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I’d never- mock him. What was there to mock? I was madly and ridiculously in love with him. He could do no wrong. I’d meet his eyes, rich and sparkling in some ridiculous Disney Prince way that I swore I never exaggerated for a second, across the room and everything would just feel okay, like it was going to work out, because why wouldn’t it? What reason did we have to think otherwise, that we’d end up this way, living separately in what our past selves would consider a waking nightmare? We were so good together- affectionate, maybe somewhat clingy but it didn’t matter because there was no possessiveness there, just a deep-set trust, a connection that wasn’t debatable. Certainty. Commitment. The word, ‘forever’. This is what used to run through my head when we smiled at eachother, his smile reserved and mine wide and unfettered, until his matched it in intensity. His smile was my favourite thing in the world. His happiness is all that ever mattered.

Our love was contagious and as such it took root and festered within the music we made until the album we made up in the cabin was just an anthology of love songs, back and forth confessions, secrets slipped into metaphors, switched pronouns and euphemisms, references to sunshine and moonlight. Imagery of nature and beauty and love and complex constructs that we had built to house our romance made the album so obvious but we didn’t care; we weren’t hiding it, just chose not to officially acknowledge it, though I often entertained the idea, wondered about the potential backlash. Rumours surrounded us already and continue to to this day; the nature of the split was so vague and unconvincing that all sorts of theories arose, the most ironic being some kind of love triangle, that I slept with his non-existent girlfriend or vice versa. When asked about it, I just laugh along. Like there’s no bad blood, there’s nothing there to be serious about. ‘We’re still friends’, I’d say, singing his praise as neutrally as I can about the man I am- was- in love with, but it’s hard to convince the media that this is true when I took his words and warped them almost beyond recognition.

Like I said, it wasn’t meant to mock him, but the ‘As a boy’ was just too in-your-face, changing the pronouns I thought would give us cover, but then. The chorus I had no excuse for. I was just crafting my desperation into a song when I really didn’t have the right because I ended it. I Had to watch him struggle with the concept and grasp to understand my reasoning as I broke his heart, and I wish I was being dramatic and self important about my role in his life, but I knew him. I’d known him and loved him for years. Knowing exactly how he feels about me isn’t hard when I feel the same way about him and letting him go was one of the hardest decisions I ever made. Other songs were more spiteful or desperate or lonely or sad or passionate but the fact I’d used his words made that specific song so much more meaningful.

At the time of writing down all of my own internal struggles, I sort of forgot that they’d all been on an album released for the whole world to hear, and more significantly I forgot that Ryan was part of the world, would hear the songs, would pull my lyrics apart at the seams because he’s like that, genius ENGLISH dropout he is; always analysing. Looking back on his soundcloud release, it hits me that maybe he never intended for me to hear it. He’d have sent it to me. We are probably still experts in communicating in the most obvious and simultaneously cryptic way on the planet. Regardless of his intentions, I heard it anyway and let it unravel me, and Ryan had certainly gotten his point across. He is still in love and he misses me and he is hurting. So, to face my own conflicting emotions about this whole mess I have made of us, I am back at the cabin, our cabin, sat on my old bed where we shared so much, confessions, kisses, heat, love. He’s just Ryan Rowe in my phone and a million words flash through my head as I read it- baby, darling, ryan, sweetheart, babe, Ry.

I text him, not knowing what to expect, but I know already that I will stay here until he acknowledges my message. It’s a promise I have made to myself. There’s a few minutes that pass by of nothing, and I wonder if he’s read it, too scared to check, if he’s left it on open, if he hasn’t seen it at all, if he’s going to block my number or reply or call or. I wouldn’t mind him calling. It might be nice to hear his voice. But- before I can properly get ready to have some form of communication with him, the first in a while, he’s replied. Thanks! Maybe one day I’ll have your vocal skills. Memories flash through my head. Singing rough versions of his songs back to him, singing to him in the evening or even to sleep. My voice is the reason I got to be with him in the first place. I’ll never take my voice for granted. My eyes roll at my own absurd drama.

Another text- How’d you find it? SoundCloud isn’t quite like the radio. A frown forms on my face. To be honest; I wish I’d never heard it. I try not to be self destructive and seeking him out like that would be a death sentence on any attempt to get over him. I feel awful for trying to because he sounds so breezy, nonchalant. I know he is hurting. I am too, I want to tell him, but I don’t think he’d appreciate the empty sentiment. I’m just honest with him, because what else can I really be? Some fans decided to send the link to me, like, hundreds of them. Just as well, really, not like you would have shown me.

I’m sat on my old bed, back against the wall, legs folded, and I blink at my phone, taking my bottom lip between my teeth because I am nervous. Realising my last message sounded way too passive aggressive for this to be a normal, not out of the ordinary catchup between exes, I follow it up, pressing send before I have w chance to think it through. I’m sure my hands are shaking, though. Call me? You know I hate texting.
I thought her standards were much higher. Wade was obviously about to argue. In fact, he had formulated an entire argument in a second flat, covering things Joey would be mad at him for like ‘Isabela looked like shit compared to you’, and things Joey would be exasperated by, like ‘What do you mean, I was even fucking sexier back then’. Which wasn’t even strictly true. If anything, Wade at the age he was looked the best he ever had. Maybe. He’s ask Joey to confirm or deny that for him, but he was biased. Besides, he thought the same about Joey, of course, but then he saw Joseph as literally the most handsome man alive despite never admitting it unless through some kind of sarcastic medium. For a moment, regardless, he entertained the idea of ending up with Joey’s sister instead. It wasn’t as funny as he thought it would be- just very unsettling when he imagined Joey as his brother in law.

