Ryan Ross never liked change, but maybe Brendon Urie could be just the thing to make him feel otherwise.
"Guys, this is Brendon."
Brent walked through Spencer's kitchen door that led out to the garage like he had every other time they had practiced together in this confined, yet surprisingly technically sound area. Except this time, he had another boy with him. And the two boys sitting on the faded old couch in the corner looked stunned, even though they had known the new boy was coming. One turned to the other, and when it became clear that the skinnier and shyer of the two wasn't moving, the other took the liberty of standing up and smiling warmly.
"Hi Brendon. I'm Spencer. That's Ryan."
Brendon smiled brightly, the smile that Ryan would get used to in the coming months, the same smile Ryan would end up falling in love with. But for now, he only gave a small nod in response, turning back to an old issue of Spin he found next to the couch. Spencer and Brent took the much needed break and went off to get some water and another bag of chips. Brendon, feeling sufficiently awkward, took a seat next to Ryan and made a bold statement.
"You don't seem to like me very much."
Ryan laughed spitefully and continued reading.
"I don't like change. We were fine without you."
"Maybe you'll feel differently once you get to know me."
"I doubt it."
Spencer's voice interrupted the hushed conversation.
"Brendon! Come pick what kind of chips you want! My mom just brought home a fun pack!"
Standing up, Brendon pulled down the magazine that Ryan had continued to read and forced the boy to look at him before he walked off into the kitchen.
"I won't hold you to that."
The first time Ryan Ross laid eyes on Brendon Urie, all he could feel was jealousy. He knew the boy was bound to take his place as the band's unofficial leader. Everyone always liked Ryan because he was quiet. But everyone, including Ryan, would grow to love Brendon because he was simply the opposite.
"I can't believe you beat me again!"
"Spence, you simply need to own up to the fact that you suck at this game and that I am the ultimate champion."
"Oh screw you, Ryan. I'm just having an off day."
The bickering best friends laughed and started to offer each other a rematch when something caught their ears. Something they had never expected to hear.
"Believe that life can change, that you're not stuck in vain. We're not the same. We're different tonight, tonight."
Spencer practically jumped over the couch in Ryan's living room to run into the dining room where Brendon was sitting at the piano, his black rimmed glasses showing his eyes fixated on the keys in concentration, his tongue slightly poking out of his mouth as he focused on the melody.
"Dude, what the fuck was that?"
Brendon's hands smashed on the keys and he looked up at Spencer, wide eyed and ashamed, like a kid who had just been caught with his hand in the cookie jar before dinner.
"I'm sorry. Am I not allowed to mess with the piano?"
Ryan appeared in the doorway, clearly pissed with the situation at hand.
"You know damn well what he's talking about, Urie."
"No, guys, I really don't. What's going on? Did I do something wrong?"
Brendon thought it was extremely insensitive of Spencer to practically fall over with laughter when he was still completely clueless about why Spencer looked overjoyed and his best friend looked angry as hell.
"Why didn't you tell us you could sing?"
"I can sing?"
"You can now, dude. What do you think, Ryan? I mean, you've never been that crazy about singing anyway. And his voice..."
Ryan's face twisted with annoyance and he sighed because he knew his best friend was right.
"Listen, you guys think about it. I'm gonna run over to Brent's and get him over here. He's gotta hear you sing, Brendon."
Spencer practically rushed out the door and Ryan sat down next to Brendon on the piano bench, hearing the loud clang of the lower keys as his elbows rested on them and he put his head in his hands for a few seconds, and then looked up at Brendon.
"This band is all I have."
"I'm sorry. I don't want to take your place, Ryan. Really."
"You can't...you just can't..."
Brendon looked confused as he turned away from the piano and faced Ryan, who was clearly distressed.
"Can't what? I won't sing if you don't want me to, no matter what Spencer says. I know what this means to you."
"You can't screw this up for us. I want to put all my faith in you, I'm just..."
Brendon gave a small smile and played the last few notes, singing for only Ryan to hear and putting the boy's fears at ease.
"Believe in me as I believe in you, tonight."
The day Ryan's dad died, he knew before anyone even told him.
He sat up in his bunk, reaching inside his pillow for his sidekick to look at the time.
Why was he waking up so late? He was always the first one up, mostly because of his constant worrying. What was so different about today?
