Chapter 1: It's a Big Big World
You can read the fic below, but the full podfic is all here:
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Note that the songs used throughout the podfic are "7 Years" by Lukas Graham and "Sober" by Demi Lovato.
Chapter 1: It's a Big Big World
Justify the Means
Things are supposed to be simple when you’re 13. At least, that’s what people say. They complain about adulthood and opine about wishing to be young again. As far as Jude is concerned though, he’d take being an adult over this any day. To be fair, his life thus far has been more complicated than the average life, but he kind of thought he might get the dream childhood once he’d been adopted.
He loves the Fosters and they love him, but things have not been the fantasy he had hoped for.
Jude assumes this is how he got to where he is now. Agreeing to sneak into Taylor’s house, to drink alcohol Jude has no interest in, and probably watch Connor makeout with Daria. Not exactly his ideal evening adventure when he: 1. Has never drank before and has absolutely no interest in it. 2. Is definitely in love with Connor and does not want to see him make out with Daria. 3. Is kind of terrified of getting caught. And 4. Is kind of pissed at Connor for making out with him behind closed doors while still insisting on being with Daria in public.
That doesn’t stop him from going, though. The only thing worse than going is not going. Plus, the way Connor had looked at him when he said “get drunk and make out” had fanned the hopeful flames in Jude’s heart. Kissing Connor was… everything.
So they sneak into the house, all of them tramping in way louder than Jude is comfortable with, and Daria finds bourbon. To Jude’s dismay, Connor drinks it. And then to make matters worse, he passes it to Jude.
After his mom died, Jude had sworn he would never drink alcohol. If a few drinks could make his dad kill his mom, even if it was by mistake, Jude wants nothing to do with it. Everyone is looking at him expectantly though, so Jude takes a sip. Of course that’s when everything starts going wrong. There’s a shout from upstairs, and suddenly the bottle is slipping from Jude’s fingers, and they all begin running.
And then there’s a gunshot.
Time stops in that moment for Jude. There’s no bullet that pierces him, but he sees someone go down and then hears screaming.
Lights flicker on as Taylor screams to her dad that it’s her not a robber.
After a moment, Jude’s eyes adjust to the light and he almost wishes that they hadn’t. Connor is on the floor, clutching his leg, blood seeming to be everywhere. The shattered bourbon bottle making it all the more hazardous to reach him.
Jude stands frozen, staring with horror at Connor as Daria screams for them to call 911 and runs to Connor.
On the way to the hospital (squished into Taylor’s father’s pick-up truck following behind the ambulance) there’s total silence. There could have been a party going on though and Jude wouldn’t have noticed. He’s too busy praying to every god he’s ever heard of making promises. If Connor is okay, Jude will never drink again. If Connor is okay, he’ll stop getting annoyed at him for being with Daria. If Connor is okay he will take whatever he can get in terms of a relationship. If Connor is okay, he’ll tell him he’s in love with him.
Jude doesn’t remember much else until he’s in the hospital waiting room and his moms are with him, repeating the diagnosis. Connor is going to be okay. Jude can’t see him, but Connor is going to be okay . And Jude is never ever drinking alcohol ever again.
Jude’s annoyed when Callie tells him that she’s going to spend Father’s Day with Robert. He’s been trying to broach the subject of inviting thei- his dad over for Father’s Day, and he had kind of hoped that she would be there for it. Plus, they rarely spend time together anymore. Ever since the shooting it’s felt like Callie has been distant. To be fair, he’s not the most forthcoming about ...anything these days, but they’ve always spent Father’s Day together. After their mom died and their dad had gone to prison it had become particularly important.
Even though they have the moms now, Jude had expected Father’s Day to remain the same. He supposes things in both of their lives are changing, though. For instance, he’s inviting Connor and his dad over to join in on Father’s Day.
“So we’re not telling your dad then?” Connor checks in with Jude on Saturday.
“It’s okay,” Connor interrupts. “I get it. Dad’s are… weird.”
“Yeah,” Jude agrees softly. Understatement of the year.
His dad turns out to be a constant surprise though. During lunch he calls Connor’s dad out on being a bully and all but says that he fully accepts Jude, regardless of his sexuality.
Jude lay in his bed, staring at the ceiling. Break ups suck . Watching practically all of his siblings bounce from person to person should have prepared him for how much it would suck, but it hasn’t. They at least could all easily fall into someone else’s arms. He couldn’t. Statistically speaking there were definitely a few other gay guys at Anchor Beach, but none of them were out. Jude’s dating life was somehow looking even worse than when he had a long distance boyfriend.
