This is the Story of how the Mercer family came to be complete. I've had to mess with the boys' ages a little bit to make it fit, and i've made some assumptions and guesses about the characters. It begins with Jack coming to be a Mercer and is more or less his story and how he ties the family together.

I dont own any of the Mercers boys only my own OC's, and im warning you now, there's bad language and talk of child molestation and abuse in this story so if you're sensitive, i would advise you to stay away.

Its going to get worse as the boys get older as Jack is going to go off the rails a bit so we're going to get into self harm and stuff like tat. Im telling you this now so you can be prepared, this is probably my most 'grown up' story i've ever written so be aware that its gonna get kind of dark.

Other wise, R+R because i reaaly do thrive on reviews, and enjoy.

Bobby Mercer was thirteen, and he thought of himself as a man. His nightmares thought differently though. In the one he was trapped in, his mother was drunk, as usual, and was flicking lit cigarettes at him as his father, whom his imagination had blown up to monstrous proportions, was swinging cinder block sized fists at Bobby. Booby was running away but he was suddenly much smaller than anything in the room and had to struggle to navigate around everything.

He stumbled over something and look down, groaning in horror at the sight of little Tommy's broken body. Tommy's normally bright blue eyes where dull and empty and had rolled to the side, his gaze fixed on some unseen Thing that Bobby was scared to think of. Bobby knelt beside Tommy, stroking the boy's hair away from his face. He realised too late that his father had caught up with him and squeezed his eyes shit as one cinder block fist came crashing down to end his life.

Bobby sat up in bed, screaming out loud 'MA!"

He wiped tears off his face hurriedly, kicking out his legs to throw off the heavy duvet his mother had covered him with to keep him warm while he slept.

He padded across his room, pulling his door open and squinting in the bright light from the hallway "Ma!" he called again, "Ma!"

A door across the hall from Bobby opened and a slender African American boy walked out of the room, rubbing at his eyes "Why all the yelling?" the other thirteen year old asked.

"Where's Ma?" Bobby snapped.

"Probably downstairs" the kid shot back, his voice thick with sleep.

"Ma!" Bobby yelled yet again, "Go back to bed Jerry" he told the other boy "MA!" he stamped one foot angrily, feeling close to tears for reasons he didn't want to think about.

"Shut the fuck up!" a deeper voice growled and Bobby looked the right of Jerry as another door opened and a taller, much more muscular kid emerged.

"Angel, leave him alone" Jerry sighed.

"I'm tryna sleep" Angel, who was a year younger to

Bobby ignored him and headed for the stairs. "Ma" he said, hearing, and hating the whine that was creeping into his voice.

"God damn wimp" he heard Angel mutter.

Bobby froze at the top of the stairs, his hand tightening on the banister. "Uh oh" he heard Jerry sing song.

"What!" Bobby asked, his voice lowering to a vicious hiss.

"Aw fuck Bobby it's too late at night for this shit" Angel rolled his eyes.

"Take it back" Bobby stated "or I will lay you out Angel, I'm serious"

"Fuck you Bobby" Angel spat, banging his door closed.

Bobby sighed and ran at the door, pounding on it with his fists. "Come on Angel you fucking sap!" he yelled at the top of his lungs, "Come out or I'll come get you!" he snapped "Come on Bitch" he kicked the door painfully with his bare foot.

Angel didn't respond, and normally, Bobby would stay at the door until he did, but his need for his adoptive mother for once, overrode his anger and with one last thump on the door he carried on down the stairs "Ma!"

He found Evelyn in the kitchen, leaning against the wall, the phone pressed to her ear. Her curly blonde hair was like a halo around her head and her face was clean, free of make up, ready for bed. She wore her night gown and thick, fluffy dressing gown.

She gave Bobby a look, telling him with her eyes that she would see to him soon, and pointed with one slipper clad foot to a stool beside the counter in the kitchen.

Bobby sighed and walked over to the counter, climbing on to the stool, wishing he had put some socks on.

"Yeah…well you'll have to bring him to me, I can't leave the boys alone and it's too late for me to find a sitter" Evelyn was saying into the phone.

Bobby frowned.

"Yeah…yep, I'll make up a bed for him right now, I have spare clothes from the other kids and I can take him shopping for his own tomorrow while the boys are at school…uh hu….will you bring me his file so I know what I'm dealing with- oh he doesn't…this is his first removal?" her voice went high with surprise and Bobby could tell, disapproval "...I didn't say anything, bring him over, I'm sure he'll fit right in" Evelyn said. "Alright, see you then"

She hung up the phone, taking a long, deep breath.

