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Chapter Text

Alex wanders the halls of his old college. He thinks back on all of the things he misses. It's a long list. He misses his parents, misses his friends, and, most importantly, he misses Jay.

Sometimes he regrets giving him those stupid tapes, but, at the same time, he thinks that if anybody has a chance of finding a better way to stop this mess, it's Jay.

Footsteps pound down the hall and Alex tenses, preparing to fight. However, it's only Brian the man in the hood running by. There's nothing Alex can do about him except, maybe, hope he gets himself killed doing something for The Operator.

Another noise makes itself known once the sound of footsteps fades away. It's a wet, wheezing kind of sound. He follows it to an almost empty room save for one person.

Jay Merrick sits, blood dripping from his mouth, leaning against the wall. Alex can't make out any visible wounds from here, but it's dark and he's far away.

So, obviously, he moves closer.

"Jay?"

Said man looks up, squinting through the darkness. "Tim," he says, "'s that you?"

"No," Alex crouches down next to him. "It's Alex."

This doesn't seem to make things any better because Jay flinches backward, pushing himself even farther into the corner. "Get away from me," it sounds like Jay is trying to growl, but it comes out as more of a plea.

"Why? You're already dying, what is me being here going to do?"

Jay snorts and then begins coughing blood into his elbow. When he finally catches his breath he asks, "Can't a man die in peace?"

"Apparently not," Alex says, sitting on the ground next to him.

They sit in relative silence, interrupted by Jay's coughing every once in a while. Alex would be lying if he said it wasn't killing him to listen to-- every ragged breath and wet, wheezing cough tugged at him. He wants Jay to make it through this, really, but he can't think of a valid excuse for running away when Tim inevitably shows up to rescue Jay like the dashing knight he is.

Eventually, Jay speaks up. "God, this is so--" he coughs "-- so stupid. I just wanted to watch your stupid movie. I don't--" another coughing fit "-- I don't want to die. Not here, not-- not now."

Alex doesn't know what to say to that, only leans his shoulder to rest against Jay's in response. "I'm--" he stops himself. What's he going to say? "I'm sorry?" Sounds stupid. What kind of apology would that be? "I'm right here, okay?"

Jay lays his head and Alex's shoulder and lets out a quiet sob. "'m scared."

Alex kisses the crown of his head. "Me too," he says. 

And so, they wait.

Chapter Text

Tim is, generally, pretty antisocial. It's part of the reason he has such a love/hate relationship with this investigation-- he loves the lack of human interaction (not including Jay, of course), but he hates just about everything else (once again, excluding jay).

Does this exclude Jay?

So, he's tired. Tired and about as content as he can be given the whole situation he's found himself in.

He stares at the ceiling blankly, waiting for Jay to come back. The plan is to, if they have time, walk around Rosswood Park (like they haven't had enough of that godforsaken hellhole) and see if they can find anything new (speaking as if that park is ever the same any time they go there).

The door creaks open and Jay steps inside, turning to shut it immediately after.

Tim sits up, stretching his arms above his head. "You get your chips?"

"Uh, yeah," Jay keeps his face turned away, looking instead at the computer.

Now, usually, Tim would let this go. If Jay wants to be a dumbass, who is Tim to stop him? But right now, he has a bad feeling about the reason for Jay keeping his face hidden. So, he gets up and makes his way over to his acquaintance/friend/whatever-the-hell-they-are, leaning over Jay's shoulder to get a good look at his face.

They both freeze. Jay because he was, obviously, trying to hide... this. Tim because he saw it.

Gently, he takes hold of Jay's chin, turning his face to get a better look at the bruises. What the hell had happened? Jay had gone to the gas station across the street and came back with his face half-bruised.

"It's not a big deal," the shorter man says, trying to pull himself away from Tim's hold.

Tim tightens his grip in response, loosening it once again when Jay stops moving. "Who did this?" he asks.

"Really," Jay insists, "It's not important."

"The hell it isn't!" Tim is pissed. Who in the fuck thought they had the right to hurt Jay? "Who did it?"

