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All his life Brendon had felt lonely, even surrounded by people and noise and suffocated by the towering walls of the city- he’d struggled with this feeling of psychological and emotional isolation for years, trying to support himself and his friend with no real goal other than maybe make it til his next payday and pay the bills and take breaks only to ponder about purpose and pointlessness and philosophy and train tracks and stupid little pill bottles and the long drop from his tiny balcony jutting off from his apartment and-

He never spoke about this to Ryan, as close as they were now. The dark empty pull in his chest and the voice in his head that told him he had no one and nothing to keep going for- not even living for the sake of living because although he wasn’t miserable he was just, grey. He didn’t feel like he should be grey- maybe in another lifetime he’d have been vivid and able to funnel his nervous energy into something good and he’d be successful and he’d just wake up happy and content like he thought everybody else did. Although he didn’t speak about it all, ever, he knew Ryan felt that way too- as slow as Brendon was at making it through his novels, and how wrapped up truths and honesty was wrapped up in Ryan’s elaborate metaphors, Brendon knew that he sold his heart and soul off to the general public and that a consistent theme was pain, and loneliness.

Both practically alone in different senses, they had come together and found something that was near sacred. Ryan living alone in his mansion in the countryside swallowed up by plants and flowers and tendrils that seemed to choke the life away from it; Brendon in his shitty apartment, hundreds of feet off the ground, surrounded by countless numbers of people and caged in concrete. It was almost poetic if it wasn’t so horrifically depressing, how like shells the two of them had been. Both of them wilting away in their environments even if they had previously convinced themselves it was working. It was like they’d found a new way of living. Imperfect, messy- but Brendon had never felt more content in his whole life than right that moment, sat beside Ryan, staring up at the stars he so rarely made out while standing at his old window, knuckles white around the railing, craning his neck to stare at the sky and look for stars when all he could see was thick blackness and flashing lights in the distance that could be satellites, or planes, or space stations. He could never really tell the difference. Out here, the sky was illuminated and adorned with thousands of tiny visible stars, and the moon.

It wasn’t like they’d been fixed. Ryan still shut himself away and didn’t let conversation get too deep, and Brendon still felt grey and sluggish, or sometimes the opposite, which was sometimes worse- restless, electrified with anxiety and energy he couldn’t channel into something positive and ending up in a manic spiral. Sometimes they wouldn’t speak for days but during times like these for either of them just knowing the other was accessible was a comfort. The closer in proximity they were, the more strong that feeling became- Brendon felt so comforted and safe right then that he wanted to hide himself in Ryan’s side, rest his head on his shoulder. He didn’t dare, though, instead finally pulled his attention away from the sky and to Ryan, who had apparently been trying to write, as always. Brendon thought he caught him turning his head away at the last second but dismissed it as his overactive and often embarrassingly wistful imagination.

Brendon was watching him with just as much fascination as he did the sky. Sometimes he didn’t understand this man at all and though it wasn’t like he saw him as some strange creature to study, he did desperately want to know what was on his mind. He let himself examine his profile contemplatively but not granting himself the liberty of consciously forming opinion about it, simply acknowledging the line of his jaw from the side and the plane of his cheekbone, how he could see his eyelashes and a faint reflection of light in his eyes from the moonlight, how his head was tilted back slightly parallel to sky. Just factual observations. Brendon blinked slowly, only after Ryan began to speak. I’ve always got a muse. Another observation- his voice was low and weary from underuse. Long silences between them were neither uncommon nor uncomfortable. Just... nothing I can show the publishers. Just as Ryan turned his head to meet his eyes, Brendon began to smile. “Alright, keep your secrets.” Figuring that would be the extent of their conversation, he looked back at the sky.

I don't think you're as much of a city person as you might've resigned yourself to be. It's sweet, how much you love a clear night sky. Looking back, it was clear on his face that Brendon was surprised- pleasantly, of course, but usually when Ryan was writing he rarely took breaks to talk. Considering what he’d said, he exhaled contemplatively. “I’m not really a city person by choice,” He admitted. “I know I’m here to help with understanding it, but that’s about all I can do. I get it. That doesn’t mean it isn’t exhausting and just fucking- draining.” As he spoke, he began to use his hands, gesturing for punctuation and holding his hands in the air for a few moments before dropping them back onto his lap. “Most of my love for the city comes from nostalgia and nostalgia is a liar. I always think- it wasn’t so bad. But it was. And I love it anyway.” A pause, a laugh, a glance at Ryan. “That makes no sense, probably. But- yeah, I love the stars. Maybe the novelty will fade after a while. They’re just so damn pretty.”

Before he could even finish Ryan was leaning in close and Brendon’s heart leapt into his mouth, taken off guard. For how close they were, actual physical closeness wasn’t common. It was comfortable regardless- of course. He stole a fleeting glance at Ryan then followed his outstretched arm to the corresponding cluster of stars. Look, those collected stars there - that's Cassiopeia, the constellation. Neat, right? Brendon’s eyes went comically wide along with an impressed smile that took over his face. “Really? I didn’t know you- where’s Aries? Oh my god. Do you have, like- a book or something? Pretentious- fucker.”

As many ‘divine qualities’ Brendon possessed, and however much they were emphasised while he lived amongst the living world, he still found Ryan quite- intimidating. He didn’t know why- considering all he knew about him, like how casually close he was to giving up, on everything, he knew he should feel sympathy, not this faint unsettled feeling he couldn’t quite place. Maybe it was just his stature, tall and considerably well built considering the struggles he was going through. Maybe it was the look in his eyes, restless, searching, that set Brendon so on edge. He didn’t know. Either way, the faint stubborn tone of his voice made Brendon stiffen a little, losing the effortless way he held himself as his muscles tensed painfully. Although blessed with general elegance it was still always a struggle getting used to this- corporeal form he had chosen. He felt clumsy and overflowing at the seams with energy he had to contain. No, it’s fine. Was it? Brendon met Ryan’s eyes, gentle, unchallenging. It’s okay. Also, you’re less ‘potential’ and more ‘surefire’ by the second, trust me. Well, that was good news. It wasn’t like he just come back later in a disguise in a second attempt at inserting himself in Ryan’s life. He smiled gently, grateful.

