Word count: 7030
A/N: This was written for simplemishap for the 2012 round of spn_j2_xmas, based on the prompts mythical beings, h/c, and polar opposite boys whose parents don't approve. Merry Christmas, hon! Also available on AO3.
Summary: Being a human dating a fae is hard enough without adding disapproving family members into the mix. Especially if there's a chance that they might turn him into a tree if they don't like him.
Jared hated the fact that he hated introducing people to his boyfriend.
"Nice work today, Jared," Dr. Roche was saying as he, Jared and a handful of other students left Brandon Hall. "I'm looking forward to seeing how your research progresses over the summer."
Jared, still high on the rush of having now officially survived the first year of his grad degree, couldn't even muster the reflexive self-consciousness that came from having one of his professors know him by name. "Thanks, professor."
"You do realize that means you'd better be spending the entire summer in the library," Katie said. She was a first year grad student, same as Jared, but she'd worked as Dr. Roche's research assistant last summer so she knew him better than Jared did. "Gotta keep being impressive."
"Somehow, I don't think Jensen's going to go for that," Jared said.
"Ah," said Gen, nodding sagely. "The mystery boyfriend strikes again. Is he still imaginary?"
Gen had had a bit of a crush on Jared when they first met and now considered it her right as his friend to mock him mercilessly about the fact that he was in a committed relationship with someone who didn't actually appear to exist.
Jared grinned at her. "Well, we're heading up to Dallas tomorrow so I can meet his parents and I'm not about to go through all that for an imaginary relationship."
"How long have you been together?" Katie wanted to know.
"It'll be four years in October," Jared said and earned himself a round of vaguely surprised looks.
"That's a long time to go without the dreaded meeting the family event," Katie said.
Jared shrugged, a little awkwardly. "They've never been all that keen on me," he said, which was an understatement in the extreme. "But his parents specifically told Jensen to invite me to solstice this year, so here's hoping they've mellowed out a bit."
Dr. Roche arched a curious eyebrow. "The solstice?"
And, oh, Jared knew that tone of voice. "Yeah," he said, mentally bracing himself. "It's a big deal for Jensen's family. Jensen says the celebrations last for a whole fortnight and, like, every relative he has shows up at some point."
"Well that sounds absolutely terrifying," Gen said, apparently oblivious to the way Dr. Roche's eyebrows had climbed up nearly to his hairline. "They trying to scare you off?"
"Probably." Out of the corner of his eye, Jared caught sight of Jensen walking across the quad and waved without thinking about it. "Jensen!" he called.
Jensen looked over, waved and started in his direction.
Jared knew he was grinning like a fool when he turned back to the others and, while he was completely prepared for the wide-eyed shock that he was met with, it was a fight to keep his expression from slipping.
"What?" he asked, as though he didn't know.
"That's your boyfriend?" Katie demanded. "He's-"
Just once, Jared wished someone would follow that sentence up with 'he's fucking gorgeous' or 'he's totally out of your league' or anything else that focused on how unbelievably lucky Jared was to have been given a chance with Jensen.
But that was never what they said.
"-an elf!" Katie finished, looking stunned. The other three looked not-so-politely curious and relieved that they hadn't had to be the one to say it.
Jared kind of wanted to yell at all of them, but he'd had more than enough experience at this sort of thing to know how better to respond.
"Sylph, actually," he said. He gave them all a carelessly cheery grin. "The fae hate being imprecise. I'll see you guys later, okay? Have a great summer!"
He jogged off without waiting for a response, glad that none of them could see the way his smile dropped the minute he turned his back.
Jensen had stopped walking as soon as Jared started moving towards him, waiting. The expression on his face was rueful but fond as he took in the frown creasing Jared's forehead.
"Hello, you," Jensen said. Jared leaned in for a quick hello kiss and to hell with the curious looks they were drawing from all corners. "How'd your seminar presentation go?"
"Good. Really good." Jared gestured back towards the building. "Got kudos from the prof, even."
Jensen glanced past him to where Jared's professor and fellow grad students were no doubt still watching them intently. "Not going to introduce me?" he asked, teasingly.
Jared gave him a smile that was more pained than anything else. "Another time. I think I've got enough to freak out over right now without dealing with speciesist bullshit."
"They're going to jump all over you when school starts back up in the fall, you do realize."
