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Anne called Leslie Finn early Saturday morning to tell her that she was needed. Leslie knew this wasn't your normal situation or a social call. Despite being friends with her sister-in-law Leslie and Anne weren't really that close.
This was something serious. Anne would only call her if she needed someone to care for a child in need. Leslie doesn't mind that, Anne is a good person who trusts her completely. If she is calling Leslie then it's an emergency, Leslie was proud to help her no matter what time it is. In her mind, the child shouldn't have to endure more pain and suffering because she didn't want to do the right thing and help them out by providing a safe and caring environment.
When Leslie got to Lilly's house Anne explained the situation. Leslie could see the little boy and Claire was strikingly similar to the point that they could be siblings. Anne read her expression exactly and whispered into her ear "that's why we want your help, we think they may be siblings."
Leslie introduced herself and told him warmly "I'm Leslie and I am going to be taking care of you for a bit. Anne and Mrs. Peterson need to do some things so you are going to stay with me at my apartment. Don't worry about them being upset at you coming here, we just need to get you settled in first while they work on your case and make sure you are alright."
She took his hand and took him home. He didn't seem to mind that they were leaving, he had already had a hard day and meeting these new people would take a lot out of you. Leslie smile and asked what his name was to which he quietly said "I'm Dale." Leslie smiled and told him "that's a lovely name."
He was quiet, looking out the window at the buildings as they drove across the city to Leslie's apartment. When they pulled into the driveway her aunt and uncle were outside waiting for her return. They heard her leave in a hurry earlier and suspected something like this was going on.
They took one look at Dale and stated the obvious "he looks like Claire." After looking at Dale closely for several minutes Victoria was the first to say something. She shook her head and asked, "does he have any other family?"
Leslie could never lie to them. She quietly said "we don't know. He may have a father out there somewhere but Claire seems to be at this moment his only next of kin. We have to get him tested to see if she is."
Jorge understood what this meant. He looked at Dale and asked, "if she is, her mother will do the right thing for him." Dale looked up at them with happiness in his eyes. Jorge must have read his mind because Dale kept smiling at the idea.
Leslie told them she would update them when she had more information. They got the real meaning and let them go inside to get acquainted with one another. Leslie though expected they might be stuck together for a while until Lilly could get the answers she needed.
Dale walked through her apartment staring at all of the things inside. He seemed to be surprised that she had such a large apartment for someone who lived alone. She showed him into his room and told him that she would take him shopping for clothes so he could have something decent to wear instead of the rags he had on. He was happy to hear that, he hated the clothes he had one.
She let Dale get settled down in front of the TV and within minutes he was asleep, taking a needed nap. Leslie made a hasty phone call to the doctor's office to make an appointment to get him checked out. Just by looking at him she could tell he had something wrong. He was underweight and under height. The day care center job had given her a good glimpse as to what a child his age should look like even if he had short parents.
The doctor listened to the situation and her concerns. He didn't like what he was hearing either and agreed that it more than warranted a visit. It was rare to use it but sometimes being the sister of a multimillionaire philanthropist has its perks, he heard Leslie's name and immediately set up a consultation with a specialist to get a more in-depth look at Dale's smaller size.
Dale slept most of the day. Leslie moved him from the couch to his bedroom and relaxed while he slept. Her niece and nephew Jaimie and Michael Finn came by for a visit hoping to meet Dale but were disappointed that he was asleep. Jaimie correctly guessed what she was going to do on Monday and why she was doing it. Jaimie seemed to empathize with him without having talked with him.
Both kept staring at him, trying their hardest not to mention his similarities to Claire but failed. Michael gave in and finally asked if the story was true, he may be Claire's brother. She didn't have the heart to lie, she told him exactly what she told his great aunt and uncle- "we don't know yet."
Michael understood. He said he'd talk with Claire later about all of this, he was the only one who could. Will was a good friend and great boyfriend but this was a job for someone who had been through this before. The two left to go home for dinner but only made it as far as the porch before being forced to eat with Jorge and Victoria, they honestly expect to slip by but the elders would enjoy the company.
Dale awoke shortly after and helped her make dinner. He seemed eager to please her, she had to keep reminding him that he was a guest and didn't have to do anything but he kept trying to help. She didn't have the heart to stop him, he needed to feel loved and contribute. She tried to ask him why he wanted to help, all she could get was a mumbled "mommy told me I had to earn my keep."
That explained a lot. He had to work for his food! Poor kid probably never had a decent meal or stayed with someone who had his best interests at heart. He didn't deserve that life, he deserved a caring home. If Claire wasn't his sister then she was not going to let Dale get lost in the system. He needed a caring family and if she had to she would take him in as my own.
