All The Paperwork


gillian_icon.gif squeaks_icon.gif tasha_icon.gif

Scene Title All The Paperwork
Synopsis Gillian and Squeaks meet with Tasha for lawyer things and filing adoption paperwork.
Date October 13, 2018

Williamsburg Tasha Renard-Lazzaro's Law Office

The little brick building where Tasha works in Williamsburg isn’t large, just big enough for eight professionals to share the space. Tasha Renard-Lazzaro, Attorney-at-Law takes up just one of the four upstairs spaces. After visiting her for legal needs, a person could also get their taxes done, apply for temp work, or get a business logo made by a graphic designer, among other things.

Her office itself is a simple and small affair, making use of ambient light from the large windows lining the walls of the office. Bare wood floors and exposed brick walls give it that quaint Brooklyn feel. A desk close to the door is probably meant for a receptionist or secretary, though it’s empty at the moment and looks too clean to be really in use. Another desk sits in one far corner — this one is much more someone’s work space: the surface is covered by files, legal pads, books, along with a computer, printer, inbox and outbox, a couple of coffee cups, the remnants of an unfinished bagel.

Finally, by the window, there’s a cluster of comfortable seating — a leather sofa and a couple of arm chairs — surrounds a coffee table full of books and magazines. Tasha sits in one corner of the sofa, facing the door so she’ll be able to see anyone come in, as she works on a laptop resting on her knees.

While she has never personally used this woman’s services (until now), Gillian moved with confidence to the office, leading the teenager on and offering her comforting smiles. Dressed in the usual business casual attire that she wore to council meetings, she looks much the same as Tasha is used to seeing her, in subdued colors, casual pantsuit covering her. It’s not at all how she had dressed when she had been with the Ferry all those years ago, where they had only known each other in passing, really.

The Council had changed that, some.

Stepping inside, she offers another smile, this one dimpling her cheek some as she shifts the carrier bag in her arm. The same one she often carries a laptop in for the Council meetings, along with any necessary paperwork. “Good afternoon, Tasha.”

Normally the teenager in tow would be all questions and polite nosiness — new places are fascinating and need to be explored, it’s a rule. But following Gillian into the lawyer office has made her normally open curiosity turn a little shy and a lot nervous. It doesn’t totally stop her from looking all around, it just makes the looking into shorter, sneaky peeks.

Unlike the grown-up she’s following, she’s dressed like she normally is, in hand-me-down overalls and t-shirt and hoodie, still in good repair if looking a little on the too big side.

She raises a hand and presses a finger against Gillian’s arm when she speaks up. It’s a comforting thing, usually for when someone else needs it, but this time she needs it. It isn’t the first time it’s happened since heading for this office either. Squeaks did the same at least a couple of times on the ride over, to remind herself things are okay. Dropping her hand again, she peeks passed to look at Tasha, that nervousness showing a teeny bit in her face.

When the door opens, Tasha uncurls from her spot on the sofa. She’d be easy to confuse for a teenager herself, given her youthful features and petite height, though she’s tried to offset both with more professional clothing than she would wear on her off days: blazer, blouse, heels, trousers instead of the jeans, Converse and hoodies she wore back on Pollepel Island.

“Gillian! And Squeaks, right? I remember you from the town halls,” she says with a smile for the teenager. “Come on over and make yourselves comfortable,” she says, hailing them over to the sitting area. She herself heads to the area behind her desk, opening a refrigerator to pull out a couple of water bottles and a couple of Dr Peppers, which she carries with her to set down on the coffee table.

“Help yourself,” Tasha says, before sitting back down on the sofa and picking up a file that was on her seat next to her. “So this isn’t my area of expertise, to be up front, but it’s also pretty simple, because of the circumstances. I’m happy to help and if things get hairy for some reason, which I don’t expect them to, I’d be happy to refer you to someone better. Which is literally almost everyone who practices family law, since I don’t really. I just don’t think it’ll be an issue.”

“Thank you for the meeting. Send Colette and Tamara— and your father— my well wishes as well,” Gillian adds, offering a small smile before she takes one of the water bottles and gestures for Squeaks to get comfortable before she does herself. “If any unforeseen issues crop up, we can handle them. But for now, I think you’ll be fine.” Because she has had some experience with this as well, or at least in passing. Others had handled setting up the Lighthouse, after all, she just managed things while Brian had been busy with certain things, as much as someone who could be many places at once should he want to be could be considered busy.

