Brendon certainly hadn’t been expecting the gorgeous, skinny guy with spindly arms wrapped around the neck of a guitar, sizing Brendon up with cool disinterest in his dark, dark eyes. It's about what we see, what we don't see and what we think we see. Takes place between 2004-2006. Betaed by tons of people at various different stages of existence: fiddleyoumust, octette, shaggirl and so many other really amazingly awesome people.
I literally can't believe that this story is finished. I started it with the intention of it being my bandom big bang story, if that tells you how long I've been tinkering with this thing.
Different Ways to Get to Where We Are
Pete Wentz was a pretty decent guy. He gave their band a chance, even when said band consisted of Brendon and Ryan playing shitty versions of their songs on an old Casio. He was funny, loyal and generous to a fault.
Brent warned him before his first practice that Ryan was the person he’d need to impress. Spencer was a hardass. He’d do all the talking, but in the end, he’d back any decision Ryan made. Brent warned him that it wouldn’t be easy –Ryan was moody and aggressive and occasionally impossible to deal with.
So when Brendon stood in front of Spencer’s grandmother’s huge oak door, he was vacillating pretty heavily between intense curiosity and intense fear. Brent’s description had painted for him a picture of Ryan Ross that was very different from the boy himself. In Brendon’s mind, Ryan Ross was a combination of Scott Stapp, Morrissey and Mark Hoppus.
Brendon certainly hadn’t been expecting the gorgeous, skinny guy with spindly arms wrapped around the neck of a guitar, sizing Brendon up with cool disinterest in his dark, dark eyes.
“Ryan, Spencer, this is Brendon. Brendon: Ryan and Spencer.”
Brendon realized he was different when he was ten years old. While all the other boys in his class had crushes on Miss Greenhouse, their fourth grade teacher, he was more interested in Mr. Steinberg, who taught P.E. He didn’t admit to himself that he was gay until just after his fifteenth birthday, when all the denial and avoidance in the world didn’t stop him from jerking off thinking about Hugo Jiminez from his math class, and the way that his pants rode down so low on his hips.
He knew it was wrong - everything he’d been taught by his parents and at church had been clear on that - but Brendon was too self-aware to pretend like he was the normal, straight Mormon boy that his parents wanted him to be. Especially since, by that point, he’d pretty much come to terms with the fact that his family’s religion didn’t work for him.
Of course, admitting it to himself and telling his parents were two different things. So Brendon got used to living a double life – going to church and following his parents’ rules, all the while keeping these secrets to himself.
The first guy he was with was named Rick Longfield, and he was the student leader of Brendon’s P.E. class sophomore year. It was the end of November, almost Thanksgiving break, and Rick pulled him under the bleachers and stuck his tongue down Brendon’s throat. Not that Brendon complained about it. In fact, he was too busy sticking his hand inside Rick’s gym shorts to say anything at all.
They’d hooked up a few more times over the course of the year, before Rick graduated and went off to college somewhere in the Midwest. Brendon liked that his first time happened the way that it did. Rick was a good guy, for a baseball player. He didn’t talk to Brendon in public, but he didn’t make fun of him either, the way that a lot of the other jocks did to the band geeks.
But the way Brendon felt about Rick – even that first time when they were frantic under the bleachers, trading kisses and smothering sighs and groans so that they wouldn’t be caught – didn’t even compare to what he felt for Ryan.
His palms were sweaty and his leg wouldn’t stop jittering. Brent and Spencer had gone to help Spencer’s grandmother bring groceries in from the car, so it was just him and Ryan alone together after Brendon’s third practice with the band. He bit his lip when his fingers slipped again as he tried to strum out “Time Of Your Life” on his acoustic. Normally he could play that song blindfolded and, like, asleep, but he wanted so badly to impress Ryan that nothing was coming out right.
“Sorry, sorry,” he said for the tenth time. “I swear I know how to play it.”
Ryan just shrugged and leaned his own guitar against the couch. “I’m gonna go help Spencer.”
“Okay,” Brendon said weakly, feeling his face heat in embarrassment. “I’ll…stay here. And practice.”
He waited until Ryan turned the corner before he put his head in his hands and groaned.
“Hey,” Spencer said when he opened his front door and let Brendon in. “You’re the first one here.”
“It’s cool,” Brendon answered, kicking off his shoes the way that Mrs. Smith told him to the first time he’d been there.
“Also, I have to babysit my sisters until my parents get home from some party they’re at.”
Spencer had a pair of twin sisters, and, as far as Brendon could tell, the only thing they did all day was plot different ways to annoy their brother.
“I’m cooking a pizza for dinner. You could have some, if you want,” Spencer said.
“Sure,” Brendon answered, just as one of the twins, Brendon couldn’t remember which, came barreling down the front stairs.
“Spencer, I have to ask you a question,” she said.
Brendon took an involuntary step back at the look of true evil in her eyes.
Spencer seemed to notice it too, because he crossed his arms and glared at her warily. “What?”
The girl grinned and put her hands on her hips. “Okay. So, if you like guys, does that mean Ryan’s your boyfriend?”
There was a moment of absolute silence as Spencer and Brendon both stared at each other with wide eyes. Brendon stopped breathing. He’d spent so much time fantasizing about Ryan being gay, but maybe it had been Spencer the whole time. Maybe even Spencer with - oh god.
“No, he’s not my boyfriend!” Spencer shouted, lunging after her when she ran back up the stairs shrieking.
“I asked him, Crystal! You own me ten dollars!”
“Um…” Brendon said when she was gone and it was quiet again.
“Is it going to be a problem?” Spencer asked, frowning.
“No, just. You’re…” Brendon trailed off.
“Yeah,” Spencer answered, still watching him carefully.
“And your family knows?” Brendon asked.
“Of course they do,” Spencer answered, like he didn’t even understand why Brendon would ask such an obvious question. Brendon kind of wanted to cry, or maybe punch him in the face.
“Are you, um.” He cleared his throat and asked, as nonchalantly as possible, “Are you and Ryan dating?”
“God no,” Spencer said, and the relief Brendon felt was dizzying. “Anyway, Ryan’s dating Laura.”
Oh yeah, for a minute Brendon had actually managed to forget about Laura, his fiercest enemy, who Ryan had been dating for the last two weeks. “Right.”
“Seriously, you’re not going to freak out, are you?” Spencer asked again.
