Hiya. Thanks for the reviews for the last chapter, and I'm sorry it took so long for me to get this chapter up. Real life can be a bitch at times, can't it?
Thank you to the people who pointed out that Joe is actually older than David. To be honest, I couldn't find Joe's age on any site for some strange reason, but if there is only a year between them, then all the better! Makes it more believable.
Summary: Anna meets Rodney for the first time, and becomes more determined than ever to help him.
Rodney McKay plucked absentmindedly at the hospital bedcovers with his one good hand. The other was cradled protectively against his chest, wrapped in a cast. He was in a room on his own, though there were beds for several more people. His bed was by the window, and the bright sunshine streaming in from outside seemed to mock his black, heavy mood.
He still couldn't believe it. They were gone. He was alone now… not that they had been that close. But still, he was alone… no parents or sister anymore. His mother hadn't been the strongest of souls. She had been terrified of her husband, and hadn't even stood up to him when he started beating on him and Jeanie. Rodney had felt pity for the woman, as he had seen pictures of her in her youth and realized that she was a mere shell of the woman she had been.
And Jeanie… Oh God, Jeanie. Rodney had loved his big sister more than anyone in the world. She protected him from their father's wrath. Rodney was a genius, but it didn't take someone with his I.Q. to figure out that Jeanie's wild behaviour had started almost as soon as their father had decided that Rodney was 'old enough to take it like a man' and had started hitting him. He'd called her on it once, and asked her why she brought all that extra pain on herself. She had just smiled and said, "You're my brother Rodney. We're family. It's what we do for each other." And now, six weeks later, she was dead. God, he would miss her.
Rodney wasn't sure if he believed in an afterlife. His mother had prayed fervently to God for help, but none was ever forthcoming. Their father had held his family in a vice-like grip to the end. But at that moment, he wished that there was a heaven and a God. Because if there was, then there had to be a hell also and Rodney wished his father could burn there for all eternity. He felt nothing but a cold hatred for the man who had destroyed his family and then killed them due to his own selfishness and stupidity. Rodney vowed there and then never to allow another's person stupidity to impede his life. Never again!
But, he was only twelve. He had no choice at the moment. He was probably going to get shipped to his Grandparents in Canada, and honestly, the thought terrified him. His grandfather was even worse than his father had been. He remembered, when he had been five, he had been visiting their house for the weekend. He was an inquisitive, outgoing child and had wanted to see a picture on the piano. He had climbed up on the stool, and reached out for it. His grandfather had come in, and seen him there. He had screamed at him to 'get the fuck away from there' and had pushed him off the stool. Rodney had fallen and hit his head against the floor and hurt his wrist. His grandfather hadn't cared though, and had screamed at him for ten minutes about touching something that wasn't his. His grandmother hadn't been much help, just standing there and watching as the five year old cried hysterically. Rodney knew that of he went back there, he wouldn't last long. He'd either run away and end up on the street, or he'd be dead.
His gloomy thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door. He looked up to see that social worker… Tracey Richards or something like that standing there. Great. Just what he needed. A do-gooder telling him how much 'fun' he was going to have with his grandparents. As if. He really didn't trust social workers.
"Hi Rodney," she said as she approached the bed. "Remember me?"
"Yeah, you're the one who comes in to clean the bedpans, aren't you?" Rodney sneered. To his surprise, she barely reacted to his insult, only smiling slightly. Weird.
"Cute," she said dryly. She tapped his legs slightly so he would move them, and she sat down on the side of his hospital bed. "Listen Rodney, I've been on the phone with your Grandparents…"
"You mean the Spawn of Satan and his Whore," Rodney interrupted.
"Hey!" Tracey exclaimed shocked.
"I'm just telling the truth," Rodney told her smugly, glad to get a reaction of her.
"Anyway, I've been on the phone to them, and they think it is in your best interests to stay with a family here for a while."
"You mean foster care," Rodney said, and she could hear the tremor of relief in his voice.
"I mean foster care," Tracey confirmed. "Now, I've spoken to one family, and you'll be living with them for a while. Their name is Sheppard; Andrew and Anna Sheppard and they have one son John. He's twelve too."
"Oh, cos I get on so well with people my own age," Rodney muttered under his breath. "I bet he's a jock."
"He's twelve too," Tracey continued, ignoring his little fit of petulance and going on, "and they live about half an hour's drive away from your house now. You'll have to change schools though, but you said that wouldn't be a problem," she finished, and gave him the courtesy of not commenting on the relief that flooded his features when she said he would be changing schools.
"Ok," she told him. "I'm going to see if Anna is here yet. She wants to talk to you. But when she gets here, you be nice to her, ok Punk?"
"You just called me Punk!" Rodney exclaimed. "I could get you fired for that."
"I'm just telling the truth," she smiled at him, echoing his earlier words.
Rodney couldn't help the smile that broke out on his face. Not everyone could keep up with him, and he had just found someone that could. Despite himself, he found himself liking this particular do-gooder.
Tracey left the room, and came to stand next to Anna, who had been watching the entire exchange from the corridor.
"So, what do you think?" she asked.
"He's got quite a mouth on him, doesn't he?" Anna observed.
"He's being polite there," Tracey told her. "You think you can handle him?"
"He's in pain," Anna mused almost to herself. "And I'm not just talking about physical pain. His soul, his spirit is so sad. He's been through absolute hell, and he's only twelve."
"I know. I feel so guilty that nothing was done about this."
