Fandom: The Social Network RPF
Overall pairing: Andrew/Jesse
Other pairings for this part: Mentions of Andrew/Carey Mulligan, past Jesse/Justin Timberlake.
Warning/s: Sex takes place but isn’t gone over in any detail.
Summary: Andrew and Jesse go to rival high schools in Brooklyn. Their worlds collide when the two schools unite to do a musical.
Genre: Romance, angst-lite™.
Notes: I’ve never been to New York and I’ve only ever listened to the music of Zanna, Don’t! so I make everything up. Also, I messed with everyone’s ages so they could go to the same schools and such. This part is told in both povs. It will probably be ten parts when I’m done. This part was going to be insanely long, but I’ve spread it over two parts instead. Also, I know some people were excited for there to be a sex scene in this part but it didn’t work out like that. It’ll be kind of covered in flashbacks.
Jesse feels shaky during the game, like someone’s laced metal through his bones and hooked a battery up to them and is now just letting him hum. His arms feel weak and he tries his hardest not to get caught because he doesn’t think he could even hold a torch right now.
He knows in his heart that making this choice for Andrew is the right thing, because the way things were going was not right, it was very not right and very not fair to Carey. Sweet Carey who Jesse kind of hates for having the boyfriend he wants but also he loves her because she’s sweet and kind and good and naive and doesn’t fucking deserve to be cheated on. Andrew’s not ready to choose him, to let this be real, and Jesse’s not going to force that to happen so really, this, cutting things off, going cold turkey, this is the only solution.
The only problem is that Jesse’s not sure he’s ready to let go of them, whatever they are. Actually, he knows he’s not ready because doing it (or well, kind of doing it in a vague way because he’s Jesse and he’s a coward) has reduced him to this nauseated, shivering mess.
The fact that Andrew doesn’t look much better makes it really hard not to find a way to sidle up beside him and say something like ‘hey, forget what I said earlier, lets sneak back to the cabin and do some cuddling while everyone else is otherwise occupied’. He looks a lot like this kitten Jesse found once, hiding underneath a trash can near his house, wide eyes a snapshot of terror and left-behind-ness. That kitten is now Jesse’s best friend, after Emma. Shit, no, okay, Andrew is not a kitten and Jesse is not giving in.
At least, not just yet. He needs a moment to pretend he can do this, pretend he can walk away and not crawl back, pretend it’s just a stupid crush he’s going to get over. He needs that, because the alternative involves admitting something that Jesse’s not ready to admit, something that begins with ‘I’m’ and ends with ‘in love with Andrew Garfield’. Which. You know. Is stupid and complicated and painful. Hence the not admitting.
Jesse’s good at hide and seek games because he’s been playing them all his life (him vs. everyone else in the world, how invisible can one person be without needing superpowers?) so he manages to hide out and watch what’s going on and look like he’s participating while really he’s just waiting for it all to be over so he can go to bed and sleep for a hundred years and hopefully wake up to find that scientists have developed a little pill you can take to make life easy.
He sees a lot from his hiding place: Andrew flinching away from Carey when she tries to hold his hand; Armie and Max hiding behind the same tree, pressed up much closer than they technically need to be; Justin giving Emma a piggyback ride.
Mostly he sees the Andrew and Carey thing.
Later that night, lying painfully still on the bottom bunk, listening to Andrew breathe, Jesse knows he should feel strong. He doesn’t, he just feels self-flagellating, which he’s pretty sure isn’t even a word. He’s weak and he’s a coward but that doesn’t stop him slipping out of bed and crawling up the ladder, doesn’t stop him pulling back the covers on the top bunk and sliding in to bed next to Andrew.
"Thank God," Andrew whispers as he turns over and snakes his arms around Jesse’s middle.
Jesse shakes his head vigorously. “No thanking God. I’m not here. Shhh.”
"Shhh," Andrew echoes, tucking his face into the space between Jesse’s shoulder and neck.
Jesse closes his eyes and focuses on the arms around him and does his best to ignore the Carey-shaped lump of guilt in his stomach.
