Title: A Better Understanding
Characters: Ben, Michael, Hunter, Jenny-Rebecca
Summary: Ben and Michael try to get to the bottom of Hunter’s jealousy of Jenny-Rebecca.
A/N: There will be a sequel to this, soon I hope.
Comments and feedback always appreciated.
Written for the prompt 'Jealousy' for my 25fluffyfics, 25moments and lover100 prompt tables
“They’ll be here in half an hour.” Ben said to Hunter, a smile crossing his face, as he hung up the phone.
“Can’t wait.” Hunter muttered, not looking up from his book.
“You don’t seem very happy about JR coming to stay.” Ben said, walking over and sitting next to Hunter on the sofa.
The only response from Hunter was a shrug of his shoulders.
“Hunter?” Ben said, taking the book from his son’s hands.
“What?” Hunter scowled.
“What’s the matter, Pal?”
“Nothing!” Hunter replied, grabbing the book back from Ben and burying his nose in it. Ben watched Hunter for a few more minutes, seeing the stubborn expression on his face and knew he wasn’t going to get any answers at the moment.
This visit from JR had been planned for months now, and he and Michael had spent many hours discussing how they would occupy a three year old for the two weeks she was here. They had tried to include Hunter in their planning, but he didn’t seem interested so they hadn’t pushed it, deciding that he would want to join in when the time arrived. Now Ben was wondering if there was more to his lack of interest than they originally thought.
“Hunter.” Ben said, hoping to get some response from his son. “You don’t have a problem with JR coming to stay do you?”
Hunter sighed, laying down his book next to him and looking at his father.
“Why the fuck would I care if she’s here.”
“That’s what I want to know.” Ben replied.
“Look!” Hunter said, meeting his father’s eyes. “I don’t have a problem, ok. As long as she stays out of my room!”
“As long as you keep your door shut that shouldn’t be a problem now should it?” Ben answered patiently. “But remember, she’s only three and probably won’t understand so you may have to be patient with her ok?”
“Like I intend to spend time with her.” Hunter replied.
“Why wouldn’t you?” Ben asked, surprised by the tone of Hunter’s voice. “She’s your sister.”
“Whatever.” Hunter replied.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Ben asked.
“Exactly what I said.” Hunter snapped.
“Hunter, I’m not a mind reader.” Ben said, starting to feel frustrated “What do you mean?”
“Every time she’s here, you guys…..”
His words were cut off as the front door opened, and Michael, with JR in his arms, walked in.
“We’re home.” Michael called out as he lowered JR to the floor and kicked the door shut behind him.
“Dada!!!!” JR yelled, running across the room and throwing herself at Ben.
“Hello cutie.” Ben said as he picked her up giving her a tight squeeze.
She wrapped her arms around Ben’s neck snuggling into him.
Ben looked over her head at Michael as he walked towards them.
“Have a good trip?” He asked, managing to shift JR slightly so he could kiss Michael.
“Yeah not bad actually” Michael replied. “She was really good but didn’t sleep so I think an early night is in order.”
“Daddy, I’m hungry.” JR said, wriggling in Ben’s arms.
“How about I fix you a sandwich then?” Ben suggested, putting her on the floor.
JR nodded and turned to Michael.
“Daddy, where’s teddy?”
“Still in the car, honeybun.” Michael replied. “I’ll go and get him and your bags while you have something to eat.”
“Teddy needs to eat too.” JR stated in a firm voice.
Michael laughed “Ok, you sit here with Hunter, and I’ll be right back.”
Michael lifted her onto the couch and watched as she moved closer to her brother.
“Hello ‘unter.” JR said, her fingers twisting in her dark hair.
“I’ve come to stay.”
“And Daddy said we’re going to the zoo tomorrow.” She said a wide smile crossing her face. “Do you like the zoo, I love it, ‘specially the monkeys.”
“It’s ok I guess.”
“I want you to come too.” She said, snuggling closer to Hunter, resting her head against him, her thumb going into her mouth.
“Maybe.” Hunter replied, reaching for his book and ignoring the looks Ben and Michael were sending in his direction.
Ben gave Michael an ‘I have no idea what’s wrong with him’ look as he headed towards the kitchen.
By the time Michael walked back in the door with JR’s bags, he found her sound asleep, her head resting on Hunter’s lap. Hunter had gone back to reading, seemingly uninterested in JR, but Michael noticed the looks he was sneaking at his sister over the top of his book.
Michael took his daughter’s bags up to her room, drawing the curtains and finding her pajamas before heading back downstairs as Ben walked in from the kitchen, carrying a plate of sandwiches.
“Obviously I was too slow.” Ben laughed when he saw JR’s sleeping form.
“I’ll eat them.” Hunter said, reaching out for the plate. JR’s eyelids flickered at his movements, and she turned over snuggling deeper into Hunter’s lap.
