one of the few people who can handle Ryan on a shopping trip. The boy’s a crazy-person when it comes to fashion.

“C’mon, Ryan, we’re going out so we can buy presents for Christmas.” Spencer chides, pulling Ryan by the sleeve out onto the street.

“Go shopping with someone else, I’m tired.” Ryan complains, gripping futilely to the door jamb in the vain hope Spencer will leave him alone if he puts up too much of a fuss.

“No. You’re coming with me. You’ve barely left that goddamned apartment in three days. Plus, my sisters will not appreciate if you turn up to family Christmas dinner without bearing gifts.” Spencer makes a face he hopes is persuasive, and it seems to work. Ryan winces, then grimaces, then huffs and grabs his keys from the bowl by the door.

“Fine, but we’re not going to have fun. We’re going to wallow together in my self-pity like real best friends.”

“No,” Spencer shakes his head, “We’re going to sport an ethos of happiness and gaiety. We’re not going to think about he-who-shall-not-be-named.”

“Will.” Ryan points out.

“What?”

“Will, not shall.”

“I’m sorry, I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Spencer rolls his eyes.

“You said, he-who-shall-not-be-named, but it’s the he/she/it person, and you’re using the Future I simple, which goes: I shall, you will, he/she/it will, we shall, you will, they will. Although, the Future I simple is used for spontaneous decision, and so technically that phrase should use the Future I simple but in the form for going to, which would be ‘he-who-is-not-going-to-be-named’ and, although less catchy, is a bit more accurate-“

“Ryan!” Spencer interrupts. Ryan doesn’t flinch. “I don’t care, okay? If you have an issue with the grammar, take it up with J.K.Rowling, ‘kay?”

Ryan waits for about 10 seconds before saying, “Actually, in the Harry Potter books he’s referred to as ‘He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’ which is gramatically fine.” Spencer smacks Ryan on the back of the head and laughs when Ryan complains that was too extreme.

They wander through about a million boutiques and stores and what have you. Ryan’s bad mood melts away with the addition of a credit card and someone willing to hold at least half of his bags. They trek down at least seven thousand blocks until Ryan squeals and dives into this one, old, brown store Spencer can’t see the name of.

“Where in the name of Hell are we, Ryan?” Spencer moans, following Ryan down an aisle and dropping his bags when Ryan pauses to asses something on one of the racks.

“We are at the best vintage store in LA. I came here earlier this year to buy an outfit for Coachella. You can find the most amazing stuff if you just look hard enough.” Ryan turns back to the rack.

Spencer sighs, “The saddest thing is that would’ve sounded so wise had you not been talking about an outfit for some indie festival.”

“It’s not ‘some indie festival’, Spence, it’s Coachella.” Ryan widens his eyes and speaks slowly as if that will somehow change Spencer’s view that it’s just some dumb indie festival used as a poorly veiled excuse to get high and fuck each other.

“Whatever. Have you found what is was that made you girly squeal and prance in here like the Bambi that you are?”

Ryan thumps Spencer’s bicep and storms around to another aisle. In Ryan’s absence, Spencer gets distracted by some sparkly garment and is drawn over to take a closer look. While he’s fingering the silky fabric and trying to work out how the hell one is supposed to wear this thing that looks like glorified pantyhose, Ryan scampers over, beaming like a kid on Sunny-D.

“Oh good God, what has happened now?” Spencer trills, earning a half-hearted glare.

“I found the best thing ever and I’m going to buy it right the hell now.” Ryan holds up what is, in Spencer’s opinion, the ugliest fucking shirt he’s ever seen. Honest to God it looks like a Tiki doll threw up on a tourist. It’s red and covered in palm trees and hibiscuses and says ‘Carribean Sugar’ on it over and over again. It’s completely hideous. 

“You’re… you’re really going to buy that?” Spencer asks tentatively, hoping the answer will be ‘Of course not, Spence, I don’t actually want to commit fashion suicide’.

“Um, yes?” Comes Ryan’s distinctly un-jokey response.

“Tell me you’re joking?” Spencer pleads.

“I’m not joking.” Ryan retorts, letting his arm slump a little so the t-shirt drags along the ground. “And don’t sound so judgemental, I’m allowed to wear what I want.”

“Sure, wear what you want, just be sure to send me a postcard from Hawaii.”

Ryan scowls and turns to the pay desk.

Spencer grapples his phone out of his pocket and types out a message which he sends to Brendon:

To: Brendon aka cheating bastard, From: Spencilcase

Ryan’s buying a hawaiian shirt. U’ve ruined him, Urie.

Ryan’s still paying when Brendon’s reply buzzes through.

To:Spencilcase, From: Brendon aka cheating bastard

He’s just trying 2 get closer 2 my heritage. It’s a good sign

Spencer snorts and glances up to see Ryan glowering at him. It’s like he can smell when he’s being betrayed. Spencer tips his head back once in the age-old man-signal for ‘sup’. Ryan shakes his head and takes the paper bag out of the hands of the cashier.

“Who’re you texting?” He asks, as soon as he’s in earshot.

“Oh, just Dallon.” Spencer lies, stuffing his phone in his pocket to avoid any questioning. Ryan appears appeased.

“Cool, well, I’m done here if you wanna buy anything?” Spencer shakes his head ‘no’ and they leave the store.

They walk a little ways down the street and see a deli and Spencer insists they buy food or he’ll die right there and then. Ryan concedes and they buy some sandwiches which they decide to eat in the park that’s about two minutes walk from their present location. The park is dotted with little benches, and they find one to dump themselves (and their stuff) on which is facing a nice crop of trees and a hillock beyond that.

“So,” Spencer says around a mouthful of his bacon sandwich. Ryan raises an eyebrow. “When are you going to talk to Brendon?”

Ryan rolls his head back on his neck and groans. “Dude, can a guy not enjoy his chicken sandwich in peace? I don’t wanna talk about it.”

Spencer is undeterred, “But you’ve got to talk to him at some point!”

“Why?!” Ryan shouts, eyes wide and angry.

“Because you can’t just ignore him!”

“Worked pretty well for the last four years!”

“Yeah, well, I don’t want to have to be friends with you in secret for another four years, Ryan!” Spencer yells, shutting Ryan up pretty damn quick. “I’m not letting you two fuck things up again. I’m not losing my friends again because you two can’t get over some petty argument.”

“It’s not petty, Spence. He really screwed up.” Ryan turns on his kicked-puppy eyes and since when has Spencer been able to stay mad at that?

“I know, Ry, but I genuinely believe he didn’t mean it. He was even trying to do nice things for you before… it.”

“What things?” Ryan asks accusatorily.

“Oh,” Spencer says, “I thought you knew… I guess then it’s not really my place to say…”

“Spencer!” Ryan prods, ready to turn on the scowl should the need arise.

“I don’t know…”

“Spencer James Smith, tell me right the hell now!”

“All right, already! I’ll tell you! Jeez!” Ryan sits, cautiously smug, awaiting Spencer’s explanation. “He was the one that told Pete to sign you to Decaydance. He went to Pete’s house and pitched why you would benefit the label. He even helped with the paperwork to get you out of your preliminary binding contract with Magical Flipper People or whatever the fuck it is that label’s called.” Spencer waves a hand flippantly in the air and takes another bite of his sandwich. Ryan stares into space.

“He really did that?” Ryan entreats wimpishly.

His friend nods and rolls his eyes. “Who’d you think had done it? The tooth fairy? The little elves that come at night to make your shoes? Of course it was Brendon.”

Of course.

 

Brendon doesn’t go to Gabe’s wedding. It’s too weird. Seeing him there marrying William, Ryan’s ex. Yeah. Too weird.

He goes, instead, to some piano showing he’s been looking forward to. He’s decided since there’s no one to buy him randomly extravagant gifts, he’ll buy himself one.

It’s 5 days until Christmas, and, boy, is Brendon hoping for a festive miracle.

Despite what Spencer said, Ryan still hasn’t called him. It’s been 8 days and he hasn’t called. True, that’s only 1 day over what Spencer estimated, but it’s still unnerving. He was kind of hoping Ryan would have forgiven him by now. Sure, a little unrealistic, considering what he did, but it was a mistake, Spencer must have told Ryan that?

The pianos are gorgeous. He asks a member of staff whether he’s allowed to try one out and is delighted when she eventually concedes (she’d had to make sure Brendon could actually play piano first).

He picks out a magnificent Yamaha YUS5 SH Silent and arranges himself on the seat, which only gives a little. He lays his hands on the keys and runs his fingers over the ridges and grooves almost nostalgically. He feels his palms itching, the muscles in his wrists jerking spasmodically, waiting to play something.

He thinks briefly: what would be appropriate. How is he feeling right now?

He considers bursting into a rendition of Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata – I. Grave – Allegro di molto e con brio, which he sees as quite dark, but there are other people in the showroom and that doesn’t seem right, somehow. Instead he starts playing ‘”Little” Fugue in G Minor (BWV 578) by Bach; it’s more lighthearted, but reminiscent.

A small group of people watch him as he navigates the piano with the ease and calm of a professional. At some point, Brendon can’t tell when, someone across the room joins in with a lower accompanyment. He glances up momentarily to seek the player and only sees a spurt of blonde hair from behind one of the Yamaha P116SH Silent upright’s near the corner. Not long after that, someone closer to him starts up a descant, all twiddling G notes and sparkling melodies. People start clapping and a few people get out their phones to record the impromptu classical play-a-long.

They finish together and stand to bow. Brendon doesn’t recognise either of his co-pianists, but doesn’t really expect to. They smile at one another, then an angry looking clerk comes towards him. It’s the woman who said he could play.

“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you and your… troupe to leave. If I’d have known this was some kind of publicity stunt I wouldn’t have allowed you to play.” Her face is a mask of fury mixed with embarrassment.

“Oh, no, I don’t know those two people, I was genuinely just checking out the piano, seriously.”

“Sir, please, leave before I am forced to call security.” She points menacingly towards the back of the showroom where two burly men are glaring at him.

“But, please, I was just testing the piano! I was gonna buy it! I –“ He doesn’t say any more as the woman looks like she’ll murder him and the security guards are uncrossing their arms and heading towards him. He leaves, frustrated and downbeat.

The two guys who joined in with the piano playing come out a second later and apologise to Brendon.

“I’m sorry, dude, we didn’t know, we thought it was just a jam sesh or whatever.” The blonde one says.

“Nah, man,” Brendon waves him off, “It was an amazing piece, thanks for joining in. Once in a lifetime experience, right?” They seem okay with that and say goodbye, Brendon turns and ducks into the conveniently positioned, and aptly named, convenience store.

He picks up a pack of Marlboro Reds and pays for them. He leans against the wall outside to light up and chokes on the smoke filling his lungs when someone interrupts.

“I really wish you wouldn’t smoke, you know.” Ryan leans next to him on the wall and plucks the box out of Brendon’s fingers. “These things are, like, lung disease in a tube. Seriously, they’re… genuinely, there’s Arsenic and Ammonia and Methanol in these things, dude.” Ryan flips the box over in his hands, once, twice, Brendon loses track as he becomes kind of hypnotised…. Until Ryan squishes and crushes the box between his palms and rips it all into teeny tiny pieces. Until then.

“Hey!” He snaps, reaching towards the not-quite-box but Ryan pulls it away. “Dude, I paid for them!”

Ryan smirks and pushes Brendon away, “Yeah, and you can thank me when you don’t have to spend thousands of pounds pumping your lungs of all the shit you’ve inhaled. Think of it as an investment.”

Brendon slumps back against the wall and neither man says anything. Ryan twists his fingers in front of him, working up the courage to say something. They both know this is weird. Ryan doesn’t say anything to Brendon for a week and suddenly shows up just as Brendon’s coming out a shop… it’s too much like stalking to be coincidence.

“What are you doing here?” Brendon finally voices, watching Ryan heave a silent sigh and scrape his hair back.

“I don’t really know.” Ryan replies, “I think… William called.” Brendon looks up, startled. “Yesterday, he called yesterday. I was there and I picked it up. He said he was… getting married. He told me he was getting married to Gabe today. It – well it hit me pretty hard, and then I saw an advert for this piano showing. I couldn’t resist. I mean, I knew there was a huge chance you wouldn’t be here, but…” Ryan gestures at Brendon’s entire being and shrugs. “I saw your performance, by the way.”

Brendon nods. “Are you okay?” Loaded question.

“Okay with what, man?” Ryan laughs, tipping his head back so his skull thuds against the brick.

“I don’t know… I guess everything?”

They wait for one of them to speak again, Ryan half preoccupied thinking whether it’s uncool to run away. He honestly wasn’t expecting to actually find Brendon.

“It sucks that William’s getting married. I thought I meant more to him than that. That’s what hurts the most… the feeling that I thought I was worth more.” Ryan turns to Brendon. “I thought I was worth more.” Brendon feels the twist in his abdomen, somewhere in his lungs and heart and spine, it’s… ew.

“I-“

“Don’t apologise again, Brendon,” Ryan interrupts, making Brendon shut his mouth hastily.

“I just don’t know what else to say.” He admits, a little helplessly. Ryan was always notoriously hard to read, but he got better at it the longer they were together; he can tell now Ryan’s torn between shooting a snarky remark and screaming about the unfairness of it all.

“Just… tell me why you did it?” Ryan almost whimpers. “Tell me what made you look at me and lie, after you said I meant so much to you, after I told you how I felt about cheating.”

He looks down, not wanting to see the hurt in Ryan’s eyes anymore. “People do crazy things when they’re in love.”

Ryan closes his eyes and laughs, Brendon smiles along, too. “Seriously? Hercules? You know I watched that with you, right?” Brendon shrugs and laughs a little.

“Worth a shot, right? At least I got you to smile.” He points out triumphantly. “But.. I mean it. You may not want to hear it, but it’s true. And I’ll wait, Ryan, I’ve waited 4 years for Christ’s sake! I can wait a little longer.”

“Who says you even know you’re waiting for the right thing anymore, Bren? We’ve both changed, haven’t we?”

Brendon shakes his head, “Not as much as you think.”

Four tentative seconds of silence then Ryan explodes: “God! Why’d you have to do it, Brendon?! You couldn’t have just kept it in your pants for one more goddamned night! You had to go and ruin it!”

“Hey!” Brendon protests, affronted, “I didn’t hear you complaining during!”

“No, but I thought it was all legit! I just – I was waiting for that moment for so goddamned long, Brendon, and you spoiled it! I’m. I’m so angry at you and I hate that I’m angry at you because I hate being angry at you! But I can’t forgive you! I can’t bring myself to forgive you yet! So where the fucking hell does that leave me, huh?!”

Brendon doesn’t reply. Ryan makes a noise halfway between a growl and a scream and pushes off the wall and storms down the street.

Brendon doesn’t really know where this leaves them.

 

He emails Butch that night, explaining why he desperately needs recording time over the holidays. Butch emails back saying doesn’t Brendon have family to go to, because he sure as hell does. Brendon asks really, really politely, saying he’ll only be in there for 6 hours, tops, and Dallon will be there for lots of it. Plus, it’s for the EP and he’s being a nice person for once.

Butch begrudgingly agrees, saying the studio will be open from the 22nd to the 24th and then again on the 26th, but none of the studio staff will be there so Brendon’s gotta be super careful and if Dallon’s not there he’s not allowed to touch anything.

Brendon says fine, and doesn’t mention that Dallon has already replied to Brendon’s stealthy text asking whether he’s free on Christmas Eve with the discouraging, but not entirely unexpected, response of ‘Of course not, dude, I have a life and people who want to be with me in the holidays’. Brendon resolves to tell Dallon of his predicament and maybe play the ‘I’m troubled and oh-so-complicated’ card so Dallon won’t tell on him.

His fingers are still tingly from earlier at the piano place. He wishes he’d been allowed to stay in order to buy that upright, he has one in the music room, but it’s slightly crooked in a way no one else notices or appears to be able to fix. It’s really annoying because the left pedal is about a quarter of an inch lower than the right pedal so he has to sit awkwardly and the whole shebang is just way too much effort.

He’s taken recently to playing his electric keyboard, but it’s not the same. Anyone who plays piano knows it’s not the same; well, anyone who’s seen a piano knows it’s not the same.

He could always buy one from another place, but he likes to buy his pianos in person and there aren’t too many high-class, reliable piano dealerships in his neck of LA.

 

 

Spencer calls Jon. He figures it couldn’t possibly make things any worse.

“Hi, Jon,” he greets, hoping Jon can hear the smile in his voice.

“Hey, Spencer! Long time no speakey.”

“It’s been about two weeks, Jon.” Spencer reasons, wiping his hand across the counter top.

“Well, that’s a long time for me, bro,” Jon sigh-laughs, “Especially with a baby, jeez, I- wait… okay be really quiet for a sec-” Spencer hears some shh-ing on the end of the line and then some shuffling and definitely a very worn-out Cassie whispering ‘I swear to God, Jon, if you wake her I will rip off your dick and shove it down your throat’. Spencer figures he should’ve called at a different time, oops. “Okay, we’re clear. Sorry, she literally just got to sleep for the first time in about a month.”

“She’s less than a month old,” Spencer points out.

“Not by much though, and shut up, man, I’m unimaginably tired here. I mean, she’s so sweet and so gorgeous, but she never sleeps. You’d think, with all the crying and clapping and rolling around, that she’d be tired at the end of the day. But no! Shh, sorry, no, she’s like… invicible. It’s crazy.” Jon’s voice gets weaker and weaker and Spencer’s worried for a moment that Jon might actually be sleeping. It’s 7pm. That’s wrong.

“Yeesh, Walker, you’re such a dad now.” Spencer jokes, secretly only a little jealous.

“Ha!” Jon barks, then shh’s himself and continues in a whisper, “First Panic! kid, huh? Well, ex-Panic!, but whatever. I’m saying it counts.”  

“Hey so when are you coming down again, man?”

“Oh,” Jon hisses, “I don’t know, Spence, I’m pretty busy right now, what with Sagan and our first Christmas since she was born… we’re kind of hectic, I’m not sure I could spare-” Jon is interrupted by the up-close but ferociously whispered ‘If you don’t leave I will kill you’ which is obviously Cassie.

They both pause and Spencer hears Cassie walk away. “I think she hates me because I ruined her body and any form of sleep regime she may have had.”

“So I’ll see you soon?” Spencer asks.

“If my wife has anything to do with it, I’ll probably never leave.”

Spencer maybe doesn’t wanna have kids. Like, ever.

Chapter Text

Brendon spent Christmas Eve recording his new song. Dallon joined him on the 23rd saying ‘It’s sad to spend the holidays on your own in a studio, Bren’, and they’d written another song, which Brendon decides to record on the 26th.

The new song is actually good, he thinks, it’s quite catchy and it’s got a clear beat with some nice twiddly bits thrown in. His vocals sound a bit drowned out, but that was kind of the idea; he wasn’t supposed to be the focus of the song.

Christmas with the Uries is now upon him.

His mother had greeted him at the door cautiously and his father had politely held back a scowl and shaken his hand firmly. His sister was there, beckoning him into the sitting room with a strained, plaintive smile, silently pleading with him not to say anything that could disrupt the family day in any major way.

“So!” His mother has started, grinning widely and perching on a seat opposite Brendon. Brendon mentally prepares himself for whatever is about to come next. “How are you, sweetie? Are you seeing… anyone?”

This was precisely the topic Brendon had been aiming to avoid, but he smiles and clasps his hands to stop them forming irritated fists.

“Um, actually, I just broke up with my girlfriend a couple weeks ago,” Because I slept with my ex-bandmate, yes the one I was going to marry, yes the one I was ‘temporarily’ disowned for. He doesn’t say the last bit, though. It would only make things a bit tense.

His mother makes her sad-puppy-pouty face and reaches over to rub his knee. “Awh, bubby, I’m sorry, did she dump you?”

Brendon startles a little, face taking on an incredulous look. “What? No! I dumped her!” His mother recoils her touch.

“Well, sorry, honey-bunch, I was just asking!” She turns youngest-child-worried eyes on Brendon’s dad and then gets up to go to the kitchen.

“Why’d you dump her, Rhubarb?” His sister asks, then smiles when he rolls his eyes at the childhood nickname.

His cousin had a friend who went to Europe to become some part of a particular Catholic group, and when the cousin went to visit, he brought back all these amazing European candies, which included Rhubarb & Custard balls. He brought them over, and Brendon had single-handedly eaten every last one. He was on a sugar-high for the next 39 hours and his family took to calling him Rhubarb, Custard, Rhubie, Rhubs, or Barbara for the next 15 years.

“Can we, I don’t know, maybe not talk about this?” Brendon suggests, the topic starting to antagonise him.

His sister holds up her hands in surrender and his father interrupts. “So, Brendon, when are you next going on tour?”

They talk about work, and Kara’s lovelife, how his brother’s are all doing well in Lameass, Nowheresville. It’s not that he dislikes his brothers, it’s that they were mom and dad’s favourites and Brendon’s fame is the only thing that really got him noticed in his family, so his brothers just kind of… disappearing into some mediocre suburban monotony, well, it isn’t really a bad thing in Brendon’s eyes.

His mother calls them in when the food’s ready and they shift themselves from sofa to seated round the dining table. At some point, some of his parent’s friends have arrived, and Brendon finds himself sitting between Mr Christensen and Mrs Leatham, both nearing just-past middle aged.

“Boyd, will you say grace?” Mrs Christensen chirrups from next to Kara, smiling and clasping her hands together in anticipation.

“Why doesn’t Brendon do it?” Mrs Leatham suggests, patting Brendon’s shoulder lightly. Brendon tenses and sends a panicked smile to his dad.

Boyd goes mechanical, limbs stiffening like wood. “No, no, I’ll do it. Brendon, just… just you sit right there.”

Brendon breathes a thankful and relieved breath before: “Come, come, Boyd! Let the boy have a turn!” Mr Leatham protests good-naturedly.

“No, really,” Boyd chuckles, “Let’s leave it to the parent’s, eh? Our role and all that!”

The guests back down and Brendon’s mother turns her embarrassed eyes on Brendon before closing them when her husband starts to say grace.

 

Brendon’s dad gets him a gift card to a golfing course in South Nevada, he doesn’t play golf but he smiles and thanks his dad regardless. His mum hands him a rectangular box with a big grin and he opens it to find a record frame. He smiles at her and she leans out to pat his knee.

“For your next platinum album,” she whispers, winking.

Kara gets him a tie that says ‘Singers do it louder’, but he doesn’t open it in front of his parents under her strict instructions, which she wrote in the card to pre-warn him. She also wrote she bought a tie to ‘go with your stupid lingerie suits’. He resolves to ask her what she means by ‘lingerie suits’ later, once they’re out of the company of their parents.

His parents open their presents from him, and while his dad remains stoically emotionless, his mother gasps and jumps up to give him a bone-crushing hug which ends with his face shmushed into her chest in a very uncomfortable fashion. He got his dad the deeds to a very classy (and preposterously expensive) 1939 Indian Four motorcycle, which is waiting for him in a privately rented storage compartment on West Charleston Boulevard. For his mother, he bought a diamond and emerald ring engraved on the inside with the names of her children. He thought it would be nice. Fortunately, she likes it. Kara receives a signed photo of some singer dude she’s loved since she was 15 and who Brendon happened to run into at a music awards ceremony in May. She seems pleased, although she doesn’t say anything for the next seven and a half minutes, so Brendon can’t really be sure.

They sit and chat and at some point Brendon gets talked into playing some cheerful Christmas songs on the old family piano, which is so out of tune he sort of wants to hurl. He leaves around 11 and gets a bus to the airport for his flight home; he couldn’t stand to stay in Vegas overnight, least of all with his parents.

 

He wakes up early boxing day, glad the Christmas season is over. For him, at least. He makes himself a coffee, not sure whether the coffee shop closest to him will be open on December 26th, and gets in his car to drive to the studio. No one’s parked in the studio parking lot and his car looks lonely and frankly quite sad on its own in such a large space.

The studio building is cold and stale, as no one’s put on the heat in a couple days, and though it’s usually hot in LA, like, all the time, it’s been a brisk couple weeks.

He dumps his crap on one of the chairs in the Recording Room 1 waiting room and hums something which bears a startling resemblance to ‘White Christmas’ as he makes his way into the recording booth.

He’s just sat down when he hears a knocking. It’s far away and muffled, but it’s definitely there. He waits a while, seeing if whoever’s there will give up and go away, but it’s soon accompanied by someone calling what sounds like his name.

He’s seen enough horror movies to know that he shouldn’t investigate, but he’s also curious enough to do just that. He grabs a microphone stand as a weapon and heads towards the source of the noise cautiously.

For some reason, he thinks this is the perfect scenario to act like he’s in a James Bond movie, leaping from wall to wall and slowly peeking round corners. In reality, he looks like a giant douche with a pole in his hands.

When he reaches the corridor that leads to the entrance, he very slowly inches his face so he’s just about looking round the corner to the door.

“Brendon, I can see you.” Spencer calls, slightly muffled through the glass, but identifiably unamused. “I’ve also been able to hear you doing fucking acrobatics or whatever the fuck it was you were doing for the past 5 minutes. Now will you let me in? It’s colder than I expected and I’m only wearing a cardigan.” Brendon is secretly disappointed his spy skills are not up to the level he imagined, but the thought of an angry, cold Spencer breaking in and killing him is enough to put his hurt pride aside and open the goddamned door.

