Summary: The more things change the more they stay the same: Jon still only does this for one reason.
Fandom: Bandom (Panic at the Disco)
Spoilers and/or Warnings: This fic was remixed from an old Panic tour fic to a fic based on recent events, so if you're not ready to read about the band split, this isn't for you. Other than that, none.
Title, Author and URL of original story: The Job by jae_w
A/N: Betaed by stealstheashes.
The Job (The I Feel Like I've Been Here Before Remix)
The thing that always killed Jon wasn't the way people felt so much about them, him. There was this thread of intensity that followed them around, no matter what they did, this sect of people who couldn't ever quite decide if they loved or hated them, the way they'd ramble on about how Panic! (Panic, Panic!) had changed their lives and how the new music wasn't the same but it was still good, even great sometimes, and they loved them all the same, and how they'd apologize and laugh and say they knew they sounded like assholes. They didn't, though, not really, not at all. Jon knew what they were getting at; he still felt that way and after so many years of it, he knew he'd never stop.
There was the fun stuff that came along with the job, but people taking them seriously, people watching them do the thing they loved and taking interest in it, staying interested in it -- that was the real reason. That was the whole point.
There was this girl, once, in Philly. Jon and Ryan were fooling around on stage during soundcheck, just playing fun little things that got them to loosen up, the stuff that still got them stage ready and worked off the nervousness months and months after they didn't have Brendon to rely on. There was this girl, and she worked there, that's why she was behind the scenes, and nothing about her particularly stood out, but she stuck out in his mind because when they were coming off stage again, she reached out and touched Jon's wrist. It wasn't much of a touch, just a touch, like she was checking in, just making sure that they were real, that Jon was. Jon got that; he didn't always know if he was all there, either. But she had such a knowing expression on her face that the smile dropped off Jon's face and even Ryan shoved his oversized douche shades up to the top of his head.
She smiled and said, "I just have to tell you," and Jon had heard that so many times in so many ways now. The way she said it was so familiar, too, like she'd once given him an envelope at a Meet & Greet, slipped him a letter with a wry smile and a "I know you'll never read this, but..." even though he always did. Jon could keep people's secrets because they didn't even know he knew them and even Jon had to pretend like he didn't really know what was going on, didn't know everything that people were telling him, because if he did, he would explode. It was like he was a bottle and people kept expecting him to fill up and fill up with no stop, but he had a limit, he did, and things spilled out of him, too. Jon had his own secrets, too, this camaraderie with these people who were so full of feeling and overwhelming love and warmth - for him, for them.
"I just have to tell you," she said, and she was looking him dead in the eye and it was almost too much right then, like maybe Jon had finally reached his limit, like this was the secret that would put him over the top. Ryan shuffled closer, his skinny arm a line of warmth against Jon's side, just them against the world or maybe he was using Jon as a shield. It was hard to tell with Ryan sometimes. "Four years ago my mom died," she said, and Ryan stiffened so Jon got that he was supposed to be playing protector right then, though he didn't think he could handle it. Jon tried to smile but it didn't come out the way he wanted.
"My sister and I were at school across the country then," she continued, this faraway look in her eyes, "and the only thing keeping us close was Panic's first CD. We texted each other lyrics all the time and played the songs to each other on the phone, and we didn't need to say anything else, sometimes we all need, you know, sometimes that's just everything, just to know that someone else is feeling the exact same thing." She looked away from Jon and straight at Ryan then, and Jon wasn't entirely sure that Ryan wasn't about to bolt out of the room like a scared rabbit. "So, like, I know how much shit all of you went through when you guys left, but I just wanted to let you know that I'll always think of your music and how much it helped and how much I needed it to be happy. I, you know, I get it. I think."
There was no one there to stop her if she wanted to keep on rambling, or maybe wanted to change that small touch into a grab or a hug. Jon even considered it, for a second, fleeting, remembering how before he wasn't allowed more than a perfunctory touch before, not with what Spencer called the well-oiled Panic machine before the squeaky wheels stopped getting the grease and the gears wound up and sprung out in a thousand different directions. But she didn't do anything forward; it was only a retreat, an embarrassed duck of her head and a dash back toward the sound booth where she was working.
