Fandom: Supernatural RPS
Pairing: Jensen Ackles/Jared Padalecki
Warnings: Kid fic. Completely BSing things about the legal system. Seriously, SO MUCH. The entire premise is fairly unrealistic.
Word Count: 7000.
Summary: Jensen has never had a guy he barely knows propose marriage to him so that he can gain custody of a child, but apparently there really is a first time for everything.
Notes: For shuttles for her generous bid in help_japan! I hope you enjoy it ♥
Disclaimer: Lies and untruths.
Jensen has been propositioned by guys he doesn't know very well before. It's kind of a thing, honestly, at this point. People hit on him. Hell, he even wanted Jared to hit on him, before--after all, Jared is hot and gay and Jensen doesn't have much by way of standards. But despite their incestuous little group of friends, they've never hooked up, and Jensen doesn't mind. Jared's fun to hang out with at parties, and that's enough for him.
Until this. This, Jensen thinks, is insanity.
"Okay," he says, rubbing the bridge of his nose. It doesn't help, exactly, but at least he's doing something productive. "Run this by me again. If there's any way you can make it sound not insane, that would help."
"I know it sounds--yeah," Jared says. His posture is all fucked up, nervous and hopeful at the same time, wound so tight Jensen is pretty sure he's going to be sore tomorrow.
"No, seriously," says Jensen. "Let's just sit down and you tell me what you want, again, at normal human speed and volume."
"Okay," says Jared. He takes a deep breath. "Okay, yeah. So--I think Aldis told you that my mother died recently?"
"Yeah," says Jensen. Jared and Aldis work together, and Aldis keeps Jensen updated on Jared out of a lingering belief that two gay guys he knows should obviously hook up. Jensen doesn't disagree, exactly--his definition of "hook up" is just a lot shorter term than Aldis's. "Was this Aldis's idea?" he asks, suddenly wary.
"No," Jared says, laughing a little. "But he was the one who told me you needed a place to live."
Jensen used to live with Chris, but Chris is the kind of asshole who is incapable of having friends and a girlfriend at the same time, and now that his new girl wants to move in, Jensen has been kicked out. Which sucks.
"Okay, so--tell me your plan again. In more detail than, want to move in with me and get married so I can get a baby."
"She's not a baby," Jared protests, sighing. "My little sister, she got pregnant in high school. My parents are pretty conservative, they freaked out, yelled at her, but--she wouldn't tell them whose it was. She never told me. She had the baby, but she was in high school, you know? She gave her to my mom to raise, so she could still see her. And that was fine, but--like I said, my mom died. Pretty unexpectedly, but apparently she didn't want the girl raised improperly," he says, making finger quotes. "Which mostly meant by me, or by any single parent. Babies need a mother and a father. Never mind my dad died before that kid was ever born." He sighs. "Anyway, my sister is in college now, and she could probably get rights if she kicked up a fuss, but--she doesn't have the resources or the time to take care of a three-year-old."
"And you do," Jensen supplies.
"I have enough money and I love that girl," says Jared. "I don't want to see her go into foster care--or worse, continue to live with my aunt and uncle, who refuse to talk to me or let me see her because my sexuality is a sin."
"So you want me to--marry you," says Jensen.
"In name only, but--yeah," says Jared. "I know it's a lot to ask, but--you'd get a room, and I wouldn't even charge you rent."
"You don't have to pay me off for helping you out. I don't want to be some sort of weird mail-order husband," Jensen says, a little offended. Then he realizes he's kind of saying he'll do it. "For how long?"
"A year, probably. We have to be a convincing married couple--I figure we can say we've been dating for a while, but hadn't really thought about marriage until my mother died, and we needed to be married to get Haley, so we decided to do it. And then we'll realize it's not working and get a divorce. No harm, no foul."
"I'm surprised your mom didn't specifically restrict you from taking her."
"She was too passive aggressive for that," says Jared, shrugging. "And she never got around to updating that clause after gay marriage was legalized, so--" he gives Jensen this giant, hopeful grin. "Do you want to help me exploit a loophole in the legal system?"
Jensen considers, giving Jared a shrewd look. "Are there dirty diapers?"
"No, she's potty-trained. She's three."
"Let's pretend for the moment that I know nothing about children. Of any age. Expect that babies are cute but smell weird and my nephew likes Spider-Man."
Jared laughs. "Is that a yes?"
Jensen licks his lips. He needs an apartment, Jared is a nice guy, and what kind of monster would he be if he allowed a poor unsuspecting child to be sent to live with raging homophobes instead of her adoring uncle?
