Sitting at the breakfast table I put my head on my fist and stared down Nathan. He copied me and attempted to raise his brow. I tilted my head and he shook his head no. I nodded, he glared. We were having a stare down, when Fluffy came running through and the little stinker pushed his oatmeal off the table, landing it at Fluffy’s feet.
“Oh Daddy, I can’t eat that now.” He tells me, trying to look sorry.
“Don’t worry, I made you more.” I tell him.
“It’s okay, I can have the frosties.” He tells me, running to the stool.
“Today is oatmeal day.” I tell him, pulling him down and putting another bowl in front of him as Penny comes in with Justin.
“I can’t Daddy, it’s gross.” He tells me.
“It’s cinnamon and sugar, like a cinnamon roll.” Justin tells him, taking a bite.
“I won’t eat it.” He tells Justin, crossing his arms and sitting away from it.
“Why not? You’ve always wanted to eat it before.” I tell him.
“Cause it looks like the stuff Fluffy put in your shoe this morning Daddy.” He tells me.
“What shoe?” I ask.
“Penny calls them Pada.” He tells me.
“Bad Fluffy, not Prada, use Papa’s shoes, no one cares about them.” Penny tells Fluffy.
We were on our way to Deb’s for Sunday dinner. With Michael not around, the guys made a point of not missing dinner at her house. Deb still went to see Michael, and being a father now, I understood how hard it would be for her to completely cut him out of her life. We could always tell when the visits had gone badly, by the amount of food that was being cooked. Lindsay was sitting outside when we showed up.
“She’s upset.” Lindsay told us.
“What happened?” Brian asks.
“Gus and JR are waiting for Penny and Nathan.” She tells us.
“Linney, I need kisses.” Nathan runs to her.
Nathan seemed to have a crush on Lindsay, if she was near, he needed cuddles and kisses. Lindsay loved it, because Gus was at the age where those things embarrassed him. I didn’t mind, because my mother was still just a random visitor, and the kids just never really warmed up to her. Lindsay and Mel gave them the mother figure that our kids wouldn’t have gotten from anyone in our families. Penny was more attached to Mel than Lindsay. Lindsay and I thought it had a lot to do with Mel and Brian’s personalities being so alike, not that we ever said that to them, we both liked having places to sleep. We were able to find a balance to co-parent all four of the kids together. Brian and Mel were the softies, which amused everyone to no end. Brian and Mel could be tough as nails at work, but melted when our kids were around. Which left Lindsay and I having to stop them from wanting to give the kids things just because they asked for them. It worked for us, but sometimes had Deb feeling left out when we weren’t running to her for advice. None of us said it, but we all knew that it had more to do with the way she raised Michael, it just didn’t have us seeing that she did it any better than we could. Deb just wanted to be needed, but not at the expense of how we raised our children. Nathan kissed and cuddled his Linney, then ran into see his other brother and sister, with Penny.
“Michael is getting out early, but told her he didn’t want a mother who left him to rot in prison.” She tells us.
“I don’t get how she expects anything to change with Michael.” I tell them.
“Deb wants to believe the sweet boy she raised is in there somewhere. Michael wasn’t the asshole he became until after he left here to go live with his boyfriend. He came back and acted as if anyone outside of the circle, that he approved of, wasn’t good enough.” Brian tells us.
“Which Mel and I weren’t a part of because we were using Brian for everything.” Lindsay tells us.
“Lindsay, I never did things for you and Mel unless I wanted to.” Brian tells her.
“I know that, but Justin wasn’t around then.” She tells him.
“Deb’s upset because Michael rejected her?” I ask.
“She thought that Michael would see that she did what she could, but it’s not why she’s upset. Carl isn’t happy that she’s been putting money in Michael’s account the whole time. She was working all those extra shifts to be able to afford the money she put in his account.” She tells us.
“Which meant that when Carl wanted to take that vacation, she said no because she needed to make money for Michael. When is she going to figure out that nothing she does will ever be enough to make Michael happy.” Brian tells her.
“When is Michael getting out?” I asked her.
“Not for another month. Mel made sure we were informed of any change.” Lindsay tells us.
Lindsay wasn’t kidding, the kitchen was covered in food, and Deb was still trying to find something to make. Brian took her out of the kitchen into the backyard while the rest of us started setting the table. Nathan was sitting at the table eyeing the cake and pies, it’s always funny to us that Nathan eats like a horse, unlike Brian.
