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Love isn't brains & Family isn't blood

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Boo knew he had a habit of leaping well before he looked which was why neither he nor the rest of the Kiplings were surprised when he was the first to put his foot in it with Thor.

Boo had been staring at his maths homework without writing anything for about an hour when it happened. He argued strongly to Ra later that the truth was bound to come out at some point so it wasn’t really his fault. He’d only changed the timescale and of course he hadn’t meant to.

It wasn’t like he’d sat Thor down and demanded to know his tragic backstory or anything. It was just that Yolanda had splashed Thor with dishwater and Thor had gone up stair to take his shirt off and he clearly been in a hurry cause he hadn't noticed Boo and in that moment it had been the first thought that crossed Boo's mind.

He knew he just had to know.

“Woah. How’d you get that?”

Thor froze with his arms in the t-shirt and it half way over his head. His sharp intake of breath could be clearly heard in the silence that fell in the bedroom.

In the moment of silence that followed Boo wished he could rewind the last ten seconds and not ask. Sure the curiosity was killing him. Sure he’d have spent the next hour trying to guess how Thor had gotten the three patches of scarring on his shoulder blade, ribs and back but he wouldn’t have asked. He wouldn’t have been the cause of that closed look on Thor’s face.

Shit. They’d been starting to get along as well. It hadn’t been easy. Boo knew he’d not really paved the way for friendship with his shovel talk or with his performance at dinner or with his apparent complete lack of ability to understand most of what Dizzee or Thor said but he’d been trying dammit. They even had a running joke now.

And now he’d ruined it.

Thor broke the stillness that had captured them both. Slowly pulling the t-shirt over his head. Boo felt himself begin to babble.

“Sorry. My bad. No any of my business is it? Doesn’t really matter really I mean-“

“Paper weight.”

Boo’s head shot up at Thor’s voice. The white boy looked almost as uncomfortable as he had at his first dinner at the Kipling house. His eyes were glazed and glued to the ring on his thumb which he was twisting. Boo didn’t know what to do.

He wished Dizzee was there. Or Yolanda. They’d both always been better at this stuff. Thor didn’t move. He didn’t elaborate. Shit. This was awkward. Things were still kinda off in the Kipling house at the moment.

Despite everyone in the family knowing that Dizzee and Thor were together and despite the fact that everyone therefore knew that they must do well the things that couples do Boo knew that Dizzee avoided showing Thor much affection when they were at home. He didn’t know if they’d talked about it or how they felt about it he just knew they did.

It didn’t take a genius to see that he clearly wanted to but you’d have to be blind to not have noticed the tense look their parents got when he was. Or the slightly jittery look Thor got. Maybe it was weird no matter which they did.

Boo tried a comforting smile he was pretty sure he failed miserably in the attempt but still. “Musta been some paper weight.”

Thor grimaced. “Well my father did rugby at college so lots of practice throwing stuff. Course in rugby its’s more about throwing things to people rather than at them but transferable skills and all that.”

Boo nodded. It was horrible but hardly the worst thing he’ ever heard of. Plus he wasn’t stupid he’d kinda guessed from Thor’s strict avoidance of any mention of his own family that they weren’t part of his life anymore.

“It’s good you left then. You shouldn’t stay with people who hurt you no matter who they are.”

Thor let out a harsh bark of laughter and Boo jumped at how like Shao he sounded in that moment. It worried him sometimes. How little he knew about either of them. With Shao it wasn’t as obvious it was all hidden under flashy names and elaborate schemes and dreams. Thor never seemed to try any of that. It was simply that he was so kind and always seemed so genuinely interested in what you were saying you forgot he hadn’t said anything about himself at all.

That wasn’t to say that Dizzee didn’t know.

Hell Dizzee probably got the whole story out of him. Dizzee was good at that. They did that in the same way. It was the reason they hadn’t realised for so long what was going on with him. A fact Boo looked back on with no small amount of embarrassment. Even if Thor hadn’t told him Dizz had probably figured it out Boo decided.

