TITLE: If You Stay
WORD COUNT: 8,000-ish (for a not!fic, what the fuck.)
SUMMARY: Uh. Idk, the original title of this doc was "The Accidental Un-Divorce Fic." =D?
A/N: Um. Basically, this is the most handwavey, self-indulgent, ridiculous thing in the universe. It’s also unbeta’d, so read at your own risk. This entire thing stemmed from conversations I had with sunsetmog and manipulant over a year ago, which I never thought about again until I suddenly found myself chatficcing part of it at manipulant all over again, and then I sat down and wrote eight thousand words of not!fic in two days for no reason. So, there’s that. Also, I honestly no longer have any idea what sparked these conversations way back when, so there is a vague chance that this idea is based on…something that actually already exists somewhere. I don’t actually think it is? But I could not swear to it in a court of law. It is entirely sunsetmog’s fault this was written, because I was shamelessly buttering her up by playing to her every weakness, but it’s fictionalaspect’s fault I am posting it. Now that I have spread the blame around as widely as I can, I am finally done talking. /o\
So. When Spencer and Brendon were like seventeen/eighteen, they fell madly and desperately in love. They got secretly married right after Spencer turned eighteen, and lived together in Brendon's shabby little apartment for two or three amazing months before anybody found out what they'd done. Spencer's family was so angry—more that he'd lied than anything, but he was young and in love and everyone was yelling at him and it was a little overwhelming anyway.
Brendon's family disowned him entirely.
He'd already been kicked out over the religion thing, and the relationship with his family had been tight and strained, and it was a huge part of the reason they kept everything so secret so long, and then it all came out and they just...shut down. Between the religion thing and the gay thing and the lying thing, it was all just too much, it strained the entire situation too far, and they just...cut him off.
Brendon was quiet and miserable and seemed so SMALL and it broke Spencer's heart to see him that way, and his own family was SO ANGRY, and Brendon's life was RUINED, and it was ALL SPENCER'S FAULT, so he went to Brendon and said, "I can't do this anymore. It's not worth it, we can just...we can get a divorce, and then everything can just—go back to normal. It doesn't have to be this way."
Brendon went white, all shaky and pale and wet-eyed, and he didn't really talk to Spencer after that, but he signed the papers when Spencer got his mom to get a lawyer and Spencer told himself that he was doing the right thing, no matter how much it broke his heart, and that Brendon must have thought so too, or he would have...tried to stop it. Whatever.
So, just like that, they were quietly divorced. Spencer applied for a transfer to UCLA, along with Ryan, and they were both accepted. Spencer needed a distraction from the whole Brendon thing and Ryan was madly in love with a screenplay writing course he was taking, so they kind of got into this whole Good Will Hunting style project, working together nonstop to write this epic screenplay coming-of-age story about two best friends that form a garage band and then get discovered by Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy and make it big in the music industry and destroy their friendship in the process, and when they're done, it's actually really good. Like, kind of amazingly good, and Ryan wants to make it, like an independent film, and then somehow the project gets bigger and bigger and suddenly it's this feature-length pseudo-indie low-budget production, but it's going places. Pete Wentz hears about it and contacts them to ask if he can play himself in the movie. He brings a bunch of his musician friends into it, and a few actual Hollywood types jump on the wagon, and suddenly it's an actual movie, starring Spencer and Ryan, and featuring the most ass-kicking soundtrack in the history of the universe.
Against all odds, it's a fucking smash hit. It turns out that Spencer and Ryan are kind of actually good at the whole acting thing, surprising no one more than themselves, and the move makes a fucking fortune, and as if that's not enough, they're suddenly being inundated with offers to read for other parts, and there you go. Just like that, Spencer Smith is a major fucking movie star.
Life has not been quite so kind to Brendon.
After Spencer left, Brendon was literally alone in the world. He had a shitty apartment and a shitty job at the Smoothie Hut that wasn't enough to pay his bills. His family wasn't speaking to him, his husband had left him, and he'd never exactly had a fuckton of friends, or even just one best friend like Spencer had Ryan. There was just...Brendon.
For awhile, things were very, very grim. Brendon was heartbroken and isolated and incredibly depressed. He dropped out of the community college courses he was taking, and there was a bleak stretch where he was seriously contemplating scrapping everything and running away to become a hairdresser in Arizona, but then he met Shane, who was in town visiting with a bunch of friends from school, doing the whole crazy-Vegas-summer-break thing, and Shane was a photography student in Chicago, and his friends were kind of a mixture of art and music kids, and somehow by the time they left, Brendon had filled out an online application to go to Chicago and study music. He got accepted, which was even fucking crazier, and he didn't know how the fuck he'd afford it, but Shane had totally offered him a place to stay, and Brendon didn't live with his family or whatever, so he qualified for a ton of grants and loans, and he sort of...picked himself up and slowly but surely moved on with his life.
