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When Adam had first brought up the idea of fostering Harvey, he’d mentally composed a worst-case scenario list. He hadn’t written it down because at the time he’d had to do a bit of nudging to convince Ronan, and Ronan had this knack for finding Adam’s most embarrassing things—to this day his ears still got flushed when he remembered that article on prostate stimulation that he’d only brought home for research purposes and that Ronan had rescued from being destroyed in the washing machine, back when Adam was still getting used to the idea of having someone offering to do his laundry for him.

So Ronan didn’t really need to know that Adam had considered the—statistically unlikely—possibility that Harvey might die in their care from a variety of things, like, say, an unknown allergy that could bring his body into anaphylactic shock—and, guess what? Harvey had a gluten intolerance that could actually be dangerous, so Adam had done well in being prepared.

But, anyway, that was the worst possible scenario, so it was at the very bottom of the list.

There were many other things in there, like Harvey getting pneumonia or mononucleosis or an STD—not all items in the list were health-related problems but Adam was a pediatrician so it kind of came with the job.

Now, Adam had barricaded himself in the bathroom and was wishing he had a piece of paper with him so that he could start to finally write down that list—he needed to see all the horrible things that had already happened and the crisis that they’d averted and somehow reassure himself that it was going to be all right. It’d always felt great to cross stuff out from a list, so that might help a little.

Adam kind of felt like life was crossing him out, though.

It was also stupid that he was having a breakdown right at this moment, when everything was already as fixed as it could be.

Harvey’s mother had sprained his wrist, yes, but she’d lost her parental rights. Harvey was only going to miss one basketball match. He’d gone to his weekly therapy session. He hadn’t stopped speaking again. He’d passed his Math test on Thursday. Trish and Ciara had videocalled with Ronan before dinner and Harvey had waved them hello.

So they’d almost had their kid taken away from them, but it was fine now, right?

Adam sat on the toilet and took a deep breath.

Ronan was right. They should file for adoption.

They just needed to ask Harvey if he was okay with that, and then they’d have to fill a ton of paperwork and have more home evaluations and maybe they should finally go to one of those foster parent meetings they were supposed to be attending, and then in a few months and with some luck they’d have a piece of paper with their names on it that said that Harvey could never be taken away from them.

Adam’s phone vibrated in his pocket. It was a text from Harvey.

ronan says to tell u foods ready

Adam snorted. Ronan usually yelled at him to come down.

Adam got up and washed his hands, feeling a pang of shame curl around his ribs. Ronan was probably as freaked out as Adam was, and Adam was here feeling all sorry for himself and having a mild anxiety attack while Ronan was braving the fort downstairs. He should be supporting him instead, kissing away the wrinkle he always got between his eyebrows when he worried. This was all Adam’s idea to begin with.

“Let’s do this,” he told himself, because he’d once read positive thinking could actually influence the outcome of your actions. Not that he believed it, much, but it couldn’t hurt.

Ronan was already cutting the homemade pizza into slices when he entered the kitchen.

“That smells wonderful,” he said, which earned him a small smile from Ronan.

“It’s been months since I last ate pizza,” Harvey glowed as he grabbed one slice. He’d already told them that, the day before, and that was why Ronan had embarked himself into making a gluten-free pizza from scratch.

“It’s still hot,” Ronan warned Harvey as he served Adam another slice. Adam was impressed—if he’d been in charge of doing that they’d probably need a few days for him to get the crust right.

“Have you finished your homework?” Adam asked, because he apparently wasn’t capable of easing naturally into a conversation, and also was the only one in the house who thought getting rid of homework on Friday was the best way to enjoy your weekend.

Harvey shook his head.

“Still need to read this book,” he said, but didn’t elaborate because he bit down on his pizza and, from the look on his face, he entered a bliss-like state that didn’t much care for assigned reading.

“Harvey,” Ronan said, and it sounded like he was admonishing the kid.

Adam glared at him.

“Your pizza’ll get cold.” Couldn’t Ronan see that Harvey was enjoying his dinner? When was the last time they’d seen him eat so happily?

