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continued from HERE.


I'm gonna turn this thing around
Can you read my mind?

Writing with intent has three effects, each triggering the next: it turns him into a perfectionist; which kind of makes him want to bitch, whine, and slit his wrists; which in turn makes him feel closer to Ryan than even the press of bare skin beneath sweat-damp sheets.

Writing is good -- writing is good, music is good -- but the act of their creation is another world in itself.

It was different before, two-minutes ditties, simple melodies and insistent thoughts spilled over to the page when his head ran out of room to hold them any longer. They weren't for anyone but himself, weren't meant for anything, weren't out to prove. His fucking life wasn't on the fucking line.

...So, so emo.

He crosses out a line, another, and a row of notes, and starts again.

Once upon a time.


It feels like spying, like he's intruding on something private even though Ryan's only in the TV room, hunched over his laptop on the floor with a sandwich on a plate beside him, chin resting in his hands as he stares at the monitor. Set against the busy backdrop of YouTube (5 red stars, 6 video responses, 2,021 comments, 98,955 views), Ryan and Brendon glide through "Bohemian Rhapsody," Brendon head-banging at the piano as Ryan sidles up next to him, straddling the bench and pressing his smiling face into Brendon's shoulder. Even through the poor, blurred quality, Brendon's face lights up like the strip as he leans into it, into Ryan, uniting them, making the song theirs and them each other's.

The clip ends, and Brendon watches Ryan's hand stretch out, sliding across the track pad and clicking play once more. Their faces fade into view from black, all nerves and smiles as they take their places in front of the instruments.

Brendon takes a step back, set to return upstairs, when that one traitorous floorboard creaks beneath his foot and Ryan freezes in place, fingers frantically sliding across the computer to minimize the window, leaving the safe lines of iTunes in its place.

Ryan isn't so ashamed that he won't turn around, and it's almost, almost funny when their eyes meet, Ryan's wide and guilty, like a puppy whose been caught eating the paper. He just waits, waits for whatever Brendon's going to give him or take from him, until Brendon steps forward.

"I haven't seen it."

Ryan swallows, face flushing as he drops his head, fingers slowly inching along the track pad to pull the window back to life, bright and exposing. Brendon settles down besides him, sure to keep a few inches of distance, as Ryan clicks play and their video selves start to move.

None of it should be surprising; they were there, after all, firsthand witnesses to each moment, but what Brendon sees isn't anything he remembers. He doesn't see a performance, he sees a secret, laid open to the world. Half the time they're looking at each other, smiles too big for their faces, and the other half their heads are ducked, slow-creeping blushes visible even through heavy pixelation. Instead of playing hard-to-get like every stage show ever, Ryan's so up in Brendon's space that Brendon has no idea how he managed to play at all, fingers dancing over the keys as Ryan presses up behind him, guitar trapped between their bodies, and nuzzles into Brendon's hair as their notes merge.

It's embarrassing enough on its own, but it's not until his solo that his throat closes up. On screen his eyes are closed against the world, just him and the piano like always, but it's Ryan he watches now, smiling as Brendon dramatizes every line, every note, as only a die-hard could. Brendon catches his eye on the climatic falsetto, smiling like it's Christmas, and Ryan looks at him as if Brendon's all that exists.

Their voices fade with the song, harmony melting and eyes dropping shut; foreheads pressed together, smiles softened. It's only them and the music, no camera and no audience; whoever ripped it cut out before the club's thunderous applause so the final shot's just them, the moment their eyes open on one another.

The silence crashes around them, loud as a wave and twice as suffocating, and when Brendon looks up, Ryan's staring down at his lap.

Brendon chokes it all back, everything he can't say, and says what he can.

"We kicked ass."

Ryan looks up, eyes pleading Don't pretend, but it's not fucking fair, not when it's less than twenty-four hours since Ryan stroked his hair at the piano and all but begged him to pretend for the rest of their lives.

Brendon watches as Ryan's mouth slowly opens, breath shortening as he swallows, as the first shape of a word begins to materialize on his lips.

Brendon squeezes his eyes shut until he's on his feet, padding safely to his room.

Once was enough.


