Fic: What About Now - 17
Title: What About Now?
Feedback: I have never needed it more. Good or bad, need it!
Disclaimer: NOT TRUE, and hopefully most will never ever happen. I own nothing.
Beta: As always, my never ending love goes to the wonderful legolastariel helped me once more. Thank you, dear!
A/N: Story begins at the O2 Arena concert November 30th.
A/N 2: Dedicated in its entirety to the ever lovely and always supportive legolastariel!
Summary: Jared is fighting for his life. Colin is fighting with himself. And the press is fighting for a story.
The soothing glow of morning that gently illuminated the room awoke Jared at dawn. From his spot on the bed, nestled between the covers, he could see the sun rising above the trees, light filtering through the branches coloring the misty grass with a pinkish hue. Droplets of dew still rested on the windowpane and slight chill in the air looked almost visible. It was beautiful – and all very photogenic. Jared wondered why he had never woken up in this part of the house before. He really liked it. He should sleep in this room more often – maybe bring his camera next time. Turning from his back onto his side, Jared felt the covers twist around his legs as he shifted on the bed.
And the heavy arm that had been slung over his shoulders settled on his hip.
Wait a minute.
Suddenly wide awake, Jared drew in a shaky breath as he tried to still the first stirrings of dread running through him and the events, which had transpired only hours ago, played out in full color in front of his eyes.
Colin. And himself. And his pathetic attempt at a seduction. This was so bad.
His mind abruptly shook off the last vestiges of sleep, and he became aware of Colin’s exhales tickling the hair on the back of his neck, and the heat of the body resting behind him. It was such a familiar way to wake up that it had taken his mind a while to tell him that something was terribly wrong with this picture – or at least not as it used to be.
Taking comfort from the steady rhythm of breaths against his nape, Jared consoled himself that he still had a chance to flee before this situation blew up in his face. And escape was definitely necessary, as here in the light of morning he felt insecure, upset and confused. He had no idea what he had planned for, no idea what was supposed to happen. He knew that he wanted to get back together with the man lying behind him, but now that they were in the same bed and now that they had spent the night together, it was no longer clear to him. The things he had wanted to say, the love he had wanted to profess was no longer first on the surface of his mind.
The doubt had taken over. Things were no longer as clear-cut. Suddenly, actions had consequences.
Gathering his courage, Jared placed his softly trembling hand on top of the one that rested on his hip, getting ready to move it, so he could scoot out of Colin’s loose embrace and off the bed.
“Go back to sleep.”
Jared flinched in surprise at Colin’s sleep roughened voice in his ear. He felt the arm on his hip move to his stomach to draw him closer to the body behind him, the embrace tightening. Colin sounded half-asleep, and the pattern of breaths against his shoulder blade did not change. Nevertheless, Jared immediately pulled away and forced himself into a sitting position, facing Colin.
“I have to leave, this is...” Jared started, but Colin merely lifted his arm and put a finger on Jared’s lips, effectively stopping the singer. As well as annoying him.
“Just relax and go back to sleep. You need rest. And you can panic later when it’s not so goddamn early,” Colin said, barely opening his eyes as he tried to cling to sleep a little longer, hoping that Jared would give in and join him.
Affronted, Jared narrowed his eyes as he welcomed the irritation stirring in him. He reveled in the easy familiarity of anger as a preferred substitute for the unknown and uncharted waters called doubt. Pleased that Colin was making it easy for him, Jared got ready to go off the deep end and let Colin know exactly whose house he was in, whose bed he was in, and why he should not order Jared around. However, he was stopped in his tracks by Colin’s hand tenderly moving to cup his cheek, his thump caressing Jared’s cheekbone with care.
As though he had the right. As though he belonged next to Jared.
“Please,” Colin urged softly. The brown eyes looked almost black in the insufficient light of dawn. They seemed endless, and Jared lost himself in them long enough to lose track of why he had been about to yell.
The calm demeanor and loving behavior made it hard for Jared to struggle, and despite his original intentions, he now felt sleepiness creeping up on him. Feeling out of options, Jared gave an almost imperceptible nod and slowly sank back down onto the mattress. He could always make Colin’s life a living hell later.
Getting comfortable, Jared closed his eyes and let his body go loose. A second later, he felt a heavy hand settle on his chest. Not holding him down, merely resting.
