Vigilance (Chapter 16)
Word count: 25.6k
Pairings: Jake x Reader, Sam x OC
Warnings: 18+ as always, drinking, smoking, language, fluff, angst, smut, talk of violence and abusive situations, violence, blood.
This story is a collaboration with my best pal @gretavanmoon.
Your eyes open, dry and scratchy, the morning light peeking in from around the curtains. You blink the sleep away and roll to your side, seeing her still asleep next to you. Her hair is splayed out behind her on the pillow and tangled in the straps of her silky pink tank top.
You resist the urge to reach out and touch her, wanting to let her sleep in for once. It was her birthday after all. You laid there for a while, scrolling through your phone, making a to-do list of all the things you needed to tackle before dinner tonight.
You gently pulled the blankets off of yourself, tucking them around her, as you slid out of the sheets and padded to the bathroom. You quietly shut the door behind you, before turning on the shower to let the water heat up. It was shockingly cold in Nashville this week, with a cold front pushing through, dragging the temperatures down into the twenties. The tile of the bathroom floor was cold on your feet, sending a chill through your body.
You brushed your teeth as you waited for the water to steam up the bathroom, smiling as you caught sight of her toothbrush in the cup with yours. It is what you told her you wanted, right?
Placing your toothbrush back into the cup, you stripped off your boxers and your t-shirt and threw them into your clothes hamper before stepping into the steamy water.
Closing your eyes as you let the water wet your hair, you tried to decide what you were going to make for her birthday dinner tonight. The both of you decided on a quiet dinner with just each other, before the chaos of Christmas ensued. You couldn’t think of anything better than having her all to yourself, spoiling her in every way possible. You had hidden her gift very well, almost forgetting yourself where you stashed it. The nervousness was growing in your chest at the thought of giving it to her. Would she really like it?
You opened your eyes reaching for your shampoo bottle only to be met with the sight of hers sitting next to it. Again, you smiled to yourself seeing her things mixed with yours. Slowly but surely more of her things were appearing in your everyday life, making their way into your routines. It felt real. It felt like she really wasn’t going anywhere this time. She was here.
Scrubbing the suds into your hair you closed your eyes letting your fingertips dig into your scalp. As the bubbles rinsed down the drain you lost the battle with yourself, finding your hand reaching for her body wash and flipping the cap to smell the familiar fragrance you’ve come to love. But it wasn’t lost on you that she suddenly started to smell like your body wash instead of her own, and as your bottle grew lighter, hers remained the same. But you wouldn’t tell her you noticed. You’d just keep buying it, in hopes that she would keep using it, wordlessly telling you she loved you.
As you spun the handle the water stopped and you pulled the clean towel from the hook, pressing the soft fabric to your face before wrapping it around your body. You stepped out wondering if she was still asleep, and tried to figure out how you were going to convince her to not join you on your errands. You knew she would want to join you, but you couldn’t ruin the surprise.
After a quick shave, you opened the door and stepped back into the bedroom, seeing her in a different position than you left her in, but still asleep nonetheless. You couldn’t remember the last time she slept later than you. A grin settled on your lips as you slipped into the closet and pieced together an outfit for the day. A few of her things hung in the closet and you found yourself wondering what your closet would look like with all of her things inside. Surely brighter with a lot more color, but more than that, it would feel full. She would inevitably take over your half of the closet, and you’d gladly let her.
Pulling on your coat you turned off the light and shut the closet door. You made your way over to the side of your bed, seeing her completely tangled into the mass of feather pillows and linen sheets. You sat gently on the edge of the bed, brushing the hair out of her face as she stirred beneath your hand.
“Good morning….” you whispered.
You were met with a groan, as her hand searched for yours. Her hand was warm, still shrouded in the heat of the sheets, as she twisted her fingers into yours.
You leaned down to whisper in her ear, “I’m going to run to the office for a bit, but I won’t be long, okay?”
You hated lying to her, but you knew it would be better in the end.
“You’re leaving?” she asks, voice thick with sleep.
“Just for a little. But I will be back soon, I promise. We can do whatever you want when I get home.” you offer.
“Also, happy birthday my love.” you say, pressing a kiss to her forehead and standing from the bed.
“Thank you, love you.” she replies, rolling to her side to look at you.
“I love you. I’ll be back.” you say, slipping out the bedroom door. You carried yourself upstairs and into the guestroom, opening up the desk drawer and digging around for a few minutes until you spotted the old tattered notebook. You pulled it out and flipped through the pages, smiling to yourself as you saw the old memories flash by. You closed it and made your way back downstairs, placing it into your backpack and grabbing your keys from the bowl by the door.
Stepping out into the cold air, you feel the goosebumps form on your skin as you make your way to your car. You knew you had a few things to get done today, and not a lot of time to do it, so as you threw your car into reverse, you hit the road determined to make this her best birthday yet.
You rapped your knuckles against the wooden door a few times, knowing good and well Sam was still in bed at this hour. You shoved your hands into your pockets and waited, staring off down the street as one of his neighbors walked their dog. You couldn’t hear any stirring behind the door, but you saw his car in the driveway. After a few minutes you pulled your keys from your pocket, and found the dull looking gold house key he gave you when he moved in. You had only used it a handful of times, the last time being the morning you found him with Y/N.
As you twisted the lock the door opened, and the house was silent. You walked down the hallway to his bedroom door, knocking gently a few times in hopes of stirring him awake.
“Sammy…” you called into the crack of the door.
“Jake?” he answered, voice groggy.
“Yeah, come out when you get a second.” you replied, making your way into his living room. You grabbed one of his acoustics from the wall, and took a seat on his couch, gently strumming as you waited for him to join you.
A few minutes later, a disheveled looking Sam sauntered into the living room, pulling a shirt over his head. “Why are you in my house so early on a Sunday morning…” he asks.
“I need a favor from you.” you reply, setting the guitar down on the couch.
“Okay…” he replies, tilting his head.
“You remember that notebook I used to carry around back in the day. I would write in it all the time…” you ask.
“Yeah, the one you would never show us…” he answers bitterly.
You laugh, “Yeah that one. I never let you guys see it because it was just all ramblings and shit I wrote about Y/N. Drawings, and affirmations and stuff like that. But mostly, it was songs. All songs I wrote about her, all through those years.” you explained.
“Okay so…How do I play into this?” he asks, waving his hands.
“There are photos in the notebook. Old ones, from our days at the lake, the nights we would all fall asleep together on the couch, all that. Before everything…” you paused. “You always took those photos. Back in Chicago, you forced us to take that picture together…”
“Oh, yeah! I just got all that film back a few weeks ago.” he replied.
“Yeah. I need it. For this notebook. I’m going to give it to her for Christmas– and before you say anything, yeah maybe it is kind of lame but I think she will like it. I have some special stuff to put in it.”
“No, Jake…I actually think you’re right. She’s going to love it. Think about it. If Flower Power and You’re The One made her cry, imagine what a book of songs about her is going to do to her.” he trailed off laughing.
“I have collected up pictures from all the way back, and was hoping to get my hands on the most recent one, the one you took, to finish it out.” you said.
He smiled at you, nodding his head as he stood up and walked into the kitchen. He pulled a white envelope from a shelf and started going through the pictures, pulling the one you requested and returning back to you.
But what he hands you is actually two photos. The one you asked for, the both of you side by side, your pinky twisted with hers, and one that you didn’t even know existed. The two of you tangled together on the couch, fast asleep in each other's arms. An almost exact recreation of the photo that got you through those first years of touring. The last minute addition as you slipped out the door. The photo that lived in that note book for years.
“When did you take this?” you asked, running your finger over the glossy image.
“The Fourth, sometime early. Something like one in the morning?” he answers.
You furrowed your brow as you looked at him.
“I snuck off to talk to Elle, came back a while later and found you two like that. Snapped the photo. Knew it wouldn’t be long.” he smiled.
“Thanks Sammy, I– I don’t know what to say, other than thank you.” you said, placing your hand on his shoulder. “This will be perfect.”
He smiled, and nodded. “Isn’t today her birthday?” he asks.
“It is, which reminds me I have about a thousand other things to do.” you laughed.
“Better go, sounds like you have a full day…” he says, standing from the couch.
“I do. Thanks again. For everything. You know….” you trail off, hoping he was catching your drift.
“You’re welcome.” he says, a look of genuine love painted across his features. “Make her happy.”
You nodded as you stepped through the front door and closed it quietly behind you, making your way back to your car with a heart full of pride for your little brother.
You pushed the shopping cart through the aisles racking your brain for an idea of what to make her for dinner tonight. You knew all of her favorites, but you wanted to do something different. Something you hadn’t done before. Letting your eyes scan over the produce you start to gather a few different vegetables, placing them in the plastic bags as you go, your brain beginning to formulate a plan.
You make your way down each aisle, collecting the things for your makeshift pasta, filled with all of her favorites, smiling to yourself as you select each item. Making your way back to the front of the store you pass the alcohol, and stop yourself. You collect three bottles of wine, and a bouquet of local wildflowers, and decide that your shopping is complete.
You make small talk with the cashier, explaining that everything was for your girlfriend's birthday and suddenly you found yourself blushing saying the words out loud. You could talk about her for hours, but for now, a few minutes would do. You slid your card through the reader and collected your receipt before heading out the door, flowers in hand.
After one last quick stop you pulled into your driveway, ready to unload the car full of items. As you spun the lock on your front door you could hear that she was up and about milling around in the kitchen as a record spun in your study. You grinned as you dropped your keys in the dish, and hummed along to the chorus of the song as you walked into the kitchen. You placed the bags on the counter as she spun around to meet you.
“Well there she is…” you smiled.
“You’re back! That wasn’t too long.” she replied.
“Got you something…” you said, handing her the bouquet of multicolored flowers.
Her face lit up as she took in the vibrant colors.
“I thought wildflowers were a little more fitting for you. Don’t know why, but they just felt like…you.” you said.
“Me? A wildflower?” she teases.
“You. You’re beautiful, wild, and free, and even in the most… unlikely of circumstances you always find a way to bloom. A thing of pure wonder.” you offer.
“So poetic, Jacob…” she laughs, “Thank you…”
“I’ll buy you flowers everyday if I can see you smile like that.” you smirk.
“Oh hush, what else did you get?” she asks.
You lay your arms over the bags, not wanting her to peek at your surprise, “Nothing, shoo, shoo. I’ll be done here in a minute. Leave the flowers, I will put them in a vase for you.”
“I can do the flowers, I–” she begins, but you abruptly cut her off.
“What gift is a bouquet of flowers if you have to do all the work to see the reward?” you say.
She smirks, and hands them back to you, sauntering off down the hallway in her silky pajamas.
You spend the next few minutes trimming the stems and placing the flowers into a vase, displaying them proudly on the kitchen table. You put away the ingredients for dinner, and heard the record come to a stop. As you made your way into your study, you saw her standing at the turntable, ready to flip the album.
“A good choice, one of my favorites…” you offer.
She turns away nervously flipping the black vinyl, “I just heard of him a few months ago… Sam…showed me…”
“He has good taste. Wonder where he got it from?” you rub your chin knowingly as a smile sneaks across your lips.
She turns around to face you as the music starts up again. “He’s always wanted to be like you, you know…” she says, wrapping her arms around your neck.
You settle your hands on her waist and pull her close as you nod your head. “And I love him dearly for that...”
“What would you like to do today? Anything you want.” you say.
“I think…I’m going to take a shower, since someone decided to have one without me this morning, then I thought I might go do a little Christmas shopping.” she answers.
“You want to go buy gifts for people on your birthday?” you laugh.
“I do it every year. A birthday is only really special if you can share it with the people you love. What better way to share it than to buy them gifts?” she says.
“You are one of a kind, my girl.” you smile back.
“But, that being said, you can’t come. I also might get a pedicure. Haven't decided yet.” she giggles.
You reach into your pocket and pull out your wallet, flipping through for your debit card, “Well, here… Take this, get your nails done too.” you say, handing her the shiny plastic card.
“Jake, no… I can get it… I couldn’t possibly…” she shakes her head, pushing your hand away.
“Baby…please. It’s your birthday…” you plead.
“Jake, that’s your money! I can’t accept it.” she begs.
You grab her hand and pull her down next to you on the couch, “Y/N, listen to me. I’m only going to say this one time, so listen, okay?” you pause, twisting your fingers with hers, “Everything that I have… Everything… is also yours now.”
“Jake–” she starts.
“Ah, ah, I’m not done…” you interrupt, “I’m no millionaire by any means, but I live pretty comfortably. We will live comfortably, as long as you let me do that for you. I want to do that. Don’t want you to ever worry about anything. The money that comes with the job is just an added bonus to getting to do what I love. Okay?” you ask, treading lightly. “So please. Let me buy your damn pedicure. Let me spoil you a little bit. You deserve it. Plus, you know that if you were letting me come with you I would just pay for it anyways.” you smile cheekily.
She leans over and places a kiss on your lips, a smile growing on her face. “Fineeee……” she trails off.
You bring her hand to your lips and kiss her knuckles, “Thank you. Now, about that shower…” you say, raising your eyebrow.
As the clock hand slips over another hour, you anxiously prep the vegetables you bought earlier, knowing she is on her way back to you and will walk through the door at any second. The card is signed, and the gift is wrapped, sitting next to the flowers on the table. You must have rearranged the card and gift twenty times, anxiously waiting for her to finish her day of shopping.
You were able to keep yourself occupied all day, spending some time reading, practicing, and doing a few household chores you’d been neglecting. But when she sent you the text that she was on her way, you sprung into action to begin prepping the dinner you had planned.
Tossing all of the chopped vegetables into the pan, you let them saute as you filled a pot with water and set it to boil. You heard the chime on the front door sound, and you couldn’t help the smile that snuck up on you. You threw the kitchen towel in your hand, to rest over your shoulder as you shuffled to the door to greet her.
“Alright, let’s see...” you said.
She held up a few bags, and spun in a circle, the scarf around her neck catching the wind as she spun. She dropped the bags on the floor, and held her hands out to you, showing a dark crimson shade coloring her short fingernails.
“One of my favorite colors…” you say, flicking your eyes to hers.
Her cheeks are pink from the cold air outside, as she smiles, “Almost like… the exact color of your guitar, huh?” she winks.
You let out a small laugh, as your fingers tickle her sides, “Oh you think you’re cute? You think you’re funny? Huh?”
Her laughter rings through the house, perfect and echoey, before she calms down and wipes the tears from her eyes. She lets out a deep breath as she regains her composure, “I actually did try to find the color closest. I know it’s not the same color as your number one, but your number two made for a better nail color.” she laughs.
