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Fic: Family Affairs 1/2

Now, thats what I call pushing a deadline. Phew.

Title: Family Affairs
Author: astri13
Genre: RPS AU
Characters/Pairings: Jared/Jensen, hints of Mike/Tom, Chris, Chad, Padalecki family
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 15.084
Summary: A misunderstanding leads to Jensen adopting the role of fiancé to the currently comatose Jeff Padalecki - Jensen`s unrequited crush. While Jeff`s family welcomes their newest "addition" with open arms, it`s Jeff`s brother Jared who really turns Jensen`s world upside-down.
Notes/Credits: written for abouttwoboys; movie: While you were sleeping
While it's not a scene-by-scene retelling of the movie, I kept some of the elements as well as the ending line which I just adore. Also, depiction of family members - which necessary for this story - is by no means intended to be anything other than dramatic license. :)
Many thanks for the wonderful beta go to spinfrog.
Disclaimer: Just borrowing. Not created for profit. No harm intended.

Family Affairs – Part 1

When the last chords of Jingle Bells signalled the exit of his latest customers, Jensen contemplated face-planting on the counter and not getting up again. Could his life suck any harder? At this point, all he wanted to do was go home, take a long, hot shower to wash the ever clinging burger smell off him - as much as that was possible at least - and crawl into his nice, comfy bed.

He opened one eye and carefully peeked at his watch. Oh joy, still another hour to go. Usually Jensen didn’t mind the graveyard shift so much, at least it meant less annoying customers to deal with who swarmed the counter in seemingly endless lines, wanting their greasy, overcooked burgers and wanting them now.

Then again the night was usually the time when the real weirdoes came out. Like that couple that had just wasted what felt like five billion hours of Jensen’s lifetime with an impromptu sex show they'd put on for him instead of goddamn ordering already.

Now in theory getting a bit of action, even if it was just of the looking-in-variety, which, if Jensen was honest, was about all he'd gotten lately, might not sound so bad, but when the participants – both of them - turned out looking like Danny DeVito? That's where Jensen drew the line. Nothing against Danny, but the man wasn’t exactly made for porn as far as Jensen was concerned.

He sighed. Flipping burgers in some joint was seriously not the life he’d envisioned for himself when he’d come to Chicago four years ago to study at the local art institute. Back then his head had been filled with dreams about living it up Bohemian style in some trendy loft, maybe opening his own gallery someday. Then his dad had fallen ill and the medical bills had started piling up. Jensen had been forced to quit school and take odd jobs to support the both of them.

And now, with working his usual double shifts and what spare time he had spent sleeping, Jensen barely even got around to painting anymore. Doodling on a napkin was usually the extent of his work these days. Not that the art world in general cried out for a Jensen Ackles original.

Lately, his greatest success had been the praise of a five year old for Jensen's rendition of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer on the inside of the little restaurant's window, as Eddy, owner of the aptly named “Eddy's Burgers”, had graciously allowed him to do this years Christmas decorations. Though Jensen suspected it had more to do with Jensen doing it for free than Eddy's appreciation for his talent.

If only he'd gotten Eddy to reconsider putting up the “singing” door-bell, Jensen would have thought it a fair trade. But no such luck, Eddy was big on the holidays, although not big enough to give his overworked employees some time off, mind you.

Speaking of overworked employees, just then Chris, Jensen's fellow slave and usual shift-mate in “Eddy's” walked back in from the kitchen area and Jensen put on his best wounded Bambi look, hoping to sway Chris to cover for him.

“Don’t even think about it.” Chris held up his hands defensively. Then he grinned. “Besides, aren’t you gonna wait around for the Prince?”

Jensen flipped him the bird. He should never have let Chris in on the silly fantasies Jensen harboured about the tall, dark-haired God who came in nearly everyday ordering a coffee, black, cream and sugar, to go. He had a heart shaped face, dominated by a pair of hazel eyes and his mouth curved into the most beautiful smile Jensen had ever seen. And, from what could be seen under the expensive designer suits, a killer body to boot.

One glorious time he had come in drenched from the rain and asked to use the restroom to freshen up. It had been a total, total coincidence that the door didn't lock properly and Jensen had happened to walk right by as the man had bent over, pants stretching tight over an equally tight ass. So there was that.

Lately Jensen had these very vivid dreams where he actually worked up the nerve to ask the mysterious stranger to model for him, for a nude portrait no less, which okay, might be a bit on the cheesy side of Titanic, but Jensen wouldn't mind fogging up a window with that guy.

In reality though, Jensen handed him his coffee, mumbled something incomprehensible and kept his eyes mostly glued on the counter. It was embarrassing, really. Even more so when Chris had noticed Jensen's starry-eyed behaviour and had begun referring to the guy as Jensen's “Prince Charming” or, lately, just “the Prince”. Dickwad. Nah, that wasn't totally true, Chris was actually a pretty nice guy and, other than Jensen's wacky neighbour Mike, pretty much the only friend Jensen had in Chicago.

Of course, he wouldn't actually say that to Chris. Guy had an ego the size of a small moon already. Probably would think Jensen was trying to get into his pants in his clumsy, socially retarded Jensen way. Then merciless teasing would follow. Or, worse yet, Chris would decide to take him up on his offer.

