Jared stood by patiently as he waited for Chris and Thalia to decide on their orders. Thalia was enthralled by all the options and Chris was telling her what each item she pointed at was. The employees were bored and the girl at the register looked annoyed that Thalia was taking so long. One sharp look from Jared had stopped her from making any comments.
Finally, Thalia decided on a Filet-O-Fish and an apple juice. Chris insisted on having nothing so Jared ordered two Barbeque Ranch burgers, two large fries, and two coffees. He paid and directed Chris and Thalia to a table in the far corner of the restaurant.
“I’ve got to make a call,” Jared told them. He sent Chris a meaningful look, silently daring the smaller man to try and run away. Chris nodded and Jared walked out of the restaurant, standing next to the door as he pulled out his phone and dialed up Natalie.
“You’re going to do something stupid, aren’t you?” Natalie groaned as soon as the call connected.
Jared sighed, “He’s got a kid. A four year old little girl who looks at him like he’s all that’s good in the world and vice versa.” Jared looked back into the restaurant and watched the two waiting in the chairs. They were talking. Thalia bore a striking resemblance to Chris. Similar facial structure, matching green eyes, but her hair was a reddish brown, auburn. If she were actually Chris’ daughter, then Chris would have been only sixteen when she was born. Jared had been dying to interrogate, but he held his tongue.
“Jared,” Natalie groaned again. “Your big heart is gonna be the end of me. What are you thinking of doing? Where are you right now?”
Jared returned his gaze to the dark sky and mostly empty roads as he rubbed his face, “I don’t know. We’re at McDonald’s. Twenty minutes from the precinct. I’m… I’m going to take them home and figure things out from there. Can you cover for me?”
Natalie sighed, “You owe me so much. So much, Hale. Never going to let you forget this. Paperwork for the next two months. Refer to me as Your Majesty. Buy me my coffee every morning for the next month.”
Jared grinned, “All of that and more. Thank you, Nat. How’s the kid?”
“Her mom came by five minutes ago. Piece of work that woman, I completely understand why the kid was a little brat. I’ll tell you all about it later, gonna head home soon. See you when you decide to come back to work because I know you’re going to be taking last minute leave to take care of them.”
“You know me too well. I’ll see you on Monday at the earliest.” It was Tuesday now. That gave him almost a week.
“See you Monday then. Although I’ll probably drop by your place during the week.”
“See you, Nat.”
Jared tucked his phone away and saw that Chris had gotten their food. Thalia was digging in but Chris looked hesitant to try his. Jared slipped into his chair opposite the two of them and unwrapped his burger.
“Eat,” he ordered before biting down. “You don’t get to leave unless you finish everything.”
Thalia pointed at him, “No speak wif food in mouth. Ish bad manners.” She had a mouth full of fish, bread, cheese, and tartar sauce.
Jared raised a brow and swallowed, “What about you?”
Thalia blinked innocently, “I four.”
“And I’m twenty-eight,” Jared replied.
“You’re old,” Thalia said, crinkling her nose.
Jared gasped in mock-disbelief, making Thalia giggle. He caught Chris flashing a small smile before the dark haired man hid it by finally eating.
Jared smirked at Chris when the smaller man finished his burger and one of the fries in a matter of minutes. For all his denial of hunger, he had been quite enthusiastic in his eating.
When Chris looked up, he caught Jared’s gaze and must have realized why Jared was smirking at him as he flushed and quickly looked to Thalia, fussing over her and making sure she finished everything.
Thalia yawned, “Daddy. I sleepies.”
Chris chuckled and pulled Thalia onto his lap, cradling her to his chest, “It is past your bedtime. Sorry, princess. Go to sleep.”
Thalia snuggled up into her father and sighed, “Love you, daddy.”
Jared watched Chris bite his lip as he nodded and then kissed Thalia’s forehead. “I love you too, Thalia. So much,” he whispered back. When Thalia’s eyes fluttered shut and her breathing evened out, Chris swallowed and added, “I’m so sorry,” so quietly, Jared wouldn’t have been able to hear had he been entirely human.
Jared picked up his coffee and gestured to Chris’, “Finish that off and then we can leave.”
Chris nodded and shifted Thalia so that he could use one hand to hold her up and the other to pick up the now cooled drink. Jared watched over the rim of his own cup as Chris tried to nonchalantly drink his coffee. He hesitated before closing his eyes and taking a large gulp. His face screwed up in distaste.
“If you didn’t like coffee, you could have just said,” Jared said, failing at holding back his laughter.
Chris’ cheeks reddened as he set the Styrofoam cup down, “I told you I didn’t want anything.”
“Yet you ate your burger and a pack of large fries in under ten minutes,” Jared pointed out.
“Shut up,” Chris grumbled, looking out the window of the restaurant.
Jared chuckled and quickly finished off his coffee. He then drank Chris’ and after Chris firmly denying a drink of his choice, Jared cleared up and led the way back to his car. He held the passenger door open for Chris and helped him put his seatbelt on without waking Thalia before getting in on the other side.
They drove in silence and Jared could feel Chris’ anxiety coming off him in waves even as his eyes drooped.
“I’m not taking you to the precinct,” Jared said eventually.
Chris turned his head to look at him, “What?”
“I’m not taking you to the precinct,” Jared repeated. “So stop worrying and relax a little.”
Chris chewed on his lip before asking, “Then…where are you taking us?”
“Somewhere you can spend a couple nights until I figure out what to do with you two,” Jared answered vaguely. He had a feeling that if he told Chris that they were going to his house, Chris wouldn’t be quite so willing.
They lapsed into silence again and when Jared heard Chris’ breathing even out, his heart thumping much more calmly in a soothing manner, he glanced over and saw that the man was fast asleep. He was much more relaxed in his sleep this time. It wasn’t hard to guess that the only reason Chris looked so serene was because he had Thalia nestled in his arms, as safe and sound as possible at the moment. He loved her with every fiber of his being, it was more than obvious. It was why Jared was so torn and was going against his common sense.
Jared sighed and continued down the road.
A/N: Heyyo! So I've also updated my other WIPS as an early present since I'm going to be without internet up until around Jan 2/3. So yeah, I'll reply to comments and such (if I get any, that is) when I get back. Happy holidays/new year. Hope yours turns out better than mine will.