The bell over the door jingles cheerfully, and Ray pops his head out from under the counter just long enough to say, "Be right with you!" He can't see who's entered - there's too much light coming in from the door - but he feels the presence of someone in his shop, the slight change in the air when someone's moving through it. He smiles to himself and finishes plugging in the cash register with a couple grunts under his breath.
When he's done, Ray turns the smile to the man standing in front of the counter. The man isn't looking at him as he tucks the sunglasses into the collar of his shirt, which gives Ray a second to watch before he turns. Half of the fun of the job is watching people - watching musicians, in all their variety - and this dude's kind of adorable. He's shorter than Ray, but it's the twinkle in his eyes and the slightly frizzy mop of curls on his head that really sells the cute factor.
(Ray pats his own hair in commiseration just before the guy looks at Ray. The humidity lately. Yikes.)
"Hey. You been in this shop long?"
"A couple years," Ray says.
"I drive by all the time. How come I never noticed you?"
Ray laughs quietly. That's not uncommon. "Maybe you weren't really looking."
"Guess not." The lazy smile upgrades to a sleepy grin. "I was just thinking I needed some acoustic strings. You have any?"
The man nodded.
"I just stocked the D'Addarios, actually." Ray leads the man to the nook in the back of the shop. Ray always likes having privacy to ogle strings, and judging by the hungry look on the man's face, he isn't any different. "You need anything else, feel free to let me know."
"Actually...any thoughts? I haven't bought strings in a while."
Ray tilts his head, even as the man brushes his fingers over a pack in that I-know-what-I-use way. Maybe he's putting Ray through his paces.
"What's your name?" Ray asks, taking a breath. He's always up for a challenge.
"Okay, Ian." Ray rubs his hands together and crouches to get a better look at the acoustic strings. He can feel Ian's gaze on him as he inspects the rows. "I can get you exactly what you need."
It's like Ian said: when Spencer walks up to the store from his car, it doesn't look like much. It looks like nothing, actually: a closet in a mid-range strip mall in the valley.
Spencer adjusts his sunglasses and looks up at the sign: "Ray's Music". There isn't much snap to the name, either. But if the way Ian had walked into practice the day before with a shopping bag stuffed with strings was any way to tell, no snap's needed.
The store's air has the crisp smell of new when Spencer walks in the front door, and the radio's playing some kind of speed metal quietly. Or, no: that's coming from the man in the corner with a guitar plugged into a practice amp. Spencer crosses his arms and leans against the wall for a second. Just because he doesn't play guitar didn't mean he can't appreciate talent, and the fingers flying across the frets know exactly what they were doing.
No wonder Ian walked out with half the guy's stock.
The song finishes with a flourish, and the man looks up, grinning. Okay, maybe the guy's pretty face has something to do with Ian's buying habits, too. Spencer's seen it for five seconds, and he feels like he was kicked in the chest.
"Sorry about that," the dude says, getting to his feet and rolling his shoulders. "Can I help you?"
The man nods, a little shy, and brushes hair out of his face. "The one and only. In this shop, anyway."
There's no recognition in Ray's face as he looks at Spencer. That's a good start.
"I'm looking for drumsticks." Spencer really isn't. He gets them in bulk through a discount supplier, and considering the band's in another recording cycle, he's covered. "And maybe an electronic kit. I haven't decided yet."
Ray's face lights up as he stands, and that kicked-in-the-chest feeling happens again. Part of it is his body - his hands and his thighs, jesus - but there's something sweet in his expression, too. And when he turns around to lead Spencer elsewhere in the shop...well, the view's definitely just as nice from behind.
The store's actually bigger than it looks; the main floor has smaller, narrow rooms branching out on most sides. The room Ray walks into has drums ringed around the walls. Ray sits Spencer on a throne in front of a kit that looked more like a PlayStation accessory than anything else.
"This one has solid reinforcements," Ray says, handing Spencer a pair of sticks and the headphones. "You look like you've got some arm strength built up. You don't want to destroy a kit after dropping money on it, you know?"
