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Wind-up Toy

Chapter Text

Now I know you've been seeing red,
don't put a pistol to your head.
Sometimes your answer's heaven sent,
your way is so damn permanent.

There I was, driving, on the way back from my dad's house. Just knowing that I had a three-day ride ahead seemed to make me even more tired than I already was.

"I should have stayed for the night," I muttered regretfully. But really, that wouldn't have been a good idea. The tension between my father and I during my stay had been unbearable. He'd been maybe right to be mad, I was mad at myself after all. I had fucked up badly over the last months. I had spent nearly all my money in the worst way. I had forgotten to pay my bills and was now riddled with debt. As if that wasn't enough, I'd ended up losing my job. I brought that on myself.

Releasing one hand from the wheel, I searched for my cigarettes in the pocket of my worn-out jacket. I grabbed one and placed it amid my lips, using the blue lighter that had been laying on the passenger's seat to get the unhealthy stick ignited. I took a deep drag and let it out slowly, watching the smoke escape through the car's open window.

The street I was traversing was almost deserted, so I permitted myself a moment to relax and contemplate the night sky. Being only 8 p.m. the full moon wasn't too high yet, though it was particularly luminous. I enjoyed the cigarette, leaning my head on the back of the seat while the sweet summer breeze blew on my black hair.

I laughed bitterly remembering my father's face when I told him what the main reason for my visit was. He had looked indignant when I asked for money to pay my debts. It was bound to happen, but I didn't have any other choice. I'd reached that conclusion after spending several days lying on my bed, just staring at the ceiling and pitying myself; using the little savings I had left to ruin my life even further, getting dangerously deeper into a path that I knew would be too hard to abandon later.

I had suddenly reacted, realised that I'd screwed up enough. It was crucial to stop my fall before things got worse, I was still in time. I decided that I should get a new job and make it last. However, to try and start all over again, I needed money. And I didn't need it in a month but now, or else I'd end up homeless. My savings were barely sufficient to keep me fed.

I couldn't ask my mom. She worked as a nurse and was always making miracles to get through each month, taking care of the house and helping my younger brother support his studies. I had thought of calling my father; but knowing him, this wasn't a subject to discuss over the phone. That's why I'd opted for talking to him in person.

After my parents got divorced, my father was offered a new job that required him to move across the country. My brother Mikey and I weren't little kids anymore, so he'd considered it the best option.

Even though it was definitely far away, in this case the long trip would give me time to organize my thoughts.

We hadn't seen each other in a year and my dad seemed blissful when I arrived, regardless of how shattered I looked. It was such a pity -yet no surprise- that his joy didn't last. His expression had grown gradually darker and darker as I confessed that I lost my job and explained how it'd occurred. He had stood up and paced the room furiously while I filled him in with the details, describing what I'd been up to lately. There was no use in lying if I wanted to change my life.

He had screamed at me. He had cried and I'd joined him, repentant. I had begged him to forgive me, promised I would make the right choices this time; I only needed his help. He had finally given up and agreed.

Right after leaving his house I'd driven to a bank to deposit the money, calling my best friend to ask him to withdraw it. I wanted my debts taken care of immediately, and I trusted Ray with my life.


Honks woke me from my recollection, and only then I noticed that I had reached a main avenue. I was used to my quiet town, so the loud noises and bright lights of this bigger city made me feel uncomfortable, suddenly small and lost. All of the confidence I had been gathering on the way to my dad's, all of the things I'd tried to convince myself of, all of the plans I had made appeared to be slipping off my hands at that exact moment. I felt like giving up. I was nothing. I was convinced that if I died no one's life would change. Sure, my family would be sad, but they'd go on with their lives. My friends would be hurt, but they'd get over it eventually. No one depended on me. I wasn't a person who was making a remarkable difference in anyone's life.

My dark thoughts got interrupted by yet more honks mixed with angry screams. The traffic was stopped. When had I hit the brakes? I couldn't tell. I was amazed at how I was still be alive, bearing in mind that most of the time I wouldn't pay attention while driving.

I stuck my head out of the window to see what was causing the jam, and what I saw was nothing I could have expected.

There was a small person dancing among the cars, happily skipping from side to side of the avenue, twisting and turning with both arms wide open and making reverences in front of the cars' lights as if they were spotlights. It seemed to be someone very young, though I couldn't tell if it was a boy or a girl. Long hair -at least shoulder length- covered the stranger's face, and the tight jeans and loose, red t-shirt weren't revealing much more.

The drivers were getting impatient, yelling at the dancer and hitting their horns untiringly. Some, tired of waiting and being ignored, passed him/her by hazardously close. I felt a chill. The teen was apparently unaware of the danger, now jumping up and down and clapping hands. What was wrong with this individual? Was he/she on drugs?

I couldn't endure the sight, couldn't stay there and watch someone die. Not thinking twice, I quickly parked my car at the side of the road and got out, running towards the person.

"Come on! Let's get you outta here, they'll run over you!"

"L-lemme dance!" answered a childish voice that didn't help me decipher the gender.

"You're stopping the traffic, this is not a place to dance," I continued patiently. I heard a choir of insults coming from the drivers.

"Of...of c-course it is! Th-this...this is a d-disco, don't you s-see? I...I s-saw it on TV!"

Seeing no other option, I picked him/her up by the waist and dragged him/her to the sidewalk kicking and screaming.

"What the fuck is wrong with you?" I asked, keeping my hand on their wrist now. No answer.

"Hey..." I reached out for the face and got the hair out of the way. I was met by a pair of bright, hazel eyes, pupils rapidly and continuously shifting. That wasn't normal. Perfect eyebrows, perfect nose, perfect skin. Too pretty to be a boy, but that's what he was. I knew it by the barely discernible shadow over his also perfect mouth.

He, who didn't look more than 15, smiled to me widely, extending the hand I wasn't holding. "H-hi! I'm F-frankie. W-wanna be my f-friend?" he said enthusiastically. As I shook his hand he jerked his head weirdly, like a nervous tic.

"I'm Gerard, pleased to meet you."

"I...I like y-your name," he stammered. With yet another smile he blinked, trying to focus his eyes but failing. I couldn't help mirroring the smile, he was endearing. Although surely high.

"You're coming with me until I know what's up with you, little man."

I walked Frankie to the car, unlocked the passenger's seat and motioned for him to get in. He didn't fight me. Once I was also inside I stared at the boy. He seemed out of it; swinging his legs, scratching his head compulsively, murmuring under his breath and now and then shaking.

"Frankie...where do you live?" I asked. Nothing.

"Did you hear me?" I insisted. He jumped when I touched his hair, startled. "Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you. Now that I got your attention, would you tell me where you live?"

Frankie looked up at me, his eyes once again unable to stay focused. He seemed saddened for a moment, then grinned. "Y-you seen the giant f-flowers?"

"What...what giant flowers? Where?" I got confused by his random change of subject.

"Duh! Ev-everywhere!" he stated, visible irritated.

", sorry." My answer made him frown, but he kept silent. I went straight to the point. "Frankie...what did you take?"

"Wh-what?" he tilted his head.

"Did do you say it...sniff something?"

He laughed. "D-dogs sniff! I'm n-not a dog! I...I like th-them, though."

I paid attention to the way he talked. He mostly got stuck at the beginning of sentences and also struggled with some words in the middle, but spoke the rest rapidly.

"Let's see then..." I sighed loudly, arming myself with patience. "Did you inject yourself with something?"