"Tim. It's not a big deal," Jay refuses to back down. "I'll be fine and you know we don't have time for this. Let it go."

It is a big deal, actually. Tim (not that he'll admit it out loud) considers Jay the only person he has left-- Brian's disappeared and Alex has fucked off to murderville-- and, because of that, he would be willing to kill somebody for the other man. Instead of saying any of this though, he sighs and lets go of Jay's face. "You're sure?" 

"I'm sure," Jay says, "I'm fine."

Tim sighs and accepts defeat. For now. 

Chapter Text

There's a fine line between love and hate. Alex knows this line well enough to understand that he can never be quite sure what side of that line he's on at any given time. That line is especially confusing when it comes to Jay Merrick, his best friend since first grade (God, he thinks, has it really been that long?).

Jay is somebody that Alex has trouble with for a lot of reasons, not least of which is just how goddamn nosey he is. Alex might like Jay better if he stopped playing with things he shouldn't be involved in. Of course, that might make him like Jay less.

A confusing and terribly thin line.

Of course, the reason he's thinking about this stupid fucking line is sitting on the ground, half-out of it from a concussion.

Alex would be lying if he said he wasn't absolutely livid. Who in the actual fuck thought they could get away with this shit?

Which, they weren't going to get away with it if Alex had anything to say about it.

He crouches down next to his friend? An enemy? Jay, reaching out to check for a pulse. There is one, but it's weak (from being knocked out for so long?) and Alex frowns.

"Jay?"

Said man hums absently in response.

"Who did this?"

He isn't expecting a coherent answer of any kind and he knows he's right to do so when Jay starts to speak. "Dunno. Some-- some guy. He was tall. Like, really, really tall. He--" Jay wrinkles his nose, thinking, "-- I don't know if it was him. Maybe it was the other guy."

"The other guy?"

"Yeah. He had a, um, a hood? And a mask?"

Alex sighs. That's the only person he can't do anything about. "Alright," he says, sitting down, shoulder-to-shoulder, with Jay. "I'll make sure you don't die until your buddy Tim shows up."

"Thanks," Jay says, "'s nice of you."

"No problem."

Chapter Text

Brian likes Jay.

Brian likes Jay a lot. 

One could even go so far as to say Brian loves Jay.

He loves Jay so much, in fact, that he's been carrying an engagement ring around in his pocket for months. Tim had come with him to pick it out, leaving Alex to distract Brian's, hopefully, soon-to-be fiancee. 
 
Fiancee is a nice word; Brian likes it. It implies that he's actually going to marry Jay, something he's wanted to do since he first laid eyes on said man.

Brian likes to call this "love at first sight." Tim calls it "gross" and Alex calls it "a distraction." They both help him out anyway, even when he knows they're frustrated with him and the amount of time he spends with Jay.

Alex and Tim are good friends, and Brian appreciates the hell out of them.

He makes his way into his and Jay's shared apartment, dropping the grocery bag on the kitchen counter. "Jay?"

The other man walks into the kitchen, smiling brightly. "Yeah?"

"Just wanted to see you," Brian says, leaning in for a quick kiss. 

Jay dances out of the way (like the little shit he is) and laughs when Brian grabs him by the belt loops to keep him in place.

"Well I never," Jay's southern accent is atrocious, but Brian laughs anyway.

"You never?"

Jay sniffs dramatically, "I never heard of such a thing. Is this any way to--" he breaks down laughing before he can finish the sentence, collapsing against Brian's chest. Eventually, he stands back up, still giggling. "Is that any way to treat a lady?" he asks.

"Absolutely." God, that had been weirdly hot. It had just been Jay being himself, but Brian was here for it. He leans in to whisper in his boyfriend's ear, "That was kind of hot."

"Was it?" Jay responds.

"Oh, for sure."

Brian isn't going to propose right now, might not for a while, but he's happy.

As long as he has Jay, he's happy.

