Sometimes Brendon gets jostled out of himself and wobbles there like a jar lid wedged into its threads the wrong way, just barely not fitting. Exercise can fix it if he pushes himself hard enough. Making music helps, if no one's listening and he can get it out of his head instead of putting it into other people's. The only way that really works, though, the one thing that really centers him, is reminding himself where he ends and the world begins. If he's lucky, fingernails are enough.
It's fucked up, he gets that, but it doesn't stop him doing it when he's jittery and out of focus and needs it. Brendon knows what the word need means. He's been the guy contemplating the two-hundred-dollar sneakers that look comfier than the other three pairs in his closet, and he's been the guy getting damp socks through the holes in his beat-up Converse because seven dollars at the thrift store is a legitimate hardship, and he knows the difference. This, testing the boundaries of his body to make sure he's still in it, this is a need.
Even five minutes before he has to be onstage. Especially then, because Brendon might fuck shit up in myriad spectacular ways, but one thing he refuses to ever again be is a disappointment.
His nails are bitten too short to be any good, so he's using a guitar pick, pressing the sharpest of the three corners against the side of his calf. He's breathing as deeply as he can, trying to focus on nothing but the edge of the plastic biting into his skin. It's getting better, he's almost ready, and then the door swings open.
The guitar pick bounces on the dusty concrete floor. Brendon shoves down his pant leg, but he can tell by the look on Dallon's face that he's already seen the white indent surrounded by angry red.
"I'm ready, let's rock this house," says Brendon too fast--distraction, give him something else to react to, fuck, the jar-lid feeling is back and Brendon has to go perform right now...
"Brendon," says Dallon. He steps forward, takes Brendon's shoulder in his hand and squeezes. "I'm not gonna judge, okay? Just surprised. I didn't know you were a kinkster too."
"A what?" Brendon shakes his head. "We gotta go, dude." He doesn't know what Dallon's talking about, but whatever he's thinking, he's wrong. It's just a thing Brendon does. Just a thing he has to do.
The show isn't total shit--Lance Armstrong doesn't forget how to ride a bicycle, Brendon Urie doesn't forget how to ride a concert high--but it's not their best. Brendon keeps thinking about the word kinkster, how ridiculous and simultaneously foreboding it sounds. He shakes his head, and it fits with the lyrics he's singing, but really it's about the thought of handcuffs and floggers and naked people kneeling. That's not him, and if it's Dallon, he doesn't need to know.
Late at night, when everything is a little slower and quieter and easier to handle, Brendon says, "I'm not into that stuff."
Couches on the bus aren't so much couches as wooden ledges, hollow for storage, with too-thin cushions laid on top. Brendon is used to them, knows how to situate himself for comfort, but he can't seem to get comfortable right now.
Dallon looks like he's never felt more relaxed. "Define stuff," he says.
"Kink stuff," says Brendon. "You said you didn't know I was a kinkster. I'm not."
Spencer and Ian and Zack are already sleeping in their bunks. Brendon wants to go to his bunk too, maybe not to sleep, maybe just to hide from the way Dallon is looking at him.
"What were you doing with that pick?" Dallon asks.
Brendon has never tried to explain before. He bites his lip. Lip-biting is okay, that's a thing people do when they're thinking. It's not until something gives between his teeth, a shift of flesh and a flash of pain, that he realizes how hard he's doing it. He lets go abruptly. "Just calming myself down," he says. "I get that way sometimes. It doesn't have to do with sex or whatever."
"It isn't for me, either," says Dallon. "It can go along with sex, but it doesn't have to."
"What..." says Brendon. "What is it, then? If it's not sex, how does it work?"
Dallon gives him that look again, like he knows what he wants to say and he's trying to decide how to say it. "I could show you," he says finally, softly.
"Dude," says Brendon. "I'm not into guys. And wouldn't your wife mind?"
"I think we need to start over from the beginning," says Dallon.
The internet has many things to say about sadomasochism, many of them (according to Dallon) either overgeneralized or flat-out wrong. Brendon googles and hops around from site to site, following links, reading articles, looking at pictures. The ones of people tied up or dressed in weird outfits don't do much for him, but the ones of marked skin and twisted faces catch his eye.
He could have done this before now, without being told to. He knows how the internet works, he's seen some of this stuff. But it's never occurred to him that the simple sensations could be separated from the bells and whistles and servitude. And the things he does to himself, they've never really registered to him as pain.
"Yeah, I'm not really into roleplay either," says Dallon. "I do it for Breezy, she likes dressing up and acting out scenes once in a while, but I prefer plain SM."
"Are you the S or the M?" asks Brendon.
Dallon leans down off the hotel bed and roots around in his bag, coming up with a rubber band ball. Brendon, sitting on the other bed, watches him warily, but Dallon just tosses it from hand to hand. "Depends on my mood," he says.
Brendon has never experienced the urge to hurt anyone, he doesn't think. Not like this, not with the same kind of urge that drives him to feel any way he can.
Dallon pulls a rubber band off the ball and shoots it at his own bare foot. Brendon follows its trajectory, sees the way the toe it hits twitches. He's never tried that particular method of marking his edges, but he can almost feel the sting.
"You can," he says. He means to continue the sentence, but Dallon is turning and aiming, and he can't remember what he was going to say.
"Safeword," says Dallon.
The rubber band is taut, straining against his fingers. Brendon can't look away from it. "How about 'stop'?" he suggests.
Dallon laughs, too calm for the tension Brendon is feeling, or maybe that's just the rubber band, still stretched and waiting. "Yeah," he says, "I guess that works," and he lets fly. It hits Brendon in the arm, sharp and sudden and not nearly enough.
"Again," says Brendon. He half expects Dallon to tease him, make him beg for it like the dom did in the leather porn Brendon tried watching once, but Dallon just reaches for the ball. No roleplay. No frills. Just Dallon hurting Brendon and Brendon being hurt.
Brendon's accidentally worked himself up into the exact anxious state that makes him crave this, so it works out perfectly. Dallon snaps him in the arm a few more times, then Brendon says, "Can I?" tugging at his shirt, and Dallon nods. Brendon angles himself to provide more of a target. The sting feels even better against his bare stomach and chest. When a rubber band hits his nipple, Brendon's eyes slip shut and he can feel it, his shaken self slotting back into place.
Next time they have a hotel night, the door has hardly latched shut behind them when Brendon says, "I want to do it again."
Dallon tosses his bag at the foot of the bed and says, "I was hoping you'd say that."