"Probably." Jared shifted his armload of books more comfortably into the crook of his elbow as he and Jensen started walking towards the closest bus stop. "But none of my classmates can turn me into a tree if I make them mad so forgive me if I'm not too worried about that."
"None of my relatives can turn you into a tree," Jensen protested, then paused, looking thoughtful. "Well, Misha probably could. But he's usually high on catnip so you shouldn't have to worry too much."
Jared stared at him. "You're not even trying to make me feel better about this, are you?"
"Not even a little bit." Jensen's tone was flippant but Jared could read the sincere contrition in his ridiculously green eyes.
Jared's answering smile was fond and rueful. "This is gonna suck a lot, huh?"
"So much suckage," Jensen agreed. "Minimal emotional scarring though, hopefully." He reached for Jared's hand as they walked and Jared squeezed back, tangling their fingers together. They attracted more than a few funny looks and double takes during the trip back to their modest little house, but both of them had long grown used to tuning that sort of thing out.
Jared just hoped that the disdain from Jensen's family would be as easy to ignore.
The humans and the fae had coexisted through nearly all of written history. A lot of that coexistence had been decidedly less than amicable, however; which had led to rifts between the two species that had spanned generations, continents and ideologies.
Even now, in a world where equality laws and bi-species governments had been put in place to bridge the divide between human and fae, age old prejudices served to keep the species separate and suspicious.
Perhaps in another hundred years or so, Jared thought, interspecies relationships like his and Jensen's wouldn't be a cause for outrage. Maybe the old hatreds would have become distant enough that fae and humans would be able to hold hands on the street without being plagued by scandalized whispers, would be able to have mixed-race children without having to define each one as either 'human' or 'fae', rather than 'both'.
Jared hoped it happened some day. Because he didn't like to think of other people getting oh-so-politely frowned upon as he and Jensen always were.
They'd met at school, in Jared's junior year. Jensen had been the RA for the fae dorm next to Jared's human one and Jared had sought him out one night when an out-of-control party - hosted, incidentally, by Jared's RA - managed to blow out the plumbing on three floors of Jared's dorm. They'd hit it off in a way that most purists would have said was impossible for two people of different species; they'd started dating despite shock and discouragements from friends and family on both sides and Jared had never left Jensen alone since.
It sounded, Jared knew, like the plot of every star-crossed lovers rom com ever written. Having lived it, he could say with certainty that star-crossed anything was never going to work out as neatly as it did in the films, though it might have explained why it was that Jared had ever thought it was a good idea to fly across the country to meet Jensen's family en masse at one of the most important festivals of the fae calendar.
Clearly, Jared was an idiot. The love struck kind.
Jared spent most of the flight into Dallas alternately jittering nervously and grilling Jensen for the umpteenth time about his various family members. For his part, Jensen was impressively patient with Jared's neuroses. Jared appreciated that his boyfriend didn't bother telling him that everything was going to be fine and that his family was going to love him. They both knew it wasn't true, after all, and this ordeal was going to be taxing enough without false hopes.
They went straight from the airport to their hotel, which was halfway across town from Jensen's parents house. It had been a very deliberate choice on both their parts. As far as Jared could tell, none of Jensen's relatives had actually offered them a place to stay for the solstice but, even if they had, Jensen and Jared still wouldn't have accepted; there was no way that Jared would have been comfortable sleeping in a house with people who didn't want him there and Jensen didn't want to put either of them in that situation. It made Jared alternately sorrowful and frustrated that, even on the solstice, their relationship was making it hard for Jensen to spend time with his family like he once had.
And neither of them regretted it, not for a minute, but it would have been nice if at least one of their families had been on their side.
Jared had been lucky - if you could call it that - in that his parents had been so upset about the gay thing that they'd hardly cared whether he was dating a Jewish boy or a Sylph or a frigging chimpanzee. When it came to Jared disappointing his family with his life choices, Jensen's species, at least, had nothing to do with it.
On the opposite end of the scale, Jensen's family would rather that Jensen stay single forever than get involved with a human. Hence the fact that it had taken over three years for Jensen's family to acknowledge that, yes, they might want to meet the human that Jensen had decided to settle down with.
Which was why Jared was going to be doing his absolute best to give Jensen's family no choice but to like him.
