TG Universes & Series:
Sorry for the length, I couldn't cut it down. This is the finale of the Rosalind/Ashley story arc that I painted myself into a corner over. Next two parts: Finns in England.
At the Boston Police District B2 station in Roxbury, Stanley Eagleson got a cold reception. Word that he had caused the niece of a federal agent and two police officers to get hurt while trying to murder his own grandson got around the station with officers being less than courteous to him while booking him. They never went over the line, but they made their outrage known to him form the get-go.
The detainees in the cell he was put in caused him to have several "slips" as they got their anger out on him. They may have been drug dealers and gangstas but they still abide by code of "no hurting kids" no matter who you are to them. Hurting the elderly was just as bad, with his wife's assault causing the men in the cell with him to have some "words" with him about treating elders with respect.
Stanley eagerly awaited his attorney bailing him out yet again, knowing that he would get back at the cops for daring to arrest him and allowing the real criminals to assault him instead of protecting him. He hoped to sue the department, claiming that the wounds he received were due to officers. He thought he might even sue the state for harassment for the multiple erroneous charges filed against him due to his grandson's lies!
He was given a rude awakening as he was told that his attorney was in jail in Winnisimmet for conspiracy to commit kidnapping, lying to police, perjury, and multiple other crimes all directly related to his role in the attempted kidnappings. It wasn't hard to prove that he was involved in the plot with Stanley, once one of the hired thugs talked they all started to talk. The only one who didn't was the one who was charged with attempted murder and assault and battery with a deadly weapon for trying to kill Ashley. That was in addition to assault on police and resisting arrest charges that only made it worse.
The attorney had made a huge mistake, he was quick to regale anyone willing to hear him with how he had helped catch the lying grandson of the bar's owner and ensure that the boy never talked again. He went further to say that Stanley would ensure that the boy would be crippled and had his tongue cut out for claiming falsehoods against his family. He didn't care who heard, he was loud enough to be heard across the bar in the farthest, quietest corners.
The man was not afraid of what may happen to him for being part of the conspiracy to kill Ashley. Unfortunately for him, he was unaware of the newcomers to the bar who sat down next to him and asked him to tell the whole story to them. He didn't hold back anything, he was happy to explain how he got Stanley released from jail by lying to the judge about it being a false claim then having another judge toss out the order on grounds of falsehoods. It was all smoke and mirrors, the charges were going to stick but with Ashley recanting the state had no case thus the charges went away.
This was a huge mistake as several state police troopers were in the bar with one of them knowing all about the incident including the details that the lawyer had purposely not told the other patrons. David Peterson was out celebrating a colleague's birthday and upon hearing the gloating got up, arrested the attorney for criminal conspiracy, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, attempted murder, perjury, and multiple other crimes. He then had the state bar start an investigation into him on behalf of Ashley for allowing his client to knowingly commit crimes without warning the police or trying to dissuade him. David may not have known Ashley but he knew enough to know that Stanley Eagleson was facing a serious prison sentence now especially as his own lawyer had been revealed to have gotten him out of jail on false pretenses.
Stanley swore at the officers then demanded an attorney. One was hired and looking at the charges and evidence against him just from the arrest in Roxbury looked at Stanley, got up, and walked out citing his inability to defend him based on an ethical issue. It hit Stanley in the ego hard, he was not going to get out of this without some serious firepower and his friends were going to have issues trying to spring him legally without their main lawyer being allowed to be involved in his case anymore.
The problem had only just started. His bar was shut down by the city due to suspicions of serious criminal activities thanks to the boasting by his now former lawyer and the confessions by his cronies. His bank account was frozen by Ricardo Vincent to keep him from fleeing the country or to keep him from emptying it so Cynthia didn't get a penny in their impending divorce. Ricardo had his eyes on a divorce for Cynthia despite her still being unconscious from the assault, she was going to get her fair share of their communal property which included their house and the bar and that was before he got her to file suit against him for the major assault against her and Liam.
The next morning court was a zoo as the media were all over the arraignment due to another crime but found Stanley's arraignment to be even bigger news. He was humiliated by the jeering crowd, many of whom had known his son and grandson before they moved and who were still held in high regard. The judge had tho shake his head at the neighborhood uniting in a common cause against a man who had to be one of the worst offenders he had arraigned in his time as a judge in Roxbury Municipal Court.
Stanley stood in front of the judge, daring him to say something. The judge was read the long list of new charges against Stanley then told that Stanley had violated the terms of bail not once but twice. The judge shook his hear and ordered Stanley to be remanded until trial, citing his constant disregard for the safety and well-being of his grandchildren and wife as well as the fact that he had violated the restraining order against him.
Stanley swore loudly at the judge then tried to lash out at him, only to be subdued by court officers and police. Stanley was now facing additional assault charges while seeing his face plastered all over the new for the next two days. He endured the humiliation of fellow prisoners laughing at him over his guaranteeing himself a long prison stint as no jury would ever let him go free.
The media was even more vicious, interviewing neighbors who witnessed the assault and painted Ashley and his girlfriend Rosalind as innocents being hunted by a terror. Their pictures were supplied by Ricardo who served as their spokesperson and kept the media at bay. He was quick to praise Astrid Flynn and her partner for their invaluable help then on the Boston officers who arrested Stanley. The facts of the arrest weren't told but he did acknowledge that one man broke free and stabbed Ashley which only led to Stanley having to be put in protective custody in Nashua Street Jail, coincidentally under people who were colleagues of Astrid's husband Todd.
