"Wait, you made out with Mikey Way?" Ian asked. He dropped the controller on the sofa cushions.
Spencer lifted his shoulder in a half-shrug. "Well, yeah," he said. "Mikeyway, you know?"
"When?" Ian couldn't remember them even being in the same town as MCR, and as far as he knew Mikey didn't hang out in any of the same spots Spencer did.
"Years ago," Spencer said. "We were still touring with Fever. Shit it might even have been before Jon. NME did this photo shoot, me and Mikey and Bill. One of those things was not like the other, you know?"
"No, I've seen pictures. You were the prettiest," Ian said.
"Whatever," Spencer said, "they should have picked Brendon or Ryan, they fitted in."
"Leaving aside your completely wrong opinions, " Ian said, “how did you end up making out with him?"
"We were hanging out on the bus," Spencer said. He was actually a little pink-cheeked which was kind of cute on him. "I, shit, I can't even remember, we were talking about Star Wars probably. I think he was a little drunk, and halfway through he just leaned over and kissed me."
Ian could imagine it, Mikey brushing Spencer's long hair back, tucking it behind his ear, before kissing him.
"And?" he asked "Was that make-out king reputation earned?"
Spencer coughed. “Yeah, though at the time I didn't- it was my first kiss with a guy." He looked rueful.
"Seriously?" Ian asked, "I thought for sure that you and Ryan-"
"We did," Spencer interrupted him, "but that was after. Mikey was first."
"Cool," Ian grinned. "so, what happened? You can't just leave it there."
"This isn't Letters to Penthouse," Spencer complained. He still looked sheepish, like it was something to be embarrassed about, rather than kind of hot. "We just made out. It wasn't a thing. Sometimes just that's pretty cool."
"I've always thought so," Ian said. "So hey, did you make out with any of his band mates?" He raised his eyebrows.
"Just Mikey." Spencer gave him an unimpressed look. "So much for your second-hand Ray Toro fantasies."
"Hey," Ian poked him in the arm. "I just like his playing. And, you know. His thighs."
"Sure," Spencer drawled. "Are we gonna finish this game or do you want to continue making up for your lack of action by asking me about mine?"
"I get plenty, don't you worry," Ian said.
"Well, I hope that makes you feel better after I kick your ass," Spencer said, picking up the controller and unpausing the game before Ian had chance to react. He was sneaky like that. It was one of the many things Ian admired about him.
Later, after Ian had been forced to admit that yes, Spencer was the king of Lego Batman and Ian had been foolish to ever go against him, Spencer stretched his legs out in front of him, narrowly missing the empty pizza box, and sighed, leaning back until his head thunked on the back of the sofa.
"I kind of miss it," he said, like they were carrying on a conversation he'd been mostly having in his head.
"What?" Ian asked. "Pizza?"
"No," Spencer rolled his head so he was staring at Ian. "Just making out, you know?"
"Pretty sure you can hook up whenever you want, dude," Ian said. "You're a rock star, and you're, you know, you."
Ian had made it a point to remind Spencer of this from time to time, because for a guy as generally attractive as Spencer was, he didn't seem to realise it half the time.
"I guess," Spencer sounded dubious. "It's just, you know. Effort."
He closed his eyes and breathed out all in a rush, a frustrated sigh.
"You need a fuck buddy. Or a makeout one," Ian said. "Like you said with Mikey, doesn't have to be a thing."
"Pretty sure Mikey's wife might have something to say about that," Spencer said. He opened his eyes and pushed himself up off the couch and stooped to pick up the empty box and beer bottles. Ian studied his shoulders under his faded t-shirt, the dip of his waist, and made a decision. "Ignore me, I'm fine."
"You are fine," Ian said, getting up too. "Or, you will be. Don't worry. I volunteer."
Spencer paused, beer bottle in hand. "For what?"
Ian stepped close enough to cup his hand round the back of Spencer's neck, and kiss him a soft press of lips to Spencer's. Spencer turned his head aside, but didn't look pissed off, just surprised.
"Doesn't have to mean anything," Ian said "You like it, I like it, and we both know it's not serious. Plus, I have it on good authority that I'm a great kisser, so you're totally missing out if you say no."
"On whose authority?" Spencer asked.
"We could go get references," Ian said "Or you could just make out with me and see for yourself."
"That approach work for you?" Spencer asked.
Ian gave in to the urge and tucked a strand of Spencer's shiny hair out of the way and leaned forward again.
"What do you think?" he said, and kissed Spencer again before he could answer. Spencer's mouth softened under his but Ian kept it slow and shallow until he could feel the shape of Spencer's smile against his lips, and Spencer's hand came up to rest between his shoulder blades, pressing in. Ian heard the thunk of the beer bottle hitting the floor as he slid his tongue into Spencer's mouth, teasing, and drew back as Spencer leaned forward.
"So, I get the job?" he grinned. Spencer was flushed pink again, the blue of his eyes somehow brighter because of it.
"Yeah," Spencer sounded flatteringly dazed. "Yeah, that works for me."
"Great," Ian said. "In that case. I think you should totally come over to the couch. I can't do my best work standing up."
Spencer flicked his eyes toward the couch, and then back toward Ian. Ian smiled encouragingly. Spencer shook his head, but stepped over the coffee table with his long legs and settled himself in the corner of the couch, looking at Ian with raised eyebrows.
"Well," he said. "what are you waiting for?"
"I know that look.," Ian felt a smile on his own face. "That's an 'impress me' look. Prepare to have your world rocked, Smith."
He folded himself onto the couch and this time Spencer reached for him, guiding him down until their lips met. It wasn't exactly chaste- Spencer slicked his tongue into Ian's mouth and whined in the back of his throat every time Ian let his teeth catch on his lip, but his hands stayed firmly above the waist, stroking up and down Ian's back, or curling round his shoulders to hold him in place. Ian was half-twisted on the couch to get at Spencer's mouth, legs folded at odd angles. It wasn't really that comfortable, but Spencer's hair was soft as water under his hands, and he smelled a bit like beer and a lot like the smokey cologne he wore. Fuck but Ian loved making out. The slow movement of Spencer's mouth under his, the little noises they were both making, knowing it wasn't a rush to get off, or get naked, that this was enough, satisfaction spreading warmth and laziness through him as they kissed. Eventually the crick in his knees got too much, and he pulled back slowly. Spencer's eyes were still closed, and this close ian could see the freckles scattered over his cheekbones.
