Love: a temporary insanity, curable by marriage.
Brendon watches Ryan write, long fingers curved over a wrinkled legal pad in his lap. He’s biting his lip and staring at the yellow lined paper like it contains answers to all the questions in the world.
“I want to marry you,” Brendon says.
Ryan’s sitting cross-legged on their Craigslist couch – a truly impressive find that’s overstuffed and navy blue and only leaking moldy tufts of cotton from a few places where it appears someone stabbed it viciously with a knife. The couch came from Oakland and required the borrowing of one of Pete’s trucks to transport it, and Brendon is very proud of it. He loves free stuff, even though it smells like fish when the weather’s foggy. He calls it Tony.
“What?” Ryan asks.
Ryan is wearing pin-striped slacks and a v-neck undershirt with a red scarf carelessly flung around his neck, and he has a crooked line of ink from the corner of his mouth to his ear. He’s clutching his legal pad tightly, and his brown eyes have widened to Disney proportions.
Brendon thinks he looks beautiful.
“You heard me,” Brendon says.
Ryan licks his lips.
“You’re crazy,” he says.
“But you knew this already,” Brendon says.
He unfolds his body from Seated Forward Bend pose and crawls across the floor to situate himself below Ryan. He places his hands on Ryan’s thighs.
“Let me make a case for you.”
“You’re making a pretty good case already,” Ryan says.
“We’ve been together for three years,” Brendon says. “We live together. We love each other.”
“All of these things are true,” Ryan nods.
“We have really awesome sex,” Brendon continues.
Ryan lifts an eyebrow.
“It is really awesome,” Brendon insists. “Admit it, Ryan, our sex is at a higher-than-average level of awesome.”
Ryan smiles quietly in a way Brendon knows means he agrees.
“We have dogs together,” Brendon says. “That’s almost like having children.”
Ryan looks mildly horrified.
“It is not like having children. I work with children every day, and they are a lot more high maintenance than dogs.”
As if on cue, Hobo races into the living room and hops onto the couch, snuggling into Ryan. Ryan pets her softly.
“Hey, I work with kids too,” Brendon says. “Teaching children yoga is a lot of work, but they are more like dogs than you think. Ultimately all they want to do is roll around on the floor.”
“Whatever, I am trying to be romantic,” Brendon says, stroking one hand from Ryan’s knee down to his ankle and leaving it there. He looks up into Ryan’s eyes. “I love you, and I want to be with you forever. That’s why. There, that’s my case.”
“But we can be together and not be married,” Ryan says. “Marriage is just a hetero-normative societal convention that was originally designed to keep women as property—”
“Oh, shut up, college boy,” Brendon says, and practically climbs into Ryan’s lap. He cups Ryan’s face in his hands and stares down at him intently. “Marry me. Marry me because we can. Marry me because you want to wake up to my pretty face every morning, I know you do, marry me because we’ll get to have a huge party with all our friends, marry me in Vegas in a drive-thru chapel, I don’t care, marry me because I’ll figure out a way to go to Europe on our honeymoon so we can kiss under the Eiffel tower. Marry me, Ryan Ross.”
Ryan looks flushed and overwhelmed, but he’s struggling not to smile.
“We’ll go to Europe on our honeymoon?” he asks.
“Yes,” Brendon says. “Where Byron and Keats and all those romantic dead dudes are from. Where Radiohead and Queen are from, okay – just marry me.”
“I—” Ryan starts to say, then stops, folding his hands together in his lap.
Brendon takes his hands in his, winding their fingers together, and pulls him forward until their lips meet.
“You can think about it,” Brendon says when they separate. “I’ll wait.”
“I don’t need to think about it, I just—” Ryan’s eyes fade, mouth crimping slightly, and Brendon’s hands tighten around his.
There is a moment of complete silence in which Brendon quietly freaks out. Ryan is often quiet, but he always has his reasons for being so. Unfortunately Ryan’s reasons are rarely the I-don’t-think-I-have-the-right-shoes-for-this-tux type. Ryan’s reasons are usually serious business.
“Yes,” Ryan says, finally. “Yes, I will marry you.”
Brendon’s heart does a song-and-dance routine not unlike one Fred and Ginger might have done. He takes a deep breath, collects himself, and puts a damper on his urge to do a little cheer.
“I don’t have a ring,” Brendon says. “This was a little spur-of-the-moment.”
“It’s okay, I don’t need a—”
“Cheerios!” Brendon exclaims. “I think we have those in the—”
“Brendon,” Ryan says. “We don’t need rings. We only need—”
“Each other, I know,” Brendon says, grinning.
“I was going to say a pre-nup, but yeah,” Ryan says. Brendon shoves him down onto the couch and tickles him until he’s gasping.
“I know you only want me for my yoga studio,” Brendon says as Ryan sputters underneath him, wrists pinned against the couch cushions. “Yoga is very lucrative, especially in San Francisco where there’s virtually no competition. Plus, the studio is all mine now. Pete said so.”
“You know, elementary school teachers get paid an almost living wage.” Ryan says. “You might be marrying me for all those teacher perks.”
“We can be like Sonny and Cher,” Brendon says wistfully. “We can write top 40 hits and make sweet, sweet love afterwards.”
Ryan narrows his eyes. “That didn’t work out so well for them, you know.”
Brendon waves him off. “Whatever, I only want you for your vast collection of scarves anyway.”
Ryan sniffs. “I know,” he says, and flicks the corner of his red silk one. “Everybody does.”
“Does that look like an ‘m’?”
Roberto looks up at Ryan with questions in his big brown eyes. “Um…yes?”
Ryan sighs. “Why do you say yes?”
Roberto shrugs. “Because you wanted me to?”
Ryan is about to make some very wise pronouncement about being your own person with your own thoughts even though you’re only six when the door to his classroom swings open and Singer steps inside. He looks up at Ryan with his nervous bug eyes.
“Um, Mr. Ross?” he says. “Ms. Colleen wants to see you. She said I should watch your class.”
Ryan hesitates. Singer is timid and twitchy – he’s only been student-teaching for a few months. Still, how’s Singer going to learn if he doesn’t get any real experience?
“Okay,” Ryan says. “They’re having quiet reading time.” He raises his voice slightly. “And when I say quiet I mean quiet, even when I’m not here. Understood?”
“Yes, Mr. Ross,” comes a tinny chorus of voices.
“All yours,” Ryan tells Singer cheerfully. Singer looks a little ill.
Ryan pushes out of the classroom and strolls down the hall to Keltie Colleen’s dance studio. Keltie’s clad in a leotard and leggings, and she’s stretching in front of the wall of mirrors. The room is empty.
“You summoned me?” Ryan asks. “Was Eric Branson being a problem again? I know how he’s—”
Keltie leaps up from the floor with a dancer’s preternatural grace and throws her arms around Ryan in a tight hug.
“…Okay,” Ryan says.
Keltie pulls back to look at him with shining eyes. “You didn’t tell me you were getting married, you idiot.”
Ryan blinks. “Spencer.”
“Not Spencer, Haley,” Keltie says.
“I don’t even know how Spencer knows,” Ryan says. “I haven’t told anybody yet.”
“Jesus, why not?” Keltie asks. “It’s so exciting. Did you set a date?”
Ryan can feel a migraine coming on. “No, not yet. I mean—”
“God, Brendon,” Keltie sighs dreamily. “I would marry Brendon in a heartbeat, Ryan.”
If someone had told Ryan three years ago that he’d be standing here listening to one of his college girlfriends extol the virtues of his soon-to-be husband, Ryan would have laughed in their face. As it is, he’s feeling a bit…weird about the whole situation.
“Brendon is pretty awesome,” Ryan says, finally.
Keltie musses his hair, and Ryan brushes it back into place.
“I bet he’s a good lay too, isn’t he?” Keltie asks brightly. “So flexible.”
Ryan resists the urge to point out that Keltie, being a dancer, is quite flexible and consequently also an amazing lay, as he fears she might take this the wrong way. He’s also rather alarmed at the direction this conversation is going. He’s now imagining Keltie and Brendon having very stretchy sex in positions Ryan can’t even comprehend.
“I have to get back to my class,” Ryan says, and flees.
Brendon sighs dramatically, flipping over a record and scanning the back. “Yes, I’m sure, Frankie. He said yes.”
“Ryan Ross? You’re sure it was—”
“Frankie!” Brendon looks at Frank with sharp eyes. “I asked Ryan to marry me, okay? And he said yes.”
