A/N: Hi everyone! Thanks for following us on Libby's latest adventure! HailstormJen owns Libby, neither of us own anything Supernatural. Thanks for all the comments and support – this chapter written by Happygoddess2003.
Dad was making burgers in the kitchen and Uncle Sam was throwing some corn on the cob into a big pot on the stove. Jody was making a salad, so that left Curtis and I (and Quinn) to set the table so we could all sit and eat together. Curtis refused any help carrying the dishes, and little Quinn held on to the back of his shirt, carrying the napkins. She hadn't said anything since they got here and never left his side – I planned on asking him what happened to her later, after dinner.
"Okay, guys, everyone grab a chair and help yourselves," Dad said, opening his beer. Dad and Uncle Sam sat on each end, while Jody and I sat across from Curtis and Quinn. We had piled some books up on Quinn's chair so she could reach the table. I looked on as Dad and Uncle Sam watched Curtis whisper to her and nod, filling her plate. She kept her eyes down, barely looking up at any of us.
"So Curtis, why don't you fill everyone in on the latest?" Jody prodded with a small smile.
He looked over at me and I felt his foot touch lightly to mine under the table. I put my foot on top of his and just left it there. A foot hug. I know about foster care. I'd never forget.
"Well," he began, "After I got out of the hospital, Jody helped Quinn and I become a part of The Sioux Falls Foster Project. It's privately funded, so we don't live in, like, a huge institutional setting – we live in this remodeled big farmhouse with ten other kids…"
I saw how Dad and Uncle Sam were impressed by his way with words and they way he held himself. It was evident on their faces. I smiled brightly at Curtis, nodding for him to continue.
His eyes turned sad for a moment before he continued on. "Umm… Well, my mother, you all know she has… lots of problems… she refused to comply with the state's orders to go into treatment for alcoholism and anger management. Plus, they wanted her to take a parenting class and have us followed for a year to make sure we were okay. So – she signed us over as wards of the court."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. "She what?" I said, angry.
Curtis put his index finger to his lips and stole a glance at Quinn, who was struggling with her burger.
"She gave us away," he said, keeping his voice level. I pushed my foot down on his, the only way I could show him how sorry I was. How much that hurt me that he was hurting.
He turned to help Quinn, but Uncle Sam was already there, speaking to her in a very low voice. She kept her head down, but was looking at what he was doing with her plate.
"See?" he said to her, smiling. "We have to make this big burger into little girl sizes for you, right?" He seemed unfazed that she wasn't responding. He took her burger and made little triangles that she could hold easily.
She was staring at his hands. He noticed. (He always notices.)
He tilted his head sideways so he could see her blue eyes. He pulled back his hand and held it up to her, palm forward. "I have big hands, huh? Let's measure our hands. I bet your hand is as big as mine," he teased.
I saw her red bow lips twitch up and then she shyly took her palm and placed it against Uncle Sam's. "Well, look at that," he said. "You hand is way smaller than mine! You don't have to be afraid of my hands just because they're bigger. I promise. Tell you what, since I have way bigger hands and you have super small ones, maybe I can help you with things like your burger and other stuff – if your big brother doesn't mind," he added, gingerly touching one of her ringlets before leaning back into his chair.
Curtis looked at him, shocked. "She's never let anyone come close to her like that. Wow," he said quietly to Sam. He raised his voice to his normal level, saying "Sure, Sam – that'd be great. Would that be okay, Quinn?"
The little girl looked at him, over to Sam, and nodded, taking a bite out of her cut up burger. "Cool," he said, "but she hasn't talked in a long time, just so you know."
"Libby talks enough for all of us," Dad cut in, winking at me. "Seriously, we can barely get a word in edgewise around here – I'm sure you know how it is. She never shuts up!"
"Daaaad, seriously?" I smacked his arm playfully and Curtis laughed. It was the best sound ever.
