Fic: What About Now? - Chapter 18
Title: What About Now?
Feedback: Yes, please. I adore everyone who take a second to drop me a line.
Disclaimer: NOT TRUE, and hopefully most will never ever happen. I own nothing.
Beta: The one and only legolastariel is my shining light and more help than she’ll ever know. Thanks, hon!
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!
A/N 3: Sorry about another long wait. This chapter was finished over a month ago but a computer virus wiped my hard drive and I lost this chapter, as well as chapter 19 and had to start over from scratch. Sucky.
Summary: Jared is fighting for his life. Colin is fighting with himself. And the press is fighting for a story.
The odd sensation of a phone vibrating against his cheek tore Jared from his sleep. Crammed into his bunk and on the road after a sold out show in Stockholm, the singer had surrendered to consciousness less than an hour ago. He had been re-organizing his schedule in the hopes that it would kill the post-concert come down that was buzzing in his veins and from the vibration against his cheek, he had been successful enough to end up asleep on top of his beloved Blackberry. He was just happy that he had remembered – for once – to mute the damn thing so he was the only one getting his sleep disturbed.
Watching the screen, he did a double take. He had deleted that contact several months ago in a childish display of dramatics, but the number was not one he would easily forget. It was imprinted in his brain, right next to his brother’s. Colin fucking Farrell at 06:18 in the morning – at least in this time zone.
Hesitant, he let his thumb slide over the ignore button as he ran through his options. A loud snore got his attention and his eyes fell on Shannon’s bunk. He could see his brother’s silhouette through the thin curtain and one of Shannon’s arms were sticking out. Jared could see the drummer’s tattoo of the band’s glyphics clearly despite the dim light. Shannon would hate for me to take this, Jared thought. And for once, he followed his brother’s advice and pressed ‘ignore’.
A minute passed. He could hear the low hum that came from the bus engine and the rattle emerging from the kitchen cabinet with the loose handle. Then the vibration from his phone began anew and once again, Jared pressed ignore. This time only seconds passed before the vibration returned and Jared pressed the ’ignore’ button much harder than necessary, wishing that Colin would get the message and stop calling him. But it was to no avail, so the fourth time his phone rang he jumped out of his bunk, made his way through the kitchenette, before locking himself in the tiny bathroom.
Picking up the phone, Jared hissed “What?!” with nothing but venom in his voice.
Colin’s voice sounded absolutely miserable and Jared could feel his stomach sink. Had something happened to James? Henry? Or to one of Colin’s siblings?
“Colin, why are you calling me?” Jared demanded, but this time he reined his anger in. He might still be pissed at Colin, but he would never wish him ill.
“It’s fucking everything and right now… I just, I fucking can’t and she is not making it any easier! How can she not understand that this house is James’s home, it’s not just a fucking building! I love her and I love the new little one and I get that she wants us to live together, but I don’t want to live miles away from Kim because that will only hurt James! And why does she insist when I’ve already said no!...”
“Jared, you know that this house is close to James’s pre-school and that is fucking important, because that place was so hard to find! And why the fuck do they have to serve alcohol at these things? Fuck ‘em. I don’t want to move away from there, but she
hates that house and I’m going out of my fucking mind…”
“Colin! Where are you?”
“I… It’s a release party for some movie, I don’t know what the fuck it’s called – I knew there was going to be alcohol and it’s usually never a fucking problem, but Goddamnit, it’s right fucking there! And I just... I just… I can’t. It’s just…I want… I need…”
And suddenly Jared understood. He could hear the faint tremor in Colin’s voice, he could hear the raspy overtones that shouldn’t be there and he could see it now. Colin agitatedly pacing in some hallway, his brown eyes looking wild, dangerous and so very lost. Sweat on his brow and clammy hands. Colin – fighting for control. He just knew and even though he was not physically there, he had seen the exact same scene several times before. Following his instincts, he did what he always had. He used what became the golden ticket after Colin returned from rehab. Sober. But more alone than ever.
And Jared understood.
“Talk to me, Colin. Walk me through it.”
