AN- Long-ass author's note...
I have been horribly remiss, because I have not thanked my lovely beta in the last two chapters. Poor girl. She had no warning whatsoever about the impending angst, just like you. She was up in the middle of the night, editing my mistakes while I ripped her heart out. She deserves insane amounts of kudos! Luv ya, gottriplets!
I've had a few people ask me now about the quote that I put in my author's notes for the last two chapters- where it came from and why I didn't credit it. Um, that's because it wasn't a quote, per say. It wasn't said by anyone special at least, it was just me, trying to make a point ;) I actually looked for a real quote that would mean something, but nothing I found quite fit. So, there you go...
Next, the lovely Parmelde Lorntiere did me the incredible honor of writing her own one-shot from my AFS 'verse! It's called "Stitches" and is posted here on FF. It is just the sweetest thing, written from my little AU in her own adorable style. You must check it out and give her lots of love :)
In this chapter, there is going to be a letter, written by Elliott. This letter is legit from a real, live first grader. It is based off of the wording and spelling of my seven-year-old. My son, who is entirely my inspiration for Elliott, in fact. For those of you who love our Elly, thanks :) That's my precious kiddo!
Finally, with the insanity of writing numerous multi-chapter fics, I have completely lost the ability to respond to all of your reviews separately. I've tried hard to answer specific questions, and have connected with many of you on Tumblr or Facebook, but I wanted to take a moment and let you all know how very much I appreciate you. All of you. You're freaking fabulous!
Addy and Elliott were crouched down together in front of the coffee table in the living room. It was a little after five in the morning, long before everyone else in the house would be up- though ever since Greyson had come home that schedule was slightly less predictable. Elliott was leaning over a piece of paper from one of Daddy Kurt's legal pads, writing with heavy concentration as the tip of his tongue poked from the corner of his mouth. Addy was kneeling next to him, sucking on her thumb and twisting one of her long curls absentmindedly while she watched her brother. After a few moments, she leaned over impatiently.
"I can't understand you, Addy."
She popped her thumb out of her mouth, wiping it on her nightgown, and making a face at the small string of saliva that wouldn't disconnect.
"What's it say?"
"That's all you got? Write faster, Elly! Everyone else'll be awake soon and it's supposed to be a secret!"
Elly sighed patiently as he continued to work.
"If you can write faster than me, then you go ahead and do it."
"You know you write words better than me, E. Miss Ashley says my words aren't eligible."
"Then be patient with me... and I think she meant legible. 'N you just have to keep practicing, A. You'll be great at writing words someday."
Addy sighed and leaned against her brother's shoulder.
"Thanks. You're the best brother ever."
"Not really, I just love you, Addy."
"Yes really, and I love you, too."
There was silence for a moment as Elly continued to work.
"Now what do you have?"
Elliott resisted rolling his eyes.
"Why don't you just read it?"
"Fiiiine," she sighed in exaggeration. "Dear... San... ta... we... have... been... ve-ve-ve-"
"I was getting there! Now it's your turn to be patient!"
Addy humphed, but smiled when Elliott kissed her cheek.
"Forgiven. *ahem* Very... even though I woulda figured it out all by myself... good. Um, have we?"
"Have we what?"
"Have we been good?"
"I dunno about you, but I think I've been decently good."
Addy slumped to the floor, wringing the hem of her nightgown in distress.
"It's easier for you! You're good just anatomically!"
"Stop fixing all my words! You knew what I meant!"
Elliott blushed and grimaced.
Addy just gave him a look of irritation before storming on.
"I don't mean to be naughty, but sometimes it just slips out of me! I get all full of jumpy, happy feelings and I can't help it! I do stuff without thinkin'!"
"'Member when I broke Daddy K's mug when I was dancing? 'Member when I was skipping and holding Daddy B's hand and I got too 'cited and I pulled us both down in the mud? 'Member when I dropped Mr. Hoppy in the house and almost made it so Squishy didn't give us our Nugget?"
Elliott scratched his head with a wrinkled nose.
"That doesn't sound naughty to me, Addy. That just sounds clumsy. I don't think Santa puts you on the naughty list for being clumsy."
"I'm not clumsy!"
Elliott cocked his head to the side and gave his sister a look that said, 'Really? Really?'
Addy huffed again and crossed her arms.
"Fine. I'm clumsy."
Elliott sagged a bit, seeing how distressed she was.
"Hey. You're not clumsy. You juuuust... you need to work on your balance a little."
Addy looked at him cautiously.
"You think so?"