He lay there a while longer, fluctuating between annoyance that no one had even checked on him, and relief that for once he had somehow found some peace and quiet in the house. By the time Stef calls him down to celebrate the twins’ birthday he has successfully found the brave face he needs to put on for the rest of the family.
In a weird twist, Callie basically brings home a new friend for Jude. A project. A distraction from his break up. Someone who needs him in a way.
As it turns out, Jack is probably a bigger help to Jude than Jude is to him. With Jack in the house, needing someone to keep an eye on him, Jude can’t retreat into his sadness over his break up.
“Hey,” Jack says one afternoon while Jude’s staring aimlessly at his homework. “Where’s your laptop ? I want to try something.”
Jude grabs his laptop, logging in and passing it to Jack , vaguely curious as to what Jack is up to.
“Stand up.” Jack gestures to him as he opens YouTube and starts typing . Some metal song begins to pour out of the computer . “Metal is the best catharsis for feelings that just refuse to come out.”
Jack starts singing (yelling?) along, playing some air guitar and dancing without shame. After a full 30 seconds of staring at him and his antics, Jude starts yelling along too. It goes from weird, to freeing, to heart wrenching in the matter of a minute.
Jude crumbles onto his bed letting out a cry. He misses Connor. He hates that he forced this break up. He’s afraid he won’t find love again. He- he freezes as Jack kisses him. This is not what he wants.
Later, he decides to take it as a symbol of hope. He might not be interested in Jack, but there is hope for him to find someone else. When he’s ready. Which isn’t now.
“Jude...? Jude, I need you to come sit down for a moment.”
Jude turns at the bottom of the stairs to see Stef beckoning him into the living room where Callie and Lena already seem to be sitting. She looks serious and he can’t think of anything he’s done to warrant this level of trouble. He puts his phone back in his pocket after glancing one last time to see if Jack has messaged him back yet.
“Sure, what’s up?” he asks, an uncomfortable feeling growing in the pit of his stomach as he sits down on the couch and takes in the look on Lena’s face.
“It’s-” Stef stumbles on her words, face going blank.
Lena takes over. “It’s Jack. He-”
“I got a domestic violence call tonight during my shift.” Stef interjects, anger flashing across her face.
“Was it Jack?” Jude asks, swallowing around the lump in his throat. “I haven’t hear-” he sees the devastated look on Lena’s face. “Is he okay?”
He knows the answer before either of them has to say it.
If you had asked Jude when he first moved in with the Fosters if he would ever want Jesus to be the only sibling to live at home with him, Jude would have begged to be left with anyone but him. He and Jesus had just never had much in common, and the fact that they had been forced to share a room had never helped.
Once Callie, Mariana, and Brandon headed off to college though, having Jesus around is a godsend. Without Jesus, Jude would have to carry the full weight of his moms’ attention on his shoulders. With Jesus, Jude can spend time with Noah and Taylor without worrying about facing the inquisition afterwards.
He does wish that he got to see his other siblings more though. Mariana is far away, Brandon is deeply embedded in school work. And Callie is… well, Jude is pretty sure she’s actually taking a break from dating for a while, but she’s still Callie. She probably has five or six pet projects going on in addition to school. Two of which are likely super dangerous.
Taylor remains a solid friend to him over the years. She gains a boyfriend at one point, but that just makes for double dates with him and Noah.
He and Noah… well. Taylor always teases him, saying he’s going to marry his high school sweetheart and she’s going to have to be Best Woman for both of them at the wedding.
When he and Noah apply to colleges however, they can’t get their needs and wants to line up. Jude wants to go to a big university like Brandon, Mariana, and Callie, but he also wants to be somewhat close to home, so he chooses UCLA. Noah chooses Syracuse.
“What if we tried long distance?” Noah asks, the night before he leaves for school.
Jude sighs. They’ve discussed this. Before Noah had decided, Jude had told him about Connor and how he hated long distance relationships. Noah had chosen Syracuse anyway. Jude didn’t begrudge him for it, but he’d also kind of taken that to be a sign off on their eventual break up. “Long distance never works.”
Noah raises an eyebrow at him, shifting his body on the bench to really look at him. “I don’t know if you’ve met your brother, Jesus, but he and Emma have been long distance for years .”
Jude laughs. “Okay you make a good point.” He eyes Noah, considering his feelings on the subject. It’s not like he wants to break up with Noah. He just kind of feels like he’s supposed to. He reaches out to hold Noah’s hand. “How about we put us on hold. We focus on college and then when you’re home for Thanksgiving, we revisit this.”
