Fuck Mondays. Fuck January. Fuck fancy private schools.
Brendon was willing to admit that he was possibly a tad bitter.
Staring at the immaculate lawn in front of him, he tried to will himself to develop time traveling capabilities. No dice, which just fucking figured. It hadn’t worked up to this point, but Brendon was nothing if not super fucking hopeful.
Delusional, hopeful; they were practically the same thing.
Sighing from some place deep within his soul, Brendon tugged at his ugly ass tie. This was going to be a fucking disaster of epic proportions. Looking behind himself, he saw his mother staring at him from inside her battered mini-van out the parking lot. Apparently, there was no running away from this one.
He shook his shoulders out and made his way through the assorted cliques and bike racks. He dodged a few girls who looked like they were trying to recreate the Plastics – only in Catholic school girl uniforms – and tried not to catch anyone’s eye. That was the key.
Six months. He could totally make it six months without causing a scene; he just needed to not let anyone realize he existed. The stares he was getting from the other students weren’t exactly encouraging, but whatever. The student body might be tiny here, but it couldn’t mean everyone would know everything about him before homeroom let out.
Brendon tried to remember where the admin office was. He’d mostly only been able to see through one eye when his parents brought him for a tour; his perception of things was understandably skewed.
Luckily, it was set up like every other school in the entire freaking world. The office was off to the left of the main entrance with secretaries and, presumably, faculty bustling around and looking like they wanted to be anywhere else.
Brendon could relate.
He let the door creak shut behind him. When a middle-aged woman with a hideous, red, dye job looked up, he tried to smile and look innocent.
“Hi. I’m Brendon Urie? This is my first day? I’m supposed – “
“Have a seat,” she told him briskly, turning to walk through a doorway.
For lack of anything better to do with his time, Brendon took the seat closest to the door and plopped his messenger bag onto his lap. It was battered, the strap sewn back on at least a half dozen times, and covered in band buttons. Brendon could have bought a new one with his cash advance, but this thing had sentimental value.
Cringing at the title, Brendon got to his feet when a gray-haired man came in.
“Welcome to Hayden Academy. I’m Mr. St. John, the guidance counselor for all seniors. Here’s your schedule.” He passed a paper to Brendon and looked at him expectantly until Brendon sighed and gave it a once over.
It wasn’t too bad: Spanish IV, Business Law, Lunch, Office Aide, and Critical Viewing – whatever that was. This was the first term since Sophomore year that Brendon didn’t have Band, Choir, Theater, or some combination thereof. Whatever, he’d make do.
“Thanks. Uh. Looks good?”
“We’re a little concerned.” Mr. St. John was giving Brendon this very attentive and nerve-grating stare like he was trying to steal Brendon’s soul or something. Brendon looked down and waited, trying not to fidget from foot-to-foot. “You have all the credits to graduate, other than the fourth Spanish requirement and an English elective, which is covered by Critical Viewing. Your lack of AP courses is, however, a bit… disheartening.”
This wasn’t the first time he’d listened to this spiel. Instead of snapping like he wanted to, Brendon shrugged. “I don’t plan on going to college, so it doesn’t really matter, right?”
The man tsked and started to say something, but Brendon cut him off.
“We talked to the principal and, like, eight other people about why I’m here and what’s going on after graduation.” Brendon used his best earnest voice.
“Yes, but a back-up plan never hurt anyone.”
“If I wanted the back-up plan, I wouldn’t be bothering with Plan A. Sir.”
Oddly enough, the man laughed. “You have dedication. I can admire that.” The bell rang and feet stomped through the halls behind Brendon. Mr. St. John glanced at the clock. “If you need anything, don’t hesitate to come see me. We should have a tour guide for you in a moment.”
Brendon nodded but, fucking hell. A tour guide? He was going to get some snotty, rich, blonde girl or some super overachieving nerdy guy. Brendon didn’t particularly have any interest in dealing with either. He wanted to go to class, pretend to learn, graduate, and get on with the rest of his life.
Shoving his hands into his pockets, Brendon leaned back against the wall and tried to make the time-traveling thing happen again. Trying never hurt anyone.
“I hate life,” Spencer muttered around his last mouthful of banana nut muffin. Squinting up at the sun, he chewed a bit more violently, as if that would make his bad mood go away.
Greta, the traitor, laughed. “You hate Mondays,” she corrected.
“I hate you.”
“You love me. I’m the only one who puts up with you,” she pointed out. Shaking her hair over her shoulders, Greta crossed her arms and glared up at him. “Are you going to keep ruining my good morning or can we get on to the portion of the day where you tell me why we’re being all whiny?”
Spencer groaned and slurped the remainder of his coffee. Breaks always seemed to make things worse; the break itself would be awesome and full of down time, then school had to start back and make him remember he was supposed to be all responsible and shit.
“I have duties to attend to.”
“You wanted to be president. You have no one to blame but yourself.” Grinning, all sunshine and daisies, Greta handed her notebooks to him. “Walk me to my locker. I’ll let you leave your stupid travel mug on the top shelf.”
“You are so kind,” Spencer told her, with feeling. That feeling might have been mild irritation, but she chose to ignore it; she normally did. Regardless, he tagged along, waving at kids he was on friendly terms with. Most of them were on Student Council or in one of his AP courses – they tended to be in at least two classes together every semester. “What would I do without you?”
“Die a tragic and horrible death of sociopolitical suicide?”
Spencer was so busy scowling that he almost walked into her back when they stopped at her locker. Greta was the only person allowed to talk shit to him, probably the only one who would actually say that type of thing and be joking. Spencer did love her for it.
She handed her purse back to him, even though he always whined when she did that. Keying in her combination, Greta hardly paused to wave him off.
“So what’s happening today?” She asked, placing two notebooks and Spencer’s mug on the shelf of her locker then sliding her jacket onto the hook.
Spencer reached over her head to switch out a couple notebooks – making sure she hadn’t snatched his again. “New kid. A fucking senior coming in for the last semester. What is that shit?”
“Enigmatic gossip fodder?” Greta slammed her locker and shrugged at him. “I guess you get to find out, don’t you?”
“You are not helpful, and I can’t wait until you move back to Chicago.”
“Yeah, yeah.” The two-minute bell rang, and Greta literally jumped. Spencer laughed at her in retaliation. “Find me at lunch.”
“Always do.” Leaning down, Spencer dropped a quick, chaste kiss on her lips and walked her out to the fork in the hall. She headed for their homeroom while he made for the office.
Today was going to be such utter shit.
Spencer pushed into the office and smiled at a couple secretaries and one of the office aides that he was pretty sure he’d had Gym with last year. The only person Spencer didn’t recognize was a kid leaning against the windowed wall, shoulders hunched, hair sticking up in the back, and tie crooked. Great, a slacker.
The kid’s head shot up. “That’s me,” he said around a ridiculously huge grin. “I guess you’re here to make sure I don’t get lost and end up locked in a janitor’s closet in the basement or something?”
Spencer tried to smile, but ended up raising his eyebrows instead. “I don’t think there is a janitor’s closet in the basement. I’m pretty sure the basement is a giant janitor’s closet.”
Brendon tilted his head and brought a hand up to ruffle his own hair. “Okay, totally a good point. I hadn’t thought of that. Who are you, by the way?”
“Oh, right, sorry.” Spencer rolled his eyes at himself. “Spencer Smith. Senior class president. Also, apparently, I’m the official welcoming committee.”
“I consider myself welcomed.”
For about thirty seconds, Spencer watched Brendon bounce on the balls of his feet. One minute, he looked like the epitome of a stoner; the next, he was like a hyperactive puppy. What even.
“So. Yeah. We should go. Homeroom is extra long today, but we still have to fit everything in before that’s over. It’s ordered alphabetically in groups of four, except for yours. You’re in Coach Wilson’s homeroom, by the way. With the U through Z group.”
“Is there a Z?” If Brendon didn’t sound legitimately curious, Spencer would have rolled his eyes.
“Zaccaningo. Amber’s been trying to change her last name since fourth grade.”
“I tried that. My parents wouldn’t go for it. Pete probably would but – “ he cut himself off in a strange place, the words obviously bitten back. Whoever this Pete was, Spencer decided it would be better not to ask.
“Okay then. Let’s go.” Hiding behind his fist, Spencer covered a grin at the way Brendon stumbled to untangle himself from his bag’s strap. He didn’t want Brendon to think he was laughing at him or something; Spencer actually thought it was kind of cute.
“Right, right.” Brendon shouldered his decrepit messenger bag, and Spencer fought to keep from asking questions.
He did not have time to make friends with the new kid, he reminded himself. In a week, Brendon would have a clique, and Spencer probably wouldn’t see him again, not regularly. It was all just as well, Spencer reasoned. He had college admission letters coming in soon, the student council to run, fund raisers to organize, Honors Society meetings to attend, and public appearances to make. His friend time was all filled up with Greta and Ian anyway.
“You have your schedule?”
“Yeah, here.” Brendon pulled a rumpled sheet from his pocket and thrust it at Spencer.
“We have Business Law and Lunch together. Everyone with third block classes on the first floor has First Lunch, between second and third blocks, like us. The second floor people have Second Lunch in the middle of third block.” Spencer thought he might be rushing this, but he wanted to get all the preliminary bull shit over with so Brendon wouldn’t need to bug him with inane questions. “And your locker is just down from mine. I’ll show you that first.”
Spencer was pretty sure he detected more than a hint of sarcasm, but who the hell knew? He was only good at reading Ryan, and Ryan was good at reading everyone else. Too bad Ryan was off at NYU pretending to be the King of Pretention.
“They usually whine if we carry bags around. We’ll drop it, and I’ll show you where all your classes are,” Spencer said, used to this spiel. Any time a student started at a weird point in the year – usually not this late and definitely not as a senior – Spencer had to teach them shit.
This was so not what he signed up for.
“846 is there.”
“I can read, but thanks,” Brendon grumped. Snatching his schedule back, Brendon opened the locker with his free hand. He tugged a notebook from his bag before ignoring the hook and cramming the bag into the bottom of his locker.
Spencer first had to fight to keep from putting Brendon’s bag in the proper place. Then he had to practically force himself not to stare at Brendon’s ass like a giant creeper. Just. He had a really nice ass, and Spencer was only human.
He couldn’t help it if he suddenly wanted to playfully smack Brendon’s ass and get all up in his space. All that mattered was that Spencer wouldn’t do it. Who cared if he maybe wanted to crowd Brendon back against the lockers, box him in until he tipped his face up for a kiss and clutched at Spencer’s –
Spencer startled, shaking his head and willing himself not to blush. It probably didn’t work. He settled for clearing his throat. “Uh. Sorry. What did you just say?”
Brendon slammed his locker and hooked a small padlock into it. “I asked what you have to show me now.”
“Right. Yeah. Let me walk you through your schedule. Mind if we do it backwards?” If Spencer didn’t get his shit together, the rest of the morning was going to be fucking awkward. Business Law and Lunch probably would be, too. Spencer didn’t want to give Greta any more reasons to mock him.
Brendon huffed a soft laugh and gave Spencer a smirk that said he was in on some joke Spencer hadn’t figured out yet. “Backwards is just fine with me. Lead on, o’ fearless leader.”
“Right,” Spencer said. “So, let’s head for Mrs. Sherman’s Critical Viewing.”
“What even is that?”
“Uh. My girlfriend is in it. It’s something about movies? I don’t know.” Shrugging, Spencer motioned for Brendon to follow him to the D Wing, where all the English courses and electives were taught.”
Brendon skipped to catch up. Clearly, Brendon was weird; hot, sure, but also weird.
Brendon’s first class was nothing interesting. He’d walked in and stopped conversation immediately. Luckily, the teacher swooped in right behind him and forced them into assigned seating. Mr. Berenschot was a no-nonsense kind of guy. Normally, Brendon would have been complaining, but it just meant the blond kid with the weird hand tattoo sitting three seats over couldn’t swoop in with a million questions.
Avoiding answering non-academic questions was part of Brendon’s plan to remain unnoticed at Hayden.
They picked up their books, went over a syllabus, and discussed things they should already know. Brendon felt a little behind, but that’s how he always felt in Spanish classes. It’s not like he needed to ace the class, anything above failing would do.
When the bell rang, Brendon made sure he was the first person through the door. He ignored the looks people threw at him in the hall and tried to remember where Business Law was. Spencer, as it turned out, was a shitty tour guide.
Alternatively, Brendon may have spent too much time thinking about how shiny Spencer’s hair was and the way his jacket fell perfectly over his broad shoulders. It wasn’t a thing or anything. Spencer had a girlfriend, and Brendon didn’t have time to make friends, let alone try to date someone.
Brendon rounded the corner, following the numbers posted by the doors. He slid to a stop when he saw a familiar face. He’d completely forgotten that kid from his guitar class mentioning that his dad had just taken a job coaching JV basketball and teaching something – apparently Business Law – at Hayden.
“Um… Mr. Wilson?”
Mr. Wilson turned, brows furrowed. The expression smoothed over quickly. “Brendon! Good to see you. I thought the new name on my roster was you.”
“Yeah,” Brendon nodded, wondering how many people actually thought Urie was a common last name.
Voice dropping, Mr. Wilson motioned Brendon closer to the wall and away from the door students were filing through. “Brent told me what happened. I’m sorry about the way that school handled everything. It was completely unacceptable. If it wasn’t Brent’s last year, I would have pulled him on principle.”
Brendon nodded, scratching at the back of his neck with his free hand. “Yeah. It was… a mess. I don’t know. I’m trying not to think about it? It won’t even matter in six months, right?” That was starting to turn into a mantra, but Brendon didn’t know another way to look at things.
“I just want you to know,” Mr. Wilson adopted a very earnest tone, “nothing like that will happen here. If it does, you come straight to me. Understood?”
As if Brendon hadn’t heard that from at least six members of the faculty and staff at his old school. He nodded anyway. “Understood, sir.”
“Good.” The bell rang, and Mr. Wilson motioned toward the classroom. “That’s the two minute warning. Better get inside then.”
“Right, thanks.” Brendon tried to smile, but didn’t think he was very successful. When he turned around, Spencer was sort of hovering just inside the door. Raising his eyebrows, Brendon shrugged at Spencer and went to find a seat in the front corner of the room.
Surprisingly, Spencer took the seat to Brendon’s right. “What was that about? Coach trying to con you into joining basketball? Our team sucks, just to put that out there.”
“Um. No.” Brendon cleared his throat and slid his Spanish book under his notebook. He flipped pages to avoid looking at Spencer. Brendon hated lying; he was shit at it. Half-truths were just going to have to work for him. “I used to go to school with his kid. There was a thing. He just wanted to put me on notice or something.”
Spencer leaned over, leaning a hand on Brendon’s desk to get a good look at him. “That sucks, man. Isn’t that harassment or something?”
Brendon glanced up, taken aback by how close Spencer was and how blue his eyes were. His face was blank enough to be unnerving. “Not like that. There were some problems at my old school. I guess Brent told his dad about it. It’s not a big deal. He was trying to be reassuring or whatever.”
“Hmm.” Spencer’s lips twisted down at the corner.
Brendon busied himself with his pens, trying to hide his smile. Somehow, Spencer trying not to scowl was more endearing than Spencer trying to be subtly nosy.
The rest of the class was taken up trying to pay attention while simultaneously ignoring the way Spencer was almost openly staring at Brendon. Clearly, Spencer was weird and kind of a creeper; there was no reason Brendon should find him so hot.
Business Law was annoying. Spencer was annoyed that it was annoying. Business classes had been Spencer’s favorite ever since he was allowed to start choosing them in Junior Year. FBLA was his favorite club. This class should have been more promising.
That’s what Spencer got for picking an elective with a new teacher who was also a coach. Also, sitting beside the new kid. Maybe that had been his whole problem, sitting beside Brendon. Brendon fidgeted a lot, always shifting around and tapping rhythms out with his pen. It was too distracting for Spencer to properly focus.
Spencer sighed and glared at the clock for the last five minutes leading to the bell.
“Thank fuck,” Spencer muttered when the chimes finally sounded over the intercom. He stood, stretching out his back and waiting for Brendon to sort his shit out. “Want to come to lunch with me? I’ll introduce you to everyone.”
Brendon nodded, eyes looking almost everywhere except at Spencer. “Sure. Lockers first, though, right?”
