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Do You Ship Us? - The Next Stage - 6. Wake-up Call

Jasper stands in the wings, twirling his microphone and taking calming breaths. He’d considered cancelling this show 100 times at least, but he was here with the excited chatter of fans awaiting him. They had no idea what was going on in his life, and he wanted it to stay that way. He couldn’t simply call it off without an explanation, and he’d never forgive himself for letting so many people down, anyway.

The lights go down and despite the enthusiasm of the fans, Jasper feels his heart breaking as he takes to the stage. He didn’t know how he’d get through this night, but he forces himself on stage, regardless.

 

“Ryan. Where the fuck are you?” Leo snaps as he answers his phone.

“I’m at the airport...”

“Arriving?”

“Yes. The plane was delayed and...”

“Get here right now.” Leo orders. He couldn’t care less about his excuses.

“Are you able to pick me up?” Ryan asks.

“No. You don’t have time to wait for me. Get a taxi, an Uber, hitchhike. I don’t care. Jasper is on stage right now. You have 25 minutes to be here before he’s singing that song to an empty stage and I don’t know what that will do to him. You have fucked up. If you’re not here in 20 minutes, you might as well get back on that plane.” Leo snaps, hanging up and pacing the hallway. There wasn’t even a break where he would be able to let Jasper know Ryan was coming, or to stall the performance so he wouldn’t be embarrassed by performing the song he’d written for Ryan, only to have him not show. Jasper had been panicking all day, trying to get a hold of Ryan to find out if he’d be here and constantly ending up on a dial tone.

Leo spent all day doing everything he could to mediate Jasper’s building stress, but there was only so much reassurance he could give, without being able to promise him Ryan wouldn’t let him perform alone. Jasper had stopped promising himself that the moment he’d walked onto the stage.

Jasper takes a seat at the piano, his heart pounding and his fingers shaking as he plays the first key of the song. For once, he was just as nervous as the audience about how this would turn out. Whether this was about to be the start of his second public spiral or whether there would be something to celebrate at the end of this. Each second feels like it’s passing with agonizing uncertainty, and when no spotlight comes on with Ryan, there’s a part of him that doesn’t care. A numbness that hits him everywhere but the tear ducts, which were instantly filling his eyes with heartbreak. He sings through the pain he’s feeling until his voice too betrays him and he can’t sing another word.

But the song continues, a gentle tone that is almost completely covered by the eruption of screams from the audience.

“Oh~ I’m finally home this time, oh~ my home is right here by your side.” Ryan sings as he walks out from the wings, straight over to the piano. He didn’t let it show on his face, but no one was more pleased to see Ryan was here than Jasper was. This whole reveal would have been better, of course, if Jasper hadn’t started this song wondering if Ryan would even show up tonight or not. He cut it extremely fine. So fine he wasn’t even dressed to perform his dance routine, but he was here. Jasper wasn’t stood up in front of everyone, live on stage.

“Hey Ryan.” Jasper says in an ever so flirty tone as the audience cheers with joy to see their favourite couple on stage together once more.

“Hey Jas.” Ryan smiles at him like they’re not about to stage a ‘look how happy we are together’ act when the last they had spoken to each other was almost 2 days ago. “Sorry, I’m so late and missed most of the song. Can I make it up to you?” Ryan asks, reaching for Jasper’s hand.

“You better.” Jasper smiles, assuming this would be the lead into the kiss moment that was scripted, but instead Ryan breaks into song again.

You will remember, when this is blown over and everything’s gone with the wind~ When I grow older, I will be there by your side, to remind you, how I still love you~ Ryan serenading Jasper was the last thing he expected, he just stands there perplexed. “I still love you.” Ryan whispers sweetly into the microphone, then presses a kiss on Jasper’s ring finger.

“So, if anyone’s wondering whether this ship is still sailing.” Jasper moves them to the kiss part of the show. After that surprise rendition, he needed to kiss Ryan so badly. He wanted a gentle, passionate, and sweet kiss. He was even anticipating it to be slightly less intense than other shows, because despite the display of love on stage, they still had a lot to sort out.

Ryan however, grabs Jasper by the belt loops on his pants and pulls him in fast. Jasper was so caught off guard that he didn’t have a chance to casually lower the microphone, so with his arms pinned against Ryan’s chest, the microphone is held between them.

