Contrary to logical reasoning, Rick’s absence from the Smiths’ lives was not a good thing.
Logical reasoning said that Rick was the source of much chaos and grief in the family. His dangerous and frequent dealings caused a lot of problems, and more often than not it was Rick putting the Smiths in danger. His mere presence seemed to call forth chaos. Not to mention the crude old man’s personality. Antisocial and perhaps a little more psychopathic than your average criminal, Rick was an enigma that swept through their lives as devastatingly (and awe-inspiring) as a hurricane.
But all hurricanes leave behind carnage.
When Rick left (arrested, locked away, never to be seen again) he took with him something the Smiths hadn’t realized was there before. Perhaps they still didn’t know what that thing was but they were very much aware that something was gone. The return back to earth, after their brief status as exiles and fugitives, had been surreal and dreamlike (or perhaps a horrifying nightmare with no end in sight). Things had happened so quickly that there had barely been anytime to process it at all. The wedding. Tammy. Birdperson. The Galactic Federation.
It also wasn’t like life could return back to the way it used to be. Not with the Earth under Federation jurisdiction. Humanity was in a panic but could do nothing about it. Life was a lie and nothing made sense anymore. This was the case for the Smiths and so much more. With the constant presence of the GF it was difficult to forget what Rick had done. It was impossible to return to how life had been before the old bastard swept into their lives… But that didn’t mean that they didn’t try to forget of course. As is human nature.
The most notable change was in Beth. The wife and mother of two could not handle Rick’s absence. He had left her life once, and she had barely held it together the first time it happened. The second time was so much worst. It didn’t matter that there had been no choice in his leave, it didn’t matter that Rick had done it to protect and save his family, but Beth could not shake the crippling feelings of abandonment that she thought she had left in her childhood. None of the facts mattered as those feelings arose again with a vengeance. Her father was gone once more and that was all that mattered. He had fit himself back into the already cracking hole he had left in her heart the first time, and when that hole was ripped anew there was very little anyone could do to fix it. So Beth turned to what she knew best.
Drinking was a good way of forgetting, but it’s effects were brief. One had to keep drinking if they wanted to keep forgetting, least the memories arise and drown her in their pain. Having already been suffering from a drinking problem, Beth’s alcoholism took a steep dive down a dark abyss during the weeks following Rick’s arrest. There was little anyone could do to stop her as she became more and more dissociated from her family. It was a strange sight when she didn’t have a bottle within arms reach. Luckily (or perhaps not so lucky) she kept her job as a heart surgeon due to the interference of the Federation. Not that Beth was ever sober enough to even go into work, let alone perform surgery on a horse. She wasn’t the only one affected though.
Less notable were the changes made in Jerry. As he had always been an avid protester to Rick’s presence in their lives one would think he’d been overjoyed at his father-in-law’s arrest. At a cursory glance this was the case. Jerry appeared much more happy and uplifted than he had been for a long time. But at the closer look, it was obvious the man was fraying at the seams. And what man wouldn’t be? His entire family blamed him for Rick’s leaving. Beth wouldn’t talk to him, wouldn’t sleep in the same room as him, and was overall bitter towards him when sober. A scar now ran down his left arm from when she threw a broken bottle at him in one of her drunken rages. Even his own children acted hostile towards him. Neither teen wanted anything to do with the man anymore. Only the Federation provided pills offered any stability in his life now. The “happy-pills” Jerry now took daily were the only things keeping him going and he slowly grew dependent on them. If he didn’t take them then Jerry would very quickly retreat into himself and become an even more pathetic husk of his already previously pathetic self. Dependence wasn’t pretty and while Jerry’s changes were much more subtle than the rest of his family they were perhaps the most devastating changes of all.
Summer was perhaps the most well-adjusted member of the Smith family. After Rick’s arrest she also suffered from much disbelief, anger, and grief. But once she passed through all stages of that Summer began to pick up her life. She found salvation and began coping through throwing herself into her work. Blazing through school and having earned several scholarships Summer was quick to move out of the broken house and as far away as possible after graduation.
“I’m moving to the west coast. I got accepted into UP Pennsylvania,” She said at dinner one night. It had been one of the rare nights that the entire household was put together enough to sit at one table civilly. No one really spoke after the reveal until Beth gave her daughter a forced smile (not because of Summer but because Beth just never smiled anymore) and said, “That’s great honey. I’m happy for you.” And she was happy for her daughter.
