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Do You Ship Us? - 13. Alone

Beth made a post on her social media, announcing that her relationship had ended with Jasper due to realizing the two were much better off as friends, also denying that he had kissed anyone prior to the break-up and suggesting they had simply not felt a need to announce the break-up until they had time to process it themselves. Her claim went back to say that they had agreed to end their romantic relationship due to realizing they weren’t able to make each other happy and that she wished him nothing but happiness. It was polite of her to protect his image, even though they weren’t together and she had no reason to be so considerate of him. She could have very easily outed Jasper and ruined his life. It was a relief to wake up and find that people were still supporting him, considering the cold atmosphere he felt as soon as he dragged his sorry ass out of bed and faced the rest of the band.

“Aren’t you lucky that even after you stuffed her around and treated her like nothing, she defends you.” Blake says as he turns his phone around to show that he's reading her post.

“Unbelievably lucky.” Jasper nods. He had read Beth’s post half a dozen times and tried to see where in it, there was even a hint of the girl that had hated him so much to insult him in such a harsh way last night. He’d put it down to in-the-moment anger and shock, obviously she’d been projecting her hurt onto him and though that wasn’t fair, it was completely understandable.

“Hey, why is Ryan not here?” Simon asks Jasper quietly, not wanting to alert Blake to the person they were talking about for fear of triggering him again.

“Oh, he felt uncomfortable about, everything.” Jasper shrugs. Thankfully no more questions were directed his way about it. Jasper was both desperate and anxious to see Ryan again, he didn’t know what he would do when he saw him but he knew he wanted to be near him, that he wanted to know more about how he felt around Ryan. It was completely isolating with Ryan being the only person he could talk to about what he was going through, and he was afraid that Ryan wouldn't want anything to do with him now. Everything had been simple a few months ago. He may have been living a lie, but it was simple at least. He had friends, he had a secure relationship that was going nowhere. He wanted it all back, but knowing how good Ryan's lips felt against his, he also knew he could never go back, he'd never be able to get it out of his mind and he absolutely feared the reality that he would have to try again; to see for sure if what he felt in that moment was a burst of lust and attraction.

The silence in the car drive to work was almost suffocating but he was grateful to not be being quizzed over the night. He was also grateful to not be wedged between the two people he was most uncomfortable around. As soon as they are parked, Jasper hurriedly gets out of the car and rushes off ahead of the group to get inside. Though Luke, Simon and Blake didn't know the extent of what had been going on with Jasper, they did feel tense walking into work that day. There had been so much drama happening recently that the dynamics of the group were hard to keep up with. Surprisingly it's only Ryan they find in their practice room, and he's sitting there having Fi cover up the bruise from last nights' altercation.

“Ryan. Hi.” Blake approaches Ryan slowly, wanting to show him he wasn’t coming over for a fight. Fi packs away her make-up bag and smiles politely at Blake before leaving them to sort themselves out. “Look, I really wanted to apologize for last night, I shouldn’t have hit you. That was way out of line. Are you ok?” Ryan looks at Blake, his lip was a little swollen from being busted but he didn’t look bad other than that, Fi was truly magical with make-up.

“It’s alright, I understand, you were just mad.” Ryan shrugs, his response so passive that Blake wasn't sure which one of them was more uncomfortable with it. “I mean it’s not alright, but I’m willing to accept your apology and move forward.” Ryan corrects his first response. Blake nods, relieved, then looks down at his feet ashamed.

“I was jealous, I have had a thing for Beth forever, she must have known how I felt, but she chose to kiss you the first time she met you. It just really annoys me.” Blake complains, slipping his hands into his pockets and looking at the door to make sure Jasper wasn’t going to walk in and hear him talking about his ex. “I am not usually like that and I am sorry that I took my anger out on you like that. It wasn’t ok and I will never do it again.”

“Blake, she kissed me on Jasper’s birthday. I think she used me to get a point over to Jasper that if he didn’t want her she could find someone else. I’m pretty sure, given the strong friendship you’ve got with him and the way you feel about her, you wouldn’t have wanted to kiss her, in those circumstances, to be used against Jasper. And for the record, yes we kissed but we did come to the conclusion that that was all it was. She's not my type, I'm not a threat if you want her and Jasper even encouraged her to give you a chance. Speaking of, how is he this morning?” Ryan asks, confused about why Jasper wasn't there, he felt torn about whether he’d been right to walk out last night when Jasper needed support, or not, and having Jasper not come in with the rest of the band made him think the latter, that he was not handling coming to terms with himself alone.

“He’s barely talking, thinks I am mad at him so he’s avoiding all of us." Blake shrugs, taking his phone out and sending Jasper a text to ask where he is.

“Are you mad at him?” Ryan asks, wanting to suss out whether or not Jasper had good support for what he was going through. He'd seen enough over his short time in the band to know Jasper and Blake were close, and he'd never heard Jasper mention other friends. Even Simon and Luke seemed distant, they rarely hung out together. Jasper was kind of lost whenever Blake wasn't there, so he couldn't imagine, how he was handling this if even they weren't talking.

