Another one shot I've had sitting on my computer. Just finished it up. Review and let me know what you think. :)

Don't own, make no money.


He sat huddled in the corner, watching as the strange man hit on his mother. If he was just a little bigger, just a little stronger, maybe he could stop it. He was five. He was almost six, but right now he was five. When he was six, maybe he'd be big enough, and strong enough to hit the men his mother brought home and knock them away from her. All he could do for the time being was sit back and watch, and wish for six. She would have black eyes and a busted lip in the morning, and he would wash her cuts for her and bring her some of her pills. She wouldn't want to get out of bed. She'd want to sleep all day. He would have to get up and get ready for school himself.

He was in Kindergarten. He would be in first grade next year, if the teacher let him go to first grade. He didn't do very well with his ABC's, or his numbers and his teacher said if he didn't do better that he wouldn't be allowed to go to the first grade with the rest of the kids next year. His mother told him that he was only five, and he shouldn't worry about it. He would do a lot better when he was six. He was almost six. He kept trying hard, and he'd get angry inside, but he was almost six, and all he could do was wait and wish for six.

He missed his father being there. He didn't know what he'd done to make his father leave. He'd been a good boy, or at least he'd always tried, he'd always done what he told him to. He was too little, he was sure that's what it was. He had heard his father telling his mother that he would come and pick Robby up and take him to a movie or something, when he was old enough. He had left and hadn't been back. He was only five now, and maybe, his mother told him, he would be old enough when he was six. He was almost six.

Late at night, after his mother had passed out in her bed, he would lie on the couch curled up under his blanket and watch the rats run across the floor along the baseboards of the rundown apartment his mother could barely pay rent on. He was afraid of the rats. He was afraid of the loud noises that filtered in through the thin walls from the streets; the sounds of older boys fighting, and yelling and laughing. They sounded mean, and tough, and threatening. He didn't like them. He didn't run to his mother for comfort, because any time he did before, his mother told him that he wouldn't be so afraid when he turned six. He was only five now, but he was almost six.

He wanted to be able to take care of himself, and his mother, but he was only five. He wanted to be smart and strong, old enough and brave. He wanted to be in charge of his self and the people around him. If he was in charge the bad things the men did to his mother would stop. His father would come home and be a real father to him, and protect both him and his mom. He wanted all of this, but he was only five, and he was sure that it would all come when he was six. He just had to wait until he was six.

The next morning would bring sirens and flashing lights that mesmerized a five year old, but he was able to block them out, because overnight, at some point, he had finally turned six, and the experience of finding his mother's dead body in her bed, with the strange man passed out next to her had finally hardened the five year old heart, and turned it to stone under the new six year old frame. He was taken to an office somewhere and asked about his mother, questions that he would have answered without hesitation when he was five, but now he was six, and he realized what it meant to turn six. It meant that you stopped trusting or feeling or caring. He waited while someone tried to find his father. It was supposed to be a few days, but that turned into a few weeks, and he had to go to someone else's house and live with them until he could be located. It was called a foster home, and foster care. He was sure it wouldn't be for long, he was old enough now; he was six now, he was big enough for his father to come and get him, or almost.

Bobby sat stiffly in the cold. He could feel the emotions stirring deep inside. He fell into the familiar pit he'd allowed his mind to dig for him years before, when he was five, almost six. He remembered the hard core he'd built for himself so that nothing could penetrate and expose the fears and insecurities that had loomed over him in those years, with his real mother. He had let one person in. She had been his mother and shown him something more about being strong enough, wise enough and brave enough. She had shown him the tenderness that he'd missed when he was five, almost six. She had never told him that he wasn't old enough to be strong, or brave, or wise, or in control. She never said that he would have all of that when he was older; in fact, she didn't seem to care so much about what he wasn't; only what he was. Evelyn Mercer didn't believe in 'almost'.

The air bit at his cheeks while he watched the casket lower into the ground. Another mother buried, another mother lost. He wasn't alone this time, he was the oldest, the head of the family. There would be no 'almost' to wonder about this time, he was in control, and he knew exactly what he needed to do to make this right.