Oh, The Places You'll Go

Skip to the End

Notes: Co-written with airinshaw, my best girl. Many thanks to entropical87 for bearing with us through our giddies and for beta. *smishes her*

We wish we could say that this story was born out of a desire to write a specific story or something like that. But no - this was born out of us staying up too late, two nights in a row, talking about what we thought happened to the boys post-sunset ending.

What you (all five of you) are about to read is not fic as you know it. Consider the following a direct link to the fevered brains of the two of us. We're sitting you down, camp-fire style, and this is what you get. You'll figure it out. We have faith.


It takes John Paul a few weeks to settle in. Dublin is so new to him and it isn't even like he'd had any chance to mentally prepare himself for moving away. He'd only had one bag with him, for fuck's sake--he'd left almost everything he loved back home. Except for Craig. And that's the point, really. It's been a lot of change (splitting with Kieron, Kieron dying, leaving Hollyoaks...) in a very short amount of time.

For the first few weeks John Paul is Craig's shadow. It's to be expected--they were apart for so long and never had the chance to spend a whole night together, let alone have their own bed to stay in for days at a time. But it's more than that. He gets on fine with Craig's housemates (he and Rowan, a lanky, ginger art student, bond over music and Rowan tells him that he knows some people and might be able to get John Paul some DJing gigs) but when Craig isn't there, John Paul spends almost all of his time alone in their room.

Craig doesn't mind having John Paul attached at the hip. After all, he's spent a year wishing that John Paul were right there all the time. He's carried John Paul in his head with him for so long, it's fantastic to finally have the chance to have him right there beside him, real memories taking the place of imaginary ones. But Craig also worries that John Paul might not like it there. After everything it took to get them to Dublin together, he's desperate for John Paul to settle in and feel at home. To know that John Paul will be happy there. And now that he's had John Paul with him in Dublin, he really couldn't ever go back to being there without him.

It's the third weekend that they go out to a club and John Paul meets Jayme. Jayme is tall and beautiful. Her skin is dark and her hair is curly and almost to her waist. And if Craig weren't with John Paul, he would have definitely tried it on. She spills her drink near them and John Paul jumps in to help when another random girl starts bitching at her. She's grateful and they get talking and on the Monday, John Paul goes out to meet her for coffee, kissing Craig and wandering happily out the door. Craig feels slightly like a proud mother--happy that John Paul has made a friend. But mainly he knows that it's going to be okay.

It's not the easiest version of okay ever, not with Hollyoaks still casting a long shadow over both of them. John Paul goes back for a visit, for his sister's birthday party, he says. Only it's not that simple, it's never that simple. It's not exactly out of the ordinary in Hollyoaks to be kidnapped by your long-lost half-brother, to attempt to sacrifice yourself for the good of your sisters, get blown up in a church only to lose your favourite sister anyway, but it's out of the ordinary for Dublin. And John Paul has just started to believe in a 'normal' life when all this goes down. He knows he should stay--be a good son, a good brother--but he has to get out of there, back to Craig and Dublin and his friends and sanity.

Only it doesn't quite work like that. He can't get his head round it--losing Tina, finding out his half-brother murdered his ex-fiancé--and it eats at him every day. He plays it back in his head over and over, what he could have done differently, what would have happened if he'd had some self-control and told Craig they had to wait until he'd spoken to Kieron. What would have happened if it had been Mercy caught down there in the crypt, Jacqui, Chaela, Carmel, even his mum. It's like he wants to break his heart in every way possible. He starts staying out late, hitting the all-night clubs because if the music is loud enough and the beer is strong enough he doesn't have to think. He doesn't have to do anything except lose himself and he's good at that.

~~

("For fuck's sake, John Paul!" Craig yells as the door opens and John Paul stumbles through it. "A phone call is too hard now? You could have been dead, and who would've known to tell me? Answer me that?"

John Paul winces, swaying. He's pale and his eyes are dark shadows in his face. His hair is plastered to his head and his t-shirt is clinging to his body, damp with sweat. He looks like shit and smells it, too, the sourness of unwashed skin and vomit hanging in the air. Craig's torn between wanting to punch him in his face for scaring the living fuck out of him for the third time this week, and just wanting to put him to bed and stroke his hair until he falls asleep. John Paul looks at him with unfocused eyes.

"I can't cope with this," John Paul says, and it's awful and familiar and like someone just took a cricket bat to Craig's gut. He doesn't know if he can do this; watch John Paul fall apart and not be able to do anything to help.

"Talk to me, John Paul," he says, and reaches out towards him. But the distance is too great and John Paul takes a step to the side. "John Paul," Craig says, his voice breaking as John Paul turns away and heads up the stairs. "Don't go. I wanna help. Let me help." But John Paul is gone.

Craig sucks in a deep breath and lets it out slowly, staring at the empty space where John Paul had stood. He doesn't know how much more of this he can watch. He pulls out his phone and dials Steph's number.)

~~

When Craig gets back from his very own Niall horror story, John Paul takes one look at the bandage on his face and hugs him as tight as Craig's bruises will let him. Then they talk. They talk a lot. They hole up in their room and talk for hours. Every now and then there's a knock on the door and when they open it there's two fresh mugs of tea outside. It's got to be one of the girls; there is no way Ro would be that thoughtful. It clears the air, though. They don't hold anything back. It's raw and horrible and painful and they're barely stumbling through their words at times, but they get it all out, every last thing. When they're finally done, lying huddled into each other in the bed, there's a sense of peace in the room--something that's been missing since John Paul left for Hollyoaks a month and a half before. Craig swears they're not going back, not for anything. Their lives are here, now, with each other. John Paul tightens his grip on Craig's hand and nods. The hurt and the grief aren't gone, but they're easier to bear because it's the two of them together. Forever. This time it really is going to be okay.

And it is okay--more than okay--for a long time. They move in to their own flat when John Paul starts at Trinity (after credit-wrangling he's let into the second year) and Craig's in his third year. The flat's pretty cool and in the middle of the city. In fact, it ends up being a sort of unofficial place for everyone to hang out. It's good times and John Paul and Craig give thanks to a university system that takes four years to graduate--another year of student freedom? Bonus.

When Craig finishes uni, a year ahead of John Paul, he gets a Proper Job. (He and John Paul always pronounce the capitals in "Proper Job") And it's hard. He's working the 9 to 5 thing, though, truthfully, he's actually mostly working 9 to 7 because he has to be all keen in the first year to get noticed. Also, apparently, business never sleeps. Add to that that he's trying to learn all he can so he can one day do this stuff on his own all entrepreneur-like and you've got a busy boy, but John Paul is still living like a student. Not to mention John Paul's DJing till all hours when he's not sleeping in or working his ass off on his final year essays/dissertations/whatevers. They never see each other and when they do, they can only bicker about how noisy/boring/messy they each are. Small issues become big ones and when they're having an almighty, stand up row about whose turn it is to clean the toilet, it starts to dawn on both of them that things aren't right any more.

