“And then you said ‘Plasmaplane deez nuts!’ and then you fuckin’ shot that guy with the, the mini-sun and the look on his fucking face! Holy shit!” Rick throws his head back and cackles. Distant galaxies scroll past the viewscreen slowly, in parallax to closer star systems. He’s taking the scenic route home. “Th-th-that guy’s gonna be reconstituting his mass for a month, huh, Morty?”
It was a great adventure, an all-timer, for sure. Put it up at the top with all the other greats that Rick can’t think of right now. Everything went smooth, there was action but nothing they couldn’t handle, and they made it for ice cream right before the store closed. Morty seemed like he had a blast, too.
Not that Rick planned adventures with the kid’s enjoyment in mind. Of course not.
He needed a thing from the place and Morty is just free labor.
“Right, Morty?” Rick prods again, and when Morty doesn’t answer for the second time he glances over.
Morty is slumped in the passenger seat, eyes closed and mouth slightly open. If it weren’t for his seat belt he would have slipped right out of his chair. His chest rises and falls slowly, moving the seat belt with it, and a bit of drool shines on his lip in the dim cockpit lights. Passed right out. Something about that, the unguarded way he’s sleeping makes Rick pause. He’s like a puppy, all played out and napping in the middle of the living room.
“Morty?” Rick reaches over and shakes him gently by the knee. He grumbles something in his sleep but doesn’t wake. Rick leaves his hand there as he drives them home, feeling the warmth of body heat radiating through Morty’s jeans.
It’s so hard.
It’s not fair.
Rick steers single-handedly while staring straight ahead, desperately trying to hold onto his good mood. He saw an Osprey catch a fish once, dive bombing the surface of the lake he and his father were trolling for trout. It had dived so fast and hit the water so hard Rick was sure it had died, so when its wings kept flapping and it hauled its ass back into the sky, gripping a fish between its talons, he’d been amazed. Such a small thing. He’d seen crazier shit than that in the multiverse, shit so crazy it would make a normal person want to blow his brains out and actually go through with it. But Earth is his and Morty’s home. This speck, this backwater, podunk planet full to the brim with so many inconsequential dramas. Like a bird tearing a fish from a lake near Muskegon, Michigan. And Rick had watched that bird fly over their boat with its talons sunk deep into the flesh of that fish, razor sharp points stabbing between pinbones and piercing organs. A death grip.
Had it understood what was happening to it?
Rick forces himself to relax his own death grip. He releases the meat of Morty’s thigh where his hand had crept up, and up, and his fingers had started to dig in. Luckily, Morty is still asleep. Poor kid must be exhausted. Rick keeps his hand on his thigh and tries not to think about that fish.
He had said.
“Rick, I'm sorry.”
He’d reached out with his small hands, shivering all over, covered in dirt. Wearing another Morty’s clothes.
“I-I-I’ll never ask for anything ever again.”
His hands twisting in the front of Rick’s lab coat, pulling him down.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
The way he kissed, awkward and inexperienced, teeth clipping Rick’s lip, drawing blood. Pulling back to gasp on a sob before pushing back in again. Crying and kissing over their own graves like the third act of some edgy YA novel.
Rick settles the other Rick’s ship down in the driveway of their new home, same as the old home. Morty is still asleep. The night is warm and humid in that West Coast way and what few stars that can punch through the light pollution shine down on suburbia. The windows are dark and Rick doesn’t need to check his watch to know it’s around one in the morning. He comes to the passenger side and unclips Morty’s seatbelt. He takes the boy in his arms.
It feels good. Morty is light, his even breaths sliding across Rick’s neck, his short legs swinging. Rick watches as the garage door trundles open and relishes in the unhurriedness of it all. There’s nothing to run from. Somewhere, a cat in heat yowls out her frustration.
They can start over here.
But how many more second chances is the universe going to give Rick? This specific Rick and this specific Morty curled in his arms have gotten more second chances than a white college boy with a judge for a mommy and a cop for a daddy. Rick shifts Morty around so he can open the door to the kitchen. The stove clock shines greenly in the darkness and Rick shuts the door with his foot, letting it click softly closed. Wouldn’t want to wake Morty up here and now.