Frank lifts his eyebrows and purses his lips in a comical expression.
“Wow. That’s kind of huge, dude.”
“I guess,” Brendon shrugs. “I mean, I don’t know exactly what will change, but—”
“Are you having a wedding?” Frank asks.
“Yeah, of course,” Brendon says. “I don’t know—”
“Who’s going to pay for this Ross-Urie soiree?” Frank asks. “My sister almost split from her fiancé during their wedding planning, man. Weddings destroy marriages.”
“I figured we’d have a small wedding, just friends—”
“Brendon,” Frank says, “clearly you’ve forgotten that you have ten million friends.”
“All of whom will want to come, and all of your students and probably all of Ryan’s midgets, and—
“Frank!” Brendon can feel panic climb, monkey-like, up his spine. “It’s just a party. We know how to plan a party.”
“It’s a party with monumental implications. How do you know that Ryan hasn’t dreamed of this day his whole life? He’s probably picked out his tux already.”
Brendon makes a face. “That’s ridiculous, Ryan wouldn’t—”
“The dude matches his accessories to his outfit and his shoes, Bren,” Frank says. “I’ve seen him do it, I’m not making this shit up.”
Brendon pauses. “Well, I’ll ask him then—”
Brendon jumps and drops the stack of records he’s been holding. They scatter like startled birds.
Pete’s standing in the doorway of the studio, looking at him expectantly.
“Brendon has news,” Frank says, and shoots Brendon a devious look.
“Ooh, I love news,” Pete says. “Is it good news? Have you made me one trillion dollars in pure yoga profit?”
“Better news than that,” Frank says.
Brendon really wants to march over there and shove him into the trash can. He would probably fit, the tiny bastard.
“Better news?” Pete looks thrilled. “Brendon, don’t keep me in anticipation.”
Brendon takes in a deep breath.
“Ryan and I are getting married,” Brendon says.
It doesn’t quite feel real yet, maybe because he only asked Ryan yesterday. This morning he woke up when Ryan had to get up for school. He does every morning, no matter how quiet Ryan tries to be; he feels him leave and can’t ignore the sudden absence. This morning he thought: I want to do this forever. He’s not sure what this is, only that it involves Ryan and his quiet smile and level eyes, Ryan and his wry sense of humor and crazy clothes and fierce kisses, Ryan, Ryan, Ryan.
“Wow,” Pete says. “Really.”
“We’re talking about George Ryan Ross,” Pete clarifies. “He said yes?”
“Jesus Christ!” Brendon explodes. “Why is it so hard for people to believe that Ryan might actually want to marry me?”
He turns and walks out of the studio, slamming the door behind him and leaving his strewn records in his wake.
Ryan makes it as far as the bathroom across from his classroom, pushes his way into one of the small stalls and locks the door. He presses his forehead against the smooth surface of the door and tries to breathe.
I want to marry you, Brendon had said. Just put it out there: I want.
Ryan can’t imagine being bold enough to say that to Brendon. He’s thought about it before, sure – watching Brendon stretch in the early morning before class, his head bobbing along to the music on the stereo; seeing Brendon perform, sweaty and flushed and filled with pure, unadulterated joi d’vivre; waking up to find Brendon’s arm slung around his waist, his lips pressed into Ryan’s collarbone. He’s thought: I want to do this forever. I want to be this for the rest of my life.
But Ryan’s twenty-four years old, and forever is a really long time. Brendon’s devoted and loving and amazing, but he’s also impulsive and silly and a little bit crazy. Things change. Things could change, Brendon could change, he could decide—
Ryan feels his breath catch in his throat. Now he’s just being stupid. If he can’t predict the future, then he shouldn’t forecast some doom-and-gloom scenario for them either. Brendon had good reasons for getting married. They’ve made it work for the last three years. They live together. They love each other.
Maybe that’s enough.
In his classroom, the kids are gone, and Singer’s sitting at his desk, typing something into his Blackberry. When Ryan enters he leaps up and blurts out, “They’re at P.E.! I took them to P.E.”
“Thanks,” Ryan says absently. He takes out his own phone, flicks it open and begins to text.
I can do this, he thinks. Brendon, I can be this for you.
Fuck everyone, Brendon thinks.
He walks down Valencia, feeling a soft breeze caress his cheeks. A couple teenagers with hair gelled into peaks and valleys sporting abundant piercings stumble past, laughing. Two dudes speaking Spanish wander across the street, disregarding several approaching cars.
The little things, Brendon thinks. Nothing special or huge, but they mean something. The way the sun cuts across the old Victoria theater building, a red brick monstrosity built before architects realized brick wasn’t the wisest choice of materials for a city where building sometimes crumble like houses of cards. The palm trees near the 16th Street BART station, thick fronds twisting in the wind. The flowers, everywhere, and it’s March. In San Francisco there are flowers when the rest of the country is flinty grey, and the ocean is always, always blue.
Brendon’s phone buzzes at his hip, and he digs it out, half expecting an apologetic text from Pete, but no, it’s Ryan.
Kids are at P.E. + I am trying to remember to breathe. I love you.
Brendon’s hand shakes. He thinks: Yes, he said yes.
When Ryan returns from school that evening he finds Brendon in the kitchen, making something that smells rich and delicious. Dylan head butts Ryan’s ankle, and Hobo barks until Ryan picks her up and cuddles her, then places her back on the floor.
“Alfredo,” Brendon says by way of greeting, and holds out a spoon of sauce. Ryan leans forward and closes his mouth around the spoon. God, it’s good – creamy and yet light, with a touch of nutmeg.
Ryan opens his eyes to see Brendon looking back at him with a glazed expression on his face.
“Is it okay?” Brendon asks.
Ryan threads his hand through Brendon’s hair and pulls him into a deep kiss that allows him to share the flavor.
“Let’s elope,” Ryan murmurs against his lips. “Right now. Tonight. Let’s go to Vegas, get Elvis to do it, I don’t care.”
“Sauce is that good, huh?” Brendon says.
Ryan tilts his head to one side. “Aren’t you supposed to be teaching tonight?”
Brendon shrugs. “Pete gave me the night off. Said we should celebrate, and got Travis to sub.”
“So are we going to celebrate?” Ryan asks, pushing his fingers through Brendon’s belt loops and tugging gently.
Brendon smiles. “Sure, we can celebrate.”
Ryan rubs a finger over the pulse point in Brendon’s neck and feels the vibrations under the skin.
“Are you okay?” he asks.
Brendon tenses under his fingers.
“Yeah,” he says, lowering his eyes.
The sauce has begun to bubble. Ryan leans across Brendon and flicks off the burner on the stove. Brendon twitches. Ryan places his hands on Brendon’s hips, shifting so they’re flush against each other, and Brendon exhales a shaky breath.
“Talk to me,” Ryan says.
Brendon starts to object, but Ryan tightens his grip on his hips.
“C’mon, Brendon,” Ryan says. “You don’t have to be okay around me. You don’t have to pretend.”
Brendon’s eyes are very bright. “Do you think this might be a mistake?”
Ryan’s heart dips. “What do you—”
“I mean, a wedding,” Brendon says. “How are we going to afford a wedding?”
Ryan strokes his finger over Brendon’s hip bone and feels him shiver.
“And a honeymoon, for that matter,” Brendon continues. “Europe is expensive, and—”
“Brendon, we could take our honeymoon at the 7-11,” Ryan says. “The wedding too. Twinkies for hors d’oeuvres, Doritos for the main course, and Hostess cupcakes for dessert. We don’t have to go to Europe.”
“But I want to go to Europe,” Brendon says. “I want you to get to see all those paintings you love and, like, stand in the spot Rimbaud composed a poem and get inspired. I want you to have the most beautiful wedding in the world because you deserve a designer tux and a cake that tastes like heaven and—”
Ryan kisses him then, a forceful, demanding kiss that leaves them both breathless. When they separate Brendon’s clutching at Ryan’s shirt and whimpering; it makes Ryan go hot all over.
Brendon slides one hand over Ryan’s cheek, skimming. Ryan leans into his touch, closing his eyes.
“I want a wedding as amazing as you are,” Brendon whispers.
Ryan lets his eyes skim over Brendon’s face: his dark eyes and near black hair, full lips and long eyelashes.
“It will be,” Ryan says. “It’s us.”
Brendon stumbles into the studio the next morning bleary-eyed and sans caffeine boost, having overslept and rushed to work in order to make it in on time for his mid-morning class.