He gets his degree, does some part-time work as a studio musician and is actually spending a lot of time with a couple guys who do some producing and are kind of teaching him a little more about that side of things, which is something he thinks he might really, really like. His family never really reconciled themselves to Brendon being gay and atheist and everything, but things have gradually thawed back into some semblance of strained normalcy that at least means they care enough to try, and that's all he really could have hoped for there. He has friends—Shane and Regan, and Dallon, and Ian, and Jon—and he's dated a couple of guys, nothing serious, but he's dated. He has a place of his own now, it's small but kind of awesome, and in the same building as Dallon, and he's sort of watched Spencer take the public by storm with a wistful eye over the years, but he's happy. He still feels a little hollow sometimes, maybe, when he remembers how it felt to be so in love, but he tells himself he was really just young and stupid, and sometimes he even almost believes it.
Then he gets an offer to go with Shane on this trip to Africa for a nature photography job Regan can't go with him for, and he gets all excited until his paperwork gets rejected, because he checked the box saying he was unmarried, and his records show that he has a husband.
A little digging shows that, yes, holy shit, for some reason there is no record of the divorce papers ever having actually been filed. Brendon tries to remember whether he ever got an actual divorce decree or whatever, and he can't remember, but there isn't one in any of his records and suddenly he has such a bigger problem on his hands than a clerical error.
He gets the lawyer from Vegas on the phone, or tries to, but the guy apparently died a couple years ago, and his son took over the practice, and there aren't any records of Spencer and Brendon's divorce anywhere in the files. Brendon is confused and horrified, and he has no idea what to do. He can't even talk to anybody about it, because he's never actually admitted to anyone that he kind of used to be married, let alone that he kind of used to be married to the guy that starred in the movie Dallon tried to drag him to last week. (Brendon refused to go. Brendon always refuses to go. He waits until they come out on video and rents them by himself, and watches them alone and sometimes gets drunk. His coping habits could maybe be better, okay, but they could also be a lot worse, so whatever.)
In the end, he gets on a plane and goes to Vegas. He can't really afford the ticket, but he doesn't know what else to do, and he's a little leery about just going to some random divorce lawyer out of the phone book or whatever, because it could really fuck things up for Spencer if word of this gets out. So he goes to Vegas and he shows up on the Smith's front porch, and he prays to fuck that they don't slam the door in his face.
They don't slam the door in his face.
Actually, Ginger hugs him until he can hardly breathe, and apologizes all over herself for the way they had behaved all those years ago, and tells Brendon she's felt horrible about it ever since, especially watching how sad Spencer was for so long, and Brendon works very hard not to react to that, and she's in the middle of making him sit down at the counter so she can, like, bake him cookies when he finally manages to open his mouth and blurt out, "I need you to contact Spencer for me. There was a problem with the divorce."
Explaining doesn't actually take all that long, all things considered. Ginger is horrified and keeps apologizing like it's her fault, because she basically did pick a divorce lawyer out of the phone book, and then she spends about half an hour trying to give Brendon Spencer's phone number and convince him to call him himself, but Brendon is totally not ready to deal with that conversation.
"Just tell him to have his lawyer handle it and send me the papers," Brendon insists. "I'll sign them, somebody will actually file them this time, it will all be over and done with."
He's proud of how even his voice sounds as he says that. Ginger looks a little sad, but finally agrees.
Brendon stays the night on their couch, even though he'd made reservations at a hotel—he doesn't even want his family to know he was in town if he can avoid it, he's a little too fragile to deal with them right now—and the twins are both in town, so everything is happy and lighthearted and full of casual chatter about Spencer, which makes Brendon's chest ache. They ask him about himself, about his life, and he does his best to make it sound amazing, and like he has absolutely no regrets, but he doesn't think he succeeds very well. He sneaks out before anybody wakes up in the morning, even though his flight doesn't leave until noon, and spends the entire day feeling achy and unsettled and hollowed out.
About a week passes. Brendon tries to behave like everything is normal, but he's jittery and quiet and kind of depressed, and it's hard to hide that. His friends stage an intervention on Saturday night. They know better than to try and drag him out anywhere when he's like this, so they pile into his apartment instead. Shane brings beer. Jon brings weed. Dallon and Ian bring pizza and chicken wings. Regan brings Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles DVDs. Regan is easily Brendon's favorite friend.
He's making his third beer run to the kitchen when someone knocks at the door. Brendon ignores it, because everyone he knows is already in his living room. Apparently not everyone decides to ignore it, though, because a second later, everything goes worryingly silent, and then Dallon says, "Uh, Brendon? There's...um. There's a movie star in your living room," and Brendon's chest seizes.
It feels like it takes him a long time to remember how to work his feet.
Spencer is standing by Brendon's front door, smiling awkwardly at his friends, a large duffle bag slung over one shoulder. The instant Brendon steps into view, he looks over and their eyes lock. Everything goes completely still for a moment that stretches on and on.