"See," Ian said, as Spencer blinked his eyes open, "I told you this was a great idea."
"Yeah," Spencer said, "I guess it had to happen sometime."
Ian unfolded his legs and accidentally-on-purpose kicked Spencer in the shin, but he could feel the smile on Spencer's face mirrored on his own, so he was counting it as a win.
Ian was noodling around aimlessly on his guitar, feeling kind of bored but not bored enough to actually do anything, when his phone chimed with a text from Spencer
Come over now. Bring Doritos
"Spencer, is this a booty call?" he asked as he waited in line at the store, phone tucked under his ear. "So soon?"
It had only been two days since they'd spent the afternoon making out on Spencer's couch, but Ian was up for a repeat pretty much whenever
"Far more important," Spencer said, "I have something that I think only you will truly appreciate as much as I can."
"Is it your dick?" Ian asked, smiling at the checkout clerk when he gasped.
"Just come over. Don't forget the Doritos, I'm out."
"I'm coming, I'm getting in the car now dude," Ian said, hitting the end call button and tossing the bags of Doritos on the passenger seat. Spencer didn't sound stoned, but, Ian had learned, that didn't mean much. Unlike Brendon, Spencer sounded almost normal when he was high, except for the tendency to giggle and the languid stretched-out quality of his movements.
"Here's your goddamn Doritos," Ian said as Spencer opened the door "I can't believe you smoked up without me and called me for a munchies run."
"What?" Spencer asked, stepping back and relieving Ian of the bags. "Dude, no, you know I'm trying to cut down on that. And I wouldn't do it without you. I just wanted Doritos and the store's on your way."
"So, what is it that you have to show me then?" Ian said, heading in the direction of the living room.
"Wait," Spencer said and caught Ian by the wrist, and pecked him on the mouth, kind of awkwardly, like he wasn't sure he was allowed to. "Hi." he said.
Ian pressed his lips to Spencer's "Hi," he said, "show me this thing now, makeouts after."
Spencer flashed him a brilliant smile "You may change your mind on that," he said.
Ian got a look at the box sitting in the centre of the room and had to agree."Spencer, is that-?"
"The Death Star Legos kit? Yes. Wanna help build it?"
"Are you shitting me?" Ian got to his knees to study the box more closely. It was perfect. The trash compactor, the throne room, the tiny Chewie minifigs.
"I wanted this the day it came out," he said, remembering, "But it was kind of pricey."
"Hey, like you said, I'm a rock star." Spencer sank down onto the carpet next to him and bumped his shoulder, "I can spend money on crazy shit if I want."
"Rock and fucking roll," Ian made rock hands to reinforce his point. "Can we open it or are we just going to stare at it?"
"I was waiting for you," Spencer said. "I thought you might think it was fun."
"You thought right," Ian said.
Spencer carefully opened the box and started unpacking the pieces. Ian grabbed the Han minifig as soon as he saw it.
"Hey," Spencer said, taking Han out of his hand. "Don't lose any."
"It's awesome," Ian said, pulling grey and white and black blocks out of the box. "It's going to take forever to build, but it's fucking awesome."
"That's why we have the Doritos," Spencer said, "keep our strength up."
Spencer, it turned out, had very different opinions about buliding Legos than Ian did. He had all the blocks laid out in piles of the same colour with the blocks of graduating sizes, and was carefully studying the building plan. Ian looked at the picture on the front of the box and grabbed some of the black blocks.
"Look, these all fit together to make the throne room steps," he said. "And then I think the floor of the trash compactor is this bit here." He tried to push together some of the flat grey pieces but they didn't seem to want to fit.
"Don't!" Spencer said. "Geez, don't you ever read the instructions? The steps are numbered."
"Who follows the instructions?" Ian asked. "That takes all the fun out of it. You seriously follow the instructions in Legos?"
"Yes," Spencer said patiently, looking at the instructions for Step 2 and picking up one of the flat grey pieces, "because that way it turns out right."
"I'm more of a learning by doing kind of guy," Ian said, "If you know what i mean."
"Legos first," Spencer said, but he was smiling.
"Come on," Ian said "at least try it without the instructions?"
"You can make the trash compactor," Spencer said "If you think you can figure it out."
"It is ON," Ian said.
They worked in contented silence, the radio playing quietly in the background. Spencer looked almost serene, completely absorbed in clicking the little blocks together. Ian made sure to brush Spencer's fingers every so often, 'accidentally' reaching for the blocks at the same time, and each time he did it Spencer's mouth twitched up in a tiny smile.
"Stop trying to distract me," Spencer said eventually.
"I'm not," Ian made his eyes wide and innocent. "We just need the same colour blocks is all."
Spencer twisted round to look at what was supposed to be the trash compactor.
"Uh huh," he said. "And how you are getting on with that?"
"Um," Ian said. It was pretty hard to do without the instructions. The picture on the box wasn't really much to go on. "I've found all the droids?" he tried.
"if you ask nicely, I might let you look at the instructions," Spencer waved the paper in front of his face "Ask nicely, and say I'm right."
Ian opened his mouth, and Spencer raised his eyebrows.
"Nah," Ian said, and made a grab for the instructions instead. Spencer twisted out of his grasp but felt backward on the rug, kicking his legs up so he didn't knock into the half-built Death Star.
"Come on," Spencer laughed, wriggling backward but holding the instructions over his head. "Say 'Spencer you were right as always' and I'll let you use them."
"I think we should call a truce," Ian said, crawling forward. "Or if you lend me the instructions, I'll totally make out with you."
"You'll do that anyway," Spencer looked smug, which was a good look on him, the asshole.
