I don’t own anything except my ideas. Just for the record.
After she moves back in, things try to go back to normal. Mariana is surprisingly thrilled to have her roommate back and helps Callie unpack so the room is ‘back to the way it should be.’ She’s reenrolled at Anchor Beach, added into the rotation of the chore wheel, and life goes on. Because it has to. Because this is what she chose: this path, this life.
Even if her heart is broken.
The words ringing in her mind are irritating and unnecessary: This is for the best. This is for the best. She’s already well aware. It isn’t some sort of revelation.
The best sure hurts a whole hell of a lot though.
She makes sure not to let anyone see- crying herself to sleep every night, muffling her face against the pillow to stifle the sobs from Mariana’s ears. This is what she chose.
This is for the best. This is for the best. This is for the best.
“Callie? Are you okay?”
Damn. She should have locked the door. It’s Saturday afternoon and the house is full, save for one person currently at piano lessons. How had she been so stupid? Quickly wiping at her tears, she forces herself up into a sitting position and rushes to reassure her baby brother.
“Yeah. Yeah, I’m good buddy.”
“No you’re not. You were crying.” He observes. “What’s wrong?”
“It was nothing.” She dismisses quickly, putting on a smile. “I’m okay now, see? Everything’s fine.”
“No, it’s not.” Jude sighs and steps further into the room. “Callie, you haven’t been the same since you came back.”
Callie frowns. “Jude, I-”
“It’s because of him, isn’t it?” he interrupts knowingly. “That’s why you’re sad all the time. Because you’re not with him anymore.”
“No,” she shakes her head fervently. Deny deny deny. “That’s not it-”
“It is, though.” His tone is firm, dead set on not buying in to her lies. “You knew if you came back to live here you couldn’t be with him, but you did it anyway.”
Callie sighs. She knows arguing with him anymore is pointless. As much as she wishes it different, he isn’t the naïve little kid she used to sneak her dessert to under the dinner table anymore.
“I need this family, Jude.” She finally murmurs.
“Yeah, but you need Brandon too.” He points out sadly. “You’re not the same anymore, and neither is he. We’ve all noticed.”
“…It doesn’t matter.”
“It does though.” Jude argues. “Because clearly you’re miserable without him.”
Callie stares at him helplessly, unable to speak. If she tries to answer him now, she’ll break and since she was very small she’s ingrained it in herself that under no circumstances is that ever a possibility. Not when so much is on the line.
“You love him, don’t you?” Jude says quietly. “And not the way you love Jesus or Mariana or even me. You love him different. Like Stef and Lena love each other.”
Of course, sometimes even the strongest of walls can come crumbling down with the right force behind them. Hers just happens to be a twelve year old boy.
“…I tried so hard not to.” She whispers tearfully. “I swear Jude, I never wanted this to happen and neither did he-”
“I know. I know that now.” He promises. “I didn’t for a long time, but I do now.” He takes a seat on the bed next to her, his words gentle. “But Callie? I think… I think you have to be with him now. Otherwise… I don’t think this will ever be enough.” He admits quietly. “You’ll never really be happy here without him. And not as your foster brother. As yours. And I don’t think he’ll ever be happy either unless you’re his.”
She can’t do this. Not now. As hard as these past few weeks have been, living under the same roof as Brandon, passing him in the hallway, seeing his face every waking hour, she likes to think she’s done a pretty good job at appearing like things are okay. But she cannot sit here and have this conversation with her brother of all people about how she needs to be with the one person it’s been made clear over and over again is off limits. Not when she’s barely keeping it together as is.
“I’m gonna go for a walk.” Rising from the bed she rushes out of the room, informing Stef and Lena that she needs some air and will be back within the hour. After making sure her cell phone is on hand, she’s given the green light and nearly sprints down the driveway, desperate for even the briefest means of an escape.
This is for the best. This is for the best. This is for the best.
He finds Stef and Lena in the living room reading the newspaper.
Two heads instantly pop up at the new voice entering the living room, smiles appearing at the use of such a title. It’s still new and they still love that Jude feels comfortable enough to refer to them as such. It’s doubtful the feeling will ever fade. Hearing yourself referred to as Mom never gets old.
“Yeah sweetie?” Lena smiles warmly as both she and her wife each close their respective sections of the paper in order to give him their full attention.
“Can I talk to you guys for a minute?”
“Sure love.” Stef pats the spot between them on the sofa, which he takes. “Have a seat. What’s on your mind?”
“It’s about Callie and Brandon.”
Immediately both parents tense up.
“What happened?” Lena asks quickly.
“Did you see something?” Stef demands.
“No, nothing like that.” Jude shakes his head. “Kind of the opposite actually.”
Now they’re confused. Lena places a gentle hand on his shoulder.
“What do you mean, sweetheart?”
“I found Callie in her room earlier.” He admits. “She was crying. And I know it’s because she misses Brandon.”
“Are you talking about Callie?” Mariana steps into the room, catching the tail end of his sentence. “Was she crying again?”
Concern now overlaps the previous wave of confusion. “Again? What do you mean again?”
“She’s been crying nonstop since she came back.” Mariana says, frowning. “You seriously haven’t noticed? She waits until she thinks I’m asleep, but I hear her sobbing into her pillow every night.”
“Hey.” Jesus greets, walking in with a soccer ball. “What’s going on?”
“We’re talking about Brandon and Callie.” His twin informs him.
“Oh my god, please tell me I’m not the only one who feels like they’re living with Romeo and Juliet.” He begs, dropping down into a chair. “Seriously, the way they stare at each other across the room when they think the other person isn’t looking is driving me crazy. They look like they’re in physical pain.”
Mariana shrugs. “Maybe they are.”
“You know I walked in and found Brandon crying yesterday?” Jesus tells them. “Yeah, I went into his room to borrow something and found him with his headphones on, crying into his keyboard.”