Jerry had even spoken up, “That’s wonderful sweetheart! I’m proud of you.” Summer just gave him a blank stare, unused to being on speaking terms with her father, and replied, “Thanks Dad.” The dinner was then finished without anyone else speaking up.
So Summer began attending University halfway across the country and threw herself completely into work, and tried to forget about her previous life in California. She performed with a frightening efficiency and concentration and to anyone looking in it would appear as if she were a hardworking and dedication person. In reality, the constant labor allowed her to keep her mind off more painful things. Like her family. And Rick. And how dead Morty’s eyes looked. Eventually, her work introduced her to the magic of photography and Summer never looked back.
Perhaps spurred by some subconscious need to preserve precious moments in time, Summer was quickly taken up by the beauty and wonders of snapping photos. She focused her education down to a degree in digital media and began spending a majority of her time alternating between work, school, and capturing photos. After numerous trips around the world, traveled with several friends she made in in the photography world and aided by funds the Federation provided to the citizens of Earth, Summer graduated within three years and began to look towards the skies. More specifically, she was so well traveled to the various sights on Earth that a Gromflomite* educational representative at her school offered her a priceless opportunity to travel to the numerous other worlds under Federation jurisdiction. An opportunity that Summer took immediate use of as she traveled around the galaxy, photographing sceneries few humans had ever seen before. Sometimes she was even offered opportunities to work with alien modeling studios and learn photographing technique and technologies foreign to those on earth. Her photos were sent back to a publisher she began to work for on Earth, and as the royalties began filling in as did her ability to travel from planet to planet. It reminded her a little of the adventures that Rick occasionally allowed her to join he and Morty on. Except now, she only had her camera and herself. Sometimes it was lonely but overall it was a life that Summer had come to enjoy.
She left her old life behind completely and focused on her new one. Well, she left it all behind except for one thing. Summer still kept contact in with her baby brother. It was the one things from her old life that she allowed to stay with her. She and Morty never got along well but deep in their hearts they loved each other. One of the things that had made her the most upset during the initial time after Rick’s arrest was the destruction of her brother. The teen had fallen apart without his grandfather. Summer had never seen anyone so dead inside before and it had broken her heart to see it happen to him.
For the first year after Rick’s absence there was little anyone could do to bring life back into the grieving boy. Morty rarely ate, rarely slept, he was almost always in his room, and he looked constantly tired and broken down. He still got up and went to school everyday but it was as if he didn’t even register what he was doing, like he was running on autopilot. It was as if life had chewed him up, swallowed him down, and spat him out again a different person. During those first eleven or so months Morty had lost so much weight that he looked much like a walking skeleton, with hollowed cheeks and sunken eyes. Morty rarely left his room.
Until one day when the wasn’t in his room.
Summer had been finishing up a project for an AP class and had gone downstairs for a drink (pushing past the bottles piled up in the kitchen and promising herself to throw them out later that day) when she noticed the door to the garage was open. The garage door was never open. It was a taboo subject and place that everyone avoided like the plague. But there it was, sitting innocently open as if nothing had changed.
At first Summer had been afraid of a burglar or perhaps some alien seeking to scavenge Rick’s research and weapons. But when she entered the room all there was was Morty, just standing in the middle of the lab, looking around with a strange look in his eyes. Summer couldn’t place the look but it certainly looked much better than the lifeless expression Morty always wore. She had left as quietly as possible, not wanting to destroy such a delicate (and later on she would realize important) moment. The image of Morty staring so intently at the last remnants of Rick’s life (they had cleared out his room for storage long ago) was burned into her head forevermore.
Morty started to gain some vibrancy after that day. It was a slow and gradual process but surely he became more lively. No longer were days spent cooped up in the bedroom. Where before Morty’s life had been consistent of school, homework, and bed he now spent much of his time in Rick’s abandoned lab. Of course this didn’t mean that Morty was all better. He was still very bitter and angry at the whole situation but with the passage of time he started looking more alive. For Summer, this was a good thing even if the only emotion Morty expressed now of annoyance and anger it was still an emotion.
Not everyone saw it the same way she did though.
“Morty, we got a call from Principle Vagina today. He said that you’ve missed three days of school this week.”
