Parting of the Ways Part 5- Deborah the Mom

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The last part set in California. This is the last character-heavy part as well. I tried to keep the characters to a minimum but again sometimes you need to have certain character to make scenes work. It's a family situation, you use every resource available.

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Deborah Peterson felt better about returning to Alma Perdida after ensuring a woman like herself was hired to do the job that she was trained to do. It always pained her to think about those who were less fortunate than herself, especially those who had children caught in the middle of the fight. They were innocents, but far too often the children were used as pawns by vengeful husbands and wives to make their soon-to-be former spouses give them what they wanted.

Deborah was blessed in that she had a loving and supporting family that others lacked. She fell in love with her husband immediately after officially meeting him. Patrick was the man of her dreams, the guy every woman wants to date. By some stroke of luck, he felt the same way about her, falling for her once she stepped out into the world as her true self.

After separating from the group Patrick took Deborah out for an evening alone. She knew where to go to get him in the mood, a little place that she had loved when she was a teenager and had missed once she fled east to attend college. She spent hours visiting it after school with the girls who she hung out with and advised in what was the closest she had been able to come to acting like her true self.

The family who owned it treated Deborah like one of the girls even if she was a boy on the outside. The grandmother of the managers, Gloria Garcia, was a wise woman who saw into the hearts of people and could decipher their true selves and uncover what was behind whatever mask you wore. Deborah was found out immediately with Gloria telling her that one day she would be her true self, writing out a simple "chica" then nodding to her as she realized Gloria knew the truth.

The family still owned the restaurant and had expanded it to allow for more diners. Once the couple entered they were spotted by the elderly Gloria and immediately seized in a hug. She smiled at Deborah, happily saying "I told you that you would become your true self, my little beautiful girl."

Patrick was pulled aside and inspected while Deborah was left to wonder if this was good or bad. Gloria had a perpetual smile on her face and knew just what to say to get you to do what she wanted you to do, this was her being normal and thankfully she was not going to be an issue for them. Patrick wisely just sat there and let himself be inspected, letting Gloria give him a thorough inspection while she nodded and glanced back and forth at the couple.

Finally, Gloria released Patrick from her grip and asked Deborah how she was doing in school. Deborah couldn't lie and told her about becoming a teacher and teaching kids as a student teacher. Gloria nodded in agreement, adding "you did as you always wanted to do. You always had a way with kids. The children are going to be in good hands with you and learn more than they would have from anyone else."

The couple was finally allowed to sit at a table and order, with their waitress being shocked that her great-grandmother knew Deborah let alone talked with her as if she was an old friend. Deborah didn't make light of the situation, she was hungry and didn't want who she had been to get out. The two ate in peace for the next hour before leaving to head back to the hotel.

Out of the corner of her eye, Deborah spotted a young lady with a baby trying to work in the back. The woman was very familiar to Deborah. In fact, she was someone she hoped to not encounter. She cared deeply about her but it was just too painful to admit that she was there, in the restaurant, near her.

Patrick asked what was the matter, getting a timid "that woman in the back, with the baby, I know her. Her name is Gabriela Garcia. She was my cousin's girlfriend. Her parents are the managers here. You met her great-grandmother earlier. I hope she doesn't see me, if she is still dating him my cousins will come around trying to get revenge on me for what happened to my uncles and grandparents."

Deborah's little confession was heard by Gabriela who looked over and saw Deborah for what she was. She made her way over to Deborah, carrying a baby that was no older than a few days old in her arms and asking her to stay. Deborah was prepared for the worst but it didn't happen, Gabriela hugged Deborah and asked her to talk with her for a bit as she needed to discuss something important with her.

The two were led to the office where the baby was laid down. The baby fussed, crying as she tried to lay him down. Deborah reluctantly held the baby in her arms and watched as he fell asleep almost instantly allowing her to put him down in his carrier giving the three a chance to talk with one another.

Gabriela saw this as the sign she needed. She shed a tear and confessed to Deborah "your cousin Antonio left me pregnant and alone. He married me then dumped me for his mistress. He spread rumors that I slept around and our baby was not his. My family was kind enough to take me in and help me through the pregnancy but not after. When I gave birth they told me to give him up for adoption."