Not that Chris wasn't attractive, he had that whole laid-back country boy with bedroom eyes and a sexy drawl going for him – and why Jensen, who was a born and bred Texan himself, couldn't make this work, he'd never know - but Jensen treasured their friendship too much to risk it over some meaningless one-night-stand. And with Chris, there was no chance of anything else.

So he opened his mouth to give Chris a good verbal thrashing, when the sounds of Jingle Bells filled the air again, and Jensen's eyes wandered to the door. There he was, Prince Ch…, no scratch that. It was silly to call him that, even in his mind. Angrily, Jensen shook his head.

But boy oh boy, did the guy look good tonight. If that was at all possible, Jensen could have sworn he was getting even more beautiful as time went on. And with the way a few rebellious strands of wavy, brown hair had escaped the slicked back style and were thus hanging into the man's face, Jen could barely keep from reaching out and attempting to run his fingers through them.

“What can I get you?” Jensen tried for the polite cheerfulness that Eddy's employees were supposed to display, but ended up more in the neighbourhood of “squeaky teenage-girl with a crush”.

Out of the corner of his eyes he saw Chris pull a face. Chris had a point, of course. Not only did Jensen know perfectly well what the Pri…the guy wanted, but Jensen knew that Chris felt it was time Jensen went after what he wanted. Ask the guy out already or something. At least attempt some small talk.

Tall and dark meanwhile didn't appear to find it odd that Jensen apparently couldn't memorize a simple standing order. He was just that nice and a bit on the cutely befuddled side. Or rather, and that was the more depressing thought, he couldn't memorize Jensen.

“Coffee, black, lots of cream and sugar, to go, please.” With that, the guy buried his eyes in the paper he'd brought in with him.

“S..sure. One second.” Jensen stuttered and then mechanically went to complete the order.

Jensen looked over at Chris, who made “go, go, go” gestures with his hands. He cleared his throat. “Will that be all, Sir? Any…anything to…to eat perhaps?” He stuttered out.

“No, thank you. Just coffee,” the guy mumbled distractedly, obviously engrossed in his paper. Jensen could spot something about stocks rising, the Wall Street Journal probably. Guy looked like the epitome of a successful businessman. It kind of made Jensen wonder why he was getting his coffee in this dump.

He held out the paper cup, trying for a smile. “There you go, Sir. Have a nice day.”

“Thank you.” The guy took his coffee and flashed a dazzling smile at Jensen. “Merry Christmas.”

Jensen just stared at him, then looked back down at the coffee cup. “It is very hot.”

Chris' strangled groan was unmistakeable, and even Tall'nDark looked a bit weirded out. “Oh, okay. Thanks.” And within moments he had once more disappeared from Jensen's life.

This time Jensen did bang his head on the counter. And he did it again. And again. And again.

“It's very hot,” Chris mimicked. “Is that some shorthand for Merry Christmas to you too, how would you feel about finding my naked ass as a present under you tree? Dude. How did you ever manage to get laid? I mean, ever?”

“Oh, do shut up,” Jensen grumbled. He just couldn't deal with Chris' teasing right now. Not when Jensen had just made an epic fool of himself, thereby screwing up his probably one and only chance of hooking up with his dream guy. Jensen wouldn't be surprised if the guy never set foot into Eddy's again, out of fear of the obvious retards working there accidentally putting rat poison in his coffee instead of cream and sugar.

Jensen ripped off his silly elf hat and threw it on the polished surface in front of him, before rounding the counter. “I'm taking a break, need some air.”

Chris rolled his eyes. “Come on, it wasn't that bad. He probably won't even remember it next time he comes in.”

And wouldn't that be the real kicker, if Jensen didn't even manage to leave a lasting impression by acting like a complete tool. Not that that was how he wanted to be remembered, actually, but even that had to be better than being invisible. “Whatever,” he grumbled, striving for the door.

“Hey, it worked out for that chick in the dance movie with the watermelon,” Chris called after him.

Jensen ignored him and stepped outside. Once surrounded by the cool night air, he inhaled deeply. It was rather dark and the weak glow of a fading street lamp did little to alleviate that.

The sudden sounds of angry shouting caught his attention. He followed the noise to the street corner and hesitated. While this wasn't the worst neighbourhood, it was not the safest one either.

Just then he recognized one of the voices arguing.

“Take the wallet, okay. There is enough in it.”

Oh no, it was Prince Charming. And by the sounds of it he was currently being mugged.

“No wait, no…”

The voice went silent, followed by a heavy thudding sound. It got Jensen moving again. He ran around the corner and saw the crumbled form of one man lying on the street with another bend over him, about to deliver a viscious kick to the head.

With a courage he didn't even know he possessed, Jensen charged forward. “Stop that, leave him alone.”

And, miraculously, the mugger took off in the other direction. Jensen didn't feel inclined to chase after him. Instead, he rushed to the man on the ground, kneeling beside him. Gently, Jen lifted the other man's head, a choked cry emerging from his throat as his hand came away wet. Blood. The guy must have hit his head badly when he fell. But a quick, panicked check told Jensen he was still breathing.

“Wake up, please wake up,“ he babbled. He frantically tried to recall his first aid training from school, largely drawing a blank. Warm. It came to him that the injured person should be kept warm. So he shrugged out of his white uniform jacket and draped it over the guy.

“Oh my.”

