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eyes wide open

Chapter Text

Jean was reading the newspaper when there was a knock on his door. He frowned, halfway through an article on the school district’s funding problems, and stared at the door in confusion. He checked his phone, but it lit up to show no missed calls or texts, and his friends were the type to always forewarn him before visiting his apartment.

Friends, he thought derisively. More like Renee. Kevin, maybe, when he wasn’t being a little shit, but that was most of the time. Neil, when either of them was bored enough.

He looked down at Napoleon, but Napoleon looked just as confused as him. Well. That wasn’t surprising for a dog.

He made his way to the door, not even thinking to put the paper down, shoulders tense as he tried to think of who could possibly be visiting. It couldn’t be him , he was dead , and nobody else would come to collect anymore, Neil had promised, he had promised , but then again who even was Neil to promise such a thing–

He opened the door before his thoughts spiralled anymore, Napoleon close behind.

His first thought was almost comically simple: blue. Bright blue eyes were gazing right at him, the exact color of the ocean of his childhood, or at least how he remembered it.

He blinked. Blinked again. Was sure he didn’t recognize the man on his doorstep, with his bright eyes and enormous grin and wavy blonde hair. Waited for him to explain himself with a simple raised eyebrow.

“Hi!” the man finally chirped. The sound was happiness channeled into a single word, and Jean wasn’t sure how he didn’t hate him already.

“Hello,” Jean responded when it seemed that Blue Eyes wasn’t going to continue without some kind of acknowledgement. Napoleon nosed the back of his calf, unsure of the situation. Jean couldn’t blame him.

“Sorry to bother you! I actually live right below you? I’m Jeremy!” he said, still all sunshine and smiles. Jean felt an impossible urge to smile back. What the fuck?

Jean stared impassively at him, waiting for further explanation. Jeremy had paused, probably expecting Jean to share his own name, but he was too thrown by a combination of inherent distrust in the unknown and the oddly appealing way Blue E– Jeremy was grinning at him. His smile didn’t even falter as Jean stared him down.

“I just came by,’s probably really weird, actually, but since I live below you, I just hear your dog running around and barking a lot?”

Jean glanced down at Napoleon, who crowded closer against his owner’s shins. Napoleon wasn’t exactly the quietest dog around, sure, especially because his main way of distracting Jean from his inner demons was to badger him into wrestling, or playing fetch, or just running in circles while barking. He was surprisingly effective, but then again, that was rather the point of a therapy dog. 

Jean wasn’t exactly over his distrust over anything involving the idea of “therapy” yet.

“I’m sorry,” Jean murmured, frowning. What was he supposed to do? He could move, that would probably help, find a unit on the first floor of a building–

“No, no! Sorry, I’m being all weird about this, but I’ve had like, the longest day ever? And...I was just wondering if I could pet him? Or her? I really miss my family dog, but I can’t exactly drive two hours north just to pet our dog, you know? I’ve got grading to do!”

Jean blinked. Blinked again. Jeremy’s grin was still in place, had hardly dimmed at the cold reception, but there was a nervous edge to his words despite it, especially in the way his sentences somehow lilted into questions.

“Sure,” Jean finally conceded, once he had recovered from the deluge of words. He was quietly impressed at the amount of personal information the other man had managed to disclose in such a short conversation. He shuffled aside, trying to move Napoleon in front of him. “This is Napoleon.”

Jeremy crouched immediately, his grin brightening impossibly as he held a hand out. Napoleon cautiously sniffed it.

“Hi, Napoleon! I’m Jeremy. You sure are a cutie, aren’t ya?” he cooed, his voice going up several octaves. Jean watched the interaction with bemusement, folding up the paper that he was still holding. 

Apparently, Napoleon accepted Jeremy, as he flopped to the ground and rolled over after just a minute of Jeremy’s careful petting. Jeremy turned his attention to scratching at his belly and Jean was surprised to see his shoulders loosening. Who was that bright and smiley even when knotted up so tightly?

Jean leaned up against the doorframe, tucking the paper under his arm and quietly taking in the scene, before Jeremy looked back up, a softer smile in place. The blue of his eyes was still drawing Jean in, and he was itching to pick up some oils or something, because that color was evoking things he hadn’t known he still had in him–

“Thanks so much!” Jeremy grinned, his hand still carding through Napoleon’s fur carefully. “I really appreciate it. Wow, dogs are just the best, you know? Well, obviously you do, because you own one.” He laughed, the sound bright and clear and who even was this guy and seriously why didn’t Jean feel like punching him – “I’ll stop interrupting your evening and your paper time now. I feel a million times lighter!”

Jean continued staring as the blonde stood up, stretching his arms above his head. His clothes were nice but mussed up, his red and gold tie loosened and crooked, untucked button-down hopelessly wrinkled. Jean tried to ignore how good of a look it was.

Jean tried to reply, coughed, averted his eyes to the wall behind Jeremy. “You can come and pet Napoleon again, if you want. He loves attention.”

What? He hadn’t meant to say that at all. Damn blue eyes.

Jeremy perked up at that, straightening up and turning his megawatt grin back on. “Really? That would be great! Are you sure? I don’t want to impose any more than I already have.”

“I wouldn’t have offered if I didn’t mean it,” Jean replied, raising an eyebrow once more. Jeremy’s smile didn’t waver for a second, taking it all in stride.

“Thank you! I guess I’ll see you around.” With a wave to Jean and a few more cooed words to Napoleon, Jeremy turned towards the elevator and disappeared in a flash.

Jean lingered in the door, still reeling from the unexpected encounter. He waited a moment for the panic and regret to set in, but felt only confusion and something that could, perhaps, be an unexpected interest in seeing those eyes sometime soon.

It was a week before there was another knock on the door, and Jean only tensed up for a few seconds before forcing himself to relax. He was reading the paper again, this time scanning the Arts & Entertainment section, forcing himself not to linger over the picture of Kevin and his new exhibition opening downtown this week.

Napoleon perked up from his spot beside him on the couch, brown ears flicked attentively towards the door. His tail wagged experimentally as Jean unfolded himself from his position and padded to the door.

At the door, Jean blinked once more at the overly bright smile of Jeremy, his obnoxiously blue eyes and white teeth and soft hair just as Jean remembered it. The blonde was dressed more casually this time, wearing incredibly beat up Vans and skinny black jeans that were really working for him and a blue T shirt that impossibly had the outline of an orca on the pocket and dammit, why was Jean cataloging every detail?

“Hi again! I was wondering if I could possibly borrow Napoleon for a few therapeutic moments?” he said.

Jean nodded wordlessly, stepping back as he had done before, letting Napoleon nose his way towards Jeremy with a few excited tail wags. The blonde man sank to the ground, shoulders loosening immediately as his hand found Napoleon’s back.

“Who’s a good boy?” he asked, once more adopting the ridiculous voice of a human in close proximity to a cute animal. Jean absolutely did not smile.

After almost ten minutes of Jeremy petting Napoleon, Jean leaning in his doorway and watching the two like a fucking creep and not in any way drinking in the angles of Jeremy’s face or planning out a soft, gentle painting of the moment, Jeremy finally rose with a final pat on Napoleon’s head.

“Thanks again!” he grinned, stuffing his hands in his pockets as Napoleon retreated behind Jean once more, resting his head against his legs to make sure he was fine. “Are you sure it’s fine?”

Jean nodded, not trusting himself to say something that wouldn’t be ridiculously weird. (He was pretty sure it wasn’t normal to tell a stranger that he was inspiring Jean almost as much as sitting by the ocean did, or that he had been hoping to see his eyes again to make sure they’d come out right last time, or– well, any of the other things that he kept in his buried in his head.)

“That’s really nice of you, man. I can’t tell you how much it helps to pet him. God, I need to go visit my family asap, you know? Anyway, see you around!”

Jean watched him round the corner to the elevator, swallowing down any of the things he wanted to say. He closed the door slowly and let out a long exhale when he settled back to the couch, and the picture of Kevin in the newspaper suddenly seemed more like good news than it had before.

It became something that he came to expect, part of his routine. (Routines are good, his therapist reminded him, over and over. They help to ground you.)

Once a week, there would be a gentle knock on the door, and Napoleon would race ahead of his owner to play with his new friend. Jean would watch from the doorway as the two played for a few moments before Jeremy took his too sunny smile around the corner, leaving Jean to stare pathetically after him.

Renee noticed something after the first few visits, when she visited him in his studio and studied his latest painting, something blue and abstract, but with gentler lines and curves than his normal style allowed. It wasn’t too overt, not to most people, but Renee had never been most people.

“He sounds good for you,” she hummed, after Jean explained what had started happening. He raised a challenging eyebrow. “Seriously! Talking to new people is good for you, Jean. And I’m really proud of you for reaching out like that, inviting him back.”

