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Parenthood

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    Adelard had never planned to be a father. He had never even considered it before he actually became one. Then again, there were a lot of things in his life he had never actually planned on being until he became it. The most notable being him, by definition, becoming a monster hunter (though of course not a true Hunter as he tried his best to remain unaligned from the fears); but a father was the second role he gained in his life he had no prior plan on taking. When the situation came though and he saw her; eyes wide, inquisitive, and in need of someone who could take proper care of her, he couldn’t help but take her in. 

    When Adelard went to college, he met a young woman named Lucy Bublé. When she introduced herself, it was also the first time in Adelard’s life he was ever slapped by someone other than his parents. Looking back he’d think he deserved it, considering before he had even replied to her he started to laugh at her last name. Despite their rocky start, however, they soon formed an odd sort of bond Adelard would only form again in the 70s when he meets a woman named Gertrude Robinson.

    Lucy had owned a shop just down the street from the campus of Adelard’s college. Many of his after-class hours were spent in the shop. More of those hours than he’d intend were spent talking with the strange woman. She was much older than him; at least in her mid-thirties, though her wisdom said older. While Adelard did quite enjoy talking to her, as her conversations always held a spark of some knowledge Adelard couldn’t hope to gain, he was quite surprised when she gave him a small note with neat writing on it to come by the shop the following evening at closing time. 

Adelard debated not going for a time in his head, but he decided that it couldn’t have hurt to go. She might have just needed help with something and he didn’t want to strain a relationship that had no reason to crumble. Lucy did in fact need help, but not in the way he had ever imagined. By the time they were done with their deed it was nearly sunrise, but Adelard felt he had aged years. It was the first time he had ever helped to destroy a being of a Power.

Thus began Adelard’s role as an “exorcist of sorts”, and his dedication to stopping the Fears from hurting the world he held dear. Lucy taught him about all of the Powers and what to watch for to keep them out of the streets. He looked to Lucy as a sort of mentor, and years later he would suppose that that was ironic in a sense, considering she was the one who led him to become one himself.

Lucy had always been particularly interested in The Cult of the Lightless Flame. She never went into too many details about it and Adelard wasn’t going to ask, but from the things she did say and the sadness he sometimes saw in her tired eyes, he had a feeling The Desolation had taken something from her a long time ago. He spotted her walking towards the cemetery one day with a bouquet of flowers one day she hadn’t shown up to their regular meeting place. He didn’t ask. 

Because of her interest in The Cult, Lucy had heard about the recent fights breaking out between members before anything too big had happened. She had begun to track explosive accidents in areas she knew The Cult were, and deduced that they couldn’t have been anything more than outbursts because of the lack of any structure or pattern to them. She knew a storm was brewing, and she also knew that there was a very important person stuck in the middle of it.

It was 1957 when it happened. Adelard and Lucy snuck in without any notice in all the fiery commotion. Three people left. While escaping with her was a relatively easy feat, the days following were not. They had to flee immediately, and once The Cult realized who was missing, they were furious. Lucy had gotten in contact with some people who could forge government papers particularly well (and they were people Adelard would continue to contact for years to come), and soon they had reasonably believable documents for the child. Before they could even decide who was going to care for her permanently, however, the cult struck.

Lucy knew that The Cult wasn’t going to stop following them, especially since they had known it was her who took the child. Who else in the area hated The Cult as much as her? Adelard refused her plan of course, but his opinion didn’t matter to her. She made him leave, and Adelard started his long trek up the country to a contact Lucy knew before The Cult was even close. Lucy purposefully led them to her, and with her their tracks ended. Adelard would visit her grave every year until the day he died.

Without their child savior, the cult destroyed itself. Only a few members would even live through the fallout, and while future attempts were made to create a new cult of Desolation, The Cult of the Lightless Flame would never be again. And without the cult to run from, and without Lucy to guide, Adelard took it upon himself to adopt the little three year old he was now in guardianship of. 

His first child was named was Agnes Dekker.

Chapter Text

“Uhm...did you find everything you were looking for, sir?” 

 

“Oh, yes.” Adelard answered the store clerk in a chipper voice as he sat down the hoard of aloe vera plants he had in his arms onto the counter. His face gave no indication that anything was strange or off about the encounter. 

 

“If you don’t mind me asking sir, uhm, why...why so many aloe plants?” The clerk asked with a nervous, questioning look. 

 

“I like them,” Adelard answered without missing a beat. The clerk seemed too mistified to say anything else, so he finished ringing up the purchase in silence. He handed Adelard back his change, which he slipped into his back pocket.

 

“Uhm...Have a good night, sir,” The cashier said. Adelard gave him a nod, scooped up the aloe vera plants sitting on the counter, and then made his way out the door, ignoring the wide-eyed looks of the other customers as he left.