Jensen looked up and saw Chris' shocked face. “Call 9-1-1, quick. He was mugged. I think he has a head injury or something. Go!”

For one moment, Chris seemed rooted in place, be fore he took off around the corner.

Gently slapping the guy's cheeks to rouse him, Jensen bit his lip. “Wake up, please wake up because…because I think I kinda love you.”

* * *

When Jensen found himself in front of the emergency room doors of St. Agnes hospital about two hours later, he didn't even know what he was doing there. He just needed to know that the guy – and now Jensen even had a real name to call him by: Jeffrey Padalecki - would be okay.
But so far apart from his mystery man's name, Jensen hadn't been able to find out much. Nurses came and went, but they pretty much ignored him and he hadn't seen a doctor yet.

As if conjured by Jen's will, the swinging doors opened and a stern-looking older woman in a white coat stepped out.

“Please, can you tell me about Mr.Padalecki? I've been waiting for an hour already and nobody—“

“Easy, easy, young man. First, can you tell me who you are?” The doctor interrupted him.

“My name is Jen…Jensen Ackles and I came in with Mr.Padalecki, you know, the mugging victim? I think he had a head injury and I want to know how he`s doing.”

The doc narrowed her eyes at him. “Are you family?”

“Well no, but I—“

“In that case, I'm afraid I can't discuss the patient's condition with you. I'm sorry.” The woman was now giving him impatient looks.

“Please, just tell me if he's alright,” Jensen pleaded.

The doctor's face didn't soften. In fact she looked about ready to end this conversation and head off.

Desperately, Jensen grabbed a hold of her arm. “Please.”

The woman's stare turned downright icy. “Let go of my arm at once.”

She nodded at someone behind Jensen, and with a sense of dread Jensen twisted his head around so he could see for himself. And groaned. Of course his shitty luck would have it that hospital security was standing by just then.

A big, burly man was now rapidly approaching them, and wisely Jensen let go of the doctor, backing away a few steps and holding up his hands to signal that he wasn't some psycho that needed to be gunned down by an overeager security guy.

“Any problems, Dr.Singer?” The uniformed man was eyeing Jensen suspiciously.

“This young man here insisted on being informed about a patient, even though he admitted to not being immediate family. In informed him about our policy regarding this manner which is when he grew hostile,” the doctor said primly.

“But I wanted to become his family,” Jensen argued desperately, in that moment not caring how silly that might make him sound.

Suddenly a young nurse joined them, holding up a watch. “Excuse me, but did you say your name was Jen?”

Jensen was a bit confused by the question, especially the use of his childhood nickname, but maybe she'd overheard him introducing himself earlier, with the way he had stuttered over his name. “Uh, yeah, Jensen actually, Jensen Ackles.”

To his utter surprise, the young nurse nodded and showed the watch she was carrying to both the doctor and the security guard. Jensen didn't know what to make of that, it just looked like a normal, if expensive, watch to him. Even more surprising was the fact that both the guard's and the doctor's faces cleared.

“Why didn't you say so before?” The doctor admonished him. “Mr.Padalecki is stable, but currently unresponsive and not waking up.”

“Uh…” Jensen was taken aback by the sudden flow of information. “Thank you. But what---“

A little beeping sound interrupted him and the doctor cursed. “My pager. I gotta go.” She turned to the nurse. “Lead Mr….uh…Ackles here to his fiancé as soon as he is settled in, would you?” Not waiting for a response, she was off.

The guard turned to Jensen. “I know this must be hard for you, but no grabbing doctors anymore, okay?

All Jensen could do was nod dumbly. He had absolutely no idea what had just happened, only that Jeffrey was okay and as per the doctor’s instructions, Jensen would be even allowed to see hi…Wait a minute. Had the woman said fiancé? What the hell was going on?

Jensen was about to demand an explanation, when the elevator doors a few feet on the right from him opened and a stampede broke into the floor. At least that's what it seemed like to Jensen. It must have been a dozen people – how they had even fit in the elevator all at once was a miracle to him – and they….were coming straight at him. Unconsciously he backed away a few steps, trying to flatten himself to the wall.

But he need not have bothered, because the group swamped the nurse instead. A middle-aged woman, seemingly the ring-leader of the little posse, spoke up with a firm voice. “I'm Sherri Padalecki, where is my son?”

She totally ignored Jensen's sharp intake of breath, focusing her hypnotic gaze on the nurse, like a snake would a rabbit. Of course, Jeffrey would have a loving family to rush to his bedside. Jensen should have figured as much. And he could see the resemblance to what he guessed were Jeffrey's mother and father. Additionally there seemed to be at least three generations present, from what Jensen could tell.

The nurse didn't appear to be fazed by the Padaleckis descending upon her. “Your son has been taken down to the ICU. I was just about to take his fiancé here,” she nodded towards Jensen, “to him, so you can join me. But I have to insist he only have one or two visitors at a time, even in his unresponsive condition, he needs his rest.”

Jensen wasn't sure the family had listened to a word beyond “his fiancé”, since all heads had turned towards him. He did his best to mould himself to the wall, but to no avail.

Once again the miracle watch came out to play – and Jensen really wanted to see the damn thing for himself already, what did it do, bewitch people? - with the nurse gushing how romantic it was, especially seeing as Jensen had saved his betrothed.

The mother – Sherri? – swivelled around to Jensen. “You saved my son's life?”

