Buses started lining up outside as the final minutes of the school year ticked by. It had been a long year, one that Ryan definitely wouldn't forget any time soon, and he was sad it had come to an end. He leaned back against his desk, facing his class, letting little memories flood his mind as he looked from one student to the next. All of them were certainly entertaining enough; a group that reminded Ryan why he got into teaching in the first place. He didn't want to let any of them go.
Sure, they'd be back next year to complete their high school journey, but they wouldn't be in Ryan's class anymore.
"Any summer plans?" Ryan asked, striking conversation to detach the eyes glued to the clock above the door.
"My family is spending a month in Europe," Alex said with a proud smirk from where he sat in the back. "We're hitting Paris, Rome, Germany, and Italy, to name a few." Alex's family had money, and he let it be known, but he was one of Ryan's favorite students. He always handed his work in on time, was polite and kind when it really counted, and never failed to make the day interesting in one way or another.
"I'm going with him!" Jack, Alex's long-time best friend, chimed merrily while shooting his arm up into the air. He was another of Ryan's favorites, though he adored pretty much everyone he had that year. But some days, the pair could have everyone in tears of laughter, and gave a whole new meaning to Romeo and Juliet. Especially since Alex commanded the part of Romeo, and Jack demanded to be Juliet; overdramatic being an understatement to their reenactment of the classic story.
"Me 'n Lexi are gonna own Europe!" Jack grinned, sitting on Alex's desk with his legs extended out towards his own.
"At least we'll know who to thank when American's are no longer welcome." Ryan teased. That was another thing he loved about this class. They could joke around with each as friends, to a certain extent, without it being awkward or uncomfortable. "Anyone else?"
"My parents might let me get a piercing," Travis offered, moving his messy orange hair aside as always. Why he never cut it was beyond Ryan, since he was constantly moving it out of his way, but whatever. He seemed to like it well enough.
"Which nipple?" Jack perked up, looking forward to where Travis sat.
"Hey." Ryan gave a look to Jack to settle. That was the only downside of Jack; Ryan's had to discipline him more than a few times about his use of sexual innuendo. It was like the boy had no filter. "Dare I ask where?" Ryan went back to Travis.
"Lip," Travis answered, biting the corner of his bottom lip. "I've always wanted one."
Ryan hummed, moving his focus to the girl sitting beside Travis who was contently texting away. He couldn't be bothered to enforce the school's policy since there was only about five minutes left, and she had nearly taken his head off once before. "What about you, Cassadee?" Ryan asked. "Any big summer plans?"
"Not really." She shrugged, not looking up from the screen of her phone. "Probably just go to a bunch of concerts."
"I would love to go to some concerts." Hayley sighed, brushing her blond-tipped bangs aside. Ryan always admired Hayley's hair. It was a bright red with blond tips that, when in the proper lighting, looked more orange than red. And it was perfect for the girl since she possessed a rather fiery attitude.
"I have to go visit family in Chicago, against my will, and pretend to have something in common with them." She let her forehead fall to her outstretched arms, groaning.
"You could always sneak out to a concert," Caleb suggested. "Chicago is a breeding ground for music."
"Chicago and Jersey." Kyle nodded knowingly, white-blond hair falling over his face. Ryan figured it was the latest trend; that hair needed to be layered and falling over your face, only to be shoved out of the way any time you moved. Usually by whipping your head to the side.
"Or you could go golfing," Austin suggested after, playing with the sweatband he was wearing in the beginning of class.
"Why would she want to go golfing?" Kyle turned back to face the other boy.
"Because golfing is fun." Austin made the answer sound obvious.
"How would you know?" Caleb scoffed, also turning around. "You suck at it." Austin childishly stuck his tongue out.
"At least I can keep score," he said.
"Lexi and I play at the club sometimes!" Jack contributed to the conversation. "We keep score with smiley and frowny faces, though." He smirked.
"And Jacky's not allowed to drive golf carts anymore," Alex added, the pair laughing.
"I don't want to know." Ryan playfully shook his head. Sadly, he could definitely see Jack losing such a privilege. He already dreaded the day someone was dumb enough to grant the boy a license.
"I only drove it into the lake a few times." Jack shrugged, pretty indifferent.
"I'm not going golfing, so get off it!" Hayley snapped with frustration.
"What about you, Mr. Ross?" Travis started a new topic.
"I'm spending this weekend with someone I haven't seen since last summer and miss terribly," Ryan replied easily.
"Who?" Alex asked with actual interest, but before Ryan could answer, the bell rang, dismissing everyone for the last time that year.
"Have a good summer!" Ryan said as everyone sprung from their seats and rushed for the door. "Be safe and don’t get into too much trouble!" They all shoved to clear the room, pouring into the noisy hall.
Sighing, Ryan pushed off his desk and glanced around to make sure nothing was left behind, closing his door to save himself a headache. He grabbed his bag from beneath his desk and put the remainder of his personal belongings inside then grabbed the cloth eraser to wipe the white board clean of everything until the following August.
No sooner did the eraser touch the sleek board, did his phone start ringing. Ryan set the eraser down and fished the device from his bag, flipping it open and asking, "Do you just sit in front of your clock, obsessing over my schedule so you can call to annoy me as soon as I have a free second?"
"Of course," Spencer replied, voice smug and proud. "You know I only live to make your life hell."
Ryan hummed, picking the eraser up again to finish what he intended. "To what do I owe today's pleasure?"
"You remember you have a flight tomorrow morning, right?" Spencer asked. "And that you're going to be on it, no matter what?"
"Yes, I remember." Ryan rolled his eyes. "You've only been on me about it for the past month. My bags are all packed and waiting, mom."
"Don't make me kick your ass, Ross." Spencer huffed. "Because you know I will."
"Don't worry, Spence. I'm not going to back out or anything stupid like that." Ryan wiped away the calendar and assignments. "Everything is all set to go tomorrow." He looked out the windows, watching the buses start to leave. When all the students were gone, the teachers were allowed to leave. "Can I hang up now?"
"But I'm bored!" Spencer whined on the other end. "Jon's been in that damn studio all day and threatened to take away my drums again if I bothered him." Ryan laughed, leaning back against his desk and looking to the clock. "Stupid big gallery opening," he grumbled.
"You're proud of him and you know it." Ryan reminded his friend. "Jon finally has his own studio that will make you guys so much money you can retire early to some remote island far from all the studios on earth." It was silent for a moment before Spencer made a sound of agreement.
"I guess." He sighed in defeat. "But I'm lonely and bored."
"Sorry." Ryan adjusted his position a little. "I've got a few more things to get done before tomorrow so I'll talk to you later, okay?" As Ryan spoke, his classroom door flew open and Mia came bounding inside, colliding into Ryan and throwing her arms around his waist.
"Fine," Spencer said miserably. "Tell Brendon that I don't care how much he hates Vegas, your asses better be here for me to pick up tomorrow."
"He already knows he has no choice." Ryan lightly laughed, using his free hand to rub Mia's back. "I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"
"You better." Spencer warned before hanging up, Ryan doing the same.
"Where's Uncle Brendon?" Ryan asked Amelia, fixing her ponytail since it was starting to come undone.
"In the car," Mia replied, letting Ryan go to grab a marker and draw all over the white board where she could reach.
"Well we better not keep him waiting since we have a lot to do," Ryan said, grabbing his bag. "Come on, Mia." He stuck his hand out, the seven-year-old abandoning the marker to take hold. Ever since Brendon was granted temporary custody of his niece since his sister failed to provide for her, Brendon would pick Amelia up from her school then come get Ryan because by the time Ryan got done with after school, the elementary school was done.
As Ryan and Mia headed towards the parking lot to find Brendon, other teachers closed their doors for the final time that year, walking the same hollow halls out. He smiled and said goodbye to some, Mia shyly hiding half behind him anytime he spoke. Why she acted shy like that, Ryan didn’t understand. She wasn’t shy to him when they first met, nor to Spencer or Jon, but lately Mia’s taken to hiding her face in Ryan or Brendon’s bodies when they associated with people she didn’t know.
Outside the sun was shining blindly bright, a light breeze keeping the hot temperature from being completely unbearable. Like Amelia said, Brendon was leaning back against his car with his arms crossed and sunglasses on, head tipped back. Ryan figured the only reason he let Mia inside the school alone was because she knew exactly where Ryan’s classroom was and because all the kids had to be outside, since normally he wouldn’t let the young girl out of sight when fetching Ryan.
The door barely closed behind them when Mia wiggled her hand free from Ryan’s grasp and took off for her uncle, ignoring Ryan’s calls not to run on the pavement or she might fall. They told her all the time not to run, but it never worked. So whenever she would fall and scrape herself, the pair had little sympathy. At least, until that heart-wrenching, pout-accompanying, big-sad-teary-eyed expression came over her face, at which point Brendon and Ryan would bow to her every whim.
Amelia headed straight for Brendon, colliding into him as she had Ryan, pulling Brendon from his daydreaming. He stood straight and uncrossed his arms to push his sunglasses on top his head, then loosely hung them around his niece. Ryan reached them a few moments later, walking at a more leisurely pace, leaning forward to kiss Brendon and ignoring the disgusted whine coming from the girl between them.
“Fun last day?” Brendon asked when Ryan pulled back.
“Thrilling,” Ryan answered, walking around the car to the passenger door. “Spencer says that no matter what, we need to be there tomorrow, so we better get a move on,” he said, opening the back door to set his bag inside, then climbing in the front.
“We still have plenty of time,” Brendon said, ushering Mia towards the back regardless. “The plane leaves at what; nine? We get there by eight-thirty, we get up by seven-thirty; everything is all packed and ready.” Brendon got into the driver’s seat. “We can even load it all in tonight if that’ll make you happy.”
“I know.” Ryan smiled a little bit. “I already avoided one plane to Vegas; Spence will have my balls if I do it again.”
“Relax, Ry.” Brendon laughed, starting the car. “You’ll be on that plane tomorrow no matter what.”
“And so will you,” Ryan added, the pair tugging their seatbelts on.
Brendon scowled, glancing into the rearview mirror asking, “You buckled?” to Amelia, driving away when the girl nodded.
“Why can’t I go to Vegas with you?” Mia whined, playing with the bottom of her shirt, pouting.
“Because Vegas is no place for little kids,” Brendon answered flatly, one arm stretched along the back of the booth the two sat in with his body angled in the corner. Ryan sat across from them on the other side, legs stretched along the entire seat and back against the wall. “And,” Brendon continued, “Because you have school Monday. We won’t be back until Monday night.”
“Only a half day!” Amelia stressed. “Half days don’t matter!”
“Hey now;” Ryan gave a slight bemused look to the girl. “Half days are important too. If they weren’t, you wouldn’t have them.”
“Point is,” Brendon ran his fingers through Amelia’s ponytail, “You’re not coming. We’ll be back before you know it.”
Mia groaned, dropping her head to the table, making Brendon laugh lightly to himself. He would laugh at her tantrums, act all big and bad and parental like, but truth was, he spoiled Mia; they both did. If the girl pouted long enough, they would grant her her any and every wish. However, this particular situation was pretty set in stone.
“You really don’t want to come.” Ryan tried that whole reverse psychology thing. “We’re spending the weekend with Spencer,” he said, amused by the fact that the girl bore such strong hatred towards his best friend even though they hadn’t seen each other after that first day.
She lifted her head, bearing a disgusted look, face morphing a moment later as she whined, “But I want to see Jon!”
“Jon is really busy,” Brendon answered. “He’s got his own studio now. His big gallery opening is this weekend. That’s why we’re going.”
For a moment Mia relaxed, looking to her uncle inquisitively. “What’s a gallery opening?”
“You know how Jon likes to take pictures?” Ryan decided to take this one. Mia looked to him, nodding. “Well, he took a lot of pictures and made them really big – like posters. And he hung them all around his studio. The opening is to let all sorts of people come and look at them for the first time.” He explained. “It’s kind of like going to a museum.”
“I like the museum!” she chimed. “And I want to look at Jon’s pictures!” Beside her, Brendon sighed, dropping his head back.
“Well this is just the grand unveiling,” Ryan said calmly, having gained bountiful amounts of patience over the past few months. “They’ll be up in his studio for a long time.” He dropped his feet to the floor, sitting properly. “If you’re really good while we’re gone, and stop whining, maybe we can take a trip out there for your birthday.” Sure, it was bribery, but anything nowadays could be viewed as bribery. And Ryan didn’t really care.
Amelia contemplated it, running the tip of her tongue along her lower lip, before smiling. “Can we see Uncle Alex and Uncle Nate too?” she asked, beaming. “I miss them!”
“Uncle Nate and Uncle Alex live in New York City now,” Brendon said, sadness still hiding in his voice. Ever since the pair left around the new year, the topic saddened Brendon to talk about. They had been some of his best friends. Everyone missed them. “New York and Vegas are very, very far away from each other.”
Again Mia pouted miserably.
“You know they’ll probably come visit soon.” Ryan tried to cheer her up, reaching across the table to stroke her bangs aside. He hated seeing the girl truly upset more than anything. And when Alex and Nate announced they decided to go to New York to open a restaurant there, Amelia cried for about four hours straight. “We can call them next week, okay?”
Mia sniffled, continuing to pout, but nodded.
“Have you guys seen Leighton around anywhere?” Victoria suddenly appeared by their table, slightly frustrated. When Alex and Nate left, they handed the restaurant over to Ryland and Victoria to handle as a late wedding present -- the two had married at the end of the previous summer.
“Nope,” Brendon answered without raising his head.
“What are you doing here?” Ryan frowned, sliding along the seat to make room for her to sit. “I thought you were on house arrest.”
“I’m going crazy there.” Vicky rolled her eyes, sitting in the empty spot. “I’m about ready to ki-“ she stopped herself quickly, noticing Amelia looking at her with large, attentive eyes. “-do very bad things to Ryland if he doesn’t calm down.”
Brendon laughed, lifting his head at last. “You’re going to have his baby any day now,” he said. Ryan looked down briefly at Victoria’s very enlarged belly that pressed slightly against the table. “Of course he’s freaking out.”
“Like I’m not freaking out too.” She scoffed, rubbing her stomach. “But he’s treating me like I’m invalid!”
“Is the baby kicking?” Mia asked, rising to her knees and leaning on her elbows over the table.
