Title: Sidelong Glances
Pairings: Jon/Spencer, Ryan/Brendon, Gabe/William, Frank/Gerard, Pete/Patrick
Disclaimer: t'is all fiction and untrue.
Summary: Sidelong glances can bring more than expected. A series of mini-fics featuring this phenomenon.
A/N: To explain, each part of this is a standalone within itself, but each connects to a previous part, it's sort of a fic within a fic, if you catch my drift. Well, I hope you'll get it when you read, if you can find the connection. I just wanted to write something today, so I did, and here it is. Probably last fic until BBB.
The bar is empty. Empty except for the bartender, a young guy probably still in college, who is flipping through channels on the television mounted behind the bar. Empty except for a couple, guy and girl, who sit cloistered at a back table, shot glasses empty and sticky on the table, but they’re talking together instead of drinking anyway. It’s empty except for the lone man at the end of the counter, staring at his empty glass and tapping his fingers on the counter.
The bartender changes the channel from news to more news and sighs into the emptiness. The man at the end of the counter doesn’t react, just taps his glass as his shoulders fall.
He’s been there a good portion of the evening, long after the regulars picked up and left. The bar doesn’t close for another hour or so, but there’s no one there.
When the door to the bar opens and the rushing sound of rain drops on the pavement outside can be heard, no one looks up but the bartender. Rustling leather and wet footsteps come inside and the cold air is shut out with a snap of the door.
“Bad weather today, huh?” the bartender says when the newcomer approaches the counter and slides onto a stool.
The man doesn’t reply, but shakes his wet hair from his eyes and taps the counter with his knuckle.
“Weather channel says it’s going to be like this all week,” the bartender continues, digging under the counter and coming up with a clean glass. He pours an amber liquid into it and slides it over without so much as a question. “Hope nothing floods.”
The television is on the Weather Channel now and the bartender turns to watch the man gesture over the moving map of weather patterns.
The man at the end of the counter is still staring at his empty glass, but the tapping has stopped. Instead his hands sit on top of the faded counter, tracing circles in the long-faded pattern.
The new guy shifts in his damp jacket. Water drips off his hair, the end of his nose, but he doesn’t brush it away. He sniffs and takes a gulp of his drink. The only noise is the low murmur of the television and the couple in the back, but their voices are quiet and don’t carry over.
Turning back, the bartender glances between the two at the counter, three stools and a world apart.
“So what’s your story?” he asks the new guy finally.
The guy shakes his head and downs the rest of his drink. The clink of the glass is loud in the empty bar. He shivers a little and stuffs his hands in his pockets. Sniffing again, he doesn’t reply, but nods for another drink.
The bartender fetches it easily while the man at the end of the counter rustles softly, dark eyes blinking slowly at the empty glass. Tanned hands wind around the clear glass, tapping out a rhythm against the glass. The chink is too quiet to be heard over the television and the patter of rain on the back window.
New drink in hand, the newcomer swirls the dark liquid slowly before taking a sip. His movements are slow, purposeful as he pushes his hair aside, the edges drying now. He doesn’t tuck it behind his ear, but pushes it back. His elbows prop on the counter and he contemplates his drink.
The bartender moves over to the other man. “Hey, Gabe, freshen your drink?”
The man stirs at his name and tugs a little at his short hair. He takes a minute to shake his head no.
“I know what you mean,” the bartender says as though Gabe spoke, as though he did more than jerk his head a little. “It’s been a crap day for everyone. Look at this place. Dead as a doornail.”
Gabe doesn’t reply. His hands tighten around the glass and he sucks in a breath.
“Yeah, you probably don’t need anymore anyway, right?” the bartender continues. “You’ve had enough tequila to fill a factory. I can’t believe you’re still upright. Music scene going pretty bad, huh? I heard it’s hard to get started nowadays.”
He keeps talking but Gabe is blinking slowly at his glass. The other man at the end of the counter has his head up and is staring at a poster behind the bar of all the cocktails in the world. There are a lot of them.
He finishes his second drink in one long drain down his throat before it clunks back to the counter. The sound stirs Gabe, shaking his head a little.
The man with the glass pauses, his eyes moving slowly from the glass, traveling down the faded counter, past empty stools, and fall on Gabe.
Gabe’s eyes are dark and the man meets them slowly, head tilted to the left while the bartender rambles on about record labels and weather predictions.
