"You can't do this." Beth said, trying to reason with her father. "You can't stay here and push everyone around you away from you!"

"S-so what, y-you're saying I should leave?" Rick retorted, glaring hard at his only daughter.

"What?! No!" Beth exclaimed a little too quickly and terrified. She calmed herself, pausing before speaking. "What I'm saying is, we need you to be a little more...caring...to those around you. We need you to know that we love you and Morty loves you and we need you-"

"Nobody needs you to need me." Rick said. "Nobody needs the crap that goes along with being needed by somebody. I-It's just familiarity and misplaced love which is a chemical that I don't need. The only thing I need is- is up here." he pointed to his cranium. "Everything else is j-just bullshit. You don't need me. You want me. You want love. Y-you want to latch onto me and embed your needy little hooks into me. L-like a parasite. You want to feed. I-It's disgusting. Knock it off."

"Rick, how hard is it to show some affection? Or even a smidge of care for someone else besides yourself?" Jerry stood up from the kitchen chair he was sitting in.

"Incredibly, Jerry." Rick belched. "How easy is it for you to be a pathetic excuse for a….what's that word? Oh. Human."

Jerry rolled his eyes with a grumble. "Look all we're asking is for some tiny inkling of proof that you care about this family. You crash here rent free and endanger everyone's lives and we all put up with it. I already know the answer but Beth, Morty, and Summer just want to know one thing. Do you care about them at all?"

Beth, Summer, and Morty stood around the dining room. They were all staring at Rick waiting for any answer he could give them but they didn't look too hopeful. They knew that they would just be disappointed yet again at Rick's lack of emotions.

Rick held his uncaring expression, looking between all of them. He rolled his eyes. "Dumb." he said, taking a sip from his flask. He pulled out his portal gun from his coat. "I'm going o-URP-ut."

"You didn't even answer the question!" Jerry exclaimed.

"I don't need to. Even a blind man c-can see the answer." Rick answered.

Morty felt his shoulders slump as he stared on, frowning. He felt like the breath had been knocked out of him.

"So that's it then? You're admitting that you don't actually care about anyone in this family." Jerry said, glaring at the old man.

"I'm admitting that caring is pointless and only for i-URP-diots." said the scientist with a belch as he adjusted the settings on his portal gun. "And nothing matters because everyone is going to die alone."

"Y-you wouldn't die alone." Morty cut in. "W-we'd be by your bedside. All of us. When the time is right. Right…?" he looked around hopefully at his family.

Beth and Summer nodded while Jerry just crossed his arms.

Rick scoffed. "Hate to break it to all of you but I'm not dying in a bed and I'm not dying of o-old age. This isn't one of those-those movies where the old sack of shit lived a fruitful, fulfilling life and dies happy surrounded by a bunch of- of fucking crying family members. I'd- I'd rather blow my brains out. Thanks." he rolled his eyes. "A-anyway, g-URP-oodbye." he pointed his portal gun at the wall.

"Wait!" Beth started forward, reaching a hand out. "You're...you're coming back?"

Rick's shoulders went slack a bit as he stared into his daughter's terrified eyes. He lowered his gun. "Do you want me to come back?"

"Yes. God, yes. Please?" Beth looked broken.

"A-Alright." Rick shrugged and that seemed to put his daughter at a bit of ease as her outstretched hand lowered to her side. He nodded and shot a portal at the wall, the swirling vortex illuminating the room. He moved towards it.

"R-Rick?" Morty spoke up. "We love you."

Rick stared at the portal for a moment, saying nothing before walking through it and disappearing. The gateway closed behind him.

The family slowly dispersed from the dining room, Beth retreating to numbly pour a glass of wine. Summer pulled out her phone and started slowly texting as she went to her room. Jerry sat down on the couch to watch some television.

Only Morty was left standing in the dining room, staring at the spot where the portal was long gone from. He sighed before turning out the light, joining his dad on the couch but not watching the television.

He hoped for all their sake that Rick would come back as promised but there was never any way to know for sure. They would just have to wait and hope. You never knew anything when Rick was involved. Only that he knew everything and you knew nothing. Morty knew one thing however. They would be ruined without Rick. He just hoped Rick knew that or cared about it. But Rick had made it perfectly clear. The man didn't care about anyone. Not Morty, Summer, his own daughter and never Jerry.