“Brian, I need to finish.” She tells me trying to go back in.
“Deb, cooking everything in your house isn’t going to make things better.” I tell her.
“Like anyone cares about Michael. All of you… shit, I didn’t mean that.” She tells me.
“Do you think I like that the person who I thought of as my best friend became the man who treated Justin like shit. There was a time when I couldn’t see Michael not a part of my life. I just couldn’t stay friends with someone who acted like Gus was only important when I was around. Michael didn’t want any of us to have a life unless he approved of it and was the center of it.” I tell her.
“He just thought he knew what would make you happy.” She tells me.
“How could he, when for him the only way I was happy was to be Brian Fucking Kinney, drinking too much, taking anything I could to stay high, and avoiding anyone who could be more than a one night stand. That’s how your son viewed my life.” I tell her.
“Brian, he spent his life waiting for you.” She tells me.
“What was I supposed to do, kick Justin out of my life just to keep your son happy? I thought you got past blaming me for Michael.” I tell her.
“Brian, I shouldn’t have said that. I’m just pissed that I let Michael get to me again. I don’t know how to stop wanting my son to be the son I once thought he was.” She tell me.
“I can understand that, if Gus, JR, Penny, or Nathan were in trouble, I know I’d want to try to help them. It’s just they would have to want the help and be willing to do what it takes to straighten out their lives. Michael apparently still doesn’t see anything he did as wrong. You can’t let him ruin your relationship with Carl because he wants to continue to be a petulant child.” I tell her.
“Carl isn’t happy that I was paying off Michael’s house and giving Michael money.” She tells me.
“How on earth could you afford that, all those extra shifts couldn’t have paid that mortgage?” I ask, wondering what the hell she was thinking.
“Michael needed a place to come home too. I didn’t want any of you having to avoid me because Michael would have had to stay with me, if he didn’t have a place to go.” She tells me.
“How were you paying for it?” I ask.
“I got a second mortgage on my house. It’s why Carl is about to leave me.” She tells me.
“Once again, Michael ruins someone’s relationship. Why would you even do it?” I ask her, as Emmett and Ted come out the backdoor.
“He told me that he didn’t see any reason to live when he’d lost everything.” She tells me.
“What’s going on?” Emmett asked.
“Carl is leaving her because she can’t see Michael needs to be the one taking care of himself.” I tell them.
“I don’t blame Carl for not wanting to watch Deb kill herself to take care of Michael.” Ted tells us.
“You don’t understand what it’s like to be a parent.” She tells Ted.
“I might not have any kids, but I know that having one doesn’t mean my life is never mine.” Ted told her.
“He’s my son.” She tells us.
“I want to be your husband, but I don’t see that happening if you can’t let Michael deal with his own problems.” Carl tells her coming out the door.
“What do you want me to do, he has to have a place to live. We agreed that he couldn’t live here.” She tells him.
“I don’t think he should live in Pittsburgh. He’s hurt too many people and none of them need Michael back in their lives.” He tells her.
“Where is he going to go?” She asks him.
“I’ve been working with a friend who sponsors a program to help convicts when they're released. Michael would be required to earn his keep and train for a job he could get. One of the conditions is that he can’t contact any of the victims that were affected by his crimes.” He tells her.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Deb asks him.
“Michael has to agree first, and with you helping him, he sees no reason to.” He tells her.
“Because I gave him a way out of it.” She tells him.
“Then don’t give him a way.” Carl tells her.
“I need to sell Michael’s house. It’s in my name.” She tells me and Ted.
I nodded and went inside while she and Carl talked. I looked at Nathan, who was sitting at the table while Justin took pictures and Lindsay and Mel laughed.
“Son, what have you been doing?” I ask.
“Nothing Daddy.” He tells me.
“What happened to the cake?” I ask, looking at the side missing from the cake.
“I don’t know, maybe Fluffy ate it.” He tells me.
“Fluffy ate it, from our house?” I ask.
“Fluffy’s might have sneakded in here.” He tells me seriously.
“Fluffy has all kinds of skills, but how did she manage to get cake all over your face?” I ask, grabbing a napkin to wipe the cake off his nose.
“I couldn’t help it Daddy, I needed it.” He tells me, as I wipe his hands.
The peanut gallery behind me didn’t help my comedian, by nodding while laughing.
“I get it Son.” I tell him, looking at Justin.