R_S: Ok, so this is very stream of consciousness from Mac's POV. I had a tough time getting into his head, but I think it came out alright considering.


Postpartum

Mac sat at the bar glumly nursing a beer, the others out and up to their own shenanigans while he minded Paddy's. The last few months had been eventful to say the least, and it was funny, but he seemed to notice Dee's pregnancy more in hindsight than he had while it was actually happening. It was pretty amazing, Mac had to admit, what she had done. It was an uncharacteristically selfless, in fact… although it was actually not really all that out of character for Dee, if he really thought about it. He and the guys generally made a point of tuning out everything and anything that the only girl went on about, but if he was being completely honest, more of what she did and said sunk in than he let on. Even though it was a sin, she did go to picket for a woman's right to abortion, mistakenly believing that she was working toward the greater good of women everywhere. Or when she faked being a man because she thought women could be as good at sports as men and wanted to prove such for her universal sisterhood. And she did drive them around an awful lot and try to take care of them. There was an inherent selfishness there, just as there was with all of them, but it was probably least noticeable in her… at least he thought so. And it could definitely be argued that the gang had a hand in fostering it. She definitely hadn't earned the nickname Sweet Dee from eating a ton of cotton candy. And now, to top it all off, this- having a baby for a couple she barely knew, just because they couldn't.

It did not, surprisingly, escape Mac's notice that it had been for Carmen, a woman (man? person?) he had been particularly cruel to in the past. Sweet Dee was always covering his ass in roundabout ways, probably because that was just her schtick. She did it for all of them, not that they ever said thank you. But he did have an odd reciprocal tendency to look out for Dee- not for her, of course, but because she happened to benefit from a situation that demanded his aid. Like, when Charlie and he were rich and Dennis and Dee were on welfare, he definitely didn't linger to see if his best friend and his… Dee were alright- he just wanted to mock them, and mocking was no fun if they were all twitchy and dying. And when she had the heart-attack, he checked in on her charts and pulled a doctor aside to talk about if she was really ok, but obviously that was just so he could be aware of how bad he could expect to suffer if subjected to the same fate. Not crashing at Dee's place was an obvious decision when he and Dennis were going through a rough patch, because that was Dennis's sister, not because it was embarrassing for him to seem codependent next to such an independent individual. Delivering two minutes of cruel emotional battery during an intense game of CharDee MacDennis was fun, leaving absolutely no guilt whatsoever, and he only kept tissues around because teary waitresses chased away customers. He only stopped her from successfully taking all those pills because having a chick off herself in your bar totally sucked for business. And obviously he had to feed her when they were lost in the woods- she had a baby, and he couldn't let that die, even if it was Dee's evil spawn (grabbing her arm to lead her away was decidedly to keep her from falling and hurting the baby or wandering off and letting the baby get eaten by a bear, not because her hand was soft and warm within his own).

So, of course when she was having the baby he wanted to take care of it, because he would have been the better parent, not because he was worried about Sweet Dee abandoned and trying to take care of a child all alone. Any sense of that was just because he'd grown up essentially without a father, and he wanted to protect a baby from that. Mostly it was just protecting this child from its mother. She'd be a terrible mother, would probably… well, always love it, since she loved her cat so much and this would be an actual child. She did seem to like kids. And she didn't forget to feed things like Dennis did, and she did actually know how to take care of a baby- she'd actually been really great with Dumpster Baby right up until that Gerber thing.

She fed him gently, sang to him lovingly. Mac pretended he was asleep, but really he was standing just out of sight, listening and watching her endlessly rock the tiny bundle, even after he had drifted off. In retrospect, he was kind of being an ass about the whole raising D.B. thing. After the fact, when he told his mother what happened, Mama Mac showed a rare expression and smacked him over the head. It had hurt a surprising amount, considering her comparative size and age. It was hard to hear her rant over the ringing in his ears, but he got the general gist of it and the importance of being part of the baby's life. He realized that Dee and he would actually have been great parents. It was kind of why he had changed his tune so much by the time she gave birth.

Initially, when he thought there was a chance he might have fathered Dee's baby, he'd been oddly calm about the whole thing, no wild freak-outs or bitch fits. When they thought it might have been Charlie's, he'd only been numb- with relief, of course, that it wasn't him who'd slept with her and perhaps a touch of (deniable if you ever dared call him on it) regret that he wasn't some precious child's daddy. There was definitely not even the barest tingle of pain that Dee had slept with one of his best friends, not at all. The tone of regret in his voice when he told the gang he was banging a different girl in the bathroom was because he had to admit he'd fucked Margaret McPoyle, not because he'd really thought that he'd made a baby with Sweet Dee- of course not, that'd be disgusting. And failing to remember such an unholy union would be a blessing, not a curse. In the end, when the lie was revealed, he insisted he felt relief. He said he didn't give a shit about the father of the baby because he didn't give a fuck about Dee, not because it hurt even the slightest bit to think about her raising that child with another man. His lack of vocal relief with the others was just due to his being happy beyond words, nothing else.

