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Do You Ship Us? - 100. Love & Sentiment

Jasper walks up the footpath, shoes on this time and feeling like his heart is beating so fast he may explode before he makes it to the door. Every day that had passed since hearing that Ryan wasn’t dating Brayden or anyone for that matter, had been full of anxiety and stress. It would be easy to think Jasper had learnt from his lesson and could just go and talk to Ryan about it, but he also knew they had so much to go through and most of it was Jasper’s various low points and mistakes. So he’d been putting off this conversation longer than he should have, but he needed to feel ready and good enough for Ryan to even consider taking back. He needed to take care of himself and actually prepare for the possibility that he and Ryan might actually get one last chance after all.

Tonight he was arriving dressed nicely, a massive step up from the last time he’d been on this doorstep in the midst of his lowest of lows. He’d even bought new clothes for this occasion in a little act of self-care with Grace, he’d had Fi give him a haircut and freshen up his look with some highlights. It felt good to look good. Of course, Ryan wouldn’t take him back on the shallow reason of looking good, but after all the states of gradual self-depreciation Ryan had seen him in, he did feel the need to polish up a little. Show Ryan that he was not in that place anymore, that he had some control over himself again, he respected himself, and now he could finally apply that same level of respect to the love of his life.

On the doorstep, Jasper takes a few calming breaths, needing to compose himself because he was feeling like he’d been edging a panic attack for the last few hours. He’d had Leo pick him up early and just drive him around to get him out of the hotel room he’d kept himself locked in for the last week. Jasper lifts his hand and knocks on the door. The entire minute that passes feels like the most agonizingly slow minute of Jasper’s life and just before he knocks again the door opens. The moment he’d been rehearsing in his head, writing songs about and crying over for a week is right before him, stealing away his ability to move, speak and temporarily, even breathe. His eyes meet Ryan’s and they freeze, their faces both in a state of hopefulness and nerves as they take in the other, not even needing to state what this would be about. Ryan had expected Jasper would come back eventually, and there was no other reason he’d be here, looking this good. He’d not get dressed up to have a meltdown again and he didn’t smell of weed or alcohol for the first time in a long time. Other than of course, the wedding.

“Jasper?” Ryan asks startled to find his ex, standing on his doorstep but so overcome with what this meant. He looks Jasper up and down, he was the best he'd looked in a long time, his face wasn’t pale and drained looking anymore, his eyes had that spark in them that drove Ryan into a lovesick craze. He was clean shaven, his hair tidy and effortlessly styled. He seemed like he was dressed for an occasion, not completely formal but definitely well presented. An ironed button up white shirt with long sleeves. and a signature pair of black tight jeans. Jasper smiles sweetly, offering forward a bottle of champagne. Apparently faced with Ryan, his brain decided to short circuit and abandon him so words weren’t happening. “What are you doing here?” Ryan asks, not taking the bottle from him.

“Did the guys not tell you I was coming over to talk?” Jasper sighs, rolling his eyes and shaking his head as he looks off thoughtfully. If Ryan didn't know to expect him, then he might not be prepared for this conversation at all. Jasper had hoped he'd have had some warning. Time to think through what he wanted to say, what he wanted to ask and what he wanted to do. He knew all too well that Ryan hated being caught off guard like this and if Jasper had been overthinking every single thing he would say tonight he expected Ryan would have too. They could have a perfectly thought-out conversation with no questions left unanswered.

“The guys?” Ryan crosses his arms and leans against the doorway.

“Luke and Simon, they came to see me last week... I thought they might have let you know I would come around. I mean I saw Luke today and told him I was heading here...”

“Well, you could have told me yourself?” Ryan states with a shrug.

“I typed about 400 messages over the last week to you. Just, none of them ended up sounding like, I don’t know. I just couldn’t sum up what I wanted to say so I thought if they told you I was planning to show up you would at least be expecting me.” Jasper knew he was a nervous, rambling mess but his brain was still trying to reboot. Ryan doesn’t say anything, just watches Jasper with interest. Part of him didn't quite believe who he was looking at, it was like looking at a ghost, because this wasn't at all who Jasper had been the last few months. He was almost more ready to hear that time travel had been invented and this was Jasper from the past, than for this to be Jasper genuinely taking care of himself, with self-respect and pride again. It looked good on him. Jasper catches Ryan staring and can’t help but smile as Ryan looks from Jasper to the champagne bottle, trying to pretend he hadn't been taking in every detail of his appearance. “I didn’t know what else to get someone after meeting their dad. It seemed like something to celebrate with something really top shelf.” Jasper smiles, offering the bottle again, this time Ryan steps forward and takes it from Jasper, without a word he steps out of the doorway and holds the door for Jasper to come inside. Jasper was thrilled to be invited in, sure beat having another emotional conversation on the curb. He was so excited to get to see what this place looked like, how Ryan was living on his own. He stands awkwardly in the hallway and when Ryan steps back to close the door they find themselves in close proximity to one another, both just lingering there with an air of temptation. Jasper wasn’t sure what he wanted more, for Ryan to just grab him and press him against the wall, kiss him like the last 6 months hadn’t happened, or step away and force him to go through with talking about everything and it seemed like Ryan felt the same. They knew all too well that they could easily push the talking aside and give in to the intense want that was gripping them, but they had done that too many times before and that was what had led them here.

Hesitantly though, Ryan steps back and leads Jasper down a short hallway into the kitchen where he takes out two wine glasses from the cupboard. Ryan pours them both a drink while Jasper looks around. It was a tiny kitchen and dining area, such a bachelor pad. There’s one photo on the bench that captures his attention. The photo of interest appeared to be from Ryan’s birthday, it was of him and his family. The guy that was responsible for his entire existence and the guy that wasn’t his boyfriend. No matter how many times Jasper looked at them now, he couldn’t understand his own original assumption. How he could have not been aware of their clear sibling resemblance was beyond him, as Grace had said, he’d just ‘catapulted’ to conclusions, where he could have just asked and saved himself the whole heartache that had destroyed him from that moment. Ryan slides a glass across the bench to Jasper and lifts his own glass, enjoying a sip.

“Oh no thanks, it’s for you.” Jasper politely refuses, though a drink would help with the nerves, he was far from being able to have a casual drink without it potentially resulting in a relapse.