“No,” Brendon answered. He took a deep, shuddery breath. “I’m…I mean, I’m…” God, why couldn’t he just say it? He looked down at his hands and mumbled, “I’m hungry.” When he looked back up, Spencer was watching him with a pitying expression on his face that made Brendon bristle.
“Pizza should be ready,” Spencer said. He walked towards the kitchen and Brendon slunk after him, secure in the knowledge that he was a complete wuss.
Enemy Number One, Laura Kane, only lasted a month, and then Brendon found Ryan sitting on his front stoop, smoking. Spencer had called him an hour before and told him to get over there, because he couldn’t handle Ryan’s emo whining any longer.
“Want one?” Ryan asked when Brendon sat on the step beside him.
Brendon was a big fan of smoking, but not the cigarette kind. Still, he shrugged his shoulder and accepted the cigarette and lighter that Ryan passed him. “Thanks,” he said.
He lit the cigarette and then choked on the first inhale. “Holy shit,” he gasped in between coughs. “What kind did you get?”
“Marlboro Reds,” Ryan answered. “I asked the guy at the gas station to give me the strongest ones.”
“They’re definitely strong,” Brendon agreed. He tried taking another, shorter drag. He only coughed a little, but his eyes watered. “Wow.”
“Yeah,” Ryan said. He tossed his own dead cigarette on the ground and crushed it with the bottom of his shoe. “So, eventually I’ll date someone who doesn’t cheat on me, right?”
Brendon winced, thinking about the half-formed lyrics to “Harlequin Girls” that Ryan had given him to look at - the ones that killed any hope that Ryan might like him the same way that he liked Ryan - and looked down at his burning cigarette. “You deserve…” Brendon cut himself off before he said something embarrassing. “Yes,” he said instead.
Ryan laughed a little and leaned back against his elbows. “I’m glad you joined the band, Brendon.”
Brendon felt himself beaming as he leaned back with Ryan and squinted up into the sun. “Me too.”
Brendon’s parents kicked him out of the house after the school called to ask why Brendon had missed two days in a row. The fight was epic, and ended when his father gave him an “us or them” ultimatum. Brendon took long enough to stuff some clothes in a duffle bag and then took off.
He called Ryan, because he always called Ryan. Because if anyone knew about not living up to his family’s expectations, it was Ryan.
He walked the two blocks to the twenty-four hour Laudromat that he always ended up in after a fight with his parents. It was owned by a middle-aged couple, and the woman loved Brendon. She had a son who was a year older than him that had gone off to college last fall. She seemed to consider Brendon a good substitute.
Brendon gave her a weak smile when he walked in, dumping his duffle bag on the cement floor and hopping on top of an empty washer.
“Oh, honey,” she clucked after taking one look at him. “Do you want a soda or something?”
She walked over and handed him a root beer without once commenting on where he was sitting, which said everything Brendon needed to know about how he must look.
“Are your friends coming to get you again?” she asked.
“Yeah, they should be here in a minute,” he said. The root beer was lukewarm and syrupy sweet, but he gulped it down in three swift swallows.
“Another fight, huh?” she asked, frowning in that way moms had that made Brendon’s heart clench.
He looked away from her concerned face and instead stared out the windows into the street, waiting for Spencer’s car to appear. “Yeah.”
When he didn’t offer anything else, she shook her head. “Well, just tell me if you need anything.”
He thought about what he was going to do while waiting for Ryan and Spencer. He couldn’t go back home – he couldn’t - not until he proved they were wrong about the band. If he caved before that, he’d lose any leverage he had with his parents.
Besides, he’d been keeping his sexuality a secret from them for so long. He didn’t have it in him to keep the band a secret too – there just wasn’t enough room left inside him. If he went back, that’s what he’d have to do. It’d be that or give up the band, which wasn’t even really an option. No way was he giving up the one thing in his shitty life that actually made it worth getting out of bed in the morning. Not when they were finally getting somewhere with their songs.
And no way was he giving up Ryan.
That was what he’d be doing if he quit the band – Ryan would never talk to him again. He’d think Brendon was giving up – hell, he would be giving up – and he’d never forgive Brendon. And no Ryan meant no Spencer. Brendon would probably stay friends with Brent, but somehow only losing two of his friends instead of all three was not exactly a silver lining.
Such a huge chain reaction, and Brendon could see it all happening if he went back home.
So, no. That was off the table. What else could he do? Sleep on Spencer’s couch? Get an apartment? Find a job?
Brendon broke out of his reverie at the sound of a car door slamming. He refocused his eyes on the street and saw that Spencer’s car was parked in front of the Laundromat and that Ryan was walking through the door.
“Hey,” Ryan said as he stuffed the key ring into the pocket of his jeans.
“Hey, where’s Spencer?” Brendon asked. He couldn’t see anyone else waiting in the car.
Ryan shrugged. “I made him give me his keys and told him not to come.” He eyed Brendon’s duffle bag. “You sounded pretty upset on the phone, I thought…”
Thought that Brendon wouldn’t want to talk about it with Spencer, who wouldn’t understand. Not with his stupidly awesome, accepting family.
“They kicked me out,” Brendon told him.
“Hmm,” Ryan answered. He pushed the empty root beer can out of the way and hopped up on the washer next to Brendon.
“It was about the band,” Brendon felt compelled to add, even though, duh, obviously that was what it was about.
“I figured,” Ryan said. He folded an arm around Brendon’s shoulders and scooted closer until their thighs touched. “That sucks.”
Brendon laughed unsteadily and tipped to the side until his head rested on Ryan’s sharp shoulder. “You’re telling me. What am I going to do, Ryan?”
“Let’s drive around for a while. I brought the new Fall Out Boy CD.”
“And then?” Brendon asked.
“Then we’ll get some pancakes,” Ryan answered, making Brendon snort.
“I don’t know,” Ryan admitted. “Then we’ll talk to Spencer.”
Talk to Spencer was pretty much Ryan’s default solution to any problem, so there was no reason that it should have made Brendon feel so much better, and yet.
“Okay, let’s go,” he said, hopping off the washer and grabbing his bag.
One night after a long practice, he and Ryan were laying side by side on the floor of Spencer’s bedroom while Spencer and Brent played Halo in the living room.
“We’re gonna do it, you know,” Ryan said.
Coldplay was playing on Spencer’s six-CD changer. Brendon rolled over and bent his arm to prop his cheek in his hand and look down at Ryan.