“It has a name, you know…” you say, returning to your vegetables, stirring them with the wooden spoon.
“What does?” she asks, leaning her elbows on the island.
“My number one. The brownish one…” you answer.
“And what would that be…” she asks.
You chuckle softly, “You’re going to laugh…It’s gonna sound stupid…” you trail off.
“Tell me….” she presses, “I won’t laugh.”
“I like to refer to it as ‘The Beloved’…” you answer.
“You going to elaborate on that, or…” she jokes.
“Well, that specific guitar is the one that got me to where I am now. It was a loan from a place in Chicago. I had never heard anything like it. Had to have it, until…I saw the price tag. At that point we hardly had two pennies to rub together. But, the owner, Andrew, told me to take it. Pay him for it when I could. He believed in me. In that guitar. Trusted me. Y/N, I’m telling you that day changed the trajectory of my career. I did eventually pay him back, with interest. Been collecting them ever since, but nothing will compare to my first girl.” you answered.
“Jeeze, sounds like I have some competition.” she giggled.
You pour the pasta in the water, and add some salt before turning to look at her, “No, there’s ‘The Beloved’, and ‘My Beloved’. Huge difference.” you wink.
“And I’m guessing the ‘My’ takes precedence?” she asks, cheekily.
“For as long as you want the title…” you say with a smirk, turning back to your cooking.
“What are you making for us?” she asks.
“Pasta Primavera. Has all of your favorites in it.” you reply. “Should be ready in about 10.”
“Okay, I’m going to go put this stuff away, and I will be right back.” she smiles, her voice trailing down the hallway.
A few minutes later as you are plating up the pasta, you hear her return back to the kitchen. You quickly grab two wine glasses and pour up two overly full glasses of her favorite white.
“For my lady…” you say, extending the glass to her, letting your finger brush hers as she accepts.
You walk over to the table, pulling a chair out for her, and ushering her to sit. You grab her plate and silverware, setting it down in front of her, before grabbing your own and joining her.
“Happy birthday my love. To many more…” you toast, tapping your glass to hers.
The pasta turned out far better than expected, both of you agreeing to keep this recipe in rotation for nights when neither of you knew what you wanted to eat. It felt very domestic in a way, planning meals for the future. Every part of you was screaming to ask her to move in, but you knew it was too soon for her. At least you thought it was. For now, you would just let her come and go as she pleased, which was mostly her spending almost every night with you, but to her, having her own place made her feel more secure. You were fine with that, you even understood where she was coming from. But the fact still remained that you wanted her here, always.
You cleared the plates from the table, and topped off her wine, before taking your seat next to her once again.
You sipped your wine, pursing your lips together as you turned to her, “You ready for your gift?”
She grins and nods her head, as she places her wine glass back on to the table.
“Go ahead…” you say, gesturing to the bag.
“I saw this, and…I knew it was made for you. I hope you love it.” you smile nervously.
She begins to pull the paper from the tiny purple bag, and you can feel your heart rate start to increase. She makes her way to the little black velvet box, and looks over to you. You nod your head for her to keep going, and as she begins to open the lid as you feel your heart pounding.
As the lid opens fully, you hear her breath catch. You swallow nervously, as her fingers run across the tiny metal pendant. A single white daisy, missing one petal, sits on a thin silver chain.
“Jake…” she breathes, almost a whisper. She turns to you, eyes filled with tears as she wraps her arms around your neck.
“She loves it, she loves it not?” you ask playfully, kissing the side of her head.
“She loves it! She loves it! Jake, it’s perfect. It’s beautiful I, I—” she stammers.
“Here, turn around.” you say, grabbing the small box from her hand. You remove the necklace from the box, and take the clasp between your fingers. You brush her hair over her shoulder, and bring the necklace around to the front of her neck.
You let your fingers rest on the back of her neck as you work to fasten the chain around her.
You let it go, and let it lay flat against her skin, before pressing a soft kiss to her neck.
“Do you remember the night in Bridgeport… I asked you to hold my necklace during the show?” you whisper against her skin.
She nods, turning around to meet you face to face. You let your eyes travel to the perfect daisy situated at her collarbones. You reach out, letting your fingers grasp it, centering it against her skin as you continue, “You came to my room, wearing it. It was so…perfect. Almost told you to keep it. Liked seeing you in something that was mine.”
“This is so so much better. My daisy. My wildflower.” you breathed, letting your thumb trail over her cheek bone.
“I love it more than I could ever tell you. I’ll never take it off…” she promises.
“I love you more than I could ever tell you.” you reply.
“Show me…” she breathes, placing her hand on your leg, letting it slide towards your hip.
“Show you? Want me to show you?” you say, grabbing her hand and pulling the both of you to stand.��
“Mhmmm…” she hums, pressing a kiss to your neck as she begins to walk you backwards out of the room.
You turn and lead her down the hall to your bedroom, shutting the door behind you as she strips out of her clothes. You close the curtains and turn on a lamp as you begin to rid yourself of your own clothing, working yourself a few times before meeting her gaze.
She throws herself backwards onto the fluffy sheets, her matching set luring you in. How the fuck did you get so lucky?
“Come on, it's cold…come warm me up…” she whines.
You crawl onto the bed, hovering over top of her, looking down to see her shiny new necklace collecting around her throat.
“So pretty…” you whisper, leaning down to nip at her skin.
You feel her hands come up around your waist, fingers digging into the skin at your sides.
“Tell me what you want, baby.” you groan, feeling yourself growing increasingly harder as your eyes travel over her body.
“I want you… Want you to throw me around a little. I love when you get a little rough with me.” she says nervously.
“Is that right?” you smile smugly.
She nods, “But if you don’t touch me in the next five seconds I am going to burst.”
You cup your hand over her heat, feeling the soaked through lace on your fingers, “Where? Here?” you ask.
“Yes, please Jake…” she begs, arching into your palm.
“What if I don’t want to be rough with you? What if I want to be sweet and gentle and slow?” you ask playfully, running your fingertips under the hem of her panties.
“Okay whatever you want, just keep going, please!” she whines.
“Tsk, tsk…so eager.” you say, hooking your fingers into the fabric and tossing them to the floor. “I’ll give you what you want, my love. Just how you want it.”
You feel her shiver beneath you, and you grab the comforter pooled at the foot of the bed, pulling it over the two of you. Your fingers trace the lines of her bra, the lacy blue fabric a perfect compliment to her skin. You lower your mouth to press open mouthed kisses to the swell of her breast, dragging your tongue across the lace edges of her bra.
She’s breathing heavily now, her chest heaving into your mouth. You snake your hands underneath her, unclasping the hooks of her bra and sliding her arms out of it. You return your lips to her chest, before taking a nipple into your mouth and swirling your tongue around the hardened bud. Your hands grip into her ribs, holding her in place beneath you as she breathes heavily.
You drag kisses across her tits, sucking the underside of her perfect flesh into your mouth. You suck on the skin, releasing it with a pop, and you smile at the faint pink mark left behind.
Her eyes study you, “Do it.” she says.
Your eyes flick to hers in question.
“Do it. Leave a mark. Show me who I belong to.” she purrs.
You reattach your mouth to her breast, sucking a perfect purple mark into her delicate skin as you hear her moan at the sensation.
She drags her hand up to the side of her other breast, pointing at the skin above her nipple, “Here…” she breathes.
You shift your weight to focus on her other side, first kissing the soft skin before taking it into your mouth. With another mar to her skin you feel her hand sliding between the two of you, resting on her hip bone, “Here…”
“Baby…” you question.
“It’s winter, no one will see. No one but us…” she begs. “Don’t you like it? Seeing me all marked up with pretty little love bites from you?”
You let out a groan at the thought.
You wind your fingers into hers as you lower yourself over her body, letting your tongue travel over her stomach and swirl at the apex of her hip bone, sucking the skin into your mouth. You hold onto her hips, pulling her impossibly closer to you as you hear her whine into the dimly lit room.
As you pull away you see the deep purple mark settling into her skin, matching the two you left on her tits.
She reaches between the two of you, grabbing your cock in her fist, pulling you towards her, “Now, from the inside…”
“Jesus Christ…” you groan. Her words are almost enough to send you over the edge.
You grab your base, sliding your tip through her dripping folds, collecting the wetness before rutting into her with a grunt.
Her hands grip into your ass, pulling you further into her, where you’re sure you felt the place where she ends. “Baby…fuck…” you breathe.
You pull back, sliding out of her, before starting to snap your hips into her in an unrelenting fashion. She’s writhing beneath you, holding back the moans that so desperately want to escape.
You grab her chin with your fingers, snapping her face to meet yours, “No, fuck that. Let me hear you.” you say, forcefully pressing your pointer and middle finger into her mouth.
Her lips close around your fingers, sucking them further into her mouth as her tongue swirls over them. You can feel your dick twitching inside of her, as you bottom out time and time again. Her mouth opens and a loud cry escapes her lips as you meet her cervix with a gentle brush.
“God damn, I felt that.” you breathe. “Don’t want to hurt you baby…”
“No. Again…” she begs, garbled from your fingers.
You pull your fingers from her mouth and place your hand on her shoulder, pulling her down for more leverage. As you continue, rhythmic whines leave your sweat drenched chest, your eyes trained on her tits, bouncing with every meeting of your bodies.
“I can’t believe you’re mine…” you groan, snapping your hips into hers forcefully. You grab a pillow from the headboard, and pause your movements, tapping her side so she will lift her hips. You quickly slide the pillow underneath her. Just as she settles back into it, you let out a devious laugh, and use all your strength to swiftly spin her onto her stomach. You adjust the pillow beneath her waist, and as she settles onto her forearms, she turns to look at you over her shoulder.
You let your flattened hand connect with her ass, watching the skin ripple on impact, “God damn…”
She gasps, and wiggles her ass silently begging you to come back. You grab her right leg and hitch it up near her waist, before pressing back into her with a groan.
This new angle is bliss, and with the slight incline of her hips, you find yourself brushing her g-spot with every stroke. You begin long calculated strokes into her, bringing her to the edge of her release, as she chants your name into the sheets below her.
You can tell that you are close, and as her walls begin to flutter around you, you scoop your arm under her stomach and pull her up to her knees. You pull her back flack against your chest as you continue to fuck up into her. Your hand finds purchase around her throat, her daisy charm pressing into your palm.
With a few more pumps of your hips, she is teetering on the edge. You bring your left hand around, placing it flat against her pelvis, pushing hard into her skin to bring her closer. “God, I’m there baby. Right fuckin’ there. You feel me?” you ask.
Her walls start to contract around you and you know she’s about to let go, and with a little added pressure from your fingertips to her throat, you growl into her ear low and dark, “Give me what’s mine…”
With a gasp, she tightens around you, her body stiffening in your arms as you work to hold her up as you let go with her, flooding her with your release. You groan her name as the bliss washes over you, both of you caught in a moment you never want to leave.
She pulled off of you, and spun to your front, wrapping her arms around your neck as she pulled the two of you down into the sheets. She immediately connected her mouth to yours, letting her tongue slide into your mouth, as you spun onto your back. You pulled her on top of you, and let your mouth part from hers.
“I love you, Y/N.” you breathed, still panting.
“I love you Jake. Forever.”
“Stay here.” you said, pulling away from her and slipping out of the bed. You made your way to the kitchen, and opened the fridge, pulling out the single vanilla cupcake you bought from her from her favorite local bakery, just down the street.
You removed it from the pink cardboard box and placed it on a plate, inserting one single candle and striking a match.
You cupped the flame as you entered the bedroom, gently humming the tune of ‘Happy Birthday’ as you saw her face light up and her eyes fill with tears.
“Jake…” she cried out, sitting up in bed.
“I know it's almost midnight, and it’s not a peanut butter and jelly, but it’s from that place you like. You don’t even have to share. All for you, my love. Happy Birthday.” you said, holding the plate to her, as she blew out the candle.
She swiped her finger through the frosting and tapped your nose with a giggle, before pressing her lips to yours.
You smiled at her and knew you wanted to spend every birthday with her for the rest of your life.
Finally, a little bit of normalcy again. You made your way into the office with a little pep in your step, halfway excited to regroup and recenter at your desk. It feels like it’s been years.
Your hands were full with your purse, work bag, laptop, coffee, and keys, and you struggled to get the door open without dropping at least one thing. You walked by the front desk worker Jenn, giving her a sweet smile and wave after not seeing her for a while.
“Hey Jenn! Good to see you!” You said as you passed her.
“Oh, hey, Y/N! Yeah, good to see you…” she looked surprised to see you, then went directly back to work on her computer.
You made your way through the maze of hallways and offices, finally finding your old trusty desk, and as tiny and hidden as it was, it felt like home. You placed your laptop down and opened it, connecting back to the wifi. You opened your emails, expecting to find at least 50 or so to file through for the day. Instead, your inbox only held five unread. Wow, that’s odd.
You flipped through them, taking your time and trying your best to update yourself with the company’s monthly newsletters. After a half hour or so, you realized you’d only seen three or four people walk through the office, none of which stopped to speak. It was oddly quiet for a Monday morning.
There was tons of paperwork to be filed, and you knew that you had to go and finish up every single report for each show. Your day would be busy, but drawn out nonetheless. Though you missed Nashville while you were gone, you found you’d grown to love being on the go; bouncing between hotels, bossing the guys around, and taking care of everything backstage.
You began to think about your next tour assignment, and who you would be working with. The thought made you anxious and you knew being away from Jake was going to prove difficult. But, this career is what you have always wanted, and excitement quickly overtook your anxiety.
“Morning, Y/N! How was tour?” A familiar voice startled you from your daydreams. Jeffrey, another coordinator that started about a year and a half before you, came and sat on the edge of your desk, coffee mug in hand.
“Hey Jeffrey! It was amazing, had a blast. Actually learned so much.” You said, stretching your arms above your head. “I’m so ready to find out where I’ll be next. Speaking of…I only came back to five emails…is that normal?”
He pushed his glasses up from the bridge of his nose. “Uhhhm, it can be! I think…maybe they just didn’t have much to pass along to you?”
You glanced back to your inbox. “Maybe…you’ve been on three tours, right?” You asked him.
He shook his head. “Mmhm.”
“How much time was there between your assignments? Did you normally get your official pairing email like, months in advance?” You asked.
“Um, the company typically sends you notification of your next assignment at least 3 months before the first show. And all my assignments were back to back, if I remember right.” He said, sipping his coffee. “I think it also depends on demand, and how many coordinators are hired at the time.”
