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this city has a beating heart

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It started with a dare. Or at least, that’s what Jasper remembered, anyway. The whole night was a hazy, drunken mess.

The overall takeaway was, there was a dare. A dare to see how many Q-tips Jasper could fit in his mouth. And it was the grossest goddamn thing he’d ever done in his life.

“I’m going to have cotton in my mouth for days,” he groaned later as Monty searched the bathroom cupboard for a bottle of mouthwash.

“You’re a fucking idiot for taking the dare,” Monty replied, unfortunately still sober enough to make fun of Jasper.

“Hello, what was I supposed to do? Bellamy would have won, and I will not let that happen.” The logic had sounded better in his head, but he just went with it. “Anyway, that was fun.”

“Fun watching you completely incapable of walking down the hall,” Monty replied, exasperation mixing with fondness in his tone. He handed Jasper the mouthwash. “Come on. The others left, I’m getting your drunk ass to bed.”

Jasper could no longer remember the day he and Monty met. He knew it was sometime in kindergarten, and he knew that they spent every second of every day together, inseparable.

It wasn’t until second grade that they started making other friends, branching out. In sixth grade, Monty became good friends with Harper McIntyre, who remained a friend of theirs to this day. Jasper was also good friends with Nate Miller, who had introduced them to Bellamy, and then Clarke.

They’d dated, too, for a while. Jasper went out with a girl, Shay Floukru, in sophomore year of high school, but she dumped him over the summer because she’d moved out of the country. The year after that, Monty dated Harper, and that lasted until senior year, when Harper fell in love with Zoe Monroe, another friend of theirs.

Harper and Monroe had since gotten engaged, about six months ago. Jasper knew Monty was happy for them.

And now that everything was over, Jasper and Monty had been roommates since their third year of university. They’d never really considered another alternative, even when Monty was convinced he’d marry Harper someday.

Now, relationships didn’t matter so much. Not where Monty was concerned. Jasper was pretty sure he’d be happy if he and Monty just stayed roommates for the rest of their lives.

That was the one thing he didn’t want. To let his best friend go.

“I don’t want you to leave,” Jasper mumbled, taking a mouthful of Listerine.

Monty snorted. “I’m not going to move to Antarctica while you’re asleep, Jasper.”

“Ever,” Jasper added as he spat the mouthwash into the sink.

“Come on.” Monty slung an arm around his friend, half-dragging him down the hall to his room. “I’ll see you in the morning, hopefully sober.”

“Mmhm.”

Now, Jasper wasn’t that famous. He’d done a bit of acting before in a movie that fell flat, but the real source of his fans was from the band that he and Monty had formed back in high school. And over the years, it had picked up Monroe, and a name, The 100.

“The 100 what?” a reporter had once asked him.

“Just…The 100,” Jasper had replied. "We give 100 percent."

But sometimes, he still got weird paparazzi taking some weird pictures. And the next morning when he came into the kitchen to see Monty’s horrified expression, that’s exactly what was on the screen of his laptop.

“What’s that?” he asked suspiciously.

Monty swung the laptop around to face Jasper. There was a picture of him and Jasper heading back into the house, a completely drunk Jasper draped around Monty’s shoulders. Only, Jasper didn’t look drunk in the picture.

And he could so easily see how anyone could get the wrong idea.

“The 100’s Jasper Jordan and Monty Green allegedly dating,” Monty read in a flat voice. “Green already confirmed to be bisexual, but Jordan has never stated his sexuality.”

Jasper blinked. “Yikes. Monroe is not going to be happy about this.”

“No shit.” Monty kept scrolling. “God, the comments. Some of these are awful.”

Jasper slid into the chair next to him. “Awful, like, homophobic awful, or cringe-awful?”

“Uh, more of the cringe-awful than the homophobic.” Monty refreshed the Google search page. “At least two news outlets have picked this up, and our Tumblr has about 300 asks, just from today.”

“Guess we’d better release a statement,” Jasper sighed, pouring a cup of coffee and dumping far too much sugar in it.

Monty glanced at him. “Maybe this is a good thing?”

Jasper almost dropped his mug. “What?”

“We’re getting publicity,” Monty pointed out. “People are invested in this. Mt. Weather is calling this the cutest love story of the decade.”

“It’s not a love story,” Jasper pointed out. “We’re just friends. Mt. Weather published an article last year about how my hair is ugly.”

“And now they’re on our side,” Monty hedged.

“What are you suggesting?” Jasper asked carefully. “That we date?”

