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Do You Ship Us? - 18. Who's in Charge?

The trip home was perfect, without any pressure the guys were messing about on the yacht while the film crew got some candid playful footage. Blake had smuggled water balloons on board which was very mature but also exactly what they needed after a morning of sweating their asses off in the suits, so when Ryan is feeling better they get have a water balloon fight with the back drop of the orange sunset sky. Just so their ridiculous suits weren't completely wasted, Jasper suggests they put them back on as it's cooling down and gets Ryan to teach them a quick dance routine, which they perform in front of the camera crew on the top of the yacht. The girls got in on it too, Jasper, Luke, Simon and Blake take their jackets off and put it on the girls as it's finally cooling down and they take the boys places dancing behind Ryan for a comical looking moment where Ryan turns around to realize his band mates have turned into girls. The manager sat back watching them, having a few drinks and considering what to do with the day so it wouldn’t feel wasted. Depending on the look of the footage, a music video could be put together from the few hours or so of the group playing around, being themselves. It wouldn't have the same feel as he'd intended, if fact it was quite a mockery of what he'd set out for. But he wasn't about to let the hire of the yacht, film crew and dancers go to waste and getting Blake into a pastel suit again would never happen so he had to make do with what he got.

“Can we talk?” Blake finally pulls Jasper aside towards the end of the trip. Jasper nods and lets Blake lead him to a part of the yacht where they could be alone, drinks in hand.

“If this is about Ryan, he’s seriously not replacing you, you don’t have to worry.” Jasper jokes, nudging Blake.

"Of course not, I'm irreplaceable. Look at me." Blake shrugs with as much confidence as ever.

“Exactly. You’re still the best.” Jasper laughs, sipping at his drink.

“I hope you feel that way after we’ve had this conversation.” Blake sighs, looking over the side of the yacht and watching the waves coming off the boat, the water gold from the glow of the setting sunlight.

“Ok, that scares me. What’s going on?” Jasper steps back from him, sincerely concerned about what this could be about now, Blake rarely got serious with him over anything but Jasper had been caught up in his own world lately and forgetting to check in on anyone other than Ryan. He mentally reminds himself to pay more attention to other people and stop being so self absorbed.

“I just wanted to tell you something. You’re my best friend and I don’t want to keep anything from you, I will always be honest and tell you the truth.” Blake looks at Jasper nervously, the tension hanging over them shrouded in all of Jasper's fears. “Beth wants to go out to a bar with me.” Jasper looks at Blake feeling relieved and a little confused as to why this would be such a big problem for him then it hits him and he feels guilt wash over him. Blake was worrying about him being upset over Beth, when he was having a lot of fun enjoying this flirting and kissing and whatever this was that he and Ryan were starting to develop.

“Oh, right. Well that’s good, that’s like a dream come true for you.” Jasper looks away, wishing he could be honest with Blake too, but it was way too soon and he didn’t even know what their relationship was, to be able to explain it to Blake. He felt awful not telling Blake anything and he wished it could be no big deal to explain to Blake why it was completely fine, and that he had no interest in Beth romantically, but that was a conversation he wasn't ready to have and wouldn't have until he was absolutely 100% ready to fall on his sword with Ryan. Coming out was not a battle he would have unless he was sure he wouldn't be facing it alone if everyone decided to abandon him for him.

“Are you sure that’s ok? I don’t want to upset you at all so if it’s not ok, just tell me.” Blake sighs, clearly guilt was hitting him too, about his part in this, probably assuming he had bothered Jasper. "It’s ok. I won’t go out with her until you are ready so if you're not, like if you're still trying to work out feelings there I'll just say no. Our friendship matters more to me than dating." Again Jasper feels horribly guilty to have not even thought of Blake over the last 2 days. He'd been busy thinking about when he could get Ryan's tongue in his mouth again and nothing else felt like it mattered. So self absorbed.

