Ryan belongs to Spencer. Completely. This is the first thing Brendon learns when he joins the band. Before, even, when hes still the kid trying out for guitar and keyboard and backups. Theres a glint in Spencers eyes fiery, burning heavy and it screams possession, protection. Brendon nearly stumbles backwards when Spencer looks at him for the first time, but he steels himself and smiles and says, Hi, Im Brendon.
In the corner, Brent fidgets with nervous excitement, jumpy because hes the one who found Brendon. Spencers lips pull down in a tight line and he doesnt say anything about it. Brendon remembers distantly that this is Spencers grandmothers living room former living room and on the sofa is a boy with shadowed eyes, a guitar, and a notebook.
This is Ryan, and he belongs to Spencer.
The first day, thats all he learns.
He thinks he learns more than that, but he really doesnt. They make a first impression, all of them, and he judges them immediately because when he meets someone new, he never really thinks that they could very possibly be having a bad day. He immediately thinks Ryan is one of the typical emo kids that hides behind his hat and his big words and, looking back, he regrets that, feels the burn low in the pit of his stomach that screams guilt. Hed thought Spencer had been nothing more than The Guy Who Ryan Trusts. He was that, yes, but he also kept them all together, like glue.
Its then, once theyre over the threshold and inside Spencers house, Ryan seems to unwind and he actually smiles, standing in the doorway of the kitchen and accepting a chocolate chip cookie from the oldest of Spencers younger sisters. He looks up mid-sentence and catches Brendons eye, keeps smiling and Brendons stomach lurches, his heart beating faster in his chest.
Its not that moment exactly, but Brendon will look back at it years later and think, maybe, maybe this is where it all started.
The moments between the discussions about Pete Wentz! Pete Wentz! and getting signed are all mostly a blur. Some seconds stand out more, especially the ones with raised-voice arguments and new apartments and new jobs and practice spaces and first nights spent alone. Sometime during all of this Ryan adopts his old paperboy hat again and they get their first van, plain white with an air of authority to it (from the outside, its downright menacing, but the inside is comfortable and safe and theres space enough for them all, but not too much the air is filled with quiet whispers, secret smiles between Spencer and Ryan, and beeping cell phones with overexcited messages from Pete).
Then, they meet The Academy. William is nice enough, if not a little creepy around the edges, but they all warm up eventually and settle down enough to not freak out when William announces that, Hey, whoa, you guys havent met Jon. Dont fall in love yet; the best hasnt arrived. Brendon laughs nervously, but then Tom pulls Jon into the room (Jon looks surprised, almost drops the Canon in his hands and has to adjust the strap, accidentally hitting a button and causing the camera to shut off. He smiles sheepishly at this.) and somehow in the seconds that follow, Brendon and Jon manage to fall into a deep, meaningful discussion about Disney movies.
After that, they have photo shoots (Spencer hates the camera, doesnt know what to do exactly. Ryans a bit of a camera whore and even though hes insanely shy, he seems to be the only one who can hold a pose and make it look good. Brendon thinks cameras are the best thing ever! Even better than sliced bread, which is pretty amazing because, hello, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! Brent could really care less.) and the media follows them like hawks, eyeing every possible opening and getting to them when they least expect it.
And then they lose Brent.
Jon is their immediate backup. He knows the songs, he plays bass, and the fans love him. Hes nice and Brendon loves him and Spencer loves him and Ryan damn near worships him for not telling them to find someone else to play. Jon understands. He doesnt ask questions, though he doesnt usually have to because Brendon isnt used to keeping secrets yet, so he has a hard time keeping his worries to himself. He listens when hes needed and he doesnt think theyre stupid or immature for needing someone to talk to. He gets it. Hes been there, done that.
The Academy loses Tom, and Jons smile never falters, even though Tom was his best friend and they can all see the pain in his eyes.
Ryan breaks then and tells Jon everything. He tells Jon everything that hes worried about and everything he used to be worried about and he tells Jon about how hard theyve worked and how much theyve lost and how they really deserve this and how they dont deserve this at all. He tells Jon about everything that went on with Brent and everything that Ryan ever went through personally. Jon just accepts it all, sits back and listens and when Ryans done, Jon rubs a soothing hand over the back of Ryans neck and then buys him coffee.
Jon joins the band, and then Ryans father dies.
The moment Brendon realizes he has feelings for Ryan, hes in the middle of a sentence. He stops abruptly and stares into space, rewinding and thinking over every thing that just went through his mind. Spencer stares at him nervously, isnt sure whats up with Brendons sudden wave of silence. Brendon sways back and forth on his feet as he tries to focus on the wait, what? and the thing where its Ryan. A steadying hand on his shoulder knocks him out of it.
