A/N: I hope everyone had a good transition into the new era and happy holidays! Since we're all still here, I thought I'd go ahead and update. This chapter is pretty heavy throughout the entire thing, sorry. I promise I'll start making it witty and excellent again after this. I hope you enjoy, and be sure to let me know what you think!
"So, I guess this is it."
I'm sitting cross-legged on the floor across from Daniel. He's looking down at a shoebox on his lap, lightly tapping his fingers against it.
"Okay," I say, unsure if he's expecting me to say anything else. He's been on edge ever since he woke me up this afternoon. He hasn't said much to me, and I've said even less to him. The tension is so thick I'm surprised I can't see it in the air.
Wordlessly, he picks the box up and hands it over to me. I pull the lid off slowly, feeling like I'm performing some sort of sacred ritual, and begin reading the paper on top of the pile. It's an old news article about a kidnapping at St. Francisco's Hospital. My stomach sinks as I read the first words of the article. The kidnapping happened February nineteenth. I search the front page for the year.
1987. Of course. If it wasn't that year, it wouldn't be relevant.
My eyes feel like they're on fire as I continue reading. Late at night on Thursday the nineteenth, a newborn baby was kidnapped from the maternity ward at St. Francisco's Hospital. There were no reports of suspicious persons in the hospital, no suspects. The police weren't able to recover the baby at the time of printing, but there was still hope that the baby was alive.
The kidnapped baby was named Aleksander Kasabian.
I'm having a hard time focusing. "This... Was it..." I can't finish my question.
Daniel answers, "The kidnapped baby was my brother." His expression is stony. I try to read his face, but am unable to.
A million thoughts are flying through my head. The baby could have been kidnapped and murdered. The baby could have been taken away to anywhere in the country. Or even out of the country.
"But you think it's me." I speak before I'm really able to finish formulating my thoughts.
Daniel thinks I'm his baby brother who was kidnapped as a newborn because I was born in the same hospital at the same time and because there's a grave with my name on it. But it's too much of a stretch. He just found one little thing and went with it.
I'm at a loss for words. Daniel says softly, "Maybe. I've been... We've been searching. This whole time. Mom never gave up on... on Aleksander. She never gave up. And I can't give up."
I meet his eyes and suddenly I want to know everything. How long have they been searching? What have they seen up until now? Why is he so sure it's me? What about the boys they thought were Aleksander but who weren't?
Daniel leans forward and hugs his legs. He has a distant look on his face. It almost looks cute. Or, it would, in a different context. "After Aleksander was kidnapped... We fell apart. Dad was the first. He couldn't handle Mom's depression. Lucine and I were too young to understand what happened. But he left. Didn't even say anything or hint at it or anything. One night he just took his wallet and a few things and left."
"Mom became obsessed with finding out who did it. It was the only thing getting her out of bed in the morning. At that point, we were practically being raised by our aunt and uncle back East. Mom dropped us off for a summer vacation and never came back that year. She would call every day, then every week, then once every month or two. Sis was okay with it, she was a lot happier there than here, but I would still try to go back and see Mom."
"The last time I was able to come back and visit, Mom had turned into a zombie, I swear. She had newspapers and phone books and contacts and numbers everywhere. The food in the fridge was rotting and she had lost so much weight I barely recognized her. But she kept on telling me, 'Danny, we're going to find him. We're going to find Alex and be a happy family again.' I was thirteen at the time. I went back to my Uncle's house, and after a week, we got a call from the police saying she had died."
At this point, his eyes are starting to water. I'm rooted to the spot. The emotion in his voice is making my body go numb.
"So then it was just Sis and me. But we started to grow apart because she wanted nothing to do with what happened to Mom and Dad and I couldn't let it go. Then she got married and moved out. My whole family was gone."
"As soon as I turned eighteen, I came back here. I guess, like Mom, I believed Aleksander was still alive and still out there. I looked through all her research and started doing some of my own. Then I found something that looked too strong to be a coincidence. A baby who died just days before my brother was kidnapped. A baby who was born in the same hospital at the same time. A family who had left Sheridan and changed their phone number."
Goosebumps were running up my arms. Daniel really had been planning this for a long time. He had done more research than my meager call to the hospital and he came to me because he knew.
It takes me a minute to find my voice, but I finally say, "So you're saying that I'm Aleksander Kasabian?"
I want to know.
I need to know. I need to know that our conclusions ended up in the same place. I need to know the truth.
"That's what I'm thinking, Buster, yeah." He replies, licking his lips.
We sit in silence for what feels like forever. My back starts to ache from the strain, but it's the least of my worries.