You really missed an opportunity there. “Don’t sound too disappointed for her. If I hadn’t have turned her down, she’d be Mrs Isabela Walcott, and you would probably currently be having very unfulfilling sex with whatever girlfriend you’d have. You’re welcome for making sure that isn’t the case!” Wade was grinning. He was anticipating some kind of rebuttal of his confidence there.
Of course, such talk was unappreciated by Joey- who still behaved like a professor around students and scolded Wade when he strayed too far out of PG territory, ignoring the fact that they were two grown men in a committed relationship. He was growing out of this habit, though, steadily, cursing more and unwinding himself gradually, but hadn’t quite unlearned censorship from his teaching days. He didn’t seem to think it was down to that, though; I’m a Capricorn. ”And I’m a Libra. Or am I a Scorpio? Which makes more sense, anyway? Scorpio? I mean- Be honest, Joseph, am I a whore?” He stood before him, eyes wide, arms folded as if waiting for judgement.

No, fuck off, that’s my thing. Wade raised his eyebrows and said in a matter-of-fact, jovial tone: ”Well, Joey, I’m glad you have the bravery to admit that you have a problem.” A pause. ”It’s not even alcohol. It’s thinking that being Italian is a personality trait.” He didn’t even laugh, didn’t have to; they were just at this point now. And Wade new that he’d find it funny. Get your own. ”I have a thing! It’s hating Brandon, or whatever his name is.” Upon intentionally butchering Joey’s surrogate son’s name, his voice increased in pitch, as it often did when he was messing around- which was literally fucking always. It was funny, because Joey could take literally everything on the chin, even actively insulted Wade, giving as good as he got, but when Wade made digs at Brendon, he sulked, because apparently the sun shone out of that kid’s ass.

Probably some kind of bonding-over-a-serious-shared-problem thing, Wade mused- but all of this, even in his head, was in jest. He loved Brendon- just because Joey did, and he’d do anything for that man. Wade screwed up his face. Ew. He tried to steer himself away from that soppiness but then he was turning Joey towards the mirror, manoeuvring him with relative ease because he was taller and a little stronger, and wrapping his arms around his waist, holding on tight enough to be irritating and crowding into his space by kissing his neck, barely, because he was grinning throughout. Then he let go, because they were already running late. As much as Wade would love to just spend the evening rummaging through their wardrobes and dressing up in whatever ridiculous shit they could find.

All right, well, we need to actually get to the date first. Wade stepped back, arms folded across his chest, staring down Joey like this was some homoerotic western. He grinned at his own joke. Yet again. ”I’m not the one stopping us from heading out, Bruno. I’m dressed. I’m ready. Look at me, I’m a god. Carved from marble-“ He spread his arms out by his sides, presenting himself proudly to his boyfriend, who- wasn’t even looking where he was indicating. Instead, he was looking somewhere else. He cleared his throat at the same time as saying, ”Pervert.” After a moment of silence, Joey reverted to damage control. No, I insist. Keep yourself covered, bud. ”Oh, you insist, do you? Fine. I’ll remained covered for the rest of our relationship.”

Then Joey was laughing at Wade’s dick joke. I mean... You should be. I’m packing. Wade kept a straight face successfully, all serious and concerned, eyes wide. ”Or maybe I just have a big mouth.” He’d definitely get some kind of furious protest there, prude that his beloved Joseph was- who immediately brought up being a Capricorn again, which Wade rolled his eyes at, watching Joey with a smile regardless as he buttoned the shirt he’d made Wade wear. He then stood back and Wade ran a hand through his own hair, turning towards the mirror and raising his eyebrows. ”Well, fuck. How does it feel to be with the most attractive Canadian- man- alive?” A'ight, usually I don't ask this, but will you put some fucking pants on? Oh, Joseph, at least you’re honest, Wade thought, but mercifully didn’t respond, just smirked at him as he kept rambling on about Wade wearing pants. In any case, he smoothed down the shirt Joey had given him and then reached into the wardrobe and pulled out the first pair of ironed trousers he could find, examining them for a second before shrugging and carrying them over to the bed, sitting down and then looking up at Joey as he finally lost his towel toga and actually put on some underwear. ”Don’t look at me, I’m shy.”
We’re alright. Ryan was clearly lying, and Brendon was almost angry at him for it- but then again, why would he tell the truth? Of course he wasn’t okay. Neither of them were, really. They were two people in love that for whatever reasons hadn’t seen or even spoken to eachother in almost two months. Yes, in love. Regardless of the bitterness Brendon felt towards Ryan, seeing him after such a long period of time was like standing on the seashore and being hit with a huge wave- sharp, cold and shocking, and powerful enough that he just let himself be swept away helplessly. The bittersweetness of it was an irony not lost on him. So, finding it in himself to be understanding of Ryan’s blatant lie, he just looked exasperated. ”Good.” He watched with a guarded expression as Ryan sat down on the carpet and played with a very excited Bogart, who was pretty much a living metaphor for Brendon’s heart right now, rapid and energetic and overwhelmed- adoring, even. Because this was his husband. He was so handsome. That said, there were clear signs in his appearance that he’d been having a rough month or so. Brendon was secretly glad it wasn’t just him suffering because of their ‘space’.

