Disclaimer: Smallville and all related elements, characters and indicia © Tollin-Robbins Productions and Warner Bros. Television, 2002. All Rights Reserved. All characters and situationssave those created by the authors for use solely on this websiteare copyright Tollin-Robbins Productions and Warner Bros. Television. Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster.
Author's Note: Big thanks to Wook, for writing The Path She Takes and making me realize that the adults in Smallville have lives, too. Hee.
Gabe Sullivan Versus Waffles by Molly
Gabe Sullivan's life had caved in three hours ago. He'd stopped trying to make sense of it, channeling all his anger and frustration into mixing waffle batter, instead.
His wife had packed up her bags, called a cab, and simply walked out of the house after yet another night of heated arguing. She hadn't left a note for Chloe, hadn't waited to say goodbye, she hadn't even told him she'd call their daughter once she settled in somewhere else.
She'd informed him coolly that she wouldn't be coming back. Taken the stereo, all of her clothes, and a large chunk of the petty cash Gabe had kept around the house and breezed out. He stood in the doorway and helplessly watched her go, at a loss to do anything else. He knew she'd been dead serious.
This was it. She wasn't coming back. He wouldn't try to delude himself otherwise.
The sun had just been dawning over the brick buildings, he'd felt everything drain out of him but a bone weary tiredness, and he'd thanked God that at least Chloe had slept through the shouting match that had begun shortly after he'd put her to bed and that had lasted all night.
He'd tried to get Jessica to keep her voice down. "Jess, please. Don't wake up Chloe," he'd said, over and over again. The last thing he'd wanted was his daughter to awaken to the noises of her parents arguing. She was only five. She was too little to understand, and Jesus, what a nightmare for any little child.
Jessica hadn't cared. Not that it surprised him. If Chloe had awakened, it would have been no consequence to her. Gabe would have been the one to go to her, to hold her, dry her tears, comfort her.
And now it was seven o'clock. Chloe would be waking up soon, she'd be hungry, and he needed to have breakfast ready for her. He had set to work on waffles, her favorite, and rehearsed simplified ways he could explain what had happened. Why Mommy wouldn't be coming back home.
Gabe would have been lying if he'd said he hadn't seen this coming. Things with Jessica had been strained for months now. It wasn't as if they hadn't been trying to work on their problems - on the contrary, they'd both made an effort to keep their marriage together, for Chloe's sake if nothing else. Jessica hadn't been the best mother, but she did love their daughter.
Loved her in her own way, Gabe amended as he cracked another egg into the large glass bowl before him. Not enough to stick around, not enough to even kiss Chloe goodbye, but she'd never been cruel or nasty to her. It was simply that when Jessica organized her priorities, Chloe - and Gabe - had fallen either low on the list, or been dropped from it altogether.
When Chloe skinned her knees from a roller skating fall, Gabe was the one who went to her, armed with Sesame Street Band-Aids and reassuring words. He read to her every night before she went to sleep and fielded her endless questions about why Santa could fit down a chimney if he was so fat, and if a monkey escaped from the Metropolis Zoo and just happened to run to their apartment, would she be allowed to keep it? He was the one who carried her up the stairs to her bed when she fell asleep on the couch; he was the one who had helped her learn to use the telephone.
His daughter came first in his life, because he refused to put her anywhere else.
Except the fact that he loved her more than anything on the planet wasn't helping him find the goddamned maple syrup, and how was he supposed to make waffles without anything to put on them? It wasn't enough that his wife had left him, now the food had to revolt against him, too?
Gabe raked a hand through his thinning hair and glared at the kitchen utensils set out before him. It was supposed to be simple. He'd seen Jessica cook waffles millions of times before, and it hadn't ever looked overly complicated.
But he must be missing the secret ingredient or the feminine touch or something. The batter was too gritty, there was flour spilled all over the floor, egg yolk was somehow dripping down the back of his neck, and he'd slipped in a puddle of orange juice twice. Dishes were stacked high in the sink, the waffle iron was making funny noises, and he somehow had to figure out how to get these waffles cooked and have enough time left over to pack Chloe a nutritionally sound lunch before driving her to school.
And he'd have to get her dressed and fix her hair, he reminded himself. He hadn't done the laundry this week - had Jessica remembered? Did Chloe have clean clothes?
