Xavier liked lists, numbered lists in particular. Mike had suggested once that he should be a lawyer, because they liked to number all their paragraphs separately, and he'd actually thought about that for a while, until he realized that liking a typographical convention was probably a bad foundation for career choice. He pulled out a sheet of paper, headed it neatly: Five Times I Saw Rudy Smile, wrote a number 1 in the margin, and settled down to chew his pen and think.
Daniel was coming over to do a Meet The Parents dinner thing, and even though he'd met them, several times, he was terrified. David had suggested, unhelpfully, that in fact maybe it was because he'd met Mike and Rudy that Daniel was terrified, and then he'd vowed never to take his girlfriend home, ever. But Xavier lived in the apartment over Rudy and Mike's garage, half-completed by the previous owners of the house and left untouched by them all except as a dumping ground for junk and boxes until Rudy had started cleaning it out the weekend after Xavier and David went to live in dorms at UBC. Xavier tried not to think too hard about the fact that the call from Rudy for him to come home and help pick out colours and paint the walls came the same day that he decided he couldn't live in dorms, not even for another moment. He just accepted Rudy's silent, inscrutable omniscience and moved in, which was fine except now Daniel (his boyfriend, and wasn't that amazing) came around sometimes, and Mike had said he wanted to get to know Daniel better, and why didn't they come to dinner on Sunday.
Xavier shifted the pen to the other corner of his mouth and looked outside at the tyre tracks in the snow leading away from where Daniel's Jeep had been. Daniel had babbled something about fear, and David, and having his arms ripped off, and finally said yes, but not unless Xavier promised him that Rudy smiled sometimes, and Xav had said he did, and when Daniel left thirty-seven kisses later, he sat down to make a list:
1. That time when David blew up the garden shed.
Actually, that wasn't really smiling so much as cackling with laughter, which had set Mike off, as always, and even David, blackened and slightly singed, had giggled. On second thoughts, maybe that wasn't the most reassuring of examples for Daniel, but it was too late now, and he plunged on:
2. At Mike, when Mike isn't looking, lots of times.
It was never a big smile, not a huge toothy grin or anything, but sometimes when Rudy came upon Mike doing something particularly Mike-like, Rudy's lips would curve upward, and he would look happy and relaxed.
3. In the photo of us all the day the adoption papers went through.
That was a real grin, fierce and proud, and probably it said something about Xavier and Daniel that Daniel hadn't seen that yet, because the certificate of adoption and the photo were hung on Xavier's bedroom wall, along with a photo of his mom and dad, and no matter what Xavier called Daniel in the privacy of his head (boyfriend) they hadn't quite got to the point where Daniel had seen the inside of his bedroom, and the incontrovertible evidence that yes, Rudy could smile.
4. At shrinks and social workers when he has to.
Daniel knows about this, Xavier hadn't tried to hide it, and it's one of his earliest and best memories of Rudy, of Rudy smiling at horrible Mr Matthews and promising that yes, he absolutely would take all of Mr Matthews' advice on how to behave around his fragile third foster child. He had smiled and held out a hand for Xavier to hold when they left the office, and when they were in the shiny clean corridor, he'd knelt next to Xav and had given him a tissue, and they had never gone back there. Xav had gone to see Elizabeth instead, who let him play with Lego while she talked with him, and at whom Rudy had never smiled.
5. At me, when he thinks I'm not looking.
David and Andy had laughed at him when he'd suggested it, but there had been times lately when Xav wondered if maybe Rudy was mellowing a little as he got older. He went over to the main house for meals all the time, or just to hang out, and just recently he'd seen, sometimes, that same upward curve to Rudy's lips out the corner of his eye, even when Mike wasn't around, that same relaxed expression. When he looked around, it was always gone, but he was pretty sure that Rudy was smiling at him.