“Totally.” Spencer scooped up his books and let Brendon walk out first. “If we cut through the library, we get to our lockers a lot faster.”
“I hate coming into shit so late in the game,” Brendon muttered as he dodged a Freshman who was running for the stairs.
Spencer tried to imagine what this must be like for Brendon, popping up when everyone he’d be interacting with was used to the school already. Probably sucked a lot. That’s why Spencer was still hanging around him instead of leaving Brendon to fend for himself. That was absolutely the reason, and Greta was not going to try to convince him otherwise. He’d pull her hair if she did; it wouldn’t be the first time. Except then she’d bite the fleshy part of his arm, and she had sharp fucking teeth. Like a shark.
Spencer startled himself into a laugh. “I should have had more coffee this morning. I think I’m losing it.”
“Addict?” Brendon asked but sounded distracted.
“Little bit,” Spencer admitted. “But I don’t see how anyone over the age of twelve functions without it.”
Brendon shrugged and pulled his schedule from his pocket. “There are worse things, I guess. I stick to tea with honey. It’s better for my voice.”
“Greta says that all the time,” Spencer mused, stopping at Brendon’s locker.
It took a second for Brendon to realize where they were. He didn’t answer until he was shoving his things inside. “Is she your girlfriend?”
“Yeah.” The word felt stuck in his throat, but Spencer forced himself past that. He’d been saying as much for the past few years since Greta had transferred; the admission should roll off his tongue much easier after all that time. “She’s in theater and choir and everything. She won’t perform or rehearse without drinking that first.”
“Smart girl.” Brendon slammed his locker and looked expectantly at Spencer.
There was an awkward pause before Spencer led the way down the hall to his locker, making quick work of the combination lock. “You sing?”
Brendon coughed, turning away. “Yeah. Sometimes. At my old school – Well, I sang there.”
Spencer didn’t like the way Brendon turned away at that, like he was embarrassed. Whatever had caused Brendon to transfer had apparently been a huge fucking mess.
“Right then,” Spencer cleared his throat. “The cafeteria is this way.”
“I remember.” Brendon gave Spencer a winning smile and started talking about the weird kid in the back of his Spanish class.
“That’s Cash,” Spencer told him about the time they found their way to the back of the lunch line. “The only kid here with a weird ass tattoo on his hand is Cash. He thinks he’s clever. Just roll your eyes at him, usually shuts him up.”
Spencer explained the way the cafeteria worked at Hayden. There was a line down each side of the main lunch line, all self serve. They had a salad bar, but Spencer never recommended it to anyone if they could help it.
“The lettuce is always wilted and slimy,” Spencer promised. He led the way through the labyrinth of tables. "It’s the grossest thing about this school. And don’t even get me started on – “
“The general state of the salad bar and how it’s destroying your life?” Greta cut him off. “Please, Spence, one day. Can I please have one day where you don’t make fun of my lunch?”
“No,” Spencer said, pointedly. “Brendon, that’s Greta. The kid with the hair is Ian, and the one with the weird tattoo from your Spanish class is Cash. Told you.”
Brendon snickered and took the seat across from Ian. “Your hair is impressive and kind of frightening.”
“Thanks!” Ian grinned. “This is the trademark Crawford I refuse to give two fucks look.”
“Whatever, you like the compliments,” Cash cut in. “Talking about my tats? I fucking love when my reputation precedes me.”
Spencer sat beside Brendon, across from Greta. “We were talking about how you look like an American Idol reject, actually. Spin it however you need to in order to sleep at night.”
Cash waved him off, and Spencer fought the urge to throw French fries at him.
“Brendon, set the record straight,” Cash asked, leaning so far over that Ian had to pull Cash’s tie back before it landed in his ranch dressing. “I think you’re here because you got busted smoking up in the boys’ room.”
Greta groaned. “Ian, gag him. Do not let him start singing again. I can’t deal with that today.”
Spencer beamed at her. “This is why you’re my favorite.”
Brendon choked on his bottled water before sitting back and shrugging. “Uh. No. That’s not what happened.”
“Then were you kicked out for running Fight Club out of the gym?”
Spencer bit down on his lip when Brendon leaned over and lowered his voice, presumably only meaning for the table to hear.
“Nope. But if I did, I couldn’t talk about it.” Then Brendon winked.
He winked. At Cash. Spencer glared at his fries and couldn’t bring himself to eat them. Instead, he started dropping them on Greta’s plate. She might pretend to try to eat healthy, but she’d eat anything greasy that you put in front of her.
Ian snorted and shoved Cash over a few inches. “Ignore him. What we really need to know – and it really is a need here, like you won’t get into our super exclusive club if you answer wrong – “
“He’s about to start talking about Spiderman again, isn’t he?” Greta sighed. It was directed toward the entire table, but she was giving Spencer the look that always meant she was judging him.
While Spencer convinced himself that kicking Greta when she was wearing a skirt was mean, Ian squawked about how Spiderman was a completely valid conversation topic. Brendon, from the little bit Spencer paid attention to, seemed to agree. Though he preferred Batman.
“You guys haven’t even mentioned Iron Man or Captain America yet,” Spencer chimed in, long finished with his apple juice.
“Spencer has a nerdgasm every time someone talks about the Avengers,” Ian laughed.
“Dude, Thor!” Brendon sat up straighter, turning the full force of his smile on Spencer. Spencer may have blushed a little for completely inexplicable reasons. “Let’s talk about Thor. Thor is the fucking shit.”
“See!” Spencer pointed triumphantly at Ian. “Someone understands. I knew I liked you, Brendon.”
Brendon hummed around a mouthful of chicken sandwich, and Greta giggled.
“I need new friends,” Greta told them, woefully. “Girl friends. Ones that will talk about shoes and make-up and FPS games.”
“You have Spencer to talk about shoes,” Ian pointed out.
“And I’m on-board with video games,” Cash added.
“Sorry Ryan graduated or he’d talk eyeliner with you,” Spencer shrugged, choosing to ignore Ian.
“It’s not the same,” Greta sighed.
“Eyeliner is played out. It’s all about eyeshadow patterns, now,” Brendon chimed in. When they all turned to look at him, he shrugged. “I have sisters, friends who consider themselves trendsetters, and I’m gay.” He paused, looking off somewhere between Greta and Spencer. “Should I have mentioned that?”
“Yes, yes you should have,” Cash said almost immediately. “This is valid information. There need to be more boys I can make out with at this school.”
“Good to know,” Brendon laughed, a little breathless and shocked sounding. Wiggling around in his seat, Brendon grabbed the edges of his tray. “Uh. What do I do with this?”
Ian got to his feet. “I’ll show you. I want to know your views on the end of the world.”
“Advanced plague, zombie apocalypse, or nuclear winter?” Brendon asked right before they were out of ear shot.
Spencer couldn’t help laughing, trailing off when the looks everyone kept sending Brendon started to seem too predatory. Leaning down, Spencer banged his head against the table a few times.
“I think Spencer has a crush.”
“Fuck off and die, Cash,” Spencer muttered into the plastic table top.
Greta reached out to play with his hair. “Well, I mean, he doesn’t seem wrong this time.”
Spencer sighed. “Shut up. I don’t have a crush on the new kid.”
“Even with that ass?” Cash sounded dazed.
“Greta, hit him.”
“I’m not doing your dirty work,” she laughed. She tugged a strand of his hair and rested her head closer to his, her voice going softer. “You could tell him, you know.”
Spencer groaned. “Or I could not. We don’t even know him. I can’t risk that shit this late in the game. And it’s almost graduation. I’m not trying to find a reason not to go to Berkeley.”
“You’re a little impossible,” Greta pointed out. “And you don’t know about Berkeley, yet. I just think maybe you should be a tiny, little, itty-bitty bit more open since we’ve apparently adopted Brendon.”
Spencer turned his head to glare at her. “We haven’t adopted anyone.”
Greta rolled her eyes; Spencer regretted being such a bad influence on her. “Please. Like anyone is going to try to steal him out from under your nose, o’ wise and powerful Mr. President.”
Surprisingly, Cash was kind enough to give Spencer a heads-up before he could respond. “Look alive, kiddies. Spencer’s new boyfriend’s on his way back.”
Brendon slid into his seat, sitting mostly sideways and looking at Spencer. Spencer studied a crack in his tray. He hated feeling this off balance about things, but it was shaping up to be a weird day. Maybe Spencer just needed to get laid, not that he would ever say as much in front of Cash.
When the silence started to feel a little tense, Greta swatted at Spencer’s head and gave Brendon one of her winning smiles.
“I hear we have Critical Viewing together,” Greta told him. “Mrs. Sherman always does Hitchcock for the horror genre. How do you feel about campaigning to get some M. Night Shyamalan or George A. Romero into the rotation?”
Brendon’s head shot up in surprise when someone called his name just as he walked into the Mrs. Sherman’s Critical Viewing classroom. He would have ignored it the way he had most of the times his name had been called, but the voice sounded familiar. His shoulders lost some tension when he saw Greta waving from her seat in the middle of the room.
As much as Brendon swore he didn’t want to make any ties here, it was refreshing to see a recognizable face.
“Hi,” Brendon smiled as he slipped into the seat to Greta’s left. “How was third block?”
“Boring,” Greta rolled her eyes. “It’s History, which Spencer is freakishly good at, so he got all superior.”
Brendon laughed. “He does seem like the type.”
“Is he your type?” Greta mumbled, at least that’s what it sounded like.
Freezing, Brendon stared at her over the desk where he was apparently sitting this semester. She didn’t seem like the type, but Brendon had gone rounds with more than one girl about how she was convinced he wanted her boyfriend. “Um. What?”
“What?” Greta looked up at him through her hair, smile a little too wide and brows twisted together. “Oh. I said are you the type?”
Even though it very clearly wasn’t what she’d said, Brendon let it go. He just had to make nice for a little while, he told himself. He just had to follow the plan of faking nice, not getting too close, and not drawing attention; if he kept at it, he could get out of here and on the road without getting too caught up again.
“Maybe. I guess,” Brendon answered anyway. “I kind of get that way when anyone plays piano or guitar. If I know I’m better than them, I sort of can’t help it.”
Her eyes positively lit up. “You play piano, too? I love when I meet new people who actually know what they’re doing.”
Brendon fought the urge to blush. For some reason, having Greta’s full attention made him feel like he was actually worth it. She was possibly the most sincere-seeming person he’d ever met.
“Yeah,” Brendon shrugged. Busying himself with situating his books, Brendon forced himself to answer her. “Piano, guitar, drums, violin, trumpet, accordion, but I’m better at the first few. I sing.”
He’d rattled off the entire list before he realized he probably shouldn’t. Chancing a look from the corner of his eye, Brendon expected to see some type of irritation in Greta’s eyes. Instead, she looked positively delighted. That was weird.
“This is amazing! You have got to teach me accordion! Spencer would die.” She was leaning further and further across the aisle. “And we could do dueling pianos! Ian’s going to challenge you to a guitar battle. Which, while I’m thinking about it, never play Spencer at Guitar Hero. He’s an ass and will beat you every time. I think he cheats – “
“All right, everyone!” Mrs. Sherman called from the front of the class. She was waving a DVD in one hand and a stack of syllabi in the other.
Greta smiled at him again before turning around. Brendon kept watching her for a few seconds. The way she talked: it was like she planned on Brendon actually being around. He almost didn’t have the heart to tell her he had zero intentions of being their new clique member. Whatever. He’d just make a break for it after class and sit somewhere else tomorrow.
When the bell rang, Brendon tried to disappear. Unfortunately, Greta was probably on track or something because she caught up to him way too quickly.
“How are you liking it so far?”
“The class or…” Brendon hedged.
“The class, sure,” Greta waved a hand. “Or Hayden. It’s got to be weird, right? Coming in this late. Most of us have been here since Freshman year. Actually, most of us went to St. Mary’s together for middle school. I was the new kid once, but that was seventh grade so I think everyone forgot.”
“Oh.” Everyone had been trying to ask him this all day. Nick, one of the other office aide’s last block kept asking about Brendon’s old school. There were a lot of lies involved with answering that one, but Brendon hadn’t spoken to him before so he didn’t mind lying quite so much. “It’s okay. It’s only for a few months, not like it really matters.”
The raised eyebrows Greta threw at him said his smile wasn’t working; he was going to have to get tips from Pete again. Actually, Pete’s tips might be why Brendon couldn’t pull it off.
Brendon navigated around a tiny girl that was staring at him like some museum exhibit and wondered how hard it would be to lose Greta in the press of kids trying to escape for the day.
“Can I ask you something?” Greta asked, tugging Brendon to a stop in front of a line of lockers. She held her books out until he took them on autopilot.
“Uh.” Brendon looked down at the books in his hands. “I guess? Can I reserve the right not to answer?”
“Sure!” Greta was too busy unlocking her locker to look at him. “But, I mean, someone had to ask. Trust me, you’d rather it be me than Cash or one of the cheerleaders.”
“That’s probably true.” Brendon sighed and handed her books back. “What is it?”
“Why are you here?” She was fussing with folders, paying too much attention for someone just trying to find their homework. “It’s sort of weird to transfer midyear, especially as a Senior.”
Glancing across the hall, Brendon thought of a million reasons. He could say he was expelled so he could maintain some street cred in this place, give her an abridged version, or fess up. In the end, he went with bits and pieces.
“My last school wasn’t a bad place. The music program is killer. The other kids, though, they didn’t like me too much.”
Slamming her locker, Greta turned and leaned back. She stared at Brendon, but seemed kind instead of enraptured. “How do you mean?”
“I got bullied a lot. Mostly I ignored it. They beat my face in right before Christmas Break, though, so. It was… easier to just get out and see what happened somewhere else. At least now I don’t have a reputation or anything?”
Greta’s mouth twisted, the corners drawing down as she pursed her lips. “Why would someone do a thing like that?”
“They don’t like who I am, I guess?” In his mind, he corrected it to who I’m going to be.
“Ugh. That’s completely unacceptable.” Tossing her hair, Greta motioned for Brendon to walk with her down toward Brendon’s locker. “Did those kids at least get into trouble?”
“Not more than a couple weeks of suspension. Not that I know of,” Brendon shrugged. He tried to focus on how weird it was that she seemed to know where his locker was when Brendon could barely remember and kept reminding himself not to head for the second floor like in his public school. “It wasn’t during school hours. We called the cops, but I didn’t want to actually deal with court and stuff, you know? And I’m alive, so. We settled and left it alone.”
“That is such bull shit, Brendon!” A couple people turned at Greta’s outburst; she ignored them. “What was it because… is it because you’re gay?”
Admittedly, the way she dropped her voice to protect his secret was sweet. Brendon was over caring, but it was sweet nonetheless.
“Not really. It was a combination of things, I think. I was on the baseball team, anyway. I kind of got some protection because of that. Theater, show choir, jazz band, and… some other things didn’t really help, though. Just… there are some things even they couldn’t overlook.”
“People are jerks. That’s not going to happen here. You know that, right?”
Brendon gave her the first honest smile he could remember having when his old school had come up since sometime before he’d even left. “Yeah. I still want to lay low, though. Get through without any extra drama, you know?”
“Totally. Spencer says similar stuff all the time.” Greta stopped a few lockers down from Brendon’s, working the combination of another locker. “Spencer has meetings for FBLA and Student Council today. I promised I’d get his books,” she explained.
“Right,” Brendon nodded. “Yeah. I should get going, though. I have to meet my mom and pick up my car before I can go home.”
“Sure! See you tomorrow. We usually hang out by the north wall by the Faculty Lot in the mornings if you want to meet us there.”
“Um. Maybe.” Brendon smiled and sort of ran away. He had no idea why he mentioned the car to her. It was just that it was new. He’d spent way too much on it, but he had the hush money from the fight plus the advance from the label to cover it and still have enough left over to carry him through until he started seeing some sells.
He was going to have to start being more careful.
After the first day, Spencer almost didn’t expect to see Brendon again. He’d spent two hours talking to Greta about why having Brendon around and why telling Brendon all his dirty secrets was going to get them all into a mess of trouble. Greta, being the hateful person she was, kept trying to point out how sweet Brendon was.
Greta threatened to call Cash to come lecture him. Cash threatened to make Ian pull his hair. Ian threatened to call Ryan and make him yell via Skype.