Over in Winnisimmet, Cameron was apprised of the events and the next morning asked that the judge put a rush on it due to the kids' immediate needs. Judge Perez agreed to read over the reports from DCF, the hospitals, and the police and had to agree that custody needed to be permanently removed from Stanley but had to give Stanley a chance to defend not allowing Cameron the chance to have the kids back. It wasn't a good situation for anyone but she had to follow proper procedure lest Stanley have a successful appeal and make her ruling null.
Valerie and John Finn were kept as Liam and Ashley's guardians until the full hearing. DCF had no argument against them but were concerned that Ashley may try to run off again if things didn't go his way. Valerie set them straight and had to explain "Ashley was in fear of his life, with his grandfather now facing serious prison time and all bail denied there is no reason to believe he will flee. As he is recovering in the hospital under armed guard by officers for his protection he is not able to be removed or flee regardless. We have his assurances and to us that is good enough to ensure he stays put."
Judge Perez had to smirk at the unintentional smackdown but Valerie was right. She calmly proclaimed "I'll hear arguments in two days. I want all facts of the case including the original hearing notes. I have a strong suspicion that they have 'mysteriously disappeared' but I want them regardless. If they are missing as I suspect they are then custody will be granted to their father with prejudice."
Cameron was given the all clear without Judge Perez saying so. He knew for a fact that the transcripts had been deleted as he had tried to get a copy of it to show that he was screwed by the courts. Without it he had no grounds for an appeal with that judge on the bench but with Judge Perez taking over he had everything needed to overturn the previous order as well as give him a formal apology from the courts.
Valerie wasted little time and told Cameron to follow her. The two drove to Longwood Medical Area and in particular New England Children's Hospital where Ashley was hospitalized. She showed him up to Ashley's room, informing the nurses that Cameron was Ashley's father and has her blessing to visit with Ashley. Cameron tried to shy away but Valerie insisted, Ashley needed to see his father and Cameron needed to see his son if only to show that he was doing better.
Knocking and entering Cameron shed a tear at seeing the bandaged Ashley sleeping in the bed. It was a sight he dreaded ever seeing, Ashley was strung up with multiple wires and tubes into his body as well as several different IV and waste bags connected to him. It was painful to him, his son looked so fragile and pale and there was nothing he could do to help him until he had custody of the boys again.
Valerie got the response she needed from Cameron, she could see his resolve to fight back against Stanley rising as the parent in Cameron was not going to let his children get away from him again. Cameron was just like his mother, the two were some of the strongest willed people Valerie had ever known. Cameron had the spark to live his life again, the spark that had been extinguished years ago by his father ripping his children from him out of nothing but malice because he was true to himself..
Back at his office, Cameron dived into the custody laws and Supreme Judicial Court rulings needed to bolster his case. Ricardo tried to dissuade him but his mind was solely focused on the boys and there was no way he was going to hold back until he had exactly what he needed to win full and permanent custody of the boys. Ricardo could only back away and hand him what he needed even though he had gotten everything ready to go while Valerie and Cameron were off visiting Ashley in the hospital.
Cameron finally stopped once he had an ironclad set of rulings and irrefutable precedents. Ricardo just shook his head and pointed out that he had already done that and he had wasted an afternoon. Ricardo had to pick up Cameron's slack in fishing for ways of getting at Stanley's money for his mother, which he had happily done and found a lot of money that Stanley kept off the books and away from her that he just happened to also hide away from the IRS and state department of revenue.
Ricardo just sat next to Cameron and offered a hug, he knew what Cameron was feeling and confessed that Cameron had lost out on a lot with the boys but Ashley had never stopped loving him as a father. Liam would take time to come around to him being his father but it was time well spent. The boys had a dad to be proud of and a grandmother that was the envy of many kids.
The two were interrupted by their colleague bringing the counterclaim by Stanley's lawyer. Stanley sought a permanent restraining order against all members of the Finn Family as well as Cameron, citing an immediate danger to the boys. He went one step further and stated that when he won he would happily turn the boys over to DCF so they never saw anyone that they knew of again. He didn't care if he won or lost custody, so long as Cameron didn't get a chance to be their father even if he should never have lost custody four years before.
Ricardo laughed at it, there was no supporting evidence except the claim that as Cameron was transgender he was unfit to be their father as it was a terrible influence on the boys and would lead them to deviant and harmful behavior. He then claims that he is a tramp for getting pregnant twice by two different men despite knowing that Cameron was impregnated by sperm donor with his full support. The judge wouldn't let any of the claims stand, there was no legal basis for them and she was never going to allow any of that kind of language to be used in court against them.
Ricardo had to laugh as Stanley would soon be unable to pay for his lawyer due to his bank account being frozen due to the divorce. He either didn't expect his wife to file or he believed he could get her to go with his line of thinking again. There was no chance of that happening, not with Valerie on the case and fighting for Cynthia's rights as Ricardo focused on Cameron's custody fight.
After the arraignment things got pretty ugly in Winnisimmet as the supporters of Stanley fought back. They first targeted Cameron by torching his house, then as that was set ablaze they went after Stanley's home. In his own words to them if he couldn't have it, nobody would have it. Cameron's house was retaliation for trying to get the kids back, Stanley didn't care one bit about him this was pure retaliation for daring to fight back and making him use up the last of his stashed money to pay for a lawyer.