In his head, though, he had this idea of Ryan having just finally reached his limit and no longer being willing to put up with Brendon’s issues, deciding it was too much work for too little reward. The picture of a defeated and timid Ryan in front of him directly contradicted that, but- it was hard. The moment Ryan had suggested they took time apart was both terrifyingly vivid and disguised by a drunken blur- he remembered, accurately or not, Ryan breaking up with him, citing his illness as the reason. The memory made Brendon shiver. That version of the story was what he told to Joey, as it was what he fully believed happened- and that explained why Joey hated Ryan so much. It was personal for him too. Joey understood much more than Ryan did in the sense that he could relate and knew how to deal with it, however heartbreaking that was for Joey himself, but what Joey didn’t understand was why Brendon got so upset sometimes, missed Ryan so much. More than he was angry, he was hurt. And jarred. If Ryan wasn’t able to cope with Brendon’s fluctuating and unpredictable health, well. He didn’t know what he was supposed to do- or didn’t want to face it.

She misses you. A euphemism. “I miss her, too,” He murmured, smiling fondly. It was a shame the two dogs were separated but they both needed their individual companions, he supposed, or they’d go crazy with the loneliness. “I think Bogart does, as well. He clearly misses you.” A pause. He was moments away from saying that he missed him too, but decided against it in case this was a visit meant to seal the deal and break up for good, or something. You look good. This was immediately met with raised eyebrows- Brendon had seen himself in the mirror, and though he definitely looked better, he was far from looking good. “You too. I love your hair being that long.” His voice was low, genuine, wavering, and trailed off with embarrassment towards the end of his sentence. He was being honest, though- clearly it was the result of Ryan neglecting himself, but it was still cute. Fucking hell, he was useless.

Listen, if... if that means you're doing better here, then I just - I want you to stay as long as you need to. Okay? Even if that means you won't be back for a while, or. Or what? Brendon blinked, not sure how to feel about Ryan pretty much saying he’d be fine with them breaking up permanently. It was from good intentions but there was nothing Brendon hated the idea of more. This time apart had been good for them- he thought so anyway, as he’d gained a lot of perspective on their relationship and knew exactly what had to change- in both of them. That sounded too certain, though. Five minutes ago Brendon hadn’t even believed that Ryan would make an attempt to visit him first. Anywhere where it's easier for you to get better. I understand if it's not with me - I mean, I know I'm kind of shit at this. Brendon returned his smile. He really was, but saying it proved that- and this was Ryan’s problem- he was self centred in a strangely selfless way; he thought everything came back to him and felt that his behaviour entirely dictated how Brendon coped with his illness. Unwilling to interrupt him, though, He stayed quiet.

You're my priority, Bren. I never wanted to... to desert you, the way I made it seem. I just want you to be whereever you're happiest, and, and... well, based on how I handled things, I don't think that with me was the happiest place to be. “You are my husband.” Brendon said, hesitating, because- no, they were still married. Of course. Unless Ryan had brought along divorce papers of some kind. “You are my happy place. But Ryan- you are not a doctor. It isn’t within your ability to- cure me. You being here or not makes very little impact on my illness and I hope you understand that- being willing to take the blame for this doesn’t equate to apologising for- for leaving me.” He paused. “And I haven’t forgiven you for that. You left me while I needed that kind of love and support the most.” Brendon smiled, sadly, because he didn’t really know what else to say.

This was endlessly cathartic. Brendon, in probably the clearest state of mind he’d been in for months, felt capable of at least explaining himself to Ryan on a basic level, and with all of this lifting from his chest, he felt light and free and almost happy because above all he was ecstatic he was seeing his husband again, as much as he tried to suppress it. Sorry, I know I won't shut up, just. What I'm trying to say is, I'm sorry for being so unhelpful through all of this, and I want you to take as long as you need, okay? There was a lot more Brendon had to explain to Ryan. And maybe it was on him for not making his role in all of this clear earlier on, but he stayed quiet because he was sick of the sound of his own voice and more than anything he just wanted a fucking hug, so he stared, hoping Ryan would get the hint; they tended to communicate somewhat telepathically anyway.

I’m so glad you look better. Brendon smiled, softly, losing all the snappiness and biting sarcasm- seeing Ryan look so small and vulnerable, mumbling more to Bogart than to him, was adorable. Brendon loved him so much, but- he felt so awkward when he thought about telling him, not sure if that was acceptable yet. He wondered if they should go somewhere else so this felt more like a a conversation between lovers who’d been apart from some time rather than an ex coming over to collect belongings. A restaurant, or something. He smiled at the idea of them going on a date as if they had only just met, politeness and gentlemanly gestures that Ryan would no doubt go overboard on to make up for his absence. He wasn’t sure if his confidence in being in places like that was quite there, yet, though- he hadn’t left the house in a long time, and never really without Joey. He let his fantasy come to a stop. “I feel better, too, but. I feel like this is some kind of hospice visit. Or you’re coming to finalise a divorce.” His eyes were glittering and he flashed Ryan a grin- but he was only kind of joking.
I tour, a lot, every time a new album comes out or when management decide that we’re going to play at some festival, all over the world, Europe, Asia, the states. Plane journeys are second nature, eight hours in a tour bus a regular weekday- collapsing into bed at one and waking up at six in the morning is just routine, and when I stir it’s immediately we need to be there in an hour, then I am boarding a nine hour flight and then I’m landing halfway across the world and getting onto a tour bus again, crammed against the cushions, neglecting the vocal exercises that my coach demands that I do at least half an hour of every day. Of course, it’s not just me by myself. Touring members, security, management, stage crew- I am constantly surrounded by people that I get on well with, I can laugh with, we can drink a beer and get drunk and talk about absolute bullshit but they don’t matter.

