Summary: When a man's an empty kettle he should be on his mettle, and yet I'm torn apart.
Just because I'm presumin' that I could be kind-a-human, if I only had heart. (Being a robot in love isn't always easy.)
Spoilers and/or Warnings: None
Original Story: Ryan Ross the Sad Robot by stealstheashes
Spencer is four years old when he meets Ryan on the playground near his house. Spencer wants to swing, but Ryan is standing in the way, looking at the swing set with a confused expression on his face.
"What's your name?" Spencer asks.
Ryan turns to look at him with wide eyes. He stares at Spencer like he was staring at the swing set.
"I'm called Ryan," he says.
Spencer smiles and says, "I'm Spencer. You wanna swing?"
They spend the entire day together. Spencer teaches Ryan how to swing and skip and climb on the monkey bars.
"How come you're so dumb?" Spencer asks.
Ryan blinks like he doesn't understand.
"You don't know how to do nothing," Spencer says.
"Anything," Ryan says. "I don't know how to do anything."
"Yeah, that's what I said."
"That is not what you said," Ryan says. "Double negatives are incorrect."
Spencer has no idea what Ryan's talking about. He just wants someone to push him on the swings.
"You wanna be best friends?" Spencer asks.
Ryan stares. "I don't know what that is," he says.
Spencer rolls his eyes and grabs for Ryan's hand.
"I'll teach you," he says.
Spencer likes to pretend that Ryan was made just for him. In reality, Ryan's father made Ryan for Ryan's mother. Spencer knows this. Still, it feels like Ryan is his.
"Why don't you have a birthday?" Spencer asks.
Ryan says, "I wasn't born."
"You should still have a birthday," Spencer insists.
Ryan shrugs and goes back to watching Spencer's TV.
Spencer makes a frustrated noise, pulling on Ryan's sleeve to get his attention. "What's the first thing you remember?" he asks.
"My mother smiling at me," Ryan says without hesitation.
Spencer grins at Ryan. Sometimes Spencer envies how clear everything must be for Ryan. Spencer's own memories are a jumble of incongruous timelines.
"You should have a birthday," Spencer says.
"Okay," he says. "You can pick it."
Spencer wants Ryan to share his birthday, but Ryan insists that Spencer should have his own special day.
"Fine," Spencer says, pouting a little. "We'll celebrate yours the day before mine."
Ryan shakes his head.
"That's not a suitable distance. You shouldn't have to share with me," he says.
Spencer sighs. "What's a suitable distance?"
Ryan hums and whirs. He finally says, "Three days?"
Spencer wants to argue, but he knows Ryan won't budge. Ryan probably has a bunch of logical reasons already lined up to support his side of the argument. In the end, it's always easier just to let Ryan have his way. Spencer knows that even if their birthdays are three days apart, they're always going to end up celebrating together anyway.
For someone who is only supposed to do what he's programmed to do, Ryan sometimes gets wild ideas.
"I want to start a band," Ryan says.
Spencer says, "Okay." He gets a drum kit for Christmas. Ryan gets a guitar. Spencer asks his parents for lessons. Ryan asks his father to update his software, and the two of them start a band.
"I think we need a bass player," Ryan says.
"And a singer," Spencer adds.
Ryan doesn't say anything for a while. Sometimes it takes Ryan a little while to process things.
"Maybe I can get an upgrade," Ryan says. "Then I could sing."
Spencer isn't sure singing talent is something that can be programmed or upgraded, but he doesn't say anything. It won't hurt to let Ryan try.
"That sounds good," Spencer says instead.
Ryan nods and says, "But we still need a bass player."
Spencer thinks about that. Part of him wants the band to stay the way it is. He doesn't trust most people around Ryan.
"We could be a two-man band," Spencer says.
Ryan cocks his head to one side and processes.
"Spencer," he says.
Spencer gives in. He was always going to give in anyway.
