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those hardest to love [need it most]

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in many ways, june ortiz is not surprised to see trini sitting outside the principals office with an ice pack over her hand and a split lip swelling slowly. what's surprising is how, upon seeing june, trini jumps up with anger in her eyes

"this isn't fair." she spits, the ice pack falling, unnoticed, to the floor "this isn't fair." she repeats.

"okay." june says, alarmed because there is an anger here that she hasn't borne witness to before.

[which is saying something. for with each uprooting a new vein of anger seemed to be unearthed. an anger directed at june, at isaiah. to the point where it seems like anger is all that trini shares with them any more]

"i need you to believe me." trini says, and trini has never asked this of june before. it's always been far more hostile, far more take it or leave it "okay?" trini presses "this is bull-" she cuts herself off as the door opens and a worn looking secretary steps out

"mrs. ortiz?" she asks, looking in june's direction.

"i am." june nods, coming to trini's side.

"this way please." the secretary says, looking trini over before turning and disappearing into the network of administrative offices.

june too glances at her daughter, a recognizable scowl has settled across her face. she's bending down to scoop up the ice pack with her shoulder's hunched and trini's silence is deafening. june thinks this may be an opportunity

"i believe you." june decides then and there.

"you don't even know what happened." trini counters.

june takes a deep breath "you asked me to believe you." she says "so i believe you."

something flickers across trini's face and then she says "i may have punched someone. but he deserved it."

which, june gathered for herself, but there is something in trini sharing this now. in this moment, of her own volition.

trini did not mention anything of the locker door she ripped off, leaving june to see that first and foremost when she walks into the principals office. she sees it warped and at first, june assumes that the locker door must be trini's and she burns with a protective and purely parental rage.

"mrs. ortiz." the principal says, a balding, middle aged man "please sit."

june does. trini does not. she stands with her arms folded across her chest just behind her mothers chair.

"trini." the principal says "please sit down."

june does not have to turn around to feel her daughter glowering.

trini does not move.

the principal sighs "mrs. ortiz," he says, "this afternoon your daughter destroyed school property in the form of ripping the door of another student's locker off its hinges. she then accosted a member of the student body, unprovoked."

she can hear trini fuming behind her and june remembers her decision to believe trini, so she says "i understand." before turning around and asking her daughter seriously "what happened?"

"mrs. ortiz," the principal speaks, instead of trini "it's clear what happened."

"principal sayer," june says with as much respect as she can manage "you have your version of events and i'm sure my daughter has hers. if you intend to punish her, i intend to hear what she has to say first."

"they keep harassing her." trini blurts into the principal's stunned silence "writing on her locker, writing that" trini gestures emphatically "and you" she looks directly at the principal "you don't do anything. none of you do. you just, let it happen. keep saying that all the graffiti will get cleaned. but it's been forever. so yeah, i ripped her locker door off. because she shouldn't have to look at it every time she wants to get a book out."

this is the most june has heard trini speak in months and by far, the most passionately.

she then looks back at june "and then, we were going outside, to eat and i saw one of the jocks who gives her trouble and i just, no one at this school does anything to help her. they know who's harassing kim, who's writing all of that on her lockers. they have cameras! but they don't-" she stops "so i punched him."

june considers,

"thank you for being honest." she says, doing her best to reassure her daughter who is wound so tense.

she turns back to the principal, who looks unbearably smug "at least she admits it." he says "there will of course be have to be a suspension. a week at the very least. a note in her permanent record, detention."

"are you kidding-"

"trini." june cuts her daughter off, turning to look at her

"mom!" trini looks indignant.

"trini." june repeats, calmly "calmate." she can see the look of betrayal flash in trini's eyes and june takes a breath, turning to face the principal once again. she may have kept her distance from this school in the past, but that does not mean she is oblivious to its happenings "as i recall it, jason scott's bull did considerable damage to the football locker rooms and he received no suspension, no marks on his permanent record."

"well, different-"

"of course," june agrees "my daughter was acting in response to a friend of hers being the victim of relentless bullying-"

"i'm not sure kimberly hart is a victim-"

june arches an eyebrow, oh what she wishes she could say "is that not her locker door?"

"well of course." the principal starts to squirm and june has to hide her satisfaction - she has played this game with principals before.

years as a counselor opened her eyes to the realities of the american education system. "and you say she deserves to be faced with such slander?"