"Who was that?" Bobby asked her.

"That was Maria" Evelyn told him "The social worker"

"She taking one of us away!" Bobby jerked upright, feeling his muscles coil, his body prepare to fight.

"No, sweetie not at all" Evelyn hurried to Bobby's side, running a hand through his dark brown hair comfortingly "Quite the opposite actually, we're uh…you boys are getting a new little brother" she looked at him as he spoke, trying to judge his reaction.

Bobby frowned again "a little brother" he repeated.

"Yeah temporarily at least…he's uh, he's seven, he just got taken away from his house for the first time tonight, he's…he's had it rough" she looked down then and Bobby knew from before that it was because she was trying to hide her tears.

"Don't cry Ma," Bobby said quickly "How ever bad it was he's gonna be with us now, he's gonna be safe" he told her.

"Yeah" Evelyn said sadly.

"So are we getting him for keeps or will we send him back eventually?" Bobby asked her.

Evelyn rose up and headed for the cupboard, taking out the makings of hot chocolate and digging a sauce pan out of a cupboard. She put the saucepan on the hob, added the cocoa and poured some milk into it, setting it to heat up "Well" she had been moving around as she spoke, "well at the moment its an emergency placing, he just needs some where to stay while social services decides what to do with him. He might be here a few weeks or months, and he might stay or her might get taken and placed with a permanent family…or I might adopt him, I don't really know yet" she admitted.

She took four mugs out of another cupboard and a bag of marshmallows from the fridge "Come on you two" she raised her voice slightly and Bobby smiled as Jerry and Angel crept out from behind the doorway.

"Bobby woke us up yellin" Angel said defensively as he and Jerry took seats beside Bobby.

"I'm not done with you Angel" Bobby said quietly.

"Oh honey, you where yelling for me weren't you? Are you okay?" Evelyn asked, her voice growing concerned.
Bobby cast a look at his adoptive brothers "Yeah I just…had kind of a bad dream but its okay now" he muttered.

Evelyn walked around the counter and pulled Bobby into a loving hug, which he returned in kind. "Was it about your dad?" she asked gently.

"Yeah" Bobby said quietly.

"Well just tell your self over and over, that he can never hurt you again, he's in prison and he's gonna be there for a loooong time. And your mom…well, the less said about her the better" Evelyn ruffled his hair and Bobby, grinning, pulled away.

"She's not my mom any more any how, you are" Bobby shrugged.

"That's right" Evelyn agreed.

"What's this new kid's name?" Jerry asked as Evelyn began pouring the hot chocolates into the mugs.

"Jack" Evelyn told him.

She served out the drinks, giving each boy a mug and a pile of marshmallows.

"And he's seven?" Angel asked.

"Yep" Evelyn took a seat opposite her sons.

"Seven? He's a baby, why we gotta get a baby?" Angel tutted and rolled his eyes.

"It's not so bad" Bobby told him "I mean Angels only twelve" he elbowed the younger boy, who sat beside him, but it was a gentle gesture.

"Yeah, twelve, not seven" Jerry responded "He probably aint even potty trained" he shook his head.

"Hey are we gonna have to baby sit him?" Angel asked.

"Oh yeah, Ma we don't have to lug no little baby around with us everywhere do we? I got a reputation to maintain" Bobby said seriously.

"You sure changed your tune" Evelyn raised an eye brow at Bobby who shrugged.

"A new kids one thing Ma but I'm an adult, there's stuff I need to do that I can't have being slowed down by a baby" he stated.

"Oh, what stuff?" Evelyn cocked her head to the side.

Bobby cocked his own head in an almost identical gesture "stuff" he smiled.

"You know it might be useful having a little kid around…for some…stuff" Angel said, his voice slow, as if he was trying to convey a certain meaning to Bobby.

"Enough, you're not roping this boy into your damned schemes" Evelyn said firmly "He's been through a lot" she gave them all serious looks.

"We never said we where gonna do anything, we just said it would be useful having a kid around" Bobby widened his eyes innocently.

Evelyn gave them all knowing looks instead, and the brothers looked at one another, hiding smiles that Evelyn saw, behind their mugs.

"We have to make up a bed for this kid, who wants to help?" Evelyn asked.

"Do we have to?" Angel asked brightly.