"Yeah," he says. He's going to regret this. "It's a yes."
Jensen moves his stuff in Tuesday morning and they go over to a justice of the peace to get married on Tuesday afternoon. Aldis volunteers to be the witness, but Jensen shuts that down fast, on the grounds that he will probably treat it like a real wedding, and do something embarrassing, like cry or throw rice or make Jensen throw a bouquet.
Instead they get Danneel, Aldis's girlfriend and Jensen's best friend from college, who finds the whole situation hilarious and adorable.
"You're marrying him so he can adopt a baby," said Danneel, once Jensen had explained. "I have seen this rom com. It was really shitty, but Aldis will watch anything with a baby in it. And I love him enough to suffer through with him."
"She's three," Jensen said. "Jared promised there weren't--diapers."
Danneel snorted. "You are not gonna be a good parent."
"I'm not going to be a parent! I'm going to be the weird uncle who lives at the house and pretends to be married to the parent." He paused. "That's really not better, is it?"
"Not at all."
For the ceremony, at least, she doesn't mock him, and signs the forms she needs to sign, and doesn't cat-call when he and Jared share a chaste kiss at the end. Which is about all Jensen expected.
"I never thought I'd see you settled down," she says, as the three of them leave the courthouse. "You're a very lucky man to tame this wild stallion," she adds, to Jared.
"Wild stallion?" Jensen asks, dubiously. "Really?"
"Stallions are badass," Jared says, absently. This is what Jensen gets for having this discussion with a vet and a vet's girlfriend. "You want to be a stallion."
"I guess I'm not anymore," Jensen says, still dubious. "Since I'm married. This metaphor is getting away from me."
Jared stretches. "I think the point is that I've tamed you. And the single gay men of the town will weep."
"Until I blow them, anyway. Danneel, you want us to get your dinner or anything for helping us with our sham of a marriage?"
"Nah, I'm good. Just being at your wedding was more than worth it. Besides, Jared, didn't you need to pick up your dogs?"
Jared's eyes light up. "Yeah!" he says. "Jensen, do you want to come?"
"You have dogs?" Jensen asks.
"Yeah. Moving boxes freak them out, so I left them with Chad for the morning."
"You didn't think to mention this?" Jensen asks, and Jared wilts immediately.
"I didn't?" he asks. "I thought I did. I'm sorry, you aren't allergic, are you? God, I can't believe I didn't tell you."
Jensen sighs. "No, no, it's fine, I like dogs, I just--it's a lot."
"Yeah," says Jared. He smiles. "Thank you. Really. This is--I never expected to get so lucky."
"He's a catch," Danneel agrees, before Jared can get too sappy. She thumps Jensen on the back. "And, look on the bright side, you've just had your first fight as a married couple. Wasn't too bad, right?"
Jared laughs at that. "Nah, not too bad?" he agrees, lilting up and looking at Jensen as the end, as if he's not sure Jensen isn't scarred for life.
Jensen shrugs, deliberately casual. "You're supposed to have pets before you try kids anyway, right?"
Jared laughs at that; Jensen figures if they're married he's allowed to notice that Jared has a gorgeous laugh.
But it's still probably a bad idea.
As it turns out, the dogs are more like wild stallions than Jensen is.
"Jesus," he says. "Aren't they gonna eat the kid?"
"These guys?" asks Jared. "Nah, she'll be fine. They're just big softies."
One of the dogs--Harley, Jensen thinks--yawns. He's pretty sure a child could fall in there and die. It's a maw.
"Uh huh," says Jensen.
Sadie comes over and drools on him. It's--well, it's like there's a river on his jeans. The dogs are huge, and apparently entirely filled with saliva.
"See?" says Jared. "She likes you."
"Maybe," Jensen says, a little dubiously. "Are you sure they don't eat children?"
"Haley loves them," Jared says, rolling his eyes. "They're total pushovers for her. She tried to ride Harley once and he just stood there and took it."
"Great," says Jensen. "I've moved into a zoo."
"Just for a year," says Jared, looking guilty again. "And then I'll owe you forever."
Jensen has to roll his eyes at that. "Dude, if you spend the next year groveling and worshiping me, it's going to--" he pauses and reconsiders. "Actually, it's not going to get old. That sounds awesome. Continue."
Jared laughs. "God, you're an asshole. Okay, I'm done thanking you." He yawns and stretches. "Also, I did a night shift at work last night, so I'm exhausted. Will you be offended if I go to bed?"
"No," says Jensen. He glances around, suddenly concerned. "Don't they have a house visit or something? Aren't they going to think it's weird we don't sleep together?"