Ryan matters, though. I miss him all over the world. He is busy doing his own thing often- writing, being a bestselling author, generally being incredibly talented and wonderful. While I stride across stages drenched in neon lights and delight in the thousands of purple-blue-green-lit faces that stare back at me, he is writing me love letters that I will only see when I return home, he’s writing out lyrics for me, my songwriter, my fucking genius, he’s writing me love songs. Love songs that are screamed back at me when the best ones make it to the studio. If I had it my way, they all would be.

It’s a thrilling feeling, having the words you or your husband wrote sung back to you, it never gets old, I always feel dizzy from the euphoria but it is nothing compared to the feeling I get when I see my husband waiting for me at the airport as I walk in, and I always see him before he sees me, and he’s straining to spot me and he’s smiling slightly and it’s like he’s holding it back and then we make eye contact and it turns into this spectacular grin that I mirror instantly. This one man looking at me with such adoration means more than the thousands who chant my name during every show that I perform. They don’t even come close.

And so I always weave between people, push through the crowd, a moth to a flame. We meet in the middle because he is too impatient to wait and I drop my suitcase by my feet and it’s so corny but his hands go to my waist and my arms around his neck and I kiss him, because it will have been months without contact and I don’t know how I ever bear it because in his arms is the safest and loveliest place to be in the world. He holds me and I never want to leave but I do, because I love my job and I am grateful and it is fantastic and I know Ryan loves his, too, and I know he enjoys being alone sometimes, having the house to himself- it gives him time to actually write without me, the human hurricane, distracting him every five seconds. So it’s okay. We can be apart. We don’t need eachother to survive- but my god does he make this whole goddamn existence worth it.

We are apart now. I am in a hotel room in Rome, he is in LA. I am lying on my back on the bed with my phone on speaker, and he is probably sat at his desk or something because I am on speaker and I can hear him rustling things around. Idiot only writes freehand first drafts.

”I miss you,” I say, softly, as I always do- there have been a few beats of comfortable silence and I’m staring at the white plastered ceiling. It’s late evening- golden hour. My hand is rested comfortably in my hair and when I close my eyes I can imagine it is Ryan’s doing. ”I’m glad there’s only a week left. Just think, a week. A week and I’m home.”

It’s hard, it’s so hard, it’s much harder than I ever thought it would be but he is worth it. Having to be away from the person you love the most for a significant period of time is a cruel joke from God. It’s intermittent long distance that leaves me aching and lonely but just makes the coming home so much sweeter. He is worth it. ”What have you done today?”
I imagine him coming over- maybe getting to the point where he doesn’t even have to knock, he just comes in, having parked his fancy ass car in my garage, we laugh and play music and I crucify him at video games, eat snacks, talk, make out a little. That last part, Shit. I really shouldn’t be having those kind of thoughts seeing as I haven’t seen him in almost a decade. And we have only been reunited for under an hour. He’s just so... he’s the same, his gorgeous eyes and his uncertain, boyish smile take me back to ten years ago when we were crammed into one bunk laughing, but cautious because we were the kind of kids to think even touching a guy friend was ‘gay’. A lifetime in the critical spotlight plus a journey of self discovery over the years lead me to the conclusion that I was just that. Gay. Or, at least partially. My exact label is up for debate. Thinking about that, I consider Ryan- and I wonder whether it’s appropriate to ask. Everything feels comfortable, but. It’s a leading question. I file it away for when i have consumed more alcohol.

Maybe I will. A surge of earnest hopefulness and joy shoots through my body and I crack a smile, faint, praying to the god I don’t believe in that he isn’t just saying that in a jokey way because I would give anything to see him again after we have reunited. It feels like coming home. It’s not like throughout the past decade I have felt empty or even lacking- but here Ryan is, tall and beautiful and smart and funny and suddenly I yearn for what could have been- and now, what could be. ”I’m serious,” I say, just to make sure he doesn’t think he’s just playing along with a joke. ”Come over sometime. Whenever.” No going back from that, I muse distantly- it’s an invitation and it was not open to interpretation. It was a direct offer. Somehow, beyond my better judgment, I don’t regret it.

I am wondering whether ‘I want to see if you taste like I remember’ is acceptable grounds for kissing someone when Ryan responds to the question I forgot I asked right after asking it, mostly because I’m not even a big car person and I don’t really care how much the car is. It’s pretty, the interior is gorgeous, it’s just the kind of car someone like Ryan should have. I remember to listen to him instead of just staring. Hasn’t anyone told you it’s rude to ask that? Don’t know why, but people say so. ”Those people have six foot poles up their asses, don’t listen to people who have a weird thing about cars. They fuck the exhaust pipes when nobody is looking,” I reply, matter-of-factly, flashing Ryan a grin. Around $40k, not too bad. Not too bad- that’s a bargain, in my opinion. But then I don’t know much about cars. Thankfully. I have a goddamn Tesla, for fuck’s sake. ”That’s alright- and worth it, it’s fuckin... sexy.” The alcohol had gone to my head already- or at least that’s the excuse I’m using. ”...The car, that is. Although.”

