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Fic: What About Now - Chapter 14

July 21st, 2011 (01:46 am)

Title: What About Now?
Pairing: Jared/Colin
Rating: R
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: The talented and creative legolastariel  helped me out with this. Thank you, dear, once again for your always timely assistance!
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.

 


2007

It was early morning in London, the sun had only just risen above the horizon an hour ago and Colin Farrell leaned back against the headboard, tucking the warm body in his arms closer as he buried his nose in the longish dark hair. Jared had just finished a gig in one of the city’s most prestigious venues the night before and had greeted his lover by jumping through the door of their hotel room, jacked up on adrenaline and too little sleep, and tearing the surprised man’s clothes off.

Not that the Irishman had been an unwilling participant in the three-hour sex marathon that had followed on the floor. But after a few rounds, his back had started protesting and he had been forced to drag his lover to the bed. Not that their activities changed once their encountered a softer surface, if anything, it had only encouraged them in their passion.

Sated and relaxed for the first time in days, Jared pressed a kiss against the beating heart under his chin, loving the way the organism thumped against his lips. Colin responded by tenderly running a hand over the other man’s head, down his shoulder and settling at the small of his back, before pulling him closer.

Letting out a happy sigh, Colin asked, “Remember New York?”

Jared lifted his head from where it had been resting against the younger man and gave a wide smile in return. A naughty smile. “We stayed in that hotel room for two whole days, just eating room service and fucking.”

“Making love.” Colin corrected with a teasing smile.

“Fine, it was all romantic and cuddly and amazing and adorable…”

“Fine we fucked, happy?” Colin relented, throwing his head back with a laugh.

“Very.” Jared said, looking deviously at the man holding him.

“You're a piece of work, you know that?”

“Mm, thank you. I appreciate it.” Jared hummed, once more occupying himself with placing small kisses and teasing licks to the skin above Colin’s nipple.

“Well, guess what. We’re going again this year. Just you and me, a hotel room and the New York City skyline. I already booked the suite. And there’ll be plenty of time for you to visit the Smithsonian and the Museum of Modern Art, as well.” Colin said proudly, happy that he had the opportunity to spoil his workaholic lover.

“Fuck, you do know how to please me. When are we off?” Jared asked with a huge smile on his face as he lifted his head, but kept his wandering hands exploring Colin’s body.

“Two months, we leave the day before my birthday.” The moment he said the words he could feel the body in his arms tensing. Confused, he continued, “Just like last year. You loved last year.”

“Yeah, about your birthday…” Jared trailed off, going quiet and Colin had heard that before. More than once.

“What about my birthday?” He asked, already having a pretty good idea which territory this would be headed into.

“It’s just… It was an excellent opportunity for us and we have never played this venue before! We have promised the fans a show in that area for years!” Jared finished softly, lowering his head. “The tickets have already gone on sale…”

“Wait, wait, for how long have you known that you wouldn’t be with me for my birthday?” Colin asked, abruptly sitting up and making Jared tumble to the side of the bed. He never even thought to ask if Jared was available on the 31st of May. In the past, he had always been. Their birthdays were their one standing date, going way back.

“A few weeks.”

“And when were you going to tell me?”

“Colin, please, it’s just two gigs and a few interviews. We can leave the week afterwards. After we finish the award show, of course.” Jared tried, sitting up as well as he attempted to get closer to his boyfriend, but Colin was having none of it.

“I can’t fucking believe you!” Colin yelled, batting Jared’s hand away. He felt ridiculous. Never before had he felt more like an inconvenient dirty secret. Had they been out he could at least have showed up at the gig and had a good time with the band, but now he would be forced to spend his birthday in yet another hotel room – this time alone – waiting for his boyfriend to be finished catering to his adoring fans. “We have always spent our birthdays together! We decided that since we couldn’t spend holidays together, we would save those two days for each other and so far we have done that. Until now.”

“Colin, this place was only bookable that weekend! It’s not like I wanted it to be that day!”

