Perry looked at Carmilla and Mark interact from afar, surprised that the petite brunette opened quite so fast to the bear of a man that was Laf's uncle:
_I know he may not look like it, but he's a very good guy, and an even better father,"
Perry shifted her gaze back at Lafontaine, thoughtful, before looking back at gruff looking man laughing with a wildly giggling Carmilla. It warmed her heart to see her so carefree. William had joined them at some point, showing off his drawing to both his sister and Mark. Looking at them she could believe it:
_He practically raised me," Perry turned around, gazing at Laf, her entire focus suddenly on them, "When I came out to my parents as non-binary, they… Didn't take it very well," They paused for a second, gathering their ideas, a small smile pulling at their lips, "Mark took me in without a question, opened his arms and home to me in a heartbeat, even with everything going on with his family, he didn't hesitate once." Perry looked back at the man currently deep in conversation with her two monsters, somehow it didn't surprise her one bit. "He was the one that re-established contact with my parents…" She turned around once more, and gently grabbed their hands. They hung on to it like a buoy, before slowly looking back up at the woman sitting in front of them, her eyes shining with concern and understanding, not an ounce of judgment. She was just listening, taking it in, like it was the most natural thing in the world. Lafontaine snorted lightly as they looked back down at their tangled hands. They squeezed them lightly before leaning back in her seat:
_They're lucky to have you, those two,"
They nodded toward the two siblings. Perry hesitated a second before leaning back in her chair as well:
_I'm not doing much of anything for them…"
Lafontaine snapped their heads at the red head before them:
_You love them ?"
The words fell out of her mouth before she even had to think about it. Lafontaine smirked as they looked back at the trio:
_Then you're doing plenty,"
A deep blush bloomed on her cheeks at the compliment, but her thoughts were interrupted by a wide grin breaking on Lafontaine's face, and a whirlwind of dark hair, as she was assailed by William, who eagerly climbed on her laps, without an ounce of hesitation, Carmilla stood close by, her hand balled up in the red-head's blouse. Mark ruffled her hair as he walked passed her and dropped in the third chair, sitting idly between the two red-heads. He took a deep breath as he let his eyes linger on the lot of them. They had met but hours ago, but he'd be damned if they didn't look like an, albeit mismatched, family.
Six o'clock was right around the corner.
He had only been there three hours. But he'd made his decision. There was no way he was letting those two in here. Not when he looked at them interact and laugh so easily with Lafontaine. He couldn't afford it. He knew he couldn't. Not with… But Carmilla grinned at him, and he knew really, he didn't have much of a choice. He hugged them both when the Dean came by to thank the families, and regrouped children. Carmilla held him tight, gripping his shirt with her tiny fists, but didn't make eye contact with him as she joined her dormitory group section, her eyes on the ground, her hands tied together in front of her. He sighed:
She turned around, William holding her hand. She ushered him forward when she crossed the serious gaze Mark was giving her:
_Go on, Darling, I'll be right there,"
He nodded, waved at both he and Lafontaine before running to his section:
_I want to start the procedures of adoption,"
Perry gaped at him, shocked:
_But I thought-"
_I can help him, too" Perry turned around to the red-head, "financially I mean, I'm working as an analyst in a lab, but I'm getting my PhD soon… ish, and don't even try to fight it Papa Hollis, it's the least I can do,"
Perry started chuckling in disbelief as she gazed at the two wonderful people in front of her:
_You're not… You're serious ?"
