Upon Lou's return she finds out the aftermath of Brendon's conversation with his parents. And is the arrival at Vegas the start of something?
The song mentioned (for those of you living under a rock and do not know) is 'Boulevard of Broken Dreams' by Green Day. I just thought I'd throw it in there since Jon used to be (is still?) a Green Day fan. But then again, who isn't? XD
Also, you guys, this fic has reached it's one-year anniversary! Whooo, it's hard to believe that this has been going for a year, but well, here we are a year later after I started writing. *Wipes fake tear away commemoratively*
AND, as if this AN wasn't essay-length already, I'd like to tell you guys to go check out the standalone I posted the other day - 'Do Not Revive (Now and Then)' - for those of you who haven't done so already. I'm actually quite proud of the piece; it's one of my best works yet. :3
I hadn’t planned on telling Jon – let alone anyone – one of my current darkest fears, and it made me nervous that he now knew. As we walked back to the venue, I stopped, turning to face him.
“Jon,” I said softly.
I bit my lip. “I, um, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t repeat what I told you… I just, I don’t want anyone else to know.”
“Understood,” Jon said. “But Lou, if you don’t say anything eventually, I will tell the others. And it won’t be because I like to blab everyone’s secrets, it’ll be because I care about you, we care about you, and this is something that needs to be sorted out to make you feel better. Okay?” I nodded hesitantly.
“Thank you,” I managed to whisper. He squeezed my shoulder.
“You know you can always count on us, Lou,” Jon told me in reply.
We made the rest of the walk in silence, and soon arrived back at the venue. True to Jon’s prediction, Zack was about to have an anxiety attack over the disappearance of Jon and I, despite the fact that Spencer and Ryan had both told him that we’d gone for a walk. He relaxed when he saw us, and the big man pulled me into a one armed hug and ruffled my hair. “You’re a special girl, Lou,” he said. “We can’t lose you.”
“What about me?” Jon asked, pretending to be hurt.
“What about you?” Zack said, and I laughed. “Now, both of you get your asses inside and don’t wander off again.”
“Yes, Mom,” Jon sighed, trying to stifle a chuckle as we entered the cool interior of the venue’s backstage area.
As we entered the backstage room, I could hear Brendon talking to Spencer, a sign that meant his parents were obviously gone. I felt all eyes align themselves on me as I took a step through the doorway, leaning down to unclip Yankee’s leash. I twisted the thin strip of material around my hands repeatedly as I stood up. Yankee wandered off somewhere, and I heard him yawn before settling down. The conversation dimmed slightly, but picked up when Jon asked Ryan something about tonight’s show.
I jerked, surprised by Brendon’s sudden presence beside me.
“I’m sorry,” he apologised. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“Oh,” I said. “No, that’s okay. I just… I was thinking about something and didn’t hear you come over.”
“Can I talk to you for a minute?” he asked, sounding nervous.
“Uh, sure,” I said. He touched my elbow lightly, leading me through the room, taking care to avoid things like coffee tables and couches (“Oh! Watch out – there’s a table right in front of you… no, to the right; you’ll crash into the couch otherwise.”) until we entered a small room. Brendon shut the door, and I guessed that we were in the bathroom by the echo-y feeling that accompanied the room, as well as the way that a tap slowly dripped.
“Um,” he said after closing the door. “Lou, I wanted to, I wanted to apologise for what my parents said…. Just the way that my mother was so tactless, and everything…”
“Brendon,” I said softly, interrupting him. “It’s okay, I get that a lot – it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt any less, but- ”
“But Spencer said that you were upset! That Jon took you for a walk, and you,” he hesitated. “No offense, Lou, but one look at you and people can tell that you’ve been crying. Spencer would have been all over you if Ryan hadn’t told him to back off for a bit and let you have time to yourself and that the last thing you probably wanted was to be suffocated by people surrounding you. I just, I feel bad because – was it what my mom said that hurt you? Because I already told them that I won’t let them speak to my friends like that, and I kicked them out.”
I sighed. “I know,” I said gently, “I heard you telling them that as I left. It- I’ve never really heard someone stick up for me like that before, and it just…” My voice broke and I cleared my throat. I tried to smile. “You’ve no idea how that made me feel, Brendon, so… thank you. But, I mean, you didn’t have to send them away – they’re your parents.”
“They kicked me out,” he said forcefully. “As far as I’m concerned, they gave up that right when they gave up on me.”