Spencer managed to make it until the next morning before they all ganged up on him.
“But he plays everything, Spencer. How hot is that?” Greta squealed while they sat on the wall.
“Super mega foxy awesome hot,” Ian nodded. “I don’t even like guys, and I kind of want to jump him just to see if some of the talent rubs off.”
“And he’s sexy as hell,” Cash threw in. “Dat ass. I mean, have you seen it? Have I mentioned his ass?”
“Cash,” Spencer snapped. “Just, can’t we go in? Brendon will be fine on his own. We don’t need another person around.” Spencer barely held back whining about how he didn’t need someone who was as attractive as Brendon coming in and fucking up his shit. Spencer had a reputation to maintain and hitting on Brendon wasn’t going to do him any favors. He’d get impeached. Berkeley would laugh at him.
Greta shook her head and slapped Spencer’s chest. “I told Brendon we stand here. We’re waiting until the bell. You might be fine writing him off, but I want to be his friend.”
From what she’d relayed about Brendon’s old school, Spencer wasn’t shocked. Fucking public schools letting their kids run amok. He was gearing up to say how that didn’t necessarily involve him when Ian let out a low whistle, and Cash whooped.
“Spence!” Greta breathed. “Look what he drives.”
When Spencer looked up, Brendon was climbing out from behind the wheel of a pristine, red Mini Cooper coupe. It was the sexiest car Spencer had ever seen.
“He’s kind of your perfect match, dude,” Ian laughed. And it was fucking true. Spencer had maybe had a thing for Mini Coopers ever since he first saw The Italian Job with Ryan; he’ll always blame Mark Wahlberg.
“If you don’t hit that, I will,” Cash mumbled, too awed to raise his voice.
Spencer glared. “I will end you.”
“Fine. Whatever. You can have dibs,” Cash sighed. “I guess you did see him first.”
“I hate everything,” Spencer said but couldn’t help smiling when Brendon waved as he crossed through the Faculty Lot.
In the end, it was just easier for Spencer to make his peace with having Brendon at their lunch table, sitting across from Spencer at Del Taco, and jamming in Cash’s garage or Ian’s basement with them.
Actually, it didn’t turn out too badly. By February, it was like Brendon had been there for years. But if anything, that just annoyed Spencer more.
“Uh, first we knock,” Spencer pointed out, not looking away from his laptop.
Brendon flailed a hand at him. After almost a month, he was too used to Spencer’s weird obsession with manners to be bothered. “Your sisters let me in and told me Greta wasn’t here. Jackie was giving me weird looks when I asked, though.”
When Spencer didn’t say anything, Brendon pushed up onto his elbows to watch Spencer stare vacantly toward the door.
“What? Sorry.” Spencer visibly shook himself. “She has a crush on you or something. Ignore it until it goes away. That’s what Ian did.”
“Yeah, but Ian’s hair is off-putting once you realize it’s not a perm.”
“Nah. Ian’s just their height. When he didn’t hit another growth spurt, they gave him up.”
Spencer laughed, sort of. It sounded half-forced and half-exhausted. He’d been sounding like that more and more since February started. Sometimes, Brendon thought it was about him. Greta swore it was Spencer’s college admissions anxiety.
Brendon wasn’t so sure. Spencer had been nice enough to him, but he seemed to know a lot of avoidance tactics. After the third weekend of Brendon giving in and letting the constant stream of texts from Greta, Cash, and Ian con him into crashing at Ian’s for all-night Whedon-verse marathons, Spencer stopped being so distant.
He actually started going out of his way to invite Brendon over. In the past week or so, Brendon was pretty sure he’d spent more time at Spencer’s house than his own.
“Why are you all hostile and grumbly today?” Brendon asked, cautious and hedging. “Greta said you’d probably bite my head off.”
“Greta’s a liar,” Spencer huffed. He spun around in his desk chair to look at Brendon while he shrugged. “It’s this fucking Sweethearts Dance. I hate dances, but I have to put in an appearance.”
“Are you a celebrity?” Brendon raised his eyebrows and fought back a smirk.
“Close enough in that school. I’m not on the hockey team or anything, but I have a reputation to maintain.” His face twisted in this way that should have been ridiculous but Brendon found adorable. “Fucking Nick is trying to steal my presidency from me. Like it’s going to matter if he gets it for four months. College apps are already in.”
“Nick’s an ass. He keeps trying to talk me into buying him weed.” Sticking his tongue out in disgust, Brendon tried not to think too much about the annoying ass kid from his third block.
“Do you even smoke?” His voice was incredulous, but Spencer didn’t look shocked.
Brendon wanted to be offended. “Public school reject. I must, right?” He rolled his eyes. “Not really. Not anymore. Fucks with my voice.”
“Yeah, but you’re not in choir or anything now,” Spencer shrugged, already going back to the IMs Brendon could see flashing on the screen.
“No, but, uh. I might.” Out of all Brendon’s lies and half-truths, hiding the singing and the playing was becoming the hardest. He had to actively force himself to stick to covers when Ian wanted to fuck around.
“Right. In college?” Spencer suddenly perked up, abandoning his laptop in favor of flopping onto the bed at Brendon’s feet. Brendon kicked him because he could. “Where’d you apply? You never talk about it. Greta thinks you’re parents are making you go to BYU.”
Brendon sniffed. That was always the expectation, but Brendon had talked his way out of that one years before he had anything else to lay his future on. “That ship has well and truly sailed, my friend. I’m not going to college. I’ve got a thing lined up in June.”
“A thing? What kind of thing?”
“Just a thing.” Tugging at his bangs, Brendon wished he’d grown them out into a Pete-approved emo cut just to hide behind. “Some friends are hooking me up with something out in California.”
“You’re really smart, man. Why wouldn’t you want to do something with that?”
Maybe Brendon didn’t know him too terribly well, but Spencer obviously couldn’t fathom a life that didn’t involve a four-year degree, internship, and graduate school options.
“Trust me, this is much more lucrative.”
“Are you going to be a dealer? Brendon, please don’t be a dealer. I can’t be associated with criminals.” Voice serious, Spencer’s eyes were too bright to back it up.
“Yes, Spencer. The public school kid in me has led me to a life of crime and debauchery. I’m also going to get my own hoes to pimp out.” Brendon winked at him and nudged at Spencer’s side with his toes. “I’ll cut you a deal on the hottest young things I have.”
Cringing away and actually giggling – and was that ever fucking cute – Spencer grabbed Brendon’s foot and ran his fingers over the arch. Brendon tried to jerk away, but Spencer was stronger than he looked.
“Spence!” Brendon laughed, kicking and squirming. “Not fair! Not fair!”
Brendon got a good kick in, and Spencer almost rolled off the edge of the bed. He was still chuckling when he caught himself with a grip on Brendon’s jeans.
“You’re a bad influence,” Spencer tried to grumble.
Brendon was completely unrepentant. “You need to loosen up. And tell me more about why you hate the dance so much.”
Throwing an arm over his eyes, Spencer muttered incoherently for a few moments. “Because I hate dancing, and I hate the music, and I hate trying to find stupid dress clothes.”
“Dude, the clothes are the best part! We’ll get you a fedora!”
Spencer pinned him with a very stern look. “I am not wearing a fedora.”
“Bow tie, then.”
“Yes. No arguments,” Brendon bounced to his feet and tugged at Spencer’s shirt. “We’re going shopping. I’ll make you rat pack era awesome.”
“Oh God. This is worse than Ryan,” Spencer sighed. “I draw the line at eyeliner.”
“Well, yeah,” Brendon shrugged. “You don’t want to go for overkill.”
Spencer rolled his eyes but went to find his shoes anyway. Brendon took the few minutes he was afforded to wonder why exactly he was helping a hot boy find clothes to wear out with his girlfriend. Normal people probably didn’t live in a Glee plotline, but Brendon was used to not being normal.
It still kind of sucked, though, being a good friend to a cute couple when all Brendon wanted to do was crawl on top of Spencer and kiss him breathless.
Brendon’s life was hard.
“We can skip the dance,” Greta sighed. “Seriously, Spencer. I’ll just say you came down with something or your sisters needed a sitter.”
Spencer rolled his eyes. Greta was a wonderful pseudo-girlfriend, but she kept missing the whole point. After three years of this, she should remember Spencer’s lectures by now.
“I can’t. I need to be there. Nick’s making noises about how we’re about to break up. And he said something about it being for Brendon.” Spencer tried to cover his blush by sucking down half his iced mocha in one go.
Greta obligingly slapped his back when he choked. “It is about Brendon, though. Besides, I think they all think I’m trying to hook up with him. I am the best beard ever, just so you know. I even want it on a plaque. With glitter. Ian will help you; he still has the bedazzler we confiscated from Cash last year.”
Spencer slurped at the ice in his cup just to annoy her. “Greta, I need help. This is becoming a problem.”
“It’s only a problem because you’re making it one.” She snatched his cup away. “Look, why don’t you just tell Brendon and then, like, I don’t know. Make him be your secret boyfriend. I’ll totally let people think I’m sleeping with both of you. After June, I’m back in Chicago with Bob and don’t care what these people think of me.”
For a solid thirty seconds, Spencer stared at her. It’s possible he had hearts in his eyes. Somehow, Greta had become both the sweetest and bravest woman he’d ever met; he counted himself lucky to know her.
“Thank you, but…” Spencer sighed. “I think we just need to keep doing what we’re doing.”
Greta rolled her eyes. She rolled them again when Spencer’s phone buzzed, and he snatched it up. There was a smile spreading across his face, one he couldn’t even try to deny.
“Shut up,” Spencer muttered. “He’s telling me about bow ties.”
“Is that some new kink you’ve developed that I should know about? Being the pretend-girlfriend and all?” She was twirling her hair around her finger, looking angelic.
Spencer started revising how much he respected her. “No. It’s about the dance. He’s trying to find one that matches your dress. Are you still wearing blue?”
“Is that blue?”
“Ish. It’s also purple-ish,” she sighed. “You have a shirt that color, Spencer.”
“Whatever.” Spencer fired off his reply and slipped his phone into his pocket. “Did you know he’s not going to college? And not in the No one would accept me, so I’m acting like going to community college is actually my decision way. He just didn’t apply.”
“Spence.” Her head hit the table with a low sound, the salt and pepper shakers rattling.
Oh, right. Spencer had maybe called her in a rage about it two nights ago. Whatever. Spencer told her everything; she should be used to the occasional repeat. If those repeats had been happening a lot more often and usually in relation to Brendon…
It was only because Brendon was new. That’s all. Spencer figured saying it a few more times might actually make him believe it.
Brendon had no business being so invested in such annoyingly stupid things, but. There he was, sitting at the end of second block, staring at his stupid pile of treats while Spencer laughed from the next desk over.
“And here you thought you were fading into the background at this school.” Spencer, the asshole, grinned even wider when Cassadee delivered two yellow, two red, and three pink roses to Brendon seconds later.
“Shouldn’t you be jealous of how awesome everyone thinks I am or something?” Brendon poked at the orange bottle of Crush until it clinked against the two purple bottles. “For being an ass, I’m not sharing my kisses with you.”
Spencer took a spoon anyway, tearing unceremoniously into the mesh wrapped over the spoon. “I think the dance team would be pissed if you did. Aren’t all of these from dancers?”
“I don’t know.” Brendon shrugged and sorted through the pile again, reading each tag. “Are Amanda, Ash, Jess, Jessica, Rachel, Rachelle, and Taryn dancers?”
“I ‘unno,” Spencer muttered around a mouthful of chocolate. Brendon considered it personal growth that he only thought about licking the chocolate off Spencer’s lips for ten seconds this time.
“Honestly,” Spencer went on. “I always get the dancers, cheerleaders, and flags confused. They’re all the same concept.”
“Hey!” Cassadee hit him in the back of the head with the half-full bag of flowers.
“Sorry. Right. Flags are totally more important.”
“Color guard, but exactly,” she nodded, running to drop a couple roses on Marshall’s desk before disappearing out the back entrance.
Brendon snickered. “I also have one from Greta.” He waved a yellow rose in the air.
Spencer’s brows furrowed as he leaned over to snatch the note away. “Bitch. She never sends me anything anymore.”
A knot formed and froze in Brendon’s stomach. He wasn’t an idiot, had heard the rumors about Greta making a play for him. Up until then, though, Brendon had doubted the validity of it.
“Oh. Um. I’m sure she just forgot?”
“Nah. I don’t send her anything either. We don’t do the Valentine’s thing in school.” Spencer shrugged like it was nothing, stealing the candy spoon marked XoXo, Jess. “It’s kind of tacky.”
“And yet, you keep eating all my candy,” Brendon laughed. He glanced at the clock, counting down the minutes.
Ten more minutes and Brendon would be out for the day and on the road for LA. It was the only thing keeping him from having some sort of rage about all the Valentine’s shit landing on his desk and taking up every conversation.
At least it meant he wouldn’t be called in to help Spencer get ready later; Ian had warned him that someone would have to step in since the infamous Ryan wasn’t there, and they’d each been called in for the Fall Fest and Winter Formal, respectively.
“It’s the delicious kind of tacky.” Spencer sounded so earnest that Brendon snorted.
The intercom buzzed, Mrs. Thomas’ voice piping into the room. “Mr. Wilson? Brendon Urie has an early dismissal.”
“Thank you,” Mr. Wilson yelled toward the intercom before turning to Brendon. “Have a good weekend, Brendon.”
“Thanks,” Brendon smiled, trying to gather all his gifts without dropping the stupid soda bottles.
“Wait!” Spencer grabbed his wrist. The scowl on his face made Brendon want to simultaneously shrink away and hug him; it was a weird feeling. “If you leave now, you can’t come to the dance. You have to be here for a full half-day.”
Brendon shrugged. “I know. I’m not going. I’m going out of town this weekend.” Shoving candy into his uniform pockets was a good enough excuse to stop looking at the weirdly hurt look on Spencer’s face.
“Why didn’t you tell me before?” He sounded so confused that Brendon actually felt bad about not mentioning it.
“It’s a date type thing. Who was I supposed to go with?” Bitterness might have crept into his tone, just a bit. It took some extra effort to remind himself that Spencer hadn’t failed to ask him on purpose.
“Anyone on the dance team?”
Brendon wrinkled his nose. He wasn’t play acting by going out with some random girl. There was lying then there was deceiving. Brendon tried to avoid as much deception as possible. Besides, he wasn’t supposed to stand out here. Also, Valentine’s Day just generally sucked.
Spencer shrugged. “Cash is going without a date.”
“Cash is going to find someone to hook up with.” Brendon set the grape Crush bottles on Spencer’s desk. “Text me and tell me how it goes so I can say I told you so when it isn’t horrible. Give one of those to Greta.”
“Brendon,” Spencer started, his eyes a little wider than usual.
“Mr. Urie,” Mr. Wilson sighed. “You do need to go sometime this block.”
“Sorry, Mr. Wilson,” Brendon muttered. “Have fun. I’ll see you Monday.”
Spencer made a sad-sounding noise in the back of his throat before giving a half-hearted wave. “Bye.”
Before he could give himself a chance to really examine Spencer’s dejected look, Brendon rushed into the mostly empty hallways.
It was better this way, Brendon reasoned. Hanging around Spencer was fun, but Brendon was deluding himself into thinking it was more than it was. Spencer just wanted a new friend, and Brendon didn’t have time to be finding a boyfriend anyway. A weekend in the studio doing guest vocals with Patrick would definitely take his mind off it.
And if recording didn’t take his mind off shit, Pete would find some way to make him forget about everything. Pete was good that way.
“Call it a taste of the future!” Pete declared, dropping a beer on the table in front of Brendon.
Patrick rolled his eyes. “You don’t have to drink that.” Then he glared. “Actually, you shouldn’t. The last thing we need is for you to be too hungover to record tomorrow. Or to get kicked out.”
Pete waved his hands around. “It would be good press. So would your Youtube channel if you’d open it back up.”
“Yeah, um. Maybe after graduation or the single drops or something,” Brendon hedged.
To avoid having this conversation again – Pete was a little too preoccupied with publicity, but Patrick was on Brendon’s side with maintaining some type of anonymity at his new school – Brendon lifted the brown bottle to his lips. A few nights crashing with Brent last year gave Brendon enough experience not to cringe at the taste. It was still fucking rank, though. Apparently, expensive beer was the same stale grossness as cheap beer. At least, this went down a little easier. Small wins.