Chapter Text

Brian isn't going to lie to himself, he's not that kind of guy. He really thinks this Jay Merrick guy is cute. Like, really, really cute. Really cute.

The guy has the most adorable nose. And smile. And eyes. And, well, everything. 10/10 would date. And marry, actually.

At the moment, Brian has their entire life planned out up to retirement. Their wedding will be on a beach somewhere warm. He's not sure what country the honeymoon would be in, just not America-- too boring. Maybe Italy? They have those boat things and that sounds pretty romantic.

Of course, he'll have to discuss all of this with Jay first. He'll have to talk to Jay first.

He sighs and rests his head on the picnic table. Alex is telling Seth off, again, for turning off the camera, again. God, Brian's sick to death of that speech.

Tim must agree because he groans and lays his head down by Brian's.

The other man smells like cigarettes and trees. Which, at this point, Brian's convinced they all smell like trees with all the filming they've been doing in Rosswood.

"How long do you think this one's going to last?" Tim asks, eyes flicking to watch Alex for a moment before returning to Brian.

He chuckles. "Who knows, man? It could be hours."

"It's already been..." Tim glances at his watch, "ten minutes."

Brian whistles lowly. "A new record."

Somebody blocks their line of sight by sitting across from them. Brian's head shoots up to complain, but he quickly snaps his mouth shut when he sees it's Jay. He feels himself smile brightly instead.

Tim looks between them for a second with a raised brow and leaves. "I'm going to grab my smokes, be back in a bit."

Brian nods absentmindedly, still smiling goofily at Jay.

The other man grins right back. "What were you two talking about?"

"How long Alex is going to yell at Seth for."

"I feel kind of bad," Jay admits, "for not stopping him, y'know?"

"Yeah," Brian nods, frowning momentarily. "I get that."

They go back to smiling at each other.

Finally, Brian breaks the silence. "Can I kiss you?" he asks.

Jay freezes, eyes wide. "Can you what?"

"Kiss you?" Brian knew this was stupid, and he kind of regrets it, but better to try and get rejected than never ask and never know.

"I-- If you really want to?"

"Well, yeah, I want to. I wouldn't have asked otherwise." Brian frowns. "Do you want me to?"

There's a pause as Jay thinks about the question. "I think I do. Yes."

Brian grins brightly once more, leaning over the table to cup Jay's face in his hands. The shorter man blushes even more, which Brian hadn't even thought was possible, and looks away. "Don't tell me you've never kissed anybody," Brian's not sure he could believe that.

"Well-- no! Nobody's ever wanted to-- to--"

Jay is cut off by Brian pressing their lips together. He tenses for a moment but gradually melts into it. His hands reach up to grasp at Brian's, holding them in place. Their position, leaning over the table towards each other, is uncomfortable, but neither man cares much at present.

They have to break apart eventually, making Jay frown. Brian chuckles and presses their foreheads together. "Now that that's out of the way," he says, "wanna go get lunch sometime?"

Jay snorts quietly-- adorably, of course-- and nods. "I would love to go to lunch with you."

"Good." Brian presses another quick kiss to Jay's lips before glancing over at Alex. "I've got to head back. It looks like Alex's lecture is almost over."

"Do you have to?" Jay hums.

"Yes," what a little shit, Brian grins. "I do. He's my boss and your best friend. You're supposed to be encouraging me to get back to work."

"You're not my best friend?"

"And here I thought I was your boyfriend," he says, sauntering past Jay and back to the shoot.

They don't say anything to each other for the rest of the shoot, but Jay's bright smile and red face stay in Brian's mind the rest of the day.

Chapter Text

This is the tenth hotel they've been to this month. Ten. Tim doesn't know where Jay gets the money for them (because Jay is the one paying for the rooms, completely on his own with no help from Tim) and, honestly, he's kind of afraid to ask. 

Speaking of Jay... Tim looks over at where the other man is hunched over his computer, presumably going through the newest footage and looking for anything important. There are deep bags under his eyes and a defeated kind of feel to his posture. Tim doesn't really like it all that much, doesn't like the idea of Jay not taking care of himself.

