Jared didn’t know what to do. He had a sobbing man in his lap and he had no idea how to go about trying to get him to calm down without resorting to semi-sexual means.
“Shh, Chris,” Jared tried. He rubbed Chris’ back and ignored how tears and snot were soaking his shirt. It wasn’t pleasant.
Jared thought back to what could have triggered such a reaction as he tried to get Chris to calm down. All he did was ask about Thalia’s mother. A plethora of theories cropped up in his mind, but Jared pushed them away. There was no gain in assuming things. He’d have to get Chris to tell him directly. Thalia was another option but Jared had a feeling the little girl didn’t know much about her mother or Chris’ past prior to two or so years ago.
Chris’ sobs quieted down eventually. He stayed curled up against Jared who had yet to stop rubbing circles through the thin material of Chris’ borrowed shirt.
“You okay?” Jared asked quietly, afraid that any sudden or loud noise would start a new bout of hysterics.
Chris nodded against his chest and slowly detached himself from Jared, slipping off his lap and reseating himself on the bed, a couple inches away from Jared.
Jared’s chest panged painfully as he watched Chris pull himself together. His cheeks were wet, eyes bloodshot, and nose red.
“Sorry,” Chris mumbled as he wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. He sniffled and Jared quietly got up and headed into his bathroom to grab a few squares of toilet paper. Chris mumbled a quiet “Thank you” as he took the offered tissues and blew his nose. His face was still a mess.
Jared gestured to his bathroom, “You want to wash your face or something?”
Chris nodded and got up. He went into the bathroom and Jared heard the tap start running.
Jared rubbed his face. Chris had demons, skeletons, and everything else found in the underworld, that much was obvious. He was clearly not entirely emotionally stable either although Jared figured that the younger man kept it together for Thalia. It was Jared’s questions that incited the outburst. Chris was running away from something and Jared was going to figure out what.
When Chris returned, he was looking down at the floor, wringing the bottom of Jared’s shirt nervously. Jared had to keep reminding himself that Chris was a twenty-year-old man with a fractured heart and mind, not a shy, potential bed mate.
“How about you tell me what you can, so we avoid another panic attack?” Jared suggested. It seemed like the only way to get information from Chris without him dissolving into sobs again. Jared couldn’t handle crying children, much less a crying single father who looked adorable in Jared’s clothes.
Chris nodded and Jared patted the space next to him on the bed. Chris sat down and gnawed at his lip. Jared sat patiently, waiting for Chris to start whenever he was ready.
“We’re from San Francisco,” Chris said. Jared kept his face as stoic as possible. San Francisco was eleven or so hours away from Phoenix. “I grew up there and Thalia was born there. I was orphaned since birth and have no idea who my parents are or if I have any family alive. I…There were people that kept me.”
Jared bit his tongue, holding back his questions. Why did Chris say ‘kept’? Was he imprisoned? Human trafficking?
“About nine months ago, I ran away with Thalia. We hitchhiked and stowed away until we got to LA. We stayed there for five months. Then we picked up and it took another month of hitchhiking and stowing away until we got to Phoenix.”
Jared waited as Chris took shallow breaths.
“Th-Thalia’s mother…” Chris started off shakily. “I…I don’t know who she is. Five years ago…they wanted a kid.”
Jared’s jaw clenched. He could already tell where this was going. “You don’t need to—”
“No!” Chris interrupted harshly. “I…I…”
Jared nodded and put his hand over Chris’, rubbing his thumb across Chris’ knuckles. Chris needed to get it off his chest. Jared doubted the young man had ever told anyone about what had happened to him.
Chris gave Jared a grateful, watery smile and his hands unclenched. He took a deep breath before continuing, “They gave me something…it…everything was hazy and I was completely out of it. I wasn’t in control of my body and was only vaguely aware of what was happening. This happened for a long time. Weeks, I’m not sure how many. Nine months later, the baby was born but they had wanted a boy. They were…they were going kill her. I…I begged them not to and they got so fed up of my groveling and Thalia’s been mine ever since. I’ve taken care of her from birth. I won’t let anyone t…I won’t let anyone hurt her.”