“You mean the band?” he asked.
Ryan rolled his eyes and picked at the sleeve of his t-shirt. “No, dumbass, I meant my history essay.”
“Sorry,” Brendon said. “God, have a heart attack.”
Ryan glared at him a moment longer before turning back to face the white tiled ceiling. “We’re really going to be something.”
Ryan had that look that he got sometimes, like he was seeing the future and deciding what parts he wanted to share with the rest of the world. Then he blinked and sighed and the look was gone.
Brendon shifted again, resting his cheek in his open palm. His ear grazed Ryan’s shoulder with the barest contact.
“Definitely,” he agreed.
Ryan grinned at him, star bright and easy, and Brendon thought, he’s going to kiss me! Instead, Ryan went back to his contemplation of the ceiling and hummed along with Chris Martin under his breath.
Brendon’s nervous heartbeat gradually slowed, and after a moment, he flopped onto his back.
That wasn’t the first time Ryan Ross had broken his heart, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last.
Spencer said that Brendon should be the one to ask Jon Walker to join their band.
This was how it happened: Spencer called Brent while Ryan and Brendon listened on speakerphone, neither of them saying a fucking word. After an hour, the call ended and they spent long minutes staring at one another.
“Are we going to do it?” Ryan asked. “Jon?”
“We have to,” Spencer said.
“Yeah,” Brendon said. He was looking down at his hand, at his pointer finger tracing patterns over his thigh. “Think he’ll do it?”
“Of course,” Ryan said, frowning like it never occurred to him that anyone might want to do anything besides play in his band.
Spencer turned to look at Brendon. “You should ask him.”
Brendon’s stomach jumped. “Why me?”
Spencer rolled his eyes, which Brendon thought was pretty fucking uncalled for. “Because you guys are friends, and he likes you the most.”
“No, he doesn’t,” Brendon argued immediately, then added, “He doesn’t hang out with you because he can tell you don’t like him.”
Spencer rolled his eyes and waved his cell phone in Brendon’s face.
“He’s most likely to listen to you,” he pushed.
“Well, it’s not,” Brendon began. “I mean, we’re just asking about a temporary thing, right? Until we figure stuff out?”
Spencer shrugged. “If that’s what you want to tell him, sure.”
“Okay, um,” Brendon said. “Can I get something to eat first?”
“Let’s get lunch,” Ryan said, wrapping an arm around Brendon’s shoulders and urging him to his feet.
“We don’t have time for lunch. This needs to get done now,” Spencer argued. “The label…”
“Can wait the extra hour,” Ryan said. He and Spencer had one of their complicated silent conversations that Brendon never could decipher. The winning move appeared to be Ryan’s raised eyebrow, because at the sight of it, Spencer let out a loud sigh and backed down.
“Fine, you’re right, sorry. I just want this over with,” he said.
“Pizza or Chinese?” Ryan asked Brendon.
“Pizza,” Brendon answered.
If Brendon hadn’t been in love with Ryan already, that would have done it.
Pete Wentz was a force of nature. He was storm and wind and blinding sun. He walked into a room and people stopped moving, stopped talking, stopped to stare. It took Brendon almost a year to get over the instinctive urge to ask for an autograph or sneak a picture with his camera phone.
By their first headlining tour, shuffling onto his own tour bus to see Pete already there was hardly out of the ordinary. Less usual was finding Pete and Ryan standing in the middle of the room with their tongues down each other’s throats.
Brendon made a sound halfway between a choke and a gasp.
Immediately, the two of them broke apart. Ryan ran the back of his hand over his mouth. Brendon’s chest was so tight, it hurt to suck in his next breath.
“Um,” he said, into the silence.
“I’m gonna go,” Pete said. “See you, Brendon.”
“Bye,” he said dimly, and watched Pete lope out the door.
“We were just…” Ryan started, but Brendon put up a hand to stop him. In no world did he want to hear the end of that sentence.
“No, it’s cool,” Brendon said, and was horrified to hear the tremor in his voice. “I was coming to catch a quick nap before the show, so…”
He made his way around Ryan and practically dove into his bunk. The palms of his hands felt like sandpaper against his already stinging eyes. He rubbed them futilely and pulled his blanket all the way up to his chin.
It was all over the Internet, pasted across blogs and message boards, Brendon had just been too busy to look. Pete Wentz and Jeanae broke up!!!!!
“Oh my god!”
Brendon jerked awake, nearly slamming his head into Spencer’s bunk above him at the sound of a high-pitched female voice on the bus.
“I can’t believe I’m inside Panic! at the Disco’s bus. Oh my god, Ryan! Ryan, where are you?”
There was a thump, and Brendon peaked out his curtains to see that Jon had fallen out of his bunk. He scrambled to his feet, his blue checkered boxers hanging halfway off his hips.
“Brendon! Ryan! I’m totally your biggest fan!”
Brendon crowded into the corner of his bunk and held his breath. It wasn’t hiding, okay? It was a strategic retreat until Spencer took care of the situation.
“What the hell?”
That was Spencer, followed by the more reassuring thump that came from him hopping off of the top bunk onto the floor. He wore gray sweatpants and an old Famous t-shirt, but he looked fierce. Brendon would not have messed with him, but then Brendon had developed a well-justified fear of Spencer’s ire over the years. He was a biter.
Ryan came down next, brandishing his Sidekick like a weapon. He stood behind Spencer in basketball shorts, a t-shirt and white tube socks, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes with his free hand. Normally, Brendon would have found it amusing. But knowing Ryan was probably just tired from having tons of dirty phone sex with Pete Wentz made it less funny.
Spencer opened the door between the sleeping area and main area with Ryan peering over his shoulder. “How did you…!”
He didn’t finish his sentence, and Brendon had a brief moment to think hysterically, Holy shit, she ate Spencer! before sense prevailed – Spencer would not go down without a fight!
“You’re assholes.” That was Ryan’s ridiculous monotone.
The resulting raucous laughter was enough to compel him and Jon into the front of the bus where Zack and Kylie, Ryan’s guitar tech, were doubled over laughing.
“Oh, haha,” Jon muttered, scratching his head and further mussing his already bed-wrangled hair.
Kylie clutched Zack’s arm tightly, and Brendon thought he saw tears in her eyes.
“What were you going to do, Ryan?” Zack asked between breaths. “Hold the phone to her ear until she got cancer?”
Ryan glared and crossed his arms over his chest.
