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As the corners of Ryan’s mouth curled up into a helpless smile, Brendon’s own trademark grin only grew wider. It wasn’t a rare sight, Ryan would be glad to know, and it was often near-constant when he was working and tried to keep customers occupied and comfortable. He was a social butterfly of sorts, warm and friendly and sweet, able to get along with nearly everyone- though he both suffered from sometimes intense anxiety and had very, very little patience for idiocy. He was never intentionally avoidant of company, which is why he never rejected the offer of a drink being bought for him- that, and the fact that he was broke enough to always want another drink he couldn’t afford. Ryan, it seemed- he had mentioned it already, plus Brendon knew anyway that he was rich and famous- could afford anything he wanted. Could probably buy the bar if he wanted to, he mused silently with a quirk of the eyebrow. Brendon tried to convince himself he was unimpressed, but really, it was envy that occupied the back of his mind- the yearning desire to be in Ryan’s shoes, even for a day. Have crowds sing your songs back to you, shout your name, cheer deafeningly for an encore. Brendon was so caught up fantasising that he took a few seconds to process Ryan’s words. You underestimate me.

Brendon rested an elbow against the counter and snickered shortly at Ryan’s faux defiance, derived from his previous geniune, animated laughter. ”Oh, please,” He tilted his head in counterpoint, and as he did, longer whisps of hair tipped over from one side of his head to the next, falling over his face and giving the appearance of an enthusiastic puppy. ”Let’s be realistic.” Leaving that open-ended, he drew his fingers through his hair at the roots, pushing it back and out of it eyes. Of course, strands rebelled and collected, falling over the front and just brushing his forehead in the form of a thin curl. For a hairstylist, he really had trouble in keeping his hair tidy- it had a mind of its own, and unless he used a questionable amount of gel or hairspray, it was inevitable that something would fall out of place. From this problem arose the habit of constantly touching and playing with his own hair- a hypocrite in the making, really, since he always advices clients to leave their hair alone as much as possible once it had been styled, for fear of making it greasy or messing it up. As he regarded Ryan, not upholding eye contact for fear of seeming a little creepy (what, Brendon, he approached you), he entertained the idea of playing with his clearly unkempt curls and taming them into something that screamed ‘rockstar’ and not ‘twelve year old’. He almost looked wistful, drumming his fingers agitatedly against the table.

As someone who had desperately wanted to break into the music industry when he was younger (his dream had been trampled and crushed so many times it had kind of killed his hope, though some always remained, he was a natural optimist), how Ryan coped with his personal life being the public’s business. That was something he wasn’t sure he’d be happy with at all- saying that, he didn’t imagine anybody was ever happy about being public property. For a moment, he wasn’t sure he’d get much more elaboration than a neutral shrug. Yes. Brendon pursed his lips, nodded understandingly, relating in a way but also unable to imagine what it would be like, really. Yeah, it is. I mean- I date girls, too, it’s not so bad. Brendon felt something faintly akin to surprise, though he wasn’t sure why- he’d seen the tabloids, and by ‘seen’ he meant briefly glanced at a paparazzi photograph of Ryan and an apparent ladyfriend. Jesus, the guy couldn’t go on a casual date without people speculating as to whether he’d met the love of his life. Brendon nodded after a moment, still strangely surprised. But if I'm ever interested in a guy, you know. He did, but he also didn’t, so he just sort of nodded to show he was listening, figuring it wasn’t exactly fun for him to talk about. So he dropped it, but stored it away to mull over later.

Settling back into comfortably flirting was easy, and Brendon felt like he was speaking to an old friend, that they went years back and were only just realising feelings for eachother, or something cringey like that. Either way, he felt a definite spark that he hadn’t anticipated when a handsome stranger offered to buy him a drink (because, Brendon wasn’t trying to brag, but that happened a lot). They were keeping it relatively tame, though, until Brendon has to go and run his mouth and say something stupid and impulsive and- oh, Ryan didn’t seem to mind that much, but Brendon was already in the middle of being flustered and attempting to start over to backtrack yet again. Ryan was smiling and Brendon was tentative, grinning but flushed with mortification at how desperate he sounded. Hand offered out towards him, Ryan took it and they shook once, firm, mostly as a joke, partially so Brendon could salvage his first impression out of the ashes of his thirsty, impulsive comment. He wished he could say it was a rare occurrence. Sure. Hi, Brendon, I’m Ryan. God bless him, at least Brendon wasn’t being teased about it. He was pretty sure he’d just crawl underneath the bar stool and stay there until he died. He was ready to withdraw his hand once his heartrate had calmed down, but then he was being pulled forwards with considerable but gentle force. Brendon looked down, confused, at their joined hands, then his eyes flickered up to meet Ryan’s, unexpectedly close to his, and he drew in a breath.

I’m just glad we’re on the same page. Are we? Brendon’s heartrate spiked again, his mind whirring, his temperature high. ”Are we?” He eachoed his own thoughts, wondering whether had actually heard what he said. Admittedly, he knew little about Ryan Ready, but never took him as someone so receptive to forwardness or this kind of heavy flirting with barely any subtext whatsoever. It was all surface level for Brendon. Brendon searched for a reply, but could only achieve sharing dumbly at his mouth while Ryan let go of his hand. Retiring it to his lap, he shifted on his stool, still recovering when Ryan started to tug on the short, tight sleeves of his ancient jacket. Everything- the hair, the old jacket, was pointing towards Ryan not having fully grown up on the outside yet. On the inside, maturity wise, of course. It just wasn’t reflected in how he presented himself and Brendon saw him as a kind of blank canvas. Of course I’d pay! Yeah, you’ll pay extra, Brendon muttered to himself, and he was smirking. He could afford it, after all. I'll pay you to follow me around and correct all my mistakes, matter of fact. If only. Brendon bit his lip to withhold a teasing smirk. ”It’d take more than me, darlin’, I’m sorry to say.”

Once Brendon had fulfilled his impulses to touch Ryan’s hair (not quite play with because that really would be weird, even though he wanted to), and they were close, slotted together, he started distantly considering exactly what could come of this. A client, apparently. Hmm. Forever and always receptive to touch, when Brendon was prompted to lift his chin, he did so obediently, brushing his fingers casually against Ryan’s knee. Could you handle it for me? Brendon laughed distractedly, keeping his eyes trained down at his own hands, occasionally studying Ryan’s, eyeing them with interest as he curled his long fingers around his whiskey glass. ”I’ll style it for you initially, I don’t think you’re too helpless to style your own hair every morning. Takes five minutes, tops. Maybe.”
Though he could’ve probably fooled people with his behaviour at that moment, Brendon, too, wasn’t one for hookups or casual flings- maybe when he was younger, when he had a little more life in him (it wasn’t like he was old by any stretch of the imagination, but his series of bad hands drawn from the decks of life has seemed to dull him, so he was a rough diamond, or a blunt knife), but now, the idea was- kind of exhausting. Even if it was supposed to be the opposite, the prospect of sleeping with a stranger then having to a) uncomfortably excuse himself and leave or b) ask awkwardly for somebody to get out of his house was mortifying, and again, Brendon wasn’t easily embarrassed, but he drew lines, and there was less he could cope with these days. Ryan, however- no, he didn’t want to say however, that sounded like some kind of promise, but the more Brendon looked at him the more drawn to him he became. He wondered, absently, whether it was because he had found out the guy was famous- like, super famous- and his ego had just been stroked because his gorgeous rockstar had decided he was worth approaching. Compliments weren’t scarce for Brendon, but he supposed it meant more coming from Ryan, for some reason. Which was ridiculous. He was just a man, at the end of the day- who happened to be tall, pretty, and charming. Who was Brendon Kidding?