“I don’t really know. I shouldn’t be, but he hurt her you know? I didn’t realise she was hurting him too though so I guess they both went about it the wrong way. They really weren't a good couple, I just didn't think they would start kissing other people before breaking up.” Blake shrugs.

“Well, maybe as his friend, check in with him, he was upset last night too, she’s not the only one hurting right now and there’s no reason you can’t be there for both of them. He deserves someone to be there for him. I mean, I get that you like Beth and all that, but surely you care that he wasn't happy in that relationship and maybe he has found someone he could be happy with.” Ryan suggests quietly, as the manager walks in the room. Blake looks at Ryan, nodding as he considers what he's saying. Ryan was right, Blake did want his best friend to be happy as well and he did deserve it.

“What’s going on with Jasper and Beth. He won’t tell me anything.” Chris asks.

“If he doesn’t want to tell you, maybe it’s not your business to know.” Blake crosses his arms, showing he had no intention of telling Chris anything. Ryan smiles beside him, he was glad he and Blake had hashed out the issue last night and that he'd managed to encourage a bit more support in Jasper's direction. He himself wasn't sure how to approach Jasper yet, he felt guilty for not being there for him of course but he wanted Jasper to come to him when he was actually ready to acknowledge what he felt. As much as it did feel selfish to distance himself in the meantime, Ryan had enough of his own concerns to worry about and the thought of adding the roller coaster of emotions and questioning Jasper was going through on top of that was just too much.

“You must be happy, did you break them up so you could date her?” He asks jokingly but no one looked even the slightest bit amused by his comment, having been the front line audience to the shit show. Taking the seriousness of the expressions and the utter silence as a hint, Chris takes a different approach. “I just want to know what’s going on within the group. They’ve broken up but there’s a lot of support for both of them from what I’ve seen.” He comments, taking his phone out and quickly searching 'Jasper and Beth break-up', finding no new reports or statements from when he'd looked before he came in. “Just wanted to see why he wasn’t making a statement himself.” Chris sighs as though disappointed.

“Respect that. He’ll talk about it when he’s ready. Where is he anyway?” Blake asks, assuming that Chris had already tried to get some information out of him and upon failing had turned to the rest of the group.

“In the other room.” The manager shrugs. “Anyway the other news is that we’ve been invited to perform next week at the music awards night, one of the performers is sick and unable to so they asked us to fill the spot. It will be just two songs, so get to work deciding on which ones you want to perform and Ryan, we’re going to need to see some dancing from you. Get the guys involved too. I want full rehearsals happening by the end of the day. And uh, if you want to bring Beth, I’m sure that’d make for a drama filled night.” Chris winks at Blake who just shakes his head in disgust.

“Maybe I'll take his wife, that'd stir up some real drama.” Blake suggests as soon as the manager is out of the room, his middle fingers both raised at the door as Jasper walks in. Blake quickly puts his hands down and Jasper glances behind himself then smiles. "That was at Chris, not you."

“Fair. What’d I miss?” Jasper asks sounding as casual as ever. He'd decided to take a minute to gather himself in the other room, so he could waltz in faking his usual confidence and putting the drama behind him, hoping that would keep anyone from wanting to ask him about it all.

“We’re performing at the music awards next week.” Blake announces, also pretending like nothing had happened and for a moment Ryan wonders if they were really not going to talk about anything and just sweep it under the carpet.

“What? Wasn’t the setlist already announced? They booked out performances before we even debuted, right?” Jasper asks, there was still a little air of discomfort as he walks over towards Blake and Ryan.

“Yeah but one has dropped out and we’ve been asked to fill their place. We’ve got to do two songs and Ryan is going to be making us dance. I'm sorry for being a jerk by the way." Blake puts his arms out for a hug as Jasper gets closer to them.

“I don’t blame you, but thanks.” Jasper answers, giving Blake an awkward hug. He wasn’t sure how to be towards him now, if he came forward about what the reason behind his relationship with Beth not working out was, he was afraid that Blake would be different around him, and that the occasional hug wouldn’t happen out of discomfort. He couldn’t help imagining how different things would be if everyone knew he’d kissed Ryan, who he makes the mistake of looking at while he's hugging Blake and quickly steps away again, giving Blake a nod as if to say 'we're good now'. The thing with Blake was that there was and had always been friendly affection. He knew that Blake was very straight, he'd heard enough about Blake's previously exciting sex life to know he'd had opportunities to experiment with guys and never acted on it, never wanted to either. But he'd always also been comfortable to hug Jasper, put his arm around him when they walked or to play up a little bit in front of an audience and get a little extra touchy. Jasper didn't want that to stop, nor did he want it to be more than what it was. Until now it'd felt fine and normal for them to act that way, to be the kind of friends that could have the world fooled that they were secretly lovers. God, not questioning his sexuality had been relaxing. There felt like a lot to lose all of a sudden.