If with the small amount of time he’d spent with Thor he’d figured out his family wasn’t in the picture he had no doubts Dizzee would have figured out more.

“Unfortunately Boo that isn’t quite what happened. I wasn’t exactly the one who decided on the time of my departure.”

Boo shook his head. “Well screw them.” Thor stared at him. Boo knew he should probably shut up. As the last few minutes had proved it wasn’t like he actually knew much about Thor’s past but it was hard to focus on what he should do when all he could think of was the way that Thor had sounded.

So much like Shao.

The way Shao did when he was trying to skirt around something painful he didn’t want to admit was painful. He was tired of the people he cared about getting hurt. Like Zeke and Shao and Dizzee and Napoleon. And he was tired of everyone accepting it like there was no avoiding it like it just came with the territory like they deserved it.

“Seriously Thor screw ‘em. I ain’t known you for three weeks yet and you know what I already know they were stupid as hell not to want you around. I mean come on man, you do art. Like proper art. Like should be in a gallery art and you can bake. Not as well as Yolanda cause she’ll always be the best baker in the house but still well. And… And you know CPR. That’s useful.”

Thor chuckled wetly and Boo noticed that he was about to cry. He powered on. It wasn’t like he really had a point to reach or any plan of what to say. It was just that. Well, he kept thinking about what would have happened if Dizzee had had to leave.

Would they have stayed in contact or would that have been it. Boom. Sorry man your eldest brother doesn’t exist anymore. Boo had found himself stuck thinking about it. How so many things happened that weren’t fair and he knew he hadn’t spent time thinking about them to realise that they weren’t. He’d just accepted them as part of life. As part of the natural order. And he’d been wrong.

It was important that other people realised it was wrong.

“I guess what I’m trying to say is, even though I ain’t making much sense is, we want you here. And I want to get to know you. Not just cause you’re dating Dizz but because you’re nice and cool and whatever. And yeah. You’re always welcome at the temple or whatever.”

Boo felt his face flush with embarrassment and dropped his gaze away from Thor. Well that was embarrassing. Thor probably only put up with him cause of Dizzee as was and here he was hearing that Boo wanted to be his friend. Fuck.

If that wasn’t the classic annoying little brother shit Yolanda always warned him about he didn’t know what was.

He could see Thor wiping his eyes. He didn’t comment. Ra angry cried enough that he knew it was better not to mention it. It would only make things worse.

“Always welcome huh?” Boo tensed waiting for the inevitable teasing. Thor smiled widely. It was different from how he normally smiled. It seemed more open. Clearer somehow.

Boo squared his shoulders. “Yeah.”

Thor raised an eyebrow. Boo tried not to frown. What the hell was he on about? Oh.

“Hey you know full well that still applies. All my invitations come with the clause that they’re revoked if you break his heart.”

Thor nodded. “Dizzee mentioned you wanted to come painting with us. He was thinking Saturday if that worked. Unless of course I break his heart before then.”

