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Do You Ship Us? - 91. Afraid To Keep On Living

Warning: this chapter is based around Blake's funeral and may be difficult to read.

Jasper stares out the window in the back of Leo’s car. It seemed like this drive was never going to end, and he’d lost count of how many ways he hoped it wouldn’t. Facing today would be the hardest thing he’d ever had to do. The days that followed losing Blake were numb to him, he’d barely slept, barely eaten, barely spoken and most shockingly, not cried. Compressing the emotions, compartmentalizing them, comfortable in his denial, as long as no one reminded him of the truth. Today was that reminder. He didn’t know how it would go, but he knew he couldn’t avoid this, even if it felt like it was going to destroy him. It’s the first time he’d left the apartment in the past week and he’s already dreading how long he’d have to be out for, how long he had to hold himself together around other people. He’d become so withdrawn and shut down that it became increasingly difficult for Ryan to find any way to comfort him. Though Ryan was trying, god was he trying. It didn’t help that Ryan didn’t know what to say, he only knew that there was nothing the would make this better, no matter what he said or did. Anytime he did try to talk to Jasper, he was met with animosity. He had the patience of a Saint for handling every mood he’d endured in the last week.

Jasper wasn’t in a good place with it at all. He didn’t want sympathy, didn’t want empathy, he just wanted to be left alone. Unfortunately, Ryan was becoming somewhat overbearing, wanting to blanket Jasper with love and compassion, while Jasper had completely shut off his emotions, trying to protect himself from the pain. He’d thrown up a wall within minutes of hearing the news of Blake, and Ryan was running out of ways to try to get through it. Jasper’s nowhere near ready to even grieve yet, but as the car pulls up, he’s out of time. He takes a deep breath to calm himself, closing his eyes and wishing he were anywhere else. The bubble of denial was about to pop. The car was unsettlingly silent for a few long moments. Ryan’s hand reaches Jasper’s and gives it a gentle squeeze.

“There’s no rush, if you need more time.” His tone soft and calm.

“If only.” Jasper mutters. Blake deserved more time, he deserved a full lifetime, but he didn’t get that. It wasn’t fair, and it didn’t make sense, but they were here to say goodbye, somehow. Jasper’s hands shake as he glances out the window, letting himself confront it first from the privacy of tinted windows. It was a small hall which backed onto a field of luscious green grass and trees, well-maintained bushes and vibrant coloured flowers. It was all so alive and stood out behind the glumness of black suits and dresses. With one more calming breath, Jasper opens the door and gets out. Ryan is by his side only a moment later, his arm around Jasper’s waist for comfort, more his than Jasper’s at this point, but Jasper was trying to let that go today.

“Hey.” Luke calls out, joining Jasper and Ryan. He and Ryan give each other a one handed hug and pat on the back. Jasper tries not to let himself resent the fact that the only person on the whole stupid planet Ryan wasn’t able to wrap up tight in his arms right now was him. All he got were gentle pats on the shoulder, like he was being petted. Letting that go too. Everyone was trying it’s just, there was nothing they could do to comfort him in any way.

“Where’s Fi?” Ryan asks.

“Oh, she’s over with Grace, talking about birth. It was freaking me out.” Luke comments, intending on lightening the mood, but it falls flat as Jasper looks at his ground, trying to hide his disgust that anyone would have anything but devastating grief on their minds. As hard as it was to accept that Blake was gone, it was harder to accept that people were moving on.

“Do you want to go talk to Grace?” Ryan asks Jasper as he rubs his back.

“No.” Jasper answers, still staring at his feet. He hadn’t spoken to Grace or Flynn since the day, his last message to Flynn saying they were on their way and to tell him when Blake was out in recovery. His last message from Grace was the date, time, and location for the funeral. She’d tried calling every day, but Jasper let it ring out. She’d get it. He assumed she was seeing Flynn do the same thing.

“Hey guys.” Simon joins them. Jasper glances at him, then looks away again, catching a glimpse of someone else that manages to ignite some emotion in him at last.

