[personal profile] untappedbeauty


Ryan holes up in the back when they get to the bus. He dismisses Brendon's invitation to "Come play with us," telling him, "I'm going to write." Brendon frowns a little but starts up Guitar Hero in the front lounge.

Ryan's not really writing, mostly just jotting down words that he likes and doodling along the edges of his notebook. He listens for Spencer and Brendon, even though it feels like that's all he ever does anymore. They're talking in hushed voices while they pretend to play the game, but they won't bother him. Hiding behind a notebook is always Ryan's best bet because they can always be counted on to leave him to it.

He falls asleep and wakes to near-silence, just the road under the bus. Ryan pushes up from the couch and makes his way toward his bunk, but there's pale blue light seeping around the edges of the door between the front of the bus and the bunks. The door's cracked open, just barely, and Ryan edges it open more, enough to see.

Enough to see Brendon tip his head back in the glow from the TV screen, mouth seeking and finding Spencer's. Spencer kisses Brendon softly, briefly, two times before his fingers find their way to Brendon's jaw. Brendon strains up, lips parted and wet, and Spencer angles his mouth over Brendon's, pushes his tongue into Brendon's mouth slowly, deliberately. Brendon's hands fly up, and Spencer and Brendon are touching each other so innocently, just lips and tongues, and Spencer's hand against Brendon's cheek, and Brendon's hands in Spencer's hair.

Their eyes are closed, eyelashes fanned sweetly against their skin. They look like they've kissed a million times but like to appreciate every touch. It's gorgeous, soft, and Ryan's chest clenches, because it's their moment. He shouldn't be seeing it.

He backs away as quietly as he can. He goes back to the lounge, curls up and pretends like he can sleep again. It's only a few minutes later when Spencer comes in, though, and Ryan keeps his eyes closed until Spencer sits next to him and touches his arm.

"Hey," he says, and Ryan looks at him then, in the near-darkness, trying to look sleepy. "Come to bed," Spencer says, fingers curling around Ryan's wrist.

"No," Ryan says. "No, I'm going to sleep here tonight." Because they didn't have time to do anything after he saw them, and he can't go back up there, he can't hear them. He can't listen to them anymore.

"Why?" Spencer asks, and Ryan hears the anger in that one word, and it just feeds his own, because what right does Spencer have to be mad here?

"You know why," Ryan says. His voice comes out too shaky, and he grits his teeth in frustration.

Spencer swallows loudly enough Ryan hears it, and his voice sounds shredded when he says, "I thought you-- I thought you wanted that."

Ryan's chest clenches, and he says, "You were wrong," quietly, so quietly he can hardly hear himself over the rushing in his ears.

"But before. We used to." Spencer's sentences stumble to a clumsy halt before he asks, "Is it about Brendon?"

Ryan chokes out a laugh. "Isn't everything about Brendon?"

"I'm sorry," Spencer says. "I'm."

Ryan waits, but Spencer doesn't go on. "Go to bed," Ryan says at last. "It's fine. It'll be fine."

"Will it?"

"Of course," Ryan says with confidence he doesn't feel in the least. "I promise."

Spencer's silent for a long time before he whispers, "Okay." He touches Ryan's wrist again, soft, apologetic, and turns to leave.

"Hey, close the door, okay?" Ryan asks.

Spencer does without another word, and Ryan curls in on himself. His throat aches; there's no relief that they've straightened it out, that Spencer knows they don't need to wait for Ryan. But at least they can move forward.

It'll be fine now. It'll be less fucked up, anyway.

* * *


Brendon corners Ryan by the refrigerator the next morning. "Hey, we need to talk," he says. His hair is sticking straight up, and Ryan looks at it instead of Brendon's face.

"Yeah?" Ryan asks as evenly as he can. He shoves the milk back into the fridge and takes a bite of his cereal. It sticks in his throat when he tries to swallow.

"Yeah." Brendon grabs his elbow and pulls him back to where Ryan slept last night. Spencer's waiting, and Ryan looks at him, tries to figure out from his expression what Spencer might have told Brendon. He can't get a read on it, though.

Brendon sits on the couch next to Spencer and pulls Ryan to sit on his other side. Brendon turns to face him and pulls Spencer's arm until he's facing Ryan, too. Brendon and Spencer's thighs are pressed together, Ryan notes distantly.

"So?" Ryan says.

"We want Jon in the band," Brendon says, face blooming into a smile.