Deborah looked at Patrick who understood what she was feeling, thinking about their cousin Miles and his unfortunate start in life. Gabriela saw the understanding and continued: "I love him but I can't keep Antonio. This is no place for him. He's a constant reminder of his father and it hurts too much to see him kept out of sight of the customers. I can't find a real job and can't afford a sitter or daycare. Please, can you take him in? You are his closest relative, you are the only Vega around here. None of your cousins will help me nor do they believe that my Antonio is a Vega."

Deborah was shedding tears now. This was almost unbelievable. She had always wanted to become a mother but to have a child who was actually blood to her come into her life was beyond belief.

Patrick asked if she was willing to go so far as to allow them to adopt Antonio. Deborah's eyes lit up at hearing that, Patrick shook his head and blurted out "our moms would never forgive us. He is family to us. He'd have more aunts and uncles around him than he can count. He needs us, you need him."

Gabriela called her parents to the office. With a sad face, she told them "Antonio's father's family has agreed to take him in for me. His father's cousin has agreed to be his mother. I did as you asked. This is no place for a baby and I can't take care of him for much longer without you suffering."

The two looked at Deborah closely, trying to put their finger on who she was. Gabriela looked at Deborah then at Patrick before explaining "she was James Vega. Bisabuela was right, James was a girl inside. She is willing to be his mother. She is the only one who will do it, I can't put him in an orphanage nor can I let social services take him. This is for his future, please agree to this."

The Garcias looked Deborah and Patrick over and asked: "Are you married?" Patrick shot back a firm "we have been married for 14 months. And before you ask, I have a full-time job with a master's degree while Deborah has a standing job offer once she graduates and earns her license next May."

They started fishing again, asking "what about family? Or a home?" Patrick shot back a terse "I own our home in full, we have my mother, Deborah's mother, my brother, sister-in-law, and two sisters, as well as my cousin and her husband for immediate support. We then have three uncles and three aunts, five cousins, and two dozen more pseudo-cousins ready, willing, and able to babysit or help us. Plus my aunt owns a daycare center so we have plenty of help with Antonio."

Mrs. Garcia asked a pointed "do you have any experience with babies?" Patrick laughed, telling them "my sister-in-law just gave birth to a baby girl back in November, I have had to change my four youngest cousins' diapers too many times to count. And I had to help change my younger sister's diapers when she was born. I have experience as does Deborah."

The Garcias needed some time to think. Deborah asked to make a phone call to some important people who would need to know what was going on. Patrick realized just who was being contacted, explaining "she's calling her mom, our pseudo-aunts and uncle, and our aunt. Our aunt is a doctor and our pseudo-uncle and aunts work for social services in our state. They will need to know what's going on and would want to examine Antonio just to be sure he was alright."

Deborah re-entered and told them they were on their way. He asked if his grandparents were coming too, getting a nod and soft "they needed this, you know they are trying to keep Jaimie out of their minds. Grandma and Grandpa would want to help no matter what."

The Garcias asked what they meant. Deborah timidly explained "our cousin is in a coma from a reaction to anesthesia during surgery. Our grandparents want to be involved in the legal work. We have had issues before with people trying to disrupt adoptions. My mother had a problem adopting my sister last year, we just want to make sure everything is alright so Antonio is taken care of fully."

It was a tense half hour as the group awaited the six's arrival. Deborah was nervous but Antonio awakening and needing her attention helped calm her. Seeing their grandson taking to a complete stranger while enjoying attention gave the Garcias the impression that maybe Deborah was destined to be the mother to their grandson even if it meant they would never see Antonio again.

When the group finally arrived they were ushered inside to meet Gabriela and Antonio. Deborah introduced them all with Sarah Jones asking to examine him to ensure that he was alright in case his pediatrician missed something. She grinned and announced he was perfectly healthy newborn albeit a little bit of a kicker as he wouldn't stay still but it was expected of someone so young.

Evelyn and Joseph Johnson drafted a legal agreement that would allow Deborah and Patrick to take custody of Antonio once social services gave their all clear. Patrick asked if that was necessary, getting a bitter "they haven't had the best track record regarding kids so it is best to have this covered in full. I would rather you had made the agreement in Massachusetts but I don't think Gabriela would appreciate flying east then flying back west the next day just to hand off Antonio in Massachusetts."

Joseph discussed the legal issues regarding adoption and Antonio's father's role in it. Without his consent, it was going to be tricky and time-consuming. Deborah couldn't remain in California to sort it out, the best way was to get him to give up his rights on paper.

Gabriela shed a tear while Mr. Garcia sneered as he told them "the bastard got himself killed last month. He can't consent because he is rotting in hell where he belongs." Joseph nodded, understanding the resentment as only a father who had experienced it before could.