"Yeah!" Evelyn said, smiling but meaning it.

"The boys groaned as they picked up their mugs and followed Evelyn upstairs.

She opened the door to the single remaining unoccupied bedroom on the second floor.

Evelyn had, some years before, converted some attic space into bedrooms as well, to enable her to take on more foster kids if need be. Jerry's and Angel's rooms had actually been one larger room, that Evelyn had paid to have split into two separate rooms, as was her own and empty room beside her own, which jack would be getting. Bobby's room was on the other side of the empty room, near to the front of the house. Evelyn flicked on the light and went over to the radiator, turning it on to warm the room up. The boys set their mugs down "Jeremiah, would you please go up to the attic and bring down the box with stripes, Bobby, go to the airing cupboard and pick out some fresh towels and Angel, you go with him and get me a duvet and some pillows?" Evelyn was opening a small cupboard in the room, running her fingers over the surfaces "I'll get the dusters" she muttered to herself.

The boys ran away to do their given tasks, racing one another to be done first.

Evelyn dusted and cleaned the room quickly, resolving to it properly as soon as she had the chance. She watched as each of the boys returned to her from their 'missions'. At twelve and thirteen, the boys where physically, smack in the middle of puberty. Bobby, having always been a little skinny, was getting taller every day. He was a little short for his age as he was, and Evelyn got the feeling he always would be, but that didn't mean she wasn't constantly adjusting his clothes to fit him now. He was working out too, with Angel, sometimes just playing hockey or basketball, some times actually going to the gym, lifting weights. Bobby sparred too, Evelyn didn't approve but he did it and was developing that boxer's physique, the stockier build than that of Angel, who was taller, all long arms and legs toned more like an athlete, a runner. Angel insisted on keeping his hair short, almost shaved to his head, telling Evelyn he would shave it completely when he was older, to save himself the hassle of dealing with it. Bobby's hair, different, obviously, to Angels was grown a little long for Evelyn's taste. He had recently begun experimenting with gels and waxes, seeming to be styling himself after 50's greasers, except that Bobby would only ever comb his hair the once, if that. In attitude, it seemed to be taking Bobby a little longer to mature with his body than Angel did. Both boys where terribly handsome, Evelyn believed, and she knew that girls in the neighbourhood tended to follow them around. Angel was more than happy to return the attentions of the girls but Bobby still saw girls as a pest who got in the way of his criminal activities. He teased and pestered his adoptive brother angel for Angel's undisguised love of 'the laydeeez' as Angel would call them.

Jeremiah was different from his two brothers. He worked out with them, played hockey with them, but he was not the same, in personality, as they where. Whereas they where all rough and tumble, petty criminals whom Evelyn was fighting to reform, Jeremiah was much quieter, a lot more reserved, and though he would kill her if she said it aloud, more sensitive. He was a thinker where Angel and Bobby where fighters. Where they would respond to a bad situation by erupting into a confrontation with who ever it was they had a problem, Jeremiah was more likely to go away, find a calm, rational way to deal with the situation, then come back and propose his idea to his rival. He was a watcher, and a planner. This was not to say that he couldn't fight. Jeremiah's life before he came to Evelyn had been as tough as Angel's and Bobby's. He could, and had, fought to defend himself from bullies, local kids with petty grudges, and on one memorable occasion, an enraged Angel. Jeremiah was another one who even though he was growing every day; he was still small, slight. He too was filling out but where Bobby had the shoulders to bulk up if he decided to, Jeremiah would always be that bit thinner, that bit more slender than his brothers.

Evelyn realised she was smiling as the boys, her boys, came together to make up the bed without needing to be told what to do. Bobby had the taller Angel hold the duvet cover up while he sent Jeremiah, the smallest, crawling into the cover with the actual duvet in his hands. They secured the corners and Jeremiah wriggled back out, leaving Bobby to button the bottom of the duvet cover while Angel and Jeremiah cased the pillows.

Evelyn stepped forward to actually make the bed while the boys opened the blue striped box. They chatted, laughing and joking as they unpacked clothes small enough for a seven year old and put them away in the drawers, under wear and socks in the top drawer, t shirts in the second one, jeans and other trousers in the third and PJ's in the bottom. The put shoes on the floor in the cupboard and Jeremiah ran into his own room and came back with a teddy bear laying it on the bed with a small flourish.

