Summary: Jon has a brilliant idea to get everyone out of the cabin for a bit of fun. Ryan and Brendon have some fun in the woods.
Disclaimer: As real as me succeeding at work :-p
A/N: I hate my job but since finals are over for the semester, I thought you all might enjoy this. Beta'd by the wonderful silverdragon87.
"Alright, any questions?" Jon looked around at Spencer, Ryan, and Brendon, all squashed together on the couch in the living room. The bright afternoon sun shone in from the cabin’s window and fell in a long rectangle across the beige carpet.
"Ooh, ooh!" Brendon said, his hand shooting into the air as he bounced up and down in his chair.
"Brendon?" Jon asked, looking at him where he sat on the end next to Ryan.
Brendon paused. "Why are we doing this again?"
Jon sighed. "Because we’ve been stuck in this cabin for a month and we need to get out of it before we kill each other."
"I’m not going to kill anyone," Brendon said, grinning and grabbing Ryan around the middle, squeezing tightly. "I love you guys."
Ryan winced as Brendon nearly crushed him and pushed away his arms. He thought maybe Jon had a good point.
Jon glanced at Spencer and Ryan, both of which had a sort of pained expression on their faces. "We’re still doing it." He got up from where he’d been sitting on the coffee table and handed each of them a piece of paper. It was a hand-written list of objects.
"Jon…" Spencer said, eyeing the paper.
"Come on, Spence," Jon said. "It’s easy. You find all the things on the list and whoever gets the most wins."
"Wins what?" Ryan asked, putting down his list and raising an eyebrow at Jon.
"It’s a surprise," Jon said simply. He reached out and dragged Ryan up by his arm.
Ryan stood, though unwillingly. He glanced at Spencer, who had a doubtful look on his face. Ryan shared the thought.
"We’re splitting up into teams," Jon said once they had all risen. "At least then if you get lost in the woods, you won’t be alone."
"Great, exactly how I wanted to spend my afternoon, getting lost in the woods," Ryan muttered.
Brendon just bounced around happily, thoroughly excited at the idea of a scavenger hunt. "It’ll be fun, Ryan!"
Ryan just shook his head and turned to Jon. "What are the teams?"
"Me and Spencer and you and Ryan," Jon replied immediately and Ryan groaned internally. How had he known?
He eyed Brendon, who was bouncing around the room, grinning. "How many Red Bulls have you had today?"
"Just three," Brendon replied happily.
"Just three," Ryan repeated, muttering to himself. Jon heard and rolled his eyes.
"Ryan, you need to relax. You’ve been shut up for weeks trying to write songs. Maybe this will help."
Ryan highly doubted it, but it didn’t seem he had much choice as Brendon grabbed his arm and dragged him to the door, shoving his jacket into his arms. It was only September, but already the air was nippy in the mountains. Sighing, he slipped the jacket on while Brendon waited impatiently. He handed Ryan his list of ‘things’ to get and practically shot out the door.
"Brendon, wait!" Jon called after him as the rest of them made their way slower onto the front porch.
Outside, the sun was shining and a light breeze ruffled the needles on the pine trees that hovered over the deck. Ryan watched a Blue Jay soar overhead and disappear into the towering fir trees. He sighed and glanced down, seeing Brendon standing at the edge of the porch, ready to go.
"Can we start?" Brendon asked excitedly.
Jon walked over to him, Spencer and Ryan exchanging a hopeless look behind him. "Hold on a sec. First, the time limit. You’re to get as many of the things on the list and be back on this porch by four o’clock. That’s two hours from now. Not a minute after."
Ryan glanced at his watch. He wondered if he could last that long alone with Brendon, a hyper Brendon at that, in the woods.
"And last, don’t get lost. Call if you do, and if you don’t get service, don’t keep wandering. Someone will find you."
"Can’t wait," Ryan said sarcastically.
Jon just rolled his eyes. "Well, off you go!" He smiled at Ryan and winked as he turned away from them.
Ryan just rolled his eyes and headed after Brendon, who was already leaps and bounds ahead.