Evelyn saw the look in her husband's eyes and told the Garcias "our grandson is like Antonio. The scumbag who fathered our grandson did the same to our daughter. We know how tough it is to deal with the looks, the whispers, the accusations of cheating. As much as it pains you his death is the best thing to happen to Antonio as he doesn't need a signature now since his mother has all rights to him."

Joseph added "since the Vegas refuse to believe he is family the paternal next of kin is Deborah's mother. She's the father's aunt and she won't stand in your way. The next after her is Deborah and her sister Polly. Polly is only 14 and would never go against her sister. Deborah's cousins Juanita and Carmen have the same level of a claim as Deborah but they won't step in the way either. They want her to have a child of her own and will see this as the blessing it truly is. With your blessing supporting her claim, Antonio is in the right hands with Deborah."

The group signed in all the right places, with the Garcias giving their legal blessing on paper while Gabriela hugged Deborah tight after signing herself. She hated to give up her child but she couldn't handle being a mother at this time and wanted him to go to a loving home instead of being placed in the care of social services until he could be adopted. It was touching but it was for the best, he'd have a good life and she was giving them what they needed in life.

The group said they'd be by the next day to file the paperwork with the county to allow for a full legal transfer of Antonio into Deborah and Patrick's care. The group drove on to the hotel where Lilly Peterson was waiting for them, with an eager Daisy and Claire Peterson begging for news. Patrick steeled himself and reluctantly explained "we were asked to adopt Deborah's cousin's son. His mother can't care for him and his father left them then up and got himself killed. He did what Roland Finn did to you, mom. The family is in a bind and his mother can't care for him and one of his relatives want to do a thing either. He needs us and we couldn't say no to her request."

Lilly hugged them tightly with Daisy and Claire staring in disbelief. Lilly warmly told them "she wants him to have a good life. If I didn't have your dad I would have had to do the same for Claire when she was born. You are going to be great parents, you already have more experience than any person should. I am proud of you, both of you."

The Petersons went inside to call David Peterson and Patrick's cousin Sheila Bailey. As expected David was shocked that his brother had finally become a dad and given Deborah a child by blood no less while Sheila could barely contain her excitement, prompting her husband Ian to calm her down while Sheila's cousins kept her from bouncing off the walls. Ian was happy for them but didn't want to say something to tempt fate by becoming a father himself, he loved that his friend and close confidant was going to be the father he deserved to be.

Sheila asked about the baby, getting Deborah to explain his connection to her. Her face dropped as she yelled for her cousin and her girlfriend to come over. When they got there Deborah explained to her cousin Juanita Vega "cousin Antonio turned out to be the bastard his father was. He had a baby with Gabriela Garcia, my former classmate and friend, but dumped her when he heard the news. She asked me to take in Antonio as my own son so he could be raised among blood relatives."

Juanita nodded in agreement, shedding a tear at her cousin being a mother now. Zoe hugged her to which Juanita mumbled softly "the bastard hated you but he ended up giving you the biggest gift of all- your own child. He's blood to us, but he will never know him. You deserve to be a mother, you will be the greatest thing to ever happen to him. Congratulations, cousin. I am so happy for you."

Deborah ended the call and had tears in her eyes again. Lilly asked if she had told her mother yet, getting a head shake which prompted her to tell her right away so she could help out. Deborah walked out to where her mother was waiting, she must have known the news as she was trying hard to not look like she knew but it was clear that she did.

Deborah knelt down and hugged her tight, telling her through tears "cousin Antonio got my friend Gabriela pregnant and up and got himself killed. She can't handle little Antonio anymore and asked me to be his mother. Mom, I couldn't say no to her. He needs us."

Dorothy Vega hugged her back, offering a soothing "I know. You are what he needs most. You can offer him a home with a lot of support and love. I hoped you would adopt, Antonio being blood is just a blessing for us. As long as Carmen and Juanita are alright with it you should be fine."

Patrick offered a quick "she just talked with Juanita. She is happy to hear the news but I think she is jealous. She and Zoe are talking about what happened but I think she is feeling maternal now."

Dorothy just smiled at it. She knew that they were close to making their relationship into something more. She whispered a quiet "she needs her parents, this is going to be too much for her to go it alone."

