Title: Track Record
Fandom: The Shell House
Pairing: Jordan/OMC, Jordan/OMC, Jordan/Greg
Warnings: Nearly non-con, change of tense.
Summary: [The Shell House] Jordan has never been good at falling for people. He knows this.
Disclaimer: Patrick and Rob belong to me, everything else is Linda Newbery's.
Jordan has never been good at falling for people. He knows this; or rather he knows he's a little too good at falling for people: it just happens that the people he falls for are the wrong sort of people.
It all started with Patrick Larkin. He should have seen the warning signs, they were flagging him from every film he'd ever seen and it's so obvious when he looks back on it. Patrick was older, in the Lower Sixth when Jordan was a shy Year Ten just starting to steer his way through adolescence. He was tall and handsome with shaggy, sandy-blonde hair that Jordan fantasised about running his hands through. He would try to sit near Patrick and his friends at lunchtime, trying not to eavesdrop too obviously so that, in the eventuality of talking to Patrick he would know his interests and be able to charm him effortlessly.
He had an easy, friendly demeanour and talked with his hands. At the end of four months' subtle stalking Jordan had learned that he liked football (and supported Arsenal), surfing, martial arts films, reading Sartre and Descartes, and girls with big boobs. Jordan had worked out the perfect conversation which covered all of these topics and was armed with several opening lines for when the time came.
At least, that had been Jordan's plan. When Patrick had come up to him one day in the library and said, "hey, you're that kid on the swim team, right?" all Jordan had been able to do was nod and stare, any other reactions being barred by his desert-dry throat and pounding heart. "Cool. Well, my little sister's joining. Keep an eye on her for me, yeah?" Jordan had managed to nod dumbly once more, but before his mouth could slip into a cool, casual conversation Patrick walked away with a wave and a "cool, man, see you later," which kept Jordan's heart fluttering for the rest of the day.
His sister, Emma, was nice enough; a decent swimmer if a bit of an airhead, and Jordan made a point of talking to her, making her feel welcome. She made him look forward to the competitions more than he ever had since there was always the possibility that Patrick would turn up to watch her. In his mind, Jordan always knew that it would start with Emma telling her brother about him, and Patrick would be so impressed that he would start talking to Jordan and, clearly, things would just spiral from there and Patrick would end up hopelessly in love with him and they would live together and adopt loads of kids. Usually, when his thoughts reached this point, Jordan would give himself a mental slap and, when he thinks back to it now he still cringes.
As it happened, they ended up friendly enough, and mostly due to Jordan's mental plan. His crush didn't wane any, his heart still fluttered when Patrick smiled at him, but he realised that anything more was never going to happen and he knew he had to live with that. It definitely wasn't – Jordan told himself – that he was too shy or scared to say anything.
He was still a little in love with Patrick when, a year later, Robert joined the team. Jordan still wasn't sure if he was going through a phase or not, if Patrick just happened to be a boy he had a crush on but from then on he'd be into girls. He tried to fancy girls, he did, but when Robert appeared he knew for certain that they would never be for him.
Robert was short – shorter than Patrick, anyway, but still taller than Jordan – and dark. He was two years older and had just moved to the area to live with his mum while he went to Harlow College for his A-levels. It was two months after he started that he kissed Jordan after practice, when everyone else had left the changing room. Jordan had been shocked and pleased and had kissed back after the initial confusion and once he had worked out the mechanics of the kiss. Rob had pulled back and given him a smile that made Jordan's stomach flip and then walked out the room, leaving Jordan to stand in stunned silence for a few minutes before putting his socks and shoes on and meeting his dad outside. It went on that way for a while, the two of them hanging around after evening practice and stealing kisses and touches. The whole affair made Jordan feel like he was in a novel, like he was the romantic hero being forced into hiding his love.
That was nonsense, of course. He had talked to his dad about his inclination and, while his dad had seemed a bit unsettled and disappointed he certainly didn't say that and Jordan knew that he would be supported either way. He had spent enough time on internet forums and chat rooms to know that he was incredibly lucky. The affair with Rob was enough to make his life seem that bit more exciting, though, and was enough to take his mind off Michelle's illness.