Morty had looked up in surprise, having been caught off guard that anyone would enter Rick’s lab, then scowled at the sight of Jerry. “You’ve been getting such good grades lately,” Jerry continued. “What’s going on with you?”
The conversation dissolved from there with Jerry angrily scolding his son and Morty angrily ignoring him and continuing to work on his project.
Oh yeah. There was also his project.
On the Morty-side of the Smith family, post-Rick, things had started off very rocky. He basically took a year of hiatus from life and emotion, and entered a severe depression initiated by Rick’s absence. That single year had felt so much longer to Morty though and it felt like he was being sucked into a powerful black hole with no means of escape. Thinking too hard about anything unrelated to school caused an onslaught of painful memories to overwhelm him. Summer had originally tried to get him to pick up a hobby, an activity, anything really to get him up and running again. But even when he could work up the motivation and energy to do something all that did was cause feelings of guilt and resentment to well up in him. Guilt at trying to enjoy himself when Rick was in prison, and resentment at Rick for leaving him to this pointless existence, and then guilt again for ever resenting Rick. Life became dull and aimless. Morty only ever did his school work because it was easier than participating in life. Falling in line and going through the motions was the only way for him to forget. And while on the bright side Morty’s grades were higher than they’ve ever been his own existence became gray and lifeless.
Until the day he went into the garage.
Morty wasn’t even sure what spurred him on that day. Normally he would just lie on his bed motionless and blank his mind out, unmotivated and having no energy to do anything. But there was sometime on that day, perhaps a certain smell in the air, a pressure in a atmosphere, something that made him get up and leave his room. Unconsciously his feet had led him to the entrance to the garage and, for the first time in a year, a person turned the knob and entered. It was like breaking a dam.
All the memories he had been suppressing up till that point came pouring back. Adventures across the universe and dimensions, every ride in Rick’s ship, every dangerous situation his grandfather put them through, every insult Rick yelled at him, every moment of wonder at a new and amazing sight, every precious moment that Rick had shown he cared, every laugh, every cry, every everything. It all came rushing back leaving Morty dazed as he looked around the dusty room that held so many precious memories. The onslaught of emotions and sights had been so overwhelming that he couldn’t even shed a tear, and just stood there immobile. He didn’t even notice Summer’s confused entrance behind him, nor did he see her sad little smile as she left him alone again.
That was the catalyst.
Morty began going to the lab more. It started off slowly, with just going in and looking around. Doing things like sitting in Rick’s chair or running his hands over the dusty items. Remembering started to become easier as Morty let the thoughts wash over him. Then the looking and feeling became cleaning the room and keeping it in shape. Then that turned into closely examining each item in the lab and reading Rick’s surprisingly beautifully written notes (cursive with intricate and elegant looping). That eventually grew into trying to understand and closely studying Rick’s notes. To Morty it felt as if he could actually hear Rick speak to him through them. Morty finally found his motivation to get up each morning and do more than just go through the motions of life. Then it became tinkering with various inventions himself (both Rick’s gadgets and Morty’s own inventions) and doing reading in his spare time on the terms listed in Rick’s writing and the mechanics of physics and engineering. Never had science enraptured Morty so much. It felt as if he was closer to Rick whenever he was working on something in the lab.
Then an idea planted itself in his head.
While at first Morty spent maybe a few minutes in the lab that time quickly became an hour, two, five hours, all night, all the way until Morty started spending whole days working in the lab. When the idea hit him, his time spent there tripled in amount. Summer only smiled and silently encouraged him and his newfound passion. Even after moving out of the house she would occasionally let him know her support. Beth had also noticed the change in her son. Surprisingly, Morty’s discovery of purpose gave her some motivation to also recover. She still drank constantly but Beth also began to try keep sober before work and interacting with more people. She as well gave her support for Morty.
Jerry seemed to be the only one against this new development.
“Morty, your teacher is worried about you. You haven’t been going to class.”
“Morty, don’t you think you’ve been spending too much time in the lab? You should get out and do something.”
“Morty! Your report card came in. You’re failing two classes! What happened to all your A’s?!”
Of course there was also the one conversation, “Morty, we got a call from Principle Vagina today. He said that you’ve missed three days of school this week.”
