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A Slice of Life

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Kelal Makara’s son walks his younger brother to stay with Rosa during the day every Saturday and Sunday, and Gamzee, the youngest, trails along behind him, bouncing with six-year-old enthusiasm about seeing his friends. He tramples his way over the wildflowers and overgrown lawn while Kurloz, the oldest, makes the chirping whistle he uses to try and curb his brother’s excitement. Rosa doesn’t move as fast as she used to when she was young and had just adopted Yusea, but Karkat sprints out fast enough to trip over his own feet to meet his best friend.

Yusea watches from his patch of the garden while Kurloz drops his brother off, and waves at him while he saunters away, Mituna in tow while Sollux lingers on the porch, watching Karkat and Gamzee wrestle on the lawn. Rosa walks out a few seconds later and calls to them to be safe. She worries more since Mituna had a seizure and never quite recovered, especially since Sollux and Simon both have the same kind of epilepsy.

The THC oil that Diantha has been growing helps with Mituna’s seizures, though, so Rosa makes sure that they all take it. She worries too much otherwise, and it doesn’t have any risks, so Simon doesn’t argue. He can’t help but worry about Mituna too, though he and Sollux still get on like a wildfire.

Gamzee wraps his arms around Rosa’s legs and crows something excited while Yusea walks back into the house, turning to the side to let Simon pass and being playfully pinned to the wall to kiss him, before passing on. “I think Diantha is in the grow room if you need her. I’m going to work.” He leans down to kiss Yusea again, and leaves with a call of ‘see you later’ over his shoulder and his sometimes-partner softly blushing to his ears.

Nepeta hovers on the stairs as he passes, and playfully bites at Yusea’s hand when he taps her nose, proudly dividing her angular face. She looks like Simon, but with the dark skin of Diantha and her tightly curled hair, as well. Her shirt is patterned in kittens and she bounces in place when Karkat walks in, hand in hand with Gamzee. Kanaya, a year older than most of the children in the house, is probably with Diantha in the grow room, because though Rosa had adopted her she had attached more to Diantha’s motherly nature more.

“Hey mom.” Yusea kisses Rosa’s cheek as he walks through, and Rosa pats his cheek in return, but follows her herd of young children out to the backyard to play. “Do you want me to send Kanaya out?”

She shakes her head and speaks with a slight accent. “No, she’s alright. I want her wherever she’s most comfortable, and Dia seems to like the company.” Nepeta tugs at the hem of Rosa’s skirt as she walks past, and Rosa opens the door for her before following her out.

Diantha and Rachelle are both in one of the bedrooms, and Kanaya is in the living room, practicing her stitching. Rachelle leans her chin on the top of Diantha’s head, her face immediately half-obscured by thick black curls, only able to reach because Diantha is sitting at her desk, writing out a list of supplies. Their grow is small, and exactly legal, because Rachelle is a damn good lawyer but couldn’t defend herself even if she wanted to.

“We should go out.” Her arms loop around Diantha’s shoulders, and effectively distracts her from writing her list. “Get dinner, see a movie or something. Bring you home and..” Her hands slide down to grope through Diantha’s shift; she made it herself once she learned how to spin hemp. “Keep you company for the night. Let Yusea and mom keep the lioness and our genius company, Karkat’s going to Kelal’s with Gamzee.”

Diantha groans, leaning back against her chest. “That sounds good. I’ve been craving Thai.” Rachelle kisses her head, smiling. “If we can get Simon to keep our husband busy, I think it just might work. Yuse and he have been trying to get together, so maybe.” Rachelle kisses her neck, smiling. “And mom wants Kanaya to get to know the other kids. Porrim too, but she’s on that trip with Meulin.”

“You’re getting a mom-voice going.” Rachelle murmurs, leaning her cheek against Diantha’s head. “The kids are okay, gorgeous. Porrim and Meulin are getting along great. Nepeta can get along with anyone, and Kanaya is settling in. Some kids are quiet.”

Standing, Diantha is only a few inches taller than Rachelle, but she likes to lord it over her, just like she does with Yusea. Simon is the tallest in the house, and makes sure to remind his housemates of it as much as possible, and has actually gotten in trouble with some of his family for putting things up on the top shelf for that reason. Diantha can get away with it, since she’s barely taller than either Yusea or Rachelle, and Rachelle tends to wear heels.

Her arms drape around Rachelle’s waist and she meets her for a direct kiss, sighs again, and squeezes her. “I know. I just worry about my girls.” She sighs, and straightens up, and grins. “Let’s go out. It’ll be good for us.” She kisses Rachelle again, smiling.

“Hell yeah. We can dress up and get fancy, babe, and make the boys jealous.” Rachelle, gently undoes the tie holding Diantha’s long hair up. “Take a bath, do our hair, our makeup, go to dinner all dressed up, and come home for some privacy, how about that?”