The next morning it’s Justin, not Emma, who wants to have a pre-breakfast ‘something’s up so tell me everything’ chat. It’s weird, but somehow doing this show together has made them friends. More because everyone’s friends so it’s just a part of the general deal than it actually being a good idea, but it’s something. There’s still a lot of stuff between them: memories and awkwardness and things left undiscussed, undissected. It used to be this great big barrier sitting in the middle of them but now it’s like they’re sitting on it and pretending it’s not actually there. Which Jesse thinks is a good thing. He’d rather be able to be Justin’s friend than to be in the limbo of we were kind of together and then I broke your heart only we’re kind of bonded together in stupid ways so it’s not like we can both just walk away yet also we kind of can’t be around each other either.
Jesse needs a snappier way to put that.
Oddly, Justin drags Jesse to the same tree where Emma and Jesse had their conversation earlier that week. He plops cross-legged down on the ground and pats the patch of grass beside him. Jesse isn’t exactly sure what’s about to happen, but he has a strong feeling it’s not going to be going on his list of favourite memories, so he thinks for a minute if there’s any polite way to get out of this. There isn’t, so he sits.
"So tell me," Justin begins, leaning back against the tree trunk, "What exactly is going on with you and Garfield?"
For a split second Jesse wonders if Emma told him, but then he remembers that while Emma’s got a big mouth, there’s no way in hell she ever would have told Justin. They’re friends, sure, but not like Jesse and Emma are friends. She wouldn’t. Besides, from the look on Justin’s face it’s ‘I’ve made an assumption I need you to confirm’ Justin, not ‘I’ve heard a little something now tell me the rest’ Justin.
"What do you mean?" Jesse says, furrowing his brow in a hopefully convincing confused expression.
Justin rolls his eyes. “Come on, Eisenberg. You may hate to admit it, but I know you. I know what you’re like. So, tell me the truth or I’ll start whispering in Armie’s ear about you. We’re very close, you know.” Justin winks in a way that Jesse can only describe as lewd.
Jesse doubts that Justin and Armie are ‘very close’, judging by how cosy Armie and Max have been getting, but then again, Andrew’s got a girlfriend and Jesse would still maybe describe their relationship as close, if not very close. Besides, Justin is a manslut. Manwhore. Whatever the term is. So, he sighs and gets ready to spill.
"I don’t know. We were … Something. Heading somewhere. But I, um. Pulled the plug. Well, I tried."
"Because of Carey," Justin prompts.
Jesse nods. “Please don’t tell her. Or Armie,” he adds, almost as an afterthought, because he’s Jesse and he trusts everyone, even his ex-boyfriend would who probably enjoy having a little influence on the future of Jesse’s love life.
Justin rolls his eyes again and Jesse’s reminded of when they were together, which mostly boiled down to Jesse hiding in the study to avoid making out and Justin finding him and rolling his eyes affectionately and telling him not to bite his nails.
"God, no. It’s far too much fun watching you crash and burn." He pauses for a moment, looking at his shoes. He’s being shy which means he’s about to be honest, which is a rare thing in the life of Justin Timberlake. "Besides, it’s nice seeing you, you know. Happy and shit."
Jesse’s not quite sure what to say that, because yeah, he’s kind of awkwardly aware of the fact that Justin still has feelings for him, but it never comes up this blatantly and in his face and shit, how does he react? Say ‘there, there, sorry I broke your heart’? So he swallows and picks at a blade of grass and tries to find some words.
"But how am I meant to do that if you’re not going to keep messing around with Andrew?" Justin suddenly jumps in, his usual animated self again. "I need some entertainment, dude, and you’re my ticket. So fix things."
Jesse raises an eyebrow. “Fix things? He has a girlfriend, Justin.”
"So? We’re on camp. International waters." Jesse’s confusion must be showing on his face, because Justin sighs and rolls his eyes again. "We’re away from home. Normal rules don’t apply. Like international waters. So you can fuck Garfield’s brains out and not give a damn until we’re back in the city."
Jesse squints at him, pretty sure that that doesn’t actually make any kind of sense, but he’s a drowning man and it’s a piece of rotten wood, which isn’t exactly a lifesaver but it’s better than nothing.