“I don’t think I’ve even told him my name,” Jean admitted after a minute. He was sitting on a stool in front of his easel, Renee sipping hot chocolate and examining some of the other canvases he’d left lying around. “I get all tongue tied when he turns up. I’m afraid of saying something ridiculous.”

“Why don’t you make that a goal, then?” she asked gently, turning back to him with her soft gaze and softer smile. “Say hi to him next time, maybe ask him how he’s doing?”

Jean shrugged lightly before redirecting the conversation away from that line of questioning.

After the fifth visit, Jean was ready to talk to Jeremy. He’d mapped out the conversation in his mind, had planned for any response and– he was an adult, dammit, he could talk to his cute neighbor.

He deserved to be happy, he repeated to himself, something Renee and his therapist had been telling him for years.

Maybe someday it would be internalized.

Then again, what was he supposed to say to his neighbor/maybe friend who he'd known for over a month but didn't yet know his name? It was officially well past the time when he could say it without everything because uncomfortable as fuck.

He swung the door open, glanced down at Jeremy and stepped aside. As Jeremy sat down on the floor, Jean cleared his throat. Hello, how are you, my name is Jean, I love your eyes, your smile is starting to creep into my dreams

“Does something particularly stressful happen on Thursdays?” he asked instead. He wasn’t sure if he was glad that’s what he landed on or not.

Jeremy’s neck snapped up in surprise, sunny smile in place as ever. His hands continued their strokes along Napoleon’s flank.

“Yeah, we’ve been having weekly meetings with the local school council to discuss the budget,” he replied, eyes remaining on Jean as he spoke. “And because I’m an idiot, I volunteered to be the teacher rep on the council, so I have to go and listen to all this financial bullshit and pray to God that none of my colleagues get fired because of fucking politicians and their corrupt priorities.”

Jean stared. He blinked. He had not accounted for the possibility of Jeremy launching into an impassioned rant that actually dimmed his smile.

“I’m sorry,” he said finally, once Jeremy’s attention had shifted back to Napoleon.

Jeremy shrugged. “It’s not like it’s your fault. Or, well, I guess I don’t know that it’s not your fault. You’re not a politician, are you?”

It was probably a joke, but Jean responded anyway.

“No, just an artist.” He leaned back against the doorframe, eyes on Napoleon’s happy squirming.

Jeremy let out a noise of excited surprise, glancing up at Jean before turning back to the dog before him.

“That’s awesome, dude! An artist? I can’t even imagine that. I don’t have an artistic bone in my body. Although I guess my handwriting is bad enough that it could be considered some kind of art...”

Jean let that sit out there, heart already pounding against his chest. He had actually said things, things that made sense and weren’t weird or anything. He would have to tell Renee about that as soon as Jeremy left.

The blonde finally rose and departed a few minutes later, smile back and brighter than ever as he said his goodbyes.

“He’s an artist, guys, an artist ,” Jeremy repeated again as he trailed behind Laila, carrying the stack of papers she had thrust at him. “He makes art for a living .”

“We do know what an artist is, Jeremy,” Alvarez replied dryly, distributing the packets she was carrying around the room as she wove through the desks.

“And he asked me about why I always come on Thursdays!” Jeremy enthused, not letting her attitude drag him down in the least. “He pays attention to when I come! And he asked me about it! He has the cutest accent, guys. I think he’s French.”

“But you still don’t know his name,” Alvarez pointed out. Laila shot her a look that Jeremy failed to notice in his excited state.

“It’s only a matter of time, don’t you think?” He was practically bouncing as he came to a stop beside Laila’s desk. “I wonder if I could go more than once next week. His dog is the cutest, guys, you don’t even know. He’s so sweet!”

“We know,” the couple chorused, sharing a look of amusement and fondness.

Jeremy seemed to calm down at that, but his dopey grin remained in place.

“Don’t you have to get your own classroom ready, Knox?” Alvarez asked after a moment of silence. He glanced up at the clock and almost dropped the papers he was carrying in surprise.

“Oh buddy, I should’ve left like ten minutes ago!” he cried, setting his stack of paper down on Laila’s desk. “I’ll see you guys for lunch!”

He booked it out of the room, ignoring his friends’ laughter as he thought back to last night. An artist . Jeez.

Here’s the thing:

Jeremy hadn’t meant for it to be a thing at all.

He’d just been having a shitty day, with the budget cuts and the endless bickering and the burning sense of injustice in his chest that he couldn’t ignore, and after he dropped all his shit in his apartment and downed a glass of wine, the pitter patter of paws above him became too much. He wanted his dog, but a stranger’s would have to suffice for now.

He’d originally gone for the dog, but he’d sure as hell stayed for the ridiculously attractive guy who answered the door. He was all angles and his grey eyes were unreal, his dark clothes and the bird tattooed on his cheekbone working way too well for him. And even if he seemed cold or indifferent, he had invited Jeremy back. Jeremy would have to be an idiot to say no to something like that.

After that, it was more a question of when than if . Every night, Jeremy suppressed the desire to go up and demand entry to Hot Frenchie’s apartment, to cuddle with his adorable dog and learn everything there was to know about him. He wanted to see the apartment that was always shielded by the man’s dark silhouette, wanted to know what his favorite food was, wanted to marathon Star Wars with him. Even the prequels.

But he didn’t even know his name.

There was something about the man, something that made Jeremy more curious than he could ever remember being, but something that stopped him from running his mouth more than he should. He didn’t want to push him into anything; it had to be volunteered, had to be something he wanted Jeremy to know.

Besides, there was something about the wary way that Hot Frenchie opened the door, shielded the apartment from view, didn’t take his eyes off of Jeremy and his dog. It seemed like perhaps he could use another friend. Maybe Jeremy could be that.

Until then, well. Napoleon was pretty cute, anyway.

Jeremy gave in the Tuesday after the Thursday when he learned that Hot Frenchie was an artist and plodded upstairs before he even registered what he was doing.

His hand had knocked on the black door before he could stop himself, and he allowed himself one moment of panic before plastering on a grin and pushing that anxiety down. Hot Frenchie had said he could come whenever, ok, it would be ok–

The door opening interrupted Jeremy’s thoughts, and he blinked in surprise at the small woman who stood there, no Napoleon in sight. Jeremy’s mouth opened and closed wordlessly for a moment, not sure what to say, when Hot Frenchie stalked into view.

“Hello Jeremy,” the man intoned, eyebrows raised slightly in apparent surprise. Jeremy grinned at him and then looked down at his adorable dog, who was trailing slightly behind him as ever, tail wagging excitedly. “Bad day?”

“This budget, man,” Jeremy sighed, running a hand back through his hair. The woman watched the exchange silently, but with a small smile. Her hair was a splash of colors, totally different from the conservative clothes she wore, and something about her put Jeremy at ease. “I’m sorry to interrupt you two, though, so I can just go deal with it like a normal adult–”

“No worries,” Hot Frenchie interrupted, stepping back to let his dog out as normal. “Wouldn’t want to disappoint Napoleon now that he’s seen you, would we?”

“Who would want to disappoint a cutie like you?” Jeremy cooed, sinking to the floor and reaching out for the dog. He couldn’t even bring himself to be embarrassed at his behavior in front of the strangers, or wonder about their relationship, or think about much of anything, really, as Napoleon gently licked his cheek.

“Jean, shouldn’t you go check on the food?” the woman’s voice floated, somewhere above Jeremy and his dog-induced haze. Jean. Finally, a name for the face that had settled somewhere in Jeremy’s bones.

Jeremy glanced up as Jean disappeared from view, hand still scratching just behind Napoleon’s ears.

“I’m Renee,” the woman said kindly, reaching a hand out towards Jeremy with a friendly smile. He grinned back, accepting the hand before him and replying, “Jeremy. It’s nice to meet you.”

“Sorry about Jean,” she commented lightly after another minute of watching Jeremy and Napoleon cuddle on the ground. “He...isn’t always the best with strangers. He doesn’t mean to be standoffish.”

Jeremy could feel his brow crinkle.

“Oh no, he’s not standoffish!” Jeremy protested. “I’m a stranger who gets to play with his dog every week. That’s the opposite of standoffish. I really appreciate that he lets me do this at all.”

Renee’s gaze was heavy on his head, but he didn’t look up to see whatever judgment she was passing. He just hoped it wouldn’t put an end to whatever this had been, because it had definitely been a highlight in the ongoing battle of budgets and too little free time.

Jean appeared back at her side after a minute, holding a spatula. “Dinner’s ready, Ren.”

Jeremy rose immediately, sensing that it would be best to leave them to it. He grinned to the best of his ability at the pair, especially the sight of dark and gloomy Jean (he had a name! A French name!) holding a bright purple spatula.

“Well, I don’t need to take up any more of your time,” Jeremy declared, stretching out again once he was standing. “Thanks so much for lending me Napoleon. Have a great night, y’all!”

Renee sent a quiet “good night, Jeremy” his way, while Jean’s eyes were a weight on his back as he rounded the corner and let out a shaky breath, trying to process everything that had just happened.