Brendon tells himself he's logging onto his computer to check his e-mail and steadfastly ignores the way his fingers pull up an extra tab for YouTube without his permission. He watches the clip until he knows every look and gesture by heart, until it's become part of the song in his head. They look so happy. Like it's easy -- just music and the two of them in love.

It's too easy.

Maybe you're just making it too hard.

He sighs and pulls up his Twitter.

The entry is dated late the previous night, when Brendon was lying in bed, staring at the ceiling and forcing himself not to walk down the hallway, slip between Ryan's sheets and pretend they could turn back the clock for a few hours. Just one more night had been a very convincing argument then, and he still doesn't know how he managed to stay in his room.

thisisryanross love is a haunting melody that I have never mastered and I fear I never will.

It seems to have provoked some kind of literary quotation war. Brendon doesn't actually recognize any of the comments as famous quotes, but Spencer doesn't usually say things like 'whilst,' so it's a reasonable guess.

petewentz love is the only gold.

thespencersmith gather the rose of love whilst yet is time, dickface.

thisisryanross theme of next album: literary sacrilege.

thespencersmith je donne mon avis non comme bon, mais comme le mien.

Fucking French again. Brendon runs the phrase through Google. It brings back 1,539 pages somehow related to cannibalism. Brendon doesn't even want to know.

petewentz @thisisryanross love is the emblem of eternity; it confounds all notion of time, effaces all memory of a beginning, all fear of an end. beat that.

thisisryanross @petewentz The course of true love never did run smooth (you should know)

amazondotjon there is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear. bow to the wisdom of me at 4:18.

thisisryanross @thespencersmith sounds like a job for you

Brendon clicks the link and finds himself faced with a screen full of pornfiction so hideous that, if recast, would have brought even Pete and Patrick to their knees. It's Spencer and Jon. Some kind of sex slave scenario. In a basement. Jesus fucking Christ.

thespencersmith revenge is a dish best served cold. and in the absence of witnesses.

petewentz @thisisryanross @thespencersmith intra-band homicide is explicitly forbidden in your contracts. just saying.

gabesaporta dudes, that's hot. cobra says give love a chance in the disco dance.

thisisryanross @gabesaporta you don't get to quote your imaginary pet snake and call it a literary quote.

amazondotjon @thespencersmith @thisisryanross with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. my buddy peter at 2:15

Which Brendon takes to mean, “Shut the fuck up, both of you.”

thespencersmith fine

thisisryanross those of you following lit class 101, it's a) Burroughs b) Tennyson d) Montaigne e) Staël f) Shakespeare. Spence and Jon as themselves w/ spelling fail

It's the closest Spencer and Ryan will ever get to apologizing to each other, Brendon knows—the equivalent of two 17th Century noblemen giving each other a curt bow after a duel and then pretending that the blood staining lacy shirts and breaches isn't there, and that the cuts below never happened. It's just who they are. They fight and move on, forgiving each other before the blows even land.

petewentz @gabesaporta how would a cobra disco dance?

gabesaporta @petewentz with its body, heart and soul. like all men should. :)

petewentz @gabesaporta next tour, okay?

Brendon skims the rest of the exchange, smiling when it turns into another war--this time about cheesecake and whether using marshmallow fluff for icing is a crime against humanity. After that, he surfs around aimlessly for a while, until he ends up on their blog.

There's a new entry. A beautiful picture of the lake outside the cabin and a short text about summer that sounds far too much like goodbye.

He stares at it for a while, then goes back to Twitter and puts the cursor in the comment box. A song is playing in his head, too perfect for how he feels to be anything but painful, but impossible to ignore, nevertheless. He finds a link to it in another tab, hits copy/paste. He hesitates for a while on whether to write something more, deleting one disarming comment after another until he gives up and presses 'update' on the entry as it stands.


Not an 'I love you,' but so much more than that, and if Ryan gets it, he gets it, and if not, then well... there's nothing much Brendon can do about it. Existing in limbo like they are now is draining him, every little crumb of hope Ryan subconsciously drops from his table just enough to make it impossible for Brendon to declare defeat, lick his wounds and move on. It's just enough food for his heart to make him ache with how hungry he is. How much he wants, all the fucking time.

I will never be different.
Love me.

