Once Ryan had figured this out, the only thing for it was to find out if there were signs of when Brendon wasn't having the easiest time, and he imagined there had to be. Ryan spent most of his life buried inside of his head which--he could admit--was usually buried inside his ass and he still gave off signs. It was pretty fucking impossible that Brendon Urie could just not. As it turned out, it took a while to notice them, but they were there. For one thing, Brendon's sugar intake went up. It was subtle, Brendon didn't make a big deal of needing more candy or anything, or at least no bigger a deal than he generally made about needing candy in the first place, but on a day when things weren't going well, Brendon could put away three bags of M&Ms as opposed to his normal one. Ryan knew. He had watched. And supplied more, when Brendon ran out.
Another sign was that he could get entire songs written by himself. They could be bad, things that Ryan was pretty sure Brendon would never have shown him if Ryan hadn't simply rested his chin on Brendon's shoulder and looked, but he could get from point A to point B to point C without so much as getting up to pee, and Brendon was good, but that was a little much, even for him.
The worst part was, if Ryan tried to bring it up, tried to say something like, "Feeling okay?" or, "Rough day?" Brendon would just shrug and say, "It happens," and move on. There were bumps in every relationship, Ryan knew, and as things went, this wasn't such a horrid one, so on the days where the small signs presented themselves, Ryan just bought more candy, suggested a few chords, and pretended like he didn't mind that Brendon didn't really need him.
When Tom met up to hang with them, tour while he had nothing better to do, Ryan watched as Brendon nearly buried him in bags of Twizzlers and Starburst. Ryan thought about translating for Tom, but Ryan hadn't had very many secrets that were his own in his life, and he might have liked Tom, but that didn't mean he was willing to just open Brendon to him, leave the key out where it could be found. It had taken him months to share that information with Jon and Spencer, for fuck's sake.
Which, of course, had the effect of making him feel like a complete asshole the day Tom said, "Is Brendon okay? He seems kind of, um, focused. Like when you don't want to pay attention, so you pay attention to something else."
Ryan realized, with a clarity that he probably should have had from the moment Jon explained, "They kicked him out of the fucking band," that Tom wasn't in the middle of the US on a bus because that's where Jon was. He was there because it wasn't where William or Mike or any of the others were. Jon was just a plus.
Ryan admitted, "I think he may have had a fight with his mom. He does, sometimes." Ryan thought they might be over him, sometimes. He tried not to ask.
"Oh. They still--"
"It's complicated," Ryan said. It was. It was also Brendon's to tell.
"Look, Ry, I don't want you to think I'm trying to move in on Brendon or anything, but I could stand for being party to something awesome, so if there was any way to pull him out of the slump, it would be big of you to let me in on that."
Ryan was about to tell Tom that there wasn't much to do other than buy Brendon some more gummi bears when it occurred to him that the next night was a hotel night. He smiled slightly at Tom. "I think we can manage some awesome, maybe."
Tom said, "I really shouldn't believe all the shit I read about you."
Ryan actually laughed.
When Ryan allowed himself to think about it--not often, he didn't want the shine to wear away--he actually knew a lot about Brendon; things that most people didn't know. For instance, Brendon's favorite author was Isabel Allende and he liked to have her stuff read aloud to him, especially by Spencer, because Spencer had taken Spanish in high school and was the only one of them who could actually roll his r's. Or that Brendon liked making potato rolls. They were literally the only food Brendon could make in this world, which was probably why he liked it, but he had learned at church when he was just a kid, and the process made him happy. Then there was the fact that Brendon had a spot right behind the bone of his left ankle that made him go supple and pliant and lie completely, totally at the mercy of Ryan's whims. That was Ryan's favorite Brendon Fact. It was not the one he shared with Tom.
Instead, he said, "Okay, here's what we're going to need. You up for it?"
"Um. Do I get to know what 'it' is first?" Tom asked, and Ryan felt kind of jerky, because it wasn't like he didn't know that Tom had just gotten kicked out of his band and was sort of struggling to know he could do much of anything.
"Okay, the deal is, Brendon really loves Monopoly, but none of his siblings were really all that into it, and also, he tended to win, which I guess is sort of a no no for a younger sibling." Ryan shrugged, the closest thing he had to a younger sibling was Spencer and that really didn't give him the context he needed. "So, we're gonna need a Monopoly board, double points if you can find the Disney version, and the Pop Culture edition of Trivial Pursuit."
"Wait." Tom tilted his head. "We're giving Brendon a board night game to cheer him up?"
Ryan gave Tom his best unimpressed look. "You said you wanted awesome."
"I was thinking--"
Ryan raised an eyebrow. Tom held up his hands. "Monopoly. Got it."
Ryan had made sure there was a Baskin Robbins in the city they were staying in. It was sort of a ways, but Zack said he would take Ryan, so they went out and Ryan had them pack up a gallon of Jamocha Almond Fudge, which was Brendon's absolute all time favorite. By the time he got back to the hotel, Brendon was in his pajamas, flipping through channels on the TV. Ryan asked, "Tired?"
Brendon pouted. "Bored. Gonna entertain me?"
Ryan put the ice cream right on Brendon's stomach. Brendon squeaked. "Fuck! Ryan!" he was laughing, though. He looked down at the gallon. "Holy shit, where's there a Baskin Robbins?"
"Fuck if I know, Zack drove."
Brendon leaned forward and kissed Ryan. Ryan kissed back until there was a knock on the door. Brendon groaned. "Tell me you didn't invite the others for ice cream."
"Not precisely," Ryan said, and got up to answer the door. Brendon grabbed his hand and called, "We're not here!"
Ryan snorted and pulled away. He opened the door. Tom said, "Disney version."
Ryan said, "Awesome."
Brendon said, "Disney version of what, Thomas Conrad?" sneaking up behind Ryan to peer over his shoulder. Tom just held up the box. Behind Ryan, Brendon quivered the way he only did when he was truly excited, excited to the very core of his soul. He breathed, "Monopoly."
Tom looked at Ryan with an expression that very clearly said, "All right, you totally win."
Ryan might not have known much, but words and Brendon Urie were his things. One did its best not to fail him. He did his best not to fail the other.
"Just 'cause?" Brendon asked, and there was this a small hesitation in his voice, one that Ryan knew well. Mostly it was there when Brendon wasn't sure he was going to get the answer he wanted, but knew he had to ask the question anyhow.
Ryan pulled Tom in the room, shutting the door behind him. He turned to Brendon and said, "Maybe 'cause, not just."
Brendon smiled, bright and perfect and real. He looked over Ryan's shoulder. "And you're playing with us, are you?"
Ryan looked back in time to see Tom's smile. For the first time since he'd shown up, it was pretty real, too.