Word Count: 2156
Pairing: Taylor Hanson/Jeremy Wright
Notes: For tumbling_down, because I loff her.
Zac stayed for two weeks, and when he left, Taylor returned to the couch, to his blanket and late-night pornos OnDemand, but the sex stopped, the booze stopped, and he spent his days doing what Zac had done while he was there.
He took up painting again, something he hadn't had time for in ages, and though he could see Jeremy in every stroke, it felt good to get things out, to find something constructive to do with all his energy.
Cooking became something he was interested in again. He left the house. He started a garden in the back yard and in October, just as his tomatoes were ripe enough to pick, his children came home.
They kept him busy for most of his day, running this way and that and he was smiling again, laughing with Penelope in his arms and chasing Ezra up and down the back yard to try to get him inside for supper. He'd missed them terribly and though it was hard to handle the three of them by himself, he managed as best he could.
Occasionally, he would have Jessica come over and babysit so he could go out. He didn't do much, just went for drives and sat in his car in parking lots, watching the traffic and wishing, every time he saw a couple walk by, that he still had that.
It was a particularly bad night, one where Taylor had spent most of his alone time crying, curled up in the passenger's seat of his car, that there was a knock on the window. He didn't want to look up, he didn't want to see who it was because with his luck it would be some fan, some girl who thought she could understand his pain for whatever reason, and that was the last thing he wanted to deal with.
He did look up, and it was entirely a surprise to him when he saw Jeremy peeking in his window. His fingers shook when he reached for the window button and then it was down and Jeremy was leaning in, watching him with a little too much sadness behind his eyes.
Taylor had avoided him for months. It had been barely summer when he'd realized his feelings and now it was turning into fall, the leaves yellowing and cracking from too much cold. He'd changed a lot, all things that Taylor liked when he studied his face. He seemed so much more grown up, and it was good to know that Taylor liked those changes, because he'd been so afraid that he was that damaged of a man that the attraction had been Jeremy's boyishness.
"Hey," he replied, and it was weak and stupid and he probably looked like a heartbroken wreck, but he was.
They were quiet for a long time. Taylor wondered if Jeremy had no idea what to say to him because that's what it seemed like. He just stood there, his hair moving a little in the breeze and Taylor wanted to run his fingers through it, tangle each digit through it and pull Jeremy forward into a kiss. He didn't.
"I, uh." Jeremy shifted a little. "I broke up with Avery."
Taylor wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not. The last thing he needed was to get his hopes up at all, that maybe love was one of those things that could only possibly be a two way street, but he knew it wasn't true. He'd seen thousands of girls over the course of his life that loved some form of him, and he thought that maybe what he felt for Jeremy was the same thing they felt for him - loving something without knowing it completely.
"Oh," was all Taylor could say. It was all he would let himself say because he didn't want to give away any secrets, let Jeremy hear the note of hope that he couldn't squash out of his voice.
They sat there again in silence, until Taylor couldn't bare it anymore, and he told Jeremy that he had to go, back home and to his kids. Jeremy hesitated in the window, watching him for another second before brushing the hair out of Taylor's eyes and nodding.
"See you around."
And he did. It was almost like Jeremy was everywhere he was, following him, or something. Taylor took the kids to Arby's the day after he'd seen Jeremy in the parking lot and not five minutes later, just long enough for Ezra to figure out what he wanted, the door jangled and Jeremy walked in, looking like he'd come straight out of one of Taylor's dreams.
He wandered over and ruffled Ezra's hair, offering Taylor that crooked smile he dreamed about at night and Taylor gulped, trying to look anywhere but at Jeremy, at the space on his chest that was bare because his shirt wasn't quite buttoned all the way up.
It was odd to Taylor, because when he looked up, really looked at what was going on around him, the emptiness in his chest disappeared. This was what he wanted, exactly what he wanted and what he dreamed about at night. He wanted so badly to complete the picture, to wrap his arms around Jeremy and hold him tight, press his front against Jeremy's back and whisper things into his ear, but he couldn't.
Jeremy's eyes searched Taylor for a moment - not his face, and it surprised Taylor to watch him look him over like he was worth looking at.
"Feeling better?" Jeremy asked, reaching up and picking a piece of lint or hair or something off of Taylor's shirt.
Taylor blinked hard and gulped down air again. "A little, yeah."
"Do you miss her?"
He shook his head. It felt like there was a rock stuck in his throat, stopping him from being able to speak.
"I didn't think so." Jeremy's eyes darted down to the kids, lost in their own little world, waiting for their food to come up. "Taylor..."
Taylor nodded, watching Jeremy like he'd disappear if he looked away.
"Zac didn't mean to tell me. At least, I don't think he did."
All the air pushed its way out of Taylor's lungs then, and he felt more mortified than he ever had in his entire life. He pushed Jeremy back, away from him, as carefully as he could because he didn't want to hurt him, but, God, how could he even look at him?
