Title: GutsAuthor: atl340
Rating: PG-13, I guess
Disclaimer: Not real etc etc, Title belongs to All Time Low
Authors Notes: Keep the comments coming please :-)
The teenagers in question were sitting at the island in Jack’s kitchen, eating breakfast with the rain pounding against the windows. It was a bleak Friday to say the least, added to Alex’s unease.
Ever since he’d vowed to stop being so..uptight, his best friend had convinced him to mix things up a little more. For example instead of eating breakfast at Alex’s every single morning, they’d taken to alternating every other day with Jack’s house. As everything with the older boy it’d taken a little while to get used to, but Alex liked to think he was doing alright.
The only problem today though, was the presence of Jack’s mom. And it wasn’t as bad as it sounded, it was just that the younger boys mom wasn’t even supposed to be there. She was late to work and yet it didn’t seem to be bothering her, she was walking around at a leisurely pace and making coffee and Alex wanted to scream. It wasn’t just his own organization that made his skin itch. It was other peoples, or rather, their lack of it.
But as much as it was affecting him there wasn’t much Alex could do. It wasn’t his house after all, or his mom. He just had to bare it and try not to grind his teeth together too much, appreciating the hand Jack curled around his own under the table.
‘You should really get going mom’ The younger boy voiced then, ignoring her previous question and giving Alex a little smile, ‘You’re gonna be late’
In return Mrs Barakat gave a reluctant groan of agreement, draining her coffee cup quickly.
‘Alright’ She licked her lips, grabbing her handbag in a last minute dash and motioning for the door, ‘I’ll see you boys later’
Even though she’d already disappeared both boys said a goodbye, Alex’s sounding distinctly more like a sigh of relief as he felt the itch under his skin ease up just slightly.
‘Thanks’ He frowned towards the other boy, ‘I just.. I don’t know’
‘It’s okay’, Jack squeezed his hand, offering a cheeky smile, ‘You’re doing awesome with all of this y’know’
Alex mumbled a shut up, blushed profusely and the younger boy laughed, ‘Seriously, you are. I should probably reward you in some way..’
His tone was suggestive and joking and he wiggled his eyebrows with a laugh, watching his best friends cheeks turn scarlet.
‘Shut up Jack’ Alex mumbled, trying to fight the smile off of his face and wash away the embarrassment at the youngers boys words. He wasn’t good with responding to anything sexual, no matter whether it was a joke or not. Jack knew that too, it was why he did it so much. Anyone else and the older boy would probably get upset, but it was Jack and so he just shook his head and pulled his hand out of his best friends in favour of covering his hot cheeks.
‘You’re mean’ He grumbled, watching the younger boy smile and take their breakfast dishes over to the sink.
Eyes flicking onto the table to his notebook, Alex smiled to himself and flicked through from the beginning to his latest page. The change was noticeable even to him.
Whilst the first twenty or so pages were angry scribbles worked into the pages again and again, the recent pages were filled with more calm, coherent thoughts. There was less furious ranting and more descriptive, clever pieces.
Jack’s name had begun to crop up more often too.
The older boy was warm at the thought, smiling to himself before flicking his eyes up to the window. It was clouded with condensation, rain thundering against it thick and fast and Alex took on some inspiration. He always liked the rain, liked the way he could describe the sights and the sounds of it in so many ways and the older boy started to scribble down the words whirling in his mind eagerly.
He described the angry patter against the window pane, and the grey-black clouds rumbling in the distance. He described the faintly purple skyline, working in details wherever he could.
By the time he was done, Alex had written a page and a half and Jack was reading over his shoulder. The older boy jumped upon noticing that, but the younger boy didn’t retreat, just continued to read whilst Alex tried to calm his heart beat.
He’d given up on hiding his writing from Jack a long time ago. If there was one word to describe his best friend, it was persistent, and although that seemed like an annoyance at times really that was the exact quality that Alex was most grateful for, because anybody else without that level of persistence would have given up on the older boy years ago.
Alex always remembered that, and so instead of sighing at the intrusion he just relaxed his tense frame and let the younger boy read. And when he was done, Alex blushed to feel Jack brush a tiny, delicate kiss to his hair, one that just jostled the strands slightly but made the older boy feel like he was on fire.
