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6/7/2006 – Phoenix, AZ

The adrenaline in his blood feels tangible, and if he focuses he can probably pinpoint exactly where it is in his veins. He finds himself staring at his wrists as if he actually could.

“Ryan?”

He blinks and looks up, clenching and unclenching his fist. “Sorry.” There’s still ringing in his ears, buzzing at the soles of his feet. “Fuck,” he says, and laughs breathlessly, like he still can’t fucking believe it.

Brendon grins at him and tugs on the sleeve of his blazer, pulling him over the threshold into the hotel room. “Are you gonna be like this after every show?”

“Yes. No.” Ryan can’t keep that idiotic smile off his face. “Are you?”

Brendon quirks an eyebrow. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

But he has to. Brendon’s cheeks are flushed, his skin tinted pink, and when his hand slides from Ryan’s shirt to his palm, Ryan can feel how clammy and shaky he is. It’s their first hotel night of the tour, and one of their only ones, and Brendon can’t stop looking like that.

“I want to kiss you,” Ryan says, and it all comes out in a rushed breath, like his words didn’t want to wait for his brain.

Brendon tugs him closer. “Okay.”

“Like a trial thing.”

Brendon bites down on his bottom lip, which makes the churning in Ryan’s stomach worse. “Okay,” he repeats, in this stupid awed tone, a stage-whisper.

Ryan leans forward but Brendon doesn’t want to wait, meets him halfway, colliding into him in a way that would seem accidental if not for the circumstances. The kiss is dry and soft and a little weird, and Brendon exhales against him, and Ryan feels like he’s coming back down to solid ground.

Ryan pulls away first. “Huh.”

Brendon laughs nervously. “Yeah.”

The adrenaline feels worse now, getting into his guts and making him sick. “I want to kiss you again.”

Brendon smiles. “Okay.”

...

6/18/2006 – Austin, TX

Brendon is still up at the ungodly hour and Ryan would think that was ridiculous if he wasn’t desperate for company. He settles into the couch next to him and says, “I can’t sleep.”

Brendon puts away his book. “I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep until we get out of Texas.”

Ryan shoves his shoulder once. “Shut up. It wasn’t that bad.”

“Ryan, I could feel the Republicans.”

“Shut up,” he says, but he’s laughing anyways, and all the stress and exhaustion in his bones eases out. He chews on his lip and stares at anywhere but Brendon’s lips or his eyes or some other intimate detail.

Brendon shifts closer and says, “D’you wanna --”

“Yeah. Sorry. Yeah.” He can’t even fucking help himself. He rocks forward on his knees and kisses Brendon quickly, before he can lose his nerve.

Brendon tugs at the hair curling at Ryan’s neck and follows the movement of his body, like moth to a flame, some other kind of useless metaphor. His tongue slides along Ryan’s, warm and easy, and something about this feels okay.

Ryan can’t count the seconds they sit there, Brendon half on his lap, his hands in Ryan’s hair, but it feels like time doesn’t matter, that no one cares what they have to say about anything or what they do or why this feels okay and right and not weird anymore. The world has better shit to do. They can sell out venues across the country but no one cares about them in the places no one can see them.

“I like this,” Brendon whispers into Ryan’s ear, and Ryan shudders, feels weightless and free. “I really like this.”

“Shut up,” Ryan says, but he’s laughing, and Brendon squeezes his shoulder with one hand, still tasting like laughter.

...

6/24/2006 – Myrtle Beach, SC

Brendon’s hair is still damp from the ocean, and everywhere Ryan’s hands skim he can find traces of wet sand on his skin. Brendon wriggles further into the covers and says, “Ryan,” like he’s asking something, but he’s not, not really.

Ryan is trying to memorize this, give words to what he’s seeing. He’s nothing without his words. Brendon looks like something more than words beneath him. He’ll have to learn a new language just to find the right away to describe him.

“I want to.” Ryan swallows the lump in his throat. “I mean. Do you want to?”

Brendon exhales softly and says nothing, nothing at all, but he doesn’t need to. His cheeks go red and he nods slightly. “I’ve never... not really.”

“I know.” It’s his job to know everything about Brendon.

Ryan kisses him and kisses him, likes watching the way his lips swell up and go raw and pink with the friction, sharing some kind of sweet delight in watching Brendon become soft and pliant underneath him. Brendon talks so much, moves so much, too much energy in his small body, too much to say and not enough time in the world to get it all out, and Ryan’s favorite part is seeing him come apart.