“I got home early last weekend and heard him crying in the shower.” Jude admits quietly. “And sometimes I see Callie bite the inside of her cheek, which she only does to hold back tears.”
“They’re both miserable.” Mariana states quietly.
“Well I’m not really sure what else to do.” Stef says tiredly. “Brandon moving out didn’t work. They’ll just have to get over it.”
“It’s been a month and half and nothing has changed.” Mariana points out. “It’s just as bad as the day Callie moved back in.”
“So maybe they just need to explore their options more. See other people.” Lena tries.
“They already did that, remember?” Jesus reminds her. “Brandon went out with Talya- twice and the only thing it did was reassure him that she’s a hundred precent crazy.”
“And Callie went to that dance with Wyatt after he got back.” Jude adds, causing Mariana to roll her eyes.
“Yeah, the dance where I found her in the bathroom- what else?- crying. Because Brandon was dancing with other girls. Looking extremely bored, I might add. Seriously, if a guy did that with me I would have dumped my punch over his head.”
Jesus chuckles. “Talya almost did. She was halfway across the gym before Timothy intercepted her.”
“So what do you suggest we do?” Stef questions, aggravation clear in her tone. “Any and all suggestions are welcome, because I’m completely lost. We’ve tried everything.”
The three kids share a look.
“Not everything.” Jude says quietly.
Stef and Lena look at each other and then back at the kids.
“You’re not seriously suggesting…” Lena begins, eyes going wide when they all avoid her gaze.
“You guys were against this!” Stef cries. “Where did this change of heart come from?”
Mariana shrugs. “We thought they’d get over it.”
“We didn’t realize how miserable they’d be.” Jesus adds with a sigh.
Jude looks down at her feet. “I can’t see her like this anymore.” He whispers. “She needs to be happy and he makes her happy. It’s not fair for me to take that away from her, no matter how weird it is for me to see.”
“Honey, it’s not that simple.” Stef says slowly. “If Callie wants to be adopted, she and Brandon cannot date.”
“What if she’s not adopted?” he questions. “What if she just stays a foster kid until she turns eighteen?”
Lena sighs. “It’s still heavily frowned upon for foster siblings to date. And with Callie’s record… it could cause problems with your adoption.”
Jesus frowns. “Isn’t there some way for her to like, not be a foster kid before she’s eighteen? She was gonna live by herself before she decided to come back here, right? How did that work?”
“Since she wasn’t with a foster family at the time, the state would have legally emancipated her.” Stef explains. “So she’d be allowed to live on her own.”
Lena looks up at her partner. “What if we emancipated her?” she asks quietly.
She shrugs. “She wouldn’t have our last name and we wouldn’t have any legal custody over her, but she could still stay here.”
Stef laughs in shock. “And where exactly are we going to get the money for this?”
“We’d find a way. We always do.”
Stef looks between the four of them.
“And then what? We just let them date while living down the hall from each other?”
“You could make rules.” Jesus suggests. His twin nods.
“A lot of rules. And they’d probably follow them if it meant they could be together.”
“They did look miserable at that dance, Stef.” Lena murmurs. “I see them in the halls at school and my heart breaks every time.”
Stef groans. “I guess I might as well share that Mike called me the other day to express his concern. Said he’s never seen Brandon this upset before and he’s worried.”
“Timothy held me back after class last week and asked if Callie was okay.” Mariana admits. “Apparently he’s noticed something off about her.”
Lena sighs. “He said something to me too.”
“What? Why didn’t you tell me?” Stef demands.
“I don’t know.” she shrugs tiredly. “Because I had a feeling it was about this and I hoped that if I ignored it, it would go away.”
“I think we all did.” Jude says sadly. “Including Brandon and Callie.”
“Yeah, well, clearly that isn’t gonna happen.” Jesus announces. “So we gotta do something because I can’t take much more of this.”
“Jesus, you’re so selfish!” Mariana cries. “Think about how Brandon and Callie must feel right now! I don’t think they can take much more of this.” She bites her lip and then quickly adds, “But I really can’t handle it for much longer either.”
Her twin rolls his eyes. “Thanks Mother Teresa.”
“I’m just tired of seeing her sad all the time.” Jude murmurs. “And if being with Brandon makes her happy…”
“But how do we know this isn’t just a phase?” Stef begs. “They can’t be that sure. They’re sixteen years old! They can’t tell us that this is real love because they don’t even know what real love is yet! They’re not some epic love story for the ages.”
“Maybe they are.” Mariana speaks up. “Maybe they’re soul mates, destined to be together until the end of time. Maybe they’re each other’s One.”
Jesus raises an eyebrow. “Their what?”
“You know, their One.” She looks at him expectantly. “The person they’re supposed to be with! The person who, at the end of the day, no matter what happens, they’ll always go back to because that’s where they belong.”
Stef sighs, letting her head drop into her hands. “I just don’t understand how they could let this happen. They both knew from day one that this couldn’t happen- if no other rules we made were followed, this was the one that had to stick- and they did it anyway!”
“It wasn’t exactly a choice though, was it?” Jesus questions gently. “I mean, it’s not like they sat down and decided to fall for each other to make everyone’s lives more difficult.”
“You and mom never decided to fall in love.” Mariana points out. “You didn’t choose to be who you are. It was already decided for you a long time ago by something way beyond your control. You had two choices- stay married to Mike to try and make him happy and do what you thought was best for Brandon and easily accepted by everyone else, or take the risk and be with momma and be happy.” She shrugs. “But you still got that choice. They didn’t.”
“I… I don’t know.” Stef looks to her wife tiredly. “Lena, what do you think?”
“I think… I think you don’t get to decide who you fall in love with.” She answers after a moment. “But you do get to decide what you do about it. And I think everyone should have the right to make that decision for themselves- to find the kind of love everybody dreams about but only some people are lucky enough to actually experience.” She sighs. “I know Brandon and Callie are young, and we have no way of knowing how this will turn out in the long run, but if there’s even the slightest chance that this is real thing… I feel like it would be wrong to take that away from them.”