It's not that things would have been perfect if they had both finished at the same time, just that they have grown apart and the change highlights things. After all, they were so young when they got together, and it's three and a half years later and they've changed. Their lives are different and they've grown up so much. (It's not like things have been roses with the folks back home either, though the two of them have done their best to keep well out of it.)

Neither one of them remembers who brought it up, but one night the arguing and bickering becomes a break-up. They're both a little shell-shocked but, well, it's for the best. Maybe they tried to hang on to things for too long. Because they were Epic, right? After everything they went through to get together and to Dublin they just drifted apart? That wasn't how things were meant to work.

~~

("So is this it?" Craig asks. He almost doesn't want to. He doesn't want the answer said out loud. He knows it, but saying it out loud feels like making it real. And maybe he's been hanging on to the idea of him and John Paul for a while now more than hanging on to the reality. But the idea of them is now so built in to who he is that the thought of it being done is cutting.

"I think so, yeah," John Paul says, head ducked down.

"Yeah," Craig repeats, not sure what to say next.

John Paul looks up at him again and Craig can see what he's feeling reflected there. That it's not fair. Not after everything they've been through. But it's done.

"It's for the best," Craig voices the thought. Because they really have run their course.)

~~

They carry on as housemates though, because they have a lease. It's hard work in the first place--to get from boyfriends back to friends. They have to renegotiate all this stuff. Things that were okay when they were together suddenly aren't so okay when they're just friends. Everything alters; even knowing how and when to touch each other is weird for a long time. Different expectations and all that. But they work on it because they're always meant to be in each other's lives, right? And they were friends before they were lovers and they're both stubborn bastards, so they work through the shit and they find a place that they're comfortable with. And they have their friends, like Jayme, Rowan and Jennifer, on hand to give them support and a shoulder or ear when they need one.

It's especially weird when they start dating other people. John Paul starts seeing a guy first and Craig flips out slightly. He brings a girl home the next night and has horribly loud and obnoxious sex with her. Even she knows that it's not about her and never calls him again. John Paul corners Craig about it and somehow they end up kissing. But the kissing doesn't lead to sex this time--they both end up laughing in a heap on the sofa. It's a turning point. They both know that they are done and after that it's easier to accept each other's efforts to move on.

Jayme has to pull Craig aside at one point and explain that he's not John Paul's boyfriend any more. If John Paul is angry or upset and storms out of a room, Craig needs to let John Paul's boyfriend go after him. It can't always be Craig. Craig tries--he really does--but it's John Paul. They may not be boyfriends any more, but John Paul is his best friend. If John Paul is upset enough to leave, Craig has to follow. Because that's what best friends do, they support each other. So he has to. Even if sometimes it means running into John Paul and someone else having make-up almost-sex up against a wall.

And so things settle. John Paul has a boyfriend, Eoin, but it's not really serious. Craig has a string of girls in his life, but no one that sticks around for long. They hang out like they always did and fight like they always will--fast and intense.

After almost a year, Craig lands a job in London. Dublin is all well and good, but he really needs to be in London to climb the sort of ladders that he wants to top. The timing works because the lease on the flat is up--student leases, as always, tying in with the academic year. John Paul is graduating and it looks for a while like they are going to go their separate ways.

John Paul starts to look for somewhere else, but he's DJing a lot anyway, all over the UK; he's even been to Berlin a couple of times. Dodgy airlines, crap hotels but the nights are banging and the German boys provide serious eye candy. Being in London would be far better for him, career wise. His mum thinks he should be a teacher--nice and safe and earning good money, but John Paul has a halfway decent rep now, and, okay, he may never be doing Cream or whatever, but he can make a good living, and he enjoys it, so why not give it a go?

Craig thinks it's a great idea. He knows some people in London, but he and John Paul have built up a great circle of friends in Dublin and leaving that behind to start again in a new city sucks quite a lot. But John Paul is his best friend--if he's there too, then there's no way they won't have an excellent time.

So they get a flat in London. It's clean and bright and spacious even though it's close to the city centre because Craig's on a good wage and John Paul is earning a pretty packet on the DJ stuff. John Paul sort of tries to make things work long distance with Eoin, but they both know it's not going to happen. And then John Paul meets Noah Daniels at the club one night.

~~

("Hey, man, great set," the guy says, big grin on his face. John Paul can't help but grin back. The guy is hot. The light isn't great in the club, but John Paul can't miss the cropped dark hair, the way the guy's t-shirt clings to a torso that's just the right side of defined, and smiling eyes that glitter, reflecting the club lights cycling through the spectrum.

"Thanks," John Paul says, nodding his head. Craig spent a lot of time, years ago, drilling John Paul on how to take a compliment about his DJing. "I'm glad you enjoyed it."

They talk about the music for a while--it turns out their tastes are pretty similar--until finally the guy steps closer and John Paul's smile widens. "I'm Noah, by the way," the guy says, holding out a hand. John Paul shakes it.

"John Paul," he replies, as though his name wasn't being broadcast all over the club half an hour before and as though the posters don't advertise his presence. Noah is definitely leaning and his head is tipped up so his mouth comes level with John Paul's.

"John Paul?" Noah says. "Cool. Do people call you John Paul? Or JP? John maybe?"

John Paul thinks for a second because really no one does shorten his name. Except for times when he and Craig had been in bed and Craig couldn't seem to get his whole name out--just repeating "John - John - John" over and over. The memory makes him duck his head with a smirk.

"No," he finally says. "No one really shortens it." He shrugs. "Not sure why."

"Fair warning? I probably will," Noah tells him. "I'm bad at long names. I always shorten them."

"It's okay," John Paul says. And it really is. This guy could call him anything he wanted.)

~~

John Paul always swore that there would be no more cheating after the whole SpikeandCraig thing so when it becomes clear how much he likes Noah, he calls Eoin and ends things. It's not a surprise.

What is a surprise is how much John Paul really likes Noah. It starts off pretty slow, yeah, but it builds fast.

John Paul introduces Noah to Craig pretty early on in their relationship and Craig's not an idiot (except when he's an idiot). Even as he hears the words 'it's not serious' coming out of John Paul's mouth, he knows it is. He sees the way John Paul is with Noah--kind of shy and confident at the same time--and if Craig was a girl he'd say John Paul was blossoming. Only he's not a girl so he just says 'he's cool, mate, you probably wanna keep this one,' and that's that. He's not going to say he's not jealous at all, because that whole first flush romance thing? When all you want to do is bone each other and gaze stupidly into each other's eyes when you're not boning? Yeah, that seriously cuts into mates' time. But John Paul has it down, now, and there are always a couple of nights in the week when it's just him and Craig. Craig's got no complaints.

