"Sign in the places marked with an X, and then I can get this form back to the court."
Jinxx did as he was told. He'd already caused Sammi enough grief, he wasn't about to create a fuss about the annulment he had initiated. He didn't know how to explain to her that he did love her, Ashley was just an addiction he could not and did not want to quit. His feelings for his short term wife had never been false. If he tried to voice all that though she'd probably end up despising him, whereas right now she only hated him.
Sammi Doll had had the perfect wedding, filled with all her friends and family and the man of her dreams. If only she hadn't invited Ashley Purdy, maybe things would be different now. He wouldn't have broken up with poor Andy in the middle of the reception, causing a massive scene. He wouldn't have kissed her husband and her husband wouldn't have kissed back. Andy wouldn't have seen and come running to her to tell her the grisly details. Sammi held no anger for Andy for doing that, but part of her really wished he'd left her ignorant. If he had, maybe she wouldn't be about to lose Jinxx.
There was no point thinking of ifs and buts though. That was almost three months ago, before she'd confronted Jinxx about who he really loved, before she started filing for voiding their marriage, before she'd had to go on her honeymoon alone.
Jinxx handed her back the legal document, sealing his fate. She snatched it from his grasp and folded it neatly back into her handbag and got up to leave.
"Sammi," Jinxx started, pain clear in his voice. It broke her heart, but she didn't let that show on her face.
Sammi glanced around the tiny one room apartment. It was filthy, the single bed shared by two unwashed and unkempt, the paint peeling off the walls, the ceiling stained by years of sordid deeds from different tenants. It was disgusting, she felt violated by just popping her head in for ten minutes.
"You should get another place, Jinxx," she said without emotion. "Even cockroaches deserve better than this." She hadn't meant it to come out like that and regretted saying it immediately, but she refused to backpedal.
A lump formed in Jinxx's throat that wouldn't let him speak. He just nodded, staring at the woman he'd pictured being with for the rest of his life, raising a family with, growing old with.
"Ok," was all she said knowing she was likely to choke if she spoke another word and turned, walking out briskly.
Jinxx stared at the space where she'd been long after she was gone. He felt numb. Numb and the exact opposite all at once. His heart was breaking, that he knew well enough. He just couldn't get it right could he? First of all he'd thrown Ashley out of his life for Sammi Doll, and now he was doing the same with the roles reversed. What was the common denominator then? Him. He was just a screw up; he didn't deserve either of them. Two of the most amazing people he'd ever met, he'd alienated one from all their friends and now he was like as to never see the other again.
He blamed himself for all of it. Andy would have gotten over his break up with Ashley eventually and nothing terrible would have happened, except maybe Ashley getting shit faced drunk and sleeping with far more than his fair share of women. Instead he went and got back with Ashley, breaking Sammi's heart, crushing Andy, making Ashley a true outlaw, and throwing the fate of Black Veil Brides into jeopardy.
And the really awful part? It was only when he was on his own and allowed himself to brood that he felt bad. Whenever Ashley was around, he couldn't care less.
Jake was trying to strum out a few new chords on his guitar that might have the makings of a new song, but he was finding it quite impossible. He hadn't seen his usual writing partner since his fiasco of a wedding, the lyricist and bassist that could often inspire him or assist him had been at the studio maybe twice between them in the past two months and never together. And as for Christian Coma, well he was sitting playing the drums with a spork and a ladle conjured from lord only knows where on the mixing desk. It was both extremely irritating and unimaginably distracting, but in all honesty Jake didn't mind. He didn't want to write for a band he didn't even know the fate of, when he and Chris seemed to be the only two who still cared, and for another thing, the drummer was far too adorable to be mad at.
CC looked from his drumming, which he was too lost in thought to have been paying attention to, and swivelled his chair around to smile at Jake, who he could feel watching him, not that he minded particularly. If relationships didn't seem a dangerous business right then, and of course if he were braver when it came to such things, he wouldn't hesitate to ask the fluffy haired guitarist out for drinks…or maybe more. As it was though, they were still two friends, smiling awkwardly at each other, wondering if their other friends would ever reappear.
Jake opened his mouth to say something, but before he could the door swung open and in strode Ashley Purdy, bear claw in his mouth, bass strapped on his back, three pack of coffee in one hand, a loose cardboard cup in the other. His foot was raised from where he'd kicked the door and he stumbled as he made his way to set the coffees down on the sound board and shucked his instrument. He took a bite out of the pastry, removed it from his mouth and said a simple "hey" once he'd swallowed.