Three months. You were still kind of in the correct time frame, but in the grand scheme of things, their first show was more like two and a half months away, if you were looking at it realistically.
You looked back to your laptop with a puzzled expression.
“Don’t worry, it’s the holidays. I’m sure things are just...busy.” Jeffrey said. “Your email will come.”
“Thanks Jeffrey. Oh, have you seen Allison?” You asked, remembering that you also have had little to no contact from her the past few weeks.
“No, but I think she’s coming in later.” He slid off the desk, shaking his coffee mug toward you. “Gonna get a refill, talk to you later!”
You continued your day as normal, answering what few emails you had and trying to reorganize your work life as best you could. Lunch time rolled around quickly, and you decided to see if Jake wanted to grab something to eat.
The phone rang out, and you heard his sweet voice answering the phone mid-laugh.
“Hey baby, what’s up?” He chuckled.
A huge smile crossed your face hearing him happy. “Whatcha laughing at?”
“Josh is an idiot, nothing new. What are you up to?” He said.
“Was gonna see if you wanted to get some lunch, but sounds like you might be tied up?” You asked.
“Ah, actually, Josh, you wanna go eat?” He paused. “Care if he joins us, babe?”
“Of course not, he’s always welcome.” You said.
“Ok, but we’ve gotta come back. We’re in the middle of something really good. It might be one of those late nights.” He said, laughing again.
You knew exactly what he meant. When those two got together, it could be hours upon hours until they got their thoughts on paper.
“Hey, I’m not trying to interrupt your process. Just trying to feed you!” You said, an idea popping into your head.
“We’ll meet you at your office in ten. Love you baby.”
“Love you too!” You hung up the phone, knowing that tonight might be the perfect night to execute your idea for Jake’s Christmas present. Well, the first half of it.
Your plan was to transform a little upstairs space in his house into the art studio he never got to have. The area was untouched, basically being used as storage at this point. So you had been quietly cleaning it out and moving things around slightly to make room for a large table in front of the window. Plenty of natural light and a nice quiet place he can get away from it all.
You’d finished up a quick lunch with Jake and Josh, and they were hastily heading back to the car to get back to work.
“What exactly are you guys working on?” You asked Jake as you walked through the parking lot of the restaurant.
“Ah, I don’t know, actually. It’s always just something, ya know?” He giggled. “Sometimes when we’re writing, we can both tell when something really good and solid is happening. And this is one of those times. It’s a feeling we both get and we have to stick with it until we hash it out. I think Sam and Danny are coming, too.” He went on.
“Ah, must be serious then!” You grinned as he took your hand and leaned you against the passenger door, bringing his face close to yours. He lifted his sunglasses to meet your eyes, and gently pressed his lips to yours.
“It’s very serious…” he whispered as a side smile threatened his face. He laid another kiss to your mouth before pulling away.
Josh honked the horn, rushing him on.
“How about you go back to my house after work? So that I can have something to look forward to when I come home…” he said as he reached for the door handle and raised his eyebrows.
“Hmm, I suppose I could do that.” You answered.
Perfect, you were already going anyway. But now you had an even better excuse than the lie you were going to have to make up.
“And how would you like to find me when you return, sir?” You asked, turning on the sass.
He brought his mouth to your ear. “In my bed, wrapped up in my sheets, with absolutely nothing on. Think you can do that for me, baby?” He growled in your ear before kissing the side of your head.
“Yeah, yep I can do that.” You breathed as your eyelids fluttered on their own at the raspy sound of his voice in your ear. You wanted to surprise him with his gift as soon as he walked in the door, but this plan sounded a bit more intriguing at the moment. His gift would be there after.
“Oh, Jake! What’s your security passcode?” You remembered that you actually had no idea.
“I’ll text it to you.” He said as he climbed into the passenger seat, sending you a wink before they pulled away.
After leaving the restaurant, you went back to the office to finish up your tasks for the day. You planned on leaving just a little bit early to make it to the craft store before they closed. The list of duties dwindled, and you opened your email to check it again. Nothing. Maybe this is normal for a coordinator right after a tour...no plans to be made, no deadlines to meet. Maybe everything just wraps up.
Suddenly, you heard Allison’s voice traveling through the front door of the office. She came in through the hallway, seeing you at your desk.
“Hey! Long time no see!” You called to her.
“Hey Y/N, how was everything? Did you have a good time?” She was uncharacteristically cool.
“Yes, it was amazing. Everything was very smooth.” You stood up, walking closer toward her. “Hey…I wanted to thank you for letting me have this opportunity right off the bat. I really love this job, and I feel like I’m getting my footing being so new. I just wanted to say thanks for all your help and guidance through it.” You said.
She looked at you with a tiny smile. “You’re welcome, Y/N. I’m glad everything was smooth for you. Hey, I’ve got a bunch of stuff to do, I’ll talk to you later?” She scrunched her nose as she waved to you, and then she was gone.
She’s awfully busy.
After a couple more hours of work, you closed your laptop and placed all your things back into your bag before you grabbed your purse and keys, and headed out to your car. You had all evening to create Jake’s Christmas present to perfection, and you intended on doing just that.
The craft store provided. You found tons of felt tip pens, ballpoints, paintbrushes, acrylics, and tons of colored pencils on sale for the holidays. But you knew that was just the start. He would eventually fill his table with sketch pads and canvases and all types of media before long. You couldn’t wait to see his face tonight. After seeing his face when he finds you in his bed.
You rushed home to your apartment quickly, running inside to grab some clothes and things for the next day or two. Five minutes later you were back on the road, trying to beat the workday traffic and make it to Jake’s house to get started.
You pulled in his driveway and unloaded the bags. You reached into your pocket and grabbed your phone, bringing your texts from Jake up to key in the numbers to his security system. It was double locked down. Wow, can’t be too safe, I guess.
You suddenly felt giddy being in his house all by yourself. It was always so comfortable, homey and welcoming, but it felt different without him there. You ran up the stairs and dumped all the bags onto the floor. You stood back, assessing the room and how you wanted to arrange it. You pushed the big wooden table that was already there to sit in front of the window, satisfied when you saw the dimming sunlight hitting the tabletop perfectly.
You took a minute to unpackage all the pens and pencils, placing them neatly in cups and containers. The giant sketch pad went in the center of the table, the felt tips to the right. The paints went on a little shelf toward the wall, and all brushes fit into a tall glass that you’d found downstairs in the pantry.
Last but not least, you pulled the single most important part of the gift from your bag. You’d special ordered a thick, black leather-bound sketchbook for him, with a gold imprinted image of the Little Dipper right in the center. You grabbed one of the metallic pens from the container, opened the book, and wrote on the inside:
Merry Christmas to my one and only. I hope you’re filling this book with all your beautiful art for years to come.
I love you, and I’m so proud of you.
You signed your name at the bottom with a tiny heart, and placed the book standing up on its end right in front of the window.
You stood back, admiring your work and arrangement. Still needs something.
You ran downstairs and into the basement, rummaging through old cardboard boxes for something you knew he had to have somewhere. You felt a bit intrusive, but it was for a good reason.
You stumbled upon a box of old Christmas decorations sitting in the corner collecting the tiniest layer of dust. He had mentioned you helping him decorate his home just a little for Christmas, but everyone had been so busy that you hadn’t had the time. You pulled out a strand of white lights, and bounded back up the stairs.
Hanging the twinkly lights across the top of the wall and down by the windows was exactly the finishing touch the little studio needed. It looked perfect. Clean and organized, everything in its place only to be destroyed and utilized by the artist that was going to throw himself into the space in no time. He was going to absolutely love it.
You pulled your phone from your pocket to check the time. 6:30. Jake would most likely not be home for a few more hours, so you decided to rummage through his kitchen and fix a little something for dinner.
Chicken and rice, perfect. As you stirred the concoction together in the pan, you found yourself feeling overwhelmingly happy to be making Jake’s dinner in his home. How domestic of you. It’d never dawned on you that this could be your life, one day. It felt strange, given his lifestyle, and your ever-changing new lifestyle. But, it felt right. It felt good to be here, doing this for him.
You knew he would still be a while getting home, so you decided to dig in. After you were full, you opted for a shower to rinse off the day, before hopping into Jake’s bed to wait for him to come home. You let the mirror get steamy before stripping off your work clothes and climbing inside. You smiled when you saw all your things in the shower next to his, still ignoring your own body wash and instead using his. You wondered if he’d noticed yet.
It was nearing eleven o’clock when you heard the security system beep, alerting you of Jake’s presence. You must have drifted off after your shower, finding yourself exactly where he wanted you, undressed and tangled up in his sheets. You suddenly felt antsy, excitement bubbling up in your belly for some reason. It felt a little bit odd to be waiting for him like this, taking up his space. But he asked you to. And you loved him, so you did.
You heard his keys clank in the dish by the door, and his footsteps coming down the hallway.
“Honeyyy, I’m home!” His voice bellowed into the house and echoed off the walls.
You suppressed a giggle as he opened his bedroom door.
“Hey there, sweet thing.” He said as he tossed his things on to the table in the corner, and began undoing his already halfway unbuttoned shirt.
“Hey darlin’. There’s dinner if you’re hungry!” You replied through a yawn, rolling over to face him.
He began unbuckling his pants and let them fall to the floor, kicked off his socks, and flipped off the light.
In seconds, he was under the covers with you, his still-cold hands grabbing at your body as he entangled himself with you. Immediately connecting his lips to yours, and pulling your leg up to hitch across his…his fingertips burying themselves in your thigh and working the muscle. It felt like his entire body was heated, a stark contrast to his cold fingers.
“I am hungry…but dinner can wait.”
He rolled his body so that you were on top of him, knees at his sides and mouths still connected. He brought his hand between you, immediately pressing his icy fingers to your warm center. The temperature change made you squirm, chills immediately covering your body.
He tapped the backs of your thighs, signaling you to move toward the headboard while he moved lower toward the foot of the bed.
“I need an appetizer first. Climb up, baby. Hang on tight.”
You giggled and put your hands on the headboard and sat low on his face, letting him take you on one hell of a ride.
The two of you quietly climbed the stairs, still completely nude from your earlier escapades. You were too excited for him to see his gift, so you grabbed his hand and pulled him from the warmth of his bed to go upstairs. When you approached the door, you turned him so he was facing it, brought your hands to his eyes, and covered them tightly.
“Ok, no peeking! Open the door.” You whispered from behind him.
He blindly felt around for the doorknob, finally finding it and twisting it open. You shuffled him forward to the back of the room, making sure not to bump him into anything.
“I’m nervous.” He laughed. “Is something gonna jump out and scare me? Because I am very naked…”
“No, I promise.” You reassured him, smiling hard. You stood him directly in front of the table, taking one last look to make sure everything was in place.
“Okay ready? 1, 2, 3!” You pulled your hands from his eyes, and came around beside him to see his reaction. His jaw fell slack, his eyes scanned the table, and he let out a tiny exasperated huff.
“Baby, are you serious? This is…wow…” he breathed as he walked closer, taking everything in.
“You used to be so into this, I figured, why not give you a place to maybe pick it back up again? If you wanted to, of course…” you stumbled.
He grazed his fingertips over the books and pens, picking things up and inspecting them gently.
“It’s...absolutely perfect.” He met your eyes, a genuine look of happiness adorning his face. “Thank you, so much babe. I’m so excited.”
You watched as he looked through everything again, waiting for the leather sketchbook to catch his eye.
When it finally did, his eyes lit up, and he immediately reached for it.
“What’s this?! You’re kidding...” his voice was full of excitement, his fingers slowly drifting over the golden constellation. He opened the front cover and read your message, his face softening at the sentiment.
“Just a little something special, wanted you to have something nice.” You grabbed at your daisy necklace, latching your fingers onto the flower as you spoke. He put the book down and brought his hands to cup your face.
“Y/N, this is so perfect. How did…how did you know I was actually thinking about going to the craft store and getting a few things? Ever since our conversation in my parent’s basement…and looking at our old posters…I’ve kinda had a hankering to pick it back up again.” You smiled as he brought his lips to yours. “It’s like you read my mind. Thank you, love.”
“You’re so welcome, Jake. I hope you create the most beautiful artwork here.” You pressed your lips back to his. “But, until then…” you pulled away and laid your naked self across the old vintage couch in the corner, dramatically posing yourself. “I want you to draw me like one of your French girls…”
He threw his head back and laughed, joining you on the couch. “Okay Rose, I can try, but I’ve never been good with charcoal.”
You wrapped your arms around his neck. “Well, practice makes perfect, hm?”
You woke up fairly early the next morning, finding yourself wrapped up in Jake’s arms, still neither one of you with a stitch of clothing on. You were facing each other, your arms draped around his neck. His face was still relaxed and poised, his lips just barely open as he breathed. His eyes danced behind his eyelids, darting back and forth as he dreamed. You could stare at him for the rest of your life…
“Jake….baby wake up...” you whispered, hating to wake him from his dream. You tapped his lips with your fingertips, and gently tickled his face as he started to stir. “We’ve gotta get on the road.”
He rolled and stretched, letting out a groan. “Josh will be late anyway, five more minutes?”
You giggled as he cuddled himself into you, nuzzling his face into your neck as he took a deep breath. “You always smell so good.” He mumbled, still half asleep. “Let’s let them go home. Me and you stay here…” he was drifting off again.
You let him snooze for a few more minutes until his phone started buzzing on the nightstand, earning a grumble from his chest. “It’s fuckin’ Daniel, just let it ring. He’s just waking me up.”
“Ah!” You said. “Did fuckin’ Daniel forget that it was literally my job for months to wake you guys up? Does he have no faith in me?”
He laughed into your shoulder. “You’re off the clock, babe.”
An hour later, you were all packed up and waiting for everyone to pick you up; you’d decided to rent a car again to fit everyone together in one vehicle.
“You excited to go home again?” You asked Jake as you sat at the kitchen island sipping your coffees.
“Yeah, I am. I never thought I would be, again, but. I’m itching to get back there for some reason.” He said, giving you a knowing smile over his mug.
“Good. Me too. Hey, is Sam okay? I haven’t talked to him in a while...he’s been weird toward me since Thanksgiving.” You asked him. “Gosh, it's been almost a month now…”
“Yeah, he’s okay! Seems very normal to me, actually. Why is he acting weird?” He asked.
“I’m not sure.” You took a deep breath, feeling comfortable enough with Jake to have this conversation. “We kind of… talked about our...little span of time together for the first time since it happened. We hadn’t really brought it up because, well...” you signaled between the two of you. “Was a little bit of a serious conversation...I don’t want to bury it like it never happened, I guess?”
