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{Trigger warning: non graphic descriptions of child abuse}

Kate Newman had been a caseworker for CPS for nearly ten years and had seen a lot of kids in bad situations but then there was Piper Reid. The apartment had been in the middle of a neighborhood where gunshots were as common as dogs barking and she saw at least three dealers on the drive to the building. The apartment was a one room apartment that was covered in trash and dirty clothes. The only bedroom in the apartment had clearly belonged to the mother, Lorraine Reid, who was still lying dead in the bathroom. The bedroom was a mess of empty beer bottles and used needles, Kate could see no evidence of any child living there. She would have thought that she stepped into the wrong apartment if it wasn’t for the child sitting on the couch. She wore clothes that were too big for her and had clearly belonged to young boys, though with her choppy haircut, one could have confused her for a boy.
There had been no foster home available and Kate wasn’t going to stick her in a group home so she talked to her wife, deciding to take the young girl to their place until next of kin could be located. Kate had expected Piper to be half-feral but she was quiet and polite, she had stared with wide eyed fascination when they had shown her ‘Finding Nemo’ and she had immediately taken to the sharks in the movie. It was enough that Kate’s wife, Sonjay, had immediately gone out and bought her a squishmallow that was shaped like a shark. Piper had hardly let go of the plush since it was placed in her hand and had taken to calling it ‘Bruce’.

Piper stayed with them for three days while Kate tracked down her next of kin, which turned out to be three half-brothers. They were triplets and had a small file but it was mostly complaints from teachers about bruises and the condition that the boys were in but it appeared that they were never officially taken from the home. The brothers were notified and then she was scheduled to drop Piper off into their care for emergency placement the next day.

That was how Piper found herself put into a car with a single backpack filled with clothes from the apartment, mostly clothes that were too big for her, and Bruce being held in her lap as Kate drove her to the house where she was suppose to live with these brothers that she had never heard about until the other day. Personally, Piper would have been happy staying with Kat and Sonjay. Sonjay was nice and let Piper feel the baby in her belly kick and they never got mad at her when she wet the bed or if she accidentally broke something.

“You’ll be okay, Piper. I read that one of your new brothers works for the zoo, isn’t that cool?” Kate’s voice was light and clearly was trying to make Piper feel more comfortable about her new living situation. It was a bit scary to imagine living with three complete strangers.

Piper merely shrugged and her blue eyes glanced out the window, watching as the trees and the building went by.” They aren’t gonna like me.” She muttered in lew of a reply.

“Come on, honey, you don’t know that. You thought Sonjay wouldn’t like you and she loved you.” Kate had noticed how Piper’s first instinct was to assume that she would be disliked by everyone she met, often staying quiet and trying to make herself as small as possible.

Piper merely shrugged and the rest of the car ride was quiet until they reached where the three brother’s lived. Kate helped her out of the car and both of them made their way to the door, the caseworker held her bag while Piper hugged Bruce to her chest and stared at the door like it might jump out and attack her. She watched as Kate reached for the door and knocked on it.
"I'm just saying, I don't think this is a good idea," Jack grumbled as he set the bowl of fruit on the table.  "Who would even think this is a good idea?"

Jacob finished wiping down the kitchen counters and flicked the dishcloth to clean it out.  "Alright, then you can drive her to the group home and explain why the only family she's got isn't taking her in."

"Be real.  As if she has any expectations of us after living with that monster," Jack snorted.

Jacob considered but didn't have an immediate comeback.  Instead, he leaned against the counter and folded his arms.  "Does that mean you're volunteering to drive her?"

"No, I'm trying to point out we have no clue what's going to happen here," Jack retorted.  "Maybe she - What's her name?  Pepper? - Maybe she's just messed up.  Or maybe she took after the incubator.  Or maybe she's a completely different type of baby psychopath.  Or maybe she's just a little girl who's about to get stuck with three strange men old enough to be her father, none of which have any idea how women actually work, meaning if she's around us into puberty, she's going to have no one to talk to."

"Piper.  Then we'll find her one of those female doctors when it comes to that, and until then, we'll do what we can with what we've got," Jacob said reasonably.

Jack scowled.  "You've got the answer for everything, don't you?"