I see what you mean. And he was playing along with the religious parents joke, but asked no questions. It was usually Brendon’s go-to first reveal to strangers, or new acquaintances- which was odd, and nobody ever expected somebody like Brendon to have ever been to church in his life. He had left it all behind, now, but it was a big part in shaping him, for better and for worse- mostly for worse, though, he often thought bitterly, remembering barely veiled homophobia and parents pushing him away from what he loved and into something more ‘reliable’. Here he was, working backbreaking shifts at a salon, and all the worse for it. Brendon did keep some contact with his family, mostly to try and guilt trip them- he expected an apology for their bullshit behaviour, but his family seemed to be experts at brushing problems under the rug and not dragging up the past in what they said was ‘healing’. Whenever he called his mom, she tried to convince him to come visit, said ‘honey, we miss you’; his dad would be blunt and civil but not warm, clearly still holding something against Brendon (wonder what that could be); his siblings were all surface-level nice to him but he knew he was something of an outcast, the youngest and the most deviant. It was a pretty rough thing to bring up all the time, but Brendon embraced his history no matter what. Even if he did sometimes wish it had been different.

I could get one. And, as I assume is necessary, wear a button-down shirt and khakis or whatever so that I look like your straight friend. See, I'm good. Brendon laughed warmly, glad he was catching on. ”Does that come naturally to you?” He asked, quirking an eyebrow and pausing, a playful smile still on his face and his eyes lit up with good humour. ”Something tells me it doesn’t. And, uh, you’re gonna need a little more than some khakis to convince anyone that you’re straight.” No harm in a little passive critique, Brendon thought, looking Ryan up and down again, but this time more from a professional perspective rather than ‘damn, okay, he’s fine’. He was about to speak again but he stopped, restarted, his eyebrows raising sympathetically. ”You poor thing,” Brendon sighed, tapping his fingers against his glass steadily, his lips pursed for a moment. ”You’re in the music industry, and- well. Is it a nightmare?” Or maybe Brendon was being cynical. He was something of a stereotype himself, in that he was a hairstylist, he supposed- but being in the public eye like that, being scrutinised completely no matter what you did- he wondered how Ryan coped, especially when the whole world was so critical.

With that out of the way, he could go back to thinking damn, okay, he’s fine, and he started rethinking his whole ‘buy me dinner first’ schtick, watching Ryan’s mouth as he talked and sucking in a breath embarassingly when Ryan bit his lip. He wasn’t usually this easy, he swore- he blamed it reliably on the fact that Ryan was famous. Nothing more, nothing less. Damn, was he really that shallow? I’ll hold you to that. ”You can hold me against anything you want,” He burst out immediately in response, then pled, because even for him, that was bad. Brendon, luckily, recovered quickly with a laugh, able to laugh at his own expense. Internally, though, he was cringing at his own impulsivity. Shaking his head, he outstretched a hand as if offering it for a handshake. ”Hi, I’m Brendon Blake,” He began, still giggling. ”And I have no brain-to-mouth-filter. Can we, uh, start over?” Fuck his life. Brendon, Though endlessly mortified, regained composure, hoping they could pretend that never happened- and, in order to move on quickly, he switched back to professional, where he wouldn’t run his mouth and embarrass himself. Well. Silencing his own doubts, he reached out towards Ryan’s hair, noting his nod of consent and then running his fingers through, keeping his eyes trained there and not to Ryan’s face now that his eyes were closed. He withdrew his hand after a few beats, then his jaw dropped slightly in horror at the mention of a decade old jacket.

Wait, no, go back to a second ago when you still liked me, pretend you didn't hear about the jacket. Brendon’s face lit up with laughter, not because of the jacket thing, but because of the casual squeeze of his arm- he was grateful Ryan would even touch him after he was so fucking weird. ”I’m surprised it still fits you. Well- actually- it doesn’t.” So, hypothetically, if I were to schedule an appointment with you sometime, you'd make me look like a functioning person? Tell me your professional opinion, what would you do to fix this. Hypothetically, sure. Brendon imagined bringing this guy to the place he worked, the looks he’d get, the jaws that would drop. ”I mean, only if you’re a paying customer. I’m not cheap, y’know.” He said finally, and then he withdrew backwards slightly as if to get the full picture, then back in, dragging his stool close enough together with Ryan’s so that Brendon had one knee between Ryan’s legs and the other was skewed off slightly to the side. Comfortable, brought a hand up at the side of Ryan’s jaw, turned his head to the left, then the right, gently. ”Well,” He began, biting his lip, ”Your curls are cute, but like, five years younger cute. You need it shorter, but styled so that- if weight is taken away, it won’t just curl even more. Which means you’ll have to take care of it, style it every day, and have regular upkeep.” He lifted an eyebrow. ”Think y’could handle that?”
As far as Brendon was concerned, Ryan could lie, lie, lie all he wanted about his intentions- be it tonight, given the bus had been empty and they’d had the night to themselves, or in general- as Brendon could effectively see straight through him. He was transparent. When he straight-up accused him of initially having very specific intentions, Brendon knew he could be accused of being unfair. After all, there had been times where Brendon had done the same, he’d intitiated, not Ryan; say, they were practicing, Ryan would be sat playing guitar, for once concentrated, and Brendon would watch him in silence, hoping that when Ryan looked up the expression on his face would be enough. That’s how they communicated now- it was safer and somehow less real than actual flirting. When they did that, Brendon could treat it like it was nothing to him. He had also come to believe that Ryan didn’t have to. Anyway, he wasn’t a hypocrite, not really, only kind of, because as of recently Brendon had been frequently and reliably rejecting any of Ryan’s advances- at first he had pretended he didn’t notice when Ryan tried to catch his eye, then he’d make sure ryan knew he had blatantly refused, by shaking his head or arching a judgemental eyebrow or smirking mockingly in his direction. This, apparently, wasn’t enough for Ryan to get the message, and he was nothing if not persistent and stubborn about it, which was unusual because Ryan had always been someone less inclined to chase, more inclined to settle and give up. That’s what Brendon thought, anyway.

Brendon thought a lot of things about Ryan- some things had he felt sick to even entertain now- and currently, colourful expletives cursed him in his head as he stared at his dumb, gorgeous face. Frowning at that thought, he looked down stonily as he felt Ryan’s eyes on him, careful and searching and remorseful and Brendon didn’t want Ryan to be sorry, he just wanted him to fuck off permenantly so they could go back to the way they were- high-strung, confrontational, all the anger but none of the unbearable subtext. That would be much less complicated and much safer, and it wouldn’t lead to Brendon whining about Ryan not caring about him emotionally. Of course he didn’t. Why would he? Why did Brendon ever, even subconsciously, expect that from him? And even if he did miraculously care about Ryan, why would he ever admit it, when every occasion that Ryan had ever been minutely personal (say, about his dad, or his deteriorating relationship with Keltie) Brendon had been harsh and critical, not cruel, per say, but not exactly willing to sympathise. Brendon looked back up, and Ryan glanced away. Brendon felt a sick sense of triumph. Don’t make assumptions if you’re going to be that far off the mark. That’s funny, Brendon thought, as he curled his hands into fists. He thought all the intitial anger and fire had drained out of him.