The relief that swells in Ryan's chest almost overwhelms him, until he remembers yesterday. "No," he says. He places his cereal bowl on the floor carefully and says it again, "No."

"What do you mean, no?" Spencer demands, and Ryan can read his expression now: pissed off.

"I mean no. It's not that complicated."

"What the fuck?" Brendon says, smile long gone. "Spencer, you said Ryan would want this."

Ryan looks back and forth between them, teeth clenching, and grits out, "Well, guess what? Spencer doesn't always know what I want."

"But you do," Spencer says. "I know you do. You want him."

Brendon's eyes flicker with surprise, and Ryan sneers. "You sure about that? You haven't really been right all that often lately, Spence."

"What the fuck--" Brendon starts, but Ryan cuts him off.

"I don't want to talk about this anymore. No."

"Tough fucking shit," Spencer snarls. "I say yes. Brendon says yes. You're outnumbered on this one."

"Uh-huh. Yeah, and what if Jon doesn't want it?" Ryan asks. He can make Jon not want it. He should make Jon not want it.

"Why wouldn't he?" Brendon asks, and he sounds so genuinely baffled that Ryan realizes Brendon has no fucking clue what's going on. He doesn't have any idea now, and he hasn't, and Spencer didn't even talk to him about Ryan last night because Brendon didn't know there was anything to talk about.

Ryan smiles, and he knows it can't be pretty. "You've got to be kidding me," he says to Spencer. "Wow. All that power going to your head, deciding what people want and what people need to know?"

"Fuck you," Spencer says, voice shaking.

"Whatever," Ryan says. He picks up his cereal and leaves, slamming the door behind him. The cereal's too soggy to eat, but it's not like Ryan's hungry anymore.

* * *


Brendon keeps trying to talk to him. "Ryan," he says. "Ryan, what's going on? I thought you liked Jon. Why don't you want him in the band? What are you and Spencer talking about? Why won't you talk to me?"

"Go talk to Spencer if you want to know," Ryan says. Spencer won't tell Brendon anything, not right now. Ryan doesn't care; Brendon is Spencer's problem, not his.

They're on the road all day, and Ryan's never felt more trapped, his attempts to avoid Spencer and Brendon restricting him to his bunk, for the most part. But they have a hotel that night, thank God, and Ryan snaps, "I'm getting a single. I don't care if I have to fucking pay for it myself," when Zack starts doling out key cards.

No one protests.

Ryan doesn't know if he expected to feel better when he's shut up alone with his thoughts, but he really doesn't. He's only been brooding for an hour, maybe, when someone knocks on his door. He doesn't get up to answer, because he seriously doubts there's anyone he'd be willing to talk to on the other side.

He ignores the knocking for two full minutes before his Sidekick vibrates on the nightstand. He picks it up to turn it off, but ends up glancing at the screen.

It's a text from Jon.

Im outside ur room knockin on ur door.

Ryan stifles a laugh, then reads the next message.

Let me in plz.

He pulls open the door mid-knock and asks, "How did you manage to keep knocking the entire time you were texting?" It's the most innocuous thing he can think of to say, something that won't show how hard his heart is beating.

Jon holds up his phone. "I'm an expert one-handed texter. Bow before me."

This is when Ryan would usually lift a skeptical brow and say something cutting. Instead, he opens the door wider. Jon kicks off his flip-flops and sits on the bed, against the headboard, right where Ryan had been. Ryan stands at the foot of the bed awkwardly.

"Brendon told me I needed to come talk to you," Jon says, pocketing his phone. "So here I am."

"Talk to me about what?" Ryan asks, any good humor evaporating. Of course Brendon's interfering, poking his nose where it doesn't belong. Of course Jon didn't come here on his own.

"Dunno." Jon shrugs. "He told me you'd know."

"I guess," Ryan says slowly, "I should say I'm sorry for yesterday. I shouldn't have done that."

"What, told me I'm worthless or sucker-punched me?" Jon looks serene, but Ryan flinches at the direct hit.

"Either. Both. I'm sorry."

"Yeah, I know," Jon says. "I'm not too proud of what I said, either. But is that really what this is about?"

"Maybe. Partly," Ryan says. He wishes the bed had a footboard, something for him to hold on to, but he has to settle for crossing his arms. "Spencer and Brendon want you to take Brent's place. Permanently," he says at last, staring at the bright floral bedspread instead of Jon.

"Yeah?" Jon asks, and Ryan has to look at him after that, catch the hope and excitement before Jon quashes it and says, "Spencer and Brendon do. What about you?"