"Okay, okay," Spencer says. "I might know a guy."
When Spencer turns fifteen, Ryan loses his mother.
"She's not missing," Ryan says. "She's just not here."
"But where did she go?" Spencer asks. He can hear Ryan whirring and buzzing from across the room.
"Away," Ryan answers.
"Is she coming back?" Spencer asks.
Ryan processes and hums. He blinks at Spencer and says, "No."
Spencer wants to ask Ryan how he knows. It's not like Ryan can actually calculate human emotion. It's impossible to figure a person out through numbers and equations. Humans are wildly unpredictable.
"I'm sorry," Spencer says.
Ryan shrugs and walks over to sit next to Spencer. Spencer takes his hand and holds it.
"You'll never leave me," Ryan says.
It's not a question. Ryan says this like he knows the truth behind it already. He says it like it's fact.
"I'll never leave you," Spencer says. "Best friends forever."
"Forever," Ryan says.
Ryan's father stops upgrading him. Spencer wonders what they'll both look like in ten years, if people will think it's strange that Spencer's best friend will always be a seventeen-year-old kid with blank eyes.
"I think we should get another guitar player," Ryan says.
Spencer looks at him questioningly.
"I'm never going to get any better than this," Ryan says. "We need someone that can get better."
What they get is Brendon Urie.
Brendon isn't like anyone Spencer's ever met. He laughs too loud and talks too fast. His thoughts bounce from idea to idea, spewing out of his mouth in half-formed words. Trying to keep up with him is pretty much a full-time job.
Ryan likes to sit with Brendon and listen to him talk. Spencer knows this by the contented smile Ryan wears whenever Brendon's around. Brendon makes funny faces and tells stupid jokes just to see if he can make Ryan laugh.
"Knock, knock," Brendon says.
Ryan smiles. "Who is there?"
Spencer appreciates that Brendon keeps trying to make Ryan laugh.
"Dismay," Brendon says.
Ryan likes these types of jokes. He knows what's expected of him, what he's supposed to say and where he's supposed to laugh.
"Dismay who?" Ryan asks.
"Dismay not be a very funny joke," Brendon says, smiling brightly.
Ryan laughs, a happy sound that floats out over the garage and vibrates off the walls. It doesn't sound fake at all to Spencer.
Ryan spends the night at Spencer's house more often than not. He doesn't actually need to sleep, which Spencer likes to point out.
"I wish I never had to sleep," Spencer says.
"I wish that, too," Ryan says. "Then I would never be lonely."
"Maybe Brendon and I could take turns staying awake with you," Spencer says.
Ryan starts tapping his foot against the floor.
"You like Brendon, don't you?" Spencer asks.
Ryan nods. "He's not like you," he says. "I don't understand him at all."
"But you like him?" Spencer asks again.
Ryan looks up and smiles, twisting his hands together in some learned gesture of nervousness.
"Yes," Ryan says. "I like him very much."
Sometimes Brendon forgets that Ryan isn't actually human.
"I can't sing it any better than that!" Brendon shouts, throwing his guitar down hard enough to make Spencer wince. He storms out of their practice space.
Ryan says, "I'll have to remember not to do that again."
Spencer sometimes envies Ryan's ability to store away all the small details, to be able to pull them out and refer to them before he makes any kind of decision. Spencer knows this won't be the last time Ryan makes Brendon angry, but Spencer also knows Ryan will never make Brendon angry in this exact way ever again. Ryan never makes the same mistake twice.
"I'll go talk to him," Spencer says.
Brendon is pacing outside, muttering angrily under his breath.
"Brendon?" Spencer says.
"We can't all be fucking ROBOTS," Brendon snaps. "I can't be perfect all the fucking time."
"Ryan's not perfect," Spencer says. "If he was he would never make you angry."
Brendon deflates, sitting down slowly on the curb. He holds his head in his hands and sighs loudly.