"Jay?"

He gets an absentminded hum in response. 

"Are you doing okay? You don't look great," he makes his way to stand by the shorter man, spinning the chair around so Jay is forced to look at him.

Jay huffs and attempts to turn the chair back around before slouching against Tim's chest when it doesn't work. "I'm fine."

"Obviously you're not."

He feels Jay's glare, half-hearted as it is, and tries not to laugh. Jay is about as threatening as a declawed, toothless kitten. "I'm just tired," he mumbles, sitting back up. "Can I get back to work or are you going to hold me here all night?"

"I'm not going to hold you here all night," Tim says, throwing Jay over his shoulder and turning to drop him on the bed. "You need to sleep." He saves the work Jay's already done (he's not that much of an asshole) and shuts the computer down. When he turns back to Jay, he's pouting at the floor. "Don't give me that look."

Jay lifts his head up to glare at Tim. "I'm not giving you any look," he says.

Tim snorts to himself and drops on top of Jay. "Time to sleep," he says, rearranging them so they're not half-off the bed.

"Why are you--" Jay's face is bright red and Tim is busy trying not to laugh. "Why are you laying on me?"

"You need to sleep," Tim says, "and I don't trust you not to get up in the middle of the night." He pauses, waiting for Jay to give him a vaguely disappointed look. "It's definitely not because I think you're cute."

Jay smacks Tim's arm and glares at him. "Lead with that next time, you ass."

When they finally get comfortable under the covers, Jay is the one lying half on top of Tim. He's also the first one to fall asleep, snoring quietly in Tim's ear.

Tim smiles, falling asleep, content, for the first time in a long time.

Chapter Text

Tim isn't somebody who's easily surprised. Which is why, at present, he is very confused. Not surprised, because he doesn't get surprised, but confused.

"Is--" he starts, pausing to gather his thoughts, "-- is that my shirt?"

Jay looks up from where he's pouring over the footage from last night and then looks down at his outfit. "Oh, yeah. All of mine were dirty," here, he smiles sheepishly. "I'm sorry, I should have asked."

"No, it's alright," Tim says despite it not being alright. "Just caught me a bit off-guard." He tells himself to snap out of and remembers his reason for coming to talk to Jay in the first place. "I'm heading to Fastrip, you want anything?"

"Fastrip?" Jay visibly perks up, spinning himself around in the chair to grin at Tim. "Grab me some chips?"

"Yeah, absolutely." Tim is out the door before he can do anything stupid like ask Jay to exclusively wear things that belong to him.

That's-- Tim's never known himself to have any clothing-related kinks (or any kinks in general, really), but seeing Jay practically swimming in one of his flannel shirts made it so, incredibly difficult not to literally jump on the other man.

Luckily, Tim has enough self-control to not tackle his investigative partner to the bed, but he's not sure he has the self-control to stop himself from burning all of said partner's clothes.

Maybe he could pass it off as The Operator being a dick. Yeah, that sounds like a plan.

The Operator likes fire, right?

What if he threw them all in the dumpster while Jay took a shower? Even better because then Jay has to dig through Tim's clothes naked and that's a thought Tim really likes. A lot.

Dumpster it is.

Or, maybe, a tiny, smarter part of him whispers, you could just move on like a normal person and forget this ever happened.

Yeah, he thinks back, that's not happening anytime soon.

He freezes for a quick second. What if there's something important in Jay's clothes bag?

Damn.

Better plan; he'll slowly throw clothes out until Jay still has all of his important things but is forced to only wear Tim's clothes.

(Just pretend like he can buy new ones.)

He goes through the motions of checking out at the gas station on autopilot and makes his way back to the hotel room. For a moment, he considers taking another walk somewhere far, far away, but he hears Jay call from inside, "Tim? Is that you?"

"Yeah," he calls back, unlocking the door. The small bag of snacks is dropped onto Jay's bed and the door closed. "You finish editing your video?"