"Howdy stranger," Jake replied, giving him a weird look. "What brings you to this neck of the woods?"
Ashley gestured with his donut. "Music, band, you know, that stuff. What're we doing today?"
"Jake's swearing at his guitar and I'm doing my famous cutlery solo," CC said. "We haven't seen you in weeks Ash."
"Yeah well," he sighed, sitting down. "Things have been pretty hectic, Jinxx is pulling out his hair and we've been looking for another place to live because my sex dungeon wasn't really made for two…for any length of time that is. I may have just found a place though, pretty nice, much bigger, close to here, so that's good. House hunting though, not my strong suit."
"Hey that's great," Jake grinned, trying to at least make the effort to bring the alienated member back into the fold. "So is Jinxx coming down then? You've got an extra coffee cup and I could really use a hand in the composition…"
Ashley just shook his head. "Sammi's bringing the legal papers for him to sign today."
"Oh," Jake and CC said as one with a sharp intake of breath, their eyes going saucer wide. The official end to Jinxx and Sammi Doll, the world's most perfect couple, or so they'd all thought. They'd both guessed it was going to happen as soon they'd heard he was back with Ashley, but there was a difference between speculation and the actual event. And this was a pretty scary event in all honesty.
Ashley sighed in agreement; it was hard for him to take in too. The tables were now turned, but he knew Sammi, he hadn't all those years ago when he'd wished for exactly what was happening now. He didn't want the girl hurt, even if he had been the one to hurt her. He never wanted to loose Jinxx again, so he could understand how she felt. The guilt somewhat outweighed his happiness. He wasn't about to go back though.
"The other cup's for Andy," he said, in an attempt to change the topic. "I thought he might be here?"
Jake frowned. "We've seen less of him than we have of you. I think the last time was three weeks ago. You haven't heard from him?"
"No," Ashley murmured, fear for the young man taking the place of all his guilt for a second. He knew he'd hurt Andy, and he felt terrible for it, but he thought he would've bounced back by now, at least enough to get out of bed for the band that meant more to him than anything. Where could he be?
There was no point thinking about that though; Andy didn't want anything to do with him, so he wouldn't pry. He was just going to try and make as much out of this situation as he could.
"You know Jake," he started slowly, nervously. "I could probably give you a hand with what you're working on."
Jake beamed and beckoned him over. Ashley's face lit up and soon a tirade of musical jargon started between the two with the sound of strummed guitar and bass notes and scribbling pencils the undercurrent. CC, bored of his variations on the spoon, joined them and it was just like old times again. Almost.
"Oh yes, there, there!" the blonde screamed in the back of the club.
Tonight they hadn't even made it back to Andy's house, which was probably good because he was almost sure there was still a little someone left over from last night there. He preferred not being home anyway, that place was filled with far too many memories.
He'd lost track of the days a while ago, because nights were all that mattered now. Nights no longer had names either, just the faces of assorted women, none of whom meant anything to him, none of whom were Ashley. It was ok though; he meant nothing to these women either, generally they were much older than him and just looking for some nubile young thing to play with for a while. That suited Andy fine, if Ashley could do it why couldn't he?
Tonight was buxom and blonde, wearing a fair few pounds of foundation over a lined face, and clubbing clothes at least three sizes too small. She thought she was her daughter, and at home her daughter was convinced she may as well be her mother. She had no idea who Andy was, only that he was very young, very attractive, and far too easy.
Then again it was hard to recognise Andy from what he'd been mere months before. His face was worn and tired, the once flawless skin haggard and finally showing the effects of his long term chain smoking, which had increased tenfold. Bones jutted out from under his fading flesh, you could not only count his ribs, you could see where they had been broken. He still wore leather, but it was in an attempt to whore himself out and the last of his t-shirts were gone to the ages. Of course all he wore right now was a torn leather jacket and his trousers round his ankles, and that really was his trademark outfit.
Sex gave him no pleasure though, he didn't know how Ashley had done it for so long, using it to block out everything else, because all it did for Andy was make everything far more clear. He hated what he'd become, but he couldn't get out of this rut, for fear of what all his old friends would think and say. He just grunted as he released his seed inside this woman twice his age, though her earsplittingly high shriek was enough for the two of them. He exited and pulled up the tight leather pants again, before leaving without saying a word.
