Three Hard Words



Scene Title Three Hard Words
Synopsis Sometimes, the simplest things are the hardest ones to say.
Date February 22, 2009

Le Rivage, Judah's Apartment

It's always quiet in the late afternoon, even the jingle of keys in the door and the scuffing of Jupiter's claws on the wood floor do little to rouse that sense of stillness from the air. Painkillers have once more lured Judah Demsky to a quiet nap on the sofa, amidst the gray light filtering through the windows of his apartment. He doesn't stir from the sound of the front door opening, of his ward coming home, snow clinging to her shoulders and in the fringe of her dark bangs.

Colette slips in, quietly, nudging Jupiter's sniffing snout out of the way with the edge of her messenger bag. She drops to a crouch once inside, managing a smile as both of her hands come up, scratching at the thick fur on either side of the old dog's face, her mismatched eyes peering into his, before she leans forward to plant a kiss to the top of the dog's head.

She doesn't stand right away, just staring into Jupiter's dark eyes, fingers curling into his fur as he laps his wet, slobbering tongue across Colette's cheek. Stifling a laugh, Colette's lips press hard together, neck straining as she tries to restrain the choked up emotion the dog's affection brings.

"Don't call him," she says in a hoarse whisper, "J-just… just give me back my dog. Please, he— he's all I've got. I — I can't let him know I — please." She's trying to talk through clenched teeth, a white grimace straining her words. She's trembling, both from the pain, the shock and the fear as adrenaline surges through her. The ground and wall behind her and a foot spread around her back have all bled to a sickly yellow-green color, but the motes of spotty light have stopped, not replaced with an uneven dimming of the light in the foyer.

Straightening and stepping away from Judah, Colette lays her bag down on the chair near the sofa, creeping quietly with careful bootfalls across the floor, leaving a track of wet footprints from the melting snow. Letting her lips curl into a ghost of a smile, she stares down at the weathered face of the tired man on the sofa, teeth pressed into her lower lip.

The first year Judah worked as a police officer for the NYPD, he learned that a cop is never off-duty. Even after you've punched out, the sense of dutifulness remains, clinging to you like a wet sponge — or worse — a child at its mother's knee. It's hard to say no, hard to turn away, and so — when the teen steps into the detective's path — he reaches out and gently closes his hand around her shoulder, partly to stop her before she gets too far away and partly to ensure that they don't collide and end up an angry tangle of arms and legs on the pavement. "Whoa there, kiddo. Watch where you're going."

Colette can't help but let her jaw set, trembling slightly as she reaches out with one, small hand to brush her knuckles across the back of Judah Demsky's cheek. Her hand stops short, fingers curling tight against her palm as she looks down to the floor, eyes forcing shut before opening once she's turned her head away.

The girl's first reaction was to pull away from the hand on her shoulder, her free hand swatting it away reflexively. When she stumbled to a halt, still within arm's reach, there was a momentary look of wariness and fear on her face. Swallowing nervously, the girl didn't say anything for a moment as she took in the man standing across from her, but slowly she lowered that hand down to her side, "Sorry." She hung her head, teeth drawing across her lower lip, and it was with this motion of her head that her bangs shifted, revealing the milky-white blindness of her right eye. She was, quite literally, blindsided by the detective. "…Sorry." Quieter, this time, and both hands found their way into her pockets as she curled her shoulders forward. With her brow furrowed, she nodded her head once, as if acquiescing that the older gentleman had the right-of-way, and stepped to the side to let him pass.

With her head turned away, Colette's eyes focus on the orange pill bottles arranged on the coffee table, and she bends down to pick up no the bottles, but the afghan folded on the footstool next to the table. Her fingers curl into the knit fabric, bringing it up to her nose as she shuts her eyes again.

"Okay, easy now!" The back door to the cab opens to the sidewalk, and a young girl dressed in a heavy suede jacket steps out, scarf tightly pulled around her neck, and the fur of her lined collar bristling up around her cheeks. "C'mon…" She smiles, warmly, into the cab, offering a hand to her passenger, cheeks red from the blustery cold of all hallow's eve.

Carefully, and quietly, Colette lays the blanket out over Judah, reaching out to gently pull the old and tattered red book from his hands. Her lips crook into a smirk, seeing her dog-eared copy of House of Leaves held in his hands. It only makes her jaw shake again, reddened eyes misting on the edges, taking on the appearance of wet glass.

Eyes immediately dart back to Judah, suspiciously, and then a hand quickly darts into the drawer pulling out the folder. "What's — " She hesitates, her blind eye squinting for a moment as she peers at the folder and then back to Judah, turning towards him. "Why do you have…" She can't quite finish any of her queries, and the curiosity itself is simply too much to resist, and still cold fingers quickly flip the thin folder open, her head tilting enough to the side for her bangs to slide away from her eyes, followed by her free hand tucking another errant lock behind one ear. Once peering inside of the folder, her brows furrow together almost immediately.

