It’s noon. Maybe later. Ryan doesn’t know. The last rays of the morning light slant over his bedspread. Vaguely, he hears someone enter the room, and feels the other side of the bed dip. Ryan blinks; tries to focus.
“Hey,” Spencer says.
Silently, he bites his lip and Ryan watches him uncap a marker. The scent of chemicals and high school arts and crafts fill the air. Carefully Spencer draws a drum kit on Ryan’s cast.
“Best autograph in the game,” he tells Ryan.
Ryan feels a smile tugging at the corner of his lips. “Better than mine,”
It’s been a while, but Spencer acts like it hasn’t. He orders too much room service and sends his duffle of dirty clothes down to be laundered. When their breakfast arrives they eat it in bed and gets crumbs everywhere. There are dark, purple circles under Spencer eyes, and his hair is lank and knotted. The shirt he’s wearing is inside out and also looks a size too big. It could be Dallon’s, Ryan thinks as he lets Spencer cut up Ryan’s toast and pour the coffee.
“How long are you guys in LA?” Ryan asks.
Spencer takes a too large bite of waffle. All road manners, Ryan thinks as he watches Spencer chews it with his mouth open and grin. “A little while.”
“What’s a little while?”
Spencer smirks. “A few days.”
Ryan bites his lip for a moment. “So, I’m guessing that you’ve decided to crash here before heading back to school.”
“That would be an excellent guess.”
Spencer licks his knife and fork. Ryan makes a face at the sight. It makes Spencer roll his eyes, which is partly the reason Ryan did it. It has been a while. It’s nice to act like it hasn’t been.
In the afternoon, Spencer showers and steals one of Ryan’s shirts. Ryan watches as he pulls it over his pale shoulders, before dragging Ryan to the club for sound check. The hotel arranges a car. When they get there, Ian is on the curb waiting. He still looks like he did the last time Ryan saw him; too tall, too much hair and eyes a little too glassy and unfocused.
Picking at his dirty jeans, he squints at Spencer. “Dallon got into a fight with the manager.”
Ryan looks between Ian and Spencer.
“Is Dallon alright?”
Ian shrugs. “Mostly.”
“Are we still playing tonight?” Spencer asks after a beat.
Ian nods. “Yeah.”
“Okay, then.” Spencer replies, offering Ian a hand.
Ian takes it, but doesn’t help Spencer pull him up. It makes Spencer let out a huff that’s half laughter, half annoyance. Ryan tries to remember how long the three of them have been on the road. Ian taps Ryan on the shoulder before he figures it out.
“Hey Ross,” Ian says, as they follow Spencer inside.
“What happened to your arm, Ross?”
Ryan looks at Ian. Ian looks right back at him.
“Car door,” Ryan tells him.
Inside the venue, Dallon is watching the opening act finish their run though. When he sees Spencer, he comes over. Up close he doesn’t look any worse for wear. But nothing in clubs are the same during the day as they are at night, especially not bass players. It’s difficult to judge.
In fact it isn’t until the time the show rolls around that Dallon’s bruises start to show.
Ryan thinks he’ll be able to see them even from right up the back. Nursing a beer, he watches as the opening act stumble onto the stage and pretends not to listen. The last time Spencer played in LA, Ryan was one of maybe two dozen people watching. Now the crowd is filled with too many people Ryan recognises.
Halfway through the openers, he runs into Brendon and his current ‘girlfriend.’
“I didn’t know you were coming tonight,” Brendon says, hugging Ryan hello.
Ryan doesn’t know why Brendon would think that, but he hugs Brendon back, and when Brendon lets go, Ryan kisses Ellen Page’s cheek.
“I wouldn’t miss this.”
“Me either,” Brendon says.
Because Brendon is there, Ryan is forced to follow him and Ellen into the crowd and up to the front of the stage. The speakers are shitty. Up close they’re even worse. They splutter and spit as Ian sings. Dallon’s bass is almost lost, thanks to the levels. Behind the drums, Spencer looks happy though. Ryan pushes himself up onto his toes. Yes, he thinks, Spencer looks happy. Ryan can always tell.
The last song of the night is an acoustic cover of Jolene.
The three of them sing it in slightly uneven harmonies. Beside Ryan, he sees a few kids taking pictures and a few more recording it. Brendon tugs on Ryan’s sleeve and mouths ‘lets go backstage.’ Ryan nods and as Ian leads Dallon and Spencer into the second verse, Ryan and Brendon take Ellen’s hands and try to move through the crowd. The show was sold out, so it’s difficult. Ryan isn’t careful and someone jostles his arm. He’s white faced by the time they’re let backstage.
