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  1. “Jasper?” Damien looks shocked as he opens the door, clearly he wasn’t expecting a visitor at this time of night, in fact it looked like Jasper had either woken him up or caught him just going to bed by the look of his sweatpants and oversized jumper that he looked super comfortable in. “Surprise. I thought I’d repay the favour of turning up uninvited at your place even though you’ve never told me where you live and I have no good reason for being here. Not so fun is it?” Jasper asks with a smirk at his own pettiness, he had sobered mostly on the walk here, but was bubbling with confidence and excitement to be getting an opportunity to confront Damien for once. “Let me guess, Ryan gave you my address?” Damien crosses his arms, trying to match Jasper’s level of cockiness. “No, actually. I have a message from Cruze.” Jasper states and watches all the attitude drain from Damien’s face. Damien steps out of the doorway and gestures for Jasper to come in, not wanting to have the conversation in the hallway now that Jasper had dropped that name. “How did you find out?” Damien asks as soon as he closes the door behind Jasper, even his tone of voice was different from how he usually spoke and he was visibly less confident, tugging his shirt sleeves over his hands and balling his fists before crossing his arms again. Jasper takes a moment to enjoy the feeling of power over him, having spent so much time feeling like a second hand victim. “The guy behind the bar a few blocks away mentioned your name and I thought, what the fuck are the odds he’s talking about the same Damien I am sick to death of hearing about!? Turns out this town is just way too small because no matter how hard I keep wishing to never see you again, you’re always around. I can’t even go out to a bar without someone reminding me you exist in the world. Is this seriously where you live?” Jasper turns away from Damien and looks around at the apartment he was standing in, that had very little décor and looked no more homely than a hotel room, and from where he stood in the small kitchenette, he could see the lounge area and a short hallway that seemed to lead to only two rooms. “What were you expecting? An evil lair?” Damien scoffs defensively. “Well no, but, take it from someone with experience with a boss that only out for themselves, by the looks of this place he’s taking way too much of a cut from your pay, to care so little about your privacy that he’d give your home address to a complete stranger over the phone.” Jasper shakes his head at the underwhelming looking apartment. “What does it matter to you? You’re probably thrilled to see how shitty this place is.” Damien shrugs and leans against the bench of the kitchenette. “Disappointed, I looked you up and from the prices on your profile I thought I’d be walking into a very different looking place.” Jasper turns back to Damien, seeing him looking at floor and kicking his foot, uncomfortably. “Look, he wanted me to tell you he’s been finding new uh, companions for your clients since you’ve been missing work and skipping his calls.” Jasper sighs, trying to sound completely careless about it all, but he felt a bit bad that Damien was clearly being mistreated by management, something he could personally relate to and empathize with. “Do I look like I give a fuck? Good for him. I’m guessing you’re not here just to pass on a message though, you must be so amused so go ahead and say whatever shit you’re thinking about me. I don’t care.” Damien scoffs, shaking his head and avoiding looking at Jasper. For a moment, Jasper almost responds with pity. “Just another thing you can tell Ryan about to make me look bad.” Damien comments and Jasper is immediately snapped back into focus about who he was dealing with and what his real reason for being here was. “What, you don’t think being a literal stalker makes you look bad enough?” Jasper laughs, genuinely amazed that Damien would even suggest that he would need more reason to bad mouth him. “For god’s sake how important do you think you are? I’m not a stalker, people just talk, as you’ve found out. It takes nothing to find people around here. I happened to have been in the building you live in where I saw you guys come in. Doesn’t take a genius to work out the guys from the boyband would be able to afford a room on the top floor.” Jasper doesn’t bother defending that he’d been scammed into living in a 5 bedroom suite with the rest of the members for most of his career, he didn’t care if Damien saw him as having a vastly better off life right now. “Sure, because that makes it completely better.” Jasper nods. “Never mind the creeping into Ryan’s bedroom and writing in his notebook about how much better you are than me, probably watching me sleep while you were at it, and then not just knocking on our door at my place, but just letting yourself in like trespassing doesn’t apply to you.” Jasper reminds him with a sarcastic tone, rolling his eyes and shaking his head. He didn’t think he’d actually have to be here explaining what part of the shit Damien had done, was bad, but then again clearly this guy didn’t operate on a level of considering things like general respect for other people’s privacy. “I know it doesn’t make it any better, but I’m stalking you about as much as you ‘stalked’ me to find out where I live. Now come on, hit me with the spiel about how pathetic I am and how much better with you Ryan is...” “He is better with me, not because of your job, I don’t actually care at all about your life choices. The only reason he’s better with me, comes down to the fact that I treat him like a person.” Jasper shrugs, he had plenty more to say but was a little taken back that Damien wasn’t starting a fight over it, rather coming off quite defeated and negative, which appealed somewhat to Jasper’s empathetic side, making it hard to feel like the bigger person for coming here for a confrontation. Every other time he’d dealt with Damien, it’d been clear that Damien was so full of himself and so rude that he’d been easy to be a jerk back to, but seeing him vulnerable and defensive humanized him in a way that Jasper hadn’t been expecting. He’d thought he’d be walking into a room full of snide remarks and attitude, of which he had come up with plenty of bitchy comments and arguments in his head to throw back at Damien. He had not prepared to see Damien as a person with his own crappy life, just as the enemy he’d been to Jasper’s personal life the last number of months. “I know I screwed up with him...” “Well that’s an understatement.” Jasper scoffs. “Look, I just wanted closure on the whole drama with Ryan. He disappeared from my life and turned up in a boyband dating you. He and I never talked things through and every time we have talked since it’s been like 50% bitching about things that don’t matter and 50% one of us dropping some kind of truth bomb that derails it all. The first time we talked, I didn’t think you and he were actually serious and I did want him back, so yeah, I was trying to get between you guys then.” Damien admits, his honesty met with a tone of remorse and regret. “Clearly because you kissed him.” “He kissed me, actually.” Damien gives a slight smirk. There it was, the attitude Jasper came prepared for. “You guys are toxic together, you realize that right? Whatever happened between the two of you when you dated, has screwed you both up. You’ve got this power complex where you for some reason like to be able to control a person by being a manipulative piece of shit and he defaults to a victim mindset when you’re around. I don’t know what you expect would happen if you did manage to get him to give you another chance, but I don’t believe you’re naiive enough to not know that he’s not choosing you for any healthy reason, he doesn’t miss you, you’ve just conditioned him not to be able to say no to you. IF you guys ever got back together, it wouldn’t change, it’d be exactly the same all over again. The two of you do not work as a couple because you don’t know how to be a couple, you only know how to manipulate people into treating you how you want at the expense of what they want.” Jasper states, eyeing him curiously as he once again watches the confidence slip away, the smirk dropping and Damien’s eyes not able to hold the confident glare Jasper was giving him. “I know. I’m working on that.” Damien says gently, fiddling again with his clothes. “But in my defense, I’ve spent years being the one that had no control so I did develop a need to feel power and...” Jasper knew where this was going and despite being somewhat sorry for what Damien’s issues could be traced back to, he wasn’t about to let him excuse his abusive behavior. “Stay away from Ryan and let him move on. He needs that so he can work on himself and be the kind of person he wants to be, away from the issues you inflicted on him.” Jasper insists sternly but calmly. “I just want to apologize to him for everything. I had no idea that I caused him to hurt himself like that, when he told me, he blocked me immediately after. Do you really think I wouldn’t have spent a good deal of time trying to process that and then want to apologize? I got drunk the other night, I knew that wasn’t a good idea because I am a jerk when I drink but I was genuinely coming to talk to him and say sorry and have closure so we can both just move on.” “Closure for you or him? Because any time he sees your face or hears your name it seems to undo any progress he makes in getting over it and moving on. So it’s all well and good that it might bring you closure but it won’t do him any favors to hear your point of view or your apology.” Damien looks at him for a long time, comprehending what Jasper had just said before finally letting out a heavy sigh. “Wow. Even when I think I am doing the right thing I fail him. Fuck.” He comments sadly, chewing his lip as he thinks. “You really don’t think it’d help him at all to know that I never meant to hurt him like that?” Damien looks at Jasper with a sense of desperation to be told what to do. “No offence but how could you possibly have accidentally been that bad. I mean from what he told me, I am genuinely surprised to hear that you even cared about him and that you weren’t being that way as some kind of awful social experiment to see how much it takes to push someone over the edge.” Jasper comments, unable to comprehend the thought processes Damien must have gone through to come to the conclusion that his actions were fine. “I am ashamed that I made him feel that way, truly. And the thing is, my side of the story doesn’t exactly make me look better, I’m in no way saying I have an excuse for how I treated him, but you have to understand I was treated like shit in every single relationship I had before that one and things that were important to me, were straight up rejected by him so I didn’t know what I was supposed to do.” “Probably not drug him and manipulate him into giving you what you wanted.” Jasper delivers his response so coldly that it takes Damien by surprise and his attitude switches from trying to garner compassion, to defensively trying to deflect the fault. “Wow, he really told you everything huh? Did he tell you that the first night I gave him drugs, we were at a party and he was miserable about something and told me he wanted to just get out of his own thoughts and relax? And that I joked about spiking his drink and he told me to do it? Probably not hey. I’m not saying it was ok to do that at other times, I get that it was wrong, I didn’t at the time but now I do. It was just so nice to see how much calmer he was and how much more open he was with me I admit I got bad at doing it, but he wasn’t naïve to what I was doing.” Damien scoffs. Jasper had no intention of letting Damien know that Ryan hadn’t told him that detail, he wouldn’t put it past Damien to think he had a chance with Ryan if he so much as caught a glimmer of Jasper and Ryan’s relationship not being unbreakably strong, so he remains poker faced and moves onto his next point. “What about lying to him that you loved him just so he’d sleep with you?” “He needed to feel like I loved him, to have sex with me, and I needed him to have sex with me to feel like he loved me, I didn’t lie to him.” Damien shrugs like the entire situation that was so important to Ryan that he attempted to take his life after, was no big deal. “Did it cross your mind that, maybe that was something you should have talked about, maybe looked into therapy for?” Jasper asks, not holding back the expression and tone of disgust in Damien for being blaise about the most monumentally messed up event in their train wreck of a relationship. “Of course, and we did talk about it. One of us had to compromise and he was adamant he couldn’t. If I didn’t, neither of us would have had a chance to know for sure whether it would work out.” Damien shrugs again. “Seriously? You’re talking about this like it was as important as trying a new type of food and risking not liking what you ordered. I think you should have known by the fact you’re talking about compromising on saying you love someone, just for a result, that it was not going to work out.” Jasper was getting heated again, and the villainous perception of Damien was shining through in his clear lack of consideration towards Ryan. “Ok but in my mind it should have. I was sure about how I felt as soon as we took that step, and I thought he was too. I had hoped that I’d be able to spend some time working things out with Ryan so we could move forward in our lives since I felt like we were complete, only the next thing I know he’s shut me out and I thought he had fallen out of love with me or I’d done something wrong.” Jasper’s mouth falls open but for a few moments all he can do is scoff over and over at the realization that Damien didn’t know why Ryan did what he did that night. Finally he gains the ability to speak, deciding that he needed to know what was going through Damien’s mind the night that Ryan’s heart was broken and his self worth was destroyed completely, leaving the plethora of issues that he now struggled to move past. “You did do something wrong, you ran off afterwards to hook up with someone else, he saw the text on your phone when you went to take a shower. How the fuck did you think he would feel? You told him you loved him and took advantage of him because you knew that would get you what you wanted. He felt used, he felt worthless. It was precious to him, to share that moment with someone he felt loved by and you took that from him and proved how unimportant it was and it broke him.” Jasper pauses, almost choking up on his own words as he’s overcome with heartache himself at the thought of how Ryan must have felt. Back when he’d first heard about what happened, he’d been upset to hear how things had played out and he felt sick about it. Now that he was so deeply invested in Ryan and his happiness, hearing Damien’s heartless recount of the moments that had been so devastatingly impactful on Ryan gave him the sense of just how hurtful it must have been to Ryan to have his feelings and needs be discounted to a ‘compromise’. He’d spent enough time now getting to understand Ryan’s reactions so things that he could just about feel the pain this would have caused. Damien on the other hand was hearing for the first time, what actually happened from Ryan’s perspective and only now was seeming to understand the weight of what he’d done. “Were you cheating or was it work?” Jasper asks, his last attempt to find out if Damien was actually a complete sociopath or if he was just doing his job and too ashamed to tell Ryan what that work was. Damien stares at him stunned for a moment, his eyes glistening with tears that he blinks away as quickly as he could, recomposing before he answers. Even knowing what he’d done, he was able to pass off the feelings of sadness in literally a blink of the eye. “Both, right? Just because I got paid, doesn’t mean it wasn’t cheating.” He sighs and chews at his lip while he thinks about what Jasper had said. “I actually went to quit, I figured Ryan could support me until I found a more legitimate job. But as it turns out, having him ghost me after sex, really killed my ego.” Damien sighs and looks down at his feet. Jasper had felt differently about Damien a number of times since he heard his name back at the bar tonight, but now he felt nothing but repulsion. “It killed your ego?” Jasper repeats, unable to forgive such a conceited remark. Damien looks up at him quickly and shakes his head. “That came out wrong! I just meant, losing Ryan had a shitty effect on me too. I don’t mean that in some victim way, but just that I did care about him and losing him the way I did was a really hard thing to cope with. I was vulnerable to him because I cared and how things ended there left me feeling really worthless and I tried to make up for that feeling by proving I was desired. I thought it was the sex part that made him leave me, and that was like, the only part of a relationship I thought I was good at. If I’d known that it was because he saw a text from a client and thought I was cheating on him I would have had to come clean about how I was getting money and begged him to know that, that was all they were to me. I never cared about anyone else, the other guys were just work. I know it’s still cheating but my heart was in that relationship. He disappeared from me without a word that night and I got the wrong idea why and I fell into a spiral of being needy for reassurance and finding that reassurance in the fact that people would pay to spend an hour with me so...” Damien gives up his explanation as he realizes that Jasper’s expression wasn’t changing and he didn’t deserve the pity in this conversation anyway. “Your life is your responsibility, so if it’s not gone the way you planned, sort your own shit out. I get that you’ve had your share of problems and whatever, but if you really do get what you’ve put him through then you’ll stay out of his life. Even if you are wanting to be a better person, and wanting to apologize for the right reasons, it’s not going to do him any good. You want to prove you’re sorry and that you care about his happiness? Leave him the ever loving fuck alone. Also, get therapy. Using other people to work through your own problems is not ok, it just spreads the damage onto other people who don’t deserve to be your emotional experiment.” He shrugs and turns to walk out of Damien’s apartment. “Hey, are you going to tell Ryan about, my job?” Damien asks nervously. Jasper looks him up and down and sighs. “I don’t want to think about it ever again to be honest, much less make anyone else think about what you do for rent. Seriously though, ditch your pimp and respect yourself, you know now what happened with Ry, and it’s got nothing to do with whether or not your good in bed so move on. At least do a job worthy of your paycheck, having a boss take the better half of your pay, that gives your home address to an annoyed drunk stranger is just not worth it. Maybe get a job at a bar. It’s a win win, you’ll get to do the things you like doing, getting people drunk and having your nose in their business, probably get plenty of drunk guys flirting with you to feed your ego and twisted self worth, and you can get paid to keep your clothes on so it’d be doing the world a favour. Just a thought” Jasper suggests before he lets himself out of the apartment. He felt somewhat lighter as he left the building, hoping that was the last he would have to deal with Damien. Though it had not gone the way Jasper had originally thought their conversation would go, he felt good for standing up to him himself, but more importantly, he felt confident that he’d gotten through to him about leaving Ryan alone so he could finally, finally, get on with his life and with the biggest cause of their conflicts left behind at last, he and Jasper could maybe have a chance at resolving things and moving forward stronger together.
  2. “I knew you guys would turn up while I was out. I hope the drive was alright and that Flynn carried your stuff up. I just realized there was no real food in this place and I’ve got to have actual food to feed you.” Jasper calls out to Grace as he starts unpacking groceries. “Jasper, seriously don’t fuss over me. I‘ve had enough of that for a life time the last week.” Grace mumbles annoyed as she gets up from the couch and waddles towards him, caressing her bump. “I don’t think making sure I have food for us is fussing but ok.” Jasper rolls his eyes at her grumpiness and pulls out his phone. “I can’t eat anything anyway, I have heartburn so bad that even water is painful to drink and all I want, ALL I WANT is soft serve ice-cream.” Grace whines. “Did the nurses give you anything for heartburn and do you want me to go and get you ice-cream?” Jasper asks, glancing up from his phone. “How many weeks are you?” He asks. “I can’t eat soft serve, it’s one of those things that pregnant people can’t have for whatever reason.” Grace throws her hands up in the air in despair then notices Jasper only half listening while he looks at his phone. “What are you doing?” “I’m looking up hormonal phases during pregnancy.” Jasper replies with a cheeky smile as her jaw drops open. “Are you kidding me! Are you serious right now? Oh my god it’s lucky you’re gay because you have no idea how to treat a pregnant woman. Rule number one, NEVER comment on hormones!” Grace snaps, she felt completely infuriated but Jasper was not taking her seriously one bit, making the mistake of laughing. “Are you laughing at me?” “No, I’m laughing because it’s definitely lucky that I am never going to get anyone pregnant. All seriousness though, I’m not judging you for being hormonal or anything, I just want you to be comfortable here and I’ll do whatever I can to help you out. So the bedroom is yours, and is there anything I can get you for your heartburn?” Jasper asks, leading the way to his room. “Ew I have to sleep in your room?” Grace gawks, following him reluctantly, scuffing her feet on the floor. “I think you mean, thank you. I mean, where did you think you were going to sleep, on the couch? I might be insensitive but I’m not going to make a pregnant woman sleep on the couch.” Jasper tells her, watching her pull a disgusted face. “What?” “It’s just, you and Ryan... that’s the bed you guys....” “Sleep in?” Jasper asks, giving her a challenging look. “I bought brand new sheets for you and everything. If it’s any consolation, we haven’t fucked, so you don’t need to worry about sleeping in a bed two guys fucked in.” Jasper rolls his eyes annoyed. “It’s not like that.” “Sure it isn’t.” Jasper rolls his eyes again. “You’ve been here for like, 5 minutes and you’ve already made a joke about me being gay and gotten all grossed out at the idea of sleeping in a bed I shared with another man. As if it’s not like that.” Jasper walks away from Grace, not wanting to argue with her, whether he couldn’t be bothered or whether he didn’t feel as if it was worth the argument he didn’t know, but he simply had no drive for the fight. “Did you have a bad day at work?” Grace asks, his mood impossible to not notice. Jasper shrugs and walks towards his bedroom. “Haven’t been to work this week, it was meant to be Luke’s week to make us do stuff, but he went and got married so, bed, bathroom, through there.” He gestures to the door. “Help yourself to anything in the fridge and cupboards and whatnot, just let me know if I need to get anything for you. Sorry there’s not much variety of food, Ryan went a little, obsessive into health foods before he went away so we’ve got a house full of protein and cauliflower but please, please tell me your baby is craving jam doughnuts or something.” Jasper begs jokingly. Grace just laughs and shakes her head. “I’m not very hungry. And everything is painful to eat anyway.” She sighs, looking down at the bump. “What did the doctors say about your weight and size? Because you’re pretty small.” Jasper comments. “It’s better than getting fat. Baby is fine, healthy. So there’s nothing to worry about.” Grace walks into the bedroom and frowns. “Why is this so boring in here? There’s no photos or anything. Are you sure you live here? It’s not very homely.” “People still print out photos? I guess I didn’t want it to look too ‘gay’ for you.” He says sarcastically. Grace turns to him and gives a heavy sigh. “Look, I’m sorry. I really don’t have a problem with you, I’m not one to talk about who you should and shouldn’t love. I just struggle to get my mind out of how we were raised.” Grace admits. “I know, I get that.” Jasper crosses his arms and shrugs. “Do you still believe in any of the stuff we were raised to believe in?” Grace asks. “Oh, wow. Don’t make me regret deciding to quit drinking this week.” Jasper laughs nervously, wishing he did have a drink to hide behind right now. “I guess you can’t really, given how you are now. I probably sound super hypocritical too, but I want to raise my daughter to be Christian. I don’t want her to turn out the way I did.” Grace comments. “But I also don’t want to be like Mum was to us.” She chews her lip and eyes Jasper curiously. “I don’t think its hypocritical so much, more that it’s probably how every single parent thinks. Everyone wants to have good kids that grow into good people. No matter what we were taught though, we are good people. Honestly I do still find comfort in having a faith to believe in, I just resent that we were raised to be so hateful and judgemental towards people who didn’t fit a certain description. Taught to think we were flawed for having thoughts and feelings that were completely normal. The way they imposed all their ‘Gods Will’ crap on you about how to be a good wife and to submit to your husband and to have no voice in the relationship, no wonder you ended up not feeling empowered and strong enough to leave when things started going bad with your sperm donor. That kind of stuff I don’t agree with at all.” Jasper explains. “But you still do believe there is a God?” Grace asks. “I don’t believe that if there is some higher power out there with some perfect plan for our lives, then wouldn’t this all be part of his plan? I trust there is a reason for every single challenge and path we take, but I think it’s all part of what was planned for our lives. I don’t have all the answers, but I know I have this lifetime so I am not wasting it under the guise that I will have a good afterlife.” Jasper answers, Grace doesn’t say anything else, she just nods and looks around uncomfortably. “Cool, well if we’re done talking about why I’m not right and everything I do is condemning me to a life in hell, then I’m going to go and start dinner.” Jasper shrugs, turning and leaving the room. Grace follows him out and while he gets started grabbing out ingredients she notices a note book on the bench. “Oooooh, is this your diary?” She reaches for it but Jasper makes no attempt to stop her. “What am I, a 13 year old girl? It’s for song ideas.” He rolls his eyes. Grace grabs it and flips it open, flipping through the empty pages, looking up at Jasper confused. “Yeah, so song writing isn’t going so well at the moment. I just keep it near me at all times in case I get struck with inspiration because I’m getting desperate, we’re supposed to be all working on new albums, but I cannot think of a single chorus, let alone a whole mini album worth of songs. What’s more is we’re supposed to be doing whole weeks focusing on what inspires us and I don’t know how I’m going to do that when I don’t even know who I am right now.” He complains as he cuts things for dinner. “How long has Ryan been gone?” Grace asks. “A week, why?” “Become a bit co-dependent have you?” She smiles as she asks, but Jasper doesn’t take it lightly. “Honestly, I don’t know how long it’s been since I felt like I knew who I was and what I wanted. Probably since I auditioned for this fucking band. I came into this career with