Curtis and I were biding our time until we could be alone to talk. It was nearly impossible with Dad watching our every move! Someone mentioned watching a movie, so after we all changed into our comfy clothes and settled into the living room - we decided on "Inside Out" – a safer one for Quinn to watch, but it looked like she was ready to pass out between Uncle Sam and Jody on the couch. Curtis and I sat on the floor in front of her so she could stay close to him. Dad sat in the recliner, handing beers to both Jody and Uncle Sam.
"Wait!" I said, inspiration striking. "We need popcorn… Can Curtis help me, Dad?"
He gave me the stink eye, but nodded his head. "Don't take forever," he said, eyeing us both.
Curtis looked down at Quinn and told her he was making popcorn for us. "Will you be okay in here by yourself?" he asked her, crossing his eyes to make her smile.
She scrunched up her face in thought, then pointed to Uncle Sam and put up her palm to him. He smiled and scrunched his face back at her and matched his palm to hers, which apparently had become her sign of acceptance of him into her small world. She nodded, whispering something to Curtis (it was the first time I'd even seen her mouth open at all, except to eat.) He got up and said to her, "See? Miss Jody told you that you don't have to be afraid here. She was right, huh?" She bobbed her head up and down and pointed to her mouth. "Okay, okay – popcorn coming up!"
With that we finally had our chance to speak alone in the kitchen.
Safe in the kitchen, Curtis pulled me into a tight hold. He did well, even with his injuries still healing. We just stayed that way for awhile. He pulled back and gave me the warmest and longest kiss we'd ever had. For the first time I could tell I was kissing him back. A real kiss.
His dark hair falling across his eyes, he looked even cuter than I'd remembered. It was more than just the way he stood there, looking down at me with his lopsided smile. It was who he was inside – he gave me hope that I had at least one more person in my life that cared. Sometimes I felt so alone, but with Curtis, even the silence was enough. That made me think about tomorrow and Dad being gone longer, but I pushed that thought away and focused on popcorn and talking.
Tears stung my eyes (don't cry, just talk) as I poured the popcorn into the deep pot we used, waiting for it to start.
"I'm so sorry, Curtis," I said as I began to shake the pot way too early. "Everything that happened to you was because of me. God, I was so stupid!"
He touched my shoulder, turning me back to him, looking mildly irritated. "Listen, Kansas, I did exactly what I wanted to do that night – you didn't force me. I drove, remember? I'm just glad everyone is okay – especially your Dad."
I lowered my head and mumbled something about it being hard to bounce back this time, but the popcorn erupted, breaking my chain of thoughts and demanding my attention.
He lowered his voice, saying "I know we won't have a lot of time alone, but there's trouble waiting for me at the farm and I need to talk to you about it before we have to go back." He sighed loudly. "This couple has been coming to visit Quinn - A LOT. They take her for ice cream and have brought her presents and stuff like that." Tears filled his eyes (Curtis with tears? I'd never seen that. It had to be bad.) "They want to adopt her. Take her away and make her learn to talk. They say she shouldn't be around reminders of 'her trauma' – Kansas, they live in Georgia. I can't let them take her away – she's all I have. Well, and you," he continued, squeezing my shoulder.
I dumped out the popcorn into smaller bowls, my mind already running a mile a minute – thinking of ways I could help. (I had to help him! They shouldn't be separated! I'd seen that a lot when I was in foster care. They never want the older kids.)
"I promise we'll figure something out. Nobody's separating the two of you," I said determinedly.
He hugged me quickly, just before Dad came into the doorway. (Phew!) "You making popcorn or writing a novel?" he asked.
Curtis grinned. I could tell he liked Dad, but had a healthy fear of him as well. (That was smart. He was a smart guy.)
"Lots of butter or just a little?" he asked Dad.
"I don't trust anyone who eats popcorn without lots of butter, it's just a red flag," he said with a straight face and grinning eyes.
"Kansas, let's melt some butter," he said to me. "We'll be there in a minute," he said to Dad.
Dad leaned up against the wall. "Oh, don't mind me. I'll just wait here, drink a beer, and watch the butter melt," he said, looking over at me. (Dad also was a smart guy. Very smart.)
