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Do You Ship Us? - 99. The Final Stage of Grief - Acceptance

Jasper wakes up feeling oddly hungover, despite having only sipped a glass of champagne. He was awoken as he became aware that he was drenched in sweat. His head was throbbing painfully, the worst headache of his life, it felt like it was going to implode, and with the pain came nausea. Jasper only barely drags himself into the shower before he throws up. His whole body was shaking and everything ached, sitting in the corner of the shower he tries to reason with himself and think positively that the feeling won't last too long. He knew withdrawals would suck, he'd talked about it with Flynn and Grace at the end of the night. Flynn had noticed him many times throughout the reception, struggling with the withdrawals that had already been coming on so hard. Jasper was determined not to give in and go home, doubting his resilience would survive the temptation and availability of alcohol and weed. Jasper had spent some time with his overtired niece in his arms, her head on his shoulder, eyes slowly closing while he stood on the dance floor swaying to the music. It'd been easily the best part of his day, cuddling Ellie and feeling a sense of purpose that he'd lost between the torment of his depression and his unwillingness to admit that he couldn't get better on his own. When the only people left were Flynn and Grace, both sets of parents working together to pack up the party around them, the newlyweds had sat in front of him and Jasper had cried about how he couldn't keep living a life being so dependent on these vices. Leo had been right when he'd told Jasper that the way he was going he'd end up in a grave. It was harsh, but Jasper felt the same. He felt like every new day he woke up and did the same thing, was one step closer to him not wanting to wake up anymore. It was a turning point and one that as soon as he started talking about it, they were completely supportive and asking how to help him get clean. He was under no illusions that 'it won't suck for long' wasn't exactly true, he knew he might be in for a few days of feeling like this, or weeks. It was as if his body was punishing him just as much for not drinking or getting high. Flynn had suggested just reducing drinks instead of going cold turkey, but Jasper was sure if he had one drink it'd turn into more and he'd end up trapped in the cycle of failing to overcome the addiction. So if it sucked, at least it sucked because he was finally doing something good for his body, and every hard day would be a step forward, towards a life free of the control that alcohol had over him.

It takes almost an hour before Jasper has the energy and doesn't feel like he'll throw up as soon as he stands, for him to finally drag himself from the shower. He's a cursing mess when he goes through all the cupboards to try and find some pain killers. Surely there was some somewhere, but he couldn't remember where in the apartment he'd last taken them so he was at a loss for what obscure place to look. That's the problem with having spent so long not having a functioning brain cell that wasn't affected by anything, it was like he'd woke up in someone else's apartment, he had no clue where things were, the place was completely unfamiliar to him sober. The stress of this and how gross he was feeling was overwhelming. After his search comes up with absolutely no pain relief tablets and he feels like drinking would just be the easiest way to relieve the symptom, he collapses to the floor to cry about how pathetic and weak he felt for considering giving in so soon. It was extremely hard, given that he felt so awful. His head was throbbing, he found himself feeling oddly shaky and agitated and he wasn't sure if that was withdrawals or if it was the USB that was sitting on his bedside table that he was completely terrified of looking at but couldn't keep out of his thoughts. Even if he wanted to look at it now though, he knew he just couldn't, he was not in the right frame of mind.

The day goes by feeling like it's dragging on, but also flying past. Partly because he kept falling asleep in an attempt to get over the migraine. Jasper is fairly sure his sister is married to a real life angel because Flynn turns up at some point while Jasper is napping, with some Powerade drinks and pain killers without even being asked. If you're going to go through withdrawals do it with someone who gets it, completely. 'For the headaches' the sticky note on the drug container reads, 'and because water tastes like shit' is on the Powerade drinks. Jasper is grateful, even when he's throwing up one of the drinks only 5 minutes after chugging the whole bottle. The pain relief seemed to have at least made it into his system though as he feels the headache start letting up.

By the time Jasper is force feeding himself dinner, he realizes with a sense of pride that he hadn't felt in months, that he's been sober all day. He made it. If he could just survive the next few days, he'd hopefully only be contending with the urges to drink and not the nausea, the migraines and the stress.

And it does get easier, day two was similar to day one, but on day three, Jasper wakes up feeling hungry instead of sick. Day four, the headaches seem to be more from dehydration and he starts to really try to drink more water. Day five, was a bad day for whatever reason, everything just fell apart in his brain and he spent a lot of time crying and shouting and hitting himself. He considers calling Ryan a dozen times an hour, wanting his comforting arms and soothing voice but he's also feeling like he had that day they broke-up and he'd already put Ryan through way too much. He almost calls Leo but he's fairly sure Leo would ignore him this time, since Jasper had confidently insisted on Leo taking time off for a much needed holiday, he deserved it after everything. He survives on his own, trying to find things to do that can help him control his emotions.

Day 6, he rekindles his first addiction, tea. It was actually his mum that gave him the drink after a service that he'd really had to talk himself into attending. She didn't say anything, just brought over the little cup and handed it to him with a kind smile. That took him right back to his teenage years, not allowed coffee because that was for "adults" but tea had always been served at church events and anything that wasn't water was a treat back then. It was in a way, quite comforting for his mum to be doing what she could to help. It was very clear that they were truly wanting to help but had no idea how to talk to him so they would do these little things that meant a lot to him but they still barely actually talked.

Day seven, he's having another panic attack, he'd spent the day on edge so it was no surprise that it bubbled over before the end of the day. It was probably a combination of the insomnia he was dealing with, the copious amounts of caffeine he was drinking to keep himself from alcohol and the fact he'd now had this USB on his bedside table for a solid week and not been able to look at it. He knew he had to sooner than later, because the more the effects of withdrawals were wearing off, the more his focus was on what he was possibly ignoring. It felt in some ways, like he'd had Blake in the room for a whole week and said nothing to him. In fact he had plenty of times where he'd walk into the room and swear his brain was projecting Blake sitting on the table. He'd blink and it was just the USB but the longer he avoided it, the more he felt he was personifying it and applying unnecessary guilt to his avoidance. The entire day had been full of anxiously cleaning and rearranging and procrastinating. He sits before his computer at last, 2 panic attacks and a spotless, organized apartment later, USB plugged in and feeling strangely content with knowing he was about to be sad, very deeply sad. Despite this he'd decided to face this with a clear head, one week sober and he was determined to give this a good try.

