Title: Rest Your Head Close To My Heart (or at AO3)
Pairing: Jesse Eisenberg/Andrew Garfield (established)
Warnings: None. Just people being turned into three-year-olds, mostly.
Summary: Andrew gets turned into a three year old. I pretend there is some reason of ~science for this.
A/N: With huuuuge thanks to harriet_vane for audiencing this the whole way through and for Americanising Jesse for me.
When Jesse opens his front door, the last thing he expects to see is Andrew’s friend Rob Pattinson, standing in his hallway, looking hungover and clutching a small child.
“Um,” is pretty much all Jesse manages.
Rob winces, shoving back his knitted hat enough to scratch at his hair. “Hi, Jesse,” he says, “You okay?”
“Sure,” Jesse agrees, nodding dubiously. He doesn’t really know Rob, has just sort of nodded at him awkwardly at award ceremonies and secretly, meanly, wished he’d go away so Jesse could get back to talking to Andrew.
The kid in Rob’s arms sounds really cranky and miserable and Jesse has just enough time to think that he didn’t even know Rob had kids before it’s suddenly shoved at him.
“No, thank you, I’m trying to give up,” Jesse says automatically, stepping back.
“Dude,” Rob says, voice low and rough and urgent. “Dude, seriously, you have to take him, I can’t do this anymore. He won’t stop crying.”
He sounds kind of wild, which Jesse is pretty sure is unusual for him; he usually seems fairly affable. “I, um, I’m sure there are people who can... Hang on, I’ll get you a phone, you can call his mom or - .”
“Jesse,” Rob says, leaning all the way into Jesse’s personal space and making crazy eyes at him. “I can’t call anyone. This is Andrew.”
Jesse’s first instinct is to laugh. His second is to explain very carefully just how much he hates practical jokes. Then the little boy in Rob’s arms turns around and Jesse’s third instinct is to hyperventilate.
Actually, that might not be an instinct; he might be doing that one, he realises, and sits down hard in the middle of his doorway. After a couple of seconds, Rob and the kid step over him into his apartment then sit join him down there.
“Yeah,” Rob says, shrugging. “It’s a mindfuck, isn’t it?”
Now Jesse does laugh. It’s kind of hysterical. “You are joking, right?” he asks, just in case. He’s an automatically wary and suspicious person by nature; there’s no way he should believe this. But the kid looks so much like Andrew that his logic seems to have been overruled by the part of his heart that saw an upturned, tearstained face and huge, familiar brown eyes and threatened to break on him.
“Oh my god, I wish,” Rob says. He reaches past Jesse’s shoulder and pushes the door shut. Good thought.
The kid - Andrew, Andrew, Jesse isn’t thinking of him as Andrew - seems to be falling asleep, curled into a tight little ball against Rob’s chest, eyes scrunched up like he wants the world to go away.
“Why would that be Andrew?” Jesse asks, hearing his voice rise. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
Rob makes a one-handed flaily gesture which Jesse is pretty sure means fucked if I know. Andrew has one just like it. The real Andrew, grown-up Andrew. Not this one.
“We went out last night, right?” Rob says. Jesse nods. Andrew felt bad about using up one of the few nights he was in New York meeting up with Rob but Jesse made him go. “We had a few drinks.” He coughs. “Okay, we got pissed then Andrew started to feel weird so we went back to my hotel and, god, I don’t know. I thought he just passed out so I did too but then I wake up this morning to a tiny, Andrew-a-like in Andrew’s bed, wearing Andrew’s clothes and making Andrew’s tragic eyes at me.”
Jesse shakes his head. “It has to be a practical joke.” Not that Andrew is big on practical jokes; he worries about hurting people’s feelings too much for that.
“Yeah.” Rob looks down at the fitfully sleeping kid, not looking convinced. “I thought so too, but if it is, Andrew left his mobile and his wallet and his keys and everything with this kid. But, still, I thought it must be, right? So I packed him up and brought him here because, because I thought if it was a joke then he’d stop me. Jesse, dude, there is no way Andrew would let you get involved if it really was a joke. You know?”
He’s looking like he wants Jesse to start laughing or something, announce the world’s latest April’s fools. But Jesse can’t because, because... holy fuck.
Jesse bangs his head against the wall and groans. “This kind of thing doesn’t happen to other people.”
Rob almost-grins at him. “Nope,” he agrees. He prods at the kid... Fuck, who is Jesse kidding? He prods at Andrew until he stirs, tiny fist gripping the edge of Rob’s jacket and buries his face into Rob’s chest.
He’s got to be three years old, maybe four at a pinch if Andrew was a particularly short kid, which doesn’t seem likely. Jesse just stares at him in horror. He has no idea what to do in this situation.
“Can you take him?” Rob asks, looking down at Andrew and making a painfully guilty face. “You know I love him, right? But I can’t take care of a kid and you’re his, uh. You know.”
