"Remind me, again, who did the tour planning?” Ryan asked, in that voice that said he knew he was being an asshole, but had no interest whatsoever in stopping himself.
Jon flipped him off. He wasn’t answering that question again. It wasn’t like he had wanted to play Wisconsin more than Chicago, either, but that was how the dates had worked out. And he hadn’t fucking planned on an ice storm, thanks. Sometimes, in the middle of winter, in North America, these things happened.
Ryan laughed, then, at least. He poked at Jon with his guitar in a type of sorry. Jon glared at him. “Not that easy, Ross.”
Ryan laughed again. “Totally that easy, Walker.”
What sucked was that Ryan was right about the easy, probably even moreso than he thought he was. But Jon had sat back while Ryan and Tom awkwardly courted in the aftermath of The Academy, Tom taking too damn many pictures of Ryan’s face, and Ryan writing egregiously stupid lyrics. Jon had listened while Tom had said, “I don’t know, he just-- He doesn’t expect too much of me,” and hadn’t said, “Neither do I. I never have,” no matter how much he’d wanted to.
Hell, when Ryan had all-but asked permission, with long pauses and glances anywhere but at Jon, Jon had said, “You hurt him and I’ll hurt your face,” and hadn’t left the fucking band instead of staying and getting his heart broken every day.
Jon was, and always had been, way too easy for the people he loved.
Jon hadn’t been crazy about the idea of touring in winter, but, financially, it was all-but a must. Ryan seriously didn’t know how to save, at all. It had been bad enough when Spencer was around to talk some sense into him, but afterward, when it was just Jon against the world and Tom, who was also completely hopeless when it came to money? Yeah, a winter tour was going to be necessary—probably more than one, if Jon was honest about it.
It wasn’t that he didn’t like being on the road, because most of the time, it was a million times easier during a tour, if for no other reason than he had an excuse to be around Ryan all the damn time without looking pathetic. But the five of them taking turns driving in the winter was something else, and not something that sent a thrill of awesome down Jon’s spine.
There were times when he missed the bus. There were times when he missed a lot of shit, but that was beside the point, totally beside the point.
By the time the five of them got it together enough to figure out when the tour was happening, booking spaces had been more complicated than it usually was, and Chicago just wasn’t on the table, not for when they were going to be around that area. Ryan said, “Your family’s there.”
Jon said, “Don’t use my family as a metaphor for you wanting to get laid.” He could almost say shit like that without it stinging his throat, almost.
Ryan came back with cow eyes and a pleading, “Joooooon.”
Not that Jon didn’t find it endearing, and all, but Ryan totally deserved the punch to his groin.
By the time they got to Wisconsin, five weeks into the tour, with Nick having gotten a sinus infection in the second one and passed it on to pretty much everyone, Jon was ready to give up his life as a musician—seriously. The offer of a bed with actually clean sheets and food that didn’t come from a fryer probably would have done it for him.
Ryan, however, was stubborn. “Dude, we’re driving into Chicago after the show. We’ll come back tomorrow, pick the guys up, and move on.”
“Aren’t you still on antihistamines?”
“Okay, so, you’ll drive us into Chicago. It’s Tom, Jon.”
Jon wished there was a convenient surface to bash his forehead against. “I know, Ryan.”
“Then, seriously, why are we even having this conversation?”
Never had the truism “if I have to explain it to you, you just don’t get it,” applied more to Jon’s life.
Jon was exhausted after the show, and thought about arguing with Ryan, but a) he’d lose, and then he’d just have spent time arguing and still have to go, and b) stupid emotions or not, Ryan was right, seeing Tom was always appreciated.
Despite the ice and hail Wisconsin had been getting on and off, and the lack of above freezing temperatures, the highways were mostly fine for the first part of the drive. Jon stopped off less than fifteen minutes in for coffee, and then they continued on, Ryan—the asshole—largely napping in the passenger’s seat, when he wasn’t texting Tom.
The ice patch was black, at least, Jon thought it had to have been. He never saw anything that even looked like ice, but one second they were fine and the next Jon was trying his best not to fight with the wheel—he remembered not to, even if he couldn’t remember why. He tried slowing them down, but he had no idea if the breaks were even working. His stomach pitched with the speed of the car and then he slammed up against something and lost all consciousness.
At first, Jon couldn’t understand. How was Ryan—
Then he figured out that the van was on its side, Ryan’s side, and that Jon was pinned in by his seatbelt and by the dash, which was somehow closer than before. His head hurt, more even than that time with the tequila and the rum and the fucking Everclear. His cheek felt wet, and for a second he thought he might be crying, but then he saw the blood on the glass in his peripheral vision.
He panicked then, looking again at Ryan, the jerk of his head making the pain flare so badly he could barely breathe. Ryan was there, but he looked, something looked wrong near his collarbone and there was glass in his side from where the window had broken.
Jon said, “Ryan? Ryan!”
Ryan moaned and his eyes fluttered open. For a moment they were dazed, fuzzy, and then he asked, “Jon? What-- What the hell is going on?”
