Castle Roland

Family Values

by Rilbur


Chapter 4

Published: 8 Apr 14

Family Values

Copyright © 2012 - 2014 by Rilbur and the Revolutions Universe Partnership.

All Rights Reserved

Family Values LogoThe rest of the weekend passed quickly and uneventfully, and the next thing Joe knew it was Monday again. He'd considered showing the twins one of his secret stashes, but the risk of them nicking his beer for themselves was too much. Not only would the little shits likely let the Moms catch them drunk, but Joe worked hard to get his beer. Sometime in the next few weeks he'd arrange for them to go on a 'camping' trip, and bring a couple of bottles along so they could learn about the stuff.

For now, Joe had to put up with an incredibly boring lecture on the square root of the hypotenuse. Well, technically it was about how the sine of the sum of two angles was equal to the sin of the first angle times the cosine of the second plus the cosine of the first times the sine of the second. Or you could do the same thing with differences. Either way it was incredibly boring, and he waited eagerly for the clock to tick over. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

"So, Joe," the teacher startled Joe out of his eagle-eyed gaze on the clock, "can you tell the class what the final step of this proof is?"

Joe bit back his first answer, figuring that 'convincing the teacher to do his job and teach' wouldn't go over well. His second reply was almost acceptable, but his third was simply offensive. He was struggling to come up with a fourth when the teacher raised a single acerbic eyebrow. "Well?" he asked. "Cat got your tongue?"

"No sir," Joe shook his head, "simply trying to come up with an answer that is appropriate for a classroom setting."

"I see," the teacher smiled. "I think perhaps you should forget this is a classroom setting and simply answer. We'll forgive you any rough edges. This is, after all, an institute of learning. Mistakes, errors, poor phrasings, they're all to be expected. Just like I expect my student's attention."

"Yes sir," Joe frowned, looking at the board, the answer finally popping into his head. "EF over AE is the sine of alpha, and AE over AB is the cosine of beta. Once you plug that into the equation, the final form becomes-"

"Enough," Mr. Cox said, fingers flying as he sketched in the equation. "Thank you for your very informative explanation, Joe. I'm glad that you at least took the time to understand the material before tuning me out. In the future, perhaps you'll watch the clock a little less obviously while in my class."

"Yes sir," Joe leaned back, chastened.

"Homework tonight is all the even problems for the section we just covered," Mr. Cox continued as the bell finally rang. "Joe, please remain here for a few minutes. I'd like a word."

"Sorry dude," Nick winced as he shoved his binder in his back. "See you in the cafeteria."

The class quickly emptied, with Steve's quick whisper Joe's last source of moral support. "Way to go, Joe," was not perhaps the best form of support that could be arranged, but certainly the best Steve could come up with.

"Joe, I'm not here to be an ogre," Mr. Cox said. "You're a good kid, and a sharp student. I doubt anyone else in the class could look at the board and come up with the answer in less than thirty seconds, while under verbal attack no less. I sure as hell couldn't have done it if I were in your shoes, and I already know the answer. But you really need to get control of yourself. You're habit of tuning out when you get bored is going to bite you in the rear."

"I know, Mr. Cox," Joe sighed. "But it's so boring."

"Yeah, well, you belong in the AP math track," Mr. Cox shook his head. "The school screwed you over."

Joe shrugged. "There wasn't room in middle school. And it's not like I can skip ahead a class."

"That's what I wanted to ask you," Mr. Cox disagreed. "I'll give you the books. Tutor you. Arrange testing. We have two months left before the end of your semester, and I'm willing to give up some time in the afternoons while you're on break. Even weekends if I have to. I think we can get you into AP Calculus by the time your next semester starts up."

Joe blinked in surprise. "I'd planned to get a job," he protested.

"A laudable goal," Mr. Cox nodded. "But if you do that, you're stuck in the slow track again. Work with me, and if you're half as smart as I think you are, we can have you in the AP track. Where you belong."

Joe picked up his bag. "Can I take some time to think on it?" he asked.

Mr. Cox smiled broadly, as if he'd just landed the biggest fish in the stream. "Take all the time you need," he told Joe. "Take all the time you need. Just remember, you do have a deadline. The longer you wait, the harder you'll have to work to catch up."

"Thanks," Joe smiled back. "I gotta get to lunch."

"Go, go," Mr. Cox told him. "And think about my offer!" Joe heard him shout after he was out the door.