Watching them disappear into the woods, Jon grinned and turned to Spencer, who hadn’t moved. "Shall we start our search?"
Spencer nodded and smiled when Jon grabbed his hand and led him back into the cabin.
Meanwhile, Ryan was following, not quite so enthusiastically, after Brendon as he frolicked down a man-made path that led into the woods. Sighing again, he pulled the list out of his pocket and skimmed it. It was mostly things that could be found in the woods, but Ryan had no idea where. He’d never really been the outdoorsy type. Growing up in Las Vegas tended to have that effect.
If Jon had dumped him in the middle of a big city, he could have easily found anything he wanted, but finding a… red currant, whatever the hell that was… would be another story.
Brendon came bouncing back to him, a huge grin plastered on his face. "We are so gonna win, Ryan!" he said cheerfully. His eyes lit up and sparkled with excitement as he snatched the list away from Ryan and also skimmed the contents. "I bet there are red currants down by the stream."
"What the hell are they?" Ryan asked as Brendon turned and began to make his way down to a nearby stream.
"A berry," Brendon said happily, grabbing Ryan’s sleeve and pulling him forward.
Ryan followed, though reluctantly, wincing as branches hit his legs, scratching his jeans and leaving dirt marks on them. His arms worked like a windmill when he slipped in a patch of mud on a downhill slope and nearly fell. He slid a few inches before finding a safe footing. He made a face as he lifted the bottom of his shoe to see that it was covered in mud. He was going to kill Jon for this.
He pushed his way through bushes, finally coming to the stream. Brendon was already standing over it, his gaze fixed on the water that tumbled over small rocks in its haste to travel downstream. In his hand were a handful of small, red berries. He looked up when he heard Ryan pushing his way angrily through the last bunch of bushes that blocked the stream.
"I got them!" He held out the berries and smiled. "What’s next?"
Ryan didn’t respond immediately, picking a stick out of his hair and throwing it on the ground. Now he remembered the reason he had never liked the cabin. Shaking his head, he pulled out the list.
"Pine cone," he read dully. He glanced around the ground but since he had hardly any idea what a pine cone looked like, he doubted even if one was lying at his feet he would recognize it. He wondered how much thought Jon had really put into this.
He noticed vaguely that Brendon was flouncing around him, staring into holes in the ground, holes in trees, looking all around the ground for a pine cone. Ryan was pretty sure those were pine trees above them, but he could be wrong.
"There’s none here," Brendon announced finally.
They must not be, Ryan thought dully, glancing at the towering trees. He wondered how Brendon knew what they looked like.
"How do you even know what they look like?" he asked as Brendon started back toward the main path.
Brendon turned around to walk backwards, a difficult feat on the uneven ground riddled with tree roots and squirrel holes. He shrugged. "We’ve been coming here enough I hope I know what it looks like. Maybe if you did anything more than locking yourself in your room, you’d know too." Brendon turned back around and trudged up the slight incline.
Ryan’s mouth dropped open. "I’m trying to write songs so we can make a decent album!"
"I didn’t say you weren’t," Brendon replied calmly, turning around and circling to Ryan’s side, linking their arms and snuggling in close for a second until Ryan shoved him away. "Just saying you should get out and enjoy nature."
"I’m not a nature person," Ryan muttered, rolling his eyes at the way Brendon refused to drop his arm as they trudged through the trees.
"I know," Brendon said brightly. He smiled at Ryan, his smile nearly as bright as the sun. "That’s why you’re out here now, helping me find a pine cone. Aha!" he cried as his eyes fell on a large, brown cone lying on the ground a few feet away. Brendon released Ryan’s arm finally and bounded over to it, scooping it up. He brought it back to Ryan and grinned. "This, Ryan, is a pine cone."
Ryan rolled his eyes and pushed away Brendon’s hand that was holding the cone under his nose. "Thank you," he said dryly.
Brendon just smiled and pocketed the cone. He came back to Ryan’s side, reading over his shoulder as he pulled out the list again.
"Purple wild flower," Ryan murmured, reading the list. He looked up to ask Brendon what kind of flower to find himself alone in the clearing. "Brendon?" he asked, turning around and peering through the trees.
