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Stop and Stare

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A warm weight shifted onto the back of Morty’s legs. The blanket wasn’t covering them or his back anymore, but the dog would leave if he moved too much, so he settled for burrowing farther into the pillow.

 

Something trailed his skin. His shirt pushed up farther, a warmth slinking across his chest and around his nipple. He whimpered at the sensation, turning over the slightest bit to allow access. The smell of booze hit.

 

Morty didn’t have a dog anymore. His eyes snapped opened. “Rick?”

 

His grandfather was on top of him, his legs sandwiching Morty’s. His eyes were loose and he swayed even though he was sitting. “Shh,” Rick slurred. “Ev-everything’s okay, Morty. Just gotta, gotta keep quiet. Ten minutes.”

 

Rick’s hand was still caressing his nipple. Morty sat up and whacked it away, causing Rick to sway excessively. “What the hell, Rick?”

 

Rick pushed him back down. Morty tried to sit up again, but the old man was stronger than he looked. “Don’t make this hard,” Rick said. His brow loosened as he spoke, a chuckle escaping. “Well, make it hard. That’s sorta the point.” Rick wiggle his hips, leaning into Morty’s crotch.

 

Morty burned red. “Stop it!” He tried to squirm away. “You’re being gross, Rick.”

 

“Human beings are gr-URP-oss, Morty. You should, should be used to it by now.” Rick reached over him, grabbed a half-empty bottle of booze, and took a swig. Morty’s brow furrowed and he whacked it out of his hand. Rick’s head swung to follow it, eyes squinting as it gug-gug-guged out onto the carpet.

 

Rick whipped his head back, clawing Morty’s bed pants down. Morty slapped him. “That’s enough.” He knew Rick, knew he wouldn’t do what he was insinuating. It was all drunk nonsense. Morty just had to be authoritative.

 

Rick slumped forward, eyes still tense from the spilled booze, and grabbed Morty’s crotch.

 

His mouth dropped opened. A high pitch whimper slipped as Rick rubbed him through his underwear. Morty almost leaned into it, but this was Rick. Why would Rick..?

 

Rick curled his fingers passed the fabric. Skin on skin, a hundred times stronger. Morty elbowed Rick in the face. Rick’s hands left. Morty kicked his knees up and shoved and kicked until Rick tumbled to the floor.

 

Rick chuckled, lifting his head only to drop it to the floor again. “I like the spunk. Very spunky you’ve got.”

 

Morty pulled his pants up. “You’re an asshole.” Morty was hard. The hand felt like it was still there, which didn’t help. A glance at Rick; his pants were tented. Morty covered his face.

 

“Not 'nough,” Rick said. “Too attached, Morty. You’re... you’ve gotta stop.”

 

Morty shook his head. This wasn't supposed to happen. In the bathroom of some bar was understandable, but his own bedroom? He let it happen for a minute, too. He’d froze. It was from shock, but he froze, and Rick’s hands...

 

A snore snapped Morty’s back straight. Rick was passed out in a pile and drooling. Still hard.

 

Morty crawled out of bed, grabbed his grandpa by the wrists, and dragged him into the hallway with short tugs. He was too exhausted, too fed up, to pull Rick all the way to his room, but he did turn Rick on his side. The recovery position, least Rick drowned in his own vomit.

 

Morty locked his door and dropped into bed as he tried to figure out if molestation was better or worse than a neutrino bomb.

 

 

***

 

 

Summer noticed things.

 

She kept quiet about it most of the time, but she'd been trained as a kid to keep an eye out. It started with noticing the droplets of wine that made the floor sticky and the carpet red. The stale smell. It dictated Mom's mood and motor functions and since Dad was a pussy when it came to separating Mom from her wine, he'd whisper instructions to Summer and push her towards her mother. It was Summer's job to distract her and hide the bottles. Spill them, even, Dad giving her deserts afterward as payment.

 

She'd note Mom's furrowed brow and tight eyes or her loose smile and slack muscles. She learned what moods matched what features and what actions tended to follow. It was helpful to know when a fight was brewing. If it was better to hide in her room or distract a parent. If Morty was the thing pushing them over the edge, she could distract him with pillow forts and lemonade tea parties.

