Waiting for an IndicationPairing:
Ryan/Spencer, Brendon/Shane, Brendon/Shane/SpencerRated:
In which, being in love can be a blissful experience, a pain in the ass, hard work, drawn-out agony, and much else besides; also in which, people do not tell the whole truth, polyamory is awesome, songs are written, and Ryan stores his paisley boxers with the cheese grater. Notes:
For bandombigbang 2010
. With thanks to my pre-reading team for guessing and guiding and asking and pushing and noticing and poking — this would never have been written without them. Thanks to shihadchick
, in particular, because I suddenly flipped out and made it all her job. Thanks also to shihadchick
for the beta. Extra special thanks to the artist and mixers who did such amazing work. Title from Fastball's "Out of My Head"
, with more love than I can possibly express. WARNINGS: If you have a problem with honest, open polyamory, this is not the fic for you. Master PostPART ONE: RYAN
When the flare of jealousy comes, it's out of nowhere.
Ryan's been house-hunting all day, despite the fact that his plane left Vegas at ass o'clock to get him to the office of his and Eric's realtor by nine. It's getting late, almost one, and Ryan's sitting cross-legged on Shane and Brendon's kitchen counter, talking to Shane about the houses they saw today: location, light, space. Shane's nodding and asking questions as he toys with his beer; Dylan comes up and lays her nose in Shane's lap, pawing softly at his thighs.
"You don't need that
much yard space just for Hobo, though, do you?" Shane says, rubbing an affectionate hand over her head.
"Nah, but...I dunno, I kind of like the idea of space for parties, or barbecues or whatever."
Spencer wanders in, ready for bed in just soft sweatpants, and takes a glass from the cupboard. "You hate having people in your space, Ryan," he says, patiently. They've already had this discussion on the ride home. "You don't throw parties in your home."
"I don't mind family
," Ryan retorts. "There's a lot more of that around in L.A."
It's true--it's not just the Wentzes and the Urie-Valdes household and Spencer, wherever in the area he'll land. Greta's moving out in a little while, and half the techs and merch people and security they've toured with in the past five years are settled somewhere in L.A., most of them hoping to break. Then, too, all the members of Decaydance and everybody they've ever toured with spends at least a few weeks with Pete a year, besides the time they spend recording from label apartments. If they could just get Carol to find a job up here, so that Zack could be here full-time, and convince the Smiths to leave Nevada...
"You will mind when Pete wants Bronx's fifth birthday party at Uncle Ryan's house."
"Why should he, Pete has twice as much space--"
Ryan sticks his tongue out. "I can say no to Pete, jackass."
Spencer pushes his glass against the ice dispenser and smirks. "I would love
to see you try."
"I'd kind of like to see that, too," Brendon says, filling the doorway with his big grin and pink underpants. They've all given up making Brendon wear pants in the house. He waggles his eyebrows. "You coming to bed?"
Shane looks at Ryan. "Finish telling me tomorrow?"
"Sure." Ryan nods.
"Want me to show you your room? Brendon told you all we've got is the air mattress, right?"
"What doesn't kill us makes us stronger," Ryan says solemnly. "Besides, Spencer's been sleeping on it for weeks, right? He isn't dead yet."
"Spencer's in with us, actually," Brendon says, leering, and Ryan's about to roll his eyes when he realizes that Shane has reached out, caught Spencer's wrist with a casual proprietary hand. Brendon reaches for Spencer's other hand and starts tugging, leading his lovers, both
of them, shit, toward the stairs. "Second door on the right, Ross," he tosses over his shoulder, and Ryan's too busy stopping himself from punching Brendon in the face to answer him.
Spencer has always been Ryan's.
Ryan's best friend, his bedrock, his sidekick, his security blanket, his partner in crime. Ryan's.
It felt only natural, seventeen and his world spinning insanity around him, to have Spencer's shy kisses, too. Lying in the dark, Spencer's sweat-sticky skin soft beneath his fingers and a mild ache in his ribs from his dad's bender the night before, it seemed like the easiest thing in the world to kiss back, to suck on Spencer's earlobes and bite his navel, to accept the soft scrape of Spencer's teeth over his chest and laugh together at the way it made his dick jump. To play in that safe space, the still spot at the center of the whirl of fucking pubescence
that was his life.
And if a little later, high as a kite on Spencer's tongue and touch, he ducked under the covers and took Spencer's cock into his mouth, so what?
After all, Spencer's always been Ryan's.
They're meeting the realtor again in the morning, and Ryan cheerfully kidnaps Spencer away from his coffee and cold Pop Tarts for pancakes and sausage at IHOP before they meet her.
The waitress is stupidly perky for that hour of the morning, and Spencer just stares at her blearily for a minute before slumping face-first onto the tabletop, one arm sprawling across to the other side.
Spencer doesn't actually like to eat much in the morning, before his stomach wakes up. Ryan pats him soothingly on the back of the hand and orders him two pancakes and "coffee, like, immediately. In a gallon jug, if possible." She takes Ryan's order, too, and smiles kindly at the top of Spencer's head before she goes to find the coffee jug.
"Soooooooo..." Ryan says, teasing.
Spencer grunts and sort of bats at the air to Ryan's left. Ryan graciously waits for the coffee to come, and even lets Spencer drink half a mug's worth, before he starts again.
"Been getting a little two-end action?" he asks, careful to keep his tone tilted toward amused.
Spencer's bloodshot eyes glare at him over the edge of his mug.
"It's not my
fault you were up all night," Ryan points out.
If anything, Spencer's glare intensifies. "I was not."
Ryan contents himself with raising an eyebrow.
"Dude, I had to be up at the asscrack of dawn; don't you ever sleep with anybody you're sleeping with?"
Something in Ryan's heart clenches, and he smirks to cover the pause. "So you're cuddlers, then?"
Spencer rolls his eyes. "It's Brendon
. It's a good thing he's an electric blanket, too, he kicks the covers."
"Hmmmm, and is it hot in other ways?"
Spencer's head drops to the table. "Are we still fifteen? Do you need me to tell you how it feels when there's a mouth on your neck and your cock at the same time?"
Ryan kicks him. "I am just making sure that everything is consensual and respectful between the three of y--"
Spencer kicks him back. "I'm a willing participant, okay? Shut up."
"And you didn't tell me because..."
"Because you suck at keeping secrets from Brendon."
Ryan cocks his head. "You're sleeping with him and Shane, and he doesn't know
Spencer sighs and sets his coffee down. "You'll really try not to let him know?"