He closes his laptop and pulls his backpack out from under the bed, rummaging through the side compartment for his weed and a lighter. He wants to do something else, something normal, preferably something silly and stupid and shallow that will just get him out of his own head for a while.

He hears Ryan move around downstairs, the tell-tale ping of the microwave followed by the TV being switched on in the living room.

A minute later, Ryan appears in the door frame, looking like he's trying for casual but already knowing that he's not pulling it off.

“I made some popcorn?” he says, and Brendon nods, accepting the underlying invitation for the peace offering it is.

“I'll pick the movie.”

Ryan just smiles, and Brendon feels the hunger abate briefly, another crumb falling off the imaginary table and melting on his tongue. He puts the bag of weed into the back pocket of his jeans and follows Ryan down the stairs.

It's worth a shot.


Marriage is like a tense, unfunny version of Everybody Loves Raymond, only it doesn't last twenty-two minutes. It lasts forever.

When Ryan finally laughs, it feels like it's been forever. It feels like warm tea with honey and cuddling with Jon's cats and stepping into the McCarran terminal at the end of tour.

Better still, he laughs with his whole body. It starts as a little rumble in his throat, his eyes crinkling in the corners, but he's so tiny that it doesn't take long for his whole frame to shake, shifting on the couch until he's pressed a little against Brendon's side, fiery warm through their thin summer clothes.

Brendon takes a careful breath and plucks the joint from Ryan's loose fingers, willing his nerves into submission as the smoke fills his lungs, welcome and steadying as Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl start up on Matthew Fox.

"You know what's interesting about him?"



Brendon huffs in disgust at the same moment Ryan snorts in approval, loud and geeky, and Brendon leers at him sideways.

"Lies," he states somberly. "All lies."

"Fox is a tool," Ryan drawls. "Your fuckin' smoke monster is cooler than him."

"True. But I don't want the smoke monster to bend me over the nearest horizontal surface and have its way with me."

Ryan smiles at some point in the distance, on the floor by the TV. Not the screen itself, Brendon can tell, because Ryan's sloppy and obvious when he's high. Sloppy and obvious and a dork, and Brendon sort of desperately wants to kiss him because it's the easiest conversation they've had in days and he doesn't care if it's only the weed, it doesn't matter. It's them, the way they're supposed to be.

"My dick's totally bigger than his," Ryan announces, stealing the joint back.

"Ross, your dick is bigger than everyone's."

Ryan's smile widens as his eyes refocus on the TV, a little dazed as the rest of his body slumps further into Brendon until they're sealed all along one side and Ryan's head has fallen into place against the curve of Brendon's neck.


He wakes up to the sound of rain against the windowpanes and the warmth of Ryan's breath against the side of his neck. It takes him a moment to realize where he is (the living room couch) and why (the weed), and another minute or so to accept that this isn't right where he's supposed to be.

Ryan is draped along his side. Half on top, one arm over Brendon's chest, his left leg hugging Brendon's hips and the right leg sort of spooning Brendon's left. It's like the six perfect mornings in Ryan's bed, only dressed, and the hundreds of mornings in buses and hotels and apartments before that, only impossible to shrug off.

The rain is light and happy, already tapering off, little beams of sun coming through. Brendon's eyes follow the drops as they race against each other down the window, and it's not until he feels Ryan's fingers tracing a feather-light path down his chest that he realizes that his hands have been focused on the tiny rivers as well.

He stills. Lifts the hand caressing Ryan's upper arm half an inch, trying to convince his muscles to move it further away, place the body part safely against the edge of the coffee table and then push to get him off the couch. His body compromises by moving the hand four inches up and three to the left, leaving it to hover over Ryan's shoulder blade.

The rain drops keep forming their rivers and streams, finding new ways across the glass and joining up with each other to gain more speed. Brendon's hand moves again, sliding a little lower, not touching but still feeling the warmth of Ryan's skin against his palm through the t-shirt. His fingers remember smoothness and heat, know and simulate the feel of bone and muscle beneath the skin as they move down Ryan's spine, still keeping the half inch of air between themselves and what they're not allowed to touch.

Ryan's hand begins to mirror his, not touching Brendon's chest. Not stroking him down along one side and not drawing little circles with the side of his thumb over Brendon's hip bone. The leg draped across Brendon's hips stays where it is, relaxed and casual, thigh resting intimately between Brendon's legs but not moving—not pushing down or even acknowledging what it's pressing against.

