Every Christmas, when the family gets together, relatives pinch their cheeks raw and coo over how alike Justine and Jason look. Sometimes he catches a family friend asking if they're twins; Jason loves those times most of all.
He thinks of how much more alike they would look if his hair wasn't shorn so close, if it hung to his shoulders the way hers did, if they wore matching sweaters and skirts and saddle shoes and painted each other's nails the same color. But some part of him knows like an instinct that that isn't what the family wants to see.
At first Justine finds her brother's interest in her things to be curious, almost cloying, but she doesn't mind after a while. He isn't like most brothers: rude and destructive, taking the piss out of femininity any chance he gets. He sits perfectly still as she applies the coat of nail polish he requested, watching her technique with the intrigue of a studying artist.
He comes to her crying some hours later; Dad saw, and he wants that shit off his son's fingers this instant.
She obliges as silent tears creep down Jason's cheeks. She promises that next time, she'll take it off of him before anyone notices.
Jason pours over a script his father has procured for him. He's happy he noticed his talent for acting. He's happy his father noticed him period, but acting is fun, too. It's fun to dress up, to be someone he's not. It's fun to get attention for it.
"Why do I always go for boy parts?"
"Well, son, it's because you're always a boy," Kent laughs. "Girl parts are for your sister."
Jason pouts, because that isn't fair. He knows it. Justine knows it. She shares everything else with him: clothes she grows out of, her make up, her hair spray. He knows she'd share this, too.
"But couldn't I try?" Jason insists boldly. "I know it's a long shot, but I don't know, Dad, I just wanted to--"
Kent's hand comes down on his face so hard and fast Jason nearly falls over backwards.
"I don't want to hear another word about this, Jason," he spits. "I'm putting my foot down. No girl parts."
Jason can't stop shaking, can't meet his father's gaze but he nods. His hand finds the pain radiating from his face, fingertips gingerly brushing the sting there.
"I'll get you an ice pack for that, okay, son? Just learn your lines."
Puberty makes Justine soft and full and gorgeous. It makes Jason feel like sheaths of cardboard are fusing with his skin and bones.
"It isn't fair!" he sobs at her, screams at her. "You didn't do anything for it! You don't want it half as much as I do, and it isn't fucking fair!!"
As much as he hates himself, hates his physical form for betraying him this way, he hates himself more for yelling at her, but she forgives him every time. She pulls him into her arms and promises she still loves him. She shows him how to shave, how to moisturize, what exercises with minimize muscle tone. She applies concealer on his break outs and 'absentmindedly' throws some blush on his cheeks, too.
"Don't cry, Jason. You'll mess your make up if you cry, and you look so beautiful.."
But he does, late at night when the make up's off. He can never tell if they're tears of anger or relief.
Freedom is a long time coming but it brings Jason inexpressible joy when it does. Shortly after his father's departure from both his professional and personal life, Jason falls in with a group of people who not only tolerate his incipient alcoholism, but are actually endeared to it ("Who wants to see the kid from Teen Wolf Too do a line off this stripper?!"). Girls chat him up constantly but he doesn't get past casual flirting with most of them. And anyway, none of them interest him like Jennifer. Jennifer Aniston, with her flowing locks, her sun-kissed tan, the way fabric clings to her hips and shoulders, just the sound of her name appeals to him.
But he doesn't want to kiss her. He wants to wear her.
"Please take me home," he begs, slurring and clinging to the bar, one hand searching the vast space in front of him from his jack and coke. "I just-- I just gotta see your house. See your... come on, please."
Jennifer's wary but she figures he's much too drunk to try anything and anyway, cute as his antics usually are, he doesn't need to be left on his own to drive like this.
She expects him to pass out coming over the threshold but he doesn't, he makes a beeline for her room and his voice is awed and sober coming through her apartment.
"Oh my god," he cries. "Look at your closet!"
She follows him and lo and behold, Jason is standing there, chin in his hands, taking in the vast technicolor array of patterns and solids before him.
"Can you.. what? Try them?" she asks, her face a question mark, and the muted longing in Jason's eyes tells her she's guessed right. "Sure, Jas. Go nuts."
Jason gets through almost half her wardrobe before passing out in a slinky backless dress, having laid down on the bed to fiddle with a clasp he never quite hooked. Jennifer leaves two aspirin and a glass of water on the bedside table, graciously taking the sofa.
