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(You're the) Frosting on my Cupcake

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Brendon Urie would call himself an ordinary guy. Spencer Smith would call him stupidly hot, if he weren't about to destroy Brendon's career. A rich, successful journalist and food critic, Spencer aims to write a scathing review of Brendon's little muffin and cupcake shop. He never mixes business with pleasure. But the secrets Brendon's keeping intrigue Spencer, and his naivety has caught Spencer off guard. He's entranced with the little muffin cupcake shop and his neighbour Jon's coffee shop.

What's happened to him? He's being ridiculous! The Christmas-coated town has gone to his head. Spencer's best friend, literary critic Ryan Ross, thinks that the small-town boy has unlocked the city slicker's heart.

...Yeah, this is kind of but not quite that story.

 

Brendon meets Jon at college in Chicago. Brendon's there doing some lame-ass business degree and he's bored and then one day, he sits down at the back of class and Jon sits down next to him. Jon's wearing sunglasses and flip-flops teamed with a giant hoodie and a big black beanie, and he's clutching a huge cup of coffee. He drops his notebook and his pen down onto the desk and promptly leans back in his chair to fall asleep. Brendon—because he's nice like that—elbows him awake when he starts to snore.

At the end of class, Jon holds his hand out and says, "Jon Walker. Thanks for that."

And that's it. Brendon follows him to the coffee shop and they buy coffees and cupcakes; Brendon critiques the cupcakes and Jon lays into the coffee, and that sets the trend for the rest of their time in college. Jon spends most of his time talking about coffee beans and Brendon furtively copies down cupcake recipes from cookery books in bookstores. Jon spends all of the money he should have been saving for college books on a fancy-ass coffee maker for his kitchen, and he and Brendon organize study sessions that are basically an opportunity for Brendon to bake cupcakes and Jon to blend coffee beans. Brendon ends up over-caffeinated and sugar-jittery, bouncing around Jon's apartment at ass-o-clock in the morning until Jon's roommate comes out and tells them both to shut the hell up.

In the end, they spend more time messing with their cupcakes and their coffee blends than they do in class. Jon has his coffee notebook and Brendon has his cupcake folder, and they're both full of notes and scraps of paper and labels and company addresses.

They end up flunking out of school, pretty much. For Brendon, this is pretty bad because he's never really flunked out of anything before. Jon though, Jon's a couple of years older and he's already flunked out of college once and spent a year working in Starbucks. His parents really aren't going to be pleased he's flunked again.

They're both pretty sad, because they really don't want to get thrown out of college but neither of them are really interested in what they're studying, either.

But they Jon says, "You know this cupcake thing—-"

And Brendon says "—-and this coffee obsession—-"

And they both say "—-LET'S START A CUPCAKE COFFEE SHOP!"

And then they both look down at their feet and wonder how the fuck they're going to finance a cupcake coffee shop.

It's Jon's parents who unwittingly come to the rescue. Jon's grandma died when he was seventeen, and when he's twenty one he stands to inherit some money from her will. It's not a huge amount, but it's enough to finance their start-up costs and a year's running costs, so long as they can find somewhere cheaper than Chicago to do it in. He's getting all sorts of conflicting advice from his parents, and his brothers, and his friends. People keep telling him to invest it, to put it to one side until he's older but he really doesn't want that. He keeps having to say, "but Mom, I don't want to have some bank invest it in arms or unethical coffee production," or whatever, but in the end he and Brendon go back to college because they don't know what else to do.

They're in the back of class talking about cupcakes and coffee one day, when Jon just says, "Brendon, let's do it. Let's just drop out and go and start somewhere new, and make coffee and cupcakes."

Brendon blinks, and then he's smiling and saying yes, because Jon is his best friend and cupcakes are just about his favorite thing on the planet.

So they stop going to classes and start reading books and put together a really shitty business proposal with the help of books from the college library (that they shouldn't really be using, you know, what with the whole dropping out thing) and Brendon keeps saying, "but Jon, this is your inheritance."

Jon just rolls his eyes and says, "You're my best friend, dickface, and who wants to drink coffee without being able to have a cupcake too? We'd only wait until graduation and do it anyway, except we'll have spent three more years reading crappy books and writing stupid papers and pulling all-nighters for midterms."

Brendon waits a while, and then he says, "Okay, Jon Walker, I am in."

It takes them a while to find somewhere they can afford. They end up moving half way across the country, to Small Town, Somewhere in America.