But the damage was already done. Harvey swallowed and looked at Ronan, face blank, arms loose at his sides.

“Okay,” Adam said when Ronan didn’t follow up. “We just wanted to ask you something. It’s nothing bad, okay?” he added, because he could feel Harvey’s anxiety starting to mount up. “We—After what happened this week, we’ve been thinking—” Adam wanted to find the perfect words, and should have spent the little time out he had in the bathroom preparing a speech or something, because he was freaking Harvey out, and they’d already ruined his dinner, and now he couldn’t chicken out. “We were wondering if you’d be okay with us adopting you.”

There was a silence.

Harvey’s mouth opened but no sound came out. He blinked at them, and then looked down at his pizza, and up again.

“You don’t have to say anything just now. You can think about it,” Adam rushed to say, because he’d surely need time to process if he’d been asked such a thing. “You can also say no,” he assured him, too. “And nothing will change, okay?”

“So—” Harvey began, but shook his head and pinched his lips.

“Let’s just have dinner, yeah?” Ronan said, when Harvey didn’t ask his question.

Ronan’s pizza was delicious but Harvey wasn’t looking at them as he ate, so Adam felt dinner had been a huge fiasco.

“Look,” Adam said, picking his glass of water to have something to do with his hands. “No pressure. Really. There’s no catch. We’re not gonna get mad either way. You’re not in trouble. There’s no wrong answer. I promise, okay?” He tried to smile and look friendly, because he really didn’t want to force Harvey into doing something he didn’t want just because he was afraid there would be consequences if he didn’t do as they wished, or because he felt this was a trap.

Harvey caressed his napkin for a bit, seemingly in deep thought.

“I like living here,” he said, after a minute. Ronan’s foot kicked Adam’s softly, under the table, before he found a way to link their ankles.

Adam nodded because Harvey looked like he was waiting to see if they were listening.

They were, of course.

“Mrs White said I don’t have to go back to my mom’s,” Harvey whispered.

“You don’t,” Ronan said.

“But I—”

Adam held his breath, but Harvey didn’t keep talking. He was taking a break from signing because his wrist was still sore, but he didn’t bring his phone out either. He just looked at both of them, with his eyes wide open, looking lost and small.

“Okay,” Adam sentenced. “No more talk of this today. We’re not bringing it up again, so you just take the time you need, okay?”

Harvey looked down at his half-munched pizza.

Adam bumped his leg against Ronan’s, which was easy because they were still linked.

“So were or were they not those asparagus the best shit you’ve ever eaten?” Ronan asked, nudging the pizza pan closer to Harvey.

“I suppose they were fine, yes” Adam said, finishing his slice.

“Shut up. If you’re not going to appreciate it you can go eat your own dinner. More for us, right, Harvey?” Ronan managed to catch Harvey’s eye, which was good enough.

Adam was prevented from stealing another slice before those two teamed up against him by the ringing of his phone.

The screen told him it was Sadie White calling.

But Harvey was sitting right there.

“Parrish?” Ronan asked.

Adam kissed his cheek as he got up, and briefly squeezed Harvey’s hand when he passed by him on the way to the living room.

He picked up.

“Hello?”

“Dr Parrish. This is Sadie White. Do you have a minute?”

“Yes, of course. Is—there a problem?” Adam sat down on the couch’s arm.

“I was hoping you could help me with that, actually. I am aware that this is very short notice, but would you and Mr. Lynch be willing to become emergency foster parents?”

Adam gripped the phone tighter. Yeah, he definitely needed some time to think about this—he could totally relate to Harvey not knowing what to say earlier.

“How—short notice are we talking about, exactly?”

“There is a teenager girl currently buckled up in my car. We are in Henrietta, so less than forty-five minutes away.”

“What happened?”

“I can’t really tell you more unless you say yes.”

“Okay. Hm. Can I call you back?”

“Sure.” She hung up. No voices came from the kitchen, so it was possible Ronan and Harvey had heard his part of the conversation.