The nights John Paul is at Noah's, or if Craig can't take the creaking floorboards any more (because, yeah, sure, he's fine with it, but there are limits. He wouldn't want to hear his mum having sex and he's pretty sure he doesn't need to know how Noah sounds when he's coming), Craig heads out, sometimes with friends, sometimes alone. The snowflake cardigan is long gone; John Paul and Jayme have taught him how to dress and he knows he looks good. He looks good and he sounds good and it's no trouble to pull, none at all. It goes like this: he meets a girl, they talk, he buys drinks, they flirt. At the end of the evening he gives them his number. They always call. He takes them to dinner and then back to their place. They always ask him in. He always goes. On the third date they end up back at his. If he's there, John Paul makes breakfast in the morning. They all love John Paul. Why wouldn't they? And having a gay best mate? Girls seem to like that--it's weird. Sometimes they make it to a fourth date. Mostly they don't.

John Paul teases Craig about his lack of type. It's like the whole female world is open to him and he's got to try it all. The girls that traipse through their house are all different--personalities, heights, hair colour, body shapes, music taste, jobs, you name it, they cover the whole spectrum. Craig likes to talk about wild oats and John Paul makes bad jokes about porridge. Noah calls Craig a slut and ruffles his hair. Craig lets him because...well, because it's Noah and he's one of them. One time Craig even manages to pull a lesbian, Cara. "Just curious," she says in the morning. "Still don't like cock, though. And the lack of tits is a deal breaker." John Paul likes her the best. (In fact John Paul likes her so much that he invites her to his next gig.) None of the women seem to fit, though, because not one makes it past a month; most of them fizzle out before they've even hit a fortnight. Except, of course, for Cara, who gets co-opted into their ranks and somehow never leaves.

John Paul and Noah start talking about moving in together in that hypothetical way pretty soon after they start dating. You know the kind: "When you're living with me there's no way you're leaving wet towels to rot on the floor," and, "When we live together it's gonna have to be equal time on the remote, and that means less America's Next Top Model. Sorry, princess." John Paul brings the idea up with Craig one of those times that they end up staying up too late talking too much.

~~

("So, I was thinking that me and Noah might get a place together sometime," says John Paul, picking at the label on his beer bottle.

Craig laughs. "Wow, John Paul, it's been a whole six months, shouldn't you have already moved in and got engaged by now?"

John Paul thinks about being offended, but, yeah, it's not like he doesn't have previous so he laughs, too. "Kind of off the whole marriage thing," he says. "Have you seen how many husbands my sisters have got through? I don't want to be adding to the McQueen statistics."

"Yeah," says Craig, straightening up, serious now. "But you wouldn't be, right? I mean, it's six months, not that long I suppose, but you love him, don't you? I mean, you really love him." It's a statement, not a question; the way they are together--he and Noah--John Paul knows you'd have to be blind not to see it.

"Yeah," John Paul replies. His voice is quiet but he meets Craig's eyes. And when Craig says, "Do it, John Paul. I'm happy you've got someone," he believes it.

"Thanks, mate," he says and pauses for a second before adding, "And if we ever did, you know, decide to buck the McQueen trend by getting married and failing to get almost instantly divorced, I'd want you to be my best man."

"Duh!" says Craig, and noogies him. It takes John Paul half an hour to get the beer stains out of the sofa.)

~~

Craig's driving a carload of John Paul's stuff--seriously, how many records does one guy need?--over to Noah and John Paul's new place when he sees a For Sale sign on a house a few streets over. He's been thinking about buying a place since John Paul said he was moving out, but he only really looks at this one for a laugh, so he can tell John Paul that he's stalking him. Thing is, it turns out to be perfect. There's off-street parking, it's close to the Tube, the garage is converted to an office and someone with stupid amounts of taste has done the decorating. The garden's even wall to wall grass so it'd be pretty impossible for him to ruin it. He's almost shamefaced when he tells John Paul he's had his offer accepted, but John Paul's delighted. Noah, too.

~~

("I can pack him off to yours when he's in a 'plaaaaay with me' mood and I'm on deadline," Noah says, beaming. Craig is almost giddy with relief. He really had been worried that Noah might resent having the ex living so close by--even if 'the ex' was also, by now, 'the best friend.'

"Of course, man," Craig says. "I mean, mi X-box es John Paul's X-box."

Noah laughs. "And your casa is his casa too?" he asks.

"No--the X-box is actually mine," John Paul points out.)

~~

The group they hang with is a weird mix of muso-types and young professionals. There's lots of passionate arguing over politics and environmental stuff and at least once a month someone walks out in a huff. But they like each other, it works. John Paul gets teased about settling down and being all suburban, but he shrugs it off and says there's nothing wrong with wanting to see trees outside his house when he gets home in the early hours of the morning instead of some sad bastard vomiting down his shirt with the wail of police sirens in the background. Anyway, says John Paul, you can't raise a cat in the middle of Kentish Town, it's just asking for pancake-kitty. The point is conceded.

No one can remember whose idea the cat is; John Paul and Noah just find themselves at the local rescue centre one day falling in love with a four-month-old tabby kitten. Two weeks, a whole lot of shots and a home-check later, the cat's theirs. She's tiny and particular and can do four things well: eat, sleep, wash and kill the fuck out of the neighbourhood birds. Noah calls her Minerva. He says it's because Minerva is the Greek goddess who's supposed to have invented music, but when John Paul Facebooks a picture of her looking all prim and proper, Chaela writes 'omg, it's MINERVA MCGONAGALL. noah likes Harry Potter. u r both so SAD' on his wall. Cornered, Noah admits his real inspiration. This actually makes John Paul love him even more.

They're ridiculously happy, the two of them, and sometimes Craig is jealous. Not of either of them individually, but what they have together. It's so cosy and he misses that. He hasn't had it in years--not since he and John Paul split up. So he quits it with the casual hook-ups and starts dating a girl. She lasts past the fourth date, and the fifth, and then past the first month. On their second month anniversary, Craig starts feeling cautiously optimistic. By the fourth he's wondering whether he should bring up the L word. Two days after the sixth she breaks up with him. It's not him, it's her, or rather the fact that she's got a job in New York and does not do long distance romance. He's cool with it, though, because he's all mature and stuff and, yeah, these things happen and you take your lumps and move on. Except then he's doing some laundry and he finds one of her favourite tops and it smells of her and before he knows it he's crying down the phone to John Paul.

