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Brendon started seeing doctors three months ago. The first two months, he was in and out of the ICU, staying maybe three days at a time until he was stable again. One day, though, he just... didn't. I honestly blame myself, sometimes. Most of the time. I had seen the signs, I just had spent so long cracking down on Brendon's relapses and seeing him in huge depressive phases already... I couldn't put him through it when I wasn't sure. Whenever I asked, and whenever I investigated, I couldn't find bottles, and obviously never heard the truth - why would Brendon tell me when I'd always been so goddamn rough about it before? I didn't want to hurt him, thinking that he was falling back into a hole and then being wrong about it, but. When Brendon seemed to have a fifth 'cold' in two months, I had to string him along to the hospital, and I knew as soon as I saw his blood pressure during the check on vitals. Unbelievably high, even for someone in recovery, and then his heartbeat - it killed me to know how slow it was. I felt like a fucking idiot letting it go on this long. I'm so close to him everyday and it just... it passed me by, because I wanted to believe he was okay. I was selfish.

That was the worst part, really, knowing that I hadn't listened to my intuition just because I didn't want to hurt Brendon's feelings. If I could talk to my past self... it didn't matter if I upset Brendon so much that we didn't talk, or there was some strain on our relationship, it didn't matter - at least then Brendon would have a much higher likelihood of living through this. At the time I hadn't known the worst case scenario was losing the love of my goddamn life. Now, though, the doctors had said if he didn't get six months' sobriety for a transplant, he was going to die. I encouraged him all the time, we read every single fucking book on recovery and cleansing and detoxing, we had a collection of pamphlets floating around the hospital room and back at the apartment Brendon hadn't seen for a month straight, and... Brendon just couldn't do it. Maybe he could, but he didn't think so, and that's where the issue was. If he didn't try soon enough, at least make the first step, he'd be too far gone to help. It was fucking terrifying. As annoying as I knew I must be, I kept on bugging him, kept on making the push to convince him he could stay clean even if he was discharged from residential care.

Other times, though, I knew the entire reality of this situation had taken its toll on Brendon. At this point, Brendon was at least still recognizable; I had seen the consequences of this disease before and it was completely disfiguring. Brendon, though, he was jaundiced, and a little gaunt, and everything that was most lively about him was a bit intact still. We at least had that. He was thin, but not too desperately skeletal - he'd lost a good ten pounds, maybe a handful more, but he could still walk some days if no other health issue was inhibiting him. As thin and pale as his face was now, he still had that charming smile (when he was able to muster one up), and his eyes still glittered when I said just the right thing, still crinkled unevenly when he grinned too widely. And somehow, his personality was still there. He was obviously miserable, but when I was around, and not reminding him of the situation (with his best interests in mind, of course), he was almost all right. When I saw those tiny moments of him coming back to me, those tiny slivers of hope... fuck, it's like falling in love with him all over again.

I thought back to when he was okay all the time. On my nineteenth birthday, he took me to the sea, a beachfront stroll near Bristol. I barely remember the water, or the dusk sky, just him in the faint light, the light from the stars catching his gleaming smile, his contentedness contagious even though I hate birthdays and the whole charade. He was clean, then, had been for a while, and he was so healthy, probably the best he's ever been. Sitting by his bedside day after day, breaking the visiting hours restrictions because I needed to be there, I needed to, I couldn't sleep without him at home and I knew he couldn't be alone - I just went back to those kinds of times, always, always stuck in memories, reaching for a time when he was better and when there was more hope than just these tiny crumbs to live off of and when I didn't have to try so, so hard to make him remember to be happy. I missed him when he was within arm's reach. Hell, I fucking missed him when I was lying right beside him, holding him in my arms, keeping him safe when I know I really do not have that capability anymore.

I've accepted that it's out of my hands and all I can do is encourage him through it, pray he gets better when I've only ever prayed for one man before and those went unanswered. I know this place, this hospital that's way too bright and feels way too isolating, isn't good for him, so I ask. They give me two hours. Two hours, and that's probably all we'll have for a while. He's just well enough to leave, he was able to walk today during physical therapy, but there's no telling whether his health will degrade again and how quickly, so. We have to take advantage of this little piece of time where he's stable enough to go. I tell him I want to take him somewhere, and he's just weak enough not to jump at the idea of leaving, just strong enough to agree to come even though he's got no clue where.