“No, go out with her. It really doesn’t upset me. I wasn’t in love with Beth, she deserves the best and you’re 100 times better than me at being a boyfriend. I’m taking time for myself anyway.” Jasper shakes his head and rubs his eyes, it’d been a long exhausting day and he was feeling trapped, on this yacht, in this conversation, knowing that Blake deserved to know more than Jasper was ready to say.

“Are you ok?” Blake asks, he knew Jasper too well for Jasper to be able to hide when something was on his mind.

“No, this isn’t about you and Beth, but there’s stuff going on right now that I’m not in the right place to talk about so please, know we are good. Beth isn’t an issue and I promise I will talk to you in time.” Jasper tells him, stepping close and putting his arms out for a hug. Blake hugs him, pats his back and steps back again.

“Are you alright? I get you mightn’t want to talk about it but whatever it is, I will support you and be there for you.” Blake asks, giving him a comforting smile that serves as a reminder that Blake is not only better at being a boyfriend than Jasper ever was, but he was also much better at being a friend.

“I’m fine.” Jasper nods, trying to think of a way out of the conversation and considering diving into the ocean if Blake continues to push for answers.

“Have you told Ryan what it is?” Blake asks and Jasper sees an easy out.

“Careful Blake, your jealousy is showing.” He teases, deflecting the mood of the conversation back to their usual banter.

“I told you, I’m not jealous, I just hope you have someone to talk to. I know what your family is like, so if you’re going through a hard time, I really just want to know you’re not going through it alone. I was a little worried the other week when you were talking about being an alcoholic.” Blake replies, placing his hand on Jasper’s shoulder, really not letting up on the good friend thing.

“Oh, no I’m not an alcoholic, that was a complete joke, there was nothing serious behind that. A few drinking nights isn’t something to be worried about. I feel really bad, not being able to tell you but I’m just not ready to talk about it right now. Please don’t worry about me, because I will be fine. I’m happy and I’m good and I’m not really worried about it, it’s just a personal thing to work through.” Jasper assures him. Somehow everything felt simple when it was just him and Ryan, but any time he thought about having to tell anyone else he realized how complicated it all was and it felt too much to be worth it.

“Well I’m glad you’re ok at least.”

“Guys! We’ve got to get changed and get our stuff together, we will be docking soon.” Simon calls out to Jasper and Blake. Ryan, Luke and Simon are all sitting around quietly now, tired from the heat and the mismanagement of the day.

 

Getting back to the apartment was a relief for everyone who’d used up all of their energy and were ready for showers and to laze around for the night. Jasper retreats to his bedroom after a shower, lying on his bed looking over his file again while everyone else showered and got relaxed, they had no idea what Jasper was about to drop on them. It was even more important after the day they had experienced, that they definitely needed to talk about what they wanted to do with the manager. It had surpassed just mistreatment, seeing Ryan pushed to his absolute limit in conditions that anyone could have known was going to end in someone getting heatstroke. There's a light knock at the door and Jasper quickly hides the files under his pillow then turns around and calls out for them to come in. Ryan opens the door and steps in quickly, his hair was still damp from his shower and he wasn't wearing a shirt, only shorts. Jasper hated how much the sight of Ryan was becoming so overwhelming.

“Hey, how are you feeling?” Jasper asks, watching as Ryan closes the door and walks over towards the bed, for a moment Jasper thinks he's coming over to seduce him.

“Good. What did Blake want earlier?” Ryan asks him, taking a seat a friendly distance away from Jasper on the bed.

“What is it with you two? He’s jealous when I spend time with you, you’re jealous when I spend time with him...” Jasper sighs, stretching his arms in the air. “I had no idea I was that special.” He says with a cheeky grin that Ryan couldn't resist smiling back at.

“I’m not jealous, I was just wondering what he was talking to you about.”

“Beth asked him out, he wanted to make sure I’m cool with them and then wanted to know if you made the first move or not.” Jasper says, managing to keep a straight face as he watches Ryan’s range of emotions from shock to momentary panic to rolling his eyes as he realizes Jasper is teasing.