And she’s sure that the government of the Safe Zone would prefer that children who have no guardian to have one anyway. And it’s not like they don’t know who she is, either.

As she had said, for the moment she’s only expecting guardianship. But that’s often the first step to what would come next. “How long do you think it will take?”

“Hi,” Squeaks answers to Tasha, along with a nod of her head. She watches the lawyer, wondering, until movement from Gillian says to find a seat. Her feet scuff a little against the floor as she follows into the seating area. “You sat with the other important people,” she remembers out loud. When she had the idea for making maps and offered it to the council. “I remember.”

After another glance toward Gillian, Squeaks takes a seat on one of the chairs. Her hands tuck beneath her knees as she sits and her eyes move from one to the other grown-up. Her shoes make a faint tap-tap-tap sound as her toes bounce together, anxious energy spent while watching.

Squeaks’ words make Tasha smirk, and she lifts a shoulder. “Some more so than others. Some more so in their minds than in reality,” she says, with a conspiratorial tone. “However, they’re all good people, I think, with the desire to make this place livable and safe, which is what’s important. Everyone’s important in that goal, whether they sit up on a dais or not. And the council’s just made of ordinary people who care, really.”

Done with that little civics lesson, her dark brown eyes return to Gillian. “So basically for an adoption, since Squeaks is fourteen, we need her consent, which is this form here,” she says, picking up a clipboard already set nearby to hand to the teenager. A pen is connected to the clipboard, handily. “Along with this form for you, to state your intent to adopt,” she adds, picking up another clipboard with its pen attached, to hand to Gillian.

“The state requires three months of residence for a sort of probation period, in which they can visit you at any time. There will be a home study done as well. But honestly, given the fact she’s a teenager and they have their hands full, I wouldn’t expect more than the home study visit, which they’ll set up with you. I doubt they’ll pop in unless there’s some sort of problem they see,” Tasha says, reaching for a water bottle, uncapping it carefully to take a sip.

“I assume your parents are deceased or missing?” she asks Squeaks, gently. “I’m sorry to ask. But just so we don’t have surprises pop up. What are your circumstances?”

That ‘joke’ of sorts makes Gillian smile, because she can think of a couple of those the words might apply to, but she agrees with Tasha. They are all good people. All trying their best to make this place safer and more livable. Even when they might make mistakes and follow certain agendas that she personally disagrees with, they’re all trying with what resources they have.

For a moment, she hesitates. Three months. It’s no less than she expected, though. Fostering took less paperwork, but they tended to require a probationary period as well. But she nods, feeling as if this whole thing is quickly becoming real, even if three months seemed like a long time. It also seemed very short. She reaches for the pen and clipboard, beginning to fill out what she can, but also looking toward Squeaks to hear her answers to those questions.

There’s only a puzzled look at the joke, as Squeaks takes a second to wonder about it. She might have even asked questions, but that’s all pushed aside for a different time when there’s important papers for her to work on. The clipboard is taken and her eyes fall onto the paper while she drags a hand down the chain to the pen at the end.

“Doctor Ford and Carolyn are dead.” The statement is almost offhand, no real emotional connection to either name. The teenager wraps her fingers around the pen and takes slow, careful movements to print in her neatest handwriting. It’s still unpracticed, but definitely readable. “They had me before, because my real parents didn’t want me.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” says Tasha, voice soft and sincere, before going on, not dwelling on the matter. “With the last guardians deceased, it does mean less complications are likely. There will be a record check to make sure that all living parties involved who have any legal stake in the matter are informed, and they’ll be given a chance to come forward… or not. If the birth parents already gave up their rights, it’s a non issue. If anything comes back, we’ll deal with it when it does.”

Her dark eyes move from the teenager to Gillian. “The records, as you know, are not in the best of shape, so most of it’s more of a case of the system trying to go through the old protocols to the best of their abilities… and then moving on when they can’t. It seems like it should be pretty open and shut. Once that paperwork’s filed, the social service’s folks will schedule a home visit and if that goes well, we’ll get you on a docket for a court hearing.”