"Yeah," says Jared. "We'll work it out, right?"
"We're going to have to start sharing a room, aren't we?"
"Probably," says Jared. "We can talk about it tomorrow, right?"
Jared looks like he's about to fall over on his feet, and Jensen decides this conversation is definitely not worth having tonight. "Yeah, yeah," he says. "Go to bed, Jared."
"I'm going, I'm going."
Jensen waits until Jared's in his room before he yells, "Wait, does this mean I'm not getting laid on my wedding night?" and feels surprisingly awesome when it makes Jared laugh.
"I'm honestly kind of surprised you went through with it," Alona tells him the next day. Alona and Danneel talk about everything--Jensen suspects all that ever happens in HR is gossip and trying to figure out how to explain to Jared's friend Chad that sexual harassment laws were not made to be tested--so he assumes he has Danneel to thank for this conversation.
"Went through with what?" Jensen asks, hoping she's talking about anything but him and Jared.
"You married Chad's BFF," says Alona.
"You said that in the worst possible way," says Jensen, groaning.
"I just don't want you to forget that, for all Jared is hot and awesome and probably proportional, he voluntarily spends time with Chad Michael Murray. There is something seriously wrong with him."
"It's not a real marriage," says Jensen. "It's a sham. So he can get a kid."
"You've thought about the kind of lifestyle change this is going to entail, haven't you?" asks Alona. "You can't exactly bring guys home to your husband and your kid."
"His kid," Jensen corrects. "I won't bring them home." He sighs. "Seriously, what kind of asshole lets an innocent kid get raised by homophobes?"
"Honestly, I'm not sure I know anyone else who would get married to a guy he barely knows to help him get custody of a kid." She gives him a calculating look. "Please tell me you aren't doing this to get in Jared's pants."
"No," says Jensen. "Don't get me wrong, he's hot, but if I wanted to fuck him I'd get him in a bathroom at a club, not marry him."
"Classy," says Alona. "And more than I ever wanted to know about your sex life." She smiles. "I'm actually proud of you for this, weirdly enough."
"Yeah?" asks Jensen.
"Yeah. You're being a stand-up guy, kind of. In the weirdest possible way."
"Thanks, I guess."
"You're welcome. When do you get the kid?"
Jensen groans, leaning back in his chair. "There's some kind of hearing Friday. Jared and I are prepping after work."
He doesn't mention they're putting his bed into storage afterward--the whole sharing a room thing is something he's not exactly ready to talk about yet. He hasn't had a boyfriend he slept with regularly in three years, and he's a little worried about his ability to sleep with someone like Jared, who is all big and arms and probably rolls around at night.
It's going to be weird.
"I'm looking forward to you being a father."
"Weird uncle," says Jensen. "We're going with weird uncle."
"Nice," says Alona. "Definitely not creepy at all."
"Yeah, thanks. That's what I was going for."
Bizarrely, the custody hearing is--really not bad. Jared coaches him every day, and Jensen has no idea how he knows this stuff, but by the time they get in front of a judge, Jensen knows all his lines.
Haley has dark brown eyes and curly brown hair. As soon as she sees Jared, she runs over and attaches herself to his leg, completely ignoring the older couple she came in with, and Jensen figures that's got to be a good indication of who she should live with.
"Hey, Haley, this is my friend Jensen," Jared says, kneeling down to the kid's level and looking up at Jensen. With two pairs of giant eyes staring up at him, it feels like he's living in a Disney movie. "He's going to live with us, okay?"
Haley doesn't say anything, just stares up at Jensen with her fist in her mouth, chewing absently. It's not exactly cute, but Jensen finds it kind of endearing.
"Hi," he says, kneeling himself so they're on the same level. "I like your dress."
Haley keeps chewing. She's drooling a little.
"Okay," says Jensen. "Well, welcome to the family, kiddo."
Jared smiles, scooping Haley up in his arms and onto his shoulders. "She's shy. Don't worry, she'll get used to you."
It's kind of weird, knowing she will. Knowing that this kid is going to be a part of Jensen's life. That they're going to be a family, sort of.
"So, we ready?" asks Jared.
"Ready," Jensen agrees, and leans up to give Jared a quick kiss. They're married, after all. It's what he's supposed to do.
But he still doesn't really know how to feel about the surprised, pleased look Jared gives him.
Within ten seconds of getting in the door, Haley is on the floor of Jared's apartment rolling around with the dogs, apparently fearless.
"Told you so," Jared says, a little smugly.
"Yeah, yeah," says Jensen. "Your kid loves dogs. Congratulations."