"Hey," Ryan said, too late, when she was already halfway across the room. It was one of his weirder voices, and Jon knew a lot of Ryan's weird voices by now, so he turned to look. Ryan's face was all screwed up, and he was upset, even though he must have heard this exact thing a hundred times by now.
"Hey," Ryan said again, but she was shaking her head and walking backwards, her sneakers squeaking against the floor.
"It's all right," she said, and that was what killed Jon, every time, about people, the way she was trying to reassure them even though Jon had heard this over and over before, in a hundred meet & greets and after dozens of small shows, in cities everywhere, though in smaller numbers now. These people never had a doubt that they were the only ones in the room.
These days, Jon supposed, they sometimes were.
"Thanks!" she called and waved and disappeared, and before Jon could do anything other than stand there stupidly, she was gone.
Ryan looked shaken, the way he went still and closed in on himself sometimes, more like he was in the beginning when Jon first joined the band than the middle parts or most of the time even now. Jon wasn't good at that, but he knew how to be quiet, how to throw an arm around Ryan's shoulders and lead him off to the tiny green room just offstage to wait his shit out until the audience started to trickle in. Like how it felt like it was just them against the world now.
"Still fucks with you a little, right?" Jon said, quietly, once they were inside. They wouldn't be alone for long; they had to share their room with the girl who played acoustic covers of Journey and the headliner, but for now while everyone else was gone, it was like old times, at least a little.
Ryan shook Jon off, slammed the door shut behind them and stared out a little wild-eyed. Jon tilted his head to one side and waited.
"It's too much," Ryan said eventually, and his voice wasn't his normal voice or his desperate voice, it was just a croak, like everything was really too much, speaking included, and Jon thought if he was a bottle ready to spill out all over the floor, then Ryan was one trapped under the tap stuck overflowing forever. "I thought... I thought maybe it wasn't about me, like if I pulled away and pulled you, too, it would be different, but it's not. I can't. It's still too much."
Jon remembered a time when he used to wait to say something, because Brendon knew Ryan longer and Spencer knew him best and Jon was just this guy -- this new dude, an interloper who had no place there. But Jon was long past that now, and if he needed to talk, he talked, and if he needed to shut up, he shut up. The best thing Spencer'd ever told Jon was that he didn't need to do much talking, he was just along for the ride wherever it went, and yeah, their ride got rough and the cars got separated, but they were all still on the same ride. Jon just got bumped up to lead car and instead of Ryan having all of them to rely on, they had to rely on each other. Today was Ryan's day, tomorrow would be Jon's. That was just the way it was.
"Jon," Ryan croaked again, "are you even listening to me? We have to stop everything, okay? I can't, not anymore, it's always been too much, it's always--" Jon was listening, but he also wasn't looking, digging into his pocket for his phone and dialing.
"Hey," Jon said as soon as the other line picked up. "You want to do me a favor?"
"Jon?" Brendon said, sounding sleepy and confused over speakerphone. Jon felt a little bad, not knowing if he'd just woken him up or even where Brendon was. They could be touring Australia, for all Jon knew. He took a deep breath anyway.
"Yeah," Jon said, trying to sound apologetic. Ryan was staring at him with betrayed eyes, but Jon walked over to him and put his arm around Ryan's shoulders again, pulling him close. "Can you remind Ryan that it's not too much? That it's all for one reason?"
There were sudden shuffling noises on the other end. "Oh," Brendon breathed knowingly. "Ross, take your head out of your ass for a minute, and think about it. " Ryan's shoulders shook with suppressed laughter. "You know why you do this, you know why you've always done this. It's not too much. If you do your job right, it's just fucking enough." No one said anything for a moment, but Ryan put his head against Jon's head and they stared at Jon's phone together for a minute.
"Okay," Brendon said, finally, and even though he couldn't see Ryan, Ryan still nodded. Jon turned his head at the same time as Ryan, and they were looking at each other for a second before Ryan smiled and swallowed hard and stepped away from Jon.
"Thanks," Ryan said finally, looking at Jon and then the phone and then Jon again.
"You're welcome," Brendon said, and Jon hung up.
"Okay," Jon said, shoving his phone into his back pocket again. "We've got a job to do," he said, and he led Ryan out again.