“Hey, hey,” Ellen says, when she notices.
“It’s nothing,” Ryan tells her. But she makes him promise to sit down when they reach the dressing room.
He forgets the promise when they get there. Perched on the arm of the ratty old couch, Spencer’s ex is tapping out a lazy beat with Spencer’s hated tambourine. In the flickering florescent light Clémence looks paler, but still prettier than Ryan would prefer. It’s been almost a year. Ryan would have thought whatever remaining ties between her and Spencer would have been cut, but apparently not. For at least half an hour she sits by Spencer’s side, making him smile stupidly and telling him how wonderful it was to see him again.
On the cab ride back to the hotel, Ryan can’t help himself.
“What was she doing there tonight?”
“Clém was in town.”
Clémence Poésy lives in Paris. She is never merely in LA.
Spencer shrugs. “We still catch up every now and then. We’re friends.”
Ryan thinks that’s a joke. He thinks of Clémence’s vivid pink lipstick and how Spencer had absentmindedly rested a hand on her knee.
Spencer closes his eyes. “Don’t.”
Ryan’s never been very good with stopping while he’s still ahead. Or stopping at all.
“I can’t believe Brendon came,” he finds himself saying after a beat.
Spencer rolls his eyes. “Why not? He’s my friend too.”
This, Ryan knows, it a lie. Brendon is a closeted loser.
Spencer smiles softly though, when Ryan says it aloud. “I know that. I don’t care.”
Ryan feels something inside him prickle. “He’s never going to get the guts to make a move on you.”
Spencer nods. “I know that too.”
Ryan met Spencer when he was six years old. Spencer was five and didn’t care that Ryan's mother drove him to LA three or four times a week to makes him try out for commercials and pilots. He lived down the street and had a huge Labrador called Sunny that his parents gave him and his sisters for Christmas. Ryan thought Spencer was pretty awesome. (That doesn't really change.)
There are no more open casting calls or acting workshops though, when Ryan’s mother leaves.
“Fuck Hollywood,” Ryan remembers telling Spencer; fourteen and angry Ryan had said it and had meant it more than he should.
A few weeks later they both received instruments for Christmas. Over the next year they half heartedly formed at least a dozen or so crappy bands until Ryan realised he’d rather play a rock star than be one. Two years later Ryan did when Sean Penn casts him in his Jeff Buckley biopic.
Spencer wakes to the feeling of Ryan shaking his shoulder.
“I have an interview,” he says. Spencer blinks hazily and mumbles something he hopes makes sense.
A few hours later he wakes up for the second time. This time slowly and tiredly as if he hadn’t slept at all. Ryan is still gone. Light streams into the suite. Spencer stretches on the balcony. The Olympic sized swimming pool below catches his eye. He watches one of the other hotel guests’ dive into it. Glancing at his wrist watch, Spencer is disappointed. It isn’t that late. He’d bet anything Ian and Dallon are still asleep.
Ian says foul things when Spencer calls.
In the background, Spencer thinks he hears Cash say awful uncharitable things too, before his mother tells him off. It makes Spencer laugh and that makes Ian hang up on him. Idly, Spencer considers heading over. Brendon calls before Spencer makes up his mind.
“You should come to set,” he says. “Revisit your assistant days. I promise I won’t make you pick up my dry cleaning.”
“Will you send a fancy car to pick me up?”
“Fuck no,” Brendon snorts. “I’m not made of money.”
Brendon won his first Oscar at sixteen. Spencer isn't all convinced this isn't when all his problems began. But of course Brendon doesn't believe Spencer.
On set, he brings it up again.
"I'm cursed," he says to Spencer, because his agent isn't there to stop him.
Spencer thinks he's being stupid. Or is stupid. But he lets himself nod, because if he doesn't Brendon will go over to Gabe and tell him and then Gabe will tell TMZ or Perez Hilton because Gabe gets bored and when he's bored, Gabe likes to stir things up. And since they’re on location in the suburbs, aka the middle of nowhere, Spencer knows Gabe is painfully bored.
"I wish I was just nominated. That would have been so much better," Brendon continues, while the crew set up the shot. "You don't know how lucky you are, Spence."
