Fic: How These Things Go for Marion
Happy birthday legolastariel! This one is for you! I hope you like it.
Title: How These Things Go
Feedback: Yes, please. I love you all and I really appreciate it when you take a second to drop me some feedback.
Disclaimer: NOT TRUE, at least as far as I know.
Dedicated in its entirety to the ever lovely legolastariel for her special day. Love ya, hun.
Dawn was breaking outside. The first few rays of the morning sun were illuminating the droplets of dew entangled in the pale green grass. Sitting on the armrest of his couch, Jared ran his eyes across the lawn, quickly deciding that it needed mowing. Or at the very least some fertilizer. The once bright green grass looked ratty and unhealthy, and though things like that rarely bothered him or even crossed his mind, it now felt like yet another defeat on top of all the others.
The better part of an hour had passed with him sitting in his living room, one leg tucked underneath his body and his arms wrapped around himself. Thoughts were whirling in his head and he was well aware that he was procrastinating. But this was one of the hardest things he had ever had to do – even if he felt certain that he was doing the right thing. Or at least, his brain felt certain. His heart was another story. A story that he was about to force into a rather abrupt and painful end.
His eyes had been resting on the man who was sleeping on the couch he was sitting on, the man who was the source of his problem and the source of too many heartaches and doubts. The younger man was dead to the world and would be for quite some time if no one disturbed him. And so far, no one had. But Jared was planning on it. In fact, it had been his plan for the past hour.
Gathering his pride and his tattered sense of self-worth, he reached out with his hand and shook the shoulder of the sleeping actor. Nothing happened. Jared shook him once more but Colin did not move an inch. He did not even snuffle or sigh. Feeling the welcome stirrings of justice within him, he now felt convinced that he was on a wiser path. Abandoning a large amount of regard for the man of front of him, Jared pinched the skin on Colin’s arm just below the armpit, aiming for the sensitive grouping of nerves hidden there.
“Fuckingowdamnit!” Colin exclaimed as he sat up, clutching and rubbing at the burning skin. Jared almost felt guilty about using that mean little trick from his childhood of tormenting and being tormented by his older brother. But only almost.
“Wassup? Why you wakin’ me? I’m goddamn tired,” Colin grumbled as he reached for the blanket that was slung over the back of the couch, hoping to score it and then go back to sleep. However, his endeavor was cut short by a slender hand pushing his arm away.
“Jared, com’ on!” Indignant and annoyed Colin faced the stoic and guarded American, whose couch he was trying to sleep on.
“We need to talk. Or I need to talk, and you need to listen,” Jared said softly, carrying the resigned air of a man who was about to cut off a limb in the dim hope of surviving certain death.
“Fine,” Colin relented angrily as he fell back on the couch, staring expectantly up at Jared. He wanted to go back to sleep but until Jared was done talking there would be no chance of that happening. He just hoped Jared was quick about it.
“I… I don’t want to do this. But I think at this point, it’s probably still going to hurt me more than it hurts you.”
“I’m not following…” Colin said confused as he ran a hand through his hair before sluggishly scratching his neck.
“You showed up here at 5.34AM, completely trashed. You vomited on the floor and then you yelled at me that I was being a bore and dragging you down, despite knowing fully well that I needed to get up early today to meet with the record label.”
“Listen… I’m sorry about all that! You know what it’s like – I was just having a little bit o’ fun. Don’t be so fucking strung up, Jay. A little bit of living is not gonna kill ya!”
The apology, the justification and the dig. All the words, all of them – none of it surprised him, none of it was new. Yet this time, something had changed. Jared had changed.
It was hard to figure out how they had gotten to this point.
Jared fell for Colin heart, soul and body. Every last piece of him. Colin reentered his life in the desserts of Morocco and he swept in, lion heart and lion mane and he made Jared feel alive again. It was desire and lust at a carnal level and it was love and tenderness at an emotional level. Or maybe not a lot of tenderness. Or even that much love. At least not from Colin’s side.
At first and for many months, he let Colin do to him what he wanted. He allowed him to cheat, to break his promises, to borrow his money, borrow his car and borrow at the very least his couch. But more often, he would stumble into Jared’s home at all hours of the morning and climb into Jared’s bed and start making out and initiate sex, however, most of those cases ended up with Colin passing out during foreplay.
