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Do You Ship Us? - 98. Birthday Party With a Twist

To anyone outside of the family, it would have seemed like overkill to have a destination birthday party a month after Eleanor's actual first birthday. With all the grief and emotions of the last few months, Grace and Flynn had been delaying the celebration and had clearly gone all out. In the middle of the local botanical gardens, they have set up the party under an elaborately decorated large rotunda, covered in red roses and baby's breath flowers. There's a stack of kids presents on a bench, it'd surely take a few trips to get home with everything. Multiple were from Jasper who had gone a little bit wild in one of his midnight drunken online shopping sprees, woops. But he had found joy in buying and wrapping a bunch of presents, thinking of how excited Ellie would be to see all the gifts she was getting. He may have been terrible at a lot of things right now, but being the cool, rich uncle that could spoil that little girl with everything her heart could possibly desire, was not something he intended to fail at.

Jasper was also sober, he hadn't touched a drink or done more than just look at his stash of pre-rolled joints as if he was sorry to be neglecting them today. There had rarely been a day where it wasn't the first thing he'd done, wake up, light one up and take the first drag before even rolling himself out of bed. He was already anxious without it, but being high at his one year old niece's first birthday party wasn't something he wanted, and Grace had made him swear to the point of threatening to have Flynn use one of his home drug tests on him, which thankfully Flynn was kind enough to quietly assure him he would not do. Flynn understood that complete sobriety might be a bit too much to ask, considering how heavy Jasper's use and reliance had gotten. But Jasper had been really trying to cut back and at the very least, lock himself in his apartment if it was a 'bad day'. No more life ruining mistakes needed to be made, he'd well and truly fulfilled his quota. Still Jasper had promised today, that he wouldn't be high or drunk, so here he was, stone cold sober and in a public, somewhat chaotic setting, trying to celebrate something good for a change. It was a struggle, he knew he was a little fidgety, but Flynn was giving him jobs to do to help keep him busy and distracted. It was lucky he had Flynn here, someone who understood and knew some helpful ways to cope with withdrawals.

It was incredible to Jasper that Flynn hadn't been using anything, not even drinking. It didn't make sense to Jasper, how he could get through his days without it, given Blake was his life in more ways than he was Jasper's. It came down to perspective and blame, Jasper was still carrying guilt for having not been able to steer the car away from danger, Flynn wasn't carrying guilt. He'd thought about it rationally and come to the conclusion that Blake's death was a tragedy that should be honored by living his life and filling it with happiness and love. Flynn hadn't felt it would be appropriate to mention that he felt a sense of relief knowing he didn't have to worry about Blake anymore. He wasn't sure Jasper with in a place to understand that he could feel that way, while still loving and missing Blake just as much as Jasper did. Though Flynn and Blake weren't religious, they had a closeness that had resulted in Flynn believing that Blake would be able to vicarious live through him. To be happy that he was happy. After all, Flynn had been the one living vicariously through Blake with all of his musical successes over the last few years and he knew the power and enjoyment that came with being able to watch someone you want the best for, out their achieving their best. If Blake was able to see Flynn, he'd be wanting the best for him, and he'd be thrilled to see him claiming his best life everyday.

Beth had fallen off Jasper's radar, he hadn't reached out to her since the funeral, for which he felt like the worlds' worst human for not doing. Everyone had fallen off his radar as he'd slipped into his own self centred world in the last few months, but Beth was someone he knew he should have tried to check in on and he'd just not been able to bring himself to. But she was here today, having been referred to as Auntie Beth for Ellie throughout the last year. Jasper didn't realize how close she and Grace had become while Jasper and Blake had been busily touring. Apparently it wasn't just Ryan she had been spending a lot of time hanging out with during that period. There was a part of Jasper that found it adorable to know that even though he and Beth hadn't worked as a couple, she had still become a part of his family, in a way, it had always felt like she was. It was still horrifyingly odd to see her talk to his parents as though they were old friends of hers though. There'd been a time when all his parents hoped for in the world was that their son would marry and sleep with this woman and enjoy it enough to spawn them some grandkids, so to see them smiling and talking about Beth's parents and other people from back in the days of Sunday mornings at church was honestly a little unsettling.

Flynn's parents were here too, though somewhat out of place. Jasper and Grace's parents had been at least polite but seemed as though they didn't actually know how to talk to people, like they were so far out of their comfort zones being surrounded by sinners. A divorced couple at a birthday party of their son's, girlfriend's bastard child, and that was without mentioning the gay drug addict brother. Yeah, Jasper's parents discomfort of the whole thing was obvious, but he had some respect for the fact that they were standing there politely acknowledging everyone and putting in the effort to act like they weren't judging everyone here. Flynn introduces his parents to Jasper and there's an uncomfortable silence as they just smile at him. Jasper didn't know if they remembered him as being the guy that would flirt with Blake on stage and during interviews, or the guy that made a scene at Blake's funeral, but either way they were nice to him which was more than Jasper could have hoped for really. It definitely felt like Flynn had told them not to talk about Blake, which left them with absolutely nothing to talk about so they move on to mingle with other people at the party.