Couldn’t let Morty see the tender way Rick has him. Wouldn’t want to give the kid any ideas about what their relationship is or isn’t.
Fuck. Rick shuffles across the kitchen tile, squeezing his Morty to his chest in a moment of weakness. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
Rick freezes in the entry to the dining room. Street lamps fight with the heavy shadows laying over the table. The Beth, his latest Beth, is sitting at the far end of it with her forearms stacked in front of her like a wall. She’s still wearing her scrubs and in the low light the blood spatter across her chest looks black, not red.
“Hey, Sweetie. You weren’t waiting for us, were you?” His heart, for reasons he doesn’t want to admit to, races. He gets the sudden, violent urge to take Morty and run. On the outside he loosens his grip on the boy in an attempt to look more casual about what he’s doing.
(What he’s doing is fine. It’s innocent. It’s sweet, even. And isn’t carrying your grandchild to bed something good grandpas did?)
Beth stares at him and her blue eyes are dark. She leans forward and the shadows slipping across her face morph her features, smooths and distorts them, rounds them, carving off all of the angles and points she inherited from her father and leaving her with Diane’s face. Guilt twists in him.
“H-he’s fine, by the way-” Rick starts, shoving words onto the empty table between them. “Just… tuckered out.”
“Can we talk?”
His heart stops.
“It’s late, Beth. I- I’m putting Morty to bed.”
Coward. Pussy. Beth doesn’t get up from the table as Rick brushes past her, hand cupping the back of Morty’s head like he’s expecting her to pull a gun on them. Like he’s expecting her to try and rip the boy out of his arms. He takes the stairs two at a time as steadily as he can and shoulders Morty’s door open enough for them both to slip through.
The window is open to let in the night air as the AC box downstairs doesn’t reach up here. If Rick gets too hot, the sublevels are climate controlled or he can just teleport somewhere cooler. Sweat is already trailing down his back and starting to soak through his undershirt, regardless. The heat and weight of Morty against him mixing with the summer air becomes overwhelming.
He lays Morty on his unmade bed, shoving the kid’s laptop aside and settling him in. He’s listening for the stairs, he’s listening for any hint of movement. He stays crouched over Morty’s sleeping body, hands useless at smoothing the sheets out on either side of his torso. The way the kid thrashes in his sleep, sheets will never be a match for him. The number of times Morty’s clipped him in the jaw with a stray elbow or kneed him in the sack is literally uncountable at this point. He has bad dreams.
“Jesus Christ Morty, wake the fuck up!” Rick had hissed on one of those nights, holding his bleeding nose with one hand and shaking Morty awake with the other.
His blanket was on the floor, the first casualty of Morty’s presence in his bed. So when Morty finally jerked awake his hands snapped to cover his bare privates. His chest and his prick. And that had soothed the pain of his bruised nose a little bit. What a dork.
“W-what! Wh- Rick?”
Morty’s eyes had gone wide as he realized where he was (Rick’s room, Rick’s bed, at home where anyone might hear him) and he moved the hand covering his nipples up to cover his mouth.
“Y-you’re bleeding!” He whispered through his fingers. “What happened?”
What a dork.
Now, Morty shifts as Rick drags his blanket over him. He’s a mess, his hair wild, his shirt stained with biomass from that dipshit Garblovian. This kid, this little menace, throwing out memey action star lines and popping aliens like it’s as natural to him as jerking off. Warmth trickles between the cracks of Rick’s emotional armor. It’s almost enough to soothe the anxiety of what’s waiting for him downstairs. It’s been quiet. The Beth hasn’t come up yet. He can picture her down there in the dark, her arms folded, her face too-much like her mother’s.
But Morty is stronger, now. He’ll survive. Even if there isn’t another reality ready for the both of them to slip into right away, they could spend some time traveling the multiverse. Like some kind of interdimensional road-trip, sleeping in the ship and eating at the interstellar equivalent to truck stops. He’s already picturing them on their way to somewhere awesome with music blasting and Morty in his lap before he can stop himself. Rick squeezes his eyes shut tight and banishes the image.
It wouldn’t be like that.