“Not right now, sweetie.” Victoria smiled. “Right now he’s sleeping.” Amelia seemed mildly disappointed, she always loved feeling the baby kick, but didn’t start moping again.
“Don’t let him catch you here.” Brendon warned, looking towards the window to the kitchen. Believe it or not, he was a fairly amazing chef himself. Though Alex did take time to ‘show him the ropes’ before leaving. “He’ll probably chew us out if he does.”
Again Vicky scoffed, moving strands of her recently cut hair back. “I’m a grown woman. I can go where I want.” She turned a bit and called to the boy at the counter who was hired as her summer replacement. “Hey Christofer, honey, can you bring me a water?”
Christofer looked up from the counter where h was scribbling on a napkin and nodded, smiling then getting a glass to do so. Christofer was one of Ryan’s (now former) students, bright and kind and very polite, but Ryan was more than a little certain he smoked weed. Still, he never showed up anywhere high, and was a rather good waiter, and Victoria was possibly in love with him.
“Here you go, ma’am,” he said, setting the glass on the table.
“Honey, I’ve told you to just call me ‘Vicky’,” she replied. Christofer just smiled.
“Can I get you anything else?” he asked, looking to all of them.
“We’re good,” Vicky answered for all of them. “Keep an eye out for Ryland, though, would you?”
“Sure.” Christofer smiled his signature kind, charming little smile that made practically any girl swoon.
“I like him,” Vicky said after he was gone. “He’s cute and kind and, for the most part, knows what he’s doing. I might keep him.”
“Can I work here too?” Mia asked, eyes glued unblinking on the boy who went back to scribbling on a napkin.
“Sure you can, sweetie,” Vicky answered, amused by the fact that the seven-year-old had a very noticeable crush on the high school boy.
“You have to finish school, first,” Brendon said, pulling Amelia back down to the seat before she leaned any farther to the side and fell to the floor. Ryan smiled at Brendon’s defensive manner, looking at his watch then frowning.
“Bren,” he said, “We gotta get going.” Brendon looked at him with his own frown but silently agreed.
“Oh yeah” Victoria looked between them. “You two are going to Vegas this weekend. When do you leave?”
“Tomorrow morning,” Brendon answered. “We’ll be back Monday, though.”
“First we have to dispose of this.” Brendon teased, ruffling Mia’s hair because she hated it. Amelia scowled and smacked Brendon’s arm, trying to fix her hair as he laughed.
“Have fun,” Vicky said, finishing off her water. “But if by some chance my baby decides to come while you’re gone, I’ll castrate the both of you.” She warned, pulling herself back to her feet.
“What’s ‘castrate’ mean?” Amelia asked curiously.
“It means punishing someone that makes you really mad,” Vicky easily replied.
“Oh.” Amelia slid from her seat as well. “I wanna castrate Gabe, then,” she said with determination, sending Brendon into a fit of near hysterical laughter. Ryan frowned harder because they hadn’t discussed anything remotely close to Gabe in quite some time, and couldn’t really believe Amelia held a huge grudge against him still. Especially when most kids her age forgot and moved on rather quickly.
Then again, Mia was a lot more mature than most kids her age.
“Me too, sweetie; me too.” Vicky laughed some as well, rubbing Mia’s shoulder. Mia liked the response, hugging Victoria to the best of her abilities, then told the baby goodbye and to wait until after Monday because Ryan and Brendon didn’t deserve to be castrated. That made Brendon laugh even more as he struggled to stand up, wiping his eyes and coughing.
“We’ll see you later,” Ryan said, half-hugging Victoria. “And we won’t miss the baby being born.” He smiled, brushing his hand briefly along her very swollen abdomen.
“Don’t get in trouble,” Brendon said when he calmed enough to speak. “We’re not being held responsible for this.” He too hugged her, saying something else as Amelia started dragging Ryan outside to the car, telling him how she planned on castrating Gabe, Spencer, and the girl that they caught Christofer making out with one day.
The first month or two after Ryan chose not to get on the plane were rough. For a few days, Spencer wouldn’t even talk to him, unpleased with Ryan’s last-minute decision. But it was the only logical thing to Ryan, and he couldn’t get his feet to go to the gate no matter how hard he tried, and the expression on Brendon’s face when Ryan quickly dashed back outside told him he definitely made the right decision.
But it was rough for many reasons.
Ryan had to change all his personal information as far as address, transfer accounts, find a new job, settle in his new surroundings, sell all his belongings back in Vegas that he didn’t have sent to Hawaii, and completely assure himself that it was the right decision.
But that still wasn’t what made it really rough.
The first two months were a struggle because of William -- though the blame wasn’t entirely on him. He was just dealing with what others had done to him, which in turn fell heavily on Brendon and Ryan too.
For the first week, William wouldn’t leave his room. He only left his bed to use the bathroom. He didn’t eat unless Brendon pretty much force fed him. He got next to no sleep, and didn’t say a word to anyone. He cried until he literally couldn’t cry anymore, and cut himself badly on the frame containing a picture of him and Gabe which he clung to for dear life afterward. It was an absolutely heart-breaking thing to see, and Ryan avoided him for the most part because of it.
The second week was a little better. William left his room, but not the house, and spoke once or twice. He would sit and watch tv with them, sit at meals but hardly ate, and only had one violent outburst that resulted in a far less dangerous injury to himself. He looked hollow and lost, but every day gained a bit more life back.
By a month’s mark, things were better. William was eating about two actual meals a day, left occasionally to go who-knows-where, and started smiling every now and again. For a day or two he went on a strange cleaning binge, scrubbing the entire house top to bottom, then disappeared for a few days after. Both Brendon and Ryan were concerned greatly, but decided to give the man space, relieved when he returned about three days later with his brown eyes sparkling like they had when Ryan first met him.
That sparkle, Ryan learned, was primarily the result of Travis. Like Brendon requested, he had given William space, and like Brendon said, William went to him when he was ready. What happened then was a bit of a blur to Ryan since he had his own complications to deal with, but he started noticing Travis around the house more, then William around the house less, then both of them gone for about a week or so.
At the end of those two months, William and Travis were officially dating again. While everyone was apprehensive about their relationship, Travis seemed to make William truly happy which, in the end, was all anyone cared about. William deserved all the happiness he could get.
“Be good for Uncle Bill,” Brendon said, pulling into the driveway of the house he helped pay for when William and Travis decided to live together.
“I know!’ Amelia dramatically exhaled, unbuckling.
Ryan looked at the rather large house and smiled, seeing William seated on the porch steps with Kade on his lap; the tiny girl clapping excitedly as he blew bubbled with his free hand. Kade was William and Travis’ adopted daughter, and probably the cutest thing Ryan had ever seen. Presently, she wore a white and pink lace dress, white stockings, tiny saddle shoes, and a pink bow wrapped around her thin brown hair which was pulled into a fountain-like ponytail atop her head.
Kade was almost two, but she only appeared to be about thirteen months at most.
See, things unraveled quickly after the major drama died down. Travis confessed that the reason he’d been gone for years was because his mother had been diagnosed with HIV, and Travis was terrified so he decided to explore the world. As it turned out, he wasn’t a carrier of the virus himself, but in his travels he learned a great deal of innocent people were.
When Travis came back to Hawaii, it was because his mother’s health was rapidly declining. He got the job at the diner to pay for what medical assistance he could afford for her, but she ended up passing away a month or so before Travis and William were reunited. Brendon was one of the few people that knew all of this, which is part of why he told Travis to leave William be after William’s split with Gabe. He knew Travis was still dealing with his own emotional trauma, and didn’t want that on William as well.
As it turned out, William and Travis ended up going abroad around Thanksgiving for about three months, going country-to-country with some organization to teach people methods to keep themselves safe and to prevent the virus from spreading. Somewhere along the way, around the time Alex and Nate left for New York, they came across a little girl who’s mother was days from death, and who had no other living relatives. Unable to see her go to a rundown orphanage, William legally adopted her as his own.
Though he made it very clear that she was both his and Travis’ daughter.
They named her Kaedance Gabriella – William unmoving on the middle name. Kaedance is one of the sweetest little girls anyone had ever met. She learns relatively quickly and does as much as her underdeveloped body will allow since she was born premature, and her mother never received proper medical care during pregnancy. She was also positive.
Now, Travis spends two or three weeks traveling to continue on his mission of fighting the terrible disease that not only claimed his mother, but has a strong hold on his daughter, while William stays back to care for Kaedance who requires a bit more care than other children her age due to her complicated and compromised health situation.
Mia sprang from the car and headed for the house, running like always. The moment Kade spotted Amelias, that’s all she cared about, and tried to wiggle free of William’s firm hold around her body. Kaedance absolutely adored Amelia, and would follow her everywhere by however means she could manage since Kade couldn’t actually walk on her own yet.
Ryan could hear Kade chanting, “Me!” which was as close to Amelia as she could get, reaching out for the girl and frantically opening and closing her hands as though grabbing for something
“Yep, there’s Mia.” William laughed, disposing of the bubble wand to put Kaedance on the porch behind the gate that prevented her from falling down the stairs. Kaedance grabbed onto the gate to support herself standing, bending then straightening her legs repeatedly with excitement.
“Careful, Amelia!” Brendon called after her, grabbing Mia’s bag from the back then following. Amelia dashed up the steps, William helping her over the gate, offering her hands to Kade who let go of the gate to wrap her hands around Mia’s fingers; the pair going off to the side to play with the toys kept outside for them.
“You know,” William smiled, sitting back down as the other two approached, “Some days I feel I should go away a day or two to get her to get that excited about seeing me.” He laughed, leaning against the railing.
“You leave her sight for five seconds and she has a meltdown,” Ryan said, raising an eyebrow. He had personal experience with that.
“She only does that with you.” William teased, smirking. “Bren, Travie, Mia – any of them come along and Kade can’t wait to get away from me.” Ryan quickly flipped the man off. “Only you make her cry.”
“It’s true,” Brendon unhelpfully offered, trying not to start laughing himself. Ryan shoved him, going to sit opposite William so Brendon was left standing. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone so afraid of another person as Kade is you.”
“One more word from you and you can sleep alone.” Ryan sarcastically smiled at his boyfriend. “Again.”
Brendon half frowned, half pouted, making William laugh more.
"Again," William stated through his laughter. "How'd you manage it the first time?" He looked up at Brendon with curious amusement, tucking his growing hair back. He had cut it right after his argument with Gabe, then again a few months back, but it was starting to get long again.
"None of your business," Brendon replied while setting Mia's bag on the ground.
Ryan couldn't help but wear a more than slightly smug smirk.
"So;" Brendon took a deep breath, shoving his hands in his pockets and rocking back on his heels. "You're sure it's okay for Mia to stay here for the weekend?" he asked, a little apprehensive. "I mean, with Travis being gone right now..."
William merely gave him a look of boredom, raisin an eyebrow. "Are you saying I can't handle watching two little girls on my own for a couple of days?" His tone wasn't exactly angry, but it was a bit irritated; with a tiny hint of playfulness, if you really looked for it.
"No! No, that's not it at all!" Brendon was quick to say, looking mortified. "I meant, I know Mia can be a handful at times, especially since she's already giving us grief about not being able to go with us, and -"
"Bren!" William cut him off, beginning to laugh all over again. "Relax." He stretched his long legs out to nearly reach the ground. "Everything will be fine. I doubt Mia will give me trouble, she hasn't before, but if she does, I know plenty of people that will help."
"I know." Brendon sighed, relaxing a fraction or two. "But...I mean..." He bit the corner of his lip, looking away. "I also know that Kade isn't in the best of health and needs a lot of attention."
Ryan saw William's expression harden some and wished he was close enough to smack Brendon for even saying such a thing. Kaedance's health was very important to William, and a rather sensitive subject at times due to the fact that the girl could take a turn for the worse at any point. But William didn't get angry about it; just mildly annoyed.
"Look at her, Brendon," William said, all three men looking towards where the two small girls played. "Does she look horribly ill to you right now?" Amelia and Kaedance were seated on the porch, a few feet from each other, tossing a small ball back and forth. When Kade got a hold of it, Mia praised her, and when Kade threw it back, her face was brighter than any star in the clearest of night's skies.
"No..." Brendon's answer was quiet.
"She may need the extra attention, but not all the time." William looked back to his friend. "It's only three days, Bren; we'll all be fine." If Ryan focused on it, he'd guess that William was a little offended. And honestly, he didn't blame him.
"Well we should probably head out, then," Brendon said; visible guilt in his eyes. Ryan nodded and stood, descending the steps. "Mia!" Brendon called out to her, the girl looking up at them. "We're leaving now."
"Okay! Bye!" she said, going back to playing with the toddler.
"Well." Brendon scoffed, turning back towards William. "I guess we'll see you in three days."
"Have fun," William replied with a soft smile, giving a small wave as the two headed for their car.
"They'll be fine," Ryan said quietly to Brendon when they were far enough from William.
"It's him I worry about," Brendon muttered just as quietly, getting into the driver's seat.
The sky was a blend of orange, red, and pink by the time they made it home; Brendon parking right in front of the porch to be ready to go in the morning. Ryan grabbed his bag from the back then tugged his key from his pocket, unlocking the door only to get instantly attacked by the small black dog, Bambi. It caused Ryan to stumble back a bit, but he smiled at the eager puppy and bent down to scratch her head.
Bambi was the result of one of Amelia's pouting acts; the dog the run of the litter and therefore unwanted by everyone else. She was a cute little thing, full of more energy than her body could handle, and was trained fairly quickly. Bambi was like Ryan's shadow; always following him around wherever he went inside the house or backyard. Ryan liked the fact that Bambi was always attached to his heels until it was late and dark and Ryan was half asleep, at which point it became annoying having her jump at his legs.
Not to mention he's tripped over her more than once.
Ryan scooped Bambi into his arms, turning his face as her tongue began to bathe him, stepping from his shoes and managing to get his keys on the small table. "What are we doing with Bambi while we're gone?" he asked as Brendon came in, shutting the door then following a similar routine.
"Andy," Brendon said, walking to Ryan and scratching Bambi's head as well, making the happy puppy direct her attention to him. "He'll come over each day to feed and walk and play with her, before and after work." Andy was this really awesome man that they had met about nine or ten months ago when Brendon decided they should go to some big festival.