This club was one of the seediest he'd been in yet. There were multiple couples in different stages of undress all along the outer walls, and on the dance floor for that matter. Shifty looking men and over confident girls moved about, exchanging words easily and swapping pills for money with a slight of the hand. The bar sold a large array of different poisons, but they all seemed to either taste like piss or turpentine. Andy ordered one of the piss flavoured shots and sat at the bar, staring into the filthy glass in front of him.
On the wall behind the till were plastered a dog eared collection of show posters. To his surprise one of the more visible ones sported a group shot of Black Veil Brides from before their first record. There was no Christian or Jake, and no Jinxx, which he was grateful of. If he had to see Jinxx right now he'd probably want to rip his throat out, which would obviously end in him getting his ass kicked. The only two members still in the band from that picture were him, with his hair long, glossy and black, covered in grubby zombie makeup, and Ashley, looking amazing. Because he always did.
Andy couldn't bring himself to hate Ashley, because the more he tried to, the more he ended up loving him. He channelled all the negative energy towards Jinxx, who had taken his beloved from him, but even that didn't work very well before or after a certain number of drinks. It wasn't Jinxx's fault, who wouldn't want Ashley? He hadn't asked for him back. And he was still Andy's friend, his brother in arms. Protective, quiet, sweet big brother Jinxx.
Really the only person Andy hated was himself.
A girl with a flaming mane of red hair danced up to him. She was wearing an incredibly tight Lycra body suit made to look like blue and green scales. Immediately she was wrapping herself all over him, without his consent or his dissuasion. He simply looked at her then pointed at the poster he'd been studying.
"I'm in that band," he said without emotion, just wanting someone to know his name before his shame.
"Course hun," she drawled, not looking at the poster and held out a little pill on the tip of her baby finger. "First one's on the house, k?"
He took the pill between his thumb and forefinger, studying it. Drugs were the one vice he hadn't given into yet, but why the hell not? He downed it with his shot.
"Oh, Ash, it's perfect," Jinxx gasped, spinning around the main room of their new apartment. It was smallish, one bedroom, kitchen attached to the living room, bathroom petite, but it was all they needed. Everything was painted in warm neutral colours, their bedroom window led out to a balcony, and was furnished, which would save a lot of effort, seeing as almost everything they owned were at the homes they'd shared with their exes. Not only that but the realtor had told them that the person living here before had sound proofed the flat, so they could play their instruments in peace, as well as doing other, uh, noisy things.
"You really like it?" Ashley asked.
"I love it!" Jinxx exclaimed, rushing his boyfriend and pulling him into the tightest hug he could. "When can we move in? Soon? Please say soon!"
Ashley laughed, kissing Jinxx quickly, and went to ask the realtor how long before they could call this place their own.
Jinxx sat down on the cushy sofa, one of those you could just happily sink into and never leave. He stared out the window, watching the city unfold below him. They were on one of highest floors, which suited him fine, he loved the view, it was probably one of the best in Hollywood. It meant the apartment was quite expensive, but between them they could afford it. He was going back to the studio tomorrow; life was going back to normal. If they could just find Andy then maybe everything could be ok. But where Andy was, that was a whole different matter.
Something caught his eye on the roof of a skyscraper across the street. It was shorter than theirs so he had an almost bird's eye view of its top. A small dark figure was standing on it, spinning wildly without stopping. There was something familiar about the person's gait, and Jinxx moved carefully towards the window, trying to get a closer look.
"Two days!" Ashley announced as he strode back into the room. "There's a lot of paperwork that needs sorted, but since the previous tenants have already moved they have no problem with us moving in ASAP!" He caught sight of Jinxx glaring out the window. "What is it?"
Jinxx turned, concentration broken, and shook himself, smiling. "Nothing. Two days? That's brilliant!"
"I know r-" but he was cut off by a set of eager lips and an over excited tongue. Not that he was complaining.
They fell back onto the upholstery and in no time at all were all over each other. Ashley's shirt disappeared off his torso as if by magic and you would swear Jinxx had a pair of ferrets up his for how fast the friendly hands were trying to touch ever part of him. All the while their tongues were locked in a wild battle for domination, Ashley almost choking at one point. Everywhere their skin met there was a feeling of electric pleasure, so soon Jinxx found his jeans slipping lower and lower as Ashley tried to maximise this feeling. Those roaming hands found their favourite spot, the set of firm cheeks, and danced under the waist band of the grey boxers.