Spencer nods and bounces the stick against the pad for a second.
"Oh wait, just..." Ray reaches out, but he stops just short of grabbing Spencer's arm. "Do you mind?"
Spencer shakes his head.
Ray wraps his hand around Spencer's, slightly correcting his hold. He has decent guitar calluses, and even though he's gentle, it's all Spencer can do to keep from letting his eyes flutter shut. Ray's one to talk about strength when he's that built.
"There," Ray says. "The bounce is a little different on this model. Give that a try."
Spencer licks his lips, and he does.
Ray always whistles when he fills out the paperwork for inventory. He hates inventory, so he tries to spread out some of the breaks by remembering songs that have played on the radio and trying to picture the main riffs. His brain almost always adds flourishes when there's none there, especially if he's remembering songs without guitar solos. It's not really a thing to take time for solos anymore, but they're so cool.
When the shop door rings, he's not whistling out a solo; he's trying to remember the vocal harmonies. They'd been really good on the song, but he'd only heard it two or three times. It's harder reconstructing it from memory.
"What song is that?"
Ray looks at the guys in front of him. He grins. "Spencer? Ian? I had no idea you knew each other!"
Now that they're together, it's impossible to miss. They're shooting each other knowing looks in a very comfortable way.
"We're in the same band," Spencer says, and he's looking at Ian like he's looking for the answer to a question. Ian nods once, so maybe he was. "Ian was the one who told me about you. I drive by here on the way to practice every day."
Ian laughs. "Funny, so do I."
"Funny how that works." Ray taps his pencil on the desk. "You need to return anything?"
Ian holds up his hands. "You'd have to gut my baby to get the first set of strings back. We just wanted to thank you."
"Really?" Ray's cheeks heat up. "Wow. Glad I could help."
Spencer nods solemnly...or, well, he just seems like a more serious guy in general. He's definitely smiling; it just looks different on him. "You'll probably be seeing a lot of us. Hope you're ready for that."
Ray thinks he is. "Bring it on."
Ian's never started out a conversation with, "So are you going to ask him out? Because I want to" before. He's definitely never talked about his love life with Spencer like this before, while Brendon and Dallon are in the recording booth talking to the tech guys. But Spencer's chill, so he just leans back in the computer chair he's commandeered and says, "I don't know, you were there first."
"Dibs is a shitty way to do it, bro."
"Can you think of something better?"
Ian can't, is the thing. Which is why he's perfectly willing to go back into session and put off the conversation.
It's only hours later, after the sun's gone down and all the guys are walking through the neighborhood on a break, that the topic comes up again.
"Oh hey, is that where your boyfriend works?" Brendon says, pointing. "We should say hello."
They're across the street from the strip mall with Ray's store, and his sign's glowing in the near darkness. Ian sighs.
"Brendon," Spencer says warningly.
"I agree." Dallon nods, checking the street for cars. "Welcome him to the family."
They cross the street, Spencer keeping up without missing a beat, and Ian hurries to keep up. "He doesn't know about the band, guys. We were just..."
"Secret identity, huh?" Brendon zips his lips shut, but he keeps walking. "Don't worry. I'll be as silent as the grave."
"That doesn't make me feel better," Spencer mutters to Ian. Ian can't help but agree.
As it turns out, there's no reason to worry, Ray greets them all excitedly, and Brendon and Dallon promptly corner him for shop talk. Ray looks a little dazed, but he's clearly up for the challenge, leading the other two around the store to whichever corner they want to see. Ian and Spencer hover by the door, and while Ian's watching with some alarm, Spencer's lost any tension he had on the street.
"I don't think I want to ask him out," Ian says. The next word out of his mouth surprises him more than anything else. "Alone."
Spencer looks just as startled as Ian feels for a second, but then he nods a little and his gaze goes distant. When Brendon comes back out leading Ray by the hand to the wall with the mandolins, Spencer shifts his gaze to Ian, and a shiver climbs Ian's spine.
