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Do You Ship Us? - 9. A Night Out

“Good morning.” Ryan smiles at Jasper as he walks in the door to the practice room. Jasper looks at him curiously, Ryan's newfound confidence had hit him much faster than Jasper had expected.

“Morning, what’s got you so chipper?” Jasper asks, dumping his bag down and approaching his band mate with a folder.

“That fan page has over 9 thousand fans on it now. Look!” Ryan shows Jasper his phone excitedly, numerous photos and posts about him filled the page covered in likes, emojis and thirsty comments obsessing over him.

“Uh-huh, you’ve got horny fangirls. No wonder you seem pleased with yourself.” Jasper smiles, whirling around and pulling out some pieces of paper from the folder.

“Hey, I wanted to say thank you, by the way. For yesterday. Trying to talk the manager out of making me sing, then covering for me and taking the attention off me in the interview, and then for standing up to the manager after it all too. I really appreciate it.” Ryan tells him, pocketing his phone and taking the papers that Jasper was holding out to him.

“You’re welcome.” Jasper answers airily and after a moment of silence he gives a sigh and hugs the folder against his chest. “Look, you’re still new and you probably feel grateful for him giving you this opportunity, don’t let him mistreat you he’s a manipulative and selfish jerk. If you’re too shy to stand up for yourself, he’ll walk all over and exploit you. You also don’t owe it to him, to be walked all over just because he took a chance on you. At the end of the day, he earns money off us. Whether he's making it by treating us well or not.” Jasper was in a lecturing mood, fired up over the discussion. It had been on his mind for a painful amount of time last night, how much he despised Chris for the blatant attempt to sabotage Ryan and how unfair that was for Ry.

“I kinda do owe him, I mean I’m nowhere near ready to be the singer he hired me to be, but he still went ahead and did it.” Ryan sighs, feeling as though Jasper already knew all the obligatory feelings he was having about making a good impression with Chris.

“Yeah well, lets hurry up and get your vocals up to scratch so that you stop feeling like you’re not good enough. Besides, you've got 9 thousand fangirls talking about how amazing you were yesterday, even though you weren’t at your best. You’ve made your debut as a member, you’ve got fans and the only people you owe now, are those fans. You owe it to them to be as good as they expect you to be. He’s making money off you either way, the fans are dedicating time to google image searching you and writing fantasies about you.” Jasper winks at Ryan then clears his throat. Also keeping him up last night was debating on whether or not to read the M rated stories that had popped up overnight just as he'd predicted they would after the interview yesterday. He'd concluded not to, which was maybe the first time he'd not wanted to read an explicit fanfic about himself with one of the members and he didn't quite know why he was drawing the line at Ryan.

“Oh are we singing properly today, not just practicing vocal exercises?” Ryan asks surprised to see a lyric sheet.

“If we can practice an actual song, I can work out whether getting you to sing at a quieter tone will sound decent enough to be recorded. Since I said it was only a cold, fans are going to want to hear you sing soon and we’re prepping for our next album so we’ve got to have you singing on that at least a little bit. Have you done any vocal warm ups? I want to go through this song with you.” Jasper tells him then clears his throat after Ryan nods. Jasper straightens his posture, taking a deep breath and singing the first line, tapping his leg to keep the tempo. He looks at Ryan and nods, suggesting Ryan copy him. Ryan sings it a little gentler than Jasper and it actually sounded a little sexy being in a lower range. They could work with this, use his more raspy voice to their advantage.

They experiment the whole song through in this echo fashion, then Jasper suggests they try it at the same time, singing in their different tones. This time they find that the difference between their voices makes for a smooth and gentle sound perfectly suited for the sweet song about love they were singing. When they finish Jasper just smiles at Ryan approvingly.

“This is a beautiful song.” Ryan comments, impressed with how they had sounded together.

“Thank you. I had imagined it to be more of a duet with Simon, I wrote it before you joined, but I’m thinking if you’re in it too, it’ll make for nice layering and also give the fans something to get excited about. Enough of your voice to tell you’re singing, not enough that they question your abilities you know? Make it on purpose that you're a bit in the background.”

“You wrote this?" Ryan asks, looking back at the romantic nature of the lyrics but Jasper doesn't answer, he's distracted by his phone. "I don’t want to ruin your duet with Simon.” Ryan quickly adds.

“Why do you assume you would be ruining it?” Jasper frowns at him. “You’re going to have to start believing in yourself, if you want other people to believe in you.”

“I know, I’m just not use to all this.” Ryan nods, looking at the ground again, Jasper could see his self-esteem was low, but didn’t have any idea how to help, since he’d never had this problem himself.

“Well, fake it until you make it. This is your life now, it’s not going to be easier if you think you’re not worthy or good enough. You did great yesterday, I thought you'd be a bit more into it today.” Jasper comments, running his fingers through his hair and thinking about what he could do about this ongoing issue.

“You’re very lucky.” Ryan smiles politely at Jasper before taking his phone out as he hears the ping of a message. “I admire your confidence, I wish I shared it.” He says before he glances at the screen.

