Summary: In the end, it's all about Ryan.
Notes: Huge thanks go to sperrywink, nopseud and themoononastick for beta reading. You ladies are awesome.
For lazydwarf Happy Birthday ♥
Ryan became Spencer’s best friend in a matter of weeks. Skinny tiny Ryan with the careful smile and Spencer willingly gave him everything, time and attention and a listening ear. In return he got that back and more.
It wasn’t always easy to being Ryan’s friend. He was stand offish at times, lost in his own head and Spencer was used to assessing and translating and coaxing with words and a smile. The fact remained, Ryan was worth it. For every night Spencer sat at his kitchen table, dunking cookies into milk as he tried to solve problems that weren’t even his own, there were multiple good times.
Days spent constructing elaborate blanket forts. Supplies taken from the linen closet; kitten covered pink blankets pegged to blue checked and faded Care Bear sheets. Make-shift walls to conceal comics and toys and snacks provided by Spencer’s mom, piles of pillows and multiple bad jokes, each one funnier than the one before. Linking their little fingers together and vowing not to tell when something broke.
Hours spent watching Ryan cam whore, the music turned up loud as Spencer cat-called and encouraged and then sat crammed on Ryan’s bed, watching for comments, quietly accepting Ryan’s need for validation online.
Or times when they hit the mall, Ryan rolling his eyes, his smile hidden behind a giant cup of soda, his lips pursed around a pink straw as Spencer exclaimed over each new find.
Those times are constant, unremarkable when taken as one, but together they form something special, a solid friendship. Which is the problem; because Spencer has started to want more.
It’s nothing huge; more an unsettling feeling that something is shifting, speeding up until it’s a half beat ahead of the norm.
Spencer doesn’t like it.
They’re curled on Spencer’s bed, half way through an epic Lord of the Rings marathon. At least, that was the plan, in reality Ryan’s lying on his back, his knees bent and pyjama pants riding low. He’s got his hands behind his head, his hair falling into his eyes and his toes curled into the covers as he says, “Zombies, they have impact.”
“Overdone,” Spencer says simply, and keeps his gaze fixed on the screen, because if he’s watching Frodo climb a mountain he doesn’t have to notice the shadowed lines of Ryan’s hips, or the slight movement of Ryan’s stomach as he breathes. Which is good; because lately those kinds of observations have led to time jerking off in the shower, trying to imagine Angelina Jolie or the girl with the lip-ring who works at the local Starbucks, but always his thoughts slip until he’s thinking about kissing Ryan, leaving him feeling confused and embarrassed and each time, unable to stop. Frodo falls, again, Spencer says, “If we have to have a concept it should be something fresh.”
“What, like pink sparkles and sequins?” Ryan rolls onto his side, bony elbow jabbing into Spence’s thigh. “We’re not Nsync.”
“Thank god.” Spencer shifts, pulling back his hand so it’s not pressed against Ryan’s back.
“Oh, don’t even,” Ryan says, and he’s moving like always, sharp uncoordinated limbs, skin stretched tight, his mouth curled into a hint of a smile as he settles against Spencer’s leg. “You were born to sing in a boyband, you’ve the wardrobe and everything.”
“Except I don’t sing,” Spencer points out. He concentrates on the TV – Frodo standing over the pit now – and not how warm Ryan feels or how he’s frowning slightly, as if seriously considering the ridiculous notion of Spencer singing in a boyband. He probably is. Ryan tends to over think things at times.
“You could do a Kevin and stand at the back and sing a line or two.”
“So, zombies,” Spencer says, distracting before Ryan’s thoughts turn to Spencer being hauled from behind the drums.
“Are overdone.” Ryan says immediately. He puts his thumb to his mouth, worrying at the corner of the nail and it’s all Spencer can do not to jump off the bed. Because this is Ryan. Ryan who’ll put fragments of nail on Spencer’s bedside table and forget to pick them up. Ryan who’s wearing baggy plaid pyjama pants and a stretched out t-shirt. Ryan who’s been Spencer’s friend forever and isn’t hot at all.
Except Spencer’s heart is thumping and he’s all too aware of every point where Ryan is pressed against his leg. Desperate, Spencer grasps for distractions. “You could try make-up, fuck with androgyny.”
“Maybe,” Ryan says. But Spencer is an expert on Ryan Ross and can easily hear the prickle of interest as Ryan rolls up and reaches for his laptop, resting it on Spencer’s lap.
Feeling uncomfortable, which sucks because he’s never uncomfortable with Ryan, Spencer holds the laptop still as Ryan types and scrolls, his face cast in harsh light, shadows darkening the side of his nose, the socket of his eye. Hard lines and long floppy hair, a face that Spencer knows as well as his own -- like he knows everything about Ryan.
Like the fact Ryan’s girlfriends are constant and changing and always up for having fun, and that Ryan’s never mentioned liking another guy in a sexual way. It’s why Spencer’s hiding these new feelings, doing his best to push them away. Because the fact is, he’ll never get what he wants, so there’s no point in trying, especially when it could change their friendship. Something that’s far too precious to risk.
Spencer drums out a beat, hands clenched around his sticks. He sinks into the sound, rhythm drowning out the jealousy that fizzles beneath his skin. It’s an unwarranted jealousy; Spencer’s self-aware enough to know that. It’s not Brendon’s fault that he can touch Ryan like always, the casual intimacy that exists between them all. Except for Spencer there’s nothing casual in touching Ryan. He catalogues each brush of hands and schools himself not to react when Ryan shares space. Which he does often, it’s just what they do.
Except he doesn’t know how much Spencer wants – wants Ryan -- and it’s confusing, because it’s nothing Spencer’s wanted before. It would have been simpler if Spencer had lost his heart to some girl, but no, it’s Ryan and all the complications that entails. The jealousy when he watches as Ryan changes outfits before heading out on his latest date. Or how irritated he’d felt while walking to rehearsal today, Ryan two steps behind as he talked to Emma on his phone. And now, feeling resentful as he watches Brendon, laughing as he slings his arm around Ryan’s shoulders.
It’s a feeling he hates and Spencer’s annoyed with himself that he’s reacting this way, but he can’t seem to stop. He brings down his sticks, snaps over the sudden thudding sound. “If you’d concentrate we could get this finished sometime tonight.”
Fingers tight, he watches as they all look at him, Brendon and Brent surprised, Ryan just staring until he inclines his chin slightly and says, quietly. “I think it’s time for a break. Get me a mango smoothie and something decaffeinated for Spencer.”
It’s not the most subtle way to ask Brendon and Brent to go, but Ryan’s only subtle about the things he wants to be, and he carefully places his guitar against the wall before sinking down onto the sofa. It’s an old one that’s probably been in this room since the beginning of time. The springs poke through the dirty fabric and one of the arms is loose. It’s also one of the most comfortable places you could ever sit, and Spencer uncurls his hands and slowly makes his way over as Ryan fusses with his hair.
