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The Holt-Cozner foster family

Chapter Text

 

Kevin has had a long day. It started with his five kids. Terry, Jake, Gina, Charles, and Rosa. He loves them but they are very chaotic. Jake had decided it was a good idea to prank Terry, not knowing his girlfriend was over and woke the whole house up at 5 am.  Their newest foster kid, Rosa, was now angrier than usual and threatened three people with a butter knife over breakfast. Then, when he got to work, Kevin discovered a robbery had occurred in his department. He wasn’t allowed to help solve the case, and Kevin had lectures to do anyway, so it wasn’t until lunch that Kevin saw the detective on the case. His husband had warned him about this man, Detective Pembroke.

 

Kevin sighed and walked over to the man, who was deep in conversation with an officer. “And what really sucks, is that I’ve got to wait eight years before we can do anything together.”

“What?” said the officer, disturbed

“You know, sexy times” replied Pembroke. Kevin realised he was likely talking about a ten-year-old. “But I can still have my fun. She’s super claustrophobic so I just threaten to lock her in the closet, and she does anything I ask. It’s like having a live-in maid”

The officer noticed Kevin and beckoned him over. “You must be Dr. Cozner. We have an update ready for you, sir.”

Kevin nodded, distracted “that’s me.”

 

When Kevin got home that day, he asked his husband what he knew about Pembroke and his children. Raymond said he believed Pembroke had a few foster children of his own. They entered their office and Raymond went onto his computer.

“Yes. He has five foster kids, four boys and a girl.”

“We have to save her.” Kevin recounted the conversation.

 

 

 

 

 

Amy Santiago was at school when her foster father showed up and pulled her out of class. Amy wanted to object because she was already behind in class for the first time ever after her parents lost custody of her and she transferred to the school closer to her foster home, but everyone was looking, and she didn’t want to make a scene. When they got in the car, her foster father, Pembroke, started talking.

“Okay, when we get to my house, this cop is coming over cause he thinks I disrespect you or some shit and you’ve gotta tell him everything is great. Capiche?”

“Capiche,” Amy muttered. He looked at her pointedly with the rear-view mirror and she repeated it louder.

 

 

 

They pulled into the driveway and another car was already there. He gave Amy a look as they exited the car. “You know what to do.”

A tall man in police uniform walked up to them. “Hello, Amy. I’m Captain Raymond Holt. You may call me Raymond. It is a pleasure to meet you.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you too, sir” she replied. The three of them went inside and Captain Raymond asked Amy to go to her room for a bit. She hid in the hallway; her foster brothers were still at school so no one could give her away.

 “What do you want, Holt. I know someone is spreading rumours about me, but that person is a wiener and he’s lying, okay.”

 “I can assure you, Detective Pembroke, that the only person spreading rumours about you, is yourself.”

“Oh yeah? What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I think you know what it means.” Captain Raymond continued to relay the conversation his husband had overheard the day before whilst Amy devised a plan. It sounded like maybe, just maybe, she could move to a different foster home. One with bigger closets to lock her in, or maybe no closest at all and then she could spend her time getting back on track with her schoolwork. But would it be worth it to tell Captain Raymond what happens?  How the way Pembroke looks at Amy always makes her uncomfortable; how she has to do all the chores whilst the boys just sit there and laugh at her. But Pembroke would obviously deny it, and then she would be locked in the closet for hours. Was it worth it?

“Amy, could you come in here?” called out Captain Raymond. “I have a few questions to ask you.” She rounded the corner and faced the pair. Pembroke nodded his head towards the closest. Amy took a deep breath. She was ready.

 

 

 

 

“What the hell did you do that for?!” yelled Pembroke after Holt left. He picked Amy up and shoved her into the wall. “No. Please, don’t.” She whimpered.

“Oh, you don’t think you deserve the closet? After that little stunt? Well, I can do something much worse.” Pembroke let Amy fall to the floor and reached for his pant zipper. “It’s your choice.” He motioned down and then to the closet. Amy started crying and backed herself into the closet. Pembroke laughed. He slammed the doors and locked it. “Crazy bitch. You’re too young for me to get away with that just yet.” Amy shivered and curled into a ball, still crying. The walls shrunk in on her and suddenly she was seven again and trapped in the cupboard at her parents’ house.

 

 

They were getting ready for a fancy dinner out; her brother David had come in first place at the science fair and of course, everyone needed to celebrate. Amy had been tasked with getting her little brother, Luis, who was five, ready. “Amy, can you find Luis his shoes.” Called out her mother. “Just a second,” Amy replied, busy doing her hair.

“Now.”

Amy rolled her eyes but went to Luis's room to find the shoes. She saw them in the closet. How hadn’t her mother? The broom was propped against the door, so she had clearly just been in here. As Amy bent down to pick them up, the sounds of her Tia arriving downstairs startled her and she kicked the broom. It slammed between the two doors. Oh no. Amy pushed against the door, but it was stuck. That’s fine, someone would notice that she was trapped and open it. In twenty minutes, tops.

 

 

It’s been three hours.
They all left without her. Amy didn’t really want to go but she really didn’t want to be stuck in a tiny closet for the rest of her existence. She heard a door click open downstair and breathed a sigh of relief. Amy heard her mother, Luis, and brother Tony come into the room.

“Mum!” She yelled out “oh thank god.”

“Amy?” asked Tony “What are you doing in there?”

“I – I kicked the broom and it locked me in.”

“Yeah, but how did you beat us up here, we just got home?”

“More importantly” interrupted their mother “why didn’t you grab shoes for Luis like I asked you to?”

Amy was livid. “I was stuck in there because I was grabbing Luis's shoes. I’ve been in there for hours! Did no one notice I wasn’t at dinner?!”

“What are you talking about? … Oh.” Their mother said as she finally realised her daughter hadn’t been at the celebration.  “Well, maybe next time you should be faster at doing what I tell you to do.”

“What!” Amy felt her eyes well up. “How is this my fault?! You’re the ones who left without me!”

Her mother sighed. “Can we not have this conversation now. I need to put your brother to bed.” Luis yawned as though to prove her point.

“You have to admit it, that’s kind of funny,” Tony said as they left the room.

“How?” questioned Amy, giving him a glare.

“You were stuck in a closet and the rest of us were having a super fancy dinner.” Amy glared at him. “Also, your hair is a mess. Amy. Amy. Amy.”

She was jolted back to reality by the sound of someone calling her name. Amy realised she was hyperventilating, and her face was still streaked with tears. It was Captain Raymond.

“It’s okay. Breathe. In… and out.” He said in a calming voice, patting her back. The present came flooding back to Amy. The chance to get out, the anger, the zipper, the lock. How long had she been in here?

“In … and out.” Repeated Captain Raymond. Amy focused on him.

“What’s going on?” She asked after she caught her breath, suddenly embarrassed.

“You’re going to come home with me.” Replied the man. He even gave her a smile.

“Nuh-uh. No way. You just want everyone to think you’re better than me because you foster more kids” refused Pembroke

“I can assure you, that is not what is happening here”

“Oh yeah? Then why do you care so much about my stupid kid, old man”

Amy flinched. She tried to sneak her way out of the closet.

“I think you just proved my point, Pembroke. Would I be correct in assuming you locked Amy right after I left yesterday evening?” He turned to her. She nodded slowly.

“Nah. The little dumb-dumbs lying. She locked herself in.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Holt queried.

“Doesn’t matter. she’s mine”

Mr Raymond looked at Amy, who had made it out of the closet and was inching past the couch, then back to Pembroke. “Amy, could you excuse us for a moment.”

“No, she’s under my placement, she has to do what I say. But scurry along anyway.”

Amy did as she was told. She didn’t want to overhear this conversation.

 

Chapter Text

 

Rosa Diaz had grown up in the system. She’s been in eight foster homes, the Holt-Cozner family was her ninth. They seemed to be one of these families who actually cared, but they also cared about having a sophisticated image. They had adopted three of their five kids: Terry, Jake, and Gina. But who would want a feisty 11-year-old with a broken arm from her latest fight? Besides, now they were gonna start fostering a ten-year-old Latina with claustrophobia. Rosa didn’t stand a chance. Holt and Cozner would get enough praise for this kid that they could send the scrappy one back onto the streets without a second thought.

Rosa genuinely didn’t have any hard feelings for the new kid, Amy Santiago, though. She was coming from a placement with Pembroke, Rosa used to be there when she was younger, and it was one of the worst foster homes she had ever seen. Holt had gone there early yesterday and discovered Amy locked in the closet deep in the midst of a panic attack, so definitely not in a position to be envied.

She was going to be sharing a room with Rosa and Gina (or, as Gina called it, Gina’s room). She, same as Jake, was a year older than Rosa and had been with the family since they were eight, then adopted two years later. Gina was proud and blunt and made Rosa feel like she was intruding on an otherwise happy family. Reasonably, she knew Gina just missed having her own room. Of course, now there was a bunk bed taking up most of one wall, an extra bookcase, and she had lost most of her closet space. Gina had gone from having a space that was just hers to sharing with a stranger who took most of her parent's attention about a month ago, and as of tomorrow, another kid who invalidated Gina’s own trauma would be sleeping here too.

Rosa got it. She had never had a place of her own; and “neglected and locked in a closet” was the kind of kid that Holt and Cozner would look out for. But Rosa? She was just a stereotypical foster kid who had faced too many creeps and broken too many noses. That’s how she ended up here. Rosa had gotten into a fight with some jackass from her foster home and it escalated stupidly fast. Like, cops were called, fast. Of course, the closest happened to be Captain Holt, on his lunch break. He brought her to the hospital when he noted her limp arm, then straight to his house to be fostered. Thus began one of the weirdest months of Rosa’s life.

Holt and Cozner, the dads, were dope. They actually genuinely gave a shit. And the kids gave a shit back. They loved each other.

Terry was clearly grateful and enjoyed spending time with his younger brothers and sisters, unlike any 17-year-old Rosa had ever met.

Jake loved pranks and had a million obscure references to random movies and an obsession with sneakers (also, making people laugh).

Gina was blunt, but it was obviously because she was protective of her brothers, her hand-made clothes, and especially her phone. She had offered Rosa the phone charger when Gina’s was at 14% and she was moved. That was a big moment.

Charles was 14 and was yet to be adopted because of some legal battle with his biological parents but had been with the family for years and had relationships with everyone that even Rosa would admit were cute.

 

Maybe, Rosa Diaz would be pissed off if she moved placements because, maybe, she had begun to care for these people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amy was excited. Yesterday had been rough, but her caseworker had picked her up from school with a garbage bag and told her what she had been waiting to hear. She was going to live with Captain Raymond and his husband. Amy Santiago was finally moving placements.

“Okay, this is it.” Her caseworker pulled up to a large house that oozed classiness.

Amy slung her garbage bag over one shoulder and her school bag over the other. This was it. This is actually happening.

 

The caseworker knocked on the door and a suave man opened the door. He smiled, “ah, you must be Amy. I’m Kevin.” He stretched out his hand and Amy hesitantly shook it. He nodded to the case worker, who nodded back and then headed to the car without a second glance. This was it.

Dr Kevin opened the door further and invited Amy in. They entered a living room, where Captain Raymond and a hoard of teenagers were sitting.

“Amy. It’s great to see you again, truly.” He smiled.

“You too.” She said quietly, taking great interest in the floor.

Captain Raymond began introducing everyone else. “This is Rosa,” he motioned to a girl with a leather jacket who looked closest to Amy’s age.

“Jake, Gina, Charles,” the other girl and two boys with mops of curly hair waved at her with varying levels of eagerness, “And Terry.”

The tall, bald, muscular kid twice her age smiled kindly and said “hey.” This was it.

 

Dr Kevin went off with Charles to make dinner (“We’re having carne asada tacos. They are exquisite.”), so Captain Raymond, Jake, and Terry took Amy on a tour.

Next to the living room was the kitchen, and the dining room was beside that. Downstairs also had a small bathroom and the office which Captain Raymond and Dr Kevin shared.

“Now, up here is where all the good stuff is.” Jake bounded up the stairs. “Check it out: bumper pool table! Can you play?”

“Not super well.” Responded Amy.

“Great! We’ll have to do some after dinner then.”

Amy nodded.

“Down this hallway is Kevin and my bedroom. If you ever need anything don’t hesitate to come get us and-”

Captain Raymond was interrupted by Dr Kevin calling up the stairs, “Raymond, we have a food emergency.”

“You’ll have to excuse me.”

Terry noticed Amy’s worried expression and said, “don’t worry, they probably just ran out of tomatoes.”

She nodded again.

“Terry and me can finish of the tour, which is great because there is so much more stuff in the games room I need to show you.” Jake bounded over to the other side. “Look at this, we have a second Tv.”

“Jake, that’s the only other thing in here.” Terry noted.