Spencer says, Hey, are you are you feeling okay?
Brendon blinks at him, the question running through his head numbly and spinning, rewinding and playing again, fast forwarding and then screeching to a sudden halt as he tries to figure it out again. He finally says, Sure, yeah, and wanders off towards the bus.
Brendon gingerly sits down on the couch beside Jon, pulls his knees up under his chin and wraps his arms tightly around his legs. Jon looks at Brendon, sitting close but not touching, not like he always is. He blinks in surprise and thinks of how Brendon always falls down on top of him, smothers him, wraps himself around Jon like a monkey or a snake when hes upset, when somethings on his mind.
Still not touching but finally thinking hed feel better if they were, Jon asks, Whats wrong?
Brendon says, Everything.
Spencer figures it out pretty quickly.
The only problem with that: Ryan belongs to Spencer.
Or so Brendon though.
Part of the Spencer And Ryan thing is sharing hotel rooms. This makes it ultimately weird that when Zach hands out hotel keys, Spencer says, Hey, hey, I call Brendon. Ryan looks completely betrayed, but Spencer does this thing with his eyes just looks at Ryan and Ryan blinks and stops looking so hurt. Brendon follows Spencer to the elevators and cant help his look of bewilderment. He hangs back some with his head down, eyes trained on the floor, waiting for Spencer to finally lash out and tell Brendon what stupid thing hes done this time.
But, Spencer just says, Hey, come on. I snuck Guitar Hero out. Maybe well get lucky and the TV will have connectors.
Brendon cant help his grin, but inadequacy still thrums in his veins.
Once theyre in their hotel room, Spencer drops his bags and immediately searches the TV. It doesnt have the right connectors (Hotel TVs never do; they always want you to pay for the games, and its not like they cant afford that now, but its different.) and Spencer says, Fuck. Brendon carefully sets his bags down on his bed (closest to the door because Spencer took the window) and Spencer sits on the edge of his own, staring dejectedly down at the green pattern of carpet.
Brendon takes a few deep breaths, hands still clutching at the handle of his duffle bag. He squeezes a few times, weighing his options, but eventually he just sucks on the inside on his cheek and says, Uhm, Spence? What did I do?
Spencer goes visibly tense but he doesnt look up at Brendon. Toeing at the floor with his sneaker, Spencer lightly says, We kind of need to talk.
Oh. Brendon doesnt question it because this is Spencer. He sits down gently on the bed and stays still.
We need to talk about Ryan. Brendon flinches. Spencer looks up at him then, all soft features and tired eyes, and its not its not scary, like Brendon would have suspected in this sort of situation. Spencer just looks kind of sad. I know you like Ryan, Spencers voice drops, drifts off quietly. I dont think you
I dont I dont want to hurt him! Brendon cuts in, leaning forward to help with the impact of the statement. I wouldnt I do like him, Spence! Im sorry! I cant help it!
Brendon goes wide-eyed and frantic and Spencer looks at him really looks at him and Brendon goes completely still. Voice hoarse, Spencer whispers, Bren. Brendon, come here. Brendon goes, darts across the divide between the beds and sits next to Spencer, draped over him in a lopsided hug, face buried in Spencers neck. He shudders hot air out against Spencers collar, eyes damp, and Spencer whispers, I cant believe you just said that. Youre such a moron. Of course I I know you cant help it. Im not stupid.
If Spencer didnt sound so torn, Brendon would probably be a little bit worried.
They stay silent for a long, long time. Spencer finally says, long after Brendons breathing has calmed down and his eyes have dried, Youll have to share him, you know. You can have him, but only if I can, too. Brendon thinks about sharing with Spencer. The idea is nice, warm comfort in the place wheres hes completely lost.
Their next night is spent on the bus, confined to sleeping in bunks between venues and hotels. Spencer doesnt say anything about it, but Ryan corners him at a truck stop when hes halfway under the bus, digging around through the bags, trying to find which one has his clean clothes in it. He has half of a poptart between his teeth and hes wearing pajama pants, one hand clutching a t-shirt while the other rummages for jeans. Ryans in his pajama pants too, and hed be a little worried if Ryans hair wasnt mussed from sleep and he didnt look so .. young.
Whoa, Brendon says, surprised, backing out of the baggage compartment with a full outfit. He blinks and stares, waiting for Ryan to say something, but Ryan just crosses his arms over his chest and shifts on his feet, looking like hes not really sure what he should say.
