Thank you for all of your responses! I guess I'll keep going ;)


Chapter II

I've Got a Crush on You

.

Hard as he tries, Beck just can't sleep in on Saturday morning. He doesn't know if it's because he's nervous (and excited) for his date with Jade or if it's because his biological clock wakes him up early anyways, but for whatever the reason, he's restless.

Finn and Ezra had stayed the night at his parents' house, leaving him with an empty and quiet home. He misses his boys, but he knows that they're being spoiled by their grandparents and that he'll have the day to accomplish some things that he needs to get done.

After making himself a simple breakfast, he goes for his usual morning run. Usually, he's pushing a double stroller carrying his sons during the ten mile trek, so his load is definitely lighter today. Although the air is thin in Colorado—and particularly in Breckenridge, which is famous for its high altitude—Beck has gotten used to it after living here for almost two decades. He's a mountain man and a nature lover at heart, and he loves Colorado with every fiber of his being.

As he runs through his town, he becomes increasingly excited for his coffee date with Jade. Once he's home, he showers and throws on his favorite red plaid shirt, and he makes the ten minute walk to Jet Brew just in time.

Jade is there shortly after him, so he pays for her coffee before the two of them find a cozy table in the back of the cafe together.

"Hi," he says, smiling at her and hoping he doesn't look as nervous as he feels. "You look really nice."

"Thanks for the coffee," she says as a reply, and takes a sip of her steaming drink.

"Of course. So, how do you know Tori?"

"We met through my sister, originally. Veronica and Tori were friends in college, and now they work at the same network station. They got hired as junior news anchors at the same time, and they've just stayed friends. What about you?"

"We went to the same high school, and Andre and I have grown up together and somehow ended up at the same school from kindergarten to college. So we go way back," Beck says.

"Andre's cool," she agrees. "He's had me sub for him a few times when something comes up and he can't make it to a lesson. I'm not nearly as good on the piano as he is, but the only difference that his students notice is that I'm a girl and I'm 'stricter'." She uses air quotes and Beck laughs. "Some of these kids will play for ten seconds and then get up and take a five minute water break, but they'll never get good if they keep doing that. Then again, they're all pretty good little pianists so I guess Andre knows what he's doing."

"He is awesome. I'd love to learn the keys someday, but for now it's just me and my guitar."

Jade's ears perk up. "You play guitar?"

"Since I was eight. I love it." She's instantly turned on, but she manages to keep her cool. "I wish I could do what Andre does and teach for a living, but with no other source of income it just doesn't really pay the bills."

Jade smiles softly. She can't believe how humble he is. "So what do you do, then?"

"I'm an architect," he answers. "I design floor plans for buildings all over Colorado." Beck almost adds his far more important job, but he's afraid to say it too soon for fear that he'll scare her off. "And you?"

"Freelance photographer. I started my own business when I was seventeen, and I haven't wanted to do anything since."

"Wow," Beck is genuinely impressed. "What's your favorite photo you've ever shot?"

Jade thinks for a minute, surprised by the fact that no one until now has ever asked her this question, until she finally realizes her answer. "You've been to the Blue Moon Festival, right?"

"Every year," he says with a smile.

"Two years ago, I got this shot of the ferris wheel. The sky was clear and the moon was a real, full blue, and there was a kid that ran right into my shot from afar. At first, I was pissed, because I had this perfect picture clear from any people at all. But when I looked at it later, I realized how great it actually was. The full moon, the ferris wheel, and the boy running across the picture in the distance. It didn't go how I planned, but it turned out perfect."

Beck can't help the grin that spreads across his face. "That's amazing. If there's anywhere you'll be guaranteed to get a good shot, it's the Blue Moon Festival."

"Big fan?"

"Huge fan."

"I can't say I like all of the crowds of people and greasy food and sticky kids running around, but the music, the lights, and the photo ops are unparalleled."

Beck's heart skips a beat when she mentions her distaste for 'sticky kids,' but he still doesn't confess anything. As their conversation goes on, he realizes how naturally they're able to talk. An hour and a half passes by as if it were five minutes, and Jade is so completely drawn to his energy that she doesn't even notice the time until her phone alarm goes off.