They make about a gazillion mistakes, those first few months, because they have approximately no idea how to run a business. They're broke and they had all these ideas but they're all so expensive! They do things wrong and they end up spending way too long on the phone to Jon's brother, who was a business major but to differentiate from Brendon, he actually graduated, and in the end Brendon and Jon sit down and look sadly at each other. They pool their resources (they live in the really shitty rooms above their cupcake coffee shop) and agree that one of them has to go and take business classes at night school. Brendon won't even take a shot at it. "No fucking way," he says, shaking his head. "This is your money," he says, "your fucking inheritance and I'm not taking it to do stupid classes instead of you."

(He calls his mom and dad up, though, to see if they'll help him pay for classes so he can go with Jon. He'd like to know this stuff too. They say no, because this was always a stupid idea, throwing everything in for a store in Small Town, Somewhere in America. Jon hugs him and says that Brendon can read Jon's textbooks and help him with his homework).

MEANWHILE. SOMEWHERE ELSE IN AMERICA, childhood best friends Ryan and Spencer are at college together, taking classes and being bitchy and sarcastic. Ryan joins the college paper, so Spencer does too, and they end up running the review page and being bitchy and sarcastic about new books and the coffee on campus and it's kind of witty and amusing and they end up having a bit of a cult following.

When Ryan graduates, he ends up working as a literary reviewer for some cool-assed magazine in the city, because the editor there used to the be old editor of the college paper, and he likes Ryan's style. Suddenly Ryan's still getting to be bitchy and sarcastic in print, but he's doing it somewhere that's got national distribution.

When Spencer graduates a year later, he follows Ryan out to work at the same magazine.

And there they are, united by a common bitchiness and a love of the printed word (or in Spencer's case, a love of the free meals that being the food writer automatically entitles him to), and they write bitchy, vaguely popular, distinctive columns.

Spencer's been in the job about three and a half months. He graduated in the summer, and joined Ryan just days later. It would have been the day after graduation, only Spencer's parents seemed pretty keen on the idea of Spencer spending a couple of days with them before leaving forever. Anyway, he's been in the job long enough to realize that he likes the free stuff and he loves living with Ryan, and being an adult in Some Big City is pretty fucking awesome, but he's also been in the job just long enough to realize that being a full time journalist is a lot different to working for the college paper. His editor keeps pushing him to be more sarcastic and more witty and to be sharper and crueler and edgier. Spencer might be pretty good at being bitchy and sarcastic, but he's kind of starting to feel bad about being horrible in print. He's even tried to speak to Ryan about it, tried to voice his concerns about how the edge his editor is pushing him towards is too sharp even for Spencer. He doesn't want to put anyone out of business, he just wants to tell people where they can get a good spaghetti sauce or a good deal on kitchen equipment. It turns out, Ryan's been feeling the same sort of pressure from the editor, but literary criticism isn't quite the same as Spencer's food section. Ryan reviews all these great literary tomes and mass market fiction and it's almost necessary that it be sarcastic. It's expected! But Spencer isn't quite so sure he's at ease with what his editor is asking of him. They've suddenly shifted from being the Spencer and Ryan show, on a small scale, across campus, where they didn't really affect sales, to being on a magazine with national distribution and a website, and they're writing the same sort of reviews. They share an apartment and it's full of all the free books Ryan gets sent, and they've got bits highlighted and post its stuck in and they're a MESS. Spencer writes reviews of restaurants and he's bitchy but he's funny, too, when they let him be. That side of it he likes. He just wishes that's what he got to do the whole of the time.

Anyway, he flies cross-country to go back and see his parents at the end of November. It's the first time back in Vegas since he moved to the city back in the summer. He stays a few days with his parents, and it's kind of nice, but he misses Ryan and he's glad to get on the flight back. Only, there's a storm up north so Spencer's flight ends up being diverted. This means an unscheduled layover in a place that Spencer describes to Ryan in a text message as Buttfuck, Nowhere. It's a really shitty layover in some shitty place with no name, stuck in some empty Holiday Inn without even a decent book to read. He ends up reading the local press, calling Ryan up and reading out the badly written bits so they can both laugh.

Then he comes across an article about a cupcake coffee shop, and an interview with the owner himself. It's a really fucking stupid article, Spencer tells Ryan. It's all about unique a cupcake shop is (Spencer rolls his eyes and says "What the fuck, Ryan, have they seriously never been to the city before?") and about what the owner's going to be doing to get in the Christmas spirit now that December is here. Christmas has obviously been all over the shops in the city for weeks now, and the idea of it not starting until December is fucking laughable. The owner—Brendon Urie, Spencer reads—is very sincere and he lists all these stupid Christmassy things, and how he wouldn't put the Christmas lights up until December first, and that's when he'll go look for a tree too.