such high hopes and ambitions and then Chris just ruined it for us and there’s been so many changes and it feels like they’ve all been such big changes, who we work for, where I live, who I live with, you being pregnant, me being with Ryan in the first place. I’ve just really lost my sense of self and what my goal is. It’s surprisingly hard to try to write music when you’re overwhelmed by so many big life changes.” Jasper cuts a bit more aggressively, then sighs as he puts the pasta in a pot, throws the other ingredients into a pan and then gets started on mixing the sauce. “Well, you were originally inspired in church, you use to love singing along at services. Then you would get in trouble at Sunday school because you’d keep singing and distract the group. You organized the choir yourself when you were 9 but fired the only 2 other kids that wanted to join you because of ‘artistic differences’. I distinctly remember you telling them that because I had to ask Mum what that phrase even meant.” Grace laughs while she thinks back to their childhood. “None of that helps.” Jasper laughs too. “I can’t exactly get the guys singing bible songs, Blake will turn into flames if he sings them, I’m sure. That’s just one form of blasphemy too far.” “Well no, but if you’re going through what inspired you musically, it’s part of your life. It doesn’t matter that you don’t listen to it anymore or believe it anymore. That’s just how it goes. Besides I think you only liked those songs because you were allowed to listen to and sing them. What about when you first started listening to regular pop music, that’s probably a huge part of your inspiration.” “It was that time we snuck out to the school disco because the guy you liked asked you out. We were caught and grounded for a month, which was dumb because we never went anywhere anyway, other than school and church? We lost nothing. Then I realized if I got up really early on weekends I could watch music programs before they even woke up, those were good times. I felt like such a rebel.” “We should sneak out to a club!” Grace suggests. “You’re a bit too pregnant for clubbing don’t you think?” Jasper points at her tummy. Grace looks down and sighs then looks back up at Jasper and nods sadly. “Maybe when you’ve had the baby, we can leave Ryan to babysit and go out together. Might pump the breaks on his talking about having kids someday if he’s left alone to be sleepless with a screaming baby for a night.” Jasper jokes. “Awww he wants kids? That’s amazing, our kids will grow up close in age!” Grace beams at him excitedly. Jasper just widens his eyes and shakes his head at her dramatically. “Why not? Come on, my baby is going to need company, it’d be awesome to have a cousin close in age, since she’ll likely be an only child for at least a long time. She’ll need company, remember how much fun we had growing up?” Grace urges. “Girl, you’re not talking me into having a kid any time soon. I am nowhere near ready to even consider kids.” “I’d have kids with Ryan.” Grace sighs dreamily. “Uh-huh.” Jasper rolls his eyes. “I’ll remind you of that comment when you’re giving birth and we’ll see if having more kids is something you’re thinking about then.” He smiles as he watches Grace cringe at his words. “Touche’.” She chews her lip. “Hey, speaking of Ryan’s moves though, isn’t it the first episode of his dance show tonight? What time does it start? What’s his dance partner like?” Grace asks, taking out her phone and looking it up for herself. “Jasper! You are the worst boyfriend, the show has already started!” Grace says as she gets up and goes to the TV, quickly turning it on and flicking to the right channel just as the introductions of all the dancers are finishing. Jasper could feel his heart racing as he refuses to look up at the tv upon hearing the first couple talking about what their first week of practice was like. He busies himself aggressively cleaning the dishes as he tries to put Grace’s words out of his head. Truth be told he did feel like the worst boyfriend for not being keen to watch Ryan make his TV debut but he was still feeling so incredibly hurt that he didn’t think he would be able to see him dancing with someone else without feeling like his fears were coming to fruition. “Jasper!” Luke grins at him the moment Jasper walks into the living area of Luke and Fi’s house, that only a week ago was nothing but empty rooms with only wedding cake and champagne in the fridge. Tonight however it’d gone from being the place of a wedding ceremony to a fully decked out house party, which seemed overboard given that Jasper was the first person to arrive of only the handful of guests, but clearly Fi was going stir crazy waiting for a job to do and had taken her creative styling work out on their new home. Luke rushes over with a drink in hand and passes it to Jasper. “What do you think of the place now?” He asks as he throws his arms out dramatically gesturing at the room. “Well I’ll have to see it without all the party lights and whatnot but It's definitely coming together isn’t it? Looks like a place people live in. How’d you pull this all off so quickly?” “Didn’t you get a payment from Chris yet? I know me and Simon got our first of many cheques, mine was enough for the house deposit and Fi had been saving her payout from when Chris fired her for no reason. Well I say saving it, the moment we got our marriage certificate in the mail Fi started working on completely separating her finances from her ex and he was forced to un-freeze her account finally. Thanks to him her money has been dormant and just collecting interest for years so there was a silver lining on that fiasco.” Luke smiles admiringly as he looks around the room. “Oh, we watched the show last night too, how good was Ryan?! What a way to start the show, not bad for a first performance, right?!” Luke was so excitable, a side to him Jasper hadn’t really seen but obviously married life was going well for him, which only seemed to polarize the lack of enthusiasm Jasper was feeling about his own life. “Of course, it’s his thing.” Jasper replies trying not to sound completely uninterested but also not wanting to give much room for the conversation to go further. “So what are we doing for your week of ‘influence’, because starting it with a house party is a pretty high bar to set.” Jasper attempts to lead the attention away from Ryan. “Honestly, I have no idea. I swapped with Blake for this week because I’m still wrapping my head around my life today, let alone trying to go back to what led me here, you know?” Luke sighs contently. “I know that feeling.” Jasper mutters under his breath. “Anyway, what’d you think of his partner? I mean I know you 'aren't the jealous type' but…” Luke trails off momentarily as Blake walks in. “Blake will agree with me!” “Don’t drag me into whatever drama you are starting. It’s too early and I’ve not started drinking yet.” Blake calls out, then catches Jasper’s eye and gives him a nod. “Are we here before Simon?” He asks, a look of genuine astonishment on his face. “There’s a first for everything.” Jasper laughs as Blake walks up and high-fives him. “He’d be so proud of us.” Blake fakes wiping a tear from his eye. “If only he were here to see it.” Jasper says with a solemn tone, his joke cracking Blake up. “We were talking about Ryan’s first performance, did you watch it?” Luke asks eagerly, interjecting the fun moment Blake and Jasper were having, Blake glances from Luke back at Jasper who fakes a smile to him and has a long sip of his drink. “Yeah, what about it?” Blake asks. “His dance partner is fine isn’t she. A little hard to concentrate on the dance when she was wearing that outfit, right?” Luke looks to Blake for support but Blake just rolls his eyes and shakes his head. “Oh come on. You would have been looking, even Fi was commenting on her abs.” Luke preaches. “Luke, come on dude. Read the room.” Blake cocks his head in Jasper’s direction while giving Luke a stern look. Jasper had moved away from them and was looking at a m in an attempt to distract himself from the conversation and then block them out. Luke’s shoulders drop and he looks back at Blake, realizing Jasper was not in the mood for to hear about Ryan’s partner. “Ryan was awesome though, I bet you were proud of him.” Luke tries to turn the conversation back to something Jasper was comfortable with. “Yeah.” Jasper answers, finally untangling the headphones and wrapping them neatly around his phone, before unwrapping them and plugging them in instead. “Does she really have abs?” he asks, not sure he wanted to actually hear the answer. “How did you not notice, she wasn’t wearing enough…” Luke stops as Blake drops his water bottle, pretending it was unintentional when both Luke and Jasper look at him, but he takes the opportunity to glare at Luke and mouth the words 'shut up' at him when Jasper turns away again. “Look, I didn’t take much notice of her and in all honesty I don’t want to really. I am trying to take this time to focus on myself and part of that for me, is not indulging my curiosity and the subsequent paranoia or comparison that I am sure will come with seeing him with someone else every week for the whole competition. I watched last night, and the fact one of the judges said they had a 'natural chemistry' kept me awake for hours last night. That’s where it is at, I am trying to save myself unnecessary stress ok?” “Sorry to have brought it up. I am sure he’s missing you anyway, definitely seemed like that when the host asked about you.” Luke gives him a comforting smile. “Yeah sure, because if he’s off dancing with little Miss abs, all day everyday I’m sure he’s setting aside some time to think about me and the fact that I am more pizza and alcohol than person some days. Nothing more attractive. He’s probably really missing me, you’re right.” Jasper sighs pinching at his stomach. Blake walks over to him and smacks his hand. “Don’t even start moron, all you’re pinching is skin.” He rolls his eyes. “And if he knows what’s good for him, he’ll be thinking about you every free second he has.” Blake tells him in a quieter voice so Luke couldn’t hear him. “That’s not reassuring, because he doesn’t exactly have a track record of knowing what’s good for him.” Jasper mutters and crosses his arms. “I didn’t watch it. Exactly how hot is Ry’s dance partner?” Jasper gives Blake a stern look, demanding honesty from his best friend. “Jasper.” Blake holds him by the shoulders, mirroring his serious expression. “She has a boyfriend, so does Ryan. Regardless of how attractive she is, you do not need to worry about it. In fact, imagine how her boyfriend probably feels knowing she’s partnered up with Ryan.” He says comfortingly, but before Jasper gets too long to feel reassured he kills it with his usual smart ass kind of comment. “I definitely picked the easier one to steal a girl from between the two of you.” Blake jokes. “Well done, you tried.” Jasper pats Blake on the shoulder faking appreciation. “I at the very least cheered you up, right?” “How do you know she has a boyfriend?” Jasper asks, eying Blake suspiciously. Blake groans and tips his head back. “You just have to ask a follow up question don’t you. I looked her up on Instagram alright.” “Oh and Beth was cool with you looking at another woman’s page?” “I think she’s just glad it was a woman I was looking at, would have probably bothered her more if I was looking at Ryan.” He smirks at Jasper as he rolls his eyes and continues his questioning. “Is her boyfriend hot?” “I wouldn’t sleep with him, does that help?” Blake asks. “About as much as a screen door on a submarine.” Jasper rolls his eyes again. “Between him and Ry…” “Good morning.” Simon strolls in casually. “Sorry I am late.” He smiles at the group and claps his hands together, rubbing them nervously. “I was inspired by Luke’s romantic gesture and the way Ryan performed the ceremony and decides I needed to do something. So, I would like to introduce you all to my wife.” Simon turns and gestures towards the door as a flawlessly stunning young woman walks in, nervously smiling at the guys before her. Blake’s mouth falls open and Luke makes a conscious attempt to not stare at her for too long. “This is Ellie.” Simon introduces when she gets to his side, he sweeps his arm around her waist and holds her close. “Hi, lovely to meet you, I’m Luke.” Luke waves from the other side of the room. “I’m Jasper, this is Blake.” Jasper nudges Blake to snap him out of staring. “Hello.” Ellie smiles. “Simon’s told me a lot about you all.” She looks at Simon and he looks back at her, the warmth in the way they gazed at each other made Jasper turn away sadly. “Just what I need, more happy couples rubbing it in my face.” He mutters to Blake. “At least Ryan’s not here.” Blake shrugs, looking past Jasper at Ellie. “Why’s that?” “Because she’s definitely hotter than his dance partner.” Blake comments quietly, Jasper scoffs and punches him playfully in the shoulder. “Ow.” Blake rubs his shoulder but doesn’t look away until Jasper hits him again. “Dude.” Blake glares at him. “Dude.” Jasper mocks him. “Try to remember she’s married to one of your best friends and you’ve got a girlfriend.” He warns him quietly. “Where is she, by the way?” “Working late.” Blake checks his watch. “Should be here soon.” “What are you guys talking about?” Luke joins them, Jasper and Blake look over at Simon and Ellie that were apparently ignorant to the fact that there were other people in the room, they were caught in a moment together kissing in the corner. “I feel like we’re all invading their privacy.” Luke lowers his voice even more and the three turn their attention away from the couple quickly. “I’m sure all he wants to do is spend time with his wife right now.” “I wanna spend time with his wife.” Blake gets a third punch, this time right in the stomach making him keel over for a moment. “It’s a joke. Jeez.” Blake coughs, having had the wind momentarily knocked from him. “I use to laugh when you hit me, angry Jasper packs quite a punch.” Blake teases. “Speaking about spending time with people’s wives, I need to have a chat with Fi.” Blake excuses himself from Luke and Jasper and walks off to intercept Fi on her way into the room. As the night rolls on, Jasper finds himself feeling detached from his friends, his mind kept wandering to Ryan and wondering what he was doing and whether enough time had passed to talk to him yet. The situation seemed worse because he was the only person in the room without a partner and while Blake was mindful of Jasper just after Beth arrived, as they all got into more drinks and lost in their own conversations and moods, the amount of time Jasper spent looking away uncomfortably while a couple was kissing in front of him became too frustrating to suffer through. When he finally gets to a point of thinking that no one would notice if he disappeared, he slips out of the house and decides to just take a walk and clear his head. Curiosity gets the better of him and he takes a peek at Ryan’s instagram, seeing a photo of him and Kelsey backstage, holding up crossed fingers with a caption ‘Wish us luck! This week has been so incredible, and I’m so proud of us, can’t wait to show you what we can do!’ It was posted from Kelsey’s account, which led Jasper down the rabbit hole of scrolling back through her page, seeing all her photos and becoming increasingly stressed about how much time this flawless person was spending dancing with Ryan. When he finally gets off her page, and angrily stuffs his phone in his pocket, he realizes he’s been walking aimlessly for almost half an hour, in a neighborhood he didn’t know. There was noise coming from down the road which he feels himself gravitating towards, trusting he could at least work out where he was and be able to get an Uber from there. As he approaches he finds that it’s a nightclub and before he knows it he is lining up, keeping his head down so strangers don’t draw attention to him if they recognize him. Jasper heads inside, glad that by this time of night the staff were probably already so done with people that they wouldn’t take notice of who he was, and the people inside were probably wasted and he could deny that he was ever there. It was fairly crowded so after he gets a drink he finds it easy to blend in on the dance floor and for the first time in a while he feels as though his problems were irrelevant and simple. Sip after sip, and song after song, the stress of the whole situation with Ryan fades away. Jasper heads away from the dance floor for a drink of water, realizing he was starting to feel drunk. He finds himself amazed by the bartender there that was throwing cups around and making drinks like it was a performance. The bartender catches his eye and frowns at him, trying to work out who he was and for a moment Jasper is nervous then the guy approaches him at the bar and smiles. “Seriously? Does Cruze just have a catalogue of people who look similar as back ups?” The bartender asks. “What?” Jasper frowns and the bartender frowns at him. “Who’s Cruze?” “You’re not Damien’s replacement?” The bartender asks and Jasper stares at him in complete disbelief. “My bad, what can I get you?”
  3. Jasper wanders up the hallway, fumbling in his pockets for his key and cursing under his breath before attempting the door and realizing it was already unlocked. He walks in with a frown on his face, trying to remember if he’d locked it before he went out or not but soon notices that Ryan was the reason it was unlocked. His suitcase was sitting just beside the door and Ryan was pacing with his phone to his ear. Jasper takes a deep breath and continues inside, not sure what was about to come out of his mouth but mentally reminding himself of all the points that he had thought up that were worth talking about. The smell of tequila in the room was almost overwhelming as Jasper remembers the bottle, still half full that he’d spilt all over the bench and subsequently the floor which as he steps into the kitchen barefoot was obvious that his attempt at cleaning had been more smearing the alcohol. He grimaces at the sticky floor and lets out a heavy sigh which gains him Ryan’s attention. “Oh my god you’re home. Where have you been?” Ryan shouts in a panicked tone, putting his phone down. “I’ve been calling you for ages.” He strides over to Jasper who cringes and rubs his forehead, ignoring Ryan and walking past him to get a bottle of water out of the cupboard. “Look, I get you’re mad at me but I am supposed to be getting on a flight in a couple of hours and...” “Can you please not yell at me.” Jasper asks quietly, grabbing some pain killers and taking them quickly. “I don’t mean to be yelling at you, but seriously, I’ve been so worried.” Ryan crosses his arms, taking a deep breath to calm himself down while watching Jasper with a sad expression. “That’s nice of you.” Jasper says with a sarcastic tone, rolling his eyes and walking past Ryan again and heading towards the bedroom. “I know you were upset about Damien but I was hoping we could at least sort this out before I leave. I don’t want to be away from you with this animosity between us.” Ryan starts following Jasper but stops as Jasper stops and turns back to Ryan, crossing his arms and looking at the floor. “I’ve really tried to think about what to say to sort things out with you but I’m not sure I’m in the right mindset to fix things right now, because I am still just angry. And until I stop feeling angry, nothing good will come out of having this talk.” Jasper felt proud of himself for his calm composure as he delivered the speech he’d practiced the whole way home. Ryan however looked more worried than ever by the calmness, it was chilling how distant he felt from Jasper in this moment. “I know that Damien showing up last night upset you…” Ryan starts talking but is quickly cut off again by Jasper scoffing loudly. “Damien isn’t the one I’m upset at, actually.” “No, I know you’re mad at me, but it’s because of him.” “Sooner or later, you have to start taking responsibility for your own actions. You are the one who walked out of here last night to take care of your ex while I was here bawling my eyes out and questioning our relationship. You made that decision.” Jasper lectures, cringes at his own raised voice and wishing there was some way they could avoid this conversation, or that at least the pain killers would kick in faster. “That’s what you’re mad about? Because you practically kicked me out, you told me to take care of him?” Ryan argues, trying to defend himself though Jasper was having none of it, shaking his head and scoffing as he turns away for only a second, knowing he was feeling more petty than reasonable at this point but his self-control was running out. “Actually I’m pretty sure my exact words were ‘get rid of him’. I did not want you leaving with him.” “Look no matter who he is to me and what he’s done I know what kind of person I am, and putting someone that is inebriated in a taxi and sending them off on their own is not the kind of person I am.” “Good for you Ryan. Glad I’m the asshole in this.” Jasper rolls his eyes and turns around, considering walking away now before things got worse. “I’m not saying that...” Ryan starts but the moment Jasper turns back at him, he’s silent. “You could have called the police to take him.” “Called the police to take home a drunk person?” Ryan frowns, Jasper stares at him confused that his suggestion was even being questioned. Jasper shakes his head and massages his forehead, he quickly takes a gulp of water though it does little to soothe the ache of dehydration. “How did he find out where we live?” Jasper asks and Ryan is silent in thought, trying to work out the answer, his silence only adding to the infuriation Jasper felt rising in him. “He stalked us. Again. And what about that restraining order? I’m not saying call the police on a drunk guy I’m saying call the fucking police on your stalker ex that keeps turning up and interrupting our lives. He didn’t deserve to have you take him home, that’s what he wanted and you keep giving him what he wants. He deserves consequences for once in his life. I am sick and tired of this bullshit, I am sick of having you overlook all the bullshit he has done and letting him get between us. You could tell I was not happy last night and you still chose to make sure he was ok, over me.” “Ok, I’m sorry that you felt that way but I was worried about you all night.” Ryan steps forward nervously, hoping that he could turn this around. “While you were tucking him in bed?” Jasper asks, stepping backwards in time with Ryan’s step forward, to keep the distance between them. “I got him into his place and left him on the couch and came straight back for you, but you weren’t here so if you’re going to start the conversation about being suspicious about what was happening, then imagine how I felt coming back here and waiting all night for you with no idea where you were and who with.” Ryan comments, seeing Jasper step away from him making him become defensive in desperation to get Jasper to see this from his perspective. “I was at the bar down the road all night, and once they closed I did what sane drunk people do, and went to Macdonalds. Is that good enough for you? I wasn’t off cheating if that’s what you think, I was drinking at the bar by myself then eating nuggets to sober up. Amazingly I can actually leave the house, drunk and mad at you and still not end up cheating on you, which I am disgusted that you would have the nerve to imply.” “I’m sorry that’s where my thoughts went when I got back here and spent the whole night calling you and waiting for you to come home. You seem to think that was what I was doing too…” Ryan again tries to move closer to Jasper by a few steps which go unnoticed as Jasper launches into his next rant with terrifying passion. “Yeah because I don’t trust Damien, because last time you two were left alone together you did kiss him. I thought it could happen because you are unable to say no to him and he has no respect for our relationship. You don’t trust me when I disappear for a night because you couldn’t trust him whenever he did that to you. Ironically the reason both of us thought the other was cheating was because neither of us trust him. The difference is you were with the guy I don’t trust so I had a right to be concerned, you just don’t seem to get that Damien and I are different fucking people” Jasper snaps, furious to the point of feeling his head throbbing, but it wasn’t about to stop him saying his piece. “I know you are it’s just...” Ryan stops as Jasper just raises his hand to cut him off. “I’ve done nothing but prove that I have your back, even before we got together I was there for you against Chris, against gossip and reporters, against yourself. I have tried to tell you so many times that you are worth more than what he put you through and yet the first time I decide that fuck it, I want to go out and get drunk instead of wait around to have a reasonable conversation about my feelings, you act like I’m just discount Damien out fucking someone else to get back at you. Thanks for assuming I’ve got no pride, thanks for assuming that I’m just as bad as someone who used to cheat on you to keep you feeling worthless. I’m so glad that all my actions, all my words and all the time we’ve spent together just gets thrown out the window because no matter what, you’re so quick to forget that I’m not HIM.” Jasper runs his fingers through his hair and rubs his temples trying to relieve the pain of the incoming hangover that was being amplified by the anger he felt. “I promise you I don’t mean think that of you.” Ryan looked shattered to realize that Jasper was so hurt by his assumption. “Just. Just tell me how to make this right. I will do anything to make this up to you.” He pleads, in his head he could fix this by wrapping his arms around Jasper and just telling him he was sorry, but Jasper did not look even close to ready to kiss and make up. He had his arms firmly crossed, almost as though he was holding himself back, the way he was looking at Ryan felt like it was putting crushing weight on Ryan’s shoulders and his jaw was tight with tension. There was no sign of weakness or that he.was going to bacl down any time soon and Ryan was regretting even trying to defend himself because he was ready to say whatever he needed to, to defuse the bomb he had set off the moment he took Damien home. “How about you listen to me for once because I have listened to all of your insecurities and your confusing anxieties and I’ve supported you through all your lowest points of depression and I’ve asked for nothing in return but for you to not let your ex get between us and every single time he has, you’ve made out like it is out of your hands. I get that he’s mentally fucked with you to the point where drawing a line with him is hard, but I am drawing a line here and now. He has to be out of your life completely, or I will be because now it is starting to fuck with me and I cannot stand the person I am becoming because of him. I hate him and I hate the fact that I am questioning my own worth to you because of his constant involvement in your life. I am not a second fucking choice and I am done letting my feelings slide because I care so much about how it will effect you because caring about you more than myself has been detrimental to me and I’ve started to become a second hand victim of his behaviour. I’m not going to let that go on any longer, I’ve got to take care of myself.” Jasper's words, though cold towards Ryan, were surprisingly calm compared to moment ago but it didn’t bring relief like Ryan hoped, instead he now felt as though Jasper simply didn’t see a reason to continue anymore. For what feels like ages, Jasper and Ryan stand in suffocating silence, until Ryan finally gets the guts to ask what he was afraid to find out. “So that’s it, you’re breaking up with me?” He states in a defeated tone, eyes going from the floor, to meet