Morty made his way up to his bedroom. He sank into bed without even taking off his shoes, falling into a restless sleep. He dreamt of what it was like to have a loving grandfather, a normal life. It made him sick and so he dreamt of space instead. Of space and Rick. He pretended not to hear his mother crying in the next room but her sobs echoed in his subconscious. He just hoped Rick was happy wherever he was and that he knew he was loved. That's all Morty wanted.

.

.

.

"I do not understand what you are doing here." Birdperson said to the man in his doorway.

Rick pushed past the avian, entering the shack that he called a house. He burped. "I-I j-URP-ust told you." he went straight into the kitchen. "H-Hey you got any whiskey?"

"Alcohol is forbidden on this world." said Birdperson as he shut the front door.

Rick rolled his eyes and shut the high cabinets above his head. He shot a portal into the ground and jumped into it. The portal closed and then a few moments later another portal opened up and Rick fell through it with arms full of bottles and cans. He landed on the couch.

"Ah, t-that's better." Rick said as he cracked open a beer. He sipped it as he reached for the remote on the table in front of him. "D-Do you get interdimensional cable here or just a bunch of m-URP-onotone bird shit?"

Birdperson had not moved from his place by the front door. He only stared calmly at the back of Rick's head. "I do not get interdimensional cable." he said.

Rick stood up and pulled open the cable box on top of the giant acorn based television. He jammed a crystal into it and smiled at his handiwork as Ball Fondlers began to play. "There we gooo."

"Rick. I do not understand what you are doing here." Birdperson repeated. "This is not a casual visit nor an emergency. The distress beacon has not been activated yet you are clearly in distress."

"I-I just came t-to visit you, dawg. You told me, me casa es su casa. Is that not the case?"

"You are always welcome in my home."

"T-then chill out. Come watch tv with me. This show is g-URP-reat."

Birdperson blinked before slowly making his way over around the couch. He sat besides Rick, staring over at the man. He sat in silence.

Rick sipped his beer, watching the on screen violence with what seemed like interest. But Birdperson could see right through the facade.

"You may belay your unspoken problems to me. I will listen and offer advice although I can promise nothing."

"L-look at that guy." Rick laughed, pointing at the screen. "T-talking alligator. You don't see that everyday."

"Rick, what is wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong, Pers. G-geez you're bumming me out. H-Here." Rick handed the avian a beer as he continued to force his eyes to be glued to the screen.

Birdperson took the beer in his hand but did not open it. "Where is Morty?"

"He's at home." Rick sighed.

"Have you abandoned him?"

"No."

"Why are you not with your family?"

Rick groaned. "I-I don't know. D-Drink your beer."

"I do not want to become inebriated."

"You won't." Rick said and took the beer from him. He opened it up and brought it to the avian's mouth. "H-Here."

Birdperson stared for a moment before dutifully opening up his mouth for Rick to begin pouring the alcohol into it. He drank half of it before Rick stopped and placed the can into his hand.

"T-There. Better?" Rick turned back to the television.

"You are in distress." Birdperson said, ignoring the warmth he felt in his stomach along with the slow burn of the alcohol.

"I'm n-URP-ot." the scientist said with a hint of annoyance in his voice.

"Rick. You are in fight or flight mode. I have seen this mode on you before. You have not fought. Tell me why you have fled from the people that love you."

"T-they don't love me." Rick said, glaring at the beer in his hand.

"Is that what has been said?"

"No. T-the opposite." answered Rick.

"I do not understand."

"Y-yeah well I don't need you to understand. I-I didn't come here to hear shit from you."

"Then why did you come here?"

"I-I can't come around to visit my best friend without being i-interrogated? If I wanted that I would have portaled to a F-URP-ederation prison."

"That is not true."

"Yeah it is. You're- you're totally d-digging up my ass r-right now."

"No. It is not true that your family does not love you." Birdperson corrected. "Morty loves you as does your daughter. You say that they have said the opposite. They have told you that they love you. If that is the case then I still do not understand what you are doing here if they have told you of their fondness for you."

"M-maybe I don't want their fondness. Love doesn't cause a-anything but trouble, Pers. I-I don't need it. Never did." Rick said as he flicked through the channels with the remote.

"You do not accept their affections for you."