"Do you think it's stupid?" Brendon asks.
"I think lots of things are stupid," Spencer says. He sits down next to Brendon and bumps him with his shoulder. "You're probably going to have to elaborate a little."
"Me," Brendon says. "Being in love with him. That's stupid, right?"
Spencer's stomach flip-flops. He doesn't know if it's jealousy or regret. He might be feeling something else entirely. Ryan has been Spencer's for so long that Brendon's confession makes Spencer realize that he might be losing him.
"It's not stupid," Spencer says. Despite his reservations, Spencer knows he can trust Brendon to take care of Ryan.
"Sometimes I think he might love me too," Brendon says.
Spencer could be cruel. He could tell Brendon that Ryan can't love. Ryan's a robot full of wires and chips and cold metal parts. Ryan only does what he's programmed to do, but Spencer also remembers teaching Ryan how to swing.
"He does," Spencer says. "He does love you."
Brendon likes to hold Ryan's hand. He sits close to Ryan on the couch and twists their fingers together.
"Your hands are cold," Brendon says.
The next day Ryan shows up in gloves with the fingertips cut off.
"So I can still play the guitar," he explains.
They start touring later that fall. Brendon likes to stand outside their shitty van and watch his breath cloud in the bitter air. Spencer tags along and laughs at all the layers of clothing Brendon's wearing.
"You're such a Vegas kid," Spencer says.
"Like you're not," Brendon says.
"I'm not the one wearing a parka in 40 degree weather," Spencer points out.
Brendon shrugs and leans against the van, fogging the window with his breath. He writes B ♥'s R with the tip of his finger.
Ryan jumps out of the van wearing a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. Brendon frowns at him.
"You need a jacket," Brendon says.
Ryan says, "I'm not cold."
Spencer wonders if Brendon knows that Ryan is only this careful around him. What Ryan means is that he doesn't get cold, but Spencer knows from experience that that sort of statement will only upset Brendon. Apparently Ryan knows it, too. At least he knows it well enough to alter his answers in order to avoid a negative reaction.
Brendon hugs Ryan to him, rubbing his hands up and down Ryan's bare arms.
"You should wear more layers," he says, kissing Ryan gently on the mouth. "I wouldn't want you to get cold."
"Okay," Ryan says. "I'll look the next time I go shopping."
Brendon smiles and kisses Ryan again. Spencer can hear Ryan's processor humming quietly, recording the positive reaction.
"I love you," Brendon tells Ryan.
Ryan says, "I love you, too."
Spencer and Ryan go shopping in Maine. Spencer picks up a T-shirt that says, Bacon makes everything better and rolls his eyes. He can't argue with the sentiment, but he's not sure why anyone would want to walk around advertising it across their chest.
Ryan picks out three long-sleeve shirts in paisley, with flowers that are possibly the ugliest colors Spencer has ever seen.
"What do you think?" Ryan asks.
Spencer says, "You have terrible taste."
"Brendon says I should start dressing warmer," Ryan says.
Spencer nods. "Yes, but he didn't say you had to start dressing uglier."
Ryan frowns down at the shirts and shrugs, placing them neatly in the cart.
"You could just tell him that you don't get cold," Spencer says.
Ryan fiddles with the buttons on one of his ugly shirts.
"He already knows," Ryan says. "I just think he forgets sometimes. I like that he forgets."
Spencer can't find fault with that. It's one of the things Spencer likes most about Brendon. Brendon knows there are always going to be things that Ryan won't get quite right, but it never stops Brendon from trying. He never treats Ryan as though he has less worth than anyone else.
Ryan picks up a green scarf that reminds Spencer of split pea soup.
"What do you think about this?" Ryan asks, wrapping the scarf around his neck.
Spencer says, "I think Brendon will love it."
"Yeah?" Ryan asks, smiling gently.
Spencer wraps his arm around Ryan's waist and squeezes.
"Yeah," Spencer says.