Diantha giggles and nods, leaning on Rachelle. “Oh, you’re going out to have fun without me?” Yusea teases, from where he leans on the frame, his hair sweat-stuck to his forehead and neck. “So mean to me. I’ll wither.” He chuckles, and gestured with the laundry basket on his hip. “It’s too hot to garden right now, I’m gonna do some laundry and take a shower. Need anything washed for your big date, ladies?”

“No, just don’t use all the hot water.” Rachelle says, leaning her cheek on Diantha’s shoulder until she pulls away. “Either of you.”

Yusea smiles against the kiss Diantha presses to his lips, and lets her take the basket. “I’ll join you. Let me get my clothes. I’ll wash your back.” She flicks her hair over her shoulder while Yusea idly twists the ring they picked out together, while they were in escrow for the house and the lot they planted their garden on.

“Stop being cute with my girlfriend, Vantas.” Rachelle teases, bumping him with her hip while she walks past. “I’m gonna check in with mom and go talk to Kelal about the vacation and see if Gamzee can come. God knows he needs a vacation too, maybe we can get him to wear something other than a suit.”

Laughing, Yusea follows her out, but calls down the stairs after her. “Don’t hold your breath, he probably has pajama suits!” Then, he heads through the master bedroom, into the master bathroom, and barely manages to strip his shirt off before Diantha pulls him into the spray of the shower, her long black hair dripping onto the tiles while she leans out to kiss him and playfully flick water at him.

Karkat wails when Rosa scoops him off his feet, and Gamzee spins to try and help him out of her arms. “Papa and Dee are taking a shower, sweethearts. Let’s go play with Nepeta and Sollux.” Her voice is soft and level, and Karkat stops whining as soon as he’s reminded of the fact that his closest friends are over and that most of his toys are in the playroom, and not his father’s bedroom.

Gamzee, tall for six, shyly holds Rosa’s long apron as she carries her grandson back into the playroom, and gnaws on a chewing stimulation toy attached to a string around his neck, though his shirt’s collar is full of little holes from chewing and wet from it as well. He’s not often shy, and Rosa knows he’s probably been sleeping poorly again, so she plots the afternoon around activities that may put him and Karkat both to sleep.

Rosa doesn’t consider herself an expert in much, but she knows that she’s a good midwife and a good mother, her own sterility be damned. She takes the children she watches in her home in the same way she took in her son Yusea, and more recently, her daughters. She pays attention to their personalities, and what makes them happy or sad. She knows that Gamzee loves clowns and Karkat loves princess movies, and she knows that Gamzee has nightmares that keep him awake and Karkat has trouble letting other people speak because he has so much to say.

Nepeta loves cats and princess movies and dresses, and sports like hockey, where her best friend plays with her. Kanaya likes drawing and is trying to learn to sew. The boy Tavros who she only sees every few weeks likes Pokemon and racing the other kids and superhero movies, and his chair never slows him down at all, and Sollux likes video games and comics and reads high above his class level.

She knows that they’re good children, and she loves them deeply, because she cares for them, even just part time, and she sees how they are. Gamzee’s father Kelal thanked her desperately when she gave him the idea of a chewing toy for Gamzee and a whistle signal for Kurloz and him to get along, since Gamzee isn’t a strong reader and tends to bolt when Kurloz walks with him. Kelal is a good man, she thinks, because his sons are happy, and even with his job as a judge he never picks them up late.

Kurloz is good for Mituna, also. She had worried, along with the concerns about his ability after his seizure in general, and Sollux’s susceptibility to the same problems, that Kurloz wouldn’t be able to adapt their friendship. He had visited him as much as possible, and continued being Mituna’s best friend, though their communication was much slower now, as Mituna’s ability to really understand ASL and Kurloz’ being mute made their conversations written. They were good, though, Kurloz never looked at Mituna differently in any light besides things that may hurt him, like gently dissuading him from a laser tag party.

Her kids were good. Diantha was her daughter-in-law, though not really by marriage, and she adored her. Diantha was a good mother, and a friendly person, and her parents, lost when she was young before she moved from Haiti to the states, had raised her well. Rosa had taken her in when Yusea and she were only tentatively dating, because she was a wonderful person.

Rosa wouldn’t lie and say that the inclusion of Simon, and his sons, one only a year old, in their family didn’t surprise her, but he was good. His sons fit into their family easily, though. Meulin and Mituna got along, and when Nepeta was born with the sharp, angular features Simon had instead of the same rounder features of Yusea and Diantha and their Meulin, all three of them still doted on her endlessly. She couldn’t complain, but she couldn’t say that she fully understood what her son did with his partners.

Still, they were happy, and that’s all she could bring herself to care about. Simon worked at what he called a nerd farm, maintaining huge backlogs of data for thousands of companies most every day, in a company he made while Mituna was in elementary school, but makes time with Sollux, since Mituna is at the age of not wanting to spend much time with his father, and she respects him.

Simon and Yusea get on like a forest fire, and Diantha adores him as well, and her assorted grandchildren all like him, though Karkat and Sollux argue a lot. Rosa has found that children with a lot to say often argue about nothing.

