Pairing: baby!Brendon/future!Brendon, Brendon/Ryan
POV: 3rd, Brendon’s
Summary: The stranger, who looks exactly like Brendon except older, moves restlessly, knees bouncing. “I’m you, get it? I am you. Five years from now.”
Disclaimer: Time travel
Author Notes: I’ve wanted to do a timetravel!fic for so long. Then I realised that it didn’t necessarily have to be a PWP (though someone might feel like this is, in which case kudos me! *pats own shoulder*), and this fic happened. Thanks to spazzyskittles for betaing and babycomeback2me for advice. <3 Here, have my attempt at dipping my toe in the canon sauce. Canon river. Canon... ocean? Also, this song gave this fic its title and moulded the themes and moods. Good, good song.
The setting sun’s last rays keep hitting the windshields of the cars driving past Brendon, making him partly cover his eyes as he hauls the guitar bag onto his shoulder. When he does, his school bag nearly slips off the other, and he keeps adjusting them fruitlessly, his worn out fingers fumbling. His back and feet ache, and he is wearing the Smoothie Hut uniform under his jacket. Brendon is seventeen, but he doesn’t feel like it. And someone might think that he must feel a hell of a lot older, and they would be damn right too.
Brendon is sick of school, sick of his parents, sick of work, and, currently, even his bandmates.
He had to leave band practice early, and Ryan blew up at him. Brendon is living on his own, supporting himself, and maybe he has to work. Maybe Ryan could stop to consider that, just for a tiny, tiny second before accusing him of not being dedicated. He is goddamn dedicated.
Brendon gets to his one room apartment on the fourth floor of the shitty apartment building. The couple that lives next-door to him are fighting in Spanish again. There is no one there to welcome him to this caricature of a home. He feels like a kid, a young, naïve kid who just wants to go home and have his mother feed him freshly baked cookies as his dad walks by and ruffles his hair. And he knows that’s a fallacy because it certainly wasn’t like that when he was living at home. It was full on war.
Brendon is starving, but he finds nothing in the kitchenette cupboards. A half-empty can of tomato soup occupies the otherwise bare fridge, and Brendon doesn’t even warm it up. He drinks it straight from the can, the sharp metal edge almost cutting his lower lip. He winces but keeps on drinking to fill his stomach with something. He counts how much money he has left, emptying his pockets on the counter as he slurps down the soup. He is sure he had more money than that. His eyelids are drooping as he throws the can in the sink, a clank sounding sharply. He wipes his mouth with the back of his hand and heads for the mattress on the floor. He hasn’t done much in terms of furniture yet.
Brendon doesn’t bother undressing himself as he collapses on the squeaky mattress, blindly reaching for the covers.
The exhaustion will pay off. All the sacrifices will pay off in the end, and they will be stars: him, Spencer, Ryan and Brent. They are heading for bright lights and large audiences, fame, money, magazine covers, worldwide tours. Or that’s what Brendon thought. But it’s months later, and he is stuck juggling a band, a job and school, and you know what? They’re not stars yet. They haven’t gotten anywhere.
And then Ross has the nerve to fucking have a go at him. And Brendon knows Ryan has nowhere to sleep tonight – Ryan can’t stay at Spencer’s all the time. But Brendon decides not to care. Maybe Ryan should man up and go home to his drunken dad. Sleep in his own bed for a change because, hey, at least Ryan has a bed.
All Brendon has is a stupid, lumpy goddamn double mattress that smells vaguely of cat piss. Brent’s housewarming gift to him. Found it in the garage, apparently.
Brendon is exhausted, and he feels sleep taking over, and he appreciates that. When he is sleeping, he doesn’t remember how shitty his life is.
Spanish swear words come through the wall muffled, and Brendon drifts off to sleep.
Ryan mumbles an apology the next time they see each other. The guitarist seems to have lost some of his spirit, finding the simple art of smiling even more foreign than he usually does. It’s always a sign of Ryan actually having been home for a day or two. Brendon feels guilty. Ryan could have stayed at his place. It’s a double mattress, after all, and they have shared it before. Ryan’s girlfriend’s parents have been stricter after they found the young couple doing “inappropriate things” in the living room, and Ryan said it smugly at the time, yeah, but they won’t let Ryan practically live there anymore.
“Let’s just forget about it,” Brendon offers.