The memory of that night sent his stomach into sour twists. For a short, nauseating period, as he and the gang sat on that gross couch, Mac was so certain that the father was one of the McPoyle brothers. His fist curled. He was already looking for an excuse to break their ugly faces, and knocking Dee up and abandoning her was just the straw that broke the camel's back- cuz they were assholes and it was a good excuse, not because he cared that it was Dee, it was just a shitty thing to do. Actually, he spent an alarming amount of time secretly wondering who the father was (only so he knew what kind of a tool to expect to start hanging around with them) and wanting to punch him in the face (y'know, because a baby would have completely thrown off their chemistry and that would be Dee and his fault, and you can't punch lady… not that Dee's a lady, but punching a bird is animal cruelty). Actually no, no he didn't- Dee just kept bringing that up, trying to trick him into thinking he cared even though he didn't, and that was definitely not a factor in that stupid party to figure out who the father was, not at all.

Thank god none of those tools were the father. Seriously, could anyone picture Lil' Kev as a father? That was too horrifying to even begin to fathom. Plus, then he'd have to threaten his life all over again- the first time being for kicking him off stage, definitely not because he had insulted Dee (who wasn't even his friend) in front of so many people. Or, ew, that weepy camo turkey… how the hell would that kid ever learn to take care of himself? And Ben would always be away on duty- a kid can't have an absentee army douche dad, it's not right (though his ass did seem like it would be the easiest to kick- not that Mac thought about that sort of thing, guys could walk all over Dee all they wanted). Yeah, Sweet Dee had just the worst taste in men.

She really needed to date a real man, someone who would take care of her- a guy more like him.

That horrific train of thought was thankfully interrupted as the very woman he was pondering stalked in the door. Her eyes were lined in smudgy black, a blurry line swooping down at the corner, red and swollen to match her lips. Her hair was thrown up in a messy bun, but enough hung down to hide her face a bit. She didn't meet is gaze as she swung around behind the bar.

She tossed out her usual type of welcome, "Hey, boner." but it lacked its usual sadistic bitterness. He coughed awkwardly, as though he needed to disguise that he was thinking of her.

"Hey Dee, 'sup?"

"Nothing," her voice was a low rasp, and he tried to ignore the difference in tone, "just a normal shitty day at this shitty job. Be right back, I'm gonna run to the bathroom really quick."

Mac did not watch her ass as she walked away, definitely not. Instead his mind returned to its earlier track- Dee's taste in men. The fault was obvious from the beginning- they were willing to date Dee, which was an obvious sign of insanity. Because, y'know, she was just awful… but so were they. In fact, they were definitely way worse than Dee. Sure, she was mean and desperate and manipulative, but the gang dealt with those aspects just fine, so why couldn't these guys? Mac wasn't much of a relationship guy, but if he was going to have one, it sure as hell wouldn't be with some doormat codependent bitch. That was why he and Dennis worked out so well as best friends, because even if they were an 'old married couple' (which they weren't), Dennis was independent enough to do his own thing (and Mac definitely did not shift their friendship into a relationship role in his life because of the similarities between Dennis and his sister, whom he did not want, because that would be weird, ridiculous, and insane, and three words that could never describe Mac were weird, ridiculous, and insane). There was a bit of push and pull, no primary alpha. Being totally in charge was fine for a quick lay – easier even – but a girlfriend needed a bit of backbone, the ability to do her own thing and make you chase her a bit. Otherwise, where was the fun? If you were going to chain yourself into a relationship, there might as well be some fun.

Dee could actually be pretty fun, he admitted, when she wasn't trying to shit on everybody's good time. She could be super fucking insane with them and act like one of the guys, even though there was always something little there that reminded you she was all woman. Mac couldn't put his finger on what it was, but even when she was trying her darnedest to be part of the gang, there was always something so overwhelmingly feminine that he (and the other guys, he assumed) was acutely aware of. Maybe it was because she had tits? The long blond hair? The make-up? He didn't know. All he did know was that, admittedly slighty bird-like appearance aside, she was actually kind of pretty… just kind of, definitely not hot. And yeah, ok, he did seem to always have a blast with her.

