A/N: This story is kind of an experiment. I know there aren't really any details, but it's supposed to be like that. I hope you enjoy it!
Gracie is up too late. She knows she's breaking her daddy's rules, she knows she should be asleep, because seven year old girls have no reason to be up past midnight.
'Cept, Gracie has a feeling like maybe she drank too much of her daddy's black and bitter and magical energizing potion, because she just can't go to bed.
She feels like jumpin', cept that could wake her uncle up and her uncle sure is cranky when Gracie wakes him up.
But she wants her daddy home, and so she waits up by the door, humming tunelessly and smiling at the air.
And after awhile she falls right asleep until she hears the door unlock.
It's her daddy, but he doesn't look right, looks outta sorts, weird, and also he has somethin' in that hair of his, something icky looking.
He sees her stirring by the door.
"Gracie," he says, starting to look angry and Gracie starts to get the feelin' that she shouldn'ta stayed up.
"What's that in your hair?" she asks, tryin' not to get scared but it's hard because daddy is scary.
"Gracie, we're leavin'. Go n' wake your uncle up, now," he says, making shooing motions at her and she sees what looked like flaky lipstick on his arms, and when she gets up she can see inta his hair and the stuff in it is squishy and icky and she doesn't wanna look at it.
She runs into her uncle's room, starting to shake him.
"Uncle Ori!" she yells tapping him with one hand and tryin' to shake 'im with the other.
He wakes up fairly quick, not happy at all, but then his eyes seem to fix on a point behind Gracie and he calms.
Gracie turns around to see her daddy brushin' bits of the icky stuff outta his hair.
"C'mon, honey," her daddy tells her, grabbing her hand and pulling her to the door.
"Could ya carry me?" she asks, not really knowing what's happening but wanting to feel her daddy's arms around her, just to feel safe.
"Not now, sugar," her daddy says, smiling sadly at her. "Later, though."
And then her uncle is next to her daddy, whispering to him, but all Gracie catches is her daddy's name.
She sure hears that name a lot.
When Gracie's nine her daddy gets real mad at her.
She's botherin' him, trying to get him to play with her. But he won't, just keeps telling her to go away until she cries.
"You ain't done nothing with me!" she yells at him. "You ain't my daddy no more!"
"What did you say?" he asks, whirling around and grabbing her wrist, scaring her.
"Nothing," she says, eyes widening with fear as she tries to make him let go of her.
"You say I ain't your daddy?"
"Let me tell ya somethin', Gracie. I want you to listen real careful. I have broken my fuckin' back time after time to take care o' ya. And y'know why? Cuz your mother wouldn't. I was fuckin' fifteen when you were born, I had time in my life to do what I wanted. But now…I'm your fuckin' slave, keepin' you alive and safe. And you should be damn grateful for that," he says, twisting her wrist and making her cry.
Gracie has never heard her daddy use language like that, never ever. He's never gotten that mad at her before.
But then somethin' shoves her daddy away and put its hands on Gracie's shoulders, pulling her back from him.
"The hell you think you're doing?" the person behind Gracie yells. It's uncle Ori.
"Bitch needs to be taught a lesson," her daddy yells, shoving Ori back.
"She just wanted you to be a real father," Ori says. "Musta been far too much to ask."
"She was buggin' me nonstop, 'play with me, daddy' over and over and over without a fuckin' break. Doesn't understand the word no."
"She's a kid. She wants attention."
They start to hit each other, a real big fight, and Gracie runs.
Just runs out of the room without stopping, runs away as far as she can.
Gracie's twelve now, and she hasn't ever forgiven her daddy for what he said.
She's gotten closer to Ori, he's started to play with her like her daddy never will, and he takes care of her like a real daddy. But he's gettin' weird. Distant.
And one day her daddy pulls her aside to talk to her.
Really talk to her. More than just his usual 'mornin'' or 'night' or 'heya', he's actually gonna talk to her. She's almost excited about that.
"Hey, Gracie, somethin' weird about Ori," he says, ain't no pretense, just informin' her of somethin' she already knows.
"What is it, daddy?" she asks, almost afraid to use her voice near him, afraid he'll disapprove of what she sounds like, like somehow it'll make him renounce her again.
"I dunno, but I don't want ye with him so much no more. Stay away," he tells her, eyes solemn as anything you ever did see.
"But why?" she asks, not understanding. She loves Ori, he's a better father than her own daddy.
"Don't you be stubborn, girl. You listen to me: you ain't goin' near him that much no more," he says.