“No more thinking, just sleep,” Colin whispered, as he began to caress Jared softly, his palm moving in soothing circles above the white t-shirt as he traced the simplest patterns. Jared found himself inviting his body’s desire for more rest and before long, the comforting touch and the early hour made the singer acquiesce his loss against consciousness, sleep beckoning once more.
Smiling tenderly, Colin leaned over Jared and brushed a few strands of hair away from the other man’s forehead, before placing a careful kiss against Jared’s brow. “You lovable idiot,” Colin whispered as he lay down next to his favorite man. Placing his head next to Jared’s, Colin’s felt his eyes grow heavy and he fell asleep with the knowledge that for now, Jared was safe and sound and only a careful promise away from sleeping in his arms.
Letting out a groan, the Irishman sat up in bed. Having your name hissed with such venom in the early morning – when you had only just gone back to sleep – was far from enjoyable. And finding a clearly irate Shannon Leto with flashing eyes standing in the doorway, facing the bed you were sharing with his younger brother, was not exactly an ideal situation. “Get up,” Shannon growled, his voice never straying above a whisper.
Colin quickly stood up, bare-chested, barefoot and bare-arsed. Shannon averted his eyes with a sigh, but he made no move to leave, instead he threw Colin the black tee and the pair of grey sweatpants he was carrying, both looking worn and branded as Mars merchandise. “Outside. Now.” Shannon demanded, before he turned his back and walked out of the room.
Throwing a last lingering look at Jared still dozing on, Colin put on the clothes and followed Shannon.
Entering the hallway, he found the drummer leaning against the far off wall, the huge arms folded across the muscular chest. Shannon was glaring daggers at the actor who was standing in his home doing anything except looking as guilty as Shannon wanted him to.
“Please tell me, you didn’t!” Shannon hissed, shaking his head condescendingly as he stalked up to Colin who was standing right in front of the recently closed door, as though he was guarding it from intrusion. Guarding the night that he had shared with the man he loved from being tainted with the consequences he was refusing to acknowledge right now.
“I really don’t see how that is any of your business,” Colin replied calmly, mirroring Shannon’s stance.
“Do not pull that shit with me, Colin,” Shannon replied as he grabbed Colin’s bicep and yanked the Irishman with him down the hallway and away from the guestroom, so they could argue without waking Jared.
“My brother’s wellbeing will always be my business!” The drummer called out, as he released Colin’s arm with a vehemence that was far from necessary, the amber eyes wide and angry.
“His wellbeing? What the fuck do you think I would do to him?” Colin hissed back as he stepped away from Shannon, feeling severely offended. After all, he had put his own life on hold, had done everything asked of him and more. How dare Shannon assume that Colin would ever do anything to harm Jared or mess with his wellbeing? Ever.
“That’s the thing! With you two idiots, I never truly know!” Shannon scoffed, as he placed his hands on his hips and took on the most condescending pose he could muster. He was pissed, and he was making damn sure that Colin knew it.
“What is that supposed to mean?” Colin questioned, his tone filled with loathing rather than a desire to know. At the beginning of all this, back in London, he had understood Shannon. He really had. He had respected and accepted the drummer’s many concerns, but in his eyes, it was becoming ridiculous. Colin had done everything to prove to Shannon that his intentions were only the very best.
“You two are pretty horrible at communicating and Jared is far from okay emotionally, so I frankly don’t trust this situation!” Shannon tried to reason. And in his eyes, reasoning was necessary. He knew that Colin meant well, but in his opinion, good intentions were not going to do the trick.
“What the hell do you want from me?” Colin said, indignation building in his veins. This was not fair, and he was not backing down just because Shannon was being difficult and bad-tempered.
“I want everything from you! I want you not to hurt his feelings. I want you not to coddle him. I want you not to complicate his life more than it already is right now. And I need for you not to break his heart all over again,” Shannon replied, now sounding more desperate than angry.
“I love him, I would never…” Colin began, but Shannon did not let him finish, instead the drummer chimed in and took over, “I know, you never stopped and all that. But that was never exactly enough, was it? I get that you still love him, and I know my baby brother well enough to see that he never got over you.”
Stepping closer to Colin once more, he looked up into the eyes that he knew had captured his brother, and he searched the younger man’s gaze, looking for reassurance that Colin’s desire to help was still as genuine as it had been in the past. In the eyes of many, the scrutiny he presented Colin with might have seemed overdone and unnecessary but when it came to Jared, Shannon was relentless and he made no apologies about it.