_Serious as a heart attack," Mark piped up with a smirk, finally relinquishing his intense gaze on the annoying person next to him, knowing it was a losing battle "I'll bring my daughter next week to see how they get along, but I have absolutely no doubts it'll go swimmingly, Laura… I'm sure she'll be delighted to have the company"
Lafontaine gave the man a warm smile as they squeezed his arm. But their moment was cut short when they were pulled in a death grip along with Mark, as Perry practically forced them both in a bone crushing embrace:
_Thank you, thank you, thank you…" She repeated, her voice tight with tears, "You have no idea what this means to us… To them…"
Mark easily hugged her back, winking down at a flabbergasted Lafontaine, who awkwardly patted Perry on the back. She pulled back as fast as she had pulled them in, a heart stopping grin splitting her face in two, splitting Lafontaine's heart in pieces…:
_I'll take you to the administration right away, then, so we can start as soon as possible-"
_Actually Perry, we're not going to be able to do it today, we have to go get my daughter out of her… session"
Perry's smile fell almost immediately:
_Oh… Yes of course, it's no problem, you can swing by tomorrow, I just have to get for a visitor's pass, it'll only take a minute, if you'd come this way,"
They quickly made their way to the administrative building, as Perry swiftly explained the adoption process. It could take between a few weeks to a few months, or even years, depending on the cases. Though at Carmilla and Will's age it shouldn't take too long, save for the fact that they were adopting siblings, thus twice the paperwork… Perry pleaded with whatever deities out there that the sheer amount of bureaucracy would not discourage Mark. He laughed heartedly when she asked:
_I'm the DA, Perry, if paperwork scared me, I'd be in a hell of trouble,"
Perry's eyes nearly popped out of her head when she realised to whom she was talking. The District Attorney ? Seriously ?
_Close that mouth Perry, you'll catch flies,"
She snapped her mouth shut as she glared at the man in front of her, though her usually oh so efficient stink eye lost quite a lot of its power, as she fully understood to whom she was addressing it. Her blush though lost none of its flourish when the older man aimed a wink at her as he held the door to the administration hall. She took the opportunity to get a head start on the battle field that was to begin the day after that, as she prepared the two badges:
_I'll only need one badge Perry, Lafontaine has classes tomorrow, they won't be able to make it,"
The red-head tried her best to hide her disappointment, and quickly wrote down Marc's information and purpose on the name tag. A couple of signatures later and the two were ready to go. The young governess let her eyes linger a second on Lafontaine, before she grabbed a piece of paper and swiftly scribbled something on it before slipping it into their hand as they walked out the door. She gave them a shy smile before locking the door behind her, pinching the bridge of her nose. She was a twenty-three year old grown ass woman for Christ sake… Behind the door though, Lafontaine was in no better state. They stared at the door in surprise for a second before unfolding the paper. Their grin widened by tenfold when they saw the ten digits "in case of an emergency. One can never be too careful". They chuckled lightly as they tucked the paper in their shirt pocket. For all her bragging about the importance of cleanliness, Perry was one of the messiest writers they had ever seen…
Carmilla woke up the next morning to the smell of detergent and roses. She cracked an eye open with a groan, drowsy with sleep as she rubbed her eyes, and finally looked up. She was met with a mess of curls and a dazzling smile:
She croaked half-heartedly, stifling a yawn, before frowning. She slowly came out of her slumber, blinking heavily, her frown deepening. She couldn't remember the last time someone had personally woken her up like that:
_Is something wrong ? Is William ok ?"
The young governess immediately softened Carmilla's messy curls as she saw the obsidian orbs widen in worry:
_No, no sweet pea, everything is fine," She grinned widely as the young brunette relaxed, "Everything is swell actually ! I have some news for you my darling,"
The small girl perked up immediately, all remnants of sleep forgotten:
_What is it ?"
She piped up, the red head swoon at the question, filled with an innocence and hope she hadn't expected coming from the small girl. The face splitting grin on her face practically kept her from talking:
_Mr. Hollis wants to adopt you," Carmilla's face slackened in shock, "Both of you,"
She had hurled herself in Perry's arms before the older woman had even finished talking, her sobs of pure joy.
She cried quietly, holding on tightly to her governess, relief crashing through her like a tidal wave. She was getting out. William was getting out.
There was the real miracle.
He would never know about any minuscule closets, about starvation, about any of the horrors of the world. Not if she had something to do with it.
She vaguely remembered Perry telling her about Mr. Hollis bringing his daughter next family day, though truth be told she had hardly listened to a word after those five magic words…
She scurried out of her bed as soon as the governess let her go, off to god knew where, though the red-head had her small idea. She shook her head with a smile, and quickly made the little minx's bed before exiting the dorm room. She glanced at her clock, 7:07am.
Her smile broadened at the round hour. She was not superstitious by any stretch of imagination, but she liked to think that looking at round hours, meant someone was thinking about her. Hopefully a fellow red head with a grin a tad too big for their face…
She shook her head again with a slight blush, now was not the time for mooning. Breakfasts had to be ingested, and obnoxiously complex legal wars had to be waged… She swiftly made her made to the kitchen, poured herself a glass of hot cocoa (which she ended up relinquishing to one of her puppy eyed children), and made her way to the administration hall.