"Uh? Y-you don't do th-that to yourself. No. N-no you d-don't. S-someone else d-does. But F-Frankie was a g-good boy. N-not necessary. Nope," he shook his head and continued to talk to himself.

"What do you...?"

"W-wanna candy?" he offered out of nowhere, showing me his empty hand.

"Maybe later, thanks..." I tried to smile. This Frankie boy was really fucked up.


"Did you take any pills?" I proceeded with the interrogation.

Frankie opened his mouth and hit his head with his hand, as if he had suddenly remembered something important. "N-no I didn't! I...I sh-should have...I gu-guess. Yes. D-definitely. B-but there was n-no one to give them t-to me. I...I didn't take m-my pills. N-no I d-didn't," the boy affirmed worriedly.

And that's when my theory completely changed.

Chapter Text

All my friends live on the floor,
tiny legs and tiny eyes.
They're free to crawl under the door;
and, and someday soon so will I.

I watched Frankie grab his entangled, dark brown hair with both hands while he rocked his body back and forth. I'd have to leave my inquiry for later, evidently. Anyway, I had already come up with a more reasonable hypothesis: his state might not be self-provoked but the result of some kind of mental illness; and he hadn't been taking the needed medication.

"I d-didn't...I should h-have..." he murmured once and again. 

Not knowing what to do, I reached for his back to try and soothe him. That's when I noticed for the first time that he was carrying a small, black backpack.

"Shh, let me help you take this off so you can get more comfortable. Frankie...can you hear me, kiddo?" I made my voice as gentle as possible. He stopped moving, turned to me and nodded.

After I slid the very light bag off his shoulders and threw it to the backseat, Frankie seemed to relax. He closed his eyes -that were still set on me- tightly, opening them a couple of seconds later, his pupils always restless. With an angry sigh he shut them once again, keeping them like that for a little longer and breathing deeply. I waited in silence, unaware of whatever it was that he wanted to achieve. Finally, Frankie's eyelids slowly raised and he looked at me, grinning satisfied. His pupils were still now and I supposed that had been his goal; it made it easier for him to fix his eyes on me. He was cross-eyed, though. I reckoned that he was the cutest image I had seen in a long time.

"Y-you are h-handsome," he complimented me, making me gasp. While he talked, his two hazel orbs resumed their dance. Annoyed, he quickly combed his long locks so they covered his face.

"Wh-why you s-smiling like th-that? M-my eyes, right? Ev-everybody laughs, I..."

"No," I brushed the hair back off his forehead, pushing it behind his ears. "I think your eyes are very pretty and I wasn't laughing, I was smiling because you're cute."

"I...I am?" he smiled.


"I...I l-like cute-ness. D-dogs are c-cute. An-and little p-people who l-live in things, al-also," he whispered the last part secretly.

"Oh, I've never seen them, so I can't tell," I alleged, not entirely paying attention. I had remembered that we were parked at the side of an avenue, most probably in a wrong place. The last thing I wanted was to have problems with the cops.

I took a few minutes to meditate, observing Frank trace patterns on the glass and sing in a low voice, his head jerking unintentionally once in a while. I couldn't leave him alone. It was clear that the boy had no notion of danger; he hardly had notion of reality. However, I was at the same time afraid of getting myself into trouble. I knew nothing about this Frankie.

"How old are you, boy?" I decided to ask, concerned by how young he looked.

"Uh?" he muttered, his forehead against the window.

"How old are you, Frankie?"

"I...I'm...I th-think...18. Y-yes, 18," he answered happily. I gave him an incredulous look.

"Are you sure?"

"Y-yes I'm s-sure! Th-the number on the c-cake said 18 and...and th-there were 18 candles, I c-counted them!" he waved his hands frenetically.

"Ok, I believe you then!" I decided to take his word for true and hope that it was, indeed, the truth. At least he wasn't a minor. Being found with a mentally ill minor would mean to fuck up a million times worse than with anything I'd done in the last months.

"Well, we better get moving." I fastened Frankie's safety belt and he grumbled, instantly attempting to set himself free.


"Hey, hey, hey! Leave it on!" I ordered firmly.

"I...I d-don't l-like it."

"It's necessary to keep you safe."

"Ok," he pouted, kicking the air. "B-but I h-hate it. Y-you should kn-know that."

"Fine." I started the car and got back on the road.

"N-not fine, not f-fine, not fine...n-no."


Minutes later, his constant murmurs were getting on my nerves. I wasn't going to be rude and tell him to stop, so I thought of bringing the conversation back and confirm my suspicions.

"Why don't you tell me something else about you, Frank?"

"F-frankie," he corrected me.

"Sorry, Frankie. Where do you live?"

"I...I d-don't know how to g-get there or the ad-address, no. But...b-but I don't th-think I live there a-anymore. No. M-maybe. Y-yeah. N-no..." he trailed off.

"Well...can you describe the place where you lived?" I helped him.

He concentrated for some seconds, frowning. " w-was very v-very big and...and al-almost all walls were wh-white. An-and I lived w-with many more k-kids. S-some were f-funny. O-others screamed a l-lot. It s-scared me. Yes. Oh, and l-lots of m-men and women with white c-clothes. Th-they took c-care of us," he looked down at his lap. I had been obviously right.

"So it's just as I thought...he's crazy and lived in a mental institution." When I realized I had said that aloud, it was too late. Frank opened his eyes wide as dinner plates.

"Y-yeah, I think th-that's how they called the p-place but...I'M N-NOT FUCKING C-CRAZY, YOU MEAN AS-ASSHOLE! G-GRACE SAID I'M S-SPECIAL!" he screamed, his face red with rage, grabbing my jacket and shaking me. I wasn't expecting such a reaction.

Struggling to keep the car from straying from the road, I got hold of Frank's arms with my free hand. "Frankie please be quiet, I'm driving!"


"I'm really sorry, I didn't mean to, I should have never used that word. You're right, you're just special just like that Grace said. Who is she?"

" w-won't say it again? P-promise?

"I won't, never again, I promise."

Although he continued to breath heavily, he gradually calmed down. I let go of his arms and he crossed them over his chest, sulking and scrutinizing me.

"I...I f-forgive you th-this time. On-only this th-time! And...G-grace...she w-was who looked af-after me. F-Frankie can't be al-alone." he shook his head rapidly. That last sentence sounded like he was repeating something he'd heard someone say. Even his tone changed.

"How long had you been in that place?" I pressed. Frank was now taking things out of an imaginary container in his hand and 'eating' them, undoubtedly tasting and enjoying them.

"Uh...a l-lot of time. B-but I think I w-was in a dif-ferent place when I w-was littler. N-not sure. But a l-lot of time in th-this one, y-yeah." It actually sounded as if he was speaking with his mouth full.


"S-sure you d-don't want some c-candy? C-come on, try th-them, they're y-yummy!" he invited.

Deciding to play along, I made my fingers grab an invisible sweet and throw it into my mouth. Frank's gesture of approval was worth it.

"Mmm, you're right, it's good! Grape, isn't it?" I guessed.

Frank sniggered. "Y-you don't have a p-palate, Gerard?'s s-strawberry!"

"Oh, right! I'm so stupid sometimes!" I smacked my forehead, making him giggle.

Everything was silent for several minutes, the quietness occasionally interrupted by Frankie's unintelligible murmurs. He stirred on his seat, unable to stay quiet for too long. The city lights faded behind us as I drove the familiar route that would take me home. Not any time soon, though.