Jesse does know but, “I can’t take care of a kid either,” he says, appalled. “God, no, definitely not. I’d break him or maim him or something.”
But Rob isn’t listening. Rob is, in fact, standing up.
“What are you doing?” Jesse asks, scrambling up after him, which turns out to be a tactical error when baby Andrew gets shoved into Jesse’s arms. Jesse takes him automatically, clutching him far too tight so he won’t fall, and accidentally waking him up in the process.
Andrew starts to scream, squirming in Jesse’s arms like he thinks Jesse wants to murder him, hands reaching desperately for Rob who backs up so fast that it would be funny on any other occasion.
“Andrew, mate, come on,” Rob says, sounding upset. “This is Jesse. Jesse is like, your most favourite person in the whole world. Don’t cry.”
Jesse bounces Andrew around, trying to get a good hold on him and managing, somehow, to flip him around so he’s mostly sitting on Jesse’s hip. That’s definitely better; Jesse doesn’t think he’s going to drop him now, but apparently that’s no comfort to Andrew who just keeps on crying.
Jesse can feel his brain schedule itself time for a breakdown, but Rob is starting to look just as upset as Andrew and Jesse cannot have an apartment full of brokenhearted British boys; he just won’t do it.
“Okay,” he says, nodding at the door when he finds he doesn’t want to let go of Andrew long enough to open it. “Let yourself out. I’ll handle this. You retrace whatever the fu- whatever the hell you did last night and fix it.”
“What?” Rob’s hands find the door-handle, clutching at it like Jesse has given him a death row reprieve. “Right, yes, I’ll do that. I’ll... Andrew, little man, c’mon, I’ll be back.”
“Just go,” Jesse advises because he knows from experience that it’s nearly impossible to leave Andrew when he’s upset and that’s when he’s twenty-eight.
Andrew’s sobs start to echo, getting so loud that Jesse’s head throbs in time. He has literally no idea what to do, which is weird for him, he usually at least knows what to do, even if he doesn’t want to do it.
“Andrew?” he says, resting his chin on Andrew’s fluffy nest of uncombed hair. “I know this is scary and weird and new and you don’t know where you are, but I promise I’m not going to hurt you.”
He hopes he’s not lying. He’s definitely not going to hurt him deliberately, anyway.
Andrew’s breath hitches, like they’ve hit the eye of the storm and Jesse has to talk fast before it comes crashing right back over them. His legs feel shaky from all this responsibility so he sits them down on the couch, weirdly happy when Andrew doesn’t immediately renew his bid to escape.
“Okay,” Jesse says. He doesn’t know how to touch Andrew like this so he settles on petting the top of his head until Andrew leans his head back, tipping his tear and snot-wet face up at Jesse curiously.
“You’re a mess,” Jesse tells him, reaching over and grabbing a couple of kleenex. Andrew squirms when Jesse tries to mop up his face but Jesse perseveres until he’s at least vaguely presentable.
Jesse isn’t sure who he’s going to need to present him to, hopefully no one, ever, but it’s the principle of the thing. “There,” he says. “That’s better.”
Andrew sniffs a couple of times, blinking up at Jesse. “Who are you?” he asks. It should be cute, Andrew’s clipped, British accent coming from this tiny kid, but his voice is so tear-logged and scratchy that it’s mostly just horrible. Jesse kind of wants to hit someone. He doesn’t know who, but his money’s on Rob.
“I’m Jesse,” Jesse says, “I’m... We’re... You’re...” There’s no good place to go with that sentence. You don’t tell a three-year-old that you’re dating their future self; that’s just creepy. “I’m going to look after you for a little while, just until you’re - ” older - “just for a while.”
Andrew is gnawing on his bottom lip. He does that when he’s worried but Jesse hadn’t realised he’d done it all his life. “Where’s Mummy?” he asks eventually.
Jesse is so busy telling himself not to say three thousand miles away on a whole other continent, that he finds himself saying, “I don’t know,” automatically before he realises that that’s even worse.
Unsurprisingly, fresh tears spring up in Andrew’s eyes, spilling down his cheeks while he stutters, “But, but, but,” and doesn’t seem able to find a question he’s not scared to ask.
“Shit,” Jesse swears at himself. “God, no, Andrew, I didn’t mean that. Of course I know where your mom is. I’ll, I can, we can call her later, if you’d like? Would you like to talk to her?” Hopefully, by the time later comes, Andrew will have forgotten or Jesse will have come up with a brilliant way to explain all this to Mrs Garfield. Neither seems very likely.
Andrew nods. “Yes,” he says firmly. He’s not sobbing like he was to start with, but the tears are still rolling and Jesse feels like the most useless person ever to be presented with a toddler.