Grace had made some other parent friends by the look of the small gathering of other women around her age bouncing children around Ellie's age on their hips or just following them while they toddled around, hellbent on wrecking the party by eating something they shouldn't, food from the ground or each other's arms. It was noisy and tiring to even watch these people dealing with tantrums, the kids each taking their moment to shine and be the one having a meltdown. It seemed like an inconvenience for all of them to have come out today with their kids for this, but here they were, faking smiles and gently saying 'don't eat that, that's yucky', 'uh uh, don't bite your friends', 'oh dear'. 'Oh dear' was Jasper's favourite parent statement. There was a child headbutting the ground and screaming because he wasn't allowed to eat a cigarette butt he'd found, and his mum just gave a sigh like this was an everyday occurrence and said 'oh dear' and most of the other mum's had turned to her in this instance and given a sympathetic smile as though they understood. Out in public, surrounded by other one year olds' had to be the worst possible day for Jasper to be sober but he was doing his best to look like he's not imagining how much easier this would all be if he'd just had a little bit of something.

Grace finally sits down with Ellie on her lap, an hour into the party, and Flynn hands them a present from the table to unwrap while everyone just stands back with their plastic cups of juice and watches her try to encourage Ellie to open her gifts. By the time the presents are all open, and Ellie has proven everyone wrong about whether she would like their presents or not by choosing to play with the wrapping paper on the floor instead of any of the new toys, Jasper was really feeling the strain of sobriety. He's halfway through chewing on another carrot stick, trying to convince his brain it's a joint, when Flynn passes him holding Ellie and the nappy bag. All of the other parents with babies were packing up and saying their goodbyes to Grace too, all looking so relieved to be able to take their tired tots back home. A feeling of relief washes over Jasper, thinking he could finally get home soon too. He glances at his watch and smiles to himself at the thought of making it all the way into the early hours of the afternoon, this was the longest time he'd been sober for in a while, this felt like an achievement. It'd been hell, but he'd made it through. As he counts in his head how many hours it'd been, he felt quite emotional to think he was only really a few hours off surpassing one whole day. He didn't know if he could, given how strongly he was craving a joint, even just a few puffs, just to take the edge off the day. But to just be close to making it to a day was a good feeling.

"Jasper can you come and give me a hand." Grace asks, waltzing down the stairs of the rotunda and gesturing him to follow her. Jasper gladly follows, thinking he was helping her pack up, the sooner it was done, the sooner he could relax.

"Where are we going?" Jasper asks as he's led to a white marquee tent he'd assumed was for someone else's party. Grace just looks over her shoulder and winks at him as she moves around to the opened section, revealing an even more lusciously set up area, a long table draped in white cloth, red napkins in front of white chairs with matching red sashes on the back of them, up one end hangs a princess style wedding gown encrusted with diamantes and silver embroidery all over the top, plain white satin from the waist down. Jasper's jaw drops as he registers what's going on. "Does Flynn know you're about to spring a wedding on him?" He asks in a concerned whisper. This wasn't the first time she'd decided to suddenly drop a marriage on the poor guy so it was in his mind, a fair question. Grace giggles and races up to take the dress from the hanger.

"Of course he does, it was his idea." She says excitedly. "Now keep watch that no one comes in while I'm getting changed." She orders, twirling her finger for Jasper to turn around. He does, mostly still in shock and guiltily the realization hits him that he will have to be trying to handle the already difficult withdrawal symptoms he was having, while surrounded by people. At least if he went home and stayed away from the temptation for a while longer, he could take a shower or meticulously clean or just sit on the couch chewing his nails and no one would be there to judge him. He take a deep breath, deciding to ignore the unhelpful thoughts of how much better he would be able to get through the next few hours if his sister hadn't decided to make this the best day of her life. She deserved this, and he'd just have to cope with it, hide the struggle and be supportive.

"You're actually insane." Jasper tells her, shaking his head but smiling. He did love that Grace had been so impulsive with Flynn, it made him happy to see the way she was now, considering how trapped she was before she'd met him. She'd come a long way from allowing her life to be completely controlled, to meeting Flynn and having letting love guide them on a spontaneous adventure, confident that she knew who she was and what she wanted and with a man that was giving her all that and more. They may have been living a modest life together, but they took care of each other and made each other so happy. This may have been the last way Jasper had thought Grace and Flynn's wedding would happen, but he also saw a certain charm and freedom in the way they weren't stressing over setting a date, sending out invites and hiring venues and going through the whole stressful process, this seemed like such a carefree and exciting way to do it.

"Ok I need your help now." Grace calls. Jasper turns around and the awe of seeing his sister beaming at him in a wedding dress is almost enough to make him forget how crazy this day was becoming. "I can't do up the buttons." She tells him.

"What am I, your bridesmaid?" Jasper walks over with a smile and starts doing the buttons up on her dress.

"No, Maid of Honor." Grace replies, the opposite of a bridezilla, she was incredibly calm considering she was about to throw a fairy-tale wedding at a bunch of unsuspecting people who had come here under the impression they were just going to be watching an infant get spoiled rotten for a few hours.

"Mum and dad are going to have simultaneous heart attacks when you walk out in this." Jasper tells her.

"I hope not, that will ruin the moment." Grace laughs it off.

"For real though, you cannot just have a wedding, I mean who's officiating?" Jasper asks and the moment he does he feels his heart sink to his feet and a cold chill rapidly take over his body. Grace looks over her shoulder at him with a sneaky smile and Jasper abandons the dress, stepping back and covering his mouth with both his hands.

"I'm going to throw up if you say his name." Jasper warns, a look of absolute horror on his face, feeling as though he was the one that was going to have a heart attack now.

"Noted." Grace rolls her eyes.

"It's not, tell me it's not." Jasper begs.

"Don't be so dramatic. It'll be fine." Grace sighs, turning to Jasper who is just shaking his head in disbelief.