Brendon closes his eyes, tries to find the focus he needs to move away and keeps slipping, because there's nothing solid to latch on to; they're just lying there, curled together, like they have been a million times—less contact than when it was just for comfort or company—and if his skin flushes under Ryan's not-a-touch, it's because of shared body heat, or energy fields or some kind of other new agey/old agey power-center-thing that Ryan is sure to have a stack of books about.

And if he's starting to feel like he's falling, it's because the raindrops are where he can still see them on the back of his eyelids.

Ryan shifts against him, and it's almost enough. Almost the provocation he needs to mentally pull away the curtain and throw what they're so carefully not doing under the harsh lights of a stage where they can't deny it anymore.

Almost. But not quite.

Ryan's lips don't touch the skin of his neck and don't ghost over his cheek before stopping right above Brendon's mouth. There is mingled breath and memory, almost too much to handle and just not-enough to keep them balancing right on the edge. Ryan doesn't kiss him, and Brendon doesn't kiss back, tongues and teeth keeping to own lips, never crossing the line. Brendon doesn't open his eyes to see the need in Ryan's or reveal that his own are mirroring it. Neither leans in. Neither breaks. They breathe together, hands roaming free but not touching, until Ryan shifts again—a second moment of so close and almost--keeping their not-touching foreheads the fraction of an inch apart that lets them add another moment to the string they've stolen so far.

“I want to make you come just like this.”

It's more a breath than it is words, out-of-the blue and reverent, and for a split second, Brendon thinks it was just a thought passing through his own head, surging up and pushing him off the cliff into free fall without a hint of a warning.

He feels cotton under his hands, fingers clutching the back of Ryan's t-shirt -- hears a broken moan slip past his lips as the side of Ryan's face presses hotly against his neck. And then, there it is: the other side of the curtain, the brightness of the stage; exhilaratingly real and just as terrifying.

It takes Brendon a while to stop shaking. Ryan's arms move around his neck and chest, holding him too tight and breathtakingly perfect. And then there is something else: the feeling of them. Not them in love or them in bed, but the deeper, solid them that got Brendon through not knowing if the band would ever make it and through living alone when he was far too young; through crowded buses and stage fright and being so homesick he'd thought it would kill him before the end of the first tour.

The them that is everything. That Ryan is so afraid to lose and that Brendon didn't fully understand couldn't be lost until he saw it, just now.

They don't say much as they get off the couch and move into the kitchen. Ryan doesn't apologize and Brendon doesn't need him to. Things feel... better between them. Freshened up by the rain and made a little easier by the sun filtering in through the thin curtains. For the first time in three days, they make real breakfast and manage to actually eat it.

It lasts until they've put the dishes into the sink, until Brendon grabs a towel out of habit and whacks it against Ryan's ass without thinking. The laugh dies in his throat as Ryan gasps, back arching and fingers suddenly white where they hold on to the counter top. Fear comes rushing back as their eyes meet, hot and suffocating, covering the them that is still floating in the sunny kitchen until Brendon can't make it out anymore and Ryan looks like he never saw it.

If love is not enough to put my enemies to sleep...

It's Ryan who flees this time, and Brendon watches him go with a sinking feeling in his stomach.


He's in the music room before he notices that was where he was heading, fingers flying over the piano, looking for a story in the chaos of notes and beats. He doesn't find it, so he looks again, trying out new scales, new chord progressions. The right music is there, somewhere, if he just keeps looking.

It has to be.


Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions
To all musicians, appear and inspire:
Translated Daughter, come down and startle
Composing mortals with immortal fire.

W.H. Auden

Their second album lied. The piano doesn't know shit.

The piano hates Brendon's song, that's what, and Brendon's not far behind. He's got a line of iambic pentameter and a measure and a half of notes he hates but can't out of his head, and he will never ever lose patience with Ryan during the writing process ever, ever again, holy god.

He indulges himself with a glance up from endless black and white, only to find the sun a scant few hours from setting, and there's no way he can escape the metaphor, not on their last night.

This isn't how it's supposed to be.