“I can train your voice, I can’t train your thoughts, just gotta fake it until you make it. Anyway I need to pee so I’ll be back.” Jasper turns around and walks out of the room, a pep in his step. Ryan looks down at his phone, seeing a message sent to him by the person who’d started the fangroup yesterday, telling him she thought he was amazing. With a smile on his face, Ryan opens the message and hesitates on replying for a few moments while he considers whether he should be replying to fan messages at all. He decides to take the chance and send a message back, just a simple thank you, then he slips his phone into his pocket and holds the lyrics up again, practicing to himself while he waits for Jasper to come back. He couldn't help wondering about the song, whether it had meaning to Jasper given it was a love song. The lyrics were passionate and romantic and told of undeniable dedication to the 'girl' he was singing about. Ryan was learning a lot about Jasper under the facade he wore in front of Chris, the fans and a lot of the time even Luke and Simon, and he was enjoying the person he was starting to see when it was just the two of them. Even at the dorms, living together, Jasper was always either talking shit and messing around with Blake or off isolating himself in his room. They rarely talked outside of these vocal sessions, yet Ryan wanted to, he wanted to have an excuse to knock on his door and find out what else drove Jasper, what truly inspired him. He wanted to know him.

“Jasper!” Blake pops his head in the door and looks around the room confused. "He ditched you has he? Unlike him to slack off." Blake says sarcastically.

“Uh, he’s in the toilet.” Ryan answers, only half interested because he'd received another message.

“Oh, well come back into the other room, he can meet us there.” Blake shrugs, holding the door open for Ryan,

“Right now? OK.” Ryan pockets his phone, grabs his things and starts heading for the door quickly.

“Jasper, my love, I’m stealing your poor student.” Blake calls out to Jasper as he starts making his way back up the hallway.

“Rude.” Jasper scoffs and promptly runs right into Ryan who was exiting the room as Jasper was returning to it. “Woah. Are you going to make a habit out of getting in my bubble?" Jasper jokes, hesitating, mesmerized by the familiar smell of Ryan's cologne.

“Sorry!” Ryan apologizes quickly, being the one to step back.

“Come on.” Blake links arms with Jasper and lets the door swing closed once Ryan is clear from the doorway. He launches into a conversation about a party that Ryan doesn't listen to, too focused on his phone. The three walk to the next room over where Luke and Simon were already digging into some Chinese food.

“Oh no way you started without me!” Jasper ditches Blake and runs towards them, dropping to his knees and dramatically knee sliding to a stop just before the food, glancing over his shoulder to see how impressed Ryan was, only to see him paying zero attention.

“How did practice go?” Simon asks, he'd been losing sleep over Ryan's voice too, and had pulled Jasper aside to express his concern as soon as Blake and Jasper arrived this morning, it was the first time Simon had treated Jasper like he had authority to speak on Ryan's ability. Ryan was Jasper's personal special project and Jasper had no intention to fail to prove to everyone what Ryan's worth was.

“Good! Ryan’s voice actually blends in nicely with mine and when he sings quietly, it gives the lower sexy tone.” Jasper answers then looks over at Ryan who was still looking at his phone. “I just have to work on his confidence."

“You’re old enough to drink aren’t you?” Blake deliberately nudges Ryan hard enough to make him fumble his phone, immediately laughing and apologizing to Ryan to make it look like a mistake.

“Huh, yeah.” Ryan answers. "I don't really drink much, just too much time working in a bar." He shrugs.

"You worked at a bar? Perfect so you can tell Jasper that tequila is the superior liquor and it's what he should taint his virgin little mouth with." Blake suggests, his word choice making Jasper laugh and Ryan almost spit out the sip of water he'd just taken. “It’s Jasper’s birthday tomorrow, the kid is finally old enough to drink like the rest of us.” Blake claps Jasper on the back. "Wait can you make fancy cocktails and stuff?"

“You’re barely a year older than me Blake, come on.” Jasper rolls his eyes.

“Yes, but I was a badass so trust me, I know my shit when it comes to alcohol. Tequila is the shit, tell him Ryan." Blake looks to Ryan for support.

"Well I guess it depends what you like?" Ryan looks at Jasper.

"How should I know, I haven't tried anything yet." Jasper states innocently.

"Well then I recommend exploring your options." Ryan answers with a smile, in his mind alcohol was a convenient analogy.

"Pretty sure Blake will be force feeding me tequila anyway." Jasper shrugs.

"That's because it's the superior alcohol and I will not have you trying less than the best first. I just can’t wait to see you a mess on the dance floor after a few shots.” Blake smirks, messing up Jasper's hair.

“How old are you Ry?” Jasper asks, whacking Blake's hand away.

“25.” Ryan answers, licking his lips and accepting the food passed his way.

“Woah, I feel weird now that I am training you and you’re older than me. You’re the same age as Luke and Simon. God I'm such a baby compared to you guys.” Jasper says then bites into and burns his mouth on a curry puff. He starts fanning his mouth while Blake laughs and teasingly moves his water out of reach. "Give it here asshole." Jasper demands.