Jacob sighed, his broad shoulders slumping.  "No, actually, I don't, and I know it's not going to be easy, but... she's all the family we've got, and we're the only family she's got.  This might end up going down in flames, but I think we need to give it a try.  At least meet her before saying we can't handle this.  If we take one look at her and realize that she's out of our ability, we can say as much, but I think we should try."

"Not that we were given much of a choice by that agent lady," Jack grumbled.  "Not even a real conversation about it."

Jules walked in then, carefully adjusting his glasses with one hand as he carried a vase of flowers in the other.  "The bedroom is as empty as I could make it on such short notice, but there's nowhere to put flowers."

Jacob nodded to the table.  "Might as well leave them there, then."

Jules did as indicated.  "Oh, these are good fruits.  You know, in animals that come from abusive and food-insecure situations, having food readily available for the first few months is helpful in gaining their trust and helping them to relax a little."

"She's not an oversized dog that someone decided they didn't want," Jack pointed out with a scowl.

"No," Jacob agreed, "but I'd say that Jules' expertise in animals is our best tool in dealing with this situation."

"We're doomed," Jacob muttered.

Jules smiled.  "Entirely probable, but we won't know until we try!"

A knock sounded at the door.  All three brothers froze.  Jacob straightened his rough black long-sleeved shirt worn with blue jeans and a black belt and smoothed his reddish brown hair from his eyes.  Jack adjusted the collar on his button-down navy blue shirt tucked into black jeans and also smoothed his red-brown hair.  Jules didn't bother messing with his ear-length orangey-red hair, but he did make sure his gray sweatshirt was hair-free.

"Right," Jacob said, moving toward the door.  "Everyone remember their jobs?"  He waited until his brothers nodded before opening the door.  He smiled politely at the woman who he had up until now only spoken to over the phone.  "Mrs. Newman."  He looked down and down farther to the tiny girl standing before him.  Wasn't she supposed to be ten?  He wasn't the greatest at guessing children's ages, but from her size, she looked much younger than ten.  Much younger... and so much like a certain woman.  "You must be Piper.  Come on in."  He stepped out of the way, gesturing for them to enter.  "If you could leave your shoes by the door, please?  We have a no shoes in the house policy."
Tiff_the_Odd Topic Starter

Piper stared at the tall man who opened the door with wide eyes and she hated how she thought about the loud men who her mother would bring around, though the man’s voice wasn’t loud or mean like those men’s had been. Kate told her that she should give her brothers a shot so she was going to try and remain positive.

“Good morning, Jacob, right? I believe we have been speaking on the phone.” Kate greeted with a friendly smile, taking off her shoes. Piper took off her own black velcro shoes as well. She was dressed in boy’s clothes, clothes that Piper was beginning to think belonged to her brothers when they had been her age. After all, none of the clothes fit right.

The apartment was huge, she walked in and could see the living room to her right and a few hallways that had doors that must have led into different rooms. The living room had been ‘her room’ when she lived with Mama so if it’s the same here then she wouldn’t be too upset.

“Piper, this is Jacob, Jackson, and Julian. Boys, this is Piper.” Kate gently pushed Piper infront of her to give the three brothers a better view of her.

Piper regarded them each with a calculating look that a girl of her age shouldn’t be able to pull off. They didn’t look too much alike so at least she could tell them apart. One of them even had red hair like hers, but his hair was long and pretty. Piper couldn’t help but tug on one of her too short curls as she looked at Julian’s hair.

“This is Bruce. He’s shark but fish are his friends so he eats swedish fish instead.” Piper held up her shark, hoping that the three brothers would focus on the shark instead of her. She wasn’t use to so many eyes being on her.
An awkward silence followed Piper's announcement. Then Julian stepped forward with a smile. "It's good to meet you, Piper, and Bruce, too. I like Finding Nemo, too. My favorite character is Peach, the starfish."

"What's Finding Nemo?" Jack asked Jacob in an undertone.

"Movie from a few years ago," Jacob whispered back.

"My name is Julian, like Mrs. Newman said, but you can call me Jules. Most people do," Jules continued. "Jackson usually goes by Jack unless he's being very professional. Poor Jacob doesn't have a nickname."