The band practice isn’t good. Spencer keeps up the beat, but Brent complains that his fingers are sore and Ryan can’t remember the chord progression in the bridge of the new song even though he wrote it. Ryan also says that Brendon is singing the lyrics wrong, and Brendon grits his teeth and asks Ryan what pretentiously long words was it that he was meant to be singing. Fine, he doesn’t actually say that, but he thinks it.
Afterwards, they hang out in the practice space before Brendon has his shift. “You talked to your parents?” Spencer asks, practising twirling drumsticks between his fingers. He keeps dropping them. Spencer keeps saying how he wants to incorporate drumstick whirling in their live act when they make it, when they are stars.
Brendon thinks that if they say it enough times, they will actually believe it.
“Nah,” he mumbles. His parents haven’t called so he won’t call either. He keeps his eyes on Ryan across the room, on the phone with his girlfriend. A string of “I miss you too, baby”s spill from Ryan’s lips. Yeah, right. Ryan misses the sex. Brendon, at least, is pretty sure they are having sex. Most likely. They joke about sex all the time, but Brendon’s never sure where the kidding ends and reality starts. He hasn’t asked - not his business - but he has seen the hickeys on Ryan’s neck, not to mention the time Ryan was looking around for a pick, emptying his pockets, and what came out instead was a condom.
Brendon might have felt his cheeks burn from it.
He changes to his work uniform before leaving, the loose yellow and pink striped shirt and the name tag that says ‘Brandon’. Spencer’s dad picks them all up, kind enough to drive by the mall and drop Brendon off. To Brendon’s surprise, Ryan scrambles out of the backseat too, giving the Smiths a wave. “Window shopping,” Ryan says like it’s obvious.
Sometimes, Brendon feels on edge when it’s just Ryan and him. His palms get sweaty, and his heart beats faster. It didn’t used to be like that, and Brendon can’t figure it out.
“Any chance of getting a free smoothie?” Ryan asks.
“Worth a shot,” he shrugs sheepishly and proceeds to ask if Brendon thinks it’s cheating if he is stalking Jac Vanek on LiveJournal even though he has a girlfriend. “I think Jac likes me. She uses smilies in her replies,” Ryan says with a nervous, excited edge to his tone. “I’ll send her an IM one of these days.”
“Sweet. Tell me how that goes.”
“It might take a while. The computer’s broken.” Ryan averts his gaze. “Dad.”
Brendon doesn’t need clarification. He gets that same feeling again that is more complex than guilt. It has shades of anguish and worry in it. Brendon just wishes Ryan was happy. He is convinced that he’d feel better too if Ryan just was happy. He’d feel surer that this band thing is more than teenage talk.
Ryan says, “Hey, man, I know things haven’t been easy on you. But it’s gonna get better. We’re gonna make it, you know?”
They stop at a junction, shoppers swirling around them. They used to crack jokes all the time, have fun together, but now, Brendon is just too tired to remember nothing more than the beginning of a joke – “An American, a Canadian and a Mexican were drinking in a bar...” He used to be so sure about the band. He had more faith in them than anyone. But he is tired. He is tired and losing faith.
Brendon has been thinking about hairdressing again. He found a hairdressing school in Arizona he liked the look of, and he has the prospectus back at his place. Sometimes, he flips through the pages before bed and lets himself dream.
On some nights, he dreams of the screaming fans instead, but the buzzword of the past few weeks has been realism. Brendon has to be realistic, even if he is only seventeen.
“We’re gonna make it,” Ryan repeats and squeezes his shoulder. Brendon’s insides tighten together, his heart jumping to his throat. Ryan smiles. He doesn’t smile often.
“We’re gonna make it,” Brendon echoes.
He can give the band one more month.
The beads of sunshine are getting more and more insistent and are stirring Brendon from his sleep. He stretches and becomes acutely aware that he is still as exhausted as he was the night before. The pillow is wet from his drool. It can’t be morning yet. God, it can’t be.
He groans and turns around to find a spot on the pillow that isn’t covered in spit. Normally, he would be up and about, getting ready for church. Not anymore.
“Jesus, I forgot what a dump this was.”