Joe's little digression hadn't cost him too much. The math room wasn't exactly close to the cafeteria, so half the school got there before Joe and his friends could hope to anyway. And Nick and Steve had saved him a spot anyway. "Hey dude," Nick waved him over.

"So what's on the menu today?" Joe asked, standing on tip toe and craning his neck to try and see the head of the line.

"Looks like burgers," Steve pointed at the kids who had already sat down. "Bleh."

"At least it's not grilled cheese," Nick pretended to retch.

Joe felt his stomach quiver at the thought of the dry, overcooked squares of bread and cheese the school called sandwiches, and had to agree. Anything was better than those bricks. At least they could add ketchup and mustard to the dry, overcooked burgers. Lots and lots of ketchup and mustard. And once you had enough, a bit more just to be sure. You couldn't do much about the buns, but they were only stale about half the time. The one benefit of being stuck three quarters of the way down the line was that by the time you got to the front, the old buns were usually gone. Usually.

"So, what are you going to do about that Presidential Order?" Nick asked.

"What order?" Joe responded, confused.

"Dude, he doesn't have PoliSci until after lunch," Steve nudged Nick.

"Oh damn, forgot," Nick shrugged. "President Ashwood signed another Presidential Order today," he told Joe.

"Oh joy," Joe laughed. "The twins are going to have to give up their rifles, again!" The three shared a laugh.

"Yeah, well, okay, he signed two orders," Nick said. "Second one was his usual 'guns are bad' nonsense. First one is new though. I'm surprised no one has mentioned it to you yet."

"Why?" Joe asked. "They'll get laughed out of court like usual. Fifth amendment rights and all that, the right to bear arms."

Steve shook his head. "The first order isn't abut guns. It's about…" He hesitated. "You know I'd never diss your moms, right?"

"Of course not," Joe nodded. "I'd kick your ass." Again, Joe carefully didn't add. The strangest things made friendships sometimes.

"Dude, no one would diss his moms," Nick protested. "They're too hot. MILF, man, MILF!"

"Can it Nick," Joe and Steve chorused. "You were saying," Joe prompted Steve, curious.

"Well, his first order bans gays from having any contact with kids," Steve said quickly, attempting the verbal equivalent of ripping a band-aid off before it could hurt.

"What?!" Joe shouted. "You're shitting me!" The line monitor frowned in their general direction, but the noise in the cafeteria was enough, barely, to help muffle Joe's shout. She couldn't quite tell for certain what Joe had said, or he'd likely have found himself in detention. "That's some kind of sick joke, right?" Joe demanded in a more moderate tone of voice.

"No joke," Nick shook his head gravely. "Dude, at the rate he's going he's going to try to rip the Constitution up with another Presidential Order. It's sick, but not that much of a surprise that he'd try this."

Steve snorted. "He'd have better luck trying to pass an Executive Order that Presidential Orders can't be used for toilet paper by the court system," he joked. "At least that wouldn't get laughed out of the court. And it might save my dad a paper cut next time."

All three of them laughed at that incident. Printing out an entire stack of Ashwood's last anti-gun order and sticking them in the restroom had been one of Steve's Father's more memorable ways of indicating just what he thought of the President. And it wasn't often political process spawned an ER trip over an infected paper cut. Joe found his laughter drying up a little quickly, though. "Did he really sign that kind of crap?" he asked.

"Mrs. Bennet recorded the news conference this morning," Steve said softly. "He did. We got to watch some clips from it in class. You know how she loves her current events section."

Joe shook his head. "Is he fucking crazy?" Joe complained. "I mean, what does he think is going to happen to all the kids with gay parents? They'll just vanish so they don't have contact with their parents? Or magically find new homes, with straight parents? I mean… Fuck!"

This time the line monitor wasn't quite so far away, and even quieter she still managed to catch enough of Joe's sentence to be interested. "Gentlemen, I'm sure your conversation is quite interesting, but please try to keep it appropriate to a school environment," she warned them before wandering off. Apparently she'd heard enough to decide not to bring down the hammer, but Joe reminded himself to watch his language anyway. She was nice, but she had her limits.

"Dude, what about you?" Nick pointed out. "I mean, you told us all about what your Dad was like. Imagine them making you go back to him."

"I'd like to see them try," Joe laughed angrily. "He'd have his lawyer wrap them up in red tape if they even thought about it." Both of his friends winced at the bitterness in his voice.

"Yeah, well, it's just not right," Steve shook his head. "The courts will work it out in the end."

"Hey guys," Susan introduced herself as she walked up. "Joe, I'm not sure if you've heard about the latest BS from Ashwood?"