Hot Frenchie was, in fact, Jean. And Jean apparently had a girlfriend. A sweet, quiet girlfriend who was really nice and impossible for Jeremy to resent.

At least he’d always have Napoleon, Jeremy mused, as he crashed back on his couch a few moments later, swigging directly from his bottle of wine with no class and no shame as he texted Alvarez and Laila about this latest development.

“He seems really, really nice,” Renee commented after the door had closed, Napoleon had settled over Jean’s feet, and they had tucked quietly into the fish he had cooked that evening.

Jean let out a strangled moan, head dropping dramatically onto his hand on the table. “I know,” came the muffled reply a moment later, as Renee calmly took a bite of her salmon and smiled at her ridiculous friend. “He’s going to be the death of me.”

“His eyes are very blue,” Renee agreed, not doubt enjoying the high-pitched noise that Jean emitted at that. 

On Thursday, Jean was definitely, not at all waiting anxiously for the knock at the door with a plan in mind. Definitely, not at all, no siree.

When it came, he sprang into action, taking a quick bite of the cake he had been eyeing for the past hour, and stumbled towards the door.

As expected, Jeremy stood on the other side, the day resting heavily on his shoulders. He was dressed more formally again, his tie hopelessly loose and crooked at his collar and his hands deep in his pockets.

“Napoleon!” he cooed, laughing as the dog jumped up on his chest, forcing his hands out of his pockets. Jean swallowed the cake in his mouth with a small smile, watching as some of the tension eased out of the blonde man’s shoulders.

“Hey, Jean,” he grinned after a moment on the floor, and Jean had to blink once more to process hearing him say his name. It sounded– well, it sounded wrong when any American said it, but it was warm and kind and some of Jeremy’s sunshine seemed to envelop it, if that was possible.

“Do you want some cake?” Jean asked, with absolutely no charm or lead-in or anything that normal humans do when interacting with each other. “I have half a cake and only one mouth to feed, so it’s either going to take forever to finish or wreck any self-control I pretend to have.”

As ever, Jeremy looked unfazed by Jean’s sudden friendliness, his grin only brightening. “That would be wonderful! Are you sure you don’t mind?”

“Not at all,” Jean replied quickly, then rethought this answer. “I mean, I don’t mind at all. I’m very sure.”

Jeremy let out a bright laugh at that, and Jean felt like he was fucking drowning in blue, and then he turned away before he said any of the dumb things on the tip of his tongue, like what’s your number or would you like to move in? You could be with Napoleon like all the time or can I sketch you? or–

“Come on,” he tossed back over his shoulder, when he realized that Jeremy seemed inclined to respect all the boundaries that Jean had constructed, and would need explicit permission to enter his house. He turned the corner to his kitchen, heading straight for the half-eaten cake on his counter. He got down an extra plate, cut into the cake, and handed it to Jeremy, who was looking around his apartment carefully.

“Thanks so much!” the man grinned when he received the plate, eagerly scooping a bite up. “What’s the occasion?”

“Oh, it was leftover from a party the other day, and it was unwillingly forced onto me,” Jean shrugged, leaning against the counter. He inclined his head towards the stools across from him. “You’re welcome to take a seat, if you’d like.”

With another bright grin, Jeremy rounded the counter and plopped down across from Jean. Jean looked down at his cake to avoid the happiness that settled in his chest at having Jeremy in his apartment.

“So is all this art yours?” Jeremy asked after a minute of silent cake eating. Jean glanced up, taking in the small sculptures on the counter in front of him, the various paintings and drawings hung up around living room. The kitchen and living room blended together, one large room separated only by the counter peninsula that Jean was leaning against. It was a nice apartment, a place that Jean was happy to spend time in, where the dark furniture was offset by brighter walls and art everywhere. “Wait, I’m not trying to imply you stole it or anything, I meant like...your creations?”

Jeremy’s sunny smile had been replaced by a slight grimace as he tried to correct his comment. Jean refused to be charmed.

“No, it’s mostly my friends’ stuff,” Jean said, looking over to walls again. “It feels a bit weird to have my own work on my wall, I guess, and they like giving them to me.” Because my apartment used to be hopelessly depressing and none of them wanted me to be triggered, he didn’t add. He frowned at the sculptures by Jeremy’s elbows. “Wow, I think those are even Andrew’s. No idea how I got them...”

“Andrew?” Jeremy looked surprisingly curious to hear more, even as he shoved another bite of the cake into his mouth.

“He’s...a tiny blonde psychopath,” Jean explained, thinking over the best way to describe him. Jeremy looked amused. “His...boyfriend? Partner? Fuck, they could be married and wouldn’t tell, well, Neil is one of my friends, I guess, so sometimes Andrew gets strung along for the ride.”

Jeremy nodded, like anything Jean had said made any sense to him.

“How’s the budget stuff coming along?” Jean asked after another moment. He was done with his cake, but reluctant to look ready to end their conversation, such as it was.

“It’s an absolute nightmare,” Jeremy groaned, dropping his head onto his arms a tad dramatically. “I’m not built to deal with these levels of bullshit. We’re coming up on the end of the negotiations, though, so at least it’ll calm down soon. At least I’m not the Union rep anymore, I can’t even imagine.”

Jean tried to let out a sympathetic noise. He thought he failed.

“’re a teacher, right?” Jeremy lifted his head back up, nodding enthusiastically. Jean was impressed at how quickly Jeremy’s emotions seemed to change. “What do you teach?”

“Oh, I can’t believe I haven’t told you before!” Jeremy took another bite of the cake before continuing, and Jean absolutely did not follow the movements of his lips or throat or anything like that, he was a fucking normal adult . “I’m a high school English teacher, over at SC High? It’s not a great neighborhood, absolutely enormous school and the public schools here have, like, no funding, so it can be stressful, but my students are the best. And some of my best friends work with me there, so it’s a pretty sweet gig all around.”

Jean raised an eyebrow at that assessment.

“Well, okay,” Jeremy quickly amended, laughing at Jean’s look. “Maybe not a sweet gig. But I know it’s helping the kids, and that’s all that matters, right? Plus I get to ramble at them about Shakespeare for like, forty minutes, uninterrupted, so who am I to complain?”

“It sounds like you’re really...passionate about it, so that’s nice,” Jean responded, trying very, very hard not to be an absolute idiot and failing spectacularly. Jeremy straightened a bit more, his blue eyes endlessly cheerful.

“I definitely am,” Jeremy agreed before taking the last bite of his cake. “Well, this was some excellent cake, thank you for sharing! Today was feeling especially long, but this more than makes up for it.”

“Anytime.” After putting both their plates and forks in the dishwasher, Jean stuffed his hands in his pockets and silently watched the other man. Jeremy stood, stretching his back, before patting Napoleon on the head one last time with a soft smile. Jean led them back to the front door.

“See you around, Jean!”

Jean watched as the blonde disappeared around the corner, leaning against the doorframe and wondering why on earth this ridiculous teacher had such an effect on him. Napoleon nudged his head against his calf, a familiar gesture, and Jean closed the door, grabbing his phone from his pocket.

I’m so fucked, he texted Renee without thinking. Who even has eyes that blue?? And he’s always smiling?? How?? Why?? Merde, je ne comprends rien...

Do you understand him?” Jean asked, staring down at his dog, who cocked his head innocently back. Somehow, that response was more satisfying than the simple :) he received from Renee.

Chapter Text

“I just don’t understand why you think I’d want you to join me on this walk,” Jean bit out to Kevin as they stepped outside the building, trailing behind a confident Napoleon. Kevin shrugged.

“I’m bored, Napoleon’s cute, and I don’t think it’d be better for me to wait alone in your apartment,” he listed, counting the reasons off on his hands before shrugging with a grin.

“Or, alternatively, you could, I don’t know, return to your own apartment, maybe to help your very pregnant wife or something,” Jean proposed.

“I like this option better,” Kevin replied. “Anything to annoy you.”

Jean opened his mouth to respond, but a loud exclamation of, “Jean! Napoleon!” cut him off. He turned around to find a beaming Jeremy jogging towards him.

“Fuck,” Jean muttered, glancing at the unabashedly delighted look on Kevin’s face. “Don’t you dare say anything, you fucker, or I’ll tell Thea about where you really were when her parents visited in March.”

Kevin turned a harsh glare on him just as Jeremy reached them, and Jean forced a smile onto his face.

“So you must be the fam–” Kevin began before Jean slapped a hand across his mouth with a glare of his own. Why on earth did he ever tell Kevin about Jeremy in the first place? Oh, right. Vodka.

“What did I just say?” he exclaimed in French. Napoleon, ignoring their squabble, began licking Jeremy’s pants. Kevin, in turn, licked Jean’s hand, eliciting a disgusted huff.

“What, do you really think I can scare him off more than you can?” Kevin argued with a dismissive tone, adopting Jean’s language nonetheless. “If anything, I can wingman for you.”