“I feel like… I can’t do this. I need to leave my body. I need to be able to detach myself. I wan’t it so badly right now, Jay. And it’s right there for the taking. Everything is spinning out of control! I thought I’d finally regained control over my life after I lost you. I thought I was finally okay with it, that I had moved on. But I can’t do this. I need to escape. And right now, she is not you. And I need you. I need my best friend.” Every word that spilled from Colin’s lips felt like a nail in Jared’s coffin and he could feel pain burning in his chest.
But now was not the time.
“Shh. Just take a deep breath and just listen, okay? You are stronger than this. You can get through it like you always have and always will. Go somewhere else and remove yourself from the temptation. I know you can get through this, it’s just a minor bump in the road and I know you will not let it take you down,” and suddenly Jared found himself hesitating. This would be the part where he would say that he would always be there and that he would always love Colin. But this time, the words got stuck in his throat. They were no longer his words to say. And he wondered if Alicja ever saw Colin through cravings and breakdowns? Did she ever hold on to him to keep him from giving in? Make love to him all night to make the demons disappear? For some reason, the thought of anyone being there for Colin in that way made him feel sick.
Taking a deep breath, he buried the heartache and sorrow that filled him up and went back to muttering praise and encouragement to Colin, knowing exactly what the younger man needed to hear from Jared.
Closing his eyes, he tried to ignore how right it felt to do this.
A minute passed where all he did was to listen to Colin taking deep breaths into the phone, before he suddenly heard him speak up with buckets of guilt in his voice.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I know I shouldn’t have called. But you… you always knew how to make it stop and I couldn’t help it. I’m so sorry.”
Jared bit his lip and closed his eyes as sentence after sentence ran through his head. There were so many things he wanted to say to Colin. He wanted to tell him about the bomb threat at The Hive and the fear that had tingled at his spine. He wanted to tell him about the amazing shows they had had so far. And the fans. And the sunsets he had witnessed as they drove through the back roads of Europe. He wanted to tell Colin about the break in at his house, the creepy letters and the headless flowers. Moreover, the sudden death threats that seemed to have accompanied them. But he did not. They no longer shared a life so the information felt meaningless and out of place. And he knew that the stalker issue would only make Colin concerned and he did not think his heart could take Colin expressing that concern to him. It would just make him feel worse and if he knew his fragile heart – which he did – it would fuel the need that he was desperately trying to force away. The need to fall into Colin’s arms, just to feel them lock around him in protection.
Like they once did.
“I… “ Jared took a deep breath. “It’s okay. Just… can we not make a habit out of it?”
“Of course, I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. Are you gonna go back to the party?”
“No. No, I’m not. I think I’ve had enough for today.”
A minute of strained silence passed before Jared cleared his throat. “I’m gonna go back to bed.”
“Yeah. Bye Colin.” Jared did not wait for his ex to respond, instead he closed the call and released a sigh.
Feeling some of the tension in his shoulder’s dissipate, he leaned backwards against the door of the tiny toilet before sinking to the floor. Burying his hands in his dyed hair, he grabbed the short strands of his mohawk and pulled as hard as he could, letting the slight pain take his focus. He felt exhausted deep into the very core of his being and he wanted to hate Colin for it, yet at the same time, nothing would make him hurt more than to see Colin fail and fall back into the pit that almost swallowed him all those years ago.
Taking a deep breath, he got to his feet. Walking through the bus, he passed his older brother’s bunk when he felt a familiar fist grab his arm.
“You okay?” A sleepy Shannon asked with unveiled worry in his voice, afraid that Jared’s health was failing him again and that he had been out throwing up or something.
“Yeah, my phone rang and I didn’t want to wake you guys up.”
“Uhm… Just Bam, he is drunk dialing from the states somewhere,” Jared lied casually, hoping that the early hour and the dim light would mask his face as his brother had always been excellent at catching him whenever he started lying.
But Shannon was satisfied with Jared’s explanation and after nodding once, he pulled himself back into his own bunk.
