The tour gets more intense the longer it goes on and Ryan finds himself seeking out Jon increasingly often, just to soak up some of Jon’s unflappable Jon-ness.
He doesn’t mean to be monopolising so much of Jon’s time, it’s not like they’re dating, they’re just fucking and hanging out some, but Jon doesn’t seem to mind and it’s him inviting Ryan around just as often as Ryan invites himself.
It’s mid-afternoon when Ryan makes him way onto the TAI bus and finds Brendon already there.
“Hey,” he says, stopping by the sofa where Brendon is sprawled with his head under Sisky’s arm.
“Ryan,” Brendon says happily, holding his hands above his head and beckoning until Ryan comes all the way up to him. He draws circles in the air, apparently trying to indicate Ryan’s make up because the next thing he says is, “You look like a panda, Ross, a pretty pink panda.”
Ryan squints at him. “Are you drunk?”
Siska giggles and blows a raspberry into Brendon’s shoulder. “Nope,” he says.
“Nope,” Brendon agrees, plastering on his most angelic smile. “The other thing.”
“What other thing-? Oh.” Awesome, they have to be on stage in three hours and his singer is high. “Where’s Jon?”
“Oooh,” Brendon croons, “Is it sex o’clock?” Ryan kicks Brendon’s left foot which is trailing on the floor. “Ow. Fine. He’s in the kitchen, getting me food. Don’t distract him ‘til he’s gotten me food, please.”
"Fine, whatever," Ryan mutters and makes his way into the kitchen.
Jon’s humming something that Ryan doesn’t recognise, watching a bowl go around and around in the microwave.
“Hey!” he says happily when he sees Ryan. “Did I know you were coming over?”
“No,” Ryan says and doesn’t ask if it’s okay, even though he really wants to check. He doesn’t want to look needy. “What are you making?”
Jon licks his lips elaborately. “I,” he tells Ryan, “Am melting chocolate. And then I’m going to add some Captain Crunch and feed it to Brendon. I’m hoping it’ll make him explode.”
Ryan nods appreciatively. “Cool. I’m going to go wait in the back lounge, okay?”
"Mmhmm," Jon hums and waves two fingers at Ryan in agreement.
Jon smells of chocolate when he comes back to the otherwise empty lounge and curls up on the sofa beside Ryan. He puts his palm against Ryan’s cheek and kisses him, closed mouth and chaste. “Hi,” he whispers.
Ryan kisses him back then licks his lips. Jon tastes less of chocolate and more like how pot smells. “Are you high?” he asks curiously.
Jon waggles his hand back and forth. “Little bit, not so much.”
“What’s it like?” Ryan asks then clamps his lips together, trying to take it back.
“Being high?” Jon asks, then frowns. “Dude, you’ve never - ?”
Ryan doesn’t often feel like a kid. He’s always made sure to do things early to avoid just that.
“Do you have any?” Ryan hears himself ask.
Jon half-sits up, frowning at him. “You want to try?”
Ryan takes a breath. “Sure,” he says and yeah, actually, he kind of does. He’s tired of being scared of things like this. Jon's looking at him way too seriously and Ryan kind of wishes he hadn't said anything or that he'd just waited and asked Brendon. "It doesn't matter," he starts to say but Jon has apparently come to some internal decision because he stands up and starts to futz around in his duffle bag.
When he stands up with a pre-rolled joint, Ryan feels his heart start to pound with nerves but he makes his expression stay cool, sits up and holds out his hand.
Jon smiles at him affectionately and ignores his outstretched hand. Jon flicks open his lighter, lights the joint and takes a slow drag. "Like this," Jon tells him, before passing it over.
"Sure," Ryan says and brings it up to his own lips. He's smoked regular cigarettes before; he knows the basics and he expects it to be basically the same, but when he breathes in the hit, it feels totally different, sweeter, dreamier almost except that's probably psychosomatic. He doesn't cough and he's proud of that.
"Okay?" Jon asks, shifting to sit cross-legged opposite Ryan and taking the joint from between Ryan's fingers.
"Mm," Ryan says and reaches out to take it back.
Jon grins at him. "I feel like I'm corrupting the innocent," he says and Ryan snorts. "No, really," Jon insists. Apparently pot makes Jon chatty. Not that he's ever exactly quiet. "You don't drink, why don't you drink, Ryan Ross?"
Because I might not be able to stop, Ryan thinks. "Because I don't want to," Ryan says. He feels relaxed, a little bit sleepy, and he doesn't know if it's the weed hitting his blood stream or just the fact of being tucked away back here with Jon. He reaches out and curls his hand around Jon's knee. "I like you," he says.
Jon laughs and ducks his head, long, dark bangs falling into his eyes. "You're high."