Mac decided he was being far too nice to Dee today and had better stop.

"Jesus, Dee, you look even shittier than you did before you went in there. What, did you fly into a window?" That was the greeting Dee got when she returned to her spot behind the bar, collecting empties from tables she passed. He watched the shift overcome her face like a wave, starting at her eyes and slipping across her lips, pulling them down with its journey.

"FUCK YOU, MAC, YOU GOD DAMN SHITHEAD PIECE OF CRAP!" He almost didn't dodge the beer bottle she flung at him before she stormed back to the bathroom from whence she came. Well that was fucking bullshit… what was her deal? Damn, Dee was always like that- overreacting to every little goddamn thing. Her life was oh so terrible, but what about his life? What about his day? He'd been at Paddy's alone all day dealing with asshole customers buying shitty beer, and she just waltzes in looking like a mess and starts cursing him out. Who did she think she was, trying to get out of work by hiding in the bathroom all angry? That was absolute fucking bullshit, and he strode over to the ladies room to tell her so, ready to give her a piece of his mind.

But, when he got there, the words died on his lips. Dee wasn't muttering to herself or pacing angrily, doing any of the usually angry-Dee activities he expected. She was huddled over the sink, her blond head resting against the filthy mirror with its blackened edges, and crying. She looked so sad, so heartbroken, that he was taken aback, too much so to insult her with his usual fervor- probably for the first time ever. Actually, if Mac really thought about it, she had been a mess like this for the last few weeks, pretty much ever since the birth (not that he noticed Sweet Dee's moods, he just realized that she was cranky way too often for it to be her period every time). It occurred to him, somewhat belatedly, that as upset as he was about the baby, Dee had actually birthed the thing, so she was probably even worse off. It explained her behavior lately. She had been floating in and out of the bar like a ghost, half devoid of attention span and lost in dark musings. It even took Dee a moment to realize anyone had walked into the bathroom.

She threw up her hands.

"Great, you followed me; fan-fucking-tastic. Fine, lemme have it Mac- tell me how stupid I am and how ugly I am and how nobody cares about me. It's fine," she muttered, turning from him, "I'm used to it." The silence between them was drawn out, the blond fixing her face and sniffling in the mirror while he watched her unmoving.

"Dee… are you ok?"

She snorted, "Do I look ok, douche bag?" As sobs wracked her body, he didn't know what to do, so he just stood there listening to her hiccups and mutterings, words choked out between the tears.

"It's not fair- it's so hard, Mac… No one said it was going to be hard. And I know it's their baby, but it's kind of mine too. It was inside me, part of me for nine fucking months and then I fucking birth it and that's it- I just have to give him up and he's just fucking gone and it's not fair a-and and-" She melted into sobs again, and though he didn't know what compelled him to do it, Mac pulled her against his chest and let her cry there, arms locked around her thin form. Dee buried her head in his shoulder like it belonged there and tried to ignore the smell of his cologne while he tried to ignore the scent of her shampoo.

"What if this is all I have? What if I never find someone and never get to have a baby of my own? I want to be a mother, Mac… I don't wanna die before anyone ever loves me…"

A small part of him wanted to give in to the crazy rant he felt bubbling up from his gut, the one that made no sense. The one that almost made it seem like somebody did love her. It wanted to scream that he didn't like living with Bill and her during their affair because he hated seeing her with this other guy, not because of anything else. It wanted to admit he had asked similar questions, too, questions like 'what if that time he punched her was the only time he'd ever get to kiss her?' or 'what if he never got to be a dad- did he get away with tons of unprotected sex because he was shooting blanks?' It wanted to say that he still thought about when he wheeled her out of the hospital when the baby was born- she'd looked so beautiful in those few moments as a new mother. It made him want to hold her and take care of her like nothing ever before, and he knew those other tools she had dated saw that entrancing glow of light too. He needed to get her away from them before they tried to swoop in on her again, because they were all pathetic loser tools and she could do so much better. He wanted to tell her that he thought about what their baby would look like about a thousand times since she accused one of the gang of being the father. He wanted to say that when he couldn't sleep, he pictured her in his head, singing to Dumpster Baby as she cradled him in her arms.

But Mac didn't say that. Instead all that came out was "Wanna grab a beer?" And she just nodded and gave him a watery smile. But before they left the bathroom, he couldn't resist lifting his hand to brush away the last tear, gently thumbing away the smudge it left beneath her eye. It spoke volumes for him.


R_S: So, let me know what you think. It's hard to make those characters take anything seriously, but I did my best. Thanks for reading!