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Impossible Year

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The room was cold. Too cold for early fall, and Brendon shivered as he rubbed his hands together. Hoping to occupy his mind, to give his hands something to do other than shake, Brendon continued to fiddle with the synth. He did that for an hour, but nothing fruitful happened. Just clumsy sounds and too-clunky chords.

Sighing, Brendon leaned back in his chair. Maybe it was time for a lunch break. A late lunch break, considering it was already three-something, but he might be able to find something in the kitchen. Then a thought came to him. He'd already looked through all the voice memos and notes on his phone, but weren't there some old files on his computer?

Moving a bit quicker now, Brendon clicked through the various screens necessary to navigate to the folder titled ‘Unfinished Songs’. And there it was.

He saw it immediately. Most of the files were one or two lines, maybe a sequence of chords that sounded nice. The barest of ideas. But this. This one was almost complete. But it wasn't, and there had been a very good reason for that. Brendon recalled that as he clicked on the file, but it was too late. The lyrics and chords were already spread in front of him, some pieces missing like some demented puzzle.

Because that's what it reminded Brendon of, as he looked at the song he'd written almost seven years before. That had been a tough year, an impossible year, and, at the time of it's creation, Brendon hadn't been ready to release it. He wasn't entirely sure he was ready now.

But it was new material. What it needed now was the barest of editing. Brendon hoped his brain could at least handle that task.

So Brendon set about piecing together the song, but he didn't get very far. He made it into maybe the second verse when he was suddenly thrown back onto a beach in South Africa.

The sky was the cliche type of stormy, dark and opposing. If Brendon had had any sense, if he had listened to his gut, he would have known to pay more attention to Ryan and stay away from the beach. But he was young, and he still didn't know much.

So Brendon had shoved all notions of wrongness out of his head, focusing on the show. And then, afterwards, he focused on the party, on fitting in and drinking a bit too much. But he didn't do anything too stupid. He wasn't an idiot, and he could always see Ryan somewhere in his field of vision. Until, suddenly, he couldn't any more.

He told himself he wouldn't panic; still, the waves of anxiety and concern refused to calm. He hadn't been paying attention to the time, but it couldn't have been that long since he'd last seen Ryan. He could find him. Everything would be fine.

After asking Spencer and Jon and a number of other people whose names he should probably know by now, Brendon decided to venture outside. He hadn't had a drink in a while, too busy thinking about Ryan, and he was able to think a bit clearer. The beach was visible from the house, the waves slamming against the smooth sand, and Brendon had the thought that Ryan might’ve headed out there to get away from the party.

He was right, unfortunately. Because he found Ryan. But when he saw him, his boyfriend wasn't alone. Brendon felt a little sick as he saw Ryan leaning against a railing, some blond guy wrapped around him.

Brendon shook off the memories, surprising himself when he noticed moisture cling to his eyes. Rubbing at them a bit self-consciously, which was stupid because he was, of course, alone, Brendon chuckled to himself and closed the window. Definitely time for a lunch break.

Still, the memory persisted throughout the day. He hadn't properly thought about Ryan in months, but now it seemed the man was planted firmly in his mind.

Later that night, he found himself messing with phone, twiddling his thumbs almost, contemplating. Should he? Sarah was out with friends, she probably wouldn't be home for another hour. What harm could come of it?

Taking a steadying breath, one that, quite frankly, failed at its purpose, Brendon scrolled through his contacts. His finger hovered over the name. Maybe this was a bad idea. But then Brendon was slamming his finger down, decisively, too forceful, and there was no going back.

The phone rang. It rang and rang and the thread of doubt in Brendon's gut grew into a writhing snake. What if he went to voicemail? What would be say? But no, it was worse than that.

“We're sorry, you've reached a number that has been disconnected or is no longer in service. For assistance press-” Brendon stopped listening. The snake curled into a ball, dropping like lead.

So not only was Ryan unavailable at the moment, he was unreachable. Great.

