Six months down the line found the brothers once again playing basketball. It was evident, though, that neither of them really had their mind on the game.
"I can't believe this," Wolf said, disgusted. "We're not even together a year, and they're already splitting us up."
He threw the ball at the basket, but it sailed clear over the backboard. Sighing, Peter trotted after it.
"It might not be too bad," he offered, as he rejoined his brother, idly dribbling the ball. "They're letting us call each other."
"Once a week for half an hour," Wolf responded, bitterly. "Some deal. Why aren't you angry about this?" he demanded, when Peter remained silent.
"I am," Peter told him, stopping the bouncing ball as he turned to face Wolf. "Probably just as much as you. You're my brother, Wolf. I don't want to leave you. Or Ping Hai and Kahn. But, getting angry about something I can't change doesn't do any good, either."
"You're too damn complacent, that's the problem," Wolf grumbled.
"Disciplined," Peter corrected.
"You say tomato," Wolf responded, drawing a confused look from Peter.
"What does that--never mind," Peter said, deciding he'd figure it out later. "Maybe your mom's changed," he ventured.
"I doubt it," Wolf said, with a derisive snort. "I guarantee you, two months from now, she'll get bored playing mommy and drop me here, again."
"Maybe the Kelleys will do the same thing," Peter said, softly.
"Peter, you've only been here eight months," Wolf said, just as quietly. "I've been in and out of this place for most of my life. Trust me when I say you don't want to do anything to screw this up. Take whatever foster family you can, because it's bound to be better than this place."
"Is being with your mom better than being here?" Peter challenged.
"That's different," Wolf said, hastily.
"Is it?" Peter asked.
When there was no reply forthcoming from Wolf, he sighed.
"I'm going to miss you, you know," he told him.
Once again, his brother remained silent. Aggravated, Peter tossed the ball at the hoop, watching it sail through, easily. Wolf retrieved it, and tried for a shot of his own.
They played in absolute silence for several minutes, the only sound that of the basketball smacking the gym floor. Finally, Wolf spoke, in such a quiet voice that Peter barely heard him.
"I'm going to miss you, too."
Peter entered the room they'd said was his, and stopped short in the doorway. The tiny bedroom had obviously, hastily, been cleaned out recently.
A small bed with brand new sheets and blankets was against the far wall, flanked by an old, beat-up dresser and a hastily assembled desk.
Lining the other three walls were cardboard boxes stacked two and three high. Drag marks in the carpet indicated that they'd just been moved.
Peter leaned over and read the label on the closest box. Winter clothes-Mandy.
For a moment, he was angry that they couldn't even give him more than a converted storage room to call his own, but he quickly suppressed the thought. After all, in his position, he could hardly afford to be picky.
Moving further into the room, he dropped his backpack on the bed, quickly spilling the contents out.
Pictures of his father and Wolf went onto the desk, along with his school books. Two pairs of jeans, a few tee shirts, and some underwear and socks went into the dresser. And then the bed was empty.
Peter heaved a sigh as he looked around again.
So much for home sweet home.
"I can't believe you're actually letting me skip school," Peter said, in an amazed tone.
"Technically, it's not skipping as we haven't enrolled you yet," Amanda Kelley told him, smiling. "And, I thought it would be nice to have a family day before we all have to go back to the drudgery of real life."
"Yeah," Peter muttered, his fleeting good mood souring as reality crashed down on him. "Family day."
"Peter, if we'd known about your brother-"
"I know," Peter broke in, quickly.
And he did know. It hadn't escaped John and Amanda Kelley's notice that Peter had a brother; it had just come too late. The day they'd petitioned to foster both boys, instead of just Peter, Miriam Gannett had waltzed back into her son's life.
She had money, she had clout, and most importantly, she had the documents marking her as Wolf's legal mother. And she wanted her son back.
McGregor had promised Wolf, once, that he wouldn't have to go back to her, that he wouldn't have to be separated from Peter. But Sister Agnes wasn't McGregor, and she'd made no such promise. Sister Agnes had sent Wolf back to his mother, without a qualm, and Peter found himself the new ward of the Kelley family.
They weren't a bad family, Peter quickly amended. John and Amanda were great people, very understanding. And Molly, their little girl, his new foster sister, was an amazing kid. They just weren't what he wanted.
If he was completely honest with himself, what he wanted was to have his brother back, to have his father back, to be back at the temple.
And they were all equally impossible.
"So, what do you want to do, today?"
The forced cheer in Amanda's voice dragged him away from his thoughts, and he stared at her for a moment before comprehension dawned.
"You're letting me choose?" he asked.
"Sure are," John chimed in. "Anything you want to do, we will."
"Could we--could we go down to Chinatown for the day?" Peter asked, hesitantly.
"Sounds great," Amanda told him. "It'll be fun. We haven't done anything touristy in a long time."
'It's not touristy!' Peter wanted to yell. 'It's practically my home!'
But he simply smiled and nodded. Staying here was preferable to going back to Pathways, with Sister Agnes and no Wolf, so he'd do anything he had to in order to make it work.
"Would you send Wolf Gannett down to the principal's office?"
Wolf heaved a sigh as, around him, his classmates started snickering and teasing him about what he could have done this time.
"Settle down," the teacher snapped, impatiently. "Gannett, what are you still doing here?"
Wolf grabbed his backpack and headed for the door, his classmates' catcalls echoing behind him. He made his way down to Principal Mitchell's office, only to be told by an overly-perky secretary that he was busy at the moment, but would get to him as soon as he had a free minute.
"Thanks," Wolf muttered, slumping in an available chair and trying to ignore the voice in the back of his head (that sounded far too much like Ping Hai for his liking) that nagged at him to sit up properly.
Finally, Mitchell's door opened, and he was beckoned inside. Wolf's initial burst of curiosity soured when he saw McGregor sitting in one of the visitor's chairs. He sank into the other one with trepidation, feeling fear clench at his heart.
"Why are you here?" he asked, ignoring Mitchell's outrage at his rudeness. "You wouldn't come here in the middle of the day unless something was wrong."
"No, I wouldn't," McGregor acknowledged. "Wolf, there's been an accident."
"What?" Wolf asked, confused. "What kind of accident? Is Peter hurt? Is that why you're here?" he demanded, rising slightly out of his chair in panic.
"Peter's in the hospital," McGregor said, his voice calm and soothing. "He was struck by a hit-and-run driver, earlier this morning."
He paused for a breath, and his next words shattered Wolf's heart.
"He's unconscious, and they're afraid he might not wake up."