Of course, as anyone who has ever done a dreaded meet the parents get together would know, the first step towards making a good impression was to panic. Often with very little meaningful support from the child of the aforementioned parents.
"Stop worrying about it," Jensen said from where he was setting up his laptop at the desk. He'd booked the time off from work well in advance, but the number of employees at his office who'd also wanted vacation over the solstice meant that his boss expected him to be able to do his job remotely if needed. Jared, likewise, had brought some papers to read and had loaded up his own laptop with prep work to be done for his thesis proposal. Worst case scenario, he could hide out here and work on stuff while Jensen did the celebrating.
"They're not going to throw you out on your ass because of the shirt you're wearing," Jensen continued.
"I know," Jared sighed, and manfully ignored how much like a petulant child he sounded. The entire contents of his duffel bag was strewn across the bed in a riot of unhelpful colours that seemed to be mocking him with its variety. He made a random snatch into the pile and brandished a paisley button-down in Jensen's general direction. "How about this one?"
Jensen looked up, sighed and rolled his eyes to the heavens. "You're like the reverse version of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, I swear. Why did you even pack that monstrosity?"
"Because it's a fantastic shirt. And I think it's hilarious when you make that face," he added, just to earn himself a disgruntled pout.
"You know what? Go ahead and wear that one. Just don't blame me when one of the Satyrs eats it in protest."
Jared threw the shirt at him, just because he could. "Fucker."
"Seriously, Jared." Jensen turned to face Jared head on, his expression calm. "A shirt isn't going to make them change their minds about us."
"I know," Jared said again. He huffed out a frustrated breath. "I just want to do this as right as possible. We're already starting at a disadvantage. I want to look like someone they could see dating you. Only human." He made a face at himself. "That made no sense."
"Well," Jensen said, coming over to join Jared by the side of the bed. "Unless you've got a pair of wings in there, you're not gonna have much luck with that. But we can try."
"Stop stereotyping, jackass," Jared muttered, with a wan but game smile.
"Hush, human. You have no sense of fashion at all, do you?" The look that Jensen threw over the contents of the bed was despairing in the extreme. "I've changed my mind. Some of these shirts definitely would make my family like you less."
"Next time I'll just make you pack my clothes," Jared said without thinking, then cringed a little at the thought of doing this again before he'd even survived the first time.
"Hey." Jensen reached up to put his hands on the sides of Jared's face and Jared focused on him gratefully. "We're gonna be fine. You hear me?"
Jared wasn't entirely sure he believed him yet, so he forwent answering in favour of bending down for a kiss that Jensen readily returned.
So readily, in fact, that they left the hotel half an hour later than they'd meant to, looking rather more rumpled than was really appropriate. Most of Jared's shirts ended up on the floor instead of the bed, and Jared was forced to choose his shirt based on which one would be least likely to show off the bite mark on the arch of his neck. The pleased, vaguely proprietary grin that flitted across Jensen's face every time Jared's collar shifted made Jared think that, just maybe, that had been Jensen's plan all along.
Sneaky Sylph bastard.
Jensen's parents' house was massive.
"Why did you not warn me about this?" Jared hissed as Jensen parked the car.
Jensen threw him a puzzled look. "I didn't know I needed to? What's wrong?"
"About your parents' house!"
"It's just a house," Jensen said, sounding even more bemused.
"It's huge! Ridiculously huge!" He jabbed a hand at the window. "That's the kind of house that eats other houses for breakfast! Tell me straight, Jensen; did you grow up in a cannibalistic house? Because that would explain a lot."
"Does a house eating other houses still count as cannibalism?" Jensen asked. The rental car's shocks squeaked as he climbed out and turned to look at Jared over the top of the car. "And I'm going to do you a favour and not ask what that would explain about me. Is this you freaking out?"
"Yes! No! I don't know." Despite himself, Jared grinned a little as he added, "Probably."
Jensen chuckled and shook his head. "Deep breaths, superstar. The house isn't going to eat you."
"Could have told me that before I got all worried about it."
"No, I really couldn't. I have no idea how your brain works."
Jensen rolled his eyes. "Come on."
The house got no smaller as they approached. It was gracefully built and had a stateliness about it that Jared's family home back in San Antonio and his and Jensen's house in L.A. absolutely did not have. The front door was unlocked so Jensen walked right in, and Jared felt the shiver of a ward breaking over his shoulders as he crossed the threshold.