Adam looked at the time on his phone. There was a kid out there who didn’t know where she’d be sent to sleep that very night. She must be scared, and angry, and confused. They had the room to spare, and food, and warm blankets.

Ronan’s head shot up as Adam entered the kitchen. The pizza pan was empty, but there was a slice waiting in Adam’s plate that hadn’t been there when he’d left.

He didn’t know if he was up for eating it, though.

“That was Mrs White calling,” he announced, noticing how Harvey’s back stiffened at the mention of his social worker. “She wanted to know if we could become emergency foster parents for a teenager girl. She’s awaiting my call.”

Ronan frowned.

“Emergency? What does that mean?”

“That she’d be bringing this girl tonight. If we said yes, of course.”

“Fuck,” Ronan said, and stood up to start tidying up the counter. “We’ve eaten all the pizza.”

Adam didn’t point out his own forgotten slice.

“So—yes?”

Ronan stopped piling up their dirty dishes next to the sink to stare at Adam, as it had just occurred to him that they had the option to say no.

“Okay. Harvey?”

Harvey startled. He probably hadn’t expected to be asked. He must be feeling anxious, Adam thought, with all those important questions being thrown at him with no previous notice.

Adam brought a stool next to Harvey’s and sat down close enough that his knees could touch. He didn’t push himself into his personal space, though. He just wanted him to know he was there, and listening.

“I know it’s sudden. I don’t even know her name, or how old she is. We’d get a room ready for her, and figure it out from there. What do you think?” he asked, soft and calm, despite feeling very much not that way.

Harvey shrugged and looked away. Not that Adam had been expecting him to jump excitedly at the idea.

“Are you sure? It’s gonna get a bit more crowded,” he insisted, because didn’t exactly know how having other kid in the house would affect Harvey’s already skewed sense of stability.

But Harvey nodded, and Adam was also trying to make him understand that his input on things mattered, and he needed to call Mrs White back, and they needed to go empty a room and find some spare toothbrushes and Ronan had already cleared the whole counter except from Adam’s plate.

“Just grab yoghurt for dessert while I make her something,” Ronan told Harvey as he put a frying pan on the stove. “She must be hungry.”

“Okay. I’ll just call Mrs. White now,” Adam said. He still paused a second to hug Harvey, because they both needed it, before dialing the number.

Sadie told him the girl’s name was Olivia and that they’d be there before eight.

In retrospect, his earlier freak-out in the bathroom seemed ridiculous and quite childish. Why had he been so shaken? It’s as he’d told Harvey—nothing needed to change if they ended up adopting him. It was just a piece of paper that would say what they already felt. They’d figure it out—they knew Harvey. They loved him. They wanted him to be happy.

Now they had a real reason to panic—there was going to be a girl living with them for the foreseeable future, and Adam hadn’t planned for this.

Out of their two spare bedrooms, Declan’s old one probably needed the least work in getting it ready—Adam took old Aglionby uniforms out of the closet and yellowed fairytale books out of the shelves and hid it all behind Matthew’s room’s closed door. He dressed the bed with clean sheets and hoped Olivia brought some clothes of her own because he didn’t think they owned any girls’ clothing.

The bell rang downstairs. Adam wondered if he should have taken two minutes to change out of his pyjamas.

He ran a hand through his hair.

It was time.

Chapter Text

Ronan was hanging the wet rag he’d used to wipe the counters when he heard a car coming.

He checked on Harvey—the kid hadn’t moved from his stool since dinner, but he’d eaten Adam’s slice when Adam had gone upstairs to fix a room for the new girl, and also a cup of yoghurt after Ronan had insisted. He was staring at the sink with a kinda lost look on his face, but he was fed and wearing a warm woolen jumper, so there wasn’t a lot Ronan could do right then.

“You alright there?” he asked, anyway, drying his hands on a hand towel. The bell would ring any second now.

Harvey nodded.

The bell rang.

Ronan sighed. He squeezed Harvey’s shoulder when he passed by his side on the way to the door.

Wintry White was carrying a duffel bag.

