dedication: to starchemist.
notes: do you know how hard it was not to title this fic JONAS PINES: THE MOVIE
notes2: part iii whaddup nerds
title: it's a hollywood summer
summary: Jonas, stumbling after Alex. — Alex/Jonas.
[i sorta hoped you'd stick around]
Jonas falls in love with Alex like a natural disaster.
Jonas falls in love with Alex fast and furious and helpless. He falls in love with her like lightning striking ground; a spark, a crash, an impossible sudden flood of knowing. He falls in love with her fast and hard and life-changing, and there's no going back to what he was before. He falls in love with her like jumping over a waterfall, like jumping over a gorge, like jumping and crashing and skinning his knees. He falls in love with her like cherry soda. He falls in love with her like salt.
Jonas doesn't tell Alex that he's fallen in love with her, of course.
Because the thing about Alex is that she's sort of fucked up, and she's not exactly the type of person to appreciate some guy staring at her wide-eyed and punch-drunk, which is basically all that Jonas wants to do. Alex is sort of fucked up, but she's magic; not every girl can talk to ghosts, or get lost in graveyards, or wait in the silver morning silence with a crossroads in her eyes. Alex is sort of fucked up, period.
But no one else can do a lot of the things she does, easy as breathing.
(You don't meet a girl like that every dynasty, a voice hoots in the back of Jonas' head. It sounds like Ren when he's had three too many brownies and just wants to talk about the way light shines off of Nona's hair. Sometimes Jonas can't believe that these are his friends. Jesus, Ren.)
And so, it's like this:
Jonas drives Alex out to the ocean in the middle of the night, and then drives her home again, hands steady on the steering wheel. He likes to drive, road passing away beneath the tires, just like he likes to roll down the windows and listen to the rush of air gush in—it's the only music he can stand, anymore—nightmare cold.
She shivers in the passenger seat, orange sunglow slicking off her hair.
"I can close the window, Als," Jonas says, quietly, on the way back. The evening stretches out ahead of them like the road, ribbons of silver asphalt cut through with twilight sunglow, indigo-edged gold. They've lost more than a day to trying to figure themselves out, so what's one more? Saltwater burns the infection out, after all, stinging at the cracks in lips and knuckles and souls, and it's good. Clean.
Alex makes a tiny sound in the back of her throat, shakes her head. She's got her brother's jacket jammed under her neck for a pillow, a bright red shout. Jonas swallows. Red doesn't have great connotations.
"Nnhn, it's okay," Alex says. She lolls her head to look at him, raises a skeptical eyebrow. "Do you wanna close the window?"
"Nah," Jonas says, because he doesn't. There's something about cold nighttime air that settles his brain. But it's not about what he wants and it never has been; he's along for the whatever ride she's taking, even if it's only to be the chauffeur.
(The ghosts picked Alex. Jonas picked Alex, too.)
"You're kinda weird, y'know that, right?"
"You're sitting in my truck, Als, I don't think you get to talk," Jonas says mildly. He doesn't look at her; his eyes are on the road, hand loose around the stick-shift. It trembles back and forth, because it's an old truck. His mom's.
"I never said that I wasn't weird," Alex stresses, with this tiny imperious toss of her head, a motion as unconscious as it is natural. She doesn't know she does it, and somehow that only makes it worse. "Just that, you know, you are too."
"Yeah, well, who isn't weird," he says. Glancing her over is old habit now, taking stock of the way she's curled in on herself. On a good day, she lets herself go loose, relaxing in increments. On a bad day, well—
Jonas doesn't begrudge Alex a bad day or two.
"That's true, I guess," she murmurs, faintly. Something's gone adrift in her voice, a ship lost on ocean waves, fading into a storm. There are no edges that Jonas wouldn't follow her over, no gorge, no cliff, no island. "We are pretty weird, though. All of us."
"Yeah," he says. "We are."
Weird or not, it makes no difference. Jonas lets it lie because he's good at that, now—you break a kid's face once and it never leaves you alone. The Kanaloa's ghosts don't haunt Jonas the way they haunt Alex, and thank Jesus for that; he's got enough problems without a hundred odd dead people whispering over his shoulder every hour of the day. Because if there's one thing he knows, it's that there can't be two crazy people in a relationship. It doesn't matter what kind of relationship, either; friendship or family or burning bitter love, a relationship is a relationship is a relationship. And in a relationship, someone has to be stable. Someone has to hold things together.
Jonas is cool being the stable one.
(He's mostly figured out how to keep his shit together.)
And that's why he's fine to wait out the quiet. The Washington sunset sinks into the horizon, the dark dreamy bloom of full night just a few minutes away; it's nightmares on wax, or breaking glass, or bars across a school window.
The little hauntings.
In the silence, Alex reaches across the space between them.
Links their fingers.
"Mom and Dad are fighting again."
"Again? For real?"