“Truthfully, I’m not keen on babysitting your drunk ass. I’m not keen on clubbing at the best of times.” Blake states and everyone looks at Ryan as his phone goes off.

“Sorry.” Ryan smiles and looks at his phone.

“Oooooh, is that your girlfriend?” Blake goes from teasing Jasper to picking on Ryan, giving the distraction Jasper needed to grab his water back.

“No. It’s a fan.” Ryan shrugs, putting his phone in his pocket again and continuing to eat.

“What? Messaging you?” Simon gawks at him concerned.

“Yeah, she just sent me a message and I thanked her. I bet you get that all the time right?” Ryan suggests, looking at their stunned expressions.

"No, no you don't reply from your personal account. That's how you end up stalked and hacked." Simon tells him quickly.

"Hope you don't have any nudes on your phone." Jasper teases, though much less concerned about Ryan's texting habits than everyone else.

“We reply to fan mail sent to our post box, that keeps us safe from crazy fans. Unless you want them tracking your phone and setting up cameras in the shower, which, by the way, is the same shower we use so please don’t get us all stalked.” Blake offers some advice while grabbing food for himself.

“I didn't think of that. Should I block her?” Ryan asks.

“No way, that’d make you look rude. Just make your personal accounts private and make a fan friendly account and only interact with fans through public posts and stuff.” Luke instructs.

“Fans don’t expect a reply, so she’s probably either naively trusting you’re who she thinks you are, or, she probably thinks you’re a fake anyway. You’re practically catfishing her, don’t stress about it, maybe a little anonymous flirting will make you feel more confident. Just don’t confirm who you are and keep smiling like that.” Jasper winks at him. “Now eat, before I start on your food because I’m a slut for Chinese food and yours is enticing me."

 

 

“Heyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy,” Jasper walks into their apartment with a pack of beers.

“What, did you drink in the car?” Luke jokes at the over excited entrance.

“No.” Blake answers for him. “But take him to the bottle shop and it’s seriously like setting a kid free in a candy store. The lady asked him for ID and he just whips it out and hands it over with this smirk on his face all like ‘It’s my birthday, today!’.” Blake overplays a re-enactment while their friends watched and laughed at Jasper’s expense. Jasper, clearly impossible to embarrass just walks past and puts his beers in the freezer.

“You are not going to drink beer.” Simon leans against the bench with a grin on his face. Jasper looked so pleased with himself that he almost felt bad for how disappointed he'd be by the bitterness of beer.

“Yeah, I got the good stuff.” Blake places a bottle of tequila on the bench. “We’re all doing a shot before we go out. I don’t make the rules, I just enforce them.” He winks at Jasper who looks at the bottle disgusted. “Trust me, you’ll like it.”

“How? It has worms in it.” Jasper screws his nose up in disgust.

“Lets get one thing straight, entitled little birthday boy, I didn’t buy it for you. The worm is my treat for having to deal with your lightweight drunken ass all night.” Blake teases, putting his arm around Jasper’s shoulders and messing up his hair.

“Oh how dare you buy something for your own enjoyment on my birthday, you’re soooo uninvited to the party.” Jasper pushes Blake away playfully and tidies his hair while he makes his way down the hallway to get ready for the night ahead.

“Ok, so who wants to put bets on what kind of drunk he’s going to be? I’m going to say the emotional type because he’s generally void of any good emotions so surely when he is drunk it will kick up a notch.” Blake smirks at his friends who were all laughing about his comment.

“That makes so much sense, I can’t imagine anything more fitting. We may actually see past the attitude tonight.” Simon smiles. "It's about time, really. Anyone think he has an actual attitude problem?” Simon asks quietly.

“It’s his birthday, lets not psychoanalyze him too much.” Blake rolls his eyes and reaches across the bench to turn on the speakers. He plugs his phone in and plays around to find a playlist suitable for the party, settling for Latest Hits.

“Alright stop talking about me now.” Jasper shouts from the bathroom door, walking out of the bathroom dressed in black skin tight jeans and a button up white shirt that he hadn't done up yet, drying his hair with his towel. Despite having spent his whole day primarily focused on his phone and the girl who had been messaging him, the sight of Jasper freshly showered and dressed in pants that accentuated his slender legs, the unbuttoned shirt and wet hair was distracting Ryan and he didn't look at his phone again. Especially since Blake had poured out 5 shots of tequila and was impatient to get Jasper drunk. Everyone picks up their glasses and waits for Blake to make the toast.

"Ready to get fucked up and loose?" Blake asks with a grin, not exactly much of a birthday speech.

"So ready." Jasper lifts up the shot and he and Blake tap their shot glasses together before throwing them back and kick-starting the night.

Claire Rosalind
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Ryan is becoming a tad more comfortable with the group, though he remains an enigma. Perhaps the alcohol will loosen his tongue.

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