Brendon didn't notice his hands shaking until he had to force himself to hang up the call and scroll through his contacts again. Spencer would know what to do. He remembered his friend saying he'd talked to Ryan a couple of months ago, right?

“Spencer, hey man. Listen, I know this is kind of out of nowhere, but do you have Ryan's number by any chance?”

A sigh. “What is this about, Brendon?”

“I don't really know, honestly. I was just thinking about stuff. How I haven't talked to him in awhile. Just thought that...maybe I could try to change that.”

Spencer laughed, not unkindly. “Yeah. I'll give you his number, but it might be disconnected. It didn't work last time I tried to talk to him, though I might've dialed the wrong number. And I have his address but he might not…”

Brendon didn't hear the rest, jotting down the numbers and names, almost forgetting to thank Spencer before he hung up.

“Hey, Brendon. Wait. Think about this, ok? It's almost nine, Sarah will be home soon. Just...stay in, ok? Don't do anything stupid, yeah?” Spencer's voice was nervous, hesitant, wary. Brendon could almost see his fingers tapping.

He laughed, flippant enough that they both knew he wasn't listening. “Yeah, of course. When have you ever known me to do anything stupid?” But he waited anyway, greeting Sarah with a kiss and an attempt at dinner when she came in half an hour later.

It wasn't until Thursday, two days afterwards, that Brendon had a chance to go to the address. It was maybe five, and Brendon had spent the whole day fiddling with instruments before finally deciding he wasn't going to get any work done.

He texted Sarah that he was going to see a friend, just in case she got back before he did. His hands shook as he started his car. What was he going to say? Even Brendon could admit that this was strange, suddenly appearing out of the blue.

Would Ryan ignore him? Maybe he would slam the door in his face. He might even start berating him for everything that happened. Not that it was Brendon's fault, but...Ryan had always had a way of putting blame onto others.

But what if he didn't? What if he smiled when he saw Brendon? Maybe Ryan would invite him in and they would talk over drinks. Maybe things could go back to the way they used to be.

Not that they would, really. Brendon loved Sarah. He did, more than anything. Ryan and him had been friends, they could go back.

And he would be lying if he said he hadn't missed Ryan. His smile was always blinding, and Brendon could swear his laugh chased away storm clouds. He was smart, too. Ingenious.

Brendon shook the thoughts away. He was going to talk to a friend. An old friend, but a friend nonetheless. Nothing more.

But even still, his heart beat faster as he pulled into the parking lot of Ryan's apartment. It was on the third floor and the quiet whirring of the elevator seemed suffocating.

His hands shook again as he passed apartment doors. 32. 34. 35. There. 36.

This was it. Brendon’s knuckles hung hesitantly a few inches from the wood. He swallowed, his throat sandpaper. Was he really doing this? Brendon's hand rapped firmly against the door. No going back now.

There were a few painfully slow seconds where all was still. The door did not move. And then, ever so slowly, it creaked open. Brendon couldn't help the smile that came over his face, couldn't help the way his stomach clenched in anticipation.

Suddenly, there was an old woman standing in the doorway. Her eyes were suspicious as she gave him a close-lipped smile. Brendon paled. “Hello, young man. Can I help you with anything?”

No. No, this wasn't happening. Why wasn't Ryan here? Why couldn't he see that, yes, he did care. He cared and he wanted to see him. Brendon refused to acknowledge the tears that gathered in his eyes, refused to acknowledge the way his lip wobbled. “Sorry. Wrong address,” he stammered, stumbling away.

He made it to his car just before his legs collapsed. Brendon leaned against the steering wheel, the tears coming hot and fast. He stayed like that for several minutes before his eyes finally dried. Sniffling, Brendon drew himself up, putting the car into reverse. His phone buzzed as he received a message from Sarah.

I'm home. Will you be longer, or should I put some stir fry on?

Brendon pretended to be fine as he forced himself to ignore the first part of the question. Stir fry would be great. Thanks babe :)