Brendon assumes the voice to belong to the TV, but he doesn’t have a TV. He jerks awake faster than he knew possible, rolling straight from the mattress onto the cold floor with a thump. He scrambles up to his feet, alarmed, and his eyes focus on a man on the other side of the room. “I don’t have anything!” he squeaks in full panic mode because it’s the first half-sensible thing he can come up with. He knew this would happen, someone breaking into his place, taking what little he has, beating him up. He knew this would happen, and no one would find his body for a week or two, not until Spencer would finally come around to see why he hasn’t been coming to band practice. “I don’t – there’s nothing here to steal, I swear, I –”
It’s true. The apartment is barely furnished at all.
“Dude, calm the fuck down,” the guy says in a voice that makes Brendon think of one of his older brothers. The guy breaks into a small smile with something twisted in it. “Shit, that t-shirt.”
Brendon glances down to his Dinosaur Jr. shirt, confused. “Ho-How did you get in?” he asks the guy, carefully reaching down to pick up his glasses from the floor. The guy doesn’t reply. Who let him in? Didn’t Brendon lock the door? He always double-chains it because the world is big and dangerous, and he is pretty small. Plus, he has a dysfunctional and occasionally violent Mexican couple living on the other side of the wall.
Brendon rubs his eyes and places his glasses on his nose to take a look at the guy, who is looking back at him with slight disbelief. The guy says, “So hi.”
Brendon recognises him and passes out.
Brendon is appalled that his parents didn’t tell him he has an identical twin brother and that they got separated at birth. All those years wasted, frolicking together, confusing people of which one is which, being like Fred and George in Harry Potter. Brent always says that those books are for fags, but Brendon reads them nonetheless.
“What?” the man asks incredulously, now sitting on the only chair in the one room apartment. Brendon has been living there for three months, but furniture remains something to be desired. Brendon is firmly sitting on the edge of the mattress, bare feet against the floor with his knees raised. He has a twin brother.
“How does that logic work out, exactly? I’m like... five years older than you.”
“Well, yeah,” Brendon frowns, seeing the flaws in his argument. Then it hits him. Then he gets it. “Oh god,” he gasps.
“Yeah,” the man confirms.
“My dad’s had an affair! You’re his lovechild!”
“I swear I wasn’t this thick five years ago,” the man sighs and pauses thoughtfully. “Or was I?” The stranger, who looks exactly like Brendon except older, moves restlessly, knees bouncing. “I’m you, get it? I am you. Five years from now.”
Brendon feels a headache coming on. The guy is not a distant cousin, not a twin brother and not a lovechild, and now, he claims to be Brendon. He has officially lost his mind.
“Look,” the other Brendon says, standing up and zipping down his tight, tight jeans. Brendon himself would never wear jeans that tight, but more importantly, what the hell is the guy doing? Brendon averts his gaze quickly.
“Hey, eyes up. Nothing you haven’t seen before,” the guy says, and Brendon shifts his gaze back. The other Brendon has shoved his boxers down on the left side, a bit of pubic hair revealed. He is pointing at a mole right at the junction where his leg meets the rest of his body. Brendon stands up himself, frowning as he mimics the actions and finds the same exact mole on himself.
“Oh,” he breathes. This guy is him. “You’re from the future,” he breathes, and the older Brendon nods to confirm it. Brendon swallows, cautiously studying his older version. He is wearing nice clothes and has a cool haircut. And shit, is that stubble? He is successfully going to grow facial hair? Wow. And, in the future, he is going to not look so dorky and has whiter teeth and better skin. A lot of grooming is going to take place followed closely by having the money to buy nice things. Brendon adds it all up in his head.
“Shit,” he whispers, voice trembling. “Do we make it? Does the band make it?”
Brendon lets out a shocked, disbelieving laugh. They make it. They fucking make it. He blinks more than necessary, relief filling every cell in his body. This will pay off. He has made the right decision. Oh god. Oh thank god.
“I have to call Ryan,” he whispers, choked up, and zips himself up. He urgently begins to look around for his phone.
“Dude, sit down, would you?”
Brendon ignores him, so his older version walks over and makes him sit back on the mattress. Brendon stops smiling when he sees how anguished he – the other he – looks. The other Brendon knows something he doesn’t. Something terrifying.
Brendon doesn’t know how to react when he hears his older self say, “You have to quit the band.”