It was one of those little moves of affection that Jack seemed to think he could get away with without a fuss, and really it was because Alex didn’t complain, or shrink away. He just felt hotness in his cheeks and pointedly didn’t make eye contact when the younger boy moved to sit opposite him again.
‘That’s really pretty’ He commented, pointing to Alex’s notebook vaguely and sipping his coffee, ‘I never know how you find all those huge words’
Smiling softly at the praise the younger boy blushed, shrugged his shoulders and he felt good inside today, he felt warm.
That barrier that he was always so obsessed with was right at the back of his mind for the moment. It wasn’t gone, by any means, but sort of wavering, Alex supposed, like there was a weak spot in it, a hole in his armour almost. He liked it. He liked that he felt close to Jack and as much as they embarrassed him he liked the things the younger boy was saying to him, the affection he was showing even if Alex wasn’t up to returning it yet.
Because the older boy felt like Jack wanted him, and it’d been a while since he’d had that feeling. At least, it’d been a while since he’d had that feeling without any self-doubt to quickly shred it away.
The fact that Alex was trying a little bit, that he was opening up, it was bringing the younger boy closer to him and scary as it was, Alex was enjoying every minute.
He liked how Jack seemed happier lately too. The older boy knew full well that he’d worn his best friend down in the past few weeks, even if said boy wouldn’t admit it. He hadn’t been his usual care-free, fun-loving self for a good while, and as guilty as Alex was for that he was at least glad that for now, Jack seemed to be finding his old self again. He was cracking jokes that made Alex blush and invading far too much into the older boys personal space and doing all those other things that he used to do. He was happy.
And so Alex decided he could deal with the blush in his cheeks, if it made Jack happy.
When the dishes were done and it was time for college, the two teens pulled on their jackets and headed for the front door, Alex pulling his hood up to try and keep his hair out of the brunt of the rain. The storm that was rolling around meant it was still dark outside, and it made the older boy a little uneasy but he tried not to think about it, instead listening to Jack complaining about his English work.
‘Like, does the dude really expect me to write 1,000 words?’ He pressed, ‘Who can write 1,000 words about a forest?! Trees and dirt..that’s all there is to it!’
‘No it’s not Jack’ Alex laughed softly, ‘What about all the different colours? The animals and the sounds and stuff? There’s actually a lot you could write about..’
Even though the older boy could see Jack knew he had a point, the younger boy still shook his head, stubborn as always.
‘I don’t even like English anyways’ He grumbled, ‘I only took it to hang out with you’
And okay Alex had known that, but it still always caught him off guard a little bit, still always made him a little unsure of how he felt about that. Part of him shone at the fact that Jack would take a whole course just to be with him, but the other part of him, the slightly bigger part…he just, he felt guilty. Guilty that the younger boy was just going along for the ride of what Alex wanted to do, rather than going off on his own path and doing what he wanted.
Because that was what college was supposed to be about the older boy supposed, being brave and going in your own direction, and okay Alex was doing that but he wasn’t naïve, and he knew he wouldn’t have gone to college without Jack. But that was the thing, Alex was getting to study what he’d always wanted to, and was actually branching out and doing his own thing and yet in that, he was preventing Jack from doing the same.
The younger boy was just doing what Alex wanted and whilst Jack maintained he didn’t mind, that he wouldn’t be doing anything else anyway, the older boy sometimes wondered.
But still, it wasn’t like he was going to tell Jack to leave him and go off and do his own thing. Alex was too selfish for that.
And so with that in mind the older boy didn’t offer anything in response, just smiled weakly and stuck his hands in his pocket for warmth.
‘I can help you with your English’, He offered a moment later, biting his lip to himself, ‘If you want’
‘Like, tutor me?’
‘Y-yeah’ Alex nodded, frowning, ‘I guess. Whether you like the course or not I don’t want you to fail it. I don’t want it to be for nothing..’
It came out a little more serious than the older boy had intended, and Jack watched him with a little frown for a few moments. It soon turned to a grin though, and the younger boy shrugged
‘Fine, deal’ He agreed, a moment passing before he smirked, ‘So you’re gonna tutor me huh? Will I get rewarded for good behavior?’
That painful blush in Alex’s cheeks again, and he tried and failed to bite back a smile as he hurried ahead of Jack and into the college campus, pretending he didn’t hear the younger boy laughing behind him.
