Pairing: Brendon/ Ryan
Rating: PG-13 (language)
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters and this is all fiction.
Summary: Panic! at the Disco goes on their first tour since the band broke up.
Brendon sat, a cigarette dangling precariously in his fingers, in front of the television though he could barely hear it over his own thoughts. He lifted the cigarette to his lips and inhaled deeply. He closed his eyes and let his head rest against the back of the couch. For a moment, he wondered what kind of cigarettes Ryan smoked now, but shook the thoughts from his head quickly.
Spencer came into the room, trying very hard to be quiet, but he should have known that Brendon wouldn’t hear him. He hardly heard anything anymore over the stories running through his mind. He sat down beside Brendon, but fixed his eyes on the television to buy just a few more moments before he had to speak.
Ian had told him that he should talk to Brendon about possibly playing a couple songs off the last album. The crowds seemed to miss Ryan just as much as Brendon did. Spencer knew Ian was right, but he wasn’t quite sure if Brendon would agree, or even be up to it for that matter.
“Hey.” Brendon smiled his side-ways smile. Spencer turned in his seat, spreading his arm along the back of the couch. He smiled back. Perhaps the amount he smiled would be in direct relation to how much Brendon would after this conversation.
“Hey, can you shut that off for a second?” Spencer ventured.
Brendon immediately groped for the converter and turned the power off, turning to look at Spencer. Dealing with Brendon was so much easier than dealing with Ryan, Spencer had decided. Good morals and values had been shoved down Brendon’s throat since the moment he learned to understand the words that flew from his mother’s lips like doves. Ryan had been drowned in alcohol and apathy. They were so different and Spencer still didn’t quite know which he liked more.
“What’s up?” Brendon asked. His foot began to bounce. Was it uneasiness or his ADHD? Spencer used to always know that the twitching hands and
restless feet were because of that syndrome, but now, so much uncertainty and timidity had crept underneath Brendon’s skin that he couldn’t ever decide what caused it anymore. His most logical guess was Ryan.
“I- ugh- I just need to ask you something about the next show.” His voice stammered the way he never wanted it to in interviews.
Brendon’s face lit up. He was always so excited to talk about music. The new album, even though it was hard to write at times, made him jitter and smile when he shouldn’t. Spencer considered avoiding the conversation as he studied Brendon’s boyish grin. He didn’t want to see it fall. But he knew that if they didn’t speak now, they never would.
“Yeah, um, Ian was thinking we should maybe play some old songs sometime.” Brendon’s smile did fall, as did his shoulders. And his foot stopped bouncing for just a moment, before it began again with even more fervour.
Spencer felt his face grow hot. “Yeah… Maybe just one or two.”
“One,” Brendon interjected. His body language showed Spencer that he wanted his words to seem hot, but his voice was small like a pebble against the pavement.
“Or one,” Spencer mumbled back.
The room fell silent, like a night in the cabins, except there were no stars to gaze at.
“Alright, and then we’ll do ‘Downpour’ last,” Brendon said, scribbling the set list down onto a piece of paper in the dressing room.
“Last? You w—” A swift elbow to the ribs from Spencer made Ian stop talking. He only didn’t continue because he understood that there was nobody in the room that knew Brendon the way Spencer did. Spencer knew that Brendon didn’t exactly want anything from Pretty. Odd to be the finale in a Vices and Virtues show, but he wasn’t willing to risk not having a place to run to if the words and the music and the memories simply became too much.
“Yeah, last.” Brendon folded the piece of paper and stuffed it into his pocket as he stood from the table. He brushed by Spencer and then stopped suddenly. He rubbed his hands together and turned quickly. His face was blank though it hinted at a smile.
“I’m nervous.” A laugh escaped his lips. He ran his hands through his hair and tugged at his shirt. Spencer laughed too. “It’s been so long.”
“It’ll be fine,” Spencer assured.
Brendon just nodded. His smile became infectious and Spencer soon found himself laughing more than he should have at one of his first performances without his best friend.
Music had always been an escape for Brendon. It was the only constant in his life. When everything changed, when he lost faith, when he lost Ryan, when he lost the band, music remained like a stone and he simply knew that, despite everything, he would always have his voice and his guitar. And though music still made him happy, as he stared out at the crowd that night in Toronto, it had never felt so wrong.
He had felt so comfortable singing Ryan’s words; they were something he could hide behind. He had never felt vulnerable on stage until he began to sing his own words. He wasn’t just singing anymore, he was tearing his clothes from his itching body and just standing there, waiting for people to judge him or love him. He wondered how Ryan had done it all those years. It was no wonder Ryan was like glass.
Brendon dreaded time as he sang. He regretted saying ‘yes’ to Spencer that evening. He could feel his heart beating quicker than it should and his hands grew sweaty beneath his microphone. He turned to Spencer when he finished the second last song. Spencer read his eyes as desperate, desperate to leave, desperate to return back to the way things were, just desperate to feel truly happy again.
Even though he wouldn’t hear him, Spencer said: “It’s okay…”
Brendon could feel the tightness in his chest begin to rise up into his throat and he hadn’t even begun singing. He turned back to the audience. They were screaming, but Brendon couldn’t understand them. They were probably shouting for Ryan, and he certainly couldn’t blame them. He wanted to shout for him too.