"Thanks, El! Well, if you really think I haven't been naughty..."
"You haven't been, Addy. When you did all those things you were happy, and just having fun, and bein' a kid. Daddies always tell us that it's our job to just be kids. How could that be called naughty?"
Addy considered this for a moment before brightening considerably.
"You're right! Okay, let's move on."
"K, what do we want it to say? Should it just say exactly what we talked about last night at Grandma and Grandpa's?"
Addy nodded carefully.
"Yeah, I think so. Just use the word please a lot. We're askin' for a super, duper big present, and if we don't say please lots of times we might sound greedy."
Elliott nodded quickly in agreement, then bent over the paper once more, tongue sticking out again in concentration. After a few minutes, wherein Addy kept leaning over the paper impatiently and Elly would gently elbow her back, he sat back with a satisfied sigh.
Addy looked it over now with an uninterrupted and critical eye.
Elliott chewed his lip nervously.
"Do you think this is something Santa can actually do, A?"
"Santa's magic, Elliott!" Addy exclaimed with a roll of her eyes. "He can do anything!"
Elliott squirmed for a moment. He was such an irrevocably logical child. Believing in anything that wasn't right in front of his face was incredibly difficult for him. Addy's automatic belief and delight in anything magical or miraculous had never failed to boggle his mind, and even though he was trying desperately to hold onto his own belief of Santa, it wasn't easy. There was just too much evidence to the contrary. For the past two Christmases he had been growing more and more suspicious that it was all a farce.
This year though... this year he wanted his Christmas wish to come true so desperately. He was willing to suspend his disbelief, and ask the man, whose very existence he was doubtful of, for the one thing that his heart desired. The one thing that he knew no normal person on this Earth could give him.
He was willing to ask, and he was willing to try, but he was still struggling. It just didn't make sense to his overly-logical brain.
He stopped his uncomfortable squirming when Addy took his hands in hers, and looked up in surprise when she leaned in so that they were nose-to-nose.
"I can see your brain workin'. Like Daddy B says, smoke is gonna come out of your ears if you don't stop it."
Elliott grinned a little. Daddy Blaine always said that about him and Daddy Kurt when they would over-think things.
"Stop thinkin' so much, E. Just believe in Santa. He can do this."
Addy sat back a bit with a bright smile, but Elliott just looked at her uncertainly.
"Why is it so easy for you, Addy? Don't you find it hard to believe? For real, how can one man make Christmas happen for every single kid in the entire world? Don't you wonder about how he does it?"
Addy smirked and leaned back on her palms.
"This is one thing that I am smarter at than you, so listen up."
Elliott smirked back, but nodded good-naturedly. Addy wasn't lying. She was definitely better than him when it came to stuff like this. Adelaide leaned forward again, taking Elliott's face gently between her hands.
"That's not the point of magic stuff, E. You can't understand it in your brain. You just hafta believe."
"Adelaide! I just think-"
They stared at each other. Elliott was glaring at his sister in exasperation, but she was just gazing back contentedly, a slightly smug smile on her face.
After a moment, Elliott's irritation broke, and he just stared at his sister in wonder. There was such peacefulness in her expression. There was such joy there.
Maybe, just maybe, he could truly suspend his disbelief. Things sure looked a lot more enjoyable from Addy's point of view.
At the very least, he could try. This Christmas wish would be worth it.
"Alright, sissy," he whispered.
They watched each other once again, only now it was with mournful faces. Elliott didn't normally call her sissy. Liam always had. Her large hazel eyes shimmered a bit with tears, thinking about their little brother, whom they just wanted to come back home. She leaned in, pulling Elliott into a hug.
The doctor groaned into his pillow, swatting a hand toward the voice murmuring in his ear. Greyson had been up no less than six times in the night and he had only fallen back asleep about twenty minutes ago.
"Kurt! Stop it! You just smacked me in the face!"
Kurt groaned again and sat up, bleary eyed and confused.
"What? Why in the name of all that is holy would you be waking me up when we still have an hour before the kids have to start getting ready?!"
"I hear voices in the living room. God, you're grumpy this morning!"
Kurt felt guilt stab at him when he wiped the sleep from his eyes and saw the exhaustion and hurt on Blaine's face. They were too recently mended for him to be an irrational ass like this, no matter how tired he was. He heaved a sigh, then grasped the back of Blaine's neck gently and leaned in for a kiss.
"I'm sorry, baby. I seriously just fell asleep again. I'm just tired is all."
Blaine sank into the kiss gratefully, not wanting another fight.
