Characters: Jared/Jensen, Danneel
Length: 11,100ish words
Summary: AU. When Jensen is suddenly left to take care of his sister's kids for the summer, he desperately needs help. Enter a stranger named Jared and his ability to make kids love him and turn Jensen's life upside down in the process.
Author’s Note: Written for j2_everafter and loosely based on the movie Mary Poppins. Thanks to the awesome mods for their hard work running this challenge!
On June 12, Jensen Ackles’ life was exactly as he liked it. Organized. Disciplined. He worked long hours; he made good money. He had friends, and a home. True, he had a distant family that didn’t understand him and no one to fully share all these things with, but he was otherwise content.
On June 13, that all changed with one phone call.
Jensen did not relate to kids. They were noisy and irrational and very...short. And that last one was not a very good reason, but still. They were small and easily tripped over, he bet. Like chihuahuas. He only hoped they were a bit more able to keep from wetting the rug.
He looked in the rearview mirror and briefly frowned at the two examples he was being faced with at the moment. There were reasons Jensen didn’t visit his family aside from the way they made him feel like a three-headed gay alien, and couldn’t ask about his love life without using the words ‘special friend’. It all made a vein in his forehead twitch. Jensen made it a point to stay on his side of the country, and let them stay on theirs. Until now.
“Uncle Jensen?” The girl looked at him as they pulled onto the highway.
Jensen sighed. He should probably refer to by her name instead of as ‘the girl’. “Yes, Lauren?”
“It’s Lulu.” The insult in her voice was apparent.
“Your name is Lauren, I’ve known you since you were born.” Jensen felt the vein come to attention.
She crossed her arms and squinted at him in the rearview mirror. “If you did know me, you’d know that I go by Lulu, and have since I was seven and a half.”
“Well, what are you now, eight?”
She made this little high-pitched noise and exclaimed, “I’m nine!”
“Wow, okay. Uh, right. Sorry?” Jensen flinched. He wasn’t trying to make this a bad experience, he really wasn’t. He was sure they could find a way to make the summer...tolerable, at least. “So...Laur - I mean, Lulu. Does your brother talk?”
Because so far, the boy part of this challenge to Jensen’s rather small patience reserves hadn’t said a peep since he’d said hello as they stepped off the airplane and they were halfway home.
There was a snort of clear derision from the other occupant of the backseat, and damn, Jensen wasn’t aware a kid that young could make that sound. “I talk.”
Or wow, be that surly. Jensen was reluctantly impressed. It had taken him years to develop that bad an attitude and this kid had it mastered in roughly seven. He should probably confirm his age as well.
“Dorkface here is mad about leaving Portland for the summer. He thinks D.C. is lame.” Lulu didn’t sound overly convinced about the situation either, but Jensen had a feeling Mason was going to be pretty hard to win over.
“Well, technically, you’ll be in Virginia, not D.C. A few miles from D.C.”
Mason slumped lower after scowling at his sister, probably for the ‘dorkface’ comment, and Jensen could have sworn he muttered something about it getting worse by the minute.
“Mason, Lau - I mean, Lulu. Listen, I know this wasn’t how you wanted your summer to be, and I am not exactly experienced with having kids around, but we’re going to have to make the best of it, okay? Your mother had a great opportunity, and...well, you want to support her, right?”
And since their father was an asshole who had taken off when Lauren was only four, and his always charming family did not think it was appropriate for a mother of two to pursue her dream of photojournalism by taking an overseas assignment for two months, Jensen was the person she called for help. He knew he was last on her list, but also knew what it was like to be made to feel like his family made him feel.
It had been quite a conversation, considering they pretty much only talked a few times a year. Those conversations didn’t usually end up with Jensen offering to take care of her kids for most of the summer.
He hadn’t gotten much of a response from the backseat with his request, but when he turned up his driveway, he finally did.
“Is that your house??” Lulu’s voice went soft and surprised, and Jensen smiled, just a little. He remembered from a visit years ago that Mack and the kids lived in an apartment, so his house probably did look kind of big.
Mason even sat up and looked, eyes widening. Jensen caught him in the rearview, mouth open. Jensen smiled. Victory Number One.