 


 

“Come on Agnes, it’s time for a bath,” Adelard called down the hall of the small flat. He walked into the bathroom and set the pile of bathing items in his hands down onto the sink before kneeling beside the tub and putting the plug into it. He turned the spout on and felt the water as it ran under his hand, checking the water’s temperature. He didn’t really worry too much about how it felt though; it always ended up being much hotter in the end.

 

“Agnes?” Adelard called out, turning his head to look out the door. He saw no tail nor hide of the young girl, and his eyebrows furrowed in confusion. He stood up and wiped his hands on the hand towel by the sink, then walked out of the bathroom to look curiously around for Agnes. He had seen her just before in the next room, so she must have been hiding from him. “Where did you go, hun?” 

 

He walked all throughout the apartment, but couldn’t find the little girl. Panic started to rise in his chest until he heard a strange noise when he walked by the bedroom. He stopped and turned to look in the room, and he could have sworn he saw something move underneath the bed. The anxiety that had filled his chest left with a sigh. He walked into the small room and crouched down to look under the bed.

 

“Found you,” Adelard smiled. The warm eyes staring back at him crinkled adorably as she giggled. “Now come on, you have to take a bath or else you’ll stay all dirty.” Adelard stood back up and took a few steps back to make room for Agnes as she crawled back out from under the bed. In one swift motion Adelard swooped Agnes up into his arms, then he returned to the bathroom and shut the door behind him. In another few moments Agnes had undressed and hopped into the tub, sinking down until only her face above her mouth was visible. Adelard raised an eyebrow at her as he rolled up his sleeves.

 

“Addy,” Agnes asked after popping her head back up above the water. “Can I make bubbles?” She tilted her head to the side and looked at Adelard curiously for an answer. Adelard smiled back.

 

“That’s fine,” He answered back. He turned towards the sink and opened the cupboard next to it, taking the pair of thick waterproof gloves out from it and slipping them on. He turned back to Agnes and watched as the water in the bathtub began steam, and soon bubbles began to rise and pop as it began to boil. Adelard returned to the tub’s side and kneeled next to it. Agnes was waving her hands through the water and smiling happily at the bubbles the water was creating.

 

“Alright,” Adelard piped up as he reached for the metal cup sat on the side of the tub. “Time to wash.” Adelard smiled, and Agnes grinned back.

 


 

“Agnes—“ 

 

“No!” 

 

“Agnes.” Adelard said sternly as he stared down the girl in front of him. Her tiny hands were balled into fists at her sides and she was glaring at Adelard with contempt. Adelard sighed. All he had tried to do was tell her it was time for bed, and all of a sudden she had flew into a rage, yelling and refusing to listen to him. 

“I don’ wanna!” Agnes shouted, crossing her arms and pushing her bottom lip out. Her auburn hair seemed to be glowing, almost resembling the red of hot iron. Adelard furrowed his brows worriedly. He didn’t want to have to fight with Agnes, both because he loved her and didn’t like all the shouting, but also because of just how... hot her temper was. Adelard got onto his knees to be level with Agnes and gave her a look of ‘ please, just behave ’.

 

“Agnes, I’ve already told you that tomorrow morning you can play with your toys all you want.” Agnes groaned in frustration and her hands went back to make fists at her sides.

 

“But I don’ wanna go to bed! I want to play now !” Agnes yelled furiously.

 

“Agnes…” Adelard tried again, holding his hands up in a ‘ calm down ’ gesture. 

 

“No!” She screamed. “I hate bed an’ I hate you! You just a big meanie!” Agnes suddenly pushed forwards toward Adelard, and he couldn’t get a word out before she had grabbed his hands he had held out and pushed back against him. Adelard shouted in pain as he felt the skin on his palms burn under Agnes’ small hands and he jerked backwards, falling down. He held his hands up to his chest, his body instinctively trying to get him away from the source of pain.

 

“Addy?” Agnes said hurriedly, looking towards him with concern. She started going to check on him, but she looked at his hands, then at her own, and backed away. Tears welled up in her wide eyes, and she began to cry. The tears sizzled on her cheeks. “Addy.” She repeated, hiccuping through a sob. Adelard took deep, labored breaths as he tried to calm himself and control the instinct in him to panic. The pain in his hands was the most intense thing he had ever felt, and he desperately wanted to scream, but he held it in for fear of panicking Agnes more than she already was. 

 

“It’s okay, hun,” Adelard said through gritted teeth. Slowly, he rolled himself up into a sitting position and then got to his shaking feet, careful the whole time as to not use his hands as a balance. He hurried over to the sink and put the stopper in, then turned the faucet on. He felt the cool water go over his hands and he let out as groan at the initial sting. 

 

“You’re hurt,” Agnes said, continuing to cry. “I hurt you, ‘m sorry!” 

 

“Oh, Agnes,” Adelard sighed. He turned as much as he could while keeping his hands in the water. “I’m gonna be okay. It was just an accident. You just have to make sure you’re careful, okay? You have to control your flame when you’re angry. Just...let yourself cool down for a bit, and it’ll all be fine.”