Jake gasped. “I am offended.”

“Come on dude, look around,” he noticed Amy staring at them and said, “whatever, I can finish the tour by myself.”

The two of them walked down the hallway with Jake yelling “fine, I don’t need you!” behind them.

“Sorry about him, he can be a lot around new people.” Terry apologised.

 

Amy smiled sheepishly back at him. She knew she was being rude, not saying much, but her excitement had faded and the butterflies in her stomach were doing nervous backflips. Sure, she was out of one hellhole, but how did she know these people weren’t putting on a façade and were more than willing to exploit her?

 

“Anyway,” Terry brought her back to reality “my room is the first door back there, that one is Jake and Charles, and this is yours. You’ll be sharing with Gina and Rosa.”

He opened the door to reveal a simple room with a bunk bed and single next to it, two bookcases, and a small closet. Gina was sat on the single bed.

“Oi, you ever hear of knocking? I’m busy.” She said,

“You’re on your phone.”

“Exactly.” Gina turned and nodded at Amy. “Hey. You’re on the bottom bunk.” She walked over to the closet and showed some cleared-up space to Amy. “You can put your clothes in here.” Gina turned back to Terry. “Is that all?”

He sighed “Just show her where everything is. Let her get settled. And don’t go on your phone.” Terry turned his attention to Amy. “Dinner should be ready in a bit.”

 

He left, closing the door behind him, pausing when Rosa slunk into the room, whilst Amy cautiously sat on her bed. They both noticed Amy flinch when the door closed loudly behind him.

Rosa cleared her throat. Small talk was not her strong suit. She looked at Gina. They shared just about their first meaningful glance ever. Gina shrugged and said, “So, you got any good stuff in that garbage bag.”

Amy hesitantly said “I don’t know. My case worker grabbed some stuff, but I haven’t looked yet.”

“Well dish, bish. Let’s see what you got.” Gina grabbed the bag and poured it out onto the bed. A few scruffy outfits, a toothbrush, and a large jumper fell out.

“Nice haul.” Said Rosa.

“Indeed, it is a – oh no Rosa, That’s not a noice haul.” Interrupted Jake as he and Charles came into the room.

“Has no one here heard of knocking?” groaned Gina. “And what are you bozo’s doing here?”

“Dinners ready” Jake answered distractedly, turning to Amy. “Is that really all you got?”

“Yep. I don’t even have any of my stuff from my fam- my biological family.” She stared at the small pile on her bed.

“Oh, Amy, I’m so sorry,” said Charles

“It's fine. I’m fine. Really, it’s all good,” She began avoiding eye contact ten times more than she had already been.

Knowing glances were exchanged between the other four but they didn’t push it.

 

 

 

Dinner was simple. They talked about the school day and work. Well, their dads, Terry and Charles did, and Jake wouldn’t shut up. Gina gossiped for a bit then tried to sneak onto her phone. Rosa and Amy mostly observed it all.

Afterwards, Captain Raymond and Dr Kevin took out a binder and showed Amy the general routines of the house. She could worry about the chores later, as they wouldn’t ask her to do any until she had been settled in for a week. Tomorrow was Friday, and whilst the others went to school, Captain Raymond and Dr Kevin would take Amy to the shops and buy some better clothes, books (for reading, and for school), and a phone, among other things.

Amy was excited for the phone as she had never had one before and it would be good to back stuff up to the cloud so someone else couldn’t leave it behind. Also, to play games to pass the times and that sorta thing.

After shopping, Captain Raymond and Dr Kevin would have their weekly date night out and Terry would be in charge (Amy made a mental note of this). Her bedtime would be 9:30, the same as Rosa's, and an hour earlier on school nights. Speaking of, Amy would be there for the last semester of elementary school, before joining Rosa, Jake, and Gina in middle school the following school year. Terry would drop her off in the morning on his way to high school, where he was a senior.

Captain Raymond was, obviously, a police captain, and Dr Kevin was a professor at Columbia University. They both worked long hours – and they weren’t your typical 9 to 5 – but never went in on the weekend if they could; that was family time. Every Sunday morning they went out for brunch, or to the arcade, or to see a baseball game, or whatever stereotypical family activity took their fancy. This Sunday, the choice was all Amy’s.

Cool, so no pressure then.

 

 

 

Later that night, lying in bed, Amy finally had the chance to breathe. It had been one of the longest days of her life and it was all catching up with her.

After his conversation with Captain Raymond, Pembroke no longer seemed to care about any repercussions. He didn’t lock her in the closet again, but he let her foster brother's roughhouse with her way worse than usual, only stopping when the 16-year-old had converted to Pembroke’s earlier threat and had pulled his pants down around his ankles. “Come on Trent, what would the cops say if they walked in on that? And trust me, no one wants to see your dong, you piece of shit.”

Pembroke had dropped them all off late that morning and Amy had missed her quiz (an irrational part of her was still worried about that) and she had struggled to pay attention for the rest of the day before her caseworker had shown up and had taken her on this crazy whirlwind of a ride.

They’d driven for at least half an hour so she would definitely have to change schools again. And then there were so many new people. Sure, they seemed nice, but they could also maybe not be. Then they all gave her pitying looks when they saw the pathetic contents of her garbage bag. They almost saw her cry over her stupid biological family. The ones who Amy had cried over so many times but never bothered to shed a tear over her.

 

 

It was Amy Santiago’s first night in the Holt-Cozner household and Rosa pretended she didn’t hear her cry herself to sleep, or the way the bunk rocked slightly when she couldn’t. Rosa pretended she didn’t hear Gina tossing and turning until at least 3 am; pretended she didn’t cry herself.

 

Chapter Text

Both Rosa and Gina snoozed their alarms five times before they bothered to get out of bed. Amy didn’t have an alarm yet and seemed perfectly happy to feign sleep until the other two had left the room. When she came down 6 minutes after Gina, the four from the garbage bag reveal the night before and Cozner were all eating toast or cereal or whatever.

“Raymond had to go into work, but he will be back by 11,” he informed, “and Terry should be down soon.”

Rosa knew, for a fact, that Terry would not be down soon, because he had left early to go to his girlfriend’s house. He and Sharon had been going out for a few weeks now and were still in the honeymoon phase. Barf.

They was three spare seats, so Rosa was surprised when Amy sat between her and Gina instead of the two seats between Charles and Cozner. Amy smiled at her, it seemed more genuine than anything the night before, but it still didn’t reach the eyes.

Jake leaned over Rosa to start pestering Amy again. “Good morning! Did you sleep well? And you’re going to the shops today, that’s so cool, I wish I could too, but I need to go to school.”

He got distracted and turned to Cozner “Oh, and Pop, I need a new calculator, I gave mine to Brandon Bliss and he never gave it back. Also, can he come over on the weekend, cause Brandon hasn’t seen any of the Die Hard movies and that is a crime, but I think I still have the DVDs somewhere.”

Rosa rolled her eyes, but Jake persisted “If not, can you pretty please buy some? Oh! And you’re getting a phone, Amy, that’s dope. I remember my first phone, I had to get a new one because I dropped it way too many times and the screen was all cracked and -”

Gina turned to Amy and said “Don’t worry, he isn’t usually this hyper. He just needs to have his ADHD medication.”

Rosa rolled her eyes again. Jake was still very hyper after he had his medication.

Cozner sighed “Jake, I will buy you another calculator but no Die Hard DVDs, you shouldn’t be watching those movies.”

“Why not? That’s the best movie ever.”

“Come on dude,” said Rosa, “you were six” she ignored whatever Jake's feeble response would’ve been and headed to the kitchen, stuffing the last of her toast in her mouth.

 

 

 

20 minutes later, Rosa, Gina, Jake, and Charles, started their walk to school.

“Uh, it’s so hot out” groaned Jake “This should be illegal.”

“You should be illegal,” mumbled Rosa, stifling a yawn.

“You should be more of a morning person” responded Charles, annoyingly cheery

Gina laughed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Captain Raymond, Dr Kevin, and Amy pulled up to the shopping centre.

“Okay,” the former peered down at a slip of paper “where to first?”

“Somewhere fun, to start off with.” Dr Kevin turned around to face Amy. “Which would you rather we do first; buy some books, or a phone?”

Amy did not know. He had asked the question well; she had no clue which option was the correct answer. Jake had talked a lot about the phone so she must need to be excited about doing that, unless that was a trick, and she was meant to look at books first.  Captain Raymond and Dr Kevin were very sophisticated, so they probably read books in their free time. But Amy had hardly had a chance to read just for fun since entering the foster system – any book she picked would probably be laughable. And everyone would think she was proud of her pathetic decisions because she was the one who chose to look at books before a phone. And this is taking way too long, Captain Raymond and Dr Kevin were definitely thinking this child takes too long to make decisions, and doesn’t talk enough, and is really just a waste of money who should be sent back –

“Um, phone first, sounds good, maybe.” Amy looked up at them for approval.

Captain Raymond smiled at her.

“Great” Dr Kevin started getting out of the car “So it's agreed. We’ll go to the electronics store first, then get a few new outfits from whichever trending fashion store you chose, by then it will be time for lunch so we will have that, and then end the day by getting some books for school and reading in your free time. We should have enough time to pick the kids up from school.”

“Yes, that sound like a fantastic day.” Captain Raymond said monotonously as he grabbed some shopping bags from the boot of the car.

The three of them walked inside, Amy half a step behind. She pulled her jacket closer around her shoulders despite the fact that the sun was making it abundantly clear that it was almost summer.

When they entered the electronics store, Dr Kevin volunteered to pick up the phone so Captain Raymond and Amy could focus on other stuff. He figured the average ten-year-old would rather spend their time choosing a fancy phone case of their favourite colour, perhaps with a few accessories, than listen to the droning of a bored employee. Kevin wanted the rest of Amy’s childhood to be as normal as possible.

“So, Amy, do you know which phone case you would prefer?” Captain Raymond asked as they walked towards the store's collection “flip or traditional? Patterned or with a base colour?”

“Um... would just one colour be okay?”

“Certainly. It appears your options are black, white, off-white, orange, navy blue, dark red, dark blue, magenta, and pastel pink.”

“I guess magenta.”

“Magenta is a fabulous choice.” Captain Raymond reassured her.

Amy reached up to grab a case of that description. It wasn’t very high, but it was still enough for her jacket to rise up leaving the small of her back slightly exposed through her decaying t-shirt. Captain Raymond noticed a large blueish-yellowish bruise.

He squatted so their eyes would be on the same level.

“Amy, I want you to know this. Kevin and I, and your siblings, we will never hurt you or touch you. And, if someone does, we will always be here if you need an ear, or just want to sit with someone.”

She nodded. “Thank you.”

“You can also talk to us about past traumas. Did Keith Pembroke ever –”

Amy shook her head quickly, staring at the floor and blinking back tears. She hated that he used the word trauma; that made her sound like a broken person who had panic attacks and cried too much. Which she did, but she wasn’t. Amy just wanted to be a normal kid.

Captain Raymond stayed silent. She looked at him, right in the eyes, and slowly nodded her head.

“He would only push me around a bit if I did something bad,” Amy said, as though that excused it. “Pembroke would usual stop my foster brothers before they went too far and left a noticeable bruise or broken bone or something.”

Captain Raymond sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose.

“I’m sorry,” Amy apologised, staring at the floor again.

“No, Amy, listen to me” he looked her right in the eyes “none of this is your fault, okay, you are not to blame here.

She nodded, hesitantly.

“Pembroke and other punks like him hold the entirety of the blame, and should face all the consequences, understood?”

She nodded again, possibly more confidently “Understood.”

“Is everything alright?” asked Dr Kevin, walking over with a phone in hand.

“Yes, Kevin, everything is good.” Responded Captain Raymond, standing up, but he mouthed ‘we’ll talk later.’ “Amy and I found a good phone case.”

“Yep. Its magenta.”

“Fantastic. It must be time for clothes shopping then.”

 

 

 

  

 

 

Gina Linetti liked most aspects of school. Not all, she wasn’t a nerd, but most. She got okay grades; they were enough to make her dads smile slightly and pat her on the back, and really what could be better?

Jake and Rosa were in the same year as her and Charles was two years above, so she had lots of her family. Gina was also very popular (Jake and Rosa should be very grateful for this because it obviously boosted their popularity as well, Charles was a lost cause).

The only thing Gina didn’t like about school, except for math, P.E, her history teacher, and the chairs, was those students. The homophobic, racist, sexist, and straight-up rude ones. The ones she had just been paired with for a stupid English group project.

Their task was to create a utopian world with a fancy presentation to boot based on two books they had read in class (if she was being honest, she didn’t know which ones. Gina didn’t pay attention in this class). Mr Sullivan decided this meant the groups should be assigned. Gina Linetti didn’t do assigned. Then she had to interact with people outside of her popularity rank. And dinguses.