"And what happens if I do?" she asks, not really meaning to talk back, just truly wondering how exactly she would be punished.
"Don't you ask no more questions, girl. Good girls do what their fathers say, no questions asked," he says.
"Like when we left?"
"Like when we left," he says, sighing in relief that she understands, and turning away to end the conversation.
"Daddy?" she asks.
"Why did we leave?"
"I did somethin' real stupid, baby. Maybe I'll tell you 'bout it someday," he says, not turning back to her.
"Yeah. Real, real bad."
"Promise you'll tell me?" she asks, desperately wanting to know something about her daddy other than his name.
"I promise," he says.
Then he leaves.
"You gonna tell me?" Gracie asks.
She's fourteen now, sitting with her daddy and watching the sun set slowly. He had his hand over his eyes because she was wearing his only pair of sunglasses.
"Tell ya what, baby girl?" her daddy asks, looking through his fingers with one squinting eye.
"Why we left."
The air between them before that had been one of love, something that didn't happen much, but it suddenly froze and got slightly painful.
"You sure you want to know, sugar?" he asks.
"'Course, daddy," Gracie says, nodding.
"Then you gotta promise not to judge me. I was young, stupid. I didn't…I didn't mean to do what I did," he says.
"I promise, daddy."
"I was playin' a game, and-"
"What game, daddy?" Gracie asks. She has to know every detail, everything about this, because she wants so damn bad to understand her daddy, know him.
"Russian Roulette, baby. It's dangerous, don't you ever do it. I will beat you 'till you cry if you do," he says, making Gracie swallow hard.
"How…how d'you play?" she asks weakly, not wanting to offend him.
"You getta gun with one bullet—a revolver. You point it at your head, and you pull the trigger, like…" He mimes putting a gun to his head and pulling the trigger, like Gracie didn't know. "The chambers and shit spin—I dunno how it works, but one person ends up dead in the end. I pulled it, it was a blank and I was fine, but…I guess them bitches at the…place wanted me dead, cos they made me go again. But I didn't, couldn't. Was too scared. So I shot one of 'em, but it was another blank, and they got their guns out, and…they was aimin' at me, but they hit a guy next to me, his brains got blown out and got stuck in my hair, and I just ran. And baby, I was so happy to see you that night. We ran cos I didn't know what else to do."
Gracie has her sunglasses off, the sun's down now, and she just stares at her daddy.
She doesn't understand him any better.
If anything there are more questions now.
But he ain't ever goin' to answer. That tapped 'im out, he's done opening up to Gracie, she sees it in his eyes and his back as he walks inside and slams the screen door.
Ori dies the day Gracie turns eighteen.
It was a suicide, that was clear enough by the blood all over the floor and the knife in the toilet (daddy says he musta dropped it after he slit his throat).
Daddy tries not to show it, but Gracie knows he's real sad, real depressed. But he doesn't show it, just tries to make Gracie's birthday happy.
It doesn't work, because she's crying and pretty soon he's crying too, and he holds her like fathers are supposed to hold daughters—like he's never held her before.
Neither of them can really believe Ori's gone, cos even though he was weird and never really part of their family (that's what daddy says, Gracie feels differently) he was really nice to Gracie, and he was daddy's little brother.
He was a good uncle and a good brother, they both agree on that as they cry through Gracie's whole birthday.
They bury him the next day as the sun sets.
Neither of 'em writes an eulogy, just stare sadly at his grave. Daddy tries to write Ori's name in the dirt, but he can't remember how.
So he just throws dirt over the spot where he tried, and sits down, burying his head in his knees and starting to cry again.
Gracie gets the feeling that this is a private sort of sobbing, somethin' you don't want your grown up daughter seeing.
And she's free now.
So she packs an old backpack that used to belong to Ori. It's huge and black and can fit all of her clothes and everything she needs.
And she does what her daddy's done to her so many times.
She leaves and doesn't look back.
Gracie's twenty when she goes back home for the first time.
She's been tryin' to stay afloat in the world, tried to get a job as an actress, or a model, or anything she could that didn't require an education, cos she doesn't have one.
That was something her daddy never provided for her.
Getting a job didn't work.
She ended up selling herself every night, sometimes more than once. She earned a fair bit of money off of that, but she hated it. She hated herself and she always felt so unclean, every night, and no matter how many times she doused herself in water she never felt clean again.
So she goes home, just to take a break. She's missing her daddy, though she doesn't know why. Now that she's an adult and she feels mature and responsible she can look back and realize that they never had a loving relationship.