 

“Okay,” Agnes hiccuped, wiping her eyes with her hands. Adelard could see her cooling down, as her hair dimmed and her tears no longer steamed. Adelard looked at her with a tired fondness. He couldn’t find a place in his heart to be upset at it at all; he knew she didn’t mean it.

 

“Agnes, sweetie, you go into the bathroom and get the first aid kit from the cupboard? It’s the white box with the big red plus sign on it, remember?” Adelard asked softly as he turned back to examine his hands. Agnes got a look of determination and Adelard heard the soft pitter-patter of her feet as she hurried away. A few moments later, she returned and held the first aid kit up for him to take. “Thank you, hun,” Adelard smiled at her.

 

“Welcome!” She replied with a smile. Adelard knew she liked to be helpful and he was glad it comforted her. Slowly, he withdrew his hands from the water in the sink, gritting his teeth at the change. On each of his palms was a small handprint-shape of burnt skin, and Adelard was briefly glad that at least her hands were still small. It could have been worse. He tried to make a mental note to find more fireproofing techniques.

 

He took the container from Agnes and set it on the counter. He carefully went on to apply the burn cream he kept in it and bandaged his hands with an ease he had quickly learned after gaining custody of the girl. Once he had tended to himself, he went over to Agnes who had sat down in a kitchen chair as she waited for him.

 

“All better,” Adelard said, holding his hands out to show her. Agnes furrowed her brows and stared at his hands, almost as if evaluating if what he said was really true.

 

“Wait,” Agnes said suddenly. Her small hands grabbed the back of Adelard’s and brought them forward. Then, she placed a kiss on the back of each of them. “There,” Agnes said proudly. “Now all better!” Adelard chuckled.

 

“Yes, thank you, Agnes,” Adelard smiled. “Now come on, we both need to go to bed now.” Agnes looked as if she were about to protest, but she quickly had a look of realization pass over her features and she softened immediately.

 

“Okay,” She drawled out, and Adelard backed up to let Agnes hop off the chair. He walked her to her bedroom, and she hopped up in bed and pulled the covers over herself up to her nose, looking up at Adelard and giggling. Adelard raised an eyebrow at her. 

 

“Goodnight, sweetheart,” Adelard said and he leaned down and pressed a kiss to Agnes’ forehead. It was still hot under his touch. 

 

“Night, Addy!” Agnes chirped. Adelard brushed the back of his hand over her forehead and just looked at her for a moment, a great feeling of love welling up in his chest. Then, he finally backed away. He turned the light off, then slowly shut Agnes’ door behind him as he left.

 


 

Adelard cast his eyes over Agnes’ frame with concerned. She was curled up in her bed, clutching the blankets around her. Her face was screwed up in discomfort, and she had a sickly pallor over her. Adelard tried to remain calm on the outside, but in his chest sat the worst feeling of terror and worry he had ever experienced. He knew that children would get sick, and he knew that it was to be expected he would be worried, but Agnes was not normal, and Adelard knew this was no common cold. After all, when he held his hand to her forehead, she was cold . There had never been a moment since he had gotten custody of her that she felt anything less than fever-degree hot.

 

Adelard didn’t know what to do at that point or what was causing the distress. He knew she was no normal child, but until that point she had been doing just fine with the care he provided. Was there something she needed that he didn’t know of? Something the Desolation part of her demanded against her will? Adelard shuddered at the possibility. If she needed to be fed as an avatar would, he wasn’t sure what he could do. He couldn’t hurt anyone else just to care for her. But perhaps...the Desolation was all about not just hurting others, but emotional loss

 

Adelard suddenly turned on his heel and went into his office. He approached his desk and immediately began to frantically rummage around in the drawers. Occasionally he would pick up an item, examine it, and then discard it as he realized it wouldn’t be good enough. He groaned in frustration as he made it through the last drawer and he shut it so aggressively, the desk shook and he heard the sound of something on it fall over. He looked up, and sitting face down was a picture frame.

 

Silently, Adelard picked up the frame and flipped it to see the picture it held. It was the only picture he had had of Lucy, and he had kept it on his desk ever since she passed away. Just thinking about it made his heart stung. He was frightened then as he considered losing the only object he had left of his mentor; his closest friend. He knew that it was the only thing he could do to help Agnes though, and he had promised to keep her safe. The memory of their last night together rang clear in his mind.

 

-----

 

“Protect her, Adelard,” Lucy said calmly as she put a duffel bag into the trunk of a car they had been driving for the last week. Agnes was already in the backseat, her head resting against the door as she slept soundly. “She never chose to be born to the people she did. She deserves a good childhood. A good father.”

 

“Lucy--” Adelard tried to protest loudly, but Lucy cut him off with the shake of her head.