Two drinks later, Brendon was only a little tipsy. He was simultaneously enmeshed in an elaborate conversation with Andy that was making less since the longer it lasted and trying to field texts from Spencer and Greta.
Greta had sent him pictures; Spencer was still sending him commentary. According to Cash’s Twitter, they were all about to leave, but Brendon still didn’t expect his phone to start vibrating across the table.
The VIP area was quieter than the rest of the club, but it was still full of yelled conversation – cheers when Gabe fucking Saporta turned up – and pounding bass. Brendon answered anyway.
There were some muffled sounds before Brendon managed to crawl over some guy whose name he couldn’t remember and shove a finger into his free ear.
“Brendon? Where the hell are you?” Spencer shouted.
“Oh, uh. I’m out with some people.”
As if to emphasize his point, Pete slung an arm around his shoulder. “Bden! Come back and help me fuck with Gabe!” When Brendon waved his phone a bit, Pete got that scary-looking, toothy grin. “Is that the boyfriend?”
“I don’t have a boyfriend,” Brendon cringed. “We’ve been through this.”
“Tell him he’s missing the best shit!” Pete leaned closer to the phone. “You should have come with! We would have let you have the guest room and totally only picked on you a lot.” He shifted away when Brendon elbowed him. “Holy shit, you’re cute when you blush. This is awesome. Patrick!”
As suddenly as he’d shown up, Pete was gone and Brendon was laughing – only a little nervously – into the phone.
“Sorry,” Brendon was yelling as he found the hallway leading to the bathrooms. The walls made everything echo but mostly kept the rest of the sound to a dull roar. “How was the dance?”
“Who was that?” Spencer snapped.
“It was that good, huh?” He forced his voice to sound lighter than he felt, hoping to keep changing the subject until Spencer let it drop.
Spencer made that grumbly, throaty sound he always made when he was irritated. “It was fine. Greta looked awesome. Everyone liked the bow tie. Good call, I guess.”
“I told you to trust my instincts, man.” Brendon leaned back against the wall and squeezed his eyes closed. “Want to tell me about it?”
“Nah,” Spencer sighed. “You’re busy, and it’s no big deal.”
Brendon opened his eyes and stared at the exposed red brick across from him. “Then what’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Go hang out with your people. Sounds like a great time.”
He might not be well-versed in Spencer Smith’s moods yet, but that was definitely really fucking snippy.
“Are you mad at me right now?” Brendon huffed a humorless laugh. “That doesn’t even make sense.”
“I’m not mad at you, Brendon. Whatever. Go hang out with whatever guys you’re with and fuck with Gabe. I’ve got to go get the gel shit out of my hair.”
“Um.” Brendon would have went on, except he was talking to dead air.
He spent a few more minutes trying to figure out what in the hell had just happened and where an awesome evening of recording and goofing off with Fall Out Boy and Co. had turned into having a weird ass fight with Spencer.
Pete texted him using no vowels and three emoticons. Taking a deep breath, Brendon shook it off. He had the rest of the night to act ridiculous and more background vocals to record tomorrow. Spencer could go fuck himself.
Or maybe Brendon would text Greta when he got back to the table. Greta always had the answers.
Spencer hated everything.
Monday had been even worse. Brendon text that he wouldn’t be back from LA until that afternoon so could Cash, Spencer, and Greta get his homework for him? There wasn’t even a fucking explanation for why Brendon had spent the weekend in LA – Los fucking Angeles!
Spencer kind of wanted to hit him.
But fine. If Brendon wanted to have some weird secret, double life, Spencer would get his stupid homework and be a good friend and not ask about who Brendon had spent the weekend hooking up with.
It didn’t mean Spencer had to like it.
“Oh my God. I am going to kill you and not even feel bad,” Greta huffed. She shoved her notes from Critical Viewing on top of Cash’s notes from Spanish. “Just take Brendon his stuff; he doesn’t need his books. He can Google things for Spanish.” She slammed her locker and thrust the pages at Spencer.
Spencer grumbled under his breath, not even bothering with actual words until they were in the parking lot.
“I just want him to tell me something. I don’t even know what to do with him.”
“Be his friend,” Greta told him as they climbed into her car. They drove on alternating weeks; sharing a space was cheaper than buying two.
“I’m going to drop you off. You’re going to check your mail and not be a raging bitch if you don’t have an acceptance letter from Berkeley yet.” She paused to yell profanities when Marissa backed out without looking. “Then you’re taking Brendon his homework and maybe a coffee. Apologizing for making him miserable Friday night would be nice but not mandatory. He seems over it. He had a good weekend. Don’t ruin it for him because you’re jealous.”
“I’m not jealous!” Spencer protested, fiddling with the radio.
“Fine, I’m a little jealous.” He sighed and fell back against the seat. “You don’t have to be so smug about it.”
Greta hummed at him then sang along with the top 40 station she liked so well. Spencer ignored her until she dropped him off, dropping a kiss on her cheek and pretending not to see the judgey eyes she was giving him.
He grabbed the mail since his sisters always forgot and tapped a message out to see if Brendon was home yet. While he waited for an answer, he yelled at the girls to stop… doing whatever they were doing that was so loud and annoying – it was probably another ‘Just Dance’ Wii battle.
Spencer grabbed a soda and threw the envelopes on the counter, shifting through things until he saw his name on three envelopes.
One was thin, but two felt thicker. The logos for Yale, UNLV, and UCB stared up at him.
“Brendon! Answer your fucking door!”
Brendon wasn’t sure if Spencer sounded irritated or excited; the emotions tended to manifest the same way with him. He bought himself a minute by blinking until his contacts stopped feeling so gritty and scratching at his hair until he knew he looked like a hot mess.
Too late to do anything now. It’s not like he was trying to impress Spencer or anything. No, that would be completely ridiculous.
Brendon pulled out his best glare and threw his door open. Before he even had the chance to register Spencer’s acceptance of his irritation, he was faced with the full-force of the Spencer Smith thousand watt smile.
“Hey – “
“I got in!” Spencer yelled loud enough for Brendon to cringe back. Taking it as an invitation, Spencer rushed in and dropped a stack of papers on the key table in the entryway. “There’s your shit, by the way. But more importantly! Brendon! I got in!”
He was waving an envelope around, one sheet loose and clutched behind the envelope. Brendon tried to get a look at it, but Spencer was bouncing all over the fucking place and Brendon couldn’t decipher anything.
“Uh. What are we talking about?” He pushed the door shut and gave up on being irritated in favor of returning Spencer’s grin.
“Berkeley! I got in. I’m early acceptance. I got UNLV, too. But...” Spencer was shaking his head, practically vibrating in place.
“Berkeley,” Brendon said. He laughed a little and pried the page from Spencer’s hand. “Dream come true.”
“Yes! I just…” Spencer threaded his fingers in his own hair and tugged. Laughing, he blinked at Brendon with his wide, sparkling, blue eyes. “It’s Berkeley. This is… I didn’t care about anywhere else.”
“I’m really happy for you.” Brendon set his hands on Spencer’s shoulders until Spencer dropped his hands. When he did, Brendon gave the fuck up. He didn’t think Spencer would mind, not with the way he was practically vibrating out of his skin. Besides, friends were totally allowed to hug, even if they’d sort of been in a kind of fight this weekend. Whatever. Brendon stretched up to wrap his arms around Spencer’s shoulders and tugged him into a hug anyway.
Spencer didn’t even hesitate to return it, clutching his hands in the back of Pete’s t-shirt that Brendon had borrowed. Brendon both loved and hated it. Spencer’s arms were a lot stronger than Brendon expected, holding on tight enough that Brendon wanted to sink down into what was supposed to be a friendly little congratulations gesture.
Brendon closed his eyes, squeezing around Spencer’s neck and just breathing him in for a moment. He totally had a hold on this crush, honestly, right until Spencer got too close. Sure, it was Brendon’s fault this time, but it was really all on Spencer for being so fucking perfect.
Except the part where he also had a perfect girlfriend.
Holding his breath, Brendon forced his eyes open and leaned back. Spencer didn’t let go right away, just stared at Brendon with those fucking eyes and that damn smile and…
Spencer leaned right in, slow enough that Brendon should have registered what was happening and had time to move away, and pressed his lips right to Brendon’s.
Brendon’s breath came out in a rush through his nose, and he couldn’t even think about freezing or pulling away. He’d been staring at Spencer and pretending he didn’t want to do this since January. It was just… too perfect. Spencer’s lips slid lightly against Brendon’s, and he was loving it.
It was simple and soft and all the other cheesy things romantic comedies and Disney had made Brendon want.
When Spencer’s tongue darted out, something snapped in Brendon’s head, a band of reality popping and pulsing until Brendon jolted right out of Spencer’s arms. He may have pulled Spencer’s hair a little when he moved before completely letting go.
“Spencer,” Brendon started. He could feel his eyes widening and head shaking. “You can’t just… do that. You can’t. What about Greta?”
Eyes wide, Spencer shrugged. He looked so helpless that Brendon wanted nothing more than to kiss the expression away. But Brendon couldn’t do that.
“Greta’s my friend.”
“I know. Brendon, just. I’m sorry?” Spencer bit his lip and tried to smile.
“Are you asking?” Brendon snapped and pointed toward the door. “Just. Go home. Thanks for my homework.”
When Brendon just shook his head again, Spencer’s shoulders drooped, and he backed away.
When the door clicked shut, Brendon forced his hands to unclench. This couldn’t be happening. Brendon wasn’t supposed to do anything like this, not this semester. He was supposed to coast through and ignore everyone. He wasn’t supposed to make new friends and break up the fucking poster couple for normality.
This was a disaster, and Brendon was going to kill Spencer for it. He really was. Brendon looked down at his hands and closed his eyes.
He’d kill Spencer right after he gave back Spencer’s stupid Berkeley acceptance letter.
It just. It wasn’t Spencer’s fault. That was the story he was going to maintain until the very end.
“What’s your issue today?” Greta asked when they were climbing out of her car. “You got into Berkeley. Why aren’t you telling everyone about it? You should be standing on the hood of my car and screaming it in Nick’s face.”
Spencer shrugged. “I didn’t sleep well.”
Greta laughed. “Were you up looking at the course calendar again? You know it’s going to be different by the time you go for orientation, right?”
“Yeah. I was excited is all. And I forgot coffee this morning.” At least it wasn’t a lie, exactly. Spencer had skipped coffee that morning, but it was because he’d been trying to find a way to fake sick right up until Greta was texting him from his driveway. “I’ll be better by lunch.”
“You better be. Cash has plans. He’s wants to know all about Brendon’s crazy L.A. weekend. I need you to help me keep him from getting too ridiculous.”
“That’s not even possible. Stop making insane wishes.” Spencer wanted to keep up the conversation, but Brendon’s Mini was pulling into his spot. There was no way Spencer could deal with him this early. “Um. I have to go see Mrs. Turner before homeroom. I think I fucked up my Trig.”
“Okay,” Greta shrugged. She was waving at Cash and Ian but stopped long enough for Spencer to kiss her cheek before he ran off.
Even if Greta and Spencer had never actually been anything, he felt something sick twist in his stomach. Greta was his best friend. Keeping this from her was like telling Ryan not to text anymore if he was too good to come home for Winter Break. That had been the worst conversation of Spencer’s life, but it had smoothed over by New Year’s. Lying to Greta was going to take a lot longer than that.
Spencer somehow managed to avoid speaking to anyone until second block. He’d dodged the locker bay during the morning rush and made himself look very busy up until he found himself sitting in Coach Wilson’s classroom with Brendon staring down at him.
His expression was unreadable, and Spencer hadn’t realized just how much Brendon usually let show on his face until then.
Spencer cleared his throat. “Um. Hi. So…”
Brendon shook his head and set a crumpled envelope on Spencer’s desk. “There’s your letter. I forgot I had it when you left.”
“Oh. Yeah. Yeah, thanks.” Spencer shoved the envelope into his binder and fiddled with the rings for a minute. “So, I think, about yesterday, we should talk.”
“There’s nothing to talk about,” Brendon shrugged. He slid into his seat as if that meant the conversation was finished.
Spencer really shouldn’t be doing this here, but fuck it. No one was paying them any attention. “No, I really think we should. I need to explain.”
“There’s nothing to explain.” Brendon refused to look at him; Spencer was man enough to admit how much that hurt. “It happened. It’s over. I’m not going to say anything, if that’s what you’re worried about. You’re good. It’s fine.”
Maybe Spencer should be thanking him for that. No one was going to out him, and Greta wasn’t going to get all superior with how she knew Spencer needed to tell Brendon. For some reason, though, that wasn’t what was getting to Spencer.
“Are we okay?” He hated how small his voice sounded, like a kid that had just broken something important.
Brendon sighed and finally looked at Spencer just as Coach came in from the hall and shut the door. “Yeah, Spence. We are.”
Spencer didn’t believe him, but he didn’t have a choice other than to let it go. They could talk about it before lunch.
Except they didn’t. Brendon ran away to talk to Nick – which, the fuck? Brendon hated Nick almost as much as Spencer did. Still, he took off to ask something about tardy slips, scan-tron scoring, or what-the-hell-ever before Spencer was halfway to the lockers.
Brendon never turned up for lunch, but Spencer got as much info from Greta as he could at the end of the day. Apparently, he’d been talking to teachers about grades, which made no fucking sense since Brendon apparently didn’t give two fucks if he failed or not.
Spencer was wise to his tricks.
He let it go on for a week. One week of not talking to Brendon unless he had to and adjusting to all his text messages going unanswered. Seven days of letting Brendon sit as far away as he could when they were with their friends. Days of suffering through mostly sleepless nights with nothing but a pot of coffee and a fucking prayer.
It was Ian that finally broke them out of it.
How was he supposed to hang out with a clique that had existed for at least four years when you’d accidentally fallen into the middle of the group’s signature couple?
Brendon tried not to talk too much during lunch or in class, but Spencer was the only one willing to let him have his space. Even Spencer was making it difficult by looking like a really tall, kicked puppy. It was horrible.
A couple weeks went by before Brendon was finally cornered by Ian right after fourth block on a Friday. He’d somehow managed to wave Greta off for most of Critical Viewing and would have been in the clear if Ian hadn’t magicked himself all the way from the other side of campus before the bell rang.
“Um. Hi?” Brendon stumbled back a little when Ian stopped directly in front of him. Sara and Sarah bumped into Brendon’s back, but they didn’t stop to glare before moving on.
“Hi. Can I get a ride home?”
“Sure? Where’s Cash?”
Ian shrugged. “Who the hell knows. He’s trying to hook up with Brittany and her boyfriend, I think. I really didn’t want details.”
“Good for him, I guess,” Brendon chuckled.
“He likes to think so. So, ride! Awesome.”
Ian followed closely on Brendon’s heels, chattering about how Mrs. Burke’s Home Ec. class let out early when she thought she was having contractions. He was still talking when they climbed into Brendon’s car.
When he finally took a breath, Brendon was already pulling onto Ian’s street.
“Okay, so here’s what I’m thinking. You should hang out with me tonight.”
Brendon bit his lip and shrugged. “I don’t know. I have - “
“You’re not doing homework on a Friday, man.” Ian pointed out. “And Greta says you have nothing for the weekend. Just hang out for a while. We’ll marathon zombie movies and play Mario Kart.”
This couldn’t possibly end well. Brendon needed to start pulling away from this whole group before he got even more attached. Except Brendon was coming from not having many friends to having people. They wanted to hang out with him just because they liked him. Giving that up because Spencer had kissed him didn’t make sense, right?
Brendon parked on the street outside Ian’s house and grinned. “Order pineapple pizza?”
Ian pretended to gag as he led the way to his house.
Part of the charm of Ian’s house was the shift his parents worked. They went to work at something around 1 p.m. and didn’t get home until 2 a.m. Ian could have made his house party central, but he didn’t get to stay home alone by trashing the house every other night. It was a trick his sister taught him, apparently.
Brendon really appreciated the freedom when he was sprawled across Ian’s living room floor with two pizza boxes at his side and the last brownie perched on the coffee-table. The brownie was the prize for who ever won the latest Mario Kart battle.
