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  1. “Following accusations that Jasper had cheated on him, Ryan appeared to show support for Jasper. However in the evening he was seen leaving the couple’s residence with a packed bag and not returning, sparking fresh speculation that Ryan has left his disgraced boyfriend, Jasper. It is unknown what this effect will have on the new music set to be released by The Obsolete later this month but with the hashtags 'cancelJasper’ and 'JasperObsolete’ circulating Jasper has been uncharacteristically silent on all social media platforms. Ryan is also yet to make any comment.” Blake reads aloud, trying to contain how truly pissed off he was as his attention goes to Ryan, who was standing with his arms crossed, looking at the ground. “I'm really starting to not like you, hey. I told you to have his back and while there are allegations that are actively slandering him through the media, he's being dragged through the mud over this bullshit, what do you do? Fucking nothing.” “I wanted to discuss it with Jasper but, you’ve tried calling him too, right? His phone is clearly turned off, it goes straight to voicemail and he hasn’t replied to a single text…” Ryan starts but Blake was having none of it. “Well you shouldn't have left in the first place! Go home!” Blake throws his hands up in the air, completely bewildered by the circumstances. “Oh I tried, no one answered the door and…” “IT’S YOUR HOUSE! YOU DON’T HAVE TO WAIT FOR SOMEONE TO LET YOU THE FUCK IN!” Blake snaps, turning back to Ryan furiously. “I DIDN’T TAKE MY KEY WITH ME! I thought I would be giving them privacy and then I would see him at work. They were only coming up for 3 days, I thought I would just wait it out.” Ryan defends his thought process, though he doubted Blake would see his reasoning as understandable. “I don’t suppose Flynn has said anything.” Ryan asks. “Flynn was out pretending to be at work because he’s supposed to be, I don’t know running an orphanage or whatever bullshit they made up so that Grace’s parents wouldn’t know he's an ex drug dealer.” Blake answers, unimpressed by the whole situation. “Have you tried calling Grace?” “I don’t have her number.” Ryan shrugs. “Oh ok. So you’re completely useless. Good to know.” Blake rolls his eyes. “Ok can you both calm down.” Simon steps in front of Blake with his hands up passively. “We know Jasper, he is capable of handling situations, pretty sure Jasper can handle his own parents, it’s not like he’s been abducted. I for one don’t blame Ryan for not wanting to cause problems with Jasper’s parents. Clearly they are already not cool with the relationship so naturally you would expect Ryan would want to make a good impression and be respectful towards them.” “Maybe Jasper is just focusing on his family right now and trying not to antagonize them by calling Ryan...” Luke offers his opinion. “Knowing Jasper I would expect him to be antagonizing his parents with calling his boyfriend, or better still, making out in front of them, if only his boyfriend was there for him.” Blake gives Ryan a challenging look, but Ryan doesn’t bother trying to argue or defend himself, frankly he was doubting whether he’d made the right choice in leaving. It was somewhat mutual, and also somewhat his own mother’s impeccable timing. In the middle of the stare down Jasper and his Dad were having, Ryan’s Mum had called. Jasper had simply suggested Ryan go and visit her for the night, assuring Ryan he’d be fine on his own. Of course in hindsight, that wasn’t the case but at the time it’d seemed perfectly reasonable. “Well then maybe it’s better that Ryan didn’t stay, maybe it’s forcing Jasper to have an actual conversation with his family.” Simon comments, the depth of the family issues Jasper faced was clearly not apparent to him. “Yeah instead of defaulting to his usual petty tactics.” Luke agrees, equally unaware of why Blake and Ryan would be concerned at all. “Are you not going to bother trying to find out what’s happening with him?” Blake asks Ryan annoyed. “It’s not like you’ve got other stuff to do here anyway, so you might as well be trying to sort out the drama with your ex, or defending Jasper in the media since they’re attacking him, or literally anything useful.” Blake’s bitterness wasn’t worth trying to explain himself, nor did Ryan really feel like he wanted to so he leaves the guys to it and heads back to his Mum’s. Ryan nearly drops his phone trying not to miss the call when it finally rings late in the night when Ryan was having a shower. The name on his screen made his heart feel like it skipped a beat. “Jasper?” Ryan asks, genuinely expecting it to be someone else using his phone, like Jasper’s Dad calling to tell him off. “Ryan! I’m so sorry about the last few days. Are you still at your Mum’s?” He sounded fine, for some reason Ryan had thought he’d be getting at the very least a tearful phone call about how horrible things were so it threw him a little to hear Jasper being quite casual about being completely un-contactable for now nearly 2 days. “Yeah, where have you been? Are you ok? I’ve been calling and texting...” “I see that, clingy. What I can’t just drop off the radar for 2 days without getting 3285 missed calls?” Jasper jokes before turning more serious. “Really though I am so sorry you’ve been worried. It’s been a time and I will talk to you about it but I need you to do something really important for me first.” “Anything, what do you need me to do?” Ryan replies, completely seriously. “Answer this question! What are you wearing?” Jasper asks cheekily. “What?” Ryan asks confused. He thought he had heard wrong but Jasper’s laugh quickly assures him he’d hear correctly. “Why are you asking this?” Ryan questions with an air of suspicion. “Don’t play dumb, you know why I’m asking. Now do I have to repeat the question?” Jasper lowers his voice a little to be more seductive, he sounded like he was up to no good and despite the much more serious things they needed to talk about, Ryan finds himself playing along. “Well I just got out of the shower…” He starts. “Oh so you’re wearing nothing than a smile then?” “And a towel.” Ryan corrects him. “I can live with that but I’m going to need details, are you dried off or still all damp from the shower? Send me a photo.” Jasper asks, Ryan looks at himself in the mirror, “I haven’t had a chance to dry off, I was still in the shower when you called.” Ryan smiles. “Where are you?” “I am in a bed. Send me a photo.” Jasper insists, after a pause, Jasper’s phone buzzes with a photo message. “Wow, did you get hotter or am I just feeling particularly deprived? You somehow manage to exceed my imagination.” Jasper answers, taking a cheeky photo of himself to return the favour. “What happened with your parents?” Ryan asks. “Can we talk about that later? It’ll kill the mood I’m trying to set here and I really need you to come and make love to me right now for my emotional well being.” Jasper sighs, and Ryan could tell from the tone that he meant it, but before he could worry too much his phone buzzes with the photo message. “What are you doing at a hotel?” Ryan asks when he receives the photo of Jasper with the name of the hotel and the room number written on the back of his hand, his hand holding the blanket that was at his waist just low enough to show he wasn’t wearing any clothes, he was biting his lip and winking at the camera enticingly. “Well thanks to this, very sexy photo of you, what I am going to be doing is starting without you if you’re not here soon. According to my search, it should only take you 10 minutes to get here, so if I were you, I’d get dressed very quickly.” Jasper doesn’t give Ryan any time to respond before promptly hanging up the phone, leaving Ryan confused and intrigued to know what exactly was going on. “Hey, it’s me.” Ryan knocks on the door and waits. “Give me a second to get back in bed before you come in.” Jasper instructs, unlocking the door and running, to dive back under the sheets. “Ok, come in.” He calls out. Ryan opens the door and walks in, closing and locking the door again behind himself and heading over to the bed where Jasper was waiting for him. Jasper hits a button on his phone and turns it to show Ryan. “You weren’t in a rush to get here? ” Jasper pretends to be offended. “Well if you remember, when you called I had just gotten out of the shower, I had to get dressed first and then I had to look up where I was going and get past my Mum who caught me heading out and wanted to know where I was going and why.” Ryan tells him. “Please tell me you didn’t say you were going to a hotel to fuck you boyfriend.” “No, I told her I had to go and ‘make love to him for his emotional well being’.” Ryan jokes, kicking off his shoes and climbing on the bed and kissing Jasper lightly. “Are you ok? I take it by the hotel, things aren’t going well with your parents?” “I ran away from home to hook up with the boyfriend my parents don’t approve of, behind their backs.” Jasper smirks, slipping his arms around Ryan’s neck. “You realize we’re not teenagers and you didn’t actually do anything rebellious by sneaking out of your own home and inviting me to a hotel right?” Ryan points out with a grin. “Shh.” Jasper puts a finger on Ryan’s lips. “Don’t ruin this for me. I’ve spent the last 2 days being treated like I’m 17 all over again by my disappointed parents who won’t let me see my boyfriend. Don’t ruin the thing I’ve got going in my head right now. I’m channeling some very repressed need to be rebellious right now. Play along.” “Oh so this hook-up is out of spite for your parents then.” Ryan asks with an amused chuckle. “Yes. Let me set you the scene, they are trying to keep us apart so I ran away from home to be with you.” Jasper tells him. “Uh huh. In an expensive hotel room, that teenagers can definitely afford.” Ryan states, sarcastically as he nods. “Ok so I stole their credit card. Now my shitty parents are paying for the room that I’m hooking up with my boyfriend in. Any more plot holes you want to point out?” Jasper rolls his eyes. “Other than the fact we’re not 17 year olds?” Ryan asks. “Fine, if this isn’t working for you then I’ll go home.” Jasper states, pulling the sheets off as if he’s about to get off the bed, but the moment he sees Jasper naked, Ryan stops him. “Uh hold on, I can go with it.” “That’s more like it.” Jasper grins, letting Ryan pull him back down on the bed. “How many nights have you booked this place for?” Ryan asks as he runs his fingers up and down Jasper’s back, it felt like it’d been forever since they had just spent time together like this and he wanted to make the most of it. “Just tonight.” Jasper answers with a sigh, pulling away from Ryan just to get up and raid the fridge for comfort food. Now that the fun part was over, they had to talk about the last few days. “You better tell Blake you’re alive.” Ryan calls out, sitting up and watching Jasper. “Yeah I called him before.” Jasper answers, walking back over to the bed with all the chocolates from the fridge. “Before as in before you called me?” Ryan asks, in his mind he was trying not to make it obvious that he was completely insulted but clearly he wasn’t hiding it very well because Jasper was smirking at him. “While I was waiting for you, obviously. Do you really think I would have called him first?” He asks, having a bite of his chocolate bar. “I don’t know, you guys are really close so...” “And, we... Aren’t?” Jasper ask with a laugh, not just climbing on the bed but sitting on Ryan’s lap. “Well when you put it that way.” “Ryan, I know this is not at all how anxiety works but I’m going to say it anyway. Please just stop thinking whatever thoughts it is that goes through that handsome head of yours. I’m really deeply in love with you.” Jasper sighs. “Also I’m sorry that Blake’s been being a jerk to you.” “He’s just been worried about you, I understand.” Ryan shrugs. “Of course you do, you take shit from everyone. But you don’t have to with Blake, he was out of line and talking from assumptions. I know I was the one that agreed you’d be better off leaving but I would have thrown them out in a heartbeat if not for Grace. She’s struggling really hard with Ellie and if there’s any chance that Mum and Dad will be some comfort for her then I’ll swallow my pride and keep my mouth shut. Just because I don’t have a reason to have anything to do with them anymore, doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be able to have their support.” “Oh so it’s because you are incapable of considering your own needs above someone else's. That checks out.” Ryan nods thoughtfully. “Exactly so if Blake wants to be pissy at anyone, it can be me. I make the decisions about my life, no one else.” “I’m pretty sure Blake hates me. He told me that actually.” “He doesn’t hate you, he thinks you’re not standing up for me but again, he’s basing that opinion on you leaving me the other night when I literally asked you to, and I sent you away to make the situation more comfortable for Grace so it’s completely invalid. You know what, since he wants to assert himself into this relationship, lets take him out on a dinner date. If he wants to play that part, we can just play along.” Jasper suggests, a cheeky smile on his face. “What is with you and role playing today?” Ryan asks with a smile, a moment of clarity hits him, that rather than impressing Jasper’s parents, who were basically a lost cause at this stage, the person he really needed to be impressing was Blake. “How was your Mum?” Jasper asks, instantly Ryan sighs and looks down. “It was the anniversary of my... Attempt. I didn’t think it was fair to let my Mum go through that alone. I know I shouldn’t have left you but... When she called to ask if I could come around and see her…” “Oh Ryan, you should have told me. Are you ok?” Jasper asks, his heart sinking at the thought of Ryan having not had any support from him the last few days. “She did ask if you’d come too but when I mentioned your parents were visiting I think she was relieved that it’d just be the two of us. She would have put on a bit of a front with you but with me she just cried and hugged me for ages. It was really hard to see how much it was hurting her still, and then she hit me with a million questions about us, she’s been seeing the articles on the internet and she knows I’d tell her if something was wrong but that and the timing just really got her worried.” Ryan seemed quite calm given what he was talking about, it was clear he was at least in a good place now, though that didn’t make Jasper feel any better about not even knowing it was the anniversary of a monumentally traumatic day in Ryan’s life. “Did you hear from Damien?” Jasper asks, hating himself for asking at all but the thought of Damien making any effort to apologize in amongst the drama they already had to deal with was an infuriating thought. “No it was just another day to him, I doubt it would have even crossed his mind. Though to be fair, I didn’t realize either until Mum asked me to come and see her, crazy how much changes in a year, when I woke up in a hospital bed with my Mum crying beside me I thought I’d never move on from that, and yet here I am, forgetting already.” Ryan admits with a shrug. “I wasn’t sure how I would be but I feel but I just felt bad for putting my Mum through it, I can’t even remember how I got to such a low point that I felt like that was the only option but I guess that’s how hindsight works. I was mostly just glad that is all behind me. I owe a lot of that to you, for everything you have done for me.” Ryan strokes Jasper’s cheek then leans forward and kisses him gently. “I can’t take the credit for your happiness, I’ve definitely not been the best, especially while you were away, but you still managed to get through that without my support. And since you came back you’ve had to deal with these rumors about me that I know have planted a seed of doubt no matter how hard you try to ignore it. I should probably tell you more often, that I am proud of how well you have been handling all these issues, I know it’s not fair and it’s shit but you’ve held it together and you should be very proud of how far you’ve come.” Jasper tells him, looking deep into Ryan’s eyes, taking a moment to appreciate and be grateful for all that he had because Ryan had failed that night. Thankful that because it hadn’t worked, he had been able to meet and fall in love with him. Life would feel so empty if Ryan had just been the name of another stranger in the obituary. “Speaking of dealing with our issues, what happened with your parents?” Ryan asks, bringing Jasper closer. “Well, Eleanor was baptized yesterday so I had to sit through church which brought back a lot of feelings, afterwards I thought we were going to some kind of baptism party thing, but instead I was taken to gay camp, which isn’t as fun as the name suggests.” Jasper tries to make light of his comment, unlike Ryan who seemed to have had a really healthy reaction to his trauma, Jasper was taking a laugh it off method for his own emotional experience. “Seriously?” Ryan gasps. “I can’t believe places like that still exist.” “Mhm, while there are people that still believe it’s something that can be cured, there will always still be places that claim to cure it through ‘Conversion Therapy’.” Jasper shrugs. “I was curious at first and spent a day there and then realized that it was full of vulnerable people that are being mentally scarred as a method of changing something about themselves that isn’t wrong. It’s not something I really want to ever think about again to be honest.” “Are you ok though?” Ryan asks, feeling shattered that he’d not been there to stop Jasper being put through it. “Don’t worry, you know me, I’m the kind of person to double down and push twice as hard against what anyone tells me to do so their ‘reject gay thoughts’ message was very ineffective for me. I do have this room booked until 9am tomorrow so we have plenty of time to make extra sure, that I’m definitely still a complete and utter disgrace that will burn in hell eternally for sinning, with the man I love.” Jasper gives Ryan a suggestive wink before pressing a soft kiss against Ryan’s lips, for a moment after the kiss, he and Ryan are just locked in an intense feeling of desperation for one another. With frustration at all they’d been through, sadness to have missed such difficult moments with each other, and the gravity of their own personal experiences in just the last few days getting to them the highly emotional last few days culminated in a need for one another’s comfort and reassurance. Ryan lifts his hand to Jasper’s chin and brings their lips together in a deep and passionate kiss, they melt into the moment, neither with any intention of letting go of each other.
  2. It felt like hours passed before Zeke and Tyler moved from the bathroom floor. Tyler was emotionally drained, silent and though the overdose effects were wearing off now he still felt weak. It seemed clear now that Zeke was not a threat to him, unless he was going to great lengths to build up his trust which was unlikely, given the patience he’d so compassionately shown by sitting with him and comforting him through the realization of what had happened. He’d barely spoken but he didn’t need to, he was there and he was giving Tyler the time to feel and express the pain he was in. “I’m sorry.” Tyler finally speaks, his voice hoarse from screaming and crying. “You have nothing to be sorry for.” Zeke replies gently, his voice was soothing and calm, polarizing to how Tyler felt. “I have wasted a whole day of your time and broken things in your house....” “There is no right way to deal with what you have been through.” Zeke loosens his arms around Tyler but for a few moments Tyler doesn’t pull away, he almost felt like he Zeke’s embrace was the one thing keeping him from falling apart, and felt a tug of panic hit him as he’s let go of. “What were you going to do if you caught the guy?” Tyler asks, reluctant to leave the one bit of comfort in what felt like a massive and lonely world right now, but aware that he barely knew this man, he stands up and steps away, watching as Zeke gets up from the floor too. “Well that depends on a lot of different factors and isn’t entirely up to me. Obviously he’s got enough of a record to have him spend life in jail but I know plenty of people feel like letting him live isn’t serving proper justice given his actions.” Zeke answers, the professionalism in his answer and the strong composure as he spoke took Tyler’s interest. “Are you a police officer?” He asks to which Zeke scoffs. “FBI? Oh my god you’re FBI aren’t you?” Tyler almost sounded excited at the thought. Zeke smiles at him and shrugs. “Come on tell me. Don’t you think I deserve to at least know? It’d make me feel safer.” Tyler suggests. “Trust me, you are safe. I am trained to keep innocent people safe.” Zeke half answers the question, leaving Tyler trying to think of any other job title Zeke could possibly have. “Why don’t you clean yourself up? A warm shower sound good? I’ll find you some clean clothes.” Zeke offers, gesturing at Tyler’s school uniform, it’d been dirty enough from school, but since then some blood stains had been added. “Yeah actually that would be great.” Tyler agrees, he’d not taken the time to look at his clothes until now and he felt embarrassed that this guy had let him sleep in his bed while he was such a mess, not to mention he’d helped him up more than once, and just had his arms around him. The fact that Zeke wasn’t repulsed by him seemed odd given that his house was very neat and clean. “Ok, I’ll be right back with a towel.” Zeke leaves, returning and passing the towel to Tyler. “I’ll leave some clothes on the bed for you, take your time.” Zeke smiles at him kindly then closes the door. Tyler turns to lock the door instinctively for privacy, noticing the lock had been removed. Obviously Tyler wasn’t trusted in here anymore, everything that could be used to hurt himself or hide himself was taken away. The warm water felt amazing running over his skin, he takes his time and lets the water wash away the tear streaks on his cheeks and the dried blood on his hand. As he stands in the shower he closes his eyes, wishing the water could wash away the horrible memories he had, but that was one thing a simple shower could never fix. After he helps himself to soap and shampoo he sits down, allowing himself a few peaceful moments to cry again, this time it felt different, the words Zeke had said earlier had an impact, there was no right way to deal with this, and now that he felt safe for the first time he could let the pain consume him without having to worry about whether or not he was putting himself in danger. He turns the shower off and gets out, wrapping the soft white towel around himself before opening the door a little and looking for Zeke. The room was empty and the bedroom door closed though again there was no way to lock it. Tyler takes a deep breath then moves back into the bathroom to retrieve something he’d noticed while on the floor with Zeke. Behing the toilet, a shard of glass the size of his fingernail that Zeke had missed in the clean-up. He takes it and inspects the sharpness of the edges then considers what to do next. Tyler walks over to the bed and looks at the clothes neatly folded and sitting on the side of the bed Tyler had slept on. He dresses himself quickly, Zeke’s clothes were a size or two too big but Tyler didn’t have much choice, he puts the clothes on and feels the instant comfort the fresh clothes provided him, he hugs himself and sits on the bed looking at the shard of glass wondering where he could hide it just in case he needed it. “You ok?” Zeke calls from the other side of the door, knocking gently. “Yeah, I’ll be out in a sec.” Tyler answers, surprised himself at how normal he felt in the least normal circumstance. He quickly stashes away the glass shard in one of his shoes, hoping he’d remember before shoving his foot in it the next time he puts them on. When he opens the door, he was expecting Zeke to be hanging around on the other side, like being guarded, but he wasn’t. Tyler looks up the hallway towards where he could hear the TV going and the occasional clink of cooking utensils, then he looks at the front door, taking a few steps towards it as though drawn by curiosity. He reaches out to touch the handle but is startled by the ringing of a phone and footsteps. Tyler is rushing up the hallway as Zeke passes from the kitchen to the lounge room. Under normal circumstances, he’d not be eavesdropping but Tyler didn’t really feel any need to be particularly polite to this stranger. Saved his life or not, Tyler was in the house of someone he didn’t know and he didn’t feel guilty taking advantage of an opportunity to know more about the who he was risking his life with. “Hey, yeah sorry I’ve been sleeping all day. I know, I’ll be there for that. It’s ok, really you don’t need to check on me, I’ll see you tomorrow. Love you, bye.” Zeke hangs up the phone. “How was your shower?” Zeke asks only slightly louder than he’d been on the phone, taking a step into the hallway and smiling at Tyler. “I uh, it was good. I just got out.” Tyler lies, uncomfortably adjusting his clothes and avoiding Zeke’s eyes. “Uh huh.” Zeke rolls his eyes. “Well just for future reference, I don’t talk about anything important over the phone, you never know who else could be tapping into the call. Oh and I’ve made a few adjustments to the house to help me keep an eye on things that might be going on around me so that and the fact I have studied body language and facial cues to know when people are lying...” “I’m sorry.” Tyler apologizes. “No you’re not.” Zeke smiles at him and crosses his arms. “Yeah well I’d be naiive to just believe your side of things and let my guard down. I’m not sorry.” Tyler crosses his arms too, mirroring Zeke’s confident demeanour, which amuses Zeke. “Which I don’t blame you for one bit. Now I’ve got dinner for you cooking, should be done in about, any minute.” He says as he glances at his watch. “I’m going to be just down the hall in the office, I’ll leave the door open and you can sit in there with me if you feel the need, honestly whatever you’re most comfortable with, I’ve just got some stuff I need to do since I’ll be missing work for a while by the looks of things.” Zeke states, looking Tyler up and down. “If I’m that much of an inconvenience then I can leave? You don’t have to babysit me.” Tyler says with confidence. “It’s not an inconvenience and I’m not by any means ‘babysitting’ you. I want to be able to protect you, that’s all.” Zeke tells him, stepping past Tyler and walking into the kitchen with Tyler right behind him. He opens every cupboard to show Tyler where everything was. “Protect me from what exactly?” Tyler asks, much less interested in where the plates and cups were, and more focused on what danger he was in. “What do you think I’d want to protect you from, Tyler?” Zeke shrugs and continues his kitchen tour, showing off the limited supplies in the pantry. Clearly he wasn’t use to having guests here, either that or he wasn’t use to being home for meals himself because the pantry barely had anything in it. Tyler was significantly more concerned about potentially starving at the sight, than he had been when he had suggested refusing food as a method of suicide earlier. “Yeah but you said he doesn’t have a reason so won’t he be going for random people?” Tyler asks nervously tracing the scars on his hand from that morning, hissing at the pain on some of the deeper cuts, though it didn’t stop him pressing against the pain. “He knew you were in that house so I don’t know what he’ll do. If his track record is anything to go by, he’s more than likely looking for you, he doesn’t like leaving jobs incomplete.” Zeke tells him, quickly checking the oven and turning it off. “That looks done.” He says and grabs a tea towel, taking out a freezer meal single serve lasagne. “Well now I’m terrified. Do you think he’ll find me here?” Tyler asks looking around as if thinking he’d be in the room somewhere and again, hugging himself for comfort. “Sorry, I know you’ve been through a lot but it’s like you were saying before about not wanting to be naiive and let your guard down, it’s better that I don’t sugar coat the situation and have you accidentally put yourself in danger. It is important that you understand the risks. You’ll be fine here.” Zeke states, plating the food and placing it on the table with a fork and a butter knife. “Anyway, I’ll be just down the hall. You wouldn’t believe how much paperwork I have to do. I signed up for the shooting bad guys, not the admin.” Zeke jokes but Tyler wasn’t amused in the slightest. “Is that going to be paperwork about saving me or paperwork about my dead family that you’ve for to do?” He asks bitterly. Zeke’s smile disappears immediately and he licks his lips, unsure exactly how to respond to that reality check. “Dead people might be so normal to you that you’re desensitized but just like you didn’t ‘sign up for the admin’ I didn’t sign up to have my family killed.” “You’re right. I’m sorry. That was horrible of me...” “Just go do whatever.” Tyler stares at the ground. Zeke nods, leaving Tyler alone, he figured apologizing again wouldn’t do him much good right now when the pain was so fresh. Tyler sinks into the chair at the table and looks at the food before him, no urge to eat despite the way his stomach was aching for food. He’d forgotten for a bit, but at the smell and sight of the food he couldn’t deny how hungry he was. Looking at the clock on the wall in the kitchen he licks his lips as he thinks back on what time he’d last eaten, a small lunch with his friends at school more than 30 hours ago. His eyes drift back to the plate and he picks up the fork, his body needed something, just in case something happened. Just before the food touches his lips another thought hits him, why isn’t Zeke eating this too?” Tyler picks up the plate and carries it down the hallway to the office where Zeke was sitting at a computer, a frown on his face as he typed. “You ok?” He asks, not looking over at Tyler. “Is this poisoned?” Tyler asks bluntly. “I know it’s not some homemade masterpiece, but I live off frozen meals. I can make you something else if you want?” Zeke offers. “So you don’t want it?” Tyler asks. “No thanks I already ate.” Zeke answers then leans back in his chair and looks at Tyler with a look of sudden understanding. “Oh you don’t mean it tastes like poison, you mean literally did I poison it. I didn’t, I will have some to prove it to you if that puts your mind at ease.” “Go for it.” Tyler steps forward with the plate, his eyes glancing at the neat piles of paperwork on Zeke’s desk, a page of short hand writing that looked like a code of random letters and numbers was on top of the pile. Zeke follows Tyler’s interested gaze. “Any idea what you are looking at?” Zeke asks “No.” Tyler shrugs. “But I’m guessing that’s the point. People aren’t meant to be able to read it, right?” “It’s a bit of a wild guess but it’s the initials of the day, month, street and the victims in each attack. We don’t believe there is a connection and we can’t guess his next one but we are just trying to find any hint of a pattern or message and I don’t know but I feel like there has to be something that leads him to choosing the victims.” Zeke sighs. “Good luck with that, it looks like gibberish to me. Are those the dates of each murder?” Tyler asks. “Yeah, what do you make of it?” Zeke asks, sitting back and watching Tyler. “The first one was like, 15 years ago! How hasn’t he been caught by now?” Tyler asks furiously, feeling justifiably let down by this new revelation. “All of them are so far spread apart, and so randomly done that the police aren’t that interested. He’s not a huge threat to them, I mean over 15 years, he’s made a total of 7 attacks, one of them was a previous survivor so it’s only 6 seemingly unrelated attacks over 15 years. He’s almost not seen as a threat because he makes an attack then goes off the radar for years at a time.” Zeke sighs, a tone of complete disappointment in the system. Tyler thought back on how Zeke had joked about the paperwork insensitively before, and compares it to the obvious disdain Zeke had shown in the moments when he’d brought up the police. Obviously he didn’t think much of them, and despite that one slip up, he had been showing much more concern and sympathy towards Tyler and his situation. “But you’ve kept track?” Tyler asks softly. “And I won’t stop until he is dead.” Zeke answers, not a single hint of doubt in the delivery of the statement. Tyler eyes him, not sure whether it was reassuring to know this man was very willing to murder someone, but also feeling a surge of empowerment at the thought of revenge. “See, not poisoned.” Zeke says before putting a fork full of food in his mouth, chewing normally. “That’s what you think.” Tyler gives Zeke a sly smile. Zeke pauses mid chew and his face fills with regret. “I’m joking.” Tyler relieves him of his fear and can’t help but snicker at the dramatic relaxed sigh Zeke lets out. “Wow I am entrusting my safety to someone gullible, that instils confidence.” “Well just like you, I don’t know you and I don’t want to let my guard down. For all I know you’re a closet psychopath. I mean you have proven to be unpredictable so far.” Zeke admits. Tyler catches himself smiling and quickly turns to leave the room, not sure how he was able to feel so relaxed around Zeke when there was so much he didn’t know about him. Part of him feared the trust that he was building with Zeke, still sure he would be stupid to trust anyone right now, especially someone that was trying so hard to gain it like this. Tyler wasn’t the only one that was unpredictable, neither of them knew truly what the other was capable of yet. Zeke comes up the hallway about an hour later, seeing Tyler sitting on the couch shivering. “What’s up?” Zeke asks. His eyes follow along to what Tyler’s were locked on, the T.V. showing the news. The report was on his family’s death showing pictures of his mum and dad’s wedding and then reporting that they were ‘brutally murdered’ with multiple stab wounds each. Zeke sits down beside Tyler on the couch and places a hand on his shoulder to let him know that he wasn’t alone while the report plays out. “Their son Tyler, was also found, police believe he’d tried to fight the intruder but was overpowered. He was found lying on the kitchen table with a broken neck.” The reporter states. Zeke looks away then bites his lip as he hears the reporter start to describe Tyler’s sister’s condition. “Found with multiple stab wounds and arms bound, it is believed she witnessed her parent’s deaths before trying to run away, the result of her struggle against the man was a broken neck, like her brother.” The reporter finishes, changing shamelessly to another topic, this was the biggest tragedy in Tyler’s life but for everyone else it was just an average day at work, Tyler was crying silently, he turns his head slowly and looks at Zeke. “What happened to her?” Tyler whimpers, wiping the tears from his eyes, he almost didn’t feel like he had any left to cry at this point. “Did he really make her watch them die?” “Our educated guess is that she found them injured and ran from the room to get help, there was blooded handprints on the wall in the hallway, not her blood but the size would suggest it was your sister’s hand. He grabbed her by her dress and ripped it, but there’s no sign to suggest any sexual assault took place. She had a few superficial lacerations on her back and arms, indicative of the knife being in his hands and scratching her when she struggled in his grip. Judging by the injury to her face, it appears he just let her fall into the bath after her neck was broken, I think he tied her up after the fact to make it look worse for anyone who saw her.” Zeke replies, trying to walk the fine line of being honest because Tyler deserved it, but not wanting to add details that would cause him more pain. “Was she really unrecognizable?” Tyler sniffles. “I couldn’t let you see her Tyler. Her injuries weren’t a pleasant sight and you already suffered enough seeing your parents.” Zeke moves closer to Tyler, feeling powerless to take away the pain Tyler was clearly in, but unsure how to help. “You know how they said I was dead, wouldn’t the police have seen that there were only 3 bodies there?” “There were 4 bodies Tyler.” Zeke replies, his voice solemn and dark as he looked down. “How? Who else was in my house?” “I told you we didn’t catch the guy. My colleague was very brave, he was stupid to be so brave but he fought him off long enough for me to get you out of the house. He saved our lives.” Zeke tells him. “Unfortunately he couldn’t save himself and I didn’t get back to him in time. The phone call earlier was to let me know his funeral will be tomorrow.” “Your friend, what was his name?” Tyler asks, trying to hold back another wave of tears, feeling as though he’d caused all this trouble and also feeling bad that Zeke had been having to put up with his emotional outbursts, while he had his own grief to go through. “You must hate me for being there.” “Alexander. We weren’t exactly close but he was a great guy, good at his job, he knew he wouldn’t be able to fight him alone but he tried to anyway. Sometimes you have to know when to run away I don’t blame you for anything that happened. It’s not your fault he died.” Zeke replies, wanting to give some comfort and reassurance to the already extremely fragile survivor. Tyler couldn’t help but notice the sense of emotional detachment Zeke was showing to the situation, like he’d compartmentalized the death of someone he knew, to prioritize Tyler coping with his loss instead. “I blame myself for it.” Tyler admits and covers his face with his hands, he couldn’t deal with this, not a single part of it, it was like every few hours he was ending up back where he started, the grief cycle resetting and it’d barely been a day. In this moment, his only thought is to run away, from Zeke and from himself.