You missed your exit, he murmurs from the passenger seat when I bypass the normal route home - and I've only taken it maybe three times since he was placed in the facility indefinitely, but I know where I'm going, just smile and keep my hand on his knee while I continue en route to the coast. Every once in a while I take it off, turn on my blinker, turn and let the wheel slide back just before letting my hand rest on his thigh again, making sure he's with me. He looks fucking beat, the seat at an easy recline, his head against the cushion and chin tilted up like he was close to falling asleep. I glance back occasionally - he's awake, watching the dimming sky out the passenger side window, eyelids at half mast and jaw set carefully. I have to remind myself that the nurses said he's all right for now, he's got time, he's with me, I don't have to turn around and take him back. He just looks so exhausted despite not having moved for days, and I'm so not used to this, I can't do this, I can't handle seeing him like this, I...

These thoughts have cut in so often that I'm used to stopping them myself, but the sight of the water ahead does that for me. I breathe out carefully, squeeze his thigh and take my eyes off the road for a second just to smile at him. "We're here," I say into the quiet, pulling into an empty lot until my front tires just graze the sand, give him less of a ways to walk. I turn off the ignition and get out, quickly round the car and open the passenger door, unbuckle his seatbelt and wrap an arm around his waist to help him out of the car. We have an hour and a half left, give or take. "Thought you might like some fresh air." I stop before we start the trek, turn into him and use my free hand to smooth down his hair a few times before letting it come to rest along his temple, trace my thumb in a frame of his face. "Remember my birthday, a few years back?" I smile again, reassuringly, search his gaze again before turning back to the shoreline and starting to lead us out. "I guess I missed it." I missed him. I miss him, still. Out of my periphery, I still watch him carefully, hoping to catch a glimpse of normalcy for even a moment.
You would say that. True. Ryan wasn't actually all that self-deprecating, really, but now that he could look at the past with his new 'upgraded' self, he definitely had some criticisms to make over his previous versions. In other terms, now that he was a full-blown rockstar, complete with the whole physical ensemble and everything, he could look down upon the old Ryan that looked like he'd just popped out of an antique shop and was operated by donations made to a 25-cent coin slot. Or maybe the other era where he thought velvet suits and silk ties and burlesque imagery would appeal to millions and wasn't the most niché album theme in the whole world. He was definitely a little bit more in tune now. He grinned knowingly, either way, pleased by Brendon's clear disapproval. So I’m God now? I like this, keep it coming. "No problem," Ryan replied instantly, his smile broadening, because of course he had a million compliments loaded up. Tended to pop to mind whenever Brendon wasn't around, and now they'd all made an annoying collection up in his head.

On the subject of Ryan's near-complete lack of social media presence (personally, anyway; the label had interns who did that stuff, why should he bother?) Brendon seemed to know all to well what he was talking about. Damn. Maybe he really did need to try a bit harder. They’re starving, Ryan, starving. You might say thirsty. Give them some goddamn content so they can call me a rich man’s whore using sources straight from the horse’s mouth. "Oh, please," he laughed, shaking his head the very colourful picture Brendon was painting. A master of words, he was. "What content? You ever seen me take a picture of myself? It doesn't happen." But Brendon was being a little shit, so Ryan gave him a rough time. Clearly, it unsettled Brendon - he backtracked remarkably fast. I’d rather you sell Spencer than return these. Ryan arched his eyebrows before spluttering, laughing at the prospect alone. "Be glad he didn't hear you say that. You'd be dead for real." Ryan's best friend was characteristically touchy. He liked Brendon, but as a potential romantic interest, he was on thin ice already.