"You cannot have Ryan marry you guys in front of me!" Jasper's voice was up an octave or two as he tried to keep his panic to a whisper but he felt like he'd just been slingshot into the worst possible scenario. On day one of sobriety, he could maybe handle Grace and Flynn getting surprise married, but facing Ryan? Nope. Not a single part of him could do this, not after the last time he'd seen him. Of course Grace didn't know about that, but Jasper couldn't believe she'd even consider asking her brother's ex fiancé, that he was most definitely not over, to perform a wedding ceremony in front of him. If it wasn't just that she was completely unaware, then he would almost consider it to be purposefully cruel.

"Here's what's going to happen." Grace places her hands on Jasper's shoulders and looks into his eyes, sure that her next comment would calm him down. "He's going to officiate the wedding and be feeling all these romantic feelings." Jasper is staring into her eyes mentally begging her to undo whatever plans she's made with him, while shaking his head rapidly. "And when we're in here having the reception and dance, you'll ask him to dance and he'll say yes because he'll be so overcome with the excitement of a wedding that he'll not be able to resist and you two will slow dance and look into each others' eyes and kiss and live happily ever after."

"I will be doing no such thing. I'm seriously going to puke." Jasper puts his hand to his throat, he felt like he couldn't breathe properly. Obliviously, Grace continues trying to assure him this will be a good thing.

"Relax, trust me, nothing brings people together like a weddi..."

"GRACE. He's dating someone." Jasper says through gritted teeth. Her face drops as she realizes how much of a mess she'd made out of this.

"Oh shit." She mutters and takes a step back, covering her mouth with her hands.

"Oh shit is correct." Jasper turns around in a circle as if looking for a way out of this diabolical attempt to spring a wedding on people and set him and Ryan back up together in the process.

"I had no idea. Is it serious? I mean is there a chance..." Grace starts, but Jasper cuts in, not wanting her to finish asking the question. He'd let go of hope and been trying to live without the 'what if' thoughts, and did not want to start that rollercoaster all over again.

"Can you find someone else? Please. Anyone. I am begging you." Jasper puts his hands together in prayer, he knew there was no way she would just call off the wedding and no way she would find someone else on such short notice but he just needed this to not be happening. He was way too sober for this.

"Ok look, he's not bringing a plus one, I know that for a fact so maybe?" Grace announces and Jasper just burst into nervous panicked laughter, he could not believe this was about to happen. And he'd just have to cope. Hide. The. Struggle. And. Cope.

"Thank FUCK for that." Jasper runs his fingers through his hair and looks back at his sister, all dressed up and ready to get married, minus the few buttons Jasper hadn't finished before. He takes a deep breath and holds it until he feels like he's internally suffocating then lets it out and steps towards her again. "Ok, ok. It's fine. I'll be fine." He tries to convince himself, while in his head his thought continues as, 'My ex performing a wedding between my sister and my dead best friend's brother in front of absolutely no one that's prepared for this is not going to be a complete living hell'. He finishes her dress and she turns around and gives him an apologetic look. She knew this was a disaster for Jasper and felt atrocious for having not at least sussed out where he and Ryan were at before making this plan, being hopeful that it could help bring them back together too.

"Uh, listen I've got a suit for you to wear, since you're the entire bridal party." Grace tells him and points to a hanger that was on one of the chairs at the top of the table.

"Is Flynn going to be dressed up?" Jasper goes over and takes a look at what he's working with for his outfit, deciding to think of it like a costume. When this was on he'd just be the brother of the bride and he'd play the character perfectly. No personal problems, just focused on Grace having a wonderful afternoon and a wedding that she could remember as being perfect.

"That's what he took Ellie to go and do before when he said he was changing her nappy. She's my little flower girl." Grace smiles.

"So is Ryan the only other person that knew about this plan?" Jasper asks, momentarily wondering just how many people were scheming behind his back.

"Yes. And he was thrilled that I asked him to officiate. Are you sure he's dating someone?" Grace quizzes, taking a small make-up bag from the chair she would sit at during the reception and sitting down to apply it. Jasper heads off to a corner of the tent to get changed into his suit.

"Yes, Brayden. I have a mental image of him burned into my brain that I frequently mentally punch." Jasper mutters harshly as he struggles into the suit pants.

"And you're sure it's a boyfriend and you're not just catapulting yourself to conclusions?" Grace asks almost accusingly.

"I told him to move on, then met a guy named Brayden at his house going to meet his mum, not sure what other conclusions you can find in that. Geez, how skinny do you think I am, these pants are so tight." He complains as he finally gets them all the way on.

"Well I was hoping that it'd capture someone's attention and get him checking you out." Grace smirks and looks over at Jasper who was at this point buttoning up his shirt and tucking it in. "When did you meet this Brayden guy? Because I asked Ryan about performing this wedding for us 3 weeks ago and he didn't mention a new boyfriend, which, honestly he should have. He knew you would be here and I wouldn't want you being hurt, so if he was dating again he should have let me know and realized it wouldn't be appropriate for him to be here. I don't think he would do this if he wasn't still in love with you, Flynn was the one that suggested we ask Ryan because he said when he went over that night to check on you it was clear how much you both still loved each other. That was what, a month and a half ago? Doesn't it seem too soon for him to just move on? I don't think he would just give up that fast." Grace was picking this apart logically, something Jasper had tried to avoid doing because he was truthfully devastated that Ryan had replaced him so fast.

