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Ryan was pretty much done with hero worship at the age of six, when his father came home drunk (again) and introduced him to his Playboy collection as a way of "Making a man out of him."

Ryan was a fan, there was no question of that, but he knew exactly where the line between fan-enjoyment and hero-worship lay and he was determined never to cross it. Crossing that line only meant disappointment.

The line became a little blurry when Pete Wentz actually wrote back to him and said, "hey these are good we should talk".

Ryan had two immediate thoughts. The first was, "I hope I'm placing the commas correctly in my head," and the second was a mild shot of trepidation regarding talking to someone that he had, until now, kept a healthy fan distance from in his head.

The problem was not so much that Pete might turn out to be a dick--Ryan was excellent at dealing with awful outcomes--as that he might turn out to be someone Ryan liked, which meant that all of Ryan's carefully constructed walls could prove to be made of papièr-mâchè.

Pete's emails were invariably hard to decode, full of sentences that would have been run-ons even with punctuation, and thoughts that didn't necessarily follow on one another, but Ryan had always liked puzzles, so it wasn't that much of a chore to pick out the strands, work the words into coherent units. In the end it was sort of like speaking in a secret language, like the variant of Pig Latin he and Spencer had worked out when they were eight and still, at times, relied on when they didn’t want anyone else to understand them.

Ryan liked knowing things other people didn't.

In general Pete said encouraging things about Ryan's music, his lyrics, didn't condescend and was mostly just real which made it hard to think of Pete--ironically--in real terms.

Ryan dreaded meeting him, just in case he was as solid and twisted and kind in a backwards way in person as he was through his words. Ryan didn't know if he could handle that.

But it was inevitable that Ryan would have to shake his hand--warm and calloused in all the same places as Ryan's--would have to smile back at him--how did a person get that many teeth to show at once?--would have to sit with him and talk and hear him say, "I don't know if we can front the money for all the orchestrations you want on this album," which was just honest, and honesty had always been the worst of Ryan's undoings.

Ryan nodded, "Yeah, we thought that might be the case. We have backups for everything."

Pete let out a little breath of relief. "I was a little worried."

Me too, Ryan thought, although not about the same thing. But Pete was sitting across the table from Ryan and it wasn't that he wanted to kneel at his feet, it was that he wanted to kiss him. Different sort of trouble, that.

Only, Pete asked, "So, you wanna talk about the rest of this over dinner?" and Ryan wondered if sometimes knocking down one's own walls just opened up bigger rooms for other, better things.

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Skin by egelantier, photo by microbophile