  3. “Jasper, you were doing so well. You haven’t been late in weeks.” Simon calls out as Jasper and Ryan walk in more than an hour after everyone else had gotten to work. “Guess I’m just a complete disappointment to everyone then.” Jasper remarks, heading straight to the keyboard. “I’m going to be sitting here expressing feelings all day, don’t talk to me.” He sits down and puts headphones in. Everyone looks from him, to Ryan for answers. “Did I hit a nerve?” Simon asks. “His parents are visiting us today, he’s stressing in advance.” Ryan answers with a shrug, watching Jasper getting straight into playing. “You guys remember that we have the first of our new album promotion interviews today though right?” Luke asks, looking understandably concerned. “Hopefully that takes his mind off things.” Blake comments, making a b-line for Ryan, nudging him with his elbow and taking a few steps away from the rest of the group, Ryan follows him. “Make sure you have his back with his parents, I know you are hoping they won’t be that bad but the last thing he needs is the pressure to patch things up just to stop you being disappointed.” Blake tells him, Ryan glances over at Jasper again, realizing that somewhere between all the stress cleaning Jasper had been telling Blake about what was going on, instead of turning to Ryan for support. “Just expect the worst from them and work on your poker face so he can focus on getting through their bullshit alright? It’s your turn to have his back, he’s always had yours.” Blake concludes, looking at Ryan and waiting for a response. “Don’t worry. I’ve got his back no matter what. I already promised him that.” Ryan assures Blake, watching as Jasper plays distractedly on the piano. A few hours pass before the group is taken to a room full of journalists to talk about their debut with Mark’s company and to bring attention to their upcoming music release. The session was full of excitement and seemingly completely took Jasper’s mind off everything. That is until the questions start getting off topic and he realizes that he is the main point of interest. Questions speculating on his infidelity were posed to Ryan over and over until Mark stepped in. “Please, show some respect. This is not about Jasper and Ryan’s relationship, this is about the band making a return. Keep on topic or I’ll have to end this early.” He threatens. Jasper felt awful and knew this would be difficult for Ryan to be being asked constantly about. He knew when it’d happened there would be a fallout but he’d thought the few gossip threads about it was all they were going to cop, being that it was months ago. Ryan was holding his hand on the desk so everyone could see that despite the allegations against Jasper, they were still strong. Blake, Luke and Simon take their share of questions, enthusiastically discussing their new songs and album plans, going into detail of how they decided on themes and what messages their songs were going to have. The news of their plans kept the interview going with enough interest and focus that Jasper and Ryan were forgotten about for a while, but as the other members finish their album promotions and the attention is once again directed towards Jasper and Ryan, after quickly asking about Jasper’s album plans eventually the questions find their way back to the cheating rumors and Jasper is rudely cut off. “Question for Ryan, were you aware that Jasper was out with another guy when you were away on Dancers and Dreamers?” The interviewer turns her attention to Ryan who doesn’t even flinch. “Yeah, Jasper came to me and told me all about the drinks with company, and it’s that honesty that reassures me that he’s not sneaking around behind my back in any way. That showed love, trust and commitment.” Ryan answers flawlessly confident in Jasper, nothing could break them, until the next question. “So you’re not concerned about Jasper visiting the residence of a sex worker?” “What the fuck?” Jasper gawks at the stupidity of the comment. “We have photos.” The journalist gets up, holding up a photo, she walks over to the desk and places it before Ryan and Jasper. Ryan gulps back the myriad of reactions going through his head as he takes in the photo. “How do you know that’s the house of a sex worker?” Ryan asks calmly. “We are investigative journalists, it’s part of our job to do our homework.” She gives a smug smirk, clearly feeling in control of the situation. Ryan slides the photo of Jasper at the door of the familiar apartment, back towards her. “Well if you’d done your homework and dug a little deeper, you may have actually had a decent story to talk about. I’m finished here, you?” Ryan stands up, holding his hand out for Jasper. Jasper nods and takes it, standing and walking out hand in hand to show their relationship strength was un-effected by the questions they had faced. “Blake, as Jasper’s best friend, do you have any opinions about this issue?” Another interviewer jumps up with a question, desperately trying to get a final statement. Blake smiles at the interviewer, thrilled to get the opportunity to speak on the topic. “Of course, this issue of you lot taking out of context information and trying to sell it as fact in an attempt to ruin a relationship is something I definitely have a lot of opinions on. They trust and support each other, our fans trust and support their relationship and I know all the facts about what’s going on with them and my honest opinion is that I trust and support their relationship. The only people this desperately pathetic attempt to find any hint of a problem between them is entertaining, are haters. So if you wanna sit around circle jerking over these rumors with a bunch of people who don’t actually care about the truth, that’s your prerogative but don’t waste other people’s time. The band has been working really hard and we‘re extremely passionate about our new music and instead of getting a fair chance to share the exciting news with our fans, you’ve managed to waste that opportunity for all of us. We deserved so much more respect than that as a band and Ryan and Jasper deserved more respect than that as a couple and as individuals. We’ve had enough mistreatment in the last two years. Back off before you dig too deep and find things that make you feel like complete assholes.” Blake states and gives the peace sign as he walks out head held high. Luke and Simon nodding agreements as they follow him out, though even they didn’t really know what was going on. “Thanks for what you said back there, I knew there would be photos and I should have been more prepared...” Jasper starts but Ryan cuts him off. “Why were you there?” Ryan looks at Jasper with a frown, letting go of his hand and crossing his arms now that they were in the privacy of their practice room again. “I confronted him when I was drunk a week after you left. I was still so mad and I found out where he lived. I know I shouldn’t have gone but at the time I felt like it was justifiable. I am sorry.” Jasper apologizes but Ryan doesn’t seem to accept it. “You did what? Why the hell did you confront him? I had handled it, he wasn’t going to be a problem anymore. And what about that stuff you said about how I have the right to choose the people I want in my life even if you disagree, was that just bullshit? Because clearly you think you do have the authority to go behind my back about it.” Ryan snaps, and although it was out of character for him to be angry like this, Jasper wasn’t taking it personally, he understood why Ryan was pissed and wasn’t about to act as though he was completely in the right. “Ry, I am really sorry I have made you feel this way. Like I said, at the time I was still upset and I felt justified but I do realize it makes me look like a hypocrite. Truth is though Damien proved more times than not that he didn’t give a damn what you said and he was playing life by his own rules. I didn’t trust that he would actually leave you alone and I was right because when I confronted him he told me he was hoping to talk to you again.” Jasper sighs, his calm response and the interruption of Blake, Simon and Luke entering the room, forcing Ryan’s frustration to come down to a more reasonable level. “Well done having Jasper’s back Ryan, you held it together perfectly.” Blake calls out, he noticed the tension in the room and hoped his acknowledgement would help in some way to diffuse whatever situation it was they were walking into. “Why did he want to talk to me again? Seriously?” Ryan asks with a defeated scoff, he and Jasper too locked in their conversation to respond to Blake. “Because he is a selfish moron who thinks you should give him the chance to explain himself and apologize. This is why I didn’t tell you I went to see him because it doesn’t do you any good. Now you’re just going to be stressing about what he wants to say instead of just leaving his sorry ass in the past where he belongs.” Jasper rolls his eyes and throws his hands up in the air, turning and walking a few steps away. “I know you meant well, but I didn’t want you having anything to do with him, he’s not your problem.” “I’m not just collateral damage from him stalking you Ry, he may be your ex but the moment he let himself into my house he became my problem. I’m not taking that from anyone, I have a right to stand up for myself if someone is actively invading my privacy no matter who they were intending on harassing.” Jasper replies with an annoyed shrug, feeling almost insulted that he even had to explain to Ryan that he was effected by Damien too. “Wait, Ryan’s ex stalked them and broke into their place?” Luke asks Blake in a whisper. “Yeah, a few times.” Blake shrugs like it was no big deal. “Ok, I get that but you shouldn’t have kept that from me.” Ryan sighs as he takes a few steps towards Jasper, reaching for him but Jasper was feeling too bitter about the whole thing to let Ryan come in to comfort him now. “Probably not but I knew it’d be a problem and I was trying to get the problem out of our lives.” He comments back in a bitchy tone, ignoring Ryan’s attempt to show affection. Had he not been super tired, he may have more easily let this go, but he was just so far from in the mood to wave off another argument about Damien. Ryan notices and reflects the attitude, getting them nowhere. “You can’t just keep things from me, that involve me. That’s not what a relationship is about. You came to me and told me you almost went home with some other guy, but you couldn’t own up to confronting my ex?” At the mention, Jasper turns on his heel infuriated. “Those are two different things. I had a conversation with Damien and I didn’t tell you out of concern for you, I over stepped a boundary with Harley and I told you out of respect. I’d think if it were the other way around that would be more of a breach of trust.” He snaps. “Keeping things from me, is a breach of trust. Did you know anything about him being a sex worker?” Ryan asks sadly. Jasper turns back to him and takes a moment to study Ryan’s expression. He looked disappointed and though part of Jasper knew that he had every right to care, the majority of him just wished Ryan didn’t give a damn. The slight niggle of insecurity was planted in his mind and the more Ryan wanted to know, the less Jasper felt like they would move on from this. “I wonder if he was really cheating or if he was ‘working’.” Ryan asks, and with that Jasper could feel himself let go of a tiny bit of confidence he had in Ryan. “Would it make a difference to you? If it was work would that make it better? Would you forgive him?” Jasper asks quietly, feeling a building of fear that he was finally going to lose Ryan. That thought that he was just the therapeutic rebound before Ryan and Damien found their way back to each other coming back to his mind. “I deserve to know what was really happening behind my back!” Ryan snaps, not at Jasper but in general from the feelings of being lied to and manipulated, it felt like just another nail in the coffin that every single time he started moving on from Damien, something would happen to bring him back. Like taking one step forward and two steps back. “I agree but just think about it, what will knowing really change? What will it do to have that information, because I know you, I know you’ll overthink it and I don’t want to see you feeling like you owe him any time to explain himself.” Jasper was desperately walking the line of being understanding and not telling Ryan what to do, but also wanting so badly to play it all off and demonize Damien just to keep Ryan from having any room left for doubt. “You know?” Ryan asks, seeing right through Jasper. “Of course, it was the first thing I thought of when I found out what he was doing for work.” Jasper admits, crossing his arms. “If it helps, I knew ages ago.” Blake chimes in, Ryan glances at him then back at Jasper as he starts answering. Blake turns to the other guys and shrugs. “Lets leave mum and dad to sort this out, do either of you want lunch?” He suggests, neither Simon or Luke really wanted to leave, both absorbed in the drama but Blake herds them out, giving the couple some privacy. “Why would you keep that from me?” Ryan breathes, a sense of betrayal washing over his face. “It was a single conversation with Damien to tell him to leave us alone, I didn’t intend on finding out about his ‘work’. He’s your ex and I have made it pretty clear I hate the guy but at the time this happened you and I weren’t on good terms either. I didn’t want to tell you anything that could possibly make you reconsider how done with him you were. I have owned that I get jealous and at that time I was really insecure about you and him, because you guys seem so solid. I am sorry that I even went there and that I didn’t tell you, I get being mad about that. Please understand that I didn’t want to tell you because I know how you are about him so I didn’t want to put you through questioning things again.” Jasper points out frustrated. “You really think that I would even consider taking him back? Work or not he was going behind my back with people, it doesn’t actually help to know it was work, I feel stupid for not knowing that was what was happening. I’m sorry that you even have had to deal with him, and that you have felt insecure because I know that is me not showing you enough that you have nothing to worry about. I love you in a way that makes me question whether I ever actually loved Damien because that was nothing on what I feel for you.” Ryan tells him, looking deep into his eyes and drawing him in as he puts his arms around Jasper’s waist and holds him close. Jasper sighs, feeling guilty for not telling Ryan sooner and for doubting how Ryan felt, though he still wasn’t completely convinced. He had no intention of dragging out this drama longer than he needed to, he was already out of energy and this was supposed to have been the easy part of the day. “Just don’t keep things from me though, please. Even if you think it’s for the right reason, I’d rather just know.” “Oh trust me I have no intention of ever speaking to him again.” Jasper rolls his eyes. “That makes two of us.” Ryan replies, lifting Jasper’s chin and kissing him softly on the lips. He could sense the hesitation and reluctance from Jasper, which hurt. “Hey.” Ryan looks into Jasper’s eyes to get his attention. “I meant what I said this morning, I’m not going to let people come between us.” Ryan tells him, Jasper nods, wanting to believe him. “I promise.” Ryan lifts up his hand, just the ring finger up. Jasper looks at the ring and his stubborn attitude cracks, a smile crossing his face. “Ugh you hit me with the promise ring. You know that’s going to stop being cute eventually.” “No I’m pretty sure that’s why you got these, right? So we could use it against each other?” Ryan jokes. “Absolutely not. I got them so you’d trust me though that hasn’t exactly worked in my favour has it?” Jasper corrects him. Ryan bites his lip as he considers how to respond. “I trust that you mean well, but your actions don’t always come across that way.” He comments “You react like you don’t think I mean well.” Jasper sighs. “You’re right I do.” Ryan nods slowly. “We both play our part in how the other feels. I am really sorry to hear that you still feel like there’s a chance I’ll get back with him. If you feel that way then I have really fucked up more than I thought I had.” “What do you mean, you love me in a way that makes you question if you ever loved Damien?” Jasper asks. “I was in love with the version of him that I kept lying to myself that I was with, I’m starting to realize more and more that I was just trying to convince myself that he was someone he wasn’t. Damien was never the person I thought he was, the person I told myself he was. You’re everything I wished I had back then, everything he isn’t capable of being. There’s no reality where I would choose him over you, that’d be like choosing a slice of toast over an entire buffet.” Ryan explains. “I better be the buffet in that analogy.” Jasper smirks, grabbing a water bottle and some pain killers, they survived this conflict but the way today was going he expected a headache to be not far off. “Oh you’re the full buffet. The sweet, the savory, the spicy and the salty. Damien is just the first slice of crusty bread in a loaf, everyone touches it on their way to the better pieces.” Jasper just about chokes on his mouthful of water at the unexpectedly smooth insult from Ryan. While Ryan’s comment was full of bitterness and clearly had more to do with how Ryan felt about him, it did a lot to reassure Jasper that the feelings there were gone. “Well fuck.” Jasper sinks to the ground laughing and coughing with tears stinging his eyes. “Are you ok?” Ryan laughs too as he joins Jasper on the floor, sitting beside him and rubbing his back. “Yeah.” Jasper coughs. “I think I’m dying.” He sighs, wiping a tear from his eye and having a small sip of water to try to settle the cough before bursting into laughter again. “Where did that comment come from? I was trying to stay mad at you for being mad at me, but now I’m oddly turned on.” He admits. “I did not expect that from you, that’s something Blake would say.” “I am running out of nice.” Ryan shrugs. “Thank god, because you’ve been nice about him for a lot longer than he deserved.” Jasper leans against Ryan. “I’m really sorry that my ex is still a problem for us.” Ryan sighs, rubbing Jasper’s knee. “It’s not like you dated him with the intention of your next boyfriend having to deal with him, that’s not generally the aim of dating. I’m sure you’re not dating me with the plan to make some future boyfriend jealous or something.” Jasper jokes. “Oh the next person is going to have one hell of a struggle coming after you.” Ryan nudges him and gives a wink. “I feel sorry for them already. I mean I won’t stalk you and try to ruin your relationship but I pity them just having to know that you had it this good.” Jasper gestures at himself. “And then they have to try and compete with me.” “Meanwhile your next boyfriend will be like ‘why did you date him for so long with all his baggage, and a crazy ex.’” Ryan pokes fun at himself. “Mhm, there’s surely easier guys out there I could date. Gotta be easier ways to get laid.” Jasper teases, moving from beside Ryan, to sit on his lap. “Problem is I love you.” “That doesn’t sound like a problem for me.” Ryan smiles, looking from Jasper’s eyes to his lips. Jasper smiles and kisses him softly. Ryan slides his hand up Jasper’s back, holding him close and deepening the kiss, with a sense of urgency. “Yeah they’ve made up!” Blake’s voice startles them apart. “If you wanna hook-up at work, you’ve gotta lock the door. We’ve had this talk Jas.” Blake winks at him. “We weren’t going to hook-up.” Ryan rolls his eyes at Blake. “Oh weren’t we?” Jasper asks cheekily, getting up and taking Ryan’s hand, pulling him up too. Luke, Simon and Mark walk into the room talking amongst themselves. “How are you both after that shambles of an interview? I’m so sorry for all of that.” Mark gives Jasper and Ryan an apologetic smile. “Whatever way I can help sort this drama out for the two of you, just let me know.” “I’ll have to put out a statement about the situation, but we’ve got to get home so I’ll leave that for tomorrow.” Ryan tells him. “We don’t need to rush home, we can stay and sort this out first.” Jasper shrugs. Ryan casts him a knowing look, shaking his head. “Come on I’d rather deal with your ex, it’d be comparatively fun.” “Fine you stay here and write up a statement about Damien and I’ll go home and see your parents.” Ryan winks. “You want me to write the statement? Don’t tempt me, I’d write the most scathingly petty statement. It’d be my absolute pleasure to out him for all the bullshit he’s put you through and watch the media and our fans verbally eat him alive.” Jasper rubs his hands together scheming. “Oh fuck yeah, please Ryan. Let Jasper write it, it’ll be impeccable.” Blake grins. “Sure, we go and see your parents now, and I’ll let you write the statement for me.” Ryan bargains, crossing his arms and eyeing Jasper, seeing him weighing up whether he was hateful enough to give in and face his parents first. After a few moments to consider it Jasper lets out a heavy sigh. “Well my expectations for today have already hit an all time low so we may as well get this over with too.” He concludes. “Hi Mum, Dad.” Jasper walks in first, Ryan right behind him. Grace and Flynn were sitting beside each other on the couch, Ellie being held by Jasper’s Mum with her Dad looking on fondly. Grace and Flynn look over at them, clearly he’d spoken loud enough to be heard, but his parents chose to ignore them. Jasper turns to Ryan and shrugs as if to say ‘told you’. “Hi Mr and Mrs Reid. It’s good to see you again, welcome to our place.” Ryan walks over, offering his hand politely, only to be ignored again. “Jasper and Ryan have been gracious enough to let Eleanor and I stay here while Flynn finds us a place, and they’ve been my support system whenever we’ve needed a break to get ourselves sorted out.” Grace smiles nervously between Ryan and Jasper. “You could have told us, we’d have put you up in our house. You know you’re always welcome back home.” Their Mum tells Grace, sadness in her voice, no doubt at the way her daughter was so withdrawn that she’d gone through becoming a parent without her mother by her side. As kids Jasper often heard his parents talk about the way the envisioned becoming grandparents and they had wanted to be part of the whole process, this was certainly a bittersweet moment for them. “I know Mum. But with everything that’s happened, I was just so scared. Trust me, Jasper and Ryan took me in and made sure I had everything I needed while Flynn was away with work.” Grace explains, but the room was quickly filling with tension as Ryan and Jasper continued to not be acknowledged, despite Ryan being right beside them. Jasper on the other hand was almost completely uninterested, standing back in the kitchen getting himself a drink and scrolling through his phone, reading the inaccurate reports that were starting to circulate about Jasper’s visit to a ‘sex worker’ in his head he was too busy planning what the statement about that whole debacle would say. He tunes back into the conversation as he hears Ryan’s voice again, attempting to talk to his parents again. “We just want to help out as much as we can...” Ryan is cut off mid-sentence by Jasper’s Dad standing up and facing him, sizing him up almost trying to come across intimidated. “Leave.” He orders. “He’s not going anywhere.” Jasper walks over and stands beside Ryan. “This is our home. You can’t kick him out. You don’t have any authority here.” “You’re lucky I’m even tolerating you here after the way you’ve chosen to disrespect our family. Do you have any idea the pain you’ve put your mother through over the last few years? Your constant selfish decisions have been disrupting our family for long enough.” “If it’s going to make this easier I’ll go.” Ryan says quietly to Jasper. “Yes. If we have any chance of healing this family, you need to leave.” His Dad insists again.
  4. "Go away. Leave me alone. Please." Tyler begs and tries to move, his face contorting to a pained expression as he desperately tries to will his limbs into cooperating. His effort was so pitiful the man just stops where he was, less than a step away and nods at him. Tyler finally gets a good look at the stranger, a young guy with dark brown hair, almost black, with a fringe swept to the left just above his eyes. He looked about the same age as Tyler, though he guesses this man is older by a few years. He carried himself with such confidence and physically his body was more mature in build, maybe that’s what made him come across more intimidating. The man looks down at the shattered mirror on the floor, his gaze follows up to the medicine cabinet, he frowns at the sight of the door barely hanging by the hinges. He steps forward and pushes the broken door closed, the slow creak of the hinges interrupting the silence. "Why did you break that open?" He asks, shifting his eyes back to Tyler who stays silent and looks away from him again, being defiant in the only way he possibly could with the rest of his body numb. "You aren't going to answer me are you?” The man sighs, giving Tyler an opportunity to respond before he speaks again. “Ok, I understand that you're afraid but you don't have to be, not of me. I'm not here to hurt you, alright? And I'm not going to force you to stay either but right now this is probably the safest place for you to be. You look starved, what can I get you to eat?" He smiles kindly at Tyler and puts a hand out to help him up.  "I don't believe you." Tyler replies, voice raspy, his mouth and throat feeling really dry. "If you just give me the chance to explain...." He says and reaches for Tyler’s arm. "DON’T TOUCH ME! LEAVE ME ALONE!" Tyler screams. Once again the man stops immediately, pulling back before crouching to be on Tyler’s level, trying to make eye-contact. “Do you want to starve?” He questions jokingly. “Well one way or another I will end up dead.” Tyler retorts bravely staring into the eyes of the man before him, his gaze was fierce but his captor’s eyes just looked back at him with gentleness. “You do realize it can take like three weeks to actually starve to death, right? I mean the pills I understand trying but going a starvation method is one of the most strenuously drawn out ways to kill yourself and honestly, just a little too dramatic for my liking.” The man smiles. “Now, what can I get you to eat?” “Why are you being nice to me?” Tyler asks, starting to wonder if this man was a master at deception or whether he’d really judged him wrong, caught between naively falling for his kindness and pushing away genuine help. “Because right now you’re in a position where you need someone to take care of you.” The man again offers his hand to Tyler and the younger boy winces in pain as he lifts his heavy arm up, ready to take this offer and find out what was really going on. With a grin, the mysterious man lifts Tyler to his feet, holding the majority of his weight as he gages whether or not Tyler was going to be able to walk. After a rush of pins and needles, Tyler tries taking a step, moving was going to be a slow process like this. Tyler whines as his knees buckle and he collapses against the other man. “Ok, you’ll have to sleep this off.” The guy tells him, easily lifting him and placing him on the bed where the morning’s drama had started, taking time to make sure Tyler was lying comfortably. The door was open from the bedroom to the hallway now so Tyler mentally notes exactly where it is. He wanted to know all of his exits so as soon as he got a chance, he could escape. No more accidentally locking himself in rooms and trapping himself, as soon as this guy puts him down and turns his back, Tyler wanted to know exactly where he could get out. He silently curses himself for running towards the end of the bed this morning instead of the short distance to his right where he’d have been immediately released into the rest of the house. "Please let me go." Tyler begs pathetically. “Stop messing with me, just let me go or kill me!” “You're not going to get very far in this state kid. Maybe you shouldn't have swallowed all of my anti-depressants." The man shrugs. "Is that what they were?" Tyler asks, his eyes desperately locked on the door as if it might disappear if he takes his eyes off it for even a second. "What, you didn't even read the label?" His captor frowns. "No. I didn't care what it was I just wanted it to kill me." Tyler replies and risks another confused look at the man beside him. "Well I'm glad it didn't work. The last thing I needed was to find you dead in my bathroom. My name is Zeke by the way. You?" "T-Tyler." He answers nervously, finding speech a little difficult, probably a side effect of his idiotic overdose attempt. "I think I’m going to pass out." Tyler sighs, the unconsciousness he'd fallen into after attempting to overdose had just left him so groggy and weak, along with the migraine he could no longer ignore his body begging for rest. "I hope you feel better after a good sleep." Zeke smiles and walks out, turning the light off on the way but leaving the door open. "Call out if you need me for anything." He says then heads down the hallway, left in peace, Tyler takes a moment to reassess his situation, but his eyes were too heavy to keep open. The final thought before he falls to sleep, is that he’s being left on his own to mess with him, it certainly didn’t appear that he was being kept locked up or he wouldn’t have left the door open like that. Granted, he assumed he couldn’t walk, so maybe he didn’t think of him as that much of a threat at the moment. Zeke stands in the doorway of the bedroom while his friend examines Tyler’s condition, checking his heartbeat and blood pressure, noting it down quickly. “Thanks Cory. He told me he couldn’t walk and that he felt like he was going to pass out, and that he’d tried to overdose on my meds. I’ve been watching him, only left him for a couple of minutes to call you.” Zeke frowns and watches as Cory gets up and walks over to him. “His reflexes are fine, vital signs are pretty normal too. Muscle numbness and aching is typical for an overdose, but he’s young so he should recover pretty fast.” Cory tells him as he tucks away his notepad. “He didn’t even flinch, I would have woken up if someone was checking my blood pressure.” Zeke shakes his head, a little amused by the whole situation. “Yeah well, you’ve never tried to overdose on anti-depressants before. Besides, you’d be surprised, I’ve taken your blood pressure while you were asleep a few times.” Cory tells him with a smile. “Seriously? No way.” “Oh yeah, I’ve taken blood samples and set up IV’s while you’ve slept too. You get home from jobs and just pass out, there’s no way I’m waiting until you wake up, to check if you’re health has been compromised.” “Huh.” Zeke turns his attention back to the younger guy asleep on his bed. “Is he going to be alright? Anything else I should look out for?” Zeke asks anxiously looking back at the doctor beside him. “He’ll be alright, don’t be surprised if he sleeps for quite a while and struggles to talk, slurred speech is a normal side effect. Also, make sure he has plenty of water, he’ll have a very dry mouth and maybe migraines, best not to give him any pain killers though, any kind of tablets while his body is recovering from this kind of shock could have a bad effect on him. He’ll probably be very sick, throwing up and that kind of thing too, if he can’t keep food and water down tomorrow, call me and I’ll try to get here to give him a drip, Obviously I can’t weigh him like this but he doesn’t look like he’s got much body fat to lose and especially while he’s still in danger he will need his energy so we’ll want to keep on top of his health, in-case things take a turn for the worst.” Cory explains. “No he’s pretty light, nothing to him.” Zeke frowns as he thinks. “Anyway thanks for this. You, you won’t tell anyone about this right?” Zeke asks and rubs his forehead, he could feel a headache coming on just from the stressful last 24 hours. “Zeke, how long have you known me? Of course I won’t tell anyone about him. But are you sure this is the right thing to be doing? I mean, if someone finds out then…” “The last time we left a survivor victim to the police to protect, he was dead within a week, he’s safer here with me, I don’t care what our policy is. If you don’t tell anyone, then no one will find out.” Zeke cuts in. “What about visitors? I know there’s someone that spends a lot of time here when you two aren’t working.” Cory reminds Zeke who just curses under his breath and tips his head back looking up at the ceiling. “I’ll work it out, I’ll come up with something. I can’t think right now it’s been too much of a day, I’m exhausted.” Zeke sighs and puts his arm around Cory’s shoulder as he leads him to the front door. “Thanks for your help.” Zeke smiles at him. “No worries, that’s what I’m here for. And if you do need me to check up again, then just give me a call and I’ll be right over.” Cory promises then pulls his keys out of his pocket along with his phone, checking and sighing. “Gotta get back.” He turns away, walking towards his car, Zeke stands at the door and watches Cory get in and drive away, then he closes and locks the door before returning to the bedroom. Tyler was still asleep so Zeke quietly walks into the bathroom, almost stepping on glass from the mirror. “Great.” He sighs and trudges down the hallway to find a dustpan and brush. After a few hours of resting, Tyler wakes up, realizing he’d rolled in his sleep. He curiously moves his limbs, testing that they worked before pulling back the sheets and getting up as quietly as he could. It seemed like he’d been out for a while because the sun was now on it’s way back down, licks of sunlight painting the walls orange and seemingly highlighting the door out of the bedroom. Tyler cringes at the pins and needles that shoots up his legs as he puts pressure on his feet, tentatively taking steps towards the doorway and glancing out around to see where to go next. The back door was in view at one end of the hallway, it could have been an easy escape and he could have been with the police by now. He wouldn’t make that mistake again. His legs were stinging with each step but he most definitely could press his weight on, and move them himself. As quietly as he could, he creeps out the door and takes a few deep breaths to calm his racing heart. Up the hall to where he could clearly hear Lee washing the dishes. He slips out and to the back door quickly, turning the doorknob and opening the door. He could escape, right now. The hope of freedom sent adrenaline rushing through his body and he steps outside, feeling the dry grass on his feet and the wind blowing over his face, and just as he is about to run the dizziness kicks in again and his head feels like it is burning up, he leans against the door frame for support but slides down it to the ground before his vision goes black again. Tyler comes to, now in a dark room lit only by the light coming from the hallway through the open door, back on the bed like it was a cruel trick of DeJa'Vu. He sits up slowly and lets out a heavy sigh, rubbing his head. He was confused, disorientated and felt a migraine starting to throb behind his eyes, making him want to just shut them and go back to sleep, dehydration and a day without food starting to take its toll on his body. He screws his eyes closed, rubbing his temples with his thumbs. “Welcome back.” Zeke’s voice shocks him and his eyes shoot open, he watches as Zeke walks out of the bathroom drying his hair. “How are you feeling?” Zeke asks kindly turning on just a lamp on the bedside table so as not to blind Tyler with light. "You must be hungry, right? It’d be more than 24 hours since you’ve eaten anything and I take it by your escape attempt, you’re able to move again. How about I get you some food so you’ve got a bit of energy and can stop passing out on me?” Zeke looks at him and smiles, he had a kind smile, the type that made Tyler want to trust him, but after everything that had happened, nothing felt real and trust seemed out of reach. " I don’t understand this act. What do you want me for? " Tyler asks nervously, his mouth feeling oddly numb and his words coming out mumbled. "There’s a lot you don’t understand. The first thing being that I'm not a killer..." Zeke starts explaining, keeping a distance from Tyler so he wouldn’t come across a threat, since he was clearly still doubting his safety.  "How can I know that? I get home and find someone killed my family, then wake up here!" Tyler yells, and winces at the pain in his head. "I’m not here to mess with you and I’m definitely not here to kill you. Quite the opposite actually. It was too late for your family when I got there. I was only there to find the guy who did murder them, I've been trying to track him down for ages, you're just lucky I got to you before he did." Zeke replies. “What do you want to eat?" He asks.  "Nothing." Tyler replies shaking his head, too deeply concentrating on this new information to think about food. "You were looking for the man who killed my family?" He asks confused. “Yes. Can you walk? I’d really like you to eat something. I know trauma can supress your urge to eat but I’ve heard your stomach while you’ve been sleeping, I know you're hungry." Zeke says calmly. “No, my legs are too sore.” In the beginning he wasn’t faking his mobility issues, but a test of trust was behind him deciding to act like he was still too sore to walk. It made him appear vulnerable, so Zeke could either drop the nice act and try to attack him not expecting him to defend himself, or continue to show kindness, proving his version of events likely to be true. Again, leaving the door wide open, Zeke exits the room. Tyler waits only a moment before getting up, ignoring the rush of pins and needles again as he forces himself to try to escape a third time, this time getting to the door before Zeke appears back in the doorway with a bottle of water in his hands. Tyler hesitates as he and Zeke stand looking at one another, neither speaking or moving at all. Suddenly with a rush of adrenaline Tyler throws himself forward, pushing Zeke and making a run for the door, only to trip over with his legs still clumsily waking up. “Look I realize you’re scared and you don’t trust me, I get that and I’m not judging you for this but please at least let me help you get some strength back. It’s in your best interests to eat something now. You’re not going to be able to do anything with an empty stomach and recovering from an overdose. Don’t make me keep watching you fall over.” Zeke sighs, walking over and offering Tyler a hand up. Tyler accepts it, not taking his eyes off Zeke as he gets up to his feet again. “Thank you.” Zeke puts Tyler’s arm around his shoulders and helps him walk, bearing most of his weight, down the hallway. Tyler notes each room as they pass it. Another bedroom, though it contained a desk and a few filing cabinets, a futon lounge opposite the desk, there was a lounge room that opened straight to the front room and front door of the house and across the hall from that was the kitchen. It was a simple house, not a lot of places to hide, but definitely not somewhere complicated enough to feel like he was trapped within its walls. "How did you know he was there?" Tyler asks, his snappy attitude finally fading as he realizes he’d been wrong about this man, he’d wasted the day stubbornly assuming the worst and even attempted to take his life out of fear for someone who’d only wanted to take care of him. "Because that's just what I do. I was tracking him with my colleague, and when we got to the house, we saw him walking around upstairs. We were planning how we were going to go about catching him when we saw you walk inside. In fact you walked right past our car, we were waiting for you to go past the house before we went in but unfortunately that was your house.” The stranger explains and bites his lip, wondering if he should continue explaining or if the starving boy would accept that as an answer. "Please let me feed you now." He sighs. Tyler nods and looks down as Zeke uses his foot to pull out one of the two chairs at the small round table, he sits Tyler on it then walks over to the fridge. “So, you got him right? The guy who killed them?” Tyler asks anxiously, watching as Zeke sifted through the food options in the fridge. “Not exactly. Once you were in there, our priority was to get you out alive. We assumed he didn’t know you were in the house so our only chance was to get you out before he could find you. It went from an arrest mission to a rescue and retrieval mission.” The man sighs. "So there were three people following me around in my house?" Tyler asks, his eyes starting to go hazy and his head felt like it was burning, but he didn’t want to give in to the urge to pass out that his body was trying to insist on. "Yes, we know what he is capable of, we were trying to keep you safe." He replies, turning and noticing the pained look on Tyler’s face. “You ok?” "No. I am not but thanks for asking. Why did you cover my eyes if there was a murderer in my house?" Tyler grumbles.  "Because if I didn't you would have given away the entire thing. I couldn't let you make a sound and the easiest way to stop that was to cover your eyes and knock you out." Zeke answers. "What happened to my sister?" Tyler asks nervously after a few moments of silence. The man looks up at him and bites his lip gently, he hesitates. "Was it bad?" Tyler whimpers, feeling a sudden wave of emotion hit him, goose bumps prickling his skin and his body goes completely cold. "I couldn't let you see her." The man replies, lowering his voice in the hope that it would sound comforting. Tyler nods, not quite registering yet, the loss he had to accept. "I’m really sorry for your loss. You look like a really kind guy and you really didn't deserve this to happen to you and your family." Zeke says giving Tyler an apologetic look. Tyler looks down and crosses his arms, almost reflexively hugging himself for comfort as the loneliness of his family’s death sinks in. "Yeah. Why did it happen to them?" Tyler asks, then looks back at Zeke who was making a sandwich. "So far we haven’t found anything linking the murders, he’s a serial killer, it’s just a game to him." Zeke answers with a sigh and sits down at the table, passing Tyler the sandwich. "You mean he had no reason. He just picked my house? Picked my family and killed them?" Tyler asks shocked. Zeke looks up at Tyler then back down at his food. "Don't worry, you and your family did nothing wrong. Serial killers take lives without reason. You're safe here though, I promise." Zeke assures him. Tyler starts crying again and shakes his head, overwhelmed by it all, he covers his face and sobs, exhaustion and shock combined with the distress finally getting too much for him again. "He can't do it to anyone else now right? You guys stopped him didn't you?" Tyler asks through his tears. Zeke doesn't reply, he just stays silent, staring at his food. “He got away? Because of me?” Tyler’s shoulders sink and he hangs his head, tears flowing again. “You were in the wrong place at the wrong time, it was not your fault.” Zeke assures him though it brought no comfort. “If you had let me die, would you have caught him?” Tyler asks completely dishevelled. “No.” Zeke shakes his head. “Because we never would have let him kill anyone when there was the chance of us getting them out. There will be other opportunities to get him, there was only one to save you.” “At the cost of his next victim. You should have let me die. I’m not hungry.” Tyler gets up and runs back to the bathroom, ignoring the way his muscles ached and his head throbbed. He grabs onto the basin and looks up at the exposed shelves of the medicine cabinet, cleared and empty. Tyler turns and pulls the shower curtain back, finding a razor which he hadn’t thought of on his first attempt in the bathroom that morning. Zeke snatches it from his hand and bear hugs him to stop him from trying to get the razor back while he screams and begs to be dead. Zeke carefully lowers them to the ground and to his surprise Tyler doesn’t fight. He just allows himself to be restrained in Zeke’s arms, repeating again and again ‘you should have let me die.’
