“Jasper, you were doing so well. You haven’t been late in weeks.” Simon calls out as Jasper and Ryan walk in more than an hour after everyone else had gotten to work.
“Guess I’m just a complete disappointment to everyone then.” Jasper remarks, heading straight to the keyboard. “I’m going to be sitting here expressing feelings all day, don’t talk to me.” He sits down and puts headphones in. Everyone looks from him, to Ryan for answers.
“Did I hit a nerve?” Simon asks.
“His parents are visiting us today, he’s stressing in advance.” Ryan answers with a shrug, watching Jasper getting straight into playing.
“You guys remember that we have the first of our new album promotion interviewstodaythough right?” Luke asks, looking understandably concerned.
“Hopefully that takes his mind off things.” Blake comments, making a b-line for Ryan, nudging him with his elbow and taking a few steps away from the rest of the group, Ryan follows him. “Make sure you have his back with his parents, I know you are hoping they won’t be that bad but the last thing he needs is the pressure to patch things up just to stop you being disappointed.” Blake tells him, Ryan glances over at Jasper again, realizing that somewhere between all the stress cleaning Jasper had been telling Blake about what was going on, instead of turning to Ryan for support. “Just expect the worst from them and work on your poker face so he can focus on getting through their bullshit alright? It’s your turn to have his back, he’s always had yours.” Blake concludes, looking at Ryan and waiting for a response.
“Don’t worry. I’ve got his backno matter what. I alreadypromised him that.”Ryan assures Blake, watching as Jasperplays distractedly on the piano.
A few hours pass before the group is taken to a room full of journalists to talk about their debut with Mark’s company and to bring attention to their upcoming music release. The session was full of excitement and seemingly completely took Jasper’s mind off everything. That is until the questions start getting off topic and he realizes that he is the main point of interest. Questions speculating on his infidelity were posed to Ryan over and over until Mark stepped in.
“Please, show some respect. This is not about Jasper and Ryan’srelationship,this is about the band making a return. Keep on topic or I’ll have to end this early.” He threatens. Jasper felt awful and knew this would be difficult for Ryan to be being asked constantly about. He knew when it’d happened there would be a fallout but he’d thought the few gossip threads about it was all they were going to cop, being that it was months ago. Ryan was holding his hand on the desk so everyone could see that despite the allegations against Jasper, they were still strong.
Blake, Luke and Simon take their share of questions, enthusiastically discussing their new songs and album plans, going into detail of how they decided on themes and what messages their songs were going to have. The news of their plans kept the interview going with enough interest and focus that Jasper and Ryan were forgotten about for a while, but as the other members finish their album promotions and the attention is once again directed towards Jasper and Ryan, after quickly asking about Jasper’s album plans eventually the questions find their way back to the cheating rumors and Jasper is rudely cut off.
“Question for Ryan, were you aware that Jasper was out with another guy when you were away on Dancers and Dreamers?” The interviewer turns her attention to Ryan who doesn’t even flinch.
“Yeah, Jasper came to me and told me all about the drinks with company, and it’s that honesty that reassures me that he’s not sneaking around behind my back in any way. That showed love, trust and commitment.” Ryan answers flawlessly confident in Jasper, nothing could break them, until the next question.
“So you’re not concerned about Jasper visiting the residence of a sex worker?”
“What the fuck?” Jasper gawks at the stupidity of the comment.
“We have photos.” The journalist gets up, holding up a photo, she walks over to the desk and places it before Ryan and Jasper. Ryan gulps back the myriad of reactions going through his head as he takes in the photo.
“How do you know that’s the house of a sex worker?” Ryan asks calmly.
“We are investigative journalists, it’s part of our job to do our homework.” She gives a smug smirk, clearly feeling in control of the situation. Ryan slides the photo of Jasper at the door of the familiar apartment, back towards her.
“Well if you’d done your homework and dug a little deeper, you may have actually had a decent story to talk about. I’m finished here, you?” Ryan stands up, holding his hand out for Jasper. Jasper nods and takes it, standing and walking out hand in hand to show their relationship strength was un-effected by the questions they had faced.
“Blake, as Jasper’s best friend, do you have any opinions about this issue?” Another interviewer jumps up with a question, desperately trying to get a final statement. Blake smiles at the interviewer, thrilled to get the opportunity to speak on the topic.