As he opens the USB he finds three folders. 'Song Ideas', 'Photos' and 'Speeches'. Jasper takes a deep breath, not sure which one he was more afraid to see. He closes his laptop and pushes it away from him on the bed, taking his phone and looking at the three names he was considering calling on. Leo was technically still on his 'break' but he'd texted earlier to let Jasper know he was home and ask if Jasper needed anything from him. Jasper hadn't replied and knew if he called Leo tonight he'd probably come over, but he also had to start treating him like an employee again and part of that would have to be having more appropriate expectations. Calling on his last day off, wouldn't be fair. Of course Flynn had told Jasper he would be there for him when he went through this, but Jasper also just didn't feel like he wanted to go through this with Blake's brother. If anyone, it'd be Ryan. Because if Jasper was going to break down and cry into anyone's arms, well, it'd be Ryan's he'd choose. And given the almost kiss at the wedding a week ago, Jasper was sure Ryan still felt something for him. After a few moments mentally punching Brayden who he held an image of in his mind just to keep himself from turning to Ry, Jasper puts his phone down and accepts that this had to be done on his own. And that would probably be for the best. If he could get through watching his own sister marry Blake's brother, performed by his own ex, followed by a full week of withdrawals and finish it off with facing Blake, then he would be proving to himself that he can actually live again. That he is strong enough to do life without his best friend. That thought alone was one he had been avoiding, because he sincerely didn't want to, but the road he was on had come to an end and all he could do was turn around, and find his way back.

He pulls his computer back and opens it up. At worse, he'd end up in tears, at best, he'd end up in tears. Either way, it was time. He opens the 'Photos' folder and feels that stab of sadness wound him immediately. Thousands of photos they had taken together over the years that were never posted online and Blake had never sent him. Some of them smiling nicely and others of them pulling faces, using stupid filters or just generally fucking around. There were all the cover videos and fake friendship photos from the early weeks of knowing each other too, ones Jasper had only seen once or twice. Shitty camera quality and Jasper wasn't sure he could take actually watching the videos but he's almost more excited than he is sad to see them all, he'd thought he might never see these again so to have them here was everything. They looked so stupidly innocent, recklessly confident, no idea what they were about to mean to each other and how much they were going to go through together. Two morons, about to become an inseparable and insufferable duo.

Jasper lets himself take the time Blake deserved, to sit and scroll through each and every one of the photos, wiping away tears as the came, laughing at the memories that were brought back with some of the photos.

One selfie they had taken in front of the TV, with a music awards show in the background. Jasper could remember the excitement of realizing that was their future. Amazingly he did remember this seemingly unimportant moment, because it really had been the first time that it hit them they could actually be up there performing at an award show themselves one day.

"One Erection." Blake scoffed at the screen as Jasper had asked who was performing so he could look them up and see what they had done to reach their fame.

"You have no idea how glad I am that he finally has a friend so it's not just me hearing these." Flynn commented as he poured a drink for himself and Blake. "You sure you don't want one, oh innocent one?" He'd offered.

"No thanks." Jasper replied, looking down at Blake's laptop as he gets as far as typing 'One' before the search bar auto guessed the rest of the band name which is shockingly not 'Erection'.

"Jasper is a fanboy. Look at him. All starry eyed over Harry." Blake teased, looking over Jasper's shoulder and watching him click through photos of the members.

"The music is really catchy and I want to see what they are like. I want to be able to do that, fan interaction thing he was doing at the start. You can see why they are so popular. Or were so popular. I wonder why they disbanded." Jasper was dedicated to researching these bands and learning everything about how they had gotten to that level of fame and what problems they faced along the way.

"I believe one of them impregnated their stylist and that was the start of the end. It's all fun and games until someone fucks a co-worker." Blake shrugged.

"That seems like not a very ethical thing to do." Jasper continued meticulously researching the band's scandals.

"I'll remind you that you said that if you ever dare fuck a co-worker. I may kill you." Blake joked.

"I am fairly confident my girlfriend will be the first one to kill me if I do that." Jasper had replied.

"She won't be your girlfriend, she'll be mine."

"Huh, how ironic that you would say that. Is stealing girlfriends a boyband issue because they have a whole song about it."

"One Erection won't have shit on us." Blake stated confidently.

"You're really proud of that one aren't you?" Jasper rolled his eyes at Blake. "You know people will make fun of us too? We will have the same kind of comments about our band?" He pointed out.

"Nah we won't have a stupid band name. Or wear the weird shit they wear."

"We probably will, actually. I am pretty sure that's just part of being in a boyband." Jasper replied. "Also probably going to do cheesy songs and wear matching denim. Film a music video in an airport for no apparent reason. That seems to be the trend."

"Over. My. Dead. Body. I swear to god." Blake answered glaring at Jasper.

"And there will be fan fiction and smut written about us..."

"Dude, I will take away your internet privileges..." Blake threatened, looking at the screen and seeing that Jasper had indeed found fanfiction. "Don't click on it! You're going to ruin the algorithm, I don't want ads for gay shit."

"Why not? It'd spice up the 'sexy singles in your area' ads that keep popping up." Jasper teased.

"It probably wouldn't even be the worst thing in your search history." Flynn got in on the teasing.

"Ok, give me that." Blake snatched his laptop back and turned it off. "For real though, how cool is it going to be. I am so keen for all of it. I can mock them all I want, but I'll take fans writing gay smut about me if it means they support my music and we get that kind of recognition ." Blake grinned as he gestured at the screen. Screaming, dedicated fans losing their minds over seeing someone they idolized holding an award. The absolute dream.

At least they had won an award together in the end.

 

There's a few short videos amongst the photos, Jasper forgets for a moment that he'd not been planning on watching the videos, too caught up in the joy of the memories. He opens one, and sees himself sitting on the couch watching The Grudge. Blake's snickering behind the camera as he creeps closer until he's finally right behind Jasper, then as soon as there's a silent moment in the middle of an intense scene, Blake grabs Jasper's shoulder, making the death rattle noise and Jasper flails in a panic. Through Blake's laughter he hears himself shout 'Jesus suffering Christ' and Blake gives a disappointed sigh then the video ends. Jasper remembers this as being the start of a series of times Blake set out to scare Jasper into finally swearing. In fact... Jasper scrolls until he finds the one he'd completely forgotten about until now. He opens it and watches the few seconds of darkness before he flicks on a light and Blake jumps out at him.