Cameron was homeless. To make things worse he was unable to rent due to his past and Stanley's goons intimidating anyone who had a free apartment. Valerie did something out of character and asked Lupe Toro to house Cameron while he searched for a place to live. Lupe agreed, he needed to have a clear head and fight for the kids and knowing that Ashley would be in a tight spot when he got out she couldn't let the boy stay where he could be hurt again.
Lupe and her daughter Reyna understood what Cameron was going through, having seen it before in the early days of Reyna's transition after they lost both Reyna's father and Reyna's grandmother. They had been threatened with similar actions but avoided it due to her brother Miguel being famous and knowing that he would bring the wrath of the police on anyone at fault for torching the Toro home. Lupe could sympathize with Cameron as a mother to father, even if Cameron was a man he still was a parent and needed another parent's support especially one who was a single parent.
Reyna was just fine with Cameron staying. There was something about him that caused her to like the idea of a man staying with them. Her mother had been alone for too long, she thought that maybe things could be more than just friendship between the two once Cameron moved in for the time being.
Lupe was also going to be a big help when Liam was in Cameron's care again. It would be at least a week before Ashley was released from the hospital but Liam was able to go into Cameron's care just as soon as custody was given back to Cameron. Liam trusted Lupe, if she said that Cameron was a good person he would take to her a lot easier than he would if he didn't.
Cameron had few possessions which were thankfully covered by a generous insurance policy that covered malicious arson. He and Lupe went shopping just after an inventory of what was salvageable was taken and his needs assessed. Thankfully his major documents were saved, but his clothes were all destroyed by the fire, smoke, and water. He had few pictures or trinkets, those that he had were saved in a special safe at the office that was untouched as it was in a high visibility area with limited access.
Lupe actually enjoyed the shopping experience, Cameron had an eye for fashion that the other guys lacked but none of the ladies had the heart to explain to them about. The two spent several hours going from shop to shop finding the right clothes to buy while Lupe gave him an honest opinion about what he was buying and what he should avoid. By the end of the trip the two had talked about everything up to and including their sex life, something they blushed at but found it easy to talk about with the other.
For Cameron, Lupe was like an old friend who made you feel at ease while offering an ear. For Lupe, Cameron was that guy who was by your side offering a hand while not being afraid to tell you that you were not doing something right. They were getting as close as Melanie Lopez and John, they had a lot of chemistry that was tempered by their natural friendship that masked something bigger.
At home, Reyna grinned widely at the two talking like old friends. She actually loved that the two were getting so close. It was thrilling to think about her mother may be finding someone who was a kindred spirit who needed someone who appreciated life the way she appreciated it. The two were closer than she had ever imagined and were acting like they had that bond that only those who suffered tragedy could understand, a bond neither wanted but was evident to anyone who saw them.
Liam was given a soft introduction to Cameron when Reyna was dropped off at her girlfriend's house once they had all of the clothes situated in Cameron's new room. Cameron didn't say who he was, but seeing him looking just like his brother caused tears in Cameron's eyes. It was painful to think that he was hurt by Stanley, Liam was an innocent boy. It only helped to strengthen Cameron's resolve to win back the boys and start life anew.
Cameron went over the plan of action the next day with Lupe being his sounding board. She tried to poke holes in his logic and argue points that she knew Stanley's lawyer would bring up. She was great at her job, and times scared Cameron with how well she played the villain in her arguments.
Lupe laughed it off, she was happy to explain "it's part of having a teenager. They think they can outsmart you so you have to cover your bases and ensure there are no loopholes in your arguments. I know that you will learn this soon enough, Ashley is a good boy but even he will use his teenager logic against you at some point, it's inevitable. You just have to remember that you are the parent not him."
Reyna tried to take offense to the remark but a short time later she got into exactly the kind of logic battle that Lupe had mentioned before. Cameron took notes, it was actually helping him and the two had a great time hamming it up for him. Reyna eventually lost but Lupe gave in and told her to enjoy her night out with her girlfriend, which Reyna hugged both over while smiling at Cameron.
The two were left alone for the evening and were able to enjoy a quiet dinner alone. Lupe and Cameron talked for hours while watching an old movie that both enjoyed, finding out several long held secrets that somehow each felt the need to confess to the other. When Reyna returned the two were laying on the couch with arms around each other's shoulder, she crept up to bed with a smile on her face as the two had clearly enjoyed their time alone and were worn out from that fun.
The custody hearing the following morning was cause for all hands to attend. Valerie was there on behalf of Cynthia and the two kids, Cameron was being represented by Ricardo, Alice Porter was there on behalf of Cynthia as her friend and witness to Stanley's assault, Stanley wasn't allowed to attend due to his being in Nashua Street Jail under heavy guard but had a lawyer representing him that was appointed by his friends. The only ones not there were the kids, with Ashley still recovering but feeling out of it while Liam was intentionally kept unaware of the situation for his own well-being.
Stanley's lawyer tried to look smug and scoffed as Cameron entered with what amounted to a large entourage of supporters. He was far from the mark as everyone there had a reason to be there while Stanley's cronies were there simply to try to intimidate the others. Judge Perez wisely told all there "if you do not have a direct connection to this case, please leave. I know that many of you are simply here to intimidate the other parties and I won't allow it. Some of you I am familiar with but I still want your connection to the case heard officially."
