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PART TWO: SHANE


~*~*~*~


For Shane, Valentine's Day begins with a draft of cold air washing over his left side and the rasp of calloused heels along the sheets.

He smiles drowsily, still half asleep. "Hey, B."

"Hey." Brendon curls up against him, pressing a smile to Shane's shoulder and sliding cold feet between Shane's legs. Shane drops a kiss to thick, greasy hair and draws an idle fingernail down Brendon's back, reveling in the small shiver he gets in response.

Brendon doesn't always come to Shane after a night out: sometimes he goes to his own room, and sometimes he simply catapults from strange pillows into his day. Shane's given up trying to find patterns, excuses, reasons; he just accepts the cuddles when they come. Brendon is an expert snuggler. There's no better way to start the morning.

"Got any plans today?" he asks, softly, trying not to wake Spencer, who is softly rumbling on the far side of the bed.

Brendon shakes his head, tracing lazy shapes on Shane's stomach--treble clef, eighth note, four/four time. "You?"

Not really, just filing the paperwork for the film and, "I guess I'd better drop something by Regan's. I thought maybe that thing with the sapphire pendant, what do you think?"

Brendon hums against his throat. "You might do better with a pearl; didn't you give her pearl earrings for Christmas?"

Shane sort of thought giving different presents was the point, but he nods, willing to bow before Brendon's superior knowledge when it comes to jewelry. He's always right. Shane suspects he spent too much time on a bus with the Lucent Dossier women at an impressionable age.

"You're not taking her out?" Brendon asks, sixteenth note, flat, fermata.

Shane shakes his head. "She has to work," he explains, wishing he could ask Brendon to hang out tonight. He usually does, when Regan's busy and often even when she isn't, but he doesn't dare ask for tonight.

Brendon hums again, this time the higher hum that means he isn't really listening, and tilts his head to take Shane's earlobe between his teeth.

Shane sucks in a breath, and he can feel Brendon smile around his mouthful of flesh. The idle hand on his stomach smooths up his chest to pluck at a nipple, then slides across to trace around the other one, around and around and around. Shane lies still, not quite sure how to respond. This is new. Brendon's never come home and wanted another round before.

Brendon lets his ear go with a final sharp nip and slides a leg over both of Shane's, rubbing his thigh across Shane's hipbone as he settles on Shane's chest and lazily takes Shane's mouth. He tastes of blue toothpaste and cigarettes, and his tongue is like soft sandpaper against the roof of Shane's mouth.

Shane sighs into the kiss and drops one hand to cup Brendon's ass, using it to shift him just a little to the right, lining up against Shane's slow-wakening cock. Brendon wiggles a little, and Shane's dick jumps in response; Brendon grins into the kiss and moves again, firm and warm along the top of Shane's cock. He coaxes them both hard that way, coarse hair scratching over Shane's stomach and ribs bumping over Shane's chest.

Shane rocks back against him, and the air fills slowly with a pleasant salty scent of sex and sweat. Shane snakes a hand up between them, scratching over Brendon's chest, and Brendon hisses and jerks, his ass clenching around the curve of Shane's cock. It's Shane's turn to grin wickedly now, and he ducks out of the kiss, tilting Brendon's chin up with his nose and nibbling along the jawline.

Brendon's rubbing speeds up, pushing harder into each stroke in time with the way his jaw pushes into each rough swipe of Shane's tongue. He makes one of his urgent little noises, deep in his chest, and reaches down to take his cock in hand, but Shane beats him to it, pulling steadily. Shane can feel his own breathing speeding up. He twists his wrist, despite the bad angle; it's worth the ache later to feel Brendon's eager sounds vibrate against his chest.

Suddenly, Brendon arches away from Shane's mouth, the skin of his neck oversensitized, and Shane feels the shock of orgasm everywhere they're touching, Brendon's palms on his chest, his fingers around Brendon's cock, Brendon's toes against his calf, and his dick spurting warm release against Brendon's ass. Brendon bucks against Shane's clutching hand, and his come goes everywhere, Shane's chest and his own, hands and stomachs and sheets.

For a moment, they're frozen like that, Brendon's head thrown back and his eyes squeezed shut like a child trying not to peek, Shane looking up at him, dazed, trembling a little.

Only a moment, then Brendon's collapsing boneless onto Shane's chest, moaning softly into his skin. Shane flops a hand feebly, and Brendon laughs.

"Took it out of you, old man?"