In the back of his mind he can hear Zen Master Ryan insisting It's not 'supposed' to be anything, and fine, maybe there isn't anything it's supposed to be, but Brendon's pretty sure he knows what it's not supposed to be, and that's this. Two steps back for every step forward, time pressing down on him, hot and heavy. He feels like Jasmine trapped in the hourglass, only there's no one to rescue him, not when his enemies are all in his head.

Maybe Ryan was right after all. There's no fairytale. Maybe love doesn't triumph, maybe life does instead. He can't even prove himself through music, and if music's betrayed him, what's left? They'll eat their last supper under their last sunset, retire to their own beds where they won't sleep, and drive home in silence, nauseated by the looming threat of tour and how they'll ever manage this amidst the unforgiving confines of a bus and the knowing eyes of their band, their family.

That. That's life.

The heavy wooden cover slams down over the keys as Brendon storms from the room, too desperate for physical release to care that he hasn't eaten since breakfast. He strips off his sweat-sticky shirt on his way through the foyer, hurling it at the nearest wall as he wrenches open the door, jogging toward the basketball net and stopping cold.

Ryan lands a flawless three-pointer just as the door slams shut behind Brendon, inadvertently punctuating the triumph. Ryan startles at the sound, spinning around, his arms still high above his head but floating down to his sides as their eyes meet.

The ball bounces across the driveway, bumping into Ryan's ankle and rolling off to the side. Brendon's fists clench against the fabric of his jeans, and he swallows the lump of colliding emotions as he turns to head back inside.


"Hey," Ryan stops him.

Ryan's just as shirtless, just as gorgeous and flushed as he was five seconds ago, when Brendon turns around. His face is guileless behind his hair; not questioning, just existing, taking the moment for what it is.

He shrugs, bending over to pick up the ball. "Play with me?"

Brendon tries not to think of invitations, of games lost and manipulated and never won; and instead thinks only of Ryan's face, open and wide-eyed and devoid of any agenda beyond repair.

They can do this. This they can do.

Brendon nods, and Ryan tosses him the ball, body loosening as he steps back, allowing Brendon some space when he approaches.

The tension's still gripping Brendon's limbs as he moves, but it's shifted from internal aggression to something more, something tighter but subtler, less tangible -- something that overheats to the point of melting when Ryan closes in for a failed block as Brendon shoots and scores.

Ryan's expression is priceless, a forced acceptance behind wide eyes, and it's clear he hadn't planned to get his cocky ass owned this time around. Brendon smiles a little inside, careful to keep his face even as he passes Ryan the ball, hovering close enough to touch but not, and it'd be too easy to use it to his advantage, to take them back to the living room sofa and break Ryan down, burning breaths and almost-contact pushing them to the edge, but he doesn't. Ryan trusted him enough to let him in this far, and the least Brendon can do is play by the rules, for once.

Ryan ducks around him for a lay-up and Brendon springs up suddenly beside him, knocking the ball from its precarious balance along the rim and hurling it to the ground, where he launches into a sneaky dribbling rhythm just out of Ryan's reach. He glances up to watch Ryan nod encouragement to himself, eyes focused on the ball as his breath starts to thicken under the exertion. Brendon re-angles his body but Ryan's right there, reflexes primed as he closes in, hovering to plan his next move.

"So," he says, false casual as his breath blankets the back of Brendon's neck. "You talked to Shane?"

Brendon hears, Did you tell him how much I hurt you? Does he hate me now? Do you hate me now? Will he beat me up next time he sees me? Will he be offering comfort sex when you get back?

He says, "Yeah," and hopes it sounds like no.

Ryan says, "Oh."

Brendon's too busy figuring out what that means and thinking he's spent way too many years with Ryan if he's putting that much analysis into one monotone syllable, that his hands are empty before he knows it, and Ryan's dribbling across the driveway, moving in on the basket. Brendon crosses in a flash, leaping into defense and closing both hands around the ball just as Ryan leaps off the ground, arms high over his head. He huffs in frustration as Brendon backs off, aims and shoots, and the basket offers a satisfying swish.

"I would've watched Aladdin with you," Ryan announces to the dirt and pine beneath their feet, twirling the ball aimlessly on one finger as he crosses the driveway.

Brendon smiles, stays motionless until Ryan looks up and sees it. "Maybe I didn't feel like listening to another one of your rants on physics. Also -- traveling."