He didn’t see any sign of Brendon and despite the fact that it was the middle of the afternoon and the sun was cheerfully bright, he grew nervous. He didn’t like being alone in the middle of a forest he knew nothing about.
"Brendon!" he called again, whipping around at the sound of a cracking branch. He didn’t see anything but that didn’t make him feel better.
He nearly jumped out of his skin as a bird let out a loud cry from one of the trees that surrounded him. He didn’t like this. Every rustle of the wind had him turning this way and that, eyes wide, staring all around him. Ryan would never admit to being scared, but one of his top fears was being alone in an unfamiliar situation.
Half an hour passed, or maybe it was only five minutes. Ryan couldn’t tell the time when his heart was pressing painfully against his throat, his nerves getting the best of him. He shrieked out loud, then immediately hated himself for it, when he felt something brush against his neck.
He whipped around, staring behind him. Brendon stood there, an apologetic smile on his face and a small purple flower between his fingers.
"Holy shit, Brendon!" Ryan exclaimed, rubbing the back of his neck roughly. "Don’t do that!"
"Sorry," Brendon said, giving a small smile. "But I saw some back by the stream so I just went back and got it."
Ryan was still breathing hard, trying to force his nerves down and he glared at Brendon. "You could at least tell me when you’re going to leave me alone in the middle of the fucking forest."
Brendon half-shrugged and offered a smile. "I’m sorry." He grinned, then, and grabbed a hold of Ryan’s arm again. "It won’t happen again. What’s next?"
Ryan rolled his eyes but pulled out the now-crumpled list of things to collect. He let out a breath, his heart rate finally returning to normal. "Fern."
"Those are the long green things," Brendon explained and Ryan scoffed.
"I know what a fern is."
"I just want you to be nature-versed," Brendon said sweetly, laying his head on Ryan’s shoulder and leading them back to the main path. Ryan was pretty sure they wouldn’t find any ferns on this main path but allowed Brendon to guide him.
They wandered for a while, Ryan feeling a little better now that Brendon was back with him. The energy drinks seemed to be wearing off and Brendon was a little calmer now. He was still holding onto Ryan and his eyes lit up every time he saw a bird or a squirrel or some new flower.
Ryan would roll his eyes every time this happened but soon it was accompanied by a small, endearing smile.
"Look, Ryan!" Brendon gasped after they’d been walking along the path for a good ten minutes, no ferns in sight. Brendon pulled on his arm and they came to a stop. Ryan looked up to see a doe standing in the path up ahead.
Ryan watched, feeling a sense of calmness washing over him. The sunlight filtered through the trees and fell across the doe’s dappled back. She obviously wasn’t very old yet. She watched them with her large eyes, so reminiscent of Brendon, before bounding the other way into the bushes.
Shaking himself out of his trance, Ryan glanced at Brendon, who was still staring in wonder at the place the doe had been. It was like something out of a dream. Soon, though, Brendon snapped out of it and smiled at Ryan. "Isn’t it beautiful out here?"
Ryan paused a second, looking around him as if seeing it for the first time. "Yeah, it is."
Brendon grinned and tugged Ryan forward, past where the doe had been standing. "What are we looking for again?" he asked, letting go of Ryan’s arm and bouncing ahead, humming a song to himself. Ryan recognized it as one of their own.
"A fern," Ryan said, glancing around him. He didn’t see any and he wondered if there were even any in these woods.
Brendon stopped bouncing for a moment, looking deep in thought. His eyebrows came together and his lips went into a slight pout. Ryan recognized the pose of hard thought.
Soon, though, Brendon bounced up, energetic as always. "I bet they’re by the stream!"
Ryan was obliged to follow Brendon again as he left the path once more and pushed his way through thick undergrowth until they could hear the sound of the rippling stream. Moments later, they came out at a different spot than before and Ryan didn’t recognize it at all.
Brendon ‘aha’d!’ again and Ryan was soon met with a face-full of long, green ferns. "A fern!" Brendon announced, handing it to Ryan, who shoved it in with the rest of their acquired items.