Jensen nodded hesitantly.

That sealed his fate. Because the next thing he knew, his face was pressed into the woman's ample bosom, while she tearfully cried. “Oh, you beautiful, beautiful boy.”

Run for cover, idiot. The sane, little voice in his head didn't get his limbs moving fast enough. Sherri, he might have been able to take, but once he found himself in the midst of a bear-hug from the whole Padalecki clan, it was too late.

He mouthed a silent help me to the nurse but the woman just grinned widely and gave him the thumbs up.

“This isn't…I'm not…” he tried.

“Finally we're meeting the infamous Jen,” A young girl, probably a sister, piped up from the general direction of Jensen's left elbow, where she had attached herself to him. “Jeff told us aaaaall about you.”

For some reason, Jensen seriously doubted the verity of that assessment, at least in relation to him. All this seemed like a very weird dream. If his arms weren't restrained by the octopus family, he would have pinched himself to make sure. “He did?”

“Well,” the girl conceded. “Only your name and that he wants to marry you.”

The crushing news that Jeffrey Padalecki, his great unrequited love, obviously planned on getting married soon, was kind of cancelled out by the irony that the intended was a woman (or guy) who shared Jensen's name.

Her mother gave a small, nervous laugh. “I have to admit you being…well you is a bit of a surprise though.”

Oh, Jensen was pretty damn sure it was. He cleared his throat to correct the obvious misunderstanding that was going on here, but Sherri must have misjudged his expression as having insulted or hurt him for she started urgently patting his cheek. “Oh no, dear. Please don't get me wrong. You are perfectly lovely. Those big eyes and the luscious lips. And those cheekbones, women would kill for those cheekbones, I tell you.”

Jensen wasn't so sure of that, as he could feel the cheekbones in question turn into what was probably a rather unflattering shade of tomato-red. In his defence though no girl – or guy for that matter – had ever talked to him like that, least of all a motherly looking woman in her mid-fourties. But it didn't stop there.

“Awww, honey. No need to be shy. I'm just telling you the god's honest truth,” Sherri cooed.

“Come on, sweetheart, leave off the poor boy. There'll still be ample time for that. Lets go check on Jeff first,” a tall, dark-haired man spoke up.

Even if the “sweetheart”-part hadn't made it fairly obvious that this was Sherri's husband, Jensen would have pegged him for Jeff's father. The family resemblance was uncanny.

Sherri looked chastened. “Of course, you're right.” She grabbed Jensen's arm. “Come on, dear, you can tell us more about yourself on the way.”

Jensen tried his best to not let himself be dragged off within the Padalecki swarm. “Yes, about that,” he started, “I'm not—“

“I know something about you,” the girl from earlier piped up again, cutting Jensen short.

He gulped. Whatever it was, it couldn't be good. Maybe mystery-Jen was a world-renowned violinist and any moment now they would drag him off to a concert hall. Or maybe they were a famous neuro-surgeon and the family would insist he and he alone operate on their beloved son. Jensen braced himself for the inevitable.

But the girl just waggled her eyebrows at him. “You're a bit cheeky. The inscription on the watch? Jeff read it to us over the phone, ´counting the days till the honeymoon, love Jen´?

Well, at least that solved the mystery of the magical watch. Jensen had figured the inscription mentioned him by name, or rather not him but the other guy or girl. Still, things had gotten too far. It was high time he set things straight. But as he opened his mouth to do just that, another voice sounded out.

“She is really lovely.”

Jen could see a tiny, old woman squinting at him through her glasses.

The silence that followed was a little awkward, then Sherri shook her head affectionately. “"Nana, she is a </i>he</i>,"

More squinting. “Are you sure?”

Sherri gave Jensen an apologizing shrug. “Of course, Nana, look at him.”

Yet again more squinting. Jen wasn't really sure if the old lady possibly might not need a stronger prescription for her glasses. The ones she was using didn't actually seem to do the trick.

“But she is so pretty.”

Nana sounded genuinely confused, and Jensen wanted to die.

* * *

Over the next two days, life as Jensen knew it ceased to exist. He was being absorbed into the Padalecki family, there was just no other word for it. And worst of all? He loved every minute of it, effectively silencing the little voice in his head that called him a fraud and promised him that this whole thing would blow up in his face.

Of course, that voice was just too easily silenced with rational arguments and nobility, because, as Jensen had learned, Nana, Jeff's grandmother suffered from heart problems and was to avoid major stress. With Jeff being in a coma right now, the revelation that Jensen wasn't really her grandson's fiancé but an impostor might prove too much for the old woman.

At least that's what Jensen kept telling himself, even though deep down he knew that the real reason he hadn't come forward yet had nothing to do with being rational or noble. It was all him and his loneliness, soaking up the affection offered by the Padaleckis like a sponge. He couldn't help it, they were just so loving and welcoming.

As an only child, whose mother had died in childbirth and whose father had succumbed to cancer two years ago, Jensen was new to the affectionate beehive that was the Padalecki household. Not to mention all the things he could learn about Jeff, at times Jensen truly felt as close to Jeff as everyone assumed he already was.

Also, admittedly, the family had been a bit shocked that Jen turned out to be a man, since Jeff was known for being quite the ladies` man. But then, he'd also been rather cryptic towards his family and promised a ´big surprise´ concerning his wedding. Now the Padaleckis thought the surprise in question was basically Jensen's dick.