Boo blinked. Not quite the response he’d been expecting but he’d take it. Wasn’t like he could get a proper read on the guy anyway. He nodded. “Saturday then. But if you break his heart before then I’ll be twice as ticked off. Dizzee doesn’t like to paint when he’s mopey.”

~~~

Yolanda wasn’t sure anymore why she’d been so nervous about this. It was probably the alcohol she’d been drinking or the adrenaline or maybe it was just the infectious feel of the place. Whatever it was she was glad she’d taken Dizzee up on his offer of a night out.

She hadn’t been sure what to expect really. It wasn’t like she hadn’t heard things about places like this, parties like this. It was just that she’d heard many awful things about people like this like Dizzee and Thor and Carmen and … and well her and none of them had been true. She’d reasoned that if most of what she’d heard about the people who attended these parties was wrong then most of what she’d heard about the parties themselves was probably also wrong.

She’d been right of course.

Yolanda smiled at Thor across the room. He was in the process of trying to thread the flowers that had come loose back into Dizzee’s hair. Unfortunately for Thor Dizzee was attempting to tell Carmen an exciting story punctuated by large sweeping gestures and was therefore not holding still.

She watched as Dizzee drunkenly knocked the carnation from Thor’s hand again. Thor gave him a look that was equal parts exasperation and endearment. Yolanda tried to supress a laugh. She’d seen that look before. Her mother wore it every time her father brought out some instrument he hadn’t played in years to serenade her.

Thor glanced up and caught her eye. He smiled, shrugged and rolled his eyes.

They’d been getting closer in the past few months. Not quite friends but on the road there. It had been one of the reasons why she’d been able to work up the courage to ask Dizzee if she could come along. Why she’d been able to hint that she had her own reasons for wanting to go to this party and that those reasons aligned very closely with her brother’s.

She’d been a bag of nerves trying to tell Dizzee. Not that she had any reason to think that he’d react badly to the news that she liked girls and not boys not ever thank you very much. But still some deep irrational part of her had clamoured that he’d freak. He’d tell. He’d assume this was only his little sister trying to copy him again or trying to steal their parents’ attention.

He hadn’t of course. Looking back Yolanda was surprised Dizzee had even been able to figure out what on earth she had been trying to tell him. But then again Dizzee had always been more perceptive then people gave him credit for.

Still it had surprised her when he’d invited her to join him and Thor the next time they went to a party. She’d been even more surprised when Thor had voiced no objections and had welcomed her into the group with no hesitation. She could hardly believe that he had been thrilled with the prospect of his boyfriend’s sister joining them on a night out but he’d never shown it.

It hit her at times like these how little she knew about him. With Regina or Mylene or her brothers she could always read them. Always figure out what they were saying or not saying but with Thor? Nothing. She knew almost nothing about him and she couldn’t tell from him if those things were true or not.

She knew Thor wasn’t his name at least. She’d asked about it earlier. He’d avoided the question very well. Given some flippant comment that the last time he’d used that name he’d come home to find that his parents had chosen a new baby boy to take that name and sleep in his bed so it wasn’t really his anymore before moving the conversation smoothly on to the use of names in folk tales.

What that really meant beyond the acknowledgement that she was right and the suggestion that his childhood home was no longer a place that would welcome him she didn’t know. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to know. Dizzee seemed so enamoured with the guy she’d hate to find something about him she didn’t like. Something she couldn’t live with. Something that’d ruin this.

She shook herself. Now was not the time to be dwelling on such dark things.

She was here with her brother and his boyfriend. Dizzee’s face was an artwork of colours and tones. She had a dozen flowers in her hair and painted on her skin. It was a beautiful night, there was beautiful music playing and the beautiful girl kept smiling at her shyly across the room.

It wouldn’t last of course. The sun would rise and they would have to leave shedding paint and flowers as they went. But in this moment, it was enough. In the end she supposed that was all you could hope for.

~~~
Adele sighed. It wasn’t like she could have seen it coming. No one could have seen it coming. A few months ago she would have laughed at the very idea but here she was.

Here she was staring at a jar. A jar of blackcurrent jam that she’d just put away in the cupboard. Her cupboard.

The worst thing was she hadn’t even realised until she’d gotten home that she’d done it. She’d replaced that fucking jar of jam.

Well guess that decided it then. The white boy was family now.

Adele glanced back at her children who were all involved in an intense debate on some topic or other. They hadn’t noticed yet. She looked back at the jar.

They were sure as hell going to. There had been complaints over the presence of that jar in the cupboard for months now. It wasn’t really Thor’s fault. In the boy’s defence, he was trying to be considerate of the household when he’d brought it over. How was he to know that every single member of the Kipling family found the taste of blackcurrents repulsive?

I mean she considered how many of the Kipling’s regular house guests had not been so quick to begin to contribute to the food in the house. Some had even not considered it till it had been rather blatantly suggested that they should.

It was kind of endearing how badly Thor seemed to want their approval. Adele had always expected it to be Yolanda’s boyfriend who’d be quietly moving round the house offering to help at any and every opportunity trying to earn his place in the Kipling clan.