  5. “Ryan~” Jasper calls quietly in a singsong voice as he peeks into the bedroom where he sees Ryan relaxing on the bed in just a towel, immersed in something on his phone. He takes his eyes off it and looks over at Jasper just before he is about to call out for his attention again. “Is Blake gone?” Ryan asks with a sly smile, putting his phone down and getting comfortable as he pats the bed beside him invitingly. “Mhm, did you have a long enough shower?” Jasper replies with a smirk, hesitantly lingering at the door but shamelessly checking Ryan out. “I was honestly expecting you would come in and join me at some point.” Ryan admits, reaching a hand out towards Jasper. He’d been waiting in here so he and Jasper could have some time together, knowing he’d come in eventually and they might be able to steal just a moment together. “I was going to but decided to have a family drama instead.” Jasper rolls his eyes and lets out a sigh, stepping inside the room but leaning against the doorframe. Ryan frowns at him and sits up, opening his mouth to ask just as Jasper continues. “Grace went off at me and then had a meltdown. Anyway, I have good news and bad news.” Jasper shrugs, looking over at Ryan with a smile. “Bad news first?” Ryan asks curiously. “You’re babysitting Eleanor while Grace is off taking a break.” Jasper tells him, going back to the doorway and pulling the pram into the room, Ellie was still fast asleep. “How is that the bad news?” Ryan grins and gets up from the bed, moving quietly over to the pram. He peers in at the baby with such heartwarming affection that it melts Jasper a little. “Because the good news was that we finally had the house to ourselves.” Jasper gives a dramatic sigh and walks over to the bed, lying down on it and staring at the roof, a moment later Ryan comes into his line of sight, as he climbs on over top of him. “Sounds about right, just our luck, finally some space and we’re babysitting instead.” Ryan jokes, playfully kissing Jasper. “Mm, not ‘we’. You are babysitting. The moment that little banshee starts making noise she’s all yours.” Jasper replies, his arms going over Ryan’s shoulders and holding him close, kissing him sweetly. Ryan smiles against his lips, gently pressing himself against Jasper as they continue light affectionate kisses. “Well I’ll just have to make the most of the time I have before then.” Ryan whispers, sliding his hand up Jasper’s shirt and kissing his neck. “We are not being those babysitters.” Jasper laughs, swatting Ryan’s arm. “Come on, Grace really needs us to take this seriously so she knows she can leave us with the baby when she needs time to herself. And before you say it, I know we need time for ourselves too. When we’re done with this comeback, you and I are going to go on holidays somewhere.” Jasper tells him. “I’ll believe it when it happens. You have a habit, I’ve noticed, of pretending that you have the intention to take care of yourself, to distract people from the fact that you never actually get around to taking care of yourself.” Ryan points out. Jasper looks at him, mouth slightly open as he considers a response before he licks his lips and gives a nod. “That’s because I’m always kinda fine. I didn’t offer to babysit just for fun, Grace really needed some kid free time and you know, we’ve got a lifetime of annoying each other so I figured we could give up an hour of that to help her out.” Jasper shrugs. “I never feel like I need things more than anyone else.” “Is it that you don’t feel like you need it, or you don’t feel like you deserve it as much as anyone else.” Ryan questions right as Ellie wakes up, a perfect distraction from Kevin having to answer the question. “Guess that’s my cue.” Ryan whispers, pulling away from Jasper reluctantly. Jasper sighs, propping himself up on his elbows and watching Ryan pick Ellie up carefully, cradling her and shushing while he rocks her. Something about seeing him holding a baby against his bare chest, made him somehow even more attractive. “I swear, we’ll take a holiday because we will need it and deserve it.” Jasper says, Ryan looks over at him doubtfully. “Especially after my parents visit tomorrow.” Jasper states calmly. “What?” Ryan stops rocking and Ellie starts crying again. “Yeah I guess that was probably the bad news, hey.” Jasper jokes. “This is a good thing right? If they are coming to visit you then they must be open to accepting us...” “Nah, they are coming to see Grace and meet Eleanor. Also Grace and Flynn are forging marriage documents and claiming Ellie is theirs’ and that they were married a year ago.” Jasper smiles to himself as he watches the multiple reactions happening on Ryan’s face all at once with every piece of information. “Wow ok. That’s a lot.” Ryan nods to himself. “Still, this is a good opportunity to maybe work things out with them.” “How is it you’re so optimistic about things that have no hope being good, and yet pessimistic about things that are genuinely good?” Jasper asks amused by the irony. “I think she likes you. I told Grace she’d be fine.” Jasper comments, eyeing Ryan. Ryan looks at Ellie in his arms then over at Jasper and smiles. He frowns at the look Jasper was giving him, catching his eye Jasper looks away and shakes his head. “What?” Ryan asks. “Nothing.” Jasper gets up. “My turn for a shower, enjoy babysitting.” Jasper grins, walking off into the bathroom. He closes the door behind himself and leans against it, taking a deep breath. The thought of a family was pointless when his experience was being cast out of his own, but seeing Ryan with Ellie was making him rethink everything he knew about what a family was. “Fuck that’s cute.” He admits to himself, unable to stop himself from imagining for just a second, what it’d have been like if Grace hadn’t wanted to keep Ellie and she had ended up being adopted and raised by himself and Ryan. When Jasper comes back out of the bathroom Ryan is singing lullabies as he shows Ellie around the apartment, Jasper stands back and watches him. Ryan turns around and smiles at him. “Uncle Jasper is back.” He whispers and walks over to him. “Do you want a cuddle?” He asks. “Sure, put the baby down and I'm all yours.” Jasper flirts. “How long will Grace be out? I think she’s hungry because she keeps chewing at her fist.” Ryan suggests, holding Ellie out for Jasper to take over holding her. “About an hour. We can give her a bottle, I’m sure it’s not that difficult.” Jasper answers and gently takes Ellie who immediately starts crying. “Oh I know, I want to cry when he lets go of me too.” Jasper comments. Ryan stops on his way to the kitchen and turns to look at him surprised for a moment. “That was unexpectedly sweet.” Ryan nods approvingly. “Yeah well what’d you think I’d say in front of a baby? I have to tone down my sarcasm or she’ll grow up to be a sassy diva.” Jasper shrugs. “Oh and also if you’re not careful, too many cuddles with Ryan will make you start saying sappy nice things and he’ll give you a look like you’ve been abducted and he’s facing an almost perfect doppleganger that he now likes more than the original snarky version of you.” Jasper rolls his eyes. “I’ll take the blame for you being sweet. Sure.” “Either make a bottle, or take the screamy one back.” Jasper orders. Ryan laughs and goes into the kitchen to prepare the bottle while Jasper tries to settle Ellie. “I’m going to start crying in a minute, he’s literally taking the longest time I’ve ever seen anyone take making a bottle.” Jasper comments. “I can make it slower.” Ryan calls out. “I was just starting to like you.” Jasper walks over to him. Ryan smiles and hands him the bottle. “About time.” Jasper starts feeding Ellie and he and Jasper both let out a sigh of relief at the silence. “And you want one of these?” Jasper asks. “Lets get like, 20. Just a whole football team worth of kids.” Ryan grins at him. “Sure, you do that and I’ll come back when they all move out.” Jasper answers, he and Ryan share a smile as they stand silently enjoying the moment. “So, your parents huh?” Ryan crosses his arms and looks at Jasper who just sighs. “No?” Ryan asks. “No. Lets not talk about it.” Jasper shakes his head and looks back down at the baby. “I can’t say most of the words I’m thinking while I hold someone so gentle and innocent.” Jasper sighs. The door opens and Grace walks in quickly, looking around the room anxiously until she spots Ellie in Jasper’s arms. “Oh my baby. Has she been good?” Grace answers. “Grace that’s barely a break! You can go and rest for longer, we’re fine.” Jasper replies but Grace was already heading over to take Ellie from Jasper. “I know but I missed her.” She says as Jasper passes the baby back to her, feeling a pang of emptiness in his arms as he lets go. “Also, I felt guilty. I didn’t deserve you to be so good to me after the way I spoke to you. I am really sorry Jasper.” “Eh, we’re siblings, that’s not even the worst fight we’ve ever had.” Jasper crosses his arms. “Now that you know she can survive without you, maybe you should start taking some time to yourself here and there to remind yourself that you’re a human.” He suggests. “Maybe.” Grace nods, looking down at Ellie. “But my heart kinda hurt being away from her. I felt like I couldn’t really breathe fully.” “Ironically I feel that way about mum and dad coming here.” Jasper jokes. “Ryan and I might move out and let you and Flynn play house here.” “I am so sorry, I know it’s going to be uncomfortable for you, but they’ll probably be more concerned about me anyway so they probably won’t care all that much about what’s going on with you guys.” Grace assures them, thinking she was being comforting. “Yay, it’ll be just like old times.” Jasper shrugs with a hint of sadness in his sarcasm. “I promise it won’t be, because I will be with you.” Ryan tells him, giving his shoulders a gentle massage. Jasper takes one of Ryan’s hands and kisses his knuckles. He appreciated Ryan’s support but he was too certain that this was going to be a nightmare to feel any kind of comfort right now. Grace calls Flynn and invited him back over to plan what they were going to do about her parents, while Jasper stress cleans the apartment. Ryan was doing his best to give off a vibe of calmness as he helped out between helping on whatever part of the place Jasper was cleaning, and taking Ellie so Grace had one less thing to worry about. “I’m not sure that your parents aren’t going to look at the skirting boards.” Ryan comments with a smile. “Oh I don’t know, with all the time they’ll probably spend looking down their noses at me I wouldn’t want them to have something else to complain about.” Jasper answers, scrubbing aggressively. Ryan leans against the wall and slides down, sitting directly in Jasper’s way. “It’s almost midnight, go to bed.” Ryan says as he takes the cloth from Jasper’s hands. Jasper sighs and sits beside Ryan, leaning his head on his shoulder. “Need me to carry you?” Ryan asks. “How far away do you think I can run, before they get here?” Jasper asks with a laugh, Ryan sighs and stands up, reaching for Jasper’s hands. He pulls him up and starts heading to the bedroom before stopping as they catch Grace and Flynn in the middle of saying goodnight to each other at the front door. “Hey, just because you're playing Mum's and Dad's doesn't mean you can get all smoochy there, goodnight Flynn.” Jasper calls out to interrupt them. “Night.” Flynn says back, stepping away from Grace. Jasper smiles at him and just stands there watching them, waiting for Flynn to leave. Jasper points his fingers at his eyes, then at Flynn who laughs, says a nervous goodnight to Grace then leaves. Grace turns around and shakes her head at Jasper. “Something about seeing someone kiss my sister just makes me want to punch them in the face.” Jasper shrugs back at her. Grace crosses her arms, frowning at Jasper as she walks over to them. “Why don’t you like Flynn?” She asks accusingly. “I do like Flynn, trust me. I really like Flynn.” Jasper answers. “Oh yeah? How much do you like Flynn?” Ryan asks jokingly acting insulted. “Piss off, you.” Jasper nudges Ryan. “I don’t like him that much.” He winks then turns back to Grace. “He’s a great guy, I swear I don’t have an issue with him. I just want to make sure he knows that I’m watching him and he can’t get away with anything, that’s all.” He tells her. “I really like him too.” Grace sighs. “I’d hope so, since the two of you are ‘married’. That’s actually part of the reason I’m not sure this is all a good idea, I mean what happens if you guys do end up together and a few years down the track you want to get married for real? Just wouldn’t invite Mum and Dad?” Jasper asks. “I guess that’s a problem for future me to deal with. I’m going to bed.” Grace sighs and walks off. Jasper turns and realizes that Ryan had already snuck off for bed. Jasper heads in for a quick shower before going to bed, trying not to wake Ryan up. Jasper lies beside him, looking at him for a minute while his mind races thinking about how good things were between them, and how much he didn’t want his parents to ruin it. The thought of Ryan being disappointed because he was so positive that Jasper’s parents would be ok, really hurt to think of. He wanted nothing more than for them to catch the break they both deserved after the roller coaster of drama they’d been going through lately. Getting lost in his thoughts, Jasper finds himself tossing and turning, no idea how much time had passed. “Are you ok?” Ryan mumbles, moving closer to Jasper. “Sorry. My brain just won’t shut up tonight.” Jasper whispers back. “Worried about your parents?” Ryan asks, sitting up and checking his phone to see the time before snuggling in close again and kissing his cheek. “Sorry I woke you up.” Jasper whispers back. “Mm, do you need me to take your mind off things?” Ryan whispers. “You just want to win, again.” Jasper replies, pushing Ryan away lightly. “You know I am not actually playing, right? This whole game is in your head, I think it’s funny but I don’t actually care.” Ryan informs him. Jasper is silent as he considers this then he sighs. “Nice try, you nearly got me.” Jasper scoffs. “I am serious, I don’t care.” “So are you saying you concede?” Jasper asks. “I’m saying there’s not anything to concede because it never was a competition to me.” Ryan states and Jasper is silent again in thought. “I’m not losing.” He finally states. “You do realize the longer this goes on the less either of us are winning?” Ryan says amused. Jasper thinks it over. “Do you need me to forfeit?” He asks. “Yes.” Jasper replies. “Fine. I concede. You win.” Ryan laughs. “Damn right I win.” Jasper grins. “I thought winning would be more satisfying than this.” He sighs a moment later. “Oh that’s not the satisfying part.” Ryan whispers, shifting to press his body completely against Jasper’s. “You won, what do you want your prize to be?” He asks him smoothly then starts kissing his neck. “Can it be, a lifetime on a fully private island somewhere no one can find us?” Jasper asks sarcastically. Ryan cups his face and turns his cheek to bring their lips together, deciding he needed to stop Jasper from talking or this kind of cynical conversation would probably continue and neither of them would end up getting any kind of decent sleep. Jasper knew exactly what he was trying to achieve, and was happy to give in to the welcome distraction, though neither of them had energy, just sharing the quiet moment in each-others’ arms was enough to change the mood, the gentle sleepy kisses were enough change the mood so it was a little easier to relax. Though he was still worried about his parents visit, Jasper felt so connected to Ryan that he was able to fall asleep just concentrating on the fact that his parent's opinions couldn’t change the love he felt in this man’s arms. It wasn’t the most restful sleep, with Eleanor waking up the household only a few hours after they’d all finally gotten to sleep, and then again at dawn. Jasper struggled to get back to sleep once there was the first glimmer of sunlight leaking through his windows, so after failing to doze off again he finally reluctantly peels back the sheets and carefully slips out of bed, careful not to wake Ryan up as he sneaks around getting dressed before heading out of the room. “Hello?” He frowns as he walks out into the kitchen the next morning to find someone he didn’t immediately recognize standing making coffee. “Hey Jasper, how do I look?” It was Flynn, but without any visible tattoos or piercings, wearing a polo shirt instead of a band shirt or the usual, no shirt, and with his hair neatly combed. “What do you think? Will they like me?” He asks, doing a quick spin. “Uh, yeah probably. I mean you’re fake married to my sister so there’s already a pretty good chance they won’t look for any negatives.” Jasper shrugs, frowning as he takes in the wildly different appearance. “When I wake up properly, I’m going to laugh at you about this, I promise.” He tells him with a smile. “Good, I expect that from you. Even Grace laughed when she saw me. She let me in then went back to bed, said Ellie had a restless night.” Flynn states, looking over at Grace who was taking advantage of Ellie being asleep again, to get in the last bit of a nap she could. “Mm, none of us did.” Jasper answers. “How are you feeling about today?” Flynn asks in a more serious tone. “I’ve come up with a list of things I’d rather do and one of the things I thought of was being eaten alive by piranhas so suffice to say, I’m not particularly keen but Ryan seems determined that this won’t be the worst so I’m trying to fake positivism.” Jasper sighs, turning and looking over at Ryan as he comes out of the bedroom. “Aw did I wake you up? I was trying to be quiet.” Jasper sighs as Ryan walks straight over to him and starts massaging his shoulders, which were aching from the stress clean the night before. “It’s fine. I didn’t want you up stressing by yourself.” Ryan tells him confidently, Jasper rolls his eyes, hanging his head and letting Ryan’s hands work their magic on his shoulders and neck. “Just promise no matter how shitty this is, we won’t let it break us, because we’re finally really good and I don’t want my parents to be the thing that ruins it.” Jasper sighs and tilts his head back to look up into Ryan’s eyes. “They won’t. I’m starting to think we’re unbreakable.” Ryan answers, trying to be comforting and sweet, he leans down and kisses him softly. “Oh you just had to say that.” Jasper groans. “Now a meteor is going to land on our apartment or something. Which, would also still be better than having to see my parents today.”
  6. Hopefully will be posting updates weekly as this story is already completely written and just needs editing, hope it continues to keep your interest.