"No. I don't." Rick admitted, eyes never leaving the television as his thumb jabbed at the remote buttons.

"You have accepted affection in the past from your wife, Unity, Squanchy, and myself."

"Don't r-remind me about half of those. Y-You and Squanchy aren't i-URP-diots."

"What about Morty? You have accepted affection from Morty and he has accepted affection from you."

"M-Morty's a prepubescent little kid who- who worships the ground I walk on. He's- he's not smart. If he was smart he wouldn't have a-any affection for me at all. None of them would."

Birdperson blinked. "You believe those who hold affections for you are unintelligent."

"Yeah. Duh." Rick rolled his eyes.

"Why?" asked Birdperson.

"I don't know. They're- they're just idiots. Leave it at that." Rick found a channel and set the remote down on his lap. It was an alien version of basketball except every now and then the hoop would open up its mouth and eat a player.

"Rick, you are a brilliant person..." Birdperson started.

"H-Here we go…" Rick drawled, rolling his eyes up into the ceiling.

"You were gifted with a genius mind."

"D-Don't do it." warned Rick.

"And an even bigger heart." Birdperson continued.

"O-Oh my g-URP-od." Rick put his face in his hands.

"But holding love inside of both is a great strength and not a weakness as you seem to think. You are loved throughout the multiverse by those you have left an impression on." said Birdperson. "Only when you learn to accept that love then you can use it as a strength. If you continue to see it as a weakness then a weakness it will stay. Do you understand my words? I can repeat them."

"Yes." said Rick. "No." he rubbed his hands down his face. Then he clarified. "Y-Yes I understand. N-No, don't repeat it." he said.

"You are loved by your family. That is by no means a bad occurrence. The only question is, do you love them back?"

Rick glared down at his lap, saying nothing as he thought hard.

Birdperson stared at him, waiting for his answer. After a few moments of silence, he said. "What you say will not leave my home. We have a pact written in the blood of our enemies."

"I k-know that." Rick grumbled.

"Please give me your answer."

Rick took a few more moments of silence before breathing out a heavy sigh. He mumbled under his breath. "Yes…"

"I cannot understand you."

"Yes! Okay?! Yes! I...I love them." Rick admitted, glaring at the bird man before looking away. "You damn bitch..." he muttered.

Satisfied with that answer, Birdperson wrapped a wing and an arm around Rick. "You hold great strength and sadness. You must allow yourself to love lest the sadness devours your strength. You are a fighter. I know you will come out on top as you always do."

"I-I-" Rick started but was cut off by lips pressing against his own. He didn't give protest. He simply closed his eyes and allowed the kiss to fill his senses. It tasted like grain and worms, a taste he was very much accustomed to and welcomed.

As soon as the kiss started, it ended. Birdperson pulled back, his same stoic expression on his face. He got up and walked away from the couch.

"I will prepare nourishment." Birdperson said, heading towards the kitchen.

Rick stared after him, grunting before turning back to the television. "Y-you know one day that's gonna lose its effect and y-you're gonna be powerless against one of my moods. I'll- I'll be invincible. Then what?"

"Gubba nub nub doo rah kah." said Birdperson.

Rick shook his head, mumbling. "Punk ass little bitch.." he said playfully. Then after a moment he frowned and put down the remote. "W-what the hell are you going to make? I-I don't want that terrible bird seed shit y-you keep making me every time I come here. W-What even is that?" he walked into the kitchen.

"I don't know what humans eat." said Birdperson.

As Rick went into a rant about pizza and burgers and chicken wings and tacos, Birdperson reached into his belt to shut off the transmitter.

Unbeknownst to Rick, all the way back on Earth, Morty shut off his own transmitter. He smiled, wiping a happy tear from his eye. He had to remind himself to thank Birdperson for the eavesdropping. Morty wasn't as stupid as he seemed. He heard what he wanted to hear.

Rick loved them. He really did.

Although Morty couldn't tell his parents or sister about this, it at least put his mind at ease.

Maybe one day Rick won't be so afraid of his feelings and will be able to tell them. But this was more than enough for now.

Morty smiled and lay back on his pillow, holding the transmitter in a fist to his chest. The boy yawned. "I love you too, Rick…"he said to himself as he drifted off. He fell asleep and dreamt of the stars.