Jean scoffed. “You’re an absolute idiot. Don’t say anything incriminating.” He turned back to Jeremy, who was scratching Napoleon’s ears and watching the two with a look of bemused interest. “Hello, Jeremy, sorry about that. This is Kevin.”

“Hi, Jeremy,” Kevin repeated obediently. Jean ignored the look shot in his direction. Jeremy simply continued to beam at him.

“Hi! Are you also an artist?” Kevin nodded. “Wow! That’s so cool! Jean, is any of the art in your place his?”

Kevin flicked him an interested look at that.

“Um, yes, I think the piece right about the couch,” Jean replied, scratching the back of his neck. “I don’t know how much you’d remember...”

“Oh, the one with the birds?” Jeremy grinned, turning slightly towards Kevin, who nodded. “That’s dope, man. You’re really talented.”

“Thanks,” Kevin said neutrally. He frowned at the shorter man. “Wait, are you...Jeremy Knox?”

“Yep, that’s me!” he replied, looking unfazed as ever. Jean couldn’t help the wary and surprised look he shot his friend. “Jeremy Knox. Teacher, Californian, lover of Napoleon. Well, Napoleon the dog, at least...”

“And Exy coach, right?” Kevin pressed. A slightly manic gleam entered his expression and Jean suppressed a groan. Of course Kevin had somehow brought Exy into the conversation.

“Oh, yeah.” Surprise crossed Jeremy’s face. “I mean, it’s no big deal or anything...”

“Are you kidding? You’ve totally revitalized the Trojans! It’s not like they’re going to win state anytime soon, but the fact that they even came close to making it past sectionals is unheard of.” Both Jeremy and Jean blinked at him and he flushed a bit. “I’m a huge fan of Exy. I like to follow local teams, and your work caught my eye a while ago. You’ve made such a difference for those kids.”

Jeremy blushed. Jean began swearing in his head in very rapid French. That blush was absurdly unfair.

“It’s the least I could do,” he shrugged. Napoleon turned his attention to licking his hand. “I played Exy in college, and SCH couldn’t afford to hire an outside couch, so I do my best. Makes the season full of absurdly long days, though, let me tell you.”

“You played in college?” Kevin asked, interest still bright in his eyes. Jean felt unfairly defensive of Jeremy. He pinched Kevin’s arm in silent warning.

“Yeah, I was a striker at USC before I blew out my shoulder in my sophomore year.” He shrugged. “Coaching is a good way to stay involved.”

“I almost played in college, too,” Kevin told him, grimacing. “Before I broke my hand. Now I’m not allowed to pick up a racquet, but at least brushes are still allowed.”

“Wait, no way, you’re not Kevin Day , are you?” Jeremy asked, understanding suddenly blooming across his face. “Like, almost-played-for-Edgar-Allen Kevin Day?” Kevin nodded. “Wow, man. I was a huge fan. It’s awesome you’re such an incredible artist, as well.”

“Thanks,” Kevin repeated with a tight smile. He never really liked to be reminded of his almost career, Jean knew, because all of the potential timelines haunted him at night. What if he had made it as an Exy star, never ending up with Riko and Jean at Evermore University for the Arts? What if his hand had healed better, faster, before he caught Riko’s eye? What if, what if, what if–

“You ever play Exy, Jean?” Jeremy asked, turning his bright blue gaze back towards him.

“He’s really good,” Kevin responded for him with a smirk at Jean. “Could’ve been a backliner if he wanted to, but of course nothing but art would ever be good enough for a Moreau .”

“Stop it,” Jean muttered to Kevin in French. He turned back to Jeremy. “I’m decent. I mean, I try to stay in shape, so I think it’s more that than any actual skill.”

A loud ringtone startled the trio and Kevin dug his phone out of his pocket. “Hello?”

He wandered a few steps away, leaving Jean and Jeremy staring at one another. Jeremy seemed content to continue petting Napoleon indefinitely, as he always was.

“Do you ever think about getting a dog of your own?”

Jeremy looked back to Napoleon, his smile somewhat dimmed. “It wouldn’t be fair to the dog, not at all. I’m gone from my apartment way too much to do that.”

“How about a cat?” Jean tried instead. Jeremy scrunched up his nose, and it was not at all adorable, dammit.

“I hate cats. They’re really gross and standoffish and a lot of them have like dandruff? Seriously, I went to a shelter to volunteer once–” Of course he did. “–and like half of them had terrible dandruff. Also, I think I’m allergic?”

Jean hummed. “I’ve always liked cats. They’re very intelligent.”

“Why do you have a dog, then?” Jeremy asked.

Jean shrugged. “I like most animals, to be honest.” Should he tell him? He paused for a moment. Fuck it, why the fuck not? “And Napoleon’s actually a therapy dog. I don’t think they have therapy cats that do what he does.”

Jeremy looked surprised once more, but didn’t press the issue. “Why the name Napoleon?”

“Got to hold onto some of my roots, no?”

Jeremy chuckled at that. “Fair enough. I think about what I would name my dogs all the time. It’s probably unhealthy. It would definitely be, like, a Star Wars reference though. Maybe Harry Potter.”

“Jean, Renee’s coming over,” Kevin suddenly declared, reentering the conversation without warning as he appeared at Jean’s side. Jean slanted an irritated look at his friend that was steadfastly ignored. “And she’s bringing her new mysterious boyfriend.”

Jean’s irritation evaporated. “Really? Right now? Why’d she call you and not me?”

“You left your phone inside, dumbass,” he replied with an eyeroll. “Anyway, we better get Napoleon around the block before they head over so we can straighten the place up, no?”

Jean nodded. Renee had been talking about a new guy for a while, but in the vaguest terms possible, something that had inevitably piqued everyone's interest.

“Sorry to derail you guys!” Jeremy piped up, removing his hand from Napoleon’s head. Napoleon watched the action sadly. “It was great to meet you, Kevin. See you around, Jean!”

He jogged back towards their building without waiting for acknowledgement, and Jean, as ever, watched him go mournfully. And maybe checked him out. Kevin chuckled.

“You’ve got it bad, Moreau,” he commented, slinging an arm around Jean’s shoulders that Jean contemplated shrugging off. “Also, he’s way out of your league.”

Scowling, Jean dragged Napoleon away from his shithead of a friend and the building that contained the bane of his existence.

“Okay, Knox, walk us through what happened,” Alvarez demanded as soon as the door was open. She and Laila walked into the room holding hands, Laila frowning slightly at the open wine bottle in Jeremy’s hand.

“He spoke in French! Like fast, angry French and it’s so attractive ,” Jeremy groaned, falling onto the couch and tipping his head back to stare at the ceiling.

“You’re going to need to give us more than that, buddy,” Laila probed hesitantly a moment later as the couple settled on the couch across from him.

“It all started when I was returning home from a grueling day at work,” he began, before launching into an overly detailed description of the entire encounter.

“Do you know how much conflicting material I’ve now been given to work with?” he exclaimed finally, turning to his friends. Alvarez looked unimpressed, Laila concerned. Jeremy began ticking things off on his hands, perhaps a touch unsteady after the amount of wine he had drunk. “First off, Jean has apparently told his friends about me , or something? Because like why else would he interrupt Kevin at the beginning? But then, not just his friends, but his boyfriend? Because no, apparently he isn’t dating Renee the angel, he’s dating an art and Exy prodigy! Who licks his hand! And speaks French! And has like an almost matching tattoo or something?”

It hadn’t escaped Jeremy’s notice that where Jean had a tattoo on his cheek of a bird in flight, Kevin had a chess piece. Who does shit like that?

“Also,” he plowed on, not noticing the looks his friends were exchanging, “he says that he ‘stays in shape!’ Well, no shit, because he looks like a fucking model all the time, and he can play Exy? Like I didn’t have enough creepy fantasies over the Frenchness and artist bullshit and his fucking adorable dog.”

“Dude, why are you having fantasies over Napoleon?” Alvarez asked, looking slightly horrified.

“Just stupid domestic ones, Alvarez! I’m so fucking far gone that I’m imagining cuddling in bed with fucking Jean and his adorable dog and coming home at the end of the day to Napoleon and figuring out why Jean is so mysterious and handsome and cold but also somehow friendly? And now he’s still taken, but not straight, and it’s just not fair!”

“Why does everything you say end up being a question?” Alvarez looked somewhere between amused and impressed.

“Because he’s fucking with my mind, Alvarez, that’s why,” Jeremy bit out, flopping back against on the couch with a pout.

“Jesus, you’re acting like a twelve year old with a crush,” Alvarez laughed. Jeremy, as ever, appreciated how sympathetic his friends were. “Don’t give me that look, babe, that’s totally what you were thinking.”

“Jeremy,” Laila said gently, ignoring her girlfriend. “How can you be sure that Kevin was his boyfriend? Look where that got you with the whole Renee assumption.”