”Sorry, yeah, I didn’t realise you had feelings for me, I can’t believe I didn’t get that message through all the yelling, that’s insane,” Brendon spat, closing his eyes tightly and watching scenes flash through his head that made anger surge into him again- not just anger, but dejection. He thought back to that one time where Brendon’s room had been on a different floor to the rest of the band’s by mistake, and they’d taken advantage of the time and been together effectively til the sun came up, after which Ryan abruptly excused himself, getting dressed half with his clothes, half with Brendon’s, which was funny, Brendon’s mouth twisted as his own tight blue v-neck rode halfway up Ryan’s back- there hasn’t even been a ‘goodbye’ or anything, just a cleared throat and a ‘be there for soundcheck’. Another memory was of before that soundcheck, alone in a hallway backstage and they’d been laughing, talking, uneasily easy with eachother, and Brendon, in this rare harmony, had tried his chances to lean in for a kiss. Ryan had cut it all off short and pulled back, looking panicked, rambling excuses and backing away down the corridor, back the way they’d come. Brendon felt that sting of shame now. He recalled every time, feeling cheap. He didn’t want that anymore.

I didn’t know. His voice was unsteady, and Brendon felt another twisted sensation of victory from having reduced Ryan to that, minutes after the motherfucker had been vehemently jealous and in denial about his own jealousy. Brendon’s eyes narrowed as he leaned against the back of the couch, crossing his legs, the picture of composure even though he still felt the sting of Ryan’s callous actions to his core. I didn’t know how badly I misled you. Misled- what? Brendon’s brow furrowed, and he wondered what the hell Ryan had intended to lead him believe. Because if everything was just Ryan pretending to be a dickhead, it was extremely convincing and realistic and somehow even worse than if he just hated Brendon’s guts. If you really think I'm like that, then I fucked up beyond belief, Brendon, and I'm sorry. An apology, then. Brendon wanted to be bitter, snap at him to keep his name out of his mouth, but he just sat, uncharacteristically quiet, wondering again what the hell Ryan thought his shitty behaviour would achieve as far as Brendon’s good graces went. If he had some ulterior motive, Ryan didn’t know about it.

I thought- I thought I was being convincing for other people, I didn't think it was- I didn't mean to hurt you. Brendon glared at Ryan, sullen. He found it hard to believe any word that left his lips, even if he knew what Ryan looked like when he was lying, and there were flashes of geniuity in his somber, remorseful expression. Brendon, stubbornly, tried not to notice, just pursed his lips. ”Why do you have to be a dick to me in private to convince other people that you hate my guts? Everyone already knows you do,” Brendon murmured, and he cringed at how pathetic he sounded, how vulnerable, as his voice faltered and broke towards the end. He looked down, subdued, as Ryan did the same. I’m sorry about Ian. Brendon’s eyes flicked back up to Ryan’s face, and he leaned forwards, resting his elbows on his knees and his chin in one hand. ”What’re you sorry for? Being a dick to him, or being a dick to me because of him? And- are we done here, can I ask him back over,” Brendon mumbled, leaning back and reaching into his pocket for his phone, wiping his face by lifting up his shirt, pretending his eyes hadn’t welled up.
I didn’t think you’d be easy. You’d think so, wouldn’t you, you really would- but Brendon, after telling himself that he’d politely reject any further flirting, was sitting there uselessly, trying not to stare uselessly because he was so, so pretty, and it wasn’t like Brendon hadn’t seen his face before (he was just that famous, his and his band’s likeness online all the time and plastered everywhere to advertise an upcoming tour, or album, or something), but he’d never really noticed, even though he really was and always had been Brendon’s exact type- tall, dark, handsome, well-spoken, obviously intelligent, he was even extremely talented. Here, now he was sat right beside him, obviously into him, Brendon tried not to let it go to his head. He wasn’t even particularly starstruck, he just had an ego that, though frequently stroked, was always looking for new ways to be inflated. And here was Ryan, all flattery and charm he didn’t expect from someone that was so humble and quite mild from what he’d seen, and Brendon couldn’t bring himself to tell him that he had to go. Because he didn’t. He just knew that there was a point of no return with guys like this and Brendon was edging dangerously close already, and he’d only bought him one drink.

He realised he hadn’t spoken, and snapped out of his lapse in focus, regaining his easy smile and meeting Ryan’s eyes. ”You’d be surprised.” His voice was earnest as he tightened his grip on his glass and lifted it to take a sip, mostly trying to convince himself that after this one drink, he’d make his excuses and leave. He wouldn’t, obviously, but it was fun to fool himself. Hey, I can do all of that. And parents love me. Brendon smiled cynically, because it could be anyone, and he knew his parents wouldn’t like the guy he brought home. He said nothing, just cleared his throat and placed his glass back down on the wood. I'm sure I have a Bible, like... somewhere in Hoarder Hell. Hoarder hell, did he say? Unable to relate, the corner of Brendon’s mouth twitched and his eyebrow quirked in acknowledgement- Brendon thought about how though he was a messy and disorganised person in general, he didn’t have enough stuff to hoard. He imagined Ryan’s house was huge and he had more money than he’d ever know what to do with- and wondered whether or not he was feeling particularly generous. ”Any chance you’ve got a Book of Mormon kicking about anywhere? Are you god-fearing, Ryan?” Light and charming, Brendon’s tone had a teasing lilt, and he was even able to imitate the voice of his parents that he remembered so vividly when he was young. Ryan’s name rolled off his tongue like some kind of revelation, and he leaned forward slightly when he said it, raising his eyebrows as if in challenge.

That’s good advice. Was it? If it was, it was a rare occurrence to hear good advice coming from Brendon’s mouth. All the more reason we should hang out more often. He was so hard to refuse. Brendon answered with a faint nod, unable to really think sensibly. During his silence, he was trying desperately to formulate a reply, not usually this stuck in social situations- god, he wasn’t that pretty (he was), get a grip of yourself, Brendon- but Ryan saved him and kept talking. He blinked gratefully as he did so, and then his uncertain half-smile spread into a blinding, geniune grin, ear to ear, eyes scrunching up. It wasn’t a rare sight; for all of Brendon’s hardships, he was an admirably cheerful person, with an easy sense of humour and an approachable nature that made him a hit with clients where he worked. Well, there was that, and. Just you and me, unless that poses an issue for you? Like hell it did, Brendon was past the point of no return, even if he displayed remarkable willpower and went home now he’d still be thinking about Ryan for weeks and how he’d maybe missed the love of his life, or something, or at least a very enjoyable fling of sorts. He figured Ryan, the famous musician, was more a guy to engage in the latter.

”I bet nobody’s turned down that offer before,” He remarked, smirking, tilting his head minutely to the side and willing his eyes to remain making contact, not drifting down to Ryan’s mouth like they had started to naturally do. It wasn’t helping with the upkeep of the image of being not easy. He allowed a pause for effect, for anticipation. ”And, darlin’, I’m not about to be the first.” Maybe the pet name was overkill, but it wasn’t like he was using it especially for Ryan. It was his go-to general term of endearment, even if in this instance, if wasn’t exactly wholly innocent. Back at the salon, though, he referred to the more pleasant clients as ‘darlin’, which, looking back it it now, probably wasn’t helping with the whole issue of being flirted with while he was trying to work. Now, Brendon was a natural, but he was easily distracted, and not only was this behaviour exhibited from clients inappropriate, it was immensely distracted. After a while, he’d stopped telling them to stop looking at him in the mirror. If the haircut turned out shitty, it was their fault, not his.