“I think you guys should talk about it, no need to keep it hidden away. I get it. Sometimes the past comes up in conversation.” He answered, trying to make you feel better. “Did he get upset with you for bringing it up?”
“No, I don’t think so.” You chose not to tell Jake every detail of the conversation, seeing as how those were secrets shared in confidence between you and Sam. “But ever since that night, he’s been almost ignoring me.”
Jake put his head down in thought. “Maybe he’s just…trying to concentrate on spending time with Elle? They seem really happy, maybe he’s giving you space? Still not an excuse to ignore you, though.”
“Yeah, it’s okay. Elle and I talked too, I’m just glad we keep everything out in the open and there are no weird feelings. I just hope Sam isn’t upset with me over something…” you went on.
Just then the horn honked out front, and the two of you stood to grab your things. You pulled your suitcases to the front step while he dumped your coffees into the sink.
“I’m going to go make sure all my windows and doors are locked, I’ll be right back.” He said.
“Babe, you’ve already done that like, twice. I think it’s okay…” you said, watching him dash down the hall.
“Can’t ever be too safe, love!”
Arriving back home in Frankenmuth was almost an exact repeat of Thanksgiving, tons of rounds of hugs and tears. It felt good being back again, and even better knowing you had longer to stay this time. It was still a week until Christmas, and you’d planned on staying a couple of nights with your parents, too.
Sam didn’t speak much to you on the long drive, only jumping in on conversations and answering your questions in agreement. He wasn’t being rude, just…distant. Not your normal Sammy. It had been going on long enough. And staying in this house all together again is what normally brought you closer. You decided to talk to him about it as soon as possible.
Karen and Kelly had cooked a big dinner, and after stuffing your faces, you all retreated to the garage instead of the basement. You and Elle took your normal spots on the old couch, cuddling up together like you always had. Suddenly, Danny came bursting through the door with two cases of beer in hand after visiting his folks for a bit.
“You just can’t stay away from us for too long, can you Daniel?” Sam asked, plugging his dad’s old bass into the crackly amp.
“Uh, no. I can’t. Plus I need to hit something. Really hard.” He slammed the cases of beer on the ground, ripped open a box, removed a can and chugged its contents. “Might as well take it out on my shitty old kit.”
“Uh oh, trouble in Heidi paradise?” Jake asked with caution.
“Always trouble in Heidi paradise, bro. Her flight was supposed to arrive tomorrow morning. Had plans to go get her and everything. She called just now and said she couldn’t find a flight and didn’t want to drive. Just another line in her laundry list of bullshit excuses.” The room went quiet while he finished the beer, and crumpled the can up. “Let’s play some fuckin’ music.”
“Yeah, let’s play some fuckin’ music…” Josh glanced at you and Elle, widening his eyes with surprise. You watched as they messed around, playing nothing that made sense at all. You felt bad for Danny; you used to hang around with Heidi a good bit back in the day, but never really enough to get to know her too well before everything happened.
“I haven’t talked to Heidi in ages…” Elle said into your ear over the music.
“Neither have I. But seeing how she treats Danny all the time, I don’t think I want to.” You responded, laughing.
You looked over at Jake, watching as his fingers worked tirelessly over the strings, walking around the garage slow and calculated. It was always so funny watching him play here or at home as compared to when he was on stage. His body language did a complete 180 as soon as he got in front of a crowd, leaning his body back, flipping his hair and yelling along with his instrument, completely taken by the sound he was creating. Watching him on stage was like watching another version of him that only existed when he was enraptured by the music and energy of the fans. Here, at home, he was quiet and normal, calm and cool.
You watched as they did their thing into the wee hours of the morning, your memory flowing back and forth to many years ago as compared to now. Who would have ever thought?
Elle had begun to drift off with her head laid across your lap, your fingers pulling through her waves mindlessly as you watched them begin to put their instruments to sleep.
Sam came over quietly, taking Elle’s hands and pulling her up to stand and walk with him back to the house. He met your eyes for the tiniest second, giving you nothing but a shy smile. You’d had it.
“Sammy.” You said quietly. You waited until he looked at you fully. “What did I do?” You were almost tearful.
His face filled with surprise, then instantly fell. He shook his head. “You didn’t do anything, Y/N.” he said dryly, dismissing your question. He sent you a tiny wink, signaling that you would talk later.
Your stomach instantly went into knots seeing his expression go from surprise, to sadness, to forced reassurance. You knew him. You knew him so well that you could communicate with nothing but looks and body language. It had only been amplified after you slept with him. He was lying.
“See you all in the morning.” Josh yawned. “Big day in town!”
Jake came over quietly, noticing your upset stature. He lovingly wrapped his arm around you, and you were off to bed.
The next morning, you joined everyone for a light breakfast in the kitchen before making the final plans for the day.
“Ok, so, let’s finish helping mom decorate the tree, then Bronner’s around noon?” Josh said.
“Yes, then you kids are going ice skating, aren’t you? Tell me you’re going ice skating…” Karen added, knowing it had been years since you all had skated at the rink in town.
“I think that’s the plan, Momma.” Josh said.
Jake turned towards Karen, “Where’s the old box of ornaments? Have you gotten them down from the attic yet?”
“No baby, you’re the only one who was ever brave enough to go up there and get them every year.” she answered wistfully.
“Well then who got them down the years I wasn’t here?” He asked passively. The room quickly fell silent. Jake stopped and turned to meet everyone’s eyes. You watched as the group suddenly became uncomfortable.
“Who got them?” He pressed, and was yet again left in silence.
“You’re telling me no one went up there? No one got them?” Jake’s words caught in his throat when he realized.
“You…you guys never decorated the tree?” He spoke through a strained voice, pain written across his features.
It was silent for another beat before Karen spoke, “It never felt right without you here, honey. It was always your thing….Braving the scary pull-down staircase to the attic. It was your job since you were little…to go get them.” She replies quietly.
“Didn’t feel right, someone else going to get them, so we just…stuck with lights.” Josh continued.
You wondered why every Christmas you came home that their tree wasn’t adorned in hundreds of old ornaments like it was when you were little. Just the colorful twinkly lights. It was because Jake never came home. He never went and got the box. Because you were there in his home.
You met Jake’s eyes, both of you feeling simultaneous overwhelming guilt that you’d come so accustomed to feeling as of late. He gave you a tiny smile.
“Well, I’m here now. And I’m going to the attic.” He said, turning and pulling the old string to drop the steps from the ceiling.
A couple hours later, Jake held your hand as you strolled through the giant Christmas store, looking at decorations and gifts and the like. He had happily stopped to take a few photos with fans, and you wondered if they had seen the other three guys anywhere in the store.
“Thank you for taking our pictures, you guys are so adorable together!” the girl said to you as you handed her phone back to her.
“Oh, you’re so sweet! You’re welcome! Happy holidays!” You replied, continuing your stroll through the store.
“See anything we need?” Jake asked nonchalantly as your mind began to wander.
“Jake, do you ever wonder what would happen if your fans posted pictures of us together in public, and Collective saw them online?” you asked.
He paused for a second, obviously thinking. Quickly, he turned around and went back to the girl, stopping her and having a quick conversation. She smiled and nodded, and he came running back.
“What was that?” You asked him.
“I asked her if she would care to make sure she didn’t post any photos with you in them, that you preferred to stay off of social media. She said she absolutely respects that and not to worry.” He said.
You breathed a sigh of relief and nodded. “Should we…stay separate tonight?” You hated to even ask the question, but the thought had honestly never crossed your mind. He bit his lip, taking it into consideration.
“If you think that would be best…we can blend ourselves together with the rest of the group?” He answered.
“Maybe, just in case. That’s the last thing I need is someone posting sneaky pictures of us and Allison finding them...” you replied, sadness taking over you that you might need to stay in hiding a little bit.
“Alright baby. Let’s go find everyone. You just...stick close to Elle.” He said.
“Okay. Thanks for understanding.” You said, sending him a wink.
“If anyone understands, it’s me, love.” He quickly took your hand for one last squeeze before exiting the store.
Once you found the group, you positioned yourself close by Elle, telling her about your predicament.
“Shit. I didn’t even think about that, Y/N. Well, stay with me. We can go get some fudge?” She said. You nodded in agreement.
The rest of the day was spent meandering in and out of stores, avoiding Jake but sharing sweet smiles to one another when you’d pass. You managed to pick up some extra wrapping paper, and a few gifts for your parents throughout the day. It started to get dark, and you could feel snow coming in the air. The streets were filled with people, and the true Christmas feeling was taking over your senses. You wished you were walking the streets with Jake, but Elle was a very welcome replacement for now.
“Do you know what Sam is getting me for Christmas?” She asked, taking you by surprise.
“Um, no I don’t actually. And if I did, I wouldn’t tell you?” You said, laughing.
“Ugh, I hate surprises. I always have. And you know he’s always messing with me, so he keeps telling me he’s getting me these outlandish gifts whenever I ask him. I’m already getting a pony, a Lamborghini, and a million gumballs.” She said, shaking her head.
You burst out laughing. “Elle, you’re so funny. Of course he’s not going to tell you, silly! He’s going to surprise you.”
“I knowwww, but. I just know it’s still going to be something goofy.” She whined.
“Why do you think that?” You asked her.
“I dunno, he’s been acting a little weird lately. Nothing bad, just kind of, distracted since after Thanksgiving.” She said. Ah. So it wasn’t just you, then.
“Don’t worry Elle, I’m sure he’ll get you something spectacular.” You reassured her, hoping that you were right.
She pulled her phone from her back pocket. “Oh, they’re heading over to the ice rink now. Let’s go! They’re going to have fans everywhere…I’m sorry you can’t skate with Jake…” she trailed off, her face falling into a frown.
“It’s ok! I’ll just stick with you. We will be near each other and that’s good enough for me.” You smiled.
The guys were all waiting at the rink, leaned against a table sharing a giant pitcher of beer, intertwining their arms as they sipped from the glasses.
“Hello, ladies. Find any treasures today?” Danny asked you.
“Yes, a few actually! We took our bags back to the car already. Are we skating?” Elle said. “And where are our steins, you beer hogs!”
“Geez, demanding little lady!” Sam scoffed. You laughed at their discourse, quickly catching eyes with Jake. It felt like you were flirting again, watching each other from afar like you did when you’d all come here and skate as kids. His face blushed when you smiled at him, the cold air blowing his hair in front of his face.
You all quickly and privately shared another pitcher of beer before heading over to rent some skates. You stuck by Elle’s side, ignoring Jake the best you could while fans approached them to take photo after photo. When you finally were all laced up, the alcohol had begun to hit your bloodstream. Yikes, it had been years since you’d skated on this rink, let alone put a pair of skates on. But, it was like riding a bike, and your legs remembered how to move without even a thought.
Elle took your hand as you did a few loops to get used to the ice. You laughed together, sliding and slipping and falling. Your face was red with the chill of the wind, the alcohol, and from laughing so hard you couldn’t breathe.
After some time, you and Elle both found yourselves sitting in the middle of the rink, exhausted and worn out.
“Elle, I’m sorry you can’t be back in your hometown for Christmas.” You admitted to her.
“Ah, it’s okay. It honestly feels almost exactly the same, remember?” She grinned. “Except for the cold, of course. All that’s missing is my dad. But, I have you guys. And you’re more family to me than my actual family ever was anyway.” She leaned back on her gloved hands, looking toward the sky.
You suddenly felt sad for her, but happy at the same time that she had found Sam. You realized right then that he had better not ever hurt her, or else he would have to answer to you.
“I’m glad you’re my best friend, Elle. You’re like the sister I never had.” You said finally.
“Don’t get sappy on me, Y/N!” She said, shoving her shoulder into yours.
“I’m serious!” You laughed.
“I love you, too.” She said after laughing through her sigh.
“Now go skate with Sam. He’s looking for you.” You said, nodding your head toward the group.
She stood up, holding her hands out to help you up. “I know your job is riding on it, but if I were you, I wouldn’t spend another minute not shouting your love for Jake from the rooftops. He’s crazy about you, Y/N, and I know you are about him too. Fuck your company if they find out. Life is so short. God forbid people believe in true love anymore, hmm?” She said matter of factly before skating away.
You made eye contact with Jake from afar as he stood by himself and watched you, people crossing quickly back and forth between your lines of vision. He was stoic, handsome as ever, and looking at you like you were the only person in his realm. You felt a fire burning in your gut, churning away and turning your brain into fuzz. You felt like the space between you was miles long, and in that moment you knew nothing but closing it.
Your legs began carrying you quickly, gliding with ease across the ice towards him. You zeroed in, keeping your eyes glued to his as you got closer.
You got within ten feet, five feet, two feet…your heart was racing a million miles a minute.
Finally you crashed into his sturdy, waiting arms like a freight train, lips pressed into his like nothing else mattered in the world. He pulled you in tightly as you gripped your hands around his cheeks. You kissed him with fervor for a few seconds, not caring who saw. Finally you felt his lips turn into a smile on yours, giggling into your mouth as you came back down to earth and realized what you’d just done.
Finally you separated, meeting his eyes and feeling almost everyone in the entire rink’s on the two of you.
Suddenly the whole group erupted in cheers, yelling loudly and pushing their fists into the air.
“About damn time you said fuck it, Y/N!” Elle yelled, coming over to hug the two of you together.
Jake looked back at you, smiling ear to ear, still holding on to your hips.
You grabbed his face, pulling his forehead to yours. “Yeah, fuck it.”
You skated for just a little while longer, holding Jake’s hand as you went round and round. Something had switched in you when you heard Elle’s words. Life is short. You were completely head over heels in love with this man, and you wanted nothing more than to show the world.
“You guys ready to go home?” Josh asked, skating up to the two of you.
“Yeah, I think so. Been a long day.” Jake answered. “We’ll meet you back at the skate rental.”
Everyone turned their skates in and headed back to the parking lot, ready to crank the heat up and head home. Danny started the car and let it warm up while everyone filed in, taking their seats and shivering in the cold cab.
“Turn the heat up!” Josh called from the back.
“The engine is still cold, idiot. It’ll be like blowing A/C. How long have you been away from Michigan?” He yelled back as he climbed into the driver's seat.
You found yourself sandwiched between Sam and Jake in the middle row, Elle choosing to sit up front with Danny. Jake naturally placed his hand on your knee as he looked out the window at the houses decorated with Christmas lights. You felt Sam sigh heavily.