Spencer sits, hip pushed against the sofa arm, his hands clasped on his lap, as far away from Ryan as he can get. All Ryan does is come to him, giving Spencer a look as he slumps to the side, his head pillowed against Spencer’s shoulder. Ryan closes his eyes, lashes almost hidden against the dark shadows. It’s been a rough few weeks and isn’t getting better.
“We’re sounding better,” Ryan says. He doesn’t ask what’s wrong or ask anything at all. He never does. Because words are something Ryan uses. He sharpens them, weaves them into biting songs or careful sentences and their friendship is beyond that. It’s made for easy moments as Ryan pushes in close, draping himself over Spencer, showing that he cares with actions and not words.
“We are,” Spencer agrees, and it’s true. They’re sounding better all the time, and he knows they’re going somewhere. How can they not when they have Brendon and Ryan, both of whom breathe music as well as air.
“Is Rebecca picking you up?” Ryan asks, slow and sleepy. Spencer looks at him, waiting for more, because Ryan’s made no effort to hide his dislike.
“She is, but she said she’s staying in the car, something about keeping away from my bitchy best friend.”
“Ryan shrugs, unconcerned. “Tell her if she dressed properly I wouldn’t have to point out she looks like a bag lady.” He yawns. “Wake me up when they get back.”
Ryan’s voice is low, fading as he slips into sleep. Spencer nods and tries to relax, thinks, it’s Ryan, only Ryan. Which of course is the problem, because there’s never been an only in terms of Ryan, and that’s even more true now.
Spencer lets his head thump back against the back of the sofa. He looks up at the ceiling – at the cobwebs in the corner and the mysterious splattered brown stain --listens to the faint sound of traffic and Ryan’s soft snores. Eventually, when his fingers ache from being laced together, he turns his head, cheek against the fabric as he looks at Ryan. He sees things he’s seen a thousand times before, but they’re different now, as if this new want has added a layer Spencer’s never noticed before. It adds to the unsettlement as he imagines touching Ryan’s bottom lip, running his finger against the drool that’s gathered at the corner of his mouth. Which is all kinds of gross, but Spencer’s cheeks are flushed with heat as he drops his gaze. Over the lines of Ryan’s jaw and neck, over his chest, stopping when he sees that Ryan’s t-shirt has rucked up, exposing a slice of his hip and belly.
It shouldn’t make Spencer’s heart race, because he’s seen this too. Ryan dressed in ridiculous baggy floral shorts and nothing else. Ryan in a towel, he’s even seen him naked before. But not like this. Not when that expanse of skin is the most appealing thing ever and Spencer’s swallowing hard – want need want – he looks back at Ryan’s face. Listens for long minutes. Then reaches out a hand.
He rests the tips of his fingers on Ryan’s hip. Flattens his hand so his palm is resting against smooth skin.
Spencer bites at his lip and feels like the biggest pervert alive, especially when he can’t seem to take his hand away. He’s still – so very still – feeling the warmth of Ryan’s body and always watching, listening, for the first signs that Ryan’s about to wake. He doesn’t, his breathing remains even and for Spencer everything narrows down to Ryan alone.
He sees how Ryan’s hair is tangled, evidence of hours of practice and frustration. How Ryan’s fingers twitch, as if even in sleep he’s playing his songs. How Ryan smells of sweat, his t-shirt damp against Spencer’s arm.
That tight focus is shattered when Brendon and Brent come crashing back into the room, expanding the universe in a sudden avalanche of sound and motion. Spencer starts upright, his heart pounding as he snatches back his hand. Oblivious to Spencer’s scowl, Brendon drops onto the couch too, wiggling until he has room.
“Here,” Brendon says, his smile wide as he hands Spencer a domed cup. “I figured you’d want something cold. It’s blended coffee, uncaffinated, but I got you extra squirty cream.”
Spencer leans across Ryan and takes the cup, unable to resist smiling in return. He takes a sip, enjoying the hit of iced coffee and cream, a distraction against the feel of Ryan sitting so close. How he’s yawning and scrubbing at his eyes before he stretches and shifts, taking his smoothie. He tucks up his legs so Brent can sit on the floor, his back against the couch. The silence returning as they all drink.
Ryan never asks, but Spencer’s learned to see what he needs.
It’s why he’s driving back to his own house instead of Ryan’s, the windows down, letting in the cool night air. The radio is on low because Ryan isn’t talking, he’s huddled into himself like one wrong touch will break him apart.
Spencer parks in the drive, and Ryan remains still, knees drawn up and shoulders hunched, lost in a world of antiseptic and bitter yelled words. Layers of emotional bruising building from the inside out and Spencer is gentle as he opens the door and says, “Come on.”
Slowly, as if mind and body are separated by miles, Ryan steps out of the car. He shivers and sways on his feet. Immediately Spencer reaches out and takes his hand, lacing their fingers tight. He holds on, steering as they walk inside, up the stairs and into his room, his fingers aching with the intensity of Ryan’s grip as he pulls back the blankets of the bed.
He keeps holding on as urges Ryan to sit, crouching awkwardly so he can pull off Ryan’s shoes, then pushes him back onto the bed. Ryan goes, arm outstretched, Spencer his anchor to the now. He curls up and Spencer kicks of his own sneakers and then folds himself around Ryan’s body, blanketing him as he pulls up the comforter until they’re both covered, hidden from the world. He presses his mouth against Ryan’s neck and says, “Go to sleep, I’ve got you.”
Ryan shudders, his shoulders tensing, and Spencer doesn’t mention the hitches of breathe, just strokes his thumb over Ryan’s hand, prepared to watch him for as long as it takes. It takes over an hour, and Spencer’s back is in agony, twisted into an unnatural shape when he finally hears Ryan settle, the tension easing from his body.
Even then Spencer doesn’t sleep. He lies in his too small bed, wrapped around his best friend, and while the want is still there, is as strong as ever, he knows it’s fuelled by something much stronger. A love that isn’t the all accompanying romantic soul-mate kind, but he suspects it could grow into that. Which scares him, because it’s something that will never happen, he’s already resigned himself to that.
Getting signed is a whirlwind of hope, expectations and then wild celebrations. Sometimes Spencer can’t believe it really happened. People just don’t get signed because of Live Journal, especially by Pete Wentz, but they did, they have. The evidence is there in front of him in a copy of the contract they’d signed days before.
Now there’s talk of a tour and recording and Spencer’s life is changing in front of his eyes.
“I’d ask for Skittles with all the green ones taken out.” Brent reaches out his arm and grabs a handful of popcorn from the bowl balanced on Ryan’s lap.