“What the fuck.” Jasper scoffs as he watches Chris get out of a car. They had all been informed that Chris had was out on bail, having filed bankruptcy. But this was the last place Jasper expected to see the piece of shit. He had some nerve to show his face here after everything he’d done. Everyone looks over to see why Jasper was cursing. Ryan’s arm around Jasper’s waist holds him tighter.

“Just ignore him.” Ryan advises, but as soon as Chris sees the group and turns to walk towards them, the chance of him getting out of this unscathed was ripped out from under his feet. It was very, very brave of him to come over to them, and very, very stupid. There was already enough tension without him infecting the mood with his presence.

“Guys...” Chris almost has a chance to speak before Jasper turns on him with rage in his eyes. He was already dealing with enough today, without having to deal with him, too.

“Don’t you dare, don’t you DARE talk to us. You shouldn’t be here, no one wants you here.” Jasper snaps. In his mind, everyone would back him up. Blake would back him up, but everyone else just remains silent. No one else wanted to say anything at all. Ryan’s hand moves from Jasper’s waist to his shoulder, to subtly try to hold him back.

“I realise I treated you all awfully...” Again he’s cut off before he can explain himself, which was fair given that he was picking the absolute worst time to attempt some form of apology. No words could ever make up for all of what he’d put them through, anyway.

“Leave, get the fuck out of here.” Jasper orders. This was too much, this was beyond too much. Though he feels Ryan’s hand brace his shoulder, he wanted nothing more than for Chris to just walk away. For once in his life, just back off the fuck down and leave before he made this day any worse.

“Ok. I get it. I know you’re right. I just, I wanted to pay my respects to Bla...” Chris tries to defend himself.

“Fuck, respect? You wouldn’t know respect if it punched you in the face.” Jasper snaps as his fist connects with no remorse to the side of Chris’ face, forcing him to stumble back in shock. Jasper surprised himself, his hand stinging from the unrelenting force that had come from him. Ryan’s hand had been thrown from Jasper’s shoulder, and it’d happened so fast that he had no chance of stopping him.

“Jasper.” Ryan tries to pull him away, but Jasper was fuming and turns on him now.

“No, he shouldn’t be here. Tell me you think he deserves to be here?” Jasper yells, beyond pissed that he wasn’t being supported.

“Punching Chris isn’t going to help...” Ryan shakes his head and tries to hold Jasper’s throbbing hand to see if he’s ok. Jasper turns away from him annoyed, to see what Simon and Luke are up to.

“I don’t know it was pretty cathartic. I’ve been wanting to do that for years.” Jasper scoffs and sees Luke and Simon in damage control, trying to deflect the attention he’d brought on them. His eyes hit Flynn’s, who he hadn’t realised was observing from across at the hall, seeing this drama unfold at his brother’s funeral. Flynn just gives him a quick nod, acknowledging his presence, and Jasper feels sick to his stomach to realise what he’d just done. Caused a scene at a funeral, and he was the one shouting about showing respect. His self-control was at an all-time low. Jasper turns back and sees Leo walking off with Chris, finally someone stepping up and getting this unworthy asshole out of here.

“Are you ok?” Luke asks Jasper, he looked on edge, everyone did.

“So far from it.” Jasper shakes his head, looking at the ground again, ashamed. Ryan places a hand on his back and rubs it, the relaxing slow drag of fingers in patterns all over Jasper’s back, trying to calm him down. For a moment it peacefully brings him back down to Earth, but it doesn’t deflate him enough.

“We have to be strong today.” Simon declares, trying to bring a sense of unity and strength to the group.

“What? No, we don’t.” Jasper snaps, shooting Simon a confused look. Simon shifts, uncomfortable under his glare, but persists on his point.

“There’s a lot of attention on us today. Fans are going to be watching and they need to see us showing strength. Maybe you should go take a moment to cool off...” Simon starts, but Jasper cuts him off too, not letting anyone finish their sentences today.