Tasha smiles at Squeaks. “Basically you just both say this is what you want, the judge looks into Gillian’s soul to make sure she’s not a terrible human being, and he stamps a paper saying you’re good to go,” she says, in case the idea of court seems frightening to the teen.

At the words of the young teen, Gillian suppresses the desire to grimace. She already knew that this story would not have had a happy ending, or she would not have been living in the Underneath as she called it in the first place. But it was still sad to hear those specific details. But then she returns her eyes back to Tasha and the matter at hand. She has no doubt her house will pass, in general, as well as her fiances. She’s reasonably sure a judge would find no faults either, her past speaks loud enough, or so she hopes.

Though it may take some time to get a court date. “If I have to call in a favor or two, I will.” She knows a few people, but— well— she already was, really. Calling in a favor. “But otherwise I think this should go smoothly.”

However, there is one concern she has, “Will I still be able to get her signed up for school? Or at least lessons? I was hoping she could at least start catch up classes. She hasn’t been to school since the war started. I don’t doubt her reading skills, but I’m sure there’s a lot that she’s behind on for starting at the grade she should be.” A problem too many kids have, these days.

The teenager nods politely, vague acceptance of the sympathies. She doesn’t share in the sadness and moves on easily when the subject turns to other things. It’s all interesting to learn, and she splits her attention between listening and writing.

“The judge can’t actually look into her soul,” Squeaks speaks up on the heels of Gillian’s questions about school. She looks up from those papers and her face shows confusion over such an idea, contrasting the quiet seriousness in her tone. “That’s impossible. It’s not just something you can take out and show people. The judge should just ask me. Or anyone else who knows her.” That makes way more sense.

She looks between Tasha and Gillian after saying her thoughts. Then after a beat, the girl adds in a question of her own. “I can get a library card after this too?”

The comment from Squeaks gets a smirk from the lawyer, who nods her agreement — after all, she can’t argue with that logic.

Her dark eyes go back to Gillian and she nods. “School for sure. I don’t think you need to wait on that. Go ahead and register in school with the information you have and just say her records are pending. Given the state of the nation, everyone has to be a bit understanding. We can lean on Jonathan if we need to, maybe on that,” she says, since they have that mutual connection. “We’ll file some identification papers as well if they can’t find her in the records we have. That should come back fairly fast, because they’ll need that for filing the home visit information and such.”

Her smile turns a little impish as she adds, “I won’t lie. My last name is useful in getting things processed a little faster than they might be otherwise. In cases like this, I won’t even feel bad about it.”

Yes, in many ways, it was much better to ask those involved what they though. Gillian knows there’s some who might speak against her, but they weren’t really in a position to be asked. And most of them wouldn’t actually know her. Not her now, at least. “I was planning to talk to Jonathan.” If nothing else the man could update her on what the current requirements for her age bracket should be, so she can hire proper tutors or get her in the right classes to get her caught up quickly. Maybe she can even get in the right grade by next school year. But either way— she’ll be getting the math and sciences that she’s been missing out on.

And anything else reading books hadn’t been able to keep her up to date on. “A library card, definitely.” Cause while there were only a few libraries in the Safe Zone at this time, they had many books and resources, and some only accessible with a card. Cause librarians wanted to know where to find you if you didn’t bring back a book.

A smile is offered to Squeaks, quiet. “I suppose we should ask if you wanted to take my name, too. But that’s entirely up to you.” Childs wasn’t even her real name. It would have been Winters, if the Company hadn’t killed her parents.

“Way far behind,” Squeaks interjects quietly when the grown-ups talk about school. She’s listening and paying attention to what’s being said, even if she’s not actively watching Tasha and Gillian. “But I read lots. And I ask questions.” Which has made it sort of okay She still learns things that way. There’s still lots she hasn’t learned though, and she kind of wants to go to real school. Insatiably curious.

And a real library card. The confirmation for that gets a tiny grin aimed at the paper she’s been working on.

The comments about last names prompts a stillness. She never shared her former family’s last name, the one she goes by was from her biological mother. For as long as she remembers, she was told a lot by the Ford’s that she wasn’t really their kid, but they took her because her real mom didn’t want her either. “For reals?” The teenager tilts her head a little bit to look up at Gillian, hopeful and searching all over again.