"Yeah," Alex says. She doesn't look at him, too concentrated on the sky sailing cloudless above them. It's late July, one of those golden days that drips into every other golden day, and Jonas couldn't tell you what time it was if his life depended on it. A bug buzzes. "Mike's staying here, but now Mom's all, what about you, Alex, what are you going to do? You should be more like Michael, he's got himself together, and then Dad gets involved because he, like, gets it? Somehow? That I'm not—cut out for it, school or whatever. I don't—" she stops abruptly, chewing on the words, swallowing hard, "—I don't think I can."
It would be too loud, she doesn't say. Too much.
(Doesn't need to say.)
"Yeah," Jonas says, exhales smoke. "I don't blame you."
"Gimme that," Alex says, sitting up and reaching over to pluck the cigarette from his fingers. "You're literally killing yourself, I feel bad for your lungs."
"And you aren't? Killing yourself, that is," Jonas raises an eyebrow at her, but doesn't bother to try to steal it back. It'll just end in burns and bad karma, and no one wants that. He thinks about his mom. Burns and bad karma. It's all the same.
"Wow, Jonas, that sure was a thing you just said," Alex says, face scrunched up, eyes gone narrow, her freckles a constellation that bunches and moves, inverse stars winking in and out. "That was very much a thing you just said."
He hates that he still thinks she's pretty. "…Too close to home?"
"Yeah, a little," and she grinds the cigarette out. "I'm just—I don't even know. Why does it even matter if I go to school or not? Why do I have to decide this right now, anyway? Who even cares?"
"Capitalism," Jonas says.
"If you start singing soupcan jingles at me, I will kill you," Alex tells him evenly. "I will actually, legitimately murder you, and no one will ever know it was me."
"Everyone would know it was you, I don't hang out with anyone else."
"You hang out with Clarissa—which, don't even get me started, I still think that's weird—and Ren, too."
"Ren doesn't count," Jonas says, because Ren doesn't count. He's spent the last three days being excessively excited about Nona up and ditching school to focus on her ballet, in a way only Ren can be excessively excited; he's about as threatening as a teacup. "And if Clarissa was going to murder anyone, it would be you."
Alex blinks at the sky, brown eyelashes kissing her brown skin and Jonas thinks that maybe he should go lie down. Except he kind of already is lying down. Her hair is everywhere, leaching dye into the ground and colouring the world up melancholy. Everything is so weird.
He wonders when weird became interesting.
He wonders if Alex wonders the same thing.
"…Fair point," she says, eventually. "Hey, what about you?"
"What are you gonna do now? Has your dad started the whole—" Alex makes a face that Jonas thinks is supposed to be her mom when there's dirt on the floor, but isn't anything like what her mom actually looks like when there's dirt on the floor. He shouldn't know that, though; he never got to live those lives.
"He's just glad I graduated, I think," Jonas says. He shrugs against the prickly grass. It bites into his skin like so many things do. "I mean—we didn't know if I'd be allowed."
"…God, that's so fucked up," Alex says. "That's so fucked up!"
"After everything, it's like—it's like, that's still a thing! Graduating is still a thing! Even after ghosts, high school is still a thing! The world just keeps—keeps going, like none of it ever mattered, and I know that I'm not supposed to think about it anymore but like—what else are we supposed to do?! I didn't care about graduating, and I don't care about college! Is that wrong?"
"No," Jonas says, because it's not wrong.
(But it is why he keeps taking her driving at night. He doesn't tell her that. He doesn't tell her a lot of things. It's easier for her and harder for him, but Jonas can handle the hard things. He can. He has to.)
"I miss them," Alex says, at last, soft and weary and rubbing at her eyes. "I actually miss them. How fucked up is that?"
"Sounds pretty normal to me," Jonas says, slowly. He doesn't quite know the right words to tell her that everyone deals with trauma differently—at least she's not smoking in an ill-disguised attempt to conquer the disease that killed her mother, but self-awareness is for tools, and Jonas doesn't really want to get into it—so he slips his arm beneath her neck and shifts her close enough that he can smell her skin, salt and soap and something vaguely metallic. "Jesus, Als, stop fidgeting, I'm trying to impart life advice."
"Your life advice sucks," Alex informs him succinctly, but she goes where he directs.
They settle. Settle.
"It's gonna be okay," Jonas says.
"That's not life advice," Alex says.
"I never said it was."
"You kinda did, though, man," Alex sort of snickers into his collarbone, a hot puff of air that's more wind than sound, and it rolls over him like an ocean wave. "You, like, completely did."
"Yeah," Jonas sighs into her hair. The chemicals don't burn as much as they should, and yeah, yeah, she needs a dye job. He wants to kiss her like he wants another cigarette, soft mouth, ash on the tongue, blood on the lips. He wants to kiss her like dying. "I guess I did."
He doesn't kiss her.
(More's the pity.)