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26 May 2009 @ 07:29 pm
Bandom fic: Are you there, God? It's me, Brendon (2/3)  


Part One

Brendon was disappointed to discover that Ryan was a junior.

"Are you saying I look underage?"

"No, it's not that." Brendon struggled. "I guess I thought we'd be in the same class?"

"Dude." Ryan bumped shoulders with him. Brendon was starting to like it a lot when he did that, so he bumped back. "Why do you think I wanted you to sign up for drama club?"

"And here I was thinking you were being all, like, altruistic about it."

"Big words from a little guy," said Ryan. "You're so smart, you should skip a grade. Then you could tutor me in history."

"Why, do you suck at it?"

Ryan's lips flattened - it was almost a smile. "Let's just say I have fundamental issues with the subject."

"Oh." Brendon shrugged. "I like history. People are interesting, aren't they?"

"Some of them," murmured Ryan. "Here's your music class, room eighteen."

The name rang a bell. "Is that anywhere near room nineteen?"

"It's right beside it. But that's the chaplain's office -"

"Yeah, I have to meet with him."

"Why? You've only been here a night. You couldn't have got someone pregnant already."

"What?" Oh damn. Blush time. How did you casually drop into the conversation that you were a virgin who'd never even kissed anyone?

"That's the only reason people go to the chaplain," explained Ryan. "Or when they need bereavement counselling - oh. Sorry. Did someone die?"

Brendon shook his head. "My parents want me to meet him. I guess they're a little worried about my soul. It's not like there'll be any home schoolers coming out here."

"Wait, rewind. What? And what? Your soul?"

"I'm Mormon," sighed Brendon. "Possibly I should have mentioned this before, but it's a bit of a conversation killer. So, bye, I have to go save myself from eternal damnation."

"Mr Waterstone won't save you from eternal damnation," said Ryan. "He couldn't save someone from drowning in two feet of water. Trust me."

"You know, that sounds like something Jesus would say?" Brendon smirked. "Listen, there's no way I'm phoning my mom without doing this first. And if I don't phone, she'll assume I've died and you'll be attending my funeral before you can say 'resurrection.' Okay?"

"You have a very complicated life," said Ryan.

"Not really. Life is simple," said Brendon. "It's what comes after that worries so many people. I'll catch you after class?"

"G four," said Ryan. "Drama club, five o'clock. And if you're not there, I'll call your mom."

He walked off with both hands stuck in his back pockets. It gave a sway to his gait, and the fact that the school pants were so close-fitting only accentuated - nothing. They accentuated nothing because Brendon wasn't looking, he was knocking on Mr Waterstone's door without even one glance over his shoulder.

Sounds of scuffling inside the room stopped Brendon from just walking away, even as the minutes ticked by. At length, the door opened. No one appeared, so Brendon stepped over the threshold and said, "Hello?"

"In here." The voice was muffled because, Brendon saw, its owner was buried face-first in a huge trunk. The room was an almighty mess from an 1800s time warp. All the books were thick, leather-bound and gilt-lettered. And they were everywhere: piled on tables, propping up the desk, gathering dust and bluebottles on the windowsill. The curtains were velvet swags, the wallpaper was a violent paisley, and the desk-chair had hairy buttons in it.

"Good morning." A mad and benevolent face popped out of the trunk. Corkscrew curls cartwheeled in all directions. "May I help you? Do you have an appointment I've forgotten about?"

"No. Sorry." Brendon stuck out his hand. Mr Waterstone regarded it with interest. "My name is Brendon Urie. I'm new. My parents wanted me to, I guess, make contact with you? As the school chaplain, you're the nearest I have to a church elder."

"And what church is that?" Mr Waterstone plopped down on the half-open trunk, crunching papers in its lid. "Please, sit down." He gestured towards the hairy button chair, the only one in the room. Brendon gingerly sat down, half-expecting to be eaten.

"The Church of the Latter Day Saints," said Brendon, and added, "I'm Mormon." People didn't always connect the two.

"Ah yes, I'm aware of it," said Mr Waterstone. "They have some things in common with the Seven Day Aventists, I believe."

"Oh yeah?"

"Hmm, indeed. Well, I am not an elder in the LDS. I'm not exactly affiliated to any specific Christian religion, unless it's to all of them. A girl last year wished me to hear her confession - Catholic, you know. I told her the same thing I'll tell you: I am always ready and willing to listen. But I can't offer you absolution, nor can I offer you true religious guidance. For that, you'll need to consult your own wisdoms. However -" he beamed, and it lit up his face. Brendon realised he was smiling back. "- an friendly ear is often the best source of comfort. Is anything troubling you right now?"

An image flashed across Brendon's mind: the same one that had kept him up for hours last night. It had Ryan's face and Bert's breathy moans, and remembering it even now made Brendon's stomach clench.

"No," he said brightly. "My parents will be happy we've talked, that's the main thing."

"Is it?" said Mr Waterstone. When Brendon just smiled, Mr Waterstone said, "Well, my door is always open. But you, I think, have class now." To frame his words, the bell clanged.

"Thanks, Mr Waterstone," said Brendon, jumping up - not without relief.

"It's my pleasure, Brendon," said Mr Waterstone. "Call again whenever you like."

Yeah, thought Brendon, like when hell freezes over. But he smiled his 'for the camera' smile and went to class.

+++

Brendon had been prepared for a hard slog during the first few days - or weeks, or months - of his time at St Jude's. The reality, while just as exhausting, was a little different.

For one thing, the atmosphere was pretty relaxed. That might have been unique to the freshman and sophomore classes, or the after-effect of the holidays. A lot of people talked about the Swiss Alps and Reykjavík, but a reassuringly equal number talked about Vermont and Colorado. Brendon hadn't been to any of them, so he kept his head down during those conversations.

Quite a few people said 'hi' and smiled at him. Patrick introduced him to someone called Pete, with the reassuring rider that 'if he does something, like, fucking insane, don't worry; it's just Pete.' He also hunted down a girl called Ashlee to sit with Brendon in chemistry and waved away Brendon's objections.

"Don't worry, Pete won't think you're hitting on her," he said seriously. "He's not weirdly possessive like Ryan."

"Ryan's weirdly possessive?"

"Well, he writes songs about his ex-girlfriends," said Patrick. "Come to think of it, so does Pete. Okay, they're both weirdly possessive, but you could totally take Pete. Ashlee can take Pete and she's basically tiny. Except for the hair."

Apart from this unfair (Brendon thought) slur on Ryan's character, Patrick was a good guy. They bonded mainly in their first class, which Brendon coasted through. All that time locked in his room, writing scraps of songs, apparently paid off. Not to mention that Patrick was impressed, although - "Don't mention this to Pete, okay? Not unless you want to be chain-ganged into writing songs for him at three in the morning. He's already got me doing it. I don't want to see another man go down."