"Shut up," Shane says, aware that it's a weak response.

Brendon darts a quick kitten-lick at Shane's collarbone and sits up, clambering gracelessly off Shane's hips. He stands up and stretches, arching his back and thrusting his stomach with its circle of teethmarks into Shane's face.

Shane bats at Brendon's dick, careful not to show his urge to cover the marks with his own. "Go clean up, you're gross."

Brendon drops his arms and grins. "You love it," he says airily, but he goes.


~*~*~*~


Shane remembers how surprised he was at Brendon, live and in person.

He'd done the research before the job, of course, spent two days on the internet looking at photos and watching interviews, finding a few different angles that might be worth exploring.

He aimed himself at Ross when he arrived, because filming interviews teaches you how to watch them, and shook hands, firm but not testing, equal, adult. Ross didn't do anything as obvious as relax, but it was possible his shoulders had eased a fraction. Shane counted it a success when Smith offered his own hand and smiled--not a real Spencer smile, he knows now, but real as they get for strangers.

"Brendon'll be back in a minute," Smith said, and introduced Walker, Hall "who keeps us in line" and the session musicians on cello and keyboard. Shane had been fussing with tripods and camera cases, answering Walker's casual questions, when he looked up and the whole room brightened and stood still.

There was a young man in the doorway, and none of the pictures, none of the long rambly interviews about synthesizers and Wentz, could possibly have prepared Shane for the reality that was Brendon Urie, breathing larger than life only a few feet away.

His voice was surprisingly soft and deep, and rumbled along Shane's nerve endings as he introduced himself with a, "Hi, I'm Brendon." He offered a hand, and Shane took it automatically.

"Shane Valdes."

Shane did his research. He knew the bassist was new, and that the split with the old one had been raw, rough. He knew they were fighting to be different, to stand out. He knew the guitarist, the lyricist, was out to prove something. Any of that could be interesting.

Somehow, at home in his office with the lights low and the film playing on the computer screen, he wasn't at all surprised to see that mostly he'd shot the lead singer, singing pretty and flirting with the camera.


~*~*~*~


Shane shakes his head at Brendon's bare, retreating ass. He arches his arms up over his head and stretches, getting the kinks out before all the post-sex relaxation wears off. His hand hits something warm and solid on the way down.

Spencer's smiling at him. "I see you had a good morning."

He grins back. "A very good morning indeed. Did you enjoy the show?"

"I was keeping my eyes closed for verisimilitude," Spencer says gravely. "But it was good listening."

Shane raises his eyebrows. "Want a hand with that?"

"Nah." Spencer waves a negligent hand. "I've got it. Brendon seemed to be enjoying himself."

"He always does." Shane lets his eyes slide from Spencer's penetrating gaze to the alarm clock on the other side of the bed. "I should get up. What are you doing today?"

"Eh." Spencer shrugs. "We're out of milk again. And these sheets are kind of filthy."

"Spencer. We didn't ask you to stay with us so you could run the house. You're already--"

"Shut up." Spencer slaps a hand over his mouth. "Not while he's in the house, he has the ears of a bat. And I don't mind, seriously. Nobody wants to work, I'm bored. The rest of the film stuff is all you, and there's nothing else to do. Keltie's flying in at noon, so I can't even go over and make Ryan actually put up all the curtains he keeps buying. Let me buy milk. Especially since I think Brendon's going to put orange juice on his Frosted Flakes again; you know that freaks me out."

Shane rolls his eyes. "Fine. Deal. But seriously, don't feel like you have to."

"I'll make Brendon do the sheets," Spencer offers.

"A gentleman's agreement!"

"Huzzah!"

They really shouldn't be letting Brendon addict them to How I Met Your Mother.


~*~*~*~


Shane still doesn't know why Spencer kissed him, that first time.

Ryan had been in New York with Keltie, and Brendon had a date at their place, so they'd been stretched over the furniture at Spencer's house, drifting lazily on the edges of a high, idling away an I Dream of Jeannie Nick at Nite marathon. Spencer had become fascinated with the gender stereotypes. Spencer got into the weirdest shit when he was high.

"But, like," his hand flopped, "she always does what he tells her not to do, right? Like, rebellion is inherent in womanhood. But then it's always wrong, she always screws it up, so when women do what they want instead of what they're told, it's bad."

"She saves it in the end, though," Shane objected.

"Usually when he tells her what to do!" Spencer said, flailing in defense of his point. "And anyway, by 'fixing it' you mean he gets what he wants. She hardly ever gets what she wants unless she's manipulating him or crying and shit."