Jay nods and bounces onto his bed, pulling the bag of chips towards himself. "It's uploading right now."

Tim nods back, trying not to stare too obviously at the fabric slipping off the other man's shoulders.

Apparently, Jay notices this because he frowns. "Are you sure you don't mind me wearing your shirt?"

Wow, he thinks, straight to the root of the problem. "Yeah, I'm sure," his voice is hoarse and so he clears his throat, trying not to think about how warm his face feels.

Of course, Jay isn't the leader for no reason. He must figure out exactly what Tim's thinking because he's smiling mischievously when Tim chances a glance in his direction. "You like it," Jay sets down the bag of chips and moves to stand in front of Tim. "You like that I'm wearing your shirt." 

Tim can feel his face heat up even more and so continues avoiding eye contact with Jay. "No," he denies, "I don't, actually."

But Jay remains unconvinced. He wraps his arms around Tim's shoulders and leans up on his toes so he can whisper in the taller man's ear. "You sure about that?"

Rather than answer verbally, Tim pulls Jay away from his ear and then back even closer, crashing their lips together. Jay's hands tangle in Tim's hair and he pulls

"Not that I'm not enjoying this," he pulls himself back after (how long? an eternity? a few seconds?), "but we probably shouldn't be doing this."

"Shouldn't we?" Tim knows they don't have too much spare time for this, but he's also not sure he cares.

"When this is all over," Jay says  "I give you free rein to do whatever you want to me."

Tim hums and places a kiss to Jay's neck. "Anything?"

"Anything."

"I'll hold you to that," he says. "Does this mean we can stop getting rooms with two beds?"

"Yeah," Jay laughs, chuckling, "we can get one-bed rooms."

Tim grins at him fondly, leaning in for a brief kiss. "Good."

Chapter Text

Alex is tired. Like, really fucking tired. All he wants right now, after hours and hours of filming for his movie, is to lay down and sleep.

Of course, he isn't lucky enough to get that.

When he pulls into his driveway, the first thing he notices is that Jay's car is also parked there. Normally, this wouldn't be an issue. Alex adores Jay, but today he's been on his feet for almost twelve hours directing a bunch of idiots who just want to throw pinecones at each other and he's really not in the mood for company.

He stomps his way into the house and makes sure to angrily take his shoes off and toss them rudely on top of Jay's. 

There's... nobody in the living room. Or the kitchen. The bathroom light is off and it looks like all of his roommates are sleeping. Where the fuck is Jay?

Alex shrugs. If Jay wants to talk to him Alex is sure he can just text or something.

He opens the door to his room and turns the light on, only to freeze immediately after.

There's Jay. In Alex's bed. In one of Alex's shirts. Sleeping there like he owns the place.

He shuts the door behind him and shakes Jay awake. The other man blinks up at him, confused.

Alex... really can't think of anything to say, so he goes with the first thing that comes to mind. "Is that my shirt?"

Jay looks down at what he's wearing. "And your pants. Is there a reason you're just standing there whispering angrily at me?"

"Is there a reason you're in my bed and my clothes?"

"Yeah," Jay buries his face back into the pillows. 

"And that reason is?"

"I'm tired and I like you," he turns back to look at Alex again. "Are you going to get in the bed too or are you just going to stand there all night?"

Alex stutters out a quiet "give me a second" and goes to brush his teeth. While he does so, he has a hard time thinking about much besides Jay, sleeping in his bed. He pulls on pajama pants and a clean shirt before turning off the lights and making his way back to the room.

Without giving it too much thought, he lays on his back next to Jay, planning on keeping to his side of the bed. This plan, however, gets thrown out the window rather quickly by Jay himself who decides to lay half on top of Alex and fall asleep there. 

"Jay?"

Jay groans. "What?"

"Why are you laying on me?"

"What part of 'I'm tired and I like you' is so hard to understand? Shut up and go to sleep."

Eventually, he does fall asleep. His sleep is uninterrupted by nightmares for the first time in a long time.

For once, Alex sleeps well.