Jared didn’t doubt Chris’ conviction but he had a feeling he knew what Chris had been about to say. Chris was aware that Thalia could be better off without him, as much as it hurt to admit, and in Jared’s eyes that didn’t make Chris seem weak or unreliable, but rather the complete opposite. Chris would do whatever was best for his daughter no matter how much it would hurt Chris himself. That was already evident in how Chris neglected his basic needs to make sure Thalia had some semblance of hers.
Jared nodded and squeezed Chris’ hand before letting go and standing up. Chris looked up at him and Jared smiled reassuringly, “Thank you for telling me. I promise I’ll do my best to help the two of you and try to keep you both together.”
Chris looked like he couldn’t believe what Jared was saying. Hope shone from his eyes, adding to the sheen of his pale green eyes that were gleaming more than naturally due to him being on the verge of another bout of tears.
“I do have more questions,” Jared added, almost regretting the words immediately when Chris’ demeanor dropped back into that fearful and guarded shell. “But later. We’ve got shopping to do.”
Chris nodded and then looked down at himself.
“I…uh, is it really okay for me to go out like this?” Chris ventured.
Jared didn’t care how he looked when he went out when he was off duty. He had gone to the mall plenty of times in his pajamas or old sweatpants and loose tank tops. However, his wolf wasn’t pleased with the idea of other people, men or women, seeing Chris as he did currently. The man was way too innocent looking. A much more interesting – and to Jared, alluring – version of the typical blond haired-blue eyed twink.
“I can get you a hoodie but I don’t think I’ve got any pants that could fit you, maybe a pair of short but I’ll have to check,” Jared said. He went to his closet and walked inside, rummaging about until he found an old college hoodie. He grabbed a pair of cargo shorts that he hadn’t worn in ages as well plus a belt. “Try these,” Jared tossed the clothes to Chris who caught them after a bit of fumbling.
Jared then left Chris alone and exited his room even though he found himself a bit disappointed, but he quickly put a stop to those thoughts as well as his wolf’s whining to turn back around and watch Chris change.
Jared walked up to Thalia who had moved from her previous position on the couch to right in front of the TV.
“Thalia,” Jared called sternly. Thalia snapped her neck to him, shrinking in fear and Jared’s expression immediately softened. “Sorry, sweetheart, but if you’re going to watch TV you need to sit on the couch. You’ll ruin your eyes if you sit so close to the screen.”
“Ah’m sorry,” Thalia mumbled, quickly getting to her feet and scurrying back to the couch.
Jared dropped down beside her and ruffled her hair, “Don’t worry about it. Just remember next time, okay? I’m not mad, just a bit concerned.” Thalia nodded and Jared decided to switch topics. “So, what’s been happening? Who’s the guy with the weird head?”
Thalia immediately became animated and Jared grinned, nodding along to Thalia’s explanation of that particular episode of Phineas and Ferb. Her favorite character was Dr. ‘Doofenshmitchz’ because he was weird and had a funny nose.
“So you like weird people with funny noses?” Jared asked.
Thalia shook her head as she looked down at her lap, making Jared frown in confusion for a second before he schooled his features into an amiable expression again.
“Then what kind of people do you like?” he questioned instead.
Thalia shook her head again, “No like.”
Jared’s brows furrowed again but this time they stayed, “What do you mean?”
Thalia fidgeted on the couch, “No like people. Only daddy. Everyone meanie. Hurt daddy.”
Jared didn’t know what to say. He opened his mouth but nothing came out. Then Thalia looked up at him and a large grin grew on her face, “But not you.”
“You ish big and scary but nice. Give us food and bed and shower and clothes. You no hurt daddy.”
Jared wanted to question who exactly ‘hurt daddy’ and where and when and how and why, but Thalia was only four years old. He would have to get those answers from some intensive digging on his own or by asking Chris himself.
“I’ll never hurt you or your daddy intentionally,” Jared vowed. Thalia nodded and grinned, her attention retuning to the TV as a musical number came up. Thalia giggled and clapped her hands along with the tune. She was completely off count but Jared let her have her fun.