"YOU'RE A FUCKING C***!" He screams at Blake and launches into a series of playful punches while Blake shouts victoriously, collapsing to the ground in laughter. Flynn appears in the doorway, shirtless and with a joint in his mouth, a massive grin on his face.

"Did he just say what I thought he said?" Flynn asks.

"Fuck yeah he did. Are you..." Blake starts laughing again, though trying to stop himself to check on Jasper who was sitting on the floor with his head in his hands, laughing so hard he's silent, and looks like he's crying. "Are you ok?" Blake finally manages to ask.

"What do you think assface? That shared the absolute shitting fuck out of me." He comments sending the three of them into a laughing fit until the video ends.

Good times. Jasper gives a sigh and continues scrolling through the hundreds of selfies, feeling like he's watching their entire friendship develop in front of himself all over again. The further through the folder he gets, the more he feels like he's seeing their personalities clearer in the photos, like they were finally becoming them. They never looked like they weren't best friends, but there's a difference in the ones from their first tour, pre-Ryan joining the band, as compared to the second tour when they were at their most chaotic, a little too famous for their own good, and acting like it. There's all the photos of them that one time they went to the gym together, neither of them had done much actual exercise, but there was a lot of photos of Jasper having no idea how to use the equipment or looking like he was struggling. Hilarious, Blake. Jasper thinks as he rolls his eyes.

Jasper scrolls through every stupid outfit they were dressed in during Chris' era of managing them, both of them posing for selfies like they are taking themselves seriously despite their appearance, followed up with them pulling faces and mocking the style.

A bunch of photos of Chris in the frame, Blake and Jasper sneakily giving him the finger. These were just before Ryan had joined, when they were already so done with Chris' shit that they made a game out of giving him the finger in ways that he wouldn't notice. There's one of Jasper talking to Chris, scratching his head with his middle finger. Another where Jasper is pretending to tie his shoelaces, both middle fingers pointed towards Chris while the rest of his fingers were tying. Jasper pointing at something with his middle finger and Chris is looking in the direction but seemingly unaware. Plenty of Blake taking a selfie with Chris behind him, not able to see that he was giving him the finger through the camera. The days of hating on Chris subtly to his face were some of Jasper's favourite memories of the band. It seemed so innocent, because while they had their reasons to hate him, it had felt at the time like it was petty and childish, which was why it was fun. It stopped being fun when Chris started really messing with them.

There's photos and short videos of the two of them, absolutely wasted at Jasper's 21st. That whole night was completely forgotten in Jasper's brain, he'd been inebriated for most of it, so he had no recollection at all. That felt like forever ago. In the back of one video, through the crowd Jasper could see Ryan watching him dance, horribly drunk. It was weird to think that they didn't know how much they would mean to each other either yet, though Ryan was obviously already interested way back then, his attention clearly never leaving Jasper. Jasper in all his ignorance was just focused on overdoing the tequila and having a great night out with Blake. Jasper notices there's slightly less photos of the two of them after that, as he'd spent more time with Ryan especially in those first few months when their relationship was going from an accidental catfishing incident, to an accidental kiss, to the most intensely complicated and yet completely simple love that it became. It all had changed after that night. That night he'd been sure about one thing, that he loved his life and the band, which he probably said at least once for every shot he'd had. He wasn't questioning anything and nothing was changing, yet only days later his entire life was on a different path with Ryan as his main focus.

To his surprise, Blake's got a few photos of Jasper and Ryan together. Holding hands, smiling as they talk to each other and a few of them with their arms around each other when they are sure no one is seeing them. All these quiet behind the scenes moments they had shared, Blake had noticed and taken photos of them. Jasper loved seeing them among all the pictures of himself with Blake, especially since he's now realizing he had a million photos with Blake and very few with Ryan, actually. Few that were candid at least, of course there was more than enough of them all over the internet, same as with Blake. It was really nice of Blake to have thought to capture some of the moments that no one else ever saw of Jasper and Ryan, especially considering his hesitation in accepting Ryan as being worthy in the beginning of their relationship. It showed a lot about Blake's support, that regardless of his feelings, he wanted to see and enjoyed seeing his best friend being happy. That or he took these photos so he could print them out and burn them/ draw squirting penises on them if Ryan fucked up. Jasper could see Blake waiting for the chance to do that honestly.

Speaking of being immature. There's a bunch of photos of Jasper standing in front of things, or just perfectly framed to look like he was doing something sexual. Good old Blake. What are best friends for, if not to get a photo of you doing something completely innocent like leaning down and moving the coffee table with a concentrated look on your face, while someone just happens to be vacuuming behind you, lining up to look like the vacuum hose is going somewhere not very innocent. This seemed to happen an alarming amount of times, either that or Blake would get his phone ready every time Jasper agreed to move things around while someone was vacuuming, and just wait for the perfect moment when it all just lined up.

Then there's the photos of Jasper playing along, deliberately acting lewd during the second tour. Jasper remembered most of these times, they would see something that vaguely resembled a penis and Jasper would pose for a photo with it, acting like he was desperate for it. He could clearly recall Blake saying "tell me you haven't had sex in a while, without actually telling me." As he took a photo of Jasper posed before a tree with one low, short and upwards pointing branch that was just at the right height.

Friends take photos of you with your partner, best friends take photos of you taking it from a tree.

It felt wrong that these kinds of photos were the last ones Blake had of them, the short documentation of their friendship ended with completely ludacris photos, but then again, it was very true to them. Obviously Jasper wouldn't print out most of these photos, but there were some nice ones there too. They had a thing about taking a selfie on flight so there's a bunch of those. Some of Jasper sleeping on the plane, all mouth open and drooly looking. Delightful, thanks Blake. He thinks, appreciating that he at least didn't post these online and ruin his reputation as being the sexy twink that he'd become known as on many fan run pages and blogs. He's horrified to think Ryan's probably woken up to that face too, probably a lot.

Before he knows it, he's at the end of the folder.

"Wish we took more." He mutters to himself, though he felt somewhat ok with knowing there wouldn't be more to add. Jasper takes a break to get himself some water and take some more pain killers, realizing he'd been looking through this now for hours and it's almost dawn. It's almost the start of a whole new week.

Looking next at the 'Speeches' folder, Jasper finds himself hesitating because he knew it'd probably break him to read the things Blake had wanted to say to him at his bucks night, then his wedding. With that in mind he skips over it to 'Song Ideas'.

