4,048 words. ryan/spencer. pg.
for eckerlilas. hope you like it.
The wall's really pretty high, maybe eight feet, eight and a half, and it's a long way between swinging feet and waiting pavement. Ryan looks down. Ryan knows better than to look down, they always say not to; he closes his eyes, then opens them up just enough -- he's kind of squinting, to look to his right. He says something inconsequential, something like, Hey Spencer and Spencer says something back, about how it's a nice day.
How they got up here: Spencer had thrown their Frisbee into someone's yard. The person who lives there has a bad reputation -- and is at work. Spencer had said they should maybe go get the Frisbee, and Ryan's lighter so Spencer had helped him up over the wall, only then at the top Ryan said, How will I get back over? and had helped pull Spencer up when Spencer finally figured something out.
Why they're still up here: There's a dog in the yard, a big one, with teeth and drool and bristly fur. A dog that could eat a twelve year old for breakfast, and -- well, neither of them is quite twelve yet. Not even eleven, actually. Ryan tilts his head and looks back down at the dog. "That dog," he says. "That dog."
"I think we're not getting the Frisbee back, since. We're not," Spencer says, "Yeah, that's not, no. No."
"I don't even know what kind of dog that is," Ryan says, and then he loses his balance. He can feel himself falling, and the wall is high, he thinks maybe it could even be nine feet, and they'd been sitting up there because it was a nice view and he didn't want the effort to be totally wasted, only now, now he's kind of falling.
Onto Spencer's arm. Kind of. Spencer's hand is on his back. He's stable. Not actually falling or tipping or any of that anymore. "Let's," Spencer says, and Ryan nods, yeah, yeah. He leans against Spencer for a second, Spencer's arm still behind his shoulders, his own hands folded on his lap now that he's got his balance again. He doesn't look down at the dog again.
He scrapes his hands on the brick trying to get down -- he figures it's safest not to jump. Jumping, that could be dangerous, that could lead to broken limbs (could be almost as bad as falling). So he twists himself around and tries to lower himself down and ends up without any broken bones and with tiny flecks of red-brick dust stuck in his hands. There's a little blood that wells up from damaged skin.
Spencer's mom has band-aids and bactine, and this whole process is novel, having someone fawn over him and wash out his scrapes, this is so six years old. So something he should have experienced at six. He's old enough now that this shouldn't be necessary, and he grumbles a little but he doesn't fight. That's enough to salvage his pride.
"I seriously have no idea what kind of dog that was," Ryan says to Spencer's feet that night. It's Friday, not a school night, so his dad doesn't really care where he is. So he's here. There's a sleeping bag on the floor, empty -- Ryan sat there for a good ten minutes before grabbing his pillow and crawling into bed. It's more comfortable. Spencer's feet are in his face, they're going to sleep head to tail, but Spencer took a bath right before bed so it's not like his feet smell or anything, so it's fine.
There's this house -- the yard is mostly sand and cacti, not really any grass. It's been like that for years. What's new is that the windows are bandaged up, blinded by planks of wood, and there's a bright red piece of paper stuck to the door. The only part legible from the street is "Department of Safety."
"We're going," Ryan decides one day as they're walking past, heading to Spencer's house from the schoolbus stop. "Seriously, condemned house." They're expected home, so it's not right then.
Brent says no, his parents told him the people who used to live there were drug dealers and hoboes and squatters, which doesn't make too much sense to Ryan, squatters owning a house, but fine, maybe they just stayed there, yeah. Anyway, Brent says it's a stupid-ass idea and the place is condemned for a reason. So Ryan hangs up the phone and rolls his eyes and Brent doesn't come along.
Ryan's got this brand new pair of shoes, Vans, with a pink-and-green checkerboard pattern, and he hates them more every day but his dad won't buy him other shoes, says Ryan needs to stop being such a girl.
Why Ryan hates his shoes so much: there's this jock, an eighth grader, who is going out with a girl Ryan has a crush on and owns the exact same pair of shoes. The kid listens to Blink, too, which makes him a fucking poser, and Ryan hates that, too. Mostly he's jealous the guy's going out with the girl. Also, the shoes. The other problem with the shoes, it turns out, is they don't protect his feet well from the chain link fence that surrounds the back yard.