Jacob cleared his throat to get their attention. "Jules, why don't you show Piper to her room? Then we should all sit down for a talk, Mrs. Newman."

Jules nodded. "It's been decided that you get my room, at least for now," he told Piper. "It's the smallest room and farthest from the bathroom, but it does open out onto the balcony!" He led the way around the corner to the door at the end of the living room couch and opened it. It was a reasonably sized bedroom though not particularly spacious, and all white. The twin bed had a light blue comforter on top of grey sheets and a single pillow. It had been clearly made by someone not used to making beds but willing to make a good effort at it. A tiny desk and chair sat in the corner at the end of the bed in front of the glass door that led out onto the long, narrow patio. The door was the only window in the room, and a single long curtain hung next to it, currently tied out of the way. Tiny marks on the wall showed where several things had been hastily removed, and the minuscule closet stood empty.

"I can move the desk for you if you want to use the door," Jules said, indicating the little desk, "but the door doesn't latch very well, so you might feel safer leaving the desk there, even if we are on the second story. I'll leave you here to get settled while the grown-ups are grown-up-ing, and then I'll come get you when we're done, okay?" He moved to leave, moving slowly in case Piper wanted to ask him anything.

Meanwhile, Jacob guided Mrs. Newman to the living room, which was all of four steps away from the small entryway. The space that had fit the three of them comfortably for the last four years suddenly felt crowded with four adults and now a little kid. Jack moved the ottoman around so that Mrs. Newman could sit facing them across the coffee table, and the two brothers sat on the couch leaving room for the third to join them.
"This has all been rather unexpected," Jacob said soberly.
Tiff_the_Odd Topic Starter

Piper wasn’t really thrilled about leaving Kate’s side but the woman smiled encouragingly and she did like that Julian knew about Finding Nemo. He even had a favorite character like she did from the movie.” Peach is funny and she’s a pretty color.” She agreed as she slowly followed after Julian with occasional glances at Kate before they rounded the corner.

She felt guilty when she heard that Julian had given up his room for her, guilty and a bit awkward because she didn’t know what to do with that. Mama would have never given up her room, Piper had hardly been allowed in there.

When Piper entered the room, her eyes went a bit wide. It was small but to a girl who had never had her own space, it might as well have been the oval office. She went over to bed, carrying Bruce under one arm, using her free hand to run her fingers along the blankets. She did the same with the little desk and chair. She stopped to look outside the balcony, a little impresses with the view even if it was just the second story and how well she could see the streets below.

Julian told her that he was going to leave to go talk about grown up stuff, so they were talking about her. Piper turned to look at Julian.” I-I’m sorry you had to give up your room!” She blurted out, her eyes looking at the floor as she hugged Bruce.” You can have it back whenever you want, I won’t be mad.” She promised.

Meanwhile, Kate followed the other two men into the living room. Her face growing solemn at Jacob’s words.” I know and usually we give you more time but there wasn’t a foster home available and I don’t believe she would do well in a group home.” She explained as she set her bag down, pulling out a yellow folder.

“First off, she is underweight and smaller for her age so the doctor who examined her wants her to try and gain some weight before her next appointment. We found no signs of any sexual abuse and Piper hasn’t said anything that tells us otherwise.” She went through the papers to pull out some pictures of various parts of Piper’s body but mostly her torso, arms, and legs. There were various of bruises and scars on her torso and arms but her left thigh brandished quite a large burn scar thar clearly didn’t heal properly and covered almost her entire leg.

“Piper told her that she had spilled boiling water on her legs but she was alone in the apartment when it happened so it never was treated. She was left alone a lot in the apartment and she was in the home with your mother’s body for a few days before they were discovered.” Kate put those pictures away and handed the file to Jacob. She then smiled and glanced towards the direction that Piper had walked off to.

“She’s very sweet though. She’s been bedwetting but that’s common for a child who has gone through trauma. She did have one accident when my wife took her grocery shopping but we believe that she is too scared or doesn’t know how to ask for things she needs. I suggest keeping food readily available, maybe a snack drawer, and just make sure you take her to the bathroom while you are out. There’s more in that file though.” Kate folded her hands over her lap as she finished talking then got out another form then a pen.

