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Eternal Family

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Druig liked the library, it has internet and is a nice place to sit down and do homework and also is a place where his little sister enjoys as much as him so it is a winning situation for the both of them. He sighed, today he did not feel like doing his homework on Friday but he knew well that he would not have a better opportunity during the weekend, with a new sigh he resigned himself and continued with his homework he still had a very good hour to try to finish as many as possible.

At fifteen Druig had more responsibilities than the average boy, since the death of his mother two years ago he became responsible for his younger sister, Sprite now six years completely depended on him, his father had no interest in them and he only paid attention to them to throw some money in their direction to feed them or when he needed to vent his fury. Druig always tried to be his father's punching bag and distract him into forgetting that Sprite existed, most of the time it worked but not always.

He sighed again before closing the notebook, giving in to the idea of finishing his homework. He checked his watch and started packing his things into his backpack. One of the reasons they went to the library every Friday was because it offered activities in the children's area and it was a way to keep Sprite busy while he concentrated, or tried, on her homework.

Sprite was waiting for him sitting on one of the sofas in the children's area with a book in her hands, since she had learned to read months ago she had discovered how much she enjoyed choosing a book and reading it by herself.

"Ready to go?" He asked her as he sat down next to her "what are you reading?"

"It's about some crayons that don't want to color anymore" she explained shrugging her shoulders "it's silly"

"And if it's silly why are you reading it?"

"Because it's funny"

Druig shook his head several times as he let her finish her book, Sprite hated leaving any reading halfway through. It didn't take more than a few minutes before the girl announced that she had finished reading and put the book back in her place.

"What activity did you do today?" he asked as he helped her put on her coat

"They read a book 'Pippi Longsomething'" Sprite wasn't very good at paying attention if the story didn't interest her.

"Isn't it about the freckled girl in the long stockings?"

"I think so" she shrugged "I prefer when they read Dr. Seuss"

"I thought you hated the cat in the hat"

"I learned to appreciate it"

Druig let out a laugh looking at her sister without being able to believe her words, she was only six years old and sometimes she spoke as if she were many years older. He was so distracted looking at the girl that he didn't notice the moment he nearly bumped into someone on his way out of the library.

"I'm sorry" he rushed to apologize to the girl in front of him. The girl looked at him with a small apologetic smile before starting to make some movements with her hands, finally making him realize that she was using sign language. "Could you repeat that?" he spoke to her hoping she could read her lips.

The girl smiled and nodded, repeating the same movements but in a slower way. He was not an expert in ASL, he had taken a course but he had not continued to practice but he still had a bit of knowledge to be able to understand that she was just trying to tell him that there was no problem.

"Have a nice day" he smiled at the girl as she waved goodbye to him.

"Why didn't she say anything?" Sprite asked when they were at the bus stop.

"She's probably deaf and that's why she uses sign language to communicate" He explained with a shrug.

"And how do you learn to do those signs?"

"Studying and practicing"

"You do not study"

"I used to do it"

Sprite snorted but she didn't say anything else. The walk home was done in silence, they had an established routine and coming home was something that neither of them enjoyed doing.

"Go to the room" Druig ordered as soon as they entered and noticed that her father was in front of the television surrounded by beers "I don't want you to go out at all, do you hear me?" Sprite nodded and ran towards her room, closing the door silently.

"Finally you show up!" His father had turned to look at him "Get me some beers from the fridge, quickly"
Druig said nothing and did as her father ordered, handing her two beers moments later. The man accepted the drink without looking at him.
"I left food in the fridge for you two, warm it up and feed your sister and don't bother me, I'm busy"

Still keeping silent, the teenager took care of heating the food that the man had brought, it was normal for his father to come home with food from some fast food restaurant and have Druig heat it up and feed his sister with it, they very rarely ate anything prepared at home and the only times they did was because the eldest wasn't home and Druig had to figure out how to feed him and Sprite.

"Thanks for the food" He said as soon as he had heated everything up, he didn't like to thank the man for remembering to spend a few dollars on them but he knew the consequences of not acknowledging the "effort" his father made for them .

He walked into their room without saying anything and it wasn't until he had locked the door that Sprite came out from under the bed. They ate in silence, used to not making any noise when his father was watching a game, it was better not to attract his attention.

Sprite climbed to the top bunk without saying anything, it could be considered a good day when Sprite felt calm enough to sleep in her own bed. Neither of them was a very sound sleeper so Druig tried to make as little noise as possible while he took things out of his backpack to try and finish his homework.

Chapter Text

Druig was a very observant person and it was thanks to that that he and Sprite had managed to survive the last two years alone under the supposed care of their father. He was the one in charge of reminding the man of some of the things he had to do, such as enrolling Sprite in school, buying clothes, buying food and although many times some tasks were left to him, he preferred to do them himself to know that they would be done and not forgotten.

With his good observation and quick response Druig was able to gauge his father's mood when he came home from work and with that knowledge he was able to classify the days. The good days were when the man was too tired to pay attention to them and he used to arrive with fast food or with money ready for Druig to take care of ordering food, during those days the man went to sleep many times without even eating something or he preferred eat sitting in front of the sofa watching television. The bad days were when he came home angry and looked for any excuse to hit and yell at them, those days Druig always tried to hide Sprite as soon as possible but there were few days when his sister was quick enough to get out of sight of the man.

He also classify the days depending on Sprite's mood, at six years old Sprite understood very well the rules that Druig had created so that they could survive living with their father as well as possible but at the end of the day Sprite was just a little girl and many times her emotions were more powerful than what she knew she should and should not do. Her good days consisted of when she was able to follow all of Druig's rules, not make too much noise, not ask her father questions, stay out of the man's sight without drawing too much attention to her, hide as quickly as possible when she saw that the man was about to lose it. The bad days consisted of her not being able to control her emotions, feeling very angry or very anxious about the situation in which they lived which ended in her forgetting key things that Druig had taught her or worst of all her yelling at her father when she couldn't tolerate things anymore.
On those occasions Druig knew that things would end very badly, the last time the man had thrown her from one end of the room to the other and left her unconscious, he had rushed to her side and had come between her and her father before the man continued to beat her. He had learned to accept the man's blows and if he was lucky he managed to persuade him to leave them alone although there were more times when they both ended up with more bruises or cuts than not.
Sprite always felt guilty after that and ended up sleeping on the bed next to Druig looking for some comfort after the beatings. For Druig, she was never to blame for what happened, she was only six years old and lived constantly in fear of the person who was supposed to take care of her, the fault lay with the man who more times than not came home drunk looking for who to blame because his life was not what he wanted.

But despite the fact that Druig felt that he had things in control many times his father was in charge of reminding him that he was the one who ruled the house. Druig took care of Sprite in her day to day, he woke her up to go to school, he prepared her breakfast, he dropped her off and picked her up from school, he helped her with homework, he was with her when she had nightmares and he stayed with her until she fell asleep, he did everything necessary for Sprite to have the closest thing to a normal life. But his father always made sure that he knew that he had power over both of them, he was the one who left the money that fed and clothed them both, his favorite threat was to tell Druig that he could separate him from Sprite, with a call he could turn them over to child protective services and Druig would never see his sister again, so he had to keep quiet about how things were at home if he didn't want to lose Sprite.

So Druig had created a lifetime of lies to make the world believe that he and Sprite were more than well taken care of and had devised a series of strategies to keep them both out of the house as long as possible.

Druig used to take Sprite to the opposite side of town, there he didn't have to worry about someone he knew seeing them hanging around the street until it was time to go home. They spent their time from parks to small cafes where they could enjoy a snack while they did their homework, but their favorite place was undoubtedly the library where they could enjoy their time reading and it was the best place to do homework without distractions. They used to alternate the places where they went since they did not like to raise suspicions that a fifteen year old teenager was alone with a six year old girl wandering around the city without supervision but without fail they attended the library every Friday since they offered activities that Sprite enjoyed.

____

Sprite stared out the bus window in silence, they were having what Druig considered a bad day. She had woken up in the middle of the night thanks to a nightmare and it had taken a lot for Druig to calm her down and get her to go back to sleep, the lack of sleep made her moody during the morning and that mood stayed with her throughout the school day, by the time Druig picked her up from school her teacher had sent her with a note about her misbehavior all day. He hadn't said anything when reading the note and he had simply guided her to the bus stop to go to the library like every Friday. A part of her wanted Druig to be upset about how badly she had behaved at school but she knew that she wouldn't get a reaction like that from him, her brother had almost infinite patience when it came to her.

Druig took her hand to help him off the bus and didn't let go until they entered a store that Sprite couldn't recognize, it wasn't until several seconds later that she noticed they were in an ice cream parlor.

"What are we doing here?" she asked, frowning not understanding why he had brought her there.

"We're going to have ice cream" He said without looking at her as they lined up to order.

"why?" it was not normal for them to eat ice cream

"Why not? It's a nice day and there's still some time before we have to get to the library"

Without another word, they stayed in line until it was their turn to order, leaving minutes later each with an ice cream cone in their hands. They ate their ice cream in silence on a nearby bench and it wasn't until she had finished all her ice cream that Sprite hugged her brother and murmured a soft thank you.
Neither of them liked to show affection in public but there were times like this where Sprite sought comfort from her older brother and Druig never refused to give it to her.

Sprite's bad mood seemed to disappear as soon as they reached the library, Druig leaving her as usual in the children's area before heading to the tables where he would spend the next two hours trying to do his homework.

The library offered a variety of activities for children every Friday, every Friday a volunteer would read a story to the children and related to that story they did different activities from some crafts to an impromptu play, some volunteers invented games related to stories but mostly crafts which were Sprite's favorite. She was not a very sociable girl and she liked to stay away from everyone as much as possible, she only got close enough to listen to the story and find out what activity they were doing to decide whether or not she would stay to do it.

Sprite sat at one of the farthest tables waiting for story time to start, sometimes she found the stories somewhat boring but that was because many times they chose books for children younger than her but still sometimes she managed to enjoy the stories. stories depending on how exciting the storyteller of the day will tell them.

A teenager, possibly a little older than her brother entered the room accompanied by Mrs. Figgs, who was in charge of the children's area of the library, Mrs. Figgs began to explain some things to her and Sprite could guess that this would be the first time that she would be doing storytelling for the children. The teenager seemed somewhat agitated, she might have been a little late and she had rushed over, but she seemed quite friendly, something that immediately made Sprite wince at the smile that didn't disappear from her face.
Sprite watched her carefully from where she was, she was wearing a green coat and still had that gentle smile plastered on her face even as Mrs. Figgs raised her voice to gather all the children to pay attention to her.

The girl introduced herself as Sersi and after giving a few words about how excited she was to be able to read a story for all of them she began with her reading. "How to Catch a Star" was the book she had chosen to read and it didn't take long for Sprite to be amused by her voice as she read the pages of the story one by one. As soon as she finished reading the book she asked everyone's opinion on how they liked the story, some hands went up and Sersi gave each of those children the opportunity to give her opinion. At the end of the little discussion she began to explain the activity they would do, she took out a large packet of colored sheets and informed them that they would be making paper stars. Mrs. Figgs appeared to help her distribute the materials to each of the children, Sprite decided that she did feel like trying to make paper stars.

"Hello sweet girl" Sersi approached her with a smile "why are you so apart from everyone? Do you want to make paper stars?"
Sprite shrugged and nodded, holding out her hand to accept the sheets of paper Sersi was offering her.
"What do you think if you come to the front with me? From back here you won't be able to see very well and I wouldn't like it if you couldn't make your own star" Sersi offered her her hand inviting her to go with her and she hesitated before accepting her hand so she could Escort her to the front of the room.

"Hello Sprite, I'm glad to see you join today" Mrs. Figg gave her a smile as she took a seat on a blue chair next to Sersi "did your brother come with you?"

She just nodded which was enough for the woman to leave her alone with Sersi and the other children at the table. Sersi proved to be a great teacher, she had great patience with all the children and made sure to include Sprite throughout the process, making sure she didn't miss a single detail of how she had to fold the sheet of paper correctly to get the result. wanted.

"Your star is very beautiful, do you want to put a sticker or some other decoration on it?" Sersi asked with a smile to which Sprite shook her head. "Mrs. Figgs mentioned your name is Sprite, is that right?" She nodded "Your name is very beautiful, just like you"

Sprite frowned at her words and shrugged wordlessly at her comment.

"Do you want to make another star? There is still some time to make one or two more"

____

Druig was used to Sprite showing up a few times before story time was over, he knew that some of the activities or stories didn't catch her attention but when they did she was almost always back before the hour was officially over. Her concern grew when ten minutes past the end of story time and she still hadn't made her appearance to go home, usually when she wasn't interested in what they were reading she would go back to see him to tell him she was going to find a book to read while he did his homework, sometimes she would sit reading and it was when he went to look for her to return home but this was the first time that she had not gone to see him when she decided that she would spend the two hours sitting in a corner alone reading whatever she found interesting.

He began to put away his things as quickly as possible and he headed to the children's area ready to search for his sister throughout the library if necessary. He got a huge surprise when he saw Sprite sitting at one of the tables next to a girl dressed in green while they chatted in low voices and did some kind of craft folding colored leaves.

"Sprite?" He was quite surprised to see her sister casually talking to someone, she preferred to keep to herself.

"He is your brother?" Druig could hear the question despite being quite far from where they were both.

"Yes, his name is Druig" Sprite looked at his brother before looking back at Sersi "Thank you for teaching me how to make paper stars, I had a lot of fun"

"I'm glad to hear that, are you coming next Friday? I'll be coming in the next few weeks for story time."

"Yes, I come every week" Sprite glanced at his brother who was approaching them

"In that case see you next week Sprite, it was nice meeting you, have a nice weekend"

"Thank you, Bye Sersi" Sprite stood up taking the paper stars in her hands and met Druig halfway "look what I did"

"You did a good job, do you want me to put them away?" Druig asked looking at Sersi who was watching them curiously as she put away the leftover materials.

"Be very careful"

"As if I wasn't going to be careful, we can try to hang them above your bed" he offered as he opened his backpack to start putting them away

"Really?"

"We can try it, would you like to?"

"I think so"

They began to walk towards the exit once they had put all the stars in the backpack, Druig turned to give Sersi one last look before leaving.

Chapter Text

Sprite had to admit that she was somewhat anxious to return to the library that Friday, Sersi was, in her opinion, the best storyteller they had had in a long time and she was the first who had really made an effort to include her in the activity, not counting Mrs. Figgs who always tried to integrate her into the group when it was her turn to be the storyteller. Druig didn't seem to notice her little sister's enthusiasm as they made their way to the library and reminding her that he would come looking for her at the end if she didn't come looking for him first, Sprite simply nodded before disappearing into the children's area under the gaze. his brother's.

There were still a few minutes left before story time would start, they had arrived a little earlier than normal so Sprite would take advantage of those minutes looking for a book to read in case the story they would read today didn't catch her attention. The library offered a wide variety of books and she had her favorites but this time something made her choose "How to Catch a Star", the book they had read the previous week.

"Hello Sprite! It's nice to see you again" Sersi entered the room followed by another girl, Sprite narrowed her eyes when she saw her, she was sure that she had seen her before. "This is my sister Makkari, she is going to help me tell today's story"

Makkari waved her hands in greeting and Sprite followed suit without saying anything to either of them.

"What are you reading?" Sersi took a seat next to her with a smile which grew as she saw the book Sprite had in front of her "I see you liked last week's book. Did you try to make more paper stars?"

"No, but my brother helped me hang the ones we made over my bed"

"I bet they look very beautiful, do you want to come sit up front with me? I'm sure you'll like this story too" Sersi offered her hand and Sprite did not hesitate to accept her offer taking her hand and following her to the front"

It didn't take long for Mrs. Figgs to enter the room to begin to attract the other children so that they would all sit down to listen to the story. As soon as Sersi had the floor she started the little introduction of herself introducing herself again and introducing Makkari.

"The book I brought today is a very special book, my sister Makkari is deaf which means she cannot hear. She communicates through sign language and the book I am going to read to you today includes some signs that Makkari is going to help me with." to teach you"

Sersi started reading her, the story was good and at each page Sersi stopped to let Makkari teach them how to do the signs that were illustrated in the book. The problem was that the story was about a mother and her daughter having a day at the beach and Sprite was feeling a bit uncomfortable as the story progressed.

When the story was over Sersi again gave them the opportunity to give her opinion on the story and Sprite saw the perfect opportunity to sneak away from the group. Silently she left the children's area in search of Druig something that didn't cost her much since she used to always be in the same place.

"Hey, didn't you do the activity today?" He asked her as she took a seat in the chair next to him "what's wrong?" she immediately recognized that something was wrong with her sister, something had definitely bothered her.

"Nothing, I just didn't like the story" she sighed "I'm going to go read a book by myself"

"Are you sure? You can tell me if something is bothering you, you know right?"

"I'm fine" She said before leaving the chair and returning to the children's area where she stayed as far away as possible from the area where the story time was taking place.

She picked up a book without paying attention to what it was and sat down at one of the tables closest to the entrance. She flipped through the pages absentmindedly without reading the book in front of her, her mind was quite busy thinking about other things.

"Sprite?" Sersi approached taking her by surprise "did something happen? When I realized you were gone"

She shrugged as she turned the page of the book, looking at it carefully to avoid having to look at Sersi.

"Are you okay?" Sersi knelt in front of her and Sprite was finally forced to look up from her to meet a worried look on her face.

"Is everything alright?" Druig suddenly appeared at her side before Sprite could even reply to Sersi.

"I was just worried, she disappeared from one moment to another, I wanted to make sure she was alright" Sersi replied with a smile looking at Sprite

"Sprite, is everything okay?" Druig asked putting a hand on her shoulder.

"I need to go to the bathroom" Sprite stood up quickly and disappeared before any of them could react.

Druig grunted as soon as Sprite was out of sight, taking a seat in one of the small chairs and looking at Sersi appraisingly.

"What was the story you read about?"

"About a mother and her daughter visiting the beach, it's a book that includes sign language and that was the activity we did today"

"Our mother died two years ago" Druig didn't feel bad about saying that fact out loud and after learning what the story was about he was able to better understand why Sprite seemed to be reacting this way "Sprite doesn't always react well to little reminders about her, she has a picture where they are together on the beach when she was younger"

"I'm so sorry, I had no idea" Sersi looked at him embarrassed "is there anything I can do to make this better?"

Druig looked at her puzzled by her words; she didn't even know them and was offering her help for something that wasn't her fault.

"Don't worry, she'll be fine"

"Can I ask you something?"

"You just did it right now"

Before Sersi could ask her question Makkari appeared in front of them, surprising Druig a bit who, like Sprite, remembered her from the very brief encounter with her weeks before.

"I was looking for you, Kingo sent me a message saying that Ajak is waiting for us at the cafe" She moved her hands looking directly at Sersi but as soon as she noticed Druig a huge smile crossed her face "Nice to see you again boy I almost knock out"

"My name is Druig" her movements were a bit rusty but still he could see that she could understand him

"I am Makkari"

"A beautiful name for a beautiful woman"

Makkari blushed but didn't look away from her, earning a confused look from Sersi.

"What are you doing?" Sprite magically appeared next to Druig causing everyone to jump.

"Nothing, let's go it's time to go home" Druig stood up taking his backpack and his sister's "nice to meet you both" he said at the same time that he moved his hands to that Makkari could understand.

Sprite just waved his hand and put on her own backpack before taking his brother's hand so they could leave.

____

"Where did you meet him?" Sersi asked when they left the library minutes later

"A few weeks ago we bumped into each other when they were leaving the library, you know me, I wasn't paying attention and almost knocked the poor guy to the ground" Makkari shrugged "And where did you meet them from?"

"Sprite the little girl attended story time last week, she was sitting at a back table and I invited her up front with me, we stayed a few extra minutes making paper stars, she was telling me about some of her books favorites, he and I haven't formally introduced each other, Sprite just told me his name and I guess she would have mentioned mine to him."

"I like him, and the girl looks adorable. Is she the little girl you were looking for when you finished your story time?"

"Yes, she just disappeared although her brother explained to me why" She let out a sigh "he told me that her mother died two years ago and that she has a picture with her mother on the beach, I guess she remembered it and preferred to leave"

"That's sad, I hope she's okay"

"He told me not to worry about it, I hope to see her again next week"

"You have a great love for children"

"I can't help it, the first time I saw her she looked so sad sitting alone, I felt bad since I know the feeling of being alone"

"Yes, I understand"

____

Sprite was quieter than usual as they made their way home, Druig understood why she was so withdrawn that he didn't comment on it.

"Do you want something to eat?" He asked her when they had entered and noticed that there was no sign of her father. Sprite shook her head and took a seat on one of the chairs in the small dining room.

"Do you miss mom?"

Druig didn't expect that question so she froze where she was in the kitchen and she was silent for a few seconds before answering.

"Sometimes, do you miss her?"

"Sometimes, sometimes I forget that we had a mom"

"You were very little when she died, it's normal that you don't remember her too much"

They remained silent, each absorbed in their own thoughts. Druig was about to start looking for something to prepare for dinner when the front door opened letting her father in, neither of them had noticed the noise the car made when it arrived. They both stayed frozen where they were, it was too early for the man to be back and even more so because it was a Friday, on Fridays he usually didn't show up until dawn or he was there since before they arrived drinking while watching TV.

"What are you doing?" He asked sharply, looking at both of them.

"I was just about to make some dinner" Druig hastened to answer, looking nervously at Sprite.

"Forget about it and better order something to eat, I don't feel like eating your food" he left his keys on the table and scanned Sprite for a few seconds without saying anything

"What do you want me to order?"

"Chinese, pizza, whatever, take money from the wallet, I'm going to lie down for a while, call me when the food comes" Without another word he threw the wallet to Druig and disappeared into his room.

They both released the air they didn't know they were holding, Druig hurried to order the food before doing anything else for fear that his father would get desperate for not having something to eat faster.

Sprite disappeared minutes later in his room, Druig guessed that she needed the time alone so he stayed where he was waiting for the food to arrive. Minutes before the food arrived Sprite reappeared and together with Druig they took out the cutlery to put them on the table.

Everything seemed to indicate that they would be having a quiet night, the dinner was passing in silence and his father seemed quite calm while he ate.

Logically when one thinks that things will go well is when they begin to go wrong, Sprite began to make noise with his fork without realizing it and that seemed to be enough to irritate the man who from one moment to another held the girl's hand with force to stop it. She screamed, making the man angrier who didn't take long to slap her before Druig could react and try to pull her away from him.

"Stop! Leave her alone"

"Shut your damn mouth, this girl has to learn to keep quiet" He stood up, abruptly letting go of Sprite's hand who didn't dare to move from where he was "You would do well to remember who's in charge in this house"

Druig immediately lowered his gaze and nodded, if the man hadn't landed another blow on any of them it was better not to continue talking so as not to cause a worse reaction.

"Clean everything and I don't want to see you anymore for today"

He threw the fork that Sprite had dropped against the wall making them both jump at the sudden action and headed into the living room where he turned the television on full blast.

They sat where they were for a few seconds before Druig moved to kneel in front of Sprite.

"Are you ok?" he asked, taking her jaw to examine her face "does it hurt?" Sprite shook his head several times without daring to look at him "go to our room, I'll be there in a few minutes"

Sprite knew better than to argue with him about staying to help so she did as he asked without saying anything. Druig sighed as soon as Sprite had disappeared and dedicated himself to cleaning up what was left of the dinner, it didn't take him more than a few minutes to finish before he could go to his room.

He found Sprite curled up on his bed staring at the wall, she hadn't bothered to change her clothes and had only taken off her shoes which were lying by the door.

Without saying anything he sat down next to her and moved her hand to start rubbing her back to comfort her and help her fall asleep. It was quite early to sleep but after what happened he knew that she would wake up later because of some nightmare.

Sprite seemed to have fallen asleep after some minutes and he took advantage of that to put a blanket over her and get up to turn off the light. He lay down slowly next to her trying not to wake her up but once he was in bed she moved so she could snuggle him.

He began to gently run his fingers through her hair to try to get her back to sleep and without much thought began to hum a lullaby that their mother used to sing to them when they couldn't sleep. Sprite finally fell asleep curled up next to him, while Druig wondered how much longer they would be living like this.

Chapter Text

"Hello" Makkari appeared from one moment to another taking a seat in the chair in front of him "I'm happy to see you again, how is your sister? She was a little sad the last time we saw each other"

"Hello to you too beautiful" He smiled a little when he saw her "she's fine,Little kids bounce back so easily" He didn't bother to talk, what better than to have a sign conversation in a library

"That's good, Sersi brought a book about an elephant I'm sure your sister will love it, she also brought a craft related to that"

"In that case I won't be seeing my sister for the next two hours and I'll have to spend this time just trying to do homework." He pointed to the books in front of him with a smirk.

"I'll keep you company"

"The beautiful Makkari will spend two hours with me, I'm flattered" He didn't normally flirt with girls but something about Makkari made him unable to contain himself.

"You're such a flirt" she gave him a smile which he didn't hesitate to return "I've never seen you at school, what grade are you in?"

"It's probably because we don't go to the same school" he shrugged dismissively "I live on the other side of the city"

"What!?" Makkari really didn't expect his answer "and why do you come all the way to the other side of the city to go to the library?"

"Sprite likes story time here and I use the time to do homework sometimes"

"It's still a long journey"

"A bus brings us directly, it's not much of a problem"

"And your father knows that you travel so far?"

"Yes" Druig tensed a little at the mention of his father "And what about you? What brings beautiful Makkari to the library on Friday?" he hastened to change the subject to avoid further questions regarding his father.

"I come with Sersi and maybe I wanted to see a certain boy again" she blushed a little but didn't take her eyes off him

"Now I feel flattered. Sersi is your friend who tells the stories right? I thought I heard her name but Sprite never mentioned it to me and I preferred not to ask her anything about last week"

"Yes, she is Sersi, but she is not my friend, she is my sister, adoptive obviously. My mom adopted us when we were just little girls, maybe a little older than Sprite, we were lucky" she smiled as she thought about her family "I have other four siblings, five if we consider my older sister's husband"

"I think it must be nice to have such a big family, I can see that you love them very much" He looked at her with some sadness in his eyes but he had a sincere smile on his face.

"It's true, I love them so much and I'm very lucky to have them. What about you, is it just you and Sprite?"

"Yes, just us and our father, I know I have two older half siblings but I haven't seen them in more than ten years, Sprite doesn't even know them, their mother separated from my father before he married mine, they would come every other week or so, but they moved out of the country and I didn't see them again"

"That sounds really bad, and where did she move with them? With today's technology maybe you can contact them"

"To this country, I'm from Ireland, we moved here when Sprite was two years old"

"And your father never tried to find your siblings?"

"Not that I know of, they were several years older than me, surely they already have a life of their own, it would be selfish to come out of nowhere just out of curiosity"

"I think that's very noble to think about how it could affect their lives, although I think you and Sprite have a right to know them"

"Maybe" he shrugged, the truth was that he didn't used to think much about his older siblings, he had a very vague memory of them and couldn't even remember their names. "Enough about me, tell me about yourself, I'm sure you're quite an interesting person"

Makkari smiled and the two proceeded to engage in a long conversation, Druig's books completely forgotten in front of them. She learned that he learned sign language from a class she took years ago when she was in seventh grade. They discovered that they were both freshmans in high school and that they had some interests in common although while she was a fairly active person who was part of quite a few after-school activities, he preferred not to oversaturate his schedule and spent most of his time taking care of Sprite.

The talk took an interesting turn when they touched on the subject of favorite movies, while Druig preferred Star Wars, Makkari preferred Harry Potter which led to a very heated argument about which saga was better. Druig was a bit rusty with his signs but when he didn't know a sign he would spell the word and Makkari immediately taught him the correct sign to continue their conversation.

Losing track of time Druig finally realized the time when his cell phone sounded the typical alarm notifying him that story time was over and he had to go pick up Sprite.

"I think it's time we move this conversation elsewhere, storytime is over and I have to look for Sprite"

"And I have to go look for Sersi"

Druig began to put his things into his backpack and together they headed to the children's area where it was not surprising for him to find Sprite sitting next to Sersi while they both chatted quietly while Sersi turned the page of a book.

Sersi was the first to notice their presence and looked up from the book to smile at them both before continuing her talk with Sprite who didn't bother to look up as her gaze was still fixed on the book in front of her.

"Ready to go?" Druig asked when she had finally looked up from the book, assuming that she had finished reading the page. Sprite nodded and closed the book offering it to Sersi.

"Thanks for reading again with me Sersi"

"You're very welcome Sprite, it's a pleasure to be able to read with you"

"It was an honor talking to you, beautiful Makkari" Druig spoke while making the corresponding signs in Makkari's direction, earning a confused look from Sprite "I hope to see you again soon"

"Why don't you join us for dinner?" Sersi interrupted gaining everyone's attention "we are going to have dinner at our brother-in-law's restaurant, our siblings are waiting for us there, it would be great if you accompanied us"

"We would not like to impose on your family dinner"

"Nonsense" Makkari was quick to sign "it will be fun, it's not too far from here, it really isn't a problem if you join us"

"Maybe next time" Druig looked at Sprite who was frowning as she didn't understand what Makkari was saying "My father will probably wonder where we are if we don't get home soon, but maybe next time"

"Then give me your number so I can remember you next week so you can ask your father and you will have no excuses"

Druig smirked "Okay, it's a deal" she then offered him her cell phone so he save his number

"Deal" she lifted her chin mockingly and he mimicked her as she accepted her cell phone back.

"Druig, what are you doing?" Sprite asked in Irish finally capturing Druig's attention, who looked at her in surprise for a few seconds since it was very rare for her to use her mother tongue to address him "I want to go home"

"Ok, let's go" He didn't say anything and extended her hand for her to take it and although she hesitated for a few seconds she accepted his hand "See you next time ladies"

Sprite didn't bother to say goodbye to either of them and practically dragged Druig out of the library to head home.

Sersi giggled as soon as they were alone "I think Sprite didn't like that you were flirting with her brother"

"I wasn't flirting, he was" Makkari blushed a bit "besides it was you who invited them to have dinner with us"

"I couldn't help but see the way you guys chatted, it's not often you meet someone who knows sign language that you actually like"

"That's right but still I barely know him"

"I mean he seems like he would be a really good friend to you."

Makkari rolled her eyes and turned around to start walking towards the exit and turning only to hurry her "Come on, surely Kingo and Ikaris will be upset if we take longer".

. . . . . . . .

"How did it go?" Ikaris asked as Sersi took a seat across from him.

"It was good" She replied with a smile looking at Makkari next to her "we almost had company but Makkari's new friend couldn't come with us" she teased her with a smile

"Who is your new friend?" Kingo asked as soon as he was seated across from Makkari who glared at Sersi accusingly.

"He is the older brother of one of the little girls who listens to Sersi's stories" Makkari finally answered before the curious looks of Kingo and Ikaris "his name is Druig"

"Druig?" To everyone's surprise it was Ikaris who asked, looking at Makkari with a frown.

"Yes, do you know him?"

"No, it's just that the name reminded me of someone I knew"

Makkari nodded, accepting the explanation but Sersi looked at him realizing that something about his name had caught her attention.

"And where is he from? Is he in a class with you? Is he attractive?" Kingo bombarded her with questions, making Makkari glare at Sersi again.

"He doesn't go to the same school as us, but he's also a freshman like me. He told me they moved from Ireland about four years ago and he thinks Star Wars is better than Harry Potter, we basically spent two hours debating the latter, his little sister is called Sprite, she is the girl that Sersi has been talking about for the last few weeks"

"Makkari made her upset, he was flirting with her brother" Sersi teased her.

"I wasn't flirting!"

Sersi just smiled and Kingo let out a laugh at Makkari's exasperated expression. The three of them continued chatting, moving on to other topics, neither one noticing the thoughtful look on Ikaris's face.

. . . . . . . .

"Why did you call her beautiful?" Sprite finally asked when she was lying in her own bed.

"I don't know, I just said it" Druig said brushing her off even though he knew she hadn't liked the way he had been addressing Makkari. "Are you angry?" he asked trying to hold back a smile even though she couldn't see him.

"No"

"Are you sure?" He asked trying to tease her some more "because you sound pretty angry to me"

In response he only got a small growl from her. hers He suppressed her laughter, it was better not to make her angry.

Chapter Text

It was not normal for Druig to suddenly feel so comfortable with another person, he could not say that he had any friends at school, he was friendly with some people but he was not close to anyone to really consider them his friends so his growing friendship with Makkari was something new for him. It was quite surprising how he could feel so comfortable with a person despite having met her only a couple of times, he did not usually open up to talk about many things especially about his family but something in Makkari inspired him with a confidence that he had never had before.

Since they had exchanged their phone numbers they had started texting each other non-stop, Druig was not very adept at technology but for the first time he was enjoying the advantages of being able to send messages when he wanted to someone.

Sprite was not very happy at first with her brother's new friendship, he did not dare to tell her that she was just jealous but sometimes he took the opportunity to make fun of her which ended with Sprite angry and refusing to speak to him for several hours. Sprite eventually ended up accepting Makkari to the point of asking both of them to teach her sign language because she was tired of not being able to understand what they were saying.

The following weeks were filled with various encounters between Druig and Sprite with Makkari and sometimes Sersi. Sersi had started alternating storytelling Fridays with other volunteers, something Sprite wasn't too happy about, but Fridays when it was her turn to go to the library were Sprite's favorites. Meanwhile Makkari had started to meet Druig and Sprite sometimes during the week, going out and about with them.

The topic about accompanying Sersi and Makkari to dinner had been long forgotten for the moment, Druig could agree to meet them in parks, the library or a cafe but the idea of going to dinner at a restaurant with his family terrified him, surely they would ask questions and many times they were questions that he was not willing to answer.

Druig had stopped worrying about the dinner invitation, he had known Makkari and Sersi for more than a month and they hadn't brought it up again so he felt calm about it.

. . . . . . . .

It was the Friday before Halloween and Sersi had chosen a book about a ghost, "The Little Ghost Who Lost Her Boo!" She had all the children entertained including Sprite who looked at Sersi enraptured at her words. Druig rarely stayed to watch story time but Makkari had convinced him to sit in the back with her and after the bad day he and Sprite had had yesterday thanks to their father, Druig felt better seeing her sister smile.

"So, do you want to come to dinner with us today?" Makkari asked taking Druig by surprise "You said you were planning to buy something for dinner since your father is going out with his friends, why don't you come with us?"

'Shit,' Druig thought, mentally beating himself up for saying that to Makkari. He had thought of taking Sprite to a McDonalds or one of those places that children liked, yesterday Sprite had dared to ask her father if she could have a Halloween costume to go trick-or-treating and how they both should have foreseen the man did not take it well. After yelling at Sprite, hitting Druig and yelling some more he had left the house, when they woke up Druig found more money than usual on the table and a note with a vague explanation that the man would be out after work and not coming back until maybe the next day. Druig immediately thought that it would be a good idea to do something fun for Sprite to distract her from and he had told Makkari about it in search of recommendations on where they could go, he never thought that it would become a perfect opportunity for her to invite them to dinner again.

"Let me ask Sprite" He replied, trying to buy some time to find a better excuse to refuse.
It turns out that Sersi somehow convinced Sprite to accept the invitation leaving Druig with no other options.

Druig held Sprite's hand firmly as they walked behind Makkari and Sersi toward their brother-in-law's restaurant. Right now he was cursing himself for not having thought to bribe Sprite to go to McDonalds before meeting Makkari and Sersi hours before.

‘The Domo’ spread out in front of them and Druig gulped nervously before entering, Sprite looking completely at ease.

"Kari! Sersi!" A man, a very large man suddenly came out from behind the counter and engulfed the sisters in a big hug "You are actually on time" he finally released them and looked in the direction of Druig and Sprite "and who do we have here?"

Sprite immediately ducked behind Druig, afraid of the big man in front of her.

"Everything is fine Sprite, this is Gilgamesh, my sister's husband" Sersi approached with one of his typical reassuring smiles "Gil, this is Druig and Sprite, our friends"

"So this is the famous Druig" Gil turned to give Makkari a look who just rolled his eyes "Nice to meet you both"

"Nice to meet you" If he had to be honest, Gilgamesh scared him a bit with his large size.

"Will you join us for dinner today?"

"Yes sir"

" 'Sir' " He scoffed at his words "You can call me Gil, the others are at the usual table, Thena and Ajak won't be joining us today, they're both stuck at work, I'll be with you in a moment"

Sersi extended her hand in Sprite's direction but the little girl shook her head clinging closer to Druig, she smiled understanding her apprehension at being separated from her brother.

"Don't let my brothers scare you" Makkari signed before starting to walk behind Sersi "My mom is not here, so it will only be the four of us and three of my siblings"

"Who's missing?"

"My sister Thena and my brother Phastos,but he's away at college."

Finally they reached the back of the restaurant where there was a table visibly a little further apart from the rest. Sersi immediately approached the table with a huge smile, starting to speak quickly to the boy who was sitting there alone, surely warning him that he had to behave.

"So you must be Druig" The boy got up from the table and approached them with a huge smile "and you must be Sprite, I'm Kingo"

"A pleasure to meet you"

"Same man, come sit down" Kingo patted him on the back and led them both to the table under the watchful eyes of Makkari and Sersi.

"Druig, Sprite this is Ikaris" Sersi introduced a boy who had just arrived "Ikaris this is Druig and Sprite, the friends that Kari and I have told you about"

"Nice to meet you both" Ikaris had a weird look on his face "Sersi and Makkari have talked a lot about you two"

"Yeah, thanks nice to meet you too"

Gilgamesh appeared with a big smile on his face and a plate in his hands preventing Ikaris from saying anything more. "Here" he put the plate in front of Sprite which contained a cupcake decorated like a pumpkin lantern "have a taste, a treat before dinner, hope you don't mind" he said the last bit looking at Druig who just shrugged.

"Go ahead Sprite"

The little girl stared at the plate for a few seconds unsure of what to do.

"A pumpkin cupcake for a little pumpkin," Kingo said, gaining a glare from Sprite.

"I'm not a pumpkin"

"But your hair is just the right color to be a little pumpkin"

"And your hair is just as ugly as you"

Sprite crossed her arms in annoyance and Druig stared at her, stunned by her words. Gilgamesh couldn't help but let out a huge laugh and patted Kingo on the back.

"Girl, you've earned yourself another cupcake, not everyone puts him in his place"

She looked at him confused for a few seconds before smirking and returning her attention to the cupcake finally deciding to eat it.

"Sorry about that" Druig was quick to apologize

"Don't apologize, he has it well deserved" Sersi said with a smile from her place

"Kingo is a fool, don't worry" Makkari said, looking at her brother with a disapproving look.

"I'm sorry, it was my fault," Kingo said sincerely, giving a smile to Sprite who just looked at him with narrowed eyes.

Surprisingly, the rest of the dinner passed without any problems, Sprite went from completely detesting Kingo to being fascinated by his jokes, Druig could swear that he had never heard Sprite laugh so much.

He mostly talked to Makkari and Gilgamesh while Sersi was on the lookout for Kingo not to say anything wrong in front of Sprite; Ikaris remained silent for much of dinner, only adding comments when someone else asked him a direct question.

Druig could feel Ikaris' intense gaze on him but she made her best effort to ignore it and enjoy dinner.

When it was time to leave, Sprite disappeared with Kingo and Gilgamesh towards the kitchen and although he was afraid of what his six-year-old sister could do in the kitchen, he decided to let her have fun and trust that Gil would not let something happen to her.

"I think your brother Ikaris didn't like me" Druig signed Makkari when they were left alone at the entrance waiting for Sprite and Kingo.

"Why do you say that?"

"I don't know, but I could feel his eyes on me the whole dinner"

"He is of few words, do not pay much attention to him"

He gave a slight nod "your brothers filled my sister with candy, I'll have a very hyperactive roommate tonight" he joked with a small smile "Thanks for inviting us today, I haven't seen Sprite have fun like this in a long time"

"You don't have to thank me, I loved having you both with us, you should come back again to join us"

"We'll see"

"Druig!" Sprite appeared running with a bag in her hands followed by Kingo "look what Gil gave me" she opened the bag with a big smile showing the inside full of cookies.

"You're not going to eat that today, I intend to at least get some sleep tonight" he told her, taking the bag from her hands knowing the danger of letting her carry it along the way "did you thank him?"

"Obviously, we're going home now?"

"Yes, we have a long way to go" Makkari frowned at his words but didn't comment on it, it had taken Druig a bit to convince her that they would be fine returning alone by bus.

Kingo gave Sprite a high five before bidding farewell to Druig and returning to the table with the rest of the family.

"See you later, beautiful Makkari"

As soon as they were outside the restaurant Druig made sure to take Sprite's hand firmly on his own and started walking in the direction of the bus stop.

"Father won't be home when we get there, will he?" Sprite asked as the door closed behind them.

"No, if we're lucky we won't see him until tomorrow" he replied feeling the relief of being able to give her that good news "did you have fun?"

"Yes, I liked Kingo and Gil a lot"

"I don't know if all those sweets and cookies they gave you have anything to do with it"

"I don't know what you're talking about"

Druig rolled his eyes but said nothing, Sprite had a triumphant smile on his face.

. . . . . . . .

Ikaris walked from one side to the other in his room, he couldn't get Makkari's friend out of his mind, he was almost completely sure that this boy was the brother he had stopped seeing years ago.

He could remember, somewhat hazily, a five-year-old boy running after him when he went to visit his father during the summers. That was the last memory he had of his younger brother, he had not returned the following summer because his mother had moved him and his sister to America and they never returned to Ireland for summer vacations, which was where their father lived.

He never really knew the reason for the move, his mother just packed things up one day and they left London never to return. Thena, his older sister, knew the reason for the move but had never shared with him the reasons why his mother had cut off all communication with the man. In fact Thena never talked about their father, she even seemed to act as if the man, never had existed.

The relationship that Thena and Ikaris had was not the best, Thena felt an obligation to Ikaris after the death of their mother but she had always been cold and distant with everyone, even with her own brother, so they had never really been close.

Their mother had died just over a year after her arrival in the United States, a tragic car accident had left Thena and Ikaris orphans in a new country. They entered the foster care system spending a few months in a pretty bad home before finally arriving with Ajak.

Ajak showed them what a mother's love was regardless of blood, she took care of Thena when her mental health deteriorated for the worse and encouraged her to go to university, she took care of Ikaris while Thena studied and became a great lawyer and when she finished college and came back she helped her arrange things for Thena to have Ikaris in her care. They lived a few houses away from Ajak and all in all they considered her their mother.

Things had turned out well for both of them, Thena had married Gilgamesh who loved her unconditionally and Ikaris was about to enter university and had several scholarship offers and the support of Thena and Ajak to continue her education.

After so many years he never thought that he would possibly cross paths with his younger brother and find out that he might have a younger sister.

He couldn't be sure that Druig was really his brother, although everything Makkari had said about him only increased his suspicions since everything he knew about him made sense with the things he remembered, he would have to talk to Thena to tell him.

After much thought, he decided that it was better to end this and left his room in search of his sister. As always Thena was sitting in front of the fireplace with a book on her lap, Gilgamesh beside her watching the television.

"Can we talk?" He asked nervously entering the living room of the house. Thena gave him a curious look before getting up and leading him to the kitchen.

"Is everything okay? You look a little nervous" She observed pouring two glasses of water indicating that he took a seat on one of the kitchen stools.

"Yeah, if it's just..." Damn, he really was nervous "Do you remember we had a younger brother? Who lived with our father in Ireland that we went to visit every summer"

Thena tensed up taking the glass with a little more force than necessary "Yes, I remember, what about him?"

"Do you remember his name?"

"Druig, he was about five or six years old when we stopped seeing him."

"Have you heard Sersi and Makkari talk about their new friend?"

"Gil mentioned that Kari's friend and his younger sister accompanied them to dinner today, he said that the child put Kingo in her place"

"Yes, well about that, I'm almost sure that Makkari's friend Druig is our brother, listen to me before you say something please" He hastened to add the last before Thena could start to question him "Makkari commented that he told her that they come from Ireland, that they moved here about four years ago and I swear that since Sersi introduced me to him I can't stop thinking about it.When Makkari mentioned the name the first time and said he was from Ireland I thought it was a lot of coincidence but after seeing him today... I swear to you Thena, I'm almost sure it's him"

Thena remained silent looking at him without saying anything for what for Ikaris felt were hours although it really didn't take more than a minute "I believe you" she finally said "But even so you don't have proof that he really is our brother"

"Kingo said that Makkari invited both of them to have dinner with us again, maybe there you can see for yourself"

"You are not going to tell anyone about this Ikaris" She said in a more serious way than usual "when we moved to this country it was because our mother tried to put as much space between us and that man, if it turns out that truly he is our brother, you can't tell him the truth, am I being clear?" Ikaris nodded wordlessly at her sister's harsh words "I'm going to talk to Ajak about this, he's not supposed to get close to either of us, I took care of that as soon as I finish school"

"Why did you do that? What did you do?"