Jerry grew livid at what he saw as Morty’s slacking off. If Jerry had to get up every morning and go to work then so did Morty! The resentment became so bad that it was an often occurance for Jerry to yell and scold his son. Morty, on the other hand, grew more and more irritated with the man. Tensions were inflated in the house.
And finally exploded one day.
It was one of the rare times during Summer’s second year in college that she actually visited home. She was staying over for Christmas break, excited to share some of her crazy college stories (“and they both jumped out of the truck! Josh broke his leg and Tim’s now got this huge scar down his chest”) with Morty (who was now alive enough to hold a real conversation with). Morty himself was now a senior in high school.
The event happened Christmas eve.
Principle Vagina is a dick (ironically). He developed a nasty hobby during his time as principal. He liked calling student families about issues with the student the night before an important holiday. It was that afternoon, on Christmas eve, that the Smiths received a call regarding Morty. Jerry’s face quickly became red as he listened to Vagina speak and he furiously slammed the phone down, attracting the attention of Beth and Summer both wrapping presents in the living room, and marched towards the garage. He slammed the door open and glared at Morty.
“MORTY!” He yelled, “I just got a call that you’ve missed four weeks of school! Explain yourself! What the fuck do you think you’re doing!?”
Everyone was silent, Beth and Summer staring in shock from behind Jerry, while Morty’s surprised face morphed into one of annoyance.
“I dropped out of school.”
It was Jerry’s turn to be shocked as his mouth fell open. Then he grew livid and marched up close to Morty, “You DROPPED OUT OF SCHOOL?!” He made a frustrated noise at the back of his throat. His pills’ effects wearing off at the end of the day and the ripped-at-the-edges man emerged. “Why in heaven's name would you do something so fucking stupid!?”
Beth bit her lip and moved forward to place a hand on her husband’s shoulder, “Jerry…” She began. “Maybe it’s for the best. Morty has been doing so much better lately-” Jerry angrily shook her hand off of him.
“Don’t ‘Jerry’ me Beth. Our son dropped out of school. Don’t you even care?” He snapped back at her viciously. “I guess not. All you do is drink and mope all day and spitefully bitch at me.” Beth’s eyes widened at the harsh words and she took a step back. Summer scowled angrily and stepped up from behind her mother.
“You can’t talk to Mom like that,” she said pissed.
“Shut up Summer,” Jerry said turning back to face his younger child. “This doesn’t concern you. Now you on the other hand…” He approached the boy again. “Explain to me what was going through that dim skull of yours.”
Morty scowled and recoiled away from the angry man and answered, “Rick d-d-didn’t want me to go to school anyw-ways. I don’t need it.” His signature stutter still in effect.
Jerry pulled back and let out a nasty laugh, “Rick? Rick?!” He sneered, “If you haven’t noticed Morty, Rick isn’t here.” He then turned to face Beth and Summer, “You three. You all still love Rick so much.” His voice was mocking as he spun and glared at Morty again, “Did you all forget that it was his fault that our lives were ruined? He was a terrible man who didn’t have any respect for me or this family! He is the cause of every hardship this family goes through! And you all still love him?” Jerry made a low growl, “I’m the one who works to keep this family fed! The one who has to clean up after that old fuck’s messes! And this is the thanks I get?” He settled Morty with a betrayed look, “Rick is the reason all of you act like I’m the enemy! Every since that man moved into this house all of you have been against me. All any of you do anymore is pick on me for doing and saying what I had to. I may have allowed you to bully me into not speaking up before but I’m the goddamn man of this house and you will all give me the respect I deserve from now on! Rick isn’t here anymore. Get that through your thick skull Morty.” Jerry jabbed a finger into the center of the teen’s forehead as if making a point. “You will go back to school. And you will do it because I told you to.”
The rest of the family stood in silent shock for several moments after the angry tangent. The entire room was filled to the brim with red and hot tension. Then suddenly Morty rose up, his hand shaking at his side and his face contorted into fury.
“Fuck you Jerry.”
Morty spat the words out with more venom than a viper. He took a step forwards and pushed hard against his father’s chest. All the hurt, anger, and resentment that had been building up in him since the day of Bird Person's wedding, that had been simply leaking out before that moment, now came pouring out in dangerous and powerful waves of fury.
“I-I’m not even going to say anything to you,” Morty began. “Just k-know that you’re a pathetic piece of shit Jerry.” It almost sounded as if Rick was speaking through him. “Now get out of my lab.”
