~11 000 words
Love to Chelle for beta, hand-holding and concrit, and to Kate & Meg for hand-holding and concrit. THANKYOU♥
For jzbell in the DYW Live Free or Die fic exchange. I hope you like it ♥!!
France is overwhelming and confusing, blurry. A lot of faces to remember, too many places to see and rites to misunderstand. Ryan just tries not to get lost and avoids talking to people. His name rolls strangely smooth and soft over his fans’ tongue, diphthongs and all; it’s hard to understand what anyone is trying to say beneath the thick accents.
“Ryan Ross!” Brendon declares when he steps off the bus in front of their hotel, glasses askew, turning to face Ryan. “I love you!”
Ryan laughs and throws the closest moveable thing, which happens to be one the shoe Spencer just showed him, at Brendon’s head, and drags his suitcase off the bus towards the hotel. He squints against the sun as he passes Brendon, who, rubbing his head, comes padding after him, holding Spencer's pink shoe.
“Dude, it’s Paris. You don’t throw shoes at someone if they confess their love!”
“You don’t throw shoes at all,” Spence calls after them, and Ryan turns and grins at him, heaving his suitcase up the stairs to the hotel. Brendon, and then Spence and Jon, carrying Spencer’s bag, too, follow a moment later. Spence snatches his shoe from Brendon’s fingers and walks ahead into the lobby. Ryan pulls his suitcase faster and a moment later falls into an armchair next to the sofa Spencer is reclining on, stretches his legs and cracks his back.
“God, Ross, you’re gross,” Brendon says over Jon’s shoulder, giggling, steps around him and sits down on the armrest of Ryan’s chair.
Ryan swats his thigh, tells him to shut up and turns to look at Spencer, whom Jon is handing his bags.
“What kinda bet did you win?” Ryan asks, and Spencer just smirks at him, making space for Jon to sit with him on the sofa.
“Hey,” Brendon says and suddenly his fingers are on Ryan’s neck, tentatively. “Hey, pay attention to me.”
“You should, he loves you after all,” Jon says, laughing, drawing out the ‘o’ in love until it doesn’t like an o at all anymore.
Ryan laughs, and reaches for his vibrating Sidekick, while Brendon starts drawing circles against his skin and says to Jon, “I mean it. So, shut up. You’re totally Spencer’s bitch.”
Jon grins lazily, sinking against the backrest, arms stretched out. Ryan twitches away from Brendon’s touch, tickly, and flips the screen of his phone open.
“Who’s texting you?” Brendon asks and tugs on his hair, and Ryan pulls away, turning so Brendon can’t look at the screen. He quickly replies to Pete and flips his Sidekick shut.
“He’s a good master, Spencer is,” Jon says after a moment, grinning idly, “Three meals a day, usually, no coalmine and I’m allowed to call my girlfriend.”
“I mean it, Ryan, seriously” Brendon interjects, pushing at his shoulder to get his attention. Ryan shakes him off, ignores him.
“That’s nice, Jon,” he says, quirking a brow at Spencer, catching his smile. He opens his Sidekick again after it vibrates once. Pete’s inquiring about orgies with models and whether all French girls french. Ryan squints for a moment, thinking, and then sends back a line he thought of on the bus from Lyon. Something about boisterous ecdysiasts. Ryan thinks it’s smart.
“Are you texting Pete?” Brendon asks, jumping off the armrest, stretching. “You know, big words alone−”
“Shut up,” Ryan says, going through things to say that will make Brendon go away, please, but then Zach is coming towards them, waving a pair of keycards.
“Hey, kids, rooms are ready. Six-hundred-eight and nine, floor six,” he says and tosses Brendon and Jon one each. Jon catches his easily and reaches for his and Spencer’s bags before heading to the elevator with him.
“No way,” Ryan says after a second, struggling to his feet. “I’m not gonna room with Brendon,” he continues resolutely and tries to snatch the card from Brendon’s fingers. Brendon evades, turns a wobbly pirouette and comes to a halt, bumping into Zach, who gives him a disapproving look. Ryan kind of wishes Zach would bite his head off or something, but then Zach’s already heading outside again and Ryan barely has time to grab his stuff before Brendon’s snatched his wrist, dragging him towards the lift. They squish inside, bags and suitcases and all, but Brendon presses closer than really necessary.