Actually, Brendon detected a hint of possessiveness in Patrick's tone - but that was okay. Brendon totally got that. Besides, they ran into Pete between classes and Brendon was left with the impression of a small whirlwind of jumbled words and jabby fists. Patrick was welcome (and Ryan was hotter. Objectively speaking).

Ryan waved to him at lunch but didn't come over, and Brendon didn't even feel desolate. He was surrounded by Patrick and Keltie and Ashlee, as well as Patrick's friends Joe and Andy. Joe was a not-so-secret Harry Potter fan, and Brendon spent most of the lunch hour dissecting the books with him. Joe thought Harry and Hermione should have got together; Brendon thought he was crazy. It was the first lunch Brendon had enjoyed since grade school and swapping pixie sticks.

After school, he went upstairs to get changed. It was interesting, spending a whole day at school and never being judged - or judging - on the basis of clothes and shoes and accessories. But now it was crunch time. Melanie's hour of triumph (or disaster) loomed.

Bert beat him to it: he was lolling on the bed with two other guys. Brendon recognised them from yesterday. One had a dyed-red, straight-ironed fringe and the other, lank black hair and a turned-up nose. The curtains were tightly drawn and a sweet, clinging smell filled the room. Brendon coughed and waved a hand in front of his face.

"Sorry, little dude," said Bert, in a tone of lax guilt. All three pulled their hands out from under the bedcovers, holding limp cigarettes. Brendon wasn't stupid: he knew what a joint was. Admittedly, this was mainly from the cautionary lectures in health class. "Thought you were the narcs."

"Yes, because nothing about this situation looked suspicious at all," said Brendon dryly. "Also, you might set the bed on fire."

"Covered," said the lank-haired one hoarsely. He gestured to a wastebin full of water.

"Yeah, it's not like it'd be the first time," giggled the other boy.

"Brendon, these are my homies, Gee and Fiero." Bert took a deep drag, giving Fiero time to slap his arm and squeak, "Don't call me Fiero!"

"Hey." Brendon essayed a wave. Gee waved back. "So, I'm. Gonna get changed now."

Bert gestured with his spliff. "Don't let us stop you."

"The human body is a beautiful work of art," said Gee earnestly. "You shouldn't be ashamed of it."

"Gee," said Bert, "shut the fuck up."

"You shut up, dickface."

"Hey, kid," said Fiero. "Open the cupboard doors. It kind of makes a, you know. Dressing room thing."

"You're only encouraging him in his repression," said Gee, with a reproving expression.

"Dude, he's blushing. I'm embarrassed for him."

Brendon picked up his clothes and did as Fiero suggested, mentally deciding to change in the bathroom from then on. At least the showers were big roomy stalls with hooks for towels: he didn't think he could have handled a communal set-up.

He was conscious of the fact that anyone on Bert's bed just had to crane their neck a little to get a view of his naked ass. Their conversation revolved around two people called Mikey and Alicia. It floated over Brendon's head as he struggled into his jeans and tried to remember if they'd fit in the store.

There was a mirror behind the door. Brendon eyed himself sideways as he put away his uniform, hoping it wasn't obvious. He thought he looked okay. He usually bummed around in hoodies and jeans and sneakers. The only difference now was that the hoodie was lavender, the jeans were skin-tight and the sneakers had little stars on them.

He crossed back to his bed to fetch his new glasses. Lack of sleep and the early start meant he'd forgotten to wear them that day, reaching instinctively for his old black ones. The red frames felt cold and unmistakeably new on his nose.

"I don't know what you were worried about," said Bert. "I didn't see any disfiguring birthmarks."

Brendon flushed. "You looked?"

"Ha, your face," said Bert gleefully, which, unfortunately, wasn't a 'no.' "Speaking of." He sat up and started stripping off his school sweater, which was Brendon's cue to leave.

Gee floated off the bed and caught Brendon by the shoulders before he could escape. Up close, Gee did not smell particularly good. There were hints of eau de sweat and old sock mixed in with the pungent scent of pot. Gee brought his face closer until their foreheads were touching. Brendon's eyes crossed.

"Don't be ashamed, little flower," he whispered.

"Did you just call -"

"You are a wondrous child of the universe," said Gee. He kissed the bridge of Brendon's nose; or maybe he licked it - it was pretty wet. "Also, you have a great ass. Here, have a brownie."

"You looked too?"

"We all did," said Fiero, cackling. "First rule: never turn your back when you change." He paused. "Actually, that's not right. That's so, so wrong."

"Are you saying there's something wrong with dick?" demanded Gee. Brendon made his escape while they thrashed out the argument. It kind of sounded like blowjobs would be involved. He looked down at the small, crumbling square Gee had pushed into his hand. There were no bins in sight, so he just shoved it into his mouth. It tasted more gingery than Brendon liked. By the time he reached G four, he was wondering if Gee had used gone-off milk in his baking, because he felt dizzy and strange.

Ryan was wearing his bowler hat again, this time with a silk flower stuck through the band. The first thing Brendon did was go up to him and bat it, giggling. It seemed like the thing to do.

Ryan's face went through a whole flipbook of expressions before settling on astonishment. "Oh my - have you been smoking up?"

"I like your flower," said Brendon dreamily. He reached for it, but Ryan grabbed his wrist. Brendon felt himself forced into a chair. Spencer's face appeared in his side view.

"Spencer Smith!" he cried. "Spencer Smith the fifth. Spencer Smith, don't you think Ryan's flower is awesome?"

"That depends," said Spencer. "Are we talking metaphors here? Because I gotta tell you, that ship has sailed -"

"Fucking shut up, oh my god. Who gave you the pot?"

"He's got pot?" said Spencer.

"Who's got pot?" asked Gabe, strolling in arm in arm with Jon.

"I have," said Jon.

"Well, duh," said Spencer.

"Did you give Brendon pot?" demanded Ryan, turning on Jon. "He's Mormon! He's - oh, this is just great."

"I didn't give him any," said Jon, sounding injured. He looked at Gabe, who looked back and pulled a face. "Did I?"

"Don't ask me, I was baked all afternoon," said Gabe. "Maybe it was that purple ostrich I saw. It wanted to talk to me about the cobra. Did I ever tell you about my cobra?"

"Shut the fuck up about your cobra," said Ryan dangerously. "I will fucking cut you, I swear."

"Who do you think you are - Vicky?" said Gabe. "You know she's not allowed near knives anymore."

"Did someone say my name? And by someone, I mean 'it better not be you, Gabriel.'" Vicky stomped into the room in a very short dress and eighteen-hole black docs painted with whiteout unicorns. Gabe made a sort of spluttering noise.

"You have such pretty legs, Victoria," he said, with such hopelessness it sounded like he was expecting the punch to the gut that he did, in fact, get.

"God, Jon," she said, wrinkling her nose. "Starting early, aren't we? Can't you at least wait till the meeting's over? Or bake brownies?"