Shane frowned. "She never wants anything but stupid girly shit. Anniversaries and introducing him to her family and getting married. Why should she get what she wants?"

"What he wants is somebody to love him and take care of him, but never to tell anybody about her or give her what she needs from him. You don't think she deserves to be loved and acknowledged?" Spencer rolled his eyes.

"She shouldn't be trying to force him, though," Shane argued, sitting up and leaning over the arm of his chair into Spencer's space, almost falling over with the headrush. "It isn't real if she's, like, blackmailing him into it. She has to let him come to--"

Spencer kissed him then. Shane kissed back, though he doesn't really know the "why" of that, either; kissed harshly, at first, biting at Spencer's lips and pushing into his mouth. Spencer let him for a minute, took the punishment, moved with it until somehow he'd persuaded Shane's mouth to soften. The nips he gave back were playful, and after a bit he grinned against Shane's lips.

"Hey." He walked his fingers up Shane's arm. "You wanna fool around?"

Shane snorted, and the lingering tension dissipated. "High school style, Smith? Thought you'd grown up."

Spencer put on an over-the-top leer. "Oh, I promise you, Valdes, what I have in mind is rated for adults."

Shane rolled his eyes and leaned in to kiss him again, nearly toppling into Spencer's lap. Spencer caught his shoulders and pushed up to meet him, warm and solid to lean against.

By the time Spencer had thrown him on the bed and started licking him open, stopping every few minutes to mock him, something like, "I know you can beg prettier than that, c'mon, you want this," Shane was torn between wanting to kick him in the head and wanting to hold him in place with a knee, even though Shane had never been that flexible.

He started taunting Spencer back, talking about his hot, tight ass, how good it was going to feel to get inside it, until Spencer quirked an eyebrow and he lost it, snorting with laughter in the middle of something about wanting Spencer's hard dick.

Spencer cracked up, too, bending down to nip at Shane's collarbone before stretching over to the nightstand for supplies. "How many, fucker?"

"Dude, I'm the fuckee," Shane said, still laughing a little. "Two, please."

Spencer blew a raspberry against Shane's nipple and split him open, clever fingers moving just right. Shane let out a contented moan that ended in a squeak. He pushed into it with every muscle, shifting with every stroke, and it wasn't long before Spencer gently slapped his flank and moved into position.

They moved together, slow but purposeful, nowhere to hurry to. Shane closed his eyes and hummed, contentedly. He arched into every push, luxuriating in the warmth above him, the hard length inside him, the rough rub of Spencer's belly hair against the tip of his cock. Spencer fucked like he drummed when he knew a song by heart, with competence and rhythm and affection in every thrust, and Shane didn't want to do anything but lie there and climb toward orgasm.

Shane and Spencer's first night together was like any of the fifteen or so to come after it, spread out over a couple of years, and sometimes Shane still thinks of that easy sweat with a certain wistfulness. He knows, really, that he wouldn't give up having Brendon, even only parts of Brendon, for all the anesthesia in the world. He wouldn't give up the nights that Brendon comes to him for passion or aggression or comfort, as well as play, just to avoid the rip of having Brendon roll out of bed without another thought. It's just...sometimes it's nice to think that it's possible to just laugh and fuck and lie tired together in the aftermath talking about nothing. That it's possible for him, even though he can't do it for Brendon, the one thing Brendon wants from him, that casual thing.


~*~*~*~


Shane gets back from his errands to the smell of the sea mixed with cheap tacos and something mellow on the in-house sound system. He drops down and pats three furry heads, scratches ears, rubs noses. Spencer's on the couch, flipping through something that looks like a contract.

Shane goes over and pushes him in the head. "Dude, you're supposed to be on a break. Why are you working?"

Spencer bats at him without looking up. "It's just something for the Cab, the label's making noises about a headliner."

"Yeah?" Ian's gonna die. Shane should call him and let him gloat. "You tell them yet?"

"It's just noises--this is some of the financial stuff, some of it's gonna depend on how this tour goes, and I hate to get their hopes up."

Shane nods. "But it's possible."

Spencer actually stops and looks up at him, grinning. "It's totally possible. Our little babies, all grown up and headlining their very own tour!"

Shane will never understand the structure of the Decaydance "family." Some days he isn't even sure he wants to. For one thing, it makes sleeping with Spencer feel weirdly incestuous. He shakes his head instead.

