AN: Part of me really likes this one, and part of me just really isn't impressed at all. But I hope you guys like it lol. This fic runs with the assumption that Gil and Jackie got together before meeting Malcolm, which may or not may be the case, but that's what worked best for the fic. Anyways, I hope you enjoy, and please leave a review!
Being a teacher, most people thought that Jackie had all the kids she could ever want. Most people were wrong. She adored being a teacher, but she had always longed for a child of her own. Gil was less eager, but would've been lying if he said he didn't relish the idea of being a father one day. It was only a year after the two were married that they began trying in earnest to have a child. Boy or girl, it didn't matter to either one of them. Their child would be loved and adored no matter what.
The first miscarriage was heartbreaking for them both, and they grieved for their lost child that they never got the chance to meet, but it didn't stop them from trying again. The second miscarriage proved harder to cope with. The doctors all said there was no medical reason why Jackie shouldn't have been able to carry a baby to term, and Gil was in perfect health too. Chalking it up to a terrible coincidence, the couple tried again, and miscarried again. After a lot of tears, and even more prayer, Gil and Jackie decided to try one more time, just once more. They had their fourth miscarriage two months later.
That was it. They were done. God had taken each baby up to Heaven before they got a chance to walk the earth, and Gil and Jackie were tired of trying to make something happen that God clearly didn't want. Gil's Catholic faith was shaken, but he tried to remind himself that there was something bigger going on that he didn't know about, and maybe never would, but that didn't mean that God wasn't in control. Gil just hoped to one day understand why he and his wife were being denied the child they longed for.
Eventually, that answer did come, but not in a way that either Gil or Jackie expected.
Malcolm Whitly was barely ten years old when his life was flipped upside down. The excitement of hitting double digits quickly wore off when his father was arrested for murdering twenty-three people. For a reason that Gil would never be able to understand as anything other than the direction of God Himself, Gil knew that he couldn't just forget about the boy once his involvement with the case was done. Something deep inside him kept telling him that he had to not just vaguely stay in contact with the boy, but truly be a part of his life. Gil needed to look after him and protect him. Almost despite himself, Gil found that spending time with Malcolm was one of his favorite things in the world, despite the bitterness he sometimes felt towards Jessica. Still, Jessica trusted Gil with her son, and grew to trust Jackie with him too.
As time went on and Malcolm grew up, he began to spend more time at Gil and Jackie's place than at the Milton estate, and Gil and Jackie had never been happier. The first time that someone called Malcolm their son, they were too shocked to dispute it, especially since it made perfect sense, despite the fact that Malcolm was a different race than both Gil and Jackie.
The trio had been at the zoo in Central Park, taking advantage of the beautiful summer day and hoping to get Malcolm's mind off his father's trial, if only for a little while. Luckily, Malcolm was out of earshot when someone commented on them. They were getting some lunch, and Malcolm had already taken his food to the table while Gil and Jackie were still paying.
"You can give this to your son," the woman at the counter said, motioning towards Malcolm with her head while holding out a reusable souvenir cup that apparently Gil was the right number person in line to win.
"Okay," Jackie replied with wide eyes and a smile, letting it roll off her. After they finished paying for their food, Jackie took a light hold of Gil's arm and started leading him over to Malcolm. "If only she were right," Jackie said, a bittersweet smile on her face.
That was the first time that Gil had to face, at least mentally, what Malcolm had come to mean to him and Jackie. He'd been thinking of Malcolm as his own son for a while, and the woman at the cash register forced him to confront that. The rest of the day, Gil's smile was a little brighter, and he hugged Malcolm a little tighter.
He and Jackie didn't talk about it, at least not directly, until a few years later, when they got a call from a hospital close to Malcolm's boarding school. The kid's emergency contact was Gil. Obviously, Gil and Jackie drove over immediately, Gil breaking the speed limit despite being a cop and definitely knowing better.
Gil practically jogged up to the front desk. The woman over the phone had told him very little, and neither Malcolm nor Jessica were picking up. The man at the front desk looked at him expectantly as Gil just stared at him, trying to find the right words.
"We're here to see our-" he broke off. Their what? Their son? Not technically. "Our kid," he finished.
"Malcolm Whitly," Jackie continued for him, holding his hand tight. "They didn't tell us what was going on, over the phone, just that he was here."
"I'm gonna need some ID," the man said, tapping away at his computer, hopefully pulling up Malcolm's file.
"Of course," Gil muttered as he quickly dug through his pockets for his wallet, badge included. He showed it to the secretary, who looked a little confused, but didn't say about it.
"Your, uh, Malcolm, is here for severe tonsillitis," he eventually said, foregoing figuring out what exactly Malcolm was to them. The file would state Martin as the boy's father, but Gil was his emergency contact, along with his mother, who, as it turned out, was out of town with Ainsley. The man at the desk directed them to where Malcolm was, and less than five minutes later, Gil and Jackie were standing over the boy who may as well have been their son in a hospital bed. The teenager couldn't talk, but his eyes said everything. He was scared. He'd never had surgery before, so he had every right to be.
"It's gonna be okay," Gil said, crouching down to be at eye level. "A tonsillectomy is easy, you're gonna be just fine." Gil took Malcolm's hand in his and gave it a light squeeze. He knew Malcolm was scared to go under anesthesia without the kid having to tell him. "It's nothing like being asleep, you won't dream, I promise. You'll be completely unconscious." Technically, there was a very very small chance that Malcolm would dream, in which case Gil would feel like the world's worst surrogate father ever, but he figured it was better to just tell the kid he wouldn't dream at all to help keep him calm.