Ryan tilts his head slightly to speak into it and his voice makes Jasper feel weak in every good way. “Baby, we’re unsinkable.” The scream the audience gives at Ryan’s statement is almost as loud as Jasper could feel his heart beating. He didn’t feel like he deserved that extra reassurance after the way he’d stormed off the other day. Ryan plucks the microphone from Jasper’s hands. “One moment, please.” He smirks into it, then cheekily tucks it into the back pocket of Jasper's jeans. Jasper was glad, in a way, that even if they weren’t in a good place, Ryan had to grab him and kiss him like he couldn’t live without him. He did it so convincingly that Jasper could almost forget how bad things seemed only a few minutes ago.

Ryan’s acting was above and beyond tonight. It’d been an act, since the first show, for Jasper to pretend that Ryan kissing him wasn’t planned. But tonight, he was genuinely thrown. Jasper had anticipated a heated kiss. He didn’t expect Ryan to whirl him around and tip him back against the piano as he kisses him with twice the passion as every other night.

The audience and Jasper were reveling in it. Whatever it was that set this off in Ryan, Jasper was not complaining. To say he needed that break while Ryan was performing his solo dance, to cool himself down, was an understatement. He needed a cold shower. These make-out sessions had been the highlight of the tour, but God, he couldn’t wait to never have the fear of a mid-show boner, ever again. It was about the only time having no libido thanks to his anti-depressants, didn’t seem like such an unwelcome side effect.

The rest of the show plays out fairly close to how it was planned. For all viewing purposes, they were a power couple, an ‘unsinkable’ force to be reckoned with. Their flirting, their exchanges, right down to the occasional spontaneous banter, showed no signs of fault or weakness. Jasper couldn’t help but wish he was stage Jasper, married to stage Ryan because those two were having a great time together.

Performing Blake’s duet tonight was harder than usual. He’d not gotten through a single performance without tearing up but tonight some of the words were choked. He missed him always, but he missed him twice as much whenever he needed someone to talk to. Right now, he could really use some of Blake’s no bullshit, but fun truth talks and advice.

He could have also used Ryan meeting him on stage and wrapping his arms around him for comfort when the lights went down, but he stood there alone for a few moments before heading off and finding Ryan wasn’t even in the wings.

Jasper is shaking by the time he reaches the dressing room. His heart racing and his eyes welling with tears, though he managed a polite thank you to everyone he passed. He wanted one thing right now, Ryan’s arms around him.

The only thing better than knowing no matter what was going on in their heads, they would be making out on stage, was the relief Jasper got when Ryan was not only waiting for him in the dressing room after the show, but quick to lock him inside.

Jasper walks over, a little unsure of what mood Ryan was in. “Look, I am sorry about the other day. I’ve just been in a terrible mood lately...” Jasper starts, but Ryan cuts him off with a kiss, similar to the one they had shared on stage. Jasper’s heart races. There was no need to put on an act now. They were alone, so Ryan wasn’t putting this on for show. He just wanted him.

“I’m sorry too. You’ve been trying to handle everything alone again and I’ve been making you feel like it’s still not enough. You don’t deserve that.” Ryan whispers and starts kissing along Jasper’s neck, lifting his shirt up at the same time.

“Thank you for coming back. I don’t think I would have coped if you didn’t show.” Jasper gulps, feeling guilty that they were just brushing over their problems.

“Did you seriously think I wouldn’t come? I would never do that to you. I was trying to be here on time, my flight was just delayed.” Ryan pulls Jasper’s shirt off and undoes his jeans. Jasper stops Ryan’s hand from going any further.

“I’m really not in the mood. Sorry. I wish I was, but I just can’t right now.”

“That’s ok. I just wanted to show you that there’s no love lost.” Ryan’s hands go to the sides of Jasper’s face, and he gazes deeply into his eyes. “As your partner, it’s my job to support you, no matter what. I haven’t been doing that enough. I promise from now on, I will be the husband you deserve. What do you need from me right now?” he asks with a gentle smile.

“I don’t know what I need right now.” Jasper admits tearfully. Ryan wraps his arms around Jasper and holds him strongly. Even though he was full of his own doubts and fears, he could put that aside to make Jasper feel more secure.