"Whoa!" The realtor had just walked in. He looked on in amazement for a second, having not distracted to couple at all from their horizontal tango.
Jinxx was crying out in pleasure, Ashley would have been too if his mouth were now not closed around the skin of his boyfriend's neck, nibbling and sucking.
The poor estate agent shook his head, averting his eyes, and muttering "ah well, it's your living room" and then scribbled down 'slight furniture damage' on his clipboard, smirking to himself and leaving them to it.
Jinxx and Ashley carried on as if they hadn't a care in the world. And at that precise moment they didn't.
Jake jolted out of his catnap with a warbled cry of distress, his mind weirdly automatically jumping to the question where's the fire, where's the fire? He was alone at home today, since there was no point going to the studio when not even CC was going to be there. He couldn't remember the drummer's exact reasons, but the voice in the back of his head told him he didn't really want to. Jake had tried to get up and be productive, but had instead passed out in his armchair after a big lunch. He groaned; he really had to get out more, he was turning into an old man.
He then realised his phone was ringing, which was what had awoken him. It wasn't a ringtone he recognised though… it sounded like barnyard animals.
"Fucking Chris," he sighed, reaching over to answer it. "Y'ello?" he mumbled.
"Jake, it's Sammi Doll," answered a female voice from the other end, sounding irritated and stressed and worried all at the same time. "Could you come round?"
"Uh, I guess," Jake said slowly, rubbing his eyes. "Why?"
"Andy's here," she replied stiffly. "I think he's drunk…or high…or a mixture of everything."
"Aww shit," Jake groaned, getting up and looking round for his shoes and car keys. "Yeah Sam, I'll be there in ten…just…hold on."
"Thanks," but he had already hung up, still half asleep and stumbling out the door towards his car, mind a rush with fear for what Andy had gotten himself into now.
It was lucky the roads were oddly quiet just after the lunch hour rush, or Jake's sleep addled brain would probably have gotten him into a serious accident. As it was, he managed to reach Sammi Doll's house which she had shared with Jinxx up until recently in one piece and hurried up the front path, anxious to get to his brother. The door swung open when he knocked it, which wasn't a good sign. He was careful to make sure it was properly closed after he'd entered, open doors just invited danger. He could hear faint snuffling noises, so he followed their path up the stairs to the master bedroom.
Sammi was sitting on the edge of the bed with Andy's head buried in her chest, rocking him back and forth while making calming cooing noises. Andy lay curled up beside her, whimpering. He looked a state. The clothes he possessed were in tatters and his skin was a sickly grey. He couldn't have eaten in days and he was shaking alarmingly. Shocked, Jake tried to put a brave face on for his friend, moving slowly towards him.
"Hey buddy," he said gently. Andy flinched, trying to hide more. He looked at Sammi. "What happened?"
"He practically knocked my door down," she exclaimed. "He was babbling total nonsense and he chased me up here and tried to overpower me. I kicked him in the fucking balls. He calmed down a little after that, kept apologising to me, and then worked himself into this state."
"Shit," Jake swore. "Are you ok?"
"I'm fine, I can take Andy at the best of times, these are not the best of times," she rolled her eyes and started rubbing calming circles into Andy's back. "I'm not mad or anything, I just think he'd be better in your hands."
"Right," he ran his hands through his tangled hair, blowing air through his lips in awe at the situation. Steeling himself, he knelt down beside the freaking boy.
"Andy?" he coaxed, running a hand softly over his stubbly hair. Andy still refused to look at him. "It's Jake buddy. You don't have to be scared of me."
Andy slowly revealed his face, looking at Jake with huge staring eyes. They were glassy and shiny, the pupils overly dilated, flitting around without proper focus. Shit, he thought, but didn't say it aloud this time, forcing a smile onto his face instead.
"We're going to go to my house, ok?" he asked. "Can you come with me?"
It took Andy so long to make the slight up and down movement of his head that Jake was certain he was far past understanding, but when it did come he offered a hand, which Andy took cautiously. Sammi Doll released him, more than a little relieved and the dishevelled young man sprung from her grasp, latching onto Jake like a lost child. Despite the best efforts of the two, Andy would not loosen his grip, which made a very complicated journey back down the stairs. It was almost comical, since Andy towered over Jake, but no one was laughing. Sammi helped coax him into letting go long enough so he could be safely belted into the front seat of the car. He strained against the bonds and got back to his soft crying, but the door was closed on him.