Yolanda’s boyfriend he was not however and she’d be the first to admit that it had taken them all some getting used to but Thor sure filled the role of over eager helpful guest. First to help clear the table, first to offer to do the dishes, first to help lift, move or clear anything that needed cleared. It was endearing.

Adele sighed. If only all that eagerness to help and pleasantness and thoughtfulness didn’t come with such a bitter tang. She wasn’t naïve. Thor might be first to offer his help but he was also first to flinch if Winston moved to quickly, first to pull away if Dizzee was being affectionate. He seemed perpetually on edge waiting for the other shoe to drop waiting for them to come to their senses and react violently.

It was expected she supposed after everything he’d gone through. Family to her kids meant your favourite food being in the cupboard even if everyone else hated it and a door that was always open. She knew it meant something very different to Thor. They just had to be patient though and hope the fear lessened over time.

It drove Winston nuts though. Neither tact nor subtlety had ever been her husband’s forte. He had always preferred a direct confrontation with the problem or a honest conversation to reach an agreement. The fact that the white boy clammed up anytime Winston tried to discuss the boy’s family, interests or relationship with their son frustrated him no end.

She hoped it’d change over time. Probably as soon as it started to it would change very quickly. It was of course difficult to trust someone who wouldn’t let you get to know them and it was difficult to get to know someone who wouldn’t trust you with very little information about their life.

Despite this they were getting to know the boy even if slowly and indirectly. It wasn’t ideal but it was the way it was and in reality there was nothing they could do but accept it. It would change eventually. Adele hoped at least. She saw no reason why it shouldn’t but sometimes things didn’t work that way.

Sometimes life had you doing things you’d never have expected you’d do. She laughed quietly to herself. The very fact that she was standing her contemplating whether or not her son’s boyfriend would become more comfortable around them over time would have sounded ridiculous to her even a year ago.

Hell a year ago if she’d been told her son was dating Thor she’d have been trying to figure out where she’d gone wrong with raising her eldest, she’d have been furious that he’d put them in this position.

It was funny how quickly things could change. Sure it hadn’t been exactly a smooth transition. They’d all messed up time and time again. But it always followed the same pattern.

Someone would say something thoughtless or careless. Dizzee or Thor or both would recoil as if expecting the worst. There would be an apology or an argument. Depending on which things would be tense for a few hours or a few days. Then slowly things would settle back into the norm.

It had gotten easier as they’d all started learning, questioning, re-examining. Things that had seemed unarguably true, about people like her son, about the two of them being together, about the danger they presented had begun to fall apart. It was as frightening as it was comforting.

Adele glanced back at her eldest. Dizzee was gesturing wildly about something or other while his siblings shook their heads. She wondered how he’d worked through all this on his own. How he’d come to this realisation about himself knowing what the world would say without succumbing to the desire to bury it deep inside himself never to be seen or thought of again.

Was it easier if you were realising these things about yourself? She supposed you could contrast what you were told against what you knew of yourself. Highlighting the glaring untruths riddling it. Or maybe you’d simply begin believing it. Maybe you simple ended up believing yourself to be the monstrous figure you were told you were.

Adele hoped her son never went through that. It was mostly wishful thinking but she hoped. She’d ended up spending a lot of time trying to put herself in her son’s shoes. Trying to figure out what she would have done. What he would do.

She wondered to herself if she would have been brave enough to tell her parents if it had been her. She doubted it. Even only vaguely knowing what happened in Thor’s past as Dizzee must she couldn’t imagine it.

She was glad he’d been brave enough to. Dizzee had always been brave in his own way. Not the loud flashy bravery that Boo showed but a quieter bravery. A refusal to be anything but himself. A refusal to let the world change him. She was proud that if she and Winston had taught Dizzee nothing else it was not to be ashamed of himself. She wished Thor’s parents had taught him as much.