We finished the popcorn and gave everyone their own bowls. Quinn had already fallen asleep, head on Uncle Sam's thigh and feet on Jody. Uncle Sam was absentmindedly twirling her curls around his finger, casually reaching down to pull her thumb out of her mouth.
Curtis just stood there, amazed. "That's just crazy, ya know, Sam? She doesn't like people, especially men. My mom wasn't exactly discriminating when it came to them," he said with a dark look. "It's cool that she warmed up to you so fast. You want me to take her?"
Uncle Sam had a similar dark look at what Cutis had said. He shook his head. "She's fine here, kid. No worries." He looked down at her. "She sure is a sweet thing."
"That she is," chimed in Jody. "They just love both of them at the farm."
"Her more," Curtis said dryly. He sounded so sad. (I had to help!)
Dad came back in with beer and soda, giving us a nod to sit.
"Take a load off, guys – let's put on something different since she's asleep." He began to shuffle through the movies streaming. A huge smile broke out on his face. "Ahh, Guardians of the Galaxy," he said. "Great flick – let's do this," he said as he hit play on the remote.
This day started off hard, but it ended perfectly. (I WOULD figure out a plan to help Curtis. I had to. He deserved to have his only family with him, and I was not watching strangers take her away from him!) A dark feeling bloomed in my heart, full of hate for those people who wouldn't take him, too. It wasn't fair.
I sat beside him with my mind miles away. I was already thinking of the schedule Uncle Sam had made, the one with Dad leaving me tomorrow for thirty minutes instead of fifteen. Fear inched its way into my belly, but maybe it would give Curtis and I an opportunity to make a plan. Maybe I could make the best of it while they were here.
I woke up with a gasp, ripping myself from my sleeping image of the wendigo killing Dad in the open wooded area this time, right in front of me, instead of dragging him away. My hair clung in stringy strands to my neck, and I could smell myself and my sheets from all the sweat (Gross. Of course I sweat like a dude.) I automatically reached down to check underneath me to see if I had had an accident – a tiny wet spot had started, but I think I woke up at just the right time. I'd still have to wash everything, but at least not from having an accident. (I'd die of embarrassment if Curtis ever found out. Why am I always dealing with something? Why has this even started again?) I got up and stripped my bed, then jumped in the shower. It was still fairly early, so I began to brainstorm ways to help Curtis. I started writing questions and making notes to compare with my time in foster care. By the time my laundry was in the dryer, I had an impressive list that I thought would help narrow our options.
I began to hear people moving up and down the hall, saying hi and hearing my Dad grunt replies in return.
Uncle Sam popped his head in and asked if we could talk. (Ugh. Here we go. A pep talk from Uncle Sam. Or even worse, a warning talk from Uncle Sam.) He nodded over toward my stripped bed.
"Oh yeah, I just had a super sweaty night. Everything smelled. No accidents." (He didn't need to know I barely avoided one. What happens in Libby's room stays in Libby's room – at least for today it does.)
He sat next to me on my bed, giving me a side hug. "We'll get through this, Libs," he said confidently. My notebook was on my lap and he eyed it curiously. I quickly pushed it aside. "Thinking of doing some journaling. Jody mentioned it might help to put my feelings down on paper." (And the lying begins – but hey, using Jody's name lent me credibility, and I was pretty sure he wouldn't bring it up to her. I hoped.)
"That's actually a really good idea, honey. Dump all that crap outta your head and onto paper instead of having it come out in dreams and anxiety."
I interrupted him, deciding to attack the topic head-on. "I know Dad's going out today and will be gone thirty minutes. I think I can handle it; I mean, I really hope I can while Jody's here," I confessed.
