Real Family Part 17- Finale

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Juan's death hit the family hard. Hannah broke down as she cradled Juan's lifeless body in her arms. Ian was angry that he couldn't catch any of the cousins and felt that he let Juan down in not stopping them right away. His wife Sheila could barely contain his rage, he had never failed at anything before.

Ian gave his statement to his colleagues and went to the gym, needing to work off his aggression. Sheila instead took him home to her mother's home where he could let out his emotions with people who wouldn't judge him for crying. He couldn't say no to her loving eyes nor the pleading look of his sister-in-law Avery and mother-in-law Ruth.

Bryan called Willie and had him coordinate the investigation while Paige contacted Jorge and Victoria to tell them the horrible news. Both were speechless and if it wasn't for Addison Carter being beside them outside their apartment both would have completely broken down as they shared a grief filled embrace and cried. She took over for Bryan, this was her area of expertise and the family would know if she knew then the Castillos already knew and they would be left alone to grieve in peace.

She had her girlfriend Carmen Vega keep a close eye on the two while Carmen herself tried to hold together. Addison was the farthest from the family, she wasn't related to anyone except by friendship and dating Carmen so she could serve as the one to break the bad news while everyone vented at her. It wasn't personal, she was the one who could take it best and hold herself together for others' sake.

Alice Rodriguez offered to take over for the emotionally drained Addison but she refused. Addison conceded that Alice should be the one to tell Jorge's grandchildren even though Eric, Reed, and Raul already knew. She hated having to tell Billy but it wasn't an option not to tell him, he understood death already but this is the first person he had met multiple times and played with at home dying.

The last ones to be told were the Flynns. Todd and Astrid had taken the girls to Nancy's ballet practice so had been spared the horror down the street. They had to break the news to Rachel Douglas and Olivia Samuels who did more consoling of Astrid than she did of them.

The kids were told once practice was over. Mia wailed at hearing the news, Nancy tried her hardest but it was impossible to calm her. She had lost her uncle, the man who had made it possible to become Mia and gave her a real family not a group of relatives who lived together and shared a last name. No amount of consoling could make up for the loss of Juan.

The girls turned to Al Samuels who knew they wanted her to talk with Mia. Al steeled herself, then finally hugged Mia and explained "bad things happen to good people at the worst times. Juan died but he died because he wanted you to be the woman you were born to be. He doesn't want you to be sad over him dying, he wants you to live your life. Your living is his greatest gift, as long as you are Mia he will forever live on."

Mia was still crying but understood what she meant. Juan had made her lifelong dream come true and through her being Mia his impact on the world would live on. Al hugged her while nodding to the others that Mia was going to be alright but they would keep an eye on her.

The investigation had closed down much of the area as the weapons were being found, photographed, and had fingerprints taken. They were all found but so far flung that the neighborhood was all but closed off. It was felt that Mia should go to York home with Nancy while Astrid and Todd dealt with the state police detectives and answered their inevitable accusations about Mia that the cousins would lay against them.

Todd got the expected tough questions as the Castillos claimed he kidnapped Mia and he had no right to house her. Todd showed they were both wrong and stupid as he produced the adoption order with Todd telling them firmly "she has eyes and ears in the city and would not have done this without knowing that they were going after Juan. I'd expect she will have the DA's ear alongside the governor. If she knew then it doesn't take much investigation at all to get people to turn on them especially given his connection to the head of their family."

David Peterson arrived and had a few words with the detectives. They were unaware that Willie Pena and John Finn were related to Jorge Castillo let alone Willie being his son. The fact that Willie called them in directly before the medical examiner had even gotten there was explained, with David adding that the governor knew through his grandchildren telling him- all five of them. He then added "his eldest granddaughter and grandson-in-law witnessed the attack, the Baileys are his grandchildren through Sheila Bailey and he was told directly by his daughter and granddaughter. They are waiting for you at his daughter's house."

Todd didn't need to say anything further, the troopers were called directly by their captain and told that it was to be investigated fully given the multiple connections to major people and with there being six eyewitnesses to the attack, all of whom have strong support. When they were asked about their unnecessary inquiry into Mia they tried to claim it was due to accusations that it was a kidnapping. That got a laugh followed by a firm order to drop that line of thought as they knew it to be false unless they were going to accuse multiple police personnel of illegal behavior all without evidence, with a valid judicial decree, and with a judge who will be keeping an eye on the case.

They offered their apologies to Todd who brushed them off. Todd then told them that the perpetrators were known and if they asked Juan's uncle they'd have who they were, where they lived, where they worked, and where they were heading to next. The troopers asked how he would know, Todd just grinned and pointed out "Jorge Castillo is their uncle and keeps tabs on his nieces and nephews. Just ask anyone in the city about him and you get your answer. And he isn't some mafia don, he is simply a man who earned respect from thousands of people."

The troopers drove off to talk with Jorge as the crime scene techs finished their examinations and procured the videos from Juan's, Hannah's, and Todd's homes. The techs were more than happy to thank Todd and Hannah for assisting with one joking that it'll only be a couple of years before they hire on their cousins. That got a needed laugh as Hannah happily pointed out the ones to look out for if their names came up on applications with the same tech adding "they are hired the second they graduate. That's direct from the major and colonel themselves. Your cousin Rachel especially is wanted."