"The best for you and me"

Leaving him speechless again, Thena left the kitchen leaving him alone with his thoughts, that was not how he expected this conversation to end.

Chapter Text

It was easier to accept Makkari's invitation to go to dinner with his family again after the first time, Sprite had practically begged him to go. She wanted to see Kingo and Gilgamesh again and see her sister so insistent about wanting to do something. It was all he needed to accept.

Despite the fact that this Friday neither Sersi nor Makkari had accompanied them to the library, the siblings headed to the restaurant ready to once again experience a few hours of fun with the family.

"Gil!" As soon as they crossed the gate Sprite let go of her brother's hand so she could greet Gilgamesh.

"Sprite! I didn't know you were coming today!" Gilgamesh had a huge smile on his face "come behind the counter, I have something you might like, hello Druig, Makkari and the others are at the table last time why don't you join them?"

"Good night to you too, I hope that something doesn't mean another bag full of cookies" Druig raised an eyebrow looking at the man hoping for a better explanation.

"It's better than that, come on Sprite"

Sprite looked at Druig pleading with her eyes to let her go, he just nodded giving her a serious look so she understood that she had to behave. She disappeared as soon as he agreed and he couldn't help but roll his eyes at her, still quite surprised at how well she had accepted all the members of Makkari's family.

As he made his way through the restaurant to get to the table he decided to text Makkari that he had already arrived and that he was on his way to meet her. A few seconds after sending the message, Makkari appeared in front of him.

"Your brother kidnapped my sister" He explained before she could ask where Sprite was "Nice to see you beautiful Makkari, thanks for having us again"

"I am very happy that you guys came again!" she signed before giving him a quick hug due to her excitement "my mom and sister are here, come I'll introduce you"

He could feel her nerves showing up at the mention of her mom, it was weird enough meeting almost all of her siblings and now he would be meeting her mom. He wasn't very good with people, the only person he really interacted with on a daily basis was a six year old girl, so he wasn't sure what to expect from meeting his new friend's mom.

"Druig!" Sersi was the first to notice his presence, causing everyone else at the table to turn to look at him.

"Man! Nice to see you! Where's the little pumpkin?" Kingo stood up quickly to greet him and began to search for Sprit.

"Gilgamesh took her to the kitchen, he said he would bring her in a few minutes"

"Excuse me" Kingo immediately excused himself to head to the kitchen, Druig gave Makkari a curious look who just shrugged.

"Mom, this is Druig. Druig this is my mom." He couldn't help but notice the big smile on his face as he introduced them.

"It's a pleasure to meet you ma'am"

"I’m so happy to finally meet you!" The woman engulfed him in a tight hug for a few seconds before letting go "it's a great honor to meet you Druig, Makkari has told me a lot about you, where is your little sister? I've also heard a lot about her"

"She is with Gilgamesh in the kitchen" He replied feeling his face turn red "he said he would bring her soon"

"Druig" Makkari took his hand to drag him to the other end of the table where a younger woman was watching him intently. Druig gulped as he felt her gaze on him. "This is Thena, my sister. Thena, this is Druig." A flash of recognition seemed to pass over his face.

"Nice to meet you" he answered, a little nervous because of her very intense look, he assumed that she was Ikaris's sister, they both had a very penetrating look.

"The pleasure is mine" Was all she said before glancing at Ikaris "Makkari talks a lot about you"

He didn't quite know how to respond to that but having a lucky break Sprite magically appeared next to him, tugging at his clothes a bit to gain his attention.

"Look" she had a new bag of cookies in her hands and a triumphant smile

"You're not going to eat that today" he said after letting out a groan "I really value sleep"

"Gil said they are mine"

"I didn't say they weren't, but Gil didn't say you had to eat them all now."

Sprite pursed her lips realizing he was right, yet she shrugged her shoulders without letting go of the bag.

"Makkari!" Sprite finally noticed the presence of the other people and gave the girl a quick hug "Look" She again showed her bag full of cookies making the girl smile.

Makkari motioned to Druig so that he could introduce Thena to Sprite, even though they were both teaching her sign language, she still had a hard time understanding some things and many times Sprite would get frustrated if she didn't understand what she was trying to say.

"Sprite, this is Thena, she is Makkari's sister"

Sprite turned towards Thena who was looking at her the same way she had looked at Druig getting the girl to come closer to her brother.

"She scares me" She mumbled in Irish looking at Druig

"Hello kid" Thena greeted trying to contain a smile "Nice to meet you"

Sprite didn't say anything, preferring to hide behind Druig, finally getting Thena to stop looking at her so as not to make her unconfortable anymore.

Kingo was quite disappointed that Sprite's attention had been stolen by Ajak, the little girl was happy to pay attention to the woman who had thousands of funny stories to tell about each of her children.

Makkari, Druig and Kingo then got into a debate about which was the best house in Hogwarts, Kingo firmly believing that Gryffindor was the best while Makkari and Druig insisted that Slytherin was superior.

Thena could not stop looking at Druig, just like Ikaris, she could see in him the little boy that she had not seen for more than a decade and her fear only grew every second when she realized what it could imply if the two of them were indeed his younger siblings.

Sprite walked over to where Thena was sitting next to her husband as he was calling for her to join them.

"Have you met Thena yet?" He asked with a smile pulling up a chair so the little girl could sit "she's my wife" Sprite nodded several times without taking her eyes off the woman "you see Thena, Sprite and I have a prank planned for Kingo, would you be so kind as to cover for us for a few minutes while we get everything ready?" Gil murmured getting a smile from both "I promise you it's nothing disastrous"

"Go have fun then, if anyone asks I'll say you guys went for more cookies"

Sprite gave her a smile for the first time and together with Gilgamesh they disappeared towards the kitchen.

"Do you believe me now?" Ikaris took a seat next to her looking directly at Druig.

"I didn't think you were lying to me, but seeing him just makes me think maybe you're right."

"You don't want me to be right"

She didn't bother to reply, he knew her well enough to know what her words implied.

Gilgamesh and Sprite tricked Kingo with a fake cookie, the poor boy was shocked to find that the cookie he tried to eat was inedible. Everyone, including Druig, burst out laughing as poor Kingo realized who the two were guilty of the prank.

"How are you two going to get home?" Ajak hugged Sprite as they said their goodbyes.

"We will take the bus, we will take it at the stop and it leaves us only a block from where we live"

"Child, but it's too late for the two of you to be alone in the street"

"Don't worry, we're used to traveling by bus, I promise I'll let Makkari know when we get there"

"And does your father know where you two are?" Druig tensed at the question, Sprite instinctively released the woman and moved closer to her brother at the mention of the man.

"Yes, I told him where we would be and he gave me his permission, you really don't have to worry, we'll be fine"

Ajak still seemed unsure about letting them go alone but thanks to Makkari's intervention the woman let them go without further questions.

"Did you really tell father we were here?" Sprite asked, in Irish, as soon as they began to walk away from the family.

"No, I suppose he would have gone out and not noticed that we are not in the house" he answered in the same language, opening the door to be able to leave the restaurant.

Sprite stopped in her tracks upon hearing her response, Druig had to pull her away from the entrance kneeling in front of her before speaking.

"You don't have to worry, I'll take care of it if things go wrong"

"But he's going to hurt you again, I don't like it when he hurts you"

"I know, but there's nothing we can do about it"

"Makkari can't help?"

"No one can help us Sprite" he tried not to sound so harsh "you know what could happen if someone finds out"

"They are going to separate us and I am not going to see you again"

"Exactly" he nodded and sighed "the only thing we can do is continue as we have been doing, we still have several years ahead of us but we will be fine"

"But what if we're not?"

"Let me worry about that, okay?"

It was difficult, but it was the only option they had. Druig was not about to allow himself to be separated from his sister and if he had to spend another three years enduring the beatings and mistreatment of his father to ensure that, then so be it.

. . . . . . . .

His father hadn't been happy not to find them when he came home from work. Druig could swear that he had never seen him so furious, he had to endure what in his opinion was the worst beating the man had given him so far. Neither of them had gone free that night, the man seemed to care little about Druig's screams or Sprite's crying, what had started as a good day ended in the worst way.

Sprite had cried herself to sleep and he was in so much pain that he didn't know if he would be able to move the next day.

The man paid no attention to them the rest of the weekend, which was a relief for them but come Monday Druig could notice something different about him, he seemed to be more aggressive than usual which was saying a lot for the man.

The following weeks the man increased in aggressiveness, the beatings were getting worse and worse, Druig was grateful for the fact that it was winter since it was much easier to hide all the bruises that he had all over his body.

It was a particularly bad day when they accidentally ran into Makkari in her library, neither of them expecting to see her on a Wednesday of all days.

Sprite was leaning on Druig's side, the day before the man had thrown the remote control at her face which had her quite upset. She had had to lie to her teacher about her hitting herself while she was playing with another boy in the park, the woman seemed to have believed her which only increased the mood she was in; Sprite hated lying but like her brother she was excellent at it.

"What happened?" Makkari asked with a frown at the bruise on Sprite's face.

"She was playing at recess and another kid accidentally hit her" Druig hurried to answer for her "she's fine, just a little fidgety"

"Are you sure? Are you alright Sprite?"

"Yes, but it hurt a lot when he hit me"

"Did they give you something for the pain?"

Sprite didn't know what to say so she just shrugged causing Makkari to frown again.

"Let's go" She extended her hand to Druig who took it confused

"Where do you want to go?"

"To my house, my mom can check that bruise and put some cream or something"

"It's okay Kari, you don't have to worry"

"Druig your sister has a horrible bruise on her face"

"I know" he shifted a little "but you don't need to do that"

"Druig please let's go to my house, if you don't want I won't tell my mom but we have a first aid kit and surely there will be something in there that we can use"

"We can't go, we have to go home, my father is waiting for us, we were already leaving" He began to put the books in his backpack "I promise you that when I get home I will put something on that bruise, don't worry"

Makkari looked at him with a frown, never before had she seen him so nervous and uncomfortable and Sprite had a lost look, completely ignoring the conversation they had just had.

They left before she could sign anything else, leaving her alone completely confused by their reactions.

. . . . . . . .

Over the next few weeks Druig began making up thousands of excuses as to why they couldn't see each other, they only saw each other once or twice when they showed up at the library for story time but had promptly turned down the invitation to go out to dinner with them again.

Makkari was getting tired of Druig avoiding her until out of nowhere she received a message from him asking if she could meet him in a park, without hesitation she said yes and in less than five minutes she was on her way.

"Hello beautiful" Druig was sitting on a bench alone, Sprite nowhere to be seen.

Makkari gasped as she saw his face, he had a horrible bruise on his left eye and what appeared to be dried blood on his lip.

"What happened?" she asked gently caressing his cheek

"I was in a fight" he replied with a smirk

"Druig is Sunday"

"I didn't say that at school, I have a neighbor who doesn't like me very much, sooner or later it was going to happen"

"Why did you ask me to come?"

"I wanted to see you" he admitted with a sad grimace "I'm sorry I've been such an idiot these last few weeks"

"Why have you been avoiding me?"

"I've had a lot on my mind, I'm really sorry it won't happen again" He promised taking his hand and squeezing it

"Where's Sprite?"

"Probably on the swings, she's mad at me"

"Why is she mad?" He pointed to his face and shrugged dismissively "come on, I'll take you home and heal those wounds"

"The beautiful Makkari to the rescue, you don't have to do that" a somber expression crossed his face "I didn't ask you to come here to worry you, I just wanted to apologize and see you"

"I don't care, I already accepted your apology now let me help, okay?"

He let out a sigh of surrender, "Okay, I'll call Sprite."

Sprite had the most serious expression Makkari had ever seen on her. She gave her a very small smile but said nothing and just took the hand that Druig offered her. They both followed Makkari to her house in silence, none of the three knew what to say about it, although Makkari could see that Sprite was getting more and more nervous as they walked away from her.

Makkari's house was without a doubt the largest Sprite had ever seen, she was quite beautiful and had a very cozy atmosphere.

"Let's go to the kitchen, I'll be able to work better there" She led them to the largest kitchen neither of them had ever seen and motioned for Druig to sit on one of the stools. "Do you want a cookie? Here we have some made by Gil '' Makkari asked Sprite, getting the first real smile from the girl in a long time.

She quickly served a plate with cookies and a glass of juice in front of her, Sprite was sitting at a different table than where Druig was but from where she was she could see her brother at all times. Makkari disappeared for a few seconds and returned with the first aid kit in her hands.

"What happened to you?"

Before Makkari could start healing Druig's face, Thena's sudden presence startled all three of them.

Chapter Text

"I was in a fight" Druig said confused at the sudden arrival of Thena "Makkari is only helping me, we will leave in a few minutes"

Thena walked over to him and lightly touched his jaw to examine the damage. Makkari and Druig were quite confused at Thena's strange behavior, he had only met her once and that was several weeks ago she didn't make sense of her sudden concern for hers.

"Could you go check Ajak's bathroom for her medicine kit?" She turned to sign Makkari "she has something better to treat the bruise on his eye"

After giving Druig a look as if to ask if they would be alright being alone with Thena, she nodded and left the kitchen. Thena for her part walked over to the sink where she wet a cloth and returned to Druig to begin gently wiping the blood off his face.

"Are you sure you were in a fight?" she asked, finally looking at him with a raised eyebrow.

"You don’t believe me?"

"You don't strike me as a boy who goes looking for fights"

"I'm not, but it just happened"

She didn't say anything else but it was obvious that she had heard him, Makkari returned with Ajak's medkit and handed it to Thena before going to sit next to Sprite who was watching the entire exchange in front of her intently, the cookies long forgotten.

Taking the same care as when she started, she applied some arnica to his face, slowly massaging the bruised area. Druig closed his eyes, it felt so good not to feel pain for a moment.

"And what was the reason for the fight?" She asked, causing him to open his eyes suddenly.

"Dumb stuff"

She pursed her lips at his reply "where else did they hit you?"

"It was only on my face"

"I have a younger brother, I know you're lying to me"

"My face took the worst of the fight, I'm fine"

"It's okay to accept help, you know that?"

"Am I not doing that right now?"

Druig was making fun of her and Thena couldn't help but raise an eyebrow at his attempt to distract her from the conversation.

"You are free to go then" she lightly caressed his cheek "you should know that it is not wrong to ask for help when you need it"

Druig stared at her for several seconds before murmuring her thanks. She nodded and started to sign in Makkari's direction telling him something that neither Druig nor Sprite could understand, she gave them one last look before disappearing inside the house.

"That was weird" Sprite commented looking at both of them "she scares me"

. . . . . . . .

Druig looked at Sprite out of the corner of his eye, it had been two weeks since the last time they had seen Makkari, the cold weather and the Thanksgiving festivities had been enough excuse not to have to meet her. He preferred to be cautious and if they didn't see her as often as before it was to continue hiding all the bruises they had thanks to their father.

Sprite was drawing sitting on her bed, it was quite difficult to keep her busy now that they had to spend much of their time locked inside the house.

"Are we seriously going to buy new shoes?" she asked suddenly startling him

"That's what he said"

Sprite had finally grown enough to need a new pair of shoes as well as a coat. Druig had finally managed to convince the man that if he didn't buy Sprite a new coat and shoes at school they were going to start wondering why she kept showing up at school like that.

"When are we going to see Makkari?"

"I don't know, maybe after the holidays"

"Aren't we going to see her again?"

"I don't know, it's dangerous after what happened with her sister when we went to her house"

"Let's go! Hurry both of you" The man's voice managed to startle them both but in less than a second they were both putting on their shoes and coats to be able to leave the room.

. . . . . . . .

 

Druig had forgotten how difficult it was to go shopping with Sprite. The little girl had zero interest in getting new shoes despite needing them and knowing they had little time.

"Come on Sprite, it's not that hard to decide on some shoes"

"But I like the ones I have"

"They no longer fit you"

Sprite snorted but continued walking through her options, choosing her coat hadn't been a problem and he couldn't understand how it could cost her so much to decide on a pair of shoes. Eventually after much convincing she settled on a pair, which Druig had believed from the start that she would choose, if she wanted to drive him insane with her indecision she had succeeded.

"Sprite!" Gilgamesh's voice startled them both "Nice to see you both!"

Having Gilgamesh and Thena in front of them was not something that either of them expected for that day, so they remained silent without knowing what to say, having both of them remembered their last encounter with Thena.

"Nice to see you both." Druig broke the silence finally accepting that they couldn't ignore the two people in front of them, even though he really wanted to take his sister and go.

"How are you? I haven't seen you both in a long time"

"We're fine, we just came to buy some things for Sprite"

"Did the two of you come alone?" Thena spoke for the first time after having scanned the place in search of what should be her father.

"No, my father brought us, he is buying groceries"

"Do you want to see my new shoes? Druig helped me choose them" Sprite seemed to break the tension approaching Gil with the shoebox "they are teal, my favorite color"

While Gil and Sprite chatted animatedly about the girl's new shoes, Thena approached Druig, lightly touching his arm, causing him to flinch from the contact.

"How are you? Hope you haven't been in any more fights" she asked in a gentle voice before lightly touching her face to examine it.

"No, I haven't been in any more fights" he replied, taking a step back to prevent her from touching him again.

"I see, are you avoiding Makkari because of what happened last time?"

"No, we haven't been going out because of the cold, I don't want Sprite to get sick"

"Druig! Gil wants to know when we are going to have dinner with them" Sprite approached him, taking Thena's hand carefully again.

"I don't know, maybe soon" before anyone could say anything else Druig's cell phone began to ring causing the two brothers to tense "excuse me for a moment, don't move from here" he excused himself and indicated to Sprite to stay where he was.

Sprite watched him walk away a little with a worried face, something that both Thena and Gil could notice.

"Are you alright Sprite?" Gil asked startling her "Do you know who he's talking to?"

Sprite turned to look at his brother again and could make out some words like 'sorry' and 'we're on our way'. She nodded slowly but offered no response to the two adults in front of her.

"I'm sorry" Druig apologized returning to where they were "we have to go, my father is looking for us. It was nice to see you, give our regards to the others, have a good day"

Without waiting for a response from either of them, he took Sprite's hand and began to drag her towards the checkout area, surely to meet her father.

"I don't like how they behave" Thena spoke without taking her eyes off where the two brothers had gone "there is something strange about them"

"You're still thinking about Ikaris's suspicions, aren't you?"

"I can't see him without thinking about that little boy" she admitted letting him hold her hand "I feel horrible to think that that little boy was left alone with that monster and if he turns out to be my real brother" she she let out a sigh, turning around so she could face her husband "I don't even want to think about what he and the little girl are going through"

"You can not be sure that something bad is happening in their house T"

"You didn't see that bruise Gil, nor their faces when I started to question him"

"We'll get to the bottom of this, you'll see.”He gently kissed her hand “ We should go, the others are waiting for us"

Thena nodded, letting him lead her to the checkout area. They hadn't gone shopping for more Christmas lights since Kingo insisted that the Christmas tree needed even more and no one trusted him to go shopping alone.

After paying for the lights and a few extra things that Gil insisted they needed, they reached the parking lot.

"I told you to get in the car" Thena could recognize that voice anywhere, no matter how many years had passed since the last time she had heard it, it was impregnated in her brain "move girl"

The next thing that was heard was a hard thud and the unmistakable scream and cry of a child.

"Stop, she was just trying to lace up her shoes" Druig's undisputed voice reached their ears, ending up freezing them where they were.

Thena could feel how her lungs seemed to forget how to breathe, she couldn't remember where she was, everything seemed to spin and she was no longer in control of her body.

"Thena? My love, what's wrong?" Gil took her by the shoulders trying to calm her "hey baby everything is fine, what's wrong? Breathe Thena, you have to breathe"

"Arishem" was all she could say before she felt everything go dark.

Chapter Text

It had taken Gil longer than normal to bring Thena back from her attack and even after getting her to react she was still withdrawn trying to process what they had witnessed. They hadn't even seen Arishem hit Sprite but it didn't take a genius to figure out exactly what had happened. It hadn't taken Thena more than a brief glance at the man for her to finally confirm Ikaris's suspicions.

They were now sitting next to Ajak at the kitchen table, the four teens all busy with something else giving them the privacy they needed to have the conversation Thena didn't want to have.

"So you saw him" Ajak finally started the conversation, not bearing the silence that reigned between them anymore "are you okay?"

Thena shrugged "I mean, a part of me couldn't bear to see the other part couldn't stop thinking that Ikaris's suspicions are true and that my suspicions that there was something wrong in his house are also true"

"That's understandable" Ajak gave her a reassuring smile "You went through a lot of bad things with him and it's logical that you wouldn't take well seeing him again even if it was only for a few seconds"

"It was his voice that triggered me" she admitted feeling a bit embarrassed "the way he yelled at the little girl, it brought bad memories to my mind"

No one said anything after her confession, everyone knew what the events of the day meant, and no one knew how to broach the subject of what they would do next.

"Have you thought about what you want to do about them?" Ajak finally asked "Will you tell Ikaris?

"A selfish part of me wants to forget all this, but I know that I will not be able to be at peace with myself if I do not do something, I cannot allow him to continue mistreating them, she is six years old Ajak, she is so small and to think that she could be going through the same thing as me..."

"You don't know if she's going through that T" Gilgamesh cut her off before she could continue with that line of thought "for all we know from Makkari he never leaves her alone with him, the two of them are always together"

"But what if something happens and..."

"That's why Ajak and I want to know what you want to do."

"I don't know, it scares me to make a call to CPS and end up harming them instead of helping them, we know that not in all cases they do the right things"

"We will think of something, if what you want is to help them, we will think of a way to do it"

He took her hand in his, giving it a slight squeeze to show her that he would support her in whatever she decided.

"I won't tell Ikaris, not until she knows what to do"

They nodded, they respected her decision and the reason behind it, Ikaris didn't know much about her father and she didn't have the strength to tell him the truth right now.

. . . . . . . .

Druig would be lying if he said he wasn't panicking, he was too panicked to try to appear calm. He had cursed himself when he told Thena and Gilgamesh that they weren't dating so Sprite wouldn't get sick. It had been less than a week since that meeting and Sprite had gotten sick and he didn't know what to do.

She had spent the last two days with a fever, she was quite fussy and kept complaining about the pain. What it was that hurt her he didn't know, she had been sleeping most of the time, he had practically been forcing water and food down her throat despite her complaints.

He assumed that she had a cold, a very bad one. He had asked her father to take her to the doctor but the man only reminded him of the bruises she had on her body to dismiss the idea almost immediately. He was going crazy not knowing what to do, seeing Sprite so miserable didn't help him think.

It was probably a dumb idea, hell it was the dumbest thing he had ever done but he was desperate, he had to help his sister and if this was the only option hopefully it would work for him.

He had sent a text message to Makkari, it had taken him a lot to work up the courage to do it, he had asked if he could talk to Thena, she was the only option he could think of, if he asked Makkari's mom for help, a doctor would surely try to get him to take Sprite to the hospital and he wouldn't do that, Thena seemed like a better option.
If Makkari found his request strange she did not say anything and a few minutes later he received a call from her phone.

"Hello?" His voice trembled a bit.

"Druig?" Hearing Thena's concerned voice only made him more nervous "Makkari said you needed to talk to me, is everything alright?"

"I...You said it was good to ask for help" he muttered quickly before letting out a sigh "I need help"

"Did something happen to you or your sister?"

"She's sick, she's been like this for two days and I don't know what else to do, I can't take her to a hospital and I don't know what to do to make her feel better"

"What are her symptoms?" He could hear how she seemed to be moving as he spoke "where are you?"

"I think it's a cold but she has a fever and she's been complaining that something hurts but she won't tell me what, she's practically been asleep for the last two days."

"Has she had anything to eat? Drink water?"

"Yes, I tried to make soup and I got her to eat some, I've forced her to drink water every hour"

"You did well, where are you?"

"My house, I just need you to tell me what to do so that she gets better"

"Druig, your sister needs to see a doctor I can go pick you both up and take you"

"No, I can't take her to a doctor and you can't come here"

"Druig I can't help you if you don't let me" Thena was starting to get frustrated she wanted to help them so bad, she stayed quiet for a few seconds thinking on another option "how about Ajak seeing her at her house? Would that be alright?"

"No, I don't know... okay yes" she could tell he was nervous "but you still can't come here, we'll go"

"Druig is not safe..."

"If you don't let me go on my own I'll cut the call, you can't come here"

Thena considered his words for a moment "ok, I can meet you somewhere not far from Ajak's house and take you there, is that okay with you?"

Druig agreed to meet Thena at the library, he would text Makkari when they were due to arrive so the two of them could pick them up. Sprite wasn't happy about having to leave the safety of her bed, in fact her complaining was the most Druig had heard her say in the last few days.

"Where are we going?" Sprite finally asked without opening her eyes, she was in her lap with her head resting on his chest "I'm dizzy"

"To Makkari's house, we're almost there"

"I don’t feel ok"

"I know, just hold on a little longer"

Sprite ended up throwing up in a dumpster by the library, she looked worse than when they had left the house. Druig found a bench not far away where they sat down, Sprite sitting back on his lap snuggled against his chest. He wasn't an affectionate person but his little sister was always the exception so he wasn't too bothered that when Thena parked the car in front of them he was muttering a lullaby trying to get his little sister back to sleep hoping sleep would ease her discomfort.

"How is she?" Thena asked as soon as she got closer to them, she gently touched Sprite's forehead causing her to blink slowly threatening to wake up "she's burning up, get in the car, Ajak is waiting for us"

Druig got into the car with Thena's help, Sprite refused to let him go despite being semi unconscious. He hadn't said a word to her, he didn't really know what to say.

"Thanks for helping us" he finally decided that there were no better things to say than thanks.

She simply nodded inspecting the boy through the rearview mirror, he looked completely exhausted. She could only think how little he must have slept while he was trying to take care of his little sister.

. . . . . . . .

Sprite wasn't making things easy, she was clinging tightly to Druig even though he was sure she shouldn't have the strength to hold onto him like that. Ajak, Thena and Makkari watched as he was struggling to loosen her grip on him so he could lay her down on the bed so Ajak could examine her.

"Seriously Sprite, you have to let go of me" He sounded tired and he didn't know what else to do to convince her to let go of him "it's just Ajak, she's going to help you feel better"

She shook her head burying her face in his neck and reaffirming her grip on him, Druig groaned and rolled his eyes, "I'll let you paint my nails next time you ask, whatever you want Sprite but please let Ajak check you"

The little girl seemed to consider the offer for a few seconds before finally releasing her tight grip on him, with a sigh of relief he laid her down on the bed and motioned for Ajak to come closer.

"How are you feeling mi niña?" Ajak asked lightly touching her forehead "Can you tell me what hurts?" Sprite didn't reply and just pointed to her throat and her head "ok, is there something else hurting?" She shook her head.

Ajak took the stethoscope and began to examine the little girl, the room was silent until Ajak lightly pressed on her side, causing her to let out a groan of pain. The doctor turned to see Druig who seemed to have lost what little color he had left, but he made no move to stop her. Delicately she went to lift the girl's sweater but two small hands stopped her.

"No, stop" Sprite had her eyes wide open and looked at her scared "don't do it"

"Mi niña I have to look to help you feel better"

"No" Tears soon came to Sprite's eyes, she furiously shook her head, not allowing her to continue.

"Sprite, you have to let her do it" Druig spoke approaching his little sister and sitting on the edge of the bed next to her "she will help you"

"You said we couldn't ask for help" she mumbled.

"I know what I said, but you're sick and you need help"

"But they will see and they will find out"

"It's all right Sprite, just let her help you, okay?"

Reluctantly she nodded and allowed Ajak to finally continue. What she saw in front of her made her gasp, half of Sprite's torso was covered in bruises and right on her ribs was a particularly big bruise.

"What happened?"

Sprite glanced at Druig who only nodded, urging her to reply "someone kicked me"

Thena immediately knew who that "someone" Sprite was talking about was, she could feel the bile rise up her throat but she took a deep breath, it was not the time to let her anger consume her.

"When was that? Before or after you felt sick?"

"Last week"

Ajak continued to work in silence,she really knew what she was doing taking Sprite's temperature, her pulse, checking her breathing. Even though she wanted to check for more bruises she knew well that she would be testing her luck if she tried. Finally she gave her some medicine which to everyone's surprise Sprite took without putting up a fight.

Druig passed his hand through her hair slowly, trying to make her sleep so that she wouldn't witness the interrogation that he would surely live through.

"Can we talk outside?" Ajak was the first to break the silence

"She doesn't like waking up alone," he muttered before looking at Makkari to sign her in, "can you stay with her?"

Makkari nodded and gave him a 'we'll talk later' look before going to sit next to Sprite.

Ajak took him by the shoulder and gave him a reassuring smile before beginning to lead him into the kitchen. At some point Thena had left the room as she was already in the kitchen with three cups of tea.
He took a seat in front of them, there was little distance between them but it was enough to make him feel a little more in control.

"Care to explain?" Thena broke the silence without taking her eyes off him.

"I guess now you don't believe me I was in a fight the other day" he teased her lightly keeping an emotionless expression "I don't know what you want me to say, by now you must know what I've been hiding"

"We just want to help you both Druig, you can trust us" Ajak reached out her hand to take his.

"I have trusted you enough, if I didn't I wouldn't be here but I can't trust you not to rat me out to CPS, I've spent the last three years taking care of my sister on my own I'm not willing to let anyone separate me from her"

"We don't want that to happen Druig" Ajak glanced at Thena "but we really want to help both of you but you have to tell us what's going on so we can help"

"What's going on?" he let out a dry laugh "the usual, my father is a deranged man who loves alcohol and is interested in his children only to hit them when he feels like it" he took a deep breath "I know it sounds bad, but I've learned to live with this, I do my best to protect my sister. Winter just complicates things because I can't get her out of the house to avoid the worst but we'll be fine in a few months."

"You can't live like this, it's not right for your father to treat you like this"

"It's not, but it's better than not knowing where she is because they separated us and not being able to protect her"

"Let us help you"

"I can't accept your help unless you promise me that no one is going to separate me from my sister and you can't do it, so I hope that if you really want to help me, you'll let me continue like now"

"And what will you do the day he really hurts your sister?" Thena finally spoke with a look more somber than he had ever seen before.

"It will not happen, I never leave her alone with him, she is always with me, she even sleeps in the same bed as me most of the time"

"And what will you do the day he really hurts you and you can't defend her?"

"It won't happen and if it does, she knows what she has to do if something like this happens one day"

Ajak put a hand on Thena's shoulder to stop her from talking, it was obvious that they couldn't convince Druig and there was no point in doing it when they still hadn’t come up with a plan to help them.

"Why don't you guys stay here today? Let Sprite rest, tomorrow she'll probably be better and you won't have to worry about getting her out so late in this weather." Ajak offered, wishing to buy some more time to think about what to do about the situation.

"I can't do that, my father..."

"Any effort you made to bring her here to help her will not be worth it if you leave now, stay" Thena spoke, finally softening her gaze "I promise you that tomorrow I will take you to where I picked you up and you can leave"

Druig looked from one to the other for a few seconds, thinking about his options, finally he sighed in defeat and accepted the offer, it was already a problem that they were there, he could add a little more.

Chapter Text

Sprite woke up feeling quite confused, she felt much better than in the last few days, which made her happy until she began to remember what had happened hours before.
She straightened slowly and could see that Druig was asleep next to her, she frowned not understanding why he was sleeping so peacefully after what had happened.

"Druig, Druig, Druig!" She began to shake her arm to wake him up "wake up"

"What? What's wrong? Do you feel sick?" He woke up with a start scanning his sister frantically "how do you feel?"

"What are we doing here? This is not our house"

Druig blinked at her, it took several seconds for her brain to wake up to understand what she was saying "Don't you remember? Ajak checked you and gave you medicine to make you feel better."

"But we are not in our house, did you tell father that we are here?" horror flashed across her face "why are we here? what time is it?"

"Sprite, you need to calm down we're fine" He put a hand on her shoulder trying to make her lie down again "we'll stay here until tomorrow, Ajak thought it would be best for you if we sleep here today, it's late and you need to rest so go back to sleep I'll stay here with you"

"But we can't stay here!" she pushed him to stay seated "it's not safe you said no one can know, he's going to be very upset with us and he's going to hurt you again"

"Sprite you're sick, you have to rest we can talk about this in the morning"

"No, I don't want to, I want to go home"

"It's midnight, we can't leave..."

"Yes, we can go!" Sprite yelled causing Druig to startle a little but he rushed to take her in his arms "we can go home"

"Shhh everything is fine" he hug her tight against his chest while she began to cry"everything is fine, you are fine and that is all that matters to me"

"But I don't want him to hurt you" her voice was barely understandable "I hate it"

"I know, but now that doesn't matter, now the important thing is that you recover and feel better. Can you try to go back to sleep again? Please, for me"

"Can you sing to me?"

"If you promise to go to sleep, yes"

"or you can tell me a story"

"No, I'm going to sing to you, you don't fall asleep with the stories"

Sprite rolled her eyes but settled back on the bed "Are you going to sing Mom's lullaby?"

"If that's the song you want" she nodded "ok close your eyes"

He began by first humming the tune of her song by slowly running her fingers through her hair to start calming her down. He lay down next to her slowly trying not to move too much to startle her. His voice was just a whisper when he started singing, he wasn't a singer but his sister didn't seem to care much if he was good or not, he didn't even have to finish the song when Sprite was already fast asleep next to him.

. . . . . . . .

"I talked to some colleagues specialized in custody cases" Thena finally spoke without taking her eyes off the window "I can't ask for custody of them even if they are my brothers, if I want to win their custody there has to be a record in CPS so that they can be take from your home so I can ask for custody but even so a judge has to terminate my father's rights before I can ask for custody."

"So in the end they have to go through a foster home so you can have custody" Gilgamesh summarized.

"Yes, but with CPS we know that it can take years for my father's rights to end, Druig can turn 18 and still not have this solved"

"And how is this different from Ikaris's situation?"

"My mother is dead, my father has a restraining order and you cannot approach him until he is of legal age, there is no other relative who could fight for his custody so with his authorization I was able to obtain the rights of his guardianship" she let out a sigh "in the case of Druig and Sprite there is a living father who has taken care of them since their mother died, there are no complaints of abuse or neglect, I don't even have proof that I am truly their sister and I haven't seen them in ten years. If I were to take this to court no judge would take me seriously, I would need evidence of their abuse and they would still go to foster care while everything is resolved."

"Thena" Ajak extended his hand to take hers in his "why don't they stay with me? I still have my license, while everything is resolved they can live here just like Ikaris did while you were studying, when Druig If he is of legal age, he could ask for guardianship of Sprite and he could sign the necessary papers so that she stays with you if he decides to go to university"

Thena gaped at her "that really is a good idea" she turned to look at her husband with hope "Would you really do that for me Ajak? You already have too many teenagers and Sprite is still a little girl, you already did too much for me when I I went to study at the university helping me with Ikaris, I couldn't ask you..."

"Thena" Ajak raised his free hand to stop her "You don't have to ask me, I'm offering to help you, I can't let that little girl and that poor boy continue living that situation. Thena I love you and your brother and I consider you part of my family and the family helps each other"

The blonde had tears threatening to come out of her eyes, she felt a big lump in her throat and could simply nod at his words "thank you Ajak, thank you for everything you have done for me and my brother these years and for being willing to help me even more"

"You don't have to thank me for anything" she squeezed her hand with a smile "what we have to plan now is the call with CPS, I can talk to Rosalind and explain the situation so that she can do the investigation and when they take them away, bring them back." straight here and don't separate them"

"The problem is that Druig is not willing to accuse his father and I don't feel comfortable breaking his trust because it scares me that they will disappear, we don't even know where they live"

"We should probably give him more time, if he begins to trust us more and more he will be more likely to let us help him. I don't feel very comfortable letting them go back to their father but there is not much we can do if neither of them is willing to talk. Maybe Kari can convince Druig to come here more often so they don't have to be locked up with him all the time and they can see that we really intend to help them"

Before anyone could add anything else they could hear a Sprite’s voice, Thena immediately stood up and asked the other two present to let her go check what was happening.

She was about to knock on the door to check that they were both okay when she heard her conversation. He felt her heart break into a thousand pieces listening to the conversation, Druig was trying to protect her sister no matter what the consequences were for him and Sprite was absolutely terrified and worried about what those consequences were going to mean for the older brother. her.
She stayed where she was not daring to interrupt the moment the two of them were sharing inside the room and it wasn't until several minutes after she could hear Druig sing that she dared to knock and open the door.

"Are you two okay?" She approached as quietly as possible to the bed after closing the door "I heard a scream and went up to check that you were okay"

"Yeah, she just got scared not knowing where she was, but we're fine." Druig didn't look at her when he spoke and Thena could tell he seemed embarrassed, he probably thought she had heard him sing.

"I'll go so you can continue sleeping, see you in the morning"

. . . . . . . .

Sprite looked a thousand times better come morning but she was still quite nervous about being in a strange house and not her own. She clung to Druig as if she were a koala and the poor boy had had to maneuver all morning with his sister clinging to him.

Thena could see the bags under his eyes, he had probably been sleeping very little for days and the way he looked so tired of him made him look even younger. Without thinking she brushed a bit of hair from his face after putting two glasses of orange juice in front of them.

"Drink, breakfast will be ready in a few minutes"

"We have to go" he said without taking the glass in front of him. "you said..."

"I know what I said, but I'm not going to take you anywhere if you don't have breakfast first" Her voice was firm making Sprite release her brother a little so she could see her face "I promise I'll take you to where you tell me after you both eat something"

"Why is she giving you orders?" Sprite asked her brother in irish with a frown "I don't understand"

"Because she is helping us" She nodded and clung to him again, getting him to groan "You really can't sit in another chair? You said you felt better" She shook her head "You can’t eat clinging to me like this"

"I'm not hungry"

"If you don't eat we can't leave as simple as that, you hear her"

"I don't wanna"

"Then we stay here until you want to eat, it doesn't matter" Sprite let out a whimper making him sigh "you can sit on my lap and eat, you don't need to sit in another chair if you don't want to"

Thena put two plates of food in front of them while Druig settled her sister on his lap, they were alone in the kitchen with her and Gilgamesh, the others seemed to be still asleep or simply weren't in the house.

"I don't want to eat, I'm not hungry" Sprite turned her head slightly to speak to her brother

"You have to eat"

"I don't want to" she whimpered.

"Sprite please, I need you to eat something, even a little"

"Don't you like waffles?" Gilgamesh seemed to take pity on Druig taking a seat in front of Sprite "you can put whatever you want, for example I love to put chocolate syrup on them"

"Can you put chocolate in this?" she asked, perplexed looking at her brother waiting for a confirmation, he only nodded, letting Gil give her whatever if it made her eat something.

"And we can put whipped cream, strawberries, chocolate" Gil began to put everything he mentioned on Sprite's waffle who looked at him with wide eyes "ready, try it"

Sprite hesitated for a few seconds before finally tasting the waffle and making a small noise of delight as she tasted all the flavors.

"Excellent, another sleepless night with this sugar rush" Druig muttered making Gilgamesh laugh

"None of that, Ajak left medicine for her cold said that it will surely knock her out at night"

"I don't have money for medicine"

"I already bought them, you don't have to worry about that" Thena took a seat next to him "eat or it will get cold"

Druig stared at her, he couldn't understand her motivation for wanting to help them. She didn't seem to be someone who helped her foster sister's friends just because she could.

"I know what you're thinking" she mentioned without looking up from her plate "And I'm helping you because I see you and you remind me of myself a few years ago even though you are much stronger than I was"

She didn't add anything and he didn't comment on it, he just returned her gaze to her plate and finally decided to start eating.

Chapter Text

Thena was having a good day, not every day her office was in such a good mood, possibly due to the arrival of the festivities. Christmas was only a week away and the office would be closed for two weeks, most of the work was already done so everyone was pretty relaxed.

She wasn't a big fan of the holidays but ever since she met Ajak Christmas was always fun and since Gil had entered her life she couldn't think of a single Christmas that had gone by without feeling so happy.

She still had many things on her mind, together with Ajak they had spoken with Rosalind and were waiting to take action on the matter, it had been just three days since Druig took a sick Sprite to Ajak's house but with the approaching festivities it was more difficult to put the plan into motion. She was checking the last emails before going to take her lunch break when her phone started to ring, the call came from an unknown number and although she hesitated a bit to decide to answer she ended up answering the call.

"Hello?"

"Thena?" Sprite's small voice reached her ears immediately giving her a bad feeling "is that you?"

"Yes, is everything alright Sprite?"

"No" she could hear her voice shake and Thena could only feel her anxiety growing "I need help, Druig won't wake up and there's a lot of blood everywhere"

"What happened, Sprite? What happened to your brother?" she urged her on as she stood up grabbing her bag to start making her way out of the office "are you alright?"

"No, he doesn't wake up and I already tried everything, I don't know what to do. He said it would be okay but he won’t wake up" she was starting to get hysterical and had started to cry making it harder for Thena to understand her.

"I need you take a deep breathe Sprite, you have to calm down little one” she said waiting a few seconds for the girl to calm down a little before continue “I'm going to help you, I'm on my way but I need you to tell me where you live"

"I can't, he said we can't ask for help"

"I know little one but if your brother is hurt and he needs help, tell me where you live so I can go help you"

"Druig is going to be mad at me"

"Druig is going to be so proud of you for getting him help, I promise."

Sprite remained silent for several seconds in which Thena feared that the girl had ended the call but finally began to say an address, she hastened to write it down and ended the call with the promise to call her as soon as she arrived.

Thena was grateful that she had given the small piece of paper with her number on it to Sprite before taking them back to the bus stop three days ago. She was glad that the little girl had decided to call her even though she hated that it had only been three days before Sprite needed her help.

Breaking the speed limit it didn't take her more than fifteen minutes to finally reach her destination. Before getting out of the car, she texted Gil about the situation and sent him the address in case something bad happened.

Deciding that it was best not to call Sprite and try her luck she approached the house the little girl had indicated and knocked several times. She could hear small footsteps approaching the door and she could see Sprite peeking out the window before she heard the locks on the door being unlocked.

"Thena!" the girl practically threw herself into her arms as soon as the door opened "he still hasn't woken up"

"Hey it’s okay, are you okay?" she knelt down and took her by the shoulders examining her quickly "where is your brother?"

Sprite didn't respond and just took her hand to usher her in and close the door before dragging her practically through the house and into a room where Druig was pulling her.

Thena gasped as she saw Druig's battered body, she finally let her breath out as she noticed he was still breathing. She quickly approached him and knelt beside him immediately taking his pulse, it was weak but it was there. His face was all beaten up and there was blood both on his face and on the side of his head. She believed that he had hit himself too hard when he fell and possibly his head had hit the edge of the bed which would explain the bleeding . She had to hurry, she didn't know how long he had been like this and it would be best to get help as soon as possible.

"I have to call an ambulance, I promise you everything will be fine Sprite, I'm not going to leave you alone" Sprite started to shake her head frantically and Thena quickly grabbed her by the shoulders "Listen to me Sprite, your brother needs more help than I can give him and if we want him to be alright, those people have to come, do you understand me?" she nodded with tears threatening to spill "I need you to do something for me, to make sure that you are not separated from me and that you can be with your brother, you have to tell anyone who asks you that I am your older sister, you understand me Sprite? Anyone who asks you, a doctor, a policeman, to anyone I'm your older sister, do you understand me? Tell me what I just told you"

"If anyone asks me you are my older sister"

"That's right, if anyone asks I am your older sister and you called me asking for help"

"And when Druig wakes up?"

"I'll take care of that, you just have to say what I told you" she nodded and finally released her "where is your father?"

"Working or at the bar"

Thena nodded and finally got up to start the calls, first to the ambulance and then to Ajak asking her to meet them at the hospital and to call Rosalind and whoever was necessary to protect Druig and Sprite.

The ambulance would be here any minute in the meantime she would have to make sure she took some of Sprite's things with her, she didn't know what would happen in the next few hours and it was better to be prepared. She instructed the girl to pack some clothes and things she would like to take with her in her school bag, Druig would surely spend some time in the hospital due to his condition although Sprite seemed to know what her brother would need as she started packing a bag for him.

