Title: Forgiveness

Rating: PG

Pairing: Jake/Melanie, but that's not the point.

DISCLAIMER: The characters/situations do not belong to me. I'm just playing with them.

Forgiveness

It isn't until Bobby Ray gets the tongue piercing that Jake realizes he's actually really gay. The time Bobby Ray hit on Melanie's fiancée was kind of a big hint, and the looks he exchanged with Melanie's gay designer friend were kind of a dead giveaway, but somewhere deep down Jake has kept on thinking that maybe Bobby Ray is just confused, and sooner or later he'll meet a nice girl and marry her and they'll all pretend that the part where Bobby Ray is gay never happened.

But then Bobby Ray comes to New York to see Melanie's designs, and Melanie's gay designer friend takes him shopping, and when Bobby Ray comes back he has a bolt through his tongue.

Melanie squeals and makes him stick his tongue out for pictures and says, "Oh, Bobby Ray" in that way of her that makes i Ray /i have two syllables, i Ray-ay /i , high-pitched and upturned at the end. And Jake smiles and says it looks good, and it does, in the same way that those sideburns he's grown so carefully down towards his chin look good, which is to say, actually really gay.

It isn't that Jake has a problem with Bobby Ray being gay. He'd made that clear real early on. Bobby Ray is Bobby Ray and him being gay doesn't change anything. Except now that he's actually really gay, anyone can look at him and know it right off the bat, where before when he'd worn his plaid shirts and baseball cap like always you couldn't have told Bobby Ray was gay except by knowing it. And none of them had. But ever since Melanie outed him Bobby Ray's been losing the hat and spiffing up the shirt and wearing his jeans just a little tighter, and now it's like he's got a great big "I'm Gay" sign over his head, like now that his friends know, he wants everyone to know it. Next thing, he's gonna ditch the 'Bama accent for the gay one and start telling people to call him Robert.

This wouldn't have ever happened if Melanie hadn't outed him, Jake's sure of it. Bobby Ray wasn't about to tell them on his own. And it's stupid to wish it hadn't happened, to feel like he might never be able to forgive Melanie for this, stupid when it's obvious that Bobby Ray's so much happier being actually really gay, when Bobby forgave Melanie for it almost the moment it happened because, terrifying as it was, it was a relief to have it over and done with. He tells Jake this later, after they can actually not feel awkward slapping each other on the back or throwing an arm around each other's shoulders again. (The day after Melanie outed Bobby Ray and Jake had slung an arm around his shoulders, it was to show everyone how not-awkward things were when, in fact, they were actually really awkward.)

Jake hates Melanie for having outed Bobby Ray because it means he's lost a friend. It's not that he isn't still friends with Bobby Ray, but this new Bobby Ray likes shopping and fashion magazines and men, and okay, none of that's changed from before, except that Jake didn't know about it then. (Well, he did, about the fashion magazines, but he'd had himself convinced that Bobby Ray's mother was the one with the subscription to Women's Wear Daily and Bobby Ray just read it because it happened to be, you know, lying around.) And maybe this is Bobby Ray as he always was, or at least how he wanted to be, but Jake misses the old Bobby Ray, the one who loved fly-fishing and coon hunting and drinking up on the water tower. Maybe Bobby Ray still loves these things, but he never does them anymore, and Jake misses him. And now he's talking of moving into Mobile or Birmingham or maybe even New Orleans, because Pigeon Creek isn't exactly the gay capital of the world, you know, and Jake misses him even more. Because Melanie, she's amazing, she's his soulmate and he knows that, he i knows /i that, but Bobby Ray was his best friend back when they were too young to do anything but crawl in the dirt and even after they started to drift, right about when he and Melanie began their inevitable crashing together, he'd always thought he'd have Bobby Ray to go back to. Now he's not so sure.