This shouldn’t be this hard, Jesse’s sure. Adult Andrew is easy-going and sunny so a three-year-old version of him should be more so. Except, even as Jesse’s thinking that, he knows it’s bullshit. Andrew - his Andrew - is at his most relentlessly cheerful when he’s miserable inside; baby Andrew clearly just hasn’t learned to pretend yet.
“Um,” Jesse says, “I’m going to try to cuddle you now, but if I squash you and you can’t breathe, please say.”
Andrew doesn’t say anything at all so Jesse awkwardly sort of scoops him up, patting his back and trying to rock him even though he’s pretty sure that’s something you do with tiny babies, not toddlers.
Andrew turns his face on Jesse’s shoulder, so his hair brushes Jesse’s neck and okay, that’s okay, he’s relaxing a bit, they’re both relaxing a bit. Maybe Andrew will fall asleep and then Jesse can have a nice, quiet breakdown.
Except, obviously, that doesn’t work. No sooner has Jesse started counting his chickens than Andrew starts to wriggle again, pulling away from Jesse’s arms.
“Kitty!” he says, smacking Jesse’s in the cheek with one flailing arm and Jesse turns toward where he’s looking and sees that, yep, the new kitten has escaped from the bathroom.
“Yes,” Jesse agrees slowly, torn about what to do. Adult Andrew had been pretty excited about the new kitten too and at least this Andrew seems to have been distracted from his tears. Jesse will happily bribe him with a lot more than a kitten to keep up that state of affairs.
He sits Andrew down on the sofa, shaking his head when Andrew tries immediately to throw himself over the arm to get to the kitten. “No, you stay here. I’ll bring her to you.” Hopefully, that’ll cause the least damage.
The kitten is a longhaired grey and she doesn’t have a name yet though Andrew has suggested everything from Smokey to Rapscallion. She’s pretty docile, mewing happily when Jesse picks her up, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t worried that she’ll try to bite Andrew. Jesse pretty much always worries about that, even when Andrew is big enough to take care of himself. When Jesse’s cats bite people, Jesse feels like a horrible for days.
“Careful,” he says, pouring the kitten into Andrew’s lap. She’s only nine weeks old, but Andrew is tiny enough that she still manages to look full-sized. The kitten walks around in a lazy half-circle before plopping her bottom down on Andrew’s left leg and looking set to stay.
Andrew looks like he isn’t breathing. His eyes shine, unhappiness apparently completely forgotten, at least for now, and he reaches down, touching her fur with the most careful fingers Jesse has ever seen.
“It’s okay,” Jesse says, wondering distantly why his heart is squeezing so tight and really hoping he isn’t having a heart attack. “Here, pet her between the ears, she likes that.”
Once he’s sure that Andrew isn’t going to accidentally pull any fur in his excitement and that the kitten probably isn’t going to turn into a whirling dervish and eat Andrew’s face off, Jesse allows himself exactly thirty seconds to drop his head down on the sofa cushion and quietly, methodically freak the fuck out.
He makes it to twenty-nine seconds, before he feels tiny fingers touch his scalp and looks up to find Andrew sucking thoughtfully on his lower lip, still gently petting the kitten with one hand, but all five fingers from the other hand now tangled in Jesse’s curls.
“Stop laughing,” Jesse sighs, rubbing the bridge of his nose and starting to regret making this call.
Emma doesn’t stop.
“Emma,” Jesse says and something in his voice must sound close to as desperate as he feels because she manages to hiccup her way to silence.
“Sorry,” she says, voice wobbling with suppressed giggles. “I’m sorry. It’s just... he’s three? Really?”
“I can send you a picture if you want,” Jesse says tiredly. Something goes bump in the general vicinity of Andrew, but when Jesse whips his head up to check, Andrew – and the kitten – look totally innocent. He decides he’ll worry about it later.
“Oh my god, yes please,” Emma says. “All the pictures. Every last one. Is he adorable? I bet he’s adorable.”
“He’s always adorable,” Jesse snaps, “Just right now, he’s adorable and three years old and I don’t know what to do.”
“Cuddles,” Emma says wisely, like she’s any better with children than he is. “Also crayons and lots of kid-appropriate TV.”
“I don’t have a TV,” Jesse says automatically. Then the full force of that hits him. “I don’t have a TV. Oh god, Emma.” He remembers being Andrew’s age, back when just the idea of television didn’t threaten to bring on a migraine; he would have cried the place down if he’d been separated from his cartoons.
“That’s okay,” Emma says quickly. “Just don’t mention it to him and maybe he won’t think of it. Is he... is he like, Andrew regressed? So is it, what, 1986 to him right now or what?”
“I don’t know,” Jesse says, irrationally exasperated even though it’s a perfectly good question. “We haven’t exactly discussed world affairs or who he thinks the President is yet.”
Emma sighs back at him. She’s good at that; seeing his annoyance and raising it so he calms the hell down. “Okay,” she says, “I’ll be there in an hour.”