“God. No. I’m suggesting that we pretend to date.”

Jasper hesitated.

“Look,” Monty said. “I know it’s weird, because you’re straight, but it’s really no different than if, like—”

“It’s not weird,” Jasper interrupted. “I can do it.”

“Really?” Monty looked surprised. “I didn’t think you’d go for it.”

“Hey, it’s for the band, right?” Jasper asked, smiling weakly. “I say we do it.”

Monty’s phone buzzed on the table. Monroe, calling probably to find out what the hell was going on. Leaving Monty to explain, he abandoned his coffee and wandered back into his room, shutting the door behind him.

Not because it was weird to think about dating Monty.

No, the problem was that it wasn’t. At all.

Jasper hadn’t given a second thought to his sexuality for the entire 22 years he was alive. And for the past two days, it was all he could think about.

“I think we have to leave the house at some point,” Monty said wryly.

“Yeah, probably.” Jasper sighed. “I’m going to get some food. Want anything? And no, I will not support your dill pickle chips addiction.”

“Fuck you, they’re delicious.”

There was no one lurking outside as Jasper slid into his car, turning the key in the ignition. However, as soon as he stepped into the parking lot at the grocery store nearest, six camera phones were in his face.

He was in the chips aisle when a girl sidled up to him. She looked about eighteen, with a sly expression, an iPhone in her right hand and very dyed-red hair.

“Is it true?” she asked. “I mean, if you’re going to tell me, at least let me record it…”

Jasper bit back a laugh, having no doubt she had already hit the video button. “Is what true?”

“Are you going out with Monty Green?”

Jasper hesitated. “Yes.”

“You are?” the girl almost yelled. “I didn’t really believe it, I thought it was a rumor!”

“Uh, nope,” Jasper said, grabbing a bag of Doritos from the shelf, and, after a moment of hesitation, dill pickle chips. “Definitely not a rumor.”

“Pickle chips?” the girl asked, nodding at the bag. “For Monty?”

It was common knowledge, apparently, that they were his favorite.

“Yup,” Jasper said lamely. “Monty asked me to get some for him.”

“Thanks for letting me get that.” The girl turned off her phone. “Only, no one would believe me if I didn’t.”

Jasper smiled slightly. “Tumblr’s going to be all over that?”

“Do you follow any fan blogs?” the girl asked. “I can tell you mine.”

Jasper shook his head. “I don’t. But I appreciate everyone who takes the time to listen to our music.”

“It’s jordan-and-green, in case you change your mind,” she called. “My name is Reese.”

“Nice to meet you.”

He managed to escape with no one else asking him about Monty, but as soon as he got home Monty was already in front of the computer again.

“The video’s been shared over 2,000 times,” Monty said. “Jesus Christ, Jasper, I thought the plan was to just not deny it.”

“We never had a plan,” Jasper pointed out. “All I did was tell her we’re dating. AKA, what you wanted me to do.”

“Well, we got the publicity.” Monty grinned. “Tumblr is over the moon.”

“Let me see something. I know who posted the original video,” Jasper said, nudging Monty out of the way to open a new Tumblr window. He typed in jordan-and-green and hit enter.

Reese’s blog popped up immediately, her header image the picture of Monty and Jasper the previous night, and her icon a really impressive drawing of them. Under the icon, it read REESE LEMKIN, 18, The 100 / Jonty.

Sure enough, the first post was the video of Jasper holding a bag of Doritos, looking as if he was trying desperately not to laugh.

“Are you going out with Monty Green?” the girl’s voice echoed through the speaker. On-screen, Jasper nodded.

“Yes.”

“YOU ARE—”

The video was edited there, and cut immediately to the next part of the conversation, as Jasper held up the bag of pickle chips. “Monty asked me to get some for him.”

“You got me pickle chips?” Monty asked.

“Oh, yeah.” Jasper handed him the bag. “Here you go, you ingrate.”

“I’m very grateful.”

Jasper squinted at the tags. IT’S CANON, one read. JONTY, read another.

“Jonty,” Jasper said. “That’s our ship name, I take it?”

“You’re so behind.” Monty shut his computer and smiled at Jasper. “We’ve been shipped since the beginning.

“By everyone?”

“Well, some people want you and Monroe together, but they know she’s engaged to Harper.”

“Do they know that you went out with Harper? They’d probably have a field day with that.”

“Ha.” Monty glanced at his phone, then crossed the room to open the door. “Hey, Octavia.”