Speaking of the salon. Ryan wanted to know about his job. Brendon didn’t know how to tell them that he was crushingly unsatisfied with and overqualified for his work, so he kept it neutral, lightening it with a joke. Ryan, who he wrongly and bitterly assumed would look down on such things, seemed geniunely interested. ’All right’ is an understatement. Flattery. Brendon felt himself flush and then felt wholly mortified. He wasn’t some useless teenager, and here he was, blushing after one little direct compliment. I need you. Look at me. ”What do you think I’ve been doing,” Brendon instantly replied, but he laughed and looked him over anyway, looking from his eyes to his hair and back down again, extending an arm and hand towards Ryan’s hair and searching his face, asking for silent permission. Brendon was an impatient man and didn’t bother waiting for a response, just ran his fingers hesitantly through Ryan’s hair. It was soft, was clean, he obviously took care of it in that respect, but. It was too long, did him no favours. Brendon curled a finger around a lock and dropped his hand down to his lap. I don’t know how to dress myself or anything. ”What you’re doing works for me.” Brendon nodded to his general person. I've had this same jacket since I was seventeen. That was a step too far. Brendon’s eyebrows shot up, and that said more than any words could.
Brendon missed Ryan, a lot. He missed his own husband for a sizeable proportion of time- he figured it was because he was on tour a lot, but even then, a lot of the time Ryan could come with him, and would be backstage for every show on a certain leg, or something. Even then, singing up there, with his now closely-knit group of touring members, he felt a loss, becayse the first (and best) guitarist, who also happened to be his husband, was back there when he should be up here. No offence to Mike, or anything, but he sorely missed the feeling of playing live together and doing what they both loved, what they had originally bonded over, in a band that was originally theirs. That Brendon had decided would be better off with just him from the original lineup. Everyone else had left for their own reasons or moved on, which was difficult sometimes, he was the common denominator after all- but he couldn’t feel any regret, that would be unfair. Half of the departures had been encouraged or even initiated by Brendon- the one that stung the most when he thought back to it was when he had to have the awful conversation with his own husband about how he thought he wasn’t a good fit for the band creatively any more. It was ruthless, in some respects, and when Brendon looked back he saw someone prioritising his already successful career over the man he loved, but. It had made everything easier, even if only in that Brendon had nobody to argue with any more. So he tried not to look back to much.

Anyway, Ryan was happy, now, having accepted and even embraced the fact he just wasn’t playing in that band anymore. They were mature enough and sure enough of eachother that they could have separate lives (overlapping extremely, but, still, as far as individual careers went), and Brendon was fortunate enough that Ryan even decided to pick up music again with Jon. He supported that fully- he didn’t always have time to be around, to go to every show, but when he did it was incredible and refreshing to see him up there- but after that, their band sort of went into a permenant hiatus, and Ryan’s creative juices stopped flowing. Or, they did, but he had no outlet, and Brendon knew that and felt guilty for taking that platform to express himself like that away from him. For that selfish reason, to protect himself from that kind of guilt, he distanced himself from trying to be involved or encourage Ryan anymore, because he never seemed to listen anyway. There was also the matter that he simply didn’t have enough time to be around him as some of Ryan’s new close friends- for example, Z.

Z, who Ryan had met in the Young Veins period, had taken up the mantle of being Ryan’s best friend, and Brendon, though infamous for being unpredictable and eternally temperamental, was intensely grateful for her being there, in ways that Brendon maybe couldn’t. And that was initially an intensely painful blow, the idea that Ryan had someone he might go to before he go to Brendon- whether that be because he knew Brendon would be busy, he’d been brushed off too many times in favour of working (Brendon’s work ethic had shot through the roof recently), or it was simply something that Ryan would prefer to talk about with Z- sometimes, Brendon wasn’t Ryan’s immediate answer to everything, and as ridiculous and selfish as it may sound, Brendon had to learn something he should already know- that he was not the single central figure in Ryan’s life, he wasn’t, say, the ultimate priority, his world didn’t revolve around Brendon and it never should. Though he was trying his hardest, it was difficult for him to see, for example, Z and Ryan playing in the living room when Brendon had to go to the studio and do some work. It got on his nerves sometimes when Ryan gushed about her to him, or started to write solely in sessions with Z, apparently the ultimate inspiration-giver. Brendon would never admit it, though, because it was embarrassing to be insecure about something so ridiculous, and he was convinced that if he mentioned it to Ryan, he would just be exasperated. So he stayed quiet, and learned to get used to it.

Besides. What did it matter who convinced Ryan to write and play and perform again, as long as he did it? Z had already dragged Ryan along for a show a few months back, and here they were, the night of another one, and Brendon was endlessly excited, though at the moment, vaguely jealous again that it would be Z playing up there with his husband, not him, like they used to, what used to be so important to them. Their relationship had changed, almost- not dramatically, but tangible enough for Brendon to notice. And not in a bad way. They weren’t any less close. And although Brendon was particularly a creature of habit, he found himself sometimes wishing that things could just be the same as they were when they first fell in love and got to go on tour and play together every night, when their tastes aligned and the only creative differences that existed were whether or not Ryan really wanted to reference the sun in yet another song. He still did that. Brendon’s heart swelled to think of it because even after all this time, Ryan still wrote love songs, and Brendon dutifully wrote them back, even though they were often scarce or subtle, amongst party tracks and disguised by grandeur.

So, Brendon couldn’t wait for tonight, but apparently Ryan, who was taking forever to get ready, could. When he finally did prove that he hadn’t, like, fallen over and broken his neck or something, by walking out into the main room, Brendon’s heart surged and he hurried to rearrange the dogs so he could stand up and weave around the couch, moving forward into his arms easily. I feel stupid. Brendon just shook his head and grinned, wrapping his arms around him and letting his eyelids droop slightly, useless, as Ryan in turn held onto him as they simultaneously leaned in for a gentle kiss. They pulled back, and Brendon still looked up at him adoringly. We’re married. Excellent observation, baby. You have to say that. It's, like, the law. Doesn't even need to be true. Brendon lifted an eyebrow, challenging. ”Even if it is the law. There’s yet to be a day when I would be lying to say that you’re fucking astounding.” He curled a hand seriously around Ryan’s jaw. Shut up, I love you. I love you too, baby, he replied in his head, automatically, because it didn’t need to be spoken aloud. Still, he visibly pouted when Ryan moved back, folding his arms sulkily across his chest. You shouldn’t have your expectations so high. It's been a minute since I performed, you know.

Brendon did know. And it’d been a minute more since they had performed together. He felt his heart sink slightly, but he kept up a brave, proud smile. ”You’ve never disappointed me before. You never could. And everyone there, like, worships you, so. No worries.” Brendon cleared his throat and looked at the ground, scratching his neck awkwardly because he no longer knew what to do with himself. There was his husband, looking gorgeous, but they had to leave. Fun.
Usually, when people approached Brendon to try and flirt with him in places such as bars, he would accept the drink and play along for as long as it was entertaining, but politely decline any further interaction- he just didn’t have the time or energy for a serious relationship, and since Brendon hasn’t experienced proper romance in years, all of that had faded into a vague and impossible future, unachievable while he stayed on his current course. Ryan’s advance was no different, a handsome man clearly picking up some kind of cue (or just gambling and being extremely lucky) and trying his luck. Brendon had seen and met many attractive men in his life, and when he first turned his head to see who he had the honour of speaking to, it wasn’t like he was swept away. At first glance, he looked young, and Brendon squinted a little (he wasn’t wearing his contacts) to study him a little closer, only then realising from his height and finer details that he was probably maybe a year, a couple of years older. They were around the same age, and get this guy looked so annoying worldly-wise, like he’d seen everything. This both made Brendon envious and endlessly curious, so he shifted his body round to face Ryan and decided after a few beats of looking him quickly up and down and registering his face to memory that he was- gorgeous, in some boyish, semi-uncertain way, not arrogant, but not nervous or shy either. He was tall, wonderfully tall (though everyone was when you were Brendon’s stature), not muscular but defined enough for Brendon to be impressed, with broad shoulders and long legs and Brendon found himself to be more interested by the second.

