It's my first actual Panic story, one that I deliberately planned. So huge thanks go to crowgirl13 who gave me ideas and was awesome in her reassurances, and ephemera_pop who cleaned up my words.
Panic at the Disco gen
Spencer’s house isn’t Ryan’s home – however fucked up things get at times, he has his own home – but he does have a place there. He keeps spare clothes in Spencer’s room, and he knows there’ll always be a spot for him at the dinner table, or curled up in Spencer’s bed.
It’s just how it is.
Carefully drying a tumbler, Ryan places it in the cupboard and then reaches for the next, his fingertips resting against slippery glass.
“Go on, I’ll finish this.”
Water splashes as Spencer’s mom takes her hands out of the sud-filled sink, her fingers covered in bubbles, glistening as she takes the cloth from Ryan. She’s smiling, and he’s glad he offered to help. It’s the right thing to do, even if she does say he doesn’t have to every time.
“You go and have fun.”
She pats Ryan on the shoulder, leaving a damp patch that soaks through his t-shirt, the warm water rapidly cooling against his skin.
“Yeah, come on already,” Spencer says, appearing at the open kitchen door. He’s changed into ratty pyjama pants and a faded Backstreet t-shirt, and despite his impatient tone, Ryan easily sees the curve of Spencer’s not-smile, the way his expression softens as his mom shakes her head in mock disapproval.
“Ryan’s got manners, unlike some people I could name.” She smiles at Spencer, then Ryan, as always making sure he feels included, then gently pushes him toward the door. “Go on. Claim your space before the others get here.”
It’s good advice. Ryan may be small, but Brendon can fill a room with the force of his personality alone, never mind his flailing arms and kicking legs. Not that Ryan minds, he’d just rather claim the outside of a bed. It’s easier to escape that way.
Spencer’s room is never big enough for what they need it to be, but somehow they always fit. Even if that means a pull out mattress on the floor and people curled together. Ryan always sleeps with Spencer, and he kicks off his shoes and bounces down onto the bed, sprawling out as Spencer pushes bags of chips toward the wall and checks the DVDs.
They always have a list of movies they’re going to watch, and they do get switched on. It’s just, mostly they’re nothing but background noise, meaningful words ignored for the sharing of hopes and dreams.
It’s what Ryan loves best. Light flickering in the darkness, a body pressed at his side, at his feet, the taste of sugar in his mouth and the comforting repetition that they will get away. That one day they’ll find the fame for which Ryan strives.
“Soda,” Spencer says suddenly, frowning as he makes for the door. Ryan settles back against the pillows and watches him go. Spencer has his own system for these nights, needing everything to be right, even if that just means providing snacks, drinks, and clean sheets for the mattress on the floor.
When Spencer comes back he’s followed by Brendon and Brent. They’re both carrying bags which they let drop to the floor, and Ryan braces himself when Brendon smiles, wide and happy, like seeing Ryan has made his day. Ryan smiles back, it’s impossible not to, and he awkwardly holds on when he finds himself with an armful of Brendon.
“Hi,” Brendon says, and his nose is pressed against Ryan’s neck, so close that Ryan can feel his grin. “I’ve been reading your new song.”
Brendon lets go, and Ryan shifts, pulls up his legs and clasps his hands around his bent knees. Putting his songs out there is easy, in the way it isn’t at all, and he waits as Brendon rummages in his bag, finally straightening when he finds his sleep clothes, looks up with another smile and says, “It was good.”
It’s not a surprise. Brendon tends toward liking everything, and if he doesn’t, his dislike is always careful. It’s why Ryan studies him, looking past the smile and positive words.
“Thanks,” he says, reassured that Brendon’s smile isn’t hiding a lie. Then exchanges a fond look with Spencer when Brendon just beams before clambering off the bed so he can wiggle out of his jeans and peeling off his t-shirt until he’s standing in just his heart-covered boxers.
“Classy,” Brent remarks, and immediately Brendon wiggles his ass, twirling once and extending the move into an inelegant hop as he pulls on his pyjama pants. They immediately droop forward, seemingly kept up by magic alone, but Brendon doesn’t care, just pulls on a crumpled t-shirt and then drops to the floor. He crosses his legs, leans against the bed and tips back his head so he can rub his forehead against Ryan’s knee.
Ryan rolls his eyes, because Brendon is like some giant puppy, desperate for love and approval. Still, Ryan can’t help tangling his fingers in Brendon’s hair, finger combing the strands as Brent changes in the bathroom and Spencer puts on the first DVD.