Then Spencer smiles, bright and uncertain and impossibly gorgeous, and says awkwardly, "Hi, honey. I'm...home?"
"Oh my god," murmurs Regan into the deathly silence that follows that announcement, because Brendon has lost the ability to do anythig other than stare. "Brendon, what the hell is going on?"
Somehow, that's what snaps Brendon out of his fugue state. "Nothing," he says, and jerks his head toward the hall in this really transparent attempt to get Spencer to follow him out of sight, but his friends are giant assholes who are like, "no, seriously, Brendon, why don't you introduce us to your guest?" and Brendon is glaring daggers but nobody seems to care.
And then Spencer shoots straight to the top of Brendon's shit list by going, "I'm Spencer. Brendon's husband," and just, like, why would you even say that, holy shit.
The room basically explodes, and Brendon has his hands over his face and everything is a fucking mess, and SPENCER IS HERE, and his friends are yelling, and only Jon seems to notice that Brendon is kind of falling apart. He edges over worriedly.
Brendon manages to make himself drop his hands and make a vague, shaky attempt at a smile for Jon, and then he looks at Spencer and exhales sharply. "Nice," he says. "Thanks for that."
Spencer doesn't bother to reply. He hasn't taken his eyes off Brendon once since Brendon came into the room, except to glance at Jon with an unnervingly blank expression when Jon said Brendon's name.
"Can we talk?" is what Spencer asks instead, and Brendon has no choice but to agree. It's not like he doesn't know what Spencer's doing here, he just doesn't understand why Spencer had to come here to do it. He could have just sent the papers. He should have just sent the papers. Then Brendon wouldn't have to be standing here looking at him, feeling like he's eighteen again, and the last seven years never happened, and the world is falling down around his ears as the boy he loves tells him their marriage "isn't worth it" and walks the fuck away.
But he's not eighteen anymore. Those seven years did happen, and Brendon isn't that boy anymore.
Suddenly, he's completely pissed off.
He kicks his friends out, mildly surprised when they actually go, though he knows he'll be explaining a LOT tomorrow. Then he turns on Spencer.
"Why are you here? Why did you come here?"
Spencer looks taken aback. "I wanted to see you," he says, relatively evenly. "It's been a long time."
There's a lot of shit Brendon wants to say to that, about how it's been a long time because Spencer turned his back and just walked away, like, never looked back. Brendon never got so much as a text message or email in those long first months after Spencer left, when he waited by the phone more often he wanted to admit to, hoping Spencer would change his mind and decide he couldn't live without Brendon after all. Spencer never did.
Brendon doesn't say any of that, though. He just turns his back on Spencer and walks into the kitchen, unsurprised when Spencer follows him. Brendon gets them both beers, and then leans against the counter and closes his eyes.
"I assume you brought the papers?"
Spencer is watching him closely. "My lawyer is having them drawn up now. He'll overnight them when they're ready."
Brendon frowns. "So, why did you come if they're not even—" and then a horrible, horrible thought clicks into place in his head, and he can feel the blood draining out of his face. "Oh my god, you're here to make sure I'm not going to try to, what, like, take half your shit, aren't you? You actually think I'd—"
But Spencer is laughing. "You watch too many movies," he says dryly. "I do know you better than that, Bren. I honestly just wanted to see you again."
Brendon kind of can't handle that right now. "You should have called," he says. "I'm very busy. This really isn't a great time—"
"That's okay," Spencer says easily. "I'm between projects right now. I can stay as long as I need to."
Which is basically the worst news Brendon has ever heard. He tries a few more times to politely urge Spencer to leave, and Spencer deflects all of them without batting an eye. Brendon is considering ditching politeness altogether and just flat-out announcing that he hates Spencer's face and wants him to get the hell out of Brendon's apartment, but A.) that would be a lie, and B.) it's not like Spencer can't see through the million excuses Brendon keeps throwing at him anyway. He knows Brendon doesn't want him here, and it hasn't fazed him yet. Brendon isn't sure what's going on, but it's obvious something is, so in the end he just gives in and shows Spencer to the futon in the office.
In the morning, Brendon unearths a little thing of hazelnut powdered creamer that came with a multi-pack he'd bought on sale, and leaves it on the counter beside a fresh pot of coffee with a note that just says, Not sure when I'll be back. There's a key in the bowl by the door if you want to go out.
He doesn't actually have any plans for the day at all—it's a Sunday, for fuck's sake—but he can't stand to be in that apartment with a sleepy, tousled Spencer stumbling around all cranky and incoherent. He remembers how long it used to take Spencer to wake up enough to function, and he doesn't know whether it would hurt more if Spencer was still just like Brendon remembers, or if he wasn't.