Without the chance to go off and spend time alone together because of this last minute show preparation, Jasper was searching for a chance to have a quiet conversation with Ryan without bringing too much attention to them. The longer they had to be in the same room, not talking, the bigger it felt like the elephant was getting. The added insult was having to watch Ryan put together a simple dance routine to one of their songs. It shouldn't have been using up so much of his brain power to just not look over at Ryan but it was just about every third thought he was having and every time he ignored his constant mantra like 'don't look at him, don't look at him' reminder he regretted it. Kissing Ryan had opened the Pandora's box of suppressed thoughts and feelings that he shouldn't have and the mere sight of Ryan dancing with a concentrated look on his face and his skin painted with a thin layer of sweat over his perfect dancer biceps was bringing up quite a few thoughts that apparently a lifetime of Sunday School and conservative parents hadn't magically made him immune to.

Finally, they call time for a break. Luke works out what they are going to eat, while Simon talks to Blake quietly, seeing what the go was with him and Ryan, leaving the man who's sweat even managed to smell good all to Jasper. His heart was racing as he moved over to talk to him, except the moment he's close to Ryan he suddenly forgets how to form words and just stands there waiting to be struck down by lighting for even approaching Ryan after all the thoughts he'd just had.

“Are you ok?” Ryan asks, looking Jasper up and down with an ambivalent expression.

“Sorry to bother you, I just wanted to say, I’m really sorry about the position I put you in last night. Are you coming home tonight?” Jasper asks, he knew Ryan had said he needed space but Jasper wanted the opposite. He wanted to know what the hell it was about Ryan that was keeping him from being able to think about literally anything else. He wanted the answer to his question and he was pretty sure that answer was on Ryan's lips.

“It’s better if I have space from the situation.” Ryan answers, looking away from Jasper before quietly muttering, “Sorry.”

“Ok.” Jasper gives a disappointed sigh, terrified at the thought that Ryan might not want anything to do with him. It's not like Ryan owed him at all, it was one kiss and it was Jasper that had made the move and then run away from him. "I wish I could read your mind." He admits.

“Hah, jokes on you. I have severe anxiety. Reading my mind would be like walking into a room full of people and having to listen to all their different conversations all at once.” Ryan gives a nervous laugh that makes Jasper instantly smile.

“That sounds awful."

“It legitimately is. As an introvert, it can be exhausting having to listen to all the thoughts flooding my head sometimes, that’s why I need space at the moment. I need to sort out my own head before I complicate it with anything else. I really just can’t hear anything from anyone right now.” Ryan admits running his hands over his face, he seemed exhausted. Jasper couldn’t imagine, there was very few times in his life where he’d felt anxious and even then he could only remember feeling completely frozen and forgetful, not overwhelmed with exhausting thoughts. He certainly wasn't an introvert either, he was incredibly extroverted. The more chaos around him, the more energy he felt. Now Ryan leaving his birthday early made sense, the way he felt more comfortable to talk through messengers than in person.

“How do you live like that?” Jasper asks.

“With extreme difficulty.” Ryan shrugs, giving a fake smile.

“Is that constant or just when your stressed?”

“It's fairly constant. But when I'm stressed it's like they are screaming. That's why I stress talk.” Ryan tells him, looking over at the other members when they call out asking him and Jasper to come and choose what they wanted for lunch. "Anxiety is great." Jasper feels every bit of the resentment in his tone.

“Wow, fuck that. I am definitely grateful not to have that. Is that why you like dancing? It keeps you mind busy?" Ryan looks at him with interest, impressed that Jasper had thought of that. Ryan hadn't really considered that himself but it did make sense. Dancing was an escape for him, he could just zone out everything and concentrate on the moves. "I need to talk to you sometime, about the other night. When you can, don’t stress about it though.” Jasper bites his lip, this was one of those times where he could pinpoint feeling anxious.

“Maybe.” Ryan answers, looking down at the ground and giving a shrug. “I know you probably need someone to talk to, but I don’t think that can be me right now. I wanted it to be, but I don’t think that’s a good idea at the moment. I’m sorry.”

“Are you trying to avoid me?” Jasper asks nervously.

“I don’t know.” Ryan admits with a sigh.“Right now I need to focus on coming up with dance moves for the show, and I can't do that around you right now. I really am sorry."

Sorry it's a small chapter! Also I've been meaning to say, I love reading all your comments along the way, I take on a lot of your thoughts on what has happened and what will happen next, as the author I have a little tunnel vision on where I want my story to go, but reading your comments gives me different perspectives on things! So thanks for supporting and hopefully enjoying this story~

Claire Rosalind
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Chapter Comments

While Jasper wants to be with Ryan--maybe try for a second kiss--Ryan's ambivalence towards Jasper is more than clear. Because of his prior violence, Blake is now awkward in dealing with Ryan and Jasper, but in turn, Jasper is awkward in dealing with Blake because of his sexuality. What a mess!  

 

Further, Ryan acknowledges severe anxiety issues. (Jasper must be quite smitten with Ryan, as he wishes to continue pursuing him despite his mental health problems. Perhaps he sees himself as part of the cure! 😊

 

The band now has a chance to play for the music awards. Perhaps the opportunity will bring the boys together (if it doesn't drive them apart first).

 

Edited by travlbug
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