Brendon is shaken up when he gets to their practice space. He is late, and Ryan is a drama queen about it. Brendon doesn’t appreciate the ingratitude – he is living from hand to mouth, juggling high school, a job and a band, and on top of this all, he has a future version of himself who, currently, is refusing to leave until Brendon promises that he will quit the band. They are going to make it. It’s the answer to all of Brendon’s silent prayers, but no.
The older Brendon won’t disclose anything more on the matter either. It’s an understatement to say Brendon is upset.
Brendon notices the sleeping bag that’s bundled up on the two-seater couch of the practice room. Ryan has been sleeping in the practice space again. “When the demos are in good shape, I’ll upload them. I’ve been thinking I could send Pete a link, you know?” Ryan mumbles in between songs, eyes downcast.
“Pete Wentz?” Brendon asks, taking a sip of water. His throat feels sore.
“Yeah.” Ryan sounds like it should have been obvious. Brendon knows that Ryan has met Pete – three times in total, as Ryan keeps reminding them - and Pete even remembered his name and seemed like he really, really listened when Ryan talked about the band. Sure. And Ryan has talked to Pete on AIM, has done this, done that – god, Brendon knows all of this. And lately, he has been thinking that Pete Wentz cares as much for a random fanboy’s aspiring band as an elephant cares for a flee biting it on the ass, but now, it’s different. They make it. And Brendon doesn’t know how it happened or, well, how it will happen, but somehow, they do.
“Yeah, you should upload them,” Brendon agrees.
They decide to head for the skate park afterwards, just to hang out, but a silver Mercedes parked out front honks at them. The window slides down, a man with huge sunglasses poking his head out. “Brendon, come on!”
Brendon stares at his older self disappearing back into the car. Seriously?
Spencer is frowning. “Dude, who is that? Sorta looks like –”
“Bob. My cousin Bob. All Uries look alike, it's a Mormon thing. I gotta head, sorry,” he mumbles, and his bandmates stare at the shiny car, and yeah, seriously. The other Brendon could show a bit more tact. Brendon first puts his guitar bag in the backseat before getting in the front.
The other Brendon has sunglasses resting on his head and is peering through the windshield. “Shit. Shit, look at how young they are.” Brendon follows the distancing backs of his bandmates as he buckles himself up. “I’d almost forgotten what Spencer looks like without a beard. And Brent, well...”
“Well what?” Brendon asks while trying to picture Spencer with a beard and failing. Spencer would never grow a beard. Spencer physically can’t, even. “Did you buy this car?”
“Rented it. The joys of actually being of age. You want my ID?”
“It’d be real,” the other Brendon muses as the car heads down the street. Brendon doesn’t want the stupid real ID. “I’ll take us out for dinner. Or, well, I’m taking me out for dinner.” The other Brendon laughs like this is amusing, but it’s not. Renting expensive cars, splashing out on restaurants – money. Spending money that Brendon doesn’t have but clearly has in the future that he is now being convinced not to live.
They end up at a Chinese place, and the waitress says that they look astonishingly alike before flirting with the older Brendon, who flirts back with ease even as he keeps chewing gum obsessively. Brendon fiddles with his sleeves, and when the waitress goes to get their drinks, he orders, “Don’t, like, flirt with her. Don’t make me do stuff like that. It’s embarrassing.”
“Fine,” the other Brendon sighs, pulling his jacket off. Brendon’s jaw drops.
“I have tattoos? Mom and Dad are going to kill me!”
“They don’t care,” the other Brendon almost snorts. “My arm, not theirs. Whatever.” He opens the menu, going through the dishes. “Ooh, Chow mein pork.”
“I don’t eat meat!” Brendon snaps louder than intended. This is beginning to feel like a joke. The guy sitting opposite him isn’t him or, at least, represents a dozen things Brendon doesn’t want himself to become – a sleazy, flirtatious carnivore. “You can’t say stuff like that, alright? You can’t eat meat or flirt with the waitress or have my arm look like my grandma’s floral couch because I would never do those things! So stop it,” he hisses.
The other Brendon stares at him long and hard. “You know, I’d almost forgotten how unhappy I was back then. Or now. How unhappy you are.”
“Glad to remind you of it.”
His older version shakes his head. “You think you’re unhappy. You think the band making it will solve everything. Let me get one thing straight, okay? You will hate yourself. Brendon, you will hate yourself.”
“Do you hate yourself, Brendon?” he counters as icily as he can.