To be honest, I’m not quite sure myself. Oh no. He could feel the beginnings of a good comeback. Ryan settled in. What I gather is that some fashion disaster rockstar- "Whoa." -thought I was cute but found out I was in just the line of work he needed and decided I’d be better off as his employee than as the subject of a sex scandal. Ryan arched an eyebrow. "Who said I thought you were cute? ...Alright, I can't get away with that. Anyway, I'll take both. You're worth a little bit of scandal." Okay, yeah, Brendon was right - the subtext was indeed getting tiring to navigate. For Ryan, it was less because he couldn't find the joke and more because he was sick of pretending it was. He was worried about rejection, worried about it not working out, worried about losing someone he'd definitely want around for a long time - but he knew, realistically, that none of these things would be a problem. He was reasonably confident, given his standing in life, he was just aware of the risks... and he sort of didn't care anymore, the more that time went on.

I was giving you the benefit of the doubt. But- I don’t blame you. Ryan smiled fondly and took that as an invitation to continue being as obvious as he wants. He wrung his hands behind his back, taking advantage of Brendon looking over the label by overtly checking him out. Really. Stupid. Should I be offended by the smaller size or is it intentional? Distracted, Ryan blinked at him in quick succession. "What? Uh- maybe a little intentional. Hey, nothing wrong with them being a little snug. It's complimentary." A corner of his mouth lifted, amused. You’re forgetting something. I have to get undressed first, right? Ryan tilted his head a little, and, uh, yeah, he forgot that part. Interesting. "Oh." Anyway. You gonna give me some privacy, or? "Oh," Ryan repeated, stupidly, clearing his throat. "Right, right, I mean... if I didn't I'd be skipping a few steps." He paused, careful, shifting a little closer. "Or I could take the first one. Did I win you over yet? I could burn through a few more paychecks." He grinned, leaning over Brendon, his eyes dropping to his lips and silently asking.
In your way 21 hrs ago Forum: 1x1 Roleplay
It had been such a long time now that they had changed their relationship that Ryan was no longer scared of every far-out, unimaginable idea that came to mind when he thought about Brendon. It wasn't scary to think of him as a boyfriend (well- it was scary to think about the asking part, and maybe the publicity part, but everything else was quite alright with him), and it wasn't scary to think about them completely letting go of all the bitterness and the cruelty from before. Actually, Ryan already sort of had, but it was easier for him - he'd started it. Come to think of it, Ryan was the initiator for most things between them. He'd been the first to completely shun Brendon and refuse to let him in to the band dynamic (though Brendon, thankfully, wormed his way in anyway thanks to Jon and Spencer). He'd been the one to come to Seattle, and he leaned in for that first, weird as hell kiss, and he followed Brendon when he appeared go have full intention of forgetting it all just to change his mind. And then, on this tour, without even really meaning to, he'd ended up in Brendon's dressing room, pretty much instantly coming onto him. Over time he'd been putting himself more and more out into the open, making himself vulnerable; it was just up to Brendon to answer all of his advances.

When he hadn't been lately, it was concerning. He was the only person Ryan had ever had such a turbulent but so deeply seated connection with - God knows why, because they really did come from two different worlds. Brendon, from a huge religious family from Utah, and Ryan never even knew his mother while he grew up in Vegas. Brendon was this lively, talented, pretty much world-reknowned musician, love and adoration followed him from every corner of the Earth, people waited hours just to maybe potentially meet him. Ryan was only similar to him, maybe, by their same ample passion, but otherwise, he had no idea what about them could bring them together. Personality-wase they shared the same humor, were both evidently fairly hot-headed (though Ryan personally only discovered that about himself when he met Brendon). He was sure, before, that this was just infatuation, all the perfections in Brendon meant he didn't love him, surely he was just momentarily obsessed. But Ryan never tried this hard, gave this much for something he wasn't actually dedicated to.

He was already worried about getting no response, nothing from Brendon along the way here, but when he stepped off of his band's tour bus and looked fairly apprehensive, Ryan figured it was his fault. He did want to confront him about everything, and there was maybe even the slim chance that Brendon didn't mean to be confusing, but. When he looked like he actually didn't want to even speak to Ryan, forget all the other intimate details, Ryan was tempted to give in. He liked him - either too much or not enough to make an ass of himself just to keep him around. Brendon was, dumbly in just a huge tee and some old jeans, but he never dressed for the weather anyway. He looked sleepless even though he had all the telltale signs of being crammed against cushions, his hair a mess, stubble dusting his jaw. And he looked like a goddamn angel. Ryan swore he forgot about the cold, a tiny smile on his face like he'd forgotten all about his bitterness, and when he caught Brendon's envious look he was tempted to just give up the hoodie automatically. 'Everything, anything, make me yours' - Brendon had said it first, but it still rung true for Ryan.