“Now for some more fun, I’ll need you to sign a couple of papers. You’ll be fostering to adopt so one of you will be on the adoption forms but all three of you would be her guardians. There’s no father on her birth certificate so you won’t be challenged for custody.” Kate then gave each of the men a sadder smile.” I know it’s a lot, it can’t be easy on you three.”
Jules paused and smiled back at Piper gently. "It's okay," he assured her. "I don't mind you using my room. I won't be taking it back. You don't have to sleep in the living room anymore. You just look after Bruce, okay? You two look like you need a minute to get settled. I'll be back soon." He stepped out and very carefully and quietly closed the door. He joined his brother, sitting on the end of the couch to listen to the social worker.

Jacob glanced over the pictures briefly, his expression unchanging, but neither Jack nor Jules even glanced at them. They were familiar with those types of injuries. They didn't need to look to remember them. Jacob looked so he'd have an idea of what Piper was personally dealing with. Sometimes, his own scars ached, and he knew her burn scar would also have pain. Perhaps some kind of dermatologist could help her with that, but they'd deal with it once they weren't all strangers to each other.

"I'll sign the papers," Jacob said, accepting the pen. He scanned over the paperwork, reading each page before putting down either his initials or full name.

"She's not our mother," Jack said suddenly as Jacob signed. "Yeah, she's technically the woman who gave birth to us, but she never even let us call her mom. We were nothing but in the way and tax deductions, so don't call her our mother."

"Easy," Jules warned gently. "That's not what Mrs. Newman meant. It's quite standard terminology."

Jack leaned back with a scowl.

Jules asked the woman, "I expect there will be some sort of follow-up visits? What can we expect from those?"
Tiff_the_Odd Topic Starter

Kate didn’t seem offended or taken back by Jack’s tone, she merely just offered him a sympathetic look.” I understand and your feelings towards her are perfectly valid but Piper does seem to have some grief in the death of Lorraine. She was worried about where the body was going and about the paramedics being gentle with her ‘Mama’.” Her tone suggested that Kate didn’t believe that Lorraine was worthy of that title.

When Julian spoke up, Kate turned to look at the youngest of the siblings as Jacob signed the paperwork.” They will be random and you’ll get a twenty four hour notice of the visits. You’ll foster for six months then you can petition to adopt. Jacob was be the one officially adopting her but you two will be listed as guardians so there won’t be any issues if something happens to Jacob.” She explained, taking the papers that she needed back from Jacob once he was done signing them.

“She has a therapist that she sees once a week and he has asked to have family sessions every other week. We would wait until the new term to enroll her in school. I can help you with that when the time comes.” She knew it could seem like a lot and Kate admired how these three men were willing to uproot their lives for Piper.

“How about some fun stuff I’ve learned about Piper, I hate making these visits all about the negative things.” Kate grinned a little as she cleared away some of the paper work.

“Julian, she loves animals so I’m sure that showing her your job could help get her to open up. She seems to be good at reading and likes to draw. She liked cooking with me and liked watching Sonjay play the piano.” She hoped that maybe the three brothers could find some common ground with Piper.

Piper wanted to eavesdrop on the ‘grown up stuff’ but she didn’t want to get caught being noisy. After all, she had promised herself that she wasn’t going to be any trouble for her brothers. Thats why it took a few minutes to actually move from the spot that Julian had left her in. She wasn’t sure what ‘settling in’ looked like so she merely set her little bag on the floor and walked to the bed.

She touched the blankets some more before climbing on it, taking her shoes off and laying on her side while holding Bruce to her chest. Piper wished Julian had stayed or that she had stayed with Kate. She had been good at being alone before but Kate and Sonjay had been with her constantly the last few days so that familiarness that came with being alone began to leave her.

If anything, being alone made her stomach twist into knots and she longed to open the door. A longing that she gave into, walking to the door with Bruce and opening it to peek out the door at the adults in a ‘sneaky’ manner.
"It makes sense that she'd miss Lorraine," Jules said calmly. "It makes sense, especially since it was just her. We were lucky in that we had each other, at least. She was all alone. We'll make certain that she gets to her therapy visits on time and that we make ourselves available for all future visits."