“Because we love them.”
“Because it’s the right thing to do.” She corrects. “Because not everybody is lucky enough to find their person, so if you find them a little early you should be allowed to hang on to that. Because it’s a once in a lifetime kind of thing and not taking advantage of it would be the single biggest mistake you’ll ever make in your life.”
Stef frowns. “You really think this is what’s best?”
“I mean… this could be a huge mistake. That’s always going to be a possibility.” Lena admits honestly. “But my gut is telling me that it isn’t.”
“And your gut has pretty good judgment.” The blonde relents, giving her wife a small smile that brings a gleam to Lena’s eyes.
“It’s what told me to take a chance on you.”
Stef is quiet for a minute, the wheels in her mind turning as she processes all of this new information.
“And we all agree this is something we support? Honestly?” Like everything else, she has to make sure every single one of her children is on board before making such a big decision. “Speak now or forever hold your peace.”
“I am.” Jude is the first to voice his opinion. “I’m okay with it.”
Mariana nods. “Me too.”
“Yeah,” Jesus agrees. “Count me in too.”
Her wife smiles a little. “I agree with the kids. If this is what Callie and Brandon want, then my answer is yes.”
Mariana turns to the blonde. “What about you, mom?”
“Yeah,” Jude echoes. “What’s your vote?”
“It has to be monogamous.” Jesus adds.
“Unanimous.” Lena gently corrects, purely on instinct.
“Okay.” It takes Stef a minute to find her voice, but when she does her tone is clear and sure. “Okay.”
They send the other kids upstairs so Callie doesn’t feel like she’s being attacked upon her return, so when the teenager comes back from her walk fifteen minutes later the first level of the house is empty save for the two mothers still sitting on the sofa.
“Callie, love?” Stef calls, keeping her tone light. “Can we talk to you for a minute?”
There’s a look of hesitation on Callie’s face as she enters the living room, clearly unsure of what’s going on, but she nods and slowly takes a seat in the arm chair across from them.
“We’ve all noticed a change in your behavior lately.” Stef begins. “Since you moved back in.”
Callie frowns, clearly confused. “Am I in trouble?”
“No, no sweetheart, it’s nothing like that.” Lena rushes to assure her. “We just mean that you seem… unhappy. We can tell that you’re upset.”
Her partner nods. “And we know why.”
Callie looks between the duo, still unsure of what they’re getting at. “I haven’t done anything.” She says honestly.
“We know. We know that honey.” Lena promises. “You haven’t done anything wrong and we’re not angry with you. We’re just concerned.”
“…I don’t know what you want me to do.” Callie whispers after a moment.
“We want you to be happy, love.” Stef says truthfully. “Which is why we’ve discussed… changing a few things.”
“In the past we made it very clear that under no circumstances could you and Brandon pursue anything beyond a brother/sister relationship. We thought your interest in each other would go away over time.” Stef explains. “But it’s become clear that isn’t the case.”
“So we’ve decided that, if you want, we can look into alternate possibilities from adoption.” Lena continues.
“I don’t understand.” Callie says slowly. “Everyone told me that I had to make a choice, so I did.” She recalls. “I picked you, I picked this family. Are you saying I chose wrong?”
Stef sighs and grabs her hand. “I’m saying maybe you shouldn’t have ever had to choose in the first place.”
Callie frowns, biting the inside of her lip as tears fill her eyes.
“…I want to be a part of this family. I want to be your daughter.” She whispers. “But…”
“But you want Brandon too.” Lena finishes.
Stef squeezes her hand. “Honey, you are our daughter. You always will be.” she promises. “We don’t need a piece of paper to prove it.”
“I can’t…” Callie shakes her head quickly. “I can’t do this to Jude again. I’ve hurt him so many times already, I can’t-”
“It’s okay.” Jude assures her as he steps into the living room. “It’s okay Callie.”
“It’s okay to be happy.” He continues. “And it’s okay to be happy with Brandon.”
Callie sighs. “Baby…”
“It’s okay to love him. I know it doesn’t mean you love me any less.” He promises. “It’s okay.”
“I feel like I’m picking him over you.” She whispers.
“No, Callie.” Stef shakes her head. “I think for the first time in your life, honey, you’re picking you.”
After a plethora of hugs and kisses and more tears, Jude is finally sent back upstairs just as the car pulls into the driveway, signaling Brandon’s return from his session with the Grim Reaper. Upon walking through the front door the oldest boy immediately notices the three women in the living room looking very serious, Callie’s tears more than anything causing his heart to race with fear.
“What happened?” he asks quickly, his mind immediately jumping to the worst possible situations: someone else has died, Callie and Jude are being sent away, it turns out Wyatt impregnated her…
“Hey, B.” Stef greets gently. “Come sit down for a minute, love. We need to talk to you.”
“Okay…” he makes sure to sit on the opposite side of the room from Callie, even though it takes every bit of strength he has not to take her in his arms and comfort her. “What’s going on?”
“We’ve been discussing your relationship with Callie-” Lena begins, but he quickly cuts her off.
“We haven’t done anything, I swear.”
“Let her finish.” Stef’s tone is soft, but stern.
“It’s okay.” Lena smiles at him. “We’ve been reevaluating our decision about the two of you being in a relationship.”
Brandon’s jaw drops. “What?”
“Believe it or not, I am capable of changing my mind.” Stef teases lightly. “It happens every decade or so.”
“Wait, you’re serious?” Brandon breathes, still unable to believe this isn’t some sort of joke. “You wanted us apart. You made such a big deal about us not being together. I don’t understand.”
“Your brothers and sister came to us.” Lena explains. “Apparently they’ve noticed how unhappy you both are.”