Which was promptly followed by Failure Number One when he realized he had very little in his well-appointed house that was remotely entertaining to children besides his extensive video game collection. Somehow he didn’t think Mack wanted him to just park them in front of the flatscreen 24/7, so he needed ideas.
While they were unpacking in their room, he got on the phone with Danni. “Danni, what am I going to do with them? I don’t have any toys or...whatever else they might want.”
She sighed over the line. “You’re pretty much hopeless, aren’t you? No, don’t answer, I know. Jensen, you knew they were coming. Did you plan anything?”
“Well, I - I’ve had deadlines, and I just -”
“Right, I know. Work is very demanding. Here’s what I say, and it’s the best advice I can give.”
Jensen nodded, then answered. “Okay.”
“Talk to them. They do talk, right?”
Rolling his eyes, Jensen slumped back in his chair, and listened for anything breaking upstairs. “Well, one of them does. The other mostly rolls his eyes at me and keeps to himself.”
“Hmm, sounds like his uncle.” She snorted a little laugh, but before Jensen could retort, she continued. “Listen, I’m taking Icky and Oscar to the park this afternoon. Meet us there and let the kids play.”
Jensen exhaled. It was Sunday. He could take the time to do this. And maybe the kids wouldn’t hate him by sundown if he did.
“But Jensen, you are going to need to talk to them. Y’know? Two months will crawl by if you don’t.”
“Fine, fine. Okay. What time?”
It was warm, but not overly warm, which Jensen considered a miracle. This had been a great idea. Lulu and Mason were tearing around the playground while he and Danni watched. Her dogs were flopped at her feet, tongues lolling out of their mouths. Icarus, as Jensen far preferred called the little white furball, was leaning against his leg.
One moment, they were chatting about his plans for the summer while they watched Mason and Lulu on the swings, and the next, Icarus and Oscar were on their feet and running across the park, leashes trailing behind. He and Danneel both jumped up and gave chase, calling their names as the dogs, barking, made tracks across the grass.
Suddenly, a tall guy, who Jensen had noticed playing frisbee with his dogs across the park, stepped in front of the two and crouched down. Jensen nearly stumbled and fell as the Icarus and Oscar came to a stop and licked the stranger's hands and knees like he was their best friend. The guy patted little Icky on the head, which earned him a high pitched yip of what sounded suspiciously like approval. Which Icky did not hand out easily.
When he and Danneel caught up to this confusing scene a few seconds later, they were both breathing a little hard. Danni recovered first.
“Oh my god, thank you. How did you - oh, boys, you have been naughty!” She reached down and took their leashes in hand, and Jensen was glad to see that the dogs had the good sense to lower their heads. “Seriously, thank you. I don’t know what got into them.” The dogs strained back towards the guy and Jensen knew how they felt. He was one good-looking guy. Tall, and built, face open and friendly.
“Oh, it’s okay. I think they probably saw that balloon.” He gestured at a red balloon just clearing the treetops, that a kid must have let go of in the park. “My dogs wanted to get it, too.”
Jensen had caught his breath now and noticed the two small ponies disguised as dogs sitting quietly behind the guy, heads cocked as if they were listening to the conversation.
“Wow, those are some well-behaved dogs you’ve got there. All this commotion and they’re just sitting.” Jensen finally spoke and the guy turned his attention from Danneel, and Jensen noticed the flush in his cheeks, the way his eyes sparkled. Figured. Danneel was pretty much the hottest woman Jensen knew, and more foolproof than gaydar. No straight man had ever been unaffected in her presence, as far as he knew.
The guy looked over his shoulder and made a small clicking noise. Both of them came up to heel next to him and sniffed at Icarus and Oscar politely. It really was impressive.
“Well, we better let you get back to your game. Thanks again...” Danni trailed off and the guy stuck his hand out to shake hers.
“And I’m Danni. This is Jensen. Anyway, maybe we’ll see you around - and my dogs won’t be on the loose again!” She smiled and Jensen resisted the urge to roll his eyes at her flirting.
“Great, good to meet you both.” He shook Jensen’s hand and turned that gorgeous smile on him, and Jensen swore his knees went a little weak, which was just too ridiculous for words.