"I think it's a bad idea," Ryan says, lifting his chin defiantly.

Jon closes his eyes briefly and takes a deep breath. "There are a lot of things you think are a bad idea, aren't there?"

"Maybe that's because there are a lot of bad ideas."

"Is that what you tell yourself about Brendon and Spencer?"

Ryan flushes and says, "I don't give a shit about Brendon and Spencer. They can do what they want."

"Are you selling that to them? Because I'm pretty sure you're not fooling yourself, and I know you're not fooling me," Jon says. He still looks so fucking calm and unconcerned, and Ryan can't remember the last time he's been so mad at so many people all at the same time.

He doesn't say anything, but that doesn't stop Jon. Jon sits forward and says, "God, Ryan. You're supposed to be the perceptive one, right? You watch people and you think you understand what they're thinking, and you think you get them, but you don't even get your best friend." He catches Ryan's arm in one hand and holds on tight even when Ryan tries to jerk away. "The way I figure it, you've got one of two problems. Either you want Spencer for yourself and don't want to share with Brendon, or you want them both, but you think they don't really want you. How close am I?"

Ryan's breath catches painfully, and he pulls weakly against Jon's grip. It doesn't do any good. "You're wrong," he says. "It's not like that."

"How is it then? Tell me."

Ryan's quiet for a long time. Jon just waits him out, thumb stroking across the inside of Ryan's wrist.

"I saw them last night. Kissing."

"But you already knew about them," Jon says.

"I hadn't seen them like that, though. It was. Everything I thought they wanted but didn't want to be true."

"What do you mean?"

"That they really want each other," Ryan chokes out, and once he says it, all the rest comes tumbling out. "It's not about sex. It's about them. It's definitely not about me. Only, Spencer keeps trying to bring me in, like I have any place between them, like if I'm not a part of them I won't be a part of anything anymore. Like I'll be like Brent." Like I'll leave, or they'll leave me behind, Ryan doesn't say. "But it already felt like spying every time I saw them just looking at each other or heard them," Ryan says, and Christ, Jon doesn't even know about that. Ryan's not going to be the one to tell him about their fucked up ritual. "It felt like I was trespassing where I shouldn't be allowed, and now it's even worse because I know I shouldn't, but I still want to. I still will. And Spencer will let me."

Slowly, a smile spreads across Jon's face, as though that's an appropriate reaction to what Ryan said.

"Ryan, God. You have no idea." Jon pulls on Ryan's wrist, pulls him down to sit on the bed, knee pressing against Jon's. "You watch them, right? I'm not talking about when they're together, even, just the way they look at each other."

Ryan nods.

"So you knew before you ever saw them kiss that something was happening. You knew they were going to do something, right?"

Jon's eyes are bright. Ryan nods again.

"You've got tunnel vision, dude. Because I've been seeing those same looks and feeling that same sense of something about to happen, only it's not just about them. You haven't been seeing the way they look at you."

Ryan swallows hard. "No," he says. "No, I would've noticed."

"But you didn't," Jon says urgently. "It's got nothing to do with anyone feeling sorry for you. Yeah, they want each other, but they want you, too."

There's a long silence while Ryan tries to think of something, anything to say. He can't. He can't process this, even enough to know if it's true and, if it is, how he missed it. Jon watches him so closely, and Ryan lets him, lets him see everything that's warring inside.

Finally, when it's clear Ryan isn't going to say anything, Jon says, "For what it's worth, I think you should talk to them."

Ryan should, but he's not sure if he can.

"I should go," Jon says.

"You could stay," Ryan says, and it comes out sort of pathetic. But then, he figures, he's feeling kind of pathetic tonight, anyway. "I could use some company."

There's another pause before Jon says, "Okay. Anything on TV?"

He and Jon settle next to each other gingerly, and they watch most of "The Princess Bride" together. By the time Ryan falls asleep sometime in between Miracle Max and the Non-Wedding, he's curled against Jon's side.

* * *


Ryan wakes up when he feels Jon moving away from him. He reaches out, sleep-heavy, to catch Jon's elbow before he's out of reach.

"Do you have to leave?" Ryan asks roughly. His fingers stroke the soft skin in the crook of Jon's elbow, and Jon stops moving.

"I think I should," Jon says. Everything's still wrapped in sleepy slow-motion, and Ryan says, "I don't," before his brain catches up. He tugs at Jon's arm, gently. All he can see is Jon's back, and it looks so uncharacteristically tense before Jon's head bows, caving.