At the time, Andy had lived on one of the other islands, but around Thanksgiving he moved to Maui to open a music store with Brendon who had decided he'd had it with being a tourist guide/aid. Ryan was a little apprehensive at first, but Brendon was a lot happier, and the hours of the shop lined up a lot better with Ryan's to give them more time together. And Andy was really great. He was kind, fun, funny, and exceptionally good at what seemed like everything.
"Okay." Ryan nodded, setting Bambi on the ground and ignoring her as she started jumping at his legs, wanting to be picked up again. He headed to the kitchen to get a drink, going to get a cup from the cupboard when Brendon wrapped his arms around Ryan's waist and kissed the back of his neck, resting his chin on Ryan's shoulder.
"You know," Brendon started, voice low and incredibly suggestive, "We have the house to ourselves...and it's still fairly early..."
"We also have to get up pretty early," Ryan replied, setting the glass down.
"But we have a little time to play." Brendon whined, rubbing his cheek against Ryan.
Ryan tried to get Brendon's arms off him to walk, but Brendon wouldn't budge. Sighing, Ryan walked anyway, dragging Brendon along with him, trying not to focus on the little kisses and whispers of sexual innuendo. They had been here before and, well, let's just say Ryan went along with it last time, and that's why they didn't make it to Vegas for Christmas like they were supposed to.
That couldn't happen again. Ryan really did miss his friends and had to be on that plane in the morning.
"The answer is going to remain 'no', Bren," Ryan said after downing some water. "I'm tired and we have to be up early and I don't feel like cleaning everything up before we have to leave."
Brendon whined, letting Ryan go and slumping against the counter. "It's been so long!" he stressed, pouting.
"Awww, poor baby." Ryan teased, rinsing the cup out. Brendon's pout he could handle -- it always amused him -- but with Mia having been with them the past couple of months, their sex life had taken a rather large blow, and Ryan did have some sympathy.
"Tell you what;" Ryan grabbed Brendon's forearms and tugged him closer, kissing his big, pouty lips. "When we get to Vegas tomorrow, we'll have a nice big hotel room all to ourselves, and if you promise to be a good boy, I'll make your night worthwhile."
Slowly, the pout faded, a smirk replacing it. "What if I'm naughty?" he asked, eyes sparkling mischievously.
Ryan rolled his eyes, smiling, and smacked Brendon playfully upside the head. "Then you'll just have to be punished," he said, turning and heading for the stairs. "You have ten minutes to make it to bed or risk sleeping alone." Ryan called down, Bambi hot on his heels.
Laughing, Brendon made sure the doors were locked and the lights off before following his boyfriend to bed.
Chapter 2: Saturday
“I swear to God, Brendon!” Ryan groaned with frustration, tugging at the man’s ankles. “Get your ass up!”
Brendon whined, fingers gripping incredibly tight at the headboard for having woken up only minutes before. Ryan held his breath and pulled at the dead-weight man until his lungs felt ready to collapse, letting go and exhaling. He honestly didn’t expect Brendon to come easily, that’s why he set the alarm for earlier than they actually needed to get up, but Ryan didn’t expect it to be this difficult either.
It was like dealing with a stubborn child, adamant on getting their way.
But Ryan wasn’t about to give in. No way.
Trying a different approach, Ryan climbed back onto the mattress and walked on his knees towards the top, Brendon immediately turning his face the other way. Ryan ignored him and grabbed his pillow, straddling himself over Brendon’s thighs, wailing him as hard as possible with the piece of bedding.
“Get.” smack. “Your ass.” smack. “Up.” smack.
Brendon whined more into his pillow, releasing the headboard to lazily swing his arms back in attempt to stop Ryan. He wasn’t close in actually getting Ryan who continued attacking him, so Brendon shuffled his body around until Ryan fell to the side from Brendon knocking his knee out from under him. Once Ryan was down, Brendon bit back a satisfied smirk and curled tightly into a ball.
“Fine.” Ryan huffed, sliding off the mattress. “I’m going to take a shower. If you don’t get up and ready, I’ll go without you,” he said, heading towards the bathroom. “And if I go alone, I might not come back.” Ryan closed the bathroom door behind him with a loud thud for emphasis.
Ryan, however, had no intention of getting on that plane without Brendon. Or of taking a shower – at least, not yet. Instead, Ryan fished around in the cupboard for one of the large squirt guns they had to hide from Amelia while back when she decided to be a sniper on their balcony, squirting anyone who came over.
He turned on the shower, keeping the water as cold as possible, then opened the chamber to fill it with water; testing the gun on the tile. It shot water in a straight line, a long distance, and actually hurt pretty bad if in a close enough range. Ryan had no idea where Brendon even got it from, it was like a military weapon for water play, but it seemed useful for something at last.
Finger on the trigger, Ryan carefully opened the bathroom door again, leaving the water running and analyzed the situation. As he guessed, Brendon didn’t move, he figured the other man knew there wasn’t a real threat in his words, and slipped out. Being incredibly thin and tiny came in handy when being stealthy, allowing Ryan to sneak across the wooden floor easily.
When he was close enough to deliver a considerable sting to Brendon’s skin with the spray, Ryan aimed for the spot right between Brendon’s shoulder blades and tugged the plastic trigger back as far as it would go. Instantly, a perfect, thin line of water shot out, nailing Brendon right was Ryan had intended.
“Fuck!” Brendon yelled out, startled, jumping and arching his back. Ryan smirked, finger at the ready and raising an eyebrow at Brendon when the shocked brown eyes found his. “What the fuck, Ryan?” he asked, reaching back to try and touch the no doubt reddened skin.
“I told you to get up,” Ryan said, aiming at Brendon’s stomach now. “So you have five seconds,” he warned.
Brendon half frowned, half glared, challenging Ryan.
“Five…” Ryan started to count down. “Four…three…” He moved his arms so the gun was aimed at Brendon’s pelvis instead. “Two…”
“Seriously, Ryan,” Brendon said, flexing his shoulders and wincing. “Don’t-“
“One.” Ryan pulled the trigger again, this time nailing Brendon right in the balls. He didn’t hold the trigger long, releasing it as soon as Brendon cried out in pain. “How about now? Gonna get up?”
“How about I shove that down your throat?” Brendon snapped back, face twisted in agony.
“I’ve got plenty of water left.” Ryan stated, brushing the threat aside and giving the gun a little shake to cause the water inside to slosh around inside for emphasis. “Where would you like it next?”
Releasing himself, Brendon glared at Ryan then slowly moved himself into a somewhat sitting position. “Gonna kill you,” he mumbled, eyes narrowing. Ryan sprayed him quickly in the stomach, just for a moment, then threw the gun at the bed and started for the door.
“You’re going to be sorry!” Brendon called, grabbing the gun and flinching briefly as he stood, running after Ryan. The sad thing was Brendon was a lot quicker than Ryan, so he caught him relatively fast, hosing Ryan down with icy water until Ryan’s brown hair was dripping; the man laughing despite his stinging body.
Now downstairs, Brendon straddled Ryan who had fallen to the ground, holding the empty gun like a solider and smiling. “You’re my prisoner now,” he said to Ryan.
Ryan calmed himself and pushed his upper body forward, supporting himself with his hands, and kissed Brendon who, after a moment, tossed the toy aside to hold Ryan. They stayed like that for a few moments before Brendon pulled away, standing up and reaching down to Ryan to help him.
“You’re wasting water,” he said as he pulled Ryan up. “You’re a danger to our earth.”
“I think we’ve got enough water to spare a little,” Ryan said, brushing his wet bangs aside.
“Hmm,” Brendon hummed, suddenly hauling Ryan over his shoulder. “You’re still my prisoner,” he told Ryan, heading for the stairs. “And your crime is certainly punishable.” His voice was incredibly hinting.
“We need to leave soon!” Ryan protested, all-too-used to getting carried over Brendon’s shoulder now.
“Soon is plenty of time,” Brendon said, smacking Ryan’s thigh and heading up the stairs.
Somehow, despite a rather interesting morning, they managed to make their plane. Even if Brendon decided to drive rather slow and take forever to find somewhere in the proper lot to park. Ryan made him carry all their bags, the three or four they had, as his own punishment; Ryan was kind of sore anyway.
Between getting doused in icy cold water by an overly powerful water gun, and Brendon’s punishment, Ryan was amazed he could even move.
“I haven’t been on plane in years…” Brendon mused, stretching out and making himself comfortable in the seat. Since he bought the tickets, he decided they were going to travel first class, even if doing so cost a bunch of extra money that essentially amounted to one big waste. Sure, there was a bit more room, and there were a few small luxuries, but Ryan would have been just fine in coach.
He hated when Brendon used his wealth for unnecessary things. Even if Brendon made it so Ryan had access to his money as well; along with setting up a private account for Ryan as Brendon had done for Amelia and even for William.
“I could have said, ‘I haven’t in six months’, if someone didn’t feel like celebrating Christmas for a week straight,” Ryan said, buckling himself in after assuring Spencer that, yes, we’re on the goddamn plane so we’ll see you in a few hours, you annoying bitch, and turning his phone off.
“What can I say?” Brendon shrugged. “I’m a very festive guy.” He grinned that adorably cheesy grin that Ryan could never be mat, no matter how hard he tried.
“I think you have multiple personalities,” Ryan teased, watching the others board and pass by them for their own seats.
“You love them all,” Brendon said. “Especially good cop with a bad coc-“ Ryan quickly clamped his hand over Brendon’s mouth.
“Shut up,” he hissed, “Or you won’t have good or bad, you’ll have nothing,” he warned.
Removing his hand, Ryan wiped his palm on his jeans and pretended not to notice Brendon’s pout by looking out the small window, waiting for the plane to leave.
“No!” Ryan said louder than the other times, the flight attendant looking suspiciously at him. “For the hundredth time,” he lowered his voice, looking at the book in his lap, “we are not joining the mile high club.”
“But I’ve always wanted to!” Brendon whined, unable to stay still in his seat. Not having to wear your seatbelt once the plane was at a proper altitude, Ryan learned, was not an ideal thing in their situation. “It’s a very fun club…”He put a hand on Ryan’s upper thigh again. “Everyone becomes a member at some point…”
“I will bite your hand off,” Ryan said flatly without moving his eyes from the paper.
“Please?” Brendon begged, moving his hand farther up regardless.
“No,” Ryan repeated with little patience. “If you want to join so bad, you have two hands.” He shoved Brendon’s hand back towards his own body. “Go crazy.”
They couldn’t have reached Vegas any slower, Ryan miserably thought. Brendon didn’t give up the entire however many hours they were in the air with his pursuit in the pair having some kind of sex and officially becoming part of what everyone knows as the ‘mile high club’. He kept suggesting various things, fidgeting in his seat, touching Ryan wherever he could until Ryan would get irritated enough to slap his hands away; he really pushed his limits with Ryan’s patience. But they landed without Ryan’s hands wrapped around Brendon’s throat, and that was a good thing.
“What do you think would have happened if there were like…snakes on the plane, or something?” Brendon thought out loud as they walked the tunnel from the plane to the airport; being pretty much the first ones off.
“I think that if you don’t shut up, very bad things are going to happen,” Ryan said, letting Brendon take his hand and leading him, for once.
As soon as they rounded the corner, able to see the always crowded airport, Ryan spotted Spencer; the other man leaning against a window looking out to the flight strips with his arms crossed. For a moment Ryan was frozen, only moving when people behind them got irritated and when Spencer’s bitchface managed to get fiercer.
Letting go of Brendon, Ryan made his way to his friend and hugged him tight, nearly forgetting Brendon was even there. It had been a year since Ryan had seen Spencer – his best friend since he could walk and who, at the moment, took priority over everything else. The longest they had ever gone without seeing each other was a few days, usually over some stupid, petty fight, so this was important. And for a moment, the world seemed to stop, and it was as though nothing at all had changed over the past twelve months.
That was until Ryan realized, “God, Spence!” and pulled back to look his friend over. “You’re so thin now!” Spencer hand never been fat, but there had been a lot more of him a year ago. Now Ryan kind of felt like he was hugging a pole. Or like he was hugging himself.
“Yeah.” Spencer smiled, blue eyes sparkling brighter than ever. “I met this guy named Zack who’s really awesome. He works at this music place down the street from the studio. But anyway, we got talking one day and now we go to the gym and on runs and shit.” He shrugged with one shoulder. “And his boyfriend, also oddly named Rian, only spelled R-I-A-N, is a drummer!” Spencer pretty much fangirled.
Ryan laughed, trying not to start crying for multiple reasons. “Sounds like true love,” he teased, Spencer playfully shoving him. “As long as I haven’t been replaced…” his voice got scared and quiet, Spencer’s smile dropping quickly.
“Never, Ry.” Spencer shook his head, looking right into Ryan’s eyes. Ryan still felt off, though.
“You look really good,” Brendon said from off to the side, Spencer’s eyes telling Ryan that they’d talk later before he let Ryan go to grab Brendon and hug him.
“You too,” Spencer replied, patting his back. “Though I could kill you for ditching at Christmas.”
“There was so much to celebrate that we accidentally missed the plane.” Brendon simply grinned.
Spencer rolled his eyes. “I’m sure.”
“Where’s Jon?” Ryan asked, though he already knew the answer.
“Studio.” Spencer frowned, lips pursed. “You probably won’t see him until tomorrow. The only reason I see him every day anymore is because we live together and he ends up home eventually.”
Brendon glanced at his watch. “We should get a move on; we’re supposed to check into the hotel by five and we should get situated before doing anything else.”
“I still don’t get why you couldn’t stay with us,” Spencer said with disappointment.
“Sorry, but knowing you’re a room or so over would make sex very awkward.” Brendon answered, patting Spencer’s shoulder then heading off in the direction the signs stated was luggage claim.
“He’s been like this all morning,” Ryan mumbled, watching his boyfriend leave.
“And you’ve been denying him, haven’t you?”
“Spencer Smith,” Ryan looped his arm with Spencer’s, grinning, “You know me all too well.”
“This place is nicer than my apartment!” Spencer complained as the three walked into the penthouse suite that Brendon rented for the weekend. Ryan couldn’t even think about the price per night that it cost. And he had given up a while ago in fighting Brendon over the whole financial everything. They settled on Ryan paying for minor things with his own money, such as dinners and clothes and even a few bills, while Brendon could occasionally splurge on pleasantries such as the hotel.
“Reminds me of The Hangover,” he added as he set one of their bags down.
