This is my first try at an AU, but the plot bunny has been rattling around in my head for a while (Ok, since yesterday). Please let me know if you like it. No, I don't own anything.
"Edward, Emmett, Alice, Rosalie! Living room in five minutes!" Carlisle's voice rang out through the house. I groaned under my breath. If he wanted all four of us at once, it could only mean that someone had done something wrong. Hard as I searched my mind, I couldn't think of anything I could have done, but Emmett was forever in trouble, and when he and Rosalie got together, rooms tended to be destroyed.
Most people thought it was weird, the way Emmett and Rosalie were dating, since we lived in the same house and all, but it was normal to us. After all, it wasn't like any of us were technically related. All of us had started out as foster children, before the Cullen's adopted us. When we were younger, there had been other foster kids coming and going, but between Carlisle getting more responsibilities at work and more of us kids staying, we didn't get as many new faces. Then Esme was diagnosed with MS three years ago, and it was too difficult for her to care for smaller kids.
I had been with the Cullen's, Carlisle and Esme, for almost 9 years now, since I was 8 years old. My parents had surrendered me to the system at age 5, after claiming that I was uncontrollable. A quick succession of foster homes followed, since I was a rather difficult child. I never deliberately caused trouble, but I had a hard time remembering the rules, no matter how many times they were explained to me. Actually, I had trouble remembering a lot of things, from the rules to what had happened to me in the past, to my foster parents names. Needless to say, it made me a rather unpopular child, both with prospective parents and other children.
I even ended up in an institution for a while, since no other home would take me. It wasn't a terrible place, and it was there that I finally got a rather complex set of diagnoses. Among other things, I was diagnosed a stress disorder. Hospital records from when I was four confirmed that I had been admitted after being raped by a neighbor. To this day, I don't remember that happening, no matter how hard I try. Because I had been so successful at repressing the rape, I began to repress other things that upset me. Pretty soon, I had gotten so used to forcing myself to forget, that I lost control of the ability and began to repress random events. A year of therapy helped me greatly, though I would always have to be careful to avoid too much stress.
But I still didn't have a family. At age 8, I was petite as a five year old, and very cute, but most people shied away from taking a child who carried a mental illness diagnosis. Until Carlisle and Esme came along. At that point, it was just them and Edward, whom they had adopted nearly five years before. He and I got along from the very beginning, quickly becoming brother and sister. It took a while, but eventually I felt safe enough with the Cullen's to become like a real family.
Rosalie joined us when I was ten and she was 13 and Emmett the year afterwards. Since things had gone so well with my adoption, Carlisle and Esme had decided to get certified to foster both older children and children with special needs, the two largest groups of kids in foster care today. They were both young, only really a few years older than us kids, but, despite everything, we had formed a functional family.
Rosalie appeared at my side. "What did you do?" I loved her, but she could be irritatingly judgmental at times.
"Nothing, what did you do? You and Emmett make more trouble than Edward and I!"
She couldn't say much to that, since it was defiantly true. Edward had gone through a bit of a rebellious phase a few years ago, but the worst he had ever done was run away. Because he had been adopted as a very small child, he felt totally secure in his parents love, and thus was far more willing to risk their anger. But even then, he was back with his tail between his legs within a few weeks.
Personally, I did my best to never invoke their anger. I had a naturally eager to please personality, and hated the thought of disappointing them. When I did make them upset, it was mostly because I had been arguing with my siblings, not because I was deliberately disobedient or rude to them.
Rosalie, on the other hand, had taken over our family like a blond hurricane. Her temper tantrums were extreme, those of a much younger child. I knew she had entered foster care after being neglected by her birth parents, and that she had been in one home for several years. I never quite understood what caused her to be removed from that home, but there had been rumor of something going on with her foster father, something far darker than was generally discussed in front of me. All I knew for sure was that she had been removed from the home, and that the father had lost his license to have foster kids in the house. Rosalie had remained fiercely loyal to him for years, refusing to say a word against him. Carlisle had bourn the brunt of her anger, as she saw him as being in competition with Royce, her other foster father. Eventually, she accepted him, but could still be mouthy and defiant, as if to remind him that she was the boss of all relationships.
Emmett could cause trouble in his own way. The second youngest of 13 siblings, he had essentially been raised by his older brothers and sisters. His parents had paused in their fighting only long enough to drink and have more children. By the time he was five years old, Emmett had learned to be as quiet and still as possible, so as not to draw attention to himself. Every year he came close to failing the grade, and every year he squeaked through. Because he never actually did anything that could get him into trouble, he just sort of fell through the cracks. The McCarty siblings managed to hold it all together until the night his mother shot his father before turning the gun on herself.
Her suicide attempt failed, but the family came to the attention of social services for the first time. Despite a quick placement with this family, and Carlisle and Esme's gentle encouragement, he remained extremely lazy towards his schoolwork and life in general. His relationship with Rosalie had improved him quite a bit, but he was still just sliding through. While the rest of us were already thinking about college, it was going to be a miracle if Emmett even made it out of high school. He had already failed two years, and was the largest kid in school.
He treated me to a goofy grin. "Hey Alice, where you been? Off being naughty with Eddie?"
I rolled my eyes. Just because Emmett had found Rosalie, he was forever hoping that I would hook up with Edward. I loved my brother, but the thought actually dating him made me shudder. Actually, I had never dated anyone. Despite what everyone thought, it wasn't my past that kept me from looking for a boyfriend. I just knew that the right guy was out there, waiting, and I wanted to be free for when I found him. I felt like I half knew him already, and it wasn't Edward. I had learned long ago that my intuition was better than most, and that I needed to trust in it. My man was coming, and I was willing to wait eternity for him, if that was what it took. Plus, I was well aware that Edward had been mooning over Chief Swan's daughter for the past three weeks, ever since she moved here from Phoenix. How no one else in the family noticed was beyond me, but then, Edward and I had always had a special bond.