“Who fell out of bed?” Kylie asked. “Was it Brendon? Oh, please tell me it was Brendon.”
“Sorry to disappoint,” Brendon said, before Jon sheepishly raised his hand.
“Brendon didn’t fall out of his bunk,” Ryan said, cutting a vicious look Brendon’s way. “He was too busy hiding in it like a little girl.”
That set Zack and Kylie off again.
“It was a strategic retreat,” Brendon muttered, eyes trained on the ground.
“Sure it was, baby,” Kylie said, disentangling herself from Zack to pat him on the shoulder.
“You’re a mean person,” Brendon told her.
She smirked. “But, oh my god, you’re, like, totally my favorite!”
When Zack and Kylie skipped back off the bus and Spencer and Jon went to back to sleep, Brendon had no one to distract him from reliving the memory of Ryan and Pete kissing that was running on a loop in his brain. He decided to get some breakfast and watch television in the lounge, and was annoyed when Ryan followed him.
Pretending to be transfixed by an episode of The Price is Right was a lot harder with Ryan Ross drilling holes into the side of his head with his eyes. Brendon shoveled in another spoonful of Lucky Charms and pointedly chewed with his mouth open, because Ryan hated that.
The sound of Ryan’s Sidekick vibrating hummed louder than the sound of his exaggerated smacking. Brendon felt his body tense.
“Pete?” he asked tartly, even though he really did not want to know.
“Yes,” Ryan answered as his fingers flew over the keyboard with practiced ease. He flipped the phone shut and looked at Brendon, his glare pinning Brendon in place. “So is this how things are going to be from now on?”
Brendon placed his bowl on the table beside the couch. “Since when are you gay?” he asked.
Ryan’s eyes narrowed. “Since when are you a homophobic asshole?”
“I was just asking a question, Ryan, god,” Brendon said. He stood up on unsteady legs.
“So was I,” Ryan answered. His back was ramrod straight and his hands dug into the shiny material of his stupid shorts. “Is this some Mormon freak out?”
“Oh, fuck you,” Brendon said when Ryan’s words hit. “This doesn’t have anything to do with that.”
Ryan snorted and crossed his arms over his chest.
“It doesn’t,” Brendon repeated. “But, what, are you and him, like, boyfriends now?”
The stormy look that came over Ryan’s features made Brendon take a step back. “Yeah, we are. Not that it’s any of your business.”
Brendon bit down on his lip and dug his fingernails into his palms. Hearing Ryan say it made something twist deep in the pit of his stomach. He felt sick. He couldn’t breathe.
“You’re right, it’s none of my business. As a matter of fact, I don’t want to hear anything else about it. Keep your brand new gay relationship to yourself, and just…fuck.”
Brendon flung himself out of the lounge and off the bus into the warm California morning.
Two days later, Brendon and Jon sat side by side watching The O.C. Spencer and Ryan had ran off as soon as the bus stopped without telling either Jon or Brendon where they were going.
On the television, Summer rebuffed another one of Seth’s advances. Brendon was maybe relating a little too much, because he felt tears prick his eyes.
“Brendon?” Jon asked, raising an eyebrow. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m…” Brendon started, but then found himself helpless against Jon’s concerned expression. Dropping his cool façade, which, by the look on Jon’s face hadn’t been very effective anyway, he wrapped his arms around Jon’s waist.
“No, I’m not okay,” he said. “I’m actually pretty shitty.”
“What’s wrong?” Jon asked, while slipping one hand into Brendon’s hair and the other against the small of Brendon’s back.
Brendon took a shallow breath. He couldn’t tell Jon that he was in love with Ryan – it was painful enough admitting it to himself.
“I’m gay,” he whispered instead, into the skin of Jon’s neck, feeling his heart slam triple time in his chest. Then added, “Please don’t tell anyone.”
“I won’t. I won’t, Brendon,” Jon promised, and Brendon sighed, feeling about a million times lighter.
Brendon snuggled in deeply, never one to waste a free hug, especially one from Jon Walker. “Cool,” he said. “Thanks.”
“Any time,” Jon said.
Just as he was getting comfortable, the door opened and Spencer came in, raising an eyebrow at the two of them. Brendon could admit that, even though he was a physical guy, it was probably unusual to walk in on him clutching Jon like a four year old being held by his mother after a nightmare.
“Sound check in ten,” Spencer said drolly.
Giving him one last squeeze, Brendon stood up and smiled at Jon. “You’re my favorite, Jon, seriously. How do you live while being so awesome?”
“One day at a time,” Jon answered, accepting Brendon’s helping hand and letting himself get pulled off the couch.
“You’re so wise,” Brendon said gravely. He turned to look at Spencer. “Isn’t he wise, Spence?”
Spencer just rolled his eyes and gestured at the door. “He’s Buddha, okay? Let’s go.”
Brendon did an excited little shuffle. “Buddha! Buddha Walker. That’s what I’m calling you from now on.”
“And on bass, all the way from the Windy City, give it up for Jon Buddha Walker!”
Brendon smiled into the blinding white lights.
“Ladies, if you see him after the show, be sure to ask if you can rub his belly. It’ll bring you good luck.”
The screams were almost deafening, and Brendon let the energy soak into his bones.
Avoiding Ryan was a lot easier when Ryan was obviously avoiding him in return.
Well, that was going by a definition of ‘easier’ that meant that Brendon hadn’t slept in two days and he tensed with each near-silent hum of Ryan’s Sidekick. His heart was broken into about forty thousand pieces, but still, easier.
At every interview, every meet and greet, every car ride, Ryan would find a way to sit next to Spencer and avoid Brendon. Whatever. It was totally better that way, and if Ryan could just stop being hot every single second of the day, Brendon could get over him, no problem.
On one of their coveted hotel days on the tour, Brendon scouted out a quiet corner in the lounge of the Holiday Inn and dragged his guitar down to tease out a melody he’d been playing with for a while.
He had been working at it for the better part of an hour when Ryan appeared in the doorway.
“Hey,” Ryan said, leaning against the wall and crossing his arms over his chest.
Brendon froze, back tensing and hands stilling on his guitar a moment before he forced himself to relax.
“Hey, Ryan,” he said, cool as ice.
“What’s that?” Ryan asked, gesturing at Brendon strumming.
“Something that’s stuck in my head.”