And then he smelled it, almost as clear as if his father was standing right in front of his face.
But he didn't want to admit the realization to himself quite yet. So, he hopped out of his bunk, his solemn looking bandmates startled as they heard the soft thump of the small boy's sock clad feet on the thin bus carpeting. Ryan walked into the kitchen area looking confused and angry.
"What the hell did you spill, Jon? It smells like a bar in here."
Jon looked up and just stared at Ryan sympathetically. Jon knew that what Ryan smelled was only in his mind. He stared at Ryan for a moment, and then turned to Spencer who spoke for the group.
"Ryan, your mom called."
"She tried to get a hold of you, but you were still sleeping and we didn't want to wake you."
"Your dad...he, um...he died this morning."
Ryan shut his eyes and clenched his fists. He knew that those words were coming. He had expected it from the moment he had opened his eyes. But to hear them coming out of Spencer's mouth, to know they were the truth...that was something entirely different.
Ryan nodded roughly and walked off to the bathroom where he shut the door and locked it. He wouldn't break down in front of his friends, the only people to ever really support him. Brendon stood up and started to walk toward the bathroom when Spencer put up his hand to stop him.
"Just let him be, Brendon. We'll be at the airport soon and we'll all take him home."
Brendon nodded and sat back down, but for 28 minutes straight, he never stopped staring at that closed bathroom door.
After the funeral, Ryan shook hands with the last few distant relatives and started walking through the cemetery on his own. Spencer and Jon tried to lead Brendon away with the rest of the group, realizing that Ryan needed some space. But Brendon was insistent this time. They had kept him away from Ryan long enough. Brendon wasn't willing to let Ryan retreat into himself. He wanted his friend to know that they always had each other. So, Spencer sighed but continued walking with Jon and the rest of Ryan's family as Brendon ran off toward Ryan.
Ryan looked over at the slightly out of breath boy next to him and gave a small nod, similar to the one he had given him when they had first met. Brendon was beginning to think that perhaps this had been a bad idea. But then, Ryan slowed down and stopped, giving Brendon a chance to breathe and giving him a small smile in return. To Brendon, Ryan's smile was better than Red Bull and Guitar Hero and sugar all together.
"You know, when you woke up this morning, I knew you knew."
Ryan chuckled lightly to himself as the two of them began to walk again, and he looked over at Brendon.
"I knew you knew I knew."
"I knew you knew that I knew you...wait, what?"
They smiled and laughed together in spite of the circumstances.
"So how did you know?"
Ryan sighed, "I could smell it."
Brendon looked shocked and confused, "You could smell his death?"
Ryan couldn't help himself from laughing as Brendon still stood confused. He hadn't clarified very well, and to say something like he knew that his father was dead because he could smell it was enough to make anyone absolutely bewildered.
"No, sorry. I meant, I could smell his drinking. I just woke up and it was like he was breathing in my face again, telling me how worthless I was, how stupid my dreams are, how music is just for..."
Ryan had stopped walking now and his chest heaved as he tried to maintain his composure. Brendon could see tears beginning to form, but he knew that his friend wouldn't let them fall. He wouldn't let his dad get the best of him, even from the grave.
"The worst part is, it won't go away. I've tried everything, smelling the food my mom made, the flowers on his casket. It all reeks of him. He won't leave me alone, Brendon, and I don't know what to do to make him stop."
Ryan looked as though he were about to fall from shaking, so Brendon reached out and grabbed his arm to steady him. Ryan reached over and pulled on the front of Brendon's suit jacket, forcing the other boy towards him, letting their bodies collide awkwardly. Brendon readjusted their position, putting his arms around Ryan and pushing Ryan's body towards him, urging the two to be just a little closer so that he could take away more of Ryan's pain.
But all Ryan had to do was bury his face in the crook of Brendon's neck, feeling the warmth as Brendon's arms enveloped his thin frame. Ryan breathed in sharply, taking in the smell of Brendon's cologne, something special that Brendon rarely wore. Then, he realized the pungent scent of the alcohol was drifting away. And Ryan came to the conclusion that, as long as he had Brendon, he would never have to fear his father again.
"Panic! At The Disco 'I Write Sins, Not Tragedies'!"
"Holy shit, dude! That's us!"