~~

(The doorbell rings and Craig opens the door to a red-faced and panting John Paul. He can't help but smile.

"You didn't have to give yourself a heart attack, man," he says. "It's not like the world is ending."

"No," pants John Paul, hands on his knees, looking up at Craig. "But it feels like it is, right? You gonna let me in or what?" Craig steps back and lets him in.

"What's wrong with me, John Paul?" They're sitting at the kitchen table later, nursing mugs of strong coffee. "I'm nearly thirty, I should be settled down by now, have my own business, be living my life, you know?"

John Paul pulls a face. "Nothing's wrong with you, idiot. And whose life are you living, exactly?" He reaches across the table and covers Craig's hand with his own. "Craig, you're years off thirty, so what if you still haven't found what you're looking for?"

Craig grins. "You're quoting U2 as words of wisdom, now? What happened to you, mate?"

John Paul echoes the grin. He shrugs. "Be grateful it's not Coldplay." He slides his hand away again, wrapping it around his mug. "Look, it's okay to feel like shit because Lacey's gone, but don't be thinking it's all about how crappy you are. You're not. She didn't break up with you so much as she broke up with England." He tips his head to one side. "Besides, I don't hang out with losers," he says with a smirk.

There's a rush of warmth to Craig's belly and he thinks, yeah. As long as he's got a best friend like John Paul everything else is gravy.)

~~

Six months later and Craig can hardly remember what Lacey looked like. He's back to the serial dating and only his pace has slowed a bit. Noah and John Paul celebrate their second anniversary in Amsterdam and everything in the garden is rosy. Well, not in Craig's garden--everything in his garden is moss-ridden grass, but what are you gonna do? It's about this time when a new guy starts at Craig's work. New guy is called Kieran.

~~

("I almost knew someone called Kieran once," says Craig pointlessly, shaking the new guy's hand.

"Okay?" says Kieran, raising his eyebrows.

"Yeah, he's dead, though," muses Craig, still shaking.

"Fair enough," says Kieran. "Luckily for me, I'm not. Can I have my hand back?")

~~

The name 'Undead Kieran' sticks, much to John Paul's horror. After a few attempts at making Noah and Craig see the error of their evil ways he gets over himself, although he prefers to use UK because at least he's putting up a token effort for respect and common decency. Turns out Kieran and Craig get on like a pub on fire and Craig seems to be having much more fun at work these days.

Around this time, John Paul's on a month long tour promoting his latest mix CD across clubs in Europe and drags Noah along, so it's a while before he gets to meet the guy. He hears about him, though. Their friend Shanna has a woeful crush and every e-mail she sends she goes on about him at length. John Paul knows that UK is tall and built like a rugby player (mostly because he is a rugby player). He knows that he's got sandy, curly hair that Shanna wants to ruffle and/or comb and always looks like he needs a shave (which Shanna spends some time debating the pros and cons of, given certain activities she'd like to undertake). He knows he's 'omg, so cool and funny' and that he has a little sister with cerebral palsy who's the apple of his eye. He knows that Shanna thinks he'd look good in a thigh holster and that she's fairly convinced the way he fills his trousers is going to make everything worth the wait. He knows Shanna's quite clearly insane. All the same, he's curious. These days their friendship circle is pretty much set--partners come and go, but the core remains the same--and it looks like UK is bucking the trend.

He gets his chance to meet the 'so smoking hot' guy soon enough. The day after they get home, John Paul and Noah meet everyone for drinks and catch up. It turns out that now 'everyone' includes Kieran because he's there when John Paul arrives, up at the bar with Craig, laughing and leaning in close to catch Craig's reply. It's not that noisy, really and John Paul's eyes widen.

~~

("So, Kieran's nice," says John Paul as he and Craig troop off to the bar together.

"Yeah," Craig replies, nodding. "He's a good laugh. I'm glad you like each other." He puts in the order, which is at that tipping point in the evening where the complexity of the drinks ordered is exactly matched to the mental capacity for remembering who wants what. Later, they'll have to write it down. In block capitals. They watch the barmaid in silence for a minute or so.

"You know he's gay, right?" says John Paul with a sidelong glance at Craig.

Craig twists to look at John Paul with his best 'And?' expression. "Of course I know, I'm not stupid." He shakes his head. "Anyway, so are you."

And, okay, so it's not the reaction John Paul was expecting. For one thing, he had no idea that Craig's Gaydar had even finished construction, let alone was operational. He decides it's time to test if it's fully functional. "He's flirting with you."

Craig's grin takes over his whole face. "Why wouldn't he? I'm gorgeous," he says, smugly, and hands over his card to the barmaid who's rolling her eyes at him. "And one hell of a catch," he adds, with a wink at the unimpressed barmaid.

Fully functional and equipped with the Cool Straight Guy upgrade. John Paul joins in the eye-rolling. "Your modesty is your best feature," he says, grinning back and picking up an armful of glasses. "Just don't lead the poor man on, yeah?" He starts to make his way back through the crowd.

"As if," says Craig, following behind him.)

~~

UK and Craig start hanging out a lot. And it's good times. UK is a great guy-- friendly, funny, interesting--and he gets on well with everyone. Within a week or two Craig is hanging out with him all the time; they have lunch together every day and go for drinks most nights after work. When UK isn't there, Craig talks about him all the time because he wants everyone else to see just how brilliant he is. Of course, Noah, being equipped with more than the regulation number of brain cells, starts to give Craig weird looks.

~~

(Noah passes John Paul the plate and John Paul dries it before putting it on the stack to put away. "So I think Craig might be into Undead Kieran," he says.

John Paul laughs. "I can't tell you how wrong you are," he says, and Noah frowns. "Really. Craig's straight. You've heard him say it often enough."

Noah looks at John Paul pointedly, raising an eyebrow. "Says the guy who was in a relationship with him for, what, three years? Four?"

John Paul shrugs a shoulder. "Okay, straight for everyone but me. Bisexual in the loosest sense of the term. He likes women. And me. Liked me."

Noah pulls a face, but turns back to the sink and lets the subject slide.)

~~

About a month after John Paul first meets UK, Craig and UK decide that the week has been far too stressful and multiple large drinks are needed to make everything better. Craig calls John Paul to see if he and Noah want to join them, but John Paul has a gig. They agree to probably swing by the club in question later, but UK yells down the phone that they might be too drunk by then. John Paul laughs as Craig hangs up.

UK gets them a round in--each pint accompanied by a shot. As he and Craig do the shots, UK tells Craig that he's actually pleased that the others can't make it. Craig asks why and UK shrugs and explains that they wouldn't understand the pressures of the corporate rat race. Craig agrees and they drink off their shots as a toast.