Hannah needed that light moment as Astrid and she hugged tightly. Hannah hated losing people she cared about and having it happen in front of her eyes was simply heart-wrenching. Lilly Peterson came by to take Hannah to her house with Pete being forced to come along for support as Daisy and Claire would need the couple's support when they were told the bad news. Bryan and Paige were sent home to their mother Anne's home to be consoled by Paige's sisters while Anne ensured Todd and Astrid were covered just in case the Castillos tried to get at them through DCF channels.

At the York home, Mia was put to bed with Nancy joining her. The two hadn't said a word since being dropped off, they only cried then showered before laying down to rest. Mia was physically drained but Nancy was running on fumes emotionally. Juan was the first person she knew who had died that she had any real contact with. She had met Linda Brown twice but Juan was someone she had grown to love as an uncle.

In the morning the kids were in a trance with Nancy going to school but not doing much during the day. None of the 13 kids were in any sort of mood to do much of anything. Yvette struggled with sending them home or keeping them there, opting to keep them as it would put too much strain on their parents as it was.

She did offer them a chance to talk with a grief counselor but the kids kept to themselves and chose to stay close to their family members which were understandable. She had to shed a tear as they told her that he wouldn't want them to miss school because of what others did to him, he wouldn't accept it. She released them with all being told to take things easy, the pain would pass.

She walked out with them and observed someone with Peggy Raymond waiting. The girl looked familiar but Yvette couldn't place her. The kids were surprised to see her with Nancy hugging her tight as she saw her. Yvette went over to her and introduced herself, asking her her name.

Mia looked at the others who encouraged her to say something. Mia steeled herself and mumbled barely above a whisper "I'm Mia." Yvette stepped back and looked at Nancy who nodded, the little boy who had been the bully of the school and who spent hours in her office was standing before her in a dress and styled hair, complete with ribbons and earrings. She had trouble reconciling that this was the same person that she had expelled the week before but she knew it to be true.

Yvette smiled at the scared Mia, telling her warmly "it's nice to finally meet you. I wish it had been under better circumstances but I understand your reasons for doing what you did and that you accepted the consequences. I hope that you don't think that just because your grandmother is teaching you that you can get away with slacking off. Mrs. Rodriguez and Ms. Vega won't accept that from their new students especially as it may give your sister the wrong idea."

Mia hugged her, tearfully thanking her. Yvette hugged her back, it wasn't just her accepting her as a girl that was causing her to cry. Mia was releasing some pent-up emotions from the day and Yvette gave her the much-needed outlet.

Peggy led the girls away while the boys went their own way for the day. Ivan King asked who that was, getting a somber "she was Adrian Hernandez, now she is Mia Flynn." Ivan understood what she meant and would allay any questions about her from others. Mia didn't need tough questions yet, especially not from people who would use the information to harm her.

The girls did their homework with Mia helping them, much to their shock as well as their enjoyment. It meant more to her than to them, she needed this little act of friendship and showed she was not the lazy kid who barely passed each quarter that they knew for years. She was bright and while she didn't understand everything she at least could find the answer she needed and explain it once she found it.

Dante and Steven came over to work on homework once the younger boys realized they had too much to do themselves. The boys couldn't believe Mia was so smart let alone that she knew what she was telling them, Mia never showed it in school and Carlos never did his homework so they always barely passed. Mia just shrugged, it was simply her being herself which the boys were happy to see.

The adults kept a close eye on the boys with Steven and Nancy making eyes at one another while Dante and Margaret did the same. It was sweet as they didn't realize they were doing it. It was expected as the four were the most mature of the kids. Mia, Nichole, and Kylie didn't do that, Mia had eyes for girls while Nichole and Kylie hadn't found their true sexuality yet and neither really cared for the boys in their class anyway.

It was decided that the four would need "the talk" with Mia getting dragged in as well. It was awkward enough as it was, she could unintentionally cause a firestorm if her sexuality was revealed to others. It was tough enough transitioning, but to also like girls? That would not be accepted by most people and would cause many who didn't like transgender people to use it to harm her.

The four fourth-graders actually had no homework and used the excuse to get the six together. Dante and Steven needed more time with Mia and she needed as many people around her who knew her and cared about her as she could get. Sean Kelly just grinned at the four, telling them they were good men for doing that little devious act for all the right reasons.

That morning and the previous afternoon were spent searching for the Castillo cousins. Every city and town in a 30-mile radius had their particulars. It seemed like overkill but the departments took it seriously once it was learned that Juan was family to law enforcement personnel particularly a chief.

Two were found trying to hide in a distant relative's apartment up in Lowell. They had thought they could blend in and lay low until the heat died down then move to New York or Miami. They were wrong, the police were at the apartment as soon as they arrived. They tried to claim they were innocent but they were caught on video. They had the clothes they were wearing at the time in their bag complete with blood and rust marks so there was no denying it was them once a match was confirmed.

Two more were found trying to drive to New York. A "be on the lookout" was immediately sent out for their car which was stopped at the state line by members state police with members of the Connecticut State Police ready to take over the chase on their side should they try to run. They did try to run and thought they had beaten the troopers when they crossed the state line but were met by a hidden cruiser then tackled by a very eager police dog.