"Edward, now!" Carlisle's voice was loud, but indulgent. He knew as well as I did that Edward had probably gotten distracted with his piano, and missed the first call. My brother was easily the most talented person I had ever met, able to play a piece after hearing it just a few times. By the age of 13, he was already composing his own music, creating a special piece for everyone in the family. My music was quick and light, never repeating itself.
It took a few minutes more, but he finally appeared, green eyes distant as he mentally reviewed what he had been working on. Rosalie snorted. "Finally."
Edward and Rosalie had never gotten along, for reasons that no one could quite figure out. In Edward's opinion, Rosalie was a shallow, stuck up bitch. To hear Rosalie tell it, Edward was an arrogant, controlling brat. I personally felt that Rosalie was a little bit jealous of Edward and his tight relationship with our parents, though I knew she would die before admitting such a thing out loud. So instead she terrorized him in small ways, always going out of her way to make him angry. He responded by doing nasty, childish things back. The 5 years since they had joined our family had done nothing but increase the animosity they felt towards each other, until it was something like living in the middle of a war zone.
Edward opened his mouth to reply, but was cut off by Carlisle. "Knock it off, both of you. Now, I'm sure you're all wondering why I've called you here. Today I got a call from the Mr. Volturi, the head of social services."
Rosalie interrupted. "No way, no way. I don't want any more little snot nosed brats in the house. Esme can't handle another kid, and it would end up being me and Alice doing all of the work. So, no way, the answer is no."
Our father raised an eyebrow, ever patient with Rose and her moods. "Are you quite finished?" At her nod, he continued. "I know all of you are aware of the recent events that took place within the foster care system."
None of us needed to ask what had happened. A scandal had erupted last month, when a foster child had been taken to the hospital in critical condition after suffering a severe head injury in the home. A subsequent check revealed horrendous abuse and neglect involving every one of the 9 children in the home, ranging in age from 9 months up to 17 years. They had essentially lived like animals, scrounging for food and a clean place to sleep. If I recalled correctly, it was the oldest boy who had been injured while trying to protect a smaller child. The details were still emerging, but according to several children, the boy had been hit several times with a poker from the fireplace, fracturing his skull in at least four places. There had been question in the beginning if he would even live, or if he did, what sort of functioning he might have. The public was calling for a complete overhaul of the foster care system, as well as a detailed look into how such a thing could have happened right under social services nose. Due to the ages of the kids involved, no names or identifying details had been released or would be until the trial was over.
"Yes, do they want us to speak?" Edwards question wasn't as out of place as it might sound to an outsider. Because of Carlisle's position of chief of surgery at the hospital, he was frequently doing fundraisers for the foster care system. It always looked good to have his success stories stand up and say a few words about how our lives had changed for the better. Each one of us had a carefully memorized speech ready at all times.
"No." Carlisle eased from foot to foot, looking down. I had never seen my father so nervous, and it was making me uncomfortable as well. "As you know, alternate homes were found for 8 of the 9 children involved. The only one not placed was the boy who was hurt, due to the severity of his head injury. Well, he's ready to be released, and Demitri Volturi would like for me to take him on short term. I told him that I couldn't make a decision without consulting my family first, so I wanted to hear your opinions."
We all started talking at once, including Esme, so quickly that Carlisle couldn't pick out one question from the mess. "Ok, one at a time. Emmett?"
Emmett shrugged. "Where's he going to sleep?"
"The bedroom next to Esme's and mine. Rosalie?"
"You said 'short term'. How long is that?"
He sighed. "I don't know. He's 17 now, and will be 18 in three months. Legally, I can only keep him until then. After that, it's going to be up to him. Edward?"
"How bad is he?" It was a fair question. Edward had been in the family the longest, long enough to remember each new sibling and foster sibling as they came. Every one of us came with varying degrees of baggage, from learning disabilities, to bedwetting and temper tantrums. Some suffered physical abuse, some sexual. A few children had been so damaged, so violent that Carlisle had been unable to keep them in the home. I'm sure this boy came with his fair share of problems, but Edward didn't care about those. He just wanted to know if this stranger was even remotely fixable, or if we would be providing hot meals and a place to stay until he hit 18 and freedom.
"I don't know. I haven't met him yet, just read his report. I don't see any major red flags, but he's been through a lot. He's smart, and he likes animals and music. Maybe you two will have something in common. Absolutely no history of any violence"
Esme broke in. "Did you bring his report home?"
"Yes." He reached into his briefcase and pulled out a thick file. The size told me a few things right off the bat. That this kid, whomever he was, had been in the system a long time. Some of those papers were undoubtedly from this last hospitalization, but others would be evaluations and observations, notes from each home he had been in. Esme and Carlisle would go over it tonight, doing their best to read between the lines.
I had seen my own file as well as those of my siblings, and had come to the conclusion that dealing with foster children was like selling a used car. You had to find a way to make all of our dings and scratches sound positive. Emmett's, for example, went on and on about how well he got along with other children, conveniently forgetting to mention that he did it by fading into the background. Rosalie's talked about her being a strong leader, never saying that she could rage for days when she didn't get her way. Still, you don't have as many kids go through you home as Carlisle and Esme had without knowing what to look for.
"Alice? Did you have something you wanted to ask?" Belatedly, I realized that they were all staring at me.
My mind spun, but I could only think of one thing. One question that would change this person from an abstraction on the news to a human being who needed a family. "What's his name?"
Carlisle smiled gently at me. "Jasper. Jasper Whitlock."