"I'm sorry," she says, pulling her bag onto her shoulder. "I was supposed to be at a shoot five minutes ago."

"No big deal," Beck reassures her, and before she gets up they have another one of those weird moments—identical to the one outside of her house on Friday night—where they just stare at each other. "I had a great time with you, Jade," he finally says.

She looks down and smiles shyly. "Thanks again for the coffee."

"Anytime. I...haven't dated in a while so I don't really remember how this works, but, would you mind if I asked for your number?"

Jade lets out a little laugh at how polite and sweet his question sounds. "Sure." She scribbles the digits onto a napkin and slides it towards him. "I'll see ya around." And with that, she's up and walking away, leaving Beck holding a napkin and smiling like an idiot.

Their next date is the following Tuesday night, when Andre and a very excited Tori offer to watch the boys. Beck promises himself to tell Jade about his sons, which makes him even more nervous.

They've just started the main course of their dinner when they're on the topic of what each other does in their spare time. He loves that Jade's hobbies are things like art, music, and writing. And when it comes time for him to share, he knows it's the right thing to do.

"Well, I love being outdoors," he starts off. "I like running, hiking, and playing guitar. But, most of all...I...spend time with my sons."

Jade is infinitely grateful in that moment that she has nothing in her mouth, because she's sure she would have either choked on it or downright spit it out. Why hadn't Tori mentioned this? It's not as if it's any minor detail about this guy—he's a father, for Christ's sake. When all she says is a late, "Oh," Beck feels instantly guilty.

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner. I was scared that maybe you'd panic and not want to see me anymore. And, that being said, Jade, please know that you are under no pressure to continue seeing me after this date. I know...that this is a lot to hear."

She nods her head and internally calms herself down. "You have more than one?"

"Two. Two great boys," he tells her, and she doesn't miss how his whole face lights up. She wants to ask how in the hell he has two kids at the age of twenty-three, but she supposes she'll let him do the explaining. "Finn is five, and Ezra just had his first birthday last month."

A quick mental calculation tells her that he had this kid at eighteen years old, which is either a sign of major recklessness or major responsibility. Considering how he is now and seeing as he's obviously still the boy's dad, she goes with the latter. "Wow," is all she's able to get out. "So..." She wants to ask who the boys' mother is, but she also doesn't want to touch on anything he isn't ready to tell her.

Thankfully for her sake, he is.

"If you're interested to know how all of this went down, I'd be more than happy to tell you," he says, and she wonders how he read her mind. "But I don't want to put you on overload."

Jade doesn't know what compels her to do it, but she knows that she has to do something to put her bundle of nerves of a date at ease. She reaches her hand across the table and sets it over his. Neither of them says anything about how ridiculously normal and wonderful the touch feels for two people who are only on their second date. "Beck," she says, and he thinks that he would do anything for her if she said his name just like that before asking, "tell me. I want to know," she promises.

He gulps quietly in an attempt to find his words. "Okay."

After a minute or so, the two resume eating and Beck starts his story, with Jade listening intently. "I met Leslie in high school, when we were sophomores. About a year and a half after we started dating, we found out she was pregnant." He pauses for a second, and Jade doesn't budge. "It changed everything. Suddenly there was stress...everywhere. My parents were disappointed, her parents hated me, and Leslie cried about how she didn't get an abortion every day until she was about seven months along."

Jade's eyebrows go up sympathetically, and she takes a deep breath as she realizes how fast the man in front of her must have had to grow up. "I proposed, because I knew it was the right thing to do. I had no intention of leaving her, or the baby, so I figured we might as well get married—at least to appease our parents. Things were okay, and then... Well, then Finn Taylor was born." He smiles upon mentioning his son.

"Leslie went into labor right after graduation, and he came a few hours later. She was never really interested in him, but I had a blast being a dad. I'd drive him around in my truck, him in his car seat in the back, and we'd listen to James Taylor for hours. By the time he was two he was singing all the words, and his favorite thing to tell people was who his middle name came from."

Jade smiles at this, and she can tell how much he loves talking about his son. He pays their check (she thanks him) and they start walking with no destination in mind.

