Cookies and Cocoa
You could, in fact, have too many angels.
Rusty gave the ones on the end table as wide a berth as he could by sitting in the center of the sofa. The one on the right had a creepy sort of cross-eyed stare that followed his every move, and the one on the left was just plain ugly. After a moment of awkwardly trying to straddle both cushions at once, he slid over to the right and angled Creepy Angel towards the kitchen where it (she?) could watch Sharon burn the cookies.
"The tree looks nice," he said aloud. Tree Angel was a smiling woman in a white dress. He could live with her, and the hundred smaller angels that Sharon had hung on the tree itself were harder to pick out at a distance.
But he really did like the lights?
"Oh... thank you." There was a little pause that, when combined with the distraction in her voice, did not bode well for his prospects of devouring cookies in the near future. "Hm."
The oven door slammed shut.
"Problems?" Rusty twisted around, rising up onto his knees. Sharon had her back to him, blocking his view of the oven but he could practically see her frown. And the charred cookies. "Are you sure that you don't want me to—"
"No, it's fine," she said. "They're almost ready."
Rusty rested his forearms on the back of the couch with a sigh. "Can I at least make the hot chocolate?"
She allowed him that much, which was kind of ridiculous because even Sharon could heat up milk and, really, she should've done that while he did the cookies, but she'd been so insistent and shooed him out of the kitchen every time he'd tried to help that finally he'd given up and flopped on the couch. And he knew that she was she was doing most of this for him, but...
He snuck a glance at the cookie sheet as he grabbed two mugs from the cabinet. They weren't nearly as burnt as they could've been—in fact, they looked downright edible.
When the hot chocolate was ready, he plopped a marshmallow in each mug and handed one to Sharon. She accepted it with a smile of thanks, and brought the plate of cookies to the couch. Rusty smothered a grin. Apparently, she made exceptions to the no-food-on-the-couch rule if you were staring at a Christmas tree instead of the television.
Sharon sat on the Creepy Angel side of the couch. Rusty turned towards her, facing the tree, so that his back was to Ugly Angel. Sharon passed a cookie into his hand. He softened it in his hot chocolate and chewed slowly. It wasn't as bad as he'd feared—they were a little browner than he thought they were supposed to be, but they were chewy and warm, and he tasted butter and sugar and a strong dash of vanilla.
He'd never really done anything like this with his mother.
Rusty scowled into his cocoa. That happened, sometimes. He'd be having a perfectly good night and then thoughts like that would pop unbidden to the forefront of his mind. He was never sure what to do then, because he didn't like to let things like that ruin the moment if it was a nice one like this was, but...
"Everything okay?" Of course Sharon chose that moment to glance back at him, all smiles and Christmas cheer.
He stared down into his mug and nodded.
"There's something on your mind."
He nodded again, and sipped his drink in silence. Sharon made a quiet hmm and contemplated the tree again, waiting.
"What did you do for Christmas?" he asked, startling himself because that wasn't at all what he'd meant to say. "With your kids?"
"Oh," she said, sounding almost as surprised as he felt. "Well... when they were younger, when Jack and I were still—we would all make cookies together on Christmas Eve, and then he would dress up as Santa Claus and bring them each one present. They had to wait until morning for the rest."
"That sounds... nice."
"It was." Her smile was sad as she shifted her grip on her mug, holding it between her palms. "When they were older, they talked me into two presents each."
She'd wanted them to have two each, more like. He knew from experience how hard it was to talk Sharon into anything.
"My mom and I—" There he went again, but this was one of the better memories. "One year, we drove around and looked at all the lights."
Sharon smiled. "I love to do that."
"I thought it was the coolest thing. I don't think she had much fun, though." Rusty nudged the remains of his marshmallow under the surface, and watched it bleed white into dark. "Dr. Joe asked me something today. About my mom."
"It's... complicated," he said, still gazing into his hot chocolate. "I'm still thinking about it."
"I see," she said slowly. "Well. I'll be here when you figure it out."
"I know that."
And that was the thing that complicated everything, because she would be and he knew that. He really knew that.
Could he miss something that he'd never had in the first place?
Rusty knew that he'd been unhappy with his mother. He'd been angry and worried and frightened most of the time, and there were a lot of terrible things that he didn't remember because he'd made himself forget, but—she was still his mother, and if she'd only wanted him, that would've been enough.
Now Sharon was his... whatever she was, and he loved her, and she wanted him, and more than anything, he wished it were possible to have them both, if his mother could be better.
"And Sharon?" he added. "I—I meant what I said yesterday. About you."
She ducked her head, but not before he saw the way her expressionn had softened into something warm and tender, something that made him swallow and look away even before she quietly replied, "So did I."
There was a little rasp in her voice to match the lump in his throat. And just like that, Rusty knew that, at least for tonight, at least for this moment right now, this place was home and there was nowhere else that he would choose to be but here, Creepy Angel and all.
"Oh!" Sharon made an excited little hum in her throat as she finished her cocoa, and then she turned to lay a hand on his arm. "I have an idea."
"What?" Her enthusiasm was infectious but Rusty couldn't help sounding a little wary, because Sharon was really into this Christmas thing. He was a little afraid that he'd hurt her feelings when he'd declined to take an angel for his room, but Sharon didn't seem to own anything but angels and would it kill her to buy a wreath? Something that wouldn't keep him from sleeping.
"Come with me to look at Christmas lights," she said, and she actually clapped as she said it.
He smiled without thinking. "Sharon, you don't have to—"
"Come on, come on," she said, in exactly the same sort of impatient tone she used when telling him to clean his room or when she thought he was taking too long to finish doing the dishes.
He hesitated a moment longer, because he really didn't want her thinking that she had to so that he would be happy, but she looked so excited and just...
Before he quite knew what he was doing, Rusty found himself nodding. "That does like fun," he admitted.
She actually pushed him towards his room as she stood, a gentle nudge with both palms between his shoulder blades. "I'll go get my purse," she said. "Go find your shoes."
He remembered as he did, what she'd said to him once. It was only a year and a half ago, but sometimes, it was easy for him to forget that he hadn't always been here with her.
I'm here, and your mother is not, and you're going to try and make the best of it.
Rusty thought he had.
He really hoped so.