And then Jensen had an idea. A foolhardy, ridiculous, possibly brilliant idea. He could hear Danni shooting it down in his head already. He wouldn’t give her a chance.
“So, Jared. You’re really good with dogs.” The four dogs were already fast friends under Jared’s watchful eye, Jensen couldn’t help but notice.
“Oh yeah man, I love dogs. Always have.”
“And kids, how are you with kids?” Jensen tried to keep his smile open and winning even as Jared’s dimmed slightly in confusion.
“In what way?”
At that moment, Mason and Lulu came barreling toward them, circling the group, one in pursuit of the other coupled with lots of screaming. Jensen unsuccessfully tried to grab one or make them stop by calling their names. Jared, meanwhile, simply stepped out of the group and directly into their path.
Jensen opened his mouth in horror, certain his sister’s kids were about to crash into this nice, hot almost-stranger and instead, they threw on the brakes so hard, he was surprised they didn’t leave skid marks on the grass. Mason bumped softly into Lulu’s back with a little ‘oof’ and they both looked at the wall of Jared in front of them in surprise.
“Hi, kids. Did I interrupt something?” And he said it with a smile and a wink, and they craned their necks up to his full height, and Mason actually tipped over onto his butt when he overbalanced.
“No, sir.” They answered in sync and Jensen’s mouth remained open long enough there was a danger of flies being caught.
“Now, now. Sir is pretty formal. Jared’s fine. Is this your dad?” He gestured at Jensen, who tried to answer, but was cut off my Lulu as she helped Mason to his feet.
“No. That’s our Uncle Jensen.”
“Well, maybe you couldn’t hear him because you were having your own ‘conversation’, but I think he was trying to get your attention just now. What do you think?”
They nodded. Jensen stared.
“And I think he was trying to get your attention to see if you wanted some ice cream.” Jared smiled kindly down at the two of them.
“What? Really? From where?” Mason looked at Jensen, and then at Jared and then around him at the park as he scrambled to his feet.
Jensen had the exact same thought, but then Jared pointed behind them all and said, “From that truck, I think.” At that exact moment, they all heard the tinny tune of an ice cream truck for the first time and Jensen turned slowly around to see it turn the corner towards the park.
“Uncle Jensen, Uncle Jensen! Please, please!” They bounced at his feet suddenly, eyes darting at the truck, voices on top of each other, and he reached into his pocket to get some money, handing them each a dollar and sending them running.
As their entire group, including the dogs, turned to watch them go up to the brightly colored truck, Jensen turned to Jared.
“Like that. In that exact way.”
Jared cocked his head a little, smile still lingering, and Jensen felt something warm and thrilling run through him. “So, Jared. I have a question for you...”
“Jensen. Dogs are not the same as kids. I’ve explained this to you.”
Jensen nodded, putting his sunglasses on as they walked back to the car . “Right, right. But Danni. He’s very...” He manfully contained most of his first observations of the hotness that was Jared in favor of focusing his argument with Danni. “...patient, and calm. And seems good with undisciplined little beasts, so that’s -”
“Now you are simultaneously insulting my dogs and your niece and nephew.” She smacked him on the arm, but Jensen didn’t really feel it.
The kids were trailing behind, happily finishing off their ice cream cones, so they were whispering. Jensen stuck his hand in his pocket, feeling his cellphone, newly loaded with the number of his brand new nanny. Er, manny. Well, of Jared. And the tall, dark and handsome answer to his problem.
Jensen was still sipping his second cup of coffee, fingers curled tight on it when the doorbell rang Monday morning.
When he pulled the door open, Jensen had kind of hoped he’d imagined how good looking Jared was. Truth was, Jared was more amazing than he remembered. He stood there in jeans and a t-shirt and a smile wide enough to wake the neighborhood in a good mood, and Jensen stammered for just a moment before waving him in. It was early, but the kids would be down shortly, and he wanted a chance to go over a few things with Jared first.
“Mornin’, Jensen. Good to see you again.” He put his hand out as he entered and Jensen shook it, relishing the warmth and strength he felt in that grip.