I swallowed, reaching out a hand. I didn’t think that he’d understand what I was trying to do, but soon enough, I felt him place his palm in mine, curling our fingers together. “Just for the record though,” I said quietly, smiling slightly as Brendon added under his breath, “The weather today,” “it wasn’t what your mom said that upset me. I…” I shook my head, taking in a deep breath. There was a wall behind me, and so letting go of Brendon’s hand, I slid down it, coming to rest on the floor. I felt him sit beside me. I leaned my head back, sighing. “I fought with Chris again,” I said quietly. “He fucking- I just… he’s hiding something from me – something about me – and he took me aside to imply it, but he never told me what it was, only that it would break me. I’m not fragile, you know. I hate it when people always think that. It was something that Mom and Dad,” my voice fumbled with those two proper nouns, “had told him. It pissed me off to know that whatever lie he’d been told by them he believed.” I paused. Brendon took a breath as if to say something, but I stumbled on, beating him to it. “I don’t like it when we fight, and just when it feels like we’d sorted that last fight out, we’re fighting again. I don’t like it,” I repeated, “but it’s his fault for being such a dick.”
A sudden realisation came over me, and I thought back to a while ago when the woman at the elevator at the hotel stay had confused me and Brendon as being siblings. I know understood why it had bothered me so much. It was because the band were more like brothers to me than my real brother was. For a fleeting moment, I wished that they were my brothers, but I tried to push the thought out of my mind.
Brendon was quiet for a moment. He shifted, slipping his arm around my shoulders, and I rested my head on his shoulder, feeling so tired and worn down from all the fucking drama in my life. “I think,” he said carefully, “I think that you’re both stubborn people, and when you put two stubborn people together in an argument, neither of them will be willing to back down. God knows how many times I’ve seen it happen with Smith and Ross out there. I think that he’s just trying to play his big brother card and protect you from whatever it is that he was told, that he feels it’s his duty. You’ll sort it out, whatever it is. You did last time.”
I let Brendon’s words sink in. “Y’know,” I said finally. “You’re a lot smarter than people give you credit for.”
I felt him laugh, his body shaking. “Honey, I’m much more than just a pretty face and a sexy voice,” he joked. I smiled.
“Thank you,” I murmured.
“For what?” He twisted, probably to look at me.
The tiles on the floor were cool on my legs through the fabric of my jeans. “For making me feel better. I swear, all four of you have the same creepy talent. You all seem to be able to put me in a better mood when I’m upset or something.”
“Seriously, Lou,” Brendon said, “you started out as a friend to us, but now you’re so much more. You’re a little sister to us all now. Except for Spencer,” he added quickly. “Because then that would be incest, but somehow, I still don’t think that would stop either of you,” he laughed.
I grinned softly. “Jon said the exact same thing.”
“About incest?” Brendon asked. “I’d bet he’d like that, the kinky bastard.”
I choked, unable to contain the laugh that bubbled forth from my lips. “No, you loser,” I said gently. “About the little sister thing.”
“Well, it’s true,” Brendon defended. “It’s like you’re part of our little family now.”
“Jon thinks that Ryan would be the mother,” I said, thinking back to the conversation I’d shared with him quite a while ago.
Brendon laughed. “Going on feminineness? Yeah, I’d agree with that. But I think Spencer’s the mother hen of the group, so he’d totally take that role hands down. And Jon would be the dad, cause he’s like, well, he’s Jon,” he said, and I completely understood him on that account. “Then,” he continued, “I’d be the awesome big brother, you’d be the awesome lil’ sis, and Ryan’d be the bitchy older sister.” We both laughed, the sound ringing out around the bathroom and echoing back at us.
“Is he really bitchy?” I asked. “He doesn’t really seem to be.”
“Believe me, he’s just toning it down,” Brendon said. “Didn’t you hear the way he was complaining about sharing the bed at the last hotel stay?”
“Yeah, but you were too,” I countered.
“That was different,” Brendon admonished.
I smirked. “Of course it was. Face it, you were both just as bad as each other.”
There was a loud banging on the door, and we both flinched, me more so than Brendon.
“Hurry up you guys!” Zack yelled through the door. “There are people who actually need to use the bathroom instead of using it to barricade yourselves in there and talk about the meaning of life or some shit.”
Brendon took his arm back from around my shoulders as I lifted my head. He stood up and then grabbed my hand, helping me to my feet. He kept a hold of me, opening the bathroom door and tugging me gently out. “Geez, Zack,” he said. “Settle down, wouldja? It’s not the end of the world or anythin’.”
“Not to you, it ain’t,” the big man muttered, brushing past us and swiftly shutting the door behind him.
Someone was strumming a guitar. I recognised the tune, singing part of the song without thinking. “I walk the lonely road, the only one that I have ever known. Don’t know where it leads, but it’s home me and I walk alone.”