Finally, you got brave enough to turn and look him right in the eyes, raising your eyebrows in question of his attitude. He shook his head, looking out his own window. What the fuck?
“I think I’m going to have some tequila when we get home. Anyone want to join?” Josh asked the group.
“Yeah, actually, that sounds excellent. I’ll join.” Sam answered almost immediately. He crossed his arms over his chest and sat back. Ok, he’s definitely being weirder. You couldn’t wait to get home and out of this car.
As the car pulled into the driveway, you could see the breeze whipping the trees around gently. Everyone filed out and was walking down the walk to the front door ahead of you when you felt a hand grab yours, pulling you back toward the car.
You turned to find Jake, spinning you around to look back down the road the way you came.
“Look, baby.” He said as he pointed over the hillside. Through the dim streetlights, you could see giant snowflakes beginning to gently fall to the earth, slowly making their way toward you in tiny wisps.
You turned your head up to the sky as the big fluffy flakes fell onto your face. “Wow, it literally just started snowing, didn’t it?” You asked.
“Yes, it did.” Jake said as he took you in his arms from behind. The snowflakes had gathered into apple-sized clumps, falling slowly and silently to the ground. “It’s gonna stick, too.” You could already see it piling up on the grass.
You both stood and watched in wonder, your head rested back on him as he swayed with you. “It looks like the sky is falling, doesn’t it?” You asked him as you watched in amazement as a thick fog began to fall, making the space between the earth and the sky appear much smaller. He brought his lips to your ear. “Yeah, it really does...” he whispered.
“Babe, I’m really proud of you, for what you did tonight. It felt…really nice not having to hide you and ignore you.” Jake finally spoke quietly, squeezing you in his arms.
You let out a sigh. “I’m still not sure I made the best decision, but…” you turned and faced him, bringing his cold cheeks into your hands. “I don’t care, Jake. I love you, and I want everyone to know it. I don’t want to pretend anymore.” You admitted, watching his lips form into a smile.
“I love you too, baby. And I truly don’t think it’s going to get back to your company. And even if it does, we will be okay, you will be okay.” He answered reassuringly. You nodded your head in understanding, feeling confident that you were safe.
You continued to watch the steadily falling sky and sway in Jake’s arms, taking in the beautiful moment with your beautiful love, feeling thankful he pulled you back to experience it with him.
Tequila. The perfect holiday drink.
Ok, not really. But. It was the best choice to get you on the fast track to getting very drunk, so as to maybe get your racing thoughts out of your head for a little while.
It was still happening. Ever since your stupid dream about you and Y/N hooking up a whole month ago, your mind has been secretly muddled with thoughts of her. Some days you thought the feelings were going away, but then they would come back full force. A pull toward her, a need to be near her, ever-present and unyielding. And it sucked.
You wanted to rip your brain out of your own skull, trade it out for a stranger’s, pull your own heart from its strings in your chest and throw it off the closest high cliff. Those old feelings you had for her were back, though you told her they were gone. It hurt to lie to her, to your best friend. But there was absolutely no way you’d tell her this. Ever. You were disgusted with yourself and your emotions.
Elle was there. Elle was tangible. Elle was beautiful and perfect and yours. And you were wild about her. She was more than everything you could ever want in a partner, saving you from yourself day in and day out. Keeping you in line, on your toes and on the straight and narrow while simultaneously inspiring you to be the very best version of yourself, playful and youthful and free. She loved every facet of you. And she accepted all of you with open arms every single day. And it hurt.
What hurt even worse was that you couldn’t help it. As much as you tried to suppress it and forget about it, there Y/N was, the person you knew the best in the world, being positively head over heels for your brother, and he for her. And it hurt your soul like a dagger to the chest.
You wanted to hug Josh for suggesting it tonight; for some reason watching them skate together made your unreasonable jealousy spike to a high level…and then when she publicly kissed him in front of God, 100 of your fans, and everyone? You felt like passing out. Everyone cheered for them, finally so happy she felt comfortable being open about their relationship. But you stood back and watched, seething silently as your girlfriend hugged them both. You felt like you were in the twilight zone. And your self loathing was only growing.
You’d managed to get fairly intoxicated with Josh, the two of you gathered in the basement passing the bottle back and forth while Elle slept sprawled out on the couch beside you.
You were surprised Josh was letting you drink with him, as things were still a little tense from Thanksgiving when he confronted you about your dream. You hadn’t spoken to him much since then, still feeling embarrassed and upset about your altercation. Actually, you had hardly spoken to Y/N either, feeling as though space between you was the best option until your weird headspace subsided.
“Are you still mad at me for pushing you last month?” You finally asked, handing the bottle back to him.
He took a swig. “Nah, I’m not mad at you. I was just pissed off.” He set the bottle down. “Listen, just make smart decisions, okay? Think about this six months from now, and where you want to be, and where you want Jake to be.” He was whispering, in case Elle were to wake up. “Do you want to jeopardize everything? You’re happy, he’s happy right? And vice versa…”
You nodded, looking at Elle with her face half buried in the couch.
“S’just fucked up dude. I can’t force it away. It came out of nowhere and my brain is in overdrive. I hate myself right now.” You admitted to him.
“I can tell you’re going through it. I’m not going to yell at you, because I can see that you���re already doing that to yourself. Just think about it this way…would you rather lose all three of them completely, or be happy with her being in your life for a long, long time? Just not the way you want her to be?” He asked.
You thought for a second while your thoughts swam in your head. “I can’t lose her, Josh.”
He pursed his lips together, studying your expression. “Can't lose who?”
Buzz. Buzz. Buzz.
Your phone was ringing on the table. It took a few seconds for you to realize what was happening, the tequila taking more effect after Josh got you in your feelings again.
“It’s Daniel. What the fuck is he calling at 2am for? Hello?” You picked up the line.
“Hey dude. I know it’s late but have you looked outside? We got so much snow, man.” Daniel responded.
You hopped up from your seat to peek out the window. “Holy shit! We really did! That was quick!”
“Do you guys want to go sledding at our spot?” Daniel asked. “I know it’s late but we used to go every Christmas, and it’s not snowed like this in years…”
You looked over to Josh. “Josh and I are the only ones up, but I think we could make that happen. Give us 30 and we’ll meet you there.”
You hung up the phone. “What was that about? Where are we going?” Josh asked.
“Did we forget that we go sledding every Christmas or are we just too old to have fun now?” You replied.
You squatted down to shake Elle awake, gently saying her name as you ran your hand over her face. “Baby, wake up. We’re gonna go sledding, do you wanna come?”
She stirred awake, sending you a scowl. “What time is it?”
“Way too late. Or early, not sure. But I promise you won’t want to miss this.” You told her as she sat up and began rubbing her eyes. “Josh, you go get the tub of snow clothes, I’ll go wake up Jake and Y/N.”
“Thankfully I’m too intoxicated to say no to this!” Josh yelled, slapping his hands on his knees.
“Be right back, Elle. Try to wake up a little. This is a tradition we kind of forgot about...” you told Elle as you turned to dash up the stairs.
A few seconds later you landed at the top of the stairs, feeling excitement growing in your bones. You slowly approached Jake’s bedroom door, knocking a few times then listening through the door. You knocked a few more times then slowly opened the doorknob, sticking your face in with your eyes closed.
“Jake…hey! Wake up!” You said into the room.
“What? What the fuck do you want?” He said, his voice groggy.
You opened the door a little further. “Are you two decent?” You asked.
“No we’re not fucking decent you asshole, what do you want?” He said threateningly.
“We’re going sledding at the spot. We’re leaving soon. Wake up, Daniel’s meeting us.” You said.
“Oh my god, I forgot we used to go sledding every Christmas!” You heard Y/N say, making your heart flutter. “Let’s go Jake!”
A few minutes later, they sleepily joined you downstairs, and everyone began digging through the old tub stuffed full of snow pants, bibs, long johns, hats, and gloves.
“Wow, how old is this stuff?” Elle asked, pulling up a pair of bib overalls over her sweatpants.
“Mom and dad have been collecting this stuff for years. Those were mine, actually!” Josh replied to her, smiling and pointing to the old tattered pair of coveralls.
“Yeah, make sure you layer up, babe. It’s gonna be frigid out there.” You warned her.
When everyone was dressed in their layers, you all trudged upstairs to find snow boots.
“I can’t believe you drug me out of my warm bed and away from my hot girl for this…” Jake said, sending you a joking smile as he pulled on the ankle-high boots.
Your stomach sank. “Hey, you didn’t have to come...”
“I’m just kidding.” He said as he took the back of your neck in his hand. “I never turn down a good time.”
“Shh! Don’t wake up your parents!” Y/N said as Josh opened the door and barreled toward the garage, looking for more alcohol and the old sleds, you presumed.
“You going to snowboard, Jake?” You asked him. “I couldn’t find my old boots…”
“Yeah, I found mine. I hope I still remember how.” He laughed.
After manning everyone with sleds and snowboards, the five of you took off walking down the road through the knee-deep snow, high stepping your way toward the special spot. Everyone had grabbed a sled, and Jake had even grabbed a few trash bags for even faster trips down the hillside. The snow was still coming down, and showed no signs of letting up. You had truly missed this.
“So where exactly are we going?” Elle asked the group as she came to your side.
“There’s a spot right off the road about a quarter mile this way, we’ve been sledding here for years. There’s a cutoff right between some trees that leads down a huge hill, straight into a clearing surrounded by a bunch of pines. Perfect layout for sledding. And, this snow is heavy and wet. Once we get it packed down, it’ll be like riding on ice.” You told her, feeling out of breath already from the harsh trek.
Her eyes widened. “Riding on ice? Won’t we like, go too fast?”
“Yeah, it’ll be like a frozen chute.” You cheesed toward her. She hugged into your side, with only her eyes and nose peeking above her scarf.
“I’m excited.” She breathed, pulling harder into you.
When everyone finally made it to the spot, Danny was already there waiting.
“Took you guys long enough!” He called through the thick snow, leaning on his snowboard.
“Oh fuck off, you don’t have as far to walk.” You said back to him, pushing him down into the snow.
He quickly hopped back up, tackling you to the ground, which was only a few feet to fall into the fluffy white powder. The two of you tussled in the snow, finally rolling all the way down the steep hill and landing at the bottom in fits of laughter.
“You asshole.” You laughed as you stood, reaching your hand out to help him stand again. You both looked up to the top of the hill to the rest of the group laughing as you knocked the snow off yourself.
“Who’s next?!” Danny yelled.
The group continued to take turns traveling down the hill, Jake and Danny trying their best to teach themselves how to snowboard again. Elle and Y/N finally got the hang of steering the saucer sleds, carving out a flat pathway and packing down the snow in such a way that you didn’t need sleds anymore.
Thankfully, Josh and Danny had both remembered to stick plastic quarter pints of liquor into their jacket pockets, so you continued on your high from earlier. It was nearing 4:00am, and everyone was still having a good time romping in the snow.
At one point, you found yourself alone at the bottom of the hill with Y/N waiting as everyone caught their breath after walking to the top. The snow had begun to lighten up, and she plopped backwards onto her seat, looking up into the darkened sky. You watched as her eyes flitted open and closed as the tiny snowflakes met her face.
“You going to talk to me now that you don’t have a choice, Sam?” She asked suddenly, not moving her eyes from the sky. “I can tell that you’ve been ignoring me and avoiding me. But, would you look at this... Us sitting here alone. In an awkward silence.” She finally met your eyes.
You knew this was coming sooner or later. You pulled the bottle from your pocket, nipping at the head before passing it to her. Your eyes had blurred and your movements were in slow motion; you’d allowed yourself to get way too drunk.
You truly didn’t know what to say to her. You couldn’t tell her the truth, that would ruin literally everything. You weren’t mad at her, but it probably seemed that way from the outside. Your stupid emotions had taken hold of you, and they weren’t letting go. So you stayed silent, afraid to say anything at all. You felt like you were about to combust.
“Alright then. Suit yourself. I thought we were able to talk through things, after all our years of friendship but. I guess not.” She said, standing back up to meet Josh who had started coming down the hill. She turned back around to face you, her face almost in tears. “Look I don’t know why you’re mad at me, and I’m sorry if anything I said to you at Thanksgiving was overstepping any boundaries, but I just need you back Sam. I need my friend. Please don’t shut me out, ok?”
Her eyes bored into yours, searching for any type of reprise to show her that you were still in there somewhere. After a long pause that felt like hours, you finally choked out the only words that came to your mind.
“I’m still here, Y/N. I promise.”
Josh came tumbling off the hill, hitting the bottom at a high speed. You watched as she helped him stand, the two of them laughing and gripping at each other’s arms for balance.
Behind him came Danny, finally getting the hang of his old snowboard and making it to the bottom in one piece.
“Hey, let’s build a fire! I’m freezing!” He said as the rest of the group landed nearby.
“Yessss, that sounds wonderful. Please please please. My hands are about to fall off.” Elle said through chattering teeth. You immediately went to her, wrapping your arms around her and moving your hands up and down to warm her.
“Aw, is Georgia having a hard time staying warm?” You teased.
“Be quiet, Samuel, and help your brothers build us a fire!” She laughed.
You and Danny took on the task of heading into the woods to find kindling while the rest of the group worked to clear the snow away from the ground on the edge of the forest. The thick pines and evergreen had shielded the snow from piling too high here, making a bed of dried pine needles the perfect spot for a campfire.
As you traveled deeper into the woods to find the driest wood, you could tell Daniel was struggling to start a conversation.
“Just say what you need to say Daniel, I know you’re trying to tell me something.” You slurred.
He stopped walking, turning toward you and stopped you in your tracks.
“I broke up with Heidi earlier.” He said, the words falling from his mouth quickly.
You were stunned. “Oh, shit man. I– are you okay? What happened?”
He sighed heavily, pulling his arms above him to rest behind his head.
“I don’t know, dude. I called her three times today before she finally picked up. I just wanted to tell her Merry Christmas...ask her what she was doing tomorrow. But she couldn’t even hear me overtop of the music that was playing in the background of wherever the hell she was. Didn’t even try to step outside to talk…say she would just text me…nothing. Just got off the phone with me really quickly. Said she’d call me later. Well. Later never happened.” He let his arms fall as he turned to keep picking up broken sticks from the forest floor and pile them in your arms.