“Don’t do that to me.” Ryan says as he grabs Jasper's pillow and throws it at him.

“Thank you, I do need sleep." Jasper catches the pillow and cuddles it, resting his head for a moment. "You’re getting better at taking my jokes.”

“Mm, well you’re getting predictable, I’ve started to learn that you treat everything like a joke.” Ryan shrugs and lies down on the bed, resting his head on the pillow in Jasper's lap.

“Ouch. I don’t treat everything like it’s a joke. I’m about to have a very serious discussion with the guys about what they want to do with the manager. That isn’t a joke is it?” Jasper shifts out from underneath Ryan and moves off the bed, grabbing the files from his bed.

“Are you nervous about talking to the guys?” Ryan sits up, throwing Jasper's pillow back to the top of his bed, but still looking quite comfortable on Jasper's bed, laying back a little, propped up on his elbows.

“Well that depends, are you going to back me up?” Jasper asks as he reaches a hand out for Ryan, to pull him up off his bed.

"Always." Ryan takes his hand and pulls Jasper on top of him instead, rolling them over and pinning him to the bed. “I noticed you staring at me and the dancers today. Were you jealous?” He asks and Jasper finds himself missing the shy man that found him intimidating because my god had the tables turned.

“We aren’t dating so how can I be jealous?” Jasper tries to shrug it off, he tries to sit up but Ryan doesn’t move so as soon as he lifts himself from the bed he finds himself kissing distance from Ryan’s lips and forgets he was aiming to get away, completely distracted by the thought of kissing him again. He was finding himself quite addicted to those lips.

“Oh.” Ryan looks at Jasper’s lips with a smirk. “Well, if we’re not dating, then.” He moves off Jasper. “I guess that means kissing is off the table.”

“Yeah.” Jasper gives a disappointed sigh. “But apparently teasing isn’t.” He mutters, gets up and straightens out his clothes and hair. “Come on.” He grabs the paperwork he’d dropped on the floor in shock and opens the door. Ryan gets up and walks out behind Jasper, following him down the hallway and into the lounge room where Luke and Simon were discussing song lyrics while Blake argues about what he wanted to write and sing about. He and Ryan probably could have been making out for all the chance this conversation would end and any of the guys would come looking for them anytime soon.

“It just doesn’t seem fair that I don’t get to actually express myself in this band. It’s all love songs and shit. Where’s the dark and gloomy? I have dark emotions I want to be able to sing about. I've written more than 12 songs that have been straight up rejected because apparently they wouldn't appeal to our target audience of screaming teen girls.” Blake complains loudly while he gets himself a drink. "There's no creative freedom and I'm sick of it. It's absolute trash. Jasper will agree with me." Blake gestures at Jasper, bringing him into the conversation then frowning at all the stuff in Jasper's hands.

“You're right Blake, and you should be able to write and sing about what is important to you. We all should. But Chris isn’t interested in 'managing' this group, he wants to control us and manipulate us.” Jasper states and drops the files on the table like he had last night, just for dramatic effect.

“Jasper.” Simon begins.

“No, look. You can’t deny it all, where’s our income gone? We’re all sharing a place to live despite having broken record sales with our first album and a successful number of live performances. You can’t tell me, while that guy is turning up to work in a flash car everyday, and we are coming in one car together, that we are getting the share we are supposed to be from him. You can’t say that not letting Blake’s song ideas make it onto an album is ok. I don’t actually care if love songs sell better than dark songs because MCR built their career on writing songs like that and they were massively famous and still are. Blake said it himself that he feels like he was a Barbie doll when we were told how to dress and act. He makes you think you're making a decision that you want, but really you're making the decision he wants you to. Singing the songs he wants you to and he's 'advertising' us the way he wants to. Today's music video, up until he tried to hospitalize Ryan with heatstroke, did any of you honestly feel like it was going to feel like us up there singing? On a yacht, we can't even afford our own apartments. In pastel suits of all things? It wasn't us. What we did film, was us. We were having fun again, goofing around and being ourselves and just singing and enjoying it, that's what we wanted when we all signed up to join a band, isn't it? Are any of you 100% happy with his management of us since our first album?” Jasper asks, crossing his arms, watching the members all take in what he was saying.