Spencer is scowling and hugging his arms close around his chest. His cardigan is Christmas themed, which Brendon does not appreciate. The holiday is officially over for him, he doesn’t want any more reminders.

“Thank you. I thought I was gonna freeze out here.” Spencer grumbles, pushing past Brendon into the corridor once Brendon’s worked out how to unlock the door from the inside.

“Dude, it’s like, 50 degrees out. It’s not that cold.” Brendon says in what he thinks is a grown-up, condescending voice. Spencer raises an eyebrow and looks him up and down.

“Says the guy who’s currently wearing two jumpers and a hat.” Brendon hurries to pull off his hat; he forgot it was there, damnit.

“Spence, what are you doing here?” Brendon asks as he trails behind Spencer back to the recording room.

“Isn’t it obvious?” Spencer replies in that voice that’s so completely ‘oh-my-god-it’s-so-obvious-how-haven’t-you-got-it-yet’ that Brendon feels more than a little idiotic. “I’m here because Dallon said you were coming in and I can’t leave you alone on Boxing Day, that’s just sad.”

“You sound like Dallon when I told him I was spending Christmas Eve-Eve here.”

Spencer stops and turns to give Brendon his ‘concerned friend’ face. “That’s because we care about you, Brendon, and we don’t wanna leave you alone on the holidays. Especially so soon after… you know… your experiences.” Brendon rolls his eyes and pushes past Spencer into the recording booth.

“I’m perfectly fine, you know.” Brendon bites, sitting down in the chair by the control panel. “I’m dealing with it and I’m fine.”

“That’s what you said before you did all that coke, and look how ‘fine’ you turned out to be then?” Spencer scoffs, putting his hands on his hips and towering over Brendon.

“I had that under control,” Brendon waves it off and swivels in the chair to face the panel, but Spencer grabs the backrest and violently pulls Brendon back round to face him. “Hey!” he protests.

“You almost died, Brendon!” Spencer shouts, eyes wide and crazed. Brendon stays very still, and Spencer straightens up and pushes his hair back out of his face. Brendon thinks of the Scrubs episode and Turk saying ‘Admittedly, I lost my cool here’ and how that’s totally what Spencer should say now, except then his brain gets caught on what Spencer actually just said, sorry, screamed.

“I- ahem, sorry, I what?”

Spencer looks him in the eye and looks so genuinely sad Brendon takes a moment to feel guilty over how he made his friend look like that. “You… that night Dallon came over and found you on your living room floor, you… you stopped breathing, Brendon. Dallon had to, um, had to give you CPR so you would regain consciousness.” Spencer takes a breath that Brendon can hear shaking, “You snorted so much coke you stopped your heart, Brendon.” He looks at the floor and then raises his eyes slowly to look at his friend. Brendon holds the eye contact and feels his throat constrict.

“Why… um… why didn’t you tell me?” He whispers, ignoring the burning in his jaw from where it’s clenched so hard.

Spencer’s hands travel back into his hair nervously, “Dallon said he had it covered; he did that medical course a couple years back after Knox choked on that piece of lego or something, and he said you were fine. Medically speaking, fine. He said what you needed was lots of fluids and to go to sleep. You were actually… actually awake for when he was getting you to drink water and stuff, but he said you couldn’t remember anything in the morning and he didn’t… see the need to tell you something like that.”

“So,” Brendon begins, wanting to make sure he’s got all the facts straight, “My heart literally stops beating, and my friends don’t think I have the right to know?”

“Brendon, that’s not-“

“You’re telling me,” Brendon continues over the top of Spencer’s interruption, “I died for, what, a minute? Minute and a half? And my friends, the people I’m supposed to be able to trust, don’t think I need to know?”

The question/accusation is left hanging in the air as Spencer squirms and Brendon fumes.

“Dallon says you were only gone for about 30 seconds. Any longer than that and he would’ve called an ambulance.”

“Well ain’t that good to know!” Brendon chokes, laughing this horrible, barking laugh that sounds like he’s swallowed tar.

“Brendon-“

“Good to know there’s a scale for how dead you’re allowed to be before your friends call an ambulance. Next time I’ll be sure to time myself.” Brendon pushes out the chair and storms out the room, making sure to knock Spencer’s shoulder on his way past.

“Brendon, wait!” Spencer calls, hurrying to follow his friend.

“I can’t believe this..”

“Brendon, listen to me!” Spencer catches Brendon’s arm and Brendon pulls away harshly, scowling and bright red in the face.

“Why?! Why should I?! You neglected to tell me I fucking died!”

“You were unstable! And we were really fucking afraid!” Spencer slumps against the nearest wall and looks at Brendon sideways. Neither of them move. “What if Dallon hadn’t come by, huh? What if he hadn’t been there to check on you? You would be dead, most likely. Do you know what it’s like to look at your best friend and think about how close you came to not being able to look at them anymore?”

Brendon swallows and fiddles with the zip on his jacket. The wallpaper is cracked and peeling off the walls, dark red revealing pale yellow flowers. The moulding is scuffed and dirtied, Brendon thinks about how that’s how he feels: disordered and stained by his past. He peeks up at Spencer, hating that he’s been betrayed by his best friend, someone he trusted. “That’s not justifiable cause to-“

“I know!” Spencer raises his voice, then breathes out and regains his composure. “I know, it’s not. But… think about it, Bren. We knew if we told you we’d have to tell other people, and then we’d have to cancel the tour, and… at that point the tour was the only thing that was likely to help you kick your drug habit. We did it to help you.”

“Well,” comes Brendon’s uneasy response, “I guess you don’t have to worry about that anymore.” Spencer looks up and sees his friend’s face contorted in anger. “As of right now, we’re no longer friends. You value your fucking image over my life. I don’t care whether you think you did that to help me or not, I’m helping myself now, and I don’t want to see you unless I am explicitly instructed to do so by Butch under undeniable terms of my contract.” Brendon clenches and unclenches his hands, and Spencer can tell he wants to punch him, but Brendon’s small and Spencer’s big so he won’t try.

“Brendon, please-“

“No,” Brendon stops him, “We’re done here.”

He marches back to the recording booth and locks himself in. He jumps into the chair and buries his nose in the crack between his knees, wrapping his arms around his shins like a child. He now completely understands Ryan’s refusal to accept his apologies, he feels so worthless, he can’t stand it. He hates that he feels this hate towards someone he respects so much.

Spencer has no real option other than to leave, so he does. He’ll get shit for it, but he’s so close to crying right now he can’t really find it in himself to care about what Butch or Dallon will say to him.

Brendon’s like his brother and he’s let him down. He knew at the time it was wrong for them to keep this from him, but he’d really believed it would be better if he didn’t know. Plus, the ramifications had Brendon gone to hospital for a cocaine overdose? They would’ve been a million times worse than this. At least, that’s what Spencer’s telling himself.

Better to have a friend who hates you than a friend in jail, right?

He’s pretty sure he told Brendon deliberately, even after the swore to Dallon it would remain a secret. He hates hiding things from people, it was painful enough to hide his discourse with Ryan quiet, and that wasn’t even very serious, but this? This is something far more substantial. This is life and death, quite literally.

He didn’t mean to hurt Brendon, really he didn’t, but sometimes you have no other viable option at the time of a decision and your only real course of action is something you maybe don’t wholly want to do. It comes with being a human being, you can’t always choose the path you want because it simply isn’t possible. A dim view of the world, maybe, but Spencer’s a realist now, he doesn’t believe things just happen if you believe in them hard enough. He’s old enough and cynical enough to know you have to work for the things you want, good things don’t just fall into your lap without consequences.

Spencer’s exception to that rule, however, is Brendon. And that makes the scenario a little harder to swallow.

Chapter Text

“But they had no right to keep something like that from me!” Brendon’s yelling, throwing his hands around so wildly, Dr Carden is worried he’ll break something. “It’s my life, I’m entitled to know what the motherfucking hell happens to me, right?!”

“I mean-“

“And another thing,” Brendon continues, cutting over Dr Carden, seeming to have missed his interruption. “Spencer yaks on at me about friendship and the precious gift of honesty and then he goes and lies straight to my face about something really important!”

“I think, maybe-“

“It’s just so hypocritical! And if there’s one thing I can’t deal with, it’s hypocrisy!”

“Brendon!” Carden shouts: eyes closed, hand held up to stop Brendon. “Would you please sit down and listen to me.” Brendon sits. “Thank you. I think what we need to discuss here is betrayal as there seems to have been a lot of it in the past few weeks. As for hypocrisy, do you not think it’s you that’s being slightly hypocritical?”

“Me? How am I the hypocritical one?”

Carden raises his eyebrow condescendingly, “Really? The first time you forget about your betrayal of Ryan happens to conveniently fall at the same time as your betrayal from Spencer? Nice try, Brendon, but I don’t believe in coincidences.” Brendon stays silent and stares at his hands, clasped conservatively in his lap now. “Now, let’s start with what the hell Spencer actually kept from you, because despite your incessant babbling, I never actually caught onto what it was he didn’t tell you.”

“Apparently, a couple months ago, around the time of the beginning of our tour, I snorted so much coke I stopped my heart. However, Dallon and Spencer agreed to keep it under-wraps so as to minimise the chances of a press scandal. This, apparently, included keeping me in the dark about my own state of mortality.”

“Did you not need immediate medical attention?” Carden asks, frown visible.

“Dallon supposedly had it under control, got me breathing again in under a minute, so there was no cause for alarm. So I’m told.” Brendon opens his palms in a ‘what can you do’ gesture and Carden nods, jaw tight.

“I know this won’t be what you want to hear from me, Brendon, but don’t you think it was a good call?”

“What?!” Brendon exclaims, scandalised that Carden could agree with the evil-doers.

“I mean, what do you think you would’ve done had it gone public? Possession of a class A drug is illegal, it can lead to public cautions, arrest, time in jail, and limit your access to overseas countries. Being a world-touring rockstar and all, that seems to be a pretty high price. Plus, at that time you were not in a stable state of mind to be dealing with something of that magnitude. You told me that during that period you were suffering severe depression, anxiety, recurring nightmares, even mild hallucinations. What do you think would have happened to your mental health had you been told you’d gone so far you’d stopped your heart?” Carden leaves the question hanging and Brendon tries to think of a reasonable answer. “Well?”

“Maybe I would have considered professional help sooner? Maybe it would have been the push I needed?” Brendon tries to keep his tone defiant, but he knows Carden sees straight through it.

“Or, more likely, it would have tipped you over the edge. You would have gone into shock, possibly denying the whole thing, you would have repressed the memory and it would have haunted you. Your mental health would have completely collapsed in on itself. If you look at it objectively, Dallon saved your life twice; once from your actions, and once from the repercussions of your actions.” Carden looks at Brendon’s unhappy expression and sighs. “Look, I don’t judge you for what happened, I will never judge you for the things you’ve done. What you’ve got to see, is that sometimes, people we love keep things from us for our own safety.”

“But it hurts like a bitch.” Brendon complains, causing Carden to heave a strained huff of laughter.

“Well, now you know what Ryan feels like, except the lie you told him had no such protective cause.”

“We’re really gonna talk about this, then?” Brendon asks.

Carden nods and purses his lips, “Yes, we are. You’re in Ryan’s shoes now, you can see how he feels.”

“Yeah, and I feel worse than ever.”

They sit, staring at each other until Carden takes a sharp breath. “Okay, what I want you to do is write down what you want Spencer to say to you.”

“Wha’d’ya mean?” he asks, confused.

“I want you to write Spencer’s apology note. Write down what you want him to say to you by way of apologising for what he did.”

Brendon frowns, “But you said he didn’t do anything wrong?”

“I’m not saying he did,” Carden verifies, “I’m saying I want you to write it, okay? Stop asking questions and just do as I say, for once.” He smiles at Brendon easily and Brendon can’t help but roll his eyes fondly and reach for the pad and pen Carden offers him.

“Pushy,” he mutters, smiling at the scoff that follows his comment.

It takes him a while to start writing the note. It’s especially pressured because Carden’s sitting right there, just watching him. They reach the end of the hour before Brendon’s even nearly done, but Carden says he can finish it at home and bring it to their next meeting.

At the time, Brendon thinks this is a great idea as it will give him time to include all the things he wants to include. In retrospect, it is a torture. He can’t think of what to say or how to say it. Every sentence he starts feels contrived, like he can’t work out what he wants Spencer to apologise for.

Three hours, six cups of instant coffee, 4 CDs, and 7 bags of mini-marshmallows later, Brendon has had enough. All he has are 10 insincere lines filled with plagiarised remorse and forced excuses. He’s ready to scream when he thinks about why he’s having such trouble writing this goddamned thing. It was supposed to be easy, but…

He doesn’t want Spencer to apologise, not really, because he’s not really mad at Spencer; he’s mad at himself. He got angry at his best friend and told him they weren’t friends anymore, and all over some stupid secret which he sees now probably should have remained a secret. Carden was right, he would probably have had a meltdown if he’d woken up that morning to Dallon telling him he’d died and couldn’t remember it. He knows himself, and he knows he would have locked himself in his study and psyched himself out thinking about mortality and the fragility of life.

Spencer and Dallon aren’t in the wrong, well, aren’t far in the wrong. They shouldn’t have kept a secret from him, but it’s mostly cancelled out by the fact they saved Brendon’s ass. This makes Brendon think about Ryan. Obviously, his inner voice drawls sarcastically, because everything we think always comes circling back to Ryan fucking Ross one way or another. He shuts out this voice and just… remembers.

He remembers that night and how Ryan looked at him out on that patio. He remembers how he couldn’t bear it anymore, couldn’t hold back anymore. He remembers Ryan, hot and slick above him, saying his name like it was the only word he could speak. He remembers the look on Ryan’s face when he came back from the bathroom with Brendon’s phone, so hurt, so angrily confused. He remembers Ryan’s face after the fight, just before he stormed out, how he looked so fragile and lost, like a little boy alone in a huge supermarket without his mother. He remembers Ryan outside the convenience store, pissed-off and stern, warring with himself about whether he could forgive and move on yet. Mostly, he remembers how much of a dick he was to have done something so monumentally idiotic.

He holds his head in his hands and lets out a frustrated groan.

Someone starts pounding on the door, though, so Brendon doesn’t have much time to wallow in his own self-pity because whoeveritis sounds mad and Brendon just had the glass panelling in that door replaced. He pushes himself off the couch and lumbers towards the front door, grumbling how he’s coming, already, calm down.

He opens the door to one harried looking Butch and seriously contemplates shutting it again. Maybe he’s having a nightmare.

“Heey, Butch, buddy…” Brendon tries to act casual but accidentally channels guilty douchebag instead.

“If you say one more word I swear to God I will castrate you, Urie.” Brendon promptly snaps his mouth shut and lets Butch push past him into the house. “Spencer told me what happened, and before you interrupt, don’t.” Brendon wasn’t even considering it. He likes his balls, thank you very much. “He told me everything about you and him and the drugs and the… fucking… near-death experience of whatever the fuck happened there,” Well, Brendon’s mind corrects, the actual death experience. “So I decided to come over here and tell you I am not taking your bullshit. You say you’re not going to see Spencer other than for legally binding reasons, and I’m here to tell you to grow the fuck up. People keep secrets, I don’t give a shit. This is your job, Brendon. This is your life. You do this, you’re throwing your fucking life away, and I will not let you do that. So, tomorrow morning, you’re going to shift your ass down to the studio and hug Spencer and Dallon and get over this fucking vendetta and then we’ll play a show, and then we’ll get the fuck on with our lives, okay?” Butch has gone pink in the face from not taking enough pauses in his tirade, and he waits for Brendon to pick a fight.

“Yeah, okay.” Is all Brendon says, and he shrugs.

“Brendon, don’t-“ Butch does a double take, “Wait, did you say okay?”

Brendon shrugs again, “Yeah, okay.”

“I-“

“Listen,” Brendon says over the top of whatever failed sentence was about to stutter its way out of Butch’s mouth, “I know I’ve been a jerk, okay, and I said some things I didn’t mean, but there’s nothing wrong with you guys, it’s something wrong with me. And, I mean, I see that now. I get that I was being a petulant idiot and I’m sorry.” Brendon takes a breath and kind of half expects Butch to jump in, but he doesn’t so Brendon carries on. “So I’ve decided I need to, like, grow up, but for real this time, like, not just pretending to make people take me more seriously.”

Butch opens his mouth and holds up his hand, then closes his mouth, opens it again, closes it, frowns, flutters his hand, rubs the back of his neck, opens his mouth, watches Brendon widen his eyes expectantly at him, throws his hands in the air, pats Brendon on the shoulder, and walks out the house.

Brendon looks after him but decides he doesn’t care enough to follow him. He said his piece, that’s what’s important. What’s next are loose ends he needs to tie.

He needs to: apologise to Spencer. Forgive Dallon. Send his auntie a thank you card for the butt-ugly gloves she bought him. Sort out that tech guy from that venue, er, whatshisface. Talk to Ryan. Sort his life out.

Not necessarily in that order.

The next day, Brendon receives a very minimal text from Butch telling him to meet at the studio at 10am. He’s a little nervous after how he left things with Spencer. He really does feel bad, he’s still angry, sure, but he feels really guilty for having blown up at his best friend like that.

He tries to get to the studio on time, he fails, but he tries. The reception is unmanned – Butch probably gave the woman some time off in case there was a screaming match or something – and Brendon can hear muted chatter coming from one of the recording rooms. He hesitates in the doorway before sucking it up and walking towards the noise.

Everyone stops talking as he opens the door, eyes instinctively moving towards the movement. The tension as he walks in is palpable and Spencer’s eyes are everywhere but on Brendon’s face. It feels wrong.

“So…” he begins, “hey.”

Dallon does a nervous little wave and Spencer ducks his head. Butch opens his mouth and makes an oddly pained noise, then herds Brendon into the room with a fake smile plastered on his face.

“Right, well we’re here to sort things out between you guys because this feud is basically a PR disaster. So, um, who wants to start?” Butch claps his hands together and silence fills the room.

Well, sure, Brendon feels guilty, doesn’t mean he’s going to apologise first. He at least deserves for Spencer to back down. Fortunately, Dallon, forever the mediator, steps up.

“Okay, I’ll go first.” Then he stands up, which is a little unnecessary but never mind. “Brendon, I’m really sorry I didn’t tell you about the whole… thing. At the time, I used my best judgement in order to avoid any unwarranted bad attention and because you weren’t exactly in tip-top health. In retrospect, however, I see my fault and I realise it was wrong of me to keep that kind of information from you; you deserved to know. I hope you can forgive me in time, and if you need anything, I will do everything I can to make it up to you.” Dallon wrings his hands together and nods at Brendon, who smiles and nods back.

“Thank you, Dallon. It’s appreciated.” Brendon’s eyes then fall to Spencer, who immediately averts his eyes and lets his hair fall limply over his eyes. “Spencer? Anything to add?” he asks, waiting patiently because he knows Spencer will crack sooner or later.

Spencer sighs and rubs his neck then finally looks at Brendon, right in the eyes. “I am really sorry I didn’t tell you about the OD. I thought it was what was best for you, but I realise now I’m not the one to judge what’s best for you. Only you can judge that. I didn’t mean to hurt you, really, I didn’t, and I know you understand that because you know I could never hurt you intentionally. You… Brendon, you’re like family, and I would never hurt family. But you were doing stupid shit back then, and I… I freaked out! I hated that I couldn’t protect you from it because it’s not like I can protect you from… well, you. I’m sorry, and I know apologies like this sound so forced and contrived, but I really am sorry and I need you to know that I mean it.

“I understand it’s going to take a while for you to trust me again, and I’m prepared to wait, but I hope you see I only meant well. Even though you’re older than me, you’re totally the younger brother in our relationship, and this episode totally counts for those ‘rebellious teen’ years you missed out on being a good little Mormon boy. Excluding the whole, you know, ‘stupidly-against-my-religion’ gay thing.” Spencer takes a breath and runs his hand over his forearm nervously. “Well, there, I’ve said my bit. Someone else’s go.” No one says anything until there’s this really high-pitched whining sound, which Brendon belatedly realises is coming from him. He coughs, as if that’ll cover up what everyone has already heard, and then bites his lip, sucks it up, and bounds over to Spencer for a hug.

Spencer is reasonably surprised, and it takes him a few seconds to place his hands on Brendon’s back and squeeze tight. They hug for a few minutes until Butch gets all awkward and coughs way too loudly. Brendon sighs but pulls away and rubs the back of his neck.

“So, I guess it’s my turn,” he says awkardly, “Um, so Spencer. I… You – I didn’t mean to blow up at you like that. I was just… actually, I was just really afraid. I mean, it’s not every day you’re told you died, and… to find out that kind of… it was scary, y’know? So. I’m sorry I… I’d say overreacted but I’m still pretty mad, so I’m going to say reacted so explosively. Just… please don’t do it again? I mean, Carden explained to me how, you know, this kind of thing would’ve been bad, but… I’d still like to know. It is my life, and I am entitled to know the things I’ve done; good or bad. I… will forgive you guys, just give me some time.”  Everyone nods contemplatively until Brendon pipes up again.

“Hey, although, something you could help me with by way of making it up to me,”

Dallon looks excited, and Spencer cautiously curious. “Anything,” Dallon happily supplies.

Brendon rubs his hands together, “Okay, so there’s this kid I met at one of the venues we visited and he was totally the coolest kid I’ve ever met, and he’s been through a bunch of shit and I need to give him the best Christmas present ever because he deserves it so much and I wanna help him out.” Dallon smiles and nods while Spencer makes this odd frowny face.

“Wait, you wanna do something nice… for someone you don’t really know for no personal gain?” Spencer asks, and waits while Brendon nods. “It’s a Christmas miracle!” He shouts, then laughs as Brendon thumps him on the arm as hard as he can.

“For serious though, will you help me?” And, well, if they didn’t already owe Brendon one, those goddamned irresistible puppydog eyes would’ve been all the convincing they’d need.

 

 

As it turns out, a charity concert takes a lot more planning than Brendon had previously anticipated. They only have, like, a day and a half to do it, and although Pete is a publicity magician, Brendon’s not sure he’s really that good.

He thought the whole concert thing would be a really good idea and would make loads of money which Brendon could donate to this charity that helps child-carers. He evidently did not think about how much planning goes into a concert of the scale he’s thinking.

Pete made a face, when they asked, but agreed pretty readily after he found out about Brendon’s ‘Scrooge to Mr Ebenezer’ transformation.

Basically, the plan was to set up a stage in a part of Los Angeles with a high population density of schools/young people. Then, charge, like $5-$20 per ticket for entry and play a set where half the proceeds went to the charity. Brendon was concerned how people were going to know to come, or whether they would actually come.

This worry was squashed when Pete tweeted: “YO PEEPS! charity P!ATD concert tomorrow 6pm @ Pan Pacific Park LA.  tickets $15 max 8500 ppl. Be there or be square.” Which receieved over 4,000 retweets and 7,000 favourites within an hour, along with many excited fans asking whether it was legitimate. The link to tickets was published approximately 30 minutes later saying they’d start being sold at 5pm PDT. They sold out within seconds.

Brendon sends the email to the child-carer charity they’re going to donate to to inform them of the concert and basically ask for their blessing. They reply immensely speedily saying they’d be delighted to come down and sponsor the event. Brendon feels pretty smug about that.

They get to the park at 9am to set up, having paid the people from the LA Parks Department an extortionate amount of money (from their own pockets) in order to rent the entire field from opening until closing. They promise they won’t sell anything that will make mess or make anyone mosh, thus ruining the grass. They have agreed, however, to have a few merch stalls selling limited edition tshirts with a new P!ATD design interlinked with the logo for their sponsored charity. Pete said it would be a really simple way to raise some extra money.

The issue with the concert is that it’s completely non-profit, so hard to run the logistics of. All the proceedings are going to somewhere that is not the band’s pockets. Brendon had explained that, although only half was going to the charity, he thought it would be a nice gesture to give the other half to Jake’s family – Jake being the tech who sparked the whole idea of the charity concert.

Brendon had looked into Jake’s family situation after their meeting and discovered that, because he was working so many jobs, he earned just over the maximum wage which meant he didn’t qualify for carers allowance, but not by much. He also discovered the cost of Jake’s dad’s surgery, which turned out to be extensive and the surgery itself incredibly complex. Apparently, Jake’s dad had broken his back in a work accident and required some extremely specific surgery to replace the plates in his spine, and since they couldn’t afford health insurance, the cost came to around $130,000. Jake has paid off only ¼ of this fee.

So, the deal with the concert is fairly simple: Brendon’s going to donate the other half of the raised money to Jake’s dad to pay for the surgery. He’s also going to sponsor Jake so he can get back into education, mainly because the kid’s a freaking genius, also because he deserves a chance to have a proper life.

“Brendon?” Spencer asks, pushing lightly on Brendon’s shoulder. Brendon blinks and jerks his head as a yes, “We’re on in 5.”

“How many people?” He asks, slightly redudantly. Spencer smiles and looks towards the stage.

“Um, well, 8,500?”

Brendon swallows, “And how much merch has been sold?”

Spencer shrugs, “Almost all, according to Pete, although that might be because he’s the one running the stall, for some reason.” Spencer laughs and Brendon smiles along. He’s pretty nervous, although he has almost no right to be. He contacted Jake’s dad and sister through a slightly tenuous information chain, inviting them to the concert for free, but he’s not sure whether they a) got the message or b) actually came.

It’s just… there’s so much riding on this concert turning a profit, it’s pressure Brendon’s never really experienced before. It has to be a success or it’s his neck on the line.