Brendon wasn’t completely ignorant- he knew that the intense religious vibe he gave off could be unsettling to some but always forgot that it wasn’t normal behaviour to mention God every two minutes amongst most people, and that honest statements like ‘god took his time on you’ were just seen as weird and oddly specific compliments. As such he shrank a little under Ryan’s gaze, embarrassed, feeling like he was being examined, like an pretty shell on a beach, or something. He wasn’t used to attention, it was an intense feeling he couldn’t process properly, even if it was definitely more a positive thing than a negative. It wasn’t meant to be this way around, Ryan trying to figure him out in silence as Brendon stood there and squirmed, and he wished for a second that the ‘abilities’ he had whilst around people extended to, like, mind reading, which would make his entire job a lot more easy to do. Faster, too, and though the recommendation was absolutely to spend as little time with people as possible, Brendon already felt a little attached to Ryan.

Not seeing it as a huge deal, though, Brendon just pushed on, but was immediately faced by another hurdle that his complete social illiteracy made very difficult to overcome- a mention of- orientation, and in his awkwardness, he stuttered over his words and panicked as Ryan’s expression fell, hardened, like a wall he hadn’t even scratched the surface of yet was reinforced already. Completely without thinking he stood up from the chair and forced himself to speak with a little more sense- he was more than prepared to pass Ryan onto someone else if it meant he could stop feeling this intense anxiety in the pit of his stomach. He forced himself to meet Ryan’s eyes, highly confused by his unhappy, tight smile, and shoved his hands tightly in his pockets, feeling very small. Shit. Brendon held his breath, still feeling heavily inclined to bolt. Then Ryan looked back at him and he held his gaze again, feeling himself tremble slightly just from the tension in the air. You’re right, I’m sorry- sit back down, please, I’m really sorry.

As much as he felt relief, Brendon also felt whiplash at the way this entire meeting had played out, and how defensive and confrontational Ryan was when he felt cornered. Helpful to know, yes, but terrifying to experience. He followed Ryan’s gesture, but slowly, still wary, and sat back down. I'm sorry, I'm really used to people being assholes. I didn't want to... A natural empath, Brendon felt a flood of sadness at that, sort of lamenting the prejudice that Ryan had suggested that he experienced. Maybe he was wise, but not worldly-wise, only knowing about the uncomfortable air around discussions of otherness outside of the world where it actually held weight in people’s lives. “That’s okay,” Brendon said, softly, not sure how to comfort him or if this was something he needed to be comforted for. I didn't want to let you hurt me first. But you're a good guy. I shouldn't have jumped the gun like that.

“I didn’t mean to hurt you,” He said, shifting in the chair and trying to achieve a more natural looking position that sitting dead upright like he was at a formal event. Trying to relax, he brought a hand up and dragged it though his hair, holding onto it and tugging as if to try and ground himself. He watched as Ryan stood, and held his breath when Ryan held onto his arm. His touch was warm and reassuring- and Brendon cursed himself because it was his job to be that comforting presence. “I just- Coming from where I do, I’ve never really- it’s not commonplace to talk about that stuff.” Vague, but Brendon hoped desperately that he understood because it was so hard to explain beyond that, especially considering his own internal and currently unaddressed struggle.

Although deescalated, the situation still felt slightly uncomfortable and Brendon closed his eyes, tried to recalibrate and calm down, counting on it being contagious. When he opened them, he saw that Ryan was in the kitchen. I may be broke, but I still have the stuff to make pretty awesome coffee. I’m making you some. Smiling, Brendon let go of his hair and folded his arms loosely, his feet now planted further apart, assuming a more relaxed position, feeling a little more positive about all of this now. “Thank yIu. I can’t usually have a lot of caffeine, but- Well, I think I need the energy.” There was a silence but it was no longer tense, just a little awkward. So, you’re not gay? Wow. Usually I’m the expert on that. Oh, Lord, Brendon thought, looking down at the ground, then guiltily up at the sky. It’s necessary to discuss to succeed, though.

Or so went Brendon’s brief almost-prayer, more a way of lifting some of heaviness away from the complicated cocktail of emotions he felt but didn’t understand. He cleared his throat but looked back down at his feet. “I don’t... I don’t really know what I am. I think-“ Brendon looked up and searched out eye contact, knowing that transparency was the best option here. With Ryan, at least- with God, not so much. “I think you’re very handsome.”

In your way 2 mos ago Forum: 1x1 Roleplay
Even though the wave of feelings that washed over Brendon upon admitting his long-nursed and deep-seated genuine affection for Ryan was a content one, a calm one, there was a secondary rush of emotion that wasn’t so collected and peaceful. It was like the tide of good nature had drawn steadily back to sea and left their issues in the form of flotsam and debris and broken shells half-buried in the sand that was their long and complicated history. He realised all too suddenly the implications of admitting something so vulnerable to someone who had the power to make him crumble to the ground, buckle in defeat- but just as soon as the emotions came, the calm returned, the wave of reassurance creeping up the bay again and slowly dislodging different problems from the sand and taking them away to sea.

It was all very pretty, in his head- the idea of them, the idea of having Ryan for himself in a way that wasn’t possessive but trusting and sure, the idea of being able to call him a partner, a boyfriend, anything more concrete and certain than ‘acquaintance’, ‘old friend’, or the worst of them all, a ‘friend with benefits’. The last one was a false testament to what they had perceived themselves to be- two men who didn’t like eachother but enjoyed eachother’s company because they were only flesh and blood, after all, spending night after night together didn’t compromise the coldness at its core, the fact that they sometimes simply sat and talked didn’t undermine the purely physical nature of their relationship. Of course they were wrong and Brendon now knew it. It wasn’t love but then Brendon wouldn’t know how to describe such a thing if he tried- all he knew was that he wanted to be around Ryan as much as possible and he had so much to tell him it was kind of daunting.