He has what he’s starting to think of as The Memory Gun tucked into his inner breast pocket. It’s all charged up, ready to go if he needs it. When he needs it. He’s too fucking old to be like this, he should know better. He should be able to stop himself. He shouldn’t need the fucking memory gun at all but its weight in his pocket is so reassuring.
He could wake Morty up right now, he could talk his way into the boy’s pants, easy. He could pick up right where they left off last time, when Rick (The Coward. The Pussy) panicked and backed out.
But it would be so easy. He couldn't give him back his memories, but he could make new ones. Better ones. Because Morty always wants it. And that's a dangerous situation to be in around someone like Rick.
Rick pulls away from the boy on the bed, realizing he’d sat down and been detangling the boy’s curls like a maniac. Running his fingers through his grandson’s hair like a creep. The action so natural to him he’d slipped into it as he ran through his thoughts. Morty’s features are soft and relaxed in sleep, pretty in his way. In the nose he got from Rick and the thin, bow-shaped lips he got from Diane. Rick leans down and kisses him on the forehead and pauses there, the kid smells like sweat and blood. He thinks about that morning Morty had startled awake, naked, and how he rushed to hide his nipples from the man who sucked his dick the night before, and then kisses him on the lips. He may not remember, but Rick will.
And that should be enough.
“That's the last one.” Rick promises the sleeping boy.
She is still at the table when he comes down. Her head bowed and her back arched like she’s in mourning. Or just very, very tired. The floor creaks under Rick’s weight and she straightens up again, watching him as he walks by. He can feel her eyes follow him as he steps into the kitchen.
“It’s about Morty.” She calls as Rick kneels in front of a cupboard. He hauls out a box of wine and plucks two glasses from the dish-rack. Of course it’s about Morty. Everything’s always about Morty. He’s the multiverse’s favorite little joke, isn’t he? Beth shifts uncertainly as Rick sets the wine down on the table and pushes a glass towards her. “I have work in the morning.”
“Then why are you up?”
He puts authority into it and maybe something about that shakes her because she looks away. It was the Dad Voice. One he rarely used with his own Beth and almost never used on Morty. It felt bad in his throat. Like he didn’t deserve to talk to her that way. She reaches out and curls her fingers around the stem of her empty wine glass. She holds it under the spigot and lets Rick fill her up. The wine, like the blood on her shirt, looks black in the dark.
Rick fills his own glass to the very top, takes a gulp, and refills it again. He’s going to need all the help he can get for this.
“Dad…” Beth looks down into her wine. “Where were you tonight?”
“I could literally tell you any random string of vowels and consonants and numbers and y-you’d, you’d have no way to fact check me on it.” He takes a gulp of wine to hide the way his hand is shaking. He’d been seconds away from getting his skin eaten off by a very angry Glug’alugite tonight and somehow this is more nerve wracking. He’d seen what the dead Rick had hidden in the sublevels, in his… memory vault. Is that what she wants to talk about? It has to be.
His stomach turns but the disgust runs inward, not out.
“Just, tell me what you were doing.” She says, exasperated, bumping her glass as she leans forward and spilling wine over the backs of her knuckles.
“I needed some sci-fi bullshit for my work, me and Morty went out, picked it up, and came back.”
“And that took all day? And half the night?”
“We stopped for ice cream on the way home.” It takes everything in him to not stutter on the word home. He’s wondering if the memory gun will work on a Beth, if it’s calibrated for her or not. If it turns her brain to pancake mix he’ll have to look for a new home sooner than he expected. Beth stares into him for a long moment before finally lifting her glass and taking a sip.
“That sounds nice.” Even now he can pick out the notes of jealousy in her voice. A Daddy’s Girl in every reality. Even when her daddy was fucking her only son.
How far do her suspicions go back? What little experimentation Rick has done on human memory all points towards time being the most important factor. The longer a memory is allowed to remain in a brain the more tangled up it gets in the tissue. Everytime one remembers an incident, or finds connections between similar situations, when the brain starts physically building those microscopic bridges, reinforcing the neural pathways, the harder the memory is to isolate. And the more dangerous it is to excavate. He can picture her gray matter leaking out through her eyes like tears, all running down her face.
“He got pistachio and I got Rocky Road.” A lie, pistachios only grow on Earth and the moon the ice creamery they’d been to was a tidally locked frozen-ocean type of deal. No rocks, no roads. But they had gotten the closest thing to those flavors.