Mr. Hollis was to arrive around eight o'clock, he had retained his Monday for this purpose specifically. She nervously busied herself in the office,going over again and again the paper, making absolute certain that she had not forgotten any (and also took the opportunity to straighten up the place. She may or may not have also reorganised each and every folder she could put her hands on a colour coded system. Dutifully explained on the dashboard facing the front door. Yes she had had a lot of time to kill…)
She heaved a sigh and slumped in the chair, at around 7:44, finally admitting that there was indeed absolutely nothing left for her to do but wait… Her head dropped on the desk she had borrowed for the day with a loud smack:
_Already that kind of day, huh ?"
She shrieked, her head shooting upright almost immediately. chuckled loudly as he plopped down in the chair in front of her, lazily sipping on his coffee:
_ ," a loud cough interrupted her, "Mark," She narrowed her eyes at the childlike antics at the man in front of her, "please do refrain from causing me a heart attack, my work here is not quite done yet."
He chuckled again as he pulled out another cup, and pushed it toward the fiery governess:
She frowned at the cup, but soon enough the irresistible aroma of hot cocoa reached her nose:
_Bribery won't get you out of anything,"
She reached for the cup nonetheless, and took a tentative sip, barely holding back a contented groan as the scalding liquid swirled on her tongue:
_Maybe not, but I ought to use every advantages I can get right ?", She glared at him again as he snorted, but greedily sipped on her cocoa all the same. You don't look a gifted horse in the mouth right, "So, I know I'm a bit early, but I figured the sooner we start the better,"
Perry glanced at the clock 7:52
_No, you are perfectly on time, also perfectly right, we have a lot to go through today, starting early most certainly won't do any harm,"
_Right, by the way Laf wanted me to apologise on their behalf again,"
The young woman's head snapped up again:
_Lafontaine ? Why ?"
Mr. Hollis hid his smirk in his cup. Why those two had not found each other before truly was a crime:
_She really wanted to be here, get to know Carmilla a bit, amongst other things… She didn't really have time yesterday to really talk to her,"
_Oh," The fire-kissed governess beamed at the thought, "Well never mind about that, she'll get plenty of time next Sunday,"
She ignored the older man's growing smirk, and dove in the paper work head first. They quickly lost themselves in the mess that was the adoption process.
William practically ran in the hallway, bolting to his sister's room. Perr had told him Carm had some news to tell him. He was stopped dead in his track by a piercing shriek. And a sob. He slowly walked to the slightly jarred door leading to the kitchen, and gently pushed it open as another gut wrenching sob ripped through the air:
_I don't know how you managed to get the district attorney to come around here, Carmilla, but you are going to get him OUT of my establishment as quickly as that shrivelled mind of yours can !"
The eerily calm voice filled the small boy with anguish, as he shuddered at the distorted sound of his sister pleading:
William stared at her, and at , currently holding his sister's hair high above her head, and his sister's cheeks drenched in tears. Her eyes widened to an impossible size:
_Will get out," She rasped, her voice unnaturally high pitched. William shifted his mesmerised gaze at the Dean, who had yet to move, "WILLIAM"
Both he and the Dean were startled by the desperate shriek. The whole scene unravelled before his young eyes before he could process any of it. The Dean took a menacing step toward him. Carmilla's terror morphed into ferocious anger in a second as she yanked her hair away from the Dean and lunged at her, an unnatural growl hurling out of her throat. She was swept back like a rag doll by a flick of a wrist as the Dean turned back to her:
_HOW DARE YOU, YOU LITTLE-"
William started crying uncontrollably, at a complete loss. The commotion attracted everyone around. Other children started crying, as Carmilla crawled backward, as far, and as fast as possible away from the enraged woman. She shrank in a quivering mess against the wall, hiding from the terrible hand hanging over her like a Damocles sword. It never came down. A bark of a voice. The sound of struggling.
A gun shot.
Carmilla shrank against the wall even more, trembling and wheezing, tears flooding her hollow cheeks, her lungs seemingly never gulping enough air. Her vision filled with more and more black spots, as her breaths became more and more erratic, more and more urgent, less and less relieving. Her last conscious thought was for her crying brother. She heard someone yell his name.
Then darkness engulfed her…