"It wasn't me," said Jon. "I resent this suspicion because, you know, I didn't do it. Whatever it was."

Brendon giggled. He tugged Ryan down by a scarf and said, "Hey, guess what. Guess what my secret is."

"What?" sighed Ryan.

"Gee kissed me on the nose." Brendon pointed, in case Ryan hadn't caught that part. "Right there."

Ryan's frown cleared just as Spencer said, "He's rooming with Bert, remember?"

"Holy shit," said Ryan. "Contact high. Unless - you didn't eat anything Bert gave you, did you?"

"Bert peeked," said Brendon with grave disapproval.

"I'll take that as a yes," said Ryan. "Probably. Gabe, go to the hall and get some milk."

"Why me?" protested Gabe.

"Oh, let's see if I can remember - 'please, please, let me in the drama club, I'll do anything!'" Ryan crossed his arms. "This is anything."

Gabe shuffled off grumbling, still rubbing his stomach. Brendon beamed up at Ryan. He felt slightly woozy, and his hand was still tangled in Ryan's poncho. He tugged and Ryan sort of fell sideways into the armchair.

"Ryan," whispered Brendon, "I really love your flower."

"Here." Ryan plucked the flower from his hat and tucked it behind Brendon's ear. "Now shut up."

Brendon beamed and snuggled into Ryan's arm. Vicky kicked his foot. "Nice threads," she said. "Where're they from, the little girl's section?"

"Huh?"

"Cut it out," said Ryan.

"What? Isn't that where you shop too?" Vicky smirked. "A match made in -"

"Actually, these jeans are Keltie's," said Ryan. "Now cut it out."

A cold hand of sobriety slapped Brendon's face at the word Keltie. "Uh. Uh, I don't feel so good."

"You gonna throw up?" asked Ryan.

"No. Yes. Maybe?"

"Spencer, get him to the bathroom," sighed Ryan. "I need to have a little talk with Bert and Co."

"What about the club?" protested Vicky.

"Greta isn't here yet and neither are her cookies," said Ryan. "Go do homework or something."

"Don't go," mumbled Brendon, but between Vicky's expletives, Jon's continuing poor-me saga, Ryan's comebacks and Spencer's grunts as he attempted to lever Brendon out of the chair, no one heard.

+++

"So that was a crummy start to this," said Brendon, his face flat against the cold porcelain.

"But memorable," said Spencer. He was holding Brendon's glasses. He'd offered to hold Brendon's hair too, but Brendon wasn't that feeble. He'd have let Ryan hold his hair. On the other hand, he wouldn't have let Ryan come in, because gross, vomit.

The outer door screamed open and closed with a giant crash. "Hello, little mousies," said Gabe, his voice more booming than usual. Brendon blamed the bathroom-tile acoustics. "Sharing a stall, I see. Won't Ross be jealous?"

"Did you bring the milk?" called Spencer. He opened the stall door. Instead of waiting outside it like a normal person, Gabe crowded in next to Spencer. His day-glo Vans poked Brendon in the leg.

"Wow," he said, sounding overly interested, "that's, like - do you think it's dysentery?"

"No." Spencer grabbed the glass from Gabe's hand and crouched down. "Here. This might settle your stomach."

"Thanks." Brendon took the glass in both hands and had a cautious taste. He was the object of Gabe's intense attention for a whole five seconds, before Gabe turned the full wattage on Spencer.

"So Ross is going to string up Bert by his toenails," said Gabe conversationally. "I think there will be blood. I don't think it will be Bert's."

"He said he was going to talk to him," said Spencer.

"Sure, yeah." Gabe propped one leg against the wall, which shuddered. "But you know how it is with damsels in distress. You start out with peace-talks and end up with fisticuffs at dawn. Only, in Ross' case it'd be, like," he sniggered, "girlish flailing at dawn."

"You're just lucky Vicky can't come in here," said Spencer. "I gotta go find him before Finch does." He did a manly-punch thing to Brendon's shoulder, only softer. "You stay here until you feel better. I'll check on you once I'm sure Ryan's still alive, okay?"

"Don't worry about -" But Spencer was already pounding out the door. "It," finished Brendon. He sipped his milk.

"Are you gonna throw up again?" asked Gabe.

"I hope not." Brendon squinted at Gabe. It was a long way up and made his neck hurt. "Are you into that or something?"

"Hell yeah," said Gabe. "I'm totally hardcore. Speaking of which, toenails. I'm gonna jet. Don't die, okay."

"I'll try," said Brendon. Gabe darted away, a huge neon dragonfly.

When he was sure the coast was clear, Brendon took the silk flower out of his kangaroo pocket and twirled it. He had a sizzling headache; his stomach felt empty and torn. But his overpowering feeling was shame. He'd made a total ass of himself, for once not on purpose.

At a loose end, he wandered back to G four, empty glass in hand. The room was completely deserted. Brendon wondered if he should go after the others. Then he remembered he was the cause of Ryan's possible fight to the death and decided his presence would only make things worse.

G four was in the old wing of the school. There were fat cherubs leering from every corner of the ceiling and a huge, ornate marble fireplace. The furniture was the sort Brendon had seen through the windows of antique stores, but battered and frayed. All the armchairs were leaking stuffing, and the patterned carpet bore the faint marks of muddy shoes. Brendon liked it.

He put the glass down on a teetering table, which was stacked high with sheet music. Brendon started to flip through it when, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted something that made his breath catch. He immediately abandoned the music and ran over.

The keys were yellow with age; one of the legs was propped up on a bundle of old newspapers. It was still the most beautiful thing Brendon had ever seen, and - as he discovered by rippling out a scale - perfectly in tune.

There was no proper piano stool, but Brendon dragged over a spindly chair that was about the right height. He hummed to himself as he played a D scale in thirds, thinking out what he could play by memory. He settled on the Entertainer, played it twice for the fun of it, and followed it up with Chopin's Minute Waltz. He reached the sostenuto middle section before a slight cough gave away his audience.

Brendon's fingers automatically slipped. He snatched his hands away from the keyboard and rubbed his mouth with them, feeling his skin prickle all over.

"Don't stop," said Ryan.

"Sorry, I didn't know if I was allowed to play this or not -"

"Are you kidding?" Ryan advanced into the room. He'd been leaning against the doorjamb for God knew how long. He wasn't noticeably bloody or dead. "I totally have to show you the proper music rooms. This is only for when we put on musicals or whatever. Why didn't you say something?"

"Like what?" Brendon felt a little snappish. He thumbed a C sharp, putting on just enough pressure to ring out a shallow note.

"'Hi, I'm Brendon and I'm a musical genius' would have been a good start." Ryan sat down beside Brendon without asking permission, his leg flush against Brendon's thigh. "Play something else, Sam."

"I'm not that good," said Brendon. "I'm mean, I'm okay, but genius is taking it a bit far. Hey, what happened with Bert?"

