Brendon doesn’t say anything the entire drive – from when he’d shown up unexpectedly on Ryan’s doorstep to here, somewhere above LA, where they can see the city in the fading darkness and the lights are starting to come up across the city they call home now until Ryan isn’t sure if it’s LA they’re looking down on or Vegas, and he’s not sure if he cares right now – and despite all efforts on Ryan’s part to start a conversation, to find out where they’re going – God, Urie, you can’t just kidnap a man and expect him to go along with it, where the hell are we going? – Brendon’s only response is to reach over and turn up the mix cd playing.
He hadn’t said anything as he took his car slightly off road - God, are you trying to kill us, Brendon? Is that your psychopathic plan? Kill us while we’re young? - and he was still silent as the grave as he pushed the car into park, staring out at the lights until he gets out, Ryan scrabbling out the other side, and Ryan follows him up to sit on the hood of the car, feet firmly on the front bumper.
And he still hasn’t said a word, and that right there is starting to worry Ryan. Brendon’s never this quiet, unless something’s wrong and he’s trying to act like nothing’s wrong, but even then, Brendon’s all close and bursts of loud noises and curses, and for a sudden moment, Ryan’s wondering if something is wrong.
He’s just opened his mouth to ask if Brendon’s okay, does he need anything, Fuck, if you broke up with your girlfriend, you could have called, fucker. Jon’d be upset you’re hurting and not telling anyone when Brendon shifts, pulling a pack of cigarettes out of his leather jacket – and god, every single cell of Ryan’s body wants to say it’s such an ugly thing, Brendon’s worn it so often, it’s getting worn out and tacky, Brendon’s got the money to get one for every day of the week if he wants to wear a leather jacket, Jesus, but he doesn’t - and Brendon flips up the top, tapping the bottom of the pack until one slides up and he brings the pack up to his mouth. Ryan can’t help but follow the action with his eyes, watching Brendon’s full lips wrap around the cigarette, watches Brendon’s hand lower, the cigarette resting loosely against his lower lip.
Ryan shakes his head when the pack is offered to him – Ryan used to be the one that always smoked, now he only does it when he’s stressed or high and he could have sworn Brendon just smoked at parties and to piss off the teenage twits that think Panic’s a bunch of hotshot celebrities (even if they are) instead of just a bunch of guys who happened to achieve a goal in life, and spend their time surrounded by friends when they’re not making music or in the studio or on tour or a myriad of other things that’s their life now – and Brendon puts the pack back in his pocket, still strangely silent as he pulls his lighter out. Ryan has to swallow as he watches Brendon light up, taking a few experimental puffs like the cigarette’s a joint and the singer’s trying to get a fast high, and he quickly turns to look out at the city spread out before them as the lighter flashes in the fast fading light as Brendon puts it back in his pocket.
They sit like that for what feels like hours, but judging by the setting sun, is probably only fifteen minutes; Ryan wondering what possessed Brendon to bring him out to this spot, because fuck, if Brendon wanted silent company, he could have brought Spencer or Shane or Eric or anyone not Ryan Ross, and Brendon staring out at the city like he doesn’t even see it, taking the occasional pull from the cigarette, holding the smoke down in his lungs for a moment like he’s trying to kill himself faster with each puff before letting it all out in a long breath. Ryan nearly jumps when Brendon’s hand shoots out, but it’s just to flick the now-finished cigarette away and pull the cigarette pack back out of his pocket. He offers the pack to Ryan again, and just to break up the monotony, Ryan takes one, leaning in to let Brendon light the cigarette, trying to keep his eyes on anything not Brendon’s mouth (there’s a new cigarette sitting there against Brendon’s lower lip, waiting to be lit up and smoked) and finally focuses on Brendon’s hand holding the lighter steady.
Ryan chokes slightly on the first inhaled puff of smoke – this isn’t the brand he’d smoke, it’s the one Brendon’s picked up from Shane – and he feels like a complete idiot as Brendon lights up his own cigarette, faintly smiling like he knows a big secret.
“Shut up.” Ryan finally speaks aloud, feeling like he can’t take much more of this awkward silence. The silence makes this feel more like some first date than two guys staring out at city lights, and fuck, that’s going into territory Ryan promised himself he’d never go back into.
He glances over to Brendon, swallowing hard when he sees Brendon’s eyes on him. There’s a glint there Ryan’s sure he doesn’t want to deal with and he makes it a point to stare out at the city again. Makes it a point to let Brendon know he doesn’t have that effect on Ryan anymore, god, they’re not teenagers, for fuck’s sake.
Brendon shifts, and Ryan sneaks a glance at him out of the corner of his eye, but Brendon’s dark brown eyes are back on the city, not on him.
“I liked Keltie.”
It’s just three words, and Ryan can’t stop the slight jump of surprise at the abruptness, or the way his head snaps toward Brendon, mouth hanging open. He’s thankful he was holding the cigarette; he’s not sure he could explain cigarette burns on his thighs when he’s promised Jon he’s not doing that anymore.