Ryan smiled and pushed out of the doorway to sit down beside Brendon. He had three yellow stars lining his cheeks and a grey newsboy cap pulled low over his eyes. Brendon was so crazy about him, oh god.
“I like it,” Ryan said.
“Thanks.” Brendon continued playing while Ryan bobbed his head to the rhythm. He didn’t know what Ryan was doing there, or why he was suddenly talking to Brendon and being nice to him when he’d been avoiding him like the plague for weeks. Honestly, he just wanted to be alone. Dealing with Ryan was too complicated, and Brendon was too exhausted to try and navigate that minefield.
“Are we good?” Ryan asked after a few minutes like that. “You and me. I know some shit’s going on, but. We’re friends, right?”
The look he gave Brendon was so genuinely hopeful that Brendon felt, for one embarrassing second, like he was going to cry. Friends.
He wished so badly that he could give Ryan what he wanted; that he could look at Ryan the way a friend did; that he could smile and write a fucking speech for his and Pete’s commitment ceremony. He couldn’t do that. He hadn’t been able to deny his feelings for Ryan in years, not to himself. But he could fake it.
“Yeah,” he said, training his eyes on his scuffed, black boots. “Yeah, Ryan, of course we’re friends. But now I have…I have to go,” Brendon said.
Then he walked as calmly as he could out of the lounge and straight to the room he shared with Jon. “I need to get drunk, Jonny Walker. It’s time you lived up to your name.”
Jon was on his cell. He raised his eyebrows at Brendon in amusement and held up one finger. “Okay, Mom, I’ve gotta go. Brendon needs to talk about something. Say hi to Dad for me. Uh-huh, you too. Bye.” Jon pressed off his phone and grinned. “What about getting drunk?”
“Alcohol, Jon. Vodka, rum, whisky, beer. If I can remember my name by the end of the night, then you didn’t do your job.”
Jon shook his head sadly. “I can’t believe you’re doubting my skills, Brendon. I taught you better than that.” He reached into the drawer on the nightstand between their beds and produced a fifth of Stoli and two shot glasses.
“I love you,” Brendon replied fervently and grabbed a glass.
“I so love you,” Brendon muttered, hours later, his fist clutching the material of Jon’s shirt.
“Your feet are freezing,” Jon complained.
“They love you, too,” Brendon said.
“Then why are they hurting me like this?” Jon asked.
Brendon’s brain felt like it was coated in maple syrup as he tried to puzzle out a reply.
“You only hurt the ones you love,” he proclaimed finally. “Can I be your right hand man when you take over the world, Jon?”
Jon snorted. “Go to sleep.”
“Okay,” Brendon agreed, and then, “Hey, why are you in my bed?”
“I’m not,” Jon said, snorting again. “You’re in my bed.”
“Oh. You sure?”
“Huh,” Brendon said. “How did I get here?”
“I carried you, you heavy bastard.”
Brendon heaved himself up so that he looked down at Jon with his chin perched on his palms and his elbows on the mattress. “You’re like a mountain man,” he said in awe. “Jon Paul Bunyon Walker. Did we have sex?”
“I try not to sleep with people who aren’t in control of their basic motor functions,” Jon answered.
“Um,” Brendon said, blinking in confusion. “Maple syrup.”
Jon grinned. “No, we didn’t have sex.”
“Oh, good. No offense.”
“It’s just, I’m in love with Ryan,” Brendon admitted, his head slipping off his hands and plopping back down on the pillow.
There was a lengthy pause and Brendon felt his eyelids begin to droop. After a moment, Jon said, “I know. Go to sleep, Brendon.”
“Who’s Brendon?” Brendon mumbled, honestly curious, and then he was out.
“I hate you,” Brendon said, hiding his head under Jon’s pillow.
“You asked for it,” Jon pointed out. He was on the other side of the room rooting around in his bag.
“I did not. I did not,” Brendon argued. “You took advantage of my fragile mental state.”
Jon was paying more attention to picking out a t-shirt than Brendon’s very serious complaints. Brendon considered killing him, but decided it would require too much effort. For one thing, he’d probably have to take the pillow off of his face, and he just wasn’t ready for that kind of excitement.
There was a knock at the door and Zack’s voice boomed. “Lunch!”
“Oh god, just let me die,” Brendon wailed. His stomach roiled at the mere thought of food. At the barest suggestion of food.
Jon continued to ignore Brendon’s agony and opened the door. Peeking out from under his pillow, Brendon watched Zack, Spencer and Ryan walk in.
Spencer took a look at him huddled under the covers and raised an eyebrow. “How are you?”
“Jon got me drunk,” Brendon moaned.
“Classy,” Spencer said.
“We can’t all be kings of sophistication like you, Spencer,” Jon answered from inside the bathroom.
“Hi, Brendon!” Kylie yelled, bouncing into the room and grinning brightly.
“You’re the Devil,” Brendon intoned, deadly serious.
“And you’re hung over,” she said.
“There was vodka,” Brendon said, “and…other things.” Most of the night was a blur. He remembered making it through the whole bottle of Stoli without much help from Jon, and then, if the state of their room was anything to go by, he moved onto the mini-bar next.
“Do you even remember?” Kylie asked, sounding amused.
“Yes,” Brendon lied. He recalled the highlights anyway: playing cards with Jon and meeting some of the techs in the parking lot to play ping-pong. He sucked at it, but Spencer turned out to be a pro. He also remembered trying to write a song about Jon being awesome and having a conversation with Ryan about his guitar. Where was his guitar, anyway?
“Where’s my guitar?” he asked.
“I gave it to Matt to put away,” Ryan answered. He sat on the edge of the bed and placed a hand on Brendon’s shoulder. “You sure, man? You were pretty messed up last night.”
Brendon hid back under the pillow. “’M fine,” he mumbled into the bedding. Then he pushed Ryan out of the way in his mad dash for the bathroom.
He was so completely not fine.
“I need a caramel macchiato,” Spencer said one morning, out of the blue.
Brendon jumped on board. “Caramel frappuccino,” he agreed dreamily, “extra whipped cream. So much whipped cream.” He let himself imagine it a moment, in all its delicious, sugary glory. “I wish I could swim in a pool filled with whipped cream. Do you think we’ll ever be famous enough for me to do that?”
“We can only dream,” Jon said.
“Dream about what?” Ryan asked, walking out of the bunk area. Immediately, Brendon’s thoughts turned so dirty that he could feel himself flush brick red.