“Well we are in the heart of Vegas,” Ryan said emotionlessly. “And that movie was stupid.”
“You’re stupid.” Spencer scowled and playfully stuck his tongue out at his friend. “Don’t ask me for help when you wake up to a lion and a baby in the morning, then.” Ryan scowled back with a small, unthreatening glare.
“I’m going to call Bill and tell him we’re here,” Brendon said after taking a quick look around, pulling out his phone. Ryan nodded and started to survey their surroundings as well while Brendon slipped out onto the balcony. There was a lot of space; a living room set up in the middle with long couches and a flat-screen television, a kitchen with barstools and wineglasses overhead, a hot tub in the corner; Ryan had to bite back a grin because, though he’d never admit it, he felt a bit like he was on the top of the world.
This was one of those moments where Ryan kind of wanted to brag about dating someone with money. But that was wrong, and really, most days Ryan was able to forget about that little detail anyway, because he loved Brendon for so much more.
“I know you hate the whole money thing, Ry,” Spencer followed his friend towards the kitchen, “But you know he just wants to make you happy.”
Ryan turned to face Spencer, soft smile on his mouth. “He does.” He looked out the open glass door to the balcony where Brendon was leaning on the railing and happily chatting away. “But not because he spends money on me all the time.”
“Still,” Spencer sighed and leaned on the counter, “It’s nice.” Ryan studied his friend for a moment before frowning, moving to be opposite him at the counter.
“Spence, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” Spencer forced a smile, avoiding eye contact by looking down at his folded hands.
Ryan’s face was less than amused, knowing that his friend was lying. “Spencer.” His tone was hard and demanding; the same tone he would use when they were younger and Spencer would find it fun to hide Ryan’s toys on him when he was bored.
“It’s just…” Spencer took a deep breath, exhaling harshly. “Ever since Jon got that studio, I see less and less of him. He leaves early in the morning and doesn’t come home until it’s completely dark out.” He frowned, biting his lip. “I know the studio is a big deal for him, but I miss him too, you know? And if I call his cell I get his voicemail. If I show up, he ushers me out…”
“Jon loves you, Spence,” Ryan said softly, reaching out to rub Spencer’s shoulder.
“I know.” Spencer gave a small smile. “But sometimes I wonder what’s more important to him; me or his work.”
“After tomorrow,” Ryan assured Spencer, “The studio will be at the back of his mind again. He’s just working really hard to make a good opening because it’s his big break.” Ryan hadn’t gotten any better at the inspirational speaking, but when it came to Spencer, his best friend and practical brother, he would do anything to make him feel better. Just like Spencer would him.
“His studio is his shiny new toy;” Dealing with literature on a near daily basis made Ryan think of comparisons and similes on a near constant basis. “Sure, it’s getting all his attention right now, but in a few days it’ll lose that appeal and he’ll go back to devoting all his time to what he’s always had and loved; you.” Spencer’s smile grew a little, but Ryan could still tell he was upset; doubting.
“You remember that movie?” Ryan asked, giving it one last try. “Toy Story, I think it’s called?” Ryan leaned on his elbows on the counter. “Well anyway, you’re like that cowboy toy and the studio is like that space character and Jon is the boy you rarely see. For a while, the studio is going to get all the attention because it’s new and exciting. But in the end, you’re what he’s loves the most, and if anything ever happened to you you know he would be devastated. Like the kid in the movie was when he couldn’t find the cowboy dude.”
Spencer started laughing, head dropping down to his hands for a moment before he stood up and shook his head. “Just how much Disney are you forced to watch?” he asked through his laughter, Ryan trying to frown but smiling because at least Spencer seemed to feel better.
“Too much,” he answered with a slow nod of his own head. “I don’t know who’s worse with it, either; Brendon or Amelia.” Ryan stood up straight and looked seriously at Spencer who wiped briefly at his eyes, lips pulled back in a grin as he came off his laughing high. “But the concept is the same, Spence; you’re what Jon cares the most about. You just have to be patient and wait for his temporary obsession to pass.”
Spencer’s laughter died down gradually, blue eyes shining and giving a small nod. He knew the truth, he was just having doubts. Ryan had been there many times, Spencer always reminding him that things weren’t as bad as they seemed. “I really miss you, Ry,” Spencer said quietly; just above a whisper.
“I miss you too, Spence,” Ryan replied. It was the little things that Ryan missed most. Stupid reassurances like this that didn’t have the same effect over the phone and therefore could only work in person. For a moment Ryan wondered where along the way Spencer had started having these doubts, when he started to break, because Ryan never picked up on it when they had talked over the phone. But Spencer was good at hiding his feelings when he tried hard enough – his eyes being his biggest giveaway.
And over the phone, obviously, Ryan couldn’t see his eyes.
“Well,” Brendon walked back inside, pocketing his phone, “Apparently Mia is over the fact that she couldn’t come with us.” He smiled, joining them and putting his arms around Ryan’s waist; leaning his chin on Ryan’s shoulder and facing Spencer. “Told me to bring her back presents,” Ryan rolled his eyes, “And to make sure Spencer is nice to you or else.”
Spencer scoffed. “I’m a sweetheart!”
“Yeah,” Ryan snorted, “A real saint.” He and Spencer shared a final moment with their eyes, both smiling.
“Did I miss something?” Brendon asked, looking between them as he released Ryan to stand more beside him than behind him.
“Nope,” Spencer said, leaning sideways on the counter now with his left arm folded slightly beneath him. “Just a little catching up between friends.” Ryan hummed in agreement, nodding. “You know,” Spencer gave a mock-angered look to Brendon, “Since you stole him from me.”
“Yep.” Brendon proudly grinned, putting his arms around Ryan’s shoulders protectively. “And I’m not giving him back, either.” He was only half joking, pressing his face into Ryan’s shoulder.
“That’s okay.” Spencer stood up and as his phone started to go off. “It’s nicer without him,” he teased, flipping it open and reading what Ryan knew was a text message by the tone.
“I think that counts as being mean to me,” Ryan said, fake pouting and leaning his head on Brendon’s. “Go kick his ass.” Brendon laughed into his shoulder, squeezing him a little tighter.
“I gotta go,” Spencer said, shutting his phone but smiling with both his eyes and mouth. Ryan knew that the message had to be from Jon. “I’ll leave you two to your palace, and I’ll see you for breakfast in the morning?” he asked, walking backwards towards the door and working his keys from his pocket.
“If we’re up,” Brendon replied with a sly grin.
“Have fun,” Ryan said, taking his head off Brendon as the younger man released him.
“You too.” Spencer nodded. “Don’t let Brendon wander too far or you may never see him again,” he joked as he opened the door.
“I’ll keep a leash on him,” Ryan promised while leaving the kitchen and heading towards one of the couches; pulling Brendon along with him as emphasis since Brendon had laced their fingers together anyway.
Spencer waved and left, pulling the door behind him, leaving the two alone in the large penthouse.
“So…” Brendon pushed Ryan back so he was pressed against the couch. “There are lots of fun things in here to play with,” he said, sliding his fingers into the loop holes of Ryan’s jeans and tugging his hips forward. “And you promised that if I was a good boy we could play.”
“I don’t think trying to get into my pants the entire flight counts as ‘good’,” Ryan said with a raised eyebrow, putting his arms around Brendon’s neck for support since Brendon was leaning him back over the couch some. “And you were a bitch to get up this morning.”
“But we made the plane,” Brendon pointed out, pressing his lips to Ryan’s. “S’farther than last time,” he muttered against Ryan’s mouth. Ryan smiled, kissing his boyfriend back for a moment, almost deciding to give in but stuck to his original plan and let his head fall back out of Brendon’s reach.
“I’m going to have to go with you were bad, and therefore undeserving of play time,” he said. Brendon pouted, giving a small whine. “But,” Ryan grinned, “You can redeem yourself before the night’s over.”
“Oh yeah?” Brendon kissed Ryan’s collarbone since it’s all he could reach. “How so?” he asked, warm breath tickling Ryan some.
“I know this great club about five or ten minutes from here that I haven’t been to in years.” Ryan made Brendon stand up so he could straighten his back as it began to ache from the angle it was at. “Survive a couple of hours there, with minimal complaints, and we’ll let Spencer kill us for missing breakfast.”
Brendon looked him in the eye, contemplating the offer, slowly kissing Ryan and making a very light humming noise. “And if I refuse?”
Ryan released Brendon’s neck and pushed his hands off his hips, stepping to the side then heading backwards towards the door. “One of these suitcases,” he gestured at the bags on the floor as he passed, “Will stay closed the entire weekend.”
Someone, Ryan decided, was out to make his life hell. Some divine power that he couldn’t see or hear or touch, but certainly managed to get himself at the end of a blunt stick with. Right when he thought he escaped the turmoil of his past, it popped up and smacked him in the face, harder than ever.
See, at the time, going to the club seemed like a good idea and nice way to expose Brendon to an entirely different world. The thumping music was loud enough to feel in your chest, the flashing lights quick enough to cause a series of seizures, and the sweaty bodies packed tight enough to remind you of those times you went to see your favorite band and got lost somewhere in the moshpit because fuck, it was worth it.
Ryan wasn’t much of a clubber, but it’d been well over a year since he’d gone and he had this craving to go once again; even if only to regret it later when his head felt ready to explode.
The pair was at the club for maybe ten minutes, enjoying some drink that Ryan forgot the name of, but was colorful (or was that the lights around them?) and rather alcoholic, when that higher power against Ryan thrust a very happy Gabe at them from fucking nowhere. One minute Ryan was sipping on his drink and enjoying the loud music, and the next he was choking and jumping as a pair of long arms circled him.
“Oh my god, Ryan and Brendon!” was practically shouted into his ear as his spine was nearly cracked in half. “I thought you stayed down south!” Gabe lingered a moment before releasing Ryan and doing the same to Brendon – completely against his will. “What’re ya doin’ in Vegas?!”
Brendon, frowning, shoved Gabe off, mouthing ‘you okay?’ to Ryan as he tried to breathe in air and not his drink. Ryan nodded, finally stopping, running the back of his hand along his mouth then blinking his eyes a few times since tears had gathered. Gabe leaned on the small circular table between them, patiently waiting an answer.
“Jon,” Ryan said, breathing carefully. “He’s got a gallery opening tomorrow.”
“Sweet!” Gabe flashed a toothy grin. Ryan took a moment to look him over because, well, he was almost a completely different person than a year ago, it seemed. At least with looks. Gabe wore a baseball cap turned somewhat sideways, the design unreadable, and white framed glasses. His jeans were tight, and his shirt was some plaid design. On his left wrist, Ryan was quick to notice after, right under Gabe’s folded hands, was the bracelet that William had handed back to him the night before Ryan was supposed to return to Vegas.
“It’s weird runnin’ into you!” Gabe continued grinning madly. “Like, what’re the chances, ya know?”
“Not really,” Brendon replied over the music. “We’re not far from where you live, Gabe.”
Gabe laughed, shaking his head, making Brendon and Ryan share a confused look. “I don’t live in Vegas no more,” he said, resting his chin in his palms as he supported his head up. “I’ve been in New York since the new year.” His laughter died down as he noticed the confusion. “They never told you?” Gabe cocked his head.
“Who?” Ryan had no idea what Gabe was talking about.
“Oh shit.” Gabe frowned now, dropping his hands and standing almost straight. “I thought you knew…”
“Knew what?” Brendon’s tone was a mixture of confusion, frustration, and anger.
“Alex ‘n Nate – I’ve been stayin’ with them the past few months,” Gabe said, seemingly shocked that neither knew. “I mean, I asked them not to tell you why, ‘cause I didn’t want him to know;” The emphasis on ‘him’ was clearly a reference to William. “But I thought they at least told you I was there…”
“Nope.” Brendon was mostly angry now. “They never so much as even mentioned you.”
“Why’d you move out to New York?” Ryan asked before he could stop himself. The alcohol probably had a good part in that.
Gabe looked down at the table, rubbing the back of his neck; hesitant to reply. “I got myself into a lot of trouble and lost just about everything.” Ryan could barely hear him over the ambient noise. “After a few nights in jail, Alex came and told me to come stay with him and Nate. It was too painful here anyway, you know?”
“So now you get trashed in New York?” It was more of a statement than a question, and Ryan kicked Brendon under the table to tell him to stop being an ass.
“No.” Gabe’s smile returned as he shook his head briefly. “Realized that he was right and that I needed help so I found some in New York. Haven’t touched a drink in months.” He grinned.
“Good for you.” Ryan smiled. One less alcoholic in the world was a very good thing.
“If New York is so great for you, why are you back here?” Apparently Brendon didn’t get the hint, and Ryan was tempted to kick him again.
“For who?” Ryan and Brendon asked almost at the same time.
“A good friend of my boy’s,” Gabe answered; a sudden dawning expression taking over his face. “Oh, fuck! You gotta meet my boy!” And before Ryan or Brendon could even so much as process the words, they were being dragged through the crowds towards the private booths in back.
The bouncer or whatever he was granted Gabe entrance; that alone surprising Ryan as he stumbled behind Gabe who not only gripped tightly at their arms, but also forgot that he had considerably longer legs and that when he moved, especially quickly, people had difficulties keeping up. Gabe took them to a booth in the corner where three men sat talking; all of which looked a bit off-putting.
Gabe released both of them and slid into the booth beside the man with his own white frame glasses and choppy brown hair; pulling him into a more-than-friendly kiss. Not that people really go around kissing their friends. Ryan was surprised by the sight, but he was also a little relieved, because it looked like Gabe had moved on and found someone new after all.
“Ry, Bren,” he looked up at them as he looped an arm around the other man’s shoulders, “This is Mikey; my boo and the savior of my life.” The man – Mikey – looked up at them with a thoughtful expression. “Mikes, these are Ryan and Brendon; two of the guys I told you about from when I was in Hawaii last summer.”
“Yeah.” Mikey nodded, staring at them. “I remember. Brendon…you’re the guy with a lot of inherited money and who’s best friends with Gabey’s ex.” He looked Brendon up and down.
“His name is William.” Brendon bit out. Ryan saw Gabe flinch a little at the name, reaching for Brendon’s hand and giving it a single squeeze.
“And that makes you Ryan.” Mikey’s eyes moved to him next. “The one originally from around here, but gave it all up to stay in Hawaii with Brendon.” His voice was emotionless. Ryan just nodded.