They experienced a slight snag in the planning when Pete mentioned they’d either have to pay for techs or allow for them to volunteer themselves; and Pete assured them the latter would be close to impossible. Brendon freaked out a little bit, but Spencer came to the rescue, vouching for some guys he knows that’ll do it for free. Brendon was too relieved to ask who he managed to get.

2 minutes till showtime and Brendon is sweating like… well like Brendon from 10 years ago. Spencer has his earplugs in already and is tapping a beat along the side of the railing separating them from the stage. They don’t have a real backstage, obviously, but they’ve assembled some cut-off, curtained sections so people can’t get through, and Zack is manning their section.

Brendon’s basically counting down the seconds when a head pops round from the curtain. Ryan’s head, to be precise. Ryan smiles and looks around at Spencer, Dallon, Kenny, and Brendon in turn, then he presses one finger to the headset he’s wearing, glances at his clipboard and says: “You’re up, guys.”

Brendon gapes, but doesn’t have time to dwell because Spencer’s pushing him out of their haven and towards the stage. On his way he sees Jon talking into his cans, and Patrick arranging guitars quietly sidestage.

The concert itself is actually amazing. Everyone is screaming and wearing the new tshirts and waving flags that are emblazoned with the name of the charity.

Brendon takes a break after their fifth song and talks into the mic, “Hey, guys, so, thank you all for coming out tonight, especially on such short notice. But, it’s for a really good cause. There are so many kids out there caring for their parents or siblings because they can’t afford help, and are thereby missing out on their lives, through no fault of their own or fault of the person they’re caring for. But charities like CarersTrust help support these children continue on with education and help them build lives for themselves. It’s an extremely important movement and thank you all for supporting it tonight. This song’s called New Perspective, hope you enjoy.”

They continue their set, and by the end, Brendon’s feeling pretty chilled out, just like if it were a regular show. It’s getting dark, though, and the air is cooling a lot because, hello, it’s a late December evening and that means it’s kind of cold.

However, despite the possible complications, the show runs smoothly and they make it to their final song of the night.

“So, this is gonna be it from us tonight,” Brendon says into his mic, smiling at the screams of ‘no!’ that follow his announcement, “And I wanted to say thank you, again, on behalf of all of us up here, because this was one of my crazy ideas that I sprung on Pete, like, two days ago, and it still managed to be a success. But, as well as thanking you, I would really appreciate it if you could thank everybody who was involved in making this concert happen,” kids are already cheering and Brendon knows he’s going to have to bust out some names to really get this crowd going. “Please put your hands together for everybody at Decaydance records!” Screams. “For Mr Pete Wentz!” Louder screams. “For our sponsors, CarersTrust!” More screams. “For our wonderful techs tonight, Patrick Stump,” piercing screams, “Andy Hurley,” more screams, “Jon Walker,” ear-splitting screams, “and Ryan Ross!” cacophonous screams accompanied by some very audible ‘WHAT THE FUCK?!’s. The first few rows of kids look completely stunned and there’s already muttering among the crowd along with some remaining shrieks.

“Thank you everybody for making sure my charming spontaneity paid off and thank you also for making such a valued contribution to the CarersTrust organisation – your money is going to a really great place. Our final song of the night is a cover, by the great man, B.o.B, this is ‘The Kids’, have a great night everybody!” Brendon dives into the song and tries to put everything he has into it. He’s super glad the concert worked, he was seriously dubious it was going to be a success, but… thank God for Pete Wentz.

The song ends and they bow and wave and file off the stage, the closest techs patting them on the back and congratulating them. Pete runs through the barricading and tackles Brendon into a hug.

“Brendon! That was an unmitigated triumph! The chairs of CarersTrust just came over to tell me we raised over $100,000 as a donation! We’re going to get to write one of those huge-ass cheque things!” Pete bounces on his feet and doesn’t even bother trying to contain his gleeful grin. “Of all the hare-brained ideas I’ve ever scorned you for, this is, by far, the best one ever!” Pete hugs Brendon once more then skitters off, presumably to find Patrick.

Brendon bites his lip and shimmies around like he’s trying to release more energy. Spencer places a hand on his shoulder, like that’ll calm him down.

“Bren, chill.” Spencer says, all mellow and relaxed, completely the opposite of Brendon’s current state.

“Spence, I can’t,” Brendon whines, “Pete says we raised over 100 grand for the charity, which means we raised over 100 grand for Jake and his family! That’s better than I’d ever imagined! I… I just can’t believe it worked!” He smiles widely and claws his hands through his hair almost visciously.

Spencer eye-communicates with Dallon and then he’s off, Brendon guesses to find Ryan or Jon. Dallon herds Brendon into the back where they were waiting before they went onto the stage. Dallon sits down but his companion cannot appear to stay still.

“Would you sit down?” He asks, reaching into the bag he’d brought to retrieve a bottle of water.

“I can’t, Dall. I’m too… buzzed. I haven’t felt this way since our first tour.” Brendon paces the room overly-energetically, wiping his hands on his jeans every several seconds.

“Maybe you should go home?” Dallon suggests, he looks concerned at Brendon’s jittering.

“Maybe.” Brendon replies absently.

Spencer returns a minute later, alone, and cuts a look to Dallon as if to say ‘He all right?’ and Dallon sends him a reply of ‘It’s bad, man’. Spencer nods minutely and then tugs on Brendon’s arm.

“Dude, I’m taking you home. You’re knackered and if you don’t pass out in the next hour you’re going to die.” Spencer pulls more insistently on Brendon’s sleeve and he goes pretty willingly.

Spencer hassles Brendon into his car and starts driving him home. The leg wiggling goes predominantly unnoticed (or ignored) by the drummer until they pull up outside Brendon’s two-story nightmare and Spencer gets out the car.

The inside of Brendon’s house, once again, is cold and dark but with the lingering scent of disinfectant and bleach. Spencer doesn’t ask.

“Hey, go upstairs and I’ll bring up some water or milk or something.” Brendon sends his friend a half-hearted scowl but trudges towards the stairs regardless.

“I’m not five, Spence,” he chides, but Spencer ignores him.

“Milk it is.” He heads to the kitchen to hear Brendon call from the landing:

“Make sure it’s not too hot.”

Of course, warm milk, what a weird throwback to 2007. Spencer silently wishes it was a throwback to slightly earlier in Brendon’s life, but you can’t win them all.

He takes the milk up about a minute and a half later to see Brendon lying in bed, covers pulled to his chin but his eyes wide and gormless.

“Hey, B, I’ve got your milk.” He puts the mug down on the bedside table and pulls a chair up to the side of the bed. “B? You okay?” He frowns when Brendon doesn’t react more than blinking slowly. “Brendon?”

“What if it wasn’t enough?” Brendon asks suddenly, voice timid and strained.

“What? What if what wasn’t enough?”

“The concert. What if the money raised for Jake wasn’t enough for him to go to school?” Brendon flicks his eyes to Spencer and looks intently.

“Well, B, you did your best. He didn’t ask you to do anything, I’m sure he’ll be insanely grateful you gave enough of a shit to help him out.” Brendon nods slowly against the pillow. They don’t speak for a while until Spencer leans forward and sighs.

“Brendon, I know you don’t wanna have this conversation right now, but if we don’t have it now I’m worried we won’t have it at all.” Brendon stays silent and Spencer looks at him from an odd angle because he’s hanging his head a bit. “About Ryan-” Brendon closes his eyes and groans lightly, Spencer waves his hands at him, “C’mon, B, I just – what are you going to do about him?” Brendon reaches a hand up to rub at his eyes a tad ineffectually.

“Well, the ball’s in his court right now, I don’t have anything else to give him. I’ve said my apologies, if he won’t accept them that’s his prerogative.” He heaves out a heavy sigh and Spencer rubs his forehead.

“But, you want him, right? I mean, you want him to forgive you so you two can be together?”

“Well,” Brendon sighs again, “I mean, I guess. Yeah.”

Spencer smiles crookedly, “So you’ve gotta fight for things you want, right?”

A silence stretches between them, broken only by the occasional sound of radiators clunking, until Brendon half-whispers, “Does he even want me to fight for him?”

“Of course he does. You know him, Bren, you know what he’s like. He needs proof he’s… wanted or whatever he thinks in that messy little head of his.”

Brendon twists onto his back on the mattress and lays his hands on his stomach, “It’s just complicated. I don’t know how else to make him know I’m really sorry and that I mean it and I’m ready to start again. There’s nothing left for me to do, Spence, other than leave him alone until he figures this one out on his own.”

Spencer, to his credit, doesn’t say anything else. He doesn’t want to give Brendon any false hope. As much as he’s sure Ryan will come round, he’s not sure about when, so pushing Brendon to fix this thing sooner might accidentally bring the whole house of cards just tumbling down. He doesn’t want to ruin the chance they have. He gets up and leaves once the silence between them has shifted from contemplative to awkward, getting in his car and driving home. He resolves to talk to Ryan in the morning.

 

 

Jon is set up in Spencer’s guest room, having come down as a break from family life (or Hell as Jon so aptly corrected Spencer when he mentioned it), and when Spencer gets up the next morning to make breakfast, Ryan appears to have crashed out on his couch, which he must’ve neglected to notice on his way in last night.

It’s New Years Eve and Spencer honestly doesn’t feel like he can go into the New Year without having sorted this whole… ‘Ryden’ mess out. Or whatever those fankids call it, he’s not sure (partly because Brendon is spelt with a ‘–don’, not a ‘–den’ but, you know, whatever). He makes himself a cup of coffee and then heads over to stand in front of the couch.

Ryan looks like a complete mess, if he’s honest, drool painting a shiny wet line down his chin, hair all askew, cheeks red and indented with the creases from the couch cushions. The overwhelming urge to take a picture is one even Spencer, best friend extraordinaire, cannot bypass. He snaps a quick pic, smiles, then kicks Ryan in the shin by way of waking him up. Ryan mumbles and moves a bit, but doesn’t wake up.

Spencer kicks harder and Ryan groans groggily and frowns.

“Nuh-g’way,” he moans into the cushion. Spencer just kicks harder. “S’sly sto’bit.”

“Ryan. Get your skinny ass up before I haul it up.”

Unfortunately, Ryan became immune to Spencer’s violent threats years ago and stays put.

“Fine. No coffee for crashers. Oh, and you can make your own way home… without a car.” At this, Spencer puts his free hand on his hip and sips his coffee.

Ryan blinks his eyes open, still sticky with sleep, and squints up at his so-called best friend. “I hate you,” Spencer laughs into his mug, “Now get me coffee, you said I was allowed to crash whenever, I’m exercising my right or…. Something, coffee, please?” Ryan whines and pushes himself slowly into a sitting position. Spencer reaches behind him to the coffee table where he prepared a mug for Ryan. See, he is a good friend.

Ryan makes an appreciative noise and holds the mug tightly to his chest.

“Okay, now we’re going to talk.” Spencer says decisively, sitting down onto the table so as to face his friend directly.

He frowns and blows on his coffee, “About what?”

Spencer raises one eyebrow and that’s all the explanation Ryan needs. He sighs and looks down at his cup a little ashamedly.

“Right. Well, what about it, because you know I hate talking about-“

“Yeah, yeah, all right,” Spencer interrupts, “I wanna know what you think you’re doing.”

Ryan’s eyebrows spring up and he looks shocked, “What I’m – what do you mean what I’m doing?”

“You’re messing him around, Ry. He doesn’t know what the hell to do with you. One minute you’re screaming at him, and the next you’re smiling at him before he goes to play a set.” He carefully doesn’t raise his voice because he’s not arguing with Ryan. He’s exasperated, sure, but he’s not angry.

“I’m,” Ryan swirls his coffee in his mug “I don’t know. I’m still mad at him… I mean, what he did was… was wrong, and… as much as I want to get over it, it’s hard.”

“Ry, I know you’re mad at him, but you can’t stay mad at him forever. You’ve got to decide when you’re going to put it behind you and move on,” Spencer rubs his knee with his free hand and swallows, “Dude, I love you, and I want you to do what makes you happy… but, Brendon is my friend, too, and I can’t side with one of you, but I can tell each of you you’re making each other miserable by not talking. Just. Think about it, ‘kay?”

“Fine, I will.”

“That’s all I’m asking.” They’re sitting staring at each other when Jon comes down, hair mussed and shirt crinkled.

He takes one look at them and says, “What’d Brendon do now?”

Spencer maybe wants to laugh.

Chapter Text

“So, you coming tonight for Pete’s party?” Spencer asks as Ryan heads towards the door, set on going home.

“Don’t you mean the ‘TRIPLE P NEW YEARS EXTRAVAGANZA’?” Ryan corrects, quirking an eyebrow and tapping something in on his phone.

“Urh, I can’t believe he actually send out the invites with that emblazoned on the front.” Spencer says mournfully.

“I can’t believe Patrick let him,” counters Ryan, widening his eyes at his phone to emphasise the sentence.

“Meh,” Spencer hums, “that I can believe. Patrick’s a great guy and all, but he doesn’t tend to be very… authoritative when it comes to Pete asking for things. Unless it’s, you know sex-“

“Bleurgh-bleurgh-bleurgh-bleurgh! Ew! Didn’t need to have that mental image! TMI, Spence, TMI!” Ryan shouts, eyes wide now in shock and mild terror rather than incredulity. Spencer smirks and shrugs.

“Don’t tell me you’re not exactly the same.”

Ryan frowns and slips his phone into his back pocket, “And what’s that supposed to mean?”

“Oh, c’mon. You’re a softie for the puppy eyes, we all know it, Ross. All it took was one bat of Brendon’s eyelashes and you would do anything he asked.” Spencer crosses his arms and leans his shoulder against the wall, a coy pose, Ryan thinks.

He crosses his arms, too, and narrows his eyes, “That’s so not true,” he argues.

“Well,” Spencer concedes, “Not all the time. When you two fought you were impervious to all his techniques, but most of the time. Yeah. You’d have done anything for him if he asked.”

Ryan just scoffs and then his phone buzzes so he turns his attention back to that. “Whatever. We were dating, of course I did things for him. As much as it may astound you, I’m not a bad boyfriend. Anyway, I’ve gotta run, Shane needs me back at the house but… won’t tell me why… I’ll see you later.” They hug briefly and Spencer says goodbye as well.

Ryan gets the bus back to his apartment, since he got a lift both ways to the concert the night before. There aren’t many people on the bus as it’s New Years Eve and everyone’s probably at home getting ready for their kick-ass parties tonight.

He gets off at his stop, humming ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ under his breath absentmindedly. He turns into his street and as he’s walking up the small pathway to his and Shane’s house, he notices something just an iota out of the ordinary. There’s a car parked outside their house, it’s naggingly familiar, but he can’t place where from – he’s not sure but he thinks maybe he’s seen it around before once or twice.

He brushes it off and puts his key in the lock only to discover the door already off the latch. They only leave the door unlocked if there’s more than one of them in the house. Ryan suspects either Shane forgot, or Ryland is over.

The keys clang loudly in the glass bowl he throws them into and someone shuffles around in the kitchen, startled into movement by the noise.

“Ryan?” Shane calls, “Is that you?”

“Yeah, I’m back,” Ryan replies, shrugging his jacket off and throwing it over the ugly, but convenient, table by the door.

“Could you… could ya’ come here. Please. There’s… just come here.”

Ryan frowns at Shane’s odd behaviour (well, odder than usual behaviour), but follows his voice to the kitchen. He pauses. Well, he freezes would be more accurate, but the bubbling heat already in his skin isn’t hugely compatible with that phrasing.

“What’s he doing here? What’re you doing here?” He demands, staring William straight in the eye.

William opens his mouth and twists his hands together. “Hey, Ry.” He says calmly, casually, even.

“No, don’t ‘Hey, Ry’ me. We’re way beyong ‘Hey, Ry’ just tell me what the fuck you’re doing here.” Ryan crosses his arms and breathes heavily, nostrils flaring.

William shifts his weight from left to right and glances briefly at Shane. “I came to get some of my stuff from here. I left a few things and was wondering if you would know where they were.” William’s eyes flicker between Ryan and Shane. “Look, can we talk?”

Ryan scoffs. “Talk? Talk about what? How you ran off with Gabe Saporta without so much as a ‘How do you do’? No, we’re done talking.”

“Ryan, please. I don’t want to leave things this way again.” William pleads. “I came all the way from San Diego for a few albums, a hoodie, and a toothbrush. Please, can we just talk?”

Ryan glares  at the floor and Shane scratches his cheek.

“Okay, I’m going to go… away.” Shane mumbles awkwardly, slipping past Ryan and heading speedily out the door.

Ryan looks back up to see William looking sheepish, hands clasped in front of him. Ryan can see a wedding band on his finger. Wow, does that hurt.

“What do you want, William?” Ryan snaps, clenching and unclenching his fists by his sides.

“Just to talk, I – I want to apologise for how we left things.”

“How we left things?” William nods, “How you left things, don’t you mean? You walked out on me! You left me for another guy! I didn’t leave things, you left!”

“Yeah, I know, and I’m sorry, really I am, but you have to understand I did us both a favour.” Ryan sneers at him. “C’mon, neither of us were truly happy in that relationship! We both wanted to be with other people, I just took action sooner.” William explains earnestly, hands out in front of him, eyes sad.

“And by ‘took’ you mean ‘got’. Right, I get it.”

“Oh, please, Ryan.” William chides, “You can’t seriously admit you wanted to be in our relationship?”

“Maybe I did, okay?! I’ve never – I’d never dated someone like you, Bill. I’d always dated bad-boys or assholes or daredevils or control-freaks or all of the above. Then there was you; sweet, kind, amazing you… and you ran away.”

“And I’m sorry I left, but there was no future for us, Ryan.”

“Why not?” Ryan asks, desperate, if he’s honest.

William sighs, “I’m pretty lenient with monogamy, right? But I won’t play supporting actor in someone’s life. I’m the lead, or I’m the one who gives weirdly sage advice.”

“I don’t understand,” Ryan frowns.

“Look, you said you could love me ‘in time’, but I loved you then and you were in love with someone else. Still are, if I’m reading you correctly. I didn’t want to be your second choice and have to watch you pine and long to be with another guy. I couldn’t let you resent me for not being Brendon. I loved you too much to let you resent me for that. That’s why I left. With Gabe… I’m number one. He understands and loves me first and foremost.”

Ryan stays silent and, miraculously, so does William.

“So you two got married, huh?” Ryan eventually manages. The words hurt so much to say, but he wants to ask.

William hesitates, but answers, “Yeah. Yeah, we did.” 

“What did you say you came for?” Ryan changes the subject.

“Oh,” he flounders momentarily, “A Radiohead CD, a Van Morrison single, an MSMR album, my Chicago Blackhawks hoodie, and my toothbrush.”

Ryan nods. He knows the CDs are on the dresser, the hoodie under his bed, and the toothbrush deep in the Los Angeles sewer system.

“I’ll get what I can find.” He mumbles, setting off upstairs to retrieve the items (well, most of them). William nods and waits patiently while Ryan lumbers unenthusiastically up the staircase.

When he returns, he’s carrying the CDs in one hand with the hoodie slung over his other forearm.

“I couldn’t find the toothbrush,” he lies, “Must’ve gotten lost or thrown out, I don’t know.” William waves him off.

“Only a toothbrush, right? The other things were more what I came for.” William grabs the stuff and gives Ryan a disgustingly sympathetic smile. “Thank you. For everything. I really did like being your boyfriend.” Then, he kisses Ryan’s cheek softly and walks out the door. Ryan hears a car start and figures that was the (un)familiar one he saw earlier.

‘Only a toothbrush’… if only William had known how much that toothbrush had signified to Ryan, he might not be so flippant with his poison-tipped words.

 

 

He spends the day moping, lounging hopelessly around the house, ignoring Shane’s persistent calls of “You okay, bud?” in favour of stuffing his face with two-month old Ben & Jerry’s he found at the back of the freezer.

Spencer’s picking him up at 8:30 so they can get to Pete’s on time. In his mind, it’s still very much Pete’s party, rather than Pete and Patrick’s. Patrick, although a right laugh after a glass or two, doesn’t tend to adopt the ‘party animal’ title. I mean, the guy doesn’t have a single tattoo for pity’s sake!

Ryan manages to shove himself into a fairly respectable ensemble at 8:27, when Spencer says he’s nearly there. The outfit he chooses is a faded Bowie shirt and worn-looking charcoal jeans. He goes to put on his favourite leather jacket, but he can’t find it anywhere in his closet, so he swings his arms into his second favourite one. He grumbles unhappily for a minute, internally moaning that the other jacket would’ve gone better with his outfit, but he can’t find it and at 8:29 when he asks Shane, Shane just shrugs and points to the front door just as someone knocks. Freaky.

It’s Spencer, standing and twiddling his car keys on his right index finger. He smiles wryly when he sees Ryan.

“Ready to go?” he asks.

Ryan nods then says, “Let me just grab my phone.” Spencer shoots a thumbs up and heads back to the car.

His phone is on the kitchen counter and he picks it up. There’s a note underneath it and he frowns, picking that up, too, and reading what’s written on the folded side:

Ryan,

I know you don’t owe me anything, but could you please give this note to Brendon? It’s pretty important and he hasn’t been answering mine or Gabe’s calls.

I owe you one.

Sorry again, and thanks.

William xo

Ryan has the overwhelming urge to scrunch the note up and then burn it.

The only thing that stops him from doing that, however, is the knowledge the contents of the note is for Brendon. He’s mad, but he’s not an asshole. William says it’s important, and who’s he to judge that?

He heads out, then, to where Spencer is honking the horn at him to hurry him up, the note slipping safely into his back pocket.

“What took so long, loser?” Spencer reprimands when Ryan slips into the back seat.

“Couldn’t see my phone. Got it now though,” he lies.

“Hey, Ryan,” Jon says from the passenger seat.

Ryan nods at him, “Hey, Jon. See you got shotgun. I warn you, Spencer can’t drive.”

Spencer scoffs at the same time as Jon says “Still?” and Ryan barely manages to bite back a laugh at Spencer’s comedically shocked/offended face, but Jon doesn’t bother looking sorry.

“What? You always brake way too much!” Jon explains.

Spencer narrows his eyes, “Yeah? You want me to break your neck instead?”

“Oooh, sassy,” Jon teases, waggling his eyebrows while Spencer fumes silently. “He always been this sassy?” Jon asks, turning in his seat to face Ryan while their driver keeps his narrowed eyes on the road.

“Meh, it fluctuates.” Ryan replies, gripping the seat when Spencer turns particularly violently. Jon isn’t as quick and gets thrown sideways in his seat, jerking against the seatbelt and kind of falling out of his chair.

“Oops.” Spencer drones, perfect monotone hiding his amusement. Jon glares amusedly and slaps Spencer’s upper arm.

“I liked you better when you were a pissy lesbian, you may have been a bitch but at least you weren’t violent then.”

“Hey,” Spencer interrupts, tone filled with warning, “Don’t you dare speak badly of the pissy lesbian. That was the golden era.”

“Pft, whatever,” Jon smiles slyly and winks at Ryan through the gap in the seat. Ryan smirks back then turns his attention to the street outside the car door.

They arrive at the Stump-Wentz house shortly after, pulling into a rare free parking space. Spencer turns off the car then shares a short look with Jon, who nods minutely and then they both turn around in their seats to look at Ryan. Ryan instantly feels like the naughty child whose parents have been called into the principal’s office one too many times and now it’s time for them to look disappointed and sad.

Ryan doesn’t say anything, though, just watches Spencer’s eyes turn concerned and sympathetic.

“Ryan,” he says softly, “before we go in… I just wanted to say that I know all this shit has been hard for you, for all of us, but we were really hoping…” he trails off, but luckily Jon picks up the trail.

“We were hoping you could try to be a little less…you know, tonight.” Jon winces, knowing that sounded a little iffy. Spencer nods along, though.

“Yeah, I mean… Pete’s put a lot of effort into this party, he always does, and everyone’s super excited because we pulled off that charity gig, and I don’t want you to…”

“Mess with the vibe?” Ryan supplies, thinking this is where this conversation is leading.

Spencer grimaces, “You don’t have to make it sounds so infectious. I mean, like, try to be happy with everybody.  You’ve been through a hell-tonne of crap these past few weeks, and I want you to let loose and shit, lighten up… you know?”

Ryan does know. Really, he does. Spence doesn’t want him to be a party-pooper. Well. He’s not a party-pooper, he’s a party-endurer. He hasn’t quite become a party prince in his years outside of Panic!, but he knows his way around a dancefloor, thank you very much.

“Don’t worry, Spence,” he says lightheartedly, “I came here to dance.” He smiles and quickly hops out the car, pointedly ignoring the look that passes between the men in the front seats.

Pete answers the door when he knocks, smile firmly lodged on his face and drink clutched in his hand. Loud music swims through the house, leaking out the open door and any cracked windows. Ryan smiles back at Pete and turns briefly to check Spencer and Jon are behind him; they are.

“Ryro! Spindle! Jwalk! You guys! You’re here!” Pete’s shouting, half to be heard over the thumping beat, half because he’s already a little tipsy and that tends to loosen the vocal chords slightly.

“’Course, Petey! Never could pass up one of your party invitations.” Ryan pushes in first, letting Pete move his body aside to accommodate his guest. Spencer and Jon follow behind, hugging Pete and smiling at him.