Well, maybe except Nana who still didn't seem entirely convinced of Jensen's true gender. Not that it made her any less affectionate than the rest of the family. She had pinched Jensen's cheeks – and secretly his ass - with a surprisingly firm hand for an eighty-year old woman.

The shadow looming over the newfound happiness was Jeff being in a coma as a result of his injury. Though the doctors were confident he would wake up, they couldn't say exactly when that would happen. Of course, as soon as Jeff did wake up, all would be over for Jensen.

Today he'd been invited to Christmas dinner and, thinking of his empty little apartment with the sad-looking Christmas tree and the TV-dinner waiting for him, it hadn't been a difficult choice. And now he was sitting in a comfy armchair under the brightly decorated Christmas tree, sipping eggnog and just enjoying watching the excited chatter of the various Padaleckis unwrapping their presents.

Nana had given everybody the same wool scarf, Megan, Jeff's younger sister, received a pair of biker boots that, according to the girl, were just `to die for`. It was almost too much, like being caught in a Norman Rockwell painting or something.

Jensen was so entranced in the display that Megan's delighted squeal made him jump a little in his chair. The girl's attention was no longer on the boots, but the door where a dark-haired man had appeared.

“Jared!” she cried happily, before jumping into the newcomers arms, wrapping her legs around his waist. “You made it!”

The man looked at the young girl affectionately. “I promised, didn't I, shortbread? Hohoho.”

“Jareeeeed,” she whined. “Stop calling me that. Not my fault you and Jeff are giant freaks of nature. Emphasis on freak.”

“Is that any way to talk to your loving, older brother, who drove all the way from Pittsburgh to get here in time for Christmas dinner?”

Ah, so that was Jeff's brother Jared, the one Padalecki Jensen had yet to meet, though Sherri had told Jensen about him. Apparently, he was working with his father Jerri, and honestly the Jerri-Sherri-thing never failed to crack Jensen up, in the family business. Said business being funeral services had initially weirded Jensen out a bit, especially as the Padaleckis were such a cheery, lively bunch.

Jensen always kind of pictured solemn, little guys with glasses, who spoke very quietly when they asked you what kind of coffin you'd prefer. A big booming man like Jerri seemed almost incongruous in that role. And from what Jensen could discern the same went for his son.

But hey, seeing as the Padaleckis lived in what Jensen would call moderate wealth, he figured Jerri was doing alright for himself. Besides, someone had to do the job. Of course, as Jensen had learned, Jeff had shunned the family business in favour of becoming a lawyer, which, as far as Jensen could tell, was a bit of a touchy subject with Jerri.

“Pah, you probably were only after Mom's cooking, Ms.Piggy,” Megan countered.

“That's Mister Piggy to you, brat.” With a last squeeze, Jared released his sister and turned towards his parents. “Mom, Dad, Hi.”

Jensen rose from his chair and stood awkwardly, awaiting and dreading the introduction. Maybe Jeff hadn't told his parents or little sister anything about his fiancé, but instead confided in his brother. From the way Sherry had talked about them, it hadn't looked as if they were particularly close or wrapped up in each other's lives, but one could never know.

After greetings and hugs had been exchanged with everybody else, Jared finally turned his questioning gaze towards the one person in the room he didn't recognize, Jensen.

Jensen could see the similarities between the brothers right away, but where Prince Charming or, rather, Jeff seemed to prefer Armani suits, Jared was clad in Jeans and Flannel. And where Jeff had shown Jensen a friendly smile, Jared's wide, boyish grin seemed to encompass the whole world. At least it did until Sherri introduced them.

"This is Jensen, honey, Jeff's fiancé."

Jared's head swivelled to his mom, then back to Jensen, mouth hanging open in shock. "What? No, he's not."

Run, idiot, run. Oh great, the little voice of sanity was back. And just about oh, two days, five hours and seventeen minutes too late to get him out of this mess, because clearly that was it, the jig was up.

Any second now Jared would announce to all and sundry that Jensen was nothing but an impostor who conned nice, unsuspecting families like the Padaleckis into believing he was engaged to their currently comatose sons. And then Jensen would be run out of the house in shame. Maybe there would even be pitchforks. He braced himself for the inevitable.

"Jeff is into girls, Mom, you know that. Heck, half the female population on earth knows that and can attest to it."


Sherri Padalecki smiled that sweet, indulgent smile that Jensen had been so taken with. "Oh honey, that was obviously just a phase. He probably was all…" she gestured with her hands, "…confused. Remember, you went through the same thing before your coming out."

Jared gaped at his mother. "I had one girlfriend in high school. One. And back then I was a horny teenager, I would have fuck--"

Quickly, Sherri covered his mouth, making disapproving clucking noises. "Jared Tristan Padalecki, you watch your language, young man. What is our guest supposed to think of you?"

She nodded at Jensen, as if his virtue had just been about to be terribly insulted, and for some reason Jensen felt compelled to disarm the situation. "It's fine. I guess we were all horny teenagers once." He gave a nervous laugh that sounded fake to his own ears.

Yet once more Sherri rewarded him with a bright smile. She turned back to her son, practically gushing. "See, Jensen is such a darling."