Yusea gently pulls his fingers through Diantha’s hair, spreading the conditioner through her thick curls and leaning his cheek against her shoulder. “You should wear the red dress. You look amazing in red, Dee.” He murmurs, kissing the curve of her jaw. “And maybe those heels, the kind of strappy ones?” He slides his fingers through her hair again, tilting her head back to rinse it out.

“Mm, you love red. So does Rachelle, though. And you’ll keep an eye on the lioness?” She asks, almost purring under his attentions, she’s so relaxed. “What about makeup? What color lips do you always like so much?”

He pulls her upright again with his arms around her, into a loose hug, and gently spins to stand in the water. “Any color you wear. You’re stunning in anything, Diantha.” Yusea’s hair falls into his eyes more under the water, a mousy brown that both his sons share. “Would red lipstick be too much red at one time?” He keeps meaning to learn more about makeup, but she rarely wears it and she looks good in anything.

“Maybe. I’ll see what Rachelle thinks.” Her fingers scrub through his hair, with shampoo that smells like flowers foaming around his ears. “What about my lioness? You’ll help mom, right? Si works late tonight.”

He kisses her on the mouth, his eyes squeezed closed to keep the suds out of them. “I will keep our little lioness occupied while you have your date. And so will mom. We’ll do our best.” He kisses her again, and she tastes soap and has to push him back to rinse his hair out, giggling and ruffling his hair.

“She’s sneaky, you know.” She sighs, her hands sliding down to his shoulders and leaning in to kiss him again, and then just leaning. “She’s a sneaky little cat.”

Yusea laughs under the water, and holds her tightly, looking at the gentle glint of his ring in the low light of their bathroom and feeling too warm to worry.

Nepeta wears, primarily, one of her many princess costumes. She likes the blue ones, because her teammate and best friend likes blue and has a matching blue cape, and they play out warrior princess and superhero prince stories every time Equius comes for a playdate after hockey practice. She’s wearing a green one this afternoon, laying over the back of the couch and doing her best to distract Sollux from his game and bouncing her small lion plush on the couch.

Karkat and Gamzee are sitting in an armchair, mumbling about something quietly, and Gamzee’s looking sleepy. Kanaya is sitting on the couch, having been called in, and has forgotten the scraps in her lap to watch Sollux’s character careen off the edge of the world and laugh along with Nepeta. Rosa has settled her stiff joints in a seat where she can see all of them, and knits while she watches.

Gamzee falls asleep and Karkat follows soon after, and after a little convincing, Sollux puts one of Nepeta’s favorite movies on. Sollux stretches out on the floor with his iPad, playing a game with only a little bit of interest, and Nepeta, with permission, lays her head in Kanaya’s lap to watch. Yusea comes in, kisses Rosa on the cheek, and brings snacks for the children.

“What’re you watching, lioness?” He asks, flopping onto the couch. “I hope you’re being nice to miss Kanaya here, she’s been nice to you.”

Nepeta stretches, pointing to the screen. “Tiana, because my dress is green.” She kicks her feet against his legs, giggling. “Kanaya said I could lay on her. I asked.”

Yusea nods, and mouths a thank you at the older girl, who smiles softly. Kanaya, though quiet, is comfortable where she is. She had been in foster care for a few years, and was under Rosa’s care for some time before she was adopted by her, and despite her new family’s non-traditional build, she and her sister were happy. Porrim called her nightly, and Kanaya’s small room was slowly filling with new clothes and things that she hadn’t had in some time, and her young new sister clung to her any chance she got.

She’s happy, with her family being as it is. Karkat is her favorite new sibling, and she likes the blond girl from the apartment complex down the street, who doesn’t come over often, but walks with her to school and holds her hand. She’s not sure why Rosa worries about Rose, because she seems fine, and smart, but she accepts it.

Yusea watches the movie, and the next (Mulan, because she’s a warrior) with them, while Sollux dozes on the floor and Kanaya’s hand petting through her hair puts Nepeta to sleep in her lap. Simon comes home later, around eight, after Kelal has collected his boys with one of is rare, huge smiles and spinning Gamzee in his arms until Kurloz whistles his arrival and drops Mituna off with a shoulder bump that gets dragged into a proper hug before he heads inside. Kelal ruffles Kurloz’ messy hair and hands him his brother, asking him to go to the car.

Kelal pays more than in full for the care Rosa provides, thanks her repeatedly, and leaves with his boys, and with an apology about having given the wrong weekend for the sleepover that he repeats as well. Kelal always pays more than he owes, and tonight was no different. Simon walks in at dinner, and slides into the chair next to Rosa, between her and Yusea, across from Sollux. Mituna takes his plate up to his room, thanking Rosa though Yusea cooked it, and Kanaya sits quietly next to Karkat, who pokes his food glumly now that Gamzee has gone home.

“I brought ice cream for dessert.” Simon says, through a mouthful of food and gets jabbed in the side for that by Yusea. “I got chocolate?”