Colin was rude, he was flaky and he never gave a shit about the consequences his actions had. And Jared would let him. Sure, the singer had blown up before, he had screamed and yelled, cursed and threatened, and given Colin more than one verbal beat down. And Colin had apologized and cooed, and on most evenings, he had merely walked forward and dragged Jared into his arms and silenced him with rough kisses tasting of alcohol and bad excuses.
Jared always took him back. No matter how many strippers he banged or rentboys he fucked or groupies he tasted, Jared always took him back.
Because Jared remembered. He remembered the good times they had shared before Alexander while they were still only friends. He remembered the way Colin cared and the way Colin always pulled him in with his intelligent remarks and witty banter. And he remembered lying with Colin under the stars on a flimsy blanket in the middle of a dessert discussing everything from the meaning of life to the meaning of love. There had been no drugs and no alcohol during boot camp or the shooting, and even though Colin never showed the love that Jared did, he at least never took advantage of the love even a blind man could see. The love that Jared carried.
“I can’t do this anymore.” Jared said softly, trying to shake of the memories running on repeat in his head, his voice barely straying above a whisper as he looked at the man he loved so much it hurt. “You have made promises, but every one of them you have broken. You have declared your love for me, and then cheated on me a few hours later. You have been invited into my home, where you have stolen everything from liquor to cash, with the promise that you would replace it and pay me back. And yet you haven’t done anything to make up for it yet.”
“Look, if it’s about the money…”
“It’s not about the fucking money!” Jared yelled suddenly. Colin looked shell-shocked by the singer’s outburst and Jared himself, was surprised too. He had not meant to shout, hell, he had not even meant to drag a lot of emotion into this as it would only make it harder on himself and not on Colin. But it seemed that his tattered heart had betrayed him once more.
It was never ever about the money, Colin was well off and Jared was not exactly poor either. But it was the principle in it. To be honest, most of all this was a matter of principle and to Jared, a matter of dignity. There was a limit to what he would put himself through and how much shit he would accept in his life from others. There had to be or he would end up crumbling underneath the weight of his own indecision and lack of self-respect.
“I can’t force you, Colin, but I wish you would stop with all this shit. I can’t force you to turn your life around, but I will ask that you don’t come around anymore, because it breaks my heart. I can’t watch you destroy yourself anymore. I love you, but I won’t watch,” Jared said, his tone soft and defeated once more. The debilitating pain in his heart was not only present because Jared felt betrayed. Much of the pain he carried and felt came from watching the decline and degradation of a man he loved with every fiber of his being. To watch Colin destroy himself, as well as his career, was a blow he felt into his very core, but Jared had to get out now before he followed Colin. Eventually, the younger man would end up dragging Jared down with him.
“So what are you saying?” Colin asked and Jared was surprised to see stirrings of actual emotion in the once expressive brown eyes.
“I’m saying that I’m done. I’m out. I refuse to be around all this shit. I know what it has done to me in the past and to the people that I love, and I won’t have it close to me. I refuse to have it in my home. I love you, even when you are so completely strung out that you don’t even know your own name and just lie and drool on my bed, but I can’t watch, Colin. I just can’t. I won’t.”
“You are leaving me then?”
“What is left of you to leave? You’re never sober anymore! I feel like I haven’t spoken to the real Colin in months. Even now, you’re eyes are still glazed. And don’t think I haven’t noticed that your hands are shaking.”
The conversation halted as both Jared and Colin glanced at the Irishman’s hands. They seemed to have a life of their own and a faint but obvious tremor controlled them. Disturbed and affected, Colin wrapped them around himself and hid his hands in his armpit.
Jared glanced away from the man he loved and instead, he threw his eyes at the dewy, yellow grass. He had seen enough to know what he was dealing with and as before, he wanted no part of it. Swallowing, he continued.
“I’m not leaving you, Colin, I’m leaving what you’ve become. I don’t want to make you choose between me and your poison and I don’t want to raise an ultimatum, but I cannot live with this any longer. You’re an adult, this is your life and you make your own choices. But so do I. And now I’m telling you that I don’t want to see you or be with you when you’re not sober and that is my choice,” Jared said, forcing his voice to remain steady.
Breaking up with someone you still loved was excruciating.