 

She didn't see much of Morty anymore. She got high with friends; he explored the multiverse with Rick. She stopped babysitting him around the time she stopped babysitting her parents. She cultivated a social life and found reasons to get out of the house, but she still kept tabs on him and everyone else. It wasn't even intentional, really. It just felt natural to tune into the rhythm of alcohol consumption and the direction a glare flew across the kitchen table.

 

So, yeah, Summer noticed Morty wasn’t sleeping well. She drove them to school most days and he'd frequently pass out during the fifteen-minute drive. Usually, she shook him without saying anything about it, but her hand stilled when she saw the dark bags under his eyes. They'd been collecting there a week or more. She couldn't remember exactly when she first noticed them.

 

She wiped the concern from her face and shook him. “There’s melatonin in the medicine cabinet, you know.”

 

Morty blinked awake. “Huh?”

 

“Melatonin. It’s a sleep aid in a purple bottle. Dad used to need it.” She got out of the car, closing her door and opening the back one to grab her book bag.

 

Morty got out of the car. “Okay?” He said it like he didn't get why she was mentioning it, but Summer went into school without another word.

  

He figured it out, at least. Her bedroom was across from the bathroom and she heard him fishing around in the medicine cabinet. The bags never fully left, but they seemed to get the slightest bit better, not that is was Summer's business. Morty was 14 and he could make and learn from his choices.

 

 

***

 

 

A sound tickled Summer’s ears, but it wasn’t an explosion, as far as she could tell, so she pulled the pillow over her head and let her blankets cradle her. They were warm. She was warm.

 

Two solid knocks broke through. “Summer!”

 

Morty. She grabbed her phone from the nightstand— she must’ve slept through her alarms— and squinted at the 2:11 that lit her screen. Really?

 

Three more knocks, quick this time. “Sum—“

 

“It’s 2AM,” she shouted, already burying herself in blanket.

 

The door clicked opened. Summer shot back up, glaring at him. “Don’t kick me,” he said, hands shielding his crotch. He leaned against the door to shut it.

 

Summer sat up with a groan. He had the common decency to keep the light off, at least.

 

Morty didn’t say anything more. She thought he was catching his breath at first, but his breathing sounded normal. It was the only normal thing about all this.

 

“Well,” she asked.

 

The outlines of his face were visible in the dark, now that Summer’s vision had adjusted some. His eyes darted around the room like he was looking for something. The bruises that formed under his eyes this past week seemed darker, but she wasn’t sure how much of that was due to the lighting.

 

“Morty.” Summer snapped her fingers. “Stop being weird.”

 

His eyes focused on her as he stepped away from the door, brow pinched. “Has Rick ever woken you up drunk?”

 

Summer scoffed. “That’s the question keeping you up at night?”

 

“Just answer it, Summer.”

 

Summer crossed her arms. “Yeah? He wakes the whole house sometimes, drunk or not. I just ignore it.”

 

Morty’s mouth opened slightly, a flash of hurt in his eyes as they met carpet. Before Summer could figure out what she'd done, he looked up, lips pressed together. “I mean has he ever come in your room drunk.”

 

“No.” She gave a pointed glare. “He’s not rude, unlike some people.”

 

Morty clenched his fist. “I’m not— just tell me if he does, okay? Text me, knock on the wall, just wake me up, alright?”

 

Summer blinked, his tone finally cutting passed her sleep-idled mind. No one begged to be woken up unless it was something important and Morty was as sleep deprived as they came. “I know how to deal with drunk people, I was doing it before you were born.”

 

“But not Rick. He’s worse than Mom. He'll do worse than give you an accidental black eye.”

 

“Like?”

 

"Just promise!” He covered his mouth as if he could take back the loud. “It’s really not a big deal.”

 

“Obviously it is if you’re getting all worked up about it.” But Morty looked fragile and tired and pathetic and Summer didn’t have the patience to get into it at that moment. She sighed. “If it’ll help you sleep at night, I promise.”

 

He perked up, muscles losing their tension. “Thank you.” He turned the door handle and slipped through the crack.

 

“Morty.”

 

He paused, looking back.

 

“You can knock on the wall, too, you know.”