“Is that it? You came here to give me a bottle of champagne and that’s all?” Ryan frowns at Jasper.

“Well no. I just have no intention of getting wasted on champagne.” Jasper says with a shrug.

“Ok then.” Ryan comments, confused about whether or not he should be drinking if Jasper wasn’t going to.

“Don’t let me stop you though...”

“Jasper what are you here for? Because I’m really confused, I don’t feel like doing this, small talk thing with you and pretending we’re just distant friends catching up.” Ryan blurts out, looking surprised at his own bluntness. Jasper could feel every bit of the frustration he’d caused him, no matter how well he had held himself together at the time. There was a lot of hurt that had been building up inside and Ryan had been strong about it but he seemed tired tonight and Jasper didn’t blame him one bit. He just felt awful that this was the way Ryan felt when he was around now.

“I totally get it, if you don’t want to talk now that's fine, I just want you to know that when you are up for it, I’m finally ready.” Jasper tells him, wanting to be reasonable but also hoping Ryan wouldn’t let him leave. It’d taken a lot to get him here tonight, a week of sleepless nights stressing about it and running over every possibility of what could happen. The thought of leaving and having to stress for longer was almost enough to make him sick.

“Look I know I said I’d be here when you were ready, I just, tonight’s probably not the night for this.” Ryan admits, rubbing his forehead just as Jules walks in from out the back where there was some chatter.

“Oh! Jasper, I didn’t know you were coming.” She claps her hands together and shoots her son a playful glare for not telling her. Ryan gives a shrug and shakes his head. “Never mind, it’s a lovely surprise.” Jules turns her attention back to Jasper, stepping forward and embracing him in an amazingly comforting hug that he felt completely taken aback by, having not at all expected to face Jules too, and much less having expected her to be kind towards him. “How are you, darling?” She asks, her tone gentle and empathetic, but her arms holding him tight in the kind of mum hug Jasper had never felt before. Jasper finds himself speechless but emotional over the way she was treating him. He’d thought he would have been hated for what he’d done to Ryan, knowing Jules was always protective of him, so to be shown such love and care, was so unexpected of her it was bringing tears to his eyes.

“I’m sorry.” Jasper apologizes quickly. An apology felt like the least he should do after all he had made Ryan go through. Jules holds him a little tighter and Jasper can’t help but remember the last time he’d been hugged by Ryan’s mum as the night he’d accepted Ryan’s proposal. “I told you I wouldn’t hurt him and I did. You trusted me and...” Jasper was crying already; he had come here with a plan and it had fallen apart completely. It was Ryan he’d been expecting to explain himself to, not Ryan’s mum and her compassion was making it so hard, guilt was taking over his whole body. It was one thing to apologize to Ry for everything, knowing he would at least have a chance at being forgiven, but Jules had no reason to forgive him. After watching Ryan’s last boyfriend drive him to suicide, Jasper was sure she would never accept a sorry from yet another soul crushing, heart breaking, selfish jerk.

“Hey, no, listen to me.” Jules holds Jasper’s hands and looks deep into his eyes. “You are not a product of your worst moments. If you think either of us were hurt by your actions then you don’t understand just how much we get it. This family has been there, we have lived through it and we were hurt for you that you were going through it. We were hurt that you were hurting on your own. Nothing more, ok? Let the guilt go, because we were not holding it against you. You’re a beautiful young man.” Jules tells him with a reassuring smile. Unable to help herself defaulting to mothering mode, she wipes away the stray tears from Jasper’s cheeks and wraps her arms around him again, not about to stand back while Jasper cried. Jasper looks over at Ryan and catches the small affectionate smile on Ryan’s lips as he watched the way his mum was comforting Jasper. “You’re just in time, they are about to leave.” Jules lets go of him, as she steps back the two guys from the photo on Ryan’s wall walk into the room. Ryan stops leaning against the wall and moves over towards them.

“Jasper, this is my biological father.” Ryan introduces. The man looks Jasper up and down then strides over to him, extending a hand to shake his.

“Oh, it’s incredible to meet you Mr?”

“Jimmy.” Brayden calls out with a shit stirring smirk.

“James Freeman.” Ryan’s father corrects him with a surprisingly Australian accent.

“Great to meet you Mr Freeman.” Jasper takes his hand and shakes it. He looked really caught off guard by this being a full family event. He’d deliberately skipped Ryan’s birthday party to avoid being in this situation and just his luck he would turn up on another special occasion. “I’m really sorry, I had no idea this was a family thing. I didn’t mean to interrupt anything.” Jasper says quickly. He was embarrassed, not sure what Ryan’s father had been told about him but he could only imagine none of it was good.

All the more reason for you to be here. Your part of the family and you’re always welcome here.” Jules states quickly but recognizes the stressed look on Jasper’s face and places a hand on Ryan’s arm, they share a look of understanding and concern as Ryan’s hand rests on hers.

“So, you’re back together now?” Brayden asks, then gets distracted by the bottle of champagne on the bench. “Oh nice. Can I have some?” Jasper was relieved the attention temporarily moved off him because this was a lot to suddenly have to face. But Ryan’s dad is quick to remind Brayden to be polite and say hello to Jasper. “We met. Oh, you were pretty drunk so you mightn’t remember.” Brayden walks over to Jasper.

“I remember, nice to meet you properly though.” Jasper fakes a smile, though internally he’s cringing.

“I’m not his boyfriend.” Brayden jokes, thinking he was helping lighten the mood and he couldn’t be more wrong. Ryan places a hand on Jasper’s back and rubs gently to comfort him, seeing how embarrassed and uncomfortable he was becoming.

“Sorry about that.” Jasper apologizes again, shaking Brayden’s hand despite wishing he could turn completely invisible. “I’ll go. You’re all in the middle of something and, I’ll... I’ll go. But it’s nice to meet you.” Jasper turns to leave.

“Mum.” Ryan, rubs her hand then lowers his voice, speaking calmly. “Can you pour everyone a glass please?” Ryan passes her the bottle of champagne. “We just need some time to talk, if that’s alright with everyone.”

“Of course.” Jules smiles at Ryan then leans in and kisses his cheek. “Take the time you need and be strong.” She whispers before stepping over to Jasper and kissing his cheek too. “See you soon.” She smiles, heading back to the cupboards to get glasses out for Brayden and James who is quietly telling Brayden off for calling him ‘Jimmy’.