Spencer can't stop laughing, and he's reading bits out to Ryan in a silly voice about how fucking backward they are out here.

Ryan says, "You have got to go and see this place, honestly, this will be your best review ever, Spence."

"Listen to this, Ryan, they've just expanded because people just keep buying their cupcakes. They've probably never heard of Starbucks." Spencer laughs at the photographs, at the design of the place, and the fact they've interviewed Jon's regulars. He reads Brendon's bits out (all "no, I'm a college drop out, what a lamer" and "never had any formal training" and the like) and Spencer and Ryan are both laughing a LOT.

They say things like, "oh my fucking god, are they even serious" and "this is the funniest thing ever."

Ryan says, "Honestly, Spencer, you should go down there in the morning."

Spencer shrugs, because he's got nothing better to do, and his flight isn't until late morning. He's got time to kill in Buttfuck, so he might as well spend it getting coffee.

So, he wanders down pretty early in the morning, because the idea of getting breakfast in the hotel is kind of nauseating. Spencer is kind of picky about what he eats. He's kind of a snob, actually, but Ryan's more of one so he thinks he's okay. The cupcake coffee shop is set back from the road, next to a wide sidewalk, and clearly used to be two shops. Inside, it's two separate rooms with archways between the two. Spencer eyes the brickwork and wonders how crappy a job the builders made. He thinks he'll take a couple of camera phone shots when he's gotten his coffee and sat down.

The only customers are school kids, girls leaning over the counter and talking to Brendon and Jon. Spencer recognizes Brendon from his photograph in the paper, and it's not hard to figure out the other guy's name is Jon. For a start, there are photos pinned to the wall by the counter—with labels—and secondly, Brendon and Jon are shouting back and forth through the archways, completely oblivious to anyone who might want to start their day quietly. There are cupcakes everywhere, trays of stupid brightly frosted cupcakes on every surface. The beep from the oven keeps going off and driving Spencer crazy. Brendon has flour on his nose.

Spencer texts Ryan the whole time he's waiting in line, hoping his signal holds out. He says, "Can u fucking believe this place", and "omg have to write about this". He orders a cupcake with purple frosting—blueberry, the label says, and goes to hide in the corner by the half-empty box of Christmas decorations. The cupcake coffee shop looks like something spewed Christmas up all over it. It's a nightmare for anyone with taste, Spencer thinks.

Ryan calls when Spencer's sitting down. He says, "I've pitched it to the editor and he's all for it."

"Cool," Spencer says. "I'll call you later, okay?" He's busy taking notes on the back of his napkin, screwing it up and stuffing it in his pocket whenever it looks like Brendon's coming over.

He doesn't though, just waves the kids out of the door, saying, "You'll be late for school, come on, out," and shooing them out of the door.

Spencer rolls his eyes and texts Ryan. "He's just told his entire clientele to gtfo," he types, "guy has no business sense."

There is nobody but Spencer left in the store, and he tries to blend into the corner as Jon wanders through from the other room to lean on Brendon's counter. They laugh at something Brendon says, too quietly for Spencer to catch, and then Brendon's doing some stupid fucking dance behind the counter and Jon's laughing. Jon washes his hands and helps transfer the cupcakes onto trays and then into the glass counter; they're elbowing each other when the bell above the door goes and some old guys come in. They're pretty buttoned up, and they just say, "The usual, Jonny Walker." And then they drag a couple of chairs out onto the sidewalk and sit there and pull out a carton of cigarettes.

(Spencer—who is sat by the Christmas tree in the corner of the café, trying not to be distracted by the twinkly lights—he thinks, what the fucking fuck? What is this, a total fucking backwater? and thinks he could have this place shut down. He takes photos on his cellphone.)

Brendon comes over and clears his cupcake away and says with a grin, "You should try Jon's coffee, honestly, it's the good stuff."

So Spencer says "Okay," because he likes coffee, and Brendon's kind of friendly, even if he does have tinsel round his neck and an apron with Santa emblazoned across the front.

The coffee's pretty good, and Jon has a lisp, which is kind of endearing. He's wearing reindeer antlers with bells on that jingle whenever he moves. Spencer blinks.

Then his cellphone buzzes an alarm and he heads back to the hotel so he can get to the airport to make his flight. Brendon waves and shouts goodbye after him.