And, so, fooled by his unconventional, untouchable presence and his melty honey-gold eyes, Brendon, against his better judgement, decided that this vaguely familiar looking man was worth waiting around for, especially if he got a free drink or two. It wasn’t like it would go any further. Brendon’s unannounced rule was unbiased no matter how attractive or interesting somebody was- he simply wasn’t in a place where he could keep up with that kind of relationship. Hell, he didn’t have time to even see his friends. However, Brendon semi-lived in the moment, willing to waste away his evening with this gorgeous stranger, and go home later and fantasise about how they’d date and fall in love if only Brendon was in the right place. What he didn’t know was that Ryan was thinking the same thing, jumping the gun and paving out their unlikely romance before they’d even learned eachother’s second names- and another think he hasn’t quite clicked on was that he was speaking with- no, flirting with- Ryan Ready, frontman of an extremely famous, like, crazy famous band. He would’ve been embarrassed that he didn’t recognise him without being prompted (Brendon’s music taste was often strange or niche, so he didn’t follow the Young Veins and only saw Ryan the odd time on talk shows or heard him talking on the radio), but, really. It was Ryan who should be embarrassed. It wasn’t like Brendon had his head buried in the hypothetical sand of current pop culture.

So, he wasn’t as dumbfounded or floored, or freaking out, as he imagined Ryan expected. As such, he responded simply, only betraying that he was impressed by his success, if a little bitter because here was one of those people, those stupid famous people who probably had no more talent than him but they were up there and he was... Down here, in this admittedly shitty bar. Suddenly, his biggest claim to fame was catching the eye of Ryan. Brendon frowned down at his whiskey briefly, but then he remembered that he should be flattered, and sunk easily into their relatively relaxed back-and-forth flirting. A little of it would do nobody any harm. No problem at all. Brendon’s eyebrow quirked in an instant, betraying thoughts he didn’t make known. Yeah, I bet it isn’t a problem for you, he thought, but he was smiling, because Ryan Ready wasn’t kidding about wanting to take him out for dinner. This really didn’t happen to him every day, he swore- most days he’d finish the one drink he allowed himself, two if he was feeling particularly careless and too apathetic to care about the cobwebs and crickets chirping in his bank account, and then go home, binge watch some shit tv show and go to bed to start early again in the morning. Just the thought made him shudder- how he’d probably be doing the same thing every day for a very, very long time. Lack of variation drove him mad. ”I mean, I’m not easy. Y’gotta, like, chauffeur me. Court me, all traditional. I have religious parents, so...”

Wow, now he was talking family with Ryan Ready, infamous for his father tragic childhood and young adulthood. Even Brendon knew that, from snippets of articles and casual gossip. He pursed his lips, took another sip from his glass- he was trying to suppress a charmed smile as Ryan mirrored his actions by taking a sip of his own whiskey and flashed him an oddly alluring half-smile. Hey, I’ve got all night. Interesting, but Brendon did not, and he had to constantly remind himself that before the evening took an unexpected turn. Order as much as you want. Brendon laughed, gentle, and planted one elbow on the wood, propping his head up with his hand and tilting it to the side with a smile, like an adoring puppy. Unlawful locks of hair sprung out of place over his eyes, but he just let them remain. ”Don’t make promises you can’t keep,” Brendon advised, nodding solemnly as if this was was undoubtedly the wisest insight anybody had ever given Ryan in his entire life. ”If you won’t buy me the whole bar, I don’t wanna know.” Wow. Excellent flirting, Brendon. You just sound like a textbook gold digger. Then again... Maybe he was. Brendon had to admit, having everything bought for you did sound like the dream.

Oh, Brendon, trust me, it’d be nice. His name from Ryan’s mouth sounded so different, he said it in a low, careful voice, clearly not wanting to mess it up like so many others did even after years of knowing him. He’d given up correcting even the regular clients at the salon who still insisted on calling him Brandon. ”It can be arranged,” He batted back in his direction, all casual, like a cat playing with a ball of string that it didn’t really want to keep, but he didn’t want it to roll too far away, either. Maybe it was unfair of him. Maybe he was leading him on, somehow. Brendon shut himself up before that thought process went too far off the rails. But since you aren't a serious fan, I could definitely convert you with some private shows, how about that? His eyes raised from studying the numerous rings adorning Ryan’s fingers and he broke into a wide smile, exposing his bright teeth as the corners of his mouth and his eyes crinkled up, somehow his mood uplifted just by that ridiculous offer. Ryan had met him under, like, ten minutes ago, and Brendon’s every sense told him that he was being serious. This was too good. ”Sounds good, too. How private are we talking?”

What about you? Oh, no. This was where it all got real- he knew he should be fair and shut this down, but he was finding it difficult to even tear his eyes away from Ryan for too long. It wouldn’t hurt. What do you do? Wasn’t like it was very impressive, either- imagine revealing to somebody who has your dream job that you’re something lowly and insignificant. Uncomfortable for the first time, he shrugged one shoulder to brush it off. Wasn’t like he’d ever see Ryan again, anyway. ”I’m a stylist,” He settled on eventually, avoiding Ryan’s eyes for a split second. ”I make people look pretty, and, as you can see from my example- me- I do an alright fuckin’ job.”
Though the suggestion that Brendon made about Ryan maybe listening to his input every once in a while was a joke (Brendon could hardly imagine being angry with Ryan ever again at that moment), it was more than just a breath of truth- Ryan had always, no matter what, deflected any and all of Brendon’s suggestions, for the band or otherwise- and if, on the off chance, he ever secretly agreed with Brendon’s viewpoint, he’d speak over him, propose the point himself, take all the credit. The man was ridiculous, frankly, and any other time just thinking about how petty and critical Ryan could be would set Brendon off- but it was difficult to feel any emotion but some kind of unusual but not unwelcome affection towards Ryan in their current situation, tangled up together in a hotel room in Seattle, bodies pressed close, lips ghosting against skin, and everything was warm, and gentle, and unfamiliar, and Brendon just kissed him (barely) to banish his train of thought before it got too sappy. Yeah. Brendon inclined his head slightly to meet Ryan’s eyes, silent. You’re right. He broke into an amused smile just as Ryan leaned in to kiss him properly, and he only just managed to control his smile in order to return the slow kiss before Ryan was up and off him, arms outstretched towards the phone.

Brendon felt a little cold and lonely when Ryan moved away, ever the dramatic, and he tugged the sheets up his body where they were wrapped around him as much as he could now that the warmth from Ryan’s skin was no longer beneficial. He turned his head to stare at Ryan, intending it to be defiant, or sulky, or pleading, or anything in between, but he quickly found there was a benefit to his bandmate lying beside him a little ways away- bandmate, shit, he hadn’t really thought about how the band would respond to this, but no, shut up, that’s irrelevant, look at him. And Brendon did, catching his bottom lip firmly between his teeth for a few moments and letting out an involuntarily sigh of enjoyment before the corner of his mouth turned up into a geniune, dumb smile, provoked by Ryan when he nudged against his temple, acknowledging Brendon’s lack of subtlety. For a few moments, his mind was wandering as he thought about how they still had the entire morning to just lie around in bed together, but Ryan’s next words snapped him out of his fanciful, domestic daydream, into reality. Brendon knew that Ryan was probably kidding around, but still, he had to make sure that he knew that just because they’d slept together or whatever, it didn’t mean he was automatically and permenantly in his good books. It’d take a little more.

