between the click of the light and the start of the dream

The first time Bob met Spencer Smith, he was an eighteen year old kid with a lot of attitude and a little too much product.

She wasn’t too bothered about it–they only met in passing, and when Wentz dragged Mikey, who dragged Bob, to see them play, she was more than willing to acknowledge that the kid had talent. He played with his whole body, and if he used thinner sticks with an oval wood tip to Bob’s preferred fatter ones, well, the sharp sound he pulled from his drums worked for his band, and she could appreciate that.

When Panic piled offstage she nodded at Spencer, who blinked at her through the sweaty length of his bangs. “Nice playing,” she said, crossing her arms. She actually looked down at him. Everyone in this band was fucking tiny.

“Thanks,” he said hesitantly, running a hand through his hair. And then he smiled, just a brief flash of brilliance, and as Bob’s breath caught a little she thought, jesus, that kid’s going to break some hearts.

Luckily his lead singer pulled him away and she had a second to spare before Mikey pulled her away to the green room.


The second time Bob met Spencer Smith, she didn’t actually meet him at all.

They were backstage at some venue around the holidays , and a harried PA practically shoved Bob into a room when Bob asked for someplace to warm up with her exercises. The door nearly slammed behind her, and Bob turned to see Spencer standing in front of a table, his drumpad in front of him and sticks raised.

“Hey,” Spencer said, lowering his arms. “Um. Am I not supposed to be in here? Someone said I could warm up here, but if you need the space–”

“No, no,” Bob said, waving at him and pulling her own Vic Firths from her back pocket. “I need to warm up, too. Have you ever practiced with a partner before?”

Bob would swear the kid–more noticeable with the shorter hair, though his face had less of the baby fat she remembered from last time–was blushing, but he didn’t look away from her when he said, “Not since high school. Uh, I did pep band, and we did a lot of practice rolls to warm up, and the cadence.”

She shuffled in her bag, pulling out her pad, and put it on the table across from Spencer before tossing the bag on the nearby couch. “We can start with single stroke rolls, double paradiddle into double stroke roll into five stroke roll. Sound good?”

Spencer nodded, squaring his shoulders, and then set his metronome to 96, which was a good place to start. The first muffled thud against the pads were steady and slow, and they easily kept time with each other. Bob trained her eyes on the stretch of table between their practice pads; she could never concentrate as well if she looked right down at where the sticks hit the rubber.

They ambled through the single stick roll and started in on double paradiddles. The movements came to her easily, and she was pleased that there wasn’t the slightest twinge from her wrist. She kept going as Spencer paused to turn up the metronome to 108 and sped up when he slid back into the rhythm. They kept that up into a double stick roll, their beats echoing in the otherwise empty room, and when Bob’s eyes flicked up to Spencer’s face she was startled to see that Spencer was looking right at her.

When their eyes caught, Spencer grinned a little and pushed through to the five stroke roll, which, at 108, had less of a tango beat and more like a slightly off-kilter quickstep; Bob kept up, though, of course she did, stopping for half a second to crank up to 126. When Spencer kept up, she admitted to herself that she was maybe a little impressed.

She drew them back down to single stick rolls to run through it all again. Spencer clicked the metronome up to 138, and Bob’s eyes narrowed but she didn’t waver. Single stroke, double paradiddle, double stroke roll, five stroke, back through it again until they were both panting in time with the effort, their eyes locked still. Bob wasn’t even paying attention to her hands anymore–they were doing just what they were meant to do–and Bob felt a grin start growing on her face when suddenly the door was thrown open, upsetting the thundering cadence of their practice.

“Spencer?” Ryan said, looking between Bob and Spencer, both breathing hard with their sticks in the air.

“Yeah, Ryan–” Spencer said, the blush on his cheeks mirroring one Bob knew was on her own, dammit.

“We have to be stage left in ten minutes,” Ryan replied, his hand hovering over the doorknob.

“Okay,” Spencer said. “I’ll be right there.” He did something with his eyebrows, and Ryan did something with his eyes, but Ryan left, shutting the door behind him. Spencer turned back to Bob and smiled apologetically. “That was pretty awesome.”

“Yeah,” Bob said. “You’re not half bad, kid.”

She watched Spencer’s smile falter a little, but he rallied and she threw it up to pre-show nerves. She still got ’em herself, before nearly every show. “We’ll have to do it again sometime,” she said, resting her sticks next to her pad.

“That would be cool,” Spencer said, collecting suit jacket and bag. “Uh, I have to go. ‘Bye, Bob.”

“‘Bye, Spencer,” she said to his retreating back. She frowned a little, wondering why that felt kind of weird, and shrugged. She still had time to get in some double sticking and some wrist exercises before someone came to find her, and she pulled out her own metronome and went to work.


The third time Bob met Spencer Smith, she started to understand that maybe she wasn’t quite clued in as she thought she was. Bob had to admit she was letting herself go a little–she didn’t even have time to get a haircut in the last two months, just put the mess on her head into a ponytail and prayed the pictures wouldn’t make it to the internet. But she wasn’t quite prepared for the weird and slightly unpleasant rush of self-consciousness that hit her when Panic at the Disco walked through the door of the venue they were sharing and somewhere in the intervening years since she’d seen him, Spencer Smith had grown the fuck up.

Grown the fuck up into a hotass.