"Yeah." Spencer licks his lips. "I think I can do that."
Ray isn't surprised when his Ian-and-Spencer streak doesn't break for the fourth day in a row. He's a little surprised that he has customers when they're appear - and that they're teens, since the younger bands usually go to Guitar Center - but Ian and Spencer wait patiently by the drums, talking to each other quietly. Ray smiles at them whenever he gets a second and shrugs apologetically, but Ian waves him off more than once, and Spencer just...stares. It's not creepy, or no creepier than Ray's used to. Spencer looks more like he's measuring something than being menacing. And, judging by the way he smiles, he likes what he's seeing.
It takes Ray twenty minutes to finish the sale. It's partially because doesn't have anyone else work the store during the day since he gets most of his traffic at night, but it's also that look. Or the way Ian's hands carelessly twirl drumsticks without dropping them; it's obviously not his primary instrument, but he's not unfamiliar, either. Ray shakes it off and focuses, but he still feels really bad by the time he jogs back to Ian and Spencer.
"Sorry, guys," he says. "I didn't want to leave you waiting."
Spencer shakes his head. "We're not here to buy anything, so it's cool."
"Yeah." Ian bounces to his feet. "You want to see our band play? We're doing a show next Friday night, and I thought you might want to check my strings."
Ray grins. "Bringing the acoustic out to play, huh?"
"Something like that."
"That sounds great, just let me..." Ray pulls out his iPhone and scrolls through his calendar. "Aw, sorry. I've got to be here that night."
"You don't have anyone else to cover?" Spencer asks.
"I have a couple guys who help me out sometimes, but Friday's an appointment." Ray tucks the phone away again. "I always handle those myself. Repeat business, you know?"
Luckily, Ian and Spencer don't look offended. Or Ian doesn't, if his toothy grin's any way to tell. Spencer's a little harder to read.
"Maybe dinner?" Ian asks. "You got a free night next week?"
"I always take Tuesdays off."
Spencer nods. "Perfect."
The more Spencer thinks about it, the more he likes that Ray isn't going to come see them play. He knows Ray has heard his work, at least - he'd been humming Tragedies when he and Ian had visited him together that first time - and really, the band isn't the way he wants to connect with Ray at this point.
When they park at the Italian place they're meeting Ray, Ian doesn't seem so sure. "It feels like we're lying to him."
"You can tell him," Spencer says. He's used the reaction to the band as a test in the past, and it sounds cold even in his head, but there was a while where long-term prospects were easy to pick out in that way. Funny that he's thinking of Ray in that way, especially when Ian's face lights up when he sees him on the bench in front of the restaurant.
Spencer's learned a lot about himself in the past few days.
Ian drops the not-really bomb after appetizers, and just like Spencer thought, Ray's like, "Oh? Would I know anything of yours?"
"Just the song you were humming the other day," Spencer says.
Ray thinks back, and then he whistles a little. "That one? It's a lot of fun."
Then the waiter brings their entrées, and the subject changes. It's that simple.
The thing is, Ray's a lot of fun. He likes beer, he likes gadgets, and he loves music. He tells a story about a guitarist in an old band who used to say fucked-up things in the dead mic to get Ray's attention, and he would steal his drinks while Ray was looking for celebrities in the audience or whatever. The gestures he makes are broad and hilarious, and Ian carefully moves Ray's beer out of the way to keep him from spilling it.
Spencer counters with his best weed stories, and Ian has plenty of band stories and pot stories from his own vast experience to carry them through dessert. Ray doesn't smoke, but apparently, he can appreciate hearing about eating pizza with potato chips on top.
Ian gets the check, even though Ray tries to grab it or "at least split!"
"Fighting a lost battle there," Spencer says as the waiter takes the check - and only Ian's card - away. "I tried arm wrestling him for the bill once."
"And you lost?" Ray asked.
"What?" Ian bared one of his arms, and Ray wasn't the only one to stare. "You don't think I can take him?"