Brendon slouches down even further on the roll out bed, sprawled out and taking almost all the space. “The green ones are nasty.”
“You’re nasty,” Ryan says immediately.
“Not as nasty as these.” Brendon snaps his teeth at Ryan’s toes, getting perilously close. Which is brave of him because Ryan’s toes are nasty, all long and thin and bendy like some kind of monkey feet. Spencer looks away before he can start thinking about sucking them, because seriously. Nasty.
“That’s lame anyway,” Ryan says. “Riders are for outrageous things.”
Brent takes another handful of popcorn and flicks one of the kernels toward Ryan’s head. “So what would you ask for?”
Pulling the kernal free from his hair, Ryan pops it into his mouth, swallowing before he says, “I’d push for stuff. Like a rack of clothes, but ridiculous ones. See how far I could go before they said no.”
“I wonder if they’d do shoes?” Spencer wonders, and laughs when he’s suddenly under popcorn attack from all sides. He holds up his hands against the bombardment. “Okay, fine. I’d ask for room temperature grape juice and drum sticks made of purple wood. And say they’d have to be purple otherwise my playing would suck.”
“Ah, that explains it,” Ryan says, voice deadpan. “If we paint your sticks will you keep in time?”
Spencer stares, because really, coming from someone who still forgets his notes when he sings, well Ryan has no room to talk. Deciding action needs to be taken, he dives to the side, grabbing Ryan and knocking him down onto the bed. Taking advantage of years of knowledge, he uses his fingers against every tickle spot on Ryan’s body, ruthlessly attacking the backs of his knees and his sides and that weird spot on his ankle while Ryan laughs and kicks and tries to get free. Spencer doesn’t let him, just keeps tickling until Ryan’s red-faced and wheezing.
“I give. You’re the best drummer ever!”
“You know it.” Giving a satisfied nod, Spencer tucks himself between Ryan and the wall. His toes are sticking into Ryan’s side, but Ryan doesn’t move, just lies still as his breathing calms and his colour returns to normal.
“We’re signed,” Brendon says suddenly, softly.
It’s something they’ve all said and heard multiple times now, but it never ceases to give Spencer a thrill. Because signed. To an actual label. It means their band is going places -- big places maybe -- which is thrilling and scary and also reassures Spencer that he made the right decision about saying nothing to Ryan. Because no matter how he feels, they’re professionals now, and that means no rocking the band with something he couldn’t have anyway.
“You okay?” Ryan asks, turning to look at Spencer.
Spencer pokes his toes harder into Ryan’s side. “Just thinking.”
“I wondered what that burning smell was.” Still sprawled out, his feet resting in Brent’s lap, Brendon waves his hand in the air as if wafting away smoke.
“At least he’s got one. Unlike some people I know.” Ryan twists around so he can look at Brendon over the side of the bed. “That’s what we’ll put on the rider. A brain for Brendon.”
“And a heart for Ryan.”
“And a womb for Spencer.”
Ryan laughs as Spencer dives over him, heading for Brent. As he grabs him, tackling him to the floor, Spencer can’t help smiling. He fucking loves his band.
Spencer loves being on the road, being able to play in new cities and hang out with the other bands, sitting on stage and beaming when day by day the crowd slowly begin to sing back their words. But he also misses his family and friends and the comforts of home. The thing with Ryan is a constant too, a low background ache. He distracts himself with practice and talking to the other bands, standing backstage and watching them perform. Discusses drumming techniques and goes on casual dates with one of the merchandise girls, creating a cover while having fun. All the time reminding himself that he’s done the right thing.
Which is easy to do when Panic are gaining new fans every show, and Ryan starts dating one of the guitar techs so Spencer gets used to seeing them pressed against the side of one of the buses, Ryan’s hands in her hair as they kiss.
“Spencer, come get coffee with me.”
Brendon’s bundled up in a red jacket and scarf, a black knit hat pulled low and despite seeing only his eyes, Spencer knows he’s smiling. He’s also practically bouncing in place and aiding his caffeine addiction is probably a mistake, but Spencer’s cold himself, and a hot chocolate with added cream and marshmallows is just what he needs.
Grabbing his own coat, hat and scarf – because Spencer thinks the desert has made his blood thin, or New York is just fucking cold – he follows Brendon outside. Immediately his nose freezes and he shoves his hands deep in his pockets as they hurry along the street, their breath puffs of white air.
“Can you believe we’re shooting a video soon?” Brendon says, and he spins as he walks, arms outstretched like some kind of princess dancing along the sidewalk. Spencer just grins back, because while he’s not dancing, he’s excited too. A video is awesome; something permanent that’ll last forever. He imagines his mom watching him on TV, his old classmates, everyone seeing that their band’s the real thing.
It’s what they’ve all dreamed of, and it’s started to come true.
“You’re going to look great,” Spencer says, imagining Brendon dressed in top hat and tails, his face made up as he commands the church.
“It’s going to be awesome.” Brendon spins again, almost hitting a businessman in the face with his trailing hand. Laughing, Spencer grabs the back of his coat, apologising as he pulls Brendon into Starbucks. “You’re a liability, Urie. I should cut off your coffee.”
“No!” Eyes wide, Brendon peels off his scarf and pulls of his hat. His hair sticks up in wild clumps, and Spencer smoothes it down as they get into line. “If I don’t get coffee my blood will freeze. I’ll be a Brenicle, and you’ll have to prop me on the stage and let Ryan sing.”
“That’s if he can get his tongue out of tech girl’s throat,” Spencer says without thinking, and feels his cheeks heat as he looks up at the menu, as if he’s never ordered from the chain multiple times before.
Brendon levels a look at Spencer, then says, “They are kinda disgusting, but a snowball should break up their kissfest.”
Spencer reads through the holiday flavours and tries not to imagine how guitar tech girl would look with snow in her hair, or how Ryan would jump if he took a snowball to his back. Because Ryan’s Spencer’s best friend, and with that label comes loyalty. Still, Ryan does need to cool off, so maybe a compromise is in order. Spencer steps forward, so he’s pressed against Brendon’s back. He leans in, says, “Little snowballs, and nothing to the face.”
“You got it,” Brendon says, grinning hard as he reaches the front of the line. “A venti caramel macchiato with an extra vanilla shot and a venti hot chocolate with extra cream and marshmallows, please.” He looks back at Spencer. “That’s what you wanted, right?”
“That’s fine,” Spencer says, and follows Brendon to the pick up counter once they’ve paid.
It’s snowing lightly when they leave the shop, something that’s still a novelty to them both. Spencer stands, drink warm in his hands and watches as Brendon tips back his head and opens his mouth so he can catch snowflakes on his tongue. He takes no notice of the people who stream around him, and Spencer takes a sip of his hot chocolate, licking at the cream and marshmallows.