I've always been the big brother. I grew up with two loving parents and two annoying little sisters. We had our rough spots, but overall I was happy. We were the picturesque American family. I did okay in school; I had a lot of friends. The biggest thing I kept from my parents was my sexuality.
But now it looks like my parents may have been keeping something much bigger from me.
"But then... My parents... Kidnapped me?" My throat is choking up. I can't believe it. My parents always returned money they found on the ground to the nearest lost and found. They helped our neighbors with babysitting, yardwork, and church activities.
We sit in silence for several minutes.
I let out a humorless laugh. "The first night you took me up here, I thought you might be trying to kidnap me. I really did. But I guess it was a pretty funny thing to say, huh?"
"Yeah, Buster, I thought it was pretty funny." Danny responds with a weak smile.
"Buster, wake up."
Danny lightly shakes my shoulder and I yawn before opening my eyes and sitting up. What time is it? I was watching TV on the small set in the bedroom earlier that afternoon, but guess I dozed off at some point.
"Just wanted to let you know I made some dinner. You haven't eaten all day and even though I know you're trying to watch your figure, you're not starving on my watch. So yeah, dinner in the kitchen. Don't be late." Danny flicks the bedroom light on as he leaves and I squint my eyes closed with a groan.
I stumble out of the bed and make my way to the kitchen. "Okay, Mom." I say, sticking my tongue out at him and plopping down on a high chair at the counter.
"Naw, you're a bit off. Try 'Brother' instead." Danny grins at me, setting a plate of waffles in front of me and sitting in the chair next to me.
"Speaking of which, I think I need to go back and talk to my parents..." I say, glancing at the kitchen windows. It's completely dark outside. Did I really sleep that long?
Danny seems to be too busy eating his nuked burrito to talk, so I continue. "Well, I don't really know what to say, but I need to find out what really happened, and I need to talk to my friends and... What if they think I'm dead?" I pick at my microwaved frozen waffles in agony.
"Tell them that David Alessi is dead?" Danny smirks.
I lightly punch his shoulder. "Asshole. You know what I mean. But now that I think about it... I've been David my whole life and now... I don't know if I can handle it if people start calling me Aleksander, or even Alex."
"What about Buster?" Danny counters.
"Well that's okay because that's what you call me, but..." I pause to think. "Wait a minute. That's why you asked about my nicknames, isn't it?"
Danny stands up to throw his paper plate away. "You've always been David to you, but you've always been Aleksander to us. I thought it would help if we met in the middle."
"You are such a sly bitch." I complain. Of course, nothing Danny ever does is by accident.
He gives me a suggestive look but doesn't say anything. I continue eating in silence for a few more minutes.
"I want to go back to talk to them." I say after finishing my food. "I know that I asked you to come and get me and the drive takes forever, but I think... I..." I lose my voice and look down at my lap.
"Yeah, it's okay, Buster. I get you." Danny replies with a soft smile. "I'd take you right now, but I think it would probably be better if I got some sleep first."
I'm shocked. I can't really pinpoint why, but it surprises me that Danny would actually need sleep. After all, he already had driven me out to Sheridan twice in the dead of night.
"Okay." I respond. "So tomorrow morning?"
"Tomorrow morning it is. Now let's get some sleep."
"You ready?" Danny asks me, tapping his fingers on the steering wheel. True to his word, he drove me back from Sheridan in the morning. There was one problem, though: we had different concepts of morning. I was expecting to wake up after nine and then get ready to go. So you can't blame me for being a little reluctant and bitchy when Danny woke me up telling me it was time to go at three-thirty. I guess I can't be mad, though. He's already done way more for me than I should be asking of him.
"Want me to go with you?" He asks when I don't respond. He's parked on the street across from my parents' house, the car idling. I turn to face him. He looks about as nervous as I feel.
"You don't have to. I mean, I don't know if it would help or make things worse." I know he doesn't want to go talk to my parents, but the truth is I want him there with me because I feel like if I went there alone, I would wake up from the dream I've been having and everything would go back to the way it was before.
"Well, I sure don't want them trying to keep you kidnapped. I've already rescued my baby brother once, don't wanna have to do it again." Danny says with a smile. I stick my tongue out at him. We both step out of the car and he locks the doors.
Everything is quiet. Well, not exactly. It's the middle of the afternoon and you can hear the birds chirping and the trees blowing in the wind, but it's not what I expected to happen at all. I expected people to be running out to the streets and freaking out.
After all, it is a big deal, isn't it?
The house is looming and huge in front of me as I approach the front door. My arm reaches up and my finger hits the doorbell, but I can't really feel myself doing it.
A few seconds later, I hear footsteps. It sounds like my sisters running to the door. A second later, Dad's voice yells something. The footsteps stop.