“I know.” Colin replied. He got off the bed and angrily ran a hand through his hair. Picking up his jeans from the floor, he put them on, turning to Jared still sitting on the bed. “You always do your fucking best! But in the end, you will always prioritize your career over your relationship.”

“That’s not true.” Jared whispered, shaking his head in denial.

“Jared, I’ve had 31 birthdays before this one and I’m planning on having lots more… But some days, I just don’t know if I want you in them.”

“What are you saying?”

“It’s the fact that you don’t even care enough to tell me beforehand! The fact that you’ve known for weeks – that the fucking tickets are on sale! – and you didn’t even call. I don’t give a shit about turning another year, god-fucking-damnit, I just care about spending those days with you! But obviously, you don’t.”

“Colin…”

“No, Jared! And I don’t give a rat’s arse that I sound like a jealous chick saying that. I just know that I love you, but I sometimes I can’t stand the sight of you.”

The room was so silent you could hear a pin drop. Jared buried his head in his hands and Colin turned away. A minute ticked by on the clock before Jared looked up and softly said, “I’m sorry.”

“I know. Me too.” And Colin did not quite know what he was apologizing for, all he knew was that he did not want to be having this argument. He wanted to snuggle up on the king size bed, pull Jared into his arms and make sweet and sordid love to the man until the early morning would force them apart.

But he could not forget the fact that when it came down to it, he would always be second.

The silence between them was thick. Eventually, Colin cleared his throat, breaking it.

“I’m gonna pack my things and catch the afternoon flight.”

Jared wanted to protest. He wanted to insist that Colin stayed, wanted to press that the man had promised to be there until tomorrow morning, but the words died in his throat. He knew that he was walking on thin ice. And he knew that Colin needed time to think, to steam and be angry before Jared would be allowed to try and apologize.

“Okay.”

Colin packed his things in silence, moving around the hotel room with an ease born of several years of staying in such rooms. Jared sat back on the bed, leaning against the headboard as he watched Colin stuff the clothing scattered on the floor, which Jared had ripped off the Irishman’s body the night before, into a duffel bag. When the actor walked into the bathroom to retrieve his toiletries, Jared let out a sigh. He knew he had fucked up big time, he just did not know how to fix it. Birthdays were a priority, one that went beyond even holidays in their minds. It was some of the rare time he got to spend alone with Colin, often in exotic locations or places – which Colin picked – that made him happy. But when a once in a lifetime show-deal was offered, or even just a decent event for a few thousand people, he had to take it, right?

It was his job. It was the life he wanted. To be in demand, to stay on top.

“I’m done,” Colin said as he left the bathroom.

“Do you want me to…?”

“I’ll take a cab.”

“Okay.”

Jared jumped off the bed and hesitantly stepped forward.

Colin took in the sight of the man he loved. The man he was willing to put his principles of living a life built on honesty on hold for. They never parted angry. It was the one rule they would never break, for if they did, it was over. Colin opened his arms and Jared stepped into his embrace.

“Have a good flight,” Jared mumbled into his shoulder, followed by an, “I love you. And I’m sorry for ruining your trip out here.”

“I love you, too.”

“Call me when you get home?”

“Of course.”

They pulled apart long enough to kiss each other chastely on the mouth. Colin stepped away from the reluctant Jared, but not before running a hand through the long strands. Giving his lover a sad smile, he left the room.

Leaving Jared by himself.



¤¤¤¤¤¤


Spread out on the stage floor like a ragdoll.

Shannon took another swig of his beer and swallowed his anger along with the sweet tasting liquid, biting back a scowl, willing the images in his head to leave him the hell alone. Everytime they fought Shannon regressed to that night. It was like a bad habit. A sneer on Jared’s face would in his head transform into a pained grimace and just like that, the sour taste in his mouth would be back.

Like a broken toy.