The shaking was slowly getting worse and he could tell that Colin was losing the ability to focus on what was going on. He needed his morning fix. Jared had deliberately picked the early hours of the day to do this, as it provided a tiny window of lucidity for the Irishman.
“Just go, Colin. You can take your fix in the bathroom and then I’ll need you to pack your things and get out of my house.”
Colin nodded his head and Jared could see that the younger man was affected. Tears that Jared had not expected seemed to be burning in the other man’s eyes. But Jared felt no sympathy. Colin had the power to change all this. He had the power to fix things and yet, again and again Colin picked his poison and not the man he was pretending to love.
Walking over to the much more composed musician, Colin pressed a kiss to Jared’s cheek. “I love you.”
“I love you, too”
“No, Colin. Go.” Nodding morosely, he got to his feet and aimed straight for the bathroom. Jared waited two minutes, his hearing picking up nothing but silence. A second later, the faucet was turned on and then the door was opened. A ruffled looking Colin stepped out.
Jared met the younger man’s eyes and he searched for a sign that things may get better. But all he found was dilated pupils and an empty expression that forced him to turn away in anguish.
With silent steps, Colin left the living room. A short time later, the clicking of the lock signaled that he was alone once more.
1 year later
It was nearing midnight in the Leto household, but Jared was far from tired. He had thrown himself onto his plushy grey couch, his feet resting comfortably on the coffee table in front of him and a close-to-filled notebook in his lap. The house was quiet and would be for at least a few days, as Shannon, the house’s second owner, had gone on a four day trip with some of his biking buddies. Jared was working on a song that had bothered him for almost a week, but other obligations concerning the impending world tour had kept him from doing anything other than pushing the words around in his mind until now.
It was supposed to be a song about living life to the fullest, but for reasons unknown, the words kept getting swallowed by lines of loss and a certain bitterness he was not proud of. He had no desire to be enveloped by his past, but it seemed that the lyrical part of his brain was disagreeing and digressing with quite the vehemence.
He had nothing to be upset about. They were days away from taking on the whole world with a monster tour that was shaping up to be the adventure of their dreams. He had Shannon. He had Tomo. He had an unending circle of friends. Men and women still came at him like they were part of an all night buffet and all he had to do was point. His bank account was happier than it had ever been. All in all, he really could not understand why his heart insisted on reminding him that he was lonely. It was not the first time in his life he was single, far from it actually. He had spent most of his life unattached and that had never bothered him before. But now, it did. He wondered if it had anything to do with age, but it just did not seem like it – or Shannon should be suffering as well and his brother seemed happy as a clam.
The other option was a road that he did not want to go down. That road had given him nothing but pain and heartache, and a ‘no entrance’ sign had been erected quite a while ago. For his own protection, of course.
Glancing at the page in front of him, he read the few lines his brain had coughed up. He switched the words around as he tried to find a point, as well as a melody. Reaching out for the guitar that was leaning against the armrest, he put it in his lap and gripped the neck with one hand. Strumming a few chords, he gave his mind free range as the sounds played.
A sudden knocking on the front door made him stop and turn his head towards his limited view of the foyer. He was not expecting any company tonight. He had not even informed his closest circle of friends that he was in LA tonight, in fact, he had hinted on twitter that he was in New York. But apparently, someone did not believe that.
Reluctantly getting off the couch, Jared tiptoed to the front door and carefully looked through the peephole.
The higher powers of this world must really hate him, he concluded. He was being punished for something big, of that he was sure, as it had been well over a year since he kicked the man on the other side out of his home.
He briefly considered not answering. After all, it had been a year and Jared was pretty sure that there was a time limit on these things. In the end, curiosity forced his hand and he opened the front door with a lot less enthusiasm than he usually reserved for greeting guests. The moment the door opened, Colin’s head whipped up from where he had been staring at the ground and they looked at each other for a few seconds.
Without another word, Jared stepped aside to let the younger man pass him. Closing the door, he trailed after his ex, feeling uneasy with the addition of the man in his own home. They reached the living room and Jared gestured towards the opposite couch, silently offering Colin a seat.
“What'cha working on?” The question confused Jared for a second before he realized that the spiral notebook he had been scribbling in was open and available for peeks on the coffee table.
“None of your business.”