"Hey, Ryan, come here," Brendon said, beckoning him closer to the stream.
Ryan came, though reluctantly. He’d never been good with water and a slippery bank was no better. Brendon grabbed his arm and pulled him the rest of the way once he’d gotten within arm’s reach. He slid a little on the muddy bank and clutched tightly to Brendon’s arm.
"Are you trying to kill me?" he asked, feeling his heart beating a little faster from the slip. Looking down at his shoes, he scowled. They had mud caked on them a good inch on either side as he sunk further into the soft bank.
"Nope, showing you nature," Brendon said, completely ignoring Ryan’s displeasure at what this ‘nature’ was doing to him. He pointed into the stream and Ryan could see large fish darting in and out of the shallows.
"Whoa," was all he said. Usually the only fish he saw was already cooked and served with a sprig of parsley and slice of lemon. This was completely different as he watched the sun flashing off their scales as the fish weaved in and out of the rippling water.
"Aren’t they pretty?" Brendon asked, touching the water and watching the fish scatter, only to come back seconds later. "They have a really short memory."
Ryan just nodded, still staring into the water. He didn’t notice Brendon taking a step back until he realized he was standing alone on the bank, his shoes steadily sinking into thick mud. Panicking slightly, he tried to take a step back, but only ended up loosing his footing and falling face forward into the shallow stream, effectively scaring all the fish.
He crashed down, his hands out and a shocked exclamation on his lips. His eyes shut tightly as he hit the water, his hands barely preventing him from ruining all his clothes. His sleeves were soaked past his elbows and drops of water splashed everywhere on his clothing.
Behind him, Brendon just laughed as Ryan struggled to his feet, only slipping a few more time and effectively ruining his jeans too. Dark patches of mud stained his knees when he finally managed to straighten up and fling himself onto solid ground. He glared up at Brendon, who was giggling uncontrollably. "I hate you," he said darkly.
Brendon just grinned and pulled him upright. Ryan gave a disgusted face as he shook his arms, his soaked sleeves dangling beyond his fingertips. "These were expensive jeans," he said angrily but Brendon only laughed harder.
"Maybe it’ll teach you not to spend so much on clothes!" Brendon managed through his giggles.
"Shut up," Ryan said moodily, shoving Brendon in the chest with his wet hands and sleeves. Brendon was barely pushed backward and just grinned wider.
"Here, you’re gonna catch a cold," Brendon said, unzipping his hoodie and handing it to Ryan, who took it, still glaring coldly at him. He was beginning to shiver, though, and a warm sweatshirt sounded nice.
Peeling off his own wet shirt, he shivered as he was exposed to the cool air wearing only a thin white tee-shirt. "It’s cold," he complained, goose-bumps appearing on his skin.
Brendon moved over to him, pulling him into a tight hug, his head resting on Ryan’s shoulder. "I’ll keep you warm."
Ryan smiled despite himself and sighed as Brendon held him tightly. Brendon was warm, unusually warm for a person from Las Vegas. Ryan relaxed into the grip and sighed, his eyes closing for a second.
He did need to relax, no matter how much he insisted he was only there to write songs for the next album. Sitting in his bedroom for hours at a time, staring at the blank pages of his notebook became quite daunting after a while.
He could feel Brendon’s warm hands on his bare arms, rubbing them slowly to keep him warm. It was comfortable and Ryan couldn’t remember now why he had been against the whole scavenger hunt idea, aside from the fact that it was asinine. He knew Jon had just wanted them out of the cabin so they wouldn’t end up killing each other later. That and he wanted Spencer alone.
"Still cold?" Brendon whispered, his warm breath fluttering over Ryan’s ear and he shivered again, though not from the cold this time. Brendon felt the movement, it seemed, and hugged him tighter, sighing contentedly against Ryan’s neck.
Ryan’s eyes drifted closed but he shook them open. He could feel Brendon’s warm body pressed against his, friendly-like, and he knew it meant nothing. It was just Brendon being Brendon. He couldn’t help the strange feeling that had taken hold in his gut, clawing its way to the surface as Brendon kept his firm grip on him.