I’m inside the car leaning against one of the windows and Ryan climbs in, folding up because he’s so tall and gangly in order to fit properly. He stops short of moving any closer than pretty much the edge of the car seat, and I notice, my gaze flicking down to the space between us as I wonder exactly why he won’t move closer. Because he doesn’t want to? Because he thinks I wouldn’t want him to? I’m reading too far into this, I realise- like this is a silly high school crush. I bought it after figuring out that there wouldn’t be another Young Veins record. ...Take a Vacation. Vivid memories of listening to that album when it first came out rush through my head like some kind of montage- I remember sitting and obsessing over the lyrics like a lovesick fool. Not that I have ever been in love. ”I love that record,” I say plainly, smiling at Ryan. ”It’s a real shame you stopped with just the one.”

It’s my mid-life crisis purchase. Yes, 24 is mid-life for me. ”Well, It’s not the worst mid-life crisis buy I’ve ever seen. It’s dope. And shut up, you’re still young and hot.” Still grinning, I down the glass in my hand that I’ve been carefully balancing and then I shift closer to Ryan. ”You know.” It’s meant to be the opening of a comment but it sounds more like a flat statement. ”It’s really good to see you again.” We’re closer now, and suddenly I feel that the most sensible course of action is to cut myself off there and make excuses to leave. Instead, my eyes linger stupidly on his mouth, so I take initiative and move a little further away to save myself any embarrassment. ”Everything feels the same.”
Brendon had put a lot of thought into how he felt about Ryan and what their relationship was. They never really talked about it, which, for two people otherwise so close, was a real issue, because. Shit like this could happen- brendon would realise he had fallen in love and because he had never experienced that emotion before, he came to the conclusion that it simply had to be returned because the feeling was just that intense and euphoric. Well, those might not be the right words- they came closer to describing physically intimacy, something Brendon hadn’t experienced in a long time, actually- the emotion was more mellow, felt warm and sickly sweet and assured and safe and delightful. It had felt that way, at least, until he had ruined the tranquility of the evening by telling Ryan that he was in love with him. The two of them had been looking at the gorgeous night sky and just enjoying each other’s company on the back porch facing the garden, as they often did on mild nights like this, and Brendon, usually enthralled with the colours and the romance of an evening sky, had been more focused on Ryan who was sat beside him, seemingly lost in his own thoughts.

He had said it, it had tumbled out of his mouth without a thought. It was one thing being in love- it was another thing to tell the person, and Brendon’s heart had immediately stopped, but he felt hopeful. Vulnerable and earnest, he had stared at Ryan from under his eyelashes nervously, until that anxiety sharpened into shock and regret and humiliation when he realised Ryan was not going to say it back. Once Brendon came to terms with that he shot up from where he sat, scrambling to escape without a word and leaving Ryan in the garden while he blindly made his way to his room, tunnel vision kicking into gear until he had his fingers around the door handle and then he was inside his room, safe, protected, the door a barrier between himself and the mistake he just made.

But then he was alone with his thoughts, and he couldn’t bear it so he made the decision to shower, partially so he couldn’t tell if he was crying or not because that would be pathetic, juvenile, crying over rejection like some teenager. So he had that shower, had leaned against the tile wall and closed his eyes tight, let the water run down his face. It wasn’t a long one because Brendon felt the urge to just crawl into bed and never leave. It had been ten minutes, if that, and he was out, a towel around his waist, and he was ready to get into bed but- a knock at the door. And it could only be one person, obviously. Someone he really didn’t want to see. God knows what Ryan wanted- it wasn’t to say ‘I love you’, clearly, as much as Brendon fantasised in that moment about Ryan taking him in his arms, kissing him, telling him he felt the same way. Maybe it was to apologise... but for what? For not loving him back? He couldn’t help it. Maybe it was just to ask if he was okay.

Brendon let all these thoughts rush through his head in the moments it took for him to decide to let Ryan in. He could’ve come in anyway, there wasn’t a lock or anything, but Ryan wasn’t the kind of guy to invade someone’s space no matter the situation. Inhaling and exhaling and feeling the nervous tremor in each breath, Brendon opened his bedroom door, his eyes dropping to his feet immediately because he could not look Ryan in the eyes. Are you okay? The stupidity of that question made anger surge through him, and it was as if he was going through several stages of grief in thirty seconds- denial that Ryan didn’t feel the same way, then a rush of anger, blaming Ryan for leading him on and allowing Brendon to fall in love when he had done nothing of the sort. He hadn’t quite stooped to bargaining yet. ”No,” Brendon said in a quiet voice, so unlike him.

But Ryan probably knew that, he was asking because he didn’t know what else to say. Not like he could lie and say that he loved him when he didn’t- but part of Brendon wished that he would so he could just pretend, entertain the idea that they were both in love with eachother. Reality was bitter and sharp, though, when he finally looked up to meet Ryan’s eyes. Are you angry at me? ”No,” He said again, though a part of him unfairly was. ”No. I’m angry at myself. I shouldn’t have said that. I’m sorry for ruining things.” A pause. ”I think I’m going to leave.”
Their relationship was still a secret. It had started at the very end of the first leg of tour- they’d been staying in the same room thanks to Ryan’s very convincing argument that they should bunk together, and Ryan had decided to go on an impulse shopping spree for his very well-paid stylist, as if people didn’t complain that Brendon was spoiled and given special treatment already. Brendon on that day had just been lounging around the huge hotel room, ordering food with Ryan’s credit card because he knew he could get away with murder if it was up to that man. He’d been incredibly bored as Ryan had some extensive interviews scheduled today and unfortunately Brendon wasn’t required to make him look pretty for those. Not that he wasn’t pretty anyway, all the time.