"Brendon's been surfing?"

Spencer rolls his eyes. "You can smell the seawater from here, huh? That beach bag is going to mildew one of these days."

"It was the Taco Bell that was the big clue." Shane smiles. "Any left for me?"

"There's something disgusting and greasy in the bag on the counter; I'll fight you for it."

"Oh, it is on, bitch."

Both of them bolt for the kitchen, but the three seconds it takes Spencer to get up off the couch are just enough edge that there's no official battle. Shane bites into the burrito with pornographic moans that are only a little exaggerated; damn, but he's hungry.

Spencer sticks out his tongue and goes to the refrigerator, wagging a beer inquiringly. Shane nods and takes another bite.

"Brendon's in the shower," Spencer tells him, twisting the top off his own drink. "He said something about going out tonight." He raises an eyebrow interrogatively.

Shane shakes his head sharply. "It's Valentine's, Spencer, don't. He was kind of weird this morning, anyway. I don't want to push it."

"You have to push, Shane, he's never gonna--"

"--forgive you?" Brendon is standing in the doorway in nothing but a towel, still dripping and red from the heat of the shower. "That was my burrito."

"Dude, you left it on the counter," Shane protests, trying not to flinch. "Free game."

Normally, this is the point at which Brendon would come over and lick the burrito, accidentally-on-purpose getting his tongue on some of Shane's skin, too. This should be followed by an overenthusiastic battle which ends in somebody crying uncle and the gracious winner allowing the loser to trade bites. It's a system.

Today, though, Brendon just shrugs. "Yeah, okay."

Shane very carefully does not cringe at the implications as to just what Brendon overheard. "You going out tonight?"

"Single man on the town," Brendon affirms, nodding. "Lots of lonely lovelies needing a little Brendon in their lives." He puts his hands on hips and thrusts them forward like a belly dancer, and Spencer sucks in a sharp breath.

"Have fun," he says, casual, trying to ignore Spencer. "Bring me a matchbook?"

Brendon snorts. "Collecting souvenirs?"

"Nah, I'm just too cheap to pay for 'em."

Brendon nods and heads back up the stairs; after a minute something really eighties starts blasting out of Brendon's stereo, and Shane breathes a sigh of relief.

"Stop talking about it," he hisses, exasperated, and turns to take his burrito up to his room, but Spencer puts a hand on his elbow and drags him onto the back porch.

"Dude, what?"

"Did Brendon tell you anything about where he was last night?"

"...no? I try to discourage him from talking about his conquests."

"Yeah, well, you're gonna want to hear this one," Spencer says, looking grim. "It was Ryan."

Shane drops the burrito. "Shit." He drops to his knees, trying to scoop the mass of beans and cheese into the wrapper before the dogs find it and throw up all over the place. "What the hell do you mean, it was Ryan?"

"I mean, either Brendon and Ryan fucked last night or they were having some kind of hickey-sucking contest, okay?"

Shane gives up on the clean-up and looks up. "How do you know?"

Spencer sort of...squirms. "I recognized something, okay?"

He waits patiently.

"Ryan likes to bite people's stomachs, all right? He might as well have written I GAVE BRENDON HEAD across his face before he sent him home."

Shane thinks this is a little far-fetched. "Other people like to bite, Spence."

"Not like this," Spencer mutters, red-faced. "It's a thing, with...I'm not going to tell you about it, all right? Just trust me. It's different, it's his signature move. It leaves a different...I can tell, okay?"

Shane climbs to his feet wearily, rewrapping the dirty burrito in its tinfoil for the garbage. "I thought Ryan was straight," he protests.

Spencer rubs a hand over his face, suddenly ten years older and very, very sad. "Yeah, so did I."


~*~*~*~


What Shane knew about Spencer and Ryan's relationship could fill a small but interesting book.

Spencer didn't talk about it. At all, really, or ever, which was weird, because on the whole Spencer was pretty open about sex. He liked boys and girls, enjoyed taking control but didn't mind lying back to let someone else do the work, preferred blowing to being blown, and didn't like having his hair pulled. Which, okay, those last two were maybe because Shane had experience experimenting with Spencer's preferences, but before and after those experiments, Spencer had never minded talking.

He didn't talk about Ryan, though.

Ask him no questions, he told you no lies, but no guarantees if you broke your part of the bargain first.