  7. Waking up in a dark room in a stranger's bed, Tyler feels his body tense and his blood run through cold, completely immobilizing him with fear. He blinks a few times, trying to force his eyes to adjust to the darkness that surrounded him as quickly as possible so he could work out where he was, or at least how to escape. He feels his head pounding in time with his heart, the sound of blood rushing through his ears was almost deafening. Realising he was panicking, he tries to control his breathing, taking deep breaths to calm down. He inhales slowly and holds his breath for a moment to try and will himself out of the impending panic, that’s when he hears something that sends his blood cold again. His breath was held, but he could still hear breathing. Trying desperately to stay calm, he opens his eyes again and stares at the ceiling, concentrating as hard as he could on where the breathing was coming from. The bed beside him felt empty, but the breathing sounded close, he was being watched maybe even guarded. Tyler gulps and lowers his gaze from the ceiling to the wall opposite him, only a few steps from the end of the bed from his guess. 'Maybe if I just get up and run'. Tyler thinks and scans the room again nervously, so afraid that moving would get him unwanted attention that he barely moves his head as he searches for a door that he could escape through. Slowly and carefully, he pulls his legs free from the blankets and lets his feet slide off the bed then takes another deep breath before he stands up and runs towards where he hopes a door could be. He hears footsteps behind him on the wooden floors and feels a wall before him, it rattles as he hits it so Tyler feels around quickly for a door knob, turns it and runs out, slamming the door behind him before turning to see where he is. There was light coming in from a small window above a toilet and Tyler sighs as he realizes he's trapped himself in a bathroom. Quickly, he locks the door and stumbles backwards until he feels another wall behind him. He slides down it to the ground shivering in terror as he cowers between the toilet and sink. The person on the other side of the door jiggles the door knob and bashes on it while yelling something that sounded like jibberish, the shear fear running through him was making every sound but the pulsing of his heart impossible to hear. Tyler closes his eyes and brings his legs up to his chest, hugging them tight in an attempt to comfort himself as he tries to remember how he got here and who brought him here. He'd just gotten home from school to find his house open but nobody home, or so he thought. There was an odd smell in the house that Tyler couldn’t recognise, all he knew was something seemed wrong. He had felt eyes burning into him everywhere he was but had been so focused on finding out what’d happened and if his family was ok, that he hadn’t even really thought about whether he was in danger or not. He’d walked cautiously looking for his mum and dad who were normally home at this time of day. There was just something wrong about everything, there was no comforting homely feeling, he couldn’t recognize a single familiar sound or smell and little things had stood out, the burnt smell of his mother’s baking lingering through the whole house and the silence rather than the afternoon news headlines that his parents would have on while they caught up about each other’s days over a cup of tea. The feeling of being watched intensified as he wandered up the hallway, but fear kept him from daring to look. He had walked into his parent's room to see it was a complete mess, the mirror that stood beside the door was smashed and the sheets were torn from the bed, pulled off to one side. He gasped at the sight of the normally neat room but what caught his attention next was something that terrified him beyond belief. "Please open the door! I'm not going to hurt you." The stranger’s voice yells from the other side of the bathroom door. Tyler had forgotten momentarily about the situation he was currently in and at the pounding on the door, he jumps. "Please open the door!" The voice demands again, sounding desperate.  "You killed my family!" Tyler screams back, attempting to sound brave though he could feel a lump of tears making its way up his throat, forcing his voice to waver. He closes his eyes as he remembers what he'd seen in his parent’s room, though as soon as the memories come forward in his brain he wishes he could forget. The smell of the blood that was seeping into the carpet around their bodies, their faces, eyes open in a blank stare of fear. The image in his mind was torture but it was so vivid and all he could think about, his beautiful Mum who he’d rarely seen with any expression but an encouraging smile, his Dad protectively holding her in his arms, his white business shirt stained with blood from a number of knife wounds. "I didn't kill them. Please, I am so sorry, you must be terrified. Open the door and let me explain what happened to them." The voice behind the door seems to be more urgent than before. Tyler shakes his head, hugs his legs and dares to close his eyes again. He thinks again about what he'd seen.  At the sight of his parent’s slashed and blood covered bodies, he had frozen in fear. He put his hands over his mouth to silence himself, too afraid to make a sound until he was sure he was safe. After a few long moments of staring at the bodies before him, struggling to make sense of what he was seeing, Tyler took a step towards them, his legs shaking as he neared them. He knelt beside his mother and touched her hand, quickly realising that she was still warm. For a moment he wondered if there was any way to resuscitate her, but when he shifted his father to see her injury and saw the wound in her chest he knew there was nothing he could do. He breathed deeply realizing in his shock he’d held his breath, then blinked away the tears in his eyes as he bent down and kissed her cheek, whispering a goodbye before gently closing her eye lids. He looked beside her at his Dad, he was just as pale as his Mum and the wounds covering his body were undeniably fatal in their multitude. He had obviously put up the best fight he could to protect them. Though his mind was numb, his instinct kicked in, making him feel powerful or as if he had nothing to lose. Suddenly coming to terms with the situation, he turned around and searched for a weapon, in case the person who'd killed them was still in his house, with most of the objects in the room broken, he found nothing he could use, even the broken mirror was shattered into such small pieces he’d barely inflict any damage with the biggest shard. A shiver ran up Tyler’s spine as he again, felt eyes on him from somewhere, he looked around but saw nothing. He walked back out of the room that was now his parent’s tomb. Tyler looked down the hallway and headed down towards his sister’s room, silently begging that she’d gone to a friends’ house after school. The room hadn’t been touched, apart from the shoes and school bag that was dumped at the end of the bed. His skin prickled as he slowly walked to her wardrobe, hoping he’d find her hiding in there safe but terrified. He opened the door and gulped, there was nothing but a pile of unfolded clothes, no sign of his sister. Tyler closed the door and turned half expecting to see the killer but instead there was nothing but emptiness. Someone was enjoying this horrible and sick little mind game with him. Tyler walked out of her bedroom and down the hallway, noticing photos on the wall were tipped, some had even fallen to the ground. He hadn’t noticed this when he walked in, but if it had happened while he was in the house, surely he would have heard the smash of glass, his senses were raging now, the adrenaline making him more vigilant. He noticed blood on the glass on the floor, then some streaked finger marks on the door to the bathroom. Terrified of what he'd find, he slowly pushed the door open and stepped inside. On the floor beside the bathtub, his sister's dress lay ripped and tainted with blood. He'd taken a deep breath and walked forward seeing a trail of drops of blood leading into the bathtub and on the walls behind it were streaks, like hand prints. There was a noise behind him and before he could turn to see what caused it he felt a hand cover his eyes and pull him backwards with the words 'don't make a sound' whispered in his ear. Tyler obeyed the order in the hope the person would let him go but instead he felt a damp cloth smothering his nose and mouth. He struggled for a moment then heard a loud thump behind him and blacked out.  The knocking on the other side of the door had stopped but Tyler could see the shadows at the bottom of the door, the light was on in the bedroom now and it was obvious the man was still waiting for him. He could feel the strong and dominant figure’s presence on the other side of the door, making him feel even weaker as he sat shivering on the cold tiles. His heart racing as he gulps back his fear and straightens his back a little to make himself feel stronger. "LEAVE ME ALONE!" Tyler screams and a flood of tears finally pours out of his eyes, he’d been trying so hard to be brave but he’d lost his strength, the memory of what he’d seen was too much for him to handle. He hears footsteps walking away from the door and feels alone, he couldn't believe the guy had done what he said and left but he was afraid of what might happen next. The stranger could be going to get a key or could be just testing to see if Tyler would come out, Tyler just hugs his legs tight and rests his head on his knees then stays still. He feels so terrified that he can hardly move. It was hours before Tyler heard the footsteps return again outside the bathroom. The sun had finally started to come up and lit up the bathroom. Being able to see his surroundings properly, Tyler was able to relax a little. He was content knowing that he was alone and from what he could tell, he wasn’t in any immediate danger, sure he was trapped but he wasn’t having to fight for his life yet so he was trying to stay calm and rest so he’d have the energy when he needed it. He had a sink he could drink water from and though not very comfortable, he’d rolled up a towel and was resting on the floor using it as a pillow. The early morning air blowing through the tiny window was cold but there was a bathrobe in the room that he’d pulled on for warmth. In the time he’d been left alone, he’d looked for a way out, even though he was petite, he was too big to fit through the window, it was about the size of his head, he’d considered waving a towel out of the window in the hope someone would help him but from what he could see, the bathroom was at the back of the house and all that was behind the house, was dark bushland. If he could just escape, it’d be too easy to run and hide in the bushland, he always enjoyed climbing trees when he was young so he knew he’d be able to climb one and hide from the evil man waiting for him outside the door. He’d even picked a tree he could see that wasn’t far into the bush area but was tall, seemed like plenty of low branches to climb but there was a thick covering of leaves he could hide amongst when he got high enough. Assuming he ran fast enough and climbed fast enough, he could get to is and hide up in the overgrown branches quite easily until it was dark again. Then he’d come down in the cover of night and run to the front of the house where he assumed there was a street, judging by the few cars he’d heard passing by. "Please come out." The voice on the other side of the door asks calmly, as the man again attempts to turn the handle, checking on the off chance that Tyler had unlocked it in his absence. "NO! LEAVE. ME. ALONE!" Tyler yells back.  "Do you need anything? You must be getting hungry or something.” "I need whoever the hell you are to go and die! Leave me alone!" Tyler shouts. The silence that follows leaves him to, once again, do nothing but lay there. He had no idea who was on the other side of the door but he hated him more than he'd ever hated anything or anyone before. Tyler stands up and looks out the window again, trying to think of how to get out there. He looks into the mirror above the sink and sighs as he sees how much of a mess he is, his black hair was all knotted and he had some dirty marks on his face, on closer look he realizes it’s dried blood, and to his disgust, not even his own blood. Figuring he was safe for now, he runs some water and splashes it on his face to clean himself, running his fingers through his hair and neatening it a little too. He cups the water in his hands and drinks some then looks back at himself, considering his next move. He shakes his head and frustration boils inside him as he contemplates how he could find his way out of this, then the thought occurs to him to use the mirror to look out from under the door, get an idea of whether or not his kidnapper was still here.He draws his arm back and punches the mirror without hesitation with as much force as he could muster. With a smash, the glass shatters and falls all over the bench and sink. There were a few longer and wider pieces he could use but he’d gotten the attention of his captor again. "What just happened?!" The voice asks as the man once again races to the door, rattling at the handle to try and get in. "Are you ok?"  "What the hell do you care!" Tyler yells back, his hand shaking a little from the pain of the impact and the cuts from the glass. Tyler stares at his hand and grips a shard of glass that was stuck in his wrist, he takes a deep breath and pulls it out quickly, biting his lip at the pain, he knew if he let out that he’d hurt himself, this stranger might be more determined to break in. "Look I'll let you stay in there and I'll leave you alone until you’re ready to talk, but you have to promise me you aren't going to hurt yourself." The man begs. Tyler ignores him and looks at his hand which is covered in blood. The pain is horrible but it makes Tyler feel a sense of pride at his own strength, survival instinct really changed a person and what they could endure. He raises his head to look at the broken mirror and notices it was a cabinet, he pushes the broken cabinet door open and looks into it, not sure of what he was looking for but expecting to find just the right thing in there. There were a heap of bandages and containers of pills. He knew his first thought should be to bandage his bleeding wrist but instead he found himself reading the labels on the pills. “Why didn’t you kill me?” Tyler asks calmly. “Do you need me alive?” He licks his lips, wondering if escaping wasn’t the best option. If failing to escape mean his captor could kill him or worse then what was the point, he couldn’t stand the idea of being tortured. Worst case scenario was never death to him, it was being tormented on the brink of it. If this person needed him alive and there was a chance he would be tortured, Tyler knew he what he’d rather do. “I want you to be alive. That’s why you’re here.” The man answers. 'Do not take more than 2 in the space of 6 hours.' the warning on one of the pill containers read, following that was some fine print that Tyler ignores. It was almost like a message telling him just how to take himself out of his situation. He shakes it and judges by the sound and weight, that there are definitely more than 2 tablets in there. The noise of the tablets attracts the attention of the person on the other side of the door. "Can you please open this damn door!" He shouts and rattles the handle again, sounding frustrated. Tyler looks over towards the door and shrugs then opens the container. He considers taking the rest of the tablets and sees the container is almost empty anyway. He counts them out, 12 altogether. "Seriously open this door right now!" The voice demands.  "I don’t think so. You’re not going to get anything out of having me here? I’d rather die." Tyler replies coldly and picks up the first tablet inspecting it in his shaky hands, wondering if he really was capable of doing this. "Open the door. You need to trust me. Open the door and let me help you." The stranger begs desperately. Tyler quickly takes the first tablet, cupping water in his hands and sipping it to help wash it down. “I’ll take care of myself. You don’t get to hurt me.” He calmly grabs the container of pills, pouring a few more into his hand. "I WON'T HURT YOU!" The man yells. Tyler takes the next tablet and smiles as it slides down his throat. That was 2, anything more than that was against the warning label. He’d seen enough drug talks in health class at school to know that overdosing and death went hand in hand. “How many should I take?” Tyler asks himself quietly and frowns. “To be sure…” He starts then impatiently tips the rest into his mouth trying desperately to swallow them all. He smiles when he swallows the last of them and slowly drops beside the counter with the pill container still in his hand, already feeling numbness settle in, or maybe it was just the weakness of an empty stomach, the adrenaline crash and the bleeding from his wrist. He closes his eyes, feeling successful and waiting for the blissful world of Heaven to surround him. He feels his body becoming weaker and starts shivering again.  "Here I come Mum, Dad and Jade. I'll be with you soon." He mumbles and tips his head back, welcoming the blackness that clouded his vision and the noises around him drifting away, leaving him in a peaceful silence. When Tylers eyes open again he feels groggy and sore. The ground below him was cold and he could feel the glass he'd broken earlier under his hand. He coughs and looks around, horrified and disappointed to see the bathroom he'd so desperately tried to leave.  "WHY DIDN'T IT WORK!?" He cries. The tablet container had rolled over to the door while he’d been passed out. Tyler hated himself for swallowing all the tablets, he couldn't move his body at all now, apart from his head. Even just the thought of moving was painful, his head was throbbing and all his muscles seem to ache. The room was piercingly bright and Tyler figures he’d been asleep for at least a few hours in his self-inflicted coma. With a painful lurch towards the toilet, he clings to the seat and vomits, his bile brightly coloured from the pills. He hears two voices now but can’t quite make out what was being said. He recognizes the voice that had been asking him to open the door then hears footsteps coming towards the door and frowns as he hears the lock turning. He lets go of the toilet seat and lets himself fall back against the wall weakly. The lock clicks and Tyler shivers as the door opens. To his shock the person who turns the light on looks more worried about Tyler than he was about seeing this stranger. There was something intimidating about the way he seemed so confident standing before him, he didn’t look like a killer but then again neither did Ted Bundy so he could only assume that this man, at the very least, had it in him to murder someone. Tyler tries to move but his body seemed as though it was paralysed from whatever he'd taken, his muscles too heavy to move. "Oh god are you ok?" The man asks, brushing his hair away from his eyes. Tyler looks away from him quickly, not wanting the man to see how afraid he was. He looks out of the corner of his eye as the man picks up the tablet container that had rolled to the door and sighs. "Please tell me this is empty because you tipped them down the sink or toilet or something." He says then looks at Tyler again.  "Leave me alone." Tyler says weakly, his words slurring and his eyes feeling heavy, though he willed himself to try not to give in to the pull of sleep. "Oh lets not start that again."
  8. After the distressing discovery in his home, a serial killer on the loose and a stranger asking for his trust, Tyler realizes that his life is never going to be the same again. "You’re actually going to be confirmed as dead when they do the official police reports. It’s for your own safety that you go under cover now.” Zeke tells him, Tyler raises his eyebrows at how serious the situation was, taking a few moments to comprehend what Zeke had just said. “I’ll be reported as dead? My friends will think I’ve been murdered?”
  9. Over the next few weeks, Simon, Luke, Blake and Jasper all work hard on producing at least one of their singles, getting ready to finally put more music out and get the ball rolling on their comeback under the new label. Ryan was working with them, helping out wherever he saw an opportunity, but he wasn’t working on his own music, Jasper knew but Ryan hadn’t yet told the rest of the band that he was going to follow his dance career. He’d had a lot of opportunities come his way since the end of the show, all of which would mean more time away from Jasper which was the only reason he hadn’t taken up any of them of yet. With music set to come out, the guys were starting to release some teasers to hype up their fans, and planning shows so there was a lot of excitement and focus simply because Mark was involving them so much in all the planning and giving them plenty of options as to what shows they wanted to appear on to sell their music and not questioning them on their choices. The guys felt empowered and motivated, and it was amazing to watch their enthusiasm and determination as they worked with such passion. Having instruments in the room was bringing out a lot of new ideas, Luke had Jasper teach him some chords on the piano, and they were starting to incorporate each other’s strengths in their own song writing, Blake and Jasper were thrilled to show off and try to compose the instrumental parts to their friends lyrics. Even this felt like a massive step as they’d been in a system of submitting their lyrics and having the background music done the way Chris wanted. Luke had actually never thought about the music behind his lyrics other than knowing the tune in his head so hearing Jasper and Blake play along while he sung was a new favourite experiment. Obviously the highlight of any band session was Blake’s guitar solos that he would launch into at any given opportunity. He’d be playing his song and stuff up a single chord and just go off on an improvised tangent of chords, or his favourite, sneaking up behind someone, almost always Jasper, and scaring him by slamming out a loud note. Simon was the first with a whole mini album of 5 songs written, two that were solos that he’d been quick to record and was working on producing, the other three included parts for each of the other members to sing, which he’d not yet had a chance to get them all to work out because everyone was more interested in their own work. In some ways their individual projects were fantastic for bringing back their passion and focus, but with everyone so keen to work on their own songs it was hard to get anything complete as a group because everyone wanted to prioritize their own work. Still, all things considered, with TV interviews lined up to promote their new work, shows planned and venues being booked ahead of the release of music, plus half a dozen songs each being planned for their personal albums, there was so much good going on that no one was worried about whether or not it’d all work out, everyone had something they hadn’t had in a long time, confidence in themselves and each other that it would all come together. With teaser music released along with some photos there was an uproar of attention back on the band and it was bringing out a lot of drama, Chris would have been lapping it up if he was still profiting off it, but news had broken of his mistreatment and sexual harassment of some of the women that were signed to his label and that was the end of his career, along with his new charges the quiet settlement he’d forfeited to The Obsolete members were now common knowledge. Suffice to say he was finally getting what he deserved. Unfortunately that wasn’t the only drama that had broken, in support of the members, the teenager that had seen Jasper and Blake the night of the fight with Grace’s ex, had posted about what he saw. He’d said with good intentions, to say how amazingly caring they both were towards him when he’d witnessed the fight, but the mention of Jasper in a physical fight went viral without correct context to back up his reasons and keeping Grace’s situation private while defending himself was proving difficult. Mark was great at coming up with tactics to address the issue without giving away actual information but the negative news was spiraling out of control with rumors. “Good to see you’re stealing the spotlight again Jasper.” Simon jokes. “Mm, well any time one of you wants the attention go right ahead and announce your secret marriages or something. I’m pretty over it.” Jasper comments, he’d been actively avoiding looking at or reading the speculations but had caught Ryan reading the articles that had started coming out today. The first few times, Ryan gave him a smile, but those started looking more forced by the end of the day. “Everything ok?” Jasper asks, unable to ignore the silence as he and Ryan head home at the end of the day. Ryan nods slowly, but he was clearly holding his jaw tightly shut. “Ry?” Jasper asks again. “Isn’t it bothering you?” Ryan asks quickly. “All the rumors?” “Rumors? No. I'm good.” Jasper shrugs. “How do you not care what people are saying about you?” Ryan sighs “Well I guess knowing my own side of the story they are talking shit about helps. Why? Are you starting to believe them?” Jasper asks trying to hide the insult in his voice. “I don’t understand where these stories are coming from if there’s nothing behind them.” Ryan pauses as he thinks about what he was going to say next, but hearing the frustrated exhale from Jasper beside him he knows he’s already made the implication. “I just, if there’s something I need to know about, you would tell me about it right? Because…” “Ryan, I haven’t done anything behind your back. How social do you think I am? I don’t have friends and I barely have family. I’m not off having some kind of affair, come on. Be realistic. Stop fishing for a reason to let your anxiety win this fight. We’ve talked about this a dozen times, I know it doesn’t make it ok but do you really think I’d be keeping things from you if I was already prepared to tell you about the one time I actually did push things too far?” Jasper points out frustrated, leaving Ryan silent again in thought. The rest of the drive they don’t speak, when they get home and park the car, they both sit in silence for a moment before Jasper decides to break it again. “Ryan I love you but you have got to start trusting me, because there’s always going to be stupid stuff like this come up as long as we are in the spotlight, you will have to learn to trust that I will always tell you the truth.” Jasper breathes. “You promise?” Ryan asks, holding up the finger he wore his promise ring on. “I promise.” Jasper does the same, smiling to himself. Ryan undoes his seatbelt, leaning over to kiss Jasper. “Are we good now?” Jasper asks once their lips part. “We’re good.” Ryan replies, undoing Jasper’s seat belt and giving him a cheeky smile as he takes his hands and leans back into his seat, drawing Jasper over onto his lap. “This is super uncomfortable.” Jasper laughs, his back pressed against the steering wheel and his head touching the roof of the car. “I don’t know what you were hoping for but I can’t move.” He tells Ryan, Ryan just smirks and lowers the seat back. “Better?” He asks mischievously, Jasper leans forward on him more but couldn’t help but laugh at how far from practical this was. “Romantic movies really set me up for a lot of false expectations.” Ryan sighs. “Somehow in my head this was going to work out fine.” “Horror movies set me up to believe that if we have sex in a car, we’ll be brutally murdered next.” Jasper says in a joking tone. “Well the only thing getting killed right now is the mood.” Ryan laughs, Jasper presses his body against Ryan’s and kisses him deeply and slowly, their building hunger for one another naturally speeding up the kiss until eventually they are pulling away from each other breathless. “Well I think we’ve established that this is not going to work in here.” Ryan reaches for the door handle and opens it. Jasper climbs out and leans against the car while he waits for Ryan. The two hold hands, a knowing smile on their faces as they head up to their apartment. Jasper lets out a groan when he hears Eleanor’s cry as he and Ryan approach the door. “Wasn’t Grace meant to be at an appointment this afternoon?” Ryan sighs and lets go of Jasper’s hand. “I thought so.” Jasper sighs. “I might just head to the gym for a bit since we’re not going to have time to ourselves anyway.” Ryan states, pressing a kiss to Jasper’s cheek and walking off. Jasper sighs and walks inside alone, Grace looked stressed as she hurries about grabbing things and shoving them in a nappy bag. “Hey. Need anything?” Jasper asks, heading over to Ellie and tickling her little feet. “Eleanor, I can hear you from the hallway, you do know you’re not dying right?” He asks in his baby voice. Ellie looks at him for a moment then continues screaming. “I’ve got an appointment and I’m running late and she hasn’t napped and...” Grace starts sobbing. “I haven’t had a chance to do anything, I’m so sorry. I know there’s mess everywhere but she won’t let me put her down, all she does is scream if I’m not holding her.” “Well I’m here so what do you need me to do?” Jasper asks. “Nothing, nothing. I’ve got to go.” Grace wheels over the stroller and picks Ellie up, placing her in the stroller while Jasper cringes at the dramatic ear-piercing scream it causes. Grace rushes out the door taking the whirlwind of stress with her, the silence is momentarily overwhelming given the chaos he’d walked into. Jasper takes out his phone and sends Ryan a suggestive text to let him know Grace was gone but a second after he presses send he hears a knock on the door. Jasper walks over excited, imagining that Ryan had seen Grace leave and come back, but instead he’s greeted by Blake. “What are you doing here?” Jasper frowns at him, stepping out of the way to let him in. “Flynn’s downstairs taking Grace to an appointment so I hitched a ride. Am I interrupting anything?” Blake asks, peering around to see if Ryan was there. “He’s at the gym so no.” Jasper shrugs. “Did you guys follow us here?” He asks as he and Blake walk back towards the lounge area. “No, why? Were you doing something you shouldn’t have been?” Blake asks with raised eyebrows, straight to the point as he makes himself at home, helping himself to a can of coke from the fridge before heading to the couch. “If by ‘doing something we shouldn’t’ you mean arguing about whether or not I am more trustworthy than gossip blogs, then yes. We absolutely were.” Jasper says sarcastically, Blake gives him a concerned look. “Oh so he’s off at the gym taking his anger out on a boxing bag then?” He suggests. “Probably, but more because Grace was still here when we got home so we didn’t get any time to really make up.” Jasper states with an amused smile. “How have things been in that department? Guess it’s not super easy with Grace living here.” He comments, shifting the pile of baby clothes that had taken over Jasper’s couch so he could sit down. “We’re good.” Jasper answers vaguely, getting himself a drink of water. “We’re being mindful of Grace, I know she is trying to be fine with us but we aren’t pushing our luck, even the occasional kiss in front of her is a little awkward.” Jasper admits as he walks over to Blake, putting his drink down and starting to fold the baby clothes, putting them in a neat stack on the coffee table. “That’s gotta be great for your sex life.” Blake says sarcastically. “Soooo, how has it been?” “Do you really want to know, or are you just being polite?” Jasper asks with a sly smirk. “The look on your face is making me both incredibly curious and a little afraid. Hit me, what’s going on?” Blake asks. “Ok. So I think we’re normal but...” “That alone is not giving me any confidence, what weird shit are you into already?” “You know how some people say foreplay starts at breakfast, meaning you start a little teasing, continue all day and then by the end of the day you’re worked up and it’s more intense? We do that for days, competitively.” Jasper tells him with a grin. Blake looks at him surprised, soon fading to confused. “What the hell is wrong with you two? You finally have sex and now you’ve made not having sex into a game? Was it that bad that it’s more fun to avoid it?” “No! It’s just admittedly way too much fun to see what it takes to completely destroy his very impressive willpower.” Jasper tells Blake who was hanging on his every word, incredibly amused by Jasper’s interesting sex life. “So what’s your record?” Blake asks. “11 days.” Jasper shrugs. “11! Are you shitting me?” Blake gasps at him. “I know right, I was surprised at my own stubbornness but we called a truce at 11.” Jasper laughs. “I will not be able to look at you and Ryan flirting the same way ever again without feeling like a witness to your sick game.” Blake tells him, watching as Jasper puts the baby clothes away in a box beside the cot that was taking up a corner of the room, since it was a one bedroom apartment and Ryan was back, Grace was now the one sleeping on the couch and using the lounge room as her oversized bedroom/ nursery. “In our defense, it’s more like 50% a game and 50% us just being continually interrupted or not having time or sneaking around being too difficult. I mean I wouldn’t want Grace to know, so it’s difficult to sneak off and spend time together without it being too obvious.” Jasper sighs, tidying up a few more out of Grace’s things. “Right, like how sneaking off for 2 hours in the middle of band practice wasn’t at all obvious.” Blake teases him. “You’re the only one that noticed.” Jasper shrugs. “And I would have told you anyway so I didn't really care.” “Everyone noticed and talked about it while you were gone, they just took the approach of pretending they didn’t. Anyway, on the topic of telling me things, why didn’t you tell me about you and Ryan making up? I said all that stuff and you probably thought I was being such a jerk because I thought you were over.” Blake and Jasper had been a little more distant since Ryan came back, from Jasper’s perspective it’d just been because he’d been so much busier between stealing all the spare time he had with Ryan, to helping Grace with Ellie and at work his focus was on the music he had finally been motivated to make, but Blake had been worried that what he had said about Ryan when he thought they were breaking up, had made things awkward. “Honestly I was going to tell you but I wanted to know what you thought of Ryan, I figured you would be biased and tell me what I wanted to hear if you knew we were working things out.” Jasper answers, only realizing from Blake’s expression that he probably should have explained himself sooner. “So letting me think you had been with someone else, was how you decided to get an honest answer from me? You know me better than that, come on. Being blunt with people is part of my charm.” Blake rolls his eyes offended. “How is you having so little faith in me, my fault. I never would have cheated on him, you know me better than that.” Jasper states confidently, turning Blake’s comment back on him. “Its not you I didn’t have faith in, it’s the alcoholic you that I doubted the morals of.” “I wasn’t an alcoholic. I was never out of control because of it and I haven’t had any trouble not drinking since that night.” Jasper shrugs, but Blake just gives him a skeptical look. “Ok so I may have put a foot over the line and gone a little too far but I was never so off my face that I wasn’t able to control what I was doing.” Jasper argues, clearly having had this argument with himself enough to convince himself it was true. “So you were fully aware that licking a stranger in the bar was a step too far?” Blake asks doubtfully. “At that moment I was playing with fire, I was deliberately seeing what my options were like and thinking maybe Ry and I were better off calling it but I realized how much I didn’t want that and left that situation before it went any further.” Jasper sighs, feeling guilty for even allowing himself to consider it, let alone act on the thought. It’d been on his mind a lot, now that Ryan was back and he knew how stupid it was. “Would you have seriously not judged me if I did cheat?” Jasper asks quietly, as though the thought had come out unintentionally. “I wouldn’t have judged you. I stand by what I said that night, you are entitled to happiness and if you and Ryan weren’t going to continue dating, which I admittedly thought by that point that you wouldn’t, then of course being with someone else is not something I would have judged you for. I was prepared to just be there to support you through a break up and whatever drama would come along with that.” Blake assures him. “And now? How do you feel about us being together?” Jasper asks nervously. “I do like Ryan, I know you don’t think I do, but I honestly do like him. I just worry that you are carrying too much of the emotional responsibility and that he is still not 100% there for you because he’s still a little interested in his ex and he’s too full of doubt to stand by you when you need him to, like through this drama where if they get a sniff of doubt they will ruin your relationship by baiting you guys into a fight. I worry that he’s not going to be able to stand by you when you need his support because he’s kinda quick to turn on you rather than turn to you whenever shit goes down between you guys.” Blake tells him honestly “Yeah.” Jasper sighs, unable to ignore the sad truth in Blake’s concerns. “He has actually really overcome a lot of the mental struggles he was having, without me. I think he needed that time apart to get his head around everything. Even with that night, he has been really good about it and he’s just talked about it whenever he’s felt insecure, I’m actually really impressed with how he’s been dealing with it. Not gonna lie it’s been basically the best time for us since he got back. We needed that time apart, we both learned some much needed truths and became stronger in ourselves so we’re much more ready to deal with things together.” Jasper can’t help but smile as he talks about how things had improved since Ryan came home. “I don’t know if I’ve ever said this, because our friendship is pretty heavily built on insults, but I really appreciate you.” Jasper tells him. Blake makes a fake gagging noise. “Gay.” He jokes, probably the only person Jasper would accept that comment from. “Ryan’s turning you nice. “Mm, speak of the devil.” Jasper smiles as he hears the door open. “Blake’s here.” Jasper calls out as Ryan walks in, before there’s any chance of inappropriate comments. “Oh hey Blake.” Ryan smiles as he walks into the room, pulling his sweaty shirt off and grabbing a glass of water. “Sup. I’ll get out of your way.” Blake gets up to leave. “You don’t need to rush off, I’m going for a shower now anyway so you might as well stay and keep Jasper company.” Ryan suggests, turning and walking off towards the bathroom. Blake looks at Jasper and laughs, shaking his head and standing up. “Subtle.” Blake scoffs. “I can’t in good conscious stay here knowing I’m now officially a cockblock.” Blake starts towards the door, but before he gets there the door opens and Grace walks in, pushing the pram with Flynn following in behind her. “Oh you might as well stay now.” Jasper throws his hands up in the air and sighs, defeated. “How many days has it been?” Blake asks casting him a knowing smirk. “6.” Jasper replies spitefully. “Ah yeah. The number that sounds most like what you want right now.” Blake replies in a whisper. “We missed the appointment, they called to reschedule so we’ve just been talking, but Ellie finally fell to sleep so I had to bring her back. Anyway Flynn came up with this idea, he said he could forge a marriage certificate and we can pretend we’re married and he’s her dad and that way our parents can meet her and be a part of her life without judging me.” Grace grins at Jasper who just stares at them confused, taken aback by how out of the blue this had come up. “Wait, roll it back. Forge a marriage certificate?” Jasper states a little sharply, Grace’s face drops at the lack of enthusiasm from Jasper. “Ryan could sign it and...” “Uh, no.” Jasper raises a hand to stop them. “Ryan’s not signing any fraudulent documents thanks. He’s not going to risk his reputation like that, are you kidding?” His statement came out cold and harsh. “What’s wrong with that?” Grace asks defensively, crossing her arms across her chest. “Forging a marriage certificate and pretending to be married? Oh, I don’t know, the whole thing?” Jasper answers, mirroring her actions. “Why?” Grace demands. “What do you mean, why? It’s insanity!” Jasper laughs at the question, he couldn’t believe she even needed an explanation from him. “Well thank you but keep your commitment issues to yourself.” Grace rolls her eyes and Jasper steps back shocked. “Excuse me? Commitment issues?” Jasper raises and eyebrow. “I saw you when Ryan was away and you loved your time apart, you don’t want to get married. Even as a kid you never wanted it. You don’t want to settle down do you?” Grace snaps, and Flynn steps forward to move the pram away so Eleanor wouldn’t be woken up by her mother’s raised voice. “No, I never wanted to settle. There’s a difference. And yeah sure, early on when Ryan was away I did enjoy my time to myself but not out of lack of love. We needed that time apart and honestly I enjoyed it that much more knowing that when he came back I wouldn’t have as much time to myself anymore because I would be spending all my free time with him.” Jasper explains, trying to keep himself from getting too frustrated. “So why do you dodge the topic of marriage with him, if you’re so committed?” Grace asks with a sneer. “Because we’re young? Because I’ve only just started to work out what I actually want in a relationship? Because if we’re going to spend the rest of our lives together, we can do that without having to rush into anything? Seriously does being realistic and not rushing mean I have commitment issues? I’ve been nothing but committed to Ryan since I met him, committed to helping him with his singing, committed to not letting our old boss treat him like shit, committed to making sure he knew people cared about him and had his back and since we started dating I’ve been committed to him romantically. We are just starting to learn our flaws so it’s way too soon to think about a lifelong lawful commitment, I mean if either of us turn out to be assholes we deserve to be able to walk away from that. What concerns me with you’re talking about is that you and Flynn can’t keep up this fâcade forever and mum and Dad feel the same way about divorce as they do about having a baby out of marriage so it’s not a lie you can get out of without any backlash. You will either disappoint them with the truth now, or a lie later, you can put it off but you can’t win. You have to do what’s right for you and Ellie, but don’t do it for them.” Jasper explains, drawing on all the calmness he could to not take it too personally. Grace looks at him for a long moment considering what he had said before letting out a heavy sigh, her eyes brimming with tears. “Flynn, I’ll talk to you later, ok?” She says without looking at him. “If you need anything let me know.” Flynn replies, signaling Blake to leave with him. “Bye fuckface.” Blake gives Jasper a wave and follows Flynn out. Grace breaks down crying at the sound of the door clicking closed. “I just want to be the best parent for her, and I’m failing her.” Grace falls to the ground sobbing and clutching her chest, as her breathing immediately starts being short. Jasper crouches in front of her, recognizing the panic attack and resting a hand on her shoulder to comfort her. “You’re not failing, you’re just putting too much pressure on yourself.” Jasper tells her calmly, making an effort to take extra deep breaths to help Grace calm her breathing in time with him. “I need Mum. I need my Mum right now. What am I going to do, I told them where I am, I told them I have a husband and a baby and they are coming to see us in a few days. What am I going to do?” Grace looks into his eyes and Jasper’s calmness disappears. “Wait you already told them? They are coming here?” Jasper asks mortified.
