After three days of rain pouring down in sheets, Jared was getting antsy.
He would have gone for a run even if it meant being soaked after three seconds outside, but he woke up this morning with a stuffy nose and a bout of coughing.
Jared hated being sick. As an accountant, he was sitting behind a desk all day and needed to make up for it by running, as a human and a wolf, and hitting the makeshift gym in the basement as often as possible. When he was still working in the city, he used to run thirty minutes to his office and back home after work. Now though, since he shared an office on his parent's ranch with his sister, his trip to work amounted to less than one hundred steps.
With the nasty weather and his cold, he was housebound and didn't even feel like lifting weights.
Sniffling, he took the kettle off the burner and poured the hot water into the mug with the chamomile tea bag. After blowing his nose, he took a package of chocolate chip cookies for a little snack, then grabbed the tea mug, almost burning his fingers doing so, and headed back to his office on the east side of the house. He had to work for another hour, looking over the orders his father wanted to make, then he could maybe have an extended lunch break.
The perks of being your own boss and working for your dad.
When he was crossing the hall, the doorbell rang, so he turned towards the door.
“I got it,” he yelled.
Putting the mug and cookies on the slender console desk next to the entrance, Jared opened the door.
The man in front of him was soaking wet, wearing only a thin jacket and clutching a small backpack against his chest. He was pale, his hazel-green eyes and freckles standing out against his almost milky skin.
“Jared Padalecki?” he asked in a small voice.
“Yes.” Jared nodded. “Can I help you?”
“Could you get him? Please?”
“No, it's me. I'm Jared Padalecki.”
The man's green eyes grew impossibly wide. “You're not,” he said.
“Yes, I am.” Jared opened the door wider. “You know what? Come on in and out of the rain, then we can talk.”
Taking a couple of shuffling steps, the young man moved inside, still keeping his backpack as a shield between himself and Jared. He was shivering, soaked to the skin.
Jared closed the door and smiled at the stranger, who definitely was easy on the eyes, though a bit the worse for wear.
“I'm Jared Padalecki,” he repeated. “How can I help you?”
“No.” The stranger shook his head. “No, you're not.”
Still shaking his head, he took a step back. The bag in his hands started to quiver, then dropped to the floor when his arms went limp. A second later, the guy's eyes rolled into his head and Jared had his arms full of an unconscious stranger before he knew it.
What the fuck?
“Mom!” he yelled. “Dad!”
The guy was not heavy, not for a man of his size – only a few inches shorter than Jared. Up close, Jared could see long lashes and freckles over the bridge of the guy's nose, but also dark smudges under his eyes.
“What's up, Jared?” His mom entered the hall. “What did you do now?”
“Mom, why do you always assume it's my fault?”
“Because it usually is, honey.”
Jared sighed. “Mom, I'm not a teenage brat anymore.”
“Doesn't matter.” She stopped in front of him and, nodding at the unconscious stranger, continued, “Who's this?”
“I don't know. He asked for me and then passed out.”
“Do you know him?”
“No, never met him before.”
“All right, take him to the living room.”
Jared followed his mother, who was carrying the backpack. She had to pick a few dolls and toys up from the couch so Jared could gingerly lay the man on it.
“Go get your dad,” his mother said. “He's in the workshop.”
Blowing his nose, Jared went downstairs to the basement.
The workshop was between the garage and the fitness room, next to the rear exit and the mudroom. It was fully equipped in order to keep the cabins and their interiors in good repair, but since his father was not quite the handyman Jared's grandfather had been, Arthur had to rely on help from craftspeople from the town in everything that exceeded woodwork.
“Hey, Dad,” Jared said on entering.
“Hey,” Arthur said, looking up from the board he was smoothing.
“We need you, Dad. There's an emergency. Kinda.”
Sighing, Arthur put down the plank. “Did your brother pass out drunk in a ditch? Again?”
“No, it's not about Joel. Come, please.”
Arthur washed his hands at the sink in the corner, and on their way upstairs, Jared told his dad about the unconscious stranger on their couch. Entering the living room, he was taken aback by said stranger sitting up and looking at him with green eyes, pale-faced but beautiful.
His mother was sitting next to him and holding his hand, her face unreadable.
“Mom?” Jared asked.
“Andi? What's the matter?” His father was obviously confused, maybe more than Jared.
“Jensen, this is my husband, Arthur, and my oldest son, Jared,” she said. “Guys, this is Jensen.”
“Honey, I'll be right back with a nice cup of tea and some food, all right?” she said to the guy. He nodded his head the tiniest bit.
“Come and help me in the kitchen, guys,” she said to Jared and Arthur in a strained voice.
Jared noticed her rigid posture, her tense shoulders, and her back indicating his mom was mad.
They followed her to the kitchen where she closed the sliding door after them, then turned towards Jared with her arms crossed.
“Do you know him?” she asked, inclining her head towards the door and the living room.
“This Jensen guy?” Jared replied. “No, never met him.”
“He says he knows you.”
Andi drew a deep breath. “He says he knows you because Jared Padalecki knocked him up.”