Adele took one last look at the jar of jam. Fuck it. If the kid’s parents weren’t going to teach him about love and loyalty and family then she sure as hell would. She was tired of it. Thor and Mylene, hell even Shao didn’t deserve the shit their parents put them through. From now on she decided she’d make sure they knew they had a place here if they wanted it. It was the right thing to do.

~~~

Ra regretted every single decision he’d made that had led up to this moment.

He’d been trying to do something kind, something supportive and instead he’d just managed to insult his brother and destroy their relationship forever. He idly wondered if he could smash his head off the table hard enough that he’d forget any of this ever happened.

Dizzee was still staring at the small collection of lipstick and nail polish sitting on the table in front of him. He hadn’t moved. It didn’t even look like he was breathing.

“I can take them back. Or I can give them to Yolanda if you don’t like them. I mean I wasn’t sure if you would like them so it’s not a problem if you don’t. And I know they’re probably not even the right colours apparently there are right and wrong colours you know. Tanya told me that there are right and wrong colours but I just chose bright colours cause you know that’s what you paint with so they probably don’t even suit you cause I chose the wrong ones and- “

“Ra.”

Ra flinched as Dizzee’s voice cut across his tirade. It was so much worse then he’d thought.

Dizzee didn’t even sound upset.

Ra knew exactly what that voice meant. He heard it so often over the years they’d grown up together. It was the same voice that Dizzee used when someone was mocking him for his ‘oddness’. It usually came hand in hand with Dizzee coming to Ra for reassurance later.

He could have kicked himself. He was meant to help Dizzee not make him feel more like a freak. It was going to take weeks for him to fix this. He didn’t even know how to fix this.

“Ra. Thank you for this.”

Ra stared at his brother. Dizzee was carefully examining one of the tubes of lipstick. It was a deep purple. It was his favourite out of all the ones he’d gotten for Dizzee. It reminded him of the nights spent on the roof of the temple. Just the Get Down Brothers together, making music, making something wonderful, making something worth fighting for.

He’d been worried in the days after The Dinner, as they’d all begun to refer to it as, that now that Dizzee’s secret was out he’d move away from them all. He’d want to go back to his art and his other friends and forget about them all. That he’d found something else he’d rather do. He’d been wrong of course. Now that everything was in the open Dizzee seemed to spend more time with the Get Down Brothers then he had before.

Ra smiled. “Glad you like it.”

Dizzee beamed. “Course I do. When one sits down to paint they do their best not to steal from others. Didn’t think it’d be you who appear with the solution though.”

Ra nodded. “I know but I think I kinda get it now. You’re an artist. You do art on the walls and tunnels around here and now you’ve got the option to do art on your face. Why wouldn’t you take it?”

Dizzee considered him carefully. Ra tried not to squirm. Dizzee had always had the uncanny ability to give the impression that he could see into your soul.

“You should keep a set.” Ra supressed a flinch as Dizzee continued. “You’ve tried out almost all my other artist materials.”

He could feel his cheeks heating up. He had not been planning to have this conversation. He didn’t want to have this conversation. He absolutely couldn’t have this conversation. He couldn’t have this conversation because having this conversation meant acknowledging what he’d been trying to ignore since Thor had claimed the lipstick as his own.

And that wasn’t happening.

He couldn’t do it. It was alright for Dizzee with his artsy persona. Everyone just passed it off the make up as part of that. He could get away with it. Hell it suited him. It went with that whole dreamy artist shtick. Ra wasn’t like that. He wasn’t artsy or creative or out there or anything. It wouldn’t suit him. Didn’t Dizz know that. Ra couldn’t do this cause he’d look stupid and he’d feel stupid and it was dangerous. And even if he said yes it wasn’t like there’d be a point cause he couldn’t be seen in it. It wasn’t like he had anywhere he could actually wear said make up or he had friends he could wear it around or anything. It was a stupid idea that he wished he could just stop thinking about.

He turned to Dizzee. He was quietly examining the bottles and tubes in front of him arranging and rearranging them in different patterns. Ra tried to speak.

Words failed him.

Dizzee glanced up at him. Ra could feel his heart beating in his chest so hard it hurt. He wondered how Dizzee’d take it if he just bolted. If he just ran. If he was lucky he’d never bring it up again.

Ra was rarely lucky. He stared at his brother and shook his head.

“I can’t Dizz.”

Dizzee nodded at him smiling. “Okay Ra but if you change your mind the offer still stands.”

Ra smiled. Maybe one day. In the future. It was always important to try new things. Even the things that frightened you the most. Even the things you had trouble admitting. IF he sat and focused on how scared he’d been of performing at first how worried he’d been that he’d look stupid or laughed at it was easier.

It made it seem possible. Maybe. The far future. In a far away place. In another time. Somehow. Dizzee’d be there to help him along. He always had been. He always would be. In the end Ra knew that was enough.