“I don’t want to interrupt your family moment.” Jasper tells him quickly. Ryan steps forwards and looks into Jasper’s eyes until Jasper finally looks back into his too. Ryan silently extends a hand for Jasper to take, a reassuring smile on his face. Jasper wanted nothing more than to get out of all of this, so he takes Ryan’s hand, letting Ry lead him from the room, down to his bedroom. Ryan closes the door and now that he’s away from everyone else, Jasper falls back against the wall, trying to calm himself down. “Sorry.” Jasper takes another deep breath and fans himself with his hand. Ryan slips his hands in his pockets and leans against the wall beside Jasper, looking up at the ceiling and giving a smile as he thinks about something he could remind Jasper of to cheer him up.

“Do you remember the first time you had dinner with my mum?” Ryan asks, glancing over at Jasper. Jasper thinks back to that first time he’d stayed for dinner with Jules. Making out with Ryan in the next room after finally agreeing to and not being afraid of, officially dating. The thrill, the excitement, the whole unpredictable future ahead of them. Jasper remembered being totally out of his depth and yet loving turning into a shy mess with his lips pressed against Ryan’s. Pretending he was sure of himself when really it’d taken some time to feel sure after that night. The whole relationship had been intense, at the core, they had fallen in love with each other, despite all the flaws, and it really did suck that there had to be so many complicated layers that at times made it feel harder than it should have. Back then, lips pressed against one another's, the fires burning inside both of them, so much hope and promise and excitement, it’d been simple. They wanted a relationship, no matter what. They felt strongly towards each other, no matter what. They wanted to face it all with the safety of each other's arms to protect and guide them through whatever their lives would throw their way. “We had a lot to work out then too. It’s almost ironic that we’ve just come full circle.” Ryan comments with a shrug, enjoying watching the emotions on Jasper’s face as he was thinking back to it. It was interesting that they were back to that same place years later. Everything had changed and yet in some ways, they were just back where they started. Wanting each other, feeling so deeply for each other and needing to face the world together. Jasper once again, having to learn to let go of all his fears and trust Ryan to catch him when he fell. In so many ways, Jasper had felt like he and Ryan grew together but to draw the comparison to back then, really brought home that Jasper hadn’t. He’d never let the walls down, he’d never let go enough.

“Maybe if we had actually talked first back then, I would have learnt sooner, that you have to actually talk about stuff.” Jasper shakes his head. Wishing he could go back to such an easy, simple part of their relationship and slap his former naiive self for thinking that having his tongue in Ryan’s throat was more important than opening up about his fears and struggles.

“Well, we can talk now if it will put your mind at ease.” Ryan suggests, walking over towards the bed, he turns and looks at Jasper who hadn’t moved.

“No but your family...” Jasper starts arguing.

“They have a bottle of high-quality champagne, I’m sure they will be fine. If you want to work things out with me though, this is your moment. You know it’ll do my head in to be left wondering, and I know you wouldn’t have come here tonight if you hadn’t made your mind up on what you want. So just tell me.” Ryan says calmly, determined to get a final answer before Jasper had a chance to overthink it.

“I want to work things out with you.” Jasper starts quickly, part of him was so impressed that Ryan was putting a little pressure on him to make a decision, because he was so full of his own doubts that he could have otherwise probably left tonight and talked his way out of it all over again. “I know there’s a lot happening in your life right now and I don’t want to complicate it but, Ryan, I want you to know it’s my turn to wait. I would wait for the world to end if it meant that I could spend my last moment in your arms. But if there's even half a chance that you still believe we can work this out then I will fight for you. I know I’ve already said this before but I know now what life is really like without you and so I mean it’s so much more, I will never stop proving my love to you.”

“Ok.” Ryan smiles at him, relieved to actually hear it after months of having to hold onto hope that he would eventually hear those words. “We want the same thing, we’re on the same page so far.” Ryan reaches a hand out towards Jasper, inviting him again over to the bed.

“But I don’t want to just make this all about me, I want to hear all about your newfound family and what you have been up to as well.” Jasper tells him, torn on whether to stay or go, though his feet were leading him to Ryan like he wasn’t even questioning it. He had really hoped to just sit down with Ryan, talk about the whole thing and get it all out in one night. He'd been very tempted to come along to the party last week, but he figured he and Ryan had too much to work through and appearing at such an important moment would only take away from what Ryan deserved to be concentrating on, like he was doing now.

“Well getting you up to date on that will take ages, not to mention I want to know about your family too. Why don’t we just talk about the one thing I actually want to talk about with you, then presumably, we have the rest of our lives worth of time for us to catch up on what’s been going on with family and whatever else. This break, it’s all been on your terms. I have been living my life in the meantime but I have been ready for this talk since I left that first night. That’s my position on this. You’re not less important than my family, you’re part of my family, and really, they are leaving soon but I know we’ll have plenty of phone calls and visits, their not the ones I am worried might walk out of my house and my life. You on the other hand, I don’t know what will happen if I let you leave. I’d rather sacrifice some time with them right now, to make sure I will have time with you forever.” He tells Jasper then pats the bed to signal for Jasper to sit down. His control and strength in facing this was so different from what Jasper was use to, it definitely seemed like the break had been somewhat good for him. He didn’t have to rely on Jasper to be the voice of reason anymore, thank god because that would have been a disaster.

They sit down on opposite ends of the bed, the distance between them uncomfortable. It felt like their whole relationship, all the highs and lows were sitting between them, like a reminder of all the things they had to get through to make it back to one another which despite the optimism from Ryan and the willingness from Jasper still seemed like a huge amount of issues.

“So, I leave you alone for half a year and a whole family comes out of the woodworks, huh? And is your dad Australian or was I imagining the accent?” Jasper asks.

“Yeah, I know, it’s weird isn’t it? They just found me too, Brayden's studying some history stuff and had an assessment to do a search of their family history. Apparently uh, James, my 'dad', not a term I'm very use to saying yet, encouraged Brayden to reach out and so he did. I conducted my own ancestry search to make sure they weren't just reaching out to me because of who I am, and then invited him to visit." Ryan shrugs.

"How are you feeling about it all? It's gotta be a lot to find out your dad has another kid and to meet them both. How old is Brayden?" Jasper asks.