Ryan shakes his head. "I'm not." He maybe feels a little bit high. "Am I? Already?"
"Lightweight," Jon says but he's smiling happily, maybe a little smugly. Ryan realises his hand is still on Jon's knee and he taps his thumb along the outline of his kneecap, drumming out the beat that he can feel in his veins. Jon puts his hand over Ryan's, stroking Ryan's knuckles in a special, tingly way that makes Ryan's toes curl. "I like you too," Jon tells him.
Both Brendon and Ryan giggle their way through their set that night, and it only gets funnier when Brent starts glaring at them and Spencer throws bottle tops at their heads.
Ryan doesn’t get homesick, not like Spencer and Brent do or like Brendon pretends not to. He’s happy in his bubble of touring; even getting up on stage, playing in front of people, is less stressful than most of the days he's had at home.
But he and his dad have taken to calling each other lately, just short, ten-minute chats to exchange updates on their lives, remind each other that they are some kind of family. Ryan never comes away from those phone calls feeling exactly good, but he’s still glad they’re happening.
Then there’s a three-day stretch, as they trundle from one no-name town to the next, when Ryan can’t get a hold of his dad. He doesn’t worry – tells himself he’s not worrying – but he calls a couple of times a day, morning and evening like he’s pretending his dad still goes to work.
On the fourth day, he gets a call around lunchtime from a number he doesn’t recognise.
“Ryan, hey,” says a voice he knows but can’t place. “It’s Mark, how you doing?” Mark. Right. Mark is his dad’s favourite carer from the hospice.
“What’s happened?” Ryan asked. He knows from experience that this is like a band-aid; it’s better to get it over quickly.
“Your dad’s come back in, kid, I’m sorry.”
For a minute, all Ryan can think is don’t call me kid, but then Mark’s been dealing with Ryan since he was eleven and Spencer’s family was away and he needed someone to help him pick his dad up off the floor. “Okay,” he says slowly. Because it’s not like it’s unexpected. Just because his dad was doing well this time doesn’t mean… five months isn’t that long to be sober, not really, definitely not long enough to start taking anything for granted.
“I’m sorry,” Mark says again. “Do you want me to pass him a message?”
Ryan’s fingers tighten around his Sidekick. “No,” he says, “Thanks,” and hangs up.
They’re on the road all day that day so Ryan stays in his bunk. He knows he’ll feel better if he makes himself go into the main area, lets the others distract him, but he can’t make himself do it. Spencer will take one look at him and know something’s wrong and he can’t face any questions right now.
The buses pull into a rest stop sometime in the early evening and Ryan debates staying where he is but when his phone buzzes with a text from Jon (academy bus den of sin need rescuing), he smiles for the first time since Mark phoned and finds himself on his feet.
Brent and Spencer are off the bus getting snacks and Brendon’s asleep on the sofa with his headphones on so Ryan doesn’t have to tell anyone’s he’s leaving, make any excuses as to why he wants to, yet he still feels like he’s sneaking out.
Jon’s sprawled on the sofa, a cigarette glowing between his fingers and a can of Cola resting on his stomach.
“Hey,” he says softly, holding out a hand for Ryan. He’s sleepy-soft looking and his shirt’s way too big for him, slipping around his neck to reveal collarbone and soft chest hair.
Half of Ryan wants to accept Jon’s hand and curl up with him for a couple of hours but the rest needs something more distracting.
He catches Jon’s fingers and squeezes. “Hey.” He tugs a little. “Can we, uh?” If the only place with a spare bunk is the tech bus, he needs to know now so they can get to it before the buses start rolling again.
Jon’s eyebrows twitch in a tiny frown, but he smiles easy enough still. “Sure,” he drawls. He rolls to his feet and touches Ryan’s hip in soft, friendly sort of hello. Ryan can’t help leaning into him.
He puts his mouth against Ryan’s ear. “Did you know I have my very own bunk here?”
Ryan shivers at the puffs of warm breath. “No.”
Jon pulls back far enough to waggle his eyebrows. “You should come see it, it’s pretty sweet.”
Just being around Jon makes Ryan smile more; it’s a true and embarrassing fact. But there's still this restless, angry feeling crawling under Ryan's skin and he needs to shake it off anyway he can.
"Yes," he says, "Please."
Jon catches him around the waist, drags him down into a wet, dirty kiss. "Do I get to know why we're hurrying?" he asks, lips dragging across the corner of Ryan's mouth.
Ryan shakes his head. "Don't ask," he says, "You don't want to know."
Jon shrugs. He doesn’t look bothered but Ryan's come not to totally trust Jon's laidback act sometimes; he's pretty sure Jon's going to ask him at some point. As long as Jon doesn't ask him right now though, Ryan will deal.