That brownie was as good as Brendon’s. They were coming up on the last leg of the final lap on that annoying as fuck Rainbow track, and Brendon was running third while Ian was fifth. Everything was fine until he heard the front door open on very familiar laughter. He practically dropped the Wii controller and distractedly watched Yoshi sail straight off the translucent road.
“Yes!” Ian crowed before snatching the brownie.
“Ian,” Brendon hissed. The sheepish look Brendon got in return was enough to prove he’d been set up. “You fucking suck at life, Crawford.” He tossed the remote on the sofa and shoved up from the floor. “I’m going to piss. Then I’m going home.”
“Hey, wait. Bren-”
Brendon slammed the bathroom door before Ian could get anything else out. He wasn’t sure if Spencer and Greta had seen him or not, but they definitely saw his car. Fuck Ian.
Huffing a breathe out through his nose, Brendon stared at himself in the mirror. His cheeks were too red, his hairline a little sweaty. His eyes maybe looked just a little scared. Brendon tried to ignore it by turning the cold tap up to full blast. Leaning down, Brendon splashed water on his face, shivering a little.
Just a couple more seconds and Brendon would force himself to go make nice with Spencer. He’d try to look Greta in the eye for a few minutes, and then he’d escape to do … something. Sometimes, it really sucked that all Brendon’s friends were either Spencer’s friends or out-of-state.
Brendon shut the water off and was in the process of patting his face down with Ian’s mom’s favorite hand towel when the bathroom door opened.
“Oh, shit! Sorry!” Spencer started to back through the doorway when Ian and Cash shoved him from behind.
When Spencer slammed into Brendon’s shoulder, Brendon tried to catch him. They ended up in a tangle of limbs before they noticed Greta pulling the door shut.
Spencer pushed himself up, hovering over Brendon for a moment. Brendon was breathing harder than he should have been, but Spencer was so close. He was this warm, heavy weight all along where they touched.
Brendon didn’t want to like it as much as he did, and he definitely didn’t want to bite his lip in response to Spencer licking his own.
“Work it out!”
Spencer’s hands slipped a little on the tiles, and Brendon nearly knocked his head against the bath tub.
“Uh. Move,” Brendon snapped.
“Right. Yeah. Sorry.” Spencer scrambled up. Immediately, he turned to fight with the door.
The door pulled open maybe an inch when it snapped shut again. No matter how many times Spencer tried, the results were the same.
“What the shit, Ian!”
“We tied the doors together!” Cash was entirely too gleeful over the whole situation.
Ian snickered with him for a second, but explained before Spencer could blow a blood vessel or Brendon could break the mirror on principle. “We’re sick of you two. I don’t know what happened. If it’s still over that weird fucking fight you had after the dance, talk about. If it’s something else, talk about that. Just stop making shit weird for the rest of us.”
“We’re going to eat some pizza and kick Ian’s ass at Guitar Hero. We’ll be back,” Cash added before they all apparently stomped away.
“Kiss and make up, boys,” Greta yelled from some distance away.
“Interesting choice of words,” Brendon muttered.
There had to be a way out of this one, but for the life of him, Brendon couldn’t figure it out. The bathroom window didn’t actually open, and Brendon didn’t have the energy to fight with the door. Shrugging, Brendon slumped back against the outside of the bath tub.
“Yeah.” Spencer nodded and kicked the door. He tugged at his hair for a moment before turning around. Without looking at Brendon, Spencer sat on the rug in front of the sink and stared at Brendon’s knees. “I guess they’re not wrong though. We... need to talk about this.”
Brendon leaned his head back to stare at the shower rod. “You kissed me. You have a girlfriend, but you still kissed me. What’s there to talk about?”
“I don’t know.” Spencer kicked his left foot out until he could nudge at Brendon’s right. “I just. Brendon, I like you. I really like you.”
“You’re dating Greta,” Brendon pointed out. “She’s one of my friends. I don’t like lying to her.”
“I don’t either. Greta’s... she’s done a lot for me, and she’s one of my best friends.”
He fell quiet long enough for Brendon to start feeling jittery. When he looked at Spencer, Spencer’s arms were folded on his knees, head bowed and resting atop them. He looked so distraught that Brendon wanted to hug him.
“Everything has almost worked out,” Spencer whispered. “I’m into UNLV, Berkeley, UCLA, and DePaul. I have Berkeley. Then I can walk away from everything. It’s almost over.”
“That’s how this usually works, yeah,” Brendon agreed. “But that doesn’t mean you and Greta - “
“Yeah, it does.” Spencer’s eyes were fierce when they met Brendon’s. “We have an expiration date. We’ve talked about it. When we graduate, we’re done. It’s cut and dry. Everything was working out. Then you showed up. And everything got weird.”
“I’m sorry?” Brendon felt his brows furrow and mouth open, but he couldn’t manage to make any more sense out of what Spencer was saying.
“I really, really like you, Brendon. I mean, that’s not really weird. I always liked guys more, but Greta happened and. Yeah. If things were different, I’d be all over you all the time.” Spencer took a deep breath and shook his head. “But I can’t be. But I want to be your friend. If you’ll let me.”
Brendon should say no. There wasn’t a single reason not to, except that the boy he’d had a crush on for three months was saying everything Brendon wanted to hear, except as an apology.
High school was hard. Brendon understood that; he’d been run out of one school already. He might have given up on the whole religion thing, but the random adage about people in glass houses may or may not have come up in temple a few times and somehow stuck in Brendon’s head.
“We can be friends.” Brendon felt like the words had been choked out of him, but he still meant it.
The way Spencer’s posture straightened out and his entire demeanor brightened had Brendon kicking himself even as he thought he’d done the right thing. Jesus, this was hard. Brendon just wanted... Well, he wanted something he could probably have, at least until that door opened.
"One thing, first? Just this once, then we can move on.”
Spencer was already nodding. “Anything.”
Brendon bit his lip and took a moment to situate himself. He got onto his knees and crawled closer until Spencer let his legs drop. Brendon stopped mere inches away and catalogued everything. He took in the curve of Spencer’s nose and the way his eyes seemed to have darker blue specs when you looked at them up-close. He felt Spencer’s short, uneven breaths brush against his face. He watched the way Spencer’s eyelashes fanned across his cheeks when he closed his eyes.
Most importantly, Brendon tried to memorize the way Spencer’s lips felt against his: soft and just a little chapped. He focused on the way Spencer’s hands clutched at his arms. He savored the way Spencer’s tongue slid against his when Brendon bit Spencer’s lip hard enough to have Spencer parting his lips to gasp.
It was only happening this once, but Brendon could keep the memory forever.
Sometimes, Spencer still caught Brendon staring at his mouth, but Spencer was always staring back so he couldn’t say anything.
It was a little awkward, but it was something comparable to normalcy.
Spencer was hoping he could get some time to himself during Spring Break. As it were, the only time Spencer actually got to think about the Brendon Situation was in the middle of the night. When that happened, thoughts turned into fantasies. Mostly, it was just making Spencer feel a little creepy for perving all over Brendon all the time.
Spring Break would be a good time to decompress.
“So, we have that stupid fucking trial the Monday after break,” Brendon reminded him as they were standing by their cars in front of Ian’s house the first Saturday of the break.
Spencer growled and banged his head against the top of his car. “Ow.”
Brendon, the asshole, laughed at him. “We should just get it over with now and not worry about it until we have to do it.”
“How into winning are you? Are you fine with being convicted?” Spencer asked. “I’m fine with letting you get convicted.”
“Yeah, but you aren’t fine with taking a C for minimal effort.”
Spencer frowned. “Okay, true. When do you want to do this?”
Which is how Spencer’s grand plan of avoiding everyone for the first four days of Spring Break got thrown out the window in favor of Spencer crashing at Brendon’s on Monday night. Brendon’s parents were visiting his family in Hawaii and left Brendon at home to deal with homework and some personal project Brendon was being sketchy about.
They knocked out most of the research they needed to try to convince the mock jury in Coach Wilson’s class that Brendon shouldn’t be sent to white collar prison for insider trading. They were probably going to lose, but Spencer thought that was the point.
“He’s not actually going to let us get out of there thinking you can cheat the system and steal a fuck ton of money to buy yachts or whatever rich people buy.”
“Like Mini Coopers?” Spencer snorted.
“Fuck you. I earned that money, fair and square, in a totally legal settlement.” Brendon kicked at Spencer until Spencer nearly fell off the bed.
He swatted at Brendon until he rolled away to tug his sweatpants straighter around his hips. Spencer pretended not to notice the way Brendon’s shit raised up enough to expose the line of hair running down from his navel.
“Where do you come up with this shit? You always have the weirdest stories.”
Brendon flopped onto his back, wiggling to the beat of the song coming from his iPod until he was comfortable against the pillows. Spencer laughed and rolled onto his stomach.
“That’s not a lie,” Brendon shrugged. “Instead of going to court after I got jumped at my old school, the Board of Education and the kids’ parents signed a settlement.”
Spencer shifted onto his side to stare at Brendon. This... actually made a lot of sense. There was no way Brendon was lying, not about this. He’d been so quiet about what made him transfer, Spencer had given up figuring it out. Suddenly, he wished he’d pressed more. Brendon sounded so tired and looked so small when he talked about this. He probably didn’t actually get to talk to people about it often, if ever.
“I just wanted it to go away,” Brendon explained, eyes closed. “We were already working on my transfer to Hayden. Those other guys were expelled. The Board was scared I’d turn around and sue since there had been threats, and it happened on school property. The money was enough to pay a semester’s tuition and buy my car.”
Before he could help it, Spencer edged closer. Brendon’s hands were folded low on his stomach, keeping himself closed off. Spencer hated it and wanted to do something, anything. He slipped his hand under Brendon’s, turning it up until their fingertips brushed.
Brendon startled but linked their hands anyway.
“I - Why did they attack you?” Spencer felt Brendon squeeze his hand and started to backtrack. “You don’t have to tell me. I ... I can’t figure out why someone would do that to anyone, especially you.”
“They didn’t like me.” Brendon’s laugh was harsh and angry. “They never did. I never really fit in. Some things happened last summer that I was really excited about. I guess they didn’t like feeling inferior to me or something.”
“That doesn’t even make sense.”
“Did you expect it to?”
Spencer shook his head and used their clasped hands to pull himself closer until he could feel the heat radiating off Brendon’s body. Brendon’s eyes were open, dark and wide, staring straight at Spencer. This wasn’t something Spencer could fix; it was in the past and probably more involved than Brendon was letting on. But Spencer was a control freak who fixed things. He just wanted to help, even if there wasn’t anything left to be done.
“This is stupid, but. Is there anything I can do?”
Brendon reached out his free hand, fingers running over the light stumble on Spencer’s cheek. “Kiss me.”
Spencer’s breath caught. “What?”
“I know what I said, but.” Brendon chewed on his lip before offering up a tiny smile. “Our secret, right? Just, would you kiss me?”
Hearing that question in Brendon’s voice had been in the back of Spencer’s head since they’d been locked in Ian’s bathroom. It had possibly filtered into more than one of Spencer’s midnight daydreams. It was also probably a very, very not good idea.
Spencer kissed him anyway.
Normally, that wasn’t a shock, but Brendon distinctly remembered falling asleep sweaty, sated, and wrapped up in Spencer’s arms.
Holy fuck. This was not okay. This was not okay on so many levels that Brendon couldn’t even deal with it.
He shoved up onto his elbows and took a minute to feel like the world was falling in around him. The buzzing from his phone was a harsh reminder. Brendon might want the world to stop, but he didn’t get what he wanted too terribly often - not counting the whole first act on Pete Wentz’s imprint label thing.
Brendon scratched at his head until he thought he’d toned down the sex hair, then he reached for his phone.
There was a missed call from his parents and two text messages. The first text was from Spencer. He apologized for running out on Brendon but had to go babysit his sisters. He promised he’d call later and tacked a heart onto the end. It was enough to make Brendon’s chest loosen up some.
The next text was a reminder that he’d promised to go prom dress shopping with Greta at noon. It was already past 11.
“Fuck,” Brendon muttered even as he was jumping out of bed.
Brendon spent the day forcing smiles as Greta tried on a whole string of dresses and helping her pick out a fedora they’d decided Spencer needed to be forced to wear, if only to put his ego back in check. It should have been fun, but Brendon just felt queasy.
Even though he’d skipped breakfast, he couldn’t bring himself to do more than pick at the sandwich he ordered when they stopped for lunch.
“Are you okay?” Greta asked around her Triple Berry Smoothie. “You’re being all quiet and weird.”
Brendon shrugged. “I’m just tired. I didn’t really sleep last night.”
“Oh, yeah!” Greta pointed her straw at him. “You and Spencer were working on your mock trial. Did he get all demanding and bossy? Just pull his hair when he does that. Or bite him. That seems to work.”
“I’ll remember that.” He forced a couple bites down to hide his burning cheeks. Somehow, she was a lot closer to the truth than she could even realize.
Greta was just... She was super nice, with this feisty edge. Everything about her made you love her, and she thought Brendon was totally awesome.
She also didn’t know what Brendon was doing to her boyfriend less than 24 hours ago. Spencer had promised that Greta and he had an expiration date, but the guilt still sat heavy on Brendon’s chest. He should have waited. He shouldn’t have let Spencer being sweet and caring get to him.
He shouldn’t have asked Spencer to kiss him or begged Spencer to touch him.
This whole thing was a mess. Being a pre-rock star sucked when your boyfriend-ish-person also had a girlfriend you really liked.
Brendon was inexplicably exhausted when he got home, but there was nothing he could do about it. He was texting Spencer when a call from Cash came through. Cash actually calling someone was rare enough that Brendon expected it to be a pocket dial while Cash was hooking up with someone.
“Hello?” Brendon answered, ready to hang up immediately.
“Why’s Pete Wentz wearing a shirt with your name on it?”
Brendon’s legs went a little weak. “What?”
“Pete Wentz. You know. From Fall Out Boy.” Cash was over-enunciating, which never happened.
“Oh. Um. It’s a thing?” Brendon whispered. Shit, this wasn’t supposed to happen yet. He was supposed to have a few more weeks before press things started. Except, this wasn’t official press so much as Pete quietly drawing attention.
It was kind of genius, actually.
“A thing?” Cash snorted. “There’s a website on the back. I’m looking it up.”
“Cash, could you … not do that?”
“B, man, I have to. What kind of fanboy would I be if I didn’t?”
“A shitty one,” Brendon sighed. “But you’d be a good friend.”
There were a few tapping sounds followed by a click. Then Brendon heard his own voice and the opening chord of “Ballad of a Raindrop.”
“Holy motherfucking shit!” Cash yelled loud enough for Brendon’s ears to ring. “Are you fucking kidding me? You’re on Pete Wentz’s label?”
Brendon hung up.
When the screen cleared, Brendon actually paid attention to the date. Then he grabbed his laptop, sat on the sofa, and checked Pete’s blog. Of course there was already a link to Brendon’s “official” website. There wasn’t much on it: a clip of his lead single and a date, all in a dripping blue and teal font. There wasn’t even a picture.
It wasn’t going to matter.
Brendon knew he wouldn’t have too long before his phone started blowing up, depending how many people at Hayden were obsessed with Pete and everything he did. Knowing Cash, the whole school knew before he’d even finished the 30-second song clip..
When his phone rang, Brendon answered it without looking.
“What’s going on?” Spencer asked, skipping all the preamble.
“What do you mean? Did you talk to Cash?”
For the second time in half an hour, Brendon heard his song playing back at him. Brendon was really fucking proud of that song, loved the way it was mixed. His voice sounded a lot cleaner than he thought it actually was. But people shouldn’t have found out this way.
“I didn’t have to. It’s all over Facebook and Twitter,” Spencer gritted out. “You have an album release date. There’s a Tumblr tag for your name. Pete Wentz is calling you a close personal friend according to Hayley’s Tumblr and a fucking awesome new talent according to Marshall’s.”
Clearing his throat, Brendon tried to work out how angry Spencer was and what exactly he was upset about. He wasn’t having any luck so he just let his mouth go.
“The second one sounds like Pete, but the first one could have been a P.R. thing.” Brendon squeezed his eyes shut and leaned back against the cushions. The sofa had never felt less comfortable. “I got signed to Pete’s label last May. Patrick or Gabe - I’m not really sure which - saw me on Youtube and linked Pete.”