"Well, Dean's taking Jody out to the store this morning. She's making her famous lasagna and cheesy bread later. Your Dad was salivating and offering to drive her even before the cheesy bread was brought up," he said, shaking his head. So, they'll be heading out in about an hour, and he'll come and let you know. I offered to watch the Chicklet while they're gone, and thought maybe you and Curtis could help out in the library – it's a mess. Would you mind?" He had a small grin and hit his shoulder into mine. (Was he deliberately giving me some alone time with Curtis? He knew Dad would NEVER allow it. He was my favorite so far today!)
"Sure, Uncle Sam, I'll finally be able to put all that book shelving experience from school to use at home," I replied, nudging his shoulder back. I kissed his cheek. "Thanks, Uncle Sam," I said in a whisper.
"Don't thank me – you're doing us a favor," he said with exaggerated gratitude. "I mean, me and the Chicklet will be right in the next room, chilling with some Crayolas and Netflix. Just so you know," he added. (So, he didn't trust me to stray too far alone with Curtis. Fair enough.)
"I smell bacon," I said, ending the conversation. I grabbed an elastic for my hair, jumped over his feet, and yelled "race ya to the kitchen!"
After I fed the army, I put the kids to work cleaning up my mess. Jody had asked Sam and I to meet her in the library so we could talk. Something was up – Jody didn't just randomly arrange clandestine private meets with us unless it was something important. Sam set his little girlfriend up on a chair with a dishtowel, praising her for doing such an important job and announcing to the kitchen that Chicklet was in charge. She didn't talk, but it earned Sam the first smile I'd seen from the kid since she got here. She had perfectly straight, white teeth. I had the image of Curtis standing with her, patiently helping her brush her teeth every day, the same way I would with Sammy when he was her age. I couldn't help but like the kid. Sure, I didn't trust him – he's a dude. But not many kids could roll with finding out what we do like he did. He had a laid back demeanor, and wasn't a smart mouth. We were complete opposites.
IN THE LIBRARY
"I don't know what I can do to stop it," Jody lamented. "This couple is determined to adopt Quinn, but claim they don't have the finances to take them both. It's not that they're bad people, but guys, I have a bad feeling. Taking Quinn from him? Separating them like this? The cherry is, they don't want either of them communicating at all. Some fancy psychiatrist is suggesting that it'll keep them both from "moving on" from the lives they lived with their mother." She cocked her eyebrow, "and I use that term in the loosest possible way it can be interpreted."
Dean sat back, imagining someone trying to separate him and Sammy.
"Georgia? What the hell? This is bullshit. He practically raised her," he spit out. "Do they know?"
"Quinn's too young to really understand, but Curtis? Hell yeah, he's onto their moves. He hasn't said much to me, but I know he's worried. And scared. Losing Quinn would devastate him – he's the only one she verbalizes with, and even then it's rare. They've developed their own way of communicating, with looks – you guys know what I mean," she said with a wink.
Sam and Dean looked at each other and had a total conversation over her statement. Of course they knew what she meant.
Sam's head was flooded with memories. Dean doing his laundry. Dean teaching him to write his name. Dean telling him he would never leave him. "God, they remind me so much of me and Dean," he said, finally stating the obvious. "Jody, do you know what happened to Quinn that caused her to stop speaking?" He wasn't sure he wanted to know the answer.
"The professional idiots call it selective mutism – meaning she CAN speak, she just chooses not to speak. They speculate she experienced repetitive trauma that eventually caused her to shut down verbally, and to be honest, guys, I can believe it. Mom wasn't exactly a nun - I'm shocked she let's Sam interact with her the way she has."
Dean shrugged. "Well, there's no accounting for taste. I mean, she's like, six, right?" he scoffed jokingly.
"Really, Dean? You're just jealous," Sam retorted with a grin. "Seriously, guys, there's gotta be something we can do. While you hit the store I'll see what I can dig up on adoption law in South Dakota." He turned to Dean. "You wanna let Libs know you're leaving?"
Jody looked confused. "What's that about?" she asked.
"Since the wendigo fiasco, my daughter has developed a pretty extreme case of separation anxiety with a side order of guilt. She's been pretty crazy – crying and sleeping on the floor in my room. She's like my shadow, I swear! It'd be cute if it wasn't so … much. It really messed with her, and she's been going through a lot."