Stanley's cronies were each asked what their connection was. None had actually met the kids or Cameron therefor had no reason to be there. There were several who had known Cameron and were there to ensure that the kids never saw their mother again no matter what and if need be they'd ensure that the kids shut up and "told the truth about their grandfather" prompting court officers to remove them and charge them with criminal threats for threatening Cameron and the kids.
Stanley was left with no actual supporters nor any witnesses on his behalf who could bolster his case. Cameron alerted Ricardo that the ones removed had not met him before and were lying about their connection which was overheard by Judge Perez who grinned and relayed that to Stanley's lawyer with a firm "I won't hold that against you as it was one that the court officer will enjoy relaying to one another. I will advise you to seek counsel as this attempt to circumvent the law by perjury will be reported to the bar by Mrs. Finn and Mr. Vincent, that is if Mr. Byrne doesn't do so himself."
Compared with Stanley's inability to get actual support, Alice and Shea Porter, Lupe, John, Dorothy and Vance Taylor, Zeke Bollinger, Mark and Leslie Sylvester, and Chloe Daniels were there on behalf of Cameron and the kids with direct and professional connections. Judge Perez didn't need to know the exact details, she did ask for the record but let it alone after their presence was noted. Stanley's lawyer tried to object but it was futile as Cameron was entitled to have material and witness support and the fact that Stanley had none was not their problem.
Judge Perez noted the lack of support for Stanley's case as a telling sign of his character. His lawyer tried to object as they were all character witnesses but given that they had never met the kids and had admitted that they were all paid to be there by Stanley they didn't belong there. The fact that several intended to hurt the kids hurt Stanley's case even more, with Judge Perez encouraging Stanley's lawyer to drop the line of thought due to putting himself further in danger legally with the bar.
With that out of the way, Judge Perez started the hearing. First up was DCF's report with Chloe and Mark giving damning remarks regarding the initial removal of custody four years before especially as there was no grounds for it nor was there any involvement by them. Judge Perez asked if there was any reason to deny Cameron the right to have the children, both gave a strong "no."
Mark added a strong "the only reason is not something that is either valid nor is it allowed under our state laws: his transgender status. Cameron Byrne started to transition from female to male just after he gave birth to his son Liam. He never abused the children nor did he neglect them, he actually never has to work again due to money he was awarded from a lawsuit so he was always around to care for the children. Mr. Eagleson simply used your colleague to get his grandchildren removed without any legal reasoning nor our involvement. Had we been involved we would have refused to allow him custody due to his criminal background and history of assaults on his wife and son."
Stanley's lawyer objected but Mark produced Stanley's rap sheet which included several convictions for assaulting Cameron, Cynthia, and in a shocking turn of events- Ashley. Mark loudly announced "had we been allowed involvement we would have sided with Mr. Byrne and would have recommended that Mr. Eagleson be barred from ever seeing the children let alone have custody of them as he is a confirmed danger to them."
Judge Perez nodded then asked about the previous order. Cameron showed the order then Ricardo told her "your honor, there is no transcript of the court hearing. My client was unable to appeal this order just one month after it was given due to the loss or intentional deletion of the transcripts."
Judge Perez nodded, adding an angry "I am aware of the judge's actions being both highly unethical as well as illegal. This is just another in a long string of his violations of civil rights of certain individuals that you, Mr. Vincent, are well aware of. As it was done without due process and with the intention of depriving Mr. Byrne of his rights I am hereby rescinding the previous order and open up proceedings to formally return or rescind the custody of Ashley and Liam Byrne to Cameron Byrne."
Stanley's lawyer tried to object but Judge Perez grinned and pointed out "we still have to establish your client's claims so this is far from over. This previous order is superseded by this hearing and as such I am within my rights to order the previous order quashed due to this hearing. Now please proceed."
Stanley's lawyer went after Cameron as being unfit due to his causing the children issues such as bullying, public humiliation, community shunning, and ungodly behavior. He said that being allowed in Cameron's care would cause Liam to become confused as to who his parents really were and what his family was. Judge Perez shook her head as Ricardo prepared his volley, it was going to be something well worth seeing.
There was nothing of actual substance that the lawyer could provide to support Stanley's claim to custody. His only hope was to prey on the bigotry of Judge Perez. He clearly didn't know anything about Judge Perez's personal life or her leanings, she hated those kind of tactics with a passion.
Ricardo stood firm, telling the lawyer "that's all a load of garbage. Stanley has been abusive towards his family for several years. His wife, who while still hospitalized due to his most recent assault, has filed for divorce citing constant abuse. She has offered a written declaration about the long history of abuse that Stanley Eagleson has heaped upon his family. That is in addition to the current accusations of abuse DCF has filed against him before his arrest on attempted kidnapping, attempted murder, and multiple other serious charges. She has verified that he did indeed assault her multiple times in the past and has served time in prison for assault. She asks that custody be awarded to her son."
Stanley's lawyer tried to object that due to her not being there her statements should be disallowed. Judge Perez laughed at it, happily telling him "your client's arrest record and sentences are public record and should have been presented to the judge previously. Mrs. Eagleson has her proxy in court and as I have little reason to believe that she would lie I am allowing her sentiments to be on record."