Spencer looks out, past the barriers and roadies. Brendon runs hand through his hair and talks about being typecast and missing out on a role in Ron Howard's latest film to Shia Labeouf.
"The transformers guy, Spence. I came in second to a guy whose supporting actor is a motherfucking car."
"A transforming car," Spencer corrected absently.
Brendon makes an unflattering sound. "A motherfucking transforming car."
He’d never tell Brendon, but sometimes Spencer does think it was the cruellest thing in the world for Brendon to have won an Oscar at sixteen. Like, where was he meant to go from there? One failed marriage, one failing relationship to last years ‘it’ girl later, Brendon is twenty four and still looked like the fifteen year old celluloid version of Corey Moorhead, that had played opposite to Ryan’s young Scott Moorhead all those years ago. Spencer doesn't think he looks much like the fifteen year old nameless extra Ryan had twisted Sean’s his arm to let Spencer play, but he supposes he never had. Not really. Not outside those ninety six minutes of film.
While Brendon is on set with Gabe, Spencer’s manager calls about tour dates. Originally the tour was meant to end last night. But originally Spencer was meant to go back to UCLA and finish up his final semester. Nothing is set in stone. He listens as Brian hammers out the basic outline of the proposed European tour and an additional leg supporting one of the labels other bands. It would lengthen the tour, but it sounds good to Spencer. It sounds good to Brian too.
“I’ll email them to you and the guys,” he tells Spencer when he’s finished.
Spencer makes the right sounds.
In front of him, he watches Gabe say something very clever to Brendon, and Brendon say something very clever back. Spencer tries to remember what the film’s meant to be about. He’s not sure, but he thinks they’re playing best friends. Or maybe Gabe is Brendon’s invisible friend. Spencer knows Brendon told him.
Ian calls about the contract right as the director calls cut.
“This is big time,” Ian says, because right now it is.
Once they’re there, it will more likely than not be more akin to the last four months that spent in a van than anything else. (The only visible different being the native language the clerk at the gas station speaks.) Now though, it does feel like they’ve hit the big time. Spencer finds himself laughing stupidly when Ian starts practicing his school boy French.
“This is going to be great,”
“Yeah,” Ian says, and then huffs with laughs when Dallon reprimands him: “En francais, mon frere, en francais.”
When Brendon was a kid, he was a child star the way Ryan never really managed to be. In fact, he and four of his siblings were all child stars. For a period in the eighties and nineties it had been all about the Urie’s and the Culkin’s. Apart from him, only his older sister Kara is still acting now. For the last five years she’s been on a HBO drama. Sometimes when Brendon is on location, he likes to watch her show and pretend he isn’t in Jordan or Vancouver or Sydney. No one apart from Spencer knows this, and Spencer only knows because Brendon accidentally told Spencer that he does the same thing with Camisado’s first EP.
It’s nice having Spencer in the costume trailer, grinning as they watch Gabe struggle with his suspenders. Much nicer than listening to the drum line and pretending he was in the studio with them. Brendon is good at pretending (better than Shia LaBeouf). But in person, Spencer’s sharper and wittier. He orders Gabe and Brendon to buy him lunch.
“The catering truck is free, bitch,” Gabe reminds him.
“Let me pretend,” Spencer retorts. “We need to celebrate.”
“I’m not celebrating your band going to Europe,” Gabe tells him. “I hope you get syphilis from a Venetian prostitute.”
Gabe doesn’t mean it. Brendon knows this. Gabe is just bitter he can’t pull of suspenders like Johnny Depp did. Spencer must pick up on it, because he takes pity on Gabe and helps him clip himself into his 21 Jump Street inspired outfit and doesn’t laugh even though it looks stupid. Maggie Gyllenhaal does though. Gabe just grins and lets her. It an open secret that Gabe has been in love with her since the table read. But Gabe has always been too committed to method acting. Brendon is pretty certain that Gabe’s fallen in various states of love with every single one of his co-stars, himself included.
Unlike Brendon, it’s never been a problem for Gabe.
Due to the success of the first LA show, a second one is announced at the last minute. It sells out in a day. Ian swears on his mother’s life that he sees half of the Twilight cast in the crowd. When a reporter sent from i-D confirms the claim, Ian looks vindicated but it fades a little with Joe Jonas’ ex-girlfriend comes backstage and he gets stuck talking to her.