He took another sip, feeling the buzz in his fingertips intensifying with a removed sense of guilt. Jared had never been a fan of the people he loved drinking... But Jared could go fuck himself right now. Forcing down the rage still thrumming underneath the surface of his skin, Shannon leaned back unto the couch cushions. An internal fight had been brewing ever since Jared said those damning words many hours ago. He wanted to be angry with his brother, wanted to detest the way Jared played at his fears, but he could not. All in all, it was a low blow, which was why Shannon could not get properly pissed. It was too easy and that was frankly worrying. Jared was whip smart, and on any other day he would have gone for something not so glaringly obvious and blown it way out of proportion, but instead he went with the most common misconception out there. Just to get a reaction.

And how could he stay mad at Jared when his brother was that desperate for someone to lash out at him? That desperate for someone to take all his pain and turn it against him?

They rarely started fighting, but when they did, they usually made it count. They made it hurt. But this time around he was not sure he could afford the righteous anger. No matter how much Jared might deserve a punch in the face, he knew he needed to be rational. Once again. But when all this was over – and it better be soon – Shannon was allowed to take as many cheap shots as he wanted.

He had helped Jared to bed an hour ago, his assistance clinical – but not cold. It was simply not in him to retaliate when Jared was already down, when his brother was already overly uncomfortable with receiving help. He had left the room when he was done, absentmindedly wishing Jared a good night and then made his way to the fridge where he stored his emergency six-pack.

He was now pleasantly buzzed and listening to his brother moving around in his bed in the next room, which was the studio they used for vocal takes. Jared used to sleep in his own room on the second floor, but moving the wheelchair up the stairs again and again was too difficult and time consuming, so Shannon and Tomo had moved the singer’s bed downstairs. It had taken a good two hours to do it, but Shannon was not going to force Jared to sleep in a strange new bed in his own home.

“Shannon?” The call was muffled by the closed door but Shannon picked it up easily anyway. Not hesitating, he got off the couch and made his way into the studio-turned-bedroom, hitting the light switch on the way in.

Jared was sitting up in bed, fingers folded above the covers that were bunched around him. He looked like a kicked puppy, with his guilt-ridden eyes and hands in his lap.

“Can’t sleep tonight,” he shrugged, before looking down on his fingers, twisting them in the covers. “I’m so sorry,” Jared said miserably, looking up and into Shannon’s eyes. “I had no right to say the shit I did and I didn’t mean any of it.”

“I think I already knew that the moment you said it, but it still hurt like hell.” The hazel eyes hardened for a second. “And you’re an asshole.” Shannon said before levelling his gaze at his brother, who promptly looked down again.

Minutes passed where neither of them said anything. Jared was staring at the covers, still immersed in his guilt when Shannon, not interested in making his brother feel more emotionally wretched decided to throw him a rope. “I overheard your conversation asking for an appointment.”

“Yeah?” Jared looked up surprised and the drummer was able to see into his brother’s blue eyes again. The remorse was still there, but it was taking a back seat to curiosity.

“I’m proud of what you’re doing.” Shannon said honestly, and suddenly Jared was fighting tears again. The singer bit into his lower lip and nodded his head, grateful for the continued support of his older brother.

“Think you can go to sleep now?” The drummer asked and Jared shrugged.

“Would you mind... You know... Just until...” He trailed off as he wrung the cover in his hands nervously. Shannon fought a smile.

“Fine, but you know the rules. If your start snoring, drooling or using me as pillow I’m outta here.” Shannon declared before throwing himself down on the bed next to Jared and rearranging the pillows.

“Same goes for you. I will not hesitate to kick you with my good leg...”

Shannon snorted, burying himself with the thick cover as Jared breathed out and drifted off to sleep.

¤¤¤¤¤¤


“How much do you remember from that night?”

Jared’s head snapped up at the question. He was not sure what he had been expecting but this was not it. They had barely finished introductions and they were already talking London.

When thinking about it, he was actually relieved that Doctor Stahl did not beat around the bush. Not that Shannon or Colin did either, but it was helpful. It made him feel strangely confident.

It was his first session with Doctor Stahl and he was more than a little uncomfortable. But everything made him uncomfortable these days, so that was not really anything new.