Jesse grips the phone tight, suddenly seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. Even if it’s only a pinprick and his tunnel is more a panic attack. “Thank you.”
“Yeah, maybe,” Emma says and hangs up.
“Jesse,” Andrew says, pulling on Jesse’s pantleg ten minutes later. Worryingly, Jesse doesn’t think he’s moved since he finished talking to Emma. “Jesse.”
Instinctively, Jesse scoops him up and onto his lap. Andrew might not be Andrew, but he’s still somehow reassuring. “Yes?” Jesse asks.
Andrew holds up one little hand. “Kitty scratched me,” he says and Jesse’s heart actually stops for the length of time it takes to find the tiny (tiny, oh thank god, tiny) scratch on the side of Andrew’s index finger. It’s barely a mark at all, hasn’t even drawn blood but Jesse still lifts him up immediately, carrying him into the bathroom.
“Does it hurt?” Jesse asks, sitting him down on the side of the sink and rooting around for antiseptic. “Are you okay?”
Andrew shrugs, shoulders going all the way up to his ears before dropping back down. “I wanted to shake hands. Kitty didn’t want to.”
“Her name isn’t actually Kitty,” Jesse points out but Andrew ignores him, reaching for the box of band-aids that Jesse has just found.
“It wasn’t her fault,” Andrew says, carefully selecting the smallest band-aid and holding it out to Jesse. “Don’t be cross with her?”
Jesse has no idea what to do with his life right now. “I won’t,” he promises. He wasn’t going to anyway; he’s the one who left a three-year-old unattended with a just-weaned kitten. If anyone needs locking in a closet, it’s him. “Give me your hand.”
Andrew bites his lip when Jesse pours half a bottle of antiseptic over his fingers, but he doesn’t fuss. He’s actually much better about it than adult Andrew would be – adult Andrew would be making exaggerated hurt faces and asking Jesse to kiss it better, which... Jesse is just not going to think about right now.
“Okay?” Jesse asks, once he’s dried off Andrew’s hand and stuck the band-aid on. “Still hurt?”
Andrew shakes his head, smiling. “Thank you, Jesse,” he says, and holds his finger up toward Jesse’s face.
Jesse has four seconds of not knowing what he wants before it hits him. “Oh,” he says. “Really?” He grabs Andrew’s hand and kisses the band-aid quickly, feeling like a sham and like he really wants his mom, let alone Andrew’s.
Andrew laughs and kicks his feet against the sink. “I’m hungry,” he announces.
Jesse heart sinks. “Really?” he says again, meaning oh god, something else? this time. “We, um. We probably have some leftover Chinese food.”
Andrew makes a face. “Fish fingers and chips, please,” he says.
Shit. “Chips like, um, potato chips?” Jesse asks hopefully. He probably has some stale Doritos somewhere.
Andrew looks at him like he’s very strange. “No,” he says. “Chips.”
Right. Of course. There’s no way that Jesse is going to the store with a miniature Andrew Garfield in tow so he’s just going to have to hope that the food fairy chooses now to exist.
“Come on, then,” he says, picking Andrew up and carrying him into the kitchen. Andrew kicks his feet against Jesse’s hip like he wants to get down but Jesse ignores him.
Predictably, when Jesse opens his cupboards, there’s nothing there that Andrew’s interested in eating, and pretty soon his fingers are clutching Jesse’s shirt too tight, head turning to hide in Jesse’s collar bone.
“Shi... Shoot, no, don’t get upset,” Jesse says, trying to think about what to do. The internet; the internet will bring him food, he’s pretty sure.
“I’m hungry,” Andrew says, heartbreaking in how serious he sounds. “Mummy will give me food. Where’s Mummy?”
At that moment the doorbell rings.
“Mummy?” Andrew asks, perking up.
“No,” Jesse says quickly, because he can’t stand the idea of Andrew being disappointed. Then he remembers that thing called tact, when Andrew’s lower lip wobbles. “No, hey, it’s... It’s probably our friend Emma. Do you remember Emma? No, obviously, you don’t. But she’s great, you’ll like her.”
He’s reached the door by this point and checks through the peephole that it actually is Emma before opening the door.
“See,” he says, still talking to Andrew. “Emma is really cool.”
Andrew is definitely crying again, just little wet sniffles but it’s still enough to make Jesse want to shove him at Emma and run away. He doesn’t.
“Holy shit,” Emma says then covers her mouth with the hand not clutching a million bags. “Holy shit, Jesse.”
“Language,” Jesse hisses and she makes a guilty face.
“Sorry. Andrew, uh, Andrew?” Andrew turns his face into Jesse’s neck and ignores her. “Hi, Andrew, I’m Emma. Don’t repeat anything I say, okay?”
Andrew doesn’t look up.