Ryan glares at him.
The waitress comes up and sets their breakfast on the table. Spencer leans back, and smiles to dismiss her when she asks if they need anything else. He takes a deep breath, and blows it out slowly. Ryan stabs his sausage with a fork and waves it at Spencer in a vaguely threatening manner.
"I'm trying to lure him into a sense of security."
It takes him a few minutes of fighting with the half-chewed sausage, and then gulping at his orange juice, to soothe his throat and get his breath back, but the minute he's succeeded he demands, "You want to make it serious
? Like, maybe — like, for real?"
Spencer sighs and pokes at his pancakes. "If I can. I don't know. But I kind of think if anybody can, it's me, you know?"
Ryan sits back and studies him. He thinks about Spencer, who Brendon relies on and trusts, who is so good at taking a tangled psyche and smoothing it down. He's never doubted that Spencer could fix anybody, if he wanted to try. And if Spencer really wants this--
"Yeah," he says softly. "Yeah, I think you can make it work."
It's almost normal, this conversation, almost just like always.
Almost like being out on tour, in the early days, packing for another long day, Ryan with his head under the bed, looking for the pink belt Spencer had used to tie him to the headboard the night before.
"Jac's coming, we should double," he called to Spencer, who was brushing his teeth with a lot of enthusiastic spitting.
"What?" Spencer poked his head around the door of the hotel bathroom, mouth shiny with toothpaste. Ryan smiled at him.
"Jac's coming out today, you want to bring Kyle to dinner?"
Spencer raised an eyebrow. "You think Jac and Kyle will have a lot to say to each other?"
Ryan sighed. "I hardly know
Kyle and I hate being odd man out. It's the perfect solution!"
"No, no, it isn't." Spencer leaned back against the door frame and crossed his arms. The hem of his pink t-shirt rode up and showed the curve of his belly, Ryan's red mouthprint stark against the pale skin. "If you're interrogating Kyle, that leaves me with Jac. And she hates my guts."
"Oh, she does not
." But Ryan didn't pursue the subject any further, stuffing the belt into his duffle and zipping it shut.
Spencer just rolled his eyes and disappeared back into the bathroom.
"Drugstore run?" Ryan called.
"Yeah, we're almost out of lube, and you hate that flavored stuff Kyle likes. And get me some of that detangling spray? And you used up the last of the cinnamon floss yesterday."
Ryan went to the bathroom door for a minute, and watched Spencer poking at his hair. Spencer looked at him in the mirror. "What?"
"You won't let me interrogate him. What are you hiding? Is he good enough for you?"
Spencer grinned. "His tongue
"Shut up." He landed a friendly punch. "I'm just checking. I thought you were pretty serious about Haley."
"I like her, yeah, but--she's grounded, you know? In one place. I can't ask her to wait around. Maybe we'll try, if we're ever in the same place long enough, but in the meantime..." he shrugged, turned to smile at Ryan instead of his reflection. "Kyle's tongue. And if I'm really desperate I can fall back on you
Ryan stuck his tongue out, and pushed off, dismissing the whole issue. It was pretty obvious that Spencer wasn't taking Kyle any more seriously than the half a dozen other people he'd slept with, than he would any of the guys and girls between then and now. Even Haley, when they tried, had never really made it past a really good friend Spencer slept with sometimes.
That's what's different. This time, Spencer wants to try.
Ryan's so frustrated by their house hunting that Spencer offers to cook when they get home, one of Ryan's secret favorites from before he could afford fine dining and decided his favorite was something unpronounceable and French.
Brendon and Shane come in halfway through the process, chattering at each other about gummy bears. Ryan sighs melodramatically, and Brendon comes over and drapes an arm over his shoulders. "What's wrong, Ryan?" he asks sympathetically, making an exaggerated tragedy face.
"I hate Eric," Ryan tells him.
Shane snorts, kicking the refrigerator door shut and handing Brendon a beer. "Spencer's cooking, it must be bad."
Spencer makes a face at him. "Dude, I was there. The day did indeed suck out loud."
"How is that Eric's fault?" Shane asks mildly.
"Mostly it's that the real estate lady is a twit." Spencer grabs another pepper and puts it in front of Shane. "Chop. I don't want Brendon anywhere near a knife."
"But Eric chose the real estate lady, so it's his fault, and I hate him," Ryan repeats stubbornly.
"I'm pretty sure you just walk in and they sign you up for the nearest agent, Ryan," Brendon says, amused. "And I'm also pretty sure Pete recommended the agency."
Spencer flicks a bit of carrot at him. "You don't get to hate Eric just because Luanna is obnoxious, Ry. He's picked out some decent places."
"If only Luanna didn't come with them." The woman's been treating him like some kind of brain-damaged puppy all day.
Brendon pokes his side. "Come on, tell us about the houses. We'll go T.P. her trees later."
Ryan laughs. "Yeah, okay. We've seen nine so far, and we've got it narrowed down to three."
"And five to see tomorrow," Spencer reminds him. "And she said there's one up the canyon we won't see until next week."
Ryan groans and buries his hands in his hair. "Do I even want to live in a canyon? Doesn't living away from people mean, like, planning your groceries ahead? Do I have to get a Costco membership and buy two thousand Hot Pockets?"
"Yes." Spencer reaches over to smack the top of his head. "I should have made you do it a long time ago anyway. Don't think I'm not aware of how often you've come over to my place because you ran out of toilet paper."
"Dude, seriously?" Shane's eyes are wide.
"If he wanted to fool me he should have taken a roll at a time, not, like, five." Spencer eyes Ryan sternly. "When you have your own house, you're buying a big freezer and a CostCo membership and I'm going to make you stock up for at least a year. Don't think you're getting out of it by moving next to a grocery store. I have no other way of ensuring you don't starve to death. EasyMac and HotPockets and frozen pizza, at least. You can get vegetables when you eat out."
"Yes, Mom," Ryan says, rolling his eyes.
"So he might as well look at the canyon house, is what you're saying?" Shane asks, nudging them back on track.
"Yeah. And I really liked the gray one, Ryan, with the porch?"
"No formal dining room."
"What the fuck do you need a formal dining room for?"
"Are you planning to have it catered? I'm not going to come over and cook for you every night."
"It'll just become yet another place to stack your journals, and you know it. I want you to have an office so at least they can all belong in one place, even if you never actually put them there."
"We could turn one of the bedrooms into an office."