 

He gave a quick nod and closed the door behind him. She didn’t expect him to take her up on the offer, but it was the best she could do.

 

 

***

 

 

Next time Morty knocked on her door, he had a plastic water bottle of wine in one hand and Rick’s flask in the other. “What’re you doing,” she asked even though it was obvious.

 

Morty smiled. “You wanna drink together?” His voice wasn’t hushed. “Mom’s passed out already and Rick’s probably gonna be in the garage all night.”

 

Summer tapped the pause on her phone, killing the music her speaker was spouting. “Why?” A few weeks had passed. Morty was a bit better, though she wasn’t sure how much credit she should give herself for that. She’d talked to Rick after his late night visit. Told him to ease up on the adventures, couldn’t he see Morty was sleep deprived and falling flat on his face, stuff like that. As much as Rick bitched her out for the concerned, he seemed to lighten up, if just a tad.

 

“Cause I don’t wanna drink alone,” Morty said.

 

“Go drink with...“ She couldn't think of anyone for him to drink with aside from Rick. Morty’s shoulders slumped. Summer took the flask. “Balcony?”

 

“You don’t have to,” Morty said.

 

She shrugged. “I got nothing better to do.” Well, homework, but a few late assignments wouldn’t kill her. “It's for fun, right?”

 

“Yeah,” Morty said. “I just wanna let loose, ya know?”

 

Summer nodded. “It’s on your head if either of them notice.”

 

“Yeah. I know.”

 

It was warmly chilly outside. Morty brought his pillows and blankets out plus a few extras from the closet and Summer brought her speaker to play at a low volume. It’d be a few more weeks before they had to worry about mosquitos, but she lit one of the repellant candles for the aesthetic of it.

 

The garage door was open, sparks flying out every so often. Rick could see them if he bothered to walk out onto the driveway, but it wasn’t like he’d see the alcohol from there.

 

They sat against the sliding glass door. “What drinking games do you know,” Summer asked.

 

“Never have I ever, flip cup, two truths one lie.” Morty shrugged. “Can’t anything be a drinking game?”

 

“Pretty much.” She took a sip of Rick’s flask, clearing her throat as she swallowed. "Tastes worse than before."

 

“It's some alien liquor. I'm not sure which one, he has a few favorites."

 

Summer grabbed the water-wine bottle and tossed the flask at Morty.

 

They started with two truths one lie, the game dissipating into conversation after a few short rounds. They remembered the daycare they were left at when Dad had a job and Mom spent her days on a college campus. They made fun of kids from school and speculated the origin of Principle Vagina's name. They discussed the divorce. How much of a relief it was. How Rick put more effort into caring about them than Dad did and that was saying something since Rick hated showing how much he cared.

 

Morty finished the flask. Summer went to the kitchen to refill her wine. She filled a glass with water while she was at it and brought it back up. Morty was laying down and staring up at the stars. She handed the glass to him. "Glass of water for every drink. Keeps you from getting a hangover." He should probably drink way more than a measly glass, Rick's shit was potent, but it was a start.

 

"Thanks." He sat up so he could sip it. "Can we do this again? I've missed this. Missed you."

 

Summer sat, wrapping a blanket around herself. Of course, Morty was a sappy drunk. "You can't miss me. I haven't left."

 

"You know what I mean." He laid back down. "We use to hang out. Like a lot. Like, I get you have friends now and I have Rick, but..."

 

He looked pathetic again. Summer took a sip of the wine she'd just refilled. "You need friends, Morty. Not Rick. Friends your age so you have an excuse to get out of the house." It'd be better once he found some friends. It's what teenagers did. They got friends and distanced themselves from their family, Morty was just taking a little longer to do that than she had.

 

"I don't think he'd like that."

 

"Rick? Why not?"

 

Morty blinked real slow. “Sometimes I sleep all night and wake up tired.”

 

Well, alright. “That happens sometimes.”

 

Morty shook his head. “There’s little changes when it happens. Like, when I wake up my shirt's inside out or my underwear changed or. Or ripped. Sometimes my ass aches. Sometimes there're bruises.”

 

Summer set the bottle down, unease bubbling her stomach. Morty kept talking, voice low and slightly slurred, but not a stutter. He always stuttered.