Lilly gave her a grin. Dorothy's eyes caught it and tried to back off the idea. Lilly shook her head and added a firm "you mother them. They love you more than they do their own parents. They need you and gave you what you needed before Polly came into your life. You are their mother in all but name."

Dorothy had to ponder what it meant. Deborah hugged her with Dorothy shedding a tear. She finally admitted "they are what I wanted in daughters. I love them but I can't do that to my brother."

Deborah gave her a soft "they love you the same way. It's a piece of paper that says you are their mother now. You deserve them as your daughters. Please, mom, do it for them?"

Dorothy was left to ponder the news as Patrick and Deborah went up to bed. She was amorous that night, giving him a bit of loving sex that he hadn't had in a while but was driven by her impending motherhood. It was pleasurable but she needed to temper herself for when the euphoria wore off.

The next morning Gabriela, Deborah, Patrick met outside the courthouse to file the petition for change of custody. Jo and Phyllis Kaplan joined them as legal advisers to ensure that the couple wasn't denied the right to have custody of Antonio. They had every possible bit of supporting evidence but there was always the chance that social services could become involved in the situation.

The group was granted a hearing in front of Judge Uriah Katz who read over the situation. He gave a quick glance, nodded as he read some of the facts. He asked about their jobs, their family support, and their connection to Antonio.

Patrick was quick to point out his high-paying job as an engineer with Porter Industries with his continuing education towards his Ph.D. in Engineering as well as direct support from his sister, brother, sister-in-law, and aunts, uncles, and cousins. Deborah's career as a teacher got a nod as did her support from her mother and cousins. The fact that Deborah was a blood relative with three additional blood relatives to Antonio close by was a good sign as the judge noted they were within the closeness to Antonio that social services would want for placing him with family.

Judge Katz then asked about additional support. Deborah pointed out that she had plenty of monetary support from her personal trust while Patrick had a trust fund and savings in addition to his salary. Patrick then added that their aunts, uncles, and cousins were mostly in law enforcement with three members of social services being indirectly related to them through their relatives. He grinned as he told Judge Katz that he had a patent that was bringing him additional money that more than paid for a new house if/when the family had to move into a bigger house and would give Antonio a sizable trust fund for his future.

Judge Katz asked about the social services connection prompting Deborah to sigh and explain "Patrick's uncle's brother-in-law and two of his sister's friends' mothers are employed by Massachusetts Department of Children and Families. We spoke with them this morning before coming here and have an agreement that they would ensure that Antonio was alright as they followed the procedure for adoption back in Massachusetts. They refuse to bend or break the rules for us, we have to undergo the same screenings that all prospective parents face."

Judge Katz nodded at hearing that, he just wanted to ensure they weren't throwing their money around to get around the laws. He asked that they notify social services about the impending adoption and undergo proper evaluation and fitness assessment before he granted their request to transfer custody of Antonio to them. The fact that they had support from their home state's social services wasn't going to get around the assessment, but it did go further to show that they were there to ensure that Antonio was placed with those who could properly care for him.

Deborah and Patrick were notified that there was an opening for them to be interviewed by social services that afternoon. The group gave them space, but Jo and Phyllis told them to keep an eye out for any attempts to trip them up or force them out as potential parents. The agency was in a state of flux but there were still a lot of hardliners still entrenched who thrived on making examples out of people.

Deborah left to talk with Jaimie Finn while Patrick had to entertain his sisters as Lilly and Dorothy started to work on the paperwork for Juanita and Carmen Vega becoming Dorothy's daughters. The girls were easy on him, Claire was busy talking with her friends as they relaxed in the hotel spa while Daisy played with the other kids in the pool. Patrick finally got his sister-in-law Emma on the phone and told her what was happening with Emma eagerly telling him she'd help out as much as possible.

Patrick finally bid his family goodbye as he picked up Deborah from the hospital and drove over to their appointment. Deborah shuddered at seeing the building, it was sterile and uncaring, just as she thought the social services offices would be. It took all of her strength to walk inside.

The duo was met by an uninterested woman who introduced herself as Ms. Hernandez and she had a lot of questions for them. They sensed trouble right away and announced they were recording the interview at the request of their layer. As soon as they sat down Ms. Hernandez demanded to know why they were trying to adopt a child and bring it into a house of sin with a person who was not a real woman but a man in drag who mutilated himself and is deluded into believing he was a woman.