"no, of course not. but this campus has a zero tolerance policy for violence."

"once again, i point out that kimberly hart was involved in an incident, was she not? punched a boy's tooth out?"

"they put it back." trini murmurs quietly

"and yet," june continues "she is serving detention. no suspension, no permanent records being affected."

the principal lets out a long sigh "what do you recommend?"

"i'm glad you asked." june smiles "we will pay for a new locker door to be put on the locker and because i agree that violence is never the answer, detention for the rest of the school year seems appropriate."

"that is," the principal seems to agree with this rather reluctantly "acceptable. the costs for the locker will be invoiced to you."

"of course." june nods "and trini will be at the school this saturday for detention."

"of course."

forced smiles by everyone.

trini is silent until they get to the car, her backpack slung into the backseat and she's saying, in a sort of stunned half silence "thank you."

june turns the car on and considers her reply "perhaps ripping the locker door off was not the best answer." she says "but," and once again she considers "i am glad you have a friend."

"me too." trini agrees quietly "she tried to stop me from punching the guy."

"she seems like a good friend."

"she is." trini agrees, but she's still quiet, deflated.

"we'll have to tell your father." june says "when he's home next, and you'll have to find a job this summer to pay us back for the cost of the locker repairs."

"i know." trini says, quiet and distant once again.

"trini, siempre voy a tender confianza en ti" june says, matching her daughters pitch "siempre."

trini nods, and then "i just got so mad, because everyone thinks kim deserves what's happening to her, because of-" she pauses, then looks over at june "you know what happened?"

"the photo?"

trini nods, then "but just because she did one wrong thing doesn't mean she deserves to be bullied. and the school, they just pretend like they don't know what's happening. because kids parents are on the stupid pta or the school board or whatever. and no one ever stands up for her. she doesn't even stand up for her."

her arms are folded across her chest again and june hazards a chance "perhaps," she says "kim would like to come to dinner this week?"

"i-" trini says, in some sort of shock "i, i'll have to ask her."

"any night next week." june encourages, this weekend is the twins' sleepover at the aquarium and june has offered to chaperone.

trini doesn't say anything to that for a long, long while, until as they turn onto their block

"do you really think i do drugs?"

the question is vulnerable in a way that june doesn't remember hearing from trini in quite some time "no," june replies "but i worry about you."

"i'm fine mom."

and however true that sentiment may or may not be, june doesn't push it right now. instead, she says

"i'm your mother mija, it's my job to worry about you. to want you to be happy, and healthy."

there's another stretch of silence and then trini says quietly "could i invite some other friends over for dinner too?"

*

june first meets kimberly hart, not at dinner

[those plans are smashed when the end of the world arrives in angel grove]

but as smoke and dust are still settling and june is consumed with worry because trini isn't picking up her phone and people are injured, people are dying - dead -

and her boys are safe, june has the front door open, neighbors whose homes have been wrecked seeking shelter, but all june can think about is trini. asking everyone who comes to the door,

"have you seen trini?"

they haven't.

no one has it seems and june is nauseous with worry. standing on her front porch and having just watched a giant gold,

thing,

get attacked by,

robots?

june doesn't know. hadn't cared and doesn't care because through it all she has her phone in her hand, calling and calling to no avail.

she's in the kitchen, filling water bottles for a neighbor and praying that the phone will ring when

"mom?" is called out.

her head whips around and june isn't quite running from the kitchen towards the front door,

but she is. skidding gracelessly around the corner and stopping short,

because trini is standing there and she doesn't look hurt, doesn't look like she's bleeding. perhaps standing a little gingerly, but

"trini." she breathes, and god, june is moving the last few paces down the hall and pulling trini into a hug before she knows what else to do "are you okay?" and trini is hugging her back, fiercely "are you hurt?" she asking, stepping back and realizing,

seeing,

trini isn't alone.

someone who can only be kimberly hart is standing just behind trini and they both look,

ragged.

sweaty and dusty and

trini is shifting and she's saying "uh, this," she turns and gestures to kimberly hart "this is kim. kim, this is my mom." kim waves, and they both look exhausted, and june's worry intensifies.

before she can ask however,

trini is saying "is our phone working? her parents are out of town and she wants to call them. her house is," trini gestures towards the destruction "on the other side."