“There’s not much a clever mind can’t figure out, given time and resources. You’ll catch up,” Tasha says with a smile. It grows softer when the girl reacts so hopefully to taking Gillian’s last name, and Tasha stands to give the two a moment of privacy.

“I’m going to go grab the paperwork for lost ID. A lot of people have no record and we’re sort of on an honor system right now, so that part isn’t going to be a problem, especially for a minor. It’s more an issue when it’s a grownup trying to claim money in an account and such,” she says, as she leaves the two and heads over to file cabinets on the far side of the office.

“Thank you, Tasha,” Gillian responds, obviously noticing what the woman is doing. Once she’s over there, she focuses her attention on the teenager. “If you want. Childs was the name I grew up with and I had many opportunities to change it. My real parents’ name was Winters, and that’s the name my brother kept after a time. I also used Chevalier for a while— it was our real mother's maiden name.” And another of her brothers uses that one, as well as Jolene. Sometimes. When she doesn’t use Petrelli at least. “But I decided to keep Childs after the war killed the parents who raised me.” It’s something she didn’t talk about much.

Sometimes she regretted not seeing them as often as she could have. But they had lived a few cities away, they had not been SLC Expressive as far as she knew, but both their children had been. Their biological children. And the one they adopted without telling her she had been adopted. She had only been three at the time, or thereabouts. She would have had no memories of her real parents if she hadn’t time travelled and met them.

“It’s okay if you do keep the name you currently have, but if you want, I would like you to have it.”

A curious look follows Tasha, but when Gillian starts talking again, Squeaks returns her attention there. She could be a Childs instead of a Morrison? That is a pretty big deal for her, being able to leave the rest of that old life of people who didn’t want her behind. For good. She sits back in her chair and looks at the papers she’s been so very carefully filling out, perhaps trying to see her first name with Gillian’s last.

“I can change it.” The words are as much a subtle question as they are giving her answer. The teenager lifts her head and looks at Gillian again. “I can change it,” she repeats again, decidedly. “I never knew my real parents, just that they didn’t want me. And the Fords…”

Squeaks’ shoulders bounce with a small shrug as a finisher for that sentence. Her mouth tilts with a tiny, kind of shy smile and she nods a couple of times. “Yes.”

Tasha takes her time, opening a few file drawers and slowly gathering the paperwork she needs to give the two time to discuss the matter of names. Her own name has evolved through a few iterations — Natasha Lazzaro-Renard, Tasha Oliver, Tasha Renard — so she understands the importance behind them. It isn’t something to take lightly. It isn’t something she needs to be a part of deciding for Squeaks, other than helping her file the paperwork.

With that bit decided, Gillian releases a breath she hadn’t even realized she was holding, cause she hadn’t been thinking too much about it. She had wanted the girl to take her name, with this being a full adoption, but part of her had not expected it even then. Childs had been her last name for so long it had felt like hers more than the name she should have been born with. Or even the names she’d taken when in hiding. This one felt like hers. “Okay,” she responds, trying not to sound relieved, but— she kind of was. Relieved and happy.

“Do you still want me to call you Squeaks?” She had used the name cause she figured it was one she preferred, but she hadn’t exactly asked, either. Did she prefer it? Did she want it from someone who would be her mom? Once all the paperwork went through, at least.

She’s sure of her decision to be a Childs instead of a Morrison. There isn’t any need to hang onto it anymore if she doesn’t have to. Squeaks’ mouth turns up in another quick smile, and she nods. She starts to sit up straighter and her head turns, like she’s maybe going to announce to Tasha about the decision — lawyers need to know these things, right? — but the second question has her looking at Gillian again.

She doesn’t have a quick answer for that, and it almost confuses her a teeny bit to be asked. “It’s my nickname,” she starts in a slow explanation. It’s what everyone calls her. Gillian would already know that though. One of her feet swings under the chair so her shoe scuffs lightly against the floor and she looks at the clipboard resting on her lap.

“I don’t mind.” Squeaks’ voice turns it into a question. “Or… or Jac.” Again it sounds like she’s asking, or unsure of her answer. She sits quiet for a few seconds, leg still swinging so that her foot continues to brush the floor. “Just not Jacelyn.” That she’s certain of.