Again, though, it was peaceful. Warm. They were in close proximity and Brendon stared at him for a few long moments, allowing himself to indulge in a view he had denied himself all the time he’d known Ryan- the ability to look into his eyes and savour them without guilt, to allow himself to conjure up the beginnings of love songs, montage reels of honey and autumn and cold sunrises and feeling joy instead of cringing at his own ridiculous fantasy. It was still ridiculous, this romanticisation- but it wasn’t really a problem. They knew too much dirt on eachother and it had been too ugly in the past between them for them to ever worry about idealising eachother- they knew the worst of the worst about the other and still felt this passion, this vitality that wasn’t shifting, partly because neither of them were pushing it violently away.

They were both grinning, taking in eachother’s faces like they had been given a time limit only in the past, they always had. And now they didn’t- well, no metaphorical one anyway. Maybe a real one, like people wondering where the hell the two of them are and finally suspecting what somehow, nobody had picked them up for yet. First of all, they were not discreet. Brendon was too whiney and attention seeking for that- just before they had kissed outside in broad daylight against a tour bus like teenagers. Secondly, they were... loud. Brendon’s train of thought finally returned to his initial plan of action and his much less wholesome goal for this evening came back to him. Ryan was just laughing. Well, then, we’ll have to fix that, won’t we. Very promising, but they were still crammed into this armchair, and as cute and cosy as it was, it wasn’t exactly suitable. Need I remind you, I was very against this ten minutes ago. Brendon grinned, and quickly stole a kiss, pulling back before Ryan could even return it. “No you weren’t. You could never resist me for long,” He said softly, in jest, mostly, but there was definitely truth to it. Then Ryan was coaxing his shirt over his head and Brendon helped, pulling it off and dumping it on the floor, then immediately leaning in again to kiss him. Ryan was speaking before he even pulled back. Is this mine?

Brendon glanced down at the t shirt quizzically as though he hadn’t intentionally worn that shirt to get under Ryan’s very thin skin, and smiled, faking bemusement. “Maybe,” He said, flashing him another grin. You have such a crush on me.” Oh. Well. So he wanted to play at that game. Brendon was very much about to call him out but suddenly Ryan was on his feet, and Brendon wrapped his legs around him embarrassingly quickly, like it was muscle memory. He gazed at him senselessly and let out a euphoric laugh when they both landed on the bed- it wasn’t soft but wasn’t uncomfortable- a little springy in the mattress department, Brendon realised, and as they both settled onto it, the force collided the headboard with the wall. Not ideal. Not that he minded- he watched Ryan move between his legs and watched him, always closely, even as he undid the top button of his jeans. It all felt so normal, but apprehensive, like they’d never done this before, but then-

Since when did you know?

Brendon came to a revelation then. As long as there were unanswered questions, Ryan’s head would not be in this and that was pointless, so Brendon reached out and pressed a hand against his chest gently, keeping him back. “You just want to talk, don’t you?” He said in a quiet, amused tone. “You’re too cute to rail me right now anyway.” Partially a joke- but Brendon hadn’t waited two weeks for Ryan to give minimum effort. Instead, he just kissed Ryan again, obsessed with how it made him feel, and thought for a few moments, reaching out one hand to hang onto the fabric of his shirt’s neckline, keeping him at least close. “Since- Well. Probably since Seattle,” He murmured, blinking slowly. “But I realised- truly realised when- it wasn’t you playing next to me anymore. But I ignored that too, so. Probably... when I looked sidestage during our first performance and you were there in the wings. I just- couldn’t wait to see you straight after.” He paused. ”And you?”
When Brendon released his hands from curling tightly in his own hair, the locks sprouted up between his fingers, sticking out in every direction haphazardly when he moved his hands to instead cradle his own jaw. His elbows were planted firmly on his knees, and he was hunched over in the chair, staring at his guitar. He had been playing- showing Ryan a new series of chords he thought had potential- but evidently his dear loving husband, the love of his life, did not agree. Or at least- didn’t think it was right for their ‘sound’. He looked up, jerking his head back in a singular motion, and with it, his hair was swept backwards, still messy and visually representative of his stress. ”What sound, babe? Are we fuckin’ rippin’ off the Beatles again? As much as I’m a McCartney fan, I think it’d kinda be overkill.” Brendon reached out to pick up his abandoned guitar and nestled it in his lap, shifting in the chair, resting his back against the rest and letting his fingers drift across the strings- it was in tune already, but out of frustration, twisted at the machine heads anyway, acting entirely absorbed by the instrument when in fact he just wanted to talk this out with Ryan, properly.

Ryan was sat across from him in their at-home studio- he was lounging on a couch instead of sat upright on a chair, but was holding his own guitar anyway, holding it by the neck. Since he wasn’t playing, Brendon had picked up his own to break the brief moment of silence, almost physically needing the music to tide them over this weird area of stress. All the time they’d known eachother they’d had musical differences, differences in taste and direction, but compromise was easy because they all just wanted records finished and out there, anticipating success. Now, though, four albums in, the distance in taste opened up like a chasm, compromise they were usually able to reach swallowed up by the rut they were stuck in as two people with very different styles and skill sets. It was almost funny how goddamn perfect they were for eachother considering how different they were as musicians, when music was such a huge part of their lives. The last album had been successful but very much Brendon-oriented, with a lot of support from Spencer. Ryan and Jon contributed, sure, but with less enthusiasm. It was clear they were disillusioned from the pop-y route they had taken and Brendon tried his hardest not to get irritated by this.

