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Six Degrees of Separation

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When it came down to it, there was only one thing that connected Brendon and Spencer. After everything else was stripped away to the core, the only reason that Brendon and Spencer knew each other was because they both loved Ryan Ross.


In the early days, Brendon was infatuated. He saw Ryan Ross as an enigma wrapped in a mystery.. There were layers and layers and contradictions covered with redundancy, and at the center of it all, was a heart that Brendon was sure could love him back. Might even love him back already, but moony-eyed though he was, Brendon was not a fool. He knew that chances were, he'd have to work at it, peel back all the layers and un-wrap mysteries before Ryan could even start to love him. But that was okay. Brendon was nothing if not stubborn.

So when Ryan knocked on his door in the middle of the night, when the entire house was dark and asleep, except for Brendon, jittery and hyper from the Red Bull he had snuck into the house, he was a little surprised. Ryan looked like the wind had been knocked out of him, eyes wide and shocked, a little bit sparkly like he couldn't believe what was happening. Then he stuttered through something like "Pete Wentz. Pete fucking Wentz. He wants to see us, he wants to listen to us play, and shit, Brendon, shit, I think this is for real," and then his arms were around his neck, pulling him up slightly and they were kissing. Ryan felt cold from the drizzling rain, and Brendon took one second to think there's no way it can be this easy before he kissed back.

It turned out, Brendon was right. It wasn't that easy. Ryan avoided eye-contact for three weeks after that night, and Brendon felt like his stomach was sinking every time he made a joke and Ryan didn't even crack a smile. But after almost a month of frigid-as-a-tundra, Ryan was hot-like-a-fire. He was where Brendon was, all of the time.  Arm around his shoulder, fingers playing with his hair, eyes staring at his lips, and honest to god, Brendon was starting to feel like a piece of meat with all the lip-biting that was going on. That's not to say that when Brendon was cornered one day after practice and Ryan pushed him up against a wall and started to bite at his lips and slide his hands down his side and under his shirt, he wasn't pleased. He was pleased. After third base, one could even say he was ecstatic.

And the next week, when Ryan ended up pushing him down onto the couch and fucking into him with no preparation and next to no finesse, Brendon bit his lip, managed not to sob, but came anyway, even if it was with a weak spurt into his hand and after Ryan had already finished on his back. He didn't offer to lend him his shirt- they were both still mostly clothed, so Brendon's shirt was covered in come stains, and he didn't think his mother would love to wash that out for him- or ask him if he was okay, or even kiss him goodbye. Just said, "Later," and walked out, like he had just beaten him at Call of Duty instead of taken his virginity. Brendon decided to think on the bright side- Ryan wasn't intentionally being an ass, just didn't really think that maybe he shouldn't have just kind of pushed in like that, or maybe he should've come in his hand, instead of on Brendon. So he stripped off his shirt, zipped up his hoodie, and drove home.

The next time wasn't much better, but he had fingered himself earlier in the day and Ryan was wearing a condom so clean-up was much less hassle.

Eventually, Brendon learned to like the burn. Ryan somehow figured out that it wasn't that pleasant, having a cock the size of Ryan's shoved into his ass without more lubricant than spit, and started to slick up and finger him until he was loose and whining and ready for it. Things got easier.

Brendon loved touring. He loved the jazz he was in after shows, loved the adrenaline highs from thousands of people screaming for him- his name- and he loved the feeling of the bus humming along beneath his feet, leaving the city behind for the next one, bringing him closer to his next buzz from the crowds. But mostly, he loved the quiet moments, when he was curled up on the couch and Ryan was near him, maybe even on the same couch. On the rare special occasion, Ryan would let Brendon snuggle up to him, and it felt like Brendon's heart slowed down, like he was able to settle into his own skin. He could breathe, and he would relax so much that he melted into Ryan, could feel him on almost every part of his body. If he was lucky, this lasted for an hour, maybe two, before someone disturbed them, walking into the lounge and Brendon was across the couch so quickly that he barely even saw how it happened.

Sometimes, he felt so lucky that he couldn't believe it. He had a record deal, a successful band, great friends, and he's in love with Ryan- who lets him touch him behind closed doors. His life was fucking spectacular. Normally, he only felt like this when Ryan was having a particularly tactile day. He would touch Brendon. Not holding hands, of course, no kissing or any other funny business. But there was contact, and on those days, Brendon thought his heart would fill to burst. Those days, when they had sex, Brendon could fool himself into believing that feelings were mutual and he was more than just a blow-up doll and microphone to Ryan.