“You look good,” Ryan says, and it comes out soft and sweet when it doesn’t mean to be. He just likes to be honest.

“Shut up,” Brendon says, breathlessly, quietly, even as he digs his nails into Ryan’s shoulders. “I hate it when you talk.”

“You don’t,” Ryan says, and Brendon laughs, kissing him, kissing him.

Beyond them, beyond this stupid bubble they’ve created for themselves, there’s still salt in the air.

...

7/16/2006 – Montreal, QC

“What are we doing?”

Ryan pulls back as much as he can in the limited space of his bunk, and Brendon looks embarrassed underneath him, as much as Ryan can see in the darkness. He frowns and traces the line of Brendon’s collarbone. He wants to focus on speaking but he doesn’t trust his voice anymore.

“Sorry,” he says, but he doesn’t know why he’s apologizing. “What do you mean?”

“You know.” Brendon has a hand on the small of Ryan’s back. “Like. This thing.”

Ryan chews the inside of his cheek. “I don’t know.” He kisses him again, doesn’t want to think about it, doesn’t want to talk at all. “Just like, you know... tour stuff. Hormones.”

Brendon is quiet, his lips pressed together, and in the dim light Ryan is trying to tell what he’s thinking. As if that could ever be possible.

“Brendon?”

He still doesn’t answer, but Brendon surges up and kisses him, hard and violent, a hand on the back of Ryan’s neck, keeping him firmly in place. There’s something unsaid and terrible underneath the surface and Ryan wants to ask him, wants to understand, but Brendon kisses him like he doesn’t need to breathe and never wants to.

It means something but Ryan is scared. He’s fucking scared, okay. So he doesn’t say anything at all.

...

7/28/2006 – Seattle, WA

The funny thing is that Ryan didn’t miss his dad when he was gone on tour. He didn’t check in with him. He didn’t want to call. If he thought about his dad at all, it was fleeting. It didn’t mean a fucking thing.

“Ryan?”

Ryan doesn’t know how long Brendon has been sitting on the edge of the bed. “Hey.”

Brendon looks lost and unsure, like he’s not quite sure what to say. “You can talk to me. Or we can like, make out. Or you can... whatever you want.”

Ryan doesn’t say anything, which makes him feel like a dick. He stares down at the blanket, tracing the details in the fabric with his eyes. He thinks about his dad and the stupid hospital gowns and the sheets and how this hotel room feels more like a home than any minute he spent with that asshole, any fucking second.

“I wanted him to die.”

Brendon shifts to look at him. “Ryan --”

“Like, all the time. I wanted him dead so fucking badly.” Most of his teenage life. He thought about it all the time. Maybe this time would be the time, maybe this day, maybe he’ll come home from school and.

“We don’t have to talk about it,” Brendon says.

Ryan nods. He knows that. He just wishes he could shut his brain up. “Okay.” He inhales sharply. Stares at the ceiling. He says, “Come here.”

Brendon crawls over to him on the bed, lifting the covers and pressing himself to Ryan’s side. He has a hand on Ryan’s side, but they’re not cuddling, they’re not. It’s nothing like that.

Ryan rolls over and kisses him without thinking about it, quick and fast and hard, his eyes squeezed shut. He doesn’t want to think about it. He doesn’t want to think about it. He doesn’t have to.

The sheets feel cold on his back. Brendon kisses him back, hesitantly like he’s fumbling and not sure what to do, but he figures it out. He always does.

It’s probably only minutes later, seconds maybe, that Ryan pulls away, his mouth feeling worn and tired, the rest of his body full of some kind of weird angry energy. “I hated him,” he says, and it comes out like a whisper even though he didn’t mean it.

Brendon presses his lips to the corner of Ryan’s mouth. “You had the right to.”

“I know.” He knows, he knows.

Doesn’t make it any better. Doesn’t mean anything at all. How he felt about his dad last year, the year before, all his life, doesn’t matter anymore. He’ll never have to worry about it again.

“I don’t want to do anything,” Ryan says, his eyes closed, pressing his forehead against Brendon’s. “I just want you here. Okay?”

“Yeah.” Brendon exhales. “Where else would I be?”

Ryan smiles, small and secret.