Yusea rolls his eyes, but lets Simon pull him over for a kiss on the cheek. “We should still chew with our mouths closed. And Karkat, you have to eat your dinner, please.” Simon pulls him over and kisses his ear gently, chuckling.

Karkat grumbles, but starts to eat his carrots at least. Yusea’s knee bumps Simon’s, and Simon scoots his chair closer to lean against him, one of his hands under the table resting at the crook of his thigh. They eat dinner a little slowly, talking about their respective days and plans for the next.

“Rachelle took Dee out for dinner, so they’ll get home late.” Yusea says, covering Simon’s thin fingers with his own. “And, my favorite group of youngsters, you have school in the morning. Don’t stay up too late.”

Dinner passes quickly, followed by a flurry of baths and tooth brushing, and forehead kissing and tucking in. Simon sits with Mituna and they have their nightly talk, and Yusea gets Nepeta settled into her bed while Rosa settles Karkat. Sollux plays on his iPad in bed, and only argues a little before letting it be put up. By the time everyone is in bed, Simon and Rosa have said their goodnights and started to settle in themselves.

Diantha and Rachelle come in about an hour later, tipsy and dressed well and full, and stumble into Rachelle’s room next to the master bedroom. Diantha presses Rachelle against her door, giggling between slow, comfortable kisses, and Rachelle pushes her hands under the hem of Diantha’s red dress. Diantha lifts her chin while Rachelle’s lips trail down her throat, and slips her dress off her shoulders.

“You look so good, Dee.” Rachelle murmurs, carefully leading her back to the bed. “Sit down, sit down, those heels look dangerous.”

Diantha sits, lays back on the bed, and stretches her legs out in front of her while Rachelle unstraps her shoes for her. Once both her shoes are off, she sits up again and unzips her dress, and shimmies it down and off, followed by her bra. Rachelle climbs over her, her knees pressing into the mattress on either side of her hips. Diantha reaches behind her and undoes her bra, her lips trailing over her neck. Rachelle presses her shoulders down and holds herself over Diantha’s body, kissing her a little slower while Diantha slides her hands up Rachelle’s thighs to pinch her ass.

Rachelle moves down and Diantha pulls herself back, so her head is on the pillows, and Rachelle strokes her thighs, up to the edge of her lace panties. “These are adorable, Dee. I’ve never seen them.” Her fingers slide under the top edge of her panties and tug them gently down and Diantha lifts her hips to let them slide down.

Dee pokes Rachelle with her toe while pulling her legs out of her panties, and Rachelle lightly slaps her thigh, snickering, while Diantha pulls her down to kiss her again, and throws a blanket over them out of habit. “They’re new, yeah. I thought having more than two pairs of cute ones for dates, you know?” Rachelle nods, shimmying down the bed and kissing Diantha’s neck and chest on the way.

The blanket pulls down while Rachelle moves, nibbling at the give on the curve of her hip, and Diantha lifts her knee, hooking her leg over Rachelle’s shoulder to encourage her down. She mutters something about patience, and Diantha rolls her eyes at the dark ceiling, and pulls a hand through her hair to get it off her face. Rachelle’s mouth trails lower, finally, and Dee sighs, rolling her hips up and mumbling a couple directions.

Rachelle pulls Dee’s other leg over her shoulder, humming in acknowledgement of her directions, and then because doing it makes her breath catch. Diantha’s fingers tangle in Rachelle’s hair and smooth it back off her forehead. Dee relaxes slowly, but surely, as she works, rolling out her shoulders and letting her head sink into the pillows.

She finally starts getting into it after some time, her eyes sliding closed and her lips falling gently open with muted moans. Rachelle’s hands slide up her front to grope at her chest for a few seconds, though Dee takes one of her hands to hold it instead, pressed to her chest between her breasts while she grips the sheets with her other hand, breathing softly.

“Mama?” Nepeta asks, knocking at the closed door, and Rachelle nearly falls off the bed in Dee’s rush to get up and pull a loose pair of her boxers on before the door cracks open. “Ma?”

“Hey honey, what’s wrong?” She pulls on a shirt that doesn’t quite fit her from Rachelle’s floor, and Nepeta patters into crawl into her lap. “Isn’t it bedtime, lioness? You need to sleep before school.”

Nepeta’s little hands twist in the hem of her nightgown, the one Rosa had sewn lace and frills onto to make it look like a princess’ sleeping dress, and she leans her cheek on Diantha’s chest. Rachelle scoots up onto the bed proper, laying down properly, because she knows well enough that once Dee goes into Mom Mode, she’ll just want to lay down and sleep, and having been interrupted by her girlfriend’s daughter dampens her mood as well.

The lioness kicks her feets and barely sniffles. “I miss Equie.” The Zahhak boy, her best friend and teammate. “He’s not gonna be at practice and I haven’t seen him and I miss him. He’s been gone for so long, ma.” She sniffles more, and Dee stands, holding her against her chest with a shushing sound. “I wanna call him, please? I’ll be really fast and go to bed for school, please? Please, mama?”