“How about how he has a matching tattoo, kind of, and was walking his dog with him, and answered questions for him, and wanted to help him clean his apartment for guests– oh and how Renee called Kevin when she couldn’t find Jean?” Jeremy rattled off.

“Holy shit, your grammar is lamentable right now,” Alvarez muttered, stealing the wine bottle from his grip and taking a sip herself. “How are you even an English teacher?”

“He doesn’t normally teach distraught and drunk, honey,” Laila pointed out, patting Jeremy’s shoulder sympathetically. “And Jeremy...yeah, that was all pretty compelling. Definitely seems like they could be in a relationship. But does that really merit a drunken meltdown on a Friday night? Wouldn’t you be happy with being friends with Jean?”

“Remember the cake?” Alvarez offered. “You’ve already got dog cuddles and cake out of this, so it’s not all bad.”

“But it’s also driving me slowly crazy,” Jeremy muttered, frowning at his friends. “I think. He’s just such a mystery. And he seems to want to be my friend? But also only talks like every fourth time I see him? Who even does that?”

“He does, apparently,” Alvarez said with a cheeky grin. Laila lightly elbowed her in the side.

“Jeremy, I think you need to figure out what you want out of this,” Laila informed him, taking a sip from the wine herself. “Do you want to be his friend? Or will that just make it worse?”

“I mean, I obviously want to get to know him better,” Jeremy groaned, thinking over the time he’d spent imagining the happy dog above him, the months he’d now had to get to know Napoleon. “Doesn’t mean it won’t kill me.”

“What you need,” Alvarez declared, leaning forwards with a grin, “is a night out to clear your mind.”

“Maybe find a different hot guy to take your mind off things,” Laila agreed, still patting Jeremy’s shoulder absently. “Or whoever. Just. Not drinking alone in your apartment on a Friday, you know?”

“I’m not alone anymore ,” he pouted, but his tone held no bite. Well, not that it ever did. “But it can’t really hurt, can it?”

He learned the next that yes, it could really, really hurt. His head wanted to declare independence from the rest of his body, or maybe it was the other way around, but he was a grown ass man and he hadn’t had a hangover that bad since at least college.

What he needed– after swallowing down a gallon of water, vomiting half it up, shivering on the bathroom floor for like two hours, and finally stomaching some breakfast– was to cuddle with a dog. Given that he wasn’t in any kind of shape to drive the two hours that would bring him home, he dragged himself up the requisite flight of stairs to Jean’s door.

He had already collapsed on the ground in a loose pile of limbs and knocked when he realized that he was a complete idiot who was probably still drunk because who goes to their crush’s door hungover to hell and back, wearing Star Wars pyjamas and his dumb glasses, to fucking cuddle with their dog at 10AM on a Saturday morning?

Jeremy Knox, that’s who.

He took a moment to be impressed that his drunk self had actually changed into matching pyjamas before trying to ignore everything that had happened last night.

The door opened hesitantly a few minutes after Jeremy had knocked, or so Jeremy imagined, as time was a distant and confusing concept at the moment.

“Jeremy!” Jean exclaimed. Jeremy blinked open his eyes, resisting the urge to never see the light again, and tried to look up at the artist. “Are you alright?

“Um, hey!” He tried to sound cheerful and not panicked, but the noise in his head made it hard to tell if he succeeded. “So, I’m really sorry for bothering you, especially on a Saturday, but I have the hangover to end all hangovers, and there is literally nothing in this world that would help me more than cuddling with a cute animal.”

There was a beat of silence. Jeremy tried desperately not to panic. He failed.

“Of course,” the answer finally came, a little cautious. “Do you want to come to the couch or something? The floor does not look like the most comfortable place to be.”

“Jean, you are a lifesaver,” Jeremy smiled, gathering all of his energy and standing up. He staggered behind Jean in the direction of the living room he had studied last time before collapsing on the couch. Napoleon jumped up after him, and Jeremy enveloped the dog in his arms immediately. He let out a content noise, hardly even noticing the way Jean hovered behind the couch, watching them.

“Have you eaten anything? Or drunk any water?” Jean asked a moment later, concern coloring his words.

“Yeah, I finally got some toast down,” Jeremy replied, rubbing his cheek against Napoleon’s cheek. This might just be heaven. Cute dog, cute boy checking up on him. He was pointedly ignoring the whole “Star Wars pyjamas and completely fucked up hair” part of the situation.

“More water can never hurt,” Jean murmured as footsteps padded towards the kitchen. A moment later Jeremy could hear a glass getting set down on the coffee table beside him.

“I’m sorry to have interrupted whatever you were doing,” Jeremy tried to say around the dog in his face. Jean huffed out a laugh.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said quietly from somewhere above Jeremy. Jeremy had foregone the beautiful, beautiful sight of his favorite mysterious neighbor in favor of closing his eyes. Napoleon was a warm weight against his head. “Is there anything I can do for you?”

“Unless you have a time machine and can stop me from going out last night, I think this is the best we’re going to get.”

He received another huffed laugh at that.

With his eyes closed and Napoleon’s soft fur up against his cheek, the pounding in his head slowly began disappearing. Or at least, he was finally comfortable enough to not think about the pounding, which was basically the same thing.

Jean: sos, there is an adorable blue-eyed teacher sleeping on my couch with my dog [10:14 AM]

Renee: !!! [10:16 AM]

Renee: ???? [10:18 AM]

Jean: he’s very hungover and wanted to cuddle with n [10:19 AM]

Jean: i’m not allowed to take a picture, right? we’re not on that level? because this is the fucking cutest thing i’ve ever seen [10:20 AM]

Renee: can’t tell if that falls into sweet or creepy territory. I wouldn’t risk it. Besides, hopefully you’ll have more chances in the future, right? ;) [10:21 AM]

Jean: am i supposed to just stand by while this happens? what if he’s missing a meeting or something? [10:22 AM]

Renee: I wouldn’t worry about it. What were you up to, anyway? [10:26 AM]

Jean: just showered after my run, was thinking about heading to the park to take some pictures or something. nothing important. meeting neil and the monster for dinner, i think [10:28 AM]

Renee: Jean, you know Andrew’s not a monster [10:29 AM]

Jean: do i? [10:29 AM]

Jean: your disappointed silence is answer enough [10:34 AM]

Jean: renee, he’s wearing pyjamas with all these graphics and glasses. i don’t think you understand how ridiculous this is. merde merde merde merde [10:35 AM]

Renee: You should ask him out! Remember, you’re allowed to want things :) [10:36 AM]

Jean: that feels really sketchy when he’s asleep and hungover on my couch?? also what if he says no and then i never see him again? n would never forgive me [10:37 AM]

Jean: hell, i doubt kevin would forgive me [10:37 AM]

Jean: shit, he’s waking up [10:38 AM]

Renee: bon chance ;) [10:40 AM]

Jeremy opened his eyes, and light didn’t really seem to be as abusive as it had been. Wait.

“Oh my God, did I fall asleep on your couch? I’m so sorry!” Jeremy gushed, sitting up abruptly and wincing at the way his body protested his movements. He found Jean sitting in the armchair across from him, reading a book with a faintly amused expression. “You should’ve woken me up or something!”

“You looked like you could use it,” Jean shrugged, glancing up to meet Jeremy’s eyes. Who even had grey eyes? He could not be real. “And Napoleon seemed pretty happy with the arrangement, as well.”

Jeremy snaked out a careful hand to pet Napoleon’s head, which was instantly soothing.

“Um, well, thank you! I’m really sorry for bothering you, you probably had like important things to do–”

“No, I really didn’t,” Jean waved away with his protests. “I don’t have much going on today. You should probably drink that water, by the way.”

Jeremy obediently grabbed the glass from the table before all but chugging it. He must’ve been thirstier than he thought.

Alvarez would’ve laughed at that thought.

“So what happened last night that led to...this?” Jean flicked his hand, as if to encompass Jeremy’s whole being. Jeremy rubbed the back of his neck, embarrassed.

“Honestly, I have no idea.” Jean raised an amused eyebrow. “I mean, not like I blacked out! Like it was just a night out with my friends? But I guess I haven’t really drunk much since college. We were just...” trying to find me a cute boy so I could get over you “...blowing off steam?”

“Fair enough,” Jean shrugged, the gesture somehow unfairly elegant. Jeremy stood up, fell down immediately, and then staggered back to his feet.

“I should really...shower and get my life together,” he said, trying not to fall back down. Jeremy would have said before that Jean had two expressions: guarded and bemused. This whole hungover day had so far unleashed several more, namely concern and genuine amusement. “Seriously, thank you so much for letting me cuddle with Napoleon. I feel way better now.”

“No worries.”

Jeremy stretched for a moment, hating the way his body complained, and then glanced around the apartment again. The night after having friends over, with Jean just hanging around for the day–

“Did Kevin go home?” he asked, because he likes torturing himself like that. Jean’s face held a flicker of confusion.