They're drinking in a nice, upmarket gay bar. UK doesn't mind drinking in some of the places that Craig likes (usually bars and clubs where John Paul knows people, though when it's just him and John Paul they love pubs with Sky Sports playing on giant screens), but this time Craig lets him choose the place. He's having fun, just the two of them. A few hours later they're both pretty hammered. Not drunk enough to lose leg and arm coordination, but enough that they laugh themselves nearly sick over a guy spilling a pint at one point.

~~

(Craig peers at himself in the mirror over the sinks. He isn't quite seeing in double vision, but he definitely has to concentrate to stop his reflection blurring at the edges. He grins. It's a great night.

Craig pulls open the door and, staggering only the smallest bit (which, as far as he's concerned, just makes him a cowboy), makes his way along the hall back to the stairs up to the bar. Kieran's lounging at the bottom, leaning against the wall all casual-like, and Craig smiles at him.

"Need to go, too?" Craig asks, wondering why Kieran didn't just go in rather than waiting--it couldn't have been fear of losing their table because, surprise, no table in the corridor.

"No," Kieran says. He lifts and hand and grips Craig's shirt, pulling him gently forwards. "I just thought it was about time that we kissed."

Craig has plenty of time to stop Kieran. He's being pulled in slowly, as though Kieran is giving him chance to object. And he's not so drunk that he doesn't remember how he's really not into guys. But instead all he can do is stare at Kieran's mouth. And when they finally kiss, Craig pushes Kieran back into the wall.)

~~

It turns out that UK was under the impression that they were sort-of-dating for the whole time. He'd thought that Craig was interested and then when he found out that John Paul was Craig's ex-boyfriend, he put two and two together. Craig explains that he's straight--that it's just John Paul he fell for and he isn't into guys. But it sounds pretty hollow considering he's lying in bed naked with UK at the time.

When he thinks about it, UK is right; they really have been dating. But he doesn't like guys. It was just John Paul. Right? Right? No. Apparently not. And it freaks Craig out. He's had a lot of time to realise that for whatever reason, he fell in love with John Paul. And John Paul was a guy. He even had a fair amount of 'gay' pride when they were back in Dublin and together. But suddenly his image of himself is changing. Again. He doesn't call UK for a few days, but he's different now. He remembers how hurt John Paul had been back when he was freaking out the first time--dating Sarah and sleeping with John Paul--and he can't be that guy again.

Craig calls UK and tells him the whole story. Unsurprisingly, UK is pissed off to begin with, but he listens to Craig explaining that he thought he had it all sorted in his head. How this is hard for him, but he wants to do it, wants to try it with Kieran if he's willing to put up with Craig being a bit freaked out and weird for a little while. UK laughs at him and invites himself over. After they end up having sex on Craig's kitchen floor, UK agrees to work through Craig's issues with him. And when Craig asks if they can keep their relationship quiet for a while until he's got over the Big-Gay-Freakout-Two-Point-Oh, UK gives him a look but agrees to that, too.

So things carry on almost as before. Craig is still spending a lot of time with UK, but now there is the added bonus of some pretty damn hot sex. And he still spends most of the rest of the time with John Paul, trying not to feel guilty about not telling him about the addition of 'boy' to UK's status of 'friend'. UK, by nature so laidback he's almost horizontal, continues to be okay with not telling people about it until they know it's going to go somewhere and tells Craig to take his time, as long as there's a limit and it's not going to be forever.

Craig thinks about it a lot, and it's weird reconstructing his sexuality again. Maybe he is bisexual after all? In the end, it turns out he was right in the first place, way back in the mists of time when his family were having their own Big Gay Freakout. It's not about labels, it's about who you want to be with. And right now, Craig thinks he might wants to be with a rugby player called Kieran with hairy toes and a thing for Paul Newman.

It takes about two months of dating and a startling amount of sex for Craig to get over his issues. Undead Kieran's great and Craig really likes him. It's not love, not the Epic kind, at least, but for the first time in years Craig can really see it going that way. Maybe Epic Love isn't all it's cracked up to be, anyway. Maybe comfortable and easy and indecently hot sex beats yanked heartstrings and forgetting-who-you-are and need any day. So Craig tells UK that he's ready. At least this time he's going to be coming out to mostly sympathetic ears (he doesn't even think about his family).

He's over for breakfast at John Paul and Noah's when he tells them. Noah is delighted, can't stop grinning and nudging Craig's shoulder; he likes UK a lot and can see how they'd work as a couple. John Paul says, "You do know he's a bloke, right?" with the little smirk that he does and, when Craig flicks a baked bean at him, breaks into a grin. Craig takes the inevitable teasing about switching teams again on the chin. Let them get it all out of the way now and maybe they'll be over it by the time hell freezes over.

Work and life are crazy busy and it's a few days before they can all get together for a drink. Noah's exactly the same as always, only with 50% added innuendo. John Paul, though. John Paul is weird. He won't make eye contact with UK and shuts down every conversation UK tries to start between the two of them. It's not like him at all, they've always got on so well--taking the piss out of Craig has always provided plenty of bonding opportunities. Eventually UK gives up, shooting Noah a puzzled glance. Noah mugs an apology at him and frowns thoughtfully at John Paul. Something is rotten in the state of McQueen.

~~

(They're settled into bed, Noah propped up on pillows reading a book. He's been on the same page for the last five minutes--John Paul knows something is coming. Finally Noah shuts the book with a snap and a sigh and drops it onto the floor. He turns to face John Paul, who's watching him from the corner of his eye.

"Okay," Noah says. "What the fuck, JP? Your whole-" he waves his hand in a complicated squiggle, "-behaviour. What was that?"

If John Paul winces, it's only internal. He opens his eyes wide, in the innocent look that never failed to fool his mum. "What was what?"

Noah is not John Paul's mother. "With Kieran. You were a real twat tonight. I mean, what is it? Craig's your friend, for fuck's sake. Is this a pride thing? Because you thought you were special being the only boy?" Noah's tone is mocking but affectionate and it makes John Paul squirm.

"I don't know," he says, dropping the pretence. "I know I was a twat. God, seriously? He should've chinned me." He shifts uneasily, twisting the covers. "Maybe you're right, it's pride. I mean, yeah, I suppose I was used to being the only guy. Special." Something cold and hard settles in John Paul's gut. He's not ready to be replaced. Who is this Kieran anyway that he gets to come between John Paul and Craig? He opens his mouth before he can stop himself. "But is this even the right choice for Craig?"

Noah sighs again. "And why wouldn't it be? It's obvious they really like each other. And now they get orgasms, too. What's not right about that?"

John Paul sits up and presses his back against the headboard, the cool surface soothing skin he didn't even realise was heated. "You could see it like that. Or, you know, you could see it that Craig's straight. Exceptions prove the rule, right?"