Jasper's steady gaze. Jasper just crosses his arms and looks up at the ceiling to avoid crying. “Jasper please, don’t do this.” Ryan walks over to him and places his hands on Jasper’s shoulders. “Don’t try and guilt me Ryan I’m already feeling like shit about this.” Jasper shrugs his hands off him then turns and walks away a few steps, putting his hands over his face and taking deep breaths. “Look, I spent the whole night drinking and now I’m tired, full of alcohol and I have not had time to actually figure out how I feel about things so no, this isn’t us breaking up. I’m not going to make that kind of decision when I know my mental state is a mess. But I think It's best if we take a break from each other. Not to be with other people, but to be on our own and learn who we truly are and what we truly want. You need to focus on your dancing career and I need to focus on my music and when you get back we can talk about whether being together is actually what is best for both of us.” Jasper couldn’t look Ryan in the eyes as he spoke, each word came out just as he’d practiced in his head with only a few cracks in his voice as he attempted to say it with enough strength that Ryan would know he was being serious. “I can cancel my flight and get one later today, tomorrow morning. I can make time to sort this out.” Ryan tells him desperately. “You are not hearing me, I don’t want to sort things out right now.” Jasper rolls his eyes and turns away from Ryan, walking off to his bedroom, Ryan following quickly. “Please don't send me away without…” “For fuck sake Ryan!” Jasper spins around and glares at his boyfriend. “I don't want to talk about it right now. If you insist on an answer before you go, then you won’t like the answer I will give you. Leave me alone and when I feel like it, then I will talk but right now is not the time and I do not feel like being any more rational than I have already been. I told you I am not in the right mindset and if you don’t respect that then this relationship isn’t worth even talking about.” His sudden calmness sending a cold pang of anguish to rush through Ryan’s body. He felt like there was no good way to go about this, there was no way to win and only a minefield of ways to completely screw up the tiny chance he had that maybe with space, they might be able to work on this. As Ryan comes to accept his only option, he stares at Jasper in silence. His mind rushing as he tries to come to a conclusion about what would help right now, what to even say in response, only to let out a shaky breath and look down at his feet again. “Ok.” He nods in defeat. “I’ll give you whatever space you need. Just, please call me when you are ready. I’ll be waiting, I’m desperate to make things better here and it’s going to kill me waiting but, if that’s what you need, then I owe you that. I need you to know, I love you and I believe what we have is worth fighting for. I am so sorry about Damien and I am so sorry that this has hurt you so much. I really hope you don’t give up on us.” He looks back up at Jasper who was the one looking at the ground now, only moving his eyes to look at his watch. “You better go, or you’ll miss your flight.” He mutters, turning to the bed and climbing on it, his back turned to Ryan to show he had no more to say to him. Ryan watches him for a moment then turns and walks out, feeling like he was leaving behind his heart because every step away felt like he was becoming a mindless shell of a person. He would have no hope getting through this if he was able to feel anything, so as he leaves Jasper’s set of house keys on the bench, collects his suitcase and heads out the door, he takes a deep breath and tells himself to leave his problems at home. There was not going to be anything to gain from taking the shitstorm of emotions with him, so as he enters the lift he decides all he would do while he waited for a phone call from Jasper, was to dedicate himself completely to the show and his dance partner in a hopeful attempt to be completely distracted. “Are you drunk at 10am?” Blake asks, sauntering in like he owned the place. “What are you doing here?” Jasper turns around and wipes tears from his cheeks. “Ryan gave me his key last night, since he’s away he figured you might like the company. Are you ok?” Blake drops his keys on the bench and goes straight over to Jasper, a concerned frown on his face as he eyes his best friend’s tear stricken cheeks. “Not at all, thanks for asking.” Jasper shrugs, sniffling and covering his face with his hands. He had not been ready to face anyone, let alone Blake, who he couldn’t just bullshit some excuse to. “He’ll be back before you know it. How was the big night?” Blake asks, intending on distracting Jasper from what he assumed was sadness from Ryan leaving. “Oh. It was, yeah. Absolutely life altering.” Jasper sighs as he slowly drags his hands down his face, looking around for his water bottle that he’d some time ago thrown across the lounge room in what was a cathartic outburst of frustration at the time, but in the long scheme of things had only become an inconvenience. “Wow, that good huh?” Blake smirks. “No, that bad.” Jasper turns around to Blake. “I say life altering as in, I've been drunk for like 12 hours straight and listening to break up songs. While I try to justify whether breaking up is a reasonable response to Ryan taking his drunk as fuck ex home after he let himself into our place, after stalking us to find out where we live in the first place! Claiming Ryan didn’t break up with him so our whole relationship was Ryan cheating on him. So should I break up with him? You said you would be able to be my voice of reason so please. Please help me make this decision.” Jasper breaks down while he pleads, Blake stares at him in absolute disbelief and though his first feeling about it was pure anger that his friend had been hurt, he reigns it in because Jasper was clearly needing comfort. “Um, that’s. That’s a lot to unpack. I’m so sorry that he’s put you through that shit, again. I don’t really know how you should move forward from here because honestly I would have tapped out the first time this guy turned up and Ryan took his side.” Blake shakes his head and runs his fingers through his hair with an exasperated sigh as he tries to think reasonably about what to suggest Jasper do. Jasper just spins around in a circle, looking up at his ceiling thoughtfully. “I guess I forgive that he is a good person, and I do get why he took Damien home, like I wanted him to just throw him out on his ass and leave him passed out in the hallway because I’m petty and that’s what I think he deserved. Actually no, I wanted Ryan to call the cops on the stalker and have him spend the night in jail because then, maybe then, he would learn to leave us the fuck alone. I get being considerate and thoughtful but I just can’t help the fear that I have associated with that whole mess of a relationship. It’s taken me until last night to realize it’s not jealousy or hatred or pettiness I feel about Damien in general, it is legitimately FEAR. I mean, when I am worried about something, I get mad and lash out, I just got so good at convincing myself it’s not that way that it took me so long to realize. Like how many times did I hit you for scaring me when we lived together? I don’t do ‘afraid’ I do ‘how dare you scare me’.” Jasper looks back towards Blake, swaying a little from dizziness and from the alcohol that was making his whole body feel like it was turning into jelly. Blake fakes a smile at Jasper, he hadn’t considered that point before but it all made so much sense, all the anger he felt towards Chris was out of a fear that their careers were being damaged or destroyed, that his reputation was being threatened. Everyone had judged him on being so annoyed by little things but it made sense and Blake felt disappointed in himself for not knowing better, that his friend he was worried about all these things and needed more reassurance instead of always just being told to calm down and get over it. “I just thought you were a try hard badass.” Blake jokes, getting Jasper some water and walking over to him. Jasper groans at the sight of the water and sinks onto the couch in disgust, sitting on the water bottle he’d been looking for earlier, his head falling into his hands. “You know, I get the feeling you are so busy supporting Ryan’s mental health and emotional needs and reassuring him and he’s seeing you as the rock, right? You’re putting your energy into keeping him from his lows, and yet in the meantime, you’re slipping and thinking you have no one to be honest to.” Blake suggests. Jasper starts crying, confirming what Blake thought. Blake puts his arm around Jasper and gives him a comforting squeeze. “So lets pretend that there’s no heartbreak, and no emotional rollercoaster between now and you being single. Would you be happier, to not be dating Ryan, if it didn’t have to hurt to get to the stage where you are happy again?” Blake asks. Jasper looks up and sighs, wiping away his tears and sniffling back more. He’s silent for a few moments, takes a sip of water and shakes his head. “I don’t know. But if I imagine a relationship with Ryan, where Damien doesn’t exist, I know we wouldn’t have the lows we’ve had. I wouldn’t feel the insecurity I feel.” Jasper answers sadly. “Ok, so we’ll just get a time machine, go back to Damien’s conception and give his Dad some slightly off food so instead of impregnating anyone he spends that night throwing up his soul. Then Damien doesn’t exist and you and Ryan would be skipping off into the sunset together?” Blake shrugs. Jasper laughs at the suggestion, knowing if time travel was a thing Blake would absolutely have done this to many people he didn’t like. “Is he the biggest problem you guys have?” Blake asks. “Yeah, I think so. I mean we do have other things to work on, obviously. But I do believe we can work anything out to be together, anything. But then Damien is brought up in conversation or turns up unannounced and I’m back to being afraid that I’m going to end up being the in between guy. The one Ryan finds strength with, and Damien sorts his shit out because of and then they are going to end up back together while I’m left here wondering if I was some kind of therapeutic experience they both needed to work out how to make things good between the two of them. I mean the whole time after they left last night, I was thinking about whether they were getting back together or just hooking up or something. I know Ryan loves me and I don’t want to think that he’d cheat on me, but, when it comes to Damien? It kinda seems like he will just give in to him. I am just really over this. I am over Damien getting between us and I am over wondering about Ryan. It shouldn’t be that hard.” Jasper gives a long, dramatic sigh. “I think I’m just gonna swear off relationships because I don’t need an emotional fuck around. Maybe it’s me, maybe I’m not made to be a boyfriend. Maybe I expect too much, I mean it’s not my right to tell someone else who they can and can’t be in contact with, if he wants to keep Damien in his life that’s his choice right? Even if it’s a bad one. That’s why I don’t think I’d be able to be a parent, watching a kid make stupid choices and accepting it’s their life and their choice wouldn’t be fantastic. Maybe, am I too controlling for a relationship, is that the problem?” Jasper’s confused rambling wasn’t helping him come to any conclusions, but it was concerning to Blake how much Jasper was putting blame back on himself about this issue. “I’m thinking maybe you shouldn’t drink on your own, I’m a little worried about you.” Blake admits. “Honestly, I decided to finish off the alcohol in the house and not buy any more. But please keep me accountable. You’re not meant to get a drinking problem when you get a boyfriend.” “It’s not the best sign.” Blake sighs. “You know I’m always just a call away, and I’d rather sit here while you sob about your relationship problems, than know you’re over here dealing with it alone. You can be the angsty badass to anyone else, but if you need to get real and talk about stuff, I won’t judge you. I get being angry and wanting to throw things and scream into the abyss, but it’s just as badass to cry when things are too much.” “You’d have thought you’d be a therapist.” Jasper laughs to himself. “Hey if you need someone who gets it, pick a self-proclaimed, honorary emo. We’re more in touch with our feelings than you’d expect. I’ll be just as pissed as you are about your problems, am not afraid to get into a fight on your behalf and am guaranteed to have your back. Rain, hail or homicide.” Blake nudges Jasper. “You’re going to use my emotional vulnerability to convert me into your cult aren’t you?” Jasper jokes. “Well part of your indoctrination is to have a drinking problem and a saviour complex while sucking at taking care of yourself so there’s no ‘converting’ needed here, my job is to show you how to let out the feelings in a way that will make pre-teens turn their music up and nod along as they think, ‘this is so deep, this dude gets exactly how I feel’.” “Sure, sign me up. If I can get a song out of this shitty feeling at least I’m making progress right? Because I’ve not been able to write even a bar of music that didn’t feel forced in months so my music career is going downhill too. My career, my relationship, my sanity, it’s all falling apart anyway, I literally have nothing left to lose.” “Except you’re virginity.” Blake couldn’t help himself, the joke was out of his mouth before he could consider whether it’d be funny or not. “Fuck you.” Jasper pushes him away. “Oooh I should be a fuck boy, right? How do you do that? It’s when you get feelings for someone that it ruins all the fun so maybe I need to not do the having feelings part. Or I could be abstinent for life, that’d make my parents real proud.” Jasper looks back at Blake and sighs. “Or maybe I should drink some water and go to bed.” “Yeah look, I think pretty much everyone at some point, thinks that they should just be casual forever after shit goes down in a relationship. But I really don’t think that is your style.” “I just want to have fun with the person I am with. I don’t want drama and exes and bullshit. I guess this next few months will be refreshing though, if I get through the next few months on my own, maybe I’ll feel better about being on my own when he does get back.” Jasper groans and rubs his head. “I’m going to have such a bad hangover. I was going to avoid it by just staying drunk but I guess I have to keep having a life and stop this self pity party.” He complains then gets up. “Ok, I’m going to go to bed. I’ve dragged this out long enough.” “Good idea, I’m going to hang out here while you sleep to make sure you don’t throw up and drown in your own vomit.” “You’re a true friend.” Jasper nods, stumbling his way to his bedroom.
  4. “So, still not a fan of weddings?” Ryan puts his arm around Jasper’s shoulders and whispers in his ear. Jasper smiles and leans into Ryan a little more, the champagne had gone to his head pretty fast so he was feeling light headed and affectionate, though fully aware of this. “Mm, it was a bit sweet. It did evoke some form of emotion I guess.” Jasper turns to him and slips his arms around Ryan’s neck. The two start slow dancing, way out of time to the upbeat music that was playing but they were in their own bubble. They both felt as though the night was ending too fast and they hadn’t had much time together yet. It must have been completely obvious to everyone else that they were both just hanging around to be polite, because they had everyone watching them dance together. Luke and Fi talk to each other in whispers and then Luke heads into the kitchen and gets the cake out of the fridge while Fi taps a glass to get their attention so they can wrap up the last of the parts they wanted company for so Jasper and Ryan could spend the rest of the night on their own. Simon gives a toast to the newlyweds and Luke and Fi both make quick speeches about each other, thanking the boys for being there to support them and thanking Ryan for stepping up and helping out by running the ceremony. The couple cut their ‘wedding cake’ which happened to just be a store bought white chocolate cake with a bride and groom topper, not that anyone complained because cake is cake. Simon and Blake were pouring more champagne for themselves and getting beyond tipsy and it was clear that Luke and Fi themselves were wanting their space now, as they weren’t trying to make much effort to talk to their guests anymore. Luke seemed to be trying to hint at everyone leaving, he started with Ryan and Jasper, giving them the suggestion that they didn’t have to hang around anymore and once they agreed that they would head off, he went to Simon and Blake with the same kind of comment, noticing the two were in partying moods and he and Fi weren’t. There drive home had a melancholic feeling, both Jasper and Ryan were looking forward to being home and spending the night together, but they also felt sad that they were only hours away from being apart for months. Jasper hadn’t told Ryan yet, but he’d already bought a plane ticket to surprise him for his birthday in a couple of weeks. “So we should probably talk before we get home.” Jasper breaks the silence only a block from their place. “You know that phrase stresses me out. What is it this time?” Ryan sighs, feeling absolute dread. “Look, I promise I will never break up with you in the car, or in any situation that puts my safety in your ability to concentrate. No point breaking up with you if I’m going to die in the process.” Jasper jokes, Ryan cracks a smile and places a hand on Jasper’s knee. “Ok then, what’s up?” He asks. “Well ok, this is weirder to talk about than I thought it would be. But tonight right, so I think we’re on the same page about how we want to spend it. We’ve been together for ages, 6 months soon, your birthday is only a few weeks away, I want tonight to be a celebration of those things and I think you know how I was planning on celebrating that with you. The only thing I need you to consider for yourself, because I know how important that step is for you and I would hate for you to regret anything, that while I do love you I do also still have concerns about us working out long term because obviously there are things we need to work out that don’t line up, we both feel pretty strongly about. I just want us to be completely honest with each other, so if the fact that I still some doubts is a turn off for you just tell me so I don’t spend the rest of the night anxiously wondering when you’re going to make a move on me and how far that’s going to go because I’m quite nervous and need to either know it’s happening, or it’s not.” “Wow, that had everything, that was a roller coaster. Excitement, anticipation, confusion and empathy rounded off with demanding honesty and some anxieties that you sounded mad about.” Ryan sighs as he goes over each point in his own head, rubbing Jasper’s knee. “Alright completely honest, it’s not a turn off at all that you are considerate and respectful of me. I wouldn’t regret anything about this relationship, the only thing I’ll regret, is not finding a way to make it work if we don’t end up working everything out. I just want to love you forever.” Ryan assures him, but Jasper doesn’t seem any more relaxed. “I’ve just got to print this marriage paperwork out and fill it out for Luke and Fi and then I’m all yours for the next 10 hours and 32 minutes.” “Cool, that’ll give me time for a relaxing shower.” Jasper nods thoughtfully, chewing his lips. “Fine, as long as you get back into that suit.” Ryan winks at Jasper after he parks the car. “Why?” “Because I’ve been wanting to take it off you since I saw you in it.” Ryan tells him, looking at Jasper who just stares back with a smirk on his face. “Wow. Ok.” Jasper laughs and gets out of the car, Ryan gets out and walks around to his side, holding his hand while they head over to the lift, both of them just exchanging nervous and excited smiles, squeezing each other’s hands. Jasper unlocks the door and holds it open for Ryan who kisses him on the cheek in passing. “I promise I’ll get this done as fast as I can.” He says then pulls his phone out, searching through his emails for the form he needed while he hurries over to the printer. “I hope that’s the last time you say that tonight.” Jasper says cheekily as he finds him a pen and then pours both of them a drink. He leans against the bench watching Ryan curse at the printer for a few moments before he takes his phone out, reading a text from Blake wishing him luck for the night. Jasper’s heart starts really racing as he hears the printer start up. He watches Ryan check over the printed paperwork, test the pen on spare paper and then start filling it out. He finishes signing it then puts it on the kitchen bench. “Just get them to sign it and post it to this address.” Ryan scribbles down an address on the spare paper. “Now, if you give me a second, I just want to set something up for you.” He hints and leaves Jasper in anticipation, closing himself off in the bedroom to no doubt light some candles for the sake of making the room more romantic. For a moment Jasper thinks he’s hearing Ryan making noise in the room then he realizes it’s coming from the front door and into his sight, stumbles Damien, who was clearly intoxicated. “What the fuck?” Jasper felt his heart drop, even if they got rid of him, just seeing Damien had killed the mood completely already. “What’s up fucker.” Damien grins at him, waving. “How the hell did you get in?” Jasper storms over to him. “You left the door open.” “I’m pretty sure that’s not an invitation to just come in, get the hell out of here.” Jasper watches Ryan’s drunken ex, struggle to stay upright, swaying and reaching for things to hold onto. “No thanks. I’m good here. Where’s Ryan?” Damien asks loudly, stumbling forward towards where Jasper had come from. “In your bedroom I’m guessing. Is he dressed or is this going to be my lucky night?” Damien turns to give Jasper a cheeky smile but loses his balance and falls backwards, finding himself being caught in someone’s arms. “Definitely my lucky night.” Damien stares up affectionately at Ryan who was trying to help him back onto his own feet. “Noo~ Don’t. Just hold me.” Damien deliberately lets his body go limp so Ryan’s forced to keep holding onto him. “What part of I don’t want you in my life made you think you should break in to our place demanding to talk to me?” Ryan asks annoyed, as he lifts Damien up and carries him to the couch, placing him down and fighting off Damien’s arms that were trying desperately to cling to him. “What part of you don’t want me in your life, made you decide to get out of bed to see me?” Damien retorts, giving up and lying on the couch, closing his eyes and relaxing. “I wasn’t in bed, besides I figure you’re not here to see Jasper so I wasn’t going to leave him to deal with you. What do you want?” Ryan sighs, standing up and going into the kitchen to get some water for their intruder. Jasper just watches him, his arms crossed and a clearly unimpressed expression on his face. It didn’t go unnoticed, as Ryan passes him again with the glass of water, he gently runs his hand along Jasper’s lower back. “Don’t get sucked into whatever shit he’s trying to pull here.” Jasper comments, not caring that he’d said it loud enough for Damien to hear. “Oh fuck off Jasper.” Damien groans. Jasper raises an eyebrow at him and shakes his head, looking away from him in frustration. “You don’t get to talk to him like that, this is his house and I won’t talk to you at all if you’re going to be rude to him.” Ryan warns, walking over and placing the glass on the coffee table in front of the lounge. “So sexy when you defend someone. Remember when you use to talk about me like that, to anyone who ever said anything bad about me?” Damien smiles, sitting up for a moment before falling flat against the couch again. “Oh wait, you never stood up for me.” “What do you want?” Ryan asks, not interested in talking about their past, especially since Jasper was in the room and already annoyed that Ryan was talking to him at all. “I’m mad at you.” Damien mumbles. “As if you, of all people, have the right.” Jasper rolls his eyes. “You totally flaked on me, we never actually technically broke up, by the way, so technically...” “You cannot be fucking serious right now.” Jasper scoffs and walks off, annoyed and not wanting to listen to another second of Damien’s crap. “You were hooking up with other guys the whole relationship. At what point did you ever make me feel like we were together in an exclusive relationship? I didn’t owe you anything after how little you cared about me. I didn’t owe it to you, to even send a text to say it was over. Surely months of having no contact is enough for you to work that out yourself. Don’t you dare try to devalue my relationship with Jasper by saying stupid things like that, trying to insinuation I’m cheating on you. You broke me down to my lowest point, you didn’t deserve to know any of the choices I made after I cut you out of my life.” Ryan sits back and rubs his forehead, he didn’t want to waste his energy or time being upset by anything Damien did or said anymore, yet having to have this conversation at all was completely emotionally draining. “Was I really so bad that you wanted to kill yourself over me?” Damien asks, his expression said sad, but his tone was completely unaware. As though he had absolutely no comprehension of what he put Ryan through, his true colours showing clearly. He may have not realized what he’d been like in their relationship, but he didn’t seem remorseful, or even the slightest bit apologetic to have caused so much pain. He simply didn’t understand what was ‘so bad’ about how he treated him. The biggest red flag. Before Ryan even bothered to begin answering that loaded question, Damien passes out. “He’s not staying here.” Jasper snaps when Ryan walks past him to retrieve a blanket for Damien. “He’s passed out Jasper, I can’t exactly send him off in a taxi on his own.” Ryan explains on his way back to the couch. “Ryan.” Jasper protests then suddenly his eyes fill with tears. “Hey.” Ryan quickly grabs Jasper’s shoulders and looks into his eyes worried. “I can’t do this. I can’t have him in our lives, you either cut him out for good or...” “I keep telling him to leave us alone.” Ryan argues. “Well telling him isn’t doing shit Ryan, and you may not have invited him over, but you’re getting things for him to sleep on the couch and it’s not ok with me. You need to get rid of him.” Jasper demands, tears starting to roll down his cheeks. “Ok, I’ll take him home if it bothers you.” Ryan shrugs. “You’ll take him home? Tuck him in too? Make sure he’s ok? Leave me here and go and take care of him?” Jasper asks feeling at a loss. “It’s too much. He’s poison and if you can’t cut him out, then I’m the one that is going to be leaving.” Jasper orders, turning his back on Ryan and walking into the bedroom, closing and locking the door to keep himself apart from Ryan and show him how serious he was. Ryan tries to open the door then bangs on it. “Jasper, I’m so sorry. I will sort Damien out.” Ryan tells him. Jasper just sits on the floor sobbing. He was devastated that it’d come to this, but seeing Ryan still taking care of Damien so compassionately had made him wonder if there was still feelings there, and if he had the intention of sharing his life with someone who was still so attached to his ex. There was too much doubt, that there was more than just the fact Ryan was a nice guy, behind him still being so considerate of the man who’d once pushed him over the edge. He wanted to feel like the only choice, not the choice that Ryan was still trying to make. It wasn’t good enough anymore, to excuse it because of their past, it wasn’t good enough to keep blaming Damien for it all and let Ryan pass it off as nothing.