“I do. And I hate the guys too,” the other Brendon adds as an afterthought, and that renders Brendon speechless. He’d never hate Ryan, Spencer or Brent. Or will it go to their heads, the fame? Will they start fighting and bickering? Will someone get addicted to heroin and die? Fuck, does someone die? Brendon doesn’t ask because he knows he won’t get an answer. He only feels himself go pale as inconsolable sadness fills him. The one thing he has wanted the most in his life will turn into poison, killing him little by little.
Brendon orders Szechuan string beans, and the older Brendon gets a vegetable Chow mein.
“I miss this guitar,” the other Brendon muses as he sits on the mattress cross-legged and barefoot. He starts playing a song, and wow, Brendon is going to learn some cool new tricks down the line.
“Don’t you have it anymore?” Brendon asks disbelievingly from where he is sitting by the tiny table and trying to write up his English paper. He’d never, ever sell his first guitar. No matter what this future clone tells him, he would never do that.
“It got lost during the move to LA.”
Brendon stops writing and looks up. “I live in LA?”
“Dude... that’s so fucking ama –”
“The shallowest place I’ve ever been to. You know what city I like? Phoenix, Arizona. Always good weather when I’ve been. Love the people. A good hairdressing school. I believe the prospectus is right on that table there,” the other Brendon says conversationally. “I filled out the application form while you went to band practice. Put it in the mail. That’s what I always should’ve done.” He stops playing. “No need to thank me.”
Brendon grits his teeth. “I am not going to quit the band when we make it!”
“And if you didn’t? If I had come back and said we don’t make it?”
Brendon remains silent.
“Exactly. You’d be on the first bus to Phoenix. And you think a record deal and making a career out of it is what makes it worthwhile, is the defining line of if it’s worth it. But all of that is... so superficial. Is secondary. I meet these guys from these small bands who still drive around in vans, are as poor as you are now, and they are... they are happier than me.” He sounds astonished, like he has no idea how that could even be. “They do it for the music, and I was never in it for the music. I was in it for the fame. You are in it for the fame. And the most ironic thing about it is that I will get everything I want except the one thing that makes me happy. And I don’t even know what that thing is.”
Brendon blinks. “I think I am going to need therapy in the future.”
The other Brendon only half-chuckles. “I didn’t know I’d be this stubborn. I thought that... the fact that I came back to change the future would be proof enough that I don’t want the future I’m heading for. But I guess I forgot how naïve I used to be.” He gets up and heads for the bathroom.
Brendon feels torn up. The other Brendon has a point. This isn’t a prank or a test.
“Hey, I’ll...” he starts. The other Brendon stops and turns back around to look at him. “I need to think about this. Quitting the band. I... don’t want to be unhappy. I mean, you know better than I do. Right?”
The other Brendon gives him a serious look. “Yeah. I do.”
Brendon nods, and his future self doesn’t push it any further.
When Brendon wakes up, he thinks it was all a very long and vivid dream. Which, admittedly, is slightly disturbing because he wakes up hard, and wow, is he that much of a narcissist? Still half-asleep, he shoves his hand into his pyjama bottoms and rolls onto his back.
“Holy shit!” he practically screams out, startled when he realises that, no, it wasn’t a dream, and that the other Brendon is on the mattress with him. He moves to sit up, staring.
“Way to kill the mood, dude,” the other Brendon retorts, clearly having been awake longer than he has. Clearly.
“What are you doing?”
“What does it look like I’m doing?”
Well, it looks like he is jerking off. Oh god, Brendon can’t see that, can’t see his older self lying there with boxers shoved down to his knees, naked otherwise. He concludes that some things won’t change, like waking up with a hard-on nearly every day.
The other Brendon groans, head tilting backwards. Brendon moves to get up but finds himself pulled back down. “Just jerk off, whatever.”
“Uh, um.” He settles back down, trying to swallow the cactus that has been forced down his throat.
“Pass the lube?”
“What?” He blinks at the ceiling, completely frozen.
“The lube that you’ve hidden under the mattress.”
Brendon doesn’t look as he reaches out his arm, feeling under the edge of the mattress before passing the half-empty tube to the guy jerking off next to him. The other Brendon groans louder. “God, that’s better.”
