Series: Honeydew Syndrome
Characters & Pairing: Charles x Jay, Josh x Metis, plus mentions of Erik and Co.
Spoilers: It continues on from the manga, so it's advisable to finish that first, I think.
Warnings: Some swearing, shonen-ai, and Charles may be slightly ooc in places. I've never written him before, sorry...
Summary: "It's only natural that he's interested in what the other boy has moved on to. It has no deeper meaning. It's simple human curiosity." Except that it does, and it isn't.
Charles knows when Jay gives up. No one tells him, naturally, as they're a little too busy either getting off with each other or rallying around "poor, heartbroken" Jay; but then, he doesn't need them to.
He's been hyper-aware of Jay for years now, mostly because Jay has been a poser and a smoker for years now and therefore his presence and/or attention has grated against Charles' last nerve. Having him watching him, or (as has been more frequent over the past few months) looking dolefully towards the nearest flat surface due to being brushed off yet again, was nothing but an irritation. If someone was going to be besotted with him, Charles has always wished it would be someone like Erik. Not to say that he had ever felt any more attraction to the older boy than the younger, but at least Erik would have the intelligence and, indeed, common decency to suffer in silence. Unlike Jay. Who may have kept his mouth closed on the matter until the end was nigh, but whose actions and reactions screamed his feelings out to the whole bloody world.
Now that it isn't directed towards him though, he finds that it's almost endearing.
It's certainly nice to be able to Know Things about him just by taking a short glance at the right moment. Especially when it seems that he's overlooked other, and arguably more important, facts.
He hadn't noticed that the constant scent of cancer-inducing chemicals had steadily faded from Jay's clothes and hair until he'd stopped pausing near him. Understandably, in his opinion, as his aim had always been to avoid its source. Metis was rather less appreciative of his reasoning when he finally swallowed his pride and brought it up. Apparently Charles should have taken the time to notice just how hard Jay was trying for him before driving him to the point of surrender. Apparently it is "fucking typical, Charles," that he notices now – that he is showing a form of interest now that he's "missing the attention."
It is a sentiment that is repeated regularly, especially by Josh. That it's just that little bit sick that he cares so much more about what Jay's doing now that he isn't tracking Charles' form. That it's more than just that little bit selfish.
Charles doesn't see it like that. It's not that he particularly cares more or anything – he's simply intrigued by what the boy's doing now. He had become used to those soft gazes and those lingering moments before he was required to make it clear that the additional presence was unwanted. It's only natural that he'd be interested to see what exactly Jay is doing with all of his abruptly free time and brainpower.
Besides. Jay had always been a doormat. He had never once spoken up against the way Charles treated him, had never once protested at the many ways Metis used him, had never been anything but obliging (albeit sometimes with a reluctant edge) towards the many people constantly asking something of him.
Then he had snapped at Charles that once, and in one sentence had stunned him into silence.
"You'll never beat Josh."
Did people genuinely believe he wanted to? That he wanted Metis as anything other than his loyal minion and (despite the eighteen layers of sarcasm the feelings are wrapped in) best friend?
More than that, had it really been Jay who had finally, resignedly uttered that sentence? More than that, had that cold anger and resentment (and, damn, cruelty) really come from within the same doormat that had flinched back from every barb of the last couple of years? It had most definitely seemed real. There had been none of Jay's "tells" and so most likely no pushing from any of the multiple third parties that currently seem to be enjoying sticking both their collective and individual oars in. Those feelings had come straight from the boy who'd looked at him softly almost every day since they'd met. Which begged the question, why the fuck hadn't he expressed any of that, well, almost-strength in any of their interactions since Charles first brushed him off?
It's only natural that he's interested in what the other boy has moved on to. It has no deeper meaning. It's simple human curiosity.
He's almost disappointed to see that none of that cold intensity is showing through in Jay's newer interactions. He continues to allow everyone to leave their dusty footprints on his face. Charles was hoping to see something he'd missed. It would be far more interesting to see that Jay had always been that strong and had simply chosen to indulge everyone. It would be more fun to debate what to do with a martyr complex.
Instead Jay flinches back from every cold word and every snide snort. His pessimism and obvious belief that this is it, this is all he's worth haven't faded a bit. He's even still a bit of a poser.
He just smells a little less like an ashtray, and a little more like a spice-rack.
Charles doesn't understand why this affects him so much – why he wants more of that smell or to see more of that iced steel. He doesn't enjoy the sensation; he understands that much, and he's working on understanding why it's disconcerting that Jay seems to have left him behind so easily. The rest of the burning tangle that settles low in his stomach whenever they pass in the halls or he hears that slightly nervous laugh remains a mystery to him, and he despises it.