“Is it true?” The younger Blake bounced into the room. “I mean, we always knew there was sexual tension, but we thought Jasper was still under the pretense that he’s straight—”

“What are you talking about?” Jasper interrupted. “It’s for publicity.”

Octavia stopped. “What? You’re not actually dating?”

“Who do you owe money?” Monty cracked.

“Bellamy,” she grumbled.

“And?”

“Clarke.”

“Clarke texted me this morning to ask,” Jasper told her. “I told her it wasn’t true.”

“It’s a secret, though,” Monty said. “As in, I don’t care how small your Tumblr fanpage is, you have to pretend we’re dating too.”

“What makes you think I have a Tumblr?” Octavia defended.

“It’s bloctaviake. You can’t fool me.”

“Whatever,” Octavia grumbled. “So you’re telling me you guys are not dating and Jasper still thinks he’s straight.”

“Jasper is straight,” Monty started, but Octavia locked eyes with Jasper.

And suddenly, he was sure that she knew. Knew about something he swore he’d never think about again.

Monty was looking between the two of them. “Jasper? You okay?”

“Uh, yeah. I just have to ask Octavia something,” Jasper said. “Really quickly. It’s about, um…”

“My personal life,” Octavia cut in. “Let’s talk.”

Monty watched them, bewildered, as they ducked into Jasper’s room and slammed the door.

“This place is a mess,” Octavia observed. “Kind of like your life.”

“What do you know, Octavia?”

“What? The same party where you got drunk and kissed me, you got drunk and also kissed—”

“Octavia.”

“—Miller?”

“Octavia!”

“If it makes you feel better, he made out with Monty that night, too.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“Nope,” she said cheerfully. “So, how long have you been in love with Monty?”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“Jasper, I’m not stupid.”

Jasper glanced out the crack in the door. Monty was still far away, at the kitchen table, out of earshot of their conversation.

“I’m not in love with him,” Jasper said quietly. “I didn’t even…until today, I didn’t even think…but I don’t…”

Octavia exhaled. “Took you long enough.”

“You knew?”

She smiled slightly. “Whenever you two are around each other…it’s like best friends on crack. You’re inseparable. And whenever one of you talks about a relationship, the other suddenly gets surly and irritable.”

“And, under some hideous delusion, you think he likes me, too.”

“Not a delusion.” She tapped her head. “Common sense. You seem to be lacking it.”

“I’m in a band, Octavia. Of course I have no common sense.”

“Go out there and tell him you like him.”

“No,” Jasper said firmly. “Not today, not ever.”

“Jasper.”

“Octavia, no.”

“You’re such an idiot,” she said. “Fine. I’ll leave. Tell Monty we were talking about Lincoln.”

“How is Lincoln, by the way?”

She smiled. “He’s great. I want to marry him, Jasper. I really do.”

“How long has it been?”

“Going on three years now. Although I don’t think he’s going to even ask me to move in with him until I’m at least twenty-one.”

Jasper snorted. “Push, Octavia. You’re good at being pushy.”

“I am, aren’t I?”

She was still smiling as she hugged him and stepped into the hallway, heading for the door.

“Good to see you, Monty. Thanks, Jasper!”

She slammed the door shut behind her, and was gone, just as quickly as she’d come.

“What was that?” Monty finally said.

Jasper shrugged. “Something about Lincoln.”

The next time they were in public together, Jasper was hyperaware of the cameras on them, in hidden corners of dark alleys.

“Take my hand,” Monty muttered under his breath.

“Huh?”

Monty’s hand snaked out to wrap around his, lacing their fingers together.

Maybe it was the sensory overload of ten different cameras. Maybe it was what Octavia had said before. Maybe it was the weirdness of pretending to date. Or maybe it was just Monty. Because Jasper had held Monty’s hand before, and it had meant nothing but friendship.

This time…

He didn’t know what he felt.

He just knew that every single nerve ending in his hand was paying undivided attention. And he didn’t want to let go.

Playing the role of someone in love came naturally to Monty, or so it seemed. When they stopped to get lunch at a local diner they both loved, Monty did his part, holding Jasper’s hand over the table, laughing slightly at everything he says.

And playing the role of someone on a slightly awkward first date with someone you’ve known your whole life?

Yeah, that came pretty easily to Jasper, too.

But at the back of his mind, there was a PA system, and it kept announcing that as soon as they get home, the spell would break.

And so Jasper invented ways to keep them out until the sun set.