He opens the folder and sees multiple documents, newer songs that he and Jasper had been working on in the last week before he passed, but there were an abundance of other song ideas Blake had been working on over the years but never got a chance to actually produce. He never ran out of inspiration for music and Jasper had never understood how, considering he himself functioned entirely on his moods to be able to write anything. He hadn't so much as thought about music since Blake's death, let alone had any drive to write anything and yet Blake had an endless supply of ideas, even when he was going through his own bad times. There's so many documents here that Jasper felt extremely sorry for Blake that he'd never gotten a chance to release all his work.

What caught his eye most, was a video file. Jasper clicks on it, somehow forgetting he'd be seeing Blake's face and hearing his voice for the first time in months. Seeing him from years ago was a whole different thing, because he was there for those memories, but this was a video of Blake as Jasper remembered him most and Jasper had no idea what to expect.

The moment Blake is on screen Jasper's breath hitches and he closes the video, takes a moment to breathe and gather himself the courage to watch it through. It's more than a few moments. In fact it's a whole process of making a cup of tea and another 10 minutes of talking himself into going back to his laptop before he finds himself sitting before it again.

"Hey badass, so I know you can't sing or play right now but I just wanted to record what I have been working on, I'll send you the lyrics too, your parts are highlighted so you can read them and get a feel for it. I'm going to play what I've got with the guitar and sing my lines and you can tell me what you think of it." Blake grins into the camera, from his hospital bed and Jasper again closes the video. Realizing that this would have been recorded the day he died, that was the only day he'd had his camera at the hospital, because they had done their podcast that morning. This was it, there was a rush of adrenaline tearing through him as he tried to decide whether he could actually do this. Again he's desperate to call on someone but it's 4am and he truly doesn't want to share Blake's last video with anyone. He wanted this all to himself, this was for him, directed to him. A final message from Blake. Their final song. He takes a deep breath, then clicks through the word files, looking for the one that had sections of it highlighted. He wanted to own this, to feel the music, to envision how it'd sound together, to act as though they were collaboratively working on a song. Blake may have been gone, but Jasper wanted to pretend just for now, that he wasn't, that they were doing this together. He quickly sets up his printer and prints the lyrics so he can watch the video and read through them to himself. While he's doing this he thinks about how much he could use a drink right now, or just one joint. But Blake deserved for Jasper to hear him, to take it in. This was probably the last thing he was working on before the surgery where it all went wrong and Jasper was not going to taint the last moment of hearing Blake's voice and seeing his face, with anything.

Sitting back down in front of the computer with tears already in his eyes, Jasper finally plays the whole video. He listens to Blake sing, the guitar acoustics echoing in the hospital room. When it gets to Jasper's lines, he reads them in his head, unable to sing through the myriad of emotions that were engulfing him right now. His throat was painfully dry, seemingly all the fluid in his body was being redirected to his eyes though he doesn't let a single tear spill out until Blake finishes playing and looks again into the camera, directly into Jasper's eyes and speaks to him like they are right there together.

"I hope you like it, but yeah, can't wait to hear what you think. I just imagine this being a great show stopper for our 'Badass World Tour'. Anyway, I hope you're doing alright. I'll see you soon." And the video ends, leaving Jasper feeling like he'd just been pulled back through the last few months. The tour plan, the crash, the relief of seeing Blake was ok, the devastation of losing him and every painful moment that he'd spent being in denial, being so infuriated he couldn't speak, wishing it was him and not Blake that had died and finally, finally actually grieving. All of it comes back at once, taking him from the bed to the floor as he catches himself clutching the song lyrics and crying from a depth within him he didn't know pain could come from, holding his knees to his chest and letting everything out. It was real, it was unchangeable and it hurt. God did it hurt to know this was all he had left and every time he would watch this video it'd make him remember the future shows they would have had, everything they could have done together, an unstoppable duo so they thought. He stays on the floor until it feels like there's no tears left to cry and the first trickle of sunlight is breaking through the darkness.

Then with a deep breath he stands back up, legs shaking and threatening to buckle as he moves over to the piano and opens the lightly dusty lid to the keys. He sits before it, places the lyrics on the stand and with one final, painful exhale, he begins to play.

~

"How do you feel?" Flynn asks, standing by Jasper's side.

"I actually feel good." Jasper nods, glancing down at his left wrist, where the tattooist was very delicately tracing the handwriting from a photo of Jasper's cast to make sure the tattoo would be perfect, he leans back a bit and compares the photo to his outline then okay's it with Jasper, preparing the ink needle.

"Thanks for including me in this." Flynn smiles at Jasper and puts a hand on his shoulder. Jasper just smiles back and watches as the needle touches his skin, ink covering the small scars left from his shattered wrist.

"Of course, I don't want to be alone." Jasper replies, but the weight of those words hung on him. This was step one, coming out of the darkness and letting people in. Starting with Flynn, now that he was married to his sister. Besides, as they had both acknowledged before, they reminded each other of Blake, so there was comfort in having Flynn by his side for this. As the tattooist completes the small simple quote, Flynn and Jasper put their wrists together, revelling in the perfection and emotions of having Blake's handwriting marking their skin permanently.

Jasper could imagine it if he closed his eyes, what Blake would think of the tattoo, given that for a while there Blake had been wanting to get matching tats with Jasper, he'd be honoured to have his words to Jasper preserved this way. He remembers Blake writing on his cast like it was yesterday, the casual smirk on his face as he signed the cast with a literal autograph like Jasper was just a fan. Only Blake would sign his friend's cast with an autograph instead of something personal, but to Jasper, it was so much more special than anything he could ever imagine having inked into his skin for eternity. There was something Jasper loved about having his best friend's cocky as hell autograph across his wrist. It looked as though Blake had just walked up to Jasper with a pen and signed his wrist, declaring a connection forever to him and that was how Jasper was choosing to feel about it. He would think of it every time he looked at this, of Blake's smirk, as he'd written it, no idea how cherished it'd become. No matter how much time passed, Jasper would have at least this much to cling to and remember. No one could ever take this away from him, he couldn't ever lose it and he wouldn't ever be able to forget. Just because he had to live on without him, didn't mean Blake wouldn't always be by his side.

He'd been sober and facing life again at last for an entire month and he was so proud of himself for it, especially because it was so hard to be hearing Blake's voice and working on his music without caving into the easy way to numb the pain. There was something that felt so good and so strong about just getting through, no matter how hard it was and no matter how much it hurt.