Spencer shakes his head. "You need at least two guest beds, and you're not gonna want somebody sleeping where you write. Get an older place that's intended to have an office."
Ryan sighs. "That knocks out the green one, doesn't it?"
you wanted a yard, anyway."
"How is this working, exactly?" Brendon asks, frowning. "It sounds like you're deciding this without even asking
"He picked 'em out," Shane tells him, chopping steadily. "He sent the listings to Ryan, and now the agent is taking him and Spence around to the houses he liked. Once Ryan narrows it down, they'll talk about it. It was just too hard to schedule them in the city at the same time."
"That makes sense." Brendon's hand snakes out to snatch a piece of pepper from the cutting board. Spencer smacks at his hand.
"Those are for frying."
"But I'm hungry nooooooow,
" Brendon whines, pulling out the puppy eyes. Ryan snorts and butts Brendon's shoulder gently with his head.
"You are so two years old," he says, smiling affectionately.
Brendon shoves him back.
"Boys, no fighting in the house," Shane admonishes them, mock-stern. "Don't make me get out the weed."
Brendon and Ryan look at each other for a minute, then simultaneously start a slap-fight like seals on a sugar high. Brendon's laughing so hard he nearly falls off his stool.
Shane rolls his eyes. "Okay, okay." He goes over to a jar marked "LOVE" on the counter--one of a set Brendon's mom gave them also featuring PEACE and HOPE. Brendon thought putting the weed in the PEACE jar would be too obvious. The PEACE jar, if Ryan remembers correctly, contains enough Pixie sticks to send Brendon through the roof. Brendon's sense of subtlety baffles him.
Ryan's just about to get in a particularly flimsy slap to Brendon's nose when a bong appears between them. "Satisfied?" Shane asks, one eyebrow raised.
"Dude, I love you," Brendon says happily, snatching it and fumbling in his pocket for a lighter.
"Is that all it takes?" Shane teases. His tone is a little off, and Ryan looks at him sharply, but Shane is smiling like always. 'Bad day, but nothing too awful,' is Ryan's bet. Most days you can't even hear it.
Brendon, oblivious, is hogging the weed.
"Dude, pass it," Ryan says, snapping his fingers. "I helped you get that, it's mine, too."
"It is much too wonderful to share with skinny Ryan Rosses," Brendon says loftily, turning away.
"It is much too much for just one Brendon," Shane tells him. "Or do we want a repeat of the neon hippos incident?"
" Brendon hands it over, pouting.
"...I'm not going to ask," Ryan decides, taking a deep breath himself.
Spencer gives him a dark look. "You are wise," he says ominously.
Ryan's jaw drops open. "You know about it? I can't be the only one!"
Spencer looks at Shane, then exchanges a glance with Brendon. "It's a long story. And seriously, terrifying."
Ryan rolls his eyes.
" Brendon says, suddenly, and half-falls, half-slides off his stool. People should know better than to mention hippos when Brendon is smoking up.
Shane sighs. "I let him put a DVD player in the kitchen why
?" he asks, a plaintive note to his voice.
"Take a hit," Spencer suggests. "It'll make sense soon."
"Right." Shane puts his hand out for the bong, and Ryan gives it to him. He doesn't mind; he kind of likes Fantasia, even when he's not completely high.
Brendon reappears in the doorway, having lost his shirt. "Classic, or 2000?"
"Spencer can't get high for a while," Ryan says sagely. "Better start with Classic."
"You are wise in the ways of Spencer Smith," Brendon says. "I shall bow to your wisdom."
He drops the DVD in and goes over to Shane, plucking the bong out of his hand and wrapping an arm around his waist. "Me too?" he says, grinning, and Shane leans over and blows the smoke he's been holding into Brendon's mouth, slow. Brendon leans into him just a moment too long.
Ryan takes the bong from Brendon's inattentive hand.
"You're lucky I like you, Ross," Spencer grumbles, scraping the chopped vegetables into the skillet. "Otherwise I'd steal that from you and let your dinner burn."
"You wouldn't do that to me," Ryan says, perhaps a little lower than he usually would. "You would never be mean to me
Spencer's eyes soften. "True."
The curtain rises on the screen, and the narrator walks out onto the stage. "Can we watch Mickey while we wait for the pot to kick in?" Ryan asks plaintively. "I promise we can come back to the orchestra and the abstract art."
Brendon gives him a look of patient long-suffering, but he reaches for the remote. He and Shane start an amicable argument about Regan's puppy requirements, and Spencer finds a wooden spoon and stirs the contents of his pan.
Ryan leans his head on one hand and watches Mickey, lugging heavy buckets and dreaming of controlling the skies. He's sad for Mickey, who has no idea what he's setting in motion. No idea at all.
"Brendon, come taste this," Spencer demands, scooping a bit of chicken out of the skillet and blowing on it. Brendon obeys him, taking the chicken between his teeth and chewing thoughtfully, then swallowing.
Spencer raises an eyebrow. "More soy sauce?"
"Taste for yourself," Brendon says, smiling his loose pot grin. He pops up on his toes and kisses Spencer deeply. Ryan can't help but stare for a minute; then he flushes and looks away. Shane is watching them, as he sometimes watches when Brendon is kissing someone, but somehow it's different. It's easy. Affectionate. Almost...hopeful. It's a lot harder to hate anything that makes Shane look like that. Damn.
Ryan asked Shane about the others, once.
Looking back, he must have been something along the lines of falling-down drunk in that club--all of them prefer to stay a good football field away from the clusterfuck that is Brendon's sex life. Shane was nursing his third beer, Ryan moodily sipping brandy (an old man's drink, Brendon laughed at him), and the both of them watching Brendon play with a pendant on the string around a stacked girl's neck.
Shane rumbled out a laugh, soft and only a little bitter. "I spent a year filming him before I made a move, Ryan. I knew what I was getting into."
"I made it anyway.
Bden--he's fucked up, okay? We're friends--he can have friends. We have sex--he can have sex. We love each other in a bromance kind of way, and he can do that too. But there's a little switch in his head about this relationship thing, and I'm not gonna flip it."
Ryan stared at him over the edge of the snifter, fuzzy pity sloshing inside his chest. He opened his mouth to say something--he still has no idea what--and Shane raised a hand to stop him.
"The first time Regan met him she went out and bought me a copy of The Ethical Slut
, Ryan. We're all getting what we need...or at least, what he can take, I'm giving him. I get to touch and fuck and cuddle and talk, and everybody involved wears rubbers." He stopped, raised the bottle to his mouth for a swig. "Nothing's perfect, George Ryan Ross, no matter how much you dream."
