The sprawling oak tree provided enough dabbled shade that Jack Brander was able to find some relief from the Indian summer heat of the fall day as he waited. The sounds of the Varsity girls' soccer practice wafted along the gentle breeze and Jack smiled at the sound of his girlfriend's normally sweet, timid voice taking a hard and commanding tone as she directed a drill. Emily was only sixteen, the youngest member of the Varsity team and basically two years his junior, but she had been on the team since her freshman year and it was on the soccer field that he'd first saw her. He had never told her, but he had been completely and utterly smitten. She was playing the last quarter of a game with their rival high school; she had been playing extremely aggressively and her blond hair was plastered to her face and neck, her fair skin was flushed red, and she looked ready to bite off someone's head. He had spent the next two days trying to find out everything about her, when he walked into his sign language class and found her, looking soft and fresh and demur, signing with the teacher.

It had been the perfect 'in'. They started talking or signing between classes and when he found out that she helped with an elementary class that the teacher also taught, he volunteered as well. It took every ounce of courage, but when he found out that she went to the same CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) as a friend of his, he got himself invited. He had intended to ask her out that night, but he had been shocked to find her step-sister with her. Instead, he'd waited until the next week and asked her in a crowded hallway using ASL. He was still amazed she'd signed yes back at him. In the two years since then they had spent every minute of free time together. Their families had become close friends and they were more than boyfriend/girlfriend, they were best friends.

However, there were still some things that he never told her. Things his family shared, things his family held close to their hearts, almost secrets. As a family, they were open about Jack and Ella's adoptions and that before Ella came into their lives they had fostered other children, but they never went into details. He had never told her about the way that he had been found or the way that Ella had lost her hearing. He had never felt the need… until now.

A case of his Uncle Kevin's had brought up a lot of things he hadn't thought about until this week. His Uncle Kevin had questioned a man who claimed to recognize the picture of him that sat on Kevin's desk, claimed to be his actual biological father and reason that the man he believed to be his biological father had hated him and his biological mother. Apparently, this man wanted nothing to do with him, but he did want money. Money to not contest an adoption that he didn't care about. Money to not fight for custody that he didn't want. In three months Jack would be 18, but until then he could try to cause problems for the family and after that he could try to cause problems for Jack. After a long talk with his Uncle Mannion, the family had decided to insist on a DNA test.

The test had come back negative, but Nancy had wanted it doubled checked and legal papers drawn up that the man would have to sign, attesting that he was not Jack's legal father, had no legal right or privilege as such, and that he would not contact Jack in the future. This meant that his parents had planned to talk to Emily's 'stepmothers' that evening, since Abby, her father's live-in girlfriend, was a forensic scientist for NCIS and Estacia, her stepfather's second wife, was a family law attorney. He had decided that if they were going to know about his past then so should Emily.

Even in the shade with his eyes closed he could feel Emily's shadow falling over him. Opening his eyes, he was met by her smiling mouth and loving eyes. With a gentle pull, she was down on the ground next to him. His arms wrapped around her as her head laid on his chest. In whispers carried away with the swirling autumn leaves, he painted a picture of a little boy with a closet for a room and a little girl so small and innocent whose hearing was taken by a monster of a human being.