“It was just snowballing, you know? Left and right, our relationship has become one-sided. I don’t think she loves me anymore, man. I dunno. I’m kinda over it, to be honest. So anyway, I got my shit together and stopped feeling sorry for myself, picked up the phone and called her back. She answered, and I told her it was over. I was done. Honestly feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”
You felt horrible for your friend, feeling unable to give him any comfort when he needed it most. “Fuck, man. I’m so sorry, are you alright? Do you wanna talk about it?” You pressed.
He shook his head, piling more sticks into your arms. “Nah, nothing to talk about really. Maybe later, once I get over the initial shock. So, rain check on that. So many years…down the drain…” he trailed off. You stood in silence, feeling truly proud of him for holding himself together.
“Anyways. Enough of my drama. We’ll save it for later. Tell me what the fuck is wrong with you?” He asked. Damn, you were afraid of this.
“Nothing is wrong with me, Daniel.” You lied.
“You’re lying.” He answered. Hah. Okay.
You turned behind you, checking to make sure you were still alone. You took a deep cleansing breath, the cold air hitting your lungs.
“Did Josh tell you to talk to me?” You asked him.
“Mmm, he mentioned that you were acting weird and that maybe you needed to talk. But, no. I noticed too.” He said.
You shook your head. “Then you probably think I’m a fucking idiot too.”
He walked up to you, landing a few more sticks into your grasp. “I’m not stupid, Sam. I’ve seen you like this before, when we were younger. When you were…you know..”
You felt rage boiling up in your gut, horrible unreasonable rage at no one but yourself as Daniel brought into light the thoughts you had barely spoken to anyone.
“When I was what, Daniel? Hm? Feeling things for Y/N? Because yeah, I guess it kind of looks that way again, doesn’t it?” You spat.
“Sam. You can’t. You do understand that, right? You literally cannot. She doesn’t belong to you anymore.” Daniel said through his teeth.
“Aha, no shit! I’ve been fucked up for a month because I’m so damn confused at why I’m feeling this way again. I didn’t ask for it! God, you don’t even understand...” You continued.
“No, I don’t understand, Sam! Why don’t you explain it? Because I don’t see why you’re having such a hard time with this.” He said, raising his voice.
“Because you’ve never been here, man!” You yelled quietly.
“Been where, Sam?!” he snapped.
“Been in love…with two people at the same damn time, Daniel. Okay? Have you ever felt that? Every single day I’m falling more and more crazy in love with Elle, while fighting my demons trying to stop falling back in love with Y/N!” You began pacing beside him, trying to keep your admission quiet under the cover of the trees. “It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever done. I know that. But I can’t deny it. It makes me feel absolutely insanely guilty, constantly. So yeah. I’m sorry if I’ve been an asshole.” You turned and began walking back toward the edge of the woods.
“Sam, stop. Listen to me. You have to end this right now. If you fuck up things with her and Jake, the band is over. Dunzo. Do you get that? He will never forgive you this time. Not to mention your relationship with him. And with Josh. And with Elle. This is not just your future you have to think of here, you hear me? I love you, man. But you actually need your ass kicked for even thinking that you could make that work.” He laid his gloved hand on your shoulder, looking into your eyes to make sure you heard him loud and clear.
“Goddamnit. Yes. I hear you. You’re right, and I know all these things. I’ve just, really been going through it. I feel like you really should kick my ass for it. It might help.” You said through a half-hearted laugh. “But I hear you. And I heard Josh when he told me, too. I’ve just...got to try harder. For Jake. Elle doesn’t deserve this. She deserves all of me.”
“She deserves the fucking world, dude. She’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you.” He joked, taking a few of the sticks from your arms. “Y/N is always going to love you. That much was proven the minute you, her and Jake could forgive each other and live normally again. But you need to show her the type of love she needs. And that’s being her best friend again. And, you need to show Elle, too. Step up and be a man for her, you know?” Daniel went on. God, when did he turn into an expert on relationships?
You sighed heavily. “Thank you, Danny. Seriously. I needed to hear that. Tough love, I guess.”
“Did you just call me Danny?” He asked, puzzled. “You’ve literally never once called me Danny in almost twenty years…”
“Yeah, sorry. I’m still a little intoxicated. But. I think you cleared my head a bit, man. Seriously… I think I know exactly what I need to do.”
The two of you returned to the group, hoping they didn’t notice you were gone for a little longer than you should’ve been.
The room was cold when you woke up, even through your long sleeve shirt you could feel the chill in the air. You turned to your side, seeing Y/N still asleep next to you. You placed your hand on her cheek, to see if she was as cold as you were, but to your surprise, she wasn’t. She was warm and soft, and wrapped in your old flannel pajamas you never thought you’d see again.
You snaked your arm through hers, pulling yourself closer into her, hoping to leech off some of her warmth. You nestled your head into her neck, breathing in the scent of her, still a little smokey from sitting by the fire last night. As you laid there with her, feet tangled together in a mass of cabin socks, you thought back to last Christmas. Sitting alone in your house, sipping a glass of brandy as you watched the flames crackle in your fireplace. Wondering if that was how the rest of your life was going to be. Sitting there alone, thinking back on the days when you didn’t even know you had everything you ever wanted. You wished you could tell him that his luck would change, and that next Christmas he would be home, with the love of his life, tangled up with her in his favorite old pajamas.
Your eyes must have fluttered closed because the next time you opened them, she was stirring next to you, swiping the hair out of your face.
“Well, hello…” you groaned.
“Good morning lover. It’s Christmas Eve…” she grinned.
“Mmm, that it is. Did you have fun last night?” you asked, clearing your throat.
“More fun than I’ve had in a long time. Did you?” she asks.
“Oh yeah, definitely a story for the kids one day…” you laugh, but a flash of panic washes over you when you realize what you’d said. You sit up, and rub your chin, “Anyways, what do you want to do today?”
A pink blush had crept over her cheeks, “Well, I have to wrap a few gifts, and I told your mom I would help her bake. I think my parents are coming over later tonight too. What do you have planned?” she asks.
“Not much, just need to finish up a few things, wrap a few presents. Then I have a long standing tradition of helping my dad with the mulled wine…” you answer.
“Oh my gosh, I haven’t had that in years!” she says.
“None last year?” you ask.
“They didn’t make it last year. Haven't made it really at…all…since…” she trails off.
You wrap your arms around her and pull her in for a kiss, “Damnit. Well, we will have it this year. All you want.”
A few hours later, you watch from the couch as she sneaks down the stairs with her perfectly wrapped boxes, piled high in her arms.
“Need some help, sugar?” you call up to her.
“Nope! You stay there, and no peeking.” she giggles.
She makes her way over to the trimmed tree, and distributes the gifts underneath.
“I thought Santa was supposed to come tonight?” you ask, cheekily.
She pops her hip out and places her hand on her waist, “Aren’t you a little old to still believe in Santa…”
You laugh and shake your head, “Anything I can do to help?” you ask.
“No, just make sure you pour a little extra Brandy into the wine tonight...” she winks, returning back up the stairs.
Josh joins you on the couch, after completing his last minute errands, finishing out the end of the movie you were half paying attention to.
“Did you finish it?” he asks.
“Finish what?” you reply, turning your attention to him.
He looks over his shoulder, “The notebook?”
“How do you know about that?” you ask.
“Sam told me?” he says, realizing he slipped up.
“Figures. But, yeah, I finished it up this morning when she was down here with mom. Turned out pretty good. I think she will like it. I know it’s cheesy or whatever, but…I think it was always meant to belong to her.” you say.
“Goddamn Jake, you have gone completely soft.” he quips.
You throw a pillow at him, to which he returns with another pillow in your direction.
“Boys!” your mom calls from the kitchen, hearing the noise flowing out of the room. “Basement or front yard if you’re gonna fight. You know the rules.”
You both laugh and continue to silently throw pillows at each other, trying to see who would crack first.
After a few minutes, your mom peeked her head around the corner, and both of you immediately stopped, “And by the way…I’m happy you’re home.”
You watched as your dad poured the dark red wine into mugs with the ladle, as you added the orange slices and cinnamon sticks to each one. You grabbed two of the warm mugs and made your way out into the living room, seeing everyone talking and laughing on the couch. You began distributing the fragrant wine to those who wanted it, and after a few minutes everyone was sipping away at the festive beverage.
You took your place next to Y/N on the couch, wrapping your arm over her shoulders as she leaned into you. ‘White Christmas’ was playing in the background, arguably your favorite Christmas movie, but you hadn’t seen it in a few years. Never really feeling the Christmas spirit, home alone. The fireplace was roaring as you all drank and reminisced on years past. The house was filled with love and laughter for the first time in years, and as you glanced out the window you watched the snow start to fall.
You leaned over, and whispered into her ear, “Look, it’s snowing again…”
“Didn’t you get enough of the snow last night?” she giggled, cheeks pink from the wine.
“You know, it’s something I never thought I would miss, but being here at Christmas with snow falling just seems…right. Want to soak it in before we go back to Nashville.”
A while later after another round of drinks, and a heartfelt round of goodbyes, and see you tomorrows, everyone is making their way home before the snow gets much worse. As the door shuts behind them, you all return to the kitchen, standing around making plans for tomorrow.
Y/N makes her way into your arms, clearly feeling the alcohol in her system, as she wraps her arms around your waist, “I want to make a snow angel…” she giggles into your neck.
“What are we waiting on? Let’s go…” you say, grabbing her hand and pulling her towards the door.
You grab your empty mugs and deposit them into the kitchen sink, before grabbing both of your coats from the tree by the door.
No one even notices the two of you slide out the front door, pulling your jackets on, and zipping them closed. The temperature had dropped significantly since this morning, and you were both shivering from the wind.
“Go ahead, you first.” you smile, gesturing to the fresh fluffy snow.
Next thing you know she is laying down into the freshly fallen flakes, gliding her arms and legs to make a perfect snow angel.
“Oh, take a picture!” she says, digging around in her jacket pocket for her phone.
She reaches out to you, and you grab the ice cold device, putting in her password and opening up the camera.
You snap a few photos of her, before joining her on the ground, pulling her close to you and taking a few more. You knew these would be something you would look back on in years to come.
You stand back up, and just as you go to lock the screen of her phone, it buzzes in your hand. Instinctually you look down at the notification, and you furrow your brow as you see the message come across.
9:47pm: Don’t you just love Michigan at Christmas time?
You open the message and block the number, swiftly deleting the text before handing her phone back to her. Luckily the wine had made her a little less aware of her surroundings, granting you enough leeway to delete the evidence of the unwanted message.
You look around for any sign of him, knowing that if he sent that message, he knows exactly where she is. As you look you see nothing but darkness blanketed by snow. Your skin crawls at the thought of him here, watching, and suddenly you want to get out of sight.
“Let’s go inside, baby.” you urge, pulling her up from the ground.
You usher her in through the door, and take her wet coat from her, before making your way upstairs. The both of you change out of your cold wet clothes, opting for warmer, flannel options to warm your bones.
She crawls into bed, with a yawn, hugging the pillow to her chest as she reaches for you.
“I’m sleepy baby…” she yawns, as you pull the comforter up over her shoulders.
“I know sugar, that wine will do that to you.” you laugh, smoothing her hair over her head. Her eyes start to shut, and you kiss her cheek. “I’m going to go down to the basement with Josh, okay? You come down there if you need me. I won't be long though.”
A garbled ‘love you’ leaves her lips, and you smile, knowing that tomorrow you finally get to give her the gift you’ve been working on for weeks.
Leaned back in the recliner, you strum the heavily worn out strings of your dad’s old acoustic, as Josh rambles on about something from the couch.
Sam and Elle joined you for a while, but Elle surrendered to the same fate as Y/N, nearly passing out in Sam’s lap. After promising he would be back after putting her to bed, you and Josh knew better, and you were right. He didn’t return, leaving just you and Josh to burn the midnight oil.
The two of you just existed in this space together, feeding off of each other in a way you always have. You didn’t have to say much, just being near each other was enough. It was harder to come by now that the two of you lived separately, so when the opportunity arose to recharge your batteries together you always took it.
“I’ve been thinking about what you said. About going back to our roots…” he said, quietly.
“Yeah?” you said, turning to look at him.
“I think it's brilliant. I already have ideas swirling around…” he trailed off.
“Can I…play you something?” you ask hesitantly.
He nods, and you sit up a little straighter, playing the beginning notes to a song you wrote months ago.
The melody rang out through the small basement, the emotion palpable with every note. The chords bending and weaving into a delicate string of perfectly placed moments. The bridge tugs on your heart strings, the feeling behind it still so raw and fresh. As you finish out the final few notes, it grows softer until it's complete.
“Fuck Jake… that was…I don’t know what inspired that, but we need to dig deeper and see what else we can get.” he said, struggling to find the words.
“It doesn’t have a name yet. I just know it’s… about her. She caused that one.” you pause. “It’s lived in that notebook for a long time.”
“I think… I would like it to be on the next album. If we do go with the whole roots thing…” you confess.
“Do you have any lyrics in mind, or…��� he asks.
“I haven’t gotten that far yet. How do you find the words to describe the situation I found myself in? How do you put to paper how someone can bring you back to a life you thought you lost? Something you searched for, waited for, never knowing if you’d get it back? Letting lifetimes pass before finally seeing a shred of hope…” you pause.
“I just… have a feeling about this one Josh. I think we need to see it through. You’ve always been able to put the words to my feelings, and I… need you for this one.” you plead.
“You’ve kind of done this with every album…wrote your feelings into a song for her…” he ponders. “Why stop there though?” he laughs.
“What do you mean?” you ask, placing the guitar on the floor.
“Well, how many songs have you written for her? Five, ten, twenty?” he pauses. “What if you went bigger than that?”
“Like, how?” you ask.
“What if you, I don’t know, dedicated the album to her or something…” he rambled.
“I doubt everyone would be on board with that…” you laugh.
“It’s your band Jake. Always has been…” he said.
“I don’t know, I…” you pause. “I love her so much, I can’t stop myself from writing about her. For her. To her…”
“Just think about it. Maybe we don’t even say anything. Maybe we just pick a title that resonates with you. With both of you.” he says, shrugging his shoulders.
“Yeah, maybe. I will think on it.” you reply.
“What better gift than something that will live on long after we are gone….” he says dramatically.
You nod your head. He is right, what better gift than something that will last forever.
A while later you dragged yourself back up the stairs and quietly crawled into bed next to her. She stirred slightly, feeling you join her, and cuddled into your side. You’d grown to love this. Her, attached to your side as you slept. You found yourself feeling almost empty on the nights she wasn't there. Tossing and turning all night without her presence, deeply relishing in the nights she was.