Colette folds the blanket back, taking the book and letting it settle down on the coffee table. Her eyes drift from it, back down to Judah. Things were so much easier when it was Tamara, Judah and her; but all of that feels something like a lie now. Tamara's gone — gone to who knows where. She'll return, but when — will she even remember Colette?

Inside the folder, perhaps unsurprisingly, is a bundle of paperwork held together with a single paperclip. At the top of every page are the letters 'NYSAS', which by themselves aren't very telling. The titles of the documents, on the other hand, piece together a much bigger picture:

LDSS-0570 Adoptive Placement Agreement
LDSS-0571 Medical Report of Prospective Adoptive Parent
LDSS-0857 Application to Adopt
LDSS-3912 Adoption Assistance Eligibility Checklist
LDSS-4291 Adoption Fee Disclosure Statement

Bringing her hand to brush away the tears in her eyes, Colette walks away from the sofa, crouching down on the other side of the coffee table to pull up a notepad left near the stack of remote controls to the entertainment center. She fumbles in her coat for a pen, beginning to write for a moment, before her attention is stolen by the sound of Judah shifting on the couch. She watches, quietly, as he rolls onto his side, back facing her, blankets wrapped around him more soundly. It's the shape of his crutch leaning against the head of the couch that brings her eyes back down to the paper.

Silence is all the paperwork is greeted with. Silence and a very subtle tremor in Colette's jaw as she looks down at the documents, flipping through them one by one until she can't quite get her hand to move any longer. The papers all give a slight noise once her hand starts trembling. And despite the stiff rigidity with which she composes herself, all of that posturing is for naught when her eyes start to water, and two tears both dribble down off of her eyelids and roll across her still cold cheeks. She swallows, and that very motion gives way to a strangled sound escaping from her closed mouth through her nose.

Pausing mid sentence, Colette's head comes down to rest against the norepad, her forehead softly thumping against the table, fingers curling tightly around the pen as she draws in a rough, snuffling breath, her neck muscles tense, eyes wrenched shut as she blearily turns to look back at the paper, writing once more.

"Y-you…" It may have been a whisper, for as shaky and understated as her voice is when it's spoken. She swallows, again, the motion more reflexive than intentional this time and her neck grows more tense. Colette's lips pull back, evident now that she's restraining them with her teeth, but even that fails as her shoulders roll forward, fingers clutching the folder as she lets out one, very weak, and very ragged whimper that is followed by a sob.


I'm sorry, for a lot of the things I've forced on you since we've been together. I know this isn't exactly where you wanted to be in your life. Taking care of a dumb kid, not working. I know how hard it is for you to take care of me, to be what you want to be.

The shiver the girl gives off causes the tears that rolled down her cheeks to drip off onto the top most document, and she sniffles loudly, trying to feign that composure she obviously doesn't have. "I — I thought you didn't — nobody's ever — " None of that comes out right, and the papers shift inside the folder as Colette's grasp on it falters. Not entirely though, just enough to let them move against one another. She catches the folder as it tips forward, closes it, and clutches both of her hands onto it as a smile creeps up across her face.

You've been strong for me, ever since I first met you. You've cared for me when no one else would, and no matter what was going on, you always took risks to look out for me, make sure I was okay, and despite not knowing how — you tried to be a father. I've been so alone since I lost Nicole, and I never thought that someone would care for me the way you have, would do the things for me that you've done…

Until the smile, Judah was worried he'd done something horrifically wrong. He relaxes, the tension in his neck and shoulders melting away as the tears spill down Colette's cheeks. He swallows, hard, and starts to rise from the couch as if to go to her, but finds his cast and the position of the coffee table to be an insurmountable obstacle. "Nothing's been finalized," he says as he sits back down, scowling at his leg, "but I've made my intentions clear to the state, and I meet their qualifications. As the situation stands, you're seventeen — you only have one more year until you're legally recognized as an adult and the system kicks you to the curb. I don't want that to have to happen."

…I've never really ever appreciated just how much you've sacrificed for me, Judah. I've met a lot of people recently, good people, who all have shown me just how much it is you really care, even if I'm too dumb to see it. I know you have a hard time, showing your emotions — I do too. We're both really screwed up people, which I think is why we could have been a good family.

With the folder set down, Colette rubs her hands over her face, trying to wipe her eyes clear as she sniffles out an awkward laugh. The girl looks up, smiling, and then briskly walks right over to where Judah is sitting, doing just as she did before, letting her arms be thrown around the detective's shoulders, but there's so much more energy behind it this time. She leans her head to the side, settling it against his, and just breaks down. She hides her face away at Judah's shoulder, fingers curling into the fabric of his shirt at his chest, arms shaking. She leans on the couch, enough so that her shaky legs don't have to struggle to hold her up any longer.

Slapping down the pen, Colette tears out the sheet of paper, folding it down the middle before propping it up against his pill bottles. The girl slowly pushes herself to her feet, looking down at Judah for only a fraction of a moment before walking in a snaking path past Jupiter, around the chair, and into her room, quietly closing the door behind herself.

