Write it on me instead, Spencer had said, unthinking, distracted.
Dumb move, really.
Ryan was always late. He forgot things, and conversations, and sometimes even people. The trick to dealing with Ryan was to understand that it was never malicious; a fact that Jon had understood right away, and one that Brendon still hadn't quite come to terms with. He tried, he really did, but Spencer could see the slight straightening of his spine, the way his eyes would dart down to the floor and back up again as Ryan was apologizing.
Spencer always had to stop himself from saying, "Brendon, it's not you," afterwards. He knew that Brendon interpreted Ryan's spaciness as a sign of disinterest, as though Brendon wasn't important enough for Ryan to keep tabs on. Spencer had tried to explain that Ryan did it to him, too--Exhibit A, the time Ryan forgot Spencer's birthday when they were twelve; Exhibit B, that night in Michigan when Ryan told Brent that Spencer was sleeping in the backseat of the van without actually checking, and they drove off without him--but his explanation always fell on deaf ears.
So maybe it was better that Ryan had started writing on him.
Spencer takes another sip of his coffee, and as he drops his hand back down, the words swim into focus. "Tues noon thirty--phone conference--SP+JM new album, B/R only." Ryan's untidy scrawl is almost illegible, and Spencer has to squint to understand the last few letters. Ryan had written the note in purple, fine-tipped sharpie; it was taking up most of the span between Spencer's wrist and the base of his forefinger.
Spencer purposefully didn't think about the feeling of Ryan's hands on his skin, the way Ryan had carefully flattened out Spencer's hand on his knee so the note wouldn't smudge. Next to him, on the couch, Jon had peered over his shoulder and made an inquiring noise. Spencer had stayed very, very still. Ryan's hands were warm.
Behind him, from somewhere backstage, comes a loud, reverberating thump and the sound of Brendon swearing.
Spencer shakes his head, and shrugs off the memory. He drinks the rest of his coffee.
The sun rises every morning, the planets revolve in their courses, and Spencer is in love with Ryan.
Every time Ryan reaches out for him, pen in hand, Spencer's stomach does that swoop-and-drop thing. Ryan holds him tightly, like this is the last moment in the history of the world and he's not going to let go.
Spencer probably should have thought this little arrangement through beforehand.
Through the bus window, the road peels away towards the horizon.
Brendon's head is resting up against Spencer's knees; Ryan's ankle is tucked under Jon's thigh. It's a tight fit to get all of them on the couch, but some things are necessary.
Onscreen, Harrison Ford walks into a large, spacious room. He takes his fedora off, and the light from the setting sun briefly illuminates his features.
Ryan nudges Spencer with his left elbow. "Which version are we watching?" he stage whispers. "The one with the good ending, or the shitty one?"
"Director's cut," Spencer whispers back, just as Brendon rolls his eyes and makes a pointed crack about Ryan's love for movies in which everyone fucking dies.
"It's film noir," Ryan says, flicking Brendon on the back of the head. "And it's not actually film noir if they ride off into the fucking sunset, genius."
"Guys," Jon says. "Guys, shut up, this is the part where she's all, 'Do you think I'm a lesbian?'"
"Wait, what?" Brendon says. "I don't remember that part."
"Shh, watch," Jon says.
Onscreen, Rachel takes a long drag of her cigarette, and then narrows her eyes. "Is this testing whether I'm a replicant, or a lesbian, Mr. Deckard?"
"Ooooh, burn," Brendon says, delighted. Jon grins at him.
Ryan's face is tucked up next to Spencer's shoulder. Spencer can feel the slight puffs of his breath every time he exhales, even through the thin cotton of his t-shirt. Ryan breathes in time with the rumble of the wheels, a slower and slower rhythm until Spencer's convinced he's asleep.
Spencer's starting to let his eyes close--Deckard's in the bar, he has time, he can sleep for a little while until Roy shows up and shit gets epic--when he feels Ryan's fingers close around his wrist. Ryan's been switching colors all week, from blue to green to black; the smears of permanent marker are starting to fade, like bruises.
Part of Spencer wants to wash them off. More of him wants to keep them.
Ryan curls closer, shifting on the couch to reach his ever-present marker shoved into the front pocket of his jeans.
"I thought you were sleeping," Spencer mumbles, blinking at him.
"I was," Ryan whispers back. "But I thought of something--some lyrics, maybe--"
"Mmm," Spencer says, and shifts so that Ryan can have the wide blank space on his inner arm. "I'm not your fucking notebook," Spencer says, a token protest that fools neither of them.