Judge Perez had just what she needed. Ricardo nodded then added "Mr. Byrne, and he is a male despite what Mr. Eagleson's counsel has claimed, has been a model citizen and was a loving parent to his elder son before both were ripped away by the prior ruling. Mr. Byrne has tried hard to make a life for himself and has both a well paid job as well as a home. Mr. Byrne is a mentor to several college and teenage people in addition to donating thousands to charity. His sex life is none of his our concern, and despite claims to the contrary he is neither a deviant nor a pervert. While my client may have changed his gender that does not preclude him from being seen as a fit parent or not. We are fully prepared to file an appeal should the court feel that what is in your pants matters more than ability to be a parent."
With that line of thought shot down Ricardo went for the throat and gave every legal precedent for allowing transgender parents the right to be a parent, all of which could neither be refuted nor ignored. Judge Perez looked at Stanley's lawyer and waited for him to try to come up with a counter. Failing miserably, he only offered up the same bit of vitriol he offered before which Judge Perez ignored.
Judge Perez simply grinned at the two. She shook her head and didn't bother with deliberating. She looked at the clerk who nodded then proclaimed "four years ago a travesty of justice was allowed to occur in this courtroom. I am righting that travesty. Permanent custody of Ashley and Liam Byrne are hereby awarded to their father, Mr. Cameron Byrne. Further, I am ordering that the court clerk and court reporter who were witnesses to the hearing be investigated for violating jurisprudence in destroying the records of Mr. Byrne's custody case four years ago. Mr. Byrne, you have my deepest sympathies in having to endure this travesty. I hope that your sons are able to recover from their abuse and you are able to form a happy family. Good luck."
She banged her gavel and offered Stanley's lawyer a stern "sir, if I ever see you in my courtroom again, you had better have actual support. If I didn't already know several of these fine people I would have ordered you placed in custody for witness intimidation. They are the most restrained and calm people I have ever encountered but they are not afraid to defend themselves against cheap thugs." The court officers escorted him out, with all of the entourage outside being told to leave or be placed under arrest. All left, swearing they'd get them but seeing court officers placing those who made that pledge placing them under arrest for yet more criminal threats charges.
Cameron was in tears as he hugged Ricardo. Lupe hugged him after he broke the hug with Ricardo, offering a kiss on the cheek that went unnoticed by everyone. Leslie was on the phone with Melanie to get Liam ready to meet his father while Lupe hugged Cameron allowing Lupe to calm him. Cameron heard her telling Melanie the news and had his heart flutter, it was the best thing he had heard in years and led to more tears as reality set in- he was a father again, he was taking his son home.
Cameron was driven to Lupe's house with Liam kept at the Finn home until the time was right. He would be given a soft introduction to Liam, with the hope that Liam took to him quickly. Liam could be a handful if he was agitated and upset, they hoped having DJ Lopez with him would calm him.
Liam was told "we have someone to introduce to you. He is your daddy and wants to meet you. Are you OK with meeting him? He has waited four years to meet you."
Liam looked at Melanie and Valerie with shock. He nodded furiously, crying his eyes out at hearing the news. He wasn't a fool, he knew if his dad was meeting him then he never had to see his grandpa again.
He had always wanted a dad, he knew that his was not allowed to see him thanks to his grandpa. After he was kicked out of daycare a year ago Ashley had told him that his dad was special and was once his mom and loved him deeply but their grandfather had gotten them removed from his care because he was once their mom. All he wanted since that day was to meet his dad, now he was meeting him.
Despite his rough and tumble four-year-old exterior, Liam was still a kid who wanted his parents. Even if his parents weren't "normal" he wanted a parent. He hated what his grandpa had done to his dad so this was going to be a dream come true for him- his dad was going to meet him and live with him.
Lupe was called with Cameron barely containing himself as they drove over. Liam turned around and ran to Cameron, crying as he did so. He didn't need to be told who he was, he thought it was odd that he was seeing this man a second time with Lupe talking to him in hushed tones. He learned long ago that if an adult was talking in hushed tones about you that something was going to happen to you.
Cameron hugged him tight, crying as he said "daddy" to Cameron while himself crying. He was almost crushing Cameron, only softening the hug when he said "son" causing him to cry more. Neither father nor son wanted the moment to end, four years evaporated in mere seconds.
Valerie and John had to hold back tears as the touching moment hit them hard. DJ looked up at Melanie for guidance prompting her to kneel down and explain "this is Cameron, Liam's daddy. He's going to stay with Aunt Lupe and Reyna until they can get a new house."
DJ understood and hugged Liam as they walked inside to get Liam's things together. Lupe waited until he was inside to tell Cameron "you don't have to rush to find a place, it's nice having you there. Having Liam will help temper Reyna's libido a bit." Reyna blushed deeply and walked off in embarrassment as the adults snickered at the teasing, with Cameron thanking her for the kindness and understanding that it was meant to both break the ice and give Reyna some humbling.
Liam came out with his bag packed and a few toys that JD Finn had been willing to part with to give him a few of his own as he lost all of his in the fire at the Eagleson/Byrne home. Lupe smiled broadly at the boys hugging goodbye with Liam starting to go from guest of his aunt and uncle to being a friend to the youngest Lopez. JD simply acted like the big cousin that he had learned to be with the younger kids and knew that he was expected to show the boys that it was alright now.