~~~

“Pop, Ma I’m back.”

Thank god Yolanda Winston thought. The last thing the poor kid needed was Ra-Ra or Boo-Boo bursting in to help and upsetting the exhausted calm he’d fallen into.

Yolanda would know what to do. She’d know what comforts to offer. What to say. Hell chances were she knew him already. Yolanda had always been close with Dizzee’s artists friends and if the last few months had taught Winston anything it was that his kids were a little less forthcoming about their lives and friends then he’d like.

The kid didn’t react to Yolanda’s voice at all. Just kept staring into the fire the same way he’d been doing for the last hour. Winston moved to get up out his chair. Probably better to have this conversation outside.

Even if the kid was almost catatonic it seemed wrong to debate what to do right in front of him. Yolanda would probably also be more likely to be honest about what she knew if the kid wasn’t there to hear her say it. She was considerate like that.

If she knew what was going on she’d tell him of course but if the kid wasn’t there he’d get more of the real complete un abridged version. Some things were easier said when the person in question wasn’t there to hear them being spoken.

He shut the door behind him almost knocking heads with Yolanda as he did.

She jumped back.

“Hey Pops. Was just looking for you. Everything alright?”

Winston smiled at daughter. Or at least he tried. He could tell from the slightly concerned look that fell over her face that it probably came across more as a grimace then anything else. She’d always been the best in the family at sensing people’s moods and emotions. It was what had made her so good at negotiating peace amongst her siblings when they were younger.

If Ra had stolen Boo’s toy or if Dizzee had made a sculpture out of Ra’s comics and it need to be sorted quietly. It was Yolanda they’d turned to. If anyone bar Dizzee could make the kid talk it’d be her.

“Still to be decided. You know a kid called Oscar?”

Confusion sweep across Yolanda’s face. She cocked her head to one side before shaking it.

“Na. Don’t know him. Why?”

Winston sighed. Guess it’d been too much to hope for that Yolanda would be able to tell him what was going on so easily. It was Kipling luck pure and simple. Nothing could ever be easy.

“Kid turned up at our door about an hour ago. Says he’s a friend of Dizzee’s. He’s in a bad way. Won’t talk about it. Won’t talk about anything really. Just been staring at the fire not moving.”

Yolanda’s eyes widened. “He in there?” She gestured to the door. “You let him in?”

Winston tried not to feel insulted. He knew his kids sometimes saw his choices as unfair or unjust and while it hurt to know it he tried not to let it affect him. In the end he wasn’t there to be their friend. He was there to keep them safe. That was his job as their father. He couldn’t protect them from everything. No one could. But he would do everything he could to keep them safe in this world. Even if his choices were unpopular.

“Kid’s a friend of Dizzee’s. Knows Thor. Arrived with a bag. Covered in bruises. Won’t talk about what happend. I figure if he got in a fight he probably wasn’t the one who started it. That turns out to be wrong though and I’ll throw him out myself.”

Yolanda nodded. “You want me to talk to him then? See if I can find out what happened?”

“Please.”

Winston flopped down at the kitchen table. If he was honest he hoped the kid wasn’t up to anything awful. Despite his strong words he didn’t think he could bring himself to throw the kid out. Not now.