He and Ryan had more sex last night than they’ve had since the first time they slept together, and Brendon feels old. Ryan wanted to do it in some strange positions, too, and Brendon doesn’t know what that was about.
Brendon halts in his tracks. There is a very tall, thin man leaning against the desk wearing a pure white suit and looking altogether too self-satisfied for someone who has no discernible reason for being there.
“Hello?” Brendon greets the stranger.
“Hello,” the man says, holding out a long-fingered hand. “I am William Beckett. You must be Brendon.”
Okay, this is just creepy. Brendon takes a step backwards.
“Pete let me in,” William Beckett explains. “He’s upstairs. I’m here about the wedding?”
“What wedding?” Brendon squeaks.
“Oh my,” William says. “I believe yours.”
“Well, yes,” William says, taking Brendon’s hand and squeezing it. “I’m here to plan your wedding.”
“Are you crazy?”
Brendon slams the office door behind him. Pete examines his nails.
“I don’t think so,” Pete says honestly.
“We can’t afford a wedding planner,” Brendon explodes. “We’re not even sure if we can afford a wedding!”
“Yeah, about that,” Pete says. “It’s on me.”
Brendon’s brain whites out. “Excuse me?”
“Your wedding,” Pete says. “I want to pay for it. The honeymoon too. The whole deal, I’ll take care of it. Consider it my wedding gift.”
Brendon stares at him, open-mouthed.
“Don’t do that,” Pete says. “I feel bad enough already about yesterday. I was an asshole. I shouldn’t have joked about—it’s just that I never thought that Ryan—”
“Did you just say you’re going to pay for the wedding?” Brendon interrupts. “Is that what you said?”
“Sure,” Pete says.
“But how can you afford – you know what, don’t answer that,” Brendon says, collapsing into the desk chair and covering his eyes with his hands.
“You can do whatever you want, of course,” Pete says. “I wouldn’t suggest a destination wedding, though, because a lot of your friends are kind of broke, and that’s sort of mean, you know? Not everybody can afford to jet off to Hawaii for a weekend.”
“Mmm,” Brendon murmurs. He still can’t feel the tips of his fingers.
“Oh, also,” Pete says, “for your honeymoon you should go wherever you want to go, but I do have this apartment—”
“Where?” Brendon asks.
“In Paris,” Pete finishes. “I think Rimbaud used to live there or something. Crazy, right?”
When Ryan returns to their apartment that evening he finds a far happier Brendon than he did the night before. Brendon’s doing some kind of complicated yoga pose – Ryan can never keep them straight, so he generally refers to them in his head as Flying Lotus Bendy-Type Things. Sam Cooke wafts out from the stereo, a sure sign that Brendon’s in a good mood. Ryan has barely set down his bag when Brendon vaults into Ryan’s arms, wrapping himself around Ryan and waltzing him around the room to the lilting rhythm of the soul music on the stereo.
“Um, hello,” Ryan says. “Are you high?”
“On life,” Brendon says. “And on you.”
Ryan lifts an eyebrow.
“You’ve been baking with the special butter, haven’t you,” he says. “I told you not to take anything edible that Spencer gives you.”
“We have a wedding planner,” Brendon blurts out. “We have someone who’s going to plan our wedding, Ryan!”
Ryan stares at Brendon.
“His name is William Beckett,” Brendon says. “He specializes in gay weddings, and he’s going to get us a chocolate fountain! I’ve always wanted a chocolate fountain.”
“Is this some kind of what if game?” Ryan asks. “Like, visualize it and make it true? Have you been reading The Secret?”
“Ryan,” Brendon says, grasping Ryan’s arms and holding on tight. “Pete is paying for the wedding. And the honeymoon. Everything.”
Ryan blinks, twice. “What?”
“So I’ll handle everything with William, and you can plan our honeymoon in Paris, because – get this – Pete has an apartment there, why wouldn’t he? He’s Pete Wentz. Anyway—”
Brendon stops to kiss Ryan thoroughly, teasing his lips open with flicks of his tongue. Brendon’s got him seated on the couch, straddling Ryan in excellent lap dancing position once Ryan’s brain catches up to the rest of him.
“We’re actually getting married,” Ryan says.
“We’re so getting married,” Brendon says.
William Beckett’s wedding planning goes something like this: he proposes ridiculous things, waits for Brendon to tell him they’re ridiculous, then asks Brendon to come up with alternatives. Brendon’s not sure whether this makes everything much more inefficient or just forces him to be infinitely more creative.
“You could make your pets your flower girl and ring bearer,” William says. “That’s all the rage these days. Pets are remarkably like children, you know, in appearance and behavior.”
Brendon is instantly enthralled by this idea. He can totally picture Hobo as a flower girl, possibly dressed up in a doggie-size version of Ryan’s rose vest. Except that might remind Brendon of some of the things he and Ryan have done while Ryan was wearing the rose vest, and that’s just…dirty.
“Do you have any family you want in the wedding party?” William asks. “Brothers, sisters…”
Brendon’s chest clenches. Part of him thinks he should tell his family about this, but they don’t even know Ryan. They really don’t know Brendon.
“No family,” Brendon says. “Not the blood-related kind, anyway.”
“I think you should have red balloons,” Jon says dreamily. “You know, like that movie Ryan likes.”
“Ryan only pretends to like that movie because he thinks he should like it,” Brendon says, exhaling a smooth stream of smoke. “I got him to admit that once.”
“How did you get him to do that?” Spencer asks, taking the joint Brendon offers to him.
“There might have been blow jobs involved,” Brendon says.
Spencer coughs loudly.
“I don’t know, man,” Jon says. “A dude will say just about anything to get a BJ.”
“Don’t I know it,” Brendon smirks, and Spencer makes a pained face.
“To avoid going more in depth on this subject,” Spencer says, “I’d just like to point out how awesome it is that we are all at work right now.”
“It is pretty awesome,” Brendon says. “You did leave Marshall in charge of Yogalattes, right? It’s not, like, empty.”
“Brendon, I manage a coffee shop,” Jon says, pinching the spliff between his thumb and forefinger. “I am a professional.”
Brendon puts up his hands. “Gotta ask these questions, man. Paying the cost to be the boss.”
“Does that ever freak you out?” Spencer asks. “Like – being the boss? Running things?”
Brendon shrugs. “I have a lot of help. And we’re doing fine – it’s all Pete anyway, he’s the one who set up the infrastructure. He just let me build on it.”
“Fancy words, yogi,” Spencer says. He pauses thoughtfully. “Is that what this wedding thing is about? Building on the infrastructure?”
Brendon stares at him. “You’re asking hard questions, dude, and I’m really stoned right now.”
Spencer leans forward until he and Brendon are nearly nose to nose. “I just want you to keep in mind that if you fuck anything up with Ross, I will have to kill you.”
Spencer smells like fierceness. “I—”
“Ryan doesn’t have any family,” Spencer says. “You’re gonna be his family now, and he doesn’t need to get left again, know what I mean? So just don’t – don’t do that.”
Brendon looks down to where his legs are crossed in the Lotus pose. He feels twisted up and scared.
“I won’t,” he whispers.
“You want to do what?”
Ryan feels like his head is going to explode into a trillion pieces, each of them the size of a precisely lettered table place card. He’s been sitting with Brendon and William the Wedding Planner for two hours now at their dining room table, and he knows more about floral arrangements and cake frosting than he ever thought possible. Every time William mentions a new (more expensive) option, Brendon’s eyes light up like he’s managed to locate old school Mariah Carey on vinyl, but Ryan still can’t understood why any of this matters. They’re spending someone else’s money on a single day that will soon exist only in photos and memories. Ryan’s as romantic as the next guy, but this is fucking absurd.
“I was thinking, like, multiple disco balls, right,” Brendon says, “and a strobe light that’s set to the beat of the music so the whole room will pulse with—”
“Jesus Christ, Brendon!” Ryan bursts out. “Is this our wedding or Studio 54?”
Brendon’s face crumples. William turns and raises an eyebrow at Ryan in a gesture he’s fairly certain means, Back off, groomzilla.
“I get that Pete has done this amazing thing,” Ryan says. “But just because he’s given us a blank check doesn’t mean we have to spend the GNP of a small third world country on this wedding. I have first graders who’d really like books to read, and they need them a hell of a lot more than we need disco balls and strobe lights.”
Brendon’s eyes flash. “I’m not saying we have to spend a ton of money, Ryan. I just think that if we’re going to celebrate we should do this right—”
“But what is ‘right?’” Ryan says. “Right is pretending to be princes for a day? Acting like we’re Posh and Becks? I told you I didn’t want to make some huge deal out of this.”