Anyhow, he stayed in the room and finally hours later Ryan arrived back. The sound of the door opening and Ryan’s familiar voice attracted Brendon’s attention and he had struggled to pull one of Ryan’s hoodies over his head before he headed into the living room, because the less articles of clothing either of them had on, the more likely it was that things would deviate from professional. That said, wearing Ryan’s clothes probably wasn’t very professional either. Oh well- they were friends before Ryan was his boss, and even before that they had a clear mutual attraction that they had been dancing around ever since they met. Sometimes Brendon wished that Ryan had just taken him home and got it all out of their systems before they fell into a working relationship- but then he wanted more than just that.

And more than that was what he got when Ryan showered him in a lavish array of gifts, designer clothes and a surplus of candy and several new video games that he’d managed to find out on his shopping spree. Brendon never would have guessed it but Ryan knew exactly what he liked and conversation about jeans turned into Ryan making comments about certain physical features of Brendon’s, and then they felt comfortable enough to bring up the whole frequently avoided topic of them flirting constantly. It was a perfect lead up into a kiss, soft and sweet and eager and almost relieved, the kind that made him feel like he could fall in love.

And so their relationship began without question or second thought- but, following a conversation about what would undoubtedly be a sour reaction from Ryan’s exhausted crew, exasperated bandmates and jealous fans who would call Brendon a gold digger or something even more tasteless, they decided to keep it wrapped up. Ryan didn’t even tell Spencer. It was nice to have it to themselves, though Brendon could tell that Ryan would much rather be showing him off and talking about him all the time even without prompting. They had a brief amount of time during the break between the first and second leg of tour to fully explore the new type of relationship they had and they became quickly used to being comfortably around eachother all the time, kissing carelessly and without reason or worry, so when they went back on tour and realised they couldn’t do that anymore it was difficult.

But it was exciting, as juvenile and dumb as it sounded. They made out in the brief moments they had alone, colliding together like it was the last time they’d ever kiss or something ridiculous like that, and whenever they were lucky enough to have a hotel they made sure their room was a floor above everyone else’s. The best part about it was that Brendon could tease him and there was nothing Ryan could do about it while everyone else was around. On the softer side of things, it was wonderful to curl up together if they had a hotel room after a show, Brendon talking about how great Ryan was and making fun of how dishevelled he looked after the performance.

It was right before a show this time, just over an hour before the band were due to go on stage, and Brendon was stood behind Ryan who was sat in a chair facing the huge mirror in the dressing room. He was idly playing with his hair, trying to figure out how to style it tonight, as Ryan spoke to Spencer, who had been hanging out near the door for the past twenty minutes. Brendon swore that he knew about them and just wanted to watch them squirm.

Alright, man, let me know how you feel about it. He’d suggested impulsively changing the lineup of songs and Ryan wasn’t entirely convinced, but Brendon could tell he wasn’t really listening anyway as he kept trying to catch his eye in the mirror. Thus, his response was lacklustre. ”Sure, okay, bye.” He sounded impatient. Brendon stifled a grin and moved around to stand in front of him as Spencer left and the door behind him closed. ”Hey, can I put some eyeliner on you tonight? It’d make your eyes stand out more, and I know you won’t let me do eyeshadow, so-“ Ryan was shifting forwards in the seat and Brendon stepped back against the dressing table of the vanity. ”Ryan, not now, I have a lot to do.” He sounded exasperated but he was smiling and Ryan looked so pretty and yearning, struggling to lean forward in his seat and reaching up to curl his fingers around Brendon’s wrist, anchoring him close. Annoying fucker. ”Ryan.” He glanced nervously towards the door.
They’d seen eachother already since Ryan was let out of lockup- Brendon had been waiting outside, leaning against Ryan’s car, which had been held by the cops until now, when he was... semi-free to go. He still had a court date which Brendon knew would go smoothly because the rat bastard could talk him, personally, out of anything, even though Brendon was the most stubborn piece of work in the world. He had talent there- that was probably why he was so successful in his chosen field of work. Successful as he was, though, the government could always dangle tempting bonuses in front of cops who usually couldn’t care less about bootleggers (or even wanted a little cut of the good shit for themselves), so there was always risk involved. Ryan knew that, and Brendon knew that, even if he wasn’t happy about it; he wasn’t particularly fond of watching his lover being handcuffed/restrained by someone other than him.

Ryan had been in jail before this incident and no doubt would be again, and Brendon would bail him out, no matter the rising price, because apparently there is nothing he would not do to get his boyfriend back. He’d barely been gone for a day and Brendon had already been antsy, wishing the whole bail thing would go through faster and he’d get to make fun of Ryan until he decided they could make up for lost time in other ways, however brief the lost time was. They were just gross like that. And this time it was three whole days, but then they barely had any time together because Ryan was immediately dead set on getting ‘revenge’ on the guy who ratted him out this time. Brendon was all for teaching the guy a lesson, but honestly, he was a little offended that that took priority.