"B-bored....bored b-bored bored bored..." Frankie sang. "T-tell your gnomes their j-jokes are not f-funny."

"Uh..." I froze. What should I answer? Was it okay to play along when he was imagining things? Should I tell him that there was nothing there? I wished I knew what was the right way to proceed, but I didn't even know what his problem exactly was. All I could do was to test the water. "What gnomes?"

"Wh-what you mean what g-gnomes? Th-the ones living inside y-your glove box h-here! What others c-could be?" he answered matter-of-factly.

It was too hard. Even thought the things Frankie said were rather funny and he seemed happy with his hallucinations, I felt sorry for him. I was afraid of screwing up, yet I had to try different options.

"Frankie...there's nothing there," I said softly, spying him sideways to see his reaction.

"Wh-what? Th-they live in your c-car and you never s-saw them? W-well, stop l-looking at the r-road and watch th-them, then!" he spat exasperated.

Checking that it was safe to do so, I turned my head and looked inside the spot Frank was pointing at.

"Th-they s-seem to like y-you!" he laughed.

"There are no gnomes there, Frankie. It's all in your head." I caressed his hair. He knocked my hand off.

"TH-THEY'RE NOT IN MY H-HEAD, TH-THEY'RE IN THE G-GLOVE BOX! A-AND YOU'RE F-FUCKING BLIND IF...IF YOU C-CAN'T S-SEE THEM! SH-SHUT UP! WH-WHY YOU DO TH-THIS TO ME, UH? OF...OF C-COURSE THEY'RE TH-THERE!" he screamed at the top of his lungs, stammering more than ever and hitting his fists against the back of his seat. But as furious and nervous as he acted, he still wasn't crying. I hadn't seen him cry so far.

I admitted to have made the wrong choice. The most advisable thing to do until I could find out more about Frankie's problem, was to keep him calm and not antagonize him.

"Wait, I see them now! They were hiding from me, that's all! Or maybe they were having fun with you, you know? They wanted you to think that you were the only one who could see them."

"Oh, f-fuckers!" Frank straightened up and smiled, sticking his little finger into the 'gnome-house'. "Wh-what you th-think of them?"

"They seem to be funny guys!" I improvised.

"Th-they are...u-usually."


All the screaming made Frankie tired and soon he got comfortable on his side, just staring out of the window.

"Did you...escape from that place?" I wanted to know.

His big eyes scanned me briefly, but he diverted them right away. "N-no! I...I l-liked it there."

"Then what were you doing alone in the street?"

"W-waiting...but she n-never came b-back for me." he rustled.

Chapter Text

Daddy won't discuss me
what a state I must be.
Mommy couldn't stand
living with a wind-up toy.

"She? Who?" I sensed that something might be very wrong.

At first, Frank didn't seem to hear me; he kept on playing with a loose thread on his jeans. I waited, since I didn't think it wise to push him. After a while he raised his head, blinking rapidly.

"M-my mom," he simply stated before going back to his task, a little hole beginning to form on the right knee of his pants.

A million thoughts went through my head. Not one of them was good. Why was a boy like him alone in the street if he had a mother? How had he gotten there? It wasn't my intention to upset him, but I needed more information if I was going to take him with me.

" did you get to the place where I found you? How did you leave the institution...and why?" I continued to interrogate him, trying not to let my interest in that mysterious boy make me forget that I was in the middle of a treacherous route. That part of the road was poorly illuminated.

After uttering the question, or better said bunch of questions, I thought that I was, perhaps, pestering the poor kid. It looked like he had a big enough mess in his head by nature. 

I was about to reformulate my quiz when Frankie spoke. "M-my mom t-took me out of the p-place where I w-was. S-said she c-couldn't pay f-for it or...or the p-pills." He stopped to look outside and squealed out of nowhere. "Awwww, l-look!"

"What's it?" I followed his gaze to find out what had amazed him like that, and all I saw were the city lights in the distance. Was it just it? Was he imagining something else? It was hard to tell with Frankie. "The lights?"

"Y-yeah! S-so pretty," he answered in a soft voice, his face glued to the glass and his mouth hanging open in awe.

"Hadn't you seen them like that before?"

"N-no. Wowww..." he shook his head. How could I be so stupid? Of course he hadn't. He'd spent his whole short life locked up in a mental institution. Nearly everything from the outside world was new to him.

"They're very pretty indeed."

"Yes...NO! G-go back W-wanna see!" he complained when the car made a turn and the spectacle was out of sight.

"I can't, Frankie, I'm sorry. We need to take this path to go home. But we'll pass other cities by on our way, so you'll be able to see something like that again, ok?"

"Oh...k-kay," he nodded cheerfully.

"Frank. Uh...sorry, Frankie, can I ask you something else?" I shot. I was too intrigued for my own good. And exhausted, and nervous, needing something to keep me from falling asleep on the wheel.


"You told me that your mom took you out of the institution because she couldn't pay for it anymore, right?"

"Y-yeah. Or...or f-for my p-pills. I...I n-need my pills. H-head's a mess. Al-always is...b-but now's w-worse. B-bad...bad bad b-bad bad bad. N-not good. B-bad." He ran his fingers through his hair in all directions.

"Shh...don't think about that now. We'll see what can be done when we arrive," I quietened him, freeing one hand to accommodate his long, slightly curly hair. "Was your mother taking you home with her?"

"I...I gu-guess. She...she t-told Grace sh-she would. B-but...maybe no? 'C-cause...'cause th-then...why she l-left me th-there?"

While Frank was talking, I studied him. He looked pensive, puzzled, trying to comprehend what had happened. Yet not sad. He had enough reasons to be sad and cry his eyes out from what I'd gotten to know -or guess- so far. But he was either too brave or his mental illness didn't let him show some emotions.

He was now hitting his own head with his palm, not exactly gently.

"Where did she leave you? And please don't do that, kid, you're gonna hurt yourself. Calm down...there." I grabbed his hand and kept it in mine, rubbing it with my thumb. He took a deep, shivering breath and collected himself once again.

"Sh-she...she d-drove...and drove...a l-lot and then she s-stopped. She...she t-told me to g-get outta the c-car and said 'H-have to go s-somewhere and c-can't take you w-with me. W-wait here 'til I c-come back f-for you.' And...and sh-she left. Sh-she didn't k-kissed me goodbye. N-nope. M-moms kiss their k-kids on TV, she d-didn't. W-weird."

The way in which he'd talk for was mechanical. Besides his stutter, something else was particularly odd. He was telling me about how his own mother had left him as if it was just a story. And the only detail out of the woman's behavior that Frank had though weird was the lack of a goodbye kiss.

I felt my eyes watering. I wished I could stop the fucking car and hug Frank. Then I realised that I wasn't even sure if he'd let me. Maybe he didn't like to be hugged or wasn't used to it and would freak out.

"So she left you around the place where I found you?"

"Y-yes...right n-next to the d-disco," he smiled. He was smiling. So confusing.

A consequential idea suddenly popped up in my mind: what if that event had just taken place and Frank's mother was actually going to return? Although...which mother would leave her mentally unstable kid, who had never been 'outside' before, alone in the street waiting?

"Frankie, how long had it been since your mom left by the time I met you at the...disco?"

"Uh I...I d-dunno," he shrugged, tossing his head. That nervous tic was becoming stronger. Anxiety, most probably.

"Try to think about it, it's important."