The moments from his seat to the stage were a blur as Ryan Ross muttered some words of thanks to some people he couldn't even remember. He knew that Spencer mostly talked and he knew that he squeezed Brendon's hand and held onto it for some reason as he walked offstage. And he had thought that was the best thing he had ever felt until someone placed the moonman into his hand and he practically got hard right then and there from the thrill. There were a blur of people around, smiling and he could see someone jumping on Brendon's back, pouring champagne on the other three.
"Brendon Urie, can I have your autograph? And your children?"
"Pete, get the fuck off me, you douchebag!"
"Come on, just one baby! You don't have STDs, do you? Because that might make the night just too exciting for me."
They all laughed and passed around their substitute moonman, talking and laughing all at once. Ryan was talking to Patrick about how being carried by a midget is surprisingly life altering when Brendon tapped his shoulder and motioned away from the crowd. Ryan smiled and ended his conversation, grabbing Brendon's hand as the two ran from the flashbulbs and designer dresses out the back door of the illustrious venue.
Brendon ignored the discarded cigarettes and old issues of People as he shoved Ryan against the concrete wall and pressed their lips together, sliding his tongue along Ryan's bottom lip. Ryan gasped in surprise, but rested his hands on Brendon's waist and rolled his hips forward on instinct. Brendon moaned quietly and broke the kiss, grinning and grabbing Ryan's hands, forcing them back toward his waist when he tried to pull them away.
"Do you think we've changed, you know, now that we've won this?"
Ryan was beaming as he leaned forward to kiss Brendon quickly before replying.
"No, I don't like change. But, whatever this is, I fucking love it."
Ryan Ross always had a thing for fall.
No, autumn. It was autumn that he loved. A name like fall sounded way too common for something so beautiful.
On autumn days when the weather was bearable, Ryan and Brendon would walk to the park together, Brendon skipping and telling his favorite tales from being on the road and Ryan just laughing, stopping every now and then to fix his scarf or to buy the two of them a hot chocolate as they walked.
On this particular day, they arrived and Ryan sat down on their favorite bench to read and Brendon, discarding his empty hot chocolate, lay down in Ryan's lap, staring up at the clouds. It was a Tuesday morning, which meant that virtually no one would be in the park now, except for the occasional jogger or old couple. It was a world they usually had all to themselves.
"Do you miss it?"
Brendon sat up and tucked his legs under as he turned to face Ryan. They never had this discussion because it had always been understood that Ryan hated change. And giving everything up had been the biggest change they had ever experienced.
"Yeah, of course I do. It was a big deal, you know."
"That's kind of putting it mildly, don't you think?"
Brendon was getting impatient with the situation. He was trying to make Ryan feel better about the fact that they were now just living normal lives, and instead Ryan was trying to make the situation bigger.
"Fine, Ryan, whatever. It was a huge deal, okay? Being in that band meant everything to me!"
He stood up and paced in front of the bench, refusing to look at Ryan, whose eyes were focused on the ground. Sure, he never liked change, but he figured, maybe it was time to deal with the fact that they weren't Panic! At The Disco anymore. They were simply Ryan, Brendon, Spencer and Jon. Normal friends who lead normal lives, who weren't involved with each other every single day of the week (with the exception of the first two) but were still involved enough to care. Wasn't that okay?
Brendon could sense Ryan's anxiety and he began to feel guilty for making Ryan feel bad about bringing this up. He sighed and sat back down, holding one of Ryan's hands in his own.
"But, listen. It's okay now because I have the best part of it with me all the time."
Ryan looked up and smiled, lightly squeezing Brendon's hand.
"You mean that?"
"Yeah, those gold records look amazing in our hallway."
Ryan laughed and Brendon smiled warmly, satisfied that they had stopped fighting. He could lose the fame and the parties and the success, but one thing Brendon could never handle losing was Ryan.
"It's starting to get cold, so what do you say we go home and watch old episodes of The O.C.? I didn't want to tell you, but Jon sent me the fourth season last week."
"I can't believe you've been holding out on me, Ross!"
"Yeah, yeah, you'll get over it."
They laughed and got up, linking their hands together as they walked down the few blocks back to their small Nevada home, not far from where they had grown up.
"You know, I'd be more upset with you, but fourth season wasn't that good anyway. Newport just wasn't the same without Marissa."
"And you wonder why I don't like change."