“That was nice,” Monty said. He was driving an easy 45 on a 50-kilometer street; no one behind them, no one in front. “I missed Clarke. I’m glad you texted her to meet us at Starbucks.”

Jasper ducked his head. “It was nice, yeah.” He glanced over at Monty, who was humming slightly as he flicked the turn signal. It was one of their newer songs, released the year before. “How are you holding up?”

“The moment passed me by again…this is how you lose your best friend,” Monty sang under his breath. He executed a flawless left turn, then looked at Jasper. “Holding up?”

“You know. Pretending to date me.”

“Oh.” Jasper couldn’t read Monty’s expression in the dark. “It’s fine. It’s not as if I don’t like spending time with you. It’s just different, pretending to be…”

“In love with me?” Jasper finished.

Monty coughed slightly. “I was going to say dating you. But, sure.”

His tone was slightly flat, and Jasper scrambled to come up with a reply.

“It’s not terrible,” he said brightly.

Monty snorted. “Thanks.”

It felt normal again, just Monty and Jasper, the boys who’d started The 100 in the back of the science lab during lunch. Before all of the feelings got in the way.

Jasper smiled slightly. “You’re welcome.”

“We’re going to have to kiss at some point.”

Jasper let his keys drop onto the counter. “I brought you bagels, and this is the welcome I get?”

“Good morning. Thanks for bringing me bagels. We’re going to have to kiss at some point.”

“Kiss?”

“In public. People love PDA. Give Tumblr something to talk about.”

“Oh.” Jasper could feel color flooding his cheeks, and busied himself sticking a bagel in the toaster. “Well. Probably. I guess.”

“If you’re that uncomfortable,” Monty started, but Jasper shook his head quickly.

“No! No. We should do it. I don’t mind.” He searched for the cream cheese in the fridge. Remembered neither of them like cream cheese. God, he’s a mess. “Uh…when?”

“I was thinking it should be sort of unplanned,” Monty hedged, and Jasper got the feeling he hadn’t just cooked this up in the last hour.

“Sure.” Jasper cleared his throat, digging for a butterknife. “Sure. Just, uh…let me know at least a little beforehand? Like, pull a Finn Wolfhard and mumble ‘I’m going in’ before you do?”

Monty almost choked on his coffee. “Yeah. Sounds like a plan.”

As much as he tried not to, Jasper couldn’t keep from thinking about it. When would Monty kiss him?

Why was he worrying so much about it?

And then it hit him. It didn’t matter what Monty thought, or the awkwardness of kissing your best friend. No, that’s not what he was worried about.

He was worried that Octavia was right. And that if he kissed Monty, he’d know if she was.

Choosing to ignore the fact that he knew damn well already.

The kiss itself didn’t end up coming until almost two weeks later. Two weeks of him quietly scrolling Tumblr on his laptop, reading fan theories and fics.

Research, he said to Monty later. He needed to know what their fans expected of them.

“I particularly appreciated the aesthetic of this scenario,” Monty snickered, opening his laptop and loading the last page. “Rain kiss? Surrounded by leaves, or some shit. Have you got a big raincoat?”

“I think we can do without the raincoat. We want people to actually see us, not give them a visual of their fanfictions.”

“Fair enough,” Monty said. They were at the point now where they could easily joke about it, and it wasn’t uncomfortable anymore. “Okay. You ready to do this?”

“What, today?”

“We’d better. People are following this.”

Jasper nodded, feeling his throat dry up. “Yeah. Today, then.”

“Cool. What errand are we supposedly running?” Monty asked. “No rain, too bad. We can find a sunny street corner, somewhere with a lot of people.”

“Let’s just walk down Arkadia,” Jasper suggested. “Are you going to kiss me, or am I going to kiss you?”

“Like I said, spontaneous. We’ll wing it. It’s a kiss, Jasper, not a nuclear launch sequence.”

“Ha.” He reached for his jacket and car keys. “Okay. Let’s go.”

Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, there was a gossip mag looking for a good tidbit that halted the two of them.

“Hey,” she chirped. “I’m Maya Vie, over at Mt. Weather News, and we’re just looking for a quick couple of questions with Jasper Jordan.”

“Two minutes,” Jasper told her.

“Great!” She clicked a recording device. “Okay. When did you begin dating Monty Green?”

Jasper blinked, trying to remember the date of the party. “Um…about four weeks back, I think. We…” He glanced at Monty, who offered no suggestion. “We kissed. At a party.”