Jake embraced the girl who had for a time been his sister. He didn't know what they were now though.
As though reading his mind Sammi said from beside his ear "I still love you guys, you know that? I didn't want any of this to happen."
"Me neither Sam," he sighed, giving her shoulder one last squeeze before getting into the car.
When Andy woke up he was in a strange bed and his head felt as though it had up until recently been filled with TNT. He couldn't see properly, all he could make out were fuzzy shapes, and when he tried to move everything suddenly started falling sideways. He collided with the floor with a heavy thump, causing his body to hurt even more than it already did, though where that pain was located he couldn't really tell. On the other side of the room, seemingly miles away, was the vague shape of a door. Andy, deciding this was as good a starting point as any, began to crawl woozily towards it. Socks, shoes, laundry and other such hazards saw fit to attack him along the way but eventually he managed to navigate his way out the exit, finding himself in a cleaner but darker hallway. Deciding he felt a little better he pulled himself up using the wall and regretted it almost immediately, but he put one shaky foot in front of the other anyway.
That was how Jake found the younger man, wobbling along the hall, apologizing to a bulb-less standing lamp he'd walked into, holding onto the waist high skirting board for grim death.
He took a minute to watch this scene because he knew when he replayed this in his head in years to come it would be one of his fondest memories, but then his kind heart got the better of him and he moved to put one of Andy's arms around his shoulder.
Andy flinched, staring at him with scared, unfocused eyes. Jake just shushed him, murmuring soothing words and sounds, leading him into the living room and putting him down on the squishy, threadbare sofa, sitting beside him and keeping one protective arm around him.
"Andy," he said slowly, keeping his voice light and unthreatening. "Are you ok?"
Andy began to nod and then shook his head, screwing his eyes up.
"What's wrong honey?" Jake squeezed his shoulder softly.
"Hurts," Andy mumbled out.
"Everything," Andy gestured a twig like arm down his body, then pointed to his head.
"Ok," Jake moved his hand to stroke his hair, like he would any sick little cousin he was babysitting. Andy moved his pounding head to his friend's shoulder, whimpering. "I can't give you a painkiller; I don't know what you've got in your system right now."
Andy nodded morosely.
"Can you tell me what happened?" Jake asked, the light note fading from his voice a little.
"N-no," Andy stuttered out, burying his head in the crook of Jake's neck.
"Andy!" Jake snapped, forcing the boy away from him and looking straight into his clouded blue eyes. "You have to tell me."
Andy shook his head violently, keeping his eyes tightly shut and trying to fight against the sturdy arms pushing him away from the comfort they had been giving him until recently. Jake let go suddenly, exasperated at the whole affair. Andy tried to get close to him again, but he was shrugged off.
"You're in no state to be reasonable," Jake said coolly. "We'll talk about this when you're sober."
Andy whimpered, leaning so Jake would have to look at him.
"Are you mad?" he whispered.
Jake groaned, shoving the bag of bones away. "Yes Andy! I'm actually really pissed, you disappeared without a trace for weeks and now I find you, completely off your face and not willing to tell me anything."
"Don't be mad," it was barely audible.
"I can't stop just like-" but he was cut off in his tracks by a set of chapped lips being pressed fiercely against his own.
Caught completely off guard and too surprised to think of any less automatic reaction, Jake kissed back. Andy mewled in pleasure at that and deepened the kiss, slipping his tongue down his friend's throat. Jake was bowled over in a rush of smoke, sex and alcohol and the perpetrator was occupied in matters concerning where to stick what next, so neither heard the front door open with a click or the sharp intake of breath that accompanied it.
They did notice however when someone ripped Andy off of the shorter boy he was pinning to the couch and punched him in the face.
Jake jumped out of skin and had to run his hands roughly over his face before he could take anything in. CC was standing above him, a look of utter fury in his eyes.
"What the hell is going on here?!" He yelled.
Jake stumbled for a reply, still shocked from the sudden violent intrusion into his mouth and the sudden violent intrusion into his home. "I found Andy!" he managed eventually.
CC gave him a look that could freeze lava. "I noticed."
"He kissed me Chris, I didn't…" Jake trailed off. "Why do you care so much anyway? We found our singer, that's the important thing."