“Yes.” Jean frowned. Jeremy didn’t want to push it.

“It was nice meeting him!” Jeremy cracked his back with immense satisfaction. Maybe things would start looking up from here. “Anyway, yeah, going to get my life together now.”

Napoleon and Jean trailed him to the door, and Jeremy did his best not to book it once he turned the corner to the stairs.

Jeremy: Guys I fell asleep on Jean’s couch this morning cuddling with his dog!! [11:02 AM]

Jeremy: Wearing my Star Wars pjs and glasses and probably looking like death! x.x fml [11:03 AM]

Alvarez: hahahahahaha [11:05 AM]

Laila: aw sorry buddy. how you feeling? [11:06 AM]

Jeremy: Actually a lot better, except for the embarrassment threatening to consume me [11:08 AM]

Jeremy: What did I even drink last night?? It’s a bit of a blur [11:08 AM]

Alvarez: babe you don’t even want to know [11:09 AM]

Laila: she’s kind of right [11:10 AM]

Laila: i think it’s safe to say this plan completely backfired [11:10 AM]

Alvarez: :( [11:12 AM]

Jeremy: At least I got some dog cuddles out of it [11:13 AM]

Jean: i think jeremy might like kevin [11:04 AM]

Renee: what?? [11:06 AM]

Jean: he asked me if kevin was around, and then smiled all weird and said it was nice to meet him? kevin was sooo friendly when they met, it was actually bizarre if you know kevin, but it’s an exy thing [11:08 AM]

Renee: hmmm [11:10 AM]

Renee: sorry Jean. hope it’s not that! I’m rooting for you <3 [11:11 AM]

Jean: thanks [11:12 AM]

Two weeks and three mostly-not-awkward Napoleon cuddle sessions later, Jeremy was woken by a pounding on his door at 2am on a Saturday. He groggily shoved his glasses on his face before stumbling for the door. He opened it to find a rumpled-looking Jean holding Napoleon on his leash, his food and water bowls, and a full plastic bag. He looked relieved when he saw Jeremy.

“Jeremy! I am very sorry to disturb you–” His accent was more pronounced, which shouldn’t be annoyingly attractive, especially in the midst of an apparent emergency, but nothing about Jean made much sense.

“Don’t worry about it, what’s up?” Jeremy crossed his arms across his chest, suddenly aware that he had fallen asleep without his shirt last night. Well...if his other methods hadn’t been doing much...

“Kevin’s having a baby!”

Jeremy blinked. Rubbed his eyes with his hands, hard. Blinked again. Tried to figure out what was going on. Failed.

“I’m sorry, what?”

Jean started muttering in French, shook his head, and then ran an aggravated hand through his hair. Jeremy watched in confusion.

“Ok, sorry, Kevin’s wife is having a baby. Thea just went into labor, and Kevin gets really panicky about hospitals after his hand thing, so I had promised that I would go along, which I now realize is a terrible idea because giving birth is really, really gross. I don’t need this to be the first time I see a woman’s–how am I ever going to be able to look Thea in the eye ever again?”

He switched to French again. Jeremy was still trying to process the fact that Kevin was married, let alone about to become a father.

“Um, congratulations?”

Jean waved that away, running his hand through his hair again.

“Anyway, the reason I’m here is that Napoleon isn’t allowed in the hospital if I’m not the patient, which makes a lot of sense, and I don’t really want him to be scarred by it anyway, but I’ve heard that giving birth can take a long time? So I’m scared to leave him alone, and I would normally have Kevin watch him, but that obviously won’t work, and Renee is staying over with her new boyfriend, who lives kind of far away, and Neil and Andrew have cats that are really anti-dog, so basically, long story not made short at all, I was wondering if you could watch Napoleon for a while?”

It was definitely the most Jeremy had ever heard Jean talk, a frantic edge running under his words, but there was also something like nervousness in his eyes.

“Of course!” Jeremy agreed easily, smiling down at the dog. Napoleon’s tail wagged slightly at the attention. “Yeah, that shouldn’t be an issue. Is there anything special I need to know?”

“No, he’s pretty straightforward.” Jean frowned down at his pet for a moment. “Could we swap numbers in case something comes up or I remember anything else?”

Jeremy tried not to nod to eagerly as he accepted the phone and entered his number. A moment later, he could hear his phone chirp from inside his apartment.

“Good luck with everything!” he offered. Jean nodded, somewhat grimly.

“Thanks. I have no idea what I’ve gotten myself into.” He handed over the supplies he’d brought over, and Napoleon looked very excited as he sniffed his way into the apartment. “I’ll see you later? Also, actually, Napoleon can usually go about six or seven hours without a walk if you need to head out for any reason. And I give him his breakfast around 6:30 and dinner at 5, but hopefully it won’t come to that.”

“Don’t worry about it. I hope everything goes smoothly!”

With another nod, Jean jogged away, Jeremy yawning behind him. Napoleon’s tail was still wagging as they settled down in his bed a few minutes later. He fucking loved dogs.

Jean: hi jeremy, it’s jean. thanks again for your help [2:08 AM]

Jeremy: Good luck again!! Tell Kevin I say congratulations!! Hope you’re not too scarred by the experience :) [2:16 AM]

Jean: he says thanks, also it’s already pretty scarring [2:42 AM]

Jeremy: Haha sorry to hear that. How’s he holding up? How’s she holding up? [6:46 AM]

Jean: he’s had three panic attacks, so i guess it’s good that i’m here, and she’s taking it like a champ as ever. how’s n? [7:24 AM]

Jeremy: Adorable!! [img001] [7:32 AM]

Jeremy: Glad it’s going well, though! :) Do they know the gender already? [7:33 AM]

Jean: aww, mon petit chou <3 and yes, it’s going to be a girl! [7:38 AM]

Jeremy: That’s awesome! :) [7:40 AM]

Jean: they’re very excited, yes. i think the doctor just said that it’ll probably be at least 3 more hours here, just so you know. renee can come grab n if you want [8:22 AM]

Jeremy: No, it’s totally fine! We’re having a grand old time [img002] [8:59 AM]

Jean: :) [9:13 AM]

Jeremy: How’re you doing? Still scarred? [9:38 AM]

Jean: oh definitely, no idea how i’ll be able to look at thea again, but it’s also pretty cool, i guess [10:03 AM]

Jeremy: Haha well good luck!! :) [10:12 AM]

Jeremy: [img002] [9:02 AM]

Alvarez: jeremy did you steal napoleon so you could take selfies with him in your apartment [9:12 AM]

Alvarez: because i have to say i approve [9:12 AM]

Jeremy: No! Jean left him here because something came up for him so now I have custody of the little guy :) [9:16 AM]

Jeremy: Or as Jean calls him: my little cabbage (!!!!) [9:17 AM]

Laila: what [9:18 AM]

Alvarez: what [9:19 AM]

Laila: WHAT [9:22 AM]

Jeremy: ...yeah. I have some things to explain. Brunch at mine? [9:29 AM]

Alvarez: wtf ok see you at 11? [9:42 AM]

Jeremy: Napoleon and I can’t wait! [img003] [9:52 AM]


“Okay, so let me get this straight,” Laila said. Alvarez snickered. “Really? Straight puns? You’re absurd. Anyway, you’re watching Napoleon while Kevin’s wife Thea is having a child, and Jean is there because Kevin has panic attacks in hospitals or something. Meanwhile, Jean accidentally panic-admitted that he’s never seen a woman’s...nether regions? and then called Napoleon his little cabbage in French in a text to you.”

Jeremy nodded from his position on the floor. He hadn’t been more than a foot away from Napoleon since he was dropped off that morning, and he was loving it.

“Does he not watch Game of Thrones? C’mon, man,” Alvarez muttered. She was ignored.

“He’s definitely not straight, right?” Laila asked after a moment. “Like, there’s no way a guy who’s as attractive as Jeremy claims he is hasn’t seen that.”

“He could be religious?” Alvarez offered.

“Do religious people watch porn?” Laila wondered aloud. Alvarez giggled, like the third grader that she was at heart.

“Aren’t you not supposed to speculate about other people’s identities?” Jeremy complained. “This isn’t respectful.”

“Hey, you started it,” Alvarez protested. She turned back to the table and shoved some French toast into her mouth. Laila watched with a mixture of fondness and disgust. “I just want to know if you have a chance, bro.”

“I probably don’t, even if he isn’t straight.” Jeremy curled up around Napoleon, who rested his nose on Jeremy’s shoulder. The girls cooed audibly. “He’s, like, the most attractive guy I’ve ever seen.”

“You’re a catch, Jeremy, and don’t you forget it.” Somehow, Alvarez’s pep talks always became somewhat aggressive. “If I swung your way...nah, Laila’s still the best, but you’re probably a close second.”

“It’s not close,” she mouthed at Laila. Her girlfriend rolled her eyes.