"It's fine," Jensen said. "We were invited so there's no harm to them. We shouldn't keep my parents waiting long, though; I don't fancy having them come to find us."
"No, that doesn't sound like a good idea." Jared gestured forward. "Lead on."
Jensen took him through the house at an easy pace, neither hurrying nor lingering long enough to let Jared poke his nose into everything. There wasn't much about the house that screamed out 'fae!' to him, which didn't surprise Jared much at all. If he discounted the creeping plant life and the fact that nearly everything was made of wood, he wouldn't have doubted anyone who'd told him that humans lived here.
The murmur of voices drifted towards them a good handful of seconds before they reached a sliding patio door just off the den and Jensen paused just beyond the arch of light spilling across the floor.
Jensen glanced at him. "Ready for this?"
"Fuck no," Jared said, grinning anyway. "We're still gonna kick ass at it, though."
"Madman," Jensen said, because someone in his youth had clearly taught him that insults made excellent terms of endearment. He stepped closer to Jared so that their shoulders brushed. "Let's do this thing."
They walked out together and Jared immediately had his breath taken away in a whoosh of stunned admiration. They'd stepped out into a garden that was all winding cobblestone paths and brightly blooming flowers and marble fountains. Trees of all sorts and sizes dotted the area, trailing leaves, fruit and blossoms through the air.
"They've always been fond of the Romans," Jensen said in an undertone, busy looking around at the mass of people milling around the garden. Jared tore his eyes away from a pair of massive trees twining together into one graceful spiral to do the same.
It was immediately obvious that Jared was the only human in residence. Not because fae looked appreciably different from humans; some did, of course, but for every fairy with wings, or tails or blue skin, there were two more that looked as 'human' as Jensen did. The reason that it was impossible for Jared to introduce Jensen to someone without getting looked askance at for consorting with a fae was the fact that all fae had a strangely ethereal air to them that was completely unmistakable. Jensen's heritage betrayed itself in all sorts of subtle but inescapable ways: the faint luminescence of his eyes; the way his skin seemed to fairly glow in the light of day; the power his smile had to brighten other people's days, both figuratively and literally; the effortless grace with which he moved.
Jared, of course, possessed none of these traits and he stuck out like a dandelion in a bed of hot house flowers. Which was just delightful.
"There they are." Jensen reached for Jared's hand and Jared let him have it, to hell with the attention they were receiving. "Let's get this over with."
Jensen led the way across the shaggy but somehow meticulously tidy grass towards a sober-looking man with salt and pepper hair and a smiling woman with delicate horns peeking out of her ashy hair. They were talking with a wizened old man who looked like he was a million years old, give or take a century, but their conversation cut off abruptly when they saw Jared and Jensen approaching.
The woman said something to the old man, who touched a hand to his forehead before melting away, possibly literally. Jared was too busy trying to interpret Jensen's parents' expressions to see where he went.
They drew up close and Jared took a moment to give both of them a curious once-over.
The first thing Jared noticed was that they didn't look much like Jensen which, while unexpected, wasn't entirely surprising. Before they'd left, Jensen had sat Jared down and tried to explain how fae families were structured. It had all been terribly confusing. There'd been something in there about central progenitors and genealogical lines that Jared was pretty sure meant that Jensen had an indeterminate number of siblings, some of whom were also kind of cousins, and his parents weren't exactly what Jared would have thought of as parents.
Jared had managed to listen for a hard-fought half an hour before declaring that it was all Greek to him and giving up. Jensen had just rolled his eyes and told Jared just to consider everyone his cousins except for his two main parents. Jared had been more than happy to do so.
The second thing he noticed was that they didn't look old enough to have a son Jensen's age, but everyone knew that fae lived longer and aged slower than humans so that had made sense.
The final thing he noticed was that they were both watching him like they were waiting for him to embarrass himself entirely or do an interesting trick. Jared fought the urge to fidget.
"Luaidh Jensen," Jensen's father said, sounding fond but not necessarily pleased about the situation he'd found himself in. Jared couldn't really say he blamed him. "It's been too long."
"It has certainly been a while, luaidh Jeff," Jensen answered. He inclined his head at the woman with a smile. "Luaidh Samantha."
"Let me see you," she said, stepping forward to wrap him in a strangely fragile-looking hug.