The inside of the house is lavishly decked out with tinsel and fairy-lights, streamers and banners covering every available wall and above-the-door surface. Inside the beautifully remodelled kitchen, Ryan sees balloons flooding the ceiling and tied to various pieces of furniture. The countertop separating the kitchenette from the dining area is swamped with bottles of alcohol: spirits, champagnes, sparkling wines, roses, whites, reds, cassis etc. In the middle of the booze-filled flurry is Patrick, dressed in some hideous sparkly jumper and glasses with a plastic add-on that says ‘2014!’. Ryan nearly chokes on the laugh that comes involuntarily, but catches himself in time to witness Patrick’s ‘comment and you die’ glare.

“Wow, Patrick. Really went all out for this one.” Ryan comments regardless, biting down the smile that he really wants to let loose.

“Shut up. Pete is really festive, okay? He talked me into it.” Patrick drones, scratching at his shoulder where Ryan assumes the jumper must be itching.

“And how did he do that then?” He queries, raising one eyebrow.

Patrick sighs, “He said he and Ashlee used to do it every New Years, and Bronx apparently only fueled the festive flames. So, when he turned the puppy eyes on me, what was I gonna do? Say no? It’s practically family tradition.”

Ryan’s not convinced. “Bronx isn’t even here. He’s spending the New Years with Ashlee.” He says, crossing his arms and watching Patrick squirm.

“Yeah, well, I’m whipped, sue me.” Realising his defeat, Patrick trudges off into the party, probably to mingle or something.

Ryan steers clear of the drinks table, figuring it’s better not to tempt fate or anything, plus, even if he did drink, he doesn’t feel in the mood to get completely shitfaced.

He successfully spends about an hour of the party slipping between conversations with random people Pete knows. Everyone’s a bit too excited and everything’s a bit too loud, so very few of the talks he engages in are actually very coherent, but it’s okay. The back doors are open, so light and music diffuse out onto the patio and into the dark, dark night. The stars are shining mischiveously, beckoning almost, and Ryan decides to stay outside for a while, just to pass the time.

 

Brendon arrives at about 10, yeah he’s late, whatever. Pete loves him, he’s never in the wrong with Pete… well, he is, but Pete just waves it away.

The thrumming music goes straight to his bones, straight to his soul. Lame, whatever, but true. He’s been pre-warned that he doesn’t know very many people attending this party; they’re mostly high-up music suits Pete invited as fillers. Pete tends to invite anybody who knows his name when it comes to parties, so guestlists always end up quite sporadic and convoluted.

“Brendon!” Patrick calls from the doorway to the games’ room. “Hey, Brendon, glad you could make it.”

Brendon smiles, “Sure, man, pleasure. You know I love Pete’s extravagant dos.”

Patrick shakes his head fondly, “Yeah… he sure can make a mess. Anyway, I wanted to thank you for that concert you did the other day. It… it was a really nice thing to do.”

“Well, I mean, it’s a really good cause and I want to support it.” Brendon reasons, not quite sure why Patrick’s so personally grateful.

“No, I mean,” he stutters for a second, “when I was younger I knew this kid, Rob, and he was this awesome dude but he had to help look after his mom after she had an accident at work. There were 3 kids and it was really hard going for them. He could never come out anywhere that required funding, and it made him feel really left out. I remember thinking how unfair it was that he wasn’t allowed to be a kid, and this really just… struck a chord with me, you know? So, thank you.”

“Dude, I didn’t know that? I’m sorry that kid had to deal with so much.”

“Well, that’s what the charity’s for, right?”

“Right,” Brendon agrees.

“Plus,” Patrick continues, “It kept Pete pretty occupied for a couple days. I managed to get some actual work done.” They laugh at that, commenting that, occasionally, Pete just needs a little project to keep him out of trouble.

“Somedays it’s like looking after two children.” Patrick admits, rolling his eyes.

“Who’s looking at two children?” Pete asks, having bounded in, mid-conversation.

“Have you had anything to eat with that drink, Pete?” Patrick deflects, noticing the slightly glazed and dizzy look his boyfriend is sporting.

“Pft,” says Pete, spewing a haze of saliva along with that noise. Brendon wipes his face. “Ooh! Hey, Beeboden, Ryan’s outside. Speckled-Hen told me he has something to say? To you, that is.”

And the circus act begins. He nods to Pete and wishes Patrick luck with the party, then heads towards the patio. Once closer, he can actually see the scraggly mess of Ryan’s clipped hair, glinting with moonlight just beside the table on the patio. He waits, not really wanting to go over there. He doesn’t know where he stands with Ryan right now, he’s waiting on Ryan accepting his apology, but before at the concert he almost seemed… happy.

“Ryan?” He calls, quiet enough to be gentle, but loud enough to be heard over the music. Ryan turns, not displaying any emotion on his face.

“Hi,” He says, moving toward the bench located a little ways down the garden. Brendon suspects he’s supposed to follow.

Ryan sits down and stares at his fingers. Brendon hesitates then sits down next to him.

“The concert was really good, by the way.” Ryan says, Brendon would categorise it as ‘shy’, but Ryan never tended to be shy, not around him anyway.

“Thanks.” Brendon replies, keeping his eyes fixed on Ryan’s face, knowing he can’t back down anymore.

A moment of apprehensive silence follows, until both of them say at the same time: “I’ve got something for you.” Ryan looks up, sideways, at Brendon and smiles. They both smile.

“You first,” Brendon says, gesturing to Ryan like that will make him speak.

“No,” Ryan protests, “You go. I insist.”

Brendon sighs through his soft smile and concedes. “Okay, well, I have something for you. It’s not much, but… we didn’t see each other on Christmas and when I saw this I just- it reminded me of you. In a good way, obviously.” Ryan laughs a little and scrunches his mouth up a bit.

“Okay. What is it?” He asks, worried for what Brendon’s done.

Brendon twists so he can stick his hand into his front pocket, at the same time, he strains to look at Ryan and say, “You ever heard of a surprise, Ry?”

Ryan rolls his eyes, but scoots closer to Brendon on the bench suspiciously. The little blue box is quaint and shiny and Ryan can’t help but be intrigued.

“I… I thought it would be nice. You can just – it doesn’t have to mean anything, just… you know. Merry Christmas.” Brendon sucks on the inside of his cheek nervously, dropping the box into Ryan’s waiting palm.

“Do you want me to open it now?” Ryan says by way of thank you.

Brendon laughs, “Um, you’re welcome? But yes. Open it now.” Ryan rolls his eyes at Brendon’s fussiness and strokes the box once.

“Not gonna thank you before I know what it is. C’mon, rookie error.”

He carefully lifts the lid off the blue box, and Brendon can hear his heartbeat pummeling his ribcage. There’s a thin layer of packaging covering the goodie inside, and Ryan delicately peels it back, too close to hyperventilating to be holding his breath. He does, however, half-gasp  when he sees the box’s contents. It’s gorgeous; completely and utterly stunning. It’s beautiful and magnificent and-

“How the hell did you afford this?” Ryan exclaims instead of voicing the other half of that thought. He immediately realises his word-vomit and whips his head up quickly, eyes wide and embarrassed, to look at Brendon, who looks in turn a bit bewildered.

“Oh my God, I completely didn’t mean to say that! In-in-in-in my head, I-I-I was thinking of all these adjectives to describe this, and, and-and-and then, for some reason, that just… came out.” Brendon just stares, gobsmacked. “It really is gorgeous, Brendon, thank you so much, I just. Sorry. I didn’t… goddamn it, I can’t even. Thank you.” Ryan stops talking, figuring the reason things are getting worse is because he’s still opening his mouth.

Brendon clears his throat. “It’s okay. You’re welcome. I’m glad you like it.”

“Like it? I love it! It’s so exquisitely made and. Thank you.” Ryan catches Brendon’s eye to thank him, hoping it sinks in.

“Again,” Brendon half-whispers, “you’re welcome.”

“Hey, so, I have something for you, too. Well, two things.”

Brendon claps his hands together and jiggles in his seat. “Gimme, gimme, gimme!”

“Well, it’s not nearly as randomly thoughtful as this, but,” Ryan reaches into his inside jacket pocket and pulls out an ivory envelope with Brendon’s name carefully etched on the front. He hands it to Brendon, who frowns, but smiles all the same. “Open it, then.”

Brendon flips the envelope over and slides his finger under the tab, ripping the top off like a Frube. He pulls out the paper inside and puts the opened envelope beside him on the bench, holding the paper carefully and unfolding it. His eyes scan the writing on the inside of the paper and he slowly raises his right hand to cover his mouth.

“Ry,” He mumbles, muffled through his fingers but Ryan hears it nonetheless.

“I mean,” Ryan begins, “You don’t have to keep it or, whatever, you can exchange it or return it or, whatever, but I thought, since you were there or, yeah. I just thought it would be nice.”

Brendon abandons reading the letter again and looks Ryan in the eye, his own glistening slightly. He sniffs and lowers his hand to his lap.

“How the hell did you afford this?!” He answers, anger mixed with gratitude mixed with amusement.

Ryan blushes and shrugs, “I pulled a few strings. But… do you like it, is… is it okay?”

“Okay?” Brendon cries, voice tear-clogged and a little choking. “Fuck, Ryan, I-, Jesus, this is…” he groans then turns fully and pulls Ryan into a hard hug. “Thank you. So much. You really didn’t have to.”

“I wanted to.” Ryan whispers, arms clamped awkwardly by Brendon’s sides.

“So when you were outside the convenience store-” Brendon starts.

“I had considerably lighter pockets, yeah. I nearly refunded after I stormed off… but I changed my mind. It… yeah.” Brendon squeezes tighter then lets Ryan go so he can examine the letter closer.

“This is just… it’s the exact piano I was looking at, and… Ryan seriously, this is so amazing why did-”

“Think of it as a peace offering. And an apology. I. I am less angry at you for doing what you did and so this is a show of that. So. Sorry I dragged this out for so long, but…”

“I understand, Ryan. I get it, you had every reason to be mad at me. Please, don’t be sorry, you don’t need to be, you reacted in exactly the way anyone would’ve acted in our situation. Albeit our situation is a little… weird, but it always has been, right?” Brendon lays a hand on Ryan’s upper arm and Ryan smiles.

There’s a few seconds of eye contact before Ryan remembers the note in his back pocket.

“Oh! Hey, yeah, wait, I have something else for you as well.”

“You spoiling me, Ross?” Brendon teases, tilting his smile just past smirking.

Ryan laughs, “Um, no, this, um… this isn’t technically from me, per se, but… yeah.” He reaches into his pocket and pulls out the folded piece of paper. Brendon frowns but takes it from Ryan’s hands.

“This is addressed to you,” Brendon points out.

“Yeah,” Ryan acknowledges.

“From William.” Brendon continues.

“Yeah.”

“Did he mail this to you?”

“Um, no. He came round today. To pick up some of his stuff.”

Brendon’s eyes widen, “Dude, are you okay?”

Ryan shrugs, “I, er, don’t really know. I mean, he fucking broke my heart I don’t really know what to do.” He tugs at his sideburn and winces a bit.

“Well, you’ll be okay, eventually, you’ll be okay. You were way too good for him anyway. He couldn’t see you were worth it in the long run, that’s his loss.”

Ryan smiles, “And your gain?”

Brendon shrugs exaggeratedly, “What can I say?!” They laugh then Brendon flips the little note in his hands. “You will be all right, Ry, you’re stronger than you think.”

Ryan nods, then loses his patience and asks, “C’mon, what does the note say? I’ve kind of been dying of curiosity here.” Brendon smiles and squeals, unfolding the note to reveal an A4 page completely covered in small writing.

“Wow, Gabe sure can write long letters.” Ryan muses, leaning to look over Brendon’s shoulder a bit.

“Not the only long thing about him.” Brendon mumbles jokily. Ryan smacks his arm.

“Dude, c’mon, he ran away with my boyfriend. So uncool.”

“Sorry, sorry, I didn’t mean – if it makes you feel better, you’re totally bigger.”

Ryan rolls his eyes but feels a small, completely unnecessary, swell of pride in his chest at Brendon’s words.

“Just, read the note, Brendon.” Ryan chides, and Brendon apologises, grumbling something about Ryan being a pushy bitch and how can he call Brendon impatient when he’s just as bad. He does, however, read the letter. Silently. To himself.

“You gonna read it in your head and leave me hanging? Seriously?”

“Ryan, if you wanted to read it, you could’ve done that when you found it.”

“But it wasn’t addressed to me, that would’ve been dishonest.”

“Don’t rub your morals in my face,” Brendon says dryly, eyes still fixated on the letter.

Ryan wants to reply with some dirty comeback, but he restrains himself because Brendon looks very concentrated, small dent forming between his eyebrows. What could Gabe possibly have to say to Brendon after all this time? Well, something riveting enough to have seized Brendon’s rapt attention.

They sit in a minute of silence while Brendon reads and Ryan can’t help but study him hopelessly. His hair is slightly greasy, indicative of him having neglected to wash it in a few days, but not greasy enough for it to stop Ryan wanting to run his fingers through it. His shirt is has the look of one on its first machine wash after being bought, and his jeans tell much the same story. His hair hasn’t recently been shaved, so the crop is less cropped than when Ryan first saw Brendon back in October, it’s still shorter than the mop-top though. Brendon’s face, though… it’s perfect. In Ryan’s eyes, he’s perfect.

When Ryan had looked at Brendon back on Spencer’s porch at his party nearly 3 months ago, he’d seen a dullness, a tiredness that lessened Brendon’s natural glow. He’d seen someone at the end of their rope, strung out and wrung out to the point of breaking. Now, now Ryan sees the colour on Brendon’s cheeks, the sparkle in his eyes, the lightness that fills up his whole body. Ryan sees Brendon through the coloured lense of love. Not that he’ll admit that, of course.

Brendon coughs, just once, and Ryan is jolted from his hazy daydream and brought to attention. Brendon folds the letter back into its original quarter size and then shoves it into his jean pocket.

“Well, that made for interesting reading.” Brendon remarks, turning his body so he’s more openly exposed to the man sitting beside him.

“Wanna talk about it or shall we just leave it?” Ryan asks, not knowing even the nature of Gabe’s letter, not sure he wants to know now anyway.

Brendon pulls at the clip-on bow-tie at his neck, “Um, no, let’s not. Let’s just – let’s just talk. About something else. Something that’s not relationships or exes or anything. I really… really can’t deal with that right now, haha.”

Ryan smacks his thighs with his hands and smiles, “I concur. Let’s talk about Christmas. What did you do?”

They talk for an hour, avidly avoiding any topics deemed treacherous waters by either party, and only stop (somewhat reluctantly) when someone calls from inside that the countdown is starting and everyone’s gathering in the living room to celebrate.

(Pete hasn’t bought fireworks this year after the horrifying failure of them last year. He set them via an automatic timer, but he didn’t know how the timer worked, so managed to set them all off at the same time. He nearly killed Patrick when one went awry and aimed itself at the house rather than the clear Los Angeles sky. Needless to say, one pair of singed eyebrows and an unhappy Patty amounted to enough to put Pete off buying another round for the 2014 celebrations.)

Brendon looks expectantly to Ryan, trying to silently ask him to join him, but Ryan gets a petulant look on his face, one that tells Brendon Ryan isn’t about to move anytime soon.

“Ryan?” Brendon encourages, rising a little from his seat and glancing at the house.

Ryan opens his mouth like he’s about to say something, then rubs his forearm once, twice.

“You wanna stay here, away from the people?” guesses Brendon, he thinks he can read Ryan pretty well, even after all these years. Ryan nods shyly and Brendon smiles, sitting back down on the bench. “Sure, I mean, we can still hear the countdown from out here, anyway.” Ryan smiles a little bit because Brendon decides to stay with him rather than going back inside. It means his plan may just work.

See, the plan is very simple: kiss Brendon at midnight after the countdown to the New Year. Then, keep kissing him and never, ever stop. Viola! One boyfriend, present and accounted for. The plan was slightly thwarted by William’s impromptu arrival and Gabe’s letter, but Ryan’s remaining positive it’ll work. Sure, he’s still pretty shaken from seeing William this afternoon as it’s resurfaced some emotions he thought he had dealt with, but it’s nothing he can’t handle. After all, he lived in a ferociously dysfunctional relationship with his best friend for 4 years, he can handle anything.

“Thanks,” he says, “so, what are your New Years Resolutions, then?”

Brendon laughs, and makes a face, “I’ll probably go with ‘Do not lie to guy you’re trying to date about relationship status, however much you want him to fuck you’.” It’s Ryan’s turn to laugh, then, as he sees the humour rather than the hurt in Brendon’s joke.

“That’s a good start, if I say so myself.”

“Then, I guess, all the standard ones: eat less chocolate, exercise more, be nicer to Dallon, don’t steal Spencer’s drumsticks, etc, etc.” Brendon lists them off, grinning impishly once he’s done. “What about you?”

Ryan thinks for a second, “Um, probably ‘Be bolder in my decisions’. I tend to, er, shy away from things of consequence that could directly influence my life in a big way. And, um, also, ‘Try to make more leaps of faith’. That’s been something I’ve put on every New Years Resolutions list I’ve ever made since I was about 16, so it’d be nice to finally achieve it.” Brendon’s smile changes from something cheeky to something more propitious.

“That’s nice,” he murmurs, “poetic, even.” Ryan pushes at Brendon’s shoulder, but slightly misses his shoulder and ends up almost massaging his pectoral muscle. It’s a bit awkward, and can’t even be passed off as something corny like Ryan feeling for Brendon’s heartbeat through his ribcage because he’s sitting on the wrong side so reaches the right side of Brendon’s chest. He pulls his hand away quickly and wills the blush to fade from his cheekbones, Brendon seems more amused than embarrassed and follows the movement of Ryan’s hand from his body to where it now rests in Ryan’s lap (which turns out to be an awkward place to stare at anyway, but since when did Brendon ever have room in his ego to feel shame).

“It would’ve been your first New Year together.” Brendon says slowly, gauging Ryan’s reaction.

Ryan doesn’t know why Brendon says it, it’s a mood-killer to say the least. To say the most, it also means Ryan regurgitates all these awful emotions: anger, frustration, betrayal, self-hatred, worthlessness, sorrow. They fill up this larynx and his oesophagus, his mouth, nose, brain, every single vein, artery, capillary, gland, blood vessel, every cell in his body. He hums with it, glows with it.

“Yeah,” he chokes on his admission, splutters somewhere deep in his spasming chest. Brendon bites his lip and goes to say something else when they hear something from inside.

10!..”  The countdown has started.

Brendon tenses and Ryan looks around the garden.

“9!..”

“Well,” Brendon starts, but gets interrupted by the loud follow-up of “8!..”

“Well.” Ryan replies, smiling a little bit.

7!..”  

Brendon reaches over and grabs Ryan’s hand.

6!..”

Ryan looks at where Brendon is holding his hand.

5!..”

Ryan squeezes Brendon’s hand in his.

4!..”

Brendon grins and bites his lips together.

3!..”

“Ready?” Brendon asks, not sure whether he’s talking to Ryan or himself, or whether he’s talking about the New Year at all.

2!..”

Ryan breathes quickly, “Ready.”

1!..”

They both smile at each other.

Happy New Year!” comes the roar from inside. Someone’s fireworks go from two doors down but the boys’ eyes stay firmly trained on one another.

“Happy New Year, Ryan,” Brendon murmurs.

“Happy New Year, Brendon.” Comes the soft response. They study each others’ faces for a second, Brendon admiring the gentle way Ryan’s eyes open and close, Ryan lost in the dark reflection of coloured light in Brendon’s irises.

Almost suddenly, they’re both too close to see these things, neither sure who initiates the kiss, neither really caring. It’s just a delicate pressure at first, the kind of chaste kiss one delivers to an acquaintance on New Years. Until, that is, Ryan opens his mouth. He dips his tongue over the boundary between their lips and notes the gaspy sigh Brendon emits at the contact. Ryan slides his hand from his lap to the back of Brendon’s neck, anchoring himself close, close, closer, while Brendon clutches somewhat desperately at Ryan’s elevated elbow.

Just as Ryan twists his face to get a better angle, Brendon scrunches up his eyes and pulls away, mumbling a garbled mantra of “No, no, no, no, no,” and as Ryan tries to follow him backwards, Brendon applies pressure to the hold on his elbow to stop the movement. Ryan frowns, completely confused now because, hello, the idea was to not stop kissing.

“What is it? What’s wrong?” he asks immediately, small frown marring his forehead and lips shiny with spit.

Brendon shakes his head and bites his lips together, eyes closed tightly.

“Brendon, what’s the matter?” persists a thoroughly despairing, yet highly determined, Ryan.

“It’s just,” he begins, then swallows, “what the hell am I doing? We can’t do this?!”

“What the fuck?” Ryan spits, “Why not?! You wanted to get together before?! In fact, you were all over me when you couldn’t have me, and now that I’m, I’m giving myself to you, you’re saying ‘no’?”

Ryan’s angry incredulity momentarily stuns him, but Brendon bounces quickly back. “Ryan, you’re mad. About William, about Gabe, about a lot of things, actually. But. This means more to me than that. You mean more to me than that.”

He feels like he’s been slapped in the face with a cold rubber glove and slowly lowers himself into his seat, away from Brendon. He can’t take his eyes off of the brown ones in front of him, and his mouth is pursed shut like he’s afraid if it opens he’ll say something dreadful that he’ll instantly regret.

“Look,” continues Brendon, “I don’t wanna start this on the wrong terms, I don’t want you to be with me for the wrong-”

“Hey, guys!” someone calls from inside, interrupting Brendon completely as he twizzles to look at the person in the doorway. Ryan’s eyes remain fixed on where Brendon’s eyes were, which is now a spot in the middle of the back of his head. “Come here! Pete’s gathering everyone in the play room and he specifically asked for the ‘angsty gays in the garden’.” The guy (who Ryan can’t identify from this far away in the darkness) turns around and heads back into the house, but not before shrugging at Pete’s phrasing in a ‘don’t shoot the messenger’ manner.

Brendon stays looking at the house for a moment longer then turns back to Ryan, who looks, at this point, like a startled puppy and, if he’s honest, Brendon thinks it’s a completely adorable look for the guy.

“You gonna come inside now, then?” he asks, barely tapping his fingertips along Ryan’s arm.

Ryan moves his eyes to Brendon’s again, but doesn’t blink, then nods slowly.

“C’mon, then,” he urges, and grabs Ryan’s hand to hoick him up.

They walk together back inside the house to where everyone has been gathered for Pete’s… what? Speech? Toast? Announcement? No one appears to be sure.

Spencer’s standing at the front of the crowd with Jon, Dallon, and Patrick, and when he sees Ryan enter with Brendon, he raises an eyebrow conspiratorially but Ryan just stares at him blankly and turns away before he can see Spencer’s concerned frown.

Pete walks in front of everyone and clambers up on a pre-placed box in front of the gathering crowd. “Hello!” he calls, quickly attracting all the attention, as per usual.

“So, Happy New Year first off!” Everyone cheers and Pete smiles enthusiastically. “I hope you’re all enjoying the partay, I spent a lot of time and energy on it, and so did Patrick, so if I ask you and you’re really hating it, just lie for me. Still, thanks for coming, it means a, um, it means a lot. Second off, I have an announcement to make regarding myself and my label Decaydance.

“As most of you will know, I founded Decaydance in 2005 as an imprint of Fueled by Ramen and have since signed to it some world-class acts, including my personal friends; Panic! At the Disco, Gym Class Heroes, and previously The Cab, and Hey Monday. It’s been a pretty successful endeavour, I think, and for the next step in my awesome legacy I have decided to relaunch my label under a new name.

“DCD2 will carry on the bands currently signed under Decaydance, but will be signing new talents, new names, new bands to the Decaydance family. My first decree,” Pete raises his hand rather too violently, spilling the contents of his glass around the place and he spares a brief, inebriated glance down at the splotches before Patrick runs up and prises the glass from Pete’s hands.

“My first decree,” he continues, “is to sign Lolo, who featured on Panic! At the Disco’s latest album ‘Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die’, singing on their preceding single ‘Miss Jackson’ and who has made a big impression on the Decaydance Gods, aka me. So, there you have it! New-Old label! Everyone celebrate that!” Pete breaks into a huge grin and that signifies the end of his speech and the expected beginning of the cheering, which starts almost immediately.

“I thought he was gonna, like, propose to Patrick or something equally ridiculous.” Brendon says to Ryan quietly. Ryan just scoffs.

“Dude, do you know Pete, like, at all? He’s got his proposal all planned out, I bet. And I bet it involves a treasure hunt and some sort of word-puzzle.”

“And how do you know that?” asks Brendon, confused as to how Ryan, the guy who hadn’t seen Pete in 4 years, could possibly know what he was planning to do by way of proposing to a boyfriend he’d only been dating for 2 ½ years.

Ryan rolls his eyes, “Because,” he justifies, “he’s Pete. He’s a poetic type, he likes metaphors and similes, synecdochy and hyperbole, metonymy and neogolism. Of course he’d do something trivial and artistic. C’mon Brendon, you’re slipping.”

Brendon just laughs and touches Ryan’s hip, maybe accidentally, maybe on purpose. “Sorry, but, in fairness, I don’t even know what half those words mean.”

After a laboured roll of his eyes, Ryan replies, “Did you pay any attention in English lessons at your school?”