Arthur gasped. Jared stared open-mouthed at his mother.
“But I'm-,” he finally began, “you know I- He's lying.” Anger was bubbling in his gut
s. “He's lying.”
“I know, dear,” his mother sighed.
“It won't get him anywhere, I won't pay a single cent!”
If the little bastard pretending to be pregnant with Jared's child thought he could get money out of him, he could kiss that notion goodbye!
“I don't think it's about money, dear,” Andi said, trying to soothe her son with a hand on his arm.
“It's not?” Jared said. He sniffed.
“It's not?” his dad parroted.
“No, it's about someone claiming to be you and knocking people up.”
That took him down a notch. Searching his pants pockets for another tissue, he thought about his mother's words.
“You sure?” Arthur asked.
“Yeah,” Andi replied, “I didn't get the vibe he was after money. On the contrary, he looks quite miserable.”
“And you're sure he is pregnant?” Jared inquired.
“Don't you smell it?”
Pointing to his face with a tissue in his hand, Jared replied, “You know I can't,” and blew his nose.
“He's definitely pregnant,” Andi said. “And now, I'll make some tea and sandwiches for the boy. Art, I want you to help me. Jared, you go talk to him. Try to get the whole story, I only know bits and pieces.”
Jared hesitated. He didn't want to talk to the guy. He wanted him to be gone, to never think of him again.
His father gave him a slight push. “Just go, son.”
Sighing, Jared left his parents in the kitchen and went next door.
The young guy was hunched in a corner of the couch, trying to take up as little space as possible by hugging his legs. He was still soaking wet and big-eyed, looking miserable, not a bit like the grifter Jared thought him to be.
His mom might have been right.
Sitting down on the coffee table and facing the stranger, Jared forced himself to adopt a relaxed posture, leaning his elbows on his knees and hunching over.
Subtly Jensen sniffed the air, taking in the scent of the alpha standing before him. His eyes widened in surprise when he was hit with the overwhelming scent of a distressed alpha and something more that he couldn’t put his finger on. The scent was familiar, but not, which confused him. He eyed the tall alpha sitting across from him trying to make sense of things. This alpha wasn’t the one he’d slept with, but his scent was familiar. Were his hormones playing tricks on him? That was the only thing he could come up with. The alpha, Jared, as he claimed himself to be, was clearly not the alpha that got him in this tight spot, and this Jared was looking at him like he was something that had slunk in from the gutter.
He was silent for a moment.
“So you're Jensen,” the alpha started. Jensen nodded imperceptibly. “I'm Jared and I know I'm not the Jared Padalecki you expected. Tell me the story, please?”
There was a break, then Jensen drew a breath, focusing his gaze on his socked toes.
“Yeah, well, I think I'll need to tell it sometime anyway. I'm living in California with my dad. I worked as a room boy in a hotel, where I met... this Jared guy. He was charming and lovely, and... things happened.”
His eyes skittered over Jared's face like scared birds, never quite meeting Jared’s. “We used protection, I swear. I'm not stupid. But the condom broke. He assured me that he was infertile, so I thought little of it.”
“But you're an Omega?”
“I am, but I'm not supposed to be fertile either. The doctors said chances were next to nothing.” Jensen laughed, bitter and haunted. “Looks like I won the fucking lottery.”
“Fuck,” Jared breathed.
“Exactly.” The smallest trace of a sad smile pulled the corners of Jensen's mouth, and Jared felt the sudden urge to wrap him up in his arms. He coughed to smother the feeling.
“And why did you come here?” he asked.
“Uh, well, I wanted to talk to Jared. He told me a bit about his family, just a few stories. Though I think he just lied to me about anything.”
“And then?” Jared continued. “After talking to... Jared, what did you want from him?”
“I- don't know. I never thought farther than coming here.”
The way, though, Jensen avoided looking at Jared made him think Jensen knew quite exactly what he wanted to ask from Jared, but Jared was pretty sure he wouldn't like it.
“All right.” Jared slapped the palms of his hands on his knees. Jensen flinched. “You still look like a drowned rat. You want to eat something first or rather a hot shower and change into some dry clothes?”
Now Jensen looked at him, pensive and wary. After a beat, he said in a small voice, “I'd like a shower, please. Thank you.”
“Okay. We need to go upstairs.”
Sitting on the top stair and waiting for Jensen to leave the bathroom, Jared felt quite miserable.
His head seemed to be stuffed with cotton, his throat was sore, and he had to blow his nose every other minute.
He thought about the chamomile tea he forgot in the hall next to the door and the work he didn't do this morning. And with the urgency to settle the Jensen matter, there was little hope to get more work done today.
He couldn't smell Jensen, but he believed his mother that Jensen was indeed with child. He wondered who the other father was. Someone who knew Jared? Who Jared knew? Why would somebody pretend to be him? Sure, some bastards lied through their teeth to get in other people's pants, though they pretended to be millionaires or movie stars, not accountants.
Hearing the bathroom door open, Jared turned.