“Okay,” he said into the microphone. He hoped he wouldn’t stammer. “Okay, we’re just about through for the night. We’ve got one last song lined up for you guys that I think you’ll like.” He looked over at Ian, who, to him, had never looked more out of place. “I- ugh, I hope you all enjoyed yourselves tonight.” A cheer erupted in the crowd. Brendon waited for it to die down, a photogenic smile on his face, before he began speaking once more. “Thanks for coming out. We love you, Toronto!” He looked to Ian and nodded to him to begin.
Cheers and cries flew at him as Ian played the opening chords to a song that just wasn’t his. Brendon looked down at his feet. Hopefully, they would mistake tears for sweat when they started to trace down his cheeks.
He began to sing. If he closed his eyes, he fell back into place. But the illusion would shatter when he looked to his right and the boy beside him wasn’t Ryan, wasn’t someone that he loved.
It was suddenly hard to stand and the moths in his stomach took flight the way they never did on stage. It felt cold all around him and he wanted nothing more than to drop the microphone and run off, away from the music, from the fans. His voice stammered as he sang the wrong lyrics. His cheeks grew hot and with defeat, he dropped his hand to his side, his voice no longer pouring out into the stadium. Except for the steady music, there was a hush emanating throughout the entire arena before thousands of voices boomed Ryan’s words towards him. He pulled a smile from his pocket and lifted the microphone back to his lips and followed the audience’s lead.
A hush fell over the building as the final notes rung out from wall to wall. Brendon stared out the fans in front of him. He could see tears on some of their faces (the true fans, they probably called themselves) and he felt his throat begin to tighten. Before he let any tears build up in his eyes, he dropped the microphone to the floor and brushed by Dallon to get to the wings. If people didn’t believe in Ryden before, they had to now.
Later that evening, after everyone had returned back to the tour bus from the bars, Brendon sat alone in the living area of the tour bus, his iPod on, as well as the television. He didn’t normally listen to himself when he listened to music, but he just wanted to hear Ryan, hear them together, fitting together like that puzzle Ryan had promised they would always be. He closed his eyes and let the words fall over him like a blanket. He heard someone, who had to be Spencer, enter the room, but he pretended not to notice. He wanted just one moment longer with Ryan.
“Hey,” Spencer said. Brendon could barely hear him over the music in his ears. He nodded in acknowledgement, but said nothing more. “You okay?” Spencer continued. Brendon nodded again. Spencer could tell he hadn’t really been listening to him. He reached out and pulled on an ear bud, letting it dangle down the front of Brendon’s shirt. “Are you okay?” he repeated.
Brendon was looking at him angrily, but his dark eyes were soon softened by the concern and sympathy that were as blatantly written across Spencer’s face as hurt and loneliness were on his own. Slowly, Brendon removed the other ear bud and placed his iPod down on the coffee table in front of them. The music still sounded from them, like a dull ache in the pit of a stomach.
“You don’t have to talk about it,” Spencer started. “But if you want to, you can.” He paused for a moment, waiting for Brendon to speak. When no words fell from Brendon’s mouth (as they rarely did), Spencer continued. “He’s an asshole. You used to always know that.”
Brendon inhaled sharply, making Spencer stop speaking immediately. He paused for a moment before he began. “It’s not just Ry—or Ryan, whatever.” His voice was strong like diamonds when he began speaking, but soon proved to be glass. Spencer leaned toward him. “I miss Jon too. I just miss…” He paused, unable to think of words that could describe what exactly he missed. “It…”
“Yeah, I know what you mean,” Spencer returned with a sigh. He allowed enough time for his breath to fill the room. “You know what I miss?”
“Just having a smoke.”
Brendon laughed and toyed with his hands in his lap before he nodded in agreement.
“We’re talking like they’re dead and not in California,” Spencer joked.
“Ryan hasn’t tweeted in a while, maybe he is dead.”
Spencer snorted. “Yeah, maybe…”
The room was in near-silence except for the sounds of Ryan’s guitar floating in through Brendon’s headphones and flying over them like a murder or crows.
“What time is it?” Brendon asked suddenly.
Spencer glanced at his watch. “Almost two,” he concluded. “Are you going to bed?”
“Yeah, I think so,” Brendon mumbled.
“Yeah, I was thinking the same thing.” Spencer pushed himself onto his feet and waited for Brendon to do the same before he started towards the beds. Spencer’s bed was deeper into the bus than Brendon’s was, so after exchanging quick ‘goodnight’s’, Brendon climbed into his bed. He listened, holding his breath and when he heard Spencer pull his curtain closed, Brendon sat up slowly. He peered down into the dark hallway and listened once more, before gracefully throwing his legs over the side of the bed.
He shuffled down the hallway, conscious not to make too much noise and returned to the living area of the bus. He sat back down on the couch and stopped for a moment, studying the silence around him for any unfitting sounds. When it was deemed fit, Brendon dug into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone.
His fingers twitched as he pressed the buttons. He was always nervous, but he shouldn’t be, he had dialled this number so often lately that it should have seemed like a reflex. The ringing felt like a green light at the end of a dock, pulling his forward, filling him with anxiety.