Sprite held on to her hand as the ambulance pulled up and Thena had to take her into her arms as the paramedics began to assist Druig and prepare him to take him to the hospital.

"You say that when you arrived he was already like this, do you have any idea what could have happened?" One of the paramedics asked her.

"My little sister called me to tell me that he won’t wake up, when I arrived he was already on the floor, I didn't move him and called immediately"

"Did you see what happened to your brother?" The paramedic turned to Sprite who ignored him, hugging Thena more and hiding her face in her neck. "Who did that to your brother hurt you too?"

"My father" her voice was merely a whisper and she didn't offer any more explanations after that.

Thena stroked her hair and rocked her in her arms under the attentive gaze of the paramedic, when it was time to put Druig in the ambulance Sprite went crazy and Thena had to assure her that they would go behind the ambulance and that Ajak would be waiting in the hospital for the two of them.

The trip to the hospital was spent in silence, Sprite was looking out the window and Thena was lost in her thoughts. She and Ajak would do everything possible to keep Sprite with them although after the state in which Druig was found things could be even more complicated.

. . . . . . . .

"Ajak!" Sprite ran into the woman's arms as soon as she saw her and she didn't hesitate to take her in her arms hugging her against her chest "have you seen my brother?"

"Oh sweet girl, are you okay? Other doctors are checking on your brother, he'll be fine."

"I want to go with my brother"

"In a minute mi niña, let the doctors do their job, come with me" Ajak looked at Thena to tell her to follow them, at this moment they would have to do an interview and do a checkup on Sprite and it would be something completely difficult to achieve.
Ajak took Sprite to an empty room and sat her on the table. The little girl had traces of tears on her cheeks and a very obvious bruise on her cheek.

"Oh mi niña, you didn't have this when we last saw each other" Ajak stroked her cheek lightly and the girl just shrugged.

"Ajak?" A woman had entered the room starling Sprite, she was accompanied by what seemed to be a police officer "can we come in?"

"Of course, come in" Ajak gave her a reassuring smile "Sprite I want to introduce you to two friends of mine, Rosalind and Officer Hartley, this is Sprite she is a very sweet girl"

"It's nice to meet you Sprite, do you mind if we chat for a bit?" Officer Hartley asked with a smile, keeping her distance from her so as not to make the girl more nervous.

"My brother said we can't talk to the police"

"He said that? Why do you think he said that?" Sprite looked to Thena for help and the woman moved closer to her so she could take her hand. "Where is my brother? You said I could see him when we got there"

"I know, but right now the doctors have to examine him to make sure he doesn't have anything wrong and they're going to help him feel better" Thena spoke in a soft voice

"He said we can't tell anyone or they'll separate us and I'll never see him again" Sprite was on the verge of tears again, they couldn’t tell if she was talking about her brother or someone else.

"You see Sprite, your friends Thena and Ajak told me about you and they told me that they want to help you and your brother" Rosalind spoke for the first time and got a little closer to the girl, the important thing now was to gain her trust to make her talk and to be able to really help her "But so that all of us here can help you, you have to tell us what happened to your brother"

"I don't want to be taken away from my brother, he promised he won’t let that happen"

"And he can keep his promise if you talk to us, Ajak accepted that you and your brother go to live with her so that both of you are safe but for that to happen we need to know what happened"

"And you promise me that I can be with my brother if I say what happened?"

"I promise you"

"You can do it Sprite, we'll be here with you" Thena stroked her hair to invite her to speak

"My father was angry with him from the day we went for help because I was sick" Sprite finally started to speak, making everyone present feel relieved that she was willing to tell what happened.

"And what did your father do?"

"He started yelling at us, then he started pushing my brother saying he was a fool for going to get help. They started yelling at each other, Druig was trying to tell him that I was very sick but my father wouldn't listen and after a few minutes he started hitting him, but it was like all the other times, at first at least."

"What do you mean like all the other times?"

"When he gets home from work or the bar and he's mad he hits Druig for no reason, he doesn't hit him that hard and usually it's on his stomach no one could notice but that first day he got really mad because someone called the door then threw him across the room and yelled to lock us in our room, he was mad because someone interrupted him. A friend of his was at the door and they talked for a long time and laughed and then I don't know what happened because I fell asleep, Druig said he hadn't slept because he was listening to what they were talking, he said that my father's friend had brought him something worse than alcohol and told me not to leave the room because he would be worse than when he comes from the bar."

"Didn't your brother tell you what your father's friend gave him?"

"No, but Druig left the room to look for food and that's when everything got really bad. My father started yelling at him that he was stealing food and he threw him to the ground and started kicking him, I tried to help him, I really did. I tried but he grabbed me by the hair and threw me against the wall, Druig somehow managed to get up and locked me in our room, he told me to lock it and I did but I could hear him still beating him"

The four women looked at the girl with a serious expression, none of them showed what she really felt for fear of disturbing the little girl while she told her story.

"After that my father left and Druig told me I could go out, he looked really bad but he said he would be fine, he had blood all over his face and told me to go to the kitchen and get something to eat while he got some rest. When my father came back at night and hit him again, he continued to do so until early today. Today..." she hesitated a few moments before continuing "he told me that I couldn't leave the room because he didn’t want father to see me because he would hit me and that's what I did but my father thought that I was not in the house and he went to look for me in the room, I was hiding under the bed when they started to fight, I almost did not see anything but I heard the screams and I saw Druig fall, he did not move after that and my father left the room in a hurry and a few minutes later he left the house and that's when I came out from under the bed, I tried and tried to wake him up but he didn't wake up and that's why I called Thena, I was very scared and didn't know what to do" she began to cry and Ajak immediately ran to her side to to hug her "Don't tell my father we're here or he's going to hurt him again"

"Don't worry, we'll make sure your father doesn't get close to either of you" Officer Hartley said with a serious voice as she motioned for Rosalind and Thena to come out with her for a moment.

"Everything will be fine Sprite, you don't have to worry" Ajak comforted her hugging her even tighter before releasing her to look at her "but there is another thing we have to ask you, you have to let a doctor and a nurse examine you"

"Why? I'm fine"

"Because we know you have more bruises and we need a record of them so we can make sure your father doesn't come near you again."

"But Druig said..."

"Druig will have to do the same as you, and I am sure that when he wakes up he will be very proud of how brave you have been so far"

Sprite hesitated but finally nodded, earning a smile from Ajak who waited for Thena and Rosalind to return to the room before she left to fetch a doctor and nurse.

Thena didn't know what was the worst of Sprite's exam, seeing all the bruises that the girl had along her body or the calmness with which she recounted how she had received each one of them. The doctor and nurse seemed on the verge of tears more than once as the six-year-old girl recounted in the most casual way how her father had hit her for doing things as simple as asking a question during dinner. Worst of all, Druig had assured her and Sprite had verified his words that he was the one standing between Sprite and her father, she didn't even want to imagine the state he would surely be in after seeing her.

"I can't understand how no one ever noticed the state they lived in" Thena murmured to Ajak as the nurse helped Sprite with her shoes "she had more bruises on her little body than anything else"

"Druig is an expert at hiding it and he taught it to her, she just snapped because he was hurt if he hadn't been hurt she never would have spoken."

"That's what makes it worse, she's only six years old, she should worry about watching cartoons and not keeping up with lies."

"Unfortunately this is very normal in children who have abusive families, she is young, she will be able to overcome it"

Thena sighed and didn't add anything else, they had been in the hospital for more than an hour and Druig still hadn't returned. Ajak said they had taken him in for a CT scan to rule out a concussion but with each passing minute they could both notice Sprite becoming more anxious and they were both afraid that she would become uncooperative if she didn't see her brother soon.

Rosalind had left to start preparing the papers but she had left word with the nurses that Ajak was the one who would be responsible for the two children so she could make the decisions in her absence. Thena couldn't deny that it was good that Ajak not only worked at the hospital but that he had a good relationship with basically anyone she knew and that thanks to that Rosalind was so willing to help them.

"I want to go see Druig, is he awake yet?" Sprite finally asked as the nurse disappeared from the room.

"Not yet darling but as soon as we can see him we'll take you with him" Ajak brushed some hair from the girl's face "have you eaten anything today? Why don't you go with Thena to the cafeteria and both of you eat something while I'm going to bother you some people to give me information about Druig?"

Sprite gladly accepted the proposal and together with the blonde they headed to the cafeteria. Thena had to accept that after living with Gil she was used to eating very good food and the food that the cafeteria offered was something that her husband would have a lot to say about. Sprite for her part was quite content eating her turkey sandwich and some fries under the woman's watchful eye.

The little girl seemed content with the silence and before Thena could say anything to her her phone rang from her, Ikaris was calling her. She mentally cursed herself because she was sure someone, probably Kingo, had told him where she was.

"Let me guess Kingo told you and Makkari told him" she didn't even bother with a greeting since she knew what he would say "we'll talk about this later"

"You're hiding something from me Thena, I have a right to know..." Ikaris sounded annoyed, she couldn't blame him but he would still have to wait for the two of them to talk.

"Yes, you have a right to know but we both know that by now you know the answer to your question so let's save the call and when I get out of here you and I will have a very long talk. For now I want you to stay at Ajak's house, don't come here, even with the excuse that Makkari wants to come visit Druig, don't come here, do you understand me?"

"Yes"

"Fine, we'll talk when I get back, I promise"

Ikaris didn't answer and just hung up the call, Thena rolled her eyes at his attitude but she couldn't expect anything less from her brother. Sprite looked at her curiously but when she returned her gaze the girl continued to eat her food in silence.

Ajak texted minutes later with information about Druig, they had finally put him in a room and she sent the information to Thena so they could meet there as soon as they finished eating. Sprite was happy to finally see her brother and Thena was afraid of what the doctors would say.

The room was completely silent when Sprite and Thena entered, Druig was asleep in bed and looking much better since the last time the two of them had seen him. Ajak helped Sprite to sit on the edge of the bed for a few minutes before asking her to get down, she wasn't too happy with the request but gladly accepted as soon as Ajak gave her her cell phone and told her that she could play some game, Thena wasn't sure giving a six-year-old a cell phone was a good idea, but anything that kept her distracted sounded good at the moment.

Ajak proceeded to explain Druig's diagnosis to Thena, he didn't have a concussion but he did have two broken ribs and the doctors wanted him to stay overnight for better observation, she immediately offered to stay with him while Ajak would take Sprite to the house. Thena would go home for an hour or two to gather some things and to talk to Ikaris about what was happening, they both decided that Thena would be the one to tell Druig the truth about who she really was and everything that had happened and that they would let him decide how to tell Sprite.

. . . . . . . .

By the time Thena opened the door of the house and stepped inside, Makkari was already in front of her with an expression of pure concern. She raised her hand before Makkari started to sign.

"Druig is fine, he is sleeping, he has two broken ribs but he doesn't have a contusion. He will be discharged tomorrow the doctors want him to stay overnight for further observation" she signed knowing that was what she wanted to know.

Makkari gave her a hug and thanks and told her that Ikaris was in Sersi's room since he was upset with Kingo for telling him to calm down a bit.

Thena thanked her for her help and promised to keep her informed about Druig. She went in the direction of Sersi's room and knocked on the door before hearing Sersi's voice inviting her to enter.

"Come with me, we have to talk" she didn't bother with a greeting and Ikaris immediately stood up to follow her out of the room "let's go home I have some things to pick up"

Gil and she had decided years ago to move closer to Ajak, Gil knew how important she was to his wife and had had no objection to moving just a few steps from the woman. Now that came in handy since they only had to walk a little less than five minutes to get to her house.

They were both silent throughout the journey and it wasn't until Thena motioned for him to sit down that Ikaris finally spoke.

"Are you finally going to tell me that Druig really is our little brother?" he he said going straight to the point

"I can't confirm it completely, but the hospital is going to do a DNA test between him and me, probably also between Sprite"

He nodded and waited for her to say something else but she remained silent "Tell me what's going on!" he demanded.

"Do you remember anything from our summers in Ireland?"

"Very little, what does that have to do with anything?"

"Do you remember how our father was with us and with his wife?"

"No, not really"

"You were very young, but our father enjoyed hitting his wife for no reason and when any of us got in his way he didn't mind hitting us just because he could. He... he did something bad to me and that's why we moved, I told our mom what he had done and that's when she decided to move to this country" She wasn't ready to give all the details to her younger brother, maybe she never would be but at least she could tell broadly what had happened "she didn't want us near him, you came back one summer with a broken arm and after what he did to me she decided it was best to leave and put as much land between us" she took a deep breath "when we moved he tried to come get us and my mother filed a restraining order against him and I filed it again when I got out of college, I didn’t know he lived here when I did it"

She was silent for a few seconds before she could continue speaking.

"I didn't think about Druig again until you mentioned him to me, I had no idea that his mother had died or that Sprite existed. I found them in Ajak's kitchen one day with Makkari, he had a bruise on his eye and a few more hits, he told me he had been in a fight, I didn't believe him and I started to think that maybe our father was still the same bastard I remembered, I talked it over with Ajak and Gil, I was determined to do something and three days ago he asked Makkari to talk to me, he was desperate so I went to help them and took them to Ajak's house because he wouldn't let me do anything else for them, we tried to talk to him but he had to have told him something because he asked us not to intervene because he is afraid of being separated from his sister. We had finally thought of a plan to get them out of that house, we were going to wait until after the holidays to start everything, but today Sprite called me, told me that Druig won’t wake up and was covered in blood, I will save you the details of what I have seen today but Ajak have agreed that they stay with her until I can win guardianship of them, if I can win, their case is very different from yours."

Ikaris was silent for the next few minutes, he was processing the information and didn't know what to say. He had very vague memories of his summers in Ireland and he had no way to distrust the word of his sister when his younger brother was hospitalized because of his father.

"Do they know the truth?" finally ask

"No, Druig is still unconscious, I will tell him when he wakes up, Ajak and I decided it was best for him to tell Sprite though...I told her that if anyone asked she would have to say I was her older sister, I had no idea what could happen once we got to the hospital, I didn't know if Ajak would arrive before us to take care of everything so I told her that she had to lie so that no one would take her away from me, although technically it wasn't a lie"

"And what's next?"

"Next is I'm going to pack a bag so I can stay overnight with him, Ajak will take Sprite to her house, it would make me feel better if you stayed at Ajak's since Gil would probably try to stay with me and I don’t want you to be here alone"

"Okay, I'm going to stay at Ajak's, anything else?"

"Not a word to the others, I don't know how Makkari found out about Druig but I don't trust Kingo not to say something he doesn't have to say in front of Sprite"

"Ajak told Makkari about Druig, she told her that she was worried because she hadn't heard from him since yesterday, it was just before you called her" Thena nodded, standing up to go to her room to prepare to be able to leave.

"We're going through a lot right now, but know that you can always count on me, don't hesitate to tell me if you need to talk or anything else"

Chapter Text

When Thena entered Druig's room she could immediately notice that there was something wrong, Ajak was by the bathroom door and Sprite was nowhere to be seen, Druig was still asleep in bed.

"What's going on? Where's Sprite?" she asked quickly, leaving her bag on a chair.

"She's locked in the bathroom, she listened when I told Rosalind that I would take her home and she locked herself in there because she doesn't want to leave here without Druig" Ajak explained a little stressed "Rosalind already brought me all the papers, everything is legally in order, I am the guardian of both of them."

"That's great but now we need to get her out of there" Thena kissed the woman's cheek and motioned for her to move away a little so she could stand by the door "Sprite? Can you hear me?"

"I will not leave!" She yelled from the other side of the door "I want to stay with my brother"

"I know you want to stay with your brother, but he wouldn't like you to sleep here on a sofa, he would like you to sleep in a bed, don't you think so?"

"I don't want to leave him alone"

"He won't be alone, I'll stay with him and Gil shouldn't be long in coming to stay here too, you see? He won't be alone"

Sprite was silent for several minutes until both women could finally hear her unlock and open the door.

"I've never gone to sleep without him" she admitted, her voice was just a whisper and she looked at the floor embarrassed "he's always with me, I don't want to be alone"

"You will not be alone Ajak, Makkari, Kingo, Sersi and Ikaris will be with you and tomorrow when Druig is discharged we will go to Ajak's house and you can see him" Thena knelt in front of her and took her hands, just like Gil used to do when she felt overwhelmed "I know it will be difficult to sleep without your brother but there are many people who will be with you to help you fall asleep and keep you company"

Sprite hugged her without saying anything and although Thena took a few seconds to respond, she hugged her against her chest, running a hand down her back to comfort her. She eventually released her and walked over to the stretcher so she could say goodbye to her brother.

"Do you promise I'll see him tomorrow?"

"I promise mi niña" Ajak said, helping her up onto the bed so she could give him a careful hug. "Let's go buy something for dinner and then we'll go home, surely everyone will be very excited to see you"

"I left your backpack at Ajak's house, I still have Druig's backpack in my car for tomorrow when he is discharged he has his things with him" Thena approached Sprite again to give her one last hug "Don't worry little one, everything will be fine"

Sprite reluctantly followed Ajak out of the room, still feeling unsure about leaving her brother but trusting Thena and Ajak's words that she would see him tomorrow and that her brother would be glad to see that she was there. being well cared for.

. . . . . . . .

Sprite couldn't sleep, she had woken up several hours after Ajak had finally managed to make her fall asleep, it had taken several lullabies in spanish and a lot of patience on the part of the woman to make her sleep but all that hadn’t been worth it since she was awake again and nothing she did could make her fall asleep again. She had probably spent more than half an hour rolling all over the bed trying to find a comfortable position when she finally gave up, she wasn't going to fool anyone by trying to go back to sleep, she missed her brother, her bed and the familiarity of her house.

Makkari, Sersi, and Kingo had been great with her when she'd gotten to Ajak's side hours before, even Ikaris hadn't been as serious as the previous times she'd seen him. Kingo had had the brilliant idea to put on a movie to pass the time and help her sleep, which had backfired since Sprite had been completely hooked on the movie.

She had to admit that Ajak had been really patient with her, probably more so than he had been with Kingo and Sersi who had tried to sneak into the room to check on her and whom Ajak had sent off with a series of Spanish words that she had not understood.

Normally she didn't cry, she had learned not to because it only made her father angrier but at that moment the only thing she wanted to do was cry and she knew that very soon she would lose the battle and start crying because of the frustration she felt. Deciding that she would try to resist as much as possible, she got out of bed and turned on the light. If she couldn't sleep at least she would find something else to do in the room, everything was better than crying.

Ikaris was used to going back and forth between Thena's house and Ajak's house. Ajak had a pretty big house and he had too many free rooms, the woman had spent years as a foster parent and she always had enough rooms in case they were needed. Walking back and forth helped him clear his mind and in Ajak's house that meant going up and down the stairs as many times as necessary until his mind calmed down and he could finally go back to sleep.

He had a lot to process so it was no surprise when he finally began his typical ritual of going through the house while he was absorbed in thoughts of him. This was probably his third walk through the house when he noticed light coming out of the room where Ajak had put Sprite to sleep. Debating for a few seconds about what to do, he approached the door and knocked several times before opening it.

"Is everything ok?" he asked, barely peeking around the room to notice Sprite sitting on the floor with what looked like some Legos, probably an old set belonging to Phastos.
Sprite looked at him for a few seconds before returning to what she was doing "can I come in?" she shrugged and he decided to enter.

"What are you doing awake?" he asked, looking as the little girl was trying to build what seemed to be a house, taking a seat on the bed.

"I woke up and I couldn't go back to sleep" she replied shrugging without looking at him "are these legos yours?"

"No, but you can play with them"

"I can't get this right, can you help me?"

He looked at her for several seconds and finally stood up so he could take a seat across from her on the floor. She held out some pieces in his direction and he took them somewhat confused as to how they should fit together. He looked at her carefully for a few seconds, her hair was a reddish tone and she wore it down to her shoulders, her concentrated face made him remember Thena when she was busy painting or doing something.

"What are you waiting for?"

"I was just thinking that I don't know how to put this together" he lied making her finally look at him

"it's supposed to be a house"

"I'm not good at building houses"

"Me neither" she sighed "I've never played with legos before, they're not that much fun"

"Why do you say that?"

"Because they are weird, I can't get anything right, they are dumb"

"You shouldn't say that"

"I'm six, I'm not a baby"

Ikaris suppressed a laugh and returned her attention to what she swore was or should be a house. They both continued to work in silence for several minutes until she seemed to give up on putting any of the pieces together.

"I don't like legos" she stated letting out a sigh "why are you awake?"

"I could not sleep, too much in my mind"

"Druig says when that happens is because your brain is working a lot and it won't let you sleep until you calm down"

"You brother doesn't sleep much?"

"No, he is always afraid that my father would come into the room" she had tried again to put some pieces together and was finally getting it to resemble something "I still think this is dumb"

"And what do you like to do then?"

"Draw and paint and read" she was still trying to put together the house and he gently take it away from her hands

"Aren't you tired?"

"I don't want to sleep" she simply said looking at the toy basket she had found "what's this?"

She had some kind of colorful magnets in her hands.

"I don't know"

"Whose toys are these?"

"They were Phastos', he is away at college"

"I miss my brother"

"My sister is with him" she nodded, still trying to make sense of the magnets. He didn't know what else to say to her, she was his little sister and he didn't know how to act like a big brother, Thena was the oldest and he was the youngest and it had always been that way, there was never a need to adopt the role of big brother until now.

"Do you want to try to sleep? I can stay here until you fall asleep" he offered, thinking that it would be a good way to start creating a relationship with the small child.

"Do you know any stories?" He couldn't decipher the smile on her face, but something in it told him that he was falling into her trap.

"A bedtime story?" she nodded "well, I think I can try"

Sprite smiled triumphantly before getting up to go back to bed, unbeknownst to him she had just tricked him into trying to make her sleep for a long time, Druig wasn't lying when he said she never slept with bedtime stories.

It didn't take long for Ikaris to realize what a big mistake he had made, Sprite seemed more awake than before her and she was happily laughing at the nonsense he made up to make her sleep.

"What's going on here? You two are having a chat and you didn't invite me" Ajak entered the room managing to calm Sprite's laughter

"He is telling me a bedtime story"

"And it’s not working" Ikaris added looking guilty at Ajak

"How about you go to sleep Ikaris? I'll stay with Sprite" Ajak put a hand on his shoulder and he nodded standing up.

"Wait" Sprite grabbed his wrist to stop him "sorry for tricking you into telling me a story, Druig says they don't work on me"

"It’s okay, it was fun" he smiled at her "sleep well Sprite"

. . . . . . . .

The first thing he felt when he woke up was pain, it wasn't a feeling he didn't know before but the pain he felt now was much greater than what he usually felt. He grunted and opened his eyes, it took him a few seconds to realize that he wasn't in his room, hell, he was in a hospital. He was panicking when he felt a hand touch his shoulder.

"Hey, it's okay, you're safe" Thena suddenly appeared in front of him, which confused him even more "how do you feel?"

"What happened? Where is Sprite?" he asked, scanning the room, everything was dark and he could only notice Gil's body sleeping on what seemed to be a sofa.

"She's fine, she's with Ajak, how are you feeling?"

"What happened?"

Thena let out a sigh, he really was stubborn. "Sprite called me, your father knocked you out and you were unconscious and your sister got scared. The last time we met I gave her my phone number, she called me and I went to see what happened to you, I had no choice but to bring you here, you hit your head very hard"

"I had told you that I couldn't come to a hospital"

"And I had told you that things would get worse"

"And why do you care? I need to get out of here" he tried to straighten up but Thena stopped him "what's your problem?"

"My problem is that you are stubborn, you have two broken ribs, your father could have killed you"

"And I ask you again, why does it matter to you? You have no obligation to help me, if my attitude bothers you so much you could just leave me where I was, eventually I would have woken up and done something"

"And while you were unconscious your sister was terrified thinking you were dead" She said with a hard voice finally making him speechless. "I have many things to discuss with you, but I have to call a doctor first to check you out"

Druig didn't answer, only he made a vague gesture so that she understood that he had heard her. The doctor was buzzing around him, asking questions, taking his pulse, blood pressure and other things that he was only managing to irritate him more and more.

"Sir?" Thena spoke finally capturing the attention of the doctor who finally finished speaking "I don't want to be rude, but Druig is tired, wouldn't it be better to ask all those questions in the morning when he has rested enough?"

"You're right, if you feel any discomfort don't hesitate to call the nurse, I'll see you in the morning, have a good night" the doctor finally left the room and Druig breathed a sigh of relief.

"Thank you" he said he looking out the window "and I'm sorry, for what I said before"

"We need to talk"

"Didn't you say I had to rest?"

Thena rolled her eyes and ignored his comment "I don't know where to start, there is no easy way to say it"

"Let me guess, did you call CPS or someone did?"

"Well yes, but that's not important, you will stay with Ajak, everything is arranged"

"What?" He asked, confused "What do you mean by that?"

"Ajak is registered as a foster parent, we arrange everything for you and Sprite to stay with her"

Druig looked at her arching an eyebrow, he really didn't expect that.

"But there is something else I need to talk to you about, if you would be so kind as not to interrupt me" Thena was sure that if he wasn't in a hospital bed she would have already thrown something at him to make him really pay attention to her "we have to talk about your father"

"What about him? He's not going to go near Sprite is he?"

"No, she won't for now and she never will if everything goes according to plan, but that's not what I want to talk about" she felt nervous, she would love Gil to be with her but it was a conversation they would have to have alone, there was no point in waking up her poor husband. "We have to talk about your family."

"My family? It's just me and Sprite you already know that, my mother died almost three years ago and my father well, he's a bastard"

"You have more family"

"Makkari told you about my older sibling? I don't even remember their names, I haven't seen them for ten years or something like that"

"So you know you have two older siblings"

"Yes, but I don't remember them, it's not like they can help me, one doesn't come after ten years to tell them that you need help because your father hits you and the little sister they don't know they have"

"They know you're here"

"Shit, did you contact them? How the hell do you find two people I have no recollection of and Sprite doesn't even know they exist?"

"Sprite doesn't know?" she looked at him surprised, she did not expect that

"No, I didn't see the point in telling her," he shrugged, "well? What else do you have to say on the subject? How the hell did you find them?"

"Druig, could you let me talk for a second?" he looked at her with a frown but nodded. She let out a sigh, this would be more difficult than she thought "the last memory I have of you before seeing you in Gil's restaurant a few months ago is when you were around six years old, you were upset because Ikaris and I were leaving and we wouldn't be back until next year. You were so upset that you refused to say goodbye to me until your mother practically forced you."

Druig looked at her with wide eyes only making her more nervous.

"When we moved, I never thought about what would happen to you, your father... our father" she corrected herself with a dry swallow "he was never that aggressive, I remember how badly he treated your mother but he never got to the point of putting her in the hospital. We moved because our father did something to me, something I won't talk about, but I never thought about what would happen to you or your mother. I didn't want to believe Ikaris at first, I didn't want to think that not only had I failed Ikaris but also to you and logically to Sprite, but then I saw you and many memories came to me. You were always a very sweet boy, that's why I couldn't believe what you told me that you were in a fight"

She wasn't looking at him, she was looking out the window as she wasn't ready to face him.

"It is not normal for siblings to ask for guardianship of younger siblings when there is a parent in the picture, it is not a common case and it is quite difficult but now that you are in the foster care system it should be easier, we have proof, Sprite told us what he did, with that, the evidence that your doctor will give to the court should be enough for me to fight for the guardianship of both of you and while I manage to solve all that Ajak promised me to take care of you. I'm sorry I missed ten years of your life and not know that Sprite existed, but I really promise you that I will do my best to keep you both away from... our father"

"Well shit, I really wasn’t expecting you to said all that

Chapter Text

Sprite was practically falling asleep over her breakfast, barely having eaten anything. Ajak had spent much of the night by her side trying to make her sleep but the little girl as much as she had tried she could not fall asleep. Eventually the woman had gotten him to doze off for a bit on her couch while she made breakfast. The girl had probably gotten a maximum of four hours of sleep during the night so the woman was not surprised that she was falling asleep on the table. The four teenagers watched her expecting her to fall asleep at any moment and Ajak couldn't help but do the same.

"You all are looking at me weird" she finally spoke looking at them all with a frown

"I'm sorry mi niña, aren't you hungry? You haven't eaten almost anything" Ajak apologized, throwing a look at the four teenagers so that they ended their gazes towards the girl who just shrugged.

"We should see another movie, what do you think?" kingo offered

"Can we watch the same movie we saw yesterday?"

"Sure, why not? It's a great movie"

Sersi and Makkari excused themselves from seeing the movie claiming that they would help Ajak prepare Druig's room, they really weren't looking forward to seeing Kingo perform during the whole movie.
Ikaris had also tried to create an excuse to leave but the moment Sprite told him that they could watch the movie together while each one waited for their respective sibling's return, he ended up accepting her invitation. Ajak had suppressed a laugh as soon as Sprite had dragged the serious Ikaris off to spend the next hour and a half watching a Disney movie.

. . . . . . . .

Druig had been mostly silent ever since Thena had revealed the truth of everything that had happened. She had finished her talk by telling him that Sprite didn't know anything since she and Ajak believed that he should be the one to tell her the truth since for her he was her only brother and her only family. She had also mentioned that Ajak would arrive sometime in the morning with Rosalind, his social worker, so they could sign him out of the hospital so he could go home.

She couldn't blame the sudden silence he had created, she had too many things on his mind and surely he would be in a similar situation.

Thena tried to suppress her laughter as Druig tried to maintain patience with the doctor but had eventually had to intervene again for fear that her brother, it sounded strange to think that, was going to say some sarcastic or inappropriate comment to the man who was only trying to make his job.

By the time Ajak and Rosalind arrived Druig was more than ready to escape from the hospital if necessary, he was annoyed by the large number of cares and follow-ups the doctor had told him about. He was mostly upset about all the care he would have to have thanks to his broken ribs, he wasn't a very active person but the number of "don'ts" the doctor had mentioned was enough to make him want to do anything contrary to what he had been told.

Ajaks started fussing over him asking him if he was alright, how he was feeling, assuring him that her sister was alright causing Thena to intervene again seeing how little patience the teenager seemed to have left.

Finally some papers signed later and a quick chat with Rosalind about her going to check on how they were adjusting in a week as well as going to visit him to take his statement with Officer Hartley, Druig was finally free to leave the hospital.

Gilgamesh said goodbye to Thena in the parking lot, assuring her that he would only go to the restaurant for a few hours before returning home to rest. Thena for her part got into her car with the promise of meeting them at Ajak's house in a few minutes.

Ajak seemed to understand that he didn't feel like talking so they made a silent trip to his house. Once they had arrived Ajak hurried him inside saying that he had to eat something before going to rest.

They were greeted by the sight of Sprite wide awake looking at the TV and Kingo and Ikaris asleep on the sofas behind her. Thena who had entered seconds after them snorted at the sight.

"Too much for good babysitters" Thena's voice seemed to finally catch Sprite's attention who immediately stood up and ran to hug her brother.

"Druig!" she hugged him before he could react "I missed you"

"I missed you my little bell" He had knelt down to hug her better and he had murmured her little nickname just so she could hear him, making her smile "you know I love you right?"

"Yeah, I love you too." They didn't usually say words of affection out loud, but after what they had been through he felt the need to say it out loud. "don't leave me alone again"

"I'm sorry I scared you" he hugged her closer to his chest finally letting out a sigh of relief at finally realizing that she was indeed okay "I'm proud of you, you did a good job asking for help and being so brave while I was gone"

Sprite smiled at his words for a second before separating from him to look at his face "aren't you mad at me?"

"When have I ever been angry with you?" He tried to repress a smile "I'm not mad at you, I already told you I'm very proud of you and happy to see that you're okay" he again hugged her against his chest and left a kiss on her hair feeling the need to hold her in his arms a little more.

. . . . . . . .

Makkari basically threw herself into Druig's arms as soon as she saw him, Ajak had to push her away a little so he could remind her that he had two broken ribs and would have to be careful. She had been quick to apologize but he had just shrugged and hugged her again. Makkari was in charge of giving Druig a tour with Ajak, Sprite preferred to stay watching the television for Kingo's bad luck since she had insisted that since he had fallen asleep he would have to watch the movie with her again.

Druig took a seat on the bed under Ajak's watchful gaze, Makkari almost vibrating with excitement at having him now living in the same house. Thena and Ikaris entered the room, glancing at Ajak who was soon asking Makkari to help her with something in the kitchen.

"Shall we have a sibling talk and declare how much we missed each other?" he said sarcastically lying on the bed because if he was honest the pain was beginning to be unbearable again.

"You don't want to talk" Thena guessed sitting on the edge of the bed

"I don't even want to be here"

"Why not? Ajak has never treated you badly" Ikaris said a bit defensively

Druig raised an eyebrow at him "this is not my house, so excuse me for wanting to be in my own house, in my own bed and not in an unknown place"

Ikaris looked at him embarrassed for judging him so quickly but before he could say anything else Thena held up a hand for him to be silent.

"I wanted to ask you if you thought about what I told you about talking about this with Sprite" Thena asked gently, surprising Ikaris by the tone of his voice.

"Not really, I don't know how to tell her ‘hey Sprite you know that I hid from you for all your life the existence of two brothers whose name I didn't remember until now and better yet, they are here’ ". Thena let out a small laugh, surprising Ikaris again.

"Yes, it is not something so easy to say, I can be with you if you wish"

"Thank you, maybe it would be good to tell her now, better to tell her myself than to overhear it by accident, she has a great talent for hearing things she shouldn't"

"Don't tell me she doesn't believe in Santa Claus because she heard you say something about it"

"That would have been better, she heard one of my classmates talk about 'getting laid', I never felt so embarrassed in my life, I made up a silly lie to her and I'm not sure if she believed me, she was hiding behind a vending machine when she hear him"

Ikaris and Thena couldn't help but laugh at his little anecdote, they could both picture Sprite asking his brother that and him trying to give her an answer.

"You should call her, better do it now, if she goes crazy it's a good time to bribe her with food to calm her down"

"How do you think she will react?" Ikaris asked, looking uncomfortably at the two.

"I really don't know, surely she's going to ask me "why" and after that she can yell at me that I'm lying to her, or get angry because I didn't tell her, or have no reaction and just accept it, the least likely is the latter"

"Well, she is six years old and after the last few days I think we could expect a somewhat strong reaction" Thena offered, standing up to go look for her.

"One of you should lock the door when she arrives, she has a tendency to run out and lock herself in or hide to be alone when she feels overwhelmed or angry, the last time she got mad at me it took me several hours to find her and you've seen where we lived, it's not a big place to hide."

"Do you want us to stay?"

"Why not? I'm not in a condition to try to chase her if she tries to run away, I'm going to trust that you won't let her leave this room, this house is too big and I really want to sleep today"

. . . . . . . .

Sprite immediately knew that her brother was about to tell her something important, he normally wasn't affectionate with her in front of people and the times that he was it was because she was the one who initiated the contact and he never refused to hug her if it was what she wanted.

As soon as she had entered the room he had sat her on his lap and hugged her against his chest, normally she wouldn't think that was something strange in his behavior, he used to do that after a bad day to comfort her but now he was doing it in front of Thena and Ikaris, which made it immediately weird.

"Ajak told me that you could hardly sleep" he began to speak, it was better to start the conversation with another topic before breaking the news

"I missed you"

"I know, I missed you too" he had his arms wrapped around her waist a little strategy to try to contain her when she told him the truth "she also told me that you guys saw a movie"

"Yes, Ikaris told me a story when he realized that I was awake and we tried to make the Lego house but we couldn't"

"He did that? And were you kind enough to tell him that doesn't work for you?" he was teasing her even though he was looking at Ikaris with a raised eyebrow.

"When Ajak told him to go to sleep I told him so and apologized"

"I'm glad to hear that, there is something I have to tell you, something very important" he looked at Thena feeling nervous, this could go wrong in many ways. Sprite didn't say anything but she turned her head a little to get a better look at her brother.

"There's something I never told you, but I didn't tell you because I didn't remember much about it" Sprite frowned confused but kept quiet "When we lived in Ireland, long before you were born, there were two people who went every summer to spend it with me. You see, we have two older siblings who moved from..." he turned to Thena unsure what to say, they had not lived in Ireland, they lived in England but they were going to spend every summer in Ireland "they moved to this country when I was almost the same age as you and I never saw them again..."

"You're lying" she interrupted him with a frown "that's not true"

"I'm not lying to you, they are our half siblings, they had another mother who took them away from our father"

"You're lying"

"I'm not, I promise you" he was starting to get frustrated, he could feel how this conversation was not going in the right direction "I forgot their names, I didn't see them for ten years, I didn't even know where they lived, or what they look like but. .. but now I know" he swallowed, this was about to get out of control "Thena and Ikaris are them, the siblings I'm talking about"

"you're lying, he never said..."

"He never talked about them, not since they stopped going to the house in Ireland"

"You're lying, Thena told me that I had to lie and say that she is my older sister, it's a lie"

"She told you that to protect you" Sprite began to stir trying to get out of his grip "calm down, we're just talking"

"No! You're lying and so is she"

"Sprite please" he let out a sigh struggling not to let her go "listen to me, you know I don't lie to you, we don't lie to each other"

She let out a whimper and turned in his arms to hug him around her neck and start crying as she repeated over and over again that it was a lie.

"Sprite?" Thena finally spoke looking at Druig asking permission to intervene, he nodded without knowing what else to do or say. "Can you look at me for a few minutes?"

"I don't want, I want to go home"

"You know that's not possible" Druig murmured running her hand down her back to reassure her "Ajak and Thena already explained it to you"

"Sprite, can you look at me please?" Thena tried again to get the girl's attention "just for a few seconds, then I promise I won't bother you again"

Druig whispered something in her ear in Irish that Thena couldn't understand but after a few seconds Sprite nodded and turned to look at Thena.

"I'm sorry little one" she said wiping a tear from her cheek "I'm sorry I couldn't help you and your brother before, I hope you can forgive me and give me the opportunity to be part of your life even if it's a little bit even if you don't like the idea that we are sisters"

Sprite stared at her for several seconds before nodding, she was confused about her apology but didn't know what to answer.

"I'm sorry" she said looking at Druig before hugging him again and releasing him so she could hug Thena "sorry"

"It's ok sweet girl, you don't have to apologize"

Ikaris had watched the entire exchange from his place leaning against the door, he didn't know what to say or if he should approach them so he preferred to stay where he was without saying anything.

"You should get some rest, it would do you good to sleep" Thena said looking at Druig who had grimaced at a move from Sprite. "and you should take your pain meds"

"Yes mom" he answered rolling his eyes but still lay down on the bed.

The emotional moment they just had was finally over.

"Do you want to watch Kingo's movie with me again?" Sprite had walked over to Ikaris and taken her hand in hers.

Thena held back a laugh as Ikaris tried not to refuse, Sprite soon leading him out of the room to watch the movie once more.

"What movie has she been watching?" Druig asked when the door had closed and they were alone.

"I have no idea, but I'm not going to lie to you that I'm enjoying that Ikaris is forced to watch a Disney movie"

"What a great big sister you are, I can't wait to see what you will do for me"

"I'll do anything for you just like I'll do for Sprite and like I do for Ikaris"

"Wow, that was cheesy"

Thena rolled her eyes and handed him her box of pills "take one and get some sleep, I'll go take care of Sprite and make sure Ikaris survives"

Chapter Text

Druig wanted to kill someone, no, he wanted to kill Kingo because he was to blame for his suffering. They had been living in Ajak's house for almost a week, Christmas was only two days away and he was ready to send his little sister by parcel to another country.

Sprite had developed, thanks to Kingo, an obsession with 'Encanto' and more specifically with 'We don't talk about Bruno'. The first day had been fine, he discovered that that had been the movie that Sprite had been watching since she arrived and agreed to see it with her the first time, the other times it was a mixture of acceptance based on deception and bribery on the part of his little sister.

Possibly he wouldn't be so sick of the song if she hadn't noticed how much everyone in the house seemed to hate it, everyone had tolerated it without saying anything the first and second day after all she was "adjusting" to living in the house so Ajak had silenced anyone who thought to silence the girl. The problem came when she found out how much fun and easy it was to get what she wanted if she stopped her singing when asked.

Druig didn't really understand how she was calm with their new situation, she was completely comfortable living in Ajak's house and had accepted Thena and Ikaris as her older siblings without problem. She loved Sersi and Makkari and believed that Kingo was the funniest person in the world, Gil was another person that she loved without any problem and Phastos had fallen for her charms as soon as he got home from college, basically everyone in the house was in love with her. Meanwhile he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown waiting for the other shoe to drop. He had tried to contain his sister the first two days but gave up when he noticed how much everyone really seemed to be delighted with her.

Although now the one who was tired of her was him, they were in the kitchen alone, he was trying to read a book and she was drawing with the art supplies Thena had given her. The problem is that the others had fled as soon as she had started singing the damn song over and over again, he would have tried to leave if it weren't for the fact that, despite adapting well, she refused to be without him most of the time.

"Can you sing any other song? A Christmas song for example, it's two days until Christmas you should get in the spirit" he said trying to convince her to stop singing.

"No, I like this song" she said without looking up from her drawing "We don't talk about Bruno, no, no, no! We do n't talk about Bruno! ..."

He let out a groan and hid her face in her hands, he had a bad headache and he didn't want to take it out on her but she wasn't.

"Are you ok?" Ikaris had put a hand on his shoulder managing to startle him "sorry"

"Nevermind, can you turn her off? She's killing me with that song" he asked looking at him with pleading eyes

"You can't turn off a person" he said trying to suppress a smile

"I'm begging you, be a good brother and turn her off or I'm going to tape her mouth"

"I'm listening to you" Sprite looked at him narrowing her eyes

"I know but I'm going crazy"

She ignored him and started singing the song again, getting him to growl again and Ikaris to laugh. He tried to hide her laughter by pretending to have a cough but it wasn't fooling anyone since Sprite was trying to contain her own laughter.

"Do you want to play video games?" Ikaris asked, sitting next to Druig.

"I don't know how to play video games"

"I can teach you"

"Can I go with you?" Sprite asked.

"Are you going to stop singing?"

"No"

"Then you can't come, go bother Sersi"

"Sersi is not here, she left with Kari and Phastos"

"Then go bother Kingo, I'll pay you if do it"

"Why don't you come with us and go paint with Thena? She's in her studio painting" Ikaris suggested, managing to get a smile on the girl's face.

"Can I Druig?"

"Go tell Ajak we're going to Thena's" The girl did not take a second to disappear in search of the woman, leaving the brothers alone. "Thanks"

"Don't thank me, I really came looking for you both, Thena wanted to show her some of her paintings and I knew that she wouldn't come without you so it occurred to me that we could do something while they paint or do whatever they do, I hope you don't mind"

"It's ok don't worry, though I would appreciate if someone shows her a new song"

"Still obsessed with it?"

"She discovered that the others tell her yes to what she wants if she stops singing when they ask her so she won't stop soon, with the only one that doesn't work is with Makkari and Thena and with Thena she doesn't even try. How she has everyone wrapped around her finger in just a couple of days in beyond me, we haven't even been here a week"

"She is six years old, that's how children are at that age"

"Is that how I was at that age?" he asked, managing to freeze them both for a moment since it was the first time that either of them had said out loud something related to their childhood together.

"Thena was always very protective although neither she nor your mother would let you get away with stuff"

"And you? You let me get away with stuff?"

"Sometimes"

Druig smirked but didn't add anything as Sprite finally appeared wrapped in her coat against the cold.

"Ajak said you have to put on a scarf and gloves to go out."

They made their way to Thena's house in silence, Sprite holding Druig's hand firmly as they made the short walk.

"It's freezing," Druig grumbled as soon as they arrived and were able to shed all the layers of clothing. "I hate the cold"

"You weren't even out for five minutes" Thena's voice made the three of them turn around and Sprite didn't take long to run out to hug her "nice to see you my little one, ready to paint?" Sprite nodded enthusiastically "nice to see you too Druig"

He didn't have time to reply as Thena and Sprite had disappeared down the hall in the direction of what he remembered to be Thena's small art studio.

"Finally, peace and quiet"

Ikaris smirked and touched his shoulder to get her attention "lets go"

Druig followed his brother to the room where he began to put together what he assumed would be the console, he would have offered to help him but the truth was that he had no idea how the device worked and preferred not to get in the way. Ikaris sat next to him on the sofa and handed him a controller, the next few minutes passed between explanations until Druig finally felt confident that he had truly understood how to use the controller and how to play the game.