“You amaze me. I know I made a shitty comment the other day about tour, but I love how much you put into this. I love hearing the way people cheer for you. I love that you put everything aside and give them a show every night. I am so proud of you for this tour. I know it’s such a personal one for you and I really hope you know just how incredible I think you are.” Jasper wraps his arms around Ryan and holds him tighter.

It was mostly the few hours alone on the plane after spending a day looking at houses with Beth that had led to Ryan changing his tact with handling Jasper. Watching Jasper politely call out an interviewer did also make him realise that Jasper had reached his limit, and he’d failed to protect him. What broke Ryan the most was that he wanted to defend Jasper, but they weren’t announcing their relationship publicly yet. That in itself was an excuse though, because he wasn’t even supporting him privately, so what right did he have to do it publicly right now? He needed to do better. Jasper deserved more from him than what he’d been giving.

And maybe Leo had something to do with it, too. The moment Ryan was off stage, Leo had asked to speak with him, and called him into the dressing room.

 

“I know it’s not my place, but he is my client and it’s my job to ensure this shit goes smoothly for him. Whatever is going on with you, sort it out and step up. He’s struggling and he’s not opening up to you about it because he doesn’t want to stress you out more, but you need to ‘notice’ he’s struggling and be there for him right now. ” Leo orders.

“We’ve been through this; he needs to learn to ask for help and not keep it all in.” Ryan sighs. He’d been thinking about this already, that Jasper was clearly exploding at him because he was keeping something else in. It was his first intention, to work out what was really going on for Jasper, that was stopping him from being at all enthusiastic about setting up his future.

“He is. The fact of the matter is, he’s just not doing that with you because you aren’t there. He’s opening up to me. He’s had multiple panic attacks in the back of my car the last few days alone, and when he tried to call you, he didn’t even get an answer. It’s not good enough and I don’t care what your excuses are. Singing that song about being by his side when you’re old was nice and all, but where the hell have you been right now. You cannot blame him for not turning to you, when you’ve not been a reliable support person for him.” Leo states, quite sternly, before stepping back and gaining his composure. “I know you would prefer he and I didn’t have a blurred line between professional and personal, which is why I’m coming to you with this, but understand, he would kill me if he knew I told you about how he’s really doing.”

Ryan was silent for a few long moments, taking in what Leo had said. He felt awful. He’d not intended on being so late today, he’d just got caught up on a house tour and missed the flight that would have had him in Jasper’s arms last night, then today’s flight was delayed for 3 solid hours. But Leo was right, there was no excuse. He should have been on the flight back with Jasper the other day. His priority needed to be helping Jasper get through this tour. There was a reason Jasper wasn’t able to concentrate on anything else, and it was because there wasn’t time. They couldn’t house hunt and be sure they had time to make it to the next show. If Jasper had stayed with Ryan, he’d have missed his own performance tonight and that wasn’t a risk Jasper was willing to, not should he need to have to take. Something had to give, and it would just have to be all the external stuff for now.

“I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t kill you. I think he likes you more than me at the moment.” Ryan finally says, breaking the uncomfortable silence.

“No, he just knows my entire job is to keep him from ruining his own life, so he doesn’t feel like it’s a burden to fall apart around me. It’s my job to deal with that.”

“It’s my job too, I’m his husband.” Ryan shakes his head and runs his fingers through his hair. He felt like absolute shit.

“That’s why I’m telling you about this. Because you need to make sure he knows that. Also, someone needs to talk to him about his anti-depressants, he’s not taking them properly.”

“That, I actually had noticed.” Ryan groans, running his hands over his face frustratedly. “He takes them when he’s feeling depressed instead of taking them every day. I’ve tried to explain why that doesn’t work but he’s adamant that he doesn’t need to take them regularly.”

“If he was a woman on birth control, you’d have a dozen kids already, because he’d be the type to only take the pill when he got laid.” Ryan hates himself for actually laughing at the analogy, but he’s glad that Leo is laying off the heavy berating for now.

“Well, tour together has proven to be pretty good birth control, so we would probably be fine.” Ryan admits.

“This is definitely out of my scope, but I’m going to take this opportunity to drop a suggestion. He’s under a lot of pressure, all eyes are on him and he has been basically solely planning this whole tour, not just all the on-stage stuff, but he has all his outfits planned out for the photos taken of him in airports. He accepts and denies questions before interviews, and the majority of his answers are very thought out and planned. Meals on flights are picked in advance, meals at events, he’s gotten very used to having the final say in everything right now. He’s in control of a lot of things. Jasper needs to learn to relax and enjoy not being in control, if you know what I mean.

