Title: Burn Up in Love Love Love
Fandom: Panic! at the Disco
Rating: NC-17 for porn
Word Count: 12,928
Summary: Miss you miss you miss you.
Notes: A million thanks to iuliamentis, giddygeek and missmollyetc - the stuff that's still messed up is in no way their fault.
Burn Up in Love Love Love
Jon was pretty sure that the first time he said anything about it was in an interview, which would have been a shitty way to do it if it had been a big thing. And maybe he'd been thinking of it as kind of a big thing, because that whole interview was a blank--just a blur of heat and blinding light, like the first few he'd done with the band. Afterward he couldn't remember anything but nodding and smiling and the word Chicago in his own mouth. So he was pretty sure he'd said it, and after that everyone definitely knew, even though he couldn't remember ever saying to Ryan or to Brendon or to Spencer that he was going home to Chicago at the end of the tour.
It was obvious, anyway. Jon lived in Chicago. Jon had an apartment in Chicago. His cat was there. His family was there. When Jon went home, he went home to Chicago. That made sense.
Everything about Chicago made sense. It was a city perched across the mouth of a river, on the edge of a lake where cities belonged. The streets were laid out in a grid according to geometry and logic. There were no slot machines in the grocery stores, or the diners, or the airport. Chicago was cool and gray and sane, the perfect opposite of Vegas and the perfect antidote to life on tour.
Jon had been on tour, teching or playing, for what seemed like forever, and he'd been having sex with all three of his brand new bandmates--together--for nearly a month, not quite continuously. The sane, sensible thing to do was to go home, and that was exactly what Jon did.
The first day home was everything a first day home should be--hugging his parents at the airport, finding out that Dylan still remembered and liked him, and eating real pizza. Jon sent a dutiful text message, in triplicate, to Ryan and Brendon and Spencer, letting them know he'd gotten in safely.
Spencer's reply came almost instantly: say hi to chitown for us. Spencer had probably had his phone out, maybe texting someone else.
Ryan's came a few minutes later: You had twenty more minutes before I was going to call and check. Thanks. So Ryan wasn't with Spencer--of course he wasn't, he'd done nothing for the last twenty-four hours they were together but talk about how happy he was going to be to be alone for a while, although it hadn't been as convincing as it possibly could be, what with him mostly saying it while naked and--
Jon snapped his phone shut and shoved it back into his pocket and forced himself to listen to what his mom was saying to him.
Brendon's reply didn't come until hours later, when Jon and Dylan were alone in Jon's apartment. The fridge was freshly stocked with groceries his mom had taken him to get on his way home, plus leftover pizza. Dylan kept running around the apartment, flinging himself into random corners, and Jon trailed after him at a slower pace, getting used to the idea of having this much space to himself. None of it moved under his feet, and nothing stank except the bag of laundry he'd brought home, and no one else's shoes (or books, or makeup kits, or video game controllers) tripped him. It was quiet.
The ring of his phone signaling a text message was startling; Jon jumped and Dylan bolted over to him, meowing furiously. Jon picked up the cat, and Dylan climbed up onto his shoulder while Jon read Brendon's message: Miss us yet?
Jon stared at the words. Dylan's paws kneaded the back of his neck, the pads cool against his skin, and then Dylan jumped down and was gone again, and Jon was still standing there, staring. Ryan and Spencer hadn't demanded any answer from him, never mind that one.
Something crashed in the bedroom, accompanied by a distinctly cat-sized thump, and Dylan streaked down the hallway and past Jon to take refuge in the kitchen. Jon shoved his phone into his pocket and went to inspect the damage, reminding himself that he loved his cat.
Jon woke up sprawled out in a bed that was bigger than he was and didn't have a top on it. Dylan was curled up against his shoulder, but Jon could still stretch in every direction without hitting another solid body or a wall or protruding through a curtain. He stretched his arms up toward the ceiling and then, feeling only a little silly, stretched his legs up too, waving his hands and feet in the air like he was Dylan after some toy. Because he could, because he wasn't crammed into a bunk (especially not crammed into a bunk that somebody else--or two or three somebodies--were also crammed into).
Jon got up and took a shower, just for the novelty of taking a shower in his own bathroom with no one else trying to turn it into a highly embarrassing slip-and-fall accident. He made coffee, and didn't realize until he was standing there watching it drip that he'd made a whole pot, and there was no one around to drink it but himself.
He drank it all anyway.
He also unpacked, and did his laundry, and organized his closet and alphabetized his DVDs, and by the time he was considering making another pot of coffee, Dylan was hiding from him behind the couch and Jon's hands were shaking a little bit. It was probably time to get out of the apartment. He could go to the mall and do some Christmas shopping. There was a Starbucks at the mall.