“Good evening, Mr Lynch.”

Ronan nodded. He opened the door a bit wider, but there was no girl coming in with the social worker.

“Olivia is waiting in the car,” she said. “These are her things—shall we put them away?”

Ronan frowned, but let her come inside. There was a side table next to the stairs, where back when Ronan was a child his mom used to always have fresh flowers she picked from the garden she tended to by the back entrance. There were no flowers there anymore—just Adam’s keys and bills waiting to be filed away, and sometimes Harvey’s spare phone charger.

Mrs White left the duffel bag in front of that table.

“Is Dr Parrish home?” she asked.

“Yes. Hello,” Adam said, coming down the stairs with stiff steps.

“Great. I’ll fetch Olivia now, then. Hello, Harvey,” she nodded, as half of Harvey leaned out from behind the kitchen doorframe.

Adam came to stand next to Ronan and that meant they got to hold hands for maybe a quarter of a second before there was a scraggy girl on their doorstep.

“Olivia,” Mrs White said, “these are Dr Parrish and Mr Lynch, who have very kindly accepted to foster you for the time being. And that’s Harvey over there.”

The girl didn’t wave or nod or acknowledge their presence in any way. Ronan tried not to be bothered by it—maybe she also had some speech impairment, or was just shy. Or maybe she was just tired and wary of the strangers in whose house she was about to be dropped off.

Thankfully, Adam took charge.

“Yes, hello, Olivia, I’m Adam. Are these all your things?”

“It’s Liv,” she said. Good, she could talk. One less thing to worry about.

“Great. Liv. Okay, we’ll see what you need and go to the store tomorrow, okay? Here, your room’s upstairs.”

The girl’s tennis shoes didn’t make sound as she followed Adam.

“I just need you to sign some paperwork and I’ll be out of your way,” Wintry White said.

“So what’s her deal?” Ronan asked, when Harvey also fled upstairs and the social worker and he had settled on the dining table. He didn’t offer her a drink because he still didn’t like her.

“She doesn’t have any known allergies.” She started taking out folders out of her bag, and printed papers out of the folders. “She’s enrolled at Mountain View in Henrietta, so it shouldn’t be a problem considering Harvey also goes there. She has an appointment with the—” she paused while she checked another paper “optometrist. Next Tuesday. It says here that she might need glasses—those are covered by her insurance, of course.”

Ronan leaned back on his seat while the lady filled their perfectly fine table with more and more sheets.

“Do you have a pen?” Mrs White asked, when she realized Ronan had not started with the signing.

“What happened to Liv tonight?”

The woman pointed at a dotted line at the bottom of the page closest to Ronan. She handed him her own pen.

“Her previous placement was not the right fit for her.”

“It wasn’t?” Ronan took the pen, figuring if he started signing maybe she’d start talking.

It didn’t work, but then Adam returned, and he must have stopped by the study on his way back because he brought a pen of his own.

“What did I miss?”

“Optometrist on Tuesday. Shit to sign,” Ronan summarized. “And Mrs White was just waiting for you to tell us what happened to Liv.”

“Right. She hasn’t said much but I don’t think she’s hurt.”

Mrs White nodded and started collecting the papers already signed. She didn’t seem in a rush to explain the situation, though, so Ronan stopped his signing to glare at her.

“Her boyfriend assaulted her foster father,” she eventually said, possibly because she wanted to get her papers back all autographed and valid so that she could fuck off from their house—she was unlikely to be affected by Ronan’s glares at this point.

“Oh. What for?” Adam asked, unfazed. Ronan smirked and went back to signing, now hoping they got over with it so that they could shoo the woman off.

“That’s still unclear.”

They signed the forms. They learned Liv’s birth father held weekly phone calls with her from jail. They sent Wintry White on her merry way to meddle in other people’s lives.

Ronan looked at Adam.

“This is the right thing to do, Ronan,” Adam said.

Ronan mostly agreed, but he was also very aware that there was an unknown teenager showering upstairs, only a few rooms away from Harvey.