 

If Spencer's thinking that Brendon's cute, well. That's nothing, not really. It was probably just the sugar talking.

 

The flight takes too long and is too noisy and his iPod runs out of battery before they land. Spencer's grizzly and the apartment's empty when he gets back home. He texts Ryan but he doesn't get a reply; it doesn't surprise him. Ryan is busybusybusy and he goes to a lot of literary parties where he can drink free champagne and eat pastry pinwheels. Ryan maintains a busy social calendar mostly so he can get out of buying groceries. Spencer's known him too long.

Anyway, Ryan turns up bearing a cardboard carton full of stolen hors d'ouvres.

"You're my favorite," Spencer says, greedily, pulling open the carton.

"Hmmm," Ryan says, and snaffles a prawn right from under Spencer's nose. "So, I showed your cellphone photos to the editor. He seems pretty interested."

"Uh-huh," Spencer says, remembering Brendon's wave goodbye. "I don't know. It just seems kind of mean."

Ryan raises an eyebrow. "You're worried about being 'kind of mean'? You feeling okay?"

"Shut up," Spencer says. "I'm a nice guy."

"Sure," Ryan says, with a straight face.

 

Spencer pitches his article idea to the editor on Monday morning. He's kind of changed the tone a bit, less poking fun at the small town coffee and cupcake store and more outlining the differences in trends between cities and small town establishments. He knows it sounds kind of a boring article, but he thinks it could be kind of interesting. His editor looks bored, and tells Spencer to go back and find something worth writing about. In the end, they kind of compromise on played out designer cupcakes. Who buys a cupcake in his city anymore, anyway? That's so 2006.

So, Spencer rolls his eyes and gets one of the admin staff to book him a flight back to Smalltown, Wherever, and somewhere to stay for three nights. He has a three page article to finish before his deadline, after all.

He's ready to spend three days sitting in the corner of the café. He has his laptop, this time, and a notebook and a pen. No more scribbling notes on the back of napkins; he's a professional writer, for fuck's sake. Only, it's kind of obvious when he's the only fucking customer half the time; he ends up having two documents open and clicking between the two whenever Brendon looks like he's coming over.

"What are you writing?" Brendon asks, a couple of hours after Spencer's first sits down with his laptop.

Spencer's mind goes blank. "A book," he says, after a moment.

"Oh yeah?" Brendon asks, excitedly, pulling out the chair opposite Spencer and sitting down. His shirt has tiny Christmas trees on it. "What sort of book? Is it going to get published?"

"Um," Spencer says, eloquently. "You wouldn't like it."

"I probably would," Brendon says. "I don't think I've ever met a real writer before. Tell me about it."

Spencer thinks, what the fuckity fuck? He thought baristas—even fake baristas, in small town cupcake and coffee shops—were supposed to be haughty and rude.

"Hey, Jon," Brendon calls, "This guy—what's your name? Spencer? Cool name, Spencer, I'm Brendon, - Jon, Spencer's writing a book."

"No shit?" Jon has a towel over his shoulder and an apron round his waist. "Really?"

"Yeah," Spencer says. "You guys probably wouldn't like it, though."

"Try us," Brendon says, and he looks genuinely interested.

"Um," Spencer says. "It's a romance novel. Like. A Harlequin." He blinks, and wonders if shooting himself in the head at this point would be too strong an option. He's forgotten to bring books again, and the only thing the shitty motel has is a pile of battered Harlequin romances. He got in the night before and spent two hours bemoaning the lack of wireless and reading a book where the hero's name was Hawk Wyatt. He's tired, okay. He can't be blamed for his stupid mouth.

"Cool," Brendon says. And then asks all sorts of questions about whether Spencer's going to publish under a pseudonym and whether he saw himself as subverting gender expectations.

Jon just grins. "Brendon took a psych class at college," he explains. "He thinks that makes him fucking Freud."

Brendon sticks his tongue out. "Social Studies," he says. "It was really interesting. You know, until it came to writing the papers. Then I mostly made cupcakes and fell asleep on Jon's couch."

Spencer actually laughs.

 

So Spencer sits in the corner of Jon and Brendon's cupcake and coffee shop, and he works on his imaginary novel and tries to write down witty and sarcastic things about how Brendon and Jon's clientele sucks and how they have whole hours with no customers, where Jon and Brendon sit in the corner and play playstation games on a TV the size of a Spencer's toothbrush, and hang more twinkly Christmas lights and strew more tinsel across the room. He writes that Jon has too many different types of coffee behind his counter and how Brendon is really shitty at customer service, and he talks to everybody and forgets their order until they tell him again.