The next week, late in the day, the real estate agent's car pulls to a stop in front of the house, and Ryan's jaw drops open slightly. He reaches blindly for Spencer's hand, and squeezes it tight. Spencer uses his other hand to pat Ryan reassuringly.
"...Mr. Ronick seemed to think you'd like it, which I suppose you
might..." Luanna is saying, as though she thinks there could be no clearer intimation that the place is in bad taste. Spencer's grip tightens, possibly to stop Ryan from flipping her the bird.
The house is beautiful. The windows and doors have bars of elaborate ironwork, with more on the potbellied balcony over the front door. The soft red-pink of the brick almost glows against its backdrop of trees. There's even a little window in the triangle of the roof, like every sad story about orphans ever written could have been set in the attic.
Spencer squeezes his hand again, and Ryan turns to look at him. Spencer is smiling his small smile; the smile he only ever has for Ryan, for Ryan when he's lost in an artistic haze or talking babytalk to Hobo. For Ryan when he's happy. "C'mon," he says softly. "Let's check out the inside."
Luanna's still talking, Ryan is vaguely aware, but he pushes past her into the house. He doesn't need a spiel. The halls are half-paneled, the banisters carved and spindly. The bedrooms upstairs are light and airy, the ceilings arch high above the beds.
He half-trips coming down the stairs, almost running into the door across the hall. He pokes his head inside, and stops breathing. Spencer's beaming at him. He smiles back, helpless.
"So?" Spencer asks, gesturing, and Ryan looks around them for the first time. It's a tiny office, made smaller by the sturdy built-in bookcases and cupboards. The desk in the corner is part of the shelving, with what seems like a dozen little drawers and pigeonholes.
"C'mon," Spencer says, and pulls him out the back through the sunny kitchen. There's a cobblestone patio with a hot tub, and enough lawn to throw a Frisbee, and beyond that there's woods and low shrubs. They stand there looking for a minute; Ryan catches a flicker of gray movement in the trees. Birds
Spencer gives him a little shove toward the woods. Go on
, he says, with a tilt of his head. Laughing half-incredulously, Ryan does, climbing through the tree roots and ancient weeds to the edge of a little half-cliff about four feet high. The air feels clean here, despite their relative proximity to the city; the leaves of the trees rustle in the wind. He takes a deep breath, absorbing the peace of it.
Having given him his moment, Spencer crunches up behind him. "It comes with two acres," he remarks, his tone suspiciously bland.
Ryan turns to him, his smile still wide on his face. "It's like Walden Pond," he blurts; Spencer doesn't even laugh at him.
"I'll go tell her you want to take it, shall I?"
Luanna is as much a twit about that as anything else--how does she sell houses, seriously?--but somehow Ryan doesn't mind as much now. He's found his house. A house. To be his.
They ride back down to the real estate office, where they've parked the car, in near-silence. The joy is bubbling inside Ryan like a merrily boiling pot, but he doesn't want to share it with Luanna. They thank her and shake hands and stand beside the car while she goes into the building, then turn at the same time to hug exuberantly.
"A house!" Ryan babbles, exultant. "It's perfect."
"Call Eric," Spencer tells him, unlocking the door. "And text everybody else. We'll tell Shane and Brendon when we get home, we'll go clubbing and celebrate."
The whole ride home, even with the horrible traffic, is gilded with the triumph of the day. Ryan leaves Eric a hasty voicemail and fires off a text to his "family" list. He spends the rest of the ride telling Spencer about what he wants to do with the house in exhaustive detail. Spencer nods, and laughs, and makes suggestions of his own--a new building in the woods for music, an external studio, is an awesome idea, though Ryan thinks it'll be a lot of work. Some of the rooms will need painting, and of course the people won't leave their awesome paisley curtains--"do you think we could buy them, Spence? Offer to throw in an extra hundred if they'll leave them up?"
Spencer is still mocking his gargoyle door knocker idea when they walk into the living room, where Brendon's waiting on the couch.
"Brendon!" Ryan almost carols. "We're going out to celebrate, we found a house, it's perfect, it's--"
Brendon is curled on his side, face half-buried in the back cushion of the couch.
Spencer's dropping beside him before Ryan has even managed to rearrange his facial expressions, wrapping an arm around his waist and putting a chin over his shoulder.
"What's wrong, Brendon?"
"Nothing." Brendon sits up and puts on his fucking interview smile. "A house, huh? That one up the canyon?"
"Shut up, Brendon," Spencer says, sharp. "Talk about what is bothering you or I will smother you myself."
"I'm just tired."
Ryan rolls his eyes. "We've spent the past four years living in very small spaces with you, Brendon." He sits gingerly down on Brendon's other side and puts a hand on his knee. "It's okay. You can talk to us."
Brendon sighs, looks down. "My sister's getting married," he says in a small voice. "I'm just a little--"
Ryan winces. He remembers the rules from Brendon's first sister's wedding. Brendon can't see the ceremony. He can't go in the temple.
"You'll still go," Spencer says, low and soothing in Brendon's ear. "You'll still go. You can be in the waiting room with the kids, they'll love that. And you'll be in all the stupid pictures and you can give the prettiest wedding present."
Brendon lets out all his breath at once, it seems like, and goes boneless against Spencer, letting Spencer support all his weight. "Yeah," he says, soft, but it isn't a sad word. Tired, maybe, but it hasn't completely lost hope.
The garage door rumbles on its way up, and Shane's camera bag makes a soft thump as it lands on the low shelf they keep for the expensive luggage dogs shouldn't drool on. "What's up, guys--" he stops in the doorway, taking in the scene, and makes an abortive movement toward Brendon.
Spencer rolls his eyes and yanks his head sideways, C'mere, idiot
, and Shane approaches them warily. Ryan stands up and lets Shane slide into his place, and Spencer tips Brendon onto Shane's shoulder. Brendon snuggles in with a small sound of contentment, like a wet cat that's found a warm patch of sun. Spencer pats his shoulder, and Ryan stands awkwardly by, not sure how to respond.
After a few minutes, Brendon sits up. Shane catches his chin with one hand, makes Brendon look him in the eye. Whatever he sees appears to satisfy him, and he nods. Brendon darts forward impulsively, plants a kiss on the tip of Shane's nose.
"A house, huh?" He looks up at Ryan with a brave smile. "What was that about celebrating?"