Jared grins, so wide Jensen is honestly a little dazzled. "My kid. Man, that feels good."
Jensen smiles. "Seriously, congratulations. It's stupid that you had to jump through hoops to get her in the first place, but--good job."
"You deserve half the credit." He looks down, flushing a little and rubbing the back of his neck. "The kiss was a good touch."
"Thanks," says Jensen, feeling a little embarrassed. "I thought it would look good. And you looked like you could use it."
"Yeah, I think it did." He clears his throat. "So, dinner. Hey, Haley, what do you want?"
There's a pause before a cry of, "Ghetti!" comes from the middle of the pile of dogs.
Jared laughs. "I think she'd eat spaghetti for every meal of every day if we let her. You want some too?"
"Yeah, definitely," says Jensen. He and Jared haven't been eating together so far, but he's never one to turn down food. "Can I help?"
"Definitely. We need lots of fruits and veggies, Haley's a growing girl."
"No carrots!" says Haley.
"You want carrots, they let you see in the dark," Jared shoots back.
"Do so! I read it in the newspaper, it must be true."
Haley doesn't respond, as if she is considering this carefully. "No wimabees!"
"Wimabees?" Jensen asks, raising his eyebrows.
"Lima beans, pretty sure," says Jared. "My mom always made us eat them when we were little too. I can't believe that doesn't count as child abuse yet."
Jensen licks his lips. "How do you know all this stuff?"
Jared hands him a red pepper to cut up. "All what stuff?"
"You're a dad now, how do you know how to be that?"
Jared smiles, laughs a little self-consciously. "I don't. I'm going to screw this up so many times, man. But I can't just let her out of my life."
Jensen looks at him for a moment, taken a little off-guard. "How did you not have a boyfriend already?" he asks, and then flushes, realizing that was kind of awkward.
If Jared notices, he doesn't comment on it. "Bad luck, I guess," he says, shrugging. He grins at Jensen. "But it's looking up."
Jensen doesn't know how to respond to that. He feels itchy and strange all through cooking, and when the three of them sit down to dinner at Jared's table, it's so surreal he almost can't handle it.
For the first weekend in recent memory, Jensen doesn't go out Friday or Saturday night. By Sunday, he's antsy and baffled and vaguely uncomfortable, and he calls Danneel for an emergency chat.
"So," she asks, when they meet up at Starbucks, "are you bailing?"
"I'm not bailing," he says. "I just--needed a break."
"I thought you weren't being a dad."
"Yeah, but--I can't just leave, Dan."
"Because--I can't! I don't know. I'm technically that kid's dad. I mean, legally. I mean--in some way."
"I thought you were going with weird uncle."
"I thought I was too." He sighs, leaning back. "I mean, I don't know. It's early, and this is the most fucked-up situation I've ever been in in my life, I know it'll get better and less--" he gestures vaguely, trying to encompass everything. "But, man. It's weird."
"How's living with Jared."
"Bizarrely easy. Maybe he's just still being nice to me because he's grateful I'm helping him out, but--I don't know. He's a nice guy."
"You knew that before."
"Yeah, mostly. But we've never really hung out much."
"That's because you were bitter he didn't immediately jump you the second he found out you were gay," Danneel says.
Jensen chokes on his coffee. "What?"
Danneel gives him a pitying look. "You aren't subtle, Ackles. You think you're God's gift to gay boys. If one doesn't want you, it bugs you. Especially if you want him."
"I don't want Jared!" he protests.
"I mean, yes, he's hot. But I'm not pining away with love for him."
"I was thinking lust."
"How's sleeping with him?"
"Fine. His bed is even more giant than he is. We stick to our sides. It's weirdly--not a thing."
"Huh," says Danneel. "I would have pegged him for a sleep-cuddler."
"You're just wrong about everything today." He sobers up. "Is this a huge mistake, Dan?"
"If I thought was a huge mistake, I would have told you before you did it," she says, smiling at him. "But my advice? Try not to get too attached. I mean, you're bailing in a year, right?"
"So it's not fair to that kid if you're acting like you'll be there forever. Hang out with them, but go out yourself too. Keep doing what you do. Babysit, help out, but--I don't know."
"Don't get attached?" Jensen suggests.
"Yes. And next time you're freaking out, call Aldis."
"Who will tell me I should date Jared and make this sham of a marriage real."
"Yep," Danneel agrees. "His enthusiasm will make you want to run off and get laid in a seedy bathroom immediately."
Jensen considers this. "Probably true." He takes a breath. "Okay. This is okay. This is--fucked up and not at all what I ever thought would be happening with my life. But okay."