"I know. It's fine. I'm tired, too. Seriously though, babe... there are voices in the living room. I think our twins are up."
Kurt sat up a bit, and listened carefully.
"Huh, I think you're right. That's odd. We're normally dragging them both out of bed in the mornings.
"Let's go out together and check on them," Blaine patted Kurt on the back before climbing from bed. "We haven't connected with just the two of them lately. I'm feeling a little remiss in my fathering duties."
Kurt eyed Blaine lovingly, knowing that the idea of his husband being remiss as a father was ridiculous, before stumbling out of bed himself.
They headed to the living room to find both of their first graders whispering urgently over something sitting on the coffee table.
"Hey, kids," Blaine called out softly.
They jumped to their feet with wide eyes, and Elliott shoved something that crinkled into his pocket.
Kurt and Blaine looked at each other, trying to hold back their combined amusement and curiosity.
"What are you guys up to?" Kurt asked, stepping forward to sit on the couch and holding his arms out to Elliott. The seven-year-old smiled as he climbed into his father's lap. Blaine sat down next to Kurt, snuggling into his side, and reached out for Addy. She bounced onto his lap with a happy grin.
"You gonna answer daddy, guys?" Blaine leaned down sleepily against Kurt's shoulder, running his fingers through Addy's tangles.
Addy and Elly looked at each other nervously.
"I don't know if we're allowed to tell you, daddies," Addy began anxiously.
"Okaaay," Kurt looked between the two of them, trying to read what was going on. "What in the world would you not be able to talk to us about?"
"It's about Santa and magic stuff," Addy replied in a firm voice.
Kurt could feel Blaine tensing beside him and knew that his husband was working hard to not laugh at the adorable certainty in Addy's voice.
Elliott glanced down, and then up to Kurt cautiously. It was obvious that he cared deeply how his more scientifically-minded father would respond to this statement.
Kurt just gave him a serene smile and brushed back the little thatch of hair that continually insisted on flopping all the way down into Elly's eyes.
"That sounds like fun stuff. How come you can't tell us?"
Elliott sank against his father in relief, and Kurt hugged him tight, knowing exactly what was going on in his head. He knew his son well. Elliott was basically him.
"Aren't Santa letters just supposed to go straight to Santa? I don't think mommies or daddies are allowed to read them. It makes them less... magic."
Elliott hesitated slightly with that word, magic, but gave in, knowing that this had to be an all or nothing thing.
Both Kurt and Blaine were silent for a moment, trying to consider their answer.
"Well, guys," Blaine started slowly. "The thing is, parents have a deal worked out with Santa. We work together sometimes on what your Christmas wishes are. Santa has a really big job, getting presents for the whole world, so mommies and daddies help out sometimes. It's actually a good thing if you tell us what you want."
Elliott perked significantly. This added piece of information was like a balm for his over-active brain. Just the right amount of common sense mixed with the fairytale side of life. He turned to Addy, who was sucking her thumb again anxiously.
"Well, maybe it wouldn't hurt to show daddies, A."
Both fathers held in their smiles once again at this. It had come to their attention that their 'twins' had started calling each other A and E, lately. Also their own titles had been shortened to Daddy K and Daddy B some of the time. It was the first type of nicknames that Addy and Elly had come up with completely on their own, and they absolutely loved it.
Adelaide popped her thumb out of her mouth.
"But daddies won't be able to get us this, El! It's too big! That's why we're asking Santa!"
"I know, Addy, but... it's daddies. We never keep stuff from daddies."
Kurt and Blaine watched in silence, not really wanting to interfere or push further. They honestly hadn't meant to make a big deal of this, but they knew that if the kids kept their letter to Santa a secret- there was little they could do to actually purchase the requested gifts. They were also wondering what type of present they were asking for if not even they could afford it.
Addy chewed her lip indecisively, before nodding her assent. Elliott slowly reached into the pocket of his pajamas, and handed Kurt a piece of now wrinkled paper. Kurt shot both kids a smile before carefully opening the letter. Blaine nuzzled down further into Kurt's shoulder to look on, and Kurt reached his arm behind his husband, looping it around his waist and pulling him in so that they were all snuggled up together. He held the paper out in front of them, so that both he and Blaine could read silently.
We have been very good. We are asking for sumpthing very big this yeer. Our litel bruthr and sistr were takin away. We are very very sad. Pleez pleez pleez pleez give us bear and goobr back. We dont need any othr presents. We can have no presents next yeer to. Pleez pleez pleez! Thank you in advantz.
We love you Santa. Thank you for your considrashun.