"It was your idea," Ryan says. He writes, the world's a broken bone across the inside of Spencer's arm. Spencer closes his eyes and tips his head back. When he opens them again, Ryan's coloring in a tiny heart at the end of the sentence.
"Is that part of the note?" Spencer mumbles.
"It seemed dangerous," Ryan says quietly. "I didn't want to leave it like that. Bad Karma."
"Okay," Spencer says. "Thanks."
Next to them, Jon is snoring softly.
Ryan tips his head onto Spencer's shoulder. They watch the rest of the movie in silence.
Spencer keeps waiting for someone to ask him about it. A fan, a tech, anyone. Ryan's taken to covering his right arm with lyrics, tiny lines pressed closed together, as though Spencer's skin is a scarce, precious commodity.
(The last time Ryan had done it, waiting in the green room before an interview, Spencer had gotten hard. He'd tried to ignore it, thought about rotten fruit and dead grandmothers and dead fruit and rotten grandmothers, but.
But Ryan's face was so calm, so intent; he bit his lip while he worked, and his hands were long and brown next to the whitened skin of Spencer's inner forearm. In the space of a few breaths Spencer suddenly wanted, like he was sixteen again, watching Ryan's hands grip the fretboard of his acoustic guitar. Spencer wanted like he had that first summer, when his whole world had been Ryan-shaped and nothing else.
"I have to pee," Spencer said, shaking off Ryan's careful fingers.
"We have like, five minutes," Ryan said.
"I can make it," Spencer said, and ran away.)
No one asks him about it. Some days, Spencer suspects Ryan's words on his skin must be invisible; on others, he suspects they've been there all along.
It's 1:32 in the morning when they finally pull into the hotel. The brakes hiss and creak as the bus pulls up; Spencer's already sitting in the lounge, dozing on his overnight bag. He's not passing up a chance to sleep in a real bed.
The lobby is a mess, packed full of dirty bodies yelling and laughing. Spencer pushes his way through the crowd and looks for Zack's tall shoulders, ignoring the shouted invitations for parties in people's rooms. If he can keep his feet moving until he reaches his room, it will be an accomplishment.
Zack hands him a keycard and tells him he's sharing with Ryan, as usual. Spencer nods back and heads towards the elevators, slinging his bag over one shoulder. When the doors slide closed, the noise from the lobby is suddenly silenced. Spencer tips his head against the polished metal and lets out a breath.
His shoulders slump. The quiet is welcome.
It had been a great show, an easy one, where everything seemed to run like clockwork. They'd had some beers before going on--Ryan casually abstaining, as usual--and then a few more during the show, carefully disguised in paper cups. At one point, Spencer had made the international hand gesture for 'more water,' and had been rewarded with both a new bottle and something that tasted like iced tea.
He'd sucked it down, only to find Mike Carden laughing at him from side-stage and giving him a thumbs up. It hadn't been half-bad, but now Spencer is just exhausted. Dehydrated, from all the booze and the playing. Bone-tired.
The elevator dings; Spencer walks through the open doors and finds his room, two doors down on the left side. He's shucking off his clothes almost as soon as he's got the keycard in the lock, leaving a messy trail behind him.
His hair feels gritty, and the call of a shower beckons, but the bed is soft and large.
Spencer lies down on it and pushes all of his limbs out, seeking for the edge. He breathes out. His muscles start to settle, to unwind.
Spencer falls asleep with the lights on.
"Hey," Ryan whispers, tugging at the covers. "Spencer. Spencer. Let me in."
"Mmmghgh," Spencer says. He fumbles at the covers, lifting his legs up and sliding under them. Ryan slips in behind him, pillowing his head on one arm.
"Wha' time is it," Spencer mumbles, and Ryan shrugs. Spencer can feel the movement, but he can't actually see Ryan's face, so he rolls over onto his other side with a sleepy noise.
"It's early," Ryan says, after a minute. His hair is wet, like he's just showered. He's wearing an old, stretched out t-shirt and boxer shorts. "Like, seven. Go back to sleep."
"Mmm," Spencer says. He thinks hazily that this should be weird, even though it isn't. Ryan gets lonely, sometimes. Spencer's used to waking up to Ryan's sleepy noises, to his cold fingers tucked into Spencer's side. Once or twice, he's even woken up to Ryan spooning him, one arm around his waist, his face tucked into Spencer's shoulder.