She slumped back in her new chair and started chewing some gum.

“Regina.” Barked Mr Sullivan, “no gum in class. Put that in the bin.”

Gina leaned back further and dropped her gum in the bin. Of course, the new seat was next to it.

“I know who I’d get rid of for my perfect world. Gina.” Bruce Anders spoke to the group, as though she was too far away to hear the inevitable comments that would come.

“What the hell is supposed to mean, Bruce.” Gina wasn’t taking any crap today.

“Oh, come on, don’t say it like that. You’re adopted, you should be used to people not wanting you around.”

“Wow. You really are as dumb as you look. That means my parents wanted me. Unlike yours, you're 16 years younger than your sisters, Bruce, do some math.”

He scoffed “You know that’s not what I meant. Your actual parents think you're more worthless than Mr Sullivan's toupee.”

Danny laughed.

“Shut up dude. My pop and dad are amazing and you're just jealous.”

“You know that’s not what I meant. The parents you came out of are your actual parents.”

“Yeah,” chimed in Carla Bianchi. “Nobody has two dads as their actual parents.”

“Oh.” Bruce laughed a horrid laugh. “Never mind, Gina was right the first time. Not even her dads want her. Why else would they bother getting so many kids?”

“You know,” said Danny “I heard they got another girl again.”

“Damn,” Bruce smirked, turning to look right in her face. “Even you must think a utopia doesn’t have a Gina Linetti in it.”

Gina was done. These people have insulted her, her family, her parents, and her sisters too many times. She was out of comebacks. She punched Bruce Anders in the face.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rest of the day was chaotic. Pop and Dad had finished shopping with Amy early and were enjoying an afternoon snack when they got the unfortunate call. Gina had punched another student right in the face, and it quickly escalated into a full-blown fight. They arrived to find her with a bloodied lip and the other kid with a black eye.

“Ah, Mr Holt, Mr Cozner, nice of you to join us.” Said Principal Burr coldly.

“Terribly sorry principal, we were quite far away. You said our daughter started a fight?” inquired Dad.

“Yes, and as you know, this school had a strict no violence policy.”

“Well then why does Gina have a bloody lip?” Pop had a feeling he knew where this was going.

“Because my little Bruce was protecting himself. She shouldn't have punched him if she didn’t want to get hit.” Said Bruce’s mum.

Mrs Anders was on the school board and really just a basic soccer mum who thought her baby could do no wrong. She was wrong, obviously.

 

Outside the office, Amy met Jake, Charles, and Rosa waiting for this to finish so they could go home.

“You should get comfy, we’re gonna be here for a while.” Suggested Jake.

“Yeah, because of these three, I’m stuck here after school every other week.” Added Charles.

“That’s not what I meant, but those are never my fault.”

“Oh sure. You just accidentally got in all those screaming matches.” Said Rosa. “At least I own up to all the fights I get in.”

Yes! This school is very homophobic, how’s that my fault.” 

“I guess that’s true. And kinda racist.”

“And it hates foster kids.” Said Charles. “But I’m sure that will all be better next year.” He tried to reassure Amy.

“Great.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I still can’t believe you got suspended for two weeks.” Rosa laughed, “I never thought Gina Linetti would accomplish this much.”

“Aww, come on.” Gina put her phone down. “You always knew I had it in me.”

They were chilling in their room with Amy. Dad and Pop sent them to bed an hour or so ago, but nobody felt like sleeping and they had ended up talking of all things.

“But aren’t you worried about how this will look on your permanent record?” asked Amy, snuggling a pillow.

“Meh, I’ve got more interesting stuff on that old thing. We all do.” She slumped down onto Amy’s bed. “A suspension doesn’t exactly beat domestic violence, abandonment, and adoption by an interracial gay couple.”

“Try nine different foster homes by the time you’re 11, with the last move caused by the same couple taking pity on your broken arm.” Rosa raised her cast in the air to further her point.

“Are you gonna tell us your permanent record has nothing but straight A’s?” Gina asked Amy.

“No, that’s not true. I got a C when I first entered the system.” Amy somehow looked disappointed in herself. Rosa and Gina stared. “Fine, there’s also neglect, claustrophobia, and two foster homes before this one.”

There we go. Suspension ain’t got nothing on that.” Rosa pat Amy’s arm.

“Where were you before Pembroke?”

“It was a group home for six- to nine-year-olds. I aged out.”

Rosa chuckled. “Man, group homes suck. Six-to-nine is probably the best out there. I’ve been in group homes my whole life.”

“That’s grim.” Commented Gina.

“Thank you.”

Gina and Amy glanced at each other briefly, and, incredulously, burst out laughing.

“What?” Rosa growled, sitting up straighter to appear more intimidating, a difficult task considering the three of them were now squished on Amy’s bottom bunk.  

“Nothing” wheezed out Gina between giggles. “Sorry, I just… dam. Our world is fucked up, huh?”

 

Chapter Text

Amy slowly fell into a routine as the weeks passed. She woke up at 6:30 every day because it left plenty of time in the morning and was the same time Rosa got up, which was handy if Amy’s alarm ever failed. From there she would get changed into her school uniform and meet Captain Raymond or Dr Kevin having breakfast. Amy was the only child who had grown up speaking as posh and well-mannered as they did, and she enjoyed having conversations with them.

Not that her actually really cool new foster siblings and the kids in her class at school weren’t interesting to talk with, they just lacked a certain … flair.

 

Speaking of, Amy was almost excelling at school again. A few people (students and teachers) seemed to have a thing against foster kids, or Latinas, or 10-year-olds, or all three, and Jake and Gina had definitely had a reputation, but her teacher liked her, and Amy had even already made a friend.

Kylie was a nerd like Amy and they spent most of their time chilling in the library together, plus Kylie would be going to the same middle school as Amy next school year – looming over them as the summer holidays were just one week away.

 

Terry would pick her up after school. Sometimes his girlfriend, Sharon, would be with him, and sometimes Amy would get to sit in the front. He was actually pretty cool and not at all terrifying like she first thought. He was fun.

 

As soon as she got home, Amy would do her homework and if she was lucky, it would be finished by the time everyone else got home from middle school and they could play video games or use the bumper pool table or attempt to bake something or even just do a puzzle. Amy would always stop them at a reasonable time so the others could do their homework. She knew there would be lots more of it next year and was very excited.

 

Then Captain Raymond and Dr Kevin would both get home around 6 pm and soon dinner would be on the table, and everyone would get a chance to share anecdotes about their day and tell jokes and laugh and it was like one big happy family, Amy decided. Even Rosa joined in. This was it; life was good.

 

 

 

 

Except today. Last Wednesday before the summer holidays and the routine was disrupted.

Terry had an away game for his football team and would leave early in the morning and wouldn’t be back until Friday evening. Dr Kevin had to go to another professor's party, and Captain Raymond was going with him. “Thank God. That sounds boring” Jake had said. Amy didn’t think it sounded boring. They were leaving straight after work and wouldn’t be back until 10 pm.

 

All this meant Amy would have to wake up early and go to bed late on a school night. Breakfast would be rushed. She would need to walk over to the middle school where they would all be waiting. So now there wouldn’t even be a good time to do homework. And she wouldn’t see Terry for two whole days. Charles was 14 so Captain Raymond and Dr Kevin had permitted them to be home alone until their party finished, where everyone would have to quickly go to bed because there was no way Jake would let them follow their bedtimes (and Amy didn’t want to remind others of this, she still wanted them to like her).

With Captain Raymond and Dr Kevin away, and a complete lack of bedtimes, Amy knew everyone would be a little on edge. Rosa would shrink back into her shell, which sucked cause she was always lots of fun otherwise. Gina would be extra snarky, which was probably the consequence of her protective side. Charles would attempt to cook the absolute strangest thing for dinner, only pausing to encourage Jake with whatever crazy plan he had to keep them all entertained. If only they knew how crazy the plan was.

 

 

 

 

 

“Great!” said Jake, clapping his hands together, when Amy finally walked into the park between their schools. “We need to prepare for the Jimmy Jabs games.”

Who or what is a Jimmy Jab?” questioned an already very done Rosa, taking off her leather jacket as the sun drummed down on them.

Jake cleared his throat as sophisticatedly as he could manage. “It was the first time Dad and Pop left me, Gina, and Terry home alone. Dad was working the day shift and the night shift right after, so Pop had to come home to watch us but he got caught up showing around the new professor: Jimmy Jabs.”

“James Jacobson.” Corrected Gina, “weirder name, I know.”

“We were stuck at the house for five long hours, waiting for them to get home. So, we created a series of elaborate competitions.”

“Jake, will we even have time for that? We still need to do our homework and make dinner.” Asked an already worried Amy.

Rosa laughed despite herself. “How the hell do you have homework? You literally have one day left of elementary school.”

Amy shrugged.

“Tell you what, if Amy wins then we’ll all do our non-existent homework.” Jake nodded triumphantly.

“Great!”

“Dude, that’s a terrible prize.” Said Gina.

“Well, then you need to beat Amy. But that’s not the only prize. As you all know Charles is the only one here who can cook but he-”

“Just get to the point, Jake.” Interrupted Rosa.

“Alright fine. The winner gets to choose where we order dinner, but nobody can tell Dad and Pop we aren’t cooking.

“Deal.”

“I can too cook normal food.”

“Alright, I’m in.”

“… Fine.”

 

 

 

As soon as they got home, Jake rushed to the shed and came back with an assortment of fairy lights, laptop chargers, what have you.

“Alright! Today, we are going to see who is the worst at untangling their piece of wire.” Jake grinned down at them from where he was standing on top of the picnic table in their small backyard.

“Dude, none of these are on the same level.” Observed Rosa, leaning against the umbrella pole.

“That’s because whoever loses this round is the commentator, so we need to get it done quick. Anyway, middle-est gets to pick first!” Jake jumped off the table and picked up the particularly long piece of twine.

“Hey, come on!” complained Gina, “I’m the middle-est, you’re just saying it’s you cause Terry isn't here!”

“Then you can go next.” Jake motioned to the pile with his head as his hands hugged the twine to his chest.

“Fine. But I’m watching you.” Gina did indeed not break eye contact with Jake until she had safely picked up the two tangled-up laptop chargers.

“Me next.” Rosa strolled over and picked up the extension cord, leaving the Christmas lights, and the fairy lights complete with alternating blue and purple balls.

Amy and Charles glanced at each other, the remaining options, then back to staring at each other until she darted forward and grabbed the Christmas lights.

“Alright Charles, looks like you have Gina’s old thing. Good luck buddy.” Jake threw them over to his brother; now confident his twine wouldn’t be stolen. “Okay, everyone ready? Go!”

Amy seemed to have the best strategy, layering the lights down in small rows across the yard as she worked. Rosa was way faster than anyone could have predicted, already halfway through in the first minute. Gina, with a clear advantage, was even further along.

“This doesn’t seem right.” Said Charles, whose only strategy was to look like he wasn’t failing. “The only reason this isn’t hanging in the girls’ room right now is because no one has been able to untangle it in years.”  

“Don’t worry bud. I’ll help you in a sec. Just -” Jake paused to undo the last small loop “- There we go, bam!” he triumphantly raised the twine above his head.

Rosa and Gina groaned furiously. Amy rolled her eyes.

“No offence Jakey, but that doesn’t really help my chances,” Charles remarked.

As though to prove his point, just then Gina yelled “aha!”, a detangled laptop charger in each hand.

Rosa laughed. “My only competition is Charles and Amy? This just got way easier.” She even slowed down the pace.

“For real?” muttered Amy, who was convinced she had been making good progress.

Sticking to his word, Jake started trying to find the other end of Charles's fairy lights to begin untangling. He was probably only 1/8th of the way done.

“Sorry man, I really screwed you over with this middle-est goes first thing.”

“Nah,” Rosa walked over to them, the extension cord, now knot-free, on the table. “The rest of us didn’t get help, he needs to figure it out on his own.”

Jake sighed. “Alright fine, but no one can blame me for –” Charles pulled through one of the wires and half the thing unravelled – “Woah, did you guys see that? He can actually untangle this abomination!”

Gina cheered. “You got this!”

“Don’t lead him on, Charles doesn’t stand a chance. See?” Rosa motioned behind.

“Yes! Take that Charles, I did it!” Amy started dork dancing, the Christmas lights neatly laid out around her.

 

Chapter Text

The remaining players moved to the games room upstairs whilst Charles set up the next activity because it was still way too hot outside – just like the next competition.

It was a simple room. Next to the stairs, banister was a large L-shaped couch which was usually covered in pillows and a blanket or two, but Charles had thrown those onto the floor around them and down the hallway. In front of the couch was a wooden coffee table that once held a nice photo frame but had been destroyed in the general chaos of children. The wall across from that had a TV mounted to the wall and a few mahogany cabinets stuffed with board games and cards and so on.  On the other side of the couch was the bumper pool table which Jake had gushed about on Amy’s first night.