"I won," Spencer said, to Ray's gratified look. "But he still snuck to the waiter and paid the whole thing himself."
"You're welcome," Ian said, grinning.
They head to Spencer's with doggie bags when they're done, and Ray barely gets to tell Spencer how nice his place is before Ian jumps into his arms and kisses him.
It isn't like the move comes out of nowhere. Ray asked outside the restaurant, after Spencer casually suggested they do nightcaps in private, if they were on a date, and they'd both shrugged and said it could be. Like it's that easy. And now that Ray's holding Ian against him and sneaking peeks at Spencer's dark looks...yeah. It really is.
Still, when Ian breaks off for breath and Ray puts him back down, he has to ask. "How do we do this exactly?"
"Do what?" Ian asks, and fuck, it's not really fair to look at him. His cheeks are flushed, his lips are red, his eyes are dilated...it's everything distracting, basically.
Ray waves his hands inadequately.
Spencer cracks up. "It's not like we choreograph threesomes, dude. What do you want to do?"
It's been so long since Ray's even done the one-on-one version that he almost doesn't remember what kinds of things are up for offer. He rolls his lips into his mouth, and Spencer's gaze intensifies.
That could be a good start.
Ray drops to his knees even though he feels a little weird about doing it on the carpet in Spencer's living room - that's what bedrooms are for, after all - but judging by Spencer's hitched breath when Ray goes for his fly, maybe it isn't. Although maybe he should have kissed Spencer first. That would have been the polite thing, wouldn't it?
Spencer's hand cups Ray's jaw, his thumb rubbing Ray's cheek. "You okay?"
Ray nods. "You?"
Spencer nods. He certainly looks okay. Like people should always be at his feet. Ray shivers a little, and he unzips Spencer and pulls him out.
Like everything else, it's been a while since he's given a blowjob, but Ray remembers the basics pretty fast. He licks up the shaft of Spencer's generous dick while he figures out where Spencer likes to be touched - dragging his hands on the back of Spencer's thighs seems to be a hit, and so does most tongue action on the flushed red head of his cock - and then he goes for it. He could never deep throat, but judging by the way Spencer's legs shake when Ray gets a steady beat going, he doesn't really need to.
Ray spots Ian come up beside Spencer, and when he looks up, he nearly chokes even without his mouth completely full. Ian's got an arm around Spencer's waist, like he's supporting him a little, and they're making out like there's no tomorrow. Spencer's snuck a hand under Ian's untucked shirt and, judging from the movement under the fabric, started playing with his nipples, which means they're both moaning at different times for different reasons.
For guys who don't choreograph threesomes, they're pretty fucking good at it.
Spencer stops kissing Ian when he gets close and looks down at Ray. Funny how his eyes seem all the more blue when less iris is visible.
He shivers, says Ray's name in a ridiculous husky voice, and Ray pulls back to finish Spencer by hand.
Ray barely notices the rush of warmth on his fingers because he's too busy watching Spencer shiver and moan; Spencer even puts a hand through his hair like he's some kind of porn star, and god, if Ray could come without being touched...
Ray blinks up. Ian's there with a box of tissues, probably because Ray had been watching Spencer just breathe after his orgasm. It must get pretty boring being on the outside.
He smiles sheepishly up at Ian and takes a couple tissues, wiping his hand down. "Thanks."
"Your turn," Spencer says, but he's not looking at Ray. Ray loves how intense Spencer can look, but it's kind of a relief having his Intense Sex Beams directed Ian's way, especially when Ian smirks and squirms a little. But when Ray shifts on his knees and starts to get up, Spencer gives him a hand.
"You're next," Spencer tells Ian. "Best for last, right?"
"Thanks," Ian says dryly.
"Second best for second to last?"
Ian shoves his shoulder lightly, and he laughs when Spencer picks him up and runs toward the bedroom. Ray snorts to himself and follows.
When Ray rounds the door, Spencer stops him with a hand to his chest. "First rule of my bedroom, everyone not me has to be naked."