"In his defence, that night I may have been incredibly selfish and hurt him so much that I genuinely think I broke him. There's no way he left with any love or respect for me by the time I was done with whatever stage of confused stupidity I was in." Jasper sighs and closes his eyes taking deep calming breaths.

"Are you sure you're not projecting your own self loathing? I really don't think Ryan would just give up and move on so fast. It doesn't make sense to me." Grace argues.

"Look, Ryan is a hopeless romantic and he's impossibly good looking, guys like that are never single for long. He's a complete catch, who wouldn't want that? It's not that quick either. It's been months since I broke up with him and I have just made every mistake possible since. I am surprised he didn't give up on me sooner, all things considered. I gave up on me pretty damn fast." Jasper shrugs like it wasn't something that ate away at him most hours of the day when he was at home alone, lying in bed imagining Ryan being there to encompass him in all the love and passion he could possibly take. That's why complete sobriety hadn't been a thing, because after a while, daydreaming that he'd handled this all completely differently, felt just as hopeless as daydreaming Blake would come home.

"Do you think you guys will at least talk though?" Grace asks. Jasper pauses and looks over at her then sighs and shakes his head.

"Can we focus on your relationship? It's the more exciting one right now." Jasper deflects but Grace narrows her eyes at him, seeing right through the attempt. "Look, last time I saw him didn't exactly go well. I was a drunken mess on his front lawn, having had Brayden answer the door. Telling him I'd slept with someone. I doubt we'll talk. I know I certainly won't be starting a conversation. I have pushed him away and broken his heart and embarrassed myself beyond what I think we could ever come back from. I will be polite and I will get through this for you and Flynn, because I love you both so much and want to see you happy, but I do not want to face Ryan for longer than I have to. I am fairly sure he hates me and looking at him fills me with an unfathomable amount of regret." Jasper admits, pouring his heart out to Grace who was staring over at him stunned.

"Wait you slept with someone!?"

"Please, yell it louder. I don't think everyone quite heard you." Jasper says, his face almost turning the colour of the red bowtie he was doing up. "I'm trying to forget it happened so lets never talk about it again, I just wanted you to understand if he and I are very awkward today that it's probably because of that." Jasper finishes up and straightens out his clothes, taking a moment to make sure he looked alright. Beside Grace, he wouldn't be the one everyone was looking at and he was honestly hoping that no one would even notice he was there. If he could make it through this without Ryan knowing he was there, that'd really be ideal. But he was also aware that this would be the best condition Ryan had seen him in since, well since before Blake...

"How do I look?" Grace asks, standing up and doing a twirl for him. Other than stunning, she looked happy. So happy that Jasper decides he's not going to let anything ruin today for her. Not even if it meant facing Ryan. He'd hold it all in, every single feeling, and let it out when he gets home. Grace and Flynn deserved this moment to be nothing but perfect.

"You look like a princess. Ellie is going to do that big, wide eyed stare she does, when she sees you." Jasper smiles at Grace.

"I am hoping Flynn will do the same." Grace admits.

"He'd want to or I will aim for him when I throw up later." Jasper threatens. There's an excited amount of gasping and chatter going on outside and from the smile on Grace's face as she checks the time on her phone, Jasper could guess that Flynn and Ellie were back dressed in formal attire. That meant that Ryan must have turned up too, Jasper tries to compartmentalize that for the sake of surviving the next hour before he'd try to make an early escape.

"Ready when you are babe!" Flynn shouts and Jasper can't help but laugh at how he imagined his parents faces would have looked hearing their soon to be son-in-law shout 'babe' at his soon to be wife. This was so informal that it was dazzlingly romantic. Very them. Grace whisks a bouquet of flowers from a vase on the table and walks towards the entrance of the marquee tent then holds her arm out for Jasper.

"You're walking me down the aisle by the way." She announces. Jasper felt honored, going to her side and hooking his arm around hers. He leans in and kisses her cheek swiftly.

"I'm so happy for you, that you and Flynn have been so good for each other. You deserve all the happiness in the world." Jasper tells her, and is just a little bit proud to be the first one to make her tear up today.

"Thanks, you have no idea how much you mean to me." Grace wipes the tear away and hugs Jasper tight. "And I'm so sorry about inviting Ryan." She whispers.

"Ready to get married?" Jasper asks her, feeling like he was more nervous then her at this point.

"One second." Grace takes out her phone and goes into music, selecting a song that starts immediately playing through bluetooth speakers outside. "Ok, lets go."


Shockingly Jasper makes it all the way down the aisle without vomiting. It helped that Ellie was toddling down from where Flynn and Ryan were standing, with a sign that said 'Daddy, here comes mummy', which meant everyone including Jasper was distracted by her. Grace ends up walking with Ellie holding one hand and Jasper on her other arm. Jasper stands beside Grace and watches her and Flynn, not once giving into the temptation of looking out of the corner of his eyes to the man who's voice had never sounded so sweet, as it was pouring out words of love.

"Today we are celebrating love, we are celebrating commitment and we are celebrating devotion through the union of Grace and Flynn." It takes everything to keep himself from looking down at his feet while he listens to Ryan speak of the importance of these things. He felt every word course through him with the smoothness of Ryan's gentle voice feeling like it was responsible for each beat of Jasper's heart. Still, Jasper wasn't letting the 'everything is fine' smile leave his face.