"International waters," he repeats, like he’s trying the phrase out on his tongue.
Justin waggles his eyebrows as he stands, holding out a hand to pull Jesse to his feet. “International waters.”
Jesse bites his tongue for the rest of the day. In fact, he keeps almost entirely to himself, barely even speaking to anyone as he mulls it all over in his brain. Yes, things between him and Andrew need to end, but why do they have to end right away? Jesse’s always been a fan of having a sense of occasion to things - New Year’s resolutions, cleaning on the first day of spring, starting new relationships on Valentine’s Day (not that he’s actually done that last one, but you get the point). Ending things when they head home - head back to normal - has a sort of poetry to it that appeals to that part of him.
By the time they get back to their room (Andrew’s been looking at him nervously all day, obviously worried that he’s changed his mind again, when really he just can’t look at him or talk to him without wanting to explode) (giving himself this tiny bit of permission has evaporated the guilt and just left him with this well of joy, this bubble of Andrew), Jesse’s ready to burst. As soon as the door shuts behind them, Andrew turns to look at him cautiously.
"International waters," is all he says, like that’s all there is to it. Andrew looks confused, so Jesse repeats what Justin said (leaving out the ‘fuck Garfield’s brains out’ bit), and by the end Andrew’s looking a little dubious but hopeful.
"And this international waters thing, that means that you’re alright with …" Andrew trails off, gesturing to the space between them.
Jesse nods, bites his lip, then shrugs. “I’m ready to run with it if you are.”
"If it means I get to cuddle you, then of course," Andrew replies, his eyes firmly on the floor by his sneakers.
In response, Jesse crosses the room and slips his arms around Andrew’s waist, nestling his face into the taller boy’s neck. “We get this week. Then it’s back to normal.”
"I can live with that," Andrew says and Jesse swears he feels lips ghosting across the top of his head.
The week passes in a blur and the last night sneaks up on Jesse without his permission. Going home has been in the back of his mind as something on the horizon, like the holiday season: it’s always coming, he always knows it’s coming, but right up until November it feels like it’s a lifetime away.
Well, now it’s November and starting tomorrow, no more Andrew.
They’re sitting on the floor of their cabin, sharing Andrew’s iPod. Earlier, they both claimed exhaustion in order to get away, because they know that tonight is the last night, at least for awhile. It crackles between them, this finality, and it makes Jesse want to cry, so he turns the sadness into boldness and leans his head on Andrew’s chest.
"Hey," Andrew mumbles, threading one hand through Jesse’s curls and resting the other one against his stomach.
"Hi," Jesse replies, his voice much smaller than he’d hope for. "Home tomorrow."
Andrew stiffens a little behind him, his hands gripping a little tighter. “Back to normalcy.”
That sits between them for awhile, heavy and dark, and that prickling eye I’m going to cry feeling is back and so Jesse twists it bold again and says what he’s been wanting to all week.
"We still have tonight," Jesse says, his face colouring because what he’s suggesting isn’t something he thought he’d ever suggest. "International waters, remember?" He swallows. "An-anything goes."
Andrew slips his hand from Jesse’s hair to the side of his face, tilting it up so he’s forced to meet the taller boy’s eyes.
"Jess?" Andrew swallows and Jesse can hear it in his chest. "What are you saying?"
Jesse shrugs and tries to pull his face away, but Andrew won’t let him.
"Jesse?" he asks again and this time, Jesse sighs and closes his eyes.
"I don’t know. I guess I just." He screws his face up, like maybe if he really can’t see Andrew then Andrew will somehow not be able to see him. "Sex. I was. Yeah."
Jesse keeps his eyes shut, but he can feel Andrew go tense and he immediately wishes he’d never opened his mouth. He’s about to try and take it back when Andrew speaks.
"Alright." There’s a pause. "I mean, I want to. Like. A lot. I just. I didn’t think you would."
Jesse pries open one eye to peer at Andrew, unsure if he’s being messed with or not. “Are you teasing me?”
Andrew licks his bottom lip and shakes his head, and that’s when Jesse notices that Andrew’s nervousness almost rivals his own. “Are you teasing me?” he asks quietly.