“You smell nice,” Brendon says when the lift passes the fourth floor.
“We were just on a six hour bus ride, and I haven’t showered yet, dude,” Ryan counters, lifting his chin in defiance because now Brendon’s really starting to get on his nerves.
“Duh,” Brendon says. “It was more like a rhetorical thing, okay? This is the fucking city of love after all.”
“Ugh,” Ryan says, snatches the keycard from Brendon’s fingers and then the elevators dings on floor six and Ryan flees outside quickly.
“Have sex with me please!” Brendon shouts across the corridor, theatrical voice and all. Ryan just flips him off over his shoulder and jams the card into the slot to their room. Brendon kind of gives him a lopsided grin when the enters, dumping his stuff on the bed closest to the window.
Ryan is about to protest, but then Brendon tumbles down into the bed next to his bags, and mumbles, “I’m so tired, seriously.” And that’s maybe a little adorable, so Ryan just huffs quietly and pulls off his scarves.
“I’m gonna take a shower. Don’t come in,” he says with emphasis.
Brendon waves his hand over his head without looking up. “Yeah, yeah, whatever.”
Ryan rolls his eyes at him and pulls off his clothes on the way to the bathroom. A minute into shampooing his hair, he hears Spencer complain about the size of their rooms and Jon suggesting a movie. He hurries out of the shower, pulls on boxer shorts and a T-shirt and emerges into the room, shaking water from his hair. They curl up together on Brendon’s bed, Spencer’s hand in Ryan’s hair, twisting and pulling softly, until it’s dry, and halfway through Dawn of the Dead Brendon says, “Dude, Paris. We really should have sex.”
Ryan blinks twice, trying to decide whether to pretend he didn’t hear him or push him off the bed, when Brendon continues. “It’s like not going to see the Mona Lisa, seriously.”
“We didn’t see the Mona Lisa,” Spence says, sounding a bit squished from his curled-up-against-Jon position, which is ideal for avoiding horror movies, but not for talking.
“I don’t think I want to,” Ryan says mockingly after a moment, and wants to continue but Brendon is already pressing closer, fitting his chin against Ryan’s shoulder.
“We can try? I can totally convince you,” he mumbles against Ryan’s ear, and Ryan can’t help but shiver a little. He pretends it’s because on screen somebody’s head was just ripped off and nuzzles closer to Spence.
They play one show in Paris the next day, and Ryan is sad when they have to leave in a rush to catch their plane back home to empty houses and dry desert nights. He can’t sleep for the most part of the flight, Brendon twitchy next to him and a row from him Spencer is brooding. He’s holding a book, pretending to read, but he’s not, because his brows are furrowed, and they usually aren’t when he’s reading. Jon is asleep, headphones and all, and Ryan feels a weird pang of sadness.
“One week,” Brendon says next to him, and Ryan turns to find him suddenly gone atypically still. Ryan nods and tries to find something to say to that, but settles for sliding farther down his seat until his head lands on Brendon’s shoulder. They arrive in JFK hours later, and Jon hugs Ryan so tightly he thinks he can hear his bones crack. He falls asleep on the flight to Vegas, exhausted, Spencer curled up next to him, and Brendon asleep with his mouth open a row in front of them.
Ryan has no recollection of how he gets home from the airport, stumbling from tiredness, barely dragging his suitcase, into his bed, but he sleeps for a whole day, curled up under dusty sheets. When he wakes up to stumble to the bathroom, his foot gets caught on a box next to his room. He curses, rubs the sore spot and returns to bed, remembering that he started packing his things before he had to leave for Europe again.
He rolls into bed again and falls asleep once more, but wakes not quite an hour later with his Sidekick buzzing happily on his nightstand. He fumbles for it and by the time he manages to reach it, the call has already ended. It was Brendon and Ryan decides to take a shower, have breakfast and then call him back.
After the shower he remembers that there is no food at home and gets dressed to go out and find a place for sandwiches. He eats and then decides to go to his favorite record store, and then there has to be coffee and maybe ice cream, and before he even notices the day has gone by and it’s ten p.m. and he’s heading home.