 

“You’re listening to me now, Mr. Dekker. You’re going to keep going to meet Jen without me, and I’m going to stay here and destroy the tracks you leave. I never expected to get out of this whole thing alive anyway.” Adelard felt tears threatening to fall, but he bit the inside of his lip to distract himself enough to not let them fall. He began to taste blood. Lucy gave Adelard a once over, and then her stern gaze softened. She opened her arms then, and then they were both clutching onto each other as if it were the last time they ever would; and it was.

 

“Thank you, Lucy. For everything you’ve done for me,” Adelard whispered into her hair. Lucy’s nails clung to Adelard’s shirt so hard it was a miracle they hadn’t pierced the fabric. “My life would have been so much different if you weren’t in it, and I’m glad you were. You’ve given me a purpose for my life that I never knew I needed.” They pulled away slightly, and Lucy brought up a hand to caress Adelard’s cheek.

 

“Thank you, Adelard, for making this last year the most amazing year I’ve ever had. I couldn’t have done any of this without you. I love you,” She smiled, and Adelard felt an urge to kiss her that he had never had before. 

 

“I love you too,” Adelard replied softly, his voice breaking. They finally broke away fully after that, and painfully, Adelard made himself get into the driver’s seat of the car. He wanted no more than for Lucy to get in the passenger seat, but she stayed where she was and his heart broke a little on the inside.

 

“Goodbye, Adelard. Take care of her. Take care of any child who had been victimized because of the family they could not choose. Do not let Them hurt the people most vulnerable in our world.” Lucy wiped the tears that had started to fall with the back of her hand, and then she backed away, and turned to go back into the motel they had been meaning to stay at that night. 

 

“Goodbye,” Adelard said no louder than a mouse, and then he pulled away.

 

-----

 

Adelard walked back into Agnes’ bedroom, the picture of Lucy held in his hand. He kneeled down next to Agnes’ side, and she looked up at him with a look of pain. Adelard pet her head slowly, and the cool feeling under his fingertips only spurred on his actions more. Slowly, he lifted the picture up, and Agnes turned her head slightly to look at it with large eyes.

 

“You remember her?” Adelard asked softly. Agnes didn’t answer, and just continued to stare at the picture. Adelard bit his lip to stop the tears he felt welling in his chest. “She was the one who helped me get you from the bad people. She was the reason we’re together now, honey.” Slowly, Agnes reached a small hand up and grabbed the picture, and Adelard had to force himself to let go and let her take it. Adelard’s stomach felt the need to empty.

 

“It’s okay,” He said instead. “Feed your flame, Agnes.” With that permission, she did. Adelard stepped back as the picture suddenly sparked and erupted in a small flame. He watched as the last picture he had of his friend turned to ash in his adopted child’s hands. And he watched as, as the picture burned, the color returned to Agnes’ face. She looked stronger, and healthier than ever. Adelard’s head dropped and he clenched his eyes shut as both grief and relief flooded his system.

 

“Addy? Wha’s wrong?” Agnes asked softly. She stared down at the picture that was now a pile of ash in her hands, and she simply held her hand out above the trash can next to her bed and let it fall in. Adelard grabbed his face with his hands, clenching his temples before he sighed and picked his head back up.

 

“It’s okay, Agnes. Everything is okay now.” Then, he stood and pulled Agnes to his chest in a tight hug. Agnes wrapped her arms around Adelard and hugged him back, though an expression of confusion never left her face. Adelard simply held onto her, and this time, he refused to let go.

 


 

“Only the lonely,” Adelard sang along with the radio that was playing in the kitchen. He was in the middle of making breakfast, swaying along to the song that was playing as he moved the pan in his hand. “Know how I feel tonight~” 

 

“Morning!” Adelard heard Agnes call. He turned and saw the girl come into the room, going over to him immediately. 

 

“Good morning, hun,” Adelard opened his unoccupied hand and Agnes gave him a hug. Adelard pressed a kiss to her head before allowing her to pull away. “Glad I don’t have to drag you out of bed this morning.” Agnes laughed. 

 

“I’m excited!” Agnes exclaimed. “You said we get to go to the zoo today!” 

 

“Yes, I did say that. But we’re not leaving right this second, so hold your horses.” Adelard turned back to his cooking.

 

“Okaaay,” Agnes rolled her eyes.

 

“Now go on and sit down, breakfast will finish in just a little bit,” Adelard instructed. Agnes did as she was told and went over to the table and sat down. Neither of them talked as Adelard finished making their breakfast, and the silence that should have been there was instead filled by the melody coming from the radio.



“Only the lonely (Dum-dum-dummy doo-wah)
Know the heartaches I've been through (Ooh yay, yay, yay, yeah
Only the lonely (Dum-dum-dummy doo-wah)
Know I cry and cry for you (Dum-dum-dummy doo-wah)

Maybe tomorrow a new romance
No-o-o more sorrow, but that's the chance
You've got to ta-a-a-ake, if your lonely heart breaks
Only the lonely (Dum-dum-dummy doo-wah)”

 

“Oh, by the way hun, tomorrow you’re going to be with Jen for most of tomorrow. I’m going to be doing work stuff all day,” Adelard said as he brought over two plates of pancakes and set one down on the table in front of Agnes and the other in front of his own seat.