Ryan narrows his eyes and passes Brendon the ball with a little more force than necessary, but the corners of his mouth are starting to twitch and Brendon thinks win that has nothing to do with the game. He assumes position beyond where he imagines the line might be, and takes aim.

"Look, even if magic carpets were real -- "

Brendon rolls his eyes, lowering the ball and cocking a hip to give Ryan his reluctant attention.

" -- the chance that they'd be able to travel at that speed, and half the time they're not even holding onto it, and even when they are holding onto it, they wouldn't be able to stay level, they'd be hanging off the edge."

"Shut up, Ross. It's magic." Brendon smiles crookedly at him and sends the ball flying in a tall arc. He misses just by a hair, the ball bouncing off the net as Ryan scrambles forward to claim it.

"Yeah, unlike your skills," Ryan mutters, but he looks up smiling, eager to ensure he was heard.

"Bitch," Brendon huffs, inserting himself shamelessly into Ryan's space as Ryan dribbles around him. "At least I'm dynamite in bed."

Ryan laughs, a little breathless and caught off guard as he ducks his head, carefully dodging Brendon's advances.

"What, you gonna deny it?" Brendon prods, pushing closer, eyes twinkling.

"Shut up, Urie," Ryan orders weakly, still breathless and blushing too hard to look up.

"Yeah? Yeah? Make me."

They're close, so close, close enough that Brendon can feel the heat and sweat and not know whose is whose, and he's just starting to wonder how long they could keep this up, playing around and off each other, never touching but tossing more power back and forth than if they were, and it's so much like before, just as intoxicating and twice as dangerous because there's nothing controlled here, no set rules outside of the game, and they've broken so many already.

Ryan's eyes finally lift, challenging, and suddenly Brendon feels two long fingers dart out to pinch the bit of skin on the side of his ribs, the spot only his siblings (and fucking Ryan, after months of research) have ever known about, the most ticklish spot on anyone ever, and Brendon leaps back, yelping pitifully before he realizes what's happened. Ryan takes the opportunity and launches himself toward the basket, landing the shot just as Brendon leaps forward to block him and fail, their feet tangling together in the chaos until gravity wins and carries them to the soft ground in a heap of limbs.

Brendon's a little surprised at his own instinct, finding the knuckles of one hand dug deep into the dirt as his palm had come around to cup the back of Ryan's head, protecting him from the impact. Ryan's eyes blink open, staring up into Brendon's and they're brighter than he's seen them in days, full of a thousand questions and answers that weren't there before and Brendon can't even tell which is which.

He gulps, not even caring that his eyes fall to Ryan's lips for a split second, and whispers, "Foul."

Ryan blinks, immobile, and it's -- it's the movie moment it's not allowed to be. But there's no instrumental crescendo, no meeting of lips, just them and their bodies, touching in a hundred places they're not allowed.

Brendon averts his eyes and gently pries himself away, pulling himself to his feet and dusting himself off before leaning over, offering Ryan his hand.

Ryan eyes it, looking up to Brendon like he's a few moments behind. Part of Brendon (a pretty damn huge part, if he's being honest) wants to just drop back to his knees and take Ryan in his arms and fall right back in time with him, not just seconds but days, but there's something bigger here -- something more important than instinct and impulse and want -- something he can't dare shatter, no matter how tempting.

He reaches a little further, eyes locked to Ryan's. "Do you trust me?"

Ryan's eyes falter a little, widen in recognition, and he gets it. His hand reaches up, closing around Brendon's as he allows himself to be pulled to his feet. Brendon's aim is a little off and Ryan winds up close, too close, closer than not-touching; in fact, their chests are practically flush and Brendon can smell the blueberry popsicles Ryan's been sucking down like air since the temperature leap four days ago.

Ryan squeezes Brendon's hand, still locked with his own as his eyes dart across Brendon's face, like he's looking for the first time and coming home and sliding into place all at once, dropping down to Brendon's mouth and finally back up, settling.

He whispers, "Yes."

The three letters carry so much weight Brendon wonders how the word is still afloat in the air, loud and present and palpable between them, saying more than pages of lyrics ever could, and more than lips would ever dare. It's not only the point of no return; it's the point he realizes Ryan doesn't want to return.

