Word Count: 2176
Pairing: Taylor Hanson/Jeremy Wright
Notes: For tumbling_down, because I loff her.
The rest of December passed in a blur. When Zac called to invite Taylor to a party on the thirty-first, even though Taylor hesitated, he agreed to go - only after Zac swore up and down that Jeremy wouldn't be there.
He wasn't, and Taylor spent the night on Zac's balcony, studiously ignoring everyone else and trying to out-drink Zac. He lost, and when he woke up in the morning - still on the balcony - he smiled at the blanket draped over him and the pillow under his head. At least one thing was back to normal in his life.
January melted away slowly, punctuated by lunch with Zac nearly every day - his brother had stories to tell, stories of a month of life he hadn't been able to tell while they were separated - and his dreams. They changed every night, evolved with the passing of time until the morning of January sixth dawned and Taylor could hardly manage to pull himself awake. He didn't want to leave. His world was perfect in his dreams, and when he was awake, he was a wreck. Less of a wreck than he had been six months before, but still half the man he used to be.
As night crept closer and closer, Taylor got more and more nervous. He didn't know what he was going to be walking into, didn't know if he wanted to even go anymore. He was going to, though, because he didn't know who the letter was from and if the situation looked like it might be bad, he could always jump back in his car and leave.
He didn't have to deal with anything he didn't want to. This was going to be on his terms.
The kids were brought to his mother at six, with forty dollars between them for dinner. His father had tried to shove it back into his hands, but Taylor shook his head and put it on the table. He'd burdened them enough over the last months, he didn't need to have them supporting his children, too.
He brought the sheet of paper with him even though he'd read the address enough times in the twelve days since Christmas that it was burned into the back of his eyelids.
It turned out to be a church, empty on a Thursday night long after the sun went down. Taylor parked in front of it in confusion, looked up at the steeple and prayed that for once in his life, something might go right.
He got out of the car cautiously, his boots making noise on the gravel underneath his feet as he walked forward, hitting the car alarm as he took slow, careful steps towards the front door.
He spun around on his heel and Jeremy was there, bundled up in a coat and scarf and mittens, his breath visible against the cold air.
Taylor didn't know what to say, what to even do. It had been Jeremy that managed to sneak a present under the tree? Or had Zac done it on his behalf? "What are you doing here?" he finally asked, and Jeremy offered him a little smile as he took a few steps forward, gravel crushing underneath his feet and breaking the silence.
"I wanted to see you."
Taylor closed his eyes and sighed, clutching his hands into fists and, God, he didn't want to open his eyes because the crunch of the gravel was getting closer and closer and then he felt Jeremy's hands on his shoulders. He couldn't help himself then, he opened his eyes and Jeremy was right in front of him, staring at him carefully, like he was afraid Taylor was going to disappear. "Was Zac lying?"
Taylor wanted to say yes so much that it was all he could think. He didn't want Jeremy to think he was some pervert out looking for a score with a kid eight years younger than him. But Taylor couldn't make sound come out of his throat, couldn't speak or even make noises and that silence was a 'no' and he knew it.
Jeremy reached up and brushed his fingers across Taylor's cheek. "I was hoping he wasn't," he said, so softly Taylor could barely hear him. "Because I didn't think Zac was that much of a jerk to lie about something like that. Not after Avery told him why I broke up with her."
Taylor's eyes were wide, then, big and bright and watching Jeremy silently. Every atom of his body screamed for him to lean down and press their lips together, just one little kiss because maybe that was all he'd get, but he didn't want to interrupt him or seem like he was just out for the physical, like he was some sort of pervert who just wanted the touches. That's not what it was like.
Jeremy was waiting for something, maybe for Taylor to ask him why he'd broken up with his sister, or just a prompt for him to continue, but Taylor offered nothing and Jeremy's fingers tangled themselves in Taylor's hair. "I didn't want him to be messing with me because I told Avery I couldn't be with her because I'm pretty sure... I'm pretty sure I'm gay, Taylor, and I really want to kiss you right now."
Looking back on it, it was the nicest kiss Taylor ever got. It was soft and tenative and there was a little bit of caution in it, on both sides. They broke apart after just a few seconds and Taylor kept them together, resting his forehead against Jeremy's with his arms around his shoulders.
"Do you need a ride?" Taylor asked, brushing his nose against Jeremy's and letting his eyes fall closed again.
Taylor kissed his nose and broke away. "Did you walk here?"
He shook his head and reached down for Taylor's hand. Taylor's whole body warmed up a little in the cold when their fingers intertwined. "Nah," Jeremy said after a moment. "I had Zac drop me off."
"He's just been in on this, hasn't he?" Taylor squeezed Jeremy's hand before they broke apart to get into Taylor's truck.
Jeremy's cheeks turned red as he settled into the passenger's seat. Taylor glanced over at him as he turned the key in the ignition. He looked so cute, all wrapped up in winter clothes and cracking his knuckles through his mittens worriedly.