The last three never made it outside of Winnisimmet as they went right back home. They tried to grab as much money and things of value as they could but never made it outside their apartment building. They were mobbed by Jorge's friends and dropped off at the state police barracks hogtied and naked with their bloody clothes used to tie them up. The two never had a chance to change, the clothes were covered in Juan's blood and the claims that they weren't their clothes were refuted as their own wallets were still in the pockets of the jeans.

Judge Matthews read the charges and denied them bail. Their public defender tried to argue against that but Judge Matthews happily pointed out they had shown they were flight risks and were a danger to anyone who didn't do as they asked. They demanded that charges be brought against the people who hogtied them, to which Judge Matthews pointed out that they were performing citizen's arrests on wanted fugitives who had shown no regard for the safety of others.

The court burst into laughter while Judge Matthews called the next case. He phoned Valerie to get the information about the situation and was glad that Jorge's people hadn't had the chance to get to the ones who fled as they were the ones who did most of the assault and delivered the fatal blows. Judge Matthews had no problem telling her that the family lost someone who had done more in two weeks than most would do in a lifetime and he'd ask the superior court judge to ensure proper punishments.

The week went by too fast for the kids as they were kept busy each afternoon with schoolwork and keeping the toddlers and babies entertained. Billy Pena fell in love with Mia the more he played with her to the point that she couldn't go anywhere without him following behind her. It was both flattering and amusing, she loved the attention and the girls were happy that he wasn't annoying them.

Billy asked if she was a boy down there like Kylie which she tried to look for help from the others. Billy wanted the truth, to which Mia confessed she was a boy down there but a girl everywhere else. He hugged her, telling her she was a good girl and better than Kylie which Kylie took offense to.

Benny Herman did the same but did it because Mia needed a hug after Billy's sudden, shocking question. Benny didn't say anything, just kissing her and running off. It made her feel better with the girls all telling her he did that to everyone and knew what you needed when you needed it.

The weekend was the toughest for everyone as Juan's wake and funeral brought out a lot of anger and fights from the Castillos over Jorge and Victoria allowing all of the family there except them. Jorge told them authoritatively he was following Juan's wishes as he spelled out in his will and would not break them because they wanted to pretend to care about Juan to get at his assets. There were threats to which Jorge grinned and told them "go ahead and try. I held back others from hurting your brothers and cousins, I can't hold them back from hurting you for threatening me."

The fact that Willie, Alice, and Ricardo were there infuriated the Castillos more, they weren't real Castillos in their eyes. Jorge grinned then asked what their own lasts names were with none of them carrying the name Castillo making it moot. The only ones with the name Castillo were in jail, with their wives abandoning them for their lovers that they pretended the ladies didn't have. Jorge was the last non-incarcerated Castillo carrying the name and as the eldest Castillo overall it was his right to force his way.

The Castillos left, vowing to fight him in court. They made a mistake in saying that in front of Valerie who proudly explained "as executor of Juan Perez's estate I can officially tell you that none of you got anything and you have no legal claim to his estate. The only person who has a claim to it is neice and what she gets will not be revealed to you as you have no rights to anything."

There were more threats to sue but Valerie just grinned and pointed out "he filed a will before he died. It states who gets what and when. Only one person is named it, his niece. She is his closest next of kin who isn't incarcerated and thus is the only member of your family who never used him for their own needs nor threatened death on him for leaving. She is well protected so don't even try to go after her as I will bring down the full wrath of the law on you without a second thought."

Inside Mia saw the casket and shed tears but didn't break down. She knew Juan was gone and she would always remember him. She vowed to be the girl he wanted her to be and would try with all her heart to make something of herself. It was the least she could do for her beloved uncle.

The family gave her some time alone while she knelt silently in front of the casket mouthing inaudible to Juan's fallen body. They could tell she was vowing something but the smile on her face showed she was doing it with a strong will. She had released her pent-up grief and was now free.

Jorge and Victoria hugged Todd tight. They talked with him about Mia and what they had done without Jorge's inclusion. Todd vehemently told him "we didn't feel we needed your approval nor did we want it. We did what we did for Mia's sake and we would do it again."

Jorge smirked, the man did as expected. Victoria just hugged him and told him "you were thinking of her and only her. He wanted you to do it because he trusted you to do what was right. Jorge is just not used to any member of the family doing something like this without his approval. Juan did it without a second thought, just as you filed for adoption without a second thought. He only wants to be part of her life. She, Kylie, Reed, and Billy are the last members of his family who he can call family, please allow him that privilege."

Astrid answered for him, telling her they'd do it for Jorge. He deserved to see her grow up just as he sees Kylie and Billy grow up. Jorge hugged them for doing that, it didn't matter to anyone else but to him, it was the world. The Castillo name may be forever tainted but the children would live on and be his legacy. A name didn't matter, the family did.

The following day they experienced the same issue with the Castillos. This time though they didn't like the response they received as multiple police officers from out of town were there to pay their respects, all of whom went to school with Juan or were related to Juan through his father's side of the family. They embraced Jorge and saluted Willie out of respect, with Jorge telling them their uncle would be proud of showing their respect.

Victoria was shocked to see Juan's friends and family there. Jorge just grinned and happily told her "my nieces and nephews thought they were being slick but it backfired on them. They thought they were trying to prevent them from going, it turned out they didn't know Juan had died let alone who had killed him and came out to pay their last respects. I told them we had everything in hand but they are going to ensure the other side of the family keeps my nieces and nephews in order."

