A conversation with Ryan clears a few things up. And does Lou get a chance to fix things with Chris?
I'm sorry; this one's kinda short... More Loucer is coming, I promise!!! Although, XEvil_AngelX had the theory that there was a love triangle... O.o Sorry to break it to you, there isn't one. I am intrigued as to who you thought it would be between. I mean, the obvious two, but which other Panic! boy? Hmmm, maybe I wrote them too nice in this story! XD
Argh, exams next week. XP Wish me luck! :D
I couldn’t sleep.
I was tired – it was easy to tell from the way I yawned and how heavy my eyelids felt – but for some reason, I just couldn’t make the transition into sleep.
It wasn’t because I was in a strange place, surrounded by strange smells or even uncomfortable, because I was actually quite comfy. It was something else. Sighing heavily, I rolled over, letting my fingers trail across the fabric of the closed curtains. Brendon had already disappeared into his bunk ages ago, and I was sure I was the only one up. A strange feeling of claustrophobia over took me, and I felt like I just needed to get out and clear my head. Snapping my eyes open, I pulled the curtains back and carefully rolled out, avoiding further injury to my wrist. Standing up, the soft sounds of people sleeping surrounded me. ‘If you need anything during the night, just call or wake one of us up.’ I bit my lip. Yeah, because they wouldn’t mind being woken up in the middle of the night by the blind girl struck with a sudden case of insomnia to talk about mindless shit. Shaking my head, I turned and went to climb back into the bunk again when I remembered something. ‘I’ll probably stay up late,’ Ryan had said. I sighed. It was worth a shot.
Much like I did the previous night, I felt my way to the door that opened to the back lounge. I knocked lightly, rubbing my feet together and shifting my weight from side to side. When I got no response, I knocked again, and I had just turned and was going to head back to the bunk when my ears picked up footsteps.
“Lou,” Ryan said softly in surprise as he opened the door.
“Can... can I come in?” I asked, suddenly unsure of myself.
“Sure,” he said, mirroring Brendon’s actions from last night as he helped me to sit on the couch. I sighed, tucking my legs up underneath me and settling back against the cushions. “What’s up?” he asked.
I played with the hem of Spencer’s hoodie. “Nothing,” I said, then I shook my head. “I can’t sleep,” I told him. “Not because of the bunk; the bunk’s fine,” I added hurriedly, in case he got the wrong idea. “I just… thoughts and stuff going through my head, you know?”
“Yeah,” Ryan said. “I know what that’s like.” We sat in silence for a while – comfortable or uncomfortable, I don’t know – with me still fiddling with the hem and Ryan flicking pages of something every now and then. Then he spoke, and when he did, he sounded hesitant, like he didn’t know if he should say it or not.
“I… I know it’s not really my place to say,” he began slowly, “but I think you should talk to Chris. Maybe that would help. I noticed the way you wouldn’t talk to him on the phone and the way you looked uncomfortable having him touch you tonight after you hurt your wrist. Talking to him will make things easier, for both of you.” I didn’t say anything, mulling over his words in my head. I didn’t really want to face my brother, but at the same time, I didn’t want to keep running from him. We were on the same tour, for fuck’s sake, we were bound to run into each other more than once.
I flinched as I felt a hand on my knee, having not heard Ryan shuffle closer. “Also…” he continued, more confident than before, “he’s family. And, you know, if you don’t have your parents, at least you’ve got your brother to rely on and help you out. Family’s very important.” I still sat in silence, pressing my lips together to keep a comment escaping about how family was nothing if they hated you. And I was pretty sure that Chris hated me right now. Forget the fact that he helped me out earlier tonight. I knew better than anyone that it wasn’t hard to fake a caring touch or to pretend to be concerned or even happy.
When I didn’t say anything, Ryan removed his hand and I heard him shift back to his original position. This time, it was me who broke the silence, surprising even myself when I spoke.
“Thank you,” I whispered quietly.
“What for?” Ryan asked, and I could feel him looking at me.
“For making me feel like I belonged.” I looked across at where he was for the first time since I had sat down. “I… I don’t know if it was what you intended, but… And you might think I’m a complete loser for thinking this, and-
“Lou,” Ryan broke in gently.
“Sorry,” I said, licking my suddenly dry lips. “Just… tonight, when you did that make up on my face… It just… it sort of made me feel like I belonged, like I was a part of your group. I’ve never- never had friends until I met you guys, and for you to accept the way I was without any problems… I've never really felt wanted, and you guys…” I gave a small smile. “Sorry. You must think my life’s slightly pathetic; all this drama and baggage I bring with me…”
Ryan snorted. “Believe me, you’re not the only one who has issues and baggage on this bus.” He sounded like he wanted to say more, but he didn’t.
I raised my eyebrows. “Oh yeah?” I asked, curious and skeptical.
“Try living with a father who was an alcoholic for most of your teenaged life and made it known how much he disapproved of your decision to drop out of college to try and make your band work, when it’s never played a live show or anything before,” he said bitterly, and I raised my head from where I’d lowered it to look in his direction, my lips parted slightly in surprise. “Every fucking night he’d come home shit-faced, and I had to look after him. So don’t think you’re the only one with a past that you’d rather hide.”
So this was what Spencer had been getting at last night about the song title. I breathed in and out slowly, feeling the hurt radiating out of the broken soul next to me. I guess I wasn’t the only one who was good at pretending I was okay at times.
“So… that’s what those songs are about? Nails, and that other one?” I asked softly, having forgotten what Brendon had called it.
“Yeah,” Ryan sighed. “You picked that up?”
“I knew they were different from the others. The lyrics seemed… more personal, for lack of a better word, and now, I guess I know why,” I admitted.