Brendon had a performance that evening anyway, and so they shared a few longing kisses goodbye, Brendon putting in a little extra effort in a vain attempt in convincing him to stay, before Ryan set out to Spencer’s. As always, he had been quick and resourceful and had set his partner in crime onto the guy who talked less than an hour after getting out of the cell- so all Ryan had to do was turn up and make sure he was taught a lesson. When his boyfriend made the grand, vengeful speech detailing all of this, Brendon had just nodded along, trying not to smile, trying to appear as though he was taking the tough guy version of Ryan seriously- of course he knew that Ryan was capable of being ruthless but he’d cuddled with him so much that it was amusing to even think about the other, less sweet and loving side of him.

So Ryan left him with a vague half-promise, and Brendon tried not to get his hopes up when he looked out across the crowd; of course, he did anyway, and was disappointed when he didn’t see Ryan standing there smiling up at him like he usually did. He went backstage and to his dressing room, standing in front of a mirror, trying to hype himself up for the performance- and suddenly he caught a pair of immediately recognisable honey eyes in the mirror, followed quickly by arms around his waist and a low voice by his ear. Miss me? Brendon exhaled, a rush of delighted breath, grinning at Ryan’s reflection. ”So much.” Sorry I’m late, darlin’, but now I think it’s my business to make you late for your performance. Oh, that little bastard. He wishes.

Brendon hesitated for barely a second, smirked and then broke out of Ryan’s embrace and turned around, quickly catching one of his wrists and walking them backwards until Ryan had his back against the closest wall. [b]”Oh, yeah? Did you miss me, Mr. Rowe?”[b] He murmured, straightened up as much as possible and yet still a good few inches shorter than Ryan. A little comical, ”That’s sweet. But you can wait, I think. Yeah, I’m gonna make you wait.” A pause, and then Brendon stole a kiss, sweet and a little desperate though he tried to remain in control, moving his hands down to hold onto Ryan’s hips. Brendon wasn’t used to playing this role, but it was fun. He opened his eyes and spoke right against his lips, eyebrows raised playfully. ”I paid a lot of cash to get your stupid ass back to me. Believe me when I say I’m going to get my money’s worth.”
It was really fucking embarrassing how, up until the moment Ryan was actually moments from stepping outside the apartment, with the door wide open, Brendon had been stubborn and defiant and unwilling to back down or admit that he was the one in the wrong. He still wasn’t quite there yet, but the idea of Ryan leaving and not coming back was terrifying, so he half-involuntarily let his feelings surge out into words, asking him to stop. And Ryan did- he didn’t expect him to. So then he had to quickly figure out what to say before Ryan changed his mind and shut the door behind him. The first thing that came to mind that he could honestly say without a doubt was ‘I love you’; and, considering Ryan’s inpatient expression before he said this, it might not have been a good idea to lead with that. But he meant it, obviously. He never wanted to hurt Ryan. So he followed it up with a kind of pathetic request for Ryan to stay.

He was mellowed, now, upon realising how serious Ryan was about the whole ‘leaving’ thing, which Brendon refused to label as ‘breaking up’ because the idea of that made him sick to his stomach. So he simply stood, anxious, unsure of what to do with himself, waiting- but then Ryan was closing the door and Brendon’s heart surged with hope. His eyes flickered down to where he dropped all of his collected belongings and once he looked back up he was startled to see that Ryan was approaching him, crowding him, almost, his hands a few inches away from his waist and Brendon’s instinct was to move towards him, into his grasp, relax. But Brendon was still nervous and slightly intimidated by the sense of purpose he could see Ryan had, so he walked backwards until his lower back hit the marble. His grasp was so weak on all the paperwork that there was no resistance when Ryan removed it and slid it across the counter- it was a miracle he hadn’t already dropped it, as he was trembling, slightly, trying desperately to hide it and keep some semblance of strength.

Brendon could barely meet Ryan’s eyes but he did anyway, looking up through his eyelashes but there was no seduction there, or playfulness, as there usually was when Ryan had him against some kind of furniture like this. Distantly he imagined what would have happened if the conversation Ryan brought up had gone smoother- maybe they’d be like this, only Ryan would be grinning and Brendon would be pressing kisses on his neck and over his pulse, before turning his head to catch Ryan in a kiss while Ryan held him secure, fingers dipping down to trace the skin of his v-line. That was what usually happened in the mornings. Instead, he was wide-eyed and felt extremely vulnerable under the scrutiny of Ryan’s careful, level gaze, not sure that any gentle kisses would get him very far in this situation.

Tell me you don’t believe I’m like Shane. Brendon... had forgotten he had said that. He felt sick. Ryan was nothing like that piece of shit and they both knew it and it was awful of him to- ”I,” He began, then cut himself off immediately, struggling to find words because he was so disgusted with himself. How did he excuse that? Shane had been abusive. Ryan wasn’t anything of the fucking sort. He was protective and sweet and wonderful and sure, sometimes he was a little uptight and could be overprotective, but he always meant well and Brendon loved him to death. He just didn’t know how to express that into words right now- some of the stupid part of his brain was still trying to get him to make things worse and refuse to accept responsibility or apologise. He had never been held accountable for anything. Tell me you’re not serious about that bullshit and I’ll think about not walking out of here.