Ryan looks at Spencer for his cue; Spencer looks at Shane, and then nods.
"We thought we'd go out," he says. "Find a club, decent music, get slightly smashed. What do you say? Get dressed up and paint the town red?"
"Dude, I am there," Brendon says, scrambling up. "First shower!"
"I swear to god, it's like tour never ends," Spencer says, but he's laughing.
Brendon was the first person to ever teach Ryan he couldn't be the most important person in the universe all the time, even for Spencer.
It wasn't that they hadn't had other friends; they had. It wasn't even that they hadn't fought, that Spencer had never shut him out, pointedly silent. But even when Spencer was ignoring him, he was putting more effort into being mad than into whatever he was pointedly doing instead of talking to Ryan. Spencer always had time, patience, attention for Ryan, always; in thirteen years, he had never once so much as said, "Hang on, let me finish." If Spencer was talking to someone else when Ryan entered a room, his body would angle toward him, even if he kept up his polite conversation.
But Brendon came. He came and wormed his way into their affections, created new inside jokes between the three of them
, came to them for comfort and for celebrations. Suddenly, their small universe was centered on three points instead of two, suddenly someone besides Spencer and Ryan mattered
Ryan liked Brendon, he did; no one could ever have disturbed that perfect equilibrium if he hadn't liked them. Brendon was just as important to Ryan, and so Ryan let him in. Ryan shared.
And then, one day, Ryan actually had to cough to attract Spencer's attention. It was a shock to his system.
Nowadays, Ryan recognizes that moment as probably his first step toward adulthood. At the time, sunk in self-important teenage angst, it had hurt.
Mostly it made him treat Brendon like crap and cling to Spencer like a drowning man, which was none too pleasant for anybody. However, as the first realization that other people could be important, too, it held significance.
Ryan isn't all grown up now, not by a long shot — he's only twenty-two, and still pretty fucked in the head, emotions-wise. But he'd really thought that, in five years of expanding that tiny two-person universe, letting it grow to include so many, that he was past that first reaction.
It's kind of a letdown, realizing that — at the most visceral level — he hasn't grown up at all
. It still hurts like hell.
They get to the club just as it's warming up; Brendon picked the place. He knows the DJ — of course he knows the DJ — and he promised the drinks would be decent. The place is half-lit and almost crowded, the dance floor already busy. The music's loud and the bass is strong; this isn't a place you come to for conversation. This is a place you come to get laid.
They crowd into a booth lined with smooth purple leather, and wave down a waitress to take an order for drinks and onion rings. Brendon's twitchy, more than usual, hands restlessly tapping a different beat than the one playing over the speakers. He hardly waits to snatch an onion ring and down his first glass before he's sliding out onto the dance floor, nearly disappearing in the crowd. The only reason he's still visible is the flaming red of his shirt, like a cardinal trying to attract a mate.
Spencer and Shane are talking about their film, and Ryan tries to distract himself with peeling apart the layers of an onion ring, keeping an idle eye on Brendon's shirt. Brendon's thrown himself into it already, no need to wait for the music to sweep him into unselfconsciousness. Brendon is always brimming with music, ready to overflow into melody or movement. From the way he's moving against that girl, it's pretty sure tonight's song is something dirty.
It's hardly a healthy coping mechanism, this, but Ryan has absolutely no idea what to do about it. He's seen it before, over and over again, when Brendon's reminded of the barrier he put between himself and his family. It's like, knowing he can't be as close as he wants to be, he flings himself in the opposite direction from what they want, what they are, instead. Brendon will be out on the floor tonight, getting steadily more drunk, offering his body up to the crowd for sinful contemplation, and then he'll go home with a stranger and fuck her--or his--brains out. Ryan's betting on a guy tonight, actually; the marriage and kids incidents always inspire a wistfulness that seems to hurt Brendon more than anything, to throw him as far away from what he wants as he can get.
Spencer and Shane have done some good between them, though, because Brendon's only on his second drink and he's already picked a target in the crowd, somebody tall and solid who's eying him like a cherry tomato. The more he's hurting, the more liquor it takes. Maybe he'll be able to fuck it out of his system without nearly dying of alcohol poisoning this time; that would be nice. When Brendon ran up against this wall the first time, he threw up for three days afterward.
Brendon's working his way over to big and blocky, now, his body language open, begging. His target's answering him oh yeah
and don't have to say please
. Ryan's waiting for one of them to go in for the kill when a graceful hand taps Brendon on the shoulder.
Brendon turns--and Spencer's looking at him, one eyebrow quirked. He puts a hand on Brendon's waist, leans close to him and bends to murmur in his ear. And Ryan knows that move, he taught
Spencer that move, Spencer is saying something filthy. He can tell by way Spencer's lips stretch just a little too long over his "s"s, by the way he's letting his lips just brush Brendon's ear.
Ryan turns to see what Shane thinks of this new development, and Shane looks like a man who's been let off the rack. He stands up and heads over to his boyfriends, apparently in answer to a signal from Spencer. He crowds close behind Brendon, cutting him off from the crowd in a circle of his and Spencer's arms. His hips crowd up against Brendon's ass, and he bends his head, too, whispering almost close enough to Spencer's lips to be a kiss.
They're moving to the music together, Brendon and Spencer's steady beat pulling Shane with it. Brendon's back arches as he reacts to the close contact, the wet heat of Shane's tongue dragging itself up his neck to his jawline. He's forgotten about his target, who's looking more than a little put out, Ryan can see. Brendon's lost himself in burning touches, all right, but not from a stranger. He's going to fuck his way back to sanity with people he actually loves
Ryan wants that for Brendon; he wishes he didn't resent it so much.
It's funny, almost. He never cared about who Spencer looked at when they were fucking each other.
"So I think," Spencer said once, breathless, his hand wet with biting it so his mom wouldn't hear them, "I think I'm like, bi or whatever."
Ryan froze and looked up at him, and then down below the stomach he'd been nuzzling to Spencer's red, straining cock, slick with the night's first orgasm. He raised his eyes to Spencer's again, and lifted one eyebrow. "You think?"
"Shut up, asshole, I mean, like, guys in general, I'm open."
Ryan hummed, losing interest in the conversation, and dropped back to sucking small, sore spots under Spencer's navel, where the red edges would peek out from under the waist of his jeans if Ryan could talk him into wearing a t-shirt just a little too small. He took the little curve of Spencer's belly between his teeth and twisted.