Joe nodded. "Hey Susan," he said. Thankful he'd managed to get that much out of his mouth, he cast about for something else to say. Strangely, nothing came to mind.

"We were just filling him in," Steve offered up quickly. "He's not exactly happy."

"Shock," Joe offered up quickly. "I mean, I suppose I'm kinda in shock. It's stupid. Really stupid. Not that Ashwood has proven himself smart. But even for him, this is stupid." Babbling. Joe forced himself to take a deep breath even as he used the word to whip himself. He was babbling! Why?

Susan smiled at him. "Well, hang in there," she told him. "And if you need to talk, you have my number."

With that, she turned and swayed off, her rear doing intriguing things as she walked.

"Earth to Captain Joe, Earth calling Captain Joe, please come in," Steve quipped.

"Huh?" Joe blinked. "Oh, sorry."

"Dude, you got it bad," Nick laughed.

"I do not," Joe protested. "I just took her out Friday. To the movies. That's all."

"Bad," Steve agreed. "Really bad."

"I hear you two had a fun time in the food court after the show," Nick's eyebrows danced up and down for a moment, suggesting the lewdness he didn't quite dare to outright state.

"We just talked," Joe protested. "It was a good movie, and then we talked. About things."

"Like?" Steve asked.

"Just… things," Joe protested.

"He doesn't even know what he talked about," Steve laughed. "He's got it alright."

"I do not," Joe laughed. For a moment, he debated telling them about what they'd actually discussed, but it just didn't seem right. 'I get to pick next year's homecoming queen' was just a touch arrogant. Or maybe even megalomaniacal. Something.

"Woo-pish," Nick pretended to crack a whip.

"I don't think he's whipped yet," Steve disagreed. "He'll be getting there soon, though!"

Joe didn't think he'd ever been quite so relieved to reach the head of the line. Even if it was to discover that somebody had replaced the burgers with charcoal bricks.

Mind resolutely closed to the taunts of his friends, Joe jogged to Solars Elementary, where his younger sisters attended class. The high school actually got out later than they did, but both girls were enthusiastic participants in various after-class school programs, helping to close the gap. Unfortunately, he was still expected to hurry over as fast as he could in order to pick them up 'on time', and if he was even five seconds late the Moms would hear about it. It really wasn't fair, but Joe didn't have a choice. Fair didn't count for too much with the Moms, not compared to 'necessary' or 'get a good-paying job and we'll talk about one of us getting off early'. Or worse yet the ever popular, 'and do you really think we can trust the twins to handle it?'

The twins had come a long way, but the mind still boggled at the idea of relying on them to handle any responsible job reliably.

"Joe!" a familiar voice shouted, just in time for Abigail to come scrambling out of the school gate. Joe managed to half-form an admonition before the fear in the voice penetrated, alongside the fact that Abigail not only didn't have a pack, but had a strange woman chasing after her angrily.

"Behind me!" Joe ordered firmly tossing his bag to the side of the sidewalk. "Who are you?" he demanded the strange woman, noticing the clipboard in her hand.

"Caseworker Dixon, with social services," she replied coldly. "And who are you?" she asked, raising up the clipboard and flipping through the papers there. She absentmindedly tried to smooth back her hair, as if expecting some of it to come loose from the tight bun she kept the gray mass in.

"Joseph Randolf Peters," he replied, deciding at the last moment not to be polite and offer his hand. If she wasn't interested, he sure as hell wasn't going to try and keep things civil.

"Peters, Peters," she ran her finger down the page as if looking for something. "The father?" she asked herself. "No, no," she shook her head. "He couldn't possibly have gotten here yet. I don't think the head office has even-" she cut off, as if suddenly realizing she was talking to herself. Looking at Joe, she used her free hand to push her glasses higher up on her nose. "I'm sorry, but the girl is coming with me," Caseworker Dixon told him coldly, reaching to grab Abigail.

"Like hell she is," Joe growled, catching her by the wrist. He wasn't gentle about it.

"Unhand me!" Caseworker Dixon shouted. "Officer! Officer!"

An officer came huffing around the corner, clearly feeling rather overworked. "Officer Crawford," Joe inclined his head respectfully. "How pleasant to see you. And convenient. I'd like to report an attempted kidnapping."

"Kidnapping?" Caseworker Dixon snapped. "Let go of me!"