"A few years after Finn was born, Leslie started drinking more. She always liked her alcohol, but it got serious fast. She dropped out of college and started crying every day again. She didn't pay any attention to Finn, but I didn't want him to grow up without a mom, so I kept telling myself that she was just going through a stage and that things would get better. But... I really got worried when she told me she was pregnant again."

Jade looks up at him, but he keeps his eyes forward as they walk. "She threatened to have an abortion, and I had to beg her not to. Those nine months were some of the hardest of my life; I had to watch her like a hawk to make sure she didn't drink, smoke, or do anything else to hurt the baby. The day Ezra was born and the doctors told me he was healthy..." Beck finally looks at her and Jade's heart beams. "I hadn't been happier since the first time I held Finn."

It dawns on her that he really has no fear of expressing himself. Unlike so many other men she's met, he isn't trying to pretend like he's anything but himself. He's proud of the fact that he's a hard-working, single dad. He's honest and gentle and kind, and goddamnit, he is gorgeous.

Beck reaches for her hand and she lets him hold it. Again, neither of them mentions how nice it feels.

"A few days after Ezra was born, Leslie started drinking again. When he was a week old, she told me—while blackout drunk—that she'd been cheating on me. The boys are mine, which she knew from paternity tests, but I guess that's just a miracle. She left the next day, swearing that she'd never come back to me. My parents helped me file for divorce, and I haven't seen or heard from her since then."

Jade racks her brain for something, anything, to say. "Beck," she starts, but he shakes his head.

"It's okay. It was for the best. I've got my boys, and they do more for me than Leslie ever could."

They walk back to Beck's truck after another hour of talking, and he drives her back to the house she shares with her sister. He's quick to exit the car so that he can open her door, and she's again shocked by how much of a gentleman he proves to be.

"Beck?" She says while he walks her to the front door.

"Yeah?"

"Thank you for telling me."

He smiles—and she's pretty sure she sees him blush—and then he kisses her cheek in a way she didn't know could be so sexy. "Thanks for listening. I'll...call you tomorrow?"

She scoffs, but it turns into a smile that matches his. "You'd better."

The next morning, Tori and Jade decide to meet up for brunch. Tori has been practically dying for details about their date, but she doesn't want to force Beck into girl talk, so she's had to hold off. Once the hostess seats them at the restaurant, though, she can barely wait any longer. "How did it go?" She asks, a smile bursting onto her face.

Jade laughs and folds her napkin over her lap. "It was...good. It was really, really good."

Tori grins. "You totally like him."

"Shut up," the other girl waves her off. "And by the way, you could have told me about the two kids thing!"

"Yeah, I figured that might come out last night," Tori admits. "But I didn't want you to say no to going out with him just because he's a dad; I thought it would freak you out. He has so many great qualities that you would have missed out on. And now you know exactly what I'm talking about."

Jade doesn't say anything and opts instead to pretend read the menu. Tori figures she should decide what she wants, too, but her head pops up again the second Jade starts talking.

"He didn't kiss me," she says, and Tori can't read her expression. "I mean, he kissed my cheek. But he didn't kiss me."

"I'm not surprised," the darker-skinned girl replies. "He's so respectful. He's like, a true gentleman. Plus, it's not like he can afford to go around kissing girls like he's some normal twenty-three-year-old guy; he's got Finn and Ezra to think about, you know?"

"Yeah. It does make sense. He doesn't seem like the type of guy to bring home a new mom for the kids every week or two."

Tori stares at her friend. "Jade?"

"What?"

"You're only the second girl he's ever dated. The second girl, actually, that he's ever even shown remote interest in."

"Seriously? With that face? And the hair?"

Tori nods her head and raises her eyebrows for emphasis. "Seriously. I offer all the time to hook him up with some of my girlfriends from college, but he always says no. When I finally got him to go out with Von, Andre and I were both so excited for him. But when that didn't work out, and he ended up meeting you, he was immediately interested."

"How long has he been alone like this?"

"Well, Leslie left him last August, right after Ezra was born. So I guess it's been just over a year."

"God," Jade mutters. "I know I'm no Positive Patty, but that even sounds miserable to me."

"But you'd never know it," Tori points out. "Not with Beck. He's the happiest guy I know. He loves his job and he loves his boys, and he works so damn hard to take care of them. And that's why, Jade, you have to be so careful with him."