Panic began to claw at Gabe as he poured the waffle batter into the iron for try number seven. He couldn't send his daughter to school wearing dirty pants with a mismatched shirt. He'd have to run down to the basement and get a load going before she woke up. While he was at it, he should probably throw in some socks in for himself. He distinctly remembered that he'd worn his last clean pair yesterday.
He had a business meeting at the plant this afternoon. He'd need to wear a tie - not the blue one, that had mustard on it. And he'd have to call the neighbors to see if Mrs. Cobb could watch Chloe for a few hours after school.
No, no, that was a bad plan. It'd take too long to explain to the neighbors what had happened - that is, if they hadn't heard the yelling coming from the house at all hours last night.
All right, new plan, he mentally revised as he closed the iron and went back to hunting for the syrup. If he skipped his lunch break at the plant and went in a little early the next morning, he could probably make it home in time to pick Chloe up.
Of course, that would mean tomorrow morning, he'd have to -
Bright sparks suddenly shot out of the waffle iron, and it began to make a hissing noise. Gabe bit his tongue fiercely to hold back the string of curses as he yanked the cord out of the wall, using far more force than necessary. He clenched his teeth in frustration and began to scrape the blackened mess into the garbage disposal.
He couldn't do this. He'd been on his own for barely three hours, and he was already failing.
How was he supposed to raise a little girl on his own when he couldn't even handle something as simple as fixing breakfast for her? He'd been an idiot to think, even for a minute, that he could make this work out. Hot anger at Jess - Jessica, dammit! - , himself, everything, began building in his chest as he scraped the spatula even more fiercely through the charred remnants of the waffles.
The tiny voice made him turn around, anger evaporating as quickly as it had risen. "Morning, baby," he greeted Chloe, keeping the tone of his voice normal through Herculean effort. "How'd you sleep?"
Her nose wrinkled as she rubbed her sleepy eyes with one small fist. "Okay, I guess. It smells yucky in here," she told him. "Was somethin' burning?" Gabe held up the waffle iron sheepishly in explanation, and her nose crinkled even further. The simple gesture caused something to twist inside his chest. "How come you were making waffles?"
"Well, you need breakfast, don't you?" he asked his daughter, false cheer in his voice. "Can't let you go off to school with a rumbling tummy."
Chloe walked over and hugged him around the waist, turning to look up at him. "You can't cook, Daddy," she said, as through he were the child and she were the parent, and she was explaining a simple fact to him for the very first time. "'Member when you made the chicken explode in the oven that one time? And the fire department came? And I got to try on the fireman hat after he put out the fire in the kitchen? You took pictures. I know where they are! I could go get them if you don't remember!"
"I remember," he told her, running a hand lightly through her tangled mess of blonde curls. "I remember."
"So how come you're cooking? Is Mommy sick?"
His throat clenched tightly as he looked down into his little girl's trusting face. "Sweetie...let's sit down for a minute."
The one thing Chloe had never been was gullible. Her expression shifted immediately, green eyes widening in fear. She could tell something wasn't right. "Okay," she said uncertainly, allowing Gabe to lead her over to the table and pull her onto his lap. Then she fixed her eyes on his once more, waiting for an explanation of why her culinary impaired father had been attempting to fix breakfast.
Gabe took a deep breath, thinking he'd almost prefer discussing where babies come from. It couldn't possibly be any harder than this.
And suddenly he realized that someday, and probably someday soon, she would be asking him that, and it'd fall on his shoulders and his shoulders alone to explain it to her. Someday, she'd need to buy a bra, and he'd be the one to take her. She'd want to know how to talk to a boy she liked, how to put on makeup, how to shave her legs...they were all things he knew nothing about, that he'd need to learn how to handle.
But he could learn.
More than that, he would learn, just as he'd learn how to braid her hair and get her off to school on time in the morning. He'd learn how to pick her up from school on time and how to make sure she had enough clean clothes for the week. It might take awhile, and he'd screw up along the way, but he'd figure it out. He'd be enough of a father to make up for her not having much of a mother.
As Gabe looked into his vivacious, bright daughter's suddenly timid face, he knew he was capable of doing anything for her. He'd learn how to conquer waffles. He'd even find that damn syrup. Eventually.
Hugging Chloe tightly, Gabe gently began to explain where Mommy had gone to.