The hit is immediate, sugar and heat, and they walk slowly back to the venue, wet slush under their feet and snowflakes drifting through the crisp air. Spencer feels happy, eager for the show, and he’s willing to forget about snow attacks when Brendon pushes him toward the side of the street, where snow is banked against the wall.
“Snowballs, remember.” He drains his drink and throws the cup in the trash, then bends, scooping a handful of snow. Quickly, Spencer does the same, his fingers freezing as he forms a ball. Together they sneak toward the corner and look around. Where Ryan is still next to the bus, his hand pushed under the downy coat of the tech.
“You ready?” Brendon asks, his eyes shining as he holds up his own snowball. “On three. One. Two…”
Spencer runs, charging around the corner, his arm pulled back. “Hey, Ross, get a room already!” He throws and the snowball hits Ryan’s side, snow exploding outwards, the effect doubled when Brendon throws too.
Pulling back his hand, Ryan steps away from the girl and Spencer can tell he’s torn between being amused and annoyed. Amusement wins, and Spencer’s running again, Ryan bending then following, snowballs held in both hands.
The Summer Tour is a huge deal, their first headliner and the first without Brent. Ryan starts to sweep colour under his eyes, gloss across his lips. Not always, but enough that Spencer’s breath catches when he sees. It’s also another reminder of change, how Ryan is taller now, more confident in some ways as he continues to steer their band. It’s also a way to hide, and Spencer watches Ryan practice, poring over web sites and glossy magazines, building up his mask layer by layer.
Spencer never says anything. How can he when he’s hiding too?
“We’ll look united,” Ryan says. He’s sitting on the grass, his legs folded, the contents of his make-up box – Spencer’s old lunch box -- spread out in a fan at his side. He picks up a pencil of black liner, holding it between his fingers as he looks for the unwary.
Like Jon, who’s lying on his back, hand shading his eyes as he looks up at the cloudless sky. He’s smiling slightly, seemingly content with the world, and Spencer’s glad, because replacing Brent hasn’t been easy. Not when Jon arrived to a fractured band and a section of fans who were intent on booing his name.
Jon’s not a replacement for Brent, he can’t be, but he’s made his own place in the band, and more importantly, he’s a friend.
“Jon, I need you,” Ryan says, brandishing his pencil.
Jon pushes himself up and onto his knees, then crawls forward, all slinky solid grace. He sits so he’s opposite Ryan, their bare toes touching. “Just keep it subtle.”
Spencer grins because Ryan’s idea of subtle doesn’t always mesh with the rest of the world. Still, he seems content to carefully draw lines of black under Jon’s eyes, his tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth, because the fact is, Ryan isn’t really good at this, not yet. He will be, Spencer has faith in that, but right now his lines tend toward being uneven, his mascara clumped. Not that Jon minds, he just smiles as Ryan leans in close and then scrambles to his feet when they’re done. Stretching he cocks his hip.
“Do I look pretty?” He pouts and blows a kiss at Ryan who, caught in the moment of sunshine and fresh-air and the sound of the tour, actually plucks it from the air, pressing it against his cheek. Which makes Jon laugh and Brendon pout outrageously.
“Ryan Ross, are you accepting kisses from Jon?”
Bottom lip fully pushed out, Brendon drops down to the grass and lies down, his head in Ryan’s lap. He looks up and bats his eyelashes and Spencer has made peace with this particular kind of jealousy, but it still flares, fierce and strong when Ryan looks down.
Ryan levels a look at Brendon. “You didn’t send me any kisses.”
It’s no surprise when Brendon pushes himself up on his elbows, neck stretched so he can press a kiss to the underside of Ryan’s jaw.
“I have now, so make me pretty.”
Ryan keeps looking at Brendon, a smile hiding in the corner of his mouth. “I don’t know, the raw material isn’t that good.”
“I’m gorgeous and you know it.” Brendon is still balanced on his elbows, his head back so his hair trails across Ryan’s lap, grinning an upside down smile.
“Egotistical bastard,” Ryan says, but the curve of his smile is increasing as he tugs at Brendon’s hair. “Sit up, I have something I want to try.”
Brendon does and Spencer slips away, feeling unsettled by something as stupid as Brendon making Ryan smile. He doesn’t get far. As he’s disappearing into the maze of buses and vans a hand grabs his arm, spinning him around.
“You don’t get away that easily.” There’s a spot of green shadow next to Brendon’s brow, and he’s smiling as he tightens his hold. “You have to be made pretty too.” He looks at Spencer, his smile widening. “Prettier.”
Spence rolls his eyes, despite the rumours, he is a guy. However he’s also in a band with Ryan Ross and Brendon Urie, consequently he’s used to being called pretty. One day Spencer will change that and show everyone just how masculine he can look.
“Fine,” Spencer says, the flash of jealousy already diffused. “But if I get an eye pencil to the eye again I’m blaming you.”
“He’s your best friend, suck it up.”
Brendon tugs at Spencer’s arm, and then they’re running. Inevitably it turns into a race, their feet pounding against the brittle grass and dried dirt. They round the corner of the bus and Ryan looks up, eyes wide as they slide toward him, landing in a panting laughing heap.
“You left,” Ryan says, and picks up an eye pencil, brandishing it at Spencer. “I want to do your eyes.”
Immediately Brendon affects horror, protectively covering Spencer’s eyes. All Spencer can do is keep laughing.
Spencer’s used to the feel of his own hand. It’s been months since he went on a date, much longer since he was seeing someone that mattered. It would be depressing if the others weren’t in the same boat too. Jon’s girlfriend phones every night, but it’s just not the same, and Brendon spends his time being the friend of the tour. Knowing everyone and talking to them all. Even Ryan’s eased back on the casual dates, not that he has anywhere to go. They’re always travelling, and the bus is no place to bring a date. It’s always crowded and the bunks are small and really, your hand is just the easiest way to go.
Nightly Spencer listens to the shift of sheets, hitched soft breathing and soon he knows the sound of the other’s climax as well as his own. Not that he intends to eavesdrop, it’s just when he’s lying in his bunk listening to the sound of the road, the air muggy, sticky with residual heat, he hears other things too. The sharp intake of breath from Brendon’s bunk, the strangled gasp from Jon’s while he talks on his cell, and Ryan, so close on the opposite side of the aisle. Spencer listens, to soft breathing, a tube being popped, the barest wet whisper of skin against skin. Spencer can’t help taking those noises and building a picture in his mind. Ryan, curled around on himself, hand on his cock, biting at his own forearm as he intensifies his strokes.
It’s driving Spencer insane.
He needs to get laid, or kissed, anything, except he doesn’t want a casual pick up, and he doesn’t want a girl. Which leads to a problem, because it means if he’s thinking like that, he needs to confess that he’s bi.