Jensen was wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt, the pants were too long and pooling at his feet, the t-shirt threadbare. Jared had agreed to lend him some clothes since Jensen didn't have any other things to wear than the sodden ones. His short hair was still damp, his skin less sickly pale, though, a bit rosier.
Jensen was shielding himself with his backpack in front of his chest, and Jared wondered why he was glued to the old, ugly thing.
“Feeling better?” Jared asked.
“Great! Now let's get some food into you.”
They went downstairs. Crossing the hall, Jared didn't see his cup of tea and the cookies on the console table, so he assumed his mother took them.
In the dining room, his father was setting the table.
“Ah, you're looking better, Jensen,” he said, smiling. “Please sit down, we'll have an early lunch.”
Jensen's stomach rumbled.
Jared snorted, but Jensen ducked his head in embarrassment.
Andi entered the room, carrying a platter piled high with sandwiches. “Art, go get the stockpot from the stove,” she said, putting the food on the table. “Jensen, we have two rules at the table. Sit straight and don't leave hungry. So please, eat your fill.”
Jensen, still squeezing his backpack against himself, even sitting in his chair, replied, “Thank you,” in a small voice.
Jared thought shy Jensen was too adorable, but then his dad opened the pot’s lid, and there was the most delicious smell penetrating his stuffy nose and replacing any other thought.
“Ah, chicken noodle soup,” he said, unaware of the beatific smile on his face.
“Everything for my poor, sick baby,” his mother said, ruffling his hair.
“Mom!” Jared squawked, trying to tame his unruly brown locks.
“Fortunately, I already started cooking this morning, so I only had to heat it.” Andi ladled soup into Jensen's bowl, but he didn't put his backpack down until the others had started eating.
While Jared had two bowls of soup filled to the brim and two sandwiches, Jensen had half a bowl and one sandwich. It was actually more nibbling than eating, and Jared thought he could take care of him and feed him up if Jensen was staying. It was just a fleeting thought, though, immediately drowned by the whim of having cookies for dessert.
After lunch, Jared felt full and warm from the soup and pleasantly tired, and he thought about taking some meds and maybe a nap. Then his dad said, “So, Jensen,” and he remembered the problem that still needed solving.
Jensen squirmed in his chair, growing pale. Jared noticed his need to escape, so he put his hand over Jensen's, squeezing his fingers reassuringly.
“It's okay,” he muttered under his breath.
“How far along are you?” Arthur continued.
Looking at his hands in his lap, Jensen replied, “Ten weeks,” and Arthur nodded.
“Is there any chance you may have mistaken the guy?”
“No.” Jensen shook his head. “I looked him up in the booking ledger. I took two weeks’ leave for personal reasons and came here.”
“To talk to him?”
Arthur rubbed his palm over his chin. “I don't know how to help you.”
Jensen pushed his chair back and stood. “Thank you for your hospitality. I'm just going to change-”
“No, you won't.” With a hand on his arm, Andi stopped him from picking up his backpack. “I won't let you leave when it's still raining cats and dogs, Jensen. You can take the guest room and head home tomorrow.”
“I don't want to be a bother,” Jensen murmured.
“You're not, not at all, honey,” Andi reassured him.
Jensen looked at Jared's dad, who nodded. “There's no need to leave already. We'd be happy if you stayed.”
Slowly, Jensen lowered himself onto his chair. “Okay,” he said, “thank you.”
“That's settled, then,” Arthur replied, smiling. “Give me your keys please, I'll take your car to the garage.”
Jensen blushed.”I- I don't have a car. I, uhm, I hitchhiked.”
Hitchhiking? Is the guy serious?
“Now you definitely won't leave until the rain stops.”
Jared knew the look on his mother's face well, it brooked no argument. He helped her with clearing the table and found new tissues in the kitchen. After blowing his nose, he felt a bit better.
Beckoning him over, his mom said in a low voice, “Jared, I want you to talk with Jensen. Try to find out more about this bastard that impregnates poor boys under a false name.”
Jared sighed. “Yes, mom,”
Why couldn't they just let him leave? Was this any of their business? Well, Jared wanted to meet that asshole and rip him a new one, but why was Jensen's bad luck (stupidity) Jared's problem?
“And I want you,” she continued, “to buy him a plane ticket home.”
“No backtalk!” Again that face. “I can't let the poor boy hitchhike back home with a clear conscience. He was lucky enough to arrive here in one piece.”
“Mom, that's what he wants!”
“What? A plane ticket? A meal and a bed for one night?”
Jared threw his arms in the air. The gesture was ruined by a sneezer.
“You know,” he said, wiping his nose, “I don't know. He-”
The front door banged, the distinctive mark of his brother, a moment later followed by him hollering, “I'm back! What's for lunch?”
Jared and his mom returned to the dining room.
What was happening there made Jared feel like watching a bad rom-com.
Joel stood in the doorway, rooted to the spot. He was pale and murmured a litany of fuckfuckfuck.
Jensen looked like he was on the point of toppling over as if he was seeing a ghost. His mouth was opening and closing a couple of times until he was able to utter one word.