"You got me," Ian said, and leaned forward. Spencer was already meeting him halfway. His mouth was warm, familiar already, and Ian pressed him back down onto the rug and tried to avoid any Legos.
"Hey," Ian said, minutes later. "You totally have a stormtrooper stuck to your cheek."
It took them two days to finish the Death Star. Ian brought coffee and doughnuts the next morning and they spent half an hour trading frosting-flavoured kisses, Ian licking every trace of maple glaze out of Spencer's mouth.
"I think it's done," Spencer stepped back. "Wait, where's Vader?"
Ian made the Vader breathing noises and moved the minifig toward Spencer in a threatening way. Spencer rolled his eyes and plucked it out if his grasp, then clicked it into place.
"Freaking awesome," Ian said, studying it.
"We did good," Spencer knocked his fist against Ian's shoulder. "Take a picture for Twitter?"
Ian snapped the picture, the top of Spencer's head peeping over the Death Star, one hand pointing at Lego Leia.
"Millennium Falcon next?" Ian asked.
"It's a date," Spencer said.
Ian had kind of invited himself over-Spencer's place was way nicer than his apartment anyway, and his roommate was being a shit, but he still thought Spencer might have been more pleased to see him than this.
He wasn't bitchy or moody, more kind of listlessly sad, which was somehow worse.
"I can go, if you want," Ian offered after 15 minutes of awkward semi-silence.
"No," Spencer shook his head and seemed to try and pull himself together. "It's cool, we can play video games or something, I'm sorry dude."
He didn't look too enthusiastic about it.
"Spence," Ian shuffled closer on the couch so he could put a hand on Spencer's knee. "You want to tell me what's up?"
"Not really," Spencer said. "There's nothing you can do about it, it's just, old shit."
He didn't look at Ian, but the corners of his mouth turned down. Ian made a decision.
"You need a blowjob," he announced. "That will cheer you up."
Spencer smiled thinly. "Does that approach work often for you?" he said.
"I get no complaints." Ian said. "Come on, it's just what you need." He fumbled for the remote and flicked through the channels til he found what he was looking for. "You can watch Man vs Food and I'll blow you, it'll be awesome."
Spencer made a doubtful kind of noise but didn't protest when Ian kissed him, then dropped to his knees. They hadn't done anything more than some pretty intense dry humping but Ian was never against blowing a hot guy, especially Spencer, whose sad face was kind of twisting him up inside.
He shouldered Spencer's knees apart while in the background Adam Richman announced a Great Britain Special Episode, and unzipped and unbuttoned Spencer's pants.
"Ian," Spencer said, fluttering out one hand to cup Ian's cheek. "You don't have to do this."
Ian turned his head to kiss Spencer's palm. "Do you not want me to?" he asked.
"You don't have to," Spencer repeated. It was not, Ian noted, a no.
"What if I want to?" Ian asked. "It's not like it's a hardship, Spence. You're fucking hot, and a great kisser, and it will cheer you up. It doesn't have to mean anything huge. We're bros, right?"
"Right," Spencer said, faintly.
Ian rose up on his knees to kiss Spencer again, kept at it until Spencer was clutching at him and licking into his mouth, making the little satisfied humming noise in the back of his throat that Ian had become very familiar with.
"See," Ian said, drawing back. He palmed Spencer's cock through his boxers. It was blood-warm and hardening, and he traced the outline with his fingers. "You feel better already."
Spencer huffed a laugh, thin, but real, and this time when Ian sank back down and drew Spencer's (really nice) cock out of his boxers, he didn't protest.
Spencer's cock was only half-hard as Ian licked over the head, tasting the first hint of precome. He got his hand round the base of Spencer's cock and went down, sucking lightly, other hand braced on Spencer's thigh. He felt the muscles tense, but when he paused to make sure Spencer was OK with it he felt Spencer's hand fall lightly to cup the side of his face, not pushing, just there.
“Please,” Spencer said, softly, and who was Ian to refuse?
Spencer wasn't all the way hard yet- Ian had kind of sprung it on him, he thought. It was good like this, though; Ian could start off slow, sucking gently and learning the taste of Spencer, what made him gasp or thrust forward, what made him moan.
Spencer's hand was still cupping his jaw, and he felt Spencer's fingers trace lightly over his cheek, like he was feeling himself in Ian's mouth, and it was hot, surprisingly hot. Ian swirled his tongue down Spencer's length. Spencer was fully hard now, thrusting shallowly, panting with each thrust. Ian pressed his spare hand to his own hardening cock, but reminded himself this was for Spencer. He'd jerk off later, remembering the pink staining Spencer's cheeks, his bright blue eyes looking down at Ian, wide like he couldn't believe this was happening.
The TV was playing in the background, but Ian wasn't paying much attention to it. Spencer was being downright gentlemanly and Ian wanted to make him lose it and just go for it. He got the impression Spencer wasn't much for just taking.
"Ian, Ian," Spencer said, and it took a few seconds for Ian to realise he was urging Ian to pull off, not urging him on.
Ian pulled back with a pop and licked his lips. Spencer moaned.
"You close?" Ian said. "It's cool, I swallow. For you." He winked, trying to get Spencer to smile.
"No," Spencer said, "but my cock can wait, you have to watch this."
Ian wasn't sure whether to be amused or upset.
"I'll have you know," he said, instead, "that people beg for my mouth."
"Yeah yeah," Spencer said, but with a smile. "But dude, this guy is about to batter and deep fry a pizza. Tell me you don't want to watch that."
Ian wrapped his fist back round Spencer and jerked once, slowly, the motion wet and easy from saliva and precome. "That does sound pretty cool," he said. He twisted round to watch, leaning his cheek against Spencer's knee. Spencer's hand came to rest hesitantly on his hair.
"That looks amazing," Ian said as the guy dipped a whole pizza in batter and slid it into the industrial fryer. "Who even came up with that?"
"Fried food's good. Pizza's good," Spencer said "Like chocolate and peanut butter."
"That's the kind of thing that only sounds good when you're stoned," Ian said. On the TV, the guy was cutting into his fried pizza, stringy cheese pulling apart between the battered slices.