And Ryan was smiling, and Brendon tried to be irked by it, but he just couldn’t be, his smile was contagious and Brendon resisted moving over to meet him in a kiss again. It seemed that Ryan got the message, but he still eyed him carefully, posed to shoot down any far-fetched fantasies of suddenly being Brendon’s favourite person in the entire world. Then, Ryan was laughing, and Brendon felt like a pitifully lovesick teenager as his insides heated up and his heart began to melt. His laugh was just as contagious, and Brendon cracked a wide smile despite every attempt at stopping it. Hey, That was my cover. Brendon shifted to get comfortable and tilted his head to listen as Ryan curled an arm around his waist and pulled them both closer together. Really I appreciate your ass that won’t fit into normal jeans. Wow, predictable- but Brendon was disappointed at his lack of foresight. He’d noticed nearly every slip-up Ryan made, especially when he caught Ryan checking him out, but he’d never noticed that kind of attention before. Brendon closed his eyes briefly, considering, then opened his eyes and raised a single eyebrow. ”You know what, that’s understandable,” Came his response, finally, as his smile broadened to try and coax Ryan’s fading grin back to the surface. ”Thank my mom, I guess.”

Brendon gazed up at Ryan like some kind of awe-inspired and adoring puppy, eyes drifting from feature to feature, his mind drifting somewhat as he wondered what the hell people would think of this if they ever found out- key word ‘if’, and the most likely outcome would be that they never did. Keltie- Keltie would flip, accuse Brendon (rightly, Brendon thought, amused) of turning Ryan gay or something- Jon wouldn’t care much, Spencer would disapprove due to the change of the internal structure of the band. It was unstable enough as is. Brendon wondered what Ryan was thinking about absently, and lifted his arms to hook one around the back of his neck and the other loosely over Ryan’s waist to hold him closer, propping himself up slightly against the cushions. Ryan, in turn, lifted himself onto an elbow and they were back where they started, Ryan hovering over Brendon’s form and Brendon clinging on to him somewhat hungrily, like he was being fed a meal but the person who gave it to him was constantly threatening to take it away and not give it back. They were on borrowed time. Realistically, what could come of this? Brendon made himself a little exasperated thinking about it, so he switched his brain off and let the slight feeling of Ryan tracing tenderly over his skin flood his senses. Ryan smelled good, he decided, of something typical like vanilla, and the beach. Okay, then, tell me, how can I make it up to you.

Brendon said nothing for a moment, just let his head tilt to the side, as if considering. That was a dangerous statement to make- If Ryan was as open to making it up to Brendon as he seemed, he fully intended to make the most of that, push him as far as he could, see if he could wrap his guitarist around his little finger like he always fantasised about doing. A pause, and Brendon let the arm be had angled around the back of Ryan’s neck fall and then move into his hair, tangling locks around his fingers and using the leverage to pull him in for a punctual kiss, mostly to give him more time to think about what it was that he wanted. Thoughtful, he sunk his teeth as gently as possible into Ryan’s bottom lip, more a nibble than anything, and trailed off to the side before letting his head fall back into the cushions, muscles going slack and arms dropping down by his sides. ”That’s a tricky one,” He murmured, finally, tilting his head and staring at the ceiling, wincing as the bright light from through the blinds hit his face directly. Lifting an arm to cover his eyes, he gestured with the other towards the window. ”First of all, close the blinds? I’ll think better without a headache.”
When he was younger, Brendon would, similarly to Ryan, have never anticipated what his life had come to now- but unlike for the talented and successful musician, Brendon’s life hadn’t turned out so fancy and steeped in sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, although he doubted that somebody like Ryan (even if he did look slightly intimidating, but that was mostly because Brendon was so short compared to him) partook in any of that. Actually. Well, what did he know- Brendon envied the success of celebrities and despised serving them when he knew he was meant for something greater; and though by no means was Brendon arrogant or fame-hungry (he just wanted lots of people to hear what he could do), he was confident and sure of himself. Well, he had been. It’d been literal years since he picked up or sat down to play an instrument, and though he was a talented singer, he supposed he’d be incredibly rusty. Life had just dealt Brendon a bad deck of cards and he was just endlessly unlucky- it wasn’t the worst life by any standards, especially in comparison to others, but it wasn’t the life he wanted. Wasn’t the life he was meant for. Wasn’t the life he deserved.

But there he was, anyway, and he could see no way out- for someone like him, with boundless energy and high ambitions and endless talent, being stuck in the same role with the same pay and nowhere else to go was a living nightmare. He’d move heaven and hell to get out of there- if someone would just show him how he’d get out of there, get out before he was stuck permanently and he grew old and got arthritis and couldn’t cut hair anymore or something. Brendon was spontaneous and liked to live in the moment, not plan every step of his future- and when he was in his late twenties and it looked like his entire life really was paved out in front of him perfectly, it set off his anxiety and his nervous energy and instead of being a motivator, that immobilised him. A hopelessness had started to settle on Brendon’s bones- it wasn’t catastrophic, but it was slowing him down, it was draining away at the Brendon he used to be. Overtime, inadequate pay and even loneliness (he didn’t have a roommate, or a significant other, and he couldn’t afford to look after a dog) had reduced his overall enthusiasm for life, and it sucked. Surface level, though, he knew he looked fine- he had stood in front of the mirror, he had studied his face, he hadn’t aged much in a decade save a few harder lines and the startlingly darker shadows under his eyes. He was still youthful, when he dressed as nice as he could afford he looked put together, handsome, even desirable. That was all he had going for him right now. It seemed material pleasure and the condition and desire of being beautiful had now taken over his entire life and career- he worked in a salon, after all.

He wondered if Ryan saw exactly what Brendon saw in the mirror when he looked at him. Brendon met his eyes, and imagined him thinking wow, this guy looks tired- Ryan’s eyes fell briefly to his mouth and the corner of it quirked as he shifted on the barstool and thought back to all the lovers he’d had (though the last one was a while back) who had obsessed over his full mouth and identified it as his best feature. Brendon wondered whether his hair looked good- of course it did, he was a hairstylist, if it was ever otherwise he’d quit the job himself- and then turned his attention to the stranger instead, eyes naturally going up to his hair. It was too long, yeah, it needed cutting shorter, and styling differently. Brendon then allowed himself to look the man up and down, before shifting his stool sideways so Ryan could sit beside him (his legs were long and Brendon imagined he needed extra floor space). So- he had accepted the offer of another drink. It wasn’t a rare occurrence, somebody offering, and it wasn’t often that he rejected it, either. The main appeal was a free drink, it was just a bonus if they were cute. It usually always went the same- someone approached, bought him a drink, Brendon flirted a little to keep them happy and then blew them off gently as he could at the end of the night as somebody stared after him like he was the one who got away. Lucky that Brendon wasn’t some kind of prize or conquest. That was usually why he never took such encounters further- it was kind of shallow. Though. Brendon was one to talk. He judged Ryan immediately based on his appearance, before even hearing him talk- but he was glad once he did, hearing his gentle, sexy-in-a-rough way voice and letting his eyelids droop because wow, he already knew he could listen to him talk forever.

Unfortunately, he seemed, though clearly confident and sure of himself (judging from his stance), a man of few words. We could do that, too, sometime. Go for dinner? Sure. Only Brendon’s wallet was empty and just the thought of spending money on eating out made him shudder. So, he nodded, but shrugged one shoulder simultaneously- ”Sure, darlin’, but you’re paying.” There was a playful glint in his deep brown eyes and he struggled to contain an enchanted smile at that little head tilt Ryan just pulled, staring down in concentration into his empty whiskey glass before he pushed it a little further along the bar. As he did that, the glass was taken away almost immediately and two others were pushed towards them. Brendon lifted his head to thank the bartender silently, then arched an eyebrow at Ryan.