  10. “So Jasper, when you said you’d walk Ryan out, I didn’t realize you meant you’d walk him all the way home too.” Simon comments as Jasper walks back in the door, 2 hours after leaving. “Yeah sorry.” Jasper sighs with a smile on his face. Simon just eyes him for a moment before nodding. “You know you didn’t have to come back, I get it. He was away for months and you clearly struggled with that, you could have just spent the afternoon at home.” He tells him with a kind smile. “Hey Jasper. Is there something wrong with your phone?” Blake calls out, holding his phone up and frowning dramatically at him from across the room. Jasper quickly fishes his phone out of his pocket and checks it. “No why?” He asks. “Oh it’s just, I tried calling you but apparently the contact I saved under ‘Virgin Sacrifice’ just redirects me to a dial tone. Strange.” Blake smirks at him and for a few long moments he and Jasper just look at each other like they are having a staring contest before Blake shrugs and looks back at his phone. “Maybe you try calling me.” He watches Jasper with a devious smirk, making Jasper both nervous but intrigued about what was going to happen. He calls Blake and listens to his ringtone blaring, Blake shows Jasper his phone. “My bad, your name got changed to ‘Slutballs’. I wonder why.” He shrugs again and answers the phone, turning away and whispering into it just for Jasper to hear. “About time, Slutballs.” “You are dead to me.” Jasper replies and hangs up the phone. Blake laughs and turns around to face Jasper again, shooting him a wink which Jasper returns with putting up his middle fingers. Blake strides over and puts his arm around Jasper’s shoulder so they could talk quietly. “So, when were you going to tell me you finally got laid? I thought I was your best friend?” He asks with a sly grin. “Well I was waiting until it finally happened.” Jasper rolls his eyes. “You seriously went all the way across the country...” “It wasn’t that far.” “And didn’t get laid?” Blake asks baffled. “I told you, it wasn’t a booty call. Besides, it’s not like telling him I nearly cheated on him after ghosting him for 7 weeks was exactly a turn on, like we made up but it was definitely not the right time.” Jasper shrugs off Blake’s arm and steps away from him. “Good point.” Blake nods thoughtfully. “Today?” He asks. “I don’t kiss and tell.” Jasper winks at him. “Ooooh so there was kissing?” Blake taunts. “Among other things.” Jasper answers then turns around almost bumping into Simon. “When you guys are done whatever this is, I’d really like to talk to you Jasper.” Simon sighs. Jasper glances behind himself at Blake who was snickering at him, Jasper looks back at Simon embarrassed. “Did you hear all of that?” He asks. “Honestly, when you guys get started on your shit, I just tune you both out. Was it about your new song?” Simon asks, flipping back a few pages in his notebook. “No.” Jasper answers. “Then I don’t care. Look, I appreciate what you were going for with that song, it was raw and emotional and I respect that. I have some notes though but the main one is, I’m a little nervous that it isn’t easy enough to identify who you wake up beside at the end of the song and I think that might cause an unnecessary scandal for you guys. Is there some way you can make it more clear in the lyrics, that you were not cheating on Ryan. Because we all talked about it and that was something none of us picked up until Ryan was actually talking about it. The second concern I have is the implication that you have been drinking excessively.” “You want me to sing something meaningful and heartfelt and when I do you want me to tame it down and dumb it down? No, I wrote this who song on the flight home and I have not changed a single lyric since I got off the plane. It’s meant to be flawed, because I am flawed. I was drinking excessively, why do you think I missed so many days or turned up so late? Even when I did turn up I was still hungover sometimes. I was struggling with the distance and getting stupidly desperate for affection from anyone, especially when I was drunk it was extremely tempting to just hook-up with someone. I’m proud of the way my song tells the truth. I’m considering that because of the way it’s written, it’s probably best if this one is the one I do a music video with so we can show that it’s Ryan I’m with at the end, but I’m not changing any lyrics. I want to keep this one honest, even if it makes people see me differently.” “Hey.” Ryan greets Jasper the moment he walks back in the door. “Hey yourself. Are you getting comfortable back home?” Jasper asks. “Mmm, it’s certainly got it’s perks.” Ryan smiles over at him. “How was the rest of the day?” “How was work? Really? I’ve missed you but can we skip the small talk?” Jasper rolls his eyes, walking up to Ryan and throwing his arms around him, his eyes on his lips. “And do what?” Ryan asks, Jasper looks into his eyes and smiles cheekily. “Make out?” He suggests. “Ah, well I’d love to but I do want to talk to you first, because I’ve been thinking about your song all day and I’m feeling a little unsure about how things were while we were apart and not talking. I know you’ve said that it was just a few shots and you didn’t know the guy but...” Ryan stops as Jasper throws his head back and exhales annoyed, letting go of Ryan and stepping back. “Let me guess, you’re doubting me now, really?” He sighs, looking back at Ryan. “Why wouldn’t you have told Blake?” Ryan asks. “Firstly, I didn’t have to tell him about it because it didn’t have anything to do with him, and secondly, I told you, idiot, you’re the only one I was obligated to tell.” Jasper sighs and runs his hands from Ryan’s shoulders to his chest. “I guess but you two are so close and you always tell him things.” Ryan shrugs. “If it really was nothing then why not tell him? He clearly thought it was funny and you would have known he would react that way.” “Ryan nothing happened to tell him about and yeah I knew he would find the whole story funny but you know what else, if something had happened I would have turned to him because he has my back with everything. We even talked about it when he had seen that stupid hickey, I think he thought we had broken up because he was really supportive of me doing whatever I wanted and taking control of my happiness. He thought I was with someone else and he assured me he wouldn’t judge me. Blake would have been someone I’d have turned to, I turned to him every other time something has gone on in my life but I thought just this once, I wanted to sort things out just between us.” “And I am glad that you decided to talk to me about it, I just know you confide in Blake usually.” Ryan sighs. “Yeah, usually. But if you had gone back to band practice with me today maybe you would have understood why I didn’t tell him about us.” Jasper smirks. “Oh see you do tell him everything.” Ryan laughs. “I didn’t have to tell him, he took an educated guess and spent all afternoon paying me out at every given moment.” Jasper rolls his eyes. “Anyway, I forgot about this earlier because, well, I was distracted, but I did get you a birthday present, mind you it was when I was mad at you so consider that.” Jasper retrieves a small box from the desk drawer and holds it out for Ryan. Ryan eyes it suspiciously as he takes the small velvet box. “Is this… It’s not an…” “I’m not proposing, that would be very poorly timed right now.” Jasper sighs and watches Ryan open the box, taking out two gold rings. “It’s really cheesy but they are promise rings. You wear one and I wear one.” Jasper smiles as Ryan inspects them. “Is this instead of getting married? Same thing but no paperwork?” Ryan asks with a smile. “It’s more like, you are my person and I wanted something to symbolize that, since we’re probably going to have times like this where we’re apart a lot in the future. If you don’t like the idea Grace can return them for me and you can go ahead and do some grand gesture proposal in like 5 years instead.” Jasper crosses his arm. “If it’s a promise ring, then what is it promising?” Ryan asks, holding up one of the rings, Jasper offers his hand and Ryan slips it on a finger, giving Jasper the other ring to put on Ryan’s hand. “It’s a promise, be it a cheesy one, that I am yours and only yours. ” Jasper says in a flirty way as he puts the ring on Ryan’s finger, but he could see that Ryan was only faking a smile at his statement. “Look, I know you probably think I’m just saying that because it’s what you want to hear, but I swear it’s not, I really mean it. Above every single selfish thought I had while you were away and every single need I felt I had to right to act on, above anything I want for myself, I want to make you happy. I would never do anything to hurt you, and I proved that even when I was so out of it that my decision making was extremely questionable, there’s nothing that would ever come above my priority to make sure that I was not going to hurt you. Even not speaking to you for 7 weeks, though I’m sure it did hurt a bit, was to protect you from the shitty things in my head that were so much worse. But when it came to it, and I was so drunk that it made perfect sense to tip someone literally thousands of dollars to let me get to you, more than it made sense to take the easiest possible option and end up in bed with Harley.” Jasper assures him, holding Ryan’s hands and making eye contact with him so Ryan could see he was being sincere. “Harley? I thought you said you couldn’t remember his name.” Ryan frowns. “That’s seriously your take away from that little speech?” Jasper raises his eyebrow. “I honestly couldn’t when I was telling you about it, but remembering a name is hardly something you can be mad at me for.” “I’m a little mad.” Ryan admits with a shrug. “I guess that’s your right, I did spend forever trying to get you to stop treating me like I was going to pull a ‘Damien’ style move and then I did exactly that.” Jasper sighs, letting go of Ryan’s hands and stepping back from him, guilt all over his face. “No.” Ryan shakes his head. “Pretty sure he would have slept with the guy, and probably 7 minutes into not talking to me, not 7 weeks.” Ryan looks at the way Jasper was eyeing the ring on his hand. “This has been getting to you, hasn’t it?” He walks up to Jasper again to comfort him. “I was mad at you for not trusting me then I did something to break that trust I was begging for, and now you’re being forgiving and I’m grateful but I also can’t help thinking that maybe that’s just because you are use to being forgiving and I’m taking that for granted by accepting your forgiveness. I don’t want you to be mad at me and I don’t want to be fighting but you’ve been so good about this. If you’d done it to me I’d probably be being petty as revenge.” Jasper sighs. “I thought doing shots in a bar with a stranger was the petty revenge for me taking Damien home when I should have been spending the night cherishing you.” Ryan answers with a smile. “Would it make you feel better if I took petty revenge on you?” He suggests jokingly. “Maybe.” Jasper sighs again, finally looking back up at Ryan who’s eyes were on him with a searing intensity. When Jasper catches his glance, Ryan just smirks. “What?” Jasper asks. “On nothing.” Ryan shakes his head then his eyes go to the ring on Jasper’s finger, before looking back at his own. “Thanks for the present.” He smiles. “Thanks for putting up with my shit. I’m sure there’s easier people to date, don’t know why you’d choose me but I am grateful.” Jasper smiles back. “I’m grateful that you didn’t give up on me all the times I let you down. So lets just call it even and move on.” Ryan suggests, relieved that they’d had this conversation. Hearing and seeing how much guilt Jasper was feeling had been comforting in a way, knowing how much it had been upsetting to Jasper that he’d put their relationship in jeopardy, certainly reassured him more than any words could. “You’re my person, and I’ll always choose you.” Ryan tells him, Jasper’s face lights up as he hears Ryan copy his statement, he stands a little more confidently and fixes an alluring gaze on Ryan. “What would you do with me after you chose me?” Jasper asks in a flirty tone. “What?” Ryan asks confused by the change in tone from the self pity Jasper had been using. “You heard me.” Jasper shrugs. “What would you do with me after you chose me?” He asks again, leaning back a little against the bench and watching Ryan realize what he was trying to initiate, this time Ryan gives him a devious smirk. “What wouldn’t I do?” He answers then steps in a little closer. Jasper’s eyes hold his gaze, and the desire draws him in. “First of all, I would hold your hand.” Ryan says, lowering his voice to a deep and sexy tone as he reaches for Jasper’s hand, his instantly changed demeanor taking Jasper by surprise but he doesn’t make comment, for once not wanting to dare ruin the moment. “Then I’d do this.” Ryan tilts Jasper’s chin with his other hand and holds steady eye contact with him, seeing the glint of excitement in his eyes, as he waits for Ryan to make another move. “And I’d kiss you like this.” Ryan tells him placing a delicate kiss on his lips, that only acted to tease him, knowing that Jasper was hoping for so much more. “Aw.” Jasper whines and is about to protest the underwhelming kiss but immediately shuts up as he sees the way Ryan was looking at him, it was the same way he’d caught him looking earlier and he couldn’t help but think that this was what Ryan had been thinking about back then, so he stays quiet and lets Ryan continue taking the lead, curious to know exactly what was going through his mind. “Then, I’d take you here.” Ryan starts leading Jasper to their bedroom. “And do this.” He tells him, pulling him to the edge of the bed then letting go of his hand and pushing him onto it, climbing on after him. Jasper grins at him, loving the walk through but excited for the talking to stop, falsely confident that he knew what was happening next. Ryan takes a moment to silently run his hand down Jasper’s body to the top of his pants, then back up all the way to the side of his face, where he strokes his cheek and leans in until their lips are nearly touching. Jasper instinctively tilts his head wanting to close the gap between their lips but Ryan moves just slightly out of reach, he doesn’t speak, just lingers teasingly close, moving every time Jasper tries to kiss him. “Then what?” Jasper cracks quickly which earns him an amused chuckle from Ryan, before he uses the hand on Jasper’s cheek to turn his head to the side and Ryan leaves him hanging for the hot kiss Jasper was desperate for. Instead his lips now lingered on the edge of his jaw. “Then I’d run my lips down your neck, to that sensitive spot on your collar bone, touching you so ghostly that you are not even sure if I’m touching you at all or if it’s just the heat of my breath you can feel.” Ryan was speaking quieter again, as he does exactly what he is describing, watching the subtle movements of Jasper’s body as he reacted to the teasing, flinching as Ryan’s breath tickles his neck, he pauses again right where he knew Jasper was sensitive. Jasper holds his breath for a moment, waiting and wanting for Ryan to kiss him but after a moment of hesitation Ryan’s lips start grazing their way back up his neck, all the way to his ear. Ryan lies beside him now, his hand crawling slowly down Jasper’s body, to his pants, pausing and crawling back up. “Ry…”Jasper starts but stops to listen to Ryan as he starts talking again, now in whisper that Jasper had to really concentrate on to hear properly. “Then I’d start teasing…” “THEN!?” Jasper practically shouts, turning quickly to Ryan and sitting up for a second before the hand on his chest pushes him back downs. He was already starting to struggle to contain the building frustration. His outburst breaks Ryan’s so far committed control but he quickly composes himself again. He was having way too much fun with this and Jasper was regretting being the one to ask for it, though in his defense he had not expected Ryan to answer his question verbally. Certainly if it was him answering the same question from Ryan the only talking would have been a ‘Let me show you, what I’d do’ kind of remark. “Then I’d start teasing.” Ryan starts from where he’d left off and Jasper lets out a frustrated groan and to his surprise Ryan shushes him. “I’d distract you with a kiss, while I undress you.” Ryan whispers but this time he doesn’t do exactly what he’s saying, instead just slips his hand under Jasper's shirt. “I’d run my hands all over your body.” Jasper shuts his eyes now, completely mesmerized by what was happening, he was hanging off every word and desperately taking in every physical sensation he could. As Ryan’s hand finally reaches his pants again Jasper holds breath, waiting, hoping he’d start to feel some relief now, thinking that surely this was teasing Ryan just as much. “Do me a favour and breathe so I know you’re still with me.” On mention Jasper realizes he’d been holding his breath in anticipation and lets it out. “Air is not a priority right now.” Jasper says completely seriously. “Oh?” Ryan taunts, way too pleased with himself but the next sentence gives Jasper a glimmer of hope. “Well you’re going to want to be alive for the next part, trust me.” He tells him, stripping himself down to just his underwear while Jasper eyes him intensely, he reaches for Ryan’s body but Ryan pushes his hand away and shakes his head, getting comfortable beside him again and drifting his fingers slowly up Jasper’s leg on the inside, becoming gentler and gentler the higher he reached. He stops at his inner thigh and traces up the zipper with a single finger, perfectly building the suspense and enjoying maybe a little too much how long Jasper had been again holding his breath. Ryan’s lips graze Jasper’s neck and his hot breath makes Jasper shiver. “Still breathing?” He asks in a whisper as his lips reach Jasper’s ear. “Yes.” Jasper moans, though he was too pent up on anticipation to do anything more than short breaths. “Good.” Ryan smirks as he abandons the zipper and starts describing in painful details what he’d be doing once he had Jasper naked. The absolute word porn was polarized by the tantalizingly gentle touches Ryan was tormenting him with. Jasper was completely lost at the mercy of Ryan’s dirty talk, what had started as small flinches in response to the teasing had escalated to his entire body moving in desperation to follow or direct Ryan’s hand to where he needed him the most and it had been thrilling to Ryan to watch him unravel under just words. Jasper whimpers and in frustration as Ryan’s wandering hand fails to give him any relief, so reaches down to touch himself since Ryan was clearly not going to, but gives out another whimper as Ryan quickly grabs his hand to stop him, not letting it break the focus from the heated description of how he’d be pleasuring him. “Ryan.” Jasper gulps, his lips and mouth dry from being open so long while he breathed so heavily. His desperation reaching a peak. “As fun as this is...” “God I love how you’re still trying to play it cool, like I haven’t noticed the way every. Single. Part. Of your body is writhing with anticipation and desperation to feel every single part of mine.” Ryan’s statement breaking Jasper again. “SHUT UP!” He begs in both frustration and urgency, turning his face to plead directly into Ryan’s eyes, though immediately he regrets it, seeing the smirk on Ryan’s face and realizing he is powerless, that begging was giving Ryan even more satisfaction. “Just please, shut up and kiss me.” Jasper sighs, needing something, literally anything more than what he was getting from Ryan. Ryan smiles and leans in pecking his lips and pulling away, watching Jasper crumble into a whine of disapproval. “What?” Ryan plays dumb. “You asked me what I would do, I’m telling you. This is exactly what you asked for.” He answers. “Oh my god.” Jasper gives an exasperated groan of defeat. “I'll get you back for this. Don’t fucking try me.” He threatens but Ryan is again just left to laugh at him. “I’d love to see you try darling, but I don’t think you would have the self control.” He teases. “You think you'd be able to outlast me? You’ve been going for half an hour!” Jasper argues. Ryan looks at his watch and shrugs. “It’s been not even 10 minutes.” He informs him. Jasper stares at him in disbelief. “Get fucked. It’s been way long than that.” Jasper shakes his head. “Nope, less than 10. Are you good now?” “Why are you doing this to me?” Jasper sighs. “You asked me what I’d do, I’m telling you.” Ryan answers as if his intention was that innocent. “Sure, this seems really rehearsed so how long have you actually been planning on tormenting me for?” Jasper asks, Ryan smirks again, hesitant for a moment on his answer. “If it seems rehearsed, it’s because this happens to be one of my go to fantasies.” Ryan admits, the confession adding heat to the moment. “Now, don’t think for a second that I don’t know what you’re doing, you’re just trying to change the topic to buy yourself time to cool down. I am not onto you.” Ryan smirks. “Oh I wish you were onto me.” Jasper rolls his eyes and Ryan laughs again. “Careful what you wish for, now are you going to let me finish this, or not?” Ryan asks, Jasper looks at him, considering the option then lets out a sigh and relaxes. “Are you going to actually touch me?” He asks in a defeated tone, it was at least worth a try he figured. “Quitter.” Ryan whispers jokingly, setting Jasper off on more time, he starts playfully trying to hit Ryan but Ryan grabs his wrists and pins them above his head. “Consider this, my petty revenge. Now where were we?” Ryan pretends for a moment like he has forgotten but is soon picking up right where he left off, keeping Jasper’s hands above his head with his forearm over Jasper’s wrists, he holds his body over Jasper’s, keeping him from being able to squirm as his legs were held between Ryan’s knees. “I hate you.” Jasper says weakly. “Mm no you don’t.” Ryan replies quickly before launching into the next part of his fantasy. Jasper is stuck imagining not only what he’s hearing, but picturing Ryan using these thoughts to please himself, which only served to make it that much hotter. As the fantasy progresses, Jasper finds himself moving his hips with need, Ryan loses a bit of his self -control and lowers his waist so whenever the urge was so great that Jasper would arch his body from the bed he'd be rewarded the opportunity to grind briefly against Ryan. As he lets himself get caught up in these moments, Ryan can’t help but let out a groan and inhale sharply, the noises escalate the intensity and what started as mostly whispering, had turned into Ryan speaking with such urgency and lust in his voice that it subsequently brings Jasper to his release, cursing and gasping as he caved into the feeling. Ryan presses his body against Jasper’s and presses a series of soft kisses down his neck, running his tongue back up to his ear. “That’s what I’d do.” Ryan whispers softly, shifting from being on top of him, to laying beside him, as he slides his arm across Jasper’s wrists, Jasper moves his hand to grasp Ryan’s and they both stay there silently holding hands for at least a minute, both mindlessly stroking the new smooth band on one another's hands. “Ok.” Jasper finally gets the energy to move again, somehow despite having little ability to move he felt like he’d just run a marathon, all his muscles had been so tense as he’d been kept in a state of anticipation for so long, that they now felt like jelly. “Yes?” Ryan asks “What?” Jasper sits up and looks at Ryan, who hadn’t taken his eyes off Jasper the whole time. “Sorry, I feel really out of it right now.” Jasper sighs and lies back down. “I was hoping that was just a wet dream and that I’d wake up now. What the fuck just happened?” He runs his hands over his face, feeling sweat and the heat from his flushed cheeks. He groans and sits up again. “I am going to have a shower.” He climbs off the bed and walks off into the bathroom. Once he’s stripped off and in the shower he feels a soft kiss placed on his shoulder, Ryan had snuck in after him. “Sorry.” Ryan wraps his arms around Jasper, who practically melts into his embrace. “Why are you apologizing?” Jasper asks. “I got a bit caught up in seeing how far I could go but it was meant to be fun for you.” Ryan tells him, kissing him again on the cheek. Jasper laughs this time, turning in Ryan’s arms and putting his arms over Ryan’s shoulders. “It was fun, but I definitely would have preferred just being shown. You’re dirty talk is dangerously good, and I did ask for it.” Jasper shrugs. “To be honest I was a little worried that you might not have felt ready again.” Ryan admits, running his hands up and down Jasper’s sides. “You don’t have to worry about that.” Jasper answers with a wink. Ryan looks relieved, taking the chance to finally kiss Jasper properly, the way Jasper has wanted ever since he’d gotten home. Jasper kisses back harder, a little frustration being let out in the slightly rough way he had his lips pressed against Ryan’s and for good measure when Ryan breaks the kiss, Jasper bites his lower lip, hard enough to take him by surprise but not enough to draw blood. “But don’t think after pulling that stunt on me you can just come in here and trick me into anything, I told you I would get you back, so if you thought getting in the shower with me and being nice and kissing me was going to get you something you are going to be leaving here very disappointed.” Jasper turns back around, hoping that pressing himself against Ryan after rejecting him would be at least somewhat teasing him back. “That wasn’t my plan, but also that was my revenge on you. We’re good now. Besides I am the one that resisted you this long remember, even held back when you came to see me a few weeks ago so I’m pretty sure you know I have strong will power.” Ryan warns him. “Yes but, that wasn’t will power holding you back, that was anxiety.” Jasper replies with a knowing smile, Ryan didn’t have anything to say back to that, he’d hoped Jasper wouldn’t call his bluff. Truthfully though Jasper just wanted to string Ryan along by flaunting himself in front of him, but he hoped Ryan would be desperate enough to put them both out of the pain of this new game of willpower he’d accidentally started. “I love you.” Ryan tells him before kissing his shoulder again. “I love you too.” Jasper turns again, leaning in to kiss Ryan then hesitating. “Enjoy the rest of the shower.” Jasper smirks, pulling away and stepping out. “Word of advice Ryan, never tell someone so unnecessarily competitive that you can outlast them at something. Because I’ve interpreted that as ‘game on’ and I have no intention of losing without making you at least suffer too.”