“Maybe you should go, since you had your foot out the door already with the fucking band. No one expects us to be fine. If they do, then they mustn’t be that much of a fan. I am not here to make a visual statement. I am here because it is my best friends’ funeral. This is not a time to be acting, it’s not about being seen as weak. It’s called mourning and fuck anybody who tries to tell me when and how I am supposed to do that.” He states and storms off from the group. Simon was right, he needed to calm down. But that wasn’t going to happen standing around people who wanted him to put on a fâcade today of all days.

“Jasper…” Ryan turns to follow him.

“No, leave me alone, Ryan. Give me fucking space.” Jasper shouts. Ryan stops and looks back at the guys, taking a moment to see who was watching them and noticing Jasper had drawn a lot of attention. With a heavy sigh, Ryan joins the group again. This was usually when they would send Blake in to ‘defuse the bomb’. In the absence of Blake, they let him just walk off on his own.

“He’s right, he’s really hurting and we need to let him express that. It doesn’t do anyone any good to be holding back, especially not for the sake of protecting others’ feelings.” He says louder than he needed to, hoping that despite the very public way he’d just been asked to back off, people would hear his comments and know they were still supporting each other through this time. As much as this shouldn’t be about making a ‘visual statement’, reality was, people would be keeping an eye on them today and commenting on how they’re coping. He could just about picture the headlines, ‘Grief Stricken Jasper Assaults Ex Band Manager’. ‘Jasper Spirals at Best Friends Funeral’. Of course it wasn’t fair, of course Jasper’s only reacting out of the absolute anguish he’s suffering. But people would see, they would talk and Jasper would be judged on how he is grieving.

“He’s not coping with this at all, is he?” Luke asks, recognizing the lost expression on Ryan’s face. He was struggling to handle Jasper right now. It had been like this at home all day, every day. Jasper had been pushing Ryan away, starting the minute they’d gotten home from the hospital. It was taxing on both of them. The sheer level of emotional stress they had both been suffocating under was draining, but Ryan was trying his best to be strong for both their sakes.

“Do you blame him? Because I sure don’t.” Ryan states and heads towards Jasper, leaving enough space that Jasper wasn’t being suffocated under his attention, but he was sure soon enough he’d be needed close by. Jasper couldn’t maintain this emotional shut down forever. As much as it hurt to see the cracks starting to show, Ryan was glad Jasper was at least expressing something.

It felt wrong to even walk inside the funeral hall. A slide show of photos of Blake playing on a screen behind a coffin, laced with red roses. There’re people Jasper doesn’t recognise, talking like they’re at a cinema waiting for the show to start. It hadn’t occurred to Jasper that Blake had other friends and acquaintances that would be invited. He never heard Blake talk about people outside the band, Flynn and Beth.

“Jasper.” Grace walks down to greet him, a familiar face in the sea of strangers. She hugs him with care and leads him to his seat up the front. The first person to not bother to ask if he was ok, a question he was grateful not to have to answer. Being by Flynn’s side, she’d undoubtedly learned not to bother asking it.

“Who’s looking after Ellie?” Jasper asks as he sits down, disgusted to find himself doing the same thing as everyone else, making small talk to pass the time.

“Mum and Dad.” Grace answers, and that’s where the conversation ends. Ryan takes his seat beside Jasper and places a hand on his knee, not saying a word. Jasper ignores it. He had no reason to be mad at Ryan for wanting to comfort him. Something he didn’t know how to explain, was why everything Ryan did to try to keep close, only made Jasper want to push him away more. In his heart he wanted to fall apart in Ryan’s arms but he couldn’t stop snapping.

Beth comes in and sits beside Ryan. He takes his hand from Jasper’s knee and hugs her tight while she sobs into his shoulder. Jasper chews his lip as he adds her to the mental tally of people his boyfriend could comfort and hold.

It took another 5. Agonizing. Minutes waiting before the service is underway and with every passing moment the goodbye is slipping through his fingers. The life of a person, 23 years flashing by in photos and stories that were choked out through tears. To sum him up so fast, reduced to a few memories that fit appropriately into a speech, seemed almost insultingly minimal. Jasper himself hadn’t planned for a speech, he simply couldn’t talk about Blake. Instead, he sits back listening to the different ways people knew him, the different things they would all miss.