"Vega, we've been on two dates. Two. And we haven't even kissed for Christ's sake." Jade tries to downplay the relationship, but inside she knows more than well that she has scarily intense feelings for Beck.

"Two dates is more than he's ever been on with anyone besides Leslie. He knows that—for the boys' sake—he can't even think about dating anyone who he's not going to be serious with. He's a great guy. But you just have to be careful with him. If you're not...there's no one to take care of him when it all falls apart."

Tori's words sink in for Jade like she hadn't known they could. She realizes that it's no wonder Beck didn't kiss her; he's trying to decide whether she's the kind of girl that he could meet his kids and be good with them. Just that idea freaks her out more than she's willing to admit. She doesn't know that she's that kind of girl.

What she does know is that she has to ends things with Beck before he gets the impression that she is.

Saturday brings the Blue Moon Festival, so the Oliver household is up earlier than usual. A wildly excited Finn comes blazing into his father's room and hops onto the bed. "It's festival day!" He shouts, which Beck is certain wakes his younger son up.

"Yeah, it is. And your announcement of it just woke up Ezra, you squirm," he teases, pulling Finn into his arms to tickle him.

"Dad, stop!" The five-year-old giggles. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" He squeals out.

"What's the magic password?"

"Dad rocks!" Finn yells, and Beck finally releases his laughing son. As soon as he sits up, Finn jumps onto his back for a ride to Ezra's room.

Beck grins and heads into the nursery, where, just as he'd suspected, the baby is standing up in his crib. "Hey, big guy." Ezra reaches for his dad and Beck uses one of his arms to lift him out.

"Dad, can we have pop tarts for breakfast?"

"Are you crazy? You're about to eat more hot dogs and popcorn and junk food than ever in your life today at the festival! How about some eggs and bacon, huh?" As soon as he's in the kitchen, Beck squats to let Finn off of his back.

"Okay," he agrees. "When do we get to go?"

"It doesn't start until noon, buddy. So we can go in a few hours." Beck sets Ezra into his high chair and starts working on breakfast.

"A few hours? What are we gonna do until then?"

"We've got tons to do! We can work on your letters; I know Mrs. Penny wants you guys to practice writing so that you'll be ready for first grade, right?"

"But Dad, I'm already really good!"

"I know you are." He quickly chops up a banana and sets it in front of Ezra. "But the other day I'm pretty sure you wrote 'bad' instead of 'dad'," Beck jokes.

"Well d's and b's are hard."

"Exactly, that's why we practice!"

"Dad?"

"What's up?"

"Are Uncle Andre and Aunt Tori going to the festival?"

"Yep! Aunt Tori's even going to be on TV for a little while because she's doing the news story on the festival."

By the time Finn has asked a few more questions about what a news story is, Beck has brought two plates of eggs, toast, and bacon to the table. "Ezra," Finn says, holding up a strip of his bacons the thirteen-month-old's face. "Say bacon."

"Ba!" He giggles out the word that they've learned he calls all foods.

"Ezra, Ezra," Finn persists. "Who am I?" He points to himself.

"Dih!" He shouts.

"Good boy," his older brother cheers even for the odd pronunciation of his name, and Beck laughs when Finn ruffles Ezra's hair like a dog. "Now, who's that?" He points to his dad now, and Ezra looks at Beck excitedly.

"Da-da!"

"Yeah!" Beck grins and leans over to kiss his younger son's cheek.

Their breakfast fun continues into the morning, until it's time for Ezra's first nap. Beck and Finn work on his letters for about an hour, and by that time his oldest son is dying to get dressed and ready for the festival. Around noon, they leave the house to make the ten minute trip into town. Beck carries Ezra and Finn hops along beside him, eager as ever to get to get there.

The whole town (albeit its small size) is out and ready for a day of fun, but luckily Beck finds Tori and Andre rather quickly.

"Hi!" Finn bounces towards the couple and throws himself into their arms.

"Hey, guys!" Andre says, reaching his hand out to tickle Ezra's tummy. "How's it going?"

"I'm just excited we're finally here! I think Finn would have exploded if we'd had to wait another second."

"Uncle Andre!" His son shouts in perfect timing. "Can we do the ferris wheel?"