When the time comes for the ring exchange, he makes the mistake of sneaking a quick glance, only to make direct eye contact with Ryan who had also only intended on a quick glance. He could imagine they were thinking the same thing, about the engagement that never got a chance to be enjoyed between the two of them, and the symbolism of the break-up that started from the moment doctors made the choice to cut the ring from Jasper's finger, the ring that Jasper still had the pieces of sitting in a jar in the bedside drawer. The chance that never really happened. Something neither of them had yet found closure for. But Ryan moves on.

"With this ring, I promise..." Ryan starts and Grace repeats after him. "That I will love and respect you.... In sickness and in health... For better and for worse..." This was painful for Jasper, who's really struggling to contain himself. He could lie that he's emotional about Grace getting married, but everyone would know that she wasn't the only reason he was tearing up. Finally the ring exchange and vows are done, and just like that, Ryan is declaring Grace and Flynn husband and wife. Then Jasper didn't know where to look because he didn't want to see his sister pashing Flynn, or his parents reaction to the kiss, or Ryan's face, at all in general, he distracts himself looking down at the flowers in his hands with a smile on his face, hoping it'd at least not look rude in photos.

There's a cheer of joy from the small group of people there to celebrate, and in a very casual way, Grace and Flynn both collect a number of things from the rotunda and head down to the marquee. Guests following suit to pack up the birthday party and move to the wedding reception. Jasper picks up Ellie, thinking this would give him ample excuses to not have to interact with anyone else, while still looking like he was busy. However he's aware as Ryan walks past him and casts him a smile, his eyes looking all the way from Jasper's feet to his eyes then back to settle on the baby dressed in a flower girl princess dress, that he may have made an error in judgement. If anyone was going to pay more attention to him with a baby in his arms, it was going to be the man he'd starting making plans to become a parent with one day. They share a smile that lasts too long, there was a deep wanting that they were both clearly resisting. Jasper is thankful to Beth who notices them just standing uncomfortably together and calls out to Ryan to help her carry something. Ryan gives Jasper a nod and turns around, walking away and leaving Jasper's path free for his escape. He was glad to have survived and actually he felt quite good about the whole thing. It had been hard but he'd faced Ryan now so he didn't have to dread that moment anymore. The worst was behind him, he thinks confidently.


As Jasper sits beside Grace at the table, in awe that she'd managed to pull off this surprise event. He'd noticed the seat beside Flynn was purposefully left empty and chose not to think about it too much but it was clear why, who else would be Flynn's best man? Jasper sips at his glass of champagne, wishing he had something stronger because it was now settling into the evening and he could feel himself becoming more and more anxious as each minute trickled by painfully slowly. He'd somehow thought the reception wouldn't be a constant influx of love songs and speeches about finding the person you're meant to spend your life with and embracing a future together. Grace felt awful for having invited Ryan because she could feel the tension between them and knew that Jasper wasn't coping well with having his ex in the room, at an event celebrating love. Still, with how Jasper had been, she didn't know whether he would be able to drink more and keep it together or completely ruin it so she had told him he'd only be having one drink and could leave as soon as it got too much for him. She wanted him here by her side of course, but not if it was destroying him to stay. He'd already dealt with it like a champion today and she was grateful for that much.

Speeches happen, first Flynn and Grace, saying a little bit about each other in a very candid and casual way. Grace mentioning that when she met Flynn she was 'a million and a half weeks pregnant' and he had still made her feel beautiful. Flynn claiming to be the luckiest man alive, having fallen in love with two beautiful women at once, that their little family was everything he never knew he wanted. Again, something Jasper could relate to and had to stop himself from looking at Ryan as he thinks about the journey they had been on from Jasper being sure he didn't want kids and thinking that would be a deal breaker, to the times they were watching Ellie together and both imagining themselves as parents. The memories were bittersweet. Jasper lost count of the times he'd seen Ryan holding Ellie and rocking her with an affectionate smile on his face, or the times Jasper had been singing to Ellie and caught Ryan watching him in awe.

Both sets of parents stand up to make spontaneous speeches to welcome the union. More talk of love, of commitment. Hearing their own dad actually say he's proud of Grace and that he hoped that her and Flynn would have a long, rewarding marriage was the next big surprise of the night and Jasper couldn't help but feel a little bit of resentment again that his parents were so quick to accept her relationship with Flynn. Under the table Grace was holding Flynn's hand in one of hers, and squeezing Jasper's in the other. She could feel Jasper's hand shaking through the speeches, but he had mastered the control of the fake smile and no one but himself and Grace would know how hard he was working to keep it all in right now. This was the hardest part of the whole night, because he was right next to the bride who everyone's attention was on so he was being watched and couldn't let himself slip up for even a second. There's a brief moment when Jasper reaches for his glass to raise it as his own dad finishes saying his few words, where Jasper's eyes regrettably hit Ryan and Beth who were seated beside each other, their hands clasped together too on the table. Not sure who was comforting who, but he was glad at least Ryan wasn't facing this moment alone either. They had come so close, gotten through every problem they had faced, together, each time only strengthening their love and it never stopped feeling so unfair that life had finally dealt them a hand they couldn't find a way to win with.

Glass in hand and uncomfortable as hell with the two massive elephants in the room, Jasper follows his dad's lead to make a speech for the happy newly weds. When he stood up and tapped his glass he could feel the surprise radiate off everyone's face and feels it rush through his body too, not sure why he was doing this.