It was Ryan who told him Lisa Goldsmith hadn't been Spencer's first, let it slip casual as cash for the tip, that he and Spencer had tried it out. That Lisa had been impressed Spencer knew so much about what he was doing.

It was the only verbal confirmation Shane had ever heard of what was — had been? — between them. The rest of the blanks were filled in with secret, sideways looks; silences that went on too long; unexpectedly intimate touches. Shane always missed them in the heat of the moment, laughing, talking, watching the angles; it was only later, viewing and re-viewing his tapes, picking out the best moments to reveal without exposing, that he saw them.

Spencer wasn’t friends with Keltie, but he was sunnily, sincerely happy in a room with her and Ryan. Ryan watched Spencer’s every touch with jealous eyes — not the touches between Spencer and the people he kissed, but the touches between Spencer and Jon, Spencer and Brendon, Spencer and Zack, Spencer and Shane. Both of them did a lot of reaching out to just half an inch short of touch.

Shane darkly suspected that Ryan had a neck thing, based solely on the way Spencer would wrap a hand around Ryan’s shoulder but always left his thumb hovering in the air.


~*~*~*~


Upstairs, the music changes abruptly to Brendon's "psyching up" music, blasting out the window. Spencer lets out a sharp bark of laughter and pivots on his heel, headed for his beer. Shane follows him in and drops the mass of melted almost-cheese and beans into the trash, wrinkling his nose at the streaks of black left on his hands, wiping them on his jeans.

"On top of that," Spencer says, like his eyes aren't guarding something fierce, something terribly private, "I told him. His first morning in L.A., you remember, he made me go to breakfast? He wanted to know what was going on, and I told him — what the fuck--"

Shane frowns. "He knew? And he still — " Wow. Not that Shane is entirely buying it was Ryan, but what the fuck, seriously. He thought Ryan was his friend.

The music is cut off, and Brendon comes down the stairs, calling, "You seen my shoes?"

"Which shoes?" Shane bitches automatically, still processing. "And why do you think I'll be able to identify the Nike versus the Armani, anyway?" Shane has four pairs, thank you very much: sneakers, flip-flops, brown dress, black dress. He only has two pairs of dress because Regan has opinions on belts and shoes matching, and Brendon believes that a house with one more pair of shoes is better than a house with one less pair of shoes.

"The brown leather Berluti," Brendon says, laughter in his voice. "And I wasn't asking you, I was asking the cultured person in the house."

"They're in the living room," Spencer says, brow furrowed like it only ever is when the people around him are being unforgivably stupid.

Brendon stops in the doorway and spins, arms out like Fred Astaire or somebody. "What do you think, gentlemen?" he asks, looking up at Shane through his eyelashes. He puts one hand on his hip, strikes a diva pose. "Nobody should go unlaid on Valentine's Day--think I can score like this?"

"Not in your stocking feet," Spencer says, with uncharacteristic sharpness. "Go put your shoes on."

"…sure."

Brendon goes to follow orders, and Shane cocks an eyebrow at Spencer.

"I'm going to text Ryan," Spencer says, avoiding Shane's eyes. "Find out why the hell he did it, when he knew what we're doing."


~*~*~*~


The plan started just after Christmas, when Spencer came out to help them unpack and they wound up at a club.

"So the problem, as I see it," Spencer said, "is that Brendon is an idiot." He drained the last of his whiskey and dropped the glass to the table, spinning it idly between his fingertips in time to the music blaring around them. It was a compromise club, loud enough to attract Brendon's crowd but well-lit enough for a normal conversation; Spencer and Shane were splitting an onion bloom and nursing their drinks while Brendon flirted at the bar.

Shane raised an eyebrow. "Yeah, and?"

"And," Spencer said, waving one arm expansively, "and so he doesn't know what's good for him."

They both turned to look across the room, where Brendon was doing something ridiculous involving his tongue and a jar of maraschino cherries while a small crowd of skimpily-dressed girls who were almost certainly there under fake IDs giggled and brushed their fingers along his arms.

Shane looked back at Spencer. "And?"

"And what if--" Spencer stopped to break off another bit of onion. "What if we could get him to do what's good for him without knowing about it?"

Shane blinked. "Beg pardon?"

"Just listen for a second," Spencer insisted, breaking the onion bit apart and picking apart the layers. "It's the words he's scared of, right? Commitment, for example. Relationship. Boyfriend. In love."

Shane nodded. Fair enough.

"He sleeps with you," Spencer continued. "He lives in your house, and you share a dog and fight over the dishes and make out during chick flicks. And none of this bothers him."