Patrick held his tongue but Deborah stared her down and told her firmly "we were asked to adopt my cousin's child by his birth mother because she couldn't care for him and are his closest relatives who can care for him." Patrick added "we are married, have stable jobs, with numerous family both blood, by marriage, and by adoption. We want to give him a chance to thrive and grow up in a caring environment. His mother asked us to care for him as our own and we can't deny her request."

He dared her to say something further. Ms. Hernandez stated flatly "I am denying your request based on it not being in the best interests of the child. I am also removing him from his mother's care and will seek endangerment charges against her for allowing you to try to take him. He belongs with 'normal' people, not some freak with a fake vagina and a gay man hiding his sexuality in a fake marriage."

The two didn't respond. Patrick firmly told her "we will fight this." Ms. Hernandez shot back a laugh followed by quick "no court will give custody of a kid to a fag and tranny bitch. I don't care how much money you have, that kid is never seeing you again. Now get out of here before I call the police and claim you tried to rape me. In fact, I'll do it anyway."

Deborah held Patrick back. The two walked out and immediately called Jo and Phyllis. The twins were ready to file suit against the department for violating theirs, Antonio's, and Gabriela's rights as well as filing false claims before the court and lying to police. They then called Judge Katz and informed him that the agency was about to lie to him about why they are removing a child which he grinned at, he was more than ready to battle Hernandez on behalf of Antonio, Deborah, and Patrick.

Judge Katz had his clerk take note of any incoming complaints from Hernandez and within minutes he had one that was exactly as Jo and Phyllis had described. Knowing the particulars he shook his head at the sheer gall that was displayed by Hernandez in trying to remove a child from a loving home simply because she didn't like that his new parents were "non-traditional". She stepped over the line and would now see the other side of justice as he had deputies ready to arrest her for lying to the court as well as for abusing her power as he didn't believe for a second that this was the first time she had done it to a loving couple whom she disagreed with.

Hernandez waltzed into Judge Katz's courtroom and had a smug grin on her face. She looked at him like she was about to get one over on the courts again but Judge Katz kept a stoic look. Hernandez simply stood firm, waiting for the clerk to say something but he nodded for her to be normal.

Ms. Hernandez was called up and asked specifically if she was filing for removal of the child permanently from the care and custody of the mother. Ms. Hernandez said yes to that with Judge Katz nodding to the be clerk who had her in a lie now. The clerk read the request to Judge Katz who then asked Ms. Hernandez to explain for the record why she was seeking the removal.

Ms. Hernandez smirked and proclaimed "your honor, the mother is unfit as she is unable to care for the child, a week-old child who is often left hidden from view in the mother's family's restaurant. The child's father's family has refused to have anything to do with the child as the mother was frequently seen in the presence of many men of ill repute. She is unable to prove that the child was his and has been adamant that the child is his yet was seen having sex with countless men during conception."

Judge Katz knew this was somewhat true but this wasn't the full truth. He asked her to continue so she stated "the mother has tried to pawn the baby off on anyone who would take him. Until yesterday nobody was willing but she found a distant paternal relative to agree to take on the child. The problem is the so-called mother is a fake. It's a man in a dress who intends to lead the child into a life of debauchery like he leads. This person has stated that he wants the child to grow up like him and lead a similar life. The child was left in his care for hours yesterday and it is our belief that should he have custody the child will be in immediate danger."

Judge Katz had just what he needed. He asked about what would happen with the child, getting a stern "the child will be permanently removed and put up for adoption. I have several couples who are seeking the child and have agreed in principle with one to turn over the child to their care."

This was news to him but showed this was calculated from the start and was clearly done with specific children targeted. Antonio was just the unfortunate victim of having someone who cared enough about him to follow the rules and start the right process in adopting him. Hernandez was going out of her way to avoid the legal process and was using her employer to kidnap kids to adopt by pre-arranged families.

Judge Katz grinned and told Hernandez firmly "I am denying your request. Further, I am ordering your arrest for perjury, filing false claims, and kidnapping. I met with the child's potential parents earlier and know the real story as well as just who they have in support of them. You didn't bother to do any kind of background check on them beyond the fact that she was transgender. For the record, the potential father is the nephew of a federal agent and two reserve police officer and the brother of a state trooper. They also have multiple social services employees overseeing them, all of whom have stated for the record that they will take this case to the US Supreme Court on the child's behalf to ensure that the potential mother is granted custody."