“I’m not unhappy-”
“That’s not it-”
Stef holds up a hand for silence.
“Yes, it is.” She says calmly. “And it’s okay, our feelings aren’t hurt. We just want you to understand that we were trying to do what we thought was best. It was never our intent for you to be miserable.”
“But what mom and I have realized lately is that maybe we were a little too quick to judge,” Lena continues. “It’s come to our attention that perhaps we don’t know quite as much as we thought.”
“And I am far more like my father than I prefer to acknowledge.” Stef snorts.
“We didn’t take your feelings into consideration as much as we should have, and we apologize for that.”
Stef nods. “All we’ve ever wanted was for our babies to be happy.” She says, letting out a deep breath. “And if being together is what will make you happy, then we should explore the option.”
“I still don’t get it.” Brandon finally speaks. “How would this even work?”
“Well, first and foremost, we would not adopt Callie, nor would we foster her.” Lena begins. “Instead, we would help her file for a legal emancipation so she would be recognized as an adult by the state. Which means the two of you would no longer be siblings under any definition.”
“It would also mean she has the right to live wherever she chooses,” Stef continues. “However, instead of getting a place of her own, she would decide to live with us. Basically you’re going to be our daughter in every way except on legal documents, and we will treat you exactly the same as the rest of our children.”
“You’re an honest person Callie, and you don’t go back on what you say.” Lena says kindly. “So you should know that if this is what we all agree on, you’re going to have to give us your word that regardless of any laws, you are our sixteen year old daughter and you will abide by our rules just like the other kids.”
“If you break a rule, you will be punished.” Stef lists. “You will have chores. If you use the emancipation against us to avoid following our rules, we’ll find you somewhere else to stay. And if the two of you ever break up, there’s not going to be a bunch of shuffling around. You’ll just have to deal with it.”
“We won’t break up.” Brandon promises, his tone firm while Callie echoes the statement.
“Still, we want to make it clear. Because if we do this, there’s no going back.” Stef tells them. “If you two decide not to be together down the line, we won’t be able to reverse anything.”
“What about the cost of getting emancipated?” Callie whispers after a moment. “It’s a lot of money…”
“That’s not something either of you needs to worry about. We’ll take care of it.” Lena says, causing the brunette girl to immediately shake her head in protest.
“I can’t ask you to pay for that-”
“You’re not.” Stef cuts in. “We’re offering.”
“That’s another part of the agreement, kiddo.”
Lena smiles. “Take it or leave it.”
Brandon glances between the three women.
“So, if we agree to all of this,” he begins slowly. “It means…”
“It means… that we can give this a try.” Stef answers. “But there are going to rules!”
“Lots of rules!” Lena adds.
“Rules that if you break there will be severe consequences to.”
“And Callie will be going on the pill.”
“It doesn’t matter what you have or haven’t done in the past,” Stef cuts off the nervous teens. “You might in the future and we want you to be prepared. End of discussion.”
“If the two of you are both in any room that has a door, it stays open at all times.” Lena continues. “And your curfews will remain as they are now.”
“We also have the right to add to these rules as we see fit. But we’re going to do our best to be levelheaded about this, so we expect you both to do the same.” Stef promises. “You know how it works here: everyone is treated with the respect they earn. Mama and I included.”
“That’s completely fair.” Callie agrees.
“So you’re really gonna let us be together?” B checks, his tone still filled with disbelief.
The moms nod. “If you’re sure that’s what you both want.”
The two teens immediately find each other’s face across the room and for a moment silence fills the air as they lock gazes.
“I’m sure.” He whispers.
Callie nods. “Positive.”
“Okay then.” Lena claps her hands together once. “We’ll start the paperwork tomorrow.”
“But hey, until the emancipation goes through you have to keep it under wraps.” Stef orders. “If anyone asks, Callie’s emancipation is simply because this is what she wants for her life- which isn’t a lie.”
“And the two of you didn’t start dating until after the emancipation was finalized.” Lena adds. “Which is… a slightly altered variation of the truth. The details are nobody else’s business anyway. Got it?”
“Good.” Stef gestures to the stairs leading to the second floor. “You should go tell the rest of your siblings what’s going on. Even though they are undoubtedly eavesdropping at the top of the staircase,”
“No we’re not!” Comes the immediate reply, causing everyone to roll their eyes as the three culprits hastily make their way into the living room.
“You guys are okay with this?” Callie checks hesitantly.
Mariana nods. “It’ll be weird at first, but we’ll be fine.”
“And if it makes you happy…” Jude shrugs. “That’s all that matters.”
“Just try to keep the tongue to a minimum when I’m around.”
“Jesus!” Stef chastises lightly. “But uh, just for the record, that goes for all of us.” She mutters, making Brandon and Callie both blush.
“Well, how about we give these two some time to talk?” Lena suggests after a round of hugs and several thank yous are exchanged. “Come on, I’ll make lunch.”
Mariana lets out a small groan. “You’re not gonna make that bean sprout thing again are you?” she whines, sparking a new debate on the pros and cons of bean sprouts as Stef herds the group into the kitchen.
“They’re an excellent source of protein!”
“They taste like dirt!”
“Are you saying you’ve ate dirt before, Jesus?”
“Nevermind, don’t answer that. I’m better off in the dark.”
“I think we’re getting off topic. I don’t want to eat that stuff…”
Brandon chuckles a little as the sound of the argument begins to fade, until finally it’s just the two of them.
“So…” he begins awkwardly.
“So…” Callie bites her lip. “What does this mean?”
Brandon shrugs, taking a step towards her. “I think.. it means we get to be happy.”
Callie laughs a little. “Does that happen?” she asks. “Because I’m still waiting for someone to jump out and say we just got Punk’d.”
“Right? I feel like if I try to hug you or something a firing squad will break through the windows.” He laughs. “I don’t know. It just all seems…”
“Too good to be true?” Callie finishes knowingly. “Yeah. Me too.”