"of course," june says "this way."

she notices how they're leaning into each other, how they're not quite holding hands and this is the first time june wonders,

not that it matters,

but,

still, she files this moment away as she hands kim their landline "take all the time you need."

trini wanders into the living room and june follows, watching as trini walks over to her brothers, bending down and pulling the pair of them into a tight tight hug. june feels her own tears burn as she watches trini, squatting, rock onto her heels and talking to her brothers, hands on their shoulders.

behind her, june can hear

"-okay. i'm at trini's house. trini ortiz, you've met her."

pause, then

"excuse me, mrs. ortiz, my dad wants to speak to you."

"of course." june nods, taking a last glance at trini and then turning and taking the phone "mr. hart," she says "this is june ortiz."

"june," comes the voice of mr. hart "please call me raymond, thank you for letting kimberly use your phone. my wife and i are both out of town and as of right now are not sure when we will be able to get back. this may be incredibly inconvenient but, would it be alright if kimberly stayed with you until our house can be looked at? i understand things must be hectic, but we-"

"of course." june says at once "that's not a problem. you'd feel better knowing she's somewhere safe. cell service isn't working at the moment, but this is our home phone, feel free to call at any time."

"thank you june." he says, sounding endlessly relieved "you don't know how much better my wife and i feel."

june hands the phone back to kim and listens as kim reassures that she is okay, that

"i won't go home until the national guard or someone clears it. i promise."

so the first time june meets kimberly hart,

kim sleeps on their couch for three days.

*

june meets

"the boys"

as she's coming to pick trini up from detention one afternoon. no longer spent in the confines of the school, june remembers trini bringing home the consent form that changed detention to

community service to aid angel grove in the recovery effort.

or as trini declared it,

"free labor."

nonetheless, june arrives at ten to one and sees trini standing in a small cluster. she recognizes them all vaguely from previous detention pick ups and today, it's kimberly who spies june first. she waves and then, june watches as kim nudges trini's hand with hers and

for a half a second,

it seems like trini is going to take kim's hand.

then however kim is saying something, nodding in junes direction and trini's hand is firmly back by her own side. when she turns, there is no tension across her shoulder as a trini of years past may have greeted her with. there is no angrily slinging her backpack across her shoulders, or glaring at june. instead, there is what june would classify as,

an honest to god smile.

"hey," trini says, coming to lean against the rolled down passenger window "we're gonna go get lunch and then hike." slight pause "if that's okay. i know dad is coming home tonight and..." she trails off

for as much progress has been made for june when it comes to communicating with their daughter, it's still an uphill battle of trini's father.

"as long as you're home by six to watch your brothers while i cook dinner." june says "go have fun."

trini grins, and june hazards to ask "you've never introduced me to your friends."

it's less of a question, more off a comment and where trini may have brushed it off or declared they were not her friends,

this time she's saying

"oh," turning sideways and waving at the group "come say hi." she shouts their way

and in turn trini introduces billy cranston, zack taylor, jason scott and

"you know kim."

"nice to see you again mrs. ortiz."

"please," june says, waving kim off "call me june. all of you."

from then on kimberly and billy and zack and jason seem to cycle in and out of the ortiz household with a regularity june never thought she would see for trini. they stay for dinner occasionally,

[try as june might she can never get zack to eat more]

but on the nights, or days, they don't, they're always unfailingly polite and none moreso,

then kimberly.

kimberly seems around more than the boys. frequently over for dinner, watching diego and rafa with trini if june wants a night out. june asks, carefully one night as trini is helping clean after dinner,

"what's kims home life like?"

trini, midway through putting leftovers into a container pauses, stiffening slightly "uhm." she starts, putting the pan down back on the stove and letting the fork slip down into it "okay. why?"

june proceeds carefully, just with what she's observed, with what she's noticed over the past month or so

"her parents seem out of town a lot."

"oh," trini breathes and june can't help but wonder if that's relief "oh, they are. they, her dad is in business and her mom, she's a traveling nurse. so she is in lots of different hospitals around the county." she trails off "if it's-" she starts, but june cuts her off gently.

"it's not a problem, kimberly is welcome here any time."