"This way," Jon says, and grabs his wrist, tugging him into the bunk room and all the way to the back where he pushes Ryan down into a bunk.
Ryan doesn't bother to look around, just grabs Jon's collar and tugs him inside. They don't bother with talking, just kiss and bite and push against each other. Jon picks up on Ryan's desperation quickly, meeting him harsh kiss for harsh kiss, biting Ryan's lip when Ryan pulls his hair.
Ryan tips his head back, trapping a moan in his throat when Jon bites the underside of his jaw then the column of his throat. Jon sucks a hickey against Ryan's adam's apple while Ryan fumbles with his own belt buckle and the waistband of Jon's pants.
They get naked fast once Jon's gotten with the programme. Jon's hot and solid all the way along the length of Ryan's body but it's still not enough. "Please," Ryan says, twisting his hips helplessly, "Please."
"Please, what?" Jon asks against his cheek, "Ry?"
Ryan hates having to say it but, "Fuck me," he begs.
Jon goes still. It's not the first time they've done it so Ryan doesn't understand Jon's reaction. He keeps his eyes tightly closed and tries to keep the desperation off his face.
"That's probably not a good idea," Jon says slowly, "You're kind of - ," he trails off but Ryan knows what he means, he means fucked up.
Ryan doesn't answer in words, just widens his thighs until Jon's hips fall down between them and pushes back against Jon's cock.
"You sure?" Jon asks and Ryan nods quickly, frustrated and needy. Jon kisses him hard. "Okay then, okay, I'm here," and then Jon's slicking himself up, stretching Ryan open and sliding inside. He didn't do much prep and Ryan feels stretched, tight. It hurts.
He turns his head to the side, pressing his face into his bicep. His breath’s coming in uneven chokes that aren’t the result of what Jon’s doing.
“Ry,” Jon whispers, dropping kisses all over his face. “Ryan, what?”
Ryan shakes his head. “Please,” he says and he’s not sure if he means please don’t ask or please don’t stop.
Jon stills and Ryan wants to cry with frustration. “Am I hurting you?” Jon sounds so worried that Ryan’s automatic desire to snap at him for stopping gets muted.
“No,” he says, “No. Can you more? Harder?”
Ryan can only nod. He needs so fucking much and he’s scared he’s reaching the point where Jon’s going to have to say no.
But Jon doesn't say no; he pushes himself up onto his knees and starts to fuck Ryan hard, fingers digging hard into the back of Ryan's hips. Ryan braces his heels against Jon's back and jerkily meets every thrust.
Ryan can't come like this, too strung out and upset but he twists hard against Jon's cock, making Jon grunt and hiss and grab his hips and shove him down to fuck him even harder. Ryan tightens his muscles around Jon's cock over and over until Jon tips forwards and comes with a muffled shout.
"Shit," Jon pants, holding himself up above Ryan on arms that visibly shake. He brings one hand up to palm Ryan's cock, jerking him hard and relentlessly until Ryan has to give into it and come as well.
"Shit," Jon says again and collapses on top of him.
Jon pulls him backwards into Jon’s chest as soon as they separate. Ryan stiffens automatically, doesn’t like being manhandled when his brain’s like this, but Jon just whispers nonsense into the back of his neck and holds him tight, strong arms around his waist.
“What’s going on with you?” Jon asks and he doesn’t ask like he’s freaked out, just like he’s worried. It makes Ryan feel strange, good strange, to realise that this is out of character for him as far as Jon knows. Jon hasn’t learned to huff and roll his eyes and say again? the way Brent does or even sigh and tug on Ryan’s hair and make him tea the way Spencer does and Brendon’s slowly learning to.
Ryan turns his face into the pillow but brings his hands up to curl around Jon’s arms. “Bad day,” he says.
Jon laughs abruptly. “No shit?”
Ryan doesn’t say anything and Jon cranes his head far enough to kiss his cheek.
“Anything I can help with? Or should I keep my nose out of shit I don’t understand?”
Ryan smiles. “You helped,” he says, pressing back against Jon’s hips.
Jon laughs. “Stick to what I know best, right?”
"I didn't mean that," Ryan protests, but Jon just laughs again and kisses his mouth this time.
As soon as Ryan wakes up, he knows he's on a moving bus but, without even opening his eyes, he knows it’s not his bus. He sits up with a jerk and bangs his head on the underside of a bunk, which (ow) confirms he’s in the wrong place.
Finally getting his eyes open, he sees: darkness outside the window; William Beckett sprawled asleep opposite him; all of Jon’s stuff surrounding him.
Ryan rolls out of the bunk and shivers, rubbing his arms and pulling on the first hoodie he can find. It smells strongly of Jon and Ryan tells himself he isn’t turning rapidly into a girl for breathing it in.