“This has to stop.” She says it in a rush, the words bumping up against one another in her mouth. Slurred because she’s nervous and not because she’s drunk.
“What has to stop, Beth?” His face is warm. It’s too hot in here and he can feel the sweat beading at his hairline. He’s remembering the other Morty, the dead Morty’s memories. How that boy’s Rick wasn’t like him, how he was worse. How he was on that boy every chance he got, taking and taking and taking like a fucking addict.
Rick had drunk down those memories for hours, locking himself in the vault, sitting on the floor and plugging them in one after another with one hand around his cock. Some were bad. Bad adventures, traumas, terrors. But that was to be expected, his own Morty would want those things removed too.
But the other memories.
“You have… I want…” Beth is trying not to cry. He can tell because her eyes are wide and her mouth is drawn back by the corners, making her lips look thin. It’s the same face she pulled when she was just a little girl who was trying to be brave.
Say it. Just fucking say it.
“Please, Dad. You have to leave Morty alone.”
And she breaks. Beth slumps, the strength gone out of her, and she lays her head down in her arms. A car drives slowly down their quiet street and its headlights fill the dining room like searchlights in a prison break. There it is. Her shoulders shake and if she’s crying she’s doing it silently. Her hair fans around her on the table like a curtain, hiding her away.
“I love you.” The other Rick said in a memory. Underneath Morty and looking up, bare chested and out of breath on the floor of Morty’s room. Grinning that roguish grin Rick used to practice in venue bathrooms when he was on tour a long, long time ago. And the feelings associated with the memory rose up. The Morty’s feelings. And it was love. And it was so much love, and pain, and fear, and excitement, and uncertainty, and it was love most of all.
“I love you too.” And they had kissed and Rick felt how Morty had felt when his Rick ran his fingers through his curls, untangling them. It felt so good. It felt like being loved. And he wanted to feel like that forever.
The sound of the memory gun charging.
Rick sits numbly at the table as the latest surrogate for his daughter sobs noiselessly in front of him. Her original Rick had been careless. Cocky.
(He was in love.)
Rick reaches into his coat and even as he starts to calibrate the memory gun he knows it’s no use. If she made it to this point, confronting him about it one on one like this, then she’s been sitting with this decision for a long time. If he tries to take it all out of her head she’ll end up with brain damage. The markings on the dials blur and Rick is more tired than he’d ever admit.
What a shit end to a great day.
“I can’t.” He says finally and Beth goes still. When he doesn’t continue she lifts her face to peer at him from across the table. Several strands of hair are plastered to her cheek with tears.
“What do you mean you can’t?” She asks in a small voice. Rick blinks hard and refocuses himself on the gun. Maybe he could erase tonight, delay this confrontation for a little while. Give himself time to prepare a new reality for him and Morty to invade.
Because he can’t explain this to him. He can’t tell him why they’re moving again. He won’t understand, can’t understand. Rick will have to move him in his sleep and act like nothing happened. It has to be that way, at least until he’s had more time to reverse engineer the memory gun and figure out what the long-term effects of repeated use are.
If he’d have known he would have frozen the dead Morty’s head instead of burying him.
But seeing his small body, broken on the ground, bleeding, contorted. It had taken everything in him to keep his cool. It was too close to home, too much like what happened to his family. He couldn’t even imagine touching that corpse, let alone preserving it for future experimentation.
As Rick holds his silence, messing with the stupid gun, Beth curls her hands into fists.
“Dad, what do you mean you can’t? I’m asking, I’m begging you. Please.” Her voice breaks on the ‘please’ and Rick thinks he has the memory gun settings right. All he has to do is point and shoot.
“I can’t leave him alone, Beth.” And because Rick is a very stupid, cruel man, he says: “He’s mine.”
And the Beth pauses at that, confusion twisting the corners of her mouth down. In the dark it turns her mouth into a black gash across her face, shadows making a tragic mask out of her features. Rick sips primly from his wine, pinky up.