"Ye-eeah..." Shane agreed. "All very true."

"And the issue isn't caring about you, because that time you had your surgery he camped out in the hospital for three days and almost wound up hospitalized himself, and that didn't bother him. It isn't the sex, and it isn't the love, and it isn't the commitment itself: it's the words."

"And," Shane felt obliged to point out, "all that sex he wants to have with other people."

Spencer made a face at him and popped an onion layer in his mouth. "You don't care about that."

"Well, no." Shane broke off a bit of onion for himself. "I mean, I'd like it if he stopped making himself miserable hooking up with drunk girls who mock him on the internet two days later and weirdass proto-punks who want him to tear their piercings out with his teeth--"

Spencer coughed; Shane rolled his eyes. "Yeah, that happened, I'll tell you the story later."

"Please don't." Spencer reached for his water and took a long gulp, making reproachful eyes at Shane as he swallowed. "The point is, when he's not out hooking up with creeps, you're happy together. He's happy with you. You just have to trick him into not freaking out about it."

"Trick him?"

"You just...keep him at home for a while. Get him used to the whole settling down thing before you throw the scary words into the mix."

"And how exactly do you suggest I keep him at home?" Shane demanded, tilting his head toward the bar, where Brendon was now loudly demanding cherries with stems so that the girls could show him their very skilled tongue skills and slamming another shot of tequila.

"Distract him," Spencer said promptly. "Something different. Creative. Make it so exotic at home he doesn't think about going out and being wild there."

Shane considered, crunching his bit of onion. "The problem there," he said musingly, "is that our everyday sex life is pretty out there."

"I'm not sure I really want to know."

"I mean, we've done the spanking thing, and there've been handcuffs, and he likes--"

"I'm not asking for a list, Shane, jeez. What don't you do? What's, like, unusual? Or is there anything he likes so much he'll stay home for it if you offer?"

"He isn't stupid, Spence. He'll spot it if I do a striptease every time he starts pulling his clubbing clothes out of the closet."

Spencer pursed his lips, conceding the point. "There's gotta be something that'll feel interesting and new for a while."

Shane frowned and chewed for a while, idly watching the two girls with the lowest tops compete for Brendon's attention, crowding close to him until he slipped an arm around each of their shoulders. God, he was never getting to sleep tonight, Brendon was fucking loud in a —

"Threesome!" He sat up straight and banged his fist on the table.

Spencer's gaze snapped back from the couple he'd been watching argue three tables over. "A threesome?" he said, frowning a little.

"It's perfect," Shane said, leaning forward earnestly. "It's totally one of those things people think of as kinky that can actually be really normal. So in his conscious mind, he is being all adventurous and shit, and actually he's staying home every weekend."

"With you."

"Yeah."

"You and who? Regan?"

"Regan finds the idea of sleeping with Brendon vaguely laughable," Shane pointed out. "It's got something to do with his having a better ass than she does and something more to do with his repertoire of fart jokes."

"He picked up half of them from you," Spencer said dryly.

"But she doesn't know that, because I don't tell them in front of her, because I like sleeping with her."

"Fine, so not Regan. Who, then?"

Shane gave him a meaningful look. Spencer's eyebrows rose.

"You must be kidding."

Shane smirked. "You already know all his fart jokes."

"I do indeed. You must be kidding."

"Oh, come on, Spencer. Even you would be sexy next to my naked body."

Spencer rolled his eyes. "For somebody who's slept with me more than once, you're awfully insulting."

"Baby, it was just that good."

The toe of Spencer's boot met his shin under the table, and Shane laughed. "C'mon, Spencer. Have you got anything better to do?"

"Sadly, no."

"Are you tired of sleeping in a shirt in case Brendon brings drunken groupies back to the bus?"

Spencer heaved a sigh. "Yes."

"Don't you want us to be happy?" Shane tried to keep his tone teasing, but he could hear the faintest echo of his years of wistfulness creeping in on the last word.

Spencer eyed him for a long moment. With a sigh, he reached into his pocket for a mint and slid out of the booth, crunching it noisily as he ran a hand through his hair and stood for just a moment eying Brendon's back, hip cocked.

Ten minutes later, the little crowd of fake tans had scattered, and Spencer was standing on the very, very narrow edge between where Brendon usually let his bandmates stand and Brendon's personal space, one hand on Brendon's waist. He was looking into Brendon's eyes, speaking intently.