He falls asleep in front of the TV and wakes sometime in the early hours of morning, tense and with a stiff neck. He moves to his bed, sleepily, and when he wakes again he discovers that his Sidekick must have died sometime during the night. He plugs it in and listens to a voicemail Brendon left in the morning, rambling at him for five full minutes before ending with ‘hey, call me, okay?’ and hanging up.
It’s raining, so he orders food and starts (continues) packing, stuffing his old books and clothes into boxes, calls Spence in the afternoon and puts him on speakerphone, listens to him look after his sister while they talk. Spence asks him about his condo, and Ryan has to admit that he still hadn’t seen it yet. Spence laughs at him, tells him not to forget kitchenware and says he’s got to go and pick his brother up from school.
Ryan says goodbye and decides to take a short break and watch TV for a while, and two hours later when Brendon comes barging in, stumbling over a box from the noise, Ryan is still curled up on the couch watching afternoon cartoons.
He sits up when Brendon falls on the cushions next to him, shaking his hair like a dog, grinning like a madman.
“I rode my bike here!” Brendon says excitedly, and toes off his shoes. “You may want to offer me a towel and hot tea so I don’t get sick.”
“You smell gross,” Ryan counters and gets up to rummage through a box for a towel. “And why are you even here? You could have called first,” he continues, dumping the towel on Brendon’s head and sitting down again, back against the armrest.
“And tea?” Brendon asks, but his grin is lopsided and Ryan rolls his eyes at him and waits for him to continue. “You never called me back,” Brendon says after a moment, sounding more serious.
Ryan shrugs. “Yeah, I was kinda busy.” He gestures to the boxes in the foyer and bites his lip. Brendon looks hurt and Ryan’s heart stings a little. “I’m sorry. I can make you tea?”
Brendon laughs and pulls him into a messy, rainy-wet hug. Ryan presses close for a moment before pulling out of his grip and going into the kitchen.
“Juice is fine, too!” Brendon calls and Ryan pours them both a glass of water because he has no juice at home (or food or anything really).
“I only have water, sorry,” he says, handing Brendon his glass and curling up next to him.
“Look,” Brendon starts, and then stares at the TV intensely for a few moments; Ryan watches his face, feeling the gears turn in his head, round and round because Brendon always thinks so carefully, so obviously when he decides to not just let his mouth run away with him.
“About Paris,” he finally says and Ryan takes a big sip of water, trying to hide his surprise. “I don’t know, are you mad at me or something? I don’t want things to be weird between us.”
Ryan shrugs carefully and puts his glass down on the table slowly. “It’s cool. I just needed to, you know, be by myself for a bit. And pack my stuff and…” He trails off, waving his hand, not sure what else to say because really, it’s all bad excuses and he feels horrible.
“I meant what I said,” Brendon says earnestly, puppy eyes and all, and Ryan grins and shakes his head.
“Sure you did.” He reaches over on impulse and ruffles Brendon’s hair. “It was Paris, I get it. Saying I love you to somebody is like eating a croissants. It’s okay, I understand that.”
Brendon opens and then closes his mouth, looking as though he wants to speak, and Ryan waits for a stupid joke or so, but then his Sidekick vibrates loudly against the table. He nearly topples over reaching for it. It’s Spence.
“Hi, I’m standing outside your house and I can’t remember you having a purple bike. Is Brendon there?”
Jon Walker has a beard when they meet at the airport in Ft. Lauderdale. He looks a bit gruffy and hugs Spence first, lifting him off his feet, then Brendon who kind of squeals and then Ryan who laughs at the feel of Jon’s beard tickling his cheek.
At the hotel, Brendon leaves his stuff in their room and bounces over the street to take a look at their bus. Ryan follows him lazily, watches him go through cupboards, check the fridge, before he leans against the counter of their tiny kitchenette, tired, and closes his eyes. For a moment he can still hear Brendon rummage around, and then suddenly he feels a body press close and opens his eyes.
“The tour’s gonna be great, right?” Brendon inquires, nose scrunched up a bit, curiosity. Ryan’s breath hitches a little and he blinks, feeling lost. Brendon’s so close and he can feel his hand holding on to the counter behind him brushing his arm.