Brendon wasn't dumb. He knew that he was a fuck-buddy, expendable, something to keep Ryan entertained until his girlfriend was around. He didn't delude himself into thinking he was more, except on those few nights, and to be honest, he stopped actively trying to make Ryan fall in love with him a while ago. Instead, he took what he could get from Ryan, tried to push his aching chest to the back of his mind, and pasted on a smile. He knew he was a catch, so when other people fell in love with him, he tried to love them back. But none of them were Ryan, so in the end, he always went back to being Ryan's puppet.

Then Ryan and Jon left, and he couldn't even do that anymore.


Until he was fourteen years old, Spencer figured that knowing someone since you were five years old meant that you loved them. It did, but Spencer realized that his love was a little different when he heard about Ryan losing his virginity to a girl with flat-ironed, dyed hair with an eyebrow piercing, and felt a shot of jealousy straight through his gut, hot and sharp. When Ryan moved onto his next girlfriend, (now with more eyeliner!) he decided fuck this noise and filed the feelings away to a folder marked Do Not Open Except in Case of Apocalypse.

Then Brendon happened, and Spencer thought he would explode with all the sympathy and good-feelings he was sending Brendon's way. Spencer had had the good sense to throw up a brick wall between his feelings and his actions, and he felt bad that Brendon didn't have the cement and brick required to build the wall that Spencer credited with his sanity today.

Brendon tended to wear his heart on his sleeve, so much so that everyone could see how violently in love with Ryan he was. As well as Spencer knew Ryan, he couldn't quite tell whether or not Ryan was too distracted by Brendon's ass to see clearly. So when they started fucking- and they were never discreet about it, no matter how stealthy they thought they were- Spencer could see disaster looming from a mile away.

Sure, there was jealousy, but he figured the brick wall was pretty solid, so mostly he felt his heart breaking for Brendon. When he started to limp after every few practices and had a permanent pinched look on his face, Spencer thanked the god he didn't believe in that he never let himself get too involved in the romanticisms of Ryan Ross.

Fame hit, and Ryan started to get girlfriends, actual, serious, I-love-you, girlfriends, and Brendon started to lose weight. Brendon's smile started to look brittle and the dark shadows under his eyes started to get wider. But Spencer couldn't help admiring him. Brendon was miserable, Spencer was sure of that, but he kept with the show. He sang his heart out and he danced on stage and he charmed the pants off of thousands of fans, and he even got a few girlfriends of his own. He was his own person, separate from the pain loving Ryan had caused him, even if he didn't always look it. He wrote songs that made Spencer cry when he first heard them, but they were still Brendon's songs- all his, for him, by him, and Ryan had nothing to do with the making of, even if he had inspired it.

So if Spencer hadn't locked his heart up and thrown away the key, he thinks he might harbor a little bit of a crush on Brendon. Because he was so much more than Ryan, even if he didn't see. Even if Ryan didn't see it, which made Spencer even more sure that he didn't deserve either of their love.

So the disaster that Spencer saw coming a mile away, the storm that took its sweet-ass time brewing, came in the form of Jon Walker. Jon Walker was slow smiles and easy humor, and everybody instantly loved him. The split (departing, abandonment, musical differences) did not surprise Spencer anymore than the Jack in the Box did on its third turn with daylight. Ryan started to look at Jon like he was their savior, so even if  there was nothing romantic there, Jon still got  more of Ryan than anybody else. And yes, for this, Spencer was intensely jealous.

So Ryan and Jon left, and Spencer got to watch a little piece of Brendon die. He got to watch a light go out in Brendon's eyes, and wrinkles become more prominent, and his smile shift, just subtly, so that it was different and strained, more tired looking. But he also got to watch Brendon grow up. He got to see Brendon come into his own, write music that sounded mature, pen lyrics that were honest and heart-breaking and perfect for the twosome that was now their band.


Brendon and Spencer both loved a man that didn't deserve it.

They were older now, a little smarter, and maybe wiser, if they were lucky. But if there was one thing that made their bond stronger than the one they shared with Ryan, it was the fact that Ryan didn't love them back.

And misery loves company.