Jared didn’t turn to look as he heard his bedroom door quietly open a few seconds into the catchy song. He was going to do things at Chris’ pace for the rest of the day. He got a considerable amount of information from Chris, information that struck deep and hard, so Jared was going to do his best to keep Chris relaxed as possible.
“Uh,” Chris cleared his throat, and Jared allowed himself to turn his head to look over the back of the couch. Chris was stood with Jared’s hoodie drowning him. The sleeves were rolled and pushed up his arms in a way that was rather comical. The shorts weren’t that bad, but it was obvious they were too big for him. He had a pile of clothes folded messily in his hands. The sweatpants and t-shirt. “Where should I put these?”
Jared got up and walked around the couch with his hand held out, “I’ll take that.” He took the clothes and tossed them onto the coffee table. His aim was impeccable and Thalia clapped her hands, amazed.
“Daddy’s really, really bad,” she explained, standing on the couch and bracing herself on the back so she could see Chris and Jared.
Jared smirked at a blushing Chris, “Really? We’ll have to fix that. But first, we’ve got shopping to do. C’mon.”
Thalia hopped off the couch and ran to the door, plopping down in front of the shoes and tugging hers on. Jared followed and heard Chris right behind him.
Jared slipped on a pair of flip-flops and Chris grabbed his Converse. Thalia was frowning at her laces, trying to tie them, but not having much success.
Jared crouched down to her level, “Need help, sweetheart?”
Thalia shook her head stubbornly, “I can do.”
Jared looked up when he heard Chris chuckle softly. This was apparently something normal between them.
“Last try, princess,” Chris said, joining Jared in a crouch.
Thalia stuck her tongue out at him.
“What was the first step?” Chris asked.
Thalia undid all her work and picked up the two ends. “Cross and pull,” she said, crossing the two ends and threading one under the other, pulling so it was tight.
“Bunny ears,” Thalia replied as she made two loops with a bit of a struggle. “Then they fight,” she crossed the loops over each other, “and fighting ish bad so you pull apart but be friends instead,” she tucked one loop under the other and pulled them tight to form a knot. She pulled too much however and the end of one of the loops came free.
“That was great, princess, next time don’t make the loops so big, okay?” Chris said as he reached out to Thalia’s feet. Thalia beamed and let Chris tie her shoes for her.
Jared watched and couldn’t help feeling admiration and respect for Chris. Despite everything, he kept on showing how much of a fantastic dad he was. From teaching Thalia proper English even though he himself never even finished school to the simple things like tying shoelaces with a creative method that was also a basic moral lesson, Chris did a great job being a father.
“You two ready to go?” Jared asked as he got to his feet. Chris stood up as well and his hand automatically wrapped around Thalia’s.
“Yesh!” Thalia cheered.
Jared grinned, “Let’s go then.”
The three walked out with Jared locking up behind. He had his car parked in the driveway. The garage had been transformed into a personal gym so there was no space to park his Ford. However, he never had to go through the tediousness of opening and closing the garage doors every time he drove.
Jared unlocked his car and slipped in the driver’s side as Chris and Thalia got in the back. Chris buckled Thalia in immediately before doing his own belt and Jared was off.
“Music?” Jared asked as he pulled out of the driveway. When Chris shrugged from the mirror and Thalia copied his movement, Jared reached out and turned on the radio. Immediately, the middle of a pop song that Jared highly doubted was appropriate for a four year old played and he quickly changed the station to one that was dedicated to classic rock while mentally cursing Natalie because she was the only one who would have changed the station. John Lennon’s voice replaced Nicki Minaj and whoever the rapper was. Jared started laughing.
“Wash funny?” Thalia asked.
“The singer has the same last name as you two,” Jared explained. It wasn’t all that funny but Jared still found the coincidence amusing.
“Really?” Thalia was amazed. She leaned forward in her seat, frowning when the seatbelt pulled her back.
“Yeah. John Lennon. You’ve really never heard of him? Or the Beatles?”