Ryan tugs again, and Jon eases back into bed, turning to face Ryan. They're sharing a pillow, sharing breath, and Ryan inhales shakily.

"You're going to think I'm so greedy," he whispers, but he leans in, anyway, and kisses Jon. Both of them keep their eyes open.

Jon kisses him back, and Ryan pushes his body into Jon's. Jon's hand finds his lower back, presses him closer, and Ryan's lost. But Jon's there for him to hold on to, steady and solid.

It's not like how Brendon and Spencer were kissing, Ryan knows, because he feels too desperate for that. Jon's mouth is wide and welcoming against his, but Ryan pushes for more, faster. He presses his hands into Jon's chest, feels the tension under his palms, and pushes Jon, tipping him onto his back and rolling on top of him.

Jon makes a muffled sound, and Ryan pulls back, letting go of Jon's mouth and looking down. He can't not, with Jon spread out beneath him. The neck of Jon's T-shirt is stretched awkwardly from the way he's lying, his chest rising and falling fast and uneven. Jon's hands flex where they grasp his hips, and Ryan finally makes it to Jon's eyes.

Ryan presses his fingertips along Jon's jaw, thumbs brushing over his cheeks lightly, and they watch each other, just watch. After moments measured by slowing breaths, Ryan realizes Jon's looking at him just like normal. His eyes aren't sex-darkened or heavy-lidded, and his pupils aren't blown because this isn't all about sex. Ryan takes Jon's mouth again, and this time Ryan kisses Jon like he deserves, slow and deep and just about this, just about them, kissing just to be kissing Jon.

Jon's smiling softly when their lips part again. "You sure this is a good idea?" he asks, only a little playful.

"No," Ryan answers truthfully. "I want it anyway."

Jon slides one hand up Ryan's back, rucking up his T-shirt as he goes. "Yeah," he says.

Ryan reaches for Jon's hands, and Jon lets him pull them over his head, press them into the mattress. Jon's fingers are thick and warm, and Ryan laces his fingers through them, presses his palms into Jon's broad ones, and his fingers feel thin and almost delicate between Jon's. Jon turns his head to watch their hands entwine, presenting Ryan with his profile, pulling the tendon at the side of his neck taut, and Ryan kisses the corner of Jon's mouth and pushes one leg between Jon's.

Jon's eyes slide closed and his face turns back to Ryan's until they're kissing again, not lazy, but not urgent, either. Focused. It's been a long time since anything like this, anything this intimate, made Ryan want to smile, but this. This does. He wants to, but he doesn't want to let go of the sweet press and slide of lips and tongue and hips. His heart's beating strong and steady, not racing, and he feels like maybe the world is just him and Jon, and nothing else matters.

Then Jon pushes his hips up against Ryan, hooking one leg around Ryan's thighs, and Ryan's heart finds a new, faster rhythm.

"Here, just," Ryan says, and lets go of Jon's hands, rolls onto his side so he can get at Jon's sweatpants. Jon lifts his hips obligingly, and Ryan slides them down, off, then his underwear.

"Take off your shirt," Ryan says, and Jon does quickly, nothing like a tease. It still makes Ryan's breath speed up.

Jon's just half-hard, and Ryan wants him hard, ready, panting, so he doesn't touch his cock yet. He leans on one elbow, sliding his other hand up the front of Jon's thigh, then down to the pale inner thigh where he can see muscle twitching. He covers it with his palm, rubbing softly, then presses to coax Jon's legs wider.

Jon says, "Ryan," soft and surprised, and Ryan looks up then, gives Jon a small smile and rubs his thumb over the crease of Jon's thigh.

"I like seeing you like this," Ryan confesses, taking in all that naked skin, the parted legs, Jon's cock curving harder against his stomach. It's better than Ryan could have imagined it.

He leans down enough to kiss Jon lightly, once, before he licks his way down to Jon's neck, his chest. He laps at Jon's nipples, tugs one with his teeth, and there. Jon's breath is coming short and hot, and Ryan pushes himself against Jon's hip, rubs a little, when he sees the way Jon's grasping the headboard with both hands.

Jon's hard now, as hard as Ryan, so Ryan gives him his hand. He licks his palm, wraps his fingers around Jon's cock, and he's torn between watching the slide of it through his fist, seeing Jon's hips push up in tiny jerks, or watching Jon's face, mouth slack with pleasure and eyes squeezed shut tight.