“Your real son died a couple weeks ago, right-” And he motions towards the garage with his glass, “on the other side of that door. While you and Jerry fought over some inane bullshit in the kitchen. You didn’t notice the explosion, you didn’t notice my Morty go upstairs and change into clean clothes. You didn’t notice us drag your Rick and Morty’s corpses into the backyard, a-a-and you didn’t notice us digging graves beside the shed.”
“What are you-” Beth is drawing away from him but she’s trapped between her chair and the table and because he’s always wanted to, in the sickest parts of him, Rick says:
“And it took you this long to notice your Rick was fucking your baby boy. Or did it just take you this long to finally act like a mother and say something about it?”
She isn’t moving and Rick’s heart is beating fast. There it is, real and in the open and Rick’s glass is empty. He stares across the table at her, not breathing, ready to drink up her reaction instead. Craving it, almost.
“What?” She whispers. And that’s it for what feels like a long time. A single, quiet, confused word and a lost look on her face. No rage, or disgust, or or or anything. He’d expected her to throw that glass of wine at him, hoped she would. She takes a shaky breath and repeats: “What?”
There has been a miscalculation. Rick backtracks through the conversation, disentangling his own feelings from the dialogue and deconstructing the words. He fucked up. He got something wrong. Rick jerks the memory gun up, aiming on muscle memory alone, putting the Beth dead centre in his sights. Fear spasms in her face, clear to him even in the dark, and she pushes back off the table, chairlegs screaming against the floor as she staggers to a stand. Rick pulls the trigger and the gun whines and she isn’t fast enough. He turns his head to the side, shielding himself from the sudden flash of light.
The gun hums down, the free energy generator slowing its spin, and Rick looks.
The Beth is standing there between her chair and the table. Her glass lay on its side in a puddle of wine like blood atop the plasticky table protector. She shakes her head side to side, slow, and then lifts a hand to brush her hair behind her ear.
“Oh, shoot.” She mutters, picking up the glass and setting it right. Rick pulls a rag out of one of his pockets and hands it to her, watching as she sops up the spilt wine. “Damn.”
“At least it won't stain.” Rick says, keeping the tremor out of his voice. His heart is still pounding, buzzing in his head and in the tips of his fingers.
“Yeah, I learned that lesson early on.” She says, pinching the table cover and crinkling it between her fingers in demonstration.
“That’s my girl.”
She looks up with a smile, but when she meets his eye it falters. Her gaze wanders around the room, taking in the shadows in the corners and the streetlamp shining on the lawn outside the window. Realization of where she is seems to dawn on her and she starts to worry her lip, withdrawing into herself.
“Where’s Morty?” She asks.
“He’s already in bed.” He could deflect, walk away, go to sleep or fuck off somewhere far away from here. The memory gun is warm in his hand, hidden below the edge of the table. But Rick only runs when he knows he can’t win, and sometimes not even then. “Why?”
She tenses like she had the first time, seems to consider saying anything at all, and then pulls her chair up and sits. She folds her arms in front of her, one atop the other like a wall. Rick sets the gun in his lap and refills her wine without asking. When he pushes it over she hesitates before taking a sip.
“I… I wanted to talk to you. About him.” She says, looking out the window. He makes eye contact through her reflection and she cringes away from that, too. She stares down into her wine, finding it the only safe place to look.
“What about him?” He should have done this the first time, just let her talk. Instead he allowed his… bullshit to cloud his reasoning. She didn’t know. Of course she didn’t fucking know. Rick drinks. Beth takes a deep breath.
“It’s about your adventures. I think, I mean-” she shakes her head once, her hair slips out from behind her ear and falls in front of her face. “You need to leave him alone, Dad.”
Rick doesn’t say anything this time.
“Those adventures are killing him. He’s exhausted all the time. I know he gets hurt, Dad, and don’t try and tell me he doesn’t. I do both of your laundry.” As she continues talking she finds her footing, picking up speed as she goes along. “I’ve thought about this a lot, Dad. And I’m grateful for everything you’ve done for this family, and I’m so glad to have you back in my life. And I don’t want to lose you. But I don’t want to lose my son to you either.”
Rick doesn’t like the way she keeps calling him Dad.
He sits nursing his wine and watching her mouth as she speaks. Listening but in a distant way. He’s still thinking about the confusion on her face. He keeps hearing her first whispered ‘What?’ How it was less like a word and more like the breath getting knocked out of her in the shape of a word.
