Brendon tries to keep track of the time, the hours and minutes, tries to count inside his head as a way of keeping himself from listening too closely to the things Brent is saying. It’s not true, he knows it’s all lies, but even lies can be made pretty and appealing. He thinks back to his time as a good Mormon boy, lapping up the Word, taking it for Truth, and shudders. He won’t believe it, won’t fall for it, won’t give up the true salvation he was lucky enough to find in the back of Pete’s van.
Eventually Brendon loses his count and has to start over. He’s exhausted, he needs to sleep. His brain is fuzzy but he does his best to hold onto the thin thread of what he knows to be true. He’s scared, much more so than he’d been in the van. Ryan had been there then, staring at him from the front seat with huge, imploring eyes, begging him to listen, just listen, to Pete’s message. And Pete had been there, too, holding him down, asking him if he wanted to be good, wanted to save the world. His words were softly, gently spoken – a complete contrast to the things his body was doing to Brendon’s at the time.
The bruises had lasted for weeks, but they’d been a source of pride.
“Brendon, why can’t you see what they’ve done to you?” Brent asks, his voice hoarse after so much talking. “This is wrong. This… cult of Pete fucking Wentz? That’s not your family!” He shakes Brendon’s shoulders again, moving the entire chair with the force of it. His fingers dig in cruelly and Brendon’s head snaps back and forth, making him cry out. He fights against the ropes that bind him, twists his wrists, knows that the skin is giving against the rough texture but doesn’t feel a thing.
“Not true!” Brendon gasps. He begins to babble, needing to fill the room with his own words in an effort to drown Brent out. He can’t take much more of this, can’t be made to watch more home videos of himself growing up, or more bad documentaries about Jonestown of all things. He can’t indefinitely shut out the pleading words and what almost sounds like thought-out logic. He’s so tired, and it’s getting so hard to focus.
“They are going to destroy you, Brendon!” Brent yells in Brendon’s ear and the volume of it leaves a ringing that he worries will never stop. “Watch this!” Brent moves away, back to the pile of VHS tapes on the floor, and Brendon struggles again. His chair topples over on its side, but at least the carpet is thick so his head doesn’t hurt too badly when it slams into the floor. Brent doesn’t even bother turning around as he rifles through the tapes, looking for one in particular.
Brendon lies there, muttering softly to himself about the movement, his role in Pete’s vision, his place at Ryan’s side, as Ryan’s Voice. He mumbles about belonging, and love, and need. He’s lost in his own words when something at the window draws his attention. There’s a small gap between the curtains and he can see someone standing there, watching with narrowed eyes. Brendon immediately knows who it is; he’d stared at those eyes often enough. He sighs in relief, a smile tugging on his sore mouth.
Everything else happens in a blur. The door opens, people come in, and Brent is taken away. Brendon can’t see anything from his position on the floor, but he’s pretty sure he can hear the sickening sound of fists meeting flesh, can hear the groans that indicate serious injury. He tries to feel bad, tries to remember that Brent used to be his friend, but he can’t get past the things he’d said and done, the way he’d taken Brendon away from the people who cared about him and the important work they were doing together.
There’s a knife in Pete’s hand and Brendon wants to cry, to scream and swear that he was sorry for wandering off and getting into trouble, that he didn’t believe a word Brent said, that he was still committed to the movement. But before he can do any of this, Pete’s slicing through the coarse rope, pulling it away and freeing Brendon’s arms and legs, petting him gently.
“You okay?” Pete asks, helping Brendon to a sitting position. Brendon winds his arms and legs around Pete, buries his head in Pete’s neck and tries to be strong. He is okay, he tells himself. He made it through, Brent tested him, and he made it through.
That little bit of uncertainty makes him tremble.
Pete’s hands move quickly, before Brendon can fully process what’s happening. Brendon’s clothes are discarded, thrown over the remains of the rope. Bruises are inspected, touched, catalogued under Pete’s intense gaze. He doesn’t look happy, and Brendon can’t help but cry. Pete must be so disappointed. This whole thing is his fault, Brendon knows. He knew he shouldn’t have wandered off alone, but he’d been so thirsty and he’d only meant to run back for a bottle of water. He hadn’t expected to be jumped in the parking lot.
But then, that’s why there are rules. Because bad things happen when you least expect them.
Pete helps him up, moving him to the bed, allowing him to spread out and momentarily rest his aching body. Brendon watches through his tears, refuses to look away from Pete’s eyes, hoping that maybe he’ll be able to express how very sorry he is without having to actually say the words.
“What did he do, Brendon?” Pete asks after a moment. His hands are gentle on Brendon’s ankle as he rubs in tiny circles, trying to calm him down.
“He lied,” Brendon says. “He lied and lied, but I didn’t listen. I didn’t, Pete, I promise!” He’s starting to hyperventilate, can’t pull enough air into his lungs. It burns, and he’s slightly hysterical and he doesn’t know what he’s going to do if he can’t get it together.
“Shhh,” Pete says as he comes closer, running a hand down Brendon’s side. “Calm down, Brendon. Just listen to my voice, my words and no one else’s.”
Brendon doesn't protest when Pete leans close, whispering Truth soft and insistent in his ear. He sighs when he hears the familiar words, closes his eyes as Pete's hands roam across his body, chasing away the stiffness, the burn of muscles pulled tight for far too long. It should be Ryan, Brendon thinks for one dizzying second before pushing the thought away. It will be Ryan, just as soon as Pete's done, as soon as he's sure. Brendon just has to prove that he's worth it, that he hasn't been tainted, that he still wants to be saved.