Climbing into bed, Jared drew the curtain and lay down, pushing his phone under his pillow and dragging the covers all the way up to his chin. People he loved dearly surrounded him on all sides, yet it did nothing to take the sharp sting of loneliness away.
“Hello Jared, good to have you back.” Stahl greeted warmly as he opened the door to his spacey office and bade Jared enter.
Jared accepted the welcome and he sat down, letting his crutches lean against the armrest. Shannon had driven him here and would be picking him up later as well. However, this time around, he had left his brother in the parking lot and he had insisted on using his crutches for the walk to Dr. Stahls office without any assistance. His older brother had been hard to convince that it was a wise idea, but some well-placed sarcasm, puppy dog eyes and a little needling had eventually made Shannon relent. The long walk down the hall to the psychiatrist’s office had taken him close to ten minutes, but Jared relished in the feeling of accomplishment that blossomed in his chest as he reached his destination. With a relaxed smile on his face, he spoke up, “Well, when you keep giving me new appointments what else am I supposed to do?”
“I would never force you to show up here.” Andrew Stahl assured, as he folded his hands in his lap and casually leaned back on the chair.
“Is this a ploy to make me admit that I need these sessions?” Jared retorted as he too leaned back on the chair, unconsciously copying the psychiatrist’s manner.
Stahl did not answer Jared’s question; he merely let the words hang in the air for a minute. He was well aware that Jared had made the call to his practice himself. Moreover, Jared knew that as well, but his refusal to admit to a need for help seemed persistent and well able to protect itself from the facts of his life.
Clearing his throat, Andrew Stahl moved forward. “How have you been?”
“Busy.” Jared said calmly, and Stahl nodded his head gesturing to ‘go on’. The singer looked confused for a few seconds before something seemed to dawn on him.
“I… You can’t sell this to the press, right?”
“Of course not.”
“None of it?”
“Everything you say stays between you and me. I can understand how someone in your position can feel a lack of faith in the confidence of others. But I can assure you that my vow of silence is not something I take lightly. And neither does a court of law.” Stahl answered kindly.
“So right now, I can tell you some of the juiciest Hollywood secrets and you wouldn’t be able to make money of them?” Jared asked, his eyes gleaming with the challenge.
“I think you already know the answer to that.” The room descended into silence once more as the two men sized each other up, but Jared quickly dropped his gaze and disappeared into himself again.
“Let me ask you something,” Stahl ventured, “what is holding you back?”
“What do you mean?” Jared asked with a small hint of suspicion entering his voice.
“As you pointed out, you have nothing to worry about here. The things you say in this room are in no way able to damage your reputation.” It was rare for Doctor Stahl to see a patient in his practice showing as much foot-dragging as Jared. Moreover, knowing that the seasoned performer had made the call himself, he would have expected Jared to feel some need to vent.
“I’m not worried about my rep,” Jared huffed, a sardonic smile playing on his lips.
“Then what is holding you back? You’ve been here 7 times now and aside from one or two sessions you have been very reluctant to confide in me or even converse. So I’m asking, what is holding you back?”
“I’m not being held back. I guess I just don’t have a lot to say.” Jared said calmly, the relaxed features of his face giving nothing away at first glance. But his wandering hands and the way he struggled with the need to worry and tug on the many bracelets on his wrist made his rising discomfort obvious.
“Okay. Then why don’t you tell me about your week?” Stahl tried again and unsurprisingly, he received the same answer as before.
“Like I said, I’ve been busy.”
Stahl nodded, and silence reigned once more. Jared started drumming his fingers on the armrest of the lounge chair he was sitting in and his eyes travelled around the room.
“Is there anything on your mind right now?” The psychiatrist asked as he tried vainly to catch Jared’s gaze, but the blue eyes were much too busy flying around the room and resting on everything from potted plants to pictures on the walls.
Jared shrugged noncommittally, before his gaze fell on the floorboards, counting them one by one.
“Do you want to call it a day?” Stahl asked and Jared’s face changed from neutral and disinterested to confused.
“But we haven’t discussed anything?”
“Of that, I am aware. But I’m not here to force you. And I’m sensing quite a bit of reluctance to talk from you.”