Dallon snaps a picture with his smart phone and sends it to his wife. A few minutes later she sends back a text which consists of exclamation marks and random letters. Spencer laughs when Dallon shows it to him. When they show it to Ian later, he doesn’t, but that might have been because they left him alone with her.
“Someone’s got a crush,” Dallon croons.
“Someone’s going to get their ass beaten by a Followill brother,” Spencer corrects.
Ian covers his face with his hands and moans. “Why does this happen to me?”
“You’re too adorable,” Spencer tells him dryly.
She is too when she ‘coincidentally’ runs into them at the club they head to afterwards. Cash acts like a bit of a bitch for the rest of the night though, and almost gets them kicked out of the VIP section. It’s only thanks to Ryan and Brendon’s influence that they don’t. Ellen presence at their table doesn’t hurt either. But she’s drunk by then; sweet and giggly and tucked into Brendon’s side. Brendon ends up taking her home early. Spencer and Shane help Brendon carry her out the back exit and pour her into a waiting car.
“Is she even legal?” Shane asks.
“Fuck if I know,” Spencer replies.
Shane snorts. “Can’t say Brendon doesn’t have a type.”
They head back inside.
Ryan has a suite, but for some reason the next morning he finds Spencer sleeping out on the balcony in a deck chair. He also finds Gabe dead to the world on the tiles and a blonde girl that he first thinks is Clémence, but turns out to be Maja asleep on top of Spencer’s chest.
Barefoot, he pads back over to the bathroom and swallows two aspirins dry.
In the mirror, Spencer’s drum kit is backwards.
In three weeks, the doctors said the cast can come off. Ryan wishes he didn’t have to wait that long. Over a liquid breakfast, Maja adds a pin up girl to the underside of it. 1940’s tits and ass. With her tongue between her teeth, she draws an anchor on the girls arm and a heart on her upper thigh.
“She matches me now.”
Ryan wants to laugh but doesn’t dare.
It’s award season. Ryan isn’t nominated and the Golden Globes aren’t his idea of fun, but Spencer never turns down goody bags. It’s a good enough reason to call his agent Tara and tell her to organise an extra ticket and get his stylists to bring a few extra suits.
“I’m not even going to ask,” she says.
Ryan doesn’t really care. Spencer is always better company than any of the dates Tara arranges.
The show itself is a waste of time. The red carpet is too. The after parties are fun though. They go to four. At the second, Spencer runs into Cate Blanchett. When Ryan was twenty one, he played a school kid that tried to seduce her. While on set, Spencer occasionally had helped Cate’s nanny baby sit her two boys during takes. Now she tells Spencer what her boy’s are up too now and how much they’ve grown since he last saw them.
“Cate asked after you,” Spencer tells Ryan afterwards. “You should have come over and said hello.”
Becoming friends with co-stars is like having a summer fling. Ryan knows this. He doesn’t get why Spencer doesn’t.
At the third party, Ryan runs into Alex and Z, but not before running into Brendon and Ellen and most of the Inception cast. Ryan manages to excuse himself, but Spencer does not. From across the room with Alex and Z, Ryan watches Brendon stare at Spencer and it’s too pathetic for words.
“I know Urie and his Oscar have to share closet space, but that is fucking sad,” Alex announces.
Z giggles into her drink.
Ryan does too, because three parties into the night, it’s a fucking funny joke. But three parties into the night most things are. In the bathroom, he kisses Z and she lets him push her Rodarte dress up around her waist and her spanx down to her knees. Outside the stall, Alex tells them to hurry up and when Z tells him to shut up, someone squeaks in embarrassment.
“Jesse Eisenberg,” Alex tells them when they’re finished. “For an Academy Nominee, he’s a bit of a pussy.”
Z groans. “God. I’m doing a table read with him in a week, you fuckers.”
Ryan sniggers. “At least you’ve made an impression.”
Z hits him.
"I heard Elizabeth Berg signed on to play the female lead in your next project," Spencer says at the fourth party. "I just saw that John Lennon biopic she was in. She's good."
Because Ryan has never acted his age, not even in the beginning when they were children dreaming of escape instead of silver screens, he agrees and somehow in the process of telling Spencer about how talented his newest co-star is, manages to infer a number of things that get overheard and subsequently posted online.
Brendon reads them aloud for Spencer then next day in the suite the studio booked for him.
“Pretty colourful stuff.”
Spencer balls up a napkin and throws it at Brendon.
Ryan doesn’t apologise when Spencer goes with him to his check up.