The words come out harsher than he intended, but few things made him feel as uncomfortable as people looking at his unfinished songs without permission. The words were a window into his soul – which was not available for public viewing.
“Sorry, mate.” Colin whipped up both his hands as though Jared had a weapon aimed at him, apology in his eyes, and Jared felt slightly annoyed that Colin was making a fuss, however unintentional it might be.
“Forget about it.” Jared amended, waving his arm dismissively before sweeping up the notebook and shoving it under one of the throw pillows.
They sat in silence for a while, neither of them quite knowing what to say, before Jared decided to cut to the chase.
“What are you doing here?”
“Am I disturbing you?” Colin asked, his dark eyes showing genuine concern and Jared found himself getting lost in the younger man's discomfort.
“I haven't seen you for a year,” Jared said, not answering Colin's question. The truth was that he felt very disturbed. Colin merely stared back at him, not giving anything away and Jared once again found himself wondering what had brought the man to his doorstep at this time in the evening.
Unable to help himself, he asked the one question that had been on his mind since he opened the door.
“Want a beer?”
“No thanks. I don't drink anymore.” Colin said as he threw his eyes to the floor, the skin around his mouth tightening as he avoided Jared's steady gaze.
“Rehab, right? I thought I read something about that.” Jared said the words as casually as he could muster without sounding off.
“Yeah...” Colin trailed off, obviously uncomfortable.
Jared knew a lot about Colin’s stint in rehab, but he was not going to tell the actor that. He was happy pretending that nothing had happened in either of their lives since they parted ways a year ago.
But he knew. He watched Colin's interviews, followed the talks in the magazines and kept himself informed. Colin was first on his short list of people he kept tabs on, but he was still far away from the list of people who were in Jared’s good graces.
Asking if Colin wanted a beer was rude and he knew it, but he had to know. No small amount of doubt had reared its head the day he read that Colin was going into rehab. Was it a stunt? Was it merely an attempt to rectify the bad press? Had some movie producer forced him in exchange for a part?
“Why are you here?” Jared asked coldly. He was well aware that his behavior was far from courteous but he could not bring himself to care. He knew he was subtly baiting the younger man, sniping at him and generally being a terrible friend.
But then again, they were not friends.
Friends stayed in touch, he thought, and he relished in the small stirrings of anger in his chest.
“I wanted to see you.” Colin’s expressive brown eyes were shimmering, but Jared forced himself to look away before he could fall into the same trap he had fallen in so many times before.
“And now you have, in fact we could have finished that in the door. Why are you here?” Jared’s voice took on a hard edge and his hands clenched in his lap. He had no patience for Colin’s bad excuses, he just wanted to get this over with so he could go to bed and forget all about this night.
“I owe you an apology.” Colin said softly. The look in the singer’s eyes turned dangerous, he was not in the mood for this. Apologies would fix nothing between them and the longer Colin stayed in his living room the harder it became for Jared not to get swept up in his building anger and lose control over his emotions.
“Don’t, Colin.” Jared’s eyes were flashing with anger. “You don’t owe me anything and I don’t want an apology, I have no interest in being a tool for you to feel better about yourself. I just want you to tell me why you’re really here!” Jared fumed before getting off the couch and pacing the room, tension radiating from him in heavy waves.
“I already did! To see you! To apologize! What more do you want from me?” Colin snapped back. He was not angry yet, but the frustration was building rapidly as it fed off the singer’s blinding resentment. He fought the urge to join Jared in his pacing. He had never been good at sitting still, especially not when feelings ran high.
“What do I want from you?” Jared yelled, throwing his hands in the air. “What do you want from me? We haven’t seen each other in a year. When it came down to it, we shared a fucking meaningless relationship! We’re not even friends! Why are you here?” He repeated the words like a mantra. “Why are you here!?”
“I want you back.” Colin said, finally, the words ripping from him before he had a chance to filter them through his brain and he almost choked on them. It was not that he did not mean them, not at all. The problem was that the words would not just simply be tough for Jared to hear, but they would practically be a mockery of the wretched pain and blazing emotion holding the man bound.
“You never had me.” Jared tore out harshly, the lively blue eyes like ice. “You are only here because you feel fucking guilty!” And this time the anguish hiding beneath the rage in the singer’s voice was unmistakable.