They spent the next hour engrossed in the game, Ikaris had to admit that Druig wasn't that bad at the game despite never having played it before. They were so engrossed in the game that they didn't notice when Sprite walked into the room and waited to be noticed.

"What are you doing?" she asked getting a little closer, none of them turned to look at her

"Playing" Ikaris answered "where is Thena?"

"She said she was going to fix something to eat, can I play?"

Ikaris looked at Druig waiting for confirmation from him before nodding "come here, I'll show you how to play"

Sprite took a seat between the two, Druig hadn't said anything so far but gave her a half smile to encourage her to let Ikaris teach her. Ikaris handed her the controller and began to explain to her how it worked and although she assured him that she had understood everything he gave her, it was not long before she returned the controller to her brother and disappeared again in search of Thena.

"Well, she lasted longer than I thought" Druig commented when they summarized the game

"Why do you say that?"

"She's not interested in electronics, she didn't even watch TV until... we got to Ajak's house" he shrugged "I don't know if it's my fault or his, but she has never shown interest in electronics''

Ikaris didn't know what to say and before she had to really think about anything, Thena appeared out of nowhere and turned off the TV without warning.

"Come eat"

Druig looked at her surprised by the sudden way of getting their attention but apparently it was something normal for her since Ikaris didn't even flinch. They made their way into the kitchen where Sprite was sitting comfortably on the counter eating celery with peanut butter and raisins.

"Do you like raisins?" Druig asked her sister with a frown, the little girl just shrugged.

"Didn't she like them before?" Thena asked putting the plate of rice-stuffed pretzel bites in front of them.

"I don't know, I had never seen her eat them before and he only used to bring fast food and it wasn't much that I knew how to cook"

"Well now you guys have a lot of home cooked food" Thena said indicating for her to sit down "I'm not that good at cooking but I'm good at following the instructions that Gil leaves"

They ate in silence, Sprite still sitting on the counter and Thena standing next to her, taking care that she wouldn't fall.

"My little one, why don't you show Ikaris what we've been painting? Druig will help me clean up while we talk about her next visit to the doctor."

Druig looked at the blonde confused, his next appointment with the doctor was tomorrow and it was already something that the two had discussed with Ajak, but it only took a look from his older sister for him to understand that she wanted to talk to him alone without Sprite listening. Sprite let Ikaris pull her down from the counter and took his hand to drag him towards Thena's art studio.

"So how are you?" she asked leaning back on the counter once they were alone

"You ask me that daily and the answer is still the same"

"Well, I wanted to talk to you about Christmas"

"We don't need anything" he hastened to say uncomfortably at the direction the conversation would take "Ajak already spent enough money on us buying all those clothes"

"We're not going to argue over that again"

It had been quite a difficult shopping trip, Sprite had refused to pick out clothes no matter how hard Ajak, Thena, Sersi and Makkari had tried to convince her to pick out what she liked and Druig had refused to help them as he claimed they had clothes at home and that they should ask Rosalind to bring them to them. Thena and Druig had had a very short argument on the subject at the store and finally after a very awkward conversation that he preferred not to think about he had agreed to convince Sprite to cooperate and he had picked out a few things for himself not to have to confirm Thena's words.

"How did you guys spend Christmas?"

"I used to save money to buy her a Christmas present, I usually sneaked out of school one day to buy it since she was always with me and I hid it in my clothes until Christmas day came"

"And what did you normally buy her?"

"Some Arts and Crafts"

"I would like to ask you for help to buy Sprite Christmas gifts, I know you don't like us spending money on you two but it's Christmas and I think she deserves some gifts, I don't want to say that she hasn't had a good Christmas with you but I want you not to worry about it”

"I will help you with the condition that you don't buy anything for me, you can buy gifts for her but not for me"

"Let me buy you at least one gift and we have a deal" she said, pursing her lips, she would find a way to ignore his words.

"Okay, I'll help you"

"Excellent, we will go tomorrow after the doctor"

"Do we really have to go to the doctor? I'm fine" he complained rolling his eyes

"Yes, we have to go" she said with a firm voice approaching him to cup his cheek "I care about you Druig and I want to make sure you're okay"

"I'm not a little kid"

"No, but you're my little brother and it's my job to take care of you" she said with a half smile "I already failed you once, I won't fail again"

"It wasn't your fault Thena" he said letting out a sigh "I don't blame you for anything"

"You don't blame me but I do"

"Guilt is no use to you, you already helped us and we're fine thanks to you and your desire to get involved in other people's business" he said the last thing with a half smile earning a small hit on the shoulder "hey! that hurt"

"I'm glad, now go bother Ikaris or I'll make Sprite keep singing that song for another two weeks"

"You wouldn't dare" he said opening his eyes wide "I thought you liked me"

"And I do, but now go away we still have to finish our painting"

"And I thought you wanted to see me too when Ikaris went looking for us" he said jokingly, standing up and moving away enough to prevent Thena from reaching him.

Chapter Text

Druig had to have foreseen it, he had already experienced it once less than a week ago, what made him think that this time it would be different? Thena, Ajak and Makkari had dragged him to Target after his visit to the doctor. His broken ribs were healing well but he still had to be careful and continue his pain medication.

He hated shopping and shopping for clothes a few days ago had been a nightmare but now one day before Christmas the store was in chaos. Thena had taken him to the toy area and had told him to tell her that he thought he would like Sprite, the problem was that he didn't know. When it was just the two of them there wasn't much to choose from, he normally went for a box of crayons or markers and some drawing pads and coloring books, they were things that weren't too expensive and that Sprite really enjoyed but Thena wasn't going to settle for them. that.

He was really trying but seeing the prices of things just didn't help him, nor the constant look of his sister and Ajak on him the only thing they were getting was making him more nervous.
Makkari seemed to notice his nervousness and did not hesitate to jump to help him, she asked Thena and Ajak for some time alone so they could choose Sprite's gifts together while they looked for the things that Gil had asked for dinner. Christmas. Thena didn't hesitate to accept, noticing how reluctant Druig was about to choose something and although Ajak at first wasn't sure about leaving them alone she ended up following Thena away from the toy area.

"Ok they're gone, do you want to tell me what's bothering you or are we going to pick out presents for your little sister?" She signed once they were alone.

"It's just that these things cost too much money and I don't feel comfortable making them spend their money" he she admitted with a sigh "I made a deal with Thena that I would help her but I'm regretting it"

"Don't worry about the money, I know it's hard not to think about it but you have to believe me that Ajak is capable of buying anything that seems interesting to her for Sprite and it will be much worse, if you choose the gifts you can at least control a little what she will get"

"She doesn't need so many presents"

"No, but Ajak loves Christmas and if you don't want your sister to get more presents than necessary you will help me pick out things or Ajak will and Sprite will end up with a ridiculously large pile of presents."

"Okay, let's do this"

They spent the next few minutes deciding what to choose for Sprite, Makkari was the first to choose a gift, a fairly large Squishmallows in the shape of a fox, Druig chose a box that he said was a kind of light puzzle with which Sprite could put together a polar bear, there were too many options for that toy but he ended up choosing the one that had a color that he knew his sister liked. Makkari convinced Druig to choose a Crayola light Up tracing pad since she was sure Sprite would love it. Makkari tried to choose a set to paint rocks but Druig was afraid that in a moment of anger Sprite would throw them at someone so they left him where she was. Makkari also convinced Druig to choose a set of Magna Tiles since Sprite really enjoyed playing with the old magnets that belonged to Phastos. Druig found a stuffed cat that he would surely like. Makkari found a big box with a hundred colored pencils, so they finally decided to find a sketchbook to finish.

Thena smiled when they finally found them in the clothing section, she was glad that Makkari had been able to convince him to finally choose some things for Sprite.

"What are those?" Druig asked with a frown at the PJs they were checking "I'm not wearing that"

"Yes you are, we are all" Ajak said looking through the rags "what did you guys choose?"

Thena and Ajak proceed to see what the two of them had chosen for Sprite.

"What is this?" Thena asked, showing them a box "is this a cauldron?"

"We don't really know...but it looked fun" they both shrugged, the reality was that they wanted to see how the toy worked, it was supposed to be a cauldron that had some weird stuffed animal inside that you get after making a potion.

Thena looked at them with a raised eyebrow but said nothing, she liked the stuff they had chosen so far so she would trust their judgment.

"Are we really wearing that" Druig said pointing at the stuff Ajak was still checking

"It's a family tradition" Ajak said simply inspecting a pajama that was possibly for Sprite "we all wear Christmas pajamas on Christmas morning, I usually buy them a little bit in advance but it completely slipped my mind until today"

Druig was about to add something else but the look Thena gave him was enough for him to shut his mouth. After a couple more hours, a stop for pizza, they finally reached Ajak's house.

Thena would have given a lot of money to have had her hands free as soon as they entered so she could have taken a picture.
Sprite was asleep on Ikaris and Sersi, both teenagers had the look of being completely exhausted and nothing more and nothing less than "Encanto" was playing on the TV. Druig immediately laughed, it was good to see that someone else had suffered seeing the movie with his little sister and it wasn't him.

"Are you guys having fun?" Thena laughed, earning a glare from Ikaris "How long has she been asleep?"

"About twenty minutes ago, more specifically after listening to "We don't talk about Bruno""

They all tried to contain their laughter, it was more than obvious that Sprite had completely tired her babysitters. Ajak finally approached the girl to gently wake her up, she wouldn't let her go to sleep without having eaten something first. The little girl had taken a few seconds before she was fully awake, to the astonishment of Ikaris and Sersi who had taken quite a while to calm her down after they made the mistake of giving her more sugar than necessary and had to face a very hyperactive six-year-old girl.

Ajak glanced at Druig and Sprite during dinner, they wanted to believe they were okay but they couldn't fool her. Sprite refused to be away from Druig, the only way they managed to get out today without her was only because she didn't want to go back to the hospital but Ajak didn't even want to think how they would have managed today's trip if she herself had not refused to go. Despite having her own room she still slept with Druig and was certainly on her best behavior because if her little obsession with the song told her anything it was that she was full of mischief.

Druig for her part was withdrawn from everyone except Sprite and Makkari, he still didn't seem to trust Thena or her fully and was quite careful around everyone else. She could see that many times he controlled his reactions and that he was only accepting the help of Ajak and Thena with Sprite since he was not fully recovered yet, she knew that the moment the doctor gave him the go-ahead something would change.

They both certainly had a lot of behaviors typical of two children who have been through abuse and neglect, Sprite would normally jump at very loud sounds and Druig seemed to always be checking to make sure doors weren't locked in case he needed to escape.

Having them at home was quite different than any other placement she had ever had, she had known them for several months before they came home, Druig and Makkari had a great bond within a few months of knowing each other and Sprite felt comfortable around everybody.

It was not a common thing to meet your foster children before they were your foster children and that was perhaps the reason that their transition within the family felt so normal to a certain extent. The two fit in quite well with all the members of the family, Druig had a good relationship with Sersi and Makkari and although he found Kingo annoying they got along quite well, even Druig seemed to like Phastos quite well despite only knowing each other for two days. Sprite had charmed everyone since the first time they had all met her, Ajak was surprised at how well she had accepted each and every one of them, normally a child like her would be very suspicious around new people but she had met everyone in situations where she had felt safe around them and logically they both had a pretty good relationship with Thena, Ikaris and Gilgamesh, Ajak could even swear that Gil was Druig's favorite since the man was always giving him food and it was something that everyone had noticed that the boy loved.

She was worried but she would have to wait for the other shoe to drop, they were experiencing what many would call "the honeymoon stage" and she didn't even want to think about what it would be like when it was over since she could see that both siblings had quite strong personalities.

. . . . . . . .

"Sprite, wake up" Druig lightly shook his little sister's shoulder trying to wake her up "Sprite, it's morning you have to wake up"

"Stop! I'm tired!" she complained turning around "let me sleep"

"It's Christmas, wake up"

"So what? I'm tired"

"Everyone is waiting for you, Kingo says that there are many gifts under the tree"

"We can open them later"

Druig tried not to laugh, she really wasn't in the mood to open presents. "Gil made hot chocolate, Thena and Ikaris are downstairs with the others."

"I don’t care"

"Sprite, let's go!" He rolled his eyes, of all the mornings to decide to want to sleep in, she had to choose Christmas morning.

The girl let out a frustrated sigh and without opening her eyes she stretched her arms in his direction, if he was going to get her out of her bed well he could carry her downstairs.

"You know I can't, but I can call Ikaris, what do you say?"

"I don't want to walk"

Druig rolled his eyes again and left the room in search of her older brother, the sooner they opened the presents the sooner he could take off the Christmas pajamas that Ajak and Thena had forced him to wear. Ikaris was surprised when Druig called him and went up to Druig's room to see what he wanted.

"Can you carry her all the way down? She doesn't want to walk and I can't, you know…"

"Sure, don't worry" he didn't let him finish and approached the bed where Sprite seemed to be still sleeping, she was really awake but she was quite comfortable under all the blankets "let's go downstairs Sprite"

"Shh I'm asleep" she murmured, wrapping her arms around her neck and laying her head on his shoulder.

Both brothers looked at each other trying to contain their laughter, it was more than obvious that she was awake but neither was ready to fight with her about it, it was too early to have a grumpy Sprite.

"What kind of six year old are you?" Kingo asked as soon as Sprite was practically lying on Thena's lap "it's Christmas, you should be excited"

Sprite snorted but she didn't say anything, she still wasn't fully awake and Thena running her hands through her hair didn't help. Druig took a seat next to Thena, ending up between her and Ikaris. Ajak started to pass out the stockings, Sprite and Druig looked at theirs in confusion.

"What's this?" she asked looking at Druig waiting for an answer, her brother just shrugged, Druig haven't celebrated a real Christmas for many years and Sprite had never had one before.

"That's your stocking Santa left you some presents in it" Thena explained taking a chocolate bar out of hers "see? I got chocolate"

Sprite frowned, she had heard of Santa at school and when she had asked Druig he explained that he was the one who brought gifts to the children at Christmas, no one ever said anything about stockings.

"Open it" Druig encouraged her with an attempt at a smile, he still couldn't bring himself to open his own.

Sprite finally shrugged and started pulling out the contents of the stocking, finding some chocolates, socks, colored chalk, hair clips, nail polish (Druig groaned at that), glow-in-the-dark stars, and stickers.

"Ikaris look!" Sprite found a very small Lego set inside her stocking “legos!”.

"Maybe Santa thought you should give legos another chance" he told her making her smile, she mumbled something about her still thinking they were dumb but continued to inspect her new presents.

"How about we start with the presents?" Ajak asked, making Sprite turn to look at the Christmas tree.

She was surprised when she noticed the enormous amount of presents that were under the tree, she felt confused and Druig, noticing her insecurity, offered her his hand so that she would sit with him.

"Why are there so many presents? You said that Santa only gave one present"

"No, I said that Santa usually gives at least one" Druig corrected her, the truth was that he hadn't said that but Sprite would surely believe his lie.

Sprite looked at him for several seconds before shrugging and turning her attention back to Ajak who was busy handing out presents to the others to give them both time to finish talking.

She looked at the gift suspiciously, she hadn't asked for anything and couldn't think what it could be, she looked around her noticing the others opening their respective gifts without paying attention to her.

"Come on Sprite open it" Kingo encouraged her but she just stared at him "come here, I'll help you"

Sprite turned to see her brother who nodded encouragingly, she carried the box Ajak had given her to sit next to Kingo on the floor with the gift on her lap. Kingo pulled some of the paper wrapping from her gift and then invited her to do the same.

She looked at the box of Magna Tiles in front of her with a frown, she examined the box for a few seconds before finally looking at Druig.

"What's this?"

"A toy to build things" he replied

"A toy?" now she was really confused, she hadn't had a toy that was hers for a long time "for me?"

"Yes, it's yours to play with"

Thena looked at them sadly, Sprite seemed really confused and fascinated by the fact that she had a toy all to herself. She had no idea why Sprite was actually surprised to receive a toy, although come to think of it she hadn't actually seen any toys in the room at her old house.
The others seemed to be sharing her sad feeling as they all looked at the little girl who was just examining the box not knowing what to do. Druig for his part felt awkward and somewhat guilty that Sprite hadn't had a toy in quite some time, it wasn't something he really thought of buying and she was always asking for art supplies, it never occurred to him that his sister would want or need other things to play besides crayons and art stuff that she seemed to like.

"Open your present." Druig was so consumed with his thoughts that he didn't notice when his little sister leaned on him looking at him expectantly.
He looked at the package in front of him and carefully opened it, finding a leather jacket inside it. Sprite smirked at the gift and turned away from him to receive another gift that Ajak was offering her.He had his attention on Sprite so he was surprised when Ikaris placed another gift on her lap, he immediately turned to look at Thena with narrowed eyes.

"We had a deal" he accused her making her smile

"And I fulfilled it, I just bought you the jacket, Ajak bought the rest" she could feel his discomfort immediately "open it, you also deserve a bit of Christmas magic"

"You don't strike me as a person who has a lot of Christmas magic"

"I have my moments, now hush and open your presents"

Druig said something like 'yes mom' under his breath causing her to laugh, she was really enjoying this Christmas. Sprite's surprised face every time she opened a gift was wonderful and although they both wanted to hide it she could see the happy smiles of Ikaris and Druig as they opened their presents.

Sprite was quite happy with everything she had received but she was more than anything else intrigued by the first present she had opened.

"Can you open it please?" She asked Gil who was the person he had closest to her, she had extended the box to him and he had taken it with a smile.

Thena wanted to laugh, she really wanted to but she was holding back watching Gil and Kingo marvel at the Magna Tiles while Sprite seemed to have figured out how they worked in the blink of an eye, the other two were completely in awe of the toy and seemed to be waiting for the girl to lost interest in itso they could try it for themselves.

"Sprite you should open the cauldron" Druig was sitting next to Makkari, he had received a Bop It and together with Makkari had been trying to break Ikaris' record for several minutes.
Thena raised an eyebrow in their direction, when she had seen the toy she knew that Makkari had had some influence in the decision, she had not been wrong in thinking that they had chosen it wanting to know how it worked.
Sprite didn't hesitate to accept her brother's words and left the Magna Tiles with Gil and Kingo who were quite happy to have the opportunity to test the toy.

"Magix Mixies" she read aloud, passing the box to Druig to open.

Everyone was attentive to see how the toy worked; Sprite with the help of Druig and Makkari performed the steps indicated on the box.

"Is that supposed to happen?" Ikaris asked as soon as smoke began to rise from the cauldron.

Druig and Makkari backed away from the cauldron while Sprite peered inside, yelling as the cauldron seemed to move a bit. Everyone was startled by the cauldron jumping and Sprite's scream but before anyone could say anything the little girl put her hand inside the cauldron.

"Look!" Sprite pulled a stuffed animal out of the cauldron "it's so weird" she said with a smile examining the toy, passing the 'magic wand' over it making it make noises.

"That's the weirdest toy I've ever seen in my life" Kingo said, finally breaking the silence that had been created.

Chapter Text

Just as Ajak had foreseen, Druig and Sprite's behavior changed drastically overnight. The first one was Druig, it was all after officer Hartley took his statement, he did not feel comfortable speaking out loud about what had happened that day that ended up in the hospital or remembering several of the moments where his father had hit him or Sprite, he ended up locking himself in his room with Sprite for most of the day.

It had only been two days of Christmas and Druig seemed to be a completely different boy, he withdrew into himself and only seemed to react when Sprite was present, not even Makkari seemed to be able to get him out of his shell. After much talk the two women decided to let him be, he needed time to be at peace with everything that had happened and he needed to process it his way, they would give him some time to do it on his own before intervening.

Sprite was completely oblivious to the internal debate her older brother seemed to be having and Ajak could finally see a reaction from her when the subject of school was brought up. When they brought it up she immediately thought it would be Druig who would object to having to change schools but it was Sprite who wasn't happy at all. Druig looked surprised at his sister when she declared that she didn't want to go to school and not just a new school but school in general, Sprite had always enjoyed school despite all the problems at home they were both excellent students and Sprite enjoyed to learn new things so he didn't understand what this sudden change was about.

Ajak would have to go back to work in the next few days, she had taken a kind of vacation to be able to sort everything out with the two of them and she had to go back to work soon after sorting everything out with the school. Sprite was dismissed from the conversation by Ajak after seeing how distraught she was over the subject.

In the end Ajak, Thena and Druig managed to come to some kind of agreement or plan about what they would do with school. Both would start, if possible, classes the same day so that Druig could distract himself a little and not be thinking about Sprite all the time while she was in school, Ajak and Thena would be the ones who would take Sprite the first day to school to prevent both of them from becoming distressed more than necessary for having to separate, during the afternoon Thena would accompany Druig to pick up Sprite. Sprite's school finished an hour before everyone else's so Gil would be the one to pick her up after the first day. Druig wasn't entirely happy with the arrangement but he knew it was the best he was going to get.

Shopping for school supplies was easier than Ajak had anticipated, Druig pretty much picked out the basic things he knew he would use, all in black, and found a backpack, also black, that he liked while Sprite happily followed the list he Ajak had between her hands with the difference that she chose the most colorful things she could find and a teal backpack with butterflies.

. . . . . . . .

Sprite had barely been able to sleep that night, she kept tossing and turning but she hadn't been able to sleep much, even Druig's songs or anything he had done had worked out, the only thing that finally got her to sleep was exhaustion.

Druig had seemed calm but she could see how nervous he was, he had started to get ready leaving her alone in the room and although it was only a few minutes it was enough for the tears to appear. He had been scared when he found her like this when he returned but he had managed to calm her down enough to go down to breakfast.

Gil had announced a big feast since it was their first day of school but to everyone's surprise Druig had barely eaten and Sprite had spent much of the time playing with her food instead of eating it.

When it was time for the teens to leave, Sprite was clinging to Druig's leg, refusing to let go of him. Gil had had to get her to let go and Ikaris and Makkari had to pull him out of the house to leave the little girl with the three adults.

Sprite was a tearful mess as Ajak tried to get her dressed for school by the time Thena had come in, completely gorgeous as ever ready to head back to work, to find a semi-dressed Sprite crying on her bed. In the end, after some words from her older sister, she had agreed to dress up and let the blonde help with her hair.

She hadn't said a word since they'd left the house, and when it was time to say goodbye to Ajak and Thena, she almost burst into tears again. Both women left the girl in the hands of her teacher, they hoped that throughout the day the girl's mood would improve and that everything would go well.

. . . . . . . .

Sprite felt betrayed, she couldn't fully decipher the emotions she was feeling, there were too many emotions but she was sure of one, fear. She was afraid of being in a new school, in a new classroom, with a new teacher and new classmates, all her life Druig had been by her side at all times and now he was not there he had let Ajak and Thena told him what to do and he had left her alone in a new school. Yes, she was angry with her brother for leaving her alone and not going to school with her, it was probably something silly but for Sprite it was something completely unforgivable.

The teacher seemed friendly, she had shown Sprite her new desk and explained the classroom rules. Little by little her new classmates began to arrive, some of them gave her nervous smiles, others looked at her curiously and a few looked at her confused.

She had no intention of talking, she had nothing to say, she didn't want to talk and she wouldn't and no one could force her no matter how hard they tried.

Sprite had always enjoyed recess, she was friendly with some girls and boys from her old school and she used to play with them in the playground but now she didn't know anyone and had no one to play with. Alone she went to a bench away from the playground and she sat there watching the other children play.

"Hello" A voice from her startled her, a boy that she thought she vaguely remembered from her class sat next to her "you're the new girl, I'm Tripp, do you want to come and play?"

She shook her head, she might have been tempted but she didn't feel like playing.

"Why not? We are going to play tag, you can join us"

"No thanks" ok, maybe in the end she would talk but she was doing it on her own terms.

"Are you sure? You look a bit sad, what's your name?"

"Sprite, it's just... I miss my brother."

"Do you have a brother? That's great, what grade is he in?"

"I have three siblings but they don't go to this school"

"Three? How lucky you are, I don't have siblings but I have a cousin who is like a brother to me" he gave her a smile making her finally smile a little "come on girl, come have some fun, I'm sure your siblings would not like to know that you miss them"

She considered it, maybe she could play a little and if she didn't feel comfortable she could go sit on her bench again. She nodded and Tripp smiled quickly, taking her hand to guide her to where the other children were waiting. After spending the rest of recess playing with Tripp and the other kids she thought that maybe this new school wasn't so bad after all, she was still mad at Druig but that was something she could review when she saw him again.

She was not expecting that after recess they would have an art class, now that was something that interested her and that to the joy and tranquility of her teacher managed to get her out of her shell. By the end of the day she was smiling and talking as if nothing had happened.

"Druig!" The moment she finally saw her brother in front of her, she didn't hesitate to run into her arms to hug him "I missed you so much!"

"I missed you my little bell" he murmured in her ear, leaving a kiss on her cheek "how was everything?"

She shrugged, it hadn't been bad but it was only the first day things could change the next day. Thena was talking to her teacher who was giving her a little summary of how she had spent the day, at the end of the little talk she introduced Druig to her teacher and let her know that starting tomorrow it would be her husband who would go to pick up Sprite.

"So did you make any new friends?" Thena asked as soon as they got in the car and headed to Ajak's house.

"I don't know, I think so" she shrugged her shoulders "a boy invited me to play at recess with him and his friends, we played tag"

"That was very nice, did you have a good day?"

"I guess so" she couldn't say that it really was a good day, she was even relieved that she was finished "do I have to come back tomorrow?"

"Yes, that's how the school works"

"I have to do it?" She looked at her brother with pleading eyes.

"You heard her, and she's the boss" he replied trying not to laugh when he saw her frown

"Finally someone who understands that I'm the boss"

"I'm just saying this so she doesn't bother me, I really don't think so" Thena shot her a withering look "Just kidding, you're the boss Thena"

Chapter Text

Druig would be lying if he said he wasn't nervous, he had attended school with the same people for the last four years, he couldn't consider any of them his friends but they were on friendly terms so the idea of attending a new school was not something that he was very attracted to it but he was taking it as a new beginning after everything that happened, sometimes he could be an optimistic person thank you very much.

It had been very difficult to leave Sprite with Thena and Ajak but she knew that they were right if he didn't leave before she did she would be more resistant to the idea of going to school, both women were excellent at making the six year old girl did the things she had to do and that he sometimes let her get away with it. It wasn't what he wanted but it was what was best for her and he always tried to think what was best for her.

The arrangement to go to school was quite strange, the car belonged to Ajak but neither Sersi nor Makkari would let Kingo drive so they made Ikaris drive them, the reason was that they both said he was not a good driver and Ikaris and Sersi said that one can only endure so many musicals. He preferred not to comment on the matter and slipped into the back seat with Makkari and Kingo, he suspected that there was something between Sersi and Ikaris but he still hadn't had the courage to ask Makkari about it.

"I'll go with you to the office" Ikaris said as soon as everyone got out of the car, Druig looked at Makkari but she only gave him an encouraging smile and signed to him that he wouldn't forget to send her a picture of his schedule so she could see what classes they have together.

The brothers walked in silence to the office, Druig was more worried about Sprite and he wasn't really paying much attention to the path they were taking.

"Stop worrying about Sprite, she'll be fine" Ikaris finally broke the silence looking at his brother out of the corner of his eye "Thena and Ajak will make sure she is"

"I don't know how not to worry about her"

"Yes, I get it, but she will surely be fine, she is a good kid, you should worry about yourself a little"

"Why? Do you think high school will eat me alive?" he asked arching an eyebrow

"I don't…that's not what I meant…" Ikaris answered, stumbling over her own words.

"I know, I'm just teasing you" he said shrugging trying to hide his smile, Ikaris rolled her eyes "don't worry I won't tell anyone that you're in big brother mode, I'm sure you have a reputation to take care of"

That was one of the things that made him nervous the most, he had no idea what the situation was like with his brother and his foster siblings at school. He didn't want them to try to include him in their friend groups just so he wouldn't feel lonely, or do things they wouldn't normally do just for him.

"I don't care about that" Ikaris simply responded by wrapping one of his arms around his shoulders "I promised Thena…"

"Don't finish that sentence or I'll have Sprite paint your nails and you know you won't be able to say no" He knew that Thena had given him a talk, or rather a speech, about being a good big brother. Kingo wasn't good at keeping secrets and he had told Makkari who wasn't the best at keeping secrets either.

"Ikaris! Nice to see you man, what are you doing on this side of campus?" a boy, very big, approached them with a big smile "who is he?"

"Nice to see you Thor, this is my brother Druig"

"Brother?" the boy, Thor, asked confused "I thought you only had one sister, the scary blonde one"

Druig tried not to laugh at Thena's description "I have two, Thena who will surely be very happy to hear that she scares you and Sprite our little sister"

"Do you also have a younger sister?" Thor decided to ignore the comment about Thena "Man, you had it well hidden, anyway see you later I can't be late for class again, nice to meet you Druig"

"That was interesting," Druig said when they were finally alone and continued on their way to the office.

He never thought how difficult it would be to fix his schedule, Ikaris was very helpful since he knew all the teachers and suggested which classes to choose, plus he knew a little about Makkari's schedule so he very kindly indicated which classes he could share with her. In the end he was quite happy with most of his classes.
Although he tried to get his brother to leave him alone, he insisted on walking with him to his first class to help him get a little familiar with the facilities, he was even kind enough to remind him to send his schedule to Makkari if he didn't want to. make her angry

Druig could feel the curious looks from many people but he decided to ignore them as he followed Ikaris to her first "Spanish I" class. He had chosen that class specifically because of Ajak, the woman spoke Spanish half the time and very rarely understood her so he figured it would be a good class to take (Ikaris agreed with his idea although he let him know that he was awful at the subject when he took it).

After a brief, and somewhat awkward, parting, the brothers finally headed off in different directions. Makkari had replied to her message and had let her know what classes they had together, she basically told him not to move from his classroom when the class ended that she would go look for him to go to the next one together.

He sighed, he didn't want her to change everything she normally did for him but he knew that anything he said to her would fall on deaf ears, no joke. He introduced himself to the teacher, a woman named "Martinez" who, after giving him a few instructions -in English, luckily for him- indicated that he could take a seat wherever she wanted.

He decided to sit at the back of the classroom, there was no better way to avoid prying eyes than sitting at the back where they would have to turn to see him.
A blonde girl, who could compete with Thena in terms of being tall, blonde, and with what seemed to be a murderous look sat next to him. She studied him for a few seconds but finally returned her gaze to the front of the room.

The class began and even though they had only been in class for two days, Druig felt completely lost with what they were supposed to be learning. The lesson went like this for the first fifteen minutes until the teacher handed them some sheets that they had to answer. He must have given the impression of not knowing what he was doing since the blonde girl seemed to take pity on him after a few minutes.

"You have to choose one of the two options to complete the sentence" she said in her direction pointing to the sheet.

"Thank you, although I still don't understand anything this says"

The girl glanced at the teacher, who was very busy reviewing some papers, and finally she came a little closer to him so she could explain in a low voice. To his surprise, he managed to understand what she was explaining and in a few minutes he finished solving the exercise. She glanced at his sheet to try and read his name, she looked surprised after doing it.

"Are you related to Ikaris?" she asked with a raised eyebrow

"He is my brother" he answered hesitantly

"I didn't know he had a brother, you're new to school right?"

"Yes, I moved here recently"

"Yes, your accent gives you away. I'm Bobbie"

"Druig"

"What are you doing taking Spanish? From what I know Ikaris was a disaster taking this class"

"Yes, he told me, but I thought it would be a good idea to take it and there was nothing else that caught my attention"

Before they could continue their conversation the bell rang announcing the end of class. They put away their things and before Druig even got to his feet Makkari was walking into the room.

"Hey Kari" Bobbie greeted with a smile "do you know him? Of course you know him"

"Yeah, we've known each other for months, right Druig?" Makkari gave him one of her huge smiles and he couldn't help but blush a little as he nodded "how did it go? Come on we have to get to class, bye Bobbie"

Druig had learned that Makkari was a fast-moving person so it wasn't surprising that she would start and end a conversation in seconds before she was practically dragging him through the halls of the school to his next class. It turned out that they had most of their classes together, something that made Makkari more than happy and that Druig secretly enjoyed it as well.
Throughout the morning more than once more than one person seemed to make the connection and they asked him if it was related to Ikaris, he never denied it although he felt more and more uncomfortable as the day passed and Makkari ignored his questions regarding the subject.
Finally lunch time arrived and Makkari practically dragged him into the cafeteria where they came to a table where he could immediately recognize Bobbie.

"They are my friends, Clint, Sharon, Hunter, Mack and you already know Bobbie, guys this is Druig, he is Ikaris's brother" everyone, except Bobbie, seemed surprised by the information but they didn't say anything about it and received him in the group without saying more. None of them asked too many questions about where he came from or anything like that, they seemed to be more interested in Sprite for some reason.

Makkari seemed to wait for him to finish eating before bidding farewell to his friends and taking Druig's hand to drag him out of the cafeteria. She led them to a tree some distance from the buildings and made him sit on the grass next to her.

"How do you feel?" she finally asked with a nervous smile

"I'm fine, it feels weird but I thought it would be worse" he admitted "why is everyone surprised when I say I'm Ikaris's brother?"

Makkari seemed to hesitate a bit before finally replying "Ikaris is the star player of the football team he is sometimes... rude? to some students and he is very cold and I don't know how to say it he is very different from the Ikaris at home, like he is another person in school"

"And he is rude to you or the others?"

"No, on the contrary he has practically hit people for making fun of me or messing with Kingo or Sersi, people respect him and some fear him, he is like the perfect student but he doesn't mind getting his hands dirty if you know what I mean"

"That's weird"

"It is, that's why my friends were interested in Sprite, they can't imagine cold Ikaris having a six year old little sister"

Druig did not comment anything else, he was not the one to judge the attitude of his older brother. They spent the rest of their free time chatting about unimportant things under the tree until it was finally time to go back to class.

In general it had not been a bad day, he had to admit, sharing most of the classes with Makkari was quite good. He had even met Kingo and Sersi throughout the day and to his good luck he had not got lost a single time, until now.

"So you are the brother of the great Ikaris" A voice behind him startled him, he was trying to get to the entrance to meet Makkari so she could accompany him to where he was meeting Thena to pick up Sprite. "What's your name, boy?"

Druig decided not to answer and simply looked at the boy with a raised eyebrow.

"I'm talking to you" he pushed him against the wall "your name?"

"Fuck you" Druig replied trying to get away from the boy but he grabbed him by the backpack and squashed him against the wall again.

"I asked your name, tell me your name"

He didn't have time to respond as out of nowhere someone had thrown the boy away from him. Druig was surprised to see Ikaris, with a murderous look standing in front of the other boy, putting himself between them.

"Rumlow I think I mentioned that I want you away from my family" Ikaris's voice froze Druig, he didn't want to admit it but he could remember his father clearly looking now at Ikaris. "Leave my brother alone, you know better than to mess with someone in my family"

"Your family, if that little piece of…" he couldn't finish before Ikaris was on top of him hitting him.

"Ikaris! Stop!" Druig had moved closer to try to get his brother away from the boy.

Ikaris seemed to remember that Druig was there so after giving Rumlow one last kick, he grabbed his brother by the shoulder and started walking in the opposite direction.

"You are okay?" he asked finally stopping

"I'm okay? Are you okay? You can't go around hitting people"

Ikaris smirked "believe it or not I can, let's go Thena is waiting for you"

He accompanied him to where Thena was waiting for him, saying goodbye to them so he could return to class, there was still one last hour left.

"So, how did it go?" Thena finally asked as soon as they left the parking lot.

"You are such a mum sometimes" he commented with a shrug "well I guess, I share almost all my classes with Makkari and she won't stop dragging me all over the school" he decided to omit the curiosity of the students about him and what Makkari had told him confessed.

"I'm glad your day went well" she replied, deciding to ignore his comment "ready to see how Sprite did?"

"Surely she will tell us about her day even with the smallest detail"

"You should be happy, it seems that school made her forget about her favorite song"

He growled making her laugh "don't remind me, I can still hear it in the back of my mind"

Chapter Text

In the first two weeks back to school he discovered too many new things he didn't know about each of the new people who were now part of his life. It seemed that the return to classes again brought a new kind of normality to everyone's lives and it was strange to see how he and Sprite fell smoothly into rhythm with everyone else.

Among the things he had discovered first was what the real jobs of Thena and Ajak were, he had never really stopped to ask them what their jobs were and if he had, he did not remember. Ajak was a family doctor and she worked at the hospital Thena had taken him to, now he understood why everyone at the hospital seemed to know her and treat him so well. Thena was a business lawyer and worked for a very large firm in the city. Both women had a normal work schedule although Thena had admitted that some days she used to stay late at the office since Gil used to spend a lot of time in his restaurant and Ikaris spent a lot of time at Ajak's house but she was determined to change that to be able to get more time at home and being able to spend more time with her siblings.

The two families, which really seemed to be just one, were an oiled machine when it came to everyone's schedules, and Druig was surprised at how easy it had been to coordinate everyone's schedules. Teenagers started school at seven so Ajak was in charge of taking Sprite to school before going to work, Sprite had joined the art classes that the school offered so Tuesday and Thursday she stayed an extra hour so she waited a few minutes until one of the teenagers came to pick her up, usually it was Druig and Ikaris although sometimes Sersi joined them. Gil was the one to pick her up the other three days and Sprite enjoyed spending time in 'The Dome' while the others picked her up.

Druig and Sersi were the only ones who didn't stay for an after school activity, Makkari was on the track team, Ikaris was on the football team and Kingo was part of the theater group. Sersi had decided to pass the clubs during this term claiming that she wanted to better prepare for her final exams, Ajak had tried to get him to join something but he had assured her that for now he wanted to focus on his studies before taking up another activity but that he would for the following school year (Ajak was secretly very happy to hear him talk about his future plans as it meant he felt comfortable in his new home).

He was somewhat surprised at Ikaris's insistence on always accompanying Druig to pick up Sprite. It wasn't like they talked much during those short trips, but Ikaris seemed to enjoy Sprite's excitement at seeing them. They hadn't talked about the little incident on the first day of school, he didn't know how to bring it up and he didn't know if he really wanted to really bring it up. He had talked about it with Makkari and she explained who Rumlow was, he was a player on the football team who was not happy with Ikaris being captain and that they had had many fights throughout high school, Ikaris winning each one. It was no surprise that Rumlow tried to go after Druig as soon as he found out about him, but apparently Ikaris had made sure that everyone knew that they were brothers and that no one could mess with him.

Druig had been mortified, Makkari had assured her that it was a completely normal attitude in Ikaris and that when he left next year for college he had many friends who would be watching that no one messed with them, she didn't want to tell him how she knew nor how is it that Ikaris had fixed all that.

But really Ikaris was what could be considered a good older brother, he was wonderful with Sprite and although Ikaris did not want to admit it, he knew the name of all the ponies of 'My little Pony' as everyone had learned it thanks to the fact that they were the new obsession from Sprite, he was beginning to miss when his sister had no interest in television, one didn't need to learn the names of all the ponies in Equestria or what cutie mark they have or any other random fact that Sprite knew.

He felt calmer although he had a hard time admitting it, it was good not to have to live in constant fear and worry twenty four hours a day seven days a week. It was good to see Sprite genuinely happy, she seemed to be handling it better than he was. They didn't talk much about how their life was before, it was hard to think that they had been living with Ajak for a month now, but sometimes she remembered something or had a nightmare that brought the memories to light but usually neither of them tried to think much about their previous life.

Something that was a little difficult for him to accept but of which he was grateful was having someone else who was an authority figure for Sprite, he loved his sister but many times he would like to be just his brother and not a kind of father for her so sometimes it was good to let Ajak or Thena tell her what to do or scold her, it was more difficult to let them do something for her since it was something he was really used to although he didn't mind letting them do the scolding part or telling her that she had to eat, telling her that she can't do something, that it's time to sleep, those kinds of things he could leave them happily but it was hard not to be the one who helped her with some things, like helping her with her homework or preparing her a snack when she was hungry, he tried not to get too upset at those times but he had to admit that it was difficult to share his little sister with so many people.

But if he really had to be honest with himself, he was happy, it was amazing what something as simple as no one yelling at you or hitting you every day he could do to you. Of course he didn't want to admit how much he was beginning to care about the new people in his life. He really cared about Thena, he had very vague memories of her from when he was a child but since they had met again she had been extremely kind to him and he could see how much she really cared about Sprite and him. him (he still wasn't ready to admit that she really loved them, it was hard to think about those kinds of feelings). Ikaris was very serious but he could see his attempts to really bond with them, he really had made it with Sprite in a short time although in his opinion Sprite was quite an easy kid to love.

Ajak had too much maternal love to give and although it was hard for him to accept it, he was grateful that Sprite had it, she really was a mother and more than once she had scolded him for eating before dinner or having late-night snacks. Gil, he was to blame for many of Ajak's scoldings, cooking so delicious and secretly giving him food, he really adored Sprite and the girl adored him, he truly cared for her like an older brother although it was strange to think that they were in-laws.
They had known Phastos for only a few days but he and Sprite really liked each other bonding over her new construction toys and Druig had found him a very interesting person to have a conversation and discuss some interesting things.

Sersi was genuinely an older sister to both of them, Sprite truly adored her and enjoyed spending time with her. Druig and Sersi had a kind of weird understanding, they just bonded taking a sibling role to each other.

Kingo, he had immediately adopted Sprite as a sister and she really adored him, she found him very funny although she never hesitated to tell him the things that bothered her about him and it was something that seemed to make him love her even more. Druig found him tolerable (he was just to loud in his opinion), but he was the culprit of many of Sprite's new obsessions (something he had everyone secretly annoyed since he was guilty of many weird cartoons coming into the home).

And finally Makkari, Sprite still got jealous sometimes but regularly they got along very well. Makkari was always ready to teach the girl a new sign and Sprite was always ready to join in on some of her mischief. Druig had never had a friend like her before, she really seemed to understand hers (not everyone understood and appreciated her dark sense of humor). They had created a surprising friendship in the few months they had known each other, both felt completely comfortable in each other's company. She truly was the best friend he had ever had.

He had been feeling a little lost for a few weeks now, he had spent a lot of time lost in thought after giving his statement to the police and having a brief talk with his social worker, somehow both people had managed to leave him a little mortified but at the same time calm. Rosalind had told him that her father would most likely lose her parental rights over them in a maximum of a year, that Thena's lawsuit and her demand for custody of them were helping the case. It was a good thing but still he was surprised at how seemingly easy it had been to finally get rid of his father.

He was lying on the couch watching TV, or pretending he was since he wasn't really paying attention to the show, when Sprite's scream snapped him back to reality. For a few seconds he was frozen thinking that he had imagined it until he heard the cry of his sister.

. . . . . . . .

Kingo loved Sprite, how could he not love her? The little redhead was a ball of energy and sass who believed that he was the funniest being in the world, it was impossible not to love her, besides, she was cute and cute children always made everyone love them. Sprite was the only one who seemed to appreciate his vast knowledge in movies and although he had introduced her to many gems such as the Disney classics, he himself had to accept that he had not thought it through when he introduced her to some children's shows, perhaps everyone in the family hated him for it but Sprite loved it so it didn't matter, although he, like the others was beginning to hate all the constant talk about cutie marks but he would have to find a better show to entertain her.

He had done his research on what six-year-olds liked and was determined to introduce her to all those wonders, although Druig seemed to not always put up with him, he knew that he appreciated that his little sister had new interests (for the most part) according to her age.

For today he had planned to introduce Sprite in the great art of 'Jojo Siwa', if there was a child star of the moment it was Jojo Siwa and logically Kingo admired her after coming out to the world the previous year, he did not know the position from Druig on those issues but a bit of glitter, rainbows and sequins wouldn't hurt Sprite. The problem was that the girl seemed to be quite distracted as he showed her cell phone videos of her being a very bright celebrity.

"You're not paying attention to me" he complained after trying again to interest her in one of the songs.

"My tooth moves a lot, look'' she had discovered her loose tooth after Christmas and although she had been scared at first Druig had told her it was normal. Her favorite pastime of the last few days was moving it with her tongue trying to make it looser more and more.

"It's about to fall off!" He exclaimed in surprise moving a little closer to her, she still had some aversions to physical contact with everyone except Druig so Ajak had told them they would have to be careful. "Are you excited for it to fall?"