 

“Things in my room move too, sometimes, or I find something of Rick’s. Like his flask.” Summer’s eyes dashed to the empty container. Morty bit his lip, squeezing his eyes shut. “Sometimes it’s... bodily fluids. I’m not talking about piss. And I don’t think it’s mine.”

 

Summer’s jaw dropped. “You think Rick—“

 

“I don’t know,” he said. “He wouldn’t do that. Why would he do that? I’m probably looking too much into it.”

 

“Probably,” she said, flinching as the word left her mouth. “I mean, like, I know you wouldn’t lie about this, but it’s hard to believe Grandpa would...”

 

“He does what he wants,” Morty said. “He takes what he wants and he doesn’t care how it affects others. He’s selfish. But I never thought he’d...”

 

Her room. 2AM. “Something happened.” She told him more than asked. “You can’t make excuses anymore, can you.”

 

Morty didn’t move. Didn’t say anything.

 

Summer didn’t wanna know. She didn’t wanna think about her grandpa and her brother and that, but who else could Morty go to? Mom? She’d do anything to get Grandpa Rick to stay, maybe even... God, their family was fucked up.

 

The water bottle had a little wine left. Summer pushed it through the wood that fenced the balcony. Drinking for fun was fine, but when shit got serious...

 

Morty’s eyes snapped open when it hit the bush. He sat up, wrapping the blanket tighter around him. “Sorry, I, uh. I didn’t. I was just babbling on, you know, it’s really not a big deal.”

 

She looked at him. “Morty.”

 

“It’s nothing I can’t handle. Drunk nonsense, you know? We’re drunk.” He tried to smile. “Can’t trust, trust those words that come out, ya know?”

 

Summer pinned him with a stare.

 

He bit his lip. “Don’t tell anyone.”

 

“Well, no duh.” Even if they wanted to get CPS involved, they were no match for Rick. Few people were. “What exactly did he do?”

 

“Nothing!”

 

Summer pinched her brow. “Look, this might come as a shock to you, but I know what we’re dealing with. I know who we’re dealing with.”

 

Morty glanced down at the opened garage door. “He was drunk. I don’t think he even remembers.”

 

“That’s no excuse.”

 

Morty faced her. “I don’t want things to change, alright?” He stood, blanket and all, falling towards the door. Summer reached towards him, but he threw the door opened and ran through before she could catch his arm. Chasing him wouldn't help any, so she let him leave. Gave him space to calm down.

 

Alone on the balcony, her mind couldn't help but race. When Grandpa Rick explained Morty’s Mind Blowers to her, Summer hadn't thought much of them. If Morty had shit he wanted to unsee, it was his choice whether or not he remembered it. If Grandpa Rick wanted to give her a pile of money every month to fixed resulting fuck ups, she wasn’t gonna complain.

 

It hadn’t occurred to her how much power Grandpa Rick could have over Morty, over the whole family, because of it. Like, it had, because it was Grandpa Rick doing it, but for him to go as far as Morty implied...

 

Summer rushed to her room and unearthed a yellow composition notebook from her backpack. Her name was sharpied on the front, random math problems scattering the first few pages. She kept all that as is, skipping to the next free page.

 

She hadn’t kept a diary since she was twelve. She’d prefer one that looked cute, but she needed something inconspicuous. Something she could have out in the opened without drawing attention.

 

She jotted down what she could remember of her conversations with Morty then brainstormed a plan pen and paper. The stairs creaked around 2AM and Summer closed the book to listened as Rick passed her room and closed himself in his. She refocused herself after a few minutes of silence, ears perked for noise.

 

Twenty-five minutes later, she walked into Morty’s room, flipped the lights on, and shook him awake. He jolted up. “Huh? Summer, what’s... you okay?”

 

“Does Grandpa look in your backpack?”

 

“Why would he?”

 

Summer found his backpack and threw it on top of him. “Pick a notebook, one you don’t use that much.”

 

“You mean all of them?” He pulled out a blue spiral. “It’s sorta ridiculous. Th-They tell you to buy five, but you never need more than two if anything. It’s all printouts and internet-based stuff.” He dug around the bottom of the bag to find a pen. “What’s this for? Did we forget Mother’s Day or something?”