The four drove to the Toro home and got Liam situated. Reyna gave the adults space while Liam was unsure what to make of his former daycare teacher and his dad being close. Liam innocently asked "are you daddy's girlfriend? You look like daddy's girlfriend."
Lupe blushed while Cameron tried hard to find the right words to explain the situation to Liam. Lupe finally explained "I offered your daddy my house to stay in because his house was burned down. I like him a lot but we aren't dating." Liam asked "why?" which got both adults blushing deeply as Reyna tried her hardest not to laugh at the uncomfortable situation that Liam had unintentionally caused.
The four sat down in the living room to decompress with Liam refusing to let go of Cameron. It was a sweet image that neither Lupe nor Reyna could stop smiling at. Cameron had a wide smile on his face while Liam was acting like he had just gotten exactly what he wanted for Christmas.
The four ate an early dinner after which Lupe suggested they visit Ashley to give him the good news. As expected, Liam refused to let his father go causing Reyna to have to lift him up into his booster seat while Cameron drove. Lupe eyed Liam who grabbed onto Reyna's arm and felt a stirring in her that she had not felt in years, she was being a mother to a little kid even if he was only a temporary guest.
Reyna caught this subtle glance and nodded in approval. She was no fool, her mother had needs and as she was still young she should enjoy dating again especially if it was with someone that Reyna was on good terms with such as Cameron. Lupe loved her ex-husband immensely but Reyna is no fool and knew that he'd want her to find a lover if only to allow her to enjoy life again. Cameron was the right kind of guy for her as well, she didn't know if he had the right "plumbing" but he was still a potential lover for her mother which was what mattered most.
Cameron drove carefully to the hospital, knowing that the bumps would cause pain to Liam. The boy kept quiet but the winces were still there and each caused Cameron to feel anger. After one large bump that he had to hit due to rough drivers Lupe massaged his hand in support, not realizing she did it but both Reyna and Liam caught on to.
When they arrived at the hospital Cameron had to take a minute to steel himself for the sight of Ashley and the inevitable war of words if he was awake. Lupe held her arm around his shoulders in support while Reyna went on ahead with the reluctant Liam. Cameron needed that reassurance, Lupe hadn't thought about it as she did it but it was exactly what he needed at that moment and gave him the strength to go on to see Ashley and accept whatever he was going to throw at his father.
The two heard sounds from his room that concerned him. Lupe had a bright smile as she whispered "his girlfriend is there." Cameron's face was in shock, he didn't think that Ashley would have a girlfriend yet let alone one who would visit him in the hospital but Lupe nodded, adding "she loves him, your son is the spitting image of his dad and through his help he made a young lady into a better person while at the same time earning her heart as the boy of her dreams. Congratulations, he's a young man now. Ashley Byrne is taking after his father in more ways than just looks."
Lupe knocked on the door and let Rosalind and Stephanie Porter know that Ashley had a very import visitor outside. Ashley grew concerned but didn't see Valerie or John so it could have been anyone. Liam had a big smile on his face as Cameron entered, with Ashley shedding tears of joy and trying to get out of bed to hug his father as soon as he saw him enter.
Ashley asked tearfully "what are you doing here? Grandpa won't let you see us." Cameron showed the judge's order then tearfully told him "I'm sorry, son. I should have fought harder to keep you. You shouldn't have had to put up with that monster. I wasn't strong enough to fight for you and it hurt you. No more. You are my top priority and neither of you will ever have to endure pain and suffering due to that monster. Never again. He can't hurt us anymore."
The two embraced for several minutes while the others waited silently. When they broke the hug Rosalind was about to leave but Ashley asked her to stay. Cameron could see the affection between the two and felt great pride that his son had matured into the young man he saw in front of him in so many ways in just four years. He was already a better man that Cameron had been at his age.
Cameron smiled at Rosalind and asked Ashley to introduce them. Ashley blushed deeply as he told him "this is Rosalind Porter and her sister Stephanie. They live next door to us." Stephanie groaned then added "you mean your girlfriend and her sister. Stop acting like she isn't because she is."
Rosalind kissed his cheek and told him "I won't leave you because of that piece of garbage. You didn't leave me because of Monica or dad marrying mom, I won't leave you because of what that man did to us. I love you, Ashley Byrne, and I am proud to have you as my boyfriend."
Ashley was blushing deeply now as Cameron raised an eyebrow at him. He shed a tear as he hugged Cameron again, thanking him for fighting for them even if it was because the bastard hurt them. Rosalind gave him another kiss, this time on the lips with Stephanie dragging her out so the family could have their privacy without Ashley getting even more embarrassed.
Cameron looked him over and recalled the chubby little boy who was one of the darlings of their Roxbury neighborhood. They were some of the only white people there but Ashley was great with the adults and had some of the kids protecting him thanks to his helping them with school and Cameron frequently babysitting when their mothers had to work nights. It was tough but the two were respected by their neighborhood.
When he and Liam were ripped from Cameron's care he started to eat to make his problems go away. It was tough on Ashley, he loved his father but Stanley was domineering and led to a four year depression that only started to ease up with Rosalind and he getting closer two weeks before. He was still large but due to the extent of his injuries he would end up losing a lot of the excess weight before the end of the summer and was looking at losing more throughout Autumn.
Cameron saw the boy who helped him cook and clean when he was too tired. He was the lovable boy who always had his homework done and ready to enjoy a nice evening with his dad, who just happened to be pregnant with his little brother at the time. He hadn't changed, he only had the bane of his existence removed from him allowing the real Ashley Byrne to fly free.