The Perezes were eagerly greeted by Mia who recognized most of them and all of whom recognized her. There weren't any questions about why she was dressed the way she was, they suspected that she was the way she was long before she turned into Carlos Castillo's stooge. Mia embraced several of her distant cousins while they told her how pretty she looked now that she wasn't acting like a tomboy, it was the best possible thing she could have heard from them and made her cry tears of joy.

The funeral turned tear-filled once Juan was lowered down. Mia held herself together as she embraced Astrid and Nancy as Todd held her shoulder for comfort. She had cried herself out, she was now numb to the feeling of pain and loss and could only silently cry. It was the last grief she had but it needed to be let out.

Logan had trouble keeping himself together and finally started crying openly, he couldn't help but feel pain at knowing the man he loved as an uncle was no longer there. It was coupled with the still raw feelings over losing his mother and seeing her buried nearby only two weeks before. The two people who had been the greatest, most positive influences on him were gone in such a short span of time. Michael had to comfort him while he wept into his chest, losing his cool but being told it was alright to let it out since he knew Juan better than anyone else.

Ella was flanked by Daisy and Faith and had trouble holding herself together. Daisy warmly told her to let it out causing Ella to break down completely. Faith hugged her tight as she told both that she hated losing people especially ones who she loved. Both said the same, it was painful and rough on them.

Steven and Dante felt horrible about everything. They had never known their real parents and only knew the foster system so seeing so many people coming together on such a sad occasion was both unsettling and awe-inspiring to them. Graham and Riley hugged Steven as he cried, the tough exterior evaporating as he saw the man who had played a small role in getting him with a loving family was lowered into the ground.

Dante realized that this was all due to family and saw that sometimes having a family isn't a good thing. Juan's own family killed him, simply because he was defending Mia against people who were trying to harm her. He felt for her. He finally realized that no matter what, all that mattered is love and what his mother and father had for him was real love. He smiled and had tears in his eyes, he felt great pride in them throwing open their arms and taking in someone knowing he hadn't been the best of people especially to their own son and loved him unconditionally.

Little Julio kept a tight grip on Dan's hip and was crying throughout the ceremony. He understood death, he had seen several of his grandparents' friends pass away including one who died staying overnight that he, unfortunately, found the next morning. Juan was different, he was the nicest man he ever met and the first person to ever treat him like a person, not an unwanted baby.

He kept looking up at Dan then at Melanie and finally at Joseph and Evelyn Johnson. He couldn't fathom losing any of them let alone losing them suddenly. He didn't know why Juan died, all he knew was that he died and everyone was angry and sad at it happening. Nobody blamed Juan, he knew it wasn't Juan's fault but he felt scared that people were mad at him for some reason.

Dan picked him up into a deep hug, letting him cry into his shoulder. DJ did the same with Melanie, it was too much for them at that moment. They hugged their parents tight and wouldn't let go.

The ceremony broke up with everyone gathering for a memorial service that the family felt would do everyone some good. Juan's friends and paternal family went with everyone getting a chance to meet each other. It was just what everyone needed, a chance to decompress and remember the man who had touched so many for so long and who had directly impacted the lives of six children in such a short period of time.

Ian, Willie, Dan, John, James, and Quentin Nelson talked with their colleagues, men who had worked alongside them before and never knew their common connection. Willie was pleased with them and took note of two who were prime candidates to laterally transfer to the city. They lived there but worked in neighboring Pullen Point and would appreciate the better work and increased pay.

The offer was made and accepted, they were actually being laid-off in the near future so it was a godsend to them. Juan had helped his family once again, bringing a smile to Willie's face as they both raised a glass of soda in his memory. It was just like Juan to do that, always the indirect helper.

Juan was classmates with Gabby Bollinger and Lilly which was a surprise to them as they didn't remember him. Juan had actually been a year behind Gabby in both Umass-Amherst and high school but shared classes with her. Jake and Zeke Bollinger were surprised at the mutual acquaintances that they shared, it was like being back in school with several of them. Juan actually had a picture of Gabby in class which caused Jake and Zeke to snicker at Gabby being caught looking like she just got out of bed and heading right fro class getting a glare from her and laugh from her kids.

Ricardo spent much of the time formulating a plan of attack for when the lawsuits regarding Juan's will came the following day. He was knocked out of his daze by seeing someone he didn't expect to see, Judge Perez. She greeted him and was met by shock and surprise but given a warm hello.

Valerie came over and relieved Ricardo who was struggling for words. She didn't take offense at it, she told warmly "I'm here for personal reasons, not business. I wanted to pay my respects to my cousin."

Ricardo wanted to smack his head at not seeing it but it was clear- the name Perez. Judge Perez was greeted by her cousins and siblings who were eager to introduce her to the Finns which she had to fight a laugh at hearing. Valerie asked that she see someone in particular, taking her to where Mia was sitting with her sister and their friends.

Judge Perez said hello to Mia who introduced herself. Judge Perez looked at Valerie then grinned widely, it wasn't hard to see that she favored their side of the family over the Castillo side. She told Mia affectionately "I'm Martha, your uncle Juan's cousin." Mia was polite and said hello while trying to focus on what the others were doing with Judge Perez smiling back at her.