"Poor Libby, out of the frying pan – into the fire," Jody mused.
"Yeah, we're working with a schedule where Dean goes out, gradually extending the time," Sam explained. "Yesterday didn't go so well, but I'm hopeful today with the kids here it'll be easier for her," he said.
"Well, let's get crack-a-lackin, boys, or they'll be no lasagna later," Jody stated, opening the door.
"I'll go let Libby know I'm leaving."
"Okie-Doke, see ya in the garage," Jody said, grabbing her grocery list and heading down the hall.
Dad had just left with Jody and I was doing okay. The kitchen was clean, and Uncle Sam was just coming in to get Quinn. Curtis and I glanced at each other, hoping she wouldn't change her mind and ruin our time together in the library.
"Hey, Quinnie," Curtis questioned, "Do you still want to go color with Sam and watch tv? I'll be right over in the next room," he explained.
She looked at Uncle Sam, who was holding some paper and crayons and looking like a complete doofus. She looked at him like she was seeing inside him – focused and dissecting. He waited patiently while she did her scrutinizing, looking back at her with that cloak of calm assurance, as if he had all the time in the world. When she finally nodded yes, Curtis went to the chair and hugged her, whispering in her ear. She nodded yes again.
"She says she will be a good girl for you, Sam, but come and get me if you need me please," Curtis said, reaching for her. Quinn put up her hands and pointed to Uncle Sam.
"You want him to take you to the tv room?" he asked, surprised. She bobbed her head up and down, holding her hands out to Uncle Sam. Uncle Sam smiled at her, full dimples.
"Okay, Chicklet, but can you use your words? Can you say 'up'?" he coaxed, holding his hands out to her. She shook her head forcefully back and forth, furrowing her brows and giving him a dark look, lower lip sticking out.
"Ohhh, noooo," Uncle Sam laughed, "No pouty faces – let's go color!" he said, reaching out his arms to her and she landed on his hip, holding onto the back of his shirt with her small hand. She rubbed her fingers over his soft flannel collar, shyly peeking at him to judge his reaction.
"That's pretty soft stuff, huh? Maybe we can get you a little flannel shirt of your own, would you like that?" He waited again for her to respond as he settled her in front of the sofa, pulling out a Doc McStuffin coloring book he had grabbed the night before for her. She clapped her hands together.
"I'll tell ya what, sweetie – I'll get you your OWN soft shirt like mine, but you have to say just one word, and when you feel like you can, we'll go to the store and get you one, sound fair? Listen, I know you can talk, and I know it's scary, but it's only one word – you can even whisper it to me, and it's a super easy word: 'yes'." He groaned inwardly to himself for resorting to bribing, but it would be a start. He was determined to help reverse whatever damage was done to her, one word at a time if he had to.
He turned on the tv while she sat on the floor in front of him, coloring. He had the construction paper set aside in case she wanted to draw on her own. She pointed at the paper and then to him, holding up her crayon. "Want to draw together?" he asked, pushing a ringlet from her face. She crooked her tiny finger at him and he leaned forward. She cupped her hand around his ear and in the smallest voice he ever heard, spoke one word. "Yes." Her voice sounded like a bell. He beamed at her, praising her - "Well, you did it. You used your words, so I guess we're going to the store later, huh?" She nodded, taking a drink of juice and getting down to the very serious business of coloring.
Curtis was sorting through the books like a machine. I could tell he was upset about going back with Jody and dealing with the adoption people.
I put my arm around his shoulder and squeezed. I knew how he felt.
"They're gonna do it, Kansas, they're gonna split us up," he said with urgency. "There's not a damn thing I can do, either." His face started turning red and his book sorting started to become louder.
"Curtis, shhh… Uncle Sam'll hear!" I glared. "I wrote out some ideas this morning and some questions – I'll start shelving these and you just follow me and give me the answers and what you think."