‘So when do we start this whole tutoring thing?’ Jack questioned, popping a chip into his mouth and wiggling his eyebrows.
The two boys were eating at a table on their own in the cafeteria, Alex noting that the younger boy still seemed uneasy about the prospect of him sitting with other people. For today, Alex didn’t mind. He was more than content to have Jack’s undivided attention.
‘I don’t know’ He replied softly, shrugging his shoulders and sipping his coffee, ‘Soon I guess, we only have a week to do the essay so..’
Jack grunted unhappily in response at the prospect, ‘Just not tonight though okay? I can’t bring myself to work on a Friday night’
Alex smiled softly at his best friends pout, nodding his head, ‘Not tonight’
‘Good. We still on for the park tomorrow?’
The older boy turned a little bit uneasy at the question. Even though those few weeks ago Alex had suggested that a Saturday walk in the park could become part of his routine, they’d never actually gone back there. When the first Saturday after that suggestion had arrived Alex had just…freaked out, he supposed. He really, really hadn’t wanted to go, for some reason, and it’d ended with him in tears and Jack just giving up.
They hadn’t really spoken about it since, not up until yesterday anyway. The younger boy had broached the subject carefully, pointing out how well Alex was doing with the little subtle changes they were making to his routine. He’d tentatively suggested that they could give the park thing a try, just once more, and honestly Alex didn’t have the heart or the willpower to refuse Jack. He’d looked so hopeful and the older boy couldn’t crush that.
He was wearing that hopeful look again now, and Alex fought the itch to reach for his hand and just nodded with a soft smile instead, rolling his coffee cup between his hands.
‘Hopefully it won’t be raining tomorrow’ He mused, and Jack seemed happy that he wasn’t totally avoiding talk of their plans.
‘Me too’ He smiled eagerly, ‘I-If it does though maybe.. maybe we could just like, stay in and watch a movie, or somethin’ like that’
He looked as nervous with that suggestion as he had about going to the park, and even though Alex felt that unease and anxiety grasp at him a little he tried his absolute hardest not to let it show on his face, offering a nervous Jack what he hoped was a warm smile.
‘Maybe. That..that sounds nice’
It really did, and Alex’s heart fluttered at how ridiculously happy his answer seemed to make the younger boy. He just hoped if it came down to it, he could actually handle a movie with Jack. And it was ridiculous that someone could get worked up about a movie, but Alex could.
Because it wasn’t the movie... it was just the proximity he imagined with Jack, how he knew the younger boy would want to sit close to him, maybe too close and it was that that had Alex’s stomach swimming.
But again, he didn’t show it. He just wanted Jack to be happy.
When college ended, instead of heading straight home Alex and Jack found themselves huddled under the cover of one of the side buildings, along with just about every other person on campus.
The storm from this morning had gotten progressively worse if anything, and the older of the two bit his lip as the rain came down in sheets in front of him. The sky was still a dark purple, but now it lit up yellow with streaks of lightning every so often, rolls of thunder echoing for miles around. Alex hadn’t seen weather that bad in a long time.
‘We are not walking home in this’ Jack voiced a moment later, holding his hood up to keep the wind from knocking it back as he looked up at the sky and shook his head, ‘Not a chance’
Alex bit his lip, ‘So what, we’re gonna wait ‘till it passes over? I don’t think-‘
‘No’ Jack rolled his eyes, ‘We’ll get the bus back to yours alright?’
‘Don’t freak out’ The younger boy groaned, ‘I’m not gonna let you walk home when there’s a lightning storm out there’
‘Alex it’s fine. I know.. I know buses aren’t ideal for you but like, we’ll be on there for ten minutes at the most alright? We’ll sit at the back if it helps..’
The younger boy trailed off and Alex felt his insides sloshing around, wheels turning in his head whilst he chewed at his lip in worry. Jack was right, public transport wasn’t ideal for him. He’d never been on a bus in his life, couldn’t stand the thought of so many people packed into such a tight space. He remembered waiting for his best friend at a bus stop once, seeing Jack standing and squashed in against so many strangers.. it’d turned Alex’s stomach and it hadn’t even been him on it.