Elliott and Adelaide Hummel
P.S. This is just Elliott now. I am werking supr, supr hard to belev. Promis.
By the time they were done reading, they were both pretty much speechless. They found that they were clutching the kids to them probably a little too tightly when Addy let out a choked squeak and Elly gasped out a, "Too tight, daddy."
Blaine found his voice first.
"Guys, this is... just... the most selfless and amazing present you could have asked for."
"What's selfless?" Addy asked around her thumb. Kurt reached over and gently pulled her hand from her mouth as a reminder that she was too old for that.
"Selfless just means that you think about other people more than you think about yourself."
"But asking for Tia and Liam IS for us," Elly answered in confusion. "We miss them, daddy! It's not fair! Their daddy HAD a chance but he didn't come to take them away until they were already ours!"
"Elliott, Adelaide," Kurt sighed heavily, taking a moment to calm himself, knowing that his emotions were so close to the surface right now. "Do you guys remember when we first talked about doing foster care? We said that these kids would most likely just be with us temporarily. We knew that this could happen."
"We know that," Elliott sniffed. "But we also know that Tia and Liam want to be with us. They don't want to be with their real daddy."
"Yeah," Addy piped up with bottom lip trembling. "We could hear them crying from all the way in the house with Grandpa."
"Well," Blaine choked out, hardly able to hold his rational stance when his children were so upset. "Unfortunately, it's just not up to us. That's how this kind of stuff works. Daddy and I wish, just like you, that we could keep them forever like we planned. Their real daddy is here now though, and he really does love them, guys. He's going to take care of them."
Kurt's grip around Blaine's waist tightened in that moment, and they both knew that it was because they were desperately hoping that this was actually true. They knew nothing at all about the man who had come to take their two babies away.
Addy and Elly sat still, absorbing this information. Kurt fingered the crinkled letter in his hand.
"Guys, one more thing. This letter to Santa, it is one of the most wonderful things I've ever read. I love it. I know daddy does, too."
Blaine nodded quickly with a watery smile for both kids.
"The thing you guys have to understand, is that Santa doesn't have any more control over how foster care works than we do. Santa's magic doesn't quite work like that. Some things... they're just too big for someone even as amazing as Santa."
"Nu-uh!" Addy shook her head quickly, tears spilling from her eyes. "That's not true, daddy! Last year, Jayme's mommy was really sick, 'member? She asked Santa to make her mommy better and her mommy got all better. I asked you if Santa did it and you said yes!"
In that moment, Kurt really wanted to reach back in time and smack some sense into himself.
Indeed, Addy's friend's mom had been quite sick last year. The woman wasn't an actual patient of Kurt's, but he knew who she was through the hospital network. She had been diagnosed with a sudden illness, and had gone downhill rather quickly. Blaine had been on the night shift when she had been rushed into the emergency one night, and had come home to tell Kurt about it, heartbroken for the sake of Addy's friend.
Just when time was running out though, and right before Christmas no less, a new drug had been cleared for a trial at the hospital, a drug that had a fighting chance of curing her. The girl's mother had fit all the requirements, and been squeezed into the trial just in the nick of time.
The drug had worked. She had even made it home for Christmas. It was one of those cheer-worthy moments at the hospital. They had even thrown a little party.
Kurt had come home that night, overjoyed- to tell his daughter that her friend's mom would be okay. When Addy had told him of Jayme's wish, and asked him if Santa did it, Kurt had been so caught up in the magic of the moment that he had told her, "Of course it was Santa! It was a magical Christmas miracle!"
Now he was really wishing he had thought it through just a bit more. He stared into those bright hazel eyes, then looked over into Elliott's baby blues. They were both hanging on his response. He couldn't bear to give them false hope. He also couldn't bear to crush their dreams. Thankfully, Blaine saved the day.
"Listen, guys," he sidled up into Kurt's side a bit more, allowing his husband to put both arms around him, while pulling Elliott over so that both kids were on his lap. "You are absolutely right, Addy. Every once in a while, something extra special and magical can happen. Sometimes Santa can choose to do something extraordinary for kids for Christmas. You have to understand how rare that is though. He can't do it for every single kid... and sometimes... there is a reason we don't get the things we ask for. Sometimes there are things going on that we just don't understand, and it wouldn't end up being right for us to get our way. I know that we miss Tia and Liam, but we're not the only ones who care about them. Their daddy really does care about them too. We have to give him this chance. Maybe Santa won't give you this wish, but it isn't because he doesn't want to, or because you haven't been good, or even because he can't. Maybe it's just more important for them to be where they are."