“Of course, this issue of you lot taking out of context information and trying to sell it as fact in an attempt to ruin a relationship is something I definitely have a lot of opinions on. They trust and support each other, our fans trust and support their relationship and I know all the facts about what’s going on with them and my honest opinion is that I trust and support their relationship. The only people this desperately pathetic attempt to find any hint of a problem between them is entertaining, are haters.Soif youwannasit around circle jerking over these rumors with a bunch of people who don’t actually care about the truth, that’s your prerogative but don’t waste other people’s time. The band has been working really hard andwe‘re extremely passionate about our new music and instead of getting a fair chance to share the exciting news with our fans, you’ve managed to waste that opportunity for all of us. We deserved so much more respect than that as a band and Ryan and Jasper deserved more respect than that as a couple and as individuals. We’ve had enough mistreatment in the last two years. Back off before you dig too deep and find things that make you feel like complete assholes.” Blake states and gives the peace sign as he walks out head held high. Luke and Simon nodding agreements as they follow him out, though even they didn’t really know what was going on.
“Thanks for what you said back there, I knew there would be photos and I should have been more prepared...” Jasper starts but Ryan cuts him off.
“Why were you there?” Ryan looks at Jasper with a frown, letting go of his hand and crossing his arms now that they were in the privacy of their practice room again.
“I confronted him when I was drunk a week after you left. I was still so mad and I found out where he lived. I know I shouldn’t have gone but at the time I felt like it was justifiable. I am sorry.” Jasper apologizes but Ryan doesn’t seem to accept it.
“You did what? Why the hell did you confront him? I had handledit,he wasn’t going to be a problem anymore. And what about that stuff you said about how I have the right to choose the people I want in my life even if you disagree, was that just bullshit? Because clearly you think you do have the authority to go behind my back about it.” Ryan snaps, and although it was out of character for him to be angry like this, Jasper wasn’t taking it personally, he understood why Ryan was pissed and wasn’t about to act as though he was completely in the right.
“Ry, I am really sorry I have made you feel this way. Like I said, at the time I was still upset and I felt justified but I do realize it makes me look like a hypocrite. Truth is though Damien proved more times than not that he didn’t give a damn what you said and he was playing life by his own rules. I didn’t trust that he would actually leave you alone and I was right because when I confronted him he told me he was hoping to talk to you again.” Jasper sighs, his calm response and the interruption of Blake, Simon and Luke entering the room, forcing Ryan’s frustration to come down to a more reasonable level.
“Well done having Jasper’s back Ryan, you held it together perfectly.” Blake calls out, he noticed the tension in the room and hoped his acknowledgement would help in some way todiffusewhatever situation it wastheywere walking into.
“Why did he want to talk to me again? Seriously?” Ryan asks with a defeated scoff, he and Jasper too locked in their conversation to respond to Blake.
“Because he is a selfish moron who thinks you should give him the chance to explain himself and apologize. This is why I didn’t tell you I went to see him because it doesn’t do you any good. Now you’re just going to be stressing about what he wants to say instead of just leaving his sorry ass in the past where he belongs.” Jasper rolls his eyes and throws his hands up in the air, turning and walking a few steps away.
“I know you meant well, but I didn’t want you having anything to do with him, he’s not your problem.”
“I’m not just collateral damage from him stalking you Ry, he may be your ex but the moment he let himself into my house he becamemyproblem. I’m not taking that from anyone, I have a right to stand up for myself if someone is actively invading my privacy no matter who they were intending on harassing.” Jasper replies with an annoyed shrug, feeling almost insulted that he even had to explain to Ryan that he was effected by Damien too.
“Wait, Ryan’s ex stalked them and broke into their place?” Luke asks Blake in a whisper.
“Yeah, a few times.” Blake shrugs like it was no big deal.
“Ok, I get that but you shouldn’t have kept that from me.” Ryan sighs as he takes a few steps towards Jasper, reaching for him but Jasper was feeling too bitter about the whole thing to let Ryan come in to comfort him now.
