Title: Systematic Shuffle
Rating: T (for language and topic)
Disclaimer: CSI is the product of someone else. I'm just borrowing a character.
Summary: The system sucks in a lot of ways – like the shuffle.

It's not always the middle of the night when they come. Sometimes the sun is shining, the air smells clean, and you're smiling when your world collapses. It's not violent. It's not loud. Everything you've ever known just deflates into a flat piece of nothing and is blown away in the gentlest breeze.

All it takes is someone walking up the steps of what you call 'home', holding a file in the crook of their arm. They're smiling while they look at you and introduce themselves as social services. Sure, they say their name, but the buzzing in your head prevents you from hearing it. All you hear is Social Services. A couple of big S's there.

And part of you is thinking, "Huh. I'm going somewhere else. Huh." Because you're in an episode of some really bad drama, just waiting for the show to end.

Except the show doesn't end.

They let you pack your bag before you leave, and pretty soon you're meeting some new mom or dad – another set of people you call by their first name. The sucky part is that you just got used to calling the last set of people 'mom' and 'dad'; and you thought of them as your parents, because maybe – if you were lucky – they treated you like that.

Worst of all, when the new case worker puts you in the car, you're wondering what you did wrong. Again. It all floods back. Everything.

You're transported back to that panicked, violent time – when you were broken, battered, and covered in someone else's blood. On top of it all, you're exposed; standing naked for everyone to see every damn inadequacy. Yelling isn't an option, because you tried it the first time and nearly ended up in the psycho ward with your murdering, cowering, pathetic excuse of a drunken mother.

So instead you duck your head and wish you were fucking invisible. It doesn't ever get easier. It never gets easier. With each year, you get more adept at finding a way to cope, but the sense of embarrassment and shame still exists like the only true friend you've got.

Junior high is bad enough, with bullies, the stigma, and people staring.

When it's close enough that the conviction of your mother for the murder of your father makes the news, other kids really love to whisper and point. You tolerate it, learning to avoid people. Eventually, you're funneled into anonymity as you go into high school, and none too soon. Thank God for overcrowded classrooms. No one really notices if you don't make friends.

Then that gloriously sunny day occurs again, as you're sitting on the front porch reading your book.

This time you don't have any friends – no one really to say goodbye to, except a couple of people that you barely bothered getting to know. Because as it stands, you walk away from the latest in a long string of homes yet again, wondering what you'd done wrong. Again. Time after time, home after home, there's only one conclusion you can finally draw.

Like a deck of cards, you're just part of a systematic shuffle; and no one ever deals a fair hand.