Hey, man, what’s up? Despite the warm-glowy-stupid feeling still all throughout, Ryan could've rolled his eyes. What did he think? The lack of immediate response was telltale, too; maybe he should just. Pull back. If Brendon wanted them to be over, he'd have to say it rather than leave Ryan with straws to grasp at. He was kidding himself - Ryan could entertain himself with the idea of that as much as he wanted, but as soon as Brendon grinned at him, Ryan forgot all about it. I, uh- do you know what you just asked me? He honestly had no idea. "If you wanted to watch a movie?" Ryan lifted his shoulders, naïve, and he was definitely missing something here. He didn't draw out the accusation on Brendon bailing, just went on, and when Brendon went to press back against the bus, Ryan followed close by, his eyes falling to his mouth automatically. Well. That wasn't exactly what he was going for, but apparently the dumb part of his mind was making decisions for him again.

Bail? Bail from what? Ryan pursed his lips, wishing that that didn't hurt for God knows what reason. It's not like they were nothing. He was so fucking... sensitive, it was annoying, and completely new to him. Ryan averted his gaze, studying the side of the bus as if it was suddenly the most interesting sight in the world. As much as I want to Netflix and chill with you, baby- I gotta raincheck. His hands tightened round one another in his hoodie's pockets, Ryan closed his eyes briefly, swayed a little like he was going to give up and walk away. Whatever. Brendon was worth the fight, but Ryan didn't anticipate that fight making him feel like shit. He had no idea why - he wasn't a victim, Brendon wasn't actively doing anything, just. Apparently Ryan had gotten a little soft. You're looking a bit wound up. You feeling alright? "Whatever, man," Ryan murmured, still determinedly not looking at him, his shoulders shrugging again like he couldn't care less. "I'm fine. Just thinking it'd be nice of you to say that you don't want this rather than stringing me along."

In the past when Ryan was upset with him, it'd always translated into some kind of sexual energy, one of them would be on the other and they'd be solving problems by deliberately not talking about it. Now, he just stepped back, the magnetism dissolved, scrubbing a hand over his forehead and searching the ground. He nearly turned to walk it off but faced Brendon finally, avoiding eye contact and instead sort of hanging his gaze on his shoulder, as close as he could get. "Brendon, what did I do? Out of curiosity." A scary answer would be that he didn't do anything wrong, it just wasn't neutral anymore. He wasn't going to- beg Brendon to like him, whatever, he just wanted to know the disconnect.
It was bizarre how well Brendon and Ryan went together considering their vast differences. Salty and sweet, though maybe not quite in that order. Brendon was the type to throw himself into his work. He was good at lazing out when it was time to relax, but when he was at work, god was he passionate. He'd burn himself out, lose his voice completely, drop ridiculous weight in a short amount of time before admitting that maybe he needed a few hours off. He had a fantastic work ethic, and he was full of energy, but it took a toll on him. This was his life's work, his dream, he lived it to the fullest. Ryan, on the other hand, ended up thriving far more outside of the spotlight. After the split, Ryan had maybe as many shows as he could count on his hands, but he was at least less overwhelmed by the thought that there were eyes on him, potential criticisms and judgments lying in wait for him to find them on the internet, in journalism, from the mouths of people standing in the front row. He was happy writing and creating for others to hear, but he had this paralyzing fear of every aspect of it: being known, being understood for all his ridiculous stretched metaphors, seeming stupid or untalented. Anything made him nervous when it seemed like a whole country was watching.