“You think Morty doesn’t want to-” be with me, “go on adventures with me?”
“Dad…” She cringes, lifting her glass to hide behind it. “Morty is-”
“Morty is what? Not capable of-” consenting, “of- of deciding what he wants to do, where he wants to go?”
“Don’t Dad me, I’m not your fucking father.” He snaps and she goes still again, caught holding her glass off the table like she was about to make a toast.
Jesus fucking Christ. Rick pulls the memory gun from his lap and shoots her, squeezing his eyes shut against the flash. The gun whines down and he sets it in his lap again. He’s running stress tests in his head, going over how much trauma the human brain can take. He’s picturing brain leaking out of her ears and sliding down her neck, chunky, to soak the collar of her scrubs. He doesn’t have enough data, he doesn’t know what kind of damage he’s doing to her.
The Beth notices the wine in her hand and lifts it to her mouth in an unconscious action. Rick matches her, waiting, trying to catch what might be happening in her head right now but failing. Orange light from the streetlamps make the whites of her eyes yellow and her irises muddy and blank.
“Thanks for sitting down with me, Sweetie.” Rick says over the mouth of his glass. “I know it’s late.”
“Huh?” The Beth blinks, eyes finally seeming to focus on him. She’s swaying in her chair, disoriented, she looks at the glass in her hand. “I have work in the morning…”
“C’mon, when was the last time you had a drink with your dear, your dear old dad?” Rick pulls a smile from somewhere and hopes the dark sells it as genuine. She seems to relax and holds her glass under the box wine for a top-up. “That’s my girl.”
With their drinks refreshed, Rick leans back in his chair and pops his spine on it.
“Is Morty in his room?”
She tenses, gathering the strength to say what she wants to say. Before she can, Rick cuts in:
“You raised a little warrior, you know that?” He says and means it, in a way. Some version of her did raise this Morty. Her dead Morty was probably a lot like this Morty, too, both being from the same track of the curve. “He really saved my ass out there tonight. He’s going to be a- a fine young man one day.”
“Oh…” She says warmly. Flattery seems to be the best tool to get Beths to do what he wants.
“Yep. Y-you know, I was thinking about teaching him how to fly the ship, soon.”
She raises her glass. He can feel how she pushes her jealousy down with a heavy gulp of wine, swallowing it, banishing it away with all the other bad feelings he knows she struggles with. He may not be her father, but she is a Rick’s daughter, after all.
“You don’t think he’s a little young?” She asks anyway, forcing her tone to be light.
“You started driving when you were five.” Rick counters and immediately wished he hadn’t. He had made his baby girl a ‘toy’ car after she saw a commercial for a Bigfoot Power Wheels Monster Truck. She’d been just as happy with the mini monster truck he built for her. Now, this Beth gives him a look that says ‘Seriously? You know it’s not the same.’ Rick shrugs. And he tries to banish the memory of his Beth’s gleeful (murderous) shouts as she “ pretended” to run over his legs in the driveway. Again and again. “The ship’s baby-proof, hell, she’d fly me safe through enemy fire while I was unconscious. If she had to.”
The Beth dips her head from side to side, rolling the wine around in her glass as she thinks about that. He wonders if she’s also remembering running a version of him over with her toy monster truck. She sighs, downing the wine in two more swallows and setting it on the table. The sound it makes as it hits the wood is final, like a judge banging her gavel.
“Okay.” She goes to stand, planting her hands flat on the table and pushing herself up. She hesitates, lifting one of her hands and turning it over, testing the stickiness of spilt wine on her palm. She looks down at the damp rag that she does not remember using.
“Okay?” Rick echoes.
(What are you doing?)
Beth looks up from the rag, frowning.
“That’s it?” Now Rick stands and it’s like attending mass when he was a boy. Stand. Sit. Stand. Sit. Kneel. Sit. Stand. “That’s all it, that’s a-all it takes?”
“What are you talking about?” Beth asks, a hint of fear in her voice. Because her dad had been talking about giving her son flying lessons and now he’s towering over the table, face twisted with some emotion she does not recognize. “Dad?”