“I’ll take her up to bed.” Michael said, scooping JR into his arms, carrying her up to her room.
He undressed her quickly, grabbing a wash cloth and giving her face and hands a quick wash before tucking her under the covers.
“I want teddy.” JR mumbled as she snuggled deeper under the covers. Michael picked up the teddy from the floor, placing it next to his daughter. She smiled at her father as she pulled the teddy into her arms and drifted back to sleep.
Michael was still sitting watching his daughter sleep when Ben crept quietly into the room half an hour later.
“Thought you must have fallen asleep as well.” Ben said, walking over and sitting down carefully on JR’s bed next to his husband.
“I just wanted to make sure she’d settled ok.” Michael replied, looking at Ben, before continuing “Do you know what’s wrong with Hunter?”
“Not sure.” Ben replied. “But I could hazard a guess.”
“What?” Michael asked.
“Let’s go to our room.” Ben suggested; standing and pulling Michael to his feet. “I’ll just go and tell Hunter we’re going to bed and to make sure he locks up.”
Michael nodded and wandered to their bedroom, his mind trying to come up with an explanation for Hunter’s odd behavior but not coming up with any answers. He decided to wait and see what Ben had to say. He got undressed quickly and climbed into bed to wait for his husband’s return.
Michael had almost dropped off to sleep by the time Ben finally returned to the bedroom. Ben noticed the tiredness from the long drive around Michael’s eyes as he got into bed.
“So what’s your answer?” Michael asked, trying hard to stifle a yawn but not quite succeeding.
“We’ll talk tomorrow, you need to sleep.” Ben said, tracing a finger over Michael’s face.
“I’m not that tired.” Michael replied, another yawn giving lie to his statement. Michael laughed and snuggled up in Ben’s arms.
“Come on, give me your thoughts on the way the mind of our teenage son is working at the moment.” Michael continued.
“I think he might be jealous.” Ben stated. Michael lifted his head, surprise showing in his eyes.
“What has he got to be jealous about?” Michael asked, confusion crossing his face. “JR doesn’t come to stay that often, and Hunter is here all the time. When we go to Toronto to visit her, most times he says he doesn’t want to come.”
“I don’t think he’s actually jealous of Jenny-Rebecca, I think maybe he is jealous that he doesn’t get the time to spend with her when she is here. Just the two of them I mean.” Ben replied.
“But he’s never given any indication he wants to spend time with her.” Michael responded still confused over Ben’s logic.
“He’s a teenager Michael. What kid of his age is going to admit to his parents that he wants to spend time with his three year old sister?”
Michael considered Ben’s words and decided they made a lot of sense. Whenever JR was here, he and Ben spent every minute of the day with her, wanting to make the most of her weekend visits and looking back he realized that Hunter wasn’t around much.
“We never deliberately left him out; the offer to join us whenever we went out was always there.” Michael said. “I should have noticed he didn’t want to join in.”
“I never noticed either.” Ben replied. “It didn’t really occur to me until tonight.”
“What do we do now?” Michael asked. “I mean if we ask him to come with us anywhere, on past experiences he’s going to say no. I feel like shit that he’s been feeling like this and I didn’t notice. Pretty useless father aren’t I?”
“No you’re not, neither of us are.” Ben reassured Michael. “We we’re just doing what was natural, spending time with JR because we don’t see her very often.”
“So do you have a solution to this?” Michael asked, as another yawn escaped him. He was having trouble keeping his eyes open but wanted to get this settled before morning.
“Maybe.” Ben replied. “It depends on you.”
“Me?” Michael sat up, resting on his elbow, confusion once again crossing his face.
“We promised to take JR to the zoo tomorrow right?”
“Yeah, it’s all she talked about on the drive here.” Michael answered. “I told her about the kids kingdom where she’ll be able to touch deer and kangaroos. I can’t wait! I’ve never seen a kangaroo.”
Ben laughed at the excitement in his husband’s voice and wondered how well his suggestion was going to go down.
“I thought perhaps we could come up with some excuse why we can’t go and let Hunter take JR instead.” Ben said, waiting for the disappointment he expected from Michael.
“No wonder you’re a Professor.” Michael replied, leaning in, dropping a kiss on Ben’s mouth. “That’s perfect!”
“You’re not disappointed you won’t be able to take her?” Ben asked unable to keep the surprise from his voice. It wasn’t the response he’d expected.
“Of course not…we’ll maybe a little.” Michael replied. “But we can take her again another time can’t we? I just want Hunter to be happy.”
Ben pulled Michael down onto the bed wrapping him in his arms. Michael rested his head on Ben’s chest, letting out a contented sigh.
Ben absently ran his fingers up and down Michael’s arm thinking of an excuse that Hunter would believe for their sudden change of plans.