The man’s lips part but he doesn’t speak. Gabe stares for a moment, eyes dark but hazy, questioning but knowing all in the same moment, then he smiles, small and slow, glimmering and dark, and the man pauses.
Gabe’s eyes say, I know you, and the man withdraws his gaze.
Before he leaves the bar, he drops a few bills on the counter as the bartender babbles over the television. On his way out, he brushes past Gabe, hand flitting into his pocket as he leaves into the pouring rain.
“Dead dead dead,” the bartender mutters when the door swings shut and he goes to pick up the empty glass.
Gabe’s hand in his pocket is slow and the paper he pulls out is bent and wrinkled.
The name is scribbled and the ink is faded, hard to make out against the wrinkles.
The band has gotten off to a great start, playing shows in different cities, touring in a bus, sleeping on top of each other. But not everything is perfect.
Ever since Jon joined the band, Spencer has felt weirdly uncomfortable. He can’t explain it, but he doesn’t like to sit next to Jon during interviews, preferring to sit on Ryan’s other side, or squished in between him and Brendon. He doesn’t like to be alone with Jon after the others have gone to bed and the bus is rumbling through some nameless bright city on yet another freeway.
He knows that Brent couldn’t stay, that it would be better this way, but it doesn’t feel like it.
Instead it feels like he’s suffocating in the web of Jon Walker.
Of course, Jon doesn’t do anything. Jon is perfectly normal, awesome, as Brendon would put it (and does frequently). Jon is just about the best bassist and person they could have asked for to replace Brent.
He doesn’t drink the last of the milk, or out of the carton. He plays Guitar Hero with Brendon forever until Ryan tosses a book at Brendon and tells him to stop. He helps Ryan with the lyrics and the music. He makes coffee in the morning no matter if it’s on the bus or in a hotel. Jon is perfect.
But Spencer doesn’t feel it. He knows Jon is great, and he only gets raised eyebrows when he tells Ryan about his issues, or lack thereof. He doesn’t tell Brendon because Brendon would go to Jon straightaway and tell him everything.
So Spencer endures the feeling of discomfort whenever Jon flops down beside him on the couch and nudges his side, leaning in too close to whisper in his ear about the night’s movie selection. He doesn’t squirm away, but instead leans forward for the popcorn, forcing Jon back to his side by the time he returns.
He watches the movie, trying to ignore the way Jon’s eyes tend to drift to him instead of the screen. He focuses on Brendon instead, watching how his eyes widen and he clings to Ryan’s arm during the dramatic parts.
When the movie ends, Spencer makes the first valid excuse to retreat to his bunk. He isn’t really surprised when Ryan wanders in a few minutes later, tugging the curtain open and shoving Spencer over.
“Too many legs,” is Spencer’s only protest as Ryan tugs the curtain shut again. The bunk is too small for two people, even though Spencer is only eighteen and has a few more inches to grow. Ryan’s elbows and knees are bony and poke him uncomfortably in the side, but Spencer doesn’t really mind, until Ryan opens his mouth.
“I was watching you,” he says and Spencer sighs. “So was Jon.”
“No, he wasn’t,” Spencer argues, although he knows perfectly well it’s a lie.
“He watches you all the time, actually.”
“He does not,” Spencer protests and tries to turn away, but the bunk is entirely too small and he only ends up knocking his elbow painfully into the metal side of the bus.
“He does,” Ryan continues blithely. He’s lying on his back, watching how the bus jostles over rough roads. “More than anyone else.”
“It’s not true,” Spencer says firmly, rubbing his elbow.
“It is.” Ryan pauses. “And I know why.”
“You do not.” Spencer frowns and glances at him.
Ryan nods. “I do. And I know why you’re so uncomfortable around him.”
“Why?” Spencer demands, struggling to turn again, but everything is too small and Ryan doesn’t move to make it easier.
Instead, Ryan shrugs and reaches for the curtain, pulling it open. “Catch one of those glances and you’ll figure it out,” he says as he rolls out of the bunk, leaving Spencer, mouth open, stuffed inside.
The shows are loud nowadays. They have a real bus and not a tiny van puttering from festival to festival, sleeping in their clothes, drinking away the disappointment when no one knows who they are. Now, screaming fans chant their name before they go on, clambering to get over the front barrier, stopped by burly security guys who wouldn’t know the band’s name if you asked.
They go on last now, at night when the sun has gone down and it’s not burning hot in whatever venue this is. The lights are bright and the crowd is screaming at the first strum of the guitar.