Brendon’s jaw is set. He’s so tense in his seat he’s twitching, but he says nothing.
“You know what?” William breaks in. “You’ve had a long day already, and those are just details we can work out later.”
“No, you know what?” Ryan says. “Why don’t you deal with this, and I’ll keep out of it. How about that?”
Ryan gets up and marches into the bedroom and slams the door. He stands there for a moment, slumped against the door and struggling to breathe. He feels like his throat is closing up, and he doesn’t even know why. This is just a wedding, a ceremony, a symbol: some commodified, stupid ritual as false and paper thin as Valentine’s Day, but he still can’t breathe.
Usually Brendon helps him when he’s like this, sits with him and rubs his shoulders and counts off the inhales and exhales until Ryan’s no longer shaking. But Brendon’s on the other side of that door, and Ryan can’t help feeling he’s so much farther away than that.
He lies down and falls asleep out of sheer frustrated exhaustion. An hour later he wakes to the piano being played in the living room. It’s the jerky sounds of a beginner, nothing like Brendon’s fluid, instinctual rhythms. Ryan rubs his eyes and stretches, then cracks the door open.
Brendon’s sitting at the piano with a little girl, about six or seven years old, who’s wearing jeans and tiny penny loafers and a High School Musical t-shirt. She’s frowning hard in concentration, legs dangling from the piano bench. Brendon places a hand on her back and gently corrects her posture.
He does that to Ryan sometimes when Ryan slumps in his seat. Ryan can feel the ghost of his touch.
“I know you know the notes,” Brendon says, “but it’s about more than that, right? You want the music to sound like you feel.”
The girl pauses, lifting her hands from the keys.
“I thought it was supposed to sound like it does on the CD.”
“Well, maybe,” Brendon says, “but mostly you want it to sound like you. If you’re happy, play it happy. If you’re sad, play it sad. But don’t just play it the way you think it’s supposed to sound, because that’s boring. Anybody can do that.”
Brendon plays a couple bars of the song, leaning hard into the keys with a heavy touch. Then he plays the same piece softer and more sweetly. The girl watches with rapt attention, then begins to imitate him an octave lower.
“Good, good!” Brendon says. “So which do you like better, the stompy clompy version or the floaty version?”
The girl considers this, tapping her lip with one finger. “Floaty.”
“Floaty it is,” Brendon says, and the girl plays it again, this time on her own.
“Awesome, Stella,” Brendon exclaims. “You totally just played that the right way. There’s a million right ways, okay?”
Stella nods, and Ryan’s heart clenches.
Forever, he thinks. I want to do this forever.
Stella’s mom comes to pick her up a couple minutes later. Once they’re gone Brendon starts playing on his own, a complicated Chopin piece that sounds dark and deep. Ryan watches him play for a few minutes – God, Ryan loves watching Brendon play, his hands moving over the keys, his lip curled and eyes full of intensity – before he wanders out into the living room.
Brendon stops in the middle of a measure, hands jerking on the keys.
“I’m sorry,” he mumbles. “I didn’t mean to wake you. I thought if the door was closed—”
“Don’t stop,” Ryan says, and he can hear the unsaid please.
Brendon takes a deep breath, places his hands on the keys again and begins to play. The music oozes out of him into the air, natural like respiration. Ryan sinks onto the piano bench and slides one arm around Brendon’s waist. He can feel Brendon tense but he keeps playing, doesn’t stop until Ryan leans in and kisses his ear.
“Is this how you feel?” Ryan asks. “Right now? Is this…”
“Yes,” Brendon whispers.
Ryan slides his hand up Brendon’s side, fingers bunching the fabric of Brendon’s shirt. Brendon hitches in a breath and shivers.
“I want to marry you,” Ryan says softly.
Brendon turns to look at Ryan with dark eyes. “Are you sure?”
“Yes,” Ryan says. “I just realized I never said it. Do you?”
“Want to marry me? No,” Brendon says. “Or someone like me? No way. I’d annoy the crap out of myself.”
Ryan circles Brendon’s hip bone with his finger, and Brendon’s breathing slows. Ryan remembers a concert, years ago: the first time Ryan touched Brendon with intent and Brendon touched him back.
“Yes,” Brendon says, exhaling. “Yes, I’m sure. I wouldn’t have asked if I wasn’t.”
“All I need is you, Brendon. I don’t need flashing lights or—”
“But I am flashing lights,” Brendon says. “I’m as jittery as a strobe light, and I’m terrified you’re going to think I’m too much trouble.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Ryan says.
“Seriously, Brendon, that’s stupid. If I didn’t love your energy I wouldn’t have stuck with you for the last three years. And you can be still. You taught me how to be still.” Ryan pauses, running one finger along the piano keys. “I want to be able to teach like you. I want—”
Brendon digs his fingers into Ryan’s thigh and kisses him, a quick meeting of the lips that acts as punctuation.
“You won’t,” Brendon says. “Because you can teach like you.”
“I don’t know if—”
“Ryan, I’ve watched you,” Brendon says. “I’ve seen the way you calm those kids down, how you keep them steady, how patient you are. You teach like you.”
He traces the veins on the back of Ryan’s hand with his fingers.
“So many right ways to do things,” Brendon murmurs.
“So many wrong ones,” Ryan says.
The statement hangs heavy in the air. Brendon looks into Ryan’s eyes, searching them.
“We’re not your parents,” Brendon says.
Ryan’s breath catches. It’s true: he’s never born witness to a good marriage in his own household. For his parents, marriage meant fighting and drinking and leaving. Leaving. It meant leaving.
“I want to marry you in City Hall,” Ryan says suddenly.
Brendon’s face brightens. “Yes. Let’s do that. Yes.”
“Let’s have the reception at the studio,” Ryan says. “Make it casual. No floral arrangements or fancy tablecloths or food no one knows how to eat, just good music and the people we care about.”
Brendon kisses Ryan in answer. “You’re a fucking genius, Ryan Ross.”
“Let’s blow Pete’s money on our honeymoon,” Ryan says. “Let’s go everywhere.”
Brendon’s smile widens. “I love the way you think.”
“I love you,” Ryan whispers.
“God,” Brendon murmurs as Ryan leans down to kiss his neck. “I never get tired of hearing you say that.”
“A bachelor party.”
Ryan is looking at Brendon with terror in his eyes.
“What, Spencer said he wanted to throw one for me, and then Pete—”
“I don’t know, Brendon,” Ryan says. “Are you sure—”
“I thought it was a nice offer,” Brendon says.
He runs a finger down Ryan’s bare chest to his belly button, then spreads his hand across Ryan’s stomach. Ryan twitches under his touch.
“Yeah, but Spencer’s parties – look, I know Spencer,” Ryan says.
“I know Spencer too!” Brendon says, indignant. “I am his boss.”
“Well, I really know Spencer,” Ryan says. “Like, I have almost twenty years worth of knowing Spencer, and his parties—”
“Are the kind you run away from? Yeah, I remember his 20th. You spent it with me,” Brendon says, and places a swift kiss on Ryan’s cheek. “But this party ain’t for you, sweetheart.”
Ryan sighs and rubs one finger along his jaw. “It’s your funeral.”
“Nope, it’s my wedding,” Brendon says. “Kiss me, soon-to-be husband!”
“Oh my God,” Ryan says, recoiling.
Brendon licks his way into Ryan’s mouth, feeling the way Ryan softens and opens for him, and thinks: I could get used to this.
“I don’t understand,” Ryan stutters, and stops. “You’re taking me to a strip club? Where there are women?”
“Pete says you had quite the rep with the ladies at State,” Frank says, flipping open his wallet to show his ID. “Consider this a test of whether you still like the pussy.”
Ryan blanches and lunges away as if to flee, but Pete clamps his hand down on Ryan’s arm.
“Not so fast, skittish kitten.”
“Look, I don’t have any problems with the—”
Ryan stops, and Frank and Pete dissolve into helpless laughter.
“He can’t even say it, Pete,” Frank says.
“Ryan, don’t fear the pussy,” Pete says. “I’m sure it doesn’t fear you.”
“Why are Haley and Cassie not at my party?” Ryan asks. “I feel like plans might have been different if they were.”
“Because this is a friend swap bachelor party, dude,” Pete says, guiding Ryan into the club with his hand at his back. “Also, this was totally Haley’s idea.”
“Yeah, she dared us to make Ryan Ross blush,” Frank says. “You know what happens when people dare us to do things, Ryan.”