“I think he’s shy?” Jesse tries, even though he wasn’t shy with Rob and hasn’t been with Jesse so far.
“I think he’s having a bad day,” Emma decides after peering at the top of Andrew’s head for a minute. “I mean, anyone who wakes up with Robert Pattinson staring down at them is going to be kind of traumatised, right?” She waves some of the bags she’s brought with her. “I bought food on the way in. Do you think he likes mac and cheese?”
Andrew’s head pops up at the word food. “Fish fingers?” he asks Jesse doubtfully.
“Pasta,” Emma tells him, leading the way into the kitchen. “And cheese. Dude, you love pasta and cheese.”
Andrew keeps looking up at Jesse and Jesse feels kind of weird about the way he only smiles when Jesse nods.
“Okay,” Andrew says. He reaches out and touches Emma’s long ponytail, which is swinging around just in front of him. “Thank you.”
Emma looks over her shoulder and makes a face at Jesse like oh my god, my heart. Jesse can only nod; he completely agrees.
While Andrew digs into his mac and cheese, Jesse and Emma clutch coffee mugs and stare at each other. Emma had wanted to break open the wine and so had Jesse, so much, but he’s not going to be drunk in charge of a toddler, no way.
“Okay, so I think I’ve hit the part where this stops being hilarious and is now kind of scary?” Emma says at last.
Jesse nods. “I’ve been there all along,” he assures her.
“What if we can’t find a way to make him older?” she asks, hands clenching around her mug. “What if he gets stuck like this and you, and we...?”
“Stop it,” Jesse says quickly because he’s not thinking about that. He can’t. Three-year-old Andrew is cute, sure, but he’s not the guy Jesse’s in love with. Jesse misses his Andrew.
“Sorry.” Emma’s hand covers Jesse’s, hot from the mug and squeezing. “Shit, I’m sorry. Of course we’ll find a way to age him up again. And then we’ll blackmail him forever with the photographs, right?”
Jesse manages to nod. “Right.” He turns his cell phone around on the table again, just in case that might make Rob call him. “What will we blackmail him for?”
Emma shrugs. “Backrubs, footrubs, blowjobs for you.”
Jesse shoots a quick, guilty look at Andrew. “I can’t think about that right now,” he says tightly and Emma squeezes his hand again. He’s kind of scared, actually, that even when Andrew’s an adult again (and he will be, he has to be), Jesse might never be able to look at him and think sexy thoughts again.
Andrew drops his fork onto the plate with a clatter. “Finished,” he says, looking up at them with cheese all around his mouth and, somehow, on the end of his nose. “Can I get down, please?”
“Yeah, just a second,” Jesse says absently, and reaches over to wipe off Andrew’s face with a Kleenex.
Andrew wrinkles his nose but holds still, flashing Jesse a smile and then turning a smaller one on Emma before sliding off his chair. “Kitty,” he calls, wandering away, “Kitty.”
Jesse sighs and drops his head onto table. “I can’t keep up with his moods,” he says. “One minute, he’s crying for his mom, the next he’s content with a kitten and a TV dinner.”
“He’s three,” Emma says. “I don’t think he needs to make sense.”
“Why not?” Jesse groans then nearly brains himself on the tabletop when his cell phone rings.
“Yeah, so, funny thing,” Rob says once Jesse’s finished falling over himself asking if he’s found the solution yet.
Jesse feels a sort of grey, creeping dread steal over him. “What?” he asks. Emma gets up and comes around the table, looking worried, so Jesse clicks the phone onto speaker and sets it down on the table.
“I went back to the bar and there were no, like, secret mystical vibes or anything so I gave up and called Andrew’s parents.”
“Oh god,” Jesse says, immediately imagining how much badly Andrew’s parents must be judging him right now. They let their son visit Jesse rather than come home to see them in his week’s break from filming and he now he’s turned into a three-year-old.
“See, I was totally expecting them to freak out,” Rob says slowly, “but instead they just kind of went quiet? And then his dad said, oh Christ, not again.”
“What?” Emma explodes into the silence. “How many other times has Andrew randomly become a kitten-loving, fish sticks-craving three-year-old?”
“Um, hi, whoever that is?” Rob says, not giving Emma a chance to introduce herself before he carries on. “Apparently, it happened to Ben - you know, Andrew’s brother? - this one time and their parents have basically been sitting around, hoping that it wasn’t genetic ever since.”
“Wait,” Jesse says. “They have a genetic deaging condition? That makes no fucking sense.”
Rob blows out a breath, static crossing the line and making Jesse wince. “Don’t ask me, dude. I didn’t make the rules.”
Emma pats Jesse’s shoulder. “So what did Andrew’s parents say we’re supposed to do?” she asks.
Rob sighs. “Apparently with Ben they just like, they waited and it wore off. Hello again, by the way.”