“Any ideas on how we can pull this off?” Ben asked. “Michael?”
The only reply he received were soft snores from his husband. A smile twitched at his lips as he reached over, turning off the bedside light. Michael never stirred as he made himself more comfortable, an idea coming to him as he drifted off to sleep.
Michael woke to an empty bed. He could hear the sound of the shower and snuggled back under the covers to wait for Ben to return to the bedroom. There were no other sounds in the house, and he was pleased JR was sleeping late. He wondered if Ben had come up with an idea on how to get Hunter to take JR to the zoo and looked up expectantly when his husband walked into the room.
“Morning baby.” Ben said; dropping a kiss on Michael’s waiting mouth. “Feel better after a good sleep?”
“Yes.” Michael replied. “Did you come up with any ideas about today, cause I’m sure JR will want to go to the zoo the moment she wakes up.”
“Actually I did.” Ben replied, sitting on the bed. “I thought perhaps I could get a call from school about an urgent meeting which I can’t get out of.”
Michael nodded. “And what about me?” he asked.
“Well how about something going wrong at the store?” Ben suggested. “I know lying is not something we should do, but I think in this instance it is warrented.”
“All that will probably work, but then we still have to convince Hunter to take JR.” Michael replied. “Somehow I don’t think that will be so easy.”
“That part is up to you.” Ben replied.
“Me!” Michael squeaked.
“Yes.” Ben answered. “Because I think you can talk him into anything.”
“Yeah right.” Michael laughed. “Since when did he ever do anything I asked him?”
“More often than you realize!” Ben replied.
Michael looked at Ben to see if he was serious.
“You think so?” Michael asked, still unsure of his persuasive powers with their son. “Ok, I’ll give it a try. But how are we going to get him out of bed. You know what he’s like when he doesn’t have school. We rarely see him before noon.”
“That’s easy.” Ben laughed. “I’m going to make pancakes for breakfast.”
“And we both know how Hunter can never resist food don’t we!” Michael said with a smile. “OK, go start cooking. I’ll have a quick shower, and by then I imagine JR will be awake.”
Michael watched Ben leave the bedroom, shaking his head still unsure how he was going to convince an obvious reluctant Hunter to take JR to the zoo but he really needed to know the reasons behind Hunter’s behavior.
After a quick shower, Michael headed to JR’s room to find her sitting up in bed surrounded by books.
“Daddy!” She squealed when she saw her father. “Look…..Dada got me new books….will you read me a story?”
Michael walked over and sat on JR’s bed, taking the book from his daughter just as Ben walked in the room.
“I’ll read you a story JR.” Ben said. “Michael, Hunter’s having breakfast. I told him about the meeting I have to attend later.”
“But Dada…we going to zoo!” JR interrupted. “You and Daddy promised!”
“And you will go to the zoo JR, I just won’t be able to come.”
“”Nooooooooo Dada….you have to come.” JR said, her voice rising.
“JR don’t yell. Michael, go see Hunter.” Ben said patiently.
JR opened her mouth to speak, but Ben pulled her on his lap, picking up the book.
“Listen JR. I’ll read you a story, then get you dressed. I’ve made pancakes for breakfast.”
“Pancakes…….I love pancakes Dada.” JR said; thoughts of the zoo momentarily forgotten.
Michael gave Ben a grateful look as he walked from the room and headed downstairs and into the kitchen.
Hunter was devouring the huge stack of pancakes in front of him and didn’t look up as Michael poured himself a coffee and sat down at the table.
“Any chance I could have some?” Michael asked.
“If you’re quick!” Hunter retorted; managing to grab another handful as Michael tried to swat his hand away.
“Well at least leave some for JR.” Michael said as he covered his pancakes with maple syrup. “Did Ben tell you about his meeting?”
“Yeah.” Hunter mumbled between bites. “Sucks”
“What sucks more, as you so eloquently put it, is that I just got a call from John at the store, and there’s been a huge fuck up with an order that’s just arrived.”
“Double suck.” Hunter replied, without looking up. “JR’s gonna be pissed. Tantrum time coming. She’s such a drama queen…wonder where she gets that from.”
Michael caught the smirk on Hunter’s face and started to respond.
“I’m not a……” He stopped mid sentence, well aware that Hunter was waiting for him to take the bait. “Anyway, Ben and I thought you could take her to the zoo.”
“No thanks. I have plans…my bed is awaiting my return.”
“Come on Hunter, as you said JR is looking forward to it.”
“I said no thanks.”
“Christ Hunter what’s your problem?” Michael asked in frustration. “Why don’t you want to spend time with your sister?”
“She’s your daughter, not my sister.” Hunter replied, a defiant look crossing his face.
“What the fuck’s that supposed to mean?” Michael asked.