Least to say there was no Christmas the next day and the presents sat under the tree, still wrapped, for another month after that.
Morty had confined himself to his lab (he could finally call it his own after so much time) and for the next few days no one saw him. Not even for a meal or drink. Beth tried to knock on the door to get the boy to come out but the teen just gently told her to leave him be. Summer just sighed to herself and realized why she didn’t ever call or visit.
On the final day of winter break, on the day Summer’s flight back to the east coast was on, she approached the garage door cautiously. To her surprise, just as she was about to knock the door slid open for her and she walked into Morty’s lab.
She hadn’t gotten a good look Christmas Eve with all the screaming and drama but now that she did it was clear to Summer that Morty had been busy. The garage had always been filled to the brim with various gadgets and tool, but they all had a distinctly Rick-ness to them. The garage was still filled with a million different inventions and pieces but now there was a very distinct Morty-ness to them. In the center of the room was a large and crude looking machine, as if someone had pieced together a bunch of junk.
“Hey Summer,” Morty said.
She gave him a smile, “Hey little bro. I just uh… Wanted to come say goodbye before I left.” Summer took in Morty’s form and noticed he looked a little haggard, “Um… You got some pretty bad bags there Morty. Everything okay?”
He just rolled his eyes. “N-nothing is okay anymore Sis,” he murmured in a very un-Morty-like way. Then he noticed her concerned look and waved her off, “I’m f-fine. I’ve just been busy working on a proj-ject. Haven’t gotten much sleep.”
They were silent for several moments.
“You know Morty… If you aren’t happy here no one is forcing you to stay.” Summer wasn’t sure if those were the right words of advice for her brother but they felt right. Afterall, it’s what she did. Cutting ties could be hard but she felt so much better after leaving this all behind her. It seemed that Morty needed to leave some heavy baggage behind even more so.
Morty just stared at her. As if he couldn’t completely comprehend what she was saying. Then he cracked a small smile, the first one she had seen in a long time. Summer was shocked at the flood of warmth and happiness that emerged at the sight.
“Thanks sis,” he said.
They didn’t say anything after that. She just gave him a hug and left on her way. Caught a cab and made her way to the airport. Morty was left alone with his thoughts and his project.
While working through the mountains of notes that Rick left behind in his elegant scripture Morty had come across several ones of theories. Ones such as cross-dimensional theory and what was presumably the beginnings of the portal gun, matter theory and all the different properties that matter worked with, and many more. The one that caught Morty’s attention the most was one:
Time travel theory.
It was clear by Rick’s notes that he believed it to be possible but could never figure it out, or was unmotivated to figure it out as Rick hated looking to the past. The man lived in the moment and loathed having to look back. There was also the fact that the man’s history was shrouded with secrecy but was most definitely filled with grief, pain, and anguish. Things that made him the cynical and bitter old man Morty knew him as. The point is that Rick had little to no motivation to pursue the workings of a time machine, especially since he wanted to run from the past and not towards it.
But that didn’t mean Morty wasn’t motivated.
Driven by the need to perhaps go back and fix everything, change it from the terrible future past events had led to, Morty proved once and for all that he was the grandson of one Rick Sanchez. With a drive behind him, Morty excelled at picking up new information and learning complex sciences. It helped, of course, that once he fixed up the portal gun (something he didn’t need to learn as Rick made sure Morty knew how to fix up the device in case of an emergency) Morty had a near endless supply of Mega Seeds from dimension C-35.
He created a concoction from the Mega Seeds that Morty sipped from all day. It helped him work more efficiently and learn faster. While the drawback of loss of motor and brain functions was cause for concern, as long as Morty prepared himself for the drawbacks it was all good. On the upside, mega-seed fueled Morty was able to work through Rick’s notes with super efficiency and translate it into his own notes. The Morty-notes, written in his own words and thought patterns, served as the perfect tool for learning when he cut back on Mega Seed consumption. Eventually, Morty didn’t even need the mega seed concoction anymore and could work at a fast pace himself.
Exactly a year from when he and Summer had that special talk, Morty completed his crude time travel prototype. It was large but small enough that he could put it into a backpack and wear it.
Then he took Summer’s advice.
With portal gun and his new time machine at the ready, Morty opened a portal.
He stepped through and never looked back again.