”I’m not, I’m not,” Brendon said quickly, lifting his arms hesitantly before dropping them because he wasn’t sure Ryan would take kindly to being touched right now. ”Fuck, I’m so sorry, darling. God, I’m so shit. You’re nothing like him, I can’t believe I-” He stopped. ”...You’re not going, really, are you? You were- really going to leave? Leave me?”
Though he held parties a lot, Brendon rarely showed up at any of them- or got involved anyway; sometimes he could be found just sort of lingering beyond the boundary of where his distinguished (and not so distinguished) guests were allowed to roam, which was a considerably large area, even compared to the size of his estate. It was strange, because he was such a showman, a performer, born to be in the spotlight, born to be known and loved by many. Yet sometimes he preferred just to observe, and the parties he held were mostly just some kind of social experiment he was conducting anyway, studying how the highest and lowest of society mixed together and the aftermath of such a mix. That said, he was no scientist. In fact he was barely educated, or more technically didn’t thrive in a learning environment, and he didn’t pretend to be some kind of intellectual. All of this holding parties and not taking part made him seem kind of desirable and enigmatic, public property due to his fame and yet unreachable. The true fact of the matter was that he was a party animal- in the right situation. If he could be coaxed into drinking enough liquor (which wasn’t hard) he’d be in the throes of the music and chaos.

But, something in the psychology of the press and the public made Brendon’s lack of availability something desirable- therefore, when he made it public that he was holding a smaller, more intimate party, where he would be performing on stage, the press lapped it up and requested invites and Brendon did let a few in, and gave them the guest list in advance. Sure, it was a smaller affair, mainly to make sure it was classier than his usual events, but Brendon still loved the attention and felt his first performance in a while was worthy of a good audience and a lot of coverage from the press. It didn’t take much effort to distract the eyes of the nation- after all, they were all currently morbidly curious about Brendon’s relationship to the bootlegger, Ryan Rowe, who had just been released from lock-up as Brendon had paid his bail.

That was another thing; that he was gay, openly- although some people were still clueless and he was propositioned by women a lot of the time, advances he had to awkwardly reject because he didn’t have the time to deal with the reactions of disgusted homophobes when he revealed the real reason that he didn’t want to escape the party and go somewhere more private with them. It wasn’t the act of slipping away itself he was against. He’d snuck out of gatherings many times for a scandalous rendezvous somewhere more private- such as with his current lover, Ryan. He recalled their very classy encounter in the toilets at Dallon’s speakeasy often, and reminded Ryan just as much, which always made him roll his eyes as Ryan apparently prided himself with being much less easy. Brendon, his actual boyfriend, could disprove that any day.

His relationship with Ryan was a recent discovery and was the subject of heated debate amongst many, some who admired Brendon’s bravery and individualism, some who thought it was just a career move (any press is good press), and some who used it an example of the depravity of the youth today- ‘a faggot sodomizing a criminal.’ little did they know that it was not that way around, but Brendon was beyond caring enough to point that out to the people shouting slurs at him when he was just trying to perform a goddamn song. A lot of people say the 20’s are progressive, but there are always some idiots trying to put the fear of god into you, Brendon sometimes said in interviews. I don’t fear god, he’d say, but I’d sure like to ask him a few questions. Beyond the surface, Brendon didn’t talk about his relationship with Ryan at all. They didn’t deserve to know, and besides, all they thought of him as anyway was some lustful sinner. Nothing would change that. So he stuck to more open and liberal scenes, though he wasn’t afraid to perform somewhere... Less accepting of ‘new’ society. Much to Ryan’s distress, who was terrified Brendon was gonna he jumped by some brutes after a show. The possibility was there, sure, but.

Brendon felt more bad for Ryan- who would take him seriously now that he had been outed? He wasn’t too worried, though, being a little fruity didn’t affect Ryan’s ability to break kneecaps. All of this went through Brendon’s head as he prepared in the hours before stepping on stage. It was the final countdown beforehand, Brendon was fixing his hair in the dressing room mirror, dressed in a black velvet, floral patterned tuxedo and a white dress shirt, no tie. He turned, downed the remaining half a glass of what was meant to be a sipping whiskey that Ryan had given him earlier as a good luck present, and handed the glass to a stagehand, before, when given the signal, heading on stage. He was greeted by immediate applause as his name was announced over a speaker- For your pleasure and entertainment, Brendon Blake. He was sporting his naturally bright, charming smile, and immediately wrapped his hands around the mic stand, leaning forward to speak into and greet the audience- though as he did, his eyes searched for one man; Ryan, who said that he might be able to make it, he just had some business to attend to that couldn’t be left. That was Ryan, though. Fresh out of jail and back to business.

Brendon couldn’t see him but tried not to be disheartened. ”Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,” He began, eyes now surveying the audience just to make eye contact with guests instead, who were all sat around on tables, unfortunately not drinking alcohol, because this was a very publicised event. Nobody wanted to be caught on camera drinking champagne. His eyes zeroed in on a man who looked like he wouldn’t mine being brought to attention for a joke. ”I hope you all enjoyed the refreshments- you look like you’ve enjoyed them too much, sir, did you slip a little something extra in your drink? Don’t worry, sport, it’s our secret.” The audience all laughed, and Brendon laughed along like it was a personal inside joke, like these were his friends. Once again he looked around for Ryan- but if he was here, he would have seen him by now. ”Anyhow, thank you for coming. I’ll be performing very soon, but for now, please enjoy the pleasure of each other’s company rather than mine.” And so, with applause punctuating the end of his brief welcome, he walked off stage and back around to his dressing room, a little bummed that Ryan wasn’t around, but very excited to sing in public again since taking a little hiatus to spend more time with his boyfriend, who even took some time off work himself. They were- an odd couple.
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