Addy looked absolutely crushed. Elliott looked defeated. Blaine and Kurt just wanted to cry.
Suddenly, Addy sat up straight, with a determined look on her little, pixie face.
"No. I'm not givin' up! You said that he MIGHT not give us our wish. That means he might decide to give it to us. SOMEone's special miracle wish has to come true! Maybe it'll be me and Elly's!"
Elliott was watching her with wide eyes, looking like he wanted so desperately to side with her, but just wasn't sure. Addy snatched the letter from Kurt's hand and slapped it against his chest.
"Will you please mail this daddy?"
When Kurt sighed and opened his mouth to argue, she hopped down from Blaine's lap with a cross look and a flip of her hair.
"Don't even start, daddy! I'm believin' this! You can't stop me! Come on, Elly!"
Elliott watched his fathers uncertainly. Addy rarely took charge when it came to the two of them, but when she did he was always quick to follow. She was quite the force to be reckoned with. He shrugged his slight shoulders and hopped down too, following her to their rooms to get ready for school.
Both fathers watched with mouths hanging open as their kids walked away.
Blaine turned to Kurt, trying to hold in his laughter.
"How in the world did my biological daughter get your extreme stubbornness?"
Kurt smirked, dropping the letter into Blaine's lap as he squeezed his husband close.
"Well, she's using my stubbornness to back up your whimsy. I'd say she ended up as a good combination of the two of us."
With a kiss on Blaine's cheek, he stood, knowing that they needed to start getting everyone ready. Finn and Nick were both planning on coming by later that day after Addy and Elly went to school.
"Oh, and honey?" He called as he backed away, pointing to the letter he had dropped in Blaine's lap. "Don't forget to put an extra stamp or two on that when you mail it. The kids are right about one thing, at this point Santa is our only chance. I don't want to risk it not getting to his workshop for lack of postage."
"How were they?"
Finn, Nick, Kurt and Blaine were all sitting around the kitchen table. Nick was happily holding a sleeping Greyson in his arms, and Brandi was sitting on Kurt's knee with an arm around his shoulders. He was holding her close, so thankful that she wasn't pushing away from them. They wished she didn't have to be a part of these tough conversations, but they knew that they would be doing her more harm than good to refuse for her to hear the truth about her own brother and sister.
"They were... okay," Finn answered slowly. "They were upset, of course. I can tell you though... that he really is trying. He may be new to this, and he may have gone about this the wrong way, but I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that he wants this to work. He wants to be a good dad. He just... needs some help."
Blaine and Kurt looked at each other, both feeling as if something horrible and heavy was sitting in the pits of their stomachs. They both knew what they had to do, but it felt- as if they were signing their own death warrants.
"Well," Kurt said roughly, "that's what our visits will be for, right? We'll help him. When we visit we'll show him what we know. Help them to adjust to each other. We can help to show the kids that he's not the bad guy, just because he's not us."
Blaine nodded quickly in agreement, though it was obvious that he was holding back some tears. Nick was watching his friends in awe, wondering if he would be able to be so strong in their position. Finn smiled sadly, but gratefully, not expecting anything less of his brother and brother-in-law.
"Speaking of those visits," Blaine's voice as strained, and he stopped to take a deep breath before continuing. "When do we get to start? How often? How long will he be in town?"
"He is required to stay in town for two months so that we can monitor the situation and make sure that the kids are okay. You guys will be given bi-weekly visits for the first month. We may taper them off before the end. The kids are obviously incredibly attached to you, and there is no easy way to make this change. We need to do what is best for them in the long run, and weaning them from you is the best we'll be able to do."
Brandi stiffened in Kurt's arms and turned to Finn.
"What about me?"
Finn looked at her in surprise.
"What do you mean exactly, sweetie?"
"I'm their sister. Just because they're being taken away from dads doesn't mean they should be taken away from me. I should get the right to visit them too."
Finn nodded with an encouraging smile.
"You're right about that. Usually in these cases we do our best to make sure that visits can still happen between siblings. I don't think Mr. Scott will object to that. You can go along with your dads when they visit for now, and maybe we can work something out so that you can go see them once they move. I don't think we'll have you go today, but I'll try to plan a visit just for you this week, and then you can join your dads for their other visits. We will work something out for you to see them once they're gone though, okay?"
She stiffened even further, glancing at Nick. The lawyer watched her carefully, gauging how much she wanted him to say out loud.
"What's going on?" Blaine asked warily, taking in the almost visible tension that had suddenly settled at the table.