“I’m here because I love you.” Colin said, his voice much softer than it had been so far. Almost reverent as he spoke the words Jared needed to hear, but had no desire to.
“Then where the fuck have you been for so long?” He replied bitterly, taking a step back and putting even more distance between them.
“I’ve been working my ass off getting clean and getting my life back on track. For everyone I love. For you.” Colin said with a calm that easily belayed just how serious he was. He got up and took a step forward trying to bridge the widening gap, but Jared would have none of it. The moment the Irishman came close, Jared turned around and walked to the other side of the room, making sure that the distance holding them apart suited him.
“I never asked you to do anything for me.” Jared whispered as he turned his body back towards Colin, defensively crossing his arms across his chest.
“I know. And that only made me want to do it more.” Colin said simply and stilled. Self-consciously he stuffed his hands in the front pockets of his jeans. Laying his heart bare – while worth it – was the epitome of awkward and discomforting for the Irishman, and it almost made him wish he had a beer.
“You fell in love with me when I was at my lowest, you loved me when I hated myself the most and you cared for me when I didn’t give a fuck about the world.” Colin’s voice was steady, his enunciation clear and his eyes even clearer.
Back on the set of Alexander, Jared had followed Colin around like a love struck fool. Or at least like a man enamored. Colin had enjoyed the attention from the handsome American. He had enjoyed how relaxed Jared was about showing he cared. How willingly he offered himself. Back then, he had not known just how hard it had been for Jared to do that, how much it had cost him. How devastated he was when he found his love thrown back in his face.
“I pushed you away,” Colin stated softly as he gazed upon the gracious, passionate human being in front of him. There were so many things he wanted to say and do, so very many, but the door was still closed for him and that he knew.
“I guess you can call it that. I would call it fucking everything that moves and rubbing it in my face.” Jared replied bitterly as he shrugged his shoulder nonchalantly. But the way his body tensed at his own words betrayed the repressed rage and hurt.
“I am so sorry for the childish way I behaved towards you. And I know that I’m a year late in saying those words. I know that you probably already burned that bridge, but I have to try. Because I love you.”
“Well, you had a funny way of showing it.”
“I know. You did everything for me and you never asked for anything in return.”
“I did ask for something,” Jared said softly, “I asked for you to leave me.”
That I do remember, Colin lamented inside his own head as the silence took over. He did not know what to expect coming here, but so far, he had won nothing, not a single inch of ground. Jared was still pushing him away and even though it hurt terribly, he could not blame him.
Jared shook his head and walked over to the couch where he plopped down with a sigh. Tentatively, Colin stepped forward to place a comforting hand on Jared’s shoulder, but a cold glare stopped him in his tracks immediately. Colin knew rejection when he saw it and he knew that he deserved whatever Jared doled out at him. Dejectedly nodding his head, he muttered a final apology before turning around and leaving the room.
A second later, the all too familiar sound of the front door closing reverberated in the house as Colin left Jared’s life once more.
Silence crept back into the room feeling deafening in its finality.
Jared buried his head in his hands and let out a harsh, dry sob. One that he did not even know he was holding back. Colin showing up brought so many emotions back to the surface and he felt utterly shattered. Or at least the illusion of being okay felt shattered.
Everything that had happened a year ago, he had suppressed, he had buried it completely and refused to think about it. It was too devastating and the fact that he had been so in love and so much like a doormat had stuck with him and become a trauma that was hard to shake off.
When he did something, he did it completely. He invested everything and when it came to love, there was no difference. However, he had always thought that he made better choices than what he put himself through a year ago and he had asked himself a million times, why fall for Colin? Why did you do that to yourself? How could you not see where it was all headed?
Jared had been angry with himself. And he had wept.
Shannon told him afterwards that he did the right thing. His brother had assured him it was okay to throw Colin out and that it was his only choice.
Still, Jared had wept.
And the question plagued him night after night as he fell asleep alone. How could he do that to a man he professed to love? How could he just abandon Colin when he needed Jared the most?
Lying down on the couch Jared pulled his knees to his chest and hugged himself. He felt like the worst person in the world, but he just felt so conflicted. He truly thought that the chapter marked Colin was over and done with. For good. He truly thought Colin had forgotten that Jared had ever existed. And he truly thought that even while apparently sober, Jared had no appeal to a man like Colin.