"I'm not convinced by your Earth Logic, hon," says Noah, sliding an arm around John Paul and pulling him down against his shoulder. "Craig dating another guy doesn't make you any less special." The last is said quietly, into John Paul's hair.

"And if he is straight," continues John Paul as if Noah hadn't even spoken, "then Kieran's got to have been pressuring him to do the dating thing and-"

"Oh God, stop," Noah says, sharply, shoving John Paul back upright. "Stop. Just. Please. I can't listen to any more of this. Whatever the problem is with Kieran you need to sort it out. Like, preferably yesterday." He reaches back down for his book.

John Paul stares at Noah, shocked. "I don't have a problem with Kieran as Kieran. I just- It's-"

"You know what, John Paul? Friends don't get jealous of friends' boyfriends," Noah says and flips over to face away from John Paul.

John Paul can only blink in response at the familiarity of the words. In his head he can hear the rest of what he'd said to Craig. "Yeah, jealous...Tell me you're not..." He can even see Craig's face, contorted with jealousy. Yeah, he thinks. Yeah, they do. What was I even thinking?

Noah dumps his book again and slides down under the covers. He reaches out to switch off his lamp and John Paul still can't think of anything to say.)

~~

Something similar is happening at Craig's house. Undead Kieran tells Craig about how weird John Paul had been all night and says that really, Craig needs to talk to John Paul because it's like being back at school and UK can do without enforced biscuit games in the dorms, thank you very much. So the next day Craig calls up John Paul and asks him over for a drink that evening. It's Saturday, so if it takes a metric tonne of alcohol to get whatever the hell it is out in the open, then at least they've got another day to recover. Noah can't wait to pack John Paul off because the sooner the weirdness is dealt with, the sooner they can all get back to normal.

Craig had been intending to wait until they'd had a good few beers before he even broached the subject but he finds he can't hold it in. He tells John Paul what Kieran had said and asks for his version. John Paul doesn't know what to say, he's confused and squirmy and doesn't know how to explain what's wrong because he still doesn't get it, why he's so gutted. But it's wrong, whatever it is. When Craig was seeing girls it was no problem, John Paul could cope, could even get behind the idea. But here's the thing: a guy is a possible replacement for him and that? Is so very far from okay. He manages to squeeze out "I'm not jealous," knowing it's not exactly the truth, and then Craig says something like:

~~

("Just tell me what's going on, John Paul. I need to be okay with you. It doesn't work unless we're okay." Craig reaches out, but his fingers meet air as John Paul leaps up and disappears. A few seconds later, Craig hears water running and his mind is yelling 'Fix it, fix it, fix it,' at him. He gets up to follow John Paul into the kitchen but John Paul comes back into the room, draining a glass of water and then setting it down on the table with a loud bang.

"Jesus, careful, John Paul," says Craig. "You don't want to hurt yourself."

John Paul laughs without humour. "Funny that," he says, lips twisted. But then he looks at Craig and his face changes, goes all soft, and he takes a step forward, then another. "Craig." His voice is barely above a whisper. "Craig, I don't- I feel like- I want-" He moves closer again, hand stretching out to touch Craig's chest. Craig stands absolutely still, his heart crashing violently as if it's trying to rise up to meet John Paul's hand. And everything in that moment is so brilliant, so crystal clear that it's like he's been living the past few years in a fog.

"John Paul," he says, voice cracking. "John Paul." And then he can't say any more because his hands are on John Paul's face and John Paul is gripping his neck and their mouths are pressed together in a kiss so intense Craig's whole body is electrified.

John Paul's body is tight against Craig's, but it's not enough. It's not enough. If he could unzip John Paul and climb inside him it still wouldn't be close enough. How could he have forgotten this feeling? How could they have let it disappear? Still kissing, Craig starts tugging at John Paul's shirt. He knows he'll die if he doesn't touch skin right now. John Paul lifts his arms and just seconds later they're kissing again. The warmth of John Paul's skin against Craig's feels like home.

Somehow they manoeuvre themselves, falling onto the sofa, fumbling at belt buckles and buttons. There's no time and they can't stop. They can't think about this because there's too much at stake, too much to lose if this becomes anything more than the two of them in this bubble of time. Now naked, Craig pushes top of John Paul, rubbing against him like a horny teenager.

"Craig," John Paul says, and Craig hasn't heard that dazed quality to his voice for years. It makes his heart thud a painful beat. "I'm going to-" And then Craig remembers how John Paul always explains everything, a hold over from their early days when Craig was skittish and new at this, and he can't hear it now.

"Yes," he interrupts. "Just, yes."

John Paul slides a hand between them and takes hold of Craig's dick, gripping it against his own. It's familiar, yet new, and the shock of it makes Craig gasp and bury his head in the crook of John Paul's neck, fingers digging hard into John Paul's shoulder. There'll be a mark. John Paul begins to stroke, loose and slow at first. He hasn't forgotten anything, Craig realises, as his thoughts begin to lose coherence and the only solid thing left is John Paul underneath him.

He comes looking straight into John Paul's eyes and, when he's regained the ability to think, wonders how he hasn't realised before now that this is the only way to spend forever. They lie together, tangled and messy, Craig's head tucked on John Paul's shoulder. Craig's cheek vibrates when John Paul speaks.

"I, er, I think I know why I have a problem with UK."

Startled, Craig's laugh is more of a sputter and he narrowly avoids choking. "No shit, Sherlock," he gets out eventually.

John Paul pulls him in tighter. "Turns out I'm still in love with you. Who knew?"

Craig presses a kiss against John Paul's chest then raises himself up on one elbow. It's clear now--it's blindingly obvious--what needs to be done.

"Do you want to stay the night?" he asks.

"Yes," says John Paul with a soft smile.

"Do you want to stay the night after?"

"Yes."

Craig pauses because it's all there inside him, all the love he still had but never noticed, never dealt with, and now it's filling him up, fizzing around his body like the best drug ever invented, and he's not sure he can trust himself to speak.

"Do you want to stay forever?"

John Paul doesn't pause. "Yes."

"I love you, John Paul McQueen," says Craig, and the smile that breaks over John Paul's face is the only thing Craig wants to see for the rest of his life.)

~~

John Paul has stayed at Craig's house before, on nights where even making it the few streets home has been too much to handle, but he's never slept in Craig's bed. He thinks it should be awkward, fitting together after all these years of fitting with Noah, but it's not. Their bodies slide into place together effortlessly, like they've been practising every night. John Paul doesn't close his eyes for a long time, staring up into the dark, stroking Craig's hair and listening to his breathing getting deeper and slower. He shouldn't want this--his life was so close to perfect--but he does. He falls asleep eventually, and in the morning he wakes to Craig gazing at him solemnly, one hand resting on John Paul's hip. "We shouldn't-" says John Paul and Craig says, "I know."