He stays out longer than he meant to. What starts as an aimless walk to clear his head turns into a meandering browse through a nearby record store, which turns into a trip to Starbucks for more coffee, which reminds him that he's going to need to pick up some more hazelnut shit for Spencer if he's going to stick around for more than a day or two, because Spencer fucking drowns his coffee in it, which naturally turns into a trip to the grocery store to stock up on various necessary supplies. He's halfway home with a bag full of Froot Loops and Tombstone canadian bacon frozen pizzas and hazelnut creamer and tortilla chips and spinach dip when it suddenly occurs to him—the odds that Spencer Smith, Incredibly Famous Movie Star still eats any of this shit are, like, ridiculous. Brendon just spent an hour at the grocery store, shopping for a broke eighteen-year-old college-kid husband Spencer hasn't been in seven years. He kind of wants to throw up.
It's too late to do anything about it, is the worst part, and walking inside with that particular bag of food is one of the most mortifying things Brendon has ever had to do. Fortunately, Spencer is out, so Brendon manages to hide the food in his cupboards and freezer and just hopes Spencer never actually notices.
Spencer turns out to have just been up on the roof of Brendon's building, which is fine, but he's been up there with Dallon, which is way less fine. Dallon follows him in when he comes back in, just a few minutes after Brendon has finished putting groceries away, and Brendon blanches in spite of himself.
Dallon just smiles. "Been playing it pretty close to the chest, huh?" is all he says, and Brendon sort of breathes out a shaky sigh of relief that cuts off abruptly when Spencer pokes his face into the freezer and whoops with delight at the sight of the pizzas.
"Oh my god, I fucking love you," he says, pulling one out and already reaching to preheat the oven, and there's a weird moment where all three of them go still and no one really looks at each other and Brendon's face burns a little, but Dallon rescues them by starting what sounds like a weird-ass impromptu fan interview right there in Brendon's kitchen. Spencer bears it gracefully, answering questions about his favorite movies, his favorite songs, what it's like to work with people he grew up fanboying, what movies he has coming up, and what Ryan Ross is really like in person.
"Boring," is what Spencer eventually comes up with. "Like. Just very normal."
Brendon snorts before he can stop himself, and Spencer flashes him a grin. "Well. Normal for Ryan, at least."
"Whoa," mutters Dallon. He's staring at Brendon, disconcerted again. "I don't know why I'm surprised, I guess I just hadn't thought about it, but you would know him too, wouldn't you? Jesus, your life is so much weirder than I thought."
Spencer gives Brendon kind of a curious look, but when he talks, it's to Dallon. "Of course he did. We had a band, the three of us and our friend Brent."
Dallon is startled. "You had a—holy shit, you mean like the band? Brendon, you were in that band?“
Brendon rolls his eyes. "It was a high school garage band, Dallon, that band doesn't actually exist. It was a movie. Do we need to talk again about fantasy and reality?"
Spencer smacks Brendon on the back of the head. "It was totally based on our band and you know it, don't be an asshole to your friend."
"It's like I don't even know you at all," Dallon murmurs, dazed.
"I'm going to kill you for this," Brendon tells Spencer. Spencer just grins at him and bumps their shoulders together and the whole kitchen smells like coffee and heating pizza, and for a second it's like seven years fall away and Brendon is back in time.
Then Dallon coughs awkwardly and Brendon drops his eyes, and Spencer sighs quietly before turning to Dallon with a smile.
"Brendon was our singer," he announces. "Originally, he was just supposed to play keyboard and guitar, but...you've heard him sing, right?"
Brendon slips out of the kitchen while the two of them are distracted, and back into his bedroom where he can lock the door. He faceplants onto his bed and closes his eyes against the blanket.
Fuck, he can't take much more of this.
A week later, Spencer is still basically living in Brendon's apartment, and Brendon is going insane. He can hardly stand being in his own place anymore, he's started putting off going home in the evenings as long as he reasonably can, but he can't stay gone too long because his friends think Spencer is awesome and amazing and totally go over there to hang out with him when Brendon isn't home, which makes Brendon very nervous. Spencer seems different when they're around. For some reason, Jon in particular seems to...bother him, or at least make him behave very strangely. He tends to hover around Brendon a lot when Jon's around, and drops the word "husband" into every conceivable sentence, and Brendon would almost think he was jealous if it weren't for the fact that Jon is totally straight and has been in a committed relationship with Cassie for about seven hundred years, which Brendon knows for a fact is regularly talked about in Spencer's presence, and also there's the thing where Spencer decided that being married to Brendon wasn't worth it, so the odds that he's eating his heart out with jealousy seven years later are pretty slim.
Anyway, Brendon feels better when he's around to sort of oversee that situation, which limits the amount of time he can spend hiding out away from home. Spencer is showing no signs of leaving any time soon. Brendon wants to scream.