”Two drinks? Someone’s thirsty,” He commented, smiling and taking the one he assumed to be his, straightening just as Ryan planted his elbow on the wood and leaned slightly over the bar. Now that he looked at him, yeah, his face was familiar, Brendon’s eyebrows rose in something like recognition, but he couldn’t link the name and the face with anything famous, and it was on the tip of his tongue- clearly Ryan had been waiting for that, because he jumped on it immediately when Brendon mentioned that he knew his face. I'm a musician, might be it. I lead The Young Veins. The Young Veins, yeah, that’s it, he knew them. Who didn’t know them? Brendon nodded and took a sip of his drink, not wanting to be one of those dumbasses who overreacted when they spoke to someone famous. He was still a man, still a relative stranger- or was he, if Brendon already knew who he was? His full name, in fact? It was a little surreal. He wasn’t exactly sure how to play this. Heard of us? He imagined how funny it would be if he said no, and he took another sip of his drink before setting it down, shrugging off his jacket fluidly and draping it over his stool because he figured he might be here for longer than he anticipated. ”Yeah, I have,” He confirmed. ”Who hasn’t? Lucky for you, I’m not some weird fanboy. I’m not gonna jump you. Unless you want me to.” He winked, effortless, half-joking, but Brendon was naturally charismatic. It probably looked as smooth as it felt. Probably.

What was he doing? Seriously, what the hell did he think he was doing? He usually had a little more restraint than this. And the last thing he needed right now was to get involved in any way with some rockstar, probably used to getting whatever he wanted. If he played hard to get... No, seriously, stop it, he told himself. Besides, Ryan looked and seemed sweet enough. Brendon had never been a massive fan, but he’d read interview transcripts, heard and watched live interviews, and he seemed the same in both, so far. Brendon turned his body towards Ryan, crossing one leg over the other, but he was looking past him at a small group throwing suspect glances in Ryan’s direction. Brendon raised his eyebrows at them, as if to say, ‘really?’, then just shrugged a shoulder and looked let his eyes drop down to where one of Ryan’s hands was wrapped around his glass. On basically every finger was a ring- Pretty stereotypical, but Brendon was fascinated anyway. Mostly by his hands, his long fingers, and Brendon glanced briefly at his own, turning his palm over and grimacing because whatever callouses that should be prominent of a guitarist were practically non-existent. He slid his hand off the table and into his lap.
Three jobs in three years, hundreds, no, thousands in debt from both his student loan and the rent he couldn’t afford to pay on time- the life Brendon had was far from the one he planned when he was young, a little more fragile and a little less worldly-wise (though it be a stretch to describe him as ‘wise’ even now), but Brendon had made it for himself and he’d learned recently there was no room for regret or remorse or wondering how things would have turned out if he’d done certain things a little differently, jumped for every opportunity, connected to the right people and stayed away from the wrong ones. There was no harm in wondering, he used to think- but it just made him upset, made the tiredness in his bones resonate deeper, a deep-set exhaustion from overtime and underpay that sleep couldn’t fix. Brendon was ambitious- but when he was in a position where he was now almost certain he couldn’t get any further in, the lack of paths his career could take from there drove him crazy. He was a hairstylist, which would never, ever be his first career choice if he did it all over again, it never had been in the first place. Brendon was talented, sure, in fact he wasn’t just a hairstylist, he was a cosmetologist and a general stylist and he had an eye for aesthetic appeal that was practically unmatched. Unbelievably, that didn’t help him at all. He was stuck working in some salon where he was underpaid but couldn’t complain about because he hasn’t found another job to fall back on if he was fired. On the side, he was hired by private clients- C-listers and the odd B-lister- and though that was fun and all, Brendon wasn’t paid much, and all he got in return for his services was a bitter taste in his mouth as he styled the hair of someone who was well on their way of living Brendon’s dream.

It didn’t help to feel sorry for himself, but sometimes, it got to him. The only time he forgot how broke he was and how broke he had been and how broke he will be for the foreseeable future was payday; he lived like Gatsby for one day, never able to stem his impulses to buy and spend uncontrollably until he had next to no disposable income left. Every time the date rolled around, Brendon vowed he’d just put the cash he didn’t need to pay bills away in his account (which was currently collecting cobwebs), but that amount was getting less and less these days as chunks of his salary was taken away to repay his debts or catch up with his rent. Brendon wasn’t exactly in a crisis; in fact, he knew for a fact if he had a little more impulse control then he’d be much more stable. But he didn’t. So he wasn’t.

Today was payday, so when Brendon left the salon at around seven, having worked something like a ten or eleven hour shift, he went home to his tiny apartment (living in downtown LA was ridiculously expensive, but Brendon couldn’t bring himself to move anywhere else) and sat back on his uncomfortable sofa to buy shit online that he knew he didn’t need, but money, even though it was short, burned a hole in his pocket and although he didn’t strictly need a new button-down shirt, that black one would look great on him, it’d accentuate the narrowness of his waist and hug his chest and shoulders and he could leave the buttons open and damn, yeah, he needed that. If there was one thing that Brendon had an appreciation for, it was fine clothes. If there was another, it was himself, and that was lucky because he spent most of his entire day in front of a mirror, and although he was meant to be focusing on the customer, often he found his eyes drifting to his own reflection or his hands running through his own hair. Conversely, Brendon knew he was attractive, and though he loved the attention and never exactly became tired of hearing it, it kind of sucked that that was the only thing people ever really noticed about him. It was flattering, really, when customers blatantly ignored his attempts at conversation in favour of staring, unsubtle, at Brendon’s reflection, but it was also really fucking rude. Whatever. He was used to it.

After he’d ordered what he wanted (some girl’s jeans, yeah, he couldn’t fit in normal ones, that black shirt, some grey sweatpants because he had decided to prioritise comfort for once, and a red sweater), Brendon paused for literally moments to decide on how he was going to spend his evening. It didn’t take him long, because typically, the answer was the same- go to a club, or a bar. Usually a bar. The only deviance was that, maybe, it’d be a gay bar. Tonight, though, he just wanted some fucking whisky and he wanted to drink it in peace, so he dropped into the most uninteresting bar he knew of that wouldn’t be full of assholes and sat down at the far end of the bar on a stool, furthest away from the door. Brendon was something of a regular and the bartender just offered him a nod of acknowledgment, opening his tab and getting him his usual without Brendon even opening his mouth. He was disappointing predictable these days, and his routine barely deviated. For someone like him, it was torture, plain and simple.

Brendon had nobody around to tell him he was being dramatic- he didn’t need anyone to, honestly, he knew it already, he had owned being melodramatic and hard work a long time ago. Brendon closed his hand around the whisky glass and dragged it over the varnished wood, closer to himself, before he lifted it and sipped. It was unremarkable, but it was still whisky. Unremarkable was a word that could be applied to many things about Brendon’s life, but he knew for certain that he himself wasn’t unremarkable and he was meant for remarkable things. It was just a matter of getting there before the urge to, like, become a stripper or something took over. It’d probably pay better than what he was doing now. He shifted closer to the bar on his stool and rested his elbows against the wood, watching absently as the bartender cleaned glasses at the far end, and held the whisky by the top of the glass with his fingers, flicking his wrist barely so to swirl the liquid around, watching as it settled when he stilled his movements. His mouth twitched and he sighed for no particular reason, taking a sip and realising that he was running low, but he probably really shouldn’t buy another one.