Ryan could feel Brendon’s warm, moist breath in the crook of his neck and feel the palms of his hands on his back, pressing into the thin cotton material of the tee-shirt. Ryan felt choked all of a sudden and blinked rapidly, trying to bring his mind back to rational thought.
"Brendon," he said quietly, his body betraying his thoughts when Brendon moved and he shivered again.
"What’s wrong?" Brendon asked, concerned. "Are you really that cold? Should we go back?"
"No," Ryan said quickly and Brendon made to pull away. His hands went to Brendon’s shoulders and he pulled him back in. "Don’t move."
Brendon moved back into him, resting his head on Ryan’s shoulder while Ryan’s arms twined around his neck. "Ryan," he said slowly, his boundless energy finally reigned in. "What’s going on?"
"Nothing," Ryan breathed quietly, closing his eyes for a second. He knew it was crazy to be thinking anything about Brendon in any way other than platonic friendship. He just wanted to enjoy the idea for a moment as they stood alone in the woods next to a beautiful stream.
He shivered again when he felt Brendon’s nose brush against his throat and kept his eyes closed tightly. If he was going to have fantasies about his best friend, they should at least have a basis in reality. He didn’t know where this idea had come from anyway. Brendon was just being friendly, trying to keep him warm. It was nothing more.
But somehow Ryan wanted it to be more. He wanted that brush of Brendon’s fingers on his back to mean something other than just being a good friend.
He was surprised when Brendon’s lips brushed over his neck lightly, so slight he wasn’t even sure it really happened. His body froze and his breath caught in his throat, convinced it wasn’t real. It couldn’t be real.
"Ryan," he heard Brendon murmur, his hand sliding down to his lower back and gently pressing Ryan further forward. Ryan didn’t resist the touch, still confused and hopeful, a balloon of hope inflating in his chest when Brendon sighed against his neck, warm and sweet.
Ryan opened his eyes and turned his head towards Brendon. He could see Brendon’s mouth, his lips slightly parted as his breathing fluttered. Ryan’s eyes flickered from Brendon’s mouth to his eyes, which were staring straight ahead as though looking anywhere else would bring the world crashing down around them.
Hesitating a good minute, Ryan swallowed the lump of nerves in his throat and inched his head closer, stalling a few times before finally pressing his lips to Brendon’s. The balloon in his chest inflated too much and it burst. Ryan’s breath nearly stopped as he waited for Brendon’s response.
He was shocked and surprised when Brendon kissed him back, just as soft and tentative, his hand gliding up to rest against Ryan’s cheek. Ryan finally pulled back with a long, shaky exhale. His arms were held loosely around Brendon’s neck and he blinked, sure when he opened his eyes, Brendon would be gone, just a figment of his imagination.
When he did open them, though, Brendon was still in front of him, staring at him through his large chocolate eyes.
Ryan felt suddenly self-conscious and dropped his arms quickly. He glanced away, barely noticing that Brendon hadn’t relinquished his grip. "I-I’m sorry, Bren," he apologized quietly, staring at what he now recognized as a pine cone on the ground a few feet away.
Ryan looked back to find Brendon watching him, a slight smile on his face. Ryan frowned slightly.
"For that," he said, sure it had been obvious.
"Did I look angry?" Brendon asked, his smile more obvious now.
"Well, no, but—"
"Ryan," Brendon interrupted him and grabbed his hand. "You think too much."
Ryan was going to protest but when Brendon’s lips covered his own again, he couldn’t quite think straight and succumbed to that nagging feeling in his stomach that turned out to be butterflies.
Their lips slid together perfectly and Ryan pressed his body closer to Brendon’s, no longer cold, but craving his warmth. Their tongues met tentatively at first, but then more passionately. Ryan gave an unmanly squeak when Brendon nibbled his lower lip but sighed happily when Brendon pulled away and pressed a kiss just below his ear.
"So are you relaxed now?" he whispered, nuzzling into Ryan’s neck.
Ryan couldn’t help smiling. "Better than before."