“I just- We need to evolve as a band, y’know? Not go backwards. Not that I don’t love our old shit, but come on, Ry. For me?” That might’ve been unwise to say- as mentioned, the latest album had been practically ‘for Brendon’, entertaining his new idea for their band’s direction. And Ryan was passionate about music, he wouldn’t put his best effort into something he didn’t sort of- connect to. There was nothing Brendon could do about that and he felt a little bad about it- but not bad enough that he’d let up more than he wanted to, properly take criticism. It was an issue, but a work issue. Because this was their job. A passion, but still a job- they were able to separate it from their own relationship, finding it second nature to write their own songs for eachother, collaborate on personal projects not meant for the world to hear, sit for hours messing around with chord progressions and coming up with lyrics and tunes that they both loved.

Coming up with a new album was hard, though, and stressful, and it was inevitable that the stress would kind of creep up between them and resonate, even when they weren’t even discussing music. It was little things like choosing what song to play on the speakers in their home, or in the car; the content of little notes they left eachother, like maybe one wasn’t as ‘loving’ as usual, because they were really that childish sometimes, what to have more lunch or where to go for dinner. Nothing disastrous; normal strain. But it was preventable- that’s what annoyed Brendon. With work and life both experienced together, they had no solace- not in the sense that they got sick of eachother, just that it was hard to know where to channel this frustrated energy. It presented itself especially now, while they were trying to be productive and get work done so they could send at least something to their bandmates and then their label.

There was a pause as Brendon strummed his guitar, humming the tune he was creating. He then rested his hand against the body and it made a hollow sound from the accidental force he used bringing it down against the wood. “Like- what it is about it that you don’t like? And my lyrics, what’s wrong with those? I think they’re cool!” There was no aggression in his voice, only protest, like a scolded child. The reason he was so defensive was perhaps because he looked up to Ryan so much as a musician, even at their level of intimacy he was never used to his talent and his intelligence and Brendon loved him so much but felt he couldn’t match up, still a sense of idolisation and adoration remaining from the days that Brendon was just a strong fan of a band just at the horizon of their dawning popularity. It was ridiculous. They were married, in love, for God’s sake. Brendon just valued his input above all else and unfortunately this was at war with his desire to be independent and take the route he thought was the only viable one. “I love you,” He said lamely, looking up and smiling at him, genuine despite its relative weakness, considering Brendon’s usual smiles.
As much as Ryan’s explosive response to what could be apparently seen as Brendon’s marital infidelity, given the strength of Ryan’s reaction, had died down, Brendon was not buying this new act. It seemed to be an almost resignation to his ridiculous behaviour- but he had stepped over a mark, taken entitlement that Brendon already suspected to a whole new level, like they were exclusive, or committed, or anything beyond two people who sort of barely tolerated eachother who somehow also maintained a sexual relationship on the side. That was all they were, after all, and Brendon apparently hadn’t made that clear until just now; he didn’t think the clarification necessary, partly because there was nothing romantic or dedicated about their physical interactions, partly because he was so sure that Ryan disliked him as a person that he’d never want anything more from him. When Brendon looked back at it, though, it wasn’t even Ryan’s fault. After their night in Brendon’s hotel room, the morning had been another world, like they were two different people, a dynamic with potential. Brendon had been too defensive and too prideful to open his arms out to that, and on that night, he had kicked back into gear, aggravating Ryan on purpose, telling himself that nothing that the two of them had said in the morning was true.

In reality, it wasn’t the madness of two after a spontaneous night together. It was the culmination of feelings neither of them had addressed, neither aloud to eachother or within themselves. Brendon was in complete denial about how much he just wanted Ryan to like him. This was why, when he started avoiding him in a sort of defensive mechanism, he’d felt yearning, an emptiness, loneliness but in a very specific way, lonely for Ryan only. This stayed, naturally, buried deep within his mind, in the part of his brain that whatever sexual encounter they had could not truly unlock. But that was how they communicated- Brendon felt less vulnerable with Ryan while they were being physically intimate than during the rare occasions that they had some sort of brief, meaningful conversation. When the initial spark of aggression or hatred or frustration had melted away, it didn’t go unnoticed. Brendon began to get scared when the initial excitement and pent-up energy of being with Ryan faded away, and passion and anticipation still lingered, the desire to be close to him when the novelty of fucking your arch-enemy was gone.

It was absolutely terrifying, so Brendon tried to move on- to someone different. Not as a rebound, he said in his head, they weren’t exes, he wasn’t even properly breaking whatever they had ‘off’. Ian was kind and funny and handsome, not that Ryan was cruel anymore. Brendon knew cruel- any confrontation they had now lacked spirit, lacked the iciness that he knew Ryan could possess. When he wanted to be, he was fucking ruthless, cold, vindictive, knew just what buttons to press. No longer, though- and it made it even more difficult for Brendon to deal with, because the anger had faded away from him, too. Regardless, Ian- they’d known eachother for a while, only really passing over into non-platonic territory recently, since which Brendon had introduced him to the rest of the band and Ryan had barely lifted his head. Maybe he was just that arrogant. He didn’t look so high and mighty any more- even though Brendon was the one sat down on the lounge sofa, head down, physically vulnerable, Ryan’s energy was of someone exposed, uncomfortable with their previous behaviour. Brendon felt no advantage, though.