Rachelle doesn’t hear what Diantha says to try and reason with her daughter, because she walks out of the room with only a glance back, and Nepeta wriggles to wave at her. Oh well, she thinks, rolling onto her back and fishing around in the drawer nearest her bed to pull a shirt on. Another night. Maybe one of the nights when Nikolai has a sleepover for Equius and Nepeta. Then there’s only Sollux, Karkat and Kanaya to worry about, let alone Yusea or Simon. Or Rosa, honestly.

It’s not easy to get a date to go through, in her experience, in the house. She shuffles her pillows around to sleep, and plays on her phone. After about twenty minutes, through the wall, soft, she hears Yusea talking, laughing gently, followed by Simon’s voice, a little louder and immediately shushed by Yuse. They laugh, softly, and after a few moments of quiet, Yusea’s soft, hand-muffled moans barely leak through the wall, with slightly louder gasps of Simon’s name. Simon sounds breathless when he asks “which drawer?”

Scowling, Rachelle pulls a pillow over her head. Oh yeah, he’ll keep an eye on her. No problems. Ass. She can’t be too upset about it, but she can be a little upset about it. She’d have been more upset if Dee hadn’t helped Nepeta, and she could make good on her promise to take her along next time she had a long trip and fuck her senseless in a hotel. Or at least take her out for a while, who knows.

Nepeta squirms in her bed unhappily, clutching the smaller cat toy that Equius had given her for her last birthday, which she had named after him though he insisted it was a girl cat. “I wanna call Equ.” She pouts, wriggling lower so her blanket covers her nose. “I miss him. Please?” Her green eyes glitter up and Diantha has a hard time saying no.

“Lioness, Equius is asleep right now. It’s late. You can call him as soon as you get home tomorrow, I promise.” She sits at the edge of Nepeta’s bed and gently folds back the blanket from her face, and then leans down to kiss her forehead. “I promise. Equius is sleeping, you should sleep too. You have to tell him everything that happens at practice, right?”

She rolls over, pouting, but rolls back after less than a second of thought. “Fine. Pinky promise though!” Her little hand shoots out of her blanket with only her pinky out, and Diantha hooks her own pinky with it for a few quick shakes. “As SOON as I get home.”

“Yes, my lioness. As soon as you get home.” She leans down and kisses Nepeta’s face again. “Go to sleep.”

Nepeta settles into her bed and lets Dee shut the lights off and mostly close her door, and falls asleep quickly. Sollux and Karkat, in the next room, mutter at each other until she knocks on their door and reminds them it’s time for them to sleep. She peeks into Kanaya’s room, but doesn’t interrupt her reading. She slips back into Rachelle’s room, closes the door, and crawls into bed with her with a low sigh, leaning her head on her chest.

She apologizes, but only once, and Rachelle brushes it off. Her daughters should come first, she couldn’t complain, and she still got to cuddle Dee all night. In the next room, Yusea and Simon have finished up and are sleepily tangled together, murmuring under their breath. Simon’s head is curled under Yusea’s chin, his lanky arms around his middle and his legs dangling off the end of the bed.

He kisses at Yusea’s neck, one of his hands twisting the ends of Yusea’s grown-out hair while the other strokes his back softly. “I love you.” He says it softly, though they’ve been together for a while now, and they’ve said it before. “Yusea, I love you.”

Yawning, Yusea nuzzles against Simon’s straight black hair, humming and wrapping a leg around his hip. “I love you more, Si.” He gently tilts Si’s head back to kiss him, scratching his scalp and squeezing him around the shoulders. “I love how cuddly you get at night.” He lets Simon press his face against his throat again, smiling into his black hair.

“I don’t get a lot of time to just hold you.” Simon murmurs, not the least bit embarrassed about being so mushy. “Or Dee. I have to take full advantage of it. If I didn’t have these stick nerd arms I’d probably try and carry you around all the time to make up for it.”

Yusea flushes a little, but just smiles, fluffing his hair some more before his yawns make him settle in against the pillows at last. “Sleep well, Simon.” He pauses, kissing the top of his head. “I love you. See you in the morning.” He tucks the blanket in around them a little more and finally lets himself relax, following Simon’s easy dive into sleep with his own.

The night passes in relative quiet, with the only sounds being Rosa’s soft reminder to Kanaya to get some sleep and Karkat pattering into the kitchen to drink some water, and the sleeping sounds all the occupants of the house make. Rosa wakes earlier than the rest of the house to make breakfast, though Yusea, Simon and Diantha get up shortly after her to rouse their collective children. Kanaya, already dressed, finishes homework at the kitchen table while Karkat yells complaints about getting up and having to get dressed.

Sollux shakes Mituna awake, and Mituna stumbles out of bed behind him, slurring a thanks and tripping over his skateboard pieces. Yusea, once he’s sure Karkat is well on his way to dressing and Nepeta has been dissuaded from wearing her princess costume to school, calls his older son. Kankri is in a youth group on a mission trip, which Yusea isn’t ecstatic about, because among other things, the church he prefers seems to hate everything about his family’s construction, besides maybe adoptions.