Jared let out a sigh as he threw his head back to stare at the ceiling before muttering, “Why can’t you just fix me?”
“Do you want to be fixed?”
“Of course, I want to be fixed, that is why I’m here.” Jared retorted as he lifted his head and stared straight at Stahl properly for the first time during that session.
“Jared, there is no trick in this. I can’t just say a few magic words and then suddenly the world you’re in changes. That is not how it works. I can’t do this without you and you can’t do this unless you want it. And even then, it’s a process.” Stahl said calmly.
“I just want to know how I get over it!”
“You don’t. It’s life and you go through it, not over it, not around it or under it. You go through it.”
“You are so not helping.” Jared sneered, feeling rather mocked.
“I’m not going to sit here and lie to you. Not even to make you feel better.” Stahl continued, his voice never adopting any heat or anger as he laid out the facts to his patient.
“I just want to feel peace in my head again.” Jared whispered. Of course, he knew there was no quick fix. But it bothered him how little he felt changed despite having visited this place for almost two months. His life felt like it was getting nowhere. Even with his busted leg, there had been more progress than this.
“That I understand and I hope with all my heart that we can get there, but without your cooperation, nothing can be done.”
“Then let’s do it! Let us start with the fixing, I’m here, I’m listening, let’s just do it.” Jared pushed, annoyed with himself. He felt both useless and powerless, something that was getting old rather fast.
“How do you want to do it?”
“Isn’t that your job to tell me?”
“You’re in charge here; I’m just there to help.” Stahl explained.
“Okay.” Jared said, nodding his head, his eyes sporting a challenge once more, but this time the wide and expressive eyes held focus as well. “Ask me something and I’ll answer.”
“How was your week?”
“Busy.” Jared answered. As the room grew silent again, Stahl leaned backwards and let his patient take the reins.
“You want more?” Jared asked, and Stahl nodded expectantly.
“I…” Jared stopped and bit into his lower lip.
“I don’t even know where to start,” Jared began before stopping. With a sigh he let the words roll around in his head for s short while.
“I guess… I guess you can say that things were a bit rough…” Another pause. “To be honest, I have no idea what I’m doing any longer…”
Stahl nodded his head again. He could see Jared fumbling with his words, as he tried to figure out what else to say.
“Have you ever wanted to run away?” Jared suddenly asked, leaning his head backwards once more to stare at the ceiling. Andrew Stahl would never begrudge a patient’s need to divert his focus on something and if Jared needed to look away to talk, he would let him.
“I think the desire to escape our troubles is universal. But how we deal with it differs.” Stahl offered.
“Does wanting to run make me a coward?” Jared asked softly and Stahl could see the darkened expression even while the singer was looking away.
“You have never struck me as a coward. And a desire to run does not make you one.”
“Not even if I go through with it?”
“Not even then. We must all take responsibility for our lives.” Stahl said.
“I don’t feel comfortable in my home anymore. Hell, I don’t feel comfortable in my life anymore. And I’m not sure how to fix it.” Jared licked his lips, falling back to his nervous habits with ease.
“What would you like to change?”
“You want a list?” Jared snorted, but there was no humor in his eyes, nor in his voice. “How about the way my brother seems to assume that I’m always just a stumble away from a complete breakdown. And the way that he is right, I am bordering on breaking down 24/7. Hell, sometimes I’m wondering if I haven’t already cracked and it’s too late to fix things.”
“Do you think that leaving will make things better?”
“I don’t know.” Jared said, lifting his arm to rub his neck in agitation. “I don’t know anything these days. Except… Well, I can’t say that I’m falling in love, because that would be wrong, seeing as I never stopped loving him.” Jared shook his head. “I want him to be in my life again. And I know that having him in my life is not going to fix everything, but I just… I miss him terribly and I miss the way he always knew how to make me feel better.”
Jared sighed, “I’m sorry, I probably sound like a pathetic wimp, but I’ve never felt more alone and I just wish that I could feel loved again, you know?” He hated himself a little bit more for every word he uttered, but considering how messed up his life already was he doubted he could make it much worse.