They think I do- made no fucking sense; if everyone thought it, if thats the energy that Ryan gave in his regard, it might as well be fucking true. Brendon wasn’t interested in hypotheticals or ‘in theory’s. Sounding soft, though, almost small, Ryan’s voice had a certain level of authenticity to it that was unnerving. Brendon looked at him, held his gaze for a few beats, his eyebrows raised slightly with tension, and for a moment he was almost convinced to be a little sympathetic, audibly address that the mess they had made of this was a mutual effort- but the reason in him faded, defiant of his apology because there was so much he’d done that ‘I’m sorry’ didn’t really cover it adequately. I’m- Brendon didn’t look away as Ryan seemed to fumble with his hands, cover his face briefly. Both. Okay? Both. That frustration... Textbook Ryan, he thought, swallowing, looking down at his hands, again sort of overcome by his internal struggle between defiance and desire for approval, for affection, from this ridiculous man who was supposed to be good with words. On paper, anyway. It had never really transferred into real life.

Sort of completely sick of feeling so vulnerable and unfulfilled by Ryan’s half-assed confessions, Brendon pressed his fingertips hard into his eyes, felt the sting of tears ready to betray his already weak display of indifference, feeling like a fucking idiot. He made a very unconvincing comment about inviting Ian back over- he didn’t want that, he just felt like utter shit. He dragged his hands down his face, over his cheekbones until he held onto his own jaw, teeth clenched, shoulders tight, back stiff, all stress and tension. I... I wish you wouldn’t, Brendon, I know it’s not fucking- fair of me or whatever, we never made promises or anything, but. But what? “And what if I do, huh?” Brendon said, dropping his arms and holding onto his knees tightly as he looked up to meet Ryan’s eyes again, his own wide and demanding, the defiance undermined by the spikes of his eyelashes, stuck together by the tears he told himself he shouldn’t be shedding over this stupid man. “You gonna put some kind of claim on me before I go? Leave a good fucking mark so everyone knows you’ve got me?”

But I do have feelings for you. I do, and I don't even know if it's okay - I can't tell whether you hate me or not, either, I just assume you do. When he’d said that, that Ryan had feelings for him, it was on impulse. Brendon expected to be embarrassed by a loud laugh, or a scoff of indignation. How could Ryan feel anything of substance for him besides any level of dislike? Hearing him say it, though, prove him wrong- it was surreal. His knuckles were white has he clutched onto his own thighs, grounding himself somehow, inspired despite his disbelief by Ryan’s apparent honesty to speak his own piece, maybe in a way that wasn’t as grovelling as he had been in the last half an hour. “I haven’t hated you in a long time,” He murmured, searching for Ryan’s eyes. “I can’t even convincingly fake it. S’why I- stay away.” So... you’re the only one. For me. The useless romantic within him melted a little and he was suddenly overcome with the desire to be held, kissed, proved wrong of all his doubts and suspicions because being so guarded was so exhausting. It wasn’t Brendon. He was meant to love loudly and be loved with just as much noise and attention. If you're going to be with him, I'm sorry, I can't just... I can't do it.

There was the proof he had been looking for, he supposed- that Ryan cared about him as a person, as an individual, not just a ‘cheap fuck’ like the role Ryan had assigned Ian very quickly. Brendon didn’t quite know what to say. Ask him back if you want, just tell me if I should get over you now, okay?

A brief silence followed before Brendon extended his arm out, closed his hand gently around Ryan’s wrist and rugged slightly. “Will you sit with me?” He asked, in a low voice, a little raw. “I don’t want to ask him back. I- there’s more we need to talk about, I think, uh. It’s really- I’ve spent so long thinking you just wanted me for-“ Brendon looked down at his feet again, simultaneously very timidly searching for Ryan’s hand after he sat down beside him and holding on, tight, scared he’d just pull away. “Wanted me for, you know.”
Brendon had no idea how much Ryan knew about him- though in his experience, everyone at least knew of him. He never used to be quite sure why, and neither did he even care- but as he got older he realised that his energy and hyperactivity wasn’t normal, being physically unable to sit still in his chair or focus on some kind of task without being completely overloaded wasn’t just a regular teenage thing. It was stressful and he had mixed feelings about attracting so much attention- in a way he liked it, being noticed, but then it was only surface level, ‘noticing’ as in ‘that guy is so fucking annoying’- and that made him very insecure. The idea that Ryan just thought he was weird was scary and he wasn’t really helping himself by staying with him while Bogart was being groomed, or being so antsy and anxious, or speaking to his dog in such a stupid baby voice. Brendon never used to get this anxious around people until his habits began to get pointed out by those around him- now he did everything he could to suppress it, struggling even then, tapping his fingers nervously, rhythmically against his thigh.

Just wish I had one. Snapped out of his train of worry, Brendon smiled slightly, shrugging a shoulder. “Surely you could get one? You know enough.” My, uh... My dad doesn’t want one. For once, instead of launching immediately into a mini inquisition about a veiled detail or subject, Brendon actually took heed of the discomfort in his voice and just nodded, vaguely, reaching up with the hand that wasn’t occupied with fidgeting to card through his hair, self conscious all of a sudden. He hadn’t known his- it seemed juvenile to use crush, but it was the only fitting word- would be here, he hadn’t given a shit about how he looked just taking his dog to be groomed, so his hair was a mess, but luckily, thank fucking god he was recently clean shaven. His self consciousness continued even when Ryan complimented him, his singing; Brendon didn’t think himself anything special, so hearing this from someone who wasn’t just a teacher who had to say that made him embarrassingly happy, but he tried to play it off. Return the compliment. Draw attention away from himself because he didn’t think much was appealing other than his appearance- which today wasn’t too impressive either.

Unfortunately, he didn’t realise until too late that complimenting a near-stranger on their singing was odd, because he really shouldn’t have heard enough to make that call, especially considering Ryan very rarely sang. Thank you. He swallowed, wondering if Ryan was making fun of him and mumbling his thoughts accidentally aloud to Bogart, luckily under his breath and thankfully too quietly for Ryan to hear him. Don’t say that. The command in Ryan’s voice straightened his spine a little, and he looked up from his little dog, and was met by Ryan’s startlingly level gaze, stuck in his thoughts between ‘they’re so pretty’ and ‘I’m a little intimidated right now’. Even if it was true, you fucking kill in there, so. I mean, you’re the best in the class. I’m not kidding. It wouldn’t be the worst thing to ‘only be good at’. They hadn’t broken eye contact the entire time and Brendon was halfway ecstatic with the attention, halfway terrified by the plainness of his tone, like it was so easy to say. Brendon felt himself relax, his jaw soften, his shoulders drop- and he grinned, fully, starting small and understated but growing quickly, bright with appreciation and newfound confidence.