Jared caught Chris looking down at his lap guiltily, “We’ve…we haven’t really listened to much music.”
Jared nodded, hearing the words Chris held back, especially since he now had a better understanding of Chris’ past. He didn’t know everything, but he had an idea and it wasn’t pretty. “Then I guess I’ll just have to teach the two of you what good music is. I will save you from going to that pop nonsense and silly, cookie cutter boy bands.”
So Jared was one of those people with an aggressive opinion on music. Sue him.
Chris cracked a small smile and the three listened to the various bands, Jared telling Chris and Thalia about all the ones he knew, as they drove to the nearest mall.
When he pulled into a parking space in the underground parking lot, he saw that Chris was tense while Thalia looked excited.
They all got out of the car and Jared noticed Chris immediately grab for Thalia’s hand. If it was for comfort or habit, Jared couldn’t tell.
“Let’s go. Where do you want to start first?”
“Clothes for Thalia,” Chris immediately replied. It was predictable.
Jared nodded and they got on the escalator that led up to the ground floor of the mall. There weren’t very many people as it was a Wednesday morning, but Thalia gasped and jumped around.
“So many people!” she told Chris. “Not like last time.”
“Last time?” Jared asked. They were walking in a line, Thalia between him and Chris. Jared noticed some looks thrown their way and realized that from how close they were walking, it could have appeared that they were a little family of three, especially since Chris and Thalia were clearly related.
Chris looked away as he mumbled, “We spent a couple nights in a mall. Came long after closing time and left before opening.”
Jared didn’t comment and simply nodded as they walked. He spotted the store he had bought the clothes Thalia was currently wearing and pointed over there for Chris to confirm. He nodded and the three entered, immediately greeted by an enthusiastic woman dressed in various shades of orange.
“Good morning!” she chirped.
“Morning,” Jared replied politely. Chris looked terrified and Thalia was hiding behind Chris’ legs although Jared could tell she was just wary of strangers (especially this woman’s choice in attire) and not scared stiff like Chris.
When the woman frowned at Chris and Thalia, Jared smoothly explained, “Sorry. They’re not used to strangers.” It was vague but incited the right amount of pity. He even put his hand on Chris’s shoulder and gave it a comforting squeeze, both for show and for Chris.
The women nodded and smiled sympathetically at Chris and Thalia, “That’s fine, sugar, if you need anything do not hesitate to ask.”
“Thank you,” Jared smiled and gently pushed Chris towards the clothes for three to four year olds.
“You okay?” Jared whispered into Chris’ ear when they were hidden in an aisle. They were the only customers in the shop.
Chris nodded and breathed out shakily, “Sorry. I panicked.”
Jared rubbed Chris’ back, “It’s fine. So, what would Thalia like? Don’t hold back, everything’s on me.”
Chris turned around, a frown on his face but Jared shook his head, “I am yours and Thalia’s wallet for the day. Do not hold back and get everything you both need and more.”
“But,” Chris tried to argue but Jared slapped his hand over Chris’ mouth, shaking his head again.
“I’m not budging on this, Chris. And if you purposely pick out all the cheapest things, I will replace everything you pick with the most expensive possible things plus ridiculously expensive items that serve no purpose,” Jared threatened. He never thought the day would come where forcing money and gifts on someone would be threatening them. “Understood?”
Chris nodded reluctantly and Jared removed his hand with a victorious smirk. When Jared looked down, he saw Thalia watching them with a thoughtful expression. What was going on through that four year old’s mind was a mystery to Jared so he simply said, “Have a look around, sweetheart. Whatever you like, grab, and you can try them out before we buy it.”
Thalia grinned and nodded, immediately going to the racks filled with clothes.
“Are you really sure there’s no limit?” Chris asked, watching Thalia go through the clothes.
Jared put his hand on Chris’ shoulder and squeezed, “I’m sure, Chris. Grab as much as you need and even a bit more if you want. Now go help Thalia pick some clothes that’ll make her look adorable.”