"I care because I'm the only one who should kiss you!" CC exploded, throwing up his arms. In a second his face went from angry to shocked to angry again to humiliated and then ended up stunned. Jake was sure his expression had done quite the same. "I…I love you Jakey," he mumbled.
It was Jake's turn to jump someone then, and he did, leaping onto his number one crush, wrapping his arms around his neck and his legs around his hips, knocking them both to the floor as he planted one very excited sloppy kiss on the lips he'd wanted to be his for so long.
CC cried out as they fell, but laughed all the same when he was finally free to. "Eww, you have Andy breath!" he squawked.
"Shut up," Jake chuckled, staring into those deep melted chocolate eyes. "I love you too."
CC blushed. "That's…that's all good then! And don't you forget it."
Jake lay his head down on the chest below him, breathing in CC's own smell to try and drive the sour one that still coated him away. "I won't."
There was a slamming noise from behind them and they both started, staring at the now closed door and empty living room. Jake then remembered the unstable kid he was supposed to be looking after. He scrambled off of CC and dashed into the hallway to find himself facing a firmly shut front door. CC came up behind him, looking guilty, wishing he hadn't hit his friend out of jealously and a sever lack of judgement.
Jake ran his hands through his hair as he often did when anxious and turned with an alarmed hazel gaze to CC. "Well shit!"
"Jinxx, it's fine, I can carry a bag of laundry!" Ashley laughed down the phone squeezed between his ear and shoulder as he fumbled around the tiny room collecting their clothes. "Seriously, you're better at being an adult than me, I trust you to fill in some forms while I play washer woman. No I do not need to be there. Jinxx, just be calm and get on with it. Yes, ok, pick me up after if you like, but you'll be picking me up a block from home because I'm literally going to take five minutes here. I don't want to wait here! Fine, ok, if it makes you happy. I love you too. Ok, bye." He hung up, rolling his eyes but chuckling all the same.
It was pretty late, which was not the best time to be lurking around down town, but he and Jinxx were taking the two day thing pretty literally and were going to set foot officially in their new home at midnight. Jinxx was finishing up the last bits of paperwork which put Ashley to sleep, so he had offered to grab their stuff from this dank little cupboard. There wasn't much, dirty laundry, some music stuff, not their guitars or anything, just little unimportant things, a few other bits and bobs but it would all fit in one bag.
Ashley would be glad to see the back of this place, and he had wanted to do that alone. He'd let his life fade to shit in this room and watched it regrow into something real in this room. He'd taken half the female population of Los Angeles in this room and left this room for one of its boys and betrayed him countless times all in this room. This was where he came to be alone and where he came to forget everything by not being alone. This was where he'd come after everything had been destroyed just by him touching it and where Jinxx had come to find him to make everything amazing again.
Now he was leaving this room for the last time. He was leaving all the darkest parts of him behind here, along with the stained bed sheets and the cracked and broken blinds. He put the last thing in his bag, a t-shirt of Jinxx's he'd taken as a keepsake all those years before, closed the zip and turned to the door to leave it all behind.
Only someone was standing there blocking his escape, waiting to drag him back down to the past, the one person he thought didn't know about this cave of horrors.
Andy looked more of a state than Ashley had ever seen anyone look, and Ashley had known some extreme states. After the overall used and strained appearance and the obvious fact his health had gone to the wind, Andy's nose was bloody and broken and he was weeping, tears pouring down his face, mixing with mucus dribbling out his nose and his eyes were red and puffy. He looked nothing like the cute kid in the coffee shop. He didn't look like the man Ashley had watched grow up either. He looked like Ashley had used to.
"S-Sammi told me about this place," he said, looking around as though trying to decide whether it met his expectations. "You and J-Jinxx are l-living here. This is where you…ch-cheated on me?"
Ashley just nodded, seeing no point in lying. He would have even given Andy figures if he'd asked, but he didn't.
"Ashley," the boy whimpered, seeming far smaller than he really was. "How do you do it?"
He broke down then, his crying becoming shoulder shaking sobs and he seemed likely to collapse. Ashley took him in his arms and sat the two of them down on the bed trying to calm him down.
"I've been doing it a long time," he said softly, knowing exactly what Andy meant and where he had been and what he'd been doing. "I've had practise. I was like you when I first started, wrecking myself, going to extremes. I spent two years doing it, before I met Jinxx. I went back to it after we broke up, but I was older and wiser. When I told you about my 'wild years', they were my tame years really, in comparison. I haven't touched drugs since I was sixteen and I've almost always used protection since seventeen. Self-destruction isn't in anyone, no matter what we tell ourselves. It's definitely not in you." He cupped Andy's chin, brushing a few straggly hairs out of his face, which seemed to be eating itself from the inside out. "I'm sorry Andy. I never meant for this to happen…" he felt himself choking up.