By the look on Jared's face, it was pretty obvious he didn't quite share his mother's enthusiasm about Jensen. But, when he spoke, his tone was friendly enough. "Jen, I can call you Jen, can I?" Of course, he didn't actually wait for Jensen to answer in the affirmative before he continued, "Great. So Jen, how long have you known my brother?"

"About three months." The more times he told them, the easier those lies came, Jensen found.

Jared whistled. "And already engaged. You move fast." He flashed Jensen a wolfish grin. "You're not pregnant or anything, are you?"

Before Jensen could reply to the taunt of this obvious asshole - and how was it possible a guy like that had been born into such a nice family like the Padaleckis? - Sherri had already scolded her son with a stern-sounding "Jared."

"Oh come on, Mom, It was just a joke. I mean, he is practically family, isn't he?"

For some reason, those words hurt even more coming from Jared. Maybe that was because Jared clearly didn't mean them. Whenever another member of the family did or said something to include Jensen in their midst, it never radiated anything but utmost sincerity.

It had allowed Jensen to lose himself in the fantasy that once Jeffrey Padalecki woke up from his coma, Jensen really would marry him and his whole too-damn-good-to-be-true-family.

Now Jared turned to Jensen. “No hard feelings, right?”

He smiled again. And okay, maybe Jared wasn't a complete asshole.

“No…no hard feelings,” Jen stuttered. Damn those Padalecki men and their killer smiles. It was a sure fire recipe for the appearance of Jensen, the bumbling geek.

“Great.” Jared looked longingly towards the kitchen. “So, dinner?”

Sherri smiled. “In a minute, honey. There is still some unwrapping to be done.”

“Aw mom, I can wait for my present till after I've had something to eat. I'm starving.”

Jared rubbed his stomach, adopting a poor, dejected puppy look. Jensen was just trying his best not to be charmed by it. Jeff, he reminded himself, he liked Jeff.

“Not you, honey, Jensen. He hasn't gotten his present yet.”

“Wha…me?” Jensen couldn't believe his ears. Sure, he had gotten something from Chris and Mike, a box of condoms and horrid tie to be exact but actual presents for Christmas had died pretty much along with his dad.

“Sure sweetie, you don't think we would forget you?”

Sherri even looked a bit offended at that and Jensen felt himself choking up. “No, no, I just…I didn't expect…I mean it was such a short notice…” He stopped his babbling, shrugging helplessly.

“Well Jenny-boy, the one thing you need to learn about our family…” Jared slapped Jensen's shoulder jovially, nearly knocking Jensen to the ground in the process - freak - , “…is that we never do anything small. Well, except for Megan.” He laughed at his own joke, even more so when his little sister stuck out her tongue at him.

Jensen took a deep breath, trying to ignore the 'Jenny-boy' part and allowed himself to be led back to the Christmas tree by Sherri, where indeed a huge, neatly wrapped package Jensen didn't remember seeing before had materialized.

And indeed, the tag on it proclaimed it to be “for Jensen”. Almost reverently, he reached out to touch the shiny wrapping paper. Definitely not a tie or a box of condoms. Unless it was the largest one Jensen had ever seen.

“Come on, open it.” Megan jumped a bit in excitement, beaming at Jensen.

He started to unwrap the covering and gasped when his eyes fell onto an expensive looking easel along with an assortment of various brushes and other art utensils. It was beautiful and perfect, and it made Jensen feel like scum. He had only mentioned his art to Sherri in terms of being a hobby, because he'd felt a bit ashamed of his 'day-job'.

The fact that the Padaleckis had gone out and bought him a present at all, when they'd just met him two days ago, let alone something like this, it was just too damn much. “Thank you but I…I can't accept this.”

“Nonsense,” Jerri spoke up. “You saved our son's life. And even though he hasn't bothered to introduce you to the family before asking you to marry him, you're no less one of us now.”

Oh God. Please stop being so wonderful. Jensen silently begged every deity he'd ever heard of. He turned to Jared, hopeful that the guy would say something asshattish, just to remind Jensen he wasn't the one lone jerk left in the world.

But Jared regarded Jensen solemnly, with something akin to gratitude? Awe? “You saved Jeff's life?”

“He threw himself at a dangerous criminal to protect your brother,” Sherri started to explain. “Without regards to his own life.”

Jensen was half-afraid the woman would throw herself at him again to give him one of her patented motherly hugs. While the whole Padalecki family seemed to wear their emotions on their sleeves, Sherri was a class of her own, and over the last two days Jensen had been ambushed numerous times by a grateful momma-bear.

Back in the hospital, when they'd first met, she'd barely let go of him at all. On one hand, he revelled in it, on the other, the easy physical affection with which the whole family expressed themselves was so completely new to him, he couldn't help but be a bit intimated by it.

As it turned out, Jensen had been worried about the wrong family member since the attack came from a completely different front, as he found himself enveloped by all of six feet and around four inches, going by Jensen's estimation, of Jared Padalecki. “Thank you, man.”

Jared's voice trembled a bit, and Jensen patted his back awkwardly. Judging by the hard muscles he could feel everywhere, Jensen figured Jared had to work out regularly. And damn, where had that come from? Hastily Jensen moved to disentangle himself from Jared, avoiding eye contact.

For his part Jared seemed unfazed. He glanced back at the present. “You're an artist then?”