Valerie had big grin to which Judge Perez told her "she looks like her grandmother. My goodness, she was never male. I swear she must have some feminine genes in her because there's no way she could be that much like her grandmother and not have them."

Valerie looked over at Richard Samuels to which Judge Perez grinned at. It was now Valerie's next step with Todd and Astrid's blessing. Judge Perez made her rounds and spoke with her cousins as well as Juan's friends before finally getting noticed by the kids and teens who had been before her in court. Trinity Eliza stopped short as she saw Judge Perez with her having to tell Logan who she was and what she had done for so many of them.

Jorge made his way over and gave her a big hug. It was unclear how he knew her but the way they talked she had met him before with the adults starting to realize the connection. There were a few groans as some of the brightest minds among the family didn't notice the connection before.

Valerie sat Logan, Ella, Steven, and Dante down and told them that she was likely to be the judge who held their hearing the following month to finalize their adoptions. The boys were naturally afraid but Valerie told them that she was here for family reasons and that she was well aware of what was going on with them already. That allayed their fears but they still felt odd being around someone who held their future in the balance.

Judge Perez took note of the kids being so normal and thriving with their parents, siblings, and cousins. She spoke with her relatives about it, happy that she had been able to see so many working hard at doing what was best for so many kids. It was rare for her to see the good in her job, Juan had actually given her a gift that she needed and it was paying off as she felt a lot better about herself and her job.

The next day she sent in her formal complaint about her colleague's actions in court regarding Linda Brown. She didn't hold back, she was going for the throat and she had enough ammunition to ensure that he was removed. She actually got admonished by her colleagues for rekindling the investigation against him after he got it snuffed out by friends on the judicial conduct commission but to her, it needed to be done no matter the personal cost against her.

She caught the right people at the right time and her complaint was pushed forward with the governor making his own formal complaint backing her up. The Governor's Council agreed that the judge had consistently overstepped his powers and had in the case of Linda illegally threatened her. Governor Christian James took great pleasure in taking the removal before a joint session of the General Court to which he announced the removal of the judge and that the state would look into such behavior closely from then one making judges live up to the standards that were intended not their own arbitrary rules.

Judge Perez was singled out for taking her colleague to task. Governor James didn't retaliate like some wanted, instead he offered her a promotion to first justice for the probate and family court allowing her to remain where she was but ensure that she had a hand in cases being handled properly. He had discretely gotten the former first judge to retire over his inaction allowing a vacancy to open up allowing Judge Perez to be promoted. He grinned at her as she was sworn in the following day, telling her that she had a future in the courts especially the Supreme Judicial Court.

As expected Ricardo and Valerie were served with lawsuits from the Castillos over Juan's estate. Ricardo had further issues as the family tried to allege that Todd and Astrid were abusing Adrian and that he belonged with his real family. There was no indication that they knew about the adoption let alone the name change so they were trying to get custody of a boy who ceased to exist.

Valerie and he had a field day as they made note of the issues with their claims. Juan left a valid will, even without a will his next of kin, since his mother and sister were going to prison, was actually Mia. To boot he had multiple witnesses to his intent to leave everything to her with Juan having Jorge and Victoria sign statements on his behalf showing his intent.

In the court, the judge laughed at the claims especially when Valerie showed when the will was signed and who signed it and more importantly why Juan had died. The judge looked at the Castillos and firmly asked "your brothers murdered him and you expect me to give you all of his money? If he was alive I'd call this robbery, but given that he is deceased I don't believe that you should profit from the actions of people even more cowardly than yourselves."

He read the will and asked why he had filed it so quickly. Ricardo pointed out "he feared that his family would kill him. He wanted his niece to not have to endure abuses that his family was going to give her and chose to give everything he owned to the person who mattered most to him- his niece."

The Castillos' lawyer tried to argue that Juan had no niece to which Valerie produced the damning paperwork. The judge read it over, saw who signed off on it, then announced "Juan Perez has a living niece who was adopted over a week ago by people who knew him and who he felt was best to raise her as their own. As per judicial decree, Adrian Hernandez no longer exists and is living with a loving family. As such your claims of abuse are based on falsehoods and outright lies."

There were vulgar claims and slurs hurled at Mia to which the judge grinned and added "it is that very behavior that Judge Perez ordered the adoption. Given the laws of the Commonwealth she is the heir based on being Juan Perez's closest relative and as her former parents and his mother are all facing long prison sentences they have lost all right to lay claim to his estate. Given that he saw fit to write a will knowing that your siblings and cousins were going to kill him I have no reason to believe that it was done under duress and as it was accepted by my colleagues I have no reason to deny it."

He grinned and announced "your claims are all dismissed. You have no actual claim to the estate of Juan Perez, in fact, the way you are acting I believe the estate may have a valid claim against you. I would offer you my condolences but I doubt you actually care about Juan in the first place."

It was over. Juan's entire estate went to Mia with Valerie signing all assets over to her in care of a trust to be split three ways. Mia was going to share her inheritance with her sisters with none of them knowing just how much Juan had left them until they came of age in a decade.

Things grew quiet for the family for the next two weeks as Ricardo awaited the next salvos from the lawsuits against the county hospital, Juan's old law firm, and against Ted Blue. Ted's lawyers tried to get the lawsuits dropped because of Juan's death but his actually being there wasn't needed, his estate had every right to continue the battle. Ricardo wasn't going to let them get away with it, they had to pay for what they tried to do to Juan. He deserved payback and this was what he was going to get.

