A/N: The product of thinking on the various departures of characters over the course of the show. H:LOTS and Ally Felton aren't mine.
Eleven years old wasn't so little.
The first time we disappeared from Baltimore, I was eight, Zach was ten, Mom was pissed, and because of this, we left. I remembered this solely because Zach had dared to ask Mom if Dad wasn't coming, too. Mom went off on a really long rant about how we were going to a better life. And about how as far as she was concerned, Dad could go to hell. She'd never actually voiced this opinion of hers out loud before, so it stuck with us.
Later on, Zach would tell me that Mom had already started to lose it, but I didn't believe him.
In short, Mom's idea of a better life was anywhere that Dad wasn't. We knew that he was looking for us, but Mom refused to make it easy. She told us constantly that we 'couldn't lean on Daddy anymore, because he didn't give a damn'. I wouldn't think of myself as having been jaded back then, but later, I would. Neither Zach nor I ever believed that Dad had stopped caring. To our minds at that point in time, it seemed impossible. Our father had always been the one person in the world that we had always been able to lean on, no matter what. And back then, there was nothing that could have changed our minds.
And then three years went by.
What I found incredibly ridiculous about the whole thing was that Mom's moods varied from day to day. One minute she couldn't stand the thought of our father, the next, he was out saving the world and he'd be home as soon as everything was all right again. After a while, Zach and I started tuning her out; she'd tell us one day that we were going back home to Baltimore and by the time we got home from school, she'd changed her mind again. It was one of those things that because more a part of life than anything else; Mom could rant all she wanted, but it didn't mean we were going to hear her, and our little brother Robin didn't really understand any of it, so he didn't worry about it, either. She never really seemed to catch on that we weren't listening to her, but that was better than having to deal with whatever the fallout might have been had she ever really noticed.
I guess we never really gave up hope that at some point, we really would go home, but then everything got turned upside down.
The news came by the way of Dad's old partner, a woman by the name of Kay Howard. I remember Mom telling Kay that she didn't care, that she and another woman named Megan Russert could do whatever they wanted. And I remember going after Kay, to ask her if it was true, if my father was really dead, after all my mother had told me, and just dropping when Kay told me that she was so sorry, but it was. I cut my knees up on the cold concrete of the sidewalk outside my mother's parents' house, and only barely heard Mom shouting at me about getting blood everywhere when I finally came inside. Upstairs, I heard my brother's door slam and it was there that I went, only to find that he was crying, too. It wasn't the first time I'd ever seen this, and though I hoped it'd be the last, I knew it wouldn't be.
Mom's empty promises that everything would be all right had never really hit us before then.
My eleventh birthday came on the day of Dad's funeral.
It was a point of debate between Mom and the rest of Dad's family as to whether or not we should be allowed to go. Mom said that both Zach and I were both too young, even though we already understood enough to know what was going on. She refused to take us. She moved us again from our grandparents' house, so that they wouldn't be able to find us, but our Aunt Lucy did, the night before. It was only right, she'd shouted at Mom, when they both thought that us kids were sleeping, it was only right that we were there, because no matter what Mom had ever told us, Dad had loved us. Mom still refused to have anything to do with it, so in the morning, Lucy took me, and Zach. None of us said anything the entire way to Baltimore.
The casket was closed. Zach told me it was probably because Dad had gotten hurt too badly for anyone to fix it. I decked him for it, and kept on hitting until he finally grabbed my hands and pulled me into a hug. That was how I knew that he was just as scared as I was. Neither of us knew what was going to happen; Mom was unpredictable, and while we knew she wasn't likely to do anything to either us or Robin, neither of us wanted to know what was going to happen. It had already become clear enough that nothing was going to be the same. After all, now Mom had the excuse she was looking for, a reason to not come home to Baltimore at all.
So we stood, Zach and I, with Lucy and the rest of the family, hand in hand, because we were both too afraid to let go.
We listened to people from Dad's old shift talk; we listened to his other friends do the same.
And then we listened to the shift roll call, both of us staring towards the ground, fighting the urge to answer as the name 'Felton' was called once, twice, three times.
Late on, we watched them lower our father into the ground. Zach's baseball glove was with him. So was the locket that he and Mom had given me on my seventh birthday, my last one at home, and one of Robin's various stuffed animals. I spent the entire time at my father's gravesite with my face hidden against Zach's shoulder, and for once, he didn't push me away.
It hit me later on when we went back to Lucy's apartment that my brother had grown up a long time ago. He hadn't had much of a choice. It was either sink or swim without Dad there, and he had chosen to swim.
Somewhere along the line, he had taught me to do the same.