“Well, I…um…I dabble. I'm not very good,” Jensen deflected.

“This is so not true,” Megan piped up. She turned to her brother. “Jensen drew a portrait of me and it's awesome. It's in my room. I'm gonna get it.” And off she was.

Jensen ducked his head. “It was nothing really, just a little doodle.” And really, it wasn't. As soon as Megan had learned about his hobby, she'd started badgering him to do a painting of her so Jensen had obliged her with a quick pencil sketch at least.

To Jensen's delight Megan had loved it and Jerri had wanted to frame it right away. But he didn't kid himself into thinking that wasn't just another expression of their gratitude. Jensen could have probably done a stick figure drawing and everybody would have loved it.

He turned to Sherri and Jerri. “This is a wonderful present. But it's too expensive and—“

“Jensen Ross Ackles.” - Damn, Jensen knew he shouldn't have given Sherri his middle name, that was the secret weapons of parents everywhere. - “I know you didn't mean to insult us, therefore I will not have heard what you just said. You are family now and this is your Christmas present from the family.”

Sherri gave him a stern look that told Jensen the discussion was over. He clutched the easel to him. “Thank you. It's beautiful.”

And just like that she was all smiles again. “You're very welcome, dear.”

Jared gave Jensen a small smile and a shrug that seemed to say what can you do?

Just then, like the little whirlwind she was, Megan came bouncing into the room again, waving a piece of paper around. When she reached them, she thrust it out to Jared.

Jared grabbed the drawing and whistled. He looked up at Jensen. “Wow, you're really good. Didn't think it possible, but you made shortbread look like a real lady.”

Punching her brother in the shoulder, Megan snatched her prized possession back. “You're an idiot, Jared. Maybe Jensen should draw a nude of you and show all the world you have a really tiny dick.”

Jensen couldn't quite suppress a snigger - earning him a serious frown from Jared. Sherri stepped forward and belatedly slapped a hand over her daughter's mouth. “Children, really. What is your future brother-in-law supposed to think of you?” She shot an apologetic look at Jensen.

“That his sister-in-law is a real brat, perhaps?” Jared offered, grinning. Then he turned to Jensen, face becoming mock serious. “But you absolutely shouldn't get the wrong impression about me. Nothing tiny there.” He gestured to his body.

“I…um…I believe you.” Jensen felt a bit uncomfortable because of the devilish sparkle in Jared's eyes.

Jared grinned. “Hm, I don't know. You don't seem convinced, which, I have to admit, really hurts my ego.” He struck a dejected pose, then brightened. “Maybe you need proof?” He grabbed for his belt buckle.

“Pr..proof?” Jensen took a step backwards and threw a nervous glance at Sherri. Surely the guy wouldn't just…whip it out in front of his mom, sister and heartsick grandmother? And if he did, Jensen wouldn't be in the slightest bit curious to see. Not at all.

“Yeah, maybe Meg wasn't so far off. Maybe you should do a nude portrait of me and see for yourself,” Jared explained before he busted out laughing. “Dude, you should have seen your face just now. You really thought I was gonna drop my pants in the family living room?”

Jerk. Jensen didn't say it out-loud but it was probably easy enough to read on his face.

Now Jared's expression turned serious as well before giving way to an uncertain smile. “It was just a joke, man. Nothing personal. I'm that way with everybody.”

He seemed a bit upset at the though that his joke hadn't been received in good fun, and despite himself Jensen felt his face soften in response.

“This is true,” Megan now spoke up in defence of her brother as well, “Jared is a total clown.”

Jensen could have sworn that Jared's eyes widened for a moment in something akin to fear, but it was gone so quickly he didn't know if it had just been his imagination. And the rest of the family didn't seem to notice anyway. Besides, as soon as Sherri announced it was time to sit down for dinner, Jared was all smiles again, giving a little fist-pump.

Sherri shook her head in exasperated affection as Jerry helped Nana up from her comfy chair, and soon the family plus Jensen were digging into Sherri's delicious cooking.

Despite Jensen's worries, dinner turned out to be a rather enjoyable affair. There were a few uncomfortable moments, when he had to try to deflect Jared's questions about Jeff – and really, the only thing Jensen could say with utter confidence was how Jeff liked his coffee – but mostly, the intent behind the inquiries seemed harmless enough. Apparently Jensen, heroic life saver, had managed to buy himself some credit with Jared.

After dinner, the doorbell rang and Megan went to see who it was. She returned with a young guy with shortish blond hair who went by the name of Chad Murray and, as it turned out to be, was an acquaintance of Jeff's, wanting to express his best wishes to the family.

Jensen thought it was pretty sweet that the guy went all the way here to do it in person instead of sending a card or picking up the phone. Of course, that was before dear old Chad realized that Jensen was Jeff's `fiancé´ and excused them both, dragging a befuddled Jensen into the kitchen.

What now? Jensen was exhausted and just wanted to get it over with.

“So, fiancé, huh? Chad started.

Jensen nodded.

“Never figured him for the type,” Chad muttered almost to himself. He looked up. “Guess that's what they call overcompensating, right?”

Jensen just shrugged. “Was there something you wanted to talk about?”

“Yeah well, I guess you and Jeff are really close then. I mean he talks to you about stuff, right?”

“Stuff?” Jensen raised an eyebrow.