“…are you sure this is what you want?” Brandon questions softly after a moment’s pause. “Because I know how much having a family means to you and if you gave that all up for me… I do love you Callie, and I know you love me, but if that’s not enough then I’ll understand. No hard feelings.” He promises, finally coming to a stop when their bodies are only a few feet apart. “I swear, I won’t resent you or be mad. If it’s what you really want, then I’ll be your brother.”
“All I want is for you to be happy. And I’d rather us not be together than have you sacrifice your happiness.” He says quietly. “That’s how much I love you.”
“And what if it is?” Callie steps forward and grabs his hands. “What if I’m okay with not being adopted and the emancipation and this whole crazy plan?” she asks. “What if all I want is you?”
Brandon’s answer takes no thought or hesitation. “Then I’m yours.”
Completely unknown to the two oblivious teenagers in the living room, a pair of moms silently stand peeking around the corner holding back tears.
“You okay hon?” Lena rubs a comforting hand over her wife’s shoulder upon hearing a small sigh escape from the blonde’s lips.
“Yeah love, I’m good.” She promises. “…I was just really looking forward to Callie officially becoming a Foster.” She confesses quietly.
“Oh honey,” Lena smiles and wraps her arms around her wife in a firm hug. “She will be someday.”
Stef tilts her head to the side. “You think?”
The pair of them turn back to their previous view where Brandon and Callie are now locked in each other’s arms, lips fused together as they happily ignore the rest of the world. It’s taken a long time and been a bumpy road, but Lena can see it now: the love they have for each other, the pure joy in their eyes between the exchange of tender kisses, the sincerity. It’s all there, along with the image of a future filled with diamonds embedded in bands of silver, white dresses, and champagne popped in the waiting room after hearing the first cries of a child entering the world. It’s all there and suddenly Lena is hit with the realization that perhaps it has been all along.
“Yeah,” She finally answers, unable to hold back her grin. “I’m sure of it.”
Chapter 2: Ever After (All Along pt2)
“It’s kind of weird at first.”
It’s kind of weird at first.
Nobody is one hundred percent sure how to act. Brandon and Callie go back to being a couple without any problems- that part is easy. But how this new dynamic affects the family… well, it takes some getting used to.
Like when Brandon walks downstairs for breakfast a few mornings later. He greets everyone with the typical nodded head and mumble, but the room freezes when he pauses at the kitchen table to peck Callie on the lips.
“I just… I mean- is that okay?” he asks slowly, taking notice of the five pairs of eyes now locked on them.
Lena is the first one to recover.
“Mhm.” She goes back to her scrambled eggs and nods, giving the pair a small smile. “Yeah, you’re both fine.” She assures him. “It’s no different than what Mama and I do. That’s allowed.”
Stef clears her throat and picks up her coffee mug. “It’s just new, is all.”
Giving a quick shrug, Jesus moves on to more important matters. “Where are the Frosted Flakes?” he questions, causing his twin to grimace in disgust when his gaze turns to her.
“Don’t look at me. There’s no way I’d put all those extra carbs and sugars in my body.”
“Hey Callie?” Jude finally speaks, and once again the entire room seems to hold their breath.
This is it, she thinks as her heart begins to race, he’s gonna take everything back. It’s too weird and he’s gonna say he changed his mind.
But her younger brother simply gestures to the plate next to her. “Can you pass the bacon?”
Another instance occurs on a random Saturday a few weeks later when Stef is delivering folded laundry.
“Hey B, I’m pretty sure these are your socks but it’s getting hard to tell between you and Jesus, so if they’re not then just- oh!” Her abrupt stop in the doorway causes the basket of clothes to drop to the ground, while the two teens quickly detach themselves from each other.
“I thought you were doing homework.” Stef sputters.
Brandon wipes at his lips, eyes focusing anywhere other than his mom. “We were taking a break.” He mutters.
“The door was open.” Callie adds unnecessarily, making a reminder that no rules were being broken.
“It was. You’re right.” Stef nods, still trying to gather herself. This is far from the first time she’s walked in on teenagers making out, but it is the first time she’s walked in on Brandon and Callie.
“I should go.” Callie decides after a beat, rising from her spot on the bed and moving towards the door.
“No, no! You don’t have to.” Stef interjects, her head clearing as she throws an arm out to block the girl’s path. “It’s okay honey. I was just caught off guard. You didn’t do anything wrong.” She gives Callie a reassuring smile and gently pushes her back to Brandon. “You’re okay. It’s fine.”
Brandon finally glances at his mother. “So, uh, laundry?” he prompts.
“Right! Yes, the laundry!” Stef retrieves the basket from the ground and places a stack of socks on top of his dresser. “The next load should be done soon.” She reports. “In the meantime maybe you two should work on some actual chemistry, yeah? And not just the physical kind you share.”
“Can do.” Brandon agrees, while Callie dutifully reaches for her textbook.
After returning to the safety of the hallway Stef lets out a breath. Lena can deliver the next batch of wash. Right now she needs a stiff drink.
“I’m not watching a chick flick.” Jesus says firmly. “It’s family movie night, so don’t even look at the box if it has Robert Pattinson or some other meathead on it.”
Mariana rolls her eyes. “Please. Those guys are far from meatheads. You, however…”
“Alright, enough of the firing squad.” Stef interjects. “Mama and I already picked the movie for tonight, so you can both save the argument for another time. Callie, love, hurry up! We’re about to get started!” she calls as Lena passes out bowls of popcorn.
The brunette hurries into the living room moments later. “Sorry,” she apologizes quickly. “Bathroom.”
Lena smiles. “You’re just in time.”
“It’s gonna cost you though.” Stef tells her, looking around at all of the occupied seats. “It looks like you’ll have to either grab a chair from the kitchen or park it on the floor, sister.”