Noah squeezes his hand. “Deal.”
College is weird. On the one hand it feels a bit like being back home with all of his siblings under one roof. On the other hand, Jude had kind of gotten used to the solitude and the excessive time available to play video games.
“Come on! It’ll be fun!”
Jude glances up from his computer to look at his roommate, Mark. “It’s a frat party, not exactly my scene,” Jude remarks, raising an eyebrow as if to say, you know, because I’m gay.
Mark throws a pair of balled up socks at his head, missing him by an inch. “Come on, no one cares about that anymore man, there are openly gay fraternity dudes. Now are you coming or what?”
Jude sighs, giving both Callie and Noah’s offline Skype avatars one last look before closing his laptop. “Fine. But promise me you’ll tell me before you go home with some girl this time.”
Grabbing his jacket, Mark nods. “If you actually have a beer this time I’ll at least send a text.”
Jude sighs. A beer actually sounds like a good idea right about now. He’s pretty sure Noah is seeing someone and he really doesn’t want to obsess over it anymore.
Thanksgiving is a rush of family (minus Brandon, who spends most of the time with his fiancée’s family) and friends. He reunites with Taylor, the two of them exchanging notes on college. Taylor regales him with stories of all the boys at her school, focusing on one boy in particular that Jude bets she’ll be dating the next time he sees her. Jude talks about his roommate and his classes, but he fails to mention the loneliness of school. How he’s struggling on his own. Taylor seems to be in love with her school experience and it kind of makes Jude feel like a failure because he’s not in love with his own experience.
He meets up with Noah and the whole thing is just weird and uncomfortable. After ten minutes covering the basics, Noah finally blurts it out.
“I’m seeing someone.”
It’s not like Jude hadn’t suspected as much, but his heart still plummets. He’d been holding out hope that he and Noah might work something out. It was his own dumb idea to break up in the first place. Maybe with Noah back he would feel less alone.
He forces a small smile. “Who’s the lucky guy?”
Noah feeds him a few tidbits of information on the new boyfriend before seeming to realize he should change the subject, gliding easily into a discussion of finals.
Jude can’t think about finals though, all he can think about is getting a drink as soon as he gets back to school. He already knows that he’s further behind on his studies than he should be.
Noah is in a relationship with Todd Meyers
Jude immediately closes out of Facebook to stop himself from stalking Todd . He stares at the computer screen for a moment. He’s officially done with finals, his ex is officially with someone else, and his roommate is officially gone for the semester.
He could go to a party, but Mark is usually the one that invites him to those. Besides, he doesn’t really want to deal with sussing through a crowd of people to determine who’s gay and looking to hookup.
He downloads Grindr and 40 minutes later he’s headed to a bar with his fake ID to meet up with a guy.
Meet The Fosters
For the first time since he graduated high school, the whole family is under the same roof and it’s not even for a graduation.They’re gathered to kick off the celebrations for Brandon and Eliza’s wedding. It’s nice having Corey there with them too. All of his siblings seem to have a buddy (or, in Mariana’s case, a lot of drama to announce), and Corey provides an easy buddy for himself. Plus, it quickly becomes clear to Jude that Callie is going to be busy with Jamie, so it’s not like she’ll be paying any attention to Jude. Typical.
He sneaks off to the kitchen for some rum when he receives an email from UCLA about his grades. Academic probation. Scholarships at risk. How on earth is he supposed to break the news to his moms?
Carter enters the room, accepting a drink from him and they sit down in the living room, away from everyone else, to chat.
Jude gets the distinct impression that he’s gay, but in the closet. He smiles to himself. Gay and in the closet is something he likes to think he has a certain expertise in when it comes to guys.
Turks & Caicos
He’s only a few days into family time and he already feels like his carefully constructed I-don’t-need-anyone-else world is falling apart. Callie knows he’s been taking PrEP. His moms have taken time away from celebrating Brandon to ask him if he’s alright. And if he’s honest with himself, he doesn’t like how separate he feels from everyone else.
So that night, when Carter kisses him, Jude pushes him away, even though he would love to hook up with him. Carter is drunk and not only does Jude not want to take advantage, he also doesn’t want to wreak havoc on Carter’s family. As he waits for Carter to fall asleep, he plays with his phone absentmindedly. He hates to admit it, but Callie is right. He’s not okay and he’s not even trying to fix it. Once Carter is asleep he heads out, having found someone else to hook up with.There’s a part of him that wants to be rebellious. Who is Callie to swoop in after a year of barely talking to him and be disappointed in him?