"Perfect" Evelyn smiled, "Thank you boys, that's wonderful" she reached down and pulled the three of them into a hug.

"Aaw Ma" Bobby pulled away from her again, but it wasn't in anger.

Headlights flashed on the window as a car pulled into the street and the noise of a car engine filled the night.

"Mugs" Evelyn said as the boys all bolted for the door at once.

They pulled up short and grabbed their now empty mugs, running down stairs as the door bell rang. Evelyn hurried into her own room and threw on jeans and a sweater, not wanting to greet the boy in her pyjamas.

"Go put them in the sink please" Evelyn told them as she handed her own mug to Angel who had waited for her on the stairs.

"Aw Ma!" Angel took the mug and charged for the kitchen "Hey don't run with that in you hand what if you fall! You boys stay in the kitchen till I call you" She told them.

She walked over to the door and pulled it open, not too fast, not too slow, and smiled out at Maria. The forty year old social worker was going grey early, the pressures of her job streaking her black hair with silver. She had pale skin and brown eyes and wore a thick coat against the cold night hair.

"Hi Eva" Maria said pleasantly.

"Hey" Eva said, her eyes dropping from Maria's smiling face to the tiny figure standing beside her.

"Hello Jack…I'm Evelyn" she said softly.

The boy was staring at the floor, his face set in carefully blank lines. He wasn't holding Maria's hand, instead his hands where curled into small, gloveless fists at his sides. His hair, sticking out from the woolly beanie hat was that shade of dark brown that would go lighter as he got older. His skin was pale, his eyes where bright greenie blue-grey and smudged dark as if he wore makeup, and oddly, worryingly blank. And devoid of emotion

"Jack, do you want to say hello to Evelyn?" Maria bent her head down to talk to the boy.

He ignored her completely, standing completely still and silent on the porch.

"Well, why don't you both come in" Evelyn stepped aside as Maria started to walk in.

She put one hand on Jack's shoulder to guide him in to the house and he flinched away from her as if she had burned him. It was a single movement that took him a few inches away from Maria's hand, but then he froze again. Had Evelyn not seen him move she would have thought Maria had because the boy didn't even move his eyes.

"Jack would you like to come in?" Evelyn crouched down so that she was well within Jack's field of vision.

He took a single step forward, and then another, as Evelyn moved out of his way.

He walked into the house under his own power, his eyes never rising from the floor.

"Hey, that wasn't so tough now was it?" Evelyn asked.

Jack didn't react.

"You want to take you jacket off?" Evelyn suggested.

Jack maintained his silence and Evelyn crouched in front of him again.

"Jack" she said clearly "I'm going to un zip your jacket now, that's all I'm going to do, you just let me know if you want me to stop" she told him.

She reached for his jacket, finding the tab for the zipper and pulling it down slowly.

She pulled the jacket out, away from his body to un hook the clasp. "There we go" She said quietly. She stood, leaning forward to push the jacket off his shoulders and Maria carefully took it and pulled it back. Evelyn reached for Jack's hand to pull the sleeves off and blinked in surprise when Jack let her take his hand.

"Oh, your hands are cold!" She said in surprise, "why don't we go in the kitchen and I'll make you a warm drink, huh?" she gave him a smile as she got his arms free of the jacket, revealing the tattered sweater and jeans he wore beneath. His feet where clad in battered sneakers and he stood with army rigidity, his back poker straight.

He gave a tiny shrug but his face had yet to change.

Evelyn gently pulled off his woolly hat, revealing his lank, unwashed hair.

"Alright, follow me then…my other sons are in the kitchen, uh, you can meet them if you like?" She asked.

Jack was still unresponsive so Evelyn started toward the kitchen, assuming Jack would follow.

The boy did, slowly, and eventually they made it to the kitchen.

The boys stood side by side, smiling politely as Jack came through the door.

Seeing them, Evelyn realised how small Jack was, and apparently so did he because his eyes flicked up to them momentarily, widened, and he took one large step back.

"Jack, its okay, these are my sons" Evelyn said firmly.

"Hi" Jeremiah smiled but he didn't step forward, "I'm Jeremiah but, you can just call me Jerry" he didn't move forward "You're Jack right? Well Jack, this is Angel" Angel gave the child a nod as his name was spoken "And this is Bobby" Bobby waved.

Jack's eyes where wide and afraid, his cupids bow lips set in a grim, angry line. He was taking deep, slow breaths that barely moved his chest, ideal for calming his panic without drawing too much attention to him.