After all of the commotion the day before the next day was boring. Valerie Finn was sorting through "next of kin" laws and other legal issues and John Finn was busy working on what his students were going to learning in class during the week. Jaimie was out for a walk with her boyfriend Richard while Miles Finn was out with his girlfriend Christina Connors at her house. Michael was essentially stuck babysitting his sister and brother Cat and JD for them all. He didn't mind, he needed to figure out how to help Claire.
John wasn't his "real" dad but everyone knew that he was the best father they had ever met. Claire just finding out her dad wasn't her "real" dad meant he had to help her see the same about her father. She knew where his biological father was, and he hoped that man stayed there for a long time. She, on the other hand, had no clue, only that he lied to her mom years ago and she got a new father almost immediately.
Valerie finally finished what she was doing and took the twins off his hands, kissing him and telling him "good luck." She knew where he was going and why he had to do it. Claire was his friend and she needed help only he could give.
He rode his bike over and Lilly met him at the door with a big hug. She was on the verge of tears with gratitude saying thank you over and over again, all he could say was "I'll try my best." He looked into her room and he hated the sight before him.
Claire looked depressed. She wasn't wearing makeup and was in a loose fitting t-shirt without a bra on. Will and Courtney would kill him if they knew he noticed but he can't help it if those things are flopping around in front of him. He was still a 14-year-old boy and she is in a loose shirt showing her generous breast with every movement!
Claire seemed to pull herself together as he knocked on her open door. She tried to apologize for being selfish, then started crying again. He hugged her tight, letting her know that he understood exactly what she was going through.
He asked her what she knew about him and his "real" dad. She only knew that John wasn't his biological dad and mom was abandoned by dad before he was born. That was the crux of the story but he had to tell her the rest of it so she understood fully why he understood her best.
He began "mom told me when I was 10 why I didn't have a dad like all of the other kids. When I heard who it was and tried to talk with him he kicked me out of his office and told me never to go near him again. I swore I would never want anything to do with him again after that. When he tried to frame dad and take away Jaimie he did it because he was jealous and hoped to win mom back but he ended up losing everything including his freedom. He is in prison now for what he did to dad and others. Be glad you didn't have to live with that heartbreak. He didn't love you mother enough to stick around, your mom is lucky to have been rid of him. You had a real dad, not some sperm donor so don't forget that."
Claire listened to every word closely. She understood. She hugged him and told him "I'm so selfish, I was spared the pain that you went through. I had a great dad and you had to live without one for a long time until you got one that we all love."
He couldn't help it, he burst into tears alongside her. After over two years of knowing her they finally had something in common besides Jaimie and it stunk. But at least they understood each other's feelings. She finally started to perk up and get back to normal, he was glad to finally help her come to terms with what happened.
She realized she was hugging him with just a t-shirt on so told him to get out so she could change. He snickered and left and asked her mom what she would do if Dale was Claire's sister. Lilly tried to hide her fears but he could tell she hadn't thought about it yet.
He asked, "can you take Dale in so he can be with Claire?" Lilly didn't answer. Claire came in and said "mom we can't let him go. I don't want to lose another relative. If he is my brother I can't bear to think that I might never see him again."
Lilly asked him what he would want if he found out he had another brother or sister. He tried to not think about this but all he could picture was someone who had the same thing done to them by his supposed "dad". He didn't want that to happen to someone again.
He told her the honest truth "I would want them with me but if that wasn't possible I'd want them to have a stable family. If that meant I'd never see them again I would be fine with that just as long as I knew they were safe."
Lilly went silent. Claire picked up on this and asked "would you take Dale in if there wasn't anyone better? I don't want him to go to someone who can't care for him."
Lilly nodded, adding "I couldn't let Dale go. He is your family and he needs you." He asked the obvious follow-up "what if Dale isn't Claire's brother?"
Lilly didn't answer. She tried to hide her fear but he didn't think she wanted them to know the answer. Claire didn't like this, saying "he comes all this way to find me and he has nobody to help him. I hope you at least try to help him find a permanent home!"
Claire burst into tears. She didn't even know the boy but she started to get sisterly towards him. Michael admitted to Claire "I think Aunt Leslie is feeling the same way about Dale. I saw how she was looking at him, I don't think she would allow him to go into the system, I think she would want to adopt him as her own so he was around people he knew and trusted and who could offer him love."
Lilly looked upset. Claire's outburst might have caused her to see the same thing and hearing that Leslie might want to adopt him made her look like she wanted to do the same. Claire and Michael exchanged looks, Dale had a choice of two homes no matter what happened.
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