Emma rolls her eyes. “Hi,” she says, pretty patiently for her. “Did they give you any clue how long it takes to wear off? Like, Ben isn’t preparing to celebrate his fifth birthday or anything, is he?”
Jesse puts his head back down on the table and just listens. Emma has questions, Rob has answers; he doesn’t really need to be part of this conversation.
“They said a week. But, okay, is Andrew stressed about something? Because they said it happened to Ben just before he got engaged when he was freaking out about the future and shit.”
There’s silence and oh, okay, apparently this is a question only Jesse can answer, then.
“I don’t think so,” he says, racking his brain and automatically worrying his way through a million different possibilities. “Well, only about world peace, the state of the economy, the environment. The usual sort of thing.”
“Jesse,” Emma says quietly.
“No,” Jesse says, shaking his head. He can’t think of anything. It makes his insides feel awful that Andrew was apparently stressed enough to bring on a spontaneous impossible metamorphosis and Jesse didn’t know.
“Hey, Rob?” Emma says, squeezing Jesse’s shoulder and leaning over toward the phone. “Thanks for the update. We’ll talk to you tomorrow, okay?”
“Okay,” Rob echoes. “What did you say your name...”
Emma ends the call.
Jesse stands up as soon as it’s quiet, dodging Emma’s hand when it reaches for him and moving quickly through the apartment. He finds Andrew stretched out on the floor next to the kitten, both of them looking more asleep than awake.
“Hey,” Jesse says, folding himself down onto the carpet and touching Andrew’s narrow back.
Andrew makes a sleepy noise and rubs his face into carpet. Great, he already has dried cheese on the end of his nose; now he probably has fleas.
“What were you worried about?” Jesse asks him softly, wishing Andrew would go back to being twenty-eight, even if only for a second, just so he could answer. “You’d have told me if you were really worried about something, right?”
Andrew rolls onto his back and blinks up at Jesse. “I’m tired,” he announces, like Jesse might not have noticed.
“Yeah,” Jesse agrees and picks him up. Andrew wraps his arms around Jesse’s arms like it’s instinctive or something, forehead pressed against Jesse’s chin.
“Kitty’s tired too,” Andrew tells him, stretching his eyes wide open like he thinks that’ll help him stay awake.
“Yeah,” Jesse says again, carrying him out of the room quick before he can get any ideas about the kitten sleeping in with him. “Kittens sleep twenty hours a day. You can’t do that; you’d never keep still long enough.”
Andrew ignores him, which is good since Jesse is babbling. “Is it bath time?” Andrew asks, which brings Jesse up short.
“Um.” He swallows. “I don’t...” He’s not giving the three-year-old version of his boyfriend a bath, no way. “Emma!”
Emma leans back in her chair and grins at them from the doorway. “Hey, there. Someone looks all tuckered out. And Andrew, you look pretty tired, too.”
“Funny,” Jesse says because he can’t tell her to fuck off when Andrew can hear him. “Look, can you do me a favour? Please? And before you say no, please note that I’m saying pleeeease with at least three extra e’s.”
“Wow,” Emma says, deadpan. “Must be serious.” She gets up, kicking her chair back under the table. “How can I help you, Mr Three E’s in Please?”
Andrew giggles, either because he likes the rhyming sound or because people making Jesse beg is just so intrinsically funny that even a three-year-old gets it.
Jesse tries to paste on his most winning smile. He doesn’t need anyone else to tell him that that just makes him look constipated. “Give Andrew his bath for me? Please?” She raises her eyebrows. “I mean, pleeeease.”
“Why?” Emma asks, lowering her voice and frowning.
It’s clearly a seriously asked question, which is why Jesse can’t answer it how it deserves to be answered. “Because I’m scared of the monsters down the drain,” he tells her. “Obviously.”
“Monsters?” Andrew asks, perking up and yeah, Jesse should have guessed he’d like that.
“Okay,” Emma says slowly, still frowning like Jesse is a particularly difficult Sudoku puzzle. She reaches out to take Andrew, who pulls back, kicking his feet into Jesse’s stomach. Jesse figures he deserves any resultant internal bleeding.
“Come on,” Jesse says, carrying Andrew to the bathroom. “Emma’s going to give you a bath while I find you somewhere to sleep.” (Jesse has nowhere suitable for Andrew to sleep but he’s worrying about so many things that he just doesn’t have capacity to worry about that, not right now.)
“But Emma’s a girl,” Andrew says in the loudest whisper ever.
Emma makes a badly concealed choking/laughing sound.
“Emma’s a woman,” Jesse says automatically. “And she’s a way better choice than me, seriously. If I get near you with a washcloth, I might clean you until all your skin falls off.”
Andrew laughs. “You’re silly,” he says, which no one has ever accused Jesse of being - not even his Andrew, who usually manages to come up with at least one new adjective for Jesse every week.