Jacob nodded in agreement. "We have varying work schedules, so I'm certain we can make it so that there's always at least one of us home with her at all times."

"The zoo likely won't mind if I bring her with me to work one day. On a day when it's more interesting. I do a lot of paperwork," Jules chuckled.

"Yes, all of this is fine, really good, but what about the most important question?" Jack interrupted. He leaned forward to look Kate in the eye. "What happens if this doesn't work out? I'm not saying we want this to fail or that we won't do our best to make it work, but what happens if she hates us, or we can't handle her, or if the state decides we're not good guardians? What happens to her then?"

None of them noticed Piper listening at the door.
Tiff_the_Odd Topic Starter

Honestly, Piper didn’t really understand why she couldn’t sit out there with them. They weren’t talking about anything she didn’t know though she supposed that Julian offering to take her to work with him was excited. A little smile appeared on her face, already imagining all of the animals that must be at the zoo. Kate had said there were no sharks but there were a ton of other animals!

She was imagining all the animals that she might see when Jackson’s voice suddenly interrupted her thoughts. His tone wasn’t as light or positive as Kate, Julian, and Jacob’s tones had been. He also voiced the question that she had been too scared to ask Kate. What would happen if her half-brothers didn’t want her.

Kate’s eyes turned all serious and she sighed sadly.” Honestly? She’ll probably bounce around foster homes until she is twelve then she would be placed in a group home until she is eighteen. Couples usually want babies and toddlers. Piper also is a trauma victim, that means most potential families will see her as baggage.” Her voice was quiet but Piper could still hear her loud and clear.

Her eyes going wide and backing away from the door. She didn’t think that she could ever hate them but how could try not to be too much? How can she make herself easier to handle? Mama always told her that she was too much like when she peed on the couch or when she cried too much. Kate and Sonjay told her that accidents were okay and crying is healthy but maybe the rules were different? Like Jacob’s no shoe rule is different?

Whatever the case, Piper would make sure she wasn’t to hard to handle so they would like her. She had no choice.
Jack scowled and leaned back. "Way to paint a dismal picture, making us into the evil villain if we don't comply."

"Jack," Jacob said warningly.

Jack wasn't backing down this time. "I'm serious! First, the girl gets her hopes up by coming here, and then she gets them dashed if it doesn't work out. It would have been less painful if she ended up in a home. No home could possibly be worse than living with her." He meant their deceased mother.

"Jackson, enough," Jacob said sternly. "Piper's family. That might not mean much to her or to Lorraine, but it means something to us, right? So stop saying 'if' and focus on trying to figure how to make her feel at home."

"Between you and Jules, one of us has to think of the potential bad outcome," Jack grumbled.

"Maybe," Jules agreed cautiously, "but that doesn't change the fact that she's here now, and we need to try to make the best of things for all four of us. Like you said, nothing could possibly be worse than what she's already been through, and the same could be said of us. We don't have to be perfect. We just have to be better than it was. That's it."

Jack's expression softened just a little. "Alright. That's a pretty low standard, but alright."

Jacob glanced between his brothers to make sure things had settled before turning his attention back to Kate. "We'll do what we can to ensure that doesn't have to happen. Meanwhile, is there anything else we should know about Piper? Allergies, phobias, things like that? Favorite music?"
Tiff_the_Odd Topic Starter

By the time that Jackson was done with his little speech, Piper had shut the door as softly as she could before running to the bed. She sat on it, scooting so her back was flush with the headboard and hugged her knees to her chest with Bruce sitting infront of her. If Jackson thought she was better off in a home then how long until Julian and Jacob decided that he was right. They were brothers after all so why wouldn’t they eventually side with him as oppose to the random kid they just met.

Piper had no choice, she was going to be the best little sister ever. She didn’t know what that meant but maybe then they would let her stay with them until she was old enough to take care of herself.

Kate was quiet as Jack and Jacob argued, the patient look.” None of you would be evil if Piper had to be removed. The system failed you guys and I just don’t want to fail Piper the same way. Every child deserves a safe home and someone who loves them.” She gave Jackson a kind look.