Jesse sits up and takes one of Andrew’s hands in both of his. “No, I, um, if you want to then I, um, want to.”
They hold each other’s eyes for a long moment; Andrew’s are dark, bitter, winter and burning at once. He’s always everything at once.
Suddenly, Andrew’s lips are on Jesse’s - it’s not like the first time they kissed, not show-y, there’s no room of people to impress this time with how bold they are. It’s just despair and grief and wanting, it’s soft and it’s nervous and Jesse wants to cry all over again, but this time because this moment is everything it should be. It’s a proper first kiss and Jesse wishes he had the ability to wipe his lips clean of every kiss he’d ever had before, from the joke kisses with Emma on lonely New Year’s Eves, to the awkward fumblings with Justin that never went according to plan, to that stupid party when he and Andrew first did this, because this, this is a perfect first kiss. Andrew’s cupping his face and his hands curl desperately in Andrew’s shirt.
Andrew draws away and rests his forehead against Jesse’s. There are tears in his eyes. “I think I could love you,” he whispers. “I think I could really love you.”
Jesse closes his eyes, breathing in the moment, carving a hole for it in his heart. “Me too,” he whispers back, before leaning in and kissing Andrew again, his lips a little more insistent this time because tomorrow is far too soon to be wasting time. They may only have tonight, but tonight is something and that is better than nothing. Or at least, that’s what Jesse tells himself because otherwise he’d find a way to talk himself out of doing this and he really, really wants to do this.
Later, Jesse pretends he doesn’t feel Andrew’s tears dampening his chest.
Andrew expects things to be different when he wakes up. He feels like the night before should have changed something, should have made everything easy and clear. Sex with Jesse should have made it impossible to live without him and therefore made it simple to break things off with Carey. It didn’t. What it did do was show him exactly what life would be like if he and Jesse could ever be something real. It pushed Jesse even further into his heart and yeah, made it impossible to live without him.
But that’s it. Carey’s still in his heart, only now he feels sick and cruel and icky because of what he’s doing to her. No, what he’s done to her, because last night was it. As of this morning, things between him and Jesse are actually over. Once they crawl out of the bottom bunk and face the day, they’re just two guys who’re in a show together. They can’t even be friends.
Andrew looks down at Jesse, feels the curls tickling his neck, the hand with a death grip on his own, the thigh thrown over his hips. It’s what everyone always says, but Andrew’s struck by how peaceful he looks, all the pain and the confusion and the guilt of their situation wiped clean of his face.
It occurs to Andrew (not for the first time, though this is the first time he really understands and acknowledges it) that he’s been wrong to only think in terms of hurting Carey. He’s been breaking Jesse, piece by piece, ever since they met.
Reluctantly, Andrew shakes Jesse awake. Jesse nuzzles further into him, mumbling something indecipherable.
"Hey," Andrew whispers, wanting to kiss him but knowing he shouldn’t. "You’ve got to wake up. We go home today."
A second later, two bright blue eyes are fixed on his own and he’s suddenly acutely aware of how naked they are.
"Hi," Andrew mumbles, unsure what else to say. Hesitantly he reaches a hand up to touch Jesse’s curls and after a moment Jesse leans in to the touch, a sad half-smile lifting the corners of his mouth.
There’s a pause with them just looking at each other. Andrew feels like he’s trying to scratch this image onto the insides of his eyes, like if he looks hard enough then every time he closes his eyes for the rest of his life, he’ll see this. His first nearly love in the morning light.
"We should get up," he says finally, reaching to pull the covers off them, but Jesse stops him with a hand on his wrist. Wordlessly, the shorter boy leans in for a final kiss. It’s probably all in his head, but Andrew thinks it tastes like old coffee, bitter and cold and a little stale. An ending.
Smiling that sad half-smile again, Jesse pushes the covers off and slips out of bed and just like that, it’s over. They’re done.
Jesse’s already mostly dressed by the time Andrew’s even out of bed. He’s pulling his clothes on with furtive movements, doubled-over and facing away, like there’s something left to hide. Still, Andrew follows suit and takes the other corner, only turning around when he’s decent again. Well, not decent, because he hasn’t been decent for a long time. But he’s clothed.