It would kill him to see Jared getting his heart broken all over again. Especially now.
“You two need to be careful,” Shannon continued, “you can’t just jump in with both feet, throw caution to the wind and expect not to end up ass deep in the pit of shit that was what your relationship amounted to in the end. Or you will find yourself on separate parts of the globe six months from now, no longer talking because you fucked it up, once more. You might be able to pick up the pieces, but Jared is in no position to take care of himself if the shit hits the fan. Again.”
“I get it,” Colin said, biting down on his lip, the look in his eyes never changing.
“Do you?” Shannon pushed, as he once more got all up in Colin’s face, crowding the actor’s personal space with his presence.
“You want us to go slow,” Colin replied simply, not cowed.
“I want you to understand, that the person you slept next to last night does not have the same amount of strength to back him up as he once did. I want you to understand, that he still needs help and that he’s not even close to being okay,” Shannon added, his voice low and steady. Cold.
“Okay.” Colin repeated, dipping his head and taking a deep breath. “Okay.”
Shannon nodded, content that he had gotten somewhere after all. “Just… take care of him. Love him like he deserves to be loved right now.” The drummer looked every bit the intimidating force of an older brother he was known to be, and with his worried but determined eyes; he looked ready to move heaven and earth to fix things for his baby brother.
Colin had no doubt that Shannon would make life hell for him if he blew this. And once again, he found himself wondering how life got so difficult in such a short time. Taking a deep breath, he weighed his options and found himself grueling over a decision that had the potential to throw his career into a tailspin. He had a call to make.
When Jared awoke for the second time, the sun was high in the sky, and the room was bathed in the bright light of day. He was lying on his side with his good leg pulled to his chest, and his bad leg unsuccessfully attempting to copy that position. For some reason, he felt better rested than he had in a while. Sure, his leg felt heavy, but for once, it was the good kind of heavy, the one that spoke of muscles having been used and exercised. The covers were warm and cozy – and they smelled so nice.
He was feeling good, which was mainly because he was still facing in the right direction. Jared really did not want to turn around. He wanted to pretend to be asleep for as long as it took Colin to return to his own place.
“Are you gonna face me at some point, love?” Colin asked softly.
Jared’s mind stilled at the gently voiced question. He really should not be surprised that Colin could hear and recognize changes in his breathing rhythm so well; after all, they had shared a bed for years. Pushing down the urge to let out an immature sigh, he turned on the bed and faced Colin. The Irishman was resting on his back, a pillow stuffed underneath his head to lift him higher and his hands folded across his chest. From the no-longer-steaming cup of coffee on the bedside table and the half-eaten sandwich that was not present last night, Colin had been awake for a while. The younger man was clothed now, dressed in an oversized black t-shirt. One, which looked suspiciously like Shannon’s.
“Colin,” Jared acknowledged, letting his sky blue eyes meet Colin’s head on for the first time today, before drawing backwards on the bed and pulling the covers up to his neck, letting the duvet hide him away. “You... You are in my guest room, because of a meeting,” Jared said softly, not sure what else to say, as he tried to divert attention away from the obvious fact that they had both woken up in the same bed.
“I was,” Colin answered, looking much too serious for Jared’s taste. “But I called and cancelled.”
“What? That was not part of the plan. You were invited here, because of the meeting,” Jared continued.
“Can we forget about the damn meeting?” Colin asked impatiently and Jared immediately felt the need to work against him. He would much rather talk about meetings or maybe the weather. Anything not concerning last night would be great.
“No, we cannot just forget about the meeting! What do you mean you cancelled? Saying no to the meeting means saying no to the part. You’ve talked about this project for months; you can’t just not show up!” Jared’s voice was heavy, obtrusive and meant to demean, but Colin merely sat up in the bed properly, before leaning back against the headboard. He was not going anywhere – he was simply getting comfortable. Looking into the stormy blue eyes of his ex-lover, he quietly stated the most important thing he had gotten away from his conversation with Shannon in the hallway.
“Right here, right now is more important.”
And just like that, everything Jared wanted to say, everything Jared wanted to feel about this was thrown out the window. Just like that, Colin had summed up everything that was wrong with the world. Everything that had gone wrong between them.
