We Can't Run From Fate

Jack had never given much thought to the mark on his wrist, the one that told him he had a soulmate out in the world. He was always more the one night stand than soulmate kinda guy. One thing he never expected though was to find his match in Alex Gaskarth, a twenty something single dad just trying to give the best life he can to his daughter.

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16. Chapter 15

The night before the social services visit and Jack found Alex wide awake in the living room. He’d been woken by the sounds of someone crying and there was Alex sobbing at 4am.

“‘Lex?”

Alex looked up, his eyes red and cheeks stained with tears.

“Oh baby.”

Jack sat down beside the boy and pulled him onto his lap, wrapping his arms tightly around Alex’s waist as he cried.

“It’s okay, it’s going to be okay,” Jack tried to reassure him.

Alex didn’t reply and just buried his face in Jack’s shoulder as he held him. Jack wished there was something he could do to take Alex’s pain away but the fear of having his child taken away was nothing Jack would fix. So he just held Alex as tight as he could and pressed a kiss to his neck.

“I promised, you’re going to get through this and nothing bad is going to happen. It’s all going to be alright,” Jack whispered into Alex’s ear.

“Th...They…. can’t…”

Alex tried to speak but his breath hitched, he just couldn’t. The whole thing was too much for him.

“Shh, it’ll be okay,” Jack said, kissing Alex’s forehead.

Jack felt Alex shake his head against his chest, him trying to deny what Jack was saying.

“It will be and do you know how I know?” Jack asked.

“You don’t.”

“Course I do, it’s because you are an amazing, amazing father. You give that girl everything in the world, she’s incredible and just like you.”

“Not everything,” Alex sniffed.  

“Well not literally, but does any of that stuff really matter? She doesn’t need expensive toys or fancy clothes to be happy. She needs a dad who loves and cherishes her and she has that. You are amazing, please don’t doubt yourself.”

Alex wiped his eyes on his sleeve and pushed himself up, he was exhausted as he’d barely spelt in the three days since court. He stumbled over to a cupboard on the other side of the room and after a moment pulled out a box. He joined Jack back on the couch holding the small box, inside was a couple of photos.

“What is it, Alex?” Jack asked.

He didn’t reply and just continued looked through the photos, searching for the one he wanted. Most of them were ones of him and Grace together including ones of her as a tiny baby. The right at the back, there it was. A picture taken of a young looking Alex with his arm around a pregnant girl. Jack knew straight away who it was, her eyes gave her away.

“That’s Megan.”

Alex nodded.

“Oh…”

Jack finally understood what Alex was trying to say.

“No, don’t you dare think like that. You are enough, you have always been enough. Don’t you dare think you failed because she doesn’t have her mum. That’s not your fault, you are the best parent Grace, she doesn’t need anyone else.”

Alex started crying again, curling up against Jack with the picture falling to the floor. Jack just held him again, running his hands over Alex’s back as he cried.

“Your little girl has the best dad in the world, she doesn’t need anyone else. You have never treated her like anything other than a Princess. Mr and Mrs fucking Taylor only said those horrible things to get their own way, there’s no an ounce of truth in it and I won’t let you believe it.”

Jack pressed a kiss to the sport behind Alex’s ear, the spot where his soulmate mark was.

“It’s going to be okay.”

 

Alex eventually fell asleep, curled up on top of Jack after having worn himself out crying. Jack carried to him bed and tucked him in, only falling asleep himself after 5am. He was woken just two hours later at the sound of his alarm. Being quick to turn it off as not to wake Alex, Jack rolled over glad to see the boy still sleeping. He needed all the extra sleep he could get and Jack wanted to give him as much as possible. After giving Alex a little kiss on his forehead Jack, he got up. Going to wake Grace and to start making her breakfast.

“Hey baby girl, want something to eat?” Jack asked.

Grace was sitting up on her bed playing with one of her teddy bears.

“Where’s daddy?” she asked.

“He’s still sleeping, but I’m sure I can manage making some toast.”

Grace smiled up at him and raised her arms, asking she wanted to be carried. She may only be four (and 10 months) but she knew Jack would carry her pretty much anywhere.

 

“What would you like to eat?” Jack asked, having placed Grace in her highchair.

“Pancakes!”

“I can’t make pancakes Grace, how about some toast? I promise not to burn it this time.”

She pouted and Jack hoped she wasn’t about to cry, he still didn’t want to wake Alex and the falls in the apartment were so thin. Then she broke into a smile and nodded, god she was just like her dad.

“Jam or chocolate spread?” Jack asked, as he placed the bread in the toaster.

“Chocolate!”

Jack laughed and got the jar out of the cupboard. He loved how she was so happy but then she had no idea what the day held. Alex had wanted to talk to her about it but he hadn’t been able to find the words.