Jared did the awkward hang-back while Jensen traded banal greetings and pleasantries with his parents. The eyes that had tracked his and Jensen's progress across the garden hadn't left him and the awareness of them was like an itch under Jared's skin.
Finally, Jensen's mother stepped back and turned her attention Jared's way. "So this is your lover," she said and her piercing, assessing gaze was worse than all the others combined. Jensen's dad joined in the staring and Jared wondered if it was possible to melt from sheer nervousness.
"Luaidhean, this is Jared," Jensen said, with a grimace that was on Jared's behalf rather than because of Jared. "Jared, I'd like you to meet Jeff and Samantha."
"It's a pleasure to meet you," Jared said, with his best smile. He extended a hand and was mildly surprised when both of them actually deigned to take it.
"Jared," Jeff said. "Welcome to our home. Jensen has spoken much of you."
"And of you," Jared said, though he knew that neither statement was quite true. Jensen's life with Jared tended to be largely separate from his parents' lives, through his choice and theirs.
Jeff's thin smile suggested that he knew it as well.
"So," Samantha said then, in a tone of voice that had Jared immediately on his guard. "Jared. Tell us a little bit about yourself."
Jared took a deep, fortifying breath.
Here we go.
Amazingly, it wasn't the worst 'meet the parents' meeting Jared had ever suffered through. Of course, that honour went to meeting the parents of the girl he'd taken to his high school prom who'd got pregnant and told her parents that it was Jared's baby - which would have been no mean feat considering he was gay - so Jared figured that didn't mean as much as it could.
And this interrogation was nowhere even close to pleasant. It was, Jared decided after a question about why he'd chosen to major in architecture despite the damage that over-urbanization was doing to the planet, like taking an interview with interviewers who were looking for reasons not to hire him. Jensen cut off as many suicidal lines of discussion as possible, but his parents were clearly very good at this game. Their subtle barbs kept Jared feeling awkward and off-balance, and they edged the line between falsely pleasant and outright unkind with masterful precision.
Jared could sense Jensen getting increasingly tenser with every passing moment. He wasn't feeling that much better himself, to be honest.
Eventually, Jeff asked the question that Jared had been asking himself pretty much since he realized that he was in this thing for keeps.
"You must realize, Jared, that if you're intending to pursue a-," a deliberate clearing of Jeff's throat, "-permanent relationship with Jensen, you're going to have to come to terms with the fact that you'll be on your death bed while he's only just starting to go gray. He's already nine years your senior, and the difference between you looks half that, if even. Do you honestly think that you'll be able to accept your own mortality when you're tied to a man nearly a decade older than you who looks a decade younger?"
At his side, Jensen froze. Jared chanced a glance over and found Jensen wearing a deliberately blank expression that was belied by the way his shoulders were hunched up nearly to his ears, and realized that he needed to answer this question for Jensen's sake, not his parents'.
So he squared his shoulders and looked Jeff square in the eyes as he said, "With all due respect, sir, I feel like that's going to be much harder on Jensen than it will on me. I want to spend the rest of my life with Jensen and I wouldn't want to have to watch him grow old without me. If Jensen has decided that he's okay with it, then all I can do is try and be as brave as he is."
"You might sa-"
"That's enough," Jensen cut in, calm and implacable. "You've got a gathering to host. Jared and I are going to go eat something. Yes, we'll mingle. No, I will not put up with any criticisms of our relationship. Yes, I will make a scene if someone gives me cause to. Anything else?"
Samantha gave him a long, thoughtful look.
Jared held his breath.
"You always were such a willful child," she said finally, and the fond smile that spread across her face was as lovely as the sun over the horizon. Jared thought that it was probably the first genuine expression he'd seen from her. "I haven't missed that stubbornness."
The stiffness in Jensen's spine eased just slightly as he answered, "It hasn't missed you much either, honestly."
"Go ahead then," Samantha said. "Try to enjoy yourselves. We are glad to have met you, Jared," she said, although Jared noticed that she didn't say it had been a pleasure to do so. "We will, of course, need to take some time to sit and have a proper discussion before you and Jensen return home."
"Of course," Jared said, because it really hadn't been a question. He inclined his head at both Samantha and Jeff. "I'm looking forward to celebrating the solstice with Jensen's family. Thank you for inviting me."