He did not know why, but he had expected a soft-spoken, sweater-wearing male in his fifties with a receding hairline, librarian’s glasses and an acoustic guitar for sing-along’s in the corner. He apparently needed to update his stereotype, because what he had received was a man in his early forties, with a full head of hair and a postmodern decorated office. No sight of the clichéd degrees on the wall and Kleenex on the table agency either, just an open and airy room with comfortable furnishings and greenery in potted plants.

He felt comfortable here. Felt like this was the kind of place where his words did not stay behind after he left, restricting him, but instead evaporated without consequences.

“Not a lot. All of it. I’m not sure, to be honest. I’m not sure what is memory, what stems from nightmares and what I just imagined.” Jared said, keeping his tone as even as possible. So far he had no idea why people cried at these things, in his mind he was there to talk business. At least he was, until unbidden images sprung into his mind at the first mention of that night.

Jared swallowed, willing the images in his head to go away.

“Do you suffer from flashbacks?” Stahl asked casually and Jared wondered how the man knew. But then again, Jared always chose the best and Doctor Andrew Stahl was supposed to be one of the leading medical professionals dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Crisis Therapy – and he was not deluding himself that he had been able to escape the shooting without some sort of mental ramification. At least not any longer. His embarrassing breakdown in Colin’s arms was the final straw.

“Sometimes... Sometimes I hear the screams of the crowd in my head. Other times, especially when my leg is giving me trouble, I can feel the bullets. I can feel the pain of them ripping through me.” Jared said softly, hesitantly. He shifted in the chair and unconsciously rested a hand on his bad leg.

Doctor Stahl nodded sympathetically and Jared found himself relaxing some.

“When those flashbacks happen, what are you usually doing beforehand?”

“I don’t like being alone anymore... My head keeps fabricating these images. Everything turns red, like in a gory nightmare and suddenly I feel like I’m back on that damn stage.”

Jared pressed his lips together, before taking a deep breath, “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to return to music.”

“Do you want to?” Stahl asked calmly and the singer shrugged noncommittally.

“Before all this happened, there was nothing that I loved more than performing music. It made feel... alive. Like I could do anything. Like I was unstoppable.” Jared closed his eyes, feeling emotion surge through him. The roar of a fervent crowd. The feel of the bass soaring through his limbs. The devotion of the believers. He was theirs and they were his. It was magical.

He missed it. Missed the feeling of being invulnerable. These days, what he was stuck with was discomfort and pain.

“But I wasn’t unstoppable, was I?” Jared closed his eyes and hung his head in shame. He felt like an utter fool.

“Do you blame yourself for what happened?”

“I was vulnerable and open to attack. Anyone could waltz right in and hurt me. And someone did.” He said softly, before shame filled his eyes, making them darken. “They could have gone after Shannon. Or Tomo. Or someone in the audience who was just there to have fun. And it would have been on my shoulders.”

“Why would it have been on your shoulders?” Doctor Stahl asked curiously.

“It’s my responsibility to make sure that every single person in that audience is having a good time. And it’s my responsibility to make sure that Shannon and Tomo get to live their fucking dreams.”

“But why is that your responsibility?” Stahl prodded, his eyes remaining kind and Jared forced down the desire to snap at the other man in reflex.

“I have claimed it as mine a long time ago. It is mine.”

“But why?”

“I don’t want to talk about this anymore.” Jared snapped.

Silence descended upon the office for several moments and he could hear the ticking of the clock on the wall, echoing in the stillness.

“Okay.” Stahl took a sip of his coffee cup, his grey eyes not leaving Jared for a second. “Tell me about your stay in the hospital?”

“Not much to say.” He replied and the room turned silent once more, before Jared found his voice again. “It was my own personal hell. But Colin, Shannon and Tomo made it bearable.”

“Shannon is your brother?”

Jared nodded.

“Has your relationship with your brother been affected by your shooting?”

Jared nodded again.

“How so?”

“I don’t want to talk about Shannon.”

“Tell me more about Colin?”