“You too, come in, Jared.” Jared followed him into the kitchen and Jensen offered him a cup of coffee before they sat down at the kitchen table. “So. I just wanted to go over some basic stuff, make sure you aren’t regretting saying yes to me in the park the other day. I’m pretty sure I had the stink of desperation all over me, and I’ll understand if...”
“No, no. Of course not. Seriously, man. I love kids. Been missing my nieces and nephews since I moved here, so this is pretty awesome. And y’know, grad school’s not cheap, so more income is cool.”
“Okay, great. Such a relief, you have no idea.” Jensen launched into the story of his sister’s job and about the kids, as much as he knew, which wasn’t a lot, unfortunately. And he explained that he worked from home, but spent most of the day in his office upstairs, which is why he needed someone there. And that he worked on Saturdays most weekends, so it was a six day commitment.
Jared explained his class schedule, which was all at night or online that summer, and pretty light. And they reviewed the one condition Jared had made, which was that he be able to do some of his dog training in Jensen’s backyard. He had a few regular clients, and he said it would take only a few hours, and the kids might actually like it. Since Jensen’s backyard was basically just sitting there waiting for someone to use it, it worked for him.
“This is really almost too easy. You’re sure?”
Jared grinned at him. “Totally sure. Now, where are the little rascals?”
As if on cue, the clomp of kid feet sounded on the stairs and they lit up when they saw Jared, clamoring to come talk to him. It boggled Jensen’s mind that these were the two surly kids he’d picked up at the airport only a few days ago. Part of him was a little hurt, unexpectedly. He nodded to himself, and went into the kitchen to get some breakfast together. The noisy trio followed him in, Mason asking where his big dogs were - ‘in the backyard waiting to see you guys’ - and Lulu asked if they could throw the dogs a frisbee in the yard ‘yeah of course, they love that’ and Jensen got out the bowls for cereal and sat down with his own and the newspaper. A few minutes later, the clatter of the bowls and spoons into the sink signaled he had gotten distracted reading and breakfast was over.
“Uncle Jensen, are you going to come out to the yard, too?” Mason looked back at Jared and then at Jensen, which made him think there might have been some prompting.
“No, I have to go upstairs and get to work, Mason. But you have fun, okay? And listen, before you both go, remember what we talked about last night. Jared is here to take care of you guys, and you are to listen to him, and be respectful. Okay?”
Mason’s shoulders slumped a little and he nodded. “Yes, sir.” Lulu echoed it and suddenly Jensen felt like a dick. He really didn’t know how to deal with kids. He smiled sheepishly at Jared, who smiled back, and shooed the kids in front of him out the back door. Soon enough he heard whooping and happy dog barking and Jensen sighed a little before heading up the stairs to work. He only hoped he could concentrate with all that...fun going on.
If Jensen’s life was a movie, this was where the montage would happen, scene after scene of happy Mason and Lulu during romps in the park, and hikes in the woods and baking cookies in the kitchen and getting covered in flour. There would be laughter and hugs and the kids riding bikes while Jared ran along behind shouting encouragement. Dogs chasing a ball and rolling around in the grass with a smiling Mason and a giggling Lulu.
And if he had not personally witnessed some of these events or been told about them in breathless detail over dinner or while watching TV at night, Jensen would have a hard time believing it all happened. But it did. All of it. A month already of summer bliss thanks to a man who had been a stranger and was now a good friend and nearly a father to two kids he shared no blood with. And Jensen had been working through almost all of it.
In that respect, Jensen’s life was definitely not a movie. Any self-respecting family movie would have had him enjoying all this fun, not tapping away at his computer in his office, writing about finance and investing for the Post. No one would watch that movie, he was quite sure.
Jensen watched Jared head towards the door on Saturday night to head home and found himself speaking before he could talk himself out of it. He’d been trying very hard to remember that Jared could be a friend, but he was an employee, too, and it wasn’t Jensen’s place to assume the connection went beyond the day when he was paid to be there.
“Jared, uh. Before you go, are you busy tonight?” It was out before Jensen could realize how much that sounded like he was asking Jared out. Mason and Lulu were busy - miraculously - putting the dishes into the dishwasher from dinner and wiping up the table because Jared asked them to. He was glad they didn’t hear his stammering.