Kankri doesn’t really like talking, him being even more in the age of wanting nothing to do with his family, though he makes sure to talk to Karkat every time his father calls. Karkat and he aren’t very close, but Yusea tries to convince them to try anyway. Rosa gets a few minutes, but that’s about it, and Yusea reminds him to call later and talk to his mother, please, because Dee loves him, even if he doesn’t quite know if he feels the same way. They all hope that he’ll make his own opinions about his family, but Yusea had a phase of being hyper-religious for the sake of rebellion, or a sense of self.

Rachelle stumbles out of her room while the kids are filing out the door to head to school, into the car with Dee in the driver’s seat. Yusea kisses her through the window and slides into Simon’s car to get dropped off on his way. Kanaya waits at the front gate whole Rose walks down the street, her cat meowing and following a few feet behind her.

Kanaya smiles at her, and Rose slides her hand into hers to start walking, saying good morning and going into detail about a book she’d read recently. Diantha reminds them to be careful, though it’s only a few blocks to the school, and pulls out to take her carload there. She has errands to run for the house anyway, otherwise she would likely have had Mituna walk his siblings. Simon idles in the driveway while Rachelle steps into some clothes and snatches a handful of toast from Rosa with a call of “thank you, mom” and runs out the door, her heels in hand, to dive into the backseat.

“I’m late.” She says, through a mouthful of toast. “Can you drop me first, Si? I’ll buy you dinner if you do.” She pulls her hand through her tangled hair until Yusea hands her his brush and she thanks him while she brushes her hair into it’s usual style.

Simon turns towards Rachelle’s firm at the intersection between their house and town, and Yusea digs around in the glove compartment. “I’m gonna get the most expensive thing on the menu. You keep promising me dinner, Rachelle, you have to deliver eventually.” He’s teasing, and they both know. He adjusts his glasses and Yusea hands her a wet nap from the glove compartment.

“Your makeup is all messed up from sleeping in it.” He says, when she gives him a questioning look, and she pulls her compact out to clean up a little. “I hope you don’t have any big-name clients to meet with today. You smell like pad thai and hairspray.”

She throws the wet nap at him and adjusts her hair, then her bra. At least she had managed not to gram Dee’s, it would be falling off. “Oh, shut up. I’m the best lawyer in the firm and they all know it. And you know it, Mr. Community Garden With No Permits.” She giggles at that, shaking his shoulder playfully. “I did that even before Dee was under the sway of my womanly wiles, which was basically pro bono.”

Simon snorts. “Sure, Rache. You got paid for it, but the date was what cinched it.” He pulls up to the curb outside her firm’s main location and parks.

“I mean, I did the case pro bono, but I won, so I got paid. Thanks!” She leans over the seat and blows a raspberry on Yusea’s cheek, then kisses Simon’s. “I’ll call you if I need a ride but Kelal will probably give me one. Love you~!”

Rachelle rushes out of the car while Yusea makes exaggerated groans and wipes at his face, but they both call out his window to tell her to have a good day and be safe, and Yusea promises to bring her lunch. They both like her, though she’s only really interested in Diantha, because she’s a good woman and she’s good with their collective children. Nepeta likes her, and even Karkat, which is the most important thing as far as any of their triumvirate cares. Sollux doesn’t tend to form very strong opinions about anyone, but he doesn’t complain about her being around.

Simon drives more slowly to Yusea’s place of work, because they leave early for the sake of getting Rachelle into work only a little bit late. “Did the funding request go through?” Simon asks, sliding his free hand into Yusea’s while they wait at a light.

“I don’t know. I should have had Dee help me write it, she’s so much better at it than me.” He sighs. “I think it will. The public aid budget went up last year, and we’re affiliated with the city directly, so it makes sense that they would fund it. We’re their own shelter, after all.” He pats at his shirt, a button down white shirt with a pocket on the front instead of his casual tie-dye, and pulls his reading glasses out of his pocket to make sure they’re still there. “I’ll have to ask about it, but it wouldn’t make sense for them not to allow it. Otherwise, I can just adjust the budget some more and hope it doesn’t fall through.”

Si squeezes his hand. “Yeah. You can figure it out. You’ve been helping keep that place afloat for years already. But the funding should come through.” He pulls Yusea’s hand to his lips and kisses his knuckles gently, smiling over at him.

“Don’t say you’re proud of me.” He snickers, avoiding Simon’s softly adoring eyes until he looks back at the road to pull away from the light and flushing on the back of his neck, because Simon and Dee and Rosa and even Rachelle, with her usual teasing tone, have told him as much. “I’m just working.”

Shrugging, Simon lets it drop, because he’s already told Yuse that he can do his job and still do something to be proud of. Working at a shelter for domestic abuse survivors, for instance, is one job he thinks that Yusea should be proud about, considering he works overtime and when he signed on to be a manager he didn’t sign on to write grant requests or appear to defend the shelter itself in court, but he did both regularly.