And there's no fucking wireless, what the fuckity fuck, so Spencer can't even IM or email Ryan. His phone veers from precisely no service at all to something that flickers towards a single bar, and he thinks waving his arms around trying to find the single pocket of service he'd found the last time he was here was probably going to draw attention to himself. He ends up typing emails to Ryan he can't even send, in between listening to Brendon and Jon talk.

Brendon keeps on coming over to talk to him in between customers, and he's really fucking cute, okay, he gets it, his subconscious finds Brendon the cupcake guy about a zillion different types of adorable, and he can't help flirting. It would be like, a crime or something, if Spencer was going to ignore Brendon being all cute and smiley and whatever.

Jon comes over on the second day when Brendon's out back making himself a sandwich. "So," he says. "You should ask Brendon if he wants to get a drink tonight."

Spencer's all, WHAT? And NO, because this is an assignment, okay. Except, he actually fucking blushes, and he can't even cry off and go and call Ryan, because his cellphone has given up because they're in the middle of fucking nowhere. So he kind of finds himself saying, "Um, okay. I guess."

And Jon says, "Good. You should meet him here after we finish up."

 

Spencer blinks and accidentally writes fifteen hundred words of a romance story outline.

 

Spencer comes back at the end of the day. He hasn't changed, because that would be lame, but he's taken his laptop back to the shitty motel, and he's brushed his teeth, because. You know. Just in case or whatever. When he gets to the cupcake coffee shop, Brendon and Jon haven't quite finished up so Spencer waits inside, leaning against the arch as they clean up. Brendon keeps darting these little glances—smiles—in Spencer's direction and Spencer can't quite bring himself not to smile back. It's kind of really fucking cute.

"Right," Jon says, with a really exaggerated yawn. "I'm done. I'm gonna go watch TV. On my own. Upstairs. You two have fun now."

And Spencer and Brendon are left biting their lips and darting glances at each other and blushing.

 

They don't go to a bar like Spencer expects. They go to this milkshake place—Spencer can't control the itch and he actually has to restrain himself from dragging out his phone and texting Ryan, because he's accidentally stepped into a Back to the Future movie. He's laughing into his sleeve and he really, really wants to call Ryan, but he can't.

He actually ends up having the most amazing time, because Brendon is seriously the funniest, sweetest, most adorable guy ever.

They stay out, eating fries and having more milkshakes, and then Brendon's yawning and saying he's had a really cool time, but he has to get back.

"Okay," Spencer says, and he thinks that Brendon must hate him, because it's really fucking early and there hasn't been any sex or anything. But Brendon keeps on talking to him, right out of the milkshake place and as they're walking up the sidewalk in their hats and scarves and gloves, back towards the cupcake coffee shop, right up to the door. Then he kisses Spencer on the cheek and says "Night, Spence," and then Spencer is left stood on the doorstep wondering what the fuck just happened.

He goes back to his shitty motel room with the shitty cellphone reception and calls Ryan to bitch. Spencer tries to be all sarcastic and witty about how early his evening finished, but inside he's just thinking that Brendon was really sweet and really cute and he can't really figure out why Brendon didn't want to take him to bed. Or at least stay out past ten pm.

 

But the following morning, Spencer gets to the cupcake coffee shop and Brendon's looking heavy-eyed and yawning a lot, because he still had to get up at five to bake the first cupcakes. Spencer suddenly realizes and feels like a fucking dick for laughing at him, because Brendon's just beaming at him and waving. He looks really fucking adorable and his hair is sticking up in all directions and he's made Spencer a cupcake with his favorite candy on top, a strawberry lace in the shape of a heart.

It's really fucking lame.

Spencer loves it.

He spends all morning eating cupcakes and drinking coffee, and when it comes to lunchtime, Brendon makes him a sandwich. It's kind of lopsided, and Spencer tries not to think about all those café reviews he wrote bemoaning the lack of a perfectly neat sandwich, because it turns out then when presented with a lopsided sandwich that Brendon's made—in his own kitchen, because the cupcake coffee shop doesn't seem to sell its own savory food, something else Spencer should be noting down in his actual file on the computer—then he kind of thinks it's pretty sweet.

"So," Brendon says, when Spencer's half way through a mouthful and can't reply, "I want to take you out on a proper date. Tonight."

It's Saturday, so Brendon doesn't have to get up early in the morning because the cupcake coffee shop isn't open.