"L-let me w-was...morning. Y-yeah morning, 'c-cause I woke up r-really really early th-that day. I...I d-don't like to w-wake up early. N-not at all. Yes...I th-think it was still m-morning when she left. And I w-waited. And...and night c-came and...then it w-was day again. Yes. An-and night once a-again I was b-bored and, and I w-walked...and I saw it: a d-disco!"

I was going to tell him that the street wasn't a disco, it was dangerous for him to think that; but I was left pondering about the amount of time he'd been there waiting: almost two days. Almost two fucking days in the same spot until he finally moved, possibly because the medication had totally worn off; everything began to distract him and he couldn't think straight anymore.

" think I sh-should go back th-there and wait m-more?" he asked sincerely, and I felt my heart break. "M-maybe I d-didn't wait en-enough?"

There was no way that bitch could have ever thought of going back for Frank. As if throwing her own son into that place when he was little hadn't been enough, now she had abandoned him in the street. She didn't give a fuck about him, didn't even try to find a safe place. She didn't care if he got killed by a car or any other terrible thing happened to him. How could she? How could she look at Frankie's face and do it? So young, so helpless, so confused, so sweet and pretty...

"Tell me...did your mom visit you at that place?" I let that question out terrified of the answer.

"N-no, hadn't s-seen her b-before. I...I knew she w-was my mom cause G-grace told me. th-think I should go b-back and wait?" he questioned. My fear was justified, and Frank had no clue of how impassible and heartless his mother had been.

"No, Frankie, I don't think she'll come back for you. I'm sorry," I said more bluntly than I had intended. I was so furious.

"Oh...k-kay," he shrugged emotionless.

"But don't worry, I'll take care of you and won't ever leave you alone," I promised, wanting to make him feel safe. I was certain that he was scared and upset, even if he wasn't able to demonstrate it.

He closed his eyes, repeating his 'eye-movement-stopping routine'. When seconds later I turned my face to him, I was confronted by those shiny pupils drawn towards the lacrimals, attracted to each other. Without discontinuing his stare, Frank loosened his seat belt. He helped himself up with the back of my seat, came closer, and kissed my cheek. Briefly, childishly. Then he sat back on his place, refastening the seat belt.

It took me several minutes to recover from what had happened and the strange feeling in my stomach. Something he'd previously said came back to me: 'You're handsome.' Bad timing.
I had to push that out of my head. Frankie would say random things all the time and sometimes didn't even seem to know why. What the fuck was I thinking? What was wrong with me? Only one thing was relevant: Frankie was obviously able to show his feelings, he just had his own way to do it.

Once our serious talk was forgotten, Frankie found new entertainment conversing with someone or something on the car's floor.

"N-nope, I d-didn't eat yet. N-no! Y-you eated my l-last sandwich! W-well, then w-was one l-like you!" he argued. It hit me that he'd presumably had nothing to eat in hours, if not days!

I took a look around us, then at my clock. We had been traveling for three hours. It was about eleven in the night and we were luckily nearing the 'civilization' again.

"Well, Frankie, I think it's time for dinner."

"Yay! I...I'm h-hungry! B-but they can c-come with us?" he pointed at the floor.

Chapter Text

I got a baby's brain and an old man's heart.
Took eighteen years to get this far.
Don't always know what I'm talkin' about.
Feels like I'm livin in the middle of doubt.

"Who do you want to bring with us?" I asked while maneuvering the car into the first gas station I saw. "The gnomes?"

"N-no. Not the g-gnomes, th-the little p-people!" Frank said. He was confusing me so much. How could I follow his deliriums if I didn't even understand them?

"Aren't they the same?"

"Wh-what you m-mean?"

"The little people you're talking about...aren't they the gnomes?" I stopped the car and changed my position so I could see Frank better.

He grabbed his head and growled. "Y-you're fucking k-kidding me, Gerard? D-don't you s-see them? Y-you think they l-look like damn g-gnomes, uh?" he spat angrily. It was kind of funny how he looked so innocent but could be rather foulmouthed when provoked.

"Uh well, they're so tiny that I can't really distinguish the difference. Would you tell me?"

"AGH! G-GNOMES ARE F-FUNNY LOOKING WITH B-BIG NOSES AND WEAR P-POINTY HATS! AND TH-THIS PEOPLE JUST L-LOOK LIKE N-NORMAL PEOPLE BUT VERY V-VERY S-SMALL! G-GET IT N-NOW?" he shouted, trying to keep his stare on me as much as his troublesome eyes allowed. I was astounded.

"Yes, I do get it now. Thanks for explaining it to me, Frankie! And of course they can come with us," I assented while getting out of the car.

"Oh, th-thank you! Haha, l-look at them j-jumping!" Frank had already freed himself from the belt and was kneeling on the floor, totally amused. I walked over to his side and opened the door. Then I offered him my hand which he took with a giant smile, hopping out of the car. I held the door open, remembering Frank's guests.

"Is everybody out? It looks like it."

"Y-yeah they are," he nodded. I headed for the station's diner still holding his hand, terrified of him running away and into the traffic or something equally dangerous.

"If someone asks something I'll tell them you're my little brother. So don't deny it, ok?" I instructed Frank.

"K-kay. B-brother."

While entering the place I guardedly studied our surroundings. You could tell it had once been a fashionable diner; but the formerly light blue walls were now a dirty gray and the white tiles on the floor were soiled and sticky, making walking through the diner a disgusting experience. Frank noticed it too, but seemed to be entertained with the 'squeesh-squeesh' noise his sneakers produced with each step. The roof looked as if it was about to fall in and there were no lamps, just a few light bulbs hanging from loose wires. Tables and chairs were made of worn out, blue plastic.

The smell of beer reached my nostrils. I was craving it. I knew I shouldn't yield but I wasn't sure if I'd be able to resist. Maybe just one. Couldn't do any harm.

"Hey, fag! You could have chosen a better place to bring your dolly, don't you think?" a drunken voice drew me out of my quandary. It was followed by a choir of laughter coming from the other customers.

"He's my brother for your information," I replied shortly.

"Of course!" another one vociferated.

I looked over at them for the first time. Sweaty, hairy motorcyclists with their obligatory leather jackets, even when it was midsummer. Then you had the truck drivers, better suited to the warm climate with their sleeveless shirts. They were all drinking beer from tall glasses. I was licking my dry lips when I heard Frank's voice.

"Y-yes, he's my b-brother. It's t-true!"

"If...if you s-say s-so...hahaha! Oh, how s-sweet!" the fattest of them joked, making fun of him.

"What is this little guy on? Look at his eyes!" the one next to him added.

I acknowledged Frankie squeezing my hand. He was trembling, eyes fixed on the floor and his breathing loud. I felt tempted to say something back or, even better, punch the fat one; but I opted for being realistic: I had no chance of surviving. Instead of that, I dragged Frank to the other side of the place where the ramshackle counter was. He was applying resistance, glaring at the men with loathing.

"Wh-why you d-didn't let me k-kick their asses?" he asked me once we were in the line to get our food.

"What? Are you serious, Frankie? Don't you see those guys? They're huge!"

"M-my army of l-little people w-would have b-beated them!" he rolled his eyes, standing proudly with his hands on his hips. I couldn't help laughing. He didn't like it.

"D-don't fucking l-laugh or I...I will t-tell them to at-attack you too!"

"Oh no, please don't. I'll stop laughing but no fights, ok? We're here to eat." I forced a straight face.