Just like Ryan had hoped, the back door isn't locked.
The house smells weird. Mostly, though, it's just boring. Save for a broken chair and some ancient porno magazines, the place is empty. (Ryan doesn't dare touch the magazines; they're sort of crusty. He's curious, but that's gross.) Spencer notices something else -- "You know, I'm pretty sure I saw some thing on TV, like, Dateline or something, about mold like that, can kill you or something."
"That wasn't a sentence."
"Killer mold," Spencer says.
"How's mold supposed to kill you?"
"I don't know. I think it just makes you sick. And then you die. How should I know?"
"Yeah, okay." Ryan snorts. "Thanks, Mr Science." He thinks he's imagining the sick feeling growing in his stomach. "This is lame. Let's go."
"What, are you scared?"
"Dude, no, it's just dumb," Ryan says, and he heads back towards the door. Spencer kind of laughs, but he follows him anyway. Then he ducks into a room, through a random door, standing in the doorframe and looking around.
"Hey, look at this."
"Oh, crap," Ryan says. There's some rubber tubes, some broken glass. Some rust-dark stains in the threadbare carpet. When he steps next to Spencer, a flotilla of cockroaches makes evasive maneuvers, scattering in every direction. "Whoa."
What Ryan's thinking of: his father, passed out on the couch drunk. Why the bloodstains make him think of this, he's not sure. "Yeah."
Spencer seems to be basing his reaction on Ryan's; he nods, slowly. "So I guess we know why nobody lives here anymore?"
"Arrested," Ryan nods.
"Yeah, and the staircase is rotted through."
"And the roaches. And mold. Killer mold."
"Yes," Ryan says. They go over to Brent's place after that, and don't talk about it again. Instead they talk about how Spencer's pretty sure he found a receipt for a drum kit in the trash, and Ryan and Brent get to make fun of him for digging through the trash.
The house, they don't ever talk about again. Within a month it's torn down and starts being rebuilt to suit the image of the neighborhood better.
"So I was at Spencer's," Ryan says, and he's not thinking, "Jerk kicked me in the face, I almost fell off the bed."
"What, you were both in bed?"
"Well, yeah, I was asleep. Until he facekicked me."
"That's kind of," Brent says. Ryan hits him, but he starts thinking, yeah, maybe it's kind of weird. At ten, not so much, but at fourteen, fourteen, maybe. "Hey, I'm just saying."
"Yeah, you're always just saying."
Spencer looks over at Ryan and laughs. Ryan's confused so Spencer takes the chance to track him down on the in-game radar and manages a headshot. Ryan hits him in the shoulder for that, but Spencer grins, says, "Ryan."
"Have you been taking pictures of yourself again?"
"Shut up, people asked," Ryan says, carefully brushing at his bangs. His character's respawned, and he's wandering the map looking for a better gun. Brent snipes him from long-distance. "The hell, I didn't know you were even still playing."
Brent says, "You realise the only people asking are probably thirty year old pedophiles and shit."
"Shut up," Ryan says, and he's thinking of his pictures, of himself standing shirtless in front of the mirrors. Of how he adjusted his jeans just so, to show off the jut of hipbones. He's thinking of Suicide Girls. He closes his eyes, raises a hand and worries at one of his gauges. "I like getting comments."
"It's just the Internet."
Ryan says, "Shut up. Okay. Okay. I have to go, I've got a, me and my girlfriend are going to McDonald's. We're going to see a movie." The girl Ryan's going out with wears so much eyeliner that she looks like a panda. Maybe a raccoon, some days. The girl Ryan's going out with is the same one he had a crush on in sixth grade, who's given up on being a prep and has seen the light, listens to good music now. She's not a poser. Ryan likes her for that.
"Oh," Spencer says, "Oh, yeah, okay."
Brent says, "That girl's a bitch."
"Brent," Ryan says. "She's awesome, shut up." He gets up, tosses his controller down to the floor. "Whatever, I've got to go."
Brent looks over at Spencer when Ryan's out of the room.
"Yeah," Spencer says. "I heard she was making out with that junior -- the dude she was going out with in seventh grade, what's his name, Chris or whatever."