Pete goes on first, cascading onto the stage, and the volume jumps as he runs around. Andy’s drum kicks in and Joe joins in. Patrick takes the mic and casts a quick glance at Pete to his left, already in his spot, hands poised over the guitar.
The breath Patrick takes is to fortify himself. Pete doesn’t need it. All he needs are the crowd’s eyes fixed on him. Patrick still gets nervous, still braces himself with the microphone stand, hiding behind his guitar even as girls scream his name.
Pete is saying something, talking to the crowd, and Patrick catches a blip of “Memphis!” so that must be where they are tonight. Most cities go by in a blur of colored lights and earplugs.
The crowd goes wild as the music starts and Patrick leans into the microphone, fingers tripping over the chords on his guitar.
“Last year’s wishes and this year’s apologies,” he sings and sees the surge in the crowd, automatic reciprocation. Pete always says it’s the best part of being famous.
He can hear the words sung back to him, a mess of mispronounced words, wrong lyrics, and just plain cries coming back to him. It’s all muffled in his ears as he plays, looking down at his guitar, glancing up into the lights that flash blue, red, yellow. He blinks in the lights, listening to the roar of the crowd and remembering when they used to slink off stage to a bottle of Jack in their tiny van.
As he sings, he glances to where Pete is plucking at his bass, wearing whatever ridiculous get-up they’ve picked out for this show. No more jeans and a tee shirt. Now they’re Panic at the Disco minus the circus dancers.
Patrick turns back before Pete can look up and catch his eye. He concentrates on the song, on the way the guitar feels in his hands, heavy but comfortable. He’d much rather be in his living room, plucking out chords on an acoustic guitar rather than the focus of a thousand screaming fans. He sees the flashes of cameras, bright over the hands that reach into the sky.
Pete bounces behind him and Patrick doesn’t turn to watch as he switches sides with Joe. The screaming gets louder when Pete reaches out into the crowd. Patrick is amazed no girl has had a heart attack yet.
He’s reached the last verse and doesn’t look when he feels Pete approaching him. He’s already hot and sweaty from the lights that burn into his clothes. He can feel the sweat dripping down his neck and his jacket is stifling. He hates this part.
Pete is closer and Patrick can feel his eyes as he sings into the mic.
“The best way to make it through with hearts and wrists intact is to realize…” he swallows, his attention caught by Pete from the corner of his eye.
Pete is close, his guitar in between them as Patrick licks his lips and turns back to the mic hastily.
“Two out of three ain’t bad,” he finishes, launching into the chorus even as Pete remains close. He can see Pete mouthing the words, finishing the song with him. He doesn’t miss the way Pete looks back at him as he finishes and moves away.
Taking a breath, Patrick wipes at his forehead when it ends and Pete is back, talking into his microphone, too close, and too hot.
“You know,” Pete says, sounding slightly breathless, but the glance he tosses aside to Patrick is knowing, along with the crook of his mouth. “Playing shows like this is always awesome. This next song is a love song!”
The crowd squeals at the announcement, although Patrick isn’t sure if they even know which song Pete is referring to. Personally, he wouldn’t say that any of their songs are love songs. In Pete’s twisted world, however…
“And we know all about love, don’t we, Patrick?” Pete asks, and he’s definitely grinning now. Patrick does not trust the glimmer in his eye in the least.
“Um,” he says, and it’s probably the first thing he’s said all evening.
“I do anyway,” Pete assures the crowd, his voice barely audible over their noise. “And we’ll make Patrick, won’t we?” he asks.
The response is deafening, and when Pete glances at him sideways, Patrick’s throat closes up and he can do nothing but blink.
“Won’t we?” Pete repeats again, but he’s not talking into the mic now, instead turned towards Patrick, a grin on his face as he leans forward.
Patrick is stiff at the surprise and shock of the whole thing. The crowd is going crazy and all Patrick can hear is the buzz in his ears as Pete’s mouth presses to his. It’s not long, hardly a millisecond goes by until Pete is pulling away. Camera flashes light up the entire venue and Patrick stares at his mic.
Pete has already bounced back to his own mic, adjusting the strap of his bass and tossing a grin back to Andy, who takes up the beat.
Startled, Patrick leans into the mic as the music picks up.