"it feels weird" she said with a shrug

"Why don't I help you get it out? That way you won't have to worry about it"

"Druig said that teeth fall out on their own"

"Yes but you can help them, with just a napkin I can get your tooth out"

"And it doesn't hurt?"

"Not at all" ok, maybe he was lying since he had no memory of when his teeth fell out but he had seen enough TV shows to know that it might feel a little tug but nothing more "you want to try it? so the fairy or any animal that Ajak says comes to this house can leave you money"

"Money?"

"Don't you know? When you lose a tooth, a fairy or something like that comes to leave you money"

"Money for losing a tooth?" she frowned "I don't believe you"

"Let me pull out your tooth and you will see that tonight they will visit you to leave you money"

Sprite looked at him with distrustful eyes, she wasn't entirely sure what he was saying but she wanted to prove his theory and that his tooth would stop moving non stop so she accepted. They walked towards the kitchen, Druig seemed to be watching some kind of medical program that neither of them stopped to pay attention to. With Kingo's help she sat on the counter while he went in search of a napkin to pull his tooth.

"You have to open your mouth wide and you can't move, okay?" He indicated to which she nodded.

He thought it would take him longer to convince her of it and that it would also take him longer to get her tooth out but it turned out that her tooth was loose enough that he didn't have to put too much pressure to try to get it out of her. Sprite immediately screamed as soon as the tooth had left her mouth but the problem started when she tasted blood in her mouth.

Ok maybe Kingo hadn't thought it through, for some reason Ikaris said that some of his ideas weren't very good.

"Shh it's ok Sprite, look here is your tooth" he tried to appease her but the girl was already crying "it's normal, don't be scared"

"What did you do to her?" Druig's voice made her nerves jump, he entered the kitchen pushing Kingo aside to examine Sprite "what happened?"

"He took it out" she cried pointing to Kingo "and there is blood"

"What? Where is there blood?" Druig asked looking her up and down.

"In my mouth"

"What's going on?" Ikaris and Sersi entered the kitchen, Kingo beginning to feel like a dead man.

"He did something to her" Druig said glaring at Kingo

"I pulled out her loose tooth!" he exclaimed finally recovering his voice "she told me I could do it"

The gazes of the other three turned to Sprite who was still crying in her place but finally she nodded.

"Open your mouth, let me see" Sprite did not hesitate to do what his brother told him and he was surprised to see that Kingo was telling the truth, Sprite had lost his first tooth "it's true"

"Let me see" Sersi approached Sprite caressing his cheek "you look so cute! Ajak is going to go crazy"

"I want it back, it feels weird and there is blood coming out of my mouth" Sprite cried again

"You can't put a tooth back in once it fell out" Druig explained trying not to laugh, Ikaris approached with a glass of water and offered it to the girl "drink the water, it was just a little blood but there will be no more "

"But it feels weird!" she exclaimed, stretching her arms towards him who just sighed and took her in his arms to let her cry. She could be quite dramatic when she put her mind to it.

"How about we call Ajak and break the news to her?" Sersi suggested stroking her hair "so I can tell you all about, what does she say comes to her house?" she looked at Kingo and Ikaris looking for some help "I think it is not the fairy"

"Call her and let her tell her because I don't remember what animal it is" Kingo said with a shrug.

Druig didn't understand what they were talking about but he rocked her little sister in her arms waiting for Ajak to answer the phone, anything that would make her stop crying was more than welcome.

"Hello Ajak" Sersi greeted as soon as the woman had answered the call "are you busy? Well, I'm going to put you on speaker because Sprite has something very important to tell you"

Sprite shook her head still crying and hugged her brother tighter, she wasn't going to speak now that she had one less tooth in her mouth.

"Well she doesn't want to talk but she can hear you, here we are Sprite, Druig, Kingo, Ikaris and me"

"What happened mi niña?" Ajak's voice seemed to work as she straightened up a bit in her brother's arms.

"Kingo took out my tooth"

"You said I could get it out" he was quick to defend himself but a glare from Druig and Ikaris brought him back to silence.

"Seriously mami? Did you lose your first tooth?" Ajak sounded excited "Today the ratoncito Pérez is going to visit you mi niña, Sersi take a picture of her I want to see her and don't send anything to Thena let her see for herself"

"What is a ‘ranoncito’?" Sprite finally asked

"It's a little mouse that will leave you some money in exchange for your tooth"

"So Kingo wasn't lying?" They all tried to contain their laughter and Kingo just rolled his eyes hurt because she really hadn't believed him "Kingo said there was a fairy"

"In some houses it's a fairy and in others it's a mouse, but don't worry when I get home from work I'll tell you all about it, let Sersi take a picture of you so I can see you"

Sprite finally seemed to have calmed down enough as she let Sersi photograph her, everyone had to admit she looked particularly cute with her toothless smile. Ajak instructed them to wrap the tooth tightly in a napkin and let Sprite put it under her pillow in her room.

As soon as they had finally hung up Ikaris did not hesitate to hit Kingo on the head and yell at him what he was thinking when he pulled out his tooth, Sprite had gone with Sersi to her room to put her tooth away so the two brothers were left alone with Kingo in the kitchen.

"She told me yes!" He tried to defend himself but decided better not to say anything else before either of them got really angry.

Hours later when Thena walked through the door of the house she was greeted by a very smiling and excited Sprite who didn't take long to show her new smile. The blonde wasn't very happy when he found out how the girl had lost her tooth, Kingo quickly disappeared from the room, but didn't say anything so as not to take away her little sister's happiness.

Chapter Text

It's not Valentine's Day but by the time Sprite and Druig came down for Sunday breakfast the entire kitchen seemed to be bathed in red and pink balloons. They both frowned in confusion, they were always the first to go down to breakfast since Makkari used to go running every day and the others enjoyed sleeping late, but today everyone except Kingo and Sersi were in the kitchen.

"What's going on?" Sprite made a very visible face of disgust at some of the decorations that Ajak must have put up at some point in the night.

"We're celebrating Valentine's Day early" Gil informed her as he placed a plate of heart-shaped waffles in front of her "we have everything for you to decorate them with the things you like the most"

Sprite immediately smiled when she noticed the different containers with toppings to put on her waffle, Thena did not hesitate to stop her when she noticed the large amount of chocolate syrup that she was putting on her breakfast. Druig looked at everything confused, they had been living in Ajak's house for almost two months and he still managed to be surprised by his traditions. He really should have waited for it, Ajak had taken Sprite shopping and they had come back with lots of themed clothes full of hearts, even days before she had sat everyone down to prepare a present for each of Sprite's classmates, hell Sprite was even wearing pajamas with hearts he really must have seen it coming.

In the end it had not been so bad, removing the unnecessary use of the heart figure in each of the meals of the day, everything had been fine. Gilgamesh had enlisted Sprite to cook cupcakes and together with Makkari the three of them spent a few hours decorating the excessive amount of cupcakes (Druig would be lying if he said he didn't eat more than was strictly necessary). Maybe after all Ajak's taste for the holidays wasn't so bad if it meant Gil would cook.

. . . . . . . .

They finished Valentine's night with a game of Monopoly, Sprite had quickly proclaimed to go on Thena's team since she was sure that she would not lose, which was quite true. In the end the game had to stop because Ikaris and Kingo were sure that Druig was cheating, they insisted that there was no way he had enough money to have the amount of houses and hotels he had but the boy insisted that he knew well how to manage his money and that was why he had so many properties. Ajak called the game over before the three boys could start a bigger fight.

Ever since she had lost her tooth Sprite had begun to partially sleep in her own room. She would let Ajak, or Thena if she was home, read her a bedtime story and stay with her until she fell asleep but at some point in the night she would sneak into her brother's room. Druig didn't seem to have cared much about his sister's sudden change in habits, he refused to tell her bedtime stories anyway as he insisted she didn't fall asleep but happily let her sleep with him after singing her a lullaby when she appeared midway through. at night in his room.

Thena had the opportunity that night to read the bedtime story to her little sister, she hadn't gotten halfway through the book when Sprite was finally asleep, something that surprised her after the ridiculous amount of sugar she had consumed that day. After saying good night to everyone, especially her two brothers, who were planning to stay up and watch a Star Wars marathon with Kingo (Ikaris refused to go home claiming that he didn't want to be under the same roof as she and Gil and hear them celebrate).
. . . . . . . .

Gil poured two glasses of wine, they settled in front of the fireplace with a movie playing. Thena rested her head on her husband's shoulder while he caressed her arm absentmindedly, they didn't need to talk to enjoy each other's company and have a good time.

The movie wasn't bad but Thena had other things on her mind, she was happy to see her two younger brothers adjusting so well. Sprite had finally begun to feel comfortable being away from Druig, she would happily go with Ajak to the store or spend hours at Thena's painting with her sister, she had even once gone with Sersi to the library for story time. Druig for her part trusted all of them to take care of her sister and although at the beginning, like her, it had been difficult for him to be away from her, but he had finally accepted that none of them would let something bad happen to her. He spent a lot of his time with Makkari although he also spent time with Sersi and Ikaris (not that he hated Kingo but many times he was too loud for him). Seeing them so relaxed and happy today made her feel immensely happy, they probably didn't notice their changes but she could see them. Druig wouldn't have teased Ikaris and Kingo so openly months ago and Sprite wouldn't have asked to be on a different team than her brother. Yes, they were happy and she was happy about it.

"What are you thinking?" Gil asked, pulling her out of her thoughts.

"I'm happy" she normally didn't say out loud how she felt "I hadn't seen Druig so at ease. A few months ago I couldn't have imagined him so relaxed joking with Ikaris and Kingo. He was the one who worried me the most of the two, after knowing that Sprite was fine" Gilgamesh squeezed her arm a little "I was more worried about what ten years with him could have done to Druig. But although I know there is much to discover about them I am happy to see him having fun"

"You're a great big sister" He kissed her hair "they are lucky to have you"

"I am lucky to have them. And I am lucky to have you my Gilgamesh" she pulled his face to leave a kiss on his lips "I love you"

"I love you Thena"

Normally words weren't necessary between them, they both knew what they felt for each other but sometimes it was good to say it out loud. They went to their room where he took her in his arms and let her know without words how much he loved her and she meant to him. Gil knew how to love every inch of her body, he knew what to do to make her feel like she touched the sky and many more times than she would like to admit she let him take charge in bed, he was always so gentle and so passionate that she couldn't resist him. It was a dance they normally did. She would initiate contact by kissing him on the lips, his neck, and his chest until he finally got tired of her games and took control of the situation. But today had been different, it had been special like the first time they had been together, he had taken her slowly, as if he was discovering every inch of her body again for the first time, he was always so gentle with her, he make sure to murmur words of love at every moment something that was never missing when they made love.

They were wrapped in each other's arms, Gil tracing small circles on her bare back as she rested her head on her chest. They remained like that for long minutes, again words between them were not necessary, they were always in tune. Finally Thena settled better next to him to now rest her head next to hers to be able to look at her face.

"Do you think that one day we will have our own children?" she finally dared to ask, it was not something they had talked about before.

"I don't know, is that something you would want?" he asked tenderly stroking her cheek

"I don't know, I never thought about it before, do you want to have children?"

"I'll be happy with what you decide, with having you I'm already very lucky" he kissed her forehead

"I am the lucky one, I never thought I could be so happy and you make me so happy" she placed a kiss on the tip of her nose making him smile.

They stayed like that, looking at each other in silence enjoying each other's company. "I never thanked you Gil, I am very grateful to you"

"Why do you thank me my love?"

"For accepting Druig and Sprite in our lives, I know that it is not something common for an older sister to seek custody of her three younger siblings but you never questioned me, you have always supported me" now it was her turn to caress his cheek "I'm thankful to you for always being such a great support to Ikaris, for sneaking Druig snacks even though Ajak tells you not to, for going to pick up Sprite from school and taking care of her every day, I'm so thankful for all that you do for them and for me"

"I would do that and more for you and for them my love" he kissed her softly, he knew how much it cost her to express what she felt and although in recent months she had made enormous strides on that subject it was still difficult for her to do it. "I'm so proud of you, for everything you've done for them"

"They can thank us in a few years, three free babysitters if we decide to have children" she joked after finishing the kiss

"That makes having kids with you just sound better."

She just laughed before kissing him again, they finally fell asleep after several minutes of talking about less important topics, holding each other like they always do, Gil with a protective arm around her like he did every night.

. . . . . . . .

Ajak found the three teenagers fast asleep on the couch. Sersi and Makkari had decided to pass on the invitation to the Star Wars marathon but Druig, Ikaris and Kingo were determined to stay up all night if necessary. As she had guessed none of the three managed to get very far, it was two in the morning when Ajak went to check on them and found them sleeping on top of each other. Druig had his head on Ikaris's shoulder who had a protective arm around him. Kingo...Kingo was lying on top of the two of them somehow.

"Druig, Ikaris" Ajak moved Druig's shoulder slightly to wake him up "love, wake up" she gently caressed the cheek of the youngest of the three trying to wake him up.

"What's going on?" he asked, barely opening his eyes "Sprite?"

"She is completely passed out in her room, but you two should go up to bed, Kingo won't wake up for the world so let him sleep alone on the sofa"

With a little more insistence the woman managed to send the two teenagers upstairs, Druig muttering something about Ikaris sleeping in his room while he would sleep with Sprite in case Kingo woke up. Ajak had tried but the boy only got confier on the sofa, not wanting to climb the stairs. In the end Druig somehow managed to get to Sprite's room, managing to make the girl angry because he woke her up, and Ikaris fell asleep in Druig's room.

Come morning everyone enjoyed finding Kingo still asleep on the couch with makeup on his face and a very proud Sprite sitting in the kitchen with Ajak.

Chapter Text

Druig didn't have to ask who was to blame for Kingo having makeup on his face as soon as he walked into the kitchen "where did you get the makeup from?" he asked Sprite ruffling her hair

"Makkari"

Druig laughed at his answer, they both had a smile on their faces trying not to laugh too hard so as not to wake the boy.

"Here, go take a picture" Ajak appeared in the kitchen with a camera in his hands "I need one to put in the refrigerator"

He didn't hesitate to follow her orders, he was more than happy to have the honor of being the one to take Kingo's picture. Both Ikaris and Sersi held back their laughter as best they could as they entered the kitchen, Makkari had quickly asked if he was still asleep when she came back from running since she had only provided Sprite with the materials, she hadn't seen the completed artwork.

By the time Thena and Gilgamesh entered the kitchen door the three teenagers and the little girl were running out of patience waiting for Kingo to wake up.

"What's going on here? You all look like you're going to explode at any moment" Gil asked frowning looking at Ajak for an explanation.

"Can I go wake him up now?" Sprite nearly jumped out of his seat when Ajak finally nodded. Thena and Gilgamesh looked at everyone in confusion.

Everyone immediately pretended to be busy doing something, Druig and Makkari engaged in some kind of conversation as they shared a plate of fruit. Ikaris and Sersi took their phones and Ajak started moving around the kitchen making a cup of coffee. They could hear Kingo's complaints as the girl finally managed to wake him up and she bounced back into the kitchen with a mischievous smile. Thena and Gil looked at each other confused by everyone's strange behavior, Sprite had thrown herself into Thena's arms and the woman had not hesitated to take her in her arms to kiss her cheek.

"What's going on my little one?" she asked, trying to get an explanation but Kingo's yell prevented her from answering.

"SPRITE!" Kingo finally appeared in the kitchen making silence reign in the room.

Gilgamesh was the first to start laughing followed by Sprite and finally everyone else. Sprite had done a great job of making Kingo up with the most colorful eye shadows Makkari possessed, and she had finished her artwork with a fake mustache and a star on her forehead. Thena now understood why the girl had immediately run into her arms, Kingo wouldn't dare say anything if she was present. Makkari seemed to have filmed the whole thing as she had a huge smile on her face as he disappeared from the kitchen to surely wash her face, he made an unpolite nod in her direction before leaving.

"Who gave you the makeup?" Thena asked to which Sprite just pointed at Makkari while still laughing.

"Let's go to the store today, Druig took some really good photos so I can print them out and put them on the fridge" Ajak finally said when everyone had finished laughing.

. . . . . . . .

Valentine's Day eventually arrived and a Sprite dressed for the occasion left the house. Ajak had let the others miss the first period so they could see the girl all ready for the party her class was having. The woman had managed to dress her in jeans and a white shirt that said 'Love' in different shades of pink, she had even managed to place a very huge pink bow on the girl's head. Gil had prepared heart-shaped cookies for the teachers and classmates so she was carrying a bag full of cookies with little notes that Sersi and Druig had made days before.

"I feel silly" she admitted crossing her arms when everyone, in a not very gentle way in her opinion, forced her to pose in front of the door to take some pictures "can we go to school now?"

Everyone tried not to laugh at her annoyed face but Ajak finally agreed, after several minutes of taking pictures, that it was time to go to school. She sent the teens off to school before finally getting the girl into the car.

Gil expected to receive a grumpy girl at the end of the day, Sprite did not seem to be very excited about the idea of a Valentine's party but the smiling girl who got in the car was something he did not expect.

"How was your day?" He asked hoping to get her to tell him something about what happened, she normally didn't tell about things that happened at her school.

"It was good, look, I have a new kitten" she took out of the paper bag that had been carrying a not very big pink stuffed cat "Trip gave it to me"

"It's very cute, and who is Trip?"

"My friend, can I have a chocolate?" She showed him a small bar of chocolate to which he nodded, she wouldn't say anything more about the toy.

Sprite usually did her homework while she waited for the others to pick her up, she used to sit at a table inside the kitchen where Gil could see her at all times. Sersi was the one who entered the kitchen and looked at Gil with a nervous smile, it was usually Druig who went looking for Sprite when they arrived.

"Druig is upset, Kingo hasn't stopped teasing him all the way here so Ikaris sent Kingo to the back and made Druig sit up front with him, I came here to let Ikaris and Makkari stop them from killing each other." Gil arched an eyebrow but before he could say anything Sprite had noticed Sersi and was next to her asking for her brother "he's in the car, pick up your things so we can go"

Sersi gave him an apologetic smile as she couldn't explain more, she and Sprite said goodbye to him and left to meet the others. The little girl seemed oblivious to the tension that felt in the car and her brother's bad mood as she got into the car.

They finally got home, Druig didn't wait for anyone and got out of the car, closing the door abruptly. Sprite finally seemed to notice his bad mood but didn't say anything. Kingo quickly went up to his room upon feeling Ikaris' penetrating gaze. Makkari had stayed behind to practice her so Ikaris and Sersi would have to avoid a fight between Druig and Kingo until Ajak or Thena arrived.

"Can I go stay at your house for a while? I don't want to be near Kingo" Druig asked Ikaris when they had entered the kitchen

"Of course you can, I can go with you if you want" Ikaris handed him the keys

"No, it's okay I just want time alone, can you take care of Sprite for a while?"

"Of course, are you sure you're okay?"

He just nodded before walking out the kitchen door. Ikaris sighed and decided that it was better to go find Sprite, the girl would surely bring too many sweets due to the party and it was better to put them out of her reach.

. . . . . . . .

Thena almost knocked Druig out when she found him sitting on the counter eating a bowl of nuts, not expecting to find him there alone.

"What are you doing here? Where is Sprite?" She asked, leaving her keys on the counter and heading to pour herself a glass of water.

"Ikaris is with her"

"You didn't answer my first question" he shrugged without looking up from his plate "did something happen?"

"No"

"So what are you doing here just eating nuts?"

"Passing time" she raised an eyebrow and sighed "Kingo was being an idiot, so I asked Ikaris if I could come here so I wouldn't have to be near him, I hope it's not a problem"

"You can come here whenever you want, you know" he nodded "what did Kingo do?"

"Being an idiot" he shrugged "he kept bothering me on the way to pick up Sprite because a girl asked me for my phone number and instead of giving it to her I asked what she wanted it for if I didn't know her"

Thena had to suppress a laugh, Kingo could be quite annoying when he put his mind to it and the situation Druig had been in was a great invitation for him to make jokes. She examined the face of her brother, his face was somewhat red and she could only assume it was because of embarrassment.

"Have you never dated a girl?" she finally dared to ask, there probably wouldn't be another chance to have such a talk just the two of them.

"No, it's not like I had time before" he replied defensively "I just panicked"

"It's normal, at your age you're just discovering what relationships are" she tried to motivate him a little "you don't need to go out with anyone if you don't want to but it's something you might start wondering if you want to do. Have a relationship with a guy or a girl for the first time can be difficult"

"Is that your way of asking me if I'm gay or not?"

"Really?" she asked arching an eyebrow "Whether you're gay or not is none of my business although I'd like you to tell me the day you have a relationship or love problems, I'd even love you to trust me enough to talk about sex"

His face turned redder at the mention of sex. "I'm not even in a relationship and you're talking about sex."

"You don't need to have a partner to talk about sex" he suddenly lost all the color in his face "What? You want to have sex you can have sex, as long as it's consensual on both sides and you use protections I don't see the problem with you experimenting. There's no need to give you a lecture about what sex is at your age."

"I don't want to have a sex talk with you"

"We're having it right now" she smiled, she had done something similar with Ikaris and had enjoyed making her brother uncomfortable, she didn't think she would be having a similar talk with Druig so soon "Do you want to have sex? Go ahead, but don't forget to always use a condom. Do you know how to put on a condom? I can teach you"

"I'm going to see how Sprite is doing." He scrambled to his feet and left the house before she could react.

She couldn't help but let out a huge laugh when she heard the front door close, it was quite funny being the older sister at times like this.

Druig quickly entered the house and only stopped in the kitchen when he heard the voice of her sister calling him. Everyone was at the table except for Makkari and Ajak who probably hadn't arrived yet.

"Look what I have!" She showed him the new toy and he looked at it with a frown.

"Her boyfriend gave it to her" Kingo said earning a blow from Ikaris "sorry"

"I don't have a boyfriend, boys are gross" she said making a face

"And what are we?" Ikaris asked

"My brothers, you are not boy"

"And what am I?" Kingo asked curious for her answer, no one was going to correct her in her logic.

"A diva, that's what Druig said" Everyone but Kingo laughed at her words.

Kingo narrowed his eyes at Druig and the boy just shrugged. "It's not like I was wrong"

He didn't say anything, truly he wasn't wrong.

Chapter Text

Druig had learned very quickly that Makkari was a person who liked to go fast, she was always doing something and since he had come to live in her house she always tried to include him in her plans. With Sprite now not so clinging to him, the two of them could enjoy more time together without having their six year old sister following them everywhere.

Normally Druig never refused Makkari's ideas, most of the time they were things that they both enjoyed and that were not dangerous (except seeing the stars lying on the ceiling, Ajak almost had a heart attack when Sprite told her where the two of them were). He would regularly say yes to everything without having to ask what they would do, she managed to get him out of his comfort zone and it was something he enjoyed since in recent years his life had revolved around his sister so he was enjoying being a normal teenager (although Ajak and Thena had a lot to say about their choice of activities).

Such was the blind trust he had in Makkari that he never thought he would regret having accepted her proposal for that Saturday. Somehow she had gotten the idea that they should learn to use a skateboard, where she had gotten a skateboard he had no idea, Makkari had a talent for getting things without anyone knowing where they came from, he knew from Sersi that Ajak had stopped asking after a while as she kept insisting that someone had lent them to her. Ajak had immediately made a face of disapproval when seeing the skateboard in Makkari's arms, she did not need to ask to know what her daughter's intentions were, Druig for his part had been more naive in believing that the skateboard was for her, not for the both of them. Thena had appeared in the kitchen to talk to Ajak when she saw the skateboard and narrowed her eyes at both teens. Druig had cowered in his place but Makkari had smiled at Thena and dragged him out of the kitchen.

"Don't come back with a broken bone" Thena had yelled before they could even get out of the house.

Makkari obviously didn't hear her but Druig gulped at her older sister's warning. They had been officially living in Ajak's house for about three months and although it seemed like a short time, the relationship between Thena and him was quite good, considering that they both preferred silence to talking and their way of spending time together was to sit next to each other in silence while they read, but even so he had to admit that he had a lot of respect and admiration for her and that a scolding from her was something he didn't like to bear, he preferred Ajak's scolding a thousand times to those of his older sister. Even Sprite knew that when she said something she meant it, no one liked seeing Thena angry, it was almost the same as seeing Ajak angry but with a much more angry face.

"She will kill me if I break a bone" he signed when they were outside the house "I hope you know what we are going to do"

She simply gave him a smile and took his hand to force him to walk faster, if it were up to her they would run to the park.

It turned out that Makkari had no idea how to learn to skate so they spent the first twenty minutes in the park sitting under the shade of a tree watching youtube videos on how to learn to skate.

Druig was not very convinced that they were really going to get, or at least she, to ride the skateboard, a YouTube video can only help you so much. But Makkari being Makkari managed to find the trick to ride the skateboard, he followed her closely and more than once caught her before she hit the ground. They probably looked like fools laughing every time she fell and he caught her, they had started with Druig holding her hips as she found her balance on the skateboard, she being the athlete she had mastered it in a matter of minutes. By the time Makkari agreed to sit down to rest, they had been in the park for more than an hour. She rested her head on his shoulder for several minutes until she finally pulled away from him so she could turn to sign.

"It's your turn to try"

"I don't think it's a good idea, I have two left feet" he replied trying to hide her nervousness, he was sure that he would make a fool of himself in front of her.

"I'll help you not to fall, just like you helped me, I promise" she gave him that puppy-eyed look and he growled.

"It's not fair, you're doing the same as Sprite, you know I can't say no to that"

"That's the idea"

"The beautiful Makkari is blackmailing me, what an injustice"

"It is, now get up, we still have time for you to at least learn to stand up on the skateboard"

He growled again but he didn't hesitate to follow her.

Makkari kept his promise to help him try not to fall but what she did not count was that he was still taller than her and had a non-existent sense of balance so more times than necessary they ended up being a mess of limbs lying on the floor trying to get up laughing. She enjoyed spending time with Druig and although he was a master at complaining about everything at every turn he was always ready to accompany her on her new adventure.

"Now I understand why Thena thought you'd come back with a broken bone, you suck at this" she teased him playfully as they sat back down, both of them tired of falling down and getting up so many times.

"Thank you for the vote of confidence"

"Of course I have faith in you! You'll see that at any moment you can stand up without both of us ending up on the floor" she had that mischievous smile between her lips that always managed to make him smile.

"You have too much faith in me, beautiful Makkari" He only used her nickname when they were alone, Sprite still didn't take too well the fact that he called her beautiful. "I think you should try it again, the faster you master it the faster you can teach me"

"It's a good idea, but you have to try it one last time"

"One last time and then it will be your turn, I don't think I can bear to end up on the floor one more time"

"Deal"

"Deal"

They both looked at each other with a mischievous smile raising their chins slightly before letting out a laugh.

To the surprise of both Druig managed to finally stand on the board so Makkari made the big mistake of pushing him slightly to try to move him.

They both really should have seen it coming, he had already fallen too many times to think that he could stand on his own in motion and that nothing bad would happen. One moment he was standing with a triumphant smile on the skateboard and the next he was lying on the ground and there was a big cut on his forehead.

"At least it's not a broken bone," he tried to joke as Makkari hurried to his side.

"Don't move, let me see" she carefully examined the cut, it looked deep and there was too much blood (maybe not too much but enough to scare them both). "stay here, don't move"

She quickly ran to where they had left their things and grabbed a small towel that she had brought. She returned to his side and pressed the towel against the cut, he made a sound of pain but didn't move.

"We have to keep the pressure to stop the bleeding" she explained trying to smile "we have to call someone, call Thena"

"She's going to kill me, I'm not going to call her" he said, hoping she could read her lips.

"Then call Ajak"

"She's with Sprite on that playdate she set up with her friend."

"Ikaris" she finally signed and he stared at her for several seconds "he is your brother, he will come to help you"

"He will tell Thena"

"We are not going to call Kingo, he is not going to be of help and Sersi will call everyone and it will be worse, Ikaris is our best option. Keep the pressure I will go for your phone"

Ikaris and Druig had a somewhat strange relationship, they cared for each other but Druig couldn't help but keep a certain distance from him after seeing him hit people more than once inside the school, he knew that his distance from his brother was stupid since he had shown her many times how much he cared about him and Sprite. Sprite even had an excellent relationship with him since she had him wrapped around her finger.

Makkari returned before he could calm her nerves at the thought of having to call him but before she could argue further she had already initiated the call and put her on speakerphone.

"Druig?" Ikaris's voice was heard after several seconds

"Hello Ikaris" he greeted nervously though he let out a groan as Makkari pressed more against his forehead, she was looking at him urgently to tell him what had happened "are you busy?" Makkari rolled his eyes.

"Are you okay? You sound weird"

"Yeah, I'm…ouch that hurt, no I'm not okay, well I'm not quite okay, I need your help" Druig narrowed his eyes at Makkari. "Let's say I had an accident in the park and Kari and I don't know what to do"

"What happened?"

"I have a cut on my forehead and I'm bleeding?" His words sounded more like a question "we really just need help getting home, I'm fine, ouch! Makkari stop that!"

"I'm on my way, don't move from where you are" he didn't let him add anything else since he cut off the call.

"As if I could move" he muttered under his breath "stop applying so much pressure, it hurts"

Makkari glared at him, her hands were busy keeping the pressure on so she couldn't sign to tell him anything, finally she rolled her eyes at the guilty smile on his face.

. . . . . . . .

Ikaris was quite surprised with Druig's cut, neither his brother nor Makkari seemed to have any idea how he really did it, the best explanation they both could come up with was that he had cut himself on a rock when he fell off his skateboard.

He'd never really had to take on the role of big brother, that's what Thena was the expert at, but he'd practically had to drag Druig to the car to get him to the ER, he was sure that cut would need stitches. He had never seen Druig complain as much as he was now, he kept insisting that he was fine to the point that he started a debate with Makkari about whether he really needed stitches or not.
He was doing an excellent job keeping calm, Druig was lying on a stretcher? Waiting for the doctor with a bandage wrapped around his head, Makkari and him were deep in conversation about how likely Ajak was to throw Makkari's skateboard in the trash as soon as he found out about the accident.

"Shit! I'm dead" Druig muttered under his breath as soon as he saw Thena enter

"I told you I didn't want you back with a broken bone" she said taking her cheek in her hands so she could examine it

"I didn't break anything, as you can see it's just a cut" Thena arched an eyebrow "sorry"

"You don't have to apologize, I'm sure it was an accident, I'm going to go talk to the nurses and call Ajak. Don't move and listen to Ikaris"

"But I listened to Ikaris, am I here or not?"

"You watch him, both of them" Thena pointed at the two teenagers looking at Ikaris deciding better to ignore Druig's words. Makkari shrugged in her seat, she didn't want to receive a scolding from Thena either.

"Why did you call her?" Druig complained as soon as she was gone "she's going to kill me"

"She's not going to kill you, stop being so dramatic that's Kingo's job"

Druig laughed but finally fell silent, Makkari took that opportunity to initiate a bet, Ikaris couldn't help but roll her eyes at the bet. They bet on who would be angrier at the end of the day Ajak or Thena, Makkari bet that Ajak would give them a big scolding that she had warned them that it was dangerous and that Thena would just continue to glare at the two. Druig bet that Thena would be the one to end up giving the scolding and as soon as Ajak arrived the two of them would team up to scold them both. Ikaris had to admit that they had both thought of good chances and that either of them could win.

Ajak ended up appearing a few minutes later, she had a face full of concern and hugged Druig tightly as soon as she saw him but as soon as she let go she hit his shoulder and started scolding him and Makkari, Thena joining in a few seconds. Ikaris wanted to take them seriously but she couldn't ignore the smile that threatened to form on the faces of the other two as they both realized who had won the bet.

Finally the doctor made them all leave except Ajak since legally she was Druig's legal guardian. Thena put an arm around Makkari's shoulders and led them to the waiting room so they could all wait for the two of them.

Ajak could immediately see Druig's nervousness at the number of needles and medical tools the doctor and nurse had brought.

"You're going to be fine mi niño, you're not going to feel anything" she tried to calm him down a little bit "Sprite stayed with Sersi, you don't have to worry about her and no, she doesn't know you're here I told her I'd go pick them up in Makkari and you to the house of one of your friends"

"Thanks"

"Well young man it's time to start" the doctor smiled at him and approached him with one of the nurses. "The anesthesia may hurt a little but I promise you after that you won't feel a thing. Mom maybe you can hold the hand of while we apply the anesthesia, squeeze your mom's hand when you feel the pain"

Druig didn't even react when they applied the anesthetic and began to put in the stitches, he was staring blankly at the wall as Ajak held his hand. He didn't know how he felt at the doctor's words, Ajak wasn't his mother, she was his foster mother but she had been a mother to him for the last few months.

He had been very confused at first with the family dynamic, Makkari was the only one who called Ajak 'mom'. She used the sign 'mom' to refer to Ajak although she also had a sign for her name, she was also the only one who referred to everyone as her brothers and sisters. Sersi was a mix of referring to Ajak as her mother when she talked about her to someone else but usually referring to her by her name unless it was a special moment. Kingo said that they were all family but he had never referred to any of them as his brothers or sisters. Ikaris was the same as Kingo in saying that they were all his family, Makkari had confirmed his suspicions some time ago that he had feelings for Sersi but he did not dare to tell her anything even though it was too obvious, although he always referred to Druig as his brother. minor if someone asked at school. It was strange but it was more than obvious that for everyone Ajak was the mother of them all, Sprite had been confused more than once thanks to Sersi and Makkari and had called the woman mom without noticing it a few times.

Still, knowing that Ajak was a mother to them all, hearing them refer to her as his mother was strange. It wasn't like they looked alike, they both had completely different accents, but still he guessed that was what it looked like to the doctor seeing Ajak so worried about him.

He didn't even notice when the doctor finished the stitches until Ajak came over to examine him and stroked his cheek lovingly.

"How do you feel mi niño?"

"I'm fine, can we go now?"

"Sure, why don't you go to the waiting room, I still have to sign some papers"

He nodded, he was still a bit distracted from what he didn't notice when Makkari threw herself into his arms so she could hug him.

"How you feel?"

"I'm good"

She released him only to be able to ask the question but immediately upon having his answer she hugged him again, he laughed a little. It wasn't like it had been too long since they saw each other but he didn't refuse to return the hug letting her hide her face in his chest.

"It was my fault, I'm sorry" she apologized with a sad look but he denied several times.

"It wasn't your fault, it's Thena and Ikaris' fault for inheriting all the balance"

She smiled shaking her head "I still feel guilty"

"You can make it up to me with a Star Wars marathon"

"Deal"

He smiled and hugged her again, he could worry about what the doctor had said after her.

Thena looked at them from where she was sitting, they looked completely happy together. Maybe something good had come out of this visit to the emergency room.

Chapter Text

Sprite was quite happy living with Ajak, it was quite a drastic change from the life she was used to but it was a good change that hadn't cost her much to adapt to. She got along quite well with all the members of what she considered to be her new family, obviously Druig was still her favorite but she still enjoyed spending time with others.

Phastos was the member with whom she had interacted the least, she had seen him for a few days during Christmas but he hadn't come back to visit them because he was in college. Even so Sprite has had many opportunities to talk to him, he calls Ajak at least three times a week and she is usually present in many of them since he usually calls when she is having breakfast before going to school when the others have already left. During the first calls she only dared to say shy ‘hello’ when he spoke to her but with the passing of the days they fell into a kind of little game. He would find interesting little facts for her and he would tell her while she ate breakfast, at first she didn't answer more than a few words until she finally started to question him about them. Their conversations weren't very long since they both had classes and Ajak also wanted to talk to him but those little conversations were enough for Sprite to feel a great appreciation for him.

During the last month the roles within the family really seemed to be taking a different course, officially Sprite was everyone's little sister, everyone loved her but she was aware that her 'older siblings’ didn't always like the same things as her and although many times they used to give in, they did not always do so. Today, for example, no one gave in to her pleas to want to play with someone, they all had homework, or projects, or in Kingo's case they pretended to be sick so as not to play with her. She was angry with everyone, something that didn't happen regularly but always ended with her ignoring everyone else for the rest of the day and having some prank in revenge for ignoring her.

Today she had taken Kingo's cell phone, he had run away while he was faking his stomach ache and had left the cell phone on the kitchen counter so she had taken it. She wouldn't do anything bad to the phone, she knew better than to break or damage something that wasn't hers, but she would have fun while she could and maybe hide it somewhere hard to find.

She accidentally discovered Kingo's messages and although she would have liked to have sent something funny to one of his contacts the name 'Phastos' caught her attention. She knew how to facetime someone thanks to Makkari so she considered her options before clicking on it to call Phastos.

"Kingo what do you want? I told you I'm not going to buy you...Sprite!?" He had answered a few seconds later and at first he hadn't looked at the screen so it took him a while to notice the girl. "What are you doing with Kingo's cell phone? Is something wrong?"

"Hello Phastos!" She greeted him with a smile "no, but everyone is ignoring me and Kingo doesn't want to play with me"

"That's too bad, and why do you have his cell phone?"

"He forgot it in the kitchen and I took it" she said, shrugging "when are you coming to visit us?"

"Soon, during spring break I'm going for a few days" he looked away from the camera, someone was talking to her "my little sister, Sprite, you don't know her, Sprite do you want to meet my friend Ben?"
She nodded, she was sure she had heard Kingo say that Ben was Phastos's boyfriend.

"Hello Sprite, nice to meet you" the man smiled at her and waved at her "I like your hair"

"Thank you" she mumbled trying not to sound rude, she wasn't good at meeting new people

"Hey Sprite, Ben is going with me to visit you, what do you think? He is a great friend"

She frowned confused "Kingo said that Ben was your boyfriend"

Both men looked at each other for a few seconds, Phastos laughed uncomfortably "he's my boyfriend, that's right, when did Kingo say that?"

"When he said that no one in this family seemed to have a relationship but you"

"And what did your brother say about that?"

"Which one of my brothers?"

"Druig" Phastos knew it was wrong to question the girl for information on how Druig felt about him having a boyfriend but there would be no better opportunity than this and little kids tended to repeat what they heard, something that Sprite will always do.

"He said that you would surely have better taste than Kingo and that Ben must be a good person" Both men couldn't help but laugh, managing to make the girl smile, kids say the best things sometimes.
"Would you help me hide Kingo's cell phone?" she finally asked with a mischievous smile.

"Of course my sweet, do you know where he will never find it?" Phastos was going to have a lot of fun, there was nothing better than pranking your brothers from a distance.

Following Phastos's instructions, Sprite hid Kingo's cell phone inside the box of Twinkies, no one but Ikaris touched that box and no one would ever even think to look for it there. He taught Sprite how to turn off the cell phone so they couldn't track it so easily, Phastos would call later to ask if they had found it and if not he would tell them where it was, she would have to stay as far away from Kingo for the rest of the day so that he would not suspect of her.

After saying goodbye to Phastos and Ben and promising to come to visit soon, Sprite continued with the plan, spending the rest of the afternoon in her room drawing, waiting as patiently as she could for Kingo to notice his missing phone.

. . . . . . . .

Of course Kingo would have to lose his phone and of course he would have all of them searching the house for the phone. Druig at least was thankful that Sprite was upset with everyone and refused to speak to them, if she was helping she would surely be singing and he was sick of listening to 'Ten Green Bottles', little kids had a thing for loving the most annoying songs of the world.

"Are you sure you had it with you when we got back?" He asked again, they had practically cleaned the whole house trying to find the phone.

"For the thousandth time Druig, I'm completely sure" Kingo sounded annoyed but he really was desperate, he would be in a lot of trouble if they didn't find him.

"Maybe we could go to school, maybe you forgot it there and someone left it in the office" Sersi suggested, she like Druig was quite tired of searching.

"Great idea Sersi, come on, you can stay here looking" Druig quickly took Sersi's hand and dragged her to Sprite's room, not even giving one of them a chance to speak "Sprite put your shoes on, let's go out if you don't come with us you will stay with Kingo"

The girl looked at him annoyed but she did what he said, if she wanted her plan to continue to be successful, it was better for her not to be alone with Kingo. The three of them took the bus to the high school, Makkari had arrived minutes before they left from her practice and offered to help Kingo continue searching the house. Sersi wasn't sure her idea would work but Druig and Kingo fighting was a bit tiring so it was better to get them away from each other. As expected Kingo's phone was not in the office and without even having news from Makkari it was better not to return home yet.

"Ikaris is at his practice, maybe we can go see him and get back with him, by the time we get back Ajak will be there so we won't have to look any further"

Druig agreed, he preferred to watch his brother run from one side to the other than to have to help Kingo look for his phone. They headed towards the field and took a seat in the stands, Ikaris saw them immediately but did not approach them. Sprite got bored within seconds of sitting watching practice and started running back and forth across the stands.

"Shouldn't we stop her?" Sersi asked after seeing Sprite go up and down for perhaps the fifth time.

"No, let her get tired, if she gets tired she will have to talk to us to ask us for water"

She laughed, he knew his sister very well "how are you?"

"Sersi we live in the same house and you ask me how I am?" he asked arching an eyebrow

"I mean as you deal with all these changes, I know it's hard when you get taken from the only home you know and you arrive at a new one"

"It's different" he said after several seconds "I think I'm happy, I like living with all of you, Sprite is happy" It was the first time he said that out loud to someone, he hadn't even told Makkari .

"I'm happy that you live with us" they remained silent for a few more seconds until she finally spoke again "Have you ever seen Ikaris play?"

"I've never seen a game"

"Haven't you been living in this country for four years?"

"We didn't watch much TV before and I never went to a game at my old school, I don't even really understand how the game works."

"I'm sure Ikaris will explain if you ask him"

"I'm thirsty and I'm tired." Sprite finally took a seat next to Druig.

"Are you going to talk to us now?" Sprite made a face "let's get you some water"

By the time they returned from getting the six year old some water, practice was over and Ikaris was waiting for them by the stands, Sprite ran to hug her older brother who didn't hesitate to pick her up.

"Ikaris! I missed you!"

"I missed you too Sprite" he walked with her still in his arms to where the other two were "What are you doing here?"

"I'm also very happy to see you my brother, I missed you too, don't I get a hug?" Druig joked making Ikaris roll his eyes "Kingo lost his phone and we are helping him look for it"

"At school?"

"It was Sersi's idea" he said with a shrug "I didn't say we were helping him with much enthusiasm"

"He had us sick of looking at home, I suggested the school thinking of making him come but your brother" Sersi gave Druig a look "he didn't let me finish and dragged us both here"

"I saved you from Kingo and his drama, you should be more grateful to me"

Ikaris shook his head, he took Druig by the shoulder to make him turn and start walking in the direction of the car. "And did you find the phone or not?"

"Makkari hasn't told us anything yet so I guess not"

"Amazing, we will arrive to find him even more dramatic than usual"

. . . . . . . .

By the time Ajak and Thena arrived at the house, they found a heated argument in the kitchen. Sprite was sitting on Makkari's lap as the two of them ate from a bowl of popcorn, neither of them could follow the argument the other four teens were having so they opted instead to sit and wait for them to finish.

"What is happening my little one?" Thena asked stroking Sprite's hair.

"They're fighting because Kingo found his phone in Ikaris' box of Twinkies."

Ajak and Thena looked at each other, not knowing whether or not to believe the six year old's words. Finally Ajak decided to end the fight and ask Sersi for an explanation. Sersi confirmed Sprite's words and recounted how Kingo had lost his phone and she and Druig had spent hours helping him look for him until they went looking for it at the high school, how they waited for Ikaris' practice to finish to return with him and how Ikaris had found the phone in the Twinkies box, Kingo had started yelling that it was a bad prank and that he couldn't believe they could have done that, both Druig and Ikaris denied putting the phone in there and although Sersi was trying to tell Kingo that she had been with both of them the whole time and it was impossible for them to have hidden it. The boy didn't want to listen to her.
Ajak had a more serious expression than usual and before she could start scolding everyone her phone rang from her, Phastos was calling.

"Is everything okay? You don't usually call at this time" she asked after a quick greeting.

"Everything is excellent, just one question" he had a mischievous smile "have you found my gift at the Twinkies box?"

They all looked at each other, nobody understood how Phastos could know what happened.

"How do you know that happened?"

"I am the mastermind behind this" he said proudly

"I'll call you tomorrow and you'll have a lot to explain, but now I have important things to talk about with all your siblings" Ajak said before Kingo started screaming again.

After a short goodbye the woman ended the call, she sighed.

"Druig, can we talk with you for a moment?" Ajak finally said after several seconds of silence "I don't want there to be a new fight by the time I get back" she looked at each of her children with a stern look "Look after Sprite"

Druig looked confused at Thena and Ajak but without saying anything he followed them to her foster mother's office. Ajak motioned for her to sit in one of the chairs, Thena took a seat in the chair next to him while Ajak faced them both.