While he was doing better in general, there were downsides. He was glad to spend days to himself... but, naturally, 'by himself' actually meant 'with Brendon,' and with this new split arrangement, Brendon was rarely ever home. If he was, he needed the sleep afforded to him, like it was life or death. Really. If he got a whole day with Brendon, he counted himself lucky. You'd expect it to just be the tours, because that's what occupied their time so much before, but more people were realizing Brendon's skill and recognising his abilities and the whole fucking world appreciated him now- there were so many more demands. People wanted to interview him, in person or on the radio or on a live goddamn talkshow or over the phone; they wanted him to play awards shows even when he wasn't the one winning an award (lately he often was); they wanted him to collaborate on a song or an album or in a whole ass Broadway show. When it was an event, Ryan could make it there a good 99% of the time - that last percent was just because sometimes Brendon couldn't get him through the door - but then that didn't even guarantee he could see his husband. Sometimes his security ran Ryan off to avoid distraction (hey, weren't you my security too a couple years back?) as if he could really throw Brendon off his game.

These days they lived as if they were in a long-distance relationship. Brendon's schedule, though he always updated Ryan when he knew something, was unpredictable and turbulent, so Ryan left him notes for whenever he came home. A notebook opened to a half-written love song on the counter or on Brendon's pillow, and when Ryan awoke sometimes he was lucky enough to be greeted by Brendon curled into him, the song added to and set aside amongst the covers. When he wasn't on the tour with Brendon, taking up space that he totally shouldn't be allowed to, they photographed practically their entire lives and just kept up with one another. Granted, Ryan's were a whole other universe of uninteresting compared to Brendon's, another city every night, another new beat every week. Still. Somehow they remained on the same page on opposite ends of the world, awake at ungodly hours just to ensure they got to actually talk for a handful of minutes. He hated video to all hell, but Ryan would totally take an eight-hour long FaceTime over no other interaction when Brendon was crossing a couple countries in a crammed bus.

Still. Ryan was realizing that spending his time waiting around, talking to no one but mail delivery until Brendon came back, was potentially not great for your mental health. He'd get texts from Jon asking if he was still even alive and realize, shit, he really hadn't been doing a great job, well. Being a human, basically. He actually responded and maintained a conversation for once and, lo and behold, was invited over, meeting up with old Veins members, everyone who contributed, more distant connections. He'd nearly forgotten about Z, but when he met up with her again they clicked almost instantly. She had the same weird, dated sense of humor as him, but a different kind of liveliness and a dedication to her creations that reminded him vaguely of his husband. Not to mention she was beyond talented, so he was, of course, her number one fan within a few days of playing her music on repeat on Spotify. They naturally gravitated towards making music when they hung out from then on, of course.

As it turned out, Z had a life, much unlike Ryan. She hosted shows, promoted albums, promoted him even though he really wasn't releasing anything save for a few demos forever ago. He became part of the shows - and that was a whole other kind of blessing in itself, because Brendon always, always, without fail, made room in his busy schedule to not just attend but hype him up before the show and then shower him in compliments afterward - and it wasn't like eyes were on him again, because though many just attended to see him (and many of those attendees were just out of nostalgia), he wasn't the one in the spotlight and there was zero criticism to be found. Anyway. He knew that Brendon wasn't totally comfortable with it. He couldn't pinpoint why, really, just that maybe he felt neglected in light of someone else in Ryan's life, but. Oblivious as Ryan was, he figured it was a given that Brendon was the beginning and end for him, that his whole life revolved around his husband - to this day. He supposed if things were switched around and Brendon was the one who'd found a 'new best friend' (obviously they were each other's best friend, who else), suddenly spending all this time with someone else doing things that were 'their' thing, like making music together.

Brendon finally had an opening in his schedule, and Ryan doubted that most of it wouldn't be spent catching up on sleep, but as usual he swore up and down he wouldn't step more than a foot away from him the entire time. As it turned out, he was pretty good at keeping that promise. The screen went black in front of them after a few hours untouched, the two of them opting instead to just waste away, talking forever about nothing, everything. After so long pressed together, no room for air, so close Ryan was pretty sure every limb had fallen asleep, they actually did try to go to sleep. He let Brendon get as many hours in as he could (god knows he probably never listened when Ryan texted him an offhanded 'go to sleep stupid' at two am after seeing him post somewhere, thousands of miles away), kissing his head before he got up, watching him curl into himself to retain the warmth Ryan was leaving with. He really did deserve the break. A hiatus was probably not even in Brendon's dictionary.