He grinned as she was caught blindsided. He added a solemn "you showed you ignored procedures in your handling of this case. You showed you had this planned out and were looking for the right baby to snatch and give away. I am hereby ordering a complete review of all cases you have been involved in as you have been too quick in your actions. The people you have dealt with will have to account for their actions and I am saddened to think that some unfortunate children may have to be removed from their custody as their adoptions were done out of greed and malice instead of the best interest of the child. Their relatives are to be sought out immediately, as you have demonstrated you have ignored this important requirement as you sought to give a child away to non-relatives when not one but five relatives were located with four being able to care for the child and one specifically being requested by the child's birth mother and having the support of the other four relatives."

He wasted little time and added a loud "your department has once again shown that you have no regards to the civil rights of transgender people. This WOMAN is one of the best prospective adoptive parents I have ever seen and SHE has one of the best support networks for a child. Your job is to place the child in a home that is in the best interests of the child, not who fits your arbitrary criteria of who should and shouldn't have children. That WOMAN is going to ensure that your department pays for its treatment and I for one am proud of her for doing so. SHE deserves a child to love and care for and I will gladly wait until the wee hours of the morning to ensure that she is granted the right to do so."

Hernandez's eyes went wide in shock that her whole scheme had fallen apart. Having enough, Judge Katz just turned his head and ordered her to be removed while her supervisor and higher-ups were notified about the ordered review by the courts. Judge Katz then called one of the deputies and told them to ensure that Antonio was safe and sound and in his mother's care.

This was a problem as the deputy announced "the child was removed an hour ago by deputies under orders from Ms. Hernandez. Your honor, we don't know where he went." The judge grew angry and ordered a full amber alert to be issued for Antonio, this was serious as the couple could be on their way out of state or out of the country.

The deputies worked quickly and seized Hernandez's office. They located the information about the couple who had been given Antonio and found the address. They also found the forged documents that allowed the handover, with names of deputies who were involved in the scheme and who did the actual kidnapping of the children at Hernandez's beckoning.

The deputies were more than upset at finding out about dirty colleagues, it was devastating and took all of their energy to quell the situation. Several were ready to tear them apart but cooler heads prevailed as they had to find Antonio. They had the information and had the names relayed to colleagues at the Long Beach, LAX, Ontario, John Wayne, and Burbank airports, and other smaller locations.

Armed with the address and order that nullified the false custody agreement the deputies moved quickly to the mansion where the family resided. The deputies weren't fooling around, they had the local police on notice that they were not to interfere and had social services there to state that Antonio was illegally removed from his mother's care and that their agreement was illegal. They weren't going in alone, they were bringing every piece of evidence they had to ensure they were covered and Antonio was reunited with Gabriela and the Petersons.

The family's butler answered the door and was forced to take them to Antonio. The couple was with him in his new nursery and immediately threatened the officers if they tried to take Antonio away. The social services representative had to point out multiple times that the order came directly from a judge and that her colleague Ms. Hernandez had no right to do what she did and what they had done was both illegal and against the best interests of Antonio and they themselves would have to answer tough questions about their role in it.

The deputies secured Antonio and removed him, taking him first to a hospital to get checked out then taken to the courthouse where Gabriela, Deborah, Patrick, Lilly, Daisy, Claire, and Dorothy were waiting. They were met by the Johnsons, Lopezes, Joneses, and Finns. This overwhelming show of force for Antonio was what Judge Katz hoped for, but he hadn't thought it would happen there.

The deputies showed the declaration from the doctor with marks on Antonio being noted as coming from the deputies who removed him from Gabriela's care. Judge Katz simply had assault added to kidnapping charges with the deputies responsible placed under arrest. He grinned as they would be facing a tough night in jail under their colleagues' care among people they had put in jail themselves.

The session of court was called to order with Judge Katz asking Gabriela if she wished to have the custody of Antonio transferred to Deborah and Patrick. Gabriela shed a tear and happily announced "I would love nothing more. She is the mother he needs and deserves."

Judge Katz asked for Patrick and Deborah to come forward and accept custody of Antonio. The two did so, with Gabriela handing him off as the little boy barely noticed his surroundings. Judge Katz pronounced them to be his guardians with the intent of adopting, to be done in Massachusetts at a later time and with the full support of the State of California. He added that he was happy to see that they would care for the child of someone they didn't know well but was glad to see the support he now had.