“Yeah, of course, yeah,” he manages after what seems like an eternity.
Brendon’s eyes are huge and brown and his lashes are approximately as thick as trees, and yeah, their noses are brushing because Brendon has just leaned in closer. He’s thumbing Ryan’s arm carefully, blinking, and Ryan swallows and squeezes his eyes shut, suppressing the urge to bite his lip.
And then there’s a noise from the front, and Brendon’s touch is gone, and when Ryan opens his eyes again, Jon and Spence are giving the interior probing looks. Brendon starts wrenching cupboards, the fridge open, pointing out the awesome and not so awesome stuff, back turned to Ryan. Over his shoulder Ryan catches Spencer’s eyes, and Ryan can see that Spencer feels that something just happened but can’t pinpoint it. His eyebrow goes up half an inch in a perfect arch, and Ryan shrugs.
Spencer’s sidekick buzzes and they’re called back to the hotel before Brendon can turn on the Xbox and before Spence can start asking questions. Brendon jokes and quips on the way back, and doesn’t even turn to look at Ryan once.
“Seaworld or Disneyworld?” Brendon asks, flopping down on the couch next to Ryan, who’s currently trying to kick Spencer’s ass at Tekken. He never actually does, but this time, this time Spence seems unfocused and if Brendon just went away Ryan might just do it.
“What? Go away, Brendon,” he says, shortly glances up to see Brendon’s excited face, before Spence does his stupid, unfair secret move again and kicks Ryan out of the ring. Ryan curses and drops his controller to the floor.
“Thanks,” Spence says to Brendon and Ryan kicks his shin. Spence barely winces and continues, “And neither. We’re in Orlando for like, a day, there’s no time.”
“Time for what?” Jon asks, entering from the back with two coffee cups and sitting down on the floor next to Spence, handing him a cup. “Milk, no sugar,” he says and gives Brendon an inquiring look before repeating his question.
“Disneyworld,” Brendon answers.
“Seaworld,” Ryan says at the same time because he already knows where this is going if Jon’s getting involved, and he’d rather go to Seaworld than Disneyworld, so this really is damage control.
“The Seaworld option never really was an option, okay? It was just pretense. Disneyworld or nothing,” Brendon huffs and tilts his chin.
“Sucks for you,” Ryan says. “If anything then Seaworld.”
“Uhm,” Jon pipes up from the floor. “Disneyworld?” He raises his hand, bumping shoulders with Spence, who, after a moment of consideration, also raises his hand. Spence has the decency to look guilty at least, when Ryan shoots him a hurt glare. Of course Spence wants Disneyworld, he should have known.
“You two don’t count,” he finally manages and gestures for Brendon to sit down somewhere. “Two out of three. We’ll duel it out.”
“Like men.” Spencer snorts, rolls his eyes, but makes room for Brendon and hands him the controller.
“Dude, shut up, seriously,” Ryan grits out and starts the multiplayer modus again. He wins the first match, and then loses twice, asks for a rematch. Brendon refuses and Spence says with a sigh that it doesn’t matter anyway, and can they please shut up and just do a rematch?
They pass St. Lucie, and Brendon loses, and then Palm Beach and Ryan loses the re-rematch. Before he can say ‘again’, Spence scrambles forward and pushes the OFF button on the TV, and Jon tells them that he’s never been to Disneyworld before. Spence huffs and pulls out his Sidekick, texting furiously.
“I hate you all,” Ryan says when they get out of the bus in front of the hotel, hurry to get their suitcases in their rooms and back again because Spence already called a cab for them and they’re going to Disneyworld and Ryan can’t even be mad because Brendon looks absolutely thrilled and Jon is making sure he’s got all his batteries, also looking excited.
They eat quickly at one of the restaurants in the outskirts, Brendon urging them to hurry because they don’t have much time, and he wants to see the parade at one. Ryan groans, but tags along without further complaint because he doesn’t want to be left out, and yeah, the others seem to be having fun, at least. They watch the parade, walk along and Brendon randomly breaks out into lines of Aladdin and little Mermaid songs, whenever appropriate. Ryan wonders how he can hear the music well enough to recognize songs over the babble of hundreds of people, and watches him: grinning, tapping out the beat on his thighs, Jon’s shoulder.