The worst part is how easy it is to forget. To wake up in the morning and find Spencer staggering around, confused and disgruntled, and make him a cup of coffee without thinking, waiting for the blinding, grateful smile Spencer always gives him when Brendon puts it into his hands. To curl up on the couch and watch reruns of Full House with Spencer's toes tucked under his thigh, bickering comfortably about whether or not you can tell which Olsen twin is onscreen at any given time based on the line delivery of, "You got it, dude." To cook together in the kitchen, radio on, Spencer bitching about how much of a mess Brendon makes in the course of preparing a single dish...
It's just easy. And it would be easy, to let himself forget entirely. To run his fingers through Spencer's hair when he sits on the floor at Brendon's feet and chats with Brendon's friends. To kiss Spencer's smile over coffee in the mornings, and curl himself into Spencer's side on the couch in the evenings, and tug Spencer into the bedroom behind him when it's time to go to sleep at night.
It would be so easy, but he doesn't. He doesn't forget—can't forget. Even if it weren't for all the reminders—the way Spencer craves sushi but can't just get in the car and go with Brendon to have some, the way Brendon's friends still stop and stare sometimes like they can't believe Spencer is real—even if it weren't for those things, there would still be Spencer's voice in Brendon's head, repeating, "It's not worth it,“ over and over, and that is one thing Brendon will never forget.
"Hey, is there a problem with the papers?" Brendon makes himself ask, a couple of days later. "Should we be worried about not having seen them, or...?"
Spencer doesn't look up from his fried rice. "I spoke to him yesterday, everything's fine. He's just been dealing with some emergency stuff that kind of set him back on the other thing. Shouldn't be much longer."
Brendon swallows tightly. "Great," he manages.
"Yeah," says Spencer. "Great."
The day after that, all hell breaks loose.
Spencer never goes anywhere but up to the roof. He explained that he doesn't usually bother to be this careful, he's never had a really bad paparazzi or fan experience, but it can be annoying and embarrassing, and it doesn't take long in Hollywood before you start hearing horror stories, and Spencer doesn't want to bring that shit to Brendon's front door, just in case.
It's a nice thought, at least.
It's Dallon who actually alerts them to the problem, letting himself into Brendon's place and then standing in the living room looking weirded out. "There's a guy downstairs with a camera," he says. "He's asking questions about Spencer. He said he heard Spencer has a secret wife and love-child in this building. What the fuck, you guys?"
Spencer springs into action and calls everybody in the known universe trying to head this thing off at the pass, but it's too late. Marriage certificates are public record, and within six hours the internet is full of pictures of Brendon under screaming huge-font text proclaiming him "SPENCER SMITH'S SECRET HUSBAND!"
Most of the speculation is worse for Spencer than for Brendon, who kind of comes off as the lovelorn victim, forced into hiding by a selfish, deeply-closeted Spencer. It's all pretty ridiculous shit, and Spencer doesn't seem especially concerned about the name-calling, even though it kind of makes Brendon want to destroy the planet. Spencer's main concern is trying to get everybody the hell away from Brendon's building, but that's a losing battle and they all know it.
Brendon can't stay hunkered down in hiding for more than half a day. He has to leave for work.
"I'm coming with you," Spencer announces grimly, but by now all of Brendon's friends have trickled into his apartment, and they waste no time shooting that idea in the face.
"You can't give them anything exciting to photograph," says Jon. "I'll go."
Spencer gives Brendon an intense, almost wounded look, like he's expecting Brendon to know what's wrong with that idea and fix it, but Brendon still has no idea what Spencer's problem with Jon is, so he just shrugs helplessly and starts the long, stupid walk to the train with Jon at his back.
And Spencer's fucking famous as shit, and this is obviously a pretty huge story, but he's not, like, the President or anything—Brendon doesn't have to fight his way through a crowd of aggressive photographers, or shout "No comment" into a wall of flashbulbs or anything. He just has about five really annoying people following behind them all the way to the station, only one of whom keeps shouting inappropriate questions, and that guy is easy to ignore, right up until the point where he says, "I heard you grew up Mormon! What does your family think of your secret gay marriage?" and then Brendon goes still and cold with horror.
And yeah, they've gotten to Brendon's family, who is refusing to say shit to anybody, and that appears to include Brendon again, from the way nobody will answer their phone when he calls. More than anything, Brendon is fucking tired. By the time he drags his ass back to the apartment that night, Jon a silent, concerned shadow behind him, Brendon wants nothing so much as a quiet night in, getting very, very drunk in an empty apartment.
Obviously, that is not in the cards. His friends appear to have all but moved in for the duration, and Spencer is pacing agitatedly between the kitchen and the living room and yelling at people on the phone, and as soon as Brendon makes it through the door he's across the room and sweeping Brendon into a fierce, tight hug.
Brendon knows he should resist for the sake of his own sanity, but he's just so fucking exhausted, and his whole world keeps turning itself upside down, over and over, and he can't keep up with it all anymore, and Spencer is right there, and he feels so good and he smells like Spencer, and Brendon is so tired of working so fucking hard to keep his distance all the time. He doesn't cry or anything, but he does bury his face in the crook of Spencer's neck and cling.