“How do you do that?” Jared questioned, but this time there was no anger. Lifting his arms, he twisted both his hands into his long dark strands as though he wanted to wrench his head off. “How do you always manage to make me feel loved, but so, so guilty as well?” He asked, “How… I loved you. More than... more than I showed, more than you thought I did. More than I thought I did,” Jared said desperately, before letting out a sigh as he placed his hand against his forehead. It was a sad sound, full of defeat. “I don’t know how to fix the past. I just don’t know, Colin. And you make it so important! You make me feel like I’ve let you down and I hate that.”
“I don’t know what you want me to say, Jared?” Colin asked, his brow furrowed, as he watched the words spill out of Jared. It made them both feel like something was falling apart and yet, they both knew that the skeleton that made up their past was still standing, and before it was torn down – there could be no rebuilding.
“I want you to tell me, how you can just say no to a project that you’ve read into and researched for, for months,” Jared begged.
“There will always be another one,” Colin said simply, shrugging his shoulders.
“That’s not how the music business works! I can’t just skip projects! I can’t just skip concerts! I have thousands of kids depending on me, who need me to show up!” Jared protested and heavy emotion crept into his voice, the blue eyes glistening as tears gathered in his eyes.
“I’ve never asked you to quit,” Colin offered pointlessly. He had no idea what he could possibly say at this point. No idea how to help or how to make it hurt less.
“I won’t quit! My work makes me happy,” Jared answered as he buried his hands in the corner of the duvet that still lay in his lap, his movements both agitated and weary at the same time. “It made me happy,” he said miserably, his face dissolving and crumbling as he suddenly reached forward to grasp Colin’s biceps, his grip so firm that Colin was sure that it would leave bruises. “I don’t know what you want me to do, Colin! I don’t know what it is you want from me. Yes, I miss my old life. I miss you. I miss Shannon and Tomo. I miss not being in pain all the damn time. And I miss you. I miss you, Colin. I miss you and me. Back when we were good. Back when my life was good.”
“Jared…” Colin pleaded as he put both his hands on Jared’s face, trying to break through the despair that was enveloping the singer faster and faster.
“I’m so sorry.” Jared admitted with tears in his eyes as he leaned forward, body resting in Colin’s arms.
“Why? For what?” Colin questioned, confused as he pulled Jared closer. He could feel the singer place his face against Colin’s shoulder as he fought against the wretchedness that was overtaking him.
“I don’t know. But I’m so sorry. This was not what I wanted. This was not the way it was supposed to be and I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I can’t just fix it.” Jared let his head lie against his former lover’s collarbone, tired of trying to hold himself up and tired of trying to be strong when he felt so destroyed. He was just so very tired of his life not making sense to him.
There were so many things he wanted to say and so much he wanted to do, but nothing felt accessible to him. He was in Colin’s arms and he was being offered comfort and love, but he had no idea how to accept it. Physically, they were so close, but Jared still felt like he was miles away. And he had no idea how to change it.
He needed to disappear and he needed to be alone. Colin was too close – everything was much too close and Jared felt like everything was falling into him. Like the border between his soul and the rest of the world was crumbling.
Pushing against the chest he had been leaning against, he untangled himself from Colin’s embrace, ignoring the Irishman’s reluctance to let him go. Jared needed to leave before he lost his control.
“I need… I’m gonna go,” Jared said as he nodded to himself. His hands were shaking softly, and his body felt as though it was beyond his ability to move, but he did not let it stop him.
“Please stay,” Colin asked, his large brown eyes holding a plea that resonated within Jared for all the wrong reasons. He knew he needed to leave before he destroyed everything.
“No,” Jared said, once more pulling away. Reaching towards the floor, he grabbed the crutches he had discarded last night. A night that felt like a lifetime ago. He sat on the edge of the bed, breathing heavily and feeling heartbroken. Colin sat behind him, not knowing how to help. He dared not touch the singer; he had no doubt that any bodily intimacy would prove too much for Jared right now.
Finally grasping some composure, Jared shakily pushed himself to his feet. The wheelchair was still standing in the corner of the room, but Jared ignored it in favor of aiming for the en suite bathroom. Fumbling through the doorway, he entered the small room. Once inside he pushed the door closed, needing a physical barrier between them.
A second later, Colin heard the lock turn and his heart sank.
Not caring about any elegance, Jared let the crutches drop to the floor as he leaned back against the door, sinking to the ground and curling in on himself, forming a small and miserable heap on the tiles.
Filled with concern, Colin stood up and walked up to the closed door, and once there, he sat down on the carpet.
Still no answer.