“Probably not but I knew it’d be a problem and I was trying to get the problem out of our lives.” He commentsbackin a bitchy tone, ignoring Ryan’s attempt to show affection. Had he not been super tired, he may have more easily let this go, but he was just so far from in the mood to wave off another argument about Damien. Ryan notices and reflects the attitude, getting them nowhere.
“You can’t just keep things from me, that involve me. That’s not what a relationship is about. You came to me and told me you almost went home with some other guy, but you couldn’t own up to confronting my ex?” At the mention, Jasper turns on his heel infuriated.
“Those are two different things. I had a conversation with Damien and I didn’t tell you out of concern for you, I over stepped a boundary with Harley and I told you out of respect. I’d think if it were the other way around that would be more of a breach of trust.” He snaps.
“Keeping things from me, is a breach of trust. Did you know anything about him being a sex worker?” Ryan asks sadly. Jasper turns back to him and takes a moment to study Ryan’s expression. He looked disappointed and though part of Jasper knew that he had every right to care, the majority of him just wished Ryan didn’t give a damn. The slight niggle of insecurity was planted in his mind and the more Ryan wanted to know, the less Jasper felt like they would move on from this. “I wonder if he was really cheating or if he was ‘working’.” Ryan asks, and with that Jasper could feel himself let go of a tiny bit of confidence he had in Ryan.
“Wouldit make a difference to you? If it was work would that make it better? Would you forgive him?” Jasper asks quietly, feeling a building of fear that he was finally going to lose Ryan. That thought that he was just the therapeutic rebound before Ryan and Damien found their way back to each other coming back to his mind.
“I deserve to know what was really happening behind my back!” Ryan snaps, not at Jasper but in general from the feelings of being lied to and manipulated, it felt like just another nail in the coffin that every single time he started moving on from Damien, something would happen to bring him back. Like taking one step forward and two steps back.
“I agree but just think about it, what will knowing really change? What will it do to have that information, because I know you, I know you’ll overthink it and I don’t want to see you feeling like you owe him any time to explain himself.” Jasper was desperately walking the line of being understanding and not telling Ryan what to do, but also wanting so badly to play it all off and demonize Damien just to keep Ryan from having any room left for doubt.
“You know?” Ryan asks, seeing right through Jasper.
“Of course, it was the first thing I thought of when I found out what he was doing for work.” Jasper admits, crossing his arms.
“If it helps, I knew ages ago.” Blake chimes in, Ryan glances at him then back at Jasper as he starts answering. Blake turns to the other guys and shrugs. “Lets leave mum and dad to sort this out, do either of you want lunch?” He suggests, neither Simon or Luke really wanted to leave, both absorbed in the drama but Blake herds them out, giving the couple some privacy.
“Why would you keep that from me?” Ryan breathes, a sense of betrayal washing over his face.
“It was a single conversation with Damien to tell him to leave us alone, I didn’t intend on finding out about his ‘work’. He’s your ex and I have made it pretty clear I hate the guy but at the time this happened you and I weren’t on good terms either. I didn’t want to tell you anything that could possibly make you reconsider how done with him you were. I have owned that I get jealous and at that time I was really insecure about you and him, because you guys seem so solid. I am sorry that I even went there and that I didn’t tell you, I get being mad about that. Please understand that I didn’t want to tell you because I know how you are about him so I didn’t want to put you through questioning things again.” Jasper points out frustrated.
“You really think that I would even consider taking him back? Work or not he was going behind my back with people, it doesn’t actually help to know it was work, I feel stupid for not knowing that was what was happening. I’m sorry that you even have had to deal with him, and that you have felt insecure because I know that is me not showing you enough that you have nothing to worry about. I love you in a way that makes me question whether I ever actually loved Damien because that was nothing on what I feel for you.” Ryan tells him, looking deep into his eyes and drawing him in as he puts his arms around Jasper’s waist and holds him close. Jasper sighs, feeling guilty for not telling Ryan sooner and for doubting how Ryan felt, though he still wasn’t completely convinced. He had no intention of dragging out this drama longer than he needed to, he was already out of energy and this was supposed to have been the easy part of the day. “Just don’t keep things from me though, please. Even if you think it’s for the right reason, I’d rather just know.”
“Oh trust me I have no intention of ever speaking to him again.” Jasper rolls his eyes.