Ryan was in the kitchen, starting up a pot of coffee, when his phone buzzed: open up I'm coming over!!! Telltale. He didn't even have to look at the sender of this excited text to know it was Z, probably with yet another idea. Lazy, Ryan just unlocked the door, floated around picking up the place until she arrived already toting a guitar and wearing a typical sundress. Clearly so invigorated about her new concepts, some show idea, Z barely greeted him, just poured herself a mug of coffee with some Splenda and laid out on the couch, Ryan sitting more reservedly at the opposite end so he could properly watch in amusement while she detailed her plans and went off on side tangents about new thoughts popping into her head. He half-contributed, suggested people to string along, asked where she'd even host it, so on, but mostly this appeared to be her excited debut. She was slowing down, strumming absently on the forgotten guitar, when he heard Brendon stirring in the next room, no doubt stumbling around to find clothes (probably not his own). Z liked him, she did, but she also knew how rarely they got to spend time together - at least, rare for a married couple. So. Ryan grinned at her good intuition as she started sitting up, composing herself to clear out.

Brendon's sweater was still struggling over his head when he entered the room, and Ryan was already turned with his elbows over the back of the couch, one arm hanging over in wait for Brendon to take his hand, come greet him with a kiss. Hey baby, It’s so late, how come you didn’t- Oh. Oh. Ryan's smile grew subdued and he looked between Z and Brendon, somewhat concerned. Z was quick to the gun, turning to look over the back in the same way Ryan was and grinning right back at Brendon. Hey, Bren! And she was one of few who could get away with that, probably. Hey, Z. Didn’t know you were coming. Ryan forgot to tell me. Ryan paused, unsure, and apparently it was a second too long, because Z was saving him. Surprise visit! And actually, I was just leaving. I have to, uh... Evidently, they both clocked the look on Brendon's face. For lack of a better excuse, Z went with honesty. ...let you two settle this silent battle. Ryan rolled his eyes to the ceiling and sat back normally while Brendon turned - eyeroll directed at Z, surprisingly enough. I’m getting coffee.

Ryan was already popping up, chipper while following his very sleepy, apparently displeased, dressed-in-all-the-wrong-sized-clothes husbans to the kitchen. "I made some, saved it for you, babe," he said, kind of desperately, circling the counter island and leaning over it despairingly. Behind him, he heard Z leaving, and swore he could feel how funny she thought this was. More realistically, he heard her foreboding 'see ya!' just before the door clicked shut. Jerk. "I thought you should get some sleep, I know you never do when you're busy, y'know..." He trailed off, already rambling nervously because he still wasnt totally sure how to navigate this new insecurity of Brendon's. And his promise to stay less than a foot away was totally being broken. They were at least three feet away. He moved around the counter a little warily, cautious to approach in case Brendon would just avoid it. "But you're awake now, and. I missed you. So hey." Oddly timid, even for Ryan, but he chanced reaching out, trying to pinch the fabric of Brendon's sweatshirt and gently pull him closer.
In your way 5 days ago Forum: 1x1 Roleplay
They'd been on tour for a month strong now, give or take, and Ryan's estimation of his patience was initially a little too high. That first night, he'd been in Brendon's dressing room for mere minutes before he realized he felt the same as before, the feelings he'd thought gone stale still as lively as in Seattle. Something about that city... they were back in it, and every ground rule laid out for him had become less and less feasible over time, now completely in the back of his mind whenever he was with Brendon again. It was only a national tour and those didn't last forever; the 'steamy second love affair' that 'could only last as long as this tour, no longer' was, by Brendon's terms, coming to a close. Ryan honestly had no idea if he still meant it. Hell, considering Ryan had been turned away for the past week, he might have meant even shorter of a time, which... was a hard deal to maintain. As the one to initiate their rivalry, before everything, before even knowing Brendon, Ryan would have never guessed he'd be the one so desperately attached. Maybe it was just the fact that he didn't have anything else going for him, but either way, that was where they were: Brendon telling him 'later' and him being affected enough to wait.