Talking and hearing Ryan talk hurt so much that Jon was pretty sure he was going to cry, which, wow, he hadn’t cried from pain since the time he’d broken a finger in elementary school playing dodgeball. He tried to concentrate. “Ry. Phone. You—“
Ryan started feeling around for it, and thankfully, it hadn’t gone too far. Even more thankfully, though the screen was cracked, it worked when he dialed 911. Jon tried to listen to Ryan talking to them, tried to help. He couldn’t remember where they were, so he tried to remember where they had been last. He was really cold, the winter air seeping into the broken glass. It was hard to concentrate.
No sooner had Ryan pressed the end button than he was drooping, and Jon panicked, because sleeping was probably bad. The cold alone was a good enough reason, but what if Ryan had internal bleeding? Or a concussion? Jon wasn’t going to let Ryan die while he was sitting right there, trapped or not, that just wasn’t happening.
It was painful as everloving fuck to talk, but Jon did. He talked about the other guys and their weird habits, and the new shoes Tom had already lost, and how much he missed the cats and a million stupid other things that he couldn’t remember even after he’d started talking about them.
He kept checking to make sure Ryan was still with him. He was nearly against the ground, and there was a lot of blood, and Jon wished the ambulance would get there, he needed help. They needed help.
At one point, Jon couldn’t tell if Ryan was breathing and he said, “Ry? Ry, come on, just, like, moan, or something. Ryan.”
Jon tried not to get panicky, because that wouldn’t help, he knew. But it had been so long, so long since they’d called. He didn’t know exactly, but it felt as though he’d been talking forever. They were in the middle of nowhere, and who only knew where the ambulance was coming from.
“Ryan, c’mon, you have to stay with me here. I’m not an alone guy, we both know this.”
Ryan’s breathing picked up, so Jon at least knew he was still alive. He was pretty sure it wasn’t good, though, that Ryan wasn’t answering him.
He tried one more time. “Ry?”
Nothing. Jon made himself breathe. That hurt, too. “Okay, okay. You just, uh, you rest. They’ve got to be close. I mean, we can’t be that far away from civilization, I don’t think. I can’t remember the last exit, but it couldn’t have been more than twenty minutes ago, I’m pretty sure, so, just, y’know, close your eyes, and when you wake up, there’ll be doctors.”
Jon blinked several times, slowly, trying to stay awake himself. He was fairly certain he had a concussion, if the nausea and dizziness that had begun plaguing him were indicators. He swallowed. “But, um. Just in case, there’s-- I think there’s something you should know.”
He couldn’t believe he was doing this. Beyond the sheer clichéd nature of it, it felt like giving in. But there was a lot of blood, and the other option was not saying it, and somehow, that wasn’t an option at all. “You and Tom, um. I’ve always kind of hated both of you, a bit.”
This wasn’t coming out right. Jon felt like crying, but he wasn’t going to, because Ryan wasn’t going to die, and everything was going to be fine. This was just insurance. “I would’ve-- I mean, either one of you. With Tom for pretty much my whole life, and I think, um, maybe the moment we met, and you were so fucking helpless with the damn pedals, but trying anyway. Spencer,” the word clogged Jon’s throat and he had to stop for a second. “He told me that was a metaphor for you. He said it kinda like it was a joke, but he meant it.”
It was getting really hard to think. “I’m not that guy, y’know, or I mean, I don’t want to be, ‘specially not with the two of you. But still, it sucks. Your two best friends being the guys you want most and them having each other. It sucks.”
He’d never said that aloud. He had a feeling, even if he survived this, he probably never would again. The urge to vomit from the nausea was getting undeniable and he was gasping for breaths, trying his best to keep his stomach where it should be. In the distance, he was pretty sure he heard sirens. His last conscious thought was, about fucking time.
Jon woke up in the hospital, with his father sitting in a chair, clearly waiting. Jon tried to clear his throat, but it was too dry. His dad noticed anyway, and said, “Wait a second,” before getting the cup of water with its straw, to Jon’s lips.
Jon took a couple of sips and said, “Thanks.”
It was a second before he could remember much of anything. Then he did and asked, in a panic, “Ryan?”
“Ryan is fine. Well, he has a broken clavicle and some serious stitches, and he had a mild case of hypothermia, but he’s fine. He’s not the guy who didn’t wake up for four days, leading the doctors to think he might have slipped into a coma.”
Jon blinked. “Four days?”
“Oh thank G-d,” his mom said from the door, a cup of coffee in each hand. She set them down on the nearest surface and came to his bed. “Jonathan Jacob Walker, if you ever, EVER scare your father and I like that again, I swear to all that is holy I will beat the ever-living crap out of you once you wake up.”
She was crying, which made Jon uncomfortable, so he did his best to lighten the moment by asking, “But this one’s a freebie, right?”
She laughed through the tears and hugged him as close as all the machines would allow. Jon could feel his father’s hand on his neck, squeezing. The feelings were too reassuring to resist, and Jon fell back asleep.
The next time Jon woke up, Tom was sitting where Jon’s father had been, looking utterly exhausted. When Tom noticed the fact that Jon was awake, he said, “Hey,” and got the water for him.