~~

(John Paul opens the front door quietly. He doesn't quite know why; he's there to talk to Noah, after all, why should he worry about waking him? But it's habit. Coming back at all hours and trying not to wake anyone--first Craig and then Noah. He feels sick.

Min appears at his feet, purring and trying to usher him towards the kitchen to feed her. As he moves automatically in that direction, John Paul tries not to let the hugeness of what he is giving up overwhelm him. It's no good though. This is his house. His and Noah's. Against the wall, there's the small table that they bought to put their keys on that only Noah uses. Running the length of the hall is the rug that Noah hates, but had still bought for John Paul when he'd said he loved it. Stacked neatly on the drainer is the dishware that they'd found the first time they'd gone shopping for the house--glad to agree so easily and avoid some cliché, extended-gay-shopping expeditions. Noah's laptop and omnipresent bowl of fruit both rest on the kitchen table that John Paul and Noah have fucked on more times than John Paul can count. He's planning to give it all up.

And for what? For a guy who's spent the last few years being almost the exact opposite of the settle-down type. For someone who can't pick a sexuality to save his life. For someone who has hurt John Paul so many times. On paper, it sounds like a crazy choice. But Craig isn't on paper. He's vital and real and John Paul knows now that he'll give up anything to be near him. He's already done it twice--moving first to Dublin and then to London. Okay, so he could make the case that the London move was the right choice for his career, but John Paul doesn't kid himself that Craig being there had swung the decision.

John Paul pulls the cat food out of the cupboard and begins the familiar ritual of feeding the cat. He hears the creak of the bathroom door upstairs; Noah is up. For a second he reminds himself again that they need to oil the door before remembering that after today it won't be his door any more.

Earlier, it had taken all of John Paul's effort of get out of bed. Waking up with Craig had been amazing and only their combined guilt had stopped them from taking things where they'd both wanted them to go. But Noah deserved more.

"John Paul?" Noah's voice floats down the stairs ahead of him, and John Paul freezes.

"Yeah," he says, Min's butting at his legs finally prompting him to put her dish down. John Paul stands up and turns to face the kitchen door just as Noah wanders in. His hair is wet from a shower, and he's only wearing a pair of old jogging bottoms. John Paul still wants to wrap his arms around him.

"Morning," Noah says, walking over to the kettle and filling it, bending down to pet Minerva briefly on his way. It's only then that John Paul remembers that Noah had been pissed off with him before he left the night before. It seems like years ago rather than the space of half a day.

"Morning," John Paul says back, and Noah looks up at him for a second.

"Did you sort things with Craig?" Noah asks.

"Noah..." John Paul says, voice breaking slightly. He isn't sure where to begin and Noah just looks at him. For a few seconds they're both utterly still until Noah looks away.

"I knew it." He shakes his head. "God, I fucking knew it. I spent literally months when we first got together being worried about you and Craig. But you said it was done. It never looked done, but you said it was and I believed you. Fucking stupid." There's a sharp edge to his voice that John Paul's never heard before. He knows he caused it.

"It was done," John Paul insists, but really, had it ever been?

"'Was'," Noah repeats and laughs, once. John Paul watches as Noah closes his eyes, scrunching them tight. "Fucking hell, John Paul." He opens his eyes again and John Paul feels sick and guilty and full of agony for the pain he's causing a man he truly does love. "He's my best friend," Noah says. "And you're my boyfriend."

John Paul can't say anything.)

~~

Craig stands at the window a long time after John Paul leaves. He fully expects that he'll get a call to tell him that John Paul is staying with Noah after all, because they're serious. They live together. John Paul loves Noah so much and why wouldn't he? Craig is pretty fond of him himself and he doesn't want to take Noah's clothes off. To top it all, they have a cat. Cats mean commitment. There's an unwritten rule not-written down somewhere. But even though he's worried and expecting the potential phone call of doom from John Paul, he knows what he has to do and he makes a call of his own.

UK says, "Yeah, I thought it might go down like this. You two were always very much you two," and Craig apologises over and over. UK tells him not to sweat it, that maybe they could have gone somewhere, but if it wasn't supposed to be then it wasn't. He may have mentioned spilled milk but Craig is too busy feeling relieved at how relatively painless the break-up is to hear it.

But there's still no sign of John Paul and the phone isn't ringing. Craig paces and worries and stands at the window rubbing his head and wondering if this is the point where John Paul remembers how much he's in love with Noah and that'll be that. He can't stand around and wait, though, so he goes upstairs and starts to clear space in his wardrobe and drawers for John Paul. Just in case. And as he does so, he keeps coming across random clothes that John Paul's managed to leave over the years. There are even a few pairs of underwear that Craig remembers washing without even thinking about it. John Paul practically has his own drawer already.

When he goes downstairs Craig manages to knock into his CD stand, scattering CDs across the carpet. As he picks them up, he realises that at least half of them are John Paul's. He stands up, eyes catching the photo frame on the side. John Paul. He thinks about the photo he has by the bed. The photograph is an old one--him and John Paul in their old place in Dublin. John Paul is whispering something in Craig's ear and Craig is laughing. Craig looks around the room and then checks in his office and the kitchen. Almost every single picture he has is of him and John Paul. He could have been more oblivious, but it would be difficult to know how. He's always loved John Paul. Always. And suddenly he doesn't fear the phone call of doom any more.

As if by some predesignated signal, this is the moment that the doorbell rings. Craig's opening it before he's even had time to realise that he's moved. John Paul is standing there, arms full of stuff and the car behind him full of boxes, and he says, "I had to leave the cat." Craig opens his arms.

No one is really shocked when they tell them what's happened. Saddened, yes, because everyone loves Noah and it's hard to restructure around the hole he leaves, but they love John Paul and Craig, too, and can see that they're happy together. "Like you found the last puzzle piece," Cara tells them both. They nod, smiling.

~~

("So when did you become the romantic type, eh?" John Paul asks as Craig shuts the front door. They're dressed to the nines and John Paul is just close enough to Craig to notice he smells fantastic. Good enough to cancel the evening and crowd Craig back into the house. Their house.

"Hey!" Craig objects, turning and slipping his hand into John Paul's, even though they're only walking as far as the waiting taxi. "I've always been romantic. Remember our first anniversary?" John Paul does remember. Fondly.

"Yeah, but there's a big difference between being together a year and being back together a month," John Paul insists. He carries on talking as they get into the cab, continuing the age-old tradition of almost forgetting that the taxi driver is there. Craig gives an address on the Royal Hospital Road that John Paul doesn't recognise before turning back to their conversation.