"F-fine. B-but they're h-hungry so you b-better get them s-something," he pouted. I replayed his words in my mind. Was he meaning that I had to buy food for his little friends too?

"Frankie...I can't buy something for them."

"Wh-why not? They're h-hungry!" he was indignant.

 "Because I don't have enough money," I explicated.

"B-but...they're p-pretty small! J-just one b-burger for all w-will be enough!" Frankie insisted.

I rubbed my face, annoyed. Not because of him though; I had it clear that I couldn't blame him for being noisy. I was annoyed by the situation. I wanted to please him, he wasn't really asking for much, but I was completely broke.

"I'm sorry, I can't even afford that. We still have more than two days ahead, so I need to save. Don't they have money of their own?"

Frank hugged himself and began to walk in circles, saying something that I couldn't decipher. Then he stopped in front of me.

"N-NO! THEY D-DON'T! D-DAMN IT! P-please buy them s-something or they will e-eat my food!"

"Frankie, please don't scream! They won't eat your food, I'll make sure they don't, ok?"

"'s n-not ok. IT'S N-NOT OK! J-just one s-sandwich?"

"I can't!"

The argument continued with Frankie repeating the reasons why I should comply and me doing my best to not lose my patience. People were giving us weird looks.

"C-come on, G-gerard...pleeeease!"

 "NO, Frank. Stop it, I told you I can't, I'm sorry," I said for the thirtieth time, at the brink of losing my temper.

"Is there a problem here?" a female voice asked. I was met by a red haired girl behind the counter. I hadn't even realized that we'd reached the front of the line. She was very young and pretty and was smiling at us. I thought of how much of a contrast she was to this depressing place.

"Uh no, nothing's wrong," I quickly answered.

Frank glanced at me and then at her. "L-lies! Th-there is s-something wrong! H-he doesn't w-want to buy another b-burger for my l-little friends!" he intervened, pointing down.

The girl, whose tag I then saw read 'Jane', let her eyes follow Frank's hand and she looked completely lost. Taking advantage of the fact that I was standing behind him at the moment, I caught Jane's attention and signaled my head, rotating my finger to mean that Frankie wasn't sane.

 "I'd love to, but I don't have enough money," I said once again.

Jane reached over the counter and caressed Frankie's cheek, startling him. "Don't worry, sweety, I think I have something for them. A while ago a customer left his sandwich untouched. I can't sell it again of course, but it'd be such a pity to throw it to the trash can. I'm sure your little friends will give it better use, don't you think?"

 "R-really?" Frank's face lightened up with Jane's words and he applauded. I felt a pinch of jealousy.  "Oh, th-thanks! S-see how h-happy you made th-them!"

"You're welcome!" she replied, addressing the invisible people before changing her attention back to us. "Now what do you two want?"

"I'd say two cheeseburgers with fries. What do you think, Frankie?" I ran my hand through his dirty hair.

"Yeah! W-with...with C-coke!" he nodded eagerly.

"I'll have a..." I doubted, the smell of beer calling me again as a man next to Jane was pouring some into a glass. I stared at the yellowish liquid hypnotized, tightening my fists. But no. I couldn't. I wasn't alone anymore, I had someone to take care of now. "I'll have a coke too."

"Ok, then! Go have a seat, I'll bring you your food when it's ready. Oh, better stay on this side. The tough guys over there...they're really harmless, but can be a real pain in the ass. I know about that," the young girl commented.

Frank giggled at her last remark. "Y-yes they are!"

We found an empty table at the back and sat down. The diner seemed to be virtually separated in two. Or well, not the diner but its clientele. The people around us, on that side, were all either families -some even with kids- or teenagers.

Nothing was said at first, Frankie making origami out of the paper napkins. He eventually got bored of that, shifting his position every ten seconds.

"G-gerard, you h-have a g-girlfriend?" he suddenly questioned. Not exactly something I wanted to answer, it had never been my favorite subject.

I'd had two relationships in my life. Only Ray had found out about my first, important love. My second and last attempt hadn't gotten too far and it'd ended because it was the best for both of us.

Frank tapped his fingers on the plastic surface, waiting.

"Uh no, I don't," I responded simply. "Do you?"

"Eww n-no. I...I d-don't like girls! W-well, maybe as f-friends, just s-some of them. Th-they're mean."


"Th-they bite! And...and s-some kick and p-punch!" he explained doing all the mimics. I tried to hide my laugh. The girls at that mental institution were surely violent. "And...and they h-have boobs! Ewww."

"You have a boyfriend, then?" I feared his reaction after I asked him that, but he just blushed.

"N-no...not any-more." He sounded unsure and uneasy. "I...I u-used to b-but...we d-didn't do many th-things boyfriends do. He..."

His sentence was cut off abruptly when he looked at the floor and screamed. Then he jumped onto his chair, shaking from head to toes and gasping for air.

"Frankie...Frankie, what happens?" I ran to him, grabbing him by the arms. He kept on staring at the floor, terrified, his eyes pacing more rapidly than ever. "Please, tell me so I can help you."

He raised his head for just a second and saw me. Gulping, he started to pull at his hair. 

"Th-there are c-cockroaches. L-lots of them. Ev-everywhere. D-DON'T YOU S-SEE THEM? A-ALL OVER THE F-FLOOR. L-LOOK! I...I H-HATE THEM! P-PLEASE M-MAKE THEM GO AWAY...P-PLEASE. Pleasepleasepleaseplease," he shouted, hysterical. Everybody was watching us and also checking the floor. Although it would have been highly plausible in a filthy place like that, there were no bugs to be seen. This would get us into real trouble if I didn't do something.

"Frankie...this time I'm serious, there's nothing there. Please, try to calm down," I made an attempt, but he just pushed me away.


"I..." In that moment I saw Jane coming over with our food. She got close to me and spoke in my ear.

"I'm so sorry, but if he doesn't calm down now the owner will ask you to leave. Customers are walking away..."

"I know..." I sighed loudly. Raising my voice as much as I could I said: "Please, ladies and gentlemen, don't leave. There are no cockroaches. Don't pay attention and just continue eating, I'll take care of the situation!"


"I just told them that so they wouldn't go away. Now come here." I reached out for him.

"N-NO WAY! N-NOT GONNA G-GO DOWN...P-PLEASE D-DON'T MAKE ME! P-PLEASE, GERARD, PLEASE!" He was so frightened that it was seriously worrying me. So far his hallucinations had been about nice things that would only amuse him or even keep him entertained. This one was different.

"I'll hold you, you won't touch the ground, I promise."

He then threw his arms at me and I lifted him from the chair. He wrapped his legs around my waist and hid his face against my shoulder, trembling.

"It's ok, it's ok. Stay like this. Jane will get rid of the bugs and I'll tell you when they're gone," I whispered, holding him tight.

He began to sob, for the first time since I had found him. His body felt so good close to mine, and I knew more than ever that I wanted to protect him, to help him. For the first time in my life I felt needed.

"I'll do that right now, I'll chase them away," Jane assured Frankie, though she was really just standing there. "They're already running away from my broom!"

"T-they scare me t-too much I..."

"I know Frankie, I know. They're leaving. Almost gone more bugs! Look!" I said, hoping that my plan would work. He took a careful look around and smiled, wiping away the tears with the back of his hand.

"Thanks again," I told Jane, making Frank sit back on the chair.

"Enjoy your meal," she replied with a grin and walked away.