Hunter ignored his father as he continued to eat but Michael had no intention of letting the matter drop.
“Hunter, I asked you a question.” Michael said quietly, watching Hunter as he laid down his fork and met his father’s eyes.
“Just what I said. She’s a stranger to me.” Hunter mumbled. “You and Ben just love her because.”
“Because she’s my biological daughter, and you’re adopted?” Michael asked, wondering if he was asking the right questions but more than anything wanting Hunter to talk to him.
“No.” Hunter replied, shaking his head before continuing. “How can I be her brother if I don’t know her. I almost never see her, and when she is here, you and Ben never let her out of your sight.”
“I guess it’s hard to get to know her or feel like her brother with Ben and I doing everything for her and planning every second of her visits.” Michael replied.
Hunter dropped his eyes but Michael knew his words had hit home.
“I’m sorry Hunter.” Michael said. “I guess that because we don’t see her that often, and she’s growing so fast we don’t want to miss a moment with her when we get the chance. We didn’t think about how you would be feeling.”
“It doesn’t matter.” Hunter muttered, but Michael felt a sense of relief come from Hunter that he had the chance to tell him his feelings.
“Yes, it does.” Michael said determinately. “You can’t be forced to love someone because they are part of your family, especially when you don’t get the time to get to know them. “
“She’s ok for a kid.” Hunter said, a small smile crossing his face.
“She talked about you a lot on the drive here.” Michael replied.
“She did?” Hunter asked surprised. “I didn’t think she’d remember me.”
“I think she’s a very smart kid.” Michael said, laughing at the look on Hunter’s face. “And no, I won’t take credit for that. Considering her family situation she could be confused about having two mothers in one place and two fathers in another, and as she gets older I think she’ll have a lot of questions about that, and having a big brother to go to when she can’t talk to any of us…..”
“Because you’re all old and don’t know shit!” Hunter butted in, ducking to avoid a smack across the head from his father.
“Don’t be a smart ass. But you know what I mean.”
“Yeah.” Hunter replied. “You’re not mad because I can’t just love her like you and Ben can?”
“Of course not, and I’m glad you talked to me about how you were feeling.” Michael responded. “So how about as a place to start getting to know her, you take her to the zoo?”
“Maybe.” Hunter seemed to consider this for a moment. “If I don’t take her what will she do for the day?”
“I’ll have to see if Ma will be able to look after her.” Michael replied.
Hunter gave an exaggerated shudder causing Michael to laugh.
“Guess I could save her from a day with your mother.” Hunter answered. “You think she’ll want to go with me?”
“She was upset when Ben said he couldn’t go, but he managed to distract her with a book and pancakes.” Michael replied. “See you and she already have something in common…. food!”
Michael was pleased to hear Hunter’s laughter at his words before he continued.
“Yeah, I think she’ll be really happy to go with you and since you’re helping us out, we’ll even spring for lunch for you both.”
“I fucking well hope so!” Hunter stated. “And bus fare and entry fees and…..”
“Hey, don’t push it.” Michael replied. “But yes, all of the above.”
“Ok, deal!” Hunter answered, reaching out for more pancakes before Michael could stop him.
Michael sat back, sipping his coffee, relieved he had the answers to Hunter’s attitude. He still felt bad but was determined to remedy the situation while JR was here. He was also looking forward to telling Ben that his guess was spot on.
“What time are you going to the store?” Hunter’s voice interrupted Michael’s thoughts, and it took him a moment to remember his ‘problem’ at the store.
“As soon as we’ve got you and JR organized.” Michael responded, hoping Hunter hadn’t noticed his hesitation.
Further discussion was curtailed as JR came running into the room, throwing herself at her father.
“I’m ready Daddy!” She yelled before turning to Hunter. “I’m going to zoo!”
“Make sure they don’t keep you there.” Hunter replied, laughing at the wide eyed look on JR’s face.
“Daddy, I don’t want them to keep me.” She said, clinging tighter to her father.
“Hunter is teasing, JR.” Michael reassured his daughter. “But JR, we need to talk.”
“Daddy has to go to his store….”
“No, I have to spend the day there so………….”
JR’s eyes welled with tears as she looked at her father.
“But you can still go to the zoo.” Michael said quickly. “How would you like Hunter to take you?”
JR sniffed, rubbing her hand over her eyes before looking from her father to Hunter.
“You won’t let them keep me ‘unter?” she asked quietly.
Hunter reached out, ruffling her hair.
“No brat. I promise I won’t let them keep you.” He laughed. “So you want to come with me?”
JR nodded and climbed onto Hunter’s lap.
“Can we see the monkeys first?” She asked, snuggling up against him.
Michael looked up as Ben walked in the kitchen, winking at his husband. Ben gave him a nod in return as he sat down with his family.