(It had hurt in a sort of pleasant, aimless way, like the feeling of pressing down on a fresh bruise.)
"Did you go to the party?" Spencer mumbles, in the place of pointing out that Ryan has his own bed.
"For a while," Ryan says.
"Mmm," Spencer says. It's hard to stay awake; he's still drifting, caught up in dream-worlds. He rolls over onto his side, facing away from Ryan. The bedside light is on Ryan's side of the bed, and it's hurting his eyes.
Ryan's fingers trail carefully over his back, pushing into the dips and hollows. It feels nice. Spencer rumbles his approval into the pillow.
Ryan curves his fingers around the jut of Spencer's shoulderblade and says, "I think you should get a tattoo."
"Oh yeah?" Spencer murmurs.
"Yeah," Ryan says. Spencer hears the click of the light being turned off, and then Ryan's voice, closer and softer than before. "It would look good," Ryan says.
"I think the band's got enough tattoos," Spencer says, yawning a little. He wants Ryan to keep petting him. That felt nice. "What with you and the human keyboard."
"No one would see it," Ryan presses. "Just us. I could show you--"
"Show me?" Spencer mumbles, but Ryan's already pushing at his shoulder, gently moving Spencer onto his stomach. Spencer feels the weight of Ryan climbing onto his back, and then the cold shock of marker on his skin.
He considers complaining; his dirty skin, the clean bedsheets, it's all a bad idea. But Ryan's hands are gentle on his skin, tracing words and lines and secrets.
Spencer shivers, instead, and keeps quiet.
Ryan hums softly as he works, a tuneless sort of melody. He smooths his hands over Spencer's back, over his shoulders, and Spencer closes his eyes and bites his lip. He feels utterly exposed, naked even under the covers.
"What are you writing?" Spencer whispers, when he can find the words.
"Nothing," Ryan says.
"Nothing?" Spencer asks.
"Everything," Ryan says, softly. Spencer closes his eyes and breathes out. He thinks about being Ryan's everything. It makes his stomach shiver.
"Done," Ryan says quietly, pulling his hand away. Spencer nods, and then he pushes himself up on both hands. Ryan tumbles off with a slightly bemused noise.
"Come here," Spencer says, when he's sitting upright. He can feel the strange prickle of the ink drying on his skin. He reaches for the marker clutched in Ryan's hand.
"No, closer," Spencer says. Ryan looks at him--dark eyes, wide in the half-light--and curls closer.
"Writing on me?" Ryan whispers, and grins at him a little. "Taste of my own medicine?"
"Something like that," Spencer says. He pulls Ryan's wrist forward, opening up the palm. Ryan's hands, always so strange and long.
Spencer uncaps the marker. He dips his head, and traces the outline of a heart in the very center, coloring it in with careful strokes.
"Oh," Ryan says.
Spencer ignores him. Ryan's wrist is next; tiny hearts tucked in between the letters, punctuation marks for his self-imposed story. Ryan's feet, his claw-like toes.
Ryan's bony ankles. The inside of his left knee.
"Spencer," Ryan breathes out.
"Shh," Spencer whispers back. "I'm not done." He tucks another heart in the dip of Ryan's collarbone.
"You--" Ryan says. Spencer pushes Ryan's hair out of the way, tilting his head with one hand on Ryan's chin. The last heart goes in the secret hollow below Ryan's ear. The skin is warm and soft, and Spencer smooths his thumb over it. The heart smudges, and he can't bring himself to care.
"Spencer, Spencer," Ryan whines, and kisses him. It's a hard kiss, forceful, like Ryan's making sure Spencer knows what he wants.
"Yeah," Spencer breathes out. Ryan tumbles into his lap, and Spencer pulls him in, two hands wrapped around his hips.
"I--fuck," Ryan says, kissing him wet and open-mouthed. "I need you," he whispers, and Spencer has to close his eyes for a minute. The words echo in the silence, in the spaces in-between.
"I know," Spencer says, instead, and pulls Ryan in tighter. "God, you're so stupid, I've always--you know I've always--"
"Please," Ryan says. His hands are skimming over Spencer's shoulders, down to his thighs. "I want, Spencer, please, can we--"
"Yeah," Spencer says, in the place of everything he wants to say, everything he could say. Their clothing disappears, between two sets of awkward, eager hands. Ryan's skin is warm against his own. When he comes, he breathes secret words into Spencer's mouth. Spencer drinks them in and thinks finally, finally.