The only time she felt like he loved her was the day he took her and Ori away and the day Ori died. But he needed her both of those times.
He only loved her when it was convenient.
But maybe now he'll see that she's changed. That she's changed, and that she's ready to forgive.
She finds the dirt road that leads to her old house, miles away from the city. She swallows hard and knocks on the door, unsure of what to expect.
He'll probably be angry, her daddy will. He won't have forgiven her for leaving.
He answers the door, and she barely recognizes him.
He looks years older than he should be, tired and old. He smells like alcohol and cigarettes, and he's got a beard now.
And he doesn't seem to recognize her at first, just narrows his eyes and starts to slam the door in her face, but she yells at him to wait.
He opens it back up again, slowly this time.
"Gracie?" he asks, slowly and unsurely.
It doesn't sound like his voice. He used to sound strong. She thought there was no one on this earth who was louder and stronger than her daddy.
"Hey daddy," she says, not looking at him, because it hurts to look at him and see what some combination of Ori and she did to him.
"Baby…" he says, touching her face and making her flinch away. But then he seems to remember something, and a bit of Gracie's real daddy shines through. "Why'd you leave me?"
"I wanted to get away, daddy, I just—"
He puts a hand up and she stops instinctively. "What happened to you?" He's shaking his head sadly, examining her clothes and her face. He sees something changed in her that only he can. He's her daddy.
He has to see.
"I changed, daddy, I didn't want to, I didn't…" she starts, almost crying but stopping herself instinctively. Her customers hate it when she cries. "What happened to you?"
He doesn't answer, just steps aside to let her into the house.
It's not easy, living with her daddy.
Gracie supposes she should call him by his real name, now that she's an adult and not dependant on him. But she's afraid of how he would react if she called him Gage.
He hates being called that, it makes him flinch coming from other people, so coming from her it would be terrible.
Living with him ain't easy, but she didn't expect it to be. She knew when she came home that he would be changed.
But now all he does is sit and drink and look out the window like something important's gonna appear outside of it. Like his savior's gonna arrive.
But it hasn't yet.
Gracie cooks for him as best she can. She's cleaned the place up, too; it was a complete wreck. She loves the old house, she was really doing it a favor.
And she tries to talk to her daddy…Gage…whatever.
But he just makes noises, and if she keeps talking too long he'll blow up like he did when she was nine and he and Ori had that fight.
She realizes that to him, she's still that annoying little girl that just wants someone to play with.
All that shows is that he doesn't know anything about her. Doesn't know what she's been up to, doesn't know how she's changed, doesn't know at all.
And worst of all, doesn't care.
She knows he doesn't care what's happened to her, his initial shock and love was just a brief two day period and now he's back to treating her like he did when she was a teenager.
But she needs a place to stay, so she takes care of him and looks after him.
Not that he ever notices.
Her daddy's voice. He's actually saying something to her, the first time in months. Gracie's sitting outside on their old and rotting porch, kicking her legs over the side.
Their backyard is like a forest, the grass so high that as Gracie kicks her legs it cuts her and she feels like she's got her legs in the ocean and they're being bitten by fish.
Daddy's coming out of the house and sitting next to her.
Gracie turned twenty one yesterday, and he didn't tell her happy birthday, didn't do anything at all. Just sat speechless.
She went out to the nearest bar and got as drunk as she could—she's legal, why not enjoy it?
The sun's almost down now, and as he sits down next to her she finds herself remembering the time he told her about why they left.
"I miss Ori," he says, no pretense. No hello, no I love you, no happy birthday. "He's been dead three years now."
Gracie nods mutely, knowing that full well. He remembers his brother's deathday, but not his own daughter's birthday.
"He was a good kid. Bit odd, but good. I loved 'im so much," he says, looking lost in thought as he stares into the dying light.
"I did too," Gracie says, getting a bit choked up.
"I know, sweetie. I know." He rubs her back.
She hates the way they can not talk for so long, and suddenly be the best of friends again. He uses her when he needs someone to confide in.
"I love you too, kid," he says. The sun's just starting to disappear behind a hill. "You know you're the thing I love most in this crazy fucking world, right? You…you're a great daughter. I don't deserve you."
"You don't," Gracie says, not even thinking about it.
He tenses, pulling away, but decides to let it go.
Darkness is starting to swallow the land whole, and when Gracie can barely make out her daddy's features, he pulls her into his arms, like he did when Ori died.
"Happy birthday, baby," he whispers in her ear.