"We're not trying it next time," Spencer said "No one should be around that much hot fat stoned."
"Spoilsport," Ian said. The commercials rolled and he twisted back round. "Can I finish this now?" He gestured to Spencer's dick.
"You make it sound like such an effort," Spencer said "This was your idea."
"Are you or are you not happier now?" Ian said, and took Spencer in before he could reply. Spencer seemed to share some of his urgency because he was really going for it now, hips moving under Ian's hands, thrusting. Ian just concentrated on opening his throat and sucking in time with Spencer's thrusts.
Soon Spencer was panting,"now, now I'm gonna-" and coming, head thrown back on the couch cushions, sweaty hair stuck to his forehead.
Ian wiped the back of his hand across his mouth and got to his feet, knees protesting. Spencer needed a damn rug if they were going to do this again. He hoped they were, especially with the way Spencer was looking at him, blinking open cloudy blue eyes and reaching for him with shaking hands.
"Come down here," he said and jerked Ian down for a kiss. His hands were scrabbling at Ian's fly, and Ian jerked into the touch.
"Was just supposed to be for you," he said, in between kisse.s "I was gonna jerk off later."
"'S hot," Spencer mumbled against his mouth. "But I'm not selfish, lemme just-" Ian groaned as Spencer's hand closed round him, strong and sure in this as in pretty much everything else. Spencer jerked him roughly and kissed him, a little sloppy and wet, and Ian gave up and came just as the theme song to Ace of Cakes started to play.
Ian prodded Spencer until he got up and fetched a wash cloth and a spare pair of sweats for him. The legs were ridiculously long but it was worth it to see Spencer try and fail not to laugh, the blankness of earlier gone. By a bit of manhandling and one well-placed noogie, Ian got arranged on the couch and spooned up behind him. He hooked his chin onto Spencer's shoulder, and Spencer snuggled back into him. On the tv, the team were making a cake shaped like a hobbit house.
Ian nosed into Spencer's sweaty hair and eventually Spencer relaxed back against him.
"You want to tell me what's up?" Ian tried again.
"You can't bribe me with blowjobs to talk about my feelings," Spencer said.
"You don't have to talk about anything," Ian said. "Just watch the cakes."
Ian was pretty patient, but it still took nearly another whole episode before Spencer sighed, a long drawn-out exhalation.
"It's stupid," he said. "I know it is. I shouldn't still care."
"What is?" Ian asked softly. Spencer turned his face into Ian's neck, and he felt Spencer's lips brush over one of the hickies he'd left.
"Brendon," Spencer said so quietly Ian felt it rather than heard it. "Just sometimes, it's hard to pretend that I'm OK just being friends."
Well, Ian thought. "I didn't know," he said instead. "I mean, I thought you guys had either been there, and decided it didn't work, or it was just Brendon flirting and being Brendon."
"Yeah," Spencer said. "He flirts with everyone. Sometimes I forget he doesn't mean it like that with me."
"Are you sure?" Ian said. "Because I'm not like that with my friends."
"Says the guy who just blew me on the couch because I looked sad," Spencer said. Ian poked him in the stomach.
"We have an arrangement. A totally awesome blowjobs and making out arrangement. Brendon looks at you like he wants to marry you."
Spencer shook his head. "No. He's just being Brendon. He's always been like that. I'm OK, really."
"Well sure," Ian said "You just got an awesome blowjob. Don't worry Spencer, I'll totally blow you again whenever you want. No problem."
"You're such a giver," Spencer said.
"I could be, if you know what I mean." Ian leered, and Spencer burst out laughing, shaky but real, and that was enough for now, Ian thought.
Brendon and Dallon had broken off half way through Nearly Witches because the riff Brendon had improvised had turned into something song-like.
"Sorry," Spencer shrugged, looking over at the corner of the room where Brendon and Dallon were scribbling words down and humming snatches of music.
"Don't you want to go join in?" Ian said. He leaned his guitar carefully against the wall. "I mean, atthis point I'm basically just the session guy, but they'll be your songs too."
"Hey," Spencer slipped off his stool and made his way to the the front of the kit, "we don't, shit Ian we don't think of you like that."
"It's no problem," Ian shrugged, because it really wasn't. "Jimmy Page started as a session guy; I'm in good company."
"Just, kinda bored at the moment?" Spencer asked.
"Not much playing going on," Ian said. He tilted his head in the direction of the door. "We could always....."
"No," Spencer said, trying not to smile, "because in about 10 minutes they will realise we are in the middle of rehearsal."
"You saying we can't do anything in ten minutes?" Ian glanced over to where Brendon and Dallon were deep in conversation and hooked his fingers into Spencer's belt loops.
"I'm saying we couldn't finish anything in ten minutes," Spencer said. "You know I don't like rushing."
"Point," Ian said, remember hours making out on Spencer's couch, his mouth numb and raw by the end of it. Maybe he could just...
"I mean it," Spencer said, leaning back. "Play me something while we wait."
Ian picked up his guitar again and strummed a few chords, trying to remember the song he wanted. He hummed under his breath. Spencer frowned like he was concentrating.
"I recognise that," he said. "Is it one of your new ones?"
"You'll get it," Ian said, because he'd played his way to the chorus at this point. "I can be your bodyguard, and you can be my long-lost pal."
"You can call me Betty," Spencer joined in, grinning. "And Betty when you call me you can call me Al."
They finished the song together; Spencer even whistled the penny whistle part.
"At least you recognise Paul Simon," Ian said, moving his fingers over the strings, strumming odd chords.
"One song, I don't recognise, and you never let me forget it."
"It was from Revolver," Ian said. "Everyone should recognise everything on that album."
"Serenading Spencer?" Brendon said, coming up behind Ian. Ian felt his hand land on his shoulder "That's my job, we've been over this. Or did you forget Always?"
He was grinning, inviting Ian to share the joke, but there was an edge there. Ian didn't know how Spencer couldn't see it.
"Just a musical interlude," Ian said, "You ready?"
"Born ready," Brendon said, automatically. "Now, where were we?"