He flinches but doesn’t back down. He’s trying to hold the words back like vomit, but when has he ever succeeded in holding back anything? (Especially vomit.) Besides, even if he cared about the consequences of his actions, he has his finger on the trigger of a pretty little undo button right now.
“You set up shop here, w-waiting for who the fuck knows how long in the dark like the fucking grim reaper. And you got something to say, something important, and you cry and you beg, and y-y-y-you act like your mind is all made up. And all it took to break your weak-ass conviction was a little dick sucking? And it’s all okay? Morty almost died today, Morty had to murder to stay alive today, Beth. And while it was a fucking kickass action sequence and he pulled his weight like a sticky, pubescent Rambo, every time I take him off this shithole planet there’s a chance that we never come back!”
(Because he would never come back here if he didn’t have Morty.)
“You’re going to wake up-” She says placatingly, eyes wide. She holds her hands up like she’s scared he might hit her, and he would never. Rick would never hit his daughter like that. Because then he’d be too much like his father and for some reason that’s a low that not even Rick "Kiddy Diddler" Sánchez would sink to. And her cowering, the implication that he might only makes him more sick, disgusted. Ashamed.
For the both of them.
Rick raises the memory gun, registering the momentary spark of terror that strobes across her face before he shuts his eyes and pulls the trigger for the third time. She staggers on her feet like the theft of her memories was a physical blow. And her raised hands fall, slapping against her thighs uselessly.
It is quiet.
He shouldn’t, but he wants to.
Beth is sinking into her chair, like she's falling in a dream, in slow motion. Even in the dark he can see how all the muscles in her face have gone slack. It leaves her expression blank, dollish. And like a doll he finds it easy to project any expression he wants onto that waiting canvas. But it's not enough. And while he knows he shouldnt, that he should walk away and let her find her way to her bed... he wants to so bad.
He wants to know. That's always been his problem. Rick wants to know how she would react, he wants to tell her the truth.
And Rick always does what he wants.
“You know, he came onto me.” He tests the words, supressing the shiver of guilt that goes through him.
“He begged me for it.”
His breath rattles in his lungs. The wine is foul in his mouth, rancid, mixing with bile and sick words. Beth is trapped between the table and her chair, her hands are shaking.
“At first I- I-, you know, I didn’t even want-” Rick gulps down more wine, belches, doesn’t bother wiping the wetness off his chin. “Didn’t want that, but something about. About how ready he was. How desperate. H-h-he, god. Fuck. Y’raised a- a lil’ stubborn brat, over there.Looked like he was gonna cry if I said no."
He stares into Beth’s face, into her wide, fearful eyes. He doesn’t know what he’s looking for.
She opens her mouth to speak and he looses his nerve.
He points the memory gun at her and pulls the trigger
“I deserve him.” Rick says this time. “I deserve something, a-after everything that got taken from me, right? After what he took from me, I should get something of his, right? Th-th-that’s only… only fair.”
He’s too drunk to get hard. Beth is frozen in her seat, looking into her empty wine glass, at the oily fingers trailing down the insides of the glass.
“H-he’s too small, Beth.” Rick presses the heel of his hand down the length of his clothed cock. “I never fucked h-him, not, not like that. I dun’wan’ hurt him. Not like that.”
Beth takes a sharp, shaking breath. A single, short, gasping breath that would be a shriek if the air was going the other way. She looks like she might puke into her glass. Rick has switched to his flask, to the harder stuff. He wonders in a far-away way why she isn’t running. Why she’s just fucking sitting there.
It pisses him off.
But the exhibitionist in him likes it.
The Catholic in him, too.
Rick groans, grinding his cock against his leg, thinking about the first time Morty got on his knees. How he’d been so scared to touch it, his small hands fluttering all around it like butterflies.
“I-It’s too big, Beth. I’d tear him apart.” He confesses to her.
She starts to cry.
Rick is crying this time. He can’t stop himself, because when has he ever?
The memory gun sits on the table between them, the free energy generator is still spinning from last time. The gun is too hot to touch right now. There is cum running down Rick’s leg.
And there’s something wrong with the Beth.
“Dad?” She asks, her voice small and shaky and she sounds like his little girl. “What’s wrong?”
A blood vessel has burst in her right eye, turning her whole eye black in the dark. It looks like a hole.