Then, the door opens. I find myself face-to-face with Dad. He looks surprised and neither of us move for several moments. Finally, he steps out of the entrance of the house and pulls me into a suffocating hug.
"David! It's you! You're back, I can't believe you're back. I was so worried. We were all so worried. The police came and, oh my god, David, I can't believe what happened. They said they had information about a kidnapping and I was so worried you had been killed, but..." He cuts himself off. I guess I can see where I get my rambling from.
Vicky and Nessa are peeking at us from behind the door but they seem too scared to move. Dad finally lets me go as he notices Danny standing behind me. Dad takes a long look at him before saying, "I think we all need to have a talk. Come inside."
He turns to go back in the house, and as I'm about to follow suit, Nessa leaps out from the house and clings onto me. "Davey! I thought I'd never see you again!"
"It's okay, Nessa, I'm okay. It will be okay." I tell her. I'm not so sure.
The five of us sit down at the kitchen table. Dad and Vicky are sitting across the table from Danny and me, and Nessa is sitting on my lap. Dad says, "Vicky and Nessa, we're going to be talking about a lot of serious stuff. I know it was scary when they came and got Mom, but you need to know why it happened. Mom will be okay and we'll be okay, but we just need to talk to some people first, okay?"
"What happened to Mom?" I interject. I immediately glance at Danny but he doesn't return the look.
"She... She's being detained right now." Dad's face looks pained.
Does this mean... It means she's in jail? For the kidnapping? That means someone told the police. I look back at Danny and he looks at me this time, but I can't read anything on his face. Did he turn Mom in?
I take a deep breath but steel myself against moving. I am so going to kick his ass later, brother or not.
Dad clears his throat. He looks uncomfortable, but continues. "When you were born, when Mom was in the hospital, I was away on a business trip. We had just been married and were struggling financially. I found a job that paid very well but required me to travel. I was working a big job so I couldn't come home for the delivery."
"I was finally able to come home the last day of February, and Mom was having very bad postpartum depression. The doctors had warned us about it and that some women do crazy things and some have even killed their own babies."
"The depression got so bad we finally decided to move away to see if a new location would help at all. It was her suggestion, and I thought it was a great one. It would mean leaving her parents and family, but I assured her we still could visit them any time she wanted to."
Dad sighs and rubs his temples. "I never suspected anything. The postpartum depression was very bad, but she recovered magnificently from it. Even when you turned sixteen and there was a mishap when we went to get your driver's license, I didn't suspect anything."
"What mishap?" I ask. I had never heard anything about that.
Dad smiles at me. "They wouldn't process the application because their records said the birth certificate was no longer valid. I don't know how Mom got past that, but she assured me it was just a glitch in the system."
He continues. "The police came early this morning. Mom said she didn't want to call them yet, but when they knocked on the door, I thought she had changed her mind. I thought maybe they had found you and were bringing you home. It turns out they had received information on an old kidnapping case and were taking her in for questioning."
I hide my face in Nessa's hair, trying not to cry. Even if she kidnapped me, I don't want my mom to go to jail. Wasn't there another way we could solve this?
Dad speaks up in a more confident tone. "Vicky, Nessa, the reason I want you two here is to tell you that David is your big brother, but he's not related to you like Mommy or I am. When David was just a baby, Mommy took him from the hospital. He wasn't her baby. Her baby died shortly after being born, and it made her so sad she did something she shouldn't have. She took another Mommy's baby. That's why the police came and took her."
"David's other family missed him so they came to get him. We need to talk to a judge about what's going to happen to him but they had to take Mommy for a while before we can do that."
The room is quiet for a few seconds. Then, Vicky speaks up. "So you're saying that Mom kidnapped David?"
I can't bring myself to answer the question, and it seems like Dad can't, either.
"So he's not even my real brother!" She yells, standing up. "Why do I always get in trouble when I lie, but Mom can steal someone else's baby and it's just okay?"
"Vicky, listen..." Dad tries to cut in, but she storms out of the kitchen. I can hear her stomping up the stairs.
"Nessa," Dad says, "Will you go make sure Vicky's okay? The three of us need to talk."
Nessa looks at him, then to Danny, then back to Dad. She seems confused by the whole situation. "Okay." She hops off my lap and runs upstairs.
I readjust my position then buckle down for the rest of the conversation.
"This whole thing is crazy." Dad says, scratching at the back of his head. "I'm sure it hasn't been easy on anybody. But before we go on, mind introducing me?" He nods his head at Danny.
"Dad, this is... He's my... brother. He's the one who found me." My voice comes out awkwardly. But I don't know how else to word introducing someone I just found out was my brother.