"I don't quite feel right calling him 'dad' because I think that title is more about who you are to someone. He fathered me, but he's not my parent, you know? I don't want to just start calling him dad. I think that'd make my mum feel, I don't know, I just don't want to take away from the fact that she raised me entirely on her own. He can't just appear now and be given an equal title. It's complicated, I can't explain it well. Anyway, Brayden is 19 and he makes me feel really old. He talks about all these stories from university and parties and clearly he doesn't have the social anxiety I do because he's really into all of that stuff and it all sounds like a nightmare to me." Ryan replies with a laugh.

"So are they going to be very involved in your life now?" Jasper asks.

"James wants to be, and I think Brayden is just excited about it. He researched me before he came and I guess the fame does have some effect on his interest in me. We don't have a lot in common other than that. He's a socialite and a party animal, he's also got ADHD so his brain never stops and he's easily distracted by things. And with James, I mean he's been in the army for a long, long time. He's very noble and modest about it all, but I don't know much about the army and I'm not really sure I want to know. Likewise, he's got nothing in common with his queer, dancing son. They don't have an issue with me, they just can't relate." Ryan sighs, not as thought he wished things were different, but just not entirely phased. As a kid, he'd imagined meeting his dad one day, but the older he got and the more he appreciated his mum, the less important it had seemed. "Talking about weird dad things, have you talked to your dad about your sexuality? His conversation with me at the wedding was very unexpected.” Ryan comments as he sips the champagne glass, remembering that night, that Jasper was struggling with sobriety. He puts the glass down on the bedside table, understanding now why Jasper had refused a drink before.

“Well, not with such words as ‘sexuality’. They did ask about you in not a totally disgusted way a while back and recently when I saw them I mentioned that I was going to see you again and they actually said they would pray for me that the conversation would bring me comfort so I guess if they are praying for a couple of gays to get back together then that’s something. I’m not pushing it. There seems to be some understanding and respect, I think they are just grateful I am alive and it’s been a reality check for them.” Jasper shrugs.

“I thought it would be a long road, but at least they are opening up to the idea that you’re more than a sexuality. I am really glad they are showing you respect.” Ryan remarks.

“I am really glad that Brayden is your brother and not your new boyfriend.” Jasper starts off with a light joke, feeling nervous now that he was actually having to start working his way through all the things that had torn them apart.

“Can't believe you thought he was my boyfriend.” Ryan comments, unable to hold back an amused laugh. Admittedly when Simon had called and updated him on the conversation, he’d wanted to punch himself in the head for not realizing Jasper would have made that assumption. Thinking back, Jasper had clearly hinted to it when he’d rocked up at their house the night Ryan had taken Brayden to meet his mum, but Ryan had overlooked it. He had actually walked around being quite pissed off after talking to Simon, because if he’d known that weeks ago this wouldn’t have been an issue at all. Regardless, it’d since become funny to him.

“Yeah, well you didn't exactly explain who he was, so what was I meant to think when he answered your door and was talking about meeting your mum? That was when I first intended to reach out, the only reason I didn't stay was because I thought I was getting in the way of your new relationship.” Jasper tells him. Ryan raises an eyebrow at him sceptically, he was sure the other issue from the night would come up but maybe not while his family was in the next room.

“Because he’d definitely be my type.” Ryan says sarcastically, trying to help keep things light, for now.

“Well, your type hasn’t exactly been good in the past, so yeah, I did think maybe you were switching it up because you were traumatized by your nightmare exes.” Jasper shrugs. Ryan doesn’t reply, just gives a sigh and has another sip of his drink. “I’m really sorry for what I put you through.” Jasper looks down at his hands anxiously, sending the conversation straight into the deeper issues and wishing himself that he hadn’t because if they could have just maintained some anecdotal comments and jokes about how this was all a misunderstanding, then they wouldn’t have to confront the facts that this was falling apart way before Jasper mistook Brayden’s relationship to Ryan.

“Just to be clear, I’ve not been thinking about your situation in the same way you have been. You can compare yourself to him all you like but it’s not the same and it’s not how I have been seeing and feeling about it all. I realize you feel guilty about everything but you don’t need to. And you don’t need to project that onto me, because the last thing I want to do is make you feel bad about getting through grief. You never made me feel bad when I had my bad days...” Ryan defends Jasper. He knew, he knew Jasper had been comparing himself to Damien and it broke him to think about how bad Jasper was seeing his own actions and how harshly he was criticizing himself.

“You never treated me the way I treated you.” Jasper looks over at Ryan like he was the one that was pulling out the wild comparisons.

“I wasn’t trying to self-destruct.” Ryan states, calling Jasper’s behaviour out for exactly what it had been. Jasper looks into his eyes, trying to work out how to feel about Ryan’s statement, part of him thought he could be offended but Ryan’s expression was sympathetic, understanding. “I realized after the first time I visited you when we had broken up, that you were deliberately falling apart and trying to push me away by making yourself out to be a heartless jerk. Would you agree?” Ryan asks. Jasper watches Ryan sip again at his drink and wishes he’d taken him up on the offer of a drink earlier.

“Absolutely. I just wanted to honour him by never getting over his death, but every moment I forget, I feel like I am the worst person and I know that’s really unhealthy. I know I need to finally take a step forward and stop letting this hold me back and I’m finally ready to do that. And I know you wanted to be there for me and I’ve not been letting you. I convinced myself I needed to be alone and miserable. It was my way of being alive enough to remind myself how much I wished I wasn’t.” Jasper admits with a deep exhale. He’d not said that out loud before and it brought tears to his eyes again to actually acknowledge that though he’d not been actively suicidal, he’d definitely not been that far from it. Secretly hoping something would happen by accident, that everyone could look at and forgive him for because he hadn’t actually done it to himself.

“Yeah.” Ryan sighs. “I’m not surprised. It’s hard too, because in that place, you think ‘I wouldn’t actually do it, so I’m not that bad’ but wanting to die, that’s bad. You can be in a bad place without actually hurting yourself, I don’t think enough people talk about that. The night when you were high and called me, I was really worried about you just slowly letting yourself slip away. I could see you were heading there and I wanted so badly to fix everything...”

“You did so much for me that night and I just made you feel like shit about yourself for it.” Jasper groans, covering his face with his hands ashamed.