"I just--fuck, Ryan
--if we're experimenting, I think I solved for--shit
--o, as in orientation."
Ryan rolled his eyes and sat up. "Congratulations, you're officially bisexual," he said, punctuating it with a fast kiss. "You going to fuck me, or what?"
Ryan’s turned away from his friends writhing on the dance floor, from the slight, dark-haired figure curled close in Spencer’s arms, not thinking not thinking not thinking
, suddenly aware of the grease and sweet onion juice spilling down his wrists. He snatches at a napkin and swipes at his fingers fastidiously. His phone vibrates against his hip, the quicksilver beat that means it’s Keltie’s ringtone. He gives his hands a last quick scrub and fumbles in his pocket for the phone, ducking out of the booth.
They’ll text him when they’re ready to drive home.
"Hey," he half-shouts, heading for the semi-quiet of the exit, stopping to get a green swamp creature stamped on his hand.
Keltie’s laughter rings through the phone, clear as a bell despite the music all around him. Ryan can feel something roiling inside him go still again, and he half-smiles, shy and awkward like he’s nineteen again, looking down at her and feeling small.
"Busy night?" she suggests.
"Something like that," he agrees, going out into the night with a whoosh into the cooler air. "We’re celebrating, Spencer suggested we paint the town red."
"Celebrating?" she sounds puzzled, and he realizes he never texted her. "Did Shane stay up for a whole wave? I thought he was a slower learner than that."
"Shane is totally sticking his tongue out in Vegas’s general direction without knowing why," he says, grinning. "No, I found a house!"
"Really?" she squeals. "Oh my god
, tell me all about it! How could you not call me? I want to hear everything."
He laughs and starts in, the bricks and the iron bars, the woods and the drop into the canyon, the office with its hideyholes and the paneling in the hallways. She asks questions and "oo"s over the birds and is happy for him, interested, pleased, and something tight in his diaphragm eases a little. He asks about her apartment hunt, rehearsals, and Hobo, and lets her chatter wash over him.
"How is everybody?" she demands. "Has Spencer killed Brendon with a vacuum cleaner?"
The tightness jerks upwards abruptly. In his mind’s eye, Spencer leans down to whisper into the dark hollow of an ear. For an instant, he thinks about telling her. He knows his voice won’t give him away.
"They’re okay," he says. "Tell me about Stacy’s new boyfriend."
He’s never told her why he’s in love with her.
The day after the VMAs, still reveling in the success of his concept and their spectacular performance, Ryan burst into their shared hotel room and seized Spencer’s lip between his teeth. Spencer kissed him back for a long minute, then pushed him away. "No, Ryan."
Ryan blinked. "I'm sorry?"
"You have a girlfriend," Spencer said, his voice a little pinched, but steady.
Ryan gave an incredulous little half-laugh. "Yeah, and? I've had girlfriends before. So've you. Since when does anyone else matter when it comes to you and me?"
"This one should
." Spencer took a deep breath and expelled it violently. "I can't let you screw this up, Ryan. I can't be the reason you lose her."
"You've never cared about this before," Ryan said, his impatience starting to bleed through. "What's different this time?"
Spencer looked at him, straight and solemn, until Ryan's annoyance had quieted enough that he was listening. Spencer was good at that, he knew how to get Ryan's attention.
"She makes you happy, Ryan. She makes you glow
. I've never seen this happen for you before, and I am not
going to let you screw it up, okay? You need to let her in, you need to keep her. You have to let her fix you."
fix me," Ryan said, numbly. That was Spencer's job, it had always been Spencer's job.
"It's her turn," Spencer said firmly.
"Right." The room had gone fuzzy, somehow, cold and unreal.
Spencer gave him an awkward smile. "I'm going home tonight, okay? I'll talk to you tomorrow."
With some effort, Ryan untangled his limbs and walked Spencer to the door. He stood there and watched the little car drive away, still not quite able to comprehend what had just happened here.
Spencer had always been Ryan's. What Ryan had never before contemplated was that Spencer might not want Ryan to be his.
Ryan wakes up squinting in the late morning light, vaguely aware that he will soon be old enough not to be able to sleep on air mattresses without serious repercussions. The house is quiet around him, although the coffee is bubbling when he gets downstairs, and the dogs get up and start prancing around his feet. Ryan tries not to kick them and fumbles the pot loose, pouring into the Edgar Allen Poe mug Spencer (of course it was Spencer) left on the counter.
Once he's focusing a little better, he notices the lime green post-it on the coffeemaker. It only takes a few more sips to make Ryan able to read it. "Gone filming," the note says, obscenely cheery in its neon. "I knew you would forget. Remember to let the dogs out and I'll cut you in on the profits when our sex tape goes retail."
No signature, of course. The smiley face gives it all away. Ryan growls to stop himself from flinching and turns to stomp over to the refrigerator and possibly pour all Brendon's Red Bull down the sink.
His foot comes down on something warm and lumpy. There's a yelp, and then a brown and white streak bolts for the stairs. Ryan groans.
"I'm sorry," he calls, chasing Bogart up the stairs. Bogart's still a puppy. He needs to know Ryan didn't mean
to hurt him. It isn't the dog's
fault. Ryan lumbers after him, crouching, ungainly, trying to catch him so he can make friends again.
Bogart bolts for the third door on the left and Ryan follows, bursting in on a low, soft-shaded room. He's been avoiding Shane's room, half-unconsciously, since his first night. Since he found out. Clearly, that was the smart thing to do.
The sheets are tangled, strewn across the wide bed. It's been at least an hour since the others left, and the room still reeks of sex. The blinds are drawn, and it somehow makes it easy to see the hollows in the bed, to imagine Spencer mouthing his way down Brendon's thigh while Shane watches them. Ryan's frozen.
After a couple of minutes, Bogart pokes his nose out from under the bed, where he went to hide, and whimpers inquiringly. Dumb dog. It's like he doesn't even remember that Ryan stepped on him less than ten minutes ago.
Ryan scoops him up, on autopilot, and scritches the top of his head as he goes down the stairs. At half-speed, he settles on the sofa, Bogart squirming around to lick at Ryan's ear, trying to comfort him. Ryan sits and stares at the coffee table for a while. He's pretty sure it doesn't take him more than half an hour to recognize the fact that there's a laptop there. After a few minutes of staring at it, he reaches out and opens it, logging into Shane's guest account and opening up a word doc, staring at the screen. He wants to write about this. He can't write any kind of truth about it.