Spencer flicks his ear.
“I’ll be glad when you’re back in your dorm room,” Ryan mutters in that half hearted way he says things when he’s feeling guilty.
Spencer stretches his legs and flicks though an old glossy tabloid. “Sucks to be you then.”
Ryan glances over at him. A picture of him and Juno Temple outside her building, catch his eye. Grimacing, he snatches the magazine from Spencer.
“Hey, I was reading that.” Spencer exclaims, but Ryan ignores him.
“What’s that suppose to mean?”
Spencer sighs. “It means I’m not going back.”
“Are you being an idiot on purpose?”
“The label’s sending us to Europe.”
This makes Ryan want to laugh. Really, Spencer’s shitty label, the one that misspelled their band name in the initial press releases, is sending them to Europe? That’s one of the books.
“You’re giving up college for that?”
Spencer lips tighten. “What does it matter to you? You didn’t even finish high school.”
The nurse at the front desk calls Ryan’s name, but Ryan doesn’t care.
“Fuck me for giving a shit about your future,” he swears.
Spencer rolls his eyes and fuck, that really makes Ryan want to punch him. Everyone in the waiting room is looking at them though.
“We’ll finish this later,” Ryan tells Spencer.
Spencer makes a face but he doesn’t say anything.
They don’t finish the conversation later. Ian calls about a jam session (his exact words; ‘jam session’ because apparently he lives in the 80s with Gabe) and Spencer disappears. In the late afternoon, Alex comes over and they sit out by the pool and pretend to be socialites. It’s more fun than it sounds. He invites Ryan to this thing one of his friends is having.
“We’re morning Natalie Portman,” Alex tells Ryan. “Engaged and pregnant.”
“You’re meant to celebrate those things,” Ryan says, because he’s pretty sure they’re good things.
“Not when they’re happening to my future wife.”
“I think she’s actually Benjamin Millepied's future wife.”
Alex hisses, as if in pain. “Don’t say his name.”
The thing is in the hills, just down the street from Ryan’s house. They decide to leave Alex’s car in Ryan driveway and walk up. When Ryan last spoke to his architect, he said the renovations were almost finished. Originally he said they wouldn’t go over budget too. In his second best black suit, getting concrete dust on his shoes, Ryan tries to light his cigarette. Alex takes pity on him after a while, and takes the lighter from him.
“You’re such a fuck up, Ross,” Alex says.
Ryan doesn’t argue.
At the house party, Zooey Deschanel in her role as everyone’s former second choice future wife, makes the first toast of the night. Ryan isn’t driving, so he raises a flute of champagne. Alex is, but he tells Ryan they can crash here if he gets drunk.
“Here or at your place,”
Ryan’s place is a building site.
“On your tennis court then.”
Tennessee and Juno overhear and somehow half the party ends up moving to Ryan’s place for an impromptu game. Ryan doesn’t have his keys, so he ends up breaking into his house to get rackets and faded tennis balls. No one is very good apart from Kristen Dunst, but that doesn’t count. She thinks it does though, and makes Alex lift her onto his shoulders for a victory lap.
He’s red faced and short of breath when he finishes.
“You need to stop smoking,” Tennessee notes.
“I need to stop listening to Kristen.”
Tennessee grins. “We all know that’s not going to happen.”
Alex glances over where Kristen is teaching Jon how to serve. “Yeah. Probably.”
It isn’t really a surprise either, when Alex excuses himself a few minutes after Kristen starts talking about heading off. Ryan has been in LA for too long. Everything and everyone is predictable.
Jon ends up driving Ryan back to the hotel. He used to live on Ryan’s street too. Now he’s in Chicago with his girl. Ryan misses him more than he should.
“You should come back to LA,” he tells Jon, because in his head it sounds like a very good idea.
Jon smiles. “You should move to Chicago.”
“No one moves to Chicago.”
“Cassie and I did.”
Ryan thinks that’s the problem. One of them, at least.
“Spencer’s dropping out.”
Jon nods. “Yeah, I saw the updated dates on Camisado’s myspace page.”
Myspace. Ryan snorts.
Jon takes a hand off the wheel and ruffles Ryan’s hair. “Spencer’s a smart kid. He knows what he’s doing.”
“No, he doesn’t.”
Jon shrugs. “Maybe. But at least he isn’t going over to see Clém.”
There’s that, Ryan supposes. There is that.