It takes a while to work up the courage to try, because while his sexuality won’t be an issue, the secrecy is another matter. For days Spencer procrastinates by keeping himself busy, putting off the inevitable by throwing himself into practice and poring over arrangements until people start disappearing in the other direction when they see him appear. Still, he can’t put it off forever, and when he finds himself alone on the bus with Ryan, he knows the time is now.
Spencer’s in the lounge, sitting in the corner of the couch, his legs bent and his chin resting on his knees. He watches as Ryan makes a sandwich, carefully plastering peanut butter on white bread.
“You want one?” Ryan asks, holding up the butter smeared knife.
Spencer shakes his head, the thought of food making him queasy. Which is stupid, because Ryan won’t judge him, has never judged him, but still, the words don’t want to come. “Ryan,” he says eventually. “I need to tell you something.”
Ryan bites into his sandwich and chews. He leans against the bench and swallows, says, “I already know.”
Shocked, Spencer stares. “You do?”
“Yeah.” Ryan nods, takes another bite, chews, and Spencer is ready to jump out of his seat and brain him with the peanut butter jar. “You smelled of apples, so I knew it was you.”
“What?” Confused, Spencer sits up straight and lets his feet drop to the floor. “I don’t…”
“You used the last of my shampoo. I could smell it on your hair.”
“Your shampoo,” Spencer says. “Well yeah, I did, but that wasn’t what I want to tell you.”
“Oh,” Ryan says, considering. “I know about you eating my last twinkie too.” He takes another bite and then places the remainder of the sandwich on the bench. He sits down, opening a magazine.
Spencer just looks, because how is this so hard? “It’s not that either, though that wasn’t me, it was Jon.”
Ryan nods, but doesn’t look up, just keeps reading. Spencer really wants to hit him with the jar now. He takes a breath and tries again. “What I want to say, it’s important.” He stands and starts to pace. To the bunks, back again, resisting the urge to fist his hands in his hair. Finally he turns to Ryan. “I’m bi.”
“Cool.” Ryan turns the page and doesn’t look up. “Can you pass me the rest of my sandwich?”
Blind-sided, it takes Spencer a while to see that Ryan’s not as blasé as he seems. His fingers are tight and his mouth turned slightly down. Spencer takes a step forward and Ryan finally looks up. “Is this a new thing? Because I would have thought you’d tell me if it wasn’t.”
Guilt and relief mix, and Spencer sits, resting his head against Ryan’s shoulder. “I didn’t know what to say,” he admits.
“Because I’m such a judgemental ass hole,” Ryan says, and despite the even tone, Spencer can hear what he’s not saying. Disappointment and anger, because they’re not supposed to do secrets, and Spencer feels bad because he still hasn’t told it all. And he won’t. Because some secrets just aren’t meant to be told.
“Because at first I hoped it would go away, but it didn’t.”
“And now?” Ryan prompts.
“And now I want you to know.” Spencer sighs, relieved when Ryan moves his arm so he’s holding Spencer close. “I haven’t even told my mom.”
“You should do that.”
“I know.” And Spencer does know. He just has to find more words. He turns his head so he can look at Ryan. “Will you stay?”
Ryan squeezes his arm. “Like I’d say no.”
It’s easier then. Spencer tells Brendon and Jon, and they spend the next few weeks pointing out cute guys until Spencer threatens them with a drum stick up the nose. Spencer even goes on a sort of date, feeling nervous as he walks with a cute merchandise guy who doesn’t care that he’s interrogated by three protective band mates before he’s able to get Spencer alone.
Later, they kiss in the shade of a tour bus, hot metal against Spencer’s back and he groans at the scrape of stubble against his face, a lip ring against his mouth, work-rough hands wrapped around his arms. It’s everything Spencer had every expected, more even, and for the first time in forever, the want for Ryan is dampened, if not tamed.
It takes Spencer a few days to realise that Ryan’s avoiding him, mainly because Ryan’s still around; only he’s always a few steps away from where he’s supposed to be. They’ll be watching TV and normally Ryan will be propped against Spencer’s side, his bony elbows digging in as he makes dry comments on the choice of show.
Except the last few days he’s been curled up with Jon, even Brendon on one occasion, doggedly staying close despite the fact Brendon’s constant moving must have been driving him insane.
Spencer doesn’t know what to think. It’s never been like this, like Ryan’s there but at the same time, not at all. They’re behaving like polite acquaintances, and Spencer misses his best friend.
They need to talk, but the problem is they’re never alone. If the others leave a room, Ryan will go too, and Spencer’s sick of seeing Ryan walk in a different direction, or suddenly decide he needs to talk to Jon, or has forgotten something in the bus. Spencer’s heard a thousand different excuses lately and he needs to find out why.
It has to be better than the reasons he’s imagining, the ones that get wilder and more serious each day. Spencer especially hates the one where Ryan’s disgusted by him. He knows it’s not true, but the uncertainty remains.
They really need to talk.
Days later and Jon and Brendon are gearing up for round twenty-seven of their epic nightly Guitar Hero battle. When Ryan heads for his bunk, Spencer seizes his chance. Ignoring bunk etiquette, he pushes back Ryan’s curtain and quickly climbs inside.
“Spencer? What the hell?!”
Ryan’s eyes are wide and he backs up until he’s sitting in the furthest corner, his knees up and back pressed against the wall. It makes Spencer mad, because Ryan’s acting like Spencer’s some kind of leper. Deliberately he moves until he’s sitting close.
“You’ve been avoiding me,” Spencer says. “I want to know why.”
“You have,” Spencer says, not prepared to let this drop. “I don’t know why, but ever since I came out to you you’ve been acting weird.”
Ryan looks surprised and drops his knees. “It’s got nothing to do with that.”
Pressing his advantage, Spencer moves again, so they’re sitting side by side. It reminds him of the blanket forts they used to make so long ago, dim light and muffled sound, the world held back so it’s them alone.
Finally, when it’s clear Spencer’s prepared to wait, Ryan says, “I didn’t mean to avoid you.”
“Well you did.”
“I guess.” Ryan slouches back against the wall. “I was just thinking on some things.”
“Did it hurt?”
Ryan half smiles and glances at Spencer. “No.” He looks away then. “Spencer, do you think I’m hot?”
It’s the last thing Spencer expects to hear, but it explains a lot, if Ryan’s been feeling uncomfortable it’s no wonder he’s been keeping away. Feeling trapped, Spencer says, emphatically, “No.” Immediately he feels guilty, it’s yet another lie, but it’s not like he can tell the truth. Not without risking blurting out everything, and that’s not going to happen.
Ryan looks up, seeming surprised at the vehemence of the answer. “So that’s a no then?”