(Spencer thinks SEX, WE'RE GOING TO HAVE SEX. WHEEEEE :D)

But no, Brendon means an actual date. Spencer leaves his laptop with Jon, who promises to keep it safe, and Brendon takes Spencer to a really fucking lousy Italian restaurant, where Spencer has to eat fucking awful spaghetti and try not to complain about terrible small town food. They're playing crappy Christmas carols and Brendon sings along and beams across the table at Spencer. Then Brendon takes him to the movies, which Spencer thinks is fucking lame, until Brendon takes hold of his hand in the movie line. Brendon doesn't let go all the way through the movie and then all the time they're walking back to the crappy, beat-up car that Brendon shares with Jon. They drive out of town and down a dirt track until they get to a lake, and then Brendon zips up his coat and says, "Come on, we're going outside."

"But it's cold," Spencer says, petulantly. "And it looks like it's going to snow."

"Good," Brendon says, and then he climbs out of the car and runs around so that he can open Spencer's door for him.

"You're totally lame, you know that?" Spencer says, tugging on his gloves, and Brendon just grins and holds out a scrappy piece of mistletoe.

"I stole it from the restaurant," he admits, and then says, "You going to kiss me anytime soon, or what?"

So they make out in the cold, down by the lake, until Spencer's nose goes all red and cold (not like Rudolph's, he says, fake-grumpily), and even Brendon thinks they're going to have to go so they're not driving in the snow.

After, they drive back to Brendon's and as they're climbing out of the car, it really does start to snow properly. Brendon starts to laugh, holding his hands out so he can catch the snowflakes on his fingertips.

"You're ridiculous," Spencer says, but he's grinning. Brendon grins back, and then they go inside and up to the apartment Brendon shares with Jon. It's tinytinytiny and cramped and they mainly use the kitchen downstairs for cooking (ARGH, thinks Spencer, ARGH ARGH ARGH HEALTH INSPECTORS). They make out on the couch for a while, Spencer's hands curling under Brendon's sweater and into the warm nape of Brendon's back, Brendon's fingers in his hair. They only stop when Jon stumbles out of his bedroom and says, "Much as I love you, Bden, you think you could just take this party to the bedroom already?"

So they do.

And they have REALLY GOOD SEX.

And then in the morning Spencer wakes up with his face in the crook of Brendon's neck. It's kind of nice, but he has to get back to the motel so he can pack for his flight back home.

He doesn't want to go.

Brendon makes him pancakes and lends him a hoodie and they eat all the pancakes before going back to bed for an hour.

"I've got to go," Spencer says finally, regretfully. He kisses the corner of Brendon's mouth.

"No you don't," Brendon says, warm hands under Spencer's hoodie.

He does.

He barely makes his flight, and he thinks he wouldn't have been that bothered if he'd missed it. He's kind of sad to be leaving Brendon, even though it's just a fling and Spencer has to get back to his REAL life, the one with Ryan, with bills to pay, with a job he sort of hates and a boss he dislikes and an apartment he rattles around in. He can't think about that article he's supposed to be writing.

He must look different—okay, he looks disheveled and sleepy and he's in Brendon's hoodie, still—because Ryan says WHAT THE FUCKITY FUCK HAPPENED TO YOU, and Spencer just blushes and starts to smile and Ryan has to sit down.

 

Spencer decides he's not going to hand the article in. He's written most of it, in bits and pieces in a word file. He just—can't. Brendon and Jon don't deserve it. "I need a new angle," he tells Ryan, "and I need it quick."

Ryan rolls his eyes. "You're such a sap," he says. "You totally have it bad for this guy. Since when did you lose your edge?"

"Are you going to help, or what?" Spencer asks.

"Okay, whatever. I'll fly down with you."

That wasn't quite what Spencer meant, but whatever. Ryan's curiosity sometimes gets the better of him. Anyway, Ryan comes down with him and they spend a couple of days in Small Town, Smallsville. Spencer ducks his head and waves at Brendon (who's wearing a Christmas hoodie over his apron) and says "Um, I've got writers block. Figured I'd try here again."

"That's bad," Brendon says, smiling a lot and nodding in a very un-bad-like manner. "I'll make you cupcakes. Then you can come out and help me find decorations."

"That's your job, stupid," Spencer says.

Brendon leans in and kisses the corner of his mouth. "Special cupcakes," he says. "Good decorations." There would be tinsel everywhere, if Brendon has his way, Spencer's pretty sure about that.