He does. There's nothing else for him now. The Message has been burned into his skin, put there by Ryan with help from Pete himself, the words scratched into his flesh with blunt, chewed fingernails, hooks and choruses whispered into his mouth, tangling together on his tongue at first, before he finally learned how to speak this secret language. The thought of anyone taking that away from him causes Brendon's heart to race and tears to sting his eyes anew. He won't let it happen, refuses to.
He allows Pete to check for cracks, places where Brent's spiteful words might have worn away his soft, warm blanket of conviction. The thought of splintering, of falling apart, scares him more than anything. He'd been there, done that, and the confusion, the uncertainty, nearly killed him. He can't go through it again, he can't do it and still be Ryan's Voice. He is nothing without Ryan's words and Pete's vision, doesn't know how he could have ever thought he was living before he had them.
Brendon doesn't feel like he's broken, but anything is possible and only Pete can know for sure. Pete checks with hands and mouth and cock: massaging the circulation back into Brendon's wrists, licking his bruises, slicking him up before pushing inside. It burns so much, he's not ready for it, nowhere near ready. Brendon bears down on it, his jaw clenched at the pain, words hissed into the silence between their bodies.
"Please," Brendon begs. "Harder- faster- deeper… hurts so much...." He needs this, needs it to burn away what's left of Brent's lies, his accusations, the horrible, nasty things he said. Brendon feels dirty, but the movement of Pete's hips, the shaking of the bed, the wet slap of flesh on flesh make him feel clean.
He’s so lost in the pushpulldrag of the way his body is being used that it takes Brendon awhile to realise that he's not the only one talking. Pete's voice recites a litany of praise, sweet words that make Brendon moan almost as much as the painpleasure wracking his body does.
"So good, Brendon," Pete says. "You did so good. Didn't let him fuck with you, didn't believe a word he said to you, did you? No, you're ours, will always be ours, mine for sure and Ryan's too. Oh, he's going to be so happy to see you. It's been a long two days, he's been worried sick...."
“Ry-an-” Brendon stutters as Pete’s hips change their rhythm, pounding with hard, long strokes. Pete’s hand grabs Brendon’s dick, squeezing a little harder, tighter, than he’d like, but Brendon doesn’t stop him. The burn, the pain, doesn’t only chase the specter of Brent away, it reminds him that he should never have wandered off, shouldn’t have worried Pete, Ryan, the others. He’s learned his lesson, won’t ever do it again, and he hopes Pete knows that.
“So sorry!” he gasps, the words disappearing into Pete’s mouth as his tongue licks into Brendon’s, tasting the roof of his mouth, sliding along his tongue. It’s hard to keep their mouths sealed together with the way Brendon’s body keeps jerking forward with every violent thrust of Pete’s hips. Their lips keep sliding apart, and Brendon whines, moans and whimpers when he can’t get a proper kiss. His arms are clasped around Pete’s shoulders, fingernails digging into his own skin as he holds on. He tries to lift his head from the pillow, tries to follow Pete’s mouth as it trails down his neck, but he can’t. He gives up trying soon enough; Pete will give him what he’s allowed to have. He’ll be happy with that; he’d be ungrateful not to be.
It can’t last long, not with the tension before and the relief that came after. Brendon does his best to keep from coming, bites his lip hard, thrashes his head and keens. His nails dig into Pete’s shoulders, offering his arms a small reprieve from his own fingernails, sharp and ragged from his struggles against the ropes that bound him. The thought still scares him, terrifies him and awes him at the same time. Two days. Two long days, and he came out of it alright. Pete wouldn’t lie to him, not about this. Brendon always worried that he wasn’t strong enough to relay the message, but this… this has proven otherwise.
Ryan is going to be so fucking proud, he thinks. It’s a heady feeling.
Pete exhales loudly, groans a little, goes completely still and comes inside him. Brendon can feel it; he moans at the sticky warmth of it, starts to plead unashamedly. He needs to come, needs Pete to tell him it’s okay, to tell him he’s good and sweet.
Pete stretches out half on top of Brendon, his hand still tight around Brendon’s dick. Pete’s lips brush against Brendon’s ear as he speaks, voice quiet and scratchy, urging him to come. He’s earned it, he’s been so fucking good, he took it all like a man instead of the boy he was before. Just come and he’ll get to go home, back to his tour bus, back to his real family.
Brendon gives it up, clenches his eyes and comes, yelling for Pete, for Ryan, for the Truth.
Afterward, he doesn’t know how much time has passed before he feels Pete cleaning him up. He’s so tired, so sore, and he can’t do it for himself. It feels good to be taken care of, to give up control. There’s so much trust involved that it would floor Brendon if he was able to think clearly.
Pete dresses him and holds him steady, leads him out of the hotel room and across the parking lot to Panic’s bus. Ryan is standing on the steps, Spencer and Jon behind him, biting his lip and holding tightly to the door. Brendon smiles sleepily, moving slowly, savouring the ache in his body and knowing that there will be more before the day is through.
Ryan’s kisses are sweet, desperate. His hands tangle in Brendon’s hair, pulling hard on the strands as he practically tries to crawl into his mouth. Brendon’s exhausted and sore and he wants so much to sleep, but he doesn’t voice these things when Ryan pulls him into the bus, when Spencer and Jon follow closely behind, heading for the back lounge.
Brendon will be spread out and passed around, fucked hard and deep, but he’ll take it and ask for more. He’ll smile as those important words are once again etched into his skin by ragged, chewed fingernails, and new hooks and choruses are licked into his mouth. This time, he’ll have no problem at all hearing them, reading them, singing them back with conviction and poise.