His lashes cast dark shadows over his cheeks in the harsh light, mouth curved in delight, and Ryan feels a weird tugging inside, coiling and uncoiling. Then Brendon turns his head to look at him, grin shifting into a smile that Ryan doesn’t quite understand because it’s nearly nostalgic, pensive. He swallows and smiles, too, falls back to Spencer’s side.
“I want to see the Cinderella Castle,” Spencer says when the parade dissolves.
“Oh, yes,” Jon says, grinning, raising his camera again. “Come on!” he continues, grabs Spencer’s belt loop and drags him along. Brendon turns to Ryan, shrugs, grins and follows, running after them. Ryan sprints after them, suddenly laughing despite himself.
The castle looks fake, of course, but they look at everything and Jon takes pictures. Spencer’s phone rings when they’re in the souvenir shop.
“We have to get back,” Spence says morosely and pries the pink tiara he’s been trying on from his hair. “They sent someone, and they’re already waiting.”
Jon pulls a face, sighs, takes one last shot and then puts his camera away. They rush outside, towards the exit, and it starts raining, like buckets of water emptying themselves on their heads. Ryan’s soaked after two minutes, shoes squelching grossly. They huddle up in the car, shivering, Brendon and Ryan in the very backseat of the van.
“Christ,” Ryan says, and shakes the water from his hair, rubs his face, and looks at Brendon, who seems approximately as wet as Ryan feels.
“Hey,” Brendon says after a moment and nudges their shoulders together. He reaches over, takes Ryan’s left wrist and snaps a silly blue plastic bracelet around it. “I grabbed the wrong one. I wanted the pink one for you instead.” He grins and raises his left hand, jiggling the very same bracelet.
“What?” Ryan asks, blinking confused by both the bracelet itself, and also when did Brendon have time to pay? “Did you – steal those?”
“We had to hurry, there was no time! I did it for our love.” He chuckles, and leans back in his seat. Ryan opens and closes his mouth, trying to decide what he’s supposed to say before Brendon continues, “But I left them a twenty.”
They stop in Valdosta for gas and fresh air; they’re out of RedBull and unhealthy snacks, so Ryan shoulders his Vuitton bag and follows Brendon over the parking lot to the adjoining convenience store, Spence and Jon right behind him.
They pile up chocolate, soda cans, chips in Ryan’s bag, anything that tickles their fancy; Brendon buys bubbles, one flask for each of them, he says, but Ryan knows he’s planning on using them up all by himself. They’re back in the bus ten minutes later, and Ryan happily digs into a carton of Cocoa Krispies while Spencer puts in a movie and curls up on the couch next to Ryan, claiming his share. A moment later Jon joins them too, munching a sandwich, and Brendon enters from the back, a carton of gushers under his arm, blowing bubbles over their heads. He sits down on the armrest next to Ryan and slowly worms his way down, until they’re all squished on the couch.
On screen Penny Lane says, It’s all happening!, and Brendon chuckles, palpable for Ryan because Brendon is resting his head on Ryan’s shoulder. Brendon shifts and puts away the bubbles and his candy; he leans back and slips an arm around Ryan’s shoulder, pulling him closer.
“That’s uncomfortable,” Ryan mumbles, and pushes himself up in a more sitting position, but Brendon isn’t letting go, just holds on until Ryan gives in and sinks against his shoulder. Somewhere between Macon and Atlanta Ryan falls asleep; he remembers fading away to rock music from the TV, and when he wakes up they’re no longer on the highway. Through the small windows buildings are rushing past, bathed in orange afternoon sun.
Jon and Spencer are gone, and when Ryan shifts, blinking the sleep from his eyes, something – someone groans uncomfortably. He turns to see Brendon rub his eyes, yawning.
“You’re so fucking heavy, Ross,” Brendon says but pulls him down again. Ryan struggles shortly, gives in and lets Brendon maneuver them into a more comfortable position, legs stretched out, Brendon’s chest pressed against Ryan’s back. He can feel Brendon’s breath in his hair, sometimes fluttering against his neck, soft and warm, and doesn’t know what to say.