He felt pathetic for not being stronger. All the things that had gone down these past few months made for a scary wake up call. It was funny how he thought he had his whole life planned and under his control, only to be smacked in the head with the fact that none of it had ever been up to him or in his hands. He never saw it coming. And now, things would never be the same again.
“Having and needing love in our lives is nothing to be ashamed off.”
“I know, it’s just… I don’t understand why everything has gotten so difficult and complicated. Nothing makes sense anymore – it’s like someone took my life, shook it a few times and then put it down again with the wrong side up. Everything has changed.”
Three days before.
Listening to Colin’s declaration of love through the bathroom door made Jared’s heart fill with emotion and the feelings he had for the man on the other side took their chance to explode in his chest. Whatever reign he had held them with before had well and truly snapped. And the second he fell into the familiar embrace and the strong arms closed around him, something clicked. It was as though pieces of a puzzle fell into place and knowledge that had been hidden was brought into full view.
He might be a cripple and he might be utterly lost, but for some reason Colin was still holding on to him. He could not say that he understood why the younger man had not ditched him in search of greener pastures, but he could now acknowledge the fact that Colin was here, holding him and seeming as though he had no plans to leave. It baffled him, but it warmed him as well.
After resting in Colin’s arms and watching the minutes tick away on the clock, they eventually decided that the floor had done its job and now a bed was needed. With a lot of help from Colin, Jared made it to his feet and slowly, with the younger man’s support, they reached the bed. Not a word was said as Jared draped himself over Colin and placed his head on the man’s chest, feeling the strong heart beating against his cheek.
A myriad of thoughts were running around in Jared’s head, making it impossible for him just to enjoy the moment. How could he possibly be enough for Colin this time around? In his own eyes, he was more emotionally damaged than he had ever been. His career, while not taking up his time, was still taking up space in his thoughts and heart, because there seemed to be no resolution. And what about everything else? What about the impending trial against Helmstrom? Even though the man admitted his guilt, it would still take time and the media would likely be breathing down his neck. And what about coming out if they did end up together again? And how would he be able to show Colin the disgusting scars that now crisscrossed his body? He had never thought of himself as shy, but this was different. Every single time Colin would run his hands across them or even look at them, Jared would be brought back to that night. And that night was one hell of a mood-killer. So much was wrong with his world right now. How would things ever work out?
Watching the different emotions run through Jared’s eyes and across his face made uneasiness fill up Colin’s mind. He could clearly see both the degradation and the weakness that Jared was laying upon himself, as well as the concerns that plagued the singer. He wanted so badly to take all the pain away, but even a fool would know that some of Jared’s worries were likely legitimate.
“What are you thinking about?” Colin asked softly, before placing another kiss on top of Jared’s hair.
“Just… stuff.” Jared whispered back, his eyes shining in the dim light of the room.
“Anything you want to share?”
“I would fight this fight for you if I could. I would do the work, but I can’t.”
“You’re here.” Jared’s voice was barely audible and Colin felt the words being spoken more than he heard them.
“I am. And I’m not going anywhere.”
Jared let the words drift around in his head. He knew that Colin meant them. He knew that Colin truly wanted those words to be the truth. But Jared had a hard time seeing how things would be able to work out. But he appreciated the sentiment none the less.
“I’ve always known that there are many paths to pick from and many choices one needs to make in life. And I’ve always known that I held my happiness in my own hands and that it was my own job to make my dreams come true. But what do you do, when you no longer know what you want? Or how you’re supposed to get there?”
Stahl nodded along as Jared spoke, his grey eyes filled with a compassion and understanding that made Jared feel like he had a place here that mattered. Speaking up, the psychiatrist answered, “It will likely come as no surprise to you that my advice is to search for your own answers.”
“Not really,” Jared pointed out.
Stahl smiled at his patient. “Jared, you strike me as both intelligent and willful. I think it is important that you don’t forget how you came to this point in your life.”
“You mean the shooting?”
“Not as such, no.”