“He’s totally silly,” Emma says. “He also doesn’t seem to realise that you can walk. Jesse, dude, put him down. We’ll be fine.”
Jesse wants to explain to her that as long as he’s carrying Andrew, any of the nine million things that might try to hurt him will have to go through Jesse first - which might at least slow them down. He doesn’t want to panic Andrew though so he just puts Andrew down, petting his hair automatically and ignoring any pangs he gets when Andrew shyly tucks his hand into Emma’s.
“Excuse us,” Emma says primly and shuts the bathroom door.
Jesse stares at it until he hears bathwater start running then he shakes himself. Right, okay, he needs to move. Andrew needs somewhere to sleep and just staring into space isn’t going to magically turn Jesse’s one-bedroom apartment into a two-bedroom apartment. He’s not sure that anything else will either, but at least it gives him something concrete to concentrate on.
Half an hour later, Emma presents him with a clean, if slightly damp, Andrew, dressed in one of Jesse’s t-shirts because the clothes he was wearing might have shrunk with him, but nothing else has.
Emma, herself, is soaked from chin to waist in slowly drying bubbles.
“Next time, you’re doing it,” she says, hands on her hips. She doesn’t look even slightly intimidating right now, not with what looks like clumps of soap in her bangs.
Jesse bites his lip. “But you look like you had so much fun,” he says, clutching Andrew to his chest like a protective shield when Emma advances on him.
“Whatever,” she says, shaking her dress out with as much dignity as possible. Which is fairly little. “I’m going home now and I’m going to drink all the wine and pretend this day never happened. Which is something you can’t do, Nanny McEisenberg.”
Suddenly, things don’t seem half as amusing. “No, what, you can’t leave,” Jesse says, panic gripping his insides. “Emma.” He lowers his voice, not that Andrew is listening since he’s half-asleep and singing what sounds like Frere Jacques to himself. “I’m not the sort of person you leave a baby with all night. I’ll accidentally emotionally scar him in some farcical yet horrific way.”
Emma rolls her eyes. “You haven’t broken him as an adult, you won’t break him as a kid. Also, he’s not a baby. He’s like, three, Jesse; he’ll tell you if you do anything too shitty.”
Jesse stares at her balefully. “... Thanks,” he manages eventually. “With pep talks like that, you should be the next Miss World.”
“Fuck you,” Emma says cheerfully and picks up her coat from the back of the sofa, leaning over to kiss the top of Andrew’s head. “Bye, Andrew. Call me if Jesse tries to stay up past his bedtime or has any bad dreams, okay?”
She says that last bit with her eyes turned up to Jesse’s through her bangs and he nods, breathing out in relief. She’ll come if he needs her, he knows that, but it’s good to have it confirmed.
The apartment is far too quiet after Emma leaves, even though Andrew has now moved on to Ba Ba Black Sheep for some reason. Jesse carries him into Jesse’s own bedroom, because he hasn’t been able to think up a better plan, laying him down right in the centre where there’s least chance of him tumbling tragically to his doom. Or the floor. Whichever is closest.
Andrew curls onto his side, hand lifting to his mouth then curling into a fist by his chin instead, like he wanted to suck his thumb but someone’s trained him out of it.
Jesse pulls out his phone and snaps a picture; he doesn’t exactly want this time immortalised in pixels but, just this once, he just can’t help himself.
“Jesse?” Andrew asks, reaching out a hand for him. The bed is seriously far too big for him – or he’s far too small for the bed – and Jesse feels a tug just below his ribcage, telling him to climb in beside Andrew and make sure he’s safe.
Jesse thinks he’ll probably go mad if he doesn’t at least try to keep the two Andrews in his head separate though, so he just sits down on top of the comforter instead, automatically brushing Andrew’s floppy hair out of his face.
“I thought you were asleep,” he says, surprising himself by how fond he sounds. He’s not growing attached to this Andrew; he wants his version back too much.
“No,” Andrew decides after a moment, shaking his head. He clutches Jesse’s fingers hard, small, blunt fingernails digging into the back of Jesse’s hand. “Can’t sleep.”
Jesse casts his mind back desperately to when Hallie Kate was a baby. He’s pretty sure he was reading her Robert Louis Stephenson by the time she was three, but Hallie is a lot more excited by books that Andrew has ever been.
“Once upon a time,” Jesse says gamely, hoping something will occur to him while he talks.
Andrew smiles softly, shifting closer and pressing his face into Jesse’s knee.
Jesse isn’t exactly a tall person, but his couch must have been built for a hobbit because when he wakes up at two in the morning, there’s a hideous crick in his neck. At first, he thinks that’s what woke him but then his ears come back online and he makes out damp, wet snuffling sounds coming through the dark.
“Andrew?” Jesse asks blearily, dragging himself upright and fumbling for the lamp beside the couch.