“Again, you’re thinking about it from the perspective of someone who was at his lowest and feeling like a burden. I could have told you a thousand times over that you didn’t owe me anything but you would still feel bad about it. I actually didn’t leave feeling like shit, I left feeling really sad for you that you were still punishing yourself. But I know change doesn’t happen in a day so I didn’t expect it. I just wanted for you to have some evidence to contradict the thoughts of being worthless that you were torturing yourself with because the thing about anxiety and depression is your thoughts are so negatively focused that unless you can look at yourself and your surroundings and see that you are important and cared for and loved, you’ll just keep going downhill.” Ryan tells him.

“This isn’t the time to mention it.” Jasper laughs to himself through the welling tears. “But that was such a good night.” He states, glancing at Ryan who laughs too, knowing exactly what Jasper was talking about. “Although I’ve seen my face when I’ve cried and I am so sorry you had to look at that when you were trying to be so loving.” Jasper was back to trying to lighten the mood and it was working.

“You know, I was in absolute awe of the strength it took for you to express every emotion you needed to without trying to hold back or worry about how I would react. To let yourself be sad in a moment where you’re already vulnerable, is truly so incredibly telling of how strong you really were. Those moments were difficult, but to know you felt safe enough to just let yourself fall apart, really made me feel so special and it’s one of the main reasons I didn’t leave that day with no hope for us. If you’d just been emotionally numb and going through the motions then told me you didn’t love me anymore I would have believed you. I didn’t for a second think you could truly not love me, after you’d spent the night letting all your walls down in front of me. It was in so many ways, such a difficult night because I saw how badly you were really coping, but most people go through their whole lives not being that raw with each other, so I cherish that you were comfortable enough with me, to not hold anything back. I had so much respect for you after that.” Ryan gives him a smile.

“I’m glad someone had respect for me, because I sure didn’t.” Jasper chews his lip. Again, the topic was close but neither of them wanted to bring up the other guy yet.

“So, if you hadn’t assumed Brayden was my new boyfriend, was that the night you were going to have this talk?” Ryan asks, diverting the conversation.

“Yeah but, I’m kinda glad it wasn’t. I feel like I still wouldn’t have been ready to pull myself together. And you know what? It does feel really good to have pulled through that on my own, you know? Because I did need to show myself I had that strength.  God Ry, I pushed everyone away then realized I couldn’t push myself away so I spent easily the first 4 months trying to avoid clear thoughts, I knew I had to stop or cut back and I know I said it to you and I did mean it, it just felt so impossible and so pointless. That’s why I was struggling so much at Grace’s wedding, that was the first full day I spent sober, and that wasn’t intentional. There was a whole lot of moments that day where I honestly wished Grace hadn’t pulled a wedding out of nowhere because I just had to keep being sober and I shouldn't have been thinking about that, I should have been able to enjoy the night. It was the most exhausting time and I was not ok and I just didn’t want you to suffer with me. I really didn't know one day to the next, whether or not I was going to be able to function. It was such a bad time and I am ashamed of most of it. It took me so long to spend the days where I was completely sober, able to function with my sadness, not to mention being grossly sick. I tried so many times and just couldn’t do it, as soon as I was sober it just hurt too much. I really hate that you saw me in the states I was in because I was such a mess.” Jasper relaxes, like the weight finally lifting off his chest now that he was finally talking about it. Ryan moves a little closer to Jasper, placing a hand on his knee for comfort. “Especially the last time I came here. That was such a shit night.” Jasper covers his face with his hands, ashamed of himself.

“That doesn’t say much for the person you slept with.” Ryan teases, he couldn’t help but sound at least a little pleased that Jasper hadn’t had a ‘good night’ with someone else.

“I am so sorry I told you about that.” Jasper replies horrified with himself. “God I tried to forget about that.”

“Was it Leo?” Ryan asks, his eyes set on Jasper curiously. Jasper sighs and doesn’t answer for a moment, his hesitation giving Ryan the wrong impression. “Trust him to take advantage of you being at your lowest.” Ryan scoffs, rolling his eyes annoyed.

“Leo’s a good man, he came and found me when I stumbled out of a strangers house completely lost and miserable and drunk. He actually took me to Blake's grave and basically told me to cut out my shit. He also told me I needed to talk to you and sort myself out. He’d been trying to get me to talk to you for a while but when I called him, bawling my eyes out and told him I’d slept with someone, he stopped being nice about it and just said I needed to either sort things out with you, or he would start really babying me because I wasn't capable of looking after myself. It was his idea to take me to you that night. He has gone above and beyond to help me lately, and he's done a lot of things to get me out of my lowest. So maybe don’t shit talk Leo.” Jasper informs, Leo had been the only one able to actually keep him accountable, and it'd take a lifetime to repay him.

“You called him, crying about the hook-up?” Ryan frowns.

“Yep. I regretted it immediately.” Jasper answers, there hadn't been a day pass where he hadn't spent some amount of time hating himself over that night.

“Like how you regretted it after you and I hooked up?” Ryan asks.

“No.” Jasper says quickly, looking back at Ryan. “No I regretted that because you deserved better than for me to be selfish like I was. That wasn’t fair and I’m so sorry I did that. But it’s not the same, not even close to the same regret as I felt when I sat in the gutter on a street I didn’t recognize, waiting for my PA to pick my miserable ass up off the curb. I regretted that I lost everyone, that I pushed everyone away and that the only person I had to call on, is on my payroll and that the person I had broken down to and gone home with didn’t care a minute after he was done with me. I regretted that I’ve felt secure in being yours and it felt like a betrayal to have slept with someone else.” Jasper admits with tears in his eyes, he looks up at the roof and blinks them away, taking calming breaths.

“Jasper, as much as it pains me to think about you being with anyone else, you do not belong to me. You can and should be able to have a life even if I’m not the one you want to have it with. Don’t feel bad about sleeping with someone because of me.” Ryan sighs, he’d spent too long thinking about this and imagining he could vent how he felt to Blake, knowing Blake would have told him to get over himself and that they weren’t together, so Jasper could do what he wanted, with whoever he wanted.

“That’s not the point Ryan, and I think you probably felt the same way when I told you about it, as I did when I walked out of that house. Together or not, it felt like shutting the door on us.” Jasper wipes a tear from his cheek.

“It was, consensual, right?” He questions and Jasper tries to quickly decide how much he would tell Ryan.