Brendon folded his arms across his chest, holding onto his own bicep with one arm, almost grounding himself. More brazen now, rejuvenated by positive response, he felt that odd little bud of narcissism open a little. “You really think so?” I joined 'cause I thought it'd get me into a real band, somehow. I'm an idiot. So far I've got Spencer and he can only kind of play drums. You know him? Almost immediately, Brendon’s eyebrows rose, as he looked down at Bogart, petted his head gently and scratched behind his ears. A real band... he was familiar with the passing fantasy. “I know of him,” He murmured in a low voice, wondering suddenly whether Spencer could provide some insight, maybe tell him if Ryan even. Played for his team, so to speak. There was no point getting so flustered over him otherwise, he told himself... “You have a name? For your. Two man band.”
As much as Brendon knew Ryan, as close as they were, he had never seen and definitely not expected such an enthused response to his messy confession of love. Best case scenario, in all the silly, air-headed daydreams he liked to entertain while they sat watching a movie, or drinking coffee together on the porch in the early morning chill, he’d tell Ryan he loved him and Ryan would be quiet, just as he had been in the real event. Instead of remaining so, though, he’d turn to Brendon; take hold of his hands, all sweet and understated, and maybe smile a little, and say it back. A muted response with the strong feeling there, detectable, but not on his sleeve. That was more in character for the Ryan he knew- but now that he had such a spring to his every movement, a bright intonation to his usually raw-sounding voice, a persistent grin instead of some faint smirk, Brendon realised that there was more to learn about him, and more to love. It was exhilarating, infectious, his nervousness and suspicion dissipating as Ryan ran his fingers through his hair.

When he expressed his confusion at this new side to this usually bitter bastard’s personality, Ryan raised his eyebrows but said nothing. But then he laughed- with the gentleness he was used to. Brendon smiled up at him, an almost dreamy look in his eyes, as Ryan seemed to put thought into finding some kind of mean comment to say. Flattering, really, the length of the pause it took. You were right. You are, in fact, loud as hell from floors away. Brendon’s grin widened, the corners of his mouth starting to twitch from the strain it took to smile this widely for this long- he just couldn’t help it. “I usually am.” Doesn’t mean I don’t miss you. It faded a little, then, as he considered that. For Ryan, that was a big thing to say, even if he’d said it before. With him it tended to be brief openings of time where he was vulnerable before he shut it away again. Brendon reached up and traced a finger along Ryan’s jaw, his eyebrows turned upwards like this was all so endearing and intimate. “I like this.”

He was going to elaborate why, but he gave up and instead submitted to the compulsion to kiss him; the angle was too perfect, Ryan almost leaning over him, Brendon propping himself up, head tilted backwards. He pulled him back and settled into it too quickly, it felt too natural, like it was just common sense, like they were meant to be like this. Brendon was getting lost in romantic fantasies, made even better by the fact that they were one by one coming true. Feeling Ryan’s muscles relax, he smiled, distant and yet so, so wired at the same time, until a thought struck him that he was indeed still in a towel and unless they wanted to move extremely fast he should probably get dressed. Besides, Ryan was a Virgo, he’d probably make it awkward somehow. So he broke away, pushed against Ryan’s chest and explained himself quickly so that Ryan would know he hadn’t just. Bailed. How modest of you. Humming a little, amused, Brendon sat up straight when he rolled aside and combed his hand through his hair compulsively, biting his lip to stop himself smiling too wide. “You know me, a saint.”

When he stood up, he instantly regretted it, disrupting their rhythm like this. Regardless, he readjusted the towel so it was secure around his waist and heading towards his wardrobe, opening it and browsing through. I mean, you’re usually, like. Brendon raised his eyebrows, continued sorting through his clothes.“A fuckin’ whore?” Remember when you got into my study and you were acting in very un-Christian ways? You’re a changed man. He really wasn’t. But Ryan was spiritually a virgin, he didn’t want to scare him away. He turned around, a little embarrassed, because he’d scrubbed that whole event from his mind. Oh well- might as well own it. “Unfortunately I didn’t drink enough to forget that. Aren’t you glad you rejected me, though? Would’ve ruined our friendship. God, I wanted to fuck you so bad.” He said that last part under his breath after he turned back around, grinning in disbelief at himself. “I’m leaving room for jesus, Ry.”

Their conversation seemed to have taken a more experimental turn, because this was new to them. Brendon still felt like he was on cloud nine, just dialled it down all the way to keep himself under control. He’d picked out Ryan’s old jersey, mostly out of affection and partly for the joke, and a pair of excessively and unintentionally ripped jeans, and turned to Ryan, pausing awkwardly. “Should I go- to the bathroom?”
“Where have you been?”

Brendon’s eyes were fixed on Ryan. He was sitting in a velvet armchair, one leg resting atop the other, back straight and chin tilted upwards. In one hand he held a cigarette, almost burned down to the filter, from which a thin whisper of smoke rose to the ceiling, dissipated, and in the other he held a crystal glass, almost empty of liquor. The way in which he regarded Ryan was unrelenting- his eyes weren’t narrowed with irritation, but wide and calm and intense as he looked him up and down, took a disdainful drag from his cigarette and exhaled, never once looking away.