“Um…” Callie bites her lip awkwardly, gaze flittering over to where Brandon is waiting on the loveseat.
“Oh!” It takes Stef a second to understand. “Or you could sit with Brandon, of course. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that.”
“Sorry.” She murmurs, scurrying to the armchair. The instant she’s situated in Brandon’s embrace a sense of security and warmth immediately washes over her body.
“You don’t have to apologize.” Lena assures the younger girl. “We just forget sometimes.”
Callie frowns nervously. “You aren’t- I mean, you don’t-”
“Oh honey, no. We aren’t changing our minds.” Stef promises quickly. “We wouldn’t go back on our word like that. It’s just a process. We’re so used to trying to prevent this, we forget that’s not the case anymore.”
Lena nods. “Pretty soon it’ll just be second nature. Right now is simply the adjustment period.”
“Just try not to make out during the movie.” Jesus begs from his end of the couch. “Now if this discussion is over, can someone press play?”
“What are we watching?” Jude shifts around until he’s comfortable on his cushion between the twins.
“Cheaper By The Dozen.” Lena answers, making her wife grin.
“Because if you guys think this house is crazy, just imagine seven more running around.”
“With one bathroom?” Mariana snorts. “I’d rather move to Honduras with Lexi.”
“Besides,” Callie snuggles deeper into the warmth of Brandon’s arms and smiles. “Things are pretty great exactly as they are.”
Callie is pretty sure she loses a few years of her life when Mariana bursts into the bedroom like a bat out of hell one Thursday afternoon.
“I need your help.” She announces, dropping her book bag to the floor and rushing over to sit by Callie. “And before you say no, you should be aware that this is a huge deal and if you don’t help me my life will be ruined and I’ll wind up the crazy woman who has a bunch of cats and dies alone.”
Callie chuckles. “You wouldn’t really be alone though. You’d have the cats.”
“Not the point!” Mariana cries. “Seriously, this is important!”
“Alright, alright.” Callie holds her hands up in surrender. “Tell me what’s going on.”
Mariana let out a deep breath. “Zac asked me out.” She reveals dramatically, causing the older girl to shake her head in confusion.
“And how exactly does this lead to you dying alone?”
“I need you to go with me!” she spits out. “Because I’ve never been on a real date with a guy before and if I mess it up he’ll never speak to me again and everyone will know I’m a complete loser so I’ll never be asked out on another date, leaving me no choice but to get the cats and die lonely and miserable save for the company of Jesus and his many ex-wives!”
“And you think bringing me along as a third wheel will help?” Callie questions. “Mariana, I’m not a dating expert or anything, but I really don’t see that making things easier.”
“Not as a third wheel- I want it to be a double date.” Mariana explains. “That way it won’t be weird and I’ll have backup. Please Callie? I’m sure I can find someone for you to go with- and no creepy guys, I swear! Zac has plenty of friends in your grade that I’m sure would love to go on a date with you.”
“Uh, no thanks.” She declines. “Besides, I can’t.”
“Why not?” Mariana pouts. “Come on Callie, please? People go on blind dates all the time! Why can’t you just do on this one little thing for me?”
Callie blinks. “Because I’m dating Brandon.” She says slowly.
“Oh, right! Duh!” The younger girl slaps a palm to her forehead. “Sorry. It’s just still new and weird, so I forgot. Brandon! Of course!”
“Did I hear my name?” The boy in question appears in the doorway a moment later. “What’s going on?”
“Mariana is going on a date so she’s trying to set me up with one of Zac’s friends to double.” Callie reports, causing Brandon to frown.
“Huh. I don’t know how I feel about that. I’d have to meet him first.” He takes a seat on Callie’s other side and presses a firm kiss to her lips, bringing a groan from his sister.
“You’re so dumb! My entire social reputation is at stake here!”
“Mariana, your social life is at stake at least twice a month.” Brandon points out.
“Not the point! This is a big deal!” The younger girl whines. “I’m freaking out here! Help me!”
“You really like this guy, don’t you?” Callie realizes.
“Yeah, I do.” Mariana nods. “So will you please do this for me? Please? It’s just one movie and a few slices of pizza.”
Brandon looks down at his girlfriend. “What do you think? Wanna chaperone and embarrass them into oblivion?”
“No! No way! You can’t do that in front of Zac!” Mariana cries. “I’ll die. I’ll actually be swallowed up into the ground and die. Please, you guys have to be cool. You’re not there to chaperone us, we’re just hanging out as a group. If I wanted babysitters I would have asked moms. Please.”
Callie laughs. “Relax. He was just kidding. We’ll go. And don’t worry, we’ll be cool.”
“Promise.” Brandon chuckles. “Sometimes you’re too easy, Mariana. It’ll be fine.”
And it is. Zac turns out to be a really cool kid, and he isn’t bothered by Brandon and Callie’s relationship in the slightest. The movie winds up not being nearly as awful as they’d all assumed, and save for a few awkward fumbles with the parmesan cheese shaker Mariana’s night goes incredibly smooth.
“Thank you guys so much.” She says as they walk through the door after dropping Zac off. “You totally saved me.”
Callie chuckles at bit at her enthusiasm. “You’re welcome. We’re glad we could help.”
“You know, I think it’s almost better that you guys are a couple.” Mariana comments as she hangs up her coat. “Think about how awkward it would be been if we were both on blind dates. I would have been doomed.” She shrugs. “Anyway, thanks again. You guys are awesome.” She gives each of them a brief hug before heading upstairs to recount the evening to the moms.
“Well, I’d say we did pretty good.” Brandon announces, leaning back against the sofa cushions as they sit down in the living room.
Callie nods. “And Mariana’s social life is safe for another day, which means all is right with the world.”
“And knowing that alone is enough to help me sleep at night.” He quips. “Still though, it was fun and Zac seems like a pretty nice guy.”
“Plus he’s completely crazy about Mariana.”