Brendon’s answering grin is cheeky enough to show he’s proud of what he’s about to say, “I had a cute guy in my class every semester, of course I didn’t listen to a word that was being said.” Ryan can’t think of an answer to that other than to laugh and shake his head, but that seems to appease Brendon enough that he laughs along. The crowd is slowly dispersing as it becomes clear Pete’s announcement is over, and after slight deliberation Brendon pulls Ryan with him to see Patrick because he wants to go to the music room.

“You know you have your own studio in your house, right?” Ryan points out as he gets dragged through the bustling, intoxicated crowd only to crash into the man in front of him when they stop abruptly. “Ow, dude, why’d you do that?”

He turns and smirks cunningly, “You make a good point, Ross. Say, what would you think about accompanying me back to mi casa and jamming with me?”

Ryan is confused. He thought Brendon said they were not going to do this now? “I, um, dude, Brendon, you said-”

“No, no, no, not to.. you know,” he pauses to make an obcene gesture which Ryan does not find attractive, absolutely not, “I mean to actually just jam out and play music.”

As much as he’d like to decline this offer, he’s bored of the party and he hasn’t played music with Brendon since Panic! split up. It was always fun with them, the random process of music, it was the production that was difficult; the acceptance that each person had one role and if they argued that all hell broke loose.

“Yeah, okay,” Ryan concedes, “just as long as there’s no hanky-panky or anything.”

Brendon raises an eyebrow in mock disdain, “Who are you, the rejected fifth member of Aqua?”

“Don’t knock Aqua,” Ryan defends, “you fucking love that stupid ‘Barbie Girl’ song.”

“It’s not stupid!” Brendon argues back, then sees Ryan’s laughing at him and gives up. “Sure, whatever, fine, you win. But can we get out of here?”

“You have to swear you won’t try anything though.” He pushes it, despite the fact he wasn’t the one who wanted to go slow, he doesn’t want Brendon going back on his word. However annoying it may be he was denied, he knows Brendon’s right. It was exactly what he was asking for in the first place: the confirmation of trust and respect. Brendon going behind his back about Audrey put them both on shaky ground, but after this make-up, Ryan’s glad Brendon’s learned from it and has the clarity of mind to say they need to both be in the right mind-set before they start anything up again.

“Fine,” he rolls his eyes, “I promise I won’t try anything with you or make any move to get it on.” His voice is silly, but Ryan counts it as sincere.

“Good. Okay, let’s go. But, don’t let Spencer see us because he’ll only assume the worst and then he’ll have a go at me for ‘making stupid decisions that I’ll regret’.” Ryan’s imitation of Spencer, although not entirely inaccurate, is a little unfair. Spencer, at this point, couldn’t care less about how Ryan spends his time as he himself is making some fairly bad decisions concerning alcohol consumption, so.

“Aye aye,” Brendon salutes, then pauses, “hey wait, that makes me a stupid decision that you’ll regret. That’s a little harsh, dude.”

“Brendon. Seriously, tell me you’re not going to fixate on this? I wanna leave.”

Brendon narrows his eyes and sticks out his tongue, but appears to brush it off as the next thing they know, they’re sneaking out past Pete, who’s trying to chat up Patrick in the middle of the hallway despite his boyfriend’s protests that they’re in a public space and hosting their own party. It’s not like the security is exactly tight, so they slip easily out of the door and into the street, which is doused in light every few seconds as someone sets off some more fireworks.

“Where’s your car? I’m cold.” Ryan rubs his hands together and then brings his arms tightly around his body to hold the heat in.

They both look up and down the street before Brendon sets off towards the main road; Ryan follows close behind him. He jangles the keys in his hand and Ryan remembers that the car is that terrifyingly kitschy BMW which must’ve cost Brendon a complete fortune and he suddenly feels like he would rather walk home.

However, it’s cold and the idea doesn’t stick long in his head when Brendon turns up the heating in the car and they sit in comfortable warmth listening to some niche Rock station Ryan’s never heard of. The arrival at Brendon’s house instantly reminds him of the fated night before Christmas, but he manages to push down the bile of betrayal that rises in his throat. Inside the house is dramatically cleaner than before, he realises, but doesn’t comment because he doesn’t want it to seem like he was taking notes or anything before.

Brendon leads him past the living room towards the music room, and Ryan briefly catches sight of his favourite leather jacket slung carelessly over the back of Brendon’s sofa. He’s about to scream at Brendon for not taking proper care of it (you’re supposed to hang it up so it doesn’t crease and wrinkle, goddamn it) when he remembers that he left it in Brendon’s cupboard that night and bringing it up now would be asking for trouble. Plus, he’s kind of touched that Brendon kept it (and has apparently worn it), it gives him uplifting, warm feelings he’s not sure how to compartmentalise in his brain.

The studio is nice, like, really nice, and Ryan’s only a teency-tiny bit jealous (and envious) of the equipment in it.

Brendon immediately plucks a Gibson J-45 off the wall and hands it to Ryan, who stares at it in shock.

“Dude, this is…”

“It’s not, but it looks pretty like it, huh?”

Ryan nods dumbly, “It’s practically identical. The wood is so similar, and the varnish feels the same. How… why did you buy this? You could’ve just had mine.”

He shrugs, “I thought you would want yours. Northern Downpour meant a lot to you, so I figured the guitar you played it on would also mean a lot to you.  But, I really liked the guitar, so I bought one.” If Brendon thinks this is a justification, he’s sorely mistaken. Ryan knows he never liked guitars like that. He liked guitars, sure, but he never engaged with one the way Ryan did; he never understood why, at the ends of tours, Ryan would smash his guitars on the ground claiming they were ‘bad’. He would consequently berate Ryan for breaking a perfectly good guitar when he came around and realised the guitar wasn’t actually that bad, it was just at the end of its life; it had served its purpose.

He shrugs one shoulder then turns and sits himself at the piano seated in the corner, the one that’s wrong, the one that’s going to be replaced with the one Ryan’s bought him.

“Ry, you good?”

Ryan looks up at Brendon; back straight, hands rigid, fingers poised over the keys, ready to play. He nods and sits down in order to cradle the guitar carefully in his lap. Brendon starts the intro to ‘All The Mad Men’ by David Bowie’ (possibly inspired by Ryan’s shirt) and after a second Ryan joins in.

They play for a while, neither keeping track of the time or how many songs they’ve covered. Eventually Ryan’s fingers hurt and he has to keep shaking his wrist to keep a cramp at bay, Brendon notices his distress and stops tinkling whatever song he was about to start.

“Go to bed. You can crash here, there’s a sofa-bed in my play room, I’ll sleep there and you can take my room.”

Ryan shakes his head no, “I’ll sleep in the play room, I don’t wanna… that’s too much, Brendon.”

He gets up from the piano stool towards Ryan and manhandles the guitar out of his claw-like fingers. “I’m just trying to be respectful here, Ry, I’m not trying to put you under any pressure.”

“No, I know, and I appreciate that - you’re being so patient considering the circumstances, but I just… I don’t know, I’m pretty confused right now. A lot of stuff has happened today.” He rubs his face with both hands then looks up at the calm, understanding one that’s looking down at him.

“You’ve been through a lot, Ryan, I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone who has gone through as much shit as you have and has still came out the other side as a good and mostly reasonable guy. I’m sorry William came round today, partly because it killed my vibe, but mostly because I can see how upset it made you. You don’t deserve to be played around or cheated or anything; you deserve the best, and I’m going to try my goddamn hardest to be that for you. When you’re ready, of course.” Brendon’s voice is low and comforting, it sounds so unfamiliar to Ryan he wonders briefly what the hell happened when he left all those years ago.

He doesn’t respond, Brendon never expected him to, so he leans down and places a gentle kiss on Ryan’s cheek before trailing his hand on his shoulder and walking out the room to go to bed.

Ryan closes his eyes when Brendon kisses his cheek, trying to ignore the urge to turn his face and just let go. After he’s gone, Ryan sits in silence in the home-studio, just looking around.

He lumbers slowly up the stairs towards the play room and hears Brendon shuffling around quietly in his bedroom.

Temptation is so hard to resist, especially when one is feeling weak and raw, and Ryan only seeks the comfort of a friendly embrace, an encouraging word and a warm body next to his. He knows if he stays he’ll either give in and crawl pitifully to Brendon’s side, or he’ll stay awake the whole night thinking about giving in and crawling pitifully to Brendon’s side. So, he waits until the noises in Brendon’s room quieten to the occasional heavy breath or creak of springs as he turns in his sleep, then he grabs his coat, stopping momentarily to contemplate whether he wants to reclaim his leather jacket then deciding against it, and heads out the door.

Fireworks no longer mar the sky or paint the pavement technicolour, and Ryan checks his phone to see it’s 4am. He calls a taxi and drives home.

Chapter Text

He wakes naturally: warm, comfy, smushy dreamland giving way to slightly chilly, slightly pokey, groggy wakefulness. He rubs his face into the point where the pillow meets the mattress – as this is where he has ended up after a nights’ twisting and thrashing. A yawn claws up to his mouth, cracking his jaw upon its escape; he stretches his arms out and extends his legs as far as he can, ignoring the clunks and crunches that accompany the movements.

There’s a greyish light spilling through the not-quite-straight blinds, and he can see through one particularly crooked slat onto the grey road outside.

Happy New Year, he thinks to himself dully; 2014, you’d better not be a shocker.

He rolls out of bed – pretty much literally – and makes his way to the door, briefly checking himself to make sure he remembered to put on all his pyjamas last night – he did.

The house is quiet and looks dusty, but since when could he be bothered to dust on a regular basis? The door to the play room is closed and Brendon guesses Ryan must still be asleep, it’s still quite early, after all.

He moves quietly through the house, not wanting to wake his sleeping guest, and eventually tip-toes into the kitchen to make himself some breakfast. It’s early and he’s not overly hungry, but otherwise he knows he’ll forget to eat later on and then Dallon will psychically sense he’s neglecting his body and shout at him.

There’s bread in the special bread bin, so toast it is.

A few minutes pass and Brendon feels the anticipation crawling around under his skin. He showed an amazing amount of self-restraint last night and he’s pretty proud of himself for that. Ryan was right there and so, so willing, and he totally shut it down before it turned into something he would surely regret.

He knows he needs to give Ryan space, that’s the one solid decision he’s come to in all the time he’s been away from the man. He has to prove that he’s willing to do the right thing to save their relationship; he has to prove he’s committed. Still, the fact that Ryan’s upstairs, lying on a bed, soft and compliant, probably half-naked, probably sporting some morning wood, it’s hard to show the same self-restraint. He’ll just go and wake him up, that’s all. Take him some coffee, tell him breakfast is downstairs when he feels like it. That’s innocent enough, not breaking any rules, not crossing any boundaries best left uncrossed.

He pours some freshly made coffee into one of his favourite mugs – he got it on the Vices tour in Europe and it has all the European flags on it with the respective language’s word for ‘morning’ on it – and heads towards the play room, taking the steps two at a time.

The hallway is silent, and as he approaches the play room he notices how quiet everything is. Maybe Ryan’s still fast asleep? They did stay up pretty late jamming out in the studio, although they’re also both accustomed to waking up early for touring and things. Or maybe that’s just Brendon.

He knocks once, twice, hesitantly on the door and waits for any noise indicative of Ryan having heard; a rustle of sheets, a creak of a bed, a groan of a loose floorboard. When no such noise is made, Brendon just decides to go for it.

“Ryan? You up? I brought you some coffee, thought you might- ” He stops when he realises no one is in the room. The sofa bed looks completely unslept in, the sheets Brendon put there still folded on one of the cushions. He tries to ignore the disappointment and sadness that accumulates in the pit of his stomach, liquid and poisonous. Of course Ryan took off, of course. Couldn’t bear to be in the same house as Brendon for a single night, he’s just that repulsed by the memories of their sordid evening here. It makes sense, really, if he looks at it through a distorted lense of bitterness.

He sighs and closes the door again, heading back down to the kitchen, movements slower and less deliberate than before. He pours the coffee down the sink – it’s not like he can’t afford to make more – and picks up his landline phone. Spencer made fun of him having a landline, but it’s practical and means when his cellphone is dead he can still call people, namely the pizza delivery place a few blocks away. Spencer is also speed dial 2 – just after the aforementioned pizza delivery place – and Brendon dials 2 now, waiting as the ring sounds off.

“Hello?” comes Spencer’s slightly hoarse greeting.

“Hey, Spence, it’s me,” he replies, trusting Spencer to identify him solely by his voice, “I know it’s early but I need to ask you a favour.”

“Fine,” Spencer sighs, “What is it?”

“’Kay, so I’m sure you know Ryan came home with me after Pete’s party last night, well… this morning.” Spencer makes a confirmatory noise that’s also laced with suspicion.

“You don’t sound happy enough to be calling me post-fuck.” He muses, the suspicion still in his tone.

“I- We- No!” Brendon cries, “We didn’t fuck, okay?”

“So why are you calling?”

Brendon ‘uhm’s before Spencer coughs and he hurries up, “So he came back here and we played guitar for a few hours, and then he looked tired so I said he could crash in my play room for the night, I mean, neither one of us was in a fit state to drive and it didn’t make much sense to spend money on a cab when I could easily-“

“Brendon,” Spencer interrupts, “your point, please?”

“Right, yes,” Brendon mumbles, trying to hop off his running train of thought and get back to the point he was making. “So, I wake up this morning and he’s done a runner, I don’t know when but he was here last night and he’s not here now.”

Spencer appears to catch onto Brendon’s worried tone and replies easily with a, “You want me to go check on him?”

He heaves a sigh of relief, “Yes, please.”

There follows a moment of silence where Spencer simply stands with the phone to his ear, mouth open and unmoving. “See, the thing is, I’ve got Jon here with me.”

“And?”

“And, if I take him with me to check on Ryan, Ryan’ll think we’re ganging up on him. You know how he is, as skittish as a little baby deer.”

In fairness, Brendon does know this. When it comes to Ryan Ross talking about something remotely intimate, everyone’s an enemy. It took Brendon months of coaxing and coddling to get Ryan to even admit that, yes, his dad had pushed him around a few times when he was younger, but nothing really serious. Even then Ryan didn’t tell him the whole story. Spencer’s slightly different, they’ve known each other longer, but taking Jon with him would seem too predatory, Ryan would freak.

“Urh, fine, Jon can come here while you go talk to Ryan.” Brendon compromises, full well knowing that this is what Spencer had planned in the first place, he probably even knew Ryan went home before Brendon did.

“You sure you two’ll be okay?” Spencer adds, feigning concern.

“We were friends for, like, 3-4 years or whatever, I think I can handle half a day alone in his company.” His voice is pumped full of sarcasm – a form of comedy/insult he learned when Ryan met Europe – so that Spencer catches on and just goes to see Ryan already.

“Yeesh, Urie, I was only checking, no need to be so aggressive.” But there’s no bite in Spencer’s words, so he says goodbye once he’s been assured Jon will be dropped off within the hour and Spence will go see Ryan.

It’s not that he’s worried, per se, more… affectionately concerned. And maybe a lot little confused. And maybe a lot little curious.

Spencer is true to his word and, 40 minutes after their phone conversation, Jon is standing at Brendon’s door, smile on his face, Spencer at his shoulder.

“Does anyone else feel like you’re dropping off your child to a babysitter while you go sort out some lady problem with your best girlfriend?” Jon comments immediately, causing Brendon to burst into giggles and Spencer to glare vindictively.

“You know in that scenario I am your mother.” He points out moodily, which only makes Jon grin wider. Spencer rolls his eyes and turns to Brendon, who has slightly composed himself. “I’ll call you when we’re finished talking, okay?”

“’Kay,” Brendon manages.

“Play nice, you two.” Spencer calls over his shoulder as he leaves, clearly playing to the weird role-play Jon has thought up.

“Yes, mom.” Jon calls teasingly, and Spencer glares daggers at him until he hurries into Brendon’s house, slightly afraid. “So, are you gonna let me stay up late watching inappropriate films, drinking fizzy pop, and eating loads of junk food? The other babysitter always lets me.” Jon bats his eyelashes and Brendon rolls his eyes at him, remembering now why they always got along on the buses and tours.

 

Spencer arrives at Ryan’s house shortly after dropping Jon off at Brendon’s, thinking to himself about how that particular play-date is going to pan out. Brendon and Jon always used to get along so well, then things got tense between them when Ryan started favouring Jon’s company in the studio rather than Brendon’s.

This is, unfortunately, when Brendon got the idea that Ryan was cheating on him. Ryan spent a lot of time calling Jon up after his fights with Brendon, and they’d always meet in the studio to talk things out and play their troubles away. One day, however, after a particularly messy fight, Ryan stormed out and Brendon assumed it was to go see Jon. He felt apologetic, Brendon did, and called Ryan but Ryan didn’t answer, so he called Jon who informed him he hadn’t seen Ryan in a couple days. Brendon didn’t say anything at first, too afraid to confirm what he thought was true, and the pattern continued: fights, Ryan stormed off, no one would see him, he’d come back and apologise for being a dick. Eventually, Brendon snapped and called Ryan out on it, but was only met with adamant refutals on Ryan’s behalf. They never solved that particular issue as Ryan refused to mention where he went on those angry afternoons.

Spencer locks his car and goes up the steps to knock on Ryan’s door. It takes half a minute or so for him to answer the door, and when he does, it’s with a tired, not surprised, look on his face.

“Come on in,” he says, waving his hand for Spencer to enter and moving aside so he can do just that.

He follows his friend into the house, shutting the door behind himself and slipping off his trainers.

“Brendon was concerned,” Spence explains, “that’s why I’m here.”

“Figured,” Ryan half-laughs, leading them into the kitchen because he wants coffee and he’ll be damned if his best friend’s intervening is gonna prevent him getting his morning caffeine fix.

“He just wants to make sure you’re all right,” Spencer tries, following Ryan in his journey for coffee.

“I’m sure he does,” Ryan mumbles, sarcasm virtually undetectable and therefore almost missed by Spencer’s trained ears, “I’m sure he just wants to make sure I don’t blame him or anything, make sure he’s still in my favour.”

“Ryan, please,” pleads his friend, “He’s trying to be a decent guy here, which is very new for him. You’ve gotta give him a little bit of credit.”

Ryan sighs and puts on the coffee machine, having located his favourite mug in one of the drawers, “I’m trying, but… you wanna know what he did yesterday?”

Spencer nods, knowing he needs Ryan to explain his weirdness fully because it’s not making sense at the moment; Brendon was a perfect gentleman, and still Ryan is mad at him. The guy doesn’t appear to be able to win.

Ryan reaches into his pocket and pulls out something round and shiny. He holds it out for Spencer to see, it’s…

“A pocket watch. A really fucking beautiful one, too. He just- after all this, he. What the fuck is it supposed to mean, Spence?”

Spencer reaches out his hand and Ryan obediently places the watch into his awaiting palm. He turns it over and brings it up close to his eye to inspect it more carefully.

“What does it mean?” Ryan continues, plaintive puppy eyes turned on full.

Spencer carries on scrutinising the timepiece, frowns, and sends Ryan an odd look.

“Don’t you think it’s kinda… girly?”

Ryan huffs and grabs it back, ignoring Spencer’s protest that’s also lined with laughter.

“Fuck off, it’s nice, okay? Just.. tell me what it means?”

“Well,” Spencer begins, trying to say something that won’t upset Ryan further, he’s clearly confused, “I think it means whatever you want it to mean.”

Ryan tucks the watch back into his pocket and gazes forlornly at the floor. “What if he doesn’t want it to mean what I want it to mean?” his voice barely carries above the clunk of the coffee machine, but Spence catches it.

“Ryan, listen,” he reasons, “this is him telling you he’s there. You said he’s even told you – he’s prepared to take it slow, he wants to be with you, he’s ready to wait.”

“But… what if I want him now?” he whispers in response, too ashamed to look his best friend in the eye.

Spencer lets out a broken laugh, disbelieving almost. “Then take him now! Ryan, you’re really overthinking this.”

“Am I though? Am I really ready to jump straight back into being with him?”

“You don’t-  you don’t have to jump straight back into it, you can… listen, Ryan, I know you want me to decide this for you, but I can’t. Only you know whether you’re ready or not, and if not you have to give yourself some time. Brendon understands that.”

“But,” Ryan keeps going, finding complications in this really very uncomplicated concept, “I don’t want him to lose interest in the time it takes for me to be ready.”

The timid tone he uses sets Spencer off, “Jesus Christ, Ryan! How are you this stupid! He didn’t lose interest in you over the four years you two were broken up, despite how angry he was at you, I don’t think a week or so will realistically change his mind!”

Ryan looks somber and unhappy when he says, “But what if it does?”

Spencer doesn’t even dignify that with a reply, simply groans in exasperation and flees Ryan’s sphere of stupidity into the living room so he can turn on the TV.

Over at Brendon’s, Jon’s not having much more luck with the other half of the crazy brigade.

“So,” he says, lounging on Brendon’s sofa comfortably, “what’s up with you?”

Brendon almost scoffs at the overused ice-breaker, but doesn’t – Jon’s making an effort. “Oh, you know, living my life around Ryan, as per.” He coughs out a laugh and goes around the room cleaning up the half-empty mugs of coffee he apparently keeps leaving everywhere.

“Yeah, what’s with you two? All the time I’ve known you you’re always blowing hot and cold with each other.” Jon comments, keeping his voice light and not accusatory, not that he was ever one to accuse people of anything.

Brendon sighs, having given up on the mugs and placed them all in a pile at one end of the coffee table. He sits on the sofa adjacent to Jon’s. “I don’t know, man, I’m sure you probably know that a couple weeks ago we got back together and I made a huge mistake, and he’s… going through a lot right now, and… it’s all a bit messed up, if I’m honest.” He rubs the back of his neck and then smiles weakly at the man watching him.

Jon just shrugs, “So?”

He frowns, “So what?”

“So what? So stop being a pussy and go get him.” Jon emphasises, looking like this is the obvious conclusion and why hasn’t Brendon just done that already.

“But- Jon, I’m giving him space, you know? I’m, like, proving I can be patient and respectful and…” even to his ears, the excuse sounds weak. The idea itself isn’t bad, trying to be better for his beau and whatever, but in all honesty it’s more just a delaying tactic.

“Brendon, listen to me, okay? I have a wife, and a baby now, and I’ve been through the worst times in our relationship and the best, and I promise you, if you don’t show that you’re right there, ready to help them out, ready to work for them, you’re not gonna do well. Sure, giving them space is essential, you don’t wanna be overbearing, but don’t give them too much space otherwise they think you’re distant and then they move on without you. If you let him alone, he’ll think he’s alone, so he’ll move on without you.”

“He… he wouldn’t.” Brendon protests weakly – he worries Ryan would.

“Look,” Jon sighs, leaning forward and placing his hands together seriously, “Brendon, remember when he left you at the altar? Well, before the altar.”

“Gee,” Brendon drones sarcastically, “thank you for reminding me of that precious moment.”

“Shut up and listen. He did that because he was scared of being wrong, he was scared of loving someone and ruining their lives. He thought he’d ruined your life and your relationship with your family by, like, tempting you or something equally ridiculous, so he ran away from you to, like, set you free or whatever. You’ve gotta show him he’s not ruined your life- never ruined your life, show him you want to be with him so much that you can’t be without him. Let him know you take him as he is, you want him no matter what. He loves you, Brendon, despite whatever he says, and he didn’t ‘fall out of love’ with you like he tells you. He was scared and he thought he didn’t deserve you, he thought he could never be good enough to be enough. That’s the story. That’s the truth.” Jon opens his arms and shares a long look with Brendon, who’s looking a little peaky.

“Since when did you become so wise?” Brendon asks, laughing at the question uncomfortably because he’s uncomfortable with the information he’s just learned.

Jon smiles and leans back into the couch, “I was always this wise, I was just also always high so no one listened.” Brendon laughs at that and so Jon laughs along, too.

“So,” Brendon starts, “just to be clear – what do you think I should do? About Ryan, I mean?” Jon can see the unsurety in Brendon’s eyes and takes pity.

“Well. You’ve already done the establishing contact, Spencer tells me you and him swapped spit at Pete’s party.”

Brendon wrinkles his nose, “Ew, we’re not in 9th grade, could you not be so vulgar.”

“Just saying it as it is, man.” Jon giggles, “Anyway, because you’ve done that, all you really need to do now is talk to him. Well, convince him. Get him alone someplace special to you two and talk at him about how you’re so ready and this is the right decision for you both. If possible, don’t give him time to comment, it makes life so much easier having one-sided conversations. Trust me, I have a wife, I understand that much.”

“So I should call him and ask him to meet?” confirms Brendon.

Jon nods and Brendon holds his tongue, for once. He wants to see Ryan, really does, but he’s worried this whole ‘talk at him until he gives in’ method will only end up pushing him further away. He thought he was being a good guy, not pushing too hard, but if what Jon says is true – and it undoubtedly is – by not pushing enough, he could lose Ryan altogether.

“My brain feels sad. I don’t like all this real-life emotional crap.” Jon comments, already getting up off the couch and rifling through Brendon’s DVD collection. “You have any good Disney movies still?”

Brendon smiles, “Only all of them. What you wanna watch?”

“Hm, I was thinking Beauty and the Beast, I love that one. Plus, I feel we need to drown our sorrows in the fantastical world of monsters, talking teapots, and happily ever afters.”

Brendon says sure because who doesn’t love Beauty and the Beast, it’s a complete classic even if Gaston’s antics could be considered scarring for young children.

