Title: Staying
Description: Jabbar thinks about waffles.
Fandom: Parenthood
Genre: Het, Family (?)
Characters: Crosby, Jasmine and Jabbar
Disclaimer: It is with a heavy heart that I admit that the exclusive rights to Parenthood aren't mine, nor will they ever be. I have also, thus far, successfully resisted all urges to kidnap Tyree Brown.
Rating: K+
Feedback: Welcomed with open arms… and toes.

Crosby has done the math and figured out that the SpongeBob SquarePants Movie came out before Jabbar was even born (which makes Crosby feel really old), though it did come out several months after he and Jasmine first met—a fact that was not lost on the man during the first twenty times he and Jabbar watched it together. That's the way he looks at his life now—as pre-Jabbar and post-Jabbar—and it has the effect of remixing events in his life the same way he might snatch the baseline from some 70s hit and drop it into the bridge of a one of the album tracks he's mixing for the North Cal rock bands that keep cycling through the studio.

Jasmine and Crosby lie in bed, their heads propped up against the headboard, and talk while Jabbar watches the film in the other room. It's engrossing enough to keep Jabbar occupied for an hour or so, and the couple gets some work done. Work like… communicating and reconnecting. They keep the conversation light—they mostly catch up on things, like laughing over stories about Jabbar's antics in soccer practice, or catfights among the dancers in Budapest.

They aren't always talking though; sometimes they cuddle, and tell each other with kisses and hugs and wistful sighs that they are happy to be together under the same roof. And when the conversation wanes, they just look at each other as if they are watching a pot of water boil. It's as if just staring at each and finding each other still sitting there is proof enough that they can have what the others have.

They want this—it's obvious—but still they know that it's so fast. Seven months later and it's still so fast. What they are working for, hoping for, shoehorning into this boat is something they thought they could do without, and actually did do without for a long time, only to wake up one day and find out that they wanted it anyway.

But still—they don't have it.

Not really.

Drifting in from the other room, Crosby can hear SpongeBob suffering from an ice-cream induced hangover, and he can't help but think about the secrets between him and Jasmine. He looks at her, his countenance reflecting the thoughts swirling in his mind.

"What is it?" Jasmine asks. She half thinks (hopes?) he's joking. He jokes a lot and they've made a tacit agreement to not fight tonight. Not tonight.

"I have to tell you something, Jasmine," he says and sits up.

Jasmine knows it's not something good. Maybe not too bad, but not good. At the very least, she knows he's not going to say he found them an apartment, or that he got rid of that picture of Katie she found stashed in his junk drawer. She sits up, uncuddles a bit, and braces herself.

"What is it?" she asks.

He kind of launches in, gives it to her with no chaser. "I got drunk at an album party while you were gone, and Renee called me to pick up Jabbar from story time, so I had Gaby give me a ride over but in the meantime, your mom had called Sekou to come and get him and we kind of got in a fight outside of the school."

Jasmine, blinking and squinting, just stares a moment.

"Sekou ended up taking him home," he adds.

She looks away. Even from the back of her head, Crosby can see her shifting gears. After a while she turns back to him, and snorts a disgusted laugh.

"And what the hell do you want me to do with that?" she spits.

"I dunno, I just—"

"When did this happen?"

"A couple days ago."

She suddenly moves to the edge of the bed, her back facing Crosby now, and shakes her head in judgment, pretty much as Crosby had expected her to. This is a relief for him, in a way. This feels... real.

Without turning around she speaks. "And when were you going to tell me?" He can see her shoulders rising up and down—she's breathing heavily.

Crosby shrugs. "Never."

"Then why are you telling me now?" she snaps.

Why is he telling her? She waits a beat and, after getting no response, turns around, silently pushing him to answer the question.

"Because I need to know if you love me."

She rolls her eyes. "Oh my God." She turns back around and starts putting on her shoes.

"I'm serious Jasmine," he asserts, then drops his voice to a talk-whisper. "If we're doing this just to fulfill some family fantasy—"

"That doesn't even make any sense."

"I'm not going to pretend that I'm in a relationship if I'm not, just so you will let me see my son. That's not fa—"

"Don't flip this back on my Crosby," she snaps back in a muted scream. "You're the one who screwed up."

The two lock eyes, both of them fixed on each other—stunned and jostled. Jabbar chooses this moment to walk in.

"Daddy?" he asks casually. Both parents turn to the little boy; he's holding a box of promotional guitar picks.

"Put that back Bar," Crosby says. "I need that for work."

Jabbar walks out and Jasmine turns back to Crosby, barely stifling her rising anger.

"So what—you punched my brother?" she whispers loudly.

"Your brother attacked me."

"I don't believe that."

"You should believe it," Crosby counters.

Jabbar appears again, this time empty handed.

"Daddy?" he begins again.

"Yeah?" Crosby answers, trying to focus on his son.

"When you leave can I take the waffle iron to Grandma's house?"

"What do you mean?"

"The waffle iron in there," he clarifies, repeatedly pointing in the direction of the kitchen.

"I know, buddy; I'm mean, when am I leaving?"

Jabbar shrugs. "I don't know."

Crosby turns to Jasmine for an explanation. She shakes her head in confusion.

"I'm not leaving," Crosby assures him. Jabbar looks down and bites his bottom lip. His parents can see the wheels in his head turning. Then he looks back up.

"But if you do leave," he starts again, "Can I take the waffle iron to Grandma's house?"

"Why do you think Daddy's leaving?" Jasmine asks. Even she is perplexed.

"Because it's his turn to leave," Jabbar explains.

Crosby and Jasmine look at each other with realization. Somehow, it's starting to make sense.

"Hold on," Crosby says, and crawls to the edge of the bed next to Jasmine. "So you think that because Mommy's back it's my turn to leave?"

Jabbar nods excitedly now that he is finally understood. "First you leave, then Mommy leaves, and now it's your turn to leave."

Jasmine turns to Crosby. Some mix of guilt and heartbreak is written on her face.

Crosby reaches out to Jabbar and pulls him close.

"Jabbar, I'm not going anywhere."

The little boy thinks about it for a moment. "Are you Mommy?" he asks.

She smiles a little, then runs her fingers through his hair. "No, sweetie, I'm not. I'm staying right here."

Jabbar likes the idea of that. He smiles widely.

"Then can I have waffles for dinner?" he asks.

"Um." Crosby looks at Jasmine, who shakes her head in agreement. "Sure," he says. He hops off the bed and, placing a hand against Jabbar's back they start to leave. Jasmine grabs Crosby's arm; he turns around.

"Go watch the movie, honey," she tells Jabbar. "I have to tell Crosby something first, OK?"

Jabbar nods and runs from the room.

Crosby sticks his hands in his pockets and sighs deeply. Jasmine stares at him a minute before continuing. Her face has softened some but… there's was no telling what she will say.

"We have to do better."

"I know that," Crosby says. He waits a beat then turns to leave.

"And I love you," she adds quickly. Crosby stops, then turns around. "I do love you," she repeats. "And not just as Jabbar's dad."

"But?" Crosby asks.

"But nothing," she says. She pulls herself from the bed and, leaning her head into his chest, hugs him. After a second he hugs her back.

"So we're going to do this… for real? Not just as a family, but as a couple?"

"Yeah," she says and looks up. "Yeah," she repeats, and with more assurance the second time.

"Because I want to," Crosby says.

"I do too," she agrees. She gently pats the side of Crosby's face. He leans down, and they kiss.

"Daddy!" Jabbar calls from the other room.

"Go make some waffles," she says. Crosby nods and walks off to do just that.

Endnote: I appreciate all feedback!