With a decisive flourish he reached over to an adjacent small table, and silently crushed the filter of his cigarette into an ash tray. Sitting back stiffly against the red velvet again, Brendon drank the remainder of his drink and then put that down, too, with a little less grace- the table shook slightly with the force in which he brought it down onto the wood, like some of his annoyance had transferred into the motion. Brendon was not usually this stiff, or forceful, with his motions- but Ryan was testing his patience.

The Ryan in question was stood opposite him across the large bedroom, in the doorway. He looked smart- he was wearing a well-tailored suit, not one Brendon had gifted him because he remembered every single one. His hair was perfect, too, and there were no signs of him having been in some sort of desperate struggle for his life, like Brendon had been imagining over the past week.

“You scared the fucking hell out of me, you know that? I wake up, you’re gone.” Brendon uncrossed his legs and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and clasping his hands together so tightly that his knuckles turned white. “I think, it’s fine, he’s probably working. Off doing his job. Some business deal, sellin’ hooch to whatever bastard needs it.” His voice was clear, loud, and there was a dangerous absence of any anger in his tone. “So I wait for you. Come evening, you’re not here. But I think- unexpected trouble, maybe. You’ve been away for a few days with no warning a few times, it’s normal. Part of the job, right?” He flicked his wrist out, fingers splayed, gesticulating tersely. “I went to sleep, Ryan, hoping you’d be here the next morning, maybe in bed with me, who knows.” For a brief moment he looked away, swallowed, as if recalling his worry. “I panicked, spoke to Spencer, he didn’t know. Dallon, neither. Nobody knew, darlin’, I had no fucking clue where you were, I-“ Sitting back in the seat again, he gripped onto the arms of the chair, inhaling and exhaling sharply.

“I even checked in with the goddamn cops, thinking you’d gone and got yourself arrested again like you’re so good at. They say to me, ‘no, you fucking fruit’, very charming of them, but besides the point.” He blinked, then stood up, lifting himself up from the chair and walking over to a table nearby, picking up a crystal decanter and pouring himself another glass of whiskey. He stared into it, swirled it around, bit his lip. “There’s not one fucking sign of you anywhere, no word from anyone. And then- here you are. All dashing and put together like you’ve just attended some formal dinner.” Brendon turned to him, clutching his glass hard. “You better have a good explanation, darlin’, because some of the ideas I have in my head, I-“ Brendon swallowed, his expression dropping, suddenly unsure and looking as small as he was for the first time since Ryan had entered the room.
Of course Brendon was suspicious- he’d given Ryan his heart, and Ryan had just. Sat there. Stared at him, in complete silence. Brendon remembered at first thinking- it’s okay, it’s a big deal to say you’re in love with someone, they need time to process it. The seconds passed, though, the time stretched out and became painful, and Brendon felt his vulnerable heart start to sink, sore with the burn of rejection that started to settle into his bones. As the quiet stretched on, he had come to the realisation that Ryan wasn’t trying to think of a response at all. He’d confessed and it hadn’t been worth it. The ten minutes he had between then and Ryan knocking on his door had been ridiculously and humiliatingly painful- he stood in the shower, frantically pushing his hands through his hair and scrubbing himself, trying to distract himself from his feelings with the urgency of it all, but only succeeding in disguising his own crying, even when he fiercely blinked it all away. Feeling numb and hurt and confused and stupid, he had sat on his bed, deciding he was leaving.

Even with Ryan apparently now returning the feeling, he was still set on leaving- mostly because he didn’t believe him. This was just self preservation from the both of them- Brendon leaving because he couldn’t stand knowing he wasn’t loved as he loved him; Ryan blurting out words he didn’t mean that held a dangerously heavy implication to save himself from being on his own again. It was terrifying and confusing, and Brendon felt like he had whiplash, being rejected and accepted within twenty minutes... That said. The nature of Ryan’s confession, though suspicious and rushed, was sweet, took his breath away. Ryan wasn’t a liar. The elated grin on his face was genuine and contagious and Brendon felt a rush of adrenaline at the prospect of such intense feelings being returned. Once he started believing him, it became obvious- what else could they be but in love, with the ridiculous closeness they shared?

Still, through this happiness, he was confused, needed answers. It was still almost surreal despite how much it also just made complete sense. I know. Ryan was shaking his head, with an urgency Brendon had never seen from him before. His insistence made it feel real. I’m sorry. I’m dumb. I don’t know. Nodding along, fascinated by this change to his countenance, Brendon was smiling faintly, before it turned into a grin, so endlessly amused and enamoured by Ryan’s endearing breathlessness. He felt important. When he laughed, Brendon laughed with, only lighter, he didn’t want to overpower this side from him that he had never, ever seen. Then do it! As Ryan got up onto his knees, now looking down on him, Brendon met his eyes, amazed, smiling dreamily like this man had really hung the stars in the sky.

And then, a hand was passing through his hair, and Brendon let his lids fall, as he gazed up at him, eyelashes skimming his cheeks, completely content and yet on edge because this was so bizarre, so out of character, it still didn’t feel real. “Who are you?” He asked, raising his eyebrows. “Quick, say something normal, like- be an asshole, so I know it’s really you and I’m not fuckin’- dreaming.” But Ryan was tilting his head up, all gentle. Brendon could cry. He followed his eyes down and bit his lip apprehensively. Was he really going to? Ryan, the literal hermit? Before you kill me- can I kiss you first? Though this all felt constructed and dreamlike, the hand in Brendon’s hair grounded him to reality. This was happening- Ryan loved him back and love turned him into this excitable puppy, bursting with energy, and Brendon had never loved anything more, the two of them there, usually both closed off and cynical. A kiss would seal it all, spell an irreversible change. But Brendon wasn’t scared. Enough time had been spent thinking about this very moment.