Brendon's gaze flickered to Shane, and Shane smiled the way he smiled when he didn't want to change the sheets just yet. He could see Brendon's eyelashes flutter shut for just a moment before he put a deliberate hand below Spencer's collarbone and grinned up at him.

Spencer's other hand flashed a thumbs-up at Shane behind Brendon's back.

Shane crossed his fingers beneath the table, and hoped for the best.


~*~*~*~


It's Pete, the internet whore, who first finds out that Keltie saw Spencer's text, that she dumped Ryan and stormed out, that somehow there was a ring involved.

Of course the first thing he does is call Spencer and ask what Ryan needs.

They'd gone to bed Valentine's night with Spencer's questions still unanswered, and woke up just the same. Spencer hasn't gone more than six inches from his phone all day--at the kitchen table, beside him on the couch as the television played to no one, on the sink as he shaved (he's bleeding now, can't seem to leave the scab on his neck alone.) Shane wants to try to get him into the shower, get hot water pouring over the muscles knotting themselves in front of his eyes, but he's afraid Spencer will try to take the phone in there, too, and electrocute himself.

Shane's tried twice to give him space, but the first time was when Spencer cut himself because he wasn't looking at the mirror, and called Shane back to him in the midst of swearing like a sailor; the second time he realized he'd credited the location scouting to "Fucking Ross." After he'd corrected that to "Jim Baker," he gave up, and spent the rest of the day hanging around Spencer. He'd feel creepy, but there are moments when Spencer's eyes flicker to his, and he can tell Spencer's glad to have him there.

Brendon never came home last night. Shane could swear the house is echoing in the ways it doesn't usually.

They wait together like that as broad patches of sun cross the living room floor, pretending to watch Seinfeld, although really Shane is watching Spencer and Spencer is watching his phone. The sun's halfway below the horizon, and they are still waiting. Nevertheless, both of them jump when the phone actually does go off, and Spencer leaps at it, only to freeze, staring at the screen. Shane frowns. Spencer looks up at him. "It's Pete."

Shane raises his eyebrows. He doesn't know what Spencer wants to do with that any more than Spencer seems to. Spencer eyes the phone as it throbs again, looking at it the way Shane's seen him look at strange dogs who might lick or might bite. Finally he huffs out a little breath and thumbs the "answer" button, lifting the phone to his ear.

"Yeah?" He frowns, and Shane cringes, waiting for the blow. "What do you mean, what can you--what about Keltie? She what?" Shane moves, settling beside Spencer on the sofa, and Spencer's thumb presses the speakerphone button, lets Shane hear too.

"--something about a text message?" the phone squawks. "It must have been this morning, it's on her blog--how do you not know this?" Pete sounds honestly bewildered, but Spencer flinches; Shane would kind of like to punch Pete in the face. "She says she threw a ring in his face, too, Spencer, what ring? What the hell is going on?"

Spencer's eyes have gone wide and dark, like Dylan's when she broke her leg. Shane just wants to stop him looking like that, just wants Pete to stop talking, and he blurts, "Ryan slept with Brendon."

There's a long silence. Spencer's skin goes from pale to white to gray, and Shane's getting afraid to touch him. Finally, the phone squawks again.

"Well, shit."


~*~*~*~


For all that Shane knows — intellectually — that most couples take the whole faithfulness issue very seriously, the part where Keltie stormed out sort of baffles him. It's just sex, for crying out loud.

Shane and Brendon have their own issues and to spare, but Shane never cares when Brendon swaps spit or come with other people, with two exceptions: he hates it when Brendon sleeps with people to punish himself, and he hates it when Brendon's betrayed by the people he was sleeping with in good faith and astonishing naivete. Beyond Brendon's misery, Shane couldn't care less.

Well, all right. He hates the ones who leave their spiky barrettes sticking out of the couch cushions, but jeez — Shane likes his ass unprobed by rhinestones, despite Brendon's taste in dildos.


~*~*~*~


"What the hell are we supposed to do with that?" the phone squawks plaintively.

Spencer’s eyes meet Shane’s, and the door bursts open, letting a happy shriek of laughter into the house. Both of them turn to face the doorway, where Brendon’s clomping in with a small, dark girl riding him piggyback, clutching at his chest as he tries to toss her off. Both of them are giggling like loons.

"Pete?" Shane says, trying for normality and failing just a little bit. "We’ll have to call you back."

"Sure, sure," Pete replies hastily, and the line goes dead.