Jack served Grace her unburnt toast with chocolate spread before sitting down opposite her. He only had a mug of coffee for himself, the dread of what the day held making him feel rather uneasy about the idea of food. He happily watched Grace eat and cover herself in chocolate and laughed as she tried to fight him off when he tried to clean her up.

“Come on Grace, you need to be clean for today.”

“Why?” she asked, trying to push away Jack’s hand with her small fist.

“It’s important to your daddy,” Jack replied, he knew he wasn’t the person to tell her what was happening. He cared for Grace, of course he did but in reality he hadn’t known her for a great amount of time and he wanted to do things right with her.

She just pouted again and let Jack clean her up.

“Daddy!” Grace cheered.

Jack turned around to see Alex standing there, his bed hair all over the place but a sleepy smile on his face. He looked a whole lot better than he had done the night before.

“Morning baby,” he smiled, going over to her and placing a kiss on top of her head.

“How’s my beautiful girl doing?”

“Jacky let me have chocolate spread for breakfast!” she exclaimed.

“I can see that,” Alex said, wiping a bit of chocolate Jack had missed from the corner of her mouth.

“Would you like some coffee?” Jack asked.

“Please.”

As Jack got started making the drink he felt Alex’s arms slip around his waist.

“Why didn’t you wake me?” he asked.

“You needed some sleep and well I thought I could manage breakfast,” Jack replied.

“Thank you.”

Alex kissed Jack’s cheek and turned back to his daughter who was still playing with her food.

“Grace, you’re supposed to eat it not redecorate the kitchen.”

He heard Jack snigger from behind him before a hot cup of coffee was placed in front of him.

“I’m going for a shower,” Jack said, giving Alex a quick kiss on his way past.

As Jack disappeared down the hall Alex sighed, he knew he had to tell Grace what was coming but it seemed unfair. She was so happy, he didn’t want to take that away from her.

“Grace, I hmm need to talk to you.”

She just continued playing with her leftover banana like she hadn’t heard him.

“Grace, please.”

She looked up at him them, eyes all bright and full of concern. Jack said she was just like him, but that look, that was all her mother’s.

“Something important is happening today, some people are coming and they’re going to want to talk to you. They’re probably going to ask you questions, like are you happy? And how much you eat and….”

Alex’s voice faltered and he had to take a deep breath to get the words out.

“If I’ve ever hurt you…”

He couldn’t look at her as he said it, tears were already in his eyes but then he felt a small hand grab hold of his. He blinked away the tears and looked at his little girl, she was smiling at him so the dimple showed on her cheek.

“You’re the best daddy in the world, I love you.”

“I love you too baby.”

He took Grace out of her highchair and into his lap, holding her tight to his chest. With his daughter in his arms and Jack singing in the shower, maybe it could all be okay.

 

The social services people were due to arrive at ten and Alex had been pacing since nine. He couldn’t help it, there were knots in his stomach and he felt sick with nerves.

“Alex, you’re going to go through the floor soon,” Jack said.

“I know but I can’t stop.”

Jack got up from his position on the couch and put his arms around Alex’s shoulders, forcing him to stop in his tracks.

“Just breathe okay?”

Alex closed his eyes and did what Jack told him, letting it calm him slightly. As Jack felt Alex relax he kissed the boy’s forehead.

“It’s going to be okay.”

Alex looked up at his boyfriend, Jack looked about as tired as he felt. He hated that this was happening, Jack didn’t deserve to be suffering too. The pain and anger Alex felt over the whole thing came to the surface again but Jack wiped his tears before they could fall.

“Be strong, you can do this.”

Alex was about to open his mouth, to say thank you to Jack for everything when there was a knock at the door.

“I love you,” Jack said before kissing Alex’s forehead, letting go of his shoulders and going to answer the door.

“Hello I’m Claire Morgan, I’m the social worker and you are?”

“Jack, Jack Barakat, I’m Alex’s boyfriend.”

“Good to meet you.”

She held out her hand and Jack shook it. Claire was younger than Jack was expecting her to be, she was probably only in her mid thirties with dark hair cut into a bob and large green eyes. Jack led her into where Alex was standing in the living room, looking calmer than he had done moments earlier.

“Mr Gaskarth, I presume,” Claire said, holding out her hand.

“Alex, please, nice to meet you.”

“Do take a seat,” Jack said, going over to where Alex had sat in the armchair and perching himself on the arm. Making sure he was close to Alex’s side.

Claire took a seat on the couch and started searching through her bag for some paperwork.

“Now you know why I’m here, the court appointed me to visit the home of one Grace Amelia Gaskarth after accusations made by her maternal grandparents,” Claire said.

“Where is Grace?” she asked, looking around and not seeing the little girl.

“She’s playing in her bedroom, I thought it might be best for us to speak first,” Alex said.

Claire nodded and took out a file from her bag.

“I just need to ask you some basic questions to begin with, can you confirm you are the father to Grace?”