"You frightened Abigail," Joe growled, "and then tried to yank her out from behind me. She doesn't want to go with you, and as her big brother, I'm damned well allowed to keep a stranger from carting her off. You haven't shown me any official paperwork or ID, so I have every right to protect her by any and all means necessary. Isn't that correct, officer?"

Officer Crawford sighed. "Sorry Joe, wish I could help. But she has the identification and the paperwork she needs to demand my assistance. If she hasn't offered it to you yet, I'll let things slide on the assault. But you need to let her go. Now."

Joe slowly stepped back, gradually pushing Dixon's arm further back until he had her at arm's length. Letting go, he let his hands drop to his sides, one hip presented forward. Like hell he'd give up that easily. "If she has paperwork, I'll discuss things," Joe found himself forced to concede. "I haven't seen it yet."

Dixon sniffed, then turned her clipboard around. Joe snorted when he saw the Presidential Seal above a block of text. The damned order. The fucking bastard really was trying to break up their family.

"I don't see any proof here that-" Joe began, only to have her cut him off by curling the page up. Joe wasn't familiar with Social Services paperwork, but the form underneath sure as hell looked like an official order of some kind. "Until I see Abigail's name on a document-" As it turned out, Dixon had kept the appropriate page bookmarked with a finger, even when she'd reached out to grab Abigail. Joe felt his shoulders sag. Fuck. Fuckity-fuck-fuck. Fuck fuck! "I see. In that case, I'd appreciate it if you handed Amelia over immediately," he demanded. A quick flip of the page showed the next page. God-damn efficient bureaucrats to hell.

"In that case, can you tell me where the girls will be held, so I can contact our parents and inform them of the situation with all relevant information in hand?" Joe asked.

Caseworker Dixon sniffed. "You're the elder brother?" she asked, her nose coming down to let her stare at him through the glasses.

"That's correct," Joe nodded.

"Age?" she demanded.

"I don't see where that's any of your business," Joe snapped. "Now answer my question."

"I'm afraid I must insist you answer mine first," she told him angrily. "Are you a minor?"

"My parents have designated me as an appropriate representative for picking the girls up for school, signing all appropriate paperwork to allow an older, but still minor, child to pick them up," Joe told her, dredging up the appropriate legalese from somewhere in the past. "I am their legal representative for this matter."

"That's all I needed to hear," Dixon sniffed. "Officer, take both children into custody immediately."

"Excuse me?" Joe's eyebrows shot up. "You surprised me with with the paperwork you have on hand, but I sincerely doubt you have anything on hand with my name on it."

Dixon smiled nastily. "I don't need to, dear," she told him, making the 'dear' sound like a deadly insult. "The first order — the one without names — is all I need. It's a general order detain all children whose parents are known to be homosexual, pending reassignment to appropriate childcare facilities. I spent most of the afternoon working with the school staff to get appropriate orders printed up for all attending children, but I don't need those orders. They're just helpful paperwork. The officer will detain you, immediately."

"Let me see it again," Joe demanded, holding out his hand. Snatching the clipboard out of her hands, he read it over. He wasn't certain, but it certainly looked like it gave her the authority she claimed.

Joe tossed the clipboard at her feet. "I see," he said, mind racing. "Very well then. Officer, I'd appreciate it if we started by going by the office so I can call my parents."

"Oh no," Dixon cut him off, bending over to pick up the paperwork. "Can't do that. They're banned from all contact with you. You will not attempt to communicate with them from this point forward. Any communications with them will be legally actionable. You wouldn't want to get your parents tossed in jail, now would you?"

Joe took a step forward, fists clenched. It took every last ounce of willpower he had to avoid knocking the bitch's lights out, and in the end the only thing that stopped him was the feel to two small fists clenched tight onto the left pants left of his jeans. "I see," he growled. Check. Check and fucking mate. The Moms probably wouldn't even know anything was wrong for two or three hours. By then, God knows what damage this bitch would have managed to do. "In that case, I'm going to call a lawyer."

Dixon smiled nastily. "Oh no, you don't need a lawyer. I'm here to look after your best interests, after all. No need for anything else."

Time to do what he should have done from the start. Leaning over, he grabbed his bag, slinging it over one shoulder. "I guess I don't have any option but to let you lead me off to durance vile. If you have half a brain, you'll treat us decently. My mothers will not be amused, and if Abi here is any indication, both girls are likely to be quite traumatized by your brutal, callous, and illegal behavior."

"Illegal?" Dixon laughed. "Oh no. It's quite legal. By Executive Order," she tapped her board.