It's also rather disconcerting that he finds the lack of Jay more annoying (upsetting) than the increasing lack of Metis.
He tells himself that it's because he understands more of the situation with Metis, and that he's only annoyed that he's being so puzzled by Jay just as he's given him so much less interaction and time to work with.
Charles has always told himself a lot of things. It's immensely fucking annoying to find that he's slowly losing the ability to believe them.
Being punched in the face by Josh at that disaster-zone of a party had been one of the most truly irritating experiences of Charles' life. Reacting like that to a drunken kiss, even without hearing the conversations surrounding the event itself, was ridiculous. Plus a complete twassock move.
So when Charles is walking down the hall and is confronted by the sight of a senior he somehow recalls pressing Jay against the lockers and nipping at his mouth so blatantly that Charles can see the flashes of ivory teeth as they dig into Jay's lower lip, the urge to go over there and knock those same teeth out of the bastard's skull is quite a major surprise.
As is the painful tightening of that now-familiar tangle in his stomach.
He intends to simply wander past, but somehow finds himself turning around and heading towards the bathrooms as briskly as possible without looking like an over-emotional imbecile.
Two weeks later, and Charles has a very strong suspicion that he's going insane.
His eyes are constantly drawn to any- and everyone that looks the slightest bit like Jay. When he hears him, he finds his feet trailing along after the sound. In English, he finds himself both unbelievably grateful and undeniably furious that Jay sits just one row in front and far enough to the left that he can glance to the side and see most of the boy's profile and the quick movements of his hands (the quality of his work is suffering, and it pisses him off).
The boy's formerly irritating and pathetic personality traits and tendencies are finally acknowledged as things he ardently… Misses. When he sees him capitulate to yet another request (demand, really, considering Jay's history with such things) that Charles knows he doesn't really have the time for, he desperately wants to push in beside him and bark at whoever's causing the boy hassle to do their own bloody grunt-work. When he sees an affectation intended to impress or endear him to whoever he's with, Charles wants to go over and tell him to knock it the fuck off because he should be accepted as he is (as he is – posing and smoking and all, then way Charles couldn't accept because he was too busy looking down his nose and seeing everything for the worst it was).
When he sees the senior from That Day alone, his mind floods with between seventeen and twenty-three ways to do the fucker a serious injury.
When he sees that same senior with Jay at his side, he feels vaguely sick and inevitably contemplates the fastest nine ways to get the hell away.
When he sees them making out in the bathroom, he knows it's time to talk to Metis.
"So, basically what you're saying is that you're a total dick," Josh states in an almost angry tone, and Charles finds himself almost agreeing before he remembers that he is Charles and therefore above such criticism.
He still wishes that he'd been able to get Metis alone. But these days it would be easier to find Sarah without her brutal honesty, and he knows to just shut up and deal. He needs Metis right now.
Metis, however, seems to be on mute.
Josh isn't. Joy. "The guy wanted you – to impress you, to understand you, to be near you, to fucking love you, the whole works – and you treated him, fuck, half the time like some stray that followed you home despite your allergies, and half the time like a fucking experimental subject in for observation, and now that he's getting back up from that and finding someone who wants him the same way you've decided that now, now, you want him? What, is it that your jealous someone else is getting the attention? Did I miss something and you making him believe you hated the air he breathed was some sick sort of flirting? Fuck, Cha-" Metis' hand on his leg shuts Josh up.
"You've fucked up, Charles."
"Spectacularly. I'm aware."
"Well. It might not be that bad."
"Don't patronise me, May, or jock boyfriend or no, I'll kick your ass."
Metis smirks, but it has a sympathetic twist to it that makes something inside Charles' head loosen and ease. "Ok. It is that bad. Josh may have exaggerated a little – you did, Josh, you didn't see them together as much as I did – but you certainly weren't good to or for him."
"Understatement," Josh mutters.
"Josh." Metis isn't smirking anymore. "Look, could you go grab us all some coffee or something?"
"You only have tea."
"So go around the corner. Please, Josh."
Josh stands to leave with a huff. "I was the one who saw him outside of the theatre, and I was the one who was there with him after the two of you bailed on the party."
"I know," Metis says, and Charles knows it's an apology. More than that – it's mostly an apology because Charles won't say it.
"You don't." All the anger leaves Josh in a rush as he faces his boyfriend. "Look, he seriously wanted to make something work between the two of them." He looks back at Charles, and the anger stays hidden. "I wasn't being dramatic. He might have loved you. He definitely waited long enough to imply that. If you do this, don't fuck it up. Or I promise you, Charles, I will fuck you up. Jay's a great friend to me."