Love was a cruel mistress. And Jared had been well and truly fucked.
Every single word Colin had said was running around in circles in his head. Jared had not really listened to what Colin had to say, he was just not ready. He was unprepared and unequipped to deal with this right now. It needed to simmer.
He still needed to heal.
6 months later
Jared had stayed on the fringe of the crowd for hours, out of sight and out of mind. He had dodged every camera, every reporter and altogether gone far to make sure that there would be no record of him being at this event. He had no idea if showing up to the premiere of Colin’s new movie was a good idea or not, but he had been unable to help himself. He knew that whatever had been between them was not over. It was unfinished and Jared hated unfinished business.
Looking across the jam-packed room, Jared watched the man he had come all this way for, taking in the neatly pressed suit, the black shirt along with the white tie and the way the ensemble brought out the deep, dark eyes. Colin looked striking and Jared felt more than a little underdressed in his grey jeans and hoodie. Colin seemed happy and relaxed, working the floor with his leading lady, some fizzy drink in his hand and a big smile on his face. He shook every hand offered, slapped people on the back and made jokes. He prompted quite a few laughs, gave hugs and looked as though the world was his playground and the gathered mass of people part of his rightful domain.
The more Jared watched him, the more he regretted coming.
He did not know what he had expected. He knew he had no right to wish for anything different; after all, he himself had forced Colin out and then slammed the door in his face. By his actions, he had given the younger man full permission to move on with his life and find someone else.
Feeling both out of sorts and out of place, Jared edged away from the crowd, done looking like a lost puppy. He had spent the past hour with his back to the wall, pretending to be busy with his phone as he unkindly dissuaded all attempts at communication from people recognizing him. He had shown up intending to mingle and try to have a reasonably good time, but he had felt testy and upset the whole evening.
He just wanted to go home, lock himself in the studio and while away the hours trying to burn himself out enough to be able to sleep. But before leaving, he needed to take a piss.
Exiting the space with a single-minded purpose, the eyes burning into his back made no impression and the musician took no notice of being watched.
The men’s room was blissfully empty and Jared stopped in front of the mirror as he glared at his own reflection.
“You got what you came for. He’s fine, you’re fine – now let it go!”
Angrily brushing his hair out of his face, Jared sighed. This was getting ridiculous. He made his way into an empty stall, trying to think about everything other than how reluctant he still was to leave so early. Part of him was relieved that he had somehow managed to avoid even basic eye contact with Colin, but another part undeniably felt as though the night had been a failure and a complete waste of time.
He flushed and walked back towards the sinks just as the door opened and someone walked in. The noise from the hallway trickled in before the door fell closed again, leaving the room in silence. Turning on the faucet, Jared washed his hands. Walking to the paper towel dispenser, he glanced out of the corner of his eye as someone turned the lock on the door with a dull click.
Startled, he quickly turned and came face to face with the one man he had least expected to see.
“You could at least have said goodbye before you left,” Colin said gently, looking more than a little hurt.
“I… I didn’t think you knew I was here,” Jared answered softly as he looked at the handsome man before him, already becoming undeniably worked up to have him so near.
Colin said nothing; instead, he walked closer to the other man, not stopping until they were a hairs breadth apart.
“You came to see me?”
Colin’s voice sounded so astounded, so wondrous that Jared felt his heart constrict. Unable to help himself, he leaned forward the last inch and rested his forehead against the one right in front of him.
And that was all Colin wanted to hear. Closing the distance, he claimed Jared’s lips and wrapped his arms around the slender body as he breathed everything in. He felt heat spreading through his entire being and he felt more alive than he had in years. This was all he wanted and the man in his arms was all he needed.
Jared could not help but kiss Colin back, joining in the well-known dance as he reacquainted himself with the man in front of him, a man he had never really been able to let go. Letting himself get lost in the moment, he let his hands explore the broad back within his reach, the contours achingly familiar beneath his palms. He felt Colin’s mouth move away from his lips to trace the hollow of his throat, shyly, as though he had no right and the sheer emotion behind the act forced his heart into a fight with the last barrier constraining it, as the love he had tried to suppress made its way back into the forefront of his mind and spirit. And yet, he found himself pulling away and recreating the distance slowly and gently, unable to help himself.