  11. With Grace spending the next few days up at the hospital with her baby, Jasper kept a low profile, waiting for the black eye to fade away, it definitely hurt more the first day after the fight, but once the swelling went down and he was able to cover it up with the help of Fi’s magic make-up skills, Jasper gets back to throwing all his attention on perfecting his new song, ready to show it to the group. Jasper quietly goes about pressing charges for the attack, with the help of Mark who had multiple plans for how to handle things if it got out into the media, so as to protect Grace’s privacy, a refreshing change from Chris who’d have leapt at the opportunity to use Jasper’s black eye to start gossip in the tabloids. Grace had been sent home after the first few nights but baby ‘Angel’, who Grace was yet to decide on her proper name for, was still in hospital under constant observation. This meant that Grace was getting up in the morning and going in as early as she could, and staying by her side all day long, coming home completely exhausted and emotionally drained. Jasper had been her rock, making sure she was eating when she was home and reassuring her that Angel’s early birth was not her fault. Despite being really concerned and feeling guilt over having a baby that she wasn’t able to take home and care for, Grace seemed like she hadn’t yet made a proper connection. Jasper had been looking up adoption laws himself, worried that Grace might make a decision she’d regret, and wanting to be able to protect his niece even though he himself felt a long way from ready to being able to be a parent. Finally, just over a week after her birth, Grace comes out into the kitchen, dressed and ready to go to the hospital, and asks Jasper to come with her, up until now she’d been insisting Jasper stay away which he assumed was to keep him from getting emotionally attached too. Though it was confronting seeing the little baby in a heated crib, still monitored by machines and a breathing tube, Jasper was grateful to see her again. Truthfully he’d barely been able to think of anything other than the baby. As they stand by her crib, the pediatrician comes in and greets them both. “How was she last night?” Grace asks. “She’s doing fantastically, we’re going to take the breathing tube out today and see how she goes, but as you know we’ve given her a few doses of steroids to help get those little lungs developed quicker, and we’re going to see how that goes today.” The pediatrician answers. Jasper looks at Grace excitedly, realizing why he’d finally been invited to come along. “So will she be able to come home soon?” Jasper asks. “Not just yet, it’s likely to still be another week just to be sure, but it depends how she goes today.” The pediatrician answers. “How do you feel about that?” Jasper asks Grace while the pediatrician gets to work with one of the nurses, taking the tube out. Grace watches on nervously, wringing her hands together. “I just want her to be fine.” Grace’s voice wavers as she speaks. “She will be, she’s doing well. And if she’s anything like you, she’ll be tougher than anyone expects.” Jasper nudges her gently but her concerned gaze doesn’t leave her tiny baby. As soon as she’s able to, Grace is invited to come and hold her baby, but she hesitates. As she and the pediatrician talk, Jasper pulls the nurse aside. “Hey, I’m a little concerned that Grace isn’t bonding with her baby.” He says quietly, his eyes watching Grace sadly. “It’s fairly common that women who have premature babies struggle to build that initial bond, a lot of the time we see that improve once the baby gets a bit stronger.” The nurse replies matter of factly. “Ok but I don’t know what you know about her family, Grace doesn’t have her parents support and her partner was abusive during the pregnancy. I’m all she has and I know her, she’s struggling.” Jasper sighs. “The truth is, all new parents struggle to some extent and a lot of new mothers feel a little disconnected in the beginning. I think people expect that ‘love at first sight’ moment they see in movies and feel scared that they are failing when they don’t have that.” The nurse looks over at Grace with a kind smile. “Post-natal depression is more common that you’d think, there’s a lot of pressure to be perfect, especially with all you see online of these so called ‘perfect parents’. I will talk to her about it and give her information and resources for support, but sometimes I find, it just takes time to feel a bond.” The nurse assures him. Grace turns to Jasper and smiles as though welcoming him to come closer, as the pediatrician starts heading out of the room, the baby now back in the cot. As Jasper moves over to her, the nurse also leaves to give them some space. “I’m so scared.” Grace comments, looking back down at the baby. “Well I’m here for you always, so what can I do to help?” Jasper asks. “No, it’s just. I don’t want to ruin her. Do you really think I can do it?” Grace asks. “I just want what’s best for her, she deserves the absolute best.” “You’re her Mum. I think that’s as best as it gets.” Jasper tells her encouragingly. The baby starts crying and Grace looks at her nervously then looks around the room to see if there was anyone else to attend to her. Jasper nudges her and Grace reaches down, stroking the baby’s soft cheek before very carefully lifting her up and cradling her against her chest. “I have no idea how to be a Mum, I don’t know how to raise a baby.” Grace tells him, rocking side to side instinctively to soothe her baby. “Actually, I think you’re doing just fine.” Jasper comments with a smile. Grace realizes she’s rocking and smiles to herself. “You know, when I was reading about babies, I came across a phrase, ‘your baby will teach you how to be the parent they need’.” He tells her. “I thought that was a good way of remembering that you’re not supposed to just magically know things.” “Where are we going to go? You’ll want the place to yourself now that Ryan is coming back.” “Well truth be told, the only reason I bother pressing charges against that trash you dated was because I figured you deserved something out of him, since I doubt he’s going to ever make a child support payment. And it’s not like you’ve got no one to help financially support you, I’m more than happy to help you get a place.” Jasper suggests. “Just me and her?” Grace looks at him worried. “Unless you had someone else in mind to live with you?” Jasper suggests. “Blake said Flynn hasn’t heard from you in a few days, I thought you guys had a thing going on?” “I just had a baby, Jasper. It was a fun thought that he and I could date, but he doesn’t want this.” Grace gestures at herself. “I barely recognize my own body. I’m not stupid, a guy like him would want a hot and sexy woman, not someone with stretch marks and this left over pudge that makes me look like I’m still pregnant and even if he looked past that, what if he wanted to sleep with me? I’m used goods. He won’t stick around for that.” Grace sighs. “Grace, you were pregnant the whole time he was flirting with you, I’m pretty sure he’s not oblivious about what that means physically. Pretty sure he’s not that shallow either, Flynn’s got a good heart. I’m not saying rush into something, because having a baby is a valid reason to press pause on the whole dating thing, but I just think you shouldn’t rule it out. If there’s one thing dating Ryan has taught me, it’s that you can’t assume your value in the eyes of someone else.” Jasper suggests. “I guess. Do you want to come home with Mummy soon, Ellie?” Grace asks, nothing but love in the way she gazes down on the sweet little face. “Ellie? Is that what you’re naming her?” Jasper gasps. “Eleanor, Ellie for short. Eleanor Grace Reid. The light of my life.” Grace snuggles her close. “Welcome to the family Ellie Grace, I’m the cool uncle and the first person who ever saw you. I am also going to spoil you completely.” Jasper introduces himself to the sleeping baby. When the pediatrician comes back in, Jasper leaves Grace in their capable hands, heading off to work. “She’s named her which means she’s keeping her!” Jasper announces excitedly as he walks in the room, which makes for an easy distraction from what he imagined everyone else was going to ask about, Ryan and Kelsey had been forced to drop out of the competition last night in the semi-finals after Kelsey had rolled her ankle during a step in their performance. This of course meant, Ryan was coming home today. Firstly though, and perfectly timed, everyone had agreed to show off one of their songs today. Simon was keen to show off his work, a power ballad that he wrote entirely in French, though the guys couldn’t understand a word he was singing, they were blown away by the talent it took to write, memorize and sing in another language. Though it wasn’t English, the song would easily get attention and make decent sales because of the passion and the smooth, sexy accent he was using as he sung. Next up was Blake who spent the first 45 seconds just shredding on the electric guitar, not that anyone complained because it was amazing and seeing the thrill on his face as he played with such passion showed how much this meant to him. When it came to the lyrics, it was a really upbeat song about losing hope and being unworthy, which he seemed to have had fun with. As far as appealing to the audience, being so upbeat made it easy to enjoy but the darker lyrics also made it more likely to reach a wider audience. Luke’s song was unsurprisingly a love song for Fi, which was quite gentle though full of emotion. The lyrics were about seeking the best for yourself, and never giving up on finding perfect happiness. It was sappy and sweet and full of clichés so it was definitely going to be an easy sell. Last up was Jasper, who takes a seat at the piano and inhales deeply. “So this song isn’t good.” He comments before he even gets started. “Just don’t judge me until the end, please.” Jasper takes another deep breath, he was nervous about how this performance would go, but also really interested in the reaction he might get. “Oh no.” Blake mutters as Jasper starts playing the first chords, immediately realizing this was not going to be a happy song, the tone was emotional and he even had a look of pain on his face before he starts singing. “It doesn’t feel like home here anymore, and I am going insane wishing you’d just walk back in my door. So I’ve been drinking down at the bar, I can’t handle another night it’s too hard, oh~ I don’t want to be alone tonight. I tried pretending that I was fine, but without you by my side I’m losing my mind. I can't remember the way your voice says my name, and I can’t sleep because this emptiness fills me with pain. Oh~ I don’t want to be alone tonight. Oh~ I’m so sick of being alone at night. It’s not hard to notice that I’m falling apart, and each sip is making it easier to ignore the begging of my lonely heart. Even though it’s your arms around me that I need, I can’t help thinking that I could settle for anything, oh I just can’t be alone tonight. I tried pretending that I was fine, but without you by my side I’m losing my mind. I can't remember the way your voice says my name, and I can’t sleep because this emptiness fills me with pain. Oh~ I don’t want to be alone tonight. Oh~ I’m so sick of being alone at night. So.” Jasper gulps before he continues the next line. “He lines up the shots and tells me his name, and the way he talks makes really want to play his stupid game, one after another the drinks settle in and my thoughts are only on one selfish thing, oh~ I’m not going home alone tonight.” “Oh fuck.” Blake runs his fingers through his hair, anxiously. Luke and Simon both looking at him and whisper to ask if he knew what this was about. Blake shakes his head but starts mentally preparing to deal with the aftermath of this confession, because as soon as Jasper was finished everyone was going to be launching their questions, and Blake had promised he’d be there for Jasper no matter what. Jasper starts his final part of the song. “I wake up and I don’t know where I am, then I see him standing at the end of the bed and oh~ I didn’t go home alone last night. Seeing the smile on your face fills that missing piece of my heart, I can't believe that I’ve gone this far, and when you say my name I know exactly where we are, oh~ I’m finally home this time, oh~ my home is right here by your side.” The piano plays out the last few bars without any lyrics and there’s nothing but silence as Jasper turns his attention to his confused audience. “What do you guys think?” Jasper asks, shooting the group an interested smile as he turns in the seat to face them. “That... Uh. Was...” Simon starts stuttering his response still trying to comprehend what he’d just heard. “Heartbreakingly honest.” Ryan calls out from the doorway, where no one had noticed him, although by the way Jasper smiles but doesn’t take his eyes off the other guys he seemed to have been aware of Ryan’s presence during his performance. “Hopefully we are better at the distance thing next time.” Ryan smiles and starts walking into the room, headed straight towards Jasper. Blake, Luke and Simon look from Jasper to Ryan and back again. “So the guy at the end?” Simon starts asking but doesn’t feel comfortable enough to finish the question. “Was Ryan.” Jasper answers, with an affectionate glance at his boyfriend. “Wait when did you see him?” Luke asks. “You didn’t tell them you visited me?” Ryan frowns, leaning against the piano and watching Jasper curiously. “Well it was a bit of a spontaneous trip, as the song suggests.” Jasper shrugs like it was no big deal, though the smile on his face said otherwise. “Did this visit happen to be around the time you punched Grace’s ex?” Blake asks with a smirk on his face. “Shut up Blake.” Jasper rolls his eyes. “Why’d you think that?” Luke asks. “Don’t.” Jasper warns, glaring at Blake. “Because I was at that fight and I saw where he got punched and I’ve seen enough bruises to know the difference between that and a hickey.” Blake shakes his head at Jasper, crossing his arms. “So you got drunk and went for a booty call huh? I’m strangely proud, here I was thinking you had hooked up with someone.” “Well I did tell you it wasn’t what you thought, but it was not a booty call. We hadn’t talked in ages and so I went there to talk.” Jasper tells them quickly, making the mistake of looking at Ryan, only to notice the way Ryan’s eyes were on him, and the slight smirk on his face, clearly no intention of helping Jasper downplay the visit. “Uh huh. Sure.” Blake teases. “See this is why I didn’t tell anyone I went to see you.” Jasper tells Ryan who gives laugh. “Must have been an interesting talk.” Luke gets in on the teasing. “Not to ruin the fun here but be careful with that, there’ll be lots of attention on you again when we release new music so walking around with hickeys isn’t a great idea.” Simon tells them but before his serious tone can take down the mood, Blake starts talking again. “Don’t worry Simon, they were careful. It was very clearly not where anyone should have seen it. Let’s just say if it were a bruise, you’d have been glad it wasn’t any lower.” Blake says, way too amused by the whole situation. “ANYWAY.” Jasper says loudly and looks directly at Ryan who hadn’t taken his eyes off Jasper the whole time. “How was your flight back?” Jasper asks, aiming to change the topic. “Good, I’m just dropping by though, months of tiredness has caught up with me so I’m going to head home and sleep.” Ryan sighs and stretches. “I cannot believe you made us all think you were literally singing a song about cheating on Ryan. That’s cruel.” Simon turns on Jasper feeling a little betrayed himself, to have been misled. “It’s not cruel, I wanted to get a real reaction. If you knew how the song was going to end your feedback would have been biased.” Jasper shrugs, not feeling at all guilty for leading them on. “Who were you drinking with?” Luke asks. “Just a guy, he offered to do shots with me to cheer me up and after a few of those I don’t remember much short of waking up.” Jasper admits and for the first time since he’d started the song, he appeared regretful. “Good morning. This is a surprise.” Ryan comments with a smile on his face as he sips at his coffee, leaning against the door frame and watching Jasper look around the room confused for a moment. “Where am I?” Jasper asks, rubbing his eyes as he takes it all in. “Oh, so you weren’t intending on visiting me?” Ryan deflates a bit at the thought. “Uh, I was very drunk last night.” Jasper pulls a plane ticket from his jacket pocket. “Apparently I arrived at 1.15am? Where were you?” Jasper asks and yawns again, sitting up in the bed. “The airport is only 10 minutes away, and I was here being woken up to you yelling obnoxiously at my door just before 2. I am going to be wrecked by the end of the day.” Ryan checks his watch and rubs his forehead before quickly downing his coffee. “Sorry for disturbing your sleep. I can’t believe I flew here. Surely airlines aren’t supposed to take intoxicated people.” Jasper searches his other pocket, taking out a half eaten cheeseburger. “Oh my god I am disgusting.” He groans. “Where’s a bin?” He asks, getting up out of bed and following where Ryan was pointing, into the kitchenette of the unit. “I didn’t have an issue with you turning up here and surprising me. I was glad to see you, just a bit saddened by the fact you weren’t here because you missed me, but because you were drunk.” Ryan admits, watching Jasper with a frown. “Yeah.” Jasper sighs, he throws his food in the bin and washes his hands. “Ryan I have something to tell you. Something very important.” Jasper runs his hands over his face then helps himself to a glass of water, feeling parched and a little sick. “Ok.” Ryan straightens up as he waits for what Jasper had to say. “I am an awful boyfriend. I mean, really just a jerk. I love you but I’m 100% the jealous type and I’ve been seething with jealousy knowing you’re dancing with Kelsey. I’ve been voting you off each week just because I want you to come back to me, please don’t hate me.” Jasper gives him a guilty look. Ryan frowns at him and goes to sip from the empty mug before letting out a heavy sigh and grabs the coffee pot, re-filling his mug. “I thought you were going to tell me you cheated on me or had decided you wanted to break up properly.” Ryan shakes his head, sipping at the fresh coffee looking much more relaxed. “Do you have any pain killers? I just know I’m going to have the worst hangover.” Jasper sighs. “Bedside table.” Ryan answers and follows Jasper back into the bedroom. “You’re not mad at me for trying to vote you off?” Jasper asks as he takes some pain killers and sits back on the bed. “Well, I’m not mad at you, but for Kelsey, it means everything to her. If we win, she will be given amazing opportunities to further her skills and to make a proper life and career for herself. I am relieved to hear that you have been missing me, I’ve been missing you too and I have been dying to get home to you. This isn’t about me though, I would have thrown the competition by now if it was just for me, I’d have been home weeks ago. But I really want to get to the finals for Kelsey because she deserves the opportunities that come with winning this thing.” Ryan tells him, walking over and placing his cup on the bedside table before sitting beside Jasper on the bed. “I know I’m the worst.” Jasper says guiltily. “Not the worst. Selfish maybe.” Ryan winks and before Jasper can act insulted he leans in to kiss him, pausing as he remembers the way things were when he left. “Are we ok?” He asks, not pulling away, the closeness of his lips was almost magnetic and Jasper wanted nothing more than to lean in and kiss him, instead he reaches for Ryan’s hand, giving it a squeeze. “We have a lot to work on still.” He acknowledges, looking at their hands then back up into Ryan’s eyes. “But you do want to work on us?” Ryan asks, it was the one thing they had both been needing to know the answer for, for far too long. Jasper’s heart was racing, knowing what the answer would mean for them. “There’s nothing I want more in the world.” Jasper smiles, Ryan reflects the smile, relief washing over his face. He leans in to kiss Jasper and despite how much Jasper wanted and needed the kiss, he pulls back. “But I do need to tell you something first.” He says then hesitates. “I will prove to you that I’m committed to you, with every single atom of my being. I swear, I never want to lose you, even only for a few months was agonizing.” Ryan assures him quickly. Jasper sighs and looks into Ryan’s eyes for a moment before lying back down on the bed and patting it for Ryan to lay beside him. “Look, I know you didn’t mean to, but you just have to hear what I’m telling you and understand how I’m feeling. I can’t tell you to cut people out of your life, I was furious and I was out of line with giving you an ultimatum. It’s not my place to demand things of you, you’re a grown ass adult who can make your own decisions no matter what I think of them. But in saying that, I can tell you how your choices effect me. I have felt insecure and hurt every time Damien has turned up and I cannot stand the thought of him continuing to be in our lives. So if you don’t want to cut him out then that’s your choice and whether I can deal with that or not is mine. I want to spend my life with you, and I want that to be as easy and carefree as it can be and obviously he’s a big old complication that I would rather not have to continue dealing with. Regardless of how I feel, I can’t control what you do. When I start letting my feelings be an excuse for that, I risk becoming just as bad as he is.” Jasper sighs again. “I get it though, and for the record, I did not think that you were out of line. I should have listened to you and I should have protected our relationship. I was devastated to hear you suggest that you thought you were a second choice because it didn’t even cross my mind that you would feel like Damien was still in my life in that way. The fact that I made you feel that way has been the thought in my head every moment I’ve had time to think about anything and I am so disgusted in myself. I don’t deserve another chance with you, but I really hope that I can earn your trust back and prove to you that I will always choose you, over anyone, every time.” Ryan promise. “Well I have to be honest, I wasn’t drinking alone last night, there was a guy who bought me shots and he was saying he wanted to cheer me up, I shouldn’t have gone along with it but I did and it wasn’t just drinking together, I agreed to us licking the salt off each other’s hands but I swear that was all, it wasn’t a thing, for me at least.” Jasper admits sadly. Ryan looks at him and says nothing while he considers what he’s been told. “So just a friend then?” Ryan asks. “Honestly, just easy company. I wasn’t there ‘with’ him, I was drinking alone and he approached me, I could tell he was hoping for more but I had no intention of doing anything other than getting drunk.” “Right.” Ryan again takes a moment to think it through. “I know it’s no excuse but I was feeling particularly petty after watching you getting very close to your hot dance partner that you’ve been rubbing up against for weeks” Jasper admits, rolling over to face Ryan. “I hadn’t even notice her.” Ryan smiles at Jasper. “You liar, everyone has been talking about how much chemistry you two have and how she’s super fit and...” “Yeah well, we’re performing together and I hope we win because she’s very dedicated and deserves to make a career out of this, but frankly we’re kinda sick of each other and I swear I’m not just saying that, we get along as far as dancing is concerned but other than that we have nothing in common and she’d hate me for telling you this, but she is scared of you. I mean the last person that wronged you ended up the subject of worldwide humiliation thanks to you calling them out live on stage, you’re the last person she wants to get on the bad side of.” “Really? Finally, people are scared of me.” Jasper laughs. “So what happened with you and your ‘friend’ in the bar?” Ryan asks. “I remember him calling us an uber and we got in, he asked me where I wanted to go and I said the airport.” Jasper answers. “No friggen way!” Blake burst out laughing. “Dude in a bar had you lick salt off him and called an uber and you left his ass behind to go and see Ryan? Like you made the full on effort to go to the airport, get on a plane then find his place. Why am I so impressed by that?” Blake shakes his head. “Sorry Ryan, I’m sure Jasper licking a stranger isn’t funny to you, but you’ve got to almost feel sorry for the guy. He thought he was getting laid and instead this little tease leaves him hanging and goes across the goddamn country to see his boyfriend. That’s gotta suck.” Blake laughs. “Well I did tell him I have a boyfriend so he shouldn’t have expected anything.” Jasper shrugs, a lame defense. “He probably thought the same until you licked him. It’s just such a dick move, I love it.” Blake pats Jasper on the shoulder then looks at Ryan. “And I mean that in the most discouraging, ‘don’t lick strangers in bars’ kind of way of course because that’s not ok.” He says in a serious tone, frowning and nodding to Jasper then looking back at Ryan, who was rolling his eyes but amused at how Blake was trying to stifle his amusement in front of Ryan. “You’re lucky that didn’t result in a scandal.” Simon comments, always the one to think about the professional implications. “Well I talked to him the next day and he said he wouldn’t say anything. I’m not sure if he knew it was me though, I honestly don’t remember mentioning it. And I did tell Ryan about it straight away so even though it wasn’t that serious, I wasn’t keeping secrets from him. If a scandal broke out, he was prepared and knew what had actually happened so we’d have handled it.” Jasper answers. “Plus Mark is really good at covering for people. I had to go to him about my sister’s ex in-case that got out and into the media and we made a whole plan with one of the press secretaries about how we’d handle the situation if it came out so that absolutely no information would actually end up being shared, I also told him about the bar just incase there was someone with photos and a misconstrued idea of what was going on.” Jasper informs them. “So you told Mark but not Blake?” Ryan questions but Jasper just shrugs. “Rude.” Blake scoffs, fake glaring at Jasper, who just smiles back at him. “Ok but this song is going to be telling people what happened and they are going to want details.” Simon points out. “Yes and I’ll give them the details, it wasn’t ok because I am with Ryan and shouldn’t be doing that, but it also wasn’t anything. Besides, there’s something about being drunk and at your lowest with your inhibitions, and still choosing to get on a plane, rather than go home with the guy that is literally right there wanting you. If I was going to cheat, I had that opportunity, but I had no intention of being with anyone but Ry.” “How’d you get on a plane when you were that wasted?” Blake asks. “By the looks of my bank account, by bribing a lot of people with more than generous tips to let me on. Some flight attendant out there is probably driving a new car because she let me on the plane. BUT it was worth it.” Jasper winks at Ryan. “Next time we’ll just plan flights in advance so you don’t have to bribe the attendants to let you on intoxicated.” Ryan smiles. “I did have flights planned in advance actually, I was just being too stubborn to take them, that’s why I sent your Mum to two of your shows. I’d already booked the flights and didn’t want to waste them.” “She loved that by the way, thought you were the most considerate person in the world for sending her on those trips, especially the one on my brithday.” Ryan laughs. “Yeah, sorry for being too stubborn to sort my shit out and be there for that one. You’re not allowed to say which one of us you would have preferred though.” Jasper warns playfully. “I mean, obviously I would have been pretty ok with you visiting every day but...” “I’d have had to remortgage the apartment, given how costly one trip was.” “Maybe would have sorted out your mood swings though.” Luke comments dryly. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, I was fine without Ryan. I’m totally not at all needy and I don’t have any emotional attachments to him whatsoever.” Jasper barely manages to say with a straight face. “Sulking around here everyday, being petty about things.” Simon starts listing. “Late to work, doing no work, snappy.” Luke adds his 2 cents. “Perfectly emo.” Blake sighs. “See it wasn’t all bad.” Jasper shrugs and he and Blake hi-five. “You’re still not forgiven for not telling me.” Blake reminds him quickly. “Pretty sure you’ll get over it and live.” Jasper nudges him. “Anyway Ryan doesn’t want to hear about all that right now, give the guy a break, he’s been away for months working out and dancing every single day all day so he can hear about how insufferable I am when I’m alone, tomorrow or something.” Jasper turns back to Ryan. “Yeah as much as I am looking forward to hearing about all the stuff you’ve all gotten up to, especially how Blake got Simon to agree to the whole ‘emo make-overs' part.” Ryan grins at Blake. “I had tried to supress that memory. But thanks for bringing that up.” Simon shakes his head. “We’ll catch you up tomorrow.” “I’ll walk you out.” Jasper gets up from his chair. “I’ll be back soon.” He calls out as he takes Ryan’s hand and they walk out the door, while their friends shamelessly start gossiping about them. “I’m so glad you are here with me.” Ryan smiles. “You and me both, I’m sorry it too me so long to sort myself out, and that I turned up drunk and woke you up. I had thought we’d have a more romantic reunion, running into each other’s arms in slow motion in the airport or something.” Jasper jokes nervously. “Who says this can’t be romantic?” Ryan asks, running his hand down Jasper’s arm and holding his hand, they look into each other’s eyes and finally give in to what they’d been missing with this distance. Ryan kisses Jasper tenderly, his free hand moving to caress Jasper’s cheek. It was a blissful relief to both how long they stayed locked in that moment, neither showing any intention of wanting it to end. They savour the feeling of their lips against one another, parting only briefly before they go in for another, and another the passion each time building up until they both have to pull away breathless. It’d been an exhausting few months waiting for a decision on their relationship and yet it felt immediately obvious that they were both just as in love as they were before everything had gone wrong. “I do have to go soon.” Ryan sighs, no part of him wanting to move. “Will you be here when I get home?” “I really want to, but I should get back to reality, since I didn’t tell anyone I was coming here.” Jasper shrugs, also not making any motion to actually leave. For a moment they both just look at each other, smiling contently then Ryan lets out another sigh. “I can be late.” He states, flashing Jasper a cheeky smile. “Let me check what flight I can get though because I really can’t be stuck here all day.” Jasper says, finding his phone and looking quickly while Ryan tries to distract him with a series of kisses down his neck. After only a few moments Jasper throws his phone to the side. “When’s the flight?” Ryan asks. “If I get to the airport in half an hour I can get one, otherwise it’s another 3 hours.” Jasper answers, with every temptation to book the later flight, but knowing Ryan had to go to practice this morning too. “15 minutes to get there with traffic this time of day, 5 to get dressed and ready. Doesn’t leave us much time but I’ll take what I can get.” Ryan winks and goes back to kissing and gently biting on Jasper’s neck. “Careful, I can’t be walking around with marks all over my neck.” Jasper breathes, quickly grabbing his phone and booking in the earlier flight. “Mm? What about here then?” Ryan pulls up his shirt and moves down his body, kissing his way down. “Now you’re just being mean because I know we don’t have time.” Jasper whines, dropping his phone and relaxing, cherishing the few moments they had before they’d have to get ready and say goodbye again. “Just trying to remind you that you’re not single.” Ryan teases. “Bit possessive, but ok point made.” Jasper laughs, threading his fingers into Ryan’s hair and tugging him up gently. “Can you get back to kissing me now? We’ve got 7 weeks' worth to make up for before I’m leaving this bed.” “If I had it my way, you wouldn’t leave this bed at all.” Ryan whispers before pressing his lips against Jasper’s and reveling in the love and comfort he felt finally having the answer and closure he’d been desperately waiting for.
  12. Having missed more than half the day, Jasper decides to stay late to work on his new song, he’d not taken a break since he sat down and it’s only when Blake starts flicking the lights on and off to get his attention that he comes out of the focused trance he’d been in. Jasper takes out his headphones and looks at the time then yawns and stretches, as though he hadn’t felt tired until he realized how late it was getting. “Are you going home or nah?” Blake asks, continuing to flick the lights on and off annoyingly. “Well I am now that you broke my train of thought.” Jasper rolls his eyes and gets up. “Pretty sick to finally have some instruments hey?” Blake comments, gesturing at the piano. “You forget how great it is to just zone out and play. I reckon Luke should learn drums and Simon should learn bass and we’d finally have a proper band. I’ve been trying to put the thoughts in their heads all day. Could you imagine?” Blake asks, with an almost childish excitement Jasper hadn’t seen in a long time. “How’d it go? Have you finished the song you were working on?” “It’s almost perfect.” “What’s it about?” Blake asks. “I am not sure I’ll actually play it, but I needed to get it out of my mind. You didn’t have to wait for me, you could have just gone home you know?” Jasper gives another yawn and drags his feet dramatically as he makes his way to the door. “After the day you’ve had, I thought you might like some company. I was thinking we order pizza and watch horror movies.” Blake suggests with a shrug. “I’ve seen enough horror for one day.” Jasper jokes, taking his phone out to see an ubundance of texts. “Exactly, you need to see more horror to get it out of your mind, come on. I’ve already got an uber on it’s way since Flynn said he’s keeping your sister company up at the hospital.” Blake pauses as he sees Jasper smiling at his phone. “Ryan texting you?” Blake asks. “Huh? No. Grace.” Jasper turns the phone around to show Blake the picture. “Baby photos. I’ll give her a call on the way home and see how they are doing.” Seeing a bunch of photos of the baby in a heated cot, that Grace had sent him, he feels as though in the hours that’d passed since he’d held her in the very first moments of her life in the big scary world, as though he missed her. Jasper spends most of the drive home talking to Grace, getting all the updates on the baby's health and expected hospital stay. He was looking forward to having a quiet night and actually finally having his place to himself after the chaos of the last 24 hours catching up with him. Jasper was torn on whether or not he should tell Blake at least about what had really been going on. “People are still sending me death threats about that joke I made about you being my type, someone made a Gofundme to hire a hitman on me. Your fans are hella protective.” Blake shows Jasper a few comments he was still receiving. “Have you talked to Ryan yet by the way?” “Yeah. We’ll talk about that when we get back to my place.” Jasper answers quietly, glancing at their Uber driver who did seem completely unaware of who he had in the back of his car. The rest of the drive is silent, aside from Blake eagerly ordering food before they even got home, apparently starving. “Flynn is coming to join us for dinner, he’ll be here when he’s kicked out when visiting hours end.” Blake announces as they walk into Jasper’s apartment. “Ok so I need to talk to you first then.” Jasper sighs, turning to Blake with a serious expression. “I’ve been drinking pretty much every single night after you’ve left and I’m really sorry because you’re a great friend and I appreciate that you’ve been here keeping me occupied and I feel so bad that I’ve been letting you down.” Jasper rambles out quickly, feeling almost instant relief for being honest about it. “What an insult.” Blake scoffs and rolls his eyes. “And I mean insulting that you thought I had no idea. You literally decided to quit drinking when you were at your least likely to succeed, I’ve dealt with alcoholism in my family, I suspected you’d not kick it the first time, especially without Ryan here to keep tabs on you and be supportive, how’d you go talking to him?” Blake asks, being unexpectedly understanding compared to what Jasper had assumed he’d be. Before Jasper gets a chance to answer there’s a knock on the door. “Hold on, I’ll tell you in a sec.” Jasper walks over to the door and opens it, expecting it to be the pizza delivery, but instead he is faced with a very pissed off visitor. “Uh, can I help you?” Jasper asks confused. “Where the fuck is Grace?” The man snaps back quickly, his eyes narrowed as he looks Jasper up and down and standing a little taller in an attempt to be intimidating. Jasper notices this, but doesn’t feel even a flicker of fear, it quickly dawning on him who he was finally meeting. “Excuse me?” Jasper raises an eyebrow, stepping forward into the doorway and crossing his arms, eyeing off the guy who was balling his hands into fists in an attempt to look threatening, his face plastered with a stern and intimidating glare piercingly cold blue eyes and a tightly clenched jaw. “Don’t fuck with me, I know you would know where she is. Where is she?” He demands, cracking his knuckles and stepping forward, immediately in Jasper’s personal space, Jasper doesn’t move, not giving him any the satisfaction of feeling any power against him. “Look, I have no idea who you are...” Jasper starts, playing dumb. “I’m her boyfriend.” “Clearly not if you don’t even know where your own ‘girlfriend’ is. You might want to re-think your method here because your tone is not going to get you anything. Even if I did know, I wouldn’t want to tell you while you’re speaking to me like this.” Jasper holds his ground, keeping a poker face while trying to suppress the rage building inside him as he faces the guy that had been hurting his sister for so long. “Trust me this is my nice tone, now tell me.” Grace’s ex orders in an authoritive tone that makes Jasper internally cringe, thinking of his sister being spoken to like this. “Here’s the thing, because of you forcing her to have no contact with her family, I have genuinely got no idea where she is so when you find her do me a favour and tell her to call some time because I’d love to catch up with her after what, 3 years of having very little contact thanks to you.” Jasper steps back and goes to close the door but it’s aggressively thrown back out of his grip, putting a hole in the wall where the handle hits it. “Piss off before I call security on your worthless ass.” Jasper states, inspecting the broken plaster on the wall with a surprising amount of control and calmness despite the danger he was now facing. “Good luck telling them shit when I break your fucking jaw!” Jasper rolls his eyes at the threat, turning his attention to Blake who finally overhears the drama and comes over to check it out. “Excuse me, what the fuck is this?” He asks, quickly walking into the drama, his eyes sternly on their unexpected visitor. “Is this your butt buddy faggot?” Grace’s ex asks, sizing up Blake who clearly looked much more like a threat than Jasper. “I don’t know what year you think this is asshole but it’s the 21st century and calling someone a faggot is a fucking hate crime...” Blake starts, storming over with equal aggression. “Blake, don’t even bother, he’s not even worth it.” Jasper holds up his hand to stop Blake coming any closer, he wanted to handle this on his own, he felt like he had to. “Now this is your last chance to leave, because you’re now inside my place which is trespassing and you’ve threatened me once already so I’ve definitely got reasons to have you arrested. At the very least you’ve got a charge for damage to property, so walk away before you add more to my police report.” Jasper warns, still extremely calm. “Oh yeah?” In a quick action Jasper finds himself shoved up against the wall, but just before the fist coming his way reaches his face, Jasper moves his head to the side, another hole in his wall. “Where the fuck is she?” The man growls, throwing a punch to Jasper’s stomach that he’s not ready for, winding him for a moment. He barely gets a chance to draw in a breath before he’s grabbed by the collar of his shirt and punched in the face, an immediate streak of blood coming from his nose. “Oi fuckface!” Blake shouts as he grabs at the guy’s shirt to try and pull him away from Jasper, but is elbowed hard in the side. The man pulls Jasper by his shirt and turns them around so he’s holding Jasper in between himself and Blake, using Jasper as a human shield to stop Blake getting to him. “Tell me where she is, she’s got something I want.” He threatens, moving to keep Jasper between him and Blake regardless of which way Blake tried to come at him. “Is it self respect? Because you’re clearly lacking that.” Jasper didn’t seem to care that he was unnecessarily provoking him. In a flash he’s thrown against