Listening to Beth talk about Blake filled him with guilt, first, because it made him imagine for a moment, standing here for Ryan and he actually felt grateful not to be, then hated himself deeply. Second, because though Blake was monumental in helping Jasper through all of his relationship dramas, Jasper realises how little involvement he had in Blake and Beth’s. He didn’t asked about them enough, and Blake rarely spoke about them either. It was like hearing about a someone completely different, the life he had with her that Jasper never asked or heard about. The softy he was as a boyfriend, Jasper pictures it but he wished he’d had the chance to see it for himself. Those stupid dinner parties he joked about would have been so fun, he’d have loved to see Blake fussing over Beth and being a gentleman.

Both of Blake’s parents stood together, struggling to say their speeches. This was the first time he had seen them, he’s fairly sure it’s the first time they’d come to visit Blake since Jasper had known him. Blake and Flynn had gotten out of their small town life, thanks to Flynn’s ‘job’ earning him enough to move to the city just so Blake could audition for the band. His parents had been distant, sending texts from time to time and the occasional phone call on milestone days. They’d both remarried and were living quiet lives, proud of their boys, but never visiting, too caught up in their new lives to find the time. They share a few memories of Blake from his childhood, picking out highlights between the years worth of seizures that put so much stress on the family it drove them all apart. Their favourite memory seemed to be of Blake and Flynn putting on ‘concerts’ using pots and pans as a drum kit. 10-year-old Blake taking center stage on the kitchen table with a broom that he would switch between pretending was a guitar and a microphone, dramatic eyeliner all over his face that he’d stolen from his mum’s make-up bag. There were thankfully photos of this incredible story to accompany it.

As Flynn stands before everyone, hands shaking and tears welled in his eyes, he spoke of the Blake that Jasper knew. Of the road trip that was moving out together across the country, blasting MCR and screaming along to the lyrics until they lost their voices. The running joke they had about the poor rental house beside them that couldn’t hold tenants for more than 6 months, presumably unable to withstand the constant noise. He talks of the pride that had filled him when Blake successfully made the band. How grateful he was to be a part of the journey with him. Hearing Blake come up with riffs and lyrics and being the first to hear every new idea and song. The thought of having to say goodbye to his brother, who he’d done so much to try and help, gone into illegal work to earn the money to move across the country just to encourage him in his dream, was beyond unfair.

Jasper’s trying to hold on to every single memory of his own, but all that kept coming to mind, replaying over and over, were moments he wished he could change. The time Blake was playfully teasing him about sleeping with Ryan for the first time, the words “you’re dead to me” swimming through his mind, tormenting him with guilt. Only a little over a fortnight ago, when Blake had mentioned headaches and he and Jasper had laughed about him ‘ignoring’ everyone during what they would soon learn were silent seizures. Then of course the screeching of tires, the thunderous rip of metal and shattering of glass while Jasper had screamed Blake’s name. Words Jasper couldn’t take back, moments he couldn’t redo and things that hindsight would teach them too late. This is why he struggled to sleep. These thoughts wouldn’t leave him alone. An endless loop of regret. Ryan’s hand squeezes his knee, and it brings him back to the moment, only to realise he’d missed the rest of the ceremony. Too lost in his own regrets to even take in what was happening and now it was time for it to end, for them to say goodbye.

Jasper walks up to the coffin with an ache in his chest. This was a moment that he wasn’t ready to face. He wanted more time; he wanted their life. The tour, the banter, the podcasts, the music. But instead, he stood here looking at a box, his heart empty but tears refusing to budge. All he wanted to do was destroy this whole stupid building. To break things, to scream, to tell everyone to fuck off. Jasper looks at the photo of Blake smiling at him from the lid of the coffin, having to face and accept the impossible. He doesn’t speak, though he knows this was his only chance. It was like he had no words to say, his lips glued shut with fear, pain and denial. He takes one more look at the photo of Blake then just walks away, heading straight outside to where Fi, Beth and Grace stood together crying and hugging each other. What Jasper wouldn’t give for a fucking hug, but no one could touch him without it causing pain. He knew he was in such a mood that anyone attempting to be comforting right now would be coldly shut down anyway. Leo and Mark come over and stand with Jasper, sharing anxious looks behind Jasper’s back.