He drags Spencer out into the cold to look for bits of greenery with berries. Spencer thinks this is ridiculous because stores sell perfectly good Christmas decorations, but Brendon is adamant and Spencer is easily persuaded by Brendon's stupid smile.

Meanwhile, Ryan sits down and unbuckles his satchel and pulls his scrappy paperback. He mostly spends the whole of the day sitting about, not helping, reading existential literature and making heart eyes at Jon, who is kind of making heart eyes back. It would be cute if Spencer wasn't spending most of his time smiling at Brendon. He decides that he cannot, cannot, cannot hand in the article because he's kind of in love with Brendon.

Ryan hits him upside of the head when they go back to the motel to change before heading over for pizza with Jon and Brendon at their apartment.

"What was that for?" Spencer asks.

"Because you're an idiot," Ryan says. "And that guy, Jon. You know. Has he- um."

Spencer raises an eyebrow and smirks.

 

Ryan and Jon bond in a vaguely cute way over coffee beans, and Spencer and Brendon elbow each other a lot on the couch and hold hands.

It's nice! They have one night there and all it manages to do is persuade Spencer that he loves Brendon, even after only a few days of knowing him, and reinforce his decision not to hand the original article in.

Spencer and Ryan get back to the city and refuse to hand it in. (Ryan agrees, and goes with Spencer to the editor's office and waits outside for him. Ryan's excellent like that).

But the editor runs the article anyway, using Spencer's original information that Ryan had shown to him, back when they were first mooting the idea. He publishes Spencer's cellphone pictures and the comments that Spencer originally sent Ryan, back on that first morning, with some patched together article written by some intern wanting a byline. It's a pretty spiteful article, all about Brendon and Jon's backward, backwater café selling cupcakes and coffee.

Spencer is really, really angry and upset, and all he can think about is what Brendon must think of him. (When Ryan and Spencer had left for the airport, Brendon had insisted on driving them, and then he'd parked up and gone in with them and hugged Spencer goodbye by the check-in desk. They'd said, see you soon, and not goodbye).

Spencer storms right into the editor's office, even though the editor is in the middle of an important meeting, and he quits his job, right there and then. He doesn't even bother clearing his desk, just storms out of office and into the bitter winter cold.

He tries to get a flight down to see Brendon but there aren't any seats available. It's getting too close to Christmas. Spencer's kind of anguished, really, and in the end he just goes back to his apartment and throws some clothes in a bag and gets in his car and drives. He drives all night and his cellphone runs out of charge and he can't call Brendon anymore. Brendon wasn't answering anyway. Spencer just drives faster, eyeing the clouds and hoping it doesn't snow again.

He gets there early, when Brendon should be baking his cupcakes. He's not, though, he's leaning on the counter and looking tired.

"How did you find out?" Spencer asks, before he says anything else.

"My sister," Brendon says, dully. "She read it out over the phone."

"Oh," Spencer says. He's stood in the open doorway, one glove on and one glove off. Outside the weather is dark and cold. The sun is just coming up over the horizon.

"We're closed," Brendon tells him tiredly. "You can close the door behind you on the way out."

Spencer's heart sinks. He's driven all this way to try and fix it, because the article was really crappy and made Brendon and Jon's cupcake coffee shop look stupid. "Brendon-" he starts. "I didn't want this to happen. I quit my job."

Jon comes in from out the back and he says, "We're closed, Spencer. No one is going to want to come and buy cupcakes and coffee from us now. You should just leave. Brendon doesn't need to hear anything you've got to say."

Spencer is really, really sad because he's so tired and he's driven all night, and he loves Brendon and he never wanted to hurt him. "I'm sorry," he says. "I sent those notes to my editor before I knew you. I told them I wouldn't write the article, so they got someone else to write it. I love you," he tells Brendon. "I'm so fucking sorry."

Brendon's head shoots up when Spencer says I love you, but his expression doesn't change. He just looks sad, and Spencer hurts.

"I'm sorry," Spencer says again, but he's interrupted by the door opening behind him.

"Are you open?" someone asks. It's just the kids from the high school, the ones that came in every morning before school, but they're clutching the local newspaper and there are more of them than usual.

"Sure," Brendon says, after a moment.

People come in ALL DAY. The place is really busy because the local newspaper picked up the article and people from ten towns over are coming over to see the place the city folks made fun of, and to tell those magazine journalists to fuck off because they love small town cupcakes.

Brendon's busy all day, and Spencer kind of hangs around, until Jon says pointedly, "You're using up one of our tables".