The song clip played completely through another time before Spencer responded. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I didn’t tell anyone,” Brendon tried to explain. “It’s why shit got bad before. Kids are mean, Spencer. I bragged a lot, yeah. But I was excited. I’d just finished the album when school started. My parents wouldn’t let me blow off the year or do some type of homeschool thing. People were jealous. They hated me for it.”
“Just listen.” Brendon shoved his laptop to the floor and curled up on his side. “I was never a big deal, but I mostly got ignored. I was fine with that, but this happened. I thought it would change something; I don’t know.” He pressed his face into the ugly throw pillow his mother got two Christmases ago. It muffled his voice a bit, but he didn’t care.
“It went to hell. Some guys from my guitar class who have some shitty wannabe punk band were high or drunk or something and jumped me for getting their slot on a label, even when they’d never been up for one. When I came to Hayden, I was just going to keep quiet about it. The single comes out at the beginning of May. I thought I had until then.”
When he ran out of things to say, Brendon’s throat was dry, and his eyes burned. Spencer’s breathing was loud in his ear.
“We talked about this last night.” Spencer snapped. “Why didn’t you tell me then? I get not telling everybody, but you lied to me.”
“You lied, Brendon.”
Suddenly, Brendon saw red. Under normal circumstances, Brendon probably would have held back. When he was staring fear right in the fucking face, though? Control became a thing of the past.
Who was Spencer to tell Brendon anything? Spencer was lying to his girlfriend and probably all his friends, other than Brendon. Maybe they’d been honest with each other, but that didn’t erase everything else in Spencer’s life.
“You’re not exactly a paragon of fucking honesty, Spencer.”
The line went dead, and Brendon squeezed his eyes shut. He kept them that way even as his phone started beeping. If he just stayed here and didn’t move long enough, this would be a dream, and Brendon would have another week to come clean to Spencer, Greta, Ian, and Cash.
Life would be easier if it worked that way, but Brendon hadn’t yet developed superpowers. He’d have to suck it up and deal.
Spencer was really fucking dreading second block and working with Brendon on a project they hadn’t talked about in a week.
“I don’t see how you can be mad at him for this,” Greta pointed out while they waited for school to start on Monday. She was sitting up on the wall, looking over Spencer’s shoulder. Spencer refused to turn around to see what or who she was looking for.
“Because he lied,” Spencer said. He sipped his coffee and shook his head. “I don’t see why you’re not.”
Greta kicked her feet against the brick wall before shooting one out to catch Spencer’s knee.
“Ow! What the fuck?” Rubbing at his knee, he gave her his most injured look.
“In case you forgot, Mr. High-and-Mighty, we’ve been lying to him the whole time.”
“How? Pray tell, Spence, explain it to me.” Greta wasn’t holding anything back that morning, which probably meant she hadn’t been able to get Brendon on the phone either. “I’m not seeing a difference. You said he didn’t want to tell anyone because of his last school. Don’t you think that makes sense?”
Begrudgingly, Spencer nodded. “It does, but he should have trusted us. Should have trusted me not to flip the fuck out on him.”
“Yeah.” Huffing an agitated breath, she hopped off the wall. She was a lot shorter than Spencer, but that didn’t stop her from squaring her shoulders and staring him down. “Like you should have trusted him not to out you to the whole school before you could get into Berkeley. He wasn’t going to ruin anything for you, but you didn’t trust him with that. Stop being a hypocrite.”
Throwing her hair over her shoulder, Greta stared marching toward the staff parking lot.
“Where’s she going?” Cash asked, skidding to a stop and stepping to the side to avoid Bridgette Murphey walking into him.
“Brendon just pulled in. I am going to see how he is,” Greta yelled back to them.
“We talking about Spencer’s boyfriend?” Ian asked from somewhere behind Cash.
“Fuck off and die,” Spencer grumbled before storming off. So what if he got to class a little early.
Things went downhill from there.
Brendon was walking with his head down and avoiding eye contact with everyone. Spencer had heard the whispers - some congratulatory, but most snarky. They were enough to make Spencer want to risk suspension just to punch Nick in his smug fucking face. If Spencer was that annoyed, he couldn’t imagine what Brendon was going through.
When second block rolled around, Brendon tried to sit down without acknowledging anyone other than Coach Wilson, who had stopped him by the door for some sort of heart-to-heart. Spencer was, admittedly, a little ashamed of himself since apparently one of the teachers was being more compassionate to the guy Spencer really fucking wanted to date than Spencer himself was.
“Hey,” Spencer said. He leaned over to rap his fingers against Brendon’s notebook. “Hey. Are you okay?”
“I’m sorry. Are we talking now?” Brendon asked, voice tight.
“Brendon, look. I’m still pissed you didn’t say any-fucking-thing, but - “
“Whatever. We have an assignment.” Brendon’s attention was trained on the mock courtroom set up at the front of the room when the tardy bell rang. “Don’t get me arrested.”
Brendon got convicted, but Coach Wilson awarded them an A for their attempt. Spencer could actually remember half of what he’d said during his stint as a pretend lawyer; he definitely wasn’t going to complain.
Before Spencer got the chance to corner Brendon again, Brendon ran away and skipped lunch. Ian wasn’t there either; Cash swore Ian and Brendon had decided to go off-campus for lunch. Spencer wanted to be upset about it, but Greta kicked him in the shin every time he started to mention it.
Spencer ended up listening to Cash talk about how awesome it was that they’d made friends with Brendon before they knew he was pretty much a big deal. What felt like three quarters of the Junior and Senior classes kept stopping by to mine for information.
Between Cash’s overt flirting, Greta’s sweetly voiced insults, and Spencer’s death-glares, people eventually stopped coming over by the end of the week.
When Brendon was back at their table the next week, everyone seemed even more leery of them. Spencer couldn’t blame them, not with the way Ian and Cash kept pointing out the icy rays of tension Spencer and Brendon were radiating toward one another.
In theory, things should get better. The longer Spencer thought about it - mostly because Greta wouldn’t shut up - the more he realized his reaction was one elongated dick move. Cash and Ian were hanging out with Brendon a lot but refused to be good friends and report anything back to Spencer. People at school wouldn’t shut the fuck up about Brendon knowing famous people and either tried to become his new best friend or kept wondering who he’d fucked to get the chance.
Everything was hell, and the only end Spencer saw in sight was graduation. Getting out of here was the only way Spencer thought anything would get fixed.
Then he got an email from Brendon. May third was allegedly the day Brendon’s single was going up on iTunes, which Spencer knew from hours of relentless Google searching. The Friday after that, there was apparently some party happening at one of the hotels on the strip.
According to the email, the only way to get in if you were underage was to be on the guest-list. Brendon had taken care of that and really hoped Spencer would come.
This was his olive branch. This was Brendon reaching out and trying to med bridges before everything went to ash and washed away.
Greta, Ian, and Cash were invited in a mass email, apparently. Spencer was the only one with a personal message. He had to go.
Not that he knew what the hell he was going to do once he got there.
Greta, Ian, and Cash were all too excited to be much help. They were bouncing and laughing all over the place, cackling in Spencer’s face whenever he bitched at them for it. Everyone somehow managed to contain themselves when they hit the casino floor, sticking to the pathway between the machines and following the signs for the bar.
Somewhere between the slot machines and card tables, Greta stopped and waved her phone in Spencer’s face.
“Brendon’s in the lobby. Go back.”
“But... party!” Cash flailed a little, grumbling when Ian snatched his arm and tugged him after Greta.
Spencer went along because he didn’t know what else to do.
Finding the lobby was a pain in the ass, but Cash apparently knew hotel floorplans better than most people. Spencer thought it was better not to ask why.
Brendon was standing across from the elevators, picking at the fake flowers on a random decorative table. His face lit up when Ian called out to him. The expression cemented into something Spencer had taken to dubbing Brendon’s “publicity” face after seeing the promotion stills for the album.
Greta pulled Brendon into a hug as soon as she was close enough. “Thank you for inviting us! This is so exciting!”
“Yeah. I think so, too.” Brendon’s laugh was forced.
Spencer wasn’t sure what he hated more: himself or Brendon’s fake cheer. They needed to work things out, and it needed to happen now.
“Come on. Pete keeps sending me texts about being M.I.A. at my own party.” Brendon pushed his way between Ian and Cash.
It was no or never. Never was the more appealing option, but Greta was making meaningful eyes at Spencer. Spencer wiped his sweaty palms on his tight, dark jeans, before stepping around Ian. He grabbed Brendon’s wrist.
“Can I talk to you for a minute?”
Brendon looked caged, shooting looks everywhere but Spencer. “Does it have to be right now? I kind of have a thing happening, you know.”
“Please, Brendon,” Spencer asked. “It’s important. I need to explain some things.”
“It’s probably for the best,” Greta added. She waved Ian and Cash off, reaching out to tug at Spencer’s shoulder. “Come on. Five minutes, right? That’s all you need.”
“Yeah. That’s all I need.”
Brendon chewed on his lower lip but nodded. He pulled away from Spencer and followed Greta past the elevators and into a hallway that seemed to lead toward an arcade and an expensive looking row of shops.
Everything was quieter at this end of the hall. Everything seemed to echo, but Spencer figured this was the best he was going to get. He should have done this days ago.
“Okay, boys. Have fun.” Greta started to walk away, but Brendon called out to her.
“You need to hear some of this,” he told her.
She gave Spencer a confused look until he nodded. “Okay. I don’t get why, but...”
Brendon’s cheeks were a dull red when he said “I slept with Spencer.”
“Brendon!” Spencer huffed. How could Brendon just blurt it out like that? There had to have been a better way. Or maybe Spencer was hoping he wouldn’t have to tell Greta this part.
“What?” Greta didn’t ask Brendon; she was looking directly at Spencer. Her lips kept twitching like she couldn’t decide if she wanted to yell or not. “Why didn’t you tell me that?”
“It wasn’t relevant. It didn’t involve you,” Spencer tried to tell her.
She slapped him before he could say anything else. Spencer sucked a breath in through his teeth and reached up to rub his cheek. It was hard to tell if the hit or the gesture stung more; for all their arguments and play-fights, Greta had never intentionally hurt him. Maybe he’s just never deserved it.
“What was that for?”
“Because you’re a bigger jerk than I thought! Jesus, Spencer!” She shook her head and turned to look at Brendon. “Just so you know, I did that for you. I know you wouldn’t hit him and someone needed to.”
“You should probably hit me, too,” Brendon whispered. He wouldn’t look up at anyone, even when Greta tapped his hand.
“Honey, Spencer has a lot he needs to tell you.” She turned to point back the way they’d come. “I’ll be right down there making sure Spencer doesn’t chicken out of this. If you want me to kick him with my heels, just yell.”
She sent one final glare Spencer’s way before storming off.
“What does she mean?” Brendon asked, voice soft and hesitant.
Spencer cleared his throat. “Um. I’m not actually dating Greta.”
Brendon’s eyes widened. “When did you two break up? No one said - “
“No. We were never really dating. It’s been an act.” This had always seemed like a good idea, his whole plan to trick everyone. When he actually said it aloud, though, it sounded childish and stupid.
“What do you mean?”
Spencer couldn’t describe how Brendon’s voice sounded. Instead, he tried to make himself explain things. Brendon had done that when his secret came up; Spencer owed him as much.
“When Greta moved here from Chicago in middle school, we became friends really fast. She dated Ryan for about thirty seconds before I did.” Spencer replayed the sentence in his head. “Dated Ryan, I mean. It wasn’t anything. We’d been friends since we were little, we wanted to figure things out. Turns out, Ryan’s not really into guys, but I am.”
Understanding was starting to show in Brendon’s eyes, Spencer tried to power through it.
Spencer couldn’t look at him. Instead, he started pacing. He didn’t let himself take the whole length of the hallway, but a few feet in either direction was enough.
“But I wanted to go to Berkeley. You know that. All I ever wanted was Berkeley. We visited my cousin there when I was a kid, and I always wanted to go back.”
“I know,” Brendon said. “Everyone knows that.”
“Right,” Spencer sighed. “But to get into Berkeley and have a shot at a scholarship, I needed extra curriculars. I had a few, but when high school started I talked to the counsellor. She said Berkeley liked leadership qualities. If I could get class president, I’d be set. I’ve had it all four years, Brendon. I wouldn’t have if everyone in school knew I was different.”
“Spencer,” Brendon snapped. He stepped right into Spencer’s path, effectively stopping the pacing. Spencer backed up a couple steps. “For a Catholic school, their bullying rules are really fucking strict. We looked into that before I came there. They even have an Allies club. And no one gives a shit about Cash, who hooks up with literally anyone he can talk into it.”
“But Cash wasn’t running for things. Cash doesn’t need people to like him.”
“So this was to keep your popularity?” He was completely incredulous; Spencer didn’t blame him.
Brendon reached out to twist his fingers in Spencer’s shirt. “That doesn’t explain why you didn’t tell me. You let me get all worked up because I thought you were cheating on Greta with me.”
“I know. I should have said something, but I hadn’t told anyone other than my parents and the guys in so long.” Spencer scratched at his hair before tilting his head back to look at the too intricate ceiling. “It was almost over. I didn’t expect you to happen. I thought it would be fine. We’d make it though graduation, and I’d never see you again.”
Dropping his hold, Brendon stepped away. “Congratulations. After graduation, you don’t have to see my anymore. Outside of school, you don’t have to see me ever, actually.”
“Wait,” Spencer caught at Brendon’s hand. He wrapped both hands around Brendon’s right and tried to pull him closer. “I don’t want that anymore. We can make something work, right?”
“No,” Brendon practically yelled. After breathing for a moment, Brendon pulled away and started again, quieter. “You lied to me. Then you got mad at me for lying to you.”
“I know, but - “
Brendon threw his hands up. “Do you even get how fucked up that is? I lied about having a record deal, yeah. But that doesn’t involve you. You let me feel bad about myself because you lied about having a girlfriend while you were trying to hook up with me.”
“Which, objectively, is worse - “ Spencer tried, only to be cut off again.
“Go home, Spencer.”
“Please, just - “
Shaking his head, Brendon turned to look somewhere toward where Greta was waiting by the exit toward the elevators. “Go. I don’t want to talk to you anymore. As far as I’m concerned, you don’t exist. Good luck on the rest of your life.”
Spencer thought he knew what a broken heart felt like. People wrote movies, books, and songs about it. He’d thought his heart was breaking when his best friend moved to New York for college. He thought Brendon ignoring him before was bad. This was completely different.
This was a physical pain in his chest that spread out through the rest of his body without any defined endpoint. It was horrible, and Spencer had brought it on himself.
“I’m sorry,” Spencer tried. When Brendon still didn’t look at him, Spencer walked past him.
Greta shook hear head when they passed each other in the hall. She wagged a finger at him when he opened his mouth, but didn’t look at him.
Spencer couldn’t blame her, either.
Fuck. This was Gossip Girl levels of fucked up. He wasn’t sure anyone would be talking to him when the night was over, and he hadn’t even seen Cash ort Ian yet.
Hopefully, he could sneak through the lobby before they caught him.
Brendon leaned his right shoulder against the wall, wallowing enough that he turned to press his forehead against the wall and glare at the tacky wallpaper.
“You okay?” Greta asked, laying a hand between Brendon’s shoulder blades.
He wasn’t sure if he was ever going to be okay again, actually. That was the type of over-dramatic bullshit she’d call him on, though. Instead of saying anything, Brendon shrugged.
“Spencer’s kind of an asshole, but he means well.”
“We’ve been fucked up for months, Greta,” Brendon snapped. “Which, yeah, fine, that’s not all his fault. But he yelled at me for lying to him.”
Greta sighed. “I know. Trust me, Brendon, I know. I’ve been telling him since January to tell you the truth. If I’d known you guys were hooking up, I would have told you myself.”
Some part of Brendon wanted to be angry that she hadn’t. He wanted to rail at her and track down Ian and Cash to have it out with them. He wouldn’t. There wasn’t any reason to. They had been protecting Spencer.