He'd caught up with Beth after finding a few of Blake's songs were about her, she read the lyrics and they cried together then spent the night talking about everything. Jasper told her all about tour while he shared with her all the photos that'd been on Blake's phone of them being carefree. He talks about the things Blake would tell only him, about how he felt for her and enjoys the comfort that he could give her, even through the pain they both felt. In exchange, Beth told him about the times she'd sit there listening to Blake laugh his way through a story about something he and Jasper had done, the punchline always having to be repeated four or five times because she would never be able to understand through his laughter and breathlessness by the end of it. It was nice for both of them, to hear how much they meant to him. Beth never brought up Ryan, though Jasper sometimes wanted to ask how he was and what was happening with his new relationship. He knew Beth would likely still be talking to him, she was still talking to Grace and Flynn and being an aunt so it made sense that the friendship that had happened between her and Ryan hadn't faded away either. Still he was glad it wasn't brought up. Everyone seemed to just respect that it was over and that neither of them were in a position to be told anything else.

Jasper didn't go to the bar again, though he did see Damien and Harley to his absolute horror, getting out of Leo's car one morning and walking down the street to the bar when Leo had come to pick Jasper up. He was both disgusted and amused, Blake would have loved to point out the irony of both Harley and Leo sleeping with Damien considering he was in Blake's opinion 'discount Jasper'. Jasper could just about hear the punchline in his head, that they had both tried their luck with the real deal and ended up in bed with second prize. That day Jasper had gotten in the front seat rather than the back and neither he nor Leo mentioned why. It's not like Leo knew who he'd slept with, or that Damien and Harley knew who's PA they had slept with so Jasper wasn't going to ruin it for them. He hoped it'd be a recurring thing that could be discovered in some kind of awkward moment of realization down the track. Next time he planned on walking out to the car instead of standing inside internally cringing behind the safety of tinted windows until they were far enough from view that he wouldn't be seen. Unfortunately that morning Leo had been there to pick Jasper up and take him to get an STD test, just to be sure, so he'd been too busy thinking about his own bad sexual decisions. Jasper was glad to get the all clear and put that night behind him. He'd realized what the 'drug' was he'd taken that night, but he'd been too embarrassed to talk about it, but when Leo had asked him how he felt on the way to get the test, he'd opened up to him.

"I took Viagra."

"What?" Leo looks directly at Jasper's crotch.

"Not today idiot, did you seriously just crotch check me?" Jasper looks at Leo mortified and crossing his legs.

"Sorry. Sorry. Habit, someone says they took that and you just look. Why are you telling me this? Oh wait, do you mean?" Leo doesn't have to finish his question because it clicked, they were on the way to this appointment, so what else would Jasper be thinking about?

He may have agreed to go back to the guy's place but he'd never intended on anything sexual happening. Then he'd been given this pill, didn't question it and found himself extremely horny not long after. When he explained it all to Leo, he felt like a complete idiot, but Leo wasn't judging him. He'd said everything he needed to that night, there was no need for any further comments about it. All he had said was that no matter what decisions Jasper had made, the guy had no right giving him Viagra and taking advantage of the effects. He knew what he was doing and his intention was to have Jasper in a situation where he thought he was genuinely consenting. Apparently Jasper wasn't the first person Leo had known of this kind of thing happening to, as the argument of implied consent and comments like 'but they wanted it, they were horny' were used to dismiss the person's actual feelings about what happened to them. He'd gone home with this guy, he'd been drunk, he'd accepted and taken a pill without question, but he was still taken advantage of and that was still the fault of the person who had given him the pill, not Jasper. Leo was impressed that Jasper handled it quite well, not giving up his sobriety, not pretending it didn't happen, he didn't tell anyone but Leo about it though. He suspected if he told Grace, she would tell Flynn and Flynn would find a way to make the guy suffer. He also didn't want it getting back to Ryan, because of about a million different reasons. Everything from feeling ashamed of himself to feeling worried that Ryan would somehow find a way to blame himself. At least with Leo he could just talk about it as much or as little as he wanted to and he felt safe. The conversation never left that one car trip, but Leo had assured him if he needed to talk about it more to process it, he was there for him and Jasper was grateful beyond words that despite all the drama, he still had Leo's support.

He wouldn't say he was back at church, but Jasper did continue occasionally attending with his parents. He appreciated that he had a relationship with them again after such a strained few years and church did sometimes bring him comfort in dealing with his grief and learning to move forward. After everything that'd happened over the last few months, he felt he could do with revisiting his faith. He was just interested in getting himself back, learning to live with life the way it was and not dwelling on the things he couldn't change. His parents hadn't once brought up his sexuality, they would hug him when they picked him up for church and tell him they loved him when they would take him home. It wasn't perfect and it did feel like this was kinda just brushing over everything, like all the things he deserved apologies for were just water under the bridge, but at the same time, they were wanting to move forward so Jasper wasn't going to reject their effort. Even if it was still faking it until they made it, the intention was genuine. They had asked about Ryan once since Grace's wedding and Jasper's response had been calm, he'd politely told them he didn't want to talk about Ryan and it was never mentioned again. In fact, relationships were never mentioned again, which surprised him because he expected at some point they might try to suggest that if he wasn't going back to Ryan he might consider 'finding a nice young lady', but there was none of that.

Honestly Jasper hoped for the best for Ryan, but he also knew a part of him would never let go of the love he felt for him. There were numerous times where he would wake up from a dream where they were still together, or getting back together and Jasper loved those dreams with all his heart. They were hard to wake up from and hard to let go of but they led to many, many song ideas. Ones he'd never produce or perform because Ryan would know they were about him. Who else could Jasper ever sing about being so deeply in love with and needing? He couldn't imagine a life with anyone else, he didn't want one. Even if he did want to try, he didn't have time for anything, he was immersed in his emotional recovery. The only person he had to work on loving again, was himself and it was taking up all his time.

Other than that, his one goal was to be everything he and Blake had planned on them being. Jasper had turned up at Mark's office one day out of the blue and Mark had to do a double take at who was standing in his doorway. He was on the phone and paused mid-sentence, a smile crossing his face as Jasper gave him a polite smile too. Ending his phone call quickly with 'sorry, I have just been distracted by something amazing. I'll have to call you back.' He invited Jasper in, told him to take a seat and treated him like he'd not ghosted him since the funeral too. Jasper went through the music he had from Blake. They agreed that Flynn needed to be the one that decided where Blake's royalties would go, Jasper didn't want to make money off Blake's work, it wouldn't feel right.