Where the Heart Is
The drive back from the airport is quiet. Everyone is tired, Jude included. When they get back to the house, Jude enters his room, letting go of his suitcase once he’s inside, closing the door behind him. He lies down, his recent conversations with Callie reverberating through his head.
“What are you compensating for, hooking up with all these guys? Carter doesn’t have a family to talk to, but you do.”
“I’m talking,” Jude recalls replying, frustrated that he was having to have this conversation. And a little bit mad at himself because he knew she had a point. Carter didn’t have a family to talk to.
“You’re not saying anything.”
Even his moms had taken time away from the wedding drama to ask him if he was alright.
He doesn’t even know how to begin to explain to them how not alright he is. Aside from everything else, he’s on academic probation . They’re all going to be so disappointed.
He sighs, loudly, and turns his head. His eyes land on a mini model treehouse that Jesus had proudly given him a few years back, and it’s like half of his fear melts away. Jesus has struggled academically over the years. Moms still love and support him.
Jude stands up. He’s going to tell them right now. Get it over with. Clean slate.
Trepidation sets in once more as he approaches their bedroom, but the fear of them finding out from someone else urges him forward. He taps lightly, hovering in the doorway for a moment. “Can I talk to you guys?”
The words spill out of him in a way that is simultaneously easy and difficult.
“I wanted to prove that I could leave home and be okay… but I guess I wasn’t. It’s just so easy to feel lost, you know? So many kids, so much going on. I’ve just been trying to find ways to make me not feel like this.”
“Why didn’t you tell us, bud?” Stef looks so upset. She looks like she thinks she failed.
“Everyone’s busy with their own stuff, and you guys have Corey to take of. I just thought I should handle it on my own. But, um, I miss everyone being home together. Before everyone went away…”
They beckon him - and Callie - over, inviting them to join them on the bed. And Jude knows that everything isn’t alright, things still need to be fixed, but for a moment he can lay here and really feel like it’s going to be okay.
Later that evening, after he and Callie had gone back to their rooms, his phone buzzes with a text.
Callie: I’m glad you talked to them
Jude is too, even though it was difficult.
He just has one more person he needs to talk to.
The next morning, Jude does something he hasn’t done in a long time. He calls his dad. Donald. He’s not sure why he does it. They haven’t actually spoken since he graduated high school.
Donald has a new family now. A wife. A step-kid. A dog. Jude has college (hopefully he still has college) and the Fosters. He doesn’t begrudge Donald for finding a new family. He doesn’t.
He does wish he’d been able to go to the wedding. But it’s not like his dad had happily abandoned him. He’s okay with the changes. He just feels a bit left out. He’s been feeling a bit left out from everything and everyone lately.
Jude heads out of the house just as Lena is putting dinner on the stove. He tells her that he’s meeting up with a friend. The ease with which the unnecessary lie comes is a little jarring. Being back in this house is a little jarring. It’s reminding him of who he used to be. How much he has changed.
He arrives at the restaurant five minutes early and is surprised to see his dad already seated. Years ago he would have been 20 minutes late dealing with buses. Jude’s not the only one who’s changed.
“Jude!” He’s up and out of his chair before Jude makes it over to his table. “You’ve grown,” he comments, looking him up and down.
Jude grins. Fine, he’ll admit it, he’s missed his dad.
They begin exchanging notes on their lives, Jude doing most of the talking, when the waitress comes by. She takes their order and his dad gets a beer. It ricochets through his head in a funny way.
The waitress leaves, and before he even realizes it, Jude is speaking. “After what happened, how did you become okay again?”
“What do you mean?” his dad asks a little warily.
Jude hesitates before pushing through. They don’t ever talk about her. “After mom and everything.”
His dad looks at him sadly, the memories clearly still haunting him. “There are still days when it comes back to me as if it were only yesterday. I lost everything that day. Time does help though. When I got out of prison and didn’t have you kids with me, it was rough too. Seeing you kids happy with your moms was hard, but I was also so glad that someone was loving you two every day.”
“And now you have Natalie ?” Jude asks.
He grins sheepishly. “It is nice having a family to come home to every day.”
“I’m sorry I missed the wedding.” After months of stewing about missing it and how it was scheduled without consulting him, and the truth is that he is actually sorry to have missed it. He of all people understands the importance of showing up to show your support.
“Are you kidding?” his dad reaches out, squeezing his hand. “I’m sorry you couldn’t make it.”
Jude takes a breath glancing down at his freshly painted fingernails. He told his moms about his grades. He can do this. “Why didn’t you check with me before you set the date?”