They were good friends, and Brendon wasn’t going to fault them for that. Maybe a whole hell of a lot of confusion could have been avoided, but they couldn’t possibly have known quite how far Brendon had gotten in over his head. From the way Greta slapped Spencer, Brendon knew he wasn’t the only one upset over the whole thing.
“I’m really sorry I never told you,” Greta whispered. “We’ve been keeping this a secret for him for so long that saying anything would have been weird.”
“I get it.” Brendon rolled against the wall until Greta stepped back, and he could look at her. “I should have said something to you, anyway. I thought you guys were actually together. It … wasn’t my finest moment.”
Greta laughed and shrugged. “But we’re not. It’s fine. Spencer isn’t shady enough to actually cheat on someone. I’m just sorry we all lied to you.”
“Not your responsibility,” Brendon pointed out. “School’s going to suck. I don’t even want to look at his face.”
Brendon studied Greta’s shoes while she hummed and let them lapse into silence. It shouldn’t have been this easy. Greta should have been upset on principle, if nothing else. Just when Brendon opened his mouth to try to convince her to be angry with him - because he was apparently a crazy person - Greta hopped a little and flattened her dress against her thighs.
“You know what? Fuck Spencer. We’ll deal with him later. I will deal with him later.” Greta looked like a tiny, blonde, ball of fury. Brendon had never liked her more. “Right now, there’s a party going on, and you’re the guest of honor.”
Greta held out a hand, Brendon stared for a long moment before he took it in his own. They were silent all the way back to the lobby, even as people Brendon vaguely recognized greeted him in passing.
“One day, I’m going to have paparazzi trailing me and might need a cover. Want to be my beard?” Brendon asked, only a little choked up.
When they stepped into the main lobby, Greta giggled. “Sorry, pal. That’s a service I no longer offer.”
“Damn.” Brendon feigned a sigh right before Ian and Cash descended.
Ian looked pissed; they must have talked to Spencer on his way out.
“I’m going to sell his drums. They’re in my basement. I could do it.”
“I could put out a hit. I think I know a girl whose dad might be in the mafia,” Cash offered.
Brendon wasn’t sure if it was a joke or not. Laughing, he felt light enough to throw an arm around Ian’s shoulders and direct everyone back toward the hotel’s bar.
“Thanks, but it’s good. Want me to introduce you guys to some bands?”
Cash and Ian were still giving Brendon these sideways glances, but they started talking over each other, too excited to miss this opportunity. Greta squeezed Brendon’s hand until he reciprocated the gesture.
Maybe they were Spencer’s friends - had been Spencer’s friends first - but they obviously cared about Brendon, too. That was going to have to be enough.
When Pete fell into Brendon’s group as soon as he saw them through the dim club-esque lights, Brendon figured it could be.
He was going to miss Spencer a fucking lot, but he had other things and people to keep him distracted. Hell, Cash would even make out with him if Brendon wanted.
Spencer sort of coasted until lunch when he turned up at their table, and Brendon wasn’t there. No one ever figured it out, but Brendon always managed to disappear in the ten minutes between second block and the tardy bell. For someone who hadn’t even been here for a whole semester, Brendon had a surprising array of tricks.
“Has anyone talked to - “
“We’re not talking about Brendon with you,” Ian snapped.
When Spencer looked up, Ian was focusing more on his cheesburger than anything else. Cash was looking at Spencer and nodding, though. Greta kicked him, presumably just because she could.
“You don’t have to -”
“No,” Greta told him. “You made this mess. We’re not going to stop hanging out with you because of it, but we’re not taking sides, either.”
“Brendon decided he isn’t eating lunch in here anymore. He keeps saying he can’t look at your lying face,” Cash explained. “I was going to go off-campus with him, but he was pulling out before I got out there.”
Spencer sighed. “Look, guys.”
“What?” Ian asked, word soft since his mouth was full. He swallowed. “You slept with him and let him think you were dating Greta. That’s really fucking shitty, dude.”
The other two nodded. Spencer shoved his lunch away and folded his arms on the table. “I know. I was just... scared.”
“Yeah. Sucks for you,” Cash shrugged.
Greta leaned across the table to pat Spencer’s arm. “I get it, but Brendon doesn’t. I’m not surprised. Don’t push him and don’t push us. You guys get joint custody.”
“I don’t know. I might choose to go with Brendon. He knows famous people.”
“Shut up, Cash.” Spencer rolled his eyes then his his face against his arms.
“Oh, by the way,” Greta said. “We’re not Facebook official anymore. I changed my status last block.”
“That’s fine.” At this point, Spencer didn’t give two shits what anyone in this school thought.
They couldn’t do anything to him this late in the game, not anything that would jeopardize Berkeley. His best friends were mad at him, and Brendon couldn’t tolerate being around him for 45 minutes. Spencer had more important things to angst over than what the cheerleaders or Nick and his crew of douchebag overachievers thought.
Over the next few days, Spencer got a tiny taste of what Brendon must have been going through. Everyone was whispering about him, or it felt that way. People wanted to know why Spencer and Greta had broken up when they’d been together for almost four years. Spencer kept telling everyone to mind their own business; Greta just shrugged and said high school relationships never lasted anyway.
Brendon still wasn’t looking at him. Ian was still snapping. Cash had upped his witty, asshole commentary. Greta just looked disappointed a lot.
Spencer could take it. He had to. That was fine. He’d just hide in his house until First Year Orientation at Berkeley. His parents would probably appreciate all the free child care for his sisters over the summer.
School wasn’t as bad as it had been before he’d transferred, thank fuck. No one shoved him around or yelled at him in the halls out of envy and misguided values. No, they were alternatively acting like he didn’t exist and talking behind his back in these annoying hushed voices that the shitty hallway acoustics carried to anyone who cared to listen. Brendon kind of wanted to punch everyone in the face.
Classes weren’t really an issue; Brendon could focus on the work and ignore everyone. Lunch, though, lunch was horrible.
Brendon levelly refused to sit alone in the cafeteria, and he wasn’t about to sit there while everyone talked about him like he wasn’t there when he took a spot at the end of a table. Cash, Ian, and Greta tried to flag him down, but Brendon refused to look at Spencer’s stupid, lying, hypocritical face lest he give into the urge to break his hand on it.
Instead, Brendon took to breaking Rule One of Coop Care: eating inside the car. Whatever, it was better this way. Brendon only spent a couple days on his own before Greta, Ian, and Cash started some weird alternating schedule of stalking him across the parking lot and knocking on the window until Brendon let them inside.
“You should just come sit with us,” Greta tried to tell him. “Spencer’s really very sorry. He won’t talk to you if you don’t want him to. Trust me, I have that boy by the balls right now.”
While Brendon appreciated how annoyed she was on his behalf and, apparently, because Spencer had been lying to all his friends, Spencer wasn’t the whole problem. No one seemed to get that.
“I don’t think so,” Brendon said around a bite of apple.
Greta sighed at him but let it drop in favor of discussing all her grand plans for when she was back in Chicago with her actual boyfriend and studying music education at the University of Illinois. She was good like that, never asking for too much; hell, she wouldn’t even let him apologize for helping Spencer lie to her. Granted, Brendon wouldn’t let her apologize either, so maybe they broke even.
Ian was the easiest. He just fiddled with the radio and played a lot of air guitar. He even let Brendon play air drums and rant about how annoying it was that the Ninth Doctor had only had a season, even if Rose had more chemistry with Ten.
“We could make out,” Cash offered before slurping obnoxiously at his milkshake.
Brendon smirked despite himself. “No thanks, man.”
“Your loss. You want I should send Spencer out instead?”
Stealing Cash’s drink, Brendon glared. “Was that even English?”
“Fuck grammar. I do what I want.” That pretty much summed up Cash’s entire personality; Brendon decided to leave it alone.
It was just a few more weeks. Brendon could deal with this until he could blow this fucking town and never look back. Well, he might look back at Christmas if he’s not on tour, but he will not be interacting with any of these bitches that weren’t standing by him.
Especially Spencer. Fuck Spencer Smith and his eyes and his lies and… Brendon was going to immortalize him in a hateful break up song, ala Taylor Swift but with an edge. Spencer had fucking asked for it.
Brendon was even more convinced he needed a break up song when Cash fucking waylaid him one morning. Doing anything ahead of schedule was unprecedented for Brendon, but he hadn’t really been sleeping; Spencer’s fault, sort of. Pete’s random 2 a.m. text conversations didn’t help, but it was easier to blame Spencer.
“Yo, man.” Cash threw an arm around Brendon’s shoulders, steering him toward the group on the wall.
Greta and Ian were waving their hands around and yelling at Spencer. For his part, Spencer was hiding behind his coffee mug – a new, larger one – and sunglasses.
“Tell him!” Ian waved a hand dangerously close to Brendon’s face.
“Tell who what?” Brendon really hoped they hadn’t decided to try to manage this clusterfuck. The clusterfuck was perfectly managed, thanks; if by managed Brendon meant ignored. Which he did.
Greta huffed and stabbed at Spencer’s shoulder with an ink pen. “Spencer’s refusing to go to prom because he says you don’t want him to. Except you guys aren’t talking so I know you never told him that.”
“And I’ve hung out with you every day for a fucking month. You would have told me something.” Ian pouted enough for Brendon to reach out and ruffle his curls. Ian was all sorts of adorable sometimes.
When he didn’t say anything, three sets of eyes pinned him down. Brendon was avoiding Spencer for a reason, fuck. Tugging his bag higher on his shoulder, Brendon cleared his throat.
Spencer turned his head up, but there was no way to know where he was looking. Brendon snatched Spencer’s Ray-Bans and shoved them on top his own head. When Brendon was content with Spencer’s attempt at maintaining eye contact, Brendon frowned at him and took a breath.
His heart was trying to beat out of his chest. He couldn’t do this. Not anymore. He couldn’t talk to Spencer when he knew Spencer was single, into guys, and had a thing for Brendon. This had to go quick and sharp, like a band-aid. Otherwise, Brendon was liable to start kissing Spencer right outside their very Catholic school’s parking lot while students wandered about and still paid too much attention to Brendon.
“You’re going,” Brendon told him. “Patrick thinks – “
“I still can’t believe you’re fucking friends with Patrick Stump!”
“Ian!” Greta hissed.
Brendon ignored them. “- I should go. So. We’re all going. Ian’s taking Cassadee. Cash is pretending he’s taking me. You’re taking Greta. You promised.”
“Yeah, but I don’t want it to be weird or whatever.” Spencer’s voice was soft and gravely, kind of like it was when he was turned on.
Brendon was going to die.
“It’s going to be fine. We’ll go, pretend we aren’t in a fight, and have a good time. Plus, I picked you an awesome hat.”
Spencer’s lips twitched into what wanted to be a smile, and Brendon fought not to close his eyes. “I’m not wearing a fedora.”
“I want a fedora!” Ian cut in. Greta shushed him while Brendon waved him off.
“You’re wearing the fedora.”
For the first time probably ever, Spencer didn’t argue. Instead, he nodded and stared at his feet. Looking up, he caught Brendon’s eyes again. “You sure we’re okay?”
Choking on his breath a little, Brendon shook his head. “We’re not. But you have a reputation to maintain, and we all deserve a decent prom to prove this shit is almost over.”
Rapidly blinking, Spencer nodded. His mouth opened a few times, but Brendon turned his back before Spencer managed to say something that would have Brendon apologizing.
“Ow! Burn!” Cash laughed.
There was a sound that was probably Ian punching Cash in the arm, but Brendon didn’t turn to look. He kept walking until he was inside, until he was through the locker bay and into the deserted boys’ bathroom in the new wing. Brendon pushed the door closed and leaned against it.
He was going to be late for first block, but Cash would cover for him. Probably. Even if he didn’t, it was better that Brendon stayed hidden until he could think again. Spencer was always making Brendon’s head go all foggy.
Scratching a hand through his hair, Spencer’s sunglasses went flying. When they didn’t break, Brendon stared at them until his eyes burned.
He couldn’t do this. He couldn’t. Except he had to. Just for another month.
If Brendon wanted to pretend like they could be upset with each other and still hang out with the same people, fine. Spencer was game. He still didn’t have to like it.
About the only thing he liked about prom so far, was the way he looked. He had to admit, the fedora was kind of hot. Brendon had been right; of course, he had.
Spencer picked Greta up from her hair and make-up appointment and hung out with her mom while Greta finished getting ready. She looked amazing in her pale yellow dress, if you were into that kind of thing.
Greta was a good sport, riding back to Spencer’s house to take the obligatory pictures for Spencer’s parents’ mantel. The twins acted like hellions the entire time, but at least it had made Spencer laugh enough for the smiles in the pictures to be real.
They went out to dinner, running into four different couples from school. Greta tried to make Spencer laugh, but it wasn’t working. This whole night was going to be a test in endurance, and Spencer wasn’t sure he was going to win.
When they pulled into the parking lot for the ballroom the prom committee had rented, Spencer’s iPod cycled back to the beginning of his playlist.
Greta’s eyebrows shot up. “Is this ‘Ballad of a Raindrop’?”
Spencer tried to grab his iPod before Greta did, but she was a crafty ninja. “Yes, it is. Happy?”
“Not really. I’m not surprised.” Greta shook her head and hummed along to the chorus. “I didn’t know you bought it.”
“I thought you weren’t surprised.” Spencer might have gone a little overboard when Brendon’s song was released. Whatever, his parents needed more music and his sisters would download anything. If that meant he’d managed to pay for it six times before buying it from Amazon, well. Spencer was being supportive.
“I’m not.” Greta pulled the sun-visor down to check her make-up one last time before opening her door. “Let’s go. The sooner we get in there, the sooner we can plausibly leave.”
Spencer nodded and followed her in, fiddling with his hat the entire time. While they were waiting in the check-in line, Spencer sighed.
“Brace yourself, we’re about to be a topic of conversation.”
“In your dreams,” Greta laughed.
She ended up being right, of course. Everyone had been shocked by their break-up, but their continued friendship apparently meant no one was shocked they had come together. Apparently, Greta had been asked by a couple different guys, but they didn’t know about Bob and the relationship Greta was actually in, so. Bob didn’t mind Greta fake-dating Spencer, but Spencer knew him well enough from random phone calls and that one trip to Chicago last year to know Bob wasn’t much for sharing.
Spencer wouldn’t be much for sharing Brendon, if he had the option, so he couldn’t judge.
These days, Spencer wasn’t judging much.
Ian and Cassadee showed up a few songs later, Cash and Brendon not too far behind them. As soon as Brendon walked in, a hush fell over the miscellaneous conversations for a solid thirty seconds before the whispering started.
Brendon was a fucking showman. He didn’t even slow down as they crossed the room. He pulled Greta into a tight hug and kissed Cassadee’s hand without missing a beat.
“Everyone’s brought their A game,” Brendon told them. “I’m suitably impressed.”
“Me too,” Spencer told him.
No one else acknowledged that he said it, but Brendon blushed this light pink color and ducked his head.
Spencer wanted to say something else, but. But he was a little caught up staring at the way Brendon looked, all dressed up. It shouldn’t have been possible for Brendon to look as good in any clothing as he did out of all of it, but there you had it. Brendon was standing there in a suit that looked like it had been made just for him. A red bow tie was fastened at his throat and matched his boutonniere. He even broke out a top hat for God knows what reason. He looked pretentious and fucking amazing.
No one could blame Spencer for staring. They should have been staring just as much.
“All right, rock star,” Greta chirped. “Let’s get a drink. Spencer’s being a shitty date.”
“That’s because he keeps staring at pretty boys in your presence,” Cash laughed.
Spencer wanted to glare but didn’t have it in him. Instead, he flipped Cash off and pretended to check his phone, like everyone who sent him messages wasn’t already in this room.
Everything was actually working out for most of the night. Greta ran interference, dancing with Brendon and Spencer alternately. Whole groups of them danced during the fast songs without it getting too dirty, but Ian made sure there was always someone between Brendon and Spencer so it’s not like Spencer had the choice of not keeping his hands to himself.
They were just coming down from dancing like they were insane to some Kesha song when the night took a turn for the worst.
Spencer had just slipped out of the crowd to get a drink, but the floor was still full. A slightly slower but still bouncy song came on. Everyone in this room knew this song, even if it might not be in the iTunes Top 100 or anything.
And they all froze.