Brendon stares back, blown pupils in a stand-off, and realizes it's only a matter of convincing Ryan he can have it.

Ryan's not giving him much time to think, already leaning in, eyes fluttering shut and lips so close Brendon can almost taste him.

In a surge of willpower, Brendon wrenches himself away, one hand on Ryan's chest to keep space between them, and steps back, breath coming short and wrecked. Ryan looks like he's been burned, the implicit rejection sharp between them, but that, that Brendon can take. That, Brendon can fix.

And he fucking will, now that he knows what Ryan needs. Now that he knows it's fear and fear alone, binding Ryan from his own happiness, and all he needs is Brendon to reassure him. To set him free.

A lyric flashes across Brendon's mind, and another, and he releases Ryan's hand mostly on shock, taking another step back toward the house.

"I -- I have to -- " He swallows, shaking his head to clear it. "Have to go -- do. Something."

He can't hear the ground under his feet or the slam of the door behind him, only the words and notes pouring into his conscious from nowhere, flooding him until it's all he can hear, feel, taste; all he can breathe.

Ryan will have his haunting melody yet.


The notes pour in faster than he can write them down, faster even than he can play them, and it's not like he's not trying, fingers flying over the strings once he'd progressed to guitar, feeling grounded by the solid weight of it in his arms and lap. The words come in images, frames racing each other across his mind's eye: he sees bits and pieces of Ryan; an ancient marketplace and palace walls, and other things -- it's been so long since he's written with intent that he'd forgotten what it's like to see adjectives behind his eyelids, to feel verbs burning over his skin. It's intense, almost too much, and it's why he doesn't write more often. He's only lucky he doesn't need it like oxygen the way Ryan does; that it only demands his heart on the rare occasions he's too spent to hold onto it anyway.

It feels like an answer to a question Ryan never asked, playing him at his own game. Fairytales and reinvention and promises Ryan's always needed to hear and never had the nerve to request. It feels like coming home and leaving something behind all at once, but the exhilaration coursing through his blood tells him it's something he's willing to leave behind; that he's leaving it for something better. His mind is clinging pretty tight to the element of vague, but the half-scared-half-ecstatic smile he finds himself directing at the neck of the guitar says enough.

He doesn't really feel the process unfold; doesn't sense the sun lowering in the sky beyond the music room's endless windows, and it's almost a shame that the experience is lost in the chaos, in the beauty of it; that Brendon doesn't even realize what he's playing until the ink-filled page is laid out on the floor in front of him and he's halfway through his second full run-through, and he realizes there may be a slight component of abject terror in what he's about to do.

This is -- this is it. This is all he has. He doesn't have Ryan's endless, earth-shattering words, he doesn't have Jon's fix-anything magic or Spencer's calm, keen logic to rationalize their way out of this. Music is all he has, and those few words that fit into the notes because they have to, and nothing else.

He sighs, cutting himself off halfway through the song and staring down at his fingers, locked into position on the strings. He realizes, arbitrarily, that they're holding the same chord Brendon started with -- the first chord of the first song Ryan ever handed to him with nervous eyes and said, Play this, in a small, questioning voice, and Brendon did. He did and two hours later Spencer pulled him into the next room and threw his arms around him and said, I haven't seen him smile like that in months.

If music was good enough for Ryan then...

He looks up, set to try the rest without the help of page, when his eyes catch on something beyond the spread of glass enclosing the room. Just outside, a practically two-dimensional figure is winding its way slowly along the path from the deck down to the lake, silhouetted dark under the glaze of setting sun. His head's hung low and his shoulders hunched, and Brendon watches him cross to the end of the dock and plop down, knees hugged tightly to his chest as he faces out over the water, motionless.

It should be beautiful, stunning, a striking photo op, Ryan's artful angles against the brilliant spread of colors on the horizon -- but instead it's maybe the saddest fucking thing Brendon's ever seen.

He pulls himself to his feet with his guitar, stepping over to the window until he's facing it, facing Ryan, separated only by the glass and the distance. He hooks the strap of the guitar around his neck and positions the instrument, strumming out the opening notes as he takes a deep breath.

A little trial run never hurt anyone.

continued HERE.


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May 2009

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