His dad sighs, looking more ashamed than Jude has seen him look in years. “I was so caught up in it all that it hadn’t even crossed my mind that you might not be able to get away from school for the wedding. There were other factors too - her dad’s health - that required timeliness, but that’s no excuse.”
He gives his dad a half smile. He feels a lot better now that he’s actually asked.
“You should come by the house for dinner sometime. I’d love for you to get to know everyone a bit better.”
“Yes!” Jude lets out excitedly before reigning himself in, a little embarrassed. “That would be nice.”
One Year Later
Jude shows up at Callie’s (and Mariana’s) apartment for their monthly dinner to find Mariana complaining about her sexist boss. He opens his mouth to say hello, only to have Mariana breeze past him.
“Anyways,” she says to Callie, pausing to give Jude a hug. “I have a meeting with one of my coworkers. We’re going to build our own start-up so we don’t have to deal with this nonsense.”
Callie grins at her. “Let me know if you need legal advice.”
Jude wishes her luck as she sweeps out the door. He turns back to Callie, “You’re not going to bail too, are you?”
Callie laughs. “Of course not. I couldn’t bail on my Judicorn, now could I?”
He rolls his eyes. “When will you stop calling me that?”
“Never,” she laughs, pulling him in for a hug. “How are your grades?”
“How’s Jamie?” he counters.
“Okay, okay! I call a truce.” She shakes her head fondly at him. “I was thinking pasta for dinner?”
“Hey, as long as it’s not from the dining hall, I’m in.” He hops onto the counter, watching as she takes a few ingredients out of the fridge. “I think I might be able to pull my GPA up a 3.0 after this semester.”
It’s still not easy, sharing, but this is good news. Good news he can share. Even if a 3.0 GPA in high school would have been a humiliating thing to share. He’s been seeing a therapist. It’s helping reinforce the fact that everyone goes at their own pace and he doesn’t need to meet anyone else’s standards. He knows it’s a stark contrast to Mariana and Emma’s stints at MIT, or Callie’s 5 year law program. He can just be Jude, and that’s okay.
“Ahh!” Callie exclaims excitedly. “That’s so great! I’m so proud of you!” she hugs him briefly before stepping away and whipping out her phone. “This calls for a celebration. What do you want on your pizza?”
A while later, as they’re sitting on the couch eating pizza and catching up, Callie’s phone buzzes and she immediately goes to answer it.
“How’s Jamie?” Jude asks teasingly.
“It’s Aaron thank you very much,” she responds with a playful glare.
“You know it’s okay if it’s Jamie though, right?” Jude knows she hasn’t really dated anyone since Aaron and while he knows she can be happy alone, he’s always gotten the feeling that she’s closed off that part of herself since then.
“We are friends, you know,” Callie retaliates, knowing where he’s going with this.
“”I know,” Jude shrugs. “But it’s okay if you two are… more.”
“He’s our brother-in-law.”
Jude grins. “So future siblings are fair game but you draw the line at in laws?”
“Jude!” she protests, and for a moment he’s reminded of a more carefree Callie. The one he vaguely remembers from before their mom died. She shakes her head. “How about you? Anyone special in your life?”
“Not really,” he shrugs. Two years post-Noah and Jude still hasn’t had a new boyfriend. He’s gone on a few actual dates in the last year, but nothing has really stuck. He’s okay with that though. Besides, Callie hasn’t had a boyfriend in six years and she's fine. It’s not like there’s anything wrong with him. “I’ve got more important things to do anyways.”
“How’s Taylor?” Callie inquires, standing up to clean up their plates. “Wait-” she stops to look at Jude. “How was the trip? I’m sorry I couldn’t make it, but with Sophia’s graduation and all that-”
“Yeah, yeah,” Jude interrupts. “Battle of the families, I get it.” Last year he would have been annoyed. He would have felt like she was choosing her bio family over him. This year he understands that it’s not about him. “Dad and I were disappointed you couldn’t make it, but we made do; Caleb and I were able to do some plotting .”
She laughs, shoving his shoulder lightly. “Okay tough guy. I’m real afraid.”
As Jude leaves Callie’s that evening, plans to see a band together next week already in his Google Calendar, he smiles. Things aren’t perfect, but in the last year they have gotten so much better than they were before. He and Callie see each other frequently, his grades are better, his whole family - Brandon included - make more of an effort to talk on a regular basis. Somehow drinking and hookups, once his bread and butter for feeling better, have fallen by the wayside. He’s not perfect, but he’s happier.