“That makes two of us.” Ryan replies, lifting Jasper’s chin and kissing him softly on the lips. He could sense the hesitation and reluctance from Jasper, which hurt. “Hey.” Ryan looks into Jasper’s eyes to get his attention. “I meant what I said this morning, I’m not going to let people come between us.” Ryan tells him, Jasper nods, wanting to believe him. “I promise.” Ryan lifts up his hand, just the ring finger up. Jasper looks at the ring and his stubborn attitude cracks, a smile crossing his face.
“Ugh you hit me with the promise ring. You know that’s going to stop being cute eventually.”
“No I’m pretty sure that’s why you got these, right? So we could use it against each other?” Ryan jokes.
“Absolutely not. I got them so you’d trust me though that hasn’t exactly worked in myfavourhas it?” Jasper corrects him. Ryan bites his lip as he considers how to respond.
“I trust that you mean well, but your actions don’t always come across that way.” He comments
“You react like you don’t think I mean well.” Jasper sighs.
“You’re right I do.” Ryan nods slowly. “We both play our part in how the other feels. I am really sorry to hear that you still feel like there’s a chance I’ll get back with him. If you feel that way then I have really fucked up more than I thought I had.”
“What do you mean, you love me in a way that makes you question if you ever loved Damien?” Jasper asks.
“I was in love with the version of him that I kept lying to myself that I was with, I’m starting to realize more and more that I was just trying to convince myself that he was someone he wasn’t. Damien was never the person I thought he was, the person I told myself he was. You’re everything I wished I had back then, everything he isn’t capable of being. There’s no reality where I would choose him over you, that’d be like choosing a slice of toast over an entire buffet.” Ryan explains.
“I better be the buffet in that analogy.” Jasper smirks, grabbing a water bottle and some pain killers, they survived thisconflict but the way today was goinghe expected a headache to be not far off.
“Oh you’re the full buffet. The sweet, the savory, the spicy and the salty. Damien is just the first slice of crusty bread in a loaf, everyone touches it on their way to the better pieces.” Jasper just about chokes on his mouthful of water at the unexpectedly smooth insult from Ryan. While Ryan’s comment was full of bitterness and clearly had more to do with how Ryan felt about him, it did a lot to reassure Jasper that the feelings there were gone.
“Wellfuck.” Jaspersinks to the groundlaughingandcoughingwith tears stinging his eyes.
“Are you ok?” Ryan laughs too as he joins Jasper on the floor, sitting beside him and rubbing his back.
“Yeah.” Jasper coughs. “I think I’m dying.” He sighs, wiping a tear from his eye and having a small sip of water to try to settle the cough before bursting into laughter again. “Where did that comment come from? I was trying to stay mad at you for being mad at me, but now I’m oddly turned on.” He admits. “I did not expect that from you, that’s something Blake would say.”
“I am running out of nice.” Ryan shrugs.
“Thank god, because you’ve been nice about him for a lot longer than he deserved.” Jasper leans against Ryan.
“I’m really sorry that my ex is still a problem for us.” Ryan sighs, rubbing Jasper’s knee.
“It’s not like you dated him with the intention of your next boyfriend having to deal with him, that’s not generally the aim of dating. I’m sure you’re not dating me with the plan to make some future boyfriend jealous or something.” Jasper jokes.
“Ohthe next person is going to have one hell of a struggle coming after you.” Ryan nudges him and gives a wink.
“I feel sorry for them already. I mean I won’t stalk you and try to ruin your relationship but I pity them just having to know that you had it this good.” Jasper gestures at himself. “And then they have to try and compete with me.”
“Meanwhile your next boyfriend will be like ‘why did you date him for so long with all his baggage, and a crazy ex.’” Ryan pokes fun at himself.
“Mhm, there’s surely easier guys out there I could date. Gotta be easier ways to get laid.” Jasper teases, moving from beside Ryan, to sit on his lap. “Problem is I love you.”
“That doesn’t sound like a problem for me.” Ryan smiles, looking from Jasper’s eyes to his lips. Jasper smiles and kisses him softly. Ryan slides his hand up Jasper’s back, holding him close and deepening the kiss, with a sense of urgency.
