I don’t think I’ve ever seen Leo happier than on Leolin’s birthday. Such pride, it was like he was glowing—even more than he usually did.
Leolin was a sassy child, but sweet as can be. He fit into the family easily, from what I could tell. While you kids seemed to resent him when he was a baby, you welcomed him into your tightknit group once he was as child who could actually interact with you.
I think it had something to do with the baby factor. Just as Apollo had flourished when you and your brother were born—the added responsibility gave him a sense of purpose, something to protect and nurture—you and Hari rallied around Leolin too.
Well… Hari did. Now that I think of it, I didn’t really see you with Leolin much as a child. But I’m sure you welcomed him too, right?
With Leolin born, I think Leo worried about being left out of his life. When Leolin was a baby, he was always around for coddling—no matter when Leo could come by, Leolin was always waiting. As a child, however, he had school and activities and friends—at any given moment, he might be busy or away, and Leo was feeling the loss with his only son.
In order to rectify that loss, ensure time with his son, he wanted to move in. With me. In my house. Like… like a husband. Or a partner. Or something more committed than I thought I would ever be.
I think he saw the panic in my eyes.
I put him on a sort of trial period—he’d do a soft move in, transfer some of his things over. He’d sleep with me—there was no point in the façade, he slept there anytime he was over here anyway, so it was pretty much guaranteed a separate room would never be used. He would be a father to Leolin, the way he wanted to be. And, in return, he would remain nonjudgmental of my lifestyle.
He almost succeeded.
It was difficult for him. I get that, okay. The moment he moved in, it was like his naturally empathic alien nature expanded exponentially to include the house and its inhabitants—I think he’d always lived alone before, and living on a property with multiple people and a crypt… It wasn’t the best situation for his emotions.
He was in a constant state of mourning, it seemed, which left him a little… on edge for a while. Until he got used to the extra emotion, he was snappish and short; it was very unlike him, which I think is the only reason I didn’t kick him out.
He tried to get his emotions out elsewhere, but it didn’t help that much.
So mostly I just tried to stay on his good side until he adjusted. He was never outright mean to me or anything—he was still a good and kind man. It was just that he was having trouble maintaining that lightness he’d always had.
Most of that came out in the same tensions we’d been having; not in the dates, now, but in my profession.
He knew what kind of shop I ran and how I ran it; we’d met there, if you remember. He had no illusions. While on my dates he didn’t know the full extent of what went on—for all he knew, I just held hands with every person I took out—he could not delude himself about what went on at my shop. Not that I engaged in anything. But I certainly flirted. And I certainly encouraged others to make use of the backroom, if they so desired.
Leo was less than pleased about that revelation. That’s the only major fight we’d ever had, and have had since. He seemed to think that I didn’t need to work anymore, that I was just using the shop to get attention. That wasn’t the case at all. I mean, sure, I liked what I did, in the sense that I had fallen into the habit of it and could do it well. But if I didn’t feel like I needed to, in order to provide my children with the best possible future? I would quit in a heartbeat. Just because we had enough to survive day to day didn’t mean we had enough to rest our laurels on.
And it’s not like Leo was bringing in that much extra money. His end goal was to be an astronaut, but somehow I knew he would never get there. He wasn’t motivated enough; his life was more family than career, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. But it did mean that I was making more in shop profits than he was making from his 9 to 5 career.
The house was… tense, to say the least, following Leo’s move-in then. I hope you children didn’t notice too much of it, but I imagine that was an idle hope. In comparison to his usual bouncy self, Leo’s change in demeanor was like a slap in the face.
I could only hope that he would adjust to the frayed emotions quickly and return to his usual self.
In the meantime, we kept the house as cheery as possible on our own.