Bridge is 6, Heart is nearly 2, Rocky, Adam, and Aisha are 38, Zack is 39.

For Challon, because her love for the Carson family and their name inspired this, and phantom_blue, for yelling at me for making Bridge cry before deciding it was okay after all, and helping explain how Bridge was born.

"Freak," Parker Morris sneered at him.

Bridge frowned, lifting his chin. He wouldn't cry - not after what had happened the last time he'd cried in school. He didn't want Sky and Elizabeth to get in trouble no more. "Am not," he protested.

"Are too," Parker insisted. "Only freaks get 'dopted, 'cause their real parents don't want 'em."

He blinked. "'dopted?" he echoed uncertainly.

Parker rolled his eyes. "You stupid or somethin'?" he demanded. "You and your daddy don't look nothin' alike. He's black. He can't be your real daddy, which means you're 'dopted." He smirked. "Which means your real parents didn' want you. 'Cause you're de ... defec-chive."

Bridge stared, trying to keep his lip from trembling as his eyes watered. "A ... am not," he mumbled, sniffling a little.

"Are so. Baby," Parker taunted. "Dontcha know nothin'? When you don' look like your parents it's cause you're 'dopted."

He blinked again, swallowing. Daddy Adam always said that he looked like Daddy Rocky, but ... he didn't see it. No one else ever really did, either. He was ... 'dopted?

He scrunched his eyes shut, clenched his fists, and glared when he opened them again. "Shut up!" he yelled back. "You're the one who don' know nothin'!"

He turned and ran for Miss Malkin.

He waited patiently for Miss Malkin to notice him, shifting back and forth from one foot to the other. Miss Malkin would make it all better. That's what teachers were for. Daddy Adam said so.

She turned over the last paper she'd been grading, setting down her pen and looking up to offer him a smile. "What is it, Bridge?"

He swallowed hard. "Miss Malkin, Parker said I'm ... 'dopted, 'cause I don' look like my daddy." He paused, frowning. "What's 'dopted mean?"

Her smile faded, and she sighed quietly. After a moment, she leaned forward to look him in the eyes. "Adopted," she clarified gently, "Is when a child's family can't take care of them anymore, so they give them to another family to take care of them instead."

He blinked for a moment. "Why can't they take care of 'em?"

"There's a lot of reasons. It depends on the family, really." She reached out to touch his shoulder, giving him that look he sometimes got from his aunts and uncles when his powers went bad. "But Bridge, this is really something you should be asking your parents about. They can explain better than I can."

"They can?" He frowned again.

She smiled sadly, and he thought he felt her aura flicker a little. "They'll be able to help you understand, Bridge. That's what family is for." She said the word 'family' special, like it was important.

He nodded slowly. "Thank you, Miss Malkin," he added in afterthought, because Mama and Daddy Adam would want him to be polite.

"You're welcome, Bridge."

He wandered back toward to the playground, lost in thought. He was adopted? Mama and Daddy and Daddy and Daddy weren't his real parents? But ... they were the only parents he'd ever had. At least, the only ones he remembered. Maybe he forgot his real parents? If he was real small when they gave him away, that might explain it.

But why didn't Mama or any of his daddies say so? Was ... was there something wrong with his real parents? Were they bad people? Were they mean to him? He'd heard stories, about parents who hurt their kids, but none of his parents would ever hurt him.

Unless they took him away from the bad people who were his real parents.

He frowned more. Parker said that you got adopted when you were defec-chive. Did they think he was defec-chive, and that's why Mama and Daddy and Daddy and Daddy took him? They always said nothing was wrong with him, but ...

He lifted his hands, staring at the gloves covering his palms. Defec-chive ... That must've been it. His real parents didn' want him 'cause he was defec-chive.

He sniffled, vaguely aware that everything was getting blurry. He shouldn't cry. His real parents didn't love him, but his new ones did, right? Of course they did.


He jumped, looking up to see Sky and Elizabeth staring at him. Sky was frowning. "What's wrong?"

"Who hurt you?" Elizabeth demanded. "We'll make 'em sorry!"

He shook his head, sniffling again as he tried to wipe his eyes. "S'okay ... " he mumbled, hiccupping softly. "Nobody ... nobody hurt me."

Elizabeth scowled. "Then why 're you crying?" She paused, hesitated, and looked at Sky.

Sky stepped closer and gave him a hug. "You need a wall?" he offered hesitantly.

Bridge shook his head, trying to smile. He wiped at his eyes again, but the tears wouldn't stop. "S'not ... S'not that." He wiggled his right hand feebly to show what he meant.

Immediately Elizabeth moved to his other side, wrapping him in an even tighter hug. "Then what's wrong?" she asked, sounding worried now.

He shook his head again. "I ... I'm .... "

He dissolved into sobs.