“Join us!” Gabe said, gesturing with his free hand to the seat across from him. “Sit and chat for a while!” Ryan could tell Brendon didn’t want to, and actually, neither did he, but they were being stared at, and Gabe looked so happy – last time Ryan saw the man, Gabe was broken and in tears – so he took the initiative and slowly sat; Brendon reluctantly sat as well.
“That’s Gerard, Mikey’s older brother.” Gabe introduced the man with semi-long black hair and incredibly pale skin who gave them an awkward smile. “And that’s Frank;” Gabe gestured towards the tattooed man next to Gerard who was chewing on his lip ring, “Gerard’s best-friend-boyfriend-sponsor or whatever the fuck they decide to call themselves this week.”
“Sponsor?” Ryan questioned.
“Fuck; forgot to mention that too!” Gabe shifted some in his seat. “Remember how I told you I moved to New York?” They nodded. “So, in rehab, or group, whatever the fuck you wanna call it, you get a sponsor – someone who understands what you’re going through and helps you work through the rough times and helps you get back on the right track.” Gabe explained. “Frank is Gerard’s sponsor.”
“And I’m Gabey’s,” Mikey said after with a proud smirk, leaning against Gabe comfortably.
“So what brings you back here?” Frank asked, using one arm to prop his head up.
“A, um, friend’s gallery opening,” Ryan said. “Tomorrow.”
“What kind of gallery?” Gerard asked, his voice startling Ryan because he wasn’t even aware the man was listening. Gerard seemed to be pulled into himself, hiding behind his hair and dark clothing.
“Photography,” he responded. Gerard nodded, uncrossing his arms and leaning forward, engaging Ryan in eye contact.
“What kind of photography does your friend do?”
“Gee’s an artist,” Frank said with a small, but proud smile. “Creates comics and cartoons and shit.”
“That’s cool.” Ryan slowly nodded a few times. “And he does a lot of portraiture; kind of. He hasn’t really done it in a professional setting yet, ‘cause until now he hasn’t had the space to do so, but he’s always taking pictures of people.” Ryan could tell that Gerard was focused and interested in what he was saying. “The uh, opening, is open to anyone,” he offered.
“We’ve got a wedding to be at tomorrow so maybe next time.” Mikey commented from his seat. “Right Gee?”
“This is his second wedding.” Gerard snorted, falling back against the seat again. “And you know we don’t even get along. Why do I have to be there?”
“Because you’re my brother and he’s my best friend.” Mikey scowled.
“Your best friend.” Gerard crossed his arms again. Brendon squeezed at Ryan’s hand, telling Ryan he wanted to leave, but Ryan felt like they should stay a few more minutes so he rubbed his thumb over his boyfriend’s knuckles as their hands remained joined beneath the table.
Really, Ryan should have listened to Brendon’s uncomfortable body language and returned to the overcrowded dance floor and bar, because that damn higher power out to get Ryan really made his life hell all over again in a matter of the five minutes following Brendon’s silent plea to leave. Maybe something else had told Brendon to get Ryan to leave, and Ryan chose to ignore it, but either way, Ryan never would have guessed what came next.
“Sorry I was gone so long.” Six words, nonthreatening and rather meaningless on their own, stopped Ryan’s breathing and upped the pace of his heart, forcing him to grab tighter at Brendon’s hand as he looked to the new addition to the table.
Standing there, grinning widely and looking exactly as Ryan remembered, was none other than Pete-fucking-Wentz. His ex-fiancé.
“Did you guys miss me?” he asked, not yet noticing Ryan’s presence.
“Of course,” Gabe said with a smirk, right as Ryan heard Gerard mutter, ‘no’. “We got some company.” He gestured towards Brendon and Ryan, Pete following with his eyes; face paling when he and Ryan made eye contact. For a second, Ryan thought he saw Pete’s eyes flash, maybe with regret or hurt or even anger, Ryan wanting to look away but unable to so much as blink, let alone actually do so. “They’re old friends,” Gabe told him.
“Ghosts of the past.” It was almost like a subconscious response, Pete keeping contact a moment longer before pulling on a smile again, fake at best, acting as though there was nothing unusual about it at all. “That’s cool,” he said, looking to Brendon then to everyone else. “The more the merrier, right?”
“Exactly!” Gabe didn’t pick up on anything, and as Ryan briefly glanced at the other men, no one else did either. “That’s Brendon,” Gabe pointed to Ryan’s left, “And that’s his boyfriend, Ryan.” He pointed at Ryan next. “They’re from Hawaii, here for a friend’s gallery opening.”
“Nice to meet you,” Pete said, offering his hand to Brendon and forcing Brendon to release Ryan’s hand to shake it. Pete acted like Ryan was too far away to shake Ryan’s hand, as though he didn’t want to be rude and reach over the table, and Ryan didn’t know which he felt more; shock, or anger.
Pete was acting as though they didn’t even know each other; that they were never dating, and that they were never once engaged. That he never left Ryan the night before their wedding for some guy named Patrick.
“Pete’s the one getting married tomorrow,” Gabe informed the two, moving over a bit to give Pete a spot to sit.
“Really.” It wasn’t a question, it was hardly even spoken, and Brendon’s hand found Ryan’s again with a little squeeze as though to ask if he was okay. Ryan wasn’t okay. He was looking at the man that he once loved, that he once cleaned up after and lied for and nearly lost his best friend over. The man that promised Ryan a life together, then left him for someone else on what was supposed to be the best day in Ryan’s life.
No, Ryan was absolutely not okay.
But what could he do? Pete clearly wanted to play stranger, act like they never knew each other, and the last thing Ryan wanted was a scene by calling Pete out on it, so he just had to sit there and play stupid as well. Even if it was eating away at him.
“Congratulations,” Brendon offered, and Ryan kind of wanted to smack him. It wasn’t Brendon’s thought though. How would he know this was that Pete? All he knew of Ryan’s past boyfriend was his name. Not what he looked like, and certainly not who his friends were.
And that’s when Ryan realized that he knew Mikey already too. Kind of. He had never actually met the guy, but he had heard plenty about him, and had talked to him before over the phone. Even then Mikey seemed to hate him. Though it didn’t seem Mikey realized it was him. Ryan is a very common name, after all, and since Pete was playing stupid…
“Thanks.” Pete smiled, eyes flicking momentarily to Ryan, but going back to Brendon when he realized Ryan was staring at him. Angrily. “Feels great, too. Like I finally found the one person I know I’ll be happy with the rest of my life, you know?”
“Yeah;” Ryan was too quick to reply. “I know how that feels.”
“Me too,” Brendon said, lifting their joined hands up to kiss Ryan’s hand; Ryan hardly noticing as he watched Pete’s expression harden instead. Good, he thought. He hoped maybe Pete was feeling what Ryan felt for the past year. The pain, the regret; the jealousy.
“So how long you two been together?” Pete asked, waving his finger between the two.
“A year,” Ryan replied as Brendon lowered their hands again. “I went to Hawaii on vacation, intent on forgetting a conceded asshole, and ended up falling for Brenny during my two weeks there.” Pete’s expression hardened a little more, and Ryan fought to keep himself from smirking. “And I don’t think I’ve ever been happier.”
“Sounds like true love.” Pete’s words were practically sarcastic. Though it was hard to tell with all the background noise of the club.
“Maybe you two will be next.” Gabe used that suggestive tone; eyes twinkling for a moment. Ryan paid him no attention though.
“Maybe,” Brendon said, tone all-too-hopeful.
Pete suddenly stood again, moving some of his growing hair out of his face. “I’ll be right back,” he said, fixing the strings of his hoodie after. “I’ve got to go to the bathroom.” With the final word, he looked directly at Ryan, eyes beckoning him, then turned and disappeared.
“Are we almost done here?” Gerard asked with a bit of a whining tone.
“We’re staying until Pete wants to leave.” Mikey frowned at his brother. “We’re here for him, Gee.”
“He doesn’t care about us, though.” Frank spoke up, looking bored and tired. “Can’t we go back to the hotel and you two stay?”
“You just want to go have sex.” Gabe scoffed, smirking still. “Admit it.”
“As if you don’t.” Frank commented back, rolling his eyes. “You’re not as discreet as you think you are.”
“I gotta pee,” Ryan announced rather loudly, not wanting to hear the rest of the conversation, and wanting to get to the bottom of this shit with Pete. He got some odd looks, because did he honestly have to announce it? But Ryan didn’t care because he just needed to get to that bathroom where Pete was waiting for him.
Brendon looked apprehensive to be left alone, sliding from the booth to let Ryan out, sharing a look with him to tell him to please hurry. Ryan nodded, giving Brendon a quick kiss as though to reassure him, then nearly ran towards his bathroom; weaving between the people effortlessly due to his thin stature.
When he reached the door labeled ‘mens’, Ryan opened it enough to slip inside, finding Pete leaning back against the wall opposite the door with his arms crossed over his chest and expression hard. “What the fuck was that about?” Ryan demanded as soon as he was inside, the door not even completely shut.
“Good to see you too.” Pete huffed, mouth in a straight line.
“Why did you act like you didn’t even know me? Like it’s the first fucking time we’ve ever met?”
“For the same reason you played along.” Pete stared him down; Ryan matching the glare. “There were people present that don’t need to know.”
“Brendon already knows about you.” Ryan scoffed, crossing his own arms tight over his chest.
“Apparently not enough,” Pete muttered, though Ryan could still hear him just fine. The music could be heard inside the bathroom, but it was no louder to Ryan at that moment than a mosquito buzzing a few feet away. All that mattered at this particular moment, all he could hear, was Pete.
“Well it’s nice to hear that you’re getting married tomorrow.” Ryan became bitter and sarcastic. “Glad to know you found that special someone at long last, since I apparently wasn’t good enough.”
At that, Pete pushed off the wall and took a few steps forward, Ryan struggling to keep his ground. “I have tried, more than once, to explain what happened that night, Ryan.” Pete’s voice was low and cold. “But every time I tried, I got hung up on, yelled at, or threatened.”
“What’s to explain?!” Ryan humorously laughed. “You left me the night before what was supposed to be our fucking wedding, for some whore that I later found out you’ve been seeing behind my back for months!”
Pete was quick to close the distance between them, grabbing Ryan’s collar and twisting it around his fisted hand; slamming Ryan back against the wall facing the mirror. “Don’t you say a fucking word about Patrick.” Pete hissed, face inches from Ryan. “And don’t start accusing me of shit when you don’t have a goddamn clue what you’re talking about.”
Ryan tried to push Pete back, but Pete used his free hand to force Ryan’s skinny wrists together, rendering them motionless. “I tried for you, Ryan. Yes, I’d been seeing Patrick for months, and yes, it was behind your back, but not for the reasons that you think.” Ryan continued to struggle, but that only managed to make Pete twist his collar tighter; threatening to choke him.
“I fucking loved you enough to tell you I’d marry you. But I realized that you were fucking miserable with the way I was.” Pete jerked Ryan’s collar to force eye contact. There was definite pain in his eyes, along with anger, but Ryan figured he deserved it. He’d felt plenty of pain and anger for the past year. “So I tried to get help – to clean myself up. Patrick, for your information, was my counselor!” His voice got a bit louder.
That made Ryan freeze, looking for signs of lying in Pete’s face, but couldn’t find any. And he was very good at telling when Pete was lying, after having years of practice. “W-what?” His voice shocked him with how quiet and pathetic sounding it was.
“That’s right, Ross. I wasn’t sleeping with Patrick, I was going to him to talk and get off my fucking addictions to be the kind of husband that you deserved.” If it wasn’t an automatic motion, Ryan probably would have stopped breathing; unable to think of anything at all. “The night before our wedding, I was freaking out, and wanted nothing more than to get wasted enough to be out for days. So when I told you I couldn’t do it, that I was going to Patrick, I didn’t mean I didn’t want to marry you. I meant that I couldn’t do it at that moment because I didn’t have control yet.”
Ryan was frozen a few seconds, processing it, then managed to find his voice again to say, “Well you could have just fucking told me that to begin with!” He was angry again. With good reason. Pete shouldn’t have hid from him. “You could have told me that you wanted to wait because you were trying to get clean, instead of just being gone for hours on end then telling me you were going to some guy named Patrick who I had no fucking idea the identity of!”
“When I tried you wouldn’t listen!”
“Because you tried after you left me clueless and alone that night.” Ryan found the strength to get his wrists free. “After I spent night upon night crying and blaming myself and regretting wasting my time on you to begin with.” He felt like he was going to cry, knowing that it was all a big misunderstanding to begin with, and that maybe right now he would be married to Pete had he listened.
But at the same time, Ryan lost almost all feeling for Pete at that moment because he may not have been lying, but he wasn’t telling Ryan what he was doing anyway. That he didn’t trust Ryan to know he was getting help. “And apparently there was something between you and Patrick since you’re getting married tomorrow.”
Pete’s grip loosened on Ryan, but he still kept him pinned tight against the wall, face inches away. “He knows what I am, and he accepts it, and he helps me get through each day.” Pete’s volume dropped to a low level, though his tone remained hard. “I love him, and he loves me, and we’re going to be happy together.”
“Good for you.”
“But that doesn’t mean I won’t ever stop loving you, Ryan.” There was something about the way the words suddenly became heavy with pain, being whispered with passion and truthful eyes. “That deep down, I won’t ever regret having said yes to you.” Ryan had to look away to stop himself from crying.
At that moment, the bathroom door opened and Brendon came in, starting to say, “Ryan, you’ve been gone-“ but stopping when he saw the two. Pete instantly released Ryan who straightened his shirt and looked down at his feet; squeezing his eyes tightly shut until he was sure the tears wouldn’t come out.
“It’s not what it looked like,” Pete said, almost afraid. Ryan looked up and saw Brendon glaring at Pete with a very angered expression, like he was ready to kill him.
“Bren;” Again Ryan’s voice was timid and quiet. “Let’s just-“
“Did he hurt you?” Brendon demanded, going to Ryan and lifting his chin to look into his eyes, concerned and demanding. Ryan shook his head, moving his head from Brendon’s grip and looking away.
“We were just talking,” Pete said from somewhere behind Ryan.
Brendon looked at Pete, then at Ryan, then back at Pete; eyes widening with a realization that Ryan hoped he wouldn’t find. “Wait; you’re the Pete, aren’t you?” He turned to Ryan for conformation; Ryan’s inability to look him in the eyes being a dead giveaway. “The fucking asshole that put Ryan through hell for years, even before you broke him a year ago!”