After a minute, he closes Word and opens a blogbox instead.
He tries to recapture how he felt about all of this before he found out. It was so easy to react to when it was just Brendon and his fucking ridiculous announcement.
"I'm moving to L. A.!" Brendon caroled down the line at him, and Ryan snorted and turned left into a Wendy's parking lot.
"Sure. I'll come visit after I spend time with Sisky in Tibet, okay?"
"No, I'm serious
," Brendon insisted, and there was that rare note of truly rock-solid pouty conviction in his voice that made Ryan pull into a parking place instead of the drive-through lane.
," he repeated dubiously.
"As a heart attack," Brendon said. "Regs finally made up her mind. She wants better work than she's getting here, and our people--" he broke off to laugh a little, because Brendon had never gotten used to having people--"our people say that agent who approached her is legit. So we're headed for the coast. I'm thinking of learning to surf, what do you think? Or boogie board. I kind of like the sound of boogie board."
Ryan was still blinking over the "we" in that statement, but he knew better than to ask any questions about Brendon's attitude towards having Shane as a permanent part of his life.
"Can you do the same kind of fancy stuff with a boogie board?" he asked instead.
"Fancy stuff? Like what?"
"Like...I don't know, Brendon. People do stunts in contests and stuff, right? Hanging ten. You can't tell me you've never wanted to hang ten, can you hang ten on a boogie board?"
"Hmmmmm," Brendon said, considering. "I shall think on this further. And look on Wikipedia."
"You do that," Ryan told him, letting his sense of Brendon-indulgence roll out under his tone and peering over his own shoulder so he could back up. "Look, I gotta go order a Frosty before this asshole in an SUV gets into the drive-through, but I'll call you later?"
"Sure," Brendon said. "Later, dude."
Ryan wound up behind the SUV after all, but it wasn't that big a deal. He leaned back against the headrest and hummed along absently with the song on the radio. He was thinking of Brendon and Shane in L.A., sun and warmth. A place to stay near Pete's and at least a dozen other people, without having to crash on Pete and his new pregnant wife, who Ryan was still uneasy around, unsure of how much of Pete he could claim now. He'd always hated taking up space in Pete's house anyway. But now he could call Pete to go out without fussing about whether he was demanding time Pete would rather spend with someone else.
They could maybe even record out there. Ryan smiled at the thought, at the idea of being surrounded by experts and really quality equipment to pick and choose from. He and Spencer and Jon could get an apartment nearby while they recorded.
He was still smiling when he rolled down the window and leaned toward the black mesh square. "Yeah, hi, can I get a Baconator Triple and a chocolate Frosty?"
When the house is finally his — finally, finally,
every stick of it — Ryan throws a party in the echoing living room and gets people too drunk to go home, taking a certain evil satisfaction in making Shane and Spencer sleep in sleeping bags on the wood floors. He's only sorry Brendon is in Vegas for his nephew's baptism. After weeks in their house, Ryan has decided he's officially
too old to sleep on an air mattress.
And, of course, by the time the hangover is wearing off the next morning, the moving truck is pulling up outside the house, and nobody has any excuse to avoid helping. Sometimes Ryan is an evil genius, bwahaha, etc. He smirks and shoves a box from Ikea at Shane. Spencer frowns at him and then, with a sigh, points toward the first guest bedroom. Shane smiles and goes.
Spencer rolls his eyes at Ryan. "Your plans for world domination are coming along nicely. I am having them put all the movies and shit in the living room for now, okay? We can sort out what goes in the bedroom later."
If it was anybody else, even any other time, Ryan would have made a joke about who
should go in his bedroom, but Spencer and bedrooms still feel like a raw wound, so he just nods. "What can I do?"
"Go make sure the moving men are following my diagrams?" Spencer pleads, eying the stairs wistfully. The moving men banished him from the first floor because he was hovering.
Ryan grins and goes. The rooms downstairs are filled with deep voices, rumbling along the bare hallways, and stacks of boxes, random furniture strewn across the floors. The moving men are huddled around a piece of paper in the family room, pointing to where Spencer wants the love seat and where the TV will go. In the kitchen, Ryan can hear Zack's familiar sharp tones as somebody rips open boxes. Eric's pulling at boxes, trying to find the vacuum cleaner before his furniture comes into the house. Ryan can imagine what it will look like later, see Keltie primping in the mirror they'll hang in the hall and Brendon sprawled in front of the fireplace with a guitar.
It's a good house. It will be a good life.
It's the kind of homecoming he pictured from the day he decided to move.
It was later that evening that the front door slammed. Ryan smiled as Hobo scrambled up from the carpet at his feet, yipping like it was going out of style. He heard Keltie laugh and speak to her, soft and sweet. They came back in together, Hobo in her mommy's arms. It was a good picture, the lamplight warm on her skin, the grin on her face, her hand softly scratching Hobo's ear.
"You look happy," he said, reaching out a hand to her. She smiled and curled up beside him, laying her head on his shoulder.
"Yeah? I have some news."
"Really? Me too."
"Do you want to go first?"
Ryan shook his head. "You go. Anything that's making you smile so wide has to be awesome."
She beamed up at him. "I got the part."
"Of course you did, you're awesome!" He kissed her. "Um, what part?"
She laughed and shoved at his shoulder. "Peep Show
. In Vegas. I'll be here for the whole run, we start rehearsals in March. I'm going to be a pig."
Ryan raised an eyebrow, about to start in on that, when the first part of what she'd said sank in. "You'll be here
"Isn't it amazing?" she asked contentedly. "We'll really be together."
She stilled for a moment, then sat up to look him in the eye properly. "What?"
"That's my news," he admitted. "I'm moving."
"I'm going to L.A."
Her mouth was slightly open. "Seriously?"
"I'm so sorry, I really am--I had no idea that you might be coming here
"Why are you moving
? I saw you this morning, you never said a word."
Ryan sighed. "Shane and Brendon are already out there, and Spencer told me today he's going too. It just makes sense."
Her lips thinned a little, but she nodded. "It's the band."
"Yeah." He reached out tentatively, took her hand. "If Spencer's going, I have
to go, you know? We need to be near each other. And we'd be out there anyway, to record the new album. It just makes sense."
Keltie sighed and laid her head back down on his shoulder. "I get it. It just sucks, you know? The timing and all. I can finally be here, and you're off somewhere else."
Ryan pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "We knew it was gonna be like this. We've talked about it."