Ryan settles on watching his fist working fast and hard, looking up when Jon's thighs start shaking and he starts grunting like the sounds are being torn from his throat. Jon makes one last tiny, choked-off sound, and Ryan looks back down fast, in time to see Jon's stomach muscles clenching as come spatters his belly.

Ryan pulls Jon through it, until Jon moans. He wants to take time to appreciate the way Jon looks, spread out against the bed, boneless and panting and mussed, but God. He has to slide his fingers across Jon's skin instead, through his come.

His hand is slick with it when he falls to his back and pushes his hand into his shorts. He starts jerking himself roughly, rocking his hips into it.

"No, no," he hears Jon say before he even registers movement. Jon's hands scrabble at his waistband, finally catching it and tugging it down past his hips, down around mid-thigh, and Ryan doesn't stop, can't stop.

He does see the arousal flare in Jon's eyes, even though he just came, and it's from watching Ryan. And Ryan, who's usually so quiet, he groans when Jon rubs at his belly, pushing up his T-shirt. Then Jon wraps his hand around Ryan's, slowing his movements until it's agonizing.

Ryan can't help it; he writhes and tries to push his hips forward, but Jon won't let him, pressing down against Ryan's hip with his free hand.

"God, Jon. Let me come," Ryan pleads. "I have to, please."

Jon's hand tightens minutely, but Ryan can feel it to his toes, and Jon lets him arch forward, into their combined touch, and Ryan cries out without shame. Jon's moving tight and fast and perfect, and his grip keeps Ryan's hand moving even when it wants to go limp, and then Ryan's coming over their fists, Jon's name spilling from his lips.

Ryan's still trying to catch his breath when Jon kisses him hard and messy and steals every bit of breath he'd gotten back.

* * *


If it were anyone besides Jon, Ryan thinks it would probably be awkward the next morning. God knows Ryan feels awkward enough. But Jon doesn't let it be.

He wakes Ryan up by tossing a damp towel on top of him and saying, "Hey, it's almost eight. You should probably take a shower."

Ryan cracks one eye open, cranky, and Jon's squatting beside the bed so his eyes are at Ryan's level. Ryan recoils in surprise, and Jon laughs. "You want something from the breakfast bar?" Jon asks. "I was gonna go down and get something."

"Mph," Ryan says.

"I'll just read your mind," Jon says. He drops a kiss on Ryan's forehead, then snags the keycard from the nightstand and is gone.

"Um, okay," Ryan tells the empty room. He goes and takes his shower obediently.

When he leaves the bathroom, clad in shorts and the towel slung over his shoulders, Jon's sitting against the headboard, eating a tiny plastic bowl of Apple Jacks and watching "I Love Lucy."

"Mm," Jon hums and holds up a finger as he chews and swallows. "Hey, I got a bunch of cereal. Take your pick."

There are no Lucky Charms, but there are Cocoa Puffs, which are almost as good, and the milk at the end is even better.

Jon pats the ugly comforter next to him, and Ryan settles in, crunching away and trying to figure out what's going on. Lucy and her husband seem to be at a hunting lodge or maybe just an ugly motel or something -- surely that can't be their house. Ryan doesn't really know; he's pretty sure he's never seen a full episode of "I Love Lucy" before. He does notice the room features two single beds, which is pretty funny considering they're married.

Jon mutes the TV when it goes to commercials. He clears his throat, and Ryan suddenly and desperately doesn't want to know what he's going to say.

"Do you want to come over tonight?" Ryan asks hurriedly.

Jon's brow furrows. "We're not at a hotel tonight," he says, as if maybe Ryan forgot.

"I meant on the bus. I mean, we're going to the same place, so. You could come with us." Ryan shrugs like the answer doesn't mean much to him one way of the other. If Jon could feel Ryan's heartbeat, he'd know differently.

Maybe he does, anyway, because Jon smiles slow and pleased. "Yeah, okay," he says. He plucks the empty bowl and spoon from Ryan's hands and discards them on the bedside table, then says, "Come here?"

Ryan goes. He edges carefully into Jon's space until Jon's hand finds his shoulder, cups it lightly, pulling Ryan forward. They kiss, slow and light, a goodnight kiss on a first date.

Jon lets go, and Ryan sits back, throat tightening when Jon says, "It doesn't have to change anything. I know... I just mean, I still think you need to talk to Brendon and Spencer."

Ryan wants to shake his head, but he ends up nodding. It's... Jon doesn't get it. Ryan does want Brendon, and he wants Spencer. He wants them together. But he wants this, too. He wants it all.