 

“Alright,” exclaimed Charles “I’m excited to watch this unfold. Your goal is to get from here to the laundry without any sockrifices. But don’t take these instructions for granite, before it all unfolds there is one more thing you need to know.” Charles grinned. “Be sure not to tumble because the. Floor. Is. Lava!

“Oh, hell yeah!” Jake punched his fist in the air. “I’m gonna come first again for sure.”

Gina smirked. “Sure you will, Jakey-boy.”

“I believe in you,” Charles turned to the group, “The floor turns to lava in 5…”

Gina quickly stood up onto the couch she had just been sitting on.

“4…”

Jake clambered onto the bumper pool table.

“3…”

Amy flung herself onto the nearest couch.

“2…”

Rosa stepped onto the coffee table, too calm for anyone’s comfort.

“1!”

Jake jumped off the bumper pool table onto the couch, yelling “cowabunga!” As he hurtled into Gina.

“Woah –” she stumbled backwards into Amy “- watch it.”

Amy shuffled over to the edge of the couch. “Okay, Okay! I’ve got this. I can totally get from here to the laundry without falling onto the floor. That’s doable.”

“Hey, remember,” Gina added helpfully, “if you do fall onto the floor then you’ll boil to death.”

Amy ignored her. “I – I just have to make a plan. I need a strategy!”

Rosa snorted. “Amy, stop procrastinating. Watch me.” She took a step back, then a running leap off the coffee table towards the hallway.

a mixture of “shit.” “You’ll burn!” “Watch for the wall!” and “Rosa. The fuck?” were heard but she grabbed onto Terry’s pull-up bar and the momentum carried her down the hallway to a pillow conveniently placed in front of the laundry door.

Rosa turned around to face them. “Hurry up.”

The others stared at her, astonished. “Yeah, I’m not doing that.” Said Gina.

Oh, so that’s how you do it.” Jake realised. He carefully stepped onto the coffee table. And did not move. “Rosa, can you go again? I just want to be sure.”

“You’re on your own.”

Amy rolled her eyes and looked at the couch, looking for inspiration.

Charles began commentating. “Rosa has quickly taken the lead. Gina and Amy are still stuck on the couch. Jake has attempted to follow Rosa’s path, but he is probably stuck. Wait! An exciting new development. Amy has picked up two couch cushions. Does she… Yes! Amy has a strategy.”

She dropped one of the cushions onto the floor and jumped onto it, grabbed the other one and dropped it in front of herself.

“Look at her go! Will slow and steady win the race? It will if Jake and Gina don’t get started.”

Jake mocked offense. “Rude. I’m about to get going, I just don’t want to rush anyone. Gina, pass me a pillow.”

“No thanks.”

“Gina! Please?”

“Fine.” She tossed him the smallest throw pillow. “Here.”

Charles continued commentating. “Gina: sabotaging Jake, but still not making a move.”

“Hey, come on man. Just give me a minute.”

“You’ve had four minutes.” Yelled Rosa from down the hallway. “Get a move on, this is too easy. Amy’s already halfway!”

Amy paused, couch cushion in her hands. “You don’t have to sound so surprised.”

Rosa shrugged. Jake cleared his throat. “Everybody ready? All eyes on me. I’m gonna jump.” He chucked the pillow onto the floor and –

“Jake jumps and … He makes it! Yes! Oh, that scared me. Okay, now he’s grabbing a coaster and placing it in front of him. Jake is stepping onto the coaster. Be careful Jakey. He’s grabbing the pillow and –”

Amy gasped. “Hey! That’s my strategy!”

“No, it isn’t,” Jake promised. “You’re using two couch cushions. I’m using this pathetic excuse for a pillow and a coaster.” She glared at him. “Alright fine! But you're already halfway! I’m just hoping for third place at this point.

Gina was proper stressed now. Jake was right. Rosa could step into the laundry anytime, only waiting so she could laugh at the chaos. Amy had basically reached Rosa; her stupid strategy had worked. At least Jake seemed to think so, because he was very slowly making his way towards the laundry. Still, very slowly is better than no progress. “Shit.”

She looked around for anything useful on the couch. The remaining couch cushions, a few throw pillows, and a blanket. Gina wasn’t gonna steal Amy’s strategy like Jake, but she was running out of options.

Charles noticed and the commentating commenced. “Woah, Gina’s finally making a move. She’s grabbed the blanket. She’s thrown it on the floor. She’s jumped onto it. She’s shuffling along. She’s glaring at me. Right, sorry Gina.”

Rosa looked around at her competition. Gina had found a fast tactic, not as fast as Rosa’s and much riskier then Amy’s, but effective. She was jumping towards the laundry like a frog or something, using a blanket to protect herself from the lava. She kept getting too close to the back where she’d tumble in, or too close to the front and almost pulling herself in, as her hands were gripping the blanket.

Still, she was almost further along than Jake, who had started a minute or two before her. Copying whatever Amy had been doing seemed to be working for him – though it was still a miracle he hadn’t fallen in. Rosa could never fathom what was going through Jake's head when he thought using a coaster would be a good idea. Jake had to keep grabbing onto the wall or furniture and one time Charles.

(“Okay, for real” Gina had exclaimed, “how is that not cheating?”

“He isn’t touching the lava.” Charles had shrugged, as biased as ever.)

“Hey,” Rosa noticed, with a nod to Amy, “you made it.”

“Well, you don’t have to sound so surprised. I am smart, you know.” Amy said, panting slightly.

“So am I,” said Rosa, patting the bench next to her and Amy jumped up and sat on it. “And I got here 10 minutes before you.”

“Whatever. My strategy was obviously better, that’s why Jake copied it.”

“You really think he was cable of copying my flip?”

“… No.”

 

Outside the laundry, Jake and Gina were racing down the hallway.

“Gina! Get out of the way, I can’t beat you when you’re in front of me. Oh shit –” in his desperate attempt to go faster Jake missed the coaster and landed on Gina’s blanket.

“Hey! Get off man.” She tugged at the corner.

Jake stuck both his arms out to keep him steady with the walls. “Just give a second! I gotta find my balance.”

“Get back on your stupid coaster.”

“Aww, can’t we share the blanket? That’s fine, right Charles?”

“I suppose.” Said Charles, “but wouldn’t you guys just be able to drop it and then jump to the laundry at this point?”

Gina looked down at the blanket, then across to the door. It was closer than she realised. She went to duck under Jake’s arm, take a big step and land victorious in the laundry where she would go on to order the ultimate pizza. Instead, she slammed her face right into his arm and fell backwards.

“Ha! Oh, wait. Crap. Gina!” Jake yapped.

Ow.” She held her nose gingerly. “Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow.

“Gina! Oh no, no, no.” Amy ran out of the laundry with the Band-Aids, careful to step on the blanket. Rosa followed close behind with a tea towel.

“Don’t worry about the lava!”

“How are Band-Aids going to help here?”

“Her nose is bleeding everywhere.”

“Are we gonna be eliminated if we touch the floor or are all rules out the window?”

“Amy, you look like you’re gonna have a panic attack!”

“Of course I do! Gina’s nose is broken. This is terrible.

“It’s not broken. She’ll probably be fine.”

“Gina, you really should have watched out for Jake’s arm.”

Hey, don’t blame the victim. That’s not cool.”

“Oh Yeah? Well, you’re not cool and - we gotta get this girl an ice pack or something.”

Amidst the yelling, Gina realised something. This could be good.

“You guys, I’m fine.” She stood up and grabbed the tea towel from Rosa. “I’m gonna go clean up in the bathroom. No one follow me.

“Are you really okay?” Charles asked worriedly.

“Fantastic, in a minute,” Gina said before slamming the bathroom door in their faces.

Amy jumped. “Oh.”

“She’s gonna do something sketchy,” Rosa said.

“Probably,” Jake replied matter-of-factly. “But does this mean Gina’s disqualified, Charles? Did I make it to round three?” he got faster and faster with each sentence.

“I… sure, why not? Let’s move on to round three everybody.” Charles nodded. “Follow me!” with that he waltzed into the laundry.



 

 

There were three large piles on the floor, with five baskets around them. Each basket had a piece of paper hastily attached to it saying ‘Terry’, ‘Jake and Charles, ‘Gina, Rosa, and Amy’, ‘Dad and Pop’ and ‘kitchen and bathroom’, in Charles's handwriting.

“Okay people.” He declared. “This next challenge will be a race, of sorts. You need to be the fastest to organise your laundry pile into the correct basket.” Charles pointed at them with a flourish. “who’s ready to watch this unfold? – although wait. The laundry needs to be folded as well.”

Jake sighed. “You can’t keep reusing the same puns. It isn’t funny.”

“Like how sorting out the laundry is Jake’s job this week?” asked Rosa, a little miffed.

“Oh crap, you’re right.” Jake laughed. “I got lucky.”

“Yeah, I’m sure it was luck. Nothing else.” Muttered Amy.

Charles frowned. “The challenge was my idea.”

“And it’s a great one.” Jake clapped him on the back. “You ladies ready to start?”

Rosa glared at him. “You ready to lose?” Amy snickered.

“Really? You laugh for her?” Jake rolled his eyes. “So uncool.”

Charles cleared his throat and they turned back to him. “Alright, your time. Starts… Now!”

Jake haphazardly flipped a t-shirt around in the air to fold it and chucked it towards the ‘Terry’ basket. Charles looked nervously between him and the basket until Jake groaned and rolled his eyes. He pointedly folded the shirt again and gently placed it back, giving Charles a look. Next to him, Amy scooped her pile up and shifted over so she was in the centre of all the laundry baskets and could easily place the clothes in. If she was any further away, she might have to throw it, and Jake had proven how bad of an idea that was.

Looking between the other two, only half focused on organising her own laundry, Rosa knew her best bet would be distracting them. She glanced back to Jake, currently folding Holt’s captain shirt without breaking eye contact with Charles.

“If you want to see who’s gonna come last, you need to stop staring at Charles and look in a mirror,” Rosa smirked.

“Stop talking to yourself, Rosa, it doesn’t look good.” He turned towards her; shirt forgotten in his hands. “Besides, I’m gonna win! I’ll destroy you all.

Rosa glared at him, fuming, for a beat. Charles and Amy shared a nervous look, commentating and competing duties momentarily forgotten. Rosa inhaled and they all prepared for the screaming match, yet, miraculously, she burst out laughing. Charles and Amy shared a look of pure terror.

“You – you actually think you’re going to come first, don’t you?” Rosa gasped between breaths. “Man, that’s hilarious.”

Jake looked offended. “Wha- no! Charles, tell her!”

“Um… Maybe you should both focus on the game. Whoever wins kind of needs to focus more on that, to stand a chance.”

They both stared at him for a minute, long enough for Amy to neatly fold three shirts and place them in her basket. Jake and Rosa turned to her.

“Amy,” said the latter, “Who do you think will win?”

“Yeah, the ultra-amazing Jake Peralta, or the lame Rosa Diaz?” asked Jake, earning himself an elbow to the ribs.

Amy looked over at them. “Um, me?” she responded meekly.

Rosa frowned. “You know you don’t answer a question with another question, right?”

Charles and Jake laughed, the competitor finally picking up a lone sock. Rosa smirked, so Amy smiled slightly.

“For real, though.” Jake grinned smugly. “Do you guys want my autograph now or later?”

“In your dreams, Jacob.” Said Rosa, hastily throwing a towel in the ‘kitchen and bathroom’ basket and glaring at Charles when he told her to fold it first. “Now wake up and do something good for once.”

Ooh. Wanna go down that road, do ya? Okay well, guess what, Rosa, you couldn’t even win a game in your wildest imagination. You don’t stand a chance, remember that.”

“What the hell is going on?” muttered Amy.

“Hold up, hold up.” Rosa was distracted by a shirt she had found with large green reptiles wearing coloured bandanas. Turning to Jake, she said, “aren’t you too old for this?”

How dare you!” gasped Jake. “The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are heroes! And those fight scenes! Have you seen those fight scenes? And you think I’m too old for it, shows what you know. Oh! And the backstories, their all so complex and –”

“Hey Jake, real quick.” Interrupted Rosa, “You suck.”

Jake laughed dryly. “Yeah, and your laundry heap is still bigger than any landfill I’ve ever seen.”

“You mean your bedroom?” Rosa snapped back, the same shirt seized in her hand.

Amy rolled her eyes. “If you two folded as much as you trash talked, you’d be done by now.” Though as she said it, Amy realised something. They had both been too focused on trash-talking each other to fold the clothes and put them into the appropriate basket in a timely manner; Jake was right, Rosa’s pile was twice as big as his, and Amy’s was essentially nothing in comparison. She was going to come first. Jake would probably come second, but Amy was going to win. This means everybody would do their homework and could have a classic burger for dinner. Or whatever, the others aren’t disgusted by burgers, right?