“Yeah they’ve made up!” Blake’s voice startles them apart. “If youwannahook-up at work, you’vegottalock the door. We’ve had this talk Jas.” Blake winks at him.
“We weren’t going to hook-up.” Ryan rolls his eyes at Blake.
“Ohweren’t we?” Jasper asks cheekily, getting up and taking Ryan’s hand, pulling him up too. Luke, Simon and Mark walk into the room talking amongst themselves.
“How are you both after that shambles of an interview? I’m so sorry for all of that.” Mark gives Jasper and Ryan an apologetic smile. “Whatever way I can help sort this drama out for the two of you, just let me know.”
“I’ll have to put out a statement about the situation, but we’ve got to get home so I’ll leave that for tomorrow.” Ryan tells him.
“We don’t need to rushhome,we can stay and sort this out first.” Jasper shrugs. Ryan casts him a knowing look, shaking his head. “Come on I’d rather deal with yourex,it’d be comparatively fun.”
“Fine you stay here and write up a statement about Damien and I’ll go home and see your parents.” Ryan winks.
“You want me to write the statement? Don’t tempt me, I’d write the most scathingly petty statement. It’d be my absolute pleasure toouthim for all the bullshit he’s put you through and watch the media and our fans verbally eat him alive.” Jasper rubs his hands together scheming.
“Ohfuck yeah, please Ryan. Let Jasper write it, it’ll be impeccable.” Blake grins.
“Sure, we go and see your parents now, and I’ll let you write the statement for me.” Ryan bargains, crossing his arms and eyeing Jasper, seeing him weighing up whether he was hateful enough to give in and face his parents first. After a few moments to consider it Jasper lets out a heavy sigh.
“Well my expectations for today have already hit anall timelow so we may as well get this over with too.” He concludes.
“Hi Mum, Dad.” Jasper walks in first, Ryan right behind him. Grace and Flynn were sitting beside each other on the couch, Ellie being held by Jasper’s Mum with her Dad looking on fondly. Grace and Flynn look over at them,clearlyhe’d spoken loud enough to be heard, but his parents chose to ignore them. Jasper turns to Ryan and shrugs as if to say ‘told you’.
“HiMrandMrsReid. It’s good to see you again, welcome to our place.” Ryan walks over, offering his hand politely, only to be ignored again.
“Jasper and Ryan have been gracious enough to let Eleanor and I stay here while Flynn finds us a place, and they’ve been my support system whenever we’ve needed a break to get ourselves sorted out.” Grace smiles nervously between Ryan and Jasper.
“You could have toldus,we’d have put you up in our house. You know you’re always welcome back home.” Their Mum tells Grace, sadness in her voice, no doubt at the way her daughter was so withdrawn that she’d gone through becoming a parent without her mother by her side. As kids Jasper often heard his parents talk about the way the envisioned becoming grandparents and they had wanted to be part of the whole process, this was certainly a bittersweet moment for them.
“I know Mum. But with everything that’s happened, I was just so scared. Trust me, Jasper and Ryan took me in and made sure I had everything I needed while Flynn was away with work.” Grace explains, but the room was quickly filling with tension as Ryan and Jasper continued to not be acknowledged, despite Ryan being right beside them. Jasper on the other hand was almost completely uninterested, standing back in the kitchen getting himself a drink and scrolling through his phone, reading the inaccurate reports that were starting to circulate about Jasper’s visit to a ‘sex worker’ in his head he was too busy planning what the statement about that whole debacle would say. He tunes back into the conversation as he hears Ryan’s voice again, attempting to talk to his parents again.
“We just want to help out as much as we can...” Ryan is cut off mid-sentence by Jasper’s Dad standing up and facing him, sizing him up almost trying to come across intimidated.
“Leave.” He orders.
“He’s not going anywhere.” Jasper walks over and stands beside Ryan. “This isour home. You can’t kick him out. You don’t have any authority here.”
“You’re lucky I’m even tolerating you here after the way you’ve chosen to disrespect our family. Do you have any idea the pain you’ve put your mother through over the last few years? Your constant selfish decisions have been disrupting our family for long enough.”
“If it’s going to make thiseasierI’ll go.” Ryan says quietly to Jasper.
“Yes. If we have any chance of healing this family, you need to leave.” His Dad insists again.