  5. The week disappeared between meeting with Daniel about their lawsuits and spending time getting to know more about Simon’s musical influence which included the guys getting together and playing Singstar Queen challenging each other until they determined that Simon had definitely spent way too many hours of his life learning all the tricks to perfect scores on every single song. Despite his voice being as good as the others’ Ryan had been pretty checked out of what everyone else was doing and couldn’t concentrate on the songs he was trying to sing so he scored the lowest, which only led to him feeling more stressed. In an attempt to cheer him up for forgetting the lyrics to some of the best known songs in music history, Jasper made a game out of singing the wrong words too, only he was almost perfectly hitting each note and it became more entertaining than anything, to sing the wrong words but try and get the highest score. Ryan didn’t seem to care though, whenever he wasn’t working out at the gym, he was at home panicking to Jasper about whether or not he was going to be able to go ahead with the dance show and not wanting to let anyone down. It’d gotten to the point where even Jasper suggesting they do some practice choreography just to get his brain into the right zone, would make Ryan worry that he’d somehow use up his ability to dance as though it was something that he had only a certain supply of and it had to be savored for the right moment. Truth be told Jasper had not expected for Ryan to be quite as exhausting in his preparation for this show, he was trying to be calm and supportive but he was starting to feel as though he was dating a diva the way Ryan had become so obsessive over every little detail he could possibly obsess over while blocking out everything that didn’t have to do with his new venture. The only exception was of course Luke’s wedding, but only because it was the only event that wasn’t flexible that he had to plan around and he’d been tasked with teaching Luke how to dance so he would impress Fi when they got to do their first dance. “Oh, hello.” Ryan finally seems to break out of his dance show trance when Jasper walks out into the hallway in a black perfectly fitted suit, his tie hanging loosely and his hair still messy and damp and hanging over his eyes. Jasper looks up at Ryan, taking his time looking him over, while he fiddles with the last few buttons on his shirt. “Hello yourself.” He flirts, sweeping his hair out of his face and tightens his tie. ”Important question, are you going to re-wear that suit at some point while you’re away?” Jasper asks then shrugs. “Or like, ever again?” “I was intending on wearing it yeah, why?” Ryan looks down at himself wondering what was wrong with what he was wearing, clear panic sweeping across him as he looks back at Jasper for reassurance. “I’m jealous that other people are going to get to see you dressed like that.” Jasper sighs dreamily at him, his eyes scanning over his boyfriend again. “I thought you weren’t the jealous type.” Ryan teases playfully. “Ok I already didn’t want you to go, but now seeing you in that suit I don’t even want to leave the apartment for this wedding.” Jasper walks over and runs his hands from Ryan’s shoulders down to his hips, chewing his own lip as he strongly debates whether looking at Ryan dressed like this for hours was going to be torture or just serve as anticipation for when they got home. “On the bright side, there’s bound to be plenty of photos taken tonight so you can enjoy looking at those when I’m away.” Ryan winks and places his hands on Jasper’s, needing to stop Jasper’s hands from tempting him even further, as they had started creeping along his waistline. “Speaking of which, you should finish getting ready or we’ll be late.” Ryan suggests. “Fine.” Jasper whines as he steps back, walking backwards so he could keep his eyes on his boyfriend for as long as he could, not caring how thirsty he was being. Once he disappears out of view the two continue getting ready with only the anticipation of what they both knew the night would bring. It didn’t need saying that the last time they would see each other for the next few months, would be made special with the milestone that meant so much to Ryan and that Jasper had been eagerly hinting at for quite some time. On the way to Luke and Fi’s elopement, Ryan and Jasper were focused on how long they would stay for before going home again. While Ryan had been distracted and not thinking much about the wedding himself, Jasper was completely uninterested in it to the point of being quietly against the whole idea of it. To him it seemed impulsive and stupid to get married so suddenly and despite having no right, he was annoyed that he and Ryan were thinking so much about their futures, and taking things so slowly yet Luke was marrying his crush after only just being able to be with her. He’d expressed those thoughts only to Ryan who defended Luke with a ‘well when you know it’s the person you want to be with, why wait?’ kind of argument that caused an uncomfortable silence between them as clearly neither of them were sure enough about their relationship to make that kind of leap of faith. When they arrive at the location they’d been given, Jasper and Ryan were both incredibly confused, they were parked out the front of a modern looking house, a high white brick fence guarded the entrance but Simon’s car was parked in the drive way, leaving the gate open. The couple hold hands as they walk in to the house that was decorated beautifully with candles and flower petals scattered on the wooden polished floors. The only furniture was a table and two chairs set up beside two large vases of multi-coloured roses that were either side of the lace curtains hanging before a large window. The curtain was covered with golden string fairy lights that made the simple backdrop look gorgeous. Simon and Blake were in the kitchen area both holding champagne glasses. “About time you guys got here!” Blake grins at them, raising his glass and beckoning them over. “We aren't late.” Jasper checks his watch then lifts Ryan’s arm and checks his just to be sure. “No for once you got somewhere on time.” Simon jokes and takes glasses over to Jasper and Ryan. “Where is he groom, aren’t we meant to be getting him drunk too?” Jasper asks, taking the glass from Simon and having a sip straight away. “I need help, the officiant has had to cancel and I am trying to work this out without stressing Fi and…” “I’ll officiate.” Ryan offers with a casual shrug as though it was no big deal. “You can’t just marry people, you have to be legally ordained.” Jasper nudges him. “I am.” Ryan answers, looking at Jasper who had a questioning look on his face. “Since when are you a certified marriage celebrant?” He scoffs. “Since I left school not knowing what I wanted to do and thought it might be a career path I could follow. Although turns out people don’t generally want to hire young men to perform their weddings.” Ryan sighs. “Yeah no shit, imagine being the groom and having to stand beside you, wondering which one the bride is smiling at when she walks down the aisle. Talk about adding pressure to the big moment.” Blake pipes up. “Which today will be me, so thanks Blake.” Luke rolls his eyes. “You sure you can legally do it?” He asks. “You would have signed all the paperwork already and discussed the ceremony plan with the celebrant you had chosen, you just need someone to read the stuff and sign some forms and it’s done. I’ll print out the paperwork and sign it when we go home, then Jasper can get you both to sign it tomorrow and send it away. All done.” Ryan shrugs again. “You’re a life saver. Thank you so much.” Luke lets out a sign of relief then walks away to finish getting ready. “So did you just want to get into the wedding industry in any way possible? Shirtless waiter at the hens night, perform the ceremony, be the reception entertainment? Did you dabble in photography too?” Jasper asks, a curious smile on his face. “That shouldn’t surprise you, I love the romance of a wedding.” Ryan winks at Jasper as he takes his phone out to search his emails for his celebrant license. Jasper just nods and walks over to Blake who was pouring himself another glass of champagne. Jasper puts his empty glass beside Blake’s and asks him to refill it too. “So now what are you more nervous about, Ryan proposing tonight or sex?” Blake asks quietly in a teasing tone as he pours a heavy glass of champagne for his friend. “He’s not going to propose.” Jasper replies confidently but then his face falls and he turns to Blake in a panic. “Has he said something to you?!” He asks in an urgent whisper. Blake laughs and pushes Jasper’s glass back towards him. “Well I mean, it’s a wedding and he’s big on romantic gestures. Wouldn’t surprise me if he got swept up in the moment. What would you say if he did ask though? I assume since you didn’t deny the other thing was happening tonight that things have gotten better between you two?” Blake lifts his glass and takes a sip. “We are certainly not good enough to get engaged or even think about it. We’ve had a good week but that doesn’t mean I feel any more sure about our future. I’ve kinda been going along like things were normal for his sake more than mine, he needs to focus on this show and he wouldn’t be able to do that if he felt unstable.” Jasper sighs. “So you’re not sure about your future with him, but you’re still gonna sleep with him?” Blake teases again. “You haven’t had to see him come back from the gym or working out in the lounge room shirtless every single day of the last week, or I guarantee you’d be considering it too. It’s not like my questioning our relationship has meant that I have stopped feeling the things I feel for him. We’re still in love, so it’s not like I’m taking advantage of him right? It’s just, we’ve waiting for a long time and it’s starting to feel like we’re losing the spark there, I really don’t know how people wait until they get married like I was originally planning to do. Sorry, no offence.” “You’re not taking advantage of him, but maybe you should talk about how you know what you mean to each other now, and it is about being in love now, but you still have things you’re worried about and then if he’s not cool with it he can say it’s not time. And right? How do people do that, Beth’s been talking about it a fair bit lately and she is dropping hints then rejecting me or literally telling me she is ready and then saying she’s not ready and it seems like the whole shaming you out of it really messes with your head.” Blake sighs. “Probably for her especially, since from what I know, they are kinda taught that to be a good little wife is to be pure and then to only do it when your partner wants and to make them happy. Their basically not allowed to consider their own needs or enjoy it for their own reasons.” Jasper shrugs. “Are you serious?” Blake was mortified. “Yeah man, she’s probably super ashamed to actually be wanting it in the first place. Even thinking about sex is ‘impure thoughts from the devil’ and literally God forbid you act on or even fantasize about acting on those ‘impure thoughts’. You’re going to have to be very patient and help her realise that’s all a load of crap and she’s allowed to want to do things, and allowed to enjoy the things she wants to do. She was basically raised to be ashamed of her body too, modesty is such a big thing so just the idea of you seeing her immodest body out of wedlock and doing impure things is a huge deal.” Jasper explains. “Yeah that last part shouldn’t have been a turn on, but that sounds like such stuck up person dirty talk. Immodest body, impure things...” “You lost the point didn’t you.” Jasper cuts him off. “And please for the love of all things that are good in the world do not use those words as dirty talk unless you want her to cover herself in 30 layers of clothing and cry in a confession box for the rest of her life.” “Did you get taught the same things? Because you seem to be pretty ok with all that stuff, like does it mess with your head much?” Blake asks. “Eh.” Jasper shrugs. “Pretty much going to hell from the moment I kissed Ryan so I think I just accepted that I’d already fucked up in the eyes of God and might as well give up the whole thing. I mean there’s probably things I could have repented but once you’ve sucked a dick I don’t think there’s much chance of forgiveness from above so why waste my time even thinking about trying.” Jasper answers bluntly, making Blake choke on a mouthful of champagne. “Ok guys, Luke’s coming back.” Simon rushes back in the room, giving a disapproving look at Blake and Jasper who were in a fit of laughter. “Can you guys be serious for the next half hour, this is a big moment.” He scolds them. Jasper and Blake look at each other and laugh again while trying to calm themselves down. Luke walks in now fully suited up with his tablet in his hand, he had a focused expression as he went straight over to Ryan, handing him the tablet and showing him the ceremony plan they had sent their celebrant. Ryan nods and shows Luke his phone, with the details of his certification in an email. They both head over to in front of the curtain and fairylights, sunset was lighting the floor between the hallway to where Luke stood, with a beautiful orange glow. The timing was perfect. Luke gets a message on his tablet from Fi, saying she was ready to come in, and Blake, Simon and Jasper all line up along the walkway and the three start singing ‘Somebody to Love’ which Luke had been inspired from Simon’s week of influence to suggest as their walking down the aisle song. At the start of the first chorus, Fi opens the door and walks out of the room she’d been getting ready in, and starts heading down the hallway. It only takes her the chorus to be standing beside Luke, who was already tearing up. She looked gorgeous as always, her hair was up in a bun with a few stray curls beside her face, the dress a simple white gown with lace sleeves that went all the way down to her hands, held in place by a loop around her middle fingers, it was different from how the boys usually saw her, in more outgoing and vibrant outfits, but it suited her. Fiona and Luke hold hands, Simon moves over to Luke’s side as his best man, while Jasper and Blake stand back, Blake had been tasked with recording their private little ceremony and Jasper was to take photos for them. There was no denying that Ryan thrived in romantic settings, looking the happiest he had all week, now standing before his friend and wife to be, talking about their love, prompting them with their vows and ordering the exchanging of rings. He kept making eye contact with Jasper throughout, while Jasper tried to stay neutral, having all his life thought of weddings as more a form of ownership and spending the week making comments about how stupid he thought this wedding in particular was, he now felt his own inner romantic being drawn out by the passion in Ryan's voice during the ceremony. When at last Ryan announces that the couple were now husband and wife, and tells them to kiss, Ryan was careful not to look directly at Jasper, knowing this would be one of the moments where the couple would look back on the photo forever and thought it’d take away from their moment if he was caught looking straight down the lens at the person he loved, meanwhile from the safety of behind the phone Jasper couldn't take the smile off his face as his eyes focus on Ryan and his mind fills with a single thought that he'd been dismissing as a valid argument against whether they were going to work out in the future. Love is enough.
  6. Kevin sits bolt upright in his bed and looks over at the stranger in his doorway, fangs bared in an attempt to seem threatening, but Kevin just rolls his eyes and scoffs. “Are you kidding me. Honestly, I forgot humans were such idiots.” He sighs, pulls the blankets back calmly and gets up to confront this intruder, who was making no attempt to attack him. “Don’t worry, I’m not here to hurt you.” “Clearly. Thing is, you’re in my bedroom, uninvited so forgive me if I chose to hurt you.” Kevin walks over calmly. “So if you’re not here to hurt me, then...” “I’m just a distraction.” The man answers in a daze. “A distraction?” Kevin crosses his arms across his chest, taking in the person standing before him, there was an emptiness in his eyes that Kevin had seen plenty of times. Just a messenger boy, essentially programmed to do as he’s told. “Not a decoy, huh. So can I ask then, why are you here?” “Well he says you left him no choice, you said you’d call when you got back but you haven’t.” Kevin rolls his eyes and makes an exaggerated snoring noise. “I have more important things to do then deal with this crap.” He groans. “Honestly does no one else around here have any perspective for anything outside their own personal gains?” He chews his lip. “Wanna take a message back to him for me?” Kevin asks, a taunting smile on his face. “You can kill me but that’d just waste time. He won’t stop until he gets you. He’s determined.” “Mm.” Kevin nods in consideration. “Any more commands you need to see through or are we done here?” He sighs, turning and getting dressed quickly, continuing to glance over at the man who didn’t move or speak at all. “Run along home, I’m sure he’s missing his pet.” Kevin orders, his statement seemingly triggering him to return as instructed. “I must be getting soft.” Kevin mutters to himself as he makes his way down the hallway and the stairs, running into a frantically pacing Evie. “Kevin! They took Lee.” She cries to him. “There was 3 of them, they just came in and took him, they didn’t even say anything! What are they going to do to him? Is he dead? Are they going to kill him?” Kevin looks at her unimpressed and shakes his head, walking to the light switch and turning it on, he stands and looks at the open door, glancing back to Evie before going over and slamming it shut like a passive aggressive parent. “Aren’t you going to get him? You have to save him please! You said you needed him, please go and save him!” Evie asks in hysterics, running to Kevin and grabbing him by the shoulders, almost collapsing to her knees in her panicked state. Kevin holds her arms and steadies her, looking into her eyes carefully. “He’s fine.” Kevin states. “How did they get in Evie?” He asks, knowing damn well the answer but feeling extra petty given the circumstances. “How do you know he’s fine!? The last time these guys turned up...” “Yeah exactly. The last time I asked you to do something to be safe and you blatantly ignored it, RJ died. So I’ll ask again Evie, how did they get in? I gave you the paperwork to be the home owner, and if that’s been signed, then no one should have been able to get in without your permission. Did you sign it?” Kevin asks, his anger was evident in his eyes, despite the calm tone. “I...I.” Evie pauses and takes a deep breath. “I was reading the paperwork. I just wanted to be sure what I was signing before I signed it and they came in before I finished...” Evie admits, watching Kevin genuinely looking afraid of him. “I told you what you were signing, and made it pretty clear this was about safety. Why the hell do you and Lee keep making this a fucking challenge for me. I brought you here, to keep you SAFE. Stop doing the absolute opposite of every safety instruction I give you. Do you see now that we are vulnerable until you sign that paperwork? Do you see why I asked it of you?” Kevin snaps at her. Letting go of her and storming off to get the paperwork. “I do, I get it but you have to understand I don’t know you and Lee doesn’t trust you and...” Evie was so shaken by what had happened that her legs were forcing her to stumble after him. “What do you think Lee is thinking right now? Do you think he’s thinking this is all my fault or ‘god I hope Kevin is coming to save me’? Because I’m pretty sure he may act like he doesn’t trust me but he knows I’ll be there to help him. I promised him that, I promised you that too. You are making this so much harder than it needed to be and I’m so sick of it.” Kevin bursts into their bedroom and finds the paperwork neatly placed on the bedside table in the folder, it didn’t look like she’d been reading it at all, given the state she was in now, there’s no way she’d have placed it down so neatly while people were breaking in and abducting her boyfriend. Kevin was beyond annoyed, grabbing the folder and turning to her. “You are going to go and save him aren’t you?” Evie demands, wiping the tears from her face and trying to compose herself. “Not save him exactly, he’s not in real danger. I’ll go and pick him up and bring him home. But only once you’ve signed the paperwork and I know I have a safe home to come back to. And I swear to you I’m not going to put myself or anyone else in a situation where there are lives at risk, because you and Lee can’t use common sense and listen to instructions. This is the final warning. I owe it to Lee to protect him because he didn’t ask to be in this mess, but whatever harm has come to him right now is on your hands. I have given you no reason to doubt me, I’ve been keeping you safe and I will continue doing that, but you have to work with me here. You have to listen and you have to play your part if you don’t want to get your boyfriend killed.” He insists, handing her the paperwork and watching her expectantly as she just stares at him in disbelief of how he could possibly be prioritizing his house over saving Lee. “Lee doesn’t trust you, so how do you expect me to?” “Oh come on, you can tell Lee what you want him to think of you and he will, he is very easily convinced how to see people’s actions. Why should he trust you? You’re not completely honest with him now, are you? And before you lie, I think it’s important you know I’ve been keeping an eye on both of you for the last few months so I know the shit you’re keeping from him. He trusts you, because he doesn’t know better. He doesn’t trust me because he doesn’t know better. You get how there’s two sides to everything and you only let people see the side you want them to see? Just because he doesn’t like me and doesn’t trust me, doesn’t mean he knows well enough to dictate to anyone else what opinion they need to have. Now I’ll leave you to interpret that however you wish.” Kevin states, back to his usual condescending tone, he walks casually out of the room, Evie follows him quickly. “I am so sorry. I really am so sorry.” Evie bursts into tears again. “I’m just so scared.” Kevin raises his hand to silence her, though he doesn’t bother turning back to look at her. “Stop apologizing and stressing, have you signed it now?” Kevin asks, giving her his attention once again. Evie nods and passes him the paperwork, Kevin takes it, flipping to the signed page then looks over to Evie. “Thank you.” He says with a kind and gentle smile. “Now, don’t worry about Lee. He’s going to be fine.” Kevin orders with a sigh as he takes the paperwork to file it away safely in a lockbox. “Now will you go and save Lee?” She asks, wiping the tears from her face and trying desperately to compose herself. “Not right away, no.” Kevin shrugs. “What? Why the hell not? You said it yourself, he needs you.” “Uh, yeah. You both do. But you also both need a reality check so you can sit here feeling helplessly guilty for a day or two while he’s off sweating about whether or not he could have avoided this by not being such a persistently distrustful person towards the one person who’s dedicated his life to keeping him safe, and when I do go and bring him home, lets hope we can move forward with a new found understanding that I know what I’m doing and you are both fucked if you fail to listen to my very simple demands.” Kevin looks over at Evie poker faced, leaning his back against the wall and crossing his arms across his chest, taking in her horrified reaction. “You’re going to let him suffer as a lesson? What if they kill him?” She clutches at her heart as she speaks. “They won’t kill him. A little torture probably, it’ll do him good, he needs to toughen up.” Evie doesn’t reply, just stares at him with her mouth agape in shock of what she was hearing. Kevin kicks at the ground and sighs. “Look, the people that took him, have very lame reasons for taking a hostage. Chances are, they will spend the first 24 hours just keeping him chained up or something while they wait for me. If I keep them waiting much past that, then they will start getting annoyed and pulling some fingernails.” He jokes, but rolls his eyes as he remembers his sarcasm in this case was not appreciated. “Just bring Lee back safely, I am begging you, go and get him and bring him back. I know you care about him, I know you don’t want to leave him out there. I have learnt my lesson, I signed the paperwork. I will listen to you from now on, I promise. I won’t question anything, I will do everything you ask, absolutely everything. Just go and get Lee.” Evie pleads and Kevin swallows back his stubbornness. She was right, he took no joy in leaving Lee to fend for himself and he knew the situation, as much as it was only possible because of Evie, was at the end of the day about him and the ripples of people he hurt in the decisions he made. With reluctance, Kevin steps away from the wall and rubs his forehead. “Please don’t fuck up my entire effort while I’m out. Like do your best to not do anything inherently stupid please.” Kevin grumbles as he heads to the door. “I won’t.” Evie promises. “And stay away from my alcohol. I need you to be vigilant, if anyone comes to the door, they will try to coerce you into letting them in, trust me, no one will hurt you, but I need to know you won’t do anything stupid to put us in danger again. This has to be the last time you cause me problems.” He warns, opening the door and looking out into the night, scanning the surroundings with all his concentration and sense. “I am so sorry I put you in danger, please get back safe.” Evie whimpers, the gravity of the situation starting to drain her, part of her was terrified of being left alone but even more afraid that her actions would mean neither Kevin or Lee would make it home alive. “Don’t worry, the only people not safe right now, are the people in my way.” Kevin steps outside the door and defends himself extremely easily against another two vampires that attack him from opposite directions at the same moment, not even taking his eyes off Evie as he digs his fingers into the neck of one of the vampires, ripping his windpipe out and letting him fall to the ground, choking for air while the other pauses and starts backing away, but Kevin grabs him by the hair and bends him backwards uncomfortably. He gives Evie a cocky smile. “Case and point. I’ll clean this guy up when I get home, let him lay as a warning.” He winks at her as he kicks the corpse on the porch, Evie was as usual, not at all amused, just disgust. “And you!” Kevin speaks excitedly to the guy he had a hold of. “Do you work for Vinnie?” He asks. The scared vampire tries to shake his head. “I work for the Governor.” He tells him quickly. “Well today is your lucky day, because I have a message for him too, are you listening? Can you go to the Governor and tell him to suck my dick?” Kevin tells him cheekily, letting him go. The guy backs away then makes another attempt at attacking Kevin, this time Kevin grabs him by the hair again and rips him back so quickly it snaps his spine, leaving him too, to suffer into death. Kevin gives a wave and speeds off in a rush, off to find Lee and wreck havoc on whoever had taken him captive. He knew in his heart that Lee was ok, he could sense it, but he had a strong suspicion he would be at least shaken enough by this experience to listen better to the instructions Kevin had been giving, it really shouldn’t have been this hard to keep them in the house and safe. At this stage it almost felt like a lost cause even trying with Lee and Evie anymore, but to give up now, would be to forfeit everything he’d been working towards, and make all the deaths he’d left in his pursuit of a better life, for nothing.