“Brendon Urie’s amazing chocolate factory,” Jon answered.
“Keep mocking,” Brendon said, refusing to look at Ryan, “and see if I let you suck on my Everlasting Gobstopper.”
By noon, Jon had found Brendon Starbucks, proving he was a god among men.
“What did you do,” Brendon asked, “flash the ‘Bucks signal?”
“Holy caffeine emergency, Batman!” Jon shouted in his best Robin-voice, and Brendon laughed until he cried, draping himself over Jon.
“Spencer, I got your macchiato too,” Jon said, wrapping an arm around Brendon’s waist. He dangled the cup enticingly in front of Spencer’s face. “I even paid for the extra caramel, because I’m such a good guy.”
“Thanks,” Spencer muttered. He barely glanced up before grabbing the cup and returning his focus to his Sidekick.
Jon looked kind of crestfallen at Spencer’s lack of gratitude, so Brendon tried to make up for it by being extra grateful. Not that it was hard when he had sweet, sweet Starbucks to fortify him.
“Question: were you born this awesome, or is it something that you’ve had to work at?” he asked.
“A little of both,” Jon answered as he took a drink from his own cup.
“Interesting,” Brendon mused.
July 2, 2006
Mark worked security at the Avalon in Boston. Brendon never caught his last name, but he was twenty-two, over six feet tall and could play every Radiohead song on the guitar, but nothing else. He was a semester away from finishing his degree in Biology. Though he wanted to become a vegetarian, he loved hamburgers too much to commit all the way.
After dealing with Ryan Ross and his brand new Sidekick-appendage, Brendon decided to try a different method of getting over him. After all, Pete Wentz wasn’t the only motherfucking rock star in this story.
Mark, it turned out, also sucked cock like a pro, and he didn’t mind when Brendon pulled too hard on his shaggy blond hair or jerked into his mouth.
Brendon had just gotten a good rhythm going, sliding slow and steady into Mark’s hot mouth, his eyes fixed on a crack running down the length of the door to their dressing room, when it opened. Ryan stood in front of him, his eyes wide, his mouth gaping. And of course, because it had to get more humiliating - this was Brendon’s life, of course it did - that was the moment that he came, gasping, down Mark’s throat, his eyes locked on Ryan’s.
Ryan watched him a moment, face unreadable, before backing out of the room and closing the door quietly behind him.
“Good?” Mark asked. He looked up at Brendon from under the fringe of his hair, completely oblivious.
“Yeah, thanks,” Brendon said. Because he was a rock star but not an asshole, he didn’t run out of the room and hide in his bunk forever, even though he really wanted to. Instead, he helped Mark to his feet and gave him what was probably the worst handjob in the entire history of gay sex. The guy came in Brendon’s fist with a weak spurt, appearing less than impressed with Brendon’s manly prowess.
“You did something stupid,” Jon said to him later, back in the dressing room. Ryan and Spencer were across the room, heads bent close together. Ryan hadn’t looked at him once, which was fine. Brendon was pretty sure that he’d be okay if Ryan never looked at him again. There was a fair-to-decent chance that Ryan and Spencer’s conversation was going to end with Spencer beating the shit out of Brendon, but at the moment he was willing to deal with that eventuality if it meant a few more minutes of blissful avoidance.
“I’m a rock star,” Brendon said defiantly.
“So that’s a yes,” Jon said.
Brendon pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose and glared. “I’m allowed to have sex.”
“Never said you weren’t.”
“And if Ryan can have sex with Pete Wentz on our bus, then I can have sex with Mark Whatever in our dressing room.”
“Um,” Jon said. “What?”
“Nothing,” Brendon sighed and laid his head on Jon’s shoulder.
“You didn’t do it on this couch, did you?” Jon asked.
“Way to ruin a moment, Walker,” Brendon grumbled. “And no.”
“Okay, good.” He draped an arm around Brendon’s back.
The fight, when it happened, did not go the way Brendon expected at all.
Ryan found him in his room – and way to totally ruin a hotel day with this shit – after the show. He crossed his arms over his chest and gave Brendon his most pissed off look.
“Since when are you gay?” he asked, the mocking note to his voice making it clear that the call back to their conversation from a month ago was intentional.
“Freshman year,” Brendon said. “So do I win or what?”
“But…” Ryan’s mouth opened and closed. “Then what the fuck is your problem?”
Brendon glared petulantly at Ryan’s shoes, caught. “You’re my problem, okay?”
“What does that mean?” Ryan demanded. “Did you even think, Brendon? What if it hadn’t been me who walked in on you guys, huh? Or what if some guy decides to see how much money he can get for pictures of the lead singer of Panic! at the Disco taking it up the ass. What then?”
“It’s none of your business,” Brendon said, defensively. He didn’t want to admit that Ryan had a point. “I can fuck anyone I want, just like you.” He tried escaping out the door, but Ryan’s hand on his chest stopped him.
“It is my business. This is my band!” Ryan shouted. “You’re so fucking selfish, Brendon, god.”
Twisting away from Ryan, Brendon made another attempt for the door. “Everything’s fine, okay? Stop being such an asshole.” Ryan darted out to block him again. “Move, Ryan!”
“No,” Ryan said stubbornly. “I’m the asshole? I’m the asshole? How can you say that when…Brendon.”
Before Brendon even knew what was happening, Ryan’s mouth was on his, hard and wet and desperate. Brendon gasped, the shock of Ryan’s lips against his, of his hands on Brendon’s skin, keeping him frozen for several seconds until he finally came back to himself and pushed Ryan away.
“What?” he demanded as his breath rushed out of him in shallow pants. Ryan looked as surprised as Brendon did, eyes moon-wide and face flushed. “What about…oh, never mind.” He pulled Ryan back down to him and kissed him.
Ryan’s mouth tasted like raspberry chapstick and his hair was soft when Brendon pushed his fingers into it. He didn’t hesitate, his hands bunching in the fabric of Brendon’s shirt.
“Take it off,” Brendon gasped, breaking away from Ryan’s mouth and raising his arms up.
“Yeah,” Ryan groaned, dragging the shirt over Brendon’s head and skewing Brendon’s glasses in the process. He smiled at Brendon and gently slid them off of Brendon’s face. “Let me put these on the nightstand.”
“Forget it,” Brendon said, taking the red frames out of Ryan’s hands and tossing them somewhere in the vicinity of his suitcase. “Take off your pants, I want to suck you.”