Charles doesn't know what to say to that. Josh, thankfully, doesn't seem to require any other answer than the expression on his face, and nods tightly before affectionately twisting a lock of Metis' hair between his fingers and leaving.
The silence persists until long after his footsteps have faded away.
"He isn't wrong." It's quiet, but Charles feels like it would be better if Metis yelled it. "You could have had exactly what you want now, but you were too busy… What the fuck were you too busy with?"
"I have no idea. I didn't see him the way I do now, that's for sure. I guess, too busy waiting for something better? Maybe for him to be better? Too busy trying to get you and Josh-"
"No. Don't even try it, Charles. Jeez, if Josh heard that he'd deck you. Again. Jay had been watching and waiting and trying for ages before the thing with Josh and I needed any input from you. And let's remember that you mostly just confused the situation."
"I worked in subtle ways."
"Fine, yeah. But still. You can't pin this on anyone but yourself."
"He quit and you didn't notice for fucking months."
"He was a poser, and a doormat."
"Only as much as he is now."
Charles knows that he can't argue with facts. "I know that." He knows his voice is slightly shaky and too quiet, and he doesn't look at Metis' face. "But it's different. He isn't spineless the way I thought he was, or desperate the way I was sure he was."
"… I know." But he doesn't hate him for it anymore.
"You know. You always fucking know! This is exactly your problem, you know that? You always think you fucking know!" Charles can't remember the last time Metis yelled at him like this. Or anyone yelled at him like this, except for Josh. "He's desperate for approval – more now than he was before, after you denying him it over and over. He's a total pushover – I saw Samuel ask him the other day to do his shifts at that volunteer thing Dali assigned him to and he agreed even though I know he's got extra-credit coursework to finish for Law and hasn't been sleeping right for days already. He's as much what you looked down on as he was before, but your attitude's done a 180."
Charles knows what he's being asked, and knows what it will cost him if he lies now. He's still not happy to admit it. "I miss him."
"Him. Not the attention. Him."
"Would I sit through the lecture and Josh's bitching if I wasn't?" He can't deal with this. He's gone through it so many times in his head, and he doesn't need this shit from May. "I miss him. I miss his attention. I keep trailing after him like a fucking puppy and I hate it. I hate him for giving up so easily when I told him to ask again another way. I hate you and Erik and Sarah and Josh and fucking everyone for pointing out that he's so justified in doing so. I hate that I allowed it. I hate seeing him with that fucker all over him and I hate what it does to me. I hate the entire fucking situation, May, and I hate that I got myself into it. Does that about cover everything?"
"No. You haven't told me what you think of him."
"Fuck you." Charles moves to leave, yanks open the door, and finds Josh staring down at him. He turns around and sits back down.
"You know, May. I already explained."
"You said how things he does make you feel. Not Jay himself."
"I like him. I want him. I don't want anyone else touching him the way I could. I hate shit about him, but mostly because I want to protect him from people abusing it. I might love him, I don't know."
"That's good enough, I guess." Charles had expected rather more of a fight for Josh's approval.
Metis positively beams. "Good, then. So." His happy smile becomes a worrying grin. "Game plan."
This is the most difficult part. Charles hasn't spoken to Jay unless necessary for months now. To suddenly say even something as simple and unassuming as, "Good morning, Jay," is a massive step. He didn't even say it that often when Jay wanted him to, and if anything it's that thought that forces the words out of his mouth with a nod as he crosses paths with the other boy on the way to class.
As he keeps walking, he can hear Jay stop and turn to stare after him, and can hear the senior who was holding Jay's hand questioning, "What's up?" and who he was, and he can feel the sweat on the back of his neck.
But four hours later they arrive at English at the same time and Jay greets him with an uncertain, "Afternoon?" that makes him feel better than he has in what feels like a decade.
He feels the corners of his mouth turn up, and from the look on Jay's face he knows it's a bit softer than his usual smirk. "Indeed it is."
As he heads to his desk and sneaks the first of another hour's-worth of glances across at him, he hopes Jay is filing his own slight smile into his memories the way that he's filing the boy's gentle and pleasantly surprised expression.
The greetings get easier. Charles goes over and joins in conversations with May and Josh when Jay is already there – sometimes with the senior whose name he still doesn't know and has no intention of learning, but he can bear that for now.
He was the one who fucked up. He's the one who has to take it slow and steady, and assure Jay that he's not just being a selfish prick.