There’s clattering and laughter from the kitchen end of the bus, so Ryan follows that, careful not to tread in anything that looks either expensive or illegal.
Jon’s in the kitchen, back to the counter and what has to be one of the best things Ryan has ever seen: a coffee maker in shades of black and silver, shining dully.
“Hey,” Jon says when he sees Ryan, breaking off from whatever he was saying to Tom who’s sitting at the table, doing what looks like a crossword puzzle.
“Hi,” Ryan says, feeling weird and out of place.
“Morning,” Tom says. He stands up and gives Jon a long sort of look at Ryan can’t quite translate, but it’s pretty obvious anyway what it’s likely to be about. Especially when Jon blushes a soft sort of pink and turns his back on them.
“Coffee?” he asks.
“Please,” Ryan says and debates what to say to Tom. Tom seems like an okay kind of guy, but Ryan doesn’t know him well.
Tom apparently has no such worries because he pats Ryan on the ass on the way out the room.
“Sorry,” Jon and Ryan say at the same time.
Jon laughs, looks up with an obvious effort. “I was just apologising for Tom. What have you done?”
Ryan walks around the table and accepts a mug of coffee, steaming and black and smelling so damn good. “Freaking out on you last night; falling asleep in your bunk. Take your pick.” He stops. “Oh shit, my bus.”
Jon steadies him before he can drop the coffee trying to get his cell out of his pocket. “I called Spencer. He says to tell you they’re not saving you any Pop Tarts. Also there was something about stealing William’s new jacket for Brendon, but I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t pass that bit on.”
“Okay,” Ryan says, and breathes.
“C’mon.” Jon nudges him gently towards the sofas. “I was going to bring you coffee in bed but seeing as you’re up.” He digs under the sofa cushions until his hand emerges clutching the remote. “Cartoons!”
Ryan smiles. His head’s still a little bit spacey but nothing on yesterday and it’s probably nothing that coffee can’t fix. Jon pats the space beside him on the sofa and Ryan amends his opinion. Coffee and Jon maybe. He curls up against Jon's shoulder, sipping carefully at the hot coffee and closing his eyes.
Next time Ryan wakes, the bus is stopping. He listens to himself muttering rebelliously against the day and presses his face deeper into the scratchy fabric of Jon’s t-shirt.
Jon’s shoulder shakes when he laughs and there’s a short pressure against the top of his head like Jon kissed Ryan’s hair. Ryan wonders if it would be okay to stay here all day.
There’s rattling at the door almost immediately after that thought and then the Butcher’s letting Brendon and Spencer in. Spencer looks around curiously like he expects TAI’s bus to be some kind of red-satin brothel and Brendon is brandishing a wooden spoon.
“Jon Walker,” he cries, leaping into the room and falling down onto his knees in front of Jon and Ryan. “Unhand our Ryan Ross.”
Ryan tips himself so he’s upright and glares at Brendon. “Are you casting me as a fair maiden?”
Spencer rolls his eyes over Brendon’s head. “He’s already told me I’m his noble steed,” Spencer says deadpan and Jon laughs.
Brendon frowns at him. “You’re not off the hook, yet. Explain yourself.”
Jon ducks his head and flutters his eyelashes Brendon’s way. Ryan’s charmed and Ryan’s never charmed by anything. Except maybe Brendon sometimes, but he’s not going to admit that. “I couldn’t help it,” Jon says, hushed and sincere. “He was just so damn cute I couldn’t resist.”
Spencer laughs and Brendon grins, bouncing up onto the sofa on Jon’s other side, propping his chin on Jon’s shoulder. “I frequently have that problem,” he says earnestly. “I think it’s the hair. Or that adorable thing he does with his nose.” Ryan makes a face at him and Brendon beams, framing Ryan’s face between his squared together fingers. “Yes!” he says, clapping his hands together. “I call it the look of love.”
Ryan flips him off.
Spencer leans over the back of the sofa and pokes Ryan’s ear.
Ryan twitches and bats at him. “What?”
Ryan glances over quickly to where Brendon and Jon are duelling to the death or something. “Yeah,” he says. Then because lying by omission doesn’t ever work with Spencer, adds, “Now.”
Spencer nods once, quickly. He steps around the sofa to pull Brendon out of the way of a well aimed wooden-spoon-thrust. “We’re going for breakfast,” he says. “You’re invited too, Jon.”
Jon waves the spoon in the air, grinning. “Spencer Smith, I’d love to.”
It's always loud when all the bands are done for the night, everyone adrenaline high and releasing it all over each other, so it takes a minute tonight for anything different to register.
Then the shouts and laughs change to shouts and yells and over the top of it all someone - William Beckett ten to one - yells "Bitch fight" and Brendon says "Ooh, where?" and bounces to the door with one shoe on.