Ricardo took no mercy and refused to take any settlements. The county tried to do everything possible to threaten him, even trying to use his personal life against him. That backfired as the judge asked what that had to do with anything as who Ricardo slept with or what his children had between their legs had no bearing on the case as none of them were part of the lawsuit.

The jury didn't like the attempt to discredit Ricardo one bit. Ricardo asked who they had to refute Dr. Samuels' findings, getting a list of people who had never examined a child with Ella's condition and who were using Dr. Samuels' own work as a basis for their assessment. When the doctors testified it was a bloodbath as they had done no actual research and their findings were all generalities and upon hearing that the man who had literally written the book on the disorder had both examined Ella and found fault with the hospital they had to concede they were in over their heads. If he said she was suffering from the abnormality then they could not refute it and had to support his findings.

The US Marshals had to intervene at times as the administrators threatened Ricardo as their own witnesses all turned on them and couldn't counter what Ricardo had brought. Things took a turn for the worse for them as their own emails detailing just how little they actually cared about her rights was revealed and how much they cared more about budgets than the welfare of their patients.

The administrators tried to show that it was all fabricated but Ricardo sent an email to the address listed and to the shock of the court it appeared on the phone of the administrators. He then asked the judge to inspect the phone and showed that the emails were still there and were the same as the ones presented by Ricardo. The judge just told the jury to disregard the claims about fabrication but the damage was already done and Ricardo had all but sunk them.

Ricardo went for the throat and asked point blank why they refused the surgery. The same "it was too expensive and "it was unnecessary" was used. Ricardo showed just how much it would actually cost with a year by year increase as Ella grew older. These started to include hormone replacement that wouldn't work, specialist visits to endocrinologists, finally psychiatric doctors who would have to deal with the issues of looming puberty. The last one was the cost of a wrongful death lawsuit which coupled with the statement that she was, in fact, female internally and would have died sometime in the next five years shattered any claims of it being either.

Even the most hardened juror was sickened by the emails and claims by the administrators. They spent hours debating but in the end, they all agreed to a guilty verdict. The judge had to hold back a smile as he announced that this was the second time in a year that the county had violated the rights of a patient with a similar birth defect that could easily have been fixed at little expense to the hospital. The fact that they were directly related was irrelevant and in fact was unknown. It wasn't the first time it had happened and if the review of the county hospital was finished he expected more cases to be found.

He awarded Ella treble damages, tripling the amount Juan had sought in the first place. The judge simply grinned and offered his condolences on Ricardo's loss and hoped Ella had a good life now that she was getting what she needed. Ricardo didn't respond, he simply thanked him and left.

He spent the next few days selling Juan's car and arranging to sell his condo. He next appeared in state court to battle the law firm over Juan's wrongful termination. Again Ricardo had to endure an attempt to dismiss the case based on Juan being deceased but the judge noted that just because he was dead does not change the fact that he filed the case before his death and it is not connected to it so it still stands.

Ricardo was vicious and went right for their throats, showing that they targeted Juan based on nothing more than baseless accusations by a man who was a proven liar and who had already cost the firm millions in revenue while Juan had never shown anything except loyalty and had saved them from ruin multiple times over his tenure. It was beautifully done with Ricardo giving an inspiring speech that had the jury captivated. There was no real counter to it, the firm was going on reputation and intimidation but Ricardo was not intimidated and their reputation was damaged when it was shown Juan had built much of the reputation and their informant was sitting in jail awaiting trial for using the firm to funnel money to people who were known organized crime figures.

Ricardo went at them over breaking their own charter in trying to get rid of a full partner. He showed emails that painted a trail directly to the top with all involved trying their hardest to get rid of Juan before he caused their house of cards to crumble when their lack of assets was revealed. The firm's reputation took a massive hit with dozens of clients ending their relationship and many supporting Ricardo's claims regarding Juan's worth to the firm.

The trial lasted three days with every dirty secret coming out as Ricardo found multiple people to support the conspiracy to get rid of Juan before Juan exposed the firm's shady dealings further. Ted being used as a source was laughed at by multiple junior members of the firm as they brought their own stories about Ted doing everything Juan was accused of doing. The worst was using Judge Hoffa as support for the claims, Judge Hoffa was brutalized by the media over his arrest and his connections to Ted were not overlooked especially as he had serious federal charges against him.

The firm lost badly and had to pay the full amount, with the amount being transferred immediately to Juan's bank account as the firm chose not to appeal. The firm was forced to file for bankruptcy and liquidate with the partners going their separate ways. The employees had expected this for a while and had secured their new jobs.

The last lawsuit was against Ted. His lawyers fought hard against Ricardo but the evidence was damning. Ted was forced to testify about the whole situation and was put under heavy scrutiny by Ricardo. Ted's story fell apart and holes showed immediately. He tried to blame Marlene but his own words in his emails showed it was all his idea and he was the one who got the trio involved in shady deals that Juan had uncovered and shut down then used Marlene to try to frame Juan.

The FBI and US Attorney kept close eye on the testimony. Ted was under oath and was forced to admit that he took money from known criminals to funnel to other places and people and that he was given a small percentage of the transactions as a fee. The money added up and at some point, he had to bring in Marlene and Judge Hoffa to help cover his tracks and give him a second and third source for stashing the money. When Juan intervened and destroyed his chance of getting a partnership and using the law firm directly to funnel the money he went after Juan.