"I just wanted us to do something special," Craig says. "It's been a long month."

And it has. An amazing month where they have barely let go of each other; Craig is still holding John Paul's hand like he might try to get away. But a month in which John Paul has been negotiating the many necessities of extracting himself from a long-term relationship with a man whom he still loves. It doesn't compare to how he feels about Craig, or how dedicated he is to their renewed relationship, but it's still love and it still hurts. John Paul leans over and kisses Craig. Completely worth it.

The taxi eventually pulls up outside a restaurant that looks far too upmarket for John Paul's "Myra McQueen" upbringing. Now he understands why Craig was so insistent that they both look as well put-together as possible. John Paul had joked that it was Craig's gay side finally rearing its head and had been pleasantly surprised when Craig had laughed and agreed that, yeah, it might have been. How far they'd come from his previously repeated protests that no part of him was gay. Not even the part that was sleeping with John Paul. The memory doesn't stop John Paul wishing that the restaurant wasn't quite so nice. He doesn't want to spend their evening worrying if he's using the right fork.

His worries are unfounded, though. Craig reaches for his hand again as they walk in and from their arrival it seems to be one of those places where you pay a lot of money for a lot of informality.

"Craig!" The hostess greets Craig as if they're old friends. "And this must be John Paul--wonderful to meet you."

John Paul shakes her smooth, cool hand. Okay, so he's impressed already. And from the smug look on Craig's face, Craig knows it.

"Your table is through here."

John Paul and Craig follow the hostess through a beautifully lit room with so many tastefully placed decorative screens and plants that John Paul barely sees anyone else. Informality and privacy, clearly. John Paul wonders how much Craig has spent on this. John Paul isn't exactly earning small amounts of money, but if this much is being spent on their one-month anniversary, he might break the bank to keep up for their one year.

The hostess ("Caroline") leaves them in the care of Marcos, their waiter, and it's all so friendly. John Paul smiles at Craig because the smug grin has grown.

"So do you like it?" Craig asks, needlessly. John Paul knows that he's beaming.

"I love it," John Paul says. Craig ducks his head and rubs the back of his neck with his palm before looking back up at John Paul, grinning. John Paul realises that Craig was nervous.

The food is delicious and the champagne that Craig orders is pleasant enough. John Paul would prefer a beer, though, and from the slight hitch of Craig's lip every time he takes a sip, he knows Craig would too. By the time the main course is done and the plates cleared away, John Paul feels so happy. Happy and at peace in a way he never realised could happen, even when he and Craig had been together the first time. They had been so in love, but so young. This time they seem to fit better.

John Paul looks at Craig, seeing that same happiness written across Craig's face. Craig leans forward and grasps John Paul's hand. John Paul notices that Craig is shaking slightly and frowns.

"John Paul," Craig says, and John Paul knows that voice. He wonders briefly if Craig brought him here to break up with him, but the thought is quickly squashed beneath the surety he has in Craig this time. "I love you."

John Paul smiles and is about to tell Craig that he loves him too when Craig reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small box. John Paul's seen more than his fair share of chick flicks over the years (the curse of so many sisters) to know what this means, but somehow his brain still can't grasp the significance.

"John Paul McQueen, will you marry me?" Craig asks, opening the box to reveal a pair of simple, silver bands. He's shaking so hard that the rings are quivering on the satin cushion. John Paul looks between the box and Craig's face, dumbstruck. He sits back in his chair, steepling his fingers over his nose and shaking his head with disbelief.

"I don't-" believe it, he's about to say, but he sees Craig's face and realises how his reaction must look. He lunges forward to grab the box that Craig is slowly moving away. "Of course I will!" he almost shouts. "I just- Craig. It's only been a month."

Craig is laughing, though, and John Paul can see the relief in his face. He pulls the rings out of the box and puts one on John Paul's finger and one on his own. John Paul looks at them and leans over the table, pulling Craig into a kiss.

When dessert arrives (after a perfectly-timed discreet interval, of course) they're both still holding hands across the table and grinning like a matching set of Cheshire cats. John Paul can't stop staring at the ring on Craig's finger. The ring that says that Craig is his. Craig's thumb brushes John Paul's own metal band every few seconds, as if checking that it's still there, that this is really true. Craig must have started planning this the moment they got back together.

"It's a bit Hollyoaks, isn't it?" John Paul finally says. "I mean, we've only been together a month."

"I was thinking more like ten years with a hiatus for solo projects, and, you know, side-collaborations," Craig says with the curling half-smile that makes John Paul's heart stop. "Because it's always been about us." John Paul can't disagree. "I think we'll be okay."

John Paul grins and squeezes Craig's hand. "Yeah," he replies. "Why wouldn't we?")

~~

UK ends up sticking with their group of friends. His relationship with Craig was new enough that it shifts back to friendship pretty easily. John Paul isn't thrilled at first, but UK doesn't know many people in London and really, he's a good guy. Noah is different, though. He can't bring himself to be around John Paul or Craig and he vanishes off the map with almost immediate effect. Eventually, he moves to San Fransisco for a year and, although both John Paul and Craig miss him, they are relieved to not have to feel guilty any time they all get together and Noah isn't there.

When Craig proposed, he wasn't planning on a long engagement. They get married just over a year later and the day is a debacle from start to finish. Frankie and Myra fight and bicker. Chaela gets drunk and throws up in a flower arrangement. Jake looks uncomfortable and makes gay jokes all day. Rowan and Jayme almost don't make it because their flight gets delayed. Their old and new lives collide in a spectacular display of sickening fireworks. But it's their day, and when they're standing up there in front of everyone they love (even if they hate some of them) and promising to be together forever, it's perfect.

Two years later, Rowan and Jayme get married and they share the honour of the best men, on both sides. Eighteen months later, they become "uncles" to Brianna Megan Toal and start to think about children. They're in their thirties now, after all. There's some bumps in the road--the years haven't improved their communication skills all that much and there's assumptions made on both sides about who wants what--but finally, six and a half years after they get back together, they come home with their son, Jack. Cara, whose own journey from one night stand to surrogate mother is a whole other story, visits all the time and it works. It works so well that she agrees to be a surrogate for them again a couple of years later, this time with John Paul as the donor. They're shocked when it's twins, a boy and a girl, and they finally buy a much bigger house than the three-bedroom they were making do with.

Craig owns his own business now and it's booming. John Paul works late hours and it's hard raising children with the jobs that they do. But they love it anyway.

And we could go on and on, spinning more and more tales of how their lives end up. But really, what it comes down to is this: they all lived happily ever after.


Contact Cat and Airin

Or comment at my LJ