A dry, humorless chuckle was given. “Personal, indeed. Inspired by dear old Dad. Now do you see why you should be glad that you have your brother?”
Tilting my head, I cautiously reached out a hand, sliding it across the material of the cushions. I left it open, palm facing upwards. I almost thought he hadn’t seen it, but then I felt his light touch as he placed his hand in mine. I squeezed it gently, and in that moment we weren’t Lou Jones, the blind girl, or Ryan Ross, the famous rockstar, we were simply two people brought together by the trauma of a less-than-pleasant childhood.
"Okay,” I told Ryan quietly, “I’ll talk to Chris."
I woke the next morning to the low hum of male voices. Yawning sleepily, I buried myself deeper under the warm blankets, my brain still hazy and foggy. I smiled, adjusting my position on the pillow and lightly rubbing the sleep out of my eyes. I lay there for a few more minutes, warm and content, before I realise that the bus had stopped. Opening the bunk curtain and climbing out of the bed, I felt my way to the door to the front lounge area, where the band had congregated and were discussing something. Pushing the door open, I peeked my head out, shuffling the rest of my body through the gap.
“Hey, hey, hey!” Brendon greeted me cheerfully. I smiled, yawning again as Jon said, “Finally, Sleeping Beauty awakes.”
Frowning, I asked them, “What time is it?”
“Almost eleven,” Spencer answered, reaching out to touch my hand to help me sit down next to him.
“Wow,” I commented, covering another yawn. “I’ve never slept that late before.”
“You sleep all sorts of weird hours when you’re on tour,” Brendon said. “You’ll get used to it eventually."
Yankee, who was sitting under the table and licking my feet, whined loudly and suddenly, and there was an explosive exclamation from Ryan. “Fuck! Why the hell is your tail there, Yankee?!”
“Ryan, stop abusing my dog,” I said dryly, which gained laughs from the other band members.
“It’s not my fault I didn’t see his freakin' tail,” he told me. “By the way, since we’ve stopped for a short break, I invited Chris to join us on the bus.”
My head snapped up. “What?!”
I could feel his intense gaze. “You said that you’d-”
“I know what I said, I just didn’t think that it’d be so soon,” I said, slightly defensive.
“You didn’t exactly specify when you’d do it,” Ryan countered. He had me there, I’ll admit. “The sooner the better.”
“Yeah, but I was thinking more like, next venue, sorta thing,” I mumbled, tracing patterns on the table.
“Uh…” Brendon said.
“Did we miss something?” Jon asked, confused.
I could still feel Ryan looking at me, so I stared back defiantly at where his voice had been coming from. “It’s nothing,” I said, “don’t worry about it.” Thankfully, Ryan stayed silent and didn’t say anything else on the matter. Spencer inspected my sore wrist, wrapping ice around it again, while Jon was kind enough to make me breakfast. I could tell that Spencer wanted to question the slight clash between Ryan and I, especially as he had disappeared afterwards, but he got no chance to ask, what with Brendon peppering me with questions about Yankee and what he was trained to do.
After I had eaten, Spencer put the ice pack away and Jon showed me where my suitcase was stored. I felt around, picking out some clothes, freezing when I hear my brother’s voice as he enters the bus. I kept my back turned when I heard light footsteps.
“I’m sorry,” I said quietly. “I didn’t mean to have a go at you this morning… I just… I didn’t think I’d have to face him so soon.”
“It’s okay,” Ryan answered just as softly. “I know it’s a sensitive subject, and I was stupid to bring it up.” He put a hand lightly on my shoulder. I shook my head, turning it so he’d see the side of my face.
“I’m glad you did, though. At least it gave me some warning that he was going to be here. I would have freaked a little if he had just turned up.” I swallowed hard as I heard Chris and the others laugh about something.
Sensing my nervousness, Ryan said, “Hey, you’ll be fine. I really think that Chris won’t be like your parents. He came and found you, didn’t he?” I made a noise of agreement. “Well, why are you so worried? Just be honest with him and tell him how you feel. He’s stuck by your side all this time; do you honestly think he’d hate you?”
I let out a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding, feeling my shoulders relax little by little as the tension drained out.
“Thanks,” I whispered, turning to face the guitarist. I could feel the warmth of his smile.
“You’re welcome,” he said, squeezing my shoulder comfortingly and leaving the bunk area, closing the door behind him so I could change my clothes in privacy. It was slightly awkward with my bad wrist, but I managed it in the end. It felt good to be back in my own clothes, but I found myself sorry to have to take off Spencer’s hoodie. I balled up the borrowed clothes, carrying them under my arm as I hesitantly opened the door.
“Oh, here, I’ll take those,” Brendon said, taking the clothes from me. He brushed past me to dump them somewhere, and I smiled down at Yankee, who was now sitting on my feet and rubbing his head against my leg. Holding my good arm across my body, I held the upper arm on the opposite side, rubbing my hand up and down awkwardly, not sure of what to do since the conversation had stopped the moment I’d opened the door.
“Hi, Lou,” Chris said hesitantly. I gnawed at my bottom lip, a really bad habit of mine that showed when I was nervous about something.
“Umm, hi,” I replied, my voice filled with nerves. Remembering Ryan’s words about family from last night, I hastily added, “Umm… look, we – I think we need to talk.”
“Oh, yeah. Right,” Chris said, tripping over his words. “Yeah, we… we should. Uhh…”
“You guys take the back lounge,” Jon supplied helpfully, breaking the tension. “We’ll stay out here and just talk about stuff and shit.” I had to give a small smile at his attempt to lighten the conversation. Someone stood up, and I cocked my head, listening as my older brother walked over and gently took my hand, leading me down the aisle to the back lounge. Once again, I found my sitting on the comfy sofa while Chris closed the door.
And then we were alone.
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