It already felt weird, deciding to go to the mall and then just going, without any of the guys trying to persuade him to go or needing to be persuaded, without having to bargain with Zack or a driver. There was nobody to argue with about which mall was best or closest, no ticking countdown to sound check, or show time, or some interview or photo shoot. All Jon had to do was find his wallet and coat, call out an apology to Dylan, and he was good to go.
He put on a hat because it was cold out and sunglasses because it was bright, but he took them both off when he got to the mall. He wasn't with Ryan or Brendon; he wouldn't cause a scene.
Jon walked around alone. Nobody crowded him or herded him or demanded that he try on these shoes or this shirt or this sparkly feather boa. Nobody tried to convince him to run up the down escalator or not run up the down escalator. He didn't have to keep an eye out to make sure no one wandered off. There was no one to wander off. It was just him, wandering.
Shopping was downright efficient this way. Jon had presents for his whole family and a coffee inside an hour and a half. He paused in front of a pet store, looking at the puppies in the window. In his head he could hear Ryan bitching about puppy mills (again) while Spencer patiently pointed out (again) that it wasn't the puppies' fault, they needed homes too. He could see Brendon pressing his nose to the glass, begging to go in and pet them, it wasn't supporting puppy mills if they didn't buy them, right?
One of the puppies stood up and wagged its tail, and that would be the moment when even Ryan's argument faltered, when Brendon declared victory and dragged him inside by the arm, Spencer following with a sidelong glance and a roll of his eyes. Jon tightened his grip on his venti cup (in this year's festive holiday sleeve) and walked away.
The next morning--afternoon, really, but Jon hadn't quite made it out of bed yet--he was snapped out of a half-dream by his phone. Jon fumbled at buttons for a few seconds and then Ryan's text message appeared: BLT smokey cheddar on wheat and a cookie. You?
Jon blinked at the clock. It was past one in Chicago, just after eleven in Vegas. A little early for lunch, but it was never too early for Ryan to be at Port of Subs.
Jon sat up, rubbing his stomach, and wandered into the kitchen. Dylan rubbed up against his ankles along the way, and jumped up onto the counter when Jon opened the fridge. His mouth watered when he spotted the pizza, so Jon pulled it out.
Leftover pizza, he texted back, and stood at the counter eating, flicking bits of congealed cheese to Dylan.
His phone chimed for another text, atleast heat it up dude. It took Jon a moment to realize that Ryan hadn't suddenly misplaced the shift key; the message was from Spencer.
Because he and Ryan were eating lunch together. Well, of course. No matter what Ryan said, he wouldn't stay away from Spencer for long.
Another text followed almost before he'd finished that thought, and Jon's stomach clenched.
Brendon. No nukes!!!!!
Jon finished his slice, and picked Dylan up. He went back to bed, leaving his phone on the counter beside the rest of the pizza.
It had gotten dark out by the time Jon woke up again, and Dylan had deserted him. He stretched out across the big empty bed and realized that nothing hurt--no there-is-such-a-thing-as-too-much-sex twinge anywhere--no dimly aching elbows or knees banged on headboards or bunk sides. He could probably still find a few marks on his skin if he looked for them, feel them if he pressed his fingers down hard, but the evidence was fading already.
For a second he felt like he couldn't breathe, like all the empty space around him was weight instead, pressing down on his chest. All he could think about was the time they'd all crammed into a single bunk--he'd been on the bottom and at the back, Spencer pressed up tight to his side and hanging half out the opening, Brendon and Ryan stacked on top of them--and Jon had closed his eyes and breathed and breathed, ribs and lungs laboring under Brendon's weight, Ryan's hand curling around his shoulder. The air had been warm and the smell of that many bodies in that tiny space had been like a solid thing that crawled down his throat and into him.
But he'd kept breathing, listening as Spencer's protests died down, and Brendon's I-told-you-so's went quiet. For a while after the point was proven that it was possible, they'd all just stayed there, compressed into each other. Breathing in time.
Jon turned over. He pressed his face flat into his pillow and forced himself to inhale through it, again and again until he had to turn his face aside and gasp in cool air.
He was alone, because he'd left them, because he'd come here to be alone. Because...
Because this was what it would be like when they got tired of him--when Jon fucked this thing up--and they kicked him to the curb. It was his to fuck up, after all. He was still the new guy, even seven months in, and he'd had the hang of last hired, first fired since he was wearing a green apron at Starbucks.
The worst part was that he wasn't sure if he could survive the alternative, either. If he didn't fuck it up, if he actually made it work, he might just sink into them and disappear like a moth snapped up in a bonfire, not leaving so much as a trace of ash behind. He wasn't at all sure he was ready to be Jon-from-Panic, a quarter of Brendon-and-Ryan-and-Spencer-and-Jon, one more guy in a crowded bed, forever and ever and ever amen.
So he'd flown away to Chicago instead, to catch a cold breath and make up his mind about what to do next.