"Uh, I didn't plan a speech, but there's some things I just wanted to say." He gulps as his brain wonders what the hell he meant, having not actually put together any thoughts prior to this proclamation. All eyes were on him now though so he had to follow through with it, so he musters all of his practiced speech making and hopes for the best. "Firstly, to my sister, who's always dreamed of her wedding, and even without a procession of doves, and a horse drawn carriage, she's managed to make her dreams come true, I still think you're crazy but I couldn't imagine you doing things any other way. Secondly, to my new brother in-law," Jasper pauses again, needing a moment for those words to just set in. "You've treated me like part of your family since the first day we met, welcoming me with open arms and supporting me. It's my honor to welcome you officially, to my family." Flynn smiles at Jasper and holds up his glass, with a slight nod, appreciating the strength he knew this was taking. "Watching my sister fall in love with my best friends' brother has been the weirdest experience of my life, but I am so glad you two found each other. You both just took the offer of love and let it encompass you like the rest would all just work itself out and it somehow just, did." Jasper pauses as his thoughts briefly turn to imagining himself climbing over the table and running over to Ryan, but this wasn't his happily ever after. "The happiness you two have found in each other, is truly beautiful and I hope that you never run out of ways to fall in love with each other. Congratulations." Jasper concludes quickly before raising his glass and sitting down to finish it off. Grace wraps her arms around him, feeling the way Jasper was shaking all over now.

"Thank you." Is all Grace can choke out but she's feeling another wave of pride for how Jasper was coping with it all for her today. There's a round of applause before Jasper's on his feet again, he wanted to run outside, get away from everyone before he lost this sliver of control that remained, but he also knew there was something else he needed to do first, so he moves around to the seat beside Flynn, the seat left empty for Blake. He places his hands on the back of the chair and takes a deep breath all eyes still on him, this time more nervous than when he'd stood up a moment ago.

"On behalf of Blake, I'd also like to say that you're gonna be a real badass husband." A genuine smile on his face and tears threatening to break through now. "He'd be picking on you with a perfectly articulated series of roasts right now about you turning into a softie, but he'd end it, no doubt on some comment about how proud of you he is. And I imagine he is proud." Jasper states, only a slight waver in his voice. There's a noticeably louder clap from everyone here that knew how big a deal it was for Jasper to speak in Blake's honour, for Flynn. Not having his brother by his side on such a big day had been difficult, so this meant everything to Flynn, who sheds a few tears as he stands up and wraps his arms around Jasper, giving him a tight appreciative hug.

"Thanks for speaking for him. He'd be fucking proud of you for that too." Flynn whispers while they hug, both of them pulling away and wiping the tears from their eyes and giving each other smiles as if to say 'I understand'. Flynn lets out a deep breath and takes something from his pocket, passing it to Jasper. "A present for you. When you're ready, this is from him. He'd want me to give it to you." Flynn tells Jasper, quietly. Jasper takes the USB in shaky hands and pockets it swiftly, he had no idea what to expect but he couldn't hold it together much longer now. "Call me if you need to talk. I've seen it all and, it's probably going to be a lot for you to take in." He warns him with a kind smile. Jasper just nods and Flynn wraps his arms around him again, patting him on the back.

The night moves on from there, and as everyone is distracted watching Flynn and Grace slow dance, Jasper steals away outside, heading back up to the rotunda and looking out into the night sky enjoying the peace and quiet, the distant sound of music mixed with the gentle sound of the leaves rustling in the breeze. He lets out a breath he felt like he'd been holding all day, but it's not followed with tears like he expected it would be, instead he just felt normal. Not empty like he had for the last few months, just normal sad. This was the 'broken kind of ok' that Damien had mentioned and rather than fearing being at that stage, Jasper felt like he was ready to finally accept it. It'd been such a long day without anything to distract his mind and despite how hard it was, he was proud of himself for having gotten through it and felt like there was a shift in his mindset already. A whole day of clear thoughts, a whole day of just facing the world and being in it. Of celebrating love and seeing happiness play out around him, not on pause anymore even with the missing person at the table and the missing person in his heart. Jasper looks down at the USB in his hand, knowing this USB held something of Blake's and for the first time he actually feels like he can handle going home and facing it, no matter what it was going to be. He'd spent so long being at his worst, and hearing that Blake would be disappointed in how he was living, that when Flynn had hugged him and told him Blake would be proud of him Jasper felt like he was finally feeling like he had a purpose again. To keep making Blake proud, to keep living his life and to be happy again.

“Hey.” Ryan’s voice felt like it was attached by an invisible string tied around Jasper’s heart that was being yanked to pull Jasper back towards him. Jasper resists with everything he had, leaving his heart to ache. He wanted happiness, but not if it meant causing anyone else pain, and the last thing he wanted was to hurt Ryan's new boyfriend. “Look I don’t want to bother you, I just wanted to say it was really good to see you today, and that you did amazingly. You have been so strong today, and should be so proud. I know I sure am.” Ryan tells him sincerely. Jasper hangs his head, silently pleading for something to happen to break this moment because every selfish part of him wanted to turn around and convince Ryan to break-up with his new guy and give him just one more chance. “Bye.” Ryan’s voice was gentle but there was an undertone of pain that practically screamed through the dead silence between them. A hint that Ryan wasn't ok and that was something Jasper couldn't ignore.