Jared paused with his bag halfway over his shoulder, hesitating. He turned back to Jensen, something unreadable in his face. “You need me to sit with the kids?”
“What? Oh, I mean no. I - never mind, I’m sure you’ve got stuff to do. See you on Monday.” Jensen walked to the front door, trying not to acknowledge that he was an idiot who was going to actually miss the babysitter for the whopping one day between now and Jared's return.
Jared stood there, still holding his bag, and continued as if Jensen hadn’t rambled incoherently. “No, I’m not busy tonight.” He waited, radiating that warmth he always did.
“Oh, that’s good. I was just thinking you might want to hang out with us, watch some movies? Nothing too crazy exciting.” Jensen tried for nonchalant, and grown up. He was sort of failing, he thought, but Jared put his bag down with a smile.
“Sounds fun, I’ll make the popcorn.” He went by Jensen and back into the kitchen and within a few seconds, he heard cheers from the two little occupants in there, so he knew he’d made the right call. If it only made his pointless crush a little more crushing, well. That was his problem. He didn’t hit on straight guys, not ever.
Though he definitely thought about when he was feeling overly fond and the kids were sound asleep.
He’d watched Jared tuck Lulu and then Mason into the big bed in the guest room they shared. He sat on the edge, talking to them in a low, soft voice until Jensen realized he was actually telling them a bedtime story. Jensen’s heart kind of hurt at how kind he was, how careful with the hearts of these kids who had never really known a father. It made Jensen feel like a huge tool for not making more time for them, and he decided to try to do better. He had another month to do more than listen to them rave about Jared. He had a month to learn how to be their uncle.
Jensen slipped away and grabbed a few beers from the fridge and flipped the TV to ESPN. He heard Jared come down the stairs and held his breath. They had never spent more than a few minutes together without the kids there, and for some reason Jensen was crazy nervous. Which was dumb, because Jared was straight, and he was a nice guy.
He called over, casual as could be, and offered Jared a beer. And Jared took it, sinking down into the couch next to Jensen, but not really close. They listened to Sportscenter for a few minutes.
“You’re really good with those kids. Didn’t know you did bedtime, too.” Jensen grinned over at him and Jared matched it, shrugging.
“Done it before, so you know...I meant to tell you.” Jared cleared his throat. “If you ever have a date or something, I can watch them. You’ve probably put your whole life on hold this summer, right?”
Jensen snorted. “Wasn’t much to put on hold, honestly. But thanks.”
He could feel Jared’s further questions in the air, but he was not ready to answer them. He liked this little bubble they had going, and he’d already made himself out to be a bit of a loser. No need to confirm that he wasn’t dating anyone. He and Danni did hang out a lot on the weekends and he had Chris and Riley when he made time for them, but he didn’t honestly get out that much. When he wasn’t writing for the paper, he was writing his own stuff, and that was just for him.
"That's hard to believe. More beer?" Jared got to his feet as if he hadn't just confused Jensen and possibly complimented him.
They popped in a movie and watched it, and Jared took off for home afterwards and Jensen walked him to the door, and all he could think about was kissing him. Just walking Jared into the nearest wall and leaning into him and kissing him until he couldn't breathe.
Instead, he wished him good night, and jerked off in his bed, visions of wide shoulders and winking hazel eyes following him to sleep.
Jensen had developed a routine for Sundays. It involved everyone sleeping in and then letting the kids watch cartoons and play video games as long as they wanted. Eventually, they trooped down to the neighborhood pool and Jensen sat in the shade reading a book while they splashed around and exhausted themselves. He then drove them to the fast food place of their choice and they ate greasy burgers or fried chicken for dinner around the table on the back deck. Jensen had been really nervous about the kids having fun with him while Jared wasn't there, but it was turning out okay. Danni came over once when he panicked and the kids were so enamored with her dogs and chasing them around the yard that Jensen didn't have to come up with conversation.
After his revelation Saturday night, he decided he'd make more of an effort to engage with the kids. They still looked a bit askance at him when he was overly formal, and he was trying to loosen up.
The pool was busy, and Jensen went for his book, but then thought better of it. Mason and Lulu were in the shallow end no more than a few feet away. He got up and went to the edge, kneeling down to get their attention.