"What's going on?" he asked finally feeling scared by whatever they were going to say to him

"We have some bad news to tell you"

Chapter Text

Druig had taken it tremendously badly, after yelling at both of them that they had sworn to protect them he stormed out of the room. Since then he hadn't spoken to either of them unless Sprite was present, neither of them wanted to tell the girl what would happen so as not to make her nervous ahead of time.

Ajak had really expected a worse reaction from him, she thought he would try to go back to the habits he and Sprite had before, of leaving the house after school and not coming back until dinner time, but no, nothing of that.
Druig had withdrawn into himself again, barely speaking to Sprite and Makkari and shutting himself off from everyone else. Thena had tried to talk to him for the first few days but Gilgamesh had managed to get her to stop insisting on him, she normally doesn't push others but Ajak could understand where she was going trying to talk to her younger brother.

This was one of the times when she felt truly helpless, the only thing she had achieved was to delay the visit for a week, she wanted to give Druig time to assimilate the news, and although Sprite had no knowledge of what would happen, she wanted the little girl to have a normal week before having to meet her father again.

She was upset with the system, their job is supposed to be to protect the children, not to cause them more trauma. She did not even want to imagine how they were going to react after the visit, she did not know if there would be more visits after this first one, she could only hope not but one could never be sure in these cases. There were only two scenarios that could happen depending on the outcome of the visit, the best would be that the man's guardianship rights over his two children will finally end and that Thena will finally obtain guardianship or that the judge believes that there are possibilities of reunification, which would be absolutely the worst result, she could only hope for the best one.

It had been a week since Ajak broke the news to Druig, a week since he didn't speak to her only when absolutely necessary, he wasn't one for many words but his silence pained her. With only two days left before the visit was to take place, she was determined to get Druig back to sit down to talk, or at least make him listen to her. She wanted to apologize and let him know how much he meant to her, many things could change with a single visit and she did not want him to attend the visit believing that he did not matter to her.

The ringing of her phone brought her out of her thoughts, she frowned at the sight of Kingo's name on the screen.

"Hello mom" something was wrong, none of her children -except Makkari- called her mom unless something bad was happening.

"Kingo? Is everything alright?"

"Sure, why wouldn't I be?" Sprite's shout on the other side of the line alerted her and made her son sigh "ok, we have a situation but I don't want you to be alarmed"

"Kingo you're just making me more nervous, tell me what's going on"

"A little disagreement happened and Druig left, we thought he just went to Thena's house to calm down but Ikaris went to look for him and he's not there and Sprite... she's a little upset because Druig left, we tried to call him and he doesn't answer " He let out a sigh, Sprite's screams had turned into tears "the truth is that we don't know what to do, we can't calm Sprite, Makkari wants to go look for Druig but we decided it was better to call you first"

"I'll be there in a few minutes, hold on a little longer, I'll call Gilgamesh so he can call Thena, tell Ikaris not to say anything to her sister for now, to focus on calming down Sprite"

Kingo ended the call and Ajak almost gave a helpless cry, this was just what they didn't need right now. She called Gilgamesh and he agreed to call Thena and tell her that he would have to go straight home before starting the search in case Druig was back before any of them went out looking for him and to better organize himself to go out looking for him, someone would have to stay with Sprite and that someone would have to be able to calm her down.

She was sure that she had never done so little time before from her work to her house, she possibly had broken some rules but at that moment she didn't care. She found Ikaris and Sersi sitting by the first floor bathroom door, Makkari and Kingo nowhere to be seen.

"What's going on? Where's Sprite?" she asked looking for the girl around the room.

"She's locked in the bathroom, Kingo and Kari are looking for the key, she doesn't want to open it" Ikaris explained, he had a completely tired expression. "maybe she will listen to you and come out"

The two teenagers stood up and moved away from the door to give the woman a free pass. She tried to open the door, only to confirm that the girl had indeed locked herself up.

"Sprite? Baby girl, can you please come out?"

"No, I want my brother" the little girl's voice was just a whisper "I want Druig"

"We're working on it mi niña, but why don't you come out? We can wait for him in the kitchen."

"I do not want to"

"Well at least we know she not only didn't listen to us" Kingo said, he and Makkari had finally appeared "we didn't find any keys, we didn't want to look in your room but in the kitchen drawers there aren't any keys"

"It's fine like that, Gil already called Thena and they should both be on their way"

"Can we go find Druig?" Makkari asked "maybe he didn't go very far"

"Let's wait for Thena and Gil before going out to look for it, it's no use going out to look for it if we don't have a plan, the best thing we can do now is wait for the two of them to arrive and try to convince Sprite to come out of the bathroom"

. . . . . . . .

Thena was having a slow day, something completely strange in her work but that was more than welcome. It was only a short time before his workday was over when he received a call from Gilgamesh. It was not unusual for her husband to call her at this time of day, since the beginning of the year he used to leave the restaurant early to prepare dinner for everyone, normally he called to ask for her opinion on the menu of the day but today's call was not about that.

She could feel her heart stop when she heard that no one knew where Druig was. She should have expected something like that certainly, he had been shut up in himself the last few days, that everyone should have expected him to do something like that just two days after the visit with his father.

She put her things away as quickly as possible, she notified her boss about the situation and the woman did not take long to give her permission to go home, her boss was aware of the situation with her younger siblings, she had been the one who had given her the name of the lawyer who was handling the custody case for her siblings so she did not hesitate to give her permission to go look for her younger brother.

"Thena!" The receptionist's voice startled her, she didn't have time to speak.

"I don't have time to talk right now Anne, my brother…" she stopped before she even left the building, Druig was sitting in one of the reception chairs staring at the floor. She turned to see Anne not knowing what to say.

"He arrived an hour ago, he said that he is your brother and he would wait for you, he told me not to call you that he would wait for you"

She nodded and finally walked over to him, she sat down on the chair across from him. She wanted to yell at him, how could he have done that? She didn't know what state the others were in, but from the short conversation she had with Gil, they were all very worried about him.

"Do you have any idea how concerned you have everyone else?" she finally spoke and immediately regretted her words as he watched him shrink even more in the seat.

He shrugged without looking at her.

"Druig? What happened? What are you doing here?" He didn't answer, it was a few minutes later that Thena finally accepted that he wouldn't say anything. "Let's go"

She stood up expecting him to follow her as she walked towards the exit, she quickly texted Gil and Ajak to let them know that Druig was with her and that they would be home soon.

"I didn't mean it" he finally spoke when they reached her car.

"What?"

"I was distracted and didn't notice when she started calling me, I just snapped and yelled at her" he kept looking at the floor "She got scared, she got scared of me"

He finally looked at her and she was able to understand the problem. He had red eyes, he was trying to hold back the tears. She hugged him, it was the first time she did since he was a child. He finally burst into tears and clung to her.

"I know you didn't mean to yell at her, and Sprite knows it too."

"I was like him"

"No" Thena released him and took him by the shoulders "never say that, you are not and you will never be like him"

"But I..."

"No! Listen to me, you're going through a difficult time, it's normal for you to have reactions like that, but that's no reason for you to think you're like him"

"You don't know me...I..."

"Of course I know you Druig, you are my little brother, I know you are a compassionate boy and that you love your sister, I know you are not like him"

She hugged him again and let him cry for as long as he needed, eventually he released her and avoided her gaze again.

"I'm sorry"

"I know" she caressed his cheek "I was very scared, you scared me, I thought something bad could have happened to you, I don't know what I would have done if something had happened to you"

"I'm sorry"

"I know, I know you're sorry, it's okay" she hugged him again, she didn't know if it was her who needed it or him but she felt calm to have him in her arms again "I know that this last week was difficult but I really care about you, I love you, I really do"

He stiffened in her arms for a few seconds upon hearing her words "I love you too Thena" he said after several seconds, releasing the breath he didn't know he was holding "sorry for ignoring you all this week"

"It’s okay, now let's go or we'll both end up crying and I have a reputation to take care of" she finally released him, she had a small smile on her face.

He didn't answer but Thena could see his smile as he got into the car.
. . . .

Makkari was the first to throw herself into Druig's arms as he and Thena stepped through the door. Thena immediately went ahead to give the two of them a few seconds alone, out of the corner of her eye she could notice 'I'm fine' 'you had me worried' and 'I'm sorry' but before anyone else could interrupt them the two had finished their conversation.

Ajak was the next to hug him, the woman was giving him a mix between scolding and words of relief and happiness to see him, Druig had the tips of his ears red and stared at the floor while the woman examined him from head to toe to check that it really was fine.

He and Ikaris stared at each other for several seconds when Ajak finally released him, finally Ikaris reached out his hand towards him and Druig took it letting him wrap him in his arms. It was a brief, wordless hug, but it was enough for the two of them.

Sersi had barely managed to hug him when Kingo's voice caused them to let go, Sprite finally breaking out of her confinement.

"Druig!" The girl immediately threw her arms around his neck, he without hesitation had lifted her into his arms. "You left me!"

"I know and I'm sorry, but you know I could never leave you, you know I love you" he murmured in Irish, there were too many people to feel comfortable expressing his feelings but for his little sister he would "you are the most important thing to me"

"I love you" she rested her head on her shoulder for several seconds before straightening up "but don't leave me again"

"I just went for a walk, you didn't have to worry, you were with Ikaris"

"But you left without saying goodbye, we didn't say goodbye to mom when she died"

Given that, Druig didn't know what to answer, so he just limited himself to hugging the girl more tightly. Thena looked at them sadly, she was the only one who understood Irish so she was the only one able to follow the conversation, Sprite's words made no sense to her, but after all neither of them had ever talked about their mother's death . She only knew that the woman had died of cardiac arrest in the hospital, she still had a lot about her younger siblings that she did not know.

Chapter Text

Druig felt nervous, he had spent most of the last week in a dazed state, barely paying attention to his classes and what was going on around him but today he was fully alert, as if he expected his father to show up at any moment. in front of him.

Ajak had forced him to attend school, there was no point in staying home waiting for the time to attend the visit, she thought it would be a good distraction for him, but he couldn't concentrate on anything and Makkari had had to move him from one class to another since he didn't seem to be present.

It was lunch time and for the first time he was ignoring his food, he felt very anxious about the visit and how Sprite would take the news, they had agreed not to say anything until the last minute so as not to upset her more than necessary, It was bad enough that one of them was having a nervous breakdown, they didn't need both of them to have one.

"What's on your mind Druig?" Clint asked moving a hand in front of his eyes to get his attention "you've been in a kind of trance for a week and I've never seen you ignore food before"

"I have many things on my mind" he replied, shrugging and giving a reassuring smile to Makkari, who was just as nervous as he was.

"Are you sure? You two look like a nervous wreck" Bobbie said pointing to him and Makkari

Before Druig could reply Ikaris appeared next to him, he frowned as Ikaris wasn't supposed to have the same lunch hour as him.

"Can we talk?" he asked, looking uncomfortably around the table.

Druig looked at Makkari before nodding and standing up, the other members of the table watched the exchange without saying anything. As soon as Druig had gotten to his feet Ikaris grabbed his arm and practically dragged him away from the cafeteria.

"Are you sure everything is alright Kari?" Elena asked looking at Druig's empty spot "I've never seen the great Ikaris so..."

"anxious?" Mack suggested

"Worried"

"They are going through something, Ikaris is worried and Druig is nervous but it's not my place to say it"

"We get it, we care about Druig that's all, is his little sister okay?"

"It's complicated, but she's fine"

"If it's about her little sister then I understand, I'd go crazy if something happened to Kate" Clint said looking at Mack who nodded "that's the effect of little sisters"

"You should see them both with Sprite'' Makkari smirked at the memory "they pretty much do what she says, Kingo is the same. You can probably meet her at Ikaris' next game, she's been bothering that she wants to go see him play since Sersi and Druig took her to see a practice"

"That will be interesting, I would love to see their sister's reaction to seeing Ikaris and Bucky next to each other"

"Man that would be epic" Clint exclaimed "Kate was so confused the first time she saw them next to each other"

"Sprite will probably think it's a joke from King" Makkari shrugged, lately that was the explanation the girl found for everything "but it would be fun to see that reaction"

. . . . . . . .

"Shouldn't you be in class?" Druig asked as soon as they had left the cafeteria "it's not that I'm not glad to see you, I just didn't expect it"

"Missing a class is not a problem, I have to talk to you"

Ikaris dragged him out of the building, he didn't stop until they were quite far from the cafeteria and hidden from prying eyes. Druig looked at him arching an eyebrow waiting for him to speak.

"How are you?" he finally ask after several seconds of silence

"You took me out of the cafeteria and missed a class to ask me how I am?" Druig looked at him in disbelief, he did not understand what was happening

Ikaris looked at him for several seconds without saying anything before letting out a sigh and leaning against the wall "I'm worried about you, the visit is today and..."

"I don't want to go to that stupid visit" the boy murmured leaning against his brother "I don't want Sprite to be near him"

"Thena never told me everything that happened with him"

"He hit me enough last time to knock me out and scare Sprite, that's why she called Thena, he's been hitting me all my life but it got worse when my mom died, I tried to protect Sprite as best as possible"

"If he's been beating you up all your life why hasn't anyone ever intervened before?"

"I'm a good liar and I taught Sprite to be a good one too" he shrugged "I don't remember much about when you guys spent the summer with me but I'm glad I found you, I don't know how much longer we could have lived that way"

"I'm sorry for everything you had to go through, but" Ikaris stopped for a few seconds trying to find the right words "I want you to know that now you can count on me, for anything"

"You don't have to apologize, it wasn't your fault, your mother was very smart to get you and Thena out of there, my mother couldn't do that for us" he loved his mother but sometimes he felt a little resentment towards the woman for having left them alone with the man "you can also count on me for anything"

"Why do you think your mother never left him?"

"She couldn't, he made sure of it."

"How do you really feel?"

"As if I have to say goodbye to all of you, but I hope that's not the result, I have something in mind but I can't be sure yet"

"What are you talking about?" Ikaris frowned "you can't do anything stupid Druig, think about Sprite"

"I'm not going to do anything stupid, I'm just thinking about something, something that can happen during the visit"

"Drug..."

"You have to trust me"

"I don't want you to get hurt"

"You sound like Sprite and Thena" he teased him "I won't do anything stupid, I promise"

"I'm really worried about you"

"I'm afraid that the judge will decide that we have to go back to him and I won't be able to see you again" Druig confessed looking at the floor

"I don't care what a judge says"

"I need you to promise me something" Druig's voice took on a desperate tone, Ikaris nodded not wanting to interrupt him "if things don't go well, you can't go looking for me and Sprite" Ikaris opened his mouth to argue but Druig beat him "Listen to me! If that happens he will be furious and I don't want him to hurt you and Thena, I can live as I did before, what I can't do is live in constant fear that you will appear at any moment and he will kill you, I can't, so promise me that if that happens you won't look for us"

"You know Thena..."

"That's why I'm asking you, you can tell Gilgamesh and convince him to help you but you have to promise me"

Ikaris pulled Druig into his arms. Druig was tense as he wasn't expecting it but he almost immediately relaxed in his brother's arms. Ikaris wasn't capable of promising something like that to his brother, he wasn't even ready to say goodbye even if it was just for a few hours, hell it had been hard for him to even say goodbye to Sprite before he left for school. He really needed things to go well, as much as Thena insisted that it was just a visit and that everything would be fine, he knew that everyone was afraid that everything would go wrong and Druig and Sprite would be sent back to the man. There was nothing he could do about the visit, but he hoped that at least this little chat they had had would help his brother a little.

. . . . . . . .

Sprite had been feeling for days that something was wrong, Druig was acting very strange and after his little disappearance everyone seemed to be walking on eggshells. The last two days everyone seemed to be on the verge of a crisis. This morning everyone seemed so nervous before going to school, without a doubt something strange was happening and everyone knew it except her.

She was trying not to think too much about it, it was no use worrying about something she didn't know but she was distracted and maybe that was why she didn't notice the boy who appeared next to her.

"You are Ikaris's sister?" the boy asked to which Sprite just frowned and ignored him "I'm talking to you girl"

"I don't know you and I don't have to talk to you" she started to walk away from the boy but he stopped her

"I asked you a question, answer me"

"Leave me alone"

"My brother told me about you" the boy had an evil smile "you are Ikaris's sister who lives with the weird family, which means that you don't have a real family if you live with them"

"Shut up! I do have a family"

"Of course not, that woman always has children that she finds and when she gets bored of them she returns them to where she found them, very soon she will get bored of you and she will send you away"

"Shut up! Leave me alone!"

"Hey! Leave her alone!" Trip had appeared before the boy could add anything else since as soon as Trip was close enough he ran off "are you alright?"

"Yes, I don't know who that child is"

"His name is Ward, he's a dork. He thinks so much because his older brother is in high school and on the football team."

"My brother is also in high school and on the football team" Sprite frowned in confusion.

"You see? He's just a fool, since your brother is better than his"

"Of course, Ikaris is the best"

"Don't pay attention to him, he likes to annoy others"

Sprite nodded and followed his friend to where the others were waiting for them to continue with the game. Trip was right, it was better not to listen to that kid, he didn’t know anything about her.

Chapter Text

Druig was more worried than before, Sprite had taken in a strange way the news that in less than an hour they would be seeing their father for the first time in three months. The girl had remained silent for several minutes until she finally looked at him to ask him if it was true or not, as soon as he confirmed it, she was slow to react again before bursting into tears. He had expected her to be confused, upset but he never really expected her to start crying the way she had, after several minutes the anger set in and she accused him of lying to her but Thena had been quick to intervene and try to explain that Druig hadn't lied to her, things had changed since they had come to live with Ajak and this was something new that Druig couldn't control. Sprite had been staring at her sister without understanding, for her Druig's word was reliable, if he said that something would not happen it was because it was not going to happen, in her mind he could not be wrong and if he did It was not a mistake, it was a lie.

They tried to explain the situation to her as best as possible, a judge was responsible for all this, it was not Ajak's, Thena's or Druig's fault, it was the judge who made the decisions and they had nothing to do with what he decided. Sprite was truly confused, she didn't understand what was happening and the boy's words kept running through her mind. Was the boy right and was Ajak trying to get rid of them? She didn't want to believe it but the doubt was present in her head.

Druig had told her that no matter what happened she had to tell the truth, she couldn't lie to protect their father as they had done many other times, today it was very important to say everything the man had done to them, if they had a real chance to get rid of the man this was it.

The trip to the CPS offices where the visit was to take place was made in silence, Thena traveling in her own car while they traveled with Ajak. The moment the woman stopped the car Druig felt a huge weight fall on him, he was nervous and if he was honest with himself he was terrified.

"I don't want to go," Sprite muttered as soon as Ajak opened the door to help her out of the car, "I want to go home."

"I know my love but we have no choice, it will only be a few minutes" Ajak tried to reassure her, looking at Druig who remained frozen in his place "everything will be fine"

"I don't want to go, I want to go home, he's going to hurt my brother again"

"No one is going to hurt Druig, Rosalind is going to make sure of that"

Druig finally seemed to wake up from his brief trance and got out of the car to approach her sister "come on Sprite, the faster we get in the faster we can leave"

"No"

"Let's make a deal" he offered, he knew he was going to regret it later "let's go in and I'll let you paint my nails when we get back home"

"Can I paint them any color I want?" a mischievous smile appeared on her face

"The color you want" he accepted knowing that he was really going to regret it later.

Sprite finally got out of the car but clung tightly to his hand. She, like him, was completely scared at the idea of seeing the man again. Ajak directed them into the facility, Thena would wait until they were inside the room before getting out of her car, she didn't want to meet her father after so many years.

Rosalind received them with a smile and next to her was a woman who introduced herself as Jessica Jones, she said she was the lawyer in charge of their case, in his opinion she did not have the appearance of being a lawyer but he said nothing about it. Rosalind was in charge of briefly explaining what would happen during a visit, they would have to spend forty minutes locked in a room with their father, Rosalind would be inside the room while the lawyer, Ajak and two security guards would be outside, also the visit would be recorded as evidence for the hearing that would take place two hours later.

"I don't want to go" Sprite had released Druig and hugged Ajak "don't make me go"

"Baby we already talked about this, you have to go" Ajak said with a loving voice "you're going to be with your brother, you don't have to worry"

"He is going to hit him, he always hits him and hurts him"

"Sprite come on, you heard Rosalind she's going to come in with us and nothing bad is going to happen" Druig tried to make the girl let go of the woman by extending her hand in her direction "everything is going to be fine"

She stared at him for several seconds before accepting his hand, Rosalind wasted no time leading them into a room which was filled with toys and things that would clearly catch Sprite's attention.

"Why don't you get comfortable? You can play with whatever you want Sprite" the woman took a seat in a chair in a corner "your father will arrive in a few minutes"

The idea was that Arishem would enter through a different door from them, if there was something good about the room, it was that it had different accesses for cases like theirs.

"I want to go" Sprite whimpered without letting go of his brother "I want to go back to Ajak"

"Why don't we play a board game?" He dragged her sister to a shelf, just as she wanted to leave but he knew they couldn't, the only thing he could do with her was to try to distract her as best as possible "what do you want to play?"

"I don't want to play anything"

"If you don't choose, I will choose and you will have to play what I want"

Sprite narrowed her eyes and examined the boxes she had in front of her, finally settling on a puzzle which Druig was glad of since he surely wouldn't have the patience to explain any board games to her.

"How many pieces are there? I don't know this number"

"It's a hundred pieces"

"Like the Dalmatians in the movie"

"Yes, just like that"

They took a seat at the table in the center, Sprite seemed distracted enough looking at the pieces trying to find one that would fit, he could still tell how nervous she was but the puzzle seemed to be having the effect he wanted.

Probably only five minutes had passed when the door opened and Arishem entered. They both tensed immediately, Sprite even letting go of the piece he was holding in his hands.

"Hello Druig, hello Sprite, how are you?" the greeting slowly approaching the table, Sprite immediately shrugged in her seat "I've missed you so much"

"Hello" Druig didn't know what else to say, he didn't want to be there

"Can I sit?" neither of them answered so he sat at the other end of the table "I brought you something"

He took out a packet of Sour Patch and placed it in the center of the table, neither of them making any move to take it.

"You can have it" Rosalind said trying to encourage them to take the candy

"I don't like them" Sprite muttered looking at Druig since she didn't want to take the candy because she really didn't like them, neither of them liked it.

"No?" Rosalind asked, looking at both of them.

"Of course you like them, I buy them all the time for you" the man said with a forced smile

"No, that's not true" Sprite said frowning

"Sprite" Druig warned her, he had told her that she had to tell the truth but he didn't expect her to be so vocal. "You should continue with the puzzle"

The girl looked at him for a few seconds before nodding and slowly returning her attention to the game. She could feel the man's gaze on her but tried to ignore it.

"How are you doing in school?" Arishem asked Druig, he had faith that the boy would end up falling for the same tricks as before and start lying.

"I'm doing fine" he replied shrugging his shoulders "how is Gamiel?"

He asked the question calmly, as if he was truly looking to have a conversation with the man. Gamiel was a co-worker and friend of Arishem's, the one the man regularly went to the bar with and the one Druig was sure had introduced his father to drugs. He was not stupid, Arishem used to leave things scattered around the house when he was too drunk and on one occasion Druig had found the man's drug lying next to his keys, it had not taken much to discover who was responsible for his father's new addiction.

"He's fine" Arishem tensed

"Here, this one goes here" Druig had only nodded to the man's response, he wasn't going to add more to the subject since his purpose was to make him nervous and make him realize that he wasn't going to stay silent "you're doing well" he had passed several pieces to Sprite to continue putting the puzzle together.

"Can I help you? I'm good with puzzles"

Sprite had been paralyzed upon hearing it and had dropped one of the pieces on the table "I don't want to play anymore" she said looking at her brother

"What do you want to do then?"

"I want to go with Ajak"

"We're not done yet"

"I don't want to be here, I want to leave"

"Why do you want to leave? The three of us can play together, we haven't done it in a long time" Arishem was trying to sound as friendly and understanding as possible.

"You have never played with us" Sprite replied with a frown.

"You don't remember because you were so little, but we did it all the time" the man had a forced smile on his face.

Sprite ignored him and started putting the puzzle pieces back in the box. Arishem got up from her trying not to delicately stop the girl but he only managed to scare her and she let out a scream.

"I want to go!" she whimpered, Druig had abruptly taken her into his arms trying to pull her away from the man.

"Come on, we can play something else." Druig had stood up and taken her with him, trying to put distance between them and the man again.

"I want to go" she murmured hugging him preventing him from moving away more "please"

"We can't, come choose something else to do"

"I don't want to" she started to cry "he scares me, I want to go"

Druig was now worried, Sprite crying was not something he had foreseen, he knew well that hearing the girl cry made him desperate and although he wanted a reaction from Arishem, he wanted the one to provoke it to be him, not Sprite.

"You have to stop crying" he had knelt down to be able to look at her "you know how he gets when he hears you cry"

"I want to leave"

"Sprite please" he implored feeling more nervous, at any moment he was going to react "you have to stop, I know we said everything would be fine but you have to stop crying"

"Why are you crying doll?" The man walked over to them and tried to touch Sprite. Druig did not allow it.

At one point he had put Sprite behind him to prevent him from getting closer to her and at another he could hear her sister's screams and feel a very strong pain in his stomach.

The next thing that happened was all very blurry to him, a man probably the security guard had rushed in and pulled Arishem away from him, Rosalind had Sprite at the other end of the room and as if by magic Ajak was at his side.

"Druig can you hear me? What hurts?" Ajak had quickly settled him better on the floor "I need to know that hurts"

"I'm fine, where's Sprite?" He could swear that he had only blinked and Sprite had disappeared from the room "I'm really fine"

"Druig you hit your head again when you fell, don't move" Ajak had stopped him from getting up "Sprite is with Thena, she's fine, she's scared but she's fine"

"I just wanted to stop him from taking her, the last time he did it he threw her across the room" he explained closing his eyes "I hope he didn't break my ribs again"

"Don't move" Ajak reminded her, surely they would have a nurse on site if all visits with parents ended like this "I don't think he broke anything, we didn't give him more time to continue" The woman stroked his hair "how do you feel?"

"I'm fine, really, can I see Sprite?"

Ajak looked at Rosalind who was standing next to her, the woman nodded and left the room. A nurse arrived a few minutes later and examined him quickly, luckily for him he was fine, he would surely have a bruise on his torso but nothing serious, even so Ajak promised to take him to the hospital as soon as they got out of there.

"Druig!" Sprite appeared with Thena when Ajak finally helped him up "I'm sorry"

"You have nothing to apologize for, you didn't do anything wrong" he assured her hugging her and feeling that he could finally breathe "are you okay?"

"It was my fault"

"No, it wasn't your fault and I don't want to hear you say that again, do you understand me?" He rarely used that serious tone with her, but he couldn't stand her blaming herself for the man's actions.

"I love you" she nodded and hugged him "can we go home now?"

Ajak looked at Rosalind, they should be in court in two hours for the next hearing.

"I can postpone the hearing" she offered

"No" Druig said releasing Sprite "I don't want them to force us to have another visit with him, don't change it"

Rosalind looked at Ajak who nodded "Okay, I won't change it, take him to the hospital and send me the report of what they tell you, I'll send it to Jones so I can use it today, that man is making my job easier behaving like this"

Sprite again clung to her brother's hand as if her life depended on it, the four finally left the offices without saying anything, nobody stopped them after what they had just experienced. As soon as they were by Ajak's car, Thena lunged at her brother so she could hug him.

"You had me so worried" she said without letting go "I wanted to go in and kill him with my own hands"

"You flatter me, you would commit a crime for me" he joked returning the hug "but please don't do it, I really want us to stay with you, don't go to jail"

Thena rolled her eyes and gave him a little playful smack "get in the car, you have a visit to the doctor to do"

"I love you too Thena"

She rolled her eyes but Druig could still see the smile on her face at his words.

Chapter Text

Druig felt like he was in some kind of shock, the hearing was finally over and now he was back at Ajak's house. It was amazing how his life had just completely changed after only an hour in the courtroom. He felt someone, probably Ajak, put a glass of water between his hands, but still he did not react.

"Druig?" Thena put a hand on his shoulder "Can you hear me?" he nodded "How do you feel?"

"I don't know" he said sincerely "relieved, I guess".

Ajak took a seat next to him and took one of his hands between hers. "Are you sure you're feeling okay?"

"I just…I just didn't think we were really going to get rid of him, at least for the next few months. Part of me really believed we were going to go back to living with him."

He had finally admitted it, it was what he had been dreading since Ajak and Thena gave him the news of the hearing. Maybe the outcome wasn't the best of all but at least for the next three months he and Sprite would be safe and sound living with Thena, Gilgamesh and Ikaris. The hearing had taken a completely different turn thanks to the man's outburst during the visit, unbeknownst to him there had been a psychologist reviewing their interaction with the man, her report, the hospital report and the social worker's reports had been enough to get them out of the foster care system and into kinship care. As far as Druig was concerned the only significant change in the arrangement was that they would now have to live with Thena and that she basically had custody of them.

Arishem would have three months to get his life in order if he was to have a chance at reunification with his children, the court had ordered him to stay sober and clean for the next three months and to complete an anger management course and a course on being a good father, among many other requirements. In Druig's opinion the man wasn't going to make it, he couldn't go forty minutes without hitting one of them, there was no way he could meet that many requirements. Thena's lawyer was trying to get him to sign a deal where he would formally relinquish custody of the two of them and give it to Thena, although Druig was sure that the man would refuse to release them so easily.
Still he could not believe that they were basically free of the man, the judge had forbidden contact between them until after three months and only if the man met all the requirements.

The hearing had been really chaotic, Ajak had practically demanded that a guard be at Arishem's side to keep him away from Druig and Sprite after what the man had done hours before, the judge seemed quite surprised by the report where all parties involved agreed that he had no reason to have custody of his two children. Sprite even seemed to have contributed to the judge's decision because as soon as she had seen her father enter the room she had practically had an anxiety attack saying, quite loudly, that she wanted to leave because the man would hit Druig again. Ajak had to leave the room with the girl for several minutes to calm her down.

Arishem's lawyer tried to say that the two of them were being influenced by Thena to not want to return to their father, but Sprite's reaction against the man seemed to have eliminated any chance of him coming out on top that day.

Maybe it was that everything had gone so well (except for the time his father hit him again) that he was in such a state of shock, he really couldn't believe it. Finally something in him seemed to react and he paid attention to what both women were saying.

"I'm fine, really" he stood up but Thena forced him to sit back down by putting a hand on his shoulder "Really Thena, I was just thinking".

"You've been like this since we left the courthouse" she accused him "You really feel fine?"

"Yeah, I swear" he took her hand that was on his shoulder between his own, smiling a little "thank you"

"What are you thanking me for?" she asked in confusion.

"For helping Sprite and me, I don't know what he did to you but I know it must not have been easy to see him again after so many years, so I really appreciate it".

Thena was speechless, she could feel the tears starting to form in her eyes so she pulled him to her so she could hug him and prevent him from seeing her tears. She didn't say anything and he didn't need her to say anything else, words were not necessary between them.

. . . . . . . .

Sprite was confused, she couldn't quite understand everything that had happened throughout the day. She didn't understand the purpose of the visit, it was always the same every time they were with their father, he always ended up hitting one of them, usually Druig since he always got in the way to prevent him from hurting her. So she didn't understand why they were forcing them to see him, at first Ward's words kept echoing in her head, Ajak wanted to get rid of them, she had tried to convince her not to take them to see the man but she did and that only made Ward's words more real but her words stopped making sense as soon as her father hit Druig. Ajak had almost immediately entered the room, she had been next to Druig in an instant checking on him. Thena and Rosalind had pulled her out of the room within seconds so she could not see what happened next. Her older sister had hugged her and let her cry in her arms while she waited to be allowed to see her brother again.

Druig had been fine, the visit to the hospital had been much quicker than when Druig had arrived unconscious but even so Ajak and Thena had not left her side at any time. But the day had not ended there, even after the hospital they had not returned home, they had gone to another place where her father was there again. She had felt as if she couldn't breathe, she was completely scared of the man and seeing him only made her remember all the things he had done to her brother and her when they were still living with him. She was terrified of the man and Ajak had had to take her out of the room at one point because she simply couldn't breathe, her lungs seemed to have forgotten how they were supposed to work and she just got more and more scared. Ajak had been very good and patient with her, she had helped her to calm down and remind her body how it was supposed to function normally, Ajak's hugs seemed to be magical and with her help she had managed to stay in the same room as her father until it was time to leave.

She would have finally forgotten Ward's words but she had heard Thena and Ajak talking about them staying two more days with her before going to live with Thena. She didn't understand why they would go to live with Thena, not that she didn't like the idea but she couldn't help but question the reason behind that change. Druig seemed to be in some kind of shock and she didn't know if it would be a good idea to ask him what was going on, so she kept quiet waiting for someone to finally explain to her what was going on.

When they got home Thena and Ajak dragged Druig into the kitchen, Gilgamesh was still not home and everyone else was nowhere in sight. She considered going to find Kingo to try to force him to play with her but playing was not something she really wanted to do at the moment. She went upstairs expecting to find Sersi or Ikaris but only found Makkari reading in her room.

Sprite had learned quite a bit of ASL since she had come to live at Ajak's house and already knew how to get Kari's attention when she was busy reading. Makkari looked at her with a smile when she noticed her standing by the door and motioned for her to approach. Maybe it had been good that she had only found Kari, since she wouldn't ask questions about how she was doing if she wasn't facing her.

The relationship between Makkari and Sprite was sometimes a bit strained, Sprite was still quite jealous of her and her friendship with Druig but their relationship had improved quite a bit in the last few months. Still Makkari was surprised when Sprite curled up next to her without explanation. She wanted to ask her if she was okay but was afraid that the little girl had fallen asleep. She decided then that she would let her decide if she wanted to talk or not, she wanted to go find Druig and ask how everything went but she didn't have the heart to move Sprite.

Makkari began to stroke Sprite's hair. She didn't know what had happened at the visit and the hearing but it wasn't normal for Sprite to seek comfort from her. She continued to read as she stroked the girl's hair, she guessed that she was asleep as it was several minutes before Sprite straightened up, she could not decipher the expression on the girl's face.

"What are we?" she finally asked

Makkari frowned, Sprite had gotten much better with her signing but she wasn't sure the girl had made the right signs for her question.

"What do you mean?"

"What are we?" she repeated the question before continuing "Druig is my brother, Ikaris too, Thena is my sister, you and I, what are we?"

Makkari looked at the girl for several seconds thinking about her answer, she didn't understand the why of the question but she thought she knew what she really wanted to know.

"You and I are family."

"But we are not sisters."

"You are to me a little sister, it doesn't matter that we don't share blood, we are family and I love you as if you were my sister."

"I don't understand" she admitted after considering what she had just said to her "Ajak is your mom?"

"Yes, she adopted me and I love her like she's my birth mom."

"But she's not your real mom"

"She is my real mom, it doesn't matter that she adopted me, I love her because she choose to be my mom"

"I don't think I love my dad, he scares me" she admitted, looking down for several seconds as she continued to think "I love Ajak more, is that okay?"

"Yes, you can love people however you want, just like maybe you might love Druig a little more than Thena and Ikaris."

"Ajak loves me?"

"Of course she does, she loves you very much Sprite, why do you ask that? Did someone say something to you?"

"It's just that I heard Thena and Ajak say that Druig and I will be going to live at Thena's house."

Makkari considered her answer, she could only assume that meant Thena had been given kinship care or had gained full custody of the two of them for Sprite to hear that.

"It was probably a judge's decision, but Sprite just because you don't live in this house doesn't mean Ajak doesn't love you."

"But..." Sprite paused before continuing. Makkari waited for her to continue signing but after several seconds nothing happened.

"What's wrong? You can tell me anything, we are family and a family helps each other."

"It's just that..." Sprite bit her lip "Some kid said that Ajak was going to get rid of me and Druig".

"Who told you that?" Makkari asked surprised with a frown "that's a lie, Ajak loves you and your brother, if you're going to go live with Thena it's because Thena has always wanted that, you were only here until you could go live with her."

Sprite stared at her for several seconds until Makkari picked up that she had probably signed too quickly for the girl to understand so she signed everything again, this time more slowly.

"Trip told me the boy's name is Ward, I don't know him, he approached me at recess."

'Shit' Makkari thought, she knew there was a younger Ward but she never thought Christian would send his younger brother to bother Sprite. Ikaris was going to go crazy when he found out.

"That kid doesn't know what he's saying, don't listen to him."

"You know him?"

"I know his older brother, and I know they only like to bother people because they can, you don't have to listen to him, what he told you is a big lie."

Sprite looked at her again without saying anything, Makkari was surprised that they had managed to have such a long conversation without the need for Druig or someone else to serve as an interpreter.

"And are we family then, all of us?" she finally asked, catching her attention again.

"Yes, we are all family."

"Thena, Gil, Ikaris, Kingo, Ajak, Sersi, Phastos, you and Druig, you are my family?"

"Yes, we are all your family and we all love you very much."

Sprite hugged her, taking her by surprise but immediately she wrapped her arms around her, holding her until she finished the hug. She again snuggled into his side, she had a lot to think about and being with Kari had helped her a lot.

Chapter Text

Sprite thought that living at Thena and Gil's house would be something completely different, but the reality was that it was not. She could only find a few differences in her life since she had moved in with her older sister. Now it was Thena who woke her up and helped her get ready for school and Gil who made breakfast, Ajak was still the one who drove her to school and Gil and the others who picked her up. She still spent most evenings at Ajak's house and it wasn't until after dinner that they returned to Thena's house, the only thing that had really changed was where she went to sleep and where she woke up.

Druig and Ikaris shared a room, which meant that the three of them shared a room since Sprite still refused to sleep on his own most of the time and used to sneak into Druig's bed in the middle of the night. But from then on everything was mostly the same as before the visit, that is if he was talking about his life outside of school, school was a different matter.

Ward had decided he liked to tease her and Sprite had spent the first week after the visit trying her best to ignore him every day during recess, but somehow he always used to find the right moment when she was alone to tease her. Thanks to Trip she now knew that Ward was two years older than them so he was in another class and they only crossed paths during recess. She also now knew that he liked to tease people who he considered inferior to him or who had older siblings that his older brother Christian didn't like. Sprite hadn't dared to ask anyone about whether they knew Ward's brother (whose real name was Grant, a name that seemed rather silly to her) for fear that they would ask questions she wasn't willing to answer.

The boy kept teasing her that she was an adoptee, he constantly teased her about her red hair, he had even tripped her several times, he teased her that she had a strange family and that she would soon be returned to the orphanage from which she had been taken. Sprite never responded, mostly because many of the things he said she knew were not true, she was not adopted, she had never been in an orphanage, her mother had not abandoned her, she didn't even live with Ajak anymore so where he was getting all those ideas from she didn't know and had no intention of correcting him with the truth.

The big problem was when Ward realized he wasn't getting a reaction from her so he went on to pester her friends and classmates hoping to get some sort of response from her and to Sprite's dismay, he did.

She probably would have continued to ignore him but she ran into him picking on Maya, a girl from another classroom, whom she considered her friend. Maya was deaf and there weren't too many kids at school who knew sign language, especially first graders, so Sprite and Maya had formed a sort of friendship during recess time, they didn't play together very often since they had different groups of friends but occasionally they did. Ward had probably seen them together the day before, Maya had brought a book about art and the two had spent much of recess reading together.

Maya had a fierce look on her face, she was very good at reading lips and having Ward so close to her surely she was being able to understand what he was saying to her. Sprite probably should have thought better of it, but after two weeks of putting up with the bully, watching him pick on someone she considered her friend, she had enough. Thankful for Kingo's few attempts to teach her how to throw a ball, the girl quietly slipped out from behind Ward and signaling Maya not to move, she threw the ball she was holding at Ward's head.

"Leave Maya alone" she said with a frown.

"Well, well the red flea came to rescue the deaf girl" Ward scoffed, turning around with a look of rage, Maya completely oblivious in the background took the opportunity to slink away from the scene.

"Stop picking on others, no one has done anything to you."

"Well, now you hit me with the ball so you did something to me."

He came dangerously close to her and before she could react and run he had thrown her to the ground and Sprite was trapped like so many times before. Before Ward had a chance to do anything, possibly hit her, someone had pushed him away from her and Maya was helping her to her feet.

A girl, who she didn't know, was on top of Ward and was hitting him and to her surprise the girl seemed to be winning the fight.

"Are you okay?" Maya caught his attention to ask him the question.

"Yeah I'm fine, are you okay?"

"Yeah, that's Kate, she'll take care of Ward."

Suddenly Ward and Kate were being separated by several teachers and Sprite along with Maya found themselves taken to the principal's office. The two girls recounted what had happened, how Ward had started saying rude things to Maya, how Sprite had thrown the ball at her to stop him from bothering her, how Ward had pushed her and Maya had run to Kate for help and how Kate (who seemed to have been looking for an excuse to hit the boy) had jumped on him before he could hit Sprite and had started fighting with the boy to stop him from getting up to chase the two first grade girls. Back in the principal's office Sprite finally found the courage to reveal to him and the teachers all the things Ward had been saying to her for weeks and all the other bad things the boy had done against her and her friends.

Ward had tried to defend himself, he had an annoyed expression and a bloody nose, but there were too many witnesses to corroborate Sprite and Maya's story. Although Ward would be the one paying the biggest punishment, Sprite and Kate also had their own and although Thena had been called to pick her up (her punishment was that she would be suspended for the rest of the day and would not have recess for the rest of the week) she was quite happy with how it had all turned out.

. . . . . . . .

Thena had come to expect anything from her siblings, Ikaris had been in more fights than she could count and Druig had a temper that made her not doubt that sooner or later he would be involved in something he had no business being involved in but she had never expected to get a call that Sprite had been involved in a fight. Sprite, his little sister who liked to ignore people when she was angry, who liked to hide and stop talking if she was upset, there was no way Sprite, her Sprite had been involved in a fight. But the triumphant smile on her sister's face when she saw her sitting in the hallway outside the office waiting for her let her know that indeed her little sister had been in a fight.

The smile fell from the girl's face as soon as she saw her sister's expression, but Thena could read perfectly well that her little sister had not the slightest remorse for having done whatever it was she had done.

"What happened?" she asked coming to her sister's side, the girl bit her lip and shrugged.

"The principal said he was going to tell you" she finally answered getting nervous, Thena really looked upset.

Again she got a huge surprise when talking to the director, Sprite had indeed been in a fight but there was a whole story as to why her sister had been in said fight. Thena wasn't really mad, she was proud of her sister, she had stood up for her friend and told on the boy who had been picking on her for weeks. She really felt bad that she hadn't noticed before that Sprite had been going through it, but she was really proud that she had had the courage to tell on her bully.

"Let's go" Thena offered her hand as soon as she had left the office. "I'm going to drop you off with Ajak, Gill will pick you up later."

"Are you mad at me?" she asked when they had left the building "I'm sorry."

"I'm not mad at you Sprite, but we'll talk about it later, okay? I have to get back to work and this is not a conversation we should be having in the car."

"You're really not mad?"

"I'm really not."

"You can't tell Ikaris or Druig."

"Why not?"

"Because Kari says that Ikaris doesn't like Ward's brother."

"Okay, we'll talk about that later."

"Did the director tell you that Kate hit Ward and gave him a bloody nose?"

"No he didn't tell me, who is Kate?"

"Maya said she's her friend, they go to karate together."

"That's interesting, wouldn't you like to learn karate?" she could possibly guess her sister's answer, but it still didn't hurt to try.

"No, I don't like to fight and Maya said that's what they do in karate."

"Not really, you learn to defend yourself not fight."

"That's what I have you"

Thena smiled and dropped the subject, Sprite had zero interest in sports, something that was the same case with Druig but she was keen to sign her up for some other activity but would probably need a lot of convincing to get that. The rest of the trip to the hospital was spent in silence, Ajak was waiting for them at the entrance and greeted the girl with a smile and a promise that they would have a lot of fun while Gil picked her up. Thena promised to call her later to explain what had happened with Sprite and thanked him again for taking care of her sister for a few hours.