“Come on, cut the crap. I want to know if Jeff was willing to settle.”

Jensen tried his best to follow the conversation. Was the guy talking about Jeff possibly settling down? Probably best to wing it. “Settle? It's…I don't know, it's kind of a big thing.” There, that sounded good, didn't it?

Chad narrowed his eyes. “Come on, it was just a little joke, alright? And he totally would have been in on it if the shoe had been on the other foot. After all, that was the bet, the one who goes first, gets it.”

Ah, a prank then. Armed with this new information, Jensen felt a little less lost armed. He felt that as Jeff's 'fiancé' he should probably show some stern condemnation over the fact that Jeff had been pranked. “Well, it was a bit…um…harsh.”

“But it's not even permanent. Not nowadays anyway. You can get that shit removed and it's totally painless,” Chad whined, wringing his hands dramatically.

Since he had no idea what the prank had entailed, Jensen opted for being non-committal. “Uh-uh.”

Apparently that was the wrong tac, because Chad frowned. “What's that supposed to mean? It's a little tattoo. People have them removed all the time. And it's not like we had it done where anybody can see. Apart from him, us three guys, Rob the tattoo artist, and as the person fucking him I'm guessing you. Nobody will ever have to know that Jeffrey Padalecki ever had a tattoo of Snow White on his ass. No need to sue anybody over that.”

Jensen would never have believed it possible but that was seriously more information on Jeff's ass than he ever had wanted to know. Also, while he had heard stories of people dragging their drunk buddies into tattoo parlours to get a nice mermaid or a heart with the inscription 'mother' or something, he had yet to hear about Disney characters being a popular choice.

Chad was looking at him expectantly now and Jensen sighed. “I don't know about Jeff's plans on the matter. You'll have to ask him yourself when he wakes up.”

“But you can talk to him, right? Put in a good word for us?”

The guy had in a slightly dejected puppy look now and Jensen felt kind of bad for him. “Yeah sure, will do.” Of course, it wasn’t as if Jensen's word would have much sway in anything once Jeff woke up. But Chad brightened considerably. “Cool man. You know, of all Jeff's girlfriends, you're the coolest so far.”

Tilting his head sideways, Jensen was trying to see if he'd been made fun of, but Chad seemed genuine – and genuinely clueless that his words could be taken as an insult. Well, wasn't any worse than Nana’s gender-confusion as far as Jensen was concerned. “Thanks, I guess.”

The kitchen door swung open and Jared's head poked in. “Everything alright in here?

Chad plastered a big, fake smile onto his face. “Yeah, totally. Listen, I gotta go now. Nice meeting you.” He nodded at Jensen before he left the kitchen, bypassing Jared.

Jensen was about to follow him back to the living room, but Jared blocked his way. He looked a bit sheepish. "Listen, I felt like maybe we got off on the wrong foot there earlier. I didn't mean to put you on the spot or anything, so if I did, I'm sorry.”

“It's okay," Jensen offered, oddly touched by the other man's words. It seemed sweet of Jared to apologize, considering that, apart from a few bad jokes, nothing really bad had happened between them. And after all, god knew Jensen could be grumpy on a good day, and for obvious reasons he'd been tense as a bow since this whole mess had started.

Jared bit his lip. “This is gonna sound dumb, but as kids, Jeff and I were really close, and lately we hardly see each other. I thought that maybe my…orientation freaked him out. So seeing you was a bit of a shock. But now…well, I would like us to be closer again, and I figure if you and me didn't get along…” he trailed off.

“Oh.” Jensen couldn't help but feel a bit disappointed at Jared's admission. Of course, it was a perfectly legit reason for Jared to want to have a good relationship with his brother and therefore his brother's future husband. Or rather fake future husband. Jensen had just hoped it would have more to do with himself.

Apparently, Jared had caught the implication of his words. “Not that I wouldn't want us to be on good terms either way. You seem really cool, man. In fact, going by Jeff's usual, um, acquaintances, you're…”

“The nicest girlfriend he ever had?” Jensen deadpanned.

Jared laughed. “Something like that.” He grinned. “And the prettiest by far.”

Jensen laughed nervously, but the intensity in Jared's eyes made him a bit uncomfortable. He wasn't sure Jared had been completely joking when he'd said that. Which could lead to all kinds of complications under the best of scenarios. How did this old Chinese curse go? May you live in interesting times? Looking into Jared's hazel eyes, Jensen decided that the Chinese had no idea.

* * *

Part 2


( 5 have dazzled me — Dazzle me )
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 1st, 2008 06:43 pm (UTC)
Squee. Thank you so much. I`m happy you liked it so far and hope the second part won`t disappoint. :)
Mar. 2nd, 2008 10:17 pm (UTC)
I loved this movie so I am really enjoying it in J2 version. Strange to see Chad as a friend of Jeff instead of Jared but great story so far & off to read part 2
Mar. 2nd, 2008 10:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you muchly. I`m glad you liked my little take on the movie. The Chad-role in the movie was more of a peripheral character but I thought it fitted him for a little cameo. :)
Mar. 3rd, 2008 10:01 am (UTC)
OMG Thanks for this wonderful fic! *Is of to read the second part*
Mar. 3rd, 2008 10:17 pm (UTC)
My pleasure. I`m just glad you liked it. Thanks muchly.
( 5 have dazzled me — Dazzle me )