"I see." Dad says, his forehead wrinkling in concentration.
"He, I... I mean, we're still not sure, but..." My voice falters.
"I'm Daniel Kasabian." Danny offers. "And if I'm right, your David's real name is Aleksander Kasabian."
At hearing this, Dad buries his head into his hands and starts crying. I look uncomfortably at Danny but he just shrugs. Of course he wouldn't be upset, he's only just met my dad. It's not like he's known my dad his whole life like I have.
It feels like hours pass before Dad recovers. I feel so awkward I don't even know what to do, so I just sit there. Danny looks bored. Fuck him, he doesn't even know my family.
"I'm sorry for all that." Dad says, taking off his glasses to rub his eyes. "It's just been a lot to deal with. And here I thought your running away at night was just normal teenage angst." He lets out a weak laugh.
"What about my school?" I swear I tried to make my voice stronger, but it comes out anything but.
Dad smiles. "They called to report your absences but haven't threatened anything serious yet. However, your friend Jacob called the house to ask what happened to you."
"Jakey?" I ask. Of course he would be calling when I didn't show up like I said I would. He needed my notes to get anything done on his homework. "I... Can I use the house phone to call him later?"
"Of course, David. You're still family." He replies. "So, what are you going to do now? Legally, I'm sure you will have to go back to your real family. And I can't imagine how happy your parents are that you're alive and well."
"Actually, our dad left shortly after the kidnapping, and the depression ended up killing our mom. So it's just us and our older sister." Danny says with a hint of malice in his voice.
Dad is silent for a while, but then says, "I see. David—A-Aleksander, you are always welcome here. I don't know what'll happen to Kathy, but I don't think it was a coincidence that she never told me what she did. My home will always be available for you. And I will always consider you my son."
Before I can say anything, Danny cuts in. "He probably should come live back East with us. Our aunt and uncle are his legal guardians and I know they want to meet him."
I turn to glare at him, but he's still focused on my Dad. Why should he make my decisions for me?
"Of course." Dad says. "Kathy's lawyers haven't said anything about a trial yet, but you may need to be around for that. But it could be months away. Until then, it would probably be best to go meet your family. I'll call the school and inform them of what happened so they don't try to arrest me for letting you drop out." He jokes.
I decide to give Jakey a call while it's still early. Dad and Danny talk for a little bit while I'm on the phone, but I can't hear about what. I know Danny doesn't like Dad, but Dad doesn't seem to notice.
"Davey!" Jakey's booming voice is so loud I swear one day I'm going to go deaf just by talking to him. "You're alive! I talked to your old man earlier and he said you went missing! Were you really kidnapped?"
"Hi to you too, Jakey." I respond humorously then pause a second. "Yeah, it's true. Remember the strange guy who was asking questions about me at school? Turns out he's my brother. My real brother. And everything's kinda gone to shit."
"That's crazy, man." He replies. "I guess it's one of those things you only expect to happen on TV shows."
"Yeah, it's crazy, alright. But listen, I'm probably going to be moving. I don't know what's going to happen, but I promise I'll keep in touch. I just wanted to call you to let you know I was alive and how much I missed you." My eyes start watering, but I push back the tears. I know Jakey can't see me, but I still don't like crying in front of people.
"I missed you too, Davey. I thought I was going insane when you weren't at school and I never got a response when I texted you. But you're alive!"
"Yeah. Hey, I have to go, but I promise I'll call you, okay?" I say.
"Okay, Davey. Listen, I... I love you, man. Don't die out there, okay?"
"Sure, Jakey. See you."
As I walk back into the kitchen, I see Danny sitting at the table by himself. "Hey, where'd my dad go?" I ask him.
He seems to flinch when I say "dad," but replies, "The doorbell rang. He went to answer it. How's your boyfriend?"
"Shut up, he's my best friend and letting him know I'm fine is the only decent thing I could do." Not that Danny would care about Jakey and whether or not he knew I was alive and fine.
"Hey David, come over here a minute, will you?" I hear Dad's voice from the entryway.
"Sure." I say, somewhat confused. Danny stands up and glances at me with an inquisitive look. He follows me through the hallway and as I reach the front door, I find myself face to face with a police officer.
"What's going on?" I ask.
"Hello, I'm Officer Cortland with the County Sheriff's Department." She says. "I wanted to ask Mr. Alessi some follow-up questions regarding the kidnapping case, but he's informed me another party of interest is also here."
"What do you mean?" I look back and forth between the woman and my dad, feeling dazed.
"I had believed that you were currently missing, but since you have returned to the scene of the crime, so to speak, I would like to take you into custody until I get further instructions from my superiors."