“Shit,” Ryan panted. They both fumbled with Ryan’s ridiculous fucking belt, fingers tangling, for long seconds before Brendon pushed Ryan’s hands away.
“Let me,” he said, unbuckling it and working the tight pants down Ryan’s legs. Ryan kicked off his shoes and Brendon knelt down on the ground to pull off his pants. “There,” he said, when Ryan stood in front of him in just his socks and underwear, his shirt having gotten discarded somewhere along the way.
He ran his hands up Ryan's thighs to his hips. His eyes locked with Ryan’s as he curled his fingers inside the waistband of Ryan’s underwear. Ryan bit his lip and watched, breathing through his nose in an audible staccato rhythm. Slowly, Brendon pulled the underwear down Ryan’s skinny thighs and knobby knees until they lay puddled at his feet and Ryan kicked them away.
“God,” Brendon breathed, touching Ryan’s cock with tentative fingers and enjoying the way that Ryan’s hips bucked into his hand. With more confidence, Brendon bent down and took the head in his mouth. It tasted salty, and the width of it stretched Brendon’s mouth wide. He didn’t have much experience doing this, but he made sure to cover his teeth with his lips, and tried to make it good, tried to memorize the feel of it and the noises Ryan made, everything he’d want to remember later.
“Bren,” Ryan said, bending down and bracing both hands against Brendon’s shoulders.
Brendon licked along the head and down the shaft, while his hand kept a steady pressure at the base.
“Bren,” Ryan said again, but this time it sounded more insistent. The hands on Brendon’s shoulders began pushing him away. “Brendon, stop. I don’t…I don’t want it to be over this fast.”
Brendon ignored him and gave his dick another suck that had Ryan’s hips thrusting hard enough to hit the back of Brendon’s throat. God, so good. He was going to make it so good for Ryan. He was going to make it real, something that he wouldn’t forget about as soon as Pete called.
“Brendon, no. Brendon, stop,” Ryan said, stepping back and forcing his dick out of Brendon’s mouth with a loud pop. Brendon sat back on his heels and stared up at Ryan as he wiped his wet lips with the back of his hand. Ryan put a hand on Brendon’s face and then began trying to pull him up with the hand still gripping his shoulder. “Get up here, would you? Come on.”
When Brendon made it up on unsteady legs, Ryan anchored a hand behind his neck and pulled him in for a kiss.
Brendon was awakened from a light doze by the sound of a phone ringing.
Beside him, Ryan cursed softly and hopped out of the bed to root around in the pocket of his discarded pants. “Hey, Pete,” he whispered.
Brendon’s whole body tensed and he shut his eyes until they were barely slits.
“That’s great,” Ryan replied, in response to something Pete said. He cast a look at Brendon and said, “We’re just watching a movie. I’ll call you back later, okay?” He smiled and dipped his head. Brendon felt the last remaining vestiges of his happiness from earlier disappear, replaced with a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach.
Oh god, Ryan. He’d had sex with Ryan, and it didn’t mean a damn thing.
Ryan laughed, low like he didn’t want to wake Brendon, and said, “Please don’t. See you.”
He ended the call and turned the phone off before crawling back into bed, his long, thin body pressing against Brendon’s and his arm wrapping around Brendon’s waist.
He’d made a huge mistake.
It took a little over half an hour until Brendon trusted that Ryan was asleep enough for him to slip out of the bed, grab a pair of pajama bottoms and go into the bathroom. He flicked the light on and stared at his reflection in the mirror, guilt and pain shown clearly in his red-tinged eyes. He stared until he couldn’t stand to anymore, then he shut off the light again and got comfortable on the floor.
A soft knock on the door startled him. He looked around and was surprised to see sunlight flooding in the small window in the bathroom. He didn’t even remember falling asleep.
“Brendon, you in there?” It was Ryan, of course, sounding tentative.
“Yeah,” he said, after a minute, pulling himself off the floor. He flushed the toilet and ran the faucet a second, took a deep breath and opened the door.
“Hey,” Ryan said. His hair was all messy and fluffy, and he was wearing a pair of Brendon’s favorite boxers – the flannel ones he bought in New York. He looked so amazing, it wasn’t fair.
“Hi,” Brendon said. He let Ryan lean forward and kiss him, but didn’t return it. When Ryan pulled back and gave him a confused look, he stepped around him and into the room. Where was Jon anyway? Shouldn’t he be here to help get Brendon out of this uncomfortable situation? Wasn’t that his job?
Picking up his bag, Brendon threw on an old Pixies shirt before taking a deep breath and turning to face Ryan. “I think you should leave.”
“What?” Ryan asked. Hurt flickered across his features, and Brendon steeled himself against it. After all, it wasn’t him that was cheating on someone else – on Pete, of all fucking people.
“This was a bad idea.”
“You didn’t seem to think it was a bad idea when you were begging to suck my dick,” Ryan said caustically. He started gathering up his clothes. “I can’t believe myself. I can’t believe I did this.”
“I’m sorry,” Brendon couldn’t stop himself from saying. “I just…I can’t do it. Whatever fucked up thing you think is going to happen. Not with you.”
Ryan stood up, pulling his clothes on and glaring. “Sure, fine. Whatever you want, Brendon. Whatever’s easier for you. God, you fucking asshole.”
Ryan stormed out of the room, slamming the door as he left.
Brendon turned around and saw Spencer standing behind him, fiddling with the sleeves of his shirt and looking distinctly uncomfortable.
“Hey, Spence. What’s up?”
“I wanted to talk to you a minute.”
Oh, god. Brendon could guess what this was about. It had been a day since the Ryan Incident. Brendon knew it was only a matter of time before Spencer weighed in on it. “Okay.”
“So, um.” Spencer scratched his cheek and shifted from one foot to the other, looking awkward. Good, if Brendon had to suffer through the ‘don’t fuck with my best friend’ conversation, then Spencer should have to suffer too. “So I know about you guys.”
“Yeah, I figured,” Brendon sighed.
Spencer stuffed his hands into his pockets. “You’re pretty obvious.”
“I am?” Brendon felt his face color. God, did everyone know about Brendon’s huge, fucking pathetic crush on his best friend? Did Pete know? Did he and Ryan laugh about it together?
“Both of you. To me, at least. But, look, that’s not what I wanted to talk about.”