“You’re saying I should go 50 Shades of Grey on him?”

“I will kick you out of this tour if you tell me that’s the extent of your understanding of bondage because that is a terrible representation.”

“He’s not into that stuff.”

“Are you sure?”

“Did he say he’s into it?”

“No, but he’s coming with me to a kink party after his performance at Mardi gras this week, and he’s excited about that.”

“So, this is hypothetical? You don’t actually know for sure he’s into any kinks.”

“It’s a hypothesis I’m researching.”

“Tell me you’re researching my husband’s kinks again and I will destroy you.” Ryan threatens, but Leo just laughs it off.

“Show’s over. I’ll be in the car.” Leo states, leaving Ryan to wait for Jasper in the dressing room.

 

The drive to Ryan’s father's house was one of the most relaxing trips of tour so far, and that was with Jasper reading an article about himself being a ‘Diva’ on his solo tour. Not shockingly, the opinion came from the same network as the show he’d off-loaded his frustrations on.

“So, I call them out for overstepping a boundary that is hurtful to me, and they hit me with an opinion piece about how I need to stop acting like a control freak. Seriously. I’m retweeting this. This is so funny. I literally told them that the media attacked me and I have trouble feeling comfortable with their questions, and their method is to attack me for speaking up when they made me uncomfortable. The respect is overwhelming.” Jasper rants, typing out an angry message with a smirk on his face that Ryan can’t take his eyes off.

“I’ve missed you.” Ryan sighs. Jasper looks over his phone and smiles.

“Missed me, or missed me being petty?”

“Are you being petty?”

“Maybe just a tad.” Jasper shrugs, passing Ryan his phone to show him the tweet he’d just posted along with the link to the article criticizing him. The caption from Jasper reads;

‘Me: tells the media how toxic they can be.

The media: no, YOU.’

“Yeah, ok, I missed you being petty.” Ryan laughs, his eyes settle on the number on Jasper’s inbox. “Woah, who’s been talking to you?”

“Look.” Jasper shrugs again, relaxing back in his seat.

“I’m not going through your messages.”

“No, seriously. Do it.” Jasper urges. Ryan opens his inbox and it’s all picture messages. He only has to open one to know what all the rest would be. “Speaking of petty, one of my favourite things to do, early on when I could be bothered, was to reply to every single unsolicited dick pick with ‘congratulations, it’s a boy’.” Jasper says in a condescending tone.

“Wow. Here I thought you were always texting Leo or someone, you’re just destroying the self-confidence of hundreds of men.” Ryan glances towards the separator between them and Leo in the driver’s seat of the limo. He’d finally gotten them a stretch limo where Jasper and Ryan had complete privacy in the back.

“I don’t text Leo. Other than to ask where he is or if he can get something for me. Are you alright with Leo, you guys were being weird the other day in the car.”

“Well, you and I haven’t been great and I know he’s more fun than me, so yeah. You looking at his Onlyfans did make me a little uneasy, I’ll admit.” Ryan sighs, passing Jasper his phone back.

“Please, his Onlyfans did nothing for me. And Leo might be ‘fun’ but it’s a superficial kind of fun. You and I are fun together, when we’re not exhausted and terrified and undergoing a massive life change. I’m a little offended that you think only months into a marriage and only months out from having a kid with you, I’d be looking at cheating. Have a little faith in me.” Jasper rolls his eyes.

“I know, it’s just. He is a good-looking guy and I get the feeling he would hook-up with you if the opportunity was there...”

“Ry, if I wanted to fuck Leo, it would have happened by now. He’s been working with me for 4 years. That dynamic hasn’t changed, and frankly, the opportunity has been there many times. Leo does respect our relationship enough to not actually make a move on me, regardless of how tempting it gets. And I certainly don’t want to sleep with him. For one, he's an exceptional PA. I wouldn’t dare blur that line because I’ve got it so good with him. He takes care of everything professionally and makes life fun between jobs. Secondly, because he’s into some extreme stuff and I can’t even begin to fathom taking some of the roles, he likes to play around with. I’ve also established that even though we’re both verse, we’re both leaning towards the same preference and I’m just too selfish to be the one to sacrifice that way...”