“Where are you going with this?” Luke asks, taking his file and flipping through it curiously. “Does he know you have these?”

“Well he left his office unlocked so these were practically public access. And I took them to a lawyer...”

“You what? You’ve been to a lawyer about this already?” Simon snaps, getting up and grabbing his file. “Did you go through these?”

“I only went through mine, to see what I had agreed to in the fine print. The lawyer I saw said we can 100% take him to court for misconduct and probably plenty of other things.” Jasper informs them, holding up the printed out forms he'd been given in his meeting last night.

“I cannot believe you did this without consulting us.” Simon scoffs, snatching those forms from him too. “This is insane Jasper, you want us to take our manager to court.” He asks as he stares at the information before him, completely confused about what he was reading.

“What is insane is wanting to continue to be treated like crap and taken advantage of. We need to decide what is good enough for us. I am making the decision that this is not what is good enough for me.” Jasper glances at Ryan behind him for back up.

“He hasn’t particularly shown me much consideration, and I do believe he’s been using my mental illness to bring attention to the band.” Ryan steps forward. “I think Jasper has a point, we should be careful about it, but I think we need to take care of ourselves.”

“Thank you Ryan.” Jasper nods and looks back at the others for their thoughts.

“You brought MCR up and that’s pretty much where I decided that I can’t keep being held back. I don’t care what the rest of you do, I want to write and sing and produce the music that suits me and my style. If I can’t do that in this band, then I will go solo.” Blake sighs, taking his contract and shaking his head.

“You're not serious about going solo?” Luke looks at Blake in disbelief. “You can’t be.”

“I deserve to be able to do my own style of music.” Blake shrugs and tears his contract in half. "Like I said I've written enough for my own album already. It wouldn't take much, only a better company for me to move my career onto a different path. One that allows me to be myself, un-apologetically."

“Blake no. There’s no way you are going solo. If you feel that seriously about this, we need to work something out because Jasper is right, if he is making us feel that unimportant that our views would be ignored and our health be ignored for the sake of popularity, then we do need to stand up to that.” Simon sighs, reading through his contract. "These contracts are binding for 3 years." He looks back over at Jasper.

"Mine's not." Blake shrugs.

"That's only a photocopy dipshit. I wasn't going to spoil your moment but..." Jasper laughs. "If we can prove our financial, mental and physical rights are being abused, which I believe we can, then we can contest it." Jasper answers confidently.

"I think we should make an appointment to all see him together. This has to be a group decision Jasper, you can't run off making these kinds of decisions for the rest of us." Simon sighs and rubs his forehead. "Can you call whoever looked over these and organize a meeting for us." He asks, he sounded defeated and annoyed, which was understandable given Jasper had ambushed them with this information. Jasper just nods and takes out his phone, walking up the hall again to make the phone call.

@Copyright (2018), Claire Rosalind; All Rights Reserved.
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“Jasper, I just wanted to tell you something. You’re my best friend and I don’t want to keep anything from you, I will always be honest and tell you the truth.”  Blake is going to be more than a little upset when Jasper finally does his big reveal!

Jasper may have "ambushed" the group with his crusade against the manager; but once confronted with the reality of what the manager has been doing--including stealing from them--the guys are at least willing to see the lawyer. (I can't wait to see the manager get his comeuppance!)

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Ok things are getting done and I like it! To be fair, Jasper didn't do anything without the guys' consent, he just consulted a lawyer and is now talking to the guys to see what they want to do together. Hopefully they manage to break free from this Lou Pearlman-like bastard. 

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