"Yeah," says Danneel. "That's the spirit."
The weirdest part is, Danneel's kind of right. Once Jensen stops feeling as if it's his duty to actually be part of the family, things even out a little. Haley, once she starts talking to him in more than two-word sentences, calls him Uncle Jen, which is cute. Jared gets her in nursery school and switches his hours around so he can come home early and get her as long as he works Saturdays. Half the time she goes in with him, and the other half she has Uncle Jen days and the two of them watch cartoons and go to the park.
It's not really bad. Jensen knows it's not what it would be like having an actual family, but it isn't too bad, and it's not making his life any worse. Generally, it makes his life better.
At least, until he slips up on the phone with his mom.
"Yeah, Hales, that's great," he says, absently, as Haley gives him a drawing of the three of them and the dogs in the park. At least, that's what Jared has labeled it--it mostly looks like a lot of blobs in different colors.
Haley gives him a proud grin, and Jensen ruffles her hair. "Good job, kiddo. How about one with dinosaurs this time?"
"Who are you talking to?" his mother asks, and Jensen winces.
There is no good way to tell your parents, of all people, that you have gotten married in a shotgun ceremony so that you can have a child. His brother almost did that, only the ceremony wasn't shotgun, and his wife was pregnant, not trying to get around some bizarre inheritance issue.
"Uh," says Jensen. "No one?"
His mom snorts. "Jensen Ross, you are a terrible liar."
"Give me a sec, I'll come up with a better one." He sighs. "My roommate's kid, Haley."
"Chris has a child?"
Jensen winces. "I didn't tell you Chris kicked me out? I swore I told you."
"Apparently you don't tell me anything."
Jensen sighs. "Chris got a new girlfriend, you know how he gets when that happens. So I moved in with this guy Jared. He works with Danneel's boyfriend, Aldis?"
"And he has a child?"
"Well, it's his niece, but she lives with us. It's a long story."
"Apparently. Jared is a single father to his niece? Does he have a girlfriend?"
"No, he's gay," says Jensen, and then hits himself in the forehead. Why did he tell her that?
"He's gay?" his mother asks, clearly already scheming.
"I'm not saying anything more."
"This is why I didn't want to tell you."
"Well, is he cute?"
"That's not the point."
"That means yes."
"I'm hanging up now, mom."
"Well, say hello to your new roommate for me, okay?"
Jensen heads into the living room, where Jared and Haley are still drawing--she really is doing a dinosaur for him--and flops down on the couch.
"What's up?" asks Jared, looking up from what his paper--unicorns, naturally. Jared is the kind of guy who draws unicorns.
"I hadn't told my mom about--" he waves his hand around, figuring Jared will get it.
"Oh," says Jared. "What did you--tell her?"
"She just asked who I was talking to. I said it was my roommate's kid. She thinks we should get married now."
"Well, good you have her support if you ever tell her that part," says Jared.
Jensen snorts. "I guess that's true."
Jared licks his lips, turning back to his paper and giving it more attention than Jensen thinks it probably warrants. "So, um--why don't you date?" he asks.
"Huh?" asks Jensen.
"I remember when we first met, I thought Chris must be your boyfriend, because you had to have one. And Aldis told me Chris was straight and you didn't date."
Jensen tries to ignore the way the soft tone of Jared's voice makes his insides go all gooey. He's been pretty much trying to ignore any time Jared makes him gooey since they moved in together, and it's getting harder and harder. Jared is kind of adorable. "I don't not date," says Jensen, carefully. "I just haven't dated much recently." He licks his lips. "I went out with this guy, Adam. A few years ago. We were pretty serious, I thought. It turned out he'd--well, he hadn't even exactly been cheating on me. He had a serious girlfriend, and I was the other woman. So to speak. He broke it off with me when I asked him to move in--I was getting tired of only getting to sleep with him a few nights a week." He smiles a little. "Guess now I know why he wouldn't stay over more."
Jared's looking at him like he doesn't know if he wants to give Jensen a hug or find Adam and knock all his teeth out. Jensen licks his lips, unable to look away. It's--intense. He knew Jared liked him, but this feels a lot more intimate.
"Dinosaur!" says Haley proudly, and gives Jensen a drawing of a big green blob with arms and teeth. He finally breaks eye contact with Jared and looks down at Haley with a smile.
"That's great," he says. "This one is going in the office."
"You wanna draw too?" she asks, hopefully, and Jensen finds that, yeah, he really does.