“Brendon, just leave it alone,” Ryan said, taking Brendon’s hand to pull him away. Brendon yanked his hand from Ryan’s grip, visibly pissed off, and balled it into a fist.
“And now you have the audacity to ruin his life all over again when he was just starting to get it all back?!” Brendon pretty much shouted, stepping closer to Pete who didn’t so much as flinch, though he could tell how upset the other man was. “Do you know how broken he was when you left him? How untrusting he was? How fucking hard I had to push to break his walls to get him to so much as talk to me?!”
“I’m sorry,” Pete said quietly, staying still as Brendon got closer. “I was selfish for doing that to him.” His eyes flicked to Ryan, then back to Brendon. “But I’m glad he has someone like you to give him the love and attention he deserves.”
“Me too.” And the next thing Ryan knew, Pete was on his back on the tile of the bathroom floor, blood running down his nose and chin in a constant stream.
“Brendon!” Ryan’s eyes widened, shocked that Brendon just punched him down.
“If you know what’s good for you, you’ll stay the fuck out of Ryan’s life for good.” Brendon warned, shaking his hand a bit.
“He didn’t expect to run into me tonight!” Ryan’s anger was directed towards Brendon now. Pete rolled to his side and cupped a hand under his jaw as blood pooled inside it, using his other hand to struggle his way to a standing position. Ryan got some paper towels and went to Pete, handing them to him for the mess. He muttered a weak ‘thanks’, holding them to his nose to try and stop it.
Ryan helped Pete to lean against the wall, keeping a hand on the man’s shoulder just in case the amount of blood loss made him dizzy. When it seemed to slow down, Pete shrugged Ryan off and disappeared into a bathroom stall, Ryan knowing that he could leave now. Brendon had waited by the door, silent, expression not the least bit sorry for what he did.
“Don’t talk to me,” Ryan said a bit harshly, pushing past Brendon and out of the bathroom; heading to the door to go back to the hotel.
As soon as they got back to the hotel, Ryan went to the bedroom and shut the door before Brendon could follow. He stripped his clothes and got into the bed, the silk sheets cold against his skin and the mattress incredibly comfortable. It wasn’t that he was terribly mad at Brendon for punching Pete, he deserved it, but it was more he didn’t want Brendon to stand up for him. Ryan had dealt with Pete enough to continue on how things were with his ex, but Brendon punching Pete made things strained.
He curled on his side, hugging one of the many pillows, pondering what Pete had told him. He had never intended to dump Ryan after all. He was getting clean to try and be a good husband. Part of Ryan wanted to forgive him entirely, to try and make him leave Patrick to be with Ryan again.
But then Ryan thought about what Brendon had said. It was true; for years Pete put Ryan through hell, physically and emotionally, and never showed any signs of trying to change. Pete didn’t even tell Ryan when he did decide to get help, expecting Ryan to know or wait for him or whatever else while he secretly got himself help.
“Ryan?” Brendon knocked hesitantly on the door. “Am I…am I sleeping on the couch?” he asked, Ryan’s chest clenching at the way his boyfriend sounded. He had been with Brendon for a year, and not once had Brendon treated him remotely close to how Pete had. Not once has Brendon gotten drunk or high or ditched Ryan for friends. Not once had he yelled at Ryan or hit him or keep things behind his back.
Ryan didn’t answer though, because he really didn’t feel like talking. “Well…goodnight…” he heard Brendon sigh. “I’m sorry I upset you…I’ll see you in the morning…” Ryan could hear Brendon’s footsteps growing soft as he walked away.
Ryan realized in that moment that maybe that whatever was out to get him, really didn’t hate him after all. That maybe it was really helping Ryan. Because if Ryan had never thought that Pete actually had dumped him, he never would have been miserable enough to make Spencer and Jon show up and force him to Hawaii. If he was still with Pete, he would have never met Brendon, nor any of the great people that he calls close friends today.
Truth be told, getting left the night before his wedding was probably the best thing to ever happen to Ryan. Because even if Pete got help, there was no guarantee he wouldn't relapse or be dependent or be even worse than he was before. Now Ryan had Brendon; and he’d never been happier before in his life.
What took years to develop with Pete, took days with Brendon. Love.
Silently sighing, Ryan released the pillow and folded the blanket back, sliding from the bed and padding quietly to the door. The lights were off in the rest of the hotel so he flipped the bedroom light off as well, sliding his feet along the floor towards the living room where he knew he’d find Brendon too.
He could make out Brendon’s curled form on the couch from the lights outside pouring in the window, and used his hands to guide his way towards him. Ryan went to the couch then climbed into the space between the back and Brendon, Brendon moving back a little to give him room. “I’m sorry too,” Ryan whispered, folding one arm beneath his head for a pillow and putting the other over Brendon’s waist.
“I shouldn’t have punched him,” Brendon said, putting his arm over Ryan.
“He deserved it,” Ryan mumbled, Brendon giving a tiny snort as he pulled Ryan a little closer. “I got my facts wrong about what happened that night, but either way, I’m glad this was the outcome.”
“Me too,” Brendon replied with a kiss to Ryan’s forehead. “I love you.”
Ryan smiled, snuggling up to Brendon and shutting his eyes. “I love you too.”
Chapter 3: Sunday
The first thing Ryan registered when he woke up was pain. A dull, aching kind of pain that rested in every fiber of his being, making Ryan aware of places he didn’t even know existed until they were protesting. He groaned low in his throat and tried not to move too much so the pain wouldn’t get worse, cracking one eye open to find a source behind it all.
Almost instantly Ryan’s eye snapped shut again, unable to handle the light of the room so quickly. It wasn’t that bright – it was that early morning blue-ish kind of bright that always burns no matter what you try until you get used to it. After a moment to let the burning subside, Ryan tried again by parting his lids a tiny bit, adjusting, opening them a bit more, and continuing the process until he could see enough for an analysis.
It took a moment, but Ryan quickly noticed was at some point during the night, he and Brendon ended up on the floor. He was half on top of Brendon, and half on the space of floor between his boyfriend and the couch, and yeah; that’s definitely where the pain had come from. Because that couch was actually pretty large and comfortable. How and when they made it to the floor, with neither apparently waking to notice, was a mystery – though it must have happened not too long after they both passed out since everything hurt.
By Ryan’s guess, it was still pretty early, too. Maybe sometime between five and seven. They didn’t go to bed terribly early, but it wasn’t as late as Ryan originally intended either due to the whole running-into-Pete-and-Brendon-punching-him thing.
In attempt to get more comfortable, and to lessen the pain, Ryan slowly shifted himself around to be lying as straight as possible, entirely in the space between Brendon and the couch. He laid on his back, biting his lip as a sharp, quick twinge of pain ran down the length of his spine, disappearing a moment later as his body accepted the new position.
Beside him Brendon became more animated, making a soft noise of displeasure in his throat then turning to face Ryan, stretching an arm out to lay over Ryan’s body in a possessive way. Ryan gave a tiny grunt when Brendon lightly pulled on his side, using Ryan for stability to scoot over and press his face into Ryan’s neck. “S’early,” Brendon mumbled, inhaling deeply then exhaling warmth all over Ryan.
Ryan hummed, letting his eyes slip shut, not entirely comfortable but not that inclined to move, either. “Go back t’sleep,” Brendon said after, pressing a lazy kiss to Ryan’s shoulder. It wasn’t like Ryan didn’t want to. He would love to just go back to sleep for another hour or two. But he knew that wasn’t going to happen.
First off, he couldn’t get comfortable enough to allow himself to do so. Especially not with Brendon half on top of him now – he would never tell Brendon to get off, though. Ryan liked the physical way Brendon functioned, for the most part, because it gave Ryan the feeling of being wanted and needed. But the main thing keeping Ryan awake was that he couldn’t get his brain to settle.
Over and over again, Pete’s voice was running through his head, telling Ryan that he still loved him. It was twisting his stomach and knotting his chest; a vicious loop on repeat that refused to give up. Ryan just wanted it to stop to give him peace of mind and to free him. Hearing Pete say that to Ryan made Ryan feel like Pete still had some hold, come control, over him; though Ryan knew he and Pete were absolutely through. Ryan had been doing just fine for the past year.
Honestly, Ryan wished he and Brendon would have just left when Pete went to the bathroom. He could have lived with running into Pete, it was nice to see Gabe again, but Ryan wished he never had that conversation with Pete in the bathroom.
“Stop thinking.” Brendon suddenly spoke against Ryan’s neck. “Thinking keeps you awake.”
“How do you know I’m thinking?” Ryan asked. “Maybe I’m awake because you woke me up.”
Brendon made a noise of disagreement, sending vibrations through Ryan’s skin. “You’re breathing like you’re thinking. Stop.”
At that Ryan gave a small laugh, regretting it when his shoulders protested. “My breathing is no different when I’m thinking than when I’m not.”
“Is,” Brendon argued. “Your thinking-breathing is slow and shallow. Like now.”
“Whatever.” Ryan huffed, focusing then on his breathing to see if there was much of a difference. Not that he could really tell since he never paid much attention to his breathing to begin with. It was an automatic response, something he never had to think about, so having Brendon tell him he breathed differently depending on what he was doing, or in this case, thinking, was weird.
He stayed as completely still as he could in attempt to get back to sleep, trying his hardest to ignore the loop of Pete’s voice, but in the end it was nothing more than the boring use of a few minutes. With a sigh, Ryan peeled Brendon off him and gently pushed him to the side so he could sit up, ignoring the way his back disagreed with the movement.
“Now what?” Brendon questioned groggily, rubbing his eyes yet not opening them.
“I hurt,” Ryan said, reaching behind himself and pushing a hand against his lower back for a moment. “I’m going to go get in the hot tub for a bit.” He decided, struggling a bit to get onto his knees. “Just go back to sleep,” he nearly whispered; forcing himself to bend down to kiss Brendon’s head as though he was a child then using the couch to pull himself to his feet and the wall to get to the hot tub.
It had been some time since Ryan had been in a hot tub. Brendon had suggested getting one multiple times, mainly to use it for things other than relaxing, but it wasn’t exactly at the top of their list. Especially not after getting Mia. So it was a pleasant shock when Ryan lowered himself into the warm water, naked because he didn’t have a swim suit or anything, and his clothes would only feel heavy.
Ryan let out a content sigh, leaning back against the wall and stretching his legs out to be as loose as possible. At first the water stung from the temperature, but the burn quickly went away and it became soothing. His eyes fell shut, the tension slowly leaving his body and making Ryan overall sated. His head began to clear at last, leaving Ryan’s only thoughts at how he felt like he was floating.
When Ryan heard a gentle splash, followed by a surge of water flowing at him, he opened his eyes to see Brendon sitting opposite him; equally naked. "You could have gone back to sleep.” Ryan frowned, pulling his legs back despite how comfortable he had been.
Brendon shrugged with one shoulder, indifferent, and instead said, “Come here,” in a tone that left little room for Ryan to question him.
Confused, Ryan stood and walked across the tub to his boyfriend; Brendon taking hold of Ryan’s wrist and pulling him down to his lap. “Uh, hi?” Ryan tried, Brendon just giving him this cute, tired smile. Brendon pecked Ryan’s lips then moved back as far back on the little seat as he could, opening his legs and letting Ryan fall between them. To fit, Brendon turned Ryan to face the same direction as he was, Ryan’s back inches away from Brendon’s chest.
Ryan remained confused and oblivious until Brendon’s hands found his shoulders, squeezing tight then releasing as he began to massage them. “Bren, what-“
“I can tell when you’re stressed.” Brendon cut Ryan off. “You don’t need to be stressed. Not now.” And he continued working Ryan’s tense muscles.
That was one thing Ryan loved about Brendon. Well, one of a million things. Brendon could be very gentle when he wanted, but he could also be strong and forceful at times. Ryan hummed contently and dropped his head back to Brendon’s shoulder, eyes falling shut again, knowing he made Brendon’s job a little harder but didn’t exactly care. And apparently neither did Brendon as he continued on.
“Have I told you that you’re perfect?” Ryan asked in a lazy tone.
Brendon softly laughed, Ryan able to feel it in his own body, then answered, “You’ve mentioned it,” like it was a joke. But Ryan wasn’t joking at all. He was serious about what he said. Brendon was pretty damn perfect. “Only for you,” Brendon whispered into Ryan’s ear. And really, that should have been sweet and made Ryan’s heart flutter or something.
But what actually happened was Ryan felt shivers run through him quickly, sparking life into a part of his body nowhere near his heart.
Ryan ignored the sensation and focused on the way his breaths matched Brendon’s in perfect harmony, and how good Brendon’s hands felt on his muscles as they started to numb. “Feeling any better?” Brendon questioned after a few moments, kissing the side of Ryan’s head.
“Much,” Ryan replied with a small sigh. He undeniably felt better. In more than one way.
However, Ryan didn’t expect to be getting turned on when trying to relax. Yeah, he was pressed close to Brendon, but that was a stability kind of thing. And yeah, he was getting a massage, but of his shoulders. They were practically on the opposite end of his body. Ryan had no idea why he was getting so turned on, but he was, and wasn’t any stopping it.
“Whenever you feel better,” Brendon began softly speaking, “I figured we can go shower then meet Spencer for breakfast.” Ryan heard the words, but they didn’t exactly settle in his brain before escaping out the other ear. He nodded for the sake of it, shifting a little to try and get his problem to go away. He was supposed to be relaxing. This was the opposite of relaxing.
“Tell me when to stop,” Brendon said in that same low whisper.
“Don’t,” he muttered back, really resisting touching himself. If he ignored it, it would go away. Right?
Except…Ryan couldn’t really ignore it. Not with Brendon so close, pretty much breathing on him, touching him, and talking all low and almost controlling like. So, without exactly thinking, Ryan pulled away to spin around and stick his legs over Brendon’s so his knees pressed into the bench-like seat, grabbing Brendon’s face and crashing their lips together.
Naturally, Brendon was startled at first, but he went along with it and kissed back a moment later. “Ry-“ Brendon started when Ryan unsealed their mouths to draw in another breath, only getting cut off when Ryan returned to sucking his face. To answer the question Brendon was trying to ask, Ryan slid his hips forward so that his half-erection pressed into Brendon’s groin, earning a little moan from Brendon into Ryan’s mouth.
