The night after the first meeting with Delisle, when he'd first learned that he might lose Jefferies, Missy stayed without him having to ask. Jefferies picked up on their worries and was irritable and clingy. Finally they got her to sleep in Jyarl's bed, and Jyarl pulled Missy close - her on one side of him, and Jefferies on the other.
"Hey Halifax?" He kept his voice soft. Jefferies was snoring softly, and he didn't want her to overhear this.
"How do you feel about Jefferies?"
"I love her, Jyarl. You should know that."
"I know, but..." he tried to think how to put it into words. "...I mean, you have your own kid."
He can feel her shaking her head. "It's not the same."
"Yeah, I guess it wouldn't be," he said, trying to hide his disappointment.
"My son... I love him, but I don't know him. I've never held him in my arms - not once. He's more of a dream than anything. Jefferies is real to me."
Jyarl squeezed her as he let this sink in. "I want to ask them, if they don't approve me, because of my character, to consider you instead. But then if it goes bad... it would probably be the species thing. That they'd want an orc."
Missy was silent for a few moments. Finally she said, "If that's how it happens, I want to go with you."
It had only been a few hours, so he'd been able to do nothing more than sketch out plans in his head. But it didn't surprise him that Missy had guessed he'd run rather than let strangers take Jefferies.
"You'd lose everything you have here," Jyarl warned. "Your job, the city. We'd be outlaws."
"Please, Jyarl. Don't make me go through it again. I know she's not really mine, but if she were torn from my life, I'm not sure how I'd survive it."
Jyarl pulled Missy close and kissed her roughly. "I won't let that happen."
Jyarl remembered that night as he packed bags the night before the decision. He'd let Halifax get closer than he'd ever thought possible. Since his time in the Penal Legions in his home universe, he'd had nothing to offer but fury and death. That hadn't changed when he'd found himself in the Nexus and joined up with Mortal Coil.
He tried to think what had happened to soften him, and it all came back to one day in the Rec Centre when a pug puppy had crawled onto him. Who was it who had brought the dogs in? Carl maybe? Geoff? He couldn't remember. Gorgutz was just as tough and ready for a fight as his owner, so he shouldn't have been able to change Jyarl.
Except he did. When Jyarl was deeply hung over from combat drugs, he dragged himself out of bed for the dog when he wouldn't for himself. When Jyarl was mired in self-hatred, Gorgutz had shown him unlimited adoration. When Jyarl tried to despise everyone around him, Gorgutz had run up to them cheerfully and begged for attention.
If the pug hadn't made a crack in his armour, he wouldn't have given Jefferies a second glance. He'd have just left her in the medical tent for others to deal with. Hells, she wouldn't have even been Jefferies. She would have been sent out to an orphanage or foster family, and they would have given her a different name. They would have treated her differently, raised her differently. Perhaps better?
He deliberately calmed himself. Perhaps better then, but not now. Jefferies called him Daddy. It would hurt her to be taken away to strangers. She shouldn't lose a second set of parents so soon after losing her first. If he truly, honestly believed she would be better off without him, he thought he could try to let her go. But as long as she needed him, he'd be there for her.
With his heart wide open for Jefferies, he supposed it was inevitable that Missy had slipped in too. It was her treatment of Jefferies that had done it. Her patience and her kindness with Jefferies. Her generosity with her time. Not just her time. She'd spent quite a bit of money buying clothes and toys for her. Then there was the day she had made Jefferies a beneficiary of her death benefits - equal benefits to her own son. All without asking anything in return. The only request she'd made of him was to take her if he had to flee with Jefferies.
What did he have to offer a woman like that - Especially if they did have to go on the run?
He heard Missy letting herself back in. "My things are in the car. How are you?"
Jyarl gestures at one small duffle bag. "My things." Then at four more, much larger. "Jefferies' things. And I'm not sure the toys I packed are the right ones. I'd hate to leave behind her favourites."
"I think as long as we have Master Chief and her boxing gloves, we'll be fine," Missy says. "Remember, we'll have money." She'd liquidated half of her savings into gold, and divided it into several stashes throughout their packed gear. "Did she ask any questions?"
"Yes. I told her we might be going to stay at a new place, and I had to pack up some of her things. She said she hoped that you'd live with us in the new place instead of at a different house."
He watched her closely as she turned away, watched her try not to show how much it affected her.
"I put her to sleep in my bed so we could all be together tonight," Jyarl said, as he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her temple.
Maybe it was enough that he could offer her a family.
The next morning, it felt like he was putting his heart in the car when he packed up Missy and Jefferies and Gorgutz to send them to spend the day at GLoG. Jefferies nearly tantrumed because Daddy wasn't coming too, and she wanted to show him how fast she could swim now that she had a red swim suit. Gorgutz vomited in the travel kennel before the car had even started. It wasn't the best of goodbyes.
I will see them again. I will see them again. he told himself as he rode along on the Riftline back to Social Welfare to meet with the Warp-damned ****s who wanted to take his daughter from him.
When he reached Social Welfare, he found the place subdued, the people quiet. There were flowers in the lobby - several different arrangements, and a table nearby with cards on display. The receptionist asked him to wait, and then had to field a succession of phone calls. Jyarl tried not to growl as the clock ticked - 10 minutes, 20 minutes past the appointment time. Finally, he was shown in to Aliswyn's office. The goblin Kardo was there, his ears down.
"We're sorry to keep you waiting, Mr Hellstomper. Things have been somewhat strained here. I dont know if you've heard about our tragedy?" The elf woman asked. When the expression on Jyarl's face showed that he hadn't, she went on. "Tauno Nurmi was murdered in his own home a few days ago."
"Beheaded." Kardo added. "We're all still in shock."
Jyarl remembered Magtok's son turning himself in for killing human supremacists. He'd taken their heads... It had only been two days ago that Jyarl had processed the young man into the Penal Company, going easy on him because Missy had asked it of him. Could it have been Cassius who had killed Tauno Nurmi? If he'd seen the name Nurmi on the victims list he would have recognized it. But no, the victims had not yet been identified. When Jyarl had signed the forms, the victims had just been so many John and Jane Does.
"His report was strongly against your adoption, but when we went through his records... some documents that we found have led us to question his ability to be impartial as a child advocate, particularly where non-human children are concerned. We decided that our decision had to be made without reference to any of his recommendations. Kardo?"
"Aliswyn and I both have concerns about your stability as a parent figure. Your efforts to rehabilitate yourself for Jefferies' sake are certainly to be commended, and we can only hope they continue. Aliswyn believes that Jefferies will miss out on a great part of her heritage by a cross-species adoption. I have no such concerns, as your case has shown that the Remnant base is multi-cultural and that she has regular contact with people of many species. Both of us agree that a strong parental bond is in place between you and Jefferies, and that despite our reservations, it is in the best interest of the child to confirm the adoption."
When Kardo finished speaking and Jyarl had to turn over the words in his mind a few times before he could speak.
"That's it? She's mine?"
"She's yours," Kardo says, his ears showing amusement. "Congratulations! It's a girl."