* * *


Spencer and Brendon look up in surprise when Jon climbs on the bus behind Ryan that night after the show.

"Jon's spending the night here," Ryan announces. Jon smiles small and maybe a little hopeful.

In the past, Brendon probably would have thrown himself onto Jon's back and bubbled over with enthusiasm. Tonight he looks at Spencer apprehensively, and Spencer just nods. "Okay," he says evenly.

The look Spencer gives him isn't even, though. He's fucking pissed, and it isn't about Jon being here. Ryan doesn't care.

He's defiant when he tugs Jon back toward the bunks. He puts his hand on Jon's lower back, doesn't care if Spencer and Brendon see. Maybe he wants them to see.

"This was Brent's bunk," he tells Jon. Brendon is hovering just inside the front lounge, and Ryan can still see Spencer sitting stiffly at the table. "You can have it now," Ryan says. He can feel it when Jon goes tense under his touch.

Jon nods, mouth gone suddenly tight, and the silence is stifling. Ryan has never seen Jon's face so carefully blank.

"Hey," Brendon says, falsely cheerful. "You should come play cards with me, Jon. I'm blow-your-mind awesome at Speed, and these fuckers won't play anymore." He pushes out his bottom lip, and Jon smiles a little. It's forced. Jon's smile never looks forced.

"Lead on," Jon says, and follows Brendon into the back. He leaves his bag on the floor. Ryan puts it in Brent's bunk.

The door hasn't even closed behind Brendon and Jon before Spencer's grabbing Ryan's wrist and jerking him toward the front.

"What the fuck are you doing?" he asks. His nostrils are flaring in that way they only do when Spencer's really pissed off.

"What are you talking about?" Ryan says.

"Mixed signals, Ross. Yesterday you said you didn't want Jon in the band, and now you're bringing him on the bus and telling him to take Brent's fucking bunk. You don't think that's a little fucked up?"

"Maybe I changed my mind," Ryan says, crossing his arms over his chest.

"No, you didn't," Spencer shakes his head, then freezes. "Are you jerking him around?" He sounds stricken. "You can't do that to people. You can't do that to Jon."

Ryan recoils from Spencer, feeling it like a physical blow that Spencer thinks he would do that. "No! I'm not jerking him around. I'm... evaluating, maybe. I. I think maybe I was wrong before. I just, I need to know."

Spencer stares at Ryan in a way he never has before. Doubt. Like he doesn't know if he can trust Ryan. It fucking hurts.

"I'm serious, Spencer," Ryan says desperately. "I wouldn't do that." He hates that he has to say it, that Spencer needs to hear it.

"Yeah," Spencer says after a long pause. "Yeah, okay."

He still doesn't look happy, but when Brendon and Jon come out of the back later ("Seventeen times," Jon says. "How did he beat me seventeen times?"), Spencer grins and says it's because Brendon on caffeine or a post-show high moves at twice the speed of the average human being, and it's just almost genuine.

Brendon laughs in something like relief, like he can feel the shift of something that was off getting better. Not fixed, but better.

* * *


Ryan knows he fucked up. He's not sure what it was, but Jon has just flipped a switch or something. He knows they were okay when Jon got on the bus, and then all of a sudden they weren't. Ryan's going to make whatever it was up to him. He has to.

So when Jon tries to take his bag off the bus when they get to the venue the next day, Ryan stops him, holding on to the bag like it'll stop Jon from going.

"Leave it here," he says, and his voice sounds strained even in his ears. "I want you to stay. For the rest of the tour."

Jon looks down at Ryan's fingers, starkly contrasted against the black of Jon's duffel, and Ryan lets it go.

"For the rest of the tour, at least," Ryan says.

Jon looks back up, searching Ryan's eyes, and Ryan feels pinned. He's sure Jon can see into Ryan's head if he just looks hard enough, and he'll know how fucked up everything is up there, how Ryan doesn't know exactly what he wants, but that he wants this.

"Please," Ryan says, and it really is the magic word, because Jon nods.

"All right," he says.

Ryan takes Jon's bag back to Brent's bunk. No. Back to Jon's bunk.

* * *


It's awkward, and it stays awkward, more than Ryan thought it would.

Jon still watches them, careful and quiet, with a new distance that makes Ryan's chest ache. Ryan watches him, too.