Taylor just shook his head and grabbed the kids, food forgotten on the counter, and rushed out of Arby's.
He was never supposed to know.
"How could you?!"
Taylor hadn't wanted to end up there, standing at Zac's front door, tears streaming down his cheeks, but he had. He'd dropped the kids off at his mother's, asking her to get them something to eat with tears on his cheeks, and then he'd sped off faster than he'd ever driven in his life, all the way downtown and ran the rest of the way, up the stairs to Zac's penthouse.
"What. Taylor, what?"
"Jeremy. How could you tell him?!"
Zac sighed and looked down. "How did you find out?"
"He told me!" Taylor pushed his way into the house and slammed the door behind him. Shepherd started crying in the other room, but Taylor didn't care. "I'm your brother, how could you do this to me? How am I supposed to look at anyone when they all know how. How screwed up I am? How much of a fuck up I am?" He hissed a little and collapsed onto the floor in Zac's entry way and the sobs started again, heartwrenching and painful and everything they'd been in the weeks after Natalie had left him.
"I hate you," he managed. "I hate you for this, Zac."
"I didn't mean to tell him!" Zac was on the ground next to Taylor, reaching out for him, but Taylor kept swatting his hands away.
"I thought you said I could tell you my secrets." Taylor was practically hysterical and he knew it, but he'd never felt so betrayed in his life. "I thought you said you'd be there for me no matter what and then you do this? What am I to you?"
Zac grabbed Taylor's face then, he dealt with Taylor's slapping hands and angry noises and looked him dead in the eye. "You're practically everything to me, Tay. You're my brother and my best friend and I hate seeing you like this."
"So you told him?!" Taylor managed to get out of Zac's grip and skittered half way across the hall. "You betrayed me."
Zac buried his head in his hands and leaned against the opposite wall. "I'm sorry, Taylor. It just sort of came out."
Taylor squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head, pushing himself to his feet. "I can never look him in the eye again, Zac. Not with him knowing."
"I'm sorry, Tay," Zac said, and Taylor knew that he was.
It was just a matter of if he cared.
Time passed again, punctuated with trips to the grocery store and the mall and the playground and everything else his children wanted or needed. He lived for them, now, and dreaded April when they would go back to Natalie's care.
Fall turned into winter and Taylor fell into his new routine as happily as he could, spending his days writing songs and teaching Ezra how to write properly. Six months was not enough, so he tried as hard as he could to get every spare moment with them.
When he worked, on the days that he could bear to tear himself away from his children and go to the studio, he didn't speak to Zac, didn't look at him. He'd changed his whole life so he didn't have to see Jeremy at every turn and he wished he could change the fact that he had to look at Zac almost every day. He knew that he was sorry, he knew that he hadn't meant it, but it didn't matter. He'd still told Taylor's darkest secret to the one person Taylor hadn't wanted to ever know.
By the time winter had hit full-force, when the snow was pelting the rooftops and the roads were icy and the temperature had dipped down below thirty, Taylor had become content again. Christmas was coming and he had his children to shower in presents and although he had to do it alone, he didn't mind much. Having them there was the only thing that mattered.
He still dreamed of Jeremy, he still laid in bed at night, touching himself, thinking of him. It didn't hurt as much, now. He'd grown up and in doing so, Taylor didn't feel as terrible about it. He was still mortified that Jeremy knew, still horrified of what would happen if they ran into each other on the street, but he was careful and managed to avoid all the Wrights for months and months.
When his mother called to ask about Christmas, he told her he would be busy. It was a lie, and cooking Christmas dinner for the four of them would be more of a hassle than strictly necessary, but Joe would be there and would probably knock him flat on his ass. He wasn't stupid. He knew things managed to get around.
Christmas dawned on a Thursday, and Taylor was awoken by anxious shouting and Penelope hopping up onto his chest to tell him that Santa Claus had visited them the night before. Taylor smiled and kissed her hair, helping her off the bed and heading downstairs.
He'd bought himself three presents - a new DVD player, a box of swiss chocolates ordered straight from Switzerland, and three pairs of jeans. The kids had gotten him hand-made cards, which he promised to hang up in his office and he would, just as soon as the smoke cleared from the insanity that was Christmas morning with three anxious children.
What Taylor hadn't been expecting, not in his wildest dreams, was to find two other presents under the tree with his name on them. One from Zac, a gorgeous scarf that Taylor had been eyeing the last time he was shopping online at the studio during a break, and a five page note most easily summed up as 'I'm sorry'. The other was just an envelope, a plain white thing, with a single sheet of folded up white computer paper on it. There was a date - January sixth, 7:30 PM - and an address.
Taylor didn't know who it was from, or if he should even go, but he had a little spark of hope somewhere down in his stomach that it would be something good for a change.