“Ryan.” Jasper turns around quickly, looking at Ryan who was paused one step down. Ryan looks over at Jasper, surprised to be looking into his eyes now, he steps back up and leans against the pillar covered in the flowers, and as it's now the first time Jasper has looked at him for more than a split second he can't help but see how incredibly handsome he looked. A crisp black suit and tie, jacket swung casually over his arm, leaning against a pillar of flowers and bathed in the warm yellow glow of the nearby lamppost. His soft and caring expression fixed on Jasper. “Why did you come tonight?” If this were a romance movie, he'd throw himself in Ryan's arms right now and have his own fairy-tale moment, but he contains himself, he had to. Grace was right that this wedding would stir up feelings for them. A whole lot of him wanted to let those feelings guide him but he also didn't want to complicate things for either of them.

“To support Grace and see if you were doing ok.” Ryan admits with a shrug, his eyes again scanning up and down Jasper's body.

“Even though it hurt?” Jasper asks, unable to hold back the tears any longer, a sober mind letting the anguish seep through. “The wedding. That can’t have been easy for you given everything. Why put yourself through it?” Jasper asks, his heart racing and caving in all at once as he waits for Ryan's response.

"It wasn't easy.” Ryan answers, taking a step towards Jasper, waiting for any sign that he could get closer. Jasper shakes his head and looks down at his feet. “It’s ok if you were struggling. No one blames you. Least of all Grace and Flynn.” Ryan tells him softly as he walks over to Jasper, gently placing a hand on his shoulder. Jasper looks up at Ryan and he wishes again that something would force this moment to end before he could let himself do the wrong thing and throw his arms around Ryan, suffocate him under a kiss and get hurt any more than he already was. The moment his eyes meet the kindness and empathy in Ryan’s he lets himself break down, collapsing into Ryan’s arms and feeling the safety of his love emulating through his strong hug, he lets the vulnerability that he tried so desperately to hide, show. He sobs speechlessly and Ryan simply holds him tight, letting Jasper express what he needed to without the questions and hopes that were racing through his mind.

“I-I.” Jasper shudders as he tries to draw in a breath and speak between the sobs that were overwhelming him. Once again feeling like he's losing himself. “I’m s-so sorry for everything I have p-put you through.” Jasper cries into Ryan's shoulder. Ryan holds him that bit tighter, leaning his head against Jasper's.

“You don’t have to be sorry.” Ryan answers, doing his best to hold it together so Jasper could get this out.

“I haven’t been sober since Blake died, I promised Grace I would be today and I’ve been really struggling to get through without anything and it’s making me feel so. God I am so lost without it all. It's just so full on, to be able to feel this much.” Jasper explains as he wipes his tears and tries to control his rapid broken breathing. He would be so relieved to never have another panic attack again, he had been really trying to work on calming himself down but he felt safe in Ryan's arms, enough that if he couldn't calm himself down, he knew Ryan would help him. “I am a mess. I am scared of letting go of him but I know I have to don't I? I can't keep holding on to it anymore. I don't know how to live without him, but I know I have to and I'm so scared.” Jasper sniffles back the tears as he tries to focus on breathing in time with Ryan, held this tight against Ryan's chest, he could feel each breath.

“I don’t know either, but I know you are so much stronger than you feel right now. You will find a way to forgive yourself for living your life. You can honour his memory by living a good life for him, just like Flynn and Grace.” Ryan rubs Jasper’s back and looks into his eyes. For a few moments they are both just taking in how it felt to hold each other like this, to look into one another's eyes and to feel the comfort they both missed. Ryan is the first to move in for a kiss and Jasper, regardless of what guilt he would feel later, leans in too, wanting nothing more than to start over with Ry. Have the life they had planned, love, commitment and devotion to one another.

“Jasper, are you out here? Grace and Flynn want to cut the cake.” The familiar voice interrupts them and Jasper pulls back from Ryan, looking past him at his dad, and wiping his tears away swiftly, part of him relieved but a whole lot more of him wondering if that was the last chance he would ever have to kiss Ryan. Jasper wished he could tell what Ryan was thinking, but Ryan steps back, slipping his hands in his pockets and looking down at the ground with a neutral expression.

“Sorry, I just got a bit emotional and needed some space.” Jasper stands up straighter, adjusting his clothes again and wiping away his tears.

“No it’s fine, take your time. I will tell Grace to hold off a bit longer on the cake, there's no rush.” His dad gives him a sad smile then to Ryan’s surprise he even gives him a smile and nod before walking away. Jasper's parents hadn't really acknowledged Ryan at all until now and he hadn't expected them to either, things had still been tense between them. Jasper's dad turns around and walks back towards the marquee.

“God I love my sister and I hope she is having the best night but I cannot wait for tonight to be over.” Jasper mutters under his breath and looks up at the sky, composing himself. “I can do this, a few more hours.” He sighs. “I am sorry about..." Jasper throws his arms up like he's not quite sure what he's apologizing for this time, but just feeling like he had to apologize for something. Ryan smiles at him and shakes his head, and Jasper smiles back at him. "Thank you for coming, I know it meant a lot to Grace and Flynn.” Jasper looks up at the sky again and takes another deep breath then looks towards the marquee, unbelievably calm as though a completely different person had taken his place, Ryan had seen Jasper put on a front plenty of times before but this seemed more like he had completely disassociating in order to get through.

“It meant a lot to be invited.” Ryan answers, wishing they hadn't been interrupted, because it felt like Jasper was actually making some progress this time. “I hope you know you can still come to me any time. I will always care about you.” He smiles at Jasper, he would give anything to not have to part ways with him again, no matter how many times it'd been now, it never got easier. If anything it was harder each time to accept that it was still not their time.