"Witches," Spencer said, sliding back onto the stool and finding his sticks.
"Yeah," Brendon said. "I was thinking we could do the new one as well. If that's not too weird for you Ian?" He looked like a concerned kitten.
"Guys," Ian said, and he swung the guitar around on the strap so he could half-hug Brendon, then Dallon, "I'm fine. It's not like you're kicking me out. We all knew this wasn't going to be permanent. We'll rock the hell out of these shows, then I can do my thing and you guys can all come guest on the album."
"Oh yeah?" Dallon said.
"Yeah." Ian grinned up at him "I'm putting in a cowbell just for Spencer."
"What about me?" Dallon asked.
"Washboard," Ian decided.
The shows on the Russia tour were frenetic and fun, at least when the other three stopped walking on eggshells. After the third time Dallon cut himself off mid sentence and looked, stricken, at Brendon and Spencer, Ian said, "Guys. Guys. It's all going to be FINE. I'm not going to like, break down on stage or whatever if you talk about the new album. Touring's supposed to be fun, right? Stop acting like I'm going to break."
"Last time," Brendon rubbed the back of his neck, "it was kind of shit there for a while."
"Yeah, but this is different," Ian said, "You know it is. I've got three shows left with you guys and I don't want them to suck because you guys are worried about hurting my feelings or whatever."
"You're kind of annoying well-balanced," Dallon said.
"Don't hate," Ian grinned, and Spencer smiled at him.
"Dallon's right," Spencer said later from his bed in their twin room, raising his voice so Ian could hear him in the bathroom.
"He'd love to hear you say that, but about what?" Ian spat out his toothpaste and tucked the toothbrush back into his wash bag.
"You're annoyingly good at this whole leaving bands thing." Spencer said. He was sitting up in bed. Ian hesitated, but sat on the edge of the bed and patted Spencer on the head, just to annoy him. On cue, Spencer glared.
"Well, when you do it as often as me, you get good at it," Ian said. "It's not like we thought it was going to be permanent. I love you guys, and I love playing with you, and I'll fill in whenever you need, but I'm doing my own stuff too. Which you knew. Just fun, no hard feelings."
Spencer cocked his head to the side. "You're probably still friends with all your exes too, aren't you?"
"You tell me," Ian said, and knocked his fist against Spencer's shoulder.
"We exes then?" Spencer asked.
"Not so much," Ian agreed. "But dude, Brendon's going to come to his senses sooner or later."
Spencer shrugged. "If you say so," he said.
"I know these things," Ian said. "Shove over."
Spencer frowned, but pulled up the edge of the comforter and let Ian slide in.
"Hit the light?" Spencer asked. Ian clicked the lamp off and they kissed until Spencer's eyes were drifting closed.
The final night Brendon went straight to the keyboard for the encore.
"So, most of you know that this is our last show with Ian, right?" he called into the mic. The crowd roared.
"Yes, we're sorry to see him go too. So, me'n Spence and Dallon thought we'd change up the last song. This is for Ian."
Ian frowned. This wasn't something they'd talked about and it wasn't until Brendon picked out the opening bars that he recognised the song.
Guitar Man, he mouthed to Spencer. Spencer winked and tilted his head as if to say join in and Ian dredged up the chords from memory and joined in, adding in some harmony. Brendon sang the last verse on his knees, and as the lights went down he pressed his forehead into Ian's hip and said, "Thanks, man."
"Yeah.” Dallon wrapped him up in a long armed hug "Thanks. We'll miss you."
"Guys," Spencer said, coming up and sliding his arm round Ian's waist. Ian leaned into him. He smelled of sweat and cologne and Ian kind of wanted to lick him, just a bit. "It's not like he's dying. Come on, those lights are going to go back up in a bit."
Spencer kissed the top of Ian's head as the lights faded back up, Brendon scrambling to his feet so they could all bow togther one last time. He still had his arm round Brendon's neck when Brendon bent at the knees and scooped him up, carrying him offstage to the roars of the crowd.
"We don't have to be at the airport til tomorrow afternoon," Spencer said. "Celebratory beers?"
"Dude," Brendon said, letting Ian slip to the floor. "Celebratory vodka, come on."
"This is a terrible idea, and I'm going to remind you all of this tomorrow," Dallon said, already making his way to the shower.
Ian groaned as he woke up fully. His hair hurt. He couldn't remember much past the second bar, but he had vague memories of licking Spencer's cheek and Spencer laughing.
"Hey," Spencer's voice was quiet, "sorry, we let you sleep as much as you could but you have to get up."
Ian screwed up his eyes and shook his head, and groaned at the movement. He felt something settle on the bridge of his nose and cracked an eye open to see that Spencer had put his sunglasses on him.
"Dallon mostly packed for you," Spencer said. "But dude, if we're not out of here in an hour we won't get to the airport in time."
"Fngh," Ian managed. "Shower."
"Good call," Spencer said.
The hot water was enough to get his eyes open, and he dressed slowly and grabbed at the coffee Spencer held out.
"I guess we had a good night?" He asked as the caffeine hit his system. "Also, why the hell aren't you as hungover as me?"
"More body mass," Spencer said.
Ian frowned, and winced as the headache intensified. "You're not fat," he said.
"No, but I am taller." Spencer said. "And I ate something last night, you just went straight for the vodka."
"Please don't talk about eating," Ian said, as his stomach turned. "I remember licking you?"
"That you did," Spencer nodded. "Also after we bought the vodka back to Dallon and B's room you climbed into my lap and attempted to make out with me. Messily. You drool when you're drunk, dude."
"Damn," Ian said "Sorry?"
"Just get your ass down to the car," Spencer said, but he picked up Ian's bag as well as his own, so Ian knew he wasn't mad.
"It lives!" Dallon greeted him with the annoying cheerfulness of the non-drinker to the hung over.
"Not so loud," Brendon said, holding his own head. "You're banned from coming out with us if you can't be quiet."
"Just get in the car," Zach said, making herding motions.
Ian managed to stay upright until they hit a particularly uneven patch of road and then he groaned and slumped sideways into Spencer.