"You can't save everyone Tracey. No matter how much you want to. It's just not possible."
"Tell me about it. So, do you think you can handle him? You are, after all, used to babies and toddlers. He's almost a teenager, and he's got twelve years of pain and suffering backing him up."
"On the way here, I began to have second thoughts," Anna admitted. "I mean, John has been great. He hasn't given us a hard time."
"That's because he hasn't discovered girls yet," Tracey joked and Anna laughed at the truth of it. Her John was going to be a heart breaker when he grew up, of that she was sure.
"I started asking myself what right we had to try to help this boy when we aren't sure what we are doing. But seeing him now, we have to at least try."
"You were the first person I asked, and that was because I think you'll be the best for him."
"Thanks. I guess I'd better go in there and say hello."
"I'll wait here. And remember; don't be put off by his attitude."
"I know. See you in a few minutes."
Rodney looked up when Anna entered the room. She was medium height with long black hair, and a nice face, the kind of face that seemed to say 'Trust me'. Rodney wanted to do just that, but then, his father had had a 'Trust me' face, and look how that turned out.
"Hi Rodney," she said as she entered the room.
"Oh look, do-gooder number two has arrived." Rodney was pleased to see her wince slightly, but she looked even more determined than ever as she came forward.
"My name is Anna. Anna Sheppard," she told him.
"I know. Do-gooder number one already told me, just before she resorted to calling me names."
"I'm sure she didn't mean it."
"Oh yes she did. She called me Punk."
"Well, maybe you are a punk," Anna observed, and was glad to see that for the first time since she entered the room, she had surprised Rodney. "Alright. As I was saying, my name is Anna Sheppard. You'll be living with me and my family when you get out of here in a few days."
"Let's all have a toast," Rodney snarked.
"You're not quite old enough yet Rodney," Anna smiled, and was glad to see the corners of his lips tugging slightly upwards before he schooled his features. "Now, my husbands name is Andrew. He's a police officer and we have one son. His name is John, and he's just two months younger than you."
"Well good for him."
"When you come to live with us, you'll have your own room, and you'll being going to Jefferson with John when school starts again in a few weeks. Do you want to see a picture?" she asked as she pulled one out of her bag and handed it to the boy in front of her. It was one that had been taken at a picnic over the summer.
"Well, aren't you living the American dream?" Rodney sneered as he took in the smiling faces and happy vibe. Against his will, he felt a tug of something deep in his gut as he looked at the picture. It was jealousy, he realised. This family had everything he had been denied, that he would never have. What had Tracey said? He would be staying with the Sheppard's for a while? Well, that just told it all, didn't it? For a while. It wans permanent. Nothing was.
If he allowed himself to hope for more, he'd be disappointed… again. Why waste time hoping and wishing for a better hand than the one he had been dealt with?
Anna watched as Rodney's face literally shut down as he looked at the picture. She knew what he was thinking, but before she could say anything, Rodney dropped the picture and rolled onto his side, away from her.
"I'm tired. I'm going to sleep. Go away," he told her.
Anna was a little lost. She had never experienced direct hostility such as this before. She stood, and placed the picture on the bedside locker.
"Ok, I'll go… if that's what you want. I'll be back tomorrow. The doctor says you'll be out of here in two days at the most, and then we'll come and pick you up. I'll see you tomorrow Rodney," she told him as she walked away.
Rodney squeezed his eyes shut. He wouldn't cry! He would not! Just because she acted all nice didn't mean she was. And, you know, that cop husband probably worked all day and her son probably was a spoiled brat. I mean, no one could actually have that happy a family that had been depicted in the picture, could they?
Whether they were or not, Rodney just wasn't going to allow himself to hope.
"Are you ok?" Tracey asked as she and Anna walked back to their cars.
"He's so hostile," Anna whispered. "He's been hurt so often that he won't allow himself hope for anything better."
"I know. It's heartbreaking, isn't it?"
"It is. I'm going to enjoy proving him wrong," she said with renewed conviction.
Anna stared at the file in front of her, and tried to hold back the tears. Tracey had given her an outline of Rodney's life so far, and what she was reading horrified her. From all accounts, Michael McKay had been a monster, and his family has suffered the most for it.
"Hey Mom," John called as he entered the kitchen. Anna hastily wiped her eyes before John could see her. She didn't want John to be biased against Rodney for any reason before they met.
"Hi honey," she answered as he came towards the table and sat down beside her.
"What'cha reading?" he asked.
"It's just a file. You're getting a new foster brother in a few days," she told him.
"I though we weren't going to take on anyone else for a while cos of your back," John frowned. Anna couldn't help but smile. He was so protective of her!
"He's not a baby. His name is Rodney McKay is and he's two months older than you."
"That's great! That means no crying all night and no one wetting the bed! What happened to him? Are his parents in hospital or something?"
"No. His parents and older sister were killed in a car crash a few days ago," Anna said. She understood the question. They usually took in children short term because of either one or both parents being unable to care for them in the short term.
"Oh," John replied. So Rodney was an orphan? He didn't know how to act around an orphan! Still, if his mom wanted to help this guy, who was he to argue?
"And John? Rodney's father wasn't the nicest of people, so be good to him, ok?"
"Hey," John exclaimed, smiling broadly and standing up. "I'm an angel," he told her.
Anna laughed as John ran up stairs.
Maybe, just maybe, they could pull this off…
And that's all for now.
Chapter three… and Rodney is welcomed into the Sheppard home.