In the morning, Jason remembers nothing. He wonders why his legs are cold, wonders where his pants have gone, and as his hands search out the hem of his curiously-long night shirt, he puts it together: he's in a dress. He passed out in a dress. And he realizes, as his weary eyes creak open, this is not his house, this cannot be one of Justine's outfits; chances are, there is a third human being in this world who has witnessed him like this.
Jason's hand finds his mouth, in shock at first but he soon sees a need to keep it there, bile inching up his throat in an effort to escape his body. He hiccups, feeling the sick warmth stain his face, neck, the dress before he scrambles to his feet, finding the bathroom on pure instinct and relieving himself gracelessly into the sink. He gives a few sputtering coughs after, washing his mouth out and daring to look up to his reflection.
No make up-- that's a good sign. And the dress is stained, but it's not nearly what fear made it out to be seconds ago. He wracks his brain, trying to remember whatever pantry elixir Justine had always recommended for vomit, when--
He freezes, but she's in the doorway before he can make any rash decisions about answering her.
"Oh honey, did you puke on the dress?"
Unthinkingly, Jason nods. Jennifer disappears behind the wall a moment and produces a pile of clothes, which Jason belatedly recognizes as his own, from last night. She holds them out and, again like he's on autopilot, he takes them.
"Just change out of it, I'll pre-treat it. Alright?"
He manages one more nod before she shuts the door, gifting him once again with his privacy.
Slowly, quietly, he change. He slinks out, hands the girl clothes to his girl friend and sits at her kitchenette table in his boy pants, boy button down, boy sneakers, regretting everything. When she appears again, he can't restrain himself.
"Jennifer I am so sorry," tumbles out of his lips. "I was so drunk and out of it and I haven't done that since I was a kid, you have to believe me, I didn't mean to, and I was so drunk, and--"
He chokes back a sob and at that moment realizes that at some point, he started weeping.
"Jason... Don't be sorry. Don't cry."
But he does, though not as hard or for as long as he expects.
He tells her everything--his father's cruelty, Justine's guidance, the secret wardrobe--and she listens patiently as she makes coffee, keeping her questions tame but attentive.
At the end of it, she asks, "So, are you..?"
"No," Jennifer shakes her head, brow furrowing faintly. "Are you.. actually a girl?"
Jason looks away; the question unsettles him, reminds him of the infinite inward turns his father's shaming had prevented him from taking. "I don't know," he answers. "I don't like to think about it. But I do really love your closet."
"Well, I do have a couple things in there a size too big for me." She stands, taking his wrist. "Come on, let's take a sober look."
Jason beams, tears threatening his eyes once again.
Jason accumulates quite the wardrobe. Jennifer takes them shopping and slips skirts, stockings, heels under his fitting room door to try. While he loves the support (and loves her style choices) the company of his mere reflection in the department store fitting room mirror is dizzying. He saves all the reveals for the safety of her apartment.
Amanda's presence in his life grows. She starts dropping hints about a future, a family, and initially, it terrifies Jason. He always imagined that if he had to marry, it'd be to Jennifer: kind, patient, level-headed, accepting. But she implores Jason to trust, and Jason, after months of screwing up his courage, obliges.
When he reveals the secret wardrobe, Amanda doesn't get it at first. She thinks it's a present or something, but she isn't too disappointed at the clarification that the clothes are all his own. She frowns through his explanation, asks foolish questions ("Is it a sex thing? Are you gay? Do you want to try sex with a man?") but she grows quiet at the end. Jason can see the gears turning behind her eyes, the concerted effort she's making to wrap her mind around it all.
"Jason, why are you telling me all this?"
"Because I can't marry you without you knowing about this," he answers, taking her hand. "I couldn't.. I didn't want you finding out later, thinking I deceived you, or something. I just wanted to be honest."
Amanda nods, a small smile playing at her lips.
"Do you still want to marry me?"
"Yes, Jason. I still want to marry you."
They're wed in the summer and Amanda's quiet support grows. She takes a certain put-upon pride in coordinating her husband's outfits; for all his wealth of clothing, it seems no one's warned him about clashing colors and patterns. It feels a lot like dressing up a doll, or a child.
In time, the real rift in their marriage proves to be Jason's alcoholism. Alone while Amanda collects herself in Mexico, his Christmas present to himself is an AA meeting, the first of many. Amanda is proud of the development when she returns, of the steps her husband is taking toward progress. She tentatively suggests gender therapy but the idea makes him uncomfortable. It's been hard enough raising the number of those aware to the three who know now, he can't imagine bringing a stranger in on it. He doesn't reject it outright, but he recovers well enough with AA alone, and eventually Amanda stops bringing it up.