Then, a few months into the arrangement Rob manoeuvred them into a cubicle and slid the lock shut. Jordan, still innocent and under the spell of his first relationship, didn't question this and, when Rob started touching him through his trousers, he pulled away and told Rob he wasn't ready. He had expected a reply saying that was okay, he would wait. Jordan had not expected the answer of "I've been ready for months, you fucking little tease, and you'll take what you're given," and he certainly hadn't expected to be spun round and pushed face-first against the wall. Rob had pushed right up behind him, he could feel the older boy's erection pressing against his arse and then his trousers were pulled down and he felt flesh against his own.
He struggled, twisted and jerked and sobbed and shouted "No!" over and over again in the hope that someone might come in and stop this, but Rob only growled "shut up you little queer" and slammed his head into the cubicle wall, leaving Jordan dazed. Somehow, though he still isn't sure how, he managed to free his trapped arm and elbow Rob in the gut, then kick him in the groin as he backed off, and got out of the cubicle and ran out sobbing, not bothering to collect his kit from the floor, to his father and told him everything. When Stuart came back out, with Jordan's abandoned belongings in his arms, he reported that Rob had gone, probably sneaked out a fire door, and asked if Jordan wanted to phone the police. Jordan shook his head numbly – if he did then everyone would know – and watched his father frown and phone Sandy. Jordan went to bed right after they got home and slept for two days.
The next time he turned up for practice Rob was nowhere to be seen and everyone asked if he was over his stomach bug. He sent Sandy a grateful smile, and the coach just nodded and blew his whistle to tell everyone to line up. Jordan got over it as well as he could as quickly as he could, seeing no point in dwelling on it – Rob certainly hadn't got what he wanted, after all, and his GCSEs were coming up soon. He wasn't going to let Rob ruin anything for him. He had always been good at dealing with crises, and Michelle with her treacherous body was in a far worse situation than he was with a single assault. He made a vow to himself never to cry again, and it remains largely unbroken, save for a few leaked, silent tears at the side of Michelle's hospital bed.
Jordan had little time to worry about anything after that with his GCSEs, and before he knew it school was over and Patrick had left to go to university in Wales, and Emma had left the team after deciding swimming wasn't quite for her. When summer came he was glad of the release.
The first time he went swimming alone after exams he noticed the new lifeguard, recognised him vaguely from school. He smiled and gave a small wave which Greg (Jordan remembered his name underwater from his entry) returned with a frown, then a grin as memory sparked. After a few weeks of polite acknowledgements Greg's shift finished as Jordan was leaving, and a conversation started and continued until they reached the burger bar in town. It became a bit of a Tuesday ritual, and by the time GCSE results came through Jordan was really rather happy that Greg felt they were friends enough to text him his exam results. Jordan replied with his own, to which Greg simply replied "swot".
He had noticed Greg at school before, had looked at him a little too long before, but they had never really spoken. They had their own circles of friends, and Jordan found Gizzard – Greg's best friend – a little distasteful, although he couldn't put a finger on why, especially since most of the girls he knew either fancied him or had fancied him in the past.
When school started again Jordan was thrilled that he and Greg were in the same tutor group and English class, but also that Gizzard had gone. The more time he spent with Greg the more he was sure that Greg might like guys, even if he wasn't quite aware of it. He was trying not to think of Greg in that way, not wanting to ruin anything. He liked Greg and valued his friendship and was not going to let a silly crush get in the way, but when Greg started talking to him about girls and sex a little of Jordan's resolve crumbled. Greg listened earnestly to what he had to say, didn't laugh when he said it should be special (which Jordan himself cringed at as the words left his mouth) and seemed to know he was being serious without Jordan having to say "I know because I was nearly raped".
Greg started to stay longer in his thoughts and showed up in dreams which embarrassed Jordan greatly in the mornings, he cropped up in conversations with his family and swimming friends ("The hot lifeguard?" Carly asked the first time). He was constantly thinking what Greg's opinion on this might be, or that, and considered lending him his copy of "Sucking Sherbet Lemons" since Greg was obviously interested in faith, and it might give Jordan a bit of a clue about Greg himself. He laughed at the idea, though, when he realised that it would give away a bit too much of him than he was comfortable with.
Then he caught Greg staring at him in the shower. He recognised the confusion in Greg's eyes and tried to reassure him that yes, it's okay, before Greg turned away in embarrassment. He made a glib remark to try to lighten the atmosphere and not think about what might have happened if Greg had kept looking, but found his brain wouldn't let him after the last encounter of that kind Jordan had experienced.