“I’m sorry, I moved too fast…” Colin sounded so reticent that Jared immediately wanted to stop his slow retreat and lose himself once more in the warm gaze he had missed so much these past many, many months.
“You still make me feel so conflicted,” Jared confessed the moment there was space between them, feeling both full of love and full of doubt. Immediately, he found himself pulled back into Colin’s arms, into a tight hug and this time he did not fight it as a kiss was pressed to the top of his head, the younger man doing everything in his power to make Jared feel comfortable.
“I’m so sorry about everything that has happened between us,” Colin lamented into Jared’s hair.
“I know you are.”
Colin pulled away to look into Jared’s eyes. “Talk to me. Yell at me. Punch me. Just… talk to me.”
But Jared found himself with nothing to say for the first time in years. It was not that there was nothing going on in his mind, on the contrary, he felt overloaded and it made him unsure as he tried to categorize everything in an attempt to keep up.
“Come with me?” Colin asked suddenly, as he pulled away to look into Jared's eyes.
“Now?!” Jared was rather shocked and more than a little confused. It was still early and this was opening night of Colin’s new film. There was no way he could just leave.
“Colin you have obligations, you can’t just…”
“I wasn’t feeling well… I received an alarming phone call from home… James needed me… The love of my life needed me! … I don’t give a fuck, okay, I’m not letting you walk out of here without me!”
Every excuse sounded rushed and every word was dripping desperation, making it crystal clear to Jared that Colin was absolutely serious about this.
At that moment, someone pulled insistently at the locked door to the men’s room. They were running out of time, they could not stay here.
“You remember Cobblestone Café?” Jared found himself asking, as he let Colin’s certainty guide him into making a quick decision.
A big smile lit up Colin’s face at the name, “You still love that place?” he asked, easily remembering it as a favorite of Jared’s. It was located on the outskirts of Beverly Hills, a decent drive away from here. It was locally owned and open all hours of the day.
“What? They have great hot chocolate soy-milk,” Jared argued with a shrug, which did nothing to diminish the smile on Colin’s face.
“I’ll meet you there.”
The Cobblestone Café was practically empty, its rush hours being early in the morning and not the prime party hours on a Saturday night. Jared came here often as he enjoyed the sleek interior design; the coffee bar being modeled like a scene ripped out of modern day Paris. A multitude of old-fashioned glossy artworks on the sepia and silver painted walls and local French trinkets proudly displayed on every shelf gave the room a cozy and intimate feel that felt addictive in its assertiveness. Located on the far outskirts of where the Hollywood action happened, he rarely found fellow celebrities in here and to this day, he had never seen paparazzi outside the doors. He had a feeling the owner was well aware of who he was but he had yet to see any clear signs of recognition and that more than anything made Jared come back again and again. As much as he could live with personal service from waiters and staff, he much preferred being treated like anyone else.
A good hour had passed since his arrival and though he did not wish to doubt Colin, he was starting to get antsy. Everything about this evening had happened so fast and while he had left his house that night hoping to return with some sort of closure, he had not given any thought to how that closure might look like.
Just then, a quaint bell dinged, the door opened and a familiar face popped in. It did not take long before a frown marred the handsome features as the man looked around worriedly. Waiting for the newly arrived customer to notice Jared on his own, the musician did nothing and a second later, Colin’s face broke out in a smile as his eyes caught what they were looking for.
Jared was calmly nursing his hot chocolate and he gave very little away as Colin sat down in front of him at the corner booth facing away from the door, his full attention on the singer, even as he flagged down the waitress and ordered a latte.
After the steaming hot coffee was placed in front of Colin, the two men slipped into an uncomfortable silence as they both pondered what to say and for Jared, how far he was willing to go.
Eventually, as was his nature, Colin grew impatient and broke the stillness.
“Seeing you tonight, in the crowd,” he began, “at first I thought I was mistaken, it couldn’t possibly be you, but as I moved closer and saw how you continued to throw looks in my direction and then quickly look away, it was hard to deny it could only be you.”
Jared licked his lips before taking a sip of his hot chocolate, keeping the mug in front of his face for longer than necessary as he contemplated what to respond.