He shoves Ryan down into a chair in front of the stage. A busty woman wearing nothing but a g-string leans over him. Ryan presses his hands to his heated cheeks.
“Quick, Pete, get the camera!” Frank shouts, and Pete scrambles. Travis and Gabe, who are, as usual, tardy, sidle up behind them and laugh themselves into seizures.
“I thought these were your people, Ross,” Gabe says, leaning down and tweaking Ryan’s nose. “This is North Beach, man. You hang out here all the time.”
“Yeah, well, I come here generally for City Lights,” Ryan murmurs. “Not ‘the pussy.’”
“No worries, buddy, this place is women-owned and operated,” Travis says, nudging him with his shoulder and grinning. “You don’t have to feel, like, patriarchal and shit—”
The stripper stoops down and slides one finger along Ryan’s jaw line. “You’re lovely, sharp-dressed man.”
“Please tell me that what they’re putting Brendon through is worse,” Ryan breathes.
Frank and Pete look at each other and crack up again.
“So much worse, dude,” Gabe intones. “So much worse.”
“I don’t get why I always have to be the girl,” Brendon pouts. “Ryan is way prettier than me.”
Haley, Cassie and Keltie exchange significant looks. Jon and Spencer are deeply involved with packing a bowl in the corner, and mostly seem to be trying to ignore the proceedings.
“It’s not that you’re the girl, Bren,” Keltie explains. “It’s more that you’ve actually got the ass…ets to pull this off.”
“Or to let Ryan pull them off you,” Haley puts in, then hides her flush in her pink flamingo cocktail glass.
“I don’t even know what this is,” Brendon says, holding out a thin scrap of red lace. “I am gay, okay. I don’t know how girl underwear works. I barely know how boy underwear works because I don’t wear it most of the time.”
The three girls giggle. Spencer shakes his head sadly, lights the pipe and passes it to Jon.
“You can’t wear pants like these with underwear,” Brendon says, standing and turning in a tight circle. “You get lines.”
“I think Brendon’s had enough to drink,” Jon says loudly.
“That would imply there is such a thing,” Spencer says, and Jon punches him in the shoulder.
“If you wore that red number you wouldn’t have lines,” Cassie advises him.
“Ryan will lose his mind if you wear that one,” Keltie says. “When we were dating Ryan was a big fan of lingerie.”
Brendon’s eyes widen. “Really?”
“Really really,” Keltie nods.
“But I am not actually a girl,” Brendon says. “This is a problem.”
“I am traumatized by the implications of this conversation,” Spencer says. “Please stop talking, Brendon, and come over here and get high.”
Brendon shuffles over obediently, thong still dangling from his fingers. Spencer passes him the pipe and lighter, and Brendon exchanges it for the underwear. Spencer lifts his eyebrows as Brendon takes a deep hit and coughs like crazy.
“We’ve gotta get going,” Spencer says, holding the underwear at arm’s length. “The real party’s gonna start soon.”
“There’s another party?” Brendon asks, and almost trips over his own feet.
“Oh yeah,” Jon says. “He’s ready.”
Ryan is not as steady on his feet as he would like to be when Pete shoves him through the doors of a noisy club in the Mission.
“I thought that woman was going to give me an actual lap dance,” Ryan says. He bunches the lapels of Pete’s jacket in his fists and tugs him forward. “Don’t ever do that to me again. I don’t care what the occasion is.”
“Relax, Ross,” Pete says, shaking Ryan off. “You survived, and now you’re on familiar ground. Look.”
Ryan glances around and takes in his surroundings – silver walls, red tiled floors, DJ booth in the corner, speakers twenty feet high, a stage in the back that’s little more than a raised platform. There’s a band set-up there – drums, guitar, bass, and space for more.
“We’re at Pulse,” Ryan says. “Patrick’s club.”
“Damn skippy,” Pete says. “Hold on.” He texts something on his Sidekick and then stands on his tiptoes to see over the heads of people in the crowd. “I think your date just arrived.”
“My—” Ryan starts to say, but stops dead when someone shoves a whole lot of Brendon into his arms.
“Oh God, Ryan,” Brendon says, burying his face in Ryan’s neck. “I am so glad to see you. They were trying to get me to wear panties.”
Ryan’s mouth goes dry. “They were…what?” he says faintly.
Brendon looks up at him through long, dark lashes. “I don’t want to wear underwear. Not for you, not for anybody.”
Brendon’s pressed awfully close to Ryan’s body to be whispering such things in Ryan’s ear, but Brendon is – as usual – oblivious to the effect his gyrations are having on the fit of Ryan’s own tailored pants.
“Brendon,” Ryan murmurs. “Why are we here?”
“I think there’s a concert,” Brendon says. “Patrick said—”
“Patrick’s here?” Ryan says. “Thank God, at least there’s someone sane around. Figures he’d opt out of the strip club.”
“Wait, you were at a strip club?” Brendon’s eyes widen. “Is that why you’re…”
Brendon grinds against Ryan, and Ryan clutches at Brendon’s hips, swallowing a groan.
“No, Brendon. That would be because you’re really fucking hot, and…apparently not wearing underwear.”
“Mmm,” Brendon says, grasping at Ryan’s ass, fitting their bodies together. His eyelids flutter closed while they do their dirty, clumsy dance, and Ryan’s breath catches.
The band starts up, a deep, funky soul groove, and the bandleader begins a litany of praise for the singer, extolling her many virtues over the beat.
Brendon’s eyes snap open. “Dude! This is Sharon Jones!”
Ryan’s heart sinks. Sharon Jones is one of Brendon’s favorite singers, second only to Sam Cooke, but Brendon’s never been able to get tickets to see them because they always sell out.
Also, Ryan and Brendon have fucked to the sound of her voice so many times Ryan couldn’t even begin to count.
Brendon pushes his hands up under Ryan’s shirt, palms warm against Ryan’s always cool skin.
“You can pretend if you want,” Brendon murmurs in his ear, and Ryan goes hard all over.
Ryan doesn’t want to pretend. He doesn’t want to dry hump Brendon on the dance floor. He wants to drag Brendon home and fuck him against a wall. But they’re here now, and Brendon’s wanted to see this show for years.
It’s going to be a hell of a long night.
When Ryan places his hands on Brendon’s back his palm stretches completely across. God, that’s sexy, Brendon thinks hazily. This must be why they never go out to concerts anymore. Ryan is looking hot in those slim fitting dress pants and brown leather jacket with the tiniest bit of stubble on his cheeks. He smiles at Brendon, a soft twist of his lips, and Brendon breathes a little faster, heartbeat stuttering.
Sharon Jones is belting out a song about 100 days and 100 nights, to know a man’s heart, and Brendon feels Ryan shift his weight so he doesn’t lean too much into him. Brendon thinks: I know, I know, I know him.
The song slows and gets even more sensual, slippery, sliding down Brendon’s spine, and oh, that’s Ryan’s hand, curled under the fabric of his shirt and cool against his skin. Brendon’s dizzy from liquor and weed and the heat of too many bodies, but Ryan’s eyes are steady, and when he smiles it makes Brendon feel steady too, a three-legged stool that’s found a fourth, exactly what’s needed for balance.
I ain’t nobody’s soldier, Sharon Jones sings. I’m a bona fide capitan.
“I’m not leaving this one early,” Brendon says, and Ryan nods.
“I know,” he says.
“Don’t get me wrong, I want—” Brendon starts to say, but Ryan interrupts.
“Don’t tell me what you want to do right now,” Ryan says. “Or I might have to leave early without you.”
Brendon presses a chaste kiss to Ryan’s lips, but Ryan lets his tongue flick at the corner of Brendon’s mouth.
“Later,” Ryan says, breath warm mingled with Brendon’s. Brendon shivers.
One of the many things Ryan loves about Brendon is how it’s never very difficult to get him out of his clothes.
He’s humming softly as he wanders into their living room, coat already hanging off one shoulder, then puddling on the floor. Ryan follows the movement of his ass as he sidles into the bedroom.
Brendon promptly turns and pounces.
“Good God, Ryan Ross,” he says, biting just under Ryan’s jaw. “I could eat you.”
“‘You can pretend,’” Ryan quotes. “What the hell was that?”
Brendon picks up the stereo remote from the bedside table and flicks it on, choosing a track with practiced ease and raising the volume.
“It should be loud,” Brendon says when Ryan makes a move to turn it down. “Because I plan to be.”