Nick looked at Brandi evenly, clearly not willing to speak unless she gave him permission, but also obviously willing her to just out with it, and be honest with her fathers. She looked back, glaring slightly. She didn't want to say anything until she herself knew what was going to happen. She turned to look at Kurt and Blaine then though, and the confusion and pain she saw broke her.
They were hurting just as much as she was over losing Tia and Liam, and her secretiveness was not helping matters. They had done so much for her. Taken her in when she had no one else. They had supported and loved her in ways that she had never had before. She sagged into Kurt's side, hugging him tightly around his shoulders.
"Go ahead," she whispered. "We can tell them everything."
Kurt and Blaine looked on with wide eyes. Kurt clung tightly to his daughter. Out of nowhere, fears of her trying to find a way to remove herself from their custody, telling Nick that she no longer wished for them to adopt her, flashed through his mind. He knew that he couldn't handle losing one more child.
"Your daughter," Nick began, a soft smile on his face as he looked at Brandi, "has asked about retaining my services to see what her rights are concerning her brother and sister."
Finn looked at the girl in shock and leaned forward.
"Brandi, why didn't you come to me? My job is to not only look after Tia and Liam, but you, too. I can do everything in my power to make sure that you still see them.
Brandi looked uncomfortable and glanced to Nick. The lawyer adjusted Greyson slightly on his shoulder and spoke carefully.
"I think, Finn, that she just wanted to make sure she was taking every precaution. She was hoping that if there was actually something that might be done to keep her siblings with her, she would have the law behind her."
Finn, Kurt and Blaine all turned slowly to look at Brandi, with more than a little awe on their faces. She sat stiffly on Kurt's lap, tucking her thin hands between her knees self-consciously.
"I'm just doing everything I can to make sure they're okay. I'm not helpless anymore, Grandma reminded me of that. I'm the one steady thing Tia and Liam have had- their whole lives. I couldn't live with myself if I didn't at least try. I had to try, daddies."
Blaine silently stood from his chair and slipped into one on the other side of Kurt, scooting close to their sides. He wrapped his arms around both of them, successfully squishing Brandi in-between them.
They didn't say anything, just held each other for a moment. They pulled apart a minute later, all a bit teary, but feeling united at least. Blaine linked his fingers with Brandi and Kurt put an arm around them both.
"Well, can we hear what you know?"
Nick sighed, tipping back in his chair slightly before he spoke.
"You need to understand that this isn't necessarily my area of expertise. I know I've helped you with adoption stuff for all your kids, but most of it has been pretty straightforward. Addy, Elly, Brandi... there have been no complications or people contesting your rights. This, however- the whole world of foster care- it's a little bit out of my jurisdiction."
"Understood," Blaine smiled softly.
"Well," Nick nodded, "I'll tell you what I know and Finn can correct me if I'm wrong, because in this case he might actually know more about the law than I."
Finn smirked, reaching for his nephew. Nick handed the baby over with a little pout.
"We'll see, man. I tend to do things my own way and then get yelled at later," Finn shook his head at himself while settling Greyson in his arms.
Kurt smiled, knowing full well how true this was, and sent his brother a little wink.
"Please tell me what you found out, Uncle Nick," Brandi asked quickly, not quite in the mood for the banter that was going around.
"Right," Nick moved on quickly. "Here's what I know. You, Brandi... " he hesitated for a moment before letting out a deep breath. "There are no legal rights that you have as a half-sibling- that could possibly keep them from going with their father. Even with the knowledge that you have given them so much care over the years. The law simply doesn't provide for that. He is their biological father, and unless he shows himself to be unfit in any way, which he hasn't, there is nothing we can do. Not simply on the grounds that they should remain with you because you are their sister. I'm sorry."
Blaine and Kurt both wrapped arms around her, holding her close. She let them, but still sat stiffly as she listened to Nick speak.
"Now," Nick hurried on, "as Finn said, as long as Mr. Scott is agreeable, there should be no problem in making sure that you still see them. Even after they leave the state. If we can work things out and come to an agreement, I don't see why this should be a problem."
Finn nodded quickly.
"Absolutely, Brandi. Tia and Liam's father seems pretty anxious to make this work, and I think by talking to him about how helpful it would be for them to stay connected to you- we should be able to work things out."
"Is that all?" Brandi asked quietly.
Nick sighed heavily, looking to Kurt and Blaine. He seemed to debate quite a bit in his mind before speaking again.
"Yes, honey. As far as your specific rights go."
She nodded, sitting up from Kurt's lap.