“She’s already the most adorable child on the planet,” Chris smiled before walking over to Thalia who had a jacket in one hand and a skirt in the other.
Jared watched the two shop, giving his input here and there whenever they looked to him. He had to reprimand Chris a couple times for looking at price tags and putting clothes back though and raised a brow when Thalia drifted to the boys’ section only because it was a bit surprising, but neither he nor Chris told her off. By the time they went to the changing room for Thalia to try out all her clothes, she had a whole new wardrobe with an even split of boys’ and girls’ clothes.
“I’ll wait out here while you go through the mountain,” Jared said. Even though he enjoyed watching Chris and Thalia interact, he felt like he was intruding. The two had been all the other had since Thalia’s birth. Jared was just a stranger. A stranger trying to help, but a stranger nonetheless.
Thalia hopped into the changing room after a cheerful “Okay!” but Chris hesitated, looking back at Jared, before following after Thalia with the clothes piled in his arms.
Jared leaned against the wall next to the entrance of the trial rooms. He could hear Thalia’s giggles through the wall as well as Chris’ quiet laughter. Jared’s lips twitched up into a soft smile. A short while later the orange woman from before joined him.
“Hello again, how’s everything?” she asked.
“Good. They’re trying on everything but it’ll probably take a while.”
The woman laughed, “I’d assume. You bought the girl a whole new wardrobe!”
“That was the intent,” Jared grinned.
“How old is she?”
“Four. Five in September,” Jared replied, echoing Chris’ response from when he had been the one asking the question.
The woman cooed, “She’s precious.”
Jared nodded in agreement, “She is. She’s Chris’ whole world.”
“You two must have been ecstatic a couple months ago,” the woman mused.
Jared frowned, “Pardon?”
She smiled up at Jared as if he were a silly little boy that still ate glue, “October! When gay marriage was finally legalized here.”
Jared’s eyes widened in realization, but before he could correct her assumptions, Chris was calling for him.
“Jared, could you help us for a second?” the smaller man asked, peeking his head out from the entry to the trial room.
“Sure,” Jared replied before realizing the word had left his mouth. He glanced at the woman who was watching them with an expression that made Jared slightly afraid. It was a look he remembered all too well when he and a boyfriend or date of the time ran across fangirls. He couldn’t push Chris back into the trial room fast enough.
Chris quirked a brow but otherwise didn’t comment on Jared’s behaviour and led the way to the stall Thalia was waiting in. She was partially dressed in one of the skirts she’d picked out that was black with a strip of gold running along the bottom and a shirt that Jared wasn’t sure was actually a shirt.
“Jaywed, help!” Thalia called out the second she saw him follow behind Chris.
“What am I looking at right now?” Jared asked with a confused smile.
Chris chuckled embarrassedly, “We’re not sure how to put the shirt on. It’s got a bunch of strings and shoelaces are the best I can do with knots.”
Chris was adorably naïve for a twenty year old with a rough past.
“I’ll see what I can do, although I am no expert on female clothes,” Jared said. “How about you take that off so I can get a better idea of what we’re working with.”
Thalia wriggled out of the white cloth and handed it over to Jared. He opened it out and after a bit of turning and attempts at visualizing, came to the conclusion that it was a kiddie version of a corset made from a light, flowing fabric rather than whatever stiff, torture material they were traditionally made from.
“Alright, I think I’ve got this. Come here, sweetheart,” Jared said, crouching down. It took a bit of confused frowns and attempts at getting Thalia to stop squirming, but Jared managed to tie all the pieces together and the final product was pretty adorable.
“Oooh! Thank you, Jaywed,” Thalia clapped her hands and spun around to see herself in the mirror.
“No problem. If you’ve got anymore clothing issues, I’ll be right outside.”
Jared turned to leave, but Chris grabbed his arm, halting him.
“You…could stay if you want,” Chris said, looking down as he removed his hand from Jared’s arm and rubbed the back of his neck. “Um, and you know, help decide. I’m not the best at fashion or anything…”
Jared raised a brow, “And you think I am? Have you seen what I’m wearing?”