Yusea leans across the center divider to kiss Simon on the cheek, softly. “I can hear you thinking nice things about me, and you should stop. I’ll get a swelled head, babe.” He murmurs, and stays leaned over to rest his head on Simon’s shoulder, just for a second.

Diantha drops her group at school and, standing next to the car to lead them over the half foot of parking lot to the curb and kissing each of the little ones on the head, and kisses Nepeta twice, because she asks. Mituna leans his seat back and rocks to either side in his seat impatiently. She watches her herd walk into the building, waving twice at Nepeta, who pokes her head out to wave again, and then sits back in the driver’s seat.

“Hey Dee?” Mituna asks, sitting back up and swallowing a bite of a PopTart. “Can you give me a..?” He pauses, his eyes, mismatched like Simon and his brother’s, scrunching up under his shock of hair while he struggles to find the word. “A lesson? Yeah. Like, this weekend?”

She hums thoughtfully, going over the weekend’s schedule in her mind. “I think so. We’ll call your doctor, but I think you’ll be fine. We’ll talk to dad too. Is Kurloz still learning?” She looks over and after a second of processing, he nods at her. “If his dad doesn’t need him to watch Gamzee and Karkat, he should come over and he can have a lesson too, if you want. I’ll make lunch.” She smiles at him, and he grins a wide, crooked grin at her.

“Yeah! Fuck yeah!” He says, bouncing in his seat and snapping half of his breakfast off on accident without seeming to notice. “Thanks Dee! Kur’s gonna be excited. Karkat’s going to Gamzee’s place? Does he have the uh, the, the stuff?”

Dee nods, waiting at a light. “He’s got all the things he needs. Gamzee has bad dreams too, so he doesn’t mind the water noises.” She’s told him as much before, but it doesn’t hurt to tell him again. His doctor has said that the repetition will help repair the memory loss he’d suffered with the seizure that put him in the hospital.

“Okay.” He nods, twisting back to grab his backpack off the seat behind him and pulling his sweater back down from where it rides up over his ribs when he sits down again. “Good. Is Lux going too?”

The high school parking lot is almost full, and she pulls into a spot at the front, since his first class starts a bit later than the rest. “I don’t know. I think he’s staying home with Nepeta and Kanaya. Do you like Kanaya? She’s almost all settled in.” She turns to face him a bit more in her seat, and he pulls his knee up to his chest before putting it back down.

“She’s good. She’s a good kid. Sollux likes her.” He nods, like that’s the final say on it. “I’m glad she’s settling. Porrim and Meulin get along too, right?” Dee nods. “Good. I don’t really like, talk and shit with her. She’s like six and I’m like, weird.”

The bell rings, and Dee leans over to kiss his forehead, over the rough scar from where he hit his head before, though he rolls his eyes and pushes at her a little. “You’re great. I love you, Mituna. Do you want me to pick you and Kur up after school?” She smooths his hair and he squirms spastically under the attention, but smiles.

“Yeah, please. I didn’t bring my thing.” Meaning skateboard. He opens the door and pauses to unbuckle himself. “Love you Dee, see you later.”

She blows him a kiss and watches him until he makes it into the building. She can’t help but worry every time she has to drop him off; he was nine when Simon introduced them, and had his worst seizure at eleven, and she loved him just as much as Meulin and Kankri, same with Sollux. He was a good kid, worrying about his younger siblings even on days when his head hurt too much to walk down the stairs, saying “don’t let Lux in.” just before seizing and letting Sollux sleep in his room when he’s been in bed all day so he won’t worry as much.

Mituna attends specialty classes, but so far he’s passing at a C level, and they’re ecstatic, beyond proud of him, and he’s at the peak level he’ll probably be after having a traumatic injury to his brain. She’s glad that Simon is with her, of course, but she’s attached to his children a lot too.

Diantha pulls away from the school and heads to the garden supply store, turning up the radio to hum along with it while she drives. Sollux doesn’t like to do slumber parties, from what she’s seen, and she knows that Kelal isn’t great with more than two children; Gamzee’s birthday party had been an event, and not entirely in a good way. Well, the kids had liked it, but the clean-up and stomachaches had been a lot.

Once she gets to the garden supply store, she checks her phone, and has a list from Rosa of things she needs from the store. Groceries, milk and chicken and rice, and quinoa. A message from Simon says “love u 2 much” and she sends back a kissing emoji, smiling at her phone. The garden store knows her face by now, and she knows the names of most of the employees, because she comes in often.

Rosa, at the house, finishes the dishes from breakfast and sweeps out the house, cleans up the assorted spills and laundry gathered on the floors of the kids’ rooms. Then, she takes out some frozen burger to defrost for dinner, and finally can settle for some time. She sits in a rocking chair on the porch with her knitting, rocking gently while she works on a sweater for Rachelle. It’s too warm for one now, but she thinks she’ll finish around her fall birthday.