Spencer wants to bash his head against the wall because he’s made it sound like he thinks Ryan is some kind of troll. “No that I find you hot… but other people do. Like the fans, and that woman who runs the catering tent, and I think Brendon said you were hot once.”
“Brendon thinks Beast from Beauty and the Beast is hot.”
“That’s because of the hair; you know he likes a hairy man. Not that I’m saying you’re hairy. It’s just…. Okay, I’m shutting up now.”
“Good, because I don’t think my self-esteem can take it,” Ryan says. He rests his head against Spencer’s shoulder. “I’ve missed you.”
“I haven’t been anywhere,” Spencer points out. He jabs his finger into Ryan’s side. “You need to talk to me if you’ve got problems.”
Expression serious, Ryan looks at Spencer. “You can’t solve everything.”
“Maybe not.” Spencer shrugs, and jabs Ryan again, just because. “But I’ll give it a good try.”
“Spencer Smith, defender of the universe.”
“You know it.” Spencer grins and curls close to Ryan, because he’s missed this, more than he’ll even admit to himself.
The next day Spencer realises he’s misplaced his cell. They’re about to head to sound-check but Spencer can’t go anywhere without his phone.
“I’ll catch up,” Spencer says, watching as the other three head for the stage. Climbing back on the bus, he sighs. It’s a disaster area. Books and clothes scattered on the couches, the games consoles and controllers on the floor. The phone could be anywhere.
Ten minutes later he’s about to give up, then remembers crawling into Ryan’s bunk the night before. How they’d ended up falling asleep with Spencer jammed against the wall.
Spencer heads to Ryan’s bunk and pulls back the curtain. The bed is unmade, blankets in a heap and Spencer can’t see his phone anywhere. He leans inside and runs his hand under the covers and then down the side of the mattress.
Which is when he finds his cell, along with what feels like a pile of magazines. They’re pushed under the corner of the mattress and Spencer knows he shouldn’t be looking because privacy on the bus is a fiercely guarded thing. But he’s worried about Ryan, and admittedly, also curious. He pulls at the mattress and grabs the pile and then stares when he sees what he’s holding.
Copies of Unzipped magazines, the pages dog-eared and Spencer doesn’t want to get excited, because they could be for research, for some kind of ‘You’re my best friend and I support your lifestyle’ song, or Ryan could be genuinely be reading the articles. He’s Ryan Ross, anything’s possible.
Still, this is the first time Spencer’s ever had a glimmer of hope that Ryan could swing both ways. Magazine held in one lax hand, Spencer looks at Ryan’s bunk and remembers sitting inside, how hesitant Ryan had sounded when he asked if Spencer thought he was attractive. At the time Spencer hadn’t taken much notice, too flustered by the question to take in and assess. But now he does, and he suspects that that he got things wrong.
That Ryan wasn’t asking because he was uncomfortable, but because he genuinely wanted to know. Which combined with the magazines… Spencer feels like dancing, or running, anything but sitting on his bunk holding a pile of magazines. Unable to resist, he lets them drop to the floor and they scatter around his feet as he jumps, pumping his fist in the air.
Landing, his feet slip and he looks down, seeing that he’s standing on some guy with a monster cock. Spencer grins as he picks up the magazines, carefully smoothing them out before putting them back in place.
It’s a travel day and Spencer doesn’t wake up until late. He’s bundled in his blankets and feels pleasantly warm, drifting slowly from sleep. He wakes fully when the curtain of his bunk is abruptly pulled back and Brendon pokes his head into view.
“Spencer, we have coffee and cake!”
He disappears again, and Spencer listens to the sound of his footsteps, Jon laughing and then Ryan’s voice.
“If you don’t get up now I’m giving your cake to Jon.”
Spencer rolls over and starts untangling himself, because Jon’s not to be trusted around cake, and Ryan’s a traitorous bastard who would have no qualms giving it away.
Yawning, Spencer stands and pulls on a t-shirt before heading to the lounge. He squeezes past Brendon who’s standing at the kitchen counter, watching the coffee pot as it fills.
Jon’s lying on the couch, looking relaxed, his bare toes curled into the cushions, while Ryan is sitting on the floor, a box of cream cakes on his lap. The lid is open and he’s running his finger along the side of a éclair, scraping off the cream before sucking it into his mouth.
Spencer looks away before he does something stupid like offer to help. He sits next to Jon.
“Ryan bought us cake.” Brendon says. He’s filling his mug; his special coffee mug which is approaching the size of his head. Spencer vows to kill whoever found it.
“He found it in the cistern,” Ryan says, grimacing. “He washed it out and said it would be fine.”
“It is fine.” Brendon fills his mug and takes a long drink, then sits on the floor next to Ryan. “You bought cake, what did kind did you buy me?”
“Who says I got you anything?”
Bottom lip pushed out, Brendon looks at Ryan, and they’ve all seen this pout a thousand times, but it takes Ryan all of a minute before he caves. He looks in the box, picks out a jelly donut and hands it over.
Immediately, Brendon beams. “I like these.”
“I know,” Ryan says, and he smiles when Brendon smacks a kiss against his cheek.
“You’re the best, now you need to give Jon cake; he needs substance for when I kick his ass at Guitar Hero.”
“Yeah, gimme,” Jon says lazily and reaches out his arm. Ryan selects a cream horn and hands it over. Jon looks at him, smiles and says, “thanks.” He takes a bite then flops off the couch, joining Brendon who’s setting up for ready another epic battle.
“Want to come watch DVDs with me?” Spencer asks, because he’s not awake enough yet for computer games, or to avoid the inevitable flying hands and feet that happen as Jon and Brendon rock out.
“Sure.” Ryan selects two cakes, and leaves the rest. Standing, he follows Spencer to the back lounge, settling down in the corner of the couch.
Spencer picks up the remotes off the shelf, then joins him. “You bought cakes,” he says, and takes one from Ryan. “What are we celebrating?”
“I can’t buy them just because?” Ryan takes a bite, and cream squelches out, coating the bottom of his nose.
Spencer briefly considers wiping it off, maybe with his tongue, instead he hands over a t-shirt that’s lying on the floor and tries to think how he can bring up the magazines. Looking around for inspiration he sees a copy of Kerrang.
“Have you read Pete’s interview yet? He’s looking good.”
“I have,” Ryan says, and he looks at Spencer. “He looks great, but he’s not kidding when he says he’s only gay from the waist up. He won’t want to bump bits.”
“I don’t want to sleep with Pete!” Spencer protests. “All I said was did you see his interview.”
“It’s how you said it.” Ryan frowns. “Anyway, why don’t you want to sleep with him? He’s hot.”
Spencer tries to hide his grin. Ryan thinks Pete’s hot. That has to mean something. Of course one name is no real indication. He decides to try again.