Not that Ryan’s watching. He’s too busy poking his toes against Brendon’s side. Then later, when it’s dark outside and the house is hushed like this room is an oasis in the night, he has to steal toffee coated popcorn from the bag Spencer has balanced on his lap, which inevitably ends up in a popcorn throwing contest that ends with kernels in the bed and on the floor and firmly stuck in Spencer’s hair. Something that isn’t Ryan’s fault at all, however often Spencer scowls and threatens through eyebrow intimidation alone.
“Hold still,” Brent says. He’s kneeling next to Spencer, carefully pulling at the sticky popcorn, and while he isn’t laughing out loud, Ryan can see it in the way he holds his body, his eyes alight as he tugs and untangles. Ryan looks at him over Spencer’s head, watches as Brent’s mouth twitches and Spencer’s eyebrow climbs even higher and Brendon lies back on the mattress, arms spread and humming something that sounds suspiciously like the theme tune to Beauty and the Beast.
Ryan hugs his knees harder then, struck with a feeling of belonging, that his place is right here. Because he’s going to make it. All four of them are.
Ryan never lets things sweep him away. He’s too careful for that.
Practice allows him to keep his cool as things spin out of control. It’s why he can carefully apply make-up now, slowly painting around his eye as Brendon paces the room and Spencer twirls his drumsticks in his hands and Jon chats to someone on his cell.
Jon seems relaxed, like he doesn’t feel that the atmosphere is strained, and Ryan can see that if he hides behind controlled words and actions, Jon does the same with his smile. It makes Ryan sad, sadder, because things have been off for a long time now. He misses Brent, the Brent from before, not the one who messed them around and finally left in a hail of hurtful words.
He knows Brendon and Spencer miss him too, not that they ever say. The times when they’d spend hours discussing hopes and dreams are long gone now. They’re living those hopes, are achieving those dreams, but somehow it doesn’t feel as good as Ryan expected.
It’s good, sure, but not as good, because there’s something missing. They’re fragmented just now. Three corners and Jon - who plays his sets and says his words and pretends that everything is fine.
It’s not, and Ryan paints his face, gets ready to pull on the outlandish costume that screams ‘look at me’, while helping conceal everything that’s true.
“It’s going to be a great show,” Brendon says, still pacing. He’s surrounded by nervous energy and it flickers against Ryan’s skin making him itch, and he wants to grab Brendon and just say, stop.
“Brendon.” Jon has shoved his cell back in his bag, and is patting the space next to him on the ratty sofa. “Come here.”
A brief hesitation, and then Brendon goes, folding down into the space and when Jon curls his arm around Brendon’s shoulder and then tugs, Brendon settles easily against Jon’s side.
Ryan carefully outlines his other eye, and his hand never wavers at all, even with the bitterness that coats his tongue.
Spencer stands, his drumsticks held in one hand, and he moves so he’s behind Ryan, looks at him in the mirror and says, soft. “He’s allowed.”
“I know,” Ryan says, and he elongates the line under his eye, swoops it up in a flamboyant swirl. “I know.” And he does. He knows that Brendon curling into Jon was as inevitable as a flower facing the sun. He knows that things will get better and they’ll become four not three. He knows that Brent leaving was everything about the situation and nothing to do with leaving Ryan behind.
Ryan knows that. He knows.
He clenches his hand, yelps and curses when the pencil slips and jabs into the corner of his eye.
Ryan squints and turns to glare at Jon who seems amused with the whole situation, as if Ryan poking out an eye is worthy of a smile.
Except Ryan’s an expert at talking without words, and maybe he’s starting to listen without them too. He blinks again, leans so he can bump Spencer with his hip, looks at the way Jon has his hand resting casually against Brendon’s back, an earth for his excessive energy.
Slightly, delicately, something shifts.
Ryan holds up his eyeliner and points it at Jon. “If you want I could do your eyes. They’d look good.”
For a moment Jon’s smile falters, breaks down as he looks at Ryan, as if searching for the intent hidden in his words. Then he smiles again. Something new, and Ryan knows he’ll never be fooled by Jon’s smiles again. Because this, this is nothing like those before.
“I don’t know,” Jon says, seriously. “You don’t look very steady with that thing.”
“Spencer knocked my arm,” Ryan says, lying easily. He ignores Spencer’s snort and Brendon’s all too obvious relief and just kneels next to Jon and says, “Look up.”