Mark was thrilled to have Jasper back, working on achieving the dream that Jasper and Blake had told him about so excitedly back in hospital what felt like so long ago. Through all their talks, Mark never mentioned Luke or Simon. He also didn't mention Ryan, who Jasper was at risk of running into every time he braved the halls of the building and he was deep down secretly hoping to see just casually on passing. He couldn't help but wonder though, if Mark had coordinated with Ryan when Jasper would be in, because he expected to see him at least once, but never did. He knew Ryan was still working here because only recently there'd been a music video with his name credited as having choreographed the dance routine. Sounded like everything was going well for Ry, Jasper was happy for him and kept thinking about sending a message just to say that, but he didn't want to complicate his life right when he was finally doing what made him happy.

~

Jasper's apartment was practically empty, only the big things left, bed, couch, piano. He'd be moving soon, everything he didn't immediately need was in a storage shed and he planned to just hold up in a hotel until he found the right house to start his new life in. This place was so full of memories, so many good ones, so many bad ones. It'd be the final step in refreshing himself, to leave it all behind and start anew. He had one last night in here and he intended on spending it at the piano, looking out the windows into the city and playing until his fingers ached. The last thing he expected was any visitors and when there's a knock at the door he strongly considers ignoring it but curiosity gets the better of him.

“Simon, Luke, what are you doing here?” Jasper asks confused. They were two people he hadn't reached out to, but apparently they were finally taking that step for him. Remembering that he wasn't meant to be an ass to everyone anymore, Jasper steps back from his doorway and lets them in. He wasn't happy at all with the lack of contact they had bothered to make in the first few weeks, no amount of 'checking in' texts after that had meant anything to him. He knew they had been told to make an effort, which immediately made it feel like a redundant attempt to give a shit, it was by far the most expected disappointment. He hadn't told them of his plans to go solo but he assumed that they had heard from Mark at some point and that was why they were here. Regardless, it wasn't their business what he did with his life. It wasn't a band decision, it had nothing to do with them. Still, he was intrigued about what was so important that they would only now bother to visit him.

“We’ve been shit friends.” Luke states as he walks into Jasper’s apartment, Simon following him in, slipping an arm around Jasper’s shoulders to bring him over to the couch. "Are you moving?" Luke asks, frowning at the empty apartment. Jasper just shrugs, he didn't really need to verbally answer, it was pretty clear. "Where to?"

"Not sure yet." Jasper replies.

"How have you been?" Simon asks as he and Luke sit down on his couch, just what he needed, an intervention from two people that had failed him. It was too late for this, he'd done his own intervention and come out the other end with his career back on track and his trauma mostly well handled.

"Getting there." Jasper states with a sigh. There's a pause as no one really knows what to say. Simon and Luke had come here for a reason, so Jasper makes no effort to start or continue the conversation for them.

“We want to know why you and Ryan broke up.” Simon says gently, cutting to the point so quickly that Jasper almost thinks he imagined the question. It was the last thing he thought they would be here to talk about, months too late. Jasper shakes his head, he was trying to be nice, but they hadn't talked to him about anything past the almost like clockwork, weekly texts of 'hope you're alright, let me know if you need anything' he'd been getting, so he wasn't particularly feeling like having a deep and meaningful conversation with them about his complicated break-up and the series of regrettable events that had happened since.

“Are you serious? It’s not even worth talking about, he’s moved on.” Jasper rolls his eyes, he couldn't believe this was the first thing they were here to ask about. Absent from his life through all of the worst he'd been through and now, now they want to ask about him and Ryan?

“Moved on? What are you talking about?” Luke frowns, looking at Simon as if asking if Simon knew something he didn't.

“I saw him a few months ago, he had a guy over. I pushed him away and told him to move on and he did. Just like I wanted him to.” Jasper answers with a shrug, ready for them to leave now, but neither of them looked like they had any intention of moving.

“When did you last speak to him?” Simon asks Luke, confused but Jasper imagined they mightn't have had much to do with Ryan either over the last few months.

“Yesterday when we organized this intervention.” Luke answers honestly. Jasper again rolls his eyes and drops down onto the couch, settling in for the oncoming drama. This wasn't how he wanted to spend the last night in this apartment but he was looking forward to not being able to be found unless he wanted to be when he moved to a new place. Some peace and quiet was way overdue.

“He didn’t mention a boyfriend to you?” Simon asks Luke, now having this conversation purely between themselves.

"A guy named Brayden?" Jasper states, trying to prompt them, surely Ryan had mentioned his name at least. There's no way he could be dating someone and not speak about them. Especially since Jasper calculates in his head that it was at least a little over two months now since he'd had the misfortune of that meeting and it seemed to be serious already at that point.

"Ohh yeah. Brayden. He's great." Simon and Luke continue talking as if he’s not there while Jasper pretends not to be interested in what they were saying about how Brayden had reached out to Ryan not long after he and Jasper broke-up, and they’d been spending heaps of time together ever since. He gets along with Jules, he's funny and very laid back, Ryan has been really focused on getting to know him. It hurts to hear but Jasper was pleading with his brain to keep reminding him this is what was best for both of them.

“It’s like fate, those two.” Luke comments.

“Incredible how they found each other.” Simon agrees. “Makes me think I should do one of those ancestry searches, see if I’ve got any family members I didn’t know about.” Simon says thoughtfully. Jasper turns his full attention to Simon and Luke, frowning and looking from one to the other as he tries to put together what he'd just heard.

“Brayden, he’s Ryan’s half brother, his dad’s other kid.” Luke answers the question Jasper hadn’t even asked yet and something inside Jasper felt like it was unlocked, a whole part of his brain he'd spent months reminding himself he couldn't go to, because there was no potential, Ryan was taken. Suddenly all those thoughts were escaping, free to flood him with hope.

“What?” Jasper sits up straighter. “Ryan’s got a brother?”

“This dude?” Luke shows Jasper a photo Ryan had sent to him of himself, his mum and the guy Jasper had met at Ryan’s house, it was taken that night too, Jasper recognized how they were dressed.

