"I'm not getting it, Ross," Brendon says. He has a headache, and he's sick of arguing. Ryan won't calm the fuck down, and he won't compromise. Brendon's sick of giving in to everything Ryan wants. "And honestly, I don't know if I want to get it."
"You just need to try harder," Ryan says. He waves the paper with the music on it around in the air. "Jon, tell him he just has to try harder."
Jon looks down at his feet, away from both Ryan and Brendon and shakes his head. Brendon knows Jon will probably bring this up later. He'll tell Brendon he should try to be a little more willing to bend, that Ryan just really wants this album to be good. He'll remind him of Pretty. Odd. and how Brendon wasn't always happy with that as they were making it either, but he was happy with the final product and doesn't he remember?
Brendon gets it, he does. It's just that he's not sure this is the kind of music that he really wants to be making. He had his doubts about Pretty. Odd., and even though he's proud of what they accomplished that's not the direction he wants to keep heading.
"Ryan, shut the fuck up and leave him alone," Spencer says. "He's right. This isn't working. Let's just go home and come back tomorrow. Maybe something will work." Brendon knows Spencer's just trying to diffuse the situation. It usually goes one of two ways. Ryan throws his hands up in frustration and walks out without another word, or Spencer and Ryan spend the next forty-five minutes arguing about something and then Ryan throws his hands up in frustration and storms out muttering under his breath about how no one gets it.
He goes for the first option tonight, glaring at Jon on his way out. It's no secret that Jon agrees with Ryan where the band's music is concerned, and Brendon doesn't blame him for that. Most of the time he throws his support to Ryan, and that's okay. Mostly it's okay. It's okay until it starts to feel like they're ganging up on Brendon. They almost never take the band's arguments home with them, and on nights when it's so bad that it feels like the tension is bleeding through Brendon's skin and he's going to snap, Jon usually goes home with Ryan. Brendon doesn't blame him for that either.
Tonight's not so bad. He's frustrated with Ryan and with fighting and with the band in general, but he's not frustrated with Jon. As they follow Spencer out of the small studio space they've rented, Jon walks in step with Brendon. Brendon can feel Jon looking at him from the corner of his eye. He knows that Jon wants to say something, some variation of are you okay or you guys should work this out, and Brendon doesn't want to hear any of it. He slides into the driver's side and says, "Spencer gets shotgun."
Spencer gives Jon a sympathetic look but slides into the passenger seat anyway. No one says anything on the ride back. Brendon doesn't even bother turning on the radio because even the soft sound of some late night DJ or some lame top forty song feels like it would be an intrusion right now.
When they get to the house, Brendon goes straight to his bedroom. He doesn't pay attention to whether or not Jon is following, but Brendon assumes he isn't. There's faint whispering outside his door. It's fast paced and a little angry, and Brendon isn't sure if they're fighting about the band or Brendon himself or whether or not Jon can have the last beer. Any one is just as likely as another.
The voices stop, and Brendon hears Spencer's door open and slam shut. For a brief moment he thinks Jon's followed Spencer and they've moved their conversation, or he's sleeping on the sofa or something. The door to Brendon's room opens slowly and Jon tiptoes in, closing the door behind him. He kicks off his jeans and crawls into bed next to Brendon.
Brendon turns his head to look at Jon. Jon smiles softly, his eyes crinkling up at the corners. Brendon smiles sadly back and then turns to look up at the ceiling. They try not to talk about the band in moments like this, late at night when it's just them. Try being the operative word. On really bad days it doesn't work out that way, and they've had some pretty amazing fights. Tonight, though, Brendon's not in the mood to have the same fight again.
"Hey," Jon says. "Look at me." Brendon closes his eyes tightly and keeps his head faced toward the ceiling. He doesn't want to talk about Ryan. He really doesn't want to talk about music. "Hey, Bren, please." Jon's voice drops to a whisper and Brendon can't help himself. He opens his eyes and looks over at Jon.
Jon leans into Brendon, kissing him lightly and then pressing their foreheads together. Brendon doesn't say anything, just closes his eyes and lies there. He pretends that everything is okay and that it doesn't feel like the beginning of the end, or maybe more like the middle of the end. Maybe it's worse than that, and they're all kidding themselves. Brendon doesn't know anymore, and he's not sure he wants to.
"It'll be okay," Jon whispers. "We worked it out before." Lately Brendon wonders if they really did. Brendon was more willing to give in to Ryan's wishes then, but this time he's more confident in what he wants. He doesn't want to just give in. He can't say any of this to Jon, though.