Jensen's parents answered with some meaningless platitude that Jared didn't even pretend to listen to and Jared felt a little wobbly around the knees as Jensen steered him away.
"What did I tell you?" Jensen said in an undertone. "Minimal emotional scarring."
"Speak for yourself," Jared said back. "Christ, I think my heart just about gave out once or twice."
Jensen patted him on the arm. "Suck it up, princess. We've got a whole garden full of curious, speciesist fae to subject ourselves to."
"I hate you so much," Jared said, letting Jensen lead him away.
To the profound relief of Jared's nervous system, talking with Jensen's other relatives was not nearly as painful as meeting his parents had been. Most people did, of course, have a great deal to say about the impropriety of having a human at the summer solstice and Jared quickly got used to being talked about instead of at, as though ignoring him would make him cease to exist.
Not everyone was unequivocally nasty. Many of the fae weren't bothered enough to go to the effort of talking to them and there was even a small handful didn't seem to care much that Jared was human.
The majority of the people they talked to; however, came in varying shades of disdainful.
Jensen stuck so close to Jared while they wandered through the garden that it was almost like he'd been grafted to Jared's side. At first, Jared thought it was his way of making Jared feel comfortable despite the less than welcoming atmosphere. Then he thought it was Jensen not-so-subtly telling his whole family to stuff it with their judging.
Eventually, though, he realized that, while both of those things were definitely a part of it, there was another, overarching, motivation driving Jensen's actions.
Jensen was protecting his property.
And maybe Jared should have found that irritating and been offended that Jensen apparently didn't think he could take care of himself. If it had been anyone else, Jared knew, he wouldn't have put up with behaviour like that. Even if Jensen had tried it in another setting, Jared didn't think he'd be willing to shrug it off. He wasn't some wilting flower and, even if he was, that wasn't the basis for a healthy relationship, in his opinion.
But this was a very specific situation and Jensen was the one who knew the playing field right now. Instead of being angry, Jared found himself almost ridiculously touched by the way Jensen scowled at the people who took digs at Jared, the way his hand stayed warm and steady on Jared's lower back whether they were talking to anyone or not. And, if Jared was being honest with himself, he could admit that it was a relief to have Jensen there to take some of the heat off him.
The most interesting part of the whole situation though, was how completely un-Jensenlike all the scowling and mine, mine, mine!' behaviour was.
Jensen was a Sylph, an air elemental, which meant that humans tended to think that he was a flighty, excitable piece of fluff. Which was true of some Sylphs - the stereotypes all had to come from somewhere, after all - but also described just as many humans and other fae.
Jensen had never been a stereotypical Sylph. Honestly, Jared didn't think he'd ever met a more down to Earth person in his life. There was something about Jensen that just made him feel steady and grounded, like he was perfectly at peace with his place in the world.
Thanks to Jensen's pragmatic personality, he very rarely let his emotions get the better of him. Jared didn't think there was a soul alive who'd describe Jensen as cold or unfeeling, but he was definitely measured, the type of person who always thought before he spoke, who could - and would - be spontaneous, but never unwisely. Jensen's passion was closely protected.
Which was why, when Jensen actually growled at one of his cousin-type people when the guy expressed distaste about the hickey on Jared's neck, Jared could barely wait until they were alone again before laughing.
"What?" Jensen snapped, looking frustrated and possessive.
"Easy there, tiger. No need to go all Rambo on me. I am a pretty big guy, you know," Jared said, though gently. "And he only came up to my shin. I'm pretty sure I could have taken him."
"You shouldn't have to," Jensen muttered.
"Maybe not, but that doesn't change the fact that there's no real need for you to go protecting my maidenly virtue."
Jensen's scowl stayed firmly in place for another moment, then he gave his head a shake and his expression went sheepish. "Sorry."
"Don't worry," Jared said, with a wave of his hand. "I am thoroughly amused right now. Just don't rip anyone's head off, okay? I'd hate to ruin this shirt after it took us so long to choose one."
"Jerk." Jensen jostled Jared, none too gently.
Jared, of course, had no choice but to jostle him back and the resulting elbow battle nearly sent both of them careening into the salad table. Which predictably sent them both into a giggle fit that had them drawing even more attention from Jensen's family. Jared fancied that some of them looked at least a little indulgent.