Lupe tried to slip out but Cameron asked her to stay. Ashley was asked if the girls had told him what happened to his home, getting a no followed by "what did that bastard do?" Cameron sighed and told him "his friends set your house on fire as well as mine. I'm sorry, there's little left. They coordinated the fires to start at the same time so it made sure that the fire department was split up and help was late getting there. I am going to have to find a new place for us."
Lupe chimed in quickly with "you can stay with us until you find one. The boys need a home and it'll be best to have them close to those who care about them. We have the space, and it's good to have other people over. Plus Reyna loves having your brother over."
Reyna was blushing while Liam hugged her tight. Ashley smiled at that, it was nice to think that his dad had found a possible new girlfriend who had a daughter who understood him. He started to drift off to sleep with a smile on his face which the others used as the signal to exit. Cameron, Reyna, and Lupe kissed his cheek before they left, causing Ashley to smile as he had visions of them being a family racing through his head as he drifted off to sleep even if Lupe wasn't meant to be his new mother.
In the car, Cameron saw a glimpse of light shining through Lupe's hair making her look angelic. It was a sign to him, he needed to do something drastic right then and there. He asked Lupe if she would like an evening out. He needed a distraction and felt that it was a sign to him to ask her out and at worst she declined, at best it led to them becoming closer.
Lupe tried to come up with an excuse not to accept but Reyna gave her a hopeful expression that said that she should accept the night out. Liam added the same, but had classic puppy dog eyes that were all but impossible to refuse. She accepted, with Reyna being asked to watch Liam for them.
Liam hugged and kissed Reyna, the two hadn't planned it but their joint loving expressions were hard to deny. At home Reyna gave him a big hug and kissed his cheek, with Liam whispering "I want dad and your mom to marry. I want a mommy and big sister."
Reyna tried her hardest but shed a tear at the sincerity of Liam's confession. He wanted normalcy, even if Cameron and Reyna weren't "normal" by society's standards he saw them as he saw them and wanted a family that loved him and didn't treat him like an unwanted burden. Reyna had another idea, if they are her new brothers and father then she would get a grandmother who cared about her as well.
Cynthia was not going to be left out, she was part of the package. She was well liked by the family and Reyna knew from her friends that she was a great person who fought for her students. Having her as a grandmother was like having her own paternal grandmother back, a thought that gave her great joy.
The group arrived back at the Toro home and saw the two youngsters go to their rooms to give the adults privacy. Reyna gave Cameron a hug, offering a soft "she needs a night out" which was her way of showing that she wanted her to enjoy herself with her mother. Cameron hugged her back, kissing her cheek and giving her a "thank you" to show that he accepted her offer.
Reyna texted her girlfriend to tell her they weren't going out the next night as originally planned. Rachel Sylvester simply texted back "go easy on them, they need this." It was clear that she was happy for them but knew enough to know that these things take time to develop even with their blessings.
Ashley was to be released the next morning. Cameron drove over with Reyna while Lupe took Liam to the daycare. Liam was told what was happening and was fine with this, he wanted to play with DJ.
Ashley hugged his dad as they saw one another. Dr. Samuels, the doctor on call that day, gave him a few last minute instructions then insisted that he take things easy. He told Reyna to keep a close eye on him and to not overdo their plans, especially the plans for their parents' date night.
Ashley was taken aback by that announcement. Reyna had to explain "mom and your dad are going out on a date tonight. Both of them need it, they won't say anything but it's clear that they need a night out."
Ashley smiled at that. He didn't say anything on the way home, instead thinking about his dad finally getting out there on the dating scene. It was great for him, even if there were so few people who wanted to date someone like his dad. He hoped that Lupe was one of those few, she was a nice lady.
At the Toro home Ashley saw just who the neighbors were. It made sense now, Dr. Samuels knew about the date because he lived next door and his son Thomas was friends with Reyna. Seeing Al Samuels outside with Stephanie and their friends was a shock but one that he could endure since it was hard to not have word spread about them staying there.
Al and the others saw him moving slowly and in pain but didn't say anything about it. He could see the whispers among them, all knowing about the stabbing and all trying hard to not say something that may upset him. Reyna had her arm around him, telling the others "give him time before you come over."
Stephanie ignored her warning and told him "Rosalind will be over later. She had to see her doctor this afternoon otherwise she would have bee here with you." Ashley perked up at hearing that, with Al and the others seeing just how much he cared about Rosalind firsthand.
Reyna helped him up to his room and laid out his clothes for him. He tried to do it himself but she was not about to let him move too much. He was under strict orders from her to sit and watch TV while she and Cameron got things ready for dinner. Stephanie didn't say a word, grinning and leaving before she was kicked out by the suddenly sisterly Reyna.
Time passed slowly that afternoon. Reyna was all over Ashley, helping him get drinks while Cameron sorted out some things in the attic office/storage room. He peeked down every once and a while to see if they were doing alright, each time smiling as Reyna was treating Ashley like a little brother while he had a perpetual smile on his face and thanked her for every little thing.
Rosalind came by as expected, with Reyna keeping a close eye on the two for Cameron. Cameron had to hole himself in his room to avoid doing something to embarrass the kids, it was simply sweet and he had to smile at his son showing such maturity. He did see Rosalind with her arm over his shoulders and head on his shoulder as they watched TV, Reyna was in her room getting something and offered a soft "they aren't going to do anything, she cares too much about him to do more than kiss his cheek."