“Sleep some more,” Brendon says suddenly, hands brushing over Ryan’s side, careful, tentative. Ryan closes his eyes, feels Brendon fall asleep again; Ryan’s heart is racing, and he’s unable to sleep all the way to the venue, and restless even after the show.
“So,” Spence says, sitting down on the bed next to Ryan. Ryan looks up from his book and shifts so Spence can comfortably lean against the backrest next to Ryan.
“You’re gonna tell me?” Spence asks after a moment and Ryan tilts a brow at him even though he exactly knows what Spence is talking about.
“Uh,” he says eventually and shrugs. “Am I gonna tell you what?”
Spence nudges his side with his elbow and gives him this look that always tells Ryan that Spence knows what’s going on even though he’s a year younger, and that he’ll kick anybody’s ass who’s trying to fuck with him.
“I don’t know,” Ryan says after a moment and carefully shuts his book. He can’t lie to Spence, it’s just impossible, and even when he can’t be honest to himself, he has to be honest to Spence at least.
“Okay,” Spence says and then sneaks an arm around his shoulder and pulls him close. Ryan sighs and rubs his eyes, and Spence continues, “You’ll figure it out.”
Ryan inhales and wants to answer, but suddenly the door flies open and Jon and Brendon come in, coffee and donuts and all.
“Cuddling! Without us!” Brendon declares affronted and launches towards them. Jon puts down the coffee and the donuts and lets out a healthy war cry before tackling Spencer and pulling him from the bed to the floor. Ryan tries to evade Brendon, but is pinned down in a few moments, wrists cracking under Brendon’s fingers.
He lets out a small growl, frustrated, and knees Brendon in the stomach, not too hard, but effectively. They tumble down on the other side of the bed and Ryan ends up sitting on Brendon’s waist, hands on his shoulders, their noses brushing.
There’s a small exhilarating moment in which Ryan feels surreal and light, laughs, and then Brendon bucks up and yells, “But the donuts! I cannot die yet!”
“No, I refuse,” Spence says and sprawls out on the couch in their hotel suite, arms over the backrest, stern look and all.
“But,” Jon says and wiggles onto the couch next to Spence, camera on his knees, biting his lip. Ryan stops in his tracks on his way from the shower, squints at them, trying to read Spencer’s expression.
“What’s going on?” he asks and sits down on the armrest, pulls the towel from his hair and shakes his head to get the wet hair out of his eyes.
“Jon wants to play tourist,” Spencer huffs, and fiddles with the remote. Ryan stares as his fingers ghost undecidedly over the dozens of buttons. Spence looks very sour, and he’s wrinkling his brows like that, and yeah, he really doesn’t want to go anywhere. Drops of water trickle down Ryan’s neck, and he shudders, feeling tired and exhausted, worn out. Spence is biting his lip, silently arguing with Jon, no words, no sounds needed, and suddenly Ryan is jealous; it surges inside him, powerful and ugly for a moment, until he notices the softness in Spencer’s eyes when Jon reaches up to sweep a stray strand of hair from his, Spencer’s, forehead.
Ryan squeezes his eyes shut and sinks down the armrest, curling up against Spencer’s side, and Spencer shifts and wraps one boyishly long arm around Ryan’s shoulder.
“See?” he says and then something else that Ryan doesn’t quite understand because he’s drifting off slowly. Somewhere distant he hears Brendon enter, loud; a few moments later, he and Jon leave, and Spence curls up next to him and turns on the TV quietly. He’s all warm and familiar, and Ryan presses his face against Spencer’s neck, drifting.
“I’m scared,” he mumbles finally, over the noise of one of Spencer’s weird indie films and muffled against Spencer’s T-shirt.
“Yeah?” Spence answers, sighing against Ryan’s hair, breath warm and soft.
“Yeah,” Ryan answers honestly because he really is. He feels changeable and unstable beneath all the weariness from the tour. Spence rubs his back in slow circles and Ryan falls asleep slowly. He wakes what feels like days later to hushed voices and familiar hands pulling him up carefully.
“Hey, help me here,” Brendon whispers softly against his ear, and Ryan climbs to his feet awkwardly and lets Brendon drag him to bed. He falls asleep again, feeling Brendon slide under the covers with him carefully, too tired and comfortable to really protest.
Part 2 here.