"I couldn't find him," said Ryan. "You know, you should ask about switching off rooms. It was fine when Bert was with that space-case Quinn, but if it makes you uncomfortable -"

"Yeah, maybe." Brendon played a trill. "Look, it's fine. Don't worry about it."

Ryan was silent for a minute. Brendon absently traced his fingers over the keys, playing without sound. "I like your glasses, by the way," said Ryan eventually.

Brendon whipped around and almost broke his nose on Ryan's shoulder. "They're new," he said.

"They're cool," said Ryan. "Hang on -" He took Brendon's chin in one warm hand and rubbed his finger along Brendon's upper lip. Brendon's brain froze, unable to process whatever Ryan was doing. "You had a milk moustache," Ryan said, with a tiny, tiny smile.

"Oh right." Between blushing and nearly falling off the chair, Brendan felt a bit frazzled. "Gabe brought me milk. I drank it."

"C'mon." Ryan's shoulder nudged Brendon's. "Play me a little tune. I'll even close my eyes if you want."

Brendon was saved from answering by the entrance of a curly-headed blonde girl. She carried a tray covered in a dish-cloth with evident difficulty. Brendon jumped up to help her.

"Thanks," she gasped, once the tray was safely deposited on the table. "Cookies are heavier than they look."

"You're Greta!" Brendon beamed. Keltie and Ashlee and Vicky (in a scary mistress-of-pain way) were all hot, but Greta was adorable. She was wearing a floral-print dress and a cardigan. "I'm Brendon."

"You're Brendon? Aha. I see." Greta's eyes travelled over him slowly and she smiled - a secret sort of smile, but not a mean one. "Yes, Ryan mentioned we'd be getting a new member for the drama club. And Gabe, but Gabe sort of turns up everywhere eventually. Like a fungus."

"Did someone say my name?" Gabe strode through the door, Ryland squashed under one arm. "Greta, my love, allow me to worship you."

"There's no need, I brought enough cookies for everyone," said Greta. "I'm going to fail home ec if I keep using class time for this, but whatever."

"If you give me the recipe, we can trade off days," offered Ryland. "Mr Beckett nearly cried when he tasted my lasagne, so I think I'm good."

"You're a sweetheart." Greta pecked him on the cheek, and he blushed. Gabe frowned.

"No kiss for me?"

Greta sighed. "Fine. Bend down, you big goof." Gabe obediently crouched, and Greta pressed a kiss to his jaw. At that moment, Vicky strode in.

"You're a wanton trollop, Saporta," she said. "Hey Greta, I have some carbolic acid if you want to wash out your mouth." She whipped off the dish-cloth and stuffed two cookies into her mouth.

Brendon sidled up to Greta. She smelled of clean water. "Hey," he said shyly, "do you mind -?"

"Go ahead." Greta smiled and proffered a cheek. Brendon hesitated - he'd only been after a cookie - but Greta's skin was rosy and soft-looking, so Brendon quickly kissed it. And after all, he got his cookie, because Vicky grabbed his hand and stuffed one into it.

"'s 'uckin' good," she said with her mouth full.

"Do you let everyone kiss you?" whispered Brendon.

"No," Greta whispered back, "only the nice boys."

"Gabe?" said Brendon uncertainly.

"Gabe is nice," said Greta. "He just doesn't know it yet. You, on the other hand, are very sweet. I think Ryan's adopted you. You should let him."

"I already have." Brendon's gaze wandered over to where Ryan was still sitting by the piano, now with Keltie on his knee.

"You might be just what he needs," added Greta.

"Huh?" Brendon wrenched his eyes away. "Sorry, did you say something?"

"Yes." Greta smiled. "Have another cookie."

+++

Brendon still tended to walk fast between classes. He didn't think being late would leave the best impression and he wasn't entirely sure where everything was. So far, rushing had lead to several collisions with open lockers, handrails and - on one painfully memorable occasion - a water fountain. Ryan was endlessly amused when he came across Brendon running full-tilt, tie over his shoulder and hair wild.

"Take it easy," he warned. "People tend to be more breakable than doors."

It was a prophetic warning: the very next day Brendon went round a corner a little too fast and bashed the shoulder of a boy standing nearby. It was a small bump, really, but Brendon was already babbling apologies when the boy turned around.

The boy was short, but his friends were tall. More than that; they loomed. Brendon felt an uncomfortably familiar twist of the gut and tried to brush it off.

"Who are you?" asked the boy, cutting through Brendon's last, breathless sentence.

"I'm Brendon Urie," said Brendon. "Um. Hi."

"You're new." It wasn't a question. The boy's eyes raked over Brendon, from the black lace-ups he'd had for years to the tie that had once belonged to someone called Ray Toro. A smile spread across the boy's face. He opened his arms so that the pile of books he was carrying splattered on the floor. "Pick up my books."

"What?" Brendon was pretty sure where the boy was going with this, but there was always a chance -

"I said, pinkie, pick up my books," the boy repeated. "You made me drop them, running into me like that." One of his friends casually cracked his knuckles.

Or not. "Right," said Brendon. He bent his knees.

"Wait," said the boy. Brendon felt a flash of hope, immediately doused. "You haven't apologised yet. For making me drop my books."

"I -"

"I hope you're not going to argue, pinkie," said the boy sweetly.

"No," said Brendon in defeat. He crouched down and scooped up as many books as he could. The boy lazily flicked a toe at one, sending it scooting across the corridor. With a sigh, Brendon tucked the ones he had under his arm and went after it.

"Brendon?" Ryan's voice. Oh, god. The last person Brendon would ever want to witness his humiliation just had to be passing.

"Hi," said Brendon tightly. "Don't you have class?"

"Don't you?" countered Ryan.

"Pinkie," called the boy, "I didn't ask you to take my fucking books for a walk."

Brendon pressed his lips together and crossed the corridor without looking at Ryan. "Here."

"I'm still waiting for my apology," said the boy, not taking the books.

"Hey Chris," said Ryan, over Brendon's shoulder. Brendon winced. "I thought you'd been shot by state troopers?"

"What?" said Chris.

"No, wait," said Ryan, "that was just a nice dream I had." He yanked the books out of Brendon's arms and threw them at Chris' legs. He yelped. "Funny, I thought you were on probation for bullying. Or was that another dream?"

Chris snapped his fingers; his two lackeys whipped up his books. "See you round, pinkie," he said, with soft venom.

"Watch out," called Ryan, "I hear they shoot on sight now." His face twitched in grim satisfaction as Chris walked away, a little faster than necessary.

Brendon hunched his shoulders, burning up in shame. Ryan bumped against him before catching sight of his face.

"Hey, hey," he said. "Don't let him get to you. What were you doing anyway, picking up his books?"

"It's ..." Brendon hesitated. "It's just easier to do what they say."

"They?"

Brendon shrugged and turned away.