"Yeah," he says.
"Hey, no. Don't do that," Jon says. "You know you don't have to pull that shit with me. I know you, Bren. I'm not an idiot."
"I don't want to do this," Brendon says. "Like, I get it, okay. You guys mesh and you have this freaky way of knowing how your music and his lyrics fit, and you've written all of these songs without Spence and me." Brendon takes a deep breath and closes his eyes. "We said we weren't going to talk about this anymore at home."
"Yeah, I know," Jon says. "I'm sorry." He doesn't really sound sorry. Sometimes Brendon wishes Jon were different. He wishes Jon would push so he could get angry and not feel bad about it. But Jon doesn't push, and Brendon doesn't get angry. They just lie there, every night, trying to pretend that nothing is wrong.
Brendon sighs heavily and turns onto his side, away from Jon. He feels Jon move closer and then fall away before he turns on the bed, sitting up. He waits for Jon to say something, but he doesn't say anything. Brendon keeps his eyes closed tight and bites his lip so he doesn't do something stupid like beg Jon to stay.
He hears the door shut quietly and after a few minutes the front door does the same. Brendon doesn't sleep.
Jon's spent the last week at Ryan's. Brendon isn't making an effort not to talk to him, but they don't have a lot to say to each other these days.
"This isn't fucking working," Ryan says. His voice sounds torn between angry and devastated. "I can't do this anymore."
"What the fuck are you saying, Ross?" Brendon's not stupid. He knows what Ryan's saying and he's known for a while it would come to this, to one of them getting fed up and saying they'd had enough. It's too soon, though.
"I'm saying that we're either doing it my way, or I'm out. You two can do whatever the fuck you want."
"He's right," Spencer says. "We're never going to agree on this. We're not going to budge and neither are they. Maybe it's time to stop pretending that we're ever going to come to a realistic compromise."
"Fine, whatever," Brendon snaps. He looks Ryan in the eyes. "We can do it without you, so just get the fuck out." Part of him is just hoping that Ryan will hear the bite behind his words and change his mind just to be stubborn, or that he'll leave and call Spencer tonight, and they'll laugh about it and get back together tomorrow. Ryan had threatened to leave a few times in the cabin, but it always worked out in the end.
Ryan stares at him, but he doesn't speak. He doesn't say a word, and then he stands up and walks out, and Brendon's left staring at an empty chair. "Well, fine, whatever. Like I said, we don't need him. Maybe we can get some actual fucking work done now."
"Brendon," Jon says quietly. "I, uhm. I actually think that if Ryan goes, I'm going too."
Brendon blinks a few times. He can't stop looking at Jon with wide eyes and tight lips. There are no words for what he's thinking. "What?"
"You know how I feel about this, Bren. I'm not into what you guys want to do." Jon has the nerve to look like he's the one whose boyfriend is choosing someone else. "If Ryan is out, so am I."
"I'm sorry." Jon looks sorry, but Brendon can't help but feeling like if he were really sorry he wouldn't be leaving like this. And he does. He doesn't say another word, he just leaves. Leaves the band and leaves Brendon. For Ryan.
"Hey, Brendon, it's fine." Spencer sounds like he thinks it really is, but Brendon can't tell if he thinks it's fine because this is a good thing or because he thinks they'll be back. "Come on, we should get to work."
Brendon doesn't talk to Jon for a while.
He and Spencer work without Ryan and Jon and they don't fight once, not like Brendon and Ryan fought. If they disagree they can pretty much always come to a nice compromise. That doesn't stop Brendon from hoping that Ryan and Jon will get over themselves and come back. He knows that's not fair, and for Jon, at least, it wasn't really like that. That doesn't change the fact that there's a lot that Brendon and Spencer aren't talking about.
Namely, Ryan and Jon. This isn't like when Brent left. They'd fired him, and it had sucked firing one of their best friends. But he hadn't left under his own terms, and they hadn't been together for nearly as long. Brendon and Spencer haven't even talked about replacing Jon and Ryan. Brendon doesn't want to be the one to bring it up. It's like admitting that Jon and Ryan are gone, and they're not coming back.
They've been working for hours, and Brendon's restless and ready to call it a day when his phone rings. Jon's called him a handful of times, but he ignores it every time. He doesn't want to say anything that he's going to regret, and he would regret anything he said right now, in the long run. He hits ignore. Spencer raises an eyebrow at him, but he just shrugs.
"You should talk to him," Spencer says.
"You're not talking to Ryan." Brendon doesn't want to have this conversation.