But no matter how many times that phone rings
I’m not picking up for no one
Until that fat lady sings
Brendon unbuttons his shirt slowly, one button at a time, as if the music is stripping off his clothes and baring his skin. Ryan moves forward to help, but Brendon puts a hand out to stop him.
“You can watch.”
Now you know the world ain’t got nothin’ to do
When we’re making love
I won’t answer to nobody but you
Ryan huffs out a sigh and collapses onto the bed, still wearing all his clothes. Brendon climbs on top of him, shrugging off his shirt and straddling Ryan’s body. He smells like spice and smoke. He shimmies on top of Ryan and hums along to the song, then licks just behind Ryan’s ear.
“They do this at the strip club?” Brendon murmurs. “This part of your lap dance?”
“No, thank God,” Ryan says. His voice sounds thin, like they’re at high altitude.
Brendon flicks his tongue over the hollow of Ryan’s throat, fingers curling in Ryan’s jacket.
“I want you to fuck me,” Brendon whispers. “I want you to do it in nothing but this jacket.”
Ryan sucks in much needed air. “Brendon—”
“If I could have figured out a way to fuck you in that club tonight without getting arrested, I would have,” Brendon says.
He settles his full weight on Ryan, lifting Ryan’s hand to his mouth and licking between Ryan’s fingers. Ryan gasps.
“How much did you have to drink tonight?” Ryan says softly.
Brendon pulls back, eyebrows knitting. “You are not seriously asking me that.”
Ryan’s eyes flicker down to the bedspread.
“Ryan,” Brendon says, thumbing over his cheek. “You do not have to get me liquored up to fuck me, okay? I am not some sloppy sorority girl at State.”
“That’s not—” Ryan stops.
He feels confused, hot and scared. Brendon’s still shifting on top of him, cheeks flushed and eyes bright. He’s gorgeous.
Ryan doesn’t know why he feels the need to ruin every goddamn thing for the both of them.
“I can’t believe after three years—” Brendon starts.
“I’m fucked up, okay?” Ryan bursts out. “I’m sorry, I’m just – there’s no expiration date on the kind of fucked up I am.”
“Well, then it’s a good thing we’ve got the rest of our lives together,” Brendon says. “Our whole lives to figure this thing out, yeah? So I’m not worried.”
When Brendon kisses Ryan then, it’s soft but sweet, a kiss like chocolate mousse.
“We’ve got time,” Brendon murmurs.
Ryan can’t help thinking that’s the sexiest thing Brendon’s said all night.
The night before their wedding Ryan comes home late because he’s been putting together the Spring Flowers Rock! bulletin board at school. He finds Brendon sprawled across the couch, watching What Not to Wear on the DVR and eating Chinese food straight out of the carton.
“Sesame Chicken,” Brendon mumbles through a mouthful of fried rice. “It’s over by the microwave. Just heat it up when you’re ready. Also, I ate more egg rolls than I should have, but there are some left, and I got you that kind with the weird bean thready things you like.”
“Thanks,” Ryan says, and goes to warm the Sesame Chicken. When the microwave dings he takes the carton out and wanders over to the couch. He settles onto it and sends Brendon into a flurry of movement as he tries to find a place for all his limbs.
“Move over, tubby.”
Brendon makes a face. “Are you calling me fat, asshole?”
“Well, you did just eat your weight in Chinese food,” Ryan says, gesturing to the little white cartons littering the coffee table. “Do we need to talk? Are you stress eating?”
“What do I have to be stressed about?”
Ryan gives him a long, baleful look.
“Oh, whatever, there’s always divorce,” Brendon says. “Eat your egg rolls.”
“Brendon,” Ryan says softly.
“Eat, eat, eat,” Brendon says. “Then cuddle with me. I’m cold.” He shivers to illustrate.
“Why don’t you turn on the heat?” Ryan says.
“It’s April, Ryan. In San Francisco. I’m not a pussy. Get over here and warm me up.”
“I thought you wanted me to eat.”
“Relax,” Ryan says, pressing his hand to Brendon’s cheek. “I kid.”
“I love you,” Brendon says, fluttering his eyelashes. “Please come keep me warm, my angel.”
“I will kick you in the nuts.”
“That’s just mean. I said I love you!”
“I love you too,” Ryan says.
He shifts so Brendon can curl his body around Ryan’s.
“I really do love you,” Brendon says.
“I know,” Ryan says. “Don’t be nervous.”
Brendon stares at him for a moment, biting his lip, then wriggles out of his embrace.
“We should dance,” Brendon says. “Dance with me!”
Ryan chews a piece of chicken, unconcerned.
Brendon gets up and flicks on the stereo with the remote.
“C’mon, Ryan, it’s Sam Cooke. Dance, dance, dance…”
“I won’t dance,” Ryan says. “Don’t ask me.”
“That’s very clever. Get off your ass.” Brendon tugs Ryan to his feet and wraps his arms around Ryan’s waist. “Waltz. ONE two three—”
“I don’t know how to waltz,” Ryan says stiffly. “You know you’re the coordinated one in this relationship.”
“How can you not know how to waltz?” Brendon places his hand at the dip of Ryan’s back. “It’s really simple. Just—”
“Why am I marrying you, anyway?” Ryan asks, grabbing Brendon’s arms and stilling him.
“Because I’m good in bed?” Brendon suggests.
“Stop that. Stop – steering me.”
“I’m trying to help.”
“Whatever, Rimbaud didn’t know how to waltz either,” Ryan says.
“Now you’re just making shit up!”
“Brendon, seriously, I’m tired—”
“I want to try something,” Brendon says suddenly.
“I was eating!” Ryan exclaims.
“It will be cold when I—”
“Oh, be quiet,” Brendon says. “You’re coming with me.”
He takes Ryan’s hand and yanks him towards the door.
“Where are we—”
“The roof,” Brendon says with complete certainty.
Ryan sighs. “Brendon…”
“Don’t do that. No. We’re going up on the roof. Pretend I’m one of your first graders. I’ve seen how you are with them – they always get their way.”
“There are so many reasons why I don’t want to pretend you are one of my students, Brendon.”
“Well, you were one of mine, so do what I tell you,” Brendon says. “This will soothe your soul, I swear. Just like yoga.”
Ryan gives in, following Brendon out of the apartment and up the stairs to the roof. When Brendon pushes open the door, they are greeted with a blast of misty cold San Francisco air. Brendon immediately goes rigid, hugging himself.
Ryan wraps his arms around Brendon, pulling him close. “Soothe my soul, wise one.”
“I-I’m cold,” Brendon says, teeth chattering.
“This was your brilliant idea,” Ryan says.
“I wanted it to be like a romantic movie,” Brendon says dreamily. “Dancing on rooftops…”
“Dancing to what, exactly?” Ryan says. “You left your iPod speakers in the apartment.”
“We can make our own music,” Brendon says.
Ryan lifts an eyebrow.
“We can always make our own music,” Brendon says, voice softer this time.
Ryan slides his hand up Brendon’s back, feeling the muscles shift under the skin. Brendon’s so small and compact. In moments like this Ryan enjoys how he’s just a little bigger than Brendon – he can wrap himself around Brendon and feel like he’s truly holding him.
“Love, I get so lost sometimes,” Brendon sings softly. “The days pass and this emptiness fills my heart.”
“Happy stuff, awesome,” Ryan says.
“Just wait,” Brendon says, then begins to sing again.
I drive off in my car
but whichever way I choose
I come back to the place you are
Ryan buries his face in Brendon’s neck. Brendon lifts his hand and runs it through Ryan’s hair, letting the strands slide over his fingers. He hums, and they sway, and sway, and sway.
“Do you know where my shoes are?”
Brendon’s standing in the doorway in his bare feet, still clad in yoga pants and a grey undershirt, shifting from one foot to the other.
“This feels kind of anti-climactic,” Ryan murmurs.
“Yes, Ryan,” Brendon says. “But tomorrow, we do yoga in Paris!”
Ryan snorts. “Maybe you’ll be doing yoga.”
Ryan digs under the bed and tosses Brendon his leather shoes, one at a time. Brendon catches them, then looks down, puzzled.
“Pants,” he says. “Right.”
“I’ll be in the bathroom,” Ryan says.
He’s already fully dressed, wearing pressed black pants and a light blue button-down. He closes himself into the bathroom and sits down on the toilet, burying his head in his hands.
Ryan does not want to be that guy – the one who gets cold feet on his wedding day – but he sort of is. Not because he’s opposed to the idea of getting married (he’s over that now), but because he still feels it, that niggling doubt in the back of his mind that says: There’s no way he can want me like this, for this, forever.