“No. And who the fuck told you about Colin?”

“You mentioned a Colin visiting you in the hospital, along with a Tomo and your brother.”

“I don’t want to talk about Colin.”

“Jared, I have complete confidentiality, you have nothing to fear here.”

“I said, no.” The look in Jared’s eyes was dangerous and his enunciation crystal clear, but Doctor Stahl was not fazed.

“Why are you here, Jared?”

“To get better!” Jared shouted, the words coming off as threatening. Doctor Stahl silently perused the singer, taking in his tense demeanour, his clenched fists and the way the blue eyes blazed.

“So why don’t you tell me a little bit more about yourself?” Stahl consented and Jared relaxed a bit more. He was used to being quizzed about himself and preferred it to being asked about his loved ones. They were off limits.

“There is not much to say. I used to live and breathe for my career, now I live and breathe for nothing.”

Doctor Stahl leaned back in the armchair waiting for Jared to continue.

“I... I’m single. I live with my brother. According to the talk around town, I’m at worst crazy, at best eccentric. I might be a bit of an asshole – or a nice guy, depending on who you ask.”

“It seems to me like the general consensus is varied.” Stahl offered, making Jared snort wryly.

“I guess you can say that.”

“How do you feel about that?”

“Honestly?” Jared asked, a devious smile building on his face and Stahl nodded.

“I like it that way. Don’t get me wrong, on some days it’s a real bitch that everyone thinks it’s okay to take cheap shots at me. But on most occasions, I love it. I love that the essence of who I am has stayed mine. It’s not about mystery – okay, it’s a little about the mystery – but mostly it’s about privacy.”

¤¤¤¤¤¤

The day before

Jared’s first physical therapy session introduced him to pain on a whole other level. He was shaking with exhaustion when he rejoined Colin the waiting room, but a small smile was gracing his features for the first time in a long while.

A pleasant woman named Theresa had been assigned to him. She was cheerful and sweet and had started the session by informing him that her son and daughter were major fans. It had initially made him nervous as he expected to be asked to write autographs or maybe pose for pictures in his wheelchair, but to his surprise she did not bring it up again, but proceeded to treat him like he was any other patient of hers.

Theresa was very clear when she told him that it was time he started moving around some more. He then spent the better part of two hours learning how to lift himself in and out of his wheelchair, as well as getting used to wriggling his toes. It hurt like hell, but the pain was overshadowed by the joy of moving and the thrill of independence he felt when he succeeded to bend his knee, not once, but twice.

Colin got to his feet the moment he saw him, putting the boating magazine back on the table with his empty cup of coffee. “You look like you’re ready to drop.”

“I could drop your ass if I wanted to.” Jared declared with a smirk, making Colin gape. This was probably the first time Jared had entered any form of playful banter with him and the younger man could not keep the smile off his face. Tired or not, Jared seemed more confident and self-assured than he had been in a while.

“Someone is in a good mood.” Colin exclaimed, fighting back the urge to get excited as he grabbed the back of Jared’s chair and started rolling him towards the exit. The rehabilitation centre was filled with people relying on crutches and other aids and Colin was happy to see Jared smiling at the individuals they passed as he continued talking.

“Got to spend some time in the whirl pool and now everything is tingling. I feel almost normal–”

His words were cut off the moment the automatic doors opened and Jared was blinded by the flashes of cameras and shouts from the paparazzi.

He felt like the world had gone crazy. Back in the day, he had to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – or at certain streets – before having to suffer cameras pointed at him. And usually they were nothing more than a nuisance, who rarely dared to ask more than casual questions. Now they were downright insulting. It seemed that after his stock had gone up in the eyes of the public, the press displayed even more entitlement and rudeness.

“Jared, are you silent because you are ashamed of being gay?”

They wanted it to be seedy, apparently.

Jared did not reply. Not even to say no comment. Instead he began to hum a tune in his head, hands clenched at the armrests as he counted how many steps Colin took to get them to the SUV. But the pack of reporters only got louder at being ignored and by the time they reached the car, Jared’s fingers were numb and the song in his head sounded like it was being screamed.