Spencer collects Jon not long after the film has finished, looking for all intents and purposes like he just ran a marathon in a hurricane while someone repeatedly bashed him over the head with a stereo playing ‘Oh, Mickey’ on a loop. Maybe a slight exaggeration, but that’s generally what talking to Ryan does to your peace of mind. Brendon, after all, has had first hand experience talking to Ryan about difficult subjects, he knows what it does to one’s mental stability if he decides to be idiotic.

“Thank you, for talking to him,” Brendon gushes as Spencer enters the house to find Jon.

“Don’t worry about it, B, he told me what happened last night when he got home – he called me up. I needed to knock some sense into him at some point or other.” He sounds tired, like he finds said knocking taxing and almost unfruitful, but he’s done it so many times maybe it’s more a tiredness of the whole spiel rather than the actual conversations.

“Tell me about it, man,” Jon interjects, coming out of the living room, “I’ve been doing the same to Brendo over here. Trying to get him to see the light, not sit pouting in the middle of the tunnel.” He smacks Brendon’s back in a jovial manner and smiles brightly. Brendon tries not to take offence, Jon has been helpful.

“Maybe you two will finally be on the same page this time,” Spencer wonders, making a face at Brendon as he says it.

“That’d be a first,” replies Jon, even though he wasn’t the one the comment was aimed at.

“Yeah, yeah, stop making fun of me, I’m taking action, ‘kay?” Brendon attempts to defend his honour, he doesn’t want his love-life to be the butt of any more of his friend’s jokes.

Spencer looks surprised, “You are?”

“Yeah,” he half-squeals, “Jon talked me into it. No need to look so shocked.” He folds his arms over his chest crossly and pouts a little bit, then remembers Jon’s comment about pouting in the tunnel and tries to manipulate his face into some other expression.

“Wow, well, good on you.” Spencer encourages him, knowing the sooner this ordeal is over the better. “Let me know how that goes. But for now, Jon, would you please get in the car?”

“Aye aye, sir.” Jon salutes and marches like a soldier out to Spencer’s car. Spence lingers for a moment, watching Jon go then turning back to Brendon.

“Call him now. Arrange to meet today, don’t give him any longer to think about it, Brendon, or he’ll drive himself mad worrying about all the possible outcomes of everything he’s done or could do. Just… be kind, but please, please, don’t leave him again. He won’t recover from it.” He doesn’t let Brendon reply, just squeezes his shoulder and jogs out the door to where Jon is complaining loudly that if he’s going to be left in the car, can Spencer at least crack a window because it is LA and he does live in Chicago where it is decidedly colder, and this car is like a goddamned furnace.

Brendon shuts the door as Spencer’s car drives away. Huh. He just. Spencer said. He’s a little bit confused. Since when did Brendon leave Ryan? He’s pretty sure he’s the one that got dumped.

Or, maybe… No. No, he definitely got dumped. He remembers being dumped. He. Ryan left.

Or. He may have. He didn’t- well, just, he didn’t. He’d, maybe, pushed Ryan away a little, didn’t fight the end… But he’s been through this a million times in his head. He’s gone over and over what went wrong that day, what he could’ve done to make Ryan stay. He’s decided they both screwed up in the relationship, Spencer said he couldn’t blame it all on himself.

He didn’t leave Ryan. Did he. Did he?

 

He got up off the sofa and stalked to the kitchen, face contorted in muted anger. Ryan sighed heavily and rubbed his face.

“Brendon, please, would you drop it?” Ryan asked, watching Brendon slam the glass down by the sink, watched the tightness of his shoulders and back.

“Sure, let’s drop it. Let’s just live in some world of lies where we omit to mention anything of importance to each other. Sure, I can drop it, no worries, all good.” Brendon turned and glared at Ryan on the couch. Ryan looked up at his boyfriend with sad eyes.

“I am just asking you to trust me, here. Is that really too much to ask? We’re in a relationship, we’re supposed to trust each other.” Ryan didn’t move from the couch, but frowned a bit and put his hands together, elbows rested on his knees.

“We’re also supposed to talk to each other. Tell each other everything, not have secrets.” Brendon responded venomously.

Ryan dropped his forehead onto his hands and breathed deeply. “Brendon, please, I’ve let you get away with a lot-“

“Excuse me?” Brendon interjected, scowl sharpening. “You let me get away with a lot? What exactly would that be, then?”

“Can we not get into this now? Think of the big picture here, we’re going to Vermont in 2 and a half weeks, we’re getting married in 3, why fight about this now?” He sent Brendon a wounded look and Brendon clenched his teeth.

“Well, maybe I don’t want to go to Vermont with a cheating asshole.” He spat, sucking his teeth.

Ryan groaned and got up off the couch, “For the last time, I am not cheating on you. Jon is not covering for me. I have never so much as had an unfaithful thought the entire time we’ve been together. Will you please, please, just believe me when I say I can’t tell you where I’ve been.”

Brendon shook his head in disbelief and pushed off the counter. “I just don’t understand why you won’t tell me.”

“Can’t, Brendon, can’t tell you.” Ryan emphasised, walking towards the open doorway into the kitchen, blocking the exit for the other man.

“But why?” Brendon asked again, eyes stony and face closed off.

“Because you… you wouldn’t understand, Brendon.”

“I wouldn’t- oh my God, I cannot believe that is your actual excuse. That is ridiculous.” Brendon threw up his hands and tried to push past Ryan, but he was blocking the doorway pretty effectively.

“Bren,” Ryan pleaded, but Brendon didn’t look like he was going to budge, so Ryan used underhand tactics, grabbed Brendon’s wrists and tried to look him in the eye, though Brendon avoided eye contact. “Hey, Bren, look at me,” he didn’t move his eyes from the floor, “look at me.”

It didn’t take long to coax Brendon’s gaze upwards, and Ryan looked at him without compunction. “I’m not cheating on you. But I can’t tell you where I’ve been. Please. I need you to trust me. I need you to have faith in me. Believe in me.” Brendon’s hard exterior momentarily weakened and Ryan grabbed his chance. He moved in quickly, pressing his mouth against Brendon’s and licking gently at the crease between his lips.

Brendon’s resistance crumbled fast after that, he opened his mouth and clutched at Ryan’s arms in a manner that was just this side of desperate. Ryan tilted his head a fraction in order to fit his lips better and slide his tongue deeper into Brendon’s mouth, he traced the roof along the line of his teeth.

They kissed for several minutes until Ryan tried to cop a feel and Brendon bounced backwards slightly.

“Hey, I haven’t forgiven you that much yet.”

Ryan laughed, “Sorry.” He paused and looked at Brendon’s face, took it all in, memorised it all, tried to solidify the thought that what he was doing to Brendon was okay because it was for Brendon.

“Just… I’ll try to understand, I guess… But please, if it’s something bad, something you feel, like, insecure about or something, just come to me and tell me. I love you and I’d do anything for you.” Brendon smiled and kissed Ryan once on the lips before he slipped past him into the living room.

Ryan’s gaze followed his fiance out the room but he was frozen inside. Those words, those fucking words. He knew Brendon was only trying to be helpful and supportive, but it was only widening the ravine of doubt and insecurity in Ryan’s mind.

The phone rang, then, and Brendon picked it up, said something into the receiver then looked at Ryan.

“Sure, he’s just here,” he covered the mouthpiece and whispered, “It’s Alex, he sounds upset, I think it’s about him and Gemma.” Ryan walked forward and took the phone.

They agreed to meet up at a bar later that night. Alex had just got dumped by Gemma, his girlfriend of 7 years, and Brendon understood. That was the night the shit got let loose.

 

“I can do this. I can do this, I can do this, I can so, totally do this.” Brendon has been repeating this mantra for about five minutes before he actually works up the courage to call Ryan.

On the first ring he’s so nervous he feels like he’s going to puke, and by the fourth he’s virtually given up hope, thinking Ryan’s seen the caller ID, ignored him, and is now in some twisted orgy with 7 other people who they used to tour with. Brendon’s imagination is a weird place to be, okay?

His rampant imaginings, however, are proved to be in vain when Ryan picks up on the fifth ring.

Hello?

“Hey, hi, hello,” he stutters.

Brendon?

“Yah, hi, hey there, hel-“

Okay, I get it, hello.” Ryan halts the rambling and sighs, “How can I help you?”

“Oh, right, yeah, so, um, okay,”

Spit it out, Brendon.” Chides the man on the other end, clearly wanting this conversation to be over. That thought alone spurs Brendon into action.

“I want you to meet me today, at the Ground Zero Café in two hours. We need to talk and sooner is better than later. Don’t bring anybody, this is between you and me – it’s important.” He waits to see what excuse he’ll most likely be met with, but is greeted only by the sound of steady breathing.

Two hours?” Ryan finally confirms.

“Yes. At the Ground Zero Café. I’ll be waiting inside, you can come and find me.” He tries to give as many instructions as possible so Ryan won’t have enough time to speak and slip in any objections. “All right?”

“Okay.” It’s quiet but definite, and Brendon hangs up before either one of them changes their minds.

He throws the phone onto the couch from his position standing by the TV, then he hides his face in his hands and groans, bending over double in the process. When he has finished groaning, he stands upright, drags his hands down his chin and blinks several times.

“God I need a blunt right now.” He mumbles, knowing full well he doesn’t have any weed in the house whatsoever – Dallon helped him with the searching – and also knowing if he went out to buy some, he’d be late to meet Ryan and he’d stink of pot if he did turn up.

He’s really craving a hit, even though he’s been clean since before tour, and although his rational brain knows it would be disastrous, mostly his body is just screaming for a bit of a release.

“No, Brendon, c’mon, we can do this.” He mumbles the reassurance to himself, and decides to occupy himself by cleaning – the anxiety of meeting Ryan finally also catching up with him. “Carden, also, yes, call Carden.” He runs to his phone and dials Doctor Carden’s number, it goes to voicemail, but he leaves a message anyway.

“Hey, Doc, I called because I’m having a, er, a bit of a weak moment. There’s nothing in my house, apart from, like, aspirin and some beer, so I’m not in immediate danger of relapse, but… Ahh it’s hard, man, I didn’t think it would be this hard. I thought I would be over it and now I’m realising maybe I’m not, so, is that progress or what? Um, you can call me back, I’m going out in an hour and a half to meet Ryan – yeah we’re going to sort our shit out, finally – but if you could, like, call me and I’d just appreciate a bit of a vent right now to sort out how I’m feeling. Sorry, I don’t really know how to deal with it, so… yeah call me. Thanks, man.” He hangs up and puts the phone on the counter, takes a few deep breaths and heads to the sink to grab a sponge, rubber gloves, and disinfectant.

He cleans the kitchen first, then moves to the cupboard under the stairs, then redoes the kitchen. It’s only when he’s cleaning the oven for the second time that he catches a glimpse of the time and sees it’s only 25 minutes until he said he’d meet Ryan at the Ground Zero Café.

“Shit!” He swears loudly and tears the rubber gloves off his hands, abandoning his task mid-way through.

It’s about a 15 minute drive from his house to the café, and he needs to be there before Ryan so he can wait in a mysterious and alluring manner.

He pulls the car keys off the hook he forgot he had installed when he moved in – trying to be pragmatic and failing, once again. He vaults over the chair that found its way into the hallway and hurdles the various trainers lining the floor, yanks the door open and in his haste forgets to put the latch on. It’s too late, he’s in the car and sprinting down the street towards South Broadway.

The traffic is minimal – thank God – and he slams on the breaks and swerves slightly dangerously into a free parking space 4 minutes away from the café. He has got 7 minutes before Ryan is set to arrive and he basically flies into the café and grabs the first free seat he lays his eyes on, which is smack-bang in the middle of the floor. He sits down and just breathes, trying desperately to get his breath back.

A waitress comes over and he orders a coke with a dazzling smile, she smiles back shyly and swings her hips a little more obviously on her way back to the bar. Brendon doesn’t notice.

The drink arrives quickly, accompanied by a wink from the waitress who’s clearly grown bolder in the 10 seconds it took for her to pour it in a glass and slip it on a napkin with her number on it. Brendon forces a smile, because he already knows he’s not going to call her. He has bigger fish to fry.

Speaking of, Ryan enters not long after, which Brendon is grateful for because he thinks he may have broken the glass in his grip with all the pent-up tension had he been any longer.

He’s not wearing a scarf, like he would’ve been a few years ago, but his hands travel to his collar like he’s expecting to have something to unravel. He’s wearing his token leather jacket, though, and straightens it like he needs something to do with his hands.

He doesn’t spot Brendon immediately, and Brendon takes the opportunity to admire him from afar without being criticised or shouted at for staring. Ryan used to hate it when Brendon stared at him; always said it made him nervous, having someone watching him all the time. Brendon tended not to take any notice, Ryan looked so beautiful when he thought no one could see him. Brendon notices now how he still looks the same, beautiful as ever.

When Ryan heads over, after having spotted Brendon’s seat, Brendon turns his eyes away and concentrates on his drink and maintaining his cool. He only looks up when Ryan is standing beside the table awkwardly.

“Hi,” he greets, “Can I sit down?”

Brendon notices the look of poorly-masked apprehension on his…. - on Ryan’s face, and feels something dull inside him; he almost wanted Ryan to be completely elated, even though he knows that was an over-enthusiastic expectation.

“Of course you can, unless you’re planning on standing for the duration of our chat?” Brendon jokes, smiling up at the (still-standing) man in front of him. Ryan rolls his eyes and pulls out a chair to sit in. He instantly clasps his hands together on the table and eyes Brendon’s glass.

“So, what did you want to talk about?” he asks, sounding to Brendon like he’s trying not to sound too desperately concerned. He fails, for the record.

“Well, okay, I’ve been thinking about everything recently, and I need to tell you that I don’t want to wait.” Brendon doesn’t wait for Ryan’s possibly terrible reaction before he continues. “Just, hear me out. I really like you - well, you know how I feel – and, I need you to know that I will feel that way no matter what. I’ve done some stupid things in the past, but the one certain thing in my life has always been you. You’re the only person I ever thought I could be with long-term, and when I lost you, I knew I couldn’t settle down with another person.

“We tore each other apart, back then, I know we did, but I need you to know that this time… this time it would be different. You said some people never change, but… I think I’ve changed, I think I’ve become a better person and a lot of that is down to you. When we were together before… I, I didn’t trust you, and I’m working on it, really, but I think we both need the opportunity to grow to trust each other again. I think we can grow to be with each other again.” He stops, now, waiting patiently and expectantly for Ryan’s response.

“Um, okay.” Ryan says, then he coughs. “Wow, that was a lot to take in in not a lot of time. Um,” he rubs the back of his neck and looks anywhere but at Brendon, “well, maybe… um,” he laughs, “maybe we should… I… okay, if I’m being honest, I have literally no idea how to continue this, er, this… whatever this is.”

“Aha, I was kind of hoping you’d say, um, me too?” Brendon suggests, chuckling a little at himself and this absurdity.

Ryan laughs too, then, and pulls on the hair above his left side burn. “See, the thing is… last night you were all about waiting and, and, and giving me time and now… I don’t really understand where this is coming from.”

Brendon fidgets in his seat, “Erm, well, Jon came round today, and,” he realises, belatedly, this is probably not the right thing to say to someone he’s trying to convince to go out with him, and changes tactic, “I mean, okay, so, I know we’ve messed up before, and everything was way complicated, but putting this off any longer will drive us insane, I know it will, and I can’t wait for fear of losing you again.”

Ryan finally looks up at him and blinks a lot before opening his mouth as if he’s about to say something. It takes a moment for any sound to come out, however. “If we’re going to do this now,” he says very slowly, “then I think it would be wise for us to clear the air a bit.”

He doesn’t entirely know what he’s thinking at this point, Brendon’s thrown him off quite a lot. He was thinking it through, after Spencer left he spent his time weighing the pros and cons of waiting against going for it. He hadn’t come to a conclusion when Brendon had called and then he’d spent the remainder of the time panicking about what to wear because apparently he’s a 16 year old girl.

“Yes, of course, yes, definitely. Clean slate and everything.” Brendon agrees whole-heartedly, nodding and looking generally earnest.

Ryan nods shakily, wondering whether it’s a good idea to dredge up the past if they’re going to…. Oh god, if they’re going to try again. Will it just bring all the skeletons out the closet, dress them up in suits, and make them dance? He’s worried it might.

“Right, so, there might be, um… some, um, some things you may get angry about,” he warns, “but you need to know I did everything I did for, for, for good reason.” He watches the apprehension cross Brendon’s face, he’s got a lot of skeletons, okay?

“Okay,” Brendon says, drawing out the ‘a’ and narrowing his eyes slightly.

“So, um, I’ll start with, um, okay, where shall I start?”

Brendon appears to think this over for a moment, although Ryan knows he already knows what he’s going to ask about.

“Before we broke up: where were you going if you weren’t cheating on me?” he doesn’t sound hurt, so much as genuinely interested; Ryan knows this one could make or break any future relationship.

“I knew you were gonna say that, so, um… I couldn’t tell you because I was trying…” he takes a breath to steady himself, “I was seeing a psychoanalyst, on the recommendation of several close friends, to help me get to the route of my, um, issues regarding self-confidence and, um, trust, and to understand why I felt like I didn’t deserve good things to happen to me. They said I was a masochist and that it was due to, I don’t know, my childhood or some bullshit like that,” he laughs woodenly and pretends not to notice that Brendon isn’t laughing along; isn’t even smiling, “it’s always about your childhood, huh?” He laughs again and looks up to see Brendon watching him carefully.

He sniffs hard in an attempt to hide his awkwardness, wishing suddenly he could have a drink of something, but knowing he would really, really regret it.

“You…” Brendon halts and frowns, “you, um, couldn’t tell me that? When... all the times I asked and… and thinking you were cheating was better than telling me you were getting help?”

Ryan rubs his neck, “I’m sorry, but I… I thought that if you knew, you’d think I was weak and I had this whole self-preservation thing going at that time. I wasn’t… I wasn’t ready - in a lot of ways I wasn’t ready – and I thought if you didn’t know… What the eye doesn’t see the heart doesn’t grieve over.” He shrugs, the phrase explaining his mentality as well as any more words could.

“Wait,” Brendon says, still trying to get his head around this new information, “so you were seeing a psychoanalyst so you could, I assume, be a better person for me, and then you dumped me? I don’t – I don’t really understand how that works?”

Ryan sighs, “Yeah, well, I assume Jon told you what really happened if you’re here now, so… Spencer told me it was idiotic, but at the time… Bren, you’ve got to understand that at the time it felt like the only viable option. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt you, and I thought that by leaving, I’d be able to let you have a better life. I never imagined… well, I never imagined it would be this.”

They sit in mutual silence, contemplating how to move forward.

“I started doing drugs with Gabe because I thought it might make me forget to care about you.” Brendon admits, breaking the tense fog that has descended over them.

Ryan’s not wholly surprised by this, and counters it with an admission of his own, “I know what Gabe did to you. Have known for a while.”

Brendon nods slowly, he had his suspicions, he’d hoped they would prove untrue, but he’d been half prepared for it.

“I pushed for Nearly Witches to be on Vices because I couldn’t stand the thought of not having a little piece of you in any music we did.”

“Before I moved here, I lived in Gaines with my then-boyfriend of six months. I thought I really liked him, until he robbed me blind and left me with nothing but the house. I’m still paying off all the debt he accumulated in my name.”

This one does startle Brendon; he vaguely knew Ryan was having money troubles, but he didn’t know how bad. He also had no idea he lived in Gaines or had a boyfriend for six months before he moved to LA.

“Oh my God,” he says, alarmed, “Ryan, how the fuck did you manage to pay for that fucking piano?!”

Ryan shrugs and smiles dryly, “I asked Spence for a temporary loan. He says he refuses to let me pay him back, but I’ll sneak it to him somehow.”

“You- I can’t believe you sometimes. Why did you…” Brendon shakes his head in disbelief. “I’m sorry he did that to you. That sucks.”

“Yeah, well, shit happens. It means my credit score is a piece of crap, and I couldn’t go back to any paying colleges because I’m financially unstable, and I need to make money so I can’t go back into education anyway… but after this album release, I should be doing better.”

Brendon stays silent, then clears his throat and looks at the table.

“I have one last confession,” he mumbles, nails scratching at a nick in the wood.

“Let’s have it then, since we’re in the mood and everything.”

“I- Watching you with William made me more jealous than I’ve ever felt in my entire life, and when I found out he was cheating on you, I was stupidly happy because before that I thought he was this infallible superman who was perfect in every way. I’m sorry he caused you so much pain, and I hated seeing you so upset, but I was actually happy that he was out of the picture. Out of my place in your life.” He doesn’t raise his eyes from the tabletop, knowing Ryan’s going to pick up on the obvious.

“When did you find out he was cheating on me?” he asks, hurt protruding in his tone.

“A bit before you did. When we were in Vegas for the album release party and I had the supposed ‘hangover from hell’. I could read it all over him.” Brendon dares a glance up and sees what he wishes he didn’t have to see: Ryan, miserable and dejected.

“You- you knew that long, huh? He…” he stops and sniffs, “he was going behind my back for that long? Wow. You think you know someone.” His voice gets caught on a half-sob at the end, but Ryan quickly covers it with a cough and a smile.

“I didn’t mean to-“

“No, Brendon, it’s okay. All in the past now.”

There’s another pause as they mutually mull over all that has been said. It’s quite an eye-opening conversation, they’ve both learned that much, and wiping the slate clean may be easier said than done when it comes to them.

“Can I ask one more thing?” Brendon says, wincing a little because he knows he sounds pushy.

“Go for it.” Ryan replies tiredly, wanting to get it all out the way at this point.

“When you were in Gaines… your boyfriend, did you… did you love him?”

The question hangs in the air for a moment while Ryan thinks of how to answer. In bluntest explanation: no, no he didn’t love him. He’d wanted to though. He’d been ready to settle down, exhausted by the dating scene and prepared to just… be. But he hadn’t been the one thing Ryan needed him to be; he hadn’t been Brendon.

“No, I. That’s the only part of myself I can’t give away.” He explains.

“Why not?” Brendon needles, worried now that Ryan wouldn’t give him that part of himself either.

Ryan finally meets Brendon’s eyes and holds the contact. “Because I’ve already given it to someone. And I never got it back.”

“Ryan,” he whispers, “I lov-“

“No! Don’t say it!” Ryan all but screams. The outburst makes Brendon jump in shock and his eyes widen significantly.

“What? Why not?” he asks, heart beating erratically in his chest from the fright of Ryan’s exclamation.

“Because… well, if we’re going to do this, I want to take it slow. You said you would wait for me, and I’m not asking you to do that, but I want this to be better. I think we should… um, like, take the relationship slowly.”

“Because you don’t feel the same way about me.” Brendon fills in, feeling a sudden and overpowering disappointment consume him.

“No,” Ryan corrects, “Because even if I do mean it, I can’t say it back right now, Bren. It’s… well, it’s too much too soon.” He tries not to sound unenthused, but more reasonable, and Brendon picks up on the sincerity in the other’s voice. “Please, please can we try not to become a mess again?”

Brendon watches Ryan carefully for a full 5 seconds before he knows. Before he sees exactly what he saw all those years ago when they started this the first time. A scared boy who had too many feelings and no confidence to demonstrate them. A boy who wanted to show someone love and adoration and be shown the same in return. A boy who was coming to terms with his placement in the world and his role in whatever production was on.

Brendon watches him and remembers how long it took for Ryan to tell him he loved him, the elation he felt when he uttered those words, his complete faith that Ryan meant it, and the crushing despair when Ryan told him he didn’t feel the same anymore. He knows he can do this, them, but he also knows they’re going to have to start from scratch, and he supposes he can lock his feelings deep down somewhere until they’re appropriate again. He’s been doing it for the past four years, after all.

He clears this throat and smiles a closed-mouth smile, “Well, if we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it properly.” Then he rubs his hands together as Ryan frowns before showcasing his dazzling grin and holding out his hand. “Hi, I’m Brendon, I couldn’t help but notice that you’re gorgeous, and I was wondering whether you would do me the pleasure of going on a date with me?”

Ryan laughs and bites his lips together, “Hi Brendon, I’m Ryan, and a date sounds good.”

Brendon grins a little wider and signals the waitress over, “Great, because I know this awesome café, the Ground Zero Café, and it’s really, really close to here…”

Chapter Text

He straightens his lapels and checks himself out in the mirror once more, just checking everything’s in order. The suit is specially made and soft to the touch, though he’s been reprimanded more than once for touching it too often, Spencer bitching at him that he’s going to get his grubby fingerprints all over it and he needs to look the part.

The room he’s waiting in is close enough to the seats outside that he can hear all the guests’ excited chatter; he knows how they feel.

“Ryan?” Spencer calls, tapping on the door before entering.

He turns at the sound of his name and smiles when Spencer does. “Yeah?”

“You look good.” Spence comments, “Um, are you ready?”

They grin at each other then and Ryan has to stop himself from bouncing on the spot and clapping his hands together with the exhiliration of it all.

“Yeah, I think so?” He takes a quick sweep of the room and notices the rings on the table. “Oh, can you take these? I forgot to give them to you earlier and I couldn’t exactly go wandering round the place, you know?”

Spencer chuckles and grabs the rings, tucking them into his pocket before going to leave.

“Oh! Spence!” He exclaims, stopping Spencer in his tracks. “Is Brendon okay? Obviously I haven’t had the opportunity to-“

Spencer waves him off, “He’s fine, about as nervous as you, I imagine.”