“Bit of a grey area when copious amounts of alcohol are involved, from what I remember I did unfortunately willingly go with him. When I was at his place, he gave me Viagra and I took it without knowing what it was, it was stupid of me. I didn't say no when he made a move on me, but I know I didn't want it either. I let it happen, because I thought I wanted to, but I hadn't gone there with any intention of anything happening. It's wasn’t until I left and was outside in the fresh air, that I felt this grossly sobering feeling of 'I didn't want that, I wish I hadn't done that'. ” Jasper sighs, looking down at his hands as the difficult memory makes him ache with regret.

"That's. That's awful. I was already upset for you that you were taken advantage of, because you were clearly distressed that night. But to know he manipulated you into it..."

"I really don't want to talk about it, please? Not right now. I've dealt with it and now I just want to move on. I'm done letting things pull me down, I just want to get my life back on track." Jasper tells Ryan strongly. Ryan wanted to know more, he wanted to comfort, but he understood it was a trauma that Jasper wouldn't particularly want to be revisiting right now. “That hook-up was just me being pathetic and trashy.” Jasper comments.

“I wouldn’t say that. Obviously a jealous part of me wishes it wouldn’t have been some other guy that helped you realize you couldn’t keep living like this, but it doesn’t make you pathetic so don’t be so harsh on yourself. Everything that has happened since Blake passed away, I have never judged you for, I pushed everyone away plenty of times myself. I know what it’s like to think you’re not worth other people caring about you and then to find yourself just completely isolated with your own misery, you’re right, you can’t push yourself away. And it is a really big job to get yourself to a point where you’re ready to work through your shit. No one else can help you until you are ready. People don’t tend to get better until they can commit to getting better. I didn’t realize how much it sucks being the one pushed away. I get now why my mum felt so helpless when I was at my worst.” Ryan sighs.

“Your mum is the sweetest woman.” Jasper replies with a small smile, remembering the hug she’d given him and just feeling so warm and special.

“She gets that you weren’t being malicious, just projecting the hurt you’ve been feeling.” Ryan comments and for the first time Jasper feels like he really understands why he kept losing it at Ryan more than anyone. Projecting his pain. Trying to make Ryan hate him as much as he hated himself just because otherwise he had to accept that all the thoughts of worthlessness were only coming from his own head. The more Ryan proved him wrong, the more his depression resented being tested and the more he lashed out to sabotage that relationship. Like every positive and kind thing Ryan did or said was some kind of infection his brain was fighting against. “How are you now though?” Ryan asks, watching Jasper get lost in deep thought.

“I’m clean. I’ve sorted that much out on my own, I’m trying to stay sober now, it’s only been a little over a month but it’s a start.” Jasper shrugs, it felt like to anyone else, it wouldn't be a big deal but honestly, he was incredibly proud of himself.

"That's amazing to hear, I'm so glad you've taken that step and are taking care of yourself." Ryan gives him such a genuinely proud smile and Jasper feels his heart swell at Ryan's encouragement.

“I’m back at work and that’s helping so much, you were right about throwing myself into the music. It’s hard, because I have something important to work on that is taking a lot out of me emotionally. But I’m so passionate about it. I feel like I have a renewed sense of direction with my life.” Jasper sighs contently.

“Mark told me you were back at work.” Ryan smiles at Jasper.

“I thought he would have, because I did think it was suspicious how we hadn’t run into each other at work.” Jasper jokes.

“Trust me I’ve not been avoiding you. I just don’t really hang around in the recording areas, I am a bit freelance with choreography, Mark handles phone calls and refers me places. I’m rarely in the building.”

“It seems like things are going really well for you, it's so good to hear.” Jasper smiles at Ryan, but a thought crosses his mind that Ryan did seem better off without him. "I feel like I have done the healing that I can do on my own, and I know I have to learn to let people in, I've been really trying to do that the last month. I know with you especially, if you do want to be in my life again, I owe you all my best effort and will never stop trying to make up for the pain I put you through." Jasper tells Ryan sadly. "I can’t stand the thought of losing you again.”

“You never lost me, you just decided that you were better off without me.” Ryan reminds him gently.

“I just didn’t want to hurt you and I was in so much pain all I could do was hurt. What I needed was to just let you be there for me. It should have been you.” Jasper looks down at his hands embarrassed. “I just, I wasn’t ready to deal with us. The longer I left it, the more sure I was that I would be an inconvenience on you and I didn’t want to be like Damien, mess up your life, drop off the radar and then reappear when you were moving on.”

“Jasper I was never moving on. I cannot stress that enough. There was never the thought that I would. That I even could. I never considered us to be completely, without hope, over. I knew you were just lost in grief, I knew you would need your space some days, you’d need comfort other times, your head would be a mess of conflicting feelings and it’d take time for you to work out what you really wanted but I always believed you would come to me and we would have this conversation. I may have hated seeing it but I was never judging you or thinking less of you for how you dealt with things. I did have to guard myself a bit because it hurt, especially when you said you loved me and we had that night together and then you ended it with saying that you didn't love me anymore. That was particularly devastating because it was a direct contradiction to what you had said and what I had felt from you. I knew you still loved me and I knew you were saying it because you honestly thought you didn't, it must have been incredibly difficult to be in your head through that time. For you to be able to shut down the way you did to convince yourself you were unworthy. I believed what you said about turning to me when you were ready. That’s why I stepped right back and left the ball in your court. I wasn’t trying to move on, I wasn’t picturing a future without you being in it, I was just living my life until you were ready for that again.” Ryan tells him, his hand moving to hold Jasper’s as he sees Jasper getting emotional again.

"I never really let my guard down with you, I turned to Blake when I was upset and then without him... I have to let you be that person for me, I need to stop pretending to be fine around you, and start trusting you to be able to handle the lows.” Jasper sobs. Ryan puts his arm around Jasper and holds him tight.

“You know what letting me help you through your shit is called?” Ryan asks. Jasper looks at him confused and shrugs. “A relationship.” Ryan tells him with a smile. “You can’t shield me from your problems and expect us to last, that was never going to end well. I’ve been worried about how well you gloss over the big stuff, you barely told me anything about the conversion therapy you went to, and you probably should have. You bottle things up, and think you have to carry everyone else, but can’t dare put a single one of your problems onto anyone else. When you’re on a plane, they always tell you if an emergency happens, to put your mask on before helping anyone else, and that’s how it should be with everything in your life. Take care of yourself before anyone else.”