"Seriously, though," Jared said, when they'd both got themselves back under control. "Thank you. I know why you're doing it, even if it might not be completely necessary. It… means a lot." Then, because this was getting way too mushy for public consumption, he grinned broadly and added, "But if you try to pee on me, we are absolutely breaking up."
Jensen's answering smile was wry and openly fond. "Understood. Probably wouldn't deter half of them, anyway. You better-"
"Jenny!" a voice called and Jared had to bite his lip to stifle a grin at the utterly martyred expression that flashed across Jensen's face.
It was gone by the time Jensen turned around to greet a man with tribal marks scrawled across his skin and the beads and feathers strung in his long hair. "Who the hell invited you,?" Jensen asked and, to Jared's surprise, there was genuine affection hidden in his peevish tone.
The guy shrugged. "No idea. Might have invited myself. It's happened before." His gaze flicked over Jensen's shoulder to Jared. "And this must be the human boyfriend I've heard so much about." He held out a hand. "Chris."
"Jared," Jared responded. He returned the handshake and bit back a startled double take when the markings on Chris' skin writhed at the touch. "Good to meet you."
"Likewise." Chris grinned broadly. "I think you're the most scandalous thing to happen to this clan since luaidh Grant decided to become a contractor."
Jared shrugged. "It's always been a dream of mine to be infamous."
Chris laughed. "I like you, Jared. I think you'll manage just fine."
"What do you want, jackass?" Jensen asked, not sounding nearly as irritable as he probably wanted to. Jared suspected that he, like Jared, was beyond relieved to have finally met an ally amidst the congregation.
"Luaidh Samantha's looking for you," Chris said. He offered Jensen a one-shoulder shrug. "Sorry."
Jensen sighed. "Great." He turned to Jared. "You going to be okay without me?"
"I'm a big boy, Jensen." Jared leaned down for a quick kiss and could almost hear the heads swiveling in their direction. Cross-species PDA never failed to get a reaction. "Go fulfill your filial obligations. I promise not to run screaming until after you get back."
"You'd better not." Jensen kissed him once more, then turned to Chris who was looking on with none of the discomfort that Jared had expected to see. It was a nice switch from the average. "Look after his sorry ass, will you?"
Jared rolled his eyes. "I'm starting to feel like a pet more than a boyfriend." He offered Chris a conciliatory grin. "Not that I object to the company, of course."
"Don't worry, son," Chris said, clapping Jared on the shoulder. "He's always been neurotic. It's a Sylph thing."
Jensen gave him the finger. "Fuck off. I'll get back as soon as I can. Oh, and stay away from Danneel," Jensen warned. "She's a succubus."
Jared glanced around. "Which one's she?"
Jensen pointed and Jared stared, feeling a little slack jawed despite himself.
"Suddenly very glad I'm gay," he said eventually.
Chris grinned. "That's not actually as helpful as you might think."
Danneel caught them looking and smiled a slow, pleased smile that made Jared blush.
He swallowed hard. "Gotcha. Staying away it is."
It didn't take Jared long to be incredibly relieved that Chris stayed with him after Jensen left to go do his mother's bidding. Not only was the man - "Kachina, technically" - amusing, pin-sharp and apparently unbothered by Jared's humanness, but he made a wonderful buffer between Jared and the rest of Jensen's family.
"Do they not like you, either?" Jared finally asked, after the third person in a row failed utterly at actually stopping to interrogate him after they caught sight of Chris at his side.
Chris shrugged. "I've got a bit of Coyote in me somewhere back, so no one's ever quite sure if I'm screwing with them." His grin sharpened, turning feral and dangerous. "How about you, human? Am I just waiting for a chance to make things even worse for you?"
"No," Jared said, with all the nonchalance he could muster. "I don't think so."
Chris' eyebrow arched. "No?"
"You kind of remind me of my friend Chad," Jared said. "And I apologize in advance for the comparison. All of the most embarrassing, stupid and dangerous things that have ever happened to me have been Chad's fault. He's an idiot and a womanizer and obnoxious, but despite all that, he's always there for me when the chips are down. Mind you, he'll probably be completely useless, but I know I can always depend on him to be the same guy, no matter what."
The menace in Chris melted clear away like it had never been there. "I can see why Jensen likes you," he said, without bothering to tell Jared whether or not he had been teasing or warning him.
"Likewise," Jared said and earned himself a grin.