The family spent a few minutes talking with Judge Katz as he wanted to know the family a little better. As expected, John Finn, Dan Lopez, and Mick Jones were asked to show their badges to show that they were really law enforcement. John joked that they had to keep the other five from coming with Mick explaining they were another two reserve officers, a deputy sheriff, their police chief, and two federal agents among them getting a nod of understanding.

John casually added that they knew who would get the adoption case once it was filed on their return, with Judge Katz seeming to understand. It was nothing to them but being closely tied to adoptions, foster care, and familial relations sat well with him as it showed they were going to ensure the best for Antonio. It warmed his heart as well to see that Antonio's future grandmothers were so caring towards him with the newborn being treated like family already as Gabriela looked on with relief.

Gabriela drove with the family to the hotel then on to her home to gather Antonio's things. She was in tears as she gathered his meager possessions but it was happy tears to her, he was going to be getting the life she could never give him. As she handed him off to his grandparents for a final time they hugged her and kissed her for reassurance, each saying a small prayer for him while being proud that their grandchild was going to be among loved ones who would provide what they couldn't.

Dorothy spotted someone close by that she thought was a ghost but turned out to be a figure she had long since forgotten about. As the small, skinny, frail woman walked closer her heart fluttered. The woman was a strong figure, one who cared for her at times when her parents were busy with work and who had kept her going in school to earn herself a scholarship that would eventually be used to escape Alma Perdida and on to her destiny elsewhere.

Gloria was still imposing, with Dorothy meekly saying "como estas, Tia Gloria. Esta hermosa como siempre." Gloria simply smiled at Dorothy while Deborah gasped in shock. The woman who had been so kind to her during her toughest days in her youth had known her mother when she was a little girl!

Gloria Garcia just chuckled at mother and daughter. She knew all along that Deborah was a girl inside and that she took after her mother in all ways. She was better than her family and needed to get away from her existence just as Dorothy had needed and with Gloria's help, Deborah had spent a lot of time working out her issues by focusing on her future.

Gloria proudly told Dorothy "I wouldn't say I am as beautiful as ever but you always loved to flatter me." She offered Dorothy a hug and kiss on the cheek, with her son and daughter looking on in surprise over the closeness of the two. Dorothy was at a rare loss for words, but it felt great seeing Gloria again.

The Garcias sat them down while Gloria explained to them "this lovely woman is the best thing ever to happen to the Vega family but they simply refused to see her greatness. I am proud of you, my child. You made us proud. We, on your mother's side of your family, were always pleased with what you did with your life. You are bringing the two branches together after generations apart. Your great-great-grandmother would have been proud, as would your grandparents. Your mother became darkened by your father's family but you and your daughter have found the light and made us proud."

Dorothy was unable to speak. Deborah explained for her "she is your mother's 2nd cousin, that makes Gabriela and I 3rd cousins and Antonio a 4th cousin to Juanita and Carmen's children. Mom, she is saying that we are family to her. You always have been. It's why she was so kind to us years ago, she couldn't let us struggle. She helped us because we are blood family to her."

Gabriela was taken aback at what was said but Deborah told her warmly "it's alright, you aren't genetically close enough to Antonio to have problems. He's perfectly healthy with no abnormalities. He's going to grow up to be an amazing young man." Gabriela smiled at that, it was what she had hoped for all along.

The family ate with Gloria holding court as the head of the family. She gave them the bad news about why Antonio was better off with Deborah, she was dying and only had another year or two at most and the other heirs intended to sell the restaurant off with the money being split among the family. The Garcias were going to have to move in with Gabriela's maternal family which was too crowded for Antonio, it was no place for a baby and as Deborah was a blood relative and willing to give him what he needs he deserved to go with her and Patrick.

The news was tough to grasp but the family was prepared for it. They wanted what was best and he was getting a strong start in life. Deborah did insist that should she ever need a home she would have one with them, an offer that Gabriela declined but its intent was clear- she was family, thus would not be kept away from Antonio nor forgotten about by Deborah and Patrick.

The family left with heavy hearts. Deborah insisted that they are told about Gloria's passing as they wanted to be there to give their goodbyes. This was too important to not miss, the woman deserved their grief and as family, they deserved to be there. Gloria insisted on it, she knew very well that this was the Garcia blood in them giving them the drive to be there despite the pain.

Back at the hotel, the family fawned over Antonio to the point of drooling. Patrick was congratulated by the dads as he had done the greatest thing ever as a husband- giving his wife a child. Deborah, in turn, was given hugs and kisses while the mothers shed tears over the realization that it was only a matter of time before they too became grandparents.