“I love you.” Rick whispers into her hair. His arms are too tight around her. She can’t breathe. She doesn’t understand what’s happening.
It’s past four in the morning but Beth doesn’t know that. She goes to pick up her wine glass but she misses, uncoordinated, knocking it to the table.
“Shoot.” She mutters, grabbing the already soaked-through rag and trying to sop up the spill. She smears it around on the plastic table cover for a while before giving up, staring unsteadily at the mess she made. The wine looks black.
“You okay, Sweetie?” Rick says. He’s sitting across from her at the dining table, the box of Franzia between them. He has his own glass of wine.
“What was I…”
“You wanted to talk to me about Morty?”
Yes, that’s right. Beth runs her tongue over her lips and finds them raw and cracked because she must have been chewing on them all night. She’d gotten home very late and Rick and Morty weren’t here. She’d ate leftovers by herself, here, at the table, and then done the dishes and Rick and Morty still weren’t back. She’d texted her son asking where he was and he never replied.
“About your adventures.” Beth says slowly, not liking the word adventure in her mouth. Knowing that that’s just branding, just whimsical bullshit Rick came up with the obfuscate what he’s really doing.
What is he really doing?
She has a headache.
“What about our adventures, Sweetie?” He asks. Tilts his glass back for a swig and Beth wishes she hadn’t spilled her own wine.
“It’s late…” Beth says, struggling to remember what she’d wanted to say. Something about the adventures, maybe a curfew? Or rules around answering her texts? “I, I have work in the morning.”
“You said you wanted to talk to me, Beth.” Rick says and his words come out slurred, turning “you said” into “y’sed” and “you wanted” into “y’wanded.” He's swaying in his chair, too. How long had they been drinking for? “So talk. Tell me about it.”
“I should lay down.” She doesn’t feel well but when she goes to get up Rick reaches across the table and grabs her wrist. His hand is sweaty. It’s too hot in here. “Dad?”
Something weird twists his expression, hard to catch in the dark, but definitely there.
“Elisabeth.” He says so softly she almost doesn’t hear it. He leans forward and the street lights glint off the tear tracks running down his face. “This one is mine. He’s for me.”
Her headache swells, threatening to crack her skull with the unending pressure of it. She can feel it in her sinuses, in her eyes, in the roof of her mouth. Pushing, pulsing, painful. Her vision blurs for a second before snapping back into semi-focus. Her dad is-
Her dad is-
Her head hurts.
Rick’s hand runs down her wrist, taking her hand and interweaving their fingers, his nails digging, piercing into the spaces between her knuckles. He has something in his other hand but she can’t understand what she’s seeing. It starts to glow, it makes a high pitch squealing noise that makes her want to dig her fingers into her ears and pierce her own eardrums. It gets louder and she can imagine herself pushing deeper, pushing until things in her skull crack and give way, until she’s so deep in her head she can feel her fingertips sink into her own brain. It would be warm, the consistency of porridge with too little water in it. She lifts her free hand to her ear. She wants it to stop.
“Couldn’t stop if I wanted to.” He slurs as he raises the bright, screaming device until it’s level with her eye-line. She can’t see him anymore, not through those twin halos of light. “I’m sorry, Jefa.”
The light swells until there is nothing else. No Dad, no adventures, no conversation. Distantly, she feels herself fold, feels her nose break as her face slams down on the table. The wine she spilled soaks into her shirt and runs over the edge, pouring off the plastic table cover like a little waterfall. It lands in her lap, saturating the too-thin material of her scrub pants. The excess slips between her thighs, seeps into her panties, pools under her ass. Beth starts to seize.
She doesn’t feel it when she pisses herself.
When she wakes up tomorrow she is in her own bed. It’s noon. She has slept in and her phone has four missed calls and some missed texts. She has a hangover. She’s wearing her pajamas. She opens her messages and sees that Morty replied to a text she does not remember sending:
[When are you two coming back? We could watch a movie, as a family.>
<Sorry!!!!!!!! I didnt see this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!]
<I fell asleep im sry, maby 2nite?]
And when she comes home late from work Rick and Morty are not there. And when she looks for her wine under the sink, the box is not there, either.