Brendon's still ignoring him. But he ends up helping out! He cleans tables and takes empty coffee cups and he gets coffee down his designer shirt, cold coffee at that, and Brendon's baking all day and all the moms and grandmothers are coming in to buy cupcakes to take away and telling Brendon and Jon that no one pays any heed to these stupid big city types. It's been snowing, too, so everyone is stomping snow off their boots and blowing on their hands and peeling off their coats and scarves. Jon ends up turning their Christmas CD up so that everyone can hear it.

At the end of the day, they finally close up and they're all exhausted. And Spencer looks at Brendon and says "I'm really fucking sorry, I'm so sorry."

Brendon says, "You'd better be here at eight tomorrow, and wear an apron." He turns around and walks upstairs.

Jon says, "You heard the man," and turns the lights off.

So Spencer turns up the following morning, and he's paid fifty bucks for an apron from the guy who works the kitchen in the holiday inn he stayed at the first time he was here, and he works all day, but that day Brendon kind of smiles at him a few times, and Spencer smiles back. It's just as busy.

The Saturday is the BUSIEST DAY EVER, and then at the end of the day Ryan turns up, wild-eyed and hair everywhere, and he's really angry, because Spencer hasn't been calling back or replying to his texts because Spencer was an idiot who left his cellphone charger back in the city. Ryan has all this stuff to tell him, about how he's quit his job in sympathy with Spencer, and how they're both jobless now, isn't that cool? Also, um, hi Jon.

Jon waves awkwardly. "I've got this new coffee," he says, without saying hello. "You want to maybe try it?"

Ryan is making heart eyes again. It'd be funny if Spencer wasn't so sad.

"You could come over tomorrow, maybe," Brendon says, after a few minutes. "I'm making Christmas cupcakes. You could try them for me."

Spencer blinks, and swallows. "Okay," he says. "I could bring us breakfast."

Brendon looks amused. "Sure," he says, and Spencer can't figure out why Brendon's grinning. The next morning, when he can't find anywhere to buy breakfast early on a Sunday, and there's a skeleton staff at the motel and they laugh at him, he figures it out.

"I'll make you breakfast," Spencer says, when he turns up at the cupcake coffee shop, empty-handed. "I'll take whatever you've got and make you something amazing."

"You'd better," Brendon says, with a nod. "I'm only forgiving you if breakfast is good."

Spencer finds a box of Lucky Charms, some milk, and most of the ingredients for pancakes. "How's this?" he says, once he's finished making them on the cupcake coffee shop stove.

"It'll do," Brendon says, after trying both the cereal and the pancakes. "You'll do."

"I'm really sorry," Spencer says again. "This whole time. I messed up. But I really do love you."

"So you're not a romance novelist, then?" Brendon asks, after a minute.

"Well." Spencer shrugs awkwardly. "I think that maybe I kind of am?" He thinks about the twenty thousand word outline on his laptop, and the way Ryan had hmmed and hawed at it and then taken the laptop in a possessive manner and started typing. "Guess that was kind of down to you too."

And then Brendon forgives Spencer and they do a lot of hand-holding and smirking over Jon and Ryan playing out their own love story over African coffee beans. The cupcake coffee shop is covered in Christmas lights and tinsel and Jon's not so carefully pinned up mistletoe in each of the arches between the rooms. Mostly it means that the kids from the high school try to make out a lot and get in everyone's way, but it also means that Spencer spends a lot of time hanging out there on the off chance Brendon wanders by. Which he does. More than he needs to, but then Spencer's not complaining. Brendon isn't either.

Epilogue

Spencer adds a brunch option to Brendon's cupcake menu after spending a few weeks shouting things at the Food Network on Brendon's TV about how he could do it better. He decides on brunch mostly because he wants to spend more time with Brendon; Brendon has to get up really fucking early and Spencer misses him, and the bed is all cold, so he gets up with him and hangs around the kitchen stealing kisses and trying not to look bored. In the end, Spencer takes over most of the morning duties so that Brendon can concentrate on baking instead of opening up.

It turns out that they're both kind of morning people, actually.

Jon shuffles in and makes them coffee, and Ryan sleeps and comes down after Spencer's finished serving brunch. Then they sit in the corner and argue about the names of their characters. Ryan and Spencer spend most of their time bickering and writing romance novels under a pseudonym. Spencer does most of the story outline and spends the rest of the time taking out all the Thomas Hardy-esque paragraphs from Ryan's drafts. Brendon pins up all their fan mail on the stairs up to their little crappy apartment, and introduces Spencer as his famous-author boyfriend. Spencer blushes, and Brendon beams.