"Thank you, Uncle Nick. Can I ask though, if I ever had reason to believe that he wasn't a fit father... would that make any difference?"
They all looked at her in surprise.
"If you ever had any concerns at all, Brandi," Finn spoke carefully, "I can guarantee you that I would take them seriously. Genuine, real concerns, honey."
Brandi nodded seriously, knowing what he was saying. As much as she was dying inside over the thought of losing Tia and Liam, she would never falsely accuse someone. She'd never be able to live with herself. She'd just have to watch this man very carefully, every single chance she got.
"Thank you, both of you," she smiled sadly at Finn and Nick, then turned to her fathers. "I'm gonna go study, okay?"
"Okay, punkin," Blaine stood and pulled her into a hug, which she accepted fully, for which he was grateful.
They were all quiet as she left the room. Kurt and Blaine were feeling so generally defeated that they were actually surprised when Nick spoke up again.
"Listen guys, I didn't want to say anything in front of Brandi, in case it didn't go anywhere, but... there is another possibility. It doesn't stand with Brandi alone though. It stands with the two of you."
"What are you talking about?" Kurt asked quietly.
"Nick," Finn shook his head. "What are you saying? We cannot go down a trail of false hope here. That man is their father. We can't do anything about that."
"I'm not," Nick quickly shook his head. He looked straight at the two men, huddled together and watching him with wide eyes. "Listen. Finn is right. This man is the father. He has custody. There is nothing you can do about that. However... you also need to know that the courts sit in equity, even if the law is not on your side."
"What does that mean, exactly?" Blaine watched his friend cautiously, obviously afraid of getting his hopes up.
"It means, that while, yes, no one can deny the fact that this man is the biological father and has the right to retain full custody of his own children, there is the factor that these children formed not only a significant attachment to you, but also to their sister. Now, if we were just considering the two of you as parents, I'm sorry to say that you probably wouldn't have a leg to stand on. You're foster parents, and this is kind of the deal you get. However, the additional fact that you have custody of Brandi, that you are adopting her, and that she formed such a significant bond over the years with her siblings... that really puts a lot in your favor."
"I don't..." Kurt shook his head, feeling conflicted. "I don't understand. What exactly could we hope for?"
"You could, if you chose," Nick spoke slowly, cautiously, "petition the court for parenting time. You need to understand though, that the odds are not necessarily in your favor. This man has given no indication that he will be an inadequate parent. Your best bet would simply be to let the court see the benefit of having the kids keep in contact with you, not to do it as an attack on Mr. Scott's character or abilities."
Finn watched on cautiously, and glanced up when Kurt looked to him for confirmation. He shrugged non-committally at first, but then gave a short nod, showing that he at least agreed in part.
"What is the likelihood of the court seeing things our way?" Kurt sent Nick an intense look, showing that he did not want to be jerked around. "What things do they consider in a situation like this?"
"Well, first of all we would simply contact Mr. Scott and see if he would be willing to mediate. It would save a lot of time and trouble for everyone involved. If he wasn't though, and it actually went to court, the key thing they would consider is what would be in the best interest of the children."
Kurt and Blaine sank back in their chairs, still feeling defeated, and now unsettled. They had had enough of a taste of the legal system to know that a judge's interpretation of what was best for the child could vary greatly.
"Here's the thing you need to consider guys," Nick spoke again softly, his heart breaking as he did so. "What is in the best interest for the children- needs to be thought out by you, too. You need to evaluate. If you decided to do this, would it be because you genuinely thought it would be the best thing for Tia and Liam, or just because you want them with you? You just... you need to be sure."
Kurt and Blaine looked at each other, knowing that they had never before felt so conflicted.
The thing that killed them- was that, deep down, they knew the answer to that question... and it wasn't the answer they wanted.
Bryan rushed around the apartment, frantically cleaning everything in sight. Well, as best he could with Tia attached to his hip. It amazed him that while she made it quite clear that she didn't really like him; she had decided as of this morning that she would not be happy unless she was being held.
He stopped in his tracks when she started fussing- to fill her cup with juice, and gazed around the messy apartment in despair. How in the world did things get so messy so easily?! How in the world did two tiny children create such chaos?!
He knew that the kids were already his, that technically they weren't coming to judge him and his abilities, but it sure felt that way. Everything about these men was perfect; from their marriage, to their jobs, to their house, to the way they fathered. There was no way they would walk in here today and not judge him. Hell, maybe Mr. Hudson would take one look at how much Bryan was struggling, watch the automatic connection that he just knew would happen with the kids once Mr. and Mr. Perfect walked into the room, and snatch Tia and Liam away.