Not after the way the kid had looked when he’d opened the door and the kid had realised it wasn’t Dizzee standing there. It had been too frightened, too resigned, too much like… like Dizzee had looked at that dinner all those months ago.

Things had been better since then he guessed. Or hoped. It wasn’t like he could read the kids thoughts and know if his eldest was feeling more comfortable now everything was on the table or if he like his boyfriend seemed to be was still waiting for Winston to change his mind.

It irked him that Thor still thought that he might flip. No matter how much Adele assured him that it wasn’t any judgement on him but simply left over fear from past experiences. Not like he could blame the kid for that. Especially when he knew the thoughts that had gone through his mind in those moments. How close he’d come to letting fear of the neighbours and society dictate his actions.

Winston often wondered if he disappointed his kids. Sometimes it seemed that they were streaking ahead and he was falling behind when it came to right and wrong, good and bad, the future and the past. Sometimes it seemed that no matter how hard he tried he’d never make it.

Sure he tried. But no matter how hard he did he found he was perpetually trying to beat back his own thoughts. Trying to ignore the thoughts that came into his mind when Dizzee and Thor were being affectionate, when Thor went off with Ra to help with some project in his room alone, when Dizzee came home in the early hours of the morning.

He knew they were wrong. He knew they were just background noise he should ignore. That didn’t make it any easier.

Winston sighed. He would do better. He was trying to at least.

Since Dizzee’s coming out Winston had devoted himself to gathering as much information as he could on the subject. More then half of it was hateful and wrong, a good deal of the rest was sad and tragic. It did not fill Winston with much hope for his son’s future.

Still sometimes, just sometimes there was something like this and it gave him hope. Thor had given him it. Given was maybe the wrong word.

He’d been reading something else at the time. Honestly it had been awful. Winston had hardly been able to read most of it. He was hardly the largest fan of romantic novels as it was but when the romance consisted of a grown adult stalking a fourteen year old. Well it speaks for itself does it not.

It had been one of the first books he’d found on the subject. And he’d forced his way through most of it hating every moment of it. Almost every line had made his skin crawl. Every page feeding the worries that centred around Thor’s increased presence in the house and by extension his increased contact with Dizzee’s siblings.

Winston had never been more thankful to see the look of horror on Thor’s face when he’d seen him reading it. He’d been afraid that this was all he’d find in his readings. He’d been afraid that maybe what he was reading was accepted and true. Thor had dived straight into his bag and produced Maurice wordlessly with a flourish.

It had been the first book Thor had lent him. And though it was not the last it had to this day remained his favourite. He’d kept it so long now Thor had told him to keep it. From the way he’d said it Winston knew that Thor understood how much the book meant in that moment. It was hope.

The door to the living room opened jolting Winston out of his thoughts. He turned to see Yolanda pulling the kid gently into the room.

“Pops Carmen’s parents kicked her out and she ain’t got anywhere to go. Can she stay here for a couple days?”

Winston studied his daughter. She was looking in right in the eye as if daring him to ask about the change in the name and gender of their guest. Winston stared back. He supposed he deserved that. Sometimes he worried his daughter could read the thoughts that floated to the top of his brain sometimes. The ones he tried so hard to crush. He wondered if he disappointed her with it.

He sometimes worried he’d never work through it all. That he’d be old and grey and still unable to shut them up. Well so long as they didn’t affect his behaviour did it matter. He was trying his best Even if he never worked through it he could make sure his kids never knew he hadn’t. It wasn’t their job to work around him anyway. It’d be difficult but wasn’t everything?

Today at least the path ahead was obvious. The questions of what Oscar- Carmen he corrected himself had told Yolanda and why their guest’s name had changed could wait until the kid was safely in bed resting.

Winston smiled at his daughter.

“One week Yolanda. She can stay here one week while she figures things out. And you’re briefing your brothers on her staying here.”

Yolanda beamed and Winston knew he’d said the right thing.