Chris flushed, “Um…I just thought…”
Jared ruffled Chris’ hair, “I’ll stay. How many more clothes do you have to go through now?”
Chris smiled and pointed to a pile of clothes on the floor. There were two other ones that Jared assumed were the accepted and rejected piles. “We’ve gone through most of the girls’ clothes.”
Jared nodded and then helped Thalia out of the corset shirt. Even though it would be a pain in the ass to put on, Thalia wanted it and she did look pretty adorable so it went into the accepted pile. She didn’t like the skirt however so that went to the rejection pile.
Jared had never thought that helping a kid try on numerous clothes would be so much fun. He was laughing the entire time with Chris and Thalia as they joked and chatted through the entire process and got done in the blink of an eye. In the end Thalia had narrowed down her choices to eight shirts – four designed for boys and four designed for girls, two skirts, two pairs of tights, a jacket, two pairs of shorts – one for boys and one for girls, and four pairs of jeans – another even split from the boys’ section and girls’ section.
“That’s too much,” Chris said as Jared gathered all the accepted clothes.
“It’s fine, Chris,” Jared assured him but Chris still bit his lip nervously as they cleaned out the trial room and handed off the rejected clothes to one of the employees with a “Thank you”.
Jared nodded towards the innerwear section, “You and Thalia go grab underwear and socks and whatever else she needs from there and meet me at the cashier.”
Chris nodded and Thalia ran towards the section while Jared turned in the opposite direction to go to the cashier area next to the entrance. The orange woman was at the register and grinned at the Jared as he placed the items on the counter.
“Successful?” she asked jokingly as she began to ring up the items.
“I should think so. They’re gonna pick out socks and underwear and be right back,” Jared replied.
Just as he the words had left his mouth, Chris and Thalia’s scents got closer and they were next to him in moments with Chris placing two packs of underwear and a pack of socks on the counter.
“You got everything?” Jared asked.
Chris nodded, “I think so.”
“Daddy’s turn?” Thalia asked. She was on her tiptoes and trying to see what was happening at the register. Jared didn’t even think before picking her up so she could watch.
“Yup, daddy’s gonna get all his stuff and then we can grab lunch wherever you want.”
Thalia cheered and hugged Jared around his neck.
The orange woman cooed, “Aww, aren’t you three just the most precious little family ever. How long have you two been together, if you don’t mind me asking?”
Jared saw Chris frown in confusion and kicked himself for not correcting the mistake earlier on.
“Thanks, and not for that long,” Jared said. “It’s…been a recent development.” It was a bit too late to clear the misunderstanding and it wasn’t like they were going to see the woman again. Jared quickly paid and Chris grabbed their bags as they left the store.
“Sorry about that,” Jared told Chris as they walked through the mall.
“It’s fine,” Chris said, his cheeks were flushed and he didn’t seem able to look at Jared. “Do we really…look like…”
Jared shrugged, “It’s plausible, especially since you and Thalia are clearly related. She’s not the only one that’s come to that assumption.”
Chris’ head snapped up, eyes wide, “What? Who?”
Jared chuckled, “Haven’t you been paying attention to the looks we’ve been getting?”
Chris looked around and his ears turned bright red when he bit his lip and looked down at the bags in his hand.
“So do you have any preferences for where to shop?” Jared asked even though he already knew Chris’ answer.
Chris shook his head so Jared took the lead and brought Chris to a department store. They took the escalator to the third floor which was filled with men’s wear.
“Go crazy,” Jared joked, knowing full well that Chris was going to grab the bare minimum that he thought Jared would let him get away with.
Chris walked up to a rack of jeans, uncertainty clear in his steps. He flicked through the similarly styled pants, pulling some out but returning them almost immediately. Jared took pity on him. He set Thalia down and walked over to Chris, pulling out three pairs of jeans that were on the smaller side – 28, 30, and 32 inches – and gave them to the smaller man, taking Thalia’s shopping in return.