Ajak took the girl's hand and led her to his office. It was a quiet day and she didn't have any patients scheduled for several hours so she could entertain Sprite until Gil could pick her up. Sprite wasn't sure she wanted to spend time at the hospital, but Ajak had decided to give her a little tour of the place and she had to admit that she had met some pretty funny people along the way. The woman listened carefully to everything that had happened and offered the same advice as Makkari, if someone was bothering her at school she had to tell someone, her teacher, her siblings or her, as they would all be more than happy to help her. Sprite accepted that it felt good to say everything Ward had done to her but it still felt strange to be able to tell someone what was going on. Ajak had understood what she meant by that but had assured her that when someone made her feel bad it was good to ask for help.

. . . . . . . .

The topic of Sprite's fight did not cause too much commotion within the family, everyone agreed that Sprite was defending his friend and Druig insisted that the boy deserved it. Thena had not punished Sprite and had only told him that next time he had better find a teacher before starting a fight, besides telling him that it was not right to throw balls at people no matter how good his intentions were. Thena had agreed not to tell the boy's name to anyone but Gil and Ajak and Sprite had only confided the real story to Druig and Makkari. Druig was not very happy about the situation but accepted that it was not a good idea for Ikaris or Kingo to find out who it was that had been bothering the girl.

The next two days of classes Sprite enjoyed the company of Kate in her punishment. Kate was a very funny and kind girl and she had confessed to her that she had wanted to have an excuse to hit Ward for a long time and thanks to Sprite she had finally had it. She had three older brothers and they had all been very proud of her since none of them liked Ward's older brother.

. . . . . . . .

Sprite was excited, she was finally going to attend one of Ikaris’ football games and although Druig didn't want to admit it he was also quite excited to see his older brother play for the first time. Thena and Gilgamesh would use the opportunity that everyone would be out watching Ikaris' game to have a date night, they hadn't been out alone in a long time and Ikaris didn't mind in the least that her big sister would miss one of his games when she would have four babysitters at her disposal for Sprite. Ajak would stay late at work but would try to at least make it for the end of the game.

"Remind me again why I'm carrying you?" Kingo asked as they walked up the bleachers looking for seats, Sprite was comfortably enjoying a piggy ride.

"Because you knocked out one of my teeth again and you don't want me to tell Thena it was you" Sprite replied, making Kingo let out a sigh. He loved Thena but he didn't like being on her bad side.

"Right, what more is your silence going to cost me?"

"We'll see, I think you have to convince us all not to tell Thena" Druig said helping Sprite off Kingo's back "she was pretty furious with you last time."

Kingo didn't respond as he knew Druig was right, Thena hadn't been too happy by the previous accident so he hoped no one would tell her that again, he had accidentally knocked one of Sprite's teeth out again, by accidentally pushing her against the wall while carrying a box Ajak had asked him to keep in the garage. Sersi had said she looked adorable and she could say to Thena that she lost it at school. Sprite was mostly happy at the thought that the tooth fairy was going to leave her money again.

"I didn't think I was going to find you all here" Hunter's voice startled them all, next to him were Mack, Hunter and Bobbie. "I take it this is the lovely Sprite."

The girl stuck closer to his brother as he saw the new people, Druig rolled his eyes at Hunter's words.

"Sprite this is Hunter, Bobbie, Mack and Clint, they wanted to meet you." Druig pointed to each of his friends as he said their names.
Sprite didn't respond, just stuck closer to his brother examining each one of the new people in front of her.

"She's a little shy, plus she doesn't want to talk too much because Kingo knocked her tooth out" Makkari said, managing to get a smile out of the girl.

"Oh please! It was supposed to be a secret" Kingo wailed, looking accusingly at Makkari.

"It wasn't supposed to be a secret since you only bought Sprite's silence, not anyone else's" Sersi added, making everyone present laugh except for Kingo who just sighed in annoyance.

Just as Druig had imagined he didn't understand anything that was going on in the game, Sprite was being entertained by Sersi who as always was patient enough to explain to the six year old how the game worked or at least tried to do it since Sprite was more focused on trying to guess which one was Ikaris. Druig spent most of the game talking in sign language with Makkari and Clint, both were trying to explain to him what was going on during the game but it was in vain, he couldn't even identify who his brother was among all the players but he appreciated the effort from the two of them.

By half time Sprite had already blackmailed Kingo to buy her a bag of popcorn and M&Ms, Druig and Makkari had taken the opportunity to ask him to buy them snacks, Kingo had accepted for fear that one of them would accuse him with Thena. As Druig had predicted, Sprite was falling asleep for the second half of the game, but as he had also expected, she refused to fall asleep because she wanted to see Ikaris.

Even though he couldn't quite understand much of the game and lost sight of his brother more often than he would like to admit, Druig was having a good time. He had never had the opportunity to hang out with friends like that before, even when Sprite was there he was enjoying the company of his friends without having to be completely worried about his little sister, he trusted Sersi to take care of Sprite. Despite being half awake Sprite still found in her the motivation to keep teasing Kingo about the tooth accident, she wasn't really mad at him for the accident but it was fun to tease him.

The game was finally over, Ikaris' team taking the victory, but they remained in their seats waiting for the stands to be empty before they could leave in search of Ikaris. Druig and Makkari's friends, who all wanted to see Ikaris interact with their little sister, couldn't wait to see the girl's reaction to seeing Ikaris next to Bucky.

Kingo again carried Sprite as they went downstairs, this time more out of necessity than for her liking as she was still fighting the sleep that threatened to put her to sleep before she could see Ikaris.

"Where is Ikaris?" she asked again when they had descended the bleachers and were at one end of the field waiting for Ikaris and the other players.

"He's on his way, you can wait a little longer" Druig said lowering her off Kingo's back, as soon as she was on the ground she hugged him "I'm not going to carry you, if I do you'll fall asleep."

Sprite snorted so she let go of him heading to her next favorite person, Sersi, who like her brother refused to pick her up knowing that she was capable of falling asleep at any moment.

"I can't wait to see Ikaris as a big brother" Hunter mentioned looking at Sprite who was quite busy asking Sersi if she could eat more candy.

"And I am not his little brother?" Druig asked arching an eyebrow

"You know it's not the same, you should see Bucky with Kate, he turns into a teddy bear with her" Clint added getting a chuckle from Mack

"Right, like you don't become the best big brother in the world when it comes to Kate" Mack annoyed him.

"It's not my fault that out of the three of us I'm Kate's favorite."

"Speaking of Kate, where is she?" Makkari asked, since all of Clint and Mack's family used to regularly attend all the games.

"She's grounded, she gave Christian Ward's brother a bloody nose, officially my parents are very disappointed in her, actually they are proud but they couldn't tell her that so her punishment was not coming today" Clint explained with a smile.

"Wait, your sister Kate is the same Kate that Sprite has been talking about for days?" Kingo asked getting Druig and Makkari to look at each other not realizing that all this time Sprite had been talking about their friends' younger sister. "Shit! Why didn't anyone say Sprite's fight was with Christian's brother?" Kingo had taken everyone's silence as confirmation.

"You owe me money" Sprite said, drawing everyone's attention, getting Kingo to growl, damn the rule about not cursing in front of her.

"I'll pay you tomorrow, but don't tell Thena" Sprite gave a thumbs up making him understand that she had heard him "Do you know how Ikaris is going to get if he finds out about this?" He asked looking at Druig and Makkari.

"That's why we didn't say anything, he mustn't find out" Makkari signed very fast so Sprite couldn't understand her " you can't say anything to Ikaris, he will try to kill Christian."

Before Kingo or anyone else could say anything else, the team players started to appear, finally Sersi was able to point out to Sprite where it was that Ikaris was and it wasn't until he saw them and started walking in their direction that Sersi let go of the girl so she could approach her big brother.

"Ikaris!" Sprite ran quickly into the arms of her brother who didn't hesitate to pick her up and hug her "I saw you playing!"

"You saw me?" he asked with a smile, managing to make the little group of friends speechless as they watched the serious Ikaris turn into someone else with his little sister "Did you have fun?"

"Yeah, Sersi helped me figure out the whole game" Ikaris looked at Sersi and murmured a soft 'thank you' in her direction "look, Kingo knocked another tooth out of my mouth"

"You weren't supposed to tell him!" Kingo complained loudly, managing to make everyone laugh.

Chapter Text

Sprite and Kingo began to argue over the fact that she had just revealed the accident to Ikaris. Kingo claimed that she had promised not to say anything but Sprite said that she only promised not to tell Thena and Ajak, she never said anything about not telling her older brother. In the end Kingo gave up and left it to his fate that no one was going to tell Thena the truth.

Everyone's friends, as some of Ikaris' teammates had approached the small group, were quite surprised at the stoic boy's interaction with his little sister. Sprite lay comfortably in his brother's arms as the teens chatted about the game and other things. Kingo had a lot to say about how he had managed not once, but twice to knock a tooth out of Sprite's mouth. Neither Druig nor Ikaris used to share much about their little sister with their respective friends, in fact Ikaris' friends didn't even know his little sister's name until that moment, he was an extremely private person and if they knew he had a little sister it was because they knew Druig was his brother. He had never given an explanation as to why he had never mentioned before that he had two more siblings but Druig's accent seemed to be enough for everyone to think that they had just moved to the country not too long ago.

"Sprite come here, there's something I want to show you" Kingo said with a smile taking the girl's hand to turn her around so she wouldn't see Ikaris.

Clint had practically begged to see Sprite's reaction and after being shown a picture of Bucky, Druig agreed that they had to see Sprite's reaction to seeing his older brother's almost twin. Ikaris wasn't too happy about the experiment but Druig had to ask him a few times before he finally agreed. Bucky rolled his eyes as soon as Clint pushed him into position next to Ikaris, he had been practically hiding next to Steve even though he himself was eager to see the girl's reaction.

Kingo finally turned Sprite so that she could see Ikaris and Bucky face to face, the expression of confusion on her face was immediate and the first thing she did after several seconds of looking at the two without saying anything was to turn to see Druig completely puzzled.

"It's okay Sprite, this is Bucky he's a friend of Ikaris" Druig explained placing a reassuring hand on her man.

"But they look the same" she complained.

"Yes, they look quite alike" He agreed, trying not to laugh at the look on his sister's face. Everyone else was trying to contain their laughter at seeing the girl so confused.

Sprite frowned and folded her arms in annoyance, finally getting everyone to burst out laughing.

"What do we have here?" a voice made some of the group members turn around to see who it was that had approached "so this is the girl that got my brother suspended".

Christian Ward walked over to where Druig and Sprite were standing, the girl immediately took a step backwards, clinging to her brother who grabbed her by the shoulders trying to pull her behind him. Before anyone could say or do anything Ikaris had stepped in front of her brothers and placed a hand on Christian's chest, stopping him from advancing.

"Get out of here Christian, you know better than to come and bother my family."

"When your family messes with mine I have to take matters into my own hands, your stupid sister got my brother suspended."

"Your brother deserved it, you'd think at least your parents would have the decency to teach you two that women are to be respected" To Ikaris' credit he didn't even flinch when he found out that the boy Sprite had fought with was none other than Christian Ward's younger brother. Druig cursed under his breath at having to explain the truth to his older brother now. "Get out of here before I make you leave."

Christian took another step closer, staying dangerously closer to Ikaris. "Make me!"

Ikaris swung at him, it took only a second for the other to realize what had happened before he lunged at him too. Kingo had been quick to push Druig and Sprite away before the two boys hit them by accident. Druig looked perplexed at the scene in front of him, everyone was watching the fight not knowing what to do, but Sprite's whining brought Druig back to his senses.

"Ikaris! Stop!" Sprite was clinging tightly to his shirt and he didn't need to look at her to know how scared she must be. "Sersi" he called to the girl who immediately understood what he wanted and grabbed the girl by the shoulders turning her around.

"Shh Sprite, it's okay" Sersi hugged the girl to her chest trying to keep her from watching the fight.

Druig looked at Kingo for help but before he could even think about it the chaos had increased, Christian's friends had arrived and although they had not yet intervened in the fight he could not help but tense up at what could possibly happen. The others were all alert but none had made any move to try to stop the two boys in the fight, on the contrary Ikaris' friends seemed to be preventing the newcomers from intervening.

"You have to stop him," he finally said looking at Kingo.

"I can't, he doesn't like anyone intervening in his fights."

"Sprite is here, I don't care what he says, she doesn't have to see him like this."

Kingo finally seemed to get his point and looked only at Bucky and Steve who immediately understood and moved in to separate the two boys (Steve didn't approve of Ikaris methods but he had no intention of messing with the boy and his methods of taking care of his family).
The problem was that neither was willing to give in, it wasn't until Kingo said something that Druig couldn't hear that Ikaris seemed to react and allowed the others to step in to separate them. Kingo immediately approached Ikaris to begin speaking in whispers to him as Steve pulled him away from a badly beaten Christian. Bucky with the help of Mack and Clint threw him to his friends and forced them to leave.

Finally Ikaris broke free from Steve's grip and grabbed Druig by the arm, starting to pull him away from the group of friends. Makkari tried to go after them but Kingo stopped him, starting to sign quickly to tell him that the two of them needed to talk.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean for Sprite to see something like that, I'm really sorry Druig" The younger of the two stared at his older brother, he hadn't expected an apology from him, even he could see how hard it was for him to be apologizing.
He had barely opened his mouth to say anything when two small arms wrapped around his waist. Sprite had wrapped her arms around him and he could see Sersi coming up behind her mortified that the girl had managed to escape his side.

"It's okay Sprite" he said, stroking the girl's hair and giving Sersi a reassuring smile "everything is okay".

"I want to go"

"We are going home now Sprite" Ikaris said, making the girl flinch at the sound of his voice.

The two brothers looked at each other not understanding the girl's reaction, so Druig knelt down so he could look her straight in the face.

"What's wrong?"

"He was like him" she muttered in Irish so Ikaris wouldn't understand what she was saying "he was like father".
Druig stared at her in horror for several seconds before he controlled his expression and looked up at Ikaris who looked truly sorry for everything that had just happened. The next thing he was going to say to his sister would carry great weight in their relationship.

"No, he wasn't like that, he's not like that" he finally corrected her "Ikaris was just trying to take care of us, he loves you very much and he would never do something like that".

"But he hit the boy"

"Because that boy is not a good person and maybe he was going to try to do something bad and Ikaris was just protecting us."

"But he hit him"

"There is a difference" he sighed, he had to think very well about what to say to his little sister to make her understand that Ikaris had no bad intentions. He began to speak in English, even though she knew her native language well he didn't want to run the risk of her misunderstanding anything he was going to say to her, English was a safer language where he knew there would be no mistakes in what she would understand. "What you and I know were to hurt us, the ones Ikaris did were to take care of you, do you understand?"

"Sprite?" Sersi approached looking straight at Druig waiting for him to nod so she could go on with what she had planned to say "remember your friend Kate? You said she practices karate, karate is a martial art where there are hits, the boy who pushed you did it to hurt you and your friend kate used it to defend you, it's the same thing Ikaris did."

The girl seemed to understand Sersi's explanation better as she finally nodded. They stood waiting for her to add something else but she didn't so Druig pulled her close to him to murmur something in her ear to which she nodded.

Sprite turned and approached Ikaris to hug him, he hesitated a little before picking her up in his arms but both Sersi and Druig urged him to do it. The girl gladly embraced her brother, leaning her head on his shoulder. Kingo and Makkari sensing that everything had calmed down finally approached them, their friends had left a few minutes before and had sent their farewells with the two of them as they did not want the conversation that the siblings had.

"Let me see" Sersi approached Ikaris to check her face "does it hurt?"

"Not now Sersi" he said, taking her hand to pull it away from his face "later" Sersi looked at him for several seconds but nodded without pulling her hand away.

"Well, who tells me how we are going to explain this to Ajak?" Kingo finally asked "or rather, how we are going to make sure that little bell doesn't give us away".

At another time Sprite would possibly have reacted to the nickname but she didn't even flinch, Druig could see she had her eyes closed though he was sure she wasn't asleep.

"I'll take care of that, come here I know you're not asleep" he said, taking his sister from Ikaris' arms to put her on the floor "you can't go to sleep yet, we're going to go buy some ice cream."

Sprite grunted in annoyance as soon as Druig forced her to stand up but the promise of ice cream was enough for her not to say anything else. The others saw him thinking he was crazy but he knew his sister well, he knew what he was doing.

It turns out that Druig did have a good plan to convince Sprite to keep quiet, he spent the whole way telling him how important it was that Thena and Ajak didn't find out that Ikaris was in a fight or he would be punished, and how Ikaris being a big big brother would let her paint his nails any color she wanted, and that Kingo would also let her paint his nails since he still felt guilty about the tooth and that Sersi, Makkari and he would take her to the library the following Friday for story time. Basically he promised her several things that would not cost any of them to fulfill (maybe Kingo and Ikaris would but that would be their problem) and that they would make her happy and convince her not to tell on them. By the time they were finally on their way back to Ajak's house, since Ikaris had told him that it was better to stay there so as not to run into Thena and Gil at some compromising moment, Sprite was fast asleep in her seat, just as Druig had foreseen and which was extremely indispensable for her not to turn them in.

They were already about an hour later than agreed so they only had to wait and hope that Ajak had not arrived home yet, but luck was not on their side this time because as soon as they parked the car a very angry Ajak came out to greet them.

"Pero qué horas son estas de llegar?" she scolded them although she did not raise her voice when she saw Ikaris carrying a sleeping Sprite "poor girl, traerla a estas horas de la noche en la calle, the poor thing should already be asleep in her bed, but no! no! they have their poor little sister paseando por ahi".

She continued with the scolding while Druig and Ikaris went upstairs with her to help her put Sprite to bed, the others waiting in the kitchen because they knew better than to try to run away from a scolding from their mother. Druig informed Ajak that Sprite had lost another tooth and as she grumbled that no one had told her before, she gave him a five dollar bill to place under her pillow. Sprite had barely awakened for a few seconds to allow Ajak to put on her pajamas but as soon as her head touched the pillow she was asleep again. The woman pointed out of the room and the two teenagers marched downstairs to the kitchen.

In Druig's opinion Ajak's scolding would be more effective if she said everything in English only but the woman was switching from Spanish to English so quickly that he was sure Ikaris wasn't understanding much of what she was saying, even Makkari seemed to be a bit lost even though the woman was signing as she spoke. After a final "I am very disappointed in you" she sent them all to their respective rooms to sleep .

. . . . . . . .

Ikaris was lying on his bed staring at the ceiling, too much had happened in the last few hours. He couldn't believe how stupid he was to start a fight when Sprite was present, his little sister had been through a thousand things and here he was going to hit someone in front of her, without a doubt he would win the prize for the worst big brother in history.

He was still having a pity party when he heard a knock on his door, at first he thought it was Kingo so he didn't move but when they knocked again he finally got up to open it, meeting Sersi face to face.

"May I come in?" she asked, to which he nodded, stepping aside to allow her access to the room "we didn't check your wounds, we just cleaned them."

It was a rather silly excuse, but Sersi was not reassured to know that all they had done was to hide the damage as best they could so Ajak wouldn't notice it, they hadn't properly checked the bruises.

Sersi guided Ikaris to his bed where she forced him to take a seat as she left the room in search of the first aid kit. She closed the door behind her and assured him that Ajak had already gone to sleep and that everyone else was in their respective rooms. He let her examine and care for his face without saying anything, she worked in silence without looking him in the eyes until it was time to see the bruises on his chest. They both froze without knowing what to do until Ikaris finally took off his shirt revealing some bruises along his chest.

"Thena is going to be mad if she finds out" Sersi commented starting to apply an ointment that Ajak used to use to treat the bruises.

"We can only hope she doesn't find out and that Sprite holds up her end of the bargain."

"Whether or not you're grounded depends on a six year old girl" Sersi smirked amused "how charming, I don't think she'll tell on you"

"I don't know, I wouldn't blame her if she did, I scared her."

"Ikaris..."

"No, don't tell me it's not true because it is, I can't understand them when they speak in another language but the look on Druig's face told me everything"

"Sprite is little and it's hard for her to process all these situations, her life changed quite a lot from one moment to another but I have no doubt that she loves you."

Ikaris did not respond and she continued with her work until she had finally finished. They remained silent, sitting next to each other not knowing what else to say.

"I think I should go, I'll let you rest" she stood up but he grabbed her arm to stop her.

Sersi stayed where she was feeling Ikaris stand behind her, he intertwined their fingers together and kissed her cheek.

"Thank you for your help."

She slowly turned so she could see him face him, their hands still intertwined, both of them staring at each other without saying anything.

"Is it okay if I kiss you?" he asked very close to her lips, she nodded.

It was a hesitant kiss at first, but as soon as they had parted they both knew that that kiss would certainly not be their last. They looked at each other for a few seconds before their lips met again, she wrapped her hands around his neck and he pulled her a little closer to him. They had danced around each other for a long time and finally they had taken the next step. They continued kissing until they needed to pull apart to catch their breath, Sersi's cheeks were red and Ikaris put a hand on her cheek caressing it gently.

She took his hand and directed him to the bed, they lay down next to each other, Ikaris began to kiss her face slowly, they probably shouldn't be doing that, their family was asleep a few feet away but neither seemed to mind as they continued to explore each other.

"Ikaris, what does this mean for us?" Sersi murmured before either of them lost a garment.

"Let's enjoy this first, we can think about the rest later" he said slowly kissing her neck "but we can stop anytime you want."

Sersi didn't respond, she just pulled him back to her so she could kiss his lips again .

. . . . . . . .

Sprite woke up confused, she didn't remember arriving at Ajak's house but feeling Druig next to her reassured her that everything was all right. He hugged her a little more against him and she happily snuggled closer to his side trying to fall asleep again but sleep had escaped her and in a few minutes she was sitting up releasing her grip on her brother.

"Druig it's morning" she said tugging his arm to wake him up.

"Go bother Ikaris" he mumbled without opening his eyes, ever since they had moved in with Thena he used to send Sprite to wake Ikaris if he still felt like sleeping some more.

Sprite frowned but got out of bed without another word, being as quiet as possible she walked down the hallway to her old room. Ajak's house had six rooms and of the two that were unoccupied one had belonged to Druig and the other to Sprite but she never slept there when they stayed with Ajak, she still preferred to sleep with her brother so the one who always ended up sleeping there, so as not to have to share the room with Kingo, was Ikaris. She slowly opened the door of the room trying not to make noise, walking as quietly as possible until she reached the bed but she got a huge surprise when she noticed that it was not only Ikaris who was sleeping in that bed.

"Sersi?" she asked in confusion, startling the two teenagers awake who looked at her in horror.

"Sprite!" Ikaris finally cried out as he realized that he wasn't dreaming and that really his younger sister was in front of them.
The girl looked at them with wide eyes before running out of the room.

"I'm so dead" he grunted getting back on the bed "Druig is going to kill me".

"Shouldn't you go to...?" Sersi's question hung in the air as Druig's voice was heard from the other room. They both looked at each other cursing internally, quickly getting to their feet and heading for the door.

Ikaris was the first to come out, Sersi staying just a few steps behind him. The first thing they saw was Druig coming out of the room followed by Sprite. He immediately saw them and growled.

"She was right" he growled, grabbing the girl by the shoulders and leading her down the stairs. Ikaris opened his mouth but Druig raised a hand to shut him up "I don't want to talk about this now".

Come breakfast time the four connoisseurs of the new "secret" couldn't help but glance at each other every few seconds. Ajak was still annoyed with all of them so he took the silence as a sign of regret from the teenagers while Kingo and Makkari looked from one to the other without understanding what had happened between the four of them.

Druig was quick to drag Sprite out of the house as soon as they were done, she swore she only saw Ikaris and Sersi asleep but he didn't need more to understand what they had done to end up asleep together and that was a conversation he didn't want to have with his older brother, he'd had enough of the awkward talk he'd had with Thena a while back. It was no surprise when Ikaris followed them out of the house and as soon as they were through the door Sprite ran upstairs in search of his big sister.

"Druig, we need to talk" Ikaris said as soon as he heard Sprite start talking to Thena and Gil upstairs.

"I don't want to talk about this Ikaris, really" he said feeling uncomfortable.

"But Sprite..."

"She didn't see anything and I already made up an excuse as to why..." he sputtered "That, but I really don't want to talk about it."

"Druig" he put a hand on her shoulder "I think that..."

"No! We're not going to talk about it" he said, turning away from him.

"Druig..."

"What don't you two want to talk about?" Thena asked with an arched eyebrow looking at them both waiting for an answer "What happened to your face?" she asked frowning and moving closer to him to take his face with one of her hands so she could examine it "Were you in a fight again?"

"No."

She arched an eyebrow in disbelief and without releasing him she turned to look at Druig waiting for an answer but he also refused. She narrowed her eyes looking at both of them in disbelief.

"What happened?"

Before either could answer they were saved by Sprite's shout. The three of them rushed to the kitchen where they found the girl looking at a large tank that wasn't there a day ago.

"Look! It's a giant lizard" Sprite said with a huge grin.

Both brothers turned to look at Thena completely confused as to why there was an iguana on the kitchen table.

"We were drunk when we made this decision" she explained with a shrug.

"You mean your date ended up in a pet store and you decided to buy an iguana?" Druig asked incredulously approaching the tank "don't put your hand in the tank" he said stopping his sister from doing something silly.

"I want to touch it" she complained

"That thing bites" he turned to see Thena "Do iguanas bite?"

"You're not going to touch it, it's not very friendly right now" Thena said moving closer to Sprite to make sure she wasn't going to stick her hand in the tank "We've done worse things when we've been out, be thankful it's an iguana, Gil persuaded me not to buy a snake or a dog"

"I thought you didn't like dogs" Ikaris asked, coming closer to better examine the tank with the iguana.

"I was in a state where I didn't know what I was doing."

"You could have brought a cat" Druig said.

"You like cats?"

"We had a cat in Ireland, we left it with my grandmother when we moved here."

"Your grandmother is still alive?" Thena asked incredulously, she remembered the woman fondly.

"Grandma Oona" Sprite added with a smile, she had seen several pictures of the woman but couldn't really remember her.

"Yes, Grandma Oona and I don't know, I haven't seen her since we moved here and I haven't spoken to her since my mother...we never heard from my family in Ireland again."

"Would you like to...have contact with them again?" Thena asked hesitantly

"I don't want to go live with them if that's what you want to know" he said looking at her with a smirk "I like living here, I'd just like to know how they are"

"We can work on that" she promised, squeezing his shoulder lightly with a smile.

Chapter Text

Druig was actually surprised that Sprite had given away several of the secrets she had promised not to tell, although in her defense, technically she hadn't broken any promises. When she had promised not to say anything about how Kingo had made her lose a tooth again, she had promised not to say anything to Ajak and Thena, no one had ever said anything about Gil. Sprite really hadn't intended to reveal that Kingo had knocked out her tooth, but that day she had been complaining about how uncomfortable and difficult it was to eat without her two bottom teeth and Gil had been pestering her about it until Sprite had said it was all Kingo's fault and had proceeded to tell Gil about the accident since she had never really said she wouldn't tell him. Gil for his part, not knowing that it was all a secret, had joked about it during Friday's family dinner, getting both Thena and Ajak to learn the truth. Kingo had to admit that they could have taken it worse, although she still ended up getting a big scolding from Ajak about it.

The second secret she had revealed was that Ikaris and Sersi had slept together. To Sprite that was what they had done but to everyone else that the girl had found them sleeping together in the same bed had a completely different meaning. She had said it accidentally while Ajak, Gil and Thena were talking about plans for the spring break, since Phastos and Ben would be accompanying them. They were discussing the arrangement of the rooms in the house they had rented and Sprite had innocently asked why Ikaris was not sharing a room with Sersi if they had already slept together. The three of them had looked at her for several seconds processing what she had just said. Thena was the first to react by asking Sprite to repeat what she had said, the girl had frowned and explained what she had seen and what Druig had told her. Thena was going to have a very long and uncomfortable conversation with her two younger brothers.

That night Thena greeted them with a very uncomfortable talk about sexuality, consent and a practical class on how to put on a condom using bananas. Ikaris had been annoyed during the whole talk and Druig had been completely uncomfortable and wanted to leave.
But if that wasn't punishment enough Ajak had gathered the five teenagers together to give them a power point presentation on sex and relationships.

All of that had culminated in Ikaris and Sersi formally dating, to no one's surprise. Ikaris had been upset to learn that everyone in the family had bets on how long it would take for them to start dating, more so when she found out that Thena had been the winner by betting that they would end up together before he left for college.

Other than that the next few weeks had passed without any major events, Thena and Gil's new pet had been named "Olympia" although Ajak insisted on calling her anything but that, going from "the lagartija" (lizard) to "Juana the iguana".

Sprite was absentmindedly playing with her breakfast, Ajak wanted to tell her to stop and start eating but held back the moment he saw her finally take a bite. The poor girl had spent the last two days with a cold, it hadn't been anything serious but it had kept her from going to an Ikaris game the day before which wouldn't have been such a problem if the five teenagers hadn't taken advantage of her not going so they could go to a party after the game. So Sprite was upset with everyone, but since she was feeling sick she hadn't had the strength to be really upset with them, especially when Sersi and Makkari had given her a new Squishmallow to try to make up for them leaving her alone (her name was Reina and she was a teal butterfly that she liked to draw).

Still Sprite had woken up in a bad mood and even the delicious breakfast Ajak had prepared for her didn't seem to help lift her spirits.

"Aren't you hungry? Are you still feeling sick?" Ajak finally asked after watching her play with the food again.

"I feel fine."

"Then why aren't you eating?"

She shrugged, she wasn't particularly hungry at the moment. "When is Phastos going to arrive?"

"In a few minutes, it shouldn't be long, are you excited to go to the beach?"

"I think so, Druig said in Ireland we lived near the beach and my mom drove us all the time."

"Really? That sounds great, why don't you finish your glass of milk at least? You can eat some more when the others wake up."

"They are going to take hours to wake up" she complained.

"If you're hungry you can finish your breakfast, you don't have to wait for them."

She snorted in response and went back to putting a bite in her mouth, maybe she wouldn't be hungry but she didn't feel like waiting for the others. Sprite was finally halfway through her breakfast when she finally heard the car pull up.
Thena and Gil had gone to pick up Phastos and Ben at the airport, they were all going to spend a weekend at a beach house the next day as Ajak insisted they had to do something fun for spring break.

"We brought donuts and some guests" Gil announced, walking into the kitchen with several boxes of donuts.

"I want one!" Sprite said immediately with a smile.

"You haven't finished your breakfast" Thena said, stroking Sprite’s hair as she walked by "How are you feeling?"

"In the mood for a donut!"

Sprite said, making Thena smile as Ajak cheerfully greeted the newcomers. Phastos and Ajak remained in each other's arms for several seconds until finally the woman let go and hugged Ben.

"Can I have a donut? Please" Sprite asked his sister again.

"Say hello to Phastos and Ben first."

The girl nodded, finally standing up and approaching Phastos to let him hug her with a big smile. The two of them were still having their little conversations on the phone but Phastos knew well that she would get a little shy being in front of him so he just gave her a short hug and tousled her hair affectionately.

"I love your braids."

"Kari made them" she glanced sideways at Ben and just gave him a wave with her hand before returning to her spot "Can I have a donut now?"

"Yes you can, come pick one" Gil said motioning for her to come over to him to pick it up and sit it on the counter "just one, Thena is watching us" he mumbled the last thing to make the girl laugh who couldn't help but look at her sister who shook her head several times in amusement.

"So, where is everyone else?" Phastos asked, finally taking a seat next to Ben and Ajak at the kitchen table.

"Sleeping, they went to a party last night and came back pretty late."

"I'd say we got back pretty early today" Druig said walking into the kitchen, he still seemed to be half asleep "Good morning" he mumbled without particularly seeing anyone, heading over next to Sprite so he could take her donut from between her hands "I'll give you some of mine" he hurried to say before she complained.

"And I should think you went to a party of your own free will?" Phastos asked, managing to catch the attention of the boy who seemed to finally notice her presence.

"They forced me to go, more like kidnapped me to go" he said with a mischievous grin "nice to see you Phastos, Ben"

"Nice to see you too Druig"

Gil made Druig go sit at the table, he was sure he would finish the donuts on his own if he let him stay by the boxes. Sprite was quick to follow his brother and while Ajak and Gil prepared breakfast for everyone, the people at the table were engaged in conversation. By the time the other teens appeared in the kitchen Druig had been banned from eating any more donuts after almost finishing one of the boxes on his own.

. . . . . . . .
Druig was waiting for the other shoe to drop, they had been on the road for two hours and still had about two more to go. He could see how little by little Sprite was getting more and more restless as each minute passed. The trip had started off well, Thena had packed a ridiculous amount of things to keep the six year old entertained from coloring books to an ipad and headphones in case the crafts weren't enough. Everything had started off well, Sprite was more than happy to have a variety of art supplies to draw on, Ajak had gotten some sort of table for her to draw on, she had easily spent the first hour of the trip drawing, but little by little he could see how drawing in a car stopped seeming like fun. The crayons fell off if she didn't put them in the right place, the marker caps ended up on the floor and he had to constantly pick them up, there were times when even the table didn't help to keep the sheets from moving, small things but for a six year old they were huge.

And then Kingo had started to bother her, it was no secret that Kingo had an influencer complex, yes he had a lot of followers on tiktok and instagram but still no one in the family really considered him an influencer, so when he started taking pictures to upload to his instagram stories logically he had tried to take a picture of Sprite, something that the girl had not taken well at all. The two had started fighting, Druig had joined in and Ajak had had to threaten to stop the car and send one of them to the car with Thena and Gil. It had worked, maybe for half an hour before Kingo started up again. Sprite still hadn't noticed, she was too busy doodling angrily all over the sheet to see Kingo's cell phone rising just enough to snap her picture, he was sure it would all go to hell as soon as she noticed, if her furious drawing wasn't a sign of how necessary it would be for them to make a stop along the way, he didn't know what would.
Druig and Makkari were having a very intense game of chess on a mini magnetic board when chaos finally broke out.

"Stop Kingo!" Sprite had shouted, she had finally noticed Kingo and his cell phone "Stop!"

"It's just a picture Sprite, smile" he said with a smirk.

"No, stop!"

Logically Kingo didn't stop and continued to pretend he was really taking a picture of the girl, managing to end what little patience she had left. The moment Druig saw the tears forming in her sister's eyes she knew this was already a lost cause. She picked up one of the pencils in front of her and he could clearly see her intentions, so he quickly grabbed her hand to stop her from throwing the pencil at Kingo. If it wasn't because they were in a moving car he would have happily let her try to hurt his older foster brother but they were in a moving car so it wasn't a good idea to let her throw things, as much as Kingo deserved it.

"No, you can't throw pencils at Kingo" he reprimanded her finally getting her to burst into tears "excellent Kingo, thank you very much".

"It's just a picture!" Kingo tried to defend himself but Ajak was already looking at him in the rearview mirror with an angry look on her face.

"And she told you she didn't want a picture and you didn't listen to her!"

With Makkari's help they both managed to remove all the art supplies from in front of Sprite, she was having a meltdown and Ajak had told them to wait five more minutes that they could stop shortly to get something to eat (and yell at Kingo properly) but that Sprite couldn't get out of her car seat and would have to stay seated until the car stopped no matter how much she wanted to get up to go to her brother to comfort her.

It probably hadn't been five minutes before they finally stopped, Sprite had calmed down a bit although she was still crying, Kingo was almost sunk into the seat fearful of Thena's reaction and Makkari had managed to beat Druig at the game.

Ajak was the first to get out of the car, followed by Phastos and Ben, Kingo was reluctant to get out but one look from his mother was enough to make him almost run out of the vehicle. By the time Thena approached to see what was happening, Druig had unbuckled Sprite and the girl had practically jumped into her big sister's arms.

"Excellent way to start the family vacation" commented Ikaris, earning an angry look from both women. The boy looked at them apologetically and wrapped an arm around Druig's shoulders "What happened?"

"Kingo" He said and that was enough explanation.

Ajak finally got everyone else inside while Thena tried to calm Sprite down, Ajak would also need some time alone to yell at Kingo for causing this but she would surely do so when they reached their destination.

Thena led Sprite to a nearby bench and made her sit next to her. The girl was still crying but the blonde couldn't tell if it was out of anger or some other reason.

"Tell me what happened Sprite"

"I want Druig"

"Druig is waiting for us inside with the others, but you and I are going to talk a little" she stroked her hair moving some of it away from her face "What did Kingo do?"

"He was taking pictures of me and I said no and he didn't listen to me".

"I see" Thena really wanted to hit Kingo sometimes and this was one of those times "But why are you crying?"

"Because he didn't listen to me" Sprite swung her legs up onto the bench and hugged them to her chest "no one ever listens to me"

"I do care what you say, why do you say no one listens to you?"

"Father never did, when I asked him to stop punching Druig."

"Kingo is not him..."

"Why do you always call him 'him'?" Sprite interrupted her curiously, Thena cursed internally at the ability she had to try to deflect the subject.

"I don't like to talk about him, or even say his name."

"But in Harry Potter, Hermione said that being afraid of the name only grows fear of the thing."

"Are we quoting Harry Potter or are we talking?" she asked, arching an eyebrow.

"I don't know, are we?" Thena laughed at hearing her and stroked her cheek.

"Kingo didn't mean it in a bad way, he was just teasing you, why do you think he made you so angry? Besides what you just told me."

"I'm tired of sitting and riding in the car, all the things fall and move and it's still a long way to go and I miss our home" she complained leaning against her "the beach is so far away"

"You could have told Ajak that you were feeling a little tired from sitting and we could have stopped sooner, if you don't say what you need we won't be able to know little one."

"I don't like to ask."

"I know, and we'll work on it, ok?" Sprite nodded "Now let's go get something to eat, I think you earned an ice cream for doing your best this trip."

Sprite smiled and stood up, the promise of ice cream was enough to lift his spirits.

Chapter Text

Druig went into the kitchen rubbing his eyes, he was still quite sleepy but sleeping in the same room with Kingo was an experience he didn't want to repeat. The house they had rented for their little vacation was quite large, everyone had their own bed and although the original plan was not for Druig to sleep in the same room as Kingo things had changed as soon as Ajak had gone to sleep. Kingo had dragged Druig and Ikaris to watch movies until late in the morning, he had tried to excuse himself by saying that Sprite would surely not sleep without him but his little sister had betrayed him by falling asleep next to Makkari without his knowledge so he had no choice but to agree to join the other two in their room to watch movies. In his opinion the Sharknado saga was something he could have lived without but thanks to Kingo he had ended up watching almost the entire saga.

"Good morning" Thena greeted as soon as he entered the kitchen "Is Sprite still asleep?"

"Good morning, I thought she'd be here" he murmured taking a seat next to Phastos "She fell asleep in Sersi and Makkari's room."

"And she didn't go looking for you?"

"We stayed up until three in the morning, I don't think she ever woke up."

"The poor thing must have been very tired" Ajak said, placing a plate in front of him and stroking his cheek "what were you doing up at that hour?"

"Kingo wanted to watch the whole Sharknado saga, I don't know how many but I watched more than I needed to."

"So where did you sleep?"

"With Ikaris" he mumbled "I don't know if they both finished watching the movies, I fell asleep somewhere in the third or fourth one."

Thena looked at him with an arched eyebrow but didn't comment as she placed a glass of juice in front of him. She disappeared from the kitchen to go find Sprite leaving Druig under the curious gaze of Phastos and Ben.

"I thought your sister didn't sleep without you?" Phastos asked, watching the teenager eat.

"She started sleeping alone since Thena bought her new bed."

"Right, she told me about her new bed."

Druig looked at him curiously but said nothing, Sprite rarely talked about her conversations with Phastos but he knew they had them, he was a little intrigued by the relationship the two seemed to have but he had never really questioned Sprite about it. Phastos always seemed to be careful about what he said in front of him and he didn't understand why that was when Druig really liked Phastos and had never indicated otherwise.

Thena appeared a few minutes later announcing that Sprite was awake but that Makkari was braiding her hair and that it wouldn't be long before they came down. Phastos, Ben and Druig were the only ones eating by the time Sprite finally appeared in the kitchen, Druig guessed that Gil, Thena and Ajak had eaten breakfast before he came down.

"Good morning" Phastos was the first to greet Sprite and the girl only grunted in response, immediately turning to Druig with an angry look.

"Where were you?" she asked, crossing her arms and standing up in front of him.

"Here" he replied trying to contain the smile that was threatening to form on his face "having breakfast."

"Before here"

"Sleeping, just like you" She was about to turn away annoyed when he finally pulled her to him to keep her from leaving. "I fell asleep in the room with Ikaris and Kingo, did you go looking for me in the night?" she shook her head, annoyed enough not to speak "then why are you angry? "She didn't say anything but she stirred trying to get him to let go, making him chuckle as he hugged her "I went to get you and you were asleep, Kari and Sersi said you could stay with them, I didn't want to wake you up, but today I promise you can sleep with me, how about that?" he murmured speaking in Irish so only she would understand. She nodded, finally calming herself in his arms. "Am I forgiven?"

She didn't answer but turned enough so that she could hug him quickly before releasing him and going to sit in the chair next to him. Thena looked at him as she set a plate of food in front of Sprite, he just shrugged his shoulders without answering anything and they would talk about it later. They had both noticed the very subtle change in the girl over the last few weeks, maybe she wasn't so insistent about having to be in the same room as her brother but she had become a little paranoid about having to know where he was at all times. It didn't make sense when she had stopped sleeping in the same bed as him since Thena had bought a bed in her favorite color for her room (who knew there was such a thing as a teal bed).

By the time everyone had finally finished breakfast the plans for the day began to be discussed. Someone would have to go shopping for the groceries and things that were needed for their stay in the place, Ajak was the one who would probably be in charge of going, Thena offered to go with her so that Gil could rest a little or go to the beach with the others if he wanted to. Phastos and Ben decided that they would accompany Ajak and Thena on their little shopping trip.

"Kingo and I want to go to the beach, we can take Sprite with us" Makkari asked looking at the girl with a smile who was quick to nod in agreement.

"Can I go with Kari?" the girl asked Thena with imploring eyes "Please."

"I can go with them, I'll bring a chair, a book and I can watch them while I relax" Gil offered, kissing his wife's hand.

Thena accepted and as soon as she did Makkari was already dragging Sprite out of the kitchen, possibly to help her into her bathing suit.

"Are you going with them?" his sister asked, looking at him expectantly at his lack of comment, he only shrugged in response.
She had noticed his lack of excitement at the trip to the beach, she could only think that the only reason he was reluctant to go to the beach was the memories he must have with his mother, she couldn't blame him, one of the few happy memories she had of their summers in Ireland was when his mother took them to the beach.

"You can come with us, Sprite will be fine with Gil and Makkari."

"And Kingo" added Phastos trying to hold back a smile.

"Kingo will be lucky to remember how easy it is to hide a body in the water."

Kingo didn't need any more to come up with a meaningless excuse before he got up from the table and left, making everyone else laugh. Thena was still annoyed with him for making Sprite cry.
Ikaris and Sersi got Ajak and Thena's permission to go for a walk on their own, Thena being zero discretion in reminding her brother that she didn't want to be an aunt yet, getting Sersi completely red-faced at the comment.

"Why are you still in your pajamas?" Sprite appeared again completely ready to go to the beach.

"Because..." Druig looked nervously at Thena, pleading for help.

"He's coming with me to the store, I'm going to lend you Gil and you're going to lend me Druig" Thena quickly intervened trying to save the situation, eventually Druig would have to go to the beach but if he wasn't ready now he wouldn't have to go just for Sprite.

Sprite frowned and folded her arms looking at her older siblings, she didn't seem to like the idea in the least. Before she could give an answer Makkari tapped her shoulder several times to get her attention.

"Let's play pirates, we'll find a treasure and Kingo will be the monster" If there was one way to convince Sprite to drop a topic it was exactly this, she loved to play pretend and Kingo and Makkari used to be her best playmates, especially Kingo who loved the stories the girl made up.

"As in Peter Pan? Captain Hook?"

"Just like that, Kingo can be the crocodile."

Sprite nodded with a smile and accepted Makkari's offered hand, surely she would take it to find something that could work as treasure. Thena gave Makkari a smile of thanks before she left the kitchen with Sprite.

Ajak prepared everything needed for their visit to the beach, from snacks to towels and some clothes for Sprite if necessary. Thena had bathed the girl in sunscreen, her skin was too pale and she wanted to avoid having to deal with sunburn.

By the time the remaining family members boarded the car, Gil and company had already left for the beach, Sprite completely forgetting that her brother had decided not to accompany them.