Colin began to help him into the car, not knowing that Jared had practiced, and the singer almost bit his head off. Slapping the Irishman’s hands away, Jared lifted himself into the passenger seat, eyes focused and movements determined to show the world that he was still in control. Colin sighed in exasperation but allowed Jared to have his moment as he folded the chair together and put it in the trunk.

Putting the car in gear, Colin sped away from the parking lot as he checked the rear view mirror, practically expecting the paparazzi to climb in their cars and follow them. Luckily, they seemed to have gotten their story and were done for today.

The tension in the car was thick. Colin watched as Jared turned away from him and leaned his head against the window. He felt agitated and keyed up as he watched his ex pretend that nothing had happened, but he still considered joining him. He honestly considered pretending that this unresolved issue of coming out was not still hanging like a dark cloud between them. But if the press was that rabid, that determined to focus on them – and he knew they were – then maybe it was time to come up with a game plan. Or at the very least talk it over. Again.

Colin tapped his finger on the steering wheel and cleared his throat. “You okay?”

“I never wanted to feature in these kinds of shit rags, but now it seems I can’t get away from them. I wanna fucking sue them.” Jared bit out, a scowl on his face. He was still facing the car window and Colin could see his reflection on the glass as an asymmetrical shape. Jared did not want everyone to know intimate detail about his life. His secrets. He wanted it to be a privilege he could give away to people who mattered and not something that everyone with an internet connection or a few dollars could possess. He wanted it to be something he could control.

Colin stayed silent but when Jared did not offer anything else, he hesitantly said, “The bosses on several of my movies have been pressuring me to take a stand. I think they are hoping for me to go out and deny everything. But that is not going to happen…”

Jared’s head whipped around, turning away from the glass and pointing hard, calculating eyes at Colin. Icily he asked, “You want to give them our past?”

Colin was not fooled by the tone, he knew that Jared was feeling betrayed and Colin could not help but take offence. He had always conceded and played things Jared’s way, how dare the American assume that Colin would ever betray his trust. It was not as though he was planning on giving an exclusive to a seedy tabloid.

“Don’t make me the bad guy in this, Jared, they already guessed it anyway!”

“But that does not mean we have to confirm it!”

“Well, maybe I’m fucking sick of the duplicity and the hiding and the lies. I know you love stringing them around...” Jared opened his mouth to rebuke the younger man, but Colin was faster, “Don’t you dare deny it, it’s like crack to you!” It had always been a part of Jared’s own unique brand of power play with the media, the singer liked to keep them guessing and wondering, whereas Colin was honest at heart. “I just want to be able to sit down for an interview and not have to worry about which part I have to play today. I want them to know…” Colin stopped and pulled in a breath.
That I love you, Colin thought to himself.

“Want them to know what?” Jared demanded, blue eyes still blazing, but an added urgency had seeped in.

“How good we were.” Colin said softly.

“Does it even matter what I think about this?” Jared sighed, turning his head away once more to look at the sights of LA passing them by.

“Of course, it matters! Jared, I played this your way for years. But things are different now! I haven’t done an interview for months, because I know that the first thing they will ask is how long we’ve been a couple! The whole world is watching us and I am going to be a shit example to my boys if the first thing I do in the next interview is to lie some poor sod right in the face.”

Jared wanted badly to argue with him, but he knew when he was beat. Arguing would be pointless. He did not have to like it and he did not, but Colin had made a decision. Jared recognized the single minded timbre and the determined look in the brown eyes. Colin had had enough of playing games and besides, the younger man was right in one thing. He had done everything to accommodate Jared over the years and they were both aware of it.

“I get it, Colin.” Jared sighed with resignation and hurt. He did not feel ready for this. Back when they were a couple, he often wondered why anyone would want to have a relationship in the spotlight. Why anyone would choose to be out when they could pick a life out of the glare of the media and away from prying eyes. It made no sense to him. Back when he was dating Cameron, he felt chronically ill at ease whenever he left the house, as he knew there were people with cameras following them. And even then, he knew they were low profile.