Jon drank his fill and asked about Ryan again, because he couldn’t really help it. Tom said, “Already checked out and staying with me. He’s on the good stuff for the clavicle and the cuts, so mostly dopey. Not so dopey we haven’t talked.”
“Good,” Jon said.
“Not good, you gigantic assface,” Tom said, pretty mildly all things considered.
Jon said, “Um. I thought he was fine.”
“He is, or he will be, but Jon, honestly, I really depend on you to be the smart one in our relationship. Everyone, and I do mean everyone knows that I’m the dumbfuck in the equation.”
“Shut up, Tom,” Jon said with as much energy as he could muster. He might be confused about what was going on, but he fucking hated it when Tom put himself down.
“Ryan wasn’t unconscious, Jon.” Tom said each word sharply. “He just couldn’t get his throat to work.”
Fuck. Fuckfuckfuckfuck. “Well, I kind of thought we were both dying, so I’m pretty sure you can see how it doesn’t count.”
Tom didn’t say anything for a moment. Then, quietly, he said, “Au contraire, Jonny. And you fucking know it.”
Seriously? “I don’t know why I’m the guy who has to tell you this, but it’s kind of your job as my best friend to ignore that this ever happened and allow me some sense of dignity.”
“Maybe I would, if Ryan and I had any intention of allowing you to keep, uh, pining.”
“I’m not pining.”
“You have a better word for it?” Tom raised an eyebrow in challenge.
Jon said, “It’s not like that.”
“We sure as fuck hope it is. Because then we can stop pretending like we’re a whole when we’re not, and we both know it.”
Jon blinked a few times. “I think I’m still concussed.”
“No,” Tom said sadly. “You just suck at listening.”
It was such a Tom thing to say that Jon knew he wasn’t hallucinating. Jon came back with, “Well, you suck at making sense.”
Jon was checked out by that evening. His mom took him home and made all his favorite foods. The other guys were in town, staying with friends, while they figured out how to replace the van. Someone must have canceled several of their shows, but Jon wasn’t sure whom to thank for that, so he just sent out a few thank you texts to likely candidates. They all replied back with a question about seeing him soon, and Jon made plans.
In the morning, Jon’s dad dropped him off at Tom’s place before going into work. Jon really wasn’t up for driving again, just yet. He wasn’t sure if he would be any time soon.
Jon stood in front of Tom’s door for so long that Ryan actually answered it before he could knock. Ryan said, “I thought something felt weird,” and pulled him inside. Even though Ryan had turned and was leading Jon into the apartment, Jon could feel him roll his eyes. Ryan was kind of an asshole, Jon wasn’t really sure why he liked him. It would have been easier not liking him. Jon was all for having an easy life.
“How’s the clavicle?” Jon asked. It seemed like a safe enough question.
“Tom’s weaning me off the shit that actually helps, so it hurts like a motherfucking bitch. How’s your head?”
“No evident brain damage.”
“Well,” Ryan conceded, “none that wasn’t there before.”
“You’re one to talk,” Jon grumbled, and pretty much toppled onto Tom’s couch.
“Uh uh,” Ryan said. “Up.”
“I just got out of the hospital,” Jon said, very mildly, he felt, given the situation.
Ryan gave him a good dose of Spencer-bitchface. He must have seen something in Jon’s expression, because he stopped and just said, “Up.”
Jon pushed himself up and followed Ryan into the bedroom, or rather, to the door of the bedroom, until Ryan tugged at him. Tom rolled over in bed and said, “Hey, you’re late.”
“Um,” Jon said, since he wasn’t aware of any time constraints on when he was supposed to be there.
“Shoes off,” Ryan said.
Yeah, Jon had heard, just-- Ryan looked as though he was about to get down, broken clavicle and all, and help out, so Jon shucked his shoes. Ryan pushed at him a little, onto the bed, and Jon went, because he was still tired, his body nowhere near fully recovered, and Tom looked really warm, and it was hardly as if they’d never done this before.
Tom tucked himself over Jon, sneaking his fingers just below the hem of Jon’s jeans. He nipped lightly at the skin of Jon’s neck, and, um, no, that wasn’t something they’d done before. Jon started to say something, but Ryan was carefully winding himself over Jon’s back, his fingers sneaking down the front of Jon’s jeans, and Jon said, “You can’t—“
“We can do anything we damn well please,” Ryan said, unperturbed.
“You’re ours,” Tom said, like this explained everything.
“We just didn’t think you knew it,” Ryan finished the thought.
And well, no, Jon knew he was theirs, he just hadn’t realized they’d known it. Tom angled his face up and kissed Jon a bit, familiar from when they’d still been experimenting on each other, and yet almost-forgotten. He said, “We have to be gentle with Ryan.”
Jon snorted. “I’m always gentle.”
“Blow me,” Ryan murmured, sounding half asleep.
“Later,” Jon said. “Tired now.”
Tom said, “Later,” and tightened his grip on Jon. Jon relaxed into the hold.