He became more and more sure about Greg as time went on, and realised he was getting in trouble when his heart started skipping every time he saw him. The night of Dean's accident was a turning point. For a change Greg was mostly silent as Jordan talked and talked, trying to find every avenue of thought to avoid saying what was foremost in his mind, what he most wanted and needed to say. He rabbited on about belief and sex without grasping for Greg's hand and saying "I love you". He might have been about to when Dean and his friends appeared and ruined everything.
His big confession didn't go remotely according to plan. He had been pleased that his feelings seemed to be reciprocated (however indirectly) by Greg, and he had tried to hide this pleasure in the face of his friend's confusion. Then Greg had freaked out and Jordan knew he had to leave him be. He knew the thoughts that would be going through Greg's mind: the panic, the doubt, the "no, not me, I'm normal". What he hadn't expected was for Greg to go out and shag the girl he had found so distasteful only a few weeks before. The more Jordan thought about it the more it made sense as a coping mechanism, although it didn't make the act or Greg's words hurt any less.
Things are getting slowly back to normal now, although Jordan still isn't sure why he likes Greg; he runs so hot and cold. They might be talking, and Greg will laugh and lean in, touch Jordan's knee or shoulder, but then he'll seem to catch himself and pull away and make excuses to leave. They can talk to each other now, though, which is all Jordan really wants.
Jordan knows he falls for the wrong kind of people, but when he and Greg go for a walk through the forest after the English A-Level he starts to think maybe he hasn't chosen so badly.
They walk in comfortable silence for a while, until Greg says "did you know Siegfried Sassoon was gay?" and Jordan has to stop and frown.
"What?" Greg shrugs, avoiding his eyes, and Jordan knows this is going somewhere important. He jogs to catch up when Greg starts walking again and tries to ignore his pounding heart as it swells with hope.
"Siegfried Sassoon. I was reading about him for the exam and found out he was gay." Jordan doesn't look at him but can tell he's nervous from the quiver in his voice.
"Yeah? Did you get it into an answer?"
"No. I just thought it was interesting. I mean, you think about these young soldiers and poets and everything, and all you can think of is mud and trenches and shellshock in cold hospitals, you don't expect them to have anything to do with things like that. It's almost as if… I don't know, as if they've been immortalised in those surroundings, and you think that they're too important to have worried about things that we worry about. That I worry about." Jordan catches Greg's glance and sees something in his eyes, but he doesn't want to get his hopes up so he tries to say something profound.
"I think I know what you mean," is all he can think of for a while, but Greg stays silent waiting for more. "I can imagine Wilfred Owen sitting in bed writing, or crouching in a trench clutching his gun, but trying to think about him struggling to decide what to have for tea is hard." Greg laughs and stops walking, turns around to face Jordan.
"Exactly. But, with the Sassoon thing, I mean." He stops stuttering and shakes his head. "Sometimes I think that if I had more to lose I would be quicker to realise things like that."
His head is bowed and he's kicking at pebbles. Jordan swallows the lump in his throat and can only stare, catching Greg's eyes when he looks up. The silence stretches on for so long that Jordan feels he needs to say something.
"I still think about you. All the time." The words don't come from Jordan's mouth, though. His brain stopped working when Greg took hold of his hand and said those words.
"Greg, I-" the panic is clear in Greg's eyes, and Jordan can tell that he thinks he's missed the boat, that this realisation and decision have come too late, and Jordan almost wants to tell him so. He can't help but feel that he owes Greg some hurt, but instead of some scathing remark all he can say is, "Me too."
And then in a second Greg pulls him off the path and behind a tree and is kissing him softly, just a brief touch of lips and breath and then he pulls away.
Jordan can only stare at him, trying to figure out if he's dreaming or not. His hand reaches up to touch Greg's cheek, and his skin is warm from the sun and a little rough with stubble. He wouldn't notice that in a dream, would he? So he presses forward and kisses Greg properly, his heart hammering in his ribcage as he feels Greg sigh and relax, and then there are hands in his hair and he can feel Greg's pulse in his neck and it's as fast as his own.
Jordan doesn't have a great track record of falling for the right people, but sometimes it works out.