"That's different. I haven't been fucking Ryan for the last year. Jon's your boyfriend, or whatever. You should fucking talk to him."
"I think he made it pretty clear where he stands," Brendon says. "Anyway, I don't want to talk to him, and I'm pretty sure he just wants his ugly ass sweater and copy of Revolver back, but he can suck it because I'm keeping both."
"Why the fuck do you have his copy of Revolver?" Spencer asks. Brendon shrugs.
"I'm going out," Brendon says. He forgets his keys, but instead of going back inside to get them he decides to walk. It's not like he really has a destination in mind. He just needs to be outside. He circles the block a few times, walking at a quick pace, starts to jog and then decides that he feels gross and sweaty and could probably use a shower. He doesn't feel any less restless, though.
He almost circles the block another time when he sees Jon's car sitting in the driveway. He wonders briefly if he could manage to get around back without Jon seeing him, but Jon looks up before he can make a run for it. He gets out of the car and looks at Brendon with sadness and relief and anger all at the same time, and Brendon wants to curl in on himself. He's never wanted to be invisible more.
"Brendon." Jon says his name like Brendon's the one who hurt him, and Brendon can't take it. He glares at Jon and walks toward the front door. "Brendon, hey, don't."
Brendon stops at the door and turns around, looking at Jon. Jon's hair has gotten longer, and it's curling and falling in his eyes. Any other time Brendon would want to run his hands through it and see what it feels like. But this isn't any other time, and Jon isn't his to touch. "I don't want to fucking talk to you. Get the fuck off of my lawn."
"Brendon," Jon says. He grabs Brendon's arm, firmly but not tightly. Brendon could easily pull away if he wanted to. "Just fucking talk to me, please."
"You're the one who left, Jon."
"I didn't leave you." Jon's voice is rough, and his eyes are sad. Everything is wrong. Brendon pulls his arm away.
"You did," Brendon says. "You picked Ryan. Now go make your fucking music." Brendon opens the door just enough that he can get through. "You made your choice, Jon." He closes the door in Jon's face and tells himself it doesn't break his heart.
"I'm having lunch with Ryan tomorrow," Spencer says. "We're going to talk." Spencer rolls his eyes. "I guess he wants to catch up or something."
"Well, he is your best friend since, like, birth or whatever."
"We were five," Spencer says. "Speaking of catching up."
"No, I haven't talked to Jon." It's been a couple of weeks since he slammed the door in Jon's face. Jon's stopped calling. Brendon's telling himself that it doesn't hurt, not even a little bit. He's a fucking shitty liar, even to himself.
"You should, if only so that you can give him that ugly ass sweater back."
Brendon looks down at the sweater he's wearing. "It's not that bad. It's kind of comfortable. Anyway, all of my shit was dirty." He shrugs.
"Since when has that stopped you? I've seen you wear shirts for two weeks straight," Spencer says. He's on the verge of smirking. Brendon hates him a little bit.
"It's just a sweater. Don't say a fucking word."
"It's June," Spencer says. His eyes are laughing. Brendon hates him.
"Did I hear you listening to Revolver last night?" Spencer is mocking him, and Brendon doesn't like it.
"No. Jesus, you're annoying." Brendon says. Spencer snorts at him and rolls his eyes at the same time. "Whatever, I'm going out."
"Where are you going?"
"To the beach," Brendon says, grabbing his keys.
"In that fucking sweater. In the middle of June."
Brendon flips Spencer off as he walks out the door.
"We're going to announce it," Spencer says.
"What?" Brendon's mouth is full of orange chicken. "Announce what?"
"That's disgusting," Spencer says. "The split. Ryan and I talked about it at lunch, and we think it's time to, you know, make it official."
Brendon swallows his food and then sits there, processing. It's been official--for them at least--for a while, but making an official announcement, that makes it real. That means it's just him and Spencer, and Jon and Ryan are gone. For real.
"Yeah, I heard you," he says. "Making an announcement. Yeah."
"It's not like we didn't know we'd have to do it eventually," Spencer says. "It's been a couple of months, and we've got a bunch of demos ready." There's a long pause, and then, "It's time."
"Yeah, I know." Brendon knows, but it feels like admitting that everything is really over. He hasn't missed Jon this much since the night it all ended.
Jon comes over.
They're planning on making an official announcement on Monday morning. They haven't even really talked about what they're going to say, but Ryan's pretty much stopped answering his phone and Brendon's still avoiding Jon. Spencer's been talking to Pete about it, trying to come up with the best course of action. The way Brendon sees it, it doesn't really matter what they say. People are going to read it the same.