Brent says, "You pay a whole lot of attention to what Ryan's girlfriend does. You like her, or what?"
"No," Spencer says. "Not really. She's kind of a bitch. Like you said."
Spencer is not particularly surprised when, two weeks later, Ryan breaks up with his girlfriend. He's not particularly surprised that Ryan comes to him about it.
So: it's maybe four in the afternoon on a Saturday. It's mostly sunny outside. Ryan is sitting on Spencer's bed, knees crossed. He has an acoustic with him. Spencer is sitting on the floor, leaning against his bed. Ryan pokes him in the back of the head with a bare foot. "Spence," Ryan says.
Ryan does. "I thought she was, I really liked her. She was cool." He says, "She thought I wasn't interested enough in her. I just thought she never wanted to make out. I would have."
"Huh. Girls are weird."
Ryan says, "She told me she'd been sleeping with her ex again. Again. They were, what, twelve when they first went out?"
"The guy's a total poser anyway. I don't get it," Ryan says, then, "She wouldn't even sleep with me. She didn't even say no or anything, she just wouldn't do anything."
Spencer says, "Right."
"Sorry," Ryan says.
"No, it's fine, I'm listening."
"I look better than he does anyway, right?"
"Well," Spencer says. He pauses. "Yeah."
Ryan falls onto his back, staring up at the ceiling and still halfheartedly picking at the strings. He's sort of playing a Blink tune, maybe. "Say it ain't so, I will not go."
Spencer gets to his feet. He's got his drumkit set up in his room at the moment. Ryan stops playing Blink, and Spencer makes something up on the drums. Ryan starts playing over it. "She's not just bleeding on the floor of the ballroom -- no, no, that's not quite it. Just for the attention, no, that's just," and he trails off, humming to himself. "Give me rampant intellectualism as a coping mechanism -- I don't know. Never mind. That's too wordy." He stops playing.
"This book I read," Ryan says. He says, "Okay, never mind, never mind."
"Have you been writing more?"
"Yeah," Ryan says. "I'll, we'll wait until practice."
Spencer taps out another quick rhythm then goes back to the floor by the bed. "Sit up here," Ryan says. "There's a better view."
"Oh, okay." Spencer laughs but does as he's told. He rests on his stomach, propping his head up on his hands and looking over at Ryan. "So hi."
"You going to be okay?"
"Yeah," Ryan says. "Yeah. You guys said, yeah, she was a bitch anyway."
"How many times do you think we can say yeah in two sentences?" Ryan says, and ends up curled up on his side laughing because every sentence Spencer says for the next five minutes involves the word yeah at least five times.
Spencer grins at him, teeth showing bright. He puts a hand on Ryan's shoulder. "Hey, yeah, don't die. Yeah, you've got to, you know, breathe."
Ryan's laughter subsides into something like a giggle, not that he'd do anything so undignified. He's breathing hard and smiling and meets Spencer's eyes. Spencer lowers his head a little -- "Seriously." His toothy grin softens, his eyes dark and warm.
Ryan freezes. His expression goes strange and distant and he sits up, pulling away from Spencer's hand. Spencer goes still and quiet, and Ryan can't quite work out what's going on. Usually when there's nothing to say he keeps quiet, but he can't bear silence right now. "So -- oh, shit, I can't even say that word anymore, I'll die."
"Y -- shut up."
And it's alright again, whatever that moment was is gone. Ryan was planning on staying over for the night, and he does, but he sleeps out on the couch. (Spencer says, "Hey, if you want, you can," and Ryan says, "Yeah, no, it's cool. I'm fine out here." Spencer never brings it up again.)
"Now I'm of consenting age to be forgetting you in a cabaret," Ryan's singing. His voice is raw, untrained. Real punk rock. They've got another kid in with them today. Brent's at a new school, met this Mormon kid, apparently.
"Well, I'm afraid, that I, that's right well I may have faked it," he's singing, backup to Ryan. Ryan turns and stares. Spencer stops playing to stare. Brent just folds his arms, letting his bass hang heavy from its shoulder strap, and smirks.