“That evening, if I am not mistaken, you were playing in front of a sold out stadium with your band. Your very successful band. I may not care much for your place of work, Hollywood, but even I have seen Requiem for a Dream – as well as other movies starring yourself. You have a talent and you have vision. In all this chaos, try not to forget that.”
Jared nodded to himself.
“Thanks, I guess,” the singer offered meekly. He had received so many compliments and insults in his life that other people’s – at least people who were not his family – opinions no longer had any meaning to him. And Andrew Stahls words did not resonate within him because he appreciated the praise. It was not about that, instead, he was thinking about thinking. Proper thinking. Purposeful thinking. Thinking he had control over.
It’s a strange moment, when it suddenly dawns on you that you have no control over your life anymore. And no control over your thought process. Sure, he had feared that that might be the case. And he had studied human nature enough in his life for it not to be a total surprise. But it was a strange moment anyway. He had always placed the burdens of his life on his own shoulders and always, he had pushed the blame unto himself.
His instincts were still insisting that he continued with that approach.
But now, he knew. His thoughts were not under his control. He had no idea how to change it, but maybe acknowledging it was the first step. It was an odd feeling. It was as though he was trapped in a maze of redundant thinking, self-loathing and self-pity. Which was not exactly something he should be proud of and he let the thought roll around in his head for a minute.
He needed to start getting the control back. As always, it was all about the control. Jared had never been good at surrendering to his fate or to let the road lie unchanged at his feet, it was against the most basic instincts he carried and always had been. The same rang true for Shannon as well. Even Colin seemed unable to let things lie. But at that moment, he had no idea what purpose all his thoughts were having. But maybe this whole philosophical match and mix was a part of the process. Maybe he was walking in the right direction for once.
“If you could have anything in this world, what would it be?” Stahl asked, dragging Jared from his truth-seeking rendezvous cataloging the depths of his mind.
The words made Jared look up in confusion. “Anything?”
“That is not a fair question.” Jared huffed as he fell back in the armchair.
“Just… think about it,” Stahl said calmly, not deterred by the singer’s reluctance.
“Fine.” Jared went back to looking at the ceiling as the room embraced yet another silence.
Jared opened his mouth to speak, but he quickly closed it again. His features took on an air of annoyance as he seemed to be struggling with his mind and the words his brain wanted to throw out there.
“At this point… I’ve never needed love in my life the way I do now. But I have also never felt a greater need to be alone and distance myself from everyone around me while I lick my wounds. And I have no… fucking… idea how those two things can even coexist inside my head, but so far they are both going strong,” Jared said softly, the blue eyes glazing over. The room was silent for a minute as both men pondered which direction they were going in.
“Anything?” Jared asked again.
“Anything.” Stahl answered, leaning back on his armchair, his demeanor as polite as ever.
“I don’t understand the point.”
“Just humor me.”
Jared began drumming his fingers on the armrest. His gaze wandered around once more and his eyes fell on the crutches resting against the chair.
“I would definitely love my mobility back,” Jared replied, his voice much softer than it had been before.
“How come?” The psychiatrist asked and Jared could see that his question was completely serious, something that threw the singer for a loop. He felt that his answer was the most obvious wish one would fall at for the final conclusion – at least if you were in his position.
“I don’t understand the question?”
“Why do you want your mobility back?” Stahl asked again.
“Okay, I heard the question, I just don’t see why it’s not obvious,” Jared complained and his hands went from being restless to being thrown in the air in exasperation.
“Give it a chance, Mr. Leto.”
Jared leaned back with a huff and he stared at the ceiling as he mulled the words over in his head. What a ridiculous question, he thought to himself. Yet, he gave it an honest try.
“I want to be able to…” He stopped as quickly as he had started. He got it now. He understood. “Clever,” Jared breathed. “Alright. I want my mobility back because I want to be on a stage again. You happy? I admit it. Some days, I really want my job back,” the performer said, not at all happy with his own words.
“Jared, whatever your answer had been, I’d have been satisfied. I’m not trying to lure you into a trap or force you to do or say anything you don’t feel comfortable with. This is your conclusion and I think you should let it be what it is,” Andrew Stahl said with poise.