After a few minutes of shuffling papers and folders, Tasha returns to the small sitting area with some more paperwork on yet another clipboard. She gently places it on the coffee table, and then straightens again, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.

“I need to make a quick phone call, but take your time with the paperwork. I’ll get that processed as soon as I can,” she says, and while she wasn’t listening to their conversation about name changes, it’s clear she gleaned from body language what decision was made. She adds with a smile, “The last name change won’t be until you go to the court and that will be a new pile of paperwork.”

While Gillian had known the girl’s name, she always tried to call people by the name they wanted to be called, after all. Gillian wouldn’t really be her birth name either. It’s just the one that she decided she wanted to keep, after trying to take on others while hiding with the Ferry and during the way. No other name had felt like hers. Not after everything. “I think both suit you— Jac and Squeaks.

And she did.

But she also liked knowing the girl didn’t mind being called Jac, too. It would mean Jacelyn would be filed away as a name not to introduce her as ever again. It reminded her of her sister, really. How she had hated being called Jennifer. She knew she had mentioned it at least once before. Some people liked their nicknames more, after all. “And Jac Childs doesn’t sound awful.” Sometimes she had hated her last name, the one she grew up with. But… well… Losing her parents and sister she had shared the name with had changed that.

Sometimes she wondered what Jenny would have been like now.

“Jac Childs. Jac Childs” She tries the name out loud, first normal and then the second time drawing each word out. It sounds right to her, at least she doesn’t find it strange sounding, so she nods. “Yes. Jac is good. Jac Bailey Childs. But also sometimes Squeaks.” She nods again, just to make it final. Her mouth pulls back into a small smile and she looks at all that paperwork again.

Picking up the pen connected to her clipboard, Squeaks traces the edge of the paper. Not with the ink-end though, she doesn’t really want to mess up the work she’s already done. “And I call you Gillian,” she asks after the pen has made three laps around. Since they’re talking about what to call the other, it seems like she should maybe ask. She was never allowed to call Carolyn mom, but everyone else calls Gillian by her name. Or sometimes Aunt Gillian.

Until now, Gillian hadn’t really given much thought about what the girl might decide to call her, perhaps because she took it for granted. “If you want to,” she says after a moment, trying her best not to sound disappointed by the idea. Many of the Lighthouse Kids called her by her name, or various versions of Aunt. Some had called her mom, rarely. And most of the time when they had she did not feel she deserved it. She had left them behind to fight in the war, after all. She regretted that more than she could even admit.

Not fighting in the war, that had been necessary. But leaving them to do so. If only she could have done both, like her brother could…

“You can also call me mom, if you want to,” she adds on casually, almost as if trying to sound like she didn’t mind either way. But there’s something about the way she says it, perhaps the tone of her usually raspy voice, that might just give her away.

At first, as Gillian starts to answer, the girl lets out a quiet breath, probably a little disappointed too. She tries to hide that she hoped a teeny bit for a different answer. She won’t argue, if she’s supposed to call Gillian by her name. One corner of her mouth ticks up slightly to show she’s okay with it, even though it isn’t really a grin and she doesn’t look up from the papers. The pen continues making another slow lap around the edge of the clipboard. But when there’s more to the answer, the pen crawls to a stop.

Her eyes turn first, so her face doesn’t have to, and she watches Gillian. She looks uncertain and almost hopeful by turns, and probably a little confused by tones and words that don’t match.

The clipboard is looked at, even though it really doesn’t have any answers. She’s looked a few times already, since Tasha handed it to her. “I can call you mom?” Squeaks’ voice is kind of small when she asks, afraid she’s misunderstanding. Setting the clipboard down, she looks up at Gillian. Her arms wrap around her own middle. “Because… because that… I think that's better.”

The relief spreads, due to Gillian’s fear that she should not have brought up that at all. She didn’t know all the details about what the young teen’s past experiences in foster care, but she could imagine that things had not been good for her, based on what she has heard. She didn’t know if saying that was asking too much, but the smile shows she’s grateful that the girl seems to agree with it. So much that her cheek dimple is visible.

“I think that sounds better, too,” she responds, still raspy, but that sound of relief is present too. “I guess we just need to finish all this paperwork, now.” With that said, she clicks her pen and gets back to work filling out her own.

So that the lawyer can start working on all the rest.

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