"Including Brendon?" Ian asks. He's standing at the foot of a king-sized bed, shucking off his clothes.
Spencer rolls his eyes. "When he lived here, this was the only room I could make him wear clothes in."
Ray blinks, but he's working on the buttons of his shirt. "Wait, you and Brendon..."
"Roommates. Former. Brendon's just a nudist." Spencer's down to an undershirt and boxer briefs. He doesn't seem inclined to strip down any more, but then, he wouldn't have to. "Hang on a sec."
Ray pauses. Spencer's studying his face like he's looking for something, and...oh, right, Ray wanted to kiss him. He should do that.
Apparently, that isn't what Spencer was looking for because he jerks with surprise, but when Ray pulls him closer, Spencer goes for it. He's an amazing kisser; even before they go for tongue, Ray's groaning into Spencer's mouth.
But Spencer breaks off and says, "You're still wearing clothes. Hurry up, dude."
Ray hurries up. He carefully sets his clothes in the corner when he's done because he's not a complete heathen, but he doesn't bother folding them. Just makes sure they won't get in the way.
He turns back to the bed when he hears Ian moan, and sure enough, Spencer's blowing him. With the mouth that just kissed Ray. Ian's really responsive, fisting his hands in the sheets and squeezing his eyes shut and wriggling as much as he can with Spencer's arm across his hips.
Ray can't resist. He shuffles over to the bed - he won't lie, it's awkward walking in any strange room naked with a boner visible from space - but once he's on, he slides over to Ian and licks at his nipples, smiling a little when Ian squeaks. Ian's arching up, panting, and Ray makes his way up, nibbling his chest, his throat, and then kissing him lazily. Ian tries to push up against Ray, but Ray just pulls back. He doesn't want it to end for Spencer before he's ready, and judging by the eyebrow waggle up at Ray, Spencer knows what he's doing and likes it. Ray grins back at him before going back to kiss Ian again.
Ian cries up into Ray's mouth when it gets near the end, and...wow, Spencer's nose is resting against Ian's torso. Ray can see part of Ian's dick through Spencer's throat. Fuck, and he thought seeing an outline through cheek was hot. He actually has to grab his own cock, just in case.
Spencer pulls back a few moments later, keeps Ian in his mouth, and Ray strokes himself a couple times as Ian comes.
He's definitely a fan of this threesome thing.
Understandably, there's a little bit of a break after that while Spencer gets water from his bathroom and while Ian stares up at nothing, like Spencer sucked his brains out through his dick. Ray has nothing better to do, so he slides next to Ian and pulls him close. Loosely - some people like solo time after they come - but Ian rolls into him and clings. Ian's leg puts a little pressure on Ray's dick, but Ray doesn't mind. He can be patient.
Ian's half-asleep when Spencer comes back. Spencer ditched the undershirt...actually, he ditched it a while ago, now that Ray thinks back, but he's still wearing his boxer briefs.
"You awake enough to do what you wanted in the car?" Spencer asks Ian.
While Ian yawns and sits up, Ray asks, "That doesn't count as choreographing?"
"Not if it's...sorry," Ian says, covering his mouth. "Not if it's wishful thinking."
"Fantasizing." Ray's dick twitches when he hears the roughness to Spencer's voice. "Go on, tell him."
"I like it up the ass. You in?"
Ray considers for about two seconds. It's not something he usually does, but then, neither is the threesome. "What about you, Spencer?"
"What about me?"
"You just going to lie around?"
"I was getting him ready for you," Spencer says, showing teeth. "I get to watch."
Ray frowns and slides a hand down. When he breaches Ian with a careful finger and gets a quiet moan from Ian, sure enough, he finds him open and wet with lube.
"Wow." Ray takes a couple shaky breaths. "I don't know how you two don't have them lining up the door."
Ian's pushing against Ray's finger, so Ray adds another.
"Look who's talking," Ian says, groaning.