“That’s his brother?” Jasper snatches the phone from Luke and zooms in, on closer look it was so completely obvious, their dad’s genes running strong in the family because they had the same face shape, and the same smile. Slightly different features but definitely a family resemblance. Skin tone, eye colour, physical build, practically identical, Ryan was a bit taller and Jasper cannot concentrate on picking out similarities and differences anymore because he keeps thinking now that his lips and eyes and everything are different but he's fairly sure the only difference is that he's so deeply enamoured by Ry.

“He’s straight, don’t bother fantasizing about him just because he’s as good looking as Ryan.” Simon jokes as he and Luke watch Jasper stare at the photo in awe.

“No one is as good looking as Ryan." Jasper says out loud, but thinks he only thought it. The guys share a knowing smile but say nothing. "What’s the story with him?” Jasper hands the phone back, but not before seeing that the last text from Ryan to Luke mentioned his name.

'Glad you guys are going to visit him, I think it's best if I don't go though, I haven't heard from Jasper in a while and he has been urging me to move on so I don't think he wants me to get involved anymore. Let me know if he's alright.' -Ryan

“Well Ryan’s dad is in the army, he enlisted after meeting Ryan’s mum and was sent away pretty much just after they met. He fell in love with a nurse while he was away, got married and had Brayden a few years later. Brayden found Ryan through a college assignment on his own ancestry. They’ve got pretty different personalities, Brayden’s a bit, uh, confident and outspoken. Very to the point. Shockingly despite this Ryan is not completely panicking whenever he gets called out on something. I guess he got use to that with you, though Brayden's even more blunt than you, that guy has no filter. Ryan has taken quite well to being a brother, given how suddenly it was part of his life. The two seem to barely even clash.” Simon explains.

“Wow, that’s incredible, I’m really happy for Ry. So what about Brayden’s mum though, is she ok with Ryan? How is Jules handling it? That's got to be pretty difficult for them I guess?”

“From what we’ve heard, she’s been just as welcoming of Ryan and Jules as they were of Brayden and her. His dad is currently deployed but we’re organizing a surprise for Ryan which we want you to be a part of. We’re going to get his dad here for his birthday party.” Luke tells Jasper with a glint of joy in his eyes, from conspiring.

“What, me? No. I can’t.” Jasper shakes his head.

“Do you still love him?” Simon asks.

“I’ll always love him, but the last time I saw Ryan, was Grace's wedding and I was a mess." Jasper tells them, it's not like that was the worst time, but he didn't need to mention to them, the time before that where he'd been on his lawn crying over a hook-up. The time before that where he'd slept with him then made him feel bad about it. The time before that he'd been a jerk for no reason and the time before that he was breaking up with him. "I’m really sure I’m the last person who should be there for that moment. I have well and truly burnt that bridge, in fact that seems like an inadequate analogy for how badly I destroyed us. Even if I was wrong about Brayden, I still want Ryan to have the best life and I don't know if he could ever forgive me for the way I have behaved.” Jasper rejects the offer flat. If it'd only been Grace's wedding, then maybe Ryan would be ok with Jasper turning up at a special family event, but with their complicated history? No way in hell would Jasper expect to be welcome.

“Look we stayed out of it because you were shutting everyone out and Ryan was really busy getting to know this part of his life so it didn’t seem like either of you were in a place to make it work, but now you guys seem like you’re both in that place so we want to help. If I ask you to be honest about this, not to us because we don't need to know, but be honest to yourself, what is the reason you ended things with him in the first place?” Luke asks.

"After what I've put him through, he deserves better than me." Jasper sighs and looks down at his lap, he knew his reasons had felt so valid at the time and he almost hated himself for not wanting to push Ryan away anymore but he also didn’t want to live like this anymore and he'd been working so hard to move forward that it seemed like he didn't have any good reasons to keep shutting Ryan out.

"Isn't that up to him? Shouldn't Ryan get a say in what he deserves?" Simon asks quickly, seeing the cracks starting to form in Jasper's certainty.

"If you knew how many chances he gave Damien, you'd understand." Jasper shrugs, raking his fingers through his hair and trying to hold himself together, feeling so confused about what this meant for them. Just because Ryan wasn't dating, didn't mean Jasper could just turn up and take him back after treating him the way he had.

"Ok, so that's how low you see yourself? You see your struggle with depression as being just as bad as an emotionally abusive, manipulative person that had purposefully hurt him." It's only when Luke states it like that, that Jasper realizes just how off his comparison was, but he tries to deny the logic.

"An emotionally abusive, manipulative person who was going through his own depression. I once stood in his house telling him not to ruin other people just because he's damaged and I stand by that. I don't want to be a hypocrite. I couldn't have been a good partner for Ry over these last few months. I really couldn't have. I had to wait until I was alright again, and then I thought I was too late. That he was moving on." Jasper tells them, feeling this burst of realization that now all of his reasons to stay away, were gone. Ryan wasn't seeing someone, Jasper did have his shit together again at last, other than how he'd acted during his grief, Jasper didn't have any more good reasons to let this man go for good, and god knows not a single part of him wanted to.

"You guys were good together. He only recently told us that before you guys even got together, you ran to him in the middle of the night to stop him jumping in front of a train. I mean, shit Jasper. You have been there for him more times than we'll ever know, I'm sure. Why couldn't you let him be there for you this time? He's tried and he wanted to be and pushing him away doesn't make any sense." Simon was saying some frustrating truths, leaving Jasper feeling overwhelmed because he'd been furious at himself for the same thing. Why couldn't he just let Ryan be here for him? It would have saved so much suffering and the truth of it always boiled down to Jasper not being able to just deal with things, speak about what was hurting and let people take care of him.

“Ryan is still very much in love with you, he hasn't held anything you've said or done, against you. He only backed off because you were adamant that you wanted him to move on and because since he heard your parents were back in yours life, he didn’t want to interfere with your family reconciling, especially knowing how much it's meant to him to get to know more of his family. Since your dad spoke to him at Grace's wedding though..."

“Wait my dad spoke to him?” Jasper asks, cutting Luke off, his mouth dropping open, shocked. He remembers the last time he saw Ryan that night, when he had gone back inside, leaving Ryan behind with his dad who had been a little slow at returning to the party.

Yeah something about wanting the same happiness for you as he got to see in Grace that day and saying that he knew Ryan was a good man, that he had realized that your happiness was more important than his opinion. Ryan said he seemed to have turned a corner with you.” Simon tells him, a little unsure about whether or not this was meant to be a secret since Jasper seemed completely taken aback by it.