 

“Yay, Jen!” Agnes exclaimed happily, raising her hands up in the air. Adelard chuckled. He was glad that Agnes loved her babysitter so much; after all, it was rather hard to find someone he could trust to handle her properly. Adelard walked back to open the fridge and pulled out the jug of orange juice. “Are you gonna do regular work stuff, or secret work stuff?” Agnes whispered the last few words conspiratorially. 

 

“Secret work stuff,” Adelard replied normally, giving Agnes a look. He grabbed his own cup of coffee from where he had set it earlier and returned to the table. Agnes grabbed her juice and immediately began to drink it. Adelard took a sip of his own coffee, and grimaced as he realized the normally hot liquid had gone cold as he had cooked. Agnes crooked her head curiously.

 

“What’s wrong?” She asked after she set her own drink back down.

 

“It’s cold,” Adelard replied unhappily. “I didn’t realize how long i’d left it sitting there.”

 

“I can fix it!” Agnes grinned, suddenly bouncing up and down in her chair excitedly. Adelard considered her for a moment with a brow raised before he slowly pushed his cup toward her.

 

“Just don’t make it too hot, alright?” Adelard said. Agnes nodded obediently, then she rubbed her hands together and picked up the mug between them. Concentration casted over her face, and Adelard watched as steam began to once again rise from the cup. Agnes looked at it proudly before sitting it back down and sliding it to Adelard. He picked it up and examined before taking another drink. It was hot, but not burning.

 

“Thank you, sweetheart,” Adelard smiled. 

 

“Welcome!” Agnes replied happily. She then lifted her silverware and began to dig into her breakfast, and Adelard soon followed after. 



Chapter Text

Adelard was... nervous , to say the least. As he drove through the long, twisting roads traveling into the secluded forest, a thousand scenarios raced through his head. He prayed to God that the future would choose one of the good ones. It wasn’t like this was the first time he had done something potentially dangerous; rather it was what he had accidentally specialized in. That never stopped him from being nervous though, especially when other people were involved.

 

“Adelard,” A voice from the passenger side called, which snapped him from his racing thoughts. 

 

“Huh?” Adelard asked with a tilt of his head.

 

“Keep your jaw unclenched,” the voice finished. 

 

“Oh,” Adelard said, not having realized how hard his teeth were pressing against each other. “Thanks,” Adelard added. She often did notice those things he did when he was nervous. That, or everyone did and she was just the one to not shy away from telling him. 

 

Her name was Jessica McHale Stevenson, and she was sort of the main reason Adelard was even going where he was. She was a contact he had found in one of Lucy’s old notebooks, and happened to be a social worker as well as knowledgeable about The Powers. She was particularly focused on keeping children away from dangerous situations involving the different Entities, and there was no surprise she had been the one to originally tell Lucy about Agnes and The Cult of the Lightless Flame. Despite her rather abrasive personality, Adelard found a lot of comfort in her initial company.

 

As always with life though, Agnes was not the last child to be victimized by The Powers or their servants. Jessica had become aware (through means Adelard was almost certain involved threatening and/or some kind of illegal activity) of a very powerful family in society who was almost certainly tied to The Lonely, yet had somehow been skipped over by law enforcement for the obvious mistreatment that would come with raising their children. It’s obvious the Lukases were bribing any officials who had thought to investigate, and it made bile rise to his throat. He trusted no officer. 

 

But Jessica was no cop, and she wasn’t intimidated by the Power of the Lukas family. “They’re all too scared of confrontation to stop us,” she had said while they were first planning their mission. While they had no police with them, Jessica was a government official with documented permission to seize any children suspected to be victims of abuse, and they certainly could threaten police interference if need be. So, they set out to enter the twisting road leading to the Lukas estate, and Adelard did keep a pistol in the glove box if worst came to worse. He prayed it didn’t. 



They arrived at the sprawling mansion in the middle of the country, and Adelard was impressed at the size of it. He knew the Lukases had money, but even still, the impressive building was rather intimidating. Adelard parked his car in the round drive in front of the entrance, and took a deep breath as the car died and his key returned to his pocket. He turned to look at Jessica, and pressed his hand against hers which was resting on the console between them.

 

“No turning back,” Jessica said simply. Her expression was still stern and unrelenting, but Adelard felt her hand squeeze back softly. She was just as nervous as he was. Swallowing his fear, Adelard let go of Jessica’s hand, and she opened her door and exited the vehicle. Adelard went to leave, but paused for a moment, his eyes glancing at his glove box. Quickly, he opened it and retrieved the pistol, sliding it into the holster attached to his belt. Better to be safe than sorry, he reasoned.

 

Adelard stepped out onto the gravel of the drive and shut his door behind him, going over to Jessica and then following her as she approached the double doors of the Lukas estate. Adelard gave a final prayer for safety as Jessica banged the door’s knocker loudly and confidently. After a minute or so, the door was pulled open slightly, and a man’s piercing gaze began to stare them down. 