"What?" Brendon says. "I think I might have been a little out of key, I'm sorry." He starts singing the words under his breath again, real introspective. Ryan had said they needed a keyboard player, or someone to do second guitar, something, and Brent had said he knew this kid and he hadn't said anything about the kid being the Voice of God or whatever. "Did I mess it up? That's how it goes, right? Dude. I'll just," he says, because Ryan and Spencer are still staring. "Sorry. It's cool if this doesn't work out."
"No," Ryan says, "No, no, this is going to work out, I don't care what. Jesus." He's just hoping he doesn't end up edged out of his own band.
"What?" Brendon's got this deer-in-headlights look, eyes huge and wide. The pout is probably accidental.
"What did I tell you guys," Brent says. "Seriously. Told you I knew this kid."
"Yeah, and that's all you said," Spencer says. "That didn't mean anything."
Ryan balances his guitar carefully with one hand, going over to grab his notebook from the top of an amp. "Look, here, try this one. Guys. Lying, okay?" Spencer nods, starts with the slow drum beat. Brent kicks in with the bass, just to give him an idea. The word's aren't annotated too well, and the guitar doesn't kick in for a while. So.
"Is it still me that makes you sweat, while you," Brendon starts, and it is perfect, it is amazing. Ryan can't help this huge stupid smile. "Wait, wait," Brendon says, part-way through the verse. "Are you serious about this? This song, what the hell."
"This girl dumped me," Ryan shrugs. "Of course I'm serious."
"Oh, okay," Brendon says. "Right, Mr Sex God." He sings, fluttering his eyelashes at Ryan, voice low and sultry, "A hotter touch, a better fuck, than any boy you'll ever meet; sweetie, you had me." He laughs. "Seriously."
Ryan glares. Brendon shrugs. "Okay, okay. It's not bad. Just kind of. Ego?"
Brent says, "I think it's a good song."
Ryan plays a bit of the first guitar line, and Spencer has to move quick to match to what he's playing.
After practice, when Brent and Brendon have both gone home, Ryan says, "Holy shit, that kid is amazing. He's incredible."
Spencer looks at him. Ryan can't figure out his expression. "Yeah, he's got a really good voice."
"He's, wow, wow, he's in."
"Should we maybe talk that over with Brent?"
"Brent brought him, he's fine with it. And you're -- you're good with it, right?"
"Yeah, he's a good singer. He could do lead."
"I'm lead," Ryan says, startled. "But, yeah, he's, he'd be good for it. I'm kind of. I guess I'd rather someone else. It's hard. My words, you know."
"Yeah," Spencer says, because they've had this conversation a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand times now.
Ryan says, "Besides, he'd be a better frontman than me, he looks like a lead singer. He's."
"I was going to say hot."
"Oh," Spencer says.
Ryan says, "I kind of, you know, I should tell you, I guess, I."
"What?" Spencer says, but he thinks maybe he knows.
"I made out with a guy once at a party," Ryan says, quick, words partly run together. "I kind of liked it, I guess, even though he was drunk. I don't know what his name was. He was kind of a jock. A hot one, though. So like. I'm not going to," he says, "Never mind. I'm just saying. It was kind of all right."
"Okay," Spencer says.
"That's it? Okay?"
Ryan gives Spencer a sidelong look but doesn't say anything more about it, and there's one more thing they don't talk about.
Ryan tells Spencer most things, but he doesn't tell Spencer about how after they got signed, he doesn't tell Spencer about how he ended up going down on Pete Wentz. He doesn't say a word about it. He thinks Spencer probably has his suspicions. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing, kind of a thank you present, maybe. (He thinks about old pictures of himself, of his belt and jeans and hipbones and the Internet, thinks about Suicide Girls, thinks about Brent saying it's only thirty year old perverts looking. Pete isn't quite thirty.)
He also forgets to tell Brent they got signed for nearly a week, but that's a different story.
At practice Brendon says something like, Ryan, watch what you're doing, not what Spencer's doing, and Ryan says he has no idea what he means. But while they practice he only ever looks over at Brendon anymore.
Brendon gets an apartment and Ryan ends up staying there a lot, because his dad's really angry about the band thing, is telling him he needs to focus on school. Needs to go to college so he can get a real job.
He doesn't stay at Spencer's so much because Spencer's kind of weird around him, sometimes, and because he remembers Spencer's mom taking care of his cuts and scrapes when he was a little kid. And he remembers sleeping in the same bed as Spencer for years without thinking a thing about it, only now he kind of is thinking about it.