Jason makes peace with his pseudo-has-been status just in time to be cast in the Arrested Development pilot. The man playing his brother is breathtakingly talented and Jason genuinely can't imagine how he hasn't been discovered before now, but he's selfishly glad of it. They're fast friends and Jason is overjoyed when the show is picked up for a full season, ineffably excited to work so closely with the charming, tender-spoken, brilliant Will Arnett.
The question of kids was never an "if" but a "when" for Jason and Amanda, but Jason remains apprehensive to the idea. It brings up old pangs of resentment from adolescence, the familiar sensation of his physical existence betraying him.
Amanda once again suggests gender therapy, but Jason already knows what's wrong, what's plaguing him.
They talk. She assures him it wouldn't be practical, even if he was physically equipped for it. Not where he stands now, at the precipice of getting his old fame back. She urges him to think of it as a gift, as a sacrifice she's willing to make for him. Jason agrees with her logic in his mind, but his heart needs time.
When the fake pregnancy belly props arrive for the second season, Jason peruses them with aching curiosity. He slips one under his shirt, over his shoulders, and pushes at the breast and stomach padding until it all sits right on his torso, perfect. He admires the sight in a mirror, and his heart hurts but he can't look away.
He laughs it off when Will catches him, ready with some quip about how it looked much better on David, how he's got the hips for it, after all. But Will couldn't help but notice the seriousness in his gaze, can't help but notice the desperate quality to his jokes now.
More than anything, he doesn't want Jason to think he was laughing at his expense.
A few days later, Will pulls him aside, adoringly asks, "So, that whole baby bump thing. What was that about?"
But Jason pales at the question and Will regrets it instantly because this is the last thing he wants, to discomfit Jason, to scare him, to offer him anything but the unconditional friendship and support he has over the last two years. He shakes his head.
"Never mind. Listen, I'm going around back for a smoke. Okay? I'll be back in a second."
Jason nods, fading into a stiff facsimile of his earlier calm as he watches Will go.
Jason wants to trust him, the same way he wanted to trust Amanda, but it's so much scarier somehow.
He can't imagine a man understanding, being anything other than appalled and disgusted. He can feel the sting of his father's hand on his cheek like it was yesterday and not years ago, can hear his father yelling, berating him. He can hear his male friends' voices, joking, echoes of all the self-hatred he never even realized he'd internalized.
And yet, he wants so dearly for Will to be better than that, to live up to the loving potential Jason can feel within him.
Jason struggles with the decision until Arrested Development receives its death knell, and while he's heartbroken to see the show go, it feels almost fortuitous; at the very least, he can no longer risk ruining their on-screen chemistry with his confession. On the last day of filming, Jason steels his nerves and invites Will back to his house.
"Just promise me you won't laugh, alright?"
"For the fifth time, Jason, I promise, I will not laugh."
They stand alone in the bedroom of the empty house and Jason, after a long, deep breath, throws open the closet doors.
Will takes in the array for several seconds, uncomprehending.
"Your wife's clothes?"
"No, Will. These are mine."
Will reaches out to a piece of fabric, pulling back what is undeniably a skirt. He repeats the action gingerly with several other pieces, saying nothing.
"What's your favorite?"
"Outfit," Will specifies. "I want to see it. If you don't mind dressing up, I mean."
Jason's heart is in his throat, but he manages a nod.
"I wouldn't mind at all."
They go through every outfit piece by piece and Jason is in tears by the end of it. Will has to stop the show periodically to gather Jason in his arms, apologize, ask if he's done something wrong but he hasn't, and that's why Jason's crying.
No questions. No assumptions. Halfway through, Will jokes about referring to him as "she" now and Jason only nods, grinning.
But it's more than just the simple, uncomplicated acceptance. The way Will looks at him, how he's watched men look over his wife, his sister. He never anticipated a man looking at him that way, never imagined he'd be physically equipped for it.
And Will has never been more enamored of Jason, of anyone before, but he dares not voice it. He won't risk making Jason feel like a sex object or mere fetish, not when Will has only just begun discovering the universes living inside him.
Jason comes out in his final dress: powder blue, knee length, scoop neck, a white ribbon encircling his waist. He smiles, blinking back the remnants of tears, and Will smiles back.
"Don't cry, Jason," he insists. "Come on. Make up, next."