Her mouth went a little dry, because he wasn’t shorter than her anymore–the kid must have hit a growth spurt somewhere along the way, because now he was a solid six foot plus, poured into tight jeans and a vintage Led Zep t-shirt. He also had a beard, and Bob was not at all ashamed to say she was a fan of a well-worn beard.

She had been prepared to maybe see Spencer around, ask if he wanted to do some practicing together again, see how his skills had sharpened since the last time they played against each other, but now she found herself shoving her fists into her pockets and trying to rationalize that he might look legal, but for all intents and age-related purposes he was still a baby. A baby with a fucking pretty mouth outlined by a beard she wanted to feel scrape against her face.

Bob shut her eyes tightly, willing away the flood of thoughts, but it just made them brighter, more vivid, and in technicolour. When she opened them, Spencer was standing–no, looming–in front of her with his wide smile. It seemed to come more easily to him now.

“Hi, Bob,” Spencer said. “It’s good to see you again.”

“Yeah,” Bob said intelligently. “Yeah, you too. You’re here for the show?” Oh my god, she thought to herself, I did not just ask that blatantly obvious question.

Spencer just nodded and said, “Yep, it’s nice to be back in the States for awhile. We did Australia and Asia back-to-back and it really takes a lot out of you.”

Bob just nodded and frantically searched for something else to say. But Spencer was so distracting, with his tall bearded legal self, and she was having trouble refocusing on the conversation they apparently were having.

Just as she opened her mouth to say something not utterly inane, Spencer beat her to the punch. “Listen, Bob,” he said seriously. “I was really hoping I’d run into you–I was wondering if you’d like to have a drink with me, after the show?”

“Are you old enough to buy alcohol?” she blurted out, and then winced.

Luckily Spencer just laughed. “Well, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be a problem either way, but yes, I’m old enough to buy alcohol.” Bob was certain that if she stared long enough she could count the crinkles next to his eyes that showed up when he smiled. He was still fucking pretty. He was just pretty in a boy way now, instead of…whatever kind of pretty he was before.

“So?” Spencer prompted, relaxed but obviously so, and Bob felt something uncoil; he was maybe a bit nervous, too, and that made her feel better. She wished she’d been a little more prepared for this assault of hotness.

“Yeah, I’d like that,” Bob said, returning Spencer’s smile with a rare one of her own.

“Great,” Spencer said, bringing his hand up to clasp her arm for a brief, warm second. “That’s great. I’ll catch you after the show, then?”

“Okay,” she said, just as she was pushed into the wall by Frankie streaking past her and out the door. “I guess that’s my cue.”

“See you later,” Spencer said, and Bob trotted after Frankie wondering what the hell just happened.


The fourth time Bob met Spencer Smith, it was at a quiet little bar in Minneapolis. She’d had a chance to take a shower and change after the show, and when she went to go meet Spencer she’d gotten a text telling her a cab was going to pick her up. She walked in, hoping she wasn’t dressed entirely wrong for whatever they were doing (not like she could go wrong with black, anyway) and saw Spencer sitting at the bar, watching the door.

“Hey,” she said, waving for him to sit back down as he stood when she approached.

“Hey,” he said back with a warm smile. “One of the security guys at the venue was a local and said this was a good place to grab a drink. I hope it’s okay.”

“It’s fine,” she said, ordering a Summit. “So, you grew up nice.”

Bob liked Spencer’s laugh. “Thanks,” he said. “I’d like to thank my genetics, and my parents, and my–”

“Yeah, yeah,” she said, punching him lightly in the shoulder. “You know what I mean.”

He looked at her over the rim of his tumbler as he took a sip. “I’ve had a thing for you for years,” he said succinctly, making Bob nearly choke on her beer.

“What? Wait, what?” she said, grabbing a handful of cocktail napkins to wipe at the spill.

Spencer’s white-shoed foot came to rest on the outside of her stool, his leg pressing warmly against hers. “I kept hoping you’d figure it out,” he murmured so only Bob could hear. “I had all these fantasies that one day you’d just walk into the room and pull me out of my chair and kiss me, like you knew what I wanted better than I did.”

Bob could hear her heartbeat racing in her ears. Jesus, what did they teach these kids over at Fueled By Ramen? Jailbait Seduction 101?

“But then I realized,” he said, setting his tumbler down and resting his hot, drummer-calloused hand on her bare forearm, “if I wanted something to happen, I’d have to do something about it.” His fingers trailed up her arm and came to cup the side of her face. Bob totally tried to keep her breathing normal, but it was really hard because she’d apparently just walked into softcore porn with a guy that she remembered wearing brocade with a bitchy face and without irony. Really, she wasn’t prepared at all for this. She should have had that extra cup of coffee she’d given to Gerard, Bob thought in a panic.

Spencer pulled her to him and kissed her, chaste at first but moving quickly into the wet slide of tongues until Bob was half off her stool and balancing with her hand on Spencer’s knee. When they pulled apart she could feel the curve of Spencer’s smile against her lips and the heat of his breath against her skin.

“Can I take this as you’re on board?” he said teasingly and Bob shut him up by pulling him close for another kiss. God, her band was going to make so many Mrs. Robinson jokes, she thought for one despairing moment.


The fifth time Bob met Spencer Smith, he was bringing her breakfast in bed. Most importantly, he was bringing her coffee in bed. She hid her smile in her mug and tugged him down beside her and thought, well, maybe he can stay.