 

“State your business,” The man said coldly, no hint of emotion present in his voice. Jessica did not falter.

 

“Good afternoon, sir. My name is Jessica Mchale Stevenson, and I’m the social worker assigned to this particular case. It would appear that the last one assigned to your case never properly closed their investigation, so I've taken it upon myself to see it through.” Jessica stared down the man with such an intensity that Adelard could have thought it’d kill him. The man behind the door narrowed his eyes at her.

 

“Where are your credentials?” The man asked sourly. Jessica swiftly retrieved the manila envelope tucked under her arm and pulled out several papers. 

 

“Sir, this residence has had three outstanding warrants for the seizure of the children living on this property. Someone had apparently tried to cover that up, and the judge I showed this evidence to was not pleased. I have a new warrant allowing for entrance into the property and seizure of any and all children within your care. If you attempt to resist or stop us in any way, law enforcement will come and you will be arrested.” Jessica spoke with such cool conviction, and the man behind the door seemed agitated as he flipped through the paperwork. 

 

“There was no notice prior to this,” The man said, his brows furrowed in clear anger. 

 

“There was no requirement to give one,” Jessica responded confidently. “Please step aside, sir. It will be easier for you to not resist. The man glowered at her for a few more moments before he opened the door completely and begrudgingly stepped aside to allow them inside. As Adelard entered, he couldn’t help but notice how empty the place was. There were no decorations on the walls, and not another person in sight. Adelard ignored how utterly lonely it all felt. Adelard took another look at the man who closed the door behind them, and he felt fear because of the look in the man's eyes. His hand found purchase against Jessica’s back. 

 

It took a surprisingly long time to retrieve all the children within the home. There were five in total, and Adelard had to thank himself mentally for owning a station wagon with third row seating. Adelard felt a pain in his heart when he noticed the children seemed to barely recognize each other. He couldn’t imagine what his life would have been like growing up without his own siblings. As soon as all the children were piled into his car, they had left. Neither Adelard nor Jessica were very keen on getting sent into The Lonely while their backs were turned. The ride back from the country was strangely quiet for being a car filled with five children. Only two of them ever spoke a word. 

 

The challenges after the initial seizure were a lot less daunting than Adelard considered the first. The two younger children who had actually spoken in the care were both adopted rather quickly, while the two other girls followed after. The only one who hadn’t been adopted yet was a little four year old boy, which surprised Adelard. While he knew the youngest children would have gone first, he didn’t understand why this child in particular wasn’t seen as ‘adoptable’ by eager parents.

 

“I’m worried, Adelard,” Jessica said one day to him as he sat in her office. “Peter isn’t being adopted, and I fear that the longer he goes without a family the closer he’ll become to following the path of The Lonely despite being away from his parents.” Jessica ran a hand through her hair in stressed consideration.

 

“Are you sure there’s no one out there who’d take him?” Adelard asked. “Surely there have been parents who’ve met with him.”

 

“Oh, well of course there have been. He was fostered by two separate families for a week each, but both of them gave him back because of how ‘abnormally quiet’ he had seen. One of the mothers even admitted they had forgotten he was there for an entire day. This isn’t good, Adelard.” Jessica sighed and leaned back in her chair, crossing her arms in frustration.

 

Adelard considered the options that were left for them. If they were to let the young Lukas continue on in the system, he was likely to stay there, passed around from family to family as people struggled with his antisocial-ness. He would be lost, and alone, and The Lonely would surely consume him and the efforts they had done to stop that would have been for naught. Peter Lukas needed a family full of love and life to teach him how to enjoy the company of others instead of dreading it. To Adelard, there was only one decision left to make.

 

“I’ll take him,” Adelard said very suddenly. Jessica looked up in surprise. 

 

“Are you sure?” Jessica asked in disbelief. Adelard nodded strongly.

 

“If there’s no one else who will, then I’ll raise him. He needs someone who understands how The Lonely threatens to consume him. I can watch to make sure he isn’t falling to it’s lure.” Adelard said confidently.

 

“What about Agnes?” Jessica asked with concern. “Do you think she’d be able to get along with him? You know how careful you have to be with her around other children, especially a young one like Peter.”

 

“Agnes is fine,” Adelard contested. “She’s a good girl, and even though I can see her power growing stronger as she ages, so does her control over it.”

 

“What about finances? Can you even support another child on your own? I’d try to give you all the help I can, but...there’s only so much I can do, Adelard.” 

 

“Jessica,” Adelard said sternly, but not harshly. “Peter needs a father. He needs a family . I would be proud to give that to him.” Jessica searched Adelard’s eyes with her brows furrowed as she searched for any signals of deception. He didn’t blame her for being so protective over the child, even if it was against him. He knew he’d do the same if their roles had been switched. Finally, Jessica closed her eyes and sighed. 