Spencer wasn’t sure if this was a joke played by one of the jack asses who liked to mutter insulting things under his breath or if the DJ had no idea about the student body. Either way, Brendon’s song was playing at ear-splitting volume through out the entire ballroom.
Greta grabbed Spencer’s elbow, and Ian muttered a curse from behind them. Spinning around, Spencer tried to catch Brendon’s eyes, but there were too many people in the way.
It was everyone in the Junior and Senior classes with a few underclassmen mixed in, all walking away. Every single one of them was fleeing the dancefloor because Brendon’s song was playing.
Brendon - who had been so stoic throughout everything - was stuck on the edge of the floor. People brushed by him, a few seemingly saying things in his general direction. Spencer doubted they were apologizing for bumping into him or congratulating him on having a song with enough interest for the DJ to already be playing it.
No, they were just walking away and leaving Brendon to stand there on his own.
“This is bullshit,” Cash snapped. He slammed his punch cup down with enough force to slosh half of it out onto the tablecloth.
It was ironic, in a way. Spencer had listened to “Ballad of a Raindrop” enough times to have the theme figured out. The song was a strange juxtaposition of peppy indie-pop music with maudlin lyrics about a lonely raindrop falling from the oppressive clouds and meeting groups of accepting water droplets in puddles on the ground. It was about a fall from grace that was necessary for finding happiness and friendship.
And the whole fucking school had missed the point.
“Fuck this noise.”
“Spencer, what - “
He didn’t stick around to hear what Greta was saying.. The rushing in his ears probably would have made it impossible anyway. He stormed across the room, shoulder-checking Nick and three of his lemmings on the way.
“Fucking assholes. Should be ashamed of yourselves,” Spencer sneered.
When the crowd thinned out, Spencer looked back. Everyone was behind him. They were all sitting at tables and congregating in hateful looking groups. His - and Brendon’s - crew were still by the drinks table, looking conflicted until Spencer gave up on watching any of them.
At some point, his life had turned into a TV show. That was one of the many things Spencer was finally ready to stop caring about.
Spencer took a deep breath and held his head high. Fuck everyone who wanted Brendon to be ashamed of his success. Fuck them all very much.
He held out a hand and met Brendon’s eyes.
Brendon startled - actually jumped - at Spencer’s voice. He wasn’t sure why. He was surprised it was Spencer, sure, but he was also surprised anyone was talking to him at all.
“What?” Brendon choked out, throat raw and tight with un-shed tears.
“Dance with me, Brendon. Please?”
Spencer’s eyes were shining when Brendon looked up. He didn’t look resigned or scared, not like Brendon would have expected. No, Spencer’s expression was steeled and fierce, like he was willing to take on the world for Brendon.
Brendon took his hand.
Spencer’s shoulders lost some rigidity as he led Brendon to the center of the dancefloor. He lifted their hands and dropped the other to Brendon’s waist. After only a moment’s hesitation, Brendon placed his free hand on Spencer’s shoulder.
They weren’t dancing, not really. They were swaying, mostly to the beat because Spencer was good at keeping time.
Brendon stared over Spencer’s shoulder, trying to look at the lights so he wouldn’t see the hatred people were radiating at them. Spencer turned them until Brendon was looking at the back wall instead. He pulled back enough to see Spencer’s face.
“Thank you,” Brendon whispered.
Spencer stopped making faces at people over Brendon’s shoulder to meet his eyes. “Why are you thanking me?”
“Because you came out here when no one else would,” Brendon whispered. “And you kind of just blew your cover.
“Fuck it,” Spencer snapped. He blinked his eyes back into focus and looked at Brendon, studied something Brendon must have been doing with his expression. “Kids are mean. I’m sorry I was one of them.”
Tightening his hold on Spencer, Brendon stretched up to rest his chin on Spencer’s shoulder. “I’m sorry I’ve been so mad at you.”
Head tipping over to lean against Brendon’s, Spencer breathed out slowly. “I deserved it. I’m sorry about everything.”
“You’re making up for it,” Brendon laughed.
It was so fucking surreal, listening to his song play in the middle of prom and dancing with a boy he liked. Maybe the rest of the school was full of assholes and bitches, but everything else was all right.
There was some shuffling behind them. Turning as far as he could without letting go, Brendon saw Greta and Cash take a place on the floor not far away. Greta grinned, and Cash threw him a thumbs-up. Ian was a few feet away, swaying with Cassadee; Brendon didn’t know her very well, but she was smiling at him from behind her emo hair.
Brendon turned around, and Spencer was giving him that bright as the sun smile. For a minute, Brendon forgot where he was and started to lean in for a kiss. He caught himself just in time to change his trajectory and lean his forehead against Spencer’s. His eyes went crossed when he tried to keep looking at Spencer’s grin.
“You’re fucking amazing.” There was something akin to awe in Spencer’s voice. “I’m really glad I got to know you.”
It was too much. In the middle of chaos, this moment felt almost too perfect. Brendon closed his eyes against it and laughed as the song switched to something legitimately slow. Spencer pulled him closer and slowly, couple-by-couple, people returned to the floor.
Prom wasn’t what everyone always promised it would be, but Brendon ended up with the perfect date and a goodnight kiss. There wasn’t anything to complain about.
Facebook and Twitter were buzzing about Brendon and Spencer as much as the dance itself, but Brendon didn’t care. Spencer didn’t either, showing up around noon the next day and physically dragging Brendon away and out on a real first date. Dinner and a movie was cliche, but it was a classic one.
Monday was more of the same, except the whispers were about Spencer, and Spencer’s hand was in Brendon’s.
Greta was always somewhere nearby with fake complaints about losing her boyfriend to someone with a better singing voice. Cash threw increasingly horrible pick-up lines at the haters until they ran away. Ian interrupted anyone who might have an issue by telling them about various superhero plot lines. Even Cassadee had started hanging around and telling everyone who had a problem exactly where they could shove it before she ruined the remainder of their high school careers; everyone knew how fast rumors flew once the Color Guard got involved.
Overall, if this was what they had to get through during the last remaining weeks until finals and graduation, Brendon thought they could manage it.
They were all going to be okay.
“You are a saint.”
Brendon looked up from the last dregs of his smoothie. His forehead creased as he tilted his head. “What do you mean?”
“Dealing with everyone talking about you all the time.’ Spencer sighed and poked at his sandwich. In retrospect, anything with avocado was probably a bad idea.
“You get used to it,” Brendon shrugged. “Seriously, Spence. A couple weeks and you won’t even notice. Then we’ll graduate, and it won’t even matter.”
“Maybe you’re right.”
Of course he was. In the six-ish months Spencer had known Brendon, there had been very few things he was wrong about. It was best just to trust his instincts. Besides, Spencer was too stubborn to let on how irritating – fucking infuriating - everyone at school was.
But it was only a few more weeks. In less than a month, they would be listening to inane speeches – one of which Spencer was expected to make – and throwing their caps into the air. After that, the high school drama would stop being a big deal.
It’s not like it followed you for the rest of your life. Hopefully.
When Nick cornered him after the final Student Council meeting, Spencer wasn’t so sure.
“You were this close to having the scholarship.” Nick was smarmy and aggravating the way only overindulged trust fund kids could be.
Distractedly, Spencer asked “What are you talking about?” There were three missed texts on his phone. Even if they were from his sisters, those had to be infinitely more interesting than anything Nick had to say.
“The scholarship,” Nick helpfully repeated. “The one I was just awarded? That was so fucking close to being yours.”
“Does it matter? Neither of us actually need it. Melanie should have gotten it.”
Spencer had done a little campaigning for that before the whole prom thing. Melanie was at Hayden on a sponsorship and accepted to UNLV with an academic scholarship that didn’t cover room and board or books. Her parents’ economic status would probably qualify her for a few grants or, at the very least, loans. Every little bit would have helped, though. Spencer had thought about handing it over to her if he’d gotten the votes for it.
Nick scoffed. “It’s just another popularity contest. No one actually cared who needed the damn thing.”
“Is this going somewhere?” Spencer shoved his phone into his pocket and dug through his backpack for his keys. “I kind of have stuff to do.”
“Date with your boyfriend?”
For a minute, Spencer saw red. Sheer force of will helped him keep the rage in check; you didn’t win class president three years running through a lack of diplomacy. “Does it matter to you?”
“Not really,” Nick shrugged. “I’m kind of glad, actually. When they whole school figured out you’d been lying to them, all that favoritism they heaped on you fell to me. Too bad you didn’t do that when I could still impeach you.”
“Fuck you, man.” Spencer rolled his eyes and turned down the hall. “It’s high school politics. No one’s going to care in August.”
By the time he was shoving through the main exit, Spencer felt a grin tugging at his lips. He’d maybe had a bit of a block with his stupid five minute speech, but he finally knew where to go with it.
When he stood on the graduation stage a week later, staring out at a sea of polyester gowns, Spencer knew he’d gotten his speech right. They were finished. They’d all been given their diplomas; the only thing standing between them and the future was a ton of antiquated ceremony.
If he was ever going to make a statement, this was the time.
“We’ve spent four years trying to be something, trying to become what we thought we were supposed to be.” Taking a deep breath, he leaned closer to the microphone. “From today forward, none of that matters. What we did or didn’t do. Who we liked or hated. The lies we told or truths we threw out with superiority. It doesn’t count.”
There were a few mutters from the crowd, mostly the parents and assorted guests who wouldn’t catch the double-meaning. Spencer sought out his parents then his friends, both in the stands and graduate seating. Then he found Brendon, near the back and on the end of a center row.
“We get to start over. You don’t get too many chances to do that. Take advantages of it. Reinvent yourself. Become someone you’d like to be and people will be proud to know. That’s what graduation is. It’s a time to grow up and move on. Don’t turn around and don’t look back. The last four years didn’t matter, but the rest? All of those do.”
Stepping back, Spencer almost ignored the hand the principal was holding out. Spencer shook it on autopilot before bolting down the stairs to the smattering of compulsory applause.
During rehearsal, Spencer was always sent directly to his seat to sit through the choir’s rendition of the alma mater and Nick’s Valedictorian speech. After that, the principal was supposed to give closing remarks and let them loose to act celebratory and ridiculous.
He was getting a jumpstart on the ridiculous.
Bypassing his first row, Honor’s Graduate seat, Spencer strode with purpose down the aisle. Those whispers he’d been bitching about were back with a vengeance, but he didn’t care. This time, he was going to give them something to fucking talk about.
“Spencer, what are you doing?” Brendon’s whisper was nearly lost in the chorus of other voices.
“It doesn’t matter.”
Grabbing Brendon by the collar, Spencer tugged until he was on his feet. Before Brendon found his balance, Spencer pulled him up into a kiss. Brendon gasped. Cash and Ian were leading a round of catcalls in the stands, his sisters throwing in a “Go, Spence!” for good measure. The whistle from the front was probably Greta. Everyone was laughing, clapping, or outright talking instead of hiding behind hushed tones.
Coach Wilson cleared his throat from somewhere behind them. Spencer pulled away, shaking with laughter. He shrugged and gave Brendon a wink before heading up front.
Sitting there, listening to Nick talk about … whatever he thought was important and inspirational, Spencer held his head high and tried not to break out into giddy hysterics.
It was over.
This time next week, he’d be chilling at the beach with Greta, Ian, Cash, Cassadee, and a couple girls Greta was close with. Brendon would be there whenever he got a break from rehearsals with the band that was backing him on the Cobra Starship tour.
Spencer felt untouchable. Invincible.
Granted, the Strip never changed, and Brendon was refusing to go anywhere near the suburbs. He didn’t want to run the risk of seeing any of the assholes from either high school he’d been trapped in. The important people knew how to find him, everyone else was inconsequential.
The venue wasn’t that big, smaller than a lot he’d played in since last summer. Still, they were sold out, and he was actually headlining for a change. Starting his mini-tour in Vegas wasn’t his first choice, but he didn’t have too much control over that type of thing.
“Fifteen minutes, B!” Zack yelled through the door.
Brendon’s band was already setting up. They were a great group of guys, but they were a band on their own and ready to move on with their careers independent of backing a solo act. He didn’t really blame them; Brendon wasn’t sure he’d be able to work with a full band’s input on everything.
He was a little spoiled; Patrick said it often enough for Brendon to be comfortable admitting it.
Scratching a hand through his hair, Brendon stared in the mirror and blew his cheeks out. He ran through a few ridiculous vocal warm-ups one last time and was ready to go act goofy with his band when the door to the teeny-tiny green room burst open.
“Brendon!” Cash screeched and practically ran Brendon over. “You don’t call - “
“Because you don’t answer,” Ian rolled his eyes. He tugged Cash away and pulled Brendon into a bro-hug. “Hey, man. Thanks for getting us in.”
Brendon laughed at them. “You’re not going to need me to guest list you guys when you’re fucking playing with me.”
“Still don’t see why I had to wait ‘til after graduation to pick up a bass for you.” Cash scoffed.
“If I had to do it, you had to,” Brendon pointed out. When Cash pouted, Brendon punched him in the shoulder. “Where’s - “
“Right here.” Spencer was leaning against the doorframe, hands shoved in his pockets. Something had happened during his first year in college, their first year together. He was looser now, held himself with real confidence instead of the faked version from before. “Zack says you have five minutes until he sends the band on without you. They’ll let Dallon sing instead.”
Ian looked contemplative. “Dallon does look like a taller, older - “
“- hotter -”
“- version of you.” Ian pulled Cash’s hair for the interruption while Spencer rolled his eyes at everyone.
Brendon shoved his way between Ian and Cash to pull Spencer in by his shirt. “It better be.”
“It wouldn’t be, if Dallon could ever remember your fucking lyrics.” Spencer was still chuckling when Brendon growled and stretched up to kiss him.
“Cutting it close tonight, aren’t you?” Brendon pouted, even though Spencer usually ignored the expression.
“Sorry.” He had the decency to look a little sheepish. “The stupid fucking RA was late checking me out, and LA traffic was the hell it always is.”
It had been a while since Brendon legitimately felt bad about Spencer choosing UCLA over Berkeley. Spencer refused to give Brendon’s concerns any weight, saying he could do the same thing in LA with the added bonus of being in town whenever Brendon was.
They were apartment shopping when Brendon wrapped his summer shows.
Dallon leaned his head through the door, waving a hand vaguely over his head. He looked like he was trying to get Brendon’s attention but was probably trying to save his balance.
“We gotta go. Hi, guys!”
Cash was still staring with wide-eyed awe when Dallon disappeared.
Brendon wanted to take a few minutes to make fun of Cash’s crush on a very married family man, but it would have to wait.
“I’ll catch you later.” Brendon stretched up to press a hasty kiss to Spencer’s lips.
“I’m recording the show for Greta,” Ian told him. “Say something snarky.”
Brendon waved him off. He wasn’t sure why Greta made Ian and Spencer send her clips when she came to all his Chicago shows anyway. Hell, he’d even made her come up and sing “Always” with him last time. One day, Brendon was going to win and con her into doing background vocals on his next album.
“Mock Cash’s crush for me.”
“Will do!” Ian grinned.
He’d barely made it halfway down the hall when Spencer snatched his hand. Brendon squeaked when he was pulled off balance, but Spencer caught him. Spencer always did things like that.
“Break a leg.” Spencer was using his serious voice; Brendon had to laugh at him.
“That’s always less funny when you know I’ve almost done that.”
“Whatever.” Spencer kissed him again and gave him a little shove.
Brendon shook his head but took off running. He still needed to get his earpiece fixed one last time before he got on stage.
He knew sometime in the middle of his set, he would look over and see Spencer standing somewhere just off stage. Cash and Ian would be with him this time, grinning like idiots and talking about what they wanted to do when they were touring with Brendon next time.
He’d look into the crowd and probably see some familiar faces. A few people who had made his life hell would show up. He’d never know how it happened, but his second single had blown up, and the media attention had every asshole from high school tracking him down. If they made it to the show - and some of them would - they’d stick around. They would try to catch him for just a minute of his attention. Brendon knew they had forgotten about everything, but he hadn’t.
Maybe he never would.
Not that it mattered now. People were fussing over him. His band was jumping around, awaiting their cue to file on-stage. His boyfriend was dicking around with their friends and waiting for the chaos to clear enough for there to be a free space by the stage. There was a crowd chanting his name so loud it hurt.
Brendon grinned, and the house lights went out.