Ryan isn't really interested, in fact Ryan really isn't interested, but he idly watches Brendon make his way towards the noise, so he can see when Brendon's stance changes, when his shoulders go stiff, hear when he snaps "Oh fuck," and goes racing across the lot.
Spencer's already on his feet and Ryan follows, the two of them starting to hurry and ending up running after him.
There's a crowd gathered between the buses and Brendon's pushing his way through so Ryan grabs the back of his hoodie and squeezes along the path he's making before it closes behind him.
They burst out into the opening and Ryan's fingers unclench in shock, a startled "Shit," caught behind his teeth as he takes in the most unlikely sight ever.
Jon and Brent are locked together on the ground, Brent's fist pressing into Jon's jaw, one of Jon's arms braced across his throat. There's blood on Brent's mouth and a livid red bruise forming under Jon's right eye.
"What the fuck, what the fuck?" Brendon's demanding, wading into the fray and everyone seems to snap back to life, forced into action by the sight of tiny Brendon in his lurid pink hoodie and one shoe doing what they should have done.
It’s easy to get them separated when everyone finally helps – Jon and Brent might have more meat on them than most people here but basically they’re still short guys who mess around with guitars for a living and neither of them are exactly Rambo.
Tom Conrad and the rest of The Academy close ranks around Jon and Spencer and Brendon do their best to cool Brent down and Ryan’s left standing awkwardly a couple of feet closer to his band, but not really part of either group.
Ryan doesn’t help, can’t. There’s adrenaline racing fast and far too hard through him and he thinks that if he starts to speak he’s going to start to scream.
He waits just long enough to hear Brent, whiny but still mad-sounding, protest “He started it. He hit me first,” and breaks away from everyone, moving, moving until he’s too far away to hear anyone talking anymore.
He doesn’t know how long he stands there, or where he is -- he’s away and it’ll do -- before he hears footsteps.
“Ry,” Spencer says quietly, coming up behind him.
“I want to knock their heads together,” Ryan forces out, keeping his hands in carefully balled fists so he doesn’t do something stupid like punch the next person he sees. If he punched Spencer, he’d have to like, kill himself and that would suck.
Spencer rests his head against the back of Ryan’s neck and nods. “Good plan, want help?”
Ryan manages a smile, but it’s not very good, so he’s glad Spencer can’t see. “Did they say what it was about?”
Spencer’s quiet for a second. “No.” Then, “But there’s no way you don’t know.”
Ryan wraps his arms around himself. He’s cold, but he doesn’t start shivering until Spencer’s arms come up to mirror his, chin hooking over his shoulder. “It might not have been about me,” he tries. “They - ”
“Don’t have anything else to talk about. They’re not exactly friends, you know.”
Ryan does know, but he’s been ignoring it. Spencer and Brendon love Jon and he’d told himself that that was enough.
He looks down at the toes of his boots and doesn’t say anything. This isn’t what they started the band for, this is kind of the opposite of what they started the band for. He doesn’t need to say it though, not with Spencer.
Ryan gives himself one more minute of soaking up Spencer’s body heat then steps away. “I’m going to go talk to Jon.”
Tom opens the door to the TAI bus and stops for a minute, hesitating, before waving Ryan in. Ryan's grateful that Tom doesn't try to talk to him. Ryan has exactly the right number of words in his head for this and none to spare.
"In the back," Tom says quietly behind him and Ryan nods without turning around, makes his way back to the bunks just concentrating on his breathing, on not turning tail and running, not puking all over everyone's stuff.
Jon's lying on his back on someone's bunk, glaring at the ceiling, but he manages a small smile when he sees Ryan. It’s not very hopeful and that makes Ryan feel worse.
Ryan takes a minute just to stand and take him in. Jon is strong and solid and Ryan's always found that reassuring, but right now all he can see is the guy who thumped Brent and he feels wary, tense.
“So, uh,” Jon starts, sitting up. The bruise on his chin is livid and swollen, the kind that will go purple then green then yellow then pink and still-just-there, before finally fading away. “Sorry about hitting your bassist.”
The thing is, he honestly does look sorry, sorry and kind of miserable, which Ryan thinks is probably something to do with the attitude Ryan is projecting, but he can’t help it, can’t stop. “Did you start it?” he asks, because that’s what he has to know.
Jon shrugs. “I hit him first, if that’s what you mean.”
Ryan feels suddenly, overwhelmingly sick. “Want to tell me why?”
Jon’s face contorts. He looks down, back up, licks his lip, bites it, and finally shakes his head.
“Okay, so,” Ryan can feel himself losing his conviction; he doesn’t want to do this, so he’s going to have to do it fast. “I can’t. I can’t see you anymore, I’m - ” sorry sticks in his throat, because he’s not, he tells himself, he’s not. He's not at fault here.
