Disclaimer: I don't own the characters and I don't make any money off of them.
A/N: Requested as an FTO by ritt, the world's best beta.
Well that didn't go nearly as bad as I thought it would. I've told them about Robin and neither one of them seems to think there's something wrong with me. Except for Chuck's little remark – he's going to pay for that later. But I just knew they would think, "Oh boy, he's screwed another relationship up." But Dad… thinks it's a good thing because I wasn't the one who pulled the plug? I keep my nose buried in the mail so I can avoid looking at his face, afraid that despite the supportive nature of his words, I'll see disappointment in his eyes. I mean, why wouldn't he be? Two grown sons and neither one of us seems to be able to give him the extended family he deserves. And I'm the oldest – I should be way ahead of Chuck in this department but, as always, he's light years ahead of me.
Wait, Dad's talking again – step in the right direction? I don't necessarily agree but I can sense that he's giving me that long, hard look so I finally give in. "I guess. If you say so." I continue flipping through the mail, still afraid of what I might see in his eyes.
Now he's saying something about not being tired? Something good on late night television? No, Dad, I wasn't looking for pity company tonight, but I did think you and Charlie were entitled to the truth about me and Robin. Charlie? You're going to pop some popcorn? Great, now I'm intruding in their lives. This isn't why I told you two. I just… I don't know why I told you exactly, but this wasn't it.
"Guys, you don't have to do this," I emphasize, finally looking up at him. Please don't stop your lives just because I've trashed another relationship.
"Do what?" my father asks in an attempt to brush of the significance of what they're doing for me.
"Seriously, go to bed. I'm okay." And I could use a little alone time. Yeah right, Eppes. If you wanted alone time you should have gone back to your apartment. You wanted their company and now you feel guilty for being a bother.
"Hey, come on," Dad huffs. "You don't even live here, what're you telling us what to do?"
Okay, I recognize that tone – game, set, match and Dad's the winner. "Alright," I relent as I put the mail on the table beside me and give my father a long look. He's decidedly focused on the television as if he knows I need a moment of privacy to absorb everything he's just said and what he and Charlie are doing for me now. For lack of anything more profound, I whisper, "Thanks."
"Don't mention it," he replies, his eyes never straying from the screen before him.
For just the briefest of moments I'm hurt by his continued disinterest, but then it hits me – my father knows me too well. He knows I don't like to bare my soul to anyone, and I suspect he knows how hard it was for me to come clean about me and Robin. Good ol' Dad is giving me the space I need to get through my… grief seems like such a harsh word, but I suppose that's what I'm feeling.
I lean back in the chair and let my eyes drift to the television and the old sitcom chugging along on screen. I watch the images play before me, but my thoughts are spinning wildly in my head – thoughts of the many failed relationships and doubts that I'll ever succeed at one. Despair and anxiety start to rise in my mind but then Dad lets out a laugh, points at the screen and fixes me with a grin. I can't help it – I laugh, too. He gives me a warm smile and looks at me with a gaze that conveys so many things – love, pride, patience, support – too many to adequately sort out, but there is a word for what I'm feeling under his gaze… cherished. I'm his flesh and blood, his oldest son, and he absolutely cherishes me, no matter what I do or don't do.
I let out a tired sigh and slouch in the chair, comforted by my father's love. It's not long before I start to drift off, but I do feel him draping an afghan over me and his gentle hand on my head. "Robin's a fool," he whispers softly before turning off the television and wrangling my brother upstairs to bed.
Yes she is, Dad – she gave up the chance to be part of the best family a guy could ask for. A smile tugs at the corner of my mouth as I give into a dreamless sleep.