Jon does still find a lot to smile at. Brendon falling asleep pressed into Spencer's side when they're watching a movie; Spencer drumming on the table with two forks; Ryan stealing the prize from the Rice Krispies so Brendon sifts through them with a puzzled look and says, "Dude, we got gypped! There's no SpongeBob spoon in here!"

Sometimes the things Ryan thinks will make Jon smile don't. When it's just Jon and Ryan sitting together at the table, Ryan writes the security code to the bus door carefully across the inside of Jon's wrist, pressing the marker lightly against his skin. Jon stares down at his wrist after Ryan lets it go, then looks away, out the window. Ryan swallows hard and reaches for him, turning Jon's face toward him and pressing their lips together. Jon pulls back carefully and looks down at the table when he says, "I don't think that's such a good idea."

Then he looks back out the window, and Ryan gets up, walks to his bunk and curls up inside so he won't have to see anyone for a little while.

Each day, Jon has to leave the bus as soon as they get to the venue, because he has his job with the Academy, has things he has to do for them. When he comes back, he still knocks. He makes it into a joke, coming up with a secret knock with Brendon. It's not funny; Ryan's throat tightens every time he hears it. But when Jon knocks, Ryan will never not let him in.

Ryan stops pushing after he kisses Jon and Jon turns away, but he doesn't stop watching. He watches the way Jon watches Brendon and Spencer. There's fondness, sometimes happiness, and something else. Because yes, there is something there that Ryan knows he isn't making up just because he wants to see it. Sometimes when Brendon touches Spencer's back just so and Spencer smiles blindingly happy, he sees in Jon what he feels himself. He knows what Jon meant about seeing them and knowing something's going to happen, except with Jon, he sees something that should happen but might not.

It has to, though.

Ryan will make it happen.

* * *


On the fourth night Jon stays with them, Ryan goes to bed first. He waits, palms sweatier than he can ever remember and heart jackrabbitting against his ribcage.

Brendon's not going to start anything -- Ryan knows that because Brendon's been on his best behavior since Ryan brought Jon onto the bus.

So Ryan waits until he hears Spencer's curtain close, and Jon and Brendon come in together.

"Night," Jon says quietly, courteous as ever, and Brendon says, "Night," in his trademark stage whisper, which is actually about as quiet as he ever gets.

Ryan waits until he hears them get settled in, but before their breathing evens, and he swallows hard. When he thought about this before, he was pretty sure the sheer terror would keep him from following through. He was wrong.

His apprehension has somehow morphed into a sort of stomach-roiling anticipation -- probably helped along by the overwhelming confusion and frustration of the past few days, the way they're all tiptoeing around each other and the way Jon's pushing him away. Now, Ryan wants this, wants to change everything, and it's up to him, it has to be.

He takes a deep breath, doesn't bother trying to be quiet, and he pushes his shorts and underwear down and off, the rustling cloth all he can hear, the drag against his skin raising goosebumps. He wraps his fingers around his cock and doesn't even have to remind himself not to keep quiet; he's so hard and ready and wants them to hear him that he hisses at the first touch. He fists himself a few times, slowly, but it's too dry. He brings his hand up, licking his palm -- then thinks one better and spits in it, knows the sound will be unmistakable.

As loud as Spencer and Brendon have been, and as familiar as Ryan is with their sounds, it's almost fitting that the one whose breath catches audibly is Jon. The sound is even more satisfying than the spit-slickened slide of Ryan's palm over the head of his cock. It twists something low in his belly, and he grunts appreciatively.

He gives up on slow when he hears the telltale rustle of fabric from Brendon's bunk. The relief of it nearly makes him laugh, even though of course Brendon's the first to join in, except Brendon's sounds have become hard-wired to turn him on, so Ryan just jacks himself harder, feeding off Brendon's tiny gasps and giving back his own sounds.

And it's easy, so easy now to do this and let them hear it, let Brendon hear him groan on the power of imagining Brendon's head pressed back, exposing his throat while he tugs on his cock, turned on by Ryan. Ryan feels like a jerk, like he should have given this back before instead of taking and taking.

Then he hears Spencer say, "God, Ryan," ragged and breathless, and it's so much like how he'd said Ryan's name those other nights, except for how it's not at all. Ryan tightens his fingers at the base of his cock to keep himself from coming, can't help but whimper at the self-denial, but this can't be over yet.

Not without Jon.

"Jon," he rasps, and can hardly believe that's his voice sounding so desperate and pleading. "Jon, come on," he says, and it comes out nothing like the order he'd wanted it to be.