"I'm so sorry," Spencer keeps saying, miserable, and Brendon just shakes his head and doesn't move his face from Spencer's throat.
The apartment has gone weird and almost-silent, in that way that seems to happen every time something happens that reminds Brendon's friends that yes, he actually did used to be married to Spencer, and Brendon feels a little self-conscious, but not enough to let go.
"Bren?" Regan asks, very gently, but it's Spencer who answers.
"Give us a minute, guys."
"We'll be at my place," Dallon says firmly. "Call if you need us," and Brendon doesn't even look up as they all troop out the door.
Spencer just guides them both over the couch, and before Brendon really knows what's going on, Spencer has them arranged in exactly the way they used to lay together—Spencer on his back with his head against the arm of the couch, Brendon half-sprawled on Spencer's chest and half wedged between him and the back of the sofa, legs tangled together and fingers linked across Spencer's chest. It feels amazing, and it hurts, and Spencer's hair still smells exactly like cheap apple shampoo even though Brendon is pretty sure he has more money than god. Brendon wants to close his eyes and stay in this moment forever.
They don't talk much. They just lay there together and hold on tight, and ignore their phones until eventually they fall asleep.
Eventually, they have to face the world again. Shane wakes them up in the morning with the news that Brendon's mother has been calling everyone he knows, which makes Brendon sit straight up and lunge for his phone. He's relieved when she answers, but the relief doesn't last long.
She's...loud. She yells a lot, and some of it she has a right to yell about and some of it she doesn't—people are asking questions, making accusations, suddenly rumors of the family kicking Brendon out for being gay are all over the internet and that's not okay, even if it's actually pretty close to true in some ways. Brendon bites back the part of him that wants to say so, and lets her vent, but when she gets to the point where she's shouting about Brendon's lifestyle again, he gently informs her it's not open for discussion, and hangs up the phone.
He feels like he's run a marathon. And then maybe been hit by a bus.
Spencer looks like he wants to crawl in a hole somewhere, but Brendon feels awkward trying to initiate any kind of comfort or conversation right now, because his apartment is once again swarming with all of his friends, and Spencer spends about half the day on the phone with Ryan anyway.. At one point, Ryan actually calls Brendon's phone while Spencer is talking to his publicist, and Brendon winces before he answers it because he's pretty sure he's about to get yelled at again, but Ryan surprises him by just saying, "People are assholes. You holding up okay?" in the dry monotone Brendon remembers so well, and then somehow Brendon is laughing, and Ryan is telling funny paparazzi horror stories, and Brendon and Ryan didn't always have the smoothest relationship in the world or anything, but Brendon remembers now exactly how awesome Ryan can be when he wants to, and it's kind of surprising how much he misses him just then, how much he wishes Ryan were here.
Everything is stupid, but Brendon thinks it's probably all going to be okay, in the end. Weirdly, it's talking to Ryan that makes him feel that way.
He tentatively tries a smile at Spencer, but for some reason Spencer just ends up looking like Brendon just stabbed him in the face or something, and he turns his back and continues his conversation in a quieter voice. Brendon's stomach flips over queasily, but he can't imagine what else could possibly have gone wrong.
He lets Jon talk him into a living room jam session to distract them all, and tries not to think about it.
Spencer is gone when Brendon wakes up in the morning.
Everyone had just kind of crashed where they fell, which meant that Brendon actually spent the better part of the night asleep sitting up on the floor, with his head tilted back against the sofa cushions and his guitar still laying across his lap. It gives him a pretty amazing view of the manila envelope on the coffee table a foot away from his face when he wakes up, and the folded note on top of it with Brendon's name in a familiar, angular scrawl.
He stares at it for a long time, knowing without even looking around that Spencer is gone. Knowing exactly what he's going to find in that envelope. His stomach hurts, and he just feels...empty. Empty and tired, and achingly sad.
He doesn't bother to read the note.
He steps over half his friends on his way to the bathroom, and proceeds to shower for about an hour and a half, or at least until the water runs cold enough that he can't stand it anymore. Then he pulls on a pair of boxers and climbs into his bed, pulls the blankets up over his head, and closes his eyes. He doesn't want to think anymore right now. About anything.
Brendon's bed is only a queen. There really isn't room for six people in a queen sized bed, even if all of them are very, very friendly with each other, so Brendon wakes up feeling less "cuddled" and more "stifled and halfway to smothered to death." Every single one of his friends has crawled into bed with him, which should probably be sweet, but mostly—
"Regan," he mumbles hoarsely. "Is that a kneecap in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?"
Regan giggles. "It's my elbow, fucktard."
"Could you take it out of my kidney, do you think?"