I bit my lip as there was a dead silence.
“What the fuck, Lou,” Ryan said, sounding slightly lost for words.
“Oh, dude,” Brendon said flippantly. “We already knew she could sing, where the hell have you been?”
“You know the whole song, Lou?” Jon asked, and there was more strumming, leading me to guess that it was he who had been playing. I nodded. “Come here,” he said, and Brendon nudged me forward, leading me to the couches and depositing me on a seat. “We’ll start from the top, okay?”
“Wait, what?” I said, shocked. “You want me to sing with you?”
He laughed gently. “That’s kinda the whole point of a duet, you realise.”
“Um,” I said nervously. “I don’t know. There’s like, there’s people, and I don’t like to sing in front of people.”
“You can’t see them,” Brendon said, somehow managing to blanket the words and make them not seem harsh. “Just close your eyes too, if that helps. I do that all the time. Besides, you sang in front of us, remember?”
“That was different,” I muttered.
“Just pretend that it’s the same thing,” Jon said, the voice of reason.
“I can, I can feel everyone staring at me though,” I blushed.
“Just ignore them,” Spencer said, the first thing he’d said to me since I’d returned with Jon earlier. I sighed.
“You ready?” Jon asked. Swallowing hard, I nodded. “I’ll count you in,” he reassured me. I stared down in my lap, twisting and untwisting my hands. “One, two, three, four,” he counted, before strumming. I began singing, my voice shaky at first, but as I made my way through the song, I began to gain more confidence and it started to get stronger. By the time Jon and I had finished, I was surprised and a little uncomfortable at the applause that sounded. I blushed, Jon leaning over to pat me on the back.
“Fucking hell, Lou,” Ryan breathed. “Is there anything else about you we should know?”
I forced a smile, my stomach churning as I thought about the conversation with Jon I’d had on our walk about what would happen to me after their tour finished. I knew Jon was too, by the weight of his stare. I tried to shrug it off. “No,” I said breezily. “That’s about it, really. Unless you count the fact that I can juggle ten swords and eat fire.”
The others laughed, and I breathed an internal sigh of relief. My secret was still safe for now.
Panic!’s L.A. show went pretty well that night. I stood side-stage and listened, hearing the crowd cheer and scream loudly for the band. If Brendon’s conversation with his parents that afternoon had affected him, it was in no way obvious when he was on stage. He sounded like his usual self, talking to the crowd and holding them in the palm of his hand.
I sat on one of the couches while I waited for the guys to shower and change in preparation to get back on the bus, ready for the drive to Vegas that night. I’d already showered, taking advantage of the lazy waiting around that always took place during the afternoons. The cushion next to me dipped under the weight of somebody, and I smiled as Spencer said, “Hey, Lou.”
“Hey,” I returned. “You guys were really good tonight.”
I felt him shrug. “It gets easier once you know the setlist off by heart.”
“No, really. You guys were good.”
“Thanks,” Spencer said, and I could’ve sworn that he was blushing.
“I’m okay, you know,” I said, saving him from having to ask the question. “I just needed to clear my head for a bit. I’m fine.”
“I would’ve come with you,” he said. “This afternoon, when you went off with Jon. I would’ve gone with you too, but Ryan stopped me and said you probably needed time to think.”
I nodded slowly. “Yeah, my thoughts were kinda crazy like fuck at that time. I just… I didn’t like the fact that I’d fought with my brother so soon after we’d made up about the previous fight. He’s the only blood relative I have left, pretty much, because it’s obvious where my parents stand on the matter of our relationship.”
Spencer slipped an arm around me and I let him pull me close to his body, relaxing as I rested my head on his collarbone. He’d just had a shower – his hair was damp, and his skin smelt like soap. I breathed in deeply without thinking, and blushed as I realised what I was doing.
“Well,” Spencer began, “whatever happens you know that you’ll always have me and the others to look after you.”
“I know,” I whispered. “I just forget sometimes.”
We stayed like that for a while. He only released me as Zack began to gather us up and herd us out to the bus when Jon, the final person to have a shower, emerged from the bathroom. Yankee’s leash was clipped onto his collar once more that day, and Ryan held my hand when we walked out to the bus. He let go as I climbed the stairs, and Jon was waiting at the top for me. He unclipped Yankee, who shook himself and wandered off towards the back, and then helped me sit down before sitting next to me with a sigh. Someone jumped up the steps loudly – I guessed it to be Brendon; no one else had that much adrenaline and energy still coursing through them after the show. The door closed behind him, and soon the bus rumbled to life and began to move, en route to Las Vegas.
“Lou. Lou, wake up. Wake up, Lou.”