You pulled her closer to you, practically sharing a pillow at this point. Her skin was still warm from the alcohol, and you could feel her breath on your neck as she slept soundly in your arms. You closed your eyes as you held her tight, and for the first time in years, you couldn’t wait to wake up on Christmas morning.
Christmas morning was always your favorite…waking your parents up as early as you were allowed to by sneaking in their room and jumping on their bed until they grabbed you and pulled you under the covers with them.
‘Did Santa come, babygirl?’
‘Yes! And he ate ALL the cookies I left out for him, too!’
Times had changed as you’d gotten older, but you didn’t feel sad about it. You’d planned to spend the next couple of days with your parents to make up for a little lost time.
Waking up on Christmas morning with your love was something new, that felt ancient. You’d woken up with Jake on Christmas this way before, but it still felt innocent back then. Now, it felt real. Waking up any other way wouldn’t be right.
You forced yourself to wake Jake up from his sweet slumber again, the both of you coming to life with a little bit of impatience to get downstairs with everyone.
You poured your coffee as you watched Sam hand out gifts from under the tree one by one, a genuine smile on his face that you hadn’t seen in weeks.
There was a tiny knock on the door as Danny came in, followed by his family and your parents, carrying piles of wrapped boxes and gift bags.
“Merry Christmas, everybody!” More hugs and more coffee, more gifts handed out and more sweet stories being told. It was traditional in the family that everyone opened their gifts individually, so as not to rush through too fast. Karen and Kelly had used this method to keep their young kids from ripping and tearing into presents, and it had stuck around.
“Ok, Josh, you first. This is from me.” You said as you watched him dig into the bag and pull out a long narrow box. He unwrapped it, revealing a whole slew of incense and a brand new burner. “Oh my gosh! Yes! I was almost out! Thank you, Y/N.” He walked over and kissed your head, smelling each stick as he did so.
“It’s from the store at the end of the road, they still hand make them! Oh, check the bottom of the bag.” You said. He pulled out another box and removed the lid. He pulled out a long string of beautifully strung white and tan mala beads. His eyes widened and his jaw dropped. He put it on immediately, adoring the beadwork and the tassel at the bottom. “It’s perfect. Thank you.” His smile seemed to radiate.
Next was Danny. You’d gotten him three vinyl records that you knew he would love, and a new cleaning kit, of which he was very excited about.
“Hell yeah, Y/N! I’ve actually been searching for this one! How did you know?!” He exclaimed, his gorgeous smile making your heart do flip flops.
Elle was next. A brand new pair of sunglasses that looked absolutely perfect sitting on her cherub face, and a piece of paper with a written note. She read it aloud. “This is a voucher for one girls’ trip to visit Helen, Georgia. Whenever you want. Ahhhh!” She stood and ran to you, hugging you hard in her arms. “So we’re really going to go? Just us? We’re gonna have so much fun! I can’t wait to make all the plans, and show you around. Oh man, I’m ready to go!”
Sam’s gift was simple; he’d always been the easiest to shop for. It felt strange, him opening it in front of everyone when you hadn’t really spoken to him in so many weeks. A leather camera strap with some extra rolls of film, a soft old oversized sweater you’d found while thrifting, and last but not least, a necklace with the Aries zodiac sign on a silver chain. You knew he’d love it when you’d seen it at a flea market back over the summer.
“Wow, Y/N. Thanks, girl. These are all excellent.” He sauntered over and gave you a small side hug, very different in comparison to the normal full-body embraces he usually gave you. “Maybe I’ll wear this necklace on tour...”
“You’re welcome Sammy. Yeah, maybe you could.” You gave him a soft smile.
Last but not least, you let Jake open his. Tons of extra art supplies, and a thick navy blue corduroy coat you’d found the day you found Sam’s sweater.
He immediately slipped it on, finding that it fit perfectly, and he would now be ‘wearing it every single day’. You didn’t doubt him.
Lastly, you gave him a circular box with a lid. “Hmm, this is interesting...” he said, inspecting its outside. He slipped the lid off to find a perfectly worn-in black hat, wide brimmed and already looking like it had been to hell and back. His eyes grew wide with excited surprise, and he grabbed it up immediately, sitting it on top of his bed-head hair.
“How’s it look?” He asked the room, turning his head side to side.
“Damn Jake, that looks good. That might be your new signature piece!” Elle said.
“Does it fit okay, babe?” You asked.
“Perfectly, I swear.” He moved his head quickly from side to side. “Thank you, my love. I’m ecstatic about this.” He pecked you on the cheek.
Elle was right, he did look really good in that hat…
Next, Jake handed you a shoebox, all wrapped up in old newspapers, taped haphazardly together and wrapped in a twine bow. So very Jake of him.
The smile on his face as he watched you unwrap it was like a kid waiting for his turn at the ice cream shop, overly giddy and excited to get to the good part.
You lifted the lid off to find more newspaper. You uncovered the contents, finding an old and tattered spiral notebook, the edges torn and ratty, things sticking out of the sides, and the thickness way more than a normal notebook should be. It looked fragile, and you were scared to touch it.
“Get it out of there babe! Take a look!” He said, shaking the box. You were sure it would disintegrate into a million pieces at the slightest touch, but you persevered anyway.
It looked like a normal notebook you would have had in middle school history class, full of notes and doodles, but the red outside cover had been ripped in half at some point, and taped back together with black electrical tape. There was a circular stain of some kind on the front, like a cup of coffee had leaked over the edges of a mug and set directly on top of the notebook. The metal spiral was bent, and had come unspun a little bit from its holes in the paper. The initials ‘JTK’ were drawn on the front in black ink pen, and there were tons of tiny scribbled little dipper constellations all over the back cardboard.
You looked at Jake with a puzzled expression, unsure of what to think.
“You don’t have to look through it all right now, but you can skim through…I’ve had this notebook for as long as I can physically remember. It’s where I first started writing songs, and guess who my muse was? Remember that book full of songs I told you about? This is it.” He peered at you from the tops of his eyes, his black hat still perched perfectly on his head.
You smiled shyly, slowly flipping through the pages of written sheet music, pencil sketches, lyrics, poems, and clippings from magazines. You flipped to a page with an old dried up flower stem, gently taped right on the inner edge of a page.
“Jake, no way. Is this…”
“Oh, yeah. The daisy that fell out of your hair that day we jumped in the lake, where we remembered we used to play ‘she loves me’...” He answered.
“Oh my god, you kept it? How in the world–” you were completely stunned he was able to swim back to shore, and keep it in his possession after all this time.
“It didn’t have any petals left, so I just tucked it behind my ear, and put it in my car when we went back. It rode on my dashboard for a long time until I could get it back to this book.” He explained.
Everyone had diverted to their own conversations at this point, giving you some privacy.
“Jake, this seems…really personal…are you sure you…” you asked, feeling like you were reading his private diary.
“Yes, I’m sure. There are probably twenty five songs written in there, more or less. Some of them are complete, some aren’t. Some are on our albums…” he smiled hard at you at that last part. “This is where it all started, and I want you to have it. I can play you some of them when we get back to Nashville.”
You grinned from ear to ear. “Wow, Jake, this is…so perfect and so meaningful...thank you...” you felt overwhelming emotion come over you, as you sat there and opened what was basically his heart, right there in a cardboard box.
“Here, check this out.” He flipped to near the back of the book, landing on a few pages with photographs glued in.
“This is the first one I ever had of us when we fell asleep in the basement all those years ago. It sat on my desk in my room for ages, until we went on tour and I kept it with me. That’s why it’s all ripped and bent…then I brought it home and glued it in here. Seems like it needed to live in this book.”
You smiled as he flipped the page, his fingers confidently turning the paper between them.
“This one is the one Sam took of us in Chicago. Remember, we weren’t speaking when he took it?” He laughed.
“Yeah, then you took my pinky and told me you still loved me...I almost passed out after he snapped the photo.” You admitted through a laugh.
“Well, you look happy, at least.” He smiled. “This one is the most recent of when we fell asleep on the couch together again on the 4th…thought it was cute it was on the same couch as the older photo. Like time repeated itself.”
“This one is of a rainbow I literally pulled the car over to take a photo of, the day we left to drive back home for the Fourth of July. I hadn’t been up that early in ages, and it made me think of you. I didn’t even know you were coming back home, too, remember?” He asked, his mouth close to your ear now.
“Yes, you got so mad at Sam.” You laughed.
“I did...” he laughed too. “These are just some random ones of flowers and dewy leaves from my morning coffee walks in my yard...”
“Your what?” You asked.
“I like to go outside early in the mornings and walk around and see what cool things I can find while I have my coffee. Started doing that right before we went on tour...the rainbow was a bit of inspiration…” he went on.
“We can look through the rest later. There’s probably a million stories in here. I’ll tell you all about them one day.” He put his hand up to brush your hair, giving you a genuine smile.
“Jake, this is truly the best. Thank you, babe.” You said, bringing him in for a tight embrace. “I love it so much.”
After everyone had opened every gift and drank way too much coffee, things started to die down as everyone sat gathered in the living room, sprawled on the couches and all over the floor.
“What a perfect Christmas. All my kiddos and friends in one place again…I didn’t think we’d have this until we had little grand babies running around!” Karen said, cuddling into Kelly on the loveseat. You felt yourself blush at her words.
“Oh, wait! I forgot one thing.” Sam said, springing up from his seat on the floor and running into the next room, returning quickly with his hands behind his back. He walked over to Elle, sitting back down on the floor in front of her, and pausing to meet her eyes. A silence fell over the room as everyone watched his actions.
He slowly pulled his hands from behind him, presenting her with a tiny cardboard box with a red bow on top.
“What’s this, Sammy?” She asked him, sitting up to take the box.
“Just open it...” he said, watching her with hope in his eyes.
She slowly and gently took the lid off of the box, wrapping her fingers around a small gold object that sat inside.
Her mouth fell open as she looked up to him, tears filling her eyes.
“It’s a key to my house. I…want you to move in with me. If you want to, of course…” he said bashfully.
She stared at him with her jaw on the floor for what felt like an eternity while the rest of the room held their breath waiting for her response. In seconds, she had her arms wrapped hard around his neck, pushing him backwards as she peppered his face with kisses.
You felt your heart swell with pride for them, but also felt a twinge of something else…you flicked your eyes to meet Jake’s, but he was already looking at you. He held your gaze while the two of you silently spoke, your heads both filling with wild aspirations that you prayed one day would come to life.
“Of course I want to move in with you, dummy.” She said through a laugh. You watched as your two best friends looked at each other with more love and admiration than you’d ever seen either of them have for one another.
Finally Sam was standing up for her, making big moves in his life, and you had never been more proud.
Later that night you took your seat at the table next to Jake, flanked by Elle, and the rest of the ever expanding group of people you called your family. This Christmas had been one of the greatest you’d ever spent around this table. The love that filled the room was undeniable and you found yourself basking in the warm and comforting feeling swirling through air as laughter rang through the house.
Much of the dinner was spent with Jake’s hand resting on your leg, his thumb swirling patterns into the sheer black tights. You would occasionally rest your hand on his, feeling his fingers grasp into yours as he spoke of plans for tour, new music, and the like. His brothers joining in jovially, assisted by the ever flowing bottles of wine being passed around the table.
As dinner came to an end, you could feel the warmth in your cheeks, and you could see it in his. The perfect red blush painting the apples of his cheeks. His lips slightly stained and his eyes glossy.
Everyone began to make their way back to the living room to continue their conversations around the tree, but as you stood, Jake grabbed your hand and leaned into your ear, “Come with me…”
You followed him through the dining room, through the kitchen and to the back door. He grabbed your coat and held it up for you to slide into, before pulling on his own. He opened the back door, and you both slid out into the cold Michigan air.
“What are we doing out here?” you asked, gripping your hand into his.
“I have one more gift for you…” he answered, blinking slowly. “But this one isn’t shared. This one is just for us.”
“Wasn’t the last one just for us?” you asked.
“I mean, yes. But They all knew about it. I didn’t tell anyone about this. Only you and me.” he replies.
He removes his hand from yours, and pulls out his phone, flicking through the pages of apps, until he finds the one he is looking for. Opening it as secretly as he can, you watch his warm breath swirl into the cold air.
“Okay, here we go.” he says, looking up into the sky. He grabs your waist and spins you around to face away from him. He pulls you backwards and rests his chin on your shoulder as he brings the phone in front of you. As you glance down to look at the phone you see a screen with coordinates.
“Can you find it? Where is our little dipper?” he asks, directing you to look up at the sky.
You both spin around looking for it, and you catch sight of it. “It’s right there!” you say pointing to the cluster of stars.
“Okay, now…” he pauses, holding his phone camera up towards the sky. The screen refreshes and zeros in on an area. “Do you see that? Let me double check…” he says, referencing his phone.
“Okay, yeah, that’s it.” he says excitedly.
“What?” you ask, confused.
“Look at the tail of the little dipper. Count over four places, then down, one, two…” he says, pointing at a glowing white star, almost flickering in the dark sky.
“Yeah? I see it…” you ask.
“It’s yours. I bought it for you.” he whispers into your ear.
“You what?!” you ask, spinning to face him, eyes quickly looking back to the sparkling sky.
“It’s yours. All yours. I…bought it for you. The closest one to the little dipper I could find. I have the paperwork, and regist–” you cut him off, pressing your lips to his, ice cold from the frigid air.
A single tear sneaks out of your eye as you let the feelings rush over you as you pull away from his lips. “You–You bought me a star? Jake…” you cry. “I–I don’t even know what to say…I…”
“They would all be yours, if I could…Maybe I can’t catch them for you, but I can give you one to call your own.”
“Ours.” you correct, a small smile forming on his lips.
“I know it’s not something you can hold in your hand, but…I just thought…” he trails off.
“Jake…I love it. It’s the best gift I have ever gotten. You’re so…thoughtful, you know that?” you said, another tear falling from your lashes.
“Don’t cry…” he begs.
“It’s happy tears. I just can’t believe I get to love someone like you. There’s no one I would rather share this life with. I’m really so thankful I’ve gotten to wake up to you these past few days…” you say, blinking back the tears.
“I can’t believe I get to love you. Merry Christmas my love.” he replies, kissing your cold hands. “And, you know… you can wake up to me every morning, back home, if you want.”
You turned in his arms and as you both stared up at the twinkling star, your thoughts drifted back to the other morning and the comment that slipped from his lips.
“I know…Jake?” you breathed.
“Hmm?” he hummed in response.
“Did you…mean to say that… the other morning? About…telling your kids stories?” you asked nervously.
“Why do you ask?” he questions.