"Of course we can! Beck, I've got him; text me when you want this knuckle head back," he laughs and swings Finn up to sit on his shoulders.

"Alright. Finn, be good!"

"I will!"

"You know," Tori says in her mischievous voice as Andre and Finn walk away, "Jade is here today."

"What?" Beck turns his head both ways out of instinct. "She's here? Now? Today? At the festival?"

"Woah, Beck, it's not like she's bringing a bomb."

He scratches his head. "Sorry. I just... I wasn't expecting to see her. Is she coming to do photography?"

"Yep, the The Daily Summit hired her to cover the festival again. Is everything okay with you two?"

"Yeah, of course. I mean, I like her. A lot. It's just that she hasn't exactly met the boys yet. We've only been on two dates so I wasn't planning on making that move until I got to talk to Finn about it and make sure he was comfortable."

"Oh, yeah. Well, it's not like Finn will get any hint that you're dating her unless you explicitly mention it. He's five; he won't know."

"Yeah, you're right. Well then, wish me luck."

"Wish you luck? I'm the one who's going to be on TV as a news anchor during a major event for the first time ever!"

Beck laughs. "Right again. Good luck, Tor. Break a leg."

"Thanks! See ya later, and good luck with Jade!"

Tori walks off then, leaving Beck and Ezra to explore the festival. "Alright, Ez, can you help Dad keep an eye out for a pretty girl?"

The baby bounces in Beck's arms. "Da-da," is his toothy-grin reply.

Beck laughs. "I'll take that as a yes."

Meanwhile, Jade is by the cotton candy machine, snapping photos of the giddy kids getting the pink and blue fluff. She sees kids and families everywhere, which inevitably reminds her of Beck—which then reminds her of the sick feeling she gets about having to tell him she's not the girl for him.

For the next forty-five minutes, she replays what she's going to say to him on their next date. She's so distracted in her thoughts that very obvious idea that Beck is probably here at the festival doesn't even cross her mind. Suffice it to say that she nearly drops her (very expensive) camera when she sees him.

She would turn around, but she can see from just his backside that he's wearing a plaid button-up, and all of her hormones scream at her to go get a better look. Jade walks towards the petting zoo—she had planned to take pictures there next anyways—and Beck turns just in time to see her.

"Jade!" He calls, and she looks up at him as if she hadn't noticed him already. She smiles at him, and when her eyes fall down and a little to the side of his face, she thinks she might pass out. Jade has never been one to love kids—or even maybe ever want one of her own—but those female hormones kick up another notch at the sight of him with a baby in his arms.

Beck. In his plaid shirt. And his freshly cut hair down. Holding an admittedly adorable baby.

She instantly shoves the idea about telling him she's not the girl for him out of her head. That will have to wait.

"I didn't know you were coming," Beck says, and there's something sentimental in his voice, like he's glad she did come anyway. "You look beautiful."

Jade curses herself for blushing. "So, uh, I see you've got a little mini-me." In actuality, the only thing Beck and the baby have in common is their eye color and a few facial structures. He does have his dad's thick hair, but it's a much lighter shade of brown. His skin is pretty fair, too.

"Yeah. Jade, this is my son, Ezra." He looks down at the one-year-old. "Can you wave hi to Jade?"

Rather than responding, Ezra smiles shyly and buries his head in Beck's chest. Jade's heartbeat picks up and she has no idea why. "Aw, don't be shy," Beck coos, and tickles his son to get a response. Ezra giggles and Jade can't help but laugh. "His brother is the outgoing one. Finn," Beck explains. "He's with Andre right now, getting some energy out while probably eating massive amounts of hot dogs."

"Kid stuff," Jade reasons.

Beck grins. "Kid stuff."

"Da-da, ooo!" Beck looks down at his son to see that Ezra is looking over Beck's shoulder and pointing to the animals inside the zoo.

"Are you," Beck asks, looking back at Jade, "going in?"

"That's my job," she says with a smile as she holds up her camera.

He smiles back, and she follows him into the gated area. Jade starts taking pictures right away, as there are several other kids and parents in the petting zoo. Beck takes Ezra over to the baby chicks and sets him down to play. He keeps his hands on Ezra's stomach or arms, since he hasn't yet mastered walking, and the baby is ecstatic. "Da-da!" He shrieks, scaring off a few chicks and making Beck laugh.