“I’m not good at that.”

“Blake was good at that with you. That’s why he was hard on me so much, because he knew you needed someone to see when you weren’t ok and help you open up about it. He trusted me to be that person for you, when he and I talked about my plans as your life long partner. He trusted me before you did, to look out for you.” Ryan sighs at the irony.

“I know. That’s why I’m here. To take care of myself, and let you take care of me too. And I’m really going to need your support and love and comfort. I haven’t quite accepted Blake’s death yet, but I know that’s the next step I will be dealing with and I don’t want to go through all the feelings that will come with that, on my own.” Jasper wipes away his tears.

“And you never had to. Never. I was always going to be here for you to hold you through the bad times. I was never in the relationship just for the good parts. I mean for gods’ sake the whole basis of it was me realizing I could be vulnerable to someone and he would still love me. You know I realized that night, when I was threatening to jump in front of a train because I couldn’t imagine life getting any better, when you were holding my hand on that stupid train, that I never had to be alone, that I always had you to turn to, and then when you needed me you just shut me out. You showed me every time I was dealing with something, that I had your support and your love and that gave me the strength to get through everything. But when the table turned you pushed me away, talked about not wanting me to be pulled down with you. If I hadn’t pulled you down with me that night, you would have never known how far down I was, and I wouldn’t have seen how to get back up. Ever wonder why they say ‘for better or for worse’ in wedding vows? Because love is getting each other through the worst life has to throw at you, just as much as it’s about the good moments.” Ryan points out, his fingers rubbing the ring on Jasper’s finger.

“What made you call me that night? I know we had kissed, but it’s like you said, it wasn’t until that night that you realized I was there for you, so why did you call me?” Jasper asks.

“To prove to myself that even if I reached out, no one would care. I didn’t expect you to answer. I reached out as a final effort before I completely gave up, and you answered. I wanted to prove I was nothing, and you ran to make sure I knew that even if I had given up myself, you weren’t going to give up on me. That was a mindfuck of a night, because I didn’t think I deserved you and yet you were just there, holding my hand and staying by my side. I still can’t believe I was lucky enough to have you fall in love with me. I felt like I was nothing and like I deserved everything I was dealt and you stood by my side and demanded better for me, supported my choices, encouraged me and loved me through it all.” Ryan shrugs and runs his fingers across Jasper’s cheek to brush away a tear. “It’s my turn to do all of that for you. This is your phone call moment and I’m here to show you that even though some things will always hurt, I won’t give up on you, that I support you and that I will love you through all of it. If you’ll just let me.” He sighs. “And I’ll drive you to that beach and walk along it with you all night if that’s what you need, like you did for me when I needed to realize I had someone I could turn to when I was at my lowest, who would respect and love me despite it all.” Ryan says with a grin, holding Jasper’s hand tight, his eyes falling on the ink on Jasper’s wrist.

“I don’t think you should drive, you did have a few sips of champagne before.” Jasper smiles at Ryan. “But I love the sentiment. I promise, that I might not be good at letting you take care of me, but I won’t push you away again.” Jasper bites his lip, Ryan could see it’d be a challenging time ahead for them, but they had gotten through every other challenge and been stronger because of it, as long as they both did their part, there was no reason they couldn’t get through this too.

"Speaking of sentiment, two things I've noticed here." Ryan states, his thumb brushing over the tattoo on Jasper's wrist. "I love this." He tells him.

"Flynn has a matching one. It brings more comfort than I thought a word permanently inked into your skin could." Jasper states with a sad smile.

"I think it’s great, Blake would love it too.” Ryan smiles.

“I really think he would.” Jasper agrees with a bittersweet smile.

And this?" Ryan asks with a frown, moving his fingers across to the familiar gold band Jasper was wearing.

"Yeah, did you know they can just like, smelt it back and remake gold rings?" Jasper asks, looking at Ryan hoping for some signal that it was alright that Jasper was wearing it. “I found somewhere, took the broken ring in and two days later picked this up.” Jasper slides it off his finger and passes it to Ryan. “It’s the same right? Or very close to the same at least. Just smelted and remade.”

"Is that what we're doing now? The relationship version of smelting it down and remaking it?"

"I like to think so. I don't expect everything to just go back to how it was, but I do hope we can get back there." Jasper's eyes look into Ryan’s. Seeing the emotions that were running through him, reflected in Ryan’s eyes too.

“The guys said you moved out?” Ryan asks, looking at his bed and hoping that it would not feel so empty anymore.

“Yes. But.” Jasper takes a deep breath and holds it for a moment. He had been thinking this over and though his heart wanted to never leave Ryan's arms, he knew they had a lot to work on still. “I don’t want to move in with you. At least not for a while. This break, it’s been so hard but it’s forced us to learn more about ourselves and what we need from each other. The whole relationship has been so full on and busy and I really think I want to just date you. I want to go on dates, we’ve still never been on a proper date. I want to spend nights here and when I get settled somewhere I want you to spend nights there, but between times I want us to have space to keep working on ourselves outside of the relationship. That way when we are ready to live together again we can get a place together, and come into it knowing what we need and how to ask for it, give it and receive it from each other, and know who we are better. Are you ok if we take things slowly?” He asks and stares deeply into Ryan's eyes. He feels as though he was being pumped with electricity as Ryan entwines their fingers again and leans in, kissing Jasper with what felt like an almost painful amount of love, as though he'd saved it up for every day they were apart and that backed up surge of love was moving straight from his lips to Jasper's. The tenderness of the kiss reminding them both of what they left behind. They hold the kiss as if afraid the moment their lips parted they would lose each other for good. Ryan is the first to break the kiss, he leans back and uses his thumb to wipe a tear of Jasper's cheek.

"I think it's a good idea, to go back into this with the space and time we need to work ourselves out. Can I convince you to at least stay tonight?" Ryan whispers, understanding Jasper's logic, but wanting nothing more than to have him in his arms forever.

"It wouldn't take much convincing, because I don't want to be anywhere else, not tonight." Jasper nods, being granted another passionate kiss at the excitement and joy it brought them both to imagine falling asleep in each other's arms once again, at last.

"I love you." Ryan breathes.

"I love you too. Thanks for not giving up on me.” Jasper smiles.