Even though he is.
He's being completely selfish, and he knows it. He's pretty certain the Metis and Josh do too, but he refuses to broach the subject. He needs them on his side for this.
Still. He can't help those twinges of guilt when he sits in class and thinks about the happy smile on Jay's face when his boyfriend snuck up behind him for a hug earlier, or the openly awed expression on the senior's face at the very idea of being allowed to hold Jay's hand and kiss his cheek before heading off to his own classes. There's a part of him that wishes that the guy could have been some kind of abusive bastard, so that he would have a slightly more valid excuse for trying so hard to steal Jay away than simply wanting him. Instead he's a genuinely sweet, funny guy who treats Jay with respect and affection – except for when he's shoving him up against lockers or walls or whatever other large flat surface is nearby to grind their hips together and kiss Jay senseless, which Charles knows embarrasses Jay a fair amount and causes cruel gossip in certain quarters.
He resolves to only ever be so overt in his lust when he and Jay are alone or out of sight. Because, oh God, does he ever lust – more than ever now that he's so close again and has seen so much more of Jay in those slightly compromising positions, despite who he's with and the homicidal urges the bastard inspires. When Jay's his, he'll hold his hand and kiss his cheek in full view of the whole world, but it'll be chaste and sweet until they're behind some form of closed door. Then and only then will he bend the boy in half and make him forget his own name.
But not his, because even now when it's so innocent and friendly, and even though he's heard it so very many times before and felt nothing but irritation and distain (and a small spark he recognises in retrospect but paid no attention to at the time), hearing the name 'Charles' from Jay's mouth sends an embarrassing but delightful amount of heat slamming through him. He imagines that Jay thinks he has hearing problems, actually, what with the number of times he pretend not to hear him so that he repeats the word. And when Jay's under him, he'll want to hear him scream it.
After a while they tell the others what's going on.
Unfortunately, they don't reckon on Erik's disapproval.
They also don't reckon on him telling Jay's douche-bag boyfriend.
Charles' jaw swells and goes through pretty much the entire rainbow before it heals properly.
Jay's boyfriend becomes more possessive and protective and fucking demonstrative – which is what really drives Charles up the wall and around the bend, because he knows the bastard's only doing it to piss him off and isn't considering how awkward Jay obviously feels about the increased attentions. The fact that it's pushing the two boys apart doesn't make him feel any better. Not even when Jay, looking tired and upset, asks if he wants to just grab a coffee together on the way home, since he's trying to get away before he gets there.
Charles almost tells him right then what a scumbag he's being.
But then they might not be agreeing to get a coffee together twice a week.
Of course, it had to come out eventually. Charles always knew it would, and always knew that it wouldn't be pretty. He's been planning his speech for weeks, practicing with Metis and Josh for every eventuality, and knows that however humiliating it gets he only has one shot at this, and he can't screw it up again.
He just wishes that it didn't have to happen like this.
Jay showed up on his doorstep in floods of angry tears, and even now Charles isn't sure whether that fury is aimed at him or Jay's ex-boyfriend. For now, all he can do is keep him inside in the warm, give him coffee, and attempt to explain himself.
Jay gets there first.
"He said you were trying to force us apart – you wanted the attention back."
"I did, and I do. But more."
"You knew I was perfectly happy with him?"
"You selfish bastard." Somehow, the quiet words lack venom.
"I know I am. You should want nothing to do with me – just as Erik said. I'm no good for you."
"Yes. But at least you know that I really do want you."
"Every sense of the word. In my life, at my side, to be mine, under me." He never saw him blush like that with his ex. "I know you were happy with him. I tried to be fine with that, believe me. I certainly didn't want to feel like this. I thought at first that it was just that I was so used to you being there that your absence felt so acute, but then you didn't smell of smoke and didn't try to gain my approval and I started to find that even the things that pissed me off about you were things that I wanted back. Just for the familiarity, or because you got so much more interesting after you decided not to trail after me and take that parting shot."
"You certainly know how to romance a guy, bastard."
Charles ignores the comment, because this is the important part. This is what Jay has to understand, or Charles has already lost. "Then I saw him kissing you. Denial didn't have a fucking chance. It took two weeks for me to admit it and go to Metis to try to get my head on straight. In those two weeks I just about lost my mind. I'd hear you and start shuffling along in your direction to try to catch a glimpse of you or hear a little more, and don't even get me started on my English grades. I think Josh might be beating me, which is entirely fucking humiliating and all your fault. I saw him on his own and wanted to beat the living shit out of him, or saw him with you and had to fucking leave because I just couldn't look. When I saw you in the toilets I was torn in about a million directions – I wanted to throw up, cry, hit him, hit you, haul him away and give you a taste of how much better I could be, everything." Jay stays silent, and Charles finds unfamiliar desperation welling in his throat. "So I ran to May. And Josh, obviously. Sat through the shouting and lectures and recriminations. Told them how I felt about you. Feel about you. A-"
"And how's that?"