I pressed the paper into his hand and he held onto it for a minute, trying to pull back his emotion and gain some composure. I shelved for awhile as he handed me books and answered my questions, letting me know what he thought. "I wish I'd never gotten caught that night. This is all my fault – I'd still be living with asshole mom, but at least Quinn and I would be together," he spit.
My mouth went dry – he was right, except it was MY fault. I brought him into it. Guilt hit my heart like a hammer and I stopped shelving and looked at the clock. My heart started racing – dad had been gone for over forty five minutes! I stumbled over to the desk chair and sat down hard.
"Kansas?" Fingers snapped in front of my eyes. "Libby! What's wrong?"
"Need a drink, need some juice… my dad…gone…" I mumbled, laying my head down on the desk.
"You want Sam?" he asked. "I'm getting him."
"No!" I said quickly. "Juice. Please," I added.
He was back in a flash with two glassed of OJ for us. I sat and drank it slowly, feeling the sugar lifting me a bit. Curtis knelt in front of me with his hand on my knee.
"What's going on?" he demanded. "Tell."
I felt so bad. I didn't want to add my problems to his. Tears stung my eyes that I quickly swiped away with the back of my hand, looking down at him.
"I just… I've been having a bad time since the wendigo took my Dad. I can't stand it when he's out of my sight! I thought I'd be okay today, you know, because you're here, but I just remembered how close we all came to dying, all because of me! How can you even stand to look at me?" I whispered to him.
He looked up at me with his hair in his face, shaking it back – and he was smiling. "You really don't know, Kansas? I don't blame you, not for anything. You know why?"
I tried to think, but everything was muddled in my head. Dad. Uncle Sam. Fire. Claire. I shook my head. "I don't understand," I finally admitted.
He reached up and kissed me, turning his head to the side near my ear. "Because I love you, stupid."
(So there it was. Curtis love ME! Emoji wearing, leggings instead of skinny jeans wearing ME. Wow.)
I reached out and hugged him tightly. "I love you, too," I sighed, relief flooding my mind and body. "That's why I wrote what we have to do to save you and Quinn."
"Huh?" he muttered, looking confused.
Boys. Ugh. "On the back of the paper, underlined. Turn it over," I showed him, flipping the paper.
He read my writing with a look dawning on his face. He began to nod and smile, standing up. We were almost finished shelving. "Do you think we can pull it off? Can you? Kansas, you're a genius!" he declared.
I blushed. It was pretty clever, if I did say so myself.
We finished our job and left the library, Curtis still holding the paper, where the bottom was written:
YOU BOTH STAY HERE AT THE BUNKER. THEY'LL THINK YOU RAN AWAY, LOOKING OUTSIDE FOR YOU, BUT YOU'LL BE SAFE AND TOGETHER HERE WITH ME. WE CAN WORK IT. I KNOW WE CAN. THIS PLACE IS GINORMOUS. WE CAN DO THIS!
I had made a small heart underneath. He took the paper and shoved it into his back pocket, looking like the weight of the world was off his shoulders.
"You know what this makes us, don't you, Kansas?" he said, stealing a look my way.
(Boyfriend and girlfriend?)
He winked at me before we went into the tv room.
"Partners in crime," he said with grin. (Ahhh… so we were. Partners – in crime!)
I heard the garage door open as we walked into Crayola heaven.
"Dad and Jody are home," I announced, trying to sound casual.
"Did you get everything done in there?" Uncle Sam asked, oblivious to the plan we were hatching.
Curtis spoke up, kissing Quinn on the top of the head. "Yep, no worries – everything is in its place." (Oh my God, we were gonna do this. I was scared and happy and excited. I was helping – and he LOVED me.)
"Is it okay for us to help unload the groceries, Sam?" Curtis asked.
"Totally okay," he said, surrounded by pictures and coloring book pages. He had a red crayon streak across his forehead.
I tore down the hall toward my dad's voice, happy and relieved he was home. I made it through over thirty minutes with Curtis' help. We were in this together.