Patrick realized that he had to ask his brother to go shopping for him, with the others feeling bad about him having to eat his own words as he endured this humiliation after giving his brother grief just seven months before. It was made in fun, as David was happy to rally the few family members back east in getting everything the couple would need. David had a long list with Deborah adding what Patrick missed as David grinned widely at her being so on the ball while he was barely grasping fatherhood and making simple mistakes based on his anxiety levels.

The couple endured a somewhat sleepless night as they fed and changed Antonio but it was the happiest they had been in a while. Deborah had a perpetual smile on her face as Antonio looked up at her with a smile of his own. It pained her to think that he may never remember Gabriela but he was adjusting to her as his mother just fine with Patrick getting him to at least give him a squeeze of his hand whenever he held him.

The family departed LA with heavy hearts as they left behind Jaimie Finn and Rick and Olivia Samuels. Deborah was concerned about flying with Antonio but he slept through the flight and only tried to move when he needed a diaper change. On the ground, David was waiting with a stroller ready for Antonio with the family being happy to see him off to his new home.

David had to shoo them all away, this was a private moment that Deborah and Patrick needed to themselves. Only Dorothy, Lilly, Claire, and Daisy were to go as they were the closest and Deborah needed just them. He then pulled out the dad card in that Patrick needed to do this himself as he couldn't rely on the ladies all the time, getting grins from the dads as the ladies had no comeback.

At Patrick and Deborah's house, the couple saw David had gotten a crib, playpen, mounds of clothes, onesies, diapers, wipes, and formula. It looked like too much but Deborah saw the look on Lilly's face and realized it was not enough but enough to last them a while. They had a big start, but it was what they needed at the time as they got adjusted to being parents and learned what worked and what didn't.

The Johnsons came over with food allowing the family to eat while giving Antonio a chance to sleep in his new cradle. Deborah looked exhausted but it was to be expected after the night before. The couple was pleased to see that their grandchildren were starting to let the fact that they were now parents to a little baby boy sink in with Lilly having a hard time keeping herself from meddling.

The girls were doing their best to calm themselves and keep from awakening the sleeping Antonio. Daisy gave up watching him, instead going to where the others were with Claire watching him intently as she thought to herself. Claire felt odd about this whole situation, it meant that she was going to be an aunt to Jaimie and Richard in the future since if it could happen to Deborah and Patrick then there was nothing to prevent it from happening to them as well.

Eventually, she joined the family who ate then left the parents to enjoy their night by themselves. They spent a night switching off who changed and fed Antonio while sleeping through most of the night. It was tough but it was getting easier to adjust to once they worked out their own system.

The next morning they headed to family court to file for adoption. They had everything with them including a statement from Judge Katz out in California stating that there was no legal reason to block the adoption given the Garcias had given their blessing. They were greeted warmly by their lawyer, Ricardo Vincent, whose name was flagged leading to the expected visit with Judge Martha Perez.

Judge Perez simply read the report, asked if they were willing to adopt Antonio, then asked if they had reached an agreement with Gabriela leading to her giving her blessing in a month's time. She couldn't help but smile as they had done something great for a family in crisis while allowing a child a bright future. It was just as she had come to expect from their family.

She then had Deborah give her mother two envelopes, with Judge Perez telling her that it was all set and they didn't need to appear as it was done out of love and not money. Deborah didn't understand but took the envelopes to Dorothy who had Polly, Juanita, Carmen, and their girlfriends come over. Polly was a bit reluctant to leave her boyfriend Diego but this was important.

At the Vega home, Dorothy had Carmen and Juanita open the envelopes with both immediately crying. Their girlfriends hugged them tight while Polly read the news and dropped the papers in shock. Juanita and Carmen were now her sisters, not her cousins.

Dorothy explained calmly "you signed the papers two days ago after I asked Zoe's father to prepare them. I love you two deeply and it was only fair that you see me as your mother instead of aunt. You need a mother, you are now sisters to Deborah and Polly and aunts to Antonio."

The girls hugged Dorothy as they called her "mom" for the first time. It was touching, with Zoe happily grinning at helping her girlfriend out. Deborah sagely added "she's waiting for the day you propose to Juanita so you can call her mom too. She knows you love her, it's inevitable." Zoe nodded, it was her intention to do that in a few weeks once the family settled in again. She didn't want to steal Deborah's thunder, Antonio's arrival was something she deserved to have all to herself.



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