He didn’t like the fact that he didn’t look to have much choice this time though. He couldn’t.. he didn’t like to walk home alone, and, the tropical storm playing out wasn’t exactly something he wanted to brace either. It didn’t stop his stomach from knotting though, as Jack pressed a hand to the small of his back and quickly ran with him out in the rain and to the bus shelter a short distance away.
‘See’ Jack smiled once they were covered, ‘We’re first here, we’ll get our pick of seats’
He was doing his best to comfort, Alex knew that much, and he sighed eventually in surrender and he felt that little flutter in his stomach for Jack. Deciding for once to act on it, the older boy leant himself against his best friend, burrowing himself into Jack’s chest just a little bit. The younger boy didn’t make any move to wrap his arms around Alex, as not to scare him, and the older boy smiled to himself a little as he hooked his chin over Jack’s shoulder. Both of their arms remained at their sides and it might’ve looked awkward to anyone else, but Alex was comfortable. He had control, and he was okay.
He couldn’t say the feeling of Jack’s chest pressed to his own was a bad one.
It was a feeling that was gone too soon though, when the bus came, and Alex backed up sheepishly and avoided the younger boys eyes. He let himself be pulled with Jack onto the bus and whilst the younger boy payed for their tickets Alex tried not to panic, eyeing up the seats in the corner, right at the back of the bus. If he had to sit somewhere, that’s where he was going. Even though they were the first ones on the bus Alex still shifted to the back quicker than necessary, sitting down in the seat next to a window filled with condensation.
Dropping down next to him a moment later, the younger boy laughed, ‘Don’t look so scared, nothing’s gonna happen to you okay?’
His tone wasn’t patronizing in the slightest, but it still irked Alex a bit and he bit his tongue on a bitter retort. He didn’t want anxiety getting the better of him like it usually did. Instead, the older boy just sighed and leant his head against the cold window, trying his absolute hardest not to think about the fact that the bus was filling up fast. He could still see a fairly long queue outside and his heart pounded. Too many people.
It hit Alex a little bit more when the bus started moving, when there were people to the front of him and to the side of him and some even standing up given there weren’t enough seats. It was just too different and too new and just so confined on the bus, and Jack’s thigh was pressed to his own and it was all too much but there was nothing he could do, unless he wanted to break down in front of a bus full of strangers.
And so he just looked out of the window and tried to concentrate on the rain again, on the lightening illuminating the purple sky. He listened to the growling rolls of thunder and took steady breaths, focusing on the weather and on Jack’s hand clutched tightly in his own.
And Alex realized then, that the vice-like grip their hands were locked in wasn’t courtesy of the younger boy. It was Alex’s hand wrapped around Jack’s, it was Alex that was gripping on for dear life, and as much as the older boy was so out of his comfort zone in his surroundings he couldn’t help the smallest, fleeting smile.
He had been the one to hold Jack’s hand.
Popping his last forkful of food into his mouth, Jack let out a noise of content and leaned back against his chair, nursing his full stomach.
‘If I wasn’t so into you I’d be hitting on your mom so bad right now’ He commented, ‘How the fuck can one person cook such great food?’
He smiled as a little blush rose to Alex’s cheeks, winking as their eyes met.
‘Stop!’ The older boy complained, for probably the sixth time today as he covered his cheeks in embarrassment. Jack couldn’t help laughing, folding his arms across his stomach and watching Alex fondly. He loved to watch the older boy squirm at his words.
‘You should really try and get that blush under control’ He teased, tipping his head back and laughing when Alex dropped his head down onto the table with a groan.
‘No you don’t’ Jack grinned, getting to his feet and taking his and Alex’s empty plates over to the sink. He leant against the kitchen counter then, watching the older boy whilst he cracked his knuckles and flexed his fingers out, especially the ones on his right hand. As much as he’d been ecstatic about Alex holding his hand on the bus, he’d held it hard. Jack was just about getting feeling back.
He still smiled though, because the older boy was doing so well with everything. Before today he’d never taken public transport in his life, and now he’d done it and he hadn’t freaked out too much and he’d held Jack’s hand. The younger boy was counting his lucky stars to himself at the moment, smiling as he moved to sit down at the table again. Alex’s cheeks were still a little flushed but Jack pitied him and ignored it, offering him a smile.