"Kids, wanna see something cool?" They looked a little dubious, but nodded. "Okay, stay right there. Don't move a muscle. Lulu, keep your brother near the stairs."
"Yes, Uncle Jensen."
He shook his head a little. He couldn't help that he worried. As he walked around to the deep end and out onto the springboard, he waved and they were both hanging on the edge of the pool, watching intently. Jensen had never even gotten in the pool before. With one, two, three bounces, he launched into the air, tucked his legs up and cannonballed right into the deep end. The splash was epic, he was sure. When he pushed off the bottom and broke the surface, Mason and Lulu were open-mouthed in amazement.
"You got us wet, Uncle Jensen! From all the way over there!" Mason was gesturing at the distance between them, and while Jensen had finally gotten Mason to talk to him with Jared's help at opening him up, he'd never heard that tone of awe and admiration before.
"Wanna see if I can do it even bigger?" He grinned, felt the sun on his face and the happy nods of his niece and nephew, so he pulled himself out of the water and went again.
The second one was the biggest cannonball ever according to Mason, which felt like a victory in and of itself.
After dinner that night, Jensen was sitting in his chair going over his column for Monday while Mason colored at the coffee table and Lulu read silently. It was quiet, and Jensen put his papers aside and took off his glasses. He went into the kitchen and pulled out his cell phone, dialing the long series of numbers that would hopefully reach his sister in Malaysia. A few minutes later, he had Skype set up and came back into the living room.
"Lulu, Mason. Got someone who wants to talk to you..." Jensen held up the iPad and Mack waved from the screen, a big grin on her face.
"Mommy!" Mason jumped to his feet, spilling crayons across the wood floors. Lulu put her book down and reached for the iPad, face lit with something so precious, Jensen felt a weird lump form in his throat abruptly. He needed to do this with them more. As often as possible. How could he even forget how much they had to miss her. Mack traveled for her job a lot, and they stayed with friends in their area. But never for this long. Never so far away.
"There's my little man! And where's my sweet girl?" Lulu took the iPad and Mason jumped on the couch, trying to hold it at the same time. Normally, Jensen would be worried about them breaking it, but there was no part of him that wanted to interrupt this scene. The kids were almost glowing, telling Mack all about their day, and then about the cannonballs and playing Marco Polo and he smiled at Mack's amazed questions as she tried to make sure they were talking about their uncle doing all these things.
He sat back down in his chair and listened, chiming in when asked, but mostly just enjoying it.
He had to guess that this is what it felt like to have a happy family.
Monday morning, Jensen came down to eat breakfast with Jared and the kids, and he left the newspaper folded up, and listened to their conversation. In ten minutes, he found out that Mason was obsessed with elephants. He rattled off types of elephants and where they live and what they eat and for a minute there, he forgot his nephew was barely seven. His passion and intelligence took Jensen by surprise.
Jared, after nearly wiping out his own cup of coffee with an exaggerated arm-as-trunk display and sending the kids into giggles, stood up and jerked his head towards the sink and Jensen stood and followed him.
At a whisper low enough that the kids couldn’t make it out, and just low enough to make every hair on Jensen’s neck go up, Jared said, “I know I’ve never taken ‘em further than the park, but do you think I could take the kids to the zoo today? They’ve got a baby elephant, and I know Mason will flip his lid.”
Jensen put on a very serious face, wheels already working. “Up to the National Zoo, huh? Gotta put the booster seat in your car for Mason, and keep up with them in a big crowd. I don’t know, Jared...”
Jared’s face fell far too quickly, so Jensen jumped to continue. “I think I better come with you guys just so they don’t outnumber you. Was gonna take today off anyway, so might as well.” He nodded, mouth serious and let his amusement show in his eyes when Jared’s mouth opened, surprise written across every inch of his face. And then happiness. So much happiness, Jensen was afraid it was going to make him blush.
Luckily, Jared turned around and announced to the kitchen at large: “Finish up, kiddos! Uncle Jensen’s taking us all to the zoo!”
The sudden acclaim for his brilliance and amazingness did make Jensen blush. The tight wrap of little kid arms around his knees nearly toppled him to the ground.