"Come on," Chris said, yanking Jared down until he was stooped enough for Chris to throw a companionable arm over his shoulders. "Let's go horrify the Undines."
Eventually, Chris abandoned Jared to go do God only knew what and Jared decided that he wanted to know nothing whatsoever about something even Chris wouldn't talk about.
Jensen still hadn't come back and a quick scan of the garden didn't find him either. Which meant he was probably in the house. He skirted around the edges of the garden, working his way towards the house and doing his best to avoid having to talk to anyone else.
Just because he could take care of himself, that didn't mean he wanted to if he didn't have to.
He found Jensen in the kitchen, hacking away at something alarmingly yellow like he intended to bury it and dance on the grave afterwards.
Jensen didn't look up as he entered, focused on whatever he was mangling, so Jared stepped up behind him and wrapped his arms around Jensen's waist, nuzzling in close.
Jensen's entire body tensed for a second before he relaxed and let his head loll back easily onto Jared's shoulder. "Hey there," he said. "Had enough yet?"
"I'm regrouping," Jared said, sighing contentedly over his armful of Jensen. "It's a tactical retreat."
"That's my big strong hero," Jensen said, though the humour in his tone fell just a little flat. They were both off their game today. He let go of the knife and curled both hands around Jared's forearms. "You okay?"
Jared nodded, his cheek rubbing against Jensen's with the movement. "I think I like your family," he said. "It's kind of hard to tell though, since half of them terrify me, the other half are ignoring me and nearly all of them generally dislike me."
Jensen sighed. "Sorry."
"Don't be," Jared said firmly. "Don't ever be sorry about you."
"I can be sorry about them." He made an irritated sound. "They shouldn't even have invited us if they were just going to be like this."
"At least they're trying." Jared paused, thinking that over. "Well, some of them, anyway."
Jensen snorted at that. "You are such a softie. You wouldn't be so Zen if it was me being second class citizened by your family."
"Ah, but my family wouldn't let either of us through the door because they think I'm a sin. So you'd still be all bristly and adorable on my behalf."
"One: I'm not adorable. Two: I hate you." Jensen elbowed Jared in the gut to emphasize his second point. "My argument still stands, by the way."
"Fair enough," Jared said because, really, it wasn't something he could deny. When every day felt like a battle of them against the world, protectiveness got to be as natural as breathing.
Jensen squeezed his arm comfortingly, not saying a word, and they were silent for a moment.
"Is it time to go home yet?" Jared asked.
"Twelve days to go," Jensen said.
Jared managed a grin. "Is that all? Better start packing."
"Might take us the entire time to find out where all of your shirts went." Jensen sighed again, his whole body heaving against Jared's chest. "Once the rites start, it should get better. If nothing else, everyone will be too busy having fun to pay attention to us."
"Works for me." Jared glanced past Jensen towards the pile of yellow mush on the chopping board. "Do I want to know what that used to be?"
Jensen elbowed him again, less gently this time. "You don't like the way I chop vegetables, you can do it yourself. Let me go."
"And here I thought we were having a moment." Jared sighed mournfully as he stepped back, mostly to see Jensen's face twist into his favourite combination of affection and exasperation.
"You can have all the moments you want as long as you can use a paring knife at the same time." Jensen produced a second knife for Jared and shuffled him off to an empty patch of countertop. "Go."
"I've got no idea why I love you," Jared said, leaning over the sink to wash his hands.
"Hey," he heard Jensen say as he shut off the water, and he turned to find Jensen looking at him with an expression so raw that it made Jared want to blush. "You are worth it. The growing old. I don't care what any of them think about us. You're my number one."
Jared blinked at him, wet hands dripping forgotten on the floor. Jensen was apparently content to stand there, somewhere between happy and amused by Jared's obvious sentimentality.
"I don't care what your family thinks, either," Jared managed, his voice coming out raw. "I can't not love you." He frowned a little. "Though I really hope they're not going to put me through some kind of Tam Lin shape-changing you challenge, are they? Because I don't know if I love you that much."
Jensen shook his head, smiling. "You are such an ass. Come over here and kiss me, already."
And that right there was all the acceptance Jared could ever ask for.
luaidh (pl. luaidhean) - loved one (Scottish Gaelic)
TIMESTAMP: The Promise of Spring In which Jared is a terrible lecturer but manages to be inspiring in his own way nonetheless. G