‘You okay bub?’ He asked softly, the older boy humming in response and opening his mouth to speak when Mrs Gaskarth swept into the room.
‘Dinner okay boys?’
Jack grinned, ‘Amazing’, and Alex just rolled his eyes.
‘Good to hear’ She smiled, raising on her toes to look out of the window, ‘I don’t think this storms going anywhere, are you getting a ride home Jack?’
‘Huh? Nah, I’ll get the bus’
She frowned, ‘I’d give you a ride but Peter has the car..’
‘It’s fine’ Jack shook his head, ‘Seriously’
She didn’t look happy, biting her lip and looking just like Alex. As it was she sent an unsure glance towards her son before she spoke ‘Well, you’re welcome to stay the night…’
Jack could practically feel Alex freezing across the table. His eyes were fixed on the dark wood and the younger boy ignored the nudge of rejection he felt, shaking his head with a weak smile.
‘Nah’ He said softly, ‘I can’t’
‘Well, if you’re sure’ Mrs Gaskarth frowned, and she glanced between the two boys, clearly feeling the tension before she disappeared out of the room again.
And it was quiet for a good while after that, the way Alex had tensed up so much as the mention of Jack staying over reminding the younger boy that he had a long, long way to go with his best friend, and that hurt him sometimes because he didn’t want to wait. He wanted Alex to want him the way Jack wanted Alex, and sooner rather than later. And he knew he had to be patient but sometimes he just.. he wanted more.
He wished he could just scoop Alex up in his arms and have the older boy be okay with it, but he couldn’t. Jack wasn’t sure if he’d ever get that, and it did, it hurt.
But then, he didn’t have any choice but to wait, because he wanted Alex, so much.
It was the older boy, that eventually broke the silence.
‘D-do you wanna go to my room for a little while?’
Jack sighed, mumbled ‘yeah’ and then got to his feet and followed Alex upstairs. When they got there the younger boy pretty much just collapsed onto Alex’s bed with a deflated sigh and the older boy was probably going to get mad at him for messing things up but for a moment Jack didn’t really care.
Alex didn’t say anything though, just sat down tentatively on the edge of the bed and let his fingertips brush against Jack’s just a little bit. It was a quiet apology and the younger boy sighed again, burying his head in Alex’s pillow.
‘Would it really be so bad if I stayed over?’
He grumbled the question, the hurt that he felt sounding in his voice as the older boy frowned.
‘You know what’ Jack sighed, ‘I’m hardly gonna jump you in the middle of the night y’know Alex, I’m quite capable of self-control’
‘Jack’, The older boy groaned, looking sad and guilty, ‘I-I’m not.. I’m not ready for that yet..’
‘For what though?’ Jack grumbled, ‘What exactly are you expecting to happen? I-I’ve told you, I’ll sleep on the floor, on the sofa..it’s not like we have to share a bed Alex. How..how can you feel all anxious about us being close together if I sleep in a different room? I don’t get it… I don’t get the problem’
‘I just.. I just can’t yet Jack, alright?’ Alex asked, and it was pleading for Jack to change the subject but the younger boy shook his head, sat up and frowned.
‘Please, don’t keep shutting me out Lex..’
‘I-I’m not’ Alex bit his trembling lip, ‘I-I’m trying Jack. Just.. just stop pushing me so hard..’
And that was the wrong thing to say, because the younger boy felt anger and irritation flood every part of him. He wasn’t fucking pushing, he was waiting patiently like he had been doing for years.
But Jack knew if he said anything now he’d regret it, and he let the anger fade away to just pure hurt, shutting himself off from Alex, and pulling away from the light grip the older boy had taken his hand in.
‘I’ll call my mom to pick me up then’ He muttered, getting to his feet and heading for the door.
‘I’ll wait downstairs’ He mumbled, storming from the room and shutting the door with more force than he probably should have done in someone else’s house.
Alex didn’t follow.
The next morning, Jack woke to rain outside the windows again.
He sighed, running a hand through his hair and sitting up in bed. In truth, for most of the night he’d been staring at the ceiling with Alex running through his head.
Because honestly, Jack’s anger had lasted only up until he’d gotten home. And then he’d realized how unfair he’d been, and his subconscious had been cruel enough to remind him what Alex normally did when someone-when Jack- was upset with him.