"Which won't be of any use except as toilet paper by the time the courts are done with it," Joe pointed out. "I think we've both seen exactly how long those pieces of trash last before the courts toss them overboard. And both my mothers and I have long memories."

"Threats?" Dixon asked, pretending to be shocked. "Oh my, we'll have to take note of that. I'm sure we can find an appropriate facility for you. Take them inside officer."

Joe kept his breathing even as the officer lead him and Abigail away, carefully keeping his bag slung so that it hid the tell-tale bulge of a cell phone in his right pocket. "Sorry kid," the officer muttered as he opened a door. "I'll see if I can't find an adult sized chair for you," he added, looking at the mass of children-sized desks in the room. The sole adult sized desk was inhabited by another officer.

"Joe!" Ami shouted, jumping out of her desk and running over.

"How touching," Dixon commented idly as she followed Joe into the room. "But I don't think appropriate. Officer, you will keep these children divided. The three of them are not to talk to each other. The boy can do his homework. Otherwise he is to keep his mouth shut."

"Yes. Ma'am." The officer didn't quite hesitate long enough to turn it into an insult, but the ma'am was clearly an afterthought. A well-resented afterthought. Dixon slammed the door shut behind her, causing several of the kids to shift from sniffling to outright sobbing.

"Mind helping?" the officer asked, getting up and walking over to one of the criers. Joe finally caught a glimpse of his name tag.

"Sorry Officer Reyes," Joe spread his hands outward in an eloquent gesture of helplessness. "We've both got our marching orders, and if that bi-" Joe took a deep breath, mindful of the little pitchers around him. And their very, very big ears. "If that woman were to hear we disobeyed, she'd cause no end of trouble for all of us."

Reyes snorted. "I don't like her," he commented. "She was fired years ago, until suddenly she got brought back today."

"Somehow, that doesn't surprise me," Joe sighed. "I'll just sit in that corner, do some homework."

"Go on," Reyes nodded.

Mindful of the eyes on his back, Joe carefully did exactly as he said he'd do. Spreading his legs in front of him, he pulled a book and a binder out of his backpack. His PoliSci homework would be a very nice place to start. A very, very nice place to start. His pen quickly outlined the situation to date, then his possible reactions. If Dixon had realized exactly how well he'd use his homework time, she never would have dared given the orders she had. Unfortunately, the most important parts of his plan couldn't be committed to paper. His notes had to look completely innocent. Still, he was able to outline enough to solidify his plans, even if he couldn't jot down a single thing about those plans. Being able to write down and analyze the situation let him know what would, and what would not, work.

"Hey, Officer Reyes, do you mind if I use that computer?" Joe pointed at the teachers desk, where a desktop computer sat, waiting. "I need to look some stuff up online."

Reyes frowned. "Kid, you really think I'm going to let you send an email? I've got orders, my job is on the line."

"Scouts honor, I just want to look some stuff up," Joe swore. "You can even watch me as I do it. I already did my math and history homework, so all I have left is PoliSci. You can look in my notebook, where I noted down the assignment, check the assignment out for yourself. I have to pull some text off the internet for the assignment."

Officer Reyes sighed. "Fine, but I'm watching over your shoulder every step of the way," he growled.

"Not a problem," Joe nodded affably. "I'll even let you run the computer if you want. I just need the text of the Executive Order. We used it for our current events section today. Didn't expect to get caught up in it."

Reyes snorted, amused. "I don't think any of us expected that," he agreed. Turning to the computer, he quickly googled the order up. "Here kid, this what you need?"

Looking at the screen, Joe nodded. "Yeah, thanks. Just what I needed."

"Here, I'll print it out for you," Reyes offered helpfully.

"Thanks!" Joe smiled, already regretting the blade he was going to shove into the officer's back at the first available opportunity.

Going back to the corner, Joe waited. This many kids, in this close a space, sooner or later one of them was going to need to use the restroom. It was inevitable. And he was only going to have one chance, so he had to take it.

"I gotta go potty," one of the kids complained, far quicker than Joe had ever hoped for. Before Officer Reyes could react, Dixon opened the door and swept in. Just like Joe had hoped, enough wind came in to send some of his papers flying.

"Shoot," he snapped, reaching for them. "Close that door!"

Dixon let the door close behind her, then sniffed. "Everything okay in here, officer?" she asked.

"Fine ma'am, the kids have all behaved. Though they are starting to ask if they can use the restroom."

"I gotta go potty," the kid repeated.

"I'll see to it," Dixon said, snatching the kid's hand. Joe's hands itched to do something about her behavior, but instead he leaned over on his buttock and started fishing in his pocket.