If Ray were really going for a show, he'd pick up Ian and put him against the wall. Or maybe they'd do all fours. But that doesn't feel right, so instead, he eases his hand away from Ian, slides up to the pillows, and pats the free space in bed next to him.
"Whenever you're ready," Ray tells Spencer as Ian climbs into his lap.
Spencer grins and fishes a condom out of his bedside table. He drops it on Ray's chest and plops down on the bed.
"Wait, wait." Ian takes the condom from Ray before he can so much as grab it. "I'm doing this."
He unwraps the condom and rolls it on Ray's cock easily, using both hands to stroke. Ray's eyes nearly roll up in his head.
"Fuck, you're big." Ian sounds eager, which is good. There's a lot of reasons Ray doesn't do this much, and they're not all that he's perfectly happy with the simpler orgasms. Just most of them.
"Size queen," Spencer says cheerfully, and he reaches over to feel.
For a second, Ray's tempted to tell them to keep it up. The drag of their hands, even though the latex, is amazing after being neglected for so long. But then Ian leans against Ray's chest, and Spencer guides Ray's cock inside, and...some weird wordless noise comes out of him. Luckily, Ian does something similar, and Spencer's nodding like he agrees.
While Ian looked two seconds from sleep a minute ago, he's peppy now, moving hard and fast on top of Ray almost from the get-go. Spencer tilts for a second to watch Ray's cock slide in and out of Ian - which, fair enough, Ray doesn't entirely believe it's possible either - and then goes up to whisper in Ray's ear.
"Grab his ass," he whispers.
Ray does. His hands are a lot bigger, but there's a decent amount to grab anyway. Ian stops and groans, and Ray shivers. He can feel just how tight Ian is around him when they're this still.
Spencer's trailing his fingers down Ray's chest, swirling around his nipples without touching. His breath is hot on Ray's neck.
"Please," Ray asks.
"What?" Spencer asks quietly.
Spencer nibbles his ear, and then he starts kissing Ray's throat, and Ian's not moving, and...
"Whenever you want," Spencer says.
Ray groans and tips Ian down toward Spencer carefully, since he's still inside. Then he pounds into Ian's ass for all that he's worth and finally, finally comes.
They collapse into a sweaty pile after that, and after Ray takes his own time to stare at the ceiling like he can see the universe, he drifts off to sleep touching both Ray and Spencer.
It's pretty much the most amazing way he's ever fallen asleep in his life.
The night the acoustic show was supposed to happen - their venue of choice had a code issue that left Spencer on the phone the day before for hours - finds Spencer in the car with Ian again. Spencer had texted Ian saying nothing more than "want pizza", but he thinks Ian knows this is a not-so-subtle way to see Ray. Certainly, the smirk on his face when Spencer picked him up said it all.
It's only when they're getting in the car with the pizza that Ian says, "Uh, didn't Ray say he had an appointment tonight?"
Spencer checks his phone. It's around eight, and Ray's store closes at around this time. Maybe he goes stays late for special guests, but. "We can just take a couple slices with us and go if we're interrupting."
"And leave a note," Ian says. Yeah, he's totally on the same page with Spencer. They've all been texting all week, but sometimes, it's nice to make a more personal touch.
The store's lit up when Spencer parks. He's in the process of turning off the car when someone short and dressed pretty casual walks out. He looks over at the car for a second, his face briefly illuminated by the headlights, and...
"Was that...?" Ian asks.
Spencer can only nod. Because that's definitely Prince walking up to a nice car and driving away.
Ray's waiting by the door when they walk in with the pizza. He smiles at their dropped jaws, looking vaguely puzzled. "What's up, guys? Pizza?"
Spencer had almost forgotten he was holding it. He shakes his head. "Yeah. Pizza."
Ray grins, and he lets them inside.
(Spencer and Ian don't bring up Prince at all that night. Or ever. But considering Ray's in their lives constantly from that point, and they see a parade of super-famous musicians walk through his doors on appointment nights, it goes without saying.)