"i'll tell her." trini says, picking out the fork with two fingers and a mid grimace "their house is really big." she says "and it's just kim all alone when they're both gone." she swallows "she likes the company."

june does not say that she suspects kimberly appreciates trini's company specifically. she doesn't say it because the thought and all that it implies, feels very out of the blue for june. so much so that after trini heads off to work,

[wonder woman is premiering and apparently all of angel grove and then some purchased tickets]

june is left sitting on the couch, wondering.

mostly, she's wondering why she thought that in the first place. it would imply that kimberly is interested in trini in a,

well,

in a more than friends capacity.

thinking that seems to unlock other things for june, quiet moments where trini and kim were oblivious to the world save each other. not quite holding hands, but close. or the way june came home one night and found kim and trini asleep on the couch, kims arm around trini's shoulders.

individually the moments seemed,

innocuous.

friends, nothing more.

sitting here now, wine glass on the coffee table, june wonders if she perhaps needs to reconsider. not that she has much in the way of certain facts,

trini has friends and they seem good for her. that's what june knows.

she also knows that trini has never shown an interesting in dating anyone, which for a long time had come as a relief to june,

but now that same relief settles in her stomach with an uncomfortable twist. was it not that trini had no interesting in dating anyone,

but that the people trini was interested in dating,

were girls.

and a step further, did she not feel comfortable enough to talk about it with them. was she uncertain that she would still be loved and have a roof over her head if she came out.

[and june tries not to play a montage of moments that spring forth from her memories as she pieces this puzzle together, but it happens anyway

watching trini drift away from them, quiet and angry. where an attempt at conversation was met with sarcastic comments or nothing at all.

june, growing more and more desperate to connect with a daughter she was sure she was losing. pushing harder and harder to get trini to talk, grounding her, making her babysit her brothers.

all these memories playing on repeat.]

it leaves june feeling unsettled. not because her daughter could, potentially be gay, lesbian? june isn't sure what the correct terminology is,

but that isn't the cause of her taking another sip of her wine to try and quell the rising guilt in her throat.

no,

instead,

june is confronted with the realization for all the talks she gave to middle school parents about

'how to communicate with your child'

she has, by all appearances, failed at following her own advice.

remembering, those weeks ago when trini asked, quietly

'do you really think i do drugs?'

what kind of parent has she been to her eldest child?

with isaiah deployed for so much of trini's childhood, then being bounced around from base to base, city to city,

june realizes her hands are shaking.

she takes a deep breath and steadies herself. she can hear diego and rafa running around upstairs,

and while usually she would remind them that it's getting close to bedtime, but tonight she lets them run. instead, she stays seated on the couch, processing this revelation that now, has felt so many weeks in the making.

*

the time for conversation comes a few days later.

diego and rafa are safely away at a sleepover, isaiah is still away for work and trini is suspicious.

had been since the day before when june asked

"are you working tomorrow night?"

and trini had mentioned plans to hang out with kim in the afternoon

"i'd like for you to be home to have dinner." june had said, adding, perhaps foolishly "i'd like to talk to you."

which had, predictably,

lead to trini asking if she was in trouble,

"no, no. just, there are things we need to talk about."

trini had been gone most of the rest of the day, and had seemed quiet and reserved when she did finally come home. scared, june realized, trini was scared.

she was scared at dinner now as well, picking at her food, hands falling to her lap, nervously sipping at her water until

"i owe you an apology." june start, trini's head snapping up to look over at her "for a lot." she pauses and is sure that trini isn't breathing "i used to give a talk to the new high school parents at the beginning of the school year on how to communicate with their kids. but i've realized that, i didn't follow that advice when it came to talk to you. i pushed and pushed and when you wouldn't talk i pushed harder. and i'm sorry for that."

trini swallows thickly and doesn't seem quite sure what to say to that, so june continues

"i know all this moving was never easy for you, and i know that you never had a choice, and your father and i, we never gave you a chance or a space to tell us how you felt. or what you were feeling. and," june's voice wavers' for the first time tonight "and i never wanted you to feel like you couldn't share things with us. and,"

trini's eyes are shining bright, her hand is gripping at the table cloth and still,

speechless,

"and now you have friends and you're happy and i'm so," june takes a steadying breath "i'm so happy and i'm so proud of you."