  7. Littlelovestories


    “I think it’s hit me a bit.” Jasper admits, leaning against the lift on the way up to his apartment. Blake looks at his friend with a grin. “Just act normal ok?” Jasper whispers loudly when the lift doors open. “You’re going to fuck this up immediately, I can just tell.” Blake laughs as they walk to the door. Jasper shakes his head, falsely confident that he could keep it from Ryan. Ryan grins at him when he walks inside then he notices Blake following Jasper in and his smile falters, disappointed that it wasn’t just going to be him and Jasper, as he felt he had some making up to do after the rough start to the morning. “Hi.” Ryan greets the pair. “Oh my god, I haven’t even said anything yet. He’s so smart, how did he know?” Jasper looks at Blake shocked. Blake facepalms and gives an amused laugh. “Way to implicate yourself moron.” Blake scoffs and shakes his head at Jasper then smiles at Ryan. “Hello.” He says, very deliberately to point out where Jasper had gone wrong. “Oh shit.” Jasper bursts into laughter, embarrassed by his mistake. “Huh.” Ryan crosses his arms and nods with a smile on his face. “I see.” He looks Jasper up and down and shakes his head, still smiling at him. “I was meant to act normal so you wouldn’t realize.” Jasper admits, walking into the kitchen and opening the pantry. “Right. You didn’t think the smell would give it away at all?” Ryan asks. “Oh shit.” Jasper looks genuinely bewildered. “Amateurs, right?” Blake jokes to Ryan who laughs. “I could tell one of you have been smoking it the moment you walked in.” Ryan rolls his eyes. “So how high are you guys?” He asks. “It’s just Jasper, he had a joint. Literally asked to buy a joint. We made sure he was safe though; he did only just finish it when we left the house though so I’m sorry to leave him with you now.” Blake gestures at Jasper who was just continually making excited noises then sighs of disappointment as he took stock of what was in the pantry. “I want pizza. Why don’t we have pizza in here.” Jasper turns to Ryan sadly. “There’s ways to get pizza.” Ryan tells him. “What?” “We can order pizza.” Ryan takes his phone out and opens up the app for the nearest pizza store. “What am I going to do without you? Honestly.” Jasper sighs and walks over to Ryan to hug him. “Get high and starve I’m guessing.” Ryan jokes, wrapping an arm around Jasper’s waist and kissing him on the cheek. “Now what flavour pizza do you want?” “Wait, pizzas have flavours?” Jasper gasps, looking at Blake for confirmation. “He’s all yours.” Blake shakes his head. “Please record the stupid things he says and does though.” He calls out on his way out the door. Jasper turns his attention to Ryan and shrugs. “Hawaiian? Meat lovers? Supreme?” Ryan starts listing. “Ohhhhh I was thinking lollipop flavours.” Jasper walks over to the couch and lies down on it. Ryan laughs and hangs his head, rubbing his forehead. “Ok I’m ordering meatlovers.” “You’re literally the best human in the world. You know that right?” Jasper calls out. Ryan laughs again and walks over to the couch, he taps Jasper’s legs to ask him to move, Jasper lifts his legs so Ryan can sit down, then rests his legs across Ryan’s lap again. “So, was the meeting that bad? That you had to go and get high with Blake to recover?” Ryan asks. “You seem happier than when I left, what pepped you up?” Jasper asks, sitting up and cuddling up to Ryan. “Well I went to the gym and when I got home, I was feeling a little guilty about being so upset and emotional this morning so I texted my boyfriend to come back home and since he walked in the door I haven’t been able to stop smiling.” Ryan tells him, and despite it being so cheesy Jasper just about melted against him. “I love you.” Jasper sighs. “Honestly though, you should try weed, maybe it’d help your depression.” “Mmm, my depression maybe, but my anxiety doesn’t cope with feeling out of control.” “Does it just suck to be you?” Jasper asks bluntly. “It use to.” Ryan shrugs and holds Jasper a little closer. “Not so much right now.” He was on a role with cheesy comments and Jasper would usually pick on him or make sarcastic comments back but at the moment he was completely reveling in it. They enjoy just spending the time together in the moment, until they are disturbed by a ring on the doorbell. “That will be the pizza.” Ryan says and Jasper sits bolt upright like a Meerkat, wide eyed with excitement. “Pizza!? No way, how did you know I wanted pizza?” Jasper asks surprised. “You’ve literally said it 3 times since I sat down, and that’s after we had a full discussion about ordering pizza.” Ryan laughs, but Jasper was already up and running to the door, throwing it open and scaring the delivery guy as he announces how much he loves him for bringing him pizza. Jasper closes the door and takes the box over to the couch, trying to inhale the pizza through the box on his way. “This is the best. You are the best.” Jasper sits back down beside Ryan, throwing open the box and grabbing a slice without hesitation. “That’s a relief, because I was almost jealous of the way you were talking to the delivery guy just now, declaring your love for him and all that.” Ryan jokes as he reaches for a slice of pizza, hesitating for a second as Jasper glares at him and hisses. “Well excuse me.” Ryan laughs. “Sorry. Isn’t pizza gonna ruin your abs though? I’m just looking out for you buddy.” Jasper is barely finished speaking before he shoves half the slice of pizza in his mouth. “How considerate of you, you’re sure you are not just planning on eating the whole pizza on your own?” Ryan asks. Jasper looks sadly at the pizza then back at Ryan. “It’s like you just, see right through me.” “I just suspected you had the munchies. How are you feeling?” “Kinda sad.” Jasper sighs. “I don’t want it to wear off, I’m enjoying feeling this chill. I can see why people do this. Everything seems like no big deal and like it’ll all just work out.” Jasper leans against him again. “Is that bad? It’s probably bad to you hey, because after being with Damien, the last thing you need is another drugged up boyfriend right?” He sighs and takes another bite of his pizza. “It’s not bad. If you were doing massive amounts all the time and it was starting to effect your life, I’d probably be worried but I think I can deal with you getting high and rambling about pizza every once in a while. Also Damien is asthmatic so he couldn’t smoke weed, he tried probably everything else he could get his hands on but had really bad trips on pretty much all of them so he didn’t actually get into using drugs himself, the one time I saw him on drugs he was convinced that he was being followed by shadowed figures that wanted his teeth. I had to stop him from seriously hurting himself, because he was determined to rip his own teeth out and keep him from jumping out the window because he was convinced he could fly. It was terrifying and he told me he’d never take anything again after that experience.” Ryan cringes at the memory while Jasper just puts his pizza down in disgust. “He tried to pull his teeth out? Wow, so if he had bad experiences on drugs and decided instead he’d just drug other people? Really a stand-up guy.” Jasper tells him, grabbing his pizza slice again and lying back with his head in Ryan’s lap. “How come you knew the smell of weed? I assumed from Damien...” “Lots of crazy stuff happens at the kind of parties that I use to work at.” Ryan shrugs. “And I have actually smoked it a few times myself before my mental health went downhill. I enjoyed it, so I’m finding this all very amusing.” “Mate, why don’t I get to see that side of you? Can we please get high together some time? I promise I’ll sort your brain out and reassure the shit out of you, that whatever thoughts your having are bullshit.” “Sure. I trust you.” Ryan answers without hesitation. “Really? Because they sent me home with one.” Jasper announces excitedly as he sits up, putting his pizza that he’d still only had a bite of, back down. “They did not, did they?” Ryan starts laughing, though genuinely regretting agreeing half a second ago now that he was possibly going to have to see it through. “Of course they did, it’s in my pocket but my fingers are all pizza-ry so you’ll have to get it.” Jasper tells him, Ryan sighs and slips his hand in Jasper’s pocket. “They didn’t, did they.” Ryan asks. “No, I just wanted an excuse to get your hands in my pants.” Jasper winks at him. “In hind sight, I could probably have just started hitting on you hey, since that usually works.” Ryan smirks at him, he had nothing to say back, he was just thinking about how much he was going to miss Jasper and his cheeky comments while he was away. ”Wow. How fast is the moon moving? Because it looks like It's moving really fast.” Jasper comments suddenly, his eyes fixated on the mood through the window. Ryan looks out at it, squints then looks back at Jasper and shakes his head. “It’s moving Isn't it?” “I mean, it technically moves at like 2,000 miles an hour or something, but I’m pretty sure It's the weed making you think It's moving fast right now.” Ryan teases. “Babe.” Jasper breathes heavily. “Yeah?” “I have a confession.” He looks down at his hands really seriously. “Ok?” “I sometimes forget everyone exists even when I am not around them. Do you do that? Its like in Toy Story, right? Where the toys have a whole other life when they aren’t being played with. I Find it hard to imagine that everyone is living lives all at once. Like right now we are having this moment but right now everyone is having their own moments. Like people are giving birth or saying goodbye to people or some people are saying goodbye not knowing it’s the last time they will see that person and people are making life changing decisions and others are just…” “Sitting on the couch coming down from a high?” Ryan asks. “Yeah.” Jasper sighs. “That’s deep, man.” Ryan jokes. “It really is. Like how weird is the world? I think I am having an existential crisis.” Jasper stares off into the distance with a frown on his face. Ryan just smiles at him amused and shakes his head then sighs. “I think you need to drink some water.” He suggests, getting up from the couch and heading into the kitchen. “You’re gonna be away for ages, still living your life while I’m gonna be here trying to not freak out about that.” Jasper states in a mindless mumble. “Well any time you feel like freaking out, just look up at the sky and know that whatever moon, sun, clouds, stars you can see, I can see them too from where I am too.” Ryan takes a glass of water back over to Jasper. “That’s cheesy as fuck.” Jasper laughs. “Speaking of fucking, are we gonna do that before you go or no?” Jasper asks bluntly, catching Ryan off guard with his wording. “Wow, that’s uh, that’s kinda taking the romance out a bit.” He scoffs, setting the water down in front of Jasper and sitting back down next to him on the couch. “Well, I don’t like the idea of you off dancing on someone 7 days a weeks all day long when you’re deprived.” Jasper comments, starting on the pizza again, despite the fact it was now cold. “Deprived is not the word I’d use. Is that, how you’re feeling?” Ryan frowns at him. “Mmhm.” Jasper swallows his mouthful of pizza and looks at Ryan. “This might be the most you thing I’ll ever say, but, it kinda feels like you don’t actually like me that much or there’s something off putting about me because you don’t want to just do it.” Jasper admits, again, his bluntness surprising Ryan. “Oh. I’m sorry you see it that way. I do want to take that step with you.” Ryan hesitates. “Well I’m right here. Take the step. You know I’m ready, I feel like I’ve been throwing hints.” Jasper leans back on the couch, probably thinking he was being seductive. “It’s not like that at all, I’m just wanting to make that special and I’ve been waiting for the right time. I don’t want to just ‘do it’, I want it to feel like it’s ‘making love’, I want it to have the right passion and meaning, not just ‘fucking’.” He chews his lip, finding it difficult to look at Jasper while he spoke, despite feeling Jasper’s eyes not leaving him once. He glances at Jasper nervously and then grabs the glass of water, taking a sip and putting it back on the coffee table. “Ok, but are you sure you’re not saying that as an excuse because you’re scared?” Jasper asks. “I’m not...” “Because I feel like you’ve made this such a big important life altering moment in your head, because last time it wasn’t what you wanted it to be and that led you to wanting to kill yourself and the end of a shitty relationship that you haven’t quite let go of and therefore can’t move forward from and so the idea of taking that step again is making you anxious about it being the beginning of the end for us too, and maybe you have some internalized fear that you won’t reach a standard and I’ll be let down by it and run off fucking other guys...” Jasper pauses watching Ryan who was starting to look more and more deflated with each suggestion. “Or something, I don’t know. I’m high.” Jasper mumbles, looking away from Ryan and waiting for a response, he felt guilty for letting out the list of excuses he’d thought of for why Ryan was so hesitant. They both sit in silence for a while, Jasper glancing at Ryan who was sitting still as a statue, eyeing the water in front of him like he was waiting for permission to drink it. “Can you pass me the water?” Jasper asks, Ryan leans forward and takes the glass, turning to pass it to Jasper. “Am I making you nervous again? Like when we first met?” Jasper asks, placing his hand over Ryan’s on the glass and looking into his eyes, forcing him to hold eye contact. “You are challenging me.” Ryan admits, looking down at Jasper’s hand on his. “I do genuinely want to make it romantic, that’s not some cover up. But it has been freeing, not having any pressure about it all. Knowing that waiting for the right time has no time limit. I appreciate that you’ve not been patient, and I know you’ve been dropping hints, you’re not actually as subtle as you might think you are.” Ryan gives a smirk then looks back up at Jasper. Jasper winks at him and takes the water, putting it on the coffee table and putting his arms around Ryan’s neck. “Oh, aren’t I?” He asks, fake innocence in his tone. “Don’t.” Ryan leans away, a nervous smile on his face. “You are right, ok. I admit I’m a bit scared. I just want everything to be perfect and the longer I make you wait, the more I’m feeling like I’ve put extra pressure on myself for being worth the wait, you know? Like it feels like a big deal, I just want it to be what you expect...” “Ry. Listen, its not going to be perfect, that’s exactly what I expect. You think I really believe all the fanfics I’ve read where we’re both going at it like pro’s? I don’t. I’m not stupid, plus Blake has been joking about it being a 1 minute event, so I’ve got extremely low expectations. It’s supposed to be fun, it’s not a job interview where you have to be good enough for a call back. You’ll be nervous, I’ll be nervous, the point is we get to be nervous together. I want you to be able to relax and enjoy it the first time, knowing that no matter what happens, I’m with you because I love you and I respect you. So if the first time goes well, we can have a celebratory drink and relax knowing that all the things you were worried about were for nothing, and if it doesn’t go well, we can laugh about it and spend the rest of our lives getting to know what we like and what we don’t and that’s when we can start making it mind-blowing and whatever, we’ll become pro’s at each other and that, that! Is what makes it special and romantic and perfect.” Jasper shrugs, rubbing the back of Ryan’s neck while he spoke, in an attempt to get Ryan to relax and look at him again. By the time he finishes talking he has Ryan’s undivided attention. Ryan didn’t have any words to express how he felt after hearing what Jasper had to say, he simply wraps his arms around him and pulls him in close for a passionate kiss that he pulls away from sooner than Jasper hoped for. “I do still want to set up some romantic things first.” He tells him quickly. “Yeah just about my only expectation is that you’ll turn our bedroom into a fire hazard with candles.” Jasper teases. “Exactly!” Ryan laughs. “If it helps though, all I’ll be concentrating on, will be finding every single way I can drive you to pleasurable insanity.” Jasper leans in close, his lips nearly touching Ryan’s as he speaks, his eyes only looking up from his lips to give Ryan a cheeky wink, catching Ryan staring at him in almost a daze, when Jasper’s eyes meet his, he licks his lips and breathes deeply. “How’s my subtlety going?” Jasper smirks. “Pleasurable insanity has me feeling both intense anticipation, and fear about whether I’m unknowingly dating a sadist.” Ryan gulps, still smiling as he looks from Jasper’s eyes to his lips, and back to his eyes. “Well Ryan, if there’s one thing I already know I like, it’s being a chronic tease. I plan to be able to send you texts every single night you’re away that will make you want to fly all the way home to pin me to the bed.” Jasper whispers in a seductive tone, his hands moving from Ryan’s neck to slowly running over his shoulders and down his chest. “Ok. Enough of that.” Ryan laughs, pulling away from Jasper and reaching for the water again. “You’re just going to make me not want to leave.” “Oh I want you to leave, it’s going to be way more fun to mess with you when you’ve got months before you can touch me again.” Jasper shrugs, lying back on the couch and watching Ryan shift uncomfortably in his seat. “Of course, you’ve still got a few days left to touch me so if I were you...” Jasper pauses as Ryan drinks the rest of the glass of water. “Sorry, am I making you thirsty?” “Very.” Ryan answers, chewing his lip and looking Jasper up and down. “And you thought I didn’t want you.” He scoffs, turning and crawling over Jasper, holding himself just above him as he runs his lips along Jasper’s jawline from his chin to his ear. “But, since I don’t have any candles, I guess we’ll have to wait a few more days to do anything about that.” He whispers, before pulling away from him and walking off. “What, seriously? Where are you going?” Jasper calls out. “To have a shower. A very cold one.”
  8. “Where’s Ryan?” Simon asks as soon as Jasper walks into Daniel’s office on his own, the other three already sitting and waiting. “He’s at home, not feeling up to all this crap.” Jasper answers, taking a seat in front of the desk beside Blake. “Gotta get use to being on my own anyway right.” He fakes a smile at Blake. “On a scale of being fine to being a sobbing mess on the floor, where are you at about him leaving?” Blake teases. “First person to make me crack over this, will get punched, so proceed with caution on those kinds of questions in future. Consider that your warning.” Jasper advises. “Is Ryan ok?” Luke asks. “He’s not having a very good day, his depression is getting him down.” “His depression? I thought he was ok now, like since he’s so happy with you.” Luke comments. “Well, yeah, he’s happy with me, but he’s still got depression. As much as I’d love to believe I’m gods’ gift to him, I’m not a cure for mental illness. Being depressed doesn’t have to mean you’re not happy, just that your brain isn’t able to see the good stuff when everything else feels so overwhelming. I’m learning that his depression Isn't a reflection of our relationship and there’s nothing I can do differently that will spontaneously fix it.” “Just thought he’d want to be here, since his entire job was manipulated by Chris.” Simon comments, to which Jasper just shrugs his shoulders at, the bitchy voice in his head was saying that Ryan never follows up on punishing the manipulative people in his life but he decides to keep that to himself, blaming the thought on his frustration tiredness of the last few days along with the confused feeling over Ryan leaving. “I’ve gotta tell you guys something, Flynn has been looking into the leaked photos of Ryan and Jasper and he has been able to trace it back to Chris.” “Oh fuck him.” Jasper scoffs, sinking back in his chair and shaking his head. “We all fucking knew it was him, but hearing it is sickening. Add that to the list of bullshit things he’s done.” “Who’s Flynn?” Daniel asks as he notes the new information down. “My brother.” Blake answers. “And who does he work through? Can he send through the records so we can add it to the case?” “Uh he found out through unconventional ways.” Blake admits. Daniel smiles and sets his pen down. “Ok, unfortunately we’ll need solid evidence to be able to take that claim through the courts. If your brother can find a ‘conventional’ way to prove it, that’d be great. Otherwise whatever method he took to get to those conclusions could backfire on him and I don’t want to cause more problems to any of you.” Daniel taps his pen on the note pad before him. He didn’t want to The meeting took up a few hours, compiling all the issues they felt necessary to take action against Chris with, working out the best way to word their claims. Jasper was trying to focus and not worry about Ryan, but he snuck a few texts to him while the others were talking. When they finally get finished Jasper gets his phone out again to check up on Ryan, to see a text that he’d gone to the gym. Jasper sighs with disappointment, he’d wanted to spend as much time as he could with Ryan but he was glad to hear Ryan was at least not just at home being miserable, left alone with his dark thoughts. “You ok?” Blake interrupts Jasper’s train of thoughts. Jasper looks up at him and squints his eyes in thought. “What are you up to now?” He asks. “Having a conversation with you, idiot.” Blake jokes, Jasper just rolls his eyes. “Do you need a lift home or something?” Blake asks. “Ryan’s gone to the gym so can I come and hang out with you for a while?” Jasper suggests, though it came across much more like he was inviting himself over. “Oh, well...” Blake hesitates, making Jasper frown. “Ok then, I know when I’m not wanted.” He says, faking offence dramatically. “No, I’d love to hang out, it’s just Flynn, he feels really guilty about the whole incident with David drugging you and he kinda assumes you hate him.” Blake shrugs and slips his hands in his pockets and waits to gauge Jasper’s response. “You mean Damien?” Jasper asks. “I make an effort to fuck his name up, make him feel unimportant, you know?” “He’s not Voldemort you know. Anyway, I like your brother, I’m not mad at him.” Jasper answers, Blake smiles, clearly relieved, he turns and starts walking out of the building, gesturing at Jasper to follow him. “That’s what I’ve been telling him, but to be fair he did bust his ass getting evidence that Chris put those cameras in your room, to try to make it up to you. It’s just a pity his tactics weren’t legal and it can’t help you. He’ll be so mad about that, though he’ll work it out for you. I mean he knows the right person to go to but he’ll have to get him to admit it in a more appropriate way.” Blake states as he and Jasper reach his car. Flynn walks into the room, looks at Jasper then turns to walk out again straight away, though Jasper catches him. “Hey.” Jasper calls out. “Oh, hey, I was just...” “Avoiding me? You know you aren’t to blame for Damien being a dickhole, right?” Jasper states with a grin. Flynn walks back into the room and leans against the doorframe, looking at Jasper sadly. “It is kinda my fault your boyfriend’s ex had the drugs to start with.” Flynn argues. “Well it’s not your fault what he did with the drugs, but maybe don’t sell to him again.” Jasper jokingly advises but Flynn didn’t seem to find it amusing. “Yeah actually I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately and decided I’m selling up what I have left then I’m going to look into some respectable paid work.” Flynn shrugs. “Just because of what Damien did?” “Well I mean, initially I only got into the drug game because Blakey needed weed for his seizures but now he gets that shit over the counter so my original reason is gone and when he finally brings Emo back into style and makes millions, he’ll surely give me some money as compensation for having to put up with his shit for just about my whole life. I never got into this with the intention of being a dealer and I only know he drugged you because Blake realized, but what if there’s other people that have bought stuff from me and it’s hurt other people? I didn’t think Damien would have since he usually bought off me for clients, but I can’t be sure who it’s being used on and why so it’s just best not to have that guilt.” “Wait, for his clients? What do you mean?” Jasper frowns. “Oh he mentioned it once when I was picking on him for being in here like 4 times in one week for the same product. He said he was buying on behalf of different people and given that he always bought with cash I’d say he must work for some rich people.” “Maybe he just has a rich sugar daddy.” Jasper shrugs. “Speaking of buying drugs though, how much does is it cost for a joint? Before you sell out I really wanna try some.” Jasper tells him confidently but Flynn and Blake both laugh at him. “What?” “I love it when people that don’t do drugs, try to ask for drugs.” Flynn teases, walking out of the room. “Seriously?” Jasper frowns at Blake. “People generally ask for an amount, like in grams. You’re meant to buy it, then go home and roll your own joint dipshit.” Blake shakes his head at Jasper and walks over to the couch, sitting down and waiting with an amused smile. “So, does Ryan know you wanna do weed?” He asks. “It’s not up to him what I do.” Jasper replies annoyed as he sits on the couch beside his best friend. “Are you trying to sabotage the relationship because your scared that he wants kids?” Blake asks bluntly. “Honestly, there’s just a lot going on right now. When we went to see my family, it was because my sister was ‘sick’ turns out she was actually in labor and Ryan and I had to sneak her to the hospital so they could stop her from giving birth. I’m more stressed about that than anything right now. Like how and I supposed to get her back here when she’s let out of hospital without anyone noticing me driving around with a pregnant woman? The court case will put attention on us again and if she’s not out until Ryan goes, there’ll likely be more attention on me because people will be talking about him more too. We’ve fallen out of the spotlight in the last few weeks but that’s all going to disappear and we’ll have no privacy again soon.” Jasper sighs, his attention going to Flynn who was walking back in the room with a little box in his hands and a smirk on his face. “Have you ever actually smoked?” Flynn asks as he places the box down on the coffee table, kneeling in front of it and opening the box, Jasper sits forward curiously peering into the box and watching with fascination as Flynn starts rolling a joint for him. “Nope.” “Well then you’ll have to smoke it here. I don’t like letting people take drugs they aren’t use to, when they aren’t in company of someone who can look after them if something goes wrong.” Flynn states, passing the joint over the coffee table to Jasper who takes it excitedly. “Weed’s safe though isn’t it?” He asks. “Yeah unless you have some kind of allergic reaction or choke on smoke or something.” “Also I want to see what you’re like when you’re high.” Blake teases, leaning back in his seat and watching as Flynn lights the joint. “Doesn’t it just chill people out?” Jasper asks before putting it between his lips. “Yeah, it’ll help you relax. I overheard you talking about your sister, if you want I can pick her up? No one knows who I am.” Flynn offers. Jasper coughs on the first breath of smoke before thanking Flynn for the offer. “It’s all good. Just let me know if you need me. I owe you one.” Flynn shrugs, leaving the room briefly and returning with a glass of water, handing it to Jasper. Jasper is just about finished when his phone buzzes. “Oh shit!” Jasper gasps and covers his mouth before bursting into laughter. “Fuck me, Ryan’s home. Can you take me home Blake?” He asks. “Right now? Are you sure?” Blake asks. “Yeah, I’m fine.” Jasper gets up and takes a deep breath. “Is he gonna be mad at you for getting high?” Flynn asks. “I don’t feel ‘high’, besides, it’s not up to him what I do with my life.” Jasper says confidently. Flynn and Blake share a look of amusement. Blake gets up and pulls his keys out of his pocket. “At least Ryan’s probably use to taking care of someone like this.” Blake comments and nudges Jasper. “Thanks Flynn, how much do I need to pay you?” Jasper asks. “Nothing dude, just take care and if you decide you wanna do this again some time, let me source it for you, because I don’t want you getting dodgy product.” Flynn winks at Jasper who just laughs and walks out with Blake, looking forward to getting home to Ryan.
  9. Standing on the edge of the camping spot everyone took in the spectacular early morning view of the fog settling in on the forestry below the ledge where they’d trekked up through. “Inspiring hey?” Simon asks, beaming. Jasper looks over at him, noticing the enthusiasm on his face and grinning. Though getting him out of bed and to stand here had taken a lot of effort, now he could see why it was going to benefit them all to throw themselves into each other’s interests like this because the way Simon was looking like he had an almost childlike excitement painted on his face. “Who wants to go first?” He turns to the group. “Shot not.” Blake states as he breathes in his coffee, waiting for it to wake up his soul. “Your idea, you go first.” Luke nudges Simon who already seemed like he was itching to get into the activity he’d come up with. Without much convincing he launches into song, with way more energy and passion than anyone else had woken up with. It was inspiring, to see their friend in his element, singing something that meant so much to him and that he related to personally. It felt almost like they were finally actually meeting Simon, and not just seeing how he portrayed himself for everyone else. By the time the sun was all the way up everyone had performed their songs and were feeling freshly motivated. The dynamics felt like they had changed already, and despite having to pack up the campsite and walk back down the hill before dealing with the upcoming legal consequences, no one actually felt like leaving now that they’d experienced the bliss of this relaxing getaway location. Since they were leaving earlier than planned everyone expressed their interest in coming back at another time and maybe even making it a regular thing. Simon was pleased that everyone had embraced the experience even if it had been cut short, and the fact they were all keen to come back again made it feel like a success. During their trip back down the mountain, Simon discusses what else they were going to do on his week, he also had a chance to give all the well prepared speeches he had definitely practiced in front of the mirror on why they had to work together and keep pushing each other to do their best. It was almost as effective to hear as they walked back towards reality as it would have sounded in the echo of the campsite. There was no complaining, until they reached the bottom of the walking path and everyone's phones started buzzing with all the missed notifications and messages now that they were finally back in reception. While Simon had a short spontaneous speech about not being too focused on their phones and neglecting the things that really mattered, Blake, Jasper and Luke were all immediately catching up on their social lives. “Why aren’t you texting anyone?” Simon asks Ryan who was just standing beside him, waiting for Jasper to be finished. “The only person that texts me is Mr popular here.” Ryan nudges Jasper, who was listening to a string of voicemails with a look of concern on his face. “What about you?” “Different time zones.” Simon shrugs. “Plus I knew where to find reception up there, that’s how I got the phone call from Daniel in the first place.” He winks at Ryan then sighs and keeps walking towards his car. “Come on guys, you can catch up with everyone in the car, we all need a real shower before we meet with the lawyer.” He orders, and in a zombie like fashion everyone heads towards the car, except Jasper who had wandered off in the other direction on the phone. Blake heckles Jasper to hurry up so after Ryan throws his bags in the back of the car he heads over and takes Jasper’s bags for him, overhearing him checking with his sister about how she was going. “He’ll just be a moment, family stuff.” Ryan states then looks back over at Jasper, wondering whether he should go back over to him to show support, or give him space but Jasper hangs up a moment later and comes over to join them. “Sorry guys. Family stuff and whatnot.” Jasper sighs as he climbs in the back and sits beside Ryan, leaning his head on his shoulder. “All good?” Ryan asks, rubbing Jasper’s knee comfortingly. “Yeah.” Jasper yawns and closes his eyes, his goal was to sleep on the drive home, mostly to avoid having to talk or think about anything. While he fakes sleep, the rest of the guys are discussing what they planned to do about Chris and his reputation. They all agreed that they wanted him to get the backlash in the public eye given how much he’d put them through, but their first goal was getting the payout from him so they could finally start moving forward completely. The resentment that they all held was keeping them from feeling secure enough to focus on their futures completely so the main focus that they all held was on the financial security of a payout, so they could finally put their energy into creating more music. Jasper and Ryan were the first to be dropped off back at their place, they say goodbye to their friends and head up to their apartment to have showers and get ready to meet with Daniel and file their official statements against Chris. “So, are you ok?” Ryan asks after they get up to their room. “Yeah, just worried about Grace. She said she’s in a lot of pain again today so she’s gotta stay a few more days for monitoring.” Jasper answers, throwing his bag on the floor and putting his phone on charge straight away. “At least she’s in the right place, they can take better care of her there than anyone anywhere else.” Ryan tries to reassure him. “Are you ok?” Jasper turns his attention to Ryan, who just looks at him confused for a few moments before giving a sigh and a shrug. “I mean, I’ve been worried about us?” He says nervously. “Especially since I’m going away so soon and it feels like we’ve a bit unstable. I don’t want to leave and have things get more complicated.” “I think it’ll be good for us actually. I love you, but we’ve spent basically all of our time around each other ever since we met, some time apart to be ourselves is probably going to be a good thing.” “See now it sounds like you don’t want me around.” Ryan sighs. “It’s not that I don’t want you around, it’s that I’m excited to find out what I’m actually like by myself. Also I’ve got writers block with music at the moment, everyone else has songs prepared for their mini albums already, because they’d written them ages back, but I have nothing and I think part of that is that I’ve been so busy and distracted lately, I haven’t had a chance to have anything just come to me. I need to work on my own songs too. I have been thinking about this whole learning about each other, thing, and I’m worried that I don’t actually know myself right now.” Jasper was speaking faster than usual with a clear tone of panic but as soon as he finishes talking he just takes a deep breath and exhales slowly. “I feel like until I’ve had this time on my own, I’m going to have questions that will cause you more stress, but when I’ve done my time alone, I’ll know how I feel about everything and have more clarity moving forward.” “You’re not suggesting a break while I’m away are you? Because if you want to be seeing other people, or exploring your options than I’m not going to be coming back to a relationship with you. As far as I’m concerned if you’ve got doubts about us and you want to find your answers by dating other people than that’s a pretty clear sign that you’re not happy in this.” Ryan states. “I’m pretty sure you’re the one who’s going to be touching someone else everyday for the next few months while I try not to throw things at the tv in a jealous rage. I am not interested in dating anyone else, I just want to have the time to clear my mind and focus on my music for a while. It’s not a bad thing to want space, you’re just a needier person than I am.” “I’m sorry that I need things from you.” “Oh don’t be like that, I didn’t mean it in a bad way.” “Jasper I’ve been messed with before, I’ve had the mind tricks played on me and I’ve fallen for them. I ask for and need reassurance because I have no trust in my own judgement. I don’t do it to be a pain or to suffocate you, I just don’t trust that you can love me if you aren’t telling me or showing me in very clear ways.” “What you need, is to recondition your mind to see that love isn’t supposed to be a challenge and that Damien is not the example of love that you should be comparing people to. Wanting space, and wanting to ghost you or give you the cold shoulder just to fuck with you, are two very different things. Having questions about my own feelings and thoughts, and pooling doubts on you expecting you to find ways to fix them and change yourself to suit them, are very different things. You assume the worst, when have I ever proven you right? How many times does your brain have to get it wrong before your first thought when I say I am looking forward to having some time to myself, is reflective of me and our relationship, instead of him and that relationship?” Jasper was snappy now, frustrated beyond belief that they just kept coming back to the problem being Damien and Ryan’s past. “I’m sorry ok? I just don’t have time right now to get into a new therapist and I wasn’t feeling like the last one got me and the waiting list is a flawed system and I am just stuck right now, I tried to stop my meds and then all this went on with your parents and your sister and suddenly you’re doubting our future. It feels like I am on the verge of a meltdown because I’m so worried I’m about to do everything wrong and ruin us, blow this opportunity for my dance partner, and just everything is getting a bit much right now so my insecurity is coming back in full force.” Ryan covers his face in frustration too. “Ok, come on, lets have a shower and get out this bullshit over with, then we can just relax all afternoon, since we’ve got a movie day at Simon’s tomorrow and then suit shopping, and wedding prep for Luke and not a lot of time together this week.” Jasper walks over to Ryan and takes his hand, leading him through the bedroom and into the ensuite where he starts undressing himself before getting in the shower and signaling for Ryan to join him. Ryan gets in but he was clearly still very upset by their conversation. Jasper places his arms around Ryan’s neck and kisses him softly then rests his head on Ryan’s shoulder. “What is going on for you right now?” He asks. “I feel like depression has me by the ankles, everything I do is weighted down by this force that is trying to pull me to the ground. Every step I take is like walking waist deep in water and the current is dragging me the other way. I am tired and when I get tired like this, when I get to the stage where I am completely drained of energy, that fight or flight instinct quits fighting and goes straight to thinking of how I can flee the mental exhaustion I am feeling. I don’t necessarily want to die, I just want to stop functioning, stop existing with thoughts and feelings. I want to essentially switch myself off. So I’m really sorry that I am pushing you away, I am really sorry that I seem so...” Ryan stops mid sentence, not to think of what to say next but just because he’d run out of words. His silence was unsettling because it was clear that he was starting to switch off. Watching him so rapidly fall like this was terrifying. It was as though he was seeing the person inside the body die while the body kept functioning and all he could do was hold his hand and hope that they would get through this. Jasper couldn’t relate to the pain Ryan was feeling, but having it described to him like this made a strange amount of sense. “I don’t know how to help you.” Jasper admits quietly, to which Ryan just holds him tighter. “But I promise until you have the energy to fight it again, I’m going to fight it for you in whatever ways you need me to. You can give up all you like, but just know that I won’t. I’ll be here pushing you to keep going and I’ll drag you if I have to, because no matter how you feel, you are not alone in this. I am in it with you and I may not feel the things you’re feeling, but I can feel all the things you can’t right now. I can feel my love for you, I can feel the strength you have to come out of this and when you need me to, I’ll hug you so tight that you’ll absorb those feelings from me.” Jasper was dead serious and his comment earned a small smile from Ryan. “You can’t just hug a feeling into me.” Ryan shakes his head. “Try me. I know I can’t fix it, but I can at least keep reminding you why it’s worth holding on. Also, you’re not failing if you decide to go back on meds. I know you really wanted to get by without them, but you can’t be proud of yourself if you’re dead, or even if you’re emotionally numb. Do what your body needs you to do, and ignore like maybe 99.9% of the thoughts that go through your head and listen to the 0.1% that is ‘maybe I have to go back on meds’.” Again Ryan just holds him tighter, speaks so quietly he’s almost just mouthing the words ‘thank you’ then he sighs and closes his eyes. “Is there anything I can do for you right now?” Jasper asks. “I’m ok. I just want to sleep.” Ryan sighs again. “Ok, well you don’t really need to come along so how about you just rest and I’ll be back when I’m done with the guys?” Jasper suggests, Ryan nods in agreement but neither of them move for another few long moments. Finally they let each other go and Ryan just hops out, dries himself and leaves the room. Jasper quickly washes then gets out too and wraps the towel around himself, going to the bedroom where he sees Ryan just lying on the bed looking a little dazed, the way he always did after a panic attack, though this time Jasper felt like Ryan hadn’t really had much of one. He dries himself and gets dressed then goes to Ryan and plants a kiss on his cheek. “I’m sorry.” Ryan mumbles. “Don’t be sorry, I was just thinking I am proud of you.” Jasper smiles at Ryan who looks at him confused. “That wasn’t the kind of panic attack you usually have, you talked about how you felt and seemed to get yourself into this calming down stage without actually losing control of yourself.” Jasper points out. Ryan nods slowly then gives a fake smile. “True.” He comments quietly. “Still wish I could just have a normal brain and not have to deal with any of this.” He says bitterly. “Getting better at handling it, is a step closer to not having to deal with it this badly in future. Just another reason to hold on, this isn’t an example of your regular day, we’ve been good and you’ve been good. This has just been a rough day in a string of rough days and things boiled over a little. We just need to get through this week, then you’re going to have so much fun on Dancers and Dreamers, and you’ll come back feeling refreshed and newly inspired, and I’ll have had all this free time to miss you and write love songs about you and things will be good again. Remember that.” Jasper insists, the fake smile on Ryan’s lips turning real. “Thank you. I am really looking forward to the show, I miss dancing.” He admits. “Yeah well, just as long as you don’t run off on the band and leave me for a dance career.” Jasper jokes but there was a look on Ryan’s face that worried him. “You do still want to be in the band right?” He asks. “I don’t really have a place in it.” Ryan shrugs. “Singing isn’t my bigger passion. Would you hate me if I did go back to dance as my career?” He asks. “I would be proud of you, and I would love you, for putting yourself first and doing what you need to do for your own life. I’d miss you in the band, but no matter what you do, as long as this is where you call home, I will always back your choices and support you.”