He can’t look at Jon any longer, can’t wait to see if he looks hurt or relieved or just tired like Ryan feels, so he turns on his heel and leaves.
His eyes are burning and his throat feels full but he's trained himself out of crying. Ever. He's not going to start again now.
Back on their bus, the atmosphere is awkward. Thinking back, maybe the atmosphere’s been awkward for a while and Ryan’s just been too busy falling in love to notice.
Brent's hunched down on the sofa, with an icepack on his cheek and a glare on his face that would tell Ryan to back the fuck off even if that wasn't already his plan. Brendon and Spencer are on the floor, playing Guitar Hero with the music turned right down. Brendon misses three yellow stars in a row when Ryan walks in and Spencer stops playing all together.
There’s plenty of room on the sofa but Ryan kind of can’t look at Brent at the moment, so he sits down next to Brendon and takes the controller out of Spencer’s hands.
“You might want to play, Bren,” he says, picking up easily where Spencer left off. He really hates this game. “I’m going to kick your ass.”
After about a half hour with the three of them switching off with the two (hideous, fake) guitars and not saying anything beyond, “Hey, I love this bit,” and “Star Power coming up,” Brent gets up and walks off.
Spencer leans across and pauses the game, but Ryan keeps his eyes down, brushing his fingers over the little coloured keys, hoping to somehow develop transportation abilities. Paris, he thinks, might be nice this time of year.
“Ryan.” Brendon’s fingers are warm on his knee. “Did you see Jon?”
Ryan’s bangs have fallen low into his face, so he risks a glance upwards. Brendon’s biting his lip. “Yeah. I. We’re, uh, over.”
“You broke up with him?” Brendon sounds appalled and the warm fingers are gone.
“He chose Brent,” Spencer says quietly, and Ryan breathes because yes, thank God, someone gets it. Except Spencer doesn’t exactly sound pleased.
“He’s Brent,” Ryan says, hoping that will explain what he can’t really explain. Jon is… more than Ryan ever expected to get outside the pages of his notebooks, but Brent is part of his childhood, part of his band, and that’s got to mean more.
“Yeah,” Spencer says slowly. “But he’s Brent.”
It's late and Ryan's the only one still up. Jon was right when he said about Ryan's funky hours but Ryan is trying really, really hard not to think about that.
Spencer and Brendon had tried to stay up with him but first Brendon and then Spencer had fallen asleep on the sofa and Ryan had kicked them out. He moped better alone anyway.
When there's a knock on the trailer door though, Ryan wishes he'd kept one of them around to run interference. The outside world has never been Ryan's favourite thing and he's even less keen than normal on it right now.
“Hey,” Tom Conrad says and Ryan doesn’t really know Tom but he seems decent enough; he’s Jon’s best friend, he has to be okay, so Ryan lets him in.
Ryan's not great at saying no to people he doesn't know anyway.
“You know he didn’t start it, right?” Tom says, straight to the point.
Ryan shrugs, looking away.
He hears Tom huff out a frustrated sigh and wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the cause; he knows he’s being pretty annoying right now. He can’t help it though, it’s him.
“Wilson had been shooting his mouth off for a while and Jon was ignoring it like we all were. We don’t wanna get in the middle of band shit, you know? But then Wilson said. Okay, so Wilson said something that no one would be able to sit around and hear being said about their boyfriend without reacting. I don’t know what you’re thinking, Ryan, but Jon isn’t an aggressive guy, hell he’s so fucking laid back sometimes I want to poke him to check he’s still breathing.”
“What did Brent say?” Ryan asks.
Tom doesn’t say anything for a minute and reluctantly Ryan looks up at him. When their eyes meet, Tom shakes his head. “Like I said, I don’t want to get in the middle of your band stuff. Jon’ll kill me enough just for coming here.”
Ryan wishes Tom hadn’t come here; he’s perfectly content being pissed as hell with Jon, thanks very much.
“Right.” Tom lurches back up to his feet. “Okay, I’ve said my piece. Look, Ross.” He stops, almost at the door, but facing away from it, all of a sudden. “Jon’s really into you, okay? It’s fucking shitty to punish him for that.”
Ryan doesn’t answer, just watches until Tom sighs again and leaves. “That’s not why I’m mad,” he tells the empty lounge. The lounge doesn’t try to tell him it’ll be okay.
The reason why Ryan has rules against sleeping with people on tour is that eventually it all blows up in your face and then it’s like one giant playground fight, with everyone picking sides and weighing loyalties.
It’s been three days and he’s sick of it.
It really doesn't help that Brendon and Brent are fighting. Ryan would love to stay locked up in his own private misery and claim not to have noticed, but that's hard when he literally walks in on them in the middle of a frantic, whispered hissing match.
