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Jon is the first to notice.

"Hey," he mutters, half under his breath. "The new kid is staring at Brendon."

Spencer glances up from his dark consideration of his lunch tray. "Where?"

Jon points discreetly. It's true—the new kid, Dallon or something, is staring at Brendon. Over in the lunch line, Brendon appears to be oblivious. Spencer frowns. It's not like the kid looks hostile or anything, but it's weird, the way he's not even trying to pretend like he's not watching Brendon's every move.

"What're we looking at?" asks Ryan, appearing on the other side of the table with his customary crumpled brown lunch bag.

Spencer continues to glower suspiciously at the new kid while Jon explains: "The new guy, we're watching him stare at Brendon. It's weird. He hasn't looked away once."

Ryan follows Jon's pointing finger and rolls his eyes. "Yeah, that's Dallon. He's in my French class. He's got a thing for Brendon. He's harmless."

Jon grins, bright and sudden. "Seriously? That's awesome!"

"And get this," adds Ryan. "He's, like, a gay Mormon. I mean, I don't even know what the odds of that are, but I figure this pretty much confirms the fate thing."

"Awwww!" Jon exclaims, charmed. "That's so awesome! Should we ask him to have lunch with us or something?"

"Ask who?" asks Brendon, sliding into his customary spot next to Spencer. "What's everybody looking at?"

"New kid," says Jon brightly. "He's sitting all alone. I think we should be nice to him. He's cute, right? I mean, he seems cute, but I'm not gay, so what do I know? Is he cute, Brendon?"

Brendon gives Jon a weird look. "I don't actually make, like, the official decision on behalf of the entire gay community. You get that, right?"

"If he did, Spencer would have been declared The Only Cute Boy In The Universe a long time ago," adds Ryan dryly.

Spencer rolls his eyes, and Brendon grins. "Not the only cute boy," he says lightly. "Just, you know. The main one. The cutest one."

"You're shameless," Jon informs him. "Shameless and pathetic. It's kind of sad."

"There is nothing pathetic about love, Jon," Brendon says earnestly. "Spencer doesn't think I'm pathetic. Right, Spence?"

"You're totally pathetic," Spencer tells him seriously. "But not because you think I'm cute. That's just, you know. Common sense."

Brendon beams. "I know, right? Are you gay yet?"

"Still straight," Spencer says apologetically. "You're totally first in line, though, if that ever changes."

"Awesome." Brendon turns his attention to his plate, poking sadly at what looks vaguely like fruit salad. "I can totally wait as long as it takes."

"So, so pathetic," says Jon, grinning.

"Someday," Brendon tells him seriously "Someday, Jon, you'll fall in love yourself, and then you'll understand."

"I've been dating Cassie for three years," Jon points out mildly.

"We were talking about Dallon," Ryan interrupts. "Remember Dallon? He's Mormon, did you know?"

"We were?" Brendon looks confused. "Who the hell is Dallon?"

"The new kid," Jon explains kindly. "Try to keep up, Brendon. You were supposed to be deciding whether or not he was cute, remember?"

Brendon glances over, accidentally locks eyes with Dallon, and smiles awkwardly at him before turning his attention back to Jon. "Seven," he decides.

"Seven?" Jon looks incredulous. "On a scale of what?"

"Standard one to ten." Brendon waves a vague hand. "What? Seven is good! Above average! That totally counts as cute!"

Jon narrows his eyes. "And Spencer?"

Brendon grins. "Ten, obviously," he says immediately. "Eleven in eyeliner, fifteen behind the kit."

Spencer flushes in spite of himself. He's used to Brendon being...Brendon, and while he isn't sure how much of it is true and how much of it is just for show, Brendon's hilariously blatant crush on him is dragged into probably half of their collective conversations as a group, but sometimes he still manages to catch Spencer a little off-guard.

"You're hopeless," Jon tells Brendon sadly. "Hopeless and pathetic. I don't even know what to do with you anymore."

"You're a seven, too, if that helps at all," Brendon offers brightly. "Eight when you're scruffy."

"I'll sleep better tonight knowing it," Jon says gravely.

Brendon opens his mouth again, but Ryan holds up a hand before he can get anything out. "Don't even tell me; I don't want to know."

The bell ringing is probably the only reason Brendon actually listens. Spencer catches Dallon watching Brendon again as he grabs his book bag off the floor. There's something he just doesn't quite like about the guy, but he can't quite figure out what it is. He pushes the thought away, and heads for class.

~

Ryan and Jon apparently put their heads together in history and reach some kind of decision, because Ryan shows up for band practice later in the afternoon with Dallon in tow.