Andrew is sitting in the middle of the living room, bare knees poking out from under the bottom of his over-sized t-shirt. He’s pulled the kitten into his lap and his face is buried into the back of her neck, sniffling quietly into her fur.
“Andrew,” Jesse says again, falling off the couch and putting one arm around Andrew’s heaving back all at the same time.
Andrew keeps one arm tight around the kitten - she just looks placidly confused; thank god, she’s so easy going - but grabs hold of Jesse’s t-shirt with the other.
“We couldn’t find you,” he mumbles. “Kitty didn’t know where you were.”
Jesse feels so guilty he could die. “I’m here,” he says uselessly, lifting both Andrew and the kitten up and onto his lap.
The kitten finally has enough, mewing crossly and twisting away, stumbling off Andrew’s legs and sitting down next to them. Predictably, this does nothing to cheer Andrew up.
“Shh, shh,” Jesse says helplessly. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I’m here.” He definitely should have slept in with Andrew, he thinks, angry with himself for putting his own feelings over Andrew’s.
Andrew clings to him. “Don’t go,” he says, like Jesse is showing any sign of ever leaving. Jesse is never leaving him, he thinks crazily, no matter how long it takes things to go back to normal, not even if they never do.
“I won’t,” he promises. He hesitates then kisses Andrew’s temple. “See? It’s okay. You’re okay.”
Andrew sniffs and wipes his nose on his wrist, which is disgusting but Jesse’s kind of buried under kid and cat so he can’t do anything about it. “Is Mummy coming home tomorrow?” he asks.
“We can call her tomorrow,” Jesse promises, calculating the time difference in his head and wondering if they could just call her now. Probably not. “Would you like that?”
Andrew tips his head back, smile watery and upside down. “Yes, please.” He yawns suddenly, and it seems like a good idea, so Jesse does too.
“Ugh,” Jesse says. “Come on, you need to go back to bed.”
“No,” Andrew says immediately, pulling hard on Jesse’s shirt. “No, no, no.”
“Yes, yes, yes,” Jesse tells him, lifting him up. Then - because he will always be a soft touch for Andrew - he picks the kitten up too.
Andrew tugs on Jesse’s collar, almost strangling him. “My bed’s too big,” he says quietly. “I got lost.”
Jesse pushes open his bedroom door, flicking on the lights and oh, right, okay, that’s one way of describing it. There are pillows all over the floor, the sheet is kicked half onto the floor and the comforter is twisted around into a spiral as if Andrew either decided to hide in there like it was a cocoon or it tried to swallow him whole.
“Wow,” Jesse says, stopping short. “Was there some kind of nuclear catastrophe I didn’t hear about? Were you trying to build yourself a shelter?”
“It tried to eat me,” Andrew tells him solemnly. “Like the bad wolf in the story.”
Okay, maybe Jesse shouldn’t have told him Little Red Riding Hood as a bedtime story. He puts Andrew down on one of the pillows, handing him the kitten to distract him.
“Wolves and beds are different,” Jesse assures him, bending down and straightening out the comforter. “Totally different. Wolves don’t live in little boys’ bedrooms and they’re scared of cats; it’s a well known fact.”
“Kitty’s going to save us?” Andrew asks, looking at the kitten with new-found appreciation.
“Her name really isn’t Kitty,” Jesse tries again, just in case there’s any chance left that that’s not going to stick.
Andrew drags his palm all along the kitten’s fur, from the top of her head to the tip of her tail. “You said I could name her.”
Jesse freezes. “I did,” he agrees slowly, “Do you remember that?”
Andrew shrugs, not looking up.
“Okay,” Jesse tells himself. “Stay calm.” He did tell Andrew he could name the kitten, sure. Only, he told him that a couple of days ago, before the de-aging metamorphosis of doom. He’s not sure what it means if Andrew remembers that, and maybe it doesn’t mean anything at all, but Jesse can’t help feeling just a little jolt of hope.
By the time Jesse’s gotten the room straightened out, Andrew is nearly all the way asleep again, his eyelids blinking sluggishly when Jesse tucks him under the comforter.
“Stay?” Andrew asks and Jesse groans quietly.
“Obviously,” he says, sighing to himself before picking up the kitten and putting her at the end of the bed. He’s not sure why he decided to make rules for tonight, since he’s breaking all of them.
Andrew rolls over, half disappearing between the two pillows. Jesse stretches out along the bed, trying not to laugh, and scoops Andrew out, putting him back on his own side.
“The bed wants to eat me,” Andrew complains again sleepily.
“I’ll protect you,” Jesse promises, which is a stupid promise – he didn’t manage to protect Andrew from this happening – but it’s warm in the bedroom and he feels calmer, one hand on Andrew’s back, and he lets himself be lulled into sleep by the gentle rise and fall of Andrew’s breathing.