Brandon snorts. “So is Mariana. That’s something they have in common.”
“Stop!” She swats at his chest and laughs. “I think it’s good she has someone that cares about her so much. She deserves that. Everyone does.” Callie says, smiling a little when Brandon hums in agreement.
“Plus he kept her distracted so we could make out through the entire movie.” He adds casually, causing her to assault him for a second time.
“Brandon! Oh my god!” she cries.
B shrugs. “You weren’t complaining earlier- Ow! I’m still not sorry.”
And thought she’ll never admit it out loud, deep down neither is she.
After a month, it’s not so unusual anymore. Though there is still the occasional surprise.
Such as one Sunday morning when a knock at the door comes while breakfast is being made. Stef raises her eyebrows when she opens the front door, surprised to see a delivery man standing on the porch.
“Can I help you?” she questions politely.
“Delivery for Callie Jacob.”
“Oh. She’s upstairs. Let me go get her-”
“I just need someone to sign.” The delivery man informs her, offering a clipboard. “It doesn’t have to be the recipient.”
“Oh. Well, I guess I’ll just…” Stef quickly scribbles her name on the paper and hands it back, receiving a bouquet of sunflowers in return.
Lena’s jaw drops a bit when her wife returns to the kitchen carrying the flower arrangement.
“What in the world?”
“They’re for Callie apparently.” The blonde shrugs and places the bouquet on the counter, turning her head to yell just as the girl in question tromps down the stairs with Brandon close behind.
“Morning,” she greets simply, giving both moms a soft smile as she heads for her seat at the table. “Who got flowers?”
“You did, love.” Stef tells her, causing the teenager to frown in confusion.
Lena shrugs. “Look and see if there’s a card.” She suggests, and sure enough upon inspection a small card is found in the middle of the bouquet.
Callie falls silent as her eyes scan over the note, letting out a snort shortly after.
“You’re such a dork.” She announces, just as Jude and the twins enter the room.
Jesus doesn’t even question her jab, quickly firing back, “Good morning to you too, butthead.”
“Butthead? Seriously, are you ten years old?” Mariana demands with a roll of her eyes before noticing the flowers. “Ohh, those are pretty!”
“Are they yours Callie?” Jude wants to know. “Who are they from?”
“A dork.” His big sister has a gleam in her eye as she crosses the room to where Brandon leans innocently against the fridge. “Why wouldn’t you just buy flowers yourself instead of having them delivered to your own house?”
Brandon shrugs. “Because it’s more fun this way.” He answers, arms sliding around her waist as he grins. “You like ‘em though, don’t you?”
Callie blushes lightly. “Duh.” She mutters with a smile of her own.
“Well then mission accomplished.” Brandon leans down to meet her for a short, tender kiss. “Happy anniversary, baby.”
“You guys haven’t been together for that long.” Mariana points out, her tone laced with confusion. “What are you celebrating?”
“Today marks a month since we found out we could be together.” He smiles, eyes still trained lovingly on the brunette in his arms. “It matters.”
“Wait, you didn’t plan some sort of crazy thing, did you?” Callie asks worriedly, but Brandon pecks her lips and assures her that’s not the plan.
“We’re not exactly the extravagant type. I was thinking we could just hit the beach. Maybe a picnic lunch, but nothing fancy. Pancakes are the pinnacle of my culinary skills, so we’re stuck with PB&J.”
“No presents?” she checks.
B pauses. “Bring your guitar.” He says mysteriously. “But no tangible gifts, I swear.”
“Just lunch at the beach?”
“Callie, I promise you other than the flowers I spent absolutely no money on this occasion. I even got the food out of the dumpster.” He teases, chuckling when she swats at his chest.
“Brandon! You’re so dumb!”
“You love me though.” Brandon states with a smirk, causing the brunette to turn serious as she nods.
“Yeah, I do.” Rising up on her toes again, she lets her hands rest against his cheeks as she kisses him softly and whispers a promise of love onto his lips.
“I love you too.” He murmurs, giving her one last kiss before pulling away and raising his eyebrows at their audience, most of whom are wiping tears away as they hastily get back to their breakfast.
“Mom, are you crying?” Jesus questions as he grabs the platter of eggs.
“What? No!” Stef snaps. She turns away to check her reflection in her spoon. “I have allergies. It’s spring, there’s pollen in the air. Leave me alone.”
And since everyone is wise enough to value their own life, that’s exactly what they do.
In the end, despite how odd it seems at times, what it all comes down to is happiness. And Brandon and Callie make each other happy, so that’s how things should be. It’s pretty simple, and the three younger siblings all agree on that. Besides, they’re starting to get used to the weirdness. As long as their siblings are happy, that’s all that matters. And if someone has a problem with that, well, they’re just gonna have to get over it.
Some people don’t though. A certain redhead to be specific seems to have a vendetta against Brandon and Callie dating, which isn’t really news to anyone by now, but when she begins to deliberately start trouble the trio decides it’s time to take matters into their own hands.
It’s during lunch on a Tuesday when all hell breaks loose. For this quarter the five of them have managed to land in the same lunch period, and they’ve made it a priority to separate from their friends and eat together at least once a week. Jude and the twins are already at their usual table in the courtyard when Brandon and Callie arrive, seeming far more tired than they did on the ride to school this morning.
“You guys look like you just went through hell.” Mariana observes, causing her twin to nod in agreement. “What happened?”
“Our history teacher assigned a project,” Callie begins, opening up the brown paper bag containing her lunch. “And we get to pick our own partners.”
“That’s good though, right?” Jude frowns in confusion. “It means you guys get to work together.”
“Wait a second, isn’t Talya in your history class?” Jesus questions, and at the two nods immediately all is understood.
“She spent the last ten minutes of class arguing with the teacher about how we had some sort of unfair advantage since we live in the same house.” Brandon recounts with a roll of his eyes. “Not that it made any difference. Even the teacher could see that she’s full of crap.”