"mom." trini says, the single syllable bubbling out of her and her voice breaks.

but june has to say this one part, this one crucial part "and i'm not saying, i'm not trying to assume anything about who you are, or who you have to be, but-" and trini seems to have stiffened again "but if you are gay or lesbian or bisexual," and june feels like she's doing this all wrong "whoever you are, whoever that is, you're loved."

her hands are shaking and trini just seems to be blinking and looking somewhere else. her eyes are bright, and her silence drags on,

and june's instincts are telling her to talk,

are telling her to press trini to say something,

anything

but she forces herself to wait.

forces herself to let trini find her words in her own time.

the longer the silence drags on, the surer june becomes that she's overstepped, that -

"i am." trini says quietly and june notices trini's hands are shaking "gay." and her voice is wavering, eyes watering, but she can't look at june.

it is not a surprise, not really - but now is not the time to say that, so june says, as gently as she can "mija, look at me."

it takes trini long seconds and june's heart breaks because she can see the tears in trini's eyes,

"i love you." june says

then trini is crying, a sob echoing in her chest and june is acting on instincts once again,

standing,

moving to trini's side and pulling her into a hug.

and june doesn't remember the last time trini clung to her like this, shoulders shaking, crying hard and all june can do is bring a hand to the back of trini's head, holding her close.

[there are the nightmares, june thinks of those now too. where trini wakes up screaming and trapped in her sheets and covered in sweat. but on those nights trini wants nothing near her, wants nothing touching her]

now it seems like trini can't get enough, gripping june and just -

these are tears of relief, june knows.

june also knows that pressing about kimberly is not what tonight's about.

tonight is about trini,

is about validating her, and what she's kept inside for so long.

eventually when trini steps back, wiping her eyes with the collar of her shirt, "does dad know?"

june shakes her head gently, she had thought about sharing this with isaiah - but it felt too much and she didn't want to betray anything without trini's consent "no."

trini swallows hard "what if - what if he..." she trails off and her hand is shaking

june reaches out and takes her hand "whatever he says, it doesn't change the fact that you are loved, that you will always have a roof over your head."

for the honesty of it all is that june can not predict how her husband will handle this news, but what june does know is that he does not have a choice,

"you're our daughter. and we love you. we want you to be happy."

trini grips her hand with surprising strength "okay."

june squeezes back, reassuring.

*

[telling isaiah is a nervous affair.

trini forces it out with glances in june's direction, and june who nods and braces to tell her husband what's what.

but it's not needed. isaiah just nods and "as long as you're happy trini, that's all we want for you."

which has trini blinking back tears and saying

"it does. it will."]

*

there is a moment, a few weeks later, where trini just sort of mumbles,

"so, kim and i are, uh, we're dating."

which surprises june exactly not at all.

*

there was a period between the near end of the world, and trini mumbling that she and kim are dating,

where the couch was not where kim took to sleeping. which, june had not been bothered by when they were,

well,

before trini had told her they were dating.

now however,

things are different, and june reminds herself that she would have this policy if trini was dating a boy instead,

"because you two are dating," she says one night, with trini and kim at the dinner table,

diego off at soccer training and rafa sick in bed - this is the perfect space for this conversation

"one of you will have to sleep on the couch." she finishes.

june does not try to dictate who will sleep on the couch, that is not her real concern.

"but why?" trini asks finally.

this at the very least, june was expecting and had decided that the answer her mother had given her

['my house, my rules']

hadn't felt like enough.

"because," june starts "it's the rules your father and i grew up with, and it would make us more comfortable."

which isn't much better of an answer really.

trini seems silent, and june can see kim watching trini as well "do you, do we have a curfew?"

"for when someone has to be down on the couch?"

trini nods.

"no." june replies.

"okay." trini nods again "that's fair."

even if her clenched fork and rigid shoulders seem to say otherwise.