“Ye…”

Alex’s voice faltered, his nerves were getting the better of him but then he looked up at Jack. Those kind eyes looking down at him and tiniest hint of a smile. Alex took a deep breath and tried again.

“Yes, I’m Alexander William Gaskarth.”

“Good, good and I believe her mother was one Megan Grace Taylor who is no longer with us,” Claire said.

“She... died a few hours after Grace was born I hmm named Grace after her mum,” Alex said.

Jack took Alex’s hand and squeezed it gently. He’d not known about where Grace’s name had come from, they didn’t often speak of Megan.

“Now I believe this is your home, do all three of you live here?” Claire asked.

“I do most of the time but I also have my own apartment on the other side of town but I only really stay there if I’m working late,” Jack said.

“What do you do?” she asked.

“I own a bar downtown.”

“And you Alex? What do you do?”

“I work in a shop and sometimes do a bit of cleaning work,” he replied.

“Has Grace always lived her?” Claire asked.

“No, for the first six months we lived with my parents until I was able to save up for this apartment.”

“I see, and Jack?”

“I’ve only been here about two months.”

“Are there often people coming and going in the home? Other partners or friends?” she asked.

“No, there’s only Jack and a friend of mine Zack who sometimes babysits for me,” Alex said.

Claire wrote some things down in her file and Alex sighed, his hands were sweating and the nerves in his stomach were still buzzing. Jack sensed his discomfort and wrapped his arm around the boy’s shoulders and kissed the top of his head.

“Would I be able to speak to Grace now please?” Claire asked.

“Just hold on why I go and get her.”

Alex got up on slightly shaky legs and went over to Grace’s bedroom. Where she was happily sat on the floor playing with her teddies.

“Hey darling, there’s a lady here who needs to talk to you. You can come back to your teddies after.”

“No, I want Mr Ted,” she said, hugging tightly onto one of the bears with a black bow around his neck.

“You can bring Mr Ted, come on you don’t want to leave the lady waiting,” Alex said.

She nodded and let Alex pick her up, still clutching the bear in her arms.

Jack hadn’t known what to say when he was left alone with the social worker so he just stayed silent as she continued to write things down.

“Ah, you must be Grace,” Claire said, looking up to see Alex come in carrying Grace in his arms. She looked adorable in a pretty blue dress, just like both Alex and Jack normally you wouldn’t catch her out of a little pair of jeans or leggings but Alex had tried to dress her in something smart, not that she’d been very impressed about it.

“Hi, my name is Claire and your daddy probably explained that I need to ask you some questions, okay?”

Grace nodded as Alex sat down, holding her on his lap.

“Let’s start with how old are you?” Claire asked.

“Four!”

“What do you like to do? Do you draw? Play with toys? Go to kindergarten?” Claire asked.

Grace went on to explain all about her favourite toys and some of her friends at kindergarten all why Claire scribbled it all down. Alex let out a small sigh of relief, maybe it wouldn’t be as bad as he was expecting. Claire continued asking questions, what Grace liked to eat, if she ate enough or ever went hungry. Grace answered everything she was asked, including whether she slept in a bed or not.

“Okay I only have one more thing to ask, Grace this is very important that you tell me truth, do you understand?”

Grace nodded.

“Good girl. Remember to be honest but has your dad or anyone in this house ever hurt you? Touched you in strange place? Or made you feel scared in any way?”

Alex had been dreading this question, he she’d ask, she had to but it still made him feel like a bad father.

“No. I love my daddy,” Grace said, cuddling Alex.

Alex hugged her back, placing a kiss on top of her.

“I love you too Princess.”

“Okay well, if you wouldn’t mind just giving me a quick look around then I think that’ll be all.”

Jack got up and offered to show Claire around as Alex still hadn’t let go of Grace from his lap. Once she’d inspected everything and made sure things were to standed Jack walked her to the door.

“That’s everything I need thank you. What I’ll do next is write up a report and send it over to court, they’ll then contact you and the whole thing will be over before you know it.”

“Thank you,” Alex called.

“It was nice to meet all of you,” Claire said.

“Goodbye,” Jack as he closed the door then just like that, she was gone.

“Can I go and play now?” Grace asked.

“Sure you can baby.”

Alex kissed her cheek and set her down where she tootled off back to the her bedroom and her collection of toys. Jack sank  back down next to Alex and wrapped his arms around him.

“You did it, it’s over.”

Alex didn’t say anything, he just buried himself in Jack’s arms and let himself be held.

“It’s okay, it is okay.”

Alex pulled back slightly, enough to look look Jack in eye and to kiss him.

“I love you,” he whispered.

“I love you too ‘Lex.”

Alex eventually fell asleep in Jack’s arms, finally catching up on his much needed rest. Jack was glad to see him calm enough to get to sleep and wished he could do the same. Something was still bothering him, the same thing that had been bothering him the whole time. The Taylor’s had obviously lied about Alex to get the social service visit but the question was, how far would they go to get what they wanted?

 
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