Things kind of go from bad to worse after that. Jensen has trouble sleeping, because he knows how close he is to Jared. They go on a trip to the zoo one Sunday and Haley insists on holding both of their hands, and they're obviously a family to outsiders that it makes something in the region of Jensen's chest ache. Haley gets a cold and he and Jared switch off calling in to work to stay home with her. He sits on the couch with the kid curled up against his leg, carding his hand through her hair, and wondering how this became his life.
That Saturday, he attempts to go out. He meets a gorgeous guy and they hit it off at the bar, chatting about this and that, and Jensen is sure he's going to get laid until the guy says, "So how long have the two of you been together?"
"Huh?" asks Jensen. "Who?"
"You and Jared. Have you been together long?"
"Um," says Jensen, and reviews the conversation, realizing he dropped in details and stories about Jared and Haley without meaning to. Without even realizing it. "Yeah, a while now."
"It's great that you guys could adopt. I definitely want to adopt some day--there are so many kids out there who need good homes, you know?"
"Yeah," says Jensen. He clears his throat. "I should go. Get back."
He'd been planning to take a cab back, but the walk isn't too far, and he needs to clear his head.
He's probably not in love with Jared. Just because Jared is smart, and funny, and gorgeous, that doesn't mean anything. They just spend too much time together. Of course he's getting confused. He's living with the guy, there's a kid, they're fucking married. Of course he's getting attached.
Jared is still up, watching TV. It's some action flick, one he and Jensen would be watching together, if Jensen hadn't left. He looks surprised when he looks up.
"Hey, you're home early," he says.
"Struck out," Jensen says, flopping down on the couch.
"You? I don't believe it."
"Everyone has off nights. The kid get to sleep okay?"
"Yeah," says Jared. "You know, it's her birthday in a couple weeks."
"The big four--I guess just the big four. I was thinking we should do something. Have a party with some of her friends from nursery school, maybe see if Meg could come down."
"Meg?" asks Jensen.
"Oh," Jensen breathes. He knew Haley had a mother, but it's weird to know she's around. "Does she ever want--you know."
"To take Haley back? No. She gave up all her rights when she gave her to my mother. She likes to see her, spend time with her sometimes, but she's never planning to be her mother."
"Oh," says Jensen.
Jared clears his throat. "Anyway, I was thinking maybe two weeks from today? At the playground. Her birthday isn't until Monday, but I figure we're allowed to have it early."
"I think the birthday police won't get you," Jensen agrees.
Jared smiles. "Yeah, I think I'm safe. You can skip if you want, but--"
"Jared," Jensen says. "Of course I'm coming."
Jared looks away, looking so pleased Jensen aches with it. "Yeah," he says. "Good."
"It's adorable how much trouble you're having with this," says Aldis. "Adorable."
"I will figure out a way to turn one of these toys into a shank and kill you with it," says Jensen.
"Don't threaten my boyfriend," says Danneel. "We're helping."
"You're mocking. And you had to get her something anyway, so you're here for selfish reasons too. Also, I hate you guys."
"You love us," says Danneel. "How about a stuffed animal?"
"She already has twenty billion stuffed animals. She keeps them in a pile at the bottom half of the bed. The entire bottom half. She barely fits in there with them."
"That means she wants more," says Aldis. He picks up a stuffed frog. "Look at this. This dude is adorable. I bet she doesn't have a frog yet. I'm getting her a frog."
"You're useless," says Jensen, picking up a box of blocks and shaking it before putting it back down.
Aldis puts the frog on his shoulder. "You're just jealous I found the awesome frog and you didn't."
"Can that be from both of us?" Danneel asks hopefully.
"I find it hilarious that Aldis is more maternal than you will ever be," Jensen says.
"Gender stereotypes are for losers, Jensen," says Aldis. "Don't be a hater."
"Is she old enough for Legos?" Jensen asks Danneel. "Legos were the shit."
"Try Duplos," says Aldis. "Duplos are Legos for little kids."
"How do you know this stuff?" Jensen asks.
"I have a niece and a nephew," says Aldis.
"And I have two nieces, and Aldis always buys presents for them too."
"So any time you want to seduce Jared by buying toys for his kid, just let me know. I got your back."
Jensen rolls his eyes, but can't help flushing a little. "Thanks, I'll keep that in mind." He grabs a Duplo set before Aldis or Danneel can respond. "Ooh, this one has animals. She'll like that."
He ends up with three Duplo sets, and Aldis and Danneel mock him for being whipped the whole way home.
Meg is only a few inches shorter than Jensen, with dark, slightly curly hair that reminds Jensen of Haley. The family resemblance between her and her daughter in undeniable, and it makes Jensen's heart ache strangely.