As the last guests emerge, standing around and waiting, music starts playing. Jasper wasn’t sure if it was sick to have ‘Welcome to The Black Parade’ accompany the carrying of the coffin to the hearse, but knowing Blake, what else would it have been? Luke, Simon, Blake’s dad, stepdad, Flynn and Ryan carry the coffin. It was meant to be Jasper, but he had flat out refused, so Ryan offered to do it on Jasper’s behalf. “We’ll carry on, we’ll carry on~ Though you’re dead and gone believe me, your memory will carry on~” The lyrics make Jasper nauseous. Of all the times he’d heard Blake screaming these lyrics at the top of his lungs, with a grin on his face while he was punching the air, he’d never truly registered the words until this moment, this harrowingly depressing moment viewing the coffin being loaded into the back of the hearse.

“Lets walk for a moment.” Ryan’s voice grabs Jasper’s attention, and he’s grateful to get away from everyone, though he doesn’t show it at all. He was feeling his ability to remain calm and civil was running out rapidly, and he was close to losing it. He lets Ryan take his hand and they walk in silence around the back to the garden, no doubt where plenty of people had wandered to collect their thoughts after losing their loved ones. “Jasper, you don’t have to be strong.” Ryan says with the gentle tone that Jasper was sick of hearing, filled with so much pity that it had become infuriating.

“I’m not trying to be.” Jasper shakes his head. “I just don’t feel anything.” He shrugs, letting go of Ryan’s hand and subconsciously tracing the word Blake had written on his cast.

“You’re angry.” Ryan points out, not that he wanted to piss Jasper off more, but he wanted Jasper to express some of what he was holding in. Fearing that the longer he walked on eggshells and let Jasper wallow in his pain, the worse it would be when he finally broke.

“Yeah, I’m angry. I’m angry that I’m here, I’m angry that he isn’t. I’m angry that I keep waking up every day and he keeps staying dead. I’m angry that I broke 6 fucking ribs and lived and he was a week into recovery, beating the odds and getting feeling back in his foot and somehow it went from that to this. I’m angry.” Jasper pulls away from Ryan, shaking his head and looking up at the sky, the bright sunny sky optimistically mocking him. The least the world could have done is rain today, but there was not a cloud in sight. The whole world had ended as far as Jasper was concerned, and yet it kept rotating, sunrise and sunset, hours still passed, birds still sung. It was deeply hurtful how much time wasn’t just stopping for him. He had to come to terms with this and grieve while still living his own life. A life filled with mediocre things like thinking about what to eat and remembering to charge his phone after a long day of ignoring phone calls from his concerned and well-meaning loved ones. He was petrified of today ending, because that meant life would go back to normal. The new normal. The normal where he had to get by without Blake. All he wanted to do was fall apart and lose himself in grief, to never be happy again, but life for him had to keep moving. Jasper looks back at Ryan, who had said nothing. He was just standing there with red, tear-filled eyes and a broken expression. “Any other observations you want to make?” Jasper knew his attitude towards Ryan was uncalled for, but he couldn’t rein it in. Ryan shakes his head, relieved somewhat that Jasper had let it out. “Good.” Jasper turns and storms off, back to where everyone is gathering to head over to the wake.

“Are you alright?” Leo asks as Jasper walks straight up to him.

“Can you get me out of here?”

“Of course, with Ryan?” Leo glances at Ryan, who’s far enough away that he hadn’t heard Jasper’s request, but close enough that he’d catch up and come with them if they waited a minute.

“God no.” Jasper shakes his head. Leo nods, not wanting to argue with Jasper. He takes his keys out of his pocket and they walk towards Leo’s car. Leo opens the door for Jasper, who climbs in and turns his phone off straight away so Ryan can’t call him.

“Where are we going?” Leo asks as he starts the car.

“The bar near my house.” Jasper replies. Leo glances at him nervously in the rearview mirror and starts driving in silence. After a few minutes, Leo’s phone rings.