Jon stared at the ceiling as it faded into the deepening darkness. He wouldn't have to make up his mind if he just kept doing exactly what he was doing; this was him fucking it up right here, and he knew that. This was all he had to do--just do nothing--and he could stay alone for good. Maybe it would all fall apart without him--not the band, but this other thing, this Brendon-and-Ryan-and-Spencer-and-Jon thing that wasn't Panic! at the Disco. There was a reason the other three hadn't gotten together before he came along. He was responsible for the rest of them and for what they were doing together, oldest and calmest and sanest, and still the one who'd said, "I don't know, why not give it a try?" while the other three twisted themselves into knots.
Only now he was the one who wasn't trying, and that was hardly fair. He was letting them down, breaking their unspoken deal. Jon was supposed to be the reliable one--the one who showed up where he was supposed to be when he was supposed to be there--and here he was lying in the dark in Chicago alone, leaving them dangling in Vegas without him.
But maybe they'd be fine. If he left Spencer and Brendon and Ryan in Vegas without him long enough, maybe they'd realize they didn't even need him--needed him to play bass and hold down that fourth controller on Mario Kart, sure, but not for anything else--and that would be that. No more worrying about fucking it up or getting sucked in forever. He'd just be a guy doing a job again, alongside some friends of his who he didn't have sex with. His life would be kind of simple again--or simpler than it had been any time in the last month, at least.
It sounded awful. All the possibilities Jon could imagine sounded awful. He closed his eyes and tried not to see any of them, tried to sleep again, but some part of his body knew it was late afternoon despite the dark, and he was wide awake now.
Jon got up and dressed on autopilot. He checked that Dylan had water, made sure that there was film in his camera, and then he went for a walk. For a long time he just wandered, bare fingers going stiff and then numb on his camera. He wasn’t looking where he was going--barely seeing--but it didn't matter. He was home, he would be able to find his way back.
Every time he looked around, trying to frame a shot, all he could think was Nothing to see here, move along. Chicago was full of people and lights, Christmas shoppers and the inevitable tourists, music and the cacophony of cars, trains, and people. It was cold and dark and gray, and his home felt like a ghost town.
Jon went back to his apartment without taking a single shot. He put on a DVD and watched the artificial California glow on the screen, trying not to think of neon and the photogenic sharpness of the desert.
In the morning, Jon got up at a sensible hour, fed Dylan, and ate breakfast. He took a shower and washed his hair and actually ran a comb through it afterward. He scrubbed his fingertips through his beard and concluded that he still didn't want to shave it off, though he was going to need to trim it at some point. He got dressed in clean clothes that smelled like his place, and then he had a cup of coffee and tossed Dylan's ball for a while.
All the time, there was a pizza box on the counter next to his silent phone.
All the time--focusing on doing normal things by himself, because this was what a nice, normal, sane life was--Jon felt closer to totally batshit insane than he ever had in his life. Nothing in the last seven months--nothing even in the last month--could touch this horrible feeling that his brain had cut loose from reality. Was this what it was like being totally fucked up? Concentrating like this on what you were supposed to be doing and thinking and feeling all the time?
Dylan's ball took a funny bounce, and Dylan chased it into the kitchen sink, slipped on the slickness and went down with an awkward thump. Jon laughed out loud, alone in his kitchen. Dylan glared at him and took off with the ball in his mouth, and Jon was up and reaching for his phone before he thought twice about it.
He noticed first that the phone was dead, and then that it was in his hand and he wasn't sure who he meant to call. Except it was obvious who he meant to call; who else was he going to tell Dylan stories to? Who else did he want to tell Dylan stories to, and wish he'd caught a picture for? Who did he want to be laughing with in the kitchen over coffee?
"Dumbass," Jon announced, staring down at his phone.
Because what the fuck did it matter if it fell apart later, or if somewhere down the road this thing tried to eat him alive? God, it was Brendon and Spencer and Ryan, not The Foursome Relationship Monster. If this turned out to be a worse experiment than getting four dudes into one bunk--if he found he couldn't breathe, if he had to fucking tap out--he'd say so, or probably Ryan would notice before he had to say so, and they'd pile out and try something else.
"Dumbass, fucking dumbass, pussy, fuck," Jon muttered, looking around for the phone charger.
He had a couple of dozen text messages--Ryan's stayed pretty casual, Spencer's disappeared altogether after the first two, but Brendon's got downright plaintive. Jonny? You ok? was the last, and Jon scrubbed fiercely at his forehead with the heel of his hand.
It was way too early to be calling Vegas, but he sent them all a text before he could second-guess himself.
Miss you miss you miss you. Sorry sorry sorry.
And then, because she'd left actual voice mail, he called his mom and let himself be roped into going shopping with her. Quality time.
Nobody texted him back all the time he was out with his mom.