“I’m gonna make it bend and break,” he sings, hardly knowing what he’s doing, “say a prayer and let the good times roll.” Looking over at Pete, he sees the way his eyes are trained back, and catches the hint of a grin. He almost laughs to himself, but doesn’t as the crowd swells. “In case God doesn’t show.”
Stumbling off the stage into a blur of techs and venue workers is always confusing. People are yelling, running around with guitars and no one knows what’s what. It’s hot and sweaty, crazy and confusing.
All Gerard wants is a cigarette and something to drink, but he can’t. He’s been sober nearly two months, two months of wanting to rip his skin off just for a cigarette, just for that sweet tang of alcohol in his throat. Two months of lying in bed and staring at the ceiling, needing the fix that he can no longer have.
Instead, he gets a water bottle and a pen, chewing on the end as he stands in a dark corner while techs pile everything into the truck. The other bands on tour filter past, shooting him congratulations on the show. Gerard doesn’t want their congratulations. He wants a fucking cigarette.
Taking a breath, he closes his eyes, trying to block out all the noise. It’s dark this way, but not quiet. He hears a rustle of a jacket, a familiar jacket, and the soft noise of a shoe scuffing the wall.
Breathing in, he can smell it. The scent is sweet but acrid, inviting but disgusting at the same time. His stomach does a little flip, for good or worse he’s not really sure.
“Frank,” he says softly and doesn’t open his eyes. He hears a sniff from beside him but no other answer.
It’s driving him crazy, and he opens his eyes, tilting his head to the side.
Frank leans against the wall, looking small in his jacket. One foot is set up against the wall, while he slumps down with the other. He smells like cigarettes and Gerard knows it isn’t on purpose. But he can’t help needing to smell it, to be near it.
“Frank,” he says again, casting his glance sideway against the wall, eyes skimming over Frank’s messy hair, the sweat still glistening on his neck, over his tattoo, past his shoulders and down his small frame.
Frank shifts and his neck stretches. Gerard stares, swallowing carefully.
“Yeah, Gee?” Frank asks. He stuffs his hands in his pockets and Gerard knows he has cigarettes in there somewhere.
“You-you smell—” he says, choking on the words, and Frank’s foot falls and he kicks the ground, glancing at Gerard guiltily.
“Yeah, sorry,” he says, but Gerard is shaking his head, words not forming as they should be.
“No, no, not sorry,” he says, and Frank looks confused.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah.” Gerard nods and the word is breathless. He can still smell it, cigarettes mixed with something uniquely Frank, something he smells on the tour bus, in Frank’s clothes, his pillow when Frank crawls into his bunk.
“Are you sure?” Frank asks carefully at Gerard’s reaction. Turning, he reaches for his arm gingerly.
“Yeah.” Gerard nods again, eyes darting over Frank’s face until he makes a decision and grabs Frank’s arm, turning and dragging him out of the venue.
“Hey, where,” Frank tries to say, but Gerard is pulling and he stumbles over chords and out the door into the cool night.
Gerard drags him around the back side of the building where they can’t hear the screech of dollies or the chatter of the techs, or the murmur of the fans who stick around with the hope of catching them. Brian will shoo them away soon.
“Gerard,” Frank says, once Gerard lets go of his jacket, and he’s pressed up against the cold brick. “What are you doing?”
“Fuck,” Gerard mutters, staring at Frank. “Frankie, I just need this.”
“Need wha—” Frank starts, but is cut off by Gerard’s mouth hard against his.
Frank tastes just like cigarettes and Gerard can’t get enough. It’s sweet and tart, stained on Frank’s lips, his tongue, his teeth. Frank’s jacket is fisted in his hands as he kisses him, biting at his lip while Frank struggles to understand.
They’ve done this before, but when Gerard was drunk out of his mind and he hardly remembered the next day. They’ve done it when they were alone in hotels, careful hands exploring dark crevices, but not speaking of it in the morning. They’ve never done it outside a venue, both completely sober.
“Fuck,” Gerard mumbles again, pressing closer. He knows Frank is shocked at the suddenness, at the way he tugs at his jacket, hands skimming underneath to the tattooed skin, brushing over muscles and settling to grip at his sides.
He bites at Frank’s mouth, desperate for more, desperate for anything Frank at the moment. Frank doesn’t make a noise, but he’s kissing back now, a hand running up Gerard’s neck and into his wild hair.
The clink of Frank’s lip ring against his teeth has Gerard pulling back, teeth scraping down Frank’s jaw as he moves to suck at the smooth skin of his neck.