“I doubt it,” Ryan mumbles, watching Spencer leave the room and turning back to the mirror.

The flower in his buttonhole is coordinated to match the colour of his waistcoat, and he touches the paper petals carefully, not wanting to rip them.

He hears the sound of the toilet flushing from the bathroom and looks over to the door when Gerard exits, wearing a suit not dissimilar to Ryan’s, but slightly more fancy. Ryan smiles at Gerard’s pale face and flushed cheeks and shoves his hands into his pockets so he doesn’t fiddle with his boutonniere – Gerard would have a coronary if he broke it.

“You okay?” he asks tentatively.

Gerard looks up at him with wide, frightened eyes that also sparkle a little with unadulterated excitement. “Yeah. I think so, I mean. I’m getting married to the man of my dreams in under an hour. I should be great, right?” He rubs his hands together nervously and bites his bottom lip with his teeth.

“Well, if it helps any, man, I was deadly nervous about getting married to Brendon and we didn’t even make it to the state-line. You and Frank are perfect together, and you love each other. You’re just stressed and have a bit of stage fright, it’s not uncommon.”

Gerard moves to run his hand through his hair but clearly thinks better of it – it took the stylist nearly two hours to get it to look like it hadn’t been stewing in a bin for six months.

“My entire career before comic books was going on stage every night and singing to thousands of screaming fans. I didn’t get stage fright after Bullets came out.”

“But I’m pretty certain Frank is better than thousands of crazed, screaming fans.” Ryan reasons, trying to calm Gerard down and make him feel comfortable.

Gerard shrugs and pats himself down like he’s looking for a cigarette. “Right now I’d take them over my entire extended family watch me stumble over my tongue trying to say my vows.”

Ryan rolls his eyes and grabs the packet of nicotine patches off the dresser and hands them to Gerard; he hasn’t been smoking much lately, if at all, but Frank refused to have either of them stinking of smoke during the ceremony and stressful times are the hardest to shake old habits.

“Thanks,” Gerard mumbles, unbuttoning one of the lower-down buttons on his shirt so he can reach up to his arm to rip off the current patch.

“I can’t believe you two are getting married today, it’s so…” Ryan trails off, trying to think of the right word to use in this sentence.

“Crazy?” Gerard supplies, redoing the buttons once he’s finished applying the new patch.

Ryan shakes his head, “No, that makes it sound like we weren’t expecting this. We totally were, and you two totally make so much sense, and since it’s legal now I don’t think it’s proper to call it a ‘crazy’ notion, it’s been so long coming… I mean that… it’s so…” he looks over to Gerard and sees he’s being stared at in a pensive, almost curious, manner. He trails off and shuts his mouth, thinking he’s not exactly helping the situation.

“Do you mean it feels so real?” Gerard says softly, sitting down on one of the chairs in the room and watching Ryan again in this gracefully studious way.

Ryan opens his mouth without thinking through his response before realising Gerard might be right. He closes his mouth and leans against the table against the wall.

“Yeah, I guess. I just…” he pauses, “I never thought I could want it again, you know? When… when me and Brendon decided to tie the knot, I wasn’t wholly into it, I wasn’t ready in a lot of ways and that tainted my view of marriage. After that, I… kind of dismissed it as a means of showing your affection for someone, I just saw it as this stupid, hetero-normative convention that was designed to keep women as property and held no real meaning anymore because we all lie and cheat and hurt and kill, but… Spencer kept needling me about it, asking if any of the people I’d been with had changed my opinion of it and whether I’d thought about marrying any of them – some of them had seemed pretty into the idea – but I always said no.

“But now, here, you and Frank, it’s… eye-opening, you know? You two love each other so much, and it’s not some stupid convention anymore, it’s a display of how devoted you are, and how committed you are, and how ready you are to prove to yourself and to others that you’re going to be in it for the long run regardless of what anybody else thinks. I’m not saying that, like, gay marriage has re-affirmed marriage or anything, although you can believe that if you want to – I’m sure some people would heartily disagree – I’m saying that… Urgh, what am I saying? I’m saying that seeing, like, proper, adult love is… it makes everything that I could have felt, could have done, makes it seem more doable; more surmountable. More real.”

Gerard sits silently, mulling that over.

“Sorry,” Ryan apologises quickly, “probably you don’t want to be thinking about all that minutes before your own wedding.”

“No, no, no, it’s… oddly reassuring. Takes my mind off my own nervousness. Every time I’m given a free minute I’m thinking of all the things that could possibly go wrong.” Gerard laughs at himself, and Ryan feels comfortable enough to laugh along.

“Oh,” Ryan suddenly remembers, “Mikey’s been held up with your Aunt; he says he’s spent the past ten minutes or so reminding her that Frank is, indeed, a man; she got slightly confused.

“Brilliant,” Gerard groans, “my own family forgetting I’m gay. Absolutely fucking fantastic.”

“No, I think she was actually quite pleased, he said she kept gloating that she’d known for years, ever since you used to play with your cousin’s Barbies where Ken would always run off with G.I.Joe.”

Gerard snorts at the memory, letting hysterics almost take hold, “Oh my God, I don’t think anybody didn’t catch onto me then.” He sighs and looks at Ryan again, “Thanks for being here, Ryan, I know you don’t have to be, but I really appreciate it.”

Ryan shrugs, “It’s okay. As an outsider to the actual ceremony, it is my duty to stand in for any otherwise occupied best-men. Mikey should be back soon, anyway.”

“Hopefully… Anyway, we have a few minutes, why don’t you tell me about how you’re doing now? I haven’t had time or room in my mind to ask you the past months and I wanna know.” Gerard shuffles in his chair to get more comfortable and looks to Ryan expectantly.

“Um, well,” he straightens out his already straight collar, “Me and Brendon moved in together, we’re still trying to take things slow, but I was trying to avoid getting roped into unwanted orgies held by Shane in the next room, so it seemed logical to take the next step.” Gerard laughs at that, he has obviously heard the story – Ryan’s pretty sure there’s not a single person he knows who hasn’t heard the story.

“What about your album? How did that go?” Gerard asks, seeming oblivious to that little detail.

“Oh, yeah, that did okay, but… it didn’t end up turning much of a profit so the funding behind my contract pulled out after the allotted 3 months. Pete said it was fine, and we managed to sort out an alternate arrangement which we’re all pretty happy with, if I’m honest.” He puts his hands back in his pockets and pauses to think.

“What was the alternate arrangement?” Gerard persists.

Ryan laughs a little, it all happened so long ago, Gerard is so out of the loop. “Um, I get to write some lyrics and stuff for other bands signed to DCD2 as well as getting allowed some independent contracting on the side. It’s a pretty sweet deal and it’s working well so far, especially since I went back to school a couple days ago, so have to work on a flexible schedule.”

Gerard gasps quietly, “You went back to school? How did I not know this?!”

“Yeah, I’m finally studying English 101 at the Los Angeles City College, but I’m doing the course online to give myself some more scope and time to, y’know, do things. It’s only, like, 3 and a half hours a week, but it’s a good course, and I can continue it next semester, too, doing English 102 with the same professor or switch to a Fiction course.” He nods, pleased with himself and his decision to move back into education. It had been a long time coming, but Brendon had finally pushed him to do it.

They’d been talking about income and something, right when they were sorting out moving in together, Ryan insisting he should pay half the bills and Brendon turning stony-faced and annoyed, saying why shouldn’t he, instead, pay him back by going to school and gaining some actual qualifications? Ryan had gone into a huff, saying they should share the responsibility of a household; he wasn’t a leech, and it wasn’t his fault he hadn’t gone back to education, Brendon knew that. Eventually, after some pleading and underhand tactics on Brendon’s part, he convinced Ryan to accept a compromise: if Ryan went back to school, Brendon would let him pay for only what he used concerning water and electricity bills. It had all worked out pretty well, considering.

“Wow, Ryan, that’s amazing! Everything is happening so fast for you!” Gerard enthuses, bright smile and wide eyes.

Ryan winces a little bit but maintains a grin, “Well, not really. It has been a year and a half, this stuff has all been pretty spaced out.”

Gerard’s expression falls, “Oh my God, it has, hasn’t it. Fucking Christ, how the fuck has that happened? It feels like only a few months ago you and Brendon were squabbling over… over… something, I forget what.”

“It’s all right,” Ryan consoles, “You’ve been planning your wedding, not keeping track of my life. Plus, time goes faster when you’re on a deadline.”

“Still, I feel like I should have known these things, we are friends, after all.”

Ryan tries to return Gerard to his former happy state by saying, “But, hey, you’re up-to-date now! And it’s not as if you missed anything really vital or anything. Brendon and I have been getting to know one another again, we’re doing it pretty gently this time around, so we don’t fuck it up on round 2.”

“You two were always meant to be together, everyone can see it. You balance each other out so perfectly; just like Frank and me.” Gerard looks shy and wistful and looks at his fingers in his lap.

“Only 45 minutes and then you get to spend the rest of your life with him calling him your husband. That’s pretty special, Gerard, don’t forget that.” Gerard smiles his thanks at Ryan’s sincerity before Mikey bustles in through the door. They both look over to him and he puffs out his cheeks in the age-old ‘well that was tiring’ gesture.

“Sorry, had to sort out a seating kerfuffle.” He explains. “One of Frank’s friends was trying to sit next to that hot cousin we have so he could chat her up. I told him to stick to the seating arrangement, thank you very much.”

Ryan laughs and pushes off the table he’s leaning against. “I should probably go out, hold the fort or something.” Gerard nods and smiles at him again.

Mikey stops him before he gets to the door, “Oh, Brendon’s looking for you. He’s with Frank right now.” Ryan gives a thumbs up and heads out the door, hearing Gerard ask hopefully, “How is Frank? Is he freaking out as much as me?”

Ryan closes the door behind himself and stands looking down the small corridor. The venue is the Calamigos Equestrian property in Burbank, and the happy couple rented out both the Grand Prix Green and Ballroom for their special day. They’re currently in the small, but beautifully decked out, pavillion situated beside the seating area: close enough for the bride (were there one) not to dirty her dress, and far enough away to give the couple a refuge from the chatterings.

Since the pavillion isn’t as large as the hall itself, there’s only one corridor with 6 doors leading off it into separate waiting rooms and bedrooms. Gerard is at one end, Frank the other, as neither wanted to wait in front of the crowd while their better half was treated to a luxurious waiting room away from the stresses of happy relatives.

Ryan looks towards Frank’s room and is about to go over and knock when it opens of its own volition to reveal Brendon, in suit and tie, hurrying out and closing the door softly behind him.

As he turns he catches sight of Ryan and breaks into a gleeful grin.

“Hi,” he stage-whispers, pulling away from the door and straightening his jacket.

“Hey,” Ryan replies, smiling despite himself, “I was just about to come and find you.”

Brendon walks over to him and runs his hands down Ryan’s lapels, being careful to avoid the paper boutonniere. “Funny, I was about to do the same thing.” Brendon lifts his eyes to meet Ryan’s and smiles softly.

“Well, great minds.” Ryan reasons, leaning down for a small kiss and laughing when Brendon hums against his lips.

“Is Gerard doing okay?” Brendon asks when he pulls away.

“Yeah, he’s pretty anxious, though. I guess that’s normal.” Ryan answers, running his fingers through Brendon’s hair, which he’s started to grow out a bit now. Ryan’s grown his hair out, too, it’s shaggy and long and doesn’t really have much of a style, so he mostly just combs it back.

“I s’pose,” confers Brendon, closing his eyes and leaning into the touch – Ryan thinks he should be purring he looks that content.

“You ready to go out? I don’t think it’ll be too much longer before they come out and start the ceremony.” Brendon nods at his boyfriend and accepts the hand that’s offered to him in order to be tugged along to the seating outside.

Their seats are at the front, next to Spencer and Dallon on the left hand side of the aisle. They sit down and look around at the other guests, the happy, powdered faces gleaming in the September sunshine.

Brendon doesn’t let go of Ryan’s hand all the time they wait, a gentle reminder that they’re here as a unit, a team.

Since they moved in together back in February, things have been going well between them. They don’t argue nearly as much as they did the first time round, and they manage to actually listen to each other when one has an issue or, carefully pegged, constructive criticism. They have sex pretty regularly, Ryan found out fairly quickly that Brendon’s sex drive had not waned over their years apart, rather strengthened in his absence, so that makes for exciting bedroom experiments.

But they get along, which is what the point of the whole thing was, they like each other; they’re recently coming to terms with loving each other. Surprisingly, Ryan was the first to say it, one Sunday evening while they were in the middle of a Netflix and chill (they’ve been watching Orange is the New Black pretty religiously) and Ryan looked over when Brendon laughed for a second too long and Brendon noticed and then he just blurted out: “I love you”. Brendon hadn’t looked shocked, but his smile had dimmed a bit and Ryan had continued, “I mean, I’m pretty sure I’m in love with you.” Brendon, forever the cheeky bastard replied with, “Only pretty sure?”, and Ryan had smacked his arm, hard.

“My ass is hurting,” Brendon whispers after half an hour sitting on the provided chairs, shuffling in all directions trying to make himself more comfortable.

“That’s probably my fault,” Ryan teases, “sorry.” He smiles when Brendon rolls his eyes at him and doesn’t bother looking remorseful.

“Shut up! I meant from sitting in these damned seats for so long. Remind me again why they went for bows and not cushions?” Brendon fidgets again, frowning at the unfairness of his discomfort.

“It’s so you stay awake during the ceremony,” Ryan jokes, “if you had a cushion, you might fall asleep.”

Brendon huffs in annoyance, and, once he’s stopped wriggling, lays his head onto Ryan’s shoulder and sighs.

“Was your professor mad when you said you’d have to miss today’s meeting to go to your friend’s wedding?” Brendon asks, having forgotten to enquire the previous day.

Ryan shrugs, “He wasn’t thrilled, but Mister Beckett’s pretty laid back. He said we’d just rearrange.”

Brendon nods then laughs a little, “I can’t believe, out of all the professors in all the colleges, you got the one called ‘Beckett’. What a stunning twist of fate.”

He’s nearly huffy, but knows Brendon’s only teasing in good faith, so he laughs instead.

“Well, that’s totally my life, right?”

“I guess.” Brendon picks Ryan’s hand out of his lap and starts doodling on the surface with his fingernails.

“Hey, it’s weird how fitting your song is for today, huh?” Ryan observes, watching Brendon trace squirls on his hand.

“Hmm,” he hums in agreement.

“I mean, I know it’s about you, but… fits with the whole wedding thing pretty well, don’t you think?”

Brendon halts the movement of his fingers, mid-way through tracing a butterfly on Ryan’s skin. He waits a moment, not moving, before clearing his throat and mumbling, “Yeah, weird, huh.”

Ryan is on the brink of a response, when the music starts and everyone stands up, craning their necks to look down the aisle at the first best-man/maid of honour-cum-pageboy couple emerge, preceding the first groom.

It’s so picturesque and neat – all the outfits match each other, colour-schemed to perfection (Ryan wonders now how Gerard didn’t have more nightmares where colour booklets chased him down the street) – and when Gerard emerges, striding down the aisle confidently, Brendon’s grip on his hand gets just a little tighter.

“He looks so happy,” Ryan whispers in his boyfriend’s ear, and when Brendon nods, his hair brushes against Ryan’s chin a little.

Frank’s entrance is equally as mesmerising and goddamnit, why didn’t Ryan bring tissues or something, this is embarrassing. He wipes his eyes as inconspicuously as he can, but Brendon notices anyway and laughs a bit.

“Feeling weepy, Ross?” he laughs, dragging Ryan to sit beside him as everyone else resumes their seats. The officiant starts talking about love and two people coming together under a sacred bond. Ryan thinks this might be important, but Brendon has just impugned his manlihood and he feels impelled to fight for his honour.

“Just imagining what it would be like, that’s all.” He replies simply, not staying to watch how Brendon’s face shifts from coy to stupefied, instead turning back to the ceremony in front of him. Brendon’s expression remains dumbly open-mouthed for most of the duration of the wedding, only changing when the actual vows come up.

Gerard being Gerard, he coerced Frank into writing their own vows, saying it’d be more special; making promises that were actually from them rather than from some pre-written script.

Gerard goes first, and it’s quickly established he has memorised his as Mikey doesn’t even move to hand him a piece of paper when the time comes.

“Frank: every moment I spend with you, reminds me how lucky I am to have someone who unconditionally cares for me. Before I met you, I was a mess, and you pulled me, pretty forcefully, from the clutches of my demons. You’ve lived through my best and my worst times, and you’ve supported me all through every stupid, wreckless decision I’ve made. When I told you I wanted you to be in my band… I’ll never forget the look on your face, the sheer excitement, and it was a look I knew, even then, I could never live without.

“You supported me wholly when I said I didn’t want to be in the band anymore, in fact, you urged me to make the leap and concentrate on my art, which you inspire on a daily basis. I love you more than I could possibly comprehend, and I promise I will endeavour never to hurt you, or restrain your spirit, or lie to you. I promise I will love you, and care for you, and support everything you do. I promise to be the best I can for you, because you deserve perfection. I know I can’t be perfect, but I can try, and I can listen to you when you need me to listen, and I can comfort you when you need comfort. I take you as my husband today, tomorrow, forever, because I love you, so, so much, and please know this, here, right now? This is testament to that fact. Because streamers and bows and balloons may be beautiful today, but you’ll be beautiful forever.”

A tantalising moment passes where everyone collectively holds their breath, and Frank breaks it by surging forward and kissing Gerard as hard as he can, with as little prowess as humanly possible. Brendon giggles quietly beside Ryan, as do several other guests, and the officiant starts getting a little antsy so when Frank finally releases Gerard, he smiles and nods for the ceremony to continue as if nothing happened.

“Gerard Arthur Way,” Frank starts, smiling goofily and barely articulating his words, “You’re the cheesiest piece of crap I’ve ever met, but it continues to make my knees weak and my heartbeat speed up like there’s a marching band on too much Ritalin in there. I’ll never get bored of you, despite what you think, I’ll never stop thinking you’re completely and utterly amazing and totally the best thing that ever happened to me. I’m not gonna go on forever because, even though I could, I’ll start crying and these people have lives to get back to,” he gestures out to the audience without taking his eyes off Gerard and there’s scattered, hearty laughter. “I know we’ve had bad times, but we’ve also had the best times ever, and I wouldn’t trade our memories for anything, not anything. I promise to be everything I can for you, and I promise to stick it out to the end with you – which is gonna be forever, by the way, because I’m counting on the whole commercial robotics thing being in our lifetime. Mostly, though, I promise to be your husband, and to love you unconditionally through thick and thin… I… I love you, Gee, and… shotgun not getting up when the baby cries.”

There’s spattered laughter – mostly from those guests who have children themselves – and Ryan thinks that Frank’s grin could split his face in two were it to get any wider.

The reception is beautiful, in that way that everything Gerard and Frank do is stunning in a totally eyecatching and unusual manner. Ryan takes about 5 minutes just studying everything around him, memorising every detail as he’s confident you can remember perfection if you try hard enough – after all, the image of Brendon remained with him for 4 years. Brendon nudges him in the shoulder to remind him to keep moving as the queue is backing up behind him, and he forces his feet to move again. The high ceiling comes to a point in the form of a skylight, and gleaming golden gilding sparkles almost like it’s made of real gold.

The tables are checkerboarded out across the stretch of the hall, the band positioned on the stage at the very back, all dressed in crushed red velvet jackets with white shirts, black bowties, and black dress pants. They’re already in full swing, with a few merry couples twirling enthusiastically round the designated dancefloor.

Brendon holds onto Ryan’s jacket cuff and drags him to their seats, where they’ve been seated alongside Spencer, Dallon, and Ian and their respective partners. The tablecloths are white on top but fade to black along the hem in a way that looks like spilled ink, and there are more comic-book flower arrangements in vases on the tables.

“This room makes me feel like I belong in Munchkinland,” Brendon mumbles, and when Ryan looks over at him he finds his face is tilted up at the skylight as Ryan’s had been a few minutes ago.

“This room makes me feel like I’m flirting with someone way out of my league and they know it but they want me to entertain the possibility for a little longer,” Ryan replies moving his eyes back around to the collonades and tall arches of the walls. Brendon stifles a snort and shakes his head, reaching across the table to grab the bottle of Cristal to fill his empty champagne flute. He replaces the bottle and then grabs the crystal jug of water to fill Ryan’s glass.

“So,” Brendon begins, taking a sip of the Cristal, “you gonna ask me to dance or what?”

Ryan jerks round to look at Brendon’s serious and enquiring face. His eyebrows are now buried in his hairline and he can’t decide whether to laugh or frown.

“Um, no?” he replies shakily, reaching for his glass and taking a large swig, only now wishing he hadn’t given up alcohol all those years ago because that would make this a whole bunch easier.

Brendon pouts, “Why not?”

“Because,” he coughs, “because I don’t dance. Not like this.” He waves his hand toward the carefree couples swaying to the music not 15 feet from their table.

Brendon sighs and leans back into his seat, feeling defeated. “You danced in Vegas,” he grumbles, taking another, rather large, sip of champagne.

Ryan feels mean, now. He doesn’t like doing this, dulling Brendon’s unwavering flame of childih optimism, it twists something big and painful in his gut.

He sighs and sets his glass down, then pushes his chair back to stand and holds out his hand to Brendon, watching the look of surprise, confusion, and finally glee cross Brendon’s face.

“Finally, Ross, I’ll make a gentleman of you yet!” He proclaims gaily, skipping ahead of Ryan so he doesn’t catch the smile working its way across his partner’s face.

The song is something Ryan doesn’t recognise; slow, smooth, and, if he listens hard enough, a little bit depressing. Then again, Gerard practically worships Morrissey and all his works, so the depressing element maybe isn’t that surprising. Brendon does a cute little twirl and full-on grins at Ryan, who by now is kind of shitting himself. He honestly didn’t come to dance, especially not slow-dance. That’s so not really his thing.

“Just, let go, Ross, you’re so tense all the damn time,” Brendon whispers in his ear as he leans in to take one of Ryan’s hands and moves Ryan’s other hand to his waist. It’s not really dancing, per se, more swaying to a beat, but Brendon seems to be enjoying himself and that’s the reason he did this in the first place.

He’s not exactly clear on dancing etiquette, but the dance seems to last forever, and he kind of wants to get back to his seat before he trips over his feet or something equally embarrassing. Then, about halfway through the song, Brendon rests his head on Ryan’s shoulder, and maybe the whole dancing thing isn’t so bad if you’ve got the right partner. Eventually, the song ends, and Brendon seems complacent with just the one dance, especially since the next tune that comes on is rather more upbeat and Ryan’s not prepared to dance to a fast song until all the other guests are thoroughly shit-faced.

They return to their seats just as someone with a microphone announces their first courses will be brought out imminently.

***

It’s approximately midnight, and there are still plenty of people still in the hall – all thoroughly shit-faced after a long evening of an open bar and plentiful champagne.

Brendon is up on the dancefloor, and looks as if he’s having some sort of epileptic fit though Ryan knows for a fact he’s only had 2 glasses of champagne and some sunset cocktail from the bar all night.

Ryan’s lounging in his chair, letting the coloured lights flash over him, and Spencer is next to him, sipping a tall, sugary, pink drink out of a sparkly straw.

“Why don’t you just go dance with him, you freak.” Spencer mumbles around his straw. Ryan turns to look at him and Spencer jerks his head in Brendon’s direction, Brendon is now attempting to twerk, much to the delight of Frank’s friend Jamia who’s egging Brendon on.

“I don’t wanna be associated with that disaster-area,” Ryan replies, turning fully to face Spencer.

“Bit late for that, don’t you think,” Spencer smirks, taking another long drink from his virgin cocktail. Ryan shakes his head and runs his finger around the rim of his water glass. “When are you two gonna tie the knot, anyway?”

Ryan freezes a little. Spencer looks completely nonchalant, like this is something they’ve been talking about for ages. It totally isn’t.

“W-what?” he stutters, then coughs, then fiddles with his tie.

“C’mon, don’t act dumb with me. Brendon’s not exactly subtle you know. If the 13-year-old-in-love-with-her-poster attitude weren’t telling enough, that song would’ve done it.”

“What song?” he frowns, leaning in closer.

Spencer rolls his eyes, “Please, Ryan. You know the one I mean, that ‘End of everything’ one or whatever it’s called.”

“You mean ‘The End of All Things’?” Ryan asks urgently, realisation dawning on him like a cold bucket of water.

Spencer nods, “That’s the one. I mean, please, if you didn’t get it from that then really I mean, what’s wrong with you? You know? It was so obvious, so don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about.”

Ryan stares at the tablecloth and thinks about every moment from when he and Brendon got back together up until now. Every possible suggestion of marriage that he could’ve missed in that time. God it’s all so clear now. Shit. Shit. He stares back to where Brendon twisting and laughing like he’s never been happier.

Shit.

“I’m gonna be sick,”

Ryan turns to see Spencer clutching his stomach and going positively green. He quickly flags down Dallon – who’s giving Spencer a lift home – and tells him Spencer’s having a sugar related emergency and should probably get to a bathroom right now.

When he turns back around after Spencer has vacated the table, Brendon is standing there, smile still firmly plastered to his face and hair adorably askew.

“Hey, baby,” he says breathlessly, “what’s up with Spence?” he points in the direction they just went and takes a seat at the empty table.

Ryan sits down next to him, “Oh, he had too many of those sugary cocktails and got himself sick.”