  10. "Are you right, have you been eaten by a bear or something?” Blake’s footsteps come crunching towards Jasper in the dark. Jasper turns his phone and shines it towards Blake’s so he can follow the light and find his friend. “Sorry, there’s just a lot going on and I needed to have some time.” Jasper was staring up at the sky, concentrating on the view of the star through the branches and leaves above him, a sight that was missed by the brightness in the city. “You know, the whole point of this trip is to get to know each other better, not to hide away by yourself.” Blake’s joking nature disappears the moment he notices the tears that Jasper was desperately trying to wipe away before they could even leave his eyes. “Jas?” Blake sits beside him quickly. “I’m fine, don’t worry.” Jasper sniffles back his tears. “Crying in the dark isn’t being ‘fine’. Did we upset you... Oh shit, is this about the baby thing? God we are a bunch of idiots, obviously you and Ryan didn’t need us talking about kids. But hey if Luke and Fi are going to adopt, they can tell you how that whole process works and...” “I’m going to stop you right there, I am not concerned about having kids, that’s not what upset me, exactly.” Jasper cuts in. “Oh, then what’s up?” “Well, we literally only just talked about it, and it turns out that Ryan does want kids. He basically begged me not to break up with him, but I feel like I’m wasting his time by not letting him go to find someone who can fulfill his life in the way I don’t think I can. I mean even if I change my mind and want kids one day, I feel like I’d be robbing him of the opportunity to enjoy himself the way he deserves to, through trying for a baby, the excitement of finding out he’s going to be a Dad and all the steps from there to holding a newborn. I just think this is it for us.” Jasper starts crying again. “I really let myself fall in love with him, really hard. I don’t want to not be with him, but he deserves to have everything he wants in his life. I am just standing in his way right now. I need to break up with him and I think that’s going to wreck me. Is that dumb? We’ve only been together for 6 months and I genuinely think I will lose it if we break up. Like I just found ‘it’ the ‘it’ that was missing from my life was what I have with Ryan and I can’t imagine that with anyone else, but if I really love him, I should let him have the life he deserves.” Jasper’s tears cascade down as he admits out loud just how he was feeling in his heart. “Dude, I’m so sorry you’re feeling that way. But hey, listen. I promised you early on that when you were too caught up in your feelings to be able to see the red flags, I’d be your voice of reason and I’d tell you what you weren’t able to see and I’m about to do that, so listen.” Blake urges, taking Jasper’s hands and waiting until Jasper stops crying and looks into his eyes. “Ok, here’s my thoughts. As your best friend that wants you to be happy, since you’re thinking only about what Ryan deserves and being selfless about this, you’re forgetting that you also matter and while it’s nice of you to care about Ryan, this is not just about him. You’re allowed to think about what makes you happy too.” Jasper and Blake walk back out into the clearing just to be given cleaning up duties for skipping out on the preparation and cooking of dinner. Jasper goes straight to Ryan who seems surprised and relieved as his boyfriend approaches him. “Hey, are you all good?” Ryan asks with a casual smile, he’d been trying to act like nothing was wrong while Jasper had been gone, despite Luke and Simon both asking a few times, which was why it was Blake that’d gone searching for Jasper in the first place. “You guys missed some important stuff while you were off.” Simon announces, interrupting the moment Jasper and Ryan were about to have. “Daniel called and Chris did try to countersue us for leaving our contracts early, so we’ll be going home tomorrow to sort out what we are going to be putting into our counter claim in response to him. Daniel reckons we won’t have to make court appearances because he’s almost certain Chris will want to just sweep it all under the rug the moment he reads our list. There’s a good chance he’ll pay out whatever he needs to just to keep his name out of headlines.” Simon explains, looking mostly at Jasper while he talks, as if expecting and anticipating a reaction from him. Jasper however was barely interested, his focus was on taking in every detail of Ryan’s face with a look of adoration. A sweet smile sneaking across his lips as Ryan turns his head and catches him staring. “Damn, he deserves all the slander and bullshit.” Blake chimes in, saying what Simon had been expecting Jasper would say. “I mean we still could bring it into the spotlight if we wanted to but it would probably make it more messy and complicated.” Simon continues, still watching Jasper, curious as to why he wasn’t getting a response from him about this, given that this was something he’d personally started. “Jasper, what do you think? You’re the one he fucked over the most.” Jasper gives a dramatic sigh and shrugs, briefly looking at Simon. “Normally I’d say lets fuck his entire life up, but I really have no room for that kind of drama right now. I’m trying to work on being a more positive person and just enjoying the present. Screw the past and there’s no point stressing about the future.” Jasper gives his full attention back to Ryan, who had a surprised smile on his face at Jasper’s fresh perspective. Jasper lowers his voice as he speaks to him. “I’m sorry about today.” “Ryan turning you into a passivist?” Luke jokes. “Well I think it’s more that since we don’t have Chris actively trying to make every day as difficult as possible, I feel a lot less like punching people most of the time. But yeah, Ryan’s probably to blame for my change of heart too.” He admits and looks from Ryan’s eyes, to his lips and back to his eyes. “I love you.” He whispers and kisses him to prove it. Ryan physically relaxes as he draws Jasper in tight against his body, the kiss feeling like it was taking away all the insecurity of the day. They were barely aware of the conversation continuing around them, which was just their friends discussing how they would talk about it more in the morning when everyone was more focused, knowing that Jasper and Ryan were counting down the days before they had to say goodbye and obviously now was a moment they wanted to themselves. “Thank you.” Ryan whispers to Jasper once their lips part. “For what?” Jasper leans his forehead against Ryan’s, wanting to stay close to his lips for another kiss any moment. “For loving me.” Ryan answers, pulling away to look into Jasper’s eyes, likely about to launch into some kind of deeply affectionate speech but Jasper cuts in first. “Oh don’t thank me for that, I get a lot out of it, I’m not doing it as a favor to you.” Jasper winks, running his hands down Ryan’s arms and taking his hands, entwining their fingers. “I’ll thank Blake then, for whatever pep talk he gave you.” Ryan suggests. “Finally I’m being recognized for the excellent wingman that I am.” Blake calls out and gives Jasper and Ryan a thumbs up, having overheard his name and tuned in to the conversation. “You know what I’d like recognition for? This dinner, is anyone interested in eating?” Luke asks and is immediately flattered with comments about how good the food looked and smelt as everyone crowded around to fill their plates with campfire roasted potatoes and grilled kebabs. As they eat, Simon introduces an idea to get everyone more immersed in what inspired his music, that they would be performing a song at sunrise by his favourite band, that they felt they most related to. “You guys should all get a good nights sleep, because I’m waking you all up at 4.30 tomorrow.” Simon informs his friends after Blake and Jasper are finished cleaning up from dinner. “I nominate Ryan to do my part, there’s no way in hell I’m getting up that early.” Jasper states, returning to the fireside that was dwindling down to just glowing embers quietly crackling in a mesmerizing pattern. “I’ll take one for the team, You deserve a sleep in.” Ryan agrees quickly, draping his arm around Jasper’s shoulders. “No, you’ll have to get up Jasper. You can’t make Ryan do it for you.” Simon answers. “Nope, It’s fine, really. Ryan use to do tutoring at school, so he’ll be all over for me and will make sure I don’t miss the lesson. I’m telling you now, I am not going to take in anything you say at 4.30 in the morning.” Jasper leans his head on Ryan’s shoulder and closes his eyes. “Wow, you did tutoring at school? Nerd.” Blake teases jokingly. “Well he tried to do tutoring, but everyone was less interested in trigonometry, and more interested in getting in his pants.” Jasper smirks as he pictures Ryan rolling his eyes in response. “Oh yeah, well just so we are clear, what are you interested in?” Ryan asks Jasper who sits up and looks at him with an impressed smile, loving the cockiness in his response. “I’ll make it worth your while.” He winks. “Sorry Jasper, there’s no easy way out in this one. You will have to just get up and suffer like the rest of us.” Simon attempts to get the conversation back on track but he’d lost Blake’s interest. “So at your school, were you popular for being hot, or outcasted for being brainy?” Blake asks, Ryan cringes as he thinks back to school. “I wasn’t popular I wouldn’t say, I was quiet and kept to my school work mostly. I don’t know, I was awkward.” Ryan shrugs. “I feel you Ryan, I wasn’t that popular in school either. I was part of the football team, but a lot of them where kinda dicks, so I only had a few proper friends.” Luke seemed to think back on his schooling fondly, smiling as he mentioned his friendships. “I pictured you being one of the cool guys, did you not have any friend?” Blake gawks at Ryan in fascination. “No, I only really hung out with Dam...” Ryan starts but the name trails off as the regret fills him with the feeling of Jasper pulling away from him and glaring. “Oh, so you were high school sweet hearts?” Jasper asks, rolling his eyes and shaking his head. “Cute.” His comment was bitter and spiteful. “No. We didn’t date in school.” Ryan answers, trying to reassure Jasper that it wasn’t as big a deal as it sounded, though the anger was clearly not going anywhere, especially with the tiredness kicking in, taking away what little patience he had. “So, Simon, what are we doing in the morning?” Blake loudly tries to change the topic, to very little success. “Did he go to you for tutoring?” Jasper asks snappily. “Well he never paid any attention in class so...” “So he did? And what happened? Just tutoring or was that just an excuse for you guys to hook up? He was probably the one that started the rumors about you sleeping with people instead of tutoring them.” Jasper scoffs. “Yeah, now that you mention it, he probably did, but we didn’t do anything, we were only friends, for most of high school he had a thing for older guys and no interest in me. The only person he wanted to sleep with for grades, was the teachers, there was nothing going on between us.” Ryan assures his frustrated boyfriend. “So what were you getting out of it then?” “Paid.” Ryan states very matter of factly. “Today can just go and fuck itself.” Jasper rubs his eyes. “I’m done. See you guys in the morning.” He turns and walks off to their tent without another word to anyone. “Is this somehow my fault? Someone I hung out with in school, years ago?” Ryan asks the other guys who were all looking around awkwardly, trying to think of what to say or do now. “I think any time your ex is involved, Jasper’s just gonna react like that.” Blake pats Ryan on the shoulder. “If your options are, tell him about something involving Damien, or lie, next time just lie.” He advises. "I think I’ll talk to him instead.” Ryan rolls his eyes and heads over to the tent Jasper had just angrily zipped himself up in. Ryan unzips the tent and climbs in, expecting to be greeted with the same coldness he’d received just before. “Look, I’m sorry, I’m really tired, stressed and honestly just feeling insecure about us, then hearing about Damien made me react like a jerk.” Jasper admits. “I know what you’re like, and the romantic in you would have secretly loved being able to look back on a relationship that started off so innocent in high school and turned into a proper love story.” He sighs. “It’s ok...” “It’s not ok. You’ve got a history and Damien is in it and I can’t be made at you about that. I know it’s far fetched but hearing how close you guys were, makes me feel like some kind of rebound, or just a less important partner. You haven’t known me that long, you didn’t have the same feelings for me leading up to getting together. Our story is no where near as complicated and fairytale and I shouldn’t be jealous of that but I am and I know how dumb this all sounds.” Jasper complains and rolls over, muffling an annoyed groan into his pillow. “I don’t know, I like our love story. I think the falling in love with the tutor cliché' is a bit cheesy and not my style. We agreed not to talk about him anymore, for a very good reason.” Ryan sighs and spoons Jasper, hoping to bring both of them some comfort after the stress of the day. Jasper holds his hand tight and brings it to his lips for a soft kiss. “I love you.” Ryan whispers. “I love you too.” Jasper states, then rolls over onto his back. “But what I don’t get, you said you guys dated for like, a year? But you were hanging out in high school so how does that work, because I struggle to imagine you guys just being friends.” “Oh my god Jasper, we were just friends in school. He was always flirting with me but nothing ever happened, when we graduated he went travelling the country for a year and we didn’t talk much while he was away, then when he came back he got me the job as a waiter in a club because he had connections and it was around that time that we were spending a lot of time together and we started dating. It was a little over a year, but what’s it honestly matter? We weren’t ‘high school sweethearts’ he was never single in high school and I was focused on my school work and getting good grades so I didn’t take much notice of anything else. We had a thing sometime after my 20th, started dating a few months later and broke up after my 21st.” Ryan found it easy to be annoyed by Jasper’s questioning, but he understood all too well how consuming these kinds of thoughts were so he just wanted to be able to answer him as best he could to calm him down. “How long were you guys broken up for before we met?” Jasper asks. “About 5 months?” “So it’s been less than a year since you guys broke up then?” “Jasper is this even about Damien, or are you just starting things because you want to find another reason to break up with me?” Ryan asks. Damien had always started fights over nothing as an excuse to break up so he could sleep with other people. “Just, anything to do with him, makes me feel this petty jealous rage that I hate myself for even feeling.” Jasper admits, disgusted in himself. “I’m tired, I’m stressed and I hate your ex, they are the reasons I’m being a bitch about this. I’ll get over it once I’ve slept, I promise.” Jasper tells him, turning over onto his side again and pulling Ryan over to spoon him again. They both relax and hold each other in silence as they fall asleep.
  11. There was nothing Jasper wanted less than to be hiking up a mountain to spend the night camping, but this was Simon’s plan and the band had committed to trying to immerse themselves in each other’s interests for a week to help inspire them and connect them better. Apparently they would understand Simon somehow when they reached the top of this random hill they were trekking their heavy bags up. The smile on Simon’s face showed how important and meaningful this adventure was to him, so for his sake Jasper and Ryan were putting aside the last 24 hours of their lives and trying to act normal. Also putting aside issues and acting normal was Luke, who had turned up with a black eye and broken nose taped in place, upon arriving they’d all been instructed to not talk about it until they were at the top. Simon had the idea to sit around the fire and talk about their woes there, which was bound to be a hoot given that Blake had more than his share of ‘woes’ he could bring up, Jasper had just seen his parents and Ryan had seen a glimpse of his issues, Ryan’s ever present depression which had definitely been triggered in their recent car trip and Luke who any other day of the week didn’t look like someone who had problems was proudly sporting medical tape and bruises that clearly had a big story behind them. Curiously, they’d never really heard much of Simon’s life, so this ‘deep conversation by the fire’ idea suggested they were in for a night of learning some dark secrets, low moments and drama from their most private member of the band. “You two look wrecked, did you finally get laid?” Blake nudges Jasper, when they were halfway up the hill. Obviously noticing that Jasper and Ryan were both exhausted more than everyone else. “Keeping the drama for the fire, remember?” Jasper jokes at Blake who rolls his eyes. “If you want my advice? Just get drunk and get it over with.” Blake suggests and Jasper finally laughs for the first time since getting in the car that morning. “That is literally the worst advice I’ve heard.” He glances over at Ryan who was watching them, looking almost hurt that Jasper was happy talking to someone else. “Worked for me. Take the liquid courage and have a good time. No stress, no overthinking.” Blake shrugs. “Mm, I’m trying this thing where I don’t just drink to avoid the things that stress me, and also have you met Ryan? I’m not the one that’s still saying no, he wants it to be special and wants us to wait for ‘the right time’.” Jasper lowers his voice as he speaks. “Ohhhhh you guys are so gonna do it before he goes away hey, like Saturday night, your last night together before he goes. He’ll make it all romantic like you’re living in a romance movie. I see the plan now. I’ll come over after he leaves for the airport and you can tell me all about it with as few details as possible given the content.” Blake winks at him, Jasper just smiles at him and shakes his head, not wanting to let on how unlikely he felt that would be now. Of all people, Blake was the one he wanted to tell everything to right now, he could really use his advice, but this wasn’t the time. The last part of the walk was challenging, unlike Ryan who’d been working out to get fit for his show, Jasper had just gotten by with the blessing of a slim physique and the closest he got to a work out, was dancing whenever the mood struck. By the way Simon confidently barely stopped for a breath it was clear this was pretty normal to him. Luke was keeping up quite easily but Blake and Jasper hung back trying not to look like they were dying, while unable to even talk through their puffed breaths. Once they finally hit a clearing of flat ground that Simon, Luke and Ryan had offloaded their bags at, they both simply collapse to the ground to catch their breath. “This. Is why I don’t go outside.” Blake puffs. “Are you guys going to help us with the tents?” Luke calls out. “How is he not dead? Does Luke work out too or something?” Jasper sits up and looks over at Ryan, Simon and Luke who seemed way too relaxed for a bunch of people who’d just carried the heaviest bags to the top of a mountain. “Pretty sure he use to play sports at school or something.” Blake staggers to his feet and reaches down to help Jasper up. “No thanks, I’m just going to sleep here, my body has no will to move.” Jasper shakes his head. “Oh he’s all yours. I tried.” Blake laughs and pats Ryan on the back as he approaches, Blake heads off to help the others. “You ok?” Ryan crouches beside Jasper. “You brought a wheel chair right?” Jasper jokes. “Come on.” Ryan helps him up and pulls him in close, kissing him quickly on the lips. “It was good to see you happy before, what’d Blake say to get that laugh out of you earlier?” “Oh, you don’t want to know. Trust me.” Jasper tells him, letting the hug last longer despite feeling like he should let Ryan go for good. “We should probably help them.” Jasper whispers when he finally gets the strength to pull himself from Ryan’s comforting arms. “No, they’re in one tent, we’re in another. So you should help me.” Ryan smiles at him, gesturing at the tent bag he’d brought over. “If we can put this up without killing each other, we can get through anything.” Ryan gives a wink as he makes his light hearted joke. Jasper fakes a smile back and sighs. “You’re lucky, I happen to be fantastic at these things. Given how much time I spent living in one overseas.” Jasper takes the lead and he and Ryan have theirs done in no time, finally they head back to the others who’d started on a fire. Blake was throwing sticks on it like he was preparing a bonfire, and stands back shouting victoriously when he lights it up successfully. “So, Simon. What’s this place and what does it mean to you?” Luke asks, sounding extremely nasal and touching all around his nose gently. “This is where my Dad brought my Mum to propose and where we spent almost all our family holidays. I also came here with my wife when she first visited the country and proposed to her here.” Simon smiles at the group. “Well it’s a beautiful view so I can see why it’s such a special place.” Luke replies. “I would reject the shit out of someone if they made me climb a hill to propose to me.” Jasper says quietly. Simon looks at him annoyed. “It’s romantic.” He snaps. “Yeah, sorry. That wasn’t a dig at you or your parents.” Jasper apologizes. “Well I hope that doesn’t ruin your plans for the night Ryan.” Blake calls out to Ryan who was aggressively spraying himself with bug repellent. “Of course not. Proposals should always be somewhere meaningful to the couple.” Ryan shouts back, throwing the bug repellent towards the tent and walking over to the group. “How did you propose?” He asks Simon. “I serenaded her by the fire, then at the end of the song I gave her the ring.” Simon smiles fondly at the memory, while looking into the fire. “I came up here a bunch of times by myself for the day and would just sing my ideas for the perfect way to ask her, then when I had a song I liked written, I translated it to French and practiced that over and over until it sounded good. She was really impressed and emotional and it was beautiful.” Simon tells them. “That’s really special.” Luke comments. “Thanks. So that’s kinda why I wanted to bring you guys here, this is a special place for me, it holds a lot of great memories and it’s a great place, for me at least, to find musical inspiration.” “Makes sense, It's really calming up here.” Ryan looks up at the sky, noticing the first stars appearing in the dusk. “A good place to clear your mind.” He comments quietly, lying down by the fire to continue staring into space. Jasper looks at him then up at the sky and wishes he felt the same way, genuinely confused as to how Ryan felt any kind of clarity right now, when he was questioning things in the best of times. “Exactly.” Simon sighs and takes a seat by the fire beside Ryan. “So just so I know before I go to sleep tonight, you proposed up here, did you guys go and screw in the tent we’re about to spend the night in?” Blake asks jokingly, although a subtle look of concern was on his teasing face. “Don’t worry, we actually waited until marriage.” Simon answers. “Oh what? Was she religious or something?” Blake asks, the concern now turning to curiosity. “Because if she was I’d love tips, how did you survive?” “No, we talked about it early in the relationship and knew we were both on the same page with what we wanted together. I mean there were temptations but it was what worked for us.” Simon shrugs “Helps that you guys lived apart right? Not as difficult when the option isn’t there. I feel like I can’t even be around Beth without feeling like I’m going insane.” Blake admits with a sigh as he turns his attention to Jasper. “I really want to respect her wishes to wait until marriage, but I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing when I am around her, if we kiss too much I have to make an excuse to leave because I feel like I’m going to unintentionally pressure her to change her mind on it. And she keeps talking about it, because she’s said she is considering not waiting because she knows I’m struggling but I don’t want her to give up something that is special to her, just for me. What if she did that and then we ended up breaking up and she regretted it, you know?” Blake sighs and though he was talking about a different topic, it sounded like too much of a coincidence, the way it was worded felt so pointed at Jasper and Ryan’s situation. “Have we started story time?” Luke pipes up. “Yes, please tell us what happened to you?” Simon directs the attention from Blake and though he had been hoping Jasper would have some useful things to say, Blake was more than happy for that to take a back seat to hear what was going on with Luke. “Well, on the topic of proposals and marriages, Fi’s ex caught us together and we got into a fight.” Luke explains. “Damn, I hope he got worse injuries.” Blake states, instantly railed at the thought of a fight. “No, I didn’t throw a single punch, I was actually just standing in front of Fi so he couldn’t hit her, while I tried to talk him down in distraction so Fi could call the police. I’m pressing charges though.” Luke informs them, clearly happy with himself. “Is she getting a restraining order?” Jasper asks, he couldn’t help but think of his sister and wonder if he should call her to check in, though he had told her he’d possibly not have reception so she wasn’t expecting to hear from him anyway. “She’s filed a temporary order but they shared accounts so he’s frozen access to all of them. Also the house was in his name so he kicked her out. She and I are getting a place together.” Luke smiles and shrugs. “We’re also eloping on Saturday and you’re all invited.” He beams. “What?” Everyone practically exclaims at the same time. “Is she pregnant? Is this a shot gun wedding?” Blake teases. “No, no. Not like that. Although, wanting a family is a big reason we are doing this so fast, Fi is actually infertile, and given how difficult and time draining the adoption process is we’re wanting to put our names down straight away. Hopefully we can have a baby or two but that’ll be a long work in progress unfortunately, usually people are on the list for years.” Luke was clearly sad to be talking about that aspect of things. “This Saturday?” Ryan asks. “Yeah we knew you were going away on Sunday so we thought why not just do it this weekend before you go away. Didn’t want you to miss it.” Luke smiles to Ryan, “You guys are practically family so it’s important for you guys to be there, her family won’t be able to make it and my parents think I’m making a mistake getting married so quickly but I have wanted to be with Fi forever and now that she’s finally mine I’m never letting her go. I want to make her life beautiful, no matter what that takes.” “This is really making me think the cure to my problems is to marry Beth asap too. Since that’s the trend here. You guys better get married soon, you’ve been together for ages now.” Blake suggests to Ryan. Ryan just smiles at him and looks at Jasper. “I’m quiet happy just enjoying this stage, not making things too serious.” He was clearly starting to feel like these topics were a bit too coincidental too. They were both unprepared for how close to home the conversation was about to turn. “So eloping and planning a family, that’s a really big deal Luke, congrats.” Simon shakes Luke’s hand. “Well like I said, it’ll take a long time for us but better to get onto that now and end up being parents earlier than expected, than miss some kind of lucky window by waiting.” “Yeah, when my wife moves over here once her Visa is approved, we’re hoping to start trying for a baby too.” Simon answers. “Yo, did you know Beth wants 5 kids?” Blake turns his attention back to Jasper who was completely deflated by the topic. “5? Wow, no we never talked about it. I think she asked me about kids once and I said ‘ew’ then she argued that kids aren’t ‘ew' and I hadn’t been talking about the kid part so we never spoke about it again. Do you want that many?” Jasper asks. “Never thought about it, but I guess why not? I reckon I could handle a small tribe of kids. Besides, it’s just the plan right? We might have two and decide that’s enough for us, or we might get to five and think we’re not done after all. I’m not ruling anything out.” Blake tells him. “I’ve gotta pee.” Jasper lies and gets up, truthfully he just wanted to escape the conversation and get as far away as he could to cry, he hadn’t let himself yet, but he could feel himself losing control of his emotions. Jasper wanders off into the darkness of the trees and bushes off to the side of the campsite, holding his phone up to light his way as he gets far enough that he can still see the glimmer of the camp fire. He leans against a tree and allows himself to let out all the tears he’d been holding back all day. The combination of exhaustion, stress and fears had become overwhelming and he couldn’t keep it together anymore now that the opinions from his friends had added confusion to the mix of feelings he’d already been struggling against.
