"I, can drive you to school early so you can talk to your professor about it." Veronica rolled her brown eyes at the suggestion, which made Avery want to pinch her nose, but it was far too late in the evening for such games.
"Fine. It's just chemistry, you should know this stuff, Dad." She was greatly overestimating her uncle's levels of intelligence, which made him chuckle as he took her plate.
"Ask me anything about flowers or plants or gardening and I'll answer those for you, m'kay?" He kissed the top of her head. "Make sure your sister brushes her teeth before going to bed."
The rest of the evening went briskly by in the comfortable mundane of routine. Avery finished the dishes, then checked that Veronica had a packed lunch for the next day. He went upstairs to check on and say goodnight to Veronica, before going into Ivy's room and spending half an hour picking out her outfit for the next day. A bed time story of fashionable princesses was told, and the little girl quickly fell to sleep. He checked once more that Veronica's lights were out, then he slowly walked down the stairs as his smile slipped away before disappearing entirely.
Most nights he could wear the smile to his bed before falling asleep with it on and letting the comatose of night take it away, but lately it had been harder to do so. He wasn't fond of the addition to his nightly routine, but he nonetheless obeyed it. He took three blunts of 'homemade herbal remedies' from the cabinet filled with dried herbs, and made his way up into their storage room, which led to their roof-top patio, a cozy little nook perfect for stargazing and forgetting about the woes of the world.
Avery closed the ceiling-door behind him, which melted seamlessly into the floor of the miniature patio, and he set two of the blunts on the small table in the corner. He lit one and took a long, slow drag as he leaned against the white railings, looking over at the dark blue sky. He held the smoke there, almost in a daze as he tried to forget, forget, erase the past, and once he realized he couldn't, the sweet-smelling cloudy air was slowly released.

Headlights interrupted the still night. Avery would have ignored them, if they hadn't turned into his driveway and parked there. Curiously annoyed, he watched as the black Mercede's owner stepped out of the vehicle, looked around the property, then looked up at Avery.
"What are you doing here so late?" Avery asked. He had expected a visit the next morning to talk about business and finances and other things he could scarcely care about, but visits in the middle of the night had never taken place before. And yet, Gabriel stood before him in a suit and tie, ready for business.
After failing to respond, Avery mentioned for his uninvited guest to join him. Gabriel had a copy of the keys to the house, since Avery never found it necessary to change the locks. Soon enough, his ex-husband was leaning against the patio with him.
Avery offered him a blunt, and was rather surprised when it was accepted. Gabriel only liked Cuban cigars, and expensive cigarettes with rat poison and flavored water. And yet, here he was taking an expert drag.
The silence resonated between them for a while as smoke filled the air.
"...What are you doing here so late?" The retort should have made Avery angry, but hearing Gabriel say the exact words he had some minutes ago, in that deep velvet voice of him, made him feel like laughing instead. The laugh was more bitter than he had intended it to be.
"Oh, you know, just wondering what my life would have been like if a twenty-eight-year-old man didn't marry a nineteen-year-old boy just to realize his business fantasies." The words stung Gabriel, and he watched as Avery calmly took another slow drag. The tips of his fingers were shaking.
"Come on, don't be like that. That was seven years ago, and the relationship was beneficial to the both of us."
"'Beneficial to the both of us'," Avery replied mockingly, "with you taking most of the benefits. What do you want from me, Gabriel? I helped make you rich, you got your revenge on your cooking buddies, what more do you want?" The plea in his voice surprised Gabriel, but he furrowed his brow in stubborn protest. It was true that he had used Avery when they first met, it was surprisingly easy to make a boy foreign to the states fall in love with an older established man, and his spite against the culinary world ultimately led to his success as one of New York's leading organic foods distributor for high-end chains and restaurants. But it was true that none of this could have been done without Avery, and his unnatural talent with plants.
"Avery, that isn't fair. You were able to take care of your people financially because of me, remember? This house, the gardens, they were our doing, me included."
A scoff and struggling laugh escaped Avery in a mesh of coughing and smoke. "So now you care about them? You didn't even know that she died -" the word had left his lips so suddenly, he didn't have time to stop it. Now he couldn't take it back, the past hadn't been erased after all.
Avery stood frozen in mid-sentence, his entire body stiffening as beads of glistening tears slowly slide down his cheeks. Gabriel stood in silent horror as Avery realized what had happened.
The realization came in waves, making his nose dribble and shoulders shake as he slowly crumpled to the ground. Next, came the sobs. He covered his mouth with his hands, not wanting to wake up his daughters- his nieces, the only reminders he had left of his sister.
Gabriel thought of leaving at this point, putting the grass-tasting blunt down and leaving at once. The scene was so pitiful, so raw and full of emotion, he felt out of place with no business to be there. Come to think of it, he had never truly been there for Avery...
With strangled resolution, Gabriel put down his blunt, and picked up the one Avery had dropped, setting it down next to the others. He then slowly, carefully, sat down next to his ex-husband, whom he secretly dearly regretted leaving -controlling, breaking- and took Avery into his arms.
Avery's first thoughts were to turn away, struggle out of his grasp, but how long had he wanted someone to hold him? To share his pain, even by only an iota? He could finally let out the words that had screamed and haunted him for the past three years.
"Who the fuck dies of childbirth? In a hospital? She was fine the first time, why did I have to send her there? Why did I kill her?"