All the contrary to a minute before, Frank now appeared to be in a zombie state, tired and limp. Even his pupils were quiet, close to each other. I placed his food in front of him and, seeing that he wasn't reacting, I made his right hand hold the burger.

"O-oh...yeah," he muttered. He was going to bite it but instead grabbed the ham and cheese sandwich from the white tray and disappeared with it under the table, leaving the meal on the floor.

"What are you doing?"

"A-all for you," he spoke to his tiny friends. Only then he started to eat his own food, or better said devour.

At one point he extended his hand to get a hold of the glass. It was evident that he had trouble to calculate the distance since it took him several tries when he'd just hold the air until he finally succeeded. Of course I was no expert, but I presumed that was due to sight problems, it most probably had to do with his eye deviation.

He didn't speak at all for minutes, his mouth was too occupied. He ate half of my fries, but I didn't mind, the poor boy seemed to be starving. Every time I'd see him reach out for the glass of Coke I'd hand it to him to make things easier.

"G-gerard?" he broke the silence while I was finishing my drink.


"I...I'm g-gonna live w-with you?"

I closed my eyes, meditating. Was there any other choice? Would my conscience let me go on with my life if I did any other thing? What could I do, anyway? Report him to the police? He'd end up in a public place, a fucking madhouse, tied up to a bed or pumped full of sedatives so he wouldn't be a nuisance. I could never let that happen. Not to Frankie. I had only known him for about five hours but it felt meant to be. He had been sent to me, or I had been sent to him. Anyhow, we needed each other.

"Yes, you'll live with me." I secretly hoped he'd come to me and give me a big hug. He didn't.

"K-kay," he barely smiled. His frequent lack of reaction was something I would have to get used to.

It was near 1a.m. when we left the diner and headed for the bathroom. Besides doing the usual stuff, I had decided that Frank needed some cleaning. He was beginning to stink a little bit. I was pleased to see that there was soap.

"You have a clean shirt in your bag, don't you?"


"Ok. Then take this one off and wash yourself in the sink. Neck and armpits!" I specified.

He looked offended. "I...I kn-know how to d-do it, YOU F-FOOL! w-wash my hair?'s g-greasy," he asked the question displaying his best angelic face, it melted me. His hair was, indeed, greasy.

"Of course I will."

Twenty minutes and a water-war later we got out of the bathroom. Frank was now wearing a black t-shirt with Jack from The Nightmare Before Christmas on it, and his wet hair was stubbornly falling on his face. We walked to the car, ready to continue our trip. I let go of Frank's hand to fight with the car's door, which had decided to act up.

"Stay here. Don't move!" I commanded him.


Once I managed to solve the issue, I turned around to coax Frank into the vehicle.

"Oh my God! Frank! Where the fuck is he?"

Chapter Text

Welcome to my nightmare,
welcome to my breakdown,
I hope I didn't scare you,
that's just the way we are when we come down.
We sweat and laugh and scream here,
'cause life is just a dream here,
you know inside you feel right at home...

Desperate, I scanned the parking lot. I wasn't able able to descry Frankie from where I stood so I locked the car again, hoping that it'd let me in later. I ran along the place and checked in between trucks, calling Frank's name.

"G-GERARD! I'M..." I heard him scream and then nothing.

I followed the sound of his voice and it led me behind the biggest red truck.  Approaching that spot, I saw one of the big guys we had seen inside earlier holding Frank by the hair. Another one was standing in front of the boy, menacing him with his fist while he covered his mouth with the other hand to stop him from screaming.

"What the fuck do you think you're doing? Don't you see he's just a kid?" I burst into the scene. Frank definitely looked at least three years younger to me and I guessed anyone would think the same, which made this situation more inexcusable.

The one who had a grip on Frank's hair smirked. "Your kid...came to us to tell us we're a bunch of ugly motherfuckers."

The second man grabbed Frankie's neck now. Frank was struggling to say something and his eyes were huge with fear as much as with anger. He tried to kick them, but they systematically avoided his feet. Again, I had enough brains to know that if I tried to free him by force both of us would end up badly injured.

"And just because of that you're gonna hit him?" I asked.

"Yes, and because we're bored. Got a problem, Snow White?" the tallest guy provoked.

"Actually yes, I do have a problem. But you have a bigger one if you need to beat up mentally ill kids to feel more macho." I expected a punch right after I said that. Maybe what I was doing wasn't much more fortunate than using force.

But instead of retaliating, the shorter man muttered a 'shit' and let go of Frank's hair. "We didn't know." he added.

"Oh, you didn't know, of course! Tell me...even if you didn't know that detail, shouldn't it be enough with the fact that he's much younger and smaller than you?" I continued, seeing as the second guy hadn't released Frank yet. What's more, he was restraining him harder.

"Come on! What does it matter? The little brat still insulted us," he spoke to his friend.

"Let him fucking go! He's not aware of what he says, asshole!" I spat at him angrily.

"If he doesn't know how to behave then keep him locked up, I don't fucking care!" the man went on, finding it more and more difficult to keep Frank quiet. The kid was pretty strong for someone his size.

"He has the same right to walk around as pricks like you. More, I'd say," I shot back. I didn't care anymore whether they'd like it or not.

"Joe, let the kid go already," his partner demanded. Joe just stared at him. "Leave him the fuck alone, come on! We don't want trouble."

Before the Joe guy could have time to consider the request, Frank achieved to rotate his body enough for his knee to collide with the man's balls.

"FUCKING CRAZY SON OF A BITCH!" he shouted, finally loosening the grip on his pray. I took Frankie by the hand and we ran to the car without looking back.

"That was awesome, Frankie!" I laughed, opening the door with no problem this time. "But please, don't ever run away like that again, ok? You scared me to death when I didn't see you behind me anymore."

"I...I won't d-do it again, p-promise. F-forgive me?" he looked down, seemingly sorry. I knew that chances were he'd do it again, since he didn't always have decision or consciousness over his acts. But I needed to let him know how much he had scared me. Same as he needed to promise me that, I guessed.

 "Of course I forgive you. Now come on, get into the backseat so you can sleep more comfortably, you need it," I told him. He was yawning and rubbing his eyes like a little child.

I was about to start the car when he tapped me on the shoulder.

"Yes? Do you need something?"

"I..." he bit his lower lip shyly.

 "Tell me," I encouraged him.

"Wh-when I don't f-feel well or...or I'm t-too nervous Grace stays with m-me until I fall as-asleep..." he said, almost a whisper, twitching. "An-and I...I can't s-sleep without my p-pills, I'm s-scared. The m-monsters I...NO! C-come here and s-stay with me?"

'No' wasn't a possible answer. But we were already delayed and still at the same gas station. What if those two men came after us?

My doubts were erased when I saw two trucks leave and could at least distinguish Joe in one of them. Maybe we could stay there a little longer until Frankie was asleep. Sighing, I climbed over my seat and sat on the back, gesturing for Frank to lie down and put his head on my lap.

"Is it ok like this?"


He suddenly seemed so absent, lost in his own mind, confused. His right hand tensely open, rubbing his forehead continuously. His breath was becoming more elaborated. Without saying a word I took his hand and caressed it, running my other one through his hair.

" There, y-yes, maybe. O-outside. Y-yes they might c-come. You sh-should look. We. N-no. I...I d-don't know." he babbled. I paid attention to see if he was talking to some imaginary being, but it didn't look like it. His eyes weren't set on anything in particular.