His hand tightens almost painfully and his hips jerk of their own accord when he hears it. That sound isn't Jon pushing off his shorts; it's Jon pushing back his sheets and shoving his curtain open. It's Jon getting out of his bunk, then it's him jerking Ryan's bunk curtain open.

It's utterly fucking silent then. Jon's broken this thing open, torn it apart, and fuck, fuck, Ryan's shaking so hard, but he meets Jon's eyes head-on. They're hot and a little angry until Ryan arches again, into his hand, into Jon's gaze, and twists his fist over the head of his cock slow enough to be nothing but a show, a tease for Jon. Torture for Ryan.

Jon's eyes slide closed and Ryan's breath is gone, his heart frozen until they open again, drag down Ryan's body.

"Keep going," Jon says, so even and quiet he could be saying anything. "Keep on going," Jon says again, louder, and Ryan knows he's talking not just to Ryan now, but to Spencer and Brendon, too.

Jon touches Ryan's hip, skimming across skin so lightly, and Ryan shudders at the touch and obeys. He's jerking himself fast and rough, rhythm disjointed, and it's just him, his gasps and the wet sound of his hand on his dick, until it's not. Brendon and Spencer start again, and Ryan can't think, can only listen to them while Jon watches him hotly, touching him almost innocently.

But then Jon says, "That's so good, Ryan. Fucking gorgeous like this," and it's one of the first approving things Jon's said to him since whatever Ryan did to fuck things up so badly.

Ryan arches and keens, and Jon says, "Wanna watch you come again," and Ryan does, hard and messy and jerking himself through it.

His chest is heaving, and Jon's smiling down at him, almost sweet. Then Brendon's saying, "Oh, oh fuck," and Spencer's grunting harshly, and Ryan's smiling back at Jon tentatively. Brendon and Spencer's panting is almost synchronized, and Ryan wonders if they came at the same time.

Ryan keeps watching Jon, sees his eyes drop to where Ryan's streaked with come. Ryan rolls to the edge of his bunk and lets his come-sticky hand brush the front of Jon's T-shirt.

"Do you want me to take care of you?" Ryan asks, rubbing his knuckles at the top of Jon's boxers, too-desperate hope almost choking the words out.

"Mmmm," Jon hums. He rubs at Ryan's wrist, then brings Ryan's hand up to his mouth. Ryan cries out at the hot surge of too-fast arousal that comes with seeing and feeling Jon licking between Ryan's knuckles, then drawing Ryan's fingers into his mouth one at a time, sucking Ryan's come away and swallowing it. Then Jon pushes Ryan's hand into his boxers and growls a little when Ryan's hand shakes, spit-slick fingers skating across the head of Jon's cock.

"Do it," Jon says, pushing into Ryan's hand, and Ryan does. He wraps his fingers around Jon as well as he can with the awkward angle and his wrist twisted uncomfortably, and strokes Jon tight and urgent until Jon's hips jerk forward, fucking into Ryan's fist. He's almost silent, too, until he comes with a shuddering groan, and Ryan's fingers are sticky again.

Ryan brings them to his mouth, still shaking, and sucks them clean, and Jon's holding on to the edge of Ryan's bunk, leaning in. "It's okay," he murmurs against Ryan's mouth, and Ryan breaks, throwing his arms around Jon's neck and kissing him with everything he has.

Jon starts to pull back, and Ryan doesn't care if it's just to breathe, he doesn't care if it's to get something to clean them up, Ryan isn't letting go.

"Stay with me," he tells Jon, tightening his arms. Then, quieter, "Stay with us. For good."

Jon ducks his head, doesn't say anything for the longest time. When he finally says, "Scoot over, let me in," Ryan finally exhales. He presses his back to the wall to make room, and it's a tight fit when Jon climbs in, but after Jon pulls the curtain shut, Ryan draws Jon closer still. Their foreheads are touching, and they're too close to be able to look at each other. Ryan closes his eyes.

"Will you think about it?" he whispers. He knows he shouldn't be doing this, talking so only Jon can hear when this is just as much about Brendon and Spencer -- and there's no way they're asleep yet -- but he does it anyway, has to know.

"I haven't been able to think about much else," Jon says just as quietly. Then, "How could I ever say no?"

Ryan thinks he might shake apart, but he presses against Jon, warm and solid, and breathes. "I'm so glad," he says, and it's insufficient, but there aren't words for this.

Jon kisses him. "Me, too," he says.

Part 3
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untappedbeauty

September 2009

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