Brendon’s knocking on the door. Ryan sighs.
“Ryan, don’t – like, if you don’t want to do this we don’t have to, man. We can totally have the party anyway and it’ll just be a celebration of us being awesome or whatever, and I won’t be upset, I promise, I—”
Ryan yanks open the door then to reveal Brendon, hair a messy halo around his head, eyes wide and bright, cheeks flushed. He’s wearing a suit, complete with a slightly crooked tie, and he’s still missing a shoe.
“I love you,” Brendon says quietly. “Everything else is just paperwork.”
“We should make this real,” Ryan says.
“It will always be real,” Brendon says.
“We should make this legal,” Ryan says.
Brendon starts to say something, but then stops.
“Yes,” he says. “You should make me an honest man.”
Ryan takes Brendon in: his soft, nervous smile, the tightness around his eyes, the pink edge of his ears.
He thinks: Just breathe.
“Let’s do this,” Ryan says.
“Did we miss an important Google alert?” Brendon wonders aloud as they climb the steps to City Hall. “This is weird.”
“Hey! Hey, guys!”
Pete comes bounding up the stairs behind them, out of breath.
“You’re supposed to be at the studio,” Brendon observes. “You didn’t leave Marshall alone in the studio, did you?”
“Change of plans,” Pete pants. “The studio’s closed.”
“But there are supposed to be classes—”
“Brendon,” Pete says, placing his hand on his arm. “This is your wedding day. You only get to do this once.”
“Some people do it many times,” Ryan says.
“Yeah,” Pete says, eyes flicking back and forth between Ryan and Brendon. “But you guys will only do it once.”
“Is there something going on today?” Brendon asks. “This place is crawling with press.”
“Right, so, about that,” Pete says. “I pulled some strings.”
Ryan stiffens, and Brendon grabs his hand, squeezing.
“I maybe got you somebody special to marry you,” Pete blurts out.
“Pete…” Ryan warns.
“I maybe got Gavin Newsom to do it,” Pete says.
“You got the fucking governor—”
“Hey, hey, hey,” Pete says, putting up one hand. “He was happy to do it.”
“That is so not the point, you don’t even—”
“We really shouldn’t keep him waiting,” Pete says, and flees.
“Mr. Ross!” Felicia Trevor, the smallest member of Ryan’s first grade class, tugs on Ryan’s pants leg, looking up at him with shining green eyes. “I heard you’re getting married.”
“Felicia, what are you—”
“Mr. Ross, can I take a picture?” Benicio Torrez holds up a tiny digital camera. “We can put it on our wall at school.”
“Benicio, sweetheart, give Mr. Ross some space,” Keltie says, suddenly appearing and flashing Ryan a quick smile. “He’s got things to do.”
“What the fu—heck is going on?” Ryan asks.
“Field trip,” Keltie says, and grins.
“Ryan,” Brendon whispers, “I thought this was supposed to be a small, private ceremony. They said only six people could—”
“It was,” Ryan mutters.
“Dude!” Gabe slaps Brendon on the back, making him cough. “I brought some friends.”
Brendon looks down to see a trail of little kids behind Gabe, all dressed in yoga sweats and t-shirts that say:
City Hall – San Francisco, CA
“You made them t-shirts?” Brendon gasps.
“Aren’t they supposed to be in school, Saporta?” Ryan demands.
Gabe looks at him innocently. “Whatever, man, you can’t tell me you don’t know anything about breaking the rules.”
“Brendon, Brendon, Brendon!” Pearl Ambrosia Love, a five-year-old yoga prodigy who can already do a Full Lotus, wraps herself around Brendon. She comes up to his waist. “Where is your dress?”
“My…” Brendon trails off.
“He doesn’t have a dress, honey,” Gabe says, petting her. “He’s butching it up for the wedding.”
“What’s butching it—”
“Oh, dear God,” Ryan murmurs.
“Brendon Urie and Ryan Ross,” a voice comes from the front of the room. A man dressed in a navy suit and tie beckons to them.
“Right, because we came here to get married,” Ryan says.
“Don’t be grumpy, darling,” Brendon whispers, and tugs Ryan along.
They follow the man into a room where Governor Gavin Newsom stands, looking handsome and tidy in his sharp dark suit, hair slicked back out of his eyes. As they approach, he holds out his hand.
“Hello, Mr. Urie and Mr. Ross,” he says, shaking their hands in turn. “It’s so good to meet you.”
“Good to meet you too, Governor,” Brendon says. “We didn’t know that you would be here today.”
“Well, Pete’s a friend,” Governor Newsom says easily. “It wasn’t a big deal to fit you in, and you know I always enjoy a wedding.”
“No wedding on horseback for us,” Ryan says before he can stop himself.
Governor Newsom gives him a steady look. “Well, it’s not for everyone.” He rubs his hands together and raises his voice. “Shall we get started?”
The small crowd that’s squeezed into the room goes quiet as the kids settle.
“We are gathered here today to join this man,” Governor Newsom says, taking Ryan’s hand, “and this man,” taking Brendon’s, “in matrimony.”
He brings their hands together, and Brendon grasps Ryan’s and threads his fingers through his.
“They will say their own vows,” Governor Newsom says.
Ryan feels his breath catch in his throat. When he imagined this, it was just him and Jon and Spencer and Brendon in a room together, but now he’s surrounded by approximately a million people, and even though they’re keeping the news cameras out he can feel them, hovering, outside that door. His throat is scratchy and raw, and he can’t for the life of him remember what he wants to say.
“Ryan,” Brendon says softly. “I want to marry you today because you are everything that’s right about my life. You believe in me, but you’re not blind. You see what’s going on, always, and you – you don’t compromise. You don’t let me compromise either. You’re stubborn and you’re angry and you want to change the world. You spent some time breaking the wrong rules and now you want to break the right ones. When you’re quiet it’s not because you don’t have anything to say, but because you want to think before you say it. You teach me how to be quiet. I love you, and I want to be with you for the rest of my life. I—” Brendon stops. “You are my light and my heat, Ryan Ross.”
“I can’t believe you just quoted Peter Gabriel,” Ryan whispers.
Brendon grins, wide and happy and completely unapologetic, and Ryan’s stomach flips. Everything is there on Brendon’s face: fear, nerves, excitement.
Ryan thinks: Tom Waits, right? I’m never wrong about these things.
Never doubt me about dessert, man. I have a PhD in delicious.
Fuck the rules, you know?
Yeah, fuck them.
I don’t know, Ryan, I think the world’s better off having our verse in it.
“I—” he starts to say, and then all of his carefully composed vows fly right out of his head.
There is a long silence, and he can feel Brendon clasp his hand more tightly.
“Ryan?” he murmurs.
“We must reinvent love,” Ryan blurts out.
Brendon stares at him, confusion clouding his eyes.
“I love you,” Ryan says. “I – don’t even have words.”
Brendon’s eyes clear, and Ryan’s heart lifts, lifts and shivers.
Brendon doesn’t wait for Governor Newsom to say it’s okay; he pulls Ryan forward and fits their mouths together. A whoop goes up from the crowd, as well as a chorus of ewwws from certain 1st and 2nd graders currently in attendance.
There’s applause, but Ryan’s not registering anything but Brendon’s hand in his hair, his lips soft and tasting of coffee, his kiss answering I do, I really, really do.
“Dude! There’s a chocolate fountain!”
Brendon is enthralled. He wants to share his enthusiasm with Ryan, but Ryan is not impressed. Ryan, in fact, is looking somewhat peeved.
“I can’t believe Pete relocated the reception to the Pulse,” Ryan says. “It was supposed to be in the studio.”
“Well, we have a lot of guests,” Brendon says, gesturing around the rapidly filling room. “Apparently.”
“Do you ever feel,” Ryan says slowly, “like your life is not your own?”
Brendon takes Ryan’s hands and holds them, looking deeply into his eyes.
“Yes,” Brendon says, “because your life is mine now, Ryan. We’re married.”
Ryan sighs. “Please don’t remind me. Also, I think you may be confused about the meaning of marriage.”
“I know I own fifty percent of you,” Brendon says. “Or I get fifty percent if we divorce. Or something.”
“That is not actually—”
Gerard is standing in front of them, holding out his hands in an inviting gesture.
“My friends,” he says very seriously.
“Hello, Gee,” Brendon says, and wraps Gerard in a tight hug. Gerard looks overwhelmed.