Brendon smiled against his neck and moved back. "Good." He gave him a peck on the lips and bounced back. "Now, put on my shirt. We’ve still got more things on the list!"
Ryan rolled his eyes fondly and put on Brendon’s hoodie, immediately feeling the warmth replaced by the material, though it wasn’t the same.
"What’s next?" Brendon asked eagerly, bounding to Ryan’s side and linking their fingers together.
Ryan pulled out the crumpled list and unfolded it with difficulty, using only one hand. He turned his head to read the scribbled handwriting. "Uh… I think it says bird’s nest," he read.
Brendon frowned as he looked at the paper. "Looks like treasure chest," he said seriously, taking the paper and turning it upside down.
Ryan raised an eyebrow and took the paper back. "How about we just forget the list?" he asked, crumpling it into a ball and tossing it over his shoulder.
"But the scavenger hunt," Brendon said, his eyes on the list. "We were gonna win."
"We’ll win, trust me," Ryan said, smiling.
Brendon looked at him for a second, then shrugged, kissing him softly. "Okay." He smiled brightly and together they found their way back to the main path, their hands still clasped.
It took a while and a few wrong turns before they finally made it out of the woods and Ryan could honestly say he had never been happier to see the cabin before. Glancing at his watch, he saw that it was only three-thirty. Jon wouldn’t be expecting them for another half-hour.
Glancing at Brendon, Ryan grinned. He pressed a finger to his lips and quietly, they climbed the porch steps. Pausing at the door, Ryan turned to Brendon, surprised when he received a hard kiss that left him breathless and gasping for breath. As much as he would have liked to stay out on the porch all night with Brendon, Ryan knew there were other things he had to do.
Once he’d recovered from the kiss, he warned Brendon to be quiet and grabbed the door handle.
"One, two, three," he counted quietly. On three, he threw open the door with as much force as he could muster. It bounced off its hinges and gave a loud crash as it banged into the wall outside.
Striding in, Ryan looked over to the couch. "Afternoon!" he announced loudly to the two boys scattered over the living room.
Spencer was lying on the couch, red-faced and flushed, and a disjointed Jon sat on the floor, looking as though he’d just rolled over and landed there as he was wincing and rubbing his backside. His hair was messy and askew as he looked up at Ryan. Brendon came bouncing in behind him, resting his head over Ryan’s shoulder and taking in the sight, a mischievous smile on his face.
"What were you doing, Jon?" Ryan asked innocently and Jon frowned. On the couch, Spencer flushed but said nothing.
Jon didn’t dignify Ryan’s question with a response and instead, nodded at Brendon. "You get anything from the list?"
Brendon just grinned, emptying his pockets of all the things they found. "We win," he said simply.
Ryan smirked and couldn’t help as it turned into a smile when Brendon’s hand found its way to his lower back and rested there. Ryan looked at Jon. "I challenge you to a rematch."
Both Jon and Spencer looked incredibly surprised.
"Wait, are you volunteering to go back in the woods?" Jon asked incredulously, finally pushing himself up from the floor.
Ryan glanced at Brendon and exchanged a smirk. "Yeah," he said, turning back to Jon. "And this time, you two actually have to participate."
Spencer gave Ryan a pleading look but it didn’t seem to work. He sighed and sat up on the couch.
"When do you want this rematch?" Jon asked curiously, looking between the two. Brendon was still standing fairly close to Ryan, his head still on his shoulder.
Ryan paused, his eyes flickering to Brendon’s head. "Tomorrow," he said. "Same teams, different list. Brendon and I will make sure you do it this time."
"And how do we know you won’t just skip in here to watch TV or something?" Spencer pointed out.
Ryan just smiled innocently. "Trust me, we wouldn’t be watching TV."
Jon looked suspiciously at Ryan for a moment before holding out his hand. "Deal."
Ryan took it, smiling smugly and they parted that evening with the scent of revenge in the air.
A/N: Btw, I have no idea how it got to be this long. And yes, there is a sequel! But it hasn't been beta'd yet. So look for that soon-ish :) Please review!