Right now, he was far from low profile. And neither was Colin, who was well underway in making a comeback to the place in the sun he had always deserved and once had. The press was not going to leave them alone. Especially not when they considered the absence of other gay couples to picket. Shannon once asked him if he did not want the opportunity to walk down the street holding Colin’s hand. And the truth was, he did. But only if people were not watching. Where would the relaxing element be in that if they were stalked by paparazzi the entire walk? He used to be low priority for the tabloids and he wanted to remain that, but he was not deluding himself that he would stay that way unless he was careful.

Colin could practically see the wheels turning inside Jared’s head and he knew of the heavy thoughts running through the singer’s mind. He certainly sympathized with Jared’s views. He was no fan of the paparazzi himself; he did not enjoy being interrupted by cameras and shouted questions when taking a walk. And he hated the ones who managed to photograph his sons even more. But lying had never made him feel comfortable. He had always hated mind games and stringing people along. He hated the fact that he was lying to the world about one of the most important people in his life. And what example would he be to his children if he continued enforcing a lie when they had already been found out?

The questions were still burrowing through his mind as they turned onto the road leading to Jared’s house. Colin pulled in to the driveway and stopped the car. Shannon would be out in second to help his brother into the house. Colin kept his gaze on the steering wheel, fingers picking on a flaw in the leather as he tried to figure out how to voice his next question. He took a careful breath, and then turned to look at Jared.

“Tell me one thing, Jay, if we had stayed together… Would we still have been a secret now? How long did you plan on keeping us in the shadows? Keeping me in the shadows?”

“But we didn’t stay together.” And with that Jared turned away and opened the car door, effectively ending the conversation. A second later, Shannon appeared and greeted them both.


¤¤¤¤¤¤

“But lately,” Jared sat up straight in his chair, turning his full attention on Stahl, “I’ve been wondering if there are other ways to do things. You know, the whole privacy thing? If maybe, playing with open cards – or at least, less hidden ones – is as much of a defeat as I make it. I have never wanted to be a role model, it’s never been my responsibility, but I also don’t want to be a source of shame for anyone.”

“Do you believe anyone is ashamed of you?”

“I don’t think the Echelon – our fans – are quite there yet, but I also don’t want them to end up in that position. I don’t want to be a hypocrite, preaching living your life and your dreams, and then doing something different myself. I don’t want it to look like I’m living my life in hiding, because of shame, because that’s not it.”

“Then what is it?”

“I don’t even know.” Jared lied. How could he explain it to someone who did not know? Explain how the fear of losing himself to exposure, to the glare of the spotlight and to the hate that so often rained down upon him, followed him around every second of the day? All this time, Jared had built himself up. Built a life and done the work. Done his job. His career was his strength, his priority and he had no shame in admitting it. Hell, he even gave up the girl he was going to marry because his music meant more.

He was never dumb enough to think he could have his cake and eat it too, so after he let Cameron leave, he decided to never put more into a relationship than he was willing to lose. Then suddenly, out of nowhere this guy came along. And once again, Jared found himself disregarding everything that he had promised for this man. And yet a few years later they went down the same road as all of his other relationships. And this time it nearly killed him. And now Colin was back. And God help him, he still loved the man.

But experience had taught him that relationships in the spotlight never lasted long. They were already a volatile mix, what would happen when they put the weight of the spotlight, the expectations, the inevitable rumours of infidelity and breakups upon them? He had no desire to put them through that kind of hell.

It was all so overwhelming and it made his head spin.

“All I know is that for the first time in years, I’ve had nothing to do but think. No shows. No video shoots. No recording. Just me and this imaginary bubble between my life and the rest of the world. Don’t get me wrong, I know that shit is being said on the net and on the celebrity news channels. I know they’re talking about me. But it doesn’t even register right now. It’s like time stopped in that moment, in that second in London when the bullets hit me. And it’s like my life is refusing to go on.”