"Look, buddy." Beck easily scoops a chick up and pulls his arm around Ezra so he can use both hands to hold the animal. He inches his hands closer to his son and Ezra grabs onto Beck's shirt in hesitation. Jade comes in perfect timing to get a candid picture of him showing Ezra the chick. She stays with them as they explore the baby goats, pigs, and bunnies, and by that point everyone is starting to get hungry.

Jade accepts the offer to have lunch with Tori, Andre, Beck, and the boys, but there's still a churning in her stomach. Meeting Ezra today is one thing, because he's little and she knows he has no idea what's going on. Meeting Beck's five-year-old, though, might leave her feeling horrible guilt about knowing she's going to end things with his dad in a few days.

She and Beck walk over to the picnic table that Andre, Tori, and Finn had saved, and Finn hops up towards his dad automatically. "Dad, look! I'm a dragon!" His entire face is painted, and Beck laughs before taking a quick picture on his phone.

"You know what that means?"

"What?"

"That means our game tonight is going to be extra intense. You're basically a real dragon!"

Finn's mouth drops open and he starts jumping up and down. "Can you get your face painted like the knight?! And we can get Ezra painted like a princess? Please, Dad!?"

Beck laughs again and ruffles his son's hair. "I'll do a knight, but no way am I torturing your brother like that."

"Wait," Andre intercedes, "what game is this?"

"Me and Dad play it!" Finn answers him. "Dad is the knight, and he has to rescue the princess—which is Ezra, because there's nobody else to play it—and then I'm the dragon." On his last word, he leans towards Andre with clawed hands.

"Hey, buddy," Beck says to get Finn's attention, "this is Jade. She's a friend of mine and Aunt Tori and Uncle Andre's."

"Hi," he says in a friendly voice.

"Hi, Finn." She waves at him and sits down next to Beck, across from Tori. The lunch conversation is lively, as usual. Beck is sure not to show any signs of affection that might alert Finn to anything unusual, but he does rest his hand gently on Jade's knee under the table for a bit.

On their next date, he takes her to a cozy restaurant inside a mountain lodge on Peak 8. It's rustic and homey, and the place itself reminds Jade of him. She doesn't tell Beck about her hesitation with his kids; she can't decide whether she's more afraid of being his girlfriend or of ending the relationship, so she makes no move.

This date is even better than the first two, and when he walks her to her door that night, Beck cups both of her cheeks and kisses her. Jade's hands go to his hair and his arms move to wrap around her and it's a little (a lot) less polite than he'd planned it to be, but he's way too attracted to her for him to hold it back much more.

He's never had this feeling of euphoria, and it surprises him when they finally pull away for air and there's still sexual tension between them.

He's still holding her and their faces are inches apart. "I had a great time with you tonight," he says, his heart still pounding. Neither of them wants anything more than for him to come inside and take her to her room, but they both know it can't happen.

Somehow, that makes everything seem more exciting.

"I'll call you tomorrow."

"Okay."

Beck kisses her nose and then her lips lightly once more before making himself release her. "Goodnight," he says with a smile.

"Goodnight, Beck."

The next morning, he wakes up still smiling. Finn comes into the master bedroom around 7:30 and hops into bed with his dad. After a bit of small talk, Beck takes a pause and decides to test the waters a bit. "Hey, Finn?"

"Yeah?"

"Remember Jade? You met her at the Blue Moon Festival?"

"Aunt Tori's friend?"

"Uh-huh, and mine and Uncle Andre's."

"Yeah, I remember her."

"Did you like her?"

He shrugs. "I guess so."

"How would you feel if, maybe, she was around more?"

"At our house?"

"Sure. Just, in general. She's my friend and I like her."

"No. I don't think so."

Beck furrows his eyebrows. "What do you mean?"

"I like it how it is now. I like you and me and Ezra, and Aunt Tori and Uncle Andre."

"Oh. Okay."

"I'm gonna go see if Ezra's awake yet," Finn says, as if their conversation had never happened. He darts out of the room and Beck flops onto his back.

That definitely didn't go as planned.


Title is a song by Frank Sinatra.

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