“Your fans are going crazy! How do you feel about that?”

Jasper tried not to smile. “We really do appreciate our fans supporting this—that was the hope. I’ve seen some really great takes on it—” He heard Monty turn a snort into a cough, “—and we hope we can turn this into a really great new album.”

“Awesome! Final question—you never came out as bisexual, or pansexual, and if you’d be willing, could you give me a brief summary of how you knew, or how you came to terms with it?”

Monty’s expression turned slightly panicked, and Jasper knew why. Because as far as Monty was concerned, he was straight.

Straight.

The word seemed to fit him less and less.

Addressing Maya Vie, he cleared his throat.

“I wish I could say there was a story behind it,” he said. “But there wasn’t. It’s a revelation of sorts—that not everything is what it seems, and not everyone you like is going to be a girl, and you just have to try to not let it affect your perception on the world.”

He glanced at Monty, who looked slightly calmer, and slightly surprised.

“I don’t know what I identify as,” he continued. “I never really picked a label for it. It’s just the feeling of looking at a boy and feeling the same way about him as I feel about a girl. It’s really that simple. And I hope that anyone who feels the same way finds the courage to act on it.”

Maya Vie smiled. “Thanks for your time,” she said. “I think your fans will really appreciate the message.”

“I hope so.”

As her wedge boots clonked away down the sidewalk, he looked over at Monty again, who was still staring at him.

“Is there something you want to talk about?” he finally said.

Jasper smiled slightly. “I think I just did.”

Monty was quiet as they kept walking. Jasper was, too, looking as he was for a good spot to kiss.

“Over here?” he mumbled.

Monty turned to face him.

It was nothing like he’d expected. He’d expected it to be slightly awkward. He’d expected to need a warning.

He’d never expected to automatically reach to cup Monty’s face. He’d never expected to forget, momentarily, that they were doing this for the public, and not for themselves.

And if he was even remotely right, Monty forgot that, too.

When they finally broke, Jasper knew the kiss would evolve into a thousand dramatically edited gifs.

He also knew Octavia was right.

Jesus Christ, he was in love with his best friend.

Not an ideal situation.

If nothing else, at least they’d gotten a kiss.

Another week passed before Monty broached the subject again.

“What you said to the reporter…”

Jasper pushed a chunk of hair out of his eyes. “Which part of it?”

“Jasper, you sounded like you knew exactly what it was like. Like you’d been through this.”

“Authenticity,” he tried, but Monty shook his head.

“I’m your best friend, Jasper.”

“That you are.”

“You’re bi. Or pan. Or whatever.”

Jasper shrugged. “It appears that way.”

“Who is it?” Monty folded his arms. “Do we need to stage a breakup? Listen, Jasper, I would be happy for you if you found someone.”

Jasper shook his head. “Believe me, I haven’t found someone. And we definitely don’t need to stage a breakup.”

“Jasper.”

Monty was sitting beside him, then, and Jasper found he couldn’t look at his friend.

“I’m going to tell you something,” Monty said. “And I want you to tell me if the same applies to you.”

Jasper squeezed his eyes shut.

“If this goes wrong,” Monty said softly, “I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to move out.”

Jasper’s eyes snapped open. “Monty, no.”

“Let me continue.”

Jasper bit his lip.

“I fell in love with you,” Monty said. “This has been easy for me. This whole dating thing. I fell in love with you and I knew you were straight and I’d never have an opportunity to be with you. And, God, that’s not what this is about at all. I’ve been keeping my feelings at bay for a long time. But…” He exhaled. “If there’s even a chance you return my feelings, Jasper, I can’t go on and not tell you.”

“People don’t get this lucky,” Jasper said faintly.

Monty looked up. “What?”

“People don’t get lucky enough to fall in love with their best friend,” Jasper said, “and find out their friend loves them, too.”

“Does that mean I did?” Monty asked cautiously.

“We both did, I think,” Jasper breathed.

It was so much easier to kiss Monty when there was no underlying motivation.

Just Monty and Jasper.

But better.

“So really,” Octavia summarized when Jasper called her, “it started with that dare.”

“That’s what you took away from this conversation?” Jasper asked in disbelief.

“Yup,” Octavia said smugly. “Congratulations on the boyfriend, and thank you for no longer putting us through the sexual tension.”

She hung up, then, leaving an exasperated Jasper on the other end.

“I’m telling Bellamy to cut off her Tumblr,” Monty muttered.

Jasper had to laugh.