"Mr. Arroyo?" the doctor called from the door. Keeping his hand over Malcolm's, Gil turned to look at the man. "Mrs. Whitly has given her consent to let you sign all the forms for Malcolm's surgery. I have the papers here," he said, holding them up.
"Will you stay with him?" Gil asked Jackie, despite knowing the answer. His wife loved Malcolm like a son, and would never leave him scared and alone.
"Of course," Jackie replied, looking almost offended that it was even a question.
With one last squeeze of his kid's hand, Gil got up to sign all the papers. He paid attention to everything, but at the same time, he was just going through the motions. He was signing medical forms for a child. Malcolm wasn't his child, but at the same time, he was. Didn't signing medical forms for Malcolm make Gil his dad? At least sort of? That was the question that plagued him while the kid was in surgery, and clearly, Jackie could tell, and she brought it up with the same elegance she did everything with.
"We finally got that kid after all," she said, gently bumping Gil's shoulder as the two of them sat in the waiting room.
Gil turned to his beautiful wife with a smile. "I guess sometime's we do get to know more of God's plan," he said. He didn't have to say anymore. Jackie of course would remember how distraught he was after the fourth miscarriage, questioning his faith and why God would allow these things to happen. They both knew that Jackie had been feeling exactly the same. There was no way to know for sure, but Gil would accept that the child destined to be theirs was Malcolm. No, he wasn't theirs legally, or biologically, and wouldn't ever be, but he was theirs in every way that mattered, and Gil wasn't going to question it. Malcolm was the best kid that Gil had ever met, and he and Jackie were so blessed to have him in their lives. Gil would spend every day trying to be the best father he could be to the boy, because Malcolm deserved nothing less.
Time continued to go on, and Malcolm became even more their son. At Malcolm's high school graduation, no one cheered louder than Jackie, and she insisted on taking a dozen "family photos" of the three of them. Jackie took more pictures that night than Jessica did. His college graduation was much the same, and Quantico after that - Jessica wasn't even there for his Quantico graduation.
When Jackie got sick, Malcolm immediately raced back to New York to be with her. He was there that heartbreaking day when she passed. On that day, Malcolm and Gil sobbed in each other's arms. At the funeral, everyone offered Malcolm their condolences just as much as they offered them to Gil.
"You know, kid," one of Jackie's coworkers said. "She talked about you like you were her own kid. You were the son she always wanted." Neither Gil or Malcolm could dispute that. Malcolm even got a sympathy card about the "loss of your mother". He and Gil shared a smile over it. They didn't tell Jessica.
Over the following years, Gil visited Jackie's grave frequently, always telling her all about their son and what he'd done recently. Jackie heard all about Malcolm's big cases with the FBI, the killers he'd stopped, and even the bird he adopted and named Sunshine. Malcolm never said it, but Jackie had always called him and Gil her "sunshine". Gil almost cried when he heard that was what Malcolm named the parakeet.
When Malcolm came home to New York after being fired, Jackie's grave was one of the first places he went. That's how Gil knew the kid was back. He had been on his way to talk to Jackie himself when he saw his kid at the grave. Gil wanted to give the kid some space, but couldn't help the few things that he overheard. Malcolm had been fired, and he wasn't handling it as well as he claimed he was. He missed Jackie more than he thought possible, but he was scared to talk to anyone about it, even Gil. He was going to meet Ainsley at a park, but he was scared to tell Gil that he was fired. What if Gil was disappointed in him? He was already disappointed with himself, he couldn't handle it if Gil was too.
Gil quietly left and made his way towards the park where Malcolm would be meeting Ainsley, and never told Malcolm that he had seen him there, but he made sure that the kid knew just how proud of him he was, and that he missed Jackie every day too.
After the copycat killer had been put behind bars, Gil went back to see Jackie again.
"You would be so proud of him," he said with a smile. There were fresh flowers left on the grave, and Gil knew they were left by Malcolm. "He really is all grown up now, and he grew up good. He grew up a hero." Gil paused and took a deep breath, taking in the scenery. The graveyard was a garden in the city. It was truly a beautiful place. It was too bad that Jackie couldn't actually see it. "That kid saves lives every day but he still never thinks it's enough. He's always paying for sins he never committed. He needs you, Jackie. I need you." He took another breath and tried to compose himself a little more. "He always listened to you, especially when it came to his father. You were always the one who could remind him in the most loving way that Martin doesn't actually love him. Yeah, the kid went back to him again. I don't know how to be there for him. I try so hard, but I never know if I'm doing enough. The kid is a hero and he deserves to know that, and I don't know how to tell him." Gil shrugged and shook his head. Every now and then, he would get a burst of emotional wisdom and know just what to say to get through to Malcolm, but it had always been Jackie who could do it on a daily basis. It wasn't as if Gil could just hold the kid until he understood how loved he was. He couldn't chase his demons away like he could the monsters under the kid's bed as a child, and he couldn't make him understand how important he was to so many people. "The kid is a hero and I don't know how to make him understand that," Gil repeated. "I'm so proud of him, and somehow, I'm gonna let him know that. I don't know how yet, but I will. It's what you would do." Gil kissed his fingers, then rested them on the gravestone for a moment before leaving.
He and Jackie never did birth and raise a child that was technically theirs, but that was okay. They raised Malcolm for two thirds of his life, and Gil had considered himself the kid's dad for almost twenty years. That wasn't ever going to change. A dad never stopped trying to take care of his kid, and Gil didn't plan on it. It was true, things didn't happen for Gil and Jackie like they did for most couples, but that was okay. They didn't need Malcolm to be biologically or even legally theirs to know that he was their son. Family was messy, and could be confusing, but Malcolm was family, and he was loved and adored no matter what.