Eventually, he looked up from pondering the contents of his hot beverage and instead took a cursory, halfway nervous glance around the peaceful café, before he started speaking. “I wanted to see you, I really did. That’s why I showed up.” Jared paused for a second, the blue gaze unreadable. “I guess I got cold feet.” A moment passed and then he looked up, straight into Colin’s eyes. “But I’m happy that I went,” the singer relented, giving away his feeling of contentment that the lines of communication were suddenly wide open between them again.
The words gave Colin more courage and he said what he had been dying to say, not only all night but these past many months as well.
“I’ve never properly thanked you for what you did.”
“You mean alienating my best friend and then leaving him when he needed me the most?” Jared grimaced before looking away again, feeling rather uncomfortable. It was a sore sport for him. No matter how much his brain had yelled at him that he was doing the right thing, his heart would always feel conflicted and guilty for not hanging in there longer.
“You did what you had to do,” Colin said emphatically. “You did everything right and had it not been for your strength, I don’t think I would have understood how fucked up everything had gotten,” the younger man confessed, his dark eyes showing more pain than Jared had ever wanted to see in them. “Your actions – more than every other word I had thrown at me during that time – made me doubt everything I was doing; it all started slipping because of you.”
“I’m sorry about that.” Jared had never wanted Colin to start slipping even more, in fact, he had been aiming for the opposite, hoping that a rude wakeup call would do the trick and bring the man back on stable ground. He had not even expected Colin to take him so seriously and not return after having Jared kick him out. It was what truly made Jared understand how far Colin had gone from him, how far he had slipped.
“I’m not,” he replied. “You had the guts to shatter my perception. You had the guts to close the door in my face and for a long time… for a long time I was angry at you, I will not deny that.” The pain in Colin’s eyes was slowly being replaced by an enticing calmness and no small amount of pride. “But in the end, it was what you did that reminded me of who I wanted to be and who I wanted to have in my life. Fuck the hanger on’s, and the yes-sayers and the fair-weather fans! You… you are strong, you’re proud, and you chose to stand by yourself even when I knew you had doubts.” Colin was practically glowing as he belayed every ounce of praise he felt the man in front of him deserved. “And that reminded me of who I want to be – and who I want to be with.”
“I did what I had to do,” Jared said softly, in spite of himself.
“You did what you had to do,” Colin echoed with a smile.
Jared looked warmed by the words of confidence, the tense shoulders had fallen back into their rightful place and Colin was beginning to notice the composure he had always seen enveloping Jared in their earlier days was starting to creep back in.
They enjoyed another moment of silence, yet this time there was nothing uncomfortable about it – instead it had notes of contemplation and concentration. Though they had gotten further these past 15 minutes than they had both expected, they were not all the way there. Therefore, it was really no surprise when Jared broke his short silence in favor of letting Colin in on everything he had trudged through, both then and now.
“I was scared to continue being your enabler. And I was scared to keep going as we were when it felt so wrong.” Jared confessed. “You were pushing me further and further and I knew that if we continued going down that road... I would start to hate you, and I’m not sure I would ever be able to stop. And I couldn’t bear for that to happen.” Being so brutally honest, saying the words and sharing what he had struggled with for so long felt liberating and empowering.
And it pushed him to say the last thing he needed to say before he could go anywhere else emotionally and start releasing the final constraints on his heart.
“If you ever treat me like that again, if you ever… use me again… then were done, for good. Forever. No more contact, no more apologies, no more coffee at Cobblestone.” The fire in the blue eyes had turned to ice and there could be no doubt about the severity of the promise.
Colin nodded curtly, not needing to hear it but knowing that Jared needed to say it.
“And if you ever… if you ever treat yourself like that again, I will lock you in the trunk of my car, kidnap your sorry ass and take you so far out of Hollywood that it will all seem like a distant dream, you got me? I will not… Don’t ever make me look at you in that way again.” The confidence in Jared’s tone had been taken over by tremors of emotion, but neither of them heard it. “If you love me even a little, you will let me help you before you ever get to that point again.”
“Because you’re better than that shit!” Jared banged his fist in the table, rattling the spoon in the empty mug.
Colin leaned over the table and grasped both of Jared’s hands in his, opening the closed fists and intertwining his fingers with the other man’s, not giving a damn if anyone was watching. “I love you,” he whispered, his brown eyes shining with gratitude and affection, a tender smile on his face.
“I’ll get there again,” Jared replied, not takings his eyes away from the man in front of him. “I promise.”