She starts crying freely against his shoulder without knowing why.
"Daddy?" Gracie asks.
They're sitting outside on the back porch watching the sunset. They've made it a ritual now. They don't speak at all during the day, but at night they just sit out and talk, even if it's raining.
Gracie's almost twenty two now.
"Yeah, sugar?" her daddy asks, looking at her for a few seconds, then back at the sunset again.
"Did I ever tell you how I stayed alive when I left?" Gracie asks, looking at her feet because she doesn't want to look at him when she answers her own question.
"Nah. But I think I have some idea," he says, hugging one of his knees to his chest and examining it. "I'm a terrible father, girl. I'm so sorry."
"You were pretty bad." They've agreed to complete honesty. They say what they're feeling, no matter how much it hurts.
"Yeah, I know. And I know what ya were doin', I just don't like thinking 'bout my baby girl doing…" he starts, but stops upon seeing her expression.
She looks like she's going to start crying again. In the last eight or so months, she's been crying a lot, letting out all of the tears that she was afraid to shed in the first twenty years of her life.
He doesn't hate her for it, in fact he has the tendency to join her.
"I'm not your baby girl no more, daddy. I'm changed."
Her daddy swallows hard, nodding a few times. "I know, sweetie. I just miss the little girl that wanted me to carry her and wanted me to play with her, no matter how many times I told her no, and the girl who did what I told her, no matter what. I know it seemed like…like I hated you, but I didn't. I really didn't."
Gracie's looking back at the sunset now, anything to avoid meeting her daddy's eyes, because he wants forgiveness.
And she's not giving it.
He treated her like she wasn't even human, and what he says now can't never change that, so she won't listen to him.
"Underwhelming sunset, ain't it?" Gracie asks, finding it hard to get the words out.
"Yeah," he says, obviously happy to get off of the subject of how he raised her. "Not even any colors. I like 'em when they're orange and red and pink, y'know? Like fireworks."
"Like what?" she asks, still not looking at him.
"Fireworks. You lit 'em on fire and they flew up n' popped and were nice colors. You ain't never seen 'em?" he asks.
She shakes her head.
"Aw, that's a shame. Ori loved 'em, kid couldn't keep himself away from 'em. He got his face burned real bad one day, cos one wasn't goin' off instantly. So he went to look and check it, and somehow he got 'imself burned," her daddy says, looking sad again, cos he's thinking of Ori. "Jesus, I miss that kid."
Gracie's done, doesn't want to listen to her daddy pity himself.
She goes into the house and decides she's gonna sleep in Ori's old bed.
Gracie's daddy dies on her twenty second birthday.
It was a suicide, just like Ori. Just the same way as Ori. But this time Gracie can't avoid lookin' at the body, can't avoid cleaning it off and trying not to think of it as being her daddy.
She doesn't cry when she sees it, doesn't even do as much as gasp.
She was expecting it, and this is just fulfilling expectations.
It takes all day to bury him, and as the sun sets, she decides to give him an eulogy.
(She still hasn't cried. She's been working too hard.)
He's buried next to Ori, where Gracie figured he wanted to be. Though she isn't quite sure that's where Ori would want to be.
Gracie crouches on her daddy's grave, as yet unmarked.
"I guess I loved ya. Don't really know, though. In the beginning I thought you was a god. Like nothin' could touch you. I thought you was strong. But I was scared of ya, especially after you and Ori fought like you did. I guess I thought I was tearing you guys apart. I didn't want to, but I was just a kid.
"Honestly, you shoulda played with me. But I got over it. I was so happy when you told me your secret, the reason we left. I felt like I knew something about you that no one else did, and I loved that.
"I miss Ori too, you know I do and that I did. But when he died…I left because I thought you might just want time alone. I always thought you wanted a lot of time alone. I thought you hated me.
"And when I came back, I was scared. You ain't…weren't who I remembered. I remembered someone strong, someone who would protect me no matter what happened.
"But instead you were just a depressed drunk guy who missed his little brother more'n his own daughter.
"That was disappointing.
"But I liked talking to you. I'll miss that. And you're dead now, so…I don't have to worry about you hating me.
"I won't mourn you very much. You don't deserve it.
"You were a bad daddy, but I guess I loved you anyway."
And then Gracie writes the only letter of his name that she knows in the dirt.
And as the sun sets, she goes to sit on the porch like always and kick her legs in the sea of grass like always.
But there's something missing.
That's the first and last time Gracie cries for her daddy.
A/N: Thanks for reading! All comments are appreciated.