“G-Gee,” Frank stutters finally, his free hand making for Gerard’s hip, pulling him in tighter so that Gerard gasps and bites his lip, feeling Frank against him. It sends a thrill through him to know that Frank wants this too.
“Yeah, yeah,” he only whispers, his hand working its way under the waist of Frank’s jeans. He pops the button, sliding down, and hears Frank’s sharp breath when his hand first wraps around him.
“God,” Frank mumbles, fumbling to reciprocate. His hands are cold and Gerard hisses but it quickly turns into a badly muffle moan into Frank’s shoulder.
Licking his lips, Frank tugs faster, feeling Gerard hard in his hand. He can feel the stuttered breaths against his neck, the sharp bite when Gerard whimpers and his hips jerk.
Gerard can hardly concentrate when Frank’s hand twists suddenly and he almost loses it. He can feel Frank, though, throbbing in his hand with each slow stroke.
“Oh, shit,” Frank mutters once before he comes, pulling Gerard to him with his free arm and burying his face in Gerard’s jacket to muffle the noises. The black leather is sticky under his hand and he lets out a harsh breath as he pants into it.
Gerard’s hand is sticky as he pulls it out and thrusts his hips into Frank’s loosening grip. That gets Frank’s attention and Gerard sneaks up for a bruising kiss, panting into Frank’s mouth when he comes and Frank nips his bottom lip.
“Fuck,” he breathes, eyes falling closed, his sweaty forehead pressed to Frank’s.
“Yeah,” Frank echoes, pulling out his hand and not moving. He can feel Gerard’s pants against his cheek, hot and moist over the sweat.
“Thanks,” Gerard says finally, and Frank is sure he’s going to pick up and carry on like this never happened, but he tilts up, pressing a kiss to his cheek instead, and sinking into him as they stand against the brick wall, listening to techs.
Getting home from a tour is almost better than being on tour. There’s a real bed and real food, no bad diner pancakes, no drama of who’s wearing whose sock. Everything is pretty awesome once they’re home.
Ryan’s house is huge, although he often forgets to pay the electric bill which often results in him coming home to a sweltering house if it’s during the summer. As it is, the winter is nice and mild this year in Las Vegas, so it’s only a matter of getting the lights turned on.
Spencer and Brendon come over a lot, so Ryan tries to make sure for at least the time that he’s there that the lights are on and the fridge works.
Spencer has gone to visit Jon in Chicago, though, so it’s just Ryan and Brendon in Ryan’s big house. The heater is on and Ryan has store-bought cookies in the shape of Christmas trees sitting on the coffee table.
A movie is on, but Brendon is most definitely not paying attention. It figures Ryan shouldn’t have picked something with subtitles.
“I don’t like to read movies!” Brendon always complains, but Ryan gets them anyway.
So Ryan is sitting at the end of the couch and Brendon keeps shooting him sidelong glances and inching closer.
“Stop looking at me like that,” Ryan says without even turning, eyes trained on the TV.
Brendon sighs, but doesn’t stop watching him out of the corner of his eyes. “Can’t help it. You’re too hot.”
“Brendon,” Ryan says reproachfully, but Brendon is already climbing into his lap, grinning up at him.
“But you are,” he insists, playing with Ryan’s hair lightly and smiling at him.
Ryan’s rolled eyes are ignored and Brendon settles into his lap.
“You know, we’re all alone in this big house,” he says and Ryan makes a vague noise. “Ryan, come on.”
“What?” Ryan asks, tearing his eyes from the TV finally. He looks up expectantly at Brendon, who smiles brightly.
“Aren’t you happy that we’re alone?”
“I guess,” he mutters, but Brendon sighs and hugs him lightly.
“And the tour’s over,” Brendon continues. “So no more cramped bunks or Jon and Spencer acting like idiots.”
“That’ll still happen,” Ryan says, but Brendon ignores him, pressing a quick kiss to his lips.
“And now I can send you as many looks as I want. No stupid paparazzi, or fangirls with high-tech cameras.” He looks excited and Ryan cracks a smile.
Brendon nods seriously. “So now are you happy that we’re alone?” he asks again, and Ryan pauses.
“Well,” he says finally. “I guess if it means no more cramped bunks.”
Brendon’s grin is wide and he settles down in Ryan’s lap. “Let’s watch the movie.”
Glancing down, Ryan waits a second before smiling and pressing play.