"Listen, that shithead used to pick on Spencer too," said Ryan fiercely. "Spencer gets noble sometimes, and he didn't tell me for ages. Just 'cause Chris is the tenth de Majola and his father, like, owns Argentina doesn't mean he's better than you. Or anyone. Except maybe maggots."

"What happened?" asked Brendon. "With Spencer?"

"It all came out when I found him writing essays for Chris," said Ryan. "That was fun - Chris nearly flunked the year when I maybe let Miss Finch know. Also, I think Gabe sat on him for a while."

Brendon managed a small smile. Ryan squeezed his arm gently, just once. The day suddenly felt warmer. "Don't think you have to endure that kind of treatment, okay? Just because you're not some inbred blueblood. Or for any reason. You can't let him think he can get away with it - that's half the problem."

"Thanks," said Brendon.

"Speaking of crazy, how are you getting on with Bert?"

"Oh," said Brendon, "fine. He's, like - loud, and stuff. But he's not a bad guy. You don't like him much, huh."

"He called Spencer fat in the seventh grade," said Ryan fiercely. "You don't just forget shit like that."

"Obviously," Brendon murmured. He felt Ryan's hand on his arm for a long time, even when they'd parted ways to go to class.

+++

Brendon twirled the phone cord around his finger, letting his mother talk on. She was in the middle of relating a fascinating story about Mrs Zuckerman's cat. Brendon was a fan of cats in general, but Mrs Zuckerman's were devil spawn with claws. Plus, his quarters were running down pretty fast.

"So how are things you with you, honey?" asked Mrs Urie. Brendon, who in the meantime had become absorbed in the drawings Gee had done on one of his chucks, jolted back to the conversation.

"Oh, fine," he said. "Patrick and I got an A for our music project - remember, I told you about it? We had to compose a mini film score. And Ashlee and I are still doing experiments in chem." He carefully neglected to mention the previous day's exploits, which included Ashlee's exploding soap.

"Ashlee, Ashlee," said Mrs Urie. "That's - Ryan's girlfriend?"

"No, Ryan's girlfriend is Keltie." Brendon frowned and irritably swatted the cords of his hoodie. He hated when one of them got way longer than the other. "Ashlee is Pete's girlfriend."

"Oh." Brendon wasn't imagining the disappointment in her voice. "And you aren't having any problems like before?"

"You mean bullying?" Brendon spoke too loudly. A smacking noise made him jump, but it was only the leafless branches of a tree hitting the window.

"Yes, that. Stephen, go all the way out. He's in the house. Oh, Brendon, I've got to go."

Brendon spotted a flicker of bright purple. "Okay, bye Mom." He hung up just in time: Gabe's long arm snuck over his shoulder and grabbed the handset as the dial tone buzzed.

"Hello? Hello? There's no one there. Have you been scaring off 1800 numbers again?"

"Oh, is that that time? Goodnight." Brendon walked away as the bell began to clang lights-out.

"Not so fast, mousie." Gabe spun around and attached his paw to Brendon's arm. In one impressive move, he swung Brendon bodily over his shoulder.

"What are you doing? Put me down!" Brendon drummed his fists against Gabe's back, although not very hard: if Gabe dropped him on his head right now, he'd die.

"Patience, young grasshopper," droned Gabe. "Damn, you're heavy. What are you packing in those tiny pants, bundles of rocks?"

"Froot Loops, actually," sighed Brendon, resigned to his fate.

They didn't go very far - clearly Gabe's back wasn't up to the challenge. Just up a short flight of stairs, three doors down to the right -

"This is Ryan's suite," said Brendon. He'd only been there twice, but he remembered it with crystal clarity.

"Can't get a thing past you," panted Gabe. He turfed Brendon over his shoulder and rocked back on his heels. Brendon stumbled into the door, which wasn't latched, so he literally fell across the doorstep. It wasn't exactly the entrance he'd imagined making to Ryan's party - because it was a party. There was music and bowls of chips and bottles of definitely-not-soda and people making out -

"I got him," said Gabe to the room at large. "One owner from new. See?" He prodded Brendon in the back. "Shiny."

To be fair, Brendon was fairly shiny today. Gee had taken a glitter pen to Brendon's shoes at some point when Brendon wasn't there to strangle him first. Considering the tiny space and the tools he had to work with, the drawings were pretty sweet. Brendon just hoped what he thought was a dragon actually was a dragon, and not Gee's idea of sex ed. Co-ordinating laundry was also something Brendon had trouble with, so he ended up borrowing from Spencer a lot. Today's t-shirt was a washed-out lilac with a unicorn on the front, which both Spencer and Brendon decided belonged to Spencer's sister and was in his wardrobe by mistake.

"Stop molesting him," said Ryan. Gabe gave a huge indignant snort, but was quickly distracted by tortilla dip. Ryan rolled his eyes.

Brendon stood stock still in the doorway, staring. Ryan and Keltie were cuddled into the same armchair, which wasn't unusual for them. Ryan's loose-lipped grin, his flushed face and wrinkled shirt, on the other hand - they were all pretty unusual. Downright unique, in fact. Brendon gulped and wondered if he was too sparkly to make his escape unseen.

"Brendon!" Spencer's greeting broke into his thoughts. "C'mere. I need your help."

"Okay," said Brendon. Anything to get away from Ryan's melty limbs and the way he was nuzzling Keltie's neck - although the study room he shared with Brent wasn't exactly spacious, so there was a limit to how far away Brendon could get. The other side of the room, where Spencer was lolling on a desk, was the best he could do.

"Ryland's kicking my ass here," complained Spencer.

"Well, if you'd stop trying to spell with a myspace dictionary..." said Ryland. Brendon peered over his shoulder.

"You guys are playing Scrabble?"

"Nonono." Spencer waved his hands, almost taking Brendon's eye out. "It's Action Scrabble. Like, if you get a triple-word score, you drink three shots."

"And despite that," said Ryland, "he's still drunk."

"Yeah, I'm losing kind of badly." Spencer sighed. "But vodka makes everything better."

"As long as you cheat," muttered Ryland.

"You are wise, my friend." Jon threw his arms around Spencer's neck, not noticing how he crushed Spencer's windpipe in the process. "You know what's even better than vodka?"

"Bob Dylan's early work?" said Ryland. Jon eyeballed him. "Oh, sorry. Silly of me to expect something original." He drifted chips-ward.

"He's just mad because Gabe won't let him have any," whispered Jon. "Gabe's wise too. Remember that time he superglued chips to every faculty member's car and blamed it on Gabe?"

"Kind of ... dying, here," choked Spencer. Jon let him go and smiled at Brendon.

"Do you want - oh, right, no. Mormon," he said, before Brendon could open his mouth. Brendon didn't want pot - of course he didn't want pot - but it was still annoying when people just assumed that without asking.

Warm, sugary breath on his ear made him jump. "Hey, hey." Ryan's hand lingered on the bare skin between his t-shirt and jeans for a long second. "You look kinda skittish. Oh - I got you something."