Finally, Ryan manages a weak, So, uhm. You and Spencer?
Brendon cant lie to Ryan now, not after lying in his bunk night after night, thinking over the thousands of reasons why he cant love Ryan and the millions why he does anyway. He swallows, puts a smile on his face that probably came out as more of a grimace, and he says, Top secret, Ross.
What, so now Spencers going to be just like Jon? You cant have all these secrets. Were a group here
Chill, Ryan, Spencer says, coming out of the bus. The door slams behind him, weighted on its hinges. He walks over to them and steps up behind Brendon, hooks his chin over Brendons shoulder and grins, sly like Jon. We wont leave you out of anything important. Promise.
Spencer never breaks a promise, so at the next hotel, Spencer stops Brendon as theyre getting off the bus. Hey, he says quietly, quickly, because Ryan has already noticed that hes missing and will double back at any second. He continues with a hand on the back of Brendons neck, warm. Im going to room with Ryan, but you should come hang out, okay?
If Spencer presses a ghost of a kiss to Brendons jaw as he slides by, he doesnt act like it, and Brendon doesnt ask.
Jon goes off with Zach and some of the techs right after they get settled in the room. Its still pretty early only a little after noon and they dont have a show until tomorrow so today is a free day. Brendon fidgets with the zippers on his bag, sorts through some magazines, stacks them and then resorts them again. He stands in the middle of the room and takes a series of deep breaths, alternating between staring at the mirror across the room and closing his eyes, telling himself how crazy this all is.
He rationalizes, okay, hell just change clothes, get comfortable, and then hell go hang out with Spence and Ryan for a while. Theyre probably just going to watch movies. Ryan doesnt know anything and Spencer wouldnt tell. Right? Biting his lip, he pulls an old, worn hoodie from his bag and slips off his shirt, replaces it with the hoodie and then shucks his jeans. He steps into another pair, older, faded with time and too many washings. He bends to pull on his shoes when a slip of white plastic catches his eye, falling out of the pocket of his other jeans.
Its a hotel card key. Spencer Smith is a sneaky bastard.
He stands outside the door for about a minute and a half longer than he should. He doesnt hear anything from inside, but. He looks up and sees the security camera a few feet away on the ceiling, down the hall some, and he thinks about how it must look him standing outside a door that isnt his, just waiting. He gives in and slips the card into the slot, pulls it out and pushes the door open.
Brendon isnt sure what hes expecting. The television is on, volume low and barely audible; Spencer and Ryan are there, yes, and Ryan does look surprised to see him, but not not like its a bad surprise. Theyre sprawled on one of the beds, Ryan spread out while Spencer pillows his head on Ryans chest, lazily drawing patterns over his sides, whispering and not stopping even when he notices Brendon.
Spencer smiles, though, and it draws Brendon closer. Ryans eyes are wide and innocent, too young without his makeup, and he watches Brendons every move. Brendon crawls onto the bed with them and curls up at the head of the bed next to Ryan (he touches Ryans wrist in greeting, a fleeting touch that Ryan almost follows) and Spencer stops whispering then, when the bed dips behind him. He turns his head and looks up at them, eyes flitting between them, lips pressed together in a thin line.
It suddenly feels like theyre all very close, too close, and Brendon recoils in the near-silence of the room, pressing back against the headboard and wondering why hes even here. Spencer stares at him for a few long, drawn-out seconds, bottom lip disappearing between his teeth as thoughts flash behind his eyes. He glances over at Ryan once, a hard gaze that Ryan doesnt break, just returns with a questioning look.
Spencer sits up then, leans forward on his knees and kisses Brendon. Ryan lets out a little rush of breath, a quiet gasp as Brendon kisses back, presses back with as much force as Spencer and ends up licking into Spencers mouth, Spencer cupping his jaw. Right when Ryan seems to shift away, Spencer pulls back and says, a little breathless, Kiss him, Ross.
Ryan stills, watching them both Brendon as he licks his lips, cheeks flushed, and Spencer looking completely serious while also managing to pull off a bit of a blush and he looks uncertain, like this could all be a joke. Brendon doesnt make a move doesnt want to freak Ryan out, to scare him away but he doesnt have to. Ryan makes a little noise in the back of his throat, giving in, and leans in to meet Brendons lips.
What is this? Brendon asks the next morning when he wakes up between Spencer and Ryan, the room overly warm.
Does it matter? Spencer tugs on Brendons hair, lightly, eyes still closed.
Sort of, Brendon says, but he doesnt expect an answer.