“Don’t tell him.” Jasper demands, knowing it was Ryan, he’d have by now tried calling Jasper and realised his phone was off. Leo ignores the call as instructed, though it immediately starts ringing again. By the time they pull over, Ryan had called 5 times. Jasper looks out the window and rolls his eyes.

“Jasper, I don’t judge you for wanting to get away for a drink.” Leo says with a sigh. His conscious had driven Jasper home.

“This is fine. Now you can call Ryan and tell him you did the right thing and took me home. Thanks.” Jasper scoffs again and gets out, heading down the street towards the bar, not bothering to wait for Leo to go. He didn’t care that Leo knew where he was going, and he didn’t care that he would tell Ryan. He would cross that bridge when he got home. As he watches Jasper walk away, Leo returns Ryan’s call.

“Hey. I just dropped him off at home.” Leo sighs. It was the truth, just missing the part where Jasper had already walked off. He worked for Jasper after all, not Ryan. The last thing he wanted to do was lose Jasper’s trust, because the way things seemed, Jasper was already making sure to lose everyone else that cared about him.

Claire Rosalind
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Chapter Comments

That is some grief.I hope I'm getting this wrong but Leo saying to Jasper"I don't judge you for wanting to get away for a drink" has me worried that jasper drinking might lead to something.I hope Leo doesn't do what I think he might do.

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Painful to read but beautifully written. Like...phenomenally so. You captured Jasper's feelings and the feelings of the day so perfectly.

Also, kind of glad that Chris showed up to take some hits - allowed some of the tension both Jasper and the readers were feeling to be unleashed.

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2 hours ago, chris191070 said:

Wow, so sad and helpless. Jasper is pushing everyone away in his grief.

Fully agree Chris. True,  he's lost his best friend and is grieving, but a lot of my sympathy lies with Ryan. He has been supporting Jasper as best as he knows how to help him through the crisis and all he gets is a kick in the teeth. Quite honestly,  Jasper is just being a self-centred dick who needs to get a grip and pull himself together. He is not the only one who has lost someone they love. I just hope he does nothing stupid that would put his and Ryan's relationship in jeopardy. Hang in there Ryan!!

Edited by Andre Delport
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I was ready to stop reading this story after the last chapter.

I could not deal with the heartache of Blake dying.

I was all set to forget it ever happened. But the thoughts kept rattling around in my head keeping me up at night wondering if Jasper would self destruct or would he survive and how many casualties would there be along the way?. 

My curiosity and love for Blake, Jasper and Ryan is compelling me to comeback to finish this story to see if we might get somewhat of a happy ending but my heart is dreading the sadness that I will probably have to face along the way.

Please don't keep my heart waiting to long in suspense.

Edited by mrbossmant
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On 3/22/2021 at 12:41 PM, weinerdog said:

I hope I'm getting this wrong but Leo saying to Jasper "I don't judge you for wanting to get away for a drink" has me worried that jasper drinking might lead to something. I hope Leo doesn't do what I think he might do.

I don't know what you think he might do, but I think you're going to be very surprised with Leo's part in the rest of this story.

 

On 3/22/2021 at 6:34 PM, Andre Delport said:

Jasper is just being a self-centred dick who needs to get a grip and pull himself together.

Oh well you are going to have a time reading how well Jasper goes about things over the next few chapters. If it helps though, he's very aware of how he's treating people around him and he does acknowledge it in a future chapter with this part (spoilers taken out of it).

“I was such a dick to you." Jasper shakes his head at Ryan.

"You think I can’t see when someone is being a dick just to push people away, as a pose to being a dick for the sake of it? You were hurting, I didn’t take it personally." Ryan smiles at him.

Edited by Littlelovestories
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Come on Jasper, you can't throw away everything you have with Ryan, you need to get a drink and call Ryan to come and both of you need to grieve together, remember Blake also was there for Ryan too, you both loss someone you both loved in your own way, stop and think, Ryan is trying to be strong for you, but he is hurting and grieving too, you both should grieve together,

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