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I Don't Want to be Anything Other than Me

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Mozzie's head shot up when the overhead light abruptly flickered to life. Neal was standing in the doorway of the library, holding a blanket and his stuffed cat and looking like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

"Hey," Neal greeted without moving inside the room.

Waving a hand, Mozzie looked back down at his computer screen and considered shutting it down. He wasn't finished with his searches yet though. "You can come in," he finally said to Neal.

"That's okay. I can go back upstairs."

"Come in," Mozzie repeated. He watched Neal's progress across the room to his favorite chair. The younger boy was still moving slowly after his bout with pneumonia, but he was getting better.

They both silently read for several minutes, and the only sounds were of Mozzie clicking through various websites.

He shouldn't have been surprised, though, when Neal shuffled over to the desk and leaned against the edge. "Can I help?"

"No, but thanks." Mozzie checked his last website and then cleared the browser history.

Neal pulled his blanket closer around his shoulders and shifted his weight from foot to foot. "What's going on, Moz?"

Mozzie took off his glasses and cleaned them on his shirt while he thought about how to answer. Finally, he came to a decision and motioned for Neal to sit down. "I'm turning seventeen soon, and June and Byron asked again if they could adopt me."

Neal smiled. "That's great."

Shrugging, Mozzie looked away and fiddled with the mouse.

"That's not great?"

"No, it's good. I just… I've never known who my parents are, Neal. What if they look for me? What if they want us to be a family again one day?"

Neal bit his lip and scooted his chair a little closer. "One thing I've learned from my mom is that you can't wait for family to come to you. If you want it, you need to find it for yourself. You could do a lot worse than June and Byron. And us."

"I know that." He lowered his voice and took off his glasses again. "It's just hard to give up on my real parents."

Neal's voice was quiet too when he replied, "Some real parents aren't worth it."

"Some are."

Neal shrugged and moved his chair so that he could see the computer screen. He reached for the keyboard and settled it in his lap. "What were you looking for? I can help."

While he appreciated Neal's offer for assistance, Mozzie didn't want to involve his friend in this. He gently took the keyboard from him and set it back on the desk. "I'm finished for tonight. Shouldn't you be sleeping?"

"Shouldn't you?"

"I'm not the one who was in the hospital last week with an oxygen mask and an IV."

Neal sighed. "I'm not going to live that down anytime soon, am I?"

"No. I don't think that even Sara is going to forget that one. I saw her slipping you an extra cookie after dinner tonight."

"Allegedly."

Mozzie laughed and ruffled Neal's hair, which caused the younger boy to duck and smack his hand away.

"Seriously though, after all these years, I think maybe it's time to think about taking June and Byron up on the offer." Neal was worse than a dog with a bone sometimes.

"It's under consideration."

Neal held his gaze for a long moment before nodding and then yawning.

"Come on. Let's get some sleep. Some of us have school in the morning." Mozzie prodded Neal out of the chair and then followed him toward the door.

They were halfway up the stairs when Neal stopped and looked over at him. "Can I ask a question?"

"If you must."

"Who's Teddy Winters?"

Mozzie's breath caught and his eyes flashed with anger. "Where did you hear that name?"

"Don't be mad-"

"Neal!"

"I lost a school document the other day when the computer froze up, and when I was trying to retrieve it, I saw the name on some old web searches. I wasn't snooping, I swear."

Mozzie suppressed the growl forming in the back of his throat and gave Neal a shove to get him moving back up the stairs. He grabbed Neal's arm before he could go into their shared bedroom with the currently sleeping Peter and pulled him down the hall to the empty guest bedroom.

Neal sat down on the bed but didn't say anything, so Mozzie paced for a moment before speaking, "I did a search for birth certificates for the month before I was left at the orphanage, and the only one that didn't have another baby attached to it was the one for Theodore Winters. Teddy."

"So you put the word out on the web that Teddy Winters is alive, and you search for the parents' names?"

Mozzie nodded. "If I keep him visible, then they could find me."

"How long have you been doing this, Moz?"

He looked down and scuffed his socked toe against the hardwood floor. "Few years."

"Has anyone ever…"

"No."

Neal stood and put his hand on Mozzie's shoulder. "They could still find you, but you're almost out of time with June and Byron. Don't let this stand in the way of that. Please."

Mozzie looked up, feeling much too vulnerable when he met Neal's eyes. "Neal-"

"Mozzie."

He took a deep breath and gave the younger boy a resolute nod. "Okay."

Neal grinned and squeezed his shoulder. Then, he turned and left the room. Mozzie followed him, and they both quietly crept back to their own beds, careful not to disturb the snoring Peter. Mozzie reached under his bed and pulled out a light colored teddy bear with a large button for one of its eyes. He curled up under his covers and held the bear tight as he drifted off to sleep amid the sounds of his pseudobrothers' snores.

~End

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