Ted had unknowingly assured a conviction for himself in court. Ricardo got him to admit to having Marlene set up Juan's trip while they would incriminate him. He was going to have Juan fired and arrested clearing him for advancement and setting his plan back in motion but things fell apart that faithful Thursday.

Ricardo grinned as he told Ted "your little plan backfired. By pure luck, Juan had been at the right place at the right time to help a little boy and in doing so set in motion events that would lead directly back to Chicago and his own situation. His own greed and vanity caused Ted's misfortune, not Juan.

The jury watched as Ted was shown pictures of Julio, then of his own sister, niece, and nephew with their deceased sister's sons and daughter and granddaughter, then finally of Linda's funeral. Ricardo growled, "your own vanity led directly to the murder of your sister and death of your lover!" Ted's face went white as he learned of Marlene's death and lost all swagger and arrogance. He didn't care about Linda dying but losing Marlene was too much.

The judge asked the relevance of the pictures. Ricardo announced "they are images of people who were directly impacted by Ted Blue's actions. The little boy is Julio Lopez, he was saved by Juan Perez from freezing to death and abuse by his grandparents and placed in the care of his aunt and uncle. The next are of Ted's sister, niece, and nephew. They were forced to move east when Ted's relationship with Marlene Saunders was discovered and Ted and Marlene were incarcerated. Finally, the last picture is of his sister Linda's funeral, she was murdered by a man who was seeking the money Ted Blue and Marlene Saunders had held for him. They are relevant as the actions taken against Juan Perez directly impacted all of them changing their lives."

The jury ruled against Ted in only two hours. Ted lost $25 million of his $100 million. The federal government agreed to release it to Ricardo with the money eventually going into Mia's bank account. Ricardo called Todd and Astrid and told them that the girls were getting a large sum of money with both insisting that he set it aside for them with him telling them that was exactly as Juan wanted.

Ted didn't last long in the jail. He was taken out by someone who worked for the organized crime family whose money had been stolen and Ted had been shifting around. The group was angry that they had been exposed so much thanks to Ted's actions and felt there was no choice but to take out a loose end especially when it was learned that he had his own sister killed to recover the money. Ted was found curled up in his room with his underwear shoved down his throat and a noose around his neck , nobody saw him die and there was no evidence of anyone conducting it but it was clear that he was taken out by someone who knew what they were doing and didn't leave a trace of evidence behind.

At Ricardo's hotel room a note was left that simply read "Silvio Nero went rogue, nobody messes with women and children. Nobody." Ricardo understood what it meant, Silvio was going to face justice by the same rules that he was supposed to abide by. He broke one of the biggest in killing Linda, someone who had done them no wrong. Silvio would pay the ultimate price for doing that.

Silvio Nero was found the next morning hanging from his cell. The cameras in the cellblock were all shut down for a period of time, right when Silvio died. There was no forensics evidence and the US Marshals sent to investigate hit a dead end. Silvio's death was unsolved but anyone in the law enforcement community could tell that it was a hit against him for what he did to Linda. Nobody shed any tears as he was returned to his family but quickly cremated and forgotten in an attic as they refused to even acknowledge his death due to the dishonor he brought on himself.

John's foundations received two anonymous $1 million donations that were untraceable but accompanied by notes asking that the money is used to do some good. Each was in the name of Linda and Juan, John didn't like that they came from shady people but it was legitimate money. He accepted it and used it to help victims of crimes start new lives.

Ricardo was unsure what to do now that his right-hand man had died. Juan was tough to replace, but encouragement from his sister-in-law Kennedy and best friend Katie saw him offering a place for two new law school graduates to start. They were young people who were no different than Juan and just needed a chance to show their stuff. The fact that both were transgender didn't matter, one was a strong willed young man and the other a lady with a mind that was matched only by Kennedy and Katie.

Once the flurry of trials died down the whole family turned out for the adoptions of Ella, Logan, Steven, and Dante. The bulk of them waited outside the courtroom with Judge Perez joking that they could have held it outside but it would have caused too many traffic headaches. That got the kids snickering which was what she wanted.

The first up was Steven. Judge Perez happily told him "you deserve a chance at happiness and your parents and brother will give you that." She proudly proclaimed "you are no longer Steven Willis, you are hereby Steven Pierce, son of Riley and Graham Pierce." Steven was in tears as he hugged Riley and Graham with Oscar trying his hardest not to cry as he hugged Steven as well.

Judge Perez moved on to Dante and proclaimed "you certainly showed you are a true friend and are the older brother of a young man who has been through a lot in such a short time. You are no longer Dante Green, you are hereby Dante Kelly, the son of William Kelly Sr. and Amanda Kelly." Dante tried to keep himself together but cried as Amanda cried with Junior smiling brightly at having Dante as the older brother he had always wanted.

Ella and Logan were called before Judge Perez with both shaking in fear. Judge Perez looked at both and happily told them "tragedy happens far too often to good people but those people sometimes have the foresight to ask others to do things for them that help others. Your mother may have died but she asked two of the most amazing people in this state if not this country to take you in as their own. I hereby proclaim you to be Ella Linda Finn and Logan Marshall Finn, the daughter and son of John and Valerie Finn."