“Maybe I want someone taller, like Ray Toro, he’s got great thighs.”
“He does,” Ryan agrees, “But he’s too old for you. You need someone younger.”
“Like Patrick Stump?”
“Closer, but no.” Ryan takes a last bite of his cake and swallows hard. “Are we watching a DVD or not?”
Taking the hint, Spenser presses play, and is getting ready to watch Moulin Rouge when Ryan says, almost silently, “I think you should date someone closer, like a friend.”
Which is so unexpected that all Spencer can do is look at Ryan and wonder if he’s heard right.
“I just mean, when you date it should be someone you’re friendly with, not that it matters anyway, because you’re already dating, so.” Ryan tucks up his legs, his heels digging into the edge of the couch. “Rick’s a friend, right?”
“Yeah,” Spencer says, because while Rick isn’t a Ryan level friend, or even a band level friend, he’s damn close. “He’s awesome.”
“Good. You should have someone awesome.” Ryan wraps his arms around his legs, chin resting on his knees, never looking at Spencer at all, “He makes you happy.”
It’s a statement not a question, but still, Spencer says, “Yes,” then spends the rest of the movie trying to read between lines.
The credits roll and Spencer’s no further forward, the only thing he does know is that Ryan meant more than he actually said. Pressing stop, he turns, ready to sort this out now.
Which is when Brendon and Jon come charging into the room, Jon holding Brendon’s giant mug above his head. Leaping onto the couch, Jon hides behind Spencer’s back, his chin on Spencer’s shoulder as Brendon tries to get close. Which of course means Spencer gets stuck in the middle.
When he looks up again, Ryan’s gone.
Spencer can’t forget what Ryan said, and he’s desperate to bring it up. But he never gets the chance, because Jon and Brendon are always there and even when they’re not, Ryan’s not in a talkative mood. Spending all his time writing or messing with his guitar.
He’s obviously working something out, and Spencer’s content to wait. For now anyway.
Then one morning, after Ryan’s spent almost an hour on his sidekick, sending texts in a flurry of flying fingers and intent looks, he finds Spencer and says, “Do you want to go to the
Of course, Spencer says yes.
They go alone, except for Zack, who spends most of his time walking behind them and muttering about their choice of outfits. Spencer doesn’t know why, they were told to dress nconspicuously and they have. Pink doesn’t stand out and they’re both wearing giant sunglasses. Ryan even has a hat.
They’re going to the first show of the day. It’s just easier like that, when the schools are in session and there’s more chance of them seeing a movie without attracting excessive attention.
It also helps that Zack’s taken them to one of the oldest cinemas that Spencer has ever seen. There are only two screens and the walls are covered in red velvet, even in the foyer. It’s like stepping back in time, and Spencer looks up at the mouldings on the ceiling as they wait in line for tickets.
Are you coming, or staying there all day?” Ryan pushes his wallet into his pants pocket and hands a ticket to Zack, then waits for Spencer to get out of line. “Do you want some popcorn?”
It’s not even eleven yet and Spencer’s hungry, popcorn is exactly what he needs. “Sure.” He goes to take out his wallet, but Ryan waves his hand.
“I’ve got it.”
Spencer just looks, because it’s not like this is a date. Except… Ryan said Spencer should date a friend and he knows Ryan and he knows his dating habits -- a movie and an offer of snack food -- it’s just what he does.
Spencer can’t help his grin and he waves toward Zack, indicating the bathroom. He goes inside, checks the stalls, the runs from one end to the other, his hands held high. Knowing he looks stupid but he just doesn’t care.
A last spin and Spencer checks himself in the mirror, smoothing down any stray hairs. Then he goes back outside.
Ryan’s reached the front of the concessions queue, and he addresses the woman behind the counter. “I’ll have an extra large popcorn with extra butter and a giant size diet coke too, please.”
Which is Spencer’s favourite, because Ryan always bitches about the butter making his fingers greasy. Hearing the order, Spencer turns away, making an usher double take when she’s gets the full effect of his blinding grin.
“Here,” Ryan hands over the popcorn and doesn’t seem to care that Spencer’s beaming like the sun. He just takes a handful of popcorn, grimacing at the butter as they walk to their screen.
The auditorium is decorated like some kind of old time music hall, with more red velvet walls and matching curtains covering the screen. Spotlights shine from high above, but most of the light comes from a giant chandelier consisting of thousands of crystal tear drops. It’s beautiful, and Spencer wishes Brendon and Jon could be here to see.
“I think I’ll sit here.” Pushing past, Zack heads for an empty seat in the front row. He sits, sighing as he sinks into the plush chair. About to follow him, Spencer stops when Ryan touches his arm.
“We should sit up there. They’ve got double seats; there’ll be more room to move.”
Impossibly, Spencer manages to smile even wider as he thinks, date. "Okay,” he says, and starts to climb the steps.
It doesn’t take long, the auditorium is small and soon Spencer’s setting the popcorn on the small table attached to the chairs. He sits, shifting over when Ryan sits too. Getting comfortable, their thighs are pressed together and Spencer suppresses a happy sigh when Ryan slings his arm along the back of the chairs and curls his hand so his fingers are brushing against Spencer’s neck.
Spencer manages to sit through the adverts, but when the movie starts and Ryan still hasn’t said a word, he knows he can’t wait any more, voice hushed, he says, “Ryan, is this a date?”
“What would you say if I said yes?”
“Variations of yes, hell yes, probably,” Spencer admits.
“Really?” Ryan says, sounding surprised.
“Really.” Spencer says, too loud, and he mouths a sorry when a woman in the row below turns around with a frown.
They’re both silent then, watching the movie, then Ryan says, “It is a date.”
Again, the woman turns, “Quiet, please!”
“Sorry,” Spencer says, and settles back to watch again. He tries to concentrate on the kid eating house, but it’s no use, all he can think of is, Ryan’s asked me on a date. If he were Brendon he’d be singing about shining stars and dreams come true, as he’s not he tries to be practical and says, “I didn’t think you liked guys.”
The house on the screen exposes its teeth, a carpet tongue rolls from its mouth. Ryan keeps looking forward. “I like them plenty, I just never flaunted it.”
The woman starts to turn again and Spencer shuts his mouth with a snap. His chest aches with the effort of suppressing his question and he keeps glances at Ryan, as if he can talk to him through mind power alone. It doesn’t work, and eventually Spencer can’t stay silent a moment more.
“You like me, like, date like me.”
The woman turns and starts to stand. “I’m going for management.”
“No, it’s okay, we’re going.”
Ryan grabs hold of Spencer’s hand and pulls him up. Holding on, his grip warm and calluses rough, he heads down the steps, and waves for Zack to stay when he looks their way.
There’s a bench outside of the auditorium, and Ryan lets go of Spencer’s hand. They both sit and Ryan takes a drink from his soda, sucking hard before looking at Spencer.