“Let’s figure out what your size is first although I’m sure you’re gonna be a 28 or 30 for pants and XS for shirts,” Jared said as he reached out to another rack and grabbed two shirts, a small and an extra small. He handed those to Chris as well and pushed him gently in the direction of the trial rooms. Thalia followed behind, running to catch up and grabbing onto one of the bags in Jared’s hand.
“Show me,” Jared told Chris before the other man entered the small room.
Chris nodded and closed the door behind him. The door opened a few moments later and Jared let his eyes roam over Chris. The shirt was a bit on the big side and the jeans sagged a bit, although not dangerously enough to absolutely require a belt.
“What sizes are those?” Jared asked.
“Uh, the 30 and small,” Chris answered, pulling up the pants a bit.
“I don’t like it,” Thalia said, crinkling her nose. “No yellow.”
Chris and Jared laughed, with Jared reassuring her, “Don’t worry, sweetheart. This was just to get your daddy’s size. You get full veto power to anything either of us pick.”
“Vee-toh? What mean?” Thalia asked.
“It means you get the final say. If you say no, then we don’t buy it,” Jared explained. To Chris he said, “Change back. We’ll get you smalls and size 30s and some belts. You’ll grow into them soon enough.”
Chris frowned in confusion but nodded and went back into the changing room. He came out quickly with the clothes in his arms and an employee managing the trial rooms took all except for the jeans he had tried on.
They spent the next fifteen minutes picking out shirts for Chris, Thalia saying yes or no to anything Jared or Chris picked out. After the shirts, they looked at pants and by the time they finished, Chris had six shirts, two hoodies, three pairs of jeans, two pairs of shorts, a pair of regular pants, and a couple packs of boxers and socks. While Chris had been picking out boxers, Jared’s eyes were caught on a packet of boxer-briefs and he couldn’t help but imagine Chris wearing them. The packet was slipped in with the rest of the clothes they collected.
Chris hadn’t wanted to try everything on and Jared didn’t push him. It was highly unlikely that the clothes would be too small for him anyway and if they were big, they’d fit him better when he bulked up.
While they were waiting in the line to the cashier, Jared’s eyes drifted to the sale items that were always put on display right at the registers. It was beanies this time around. Jared reached over and grabbed a light grey one with darker grey accents.
“Hey, Chris,” Jared called out, getting Chris’ attention from Thalia.
“Yeah?” Chris looked up just in time for Jared to fit the hat onto Chris’ head. “Jared, what’re you—”
Jared shushed him and adjusted the hat until he was pleased and removed his hands from Chris’ head.
“Oooh! I want one!” Thalia declared upon seeing her father.
“Jared?” Chris frowned in confusion.
Jared shrugged, “I thought it’d look good on you. I was right.”
Chris blushed and his hands went to the beanie on his head.
“Daddy, can I?” Thalia asked.
Chris nodded, “Of course,” as Jared reached to grab another beanie, this one with a blue color scheme. They had what appeared to be child sized beanies as well for some reason even though the children’s department was the floor above.
“How’s this one, sweetheart?” Jared asked, handing it over.
Thalia tugged it over her reddish-brown locks and beamed up at the two, “Yay!”
By then it was their turn at the cashier and Jared tugged the beanies off Chris and Thalia’s head, placing it with the other clothes on the counter. Chris’ hair had spiked as a result and Jared was a bit disappointed when Thalia informed her father and Chris fixed the adorable mess. They went through the motions of waiting for the employee to ring up the items, make small talk, deny an offer to join some membership, pay, and then grab their bags.
As they left the department store, Jared asked the two, “Food? It’s almost three, we had a late start this morning.”
“Ah’m hungry!” Thalia confirmed.
“What would you like to eat then?” Jared asked. He looked to Chris as well even though he knew Chris would say he was fine with anything or not hungry.
Thalia frowned, “Dunno. What good?”
Chris was biting his lip and looking away guiltily. Jared withheld a sigh as well as the urge to wrap Chris up in his arms and instead smiled at Thalia, “How would you like to try steak?”
A/N: How do you think their little lunch is gonna turn out? Hint: Chris and Jared apparently have a bit of a particular fetish...