Callie chuckles and takes a bite of her sandwich. “Really it just made her look bad.”
“Oh wow, that’s rich coming from you.” The bite of the redhead’s voice sends a small chill down everyone’s back as Talya approaches the table, glower prominent on her face. “Because showing up fresh out of juvie gives off a great first impression.”
“Has anyone ever told you that your left eye does this weird twitchy thing when you get really mad?” Jesus asks randomly. “It’s kinda creepy looking.”
“Whatever.” Talya scoffs. “At least I didn’t run away with my ex-boyfriend and land myself back in prison. Again.”
“Right, you just got so wasted at a party that you let someone film you taking your shirt off for the entire school to see.” Mariana snaps. “Go away Talya.”
“You guys are pathetic, you know that?” The redhead ignores the warning and continues to taunt her peers. “You think you’re so cool because you finally managed to trick people into letting this sick little fantasy happen, but guess what? Nobody is impressed. In fact, they’re disgusted. They know what a home wrecker Callie is and how stupid you are to fall for it, Brandon.” She crosses her arms and glares. “This isn’t even a real relationship. It’s incest.”
The ‘I’ word is what pulls the trigger. Immediately Jesus hops up from his seat while Mariana rises from her place at the table as well, neither seeming to care about the small crowd forming to watch the argument unfold.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about!” Jesus roars as his sister lets out a string of obscenities that alternate from Spanish to English. Surprisingly though, it’s neither of the twins reactions that cause silence to fall over the quad.
“You have a lot of nerve, you know that?” he says loudly, pushing himself into a standing position on top of the bench so he’s now looking down at the bully. “Do you even think about what you’re saying before you speak? Because you don’t sound cool or intimidating, you just sound rude.” Jude informs her. “First of all, what goes on between Callie and Brandon is none of your business. I get that you’re sad Brandon broke up with you, but that’s no reason to act so mean. He wasn’t trying to hurt your feelings, just like he wasn’t trying to like my sister. But he does and she likes him too, and the only person you’re affecting right now is you.” Jude tells the redhead. “Because guess what: Callie and Brandon love each other and you’re never going to be able to change that. Nobody is. So quit acting like you’re so much better than everyone else and back off.” He appears to be finished when a final thought strikes him, causing the young boy to add,
“And just for the record, the definition of incest is a sexual relationship between two people so closely related that marriage is illegal. And other than being underage, there’s nothing forbidding Brandon and Callie from getting married.” Jude points out. “Actually, since Callie is emancipated, all they need is for one of Brandon’s legal guardians to give permission and they could get married today if they wanted. Maybe you should try learning the meaning of words before using them.” With that his speech comes to an end, and Jude doesn’t even spare Talya a second glance as he sits back down. “Now if you’ll excuse us, we’d like to finish our lunch in peace.”
For a moment, silence spans across the courtyard. And then, almost at once, the entire crowd bursts into applause. A few people offer their own insults for Talya as they head back to their tables (one kid even sends an apple core flying dangerously close to her head) causing the redhead to let out a furious shriek before stomping off in a fit of rage.
The ‘I’ word is never mentioned again and nobody says a thing about Brandon and Callie’s relationship from that day forward. Also, Jude winds up being elected seventh grade class president that Friday due to a landslide of write-in votes.
All is well.
“How many kids do you want?”
It’s a random Sunday night as they lay on the living room sofa, a single light coming from the curtain drawn back to expose a full moon while the rest of the house sleeps soundly a floor above.
A chuckle escapes Callie’s lips, the sound slightly muffled against the warm body she’s currently using as a cushion. “Jumping the gun a little, aren’t you?” she teases.
“You know what I mean.” Brandon pokes her side. “Not any time soon, just in general.”
“Definitely more than one,” She decides after a moment of thought. “I don’t know what I would have done without Jude growing up, so I want my kids to have siblings. And I want to adopt and foster, but I’d like to have some myself too.”
Brandon lets out a breath, causing her to raise her head from his chest in order to meet his gaze.
“What?” she demands.
“Nothing,” He shrugs, a playful glimmer in his eye. “We’re just gonna be really busy.”
Callie smirks. “Oh yeah? And who says I want to have kids with you anyway, Foster?”
“Well I’m hoping you do, otherwise it’ll be pretty upsetting in the delivery room when the kid comes out looking like the mailman.”
“What can I say? I love a man with a nice package.” She lets out a small shriek when his hands glide across her ribs. “Stop it! That tickles!”
“Kind of the point,” Brandon murmurs, continuing his assault for a few more minutes until they’re both breathless as he hovers above her. “So what do you say? Wanna have a ton of grandkids to drive moms up the wall?”
Callie brushes a few strands of hair from his eyes and smiles. “I guess I could live with having your curly haired, piano playing babies.”
“Yeah?” he muses, leaning down to brush their noses together with a grin. “You’d be on board with that plan?”
“Mhm.” She nods, a sparkle of her own appearing in her dark eyes. “On one condition though.”
Callie smiles up at him, tone soft as she lays out her final proposition. “You have to spend the rest of your life with me.” She requests, and as Brandon leans down to claim her lips with his own, he knows there’s never been an easier question in the entire world.
Perched at the top of the stairs, two pajama-clad women once again find themselves listening in on the duo’s interaction.
“You know, in the beginning I had serious doubts.” Stef admits quietly to her wife.
Lena nods in understanding. “And now?”
“Now…” she says slowly, “I think it was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.”
As Lena’s fingers find hers in the darkness, the blonde can’t help but smile at the idea of running around with miniature versions of Brandon and Callie years down the line. If you had asked her a year ago she would never have believed it, but as they listen to the two teens exchange promises of a lifetime to come Stef is positive that this is the way things were supposed to end up all along.
“No regrets.” She promises firmly. “Not a single one.”