"Here," Spencer said, and they wriggled round until Ian could rest his head in Spencer's lap. Spencer stroked his hair, gently untangling the curls. It was soothing and Ian closed his eyes behind the sunglasses again.
"He looks pretty cosy there," Brendon said softly, clearly thinking Ian was asleep.
"He's hungover as hell," Spencer said.
Ian kept his eyes closed all the way to the airport, and Spencer didn't stop petting him.
Ian approached the tottering pile of dishes cautiously. They'd finally run out of cereal bowls this morning, and Matty had glared at him as he ate his breakfast cheerios from a coffee mug.
"You can at least do the fucking dishes if you're here all day!" he'd said as he slammed out of the apartment. Seeing as finding a room mate that both adored Skywalker and didn't mind extensive guitar practice had proved surprisingly difficult, Ian wanted to stay on his good side.
Even so. There was shit growing in there.
He piled the dishes on the counter top and set the hot water running, squirting in enough dish soap to make a mound of bubbles. He was just lowering the first lot of crusted plates into the water, and seriously wondering why the fuck they hadn't bought a dishwasher, when his phone vibrated along the counter.
"Oh thank god," he said to the empty room, glad of the distraction. He wiped his soapy hands on his jeans.
"Brendon," he said, "Miss me already?"
"Always," Brendon said. "You know that."
"Uh huh," Ian agreed. He tucked the phone under his chin and poked at the plates with the scrubbing brush. Maybe he should leave them to soak?
"So," Brendon said brightly, "It's Spencer's birthday in like, three weeks."
"It is?" Ian said. He thought back to Spencer's previous birthday. He was pretty sure they'd spent it on tour and he and Dallon filled Spencer's bunk with helium balloons. "Oh yeah, so it is. Did you call just to remind me? Because I have that shit on my phone."
"No," Brendon sounded almost hurt. "I was just thinking, we're not touring this year, so I was going to throw him a party."
"Sounds good," Ian said. He swooshed the water around and bits of soaked-off pasta rose to the top of the water, like sea monsters. Dishwasher was going to the top of his list.
"So you think he'd like it?" Brendon said. "I was going to have like, BBQ and some music and that ice cream cake."
"He's your best friend dude," Ian said. "You're the best judge."
"Yeah, but you're dating him," Brendon said.
The cup Ian was holding slipped from his wet fingers and splashed back into the sink.
"We make out." Ian said "Sometimes we hook up. We're not dating."
"Why the fuck not?!" Brendon asked angrily. "He's awesome, and talented, and a great friend, and really hot. If you're just jerking him around-"
Ian pinched the bridge of his nose. Seriously, they were both fucking idiots.
"He is, all those things,” he said. “And if someone else sees that, and Spencer wants them, wants a serious relationship, then I'll be really happy for him, no harm, no foul. Plenty more fish in the sea, and so on.”
It was about as clear a message as he could manage.
“For real?” Brendon asked, doubtfully.
“Hey,” Ian said. “I want my friends to be happy. All my friends.”
“If you say so,” Brendon said, but he sounded a little brighter. “So, you'll keep that weekend free?”
“Yeah,” Ian said. He set the mug upside down on the drainer. “You want me to keep it secret? Is it like a surprise party?”
“No, just a party-party,” Brendon said.
“Ok,” Ian said “Later dude, I gotta finish these dishes before my roommate stages a revolt.”
“Why don't you just buy a dishwasher?” Brendon said.
“Asking myself the same question,” Ian replied, and Brendon was still laughing as he said goodbye and hung up.
“Morning,” Ian said, as Spencer rolled over and opened his eyes.
“Hi,” Spencer said. He rubbed his eyes. “I fell asleep?”
“Yep,” Ian nodded, “Clearly you're too old for Marvel marathons. You barely made it past the Star Spangled Man. I had to watch Avengers all by myself.”
“Shut up,” Spencer said. “It's my birthday tomorrow, be nice to your elders.”
Early morning Spencer was cranky Spencer, and it never failed to amuse Ian.
“I'm plenty nice to you,” he said, and kissed Spencer on the forehead. “But since you insist, I'll even make you breakfast.”
“Can I use the shower?” Spencer said, swinging his legs out of bed.
“You know where it is,” Ian said.
Spencer scratched the back of his neck as he picked his way across the floor, skirting the pile of laundry.
The whole breakfast plan kind of fell down when Ian looked at the contents of the fridge- mustard, beer, apple juice and one sad-looking head of lettuce. Nothing actually resembling breakfast food. He sighed and opened the cupboard to fish out his emergency Pop-Tarts.
“Eggs?” Spencer asked hopefully, coming up behind him and slinging an arm round Ian's waist.
“Sorry,” Ian offered him a bite of his Pop-Tart. “Grocery shopping is something that kind of happens to other people.”
Spencer kissed him anyway, sweet and familiar, and took a bite of the Pop-Tart.
“Mmm, s'Mores,” he said, and stole the rest of the pastry out of Ian's hand.
“Only the best for you,” Ian said. The coffee maker bleeped and he poured two mugs and found some powdered creamer.
They settled in on the couch with the box of Pop-Tarts. Spencer's hair was still wet, pushed back from his face and dripping onto the collar of his rumpled shirt. He chewed his Pop-Tart and pulled a face when Ian dipped the corner of his in his coffee.
Food Network was showing a Gordon Ramsey marathon, and Spencer didn't seem in any hurry to go anywhere, so Ian tucked his feet up under Spencer's thigh and leaned in when he put his arm round his shoulders.
“You're coming to the party this weekend aren't you?” Spencer asked, when they'd demolished the box of Pop-Tarts.
“Got you a present and everything,” Ian said, putting his head on Spencer's shoulder. On the TV, Gordon was using words Ian suspected he was still too young to know. “6pm, right? Brendon was kind of vague on actual details.”
Spencer let out a little huff of a laugh.
“Yeah, that's about right. Though he might tell me different at dinner tomorrow.” Spencer shrugged, jogging Ian's head up and down.