Amy put the final pair of socks into her laundry basket and then exclaimed victoriously, “but it’s too late now, You guys suck. I won! I knew it! I am the destroyer!”

 

 

 

 

 

‘I am the destroyer’

 

Gina looked up as even more screaming came out of the laundry. Of course, this was the first time she had heard Amy. Girl was crazy competitive, especially for a quiet nerd. With that level of dorkiness though, Amy had surely just won the game and would be one step closer to deciding what they order for dinner (and making them all do homework, too).

Unfortunately for her, cleaning off the blood had taken a matter of minutes, leaving Gina with plenty of time to take matters into her own hands. She had called the local pizzeria and ordered a meatlovers pizza for herself, a pepperoni, and Margherita for her siblings. Should be here in 20 minutes.

Still, if Amy had won and –

 

“Well, Rosa, would you look at that. I’m the champion!”

 

– Yep, Jake had come second, then it would be time for the final competition: the obstacle course. There was no way Gina would miss out on that.

She walked over to the laundry, where they were all standing around a bunch of neatly organised laundry baskets with names duck taped onto them.

“You took your time.” An extremely pissed Rosa noted.

Gina rolled her eyes. “I had to clean up.”

Jake looked her up and down. “Your shirt is still covered in blood”

“Whatever,” Gina grabbed her jumper from the basket with her name and put it on to cover her shirt. “Are we ready to see if Jake or Amy win?”

“How do you know they won? We didn’t tell you yet.” Asked Charles.

Gina snorted. “Neither of them are exactly quiet.”

Amy blushed. “Sorry,” she said, taking great interest in the ground.

Gina shook her head determinedly. “Nah, cool it girl.” After a confused look from Amy and the others, she elaborated. “I don’t have any homework and Jake is such a sore loser. You need to win this.”

Jake gasped. “I am not a – actually that’s completely accurate.”

Rosa rolled her eyes, still pissed. “So, what’s the final challenge?”

“The final challenge, as always, will be an obstacle course,” Charles said. “But! The final players cannot know the course until they start running. Okay?”

Jake and Amy nodded. “Okay”

“Great. Gina, Rosa can you help me set up?”

“Do we have a choice?” asked Rosa, arms folded.

“Nope! Let’s go.” He squeaked in response, bounding down the stairs.

“Wow.” Said Jake, astounded. “He really is excited; he didn’t use a single pun.”

 

 

 

 

10 minutes later, Gina yelled up the stairs, “Oi, you two! Get down here.”

Jake half-run down the stairs, Amy nervously walking behind him, the adrenaline long gone. They found the couches overturned and the dining chairs placed haphazardly around the room. Captain Raymond and Dr Kevin’s rolly chairs were at the bottom of the stairs. There were some old chocolate bars on the kitchen counter behind Gina, who was grinning wickedly.

“Alright, bozos,” said Rosa to get their attention. “What you gotta do is get to the couches on the rolly chairs – watch out for dining chairs.”

Gina took over. “Then you climb over the couch and run to the kitchen, eat your chocolate in the entirety and put the wrapper in the bin.”

“After that, you need to get back on the rolly chairs and roll them back to the office. There you will print out a picture of –” Charles sighed and looked over to his sister, who nodded. “– of Gina, the first to stick it onto the fridge is the winner!

Jake hopped onto the nearest chair, turning to Amy, he asked “Ready?”

She nodded, clinging to the edge of her own seat. “Ready.”

“Great!” he pushed off the floor and – amidst Amy’s objections – right into a dining chair. Laughing, she rolled past him.

“Well played, Jake.”

“Amy races – rolls? Amy rolls ahead.” Charles stammered. “She’s up to the couch, Jake is too.”

Amy jumped over it and in a few quick steps was stuffing the chocolate bar in her mouth.

Charles continued, “Amy takes a quick lead. Come on Jakey. Yes! He’s opened the chocolate.”

“And… - one sec – and Amy finishes it.” Gina laughed.

So did Rosa, before she realised something. “Oh no, ugh, Jake needs to win. My math teachers’ a dick. I still got homework.”

Getting back onto the rolly chair, Amy said, “I can still hear you.”

Charles continued commentating. “Anyway. They’ve both finished the food, they’re rolling down the hallway, they’re neck and neck.” He paused. “Okay, they’ve gone into the office, I can’t see what’s happening.”

Gina rolled her eyes. “Let’s go.” She motioned onward and the three of them hurried towards the office.

“Wait,” Rosa stopped, “I heard something.”

“Oh, that’s probably my pizza.” Said Gina, waving her off dismissively.

It was the pizza. But it was one of those moments where a hundred things happen at once. Oh, how they would wish it was just the pizza.

Gina went to open the front door.

“You ordered pizza?” asked Charles.

“Yeah. I was hungry everyone else was busy. Oh, don’t give me that look, I got some for everybody. You keep forgetting how amazing I am – Hey! Watch it.” Gina yelled over her shoulder at the remaining competitors as they rushed past her towards the kitchen, pictures of her clutched in their hands.

“Sorry!” squeaked Amy, neither of them looking back.

Charles and Rosa hurried after them into the kitchen. Rosa turned to the former and said, “I don’t think it was the pizza I heard.”

“What? What else could it – Oh crap.”

Turns out the noise Rosa had heard was the garage door. Jake and Amy ran right into their dad and pop as they came into the kitchen.

“What… is going on here?” the latter asked, putting a hand on their shoulders to steady them.
“Why did we just see a pizza delivery man at our front door? Also, why are you two holding pictures of Gina?”

“I… that is a good question.” Jake shrugged the hand off his shoulder, red in the face. “You weren’t meant to be back yet.”

Amy did the same next to him, taking great interest in the floor.

Rosa stepped forward, rolling her eyes. “There’s a delivery guy at the door cause Gina ordered pizza. We were doing a dumb little competition to decide where to order dinner – that’s why they’ve got the pics –, cause Charles can’t cook normal food, but Gina was annoying and ordered pizza when we weren’t looking.”

Gina, who had snuck into the room, pizza in hand, said “It’s fine. I got enough for everyone.”

Their fathers remained silent, taking the scene in, until Dad said, “is this competition why you remind us that Kevin and I weren’t due back yet, Jacob.”

Jake opened and closed his mouth a couple of times but no snazzy remark to get him out of trouble came to mind.

Charles spoke up instead. “I think Jake meant, aren’t you meant to be at a dinner party right now?”

Dad frowned. “Yes. Something more important came up. We will talk about this competition later.”

Pop walked over and took the pizza from Gina and placed it on the bench. She held onto it for as long as possible – until he looked her right in the eyes – and quickly crossed her arms.

“Charles, Gina, we have some news.” He looked exhausted.

 

 

 

They went to the dining room for privacy; Jake, Rosa, and Amy took the hint and moved upstairs.  

The room was a mess. That was obvious, they had had to weave between various types of chairs just to reach it. Gina decided to just keep it casually and sat on the table. Charles followed her lead.

Dad sighed. They would talk about this whole catastrophe later. For now, well there was a reason they had been discovered.

“Charles.” Began Pop, “this is regarding your adoption.”

He gripped the edge of the table to stop his hands from shaking. “Okay”

“What am I doing here then?” asked Gina.

Pop said, “You are here because this is also regarding both of your biological fathers.”

Gina frowned. She didn’t know much about Charles’s bio father, only that his mother was the main reason Charles had entered the system and his dad owned a flower shop. Seemed like a passive piece of shit. Speaking of shit, what did her bio father have to do with anything? He was currently in prison for attempted murder and drug dealings.

“Is he trying to get me back?” asked Charles.

“Not quite. He wants to give up his custody now.”

“…oh.” Charles looked down at his feet, letting the thoughts overtake him.

Pop put his hand on Charles's shoulder and squeezed it comfortingly. He got a meek smile in return.

“This is because it appears Lyn Boyle is not your biological father,” said Dad.  “It turns out your biological mother was cheating on him with her drug dealer.”

“What?”

But Gina got what happened. Charles was her half-brother. “Fuck.”

 

Chapter Text

 

“So, you’re saying … my mother cheated with Gina’s father, so he is actually my biological dad. And now that he knows this, the man who raised me the first twelve years of my life, is fine with just… giving me up?” asked Charles.

“Unfortunately, yes.” Said Pop.

He had never minded not being adopted. His biological parents had done everything they could to keep their parental rights and Charles even saw his father once a month. It was certainly better than in prison, should be in prison, dead, or as good as dead, like everybody else’s bio parents. Charles’s parents wanted him, or at least they had. Maybe he really was just a stereotypical, pitiful foster kid.

 

“Does this mean Charles can finally be adopted?” Gina asked excitedly.

“It is up to him. But, yes, Charles, if you want it, then Kevin and would be thrilled to adopt you.” Said Dad.

“Thank you. Truly.” Said Charles, with a smile. It was small and full of melancholy.

“We’ll give you a minute to register everything.” Said Pop, “this is a lot to take, beside, we need to talk to your siblings about this mess.” He gestured to the overturned chairs behind him.

Charles nodded.

“In that case, I think I need a minute as well.” Said Gina, with a smirk.

Dad stared at her. “You can have two.”

Dad and Pop headed for the stairs, the sound of scampering footsteps was heard running away from the top, where Jake, Rosa and Amy may or may not have been listening. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life continued on, Terry got back from his football game, the school year ended, graduations were held, and soon the week was over.

 

 

Dad and Pop wanted to start Charles’s adoption process right away. If they were lucky, it would be done before Charles had finished his first semester of high school. He had gotten worried and asked how long it would take. Dad had smiled (which for him was basically laughing uproariously) and said it wouldn’t take nearly as much time as the last adoption. Pop, at least, found this hilarious.

That would be because Jake and Gina (in the same boat, but not biological) were adopted at the same time. And of course, Dad and Pop hoped to do Rosa and Amy when the time came, but there were too many terms and conditions for that to work right now.

For starters, you had to supervise the child for at least three months. Rosa still had a month to go; and Dad and Pop (or Holt and Cozner, as she still called them), wanted to give her a chance to open up and feel like she could be herself in their house before they broached the subject of adoption. This was going to take a while.

Amy, on the other hand, had 6 months to go until her biological parents would even have their parental rights terminated, assuming they continued to put zero effort into having contact with her. 

Besides, this was about Charles. He was finally getting his chance to shine. Everyone had to respect his place in the family now. Obviously, most people did, he had been with Dad and Pop for two years now so most kids at school thought he already had been adopted, and Charles could kinda pass as Pop’s kid on the street. But now it would be official.

Today, they were starting the rough part. Terminating the parental rights.

Pop had some time off because the school year had ended, so he and Charles would meet Dad at the court on his lunch break. Terry, not in trouble for the Jimmy Jab fiasco and busy organising his room for when he moved out over the summer, was free to stay home or otherwise do as he pleased. But Amy, Rosa, Gina and especially Jake were going to spend the day with –

No! Not Michael and Norm!” groaned Jake.

“They’re disgusting. I physically cannot be around them,” complained Gina.

Rosa glared at Dad and Pop. “They are the worst.”

“Rosa.” Sighed Dad.

“The. Worst.”

“They can’t be that bad. Right?” asked Amy. She’d seen their neighbours a few times, but they were in Charles's year, so she didn’t really know them, yet.

“Flat top and the Freak? Yeah, they’re bad,” said Gina. “Like, that’s not even me being mean. That’s what they call themselves. Flat top and the Freak.” She shuddered.

“Michael and Norm never do any schoolwork. They’re always eating or sleeping. Or in the nurse’s office.” Charles added. “… but I’m sure they are way better at home.”

They don’t do schoolwork?” Amy was shocked.

“That’s not even close to the worst of it. Michael and Norm’s social skills makes Jake look like Holt, and they’re lowkey pervy,” said Rosa.

Oh shit.” Realisation dawned on Gina’s face. “You can’t make me go, Pop, if the kids at school found out. My popularity would plummet.”

“You know,” said Jake, “I normally don’t care about those things, but that is a great reason to let us stay here. Terry can watch us!”

“Enough.” Commanded Dad in his captain voice. “This is not up for discussion.”

Pop turned to them and said, “we have given you a chance to rant, now I expect you to be courteous. You will go over there in an hour or so. Remember, Michael and Norm have taken time out of their day to babysit you.”

Babysit?!” Jake repeated, gobsmacked.

“Yes.” Said Dad. “Their mother isn’t home, and they have so kindly agreed to supervise you for several hours whilst we are busy, therefore, babysitting. It’s no different to what you were just asking Terry to do.”

