Standard has been back from prison for about a day, now. It feels unreal, but there it is. He did his time, and he’s not in prison anymore. He's staying out this time, out of that fucking mess and the fucking things he has to promise to fucking thugs just to get by-
Standard breathes out, and stares at the TV. The cartoons on it won't resolve into something he can comprehend, but the colors are a distraction.
He's going to have to work out what to do about this goddamn protection money, soon.
Ben mumbles something, staring at the cartoons intently.
"Hey, Benicio, how you doing?"
"Good," says Ben.
The living room is neat and nice, Irene has done a great job even though he couldn't help her. Standard regrets leaving her every day, and he's not going to let it happen again. But he's not going to let anything happen to Irene or Ben either.
A rabbit hits a duck on the screen, and the music gets louder. Ben's eyes track every movement, and Standard gives up on trying to follow the TV. He watches his son instead, following the flicker of Ben’s eyes.
"Have you and your mom been doing okay?"
"Yeah," says Ben.
Standard isn't sure if his son just doesn't want to talk to him, or if just doesn't want to talk. He gets the feeling that there's been a lot of silence in this house, lately. Standard can feel it seeping out of the walls, silence wrapped up in cheap wallpaper. It's not unfriendly, but he doesn't understand it.
"You and Mommy and Mommy's friend, right? Do you like him?"
"Yeah," says Ben. He reaches forward and snags his glass of water, the cup huge in his tiny kid's hands. Standard sips from his coffee and tries not to worry that Ben is going to dump the whole thing down his shirt. Ben's a big kid now, not a baby. Standard missed a lot.
"I'm not going to miss anything else, Benicio. It's going to be me and you and Mommy from now on. And Mommy's friend, if that's how they like it. But I'll be here, don't you worry about it."
"Okay," says Ben.
Standard stares at the TV and the ceiling, and the neat little life Irene made for him to come back to. Just this last thing, clear the debts, and he'll be done and ready to fit into it.