“He's buying you dinner AND throwing you a party?” Ian asked.
“We always get dinner for my birthday, just the two of us,” Spencer said. “Brendon finds somewhere awesome. Last year he found this theme bar where all the dishes were named after Spielberg movies. We went after we got back from tour.”
Ian shifted round so he could look at Spencer, who had his eyes on the TV and a small smile curling up his mouth and crinkling his eyes.
“Riiiiight,” he said, when it seemed clear Spencer wasn't going to say anything else. “And that's totally normal platonic behaviour..”
“We've always done it,” Spencer said.
Ian stretched up further so he could kiss Spencer, winding his fingers in Spencer's damp hair. Spencer made a surprised little sound but kissed back, tasting of coffee and marshmallow.
“You're cute Smith,” Ian said, wiped some frosting off the corner of Spencer's mouth with his thumb, “But you're also kind of dumb where B's concerned, aren't you?”
Spencer sighed “Ian-”
“I know,” Ian said, settling back down, head on Spencer's shoulder. “But one of these days I'm going to get to say I told you so. There might even be a dance.”
“If you say so,” Spencer said, and leaned his cheek on the top of Ian's head as the show switched to commercials.
Brendon had borrowed Shane's place for the party, the big back yard much better for drinking and dancing than Brendon's own apartment. Ian knocked on the door and waited, listening to the thud of music even through the closed door.
Spencer opened it himself and the music spilled out into the street, Nate singing about pretty girls.
"Hey dude, happy birthday," Ian said, and hugged Spencer quickly, kissing his cheek. As he pulled back he noticed a mouth-shaped bruise, just hidden inside the open collar of Spencer's blue shirt.
"Did I do that?" he asked, prodding it.
Spencer batted his hand away.
"No," he said, and ducked his head. "Me and Brendon had dinner last night. You get to say I told you so now."
"Told you so," Ian said. He did a quick Robot, and, when Spencer starting laughing, sighed overdramatically. "Well, I guess we'll always have the Death Star."
Spencer hugged him round the shoulders "I hear they're bringing out the Mos Eisley Cantina set soon."
"It's a date," Ian said. "Only you know, no making out this time."
Spencer just smiled. "I'm sure we'll manage."
"I don't know," Ian said. "I'm pretty irresistable, dude."
"Glad to see that ego's in check," Shane said in his ear.
"Oh you're here," Ian said.
"Not like it's my house or anything," Shane said. He moved for the noogie like fucking always and Ian skipped out of the way. "Missed me," he said.
"Come on," Shane said, "Let the birthday boy circulate, I'll show you where the beer is."
Ian waved at Spencer over his shoulder and tucked himself under Shane's arm as he steered him toward the kitchen.
"Brendon's fucking glowing," Ian said, catching sight of him.
"Yeah," Shane tightened his arm "You OK, kid?"
"Sure," Ian said, meaning it. "We're still bros. It was just fun."
"Dallon's right, you're annoyingly well-adjusted," Shane said, opening the fridge and offering Ian a beer.
"You know it," Ian said, and clinked the neck of his bottle against Shane's.
The party was louder and full of people by the time Ian followed the scent of char-grilled meat and BBQ sauce out to the grill on the deck. Zach was presiding over it and Ian bumped fists with him as he handed over a plate of ribs and grilled corn. The deck was crowded but Ian managed to find a place to sit, wedged in next to someone he vaguely recognised as Spencer's ex-roommate's girlfriend. They were agreeing that the ribs were pretty fucking epic when Brendon crashed down on the deck next to Ian, holding his beer high so it didn't spill.
“Great party,” Ian said
“Thanks dude,” Brendon said, happily. “Hey, we're smoking up later, once the kids have gone. You in?”
“I thought Spencer was trying to cut down?” Ian asked, remembering.
“Yeah,” Brendon said, trying to steal Ian's last piece of corn. He jerked the plate away and Brendon dropped his hand. “But Ryan's here. It's a thing they do together.”
“You invited Ryan?” Ian asked, kind of impressed.
“They always used to spend their birthdays with each other,” Brendon said. “I thought it was worth asking. I know Spencer's kind of missed it.”
Ian took a pull of his beer. “You're a good dude,” he said.
“I'm trying,” Brendon said, uncharacteristically seriously. “Oh hey, you should check out the jukebox, it's awesome. I want to keep it.”
“That's why the music has been so,” Ian gestured with a chewed clean rib, “varied?”
“Great idea, huh?” Brendon said. “This way, everyone gets something they like to listen to.” He stood up and patted Ian on the shoulder. “We're cutting the birthday cake soon. I'm gonna go find Spencer.”
“Have fun,” Ian winked up at him, and Brendon broke out in the most brilliant smile.
He found Dallon dancing around with Amelie standing on his feet, clutching his hands tight and squealing with laughter every time Dallon stepped high, wobbling, but never quite falling off.
“Nice moves,” Ian said.
“Only the best for my girl,” Dallon said, as he led her around to the music.
“Hi Ian,” Amelie said, tipping her head back to look up at him.
“Hey bumblebee,” Ian said “You having fun?”
She nodded vigorously. “Yes! And Mommy says I can have two pieces of cake because Daddy got a cavity and shouldn't have sugar.”
Breezy, standing behind Dallon, cracked up.
“That's a very unique interpretation,” she said. “One piece, darling. Just the one.”
Amelie pouted and Ian said “Well, I better go and see if there is any cake. Maybe Spencer is too old for it.”
Amelie was earnestly explaining that birthday parties HAD to have cake, even as Ian pushed his way through the crowds to the kitchen. Spencer had Brendon pushed against the fridge. They weren't kissing, but they were leaning in, breathing into each other's mouths, Spencer's hands on Brendon's hips keeping him in place. They sprang apart when Ian rapped on the door frame.
“Don't mind me,” he said, “I just came for some cake.”
“Oh!” Brendon said, slipping out of Spencer's grasp. “I asked everyone to bring instruments to play you 'Happy Birthday'. We even have candles!”
Spencer looked fond and exasperated all at once, but didn't protest when Brendon grabbed the cake from the counter and poked the candles into the frosting.