 

“I’ll start filing the papers,” Jessica responded after a few minutes. “I’m going to set this up as a foster situation first, and if Peter responds positively, then I’ll get you the adoption papers. You can take him home as soon as all the paperwork is filled out.” Adelard smiled softly. Soon enough, there were papers set in front of him, and Adelard signed them all neatly before he pushed them back across Jessica’s desk. 

 

“How do you think Peter will take it all?” Adelard suddenly asked. He began to worry that Peter would feel sad going to yet another family. He didn’t want Peter to feel like they’ll just give him back later. 

 

“It might be hard at first, but I think he’ll adjust. You just have to keep reaching out to him. He’s going to keep trying to withdraw, but you have to keep reaching for him. Don’t force him, but keep that line of communication open.” Jessica answered, and Adelard nodded in understanding. All he wanted was for Peter to be safe and happy. 

 

“...Well, I suppose the children should meet each other, then.” 

 




Agnes took it in stride, of course. Adelard was proud of the kind girl she was growing up to be. Her personality was just as warm as her soul. Once Adelard took Peter home, leading him through the doorway of the small home, Agnes was nearly bouncing with excitement to meet the other boy. Jen had been there watching Agnes, and she sat on the recliner in the living room watching with interest. 

 

“Hello, Peter,” Agnes smiled wide, bowing down a bit to look Peter in the eyes. Peter looked up without making a change in his expression, then cast his eyes back down. Adelard ruffled his hair encouragingly. 

 

“Hi,” Peter said, his voice barely above a whisper. Adelard had told Agnes early that Peter would be a very quiet and shy child, so she made no reaction. 

 

“I’m Agnes,” She said as she continued to smile. “I’m excited to get to know you.” 

 

“Yeah,” Peter replied despondently, turning his head to look absentmindedly at an aloe plant up on a table. Adelard smiled kindly at Agnes.

 

“Come on Peter, let me show you where you’ll sleep.” Adelard led Peter deeper into the house with Agnes following them on their heels. Once Adelard showed Peter where all his things were going to be, he let Peter sit alone in his room to let him process it all, and he came back out into the living room. 

 

“You weren’t kidding when you said he was a quiet kid,” Jen said casually. Adelard huffed a laugh at her. 

 

“Don’t worry,” Agnes piped up. “He’ll start talking once he realizes how nice all of us are,” She grinned, and Adelard couldn't help but smile back at her with pride. He patted her head supportively, and he could feel her lean into it fondly. 

 

“Well,” Adelard said in the tone that meant you were ready to move on to do something else. “What do you want for dinner, Ness?” Adelard looked over to Jen and added, “You can stay for dinner if you like.” At that, Agnes shot her fists up into the air, and Adelard took a step back in reaction to avoid colliding with them. 

 

“Yes! Jen needs to stay for dinner!” Agnes shouted, grinning. Jen smiled and let out a small laugh. 

 

“Hey, I’m not turning down a free meal,” Jen replied as she crossed her arms and relaxed back into the seat of the recliner. Adelard smiled once more. 

 

“Then hey, c’mon kiddo, let’s see what we have to make,” Adelard said and teasingly grabbed Agnes head and shook it a bit before walking into the kitchen. Agnes followed behind him just like she always did.




 

Agnes pouted in confusion. It seemed like no matter what she tried to do, Peter didn’t want to play with her at all. She offered to teach him how to play marbles, play her board games, and play catch, but it seemed no matter what game she tried to play, he didn’t really seem to care. He just stayed by himself, either fiddling with a toy by himself or sometimes watching the television. 

 

“I don’t get it!” She had squeaked in frustration to Adelard with her hands crossed against her chest. “I try and try, but he just says no no matter what. I’m tired of tryin’ to do stuff for him when he doesn’t care!” 

 

“Oh hun,” Adelard sighed wearily. He brushed his hand over her head. It had been a couple of weeks now since Peter had joined them, and Adelard expected that it’d be a matter of time before Agnes got frustrated with Peter’s antisocial nature. He was surprised she had been patient this long; he knew not many kids her age would have been. “I’m sorry he refuses, but we can’t change that.” 

 

“Well why even bother inviting him anyway if he’s just going to say no!” Agnes exclaimed and pouted fiercely. Adelard watched as the tips of her red hair began to grow lighter in hue, and Adelard began to self the faint smell of char. 

 

“Agnes honey, you need to calm down,” Adelard said calmly, and he took a knee so he could be on Agnes’ level. Agnes looked down at herself and seemed to notice her rising temperature, and a bit of panic flashed over her face. Slowly she closed her eyes and took a deep breath in, then a deep breath out. “Good girl,” Adelard praised kindly. “Now listen, Peter is probably going to take a long time to open up. We need to be there when he is. We’re his family now, and if we don’t offer, then he’ll never open up to us.” Agnes looked down at the ground with resignation. Adelard patted her head comfortingly. “Hey, if Peter doesn’t want to play your games, why don’t you ask Peter what he wants to do? Maybe you don’t have to play games, but you can do something else with him instead like reading a book to him or something.” 

