Father of the Year

There’s still something he has to do. And it’s going to be much, much harder than apologizing to Rain: he needs to apologize to Diego.

It’s past one in the morning, but Leon has at least learned a little about his son in the time they’re shared his penthouse, and by Diego’s standards, the night is barely getting started. He checks the dancing still going on the main hall: no Diego. No sign of him at the fire pit either. It’s always possible the boy is off in the trees with someone, but considering his vehement expression of distaste for the practice earlier, Leon doubts it. Which really only leaves one place: the Dark Room.

I’m sorry. He rehearses the words as he makes the walk from the fire pit to the cabin that houses the hookup space. Has it always been this long? I don’t know what I’m doing, but I want to do better. I can’t change what I’ve done in the past, but I can try to change the future.

Diego is on the Dark Room porch with Sorrento and Claire. They’re look like they’re deep in conversation. Diego is leaning against the porch rail and Claire has her arm around him, but all three fall silent when they see Leon approaching. He stops at the bottom of the stairs.

There’s a long moment of silence. “Leon,” Diego says at length. “How was Rain?” His voice drips with sarcasm and scorn.

“Rain was…” This is the last thing he wants to talk about right now. “Good.” He puts a foot on the bottom step.

Diego stands up without another word, brushes past Leon, and begins walking away. Claire gives Leon a scathing look, then hurries after him. Sorrento lingers a moment, and his expression is unreadable. Then he walks away as well.

Leon opens his mouth, but nothing comes out. He watches as the three stop under a tree, away from the porch light, and stand in a tight circle. Sorrento pats Diego’s shoulder. Then he twists his head, looking directly at Leon. It’s nearly impossible to tell from here, but Leon would swear Sorrento shakes his head.

Frustration and despair well up in him. How can he even try to set things right if nobody will talk to him? He lingers for long agonized moments, his hand on the porch railing.

Then he makes up his mind.

By the time he reaches them, frustration has won out amongst his warring emotions. He holds his hands out to his sides in an affronted shrug as he approaches. “So, what,” he says to Sorrento, “you’re against me now too?”

The look Sorrento gives him is angry, pitying, and apologetic all at the same time. “Someone has to look after the kid.”

“I’m…” Diego mumbles to the ground. “I’m going to crash on Sorrento’s couch for a couple weeks.”

It feels like a punch in the gut. Leon wants to cry, but takes a deep breath instead and nods. “Okay.”

Across from him, Claire explodes. “‘Okay? Okay?‘ Your son tells you he’s going couch-surfing, and all you can say is ‘OKAY?!‘” She lunges at him.

“Whoa!” Sorrento grabs her around the waist, stopping her clawed hand from swiping Leon. “C’mon. The kid needs space. Leon’s giving it to him.”

“He won’t even fight for his son!” she says. Sorrento releases her and she looks like she still might like to attack him, but restrains herself.

“I’m sorry,” Leon says. The words leave him feeling hollow. They were supposed to be a peace offering, not a plea for mercy. “Do what you need to do.”

“Don’t you even care?” Claire snaps.

“I do care!” Leon says, his voice rising in frustration. “I know I haven’t been a great father –”

“No, you’ve been a fucking terrible father! You’re so busy fucking around and doing drugs, you don’t even see how messed up he’s getting. You’re so fucking selfish!”

I know! I know, and I’m sorry, I didn’t know what to do. I don’t know how to be a father.”

“Maybe if you had fucking bothered to be around!”

He raises his hands, a gesture of helpless anger. “I didn’t know! How was I supposed to be there when I didn’t know?”

“You could have bothered to find out!”

Leon stares at her for a long moment, mouth opening and closing wordlessly a few times. “What do you want from me?” he says finally.

“Be a fucking father,” she growls.

I’m trying!” he snaps back. “I… he… this…” He shakes his head to clear it. “Things are changing for me, but… I can’t change the past, and I can’t make him stay where he doesn’t want to stay. He needs some space, I’m gonna respect that.”

She finally shuts up for a moment, and Leon seizes the opportunity to turn to Diego.

“I’m sorry,” he says again. “If you need to go, go. I know I’ve been awful and I… I came over here to tell you so. To tell you I want to do better. To be better.”

Diego looks at him warily, but doesn’t say anything yet.

“I don’t know what I’m doing. I never knew my father. But I… I…” He feels the corners of his mouth drawing down, his brows coming together and his eyes filling with desperation. “I just want a chance. When you’re done doing… whatever you need to do… when you’re ready… I hope you’ll just give me another chance.”

Leon’s gut ties itself in knots as the charged silence stretches out once more.

“I’m gonna look for my own place,” Diego says at last. “But I’ll… I’ll…” He glances down, and Leon remembers how incredibly young and vulnerable he really is. He feels like utter shit.

“Give me some time,” Diego says. “But then… maybe we can talk.”

Leon nods miserably. He wants to say so much more. Wants to throw himself on the ground and beg for forgiveness. And knows he doesn’t deserve it.

“Okay.” He glances at Claire, whose face is still murderous, and then Sorrento, who looks a good deal more sympathetic than before. Sorrento puts a hand on Leon’s shoulder.

“I’ll take care of him.”

“Okay,” Leon says again, still nodding helplessly. “Okay.”

Sorrento moves his hand from Leon to Diego, and Claire keeps her glare on him for as long as she can while also moving to embrace his son. The three begin walking away again, their heads bending together.

And Leon lets them go.

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