  12. “One, real coffee.” Ryan’s smile felt like it lit up Jasper’s heart, he’d barely gotten any sleep last night between the discomfort of the recliner chair, the observation check-ups the midwives ran frequently through the night and the overwhelming fear that his life was not moving forward being the first thought to cross his mind every single time he woke up. He’d felt all the insecurity that he imagined Ryan must feel at those moments in his life when he was filled with doubt for their future. Jasper takes the coffee from him, just to place it down and wrap his arms around Ryan’s neck. “I really missed you last night.” Jasper whispers to him and kisses softly just below Ryan’s ear. Ryan’s arms instinctively go around Jasper’s waist, holding him tight against his body. “Is everything ok? Did something happen?” Ryan asks confused. Jasper just shakes his head and relaxes against Ryan. “How is Grace and the baby?” “Everyone is fine. We can go home, Grace didn’t have much sleep last night so she’s just going to catch up on some rest, there’s no need for me to be here, and that’s the nurses’ opinion.” Jasper sighs, pulling away from Ryan and grabbing the coffee cup. “How did you sleep?” He asks before taking a sip and giving a satisfied smile. “Yeah, the bed was alright, a bit empty for my liking but I guess I’ll have to get use to that soon enough anyway. I’m guessing you didn’t get much sleep either?” Ryan smirks as he watches Jasper practically chug the coffee down, clearly needing the energy kick. “Any idea what Simon’s planning for today? Because I’m hoping he’s planned a nap session.” Jasper suggests. “You can nap in the car, I don’t mind.” “No, I have stuff to sort out on the way home. Come on, I’ll just check to see if Grace is still asleep, if not I’ll say goodbye quickly, but if she is we’ll head off straight away.” Jasper throws the coffee cup in the bin and heads down the hallway to Grace’s hospital room, returning a few moments later and giving a shrug. “Let’s go.” He orders, nudging Ryan on his way out of the hospital. Ryan follows him out, noticing that Jasper seemed very on edge and in a hurry to get going. “Do you know where I parked?” Ryan calls out. Jasper stops and turns around. “No I just like walking places like I know what I’m doing, people tend not to talk to me when I do that.” Jasper turns. Ryan just smiles at him and pulls the keys out his pocket and presses the button to unlock the car. Jasper turns around and walks in the direction of the flashing lights of the unlocking car. Ryan follows, trying to imagine what was on Jasper’s mind, clearly he was keen to get home without being held up at all. As soon as Ryan is in the car, Jasper’s phone starts ringing. “Your Mum?” Ryan asks as he observes the anxious way Jasper was staring at the screen. “Yeah. Shh.” Jasper puts his finger to his lips and answers the phone. “Hello.” He waits for a few moments then sighs. “Mum, honestly she’s done this kind of thing that many times before, it’s not even worth worrying about. Of course I’ll let you know if I hear anything. Anyway I’ll go home since there’s no reason for me to come by again. Yeah maybe if you are willing to respect my relationship but I’m guessing I’ll just hear from you next time Grace needs something from me.” Jasper says bitterly before hanging up the phone and putting his hands over his face. “I know it’s a stupid question, but are you ok?” Ryan gently rubs Jasper’s knee. “Mmm, not the first time and I’m sure it won’t be the last time I lie to them to cover up for Grace.” Jasper admits, taking his hands off his face. “It’s not them I’m worried about right now though, it’s us. We need to talk.” Jasper turns his attention to Ryan who looked pale at just the words. “Are you breaking up with me?” He asks quickly. “No.” Jasper frowns at him. “Oh thank GOD.” Ryan sighs in relief. “Don’t ever start a conversation with ‘we need to talk’ that is like break-up conversation 101. I went completely cold for a second there, you had me worried.” “Uh huh. And you think I’d break up with you at the start of a car ride that I’ll be stuck in with you for the next hour, my safety and life literally in your hands? I would never be that desperate to end a relationship, I wanna get home alive thanks.” Jasper laughs, placing his hand on Ryan’s knee and leaning over to kiss his cheek quickly but Ryan turns his face in time to steal the kiss to his lips instead. Jasper surprisingly pulls away when Ryan’s lips touch his. “Ok.” Ryan sighs, starting the car. “So something is obviously up, what do we need to talk about?” He asks, pulling out of the drive way. Jasper just sighs and sinks into his seat a little with a sad sigh. “The longer you don’t tell me what’s bothering you, the worse this drive is going to be for both of us. Just say what’s on your mind so we can talk it out.” Ryan was trying to be calm but Jasper knew that he would be panicking on the inside. “So Grace isn’t sure about moving in with us, turns out she’s still kinda homophobic and unsure about whether or not she is ok with me dating a guy.” Jasper was dodging the bigger issue for now, but he didn’t want to launch straight into the baby conversation. “Well I guess that’s to be expected right? Given the way you guys were brought up. Your parents can’t be the way they are about it without it having an effect on you guys.” Ryan tells him, being the voice of reason. “I don’t know, I turned out alright.” Jasper looks out the window, thinking about where he was going with this conversation, but a snicker from Ryan distracts him. “What you don’t think I turned out alright?” Jasper asks, clearly offended. “Definitely alright. I’m just, did you forget the whole start of our relationship?” Ryan asks amused. “You mean where I flirted with you the first day we met? Then kissed you first?” Jasper asks. “Uh, huh, and then ran away? Called it a mistake? Avoided the ‘relationship’ conversation for as long as you could? Still get snappy when people ask about our relationship? You’re right, you’ve totally been comfortable from the start.” Ryan teases. “Good points.” Jasper chews his lip and looks out the window again. “That wasn’t a criticism by the way. I respected that it was a big deal for you to come around to. I often worry that I pressured you into dating me and you might have needed more time.” Ryan sighs, worried he’d upset Jasper. “You didn’t pressure me. Have I given off ‘easily pressured into things’ vibes at all? If anything, I’m stubborn and probably pushed back on the whole relationship thing the more you pushed for it.” Jasper looks at Ryan for a long time, his expression seemed lost, like he was afraid that if he looked away Ryan would just disappear. Ryan glances at him a few times and smiles nervously. “Why are you staring at me? It’s distracting.” He laughs. “Why are you with me?” Jasper asks, regretting the question the moment it left his lips. He’d been thinking it with those words, but had every intention of asking a bunch of little questions to get his answers, rather than asking one so vague and open that Ryan would be thrown into a tailspin trying to come up with reasons. “Jasper what’s wrong? Why are you worried about us? If you’re feeling uncomfortable with me going away for this show in a few days, you don’t need to worry. I love you and I’m going to miss you and there’s not going to be a single other person worth losing you for...” “It’s not about that, I’m not worried about that.” Jasper sighs, quickly trying to think of what to say but his thoughts were all suddenly a jumble. “Well I don’t understand then, did your sister say something? Is this about your parents? What’s made you question me? Did I do something wrong?” Ryan was stressing and Jasper felt awful for being the cause, but he’d opened the can of worms now and they were escaping faster than he could stop them. “Ok just, can we pause this conversation. I had a goal and I’ve gone way off target and now I’m just as confused as you are about this whole thing.” Jasper takes a deep breath and looks out the window again, trying to calm himself and catch his thoughts. “Jasper whatever is going on, you know I love you and I’m in this with you for as long as you’ll let me. We can work it out, I believe in us and for all the times you’ve fought for me, I hope you can believe that I’m going to fight for you.” Ryan reaches for Jasper’s hand, needing to hold onto him in some way because he felt as though Jasper was slipping away from him. “I know you want to be with me, that’s not what I’m worried about. I’m worried about what else you want and whether being with me will stop you from having everything else.” Jasper states calmly, tears were filling his eyes as he realized this conversation could be the start of the end of their relationship, despite how confidently he’d assured Ryan that wasn’t what ‘we need to talk’ had meant. “What do you mean?” Ryan asks, letting go of Jasper’s hand and anxiously gripping the wheel tighter. “What do you want out of life? Realistically, what is your goal with me?” Jasper asks, Ryan looked very tense and worried and Jasper felt immense regret for doing this conversation while Ryan was trying to drive. “I just want.” Ryan gulps back his nerves. “I just want to be happy, with someone who makes me happy. I want us to live comfortably and make each other’s lives the best we can make them.” Ryan answers, clearly at a loss with what Jasper was wanting from him. “What about kids?” Jasper finally asks him the question that was really leading to all this stress. Ryan is silent while he registers the question and why it was a problem. “Well I mean, yeah one day. I’d love to have kids.” He answers quietly. “Kids are something you want?” Jasper sighs and covers his eyes, trying not to get too ahead of himself but failing to see how this would end well for them. “Of course.” Ryan glances at Jasper and frowns. “Do you?” He asks. “We probably should have talked about this way before now.” Jasper shakes his head. “Is having kids a deal breaker for you?” The gravity of the conversation sinks in and Ryan turns up the aircon, suddenly feeling like he wasn’t getting enough air. “You don’t want kids?” Ryan asks nervously. “Well we can’t have kids, Ryan. Biologically that’s not an option for us. If having kids is something you want, you should be with someone you can do that with.” Jasper’s voice wavers as he tries to continue being strong and logical about this, though inside his heart felt like it was caving in. “Maybe not biologically but there’s certainly options. We could get a surrogate or adopt?” Ryan suggests calmly, continuing to glance at Jasper every few moments, trying to gauge how he was feeling and reacting to the conversation with the limited moments he could see him. “Ryan I’m not even sure I want kids at all. It’s never been something I’ve thought of as important to me. I don’t see myself being a dad one day.” Jasper’s statement brings an uneasy silence that lasts for what feels like a lifetime before Jasper finally speaks again. “If having kids is something you want and it’s a deal breaker, than I understand and I really do support you going after what you want. I don’t want to stand in the way or waste your time.” “We’re really young to be making decisions like this.” Ryan says quietly. “This is a pretty important decision. I mean if we stay together, that’s more time spent where you’re not finding the right person to eventually settle down and have a family with. I don’t want you to resent me if you spend another 6 months, year, more with me, that’s years that it puts you back and it’s not fair for me to do that to you. I don’t want to do that to you. You deserve to be happy and to have a family if that’s what you want...” “What I mean is that we’re so young, we don’t know if how you feel now and what we want now will still be the case in a few years.” “Ryan it’s not fair to assume that I might change my mind and want kids in the future any more than it’d be fair to expect you to change your mind and decide not to have kids because I don’t want them. If you stay with me I’ll feel pressured to have kids and that’s not something that you should do just for someone else. We might change our minds by ourselves, but that’s not how it would be if we stay together. We’d feel pressured because of how each other feel.” Ryan knew Jasper was right but he still didn’t want to be making decisions here and now about it, instead he just falls silent rendering the rest of the drive almost torturous. When they finally get back to their place, Ryan parks the car and turns it off, just sitting in silence for a moment before turning his attention to Jasper who had a bleak expression on his face. “I love you. Can that just be enough for now?” He asks quietly. Jasper tears up again and gulps the emotions back desperately. “Can we please just get through the next week? Then we’ll have like 2 months apart where we can do our soul searching and if when I get back, we think we’re not going to be able to agree on this, we can deal with it then? I just want to enjoy you, and love you this week, then be away at the show without feeling like my life is falling apart at home.” “We can’t ignore this Ryan.” Jasper sighs. “I know, I’m not asking to ignore it. I’m just asking to do this at a better time. Now is not the right time for this. You’ve had a super emotionally charged few days with your family and your sister, and my head isn’t really here right now, I’m already stressing about this show. I think we owe it to ourselves and each other, to approach this when we’ve had proper time to focus on it, like you said, without influencing each other’s thoughts and feelings on it. Just take the next few months to get our heads around what we really want and go from there.” Ryan pleads. Jasper looks at him, chewing his lip and trying to hold back the tears that’d been threatening him since they started this talk. “Ok.” He agrees, all he’d wanted this week was to focus on Ryan because the time apart was going to be a struggle even before this issue had come up. The idea of just continuing like normal seemed unlikely now, but it was better than spending the next week dealing with a break-up while still having to see each other every day and wondering if they were making the right decision.
  13. Jasper walks out of the hospital room, looking pale and drained, he spots Ryan sitting in the waiting area with a coffee in his hands that he was staring at in deep thought. Jasper felt his mood lift as soon as he notices Ryan, he goes straight to him, taking Ryan by surprise. “Can I have a sip of the coffee?” Jasper asks and sits beside him. “Hey, how is everything?” Ryan passes Jasper his drink and puts his arm around his shoulders. Jasper takes a sip and nods. “Better than this coffee, god where did you get this?” Jasper passes it back and leans against Ryan more, not actually interested for the answer about the coffee, he just sighs and keeps talking. “Baby looks ok, they did an ultrasound and said she looks like she’s about 31 weeks, so if things do turn bad they are fairly confident that she’d survive an early birth. Grace is in premature labor but they have given her something to stop it, she’ll be on bedrest and kept in here for at least 3-5 days for monitoring but if things go well then the labor should stop over the next few hours. I’ve suggested she move in with us after she’s discharged, so I can look out for her and also so her scumbag sperm donor can’t get anywhere near her.” Jasper sighs. “Well that’s a relief, about the baby.” Ryan rests his head against Jasper’s. “Yeah. You should go back to the hotel and get some rest, I have already told the nurses I am going to be staying with Grace tonight. They have a chair set up for me in her room and I really want to get back to her. I’m really sorry this is all going to interrupt our time before your trip but Grace has no one else to turn to right now.” “I with the circumstances were different, but I am glad to have met your family and to be getting to know your sister better. And to know you better too, John.” Ryan winks at him. “Ok well if you make a habit of calling me that, I’ll have to break up with you, but the good news is you can then date my sister, which Mum and Dad apparently encouraged her to do because they liked you but not as my boyfriend.” Jasper tells him, pulling away and standing up. “Well if it’s any consolation, your pregnant sister isn’t exactly turning my eye. Although for a split second when you joked about having a twin brother...” Ryan smirks at him, but didn’t need to finish voicing his thought. “That would be a fantasy that would in reality be a nightmare.” Jasper assures him with a cheeky smile and a wink. “Anyway, I really have to get back to Grace.” “Text me when you need me to pick you up, or even if you just want me to come and sit with you for a bit.” Ryan stands up and gives Jasper a gentle kiss on the cheek. “I love you.” “I love you too. Bring me some real coffee in the morning.” Jasper pleads before walking away back down the hallway and into Grace’s room. Grace was lying propped up on her bed looking at the print out from the ultrasound with tears in her eyes. Once she notices Jasper back in the room she puts the picture down and just holds her tummy. “You ok?” She asks. “I should be asking you that.” Jasper smiles at her and sits in the chair beside her bed. “I’m ok. They’re keeping a close eye on me. Contractions have stopped.” Grace sighs and points at a machine that was tracking the baby’s heart rate and the squiggly lines that’d tracked the contractions had been becoming less in length and severity. “So, you brought your boyfriend to meet Mum and Dad, what made that seem like a good idea to you?” She asks jokingly. “Honestly, it was more about me not wanting to be alone after seeing them. So what makes you say they liked him, they barely spoke from what I heard.” “Well after you guys left, Mum came in with her laptop, she’d creepily stalked him and was showing me all these photos of him, telling me how polite he was and all that. She said he wasn’t ‘gay’ so I had a chance with him and since he liked you, he’d probably like me too.” Grace found it funny but Jasper just rolls his eyes and scoffs in disgust. “Don’t worry, I am not interested in stealing your boyfriend.” “Even if you were, why would I worry? He loves me for god knows what reasons and he may not identify strictly as ‘gay’ but he seems to have a clear preference for guys, and very much a ‘type’ of guy.” Jasper comments as he takes his phone out and looks up Ryan to see what was on the internet about his sexuality. “What about you, when did you finally realize you were into guys?” Grace asks, gently running her fingers all over her tummy. “When I met Ryan. There was just something there that made me nervous at first, I guess because it challenged what I’d been raised to believe for myself. Then we kissed and I was hoping I’d realize that I didn’t want to act on my feelings but kissing him just amplified the attraction. Now there is no one else in the world I want to kiss, no one I can picture myself with.” Jasper smiles to himself as he thinks about their relationship, getting distracted by the photos of himself and Ryan that were showing up in the search. “Well if you need to vent about Mum and Dad’s disapproval, I totally understand.” Grace’s comment instantly frustrates Jasper, though he does his best to keep it from showing. The last thing that Grace needed was a lecture right now, but he was disgusted that his sister was suggesting his and Ryan’s relationship was at all similar to hers, especially in why their parents disapproved of them. Being homophobic was not in any way the same as being against someone that was straight up abusive, but clearly now was not the time to argue with Grace about her twisted perception. Although thinking about it, Jasper couldn’t help but wonder if he was enabling her to keep thinking this way by not pointing out where she was wrong. It had just never seemed like the right time, any of the previous times he’d had a chance to talk to her about this, and certainly by her hospital bed, did not seem any more appropriate a moment to bring it all up. “Are you mad at me?” Grace asks, and for a moment Jasper drew the parallel between Grace and Ryan with assuming that silence meant there was a problem, clearly a learnt behaviour from their experience with shitty relationships. “I’m worried for you.” Jasper answers, it wasn’t the full truth but it was vaguely covering all the thought that were running through his mind, they underlying emotion was concern. “I’m worried too. About all of it. I feel so stupid.” The self depreciating talk starts and Jasper decides to just block it out, he hated hearing her talk herself down and take all the blame, not once did the worthless ex even get a mention. It was like even in her mind he held no accountability for his actions. It was her fault for going back to him, her fault for thinking he changed, her fault for getting pregnant and her fault that she got beaten and had to leave home and inconvenience Jasper and Ryan by getting them involved. She took all the responsibility for her situation and having to hear it while trying to retain the absolute disgust at the person who was really responsible was exhausting at this point. Jasper tries to relax his thoughts and distract himself but his mind was racing with all the things he wished he could say without upsetting her more. “So, how are the guys? How is Blake?” Grace’s question snaps Jasper out of it. “They’re good. Everything’s changing there for us so it’s been a bit of a time lately but now that we’ve left our old manager and we’re not living together we are all doing better I think.” Jasper shrugs. “Why’d you bring up Blake?” “Is he seriously dating Elizabeth?” “Yeah for a while now. He had a thing for her for ages though. They seem happy.” “I use to have such a crush on Blake.” Grace gives a dreamy sigh. “You and everyone else. He’s got that bad boy vibe that makes everyone want to get their heart broken by him.” Jasper smiles and shakes his head. “His fan base is “Shitty upbringing and has not left that emo style behind, you want to fix him and be taken on motorbike rides to the middle of nowhere and be called only pet names and you know he’d be good in bed...” “He’s more the, don’t text you back kind, not sure he’s ever ridden a motorbike. Also, the idea of dating someone isn’t to fix them, people are responsible for fixing themselves. People may change because someone else inspires that, but not because the person is some magical cure. Your ex is a piece of shit and no one can fix that. Not you, not this baby. There’s a difference between a bad boy and a piece of shit.” “Yeah.” Grace sighs, clearly not liking what she was being told. “I can’t help that I am attracted to that type of guy.” “That’s a cop out, Grace. There’s nothing wrong with being attracted to a certain type and I get the bad boy thing is appealing but you have to acknowledge that your ex was not a ‘bad boy’ he is just an abuser.” “You’re right.” Jasper could tell from her tone that she was only agreeing to avoid the argument, she knew better, but that didn’t make it easy to continually be told that. “What’s your type?” Grace asks, trying to lift the mood of the conversation. “I don’t know. Just someone that is easy to have fun with I guess. I am kinda basing my entire ‘type’ off Ryan and honestly if we ever break up, then the next guy has a pretty high bar to reach. I think if it’s not him, I’ll just be alone forever because I can’t picture feeling the same way for anyone else.” “If you guys break up I’ll take him.” “You’re a little too pregnant to be planning on stealing my boyfriend. Besides, Blake gets my exes so you’ll have to fight him first.” Jasper jokes, Ryan would have found it funny but Grace didn’t get it so she just deviates the conversation back to Ryan and Jasper. “Do you ever worry about his fanbase? I imagine you get jealous fans coming after you, making comments on your relationship and wanting to steal Ryan.” “Don’t worry, I have a fake account that is very active on his fanpages. I don’t feel threatened or bothered by what I read others saying. I’m usually the one that starts or encourages the ‘thirsty’ posts about him. A new picture of him goes up on the page and I comment, gushing over him and get the rest of them going, then I show Ryan what’s being said about him just to see him get all awkward.” Jasper winks at Grace who was smiling but seemed slightly held back in her response. She takes a deep breath and opens her mouth to say something, before closing her mouth and taking another moment to think. “Usually when Ryan does that, I know he’s about to come at me with some question that he knows will annoy me.” Jasper comments, narrowing his eyes at his sister who fakes a smile and shrugs. “I'm just thinking about the whole living with you thing. I think maybe I should stay somewhere on my own. I just don’t want to intrude.” Grace replies, suddenly having trouble looking at Jasper. “No, you’re better off with me, I wanna keep an eye on you and be there if anything happens.” Jasper replies quickly, he felt extremely protective of her, especially while she was so vulnerable. “Yeah but it’s just, I really think I’ll be in the way of you guys. I don’t want you to be uncomfortable.” Grace shrugs and glances at Jasper then looks down at her hands, fiddling with the blanket anxiously. These behaviours didn’t go unnoticed, Jasper had picked up all these signs from Ryan and recognized them as subtle ways to know there was another issue going on that they didn’t want to raise. Luckily for Ryan, Jasper would always pick until he got to the issue, usually resolving it with ease so they could move forward and he hoped he could do the same now with Grace. “Are you uncomfortable with us?” Jasper asks bluntly and watches while Grace chews at her lip and doesn’t take her eyes off her hands. “I see. Well don’t worry, Ry’s going away in a weeks’ time anyway and I’m sure I’ll enjoy the company. Besides, we lived with the other guys, sneaking around and keeping our relationship a secret for ages, we’re pretty good at being discreet when we want to be.” Jasper assures her, Grace nods and looks at him sadly. “I’m sorry. I don’t want to offend you or anything.” She sighs. “Just with how we were raised, it’s a little. I mean I kinda knew ages ago that you were going to be into guys, but I still wasn’t ready to see you being with one. It’s still just odd seeing those photos of you guys kissing and knowing that you’re one of the fans typing those kinds of comments on his photos.” As Grace finishes talking Jasper finds himself again, wishing he could let out how frustrating it was to hear her talking like this, especially given that he was by her side, helping her hide a pregnancy out of wedlock to a guy that didn’t tick any boxes of the kind of person she was ‘raised’ to pursue. The irony was painful and Jasper wanted to be back with Ryan where he could just vent all the thoughts and feelings that Grace wasn’t up to hearing. He hoped in time she would come to accept his relationship with Ryan, after all, the conversations so far had sounded very open and accepting. “Are you mad at me?” Grace asks, breaking the silence. “I still want you to live with us.” Jasper shrugs. “I think you have enough of an open mind to come to understand our relationship if you get to see how it really is, away from the influence of what you’re told to think and believe about it. And like I said, he’ll be gone in a week anyway so at most it’ll only be a few days, a few months with just you and me and then who knows after that. I want to be there for you and your baby.” Jasper looks at his sister who seemed completely distracted. “You’re not listening to me, are you?” He asks. “Huh?” Grace turns her attention to him for a second with tears in her eyes. “Sorry. She just kicked, like a really good, strong kick.” Grace stares back at her tummy, feeling around for more movement with her palm. “Oh there she goes again.” She beams over at Jasper who reflected her smile. “Do you want to feel it?” She asks. “If you’re ok with that, definitely.” Jasper gets up and moves to her bedside, Grace tells him where to place his hand and they both wait in anticipation and silence for what felt like ages. “Great, she hates me.” Jasper jokes before feeling a gentle thump under his palm and pulling his hand back in surprise. “Woah. That was weird.” He laughs at his own reaction and moves back to sit in the chair beside her bed, watching as she holds her bump with an excited smile, the tears welling in her eyes as the thought of becoming a mother finally seemed to sink in. For Jasper, the thought was almost opposite for him, as he considers the fact that this experience wouldn’t be in his and Ryan’s future, and that they’d never even talked about the serious stuff like marriage or kids. For all the times they’d debated how long a zombie apocalypse would last and if there was such a thing as parallel universes, they’d never once talked about their own ideas about having a family. He remembers his answer before when Grace had asked him his type and finds himself questioning whether he and Ryan were just ‘having fun’ together, or whether there was something more substantial they were working towards. Knowing that Ryan had a preference for guys but also had attraction towards women did make him wonder whether a lifetime with him, was holding him back from having these kinds of moments with a future wife. He’d personally never really considered having kids, but if that was something Ryan wanted, he didn’t want to be wasting his time and standing in the way of his happiness.