“That was a beautiful ceremony,” Gerard says, once he’s recovered.
“You mean even though Ryan totally froze up?” Brendon says brightly.
“I did not freeze up,” Ryan hisses.
“You so did,” Brendon says. “‘We must reinvent love.’ Where did you pull that from?”
“I assumed you wrote it,” Gerard says.
“I didn’t,” Ryan says. “Rimbaud did. ‘Love must be reinvented.’”
“I like it,” Brendon says. “Old school gay.”
“Interesting choice for a gay wedding,” Gerard says. “A quote from the most tragic gay poet of all time.”
“Ryan’s a fan,” Brendon explains. “He wants to have a million of Rimbaud’s tiny poet babies.”
“Brendon’s had some to drink,” Ryan explains to Gerard, who nods as if he understands.
“Yo, yo, is this thing on?”
Ryan’s head jerks up, and Brendon follows his gaze. Gabe is standing on the Pulse stage, holding a mic in his hand.
“So I wanted to do something special for Brendon, right,” Gabe says, “because he’s put up with a lot of my shit over the years – earmuffs, kids, when Uncle Gabe is talking – and he hasn’t fired me, even though I don’t think I’ve ever been on time to a class. Ever.” He pauses thoughtfully. “But my heart is in the right place, and that place is Decaydance. I don’t know where I’d be without that place, and Pete, and the many amazing people who work there. Travis, Jon, Spencer, Marshall, Frankie – you’re all amazing, and I love you.”
“Get to the point, Saporta,” someone who sounds suspiciously like Pete coughs in the back.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Gabe says. “I wanted to do something special for two very special dudes who happened to tie the knot today so they could bang each other for the rest of their lives and be right in the eyes of a gay-loving God, and so…this is what I did. Patrick, play that funky music.”
The lights go dim, and the unmistakable sounds of Britney Spears fill the club.
“Oh, Jesus,” Ryan whispers.
“This is so awesome,” Brendon says, and squeezes Ryan’s hand.
The lights come up on the stage to reveal a line of Brendon’s yoga students, all of them under the age of eight, and all wearing their matching t-shirts.
Oh baby baby
How was I supposed to know…
What unfolds on that stage is maybe the best thing Brendon’s ever seen in his entire life. There is nothing – nothing – more awe-inspiring than a bunch of six- and seven-year olds attempting to do a synchronized dance routine choreographed by Gabe Saporta.
“I’m not sure the chairs were a wise idea,” Gerard mutters. “That’s really rather suggestive.”
“I…honestly cannot believe what I’m seeing,” Ryan says.
“I repeat: this is awesome,” Brendon says.
“I think we need to give credit where it’s due,” Gerard says. “Gabe Saporta’s a fucking savant.”
After the horrific dance number is over, the kids descend on Brendon like a swarm of bees, surrounding him and finding ways to attach themselves to every part of his body. Little girls tug on his tie and pull his hair; little boys bounce around and push and shove and shout loud, nonsensical things into his ear until he laughs and lightly holds them at a distance with one firm hand.
Ryan watches Brendon lift a tiny girl into the air and swing her around, her blond hair whipping across her face as she giggles and squeals. Ryan thinks, Oh God, Ross, don’t even— But it’s too late: the thought has been planted. Brendon with children, Brendon, smiling, Brendon, his, forever.
Ryan feels faint.
Brendon bounds up to him, flushed and sweaty, clothes in disarray. He tugs a hand through his hair and says, “Those kids are vicious, dude. Like itty-bitty velocaraptors.”
Ryan stares at Brendon silently, frozen – strangely, inexplicably frozen. He thinks, How, how did this happen? and then, I am so scared.
“I am so scared,” Ryan whispers.
“What?” Brendon cups his hand around his ear in an attempt to hear over the dull roar of music and too many people.
Ryan turns and leaves. He doesn’t know what else to do, and sometimes old habits die a slow and painful death.
Outside in the cool San Francisco evening air, Brendon’s voice is loud when he calls out to him. He coughs and clears his throat.
“Ryan,” he says more softly. “Please – don’t just leave like that. Please?”
Ryan closes his eyes. He feels Brendon’s hand wrap around his arm, fingers pressing into muscle and tendon.
“I know there are a lot of people in there,” Brendon says, “but they want to celebrate with us. They care about us.”
“I know,” Ryan says.
“Look – look at me, Jesus,” Brendon says, and Ryan finally holds Brendon’s gaze. “The hard part is over. All that’s left is the party.”
But that’s not true, and Ryan knows it. He can see his mom, yelling at his dad, throwing things, slamming doors; his dad, drowning his rage in cheap scotch, collapsing on the couch, dead to the world before the evening news. He can see this happening over and over again, until one night his mom pushed her way out that door and never came back.
“Ryan,” Brendon is saying, and when Ryan’s eyes focus he can see how desperate and sad Brendon looks. It’s not a look Ryan sees often, and it hurts.
“I’m sorry,” Ryan blurts out.
“Why are you sorry?” Brendon asks. “You don’t need to be sorry.”
“I’m sorry I’m not more…” Ryan makes a vague gesture with his hands, curling his fingers.
Brendon catches Ryan’s hands and threads their fingers together.
“I love you,” Brendon says. “I’m going to keep saying it until you believe it. I love you.”
“I love you,” Brendon repeats, and his voice is strained like it gets when he tries to hit notes out of his range. “I love you, Ryan Ross. I love you.”
“I love you too,” Ryan says softly.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Brendon says. “I’m not leaving you. I’m not—”
Ryan kisses him, cutting off the flow of words. I know, he thinks. I know.
“Gabe, I will punch you in the eye if you don’t give me that microphone.”
Gabe looks at Brendon reproachfully.
“Wow, fightin’ words from the married man.”
“I get that Cobra’s awesome and shit,” Brendon says, “but I want to sing a song, and this is my wedding reception, and you’ve been up here for, like, four hours.”
“That is not true,” Gabe says. “We have not even been here for four hours.”
“Being as you have drunk approximately sixteen mojitos, you may not be the best judge of time,” Brendon says. “Hand it over.”
Gabe obediently hands him his drink, which contains about six milliliters of liquid.
“The microphone, genius,” Patrick says, coming up behind Gabe and snatching it away. He hands the mic to Brendon. “Knock us dead, Urie.”
“Sweet! Thank you,” Brendon says, and turns his back to talk to the remainder of Cobra as Patrick drags a spluttering Gabe offstage.
“Your wish is our command,” Ryland says generously.
“Awesome,” Brendon says, and whispers his request into Ryland’s ear. Ryland grins and nods.
Cobra Starship starts up an old school soul groove, and Brendon nods along, twisting the mic chord around his fingers as he stares out at the crowd.
“Ryan Ross,” Brendon says into the microphone. “This one’s for you.”
Even in the low light he can see Ryan flushing, his hands tightening into fists by his side. As Brendon sings he can see Ryan’s shoulders lifting with tension, his jaw locking
You’re my baby
I love you in every way way way
My love grows stronger every day
“I hate you,” Ryan says.
“I’ll make you a deal,” Brendon says sweetly. “You come up here and dance with me, and I’ll stop singing.”
Ryan’s eyes widen.
“Up here,” Brendon says. “Dance with me, and I’ll give the mic back to Gabe.”
“That’s just mean,” Ryan says.
“Ryan says he’d love to,” Brendon tells the crowd. Everyone cheers.
“I hate you so much,” Ryan says, but he takes Brendon’s hand when he offers it to him and pulls him up onto the low stage.
Brendon holds the mic out to Gabe and wraps his arms around Ryan’s neck. A chorus of awwwwws comes from the crowd, and Ryan rolls his eyes.
“You have no idea how much I hate you right now,” Ryan says, “or how much I’m going to make you pay for this later.”
“I want you to make me pay for it,” Brendon says, letting his hands slide lower on Ryan’s back. He whispers, “Make me pay for it, Ryan.”
“Fuck,” Ryan huffs out as Brendon tugs him closer.
“You love me,” Brendon says. “You’re gonna love me forever.”
Ryan digs his fingers into Brendon’s sides, and Brendon almost yelps.
“What, the truth is the truth,” Brendon squeaks. “Why deny what’s true?”
Ryan sighs, and Brendon can feel him give in.
“Embrace the mess, Ryan,” Brendon murmurs against Ryan’s cheek.
“Oh, I’m embracing it,” Ryan says, but when he looks down at Brendon, he’s smiling, eyes bright.