And Jared wondered once more. Anything?
1 day later
“How is therapy?” Colin asked as he lounged on the recliner next to the large panorama windows that faced the pool area in the garden. He was watching the sun descend for the night as dusk rolled in. Summer was making a swift return and the temperature was steadily rising with every day that passed. Soon people would start slipping into lighter and cooler clothes to cope with the California heat. For a brief second, Colin wondered whether Jared had considered wearing shorts at some point. Or baring his chest. The singer was still very reluctant to let anyone see his scars, something that baffled Colin, as Jared had never been one to care how he looked in the eyes of others. Over the years, he had worn some ridiculous outfits with pride and he hoped that Jared’s unique taste was still there and merely hidden for the time being. But he had thus far decided not to pressure Jared or start quizzing him about it. He was not interested in making Jared feel even more out of sorts.
“Slow,” Jared said. “I want to feel better right now, not in time,” he continued, complete with air quotes. He was lying on the couch, his leg propped up on a sofa cushion and his hands busy with his Blackberry. Leaning forward at an angle, Colin was surprised to see Jared playing Tetris as he peeked over the singer’s shoulder. Apparently, boredom was starting to get the better of him. Or maybe, Jared was just truly relaxing.
But from the furrowed brows and the tense shoulders, Jared was not nearly as comfortable as he wanted to be.
Loud laughter suddenly rang out from the kitchen and both of the actors in the living room looked at the closed door separating Shannon and Tomo from them. The two musicians were talking and mock fighting about some Xbox battle that they had challenged each other to on their last tour. And from what Colin had gathered, Shannon was vehemently denying that the loss he had endured had been fair at all. Supposedly, one of the controllers had suffered some water damage the week before, but neither of the men could remember exactly which of the joysticks were broken – but Shannon was claiming it was his – and hence the unfair loss. But from Tomo’s rambunctious laughter and the teasing tone the drummer was sporting, the discussion was more in fun than in any serious debacle.
Shannon and Tomo were in charge of dinner for tonight, but as the living room’s sole occupants listened to the excited back and forth in the kitchen and the lack of food related sounds, Colin wondered if the meal would be served before Jared succumbed to sleep.
Returning to the topic at hand, Colin made another inquiry as he leaned back on the chair, hoping to get an answer that revealed a bit more. “But it is helping?”
“Yes,” Jared said, pushing a button on his phone before nonchalantly throwing it on the coffee table. “It sucks to have to talk about my feelings and shit, but yeah, it helps.”
Jared rubbed his hands across his face, before pinching the bridge of his nose and squeezing his eyes closed.
“Headache?” Colin ventured.
Over the past few days, Jared had become a pro at using his crutches to move around. He had developed a good tempo and he seemed to truly enjoy using them, savoring the freedom that they provided. But unfortunately, his back, shoulders and arms were struggling with the new chore. The muscles had developed fast, but so had the daily painful tension headaches stemming from the new employment the limbs had forced upon them.
“Yeah,” Jared breathed and he attempted to roll his shoulders. He briefly glanced over at Colin but as he noticed the younger man’s eyes on him, he quickly returned to staring at the ceiling.
Not waiting for an invitation, Colin got to his feet. He knew Jared was never going to ask, so he took the initiative. Stepping over to the couch, he gestured with his hands, “Come on, sit up.”
With a little help from the Colin, who supported him with a hand between his shoulder blades, Jared managed to sit up. The younger man immediately sat down on the spot Jared’s head had occupied only seconds before. As soon as he was comfortable, he pulled Jared back down until the singer was resting with his head in Colin’s lap.
Using what little he knew, Colin got to work massaging Jared’s scalp and placing pressure on the other man’s neck to make the stiff muscles let go. Letting out a sigh, Jared felt his body start to relax as he enjoyed Colin’s skilled hands taking care of the pain. As he searched along the tense muscles, Colin let his thumb trace the soft, warm skin on Jared’s neck. Working over every single knot he found in silence, the Irishman did his best to take the ache away and give Jared some much-needed relief.