"What?" asked Brendon, but Ryan's long fingers were already around his wrist and tugging. He followed Ryan over to the second desk, which was piled high with cans of beverages. He tried not to notice the smeared lipstick around Ryan's mouth. Keltie was a beautiful girl and she and Ryan were happy together; Brendon just couldn't understand where all this anger was coming from.

Ryan plopped a soda can into Brendon's arms, with the expression of someone who'd just invented cheese. "Red Bull," Brendon read off the label. "Uh. Thanks?"

"I figured you wouldn't want to drink beer, so I laid in extra soda," said Ryan. His smile was wide and sloppy. Brendon preferred it when only he could see it. "You've never had Red Bull, right?"

Brendon shook his head, rolling the can between his palms. "Thanks," he said. "I - yeah. That's nice of you."

"I didn't want you to feel left out." Ryan wrapped an arm around Brendon's shoulder and hugged him close. Brendon closed his eyes in confused-happy agony. "It took for ever to get this party organised. I don't know, it's like people are really tired or something." He laughed, though Brendon couldn't see what was so funny about exhaustion. "Are you gonna drink that or what?"

"I -" Brendon was torn. He wanted to drink the soda - not just for Ryan's sake, but for his own. On the other hand, he'd made a bargain with God to get here. And he was, as Jon so rightly pointed out, Mormon. The no-caffeine rule was part of the deal. "Um."

"Oh, there's Vicky. Vicky!" yelled Ryan. He gave Brendon a parting squeeze and left him to try to high-five Vicky, an attempt that ended in resounding failure. Brendon quickly snapped the tab and tipped half the can into an empty beer bottle. It was still wrong, but it was less wrong than drinking it.

Within a few more minutes, the little study was crammed to capacity. The few available chairs seated at least three each, while most people lounged on the floor on duvets dragged from the adjoining bedroom. Brendon barely heard the intercom squalling "Final call, lights-out!"

"Hey." Brendon tapped Greta on the shoulder. She was a little flushed, her eyes over-bright. "Isn't this, like, against the rules?"

"Oh, sure it is," she agreed. "But Finch doesn't check up on Sundays. It's kind of given that we can stay up late, so long as we don't disturb anyone too much. And half the floor is in here, so..."

"Right," said Brendon. It was his first party. He decided he preferred the other times when the group got together. For one thing, there was always an aim in mind - whether it was Ryan pestering him to play the piano before everyone else arrived, or the more general purposes of the drama club and the Music Appreciation Club and the music society, which Brendon had joined on his own. For another, people weren't drunk. Now everyone was drunk, or if they weren't drunk they were getting there. Ryan wasn't the only one sloppily making out with his girlfriend. Only Gabe looked as uncomfortable as Brendon felt, and that was just because Vicky had recently kneed him in the groin.

It didn't take Gabe long to bounce back, though, which was why, for him, any punishment was more a retardant than a deterrent. "Spin the bottle time!" he yelled, twirling an empty Coors Light between his fingers.

"I claim Patrick!" said Pete. He abandoned Ashlee to wrap his arms around Patrick's middle. Patrick blushed and pushed him away although not, Brendon noted, with any real force. Ashlee took out a compact and reapplied her lipgloss.

"I don't think you quite understand the rules of this game," said Gabe.

"I'm gonna weight the bottle," said Pete. "Yo, give it here."

"Again with the this is not the rules," said Gabe. "Maybe you'll get really lucky and land on your girlfriend."

"What's the point of that? I can kiss her anytime."

"Not for another twenty minutes," called Ashlee, waving the lipgloss. "I want to get my money's worth."

"C'mon, c'mon!" Gabe herded people into the centre of the room. He had a long reach, so people quickly stopped trying and failing to evade him.

"Sit by me." Spencer pulled Brendon's elbow so hard he sat down with a thump. "I need the moral support."

"Okay." Brendon rubbed his funny bone. Clearly bowing out was not an option. He'd just have to pray the bottle didn't land on him. He wasn't sure where the Book of Mormon stood on kissing games. He had a feeling they hadn't featured greatly in the life of Joseph Smith.

If it never landed on him he'd never have to spin it, and if he didn't spin it he wasn't technically playing, so it didn't count...

"I hope I don't have to spin it," he muttered.

"Me too," said Spencer. "Gabe always accuses you of doing it on purpose. Like, it wasn't my fault I got Ryland three times. It should be renamed Seven Minutes in Hell when he's playing."

"What?" said Brendon. But at that moment Greta asked, "What's the deal if we get a same-sex spin?" and they were both distracted.

Gabe delicately placed the bottle in the centre of the jumbled circle. "None of us are homophobes -" he bared his teeth. "- right? So it shouldn't be a problem."

"Just wanted to be clear," said Greta. "Here, I saved you a space."

"You do love me." Gabe dropped and sprawled beside her. Greta just smiled and shook her head.

"I'm going first," announced Pete, who could always be relied upon to walk straight into the jaws of danger and humiliation. He gave the bottle an almighty spin. It jumped and juddered to a stop, neck pointing towards a blushing Patrick.

"You did weight it, you bastard," accused Gabe. But Pete had already wriggled over to Patrick to plant a wet, open-mouthed kiss on him. He held Patrick's face between both hands, even though it was obvious that Patrick wasn't going anywhere. He did say, 'Urg, spit,' when Pete eventually pulled away, but without much conviction.

Patrick's spin landed on Greta, and Patrick gave her a very chaste kiss on the lips. Greta got Keltie, to the general excitement of the room, and they shared a very long if closed-mouth kiss. Brendon stared at his own hands for most of it, feeling embarrassed without really knowing why.

Keltie spun for Ryan, and Gabe booed. "Get it over with - we've seen enough already."

Ryan flipped him off and kissed Keltie tenderly, his mouth moving slowly on hers. This time, Brendon couldn't look away. This time, it wasn't embarrassment that twisted his breath. It was a far hotter, deeper and more shameful emotion that Brendon completely denied the existence of. At least, until Ryan splayed his long slim fingers on the bottle and spun the neck towards Brendon.

There were a couple of catcalls, and Ryan smirked. That more than anything called up Brendon's fieriest blush. He'd known Ryan to be happy and sad, sulky, angry, pissed-off and serene, but he'd never seen that look before.

Ryan crawled over to him on hands and knees, while Brendon clenched his hands together so tightly the knuckles bloomed white. Brendon wanted to do hundreds of things - break his gaze away from Ryan's, run, kill Gabe - but he just sat, his arms and legs as useful as dried concrete.

Ryan shuffled closer until they were knee to knee. "Don't look so scared," he said in an undertone, but with an unreassuring grin. "I only bite by accident."

"Huh?" Brendon's voice came out all breathy and too high. He sucked his lower lip between his teeth and concentrated on the patch of dry skin just under Ryan's eyebrow.