About how there were a few nights, after days his dad had yelled at him about whatever, he'd ended up curled up against Spencer, drooling onto his polar bear pyjamas. He kind of hopes Spencer doesn't remember that, since it was a long time ago. Since it was back when he was ten and scared and lonely (since he's still young and scared and lonely even now). He kind of really hopes Spencer doesn't remember.
Spencer does say, once, "How come you never crash at my place anymore?"
"Your parents have to be tired of me by now."
"No, you're always, Mom thinks of you like another son or something, I think. It's fine."
"I just," Ryan says. "It's just staying somewhere there's not any parents to worry about, you know. Can stay up as late as I want. And whatever."
"Are you two," Spencer says, leaving the sentence open ended.
"Oh," Ryan says. "Oh. No. He's not."
Ryan says, "You should come over sometime, we can play Halo. The TV's on the floor and all, but still."
It's late, like four AM late, and Spencer says, "Yeah, I don't think I can drive home."
The guest bed is an air mattress on the floor, pretty much the same as the bed in the master bedroom. Brendon went to sleep a few hours ago. Ryan and Spencer have been playing Halo 2 ever since. XBox Live is a glorious and wonderful thing when it comes to alleviating boredom.
"Oh, so you're gonna," Ryan says. "Yeah, Brendon said you could stay if you wanted."
Spencer kicks off his shoes but keeps his clothes on. "I'm going to bed."
Ryan says, "I can, I guess I'll sleep on the floor." Spencer looks at him. "Or not."
It's been eight years and still sleeping right next to Spencer seems like the most natural thing in the world, only this time Ryan's heartbeat is too fast. Ryan says, "Can I," and Spencer says yeah and it's not too uncomfortable, sleeping curled together like that. Ryan doesn't drool when he sleeps anymore. Spencer doesn't kick.
And there's one more thing for them not to talk about.
Brendon wakes up before either of them and even though he's usually talkative, kind of a freak that way, can go on for hours about anything, he doesn't say anything about it. He just talks about his electric bill and how he has to go to work and do they want Pop Tarts and Capri Sun for breakfast, that's all he's got.
Ryan's taking off his eyeliner. He's saying, "That was incredible, that was."
That was the biggest crowd they've played so far. "We should do bigger shows. We should. We could do some crazy shit. Like OK Go."
"They don't do crazy shit."
"They do a dance," Ryan says.
"You want us to dance?" Spencer asks. "Because I'm not going to dance, I'm going to play drums."
"I don't mean that, just something to keep the crowd -- we could do costumes, what do you think?"
"I don't know, maybe."
Ryan's got his eyeliner off. He says, "Spencer, Spencer, holy shit, there were kids singing along. They know us."
Spencer laughs. Ryan says, "Holy shit, Spencer," and laughs too, shocked and giddy, and kisses Spencer on the corner of his mouth. Maybe he was aiming for his cheek. Spencer moved a little. Even Ryan's not sure. Ryan laughs again and this time, it's unplanned but he kisses Spencer full-on, still smiling. He whispers, "They knew us!" and plans on ruffling Spencer's hair but just leaves his hand there.
Spencer says, "They did, they did, they did." Spencer buries his face in Ryan's neck. He says, "Ryan. Ryan."
Ryan freezes, like he's figured out what he's doing. He pats Spencer's back awkwardly, dropping his arms to his side. "I."
"What?" Spencer's expression, it's unreadable again. Spencer's stood up straight again.
"Yeah, no, we're going to -- where's Brendon?"
"I don't know," Spencer says. He's thinking, he doesn't want this to be another stupid thing they never mention. He says, "Ryan."
"Did that happen?"
"No, Ryan. Ryan. Don't."
"Okay, okay," Ryan says. He closes his eyes and bites his lip. "Okay."
Spencer says "Okay?" and Ryan nods, yeah, okay, and he doesn't freeze up when Spencer kisses him. He just whispers, okay, all right, into it, over and over, whenever one of them will pull back for a second. Ryan kisses with his eyes closed. He says, okay.
Spencer says, "Can I, " and Ryan says "Yes."