“Wait, really? I did not get that vibe from Leo.” Ryan frowns, trying to picture it and wishing he wasn’t picturing it.

“Thirdly, and most importantly, I have this feeling like, you’re the only person I want to sleep with and it’s weird to even think about anyone else. I’ve got an inbox full of dicks and I don’t find any of them remotely attractive, so even if I wanted a slut phase of my life, I think you’ve conditioned me to not think of anyone else in that way. I’ve always only ever wanted you. I mean, unless Zac Efron hits me up. I would 100% do literally anything he asked me to do and I wouldn’t think about you once while doing it. But that’s really unlikely to happen, so the chances of me ever cheating are miniscule at best.”

“I don’t really know how to respond to that, because I’ve just got this irrational hatred of Zac Efron clouding all my other thoughts right now.”

“He’s clouding my thoughts too.” Jasper teases.

“You’re not helping.”

“Do you have the ultrasound photos on you?” Jasper changes the topic.

Ryan takes out his wallet and retrieves the photo from the latest scan. He passes him the photo, then slips his arm over Jasper’s shoulders.

“What’s your guess? Girl or boy?” Ryan asks.

“I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see.”

“I am starting to realize how much we didn’t talk about how this would all work. We planned ‘try for a baby’, but we didn’t plan anything after that.” Ryan states. Jasper doesn’t reply, just leans his head on Ryan’s shoulder and continues staring at the photo in his hands.

“This tiny person is ours and there’s an unexplainable number of things I would do already to protect and love whoever we’ve made. That includes making sure that this little human’s parents are ok.” Jasper turns his head and looks into Ryan’s eyes. “I’ve set aside a few days for us while we’re here in Australia, after Mardi gras, of course.”

“What have you got planned?”

“Much like the baby’s gender, you’ll have to wait and see.” Jasper pokes his tongue out cheekily.

“A revenge holiday?”

“Otherwise called a honeymoon. You’re welcome. I’ve actually been planning this for months. Leo put it down in my schedule as being booked out for ‘tour management meetings’.”

“Oh, I was going to head home and look at some more houses over those dates. I figured you didn’t need me for meetings.”

“Well, cancel your plans, because mine are definitely better.”

“I'll take a honeymoon over literally anything else right now. I think we need that time away, together.”

“We’ve got some serious shit to get sorted after the honeymoon. I think as soon as you and I have sorted out us, everything else will just fall into place. It always has. When we’re good, everything else is good. When we’re not good, everything else feels impossible. At least, that’s what I’ve been finding.” Jasper shrugs.

“We’re always going to be ‘good’. Sometimes there’s just bullshit hanging over us.”

“Like, having a career?” Jasper asks.

“And a baby.” Ryan adds.

“With my sister.”

“And no home.”

“And a husband that’s been stress googling everything to prepare for all the worst-case scenarios.”

“And a husband that’s been shutting me out while he’s dealing with stuff because that worked out fine last time.”

“Right on the back of spending two years apart with near crippling depression.” Jasper looks at Ryan with a sad smile.

“And yet, look at us. Married, baby on the way, sellout world tour in progress. All that bullshit hanging over us, but underneath it all, we’re good, aren’t we?” Ryan says, pressing a soft kiss on Jasper’s lips. Surprisingly, managing to turn that conversation around and back into a positive.

Jasper was more than grateful for this moment of peace in their hectic schedule. They needed it. They needed this week so badly. Two nights with Ryan’s father, three nights on a secluded island in the Whitsundays. This had to be the turning point for them.

“Is there anything I need to know while we’re at your dad’s? I haven’t had much to do with him so I’m a little nervous about it, honestly.” Jasper asks as Leo pulls up at the address.

“You’ll be fine, just, don’t accept any ‘traditional Aussie food’ from Brayden. It’s all poison, and he’s only offering it to you, to see you gag and spit it out.”

“Well, I don’t do either of those things, so he’s going to be disappointed as hell.” Jasper smirks and chews his lip.

"Dear god, ok, don’t say things like that around my father." Ryan rubs his forehead.

“So, don’t eat food Brayden offers and don’t make dick jokes around your father. Got it.”

Copyright © 2021 Claire Rosalind; All Rights Reserved.
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Awesome chapter .There is no reason to think this but why do I have in the back of my mind that there might be some fireworks when they visit Ryan's Dad and Brayden

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