"What are you doing?" Dixon demanded suspiciously.

Joe carefully, slowly pulled his keys out. "I wanted something to weight my papers down with," he explained. "Keys, or my loose change, or something. So they don't go flying again."

Dixon sniffed, then swept out the door, not waiting for him to weight anything down.

Hiding his smile, Joe swore softly and caught the papers again. Rummaging around in his pockets, he quickly pulled out enough change to weight most of the papers he'd need down. By the time Dixon came back, he was only one weight short of enough for all his papers. She looked at his work, then swept back out of the room without a word. Joe started fishing in his pockets again. "Need more change, kid?" the Reyes asked.

"I got it, just need to get it out," Joe said over his shoulder, keeping the sight lines in mind. Perfect. The officer couldn't see what was actually coming out of his pocket. Slowly, gently, carefully, Joe opened the phone, thankful that the bright, florescent lights helped hide the glow of it's screen. Thankful he'd already set the phone on vibrate, Joe quickly pulled up Mrs. B's contact. Slowly, carefully, discretely he typed out three simple characters, then hesitated before hitting send. The binder's paper helped hide vibrations, but Mrs. B would call right away after receiving that message. More info might help her if he couldn't manage to say enough. The problem was that no matter how quiet he tried to be, the clicks of the buttons just didn't belong in this room. Reyes would notice eventually.

Joe risked glancing over his shoulder. The officer was clearly busy, but as soon as he figured out what Joe was doing, he'd probably try to stop him. Joe regretted saying that he didn't have math homework. He could have used a calculator to mask what he was doing. But a simple, three character message would just have to do. '911′ he sent. Quickly, he began adding '#Sollars', but he'd barely gotten to the 'r' before the officer noticed. "What's that sound?" the officer asked. "Nothing important," Joe temporized, hesitating long enough for the 'r' to lock in place. Four quick presses of the 7 button later he had the message spelled out. "Sounds like a phone," Reyes narrowed his eyes as Joe managed to hit 'send'.

With the phone suddenly vibrating, there wasn't much point in trying to hide things anymore. "It is," Joe said calmly, hitting the receive button. "Mother, I'm at the girls school," he said quickly. Not letting her respond, he continued over her efforts to talk. "Social services is holding us prisoner as a result of a Presidential Order declaring it illegal for gays to have contact with children. Require rescue. Will attempt to retain hold of the cell phone, but the social services caseworker assigned is unlikely to allow it. She explicitly refused to allow me to contact either you or a lawyer. I expect to be separated from girls at her earliest opportunity. Advise further instruction."

"Get off that phone kid!" Officer Reyes ordered as Mother hesitated, clearly assimilating the information.

"I'll call Laura," she said after a moment. "Stay with the girls. Use any and all means necessary to do so. Anything else?"

"Caseworker has police support," Joe told her as the Officer starting walking over. "Any and all means would require the application of violence against an officer."

"Shit," Mother swore. "Use your best judgment. I want the three of you in a single group so we can find you. Find a way. Cavalry is coming."

"Understood," Joe said moments before the phone was ripped out of his hand.

"You realize how much shit you've gotten us both into?" Reyes snarled. "Dammit kid, I trusted you!"

"And I thank you very much for that trust," Joe nodded. "I trust I've repaid it by showing you exactly how trustworthy I am."

"Repaid it?!" Officer Reyes snarled.

"In an adverse situation, I found a way to obey my parent's instructions regarding any emergency condition," Joe shrugged. "I did exactly what any teen responsible for his younger siblings should, and contacted my parents."

Officer Reyes opened his mouth to shout, then hesitated. "That isn't going to help much," he said after a moment, just in time for Dixon to walk back in.

"What is going on here?" she demanded. "Where did that phone come from?"

"It came from my mothers, who are on their way here," Joe told her. "Girls, lets go into the corner and wait. The Moms are on their way."

"Like hell you will," Dixon snarled. "Officer, arrest him!"

"On what charges?" Joe demanded. "I've broken no laws. In fact, I've upheld laws that you're doing your best to break!"

"I'll decide applicable charges later," Dixon snapped. "Officer, you have your orders!"

"Yes ma'am," Reyes sighed. "Sorry kid. Told you that you were just making trouble."

Joe sighed, then held his hands out. "Fine then. What-" Arrest. They were arresting him. Joe turned his grin up to eleven and bestowed the biggest smile he possibly could on Ms. Dixon. "Thanks," he laughed.

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