Brendon looks just as startled as Spencer feels. "Uh," he says, when Dallon waves politely at Jon and Spencer and then kind of beams like a big dork at Brendon. "Hi. I'm Brendon."

"Jon tells me I'm a seven," Dallon says, and grins when Brendon gets flustered and blushes to the roots of his hair. "I just wanted you to know that I am totally happy with seven, seven is awesome. There is a lot of potential in a seven."

He doesn't specify what kind of potential, but Spencer is pretty sure every single person in the room knows exactly what he means, except possibly for Brendon himself, who looks too busy being fatally mortified to even pay attention to anything else.

“Jon,“ hisses Brendon.

“Brendon,“ Jon says back, delighted. "Look at him, dude! He's as shameless as you! This is amazing."

"He sings," adds Ryan evenly. "And plays the guitar, and writes his own songs."

Brendon glances helplessly back to Spencer. "Is he trying to set me up on a date, or kick me out of the band?"

"I'm pretty sure it's the date one," Spencer tells him, and he can't help it if his voice is a tiny bit sour as he says it. They know nothing about Dallon. He could be a total fuckstick for all they know, and Brendon is kind of...breakable. This is just a stupid idea, that's all. If it happened naturally, that would be one thing, but Ryan and Jon are assholes to push it this way.

"Oh, good," Brendon says faintly, and turns back to look at Dallon again.

Dallon grins. Even Spencer can admit it's a pretty non-threatening grin. Friendly. Infectious, even.

He looks like a sex offender, Spencer decides.

Brendon studies Dallon for a second, then rallies a little and grins back. "All right, so you're an eight when you smile."

Dallon laughs, bright and happy, and Spencer clenches his fists around his sticks and holds on.

~

For awhile, everything in the entire world seems to be The Dallon and Brendon Show. They aren't actually dating, as far as Spencer knows, but they flirt outrageously and all the time, and Dallon is funny and awesome and obviously thinks Brendon hung the fucking moon, and Spencer has never hated anybody this much.

Brendon hasn't asked if Spencer was gay yet in over a week.

And okay, Spencer gets that that makes him, like, the biggest bastard on the planet. He knows. It's not like he wants Brendon to, like, die alone still pining for Spencer, or whatever, it's just.

Spencer doesn't even know. It's just wrong, that's all. Brendon hasn't sent Spencer a single dirty text since Dallon came to band practice. He didn't play with Spencer's hair while they were all laying around watching Family Guy last night, and earlier today, he actually sat down next to Dallon at the lunch table.

And it's—it's not like Spencer cares. He's straight, the whole Brendon-crush thing was always completely ridiculous, and honestly, it was probably mostly a joke anyway. Spencer's not a bad-looking guy, okay, but next to Ryan and even next to Jon...well. He's just. Not usually the one people would want to declare The Only Cute Boy In The Universe, or whatever the fuck, that's all.

He just...kind of misses Brendon's company in the hallway between classes, that's all. Brendon is his friend. Spencer is allowed to miss his friend.

It doesn't have to mean anything.

~

"Spencer Smith, are you trying to kill me?" asks Brendon, when Spencer walks into the lunchroom the next day.

"Oh, here we go," mutters Ryan. Jon bites his lip against a smile.

Spencer hesitates, flustered. "What?" he asks lamely. No one has ever felt this stupid and obvious in the history of all of time. He hopes his face isn't as painfully red as it feels.

"You see what I have to put up with?" Brendon says woefully to Dallon, who gives him a sympathetic nod.

"What's the occasion?" Ryan asks as Spencer sits down, his tone knowing and sly.

Spencer knows he's blushing visibly by now. "I don't know what you're talking about," he says stiffly.

It's just a shirt. Okay, fine. A button shirt, a bright-blue one Brendon may have made swoony faces about in the past, but it isn't like he wore anything special. A guy should be able to wear a fucking shirt without it being a federal case.

"Really?" Ryan asks, quietly enough that no one else can hear. His swift glance pointedly takes in the shirt, but also the jeans (which may—MAY—be just a little tiny bit snug around the hips), and the crisp white limited-edition Nikes Spencer spent way too much money on and has never worn before today. Then, horrifyingly, he flicks his eyes at Brendon before arching an eyebrow at Spencer in question.

"No," hisses Spencer, panicked. "Shut the fuck up, Ryan."

"Hmm," says Ryan noncommittally, and Spencer seriously feels like he's going to die of humiliation right there in his cafeteria stroganoff.

"Spencer," Brendon whines, across the table. "Spencer, are you gay yet?"

For the first time in the two years Brendon has been asking him that question, Spencer chokes a little on the word "no."

~

Dallon falls into step with Spencer on the way to his car after school.