the wall again, knocking the wind out of him once more, Jasper coughs to regain his breath. “Oh no, I know what it is. It’s potential, she dropped your sorry ass and is going to have a real life and you’re just left to sit around being a piece of shit all by yourself.” Jasper teases, smiling despite the pain as stands up straight again, though his comment is quickly ignored as Blake’s heard on the phone. “Who the fuck is Flynn?” The guy asks as he gets up close in Jasper’s space again, grabbing him by the cuff of his shirt and raising his fist threateningly. “He’s the guy that’ll be the baby’s actual Dad, since you haven’t got the balls to be a decent man.” Jasper whispers smugly as he takes the opportunity to lift his leg up and kick him as hard as he could in the crotch, forcing him to let go of Jasper’s shirt, as he folds in half clutching at himself, Jasper grabs him by the hair and brings his face down hard on his knee, to his and Blake’s surprise, he falls to the ground unconscious. “Shit, did you kill him?” Blake runs over. “Oh my god.” A voice in the doorway gets their attention and the poor pizza delivery boy stares at them in shock and fear, having arrived just at the end of the comotion. “It’s all good.” Jasper wipes his bloody nose on his sleeve and hobbles over to accept the food, pulling out his wallet and handing him money. “Oh this was already paid for.” The scared teen tells him quickly. “Then this is your tip. Don’t worry about this ok, this douche-bag was threatening my sister and...” “Is he dead?” The boy asks terrified. “No, but you knocked him out cold Jas, what the hell was that, when did you learn how to fight?” Blake calls out surprised. “Not as weak as I look. I’ve been spending some time with a boxing bag lately.” Jasper grins, wiping more blood from his nose. “I thought he was going to shoot you. He-he has a gun.” The kid tells them, Jasper turns and sees the top of the gun sticking out of his back pocket of the intruders’ jeans. “We’re calling the police, it’s all good ok.” Jasper assures him, pulling his phone out. “I’ll call your work too and let them know what’s happened here so you won’t get in trouble for being late.” Jasper offers with a polite smile as he takes the pizzas from the shaken guy. “Where the fuck is he?” Flynn storms past the pizza delivery boy who jumps at the voice and the stomping footsteps. “Do you need me to call you ride?” Jasper offers, realizing how scared the poor kid was. “I’ll, I’ll call my Mum.” the guy nods, fumbling to get his phone from his pocket. “Wish you’d left this sack of shit for me.” Flynn seethes as he stands over the body on the floor. “Hey don’t look at me, Jasper handled this one all by himself.” Blake sighs, getting up and walking over to Jasper. ”Are you alright?” He asks, putting a hand on his shoulder. “Yeah, you call the police please, I’ll call the pizza place because that kid looks traumatized and Flynn if he gets up you can knock him out again, he’s got a gun so don’t touch it because we don’t want the situation here misconstrued, three guys, a gun and an unconscious guy isn’t going to look like a fair fight, plus I have security cameras watching us so just be mindful of that, tempting as it is to give him some more bruises while he’s out.” Jasper delegates while he looks at the receipt for their food and finds the store contact details. After he and Blake are finished making phone calls and the teenager who’d been standing in shock in their doorway is picked up by his anxious mother, Jasper walks off to the bathroom to wash his face and see the damage. He was bruising quickly but he expected that, nothing seemed broken though at least and his nose had stopped bleeding. The adrenaline was quickly wearing off too and the gravity of the situation he’d just been in starts setting in, filling Jasper with nerves and anger. “The police are here... Is that a hickey?” Blake asks pointing at a mark on Jasper’s hip, while Jasper had his shirt lifted to inspect the bruise on his stomach. “It’s a bruise.” Jasper answers rolling his eyes and pushing past him. “I saw the whole fight, you didn’t get hit there.” Blake narrows his eyes and follows Jasper out. “I ran into something.” “What?” Blake asks. “Can you stop with the third degree, Blake? I ran into something when I was drunk, probably a bench or a barstool. It’s been a big fucking day and I don’t need you on my case right now.” Jasper snaps, feeling suddenly overwhelmed by the last 24 hours. He storms out of his room and finds that Grace’s ex had woken up and was telling the police his side of the story, putting forward, as Jasper had suggested, that it was a 3 on one attack and claiming he had amnesia from being hit in the head. “This is your place?” One of the officers approaches Jasper. “Yes, it is.” Jasper nods. “And those cameras, do they work?” The officer asks. “Yes. I can show you the footage of tonight.” Jasper offers, the officer agrees and Jasper heads over to his laptop on the coffee table, he opens it up and quickly gets into the security footage. Jasper looks over towards the man in question and then back to the officer, lowering his voice. “This guy is my sister’s ex boyfriend, he came here looking for her and she’s been staying here, she’s on some of this footage, I need to know she’ll be safe. He’s got a past of abusing her physically, including when she was pregnant.” Jasper informs the officer who gives him an understanding nod. “He won’t see the footage unless it’s strictly necessary for pressing charges and in that case we’ll do our best to keep any footage not pertaining to tonight’s incident, private.” The officer promises. It’s almost half an hour later that their statements are all complete and Jasper’s apartment is empty again. “You should call Grace and...” Flynn starts but Jasper shakes his head. “This is the best day of her life, she can find out about this later. She deserves to focus on being a Mum tonight, I will tell her once it’s resolved and there’s no reason for her to worry about any of it.” Jasper states. “You wanna come stay with us tonight?” Blake asks, putting an arm around Jasper’s shoulders, seeing Jasper shaken from the ordeal. Jasper just shrugs and laughs in response, too tired and stressed to say anything else. “Flynn, grab the pizza, we’re going back to ours.” Blake shouts, walking Jasper out. “Make yourself at home.” Flynn calls out as he walks through their place straight to the stereo to put music on because apparently that was more important than turning on any lights. Luckily Jasper had always felt like home here and knew where all the light switches were, he heads into the kitchen and gets the oven started to warm up their dinner while Blake is off showering. “Who’s been baking?” Jasper asks Flynn when he walks into the kitchen a few minutes later. “Me.” Flynn grins. “Didn’t take you for the baking type.” Jasper comments, finishing off the brownie in his hand. “Well they were the last of my weed butter so I figured I’d better use it and be done with the stuff.” Flynn smirks at Jasper, watching realization cross his face. “Weed butter?” Jasper frowns. “Oh my god these are weed brownies?” “Yeah, I mix the goods into the butter so it’s evenly spread through the batter, it’s the best way to make them.” Flynn tells him, amused by the look of fear on Jasper’s face. “I’d say ‘relax’ but you’ll be relaxed soon enough. After the day you’ve had, it’s probably exactly what you need actually.” “Ok but I’ve had 4, am I going to die of an overdose?” Jasper panics. “You had 4? You’ve only been in here a few minutes!” Flynn asks surprised. “I haven’t eaten all day and I was stress eating!” Jasper yells defensively. “What is going on now?” Blake walks into the room, looking between Flynn and Jasper. “Blake I had 4 weed brownies.” Jasper tells him frantically. “Flynn! Why would you let him eat so many?” Blake scoffs. “I didn’t let him, I only saw him eat one.” Flynn answers. “I WAS STRESS EATING!” Jasper states again, feeling judged though Blake and Flynn were both nothing but amused at the situation. “CAN SOMEONE JUST TELL ME IF I’M GOING TO DIE?” Jasper yells. “You’re not going to die.” Flynn laughs, getting a water bottle and passing it to Jasper. “You just need to sit down and relax, have some water, you’ll have some food and you’ll be fine.” Flynn assures him. “Seriously?” Jasper asks. “I mean in about an hour you’ll probably start feeling a bit weird but you’re with me and Blake, you’re in good hands alright. Drink this, eat and you’ll probably just sleep realllly peacefully tonight. Which probably isn’t the worst thing since you must be tired from last night.” Flynn suggests. “What do you mean?” Jasper asks nervously. “Well Grace said she was having contractions all night, you must have been up with her.” Flynn shrugs. “Oh yeah.” Jasper nods. “What am I doing with my life?” “I know, sneakily getting drunk, smirking in the face of someone who’s punched you and then knocking them out, scoffing weed brownies. You’re a proper badass now, not just a try hard. I can’t believe how you handled that dude, do you have a death wish or something?” Blake jokes. “God no. I love my life.” Jasper sighs, letting Flynn force him into a chair at the table. “I wanted to stand up for her myself, but I also really wanted to hurt him for what he’d put her through.” Jasper touches the darkening bruise on his cheek, feeling the pain and tenderness that spread from the edge of his jaw, to his nose and down to his lips. “Is it weird that it feels good?” Jasper asks. “I remember the first time I got into a fight, I lost but I felt so tough walking around all bruised and telling people about it. Stretching the truth in my favour.” Flynn smiles to himself as he gets out a plate and serves up some food for Jasper. “You feel proud of yourself don’t you? You defended your sister. It’s a pride thing. First fight I got into was over Blake, he’d been being bullied and I took them on, it was stupid, I was outnumbered and didn’t stand a chance, but it just felt good even getting in a couple of hits to show them I wouldn’t stand for it. I took them all on one by one on separate occasions and wiped the floor with them of course.” Flynn gloats. “Well we all know better than to fuck with you now. Are you alright though?” Blake asks, placing a plate of pizza opposite Jasper as Flynn puts one in front of Jasper. “Yeah, my head hurts but I’m alright.” Jasper sighs. Blake nods and sits down opposite him at the table. “I’m sorry. I should have had your back. I was really worried when he had you backed against the wall and I tried to help but, I don’t know what happened. I should have helped you.” Blake apologizes, looking at the significant bruise on his friends' cheek. “It’s fine, I didn’t want you to intervene anyway. I was good on my own. I wanted to handle it on my own. Although you telling him off for calling me a faggot was pretty fun. He’d literally forced his way into my place and was actively threatening me and Blake steps in like ‘hey asshole, you can’t call people a faggot, it’s a hate crime.’” Jasper laughs as he tells Flynn, Blake looks down, nervously cracking his knuckles. “I wanted that moment where I have a really petty comeback and then beat the shit out of them, but instead I just had a petty comeback and then watched Jasper take the punches.” Blake shrugs and looks over at Flynn, internalized shame for not stepping up. “I only got one punch in and then by the time he moved so I could get to him, you called and said you were here, I shouldn’t have answered, I should have helped Jasper but I thought we might need an extra set of fists.” “Speaking of petty comebacks, I may have accidentally thrown in a line about you being Grace’s kids’ dad just to really hurt his ego, so if he’s dumb enough to take you on, you might be the next person he confronts.” Jasper smiles to himself and tilts his head back, looking up at the ceiling with a calm fondness on his face. “I am soooo ready for bed.” He laughs to himself. Blake and Flynn share a knowing look, the calmness Jasper was feeling was evident even in the way he’d gone from sitting so tense to now looking as though all his muscles had melted. Jasper looks back down at his plate and piles two slices of pizza on top of each other and starts eating it like a sandwich. “Ha, you know what’s funny.” He barely finishes his mouthful of food before speaking again, and doesn’t wait for an answer to his rhetorical question. “The first night I’m actually really not going to drink, I accidentally get really high. I can’t believe I thought you baked actual normal brownies! That’s so out of character, I should have known, and yet, it feels as though things are how they always should have been.” Jasper takes another bite, looking off into the distance thoughtfully. “Screw it, after the night we’ve had, I’m going to join Jasper in this zone.” Blake gets up and grabs himself two brownies. “Fuck yeah!” Jasper grins at him as he watches his friend down the baked goods. “Welcome to the dark side.” Jasper spreads his arms out invitingly. “Welcome? This is my house, I own the dark side. You’re the one that’s welcome.” Blake answers. “Guys. I can really feel it now. Phew.” Jasper rubs his face and looks over at Flynn trying to be really serious. “Can you tell or do I look fine?” He asks. “I wouldn’t want you within the vicinity of a police officer now, if that’s what you mean.” Flynn answers. “I wanna live with you guys. Grace can have my place. She’ll need the space for the baby anyway.” Jasper sighs. “What about Ryan?” Blake asks. “I don’t particularly want you both here going at it while I’m trying to sleep.” “Nah.” Jasper shrugs. “You never did tell me how you went talking things through with him.” Blake sits up straighter, remembering the conversation they were about to have hours ago before they were interrupted. “I decided I don’t want to tell you.” Jasper replies. “Why not? Come on I wanna know if you guys are good or not.” Blake urges. “Yeah well, I don’t want to talk about it. What I do want to do is lie on the grass. Is it cold outside? I feel like it must be really nice and cold on the grass.” Jasper gets up from his chair and starts making his way out into their backyard. “I bet you $1000, that in less than half an hour and he’ll be asleep.” Flynn bets. “I’m not stupid enough to bet against that. Jasper, where are you going?” Blake follows him outside. “Blake, have you seen the moon?” Jasper comments as he sinks gracefully to the ground, lying contentedly on the ground and moving his arms and legs like he’s making a snow angel. “It’s wild hey.” Jasper says. “The moon?” Blake asks. “No, babies.” Jasper answers and closes his eyes. “Imagine you’re all happy and snug and then wham!” He opens his eyes really wide. “You’re in the outside world experiencing the feeling of air on your skin for the very first time and opening your eyes to see more than just the dull light that comes through all the skin you were incased in. It must be wild.” Jasper shakes his head. “You’re wild. Idiot.” Blake laughs and sits beside him. “I could have killed him.” Jasper’s next comment comes with a much darker tone. “I never thought I could until I saw that baby, she was so tiny and so defenseless and I looked at her and thought, ‘yeah, I’d kill anyone that tried to hurt you’. If she was home, if he went near her.” Jasper closes his eyes again. Blake looks at Jasper, staring at the bruise on his face lit up by the brightness of the moon. “I’m a shit friend, I knew you were probably drinking behind my back and I did nothing, I watched you get beaten up and I did nothing. I act like I’m so great, and so tough and I failed...” “Oh let it go Blake.” Jasper cuts him off. “What?” “It’s in the past, let it go. Nobody cares. You can’t change the past even if you want to so just let it go and focus on the future.” “I should have helped you though.” “I didn’t want help. I wanted to handle that on my own.” “Should I be worried that you’re having some kind of Twilight style death wish in Ryan’s absence?” Blake asks. “No...” Jasper says slowly, turning to look at Blake. “Should I be worried about you referencing Twilight to me though? Because that brings into question this bad boy façade a lot more than you not getting in on the fight.” He jokes. “Shut up, but seriously you seem like you’re being a little careless, what’s that about?” “I think knee-ing the guy that abused your sister, in the face, is called delivering a dose of karma, actually.” “Fine.” Blake sighs. “Are we going to talk about that ‘bruise’ now?” He asks. “No, it’s all good.” Jasper shrugs. “Dude, I know the difference between a hickey and a bruise. I don’t blame you if something happened and I definitely don’t judge you, you and Ryan are obviously not in a good place and you are a person with needs that you have been putting as a lower priority than Ryan’s happiness and supporting him and honestly you have put up with more than most people would...” “I don’t need you justifying my actions Blake, it’s not what you think ok?” Jasper cuts him off again. “I’m just trying to be a good friend Jas, if something is going on you can tell me. I just want to be there for you no matter what happens with you and Ryan when he gets back. I want what’s best for you, always.” “Of course you do, you’re not exactly on his side are you?” “I’m not on a side.” Blake replies, Jasper turns and gives him a skeptical look. “Ok, if you love him and he makes you happy then I’ll support it but I do think he needs to step up and start being more aware and responsive towards what you want and need from him, because you’ve been standing up for him since the start but I think he needs to man up and take care of his own stuff. It shouldn’t take you talking to his ex to make that shit stop and I know you think you don’t have a right to tell him who he can and can’t talk to, but he should take into consideration how that makes you feel and make his decisions with you in mind, since you’re the one he’s supposed to care about and love. Clearly you weren’t happy with him talking to Damien and he should have cared more that it was hurting you. I think he’s taking you for granted and I’m not a fan of that.” Blake explains in blunt honesty. Jasper nods as he stares back up at the sky, considering what Blake had said, but feeling too calm to say or do anything, all he wanted was to close his eyes and go to sleep. “The moon is moving really fast, but I don’t want it to go. Tonight’s been really good.” Jasper sighs, taking a deep breath and closing his eyes as he exhales slowly. “Do you think it’ll stop moving if we stare at it? Like how they say a watched pot never boils?” Jasper asks completely seriously. “Go to bed, you’re high.” Blake laughs, getting up and reaching to pull Jasper up from the ground. “You cannot tell Grace I got high. She’s about to bring a baby home and I can’t be high around a baby. I’ve gotta set a good example for that kid.” Jasper says as he’s pulled onto his feet. “The baby won’t be home for a little while Flynn said. Something about underdeveloped lungs.” Blake shrugs. “It’s wild how girls grow entire human being in their bodies, with bones and organs and shit, but we can’t re-grow body parts. I can’t cut off a limb and grow it back, but Grace grew a thing with eyeballs and tastebuds and it’s a girl so she’s got all the ovaries to grow whole other human beings already but if I dare lose a finger that fucker is gone for good.” Jasper shakes his head. He and Blake just stare at each other for a moment then crack up laughing. “I can’t do that whole statement right now, I’m gonna have an existential crisis.” Blake turns Jasper and pushes him by his shoulders inside his house. “Thanks for letting me stay here.” Jasper smiles. “Yeah, what’s new? You can’t go home because of family drama and I’m stuck dealing with you, just like when we first met.” Blake jokes. “Oh is that what you reckon? Because I remember you using me to kickstart your music career when we first met.” Jasper sighs as he reminisces. “I would have gotten into the music industry without you, you were just convenient.” Blake teases. “Now who’s taking me for granted? Your life would suck it I wasn’t in it.” Jasper grins at him. “You got me there, I mean I wouldn’t be dating Beth so you have brought some good into my life I guess.” Blake laughs. As they walk back through the house Jasper comes across Flynn who had a plate full of pizza. “Ooooh can I have some?” Jasper asks. “You’ve still got your food on the table.” Flynn reminds him. “Sweeeeeet.” Jasper heads back to the kitchen and sits down, lying his head on the table next to his food and closing his eyes. “You guys are the best.” He mumbles, hugging the plate. “Is he talking to us or the pizza?” Flynn asks. “I...Legitimately don’t know. But I’m fairly sure he’s asleep already.” Blake pokes Jasper who just grunts in response. “Just going to sleep here?” Blake asks. “I need to see Ryan again, I love him.” Jasper mumbles. “Happy for you and all that, but that doesn’t answer my question.” Blake laughs, patting Jasper on the shoulder. Jasper gets up slowly, barely opening his eyes as he heads down the hallway, bumping into the wall a few times as he finds his way to the spare room. “I’ll see you in the morning, badass.” Blake calls out. “Peace out fucker.” Jasper shouts back, It’d been one hell of a day, but tomorrow he would have to start facing the consequences. Thankfully he was relaxed enough to be almost immediately asleep by the time his head hits the pillow, too tired and high to care about anything.
  13. “Jasper.” Grace sighs in relief as Jasper walks in the door the next morning. “Where the hell have you been? I was so worried!” She lectures, looking him up and down suspiciously, but before Jasper answers he notices her pulling a pained expression that seems to catch her breath. “Are you ok?” Jasper asks. “Braxton hicks, I’ve been having them all night. You didn’t answer me, where were you?” Grace asks again, wanting to deflect the attention from herself as she tries to play off the clear pain as if it’s nothing. “All night? I thought they weren’t meant to be that regular.” Jasper takes his phone out to look it up, but his battery was dead. Regardless seeing him look at his phone seemed to ignite frustration in Grace. “Oh come on, you didn’t have to research everything!” She snaps, rubbing her bump with one hand and massaging her lower back with the other. “I wanted to be prepared for your stay, I’m your support person, remember, it’s my job to know what to expect with you.” As Jasper tried to explain himself Grace gets frustrated and starts walking off. “Where are you going?” Jasper asks, starting to follow her from concern. “To have a bath, that’s what stopped the pains last night.” She calls back but as she reaches the doorway to his bedroom she is caught again, stopping and clutching the doorframe letting out a groan. “Oh hell no, Grace, you’re in labor aren’t you?” “N-no. It’ll pass in a minute.” Grace shakes her head, taking a few deep breaths as her whole body seemingly relaxes. “See, I’m fine.” Grace keeps walking, but Jasper was right behind her, only pausing to put his phone on charge in case the rest of the day was to be spent in the hospital. “Yeah that’s how contractions work, that’s what labor is, where’s your phone, I’m calling the ambulance.” Jasper walks into the bedroom and sees her phone laying on the bed, he grabs it and goes to the bathroom where Grace had found herself holding onto the edge of the bathtub, unable to move as another contraction hits. “No! I’m not in labor! She’s not due for a few more weeks.” Grace yells back then starts crying as the contraction fades off again. “Ok so maybe she’s really excited to meet her mum and is coming now, because these are way too close together to not be labor.” Jasper walks up behind her and starts rubbing her back. “What can I do to help?” He asks gently. “I’m not ready. I’m not ready to be a mum.” She sobs as she turns around and leans into him, crying on his shoulder. “If you’re in labor, you’re in labor. You can’t just wish it away because you’re not ready.” Jasper replies, despite how calm he was trying to act he was completely freaking out inside. “Just get out, the bath will settle it.” Grace pushes Jasper towards the door. “Ok you have a quick bath while I call the ambulance, they’ll be able to help.” Jasper says as Grace starts running the bath and undressing. Jasper pulls the door mostly closed, and calls the emergency number. “I don’t even know if I’m going to keep her.” Grace admits, so quietly that Jasper was sure he wasn’t meant to hear her, but before he can think about that statement the emergency call is picked up. “Yeah hello, my sister is having contractions, she’s not due for 5 weeks but they are very close and seem to be very painful, she’s been having them all night.” Jasper blabbers out the information as the panic hits that this was really baby time. “Ok we’ll dispatch an ambulance right away but it’ll be about 7 to 10 minutes, in the mean time I need you to tell me if you can see the head.” The emergency responder asks, Jasper feels himself go cold while he registers the question. “It’s, it’s my sister. I can’t look.” Jasper realizes the immaturity in what he’s saying as the words come out of his mouth. He knocks on the door while the responder tells him the importance of Jasper doing this. “Grace.” He says nervously. “They want me to make sure the baby isn’t coming out right now, the ambulance is still a few minutes away, so I’ve got to come in, ok?” Jasper asks but Grace doesn’t answer. Jasper peaks in to find her crouching by the bath with a towel around her shivering. “I cannot believe this is happening.” Jasper mutters to himself and takes a deep breath. “How far away is the ambulance?” Jasper asks, putting the phone on loud speaker so he can put it down. “We are just dispatching them now. How much of the baby can you see?” Jasper and Grace make eye contact at the question and she shakes her head, pale as sheet of paper. Grace turns so she’s sitting against the bath and looks ready to speak but she’s hit with another contraction that distracts her while he takes a deep breath and despite his discomfort, looks under the towel. “Oh my god there’s a baby coming out of you, are you ok?” Jasper drops the towel in shock, his eyes going to Grace’s in a combination of shock and awe for what was happening. “ARE YOU SERIOUS!?” Grace screams. “I need you to listen, how much of the baby can you see?” The emergency responder asks again, being the only calm and reasonable voice in the room. “Oh uh, just the head.” “The top of the head?” “No, the whole head, face and everything. Where’s the ambulance, the baby is coming out.” Jasper explains frantically. “Ok, you’re going to need to support the head with one hand, and be ready to support the bottom and legs in the next few pushes. The ambulance is still 4 minutes away.” “Shit.” Jasper covers his mouth to censor himself. “Oh, sorry baby.” Jasper quickly washes his hands and grabs a clean towel from the bathroom cupboard, hurrying as Grace starts screaming in agony with the last contraction. Jasper just barely gets his hands in place in time, concentrating hard on not shaking too much as he feels the tiny weight in his hands. Grace’s pained cry stops and Jasper slowly shifts backwards, his baby niece in his hands, silent. “Grace.” He breathes, looking in absolute awe at the tiny baby in his hands. “Can you tell me what’s happening?” The emergency responder asks. “Yes, yes I’m holding her.” Jasper answers. “Damn that was fast.” “Ok, I can’t hear any crying, is the baby crying?” The responder asks. “N-no.” Jasper replies. “Can you put something warm, a towel or blanket around the baby and gently rub the back to encourage any mucus that might be on the lungs stopping the breathing?” But just as the responder finishes asking the newborn coughs and starts crying. “That’s better. Ok, can you put baby on her mum’s chest to keep her warm, then I’ll need you to make sure your front door is unlocked, the ambulance has arrived at your address and should be with you shortly, I’ll stay on the line until they are with you. Jasper looks at Grace who had tears filling her eyes, he holds the baby up to her and she puts her arms out for her. Jasper grins and passes her the baby. “You’ll be fantastic. I believe in you, and I’ll be here for you whenever you need me. For you and her.” Jasper promises. Grace just starts crying. “I’ll be right back.” He promises then rushes out to open the front door to welcome the responders inside. “Do you need me to come with you?” Jasper offers as he grabs Grace’s hospital bag for her. “No, no it’s fine. I’ll let you know when we’re settled in.” Grace sighs, she looked exhausted, but content with the tiny sleeping baby in her arms, already covered in different forms of observational equipment from the smallest blood pressure band imaginable to a sock measuring her heart rate on her tiny foot, a tube taped against her cheek, going into her nose to help her breath. It was not what they had expected, but she looked peaceful in Grace’s comforting embrace. “If you need anything let me know, seriously, anything.” Jasper offers. “You’ve done more than enough for me.” Grace replies and there’s an awkward moment between them as neither of them want to think about what she was referring to. “We’re ready to go Miss Reid, lets get you and baby to the hospital.” Jasper and Grace both sigh in relief as she’s wheeled out of the apartment. After a long shower, Jasper gets dressed and heads down the street to the bar. “Hey, didn’t expect to see you again so soon.” Harley smiles as Jasper walks in the door. “Yeah well I need a drink, I know it’s early, but I swear I have a good reason.” Jasper slumps down into the seat he’d been in last night. He hands Harley money and waits for the drink to be placed in front of him. “So what are we drinking for today? Still boyfriend troubles?” Harley asks and Jasper cringes a little, he didn’t remember mentioning Ryan to Harley and only hoped he hadn’t said too much, though honestly after doing shots he didn’t remember anything in any clear detail before waking up and wondering where the hell he was. “It’s kinda a celebratory drink, but also a goodbye drink.” Jasper answers. “Ok?” “A celebratory drink, because my sister just gave birth to my niece.” Jasper raises his glass and has a sip. “Oh congratulations, that’s great.” Harley grins at him. “Yeah, although, I delivered the baby in my bathroom so I’ve seen things I never wanted to ever see, and I saw that on my goddamn sister so. The sooner I forget what a placenta looks like, the better.” Jasper raises the glass and has a long drink, gulping down a few mouthfuls as if trying to drown the thought from his brain. “Woah, that’s incredible.” “Yes, incredible, incredibly traumatic.” Jasper laughs to himself. “And the goodbye part?” Harley asks. “Last night was really fun, so thank you. But I can’t be doing that again. I’m saying goodbye to alcohol and this time I mean it, I need to stop sneaking in drinks. My best friend is trying to help me stay sober because I asked him to and he’d be furious to know I’ve been drinking behind his back. Plus I have been lucky to not be caught out and have it slander my reputation. The guys and I are just getting our shit together so I don’t want to ruin it for everyone by bringing even more drama into the group, it’s not fair on them, they’ve been working really hard while I’ve been slacking off and wasting my nights drinking and feeling sorry for myself. I owe them a better version of me after all the support they’ve given me in the last 6 months, and I owe Blake so much too. So this is goodbye to drinking.” He tells Harley, lifting the glass and finishing it off, sliding the empty glass towards Harley. “Oh well that’s totally understandable. And hey, don’t worry alright, I am a very good secret keeper.” Harley promises. “Thanks.” Jasper sighs. “I can make really good mocktails though, so if you ever want some non-alcoholic drinks while you enjoy some non-judgmental company, you know where to find me.” Harley offers. “You’re full of good ideas aren’t you?” Jasper flashes him a smile and spins around in the bar stool before getting up and pulling his phone from his pocket to check the time, seeing more than a dozen missed calls from Blake. “Anyway, I just didn’t want to disappear without saying anything after last night, but I do have to go now. I’m heaps late for work and I actually have motivation to do some work today.” He states, backing towards the door. “Well congrats again on the baby, and good luck with the music stuff. I hope I see you again soon.” Harley takes the empty glass. “You never know, stay out of trouble.” Jasper winks. “Never.” Harley winks back. Jasper laughs and walks out, hailing down a taxi and directing it to the studio. Jasper walks in the room and the members fall silent, all stopping what they were talking about and looking at him. “That’s ominous.” Jasper frowns at them. “I’ve been trying to call you for hours.” Blake snaps, storming over to Jasper. Jasper sighs and Blake stops, frowning at him. “Have you been drinking already?!” He inhales ready to lecture him. “Grace had the baby.” Jasper states quickly, seeing Blake visibly go from frustrated to shocked as he registers what Jasper had said. “She what?” Blake frowns. “I delivered it, and suffice to say, I treated myself to a drink to forget the things I’d seen. Sorry, and my phone is dead, I haven’t had a chance to charge it, so, sorry about that too.” Jasper explains. “Who’s Grace?” Luke calls out. “Right.” Jasper nods. “I skipped my turn to tell you all about me so here’s a very quick rundown.” Jasper cracks his knuckles and takes a deep breath. “Grace is my twin sister, I haven’t mentioned her before because for years I didn’t have any contact with her, she was with an abusive wankhole of a boyfriend who alienated her from the family. I also in a way am alienated from my family because my parents hate me for not living up to their expectations. I was named John when I was born but changed my name legally with their permission because basically they didn’t want people to know I was their son when I was in a boyband making money off selling non Christian music instead of living a fulfilling life of volunteering to cheer children up while they starve to death. Recently my sister came back into my life because she was pregnant and knew she couldn’t turn to mum and dad, because religious blah blah, she moved in with me while Ryan’s been away and yeah, she had the baby this morning.” Jasper explains and smiles at the shocked expressions on Luke and Simon’s faces, meanwhile Blake was still stuck on what Jasper had first said. “So you delivered the baby?” Blake asks slowly. “Yep, in my bathroom. I’ve seen two vaginas today which is two more than I wish I’d ever had to see in my life, and one of them had a human being flying out of it. I’m scarred. The things I’ve seen... It was like watching a car crash... Though don’t tell Flynn that, it might put him off.” Jasper shudders as he remembers what he’d had to do. “Your name is John?” Simon chimes in. “Was, yeah.” Jasper shrugs. “Wait, you don’t want Flynn ‘put off’ does that mean you’re supportive of them?” Blake asks. “Sure, as long as he knows what he’s getting himself into with crazy judgmental in-laws and a baby.” Jasper answers. “What was with the kid thing? You said about the cheering up starving kids?” Luke’s turn to throw a question at Jasper. “Before I got this job, I was volunteering overseas to teach music to kids in poverty. It was traumatic to be a part of...” Jasper looking to the side as realization hits him. “That’s, that’s probably a big reason why I don’t feel like I’d be able to be a parent. I’m pretty messed up by how many kids I had to watch die and it’s stuck with me that kids are too vulnerable and I can’t help them. Huh, I should probably talk to someone about that.” He nods to himself sadly. Just then the door opens and Mark walks in, smiling at the group. “How’s it all going?” He asks, looking from face to face and frowning. “Did I walk in at a bad time? Seems like I’m interrupting a moment.” Mark questions. “No, we’re fine.” Jasper turns to Mark with a smile. “I want to let you know that I’m going to work harder on writing my music and I promise you won’t regret taking a chance on us. I’ve been slacking off while these guys have all been working hard and I assure you that I’m not going to let you down, I’ve had personal stuff getting in the way but I’m not going to let anything hold me back anymore from doing what I love.” Jasper straightens in his stance, giving a confident smile as he speaks. Mark looks at him with a kind expression, seemingly considering what Jasper had said before speaking. “I’m glad to hear it, but really, you don’t need to explain yourself to me. I didn’t ‘take a chance’ on you guys, I saw what you were capable of and I wanted to give you the opportunity to do things your own ways. You should do your best, not for me but for yourselves. I’d much rather you ‘slack off’ and take care of yourself when you’ve got things going on.” Mark responds very graciously. “Well...” Jasper thinks. “I appreciate you being so understanding but I mean, this is also your job and you are funding us so I do feel bad that I’ve wasted so much of your time. I just want you to know that I’m going to do better.” Again Mark appears to be thinking then he lets out a sigh. “Taking care of yourself is what gives you the gift of time to waste, it’s those who do not take time to look after themselves, that run out of it sooner.” He pauses. “My son came out to me in a letter, he didn’t take care of himself and the complex emotions he was dealing with and it led him to decide his time was up. There’s not a day that goes by where I do not think about how different things could have turned out if he’d not felt so obliged to struggle through his problems alone while faking to everyone that he was fine. I fully understand and support anyone going through anything, to feel as though they can put themselves first and not be under any pressure to do anything for the sake of someone else. When I saw your performance, and heard the pain and hatred that the mistreatment of your last manager had caused you, I couldn’t resist the need to open up a space for your band to not only make music, but to feel safe and important and be reminded that you’re human’s with emotions and lives. I feel that nurturing your needs, is the best way to see you all succeed, which if why my approach is to let you be in control of how and what you decide you want to present as your music and simply look at the best way for it to be produced.” Mark smiles kindly at them, though everyone was just looking back at him with soft and pitying expressions. “Anyway.” Mark claps. “I came in here to tell you I have some presents. We’ve just had the delivery truck arrive with the instruments you asked for, so I’m sure that’ll help with your upcoming music. It’s just being unloaded now and they’ll be brought straight in here.” Mark announces enthusiastically, still not getting a response from any of the members, despite the flicker of excitement that his announcement had given everyone. “I’m really sorry about your son.” Jasper states, not sure what else to say but feeling like he had to say something at least. “Thank you, it has been a few years and I’m at a place now where I just hope that he’d be proud of me and see that I love him for who he is.” Mark replies, his hand subconsciously reaching for a chain around his neck that had a silver cross on it. “What’s his name?” Jasper asks, recognizing Mark’s beliefs. “Tyler.” Mark smiles. “I’m sure Tyler is looking down on you, proud of his Dad, knowing he’s accepted and respected in your heart.” Jasper tells him. Mark’s smile faulters for a moment at Jasper’s words, but he quickly regains his composure. “Thank you, Jasper. I will leave you to it, enjoy your new instruments.” Mark nods and walks out of the room, wiping away a tear as he thinks he is out of view. Everyone turns to Jasper, moving over to talk to him. “My parents would literally rather me be dead than gay.” Jasper mumbles to himself, running his fingers through his hair. “Are you ok?” Blake asks Jasper. “Yeah, that’s just really heavy. Explains why he wanted us to work for him though, must give him comfort, I don’t know if he thought that I would end up like his son if we continued working for Chris, but maybe having us here is helping him as much as It's helping us.” Jasper shrugs, everyone’s attention turns back to the door as it swings open and a piano is wheeled in by two delivery men, they give the group a nod, before leaving the piano in the middle of the room and heading back out to fetch the next instrument. Jasper walks over to the piano, pulling the cover off it and running his fingers over the smooth surface. “Perfect.” He comments, dragging a chair over and testing out the sound, playing a few melancholic chords. “Ok, everyone leave me alone. I’m going to be here for the next month.” Jasper announces, pulling headphones out of his pocket and plugging them in so he could hear what he was playing but the rest of the members couldn’t. “What, that’s it?” Simon asks surprised. “You just told us all this stuff, and you don’t want to maybe take a minute to talk about any of it?” “Simon, I’m doing work, come on? You very rarely have the opportunity to see me doing this, if you want to discuss it, feel free to use this opportunity to talk about me while I'm not listening.” Jasper suggests and immediately starts playing some chords again, testing out the way it sounded and finding very quickly exactly what notes produced the right emotion for the song he’d been planning in his head on the way home this morning.