“Yes I like you. Yes this is a date. No I haven’t told you how I feel before because you had a girlfriend and then a boyfriend and I was worried about how it would affect the band.”
“You had a girlfriend too,” Spencer points out. “Many of them.”
“Yeah, well.” Ryan shrugs and places the cup on his lap. “Now I want you.”
Which is something Spencer’s wanted to hear forever, but despite that, he’s not rushing into this headlong. “Why now?”
Ryan waits, looking like he’s searching for the right words; he takes another drink of soda, the ice rattling in the cup as he sets it down. “We’ve survived Brent leaving, got better even. I know the band’ll be okay now whatever happens.” He looks around, but there’s no one looking their way. Ryan still lowers his voice. “And I guess I got jealous of Rick. You looked happy with him and I wanted that.”
“I am happy with him,” Spencer agrees. He thinks about time spent talking in the late afternoon sun and rushing off on coffee runs, Spencer disguised with giant plastic sunglasses and Rick’s battered leather coat. They’re memories he’ll never forget, but he knows he’s going to end things. Rick deserves someone who can give him their total attention, and now Spencer knows this about Ryan, that won’t be him.
“Yeah.” Ryan looks away, the corners of his mouth turned down. “I knew that, it’s why I waited so long, but it was driving me crazy, so I gave it a go. It’s a shitty thing to do, but I would have regretted it if I hadn’t. Figures I’d wait too long. It’s okay though; I’ll get over it and write some songs. We’ll change the pronouns and make a concept album, Panic’s songs of pain. It’ll be awesome.”
Spencer does smile then, because seriously, Ryan’s a moron. “How about you hold out on that? At least until I end things with Rick”
“But you’re happy with him.”
“And I’ll be happy with you, happier,” Spencer says. He hesitates then, because happiness aside, there’s still something that needs to be addressed. “There’s one thing though. No more lies. If we’d both been honest from the start we could have avoided a lot of stress.”
“And have had a lot more sex by now,” Ryan says, smiling slightly at Spencer’s look. “No, you’re right. I should have told you, but I wasn’t ready. Then when I brought it up you reacted like I was hideous.”
“Because I didn’t know what to say that wasn’t me declaring that you’re the hottest guy alive.”
“You really need to stop reading the teen magazines,” Ryan says, but he sounds pleased. “No more lies.” He holds out his little finger, and Spencer does the same, linking them together.
“No more lies,” Spencer repeats. Checking that no one is looking, Spencer brings their joined hands to his mouth. He presses a kiss to the back of Ryan’s hand. “Give me a few days?”
Ryan smiles, says, “I suppose I can wait.”
It takes Spencer five minutes to find Rick. He’s surrounded by boxes, stacking and labelling t-shirts, and when he looks up the sunlight glints off his lip ring as he smiles.
Spencer feels awful. He’s never had to do this before, his previous girlfriends usually breaking things off first. It’s worse because he really likes Rick, and if things were different, if it hadn’t been Ryan. But it had.
“Spencer, hi.” Rick puts down his arm of t-shirts, and steps from behind the boxes. He’s wearing the t-shirt Spencer loves, the one covered in Gremlins with a ketchup stain at the hem.
Spencer has no idea how to say this is the end.
“Is something wrong?” Rick asks, sounding concerned.
“No, things are fine. Well, sort of. I think you’re great, and I’ve had so much fun this summer… and I don’t know what to say.” Frustrated, Spencer looks at Rick, who looks right back, his smile small.
“It’s okay, I get the picture.” He moves close, just short of them touching. “Is it okay to hug you goodbye?”
Spencer nods, and when he's pulled into a tight hug, he holds on, his face pressed against Rick’s neck, taking in memories that will always remind him of this summer, and a man who could have easily been his first love. “You’re fantastic, and if I could…”
“But you can’t, or you wouldn’t be here now.” Rick brushes a kiss against Spencer’s cheek then steps away. “Go on, I’ve t-shirts to sort.”
“Will you be okay?”
“I think I’ll survive.” Rick grins briefly, then lets it slip. “I’ll be okay eventually.” He steps back behind the boxes, and starts to sit. “Be happy Spencer.”
“I will.” Spencer leaves then, never looking back. He takes a winding route back to the bus, his own final goodbye to Rick, smiling over remembered good times before starting afresh, ready for something new.
Surprised, Spencer looks up at Jon’s shout and sees him standing with Brendon, close to the bus, Zack guarding the door.
“You can’t go in yet,” Jon says. He sounds amused and Brendon’s grinning as hard as Spencer’s ever seen.
“Because, Spencer Smith, you are one lucky guy.” Brendon runs over and pulls Spencer into a hug; one that feels like Spencer’s being groped by a particularly happy octopus. “Jon’s taking me to Starbucks, he’s going to buy me coffee and talk barista for me.”
“I am,” Jon says, and he pulls Brendon away, steering him away. He nudges Spencer with his elbow and winks. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
They leave and Spencer’s left standing staring at Zack, who crosses his arms and widens his stance, like Spencer’s some kind of persistent fan who’s intent of invading the bus. “Don’t even think about it. He’ll give the signal when he’s ready.”
Which means Ryan, it has to be. Spencer prepares himself to wait.
In the end it’s only ten minutes later when there’s a double knock against the front window. Zack steps away and leaves with a smirk. Spencer watches him go, and then steps onto the bus.
He gasps when he sees inside. Everything is clean and tealight candles are arranged along the edges of the shelves, lit despite it being so bright outside. A string of chilli lights are wrapped around the entrance to the bunks, and a small table has been set out in the middle of the lounge. One with an actual white tablecloth and two place settings with real cutlery and china plates; there’s even a paper rose standing in an empty jar.
“In case you were wondering, this is me giving you a date.” Ryan steps forward. He’s dressed in pressed clothes – tight pin stripe pants and some kind of vest -- and his hair is a carefully tousled mess. He’s also holding a take-out container which he puts on one of the plates. Colour tinges his cheeks and he says, “I can’t really cook so…”
“I think you should kiss me now,” Spencer says.
Ryan moves forward then, is only inches away and it feels like Spencer’s been waiting forever for this. He sighs when Ryan moves even closer, his breath warm against Spencer’s face. He grabs hold of Ryan’s waist, holding on, because finally
Ryan’s kiss is tentative at first. A quick brush of lips, dry mouthed as he pulls back and runs his tongue over his own lips. Then he’s moving back in, his mouth open as he licks into Spencer’s mouth, the kiss hard and wet as he gains confidence, then pulls back.
“You like it?”
“It’s perfect,” Spencer says, and it is. It would be without any trappings, because it’s Ryan. It’s always been about Ryan.
Tags: my stories:bandom