"Yeah." She snuggled closer, her voice rough under the bravado. "I know. And I do it to you, too. It's just--"
"I know." He wrapped an arm around her, held her tight against him. "I'm sorry."
He still is sorry. He's worked so hard to be in love with her; he doesn't want her to be sad.
Ryan's contemplating a box of dishes when Brendon gets to the house in a whirl of temper. He's been eating out of takeout containers and off paper towels for the last week and a half, but Spencer is going to kill him if there's nothing to eat off of when he comes to spend time with Keltie. She's coming for Valentine's tomorrow, and staying the weekend, and Spencer's coming to cook on Sunday. Keltie herself won't care — never does, it's one of the reasons Ryan loves her — but Spencer will want — always wants — Ryan to offer Keltie his best. He's sort of dubious about his ability to organize the kitchen in a Spencer-pleasing manner, but perhaps it will be worse for Spencer to have to search for the dishes in the most stupid place ever, Ryan, why would they go there?
than for the dishes to be immediately available, but in a cardboard box. Then again, maybe not.
"Ryan!" Brendon's voice rings out, strident in the quiet of the house.
"In the kitchen!" he shouts back, and sighs as he kneels and tears the tape off the box. Better to be unpacked and disorganized than organized but with bare cupboards.
Brendon's slightly flushed, eyes sparking, but he leans back against the door frame, elaborately casual. "You want to explain something?"
"Hello to you, too," Ryan says crossly. The dishes are taped together. He has no idea why.
"Yeah, hi, is there a reason you told the internet Shane and I had moved to California?"
"You. Blog. My house. My dogs. Apparently it took the fangirls about three point eight seconds to do some basic stalking and put the rest of it together."
Ryan looks up from the contents of the box, startled and half-guilty. "Really?" That's...kind of freaky, actually.
Brendon growls, low in his throat. "Yes, really.
And telling the world that we're sleeping with Spencer was a really nice touch, by the way."
"Oh, you must
be joking," Ryan snaps. "Nobody could possibly guess that was what I meant."
"According to Pete, that is the theory currently held by sixty percent of them. The other forty think he's only sleeping with me.
Dammit, Ryan, you know I hate this stuff getting out."
Ryan bristles, even though he knows he's at fault really. "What, that you find my best friend sexy? That you're practically married to him and Shane? It's really kind of sick you're ashamed of them, you know. I--nobody
decent would treat hi--them like that."
Brendon flinches. "I'm not ashamed of hi--them, I--it's not like that
"Oh, grow up, Brendon. You're not a teenager anymore. They care about you more than anything. You live together. You have sex. What more proof do you need?"
"It's--that's stupid." Brendon's gone white. "It's--we're--it's just sex
"Right." Ryan says, taking vicious satisfaction in the way Brendon's eyes are widening. "Just sex where they take care of you when you're sad, and you spend eighty percent of your time with them, and you're splitting the bills because you live in the same house. Just sex where you've moved
to stay together. Just sex where they choose you over everyone else. Have you even slept with anybody else in the last two months, Brendon? Think about it."
"I--that's not--" Brendon swallows hard.
Ryan laughs, the sound harsh and unhappy. "You haven't, have you?"
Brendon's eyes flash. "That doesn't mean I can't
, it doesn't mean--"
"But you won't," Ryan says, flatly. "You care about him, too, you know. You love him, and he loves you, and you won't--"
He can't talk anymore, because Brendon's mouth is on his.
He shoves him away. "What the fuck
--" but Brendon just comes back at him, crashing to his knees, hands on either side of Ryan's head, holding him in place.
"It's not like that,
" Brendon growls against his mouth, taking it in another punishing kiss. "I can do whatever I want, and so can he. I can do this
. He doesn't care
if I do. It's nothing
Ryan moans against his mouth, blood pressure rising in the face of sharp teeth in his lower lip, a strong, wet tongue forcing its way down his throat. The adrenaline of the argument has him already pumping, ready for action, ready to fight
. He kisses back, fisting his hands in Brendon's shirt, dragging Brendon to his level.
Brendon pulls him closer, too; he bites Ryan's neck and shoves a knee between Ryan's knees, his thigh rough and solid against Ryan's rapidly-hardening cock. Ryan shoves him onto his back, though, hardly caring whether he manages to catch himself, and throws his body on top of Brendon's. He scrapes his teeth along Brendon's neck and rips at his shirt, pulling the snaps loose with a sound like thick ice cracking underfoot. He bites at Brendon's chest, his nipples and ribs, and stops beneath his navel to take a bit of skin between his teeth and twist. Brendon cries out, and Ryan feels a cruel triumph in the sound, in knowing that Brendon is at his mercy, that he's leaving marks and evidence that Brendon's strayed, that Brendon's not healed
any more than Ryan ever has been.
He yanks at Brendon's fly, snarling when opening it doesn't get him any new skin. Brendon writhes and kicks, helping Ryan get his clothes down to his knees. It's an arousing sight, red marks on white flesh on green fabric on black tile, but Ryan doesn't groan and duck to take Brendon's cock in his mouth until he spots a hickey three days old just under Brendon's rib. He knows the other mouth that Brendon has had here; it's almost as though he can taste it on the skin.
It takes a few seconds to remember this, the shape of a dick between his lips; another few to adjust for Brendon, who is shaped differently from the only man Ryan has ever done this for. He still remembers how to suck, though, the pressure and rhythm coming back as easy as pedaling a bike; still remembers where to run his tongue to make Brendon (Spencer) squirm with trying not to hump up into his mouth, with trying not to come. Brendon isn't as good at being polite, but that's okay. Ryan can take it. Ryan is up to anything
Brendon wants to throw at him.
Ryan makes merciless use of the little bundle of nerves below the head, of the long fingers he has rubbing up behind Brendon's balls. It hasn't been nearly enough when Brendon's cock starts to spurt inside his mouth: he jerks back and spits on the floor as Brendon's come sprays through the air. It isn't enough, he hasn't taken enough, and he shoves his own pants open and down, yanks at his dick until it, too, is spilling thick and white over Brendon's chest and thighs.
For a moment, they're both still; frozen in the bitter smell, staring at the sticky evidence. Their eyes meet for a brief moment, and then Brendon scrambles to his feet.
"So, yeah," Brendon says, half-hysterical. "I'm just gonna--go."
He snatches the roll of paper towels off the counter on his way out the door.
Ryan sits back on his heels and tries not to have a heart attack.
END PART ONE Part Two: Shane