*

june clocks it around midnight when she's in the kitchen, getting a gatorade for rafa, and down the stairs comes kimberly. she's got one of trini's pillows tucked under arm and a blanket trailing over her shoulder onto the floor. even in the shadows of the darkened first floor, june is not oblivious to the tension that kim is carrying in her spine.

a tension that june comes to understand some hours later.

rafa is finally out for the count and june herself is trying to wind down with a few chapters of her book when she hears it.

a familiar sound,

a muffled whimper from trini's room.

june's heart sinks.

this, this the final wall that trini can not, or will not, let down. the nightmares that plague her daughter into sleepless nights, and june helpless to stop them.

or even do so much as calm her,

help her in any way.

there is not much point in trying to read her book, not when every sound filtering in is a cry and a shout and june is familiar with these cries by now,

the

'stop, please.'

and

things far more incoherent but gut wrenching all the same.

she's standing, moving towards her own bedroom door, pulling it open. june can almost hear trini thrashing and her door is only part of the way open when

footsteps up the stairs.

kim, june realizes.

kim who has slept over here before. and those nights, june casts her minds back to those quiet nights. june watching as kim pushes trini's bedroom door open.

she's halfway through when she catches sight of june and she pauses,

stiffens,

opens her mouth as if to explain,

and june realizes she doesn't need kim to explain anything.

"go." she murmurs.

and june doesn't plan to spy on her daughter and her girlfriend,

but she can't not.

not when this is trini being haunted by nightmares and june is helpless to stop them. if kim can help,

maybe june can learn.

*

june keeps her distance, close enough to see more than hear. kim's words are muffled and soft, they don't carry to where june is standing.

for a while that's all kim is doing,

talking. her tone soft, her words gentle. standing close to the edge of the bed but not touching.

it's the opposite of what june has been doing. sitting on the edge of trini's bed, trying to find her hands, trying to take them. here it seems that kim is content to stand, to talk, to let her words wind their way into trini's nightmares.

then,

then there's a shift, there must be,

because kim is moving to the edge of the bed and in the window shaped cut of moonlight, june can see trini sitting up. kim hasn't stopped talking june realizes, she can see her talking, even as she's holding trini's hands.

even as she's pulling trini into her arms.

even as june is watching trin's hands curl into kim's shirt, forehead pressing against kim's shoulder.

june's seen enough, she realizes. she's seen enough to be able to help trini in the future. and that,

that's more than she could have asked for really.

so she's turning, preparing to head back to her own room when,

"mom?"

and she pauses, turning back towards trini's room.

trini, still leaning into kim, tears in her eyes, sheets a tangle, asks "can," she swallows hard "can-" she tries again.

"as long as the door stays open." june murmurs her reply, bearing witness to the way trini tucks herself further against her girlfriend's side, unashamed of the comfort she gets from her presence.

"thank you." trini mumbles.

*

the next day, after kim has gone,

trini comes downstairs and sits next to june on the couch. at once june can pick up on the anxiety rolling off her in waves. she sees the way trini picks a stain on the cushion, fiddles with her beanie.

"kim says," she starts, stops, shaking her head. june watches as trini takes a deep breath and starts again "i," she starts "i got in some trouble." she says finally, quietly "a little while ago."

junes mouth is dry.

"it was bad." trini continues "but, but my friends. they," her voice wavers "they got me out of it. got me through it."

june thinks to the scratches on trini's neck, deep and red and raw and there hadn't been time to ask,

with the coming of the end of the world and the destruction that came in its defeat.

but the scars are still there.

"the scratches on your neck," june starts, not quite sure what she's asking, or where she's going with it,

but trini nods all the same.

"yes." she mumbles, pulling her knees to her chest "yeah."

june reaches out and puts her hand over trini's "thank you for telling."

trini nods, her eyes watery "kim said i should talk about it, with you."

and as far as june was concerned, kim was good for trini - but this comment, this gentle nudge from kim to encourage trini to talk, it solidifies just how much june likes kimberly hart.

"if you want to talk about what happened," june says "with a professional, you can. i won't ask any questions. if that's the help you think you need." she reaches over and covers one of trini's hands with her own "there's no shame in asking for help."

trini turns her hand, taking her mothers and looking over at her "i'll - i'll think about it?"

"of course." june says, squeezing trini's hand.

they sit like that, together, for long, calm moments.

and then a scratchy voice from upstairs calls down "t?" comes rafa and his footsteps down the stairs.

he pads into the living room, looking still pale and sick "t," he starts again "will you read to me?"

"yeah," trini replies, unfolding herself from the couch "come on, we can read some of harry potter."

"yessssss." rafa says with a small smile, reaching for trini's hand.

trini takes it, and june could never have imagined this moment - not trini looking so calm and happy with her brother, taking him back upstairs.

it's more than she could have hoped for.