“This just keeps getting worse and worse.” Complained Gina, putting her head in her hands.

 

 

 

 

 

An hour later, whilst Pop and Charles left for court, Jake, Amy, Rosa, and Gina arrived at Flat top and the Freak’s house.

Two boys, a tall one with a flat top hairstyle and grubby fingers, and a shorter one with terrible frosted tips in his hair and a cut on his cheek which had started bleeding out of nowhere, opened the door.

 “Hi, guys!” welcomed the taller one, “we’re going to have so much fun. Oh, and I’m Norm, hello.” He garbled, with a wave to Amy.

She waved back, not moving out from behind Rosa as they walked inside.  

The shorter one, Michael, nodded at them. “Yeah. You know, you should stuff up more. I can’t believe I’m getting to spend the entire day with Gina Linetti!”

She shrugged, “I know, I know. I’m amazing. Get over yourself.”

“Um, did you need a band-aid for that… or a trip to the hospital?” asked Jake, pointing to the cut on Michael’s cheek.

“Oh?” he grazed his hand over his cheek and licked his bloodstained fingers. “Nah, we’re not in trouble yet.”

Norm glanced up. “Trouble? I love that game, it’s got a really cool button and everything!”

“Ew,” Jake shuddered, “not that we’re not babies, right Gines?”

“Yeah, but” she shrugged nonchalantly, “look where we are. We can’t do anything cool.”

“Anything?” Jakes eyes lit up, “not even … Jimmy Jabs?”

Amy jumped. “No way, that’s how got in this mess in the first place.”

“Dad and Pop were only mad because we made a mess of our house,” Jake desperately reasoned, gesturing around them, “this is not our house.”

“Exactly. That’s worse.” Sighed Gina.

Jake threw his hands up in the air. “Are you telling me no one thinks the Jimmy Jabs is a good idea?”

“I do Jakey. What’s the Jimmy Jabs?” Norm added, somewhat helpfully.

Gina ignored him. “don’t you want to spend your holidays with someone at least cooler than these two bozos –” she pointed at Norm and Michael “– and those clowns”. She nodded her head at Rosa and Amy as though that proved her point.

Rosa rolled her eyes. She couldn’t be bothered to give a shit about any of this. She just wanted to be alone in her room, watching ‘Saved by the Bell’. All the characters are actually kinda … hot.

Jake huffed, “C’mon Rosa, not you too.”

 “I don’t care what you do, man. I’m just gonna go back to the house in an hour or two and do my own thing. Terry won’t care.”

There was silence for a moment, then Michael spoke up. “Wait a second.” Relief washed over Jake and Amy’s faces, but he wasn’t done, “if you're not here then Norm and me won’t be paid as much.”

“That’s your only problem with it?” asked Amy quietly, to no one in particular. 

“You will be. My parents don’t need to know.” Continued Rosa.

Michael mulled it over. “Would we be paid more if we tattled? You know, there’s nothing you can do to stop us.”

“How about I give you 20 bucks now and we never speak of this again.”

“20 bucks!” exclaimed Norm gleefully, “think of all the doughnuts you could buy with that!”

“Why don’t I chuck in an extra $10, and you let both of us go on our merry way, no questions asked?” Gina offered, smirking.

“Deal,” said Norm, offering his hand.

Ignoring Jake and Amy’s pleas, Rosa carefully shook it and she and Gina waltzed back out the door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charles and his pop were sitting in the courts’ waiting room. He was usually pretty calm, but now every small noise was making him jump. The large entrance door creaked open for what felt like the thousandth time and Charles’s… he didn’t know what to call him, but Lyn Boyle walked through.

Well, the names Dad and Pop were obviously off the table, and he wasn’t technically a biological father, but Lyn Boyle had been the parental figure for Charles at some point, and they’ve even got the same last name. Why couldn’t there be an easy title for the person who raised you until you were twelve – was even your first word – there for all your firsts – protected you – made you laugh – showed you love so dearly - gave you a clear example of the best haircut – taught you how to dance – taught you how to cook – warned you to be wary of gluten – showed you you should always take risks – and has the same surname as you – so you think that counts for something – but now not of that matters?

“I’m going to go talk to him,” Charles said aloud, as much to convince his Pop as to convince himself.

Pop sighed, “okay. Be careful.”

Charles nodded. When he reached Lyn, he opened his mouth, but no words came out. What exactly do you say here?

“I’m sorry.” Said the person who raised him until he was twelve – was even his first word – there for all his firsts – protected him – made him laugh – showed him love so dearly - gave him a clear example of the best haircut – taught him how to dance – taught him how to cook – warned him to be wary of gluten – showed him he should always take risks – and has the same surname as him– so he thinks that counts for something – but now not of that matters.

“…Oh.”

“I love you, Charlie. It’s just, I’m moving on. I’m getting married again, a – and my flower shop opened another store, so I’ve also gotta move. Cause, you know, more people in the house and the biz, better location, all that. I don’t know Charles, I’m just really busy at the moment. But so are you! High school next, isn’t it? You probably don’t even want me there, and you certainly don’t need me anymore.”   He chuckled.

“Right.” Charles stared at his sneakers.

“Are you okay?” Lyn looked down at him with furrowed eyebrows.

“Yeah, yeah, of course. But we will still see each other, right?” Charles regretted his words the moment they came out of his mouth. Lyn had just outlined several good excuses and clearly had no intention to put any effort into their father-son relationship. Now he had gone and made it awkward, and as much as that was his specialty, Charles hated the silence.

Lyn gulped. “Well, we’ll see what happens. I am sorry, Charlie.”

“Don’t call me Charlie.” Huffed Charles.

“What?”

“I’m not a child anymore. You clearly get that. My name is Charles.” He frowned. “Only my father calls me that, but he’s moved on.

“Oh –” began Lyn but Charles was already walking away.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Rosa sat slumped on her bed, staring intently at her laptop screen as the Saved by the Bell theme played. She glanced over to the door as the sound of Gina playing video games next door stopped.  Sure enough, in she walked.

Gina looked over at the hastily paused laptop screen, “Didn’t you already watch that episode?”

Rosa startled. “Maybe, I dunno. Why do you care?”

“Just asking.” Said Gina, raising her hands in mock surrender. “Anyway, I won all the video games and now I’m super bored.”

“That’s not my problem. I’m busy.” Said Rosa before Gina had a chance to complain any further. “Get out of my room.”

Hey. It’s not ‘your room’ just yet. I am still 100% in charge here.”

Rosa scoffed. “Sure. Out. Now.”

“No. you’re not even doing anyth – gah!” Gina jumped as Terry appeared in the doorway.

“What are you two doing here?” he asked.

Rosa and Gina glanced at each other.

He sighed, “doesn’t matter. Just keep the noise down, Sharon and I can hear you from across the hall.” He nodded his head at his, soon to be Gina’s, bedroom.

“Right. We’ll keep it down. Gina was just leaving.” Said Rosa, staring daggers at her.

Gina poked her tongue out at her in response.

“Where are the others anyway?” asked Terry.

“Oh, Jake and Amy? We left them at Flat top and the Freaks place.” Gina stated simply.

Rosa rolled her eyes dramatically. Sure, when you say it like that, it sounds bad. But she had more important things to do than learn not to listen to Jake. Not that she would tell anyone what she was busy doing. Gina had just tagged along.

Terry gaped. “You left them, with… ah. I get it, but they’ll be pissed.”

“Nah, I’m sure they’re fine.” Said Gina, waving a hand dismissively.

Terry clicked his tongue. “Alright, but I hope you know you are going to have to go to back there when we pick up Jake and Amy. We’re meeting Dad, Pop, and Charles for lunch in that park next to the court.”

Rosa sat up. “No one said anything about going out.”

“What? You just so busy sitting in that one spot.” Laughed Gina.

“Were you really planning on not moving from there all day”, said Terry, doing a double take.

“Yes.”

“Not even for Charles?” Asked Terry, “You know he would be there for you if the positions were switched.”

“Yeah, but they're not, are they?”

Terry looked at Rosa, letting her wait. Gina looked anywhere else.

“Alright, fine. I’ll go to the stupid lunch thing for stupid Charles.”

 

 

 

They busied themselves over the next few hours. Gina painted her nails, alternating bright pink and purple. Terry and Sharon made a load of sandwiches and cleared out the van he had brought for a road trip that summer with his friends, because it was the only way he could get his girlfriend and mountain load of siblings to fit.

Rosa snuck over to the bathroom off Holt and Cozner’s room. It was the most private place she could think of. She took a deep breath and opened up the incognito tab on her phone. Hands shaking slightly, she pressed play on the video titled ‘Bisexuality explained: signs you are Bi’

 

 

 

 

 

 

The van began its hopeful chugging down the street to Norm and Michael's house. Terry sent Rosa and Gina to get the others, saying it was the least they could do at this point. Gina begrudgingly knocked on the door, rolling her eyes. No response. Rosa, rolling her eyes right back, tried the doorknob. It creaked open to reveal a horrifying image.

Flattop, Freak, Jake, and Amy were sitting on the living room floor, playing trouble. How had Jake let it all slip away?  Amy looked up at the noise and frowned at them slightly. Jake glanced over and got way too excited, “oh thank god, you guys are back! Quick, one of ya sub in for me, I need to go on a quick break for the rest of time.”

“Chill, you guys, chill,” said Gina, smiling at the two of them sheepishly, “Jake, I’ve got a much better sub waiting for you.”

His whole face lit up. “Food?”

Gina nodded. “Although it's not actually subs, just normal sandwiches. Thought it was a better line this way.”

“It was, nice touch.”

“What’s going on?” asked Amy.

“We gotta head down to that park by the court for lunch. For Charles, or whatever.” Rosa mumbled the last bit.

“We get to leave? Later nerds!” Jake immediately ran out the front door.

Amy’s face lit up, but she at least had the decency to pick up hers and Jake's bag before hurrying out the door. Rosa rolled her eyes, she was such a dork.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raymond sat on a bench with his husband and son, where they had agreed to wait for the rest of their children. He watched the people walking past them. Most were civilians or, understandably, lawyers. He recognised most of the police officers who walked past to testify. There goes Officer Majors, Detective Crawford, that one person who always wears a bright purple tie, and … Lieutenant Santiago?

He stared at the mildly disgraced man. After losing seven of his eight children to neglect charges, one of which Raymond now took great pride in calling his foster daughter, Victor Santiago had fallen out of many people’s good books. Not all though, cops like Pembroke and Podolski were just a few who, dare he say, found it hilarious.

Santiago noticed the staring and walked over, recognition appearing on his face as he did so.

“Captain Holt,” he offered his hand, “it’s good to finally see the man who has been looking after my Amy.”

Charles jerked up and glanced over at the man. “Yes. You too.” Raymond said nonchalantly as he shook it.

“You must be Victor Santiago.” Greeted Kevin. He glanced up and down for a minuscule of a second and his smile decreased by a similar sized percent. Raymond couldn’t remember the last time his husband had been so clearly disgusted in public.  “I’m Kevin, Amy’s other foster father. She is a fantastic child.”

“Yes, yes, of course she is,” Santiago said rather dismissively.

“Then why don’t you bother having contact with Amy?”, Charles jumped in sharply. He was quite likely still affected by his own parental issues, but he raised a good point.

“I am a very busy man, I don’t have time for these silly little things, okay, child?”

Raymond stood, gobsmacked and enraged. “Don’t you dare disrespect my kids. You honestly think you can call my son a child in that tone, when you are so immature you cannot even begin to understand what you have lost.”

“Enough!” Santiago shouted. A few people glanced in their direction. “I won’t have you disrespecting me. How I deal with my children is none of your business. And – oh.”

Behind them, the rest of the family had arrived. Amy was a few steps behind, rooted in the spot at the sight of her biological father, “oh.

 

 

 

 

 

Oh. Oh. That’s all she could say, Oh? Come on, Amy.

One by one, the others realised who he was and turned to stare at her. Amy wished they wouldn’t.

Finally, her … father spoke scathingly. “I’ll show you how I care for my children. Come on, Amy.” He grabbed her wrist as he walked past, and she let him drag her down the path.

 

“So, how have things been going for you in the last… however long it’s been?” he feigned interest as they trooped down the path and past a non-smoking sign.

“Nine and half months. I’m okay, thanks for asking.” She rubbed her wrists when he let her go. “How are you?”

“I’m good, I’m good. David got a new belt in his martial arts class last weekend, so we went out for ice cream.” Her father said absentmindedly, lighting a cigarette.

“Good for him.” Amy choked out much quieter than she meant to. It was the first time she had seen her biological father in 9 months, 3 weeks, and 4 days, and they were already talking about his favourite child. Why couldn’t she be enough, just once? Amy blinked back tears. Why did she have to be so weak?