I groaned as someone shook my shoulder carefully, opening my eyes and blinking them blearily. “Huh?”
“Hey,” Spencer said softly. “We’re in Vegas. You fell asleep just after we left L.A.”
I pushed myself up, remembering briefly the way I’d curled up on my side on the couch and listened to the boys laugh and joke about some movie, or had it been a videogame? Even a memory, maybe? I couldn’t recall what it had been in my post-sleep state. “We’re here?”
“Yeah.” It sounded like Spencer was smiling. I then realised that the bus had stopped moving and was now silent. I could hear, however, the sounds of the rest of the band collecting various items throughout the bus. “We’re just about to get off.”
“Oh.” I sat up, feeling slightly lost. I had no idea what I was going to do when we got off. I mean, I assumed that Brendon, Spencer and Ryan all had places to go, and Jon would maybe stay with one of them or at a hotel, but me? I was clueless, and once again, I felt like a third-wheel. “What time is it?”
“Late,” Spencer said. “About two in the morning.” I could feel him looking at me. “Are you okay?”
“Hmm? Oh, yeah, fine. Still kinda sleepy, I guess.” I tried to wave off his concern.
“We’ve already got all your stuff organised,” Spencer said. “We didn’t bother about harnessing Yankee though, so we just stuck his leash on again.” By now, after spending an extended period of time around me, each member of the band and a few extras like Zack and Steve the bus driver had learnt how to slip Yankee’s harness on and off, making things a lot easier for me.
Three sets of footsteps came pounding through the bus. “Ready,” Brendon announced, unable to keep the excitement out of his voice. Spencer pulled me to my feet.
“Okay, let’s go then,” he said.
I followed him to the stairs, having sort of learnt my way around the cramped space by now. I hung on to the guard rail as I descended the stairs, tipping my head back and breathing in the cool night air that bathed my face. I moved out of the way to let the others pass, and curiously turned my head to listen as I heard the voice of a woman greeting the band cheerily, hearing Spencer say, “Mom, I told you that you didn’t have to come and meet us.” Yankee jumped down out of the bus, and I felt for his leash, holding it firmly in my hand. Luggage and larger items were dragged out from somewhere, probably from underneath the bus, and I heard Ryan on his phone calling for a taxi.
“Lou?” I jerked my head as Spencer called me. He walked towards me, taking my head and leading me forward. “Lou, this is my mom, Ginger Smith. Mom, I’d like to you to meet Lou Jones.”
“Lou,” the woman, Spencer’s mom, said, crushing me into a hug. She smelt like Home, Comfort and Security; everything that I didn’t have in a mother. “Spencer’s told me so much about you!” I blushed, hearing Spencer mutter embarrassedly, “Mom.” “Oh, and is this Yankee?” she continued.
“Uh, yeah. Yeah, this is, this is my dog Yankee,” I said, feeling slightly tongue-tied.
“Aw, he’s so cute,” I heard her say enthusiastically. Yankee sniffed something, presumably her hand, before whining and licking it.
“That means he likes you,” I told her.
“Well, I like him too,” Mrs Smith reciprocated.
A car pulled up, presumably Ryan’s taxi. “Can we share?” Brendon asked as luggage was being loaded into the back. I heard Ryan agree, and then all of a sudden, Brendon was bounding over and enveloping me in a hug. “Bye, Lou,” he said. “I’ll see you tomorrow!” Jon and Ryan echoed his actions, with Jon whispering in my ear that he was staying with Ryan, and soon car doors were slamming and the taxi was driving away.
“Uhm…” I muttered quietly, scratching the back of my neck with my leash-free hand. “Um, I’ll just…” But I had no idea what I’d do.
“Don’t look so anxious, Lou,” Mrs Smith smiled. “You’re coming with us; didn’t Spencer tell you?”
“I, I am?”
“Of course!” She exclaimed, positioning her arm around my waist. I stifled a tired yawn, my body not yet out of sleep’s clutches. “Come on, let’s get you home. Spencer’s already put your stuff in the car.” And with that, she led me over to her car, opening the door for me, and helping me in. I rested my head against the window as the car was started, and listened to Spencer and his mom catch up in the front, talking about tour and everything that Spencer had missed while he’d been away. I let a small smile slip over my features as I listened to the two of them, but it fell when I realised that everything Spencer seemed to have with his mother (and probably by extension, his family), I didn’t.
And I envied him with all of my heart for that.
I'm sorry if repeating the brotherly/family-thing with the band is annoying and totally not needed, but I just felt like it had to be. Next update will be in two weeks, maybe sooner, depending on my schedule and that of my beta's. Please don't forget to rate and review! :)