  14. “Oh you’re only 40 minutes late today, that’s an improvement.” Simon comments as Jasper walks in the room. “You know if I knew the first thing I’d hear this morning was a criticism, I wouldn’t have turned up at all.” Jasper was in another snappy mood, he’d been this way for the last number of weeks now, his mood had been deteriorating to a state of being nearly intolerable. Simon shoots Blake a look as though telling him to defuse the bomb that was Jasper. “How long has Ryan been away for?” Luke asks with a friendly smile. “7 and a half weeks.” Jasper answers, trying to act like it didn’t bother him despite having been able to answer without even thinking about it, like it wasn’t clear he’d been counting down. “Wow, no wonder you’ve been extra bitchy.” Simon teases. Blake shakes his head, letting out a nervous laugh, he was not taking any responsibility for calming Jasper down after that comment. “Excuse me?” Jasper crosses his arms and glares at Simon, absolutely fuming. “I’m just saying, I know when you miss the person you love, it can get to you. I understand that...” “You have no idea what I am feeling, so please don’t try and lecture me.” Jasper shakes his head and looks away, deciding against having this fight. “Jas, I’m literally married to a woman in another country, I am use to going months without seeing her. I think I out of everyone, can relate. I’m trying to be, you know, there for you.” Simon frowns at Jasper’s anger. “Yeah ok, do you usually have massive fights and leave things unresolved when she goes away so that you don’t actually know what is going on between the two of you and have to watch her every single week showing amazing chemistry with someone that is making them smile and laugh while you’ve not had a single fucking conversation? Can you relate to the things I am feeling? Really?” Jasper leaves everyone in a stunned silence for a few moments. Blake walks over and puts an arm around Jasper, holding him tightly, which even without a word was enough to make Jasper tear up. “This is bullshit. I’m sorry that my mind isn’t on the music but I have been avoiding talking to him so much that I’m starting to feel like I’m just waiting to find out that he’s not coming back for me.” He sobs. “Have you seriously not spoken to him in 7 weeks?” Simon asks gently. “What’d you fight about that was that bad?” Luke walks over to him too, everyone now focusing on comforting him. “Every time I try to send him a message it starts off sounding so desperate and by the end of it, I’ve let all the feelings of being hurt through and I’m just saying things to make him feel like shit. I can’t send that to him, I mean have you guys been watching? He’s in the final four, so he’s at most going to be away for only 3 more weeks. I can’t send him a message now that puts him off and distracts or stresses him out. He needs to focus and enjoy this experience, not have me being a shit boyfriend, if he even still thinks of me as a boyfriend, and message him about my feelings now.” Jasper leans heavier against Blake as he tries to calm himself down, willing the tears away. “Jasper, you just need to talk to him. Another 3 weeks of not knowing how he feels is a long time. No matter what you fought about, you both will benefit from closure and honestly, wasn’t he begging you to tell him if you still wanted to be with him before he left? He’s probably been shitting himself waiting to hear from you. For what it’s worth, you don’t know if he’s actually enjoying his time or if he’s out there lying awake at night going over everything and wishing he could have just handled his ex’s shit so much differently.” Blake gives Jasper a comforting squeeze, trying not to let his frustration at Ryan be too obvious while Jasper was obviously hurting. “It can’t be that bad, you guys have been tweeting each other.” Luke comments, confused. “Yeah to keep up appearances, if the public realized something was up then we’d have to deal with their opinions on what we are doing and I just want to work it out between ourselves. You saw the way our fans went after Blake when he made a joke about stealing me from Ryan, he got literal death threats. If people knew we weren’t good we would be copping that same kind of drama. I feel stupid about the whole fight, but I was just so sick of Damien turning up and Ryan thinking that being nice to him will stop him intruding on us again. I hate the whole situation!” Jasper takes a deep breath and looks up at the ceiling, trying to stop himself from crying. “Maybe you should go home.” Simon sighs, realizing how badly he’d misread this situation and feeling immense guilt. “No I’ve already wasted enough of everyone’s time by being a sook about this.” Jasper wipes his eyes and takes a deep breath. “I mean, no offence but you’re not really helping anyone by moping around here either. You’ve skipped your turn to tell us all about what influences your music and you’ve not written a single song. Go home and write all your stupid thoughts down and when you’re done, pick the things that are actually constructive and send him just that part. Let do of all the other thoughts that aren’t going to help.” Luke suggests. Jasper looks at him for a few long moments then rolls his eyes. “Might even make a song out of it, or at least solve my writer’s block.” He jokes, rubbing his face and looking at all his friends again. “You seriously need to talk to Ryan and sort your shit out. I’m sure It's not doing him any good either, not hearing from you either so go and work it out and come back tomorrow focused on something actually productive.” Simon orders. Jasper fakes a smile and nods, then turns and walks out without another word. It had become something of a routine for Blake and Flynn to come over for dinner with Jasper and Grace since their first dinner together weeks back, although the ulterior motives were clear as day. Blake was basically babysitting Jasper to keep him from drinking which made it that much more torturous to sit and watch Grace and Flynn pretend that they weren’t interested in each other, tonight though after Jasper had been sent home to sort his relationship out, Blake had one more ulterior motive. “Seriously, he’s in the top 4, this is the first semi final, you have to watch him.” Blake tells Jasper as he takes over with the tv remote, putting it on the channel that Ryan’s performance was on. “Maybe he’ll stuff it all up, get eliminated and be on a flight home tomorrow.” Jasper shrugs, still faking complete disinterest, though he was almost glad he was being forced to watch Ryan finally. He was proud of course, that Ryan was in the top 4 but he was at a point where he had started resenting that Ryan was away for so long and much to his own guilt, he felt awful to even admit it, but the fact Ryan was respecting that Jasper had asked him not to contact him, was starting to piss him off. After 7 weeks he thought surely Ryan would crack and send him a message, and even though he’d asked for this break, he was annoyed that it didn’t seem to be bothering Ryan more. “Just shut up and be impressed.” Blake orders, turning the volume up as the show starts. Jasper makes cynical and pessimistic comments the whole show, only falling silently as he sees Ryan and Kelsey’s practice week montage begin. Ryan looked happy, he and Kelsey laughing throughout their dance rehearsals. Jealousy was building inside him rapidly, which was bad luck considering how much worse it was about to get. As the lights come up on the stage and music starts playing, Jasper realizes what all the comments about Ryan and Kelsey’s chemistry were about. They danced together so flawlessly, which was unfortunate because this weeks’ challenge had been focusing on showing a seductive and sexy side. It felt like torture for the 4 minutes it went on for, Jasper lets out an annoyed sigh and sinks back against the couch. “Maybe not the best one for you to watch.” Grace comments, breaking the silence. Jasper glares at Blake who puts his hands up defensively to plead innocence but Jasper just looks back at the TV as his boyfriend and his dance partner are congratulated by the host. “Wow guys that was incredible! What a performance! Now, tell me Ryan, what would Jasper have made of that?” The host asks, holding the microphone in front of Ryan who smiles and laughs then licks his lips. “Look, Jasper’s not the jealous type, he’s in the entertainment industry and knows what it’s about, if anything he probably made notes of the things that we could have done to improve the performance.” Ryan answers smoothly. Jasper feels everyone in the room looking at him. “See, they ask him that kind of stuff every week and he always answers them so well.” Grace assures him then struggles to get up from the couch, Flynn helping her up. “You ok?” Flynn asks gently. “Ugh, get a room.” Jasper calls out then looks over at them. “Wait, I take that back.” “I’m fine I’m just going to go to bed, this baby is in a really uncomfortable position. Goodnight guys.” Grace waves and disappears into Jasper’s bedroom. “Soooo.” Blake turns to Jasper. “Sorry I made you watch that particular one, I swear that’s not how it’s been the rest of the time.” “No, no. It’s fine. It’s been eye-opening.” Jasper says sarcastically. “But seriously, what did you think?” Blake asks. “What do you want me to say Blake? He’s good at what he does, obviously. He didn’t make it to the top 4 being a shit dancer. Clearly they are good together, they are two very talented dancers in a show for dancers.” Jasper sighs. “I’m glad he’s doing well and having fun and they are getting along, but it’s honestly making me insecure so I didn’t enjoy that and I’ll probably be up all night thinking about how it looked a little too natural the way they were ‘dancing’ just now.” He sighs again and crosses his arms. “Come on it’s not like that though, she has a boyfriend and...” “Yeah and my boyfriend was just borderline groping her on national TV. Forgive me for not being super pleased with that.” Jasper snaps frustrated. “How can I make it up to you?” Blake asks. “You don’t have to make it up to me, just go home and let me sulk.” Jasper suggests. Blake apologizes again and he and Flynn head out, leaving Jasper to his own thoughts. Although he had no intention of listening to any of his thoughts tonight. Like most nights, after Blake was gone and Grace in bed, Jasper heads out for some ‘fresh air’ that conveniently ended in him being in a bar. He felt bad sneaking around like this, but he was also convinced that it wasn’t such a bad thing. “Hey, you’re here again.” A handsome guy sits beside Jasper at the bar. “You too then, I guess.” Jasper shrugs and finishes his drink. “Well I do work here.” The guy laughs back. “Oh sorry, I’m having a bit of a self-pity phase so I haven’t paid much attention.” Jasper admits and looks across the bar to the bartender who was on his phone at the other end. “I guess I’m not the only one not paying attention.” He says sarcastically. “Jethro.” The guy beside Jasper calls out to get the bartender’s attention then points at Jasper. “Sorry, I didn’t realize you were finished already.” Jethro walks back to Jasper, takes the empty glass and asks if Jasper wants a refill as Jasper hands him money. “That was passive aggressive.” Jasper comments under his breath. “He’s got some stuff going on. What about you? You’ve been here pretty frequently lately, are you all good?” “I’m fine.” Jasper shrugs, he didn’t know what he could realistically blame his mood on anymore, so the easiest answer was to brush it off. “I’ve been working a bar long enough to know when someone isn’t ‘fine’.” “It’s not your business.” Jasper states, starting on his new drink the moment it is placed in front of him, with a decent gulp. “Sure, can I at least cheer you up?” “Good luck, I’m pretty committed to being miserable tonight.” Jasper shrugs, having another big sip. “Ah, a line of shots will loosen you up, you game?” There was a glimmer of something in his eyes, that drew Jasper in, the temptation impossible to ignore. “Sure.” Jasper shrugs and watches at the man orders four tequila shots, placed with lemon wedges on the top and a salt shaker beside them. “Oh cool, I haven’t actually done it this way before.” Jasper sits up a little straighter. “See, you’re excited already. Now, how much fun do you want to make this? Because if you want to make this really interesting, you can lick the salt off me, and suck the lemon wedge from my lips?” The man gives him a cheeky smile that was hard to refuse, he was very charismatic and led with such confidence that he was obviously aware that he was influential. He seemed like trouble, but Jasper was feeling particularly subjective to bad ideas tonight. “That’s a bold suggestion from a stranger at the bar.” Jasper comments. “The name is Harley, you?” Harley takes a lemon wedge and shot glass, passing it to Jasper. “Jasper.” “Well Jasper, now we’re not strangers. So where am I putting the salt?” Harley shoots him a smile as he grabs the salt shaker.
  15. “Jasper! You’re alive! Where did you disappear to the other night?” Simon asks in an unusually peppy tone, the moment Jasper walks in the room. Jasper checks the time on his phone and frowns at Simon, he was definitely late and yet not getting a lecture today. “I felt like I was 7th wheeling with all of you making out around me, decided to skip the orgy.” Jasper jokes, hoping to distract them from where he had gone. “That’s what the party was missing! I knew there was something.” Luke says sarcastically, throwing his arms up in the air dramatically. “Well something obviously went down because you two are weirdly happy this morning.” Jasper comments, turning his attention to Blake and smiling as he sees how he’s dressed, in the time they’d worked under Chris’ label, he’d seen Blake slowly toning down his style but today he’d gone all out with his hair freshly dyed red, his fringe straightened and swept across his eyes. He had a smokey looking make-up style around his eyes, his face slightly paler than usual. His choice of clothing was fairly out of fashion, definitely the style from the early 2000’s, a black leather jacket, over a half buttoned white shirt, his usual skin tight jeans were covered in silver chains going from one pocket to another. “Emo Blake, long time no see.” Jasper holds his fist up, the index finger and pinky raised in the metal horns sign which Blake replicates. “Most disappointing orgy I’ve ever been to.” Blake smirk as the other three give him weird looks. “What, neither of you went to frat parties?” Blake looks from Luke to Simon who both appear now more shocked at the thought that Blake went to college. “You went to college?” Simon asks astonished. “God no, I just went to the parties, you don’t get turned away from many places when you look this good.” Blake winks, gesturing at his face. “Yeah if you turned up looking like that, people were probably too scared to turn you away.” Jasper teases. “I like to instill fear in people, it’s true.” Blake shrugs. “Wow. This is what we are going to learn about you huh?” Luke gives a nervous laugh. “You can’t teach this level of narcissism, sorry. This is the result of someone being born to the Black Parade album.” Blake announces proudly. Jasper frowns and takes his phone out, on a mission to fact check his friend. “Wasn’t that just like, 14 years ago? They aren’t that old? Or are you telling us you’re actually only 14, in which case that answers a lot of questions.” Jasper laughs, pocketing his phone again smugly. “You do not understand. This was the moment the person you see before you today, was born. There was a 7 year old me begging to understand the world and then this album came out and I was born. Ok. Is everyone clear? This was the album that gave me the last 14 years of my life alright. You’re about to be born too. I’m turning you all into dollar store versions of me. Eyeliner and all.” Blake points at his eyes which he was clearly most proud of. “I am not wearing eyeliner.” Luke shakes his head, incorrectly assuming he had a choice in this. “Not just eyeliner my friend. We’re going full on Emo make-overs. Just you wait, you’ve got to look the part to get into the zone here.” Blake informs him, Jasper smirking at the discomfort on Luke’s face. “Oh come on, we wear make-up during concerts, what’s the problem?” Jasper reminds him. “That’s different, that’s part of the performance. Don’t get me wrong, you look cool and all, it’s just not my thing, I’m not sure that look would suit me.” Luke argues desperately wishing for a way out. “Oh yeah? Well you might just change your mind in a second when you see who’s helping us.” Blake turns to the door and raises his voice as a cue to his helper. Fi walks in the room, her hair was coloured black and styled in a messy ‘scene’ look. Dark, dramatic eye make-up was polarising to the much more pale than usual foundation, black lipstick finishing the look. Luke gapes on in shock, having not seen her like this before. His eyes scan down her outfit, she had a mid-thigh length dress that was black with silver skull prints all over it, her boots nearly went all the way up to where the dress stopped, but in the small amount of space between the boots and the dress, he could see she was wearing fishnets. “Still not your look?” Blake asks in a fake whisper. “Fi.” Luke breathes then blinks a few times and turns to Blake. “Is this what you needed to talk to her about at the housewarming party?” He asks, Blake just nods. “You look wicked.” Blake tells her, Fi smiles at him and it’s then that Luke notices silver diamonties in her dimples. “What is that?” Luke walks over to her and looks closer. “Don’t panic, it’s just stick on. Cute though?” Fi asks, absolutely beaming now. “God I thought you got them pierced, wow, I don’t know what to say.” Luke scoffs, confused by his own changing opinion. “Ok.” Luke looks over at Blake. “I’m not getting out of it now that you’ve dragged my wife into it.” “He didn’t have to drag me into it, I’ve always wanted to try out this look. I might keep it.” Fi shrugs, holding the sides of her dress and playfully swishing it. “You definitely should. BUT right now we need to get started on bringing out the inner emo in all of you. Fi, who do you want to start with?” Blake claps his hands and rubs them together excitedly. “I think Simon and Luke will be the most interesting make-overs, but I had the most fun coming up with a style for Jasper, so Jasper, you’re my first project.” Fi gestures towards a single chair, next to a desk with just a big box on it. “Shit yeah, I’m pumped to see you Emo-fied.” Blake nudges Jasper in the direction of the chair. Fi struts over to the desk and pops open the box, pulling open the lid and as it opens, shelves of make-up spread out. As Jasper takes a seat in front of Fi, Blake starts cranking music, starting of course with the album he found the most influence from. “So.” Fi starts playing around with Jasper’s hair. “We’re good aren’t we?” She asks quietly. “Yeah of course.” “Oh good, it’s just at the wedding you seemed a little put off.” Fi sighs. “It’s not personal, it's just weddings aren’t my thing and it seemed really sudden.” Jasper answers. “It was sudden, I’m still getting use to it but Luke’s a great guy and he and I have always gotten along. He’s so sweet and wants to protect me and make me happy so even though I feel woefully unworthy of him, I figured if he saw something in me, maybe he could show me how to see worth in myself too.” “Can I ask you a question? It’s a bit personal though.” Jasper asks, biting his lip as he considers whether it was even appropriate to ask. “Sure.” Fi answers, sounding anything but. “Is it hard to accept how different Luke is from your ex? Do you compare them or anything?” Jasper asks and for a few long moments Fi doesn’t speak. Finally she lets out a heavy sigh. “Its so much harder than I wish it was. Luke’s wonderful and he’s nothing but considerate of me, but I project a lot and I expect the worst and I know it’s not fair but it’s something I am working on. He’s being patient but I can see that it hurts him when I react badly to things. Why do you ask?” “Asking for a friend.” Jasper says vaguely. Fi gives an amused laugh, clearly onto him. “On a different note. Just how much can I get away with in this make-over?” Fi had a cheeky tone in her voice. “Go all out.” Jasper shrugs. “Really!?” He could just about feel her excitement. “What would Ryan think of you getting a completely new look?” “It’s not up to him, I’m saying go for it. My family were really strict on any kind of change to your natural look, but I’ve always wanted to change it up a bit. This seems like a perfect time to change things up.” “You know, I get the feeling you’ve been keeping a bit of a normal ‘facade’ but you know this has been a massive year for you. A bit of a style change might help you feel a bit more refreshed and I know the whole ‘find yourself’ thing is a cliché but when you think about it, every single cell in your body changes every 7 years so when you think of it that way, you’ve just turned 21 right? That means you’re now just at the start of the fourth version of yourself, the last three versions were under the influence of your parents, you get to choose what this version of you is going to be.” Fi’s statement sounded almost rehearsed, and Jasper wonders for a moment whether that was something she told herself about taking this big step with Luke. “New cells, new me huh?” Jasper says, flicking his hair. “Exactly!” Fi claps excitedly. “Ok, trust me, I have great ideas for you so just relax.” Fi orders, spraying Jasper’s hair and getting straight into massaging some cream into it. “So you relate to this stuff?” Simon quizzes, listening to the music Blake was playing, while reading the depressing lyrics. “Oh hell yeah.” Blake says before singing the chorus aggressively. “I can’t imagine that, weren’t you the popular kid in school?” Luke comments. “In high school, yeah. When I was a kid, I struggled with my seizures to the point where somedays it wasn’t worth me getting out of bed because I’d have like 10 a day, I got picked on at school because kids are just dicks about stuff and I’m pretty sure my parents divorced because of the stress, so yeah, I had some pent up angst that felt every word of these songs, plus Flynn was really into them because I guess he felt like I took up all our parents time and so he was pretty mad at the world but we bonded over listening to this on repeat.” Blake explains calmly, seemingly unphased by how sad that was. “Woah, I didn’t realize you had such bad seizures, you don’t still have them do you?” Simon asks concerned. “Rarely, I’ve been on medicinal marijuana for years which helps but I still have the occasional one. Still not sure what triggers them though so it’s a bit unpredictable.” Blake shrugs. “That’s full on, I had no idea.” Luke admits. “Really? Jasper knew. I assumed you all did.” Blake comments. “When did you tell him?” Simon asks. “I think he came with me to get a new dose from Flynn one time early on and I just told him straight what it was and what it was for.” Blake shrugs. Jasper who was at this point getting make-up done just gives a thumbs up to show Blake was right. “Oh we can all talk shit about him since he can’t talk back right now.” Blake teases. Jasper gives him the finger but the conversation went to what they should do if Blake had a seizure, which was now Simon’s biggest concern. After what felt like hours getting his hair styled and make-up put on, Fi ushers Jasper behind a divider and hands him a bag with his name on it. The final part of the look was clothes she’d picked out to suit him. Jasper excitedly gets changed, he was looking forward to actually seeing what he looked like since he’d yet to have been given the chance to see himself. “I’m done.” Jasper calls out. “Ok, come on out! Lets see the final product!” Fi claps her hands and all eyes are on Jasper as he steps out from behind the divider. “Oh shit yeah! That’s what I’m talking about!” Blake grins, walking over and hi-5-ing Fi. “Check you out, you look proper badass now!” Blake pushes him towards a mirror. Jasper barely recognized the person he was looking at, his hair had been dyed jet black, but had flecks of blonde throughout it, it was swept across his eyes at the front with the back teased into a mess that went in all directions. His face was slightly paler than usual, and his eyes were thick with black liner and eyeshadow that was both perfectly drawn in parts and purposely smudged for effect on the outer corners, some trickle effects that looked like they were slightly tear streaked. Fi had even put an array of clip on diamond cuff and stud earrings on just one ear that covered the entire side. His clothes weren’t far from what he’d usually wear, so he was more than comfortable in them, he wore a black shirt that was buttoned with large silver buttons that were matched with a silver pocket square and tie, that Blake was now loosening so it hung lower and lopsided. The black skin tight jeans were ripped at the knees and had a silver chain hanging from the belt loop to the pocket on the opposite side to the ear that was decorated. “You are not putting earrings on me.” Luke tells Fi who just laughs and nudges him. “Oh I have plans for you, don’t you worry.” She winks. “What do you think Jasper?” “My parents would be mortified. I feel angsty. Is this how you feel all the time?” Jasper turns to Blake. “All the time, yes. Just constant angst. I need a photo of us while you look like this.” Blake orders, pulling out his phone and getting the camera up, he and Jasper sneer at the camera and he snaps a photo, immediately Blake runs across the room and starts laughing to himself as he types. “Oh no what are you doing?!” Jasper chases after him worried. “Nothing! Nothing! Just hold on! Check your twitter!” Blake locks his phone quickly and pockets it with a suspicious smirk. Jasper rushes back to grab his phone from the pockets of the pants he’d changed out of. Meanwhile he hears Simon, Luke and Fi all making comments about how much trouble Blake was causing. He opens his phone and has a notification that he’s been tagged in a post by Blake. The photo loads with a caption that he reads out. “Dear BlaSper fans, now he’s my type. Don’t tell @TheRealRyanKurtis. #emosTogether #Blasper #FinallyMyType #writetheFanfics.” Jasper looks over at Blake who had a smug smirk on his face, unlike Jasper who was trying not to be amused by Blake trolling the fans. “Are you trying to start rumours here?” “Yes.” Blake shrugs carelessly and takes his phone out again, looking at it as it buzzes with an eruption of notifications. “Ooooh Ryan retweeted it.” Blake teases Jasper, who at the thought of Ryan having seen the photo and caption, was immediately anxious to know what he’d said. Jasper refreshes his page and sees Ryan’s retweet at the top now. ‘Enjoy the fantasy while it lasts BlaSper fans. #ForeverMyType’ Jasper smiles to himself as he reads the post from Ryan, he wanted to know what Ryan really thought of the new look but before he even gets as far as opening up a text, Blake interrupts his line of thought. “Right, now while Simon gets his make-over, you and I need to have a chat.” Blake sighs, hinting Jasper to follow him to a decent distance from the others. “What’s up?” Jasper asks when they get to the other side of the room. “Are you all good?” Blake asks him quietly, his expression serious. “Yeah, why?” “You disappeared last night, I know you were a bit stressed about Ryan and all that, so where’d you go?” Blake crosses his arms. “For a walk.” Jasper shrugs. “A walk where?” “I don’t know, around. There was a bar a few blocks away that I stumbled across.” “I knew it! You went off to drink!” Blake rolls his eyes and crosses his arms. “I’m trying to be a good friend here, I’m trying to find the balance between letting you have a drink and stopping you from getting drunk because that’s what you want me to do, but...” “I know, I know. I didn’t mean to. I was looking at Ryan’s photos with Kelsey and found myself at a bar, it turned out to be a very interesting trip because I found out what Damien does for a living, turns out he frequently went there to meet up with the guys that he ‘worked’ for.” Jasper tells him, needing to share the gossip with at least someone. “That doesn’t sound very professional, I thought they’d meet up in private.” Blake replies casually, Jasper frowns at him. “You knew?” Jasper asks. “Flynn told me back when he realized Douche’ bag had drugged you. Apparently he offered Flynn an arrangement of sleeping with him for free drugs and Flynn turned him down not so long ago.” “Why didn’t you tell me!?” Jasper snaps. “I thought you would have already figured it out or that Ryan might’ve told you.” Blake answers with an innocent shrug. “Ryan doesn’t know, and I would ask you to keep it that way, but obviously you’re cool with keeping secrets so I guess I don’t need to tell you.” Jasper rolls his eyes and crosses his arms. “Like you’re any better, sneaking off to get drunk. I’m pissed at you for that. You wanted me to keep you accountable and then you run off and drink behind my back. Flynn and I are coming over for dinner tonight to keep an eye on you.” Blake announces. “Why would Flynn want to come too?” Jasper frowns. “He’s got a thing for your sister.” Blake replies, smirking once again as he knows he’s stirring Jasper up. “What? He knows she’s really pregnant right? Like he’s aware there’s a human that is going to come out of her and stop her from sleeping and cry and poop and that’s her very near future.” Jasper states, concern dawning on him that with Grace living in his place, that was also his near future. “Yeah but he likes kids. He said they got along really well and that he wants to get to know her more.” Blake defends Flynn. “And you’re encouraging this why?” “He hasn’t dated anyone in ages, he’s a good person at heart and he’s working on bettering himself. Come on, why do you have a problem with it?” Blake asks. “Mostly just because it’s my sister and I don’t want to have to punch Flynn for touching her.” Jasper shrugs. “Just because you look badass, doesn’t mean you actually have the guts to punch Flynn. He’d break you in a second. He’s had proper fights with tough guys and come out with less than a broken nose, I wouldn’t go threatening to hit him.” Blake teases. “Fine, he can have her. She can cry to him about how the fucking horse that’s being retired from racing ‘doesn’t know how loved it is’, that will put him off. I give him a week dealing with her hormones and he’ll not only not want Grace, but it’ll put him off ever getting anyone pregnant. I’ve only spent a few days with her and any part of me considering ever trying to make my parents happy by marrying a woman, packed up and left the time she yelled at me to add bacon to something that bacon did not go with, and then cried when I asked her if she wanted more or if I should put the leftovers away and she just ‘didn’t know’ if she was still hungry or not.” Jasper complains, while Blake is hanging on every word of his stories and laughing at the dry delivery from his friend who was not amused by it in the slightest. “You laugh now, but I’ll be laughing at you when you and Beth are onto baby number 4 and you’ve not slept in 8 years and you don’t even notice the smell of vomit and poop because that’s just the scent of your house now and she’s crying about something completely trivial, while I’m living in a clean house, well rested with my sanity.” Jasper reminds him. “Seriously, why would Flynn like my sister? He barely knows her.” “Well yeah, that’s why he wants to come over for dinner, to get to know her. Come on, imagine if one day they got married, we’d be actual brother’s in law. That’d be rad right?” Blake suggests. “Oh god.” Jasper sighs. “Imagine the fanfics then.” He jokes. “It’s not incest if it’s in-laws.” Blake winks. “You’re gross. Why are you the way that you are?” Jasper asks in a serious tone, though he wasn’t able to stop himself from smiling. “Years upon years of covering for my shit with a bad sense of humor. But thar’s tomorrows’ focus point.” Blake shrugs. “Anyway, we’ll be over at 6. Flynn said he’s going to cook so be prepared to order food and replace whatever utensils he destroys.” On that note, Blake walks back over to see what progress was being made to Simon’s appearance.
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