“You are worth holding onto, even when you don't see it yourself. Ryan smiles back.

“I hope so, after everything, I don’t feel worthy at all, of you.” Jasper sighs.

“Well as someone I love once said to me, 'luckily you don’t get to decide for me, what your worth is in my eyes’.” Ryan tells him sweetly as he stands up, taking Jasper’s hand and leading him back to his waiting family. Jasper couldn’t help but smile as he only vaguely remembers using that line to reassure Ryan once when Damien first reappeared, and now here he was, having to take his own advice. Advice that must have meant a lot to Ryan for him to remember it all this time. They walk hand in hand back to the kitchen, where Ryan announces that they were back together at last, which earns them a cheer from the rest of Ryan’s little family. In this moment, with Ryan by his side and the support of Jules and the new members of the family, Jasper thinks that maybe past Jasper had it right, it wasn’t up to him to decide how worthy he was of anyone else's love.


"For those of you who don’t know me, I am very sorry for your boring life. I’m Blake, Jasper’s co-conspirator, band mate and self proclaimed crisis manager. I have known this guy since he was ‘straight’ and I have known Ryan here since Jasper stopped thinking he was ‘straight’. Now he swears he didn’t know, but when these guys first met, Jasper flirted with him and Ryan just kinda stood there all nervous and silent and smiling and I imagine secretly being stoked about it. Now Ryan might have seen this confident and casual persona Jasper likes to put on, but I had to listen to every stage of his developing feelings, every single thing he ever questioned, I had to sit through. Yes, EVERY thing. (prolonged stare at Ryan to make sure he gets the insinuation). So, you’re welcome Ryan, I feel partly responsible for this relationship not falling apart whenever he couldn’t express his feelings right. I absolutely take credit for being the one that was behind solving every issue you guys faced. That’s not saying I was always team Ryan, I like to think of my relationship with Ryan as being similar to that of a personal trainer. I push him to be better, and there’s no doubt that he’s probably hated me at times. Just to be clear, my pushiness has been out of my protectiveness towards Jasper, not a personal issue I have with Ryan, I have nothing against Ryan.(find a better way to explain why you’ve been a dick).

I do think that since the moment these two met, there’s been something pulling them together despite the way the universe kept continually trying to force them apart. These two have faced everything with the goal of supporting each other and growing through each drama. For those of you keeping count, that’s been approximately 29584 dramas. They have proved time and time again, that their love (gag noise) is strong enough to survive anything. The world could end and these two would still be standing together. It's been admirable watching them navigate the problems with the one aim of coming out of everything stronger than ever.

When Ryan asked me if he could marry Jasper my first thought was 'good fucking luck with that idea', but being a bit of a sadist I encouraged him and the more I got to know Ryan's side of this love story, the more I realized that Jasper needed me to make the smart decision for him, and be the first to say yes. It was a joy watching Ryan trip over his own words trying to find ones to describe how he felt for Jasper, and it was even more brilliant to watch the cogs in Jasper's head turn from 'Oh shit he's proposing' to 'why did I think I didn't want this, holy shit'.

Anyone that knows Jasper, will probably question my next statement, but, Jasper's maturity has many times blown my mind. i know what you're thinking, 'what maturity' but trust me, some of the things he's had to deal with and handled with limited amount of physical violence, the patience and consideration he has for everyone else is genuinely impressive. Living proof of that include our ex boss, who definitely deserved a big old punch in the face and instead had his life calculatedly destroyed by Mr Angel face right here. A certain ex, I won't say more on him but fist emojis sum it up. (talk about when Jasper came out and how he's grown as a person since then...).(Insert embarrassing (find out if his parents will be there) stories from tour/bucks night).

So as his best man, I have to share with you Ryan, some rules for your life with Jasper.

Rule number one, he is a master at diversion. Don't fall for his shit. Chances are if he says he's ok, he's not. Getting a straight honest answer out of him when it comes to his feelings, is it’s own kind of challenge but if you’re taking him on for life, you’ll learn to see through his attempts to convince you he's 'fine'. You can do it, I believe in you.

Rule number two, you're never going to be right. This one makes rule number one difficult to manage and I don't have any advice, other than understand that you cannot tell him anything unless he has come to that conclusion also. Jasper is as stubborn as anything, he could be on fire and still tell you he can put it out himself.

Rule number three, take care of him or I'll break your face. I've included a bunch of fist emojis for emphasis on this one. 👊👊👊👊👊👊👊

Rule number four, Jasper under no circumstances should be allowed to say the following statements. 'I'm ready to settle down' 'I am not going to keep performing' 'This was all Blake's idea'. If he so much as mutters any of those, contact me immediately for intervention and finally; this one is the most important one.

Rule number five, don't give up on him. Because I know that he will never give up on you. I am thrilled to stand here today, witnessing the marriage of two people that have truly kicked all the odds in the balls. I hope from here on out that there is nothing but happiness for the two of you, and swarm of kids I'm sure Ryan will have paperwork signed for before we leave tonight. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for you both,and to hear the oddly fascinating details of your private lives that I will undoubtedly be told along the way. (wink at Ryan to assert fear)So raise a glass to this badass and his new husband, to love that outlasted all the bullshit, to Jasper and Ryan, congratulations, cheers!"



~The End~

The end?

For the story I set out to tell with these two, yes. But that doesn't mean this is the last you're likely to see... Stay tuned. ;) 

@Copyright (2018), Claire Rosalind; All Rights Reserved.
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What a great chapter and story. Jasper is finally getting to the point where he is going to be a better person than he was prior to Blake’s death and after until he was told to straighten himself out or he would lose the love of his life. I think he took a big chance coming to Ryan to see if they could get back together again after all the hell he was put through by Jasper acting like he didn’t care about anyone or anything.

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The way you wrote these characters I think there will always be interesting stuff to write about.Thank you for a very touching story.You hinted we might see them again I'll be looking forward to it.I just looked at the page with all your stories listed and I see it's already there but no chapters yet so readers get ready.

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Awesome chapter to end a truly awesome story. Jasper and Ryan's story was very touching, difficult to read in parts, but felt so real.

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I’m actually really happy Blake got the last word. He’s been the observer as much as a primary character throughout the story. Having his wedding speech at the end was a brilliant idea.

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I am assuming that last part was a letter written by Blake for Ryan just before the surgery that killed him.

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