“Did she tell you anything?” he asked.

“Only that she was old enough to unpack by herself. So she was either bringing drugs into the house or she just doesn’t want me to see her underwear. What a night, uh?” Adam’s lips looked delicious when they curved for a half smile, so Ronan kissed them.

“And Harvey?”

Adam sighed. “In his room. I don’t know if we should go check on him or just let him have some space. Same with Liv, actually.” Ronan didn’t know, either, so he just let Adam hug him really tight in hopes Adam’s problem-solving skills rubbed off on him with the skin-to-skin contact.

It didn’t quite work, but Adam’s hair smelt really nice so Ronan was content to just exist in there for a bit.

“Yeah, gonna check on Harvey after all,” Adam said, letting go of Ronan, which would have been wicked of him if he hadn’t pressed a light kiss under Ronan’s earlobe as compensation.

“I’ll go say hello to the girl, then,” Ronan complied. He made sure that the chicken he’d cooked earlier was still warm in the pan.

The bathroom door was open and the mirror inside still steamy. There was light under Harvey’s closed door, but Ronan couldn’t hear any talking when he passed by. Not that Adam or Harvey needed spoken words to communicate, so Ronan supposed it was all fine.

Declan’s—Liv’s—door was ajar. Ronan knocked on the frame but didn’t make any move to peak further than the corner of the closet he could see from outside.

Ronan recognized one of their towels wrapped around her hair when she came to the door, and marveled at the brilliance of Adam for thinking about things like providing toiletries.

Below the towel, Liv looked spooked. She hadn’t changed into her pyjamas—or at least Ronan hoped she didn’t sleep in those fishnet stockings—and had instead smeared a lot of dark make-up on her face. She’d have sold off the punk better if the hand holding the door hadn’t been shaking, but Ronan could appreciate the effort.

He cleared his throat when he realized he’d been staring for maybe too long. She was staring back at him, though, so fuck it.

She wasn’t going to speak first, Ronan realized, and then he was horrified when he understood he was the adult here and was supposed to make her feel welcome and safe.

Fuck.

Okay, he wasn’t going to be lame about this—he couldn’t just ask her if she was settling in all right or any of that bullshit. The girl had been forced to spend hours in Wintry White’s delightful company—of course she wasn’t fine.

“So I heard you have a boyfriend?” he asked. Liv blinked, slowly, making Ronan wonder if all that clumpy eyeshadow didn’t make her eyelids feel heavy. “I have one, too,” he added, when she didn’t say anything.

“Yeah, Adam. I’ve met him,” she said, and maybe hearing her own voice made her more confident because she seemed to stand a bit straighter. “Unless you’re in an open relationship and there’s, like, another guy involved. Does Adam know?”

Ronan smirked.

“Will I get to meet your boyfriend too?”

Her eyes narrowed.

“What do you know?”

“Not much. He apparently assaulted some guy just today. Does that mean he punched him?”

“He’s not going to come punch you, if that’s what you’re afraid of. Or Adam. He’s in juvie now and when he gets out I’ll be already out of here.”

Ronan hummed when she looked to the side, as if she was ashamed of having strung so many words together.

“Are you hurt?” he asked. She was probably waiting some other kind of question, because she tilted her head and looked back at him. Fiercely, as if daring Ronan to care for her well-being.

Well, too late to prevent that from happening, kid.

“No? He didn’t assault me—he’s not that kind of guy, you know.”

“Okay. Adam probably asked already, and you should tell him if you get hurt from now on, because he’s a fucking great doctor—” He was about to add that she could also tell them if she was hurt then but had been hiding it for some reason, but couldn’t find a way to do so without sounding like a TV cop with those call me if you remember anything speeches, so he just moved on. “I just mean—if he punched this other guy maybe he had a reason to. Or not—when I was young enough to be sent to juvie I also felt like punching other people.”

“I’m fine,” Liv insisted. “They were both being stupid. I already told this to Mrs White.”

“Okay.”

“I mean it. I’m fine. Josh isn’t going to be your problem—I’ve told you.”