And the younger boy had been cursing himself all night, too scared to pick up the phone but so, so worried that Alex might have hurt himself again.
Jack wanted to smack himself for being so selfish, because really his own needs had gotten the better of him yesterday. He’d been mad because he’d wanted to stay with Alex, and nothing else, but it wasn’t what the older boy had wanted and it wasn’t fair that Jack had gotten mad at him for that.
Usually he was so good at putting Alex before himself, but sometimes he slipped up.
It was only when he got home that he’d realized how badly. Because when he looked back on it, Alex had been amazing yesterday. He’d held Jack’s hand, he’d hugged him at the bus shelter, and he’d sat on a packed out, confined bus for the first time in his life. That should have been enough, and Jack realized now that he shouldn’t have pushed Alex to take another big step in the same day when he’d already done so much.
Clearly, he wasn’t grasping this baby steps thing so well.
Jack had driven himself crazy with thought pretty much all night, and now when he got up and got dressed he felt no better than if he’d never have gone to bed at all. He was tired and he was guilty but mostly he just missed Alex, and so even though things were up in the air and a little rough Jack didn’t waste time in walking to the older boys house, trying to get there for his usual time as to not mess with his best friends schedule.
He braced the rain and the wind and just walked, trying to clear his head and stop going over in circles like he had been all night.
He just hoped, more than anything, that Alex hadn’t hurt himself anymore. Jack could deal with the cold shoulder -with having to beg and plead for forgiveness- so long as the older boy hadn’t caused himself any more harm.
When he did eventually get to the older boys, he was met with silence. His breakfast and a coffee were already set out on the table and Alex was sat in his usual place. They exchanged a murmured hi at the same time and Jack slipped into his chair, biting his lip as the older boy started to eat.
It was kind of a sheepish tension between them, like they were both regretting their actions.
Jack definitely was, and his heart was practically hammering as Alex stopped eating for a moment to roll the sleeves of his black shirt up. Jack tried to get a look, to check for fresh marks, but the older boy caught him looking.
Bracing himself for thunder, Jack was surprised when instead Alex just sighed and put his spoon down, holding his arms out across the table for the younger boy to see. To more than Jack’s relief, there was nothing new, nothing red or angry or torn.
‘Please don’t apologize Alex’ The younger boy cut in softly, pushing his own cereal away from him. ‘Last night.. that one was my fault’
‘It was Lex’, The younger boy cut in, touching his fingertips to Alex’s gently, ‘When I got home last night I felt like crap. I-I knew I’d gone too far and I just.. I remembered how it usually goes when I upset you and I just..I was so scared that you were gonna hurt yourself. I barely slept’
He laughed nervously with that admission, running a hand through his hair.
Alex’s fingertips nudged back against his own, ‘You could’ve called’, He offered softly, and Jack shook his head.
‘I was scared you might tell me something I didn’t wanna hear’.
He licked his lips after some silence. ‘But anyways, like I said, I’m sorry. I pushed too hard yesterday Lex. You handled the bus thing so well and I just.. I asked too much with the staying over..’
He lowered his gaze, and a few seconds passed before one of Alex’s hands slipped into his own properly, the older boy sighing.
‘You don’t need to be sorry for wanting to stay with me Jack..’
The younger boy shrugged, ‘But I could’ve handled it better when you didn’t want it’
‘Jack’ Alex groaned, and it was an exasperated sigh, ‘I did want it okay? I wanted it so bad that I was furious with myself when you were gone, and I wanted to hurt myself, believe me, but I didn’t because I didn’t want to hurt you. And..and I did want you to stay alright? M-maybe if we hadn’t have caught the bus then it might’ve been different but I just.. I can’t go more than one step at a time okay?
‘And I wish I could, for you because you don’t deserve to have to wait for me but I just.. I-I can’t go any quicker Jack…’’
And the younger boy saw the glossy tint rise to Alex’s eyes and in honesty his own were stinging and prickling slightly. He wanted nothing more than to lean across the table and do something that would completely unravel all the progress they’d begun to make, but for that exact reason Jack put his own wants aside and squeezed Alex’s hand gently, murmuring something he hoped the older boy would believe, because he meant it with everything he had.
‘You are so, unbelievably worth the wait Alex’
- - -
so um yeah comments please? anon or not, i wanna know what you think :3