Chapter Text

They're outside filming. Again. In negative four degree weather. Brian wishes Alex would calm the fuck down and let them just film the indoor scenes while it's cold out instead of freezing their asses off. 

Luckily for Brian, it seems Sarah's complaining convinced Alex to head inside because they start packing up to head to the supervisor's house. Brian is about eighty percent sure the guy's name is Jay something or other. Or maybe it just starts with J? Who knows, honestly. 

They pile into their cars and follow Alex to the address. It's actually a pretty small place-- an apartment building with only one floor and no indoor hallways. If he's being honest, it reminds him more of a shitty motel than an apartment building, but he's not really in a position to judge considering he still lives with his parents.

Finding a spot to park is hell, there aren't enough spots available for everybody's cars and so some of them end up parked across the street-- Brian included. He and Tim cross together, gripping onto each other's arms for stability on the ice.

The supervisor's apartment is better on the inside. By that, Brian means it's warm. The rest of it is still as shitty looking as the outside.

He can't see the supervisor because Alex is in the way, talking to him. "Jay--" ah, so his name is Jay "-- have you gone over the script excerpt I sent you?"

"Not all the way," Jay says, "I wasn't expecting you over today."

The implied "or your guests" makes Alex shift a bit awkwardly before shrugging and making his way to the couch. Jay huffs and watches him saunter off before turning to smile at the assembled group of cast and crew.

Oh.

Oh.

He's cute.

Like, really cute.

Why is everybody so good-looking?

"Feel free to make yourselves at home," he says, "I was just going to make coffee, do you guys want any?"

There's a chorus of yesses from everybody except Brian who's way too busy imagining Jay's mouth--

"Brian?"

Brian blinks. "Yeah?"

"Do you want some coffee?" Jay looks vaguely concerned.

"Uh-- yes. I, um. Yeah."

Tim shoots a knowing look his way, practically giggling (not out loud, of course, he'd never do something like that) as he makes his way to the living room.

Brian follows at a much slower pace and turns just in time to get a good look at jay's ass. Personally, he thinks it would look much nicer without those stupid clothes covering it. 

He feels his face heat up and practically throws his jacket off to try and cool down.

Alex seems to have gotten up at some point because he's no longer sitting on the couch or even in the living room at all. 

"Where's Alex?" Sarah asks. 

"In here!" Alex calls from the kitchen, "I'm helping Jay with the coffee."

Brian frowns and, once again, Tim shoots him an "I know exactly what you're thinking right now" look.

Completely unfair.

The coffee comes out and Tim somehow manages it so Jay and brian sit by each other on the couch. The group talks for hours-- sometimes about the movie, sometimes about stupid shit-- and eventually, Alex talks them all into going out for dinner.

"It'll be fun," he says, pulling his shoes on and faceplanting into the door.

Brian snorts and makes to follow after everybody, but sees Jay staying behind. "You coming with?"

"Ah," Jay winces, "I hadn't realized I was invited."

"Hey, Alex!" Brian turns to call out the door. "Jay's invited, right?"

Alex shouts a "duh" back through the door and Brian turns back towards his new favorite person, raising an eyebrow.

"My car doesn't have gas--"

"You can ride with me. Unless you don't want to go?"

Jay chews on his lower lip-- and, Jesus Christ, it's hot-- before nodding. "Yeah, sounds good."

Brian goes to pull his jacket on but notices Jay doesn't have one. He frowns. "Aren't you going to wear a jacket?"

"They're all in the washer," Jay rubs the back of his neck awkwardly. "I'm sure it's not going to be too bad, though."

"Take mine," Brian holds it out expectantly, "It's, like, negative four out."

Jay wrinkles his nose. "Won't you get cold?"

"I've got another one in the car."

He gets a doubtful look, but Jay takes the jacket and slides it on anyway.

They make their way across the street and into Brian's car. He continues stealing glances at Jay, flushing every time he sees the other man in the way-too-large-jacket.

He turns the key and makes to follow Alex to wherever-the-hell-they're going. 

Today's been nice.