She solves the problem by wrapping her arm around Brendon's waist, but like three other unidentified arms are already there, so Brendon is forced to wake all the way up and start peeling people off of himself before the weight of them all actually crushes his spine.
"You guys," he says carefully, avoiding their concerned faces. "I'm fine."
No one dignifies this blatant lie with a response.
"Really," Brendon insists. "I didn't—I always knew he wasn't going to stay. He doesn't...that's" He swallows. "He never stays."
"Brendon," says Jon slowly. "Did you...did you read the note?"
Brendon winces. "I assume it's all very apologetic and probably tells me where to send the papers when—"
But all of his friends are sitting up now, staring at Brendon.
"We wondered what the hell you were still doing here," Shane says. "We figured you'd already be on a plane, but—"
Ian, of all people, produces the note from a pocket, and Brendon frowns at him as he opens it to read.
It's a pretty short note.
Every time I get near you, I fuck up your life, it says. I wasn't worth everything you lost the first time around. I'm sure as hell not worth losing it all again now. This is all my fault. I've had the papers for days, I just didn't want to sign them. I'm sorry.
Brendon doesn't know what to think about that. He looks up into five expectant faces, though, so apparently he's supposed to.
"What?" he asks softly.
Regan smacks him. "What do you mean, what?“ she demands. "You're going after him, right?"
"What?" Brendon manages again. "No! He—he left, he—"
"Oh my god, you idiot," says Jon. "Get in the fucking shower. We're buying you a plane ticket. Fucking go.“
Brendon tries to argue, but they outnumber him, and they are not shy about physically stripping him naked and putting him into the shower. Shane is threatening to climb in with him and scrub him down himself, which is, more than anything, what prompts Brendon to grab the shampoo and do a cursory wash. He isn't getting on any fucking plane, he doesn't care what they say.
"You guys suck so fucking much," Brendon says miserably a few hours later, on the plane. Next to him, Jon smiles beatifically and doesn't reply. Every single one of Brendon's friends is currently taking time off from their jobs and lives and spending money they don't have, all so they can manhandle him around the country and apparently try to browbeat his wayward husband into...like. Not leaving.
Brendon kind of wants to be sick when he thinks about it, about begging. It isn't that he wouldn't beg, it's just—who wants to be married to someone you have to beg to not leave you? On some level, Brendon does understand what they all see in Spencer's note, understands that Spencer is only doing what he thinks is best for Brendon, and even, for the first time, understands that that's probably what Spencer was doing all along.
It doesn't erase the months he spent alone in that apartment, sick and hollow and alone in the world, missing Spencer so much that it physically hurt. It doesn't erase all the work he did in the years since, putting his life back together piece by piece. And it certainly doesn't erase the way Spencer strolled back in and all that hard work fell apart like it was nothing, leaving Brendon just as fucked up and starry eyed and ultimately, just as alone as he'd ever been.
Well. Brendon thinks about waking up with his nose in Ian's sternum and Regan's elbow in his kidney and Shane's perpetually cold fucking toes somehow digging into the back of Brendon's knee. So, not really alone alone, for which he is suddenly so grateful he almost can't even process it, because he has amazing, stupid friends that do amazing, stupid things like practically killing him with snuggles when he's sad, and also buying him stupid plane tickets to go chase down the man of his dreams. And okay, if this goes as badly as Brendon is pretty sure it's going to, they'll be there for that, too, and...it'll be okay. It will suck, and it will hurt, and Brendon will be brokenhearted and lonely and sad, but it really won't be like last time, and eventually., it'll be okay.
Brendon will be okay.
And...huh. For some reason, that kind of changes everything.
Brendon turns to Jon. "Okay," he says, suddenly determined. "What's the plan?"
Apparently, there is no plan. Brendon's friends are so fucking lame.
Brendon stands back and watches ruefully as they bicker back and forth in the airport. Regan wants to find a map of the stars' homes and use it to track down Spencer. Brendon is pretty sure she is envisioning a scene involving Brendon and a boom box and a Peter Gabriel song. Shane is vocally supporting his girlfriend, but texting furiously behind her back with a director friend he's done some work with in the past, trying to launch some kind of...like, directorial phone tree until he gets one of Spencer's "people" on the phone. Jon is running a similar scam on the musician side, because he's friends with a couple of guys who used to be on Pete Wentz's label, and Pete Wentz's friendship with Spencer and Ryan is pretty widely known, ever since that first movie. Ian is loudly in favor of finding the nearest paparazzo and shoving Brendon in front of the camera in hopes that Spencer will hear about it and come to the rescue.
Brendon smiles to himself, watching them all, and then quietly walks away while no one is paying attention. He scrolls through his phone, takes a deep breath, and calls Ryan.
"Hi," he says, when Ryan picks up. "I'm at the airport."
"Tell me when you've got a cab," Ryan says without hesitation. "I'll give you the address."