“You never know until you try, Jeremy! He could–”

Laila was cut off by a knocking at the door. Napoleon’s ears flicked up in interest, but the pair on the floor was otherwise stationary.

“I’ll get it,” Laila offered when Jeremy didn’t move. Alvarez chuckled.

Jeremy listened as she opened the door, wondering if he’d have to move.

“Hello, I was looking for Jeremy?” Jean asked. Jeremy sat up immediately as Napoleon ran to his owner’s voice. “Ah, Napoleon, mon ange!”

There was a slight scuffle as Napoleon greeted his owner and Jeremy pulled himself to his feet. He padded down the hallway as quickly as he could, trying to smooth down his hair and otherwise become presentable.

“Hi, Jean!” he chirped when he reached the door. Jean was crouched down, Napoleon eagerly licking his cheeks. Jean looked absolutely wiped, dark hair sticking up all over the place and grey eyes tired. “Sorry, I haven’t checked my phone in a while.”

“It’s no problem,” Jean said, slowly getting back to his feet and stretching, exposing a pale sliver of skin in the process. Jeremy averted his eyes quickly. “Kevin calmed down enough when Thea passed out that I thought it was okay to leave him there, especially because he looked like he was going to pass out himself soon enough. Andrew and Neil were on their way, anyway, although I can’t picture either of them with a baby.”

“Did everything go alright?” Jeremy asked. Jean nodded with a tired smile.

“Amalia was...some weight, they told me it, but it didn’t mean anything to me so I already forgot it.” He shrugged. “Baby stuff goes right over my head, but apparently I’m the godfather, so maybe I should get my shit together. I can’t pretend to understand why they would ever trust me with their child, but there was no alcohol involved when they asked me, so...”

“Would you like something to eat?” Jeremy asked, trying not to smile too dopily at his neighbor’s rambling. Who knew Jean could be so talkative? “I have friends over, so there’s more than enough food to go around.”

Jean hesitated.

“We’d love to get to talk to you some more!” Laila piped up. Jeremy had almost forgotten that she was there. Jean shrugged.

“Sure, but I’m sorry to intrude so much today.”

He followed Laila to the kitchen as Jeremy shut the door, desperately wishing he cleaned his apartment more often. There were books piled everywhere, stacks of papers scattered throughout, and pictures framed and taped haphazardly around. It was nothing like the clean lines of Jean’s place.

“Oh, this is Laila, by the way,” Jeremy announced when they reached the counter where Alvarez was sitting. Laila rejoined her girlfriend and Jean perched on the last seat at the peninsula. Jeremy rounded the counter to grab a plate. “And her girlfriend, Alvarez.”

“It’s very nice to meet you,” Jean said with a polite smile.

“And you!” Laila grinned.

“We’ve heard s–”

“So, do you like French toast?” Jeremy cut Alvarez off with a pointed look. “I made a bunch of it, and then some bacon, and there’s some fruit...”

“I’ll eat whatever,” Jean shrugged. His posture was oddly good, even in his tired state, and Jeremy wondered why he noticed such a thing. “I don’t want to put you out, so whatever you have left is great.”

“Dude, after letting this idiot into your apartment to play with your dog for a few months, you’ve definitely earned it,” Alvarez commented.

“At least the budget was finally approved yesterday,” Jeremy said idly, scooping food onto Jean’s plate. He set it down and fetched some silverware. “I won’t have to bother you so much anymore, Jean! And with summer break coming up, it’ll be as stress-free as it gets.”

“Summer,” Alvarez sighed dreamily. “I can’t fucking wait, man. I love my kids, I really do, but hot damn do I need a vacation.”

“You are also teachers?” Jean clarified, cutting up his toast with ease. All of his motions were somehow elegant, and Jeremy had to stop staring like an idiot.

“Yep, we teach with Jer over at SCH,” Laila said. “I teach history, and Alvarez also teaches English.”

Jean nodded as he took a bite of his food. “Jeremy, this is very good. Thank you.”

Jeremy shrugged with a pleased grin.

“Jeremy’s last boyfriend was a chef,” Alvarez said with a sly look at Jeremy. “So I think he taught him a thing or two.”

“Jeremy’s always been a good cook,” Laila argued. “Well, when he tries, I guess. It’s hard during the week, isn’t it?”

Jeremy shrugged again. Being around his friends and Jean was making him nervous, his overexcited mouth remaining closed for once.

“Jean, do you have any special summer plans?” Laila asked after a moment. Jeremy popped a strawberry into his mouth, watching his neighbor. He had wolfed down the French toast, but was slowing with the fruit.

“Not particularly. I mean, I set my own schedule most of the time, so I can kind of do what I want, you know?”

“Sounds nice,” Alvarez sighed. “Everything at school is so regulated. And even more so for Jeremy, with his Exy stuff and the LSC and everything.”

“You get used to it,” Jeremy said. “Anyway, I like having a schedule.”

“I do, too,” Jean agreed, picking up a piece of bacon and munching on it. “I keep a pretty strict schedule for myself all the time, or else I go crazy.”

“You two are weird.” Alvarez shook her head. “As soon as the last bell rings, I sleep for, like, a year, and then do whatever I want. It’s glorious.”

“This year, we’re going on a road trip to a bunch of national parks,” Laila told Jean with a grin. “It’ll be so much fun. We don’t have any reservations or anything– we’re just going to get in the car and go.”

“And leave me all alone,” Jeremy pouted. He was excited for his friends, of course, but the thought of being alone in LA for a month without them was already filling him with dread.

“You’ll get over it,” Alvarez said, rolling her eyes. She smirked. “Maybe you can hang out with Jean more.” Laila shot her a look. “And, I mean, your other friends, of course.”

Jeremy knew the day his best friends met Jean would be something of a disaster, but he hadn’t factored in how embarrassing it would be. Jean finished off his bacon and fruit as Laila and Alvarez dissolved into discussing their trip, something Jeremy had grown used to tuning out. After a few minutes, Jean stood up, stretching out again and blinking really hard, probably trying to stay awake.

“Jeremy, thanks again for watching Napoleon,” he said earnestly. Laila and Alvarez stopped talking to watch with all the subtlety of a drunk toddler. “And the food. I really appreciate it. And now, I am going to sleep for a very long time.”

“Fair enough,” Jeremy laughed, straightening up and collecting the things that Jean had given him that morning. He handed them back over by the door as Jean attached Napoleon to the leash. “I’m glad I could help after everything you’ve done for me.”

“Thank you,” Jean said, for the millionth time. “I really appreciate it. And remember, you’re welcome to come and see Napoleon whenever.”

Jeremy grinned. “I’ll see you around.”

Jean: i need to get very, very drunk [8:24 PM]

Neil: oh? what’s the occasion [8:29 PM]

Jean: i just woke up after finally sleeping and i think my dream was about giving birth and i would like very much to forget it [8:30 PM]

Neil: fair. be there with andrew in 20 [8:31 PM]

Jean: good [8:34 PM]

“He’s just so– so cute, Neil!” Jean repeated, shaking the other man by the shoulders and ignoring the look Andrew gave him in return. “Like, he has eyes that are really, really blue, and blonde-ish hair, and he wears glasses sometimes that are just unfair, but then he blushed once, and it’s just annoying.”

“Just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I want to hear you complain about your gay shit,” Andrew muttered from his place on the couch. Neil and Jean ignored him.

“Jean, I say you should just go for it,” Neil said, nodding vehemently. “Like, why not, you know?”

“Because then I won’t get to see him again!” Jean rested his head against the back of his chair morosely. Neil frowned at him for a long moment before sitting up. Andrew looked slightly irritated at the movement against his side, but he almost always looked slightly irritated.

“What if you, like, text him and ask him to get dinner or something, and then if he says no, you can pretend it’s the wrong number, and then it’ll be fine either way?” Neil suggested.

“Neil, you are a genius,” Jean agreed, fishing his phone out of his pocket. “Okay, I will do it right now.”

“Carpe diem,” Neil agreed, sagging back against Andrew.

“There’s no way this could go wrong,” Andrew commented drily. Neil nodded.

“There,” Jean said after a moment. “I sent it. And now, if you don’t mind, I am going to sleep again for twelve hours and try to forget what I saw this morning.”

“Babies look so weird,” Neil muttered. “Why are their heads so big?”

“Time to get you home,” Andrew said, dragging the redhead to the door. “See you around, Moreau.”

Jean didn’t reply as the door closed, opting instead to lie face-down on his bed. Napoleon joined him a minute later.