Ryan saw the Spokane sign from his band's bus window and knew they'd crossed state lines, just a matter of time until Seattle. Social media was flooded with 'welcome to Washington's and they watched hours of nothingness, little towns and cities and reservations pass by, until evergreens crowded the windows and they were surrounded by water and this was Seattle, telltale, familiar. Ryan texted Brendon vaguely, having barely seen him during any of the stops for gas, feeling nostalgic?, and when he received no response, pretended there was a reason he might be busy. Maybe this whole affair had come to a standstill. Maybe Brendon was making it easier for himself to end it when the tour was actually over, sticking to his word. In any case, Ryan had held up his end - tried to be inconspicuous, not really talking unless the Jon-and-Spencer buffer was there, and then not telling anyone at all. Though he wasn't totally certain that Jon wasn't in the know already. He was goofy, sure, but he wasn't dumb, and they were in close enough quarters on the TYV bus that it was hard not to look over someone's shoulder at their texts or read into the occasional obvious lyric Ryan threw out into the ring. If he knew, it'd sort of be Ryan's fault.

It was early afternoon when they found their hotel - and thank god, because Washington wasn't a big state but it sucked to pass through while only cramming themselves into bunks, after a couple of weeks doing exactly that - and Ryan was practically the first out of the bus into the expansive parking lot, waiting for the other bands to land and Brendon to exit his. This was sort of routine, if embarrassing. It's not like he could casually welcome himself onto Panic's bus and raid Brendon's space, not when people still thought there was some bad blood. And maybe they weren't the best of friends now, but they definitely weren't still nemesis level like people thought; so long as these rules between them were in place, though, it was probably best to keep people's perceptions alive, let them believe they were right by acting the part. So Ryan waited for stops, talked to him in the parking lot, roomed up with Jon (or if they were being cheap, the whole band) and generally excused himself with something lame like he was off to a bar while he went and coordinated time with Brendon. It's not like it was always physical. There'd been nights where Ryan genuinely just stayed in the same room with him, either of them doing work writing/practicing, or Brendon had some game at hand and Ryan tried to best him, so on. He didn't think either of them expected that to become part of all of this.

But Ryan enjoyed any of it, he'd take what he could get. These days, not much. Maybe he was a little petty about that fact - it was annoying to be snubbed so often. It felt somewhat like the start, where he had to win some contest between them, and he didn't even have a clue what the contest was, ever. Here, it was like Brendon was winning, always the one to turn him down, and yet Ryan kept coming back. Out in the cold, Ryan shoved his hands in his hoodie's pockets, utterly dressed down for Seattle weather in just that and jeans, and waited alongside Brendon's bus until he stepped out and Ryan could nudge him in the side with his elbow. "Hey, hey," he said, voice rough, and suddenly he realized he hadn't actually spoken in a good five hours. Fucking long drives. Ryan cleared his throat, stepping back and watching Brendon's new bandmates plus Spencer file out, pursing his lips. "Think you'll be free tonight? I just got a Netflix. It's gonna be wild." And he was a little late. What of it? The other tour members all turned away, unloading their bags and shrugging on backpacks, Ryan felt it was safer to step closer, so he hovered nearer to Brendon, edging them closer to the side of his tour bus. "Or are you gonna bail like you have been?" Late on Netflix, and a bit confrontational. A long trip had driven him stir-crazy, as usual.
The odd thing was that this was lustful, hanging in the air over their heads. The way Ryan tended to imagine when his mind got away from him and Brendon was particularly passionate on stage or he was unwinding afterward switching from costume to lazy-wear or he was simply laughing, tiny, basic things like that, that were so stupidly attractive on Brendon. So, his thoughts drifted, and never did they result in a scene like the one they lived in now, where there was no arguing or fighting or trying for an upper hand (though he felt the instinct to win one anyway for the briefest moments, occasionally). Things had combined into something better than what his rampant thoughts always conjured up. The less surprising lust factor lingered from the night before, weighing on his bones, settling in the faint scratches in his skin, a reminder every time he caught a glimpse of Brendon in this state he so was not used to - and this new, unimaginable sweetness, sort of, was more present, overlaying and leaving him unsure what to do with himself. It's not like he could flip a switch and suddenly treat Brendon as fondly as he felt, and he supposed it was pride, or just routine, that prevented him from doing that, but it still left him feeling off, unsettled. Off, but there was something else good, something promising. Maybe they weren't as doomed as he thought.