"Sweet-talking is not part of the game!" called Gabe. "Hurry up, I want a turn."

"You're fucking insufferable," said Ryan. His movements practised and perfunctory, he cupped a hand to the back of Brendon's head and leaned in. His breath fluttered over Brendon's mouth for a brief moment before Ryan's eyelids slid to half mast and he closed the tiny gap.

His lips were slick - from beer, Keltie, naturally, Brendon didn't know. He could hear his own heartbeat, so fast it thrummed. Ryan glided his mouth back and forth over Brendon's, his thumb playing with the bump at the top of Brendon's spine. When he slipped away, after a few seconds and forever, Brendon was shaking. He stuffed his hands under his knees to stop the tremor.

"Wake up, mousie." Gabe clicked his fingers. "Your turn to spin." Beside him, Greta sent Brendon a speculative look.

The shivering in his spine still hadn't died. Brendon just hoped they would blame his weak spin on general lack of coordination. The bottle bumped around a few times and landed back on Brendon.

"That was crap, dude," said Jon. "How can you kiss yourself?"

"Go again," said Gabe.

Brendon shrugged apologetically and did as he was told. He was slowly regaining control over his own body, so the next spin was much better. It whirled round and round and round, till Brendon was dizzy from following it.

It landed on Ryan

Ryan laughed. His neck. Stretched out and pale. Brendon was mesmerised - didn't hear Gabe telling him to move, didn't comprehend a thing till Spencer poked him. Then realisation crashed in and he awkwardly knee-walked over to Ryan. Ryan's hand was tangled with Keltie's on the floor. Brendon felt his insides burn.

Get it over with, his brain chanted, something it definitely had in common with Gabe. Brendon didn't bother with his hands - he didn't know what to do with them anyway; he'd never kissed anyone before. Instead he used them to balance himself as he pressed forward. Ryan helpfully came halfway, and their mouths met in an off-centre graze that included a lot of Ryan's cheek and Brendon's nose.

"No way, dude," said Pete. "Second kiss has to have tongues."

"You used tongues on me," said Patrick accusingly.

"That was hardly our first kiss, Trick darling." Pete waggled his eyebrows; Patrick retreated in a huff.

Pete set up the chant and Gabe followed enthusiastically, as did Jon and Ashlee. Keltie giggled, and that was what did it for Brendon. His mind so ablaze he forgot he didn't have a clue what to do, he leaned forward and caught Ryan's mouth mid-smirk. It was slightly parted, which made it easier for Brendon to slide his tongue in. Somewhere far behind him, his brain freaked out.

Ryan made a little 'mff' sound and tilted his head. His fingertips touched Brendon's jaw and guided it to a different - a better angle. Now he could open his mouth wider and breathe deeper, falling into the kiss. His chest was swollen, demanding air, turning every breath into a gasp. It was only when Ryan's tongue brushed against his own that Brendon regained his senses. He jolted back and scraped his hand across his wet, sticky mouth.

"Holy shit, kid," said Pete. "They don't teach you that at Bible camp."

"Sign me up," murmured Gabe. Brendon scrambled to his seat and tried to hide behind Spencer. Spencer was goggling, though, so Brendon let his hair hang forward and used that instead. His cheeks were so hot; he wanted to press his freezing hands to them, but it would look too obvious.

The chatter in the room was so much white noise under the rushing in his ears. He didn't hear Gabe's groans of dismay or the argument he had with Ryan. All he knew was that, a few minutes later, Ryan stood over him with his hand outstretched.

"What?" said Brendon nervously. Ryan was wearing that look again, that dark smile.

"You coming?" asked Ryan, even as Brendon used his hand to haul himself to his feet. Ryan didn't let go, leading him across the room to the bedroom door while Brendon muttered apologies to all the people he tripped over.

"What is this?" he whispered.

"Seven Minutes in Heaven," said Ryan, and shut the door behind them.

+++

"Oh fuck, my head," groaned Ryan. He flopped backwards on to one of the duvet-less beds, exposing a good three inches of flat, pale belly and smooth peaks of hip. Brendon gnawed his lip raw and hovered near the bookcase. After a few more seconds of teeth-gnashing, Ryan flicked open an eye. "Siddown," he said. "Might as well be comfortable." Brendon sat on the other bed, and Ryan gurgled a laugh. He patted the space next to one of his sprawled legs. "No. Sit here."

"What's wrong?" said Brendon. He gingerly perched on the edge of the mattress, trying not to come into contact with any part of Ryan. It was hard: Ryan was gangly and the bed was small.

"Nothing," said Ryan. "I - nah, I won't bother sitting up. The room is kinda spinning, you know? Freaking fairground vertigo effect. You lie down, 'kay."

"What? Why?"

With great patience, Ryan said, "For the kissing section of this evening's entertainment."

"But we already did!" In case Ryan had already forgotten, Brendon added, "Twice!"

"Yeah, and my third spin landed on you, which means seven minutes of making out." Ryan scratched his neck, making his shirt ride up even further. "Sorry - I guess you haven't played this before, right?"

"Never." Brendon put his hand on the bed, next to Ryan's. "Won't Keltie mind?"

"What - no. It's only a game. She did seven minutes with Spence three times the last time we played this. And I got Gabe once, which is not anything I'd like to repeat again, ever."

"Oh." Brendon put his hand back in his lap. For some reason, Ryan's explanation only made things worse.

"C'mere," coaxed Ryan. He groped around Brendon's leg until he found his hand again, and used it to pull him down. Brendon's balance, already precarious, failed him entirely: he sprawled across Ryan's chest. The heat of his skin easily overcame two flimsy layers of cloth.

"That's better," said Ryan. He patted Brendon's face with genial drunkenness. "You've got a really pretty mouth. I bet you were real popular at your last school, huh? The, ha, toast of the town."

"Not exactly," said Brendon.

"You're all blushing! How cute." Ryan rubbed circles into the hollow of Brendon's throat. Brendon really, really liked that. It had to be a sin, only - Ryan had said it was a game. Without the intent - without Ryan even liking him that way - what did it mean? "Hey, hey." He slid his hand around Brendon's neck and tugged him down, ear to Ryan's mouth. "Have you ever made out with a guy before?"

"Uh..."

"You can tell me," whispered Ryan. Damp lips moving against the shell of his ear, and Brendon was falling, fast and headlong into the abyss. "You haven't, have you? I'm your first."

"Yeah." Brendon cleared his throat, but his voice still came out husky. "Yeah."

Ryan's teeth ghosted over his earlobe, and Brendon bit back a shuddering sigh. He twisted his hand in the front of Ryan's shirt and stared at it as he mumbled, "First everything."

"Huh?" Ryan jerked his head back. "You mean you've never - with anyone?"