Ronan shrugged.

“I made you some chicken. If you’re hungry, it’s on the stove.” Ronan waited until Liv nodded. “I’m gonna do some laundry now, so if you have shit to be washed just bring them with you when you come down.”

Ronan could feel her eyes on him when he went to knock on Harvey’s still closed door to yell at him that it was laundry time. He had only that morning emptied everyone’s hampers and loaded the washing machine twice, taking advantage of the sunny day, but he figured changing his sheets wouldn’t hurt—he didn’t think Liv could fit that many clothes in her duffel bag so she probably didn’t own a lot.

“We’ll be downstairs in a minute!” Adam yelled right back from inside Harvey’s room.

Ronan changed his sheets. Liv timidly brought him a bundle of dark clothes that could not be washed together with the cream-colored sheets. Adam brought down Harvey’s dirty sweatpants.

They’d only filled one third of the tumbler.

“This had a half-load button or something, right?” Adam asked, not mentioning what had happened with Harvey. There was indeed a program for that, but Ronan didn’t point it out because he got distracted by Adam’s fingers prodding the control panel.

“She said the boyfriend’s in juvie,” Ronan whispered. He could hear Liv’s fork clinking against her plate from the kitchen.

“She told you? The only thing she said to me is that this is her fifth foster home in two years.”

“Isn’t that a lot?”

“Yeah—Here it is!” Adam had found the half-load program. He started the washing machine. “I was thinking—will you drive Liv to the store tomorrow while Harvey’s in therapy? I can pick him up and join you later.”

Ronan shrugged.

“Harvey okay?”

“Yeah, I think so. He didn’t bring this up, or the adoption, so I didn’t either. But he looked like he wanted to have some company? So we just hung out for a bit,” Adam said, making Ronan want to start kissing him and never stop, because Ronan hadn’t thought he could love Adam more than he already did, but seeing Adam so swiftly cater to Harvey’s needs made Ronan need a second to catch his breath.

Ronan knew Adam had spent many hours awake at night thinking he was failing at the task—he had very deeply ingrained into that pretty head of his that he wasn’t good enough to be a parent. He stupidly thought people couldn’t see that he loved them because he didn’t know how to show it. That he didn’t know how to be kind or gentle. That he was only worthy if he fixed problems and made himself useful.

And all Ronan could do to help was hold him tight and whisper by his good ear all the wonderful things he saw in Adam Parrish, and hope some of it reached him.

As Adam pressed the start button on the washing machine, Ronan closed the distance between them and kissed his proud little smirk away.

Adam welcomed him. He let Ronan angle his body so that they were pressed together, and he didn’t protest when Ronan pushed him against the sheets cabinet.

They couldn’t go further than just kisses—Liv was a room away and there was a lot of shit to do.

But they were together, and Adam was rubbing Ronan’s nape. Ronan closed his eyes.

Chapter Text

There was a girl sleeping in Declan’s old room.

Things like that had happened to Harvey before—his mom used to bring people over all the time, and many of her boyfriends stayed the night, and Harvey was kinda used to sleeping under the same roof as strangers. Besides, he’d been in that group home for a bit, too, and it was the same thing.

So why couldn’t he sleep now?

She was probably just a normal girl and not an assassin about to murder him in his sleep. She was a foster kid just like Harvey—he should be happy she was getting a chance to stay at the Barns, with Adam and Ronan, because it was safe there, and warm, and the sheets were really soft, and the cows were great. And the house was big enough to host at least six more kids, and Matthew would probably phone each of them every day, and Adam would remember every single exam they had at school, and Ronan would drive them all around.

They had even asked Harvey if he wanted to be adopted! This was like the best possible foster home to be placed in, Harvey was sure. He was so lucky.

And so was Olivia.

Harvey turned in his bed to look at the moon outside his window. He felt totally stupid being jealous of her—he wasn’t a toddler who’s just been told he’d be a big brother!

He needed to get some sleep, and make sure he didn’t mess up his English exam the following morning, and stop being a baby who couldn’t appreciate what he had.