Brendon nods in understanding, “Been there, my friend.” He scooches his chair closer to Ryan’s and rests his head on Ryan’s shoulder, a by now familiar position.

After a few moments of silence together, Brendon gazes around at the ballroom, the people in it, everything that’s been set up, and says “I love weddings. And not just because they’re pretty. I mean…”

“I know what you mean,” Ryan continues, stroking his boyfriend’s hair softly.

He takes a deep breath and carries on, “Well, you know what they say.”

Brendon twists his head a bit to glance at Ryan side-on. “What do they say?”

Ryan smiles, confident finally, “One wedding brings on another.”

Brendon looks down at his hands in his lap, where he’s fiddling with the boutonniere Frank gave him just minutes ago before they left for the honeymoon, saying it would actualise his heart’s desires. He smiles something that’s halfway between tranquil and delighted.

He doesn’t move before responding, “As long as it’s not in Vermont, you can count me the fuck in.” Then turns, smiling beatifically, to see a matching grin on his fiance’s face.

“I’ll go anywhere for you, you know that.” Ryan whispers before leaning in and kissing Brendon with all the love he deserves.

“I still want a ring though.”

Chapter Text

“Ow! Motherflipper!” He whisper-yells as he treads on something spiky and seriously painful. “Since when did the walk to the bathroom become a freaking obstacle course?” he mutters to himself, picking out the piece of Lego that has lodged itself in his goddamned foot. The bathroom is not in a much better state than the hallway, if he’s being honest, with various brightly coloured potential foot-impalers covering every available surface.

He kicks the hop-up stool out of the way so he can get closer to the mirror, and runs the tap, splashing a little water on his face in the vain hope the liquid might take some of the darkness under his eyes with it as it swirls down the drain. No such luck. He pees quickly, washes his hands, and picks his way carefully back down the hallway of 1000 foot-torturers and slowly crawls into the warm, comfortable bed.

“How much longer do we have?” he mumbles into his pillow when he is safely ensconced in the duvet. The lump next to him makes a soft noise that he recognises as an exhausted sigh. The lump moves jerkily, shuffling around until an arm pokes out from the corner of the duvet and grabs the phone that’s sitting on the bedside table. The arm then retreats back to the lump.

“10 minutes, I reckon, maybe less.” It concludes, and it’s probable Brendon wants to cry.

“Do you remember the last time we got up after 9am on a weekend?” he asks the lump, “Actually, do you remember the last time we got up at a time that didn’t have a 6 in front of it?”

The lump jerks a little and Brendon hears Ryan’s muffled laughter.

“I never thought I could grow to hate the sight of a sunrise.” Ryan muses, poking his head out from the duvet and stretching his legs, the lump giving way to the shape of his long, lean body. Brendon turns onto his back and looks at the ceiling.

“I never thought a human adult could replace sleep with coffee, and yet here we are.” He says, laughing and looking over at Ryan, who’s covering his eyes with his arm and laughing as well.

They both stop abruptly when they hear a distinct bump from down the hallway.

“10 minutes my ass.” Brendon groans, steeling himself.

“Hey it’s not my fault. She gets it from you.” Ryan retaliates, shuffling himself up a bit and pulling his t-shirt down where it’s ridden up.

Seconds later they hear the steady rhythmic thud of running feet making their way to their room.

“Get ready,” Brendon warns, pushing his hair back from his eyes.

Ryan doesn’t have time to respond before the door flings open and a small, 3 year old-shaped missile sweeps into the room and launches itself onto the bed.

“Good morning, sleepyheads! Time to get awake!”

Brendon catches his daughter’s bouncing form and pulls her into a hug, mostly to prevent any more injuries – a foot to the groin is not the ideal way to begin a Saturday, he knows from experience, unfortunately.

“Hey, tots, how’s it going? You ready for some breakfast in a minute?” He pulls himself further into a sitting position and gently combs some of her hair behind her ears with his fingers. She nods happily at the prospect of breakfast, smiling goofily to show off her tiny, round teeth.

“Pancakes! Pancakes! Pancakes!” she chants loudly, bouncing around on Brendon’s lap, sending her curly hair flying in all directions.

“Okay, Maia, but first you’re gonna have to let us get up,” Brendon reasons, then leans in conspiratorially, “you know how daddy can get when he’s tired.” She giggles and looks over at Ryan, who rolls his eyes at Brendon and says, “I’m coming now, honey, you go ahead and get out your plate from the cupboard, okay?”

“Okay!” she chirps, extricating herself from Brendon’s hold and sliding clumsily down off the side of the bed, then brushing her hair back off her face again when it falls into her eyes. “Can we watch Sofia as well?”

Brendon, for a second, wonders at the fact that even 2 years ago, he would have had no idea what this girl was talking about, but now he understands immediately, even knowing the ‘Sofia the First’ theme music off by heart.

Ryan smiles and nods, “Yeah of course we can watch Sofia, too. You go put it on, I’ll be out in a sec.”

Maia wastes no time, bounding out the room as quickly as she bounded in. Brendon turns to Ryan and doesn’t bother tempering the grin on his face, noticing the identical one he’s met with.

“Well,” he says, “maybe early starts aren’t that terrible.”

Ryan rolls his eyes at him again, and throws the covers off himself, getting up and instantly reaching for the hoodie he left on the back of their dresser chair.

“C’mon, B, we’ve got pancakes to make and Princesses to sing along with.” Ryan urges Brendon, leaning in briefly to kiss his husband before turning and following Maia’s route to the kitchen, where the sound of the Disney Kids channel can already be heard.

Brendon watches him go out the door and sighs to himself, then gets out of the bed to go and have breakfast with his family.

***

“When’s Spencer getting here?” Brendon calls from the bathroom, fixing his hair one last time before acknowledging that he’s gone out of the house wearing a tiara and lipstick before – much to the eternal delight of Maia (and Ryan, the traitor) – so he’s past the point of no return.

“Um, 11, I think. Just check my phone, he’ll have texted about a million times to confirm. You know how he is about plans generally, and he’s particularly meticulous when it comes to Maia.”

Brendon exits the bathroom and walks to their bedroom, picking Ryan’s phone off the dresser and seeing that, as Ryan predicted, Spencer has texted him 34 times.

“Jeez, I think Smith needs to take a chill pill. This is kind of excessive.”

Ryan walks into the room, struggling under the weight of a suitcase big enough to pack the whole house in. “He just wants to make sure. Plus, it’s really nice of him to take her for a whole night. He’s doing us a huge favour.”

Brendon has to agree, and is about to voice that when he catches sight of the suitcase. “You leaving me, Ross?” He teases, raising an eyebrow and smirking.

Ryan rolls his eyes, “Shut up. Maia has a lot of stuff.”

Unfortunately, this is not going to fly as an excuse, and Brendon hauls the case onto the bed with more ease than Ryan thinks is strictly fair. He unzips it and lets out a low whistle.

“Jesus, Ross, you’d think she was moving out, not spending the night with her uncle. C’mon this is ridiculous! There’s, like, four outfit changes in here! You know damn well she rarely wears more than one outfit for a week, let alone a day.” Brendon starts unpacking and Ryan tries to intervene.

“I just want to make sure she’s covered on all counts, what’s wrong with that?”

Brendon looks up from his ruthless emptying of the case to see the worry in Ryan’s eyes. “Hey,” he says softly, reaching out for Ryan’s hand, who reaches back almost instinctively, “she’s going to be fine. She’ll be with Spence and Linda, and she loves them both, you know that.”

“I know, it’s just… it’s the first time she’s not with one of us for a whole day, you know? I want to make sure everything’s okay.”

Brendon smiles easily, he understands what Ryan’s feeling, feels it every time he has to leave for a concert in another city, or the brief tour he did last summer. He also understands that Maia staying at the Smith’s isn’t the only contributing factor.

“Trust me, she’ll be just fine. Plus, we have their numbers and they have ours, if anything happens - not that it will - but if anything were to happen, they’d be able to contact us immediately. Okay?”

He doesn’t look too happy about it, but Ryan nods regardless and Brendon smiles.

“You go tell her to put her shoes on. Spencer’ll be here in a minute.”

He finishes repacking Maia’s suitcase, leaving a couple of extra changes of clothes because shut up, and pauses for a moment thinking about the many ways his life has changed since he ran into Ryan in a coffeeshop, what is it, 6 years ago now? Jesus. That makes him feel old.

He drags the case into the hall and looks mournfully down the stairs, regretting telling Ryan to leave him to it. He elects to go one step at a time, dragging the case behind him cautiously. When he reaches the bottom of the flight safely, his ears are caught by sweet laughter, and he looks round the corner down the hallway and sees Maia and Ryan, giggling together on the floor as Ryan tries to tie up her shiny, red shoes while she covers his eyes with her small, clumsy hands. Of course, he’s failing miserably, much to her amusement.

It’s moments like these that confirm in Brendon why he’s made the decisions he has. This is what he wants: a proper family of his own. He’ll be damned if anyone questions him on that one.

“Daddy, we’re playing a game!” Maia calls, having caught sight of Brendon lingering at the bottom of the stairs.

“I’m not very good at it.” Ryan chuckles, giving up on the shoes and looking at Brendon as well now that Maia has removed her hands.

“I could tell. Want me to try?” Brendon’s making his way over anyway, when the bell goes and Ryan stands up, pointing at Maia and giving Brendon a look that asks him to keep her busy while he answers it.

“C’mere, babygirl,” Brendon coos, picking Maia off the floor and, with a little difficulty, perching her on his hip with her arms winding round his neck.

Ryan opens the door to reveal Spencer, who smiles broadly and pulls Ryan into a hard hug.

“Hey, guys. And hey, how’s my favourite neice?” He grins even wider at Maia, who grins back just as wide.

“That’s me!” She pipes, wiggling around in Brendon’s arms.

“Honey, that’s not how we answer questions,” Ryan reminds her, giving her as stern a look as one could possibly manage when looking at her sweet little face.

She nearly pouts (an art she is learning to perfect, thanks Brendon) but stops herself when she sees Ryan’s face, so turns back to Spencer, “I’m happy today! Daddy made me pancakes and we watched Sofia, and then we did some colouring, and then we made the Bear family have a tea party!”

Spencer’s eyebrows raise a tad, “Really?! All that before 11am. Impressive, munchkin.”

Ryan, who’s been leaning against the wall, pushes off it and shrugs, “We’ve been up since 6:30, haven’t we, Maia?” She nods enthusiastically, “Hey, Spence, where’s Linda? I thought you’d both come?”

Spencer grimaces a little, “Morning sickness.”

Brendon actually sees Ryan’s freak out beginning. “Hey, if she’s not well,” he starts; Brendon knows where this is going, “maybe we should just-“

“She’ll be fine, Ryan,” Brendon interrupts, sending Ryan a look that simply says he’s being ridiculous.

Spencer catches on and rolls his eyes, slapping his friend’s back encouragingly, “We’ll be fine, Ry, don’t worry about it. God, you’re such a dad.” Ryan scowls but it quickly dissolves into a smile, and he lightly slaps Spencer’s side.

“Hey, I am your future. Don’t mock me now.” Ryan laughs when Spencer’s face pales a little.

Brendon decides to move into the kitchen so he can sit Maia on the counter and finally tie her shoes, leaving to Spencer’s exclamation of “Jesus, Ryan, you planning on hiding in this thing and smuggling yourself into my house?!” when he sees the suitcase.

“Daddy,” Maia sing-songs.

“Yes, sweetie,” he responds, marvelling slightly at how quickly one learns to multitask when one has a child to look after.

“Where are you and daddy going today? And why am I staying with Uncle Spencer and Auntie Linda?” she watches him tie her shoes with avid interest, then uses her whole palm to wipe her hair back.

“Well,” he says, finishing up the bow on her left foot and moving onto the right. “We’re going to go see Uncle Pete for a little while, and then we have to go and meet someone very important.”

“Who?” She continues, evidently not satisfied with any loose ends.

Brendon taps her feet once he’s done with both the shoes and looks her in the face, “It’s a surprise.”

“Why?”

“Okay! Shall we go?” Spencer interrupts, coming back in through the front door after having wrestled the suitcase into his car. Ryan follows him, but waits in the hall.

“Yay!” Maia screeches, having obviously forgotten about her line of questioning and putting her arms out so Brendon can help her to hop down onto the floor, where she promptly runs and grabs onto Spencer’s outstretched hand. “Go, go, go!”

Spencer laughs and walks her to the door. “Now, you two, have a good day, I hope it all goes well. If you need me urgently, I’m only a phone call away, but I hope there won’t be any need to call at all.”

“Ooh, but we’ll call at about 6ish to say goodnight to Maia.” Ryan says quickly, “And we’ll be round to pick her up tomorrow at 10, okay? Because she has a class and sometimes the traffic is really bad, and-“

“See you tomorrow, Spence!” Brendon says over the top of him, then bends down to kiss Maia goodbye. Ryan looks torn, but follows suit and then Brendon shuts the door before he can say anything else. “See, she’s gone and we’re fine.” He says, raising a victorious eyebrow.

“Yeah, I know. I miss her, though.”

Brendon slips his arm around Ryan’s waist and kisses him, pulling him close and kissing him deeper until Ryan pulls away and rests their foreheads together.

“We have to go. We’ll be late to Pete’s otherwise.”

Brendon groans, “Pete won’t mind.”

“No, but I will. C’mon, let’s go.”

Brendon snatches one last kiss before going to get his keys.

“What’s this meeting even for, Brendon?” Ryan calls, getting their coats out the cupboard and turning off the upstairs light.

“Oh, I just need to sort out some of the tour contracts and get the timescale for another album.”

Ryan sounds only a little startled when he says, “You’re writing another album?”

Brendon pauses, “Yeah, supposedly.”

“Wow, they really have you churning ‘em out, huh? Good thing you’re so talented.”

Brendon locks the door on the way out and thinks about that.

***

Pete’s house is probably the tidiest place on earth, which Brendon thinks is pretty ridiculous considering two men and two small children live there, but whatever. He chalks it up to Patrick being the most organised person on the planet.

Pete leads them into his study, which is much messier and makes Brendon feel a little bit better about the ‘a tornado has just passed through here’ state of his own home.

“So, are you ready to get started, Brendon? Did you look over the documents I sent you?” Pete asks, folding his hands on the table and giving them his business look.

“Yeah, I did, and I just have a couple questions regarding some of the legal clauses,” Brendon glances at Ryan, who’s noticed something on one of the bookshelves behind Pete’s head and is looking at that. Typical.

“No problem,” Pete replies easily, “Just tell me which clauses and I can look over them with you to clear up any confusion.”

Brendon nods and glances once again at where Ryan’s off in his own little world, staring determinedly at the books lined up haphazardly on Pete’s wall.

“Actually I have something pretty important I want to talk to you about.” He says, his heart speeding up a beat.

“Sure, anything you want to clarify before the record company meeting say now,” Pete encourages.

Brendon shuffles in his seat nervously and rubs his palms on his legs, before Ryan finally tears his gaze away from the wall and catches his eye, frowning a little bit in question at Brendon’s prolonged silence. Brendon turns back to face Pete, previous anxiety diminished.

“I want to quit Panic! At the Disco.”

“What?!” Pete and Ryan gasp in unison. Brendon just nods.

“I have a family, Pete, and I spend so much time away from Maia…and especially right now it’s… I think it’s been a long time coming, really.” Brendon looks from Pete to Ryan and Ryan’s face… he looks so shocked, but also happy, like, completely ecstatic. Like this is the thing he’s been waiting for that he didn’t really want to entertain the idea of because he was certain it would never happen. To be fair, that is exactly what he’s feeling.

“Well,” Pete says, uncertainly, “I mean are you sure?”

Brendon continues to look at Ryan’s face, “Absolutely positive.”

Pete breathes out loudly, “Okay, if that’s really what you want, then we’ll do that.”

Brendon turns back to face his friend-cum-manager, “Thanks, Pete. For everything, you know?”

Pete waves him off and they sit and chat for a while, discussing the formalities of how to end Panic! At the Disco.

***

“I can’t believe you just did that.” Ryan says once they’re back in the car – a sensible car, not Brendon’s stupid fucking sports car from before.

Brendon shrugs, “It’s like I said: a long time coming. First you and Jon, then Spencer as well. I just don’t like being up there on my own. Even Dallon pissed off back to Salt Lake City. And now, with Maia and everything, I think it’s the right call.”

He barely has time to look over before Ryan has launched himself across the width of the car and is kissing Brendon with force enough to knock him backwards into the car-door. Fortunately, he hasn’t started driving yet, so they’re not in any immediate danger.

Ryan stops kissing him long enough to say, “God, I love you so fucking much. Doing that for, for us, for our family, God, Brendon.”

“So you’re not mad?” Brendon asks tentatively, holding Ryan’s face gently in his hands. “I mean, it was kind of your band.”

Ryan laughs and returns to his seat, “No. I’m not mad. And it wasn’t my band, Brendon. Without you, we were never going to be anything. You took what I wrote and you turned it into music. That’s why I fell in love with you in the first place. You made everything come to life, gave it meaning and hope and shit.”

“And shit.” Brendon repeats, laughing.

“Now drive, you unemployed asshole.”

***

Layla asks them to wait in the small, lavender-coated waiting room while she finishes up in her office, and they sit awkwardly staring at a poster that says “A healthy family is a happy family!” with a picture of a 1950s suburbian family eating loads of broccoli. It’s weird.

When they’re called in, Brendon thinks Ryan’s going to puke. He feels a similar way.

“So, Brendon and Ryan, how are you two doing? How’s Maia?”

“She’s great, we’re great, everything is just…great.” Ryan babbles, and Brendon leans over to take his hand again.

“We’re having an amazing time. Maia is an incredible girl.” Brendon says, putting on his interview voice.

Layla smiles beatifically and picks up the file in front of her. “You’re right there. You’re very lucky to have her.”

“Don’t we know it!” Brendon chirps, smiling brightly to cover his raging nerves. Ryan grips his hand harder.

“So, we’ve been going over your file in conjunction with your application,” Layla says, suddenly all business, “and we think we have some news.”

“Good news or bad news?” Ryan can’t help himself.

Layla pauses. “Good news, Mr Ross. There’s a young boy, Thomas, he’s 9 months old, and he fits your application very well indeed. He’s even living in the area at the moment!”

Brendon wants to cry. No, sing. No, puke. No, all of the above. He lets himself look at Ryan and the smile cracking his pretty little face in two.

“That’s amazing!” He cries, “I can’t believe – when could we meet him?!”

“There is one thing you two should know before I continue.” They both still. “Thomas is, by most all counts, a healthy child, but he suffered a head trauma when he was very young and various circumstances mean he now has a condition called Sydenham’s Chorea. It is non-fatal and he should recover soon, but it means he has some motor skill issues which will need to be dealt with rigorously. Is that going to be a problem?”

Brendon doesn’t really understand what this means, but he knows that he wants another kid, and this kid sounds like he could really use some parents. One look at Ryan tells him his husband feels the same way.

“That’s not a problem at all.” He says, voice full of tearful conviction.

“Brilliant! If you wouldn’t mind signing some documents, then we can arrange a meeting and then go from there! You’re well versed in the process from Maia, so it shouldn’t take too long.” She gets up to go and grab the file and the two men sit in stunned silence for a second.

“This is really happening.” Ryan states, eyes wide and fingers desperately gripping Brendon’s.

“This is really happening.” He confirms.

“We’re gonna have a son.”

“We’re gonna have a son.” He doesn’t know why the only thing he’s capable of saying right now are just repeats of what Ryan’s just said, but the message is clear enough.

Layla marches back into the room, hair bobbing, and smiles at them.

“So I grabbed you some pens, and I’ll let you have a read through the preliminary documentation.”

***

“And you’re being a good girl for your uncle and auntie, right? Good. And you’re gonna go to bed without a fuss when Uncle Spencer asks, okay? Yeah, sweetie I miss you too, but I’ll see you tomorrow morning, okay? Okay. Yeah. Love you too, okay. Night.” Ryan hangs up the phone and presses his hand over his heart. “God I miss her so much.” He whines, collapsing back down onto the couch next to Brendon.

“Welcome to my world.” Brendon mutters, stuffing a whole egg roll in his mouth.

Ryan looks instantly happy, “Not for long though, right?”

“Right.”

“I am still in utter shock over everything that’s happened today. It’s like, this morning I woke up and I was so stressed about it all, and I was trying to just focus my energy on getting Maia ready and then… well now I don’t think I could possibly be happier.” He rests his head on Brendon’s shoulder and sighs.

“Yeah? Wanna put that theory to the test?” The provocative tone in Brendon’s voice needs no explanation and Ryan raises an eyebrow. “What?” Brendon hums, voice lowering in pitch to where he knows it gets Ryan going. “Maia’s not here, we have the house to ourselves for a whole night. Why not?”

Ryan contemplates this for a second, then narrows his eyes and gets up off the couch in a swift motion. Brendon looks confused.

“I don’t know…” he starts, but as he says it his fingers start fiddling suggestively with the buttons on his shirt, “I was kind of thinking we could watch a film and snuggle?”

Brendon growls in the back of his throat, pushing himself off the couch and backing Ryan up against the closest wall, lips milimeters from his. “You’re a fucking tease, you know, Ross.”

Ryan just grins and Brendon has to kiss that stupid look off his face or he’ll die. Ryan knots his hands in Brendon’s hair and pulls a bit, drawing a groan from Brendon’s throat and they kiss each other like they never need anything else.

They bang into almost every possible surface on their journey from the living room to the bottom of the stairs, too engrossed in each other to really care. They have to break apart for a few excruciating seconds to safely climb the stairs, and then they’re reattached at the mouths, fumbling with shirts and belts and pinballing down the hallway towards the bedroom.

“Shit!” Brendon suddenly shouts, pulling away and cradling his foot. Ryan looks at him quizzically through his lust-tinged haze. “What the-?” He looks at the floor and realises he’s stepped on the same damn piece of Lego from that morning. “Why does our daughter hate our feet?” He asks, and Ryan laughs before leaning back in and pulling Brendon through the open door into their bedroom.

“You know,” Ryan gasps between kisses, “earlier at Pete’s, I-fuck I didn’t think you were serious, but-uhh I need you to know I don’t need you to stop being in the band for me.”

Brendon draws back from where he’s biting Ryan’s collarbone and looks at him, head cocked a little to the side. “That’s not the whole reason, Ryan.”

“I know, I know that,” he runs his hands up and down Brendon’s arms, “I just don’t want you to do something because you think it’s gallant and then you end up hating me for that decision. I don’t want you to resent me for something you thought I wanted for you. I want you to be happy, that’s all.” He looks kind of frightened, like this is a fear he’s held onto for a really long time and he’s scared Brendon won’t understand. For the record, he does understand, he understands it only too well.

“I’m not doing this because I think you want me to, and I am happy. I’m doing this because… because the part of my life where I’m the frontman of a pop-punk band is over, and the part of my life where I’m a husband and a father is beginning, and I don’t wanna miss anymore of it because I’m trying to live in the past.”

They both move together at the same time, clashing a little in the middle but softening the blow by melding it into another passionate kiss. Brendon pushes so Ryan moves back to the bed, sitting when he reaches the side of it and shuffling back so Brendon can crawl over him, both of them trying to maintain the kiss the whole time.

“I can’t hate you,” Brendon murmurs against Ryan’s lips and he grinds down trying to feel Ryan’s body against his. Ryan tries desperately not to think about all the things that sentence could mean, tries to concentrate on the feeling of Brendon above him. But the thought rings in his mind the whole time.

***

They’re lying together, heads touching but bodies pointing in opposite directions, hands tangled between them.

“You can’t hate me.”

Brendon turns his head, confused.

“Right.”

“Hm.”

“What is it?”

“What do you mean ‘what is it?’?”

Brendon lifts himself up onto his elbow so he can look down into Ryan’s face.

“You’re doing that thing.”

“I’m not doing that thing.”

“You’re doing that thing!” Brendon insists.

“What thing?”

“Where something’s bothering you and you’re trying to pretend it doesn’t bother you but in reality you’re going to obsess over it for the next week and barely say a word to me. That thing.”

Ryan looks caught. Correction: Ryan is caught. Brendon knows him too well.

“Okay, fine, I’m doing that thing!”

God,” Brendon groans, throwing his hands in the air and falling back onto the pillow.

“So what!” Ryan continues, “It’s your fault.”

Brendon barks out a laugh, “What? How’s this my fault?”

“You said you could never hate me.”

“Um. Yeah? So?”

“You can’t hate me, or you can’t hate me, or you can’t hate me, or you can’t hate me? I just don’t know what to do with that!”

Brendon sighs, knowing this is going to carry on in all its insanity if he doesn’t clarify right now. God, his husband can be a little bitch sometimes. He turns to his side and puts his arm round Ryan’s waist, head resting on his shoulder.

“I can’t hate you. Simple as. You said you didn’t want me to do something and then hate you for it because I thought it’s what you wanted. All I’m saying is: I can’t hate you, Ryan Ross, because hating you is like hating myself. And I think we both know my ego’s too big to be physically capable of that kind of thing, so.”

Ryan doesn’t say anything for a moment.

“I love you too.” He eventually gets out, absentmindedly stroking Brendon’s hair with one hand and holding onto his arm with the other.

“There you go, Ross. Now, can we please go to sleep? I’m really tired and I want to have a lie in tomorrow morning.”

“Yeah, okay. Night, B.”

“Night.”