"Thank you," she tells him, as they're setting up the cake table together. Jensen agreed to help set up the park while Jared hung out with Haley at home--everything's supposed to be perfect when the birthday girl and her guests start to arrive. Of course, Jared didn't warn him that the set-up crew was Meg, Chad, Aldis, and Danneel. No where is safe.
"No problem," he says, keeping his voice light. "You only turn four once," he adds.
"I didn't mean for the party," she says. "When mama died, we were all heartbroken. Haley most of all. I was so worried when she had to go off and live with strangers, who wouldn't even let her see Jared. He visited every weekend, you know."
Jensen swallows. "I didn't," he admits, thickly.
"He's always adored her, I know it broke his heart when he thought he couldn't take her. He talked to lawyers, but--I don't know. Custody stuff is always weird. I wasn't sure it was a good idea, when he asked you."
"Oh," says Jensen, feeling a little hurt.
"No, no! Just--he was crazy about you, I thought--"
As soon as Meg realizes what she said, she claps her hand over her mouth, but it's too late. Jensen is staring, a little shell-shocked.
"Don't tell him I said that, please," she says.
Meg flushes, looking away. Jared does the same thing, and Jensen wonders if Haley will pick it up too.
He wonders if he'll get a chance to find out.
"Nothing," she says. "It's nothing."
"It's obviously something," he says.
"He had a crush on you," Meg says, cheeks burning. "That's all. And I said it was a bad idea to ask you to move in when he--well, when he felt that way. But he didn't have anyone else to go to. Not anyone he thought would say yes. So--thank you. For helping us."
Jensen wets his lips. "He had a crush on me?" he asks, and it comes out hopeful, aching.
Meg looks up, and he knows, instantly, that she's figured him out.
It's kind of a relief.
"Well," she says, voice soft. "I think it's a lot more than just a crush now."
"Oh," breathes Jensen.
Meg nods, once. "We should finish setting up the table."
"Yeah," says Jensen. "Definitely."
The party is a rousing success. What feels like ten billion kids show up from the nursery school, and they all get hopped up on cake and ice cream and then tear around the park. Haley treats Meg with the same polite wariness she treats Danneel and Aldis, and Jensen tries not to feel smug that he gets a hug for his present and they don't.
He also tries not to look at Jared all the time, but it's hard. It was hard even before he thought he had a chance with Jared--it's nearly impossible now.
"So, that wasn't too painful, right?" Jared asks, sidling up behind him as Aldis chases the kids around the playground, roaring, for some reason. Jensen is glad to be distracted from trying to figure out exactly what he's pretending to be.
"Nah, not too bad. She's going to pass out as soon as we get home, right?"
Jared snorts. "God, I hope so. If her sugar-high continues when we get back to the apartment, it's going to get destroyed."
Jensen laughs. "Luckily we don't have anything valuable or anything."
"Luckily." Jared looks over, gives Jensen a smile. "Thanks again. For being here."
"You didn't really think I'd miss it, did you?"
"No," Jared admits. "But--it still means a lot to me."
It takes all of Jensen's self-control not to lean over and kiss him.
Jensen takes the day off on Monday to cook. He doesn't tell Jared--part of his master plan is this being a surprise. Haley and Jared both love Italian food, particularly lasagna, and Jensen calls his mother up and makes her walk him through doing it himself, from scratch. She's somewhere between impressed and confused by his dedication, and he surprises himself by not caring that he's being obvious about how much he likes Jared.
The cake is strawberry short cake, and he gets a recipe off the internet and somehow does not fuck it up. By the time Jared gets home with Haley, Jensen has everything cooking, and has cleaned the kitchen, and the entire apartment, just to be on the safe side. He's put up streamers and a Happy Birthday banner in the living room, and he hears Haley squeal with delight as soon as she sees it.
"Jensen?" Jared calls, a little warily.
"In the kitchen," he says.
Jared comes in without Haley, looking confused. "What happened?"
"I took the day off," Jensen says. He smiles, shrugs. "It's her birthday."
"I thought we were going out."
"I might have said that so you wouldn't figure out my scheme. Or make other plans."
"This is--wow," says Jared. "Seriously, Jensen. You didn't have to do this."
"I know," says Jensen, shrugging. "I wanted to."
He's pretty sure Jared leans down first, but it's so close it's hard to say. The kiss is slow, a little cautious, just lips on lips, until Jensen makes a noise, and then suddenly Jared is slamming him up against the refrigerator, scattering magnets, and kissing him.