The trip to the nearest Target passed in silence, Ajak was a Target lover as she claimed they always had everything she needed, Phastos, Ben and Druig rode together in the back, Druig took advantage of the short minutes to have a quick nap.

Phastos was surprised at the change in Thena, her relationship with Druig and Sprite was very different from her relationship with Ikaris and yet he could see a big change in her relationship with Ikaris as well, a very good change that had not been there since the last time he had seen them all in person. Thena was always very kind to Druig, she seemed to always look at him with affection and he seemed to be equally fond of her. He was happy for them, especially for Thena, he didn't know all that she had been through, possibly Gil was the only one who knew the whole story about her but it made him immensely happy to see her so happy and carefree.

Still Phastos had to accept that Druig could be quite a tease despite regularly having a serious face most of the time. Just now he was sure that Thena wanted to hit him to get him to stop teasing her. He was teasing her and try as he might he couldn't get a response from his sister other than to make her roll her eyes at him.

"You know I love you right?" he finally said when they were at the checkout about to pay. He said it in a somewhat unsure tone but with a small smile barely visible on his lips.

Thena again rolled her eyes but pulled him to her to hug him and kiss his forehead lovingly. She let him go but still held his hand and didn't let go until they were back in the car.

Phastos had watched the whole exchange perplexed, Thena was not known to express any public affection with anyone other than Gil and to see her so nonchalantly showing affection to her younger brother was quite a surprise to him, no doubt the arrival of the two of them in the family had been for the better.

They finally arrived home and just as they had expected the place was empty, Gil and the other three probably wouldn't be back for at least another hour and Ikaris and Sersi would probably be back in time for lunch.

Phastos had always enjoyed cooking and since Gil's arrival to the unusual family he had to admit that he had learned quite a bit from his surrogate sister's husband. So he and Thena were in the kitchen preparing lunch, Thena had sent Ajak to rest on the claim that this was also her vacation and that she could return the favor another time, she had also set Druig to help her prepare a salad so she had handed him a bowl of strawberries to start cutting although for every two slices he put in the bowl he ate another one.

"You know the point of chopping is that they end up on the plate, not in your mouth" Phastos commented getting him to smile.

"I know that" he said, shrugging with a grin on his face.

"Leave it, he always does that" Thena said from where she stood in front of the stove without even turning to look at them.

"And you let him do that?"

"He's a better help than Ikaris, if for that he has to eat some of the fruit that he would otherwise end up eating too I'll allow it."

"Always so very generous, my amazing big sister" the boy joked before popping a whole strawberry into his mouth.

"Don't make me regret saving you from going to play, what was it? pirates? with Sprite, Kingo and Makkari"

He didn't respond but chuckled a little before continuing with his task, Phastos looked from one to the other puzzled but decided better not to comment. By the time Druig had finished the strawberries and Thena passed him the next fruit, Ben had taken a seat next to the boy and the blonde had passed him some fruit to put him to work. To Phastos' surprise, his boyfriend and his new brother engaged in an easy conversation, he interjected a couple of times when Druig asked for his opinion on the subject they were talking about but generally the conversation was just the two of them.

"He looks very different from the boy I met at Christmas" Phastos murmured to Thena as he turned his back on the other two.

"They've both changed for the better, they've both come out of their shells, especially Druig" Thena looked sideways at her brother with a tiny smile "Sprite's always been like that, she's just a little louder now"

"You've changed too T, you look a lot happier and I'm glad about that"

She didn't respond but gave a very slight nod of her head so he understood that she had heard him.

Gil and the others were the last to arrive for lunch, Sprite and Makkari with a huge mischievous grin on each of their faces and Kingo with a very visible grimace of tiredness. Ajak was quick to send the three of them off for a quick shower so Gil was the one who happily let them know that, to no one's surprise, Sprite and Makkari had teamed up against Kingo and that more times than necessary he had had to let a wave hit him head on as Sprite had insisted that was part of the game since he was the monster. The result was a completely exhausted Kingo sleeping on the couch after taking a shower.

The bonfire was a tradition that Ajak had implemented for each of their trips to the beach, they didn't always go to the beach but when they went they always had to have a bonfire on the first and last day. It was certainly a very good tradition that had been implemented especially when Thena and Phastos had left for college, being all seated around the fire each one used to have their own time to update the others on the latest happenings in their lives, being such a big family sometimes it was a bit difficult for those who were not living in the house to keep up with everything that was going on within the family, especially when you had two people like Makkari and Kingo who always seemed to be doing something new.

So Ajak always insisted on having the obligatory first day campfire so they could talk freely, the last day campfire was simply to talk about the vacation they had just had and everyone's favorite moments from it.

Phastos had explained this tradition to Ben and he thought it was wonderful how his mother always went out of her way to create traditions for each of them and had found this creative way to make them all connect after he and Thena had gone off to college and gone months without seeing each other. He accepted that he was right, Ajak always cared about them and although he was sure organizing this kind of vacation would be difficult with everyone getting older, some going off to college and others working, it was a tradition he hoped they would never give up even if they didn't always have a bonfire to have such a special night.

He learned a lot from all his siblings, little details that he hadn't gotten to know since the last time he saw them all was Christmas, and even before that since the last time he saw them the arrival of Druig and Sprite into their lives was still something new.

Ikaris had been formally accepted to the University of Pennsylvania on an athletic scholarship and planned to study international business, he didn't explain much about it but Thena didn't hesitate to let it be known that she was very proud of her brother and made him blush a little for the compliment.

Kingo had been part of a play again, and he was just in talks with the rest of the theater club to bring a new play to the stage, he had a musical in mind but they had to see what they would end up deciding. Druig took the opportunity to joke that he didn't have to make the whole school suffer with his voice, a comment that earned him a playful bump on the shoulder from Makkari.

Sersi and Makkari didn't offer much, Sersi insisted that she was preparing hard to get good grades for college even though she had one more year of high school but she insisted she wanted to be prepared anyway. Makkari was still on the track team and was thinking about joining some other sport during the summer break.

Druig didn't offer much either, mumbling something about not having anything to tell and not wanting to think too much about the future, whether that was due to Ikaris' upcoming departure or the upcoming hearing on his and Sprite's guardianship, no one asked. Makkari just took his hand in hers and gave it a light squeeze to try to cheer him up a bit, making him smile immediately.

Sprite for her part took the opportunity to relate, in great detail (both real and imaginary) the accident of how she had lost her second tooth thanks to Kingo, something that he didn't think was a good idea for fear that Thena would decide to be angry with him again, but besides that she only said something about having an art exhibition on behalf of the club she belonged to but didn't give any more details to anyone, even though they all insisted on wanting to know.

Thena and Gil talked about their new pet, Gil telling the story of how Kingo, no less, had accidentally let it out of the tank and it was up to him, Ikaris and Makkari to catch it and put it back in the cage. Olympia apparently hated everyone but Thena and Gil so on the day of the escape it was quite an ordeal trying to catch her as neither of them were around. None of the teens were very happy with the story, especially Druig and Sersi who had ended up locking themselves in the bathroom at some point for fear that the iguana would come after them, Sprite on the other hand couldn't stop laughing at the memory of the incident, although she had stayed on the kitchen counter at all times (since she was afraid of the iguana) she had really enjoyed watching the other three run around the house trying to catch her, her favorite part being the moment when Olympia almost bit Kingo when he tried to grab her, and how he screamed as he ran off from the iguana.

. . . . . . . .

Phastos should remember that in a family as large as his, alone time was a luxury. He was having a rather intimate moment in the middle of the night with Ben when Druig walked into the kitchen, half asleep, to find them embracing, about to kiss. The boy had turned around and left the kitchen without saying anything, both men looked at each other not knowing what to say but Druig returned a few minutes later mumbling something along the lines of "sorry to interrupt" as he grabbed a glass of water and went back upstairs, he thought surely the glass of water would be for Sprite as he doubted he would have returned to the kitchen of his own free will if it wasn't for his little sister.

The next morning he found Druig sitting alone in the kitchen eating a bowl of strawberries, it was too early for him to be awake, in his opinion but who was he to judge when it was only eight in the morning and he was awake too.

"Good morning" he greeted without even looking at him, quite focused on the strawberries "sorry about yesterday, Sprite wanted water".

"It's okay, sorry for... you found us in that situation".

"It's not the first time something like this has happened to me, Ikaris and Sersi don't know what discretion is" he replied with a shrug, he had found Sersi and Ikaris in far more compromising situations than what he had seen the night before.

"So, am I invited to the wedding?"

The question took Phastos by surprise, they had been silent for several seconds, so he almost spit out his coffee upon hearing it. Druig mumbled a quick sorry as he tried to hide his playful grin while putting another strawberry in his mouth.

"What do you mean?"

"You look at Ben the same way my sister and Gil look at each other, so I'm asking if I'll be invited to the wedding."

"Would it be a problem for you?"

"What would be a problem? Going to a wedding? I like free food."

"I mean, me getting...married to Ben."

"Why would that be a problem? The question here would be why you wouldn't marry him, not that it's my problem but I think it would be very foolish of you not to, if you ask me" he paused for a moment "my mom never looked at him the way you and Ben look at each other or the way Thena and Gil look at each other, I'm just saying".

"You don't have a problem with me being gay?"

Druig looked at him perplexed for several seconds before letting out a laugh.

"Have you been acting weird this whole time thinking that I have a problem with that?" he asked trying not to laugh anymore "I don't know whether to be offended that you thought that or flattered that you're interested in knowing what I think about it."

"I'm being serious"

"Me too, I don't see any problem with that by the way, I don't think Sprite even knows that word, my mom" he paused, something he always used to do when referring to one of his parents "she always said that love is love, regardless if it's between two men or two women or whatever preference you have, I guess her preference was abusive men" he sighed "anyway, I hope to be invited to your wedding and still be around when that happens"

Without another word he stood up taking the bowl with him and left the kitchen without another word, leaving Phastos speechless.

Chapter Text

Thena took another sip from her wine glass, she was feeling quite overwhelmed. The last month had been quite difficult, she felt that she had failed and that she could have done something much earlier instead of waiting for something like this to happen, although Gil, her gentle Gilgamesh, had managed to help her accept that she was doing her best and that it was normal to make mistakes, no one is born knowing how to be a parent.

Sprite had been struggling a lot the last month, it had all started a few days after she had returned from vacation. At first Thena had attributed it to being back on her usual schedule, it had been pretty intense days that they had had at the beach, she had gotten used to having everyone present at all times and so she attributed her being so clingy with Druig at all times again to that, she thought it would go away after a few days but it only seemed to get worse. Sprite went back to sleeping in the same bed with her brother which really wasn't a big problem for both of them as they were used to that but what had become a problem was Sprite's nightmares.

It was something they had dealt with before, she used to have some nightmares but not to the degree she was having them now. What Druig or Thena could calm in five minutes before now took just over half an hour to get her back to sleep. The amount of sleep that not only Sprite was getting, but everyone in the house, was very poor. Druig was having a hard time getting back to sleep after Sprite woke up, it was Ikaris who let him know that Druig wasn't sleeping and therefore he couldn't sleep either as he felt his brother so anxious.

She didn't know if Sprite's other behaviors were due to her poor sleep quality or something else but the girl from one moment to another, besides being extremely clingy with Druig, used to snap at the slightest of things and the emotions went from extreme anger to crying, Sprite didn't use to cry at least not as openly as now but now the slightest thing could make her burst into tears. Sprite's crying was the reddest flag of all her new behaviors, her grumpiness, her anger, her need to hide and not talk to anyone was something everyone had dealt with before but the constant crying was something new.

Also her behavior had also changed regarding school, before she was happy to go but now it was a daily battle to get her to school. She refused to get out of bed, hid her things and had everyone looking for them in her attempt not to go and had even claimed to feel sick on more than one occasion before going or while already at school, Ajak had had to pick her up several times already and take her with her to work feeling magically better once she was away from school.

Another problem that had arisen thanks to the sudden change in Sprite was that it began to affect Druig. He along with Thena had been working on giving her the authority and responsibility that he used to have, he had been a father figure to Sprite for a long time and they were hard habits to break but ones that he was willing to give up to pass that role to Thena and Gilgamesh, the problem was that with the sudden change in Sprite, Druig found himself reverting to old habits as he felt that his sister was not taking well to trying to be solely his brother and not some sort of parent. He had openly admitted to Thena that he didn't know what to do but couldn't bear to see her like this so he had picked up some of his old habits unconsciously in his attempt to help her.

Ajak, like everyone else, had noticed the change in Sprite and had offered various advice and support for Thena on what to do, the woman had even tried talking to the girl hoping to find a reason for her behavior but it didn't seem to have worked as Sprite seemed to withdraw more and more into herself.

Eventually the answer to the problem comes to her thanks to Makkari. Somehow even though Sprite fully trusted all of her siblings she found comfort in revealing everything to Makkari. She had again wandered to Kari's room and curled up next to him without saying anything. Makkari thought she had fallen asleep as another of her new habits was to take naps randomly throughout the day to compensate for her poor quality of sleep, but Sprite had straightened up after several minutes and just like the first time she had come to her with her problems had begun to ask her questions until finally revealing the source of the problem to Makkari.

It turns out that Ward had started picking on her again and had somehow gotten two of Sprite's classmates to pick on her as well, keeping the girl in constant anxiety and being the reason why she didn't want to go to school. Sprite had talked it over with her teacher but there had been no change so she had decided not to tell anyone else as she had assumed nothing would change.

It was hard for Makkari to get Sprite to admit what it was they were telling her, she felt honored and with a great responsibility as she was the one Sprite had trusted so she didn't want to make her feel obligated to tell her everything that was bothering her, but it seemed that Sprite truly wanted to talk about the problem because after several minutes of thinking about it she told Makkari that what they were telling her that was affecting her so much was that they were saying things about her family. The taunts ranged from that she was adopted, that her family didn't want her, that her siblings were going to get rid of her, that Ajak and the others weren't her real family, things that she knew deep down were lies but still hurt her to hear no matter how much she tried to remind herself that none of it was true. Makkari couldn't believe that children so young could be so cruel.

Sprite didn't want to talk about it with anyone else but had given Makkari permission to tell Druig and Thena. When Makkari had revealed all that to them it was just a day before she had to go to a parent conference with Sprite's teacher so it would be a great time to broach the subject with the woman.

The conference had gone quite differently than Thena had thought, the teacher complimented Sprite on everything academic, she had perfect grades and was even reading two grades above, surprisingly Sprite was doing wonderful in her studies, the problem had been when Thena revealed to her what the girl had said to Makkari. The teacher agreed that she was aware of the problem and they had taken action on the matter, Sprite sat away from the kids that were bothering her during class and during recess the teacher used to try to be around watching what they were doing, but that had all been a week after the vacations and Sprite had not returned to tell the teacher that she was still having problems so the woman had simply assumed that all was well, the woman was sorry to hear that Sprite was struggling quite a bit and promised Thena to take action on the matter again.

Thena wasn't happy with what the teacher had said, she had discussed that with Gil and he had suggested that maybe Sprite would benefit from going to therapy, she had been through a lot and the bullying she was suffering at school seemed to be too much for her already. She agreed with the idea, she liked it, she had spent many years in therapy and she was sure Sprite would benefit from it, so just to be sure she went over the idea with Ajak who, like her, thought it was a very good idea. She thought about taking Sprite to her psychologist but remembered that he only saw teens and adults but still she didn't hesitate to make the call to the man looking for a suggestion on where to take the girl. He had recommended her to a child psychologist and assured her that her little sister would be in good hands, taking advantage of the call she made an appointment for herself and another one for Druig, she needed some help right now and it had been several months since she had an appointment, it would do her good and she was sure that Druig could also benefit from having someone to talk to. Sprite's appointment was tomorrow and she still hadn't discussed it with any of her younger siblings.

As if by fate Druig and Makkari hurried into the house, closing the door behind them as they tried to catch their breath.

"Are you two all right?"

Druig startled at the sound of her voice not expecting to see her sister there, Makkari looked at her with a nervous smile and turned to see Druig waiting for him to explain. Thena rolled her eyes at how they were practically having a conversation with only their gaze, those two truly a chaos together.

"We may have played a prank on Kingo and we may need somewhere to hide so he doesn't blame us."

"What did you do?"

"We put spray painted his hair" Makkari said proudly trying to contain her excitement "pink color"

"Of course, this is all a supposition, we really have been here all afternoon haven't we Kari?"

"Sure we have"

She rolled her eyes, it was good to see her brother so relaxed after the last few weeks so she would let it go "Where's your sister?"

"Ikaris and Sersi took her out for ice cream" he said, tensing up a little "We didn't know you had already arrived."

"I asked permission to leave early today, don't worry about it, I wanted to talk to you about something" she said standing up to put the wine away and set her glass in the sink. "It's nothing about the hearing, it's about Sprite" she said seeing how tense he had become "it's nothing bad."

"Can I wait in the living room? I don't want to go home now..." Makkari signed, looking from one to the other.

"You can stay here if Druig wishes, it's nothing I don't think he won't tell you."

They looked at each other with a small smile until finally Druig nodded. They both took seats on the kitchen stools, Thena had moved to stand on the other end so they were facing each other.

"I'm going to take Sprite to a child psychologist tomorrow, Gil suggested it and I think it's something that would help her a lot" she said bluntly waiting for his reaction "I wanted to talk it over with you before I talked it over with her, I don't know what your opinion is on the subject but I think she needs more help than you and I together have been able to offer her."

"I think it's a good idea" He admitted after a moment "When, when are you going to take her?"

"Tomorrow, you can come if you wish"

"Yes, I think I'd like to come" Makkari gave his shoulder a light squeeze, they looked at each other again until he finally smiled slightly.

"I also wanted to tell you something else" Thena said finally interrupting the little exchange "I'm going to go see my own psychologist, I haven't seen him in several months and I took the liberty of scheduling an appointment for you, you don't have to go if you don't want to but I think it would do you some good too"

"Alright, I'll go" he replied nonchalantly with a shrug "anything to help Sprite."

"This isn't about Sprite, it's about you, it's always good to have someone to talk to who sees things from a different perspective"

"What would you have done if I hadn't agreed to go or for you to take Sprite?"

"I would have canceled your appointment, although I wouldn't have canceled Sprite's as I think it's a bigger problem than I can fix, but we would have talked more about it until you and I came to a middle ground on the issue."

"Thank you" He said sincerely knowing she was taking his opinion into account.

"Good, now you two can go hide and pretend you didn't prank Kingo" she finally said, turning around to turn her back on them to head to the sink and start washing the dirty dishes before heading off to Ajak's house.
She listened to the two of them disappear upstairs, it would be quite an interesting dinner.

. . . . . . . .

Sprite hadn't really had a reaction to the news that they were going to an appointment with a psychologist, she had only asked what a psychologist was and then if they would have to go to a hospital to talk to him, after getting her answer that they wouldn't have to go to a hospital her only request was that Druig had to go as well, something that without a problem her brother had agreed to.

Thena seemed to be much more nervous than her younger siblings about the appointment, she had taken many things into consideration when scheduling it. It had to be on Friday because that way the next day Sprite wouldn't have to go to school and she could watch over her more during the weekend, also Friday was an ideal day since after the session they would go to Gil's restaurant, like every Friday, to have the family dinner and it was something that could help lift her spirits if the session didn't go well.

The car ride had been spent in silence, the only thing that could be heard was the sound of the Pop It that Ikaris had bought for Sprite the day before. It was as soon as they got out of the car that Thena would notice her little sister's apprehension about entering the building. She had squeezed her hand lightly and gave her a small smile trying to reassure her before finally heading inside the building.

Whatever it was she had expected to find in the office was not this at all, the place seemed to be a large children's play area full of colors and quite inviting, quickly attracting the six year old's attention.

"It doesn't look anything like what's on TV" Druig muttered next to her looking perplexed at the place.

Thena didn't respond but motioned for them both to go sit down while she talked to the receptionist, they had arrived ten minutes early so they would have to wait a bit before it was Sprite's turn to enter.
The curiosity to go explore the large waiting room was palpable in Sprite but even when Thena told her that if she wanted she could go look she didn't go for it, not even when Druig offered to go with her. Finally a smiling woman came out of one of the offices and called Sprite's name.

"I don't want to go in" She mumbled clinging to Druig's arm to keep him from standing up.

"Why not, Thena and I are coming with you, everything will be fine. Remember what Thena said, you're just going to go play while you talk to the lady" she shook her head "come on, the faster we get in the faster we can go, something tells me Gil will have several cookies ready for you by the time we get there."

The promise of the cookies seemed to work because she allowed Druig to lead her inside the office. The office was a rather cozy place, filled with toys and other things that would undoubtedly catch a child's attention.

"Good afternoon, my name is Pepper. It is a great pleasure to meet you all." The woman, Pepper, led them to a part of the room where there were several couches, directing them to take a seat.
Sensing Sprite's apprehension at even making an effort to sit down, Thena guided them to the largest couch where, with some coercion from Druig, Sprite sat down between her siblings.

"It's a great pleasure to meet you Sprite, your sister and I spoke on the phone and she told me a lot about you" The woman began to speak without losing the smile on her face even though Sprite was looking at the floor intently "What do you say we go over to the table over there and draw a little? I have lots of crayons and your sister told me you really like to draw, how would you like to draw a picture to put on one of the murals in the lobby?"

The promise of drawing seemed to catch the girl's attention who looked at her siblings before accepting the invitation and following the woman to the other end of the room and taking a seat at the table where a huge amount of art supplies could be seen. Thena let out the air she didn't know she was holding, she had expected Sprite to put up a bigger fight to having to even agree to do any of what the psychologist was saying, but she was relieved that the girl seemed willing enough to move even a few feet away from the two of them.

Pepper Potts had been working with children for many years, play therapy was in her opinion one of the best methods of getting little ones to talk. She had had a long talk with Thena about Sprite, she had told her the most relevant things about the child, her most recent problems and something very important to her, the things she liked to play with. Like Thena she had expected Sprite to be much more reluctant to accept to go away from her older siblings, she had noticed how reluctant she had been to even sit on the sofa so the fact that she had accepted without too much trouble to go with her was a good signal.

The woman handed a sheet of paper to the little girl and began to place in front of her a huge amount of colored pencils, markers, crayons so that she had a wide variety of items to work with.

"What do you say we start with a drawing of your family?" The woman had her own sheet of paper in front of her "I'll draw my family and you can draw yours, how about that?"

Sprite nodded and unhesitatingly took one of the pencils in front of her to begin drawing. Pepper discreetly turned to give Thena and Druig a reassuring smile. It took Sprite no more than five minutes to finish her drawing.

"What a beautiful drawing!" The woman fawned over the drawing with a big smile "Do you want to tell me who each of your family members is? Or do you want me to go first?"

"I can go first" she mumbled "this is Druig, he is my brother, he came with me today. This is Thena and Gil, Thena is my sister and Gil is Thena's husband, he makes the best cookies. This is Ikaris, he is also my brother but he and Thena have another mom" she was pointing one by one to the figures inside her drawing while talking about them "this is Ajak, she was my foster mom when Druig and I left our other house, she is Makkari she is deaf and we talk in sign language with her, she always teaches me new signs when I don't know how to say something. This is Sersi, she is Ikaris girlfriend, he is Kingo and he is funny and loud, Druig and Kari painted his hair pink" a little smile finally graced her face at the memory "This is Phastos and Ben, Phastos is in college and Ben is his boyfriend, he calls every day or almost every day, he is super smart."

"You have a big family Sprite, but you know you didn't draw your parents why didn't you?"

"Because I don't have parents, my mom died and we don't see him because he's mean."

"I see, and who is this little guy right here?" Pepper pointed to the small drawing of what she thought was a lizard

"That's Olympia, she's Thena's iguana, she's not very friendly but Ajak says she's family too even if she's a little mean."

"Don't you like Olympia?"

"She's okay, more so when she almost bites Kingo."

"Don't you like Kingo?"

"I like all my siblings, but Kingo is sometimes annoying."

"And what do you like about each of your siblings?"

"I don't know, I just like all of them, Makkari says we're all family even though we're not really."

"Makkari sounds like a very smart person."

"She is, I like her a lot."

"And why do you like her so much?"

"Because she listens and understands"

That simple answer made Thena finally understand why Sprite had turned to Makkari to tell her about her problems. Sprite had said earlier that she felt no one listened to her and if there was anyone within her little family who understood not being heard constantly, it was Makkari. The situation was not the same for the two, as Makkari's problem was more because there were people who didn't bother to even pay attention to her because she was deaf but Sprite seemed to identify with her feeling not being listened to by others.

The two fell into a smooth conversation, the woman could easily identify the moments when a topic seemed to make the girl uncomfortable, they spent the rest of the session drawing and talking about the things she liked, resorting to drawing pictures to make it easy for the girl to express herself.
Eventually Sprite left the room with Druig in search of the receptionist to help her hang some of her new drawings on one of the walls to give Thena a chance to talk to the woman.

Although she still couldn't diagnose with just one session Pepper was sure that Sprite would benefit a lot from attending at least once a week a session with her, the first few weeks would be to establish trust between her and Sprite but after she dared to talk and share some things with her, she was sure that Sprite could overcome all her problems with the therapy and the great support system she had.

Pepper told her that she would not see a change in Sprite so soon, after all she had only had one session although she could tell that in the next few days she would perhaps be more relaxed having talked, however superficially, about some of her problems.

Pepper's words came true when a very happy Sprite didn't hesitate to approach Kingo to sit next to him during dinner, they had been avoiding each other due to the fact that many of Sprite's episodes sometimes happen thanks to him so he had preferred to keep his distance and now he was happy that she came back to seek him out, after all he was one of her favorite playmates.

Chapter Text

Gilgamesh was not a person that liked to intervene unless it was necessary, he respected the decisions that Thena made regarding her younger siblings and tried to help her as much as possible, but he could tell that Druig was now the one going through a bad time and Thena was so focused on Sprite that she hadn't noticed the very subtle change in him, it was a small change but after several months living together he had been able to notice the change in him.

At first he thought it was his imagination that Druig was a little more sullen than usual, not that he was very sulky but his sometimes permanent scowl didn't help him much in knowing how he really felt, but as soon as he saw him lash out at Ikaris for giving Sprite a cookie he realized that something was indeed wrong.

Druig and Ikaris had started having little fights over the past few months, no one had cared as they were typical sibling arguments but for Druig to snap without truly having a reason was something out of the ordinary, blowing up for no reason was a Kingo and Sprite thing.

He thought that maybe it would be a good idea to broach the subject with Thena but she was so worried about Sprite that he thought that maybe it would be better not to worry her too much and try to talk to Druig himself to try to find out what was bothering him.
The opportunity came to him when the boy went to sit across from him while he prepared dinner, it was a regular thing for him to go sit in the kitchen while he cooked to try and steal some food.

"Are you okay?" He asked bluntly as soon as he had sat down across from him.

"Yeah, what are we having for dinner today?"

"Beef Bulgogi" Every so often he would decide to cook some dish of Korean origin just to see Druig and Sprite's reactions "I've noticed you've been a little off these last few days, something on your mind?"

"I don't know" he murmured looking away "it's nothing important, just..." he paused for a moment "I'm okay"

"You're not fine if you're doubting" she said looking at him "You can tell me whatever it is that's bothering you, I won't tell Thena if that's what's worrying you."

"I don't want to concern Thena any more than she already is and I don't need to, I'm fine."

"I think Thena has told you this phrase several times already, she learned it from Ajak" he smiled sideways "You can ask for help if you need it"

"I don't need help, I just have a lot of things on my mind"

" Care to share them?"

He laughed "You're a psychologist now? If you want I can sit on the couch and tell you all about my sad and depressing life"

"I'm being serious Druig" he adopted a serious look, it was normal for Druig to respond with sarcasm and for him to laugh but now he wasn't laughing "I truly want to hear what is bothering you."

Druig looked at him for several seconds without saying anything, Gil thought maybe he had pushed too far and the boy would end up leaving the room to continue being miserable in his room.

"The anniversary of my mother's death is soon" he finally revealed without looking at him, his eyes fixed on the table "it's two days from now"

"You didn't tell Thena"

"No" he admitted "Sprite doesn't even remember, I don't want to bring up those memories"

"You miss her"

"I guess I do, sometimes I do but lately" he hesitated finally looking up and letting out a sigh "it makes me angry thinking about her"

"Why do you think it makes you mad to think about her?"

"I see Sprite and how much all this is affecting her, you and Thena had to practically adopt us to get us away from our father, if she had done things differently, maybe we would still be in Ireland, with my grandmother, she might still be alive, I don't regret finding Thena and Ikaris again but..."

"I get where you're going with that."

"I'm mad at her for not doing more...she could still be alive, instead she left us alone and Sprite is suffering enough and now Thena has to deal with all this and it makes me angrier that I still miss her and I still miss her so much, Sprite doesn't even remember her" he said the last with his voice breaking, Gil was surprised as it wasn't something he expected him to say "she only remembers the song she used to sing to her and because I kept singing it, she was so little..." He sighed, he needed to calm down before continuing "I just feel like we're a burden, you and Thena probably had plans now that Ikaris was going off to college and now you have me and Sprite and..."

"Stop" Gil stopped what he was doing, the food could wait a few minutes "You and Sprite are no burden, I'm happy to have you here, Thena is happy..."

"Thena is stressed because she doesn't know how to help Sprite, she's not happy."

"Druig..."

"No!" He stood up, walking over to the window to turn his back on him " I know you don't think so, maybe Thena doesn't either but it's the truth, maybe...maybe all those classes they made him take worked and we can get back to him safely, so Thena wouldn't have to deal with all of this"

"Don't say that" he put a hand on his shoulder, feeling relieved that he wasn't startled by the contact "you and I both know he won't change, you and Sprite are much better off here, let me talk, you already spoke now it's my turn" he said quickly before he could interrupt "your siblings, we all love that you live here and are part of our family, you know that too, so tell me what is the real problem because I understand that you miss your mom, that's normal, what I don't believe is that you are really willing to go back to your old life, what is really going on? "

"The hearing is in two weeks" he finally said after a moment of silence "I don't want to go back to him, it terrifies me to think that he did everything they said and is cheating on them and that if we have to go back to him, he won't let us see you again."

"That won't happen Druig"

"I overheard Thena talking on the phone with Rosalin, they scheduled two visits before the hearing" He knew it wasn't right to listen in on other people's conversations, but he hadn't been able to help it "if they are willing to let us see him, they will be willing to take us back to him"

"Thena was planning to tell you today after Sprite fell asleep."

"I figured" he murmured "I just want this to be over, for it all to be over and for us to never have to hear from him again."

"This will be over soon Druig, you won't have to see him again, Thena isn't going to rest until that happens."

He didn't respond, there wasn't really anything to say to that. After spending several more seconds in complete silence, Gil still with his hand on his shoulder, they both went back to their old activities, Gl preparing dinner and Druig stealing food at any opportunity.

Chapter Text

Somehow they had managed to survive the two visits stipulated by the judge, the hearing had been postponed for a month and no more visits had been scheduled so they would have some more time in relative peace. Things had worked out in their favor because Arishem had arrived almost half an hour late for the first visit and for the second visit he had not even shown up, claiming that he had an important work commitment and that it was impossible for him to get there.

The reality was that the quirky family was having quite a busy few weeks, Phastos had finally graduated from college and they had all attended the ceremony (this time opting to arrive by plane in an attempt to keep everyone as sane as possible), the teenagers were engrossed in their final exams, especially Ikaris. Things seemed to be going really well even though there was still the issue of Sprite and Druig's custody but as Gil used to remind Thena, they would soon be able to finally put that in the past.

Ikaris entered the house and immediately he could tell something was off, there was an undeniable silence not at all like his family especially for the day when he knew both Sprite and Kingo were in the house all afternoon.
It wasn't until he walked into the kitchen that he finally ran into Sersi and Druig who seemed to have been cooking something.

"What are you two up to?" he asked managing to startle them, neither seemed to have heard his arrival

"Cupcakes" Sersi replied returning to her task, both seemed to be reading from a sheet of paper.

"Cupcakes?"

"Tomorrow is Sprite's birthday" Druig said as if that explained why the two of them were in what appeared to be cupcake baking

"I still don't understand what that has to do with you two baking" he looked at the kitchen counter "or trying to bake cupcakes"

"We already have some in the oven, thank you very much" Druig replied rolling his eyes "your sister specifically asked for cupcakes instead of a cake for her birthday in case you don't remember"

"I remember, but that doesn't explain why you two are making the cupcakes and not Gil"

"He's busy" Sersi replied before Druig could say anything "And it's not that hard, Gil wrote down the recipe for us."

"And why do you both look like something went wrong?"

"Because we don't want to do any more mix until we try the first cupcakes, we want to make sure we got it right"

"It wasn't that hard, but it's better to be sure."

Ikaris looked at them both for several seconds before shrugging, if there was anyone within them all that could maybe bake cupcakes almost as successfully as Gil it would be the two of them.

"So where's Sprite, and the others?"

"Fulfilling their babysitting duties while we do this" Druig replied taking a bite of a pear "it's not like Sprite isn't going to see them, but we don't trust Kingo and Makkari to try to help us in the kitchen so we sent them with Sprite to the park."

That made sense, it was no secret that Kingo and Makkari probably couldn't cook on their own if their lives depended on it but they both enjoyed helping out and if Gil or Ajak weren't around to supervise the cooking it had been a very wise decision on their part to send the other two out with Sprite.

Sprite's birthday had been a pretty big deal for the whole family, Ajak enjoyed having any excuse to celebrate and although she had respected Druig's wishes not to celebrate his birthday other than with cake and a family dinner, Sprite's birthday promised to be anything but an ordinary day. Sprite had been very clear that she didn't want to bring anything to share with her class, no one could really blame her when her school wasn't doing anything to help her with the bullying she suffered, so everyone had agreed to her wishes for what to do after school. She had asked only for cupcakes and dinner made by Gil, the rest of the day's activities were courtesy of Kingo and Ajak.

Days before Sersi had dragged them all out in search of gifts for Sprite, she had gone to spend the afternoon at Kate's house so they had several hours to do their shopping as low-key as possible. With Druig's help it hadn't taken them too long to each decide on their gifts, Kingo had chosen two Squishmallows, both red pandas because apparently that was Sprite's new favorite animal, Sersi had chosen several books, Makkari had chosen -ironically- a karaoke microphone (Druig had practically glared at her when he saw what she had chosen), Druig had said he wouldn't choose anything since he had something planned with Thena, although in the end he ended up choosing another Squishmallow which Ikaris had no idea what animal it could be, and he with Druig's help had chosen some art supplies. Everyone knew that Ajak had gotten a bike for her and that Gil and Thena planned to take her to pick something out on her birthday but Druig insisted on refusing to share what gift he and Thena had planned for her.

He felt a little left out of the secret but he understood why neither of them would share it with him, he would end up telling Sersi and she was awful at keeping secrets so Sprite would end up finding out sooner than necessary and that was something neither Thena nor Druig were willing to allow.

He really hoped Sprite would have a good birthday, this would be the first birthday she celebrated in the company of all of them and this would possibly be one of the first birthdays she would remember so he hoped she would have a rather special day.

"Need help with the cupcakes?" he asked, managing to attract the attention again of the other two who seemed to have once again forgotten that he was there. Sersi immediately smiled at his offer and could see the corner of Druig's lips lift slightly, trying to hide his smile.

"As long as you don't set anything on fire you are welcome to help us."

Ikaris smiled, he and Druig still had a somewhat awkward relationship but they both cared for each other and although at times he came to envy Sersi and Druig's relationship as they seemed to have a better sibling relationship he was happy that they both had each other. He wasn't a chef but he knew how to follow orders and for Sprite he could try.

Chapter Text

Sprite could feel the little taps on her shoulder and didn't need to open her eyes to know who it was.

" Stop it" she said, still not opening her eyes.

"But it's your birthday, you need to wake up" Druig replied still tapping lightly on her shoulder

"It's early"

"I know but you have presents to open, come on I want to be the first to tell my baby sister happy birthday"

"I'm not a baby" she mumbled opening her eyes finally and turning around so she could see her brother who was looking at her with a small smile from his place

"We're not having this conversation right now" he told her with a serious expression, they had argued more than ever in the last few days, Sprite insisted that turning seven meant she wasn't a little girl anymore and Druig being the big brother he was had refused to accept her words. "Let me have this while I can."

"It's my birthday, you said I could have whatever I wanted on my birthday."

"Anything but that."

"A cat?"

" That either."

Sprite laughed and finally straightened up to let Druig take her in his arms and hug her tightly against his chest.

"Happy birthday little bell" he murmured, kissing her forehead "I hope you have an excellent birthday" she didn't respond and hugged tighter to him.

They stayed like that for a little while longer until he finally released her and told her they had to go downstairs for breakfast. Gil as usual had outdone himself, he had made waffles and brought a huge amount of toppings for Sprite to choose from.

"Happy birthday my little one" Thena didn't hesitate to take the little girl in her arms as soon as she entered the room "Seven years old, quite a big girl."

Sprite gave her a huge smile but Druig grunted. "I'm still in denial about that" he muttered.

Thena tried to hold back her laughter, she loved watching that little bickering that had developed over the past few days. Before either could say anything else and start, once again an argument, Ikaris appeared in the kitchen distracting them both before they could begin.

Once everyone had sat down and Thena drew the line at how much chocolate syrup was enough for a waffle, they set about eating, the others eventually appearing to wish Sprite a happy birthday before leaving for school. Sprite happily accepts all the hugs and birthday greetings and enjoying her usual call with Phastos before it's time to leave for school.

. . . . . . . .

Thena had spent a lot of time thinking about the ideal gift for Sprite, choosing a gift for Druig had been much easier and that was really something she hadn't expected. He was happy eating, especially sweets, she had come to the conclusion that out of all of them he was the one who ate the most sweets so Gil had prepared a huge amount of desserts that they knew he especially enjoyed and his favorite dishes, he was happy even though he tried to hide it. She had given him a record player and some records, she had discovered thanks to Sprite that he liked to listen to music but he didn't use to do it much before because he was always focused on what his father was doing. The player was undoubtedly Druig's favorite gift, and Thena was very happy to know that he used it almost daily and that it seemed to be one of his most prized possessions.

But a gift for Sprite was something extremely difficult, the girl didn't have a great interest in toys, she didn't have enough patience for legos and it was Ikaris who usually ended up putting them together, she played only with her Magna Tiles and her art supplies, she did have some other toys but they were rarely used and she wouldn't give her more of those stuffed animals that she liked so much, she knew well that some of the others had bought several for her.

It was just that thought that led her to think about what would be the perfect gift for Sprite, she loved stuffed animals and thanks to the others she had quite a large collection of Squishmallows that she played with regularly. The idea wasn't hard to bring to reality and as soon as she put the plan on the table with Gil and Druig they both approved of the idea. She had felt bad about not telling Ikaris, but he would tell Sersi and she was the worst at keeping secrets so no, Ikaris wouldn't be able to know until they finally headed out to get the gift.

The four of them had gone to pick Sprite up from school, Pepper had told her that although Ajak and the others were a very important part of Sprite's life it was important to do things just the five of them as a family, so Thena had talked to Ajak and the woman had agreed to Thena's plan, they would all meet later at the trampoline park to continue celebrating the girl.

The store in front of them was a place none of them had ever set foot in before, it was quite funny to see Druig and Ikaris' expressions upon seeing the place and Sprite's confused look as soon as they entered.

"What's that?" Sprite asked looking confused at one of the boxes containing several of the stuffed animals without stuffing.

"Dead stuffed animals?" Ikaris muttered looking around with a frown.

Gilgamesh immediately smacked him in the head when he saw the expression on Sprite's face.

"That's not true Sprite, they are stuffed animals that you can make yourself" he tried to soothe her by giving her a reassuring look.

"How are they made?" she asked not daring to let go of Druig's hand to get closer.

"You pick the toy you like best and one of the ladies will help you stuff it."

Sprite looked at her sister not very convinced, it seemed as if she was speaking in another language and she couldn't understand her. Thena, sensing her confusion and without the support of Druig, who despite having been aware of the plan had never been to such a place, took one of the empty furs and handed it to her. The girl took it carefully, eyeing it suspiciously until she dared to let go of her brother's hand so she could examine it.

"It's a bear" she said after finally finding the shape of the toy "Is this my present? Can I choose whichever one I want?"

"Whichever one you want" Thena confirmed with a smile.

Despite still not feeling entirely comfortable asking for things she wanted, Sprite was quite comfortable doing things once someone offered it to her directly.

They watched her examine each of the containers curiously, both Ikaris and Druig made a face the moment she took what appeared to be a rainbow octopus in her hands but they all sighed in relief the moment she returned it to its place. It was quite entertaining for everyone to watch Sprite try to decide on a stuffed animal, there were several cartoon characters she had never seen and although they seemed to catch her attention, especially the pokemon stuffed animals, Sprite ended up choosing a mint colored teddy bear. Druig was sure she would choose a red panda they had passed around or one of the many rainbow animals there but his little sister had surprised him by choosing something not as extravagant as he was sure she would.

The next station was part of the surprise for Sprite, one of the assistants was showing the girl the different sounds she could put inside her bear but it seemed that none of them managed to get her attention, Druig was secretly grateful that they didn't have a sound with the song 'We don't talk about Bruno' because if so he had no doubt that his sister would have chosen it and he would have gone crazy.

"You know Sprite, Druig and I have a little present for you" Thena knelt down in front of the girl and offered her a small player like the one the lady had shown her "Druig and I worked on this for several weeks, but it's up to you if you want to put it inside your bear."

Sprite looked curiously at the small device and took it in her hands so she could put it next to her ear and listen to it. Both Thena and Druig waited anxiously to find out her opinion regarding the gift. At first Sprite was frowning trying to figure out what it was she was listening to but it didn't take more than a few seconds until she finally managed to recognize the tune.

"It's mom's lullaby" she finally said.

"It is, and you know what the best part is? Druig is playing it on a piano" Thena told her with a smile earning both Ikaris and Sprite looked at Druig in surprise, who looked away from them.

"You don't know how to play the piano"

"Thena taught me."

The huge smile on Sprite's face was enough for them to understand that she was more than happy with her gift.

"Thank you" she said happily hugging each of them without losing her smile.

Ikaris playfully nudged Druig on the shoulder as the clerk distracted Sprite again to continue putting the bear together. Ever since Thena had come up with the idea of giving Sprite a Build a Bear teddy bear, she had started giving Druig little piano lessons with the intention of putting the song inside the bear. It was several late nights and early mornings of the two of them trying to be as discreet as possible so Sprite wouldn't notice and in the end the result had been worth it. Maybe Druig could only play the lullaby his mom used to sing but for the moment that was more than enough.

They continued to make the teddy bear with a more than happy Sprite, but even so Sprite found some of the stations to make little sense, it made no sense in her opinion to name a teddy bear and teddy bears didn't need clothes either, let alone shoes, but in the end Ikaris had been more than excellent at convincing her to do both. They left the store with the little mint-colored bear, now named Misha, in a tie dye outfit (Sprite had flatly refused to choose a pair of shoes as she insisted that a bear didn't need shoes).

Sprite's birthday went off without a hitch, they spent several hours on a place full of trampolines where Ajak was sure Kingo would end up with a broken arm but to everyone's delight he didn't, and then ended the day with dinner at Gil's restaurant. Sprite happily opened each of her gifts and thanked each of her family members for them. Each and every one of them gave Makkari a dirty look as soon as Sprite opened her gift and took the microphone out of the box, Druig could have sworn he heard Thena mumbling that the microphone would stay at Ajak's house or it was going to disappear. Phastos and Ben were present thanks to a video call and Sprite was more than thrilled with the star projector they had sent as a gift.

. . . . . . . .
Sprite slowly entered the room and makes his way into Druig's bed until he lies next to him under the covers.

"Can't sleep?" he asked without opening his eyes.

"I want to sleep with you" she mumbled settling better next to him, the new teddy bear cuddled in her arms "I liked my birthday"

"I'm glad to hear that" he murmured barely opening his eyes so he could see her "go to sleep".

They were silent for several minutes, Druig was sure she had fallen asleep and he was ready to go back to sleep when she stirred and opened her eyes again.

"Druig?" he simply arched an eyebrow to let her know he had heard her "are we really going to stay and live here?"

"I hope so, you know it's not something I get to decide, the judge has to decide."

"I want to stay here"

"Thena and Gil will do everything they can to make that happen, you don't have to worry, now go to sleep being seven is more tiring than being six"

Sprite laughed at his last words but finally settled back down next to him and closed her eyes to finally fall asleep after a few minutes.