Spencer and Ryan band break-up ficlet.
PG. 1000 words.
Title and cut text from Jonathan Seet's Precious Things.
even precious things get lost
When Spencer got home, cradling groceries in two reusable eco-friendly bags, Ryan was sitting on his front step. He rose as Spencer came towards him, juggling the bags to get at his keys.
"Hey," Ryan said.
"Hey," said Spencer back to him, cautiously because he still hadn't figured out a path through conversations with Ryan that didn't hurt, didn't make his chest tight and his throat close.
Ryan looked away. "Can I come in?" he said, and the fact that he had to ask, that it would have been strange if he'd just assumed, made Spencer close his eyes against the ache in his throat. He shrugged and unlocked the door.
Spencer toed his shoes off and walked straight to the kitchen, dumping his groceries on the counter and starting to put them away while Ryan stood in the doorway and watched him with big innocent eyes. Spencer rolled his eyes and tried not to bang his cabinets open, because they were whitewashed wood, and the handles left marks and dents if he didn't open them carefully.
Ryan was anything but innocent. Recently, Spencer might have been feeling as though he didn't know much, but that much he did know.
"I came to apologize," Ryan said.
"You have nothing to apologize for," Spencer said, and slammed the pantry door shut.
Ryan might have winced, but Spencer had his back turned and didn't see. He pretended that Ryan did, though, because it gave him some vague sense of righteous satisfaction. "For breaking up the band," Ryan said.
"You didn't break up the band." Spencer spilled all the fruit out of the bowl on the counter and started filling it back up again, just to have something to do with his hands other than clench them at his sides, just to have something to look at other than Ryan.
"Feels a little like I did," said Ryan.
Spencer knocked over the bowl and righted it again, smashing it down on the counter. "What do you want me to say, Ryan?" he asked, and bit his lip before he said anything else he'd regret.
Ryan didn't say anything, didn't move for a long time. Spencer stood still, his back to Ryan, and listened to the buzzing in his ears. He wondered when they had started fighting like adults instead of kids.
Ryan's voice, when he did speak, was small, and Spencer knew he'd be fiddling with his sleeves. "Maybe... that you forgive me?"
Spencer sighed. "There's nothing to forgive," he said, quietly. And then, "I hate to see you like this," and he wished he hadn't spoken.
He pictured Ryan biting his lip, looking down. "I know," said Ryan. "I still love you, you know. And you're still my best friend."
Spencer exhaled forcefully, angry and worn out and empty. "Tell me that like you believe it. Tell me that like I believe it."
Ryan didn't say anything for a while, and Spencer massaged his eyes with his thumb and index finger, trying not to cry at Ryan's silence.
"Remember before Pretty. Odd., but after it felt like Jon had always been with us, when we were all in love with each other?" Ryan asked eventually. "I haven't felt like that for a while." He paused. "I don't think you have, either."
Spencer said nothing.
"I thought you were in love with me. I thought you still are."
Spencer knew that Ryan was being an asshole, but he knew that Ryan knew it, too. He sighed and felt his shoulders slump. "I'm in love with you at seventeen. I don't even know who you are anymore."
He knew he had hurt Ryan, but it was true. He wouldn't have said it if it wasn't. He wouldn't hurt Ryan just for the sake of it. Too many people had done that already.
"I miss you," Ryan said. His voice broke.
Spencer turned around then, because he couldn't not. Because he still loved Ryan, and even if most of the time it felt like he loved who Ryan used to be, he still loved who Ryan was now. Because he couldn't not.
Ryan stepped forward and buried his face in Spencer's shoulder, and Spencer wrapped his arms around him, remembering when Ryan was taller than he was, when they used to cover Blink 182 songs in the basement and eat popsicles on the front stoop in summer. He swallowed around something large and difficult in his throat. "I just want you to be happy again," he said, and thought he heard Ryan sob.
"I want to be happy," Ryan said, and held on.
"How do you feel now?" Spencer asked.
Ryan hesitated, his voice muffled against Spencer's shirt. "You know how it feels, at the end of summer?" he asked. Spencer nodded. "Like that."
There was nothing Spencer could say that wasn't pointless, nothing that hadn't been said so many times that it didn't matter anymore.
"It always mattered," Ryan said quietly, and Spencer realized he'd spoken out loud. Ryan stepped back, brushing his eyes against his own shoulder. "I should probably get going," he said.
Spencer felt a sudden sense of loss. "You –" He didn't know how to ask anymore. He didn't know what was allowed. But then Ryan looked at him with something like hope, and, "You could stay," he said.
Ryan didn't smile, but he didn't not smile, either, almost as if he was afraid to. As if maybe he didn't know what was allowed, either. "I could," he said carefully, and it sounded like his throat ached. But Spencer's did, too, so he couldn't judge.
Ryan didn't ask again whether he was forgiven, and Spencer was glad, because he didn't know.
They watched The Nightmare Before Christmas and Moulin Rouge, movies they used to watch when they were just kids who played instruments sometimes. Spencer didn't what he was, now. He always used to define himself by Ryan. And now that he didn't know who Ryan was anymore, he didn't know who he was, either.
Ryan fell asleep somewhere between Ewan McGregor singing Elton John and Satine dying, and Spencer didn't have the heart to wake him.
"I forgive you," he tried, in a whisper, but it felt like a lie.
"I love you," he said instead, and that, at least, felt true. Felt like, maybe, it always had been.