Once they all seemed to be in agreement, Kate smiled again and turned to address.” No allergies that we have found and she hasn’t told us she’s afraid of anything but we have some guesses.” She glanced towards Piper’s door.” We don’t think she likes to be alone. She isn’t fond of public bathrooms and possibly the dark. As for favorites, we aren’t too sure. She doesn’t talk too much about herself but I suggest just letting her try as many different things as possible.”
"We'll do our best," Jacob promised. He glanced down at Piper's file. "Feels a little strange to be on this side of things, but we're willing to try."

Julian nodded. "I don't think I've ever worked with a child one-on-one before, but I have done some exhibits with groups of school children before. That's nothing like what's going on here, but it's more than these two have had." He nodded toward his brothers.

Jack shrugged. "Guess we'll just try not to overwhelm her. That's all I can offer."
Tiff_the_Odd Topic Starter

Kate chuckled a little and stood up from her seat.” Well, I feel very positive about this arrangement. My card is in her file so feel free to call me anytime. There are plenty of resources out for you guys.” She then looked towards Piper’s door.

“Piper, I’m fixing to leave.” She called out to the little girl. There was the sound of small feet walking on the floor and the door opened. Kate noted that she looked a bit upset but attributed that to the fact that she was leaving. Kate kneeled down and hugged Piper.

“You’ll do amazing, you are such a wonderful little girl.” Kate whispered to her then stood up.

“C-Can you tell me when Sonjay has the baby?” Piper asked, fiddling with Bruce in her hands.

“Of course, you and your brothers are welcomed to visit in the hospital.” Kate gave her cheek a little stroke with her thumb. She bid goodbye to the brothers, shaking their hands before she was out the door.

Now, the four siblings were alone with Piper staring forlornly at the door that Kate had left through. She then turned and just stared at the triplets.

The whole situation was a bit awkward given Piper wasn’t sure what to say and after overhearing their conversation, felt a little anxious about saying the right thing.

“I-I guess all my clothes must have belonged to you guys.” She finally muttered, picking at thread on the black hoodie that she wore. She only had about four outfits and all of them were clothes that Lorraine hadn’t thrown out from the triplets.
Jacob squinted at the hoodie.  "Actually, I think that one used to be mine," he said with a slight smile.  "I'm surprised it's still around.  It was my favorite.  I hope it's as comfortable for you as it was for me."  He straightened and checked the clock.  "It's nearly dinner time, and tomorrow I have to work, but how about in a couple of days we go shopping for more clothes for you?"

"Hmm, what should we have for dinner?" Jules pondered.  "I was thinking that perhaps we could order a pizza.  Do you like pizza, Piper?"

Jack grumbled quietly and got up.  "I got an errand to run.  I'll be back later."  He stalked toward the door and took enough time to kick on his shoes before walking out.

"Be back in time to eat with us!" Jules called at the door as it swung shut.
Tiff_the_Odd Topic Starter

Piper’s eyes went a bit wide when Jacob told her that the hoodie use to be his. She glanced down at it, trying to imagine Jacob being this small but had a hard time. Her head barely came up past his hip.” It is, it’s really warm!” She told him, returning his smile with a timid one of her own. Jacob wasn’t so scary when he was smiling. Her smile brightening a little when Jacob told her they would buy her clothes in a couple of days.” L-Like….dresses?” She asked softly, almost hopefully.

She had seen other girls wearing them and she always liked all the colors they came in. Her smile turned to Julian, who she already felt more comfortable around due to their previous interactions.” Pizza is yummy, except the pepperoni makes my mouth hurt.” She had tried some with Kate and had not expected how spicy the pepperoni was.

Her smile dropped when Jackson stood up, grumbling about errands and stalking off. He didn’t slam the door but Piper still flinched when it shut.” I’ll go stay in the room until dinner.” She figured the less they saw her than the easier she would be to handle.
"If you want dresses, sure, we can get some," Jacob agreed, a little surprised but not sure what else he expected her to say. "Maybe skirts, too? If that's what you want."

"Don't worry about Jack," Jules told her with a quick smile. "He grumbles a lot, but he's not so bad. He's just nervous." He indicated the kitchen with a nod of his head. "You can go stay in your room if you want, certainly, but would you like to help me pick out some pizza toppings, first? All the flyers are in the kitchen. You don't have to if you don't want to, but then I won't have to guess what you'd like. Other than no peperoni." In a stage whisper, he admitted, "I don't like pepperoni, either, but they do, so I have to pick the pieces off of mine."