Without breaking the kiss, Ryan released Brendon’s face and wrapped one arm around his neck, dropping his other hand beneath the water to palm Brendon to get him where Ryan wanted. Brendon gave another small moan to the action and lifted his hips up into the touch, so Ryan pressed down harder to speed the whole process up. The harder Brendon got, the harder Ryan got, and well – there was definitely no going back now.
They continued on like that for a few minutes, Brendon’s fingers starting to dig into Ryan’s thighs as Ryan palmed him until Ryan really couldn’t take the foreplay any longer and decided what he wanted to do next. Because he was pretty much in control right now. It didn’t happen often, Ryan knew Brendon liked it when it did, but sometimes this almost animalistic dominance took over Ryan and made him this way.
Detaching their lips, Ryan put his hands on Brendon’s shoulders, rocking his hips ever-so-lightly into Brendon’s, just to keep that element of friction there, and moved his lips to Brendon’s neck. Brendon’s skin was pleasantly warm, Ryan sucking on it hard enough to leave a circular, reddish mark that wasn’t quite a hickey; Brendon tipping his head to give Ryan better access. Once satisfied, Ryan kissed the mark and moved onto a new spot, careful not to go too high and make them too obvious, leaving tiny bites in between just to make Brendon unravel with little whines.
“Ry…” Brendon’s voice was breathy, his hands sliding up to Ryan’s hips as his body fell back against the wall of the hot tub. “Ryan…” he tried again, but wasn’t able to get much of anything out.
“You know what I wanna do?” Ryan asked, voice unusually deeper and husky. He moved his mouth back up Brendon’s neck, leaving a trail of kisses as he did so, until he reached Brendon’s ear. “I wanna ride you,” he breathed in a low whisper, feeling Brendon tense and twitch a bit beneath him. Then teasingly, Ryan asked, “Would you like that, Brenny?”
“We-“ Brendon swallowed hard, shifting himself. “We don’t have-“
“I really don’t care,” Ryan cut him off with some irritation. He’s not letting Brendon ruin his moment with little details.
“You don’t know what’s in here,” Brendon continued in the same choppy, unstable tone. “What if-“
With a frustrated sigh, Ryan put his lips over Brendon’s to silence him, keeping them there until Brendon stopped trying to talk all together. “Less talking,” he pushed his body close to Brendon’s, “and more fucking me,” Ryan spoke against Brendon’s mouth.
Brendon let out a staggering moan, almost hesitant to make any noise at all. “Don’t you need-“ he started, going to move his hand when Ryan stopped him by grabbing it and pushing it down to his erection instead.
“Uh-uh,” he replied, shaking his head with his forehead rubbing against Brendon’s. “Just want you.” He kissed Brendon. “Inside me.” Another kiss. “Right now.” Brendon’s cheeks were flushed, eyes half lidded, and mouth hanging open whenever Ryan’s mouth wasn’t over it.
“I don’t want to hurt you,” Brendon said with his usual concern and sincerity when it came to Ryan’s well-being. Ryan just rolled his eyes and slid his hips forward to tell Brendon that he wasn’t all that concerned, and that he was more than eager to get on with it already.
“I’ll be fine.” Ryan dismissed the thought, licking Brendon’s bottom lip slowly. Ryan felt entirely slutty by this point, but it felt absolutely right.
The hand Brendon had on Ryan’s hip gripped him tighter, able to move Ryan however it wanted. “You sure?” Brendon mumbled as his lips moved against Ryan’s hungrily. He wanted to make sure Ryan was completely decided.
“Absolutely,” Ryan muttered back, returning both hands to Brendon’s shoulders to keep himself from falling back as all kinds of hormones raged through him. Going without preparation wasn’t exactly the smartest plan, Ryan could easily tear something, but doing so seemed to fit the moment a lot better than taking time to properly stretch the ring of muscle.
And it wasn’t like it would be the first time Ryan went bareback and un-stretched.
For a moment, Ryan handed the control over to Brendon to allow the younger man to line himself up with Ryan because he had far better judgment than Ryan as to where things belonged. Ryan’s body moved easily in the water when Brendon shifted him a bit to the side, thankful that at least the water provided some kind of lubricant that would lessen the friction and move things along more smoothly.
No words were exchanged, Brendon’s movements telling all, and Ryan drew in a deep breath and shut his eyes as Brendon guided him down gradually. Once past the initial blow, Ryan squeezing his eyes and biting his lip, Ryan pushed himself down completely to get it over with. Like quickly submerging your entire body in a cold pool to get used to it. He exhaled his breath slowly, fingers scraping at Brendon’s skin, and relaxed his body by concentrating on the warm water until he got used to the sensation of the sudden intrusion.
Brendon’s head fell back as he moaned lowly at the feeling, squeezing Ryan’s hip which proved a good distraction for Ryan as well. “You…’kay?” Brendon returned his free hand to Ryan’s other hip, gripping his boyfriend who held to him just as tightly.
“Yeah. Just…” Ryan took another deep breath and slowly released it. “Just give me a minute,” he said, resting his forehead against Brendon’s. He had to let the burning stop, his entire pelvis on fire, but in a mostly pleasant way.
“Mmm,” Brendon hummed, rubbing circles into Ryan’s hips with his thumbs and softly kissing him. That animalistic passion melted away, leaving Ryan at his regular self. That desire for sex remained, though, driving Ryan to find control in the situation once he was able to move again.
Ryan made a little circle with his hips to test how much effort he actually had to put out, adjusting his knees to press into Brendon’s thighs. He straightened his spine and sucked his lips in, lifting himself up then sliding back down; both men giving little moans to the feeling. You’d think that they hadn’t had sex in months, when really it was probably less than twenty-four hours. Ryan’s brain wasn’t focused enough for math to get the exact calculation.
It took a few tries, but eventually they got a steady rhythm going – Brendon lifting his hips up when Ryan sank down to go that much deeper. At the moment it was all about getting established; taking things nice and slow to get familiar and comfortable. Brendon guided Ryan some, letting Ryan have the majority of control over his actions, assuring Ryan the support was there should he need it.
After a couple of thrusts though, Ryan was done with the gentle and unsure. He and Brendon were no strangers to sex, or each other’s bodies. They were far beyond the hesitant and unfamiliar. It was nice when they were starting, like now, or when Ryan honestly didn’t feel like putting much effort into it for one reason or another, but it got old and boring quickly. Ryan had a deeper connection with Brendon, one that had been strong for a year now, and gentle didn’t cut it.
Ryan let go of Brendon’s shoulder’s to drop his upper body down so he was slouching some, resting his forearms on Brendon’s and weaving his fingers through the man’s soft hair. Pressing their lips together, Ryan settled for a minute or two of kissing, then slipped his tongue into Brendon’s mouth while making more rigid movements with his hips, seeking that wonderful group of nerves that God clearly intended for gay sex.
Realizing Ryan’s new motive, Brendon started assisting by angling his hips whenever Ryan rose up, moving Ryan’s hips around when he sank back down, until Ryan exhaled nothing but a long moan into Brendon’s mouth that meant success. That spot having been found, Ryan again got needy, rolling his hips at a quicker pace, fighting the water around them that was being propelled about by jets, his body numbing with pleasure.
His breathing got erratic as he picked up his pace, tugging at Brendon’s hair whenever his prostate was hit dead on because it felt like he would lose himself if he didn’t. Ryan was so hard now it hurt, almost making him want to draw away from the overly pleasurable feeling but unable to do so even if he tried. It was great, too great, and all Ryan could think was more.
When Ryan gave a small whine, Brendon dropped one hand from Ryan’s hips to slide his fingers along his boyfriend’s body to his oh-so-hard cock, and began the classic pumping motion in time with his thrusts. At least as close in time as he could get. The fast pace and water and overall pleasure made everything a little hazy, so Brendon wasn’t always aware of exactly what his hand was doing.
But it seemed to be doing the right thing, because a slurring moan of, “Jesus-fucking-Christ-Brendon,” came out of Ryan’s mouth as he tightened his grip in Brendon’s hair and dropped his head back. Things really got too great for Ryan at that point, and he knew he wasn’t going to last much longer as a familiar warmth was building in his gut.
That wasn’t what this was about, though. Time meant nothing either man when it came to sex. Because it was more than sex – it always had been. Sex was just a way to get off without using your own left or right hand. What Ryan and Brendon had…it was love. Sometimes it was quick and hasty, others it was slow and intimate.
Either way, it was special, and far beyond a casual fuck.
“Fuck, Bren, I-“ Ryan breathed out with what little breath he had; shocked his voice even worked.
“Yeah.” Brendon was equally breathless. “Me too.”
And that was one of the things that set their sexlife beyond others; what made theirs love. They had an unique way to communicate – one able to know exactly what the other was saying by a look or gesture or noise or a word or two. Ryan knew Brendon’s body, and Brendon knew his, and it was like they were one body instead of two.
“Fuck,” Ryan muttered; inches away from climax. He dropped his head forward again and pressed his lips to Brendon’s, keeping them in a passionate kiss as he came. Brendon said something into Ryan’s mouth, but the words were lost in a broken moan of his own as he too came moments later; Ryan’s body slowing, but not entirely stopping.
Breaking the kiss, hearts still racing and breath still irregular, Ryan let go of Brendon’s hair and let his arms dangle loosely around the man’s neck as he pressed their foreheads together, eyes closed, and said, “I love you,” with more emotion than he’d ever given to anyone beside Spencer.
Brendon tipped his head enough to peck Ryan’s lips and answered with, “I love you too,” before silence fell over them as they settled.
Everything felt so much better to Ryan now; not just physically, but emotionally and mentally as well. It was as though he could finally let go of Pete forever to give Brendon everything he deserved. Everything Brendon gave to Ryan.
Smiling, Ryan pulled himself off but remained in Brendon’s lap, the two sharing an embrace until Ryan couldn’t take the thought of being surrounded in his own cum any longer and got out to shower.
Needless to say, by the time they got showered and clothed after their morning experience, the two missed breakfast with Spencer. By a longshot. Actually, by the time they left the hotel, it was after what is generally accepted as lunch time, too. When Ryan and Brendon were getting a cab, they had a little over a half hour before Jon’s gallery was scheduled to be unveiled.
“I’ve got twelve missed calls and messages from Spencer.” Brendon frowned as he turned his phone on.
“I’m not even going to look at mine,” Ryan said while taking a sip of his coffee. They ended up going to a little café about five minutes from where Ryan used to live, ten or so from Jon’s gallery, that Ryan used to call his second home. They had the best coffee and tea and sandwiches and everything, in Ryan’s opinion.
Brendon shook his head and sighed. “I’m not going to bother listening to them,” he said before deleting the messages. It was clear that Spencer was angry with them. Ryan had a wonderful morning, though, and really didn’t care if it pissed Spencer off.
They only skipped out on a meal.
“Hey Ryan;” Brendon pocketed his phone, taking hold of his own drink but just tipping it around. “Can I ask you something?” He didn’t look at Ryan, biting his lip in the way that Ryan knew meant he might not like what he was about to hear.
“No.” Ryan answered flatly, arching an eyebrow after. “Since when do you need permission to ask me something?” He kind of felt like smacking Brendon for his idiocy.
“I know, I just…” Brendon half frowned.
“What is it, Bren?” Ryan tried to keep the concern from his voice. He didn’t need to be worried. If it was something to worry about, Brendon would have brought it up long ago.
“What do you…” Brendon bit his lip again, then took a deep breath and looked to Ryan with a burst of confidence. Or at least something to make him get it all out. “What do you think about trying to adopt Mia?” Brendon spit out.
Ryan only stared at him, processing the words and making sure he heard right, because wow, that’s a little random. When he saw Brendon’s face getting more worried and regretful at Ryan’s silence, he asked, “How?”
“Like,” Brendon relaxed some, “I, we, have temporary custody of her right now. Until my sister gets her shit together.” Ryan nodded slowly. “But let’s face it; my sister won’t ever be the mother Mia needs. If she does, it’ll only be temporary because we both know she’ll only relapse.” Another slow nod.
“So I can’t see Mia go to some other home or something. I’m the only family, blood at least, that she has, right?” Ryan felt like a bobble-head. “And I was thinking, rather than wait however long for that to happen, that relapse, why subject Mia to that when she’s already been through so much?”
“Point,” Ryan said. Sometimes Brendon would ramble, and needed to be reminded to just get to what he was trying to ask or say.
“Right.” Brendon exhaled, nodding, inhaling again. “I want to file to have permanent custody of Mia before she has to go through any more of my sister’s crap.”
“Okay…” Ryan didn’t know what he was supposed to say. Congratulations? Good for you? Go for it?
“I want to know what you think, Ryan.” Brendon gave a small sigh. “How you feel about it.”
“I think Mia’s lucky to have someone who cares a lot about her,” Ryan replied after a minute or two.
Brendon rolled his eyes, exhaling loudly. “We’re together, Ryan. We live together. Mia would refer to you as one of her uncle’s if you told her to. You have as much to do with this decision as I do. This will change both our lives dramatically.”
And in that moment, the world paused. Brendon wanted to know if Ryan was okay with it because of the long run. He was planning a future for them. For once, Ryan was part of someone’s future plans. For once, he felt like he had a future. One that wasn’t full of only mystery and doubt and uncertainty.
“Ryan?” Brendon’s voice was a bit concerned now, snapping Ryan from his thoughts.
“I think you should,” Ryan confidently replied. “I think we should.” He smiled, the statement making his stomach light as though he was back in high school, confessing a crush.
Brendon smiled, reaching across the small round table and taking Ryan’s hand. “Good,” he said, “Because I think we should too.” He squeezed gently at Ryan’s hand, and for the rest of their time at the café, Ryan didn’t let go.
‘I am going to kill you both, revive you, and fucking kill you again!” was how Spencer greeted them when they reached the gallery; roughly ten minutes before the grand opening. Jon had let people come in for about a week now, but this would be the first time the majority of his work would be shown to the vast public.
“Sorry.” Ryan shrugged, holding Brendon’s hand still. “We had a busy morning.”
Spencer’s piercing eyes ran over Brendon, the man tugging at his collar to shift it in attempt to hide any of Ryan’s marks, then fall back on Ryan. “I’m sure,” he said, arms crossing and bitchface incredibly fierce. “I don’t see you all fucking yesterday, you leave tomorrow morning, and you can’t even make breakfast because you’re busy fucking?!”