I suppose we’ll have to, but let’s see if you’re still willing when you’re sober and not still enjoying the afterglow. It was true that anything could happen between this time and the potential next - as unpredictable as they were, hell, it could be something incredible and restoring and relationship-changing, or it could be a massive fight that sends them at each other's throats again - but Ryan still looked at him for a moment, unreadable, thinking of words he'd probably never say. Didn't Brendon realise the afterglow was just him? Sure, sure, the afterglow he was referring to was part of the cause behind Ryan's current good nature, but he'd sort of deconstructed all of his thoughts about his lead singer in the past twelve-ish hours and therefore considered present company to be the most prevalent reason for his happiness... for once. Or he was right anyway and that was the afterglow talking. Ryan didn't much care. Either way, the person he was with mattered, and Ryan doubted he wouldn't be up for a repeat of this affair when it was Brendon. "You're pretty enough to make me willing," he said, like it was simple, not totally contradictory to their entire twisted relationship.

Sort of cruelly, though, Ryan took a little pride in how he'd rendered the band's best performer... unable to perform. Thankfully, it was not the typical 'I win, you lose' opponent scenario type of pride, more just intrigued by what he could do to Brendon that wasn't born from malice. He grinned when Brendon started cracking up, clearly done with him, and watched his face, tried to memorise the way he looked genuinely amused, content. Oh, really? You’re sweet, are you? Ryan's eyebrows rose, unable to shake the smile. "Well..." Could’ve done with that last night, y’know, when I totally didn’t have a huge fuckin’ show the next morning. He bit the inside of his cheek to stem the grin, now, averting his gaze. "I don't know that I ever used the word 'sweet,' but sure, if that's what you're into... Would've never guessed you preferred it gentle." Ryan pretended to hesitate, lifted a shoulder in mock ignorance. "Or maybe you're just being a baby." Ryan beamed at Brendon, nudging his side with his knuckle playfully.

Brendon seemed so caught off-guard by his inquiries that Ryan sort of regretted his bluntness, wished he'd let things flow on naturally and not wondered so naïvely where "they" were headed. He'd had this much luck letting his feet (and his credit card, and a plane ticket) carry him at random, all the way to Seattle, to Brendon's temporary bed, into his sort-of-good-opinion for at least a few hours. May as well not jinx it by starting to plan things now. Ryan always had trouble not overcomplicating things, though, so instead of letting it go entirely alongside Brendon's weird, vague response, he decided to torture himself over it all in his head anyway, try to maintain appearances outwardly. Thankfully the knock at the door saved them both (Ryan from blabbering because he had no way to undo his own dumb talking, Brendon from having to find some other way out of this conversation) and Ryan practically ran for the door.

For a second, he thought breakfast food alone said all of his apologies for him. Why else would Brendon's disposition shift so dramatically? Ryan sort of laughed under his breath at his expression, settling on the mattress and dipping his head while he sipped at his coffee. Fuck. Ryan shrugged half-apologetically and watched him intently, a little surprised he didn't jump to pour every topping available on a waffle and call for more whipped cream, or something. Fine. I call everything else. There's the Brendon he knew. Ryan was still tearing his pancake into bite sizes while Brendon looked him over, suddenly growing self-conscious despite calling attention to the getup himself, until Brendon's gaze drifted downward again to his handful of sugar. A look? You even sound gay. How did you and Keltie even- Ryan's reaction, starting vaguely amused, dwindled instantly into a sharp look towards Brendon, not one hundred percent angry but a little mortified, too, as if he wasn't prepared to talk about something he'd spent a night venting over. It lasted for a second, maybe two, before he made a half-assed 'tch' sound, taking a bite of his pancake carelessly. "Hey, I only started talking like that after I met you. Bad influence."

It took him a beat to catch on to the fact that Brendon looked like he wished he could take his own words out of the air, clearly instantly realizing his mistake in even mentioning Keltie. The corner of Ryan's mouth turned up, somehow forgetting the initial response he'd had towards her, replaced instead with a strange mirth towards Brendon. He raised his eyebrows at Brendon, preparing to tease the hell out of him, clearly past the faux pas already. "You talk about her a lot. Y'know, maybe she's looking for another gay boyfriend, you should get out there."
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