But, yeah, no, the sleeping part was just not happening. He wasn’t about to text Jimmy with his pathetic whining in the middle of the night. He supposed he could go and wake Adam or Ronan up, but he wasn’t hurting anywhere. He couldn’t just tell them he couldn’t sleep because of the new girl! They had even asked Harvey if he was okay with her coming. And Harvey had said yes! Because, really, what was he supposed to say, a minute after Adam had asked him if he wanted to be their son, like, on paper. Forever. So Harvey wouldn’t have to see his mom ever again.

The only problem was that Harvey wasn’t sure he wanted that.

Because, yes, living here was great, and Ronan and Adam were awesome, and he wanted to stay here for a bit longer, but—

It wasn’t that he wanted to go back to living with his mom. He knew it was bad in there. And she didn’t want that either, she’d told Harvey. But seeing her sometimes would be nice, Harvey thought. Well, when she didn’t start reminding Harvey of all the ways he’d blown up her chances in life.

That last time had been bad. He’d been so relieved when Adam had said his wrist wasn’t broken again—he’d have missed the whole season with the team!

But everyone had bad days. And his mom wasn’t always like that.

Harvey shot out of bed.

There should be chamomile tea in the kitchen—Adam had sometimes made him a cup to help him sleep.

Harvey wore a second pair of socks and got out of his room.

There seemed to be light downstairs—Harvey told himself if Ronan or Adam were already awake it wouldn’t be so petty of him to ask for comfort, right?

Right.

Only it was Liv in the kitchen.

Harvey was about to turn back upstairs when she spotted him.

“Oh, it’s you,” she said. She looked a bit different with her hair down and no make-up on her face. Less scary, even. Harvey nodded. “I thought they were coming down to yell at me for having the lights on.” She laughed, but it wasn’t funny in Harvey’s opinion, and he didn’t exactly know her but something told him she wasn’t actually joking.

Harvey had been yelled at because of lots of things in his life, but never because he had left any lights on. But he guessed there could be people who cared about that.

Liv’s face sobered up when he didn’t laugh with her.

Harvey swallowed.

Being yelled at for having the lights on when you were in the room was mean. If Ronan were here, Harvey thought, he’d probably say it was fucked up and switch some more lamps out of spite. Or he’d go all soft on Liv and wrap a blanket around her or something.

they dont do that, Harvey typed on his phone.

Liv squinted at the screen when he showed her.

“You mute or what?” she said. Harvey shrugged and nodded, because he wasn’t about to tell her how messed up he was in the head at that very moment. “Cool, man. You do you.” She  took a sip from her milk, her eyes jumping from one place to another. “How—long have you been living here, then?”

5 months, Harvey typed.

Liv nodded. Her finger followed the rim of her glass.

“And they’re cool?” she asked. “They don’t go into your bedroom at night and that kind of stuff?”

Harvey promptly shook his head. He wasn’t going to ask her about that.

“Cool. Cool. Were there other girls here before?”

Harvey shrugged.

dunno for sure but i think I was their first foster kid. But they have nieces and are cool w them

Liv pressed her lips together but didn’t ask any follow-up questions. Her leg started bouncing a bit, which was something Harvey’s own ones also liked to do sometimes, when he was feeling anxious.

“Okay,” she eventually said, and it startled Harvey in the silence of the night.

He had to get past her to make himself that tea, and he asked himself if he really needed it.

He didn’t, of course, because even babies were born knowing how to sleep so why wasn’t he capable of doing so without help, but now Harvey wanted it.

Clutching his phone on one hand, he tiptoed as far from Liv as the kitchen allowed him and got to work.

Harvey was a bit excited to use the kettle—back when he lived with his mom he’d never had tea, but if he had he suspected she’d have warmed the water in the microwave.

“I won’t be here for long, you know?” Her voice rang over the tap water filling the tank. “You can relax. My dad’s gonna be released soon, anyway, so I’ll be out of the system and you’ll never see me again.”