“We should have done this at the beginning,” Brendon said.
“There's more people to sing now,” Spencer said and he let Brendon lead him out by the wrist, the platter with the cake balanced on his other hand. Ian followed along behind as Brendon cleared his throat, projecting his voice easily over the crowded room, and called for a round of “Happy Birthday”.
Given that almost everyone had done as Brendon asked, and bought an instrument, it took a while to get going. Ian pulled his harmonica out of his pocket and Brendon and Dallon picked up guitars. Jake already had his on his lap, and Nate was singing harmony and flourishing a tambourine. In the midst of all the lines of melody Ian picked out some nice slide guitar going on, and looked round to see Ryan perched on a high stool, using the neck of his beer bottle as a slide. Brendon hit one last high note on “you” and everyone clapped and cheered as Spencer blew out the candles.
The jukebox was petty awesome, Ian decided. He set his second plate of cake on top of it to choose the next song, but there were already five queued up. The theme from 'Yo Gabba Gabba' (Ian suspected Amelie though it could just as easily have been Brendon) finished and clicked over onto Out on the Weekend.
“Nice choice,” Ian said out loud.
“Thanks.” Ryan leaned against the jukebox, hooking his elbow onto the top. Up close Ian could see he was wearing a pretty sweet leather jacket, despite the heat, and his hair was shorter than Ian remembered.
“Your pick?” Ian asked.
“Yeah,” Ryan said “next few are mine- little bit of Neil Young, The Band, two tracks from Revolver.” He shrugged. “I was in a classics mood.”
“Nice,” Ian nodded again. He held his hand out and Ryan hesitated, but slapped his palm against Ian's, mouth curved into a pleased smile.
“It's nice to find someone who appreciates Levon Helm,” Ian said. “I think Spencer and Brendon could only take so much.”
Ryan laughed, a low, rough chuckle, and tugged at the hair at the nape of his neck. “They probably had enough from me over the years,” he said.
Ian picked up his plate and pressed another couple buttons, setting up Harvest and Heartbreaker.
“Well, my ears are new,” he said. “Grab me when it's a bit quieter and we can talk about The Band and then you can tell me what you're going to do with that slide guitar I just heard.”
“I was just playing around,” Ryan said, “I like the sound.”
“And the beer bottle is a classic,” Ian grinned, “Very Jimmy Page. I approve.”
“So glad,” Ryan said, dryly.
“You should be,” Ian said, “Totally a compliment.”
“Thank you,” Ryan said smiling, mouth quirked up as the cellos of Eleanor Rigby faded in.
“Isn't that Brendon's guitar?”
Ian didn't look up at Ryan, concentrating on the strings under his hands. He was just stoned enough that the progression was tricky.
“Yeah,” he said. “I'd have asked him to borrow it, but he and Spencer went to get refills about thirty minutes ago and didn't come back.”
Ryan sat down on the deck next to him. The sky was dark now, past twilight and into night, the party thinned out to less than a dozen people. Shane had produced some excellent birthday weed, the smell of the grill replaced with lingering curls of smoke.
“Yeah, they're in the kitchen,” Ryan said. “Making out, although knowing how distractable B gets when he's high they could be making balloon animals by now.”
“Truth,” Ian nodded his head. He closed his eyes and the fingering got easier with nothing to distract him. He was just the right mix of drunk and stoned and sleepy that everything was slow and easy, the sounds stretching out like he could pick apart each chord and hold the notes in his hands.
“Sounds good,” Ryan said after a while. “One of yours?”
Ian did look at him then, surprised as he fingered the bridge.
“You know Out on the Weekend but not Down by the River?” He sang the first few lines again. “No?”
“I only really know stuff from Harvest,” Ryan said. “Is it by Neil Young too?”
“Neil Young and Crazy Horse,” Ian said. “They don't have it on the jukebox or I'd play it for you. Needs an electric really, but this is how it goes.”
He cut the jam short in the middle, but by then Ryan was tapping his foot and adding the harmony.
“Maaaaaaan,” Ian drew it out and it sounded kind of funny, so he suppressed a giggle. “Neil Young and Crazy Horse are the reason I'm a musician.” He was still playing, moving his hands over the strings idly. “My dad took me to a show. One of the defining moments of my life.”
Ryan made that same quirked smile. Ian didn't remember him being so constantly amused at the world.
“Didn't really have that kind of relationship with my dad,” he said. “And it's not like it's the sort of music Vegas is famous for either.”
The idea of someone trying to strip to A Man Needs A Maid flitted across Ian's mind and he couldn't help the laughter that bubbled out.
Ryan just raised an eyebrow.
“Sorry,” Ian said “Just, the idea of a strip tease to Neil Young, doesn't really work.”
“Would make pretty cool performance art,” Ryan suggested. “But no, not really.”
He reached behind, stretching long arms out to grab the Gibson Ian had seen him play earlier. “So, what's that beginning again?”
Ian picked out the opening chords, and Ryan listened for a while and then joined in, and while it wasn't exactly Danny and Neil level, it sounded pretty good.
“You need to hear the live Crazy Horse recordings,” Ian said, after they'd played through a couple more songs, using Ryan's zippo and a discarded beer bottle as slides while Ryan sang nonsense words about the moon (Suddenly Northern Downpour made more sense). “I've got a shit ton of really old bootlegs I can lend you, oh, and that Allman Brothers Band live album with the Dave Allman slide, and somewhere I've got John Paul Jones playing slide bass which is just badass and-”
He cut himself off before he could really start rambling, but Ryan was already clearly trying not to laugh.
“You remind me of Patrick when he discovers someone doesn't know all there is to know about Prince,” was all he said.
“There's worse people to be compared to than Patrick,” Ian said easily. “I got no problem being like him.”
Ryan cocked his head and looked him up and down appraisingly.
“I think you're shorter,” he said, considering.
“I try harder,” Ian grinned.
Ryan did actually laugh then, easy and loose, head tipped back and bracing himself on long-fingered hands and Huh, Ian thought, absently.