He was about to ignore his better judgement (as he often did) and order another whisky, but someone caught his eye, somebody beside him. Brendon put his glass down carefully and then turned his head, honestly expecting anything. This was L.A., and though it was an uninteresting neighbourhood as far as LA went, he was still used to the out of ordinary and wasn’t about to be phased by this guy. Even if he was- damn, okay, that’s a man right there, he- Brendon shifted, embarrassed by his own thoughts, and he tried to not so blatantly look him up and down but he was tall and dark and slightly intimidating, wearing leather in this damn weather and standing a good few inches over Brendon, he could tell, even sitting down. Still, he didn’t get any urge towards this guy. He wasn’t in the mood for anything tonight, and dating was pretty much out of the question, he was too exhausted and too broke to make time for anyone else like that. Besides, this guy probably wasn’t even- Brendon did a double take at the way he stood, side pressed against the wood, body cocked confidently, and then his eyes drifted to his hair and just... everything, and his eyebrows lifted minutely. Yeah, okay. Brendon cleared his throat, wondering how to play this. He decided he was going to wait for this guy to speak and then make his decision.

Hey, there, can I buy you a drink? I'm Ryan. Brendon blinked upon hearing his rough-smooth voice, glanced at his drink, then back at Ryan, then picked up his glass and downed the rest of it, not breaking eye contact with Ryan as he did- then he put it back down decisively and slid it away from himself, before flashing this Ryan guy a half-grin. ”Absolutely,” He said finally, quirking an eyebrow as his smile faded. Hey, when an opportunity presents itself... ”I’m Brendon. I’d usually prefer dinner, but y’know, for you I’ll make an exception.” Oh, he was flirting now. Good going, Brendon, he couldn’t really go back from that- but he was bored, and this stranger was handsome, and- the more he looked at him- Wait. ”I recognise you from somewhere.”
Funny how the same man that had once mocked him mercilessly for his every trait- say, how much he gestured when he spoke, any new haircut he might be premiering, the way he sang, or even his harmless snacking habit and love of food- was now straddling him with a strange innocence that was precedented by the strange... Definitely not innocence of the night previous, and was offering to order them both room service, waffles and pancakes and everything. If Brendon had been wiser, he would have doubted how genuine this extended olive branch was. He might’ve thought back to every time ryan sneered or snickered when he was, maybe, speeding through a share bag of skittles, and brought it up, demanding to know why he was suddenly being so nice and feeding his ‘unhealthy’ habits- did it take just one night for Ryan to not care about that anymore? Or did he never really care to begin with, he just looked for every available opportunity to pick on him? Thinking about it, Brendon didn’t fancy that Ryan ever actually cared about his health. This was all a distant reflection, though, and in the instant, Brendon just peeled up like a puppy and propped himself up against the headboard, wrapping his arms around Ryan to pull him along into a similar position. To show his appreciation, he decided on the embarassing path of sucking up to Ryan, pressing gentle, barely-there kisses, like brushes from a butterfly’s wing, across his skin.

At this point, Brendon had given up being bothered by Keltie, who, if all went well and she actually accepted the breakup, would be out of the picture soon enough. He wasn’t about to hold his breath that things would be smooth sailing from here, though- he knew from being (unfortunately) around Ryan all the time that several of his ex girlfriends in the past have looked for every excuse to come round to a hotel, the bus, wherever, to ‘return’ something or to ‘pick something up’. He imagined it was likely Keltie would do the same, and that would be awkward. Anyway- smooth sailing? What did he even want to go smoothly? It wasn’t like they were automatically boyfriends, no, what they were doing was out there as it was but that would be too our there, until under twenty four hours ago they had been unable to stay alone in the same room together without wanting to kill eachother within thirty seconds. It was unrealistic, if Brendon wanted to think practically, but- he didn’t. Right now, Ryan was smiling down at him in a way he was so unused to that it floored him, and he was hit with a sudden surge of a certain type of motivation that, admittedly, quickly died away when he realised he wasn’t actually able to move very much. He settled back into a relatively comfortable position, disappointed, and wanted to be irritated when he saw that Ryan was holding back laughter, but he just- couldn’t.

Although, being almost-immobile did have its benefits. Yeah, Yeah, fair enough. Okay, so maybe he was being a little dramatic about it, but he had decided that it was his god given right. Then, when Ryan finally turned his attention back to what should be the central matter at hand, Brendon lost interest immediately and resting his head with a gentle thud against the wooden headboard, which in turn made a dull noise as it hit the wall. His hands slipped from Ryan’s skin and he reached behind himself, half-extending his arms and hanging on to the top of the headboard, stretching his torso out and then moving his arms to fold comfortably behind his head. For the next few moments he wondered how long he would take to break it off with Keltie, how long she’d uselessly protest against the end of an admittedly ridiculous relationship, and then he was pleasantly surprised when Ryan hung up, cast his phone aside somewhere he immediately focused his full attention on Brendon. Attention, of any kind- Brendon lived and breathed it, but this was next level. As Ryan wrapped his arms tightly around him, he tipped his head back to meet his gaze, and when he tilted it further, he let out a content sigh as Ryan pressed his lips delicately against his Adam’s apple for a few fleeting, gentle seconds.

Damn. Should’ve listened to your insight. Brendon hummed in agreement, eyes shut, but then they snapped open when he saw the opportunity to turn that around on him. ”You know,” He began, speculative, raising his eyebrows as Ryan drew his thumb across his temple, ”I think a lot of things would turn out better if you listened to my insight a bit more, y’know?” A pause, and he raised both eyebrows, finishing his tangent before leaning forwards to pepper kisses along his jaw and then, despite himself, planting a firm, appreciative one against his lips. ”Just- in general.” After that intitial kiss, their first of the morning, strange considering how sickeningly domestic and sweet they had been behaving, Brendon was receptive when Ryan leaned in just moments after to meet him in another one. He opened his mouth to speak, but suddenly the comfortable weight on his hips was gone because Ryan had rolled sideways so he was lying beside Brendon in his back. Close beside, sure, but he still felt the loss, pouting visibly for a second until he saw Ryan reach for a dial the hotel phone. In the meantime, he pulled the sheets up and over his hips, so they were tangled tightly around his waist.

Hi, can I get pancakes and waffles sent up to 203?... An order of everything, that'd be great. Yeah- every flavour. Thanks. Brendon wasn’t listening to the specifics- he was just admiring the view since he’d got a proper look at Ryan stretching out beside him, all lean and gorgeous, his curly hair (Ryan was dragging a hand through it and Brendon desperately wanted to do that for him) a mess that spoke for itself. His eyes lingered, enthralled, as if he’d seen for the first time how flooringly pretty Ryan was. They’d slept together, sure, but they had both been drunk and driven by angry energy- this was maybe the first time he had properly seen Ryan. Still gazing, his eyes travelled from his honey-hued eyes to his mouth, to his jaw and pale, delicate throat and his stark collarbones, his deceptively strong arms and then his hands, all long fingers and callouses and spidery veins- Brendon let out an extremely appreciative sigh and was so distracted by his waist and his pretty hips (who knew they could be pretty, this could be ridiculous) that he barely heard Ryan when he spoke next.

Am I your favourite yet? I got you all the flavours. That includes chocolate chip, man. Brendon, who was lying on his side facing Ryan, propped up with one elbow, grinned and went to thank him for the surplus of breakfast food- but that first part just processed through his mind and his expression changed, a small but visible frown furrowing his eyebrows for a second before he simply raised them. ”Don’t push it,” He warned. ”You’ll have a lot of making up to do if you want to be my ‘favourite’. You’ve insulted me so many-“ Brendon scoffed suddenly, remembering a specific example mid-sentence and shifting so he was on his back again, propping himself up with both elbows. ”Remember all the times you made fun of me ‘cause I have to wear girl’s pants? Yeah, I remember shit.”
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