 

Summer checked the hallway, then closed Morty’s door. “Make a list of the clues you were talking about earlier.”

 

Morty’s eyes narrowed. “I told you to drop it.”

 

“Too bad.”

 

“Summer—“

 

“Just hear me out.” Morty crossed his arms, refusing to look her in the face. Summer figured it was close enough. “I’ll let you make whatever decisions you want, but not before you have all the facts.”

 

Morty’s head snapped up. “You know something?”

 

Summer’s mouth worked without words for a second. “I’ll show you, but we’re dead if Rick catches us.”

 

Morty starred at the notebook, a dark glint lighting his eyes. It warped his entire face and Summer saw, for a moment, the toll. This was Morty before all the things he wanted to forget. Before all the things Rick wanted to be ripped from his mind.

 

Summer wasn’t sure she’d recognize her brother if he remembered the rest.

 

Morty tossed himself out of bed. “Let’s go.”

 

“The list—“

 

“Forget the list.”

 

Summer huffed but followed him out of the room.

 

 

***

 

 

Summer kept an eye on Morty as she led him through the lower levels of the garage. She knew he’d been down there before, but the way his eyes scanned as they turned down the hallway leading to the mindblowers told a different story.

 

She opened the door. His eyes went wide, taking in the colorful vials of liquid. His head bobbled as he turned.

 

Summer leaned against the door. “Sometimes you get traumatized and ask Grandpa Rick to remove the memory from your mind. We call them Morty’s Mindblowers.”

 

Morty stared at her, hurt evident in his eyes. “You knew about this?”

 

“You two idiots messing around with a memory gun? Someone needs to babysit you.”

 

Morty gingerly picked up a blue vial. “H-how did I not notice giant chunks of, of my memory missing?”

 

Summer scoffed. “You did, Morty. That’s sorta why we’re here.” She picked the helmet off of the table. “You asked for these memories to be removed, but maybe that doesn’t apply to all of them. Maybe Grandpa Rick...” She bit her lip.

 

Morty spun in a circle, looking around the room. “I guess there’s only one way to find out, huh.”

 

“I know how to reset your memories,” Summer said. “Grandpa updates a vial every few weeks or so just in case something fucks with your heads. It won’t contain any of this,” she gestured around the room. “Your choice, whether or not you remember.”

 

Morty took the helmet from her and placed it on his head.

 

From there, it was a matter of plugging vials in. Morty moves from each one in relative silence, his expression more than telling. Summer restrained herself from asking what the memory was each time, busying herself with what each label might mean.

 

It didn’t take him long to find a pattern. “I’m gonna focus on the red ones. They’re, ah. I think they’re the ones Rick removed.” There were just as many red vials as there was blue, if not more.

 

“Alright.” She tried to keep a pleasant tone, but nerves roughed it up. “Let me know what you find. If you want to.”

 

They went back to sharing quiet. Summer’s eyes caught on Morty’s expression now and then. A hitched breath. A trembling lip. His hand rubbing the back of his neck, his eyes downcast. Morty would catch her looking and she’d focus on another vial title, or hand one off for him to remember.

 

The whole situation was awkward.

 

“S-summer?”

 

She glanced up. Morty’s hands trembled, a red vial tightly gripped. Black residue lined the tape’s edges, the word “virginity” scrawled onto the cream-colored surface.

 

She swallowed. “That could mean a lot of things.”

 

Morty glared. “Like what?”

 

Aside from the obvious, she drew a blank.

 

They stared at it. Morty turned it over in his hands. “Should I?”

 

Summer bit her lip. “Curiosity killed the cat?”

 

“Satisfaction brought it back,” Morty retorted.

 

“I don’t think satisfaction is the word for it.” It was glass. She could snatch it, break it before Morty’s reflexes kicked it. She could, but this was supposed to be his choice. “What’ve you seen so far?”

 

He cleared his throat. “Rick saying ‘granite’ instead of ‘granted.’ Me getting kidnapped by another Rick and being forced to fight other Mortys. Rick ranting about how much I need him and stuff.”