Sometimes Ryan misses the embellishments, the make-up and the clothes and the dancers that surrounded them on stage. They were a distraction, and now it’s just them, just Ryan, and at times it feels like he’s laying out everything for people to see.
Except, only a few people really see Ryan, and none of them are fans.
Quickly looking through his bag, he pulls out a t-shirt and pulls it on. It’s a travel day and that means comfort, at least comfort with a Ryan twist. Soft pants and a fitted t-shirt, a string of beads around his wrist, maybe a scarf if he needs that extra layer before going outside.
It takes moments to fully dress, minutes more to finger brush his hair and wash his face, scrub at his teeth and spit toothpaste into the sink. Then he’s zipping shut his bag and slipping his feet into flip flops, his bag on his back as he makes his way outside.
There’s no one waiting in the corridor and Ryan looks at his watch. He’d been told they were leaving at seven sharp, and he’s about to go banging on doors, because seriously, if he has to get up the others should too, when Zack appears from out of the next room. He’s followed by Brendon who looks like death warmed over, and that’s if Ryan’s being kind.
Pallid skin, stubble and blood-shot eyes isn’t a good look for Brendon at all, and there’s not a hint of a smile as he slumps against the wall, his eyes closed and lashes dark against his pale skin.
Ryan would be sympathetic, except Brendon made his choices, and that means dealing with the consequences too. It’s why Ryan has no guilt when he takes a spot against the opposite wall and says, “I think I’ll have sausage for breakfast, sausage and fried egg with a runny yolk. With ketchup on top.”
It’s impressive how fast Brendon goes green before bolting back into his room. Zack waits a moment, long enough to give Ryan a combination reproachful/amused look before following Brendon inside. Ryan would go too, but really, how many people need to watch someone puke up a lung?
Briefly he thinks about finding Spencer or Jon, but instead he makes for the sofa that’s arranged at the end of the corridor. It’s one obviously made for display not comfort, and Ryan feels like he’s all legs when he sits down, his knees almost to his chest. It’s not a comfortable seat at all, but Ryan’s had worse and he settles himself the best he can, digging his Sidekick out of his bag.
He’s texting Spencer when the elevator pings. Immediately Ryan’s on guard, because even if it is horrifically early, fans are wily things. One hand on his bag, Ryan watches as the doors open and then relaxes when Jon steps into view. He’s carrying two cups of coffee and has his hoodie pulled low over his face, like that would be any disguise at all. Still, it doesn’t look like he’s missing any body parts and there’s no suspicious rips in his clothes so Ryan lets it go with a stern raised eyebrows look he learned from Spencer years before.
A look that Jon easily brushes off as he sits next to Ryan, stretching out his legs so they can touch bare toes.
”I brought you coffee,” Jon says, and waves the cup under Ryan’s nose.
“Thank you,” Ryan says, because he’s always polite to those he cares about, even if they’re morons who think they’re going incognito in a lilac hoodie and flip flops that show off their beautifully manicured toes.
Jon hands over the cup, and takes a drink from his own, his eyes closing as he swallows with a satisfied sigh.
“That’s obscene,” Ryan says, and bites back his laughter when Jon does it again, unashamedly milking the moment as he draws out his sigh of pleasure.
“If it’s that good I want a drink.”
Ryan looks up and sees that somehow in the last few minutes Spencer has managed to leave his room, collect Brendon and get to the couch without being seen at all. He’s carrying his bag and has tight hold of Brendon’s arm. Ryan holds out his cup without a word.
“Thanks,” Spencer says, but waits until Brendon is settled between Ryan and Jon before taking the cup and swallowing a couple of gulps before passing the cup on to Brendon. Brendon takes a long drink and then lets his head drop back so he can thank Spencer with a smile.
“It was my coffee,” Ryan points out.
“I bought it,” Jon immediately says.
“In that case, I love you all.” Brendon presses a clumsy kiss to Ryan’s neck, against Jon’s chest and blows a kiss toward Spencer, and it’s all so ridiculous that Ryan doesn’t even ask if Brendon’s brushed his teeth.
In fact, he’s feeling all kinds of content as he tries to prise his coffee out of Brendon’s hand. Content and happy.
So when Brendon curls against his side, and Jon shares the last of his coffee and Spencer rolls his eyes in combination with a blinding smile. Well, it’s then Ryan knows he’s made it, just in a different way than he expected those few years before.
Tags: my stories