"Frankie, what are you talking about?"

"Wh-what?" he looked up at me.

"You were speaking...what was it about?"

"Th-that. Th-them...that th-thing. I...I d-don't know. M-mess," he rambled, lifting his free hand to hit his head. I stopped him and held it together with the other one.

"No, Frankie. You won't fix anything by doing that, you know? You're exhausted, you really need to sleep. So don't try to think about anything right now. Close your eyes, relax and keep your mind blank," I hushed him, still brushing his moist hair with my fingers. He only nodded and let his eyelids fall, smiling faintly when I kissed his forehead.

A couple of minutes later his body felt much looser and he was breathing leisurely. Deducing he had finally fallen asleep I closed my eyes too, engraving in my mind the idea that I couldn't sleep for too long. I had always been able to sleep for short whiles at will.

I woke up one hour later, only not spontaneously. Although still fast asleep, Frank was moving around violently in his dream. Kicking, twisting, whimpering and mumbling random words.

"N-no, stay! Y-you always l-leave. M-mean. He...h-he's better..." he spoke forthwith, and then went quiet once again. He would intrigue me for moments, since I couldn't be totally sure whether he was talking nonsense or not.

My watch read 4:15 am. I carefully slid my legs from below Frank's head, replacing them with a hoodie I'd discarded back there. I had to keep on driving, I couldn't spend any more time parked. I started the car and decided to speed as much as it was permitted.

When I had first planned the trip, I thought I'd better drive slowly, specially on my way back. There wouldn't be any hurry and I needed to clear my mind. Now it was different. I wanted to arrive home as soon as possible, give Frankie a more tranquil place and try to help him. If I could go faster -at least for some hours now and then- I'd get to my town earlier than expected.

The heat had lessened and a cool air was blowing. It played with my long hair and filled my lungs, reviving me. I was still kinda sleepy but the feeling was soon vanishing. Since I couldn't rest my body I rested my mind instead, annulling all thoughts and just enjoying the moment. I loved driving.

For seven hours I drove without slowing down, only making some short stops to rest. Frankie kept on sleeping. Once in a while I'd spy him through the little mirror to make sure that he was okay. Besides some restless moments every couple of hours he appeared to be fine. By then I was sure that I'd not only retrieved lost time but even gained some extra hours.

It was 11 in the morning when I turned on the radio. After so many hours of silence I was in need of some noise; I missed Frankie's voice. Going through the stations and finding nothing good, I chose to listen to one of my old Iron Maiden cassettes. I kept the volume low, checking on Frank once again, a peaceful expression on his face. Cursing the summer sun that was toasting my left side, I followed the drums with my finger on the wheel; banging my head and singing along softly. Songs played one after another and I got more and more into it.

"Oopsss! B-blood!" I heard a voice say, and not exactly in the song.

"What the fuck?" I accommodated the rear-view mirror and looked back. "OH, SHIT!"

Frankie was still semi-lying, but he wasn't sleeping anymore. He was holding a pair of scissors, scratch-writing on the inner side of his extended left arm. I didn't even remember having left those things there.

I pulled out of the road and stopped at record speed, not caring at all where. Kneeling on my seat I looked at the boy, who smiled nervously. He had been sloppily carving his name on his arm. Up to the 'k' it was just grazes, but he had cut a little deeper for the 'i', dangerously close to his wrist. Blood was dripping from it into his shirt.

"Frankie, give me that," I ordered, reaching out for the scissors.

"N-no!" he answered, preparing to go on with his task.

"Frankie, please give me the scissors, what you're doing is not right, you could hurt yourself badly. Damn...I don't even know how deep you cut already!" I insisted, trying to keep calm. I didn't want him to freak out while having a sharp object in his hands. After all, I barely knew him and his mental problems.

"N-NO! I...I'm f-fine...leave me al-alone, I n-need to f-finish!" He crawled to the opposite side of the seat, as far from me as possible. I jumped over the backrest and immobilized his hand without warning.

"Open your hand."

"N-NO! N-NONONONONONONO!" he yelled, shaking his head and pushing me away with his legs.

"FRANK! I'M FUCKING SERIOUS, GIVE ME THE FUCKING SCISSORS NOW!" I raised my voice. It was absolutely necessary, I'd ran our of ideas.

He looked up scared, his eyes wide open. "'re s-screaming to m-me, I d-don't like it. And...and you c-called me Frank," he cried.

I got closer and hugged him. At first he resisted me, but finally gave in.

"I'm sorry, Frankie...but I can't let you hurt yourself, I couldn't let this pass. I had to stop you. I didn't mean to scream and I'll try to not do it again." I massaged his back. He wrapped his arms around me and I heard the scissors fall on the seat. I quickly grabbed them.

As soon as Frank noticed he launched himself towards my hand. "G-give them back! G-give them b-back!"

"No way. They're leaving." I threw them through the window.

"NO! H-how the fuck I'm g-gonna finish my t-tattoo now?" he protested and hit my chest with his fists. His blood was all over my jacket now.

"Stop it, Frankie! Come on, kid. I'll take you to get a real tattoo in the future, what do you think?" I cursed myself for speaking without thinking first. I honestly didn't believe that would ever happen.

He quit the hitting and began to bounce. "Y-yeah! I w-want to!"

 "Ok, but now let me clean that. Give me your arm," I requested after getting the first aid kit from the glove compartment.

"S-see? N-now it s-says 'Franki'. It s-sucks."

"Most of it will fade away soon, you'll probably be left with just an 'i'."

"S-sucks. S-sucks sucks sucks," he repeated.

I disinfected the wounds and applied a small bandage over the deepest cut. Luckily, it didn't look serious.

"Oh s-so great. N-now it s-says Frank!"

"Stop complaining, grumpy!" I laughed at his pouty face.

 "I ... I n-need to p-pee," he changed subject.

"Me too, let's go."

We got out of the car and walked to some sun-burnt, half-dead bushes at the side of the road. Frankie was about to unzip his dusty jeans, but doubted when he felt me hold him by his t-shirt.

 "You do your thing and don't mind me, I promise I won't look. I'll be just peeing too," I assured him, managing to work on my pants one-handed. I wouldn't risk him escaping again.


Having slept enough and consumed some energy struggling with me, Frankie behaved pretty well the following hours. He spoke to either the gnomes or the little people, marveled at the landscapes and animals on our way, or commented about things only he could see. I tried to get the ideas the best I could, asking strategic questions to get some more information about his hallucinations without telling him that I wasn't seeing them.

At noon I decided that it'd be better to eat in the car, so we bought some sandwiches at a stop. What Frankie didn't know was that I had kept the one Jane gave us, therefore his 'little friends' could have their own meal again. After that I threw it away when Frank wasn't looking, before it started to smell.

By late afternoon we had a big part of the way done. I was sure that we'd be able to make it home in less than a day and a half which was a good mark.

Frankie was fidgeting, curling his hair around his index finger and alternating between singing and whispering to himself. Boredom did nothing to help his situation, but I didn't know how to entertain him.

I watched him study the messy, brownish letters on his arm, his upset lips forming the word 'sucks'. Would I be able to take care of him and keep him safe?

"Frankie can't be alone." I repeated in my head. I was beginning to understand why. 

Chapter Text

You'll never make me leave,
I wear this on my sleeve,
give me a reason to believe.

"L-LOOK!" Frank exclaimed, pointing through the window to the side of the road.