“I just…I have to tell you something that I think you should know. I shouldn’t tell you this. Ryan’s probably going to kill me for saying something, but I feel like I have to. He likes you, okay? A lot. He has for a while.”
Brendon felt a smile creep across his face, because seriously. Ryan liked him a lot. If Spencer said it, okay – if Spencer Smith said it, then it had to be true. It had to be.
“Really?” Brendon asked.
“Don’t look so happy about this clusterfuck. Jesus,” Spencer said, and Brendon’s smile vanished. Spencer was right; this whole situation was fucked up, and there was no way Brendon was ever going to figure out how to handle it.
“It’s all so fucked up,” Brendon said.
“I know,” Spencer said.
“We’re not...” Brendon looked down and dug at the cracked cement floor with the toe of his shoe. Spencer had a hard face to lie to. “We’re not doing anything serious, though, me and him. We’re just messing around,” Brendon said. It was true, despite Brendon being hopelessly in love with Ryan.
“Don’t lie to me,” Spencer said, sharp enough that Brendon snapped his mouth shut with an audible clack. “I came by to tell you that, whatever happens, I know you guys won’t let it mess up the band.”
That was…well. Not what Brendon had been expecting. Neither was Spencer’s resigned expression. He must have already had the blow out fight with someone.
“So did you already talk to Jon about this?” Brendon asked.
Spencer flinched and replied, “I’ll let you handle talking to Jon. I just wanted to tell you that I’m cool with it.”
Brendon ran a hand agitatedly through his hair. “That’s great and everything, Spencer, but I don’t think it’s going to happen again.”
Spencer shot him a disbelieving look, before shaking his head and shrugging. “I’ve said what I had to say about this whole situation, okay? I’m done with it.” He looked down at his hands. “I’m done.” He walked out, leaving Brendon alone to consider his words, hope bubbling up inside of him.
If Spencer thought they had a shot, then maybe they did after all.
“I want food,” Spencer said the next day. Brendon, Spencer and Jon were sitting in the lounge, while Ryan was holed up in his bunk.
Brendon knew an opportunity when he saw one. He’d been waiting to get Ryan alone ever since his last talk with Spencer.
“Why don’t you and Jon get something?” Brendon asked.
“Why?” Spencer said, his eyes narrowing. “I thought you and Jon could go.”
“Because,” Brendon said, making emphatic eyebrows at Spencer, “of that thing we talked about before. You know.”
“Oh,” Spencer said. “Fine. Come on, Jon.”
“I don’t want to know,” Jon said. “I just want pizza.” He grabbed his wallet off the table and slipped his feet into his flip flops. “Let’s go.”
Spencer walked to the door and turned to look at Brendon. “You’d better fix this.”
What was he, a miracle worker? “I’ll try,” he said, which seemed to satisfy Spencer.
When they left, he took a good twenty minutes to talk himself into it and then went back to the bunks.
“Ryan?” He came to a stop next to Ryan’s bunks, where it was suspiciously silent. “Um, Ryan?”
“Can we maybe talk about what happened on Tuesday?”
“Fuck off,” Ryan repeated.
Brendon sighed. “Listen, Spencer told me some stuff that I think that we need to talk about.”
Ryan swore and slithered out of his bunk to stand in front of Brendon. “Fucking Spencer. What did he say?”
“Can we just…?” He gestured at the lounge where they could talk without standing directly on top of each other. Ryan rolled his eyes but followed Brendon out, then gave him an expectant look.
Brendon palmed the back of his neck. “Spencer said, um. That you…you know.” Wow, when did he become a twelve year old girl? “That you like me.” Check yes or no.
Ryan looked at him like he was crazy. “I thought grabbing you and kissing you was a pretty good indication of that.”
Brendon gestured helplessly, trying to convey his frustration with Ryan and Pete and the whole damn world. “Yeah, but, you know, with Pete and everything. I mean, you can’t blame me for being confused, Ryan,” he said.
Ryan eyed him a minute, a strange expression on his face, before tipping back his head and letting out a bark of laughter.
“What’s so funny?” Brendon asked, because seriously.
“You’re a liar, you’re such a fucking liar,” Ryan said, laughing again.
“What? How am I the liar here?” Brendon asked incredulously.
“You don’t remember anything about that night.”
What? “What night? What are you even talking about?” Brendon asked. He ran his hands through his hair in frustration. “You make me fucking crazy sometimes.”
“That night when you got drunk with Jon and then came and found me,” Ryan said.
Brendon realized Ryan meant that hotel day when he got so drunk that he’d felt it for two days afterward. His stomach dropped. God, what stupid thing had he done and forgotten about? Wouldn’t Jon have told him if he’d made an ass out of himself?
Ryan pointed at him. “See? You have no idea what I’m talking about.”
“Fine, then maybe you should tell me and quit with the superior act already, because I swear to god, Ryan, I’m like five seconds away from –“
The only answer Brendon got was Ryan grabbing him by the ears and dragging him forward for a long kiss.
“Hey, hey,” Brendon said when they parted, summoning up more indignation than he felt in his post-Ryan-kissing haze. “You can’t keep ending conversations you don’t like by kissing me. It’s cheating, for one thing. I’m crazy about you, which you obviously already know, and that’s not fair.” Ryan beamed at him, the bastard, and looked ready to interrupt again, so Brendon raised his voice to drown out what he was going to say. “For another, what if we’re fighting in front of your boyfriend next time, huh? Are you going to make out with me then?” The pleasant buzz drained out of Brendon at that thought and he took a few stumbling steps back.
“Hey, stop,” Ryan said, making up the distance between then. “I’m so stupid, god, Brendon. Stop talking about Pete, okay? Just…stop talking and let me enjoy this a minute.” He ghosted his knuckles over Brendon’s cheek, smiling.
“Okay,” Brendon agreed dumbly, feeling his reservations fade from the combination of Ryan’s closeness and his fond expression. He swayed forward and Ryan ducked down gracefully to meet Brendon’s mouth again.
The door of the bus swung open some time later, and Spencer and Jon walked on, carrying bags of food. Brendon broke off the kiss but let his cheek rest against Ryan’s shoulder.
“What the fuck is going on?” Spencer cried when he saw them.
Brendon pulled away from Ryan and smiled at Spencer. “We figured stuff out.”
“Brendon…” Ryan said beside him, sounding nervous.
“What?” Brendon asked, turning, and that was when Spencer cold cocked him.
Part Two: Ryan