David was everything to her parents. Always had been. Of their eight children, he was the only one who hadn’t been lost to neglect charges. He was a stuck-up stupid head.

Amy was distracted by the familiar smell of cigarette smoke. Her biological father was staring at her. “Sorry?”

He rolled his eyes. “Sit down.” He pat the bench next to him. She did. “I asked if you’d read any good books lately. You’re the bookish one, right?”

“Yep, that’s me.” Amy didn’t mention that her love for books was largely because of his and her mother’s less-than-perfect parenting. “I read ‘The book thief’ for school.” Technically Charles read it for an English essay, but he let her borrow it.

“I haven’t read that one.” He took a drag of his cigarette. “But how has school been? Are you still getting all A’s?”

“Ye – yes, I promise.” Amy squeaked.

Victor Santiago glanced at her. “Good.” He stated. “Keep it that way.”

Amy flinched. She hadn’t wanted to. Victor noticed. He wasn’t meant to.

He bent down to her. “It’s alright, child.” Straightening up again, he continued, “I only yell at you when you do something wrong. You haven’t, have you?”

Amy quickly shook her head.

She remembered the Jimmy Jabs fiasco. But that was different. It had been fun, though she shouldn’t tell Jake that. And she wouldn’t tell her father anything about it. He would get angry and make a big scene. Anyway, Captain Raymond and Dr Cozner had already punished them when her and Jake spent the morning with Michael and Norm. Although admittedly it wasn’t like a normal punishment. Now Amy knew that if she didn’t want to spend the day with gross babysitters then she shouldn’t contribute to trashing the house in an elaborate competition to see who got to order dinner. Where was the feelings of complete and utter worthlessness?

Amy realised that she had spaced out again. She actually thought just because it was the first time she had seen someone from her old family in the better part of the year, she could forgo manners? Come on, girl.

She cleared her throat. “So how has work been lately? Any interesting cases?”

“You know, I just solved a murder case around the corner from here. It had the whole squad stumped, too.” He grinned, an excited glint in his eye.

“How did it happen?” Amy asked, desperate to know.

“It was the girlfriend! This couple were having lunch on a bench, and she spiked his drink with a sedative. Then they went for a walk and hugged goodbye on that path over there,” Victor pointed to a turn in the path by a handful of towering trees. “He was all out of it, didn’t stand a chance. She stabbed him, right in the chest, and hid him under all the leaves.”

“Brilliant!”

Victor smiled back at her; she got him to smile!

“Just don’t tell my captain that Smitty suspected her first.” He said with a wink.

“I’ll never tell a –”

“Santiago?” yelled out a man coming out of the courthouse doors.

“Smitty!” he waved back, “there he is now, take these he doesn’t like it when I smoke. Just can’t quit.”

Amy grabbed the cigarette pack shoved in her direction, the smile slipping from her face.

Smitty sat down on the bench, “admiring the murder spots, are ya?”

“Anything’s better than the precinct right now, don’t you think so?”

The other cop laughed. He sounded like a dying hyena. “Cause of the summer youth police academy or increase in pathetic prostitutes?”

“Let’s just say I’m taking a particularly long lunch break today for a multitude of reasons.”

Was that the only reason her biological father had stayed and talked with her?

He turned towards Smitty, “Do you want to check out a few other murder spots before we head back? I heard the coffee shop a couple blocks back is to die for.”

Amy slumped down in her seat. Fuck polite posture. Victor fucking Santiago was now sitting with his back to her. She would bet all her money that neither of the men would notice if she got up right now and walked away.

But she didn’t have to. Without a second glance, her biological father and his cop buddy walked off, presumably in the direction of the murder café, deeply entrenched in their boring old-person conversation.

That’s the end of that then.

Amy sighed, although she didn’t feel sad anymore, not really. She didn’t really feel anything.

She didn’t know how long she sat there but when she looked up Terry was walking towards her.

“Hey, you okay?”

Amy jumped up, slipping the cigarette pack into her bag. “I’m good. How are you?”

Amy.” He rolled her eyes at her. “Don’t worry about all those posh manners right now. You can complain or rant or whatever you gotta do.”

She paused. “How much did you hear?”

Terry hesitated. “All of it. The others are at one of the picnic tables. Dad wanted someone to go get you. Kind of hard to interrupt though.”

“Right. Sorry.” She honestly didn’t know why she was apologising. Well, that’s not entirely true, Amy did know it was one of those things she picked up from her old family. It finally seemed to click. That was her old family. Those people were her past, not her future and certainly not her present. Maybe that was the reason Amy had stopped addressing Victor Santiago as ‘dad’ in her head. Or maybe, and she would never admit this, it was because she kept accidentally referring to Captain Raymond as her ‘dad’, several times subconsciously called Dr Kevin ‘Pop’, too.

Dude! Just get it out of your head.”

Amy grinned. “Victor Santiago is a fucking poopy head.”

 

Chapter Text

Two months into the summer holidays and Amy’s brief encounter with her biological father and the whole Jimmy Jab debacle were forgotten as Terry celebrated being officially settled into his own apartment. It had taken Gina half that time to make his old room her own. She had pushed everyone out of the house that day and had an over-the-top dance party with her friends.

 “It was fantastic!” Gina exclaimed as she, Rosa, and Amy set the table for Terry’s celebratory dinner. “I’m so glad we put that disco ball up in my room.”

“Well, we had a great day too,” said Amy, “right, Rosa?”

“It actually didn’t totally suck.”

The two of them and Kevin had gone to the library where he was researching something for his thesis. Amy had invited some friends over with them and they spent the day playing board games. Rosa joined in a few and spent the rest of the day browsing books of a certain subject.

“You know you enjoyed yourself, Rosa. You even got moose tracks ice cream afterwards.” Kevin stated as he entered the room with a plateful of potatoes.

“Maybe.”

There was a click of the lock behind them, and the group turned towards it.

“Oh man, I love the waterpark! I got to go on all the rides, every single one, twice! And I only threw up three times. Actually, you know what would be cool? If we went back right now! It doesn’t close for another … half an hour ago. Well, I’ve always wanted to try trespassing.” Jake rambled, bursting through the door.

Charles hurried in after him. “That sounds fantastic, but any more waterpark food and I will vomit all over everyone… again.”

Raymond walked in behind them. “They have had a lot of sugar.”

He turned to his husband for a signature welcoming handshake. “I do apologise if that ruins their appetite. The food smells marvellous Kevin.”

Kevin shook it. “These two have a very large appetite. I believe we will be alright.” He turned to Jake and Charles. “Boys, can you put your bags away and then help get the food on the table? Actually, Jake, fix your hair first.”

Jake rolled his eyes, “come on Pop, it’s not that bad.”

“Dude, ya look like Edwards Scissorhands.” Commented Gina. “And not in a good way.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Half an hour later, Terry had arrived to rambunctious cheers, and the family was seated around the dining table, topped with potatoes, chicken, corn, and the like.

 

“So, Terry, has your new apartment been as delightful as you hoped?” asked Raymond in his glorious deadpan way.

“It’s a lot quieter, that’s for sure.” He chuckled. “Bit small, but now I get to share a room with Sharon.”

 Gina laughed, “ha! Imagine sharing a room! Can’t relate. I think your great, Ter-bear, but I’m so glad to have my own room again.”

“You know, I think Rosa and Amy should be more offended by that than I.”

Rosa snorted. “Oh no, believe me, nothing brings me more joy than telling Gina to get the hell out.”

Charles rolled his eyes dramatically. “That’s all I ever hear and I’m all the way down the hall. I feel bad for Amy. It never stops.”

“Gina’s persistent. You’ve gotta give her that.” Jake shrugged.

She glared at them. “Okay, at the very least, that bedroom has the unicorn wallpaper 8-year-old me picked. My very essence will forever be there. You can’t kick me out.”

Rosa smirked, “and if I paint over it? I could make it all jet black.”

It was hard to tell who was more horrified: Gina or Amy.

“I – maybe not that colour.” Suggested the latter. 

“This has taken a strange turn.” Commented Raymond, glancing at his husband.

“Indeed.” Kevin smiled peacefully as he looked over at them.

 

 

 

Jake turned towards them, then over to Terry. “You know, Gina kicked us all out of the house today just to celebrate.”

“Kicked you out? Where did you go?”

There was a collective groan from the group as Jake's eyes lit up.

I got to go to the water park!”

“With these two?” Terry looked back and forth between Raymond and Kevin, eyes wide in disbelief.

“Neither, they’re too ‘distinguished’ or whatever,” Jake did mocking air quotes, rolling his eyes at them, “Charles’s friend Sam’s mum work at the water park, she invited his whole group, and I also happen to love water parks.”

“That’s the whole reason Dad and Pop decided I could show my room off to my friends today anyway,” muttered Gina. 

Sensing Jake was going to go on a rant, Terry turned to Kevin, “hey, Pop, you’re on holidays, did you get to stay home or were you not that lucky?”

“Oh, I was very lucky, spent the day at the library working on my thesis. Rosa and Amy joined me.” Kevin smiled at the thought.

Terry, more shocked than before, turned to Rosa. “You were in a library? Willingly?”

“Technically,” Rosa replied.

Whilst Kevin and Amy were both proudly nerds, Rosa would only ever pick up a book for school. However, she’d had some time to burn. And although Rosa was now confident in her sexuality, a little extra reading never hurt anybody. Even if it was deep in one of the corners, hidden behind a magazine, specifically when the other two were busy. Very casual.

“We weren’t just there to read books, Terry,” Amy rolled her eyes as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “I was there to play board games, and win. Kevin let me invite all my friends.”

Wow,” Gina gasped sarcastically, “all one friend, good job.”

Amy elbowed her. “I have more than one friend. There were six of us.”

“Including Rosa?”

“… yeah.”

 

Rosa decided not to mention that that also included Kevin. Gina would figure it out eventually, anyway. Although, looking around the table at all these people, Rosa convinced herself that there was something about her that they wouldn’t have to ‘figure out’.

 

 

“I think the library sounds fun,” said Raymond, “I would’ve loved to go.”

“But you need to go to work,” Jake added helpfully. “The water park is very expensive, and you won't let us sneak in.”

 

“Oh dear, Raymond, I am terribly sorry,” Kevin realised something, “I got caught up and forgot to ask. How was work today?”

“That is quite alright, Kevin. It was a relatively eventful day. Would you believe one of the new officers stole 6 pounds of cocaine from evidence?”

“To do it?” asked Terry, “or to stop some druggie from going to jail?”

“Or both?” chimed in Rosa. 

“Well, I doubt it was her intention, but she did do both.” Raymond smiled slightly, “her hyperactivity certainly made it easier to pinpoint the culprit.”

“Was this a good hyperactive, or a bad hyperactive?”

“It … had layers. Seemed to help her knock out a few of my detectives, which was unfortunate.”

“You’ve had a big day, then,” Kevin remarked.

“That was all before I left early to pick up Jake and Charles from the water park, which you will not be breaking into, by the way.

 

 

 

Terry turned to the final member. “So, Gines, how was your disco party? Worth kicking out the family for the day?”

“Oh, one hundo percent.” Gina grinned, “It was the greatest party I’ve ever been to.”

“What did you do all day?” asked Amy.

“Invited over most my friends, way more than you had, and everyone brought a bit of food, so we had the bestest lunch.”

“I am so proud of you” Charles gasped.

Gina scoffed. “Anyway, we choreographed this incredible new dance for the comp next school year. None of the other teams stand a chance. Everyone got really into it. You know, the dance is disco-themed, so we hung one of those shiny balls on the light feature thing you had in your room. It was so cool.

She said the last part to Terry, But Kevin hesitantly responded.

“Wait, Gina, we specifically told you not to do that. It’s a safety hazard.”

“It’s fine. Nobody even got hurt when it fell.”

Regina” chided Raymond.

 

 

 

 

Another half an hour or so passed, and the empty lunch plates were swapped for dessert. Terry, famously in love with yogurt, was ecstatic to hear one of his favourite limited-edition flavours (ube) was now selling at the local supermarket in ice cream form. Rosa poked the purple dish, now also topped with blueberries and strawberries, with her spoon. It reminded her of the bi flag. 

 

 

The conversation having taken a dip, Raymond turned to the group at large. “Does anyone have something they would like to share?”

 

Rosa exhaled, and with one last glance at her bowl, she spoke. “Yeah, I do.”

She felt everyone’s eyes turn to her.

“Alright, first off, no one be weird about this,” Rosa paused, “and don’t tell anyone else yet.”

“What’s going on?” Kevin asked, concerned.

 

“I’m bisexual.”

 

Rosa grinned despite herself as the others clamoured to say their support.

There was a hurried “that’s great, I love you,” from Charles and Amy.

“Cool,” said Jake, “that’s real cool.”

Gina took a different approach, “you figured this out with all the Saved by the Bell episodes you watched, didn’t you?”