"It's my fault," Andy mumbled, not meeting the honey brown gaze, so full of concern and care that he really didn't want to see if love wasn't here.
Ashley shook his head. "I'm not exactly a good role model."
"You were a good boyfriend," Andy sighed, laying his head on Ashley's shoulder and finally hugging him back. "I wish you still were…to me I mean."
Ashley nodded. "I'm sorry…you were too. You were really good for me, the best thing that ever happened to me. You saved me Andy."
"Too bad I'm not a suave heart-breaking midget."
Ashley laugh at that and ruffled Andy's dirty hair. "You're going to be ok, kid. And I'm here for you, no matter what happens, ok?"
Andy nodded, rubbing his eyes with a grubby paw. "I needed to hear that I think…god Ashley I fucked up…"
Before he could get any further though there was another interruption from the doorway.
"What the hell is going on here?" Jinxx growled, looking livid.
Ashley jumped up, realising how this was going to look. "Shit Jinxx, it's not what you think!"
"I should have known, Ashley Purdy doesn't change his stripes!" he exclaimed, a storm flying over his face. "I'll just leave you two alone then shall I?!"
Andy got up too, hands raised in peace, not wanting hit again when this time he hadn't been doing anything, but Jinxx had already stormed out. Ashley stood stunned for a second before racing after him without looking back. Andy sighed and took another look around the room he seemed to be the last to know about, knowing that it needed more of a goodbye than its owner had given it. He picked up the bag Ashley had left and carried it out, as well as they key on the window ledge he guessed locked the door. It did and when the deed was done he left the laundry sack and then left the building. On the street he looked left. He could see Ashley and Jinxx standing there, arms waving wildly. Then they embraced and shared a Hollywood ending kiss. Andy smiled and turned right. He dropped they key down an open gutter and just kept on walking until he was out of sight.
"Why do I find that so hard to believe?!" Jinxx had to shout, to be heard over the sound of traffic and rain.
"Because I'm a terrible person!" Ashley screamed back, almost hysterical at the thought of losing Jinxx again, just for making things right with a friend in need. "I know that Jinxx, I really do, but I swear to you on all I hold dear, I wasn't doing anything like that!"
"I don't believe you!" Jinxx was near to tears. "I know you and I know Andy! I just got off the phone with Jake, that's why I rushed over. He only just had the poor boy pinned in the living room kissing him! And he tried the same with Sammi! If he'd done the same to you too you could tell me, you know you could! I wouldn't be mad unless you had kissed back, and you'd tell me if you hadn't."
Ashley pinched the bridge of his nose. Arguing was getting them nowhere and Andy following his poor examples to such extremes was not helping their case. "He wasn't like that when I saw him. He was upset and he needed a friend. That's all Jinxxy. A friend."
"I don't believe you." It wasn't any more than a croak, but Ashley heard him loud and clear, even over the sound of his heartbreak. There was one more thing he could try to convince his lover though.
"Jinxx," he sighed, moving closer and reaching out a hand to cup his smooth cheek, but he backed away. Ashley let his hands fall to his sides and then reached into the pocket of his hoodie. "Why would I spend a thousand dollars on you if I was just going to hook up with Andy?" the hysterics bubbled out his lips in a tiny chuckle.
Jinxx wasn't laughing. "A thousand dollars? What are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about this," Ashley sighed, taking out a tiny black box and kneeling down on one knee. It complained through the rip in his jeans, but he ignored it, concentrating on the blank face of the love of his life. He'd wanted to do this in their new apartment, in candle light with a bottle of wine, looking out over the whole city, but then again he'd wanted to do it seven years ago, and if doing in the street, freezing in the rain kept him Jinxx then goddamnit he wasn't going to wait. "Jeremy Miles Ferguson," he said, knowing his baby hated the name but being too much of a showman to deny it added something, "Jinxx. My sun and stars, moon of my life, my everything. The only person I've ever loved. Will you marry me?" He opened the little box to reveal a delicate diamond ring, shining even in the dark.