 

Agnes hummed and then said, “Okay, I’ll try.” Agnes replied. She turned and walked away, a bit more of a spring in her step than before. Adelard sighed wistfully as he watched her go. 

 




Adelard was worried. Slowly but surely, Peter had started to socialize with them more. Agnes found that what Peter loved most were books. She read many to him, and they began to spend more and more time together. It was a slow process, but they improved, and soon enough Peter had lived with them for a year and turned five. Once Adelard had told Peter he was going to have to begin going to school however, Peter’s attitude had completely reverted to his old shut off self. Adelard was stressed because he could tell Peter was hurting, yet he had no clue how to help him get comfortable with the idea of going to school.

 

Adelard had known from the beginning he was going to send Peter to public school once he was of age. Agnes was homeschooled--for fear of anyone finding out about her flaming soul--but Adelard knew what Peter needed the most was connections with many of other children his age to ground him out of the lonely’s grasp. Adelard knew Peter wasn’t going to be particularly happy about that, but he hadn’t expected the level of distress Peter had gained. Adelard desperately wanted to help him, but he also knew he shouldn’t smother him, so he had been trying to keep himself from pushing Peter too much. Eventually, he decided that enough time had passed, and he went to go talk to Peter to try and help him out from his solitude.

 

“Peter?” Adelard called softly as he walked out onto the back porch. Peter was sitting on the steps and gazing out into the backyard, when he heard Adelard call his name. He turned his head slowly to look up at Adelard with a frankly pitiful expression. Adelard felt a pang of sadness in him, and for the thousandth time in his life he swore bitterly in his head at the Powers for daring to lay their hands upon a child. Adelard moved next to Peter and sat down next to him, leaving enough space between them so Peter wouldn’t be uncomfortable. Adelard waited for Peter to say something, but it was quickly clear to him that he wouldn’t hear anything.

 

“Is something the matter, Peter?” Adelard asked, tilting his head to try to look more on Peter’s level. Peter stayed silent and avoided his gaze. Adelard furrowed his brows and tried again. “Listen, I know what I had told you a few days ago upset you. I want to help you with this because I know it’s hard, but I can’t if you don’t talk to me.” 

 

“‘It's not fair,” Peter mumbled while still looking away, his arms crossed.

 

“What isn’t?” Adelard asked 

 

“Well how come Agnes gets to do school with Jen and I don’t ?” Peter replied, much louder and with clear anger. “I don’ wanna go to school!”

 

“Oh, Peter,” Adelard sighed tiredly. “Listen, Agnes has school at home because that’s better for her. You know how she’s...different from us. If she went to school with other children, there might be an accident because they don’t understand her, and someone could get hurt. Besides, she still has to learn all the same things with Jen that the other children learn at the school.” 

“I don’t care about learning,” Peter grumbled and pouted. “Learnings’ not scary.”

 

“Then why do you fear going to school so much?” 

 

“People are scary!” Peter replied in frustration. Tears started to prick at the corners of his eyes. “I don’ get ‘em. I don’t know how to talk to them. I-I don’ know what I’m suppose’ a do,” Peter cut himself off as he started to cry, and Adelard simply scooted himself closer and then pulled into his side as a hug. Adelard let him cry for a few moments, and when Peter started to calm his sobs, Adelard spoke. 

 

“Can I tell you something, Peter?” Adelard asked and looked down at the boy. Peter looked up into Adelard’s eyes inquisitively. Adelard leaned his head down to be closer to Peter’s level. “I don’t understand them either.” 

 

“You’re old though! And you have a job!” Peter protested. Adelard snorted at that.

 

“I’m only in my twenties, you know. That’s not that old.”

 

“I’m five!” Peter exclaimed in response, and Adelard chuckled. 

 

“Okay, okay, I’m old. But yes, I don’t understand other people either. And want to know a secret?” Adelard gave a conspiratorial smile and leaned down further to be closer to Peter. 

 

“What?” Peter asked with wide eyes.

 

“I don’t think anyone knows how other people work.” Adelard winked, and Peter continued to stare with big eyes, as if in wonder. “I promise you, all the worries you have about people in your head are things other people think all the time, especially the children who you’d be in school with. It will be their first time at school too, and they’ll be just as scared as you are. Sometimes we just have to accept that we’re not always going to know what the right thing to do is, and that’s okay. Just talk to them like you would to us, and you’ll be fine.” Peter sniffled quietly and wiped his eyes with little balled up fists. Adelard ruffled his hair until Peter pulled away and suddenly wrapped his arms around Adelard. 

 

“I’ll try,” Peter said softly, his voice muffled from his face being pressed into Adelard’s shirt. Adelard smiled fondly and wrapped his own arms around Peter. They sat there pressed together for a few minutes, before finally Peter was ready to let go and return inside.