"Hey Jackie boy, you play hockey?" Bobby asked.

"Bobby he's four he doesn't play hockey" Angel tutted and elbowed Bobby in the arm.

"I'm seven" Jack spoke up for the first time since he had entered the house, his voice soft, and young.

"What was that?" Evelyn asked casually, knowing not to make a big deal out of the fact that he had spoken, lest he retreat within his own shell again.

"I'm not four. I'm seven" Jack stated.

"Oh I'm sorry, seven. Still don't mean you play hockey" Angel corrected himself, shrugging.

"I never played before but I bet I could" Jack said, still not looking at any one.

"Well maybe we'll teach you" Bobby suggested "If you want?" he tilted his head slightly, trying to get Jack to look at him.

"Jack, are you okay if I leave you with Evelyn and the other boys?" Maria asked from the doorway of the kitchen.

He gave that same, tiny, nonplussed shrug and Maria gave Evelyn a 'can I talk to you alone' look.

"Boys will you get Jack a drink while I see Maria out?" Evelyn asked.

"Sure Ma" Angel nodded.

"Jeremiah c'mere a sec" Evelyn waved the slender boy over.

"Yeah?" he walked to her side.

"Listen" Evelyn whispered as Angel began routing through the cupboards for glasses "Listen don't crowd him at all, don't let your brothers either. He's never been in a foster situation before, and he's awful skittish, don't freak him out, yeah?" she smiled down at him.

"Yeah mom" Jeremiah nodded and Evelyn followed Maria out into the hall.

Bobby gave it a second then followed them, hugging the wall so that he could hide around the corner and listen without being seen.

"He seemed…terrified" he heard Evelyn say, "What's his story again, it wasn't that clear on the phone"

Maria sighed "He's never had a mother, she bailed when he was a month old, he's been alone with his father ever since" she started " 'Dad' is a level one scum fuck, beat Jack, starved him…molested him"

Bobby winced as Evelyn let out a stream of curses that where totally un like anything she had ever said.

"There are signs of…on going abuse, he's been freaking out since we took him out of the hospital, wouldn't let any body touch him, took a freakin huge bite out of one of the doctors. He has lots of uh…you're just gonna want to be careful undressing him, he's gonna have a lot of issues about that…he's pretty beat up. The call we got was from a neighbour, his father was having some kind of party in his house, initially it was a noise complaint. The cops got there to find over a hundred people crowded into a house built for three at the most. Most of em where men…Jacks father, it seems, has been…pimping his son out to one or two of his friends. One of these guys had Jack in an upstairs bedroom"

Bobby pressed his hand to his mouth, feeling anger well up in his stomach. He heard Evelyn let out a low, quiet, impossibly sad moan.

"He was catatonic on the way to the hospital, then, came to life as the doctors got near him. Uh, as near as we've been able to tell, no allergies, uh, he's been fully examined by doctors and the cops took what they needed so you can go ahead and let him take a bath, but I advise you to keep the boys away while you do it, otherwise…well he'll probably freak out then too. You're gonna want to let the boys know I think, or at least give them an idea about what they should say around him and to him, what games or whatever little hazing rituals they have that they should avoid" Maria continued.

"His father?" Evelyn asked, her tone harsh enough that Bobby was actually afraid of her momentarily.

"Arrested, possession, child molestation and abuse, and child prostitution" Maria told her.

"You think he'll go away?"

"The guy they caught…with Jack is apparently saying that Jacks father asked him for money, so that's a given" Maria told her "And I woke up a teacher from the school Jack is technically enrolled in, on the rare occasions that he does show up, he tends to act out, he's violent, he steals,-"

"Sounds like he'll fit right in" Evelyn scoffed, her voice almost pained.

"Yeah" Maria agreed.

"Any idea yet how long we're gonna have him?" Evelyn asked "Not that I'm trying to see how long before I can get rid of him, I just…need to know"

"So you don't get too attached?" Maria asked gently.

"Maria I always get too attached. But yes, if we're only gonna have him for the week or something, I don't want to be promising him…trips or things like that if he's going to be getting taken away and left wondering why I lied to him" Evelyn sounded tired all of a sudden.

"Well you know as well as I do, emergency placements can be just over night, they can be for a week or so while we try to track down other relatives…but he doesn't seem to have any, that we can find any way…it might end up being a lot longer than a week" Maria told her.