Spencer's house is reassuringly modest and unassuming. Ryan is there, and he lets Brendon in without a word when Brendon knocks uncertainly at the door.
"He's in the kitchen," Ryan says, low, and then gives Brendon an awkward, poky sort of hug before wandering off down the hall.
Brendon leans against the doorjamb in the kitchen for a moment, just watching Spencer cut up salad stuff. Spencer's back is to the doorway and he doesn't notice him at first, but after a moment he must feel Brendon's eyes on him, because he turns around and goes perfectly still, just staring.
"You always do this," Brendon says, without really meaning to. He's surprised at how low, how angry his voice is. "I just. I'm so fucking pissed at you, Spencer. You come along and you make me want things, make me believe things, and then you just—you fucking leave.“
Spencer flinches. "Brendon—"
"Shut up," says Brendon. "You have no fucking right to decide what is or is not 'worth it' to me. No fucking right. You think I didn't know what I was giving up, when we were kids? You think I didn't know how my family was going to react, what they would do? I put off the conversation, yes, and I shouldn't have done that, I was stupid and I was scared. But they were always going to feel that way about me being gay, Spence, it was always going to happen someday, and I knew that when I married you, I knew what I was doing and what the consequences would be."
Spencer looks stricken. He drops the knife, takes a step toward Brendon. Brendon isn't ready to deal with any of that yet, though. Apparently, he has quite a bit to get off his chest.
"I spent almost eight fucking years believing that you were telling me that I wasn't worth it. Do you get that? I believed it right up until you left me, again, until I wasn't worth it, again, and I would still believe it right now if Ian hadn't forced me to read your stupid fucking note. And maybe...maybe that is what you're really saying, maybe it isn't worth it for you and you're just not willing to say so—"
Spencer is somehow across the room and kissing Brendon before Brendon even registers him moving, and the flood of words is lost in Spencer's mouth.
"Shut up," Spencer mumbles, without even breaking away. "Shut up, don't ever say that shit. I fucking hated myself for leaving you, I thought—I thought you'd go back to your family, I thought—I don't know, I imagined some stupid fucking future where you married some Mormon girl and had two and a half kids and your family took you back, and—you were just so fucking sad, all the time, it killed me that it was my fault you were so sad, that being married to me made you so fucking sad—"
"You're an idiot and and an asshole," Brendon manages, his hands twisting in Spencer's hair. He can barely breathe, and his chest feels like it's bursting, and Spencer's mouth tastes exactly like home. "You're such a fuck, I swear to god, we're going to—we're going to talk so much about exactly how low your opinion of me is—mmph—"
Spencer's arms are so tight around Brendon's waist that Brendon is once again in danger of being sliced in half by someone else's affection. He's clutching at Spencer's neck just as tightly, though.
"I wanted to look you up a million times but I was so afraid I was going to find your perfect fucking family," Spencer manages, forehead pressed to Brendon's and mouths still kind of sliding together between words. "And then Mom called, and it was like—she said you talked about. About living in Chicago, and your stupid ex-boyfriend, and I just—I did it, and I went to your Facebook and you were there, and you were out and you were single and I couldn't stay away, I had to go—"
"Shut up," says Brendon. "Just. Don't fucking leave me again, okay? Just don't leave.“
Spencer makes a muffled, fervent sound against Brendon's mouth, and they make out in the doorway until Brendon's phone starts going off, and he's forced to break away, laughing, because his stupid friends seem to have finally figured out that he's gone. Ryan turns up in the kitchen not long after that, and there's no more time for kissing for awhile, but Spencer can't seem to keep his hands off of Brendon or let Brendon out of arm's reach, and Brendon isn't doing much better.
Brendon's friends eventually show up, mildly disappointed that there was no giant spectacular movie moment, but mostly just delighted for Brendon and Spencer, and kind of giggly and starstruck by a dryly amused Ryan, which is one of the funniest things Brendon has ever personally witnessed, and Spencer is close and warm and looking at Brendon like he's something amazing, and Brendon doesn't care how fucked up everything else still is. Right now, his life is pretty much perfect..
Two months later, Spencer sits down with Oprah fucking Winfrey for his first actual interview since going "public" about his marriage. He tells the story pretty much straight, though certain details about their families are played down for purposes of tact. After awhile, Brendon is brought out to awkwardly join in the interview, and it goes pretty well, all told. Spencer tells the story of how they met, the garage band that went on to form the basis of the movie that made his career, and then Ryan comes out with Jon in tow to fill in on bass, and they play I Write Sins to a live crowd for the first time in their lives. It's, like, the Oprah crowd, so it's not exactly a rock concert or whatever, but it feels pretty fucking amazing anyway.
The day the interview airs, Ryan gets a text from Pete. It says, i would have signed you for real. still will if you ever decide to drop this acting shit 4 music. until then can i have brendon's #, hes really good. thanks.
Ryan grins down at his phone, and calls Pete.