“Jared, can you please just… I don’t know, knock on the door or something. I just need to know that you’re there.” He obviously knew that the singer was still in the bathroom, but that was not the point. He was worried sick and he had no idea how to reach the singer. How to make things okay.
“I don’t know what it is you want from me right now. I… Jared, please.” Colin sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “You know I love you right?”
Colin was seriously considering finding Shannon and asking him for a spare key, but that was something that he knew would not end well. It would be a violation of Jared’s trust. How he knew that, he did not know, it was just what felt right to him. This was between him and Jared. No one else.
Licking his lips, Colin leaned back against the wall and wrapped his arms around his knees. His back was killing him, but leaving this spot never entered his mind. Instead, he did the only thing he could think of: he laid his heart bare.
“Jared, I know that things are rough for you right now. Not that I’m in any way claiming that I have any what you’re going through. I just... I don’t know what to say, I have no idea what it is you want to hear from me, but I’ll tell you this: They were wrong about us. All of them. I don’t think they truly knew how real it was to us. And to be honest, I think that maybe we were fooled as well.”
“Hell, I don’t even know what I’m saying. It’s just that…” Colin hesitated. He suddenly wished he had a smoke and a Guinness. Or maybe a Carlsberg. This was not easy at all. The words were swirling in his head, he felt nervous and so, so far from reality that it was ridiculous. It was as though Jared and he were captured in a bubble that had nothing to do with the real world.
Banishing the urge for alcohol and nicotine, he let his heart take him further. “All this… Right now… Goddamn, Jared, all these feelings are in my heart and there are so many things I want you to know. I just, I need you to understand that… I never want there to be a time in my life where you are not there.” He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, tilting his head backwards, hearing a dull thud as his skull connected with the wall behind him. “It's you that I want in my arms. You I want to fight with. And you I want to make up with. Just you. There is no room for anyone else in my life.”
“I'm not ashamed to say that I've tried to throw you out of my heart and let you go. But I’ve learned by now that it can't be done and frankly, I'm sick of trying and I'm sick of pretending that I'm not utterly and completely in love with you, Jared.”
The silence persisted. “You there?” Colin tried again. He felt so utterly powerless and so completely out of control. He was spilling his heart to a man who was likely not even listening.
“It’s you I love, you know? That’s not gonna just change. Considering the shit-storm that was the end of our last relationship and the chaos and heartache that followed, I'd say that I know what arguing with you looks like. I know what it feels like to see you turn your back on me and leave. And if anything, it's only convinced me that even if we don’t make it, I want that time with you. I don't care what people may say, but I'd rather struggle, fight for every inch and have a hard time with you than I want an easy fairytale with someone else.”
“It's you, Jared. I love you.”
Colin sighed. He had wanted to say these things to Jared face-to-face, but at the moment he did not care how the words were delivered, he just hoped that they landed and made some sort of positive impact. That was all he wanted and all he needed.
To his surprise, the door opened a crack. A head peeked out with large, red-rimmed blue eyes and tangled dark hair. Jared looked a mess but at least he had opened up the door.
“And what if I’m still a selfish asshole?” Jared whispered, the words barely audible.
“I don’t care, as long as you’re my selfish asshole,” Colin said simply, his eyes showing a window into his soul. And Jared immediately recognized the soft look that graced Colin's features. It was a look he had lost himself in a thousand times before. A look that Colin saved for his loved ones. For Jared.
“You promise?” Jared asked despondently as he leaned his head against the doorway.
Barely able to crawl due to his bad leg and his movements restricted severely by the brace, Jared dragged himself forward with no grace or dignity – only a purpose in mind. Making it into Colin’s arms, he was welcomed with a firm enveloping embrace and a kiss placed on the top of his head.
Colin was not letting him go anywhere. Looking towards the ceiling, he mouthed a ‘thank you’ to whatever abstract deity had made Jared open the door and make his way back into Colin’s arms, as he murmured declarations of love and care to the man he loved.
Listening to the words being whispered into his hair, Jared felt himself stilling and his internal agony subsided to be traded with lethargy. Feeling silence in his head, he allowed catatonia to reign as Colin leaned backwards against the wall once more, bringing the man in his arms with him until Jared’s head was resting upon his chest and their bodies were as entwined as possible with their limited space.
There was not much to say beyond this point and instead of filling the silence with more chaotic words they let the newly found calm speak for itself as they breathed in each other’s scent and acclimated themselves with their shared heartbeat.
Words would matter again later, but for now, everything had been said.