Jean: tu estro genti l ,, et lesss exuy sento torps blexus mais mmmdon chsoe t’’’ane earg je pesnea dew toi toutleskfmps et vexus--tu sortirravecsf moi.>>? [11:23 PM]

Jeremy: Are you alright?? [11:28 PM]

Jeremy: Guys, what does this mean?? [img001] [11:31 PM]

Alvarez: lol, i think your boy just drunk french texted you [11:34 PM]

Laila: yeah, I mean...yeah, that looks like gibberish, but like french gibberish? [11:36 PM]

Jeremy: Google Translate’s got nothing [11:38 PM]

Laila: well, my french is super rusty, but the only words i can make out with any confidence are “tu,” “gentil,” “bleus” (?), which means you, nice, and blue, and then the end looks like it could be trying to be “veux-tu sortir avec moi,” and not to get anybody’s hopes up, but that means do you want to go out with me [11:47 PM]

Alvarez: !!!!! [11:50 PM]

Alvarez: your boy’s trying to ask you out!!!!! [11:50 PM]

Jeremy: No way [11:51 PM]

Alvarez: now is not the time for humbleness, my friend. now is the time to work that ass and get some [11:55 PM]

Jeremy: ...I’m going to bed [11:58 PM]

Jean woke up the next morning to a knock on his door. As he staggered down the hall, his head protested the movements dully, no doubt payback after the amount of vodka he’d drunk the night before. Napoleon licked his ankle as he opened the door.

“Hi!” Jeremy grinned. He looked good, as always, but put together, with normal clothes on and neat hair. In his arms, he was carrying what appeared to be pancakes and a thermos. “I’m sorry, did I wake you?”

“Don’t worry about it,” Jean said, leaning against the doorframe and running a hand through his hair. His headache had subsided to a dull pounding as his body accepted being awake. “What time is it?”

“It’s almost noon, actually.”

“Wow. I usually get up at six.” Jean frowned, looking down at Napoleon. His dog continued to lick his legs. “Guess yesterday really fucked with my schedule.”

“Yeah, I thought it might,” Jeremy agreed. “So, um, I actually brought up some food? Because I thought you might need something to eat after last night.”

Jean stared at Jeremy blankly. After last night...what would Jeremy know about last night?

In a rush, Jean remembered Neil’s terrible, terrible plan and immediately wished he could disappear into the floor. Napoleon’s licking picked up in intensity.

“I’m so sorry,” Jean immediately apologized, then paused. Jeremy was here, even after a drunk text that was not only hitting on him, but also most likely very weird. “But, um, I really appreciate the food. Do you want to come in?”

With another bright grin, Jeremy trailed Jean to the kitchen, where Jean grabbed a fork before sitting down at the counter. Jeremy sat next to him.

“I’ve found that pancakes really help me when I’m hungover, even though apparently they’re not what you’re supposed to eat? I was reading something that said avocado is the perfect hangover food, but I can’t imagine wanting to eat avocado hungover,” he said in a rush as Jean started on the pancakes. “Also, this is tea, because there’s this one type of tea that makes me feel like 100% better, so maybe it’ll help you, too?”

“Thanks,” Jean smiled, sipping at the tea. It tasted odd, like maybe there was some ginger or something in it, but it wasn’t terrible. “The pancakes are really good.” He hesitated. “Your ex give you the recipe?”

Jeremy blushed again, and Jean shoved some food into his mouth before he said something else embarrassing.

“God, I hate Alvarez,” the other man muttered, scratching at the back of his head with a sheepish look. “I went on, like, two dates with him, tops, and we never even talked about cooking, but she likes to tease me about it.” He tapped at the counter before looking back at Jean. “What about you? Any fun exes?”

Jean shook his head. “None of note.” Barely any at all, to be honest. “Well, one time Renee and I went on a date, right after we met, but it was really weird, and then we realized that we’re way better off as friends.” He paused. “And then, I mean, I realized I was gay anyway, so...”

Jeremy nodded, no noticeable change in his smile. “That’ll do it!” Jean nodded, looking back down at his plate. His heart was thumping loudly in his chest. Maybe, just maybe, this could work, after all. “So, um, what were you up to last night, anyway?”

Jean chewed slowly, trying to align his thoughts. “Neil and Andrew came over.” He shrugged. “I wanted to get over, you know, watching one of my friends give birth. It’s awesome, miracle of life and everything, but’s one thing to know about it, and another to be in the room?” Jeremy nodded sympathetically. “Yeah, so I’m really sorry for whatever I may have said or done, because Andrew brought over an unholy amount of vodka.”

Jeremy laughed. “It’s no big deal, really. It was mostly incomprehensible French.” Jean groaned. “Don’t worry about it.”

Jean stared down at his plate as he chewed on the last of the pancakes, weighing his options. Fuck it.

“Actually, what I was trying to say was...” He looked up, staring into Jeremy’s blue gaze. “Would you like to go out sometime?”

Jeremy beamed, his mouth pulling into the biggest smile Jean had ever seen, and his eyes brightened impossibly.

“I would love to, Jean.”

Jean smiled, his heart still pounding, as he pushed his plate aside. Jeremy bit his lip.

“How are you feeling?”

Jean shrugged. “Slight headache, but not too bad. Nothing like you the other week.” Jeremy smiled lightly. “Why?”

“I was just wondering if it would be ok,” Jeremy started, leaning forward in his seat and eyes flicking down to Jean’s lips, “to do this.”

Jeremy smiled into the kiss, because of course he did, and Jean felt ridiculously, impossibly happy, even as Napoleon started licking his foot.

Jeremy: Jean wanted me to tell you guys that this what his message was supposed to be: “tu es trop gentil, et les yeux sont trop bleus mais mon chou t’aime et je pense de toi tout le temps, et veux-tu sortir avec moi?” (It means ‘you’re too nice, and your eyes are too blue but my sweetie [ie, Napoleon] loves you and I think about you all the time, and would you like to go out with me?') [1:18 PM]

Jeremy: Also, he wants me to set the record straight that "mon chou" doesn't mean cabbage, it's actually a type of pastry or something [1:19 PM]

Alvarez: !!!!!! [1:21 PM]

Laila: !!!!!!! [1:22 PM]

Alvarez: !!!!!! [1:23 PM]

Laila: !!!!!!! [1:24 PM]

Alvarez: !!!!!! [1:25 PM]

Laila: !!!!!!! [1:26 PM]

Alvarez: his grammar is really bad, you should work on that [1:27 PM]

Laila: you’ve officially ruined the moment, are you happy? [1:29 PM]

Jeremy: Yes [1:31 PM]

Laila: awwwwwww [1:34 PM]

Jean: your plan was shit, but it somehow worked anyway [1:42 PM]

Neil: can’t argue with results [5:44 PM]

Jean: ...tell andrew that he’s a dick for not intervening [5:46 PM]

Neil: he says thanks [7:33 PM]

Kevin: he’s way too good for you, don’t mess it up [6:03 PM]

Jean: are you serious [6:05 PM]

Kevin: yes [6:08 PM]

Jean: i actually hate you [6:12 PM]

Jean: thanks again for the pancakes [8:12 PM]

Jeremy: Anytime! :) [8:18 PM]

Jean: so would you like to get dinner sometime soon? [8:20 PM]

Jeremy: Of course!! Would Thursday work for you? [8:24 PM]

Jean: don’t you have your lsc meeting? [8:28 PM]

Jeremy: Nope, we’re done for the year! :) [8:31 PM]

Jean: ok, sounds good. maybe i could cook for you, since you’ve already cooked for me? [8:33 PM]

Jeremy: That would be great! :D [8:34 PM]

Jeremy: And then I get to see Napoleon, which is the real attraction ;) [8:34 PM]

Jean: obviously [8:35 PM]

Renee: good luck tonight!! I’m sure it’ll be great! :) let me know how it goes and tell Jeremy I say hi! [5:23 PM]

Jean: thanks [5:31 PM]

Jean: he says hi back [img002] [6:04 PM]

Jeremy: Thanks for dinner!! I had a great time :)))) [6:42 AM]

Jean: jeremy, we saw each other 20 minutes ago [6:46 AM]

Jeremy: Yes, but I didn’t say thanks for dinner! I was a bit distracted ;) [6:48 AM]

Jean: i wonder why [6:52 AM]

Jean: well, you’re welcome, but i feel like i’m the one who should be saying thanks [6:53 AM]

Jeremy: What for? [6:55 AM]

Jean: for knocking on my door in the first place [6:56 AM]

Jeremy: :))))))))))))) [6:58 AM]

Jeremy: Ultimately, I think we both owe thanks to Napoleon [7:00 AM]

Jean: he looks happy about it [img003] [7:04 AM]

Jeremy: Awwwww, what a cutie [7:05 AM]

Jeremy: And I guess the dog is okay, too [7:06 AM]

Jean: now he’s offended [img004] [7:08 AM]

Jeremy: ....he looks the same [7:10 AM]

Jean: soon you will learn to tell the many moods of napoleon [7:12 AM]

Jean: meanwhile have a great day, see you later [7:14 AM]

Jeremy: You too :))) [7:15 AM]

Jeremy: And thanks for opening the door when I knocked :) [7:15 AM]

Jean: always :) [7:17 AM]