"That's fine by me, thanks Maria" Evelyn had a smile in her voice, Bobby knew how it sounded.

"I'm sorry I've had to wake you and the boys up so late" Maria said.

"Don't ever be sorry for giving a kid a second chance" Evelyn said seriously.

"No" Maria agreed "Well I'd better go make a start on his file…looks like it's gonna be a long one…poor little bug" she sounded close to tears.

Bobby heard the rustle of clothes as Evelyn hugged Maria and took his cue to head back to the kitchen. He rejoined his brothers, trying hard not to stare at Jack, who sat now on a stool, an untouched glass of milk in front of him.

The door clicked closed and a second later, Evelyn joined them in the kitchen.

"Well, look at the time!" she exclaimed, looking at the clock.

It was well past midnight, well past the agreed bed time for the boys.

"Boys, time for bed" She looked around at her adoptive sons.

"Aw Ma cant we stay up and get to know the little runt" Angel asked, but he grinned kindly at Jack as he said it.

Jack fixed him with the thousand yard stare that was already becoming familiar.

"No, I want to get Jack cleaned up and put him to bed, he's had along night, you all have school tomorrow, get!" Evelyn told them.

Grumbling, but passively, the boys filed out, leaving Evelyn alone with Jack.

He dropped his gaze again as she turned to look at him. Evelyn took a seat directly opposite him. "Hi there" she said again.

He had curled his tiny hands into fists and seemed hunched over, ready to run. Or, Evelyn figured, he was expecting to be hit.

"Jack?" asked Evelyn "Hey, you know you have nothing to be afraid of here right?" she asked gently.

"Yes ma'am" he replied robotically.

Evelyn sighed. "Are you tired?" she asked.

He gave that tiny mechanical shrug.

"I'll bet a little tiny boy like you, you're exhausted am I right? So how about, uh, we put you to bed?" she suggested.

" 'k" Jack said almost silently.

"Al right…um…do you usually take a bath before you go to bed?" she asked.

He shrugged again.
"Well, would you like to now?"

" 'k"

Evelyn gave him a tight, tiny smile. "Jack" she said, taking a deep breath "Maria told me that your father was…well he was very, very bad to you, and you've been through things that no child, no person should ever go through" she watched his eyes widen almost imperceptibly "But I want you to know that nothing like that will ever happen to you here, do you understand? No one here will ever harm you in that way" she took a chance and reached across the counter top, crooking her finger under his chin and raising his head.

He let her, flicking his eyes to her face, then away, back and forth, clearly terrified to make eye contact with her "Jack…I'll never let any thing happen to you while you're with us" she looked him dead in the eye.

He held her gaze for a few seconds longer than he previously had, then blinked. Evelyn took it as a response. "So, you want to go take a bath?" she gave him a smile "If you don't, or you don't feel comfortable, I'm not gonna make you. I just know that when ever I feel scared, and I'm in a new place, I feel like a bath helps me relax a little bit" Evelyn explained.

"Will the water be hot?" Jack asked in a whisper.

"As hot as you like" Evelyn smiled.

"Wont nobody be lookin in?" he asked and Evelyn bit her tongue to stop the cuss word from spilling out.

"No sweet heart, no body will be looking in at you. I can wait outside for you if you like?" she asked.

"I don't wanna fall under the water" Jack whispered "Will you stay with me?" he lowered his eyes so much they where almost closed and Evelyn realised he was actually embarrassed to ask the question.

"Of course I can" she told him "How about I help you wash your hair, huh? And we have bubbles!" she grinned wide.

"Bubbles?" there was the faintest trace of something resembling excitement in his voice and his eye brows rose ever so slightly at the prospect of a bubble bath "I never had bubbles" he told her.

"Never? Well here you can have bubbles every day. And Jack, you don't have to feel bad if you want to ask for something" Evelyn stood and moved around to his side of the counter "You ready?" she asked.

He nodded and climbed down from the high stool, letting her walk in front of him, show him the way.

As she walked up the stairs, Evelyn looked back at the tiny boy, and then thought about her own boys. They had seemed to welcome him, and he had been alright with them after a few minutes…maybe it would all work out. She thought then of how rough the boys could be, wrestling around, getting into fights. Jack seemed sort of quiet, very introverted. The Mercers had a reputation for being loud, troublesome brawlers. She wrinkled her nose. Was bringing Jack into this house like throwing a terrier in with Rottweilers?

Well, she thought to herself, we'll soon find out.