Leaning back, supporting himself with one hand against the mattress, and bringing the other up to grab onto the front Ryan’s shirt, Brendon pulled Ryan in to kiss him, with confidence- once he was in close, he moved his hand to firmly hold onto Ryan’s jaw, keeping him in place as he struggled not to smile against his mouth, trying to savour this moment that he wanted to be perfect. Unfortunately, an afterthought ruined it for him. He pulled away suddenly, lips parted. “I- Ryan, fuck.” His voice was low, but he was smiling. “I need to get dressed, oh my god. Look at me.” A quick glance down would confirm that Brendon was indeed still only in a towel that was wrapped around his waist- an accident waiting to happen. He gazed at Ryan, adoring, but pressed a hand against his chest to try and encourage him to move.
I don’t know where Ryan lives, only that he, too, is in LA, and even though everyone who is anyone lives in this city, it’s not where I expected him to put down roots. Knowing him back then, he was just as intoxicated by the band’s taste of fame as I was, it was a dream of his to be up there on stage every night. Be recognised. Have fans. But none of it came from any kind of genuine, personal desire for that kind of romanticised lifestyle- because that isn’t and never was the kind of life he could lead for very long, comfortably, as private as he was, as personal as his lyrics were. It was more of a passing fantasy, not ever truly meant to be fulfilled, something he stumbled into by accident and that was brought on stronger by the first sensual brush with stardom. It all escalated so quickly and we were so young and the lyrics he had written really were not meant for the world to hear, and yet he let me sing them, every night, just as I continued to do years after the band split. Whatever desperate obsession he had with the materialistic parts of success dissipated years ago into a more genuine ‘I want to make music’- if the very none-commercial album that he made after forming his own band was anything to go off.

I’m not sure why this all disconnects Ryan, in my head, from Los Angeles. There are plenty of places you can live in this city, plenty of small houses and private places he could hide away in, away from anyone’s eyes. It’s like part of me didn’t want him here, in this big city that can seem so impossibly small sometimes, because the idea of a piece of my past being so close made me feel cagey and trapped, the same exact feeling that reared up whenever I had seen him over the past ten years- apart from at Gabe’s party, where I’d willingly shut myself in a vehicle with him. For no good reason other than curiosity, a lingering sense of connection that turned out to be artificial because that kiss we shared was nothing like the fantastical part of my brain had imagined- it wasn’t prolonged or personal or passionate, it was just. A kiss. And yet, part of me wants to do it again; just in case we hadn’t done it right.

Maybe not a good thing to be thinking about when I’m about to get in his stupid car again.

Going home from Gabe’s party that night... despite the detachment of the kiss in the back of his car, I felt electric as soon as I stepped out of it, my nerves fired up and my skin static like I’d been truly plugged in for the first time in forever. Despite this sudden rejuvenation and desire to go back into the vehicle, I forced myself to leave him sat there, and immediately called an Uber and went home because I was not sticking around. Standing out on my balcony that evening, everything became a little more clear, even in the sticky, tacky heat that still stuck to my skin, the remainder of sunshine from the scorching LA afternoon. Clarity wasn’t a refreshing feeling, it washed over me like icy water, a cruel kick in the gut, as I came to the resigned conclusion that I was kidding myself if I said that I hadn’t ever wished things were different between he and I. I realise that I have unknowingly wished upon thousands of stars over the last decade that the unnamed and frustrated feelings I developed for him in our younger years would fade. I’ve subconsciously written his existence into too many songs and lyrics for this to be a normal breed of nostalgia for an old passion.

How was I to know this, though, how was I to explore this, with how uncommonly I thought of him? Part of me wishes I’d just not attended that stupid birthday party a week ago, because I had moved on. My life was good and I had always been capable of forming romantic relationships with all of his presence gone. We hadn’t even ever dated. Meeting him again this evening shouldn’t be making me this nervous, I shouldn’t be overthinking what I’m wearing this much- just a faded blue shirt and black trousers, the shirt I changed about three times, cycling through a red t shirt, a patterned button up, just something black, before resting on this practically unworn thing I found in the back of my wardrobe. Before I could stop myself I was styling my too-long hair, too, shaving as well. Like this is some sort of date.

It’s sundown and I haven’t heard from him and I am nervous, apprehensive, excited in some adolescent way to see him again. If he turns up, that is- I check my phone obsessively, almost twice consecutively just in case my eyes tricked me into seeing a blank screen, instead of the ‘Ryan’ I have him saved as. Anxiety makes me stand up, pace around the room, restless- unable to sit still at the best of times, my nervous energy has me wired and spring-loaded more than usual, running my hands through my hair and ruining it before I’ve even stepped outside. Turns out that trying to look good was a pointless endeavour when I will predictably ruin it all anyway.

I look outside and the sky is golden, pink, purple, streaked with clouds. Turning away from the window and considering getting some sort of alcoholic drink to calm my nerves, I’m interrupted by a message tone. My breath comes up short, cutting off abruptly as I look down. It’s not Ryan. It’s fucking Gabriel. Before I read what he has said, there’s a knock at the door that makes me jump, and then a voice- Bren, if you’re in there, give me a sign.

I almost trip over myself rushing to the door, unlocking it and pulling it open, hanging on to the hinges, my absolutely now-ruined hair hanging over my eyes as I smile at Ryan, the wind knocked out of me from my impulse bolt to the door. I run my hand through my hair to push it away from my face, let go of the doorframe I was clinging on to with my other hand and straighten up, conscious of his height in comparison to mine. “Hi.” I say, intelligently, completely ruining my intentions of playing it cool with some sort of indifferent, effortless, cool greeting. “You certainly took your time,” I say, and it hits me then that he called me ‘Bren’ and I’m still smiling, meet his eyes- “Ry.” There’s a pause and I wonder if I should go for a handshake, but don’t. Something about that would be too formal. I step out of my doorway and close it behind me, turning to fish my keys from my pocket. I feel his eyes on on the back of my head and take the time I have where he cannot read my expression to swallow nervously. “Where are we going, then?”
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