I don’t know what to do about your daughter, Michael.

I mean, I know you can’t hear me. You’re dead. And if I’m being totally honest, you’re a much better listener now you can’t talk back. But I could sure as hell use some advice right about now.

Thing is, she’s so damn like you it makes my gut hurt. Too damn prickly, makes these halfassed overtures of friendship designed to be ignored so she can tell herself it wasn’t worth making more effort. Then she punishes herself for not being likeable.

She wants so bad to have people see her the way you wanted them to see you. Competent, efficient, correct. The idea that someone might see her weak, she hates that. It damn near killed her to have to call for backup yesterday.

And then there’s whoever you thought you should have been. Infallible. The antidote to your father. You wanted so badly to be our savior, to offset what he did. And you were going to be this hero, this family man, the perfect embodiment of Aetherian culture. With Amanda. Poor Amanda. She loves you so hard, Mike. Even knowing, on some level, that you only cared for her as much as you could, that she was window dressing for your life. I don’t think she’s ever gonna remarry. She says it’s about the kids, but it’s not. It’s about life, and comfort, and Manda had just a little of that when you were here. It’d break her heart to get with someone else and have him love her more than you did, because it would mean you loved her less.

Holly does it too, Mike. Pushes everyone away because she’s set on a pattern for her life, and she knows who and what she’d have to love and think and do to fit into that pattern. Tries to be somebody cold enough and manipulative enough to succeed, to put that between herself and everything she’s afraid of the way you put that perfect veneer of lies up.

But Mike, Michael, my heart, your daughter has such an infinite capacity for love. You could drown in it.

She loves like you did, when you’d let yourself. Part of me hopes Manda saw that part of you, because she’s a damn fine woman and she deserved more from you. And part of me wants to be selfish, to be the only one who had that from you. Even though at the end of the day you went home to your perfect family. I wish you could see them, love. Michael’s growing like a weed, and Mini-Me is just.. she’s incredible. Exactly what you wanted.

The way your other daughter is sure she’s not.

I don’t know what to do, Mike. I remember seeing her for the first time, seeing the way you looked at her, proud and scared at the same time. And we took that girl, that glowing child you always wanted, and we dipped her in honey and fed her to the monsters. To Sarah Fucking Maelstrom, the biggest monster of them all. I fucking hate us sometimes.

But whatever it is she does with monsters, she does it well. I watched her once. Sarah was getting good and worked up, and Holly just said “I can’t stop you from doing this. But I wish you wouldn’t.” And it worked. She used that powerlessness, that helplessness, and she made it into something bigger than herself. Maybe that’s it.

I don’t know. You know how much that scares me? Because it’s my damn job to know. Like I knew how damaged you were, but how hard you were trying, underneath that veneer of infallibility.

But I don’t know, with her. All I know is she went out looking for you and she came back scared. Hasn’t left Sarah’s shadow since, until tonight, when she showed up on my doorstep and said “I don’t think I should be alone tonight, Uncle Sam, can I crash on your couch?”

Fuck.

Mike, your daughter is sleeping on my couch so she doesn’t hurt herself. And she’s terrified. Not of Sarah, though maybe she should be. But something about her. And she’s some kind of fierce lonely, for a girl with a lover and a housemate and a base full of people who’d be her friends if she’d let them.

I’m scared too. I failed you. What happens if I fail her?

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