In a brief, guilty moment, he wondered if it would just be for the best.
The doorbell rang, and he sagged against the wall. He huffed out a deep breath and pushed himself to answer, a crying Tia on his hip. He put his hand on the door, trying to steady his wracked nerves. He couldn't help the depressing thought that popped into his head when his hand closed around the doorknob.
Here we go. Let the judgment begin.
Bryan sank down slowly to the floor, basically feeling numb.
He had fully prepared himself for two hours of judgmental looks, snide comments, and exaggerated sighs from the expert fathers... all while being looked down upon as the world's greatest social worker took thorough notes in a chart concerning his lack of abilities.
What he had gotten- had been the complete opposite.
Yes, Tia and Liam had run to their prior foster fathers and leapt in their arms the moment the door opened, crying that they just wanted to go home, but that was where things had stopped going the way Bryan had imagined.
After hugging the children close and telling them how loved they were, the two husbands had sat down with Bryan... and had actually asked him how he was doing.
Bryan had just stared at them at first, having no idea how to respond. Surely they couldn't be genuine. He had just watched, only a day ago, as both of these men came close to breaking down emotionally as he drove away with 'their children'- particularly the shorter of the two. He had seemed ready to get on his knees and beg Bryan to not take Tia and Liam away.
Bryan was actually pretty sure he would have broken himself had that happened, and was quite thankful it hadn't.
But there they were, still looking hurt, still looking as if they just wanted to snatch these kids up and take them home that very moment, yet they were instead asking how Bryan was doing.
Then they had gone on to ask if there was any way in which they could help. Fucking help.
At first Bryan had just shrugged uncomfortably, saying that he was fine. That the kids were fine, but Finn had stepped forward. The social worker had looked straight into Bryan's eyes and said that this was not the time to be proud, that the Hummels only wanted to make things easier.
Bryan had stiffened, wanting nothing more than for these men to just leave. He couldn't stand the fact that not only had he broken apart their happy family, he was now a miserable failure. If he admitted that he needed help, it would be like saying that their heartache had been in vain.
When he looked into their eyes though, he saw so much compassion and understanding. It knocked him off his feet. He took a deep breath, swallowed his pride, and did what he needed to do as a father. He spoke in a quiet voice as he looked at the ground.
"Can you show me what it means to make them a baby burrito in a blanket?"
They had both broken into smiles, and gone on to answer every question under the sun.
They showed him how to tuck them in at night.
They showed him how to do Tia's pigtails.
They showed him how to get them to eat.
They taught him their songs.
They showed him how to fasten those darn clasps on Tia's overalls.
They showed him everything.
Then they had left, both obviously working hard to hold in their tears as the children begged to just be taken home... taken to their real home.
Bryan had done his best to console the sobbing children, while watching out the window as the two husbands held each other in the parking lot. He was pretty sure they were sobbing too.
They had helped him so much. They had shown him everything... except for the one thing that he knew was missing. The one thing he figured probably couldn't be taught.
When Bryan looked at his children, he knew without a doubt that he loved them, that he wanted the best for them, and that he wanted to care for them.
When Kurt and Blaine looked at the children... it was as if the sun was shining through their expressions. Every tiny thing that Tia and Liam did delighted them, caused them to laugh and smile and absolutely ooze joy. When they had to leave, their pain and heartbreak was so palpable Bryan had to look away. He couldn't handle it.
This wasn't something you could teach. This was something you either had, or did not. This was something you felt, or did not.
And Bryan did not. Not yet anyway. He wondered if it just took time.
The kids had cried themselves to sleep shortly after, and he had come out to the living room, wanting to enjoy the peace and quiet, but just feeling numb.
He gazed around the living room desperately, wishing that he could actually cry. He knew he would feel better. He couldn't. He was just empty.
He sighed heavily and cursed under his breath when a wrinkled piece of paper caught his eye. He remembered that piece of paper. It had fallen from the pocket of the husband with the curly hair, Blaine he thought, right before they left. He had seen it fall out, and had meant to say something, but that was right as Liam realized that his foster fathers were leaving... and had started wailing.
Everyone in the room had been sufficiently distracted for the next bit.
Bryan picked up the piece of paper, noting that it had been folded together at one point, but was partially open now, probably from how it had been stuffed into the pocket. He was surprised to see a child's handwriting. He debated with his conscience for a moment, before giving in to his curiosity. He figured he was already the worst person in the world; why not add to his sins. His heart skipped a beat when he read the words there: