It starts with a nightmare, because that’s how everyday of his life starts. He wakes up because someone is screaming, briefly thinks that he’s back at the Nest, but the comforter on his bed is an unforgiving gold, even in the moonlit room. The screaming, he realizes belatedly, was him.
Jean sits up and hates the sweat running down his temples, hates that there are tears in his eyes, and desperately, desperately0 wants to hate that Jeremy is watching him with concerned eyes from his bed on the other side of the room.
He can’t hate it though, because Jeremy is so genuine in his concern. For some reason that Jean can’t place, Jeremy actually cares.
Jeremy doesn’t say anything and Jean rolls over and pretends to go back to sleep.
For some reason, there’s a crowd of students gathered just outside of his classroom. They aren’t focused on the classroom, but Jean backs away from the door regardless. There’s no other way out of the room, but he can’t stay in the room either. He has another class to get to.
“Come on, out of the way!” Suddenly though, Jeremy appears in the frame of the door, smiling like he hadn’t just pushed his way through a crowd, “They posted roles for the end of semester play,” he explains.
Jean blinks at him, unsure of what to say to that, “I have a class,” he says and wishes he hadn’t.
“I know, why do you think I’m here?” Jeremy keeps smiling and Jean sort of wants to smack it off his face. He gestures behind him to the crowd, “You’ve got your own personal escort.”
Following behind Jeremy to the door, Jean is almost certain he’d rather stay put and miss his next class rather than push himself through the crowd. Jeremy was already bulldozing back through the crowd and before he realized, Jean had his hand fisted in the back of Jeremy’s shirt.
His knuckles were white by the time they were out of the crowd and Jeremy didn’t comment on it once, just started rambling about the upcoming practice that afternoon.
There’s someone staring, their eyes heavy on the back of Jean’s neck. It’s making him nervous and no matter how high he draws up his shoulders, the eyes still weigh on him.
He twists harshly, actually startling Jeremy out of the book he’s reading. There’s a guy a table away from them, not even pretending like he’s doing anything but staring. Jean’s out of the seat before he registers his own movements.
Jeremy catches him though, before he’s even made it two strides, before he even realized that Jeremy even moved. “Come on, Jean, let’s get some air,” he says, like that was his plan all along, looping his arm through Jean’s.
Jean snarls at him, tries to pull himself away and Jeremy, damn him, just uses the momentum to turn them away towards the door of the shop. “Knox,” he hisses, even though it didn’t phase Jeremy day one and still hasn’t however many months later it is.
“You’re like a wet kitten,” Jeremy says distractedly, still leading him out the door. He says it fondly, like he’s grown fond of Jean. His vision swims a little and he needs to breathe, curls his fingers in the air and the fingers of his left hand brush Jeremy’s side.
He does it out of habit one day. Pushes the sleeves of his shirt halfway up his forearm, focused on the book in front of him, focused on copying his notes over.
Someone behind him gasps and he snaps out of his focus, turns to see a girl staring at him. But not really at him, at his arms. He immediately tugs his sleeves down, glares at her, “Can I help you?”
She jumps and hurries off with a book clutched to her chest.
When he turns back in his seat, Jeremy is watching him quietly, assessing. He bites back a comment, turning his focus back on his book.
He rereads the same paragraph three times before he gives up.
Jean walks into the room and immediately about faces, ready to go back into the main room.
Debating the merits of acting like he didn’t hear, he turns back around. If he leaves, Jeremy will come find him with that look on his face, like somehow Jean had hurt his feelings. It makes him feel bad in the most unfair way possible.
The room looks like a tornado has passed through or, at least, Jeremy’s side does. There are clothes on every surface and Jean can only stare as Jeremy keeps pulling things out of his dresser, his closet. He keeps holding items up, considering them, before tossing them into one of the piles on his bed. There’s apparently a system but Jean isn’t seeing it.
He licks his lips, opens his mouth to ask a question, but closes it again because he isn’t sure what to ask. He isn’t sure how long he’s been standing there when Jeremy finally stops and turns a smile at him, “Okay, you’re not a Raven anymore -”
Jean bares his teeth, but all Jeremy does is lifts an eyebrow and waits.
“- so you need to stop with the...” he trails off and gestures a hand towards Jean’s clothes, looking almost like they’ve personally offended him. “I have some sweaters that might fit you,” he carries on then, his attention turning to one of the piles on his bed, “You should try them on.”
He leaves the room.
When he comes back, the clothes are cleaned up, but there’s a four sweaters on his bed. None of them are black and all of them are soft and smell like Jeremy’s cologne.
The world is shaking and Jean gasps awake, realizes the world is shaking because Jeremy has hands wrapped around his biceps. Jeremy’s eyes are huge and so fucking blue in the moonlight stripping through the room, Jean wants to hit him. Just once, to see if he could shake the positivity from Jeremy’s bones.
He doesn’t though and doesn’t think about why not.
“You were screaming,” Jeremy says quietly, eyebrows furrowed. He hasn’t moved from the edge of Jean’s bed and Jean isn’t sure he wants him to.
He nods and scrubs a hand at his face, chest tight, “Merci,” he says and hates the way his voice cracks, hates how hoarse it is, then adds, “Thanks.”
The smile that Jeremy offers him is small, a little sad, and he reaches out, eyebrow lifted. He’s asking permission, Jean realizes, and his chest tightens that much more, but he nods.
He tenses, can’t help the reaction, but Jeremy moves slowly, so very slow. Jeremy’s thumb is callous when it swipes over his cheek and Jean realizes he’s wiping a tear away.
It takes all of him not to turn his head away.
Jean is pulling at the sleeve of the sweater he has on when he notices almost all of the team is staring at him. He blinks, checks over himself to make sure there isn’t anything spilled on him, before he takes turns scowling at each of them until they look away.
Jeremy doesn’t look away, just smiles at him, before he calls the team to attention.
It takes him a few minutes to realize he’s wearing one of the sweaters Jeremy had given him and wonders how he managed to not realize.
It’s soft navy blue fabric and suddenly the sleeves not fitting properly makes sense. He’d been so tired, he hadn’t even realized what he had pulled from his drawer.
He’s so absorbed in staring at the way the sleeves are pulled up around his wrists that he doesn’t realize the team has filed out to the locker rooms until Jeremy crouches into his line of sight, “Everything alright?”
No, he thinks desperately, you’re too much.
“Sure,” he says eventually, standing up and walking away.
A calm is finally settling over everything, Jean being at USC is no longer big news, but it still doesn’t mean he feels entirely comfortable out in public. Jeremy still coaxes him into public with a soft smile and wide, blue eyes.
He’s fairly certain he’s doomed.
They end up in a department store and the sales clerk keeps coming over to check on them, eyeing Jeremy up. Jeremy, of course, doesn’t notice. Jean bares his teeth at her, feeling a little vindictive, and doesn’t feel much better when she stays away.
He turns his attention back to Jeremy, crossing his arms over his chest as Jeremy thumbs his way through sweaters. “Don’t you have enough of those?”
Jeremy tosses him a sunny smile over his shoulder before his attention is drawn back to the sweaters, “I need more options,” he says, rubbing the sleeve of one on his cheek.
A car backfires outside and Jean jerks so hard that his desk chair falls backwards. The edges of his vision are fuzzy, black filtering in, and his back hits the wall. He can’t breathe properly, like something’s sitting on his chest, and every breath he does manage burns.
He blinks, tries to focus, and Jeremy is there, hands out like he was reaching out to Jean but wasn’t sure if it would be safe to touch him. The world is still dark on the edges, his vision completely filled by Jeremy and he reaches out desperately, curls his fingers into the fabric of Jeremy’s sweater.
It’s the navy one and a hysterical laugh tears its way out of his throat.
Everyone’s staring at him now and Jean can only scowl at them, his left foot clenched in his right hand.
Jeremy has an eyebrow lifted and the ghost of a smile on his face, “Language?” He says the word slowly, like he’s fairly certain he knows what Jean said, but isn’t quite sure.
Jean narrows his eyes, tilts his head, then, “Va te faire enculer.” He drops his foot and heads towards the locker room, trying not limp too obviously.
“Did he... did he just make a joke?” He hears Laila ask as the door swings shut behind him.
They’re watching a movie. Or, well, Jeremy’s watching a movie, some heartwarming, inspirational thing that, of course, Jeremy would watch.
Jean is watching Jeremy.
He can’t tear his eyes away, can only focus on the curl of Jeremy’s eyelashes or that only the tips of his fingers are visible from his sweater sleeve. It hits him then, when he looks down at his own hands, the sleeves of the sweater perfectly long enough.
He hadn’t bought this sweater, but it had been in his laundry.
The world starts getting hazy and he shoots up off the couch, fumbling out some excuse, not even realizing it’s not even in English until he’s already in the room. He sits on the edge of his bed, dropping his head down towards his knees and tangling a hand in his hair.
“Jean?” Jeremy sounds concerned and the bed dips with his weight.
He glances over at Jeremy, who has a hand out, hovering like he’s waiting for permission. Jean stares for a few minutes before nodding. Jeremy moves slowly, like he has every time, and his arm is a reassuring weight across Jean’s shoulder.
It’s quiet for a long while, so long that Jean hadn’t even realized that he had shifted to lean into Jeremy’s side until Jeremy speaks and it rumbles his chest, “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” Jean says, without thinking about it.
It shocks him to realize that it’s true.
He wakes up with a hand on his arm and thrashes out before he can fully recount his surroundings. His fist connects before he realizes where he is, the colors in the room telling him he’s safe.
It’s the first time he’s ever heard Jeremy swears and he feels sick, scrambling where he’s tangled up in his sheet, “Merde merde merde!” His back slams against the headboard, trying to curl into himself and away from Jeremy.
Jeremy reaches for him though, going slow so Jean can see him, but it doesn’t matter because all Jean can focus on is the fact that the area around his eye is red and seems to be rapidly purpling. “Come on, Jean,” Jeremy’s voice is soothing as always, “It’s okay, you didn’t mean to.”
He laughs, harsh and bitter, “I hit you and you’re reassuring me?” His voice doesn’t come across as incredulous as he hopes for, just falls a little flat, “I hit you.”
There’s a wry smile on his face when Jeremy starts tugging at him, pulling him right off the bed. As often as Jeremy smiles, sometimes Jean forgets that he’s an exy captain, “Yeah, well, I should’ve known not to grab you like that,” he says, like he’s not going to have a black eye for at least a week.
Jean shakes his head, scowling at Jeremy’s profile, still letting himself be propelled out of the room.
Jeremy leads him to their fridge and grabs a bag of frozen peas from the freezer. “You may have hit me,” he starts, pressing the bag into Jean’s hand and then dragging Jean’s hand up to his face, “but you weren’t trying to hurt me.”
When Jeremy’s hand drops, Jean keeps the bag gently pressed to his face, but doesn’t say anything, eyebrows furrowed, “Tu es un casse-tête,” he says because he needs to get it off his chest, but doesn’t want Jeremy to understand him.
“You just hit me,” Jeremy starts, but he’s grinning and the corner of his eyes are crinkled, “You better not have just insulted me.”
His shoulders hurt so bad that he can barely lift his racquet up to get off the court. The team is celebrating, loud whooping and jumping on each other, and Jean definitely can’t be part of that without causing some sort of destruction.
He heads for the doors to go off court, but his attention is drawn by a, “Hey, Moreau!”
The reaction is immediate, his entire body tenses as he turns slowly. It’s someone from the other team, racquet and helmet in one hand, the guy raises his eyebrows at Jean as he comes closer. Jean’s fingers curl into a fist, ready for the fight that’s no doubt coming.
It never comes though. The guy offers him a hand and a smile, then says, “Good game!”
Jean shakes his hand stiffly at stares at the spot long after the guy has returned to his own team. He’s so zoned out that he doesn’t notice that Jeremy is there until fingers curl around his bicep and steer him towards the doors off the court, “Are you okay?”
The sound comes rushing back in all at once and Jean sucks in a sharp breath and shakes his head so hard he’s surprised he doesn’t give himself whiplash.
Jeremy makes a concerned sound and leads him into the locker room, pushing him down on a bench, “Alright, that’s okay,” he says and Jean frowns, realizing he doesn’t have his racquet anymore.
His racquet is pressed into his hands and he follows the hands holding it up to Jeremy’s face, realizes then that Jeremy is sitting next to him, their sides pressed together, “You should be celebrating with the team,” he blurts out before he can stop himself.
Jeremy shakes his head, looking fond again, “You are part of the team, Jean,” he says slowly, like he’s talking to a particularly daft child.
He’s staring, he knows he is, but he can’t make himself look away.
The whole team is piled up in their room, for team movie night or bonding night or something equally cheesy that could have only come from Jeremy Knox. Jean honestly wants to hide himself in the room until they’re all gone, but all it takes is a flash of blue eyes and a please. He wants to be put out by how easily Jeremy gets him to cave, but he’s too busy trying to find himself a place to sit that means he’ll have an easy out if he needs it.
“C’mere,” Jeremy calls softly to him from his spot on the couch. No one pays them any mind, arguing about food or something, while the opening credits to some movie play on the screen.
Jean steps over three people, nearly knees another in the head to get to Jeremy, who slides sideways on the couch. The space it opens up is small, crammed between Jeremy and the arm of the couch. Jean is tempted to turn down the spot, but the rest of the room is already covered in bodies.
He sinks into the seat carefully, his ribs crushed against the arm, but Jeremy is a line of heat against his other side. “What are we even watching?” He asks softly and tries not to melt when Jeremy’s arm settles around his shoulders.
“Remember the Titans!” comes from somewhere by his feet and somehow he’s not at all surprised.
They make it halfway through the movie before Jean realizes he’s leaning more into Jeremy than he is the arm of the couch, but he can’t find it in himself to move.
Jean wakes up for once and it’s not because of a nightmare, not one he can recall anyways. It’s still dark out and Jeremy’s bed is actually empty. He can hear him though, moving around in the kitchen and it sounds like he’s talking to himself.
When he steps out of the room, he has to stop. Jeremy is standing shirtless at the stove, a pair of sweatpants sliding off his hips that Jean thinks might actually be his, and he’s barefoot. None of that is actually the worst part, the worst part is that he’s singing.
There’s music playing from somewhere in the kitchen, turned down low like he was afraid of waking Jean, but it seems like it’s already a low song. It’s lilting and soft and Jeremy’s singing follows the cadence of it almost exactly.
Jean’s tempted to go back to bed, pretend like he’d never seen this, but it’s too late because Jeremy is turning towards him, smiling. It’s not his usual sunshine smile though, it’s softer, quieter somehow, “Hey, did I wake you?”
“No,” he answers, can see Jeremy preparing to ask and pushes on before he can, “I’m not sure why I woke up actually.”
Jeremy narrows his eyes a little, like he’s deciding whether or not he believes him, before he nods, “I’m making eggs if you want some,” he says, turning back to the stove.
It’s 3:23 in the morning and Jeremy is making eggs. Of course. Jean shakes his head and walks into the kitchen regardless, lifting himself to sit on one of the counters where he can watch, “Why are you awake?” He asks softly, eyes focused on Jeremy’s face.
“I was worried,” he replies, like it costs him nothing, eyebrows furrowed as he pushes the eggs around the pan, “I have a paper due tomorrow and I think I completely fucked it up.”
“Language,” Jean chides teasingly, relishes in the surprised look that Jeremy tosses his way, “I’m sure you did fine.”
Jeremy nods slowly, stepping away from the stove and leaning against the counter on the outside of his legs, “I hope you’re right,” he says quietly. He doesn’t actually sound sure, so Jean reaches out and squeezes his shoulder, leaving his hand resting on the warm skin.
The tiny smile Jeremy shoots him is worth it.
It’s actually nine in the morning when Jean wakes up. The bedroom door is open and he can hear Jeremy in the other room. He’s singing again, this time something a little more upbeat. They had won the previous night and everyone had been in high spirits, Jeremy the highest of them all.
He pushes himself up, moving slowly, because there’s no rush to be anywhere. The first sweater he gets his hands on is, once again, not one that he bought. It’s soft, deep Trojan red, so he pulls it on anyways. The real surprise comes in when he slides his arms inside the sleeves and realizes there are thumb holes.
“Jeremy,” he calls, walking into the living room.
Jeremy is standing at his desk, reading through one of his textbooks, but he turns as soon as Jean calls to him, “What’s up?”
Jean crosses to him in a few long strides, hands coming up to cup Jeremy’s cheeks, before he kisses him. His lips are dry, but Jeremy’s are too. Dry and warm and they press back into his with the briefest pressure.
He isn’t actually sure how long they stand there, but he notes when he pulls back that Jeremy’s hands are hovering like he wasn’t sure he was allowed to touch. “Merci,” Jean breathes out, before he turns and walks back into the bedroom.
They win the next game and Jean hasn’t even finished getting his helmet off, when Jeremy is leading him to the rest of the team. They’re all cautious not to bump into him, but he still feels included. He hasn’t even realized that his helmet is still on until Jeremy enters his field of vision and starts undoing the clasps with sure fingers.
“That was awesome,” Jeremy says excitedly, once he’s pressed Jean’s helmet back into his own hands. He’s got that megawatt smile on as he turns to the rest of the team, joining in on the celebrations.
When they all start filing off the court, Jean actually feels happy, feels sort of light. The feeling only grows when Jeremy’s fingers curl around his and squeeze, before Jeremy heads off to deal with the press.
The team gets drunk, absolutely drunk.
People are coming and going out of the room so frequently that Jeremy doesn’t bother trying to shut the door and Jean wants to hate him for it. Really wants to hate him for it, but Jeremy has been drinking as well, leaving his face flushed and eyes brighter than normal.
“Jean, come dance with me!”
He’s not actually sure what Laila is doing is actually considered dancing, so he just stands there, regarding her with an eyebrow lifted.
“Listen,” Jeremy starts from where he’s leaning against his desk, “If Jean is going to dance with anyone, it’s going to be me.” Jean doesn’t process the words at first, too busy watching Jeremy drink from his bottle of beer.
Laila laughs, loud and so hard that she stumbles a bit, “Now that I have to see!”
Jean’s thoughts immediately screech to a halt when Jeremy pushes away from the desk and starts in his direction, eyebrows lifted. He’s giving Jean the chance to leave, but Jean is too entranced, watching the liquid movements as Jeremy walks over to him.
Several people have stopped to watch, but there’s a few still moving on their makeshift dance floor. It’s just their living room with the furniture pushed out of the way, but it hasn’t stopped anyone. It’s apparently not stopping Jeremy either, because he holds a hand out to Jean.
“Je m’en fous,” Jean declares, ignoring the raised eyebrows as he slides his hands into Jeremy’s. Laila whoops, but it’s background noise as Jeremy pulls him in closer.
Jeremy leads them back towards the middle of the room, before draping his arms across Jean’s shoulders. As he curls his arms loose around Jeremy’s back, he realizes Laila has pulled someone else in to dance with her, but she’s still watching and winks at him.
“You don’t have to do this, you know,” Jeremy says softly, drawing his attention back in as he starts to move with the music that’s coming from someone’s laptop.
Jean shrugs, “I need to stop hiding all the time,” he can feel the heat of Jeremy through his shirt and wants to pull him in closer. So he does, feels satisfied when Jeremy grins at him. He’s never really danced before, but it’s easy when he lets Jeremy guide the movements.
“I’m glad you’re trying,” Jeremy says and there’s something in that statement but he can’t figure out what else Jeremy is trying to tell him.
He wakes up, too warm and with a weight over his middle. His view of the room isn’t right either and it takes him several moments to realize that it’s because he’s in Jeremy’s bed. Which makes it Jeremy’s arm over his middle and Jeremy’s warm breath against his neck.
There’s a part of him that wants to stay there, wants to stay warm and wrapped up in Jeremy, but the idea scares him. He shifts a little, trying to see how asleep Jeremy really is, trying to see if he has a chance of getting out without waking him.
It’s a no go because Jeremy immediately stirs, tightening his arm with a sleepy murmur, “Shhh, too early, sleep more.”
Jean is helplessly charmed and starts drifting again before he really processes it.
They’re facing the Ravens in five days and Jean is panicking.
Jeremy is being absurdly patient with him, talking in soft tones, using gentle touches and nudges. It’s all too much and Jean feels a little like he’s going to come apart.
“Mon dieu,” he breathes out, sitting on the edge of his bed, face buried in his hands. There’s no way he can do this, it just can’t happen, that’s all there is to it.
The bed dips a little and he knows Jeremy is there when an arm curls around him. What he doesn’t expect is the tug that has him sprawling and it takes him a few seconds to reorient himself, to realize that Jeremy is curled around his back once again, “Stop thinking so much,” Jeremy orders softly against the back of his neck.
Jean snorts, shifting until Jeremy’s grip relaxes some, so he turns until he’s facing Jeremy. “I don’t think I can do this,” he admits softly, pulling back a little so they aren’t nose to nose and so he can actually see Jeremy’s face.
A hand comes up and, miraculously, Jean doesn’t flinch, not even when the hand presses to his cheek, “You can do this,” Jeremy says, so serious, so earnest, “You can’t let them have this too.”
He’s right, dammit if he isn’t almost always right. “How do you know that?” Jean asks incredulously, loosely curling his hand around Jeremy’s wrist.
“Because I have faith in you,” he says it like it’s the most simple thing ever, like he’s saying the sky is blue and the grass is green.
Jean kisses him.
It’s different this time. It’s still a ‘thank you’, but a different sort. It’s ‘thank you for believing in me’, ‘thank you for taking care of me’, and ‘thank you for not giving up on me’.
Jeremy’s hands moves a little, fingers curling lightly in the ends of Jean’s hair, holding him gently, carefully, as he kisses back. It’s a tentative slide of lips, dry and gentle, and Jean doesn’t want it to stop.
They both pull back, slowly, as if neither of them is ready to give it up. “I’m glad I met you,” Jean says softly, ducking his head to press it into Jeremy’s shoulder.
Jeremy hums softly and Jean can feel his smile pressed into the crown of his head, “Me too, Jean.”