It takes real effort for Jensen not to drop to his knees in the kitchen and just start sucking Jared's dick, but the kid is around somewhere, and that would probably qualify as bad parenting.
When they finally break apart, Jared is panting, staring at Jensen with wide-eyes, clearly not quite believing what's happening.
"That was okay, right?" he manages.
"Yeah," says Jensen. "More than okay."
"Yeah," says Jensen.
Jared licks his lips and takes Jensen's hand, a small, easy gesture, and tugs him into the living room, where Haley is playing with the Duplos Jensen bought her. He saved two sets to give her tonight, during the family celebration, and he can already tell how excited she's going to be.
"You be a lion!" she tells Jensen, holding up the toy.
Jensen sits down and takes it. "Grr," he says, agreeably.
Jared sits next to him, shoulders brushing, and smiles at Haley. "What am I?"
"Type-casting," Jensen mutters, and Jared knocks his shoulder.
Jensen thinks it should be terrifying, but really, it's just--nice.
"So, we should talk," says Jared, once Haley is in bed. He flops down on the couch next to Jensen, handing him a beer.
"Yeah," Jensen agrees, fiddling with the label on the bottle. "Your sister said you were crazy about me," he admits, when Jared doesn't respond.
"Of course she did," Jared says, groaning.
"I wasn't supposed to tell you."
"I'll kick her ass later." He licks his lips. "I mean, look at you. Of course I--well, you were hot."
"I am hot," Jensen agrees.
"And then you were nice. And you agreed to do this for me, even though we barely knew each other, and I couldn't believe it. And you were so sweet, and helpful, and I knew it was stupid to get attached, but--how could I not?"
Jensen stares for a minute, and then starts laughing.
"What?" Jared asks, defensively.
"No, no," says Jensen. "It's not that. It's just--that's pretty much exactly how it went for me. I kept telling myself I should leave you guys alone, not pretend like I was part of the family, or whatever. But that was a total bust. If I had pictures of you guys in my wallet, I would have showed them off at bars."
"Is that why you stopped going out?" Jared asks. He sounds so hopeful Jensen feels bad for ever laughing.
"Yeah," he admits. "I, um. I was talking to this guy, and I thought I was going to--well. Anyway, fifteen minutes into the conversation, he asked how long you and I had been together. I figured there wasn't much point after that."
"What'd you tell him?" Jared asks, sounding amused now.
"Nice and vague. I like it."
Jensen clears his throat. "Anyway, I was--I'm in love with you, pretty much. And I love that kid, and if you make me leave you guys I'm going to cry. Which would be pathetic. You don't want to make me cry, man."
Jared laughs. "You're right, that would be pathetic." He takes Jensen's untouched beer out of his hand and leans over for a kiss. It's got none of the desperation of the kiss in the kitchen; Jared explores Jensen's mouth like he has all the time in the world, like they won't ever stop. "Please don't leave," he murmurs. "Please don't ever leave, okay?"
"Yeah," Jensen breathes. "Yeah, I won't." He clears his throat, feeling too tight, too full. "You know we're going to have to get married again, right? My mom will kill me if we don't."
Jared laughs, and then tension breaks, and suddenly everything feels easy, like Jensen hasn't felt in months. Hasn't felt since he moved in. "Haley will want to be flower girl," he says.
Jensen smiles. "Deal."
The next morning, Jensen wakes up with Jared sprawled on top of him, breath tickling behind his ear, and Haley and Sadie looking at him with wide eyes from the edge of the bed. One of these is normal. One of these is awesome.
"What," says Jensen.
"Sadie says she's hungry," says Haley. "Sadie says she wants pancakes."
Jensen glances at the alarm clock. It's not going off for another fifteen minutes.
"Tell Sadie it's early."
Sadie seems unmoved.
Jensen groans. "Jared. The dog wants pancakes."
"Mmph," says Jared, helpfully.
"Come on, Uncle Jen! It's my after birthday."
"That's not a day," Jensen says, dragging himself out of bed and pulling on a pair of sweats over his boxers. "Go get the eggs and milk out. I'll be in in a minute."
Haley and Sadie take off for the kitchen, and Jared snorts and rolls over, making a sleepy noise.
"Hey, asshole," Jensen says, shaking him. "Wake up. Your kid wants pancakes."
"Our kid," Jared corrects.
"She's always going to be our kid when she wants something, isn't she."
"Yup," says Jared. He yawns. "Enjoy cooking."
"I hate you."
Jared's only response is a (very fake) snore. Jensen grabs all the blankets off the bed and drops them onto the floor, and then heads into the kitchen to make pancakes for his kid, whistling as he goes.