The two hugged John and Valerie tight as their brothers and sister circled them with their own hugs. It was tough but Judge Perez kept herself together. The sight before her was just so inspiring, two children had just won life's lottery in becoming officially and forever part of the family that all families should be modeled on.

The family separated and let the kids get settled in. Logan hugged Michael tight with Ella doing the same with Jaimie. Both kids were thrilled to be family to them and carry a name that meant the world to people in their city. Miles wisely stayed away, with JD and Cat playing with him as the four calmed their nerves.

It was quiet for several weeks for the family. The trials of the Castillos went on as scheduled and featured dozens of people coming forward to testify against them. Most of them weren't needed as the video evidence as well as the clothing and fingerprints were enough to convict them.

Their defense tried to blame it all on Juan but the witnesses in their own family showed it was premeditated and done out of malice. Juan had had no contact with the family outside of Mia so there was no reason whatsoever to go after him. The fact that his own sister had brutally abused her own child and Juan had protected Mia showed just how nasty the family was and why Juan stayed away.

The two caught up in Lowell were the least involved and turned on their cousins to save their own skins. They plead guilty to 2nd-degree murder and given 20-year prison sentences and testified against their cousins. The four were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole and sent to different prisons. They got off easy but they would have to endure people knowing where they came from and who they were related to and what they did and come to fear the punishments that they would be forced to endure from other inmates.

Juan's mother and cousins were sentenced to five years in prison each for assaulting a police officer as well as criminal threats charges. Mrs. Perez swore she'd get back at Jorge and the family but that only ended up earning her another year added onto her sentence. She grew to resent everyone and was a horrible prisoner who endured multiple beatings over her actions against others.

Mia's parents were sentenced to 10 years each for child abuse and attempted murder. They had to endure constant harassment and assaults from prisoners as their crimes were known among the prisoners. They broke the code of not harming children and to do so then getting others to kill their own sibling was too much. They were lucky they weren't killed but they endured a long sentence.

Carlos Castillo was a horrible inmate and couldn't be rehabilitated. He simply could not control himself and endured constant fights with fellow juvenile detainees. He had multiple mental health evaluations and it was clear that he wasn't wrong mentally, he was simply a horrible person.

Carlos was sentenced to confinement until he turned 21. He was all but disowned by his relatives with his own father being sent to prison for life for murdering Juan. He would eventually dive into a deep depression and would slowly start to see that his life was over and he was never going to be the gangster, mobster, tycoon that he thought himself to be.

With the trials out of the way the 5th graders got into a groove where they did their homework then spent their time playing in one house or another. Mia had a positive influence on them to the point that their grades improved. Their teacher tried to get their secret but she had to be told discretely to back away as some things were private prompting her to realize that they were getting help from someone who is best left forgotten by the school.

Valerie did as Judge Perez suggested and got her evaluated by a geneticist. She didn't have any abnormalities, she was simply naturally feminine. Mia was concerned but the geneticist explained that perhaps it was best for her as she could father children as some genetic disorders make it extremely tough if not impossible to father kids.

Mia took the news hard but understood just what he meant. She had a shock as she endured a sad realization that she was starting to become a man physically when she had a nocturnal emission. She was consoled by Dr. Bell who had her realize that it was a huge step for her as it meant that she could plan for her future. She, Astrid, and Todd had her do as Reyna and Kylie had done and stored her sperm for the future with multiple samples being taken and stored so she had multiple chances to become a mother.

Mia was able to start blockers and low-dose hormones after the storage of her semen. She was in tears as her endocrinologist administered the first doses of both with Mia hugging Astrid and Todd for allowing her to take them. She was disappointed that the changes would take a while but she was happy to be on track with Kylie and Nichole.

Both girls were doing the same and shared a special bond that Margaret and Nancy couldn't understand. All five girls were close but the special bond was evident. They were alright with that, neither girl could understand being born in the wrong body nor having a desire to change themselves the way the girls needed to do. They weren't looking forward to the next step in womanhood and were glad that the trio was not going to experience that.

The day of Ella's surgery finally arrived. It was tough on the Finns but Ella was a bundle of energy as the time approached. Valerie had to take her as John was a nervous wreck and could only be calmed down by Cat and JD keeping him distracted. Logan was happy that John cared enough about them to do more with them just to take his mind off Ella's situation.

The surgery was a complete success with the family preparing everything for her return. The twins were upset that they couldn't go to the hospital to visit her but were happy to play with Julio and Willow while their parents retrieved Ella. Ella was treated like a queen for the next week with everyone doing everything for her and her friends coming by every day to see her.

When she returned to school after missing two days to recover after April vacation ended Ella was enthusiastic and wanted to learn. Her teacher appreciated the enthusiasm and used her to do much of the classwork giving the kids a chance to calm themselves and learn more. She also made note to thank Yvette for giving her Ella, Daisy, and Faith to her class and have strong words with their former teacher over her actions.

Things were going well for the family as they started to gear up for the final stretch before the 14 teens graduated high school and the family would start to split up as the older teens began their lives away from home. The teens had a lot of minor battles and surprises as they worked hard to get the right colleges, earn their own scholarships and plan their futures more in-depth. Their next steps in their lives would be the biggest steps and ones that would change things for them forever.

The End.

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