“Well…I just thought…I don’t know. I guess I just never imagined you wanting kids.” you replied.
“Honestly, I never really saw that life for myself. Figured I would be ‘the eternal bachelor’. I’d have my music and my brothers and that would be enough to get me through. But, recently…I have been feeling like that won't ever be enough. Not now that I have you. I want everything with you. Whatever you want, I’ll give you. But I only want that with you. So, I guess what I’m saying is, yes. I did mean it. Not right now, but someday.” he answers.
You smiled at him and nodded your head, “Someday…” you whispered, the wind carrying your words off into the perfect sparkling night.
The drive home left you all weary and ready to sleep in your own beds. Returning to Tennessee was a drastic change in climate. While it was still cold in Nashville, it was nowhere near as cold as Frankenmuth. You had to admit you were growing more accustomed to the southern temperatures.
You spent a few days home by yourself after you all returned, just lounging and watching your favorite movies, with no one to interrupt or give their opinions. A rain storm had moved through, providing the perfect ambiance as you pressed play on the remote. The score began to play in the background as you relaxed into the plush cushions of your couch.
Thunder rumbled in the distance and the trees swayed outside of the windows, a sense of calm washed over you, but that would be short lived as your phone began to vibrate on the pillow next to you.
You picked up your phone and flipped it over to reveal a familiar name on the screen. You slide your finger across the screen and held the phone up to your ear.
“Hey Allison! Long time no talk! How are you? How was your holiday?” you asked, cheerfully.
“Hey…Josh. It was good, it was good. Hey, I…just need to speak with you…I have the unfortunate job of calling you with some news.” she said, hesitation in her voice.
You sat up straight from the couch, resting your elbows on your knees as you listened.
“Sadly, the board has come to the decision that Y/N’s employment with us will be terminated effective next week. We will have to deny the request paperwork you sent in back in October.”
“I’m sorry what, now?” you ask, heart pumping out of your chest.
“Well, it was brought to our attention that she has been in non professional relations with one of your band members...And as you know, that is against our company policy and in direct breach of the contract she signed.” she says.
It’s exactly what she was afraid of.
You are unable to find the words to speak, your mouth suddenly dry. “I–I…It came to your attention?” you ask, confused.
“We were… provided with undeniable evidence… that she was in fact breaching her contract with someone on your team, yes.” she answers.
“Allison, it’s Jake…He and Y/N…they… we have known each other our whole lives… it’s not what you think… They–they’ve been…” you stammer.
“The manner in which it manifested is unfortunate, I’ll agree. If Y/N had been up front about their relationship in the beginning maybe the contract could have been altered…things could have been different. But unfortunately that is not the case, and now, the board has to take action to find a resolution so that all parties are taken care of. Because of this decision, that means we will be actively looking for a new coordinator for you. If there’s anyone else yo–”
“No. It’s her. It has to be her, Allison.” you say, cutting her off.
“Josh. I’m sorry…The board has made their decision and the paperwork is done. We will be letting her know next week.” she says.
“No, please. There has to be some way to fix this… If they can just explain…” you beg.
“Josh, I’m sorry, there really isn’t anything you can say.” she explains.
“Who else knows? Has anyone spoken to Jake…” you ask.
“No, you were our first call.” she says.
You let out a grateful sigh, “I see, well. Let me tell Jake, if you don’t mind.” you ask.
“Sure, and listen Josh, I’m really sorry. I really liked Y/N, unfortunately rules are rules, and in a business like this, they exist for a reason. I will be in contact with you next week to go over a few new potential coordinators.” she says.
“Great.” you quip.
“Talk to you then, bye bye.” she says, ending the call.
You threw your phone to the end of the couch, cursing into the air.
Your mind was spinning. You were pissed off, confused, and defensive. How could this have gotten this far? This is exactly what she always feared, and it was actually happening.
You couldn’t let it happen. You had to take matters into your own hands. You quickly retrieved your phone, pulling up the contacts to get back to the correct chain of command. You decided to skip right over all the reps, and go straight for HR. You hoped they knew who you were.
After buzzing through a couple of transferred calls, the phone rang out to the head of HR for the company. You cleared your voice as you stood from the couch, and began pacing around the house.
A voice picked up on the other end.
“Hello, this is Johnathon Myers, how can I help you?”
“Hello Johnathon, my name is Joshua Kiszka, I’m with Greta Van Fleet, one of the bands that your company works with. How are you today?”
It was silent for a beat. “I’m good, Joshua, thanks. Uh, I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I’ve gotten a direct phone call from a band member in a very long time…I know who you are...Is there something I can help you with?” he asks.
Nerves coursed through your body. You cleared your voice again, “Well, I hope so, sir. You see, it’s come to my attention that our on-site tour coordinator that I specifically requested is being fired. Um, I’m not sure if you’ve heard...”
“I have been made aware of that situation, yes.” he answers, shortly.
“I was calling to see if there was anything you could do, anything I could do to change that decision, and keep her with us.” you ask.
“Well Josh, I know you know why we made the decision to terminate her employment, she breached her signed contract and broke company policy by fraternizing with a band member. It’s not something we tolerate as professionalism and we were forced to come to a resolution.” he says.
“I understand that sir, but… I’d like to explain that she did excellent work for us, Mr. Myers. She never missed a beat, kept us all on track, truly one of the best coordinators we’ve had thus far, it’s not an easy job, I’m sure you know, and the situation between her and Jake is more complex than it seems.” you continued.
You heard him sigh on the other end of the line as you tried plead your case.
“I fully understand and respect your policies, sir-” you start.
“But she didn’t.” He interrupted you. “We have photo evidence, Joshua.”
You thought for a second. “Photo evidence? Of what? From who?”
“The two of them together while on tour when she should have been staying in the assigned crew lodging. Your photographer turned in photos of her and your brother acting…unprofessionally, from as far back as September.” He replied, aggravation growing in his voice. “Listen, I’m really not even supposed to be talking to you about this, but you’re our main point of contact, so just know she will be notified soon. I’m truly sorry you’re losing a good coordinator, but my hands are tied. I’m just doing my job. The paperwork has been signed.”
“So there’s nothing I can do?” You asked, feeling extreme defeat, your heart racing.
“I’m sorry, there isn’t. Please contact me at any time if you have any other questions concerning the band. Have a good day, Mr. Kiszka.” The line clicked.
“Thanks…” you said to no one.
Fuck. You dipped your head low into your hands and fell back on your couch. She is going to be devastated.
You sat for a few minutes racking your brain. You got the idea to call Danny, knowing that he was always the voice of reason. You clicked his contact and waited for him to pick up.
“Hello?” his voice rang through the line.
“Hey, you wanna go get an early dinner? I’m starving. And I need to talk to you about something.” you reply.
“Yeah, man. Sure. Give me half an hour?” he asks.
“I’ll pick you up.”
Forty-five minutes later you and Danny were waltzing into the tiny backstreet restaurant, one that you’ve found you can hide away from fans fairly easily.
You made small talk, asking how things were going after getting back home from Michigan. But as the conversation reached a lull, you sat back with a sigh.
“Alright, what did you need to talk to me about?” Danny asked as he leaned one arm over the back of his chair and sipped his cocktail with the other.
You leaned back forward, folding your hands on the table.
“They’re firing Y/N.” You said quietly.
He nearly spit out his drink. “What?! Why? You’re kidding me!”
“No. They called me and told me she breached her contract by being with Jake.” You replied.
“Shit man. This is what she was terrified would happen. Damnit.” He said, shaking his head. “Is there anything we can do?”
“I already tried. I went straight to HR, to the top of the food chain. Nothing I could say helped.” You said.
“So she doesn’t know yet? Jake doesn’t know?” He asked.
“No, not yet.” You replied, defeat and guilt filling your gut.
Danny sighed deeply, putting his face in his hands. “So this is why she hasn’t gotten her next assignment yet, huh.” he asks, voice thick with realization.
You nodded. The two of you were silent for a few minutes while you picked at your food, suddenly losing your appetite.
Danny pushed his plate away. “Wait, how did they get proof? Don’t they need solid evidence?”
“Yeah, he told me they have photo evidence of them acting unprofessionally while we were on tour, just the two of them, I guess. I don’t know.” You said.
“Photos? So… Summer took those photos?! With her company owned camera? You’re telling me she…followed them whenever they were acting ‘unprofessionally’, and took photos of them without their immediate consent? Without their knowledge?” He said, dumbfounded.
You hadn’t quite thought about it like that. “Yeah, shit. I guess you’re right. It would’ve had to of been her…what a sheisty…” you bit back your words.
“Yeah Josh, she was… kind of a bitch. Hitting on Jake like that all the time in front of everyone…She physically touched him more times than I could count. But Y/N is the one getting fired? Sounds like some petty jealousy bullshit to me.” He spat, crossing his arms across his chest. “I’m telling you right now that when they learn about this, Jake will want to see those photos.”
You nodded. “Yeah, fuck, he definitely will. What should we do, should we… tell them? I don’t know…”
He shook his head side to side. “I mean, yeah, I think we should, but we’ve got to–” he stopped talking, quickly whipping his head to look out the window to the street. He stood up quickly from his chair, almost knocking it backwards. He made a mad dash to the front door, with you on his heels.
“Daniel, what? What is it?!” You called from behind him. “Where are you going?”
He continued out the front doors, and turned to look down the street. You pushed through the double doors, finding him a few buildings down already.
“Where the fuck?!” He held his arms up in question, spinning around. You were walking to him still confused as ever, you could hardly keep up with him.
He kept walking, then suddenly darted right down an alley. You took off in a full on sprint following after him. Next thing you knew, you heard his voice, threatening and loud echoing off the sides of the brick buildings surrounding you.
“Hey, motherfucker! Turn around! Come back here...” Danny yelled. When you finally caught up to him, you looked down the alleyway to find it blocked off by a fence and dumpsters.
And there standing in front of it all, was Andy.
You watched as Danny walked toward him quickly, bowing up and confronting him.
“Stop fucking running from me, you coward! Turn around and talk, I just want to talk.” Danny said.
You made your way to stand beside him. “Oh well… if it isn’t my sister in law’s stalker! Back again to follow us around, asshole?” You said, nerves coming into your throat as your spat, you could feel the rage flowing off of Danny’s body onto your own. You’d both been waiting for this.
Andy stood silently with his hands in his pockets, just looking at the two of you. “Hey, fellas.” He finally spoke, smiling and showing his teeth. “What a pleasure seeing you here in my new hometown! In an alleyway, nonetheless. If I would have known I’d been seeing you in such a rough part of town, I would have dressed nicer, being in the presence of rock and roll royalty.” He seethed, laughing to himself.
“Shut the fuck up, man. We know you’ve been following her...we’ve seen you at shows all over the country. So, do you have a problem or are you just turning into that big of a fan, hm?” Danny said, stepping closer, meeting his energy.
Andy stepped closer to him, not needing to crane his neck much to meet him, as they were about the same height.
“You’re making an awfully serious accusation my friend...stalker? That seems like a really big word…” Andy said in an almost whisper.
“Yeah, stalker. We’ve fucking seen you. We aren’t stupid. We know what you did to her all those years ago, so don’t play fucking dumb.” You added, trying to break him down.
“You’re right Josh, it takes one hell of a man to put his hands on a woman over and over…no matter how much she asked him to stop...” Danny added, putting his face dangerously close to Andy’s.
Andy stepped backwards, calm and cool as ever, laughing to himself, “It’s really cute watching you two come at me in an empty alleyway without your scrapper brother Jake here to defend you. How is his hand these days, anyway?”
Danny stepped toward him again, forcing his back into the dumpster. “Oh, you son of a bitch... I am not scared of you...you best believe that.” Danny said through his teeth. You could feel the situation heating up, and you were half tempted to let it continue.
Andy clicked his tongue, “Tsk tsk, you going to put your hands on me now, Danny? That wouldn’t be a good look for your pretty little drummer image. And I know Jake wouldn’t be too happy to hear about that either. Does Y/N know I’ve been coming to your shows? I really am starting to become quite a fan…speaking of Y/N, how are her nightmares? Haven’t heard her screaming in quite some time…”
Danny couldn’t take it, he shoved his back into the dumpster even harder, practically begging him to react. “You really are just fucking crazy, aren’t you?”
Andy lurched back, shoving Danny backwards. “How’s the single life, Daniel? You enjoying fucking around Nashville?”
Danny came at him again, forcefully shoving his shoulders back. “How the fuck would you know about that? What else do you know, huh? Tell me what else…”
Andy stumbled forward at the counter effect, pushing into Danny’s chest. You remembered the night in the bar, that Andy could fight. But, Danny could too.
“Hey, stop it Daniel! He’s just trying to get into your head! You’re giving him what he wants…” you yelled.
Danny stumbled backward at the force, and finally snapped. They began fighting, an almost exact replay of that night in the bar. You jumped between them, trying your best to pull them apart but not having any luck. They fell to the wet ground in a fit of fists. It was blurry and quick, but Danny held his own, having just a bit more reach and stronger arms than Andy. You caught sight of Danny’s face at one point, covered in blood and a busted lip.
“Tell me what the fuck else you know! Why are you here?! What do you fuckin’ want?!” Danny yelled, looking as though he was trying to end the fight and hold Andy back.
“I know a hell of a lot more than you think…” Andy said, finally standing up and separating himself from Danny’s hold. Quickly, Andy reached in his pocket and flipped a shiny silver object out, wielding it directly toward Danny, within inches of his throat. “…But I really don’t think you want to find out, do you Daniel?”
Danny stepped back at the sight of the knife. “You really are a fucking child, aren’t you Andy?” He wiped the blood off his lip as you stepped between the two of them again, holding your hands up to them both to attempt to de-escalate the situation.
“We’re fine Josh, he won’t do anything with that knife. He isn’t that stupid.” Danny said as he spat blood on the ground in front of him, both of them panting and out of breath. Andy’s eye was already blackened and his cheeks were scuffed and bleeding from rolling on the asphalt.
“Just leave our families the fuck alone, do you hear me? Stay away from us, or we’re going to be forced to do something a lot more drastic than this... Fuck, we probably already should have...” You said as you took Danny’s arm pulling him as you began to walk away.
Danny walked backwards watching him as the two of you made it back out of the alleyway, seeing Andy hop up a few stairs, open a door on the side of a building, and begin to make his way inside.
“Oh, and uh, hey…” Andy called back to the two of you, “Enjoy Y/N as much as you can... Your time with her is… limited.”
And with that, he threw his head back in laughter and disappeared into the building.
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