 

“So nothing...” Summer didn’t want to say it, but “Sexual?”

 

“The last one was. Figured I’d spare you the details.”

 

Summer couldn’t keep the shudder from shaking her spine. Morty looked away, moving the vial towards the helmet. “Wait,” Summer said.

 

He looked at her.

 

“You have your proof. You don’t need to—“

 

“Maybe it’s something else,” Morty said.

 

Summer starred.

 

“Okay, remember that first day in freshman history? When he was all ‘it says gullible on the ceiling’ and that whole look vs not look thing happened? Did he do that for your class?”

 

“Yeah,” Summer said. “He’s been doing it since mom and dad were kids.”

 

“Yeah, so.” Morty starred at the vial. “I’m checking the facts for myself. Otherwise, it’s doomed to repeat or something like that.”

 

He put the vial in. It glowed and Morty’s face slacked. That didn’t make it expressionless; his lip twitched down every so often. His shoulders tensed.

 

Then he flinched, full body, eyes snapping shut, and Summer knew it was exactly what she thought it was. She looked at the door instead, as if she was keeping watch for Rick. Could she stop it? Yank it out, break the vail mid-mind-meld? Would that hurt him?

 

She watched her hands shake and did nothing.

 

The glowing died down and she turned to him. “What do you wanna do?” He was sweating more than before, his eyes still closed. Maybe he hadn’t heard her. “Morty?”

 

Morty shrugged, eyes distant.

 

“CPS is a bad idea,” Summer continued. “If an intergalactic federation can’t—“

 

“Stop,” Morty said. “God, Summer, let me. Give me a minute.”

 

She took a deep breath. Bombarding him wouldn’t help. She had to let Morty breath and think and all that. All this had to be his decision.

 

14-year-olds shouldn’t have to make decisions like this.

 

Morty took the helmet off. “Nothing,” he said. “We’re gonna just go back to our lives and do nothing.”

 

Her stomach dropped. “You want me to erase—“

 

“No!” He swallowed. “No, I don’t wanna just... god, Summer, I don’t know.” He sat on the chair, head in hands.

 

Okay. Okay, Summer could do this. Or something, at the very least. “Do you wanna go to Mom?”

 

His eyes shot up as he gestured to the gun sitting on the table. “He has a machine that erases memories, Summer.”

 

“Okay.” She looked around the room. They could break it. Rick could build a new one, but it’d buy them time. Time to do what? “Well, worse comes to worst there’s always running away.” Summer nodded to herself. “I’m almost done with high school and I wasn’t planning on college, anyways. We could get some cheap apartment.”

 

Morty jumped up. “W-w-what are you even talking about? You can’t just— We can’t just leave!”

 

She crossed her arms. “Why not? This house blows anyways.”

 

He pulled at his hair and groaned. “It’s like you-you want him gone!”

 

Summer got in his face. “He’s molesting you. I can live with never seeing him again because you don’t deserve that.”

 

Morty stared at her, hands slipping from his hair, jaw unhindered. His eyes watered for the first time since everything unraveled. “W-what?”

 

Summer stepped back. “You don’t deserve that. And Rick doesn’t deserve you if he’s gonna be like that.” Was it really that hard for him to believe? "Like, I love Rick, but you gotta admit he's taking over your life, our lives, whatever. Maybe Dad was right for once. Maybe it's not the best thing."

 

Morty turned away, taking the vial out of the helmet and setting it in the exact spot he found it in. “Mom won’t feel the same way.”

 

“She’s not the best mom.”

  

A long silence. Morty checked his phone. “Let’s just go to bed, alright?” He tried a smile. “Thanks for showing me.”

 

He walked past her. Summer grabbed his arm. “Hey. We’re a team on this, okay?” Morty yanked away, still walking. Summer followed him into the hallway. "You remember. That means you can do something about it. We'll figure something out. If we did want to run away, there's a whole multiverse. It'll be impossible to find us."

 

Morty stopped, fists clenched. "Do you regret breaking him out of prison?"

 

Summer swallowed. She didn't. She knew she didn't, but she couldn't tell Morty that.

 

Morty nodded at her silence. "I don't either. I still care about him and I know you do, too, so. So I'll be okay. I promise."