AN: Sorry it's been so long, but RL got in my way. But hopeully I'm on track now that I have more free time.
Ray followed Aaron and Sarah Ford into his mother's hospital room. It was his first chance to see her since he'd been released from the ER three days ago into his caseworker Maddie's care. She'd taken him to straight to the Fords for an emergency placement and started looking for a more permanent home.
The Fords were nice enough. They had a sixteen year old son named Dale who had taken Ray with him to play basketball with some neighborhood kids at the park the day before. Ray didn't think he'd be so cool about things if he were in Dale's place.
"Mom!" Ray exclaimed rushing over to his mother to hug her with his good arm.
"Baby, how are you?" She moved him back so she could study his bruised face.
"I'm okay. How do you feel?"
She sighed. "I've felt better."
Ray had been so focused on his mother that he didn't notice Maddie was waiting in the room with his mom. "Hey."
"Aaron, Sarah, this is Emma Murphy. Emma this is the family I told you Ray will be staying with."
"Hello," Sarah greeted reaching out to shake Emma's hand.
"Ray," Aaron said pulling out a dollar bill. "Why don't you go get a soda while we talk about working out a visitation schedule for you and your mom? It will only take a few minutes, then you can visit with her for a long as you like."
Ray gave the adults a cross look. "I don't see why I can't stay."
"Just a few minutes Ray," his mom insisted gently. "Then we don't have to worry about cutting our time short."
"Fine," he sighed taking the dollar Aaron offered.
Ray stalked down the hall to the vending machines. He was mad. Why couldn't he stay? It affected him too, so shouldn't he have a say?
Why couldn't they be honest?
Tears began to fill his eyes and he angrily brushed them away with the back of his hands. He knew they were talking about the fact that Ray wouldn't be going back to his mom when she got out of the hospital. Maddie had told him as much when she had picked him up in the ER.
It made him mad when adults lied to him. That's all his life had been, lies adults told him.
Stopping in mid stomp he frowned and pulled out the paper Will had given him. Maybe he was at work right now.
Will hadn't lied to him. Would he lie now?
Ray ran to the elevators and punched the button for the first floor.
Will looked up from were he was suturing a head lac on a passed out drunk the cops had brought in when the unit clerk poked her head around the curtain.
"There's some boy here looking for you."
"What? Do you know who he is?"
"Says his name's Ray."
Will searched his brain. He thought the name sounded familiar, but couldn't recall why.
"I'll be right there."
He finished the stitches and pulled out his prescription pad to write down instructions for the officer watching over the man.
That's when it hit him.
The abused boy from the other night. He had given him his number to call if he ever needed anything.
Will knew some patients affected you more than others. This kid was one of them. He had tried to protect his mother from the bastard beating her and landed himself in the ER for his troubles. And Ray tried so hard to be a grownup the whole time. It was sad when a kid was forced to be an adult before their time.
He walked out and found Ray sitting with Carly, one of the nurses, spinning around in one of the chairs behind admit.
"Hey Ray. What are you doing here?"
Ray glanced at him suprised. "You remember me?"
Will remember how much Ray valued honesty from an adult.
"Well, not at first, but I thought I knew your name from somewhere. Then it hit me. So how's your mom?"
The boy shrugged. "She seemed okay. Right now she's talking with Maddie and the Fords. They wanted to talk by themselves." Ray snorted. "Like I don't know what they're talking about. Stupid," he mumbled.
"You know they're gonna be worried when you don't come back."
"So," he snapped. Oh, the kid was pissed.
"Okay, my break's coming up. I'll take you back upstairs and you can tell them how you feel about being left out and what you already know or guess about what's happening."
Ray looked at Will like he'd grown another head. "Are you crazy? They won't care!"
"You'd be surprised."
Ray rolled his eyes. "Whatever."
Ray let Will lead him back into his mother's room.
"Hey Maddie," the doctor greeted. "How's it going?"
"Fine." Maddie studied the pair. She pinned Ray with an amused look. "So you figured out they put the best vending machines are down in the ER break room, huh?"
Ray blushed and looked down at his shoes.
"Of course," Will answered for him. "And you find all the best doctors there too, right Ray?"
Ray remained silent in his embarrassment.
"You must be Ray's mom," Will said coming over to the bedridden woman and shook her hand. "I'm Will Gordon."
"Did we interrupt, or did you already hammer out the visitation schedule?" Will asked.
"Right," Ray snorted, forgetting his embarrassment. "Did you already tell my mom I'm not going home to her?"
"Ray…" Maddie began.
"I'm not stupid!" Ray's voice overlapped Maddie's.
Will put a hand on Ray's shoulder to quiet him. "Okay, before this gets out of control, let's all be honest. Ray's a smart kid. He already knows most of what's going on. And what he doesn't, he's tried to figure out. So to avoid any wrong assumptions, let's lay out all the cards."
Ray glanced up at Will, tears welling up in his eyes again. He squeezed his eyes shut and swallowed them down. Then he looked at Maddie.
"I'm not going home when mom gets out," he said quietly.
Maddie held out her hand to Ray. He carefully took it and allowed her to pull him over next to her and his mother's bedside.
"Not immediately Ray. She's going to be required by the state to take parenting classes and abuse counseling. But she will have visitations with you. They'll start out as visits after school. Then later she'll be allowed to take you home on the weekends. After a ten to twelve month period Social Services will schedule a hearing. If she follows all the requirements you'll go home. Do you understand?"
Ray nodded. "I don't know why you couldn't tell me in the first place."
"The way each child handles being taken away from their parents is different. I didn't know how well you'd handle the news that you won't be going home for a long time."
"Well, it sucks, but I can handle it. As long as I get to see mom. Or don't have to move around a lot. Freddy Jenkins lived down the street from us and said he's been in and out of different homes."
"You're going to be staying with us Ray," Aaron assured. "We know how important it is for you to stay in one place. So as long as you're happy with us, you can stay."
"Now that the air's clear," Will said clapping his hands together. "I'll grab a wheelchair, and Ray and his mom can take a stroll. Sound good?"
Ray smiled brilliantly. "Sounds good."