Ryan stops in the doorway, shocked. He's the only one Brendon will ever really raise his voice to, and only then after hours and hours of snapping at each other first.
"What?" Ryan asks, interrupting. It occurs to him too late that he would have been better off staying quiet; then he might have found out what was going on. He's not sure how much he cares though. About anything.
Brendon and Brent both go instantly silent, turning to Ryan with caught-out expressions.
"Nothing," Brent says quickly, glaring quellingly at Brendon.
Brendon glares back, or tries to. Mostly he manages to look flushed and conflicted. "Brent has something he should tell you." He's talking to Ryan but he doesn't look away from Brent. He looks miserable but stubborn.
"What?" Ryan says, folding his arms across his chest. Whatever it is, he doesn't think he's going to like it.
"Nothing," Brent says again. He widens his eyes at Brendon. Brendon bites his lip.
Ryan really doesn't have time for this. He just wants to grab a glass of water then go back to his bunk where he can listen to Fall Out Boy on his headphones, write lyrics that will never see the light of day and work on not smiling at any of the ridiculous texts Spencer sends him.
"You know what," he says, "I don't care."
"It's about the thing," Brendon says quickly. "The fight. Brent and Jon's fight."
Oh, Ryan really doesn't want to know now. He understands that Brent probably started it – it's what Tom said and Ryan believes him – but he doesn't want to know it. "Drop it," he tells Brendon.
"But," Brendon says. He's looking at Brent like Brent has personally betrayed his faith in the universe. Brent shrugs and looks away. Brendon's shoulders sag. "Fine," he says and starts to walk away. He stops in the doorway. "If Jon calls, will you talk to him?"
Ryan can't look at him, just shakes his head. Brendon makes a sad, frustrated noise and stomps out.
Jon does call. Ryan doesn't answer. Neither of those are a surprise to Ryan.
He spots Brendon out the window a couple of times, trailing unhappily back and forth from the techs’ bus to theirs. He clearly wants to tell Ryan whatever it is that he's found out about the fight, but Ryan won’t listen. There's nothing Brendon can say that can make it not have happened.
While Brendon clearly won't pick sides, Spencer will , but he’s obviously unhappy about it and Ryan catches him giving Brendon notes and candies and magazines that he hasn’t even read yet to take across to Jon.
Ryan isn’t really talking to Brent, so he doesn’t know if Brent knows or cares about what’s going on. If he had to put money on it though, he’d bet Brent is relieved that his daily dose of gay has been reduced to their stage shows, where he long ago learned to put up with it.
After two more days, Ryan decides he's reach his (admittedly pretty high) emo limit and finally checks the close-to-fifty messages on his Sidekick. Then he calls Pete. “Pete,” Patrick tells him, sounding apologetic, “Is a bit tied up. My Chem are in town.”
“Oh,” Ryan manages. He’s dug up his feelings, the few he’s okay with sharing anyway, and now he feels like he’s got nowhere to put them.
“Ryan,” Patrick says quietly and Ryan thinks okay, Patrick’s okay, he’ll do. “This band thing, I know it feels like everything now, but it won’t always, it might not always be.”
Says the straight boy who tours the country for a guy who’s hopelessly in love with him, Ryan definitely doesn’t say.
“The band, though,” Ryan says helplessly.
“I like Brent,” Patrick interrupts. “And when I say this you’re totally allowed to hang up on me, but don’t you think, even a little, that Brent’s holding you guys back?”
Ryan hangs up on him.
Ryan doesn’t exactly let himself think about what Patrick said – except for the way that he totally thinks about it, obsesses over it really, looking at Brent in ways he hadn’t before. But he doesn’t let himself come to any conclusions, so that still counts – but on the last full day of tour, he sucks up his courage and goes looking for Jon.
He’s not that hard to find; Ryan meets him half way across the parking lot between their buses.
“Oh,” Jon says, coming to a sudden stop. “Hey.”
Ryan nods; he can’t really find his voice. Jon’s gotten more tanned in the days that Ryan hasn’t been looking at him, and he’s got stubble like he hasn’t shaved for a while and since when did scruffy and outdoorsy get hot?
Jon curves a palm over the back of his own neck, bobbing a little in place. “So I was coming to find you.” He smiles a little, down towards his feet. “Obviously.”
“Yeah.” Ryan clears his throat. “Me too. Coming to find you.” He stops himself from adding an obviously of his own; this isn’t poetry, it doesn’t need mirror repetition.
"Right." Jon looks around, left then right and oh yeah, they're kind of in a very public place and half the tour would probably not be against eavesdropping on them.