Nothing was the way it was supposed to be. They were supposed to be rocking a tour and promoting their records and videos. Not this. Jared had no idea what the future held for him anymore, but he knew that he wanted the control back. And maybe the first step would be to come clean to the Echelon.

He felt like he had lost everything, but people still screamed his name when he left the house. He built this crazy, beautiful life around his dreams and now he was watching it all tumble down around him.

And yet... None of it registered. All he kept thinking about was the fact that he was about to be outed and he was not even with Colin anymore. The sheer ridiculousness of admitting to a relationship that did not even exist and possibly never would again, all for the sake of doing the right thing. And he was shocked to find that he willing to do it to please Colin. Sure, he would go kicking and screaming, but he would do it.

He did not think he would ever be comfortable with being out. Having his personal life exposed like that. But he was well aware that life as he knew it was no more. And maybe it was time to change the game. Take a leap of faith and hope that by coming out, maybe he could regain some of the control that he had lost in London. Maybe he could start rebuilding his life.

Maybe this was the first step.

¤¤¤¤¤¤

TBC

Comments

Posted by: shiralyndee (shiralyndee)
Posted at: July 21st, 2011 08:23 am (UTC)

I'm happy that Jared is getting help but Jared has to let him self be helped for it to work.P.S. Thank you for not letting Jared's shooter be the so called mane point of this story.

Posted by: Kayden (bouncinggoat)
Posted at: November 28th, 2011 08:51 pm (UTC)

Jared certainly needs help and I'm happy to give it to him. I think anyone in that situation would need some sort of support. (and regarding the shooter, you're welcome. It was not what I would want to read either, so)

Thank you so much for reading and your continuing commenting. It means the world to me.

Posted by: alice_domoto (alice_domoto)
Posted at: July 29th, 2011 02:40 pm (UTC)

As usual...Jared put his career over his relationship with Colin. I don't blame him though, if that is really a once in a lifetime opportunity, but he should at least invite Colin to the concert on that day.
Oh~I can't believe Colin is really going to out themselves!! Yea...it was sarcastic that they are outed in a time when they are not even together anymore...then be together!!!
My heart melts when I saw that Jared still loved Colin~and he's willing to do it to please Colin. Poor Jared~

This is a really big step!!

Your story is great! Can't wait to read the next chapters!

Posted by: Kayden (bouncinggoat)
Posted at: November 28th, 2011 08:59 pm (UTC)

Jared has always leant on his career. It's hard for him to stop. Inviting Colin would draw attention though, and that is not something they want.

Hope you like the next chapter where they are outed. And yes, those poor boys definitely still have a lot of love going!

Thank you so much for your lovely comments, they mean the world to me. I hope that you continue to read it, despite the long wait!

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: August 26th, 2011 09:21 pm (UTC)

Sorry to be anonymous, I just found your story and I wanted to tell you just how much a love it, I love all the little details that I recognized from interviews of the guys, you're doing an amazing job and I've kind of been dying waiting for a new chapter, please don't stop writing, and you can be sure I'll keep reading.

Posted by: Kayden (bouncinggoat)
Posted at: November 28th, 2011 08:56 pm (UTC)

Sorry that i forgot to unscreen you! I appreciate your comment and I'm really glad you like this series. Thank you!

Posted by: Hayley Demolition Leto Farrell (Hayley Demolition Leto Farrell)
Posted at: September 20th, 2011 03:19 pm (UTC)
pic#112991884

please! keep goin with this!!!!

Posted by: Kayden (bouncinggoat)
Posted at: November 28th, 2011 08:54 pm (UTC)

Will do, don't worry!

Posted by: Iphy (ailes_de_verre)
Posted at: October 9th, 2011 01:50 pm (UTC)

Hi hope you will continue this, i terribly miss it!

Posted by: Kayden (bouncinggoat)
Posted at: November 28th, 2011 08:53 pm (UTC)

Don't worry, it's not abandoned by a long shot. New chap will be up within an hour

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