The strangest thing happened then. Jinxx squeaked. He actually squeaked and pulled Ashley to his feet, embracing him, still squeaking. Ashley wasn't sure what to make of that; he had expected something slightly more…manly. Seeing as he was proposing to a man. But it was better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick!
"Yes!" Jinxx screamed finally, realising he hadn't yet replied. He never thought he'd get to be on the receiving end of an engagement ring and in all truth he never meant to be again. Ashley was the one. He hurriedly took the ring and slipped it onto his waiting finger. It fit like it had always been there.
The music that plays at the end of old romance movies started to sing in their heads and fireworks exploded all around. The two kissed in the rain as the sounds of the city seemed to cheer them on.
Six months later saw Ashley and Jinxx curled together on the sofa the studio held. Their fingers were twined together round the beautiful ring still nestled on Jinxx's ring finger where it never left. They were both supposed to be working on new music, but as they had pointed out that was hard when they were both busy cuddling.
They weren't the only love birds though. Jake was perched on CC's lap as the latter claimed stubbornly that he couldn't drum whilst his arms were otherwise indisposed. In truth it would have been quite easy to unwind them from around Jake's waist but CC argued that he physically could not.
The producer had walked out with his hands in the air, saying he would return when his studio stopped being a love shack. He most likely would never be seen again.
It wasn't that the four of them didn't want to write new music now that they were all living happily ever after. But as well as been grossly addicted to each other, the four of them didn't want to do anything big without Andy, who hadn't been seen since he had disappeared from Ashley's creepy old broom closet. They'd been pressured to find a new singer, but to that the reply was always a delightfully detailed look at their middle fingers. Even they had all but given up on the boy ever reappearing though.
This is why it came as a surprise when the next person to walk through the door was not an exasperated music producer, but a shy looking Andy, balancing a tray of coffee atop a cardboard pizza box.
"Sorry," he mumbled, trying to find a place to put his goodies. "I'm a bit late, aren't I?"
Jake was the first to stop blinking and speak. "Just a little bit!"
"About six months late," CC snorted, subtly checking out his friend's nose to see how badly it had healed.
"Where've you been kid?" Ashley asked, still astonished. Jinxx was still blinking.
"I got help," Andy blushed when he said it, as though he were ashamed. "Uhm…rehab…kind of. I guess."
Ashley stood up to embrace his old friend then held him at arm's length. He was clean looking and completely dressed, his skin was almost back to its perfect smooth state and there was actual meat on his bones. His nose was slightly crooked from its break, but it didn't affect his beauty. "It's obviously helped quite a lot," he noted out loud.
Andy's blush got deeper and he turned to Jake and CC, and apology obviously on his lips, but the two of them interrupted in a bone crushing bear hug. Jinxx joined in, finally recovered from his shock and Ashley piled on, unbalancing the group, causing CC to fall on his ass. The four still standing laughed like old times and Jinxx slung an arm around Andy's shoulders.
"Well then, are you ready to get back to work? We could sure make use of your vocal chords."
Andy grinned, his initial awkwardness fading immediately as he got back into the swing of things. Ashley groaned; there were be no more slacking off to cuddle now old merch-before-members was back.
"You know it's the only thing I can do," he laughed, sitting down and taking one of the coffees. "I'll need to get to work pretty quickly though, Matt's here to pick me up at half five, he's so strict, I have a curfew!"
"That's not a bad idea, why did we never think of that?" CC muttered, picking himself up.
"Who's Matt?" Ashley asked, waggling his eyebrows.
"My, uh, boyfriend, I met him at the-what is that rock on your hand, I'm blind!" Andy stared at the ring on Jinxx's finger.
Before either he or Ashley could reply they were locked into an embrace and a tirade of congratulations and well wishing.
"Calm the ham!" Jake laughed, pulling Andy down again so his friends could breathe. "Old news dude, tell us about this Matt guy!"
CC nodded his approval of this conversation, his mouth already filled with cheesy meaty pizza-y goodness. It was obvious then that all was forgiven and forgotten.
Ashley grinned at Jinxx as the other three began gossiping about the new man in Andy's life. Jinxx smiled back and wrapped his arms around his fiancé's middle, the two of them curling back up on the sofa. After fourteen years of madness, of betrayal and heartbreak, love and lust, friendship and hatred, everything had turned out just fine. And no matter what came next, from then on no matter what, it was always going to be the five of them in this room together, nothing was ever going to break that up again.
"I love you," the both said at the same time, and giggled as they kissed.