Things changed when I found out what I was. You didn't sign up to take care of an Evolved, to try and keep the secret I have. I'm not Tamara, I can't keep myself hidden, I can't make everything right like she does. I'm just a dumb kid, and I keep making mistakes no matter how hard I try.

"All — " She chokes out sobbing laugh, so overwhelmed with emotions, "All've ever wanted s'to have a home…" Her fingers curl tighter, wrinkling the cloth between them. "S'why I was happy you're 'ome." Her words are mumbled into his shoulder, felt as warm breaths and the shaking of her jaw. "I missed you s'much, I — " She breaks down again, because for the first time in years, since she lost everything she's ever cared for in the world, she not only has a place to call home, but someone to call family.

I know you'd give anything to keep me and Tamara safe, maybe that's why she decided to leave when she did. I can't have you risking yourself for me, and I can't keep putting the people I care about in danger, having them taken from me. I have to start taking responsibility for who I am, and what I am. I can't expect you to hide me and still be the good cop that you are…

Judah places one of his hands on the small of Colette's back and the other on the top of her head, cradling her like he might a small child. Fortunately, unlike a small child, he doesn't have to worry about dropping her. If this is what being a parent is about, he can do it — holding her and letting her spill her emotions all over the front of shirt isn't any harder than comforting a victim at a crime scene. The only difference is he's doing it in his own living room instead of somebody else's, and there isn't blood on the walls or yellow tape blocking off doors. "It's okay. I'm not going anywhere."

When the door to her bedroom emerges, Colette is carrying a black packpack over one shoulder. The girl comes to a stop by the recliner, bending down to pick up her messenger bag and bring it over her other shoulder, evening out the weight on her small frame. She looks to the letter, then to Judah, a pinched feeling in her chest not making this any easier. But as she motions to Jupiter, her focus turns to the dog, not the slumbering man nearby.

So I'm going; I have to. I don't know where yet, but I've always been able to take care of myself before. I'm no stranger to being on my own, I'll be okay, I promise. All I want, is for you to be okay too, to be happy, and to not have to put everything you have on the line for me.

"You better not!" Colette finally squeaks out something sounding a bit more like her, lightly thumping her balled up hand against his chest. "Y-you know how worried I was when you got hurt?" She lifts her head up, eyes reddened and cheeks damp, "I — I was so scared, you — you're — " She swallows noisily, and just stays quiet for a moment, mis-matched eyes focused on Judah. The girl whimpers, softly, and then manages a smile as she leans in again, laying her head down on his shoulder. "You're a total jerk for that," her tone remains teasing, in that way she's prone to sound, "But… but this is… t-this is the best birthday present I — " She swallows again, arms curling up close to herself, "I didn't think anyone was going to remember." And a day early at that, with a gift of a life and a home. After a moment though, Colette smirks and lifts her head up from Judah's shoulder, hair partly in her eyes. "I promise," she begins, that smirk growing, "only to call you dad when it's most embarrassing." Her brows raise and head tilts to the side, a smirk turning into a full-on grin at the threat.

"You…" Colette swallows tightly, running one hand over the top of Jupiter's head, "You keep an eye on the old man for me, okay?" As if he can feel from the wavering tone of her voice, what Colette is going to do, Jupiter's ears fold back atop his head. She smiles, weakly, letting her hand rub up and down the muzzle of the dog's nose, "Don't let him forget to take his pills," her jaw trembles, and she hides her face down atop Jupiter's, cheeks buried in his fur to keep the tears from wetting them.

"Every time I set foot out in public. Got it." Judah removes his hand from the top of Colette's head and lets it fall back to his side. Hearing the word 'dad' leave the teen's lips is strange enough. He can't imagine how it will feel when she actually uses it to address him, though that isn't to say he's not interested in finding out. If he wasn't, his signature wouldn't be all over the New York State Adoption Service's paperwork. "You can talk to Tamara about it if you want," he murmurs, knowing she'll probably want to speak with Tamara anyway, "but don't say anything to Ivanov or Damaris yet. They don't need to know until it's official."

Thank you, for caring about me. Thank you for taking in a girl who didn't have anything else, and giving her everything she's never had before. Thank you for giving me a family, for however short it was. I'm not ever going to forget that, no matter what happens.

"Tamara already knows." Colette opines, reaching out to press one finger against Judah's nose, "You know how that is." There's a momentarily wary look in Colette's eyes, and she glances down to the sofa, then back up to Judah. "Um, about… about what I wanted to talk to you about, it…" Her brows furrow together, and she glances back at the folder on the desk. Her eyes wander, an uncertain sound in the back of her throat rises up, eventually giving way to words, "It can wait." There's a hesitation even in that affirmation, but for now there's no reason for her to take any further risks, not when for the first time in a long time, everything seems right.

It takes all Colette can muster to get up from where she crouches and move back to the door, leaving her keys on the table by the entrance to the apartment. The young girl's lips curl back into a smile, one shuddering breath slipping out as she slouches against the open door frame. One last, fleeting look into the apartment, and she slips out quietly, letting the door shut behind her with a soft click.

Because I love you.

February 22nd: Playing The Part
February 22nd: Win Some, Lose Some
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