"I'm getting there."
"I'm not interested in the story. I already know how it ends, thanks. You destroyed a great, loving –" Charles feels something suspiciously close to his chest start to throb painfully "– relationship because you finally decided you 'wanted' me. Tell me how you feel."
It's frightening, coming up against the Jay of cold steel and vicious, cruel honesty. Charles still finds it incredibly interesting, but he wants it gone. He wants sweet, doormat Jay back.
But he can't say that.
"It seems like you always are," Charles says quietly, "and I'm sorry for that. I'm a selfish prick. But I like you. I want you. As I put it to May when he eventually hauled it out of me, 'I hate shit about him, but mostly because I want to protect him from people abusing it.' At the time I thought I might love you, now I still don't know. I feel strongly enough to call it love, but I'm selfish and possessive enough that most people would argue that it's something else. That's… It, I guess."
Jay remains silent. Charles can feel himself starting to panic – twitching fingers, blurred vision, the works. He's broken a happy couple up, and he still might not get what he knows he desperately needs. He needs Jay now – he's spent too long obsessing over him, too long trying with him, too long drinking coffees and creating in-jokes to simply turn around and walk away. He won't be able to.
This is why Charles never wanted to get closer to anyone but Metis.
"He was the one to ask me out, did you know?"
"Uhm, no, actually." He was unaware that he was expected to care, really, but hearing that Jay hadn't fallen for someone and made the first, vital effort did improve his mood slightly.
"Yeah. I wasn't sure, actually, but Erik said to go for it. I wasn't… I still… I wasn't over you, to be honest. But he was sincere, and Erik said… So I told him yes. I told him about you, though, so he understood what he was getting into. He said that even one or two dates would be more than worth the risk." The achingly soft, sad smile on Jay's face is tearing a hole through Charles' ribcage, and he can't decide whether he loves how beautiful it is or hates how it hurts him. Jay turning to look him in the eyes doesn't help. "That's why, you know. Anyone else, he would have been ok with them wanting me a little. Everyone has odd crushes. He's a good guy. Understanding. But I…" Charles feels his heart stutter. "I'm… I never…" He can't breathe he can't breathe and he wants to grab him and shake him and demand the rest of the sentence immediately bu- "I'm not over you. And he knew it. He knew that if you asked, even though I really liked him, I'd probably…"
Charles waits. And waits. It isn't like him to be so patient regarding something he wants so desperately, and he feels his nails dig in to his palms as he tries to wait the way Jay had waited for him, if only for a minute.
Jay glances away and looks back with an inscrutable expression shielding him. "Are you? Are you asking?"
"Ok then. Right. Well, uhh, ok. Yes."
"Was there an answer in there somewhere?"
"Yes. Ah, yes?"
"Right then." And then Charles is forward and ignoring the squeak of surprise he should be teasing Jay about in favour of crushing him to his chest and pressing his mouth to his boyfriend's with a groan. That heat is slamming through him and Jay feels so fucking good under his hands and making those small noises in the back of his throat.
And he means to take it slow, he really, really does, but that doesn't mean he can't take just a taste of Jay's throat and run one hand under his shirt and over his stomach, and let Jay decide what's next.
It's not easy. Charles is still a git, and Jay is still a doormat. Metis is smug and Josh is worried and Erik is pissed.
But Charles' English grades are back up, and the bruises from the fight with Jay's ex three days after "all the drama" have faded. Jay's ribs are still sore, though, and he's still limping a bit, so when the fucker gets back from suspension Charles does his best to make sure that he gets to him before Josh does – i.e. while there's still unblemished skin to bruise.
Jay tries not to put up with too much of Charles' crap, and when Charles realises he's being more of a cold bastard than amusingly sarcastic he tries to apologise straight away and comprehensively. Jay holds his hand and tries so very hard to be good enough for him that it almost breaks Charles' heart, and Charles protects Jay so thoroughly that Josh smiles warmly at him in the hallways and Erik grits out an apology.
And it's not at all easy. But it is entirely fucking brilliant.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this! I hope it wasn't too awful - if you have the time and inclination, please review? No flames, please, but constructive criticism is loved as much as praise. Thank you!