Brendon succeeds in loosening his passenger’s hold and she slumps to the ground, straightening up with a last little peal of laughter.

"Dork," she says, and punches Brendon in the shoulder.

Brendon clasps a hand over his arm and makes an exaggerated wounded face, turning to include Shane and Spencer in his performance. "Mean--"he begins, and then stops, eyes narrowing in on Spencer’s face.

Shane’s eyes flicker back that direction, too. Spencer’s skin is still gray, his eyes unfocused and his face frozen.

"Spence?" Brendon says, gentle, soft, like he’s trying to coax a frightened cat off a high perch.

Beside him, the girl stills. Then, with astounding tact, she pivots on her heel and walks down the hall with a soft, quick step. After a second, Shane hears the bathroom door click shut.

In a distant sort of way, he's impressed. Brendon doesn't often pick up girls who can even spell discretion.

"Spencer?" Brendon says again, taking one step forward, and then another.

Shane lays a hand on Spencer's shoulder, and Spencer twitches, turning his head and almost looking Shane in the eye.

Shane frowns at him, shaking his shoulder a little. "You okay?"

Spencer frowns back at him. "I — "

Brendon's hand lands on top of Shane's, still on the shoulder, and Spencer freezes again, like he's only just realizing Brendon's here at all. He stands up abruptly, leaving their stacked hands to fall to the sofa. "I'm gonna take a shower," he announces. "You should — do whatever." With a vague handwave, he walks briskly to the stairs.

Brendon's hand tightens on Shane's, and for a moment, they merely look at each other, communicating with eyebrow twitches and twists of the mouth. Should we? Sometimes he —

But this is a bad one —

Yeah, I guess. What —

I don't know, but I don't think right now is —

Yeah, no, you're right, you're right. Let him think.


Shane shrugs his assent and squeezes Brendon back, reassuring, before sliding his hand free and standing up. "Pizza?"

"Sure."

Brendon precedes him to the kitchen, shoulders still a little uneven, uneasy with leaving Spencer to handle whatever made him look like that all on his own. Shane quicksteps for a second to catch him up and wrap an arm around his waist, pull him in and press a rough kiss to his temple. "He's different, B," he reminds, softly. "We can help later."

Brendon surprises him by turning for a bear hug, clinging, fingers sunk deep into Shane's hair and the other arm hard and uncomfortable around his back. Shane bends his head and presses their cheeks together, breathing for both of them. Brendon hates it when the rocks in his life shift or crumble, and in a lot of ways Spencer's the worst for him, because he wants none of the things Brendon needs when he's hurting; not cuddles or distraction or eighties cartoons or rough sex, any of which Brendon could give him gladly.

Spencer won't need Shane until later, either, and Shane takes another deep breath through his nose and holds it down, deep in his diaphragm, focusing on the pain of too much air below his ribs and the warm, sweaty smell behind Brendon's ear. He lets the air out through his mouth and feels the warmth of Brendon copying him automatically, steady, grounded, grounding. Brendon strokes a thumb along Shane's waist, and Shane takes an easier breath in through the nose again.

Upstairs, the shower kicks on.

Out through the mouth.

In through the no —

"Ah…"

It's so quiet he almost misses it, but he turns to see the dark pixie girl from earlier hovering in the hallway. Brendon turns, too, and he smiles his reporter smile. "Sarah!" he says, not letting go of Shane, but loosening his grip a little. "Sorry about that."

Shane can almost see her deciding it would be ruder to ask questions than to ignore Spencer's obvious distress. Instead, she says easily, "No problem." She's still poised on one foot, head cocked uncertainly. He pinches Brendon sharply, and Brendon jumps.

"Right. Sarah, this is my roommate Shane," he says, like he's introducing them at a family barbecue, potato salad in one hand, instead of cuddled up against said roommate's chest. "Shane, Sarah."

She smiles with just a wry hint of irony. "Hi, Shane."

"Hi, Sarah," he says, and takes a little step back from Brendon, dropping his arms. He could maybe like this one. "We were just going to order pizza."

"No pineapple," she says immediately. "Anything but pineapple."

He grins at her. "A woman after my own heart, I see."

Brendon moans like he's being denied sex. "Cruel world!" he declaims, one dramatic hand clutched in his own hair. "They're all against me!"

"Absolutely," Shane says, and gestures Sarah into the kitchen with a little bow.


~*~*~*~


Part Two (continued)
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Fanfiction by Elucreh

April 2017

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