"Hey," Spencer says cautiously. He and Dallon haven't really talked all that much, even though Dallon's been hanging out with them quite a bit for the last week or so. He's not sure he and Dallon have ever had a conversation by themselves.

"It is a very nice shirt," Dallon says solemnly.

Spencer almost stumbles. "Excuse me?"

"The shirt," Dallon says brightly. "I agree with Brendon. Well," he adds thoughtfully. "I don't know if I agree that it makes you look like a god, I think that's kind of a lot of pressure to put on a shirt, but I do think it's a very nice shirt."

"...Thank you," Spencer manages, after a pause that seems to go on basically forever. He honestly has no idea what to think about—any of that, really.

"You're welcome," Dallon says. "You didn't have to wear it, though." He grins sideways at Spencer. "He tells me you're a ten even in your giant flowery swim trunks and the t-shirt with all the holes. An eleven if you have a tan." He bumps Spencer companionably with his shoulder. "I can't compete with that. I'm not even trying. I just thought maybe you'd like to know that."

They're at Spencer's car. Spencer stares very hard at his door handle so he doesn't have to look at Dallon. "I'm straight, Dallon."

"Right," says Dallon easily. "I know that. Everybody knows that. Brendon knows it too, except I'm pretty sure he actually believes it, which is something you might want to think about. Anyway, I just wanted to tell you I like your shirt. See you at practice later."

He disappears without waiting for an answer, leaving Spencer to stand there staring at his car door in his stupid blue shirt and his stupid Nike shoes and the stupid jeans Brendon once told him made Brendon want to bite his hips.

"Fuck," he whispers quietly, and leans his forehead bleakly against the top of the door.

~

Spencer skips practice.

He also skips school the next day. He texts Ryan, Brendon, and Jon, and tells them he has the death, but the truth is that his giant, raging sexuality crisis is kind of taking up all of his attention. He hides in his room all day and doesn't eat or shower. By the time Ryan climbs in his window at around eleven o'clock, Spencer hasn't left his bedroom for anything but the bathroom in something like thirty hours, and he's still dressed in yesterday's stupid, wrinkly Brendon clothes.

Ryan takes one look at him and rolls his eyes. "Oh, fucking great."

"I thought I told you I had the plague," Spencer says flatly.

"Your self-indulgent little emo crisis is not the same thing as the plague," Ryan returns, a little sharper than Spencer was expecting. "Jesus Christ, are you kidding me with this?"

"Fuck you, you have no idea—"

"You're gay for Brendon," Ryan says impatiently. "And you're obviously up here angsting all over yourself about it, so. Is it because you're gay? Or because it's Brendon? Either way, you're a complete dick, obviously, but—"

“Excuse me," Spencer manages, stung. "Thanks so much for your support, Ryan, but this is a little harder than you seem to think—"

"Oh, I'm sure it is." Ryan crosses his arms. "Maybe you should ask Brendon how hard it is, what do you think of that? We could go right now, we could drive over to Brendon's complete shithole apartment and ask him how hard it is being a gay teenager. We could ask Dallon too, or maybe all of Dallon's old friends who don't speak to him anymore because they were his church friends. I bet one of them would have something to say about it. Or, hey—"

"Shut up," Spencer grits out. "Shut up, I get it."

Ryan raises an eyebrow.

"I get it," Spencer repeats, and flops back onto his bed to stare at the ceiling. "My friends won't care, my family will still love me, I get it." He puts his hands over his face and presses against his eyes. "I'm still scared," he admits, quiet and muffled into the skin of his palms.

The bed doesn't exactly sink under Ryan's nonexistent weight, but Spencer can feel the shift anyway as he sits down.

"Yeah," he says, equally quiet, and moves until his knee presses against Spencer's side, awkward and reassuring. "Yeah, that part I get."

~

Facing Brendon at school is even harder than Spencer expected it to be. Ryan, Jon, and even Dallon all pretty much know exactly what was actually going on, but Brendon thinks Spencer actually had the death, or at least the flu, so he keeps glancing at Spencer when he thinks Spencer isn't looking, probably thinking not-so-secret thoughts about force-feeding him chicken noodle soup or some shit. Brendon instantly turns into somebody's mother when a sick person is involved.

"I'm fine, Brendon," he says wearily, when they're finally walking out to their cars. "Seriously. Better than fine."

Brendon cracks a smile. "Well, you know I've always thought so," he says lightly.

Spencer blushes, and hates himself for it. It has to be noticeable. It has to.

Somehow, though, Brendon doesn't notice. He's busy waving at Dallon across the parking lot like a total jackass, like they didn't just see Dallon forty-five seconds ago at Ryan's locker before they walked outside. Like they aren't going to see Dallon again in an hour and a half at practice, to make up for missing last night.