Brendon shook his head. Bits of cloth peeked up between his fingers, pulling at the buttonholes and opening tiny windows of skin. You idiot! his mind screamed. He'll think you're a total loser, you fool, you fool, you fool.

"Oh, man," sighed Ryan. His neck arched on the pillow, his eyes closed, long shadowy sweeps of lashes. Brendon stared and stared. "I'm so sorry. I should have tried to set you up with someone else for your first time. Greta, or even Ashlee - she's so sweet, she would, seriously -"

"It's fine," said Brendon. "It doesn't matter. Only a game, right?"

"It's your first kiss," stressed Ryan.

"Actually, two kisses ago was my first kiss," said Brendon. "This would make my third. So no pressure."

Ryan touched the tip of his tongue to his lower lip as he stared up at Brendon - not smiling, but not frowning either. Of its own volition, Brendon's grip tightened. He yanked Ryan up by his shirt and kissed him roughly. He had no idea, he was probably doing it all wrong, but -

Ryan moaned. He moaned into Brendon's mouth and slid his hands up Brendon's sides, catching and lifting his t-shirt. Brendon could feel bare hot skin against bare hot skin where their hips met. It sent flares shooting up his spine - and down, too, but Ryan was licking into his mouth and that was the important thing.

Brendon's breath hitched as Ryan scraped his fingernails along Brendon's ribs. He was lying bracketed by Ryan's bent knees, which held him tightly in place. Brendon didn't care. He was happy to stroke the prickly strange skin under Ryan's jaw and push his tongue into Ryan's mouth until he couldn't breathe from it. He fisted his hand in Ryan's shirt when Ryan sucked lightly on his lower lip - "You're always biting it - I'll kiss it better" - and accidentally snapped off a button. That didn't matter either, because it was more skin, smooth and hard and Brendon wanted, he wanted -

"Time's up!" Gabe called, swinging on the door handle. Brendon jerked in shock, his tongue still roughly brushing against Ryan's. There was a second of complete serenity, then Brendon rolled away and on to the floor, trying to tug his shirt down. On the bed, Ryan shrugged his crumpled shirt straight and pulled his hands through his messy curls.

"Well, well, well," said Gabe. He eyed Brendon speculatively, his gaze focusing on Brendon's mouth - which was, he realised, hot and sore. "Well, well, well."

"Shut up," snapped Ryan.

"Well," said Gabe, still staring at Brendon. "The worm turns at last."

"What worm?" said Brendon.

"Gabe!" called Ashlee from the next room. "Did you invite Bert?"

"What?" said Gabe and Brendon together. Gabe slid out the door, while Ryan and Brendon followed more slowly. Brendon felt a huge, guilty heat build up behind his eyes. Ryan didn't say a word, but Brendon couldn't be sure if that meant anything, because he didn't dare to look at Ryan's face.

Bert and Gee stood in the centre of the room like two hairy mammoths in a glass case. There was a certain earthiness to their appearance - and odour - that called up tusked beasts and dung heaps.

"You!" Bert pointed at Brendon with his lighter. "You went to a party without inviting your roommate? That's harsh, dude."

"Harsh." Gee nodded.

"Well, I didn't even know I was going to it," hedged Brendon. "It kind of came as a surprise to me, too."

"You look a little rough," said Gee. "What have you been..." His eyes widened to comical proportions and he nudged Bert, giggling. They were high, Brendon realised. They usually were, but it was different seeing it against the backdrop of his drunk but faintly disapproving friends.

"You've been making out!" sing-songed Bert. "Who with - no. Not the Ice Queen. No."

"Yeah, hi, my name is Ryan."

"I know that, Ice Queen." Bert sent Ryan a withering look. "That's so - so - what's the word I'm thinking of, Gee? Starts with an A."

"Adorable?" snorted Gee, and buried his laugh in Bert's shoulder.

"Close, but no. Um," said Bert. "Ah, ah - appropriate! Yeah, that's it."

"Please, your Earth logic is confusing me," said Ryan dryly. He stepped past Brendon. Their arms brushed, raking up a tumult of sense-memory. Brendon hissed in a shaky breath.

"I mean, Ryan," said Bert, "Ryan, Ryan, Ryan."

"Finally! After only three hundred years, it sinks in."

"No. Ryan. That's the name he -" Bert waved unsteadily at Brendon. "- always moans in his sleep. I forgot, are Mormons allowed to beat off? Or was that just -"

"Bert," said Gee, "no."

"Yeah, maybe you'd like to shut up now." Ryan's voice was steely. "Or here's a thought: leave."

"What did I say?" said Bert.

"Shit about my friends," said Ryan. "I don't welcome that at my parties, thanks."

"It's not shit," protested Bert. "It's true. Right, Brendon?"

"Hit this jackass' mute button," said Ryan. Each word was clipped. "Brendon. Hello?"

"I -" To his horror, Brendon felt himself flush. The flag of guilt, whispered a triumphant part of his brain. Bert and Ryan were both staring at him, as were a number of other people who'd transferred their attention from spin-the-bottle. You need to say no, screamed another part of his brain, the one that had wanted to kiss and kiss and kiss Ryan. You need to say -

"Brendon?" said Ryan again, sounding unsure. And unhappy.

Brendon turned and fled.

Part Three
 
 
Current Mood: guiltyguilty
Current Music: cath // death cab for cutie
 
 
 
bitchplzscenesalsa on May 28th, 2009 02:32 am (UTC)
Heads up, you missed a spot: "Between blushing and nearly falling off the chair, Brendan felt a bit frazzled" Not knocking you, just thought you'd like to know so you can change it. =)

I loved Jon's stoner moment in this.

But Bert...oh, Bert. You don't even realise you're doing it, do you? Poor Brendon.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Disney: Twilightscoradh on May 28th, 2009 11:16 am (UTC)
Hi, thank you! I'm a bit dumb, though, so you're going to have to point out more minutely what I missed (it looks fine to me, which is the problem in the first place...)

I think Jon being a high-school stoner is possibly a very accurate reflection of his life. No really.

:D
bitchplzscenesalsa on May 29th, 2009 07:58 am (UTC)
Don't fret, we all have our moments, doesn't mean we're dumb.
Anyway, it says Brendan, instead of Brendon.

And I agree completely!
Especially after viewing the solid evidence of that 'camool' video he posted on twitter. Oh, Jon. <3
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: white dressscoradh on May 29th, 2009 02:46 pm (UTC)
OH BOY. In my defence, that's how we spell it here.

I have yet to see that. TO DO LIST.
Sayakakukiesnkrackers on June 21st, 2009 08:51 am (UTC)
Okay....little flower,Gerard?Seeiously?I smiled so hard at that.
I became like super embarassed for Brendon towards the end.Like I had to stop reading and just cover my face.Very nice imagery.Created a perfectly clear picture.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: anumberonme true lovescoradh on June 22nd, 2009 08:45 am (UTC)
Embarrassement is what being a teenager is all about! At least, in my experience...