Rosa shrugged, “part of it.

“I knew it!” Gina grinned and turned to Terry for a triumphant high five.

He begrudgingly slapped her raised hand. “And you know we all support you 100%, right?”

Rosa nodded but was distracted by turning to the final members of the exchange, who had remained silent and impassive.

Kevin agreed. “Terry’s right. Thank you for telling us that, I know how hard coming out can be.”

With a quick glance at his husband, Raymond added “we’re proud of you.”

“Dope.” Was Rosa’s well-crafted response.

“Yeah, yeah, who cares about that?” asked Gina, “which Saved by the Bell character are you in love with?”

Rosa laughed, now this was the good stuff. “Zach Morris is hot. But, so is Lisa Turtle.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

It was the last Monday of the school holidays (for everyone going to middle school next year, at least). Usually every day of the holidays felt like a Saturday, but this Monday was like a regular Monday, because this Monday was a bummer.

About a week earlier Dad had gotten a phone call telling him that Jake’s biological grandmother had passed away. Her health had been worsening for years, ever since she was considered unable to care for Jake when he was six, but had gotten significantly worse a few months ago when catch-ups between the two were stopped.

Nana had been a sweet old woman, always baking cookies or doing crosswords. She would tell Jake stories of his mum when she was a kid, then play with him as though Nana was that age (that’s how she got the scar on her knee, from tripping over a table leg in a makeshift cubby house).

 

 

Jake sniffed, whipping his nose on his sleeve.  He blinked, realising there was a big streak of snot on his fancy funeral suit. Jake snatched up the tissue his dad had said to put in his breast pocket to look 'proper ' and hurriedly began rubbing it off. The lady beside him who was supposedly his biological great aunt coughed loudly.  Jake glanced at her, and she nodded sharply to the front where another old fart was telling a story.

“Listen”, she hissed.

Jake rolled his eyes. She was making more noise than him. Besides he didn’t need these boring old people telling him boring old stories about someone he already knew was awesome. They should have been convincing the doctors who took her off life support, or the stupid case worker people who wouldn’t let him see her for three months, not boring Jake to death.

 

 

 

What felt like eons later, the speeches were all done, and Jake and his dad were helping themselves to some of the food laid out, mostly cookies. They were really good cookies. An official-looking lady walked over to them.

“Are you Jacob Peralta?” she asked, “Leanne’s grandson?”

“Yep, that’s me.” He would’ve offered her a hand to shake but they were busy with all the food he was holding.

“He really is that young.” The fancy lady muttered.

“Sorry?” asked Dad.

“I’m Abigail, here to execute the will,” she clarified, “are you Jacob’s legal guardian?”

“I am.”

Abigail smiled. “Follow me to the boarding room, it’ll just be a minute.”

 

 

Jake and his dad followed her down a long white hallway to a large conference room, with the dividing wall made entirely of windows and window frames.

Abigail began, “Your nana left you a photo album, and most of her savings. She handed Jake the former.

It must’ve been 300 pages long and was mostly held together by sticky tape. Marvellous.

“Her savings?” Dad double-checked.

“Yep. It adds up to $60’357.” Said Abigail, handing him a piece of paper, “If you could just fill this in.”

“Certainly,” …

As the adults droned on about the money or whatever it was, Jake turned his attention to the photo album. The first was a grainy picture of a toddler with rosy cheeks blowing out birthday candles, labelled Leanne’s 2nd birthday in fancy cursive writing. Skipping through the first chunk of photos, Jake watched his nana grow up from cheeky child to mother to wrinkly old lady. The photos changed to ones labelled, Karen’s first day of preschool, or Karen’s wedding day. Nana had scratched out Jake’s biological father face in that one. 

The rest of the photo album was pictures of Jake when he was little. There was one from his first day of first grade; a short little boy grinning at the camera with his hands on his hips. It was immediately followed by a near identical photo, only now there was a proud mini-Gina with pigtails next to him. Jake chuckled, he remembered that. His bio father had been gone most of the summer and Gina’s was spending more and more time in a friend’s basement (they later discovered him and a couple other buddies were running a massive drug sting out of it). But on their first day, Jake’s mum had taken him to Nana’s for ‘breakfast and smooches’. Gina’s mum had been called into work early and was going to drop her at Jake’s house, but saw their car in the driveway, so Gina had run in to munch on pancakes with them.

Jake turned over to the last photo. It was him and Nana, the last time he’d seen her, attempting to take a selfie.  The angle was way off, with her flowery old wallpaper in focus, and their faces in opposite corners. The zoom was also ridiculous, but you could see their matching smiles, Jake with a toothy grin, and Nana with a few gold teeth.

The photo had quickly been taken as a couple of others walked up the driveway to take Jake back home from a long day spent with Nana. They’d gone to the beach in the morning. Nana had freaked out when she saw how far out Jake was swimming it, especially since she refused to get in the water. So, like any good grandson, he challenged her to a sandcastle-building competition (and completely annihilated hers, if he did say so himself). Only when the sun started turning their faces red, did Nana suggest they go back to her house (and it was when she offered ice cream that Jake finally agreed). He was going to miss her so much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the funeral, Jake and Gina were in his room looking through the photo album.

Oooh, I love this one, your mum was so pretty!” Gina pointed to a picture of Jake’s mum around their age sucking on a lollipop.

“Always had to be on something, didn’t she?” Jake scowled abruptly.

“Whatcha mean?” Gina asked, concerned.

Drugs! Or sugar, in this case. But she always had stuff in her system, never clean –

“Jake?” he knew Gina hated it when he got like that.

“What? It’s true! If my stupid mother hadn’t been high all the flipping time, maybe she wouldn’t be in her own stinking grave five years before Nana. Maybe she wouldn’t have gone to rehab three and a half times, do you want to know why it’s a half?

“I know why, Jake,” Gina said quietly.

“Because she killed herself.”

“I know, Jake.”

“And she knew the authorities wouldn’t let me stay with Nana. And they shouldn’t’ve. For all we know, Nana would still be here if I hadn’t had to stay with her the first time –”

“That’s not true.”

“– or, had actually been allowed to stay with her all the other times, and, hell, see her every now and then. But no, my mum killed herself and I had to go live with your stinkin’ family instead of my own.”

Hey!” Gina yelled, fuming. “That’s not fair!”

“Not fair? The longest my mum was sober since my father left was when I got back from your family with a broken arm! It would’ve been longer, but your father kept dealing her drugs!”

Gina, staring at the floor in a mix of anger and resentment, quietly said “that’s not fair. You’re not allowed to say that.” She shoved Jake as hard as she could as she stood up and opened the door.

Pop was standing there. “I heard yelling. What happened?”

Gina rolled her eyes. “I’m leaving.”

She crossed the hallway to her own room, slamming the door shut. Pop turned to Jake. The boy rubbed the tears from his eyes and ran into his father’s arms.

“I’m so sorry, Papa.”

 

 

They hugged for a minute.

“Can you tell me what happened? Keep in mind I did hear most of it.”

Jake burst into tears. “I just – everything is too much. It’s not fair.”

He paused as the two of them sat down on his bed.

“I don’t know… I miss Nana so much.”

“Is that why you started yelling?”

Jake looked up at Pop, “I was so mean! To my mum, and Gina! She doesn’t deserve it; I know you can’t pick who you're born with.” Jake glanced at the floor, “none of it was a lie, though.”

Pop sighed. “Look, son, both your lives started off shitty, nobody’s going to deny that. But you know each other better than anyone, and, yes, sometimes that means you and Gina will get in over-the-top arguments.”

Pop paused, wiping a tear from Jake's face.

“You and Gina grew up together. When Nana passed away it brought you back to that environment. You're grieving the whole situation, not just your grandmother. And I am so sorry that I don’t have any answers for you. However, I hope you understand that Nana was very important to Gina as well. She’s also grieving.”

“I know,” Jake said quietly. Although it hadn’t fully hit him until that moment, been too busy in his own head. And Gina hadn’t even been invited to the funeral. “I’m gonna go apologise.”

Pop smiled, “That’s a great idea, but maybe wait a few minutes for Gina to calm down first. I love you, Jacob.”

“I love you too, Papa.”

 

 

Pop stood up and headed back out of the room. As he left, Jake saw Dad embracing a crying Gina through her ajar bedroom door.

He felt awful. They were both all sad now, he should’ve known that – he did know that. Why on earth did he bring everything up?

 

Even the broken arm incident. Jake had only mentioned it because he knew Gina felt guilty about what happened.

Jake didn’t know the exact time that it happened, but it was in the four months between their birthdays, so he was six and she was seven. It was Jake’s mum’s second time in rehab, which lasted about a month and a half. Jake was scared, but him, Gina, and her mum, were all pretending it was just a massive sleepover.

One evening, they had been playing in her backyard because Gina had the awesomest swing set. On one end there was a neon yellow slide, their very own slide, with a sandpit underneath. There was so much more stuff, it had to be supported with an A-frame on either end (with the other side having a basketball hoop). In between there was two regular swings and, finally, a trapeze bar.

 

 

Anyway, Jake and Gina were playing on the swing set one evening. Her mum (Darlene) was in the kitchen, making dinner, and her father (Ryan) was in the living room watching the NFL.

Darlene motioned for them to come inside from the window. Jake, standing on the line in the A-frame in an attempt to slam dunk, groaned. “I don’t wanna go in, its not even dark yet!”

Gina, getting higher and higher on the swing, yelled out to her mum, “five more minutes.”

Jake could never forget the look of fear on his friend's face as her father slammed the door open, no matter how many times he saw it. She dug her heels into the ground and the swing grinded to a stop. But it was too late.

Ryan grabbed her upper arm and pulled Gina to her feet. “She said come inside, now.” He seethed.

Gina was resistant, “I am well aware. I was just going to be a second.” She attempted to free her arm, but he tightened his grip.

He just scoffed and slapped the back of her head before shoving Gina in the general direction of the door. Jake was shocked, no one should do that to anyone, especially not his best friend.

“Hey!” he yelled, still standing on the swings frame, “don’t do that.”

Ryan slowly turned towards him. “What did you say to me, boy?”

Jake's legs shook a little, but he was in too far now to back out, “I said you can’t do that. You hurt Gina!”

Her dad exhaled sharply. “Regina had it coming. Now, don’t you dare disrespect me again, you puny little pussy.”

Jake desperately looked around for a way down and away, but it was all he could do as Ryan slowly stalked over to him.

No!” pleaded Gina, but it was too late.

With a thwack and a crack, Jake was crying on the floor, holding his limp arm.

 

 

 

Darlene had rushed him to the hospital. When the nurses asked how he’d broken it, Jake had gone to say he was pushed off the swings. Which was understandable enough, that was what had happened. But Gina had elbowed him and her mum told them he fell off, instead.

The nurses believed her, but Jake’s mum know what happened right away.

 

At least Jake had only spent 8 and a bit months total with the Linetti family, even if his own had crumbled apart long before. Gina had had 8 years with them. Nana was as much a safe haven and sensible adult for Gina as she was for Jake.

He sighed

There was a knock at the door. Jake knew it was Gina before she poked her head in. She pointed at the photo album still on the floor.

“Show me pictures of you when you were a kid.” She said.

“What?”

“You were being bitchy. Show me pictures of you when you were a kid so I can like you again.”

“Oh. Okay.”

Jake jumped up and grabbed the photo album, flipping through to the dedicated section. The first photo was labelled ‘Jakey at the park’. He would’ve been four or so, and looked absolutely terrified as he hurtled down a slide, eyes wide and arms flailing.  

Gina laughed. “God, you looked stupid. Still do.”

“Thanks.” Jake said dryly, “… and, I’m sorry.”

“Whatever.” She snatched the photo album from him and flipped to the next page.

“Gines, I’m serious,” Jake said. “I shouldn’t have said any of that, it wasn’t fair to you.”

“Hmm.”

Jake flipped over to a page he knew she would love. Nana had labelled it ‘My Gina’.

She smiled. It was a nice photo, taken a few years ago, judging by her toothy grin, not unlikely Nana’s before her gold teeth, evident from their faces squashed together in an attempt to take a selfie.

“She was your Nana, too. It sucks you didn’t get to go to the funeral. I saved a cookie if you want it.”

“Thanks. I miss Nana so much.” Said Gina melancholily. “Or whatever, you know. I’ll take the cookie.”

Jake happily obliged and ran over to his bag to get said cookie.

“This is good.” Gina grinned between mouthfuls.

“Great!” Jake's mouth formed an ‘O’. “Crap, oh there’s this one photo you’ll love.”

He flipped the page.

“Look how dumb the hat made me look.”

Gina looked him up and down, smirking. “Dude.”

“I know, I know. I still look dumb.”

She grinned.

“Yep. But that’s okay, I still love ya.”