"What?" I'd been distracted thinking and was clueless about what he was looking at.

"Th-there! A...a h-horse! It's a h-horse too, l-like the ones I s-saw before, right? On-only a brown one? it, G-gerard?" he questioned, excited like a five-year old.

"Yep, a brown horse. You've seen them on TV, haven't you?"

"Yeah! And...and al-also in b-books. W-we had a b-book with l-lots of pictures of an-animals. L-look a b-black one! And...and awwwwwww th-the spotted one is so p-pretty!" he continued. It was really nice to see him so happy and amused by such simple things. Nice and inspiring. It made me think of how we'd frequently take some things for granted only because we saw them everyday. I wished I could feel what Frankie was feeling, like everything was brand new and exciting. Maybe he could help me.

Even though I was driving I kept on turning to look at him. He seemed to zone out for a moment, then jerked and hit his head against the glass purposely. Not very hard, but enough to make me flinch.

"Frankie don't..."

"G-gerard?" he interrupted me. I nodded for him to go on.

"Y-you're gonna b-buy me my pills? I kn-know you said you d-don't have m-money here but...m-maybe at h-home?" he asked worriedly and visibly uncomfortable, rubbing his hands all over his face and head. It was getting harder for him to cope with his entangled brain the longer he was without medication; it was a fact that he needed it. 

My main concern lied in the fact that I didn't know what was wrong with him and which pills he was on. I didn't want to force him to think, it evidently did him no good; but I had to try and see if he was acquainted with his problem.

" you have any idea of what pills you need?"

"Uh..." he played with his ear, thinking.

"Don't you know the name?"

"N-no I don't. Th-they're white and...and s-small. S-someone gave them to me al-always, I...I d-dunno the name. S-sorry," he said, feeling guilty for not being able to answer my question.

"No, it's ok. It's understandable that you wouldn't know that," I smiled.


"And...don't feel bad if you don't you know what...mental illness you have? I mean, what the problem with your head is?" I shot my second question, trying to be as gentle as I could.

Frank's face saddened. "N-no. I...I just kn-know I...I'm s-special and my head d-doesn't work too well. P-pills make it a l-little better. Y-yeah they do. All...all m-mixed up. Ev-everything. h-hurts sometimes. H-here," he pointed to his temple.

"What about the name of the place where you lived? Do you remember?"

"N-no. No, I d-don't. No, n-nothing. S-stop, I DON'T KN-KNOW IT!" he screamed. I felt like an asshole, I shouldn't have insisted so much.

"I'm sorry Frankie, calm down, I didn't mean to make you nervous," I apologized, but he wasn't listening. He'd started to chew on his thumb, swaying and raving.

"N-no. Y-yeah maybe...d-don't you think? T-to that wall. N-no that one, th-the other one. S-see?" His eyes were fixed on the front, though he didn't seem to be looking at anything. After several minutes he broke out of the trance and glanced at me, distressed. "W-will you?"

"Will I what, Frankie?"

"B-buy my pills..." he said in a pleading, low voice.

Considering that the boy didn't seem capable of giving me any information, I was left with no other choice than to somehow try and find out by myself once we arrived home. Anyway, Frank would need to see a specialist or we couldn't get the pills; they won't sell you that kind of medication without a prescription. Even more important: to be able to take good care of Frankie and make sure that he would be as fine as he could be, I needed money. And to get money, I needed to find a job as soon as possible.

There were a lot of things to have in mind, but I was willing to try. Not only for Frank. Also to prove myself that I could be responsible for once. Everybody was probably going to think I'd gone crazy. No one would understand why I cared so much for a troubled kid I had just met. I didn't mind, I would give Frank a good life.

"Of course, Frankie. It's not going to be easy because I first need to find a job to earn money, but I promise you I'll buy your pills as soon as I can," I told him.

He smiled content. "I c-could work t-too," he unexpectedly offered.

"No, you can't work, at least not for now. I'll do it for both of us, ok?" I kept my eyes on the road ahead while speeding a little again, seizing the quiet moment. I also didn't want him to see my tears. No one had this effect on me before.


"Frankie, what's your last name? I don't think you told me, did you?" I realised that he had yet to let me know that. It was important if I was going to be somewhat in charge of him.

He didn't answer right away and was thoughtful, eyes closed and biting his lip. "I...I d-don't remember! H-how I f-forgot my last n-name? I s-sure have one! Wh-what's yours?" he inquired, a little frustrated.

"Mine's Way."

"Th-that's so funny! Way! L-like way!" he laughed hysterically. I'd usually get annoyed when people made jokes about my last name. But this was Frankie, and he was laughing, it didn't matter at what.

I ended up laughing myself. "Yeah...I guess it is funny! So you don't remember yours?"

"N-no...I'm t-trying but I d-don't. Th-they never called m-me by my last n-name. w-was always Frankie. Or...F-frank when they w-were mad at me, an-and I know that's m-my name but I...I like F-frankie more." So that's why he didn't like to be called Frank, he related it to reprimands.

"Frankie totally suits you," I nodded honestly. He, without a doubt, looked like a 'Frankie'.

Instead of saying something, he rested both hands against the window and hit it.


"S-STOP THE CAR! STOP THE C-CAR NOW! P-PLEASE DO! STOPTHECARSTOPTHECARSTOPTHEC-CAR!" he screamed with desperation in a high-pitch voice.

"Why?" I asked.

He shook the car's door, trying to get it open. "S-STOP NOW, YOU'RE G-GONNA PASS IT BY!"

"What am I gonna pass by?"

"THE P-PUPPY! TH-THERE! L-LOOK!" he signaled. There was nothing in sight, yet I complied. In his mental state I would not be able to convince him otherwise.

As soon as we got off the car he ran to a lonely lemon tree standing in the middle of the wide grass surface. It was almost full night so it was hard to see something once you moved away from the street lights. I rushed behind Frankie, fearing to lose him again.

"Awwwwww s-sweet!" he crouched below the tree and picked up something from the ground. Something only he could see. He walked back towards the lights and raised the 'puppy' he had found, admiring it.

I paid attention to his hands, the way his fingers flexed, the slight pressure they exerted. It was exactly how one would hold a puppy, the exact distance between his hands for one to fit. I could perfectly imagine a puppy in that empty space. His hold was steady as if the little animal was really there. It was amazing. He could not only see it faultlessly but also feel it, that was obvious.

"C-can I keep it p-please?" he cradled his imaginary four legged friend against his chest and tenderly kissed what I guessed was its head. The sweetest thing ever.

"Of course you can. Let's go, this is not a good place to be."

"T-thank you, Gee! Y-you're so so n-nice." He jumped, smiling with all his teeth. Had he called me Gee?

Once we were back into the vehicle and on our way, I couldn't keep my eyes off of him. I knew it was dangerous, but I just couldn't help it; he got me entranced. How could his mind recreate objects and beings in such a perfect way that he could perceive them by sight and tact? Maybe even smell, since I remembered him telling me how it smelled like roses at one point earlier, when it didn't.

He had the puppy on his lap and was running his small fingers through it, following the outline from head to tail. Always at the same height, always the same apparent size. I had an urge to know what color it was before his eyes. But how could I find out without confessing that I wasn't seeing the puppy? Then I had an idea.

"I love black dogs," I randomly threw a color. I was incredibly lucky.

"M-me too! Th-that's why I l-loved him so much wh-when I saw him f-from here! And is-isn't the white spot on his ch