Having the man in his arms once more brought back every one of the tender feelings he had for Jared. The love. But it also brought out the frustration and confusion that still littered their ‘current’ relationship.
Where do I stand? The words sounded loud and clear in Colin’s head, but he could not get lips to form them. Where are we? Where are we going? Do you still love me as much as I love you? Do you believe we still have a future?
Colin wanted so badly to say something. Anything. But he did not. They were together again. Or maybe they were not. Neither of them seemed to know and neither of them wanted to bring it up. Colin had never felt more confused and certain at the same time. Nothing had been resolved and they still had no idea what direction they were heading in, as neither of them dared breach the topic. But on the other hand, there was a newfound confidence in the feelings they shared.
Jared had found comfort in being enveloped by Colin’s arms and his warmth. And Colin seemed to have found a new place to stand in all this chaos. After laying his heart bare in the guestroom there had been surprisingly little tension between them, considering the bumpy road that had led to this point. Or at least, the tension had changed character.
Colin mentally ran through his options. Looking down at the beautiful man resting in his lap, his mind jumped to another topic. “The meeting you have Friday, the one with the label,” he began. “Do you – do you know what you’re gonna say? Do you know what you want?” the actor asked.
Opening his eyes, Jared blinked away the cobwebs. Feeling some of the tension return to his muscles he pulled his head out of Colin’s lap and sat up on the couch. Reluctantly accepting the dismissal, the Irishman got to his feet and returned to the lounger, as Jared returned to his earlier position.
“It’s complicated,” Jared whispered, “it’s not that I don’t still love being part of 30 Seconds To Mars, because that will always be one of my proudest accomplishments. But I can’t return.”
“It’s not that simple.”
“What makes it so difficult?” Colin pressed.
The sound of lid being dropped in the kitchen made both men turn towards the closed door. Strong laughter followed and they both looked away again.
“Can we please just… I don’t want to talk about it, okay? You wouldn’t understand,” Jared said forcedly.
“You’re damn right, I don’t understand,” Colin replied, however, there was no anger in his voice, “but yeah, we don’t have to talk about it. I will never force you.”
An awkward silence persisted for a while as they both did their best not to look affected.
Jared was so tired of thinking about his career. Which felt odd and contradictive, seeing as it had once been his favorite thing in the world to lie down and fantasize about. Unknown and unexplored countries, massive crowds, bustling festivals and videos that needed direction and creative guidance. It was his passion. Was. Now it felt like there was a huge gaping void where his dreams used to be.
He had no idea what he wanted now. It was not that he wished for retirement or to fade away, he just lacked the spark that had driven him previously. Before the shooting, he was always creating, writing songs on the road, at home, on planes and whenever he had a free moment. But now, the words had left him. Instead, he had worries, debilitating thoughts and white noise that made for distraction and grief – not a conductive creative environment.
He knew he needed more from life, but for once, he had no plans on how to get anywhere. The future was looming on the horizon and he had no idea what he was working towards, there was no five-year plan and there was no point to things right now. He did not know what he wanted to do to earn money – whether or not it would ever make sense and feel right to return to the business.
And how would the world receive him? He knew there was a lot of talk about him and Colin in the media. And thus far, particularly towards himself, there had been an enormous amount of positive press and articles littered with praise. It should be odd, but it did not surprise him at all. Hollywood had always been two-faced. He had worked and lived there for too long not to know the game by now. When someone died – or in his case almost-died a certain amount of time is spent glorifying and ass-kissing everything this person is and stands for. Without fail. And at the moment, the press was playing nice. Everybody was. Hell, for some reason, he had practically been put up as a hero.
Everybody was waiting for the comeback. Shannon and Tomo, too.
His brother and band mate still insisted on using the term ‘when’ we get back and never ‘if’. Just the other day, when Shannon had been drumming a beat against the coffee table, Tomo had happily proclaimed that Shannon should record it and save it for the next album. It seemed that everyone was waiting for Jared’s return – except for Jared.
Letting yesterdays talk with his psychiatrist run through his mind, the former singer once more found himself thinking.
If he could do…