"The dressing room's empty," Ryan says then feels his cheeks go hot because he didn't mean that how it sounded. But Jon just nods and turns, waiting for Ryan to walk in step with him before they head into the venue.
"Are you, um," Ryan starts to say when the dressing room door has closed behind them.
"I just," Jon begins at the same time.
Ryan looks down at his feet. "You go," he says and Jon, thank God, doesn't argue.
"I just wanted to say goodbye," Jon says and the way he says it is simple, easy but it makes Ryan's heart lurch in a really horrible way.
He clears his throat. "Yeah."
Jon shifts his feet into then out of his flipflops and Ryan smiles because that nervous habit is familiar by now. "What were you going to say?" Jon asks and Ryan looks up because Jon's voice is suddenly a lot softer and a lot closer.
Ryan draws his shoulders back and lifts his chin because Jon is always telling him to have more confidence in what he wants to say. "I was just going to ask if you were looking forward to getting home." Lame, so lame.
"Yeah," Jon says, smiling. "Yeah, it'll be good." Ryan struggles for something else to say and Jon takes pity on him and keeps going. "My friend's got her prom in a few weeks; I said I'd go with her. Should be fun."
"Right." Ryan has no excuse for the jealous lurch in his stomach. Jon can do whatever the hell he wants.
"Okay," Jon says after a beat. "So that was shitty. Ryan, fuck, I'm sorry. She's just a friend, I swear."
Ryan shrugs. "It's all the same to me," he says, lies.
"Yeah, I don't believe that," Jon says and kisses him.
It takes Ryan a second to realise it's happening and then another to decide that thank God it’s happening and by then Jon's hands are in his back pockets and he's crowding Ryan back against the make-up table.
Ryan doesn't normally let anyone crowd him anywhere but his head's spinning with the unexpectedness of this. Not that it should have been unexpected, he realises. He just sought out somewhere private with his ex on the last day they were going to be anywhere near each other; break-up sex was pretty much to be expected.
Jon fumbles Ryan's fly open and Ryan hops up onto the table behind himself, pulling Jon close with his calves against Jon's hips, tangles his hands in Jon's hair and pulls while he bites Jon's bottom lip.
"Fuck," Jon says and gropes Ryan's cock through his boxers until Ryan shifts up enough to get his pants and underwear down to thigh level and returns the favour for Jon, fumbling until he can get both their cocks in his hand.
Jon's vocabulary seems stuck on Fuck and Ryan gets that; it's pretty much the only thing he can think too.
Jon pushes Ryan backwards until he's lying across the table and half-climbs him, holding Ryan's other hand down over his head, fingers tight around Ryan's wrist while the back of Ryan's hand is pressed to the cold, painted-brick wall.
Their cocks slide together slickly and Ryan squeezes hard enough to make them both cry out when Jon bites down on the hollow of Ryan's throat.
Jon's rough and frantic, which is hot as hell but not very Jon-like and Ryan would love to soothe him, but he can't. This is break-up sex; he doesn't know how to break up gently.
Ryan comes first because Jon is everywhere, touching him all over and he can't withstand that, and he's still shaking through his aftershocks, starting to feel the places where he's going to be bitten and bruised, when Jon gasps through his own orgasm and falls heavily on Ryan's chest.
"Oh," Ryan says because all the breath's been knocked out of him but it would work to convey Oh holy fuck, this was a bad idea too.
Jon pulls back, just far enough that Ryan can make out his sex-softened features without going cross-eyed. Jon's eyes dip down to Ryan's mouth and Ryan can see the exact thought process as it crosses his face, how he plans to coax Ryan into a soft kiss the way he always used to, how he realises that's not what they are anymore, and then how his whole face closes down before he pushes back and off of Ryan.
"Uh," Jon says and Ryan just lies there and watches while he shoves himself back into his pants and fastens them with shaking fingers. Ryan's surprisingly content just to lie here and watch. His heart's given up, he's pretty sure, and it's taken his brain with it.
Jon stops in front of Ryan when he's dressed again. Ryan does him the courtesy of pushing up onto his elbows so he can meet his eye. "Ry," Jon says and puts his hands on Ryan's shins.
Ryan jerks under the touch without meaning to. "Sorry," he says. He feels stupid now, cold and stupid and he fumbles pants and boxers back into place, tugs his shirt down.
Jon's hands tighten. "Ryan," but Ryan looks away.
"Bye, Jon," Ryan says and he's good, he's so close to keeping his voice completely monotonous.
Jon's head drops down onto his chest and he stands there for a beat, then a second. "Right," he says. His fingers are gentle when he rubs them over the exposed place between Ryan's pant leg and his sock. "Bye, Ryan."
Ryan closes his eyes until he hears the dressing room door close. Everything's burry when he tries to open them so gives up on that and lies back down on the table.