Hey, I recognize that voice. I've been talking to her not too long ago. "Ellen?"
"Hey," Ellen breathes. "You got a sec?"
I smile. "For you always."
Ellen snorts. "Not so sure that Mac will be happy to hear that."
Shrugging, I move some of Gabe's toys out of the way and ruffle through his hair. He is sitting at the bar, drawing again. If there is something he loves to do, it's that. He barely does something else. "Well, she's not at home, so that shouldn't be a problem."
She starts to laugh. "Harm, be a little nice to her, will you? Did she go to work today?"
That she went. Didn't like it, but she had to. She had court and there was no way that the Admiral was going to let her stay at home with us. So I kissed her goodbye this morning and showed her to the door, telling her that everything was going to be okay and that we would be waiting for when she got back. So, here we are. I'm trying to decide what I want for dinner. Still not sure. "Yeah. Had to throw her out this morning. She had a little separation issue."
"Seriously? Mac having a separation issue? That's new."
Are you kidding me? New? Hardly. More along the lines of: always-been-there-but-suppressed. "Not really. But I don't think that you called to ask me about my day."
There is no way in the world that Ellen would be calling us just out of nowhere. There has to be reason. And I'm sure there. I still don't know what I want for dinner. God, this can't be so hard, right? I do this every day. Decide what I want, cook it, clean up dishes… That's all my job.
"You guys got temporary custody."
I almost drop the phone. What? Hammer, you're going insane. Really. Ellen did not just say that you and Sarah got temporary custody. "What?"
Ellen is smiling a very self-satisfactory smile right now, I'm sure of it. There are not a lot of things that make me speechless. "You heard me, Harm. The two of you got temporary custody of Gabriel, Noa and Shireen Moreno."
Completely dumbfounded I sink into a chair. We got temporary custody? After that stunt we pulled last weekend? Is she kidding me? "Are you sure? After what we did…"
"Harm, trust me, I'm sure. My ear is still red and hurting from all the phone calls I made in the past five hours or something to get it done. I'm not kidding."
Obviously. "You did all that for us?"
"Of course." She pauses for a moment. "Look, Harm. When I asked you guys to take care of the kids, I never figured that it would turn out to be like this. I never for a single moment figured that you guys would turn into a family."
You're not the only one, Ellen. Neither did Sarah and I. I run a hand through my hair and try to grasp reality. Temporary custody of the kids…
"But that is what happened," Ellen continues. "And honestly, seeing the five of you together yesterday, I hit me. You really care for those kids, and the kids adore the two of you. They deserve to be with you."
I don't know what to say. I look at Gabe's little form sitting on that stool; his hand above the pencils he laid out, trying to decide what color he is going to use next. Noa climbs onto my lap and nestles herself against my chest. And Shireen… I can hear Shireen babble somewhere in the living room. My face breaks into a smile. This is my family. My soon-to-be permanent family. I can feel it. "Thanks, Ellen. We owe you."
"Nonsense," Ellen protests. "I just did what I thought best for the kids. And in this case, that's to let them stay with you and Mac. There will be a hearing in two weeks where you can petition for full custody."
I stroke over Noa's little head and my smile grows ever wider. "Thank you."
Ellen nods. "No problem, Harm. Tell Mac I said hi."
With that, I put the phone down and pick Noa up in my arms. Gabe gives me a strange look. The kids are staying! They're not going anywhere for the coming fifteen years! A couple minutes later we hear the front door. "Guys, I'm home!"
That's Sarah's voice. Putting Noa down on the ground, I run over to the hallway and swirl Sarah around. She is completely caught off guard and starts to giggle. "Harm! Put me down!"
But I'm too excited to put her down. We got the kids! Finally, I set her back on her feet, take her head between my hands and kiss her long and hard. Sarah is the one who breaks the kiss in her need for air. Panting, she rests her forehead against mine and searches for her eyes. "What is wrong with you? Not that I'm complaining…"
Trying to catch my breath myself, I grin at her. "Go get changed. We're going out for dinner. Wear something nice." See, dinner problem is solved. We're going out. We are going to celebrate!
"We're going out for dinner? Harm, we can't. It's a school night. The kids have to be in bed on time." She narrows her eyes at me. "Will you please tell me what is going on with you?" She checks my temperature. "You're not coming down with something, are you?"
I grin at her, the biggest grin I've produced in ages. "We got temporary custody of the kids, Sarah," I whisper. Moments pass as Sarah tries to understand what I just said. She opens her mouth only to close it again. There are no words as she looks into my eyes. "What?" She's just as blown away as I was minutes ago. "We got temporary custody of the kids. The hearing is in two weeks."
We stare at each other for what looks like eternity. Then Sarah starts to laugh. Wraps her arms around my neck and hugs me. "You sure? Really, Harm?"
"Really, honey. Really."
When we look up, Gabe and Noa are standing in the doorway, looking at us. Gabe doesn't understand why we're standing there, smiles like a couple of high school teenagers. It doesn't make any sense if you ask me. Not really. "Can we eat? I'm hungry…"
Sarah and I lock eyes and laugh. This is our family. Our temporary soon-to-be permanent family. With one last kiss we let go of each other and pick the kids of the floor. "Who wants to go out for dinner?"
Gabe giggles and squirms in my arms. "Me!"

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