They pack their bags in relative silence. It takes twice as long as it should because they’re trying so hard not to look at each other. Being in this room is suffocating. Andrew can’t look at Jesse without thinking about him mumbling ‘I’m um, a virgin’ and the way he clung to Andrew’s shoulders like the world would end if they stopped (he wants to say making love but he can’t) fucking.
Hell, he can’t even look at the bunks without thinking those things.
He’s relieved when Emma bounces in and carts Jesse away, even if she does shoot him a positively filthy look before she does. He needs a moment alone in the place where it all happened, a moment to sear it into his memory but also a moment just to feel it all without trying to pretend like nothing ever happened.
He doesn’t cry.
After a quick breakfast it’s back on the bus to head home. Andrew knows everyone’s noticed the tension between him and Jesse - it would be impossible not to, since to the rest of the world it looks like they’ve gone from best friends to strangers overnight. Thankfully, no one’s said anything yet.
Andrew and Carey get on the bus first. She’s exhausted and is basically asleep against his shoulder, so he figures the sooner he gets her somewhere she can nap, the better. They already have seats by the time the rest of the group climbs aboard. Jesse instantly makes for the back of the bus and Emma dutifully follows. A frown flicks across Armie’s face, but he takes the seat in front of Andrew and Carey. After a moment, Justin shrugs and heads for the back of the bus too. A confused looking Max takes the seat beside Armie, who whispers something along the line of ‘I’ll explain later’.
Strangely, the fact that everyone in their group except Max and Carey seem to know what’s going on (what was going on) between him and Jesse doesn’t scare Andrew much. He hasn’t felt in control of anything for a long time. At this point, his life is happening around him and he’s just trying to cause as little damage as possible.
Carey is asleep before they even pull out of the campground. It’s real sleep, too, not her pretend sleep she sometimes does to get out of talking to people or dealing with things.
"Is she asleep?" Armie asks after they’ve been driving for a few minutes. "Actually asleep?"
Andrew nods and then immediately regrets it, knowing what’s coming next.
Sure enough, Armie face shifts from his typical amiable smile to a slight scowl, which is his equivalent of a death glare. There’s no preamble, no lecture. “Stop,” he spits. “She doesn’t need an Evil Ex.”
Another person Andrew didn’t think he was hurting. Armie trusted him with Carey, Armie trusted him to be a good guy. Armie trusted him not to be a dick.
Andrew swallows and looks out the window. “You don’t need to worry,” he mumbles in reply. “Whatever it was is over.”
"It never should have started," is Armie’s retort. With that he turns to face the front and doesn’t turn around for the rest of the journey. Andrew fishes out his iPod and listens to anything (as long as it doesn’t make him think of things that never should have started) loud.
Andrew’s never been happier to see his father than when they arrive back at East and he’s waiting for them. In fact, Andrew has to fight the urge to go up and hug him, because then Carey would know something was up, so instead he just occupies himself with reorganising the boot while Richard quizzes Armie and Carey about camp.
He sees Jesse’s mum and she waves at him, so he waves back but stops as soon as he accidentally catches Emma’s eye. She doesn’t look at him with hatred or anger like he would expect, it’s more just like … Puzzled. Like, why are you waving to Jesse’s mum? You’re not a part of his life now, so stop trying.
It hits him then - another little bit of his new life that’s gone: weekends at the Eisenbergs, making pancakes with Hallie Kate and (badly) singing old jazz songs for Amy and listening to Barry talk about politics. It’s like his family’s being taken away from him, but they were never his to begin with. He should never have had any claim on them.
He’s mostly silent on the drive home. Carey’s falling asleep again against the window, so it falls to Armie to keep the conversation going, but that’s something he’s good at. Surprisingly, he treats Andrew exactly the same as before. Maybe it’s because Armie’s never kept a grudge in his life. More likely it’s so Carey doesn’t suspect anything.
Andrew’s almost painfully relieved to see the shitty apartment building he and his dad now call home. He’s barely shut the bedroom door behind him before the shakes hit.