Brendon looks. Just a bit and from the corner of his eye to the now glistening and flushed cock of- of himself. His cheeks burn, and he should leave. He should really just go and take a cold shower, but he is rooted to the spot. To his disappointment – not disappointment, no, but to his great relief - the other Brendon stops and props himself up onto his elbows.
“Okay, seriously. Just jerk off,” his older self advises, reaching over and cupping his erection. Brendon jumps and is pretty sure he squeals from the shock.
The other Brendon pulls his hand back. “It’s my cock, theoretically.”
“But it’s my body! Now! In this time!” he objects, voice high-pitched and almost what he sounded like before puberty finally hit him.
“Dude. Just goddamn admit you like some cock on the side. It’s gonna save you a lot of unnecessary torment and one major existential crisis backstage in Copenhagen.”
Brendon’s mind is playing a loop of “you like some cock on the side, you like some cock on the side, you like some cock on the side”, and he nearly begins to hyperventilate. How does this guy know? Well, of course he does, but – No, wait, even Brendon doesn’t know that. He suspects it, maybe, in that tiny part of his brain where he never, ever goes except a few times just before he orgasms, when the mental image setting him off is, well, could perhaps potentially be himself with another guy, but he never admits to that afterwards. No, it was a skinny chick with big tits, one of those porn actress types.
“You want to go to a hairdressing school. Please don’t pretend you are all that surprised.”
“Okay, look!” Brendon snaps. “You got to realise that on your own, but I am in shock here. A little bit. Okay? So. I’m having a crisis. Now. I mean.”
“Fine,” the other Brendon sighs, lying back down and grabbing his own cock. “Mom and Dad won’t care once you’re rich and famous. And it hardly matters who I fuck. I can never make it work anyway.”
Brendon swallows. He is going to have sex some day. Well, obviously. Or he hoped he would, at least. But the way his older version says it, casually and just out there like it’s no big deal, like it’s a fact of life. He will have sex. With people. Fuck, why does he feel so nervous?
“But you don’t want me to become rich and famous, so if I... if I liked boys, um.” Brendon stares at the way the other Brendon is working his fist over his cock. His throat is dry. “Since I might... like boys, my parents would... have a problem with it.”
“Probably. But you know what? At least you’d be honest.”
“And my friends? Do they, uh...” Disown him.
“As long as the public doesn’t find out is the rule of thumb. Come on, it’s a new hip band. The circles are pretty progressive. Stop being such a conservative religious freak and get over it. Really.”
Brendon slowly lets himself lie back down as he keeps his eyes on the other Brendon’s cock. If he does this, who the hell would he ever tell? Who would know? He would, and that’d be it. Absolutely no witnesses.
He pulls down his pyjama pants, letting his fingers curl around his erection. God, he can’t believe how hard he is. His breathing hitches, and his companion looks over, smirking. Brendon’s face is hot with embarrassment, and he fists his cock fast and hard just so that this would be over. If his dick could start smoking from the frantic friction his hand is providing, a small cloud would be emerging above it right about now.
Brendon tries to keep quiet and listen to the moans of the other Brendon. It’s low and guttural, easy and confident. It’s not like he is jerking off with another guy. He is jerking off with himself, so, really, this is just a new, fucked up form of masturbation. Except that it’s not. He can’t look away from his older self, watching him touching himself, what it looks like, how goddamn hot it is.
“What are you thinking about?” the other Brendon asks, and Brendon’s stomach drops.
“Liar,” and then, “God, I’m close.”
Holy shit. Brendon whimpers and comes all over his hand with a barely muffled cry. He blinks at the ceiling as his brain melts inside his skull. Fuck. Fuck.
The older Brendon lasts longer like a pro. Well, he has five years on him, five years of more jacking off. Brendon’s mouth drops open when the other Brendon climaxes because holy fucking shit, he never thought that he could look so hot doing that.
“Hmm,” the other Brendon says with a pleased smile, stretching on the mattress. “That was good. Not a bad effort from you either, Junior.”
Brendon feels like vanishing from the face of the earth. “If you tell anyone about this, I’ll kill you,” Brendon insists as he pulls up his pyjama pants. “Or, uh, I’ll slice my wrists.”
“You do that.”
Brendon hurries to take a shower, jerking off again to the mental images of guys, cocks, hands on cocks, and when he comes back out, the other Brendon smirks like he knows.