"Yes, and you make a mess doing it," Jacob grumbled good-naturedly.

"What are you complaining about? You always eat my extra pieces," Jules pointed out, walking into the kitchen.

"True," Jacob mused. To Piper, he said, "You can go to your room if you want, or you can help him pick out pizza toppings. Whichever you like."
Tiff_the_Odd Topic Starter

Piper wasn’t sure how much she believed Julian that Jackson was merely nervous. He didn’t seem to want to kick her out but she didn’t feel particularly welcomed by him. If Jackson didn’t like her then she was worried that his attitude would rub off on Julian and Jacob.

Her mood did improve when Julian told her that she could come help him pick out pizza toppings. She liked her room but she didn’t really want to be by herself. Julian even was rewarded with a smile in his direction with his stage whispering, even giggling a little at Jacob’s and Julian’s back and forth.

“I’ll go help Julian.” Piper decided following the youngest of her big brothers into the kitchen. She stood in the middle, holding Bruce and looking around. The kitchen was even bigger than her old living room. She made sure to stay close to Julian though, deciding that he was the safest of the three men. His red hair reminding her of her own.

“You’re hair is really pretty.” She said to Julian, almost wistfully as she ran her hand through her choppy hair.” Like Mama’s…” She added softly. When their mother was going out, she always dolled herself up. It didn’t matter how mean Mama had been that day, Piper always thought her Mama looked really pretty in her dresses and long hair all done with loose and wavy curls.
The kitchen - while massive in Piper's eyes - was fairly small by kitchen standards. It had everything a kitchen needed almost entirely placed against one wall, and the opposite wall had a small table that none of the brothers actually used to eat at. It had become another counter space pushed up against the wall, and two small chairs sat in a corner. Julian pulled one chair out and put it next to one end of the table for if Piper wanted to sit there instead of stand next to him. He didn't mind, but he wanted to give her options.

He paused at Piper's comment. "Oh. Thank you." He looked away, not sure how to take the compliment. He knew it to be a compliment, and he understood her sense of loss, but being compared to their mother... it was something he wasn't ready to deal with quite yet. He rallied himself, not wanting to make her feel like she'd done something wrong and smiled at her. "Do you want to grow your hair out longer?" he asked, noticing how she played with her hair. "You can, if you want to. If you decide you don't like it, you can cut it later, or you can grow it as long as an elf's!"
Tiff_the_Odd Topic Starter

Piper knew she had said something wrong when Julian paused and looked away. After all, one learned quickly how to read expressions and body language if it was the difference between being beat or going to bed without new bruises. She wanted to apologize but Julian was talking again before she could get the words out.

She slowly walked to the chair and climbed into it, sitting on her knees so she could see over the table more easily. She set Bruce on the table right next to her, gently stroking his soft fluffy body to try and ground herself.” I don’t know. I don’t know how to take care of it and If I can’t take care of it then I shouldn’t have it.” She was parroting the words her mother always used whenever Lorraine would take the kitchen scissors and chop her hair down to a “manageable” length.

And without much warning, tears started to leak from her eyes though Piper quickly went to brush them away.” I don’t wanna be too much.” She added in a whisper, sniffling and wiping at her eyes.
Julian had just opened the drawer where they stored the take-out menus and fast-food coupons. He turned with a handful of flyers in hand and saw Piper sniffling with tears rolling down her cheeks. Without bothering to close the drawer, he walked over and set the flyers off to the side on the table so he could pull the other chair around to face Piper. Moving slow, he reached out and rested one hand on top of hers, keeping the touch light and gentle so she could pull away if she wanted to.

"We don't know each other, you and me, or Jackson and Jacob and you, and that means we don't know how to act around each other," he said softly. "It means we'll make mistakes. Maybe we'll say something that hurts someone else's feelings. Maybe we'll break a rule that we didn't know was a rule. Maybe someone will break something accidentally. And that's okay. That's a part of learning how to live with new people. That doesn't make you 'to much.' That just makes you a person. A little girl who just got her world turned upside down. It's especially okay to make mistakes then."

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