The neighborhood moves around her while she knits, and she watches idly. A few cats come up to beg for pets, which she gives them. The wind is warm and jangles some of the homemade windchimes that Dee and the kids had made, the ones that actually tap together and make noise. She knits slowly, taking her time, her glasses low on her nose and her needles clicking together quietly and her chair creaking while she moves.

Diantha doesn’t work full time like Simon and Rachelle, and Yusea works full time but isn’t able to be paid for full time, so Rosa was able to move her daycare into the home, so she wouldn’t work all the hours. Yusea and Diantha both had argued to convince her to, but she was glad she caved. Her hips and her back hurt too much to work with toddlers all day, though she loved to the entire time she had. She was glad that Gamzee and Equius had followed from her previous workplace into her home when they started school and she “retired”.

Kelal was so happy with her that he convinced her to talk to Vasco and meet his little son, and eventually invited him to visit. Vasco and Tavros both loved to come over, and, she thought, Vasco might hang out a bit longer to make eyes at.. Well, all of her adult children, though especially Diantha, but Rosa had the feeling it was because she was home the most.

The house is big, crowded, and full of life when everyone is home, but when it’s just Rosa, it’s quiet, and she feels a little lonely. After a while of knitting, she gets into the zone, and just lets her mind wander over memories of when Yusea was younger, and how similar Karkat is to him now, stubborn but caring and sweet, and how Nepeta looks so much like her mother. Kanaya, and Porrim, she muses, look like she does, though not quite. She sends good thoughts to Porrim and Meulin, and Kankri, her angry, fiery, oldest grandson, hoping they’re doing well and hoping desperately that Kankri especially is having a good time.

He’s an angry boy, but she knows he just wants the best. Karkat doesn’t like him as much as she’d like him to, but she holds out hope that they’ll both come around. It would be terrible for a boy to lose his family for someone else’s interpretation of god. She prays for him, a little, that he’ll learn that his father and his mother aren’t hurting anything, because they’re good people and he’s a good boy, and she would hate for him to live like she did without her parents taking care of her for so much of her life.

She sighs, and picks her knitting up again as Diantha pulls into the driveway and carries an armload up the steps. “I got it mom, don’t get up. I forgot batteries, god, Karkat needs those for sleeping over at Gamzee’s.” She groans, setting down her garden supplies with a thud and looking at her car for a second.

“There are some more in the drawer, Dia, it’s okay.” She smiles at her daughter-in-law. “The drawer with the nails and things. My boy picked them up a little bit ago, baby. What about Nepeta, is she seeing Equius soon? He should be home shortly, right?”

Diantha huffs, setting her second armload down on the porch. “I haven’t had a call from Nikolai yet, but I’m sure they’ll both ask as soon as he’s back. They’re so good together, it’s adorable. I hope she can visit him, she’s been missing him so much. She actually interrupted me and Rachelle sleeping when we got home last night to ask to call him.” She sighs, and goes for another load.

Sleeping, sure, Rosa thinks, snickering at her knitting as Diantha carries her groceries up and finally in, tripping over one of the friendly cats a little bit. Once she’s moved all the bags inside, Rosa stands up slowly, and moves inside a little stiffly to help her put things away. Diantha goes to work in the grow room, and Rosa putters around the house, re-cleaning the playroom to keep herself busy. At some point while she wipes down the tables and leather couch, Diantha leaves to pick up the kids.

Karkat, Gamzee and Nepeta stumble into the playroom to hug at her legs and then pull out most of the toys from the boxes. Nepeta runs upstairs to put on one of her dresses, and Sollux walks in after a few minutes, with her knitting in his arms, and she thanks him with a fluff of his hair before handing over his iPad to play with for a while. She sits and knits while her children play, and after a little while more, Mituna and Kurloz walk in, Mituna pausing to toe gently at Sollux’s side and tell him to do his homework, and Kurloz waves at Rosa and hands Gamzee a stick of gum to keep him from chewing his shirt so much.

More time passes, and Rachelle gets home first. Then, Yusea and Simon together, and she starts dinner, receiving three kisses on the cheek as they pass through to wear something more comfortable. Simon and Yusea lounge on the couch with the kids, and get climbed all over while some music plays in the background, and Kanaya walks in with Rose, holding her hand, and they sit in her room to work on homework and spend time together. Rose never stays for dinner, but Rosa sends some with her, because she knows Ms. Lalonde, and she knows that she’s struggling with her own demons, though Rose is taking care of herself. She smooths Rose’s hair before she leaves, and tells her to be safe, though it isn’t dark yet.

Everyone sits together to eat, because she insists; she doesn’t see Mituna or Kurloz enough, and she’s glad to finally have everyone home together. They eat and talk and Gamzee laughs so hard he chokes, and she feels good. Her family, though large and strange, is more than she could have asked for at thirteen when her parents asked her to leave, and she sits at the head of the table as the matriarch, and when everyone finishes their dessert, they carry their dishes and kiss her on the cheek, or hug her tightly, before going on to their individual lives around her.