“Goodnight Ry.” Jasper fakes a smile and steps around him, walking back to the reception quickly without looking back at him at all. It was Ryan’s turn to feel his heart being squeezed tighter with every step Jasper took away from him. Ryan lets out an exhausted sigh and takes a moment for himself to recompose now, wiping away his own tears before turning and heading towards the carpark.

“It’s amazing isn’t it?” Jasper's dad calls out, stepping forward towards Ryan and taking him by surprise. “You don’t know I suppose, but the pride a father feels watching his daughter get married to a good man, it’s indescribable.” He continues then shoots Ryan a curious look. “It’s all you ever want for your kids. Meet someone good, be happy and live a life respectable in the eyes of god.”

“I am leaving, you don’t have to worry about me ruining his life.” Ryan sighs and starts walking again, frustrated that he was having salt rubbed in his wounds now.

“I was never raised to think about love as being more important than giving back to god. My upbringing was flawed and I raised my kids the same way. I would give anything to see Jasper marry someone that would be honourable to god, and to be happy.” His dad calls out, Ryan continuing to walk away. “Only I know I can’t have both. He can’t be happy in the life we dreamed for him. And I can’t understand the happiness he feels in the life he chooses...” His dad pauses to correct himself. “The life that fulfils him.” Ryan turns to Jasper’s dad confused by what he was suggesting. “You are a good man. I don’t have to understand why he feels the way he does for you and I don’t know if I would ever be able to completely accept what that means for him.” It looked like he was having a moment of clarity too, better late than never, Ryan supposes, taking a few steps back towards him, so they weren't shouting this conversation.

“Well you have an incredible son, so any step towards finding a way to respect his life, even if it doesn’t align with your beliefs, is going to be helpful to him. He has enough going on without having to pander to your disapproval.” Ryan replies bluntly as he crosses his arms over his chest. It was easy to say the right things, but to actually be moving forwards and acting on it would be another thing all together. Ryan would step back and let Jasper reconcile with his family, but he wouldn't stand for them treating him below his worth.

“You are a good man. Something I hoped for, for Grace. I know better now. I can’t stand here on one of the best days of my life, seeing Grace marry someone that makes her happy, someone I never would have chosen for her, and deny my son the right to feel the same bliss. Whatever happens, whether it is you or someone else I hope I get to see him feel that same happiness one day." His dad sighs. The last thing Ryan expected from Jasper's parents being in his life again, was them coming around to him. He'd sooner have believed Jasper pretending to be 'cured' and spending the rest of his life miserably living with a woman, than his parents actually realizing there are worse things in the world than having a gay son. "It's been very hard to see him the last few months. Being physically hurt was shocking, but the emotional pain, that's been eye opening. My child, that god created for me, so much pain." He sighs as if considering the weight of his own words.

“I hope you have told him this too.” Ryan states, there was no point telling him, though it did make him deeply happy to hear that Jasper's parents were coming around to support him at last. It was Jasper that needed to hear this.

“He isn’t ready to think about happiness yet. But I do hope that there will be a chance for me to redeem myself to you. I know I caused you a lot of pain too.” Jasper's dad wasn't able to hold his eye contact for long, there would still be a long way to go on him being able to be as accepting as he was saying he wanted to be, but again, it was a step and Ryan respected the effort, and the thought that he was being recognized also, as someone that had been hurt by their homophobia.

“I think it’s a little too late for that, I came today to support Grace." Ryan gives a shrug.

“Do you really think I believe that? You two were having a moment before, and I am genuinely sorry I interrupted that. I. I don't want to see him suffer anymore and I know he's been pushing you away. I don’t know what is going on with him, with you, I know it’s not simple but, if there is any chance...” His dad starts but doesn't finish his statement.

“I have to listen to what he says. I know obviously, he needs a lot of comfort and love right now, but I can’t force him to accept it from me, and making out like I know better than him will only make him defensive. I appreciate that you are starting to care about him now but take it from someone that has been there the last few years, he's stubborn and you'll only push him away more if you act like you know better than he does. You know why he broke up with me in the first place? Because I tried to help him when he still wanted to feel broken. You cannot make Jasper do anything and you cannot tell him things if he isn’t ready to hear them. In his mind we aren’t an option anymore and that ship has sailed and no amount of reassurance will change that until he's ready to face his feelings. The only reason there isn't a chance, is because he's not ready yet to see if there is." Ryan states, looking back towards the reception longingly and for the third time he feels the ache of knowing he had to walk away and accept this for what it was. "Please take care of him, properly. He needs and deserves so much good and so much love. If he is letting you be in his life, then please make sure you're giving him what he deserves because there is nothing worse than being thrown out of it, trust me." Ryan sighs and turns away, walking off into the night.

@Copyright (2018), Claire Rosalind; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments

Oh my so close yet so.....well you know the rest

What Grace was saying to Jasper made a lot of sense.I too don't believe Ryan would just move on so relatively quick.I know the last chapter we were led to believe that Ryan and Brayden are a thing and they were visiting his Mom(Mum?).But I think it's a misunderstanding. I guess the upcoming chapters will prove if I'm right or wrong

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Yeah and as perceptive as Ryan is, I can totally see him not realizing how it looked to Jasper (assuming he and Brayden aren’t dating) and wondering why Jasper’s pulling back.

Also, wow, even when they’re trying to do better, Jasper’s parents screw things up XD

Edited by Israfil
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I finally get the title of the story and the “until he is ready to face his feelings” gives me hope that Ryan and Jasper get back together

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Ryan and Jasper really need to sit down and talk about their feelings, and open up their hearts to each other,

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