"My dad? Are you sure?" He hadn't even thought they would have talked, but never in a million years would he have guessed they would have talked about that. Of course they had been not mentioning his sexuality, but Jasper hadn't thought they were anywhere near accepting, rather just turning a blind eye to the elephant in the room or hoping if they ignored it long enough, it'd just go away. For his dad especially, to have acknowledged it to Ryan and made some kind of suggestion that he wanted Jasper to be happy regardless of his own opinions, felt like a huge deal that Jasper should have known about.

"That's what Ryan said. Anyway turns out he thought you were doing better, I guess he had no idea you thought he was seeing someone so he must have misinterpreted your reason for not trying to work things out, and thought you were over him so he stayed away." Luke shrugs, seeming not surprised that this was all just a lack of communication.

"NO." Jasper says quickly, the thought that Ryan might have assumed Jasper was over him hadn't occurred to Jasper at all, he'd been too focused on believing Ryan had moved on from him. "I stayed away because I thought he was dating that Brayden guy and I didn't want to ruin his life by just reappearing in it." Jasper explains quickly, his heart racing. Simon and Luke look at each other with a pleased smile.

"Knew it." Simon shakes his head with a grin and Jasper is prepared to punch him if he dares pass or collect money from Luke now, all their fun making little bets on Jasper and Ryan in the past were fine, but this was not a time where he would laugh off his failure to just ask Ryan who Brayden was, as being a predictable and funny bet to make. Luckily for everyone in the room, there's no such exchange of money, Luke just continues with one last question.

"Well, now that you know the truth, that you were both not talking to each other because of a misconstrued situation, that neither of you are happier or moving on and there's nothing stopping you, what are you going to do?"

As if I'd let these two not have a happy ending!

Thank you all for sticking with me through the depressing chapters, I didn't want to glaze over Jasper's experience and I know I went deep into it at times. This arc was important for Jasper's character to really learn how to handle things and to grow and it's also been my way of expressing that you can't always put others first, sometimes it has to be about taking care of yourself. No matter what and no matter why, if you're struggling you shouldn't have to struggle alone and the people that love you will never see your pain as a burden on them. You're worthy of support and love, even if your mental health tells you you're not, so let people support and love you.

I'll probably take a little while going through the last chapter to try and make it perfect and also because I've been writing this story for 2.5 years now and I'm really sad it's ending. Since the next chapter is the final chapter though, I do want to know if there is anything in particular that you think Jasper and Ryan need to talk about and work on for things to feel 'complete' with them. I have written the draft for it, but if there's anything you're really hoping to see between them in the final chapter, let me know and if it's not already included in my draft I'll do my best to add it in, as long as it fits the vibe. They are at a point where they are ready to listen, there will be no distractions to interrupt them and I want it to give you all the closure you're waiting for so comment or message me if there's something you need me to address. Obviously Ryan's family and Jasper's hook-up gets discussed, along with general issues they've faced through their relationship that has to change if they are going to make it work together.

I am looking forward to hopefully fulfilling all your wishes with the last chapter and giving you all an ending that answers questions, brings closure and does the characters justice.

@Copyright (2018), Claire Rosalind; All Rights Reserved.
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Loved what you did there in a sense Luke and Simon who Jasper wasn't all that close to ended up in a way filling Blake's role for Jasper in this case.For most of the story they seemed more like business partners to Jasper,Blake and Ryan but as it turns out they were and are friends to Ryan and Jasper just in a different way.

I'm confident you will cover everything that will need to be covered such as Jasper promising he will let Ryan be there for him in the future and they will communicate. As far as a book 2 as the previous comments have suggested that's up to you if you think your fertile mind has some ideas.If you don't think you can come with more ideas for these two after all  it's been2.5 years you may want to consider a epilogue.Looking forward to the last😢 chapter

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Had tears rolling down my face this morning reading this chaper. Didn't help that I was having my first cuppa at the same time. We all have memories we treasure and Jasper certainly got his from Blake.

 

I too will be so sad to see the end of this beautiful story. But really happy that it seems Ryan and Jasper will get their HEA. Would also love get more of them in future. So many possibilities.

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Andre Delport
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dutch woman

Posted (edited)

Nice chapter and I am pleased that Jasper was able to recapture himself independently. That gives hope for the future. 
End  the story as you planned, it is your story. But I expect a happy ending for Jasper and Ryan with a hint of being parents in the future, a great comeback of Jasper with a tribute to Blake, a serious and deep conversation between Jasper and his father and a good relation with Ryan’s brother. 😉
Oh, to much for one chapter , so at least make two chapters .

And I like the idea of a sequel of Jasper and Ryan as a couple adopting some children who came from a bad background. So his parents can see that he is still engaged with troubled children, that he is a good man.

 

 

Edited by dutch woman
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Really only one more chapter left. I can see at least 3 more. Them getting to meet, the birthday party, the misunderstandings between them during Jaspers  depression. Meeting Brandon, hopefully getting back together and moving in together. Possibly a marriage. Do they have children. I know I'd like to see a Jasper, Ryan, Luke and Simon do a Memorial Concert in honor of Blake with all the money going to Blake's favorite Charity in his name or starting foundation to help starving young upcoming artists the right way so they don't get duped like Chris did to them. After all does the story really need to end at 100 chapters. You have done an amazing job with this story. Thank-You.

 

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40 minutes ago, James B. said:

now I'd like to see a Jasper, Ryan, Luke and Simon do a Memorial Concert in honor of Blake with all the money going to Blake's favorite Charity in his name or starting foundation to help starving young upcoming artists the right way so they don't get duped like Chris did to them.

 

I think that's a good idea 

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I really love your story and I am kind of sad to hear that it is coming to an end, I was hoping they would get back together, hopefully end up getting married and starting a family of their own, hopefully Jasper's Solo career will take big for him and Ryan,and with Ryan by his side he can write and sing all those love songs he has written about Ryan, hopefully their families can finally except their love for each other and except relationship, thank you for the story I hate to see it end, Charlie

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Okie dokie, I am fairly happy with the last chapter and where it leaves things so that will be posted in the next few days when I have the spare time to go through it and make sure there is nothing else I want to include. It does focus mostly on the present issues Jasper and Ryan are working on.

 

As far as a book 2, I am not ruling it out. I love writing about these two characters and their complicated lives so I am open to more. I just wanted to finish this story at a place where they have grown through the problems they faced throughout this story. 

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