Harvey didn’t really care if he saw her again. He didn’t care about her dad or about why she’d ended up in the house that night. He kind of did care to know how long she would be living with them, but even if he’d only been in the foster system for a few months he already knew they never told you that.

But Liv was there for the time being, and Harvey poured himself some boiling water into a Christmas mug that he bet had been a gift from Matthew.

If Liv was wrong and she ended up staying for a while, would Ronan and Adam also ask her if she wanted to be adopted?

Maybe they would, Harvey thought as he nodded her goodbye, because they were nice like that. They didn’t know her, but they didn’t know Harvey either. Although sometimes it felt like they did, when his eyes met Adam’s at dinner when Ronan laughed at his own jokes, or when Ronan texted him pictures of baby calves when he knew Harvey was supposed to be in class.

Or maybe they wouldn’t. Liv was older than Harvey, and she had a dad she wanted to go live with.

Harvey did have a mom, but he didn’t want to go live with her. He wanted to stay here, at the Barns. He wanted to eat pizza that didn’t make him feel sick and not be yelled at if he switched on a bulb in the middle of the night.

He paused halfway up the stairs to sip at his chamomile tea. It scorched the tip of his tongue, of course, because he was dumb enough to drink from it when it obviously hadn’t had time to cool down.

He knew if he told Adam or Ronan that he’d carelessly burnt his tongue they’d both throw an understanding smile his way and maybe hug his shoulders to make it better. If he told his mom—well, he wouldn’t tell his mom, because his mom was likely to just take the mug from his hand and break it against the wall or something, especially if he’d woken her up for that.

Not that Harvey would ever try to wake her up. He wasn’t that stupid.

Back within the safety of his room, Harvey sat down on his bed. It was warm, and cozy, and the steam from his mug drew funny shapes he got to see because it was cloudy outside but the moon somehow got through.

Suddenly, all his worries from before looked very silly.

Liv wasn’t going to come and murder him in his sleep. She was going to go to school in the morning, and Adam would set an appointment for her to get her blood tested, and Ronan would take her to see the animals, and maybe if her dad took long enough to get her home Harvey would have time to stop being a baby and start talking around her.

His tea was not so hot anymore when he drank from it now. It wasn’t Harvey’s favorite taste in the world, but little things could be after the amazing pizza he’d had earlier. A pizza that Ronan had made for him.

He smiled to himself as he unlocked his phone.

He hesitated a bit before opening the group chat he shared with Ronan and Adam. He should have asked Liv for her number to add her to it.

He should probably say this on a private message to Ronan, who had all his texts on silent, so that he didn’t wake anyone up. But that would be weird, because he wanted them both to know.

i’ve thought about it and Id like to be adopted. Just wanted to let u guys know.gonna sleep now so we can talk in the morning. goodnight

He sent it all in one single message and held his breath when he heard Adam’s phone dinging from the master bedroom.

And, then, nothing.

Not from downstairs, where Liv must still be. Not from the corridor, or outside.

The profile picture of the chat was the scoreboard of the only match Harvey’s basketball team had won this season so far. Should he have written the message properly, with caps and all that? It was not like the other messages in the conversation, which were about picking-up times and reminders to buy stuff while in town and good luck wishes when Harvey had an exam. This was important.

Harvey should have waited until the morning to tell them in person.

But then the messaging app told Harvey Dr Parrish was typing. With his heart thumping behind his ears, and a mental note that he would probably ignore to update Adam’s contact name sometime in the future, Harvey changed the group chat name from Home to Family.

Maybe it was too much.

Adam stopped typing.

He then sent a beating heart.

Harvey couldn’t stop the smile pulling at his lips.

Adam started typing again.

You were already part of the family! This will just make it official.

We’ll celebrate in the morning with something special for breakfast. That probably meant Ronan would put together fancy ingredients while Adam watched sipping coffee.

It sounded amazing.

gr8!!, Harvey said.

Adam sent another beating heart.

Now go to bed!

Harvey snorted but he relaxed against his pillow. It wasn’t long before he fell asleep.