Panic at the Disco breaks up. Jon Walker and Ryan Ross leave the band. There's no way to sugar coat that, and why should they? It's what happened.
It's late, almost eleven, and Brendon's watching some romantic comedy that he can't remember the name of. He's at the part where everything goes to shit and it seems hopeless, like nothing will ever work out for the best. He doesn't want to watch the end.
"Hey." He looks up and Jon is standing next to the sofa. "I haven't seen this one."
"It's stupid," Brendon says. "How the fuck did you get in here?"
"Spencer," Jon says. "I'm sorry. Maybe I should have called. Oh, wait, you wouldn't have answered." Brendon doesn't respond.
Jon takes that as an invitation to sit down, apparently. He doesn't sit too close, but he doesn't sit on the opposite end of the couch, either. Brendon sort of wishes that he would. "So, we're making the announcement."
"I don't want to talk about it," Brendon says.
He sees Jon nod out of the corner of his eye. His hair is longer than Brendon's ever seen it, and it looks like it hasn't been washed in a few days. It's falling in his face and curling around his eyes, and Brendon wants to touch it.
"I fucking hate this movie," Brendon says. The jackass ex-boyfriend is throwing himself at the female lead, telling her how sorry he is, how it'll never happen again and he's a fuck up and knows it. Brendon knows something hilarious will happen and then she'll take him back and they'll all be happy. Like nothing was ever fucked up to begin with. "Someone should make a romantic comedy that ends at the hopeless, depressing part. That's more realistic."
"Maybe, but not as funny," Jon says.
They sit, watching the end of the movie. Some cheesy pop song plays as they kiss in the park where kids are playing and birds are chirping. Brendon turns the TV off.
"Brendon, I didn't leave you," Jon whispers. "I didn't want to leave you."
"Don't do this, Jon."
"You're the one who stopped talking to me, Brendon," Jon says. "I tried. I fucking tried. For two months, and you just ignored me. Every fucking time I called, you ignored me. You can't pin this on me."
"You chose Ryan over me, Jon. And you can say it was about the music all you want; if that's how you want it, fine. But you chose him over everything else. So fuck you, Jon. You don't get to play the good guy here."
"I love you," Jon says. "Just because I don't want to be in fucking Panic at the Disco doesn't mean I don't love you, Brendon."
"I can't," Brendon says. He believes every word Jon is saying, but he can't do this--not now, not when everything is about to get even worse. There are going to be fans with questions, and interviews. He's going to have to get up on stage and play with strangers. "Jon, leave. Seriously. It's really over."
"It's not over," Jon says. "I won't believe that it's over."
"Jon--" Brendon doesn't expect Jon to kiss him. They haven't done this in months. It feels so different; Jon is desperate, clinging to Brendon like he doesn't have anything left to cling to. Brendon can't bring himself to pull away. He knows this is a bad idea, knows that at the end of the day nothing is actually better, but right now nothing feels more right.
"I love you," Jon whispers against Brendon's lips. "Please, Brendon. Please don't do this."
"Jon, it's not the same."
"You're right," Jon says. "We're not in a band together anymore, and that sucks. But that was a good decision, and you know it. We weren't getting anywhere, and we never would have." Brendon can't deny that.
"I just thought you'd choose me," Brendon says.
"I know, but Brendon, you had to know that I was going to go where I would be happiest, and we had all of this shit written that you really hated. That wasn't just him, you know. I worked on those songs, too."
"It wasn't about--"
"Yes, it was. You hated them, and that's fine."
"Yeah," Brendon says. "I mean, they're good, okay. You and Ryan write good shit. I just don't want to play it."
"Likewise," Jon says. "Look, I know you're still pissed, but can't we, I don't know, go out or something?"
"I don't know, Jon. That was like a punch to the stomach. I don't think I can--"
"You slammed a door in my face," Jon says. "Do you know what that felt like?"
"You left the band."
"Okay, maybe we're not even." Jon leans his head on Brendon's shoulder. His hair falls even more into his eyes. Brendon feels comfortable enough now to reach up and push it away. "I missed you," Jon whispers, closing his eyes.
"Me too," Brendon says. He sighs, trying to let himself forget how hurt and angry he was when Jon left. Jon's here now. Jon's here, and Brendon's not pushing him away.
"Please let me stay the night," Jon says. "I just want to--"
"Yes," Brendon says. He turns his head to kiss Jon quickly. He knows this doesn't make everything go away, and they have to work through it all. He's still hurt and angry, but right now none of that matters. "Yes, yes, please stay. I want you to stay."