“W-what?” Ryan stammers, still staring at Brendon like the singer’s grown another head, and Brendon flicks ash to one side like he’s considering how best to answer Ryan’s question.
“I liked Keltie.” Brendon repeats slowly, like Ryan’s a fucking idiot. “I like Kate, I do.” His brown eyes flick toward Ryan as if to say that he’s totally supportive of anything Ryan decides to do with his life, and yet, Ryan feels like he’s being judged in those same brown eyes and he wants to say that Fuck, Brendon, you cheated on Ian on tour, you can’t fucking judge me, asshole, but he doesn’t and lets Brendon go on. “But I liked Keltie too.”
Ryan looks down at his hands, flicking ash to one side, seeing Brendon echo the motion out of the corner of his eye. He watches out of the corner of his eye as Brendon brings the cigarette back up to his lips, and he swallows again – god, he’s acting like a teenager over a simple observation - and he tries to think if he’s supposed to respond, and if he is, how best to do so.
“I liked Keltie too.” Ryan finally settles on, feeling the words coming out of his mouth and wondering if they sound too hollow. He doesn’t add that he thinks he still does, that sometimes he wakes up and thinks she’s still here, still sleeping next to him when he’s not on tour and she’s not busy with dancing, and that sometimes, when Kate’s over, she’ll wake up to find him gone from their bed, having minor freak outs in the bathroom that he can’t properly explain to her – how can you explain to someone you’re freaking out because you didn’t immediately recognize the person you’re sleeping next to, ignoring the fact you’ve known who they were? – he doesn’t say any of it, but he thinks it. It’s so loud in his head that he’s surprised Brendon can’t hear his thoughts, but he sees Brendon watching him thoughtfully out of the corner of his eye.
“I like Kate too.” Ryan adds quietly, feeling the need to say it out loud, like he’s okay with the cards life’s handed him because of screw ups and misunderstandings and he’s okay with everything.
Brendon’s sneaker makes a soft squeaking sound as he rearranges himself against the hood of the car, leaning back until he’s lying back against the windshield, eyes closing halfway as he watches the lights come on, and suddenly Ryan has the strangest urge to kiss him, to see if he still tastes the same or if he tastes differently now that they’re not awkward teenagers playing games, and he has to strangle the urge he’s not going down that road again.
Ryan resettles himself to match Brendon’s position, suppressing the urge to pull the other man closer, and tries to think of what else he should say, how else he should break the silence that came back, broken only by birds heading to their nests for the night, and the cars on the highway they can faintly hear all the way up here, the soft puffs of air they make when they inhale the burning smoke from the cigarettes and let it go again, and the abruptness when Brendon’s stomach growls.
Ryan’s wondering what he should say to that, wondering if he should ask how Brendon and Sarah are doing, when Brendon grunts, eyes opening again and looking up at him. And Ryan again feels the urge to kiss Brendon, feel his lips press to the singer’s like they used to when they were teenagers, but he suppresses it again, biting down hard on his lower lip.
Brendon’s mouth quirks in a smile as if he can read Ryan’s mind, but he doesn’t comment on it, just tilts his head. They stay that way, not moving, just staring at each other, as the sun finishes sinking below the horizon. They stay that way a bit longer, as the stars start peeking out of the still light sky, when Brendon suddenly curses and shakes his hand, head turning toward his forgotten cigarette as he flicks it toward the grass.
Brendon’s hand, already faintly red from the burn, starts going to his mouth and Ryan reaches a hand out to halt the action, bringing Brendon’s hand to his own mouth. He breathes hotly against the burn, barely hearing the faint gasp, nearly a low moan, falling from Brendon’s lips and Ryan glances up, seeing Brendon staring at him, mouth slightly open in surprise, and brown eyes faintly darker.
Ryan thinks, briefly, that maybe grabbing Brendon’s hand – after everything he told himself, god - was a bad idea, but it’s brief, fading when Brendon moves forward on the hood, his free hand cupping around the back of Ryan’s neck, lips pressing against his – not crashing against his, teeth clacking teeth like an inexperienced kisser – and Ryan swallows hard, feeling his eyes close and responding to the kiss. Brendon tastes like smoke, like the fading light, like the Mexican he probably ate earlier and the mint toothpaste and bubblegum he used to get rid of the taste, like everything Keltie wasn’t and Kate isn’t and Jon isn’t, and Ryan wonders if he tastes like the smoke and the fading light, like the roast beef sandwich he had earlier and the beer he’d drunk it down with, like everything Spencer isn’t, and Sarah isn’t, and Shane isn’t.
And Ryan wonders if this doesn’t make him desperate to get back what was lost as he lets Brendon thoroughly explore his mouth, tongue searching the crevices and sliding against Ryan’s tongue as if looking for a taste that only it remembered and Ryan wonders if Brendon’s thinking the same thing.
And as abruptly as it began, the kiss is over all too soon, and Brendon’s pulling away, mouth still open, probably mirroring how Ryan’s own mouth feels, but Brendon stays close, breath mingling with Ryan’s as if it’s the only place Brendon could possibly want to be.
The silence that follows isn’t as loud as before, and for that, Ryan’s grateful.