Ryan flinched a little, pure guilt washing over him. He knew that tone. Spencer wasn’t just angry, he was livid. “I haven’t seen you in a year!” Spencer bitched at them. “All I want is one goddamn day to catch up and hang out, and you couldn’t be bothered to show up?!’ There was hurt along with anger in his voice. “Some fucking best friend you are, Ross.”
Mentally slapping himself a few hundred times, Ryan released Brendon who shrunk into the background and walked towards Spencer carefully. Spencer was known to get physical at times. “Spence-“ he sighed, stopping a few feet away. “I didn’t – we didn’t – even think about it that way.” He frowned. “I’m so, so sorry.”
Spencer continued glaring, unconvinced. “It’s been a little crazy so far, and I didn’t mean to neglect you or anything.” Ryan took another step closer. “Last night, we went to a club and ran into Gabe and we got talking and things kept snowballing from there until I was having a conversation in the bathroom with Pete that-“
“You ran into Pete?” Spencer’s anger flared, but in a different way. “That fucker! I told him if-“
“Spence, relax.” Ryan cut him off. “We only talked.” He caught Brendon lightly scoff from behind him. “And Brendon already deal with it,” he added, seeing a flash of amusement shoot through Spencer’s eyes as he no doubt imagined what that meant. “Turns out Pete’s getting married today.”
“Oh, Ryan…” The bitchface broke and Spencer’s arms loosened, but Ryan shook his head and stuck his hands up.
“It doesn’t matter. He’s apparently happy now, and I know I sure as hell am.” Ryan didn’t have to think about the words before they came out. His brain just knew, and made his voice go along with it. “But anyway, Brendon and I fell asleep on the couch but ended up on the floor, which hurt, so I got into the hot tub to relax, and then Brendon got in and started giving me this great massage-“
“Ok!” Spencer cut him off this time. “I get it.” He sighed and looked at Ryan a little sadly. “You have no idea how happy I am that you’re finally happy, Ry. I just…” Spencer half hugged himself. “I just never thought we wouldn’t see each other every day, you know? I hate Brendon for keeping you in Hawaii because it’s really fucking far away, but I love him for making you smile. Really smile. None of that fake bullshit.”
Ryan silently laughed for a moment. “And I’m fucking pissed he kept you from me on Christmas, but I was happy to not spend the holiday talking you out of drinking yourself to death and convincing you that blood doesn’t mean anything nowadays. Jon and I actually had an amazing Christmas, and it felt great.
“But I’m selfish, Ryan. You know that. It’s been one year since I’ve seen you, and I get barely three days to enjoy being in hugging distance again, and you’re spending that time with someone you do get to see and hug every day now.” The one thing Ryan could never bear was an upset Spencer. The way his eyes expressed his raw emotion – Ryan’s heart practically shattered. He felt so incredibly stupid.
Closing the distance, Ryan pulled Spencer into a tight hug, not caring that Spencer’s elbows dug into his body, and buried his face in Spencer’s shoulder. He refused to let go or loosen his grip until Spencer was having difficulty breathing; only letting up enough to fix that. He felt horrible for letting Spencer feel like he’d been replaced. No one could ever replace Spencer.
“If it wasn’t for you,” Ryan spoke just loud enough for his friend to hear, “I’d be dead long ago. You’re the one that kept me alive all these years and took care of me when I couldn’t.” Ryan held on like his life depended on it. In a way, it did.
“I love you, Spence, like the brother I never had, and like the best fucking friend anyone could ever hope to have.” Spencer finally got his arms from between their bodies; wrapping them around Ryan’s petite frame. “I’m sorry I hurt you. Please forgive me.”
“Of course.” Spencer hugged fiercely back. And for a few minutes they stayed like that. They needed that physical contact, undisturbed.
“You’re a douche, though.” Spencer let go, Ryan doing the same. “You’re just lucky that I love you.” Ryan laughed, nodding. “And even though you’re a best-friend-stealing-asshole,” he looked to Brendon, “I love you too.”
“The feeling’s mutual,” Brendon replied.
“Come on.” Spencer smiled, and Ryan knew everything between them was going to be fine. “Let me show you around.”
And even if it was totally corny, they linked their arms, Brendon following behind, and started walking through the maze of walls and photos to get the first complete look.
A decent amount of people showed up. Ryan got glimpses of Jon, the man greeting everyone and talking about photos that people stopped to carefully examine. Spencer stayed with them until Jon dragged him away, leaving Brendon and Ryan alone to enjoy their friend’s work.
A lot of them were of Spencer. But that was a given. There were some of other people, Ryan didn’t recognize them all, photos of various places in Vegas, their trip to Hawaii the previous summer, and photos from when Jon and Spencer went to Chicago for Christmas after Ryan and Brendon more or less blew them off.
“I like this one,” Brendon said with a teasing tone, bumping his shoulder against Ryan’s and stopping in front of a picture. It was of Ryan and Spencer when they were in college, during Halloween at some dorm party. They were both completely wasted, making stupid faces at the camera, lying all tangled up with each other on the floor for one reason or another. “It’s very…” Brendon couldn’t finish his sentence before he started laughing.
“I’m going to leave your ass in Vegas to fend for yourself.” Ryan huffed, smiling regardless. It was an amusing photo, and their position was compromising.
“That’s mean.” Brendon pouted. Ryan smiled and kissed the pout away, because that always worked. “I would die.”
“I’m sure you could get a job somewhere,” Ryan said as they started walking again. They had been around a few times now, it wasn’t that big, but it wasn’t that small either, because they were there to support Jon, and were going to stay until the very end. “Maybe as a bellhop or something.”
Brendon scoffed, disagreeing, but didn’t say anything. There were some really great pictures of all kinds of things – though the one of Gabe and William together made Ryan frown. They seemed so happy in that frozen piece of time. William was sitting on Gabe’s lap down on the beach in the shade; Gabe’s arms around William who was sitting sideways, and William’s arms around Gabe’s neck, the pair laughing at something.
It made Ryan question of they actually made the right choice; regardless of how content William seemed now.
There were more pictures of Hawaii; Alex and Nate at their restaurant, Brendon and other people surfing, random people on beaches, fish, and a good amount of Mia who was either posing or caught off guard. They all made Ryan smile.
After about an hour or so, once everyone had a chance to walk around and look everything over, see Jon’s work and maybe even buy a picture or two, they all gathered near the entrance where a temporary stage had been set up with a microphone. There was champagne and whatnot for people to enjoy though Ryan refused it all.
While Jon took the stage, standing in front of a very large photo that had yet to be unveiled, Ryan, Brendon and Spencer stood off to the side to listen. “First off – thank you all for coming. I’ve wanted this for years; since I picked up a camera and took my first picture of the ground.” There was light laughter.
“There are so many people I want to thank for this, I could be her eall night, but I don’t think we’ve got enough champagne or food for that.” More laughter. “So I’ll lump everyone together as friends, family, and of course, my boy and the love of my life, Spencer.” Jon looked at him, Spencer smiling and giving a brief wave as eyes of the crowd followed.
“And before I get to what’s behind me, I want to tell you a bit about a great man, probably one of the greatest guys I’ve ever met, let alone have the pleasure to call a close friend.” Jon took hold of the microphone with one hand, a glass of champagne in his other, looking out to the people gathered around him.
“I’ve known Ryan for about six years now.” Ryan’s eyes widened because when did this become about him? “And yeah, six years really isn’t that long, but it’s just long enough to get to know someone pretty damn well.” Spencer was smugly smirking beside Ryan, obviously aware of the speech his boyfriend had prepared.
“And the thing you need to understand about Ryan is that he is a very tough guy on the outside.” Spencer scoffed playfully. “But once you get past that, he can be one of the nicest guys you ever meet. And the reason I love Ryan, is not only because he’s Spencer’s best friend and Spencer would kill me if I so much as looked at him the wrong way-”
“Damn right I would,” Spencer called, sparking more laughter.
“-But because that man has more courage and will power than anyone I’ve ever met.” Ryan felt his cheeks warming. “I won’t bore you with the details, but no matter what hell life sends him through, he always manages to come out with a smile in the end, and, sometimes with a push from friends, keeps on going to make the best of what he has.”
Jon turned to face them now, lifting his glass. “You’re my inspiration, Ryan. And even if you threatened to do very painful and illegal things to me should I ever so much as make Spencer frown,” Ryan hid his face in Spencer’s shoulder, “I wouldn’t be here today without you.”
And Ryan wanted to die when everyone spontaneously spoke his name in a toast.
“So,” Jon continued, turning back to the crowd, “I’m going to invite someone close to Ryan up here to help me unveil my favorite all of my photos; which is also a gift for Ryan.” Ryan couldn’t pull his face from his friend’s shirt. “Get up here, Brendon.”
Okay, maybe he could.
Ryan watched as Brendon joined Jon, slightly irritated he was the only one left in the dark apparently, wondering what embarrassing thing he had to endure next. Brendon smiled and waved, eyes flicking to Ryan briefly then moved out to the group of strangers that were being enlightened about him.
“Brendon is Ryan’s boyfriend, and another good friend of mine, who just a year ago was some great guy we met on a vacation to Hawaii.” Jon stepped aside. “S’all yours,” he said while taking a sip from his glass and Brendon took his spot.
“Hi,” Brendon said in greeting. “I’ll keep this short because it’s getting late and I can talk all night at the best of times,” he grinned, “but I wanted to say some things when Jon contacted me a month or so back about the picture that’s under that blanket or whatever it is.” Ryan wanted to hide in shame but he ended up smiling a little.
“I’ve only known Ryan for a year, but it’s been the best damn year of my life. And Jon wasn’t kidding when he said that Ryan’s tough.” Queue the laughter. “Once you break that protective shell, which is not easy,” Brendon nervously laughed, “You discover the most amazing human being. He’s kind, funny, sweet, caring, loving, charming-“
“Get on with it!” Spencer commanded, Ryan about ready to hit his head against a wall until he passed out.
“Yeah, sorry.” Brendon rubbed the back of his neck. “I guess what I’m getting to is that you only get one chance in life to be with someone that you love and honestly don’t know how you even got by without. Ryan…Ryan is that person for me. And I’m damn lucky to have found him at a young age – on his vacation, by all chances.
“And when I thought I was going to lose him after the most wonderful two weeks when he almost got on that plane to come back here…” Brendon stopped to rub his eyes quickly, smiling and gathering himself. “It’s the worst feeling ever.” He nervously laughed some more.
Jon took that as the opportune moment to yank the cloth from the photo; Ryan’s heart pounding and breath catching in his throat. It was very big and entirely black and white, but Ryan felt like there were a million colors. The photo was of him and Brendon. They were both shirtless and in swim trunks, somewhere along the beach.
The image was taken when they were playing tag with Mia. Ryan remembers it perfectly – though he doesn’t remember Jon snapping the picture. Brendon had his arms wrapped around Ryan’s waist, Ryan holding onto Brendon’s wrists as though trying to pull them off – he was – as Brendon caught him. Water was frozen in the air all around them, having splashed up, and also dripping down their bodies; catching the bright rays of sunshine in various droplets.
What got Ryan about the photo, though, was their faces. Brendon’s chin was on Ryan’s shoulder, mouth near Ryan’s ear, giant grin and shining eyes. Ryan, though looking towards the ground, was absolutely beaming; mouth open in a huge smile as he laughed at whatever Brendon had been saying to him. He almost didn’t recognize himself.
Then next thing Ryan knew, Brendon was right in front of him; everyone looking at them which made Ryan’s cheeks red all over. “Ry;” Brendon spoke softly, taking Ryan’s hand and looking directly into his eyes. “I know you always say I’m perfect, but that’s only because you make me that way. I would do anything to make you happy, because I love you, Ryan, more than I’ve loved anyone in my life, and would give my life to make sure nothing ever upset you again.”
And when Brendon lowered himself to one knee, not breaking eye contact, Ryan couldn’t help but start crying. He didn’t care if he looked pathetic or sappy, because fuck. Ryan had long since let go of this dream; of someone getting on a knee for him. Yet that’s exactly where he found himself.
“I know it didn’t work for you the first time. I know you’ve been through so much shit that sadly, I’m grateful for, because it brought you to me. And I know we’ve only known each other for a year, Ryan, but it’s felt like a lifetime, and I can’t picture myself with anyone else.”
Ryan used his free hand to wipe at his eyes, smiling, and nearly hyperventilating.
“I swear on my life that I will never purposely cause you pain or harm. That I will do whatever I can to make you happy. Be it come to Vegas for however long until your heart’s content,” Ryan laughed, choking after, “Or find a way to pull the damn moon from the sky to hand to you. I will do whatever it takes to make you smile.”
As he bawled, Spencer put a hand on his back, rubbing between his shoulder blades to try and calm him.
“Just being with you makes me the happiest man alive, and that’s all I could ever ask for.” Brendon released Ryan’s hand, which instantly went to aid his other in wiping tears away, to pull out a small black box from the hoodie Ryan wondered why he was wearing in the heat to begin with. He opened the box to present it to Ryan, revealing a white-gold band inside.
“Ryan Ross,” Brendon knew how much Ryan hated his actual first name, “Having gotten permission from both Jon and Spencer,” Ryan laugh-choked again, “Will you marry me?”
The back of Ryan’s left hand was pressed against his mouth; his head spinning and heart racing and stomach flipping. He was having the world’s greatest day, at last, and couldn’t begin to try to think straight. Ryan was a little shocked he never caught onto what was going to happen tonight, Brendon doesn’t exactly hide things well, but he was glad that it was all a surprise because it was perfect.
“Answer the man!” Spencer said, smacking Ryan on the back of the head.
Wiping his eyes one more time, Ryan bit his lip and nodded; Brendon instantly looking relieved as he stood back up. He was about to do something, probably put the ring on Ryan’s finger like tradition goes, but Ryan threw his arms around Brendon and engaged him in a passionate kiss instead.
“Yes,” Ryan said against Brendon’s lips, “Yes a million times. I will marry you.” Ryan felt like he had to verbally answer as well. Brendon deserved that.
As everyone around them congratulated them, Ryan only cared about the man in his arms. He only cared about how much he loved him. How happy he was with him. How lucky he was to have him.
About how glad he was to have spent those first two weeks in Hawaii.