"You're a complete idiot," he tells Brendon seriously.

"Someday you'll love me," Brendon says placidly. "I know it."

Spencer swallows. "Uh," he says. "...actually, I. Um."

He can't bring himself to do it. Brendon is just standing there next to his ugly-ass purple minivan, smiling at Spencer with no fucking idea, and Spencer wants to kiss him and he wants to run like hell, and he honestly doesn't know which urge is stronger, so he settles for just shrugging awkwardly, and saying, "I'll see you tonight?"

"Bring cookies," Brendon orders him, and climbs into his stupid van. "I know your mom made some yesterday, Ryan told me all about it, don't even try to lie."

Spencer smiles, sudden and real, and for a second he wants to kiss Brendon way more than he wants to run away, but Brendon is already shutting the door and giving Spencer one last stern finger-point out the window, mouthing COOKIES, MOTHERFUCKER at him as he starts the ignition.

Spencer sighs, and turns away. Tonight. He'll say something tonight.

Maybe.

~

He brings cookies to practice.

Brendon refuses to play or sing a note until he's eaten at least three of them, which would usually piss Ryan off but tonight Ryan, Jon, and Dallon are all huddled together talking about what sounds like a song they might be writing. Dallon seems to just be coming to all the practices now, but he doesn't actually have any part in the band. At least, not yet. Spencer wonders what the plan is, if he's writing music with them now.

On the other hand, they have conveniently—and almost certainly intentionally—left him basically alone with Brendon. Spencer feels vaguely queasy, but mostly kind of fluttery and stupid.

"Bren," he says, quiet and kind of low.

Brendon glances up curiously. His mouth is full of cookie; his cheeks are puffed out to a degree only slightly less than "chipmunk," and there are crumbs all over his face.

Spencer smiles in spite of himself. His heart is pounding. "Ask me the question," he says softly.

Brendon frowns, opens his mouth around a disgusting wad of half-chewed cookie, and says something incomprehensible. Crumbs fly. Spencer laughs.

"You're disgusting," he says, and means it. "Like, I can't believe how disgusting you are. It's horrible." He takes a step closer. "Ask me, Brendon."

Brendon goes very still, his eyes wide and searching, and he chews very fast for what seems like a hundred years before swallowing the last of the cookie.

"Ask you...what?" he asks, very carefully.

Spencer takes another step. "You know what," he says. "The question. Ask me the question."

Brendon glances around helplessly, looking lost and flustered, and when he looks back up at Spencer he looks more terrified than anything. Spencer can hear his breath shaking.

"Spencer," Brendon mumbles, and flaps his hands. "I..."

Spencer steps forward again, a tiny step. "I'm, uh. I'm going to say yes," he manages to push out. "In case that wasn't clear."

Brendon stares at him, and then barks a short, nervous laugh. "Okay," he says, and swallows thickly. "Okay. Um." He drops his eyes, and his cheeks are bright pink, and it's painfully clear that any concerns Spencer had about the crush not being real are totally invalid. Spencer has never seen Brendon look so vulnerable.

"Brendon," he starts, because suddenly it doesn't seem fair to make Brendon be the one to put it out there, but Brendon cuts him off, his eyes fixed on Spencer's collarbone.

"Are you gay yet, Spencer Smith?" he asks, soft and fast.

Spencer closes the last little distance between them. He doesn't think he's ever been this nervous in his life. "Yeah," he says, careful and serious, so there can't be any mistake. "Yeah, I think I kind of am." He hesitates.

Brendon—Brendon who is so brave, who has always been so brave—rescues Spencer from having to take that last terrifying step. He tilts his mouth up, and brushes it slow and tentative against Spencer's.

Spencer exhales shakily over Brendon's lips, and presses into it. They don't do much more than trade tiny, chaste, nervous little kisses back and forth for a minute or two, but when Jon starts whooping and catcalling from across the room, Spencer still feels flushed and giddy and ridiculous as he laughs and breaks away.

"You're an asshole," he tells Jon, trying to ignore the way Ryan and Dallon are beaming maniacally at him.

"Your mom's an asshole," Jon says peacefully.

"Your face is an asshole," offers Brendon, and sort of uncertainly slips his fingers into Spencer's hand, out of sight of the others. Spencer squeezes tight, feeling happy and stupid and scared.

The insults get even more nonsensical as Dallon and Ryan jump on the bandwagon, but Spencer isn't really paying attention anymore. Brendon's hand is warm, and Spencer's mouth is still kind of tingling, and everything is about to change.

It's fucking terrifying. Spencer can't wait.

~

END /o\