Rosalind was called away for dinner by Stephanie and gave Ashley a goodbye kiss on his lips. Reyna giggled at him to which she kissed his cheek causing him to say "yuck!" but smile at her. Reyna winked at Rosalind who was all smiles and trying her hardest to keep from saying something about just how sisterly Reyna was acting but showing she appreciated her doing that for Ashley.
When Lupe and Liam returned both hugged Ashley tight before doing the same to Cameron. Lupe kissed his cheek, not even thinking about it but meaning it nonetheless. Cameron thanked her for it and told her about Reyna being a huge help for Ashley while also keeping Al and the others away.
The kiss didn't go unnoticed by either Reyna or Ashley. Both looked at one another shocked but smiled as it was so innocent yet was very telling. Their parents had the hots for one another, and by the kiss it was clears that they weren't far off from finding love.
Upstairs in his room, Reyna asked Ashley about the kiss. Ashley sighed then smiled, asking her instead "do you mind having two younger brothers?" She countered with a firm "do you mind having an older sister who was born with a birth defect? I may not have it anymore, but still I had it."
Ashley shed a tear then countered "why should I care about that, I just want dad to be happy and I like that he may be happy with your mom. You are a good sister, Rosalind told me about you from how you treated her when she stayed with the Finns. You are what a big sister should be."
Reyna smiled at that, she added a warm "I always wanted a younger brother or sister but dad was killed and mom didn't want to burden Uncle Miguel with us. Mom loves kids, you are a good brother and are the kind of boy who moms want their sons to become. Liam is a good kid now that he doesn't have that jerk telling him a lot of garbage things. And your grandmother is a cool teacher, I am sad that I never got to have her as my teacher. She reminds me so much of my grandmother."
Ashley and she shared a long hug as Reyna remembered her departed grandmother. Ashley added a big "she would love you as a granddaughter. She is dad's biggest supporter but Grandpa hurt her too much so she wasn't able to help dad, but she would love you as a granddaughter."
Lupe and Cameron knew what the two were talking about but didn't say anything. It was tough but the two were not going to force things that weren't meant to be. The kids would understand, they were both close but it felt right to be closer. It wasn't love but it was more than friendship.
Their date that night was a simple outing to the family's go-to restaurant over in Somerville. Cameron appreciated that they weren't bothered but Lupe smiled and pointed out Juanita Vega and Carmen Carter keeping tabs on them for the Finn Family. It wasn't intrusive, but it was also meant to be them having a good time without interruption which the couple appreciated.
The date the following night was overshadowed by Cynthia being released from the hospital. She was sent to a rehab center to help her until she could manage on her own, something that didn't sit well with Cameron but she insisted on due to the family being in tight quarters already. Their house search was slow so it was a blessing in disguise.
It was felt that she needed care that Cameron and Lupe couldn't give, it wasn't meant to be a sleight against them but she needed rehab. She was strong but she was still fighting her concussion. The doctors felt that she was hiding her true pain, being in the rehab center would allow her to heal while at the same time she wouldn't have to mask her pain so as to not scare the kids or interrupt their lives.
The date went smoothly as Cameron and Lupe spent the evening talking and walking around Boston. It was the first time she had opened up to another in such a way as to show her inner woman, it was like she was a teenager again and Cameron her young boyfriend. It felt right to her, he was the one for her.
Cameron admitted to her that it was his first true date with a woman and that he had fought his sexuality for years until he admitted he was not a woman nor was he attracted to men. He was reluctant to admit that he had sex with men before but the only good to come from it was Ashley. He felt like he was falling in love with Lupe, she had the affect of making him feel like he was complete as a person and that she was the one true person for him.
The couple kissed. Lupe looked into his eyes and couldn't fight it any longer. She was finally able to admit to herself that she had fallen in love with him, she had been since the first night. The fire had been a blessing, Cameron was giving her what she needs and no matter how she tried to justify against it Cameron made her feel love for him.
As they went home Lupe told him affectionately "the kids are going to start picking out our wedding rings." Cameron joked "as long as they are fine with us they can plan everything. Mom always wanted me to find happiness and you are giving me the happiness I never had. I love you, Lupe."
The couple kissed deeply, then told the eavesdropping Reyna and Ashley to come out of hiding. They looked at them and Cameron announced "I'll marry your mother, if she will have me." Lupe countered "I'll marry your father, if you will have me." Ashley and Reyna added a tear filled "as long as we get to be a family. Mom and dad."
Cameron nodded to Reyna, Lupe nodded to Ashley. They would sign the paperwork as soon as possible. They simply added "Byrne" and "Toro" to their names so it was easier on the kids while showing they one big blended family.
The couple spoke for hours while the kids were in bed, deciding that they wanted a small ceremony at city hall with Cynthia and Miguel as witnesses. The kids would be there as well but it was easier to have a small ceremony rather than a large gala.
A week later the couple married. Judge Perez approved the paperwork that day, she refused to delay something that deserved to go through fast after the years of horror the court caused the Byrne family. She was proud to announce the five as the newly dubbed Toro-Byrne family. They were all smiles with not a dry in the house, especially from Miguel Toro who bawled at his sister finding true love again.
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