  14. “You’re pregnant?” Jasper’s voice was barely louder than a whisper as his sister pulls the mass of blankets off her stomach and shows him the quite obvious bump, it wasn’t very big, but big enough to at least prove she was pregnant. “Holy shit.” “He hasn’t let me go to any doctors the whole time, he’s been hoping if I didn’t get medical care it’d just...” Grace stops and wipes away the tears from her cheeks. “But I’ve been feeling movements for weeks, I just didn’t tell him that. I honestly thought if I got pregnant he would change, but he hasn’t and I can’t have this baby anywhere near him, he’ll hurt it. I know he will. He wants the baby to die and this morning when I was lying down he saw the baby move and he freaked out on me and punched me in the stomach three times then started hitting me for not getting rid of it sooner. When he stopped and left the room I ran away and I would have gone to you but I didn’t know where you were so I just drove around for a while, I didn’t want to come here and I knew if I went to the hospital alone they would call Mum and Dad. I’ve been bleeding, not much, but the pain. I’m in so much pain, it’s coming and going so I know I don’t know if it’s contractions.” Grace pauses again as one of the pains she is describing hits again. “What the fuck?” Jasper gasps, staring confused as he takes in what he’d just heard, his eyes not leaving the baby bump as though he was sure it was going to disappear if he looked away. “I know. I know it’s a mess.” Grace sobs, the pain having passed fairly quickly. “A mess! This is more than a mess. I don’t even know what to ask first. Do you know when you’re due? What if you are in labor right now? Has the baby been moving since he hit you?” Jasper asks desperately. “I don’t know, I don’t think I am due soon. I don’t feel like it’s close enough for labor. I think I felt him move not long ago. Seriously though they should go to bed in a few hours and as soon as they are asleep I’ll call you. Please. Please!” Grace begs. “That’s messed up, she should already be at the hospital!” Ryan gasps as Jasper finishes filling him in on the conversation he’d had with his sister. “I know, that’s why I want to stay close. I don’t trust her judgement. At all. And frankly I am trying not to be too snappy about this because there’s nothing I can do about it now, but she deliberately got pregnant because she thought that’d stop him from using her as a punching bag. Stupid. Stupid to bring a kid into this mess and stupid to think he’d change at all. I’m so angry about it, but right now she needs me to help her so I am trying to put my feelings aside and do what she wants from me.” Jasper rubs his temples again. “Don’t suppose you have any pain killers, because today has been one massive headache.” “Glove box.” Ryan points. Jasper opens it and takes out a pill packet, reading it and popping a few into his hand. “So, what’s with your Dad? You guys don’t speak at all?” Ryan asks. “Last time I saw him we had a bit of a power standoff. I yelled at him for not doing anything about Grace’s dickhead boyfriend and he told me to keep out of it, and shoved me. I told him to take his anger out on the right person for once, that’s the night I got kicked out. Grace and I were so close before I went away and by the time I came back I found out she’d been coming home with bruises and black eyes for a few months and I was just furious that they hadn’t intervened and put a stop to it. My Dad never held back on smacking us as kids, so for him to sit back and let his daughter continually come back from her boyfriend’s place with bruises and not step up and be the man in her life that defended her, made me sick.” Jasper shrugs. “We haven’t spoken a word to each other since.” “Wow, what is wrong with both of your parents?” Ryan asks, realizing he was being insensitive but Jasper didn’t seem phased. “Sorry.” “All good. Anyway, do you reckon it’s dark enough for us to make out without anyone seeing yet? Because what you said to my Mum back there deserves one hell of a good kiss, at the very least.” Jasper says in a suggestive tone. Ryan looks at him with a smile then shakes his head. “Maybe now isn’t the best time.” He replies. “It’s been a really crap day for both of us, I don’t know about you but I could sure use a distraction.” Jasper pouts at him. “Ok, so my question is, where is this hotel you booked and will they have room service?” Ryan asks, rubbing Jasper’s knee. “Yes to room service, and the hotel is only like, 5 minutes down the street, but hear me out. When else are we going to be able to hook up in a public area and not get caught? Come on, does it not sound thrilling to you?” Jasper asks with a devious grin. “If we get caught in your home town, a block from your parents house though, won’t that be a big drama?” “Stop overthinking and please just kiss me.” Jasper begs. “You know, for someone who has already been caught up in a photo scandal, I really didn’t expect you to be so willing to be caught again.” Ryan couldn’t help but laugh at Jasper’s lack of concern. “I am very willing and you are very worth the risk.” Jasper tells him, moving to on top of his lap. “Two options. One; tell me no and I’ll stop. Two; relax and kiss me. Your choice.” Jasper whispers, his lips so close to Ryan’s they were nearly touching, but he was teasingly waiting for Ryan to decide which option he was going to choose. “You are going to get me in trouble someday.” Ryan whispers back. “Mhm, but we’ll at least have plenty of fun first.” Jasper winks. Ryan had nothing left to say he just leans forward and kisses Jasper hard, choosing to allow themselves to get lost in distraction, Jasper was right, it’d been a hell of a day and they did both need to relax and take their minds off both the interview and their interactions with Jasper’s less than welcoming family. After a quick make-out session, they head to the hotel to relax and get dinner while waiting for Grace to call. Jasper was very anxious checking his phone every few minutes after it passed 8.30, a time when he thought he could reasonably expect for his parents to go to bed. As time passed and his phone stayed silent he became more and more fidgety. “Do I need to distract you again?” Ryan asks, rubbing Jasper’s back. “I don’t want to be rude or insulting but I don’t think literally anything will take my mind of how stressed I am now.” Jasper sighs, looking up at Ryan with an apologetic smile. “I’m not insulted.” Ryan replies. “No harm in a massage though.” He suggests. Jasper tilts his head forward inviting Ryan to give him a massage. “What’d I do to deserve you?” Jasper asks. “Existed, in general.” Ryan answers, trying to help Jasper relax. Jasper’s phone buzzes and he grabs it urgently, only to sigh and drop it back beside him on the bed. “Simon.” Jasper shrugs. “Apparently we’re all meeting at his tomorrow afternoon for whatever it is he’s planning on doing for his ‘inspiration’ week.” “Oh shit, that’s right. Will we be back by then?” “I really want to know, but I guess I’ll just have to wait and see. If Grace isn’t ok then I’m pretty sure I can get out of it with a family emergency. I’d really rather keep this all private for her sake though. I won’t tell people if I don’t need to.” Jasper answers then grabs his phone again as it goes off. “That’s her. Lets go.” Jasper gets up and pulls his shirt back on, Ryan holds his hand and pulls him close before they rush out the door. “Hey, whatever goes on and however this all turns out, I want you to know I’m here to support you ok? I am hoping she will be fine and the baby will be fine, but if anything isn’t ok, I’m here for you.” Ryan holds him tight. “So you’ll bail me out of jail if the baby isn’t ok and I murder her asshole of an ex?” Jasper asks in a joking way, but it was clear he was seriously worried about the baby. “Hey I’ll dig the grave and marry you so I cannot testify against you in a trial, don’t worry. I’ve got your back.” Ryan promises. They smile at each other then without another word, head off to pick up Jasper’s sister. They arrive across the road from the house, where Grace was already standing waiting for them. Jasper had chosen to sit in the back so he could be beside her on the drive to the hospital, so as they pull up he opens the door for her. With one hand on her bump, Grace carefully climbs in the car. “Are you ok?” Jasper asks, watching her grimace in pain. “I don’t know.” Grace answers. “I’m going to call the hospital now so they can get you in right away, ok?” Jasper asks and Grace gives a nod. Ryan pulls back onto the road, following the instructions on his GPS while Jasper holds his sister’s hand and calls the emergency department at the hospital. He gives them a brief description of what was going on then his sister’s details, ‘Grace Evelyn Ried, birth date February 29.’ “Are you seriously twins?” Ryan asks when Jasper gets off the phone. “Triplets actually, we have another brother.” Jasper answers. “What? Really?” Ryan gasps. “No.” Jasper laughs. “He says that to everyone that asks, don’t worry.” Grace chimes in. “Back in school he had people convinced we had an evil brother named James and would pretend to be James whenever he got in trouble so that he wouldn’t get bad marks on his record. Lovely to meet you by the way. Thank you so much for this, I know this isn’t your drama to get involved in.” “This is weird, I feel like I’ve kidnapped you.” Ryan calls out to them. “I’d let you.” Grace replies with a flirty tone. “Ok can you not hit on my boyfriend.” Jasper laughs. “Mum and Dad told me they’d like me with Ryan. They like Ryan, by the way.” Grace replies and for a moment there is silence before she lets out another pained groan. “We’re nearly there.” Ryan calls back to her, checking the time on the GPS to see they were only a minute away. “There will be doctors waiting to escort you in.” Jasper tells her, rubbing her arm. “You’ll stay with me won’t you. I don’t want to be alone. I’m so scared.” Grace starts crying in a panic. “I’ll be there, I’m not going anywhere, don’t worry. Until I know what’s going on with you, I won’t be going anywhere.” Jasper assures her, Ryan turns into the carpark of the hospital and makes his way to the emergency entrance where there was a hospital bed, two doctors and a nurse waiting. Ryan flashes his lights and pulls up right beside them. Jasper gets out first and makes sure they were waiting for Grace, before he helps her out of the car, rattling off all the information he knew to the nurse that was quickly marking down notes. “I’ll park the car and come in.” Ryan states, mostly talking to himself though because Jasper was walking beside the bed Grace was being wheeled in on and was obviously more concerned about her. It only takes Ryan a minute to find a car park, then he walks back to the emergency entrance. He could feel the events of the day catching up to him now that he had a moment to himself where he wasn’t needing to stay confident and strong for Jasper, knowing he’d done his part in taking care of the situation with Grace, he allows himself a few moments of solitude to take deep breaths, preparing himself to be there for Jasper, like he promised. He’d never really had a chance to be the support person for anyone before, because he’d for years now been the one that was falling apart and needing the extra time and love. Jasper had been fantastic in Ryan’s lowest times, so right now he felt very afraid that he wouldn’t be good enough at taking care of Jasper if things inside weren’t going well. With one more deep breath Ryan walks inside the hospital, hoping for good news but assuming the worst.
  15. “Excuse me.” Kevin calls, stepping forwards and lifting RJ’s head from the ground. “You’re going to want to take this as evidence, aren’t you?” Kevin asks. The group of vampires look at him and shrug. “You don’t think he’ll trust us?” The leader asks. “You incompetent losers? If you were doing my dirty work I’d like you to bring evidence with you. Plus I’m sure your boss wants a trophy right?” Kevin suggests, the men look at him, and suddenly their facial expressions soften. “Exactly, idiots. You will do as I say when you get back to your boss. You’re going to give this head to your boss and tell him the Hybrid is dead, then you’re going to tear your own fangs out. Then your eyelids, I want you to tear them off.” “Oh my god.” Evie looked like she was going to be sick, her hand hovering over her stomach, staring in absolute horror at Kevin. Lee rushes to her side and holds her tight as she hides her face in his shoulder. “After you’re done, you’re going to find something wooden in the room, break it and stab it through your heart. Now to make sure you’ve heard my instructions, you’re going to leave me one of your hands. I’ll let you choose which one. Give me your hand.” He orders, holding his hand out. All three of them immediately grab one wrist with their opposite hand, snapping the wrist they were holding and with a pained scream covering the sound of their skin being torn, ligaments and veins breaking and blood pouring from their wrist. They step forward, one by one and give Kevin their chosen hand. Once they had all passed over their hands, Kevin passes the head to the leader. “Thanks, now go.” Kevin smiles cockily at them. “Well then, we’ll be taking his head with us to prove to our leader that we’ve killed him.” One of the vampires say smugly holding RJ’s head by his hair, blood dripping all over the ground. Kevin shrugs, trying to ignore the feelings that were bubbling within him. “You should go inside.” Kevin states, clearly intended for Evie and Lee. The two instantly start moving, taking steps towards the door shakily, shocked by all that had just happened. “You make me sick.” Evie turns her attention to Kevin who turns his head and looks at her, a stern glare of resentment. “Forgive me for making you feel sick, but you know what Princess, Lee would have just about asked me to order them something much worse if it was your head ripped from your shoulders. I am sorry that you feel sickened by my frustration but honey, I am sickened that your impulsive behaviour and lack of self-preservation put us all in a position where I had to let RJ die to protect the two of you. So why don’t you go inside and think about how awful a person I am, whilst being thankful that your head isn’t currently being taken by a group of suicidal vampires and It's not your body I am about to have to discard of.” Kevin turns back to look at the headless corpse before him, he just shakes his head. “Do you need a hand?” Lee offers. “No thanks Lee, I have 3 extras already.” Kevin holds the hands out to the side, not turning to look at Lee again. He waits until he hears the door close before stepping in close to RJ’s corpse and taking a deep breath. “I am so, so sorry RJ. You deserved better than this. I promised you so much better than this.” “Go away.” Kevin swishes the bottle in his hand in the direction of the door, not turning to look at the person who had walked into the room. “Kevin. What are we doing?” Lee asks with a sense of urgency. Kevin sighs and puts his bottle to his temple and sighs. “Get your girlfriend please.” He mutters. “Why?” Lee walks around to the front of Kevin’s chair. “Because of her, someone I needed is dead. Now I need her to help me and step into his place.” “Coming from you, that’s not very assuring. You’re angry, and when you get angry and you’re even less predictable. I don’t trust you to be anywhere near her.” Lee refuses. Kevin just looks him up and down then rolls his eyes and puts down his bottle. “Lee. Darling. Do you know what happened just before with RJ? I let him die, not because I didn’t want him to live, but because the people who had him, thought he was the Hybrid. You know how I told you that vampires can sense other vampires, well they assumed it was RJ but do you know who their next guess would have been? I let RJ die because they would have turned to her and I promised you I would protect you both. Hear me, hear this and understand. RJ died because if I tried to save him I would have been putting your girlfriend in danger. The absolute least she could do, is do her part now.” Kevin states, his eyes burning into Lee’s with an intense rage that put Lee back in his place. “If you hurt her.” Lee starts. “What are you going to do? Look threateningly at me and make a few tough comments? You’re not shit without human blood so if you want to hold up literally any kind of threat towards me, I recommend you get into RJ’s stash in the freezer. On your way there, get your fucking girlfriend and tell her I need to speak with her immediately.” “Kevin think about this, you just lost RJ and you’re not in the clearest mindset...” “Get your girlfriend for me now unless you want all of our safety to continue being compromised because of her delicate feelings.” Kevin demands giving a fake smile to Lee as he watches him nervously shift his weight from one foot to the other. “She is riddled with guilt, please be gentle on her.” Lee pleads quietly before leaving the room to find Evie. Kevin rolls his eyes and gets up from his chair, walking over to a desk and taking out a folder of paperwork. He shakes it a few times in a lazy attempt to dust it off. He sits back down and flips the folder open, running his finger along the lines of writing, pausing and tracing RJ’s signature on the page with a solemn expression. “Kevin. Y-you must hate me. I’m so sorry about RJ.” Evie says quietly, sniffling back her tears. “I’m sorry that I put us all in danger.” “This is my self-pity time, please don’t come here for sympathy because I rarely feel that on a good day, and this is not what I would call a good day.” Kevin answers, not looking at her, instead simply swigging from his drink. “He mattered to you though, didn’t he?” Evie asks. Kevin tips his head back and lets out a deep sigh, followed by a groan of frustration. “Everyone matters to me, in one way or another. You all have a purpose. Some are food, some are protection, some are fun and some are company. RJ was all of those things to me. He was a sweet kid, he made my life feel less awful and he understood me in a way I didn’t think people could, especially not people who weren’t vampires. He wanted me to turn him and I was selfish. I didn’t want to turn him. Do you know why they beheaded him?” Kevin finally turns to Evie who was looking at him with a pitiful expression. “Why?” Evie asks reluctantly, tugging at the sleeves of her long sleeve shirt and pulling it over her hands for comfort. “Because they thought he was the hybrid. Do you know why?” Kevin pauses, tilts his head to the side and momentarily holds her eye contact before glancing away. Evie doesn’t answer this time. “It’s because I poisoned his food with vampire blood daily, just in case he died. I secretly hoped he would die in my arms only to wake in them cold and hungry. You know how happy that would have made him? He wanted to be immortal. They sensed the vampire blood in his system and thought because they also sensed that he was human, he must have been the hybrid. Fucking idiots. The world we live in is cruel Evie. He knew his risks associating with me and he chose them. You didn’t, you are just stuck in the middle of this. I get that, that must suck. But honestly you can’t keep trying to escape the truth. You are here, people are going to die, trust me there will be more bloodshed and I am out for vengeance now so you can be sure there will be plenty more torture. You will have to learn to turn a blind eye to it.” Kevin shrugs, sinking back into his chair. “Just like RJ did.” He comments then swigs at his drink. “Why didn’t RJ fight?” Evie asks. “Because I promised him he if he stayed strong I would always be there to help him and I’d never let him get hurt.” Kevin looks at Evie, the guilt obvious in his eyes that he’d let down someone who trusted him to protect them. Lee and Evie both looked equally afraid that this more than anything proved that Kevin wasn’t safe for them to be around. “At the very least he died without fear.” “Oh at the very least!” Lee snaps. “Don’t fucking start me Lee, because you have no idea how complicated this very delicate issue is. He knew what he was getting into with me, he knew he may be a sacrifice if the Hybrid’s life was at risk and he was still willing to be here and a part of all of it. I have bigger fish to fry and I need to be frying them in a clear headspace. A guilt free headspace.” Kevin stands up, getting in close to Lee’s face in a threatening manner. “So the guy was wrong, the Hybrid isn’t in this house?” Evie asks, hoping to distract the men from their argument. “Please, those idiots have no idea what they are looking for. The Hybrid is potentially the future for our entire stupid species, do you honestly think I’m that stupid? Does this seem like a game to you? I’m taking the protection of The Hybrid extremely serious. Regardless, you’re going to be someone I rely on for protection now Evie, this house was left to you in RJ’s will, which means you are now in charge of who can and can’t come inside.” Kevin tells her, holding up the envelope. Lee steps forwards and takes it from him, opening and reading it in disbelief. “What!?” Evie gasps, staring Lee for answers. “This is insane Kevin.” Lee shakes his head. “Honey, insanity is a matter of opinion. This is a safety plan. Insanity would be not having a back up plan.” Kevin stands up and gestures at Evie. “I own this house?” Evie asks. “You own it. I cover the bills. Basically don’t let anyone in without my permission, don’t look into their eyes or they will control your thoughts. Sweet dreams, home owner.” Kevin shrugs and leaves the room, he gets up to his bedroom and flops onto his bed. Finally able to have a moment for himself to deal with what he’d gone through in the last few hours. He could smell RJ’s scent on his pillow and it was overwhelming to accept that once this smell faded, RJ was truly going to be gone, reduced to the wasted memories. Every single thing Kevin could think of, involving RJ, was just seeing him cooking, cleaning, supporting him or lecturing him about his torture tactics. He was too good, gave too much of his time into doing what Kevin needed from him, and now Kevin couldn’t think of a single thing that he’d done in return for RJ. Letting him die for Evie’s safety felt like the biggest betrayal but the shittiest thing was that RJ was willing to die for Kevin, so willing that he’d asked for Kevin to stop him from feeling fear or pain if his life was in serious danger. Of all the deaths he’d anticipated, RJ’s wasn’t actually one of them. He had never imagined not having RJ by his side until the end. “Well RJ, you always loved a good plot twist, so I guess your death was fitting. I promise I will make your death worth it. I owe you that.” Kevin whispers to the empty bed beside him, then draws his pillow in close and holds it for comfort. “And I swear I will not let Evie do any renovations on your house.” He smiles to himself, knowing that RJ would turn in his grave if she so much as touched his perfectly co-ordinated wallpaper.
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