"Not really," he replied and Taylor didn't know if he could believe him. "He just told me that you... that you're in love with me. And, I mean, I was kind of weirded out when he said it, you know? But thinking about it, Taylor..." Jeremy looked up at him. "I had a lot of time to think about it, and you're one of the best guys I know. The sweetest, definitely, and we can have conversations for hours about nothing and..." He frowned, reaching over and squeezing Taylor's fingers. "I don't want you to think I'm, like, using you to learn more about myself. I already thought it over plenty and the last thing I want to do is break your heart."
Taylor was trying to stay focused on the road, but it was hard with Jeremy telling him all this and it was important, so he pulled over and Jeremy, poor Jeremy got this look on his face like he thought Taylor was going to kick him out of the car.
He didn't. Instead he turned a little in his seat and looked at Jeremy carefully. "I love you very much," Taylor told him, not watching his eyes, but his fingers instead. It was easier. "I don't expect you to feel the same way. But, if you want to try something..." Taylor shrugged and scratched the back of his neck. "I'd love to see where it goes."
Jeremy reached out and tilted Taylor's head up. "I don't plan on hurting you."
Taylor offered him a tiny smile and shook his head. "No one ever does."
So the days drifted by and Taylor wasn't sure if it was bliss or not that he was feeling. Jeremy came over almost every day with a kiss and a smile and he helped with the kids, made lunch and idle conversation. Taylor loved it, he loved every minute and he cherished every kiss like it was the first all over again.
January turned into February and then February turned into March so quickly Taylor lost track of time. When his birthday dawned, when he realized he only had sixteen days left with his children and he was twenty-six, for Christ's sake, he stumbled out of bed slowly and went downstairs to start on breakfast.
He hadn't expected it to be done, cooked, and set on the table for him already. There were pancakes and a cup of coffee and Jeremy humming while he did the crossword.
"What're you doing here?"
Jeremy looked up with a little smile on his lips. "What?" he asked. "I made you breakfast."
Jeremy shrugged. "I figured I had to get here before you woke up. Zac gave me his key."
Taylor sat down and poked at his pancakes - chocolate chip with strawberries on top, his favourite - and smiled faintly. "Thank you. I. Didn't expect this."
"The kids are gone," he told Taylor, offering him a little secret smile. "I figured we could go get them later, you know? Have a little time to ourselves?"
Taylor set his fork down and considered Jeremy for a while, watched his face and his motions and tried to read what his plan was. "What are we going to do?"
Mischeviousness sparkled behind Jeremy's eyes. "I thought maybe we could be lazy together. You know. Upstairs."
It felt like Taylor's heart was going to beat right out of his chest, it was beating so loudly. It had been two months, sure, but he still felt like it was too soon to do anything, too soon to take Jeremy upstairs and do the things to him he'd dreamed about for ages. His fingers trembled and he shook his head, watching Jeremy's eyes and hoping that he hadn't disappointed him. "Not yet," he said. "Maybe we can watch a movie?"
"Why do you have a bruise?" Ezra asked later that night, after cake and presents and all the fun stuff Taylor had been looking forward to.
Taylor made a face and looked at Ezra. "What?"
"Right there," Ezra said, poking Taylor's neck, right by his collar bone. "It's all black and blue."
Taylor blushed and pushed Ezra's hand away, thinking about earlier, when Jeremy had slid into his lap in the middle of the movie and kissed him breathless - sure, it was a cliche, but it was true. "It's nothing," Taylor said, offering Ezra a little smile. "Must've gotten into a fight with my bed."
Jeremy smirked at him from across the room, where he was playing with River, trying to coax him into going to bed. Taylor knew his cheeks had heated up again, turned redder and Jeremy chuckled as he lifted River up. "I'm going to put this one to bed." He paused and looked at Taylor. "Can I stay the night?"
Taylor considered him for a second, but wondered, even after thinking, if he would have been able to say no. "Sure," he told him. Jeremy swooped down for a kiss - it was the first time the kids had seen him kiss anyone but their mother - and when he retreated upstairs, Taylor was happier than he'd been in ages.
That night, when he slipped between his sheets, there were no empty spaces - not in his bed, not in his heart.
Nine Months Later
Winter had come with its usual briskness, cold and dark and full of death, but Taylor didn't mind, he couldn't mind, not when he still had two months of shows and a tour bus full of life to look forward to every night.
The show that night had been long, it had clocked in at a little over two hours and Taylor was practically covered in sweat when he finally ran off the stage. Jeremy smiled at him and set River down, throwing his arms around Taylor's neck and kissing him. Taylor made a little noise in the back of his throat and slid his hands into Jeremy's back pockets, pulling them flush against each other.
Somewhere off to the side, he could hear Zac gagging, mocking their after-show routine. Taylor slipped one hand out of Jeremy's pockets and held up his middle finger while he deepened the kiss.
Eventually they broke apart and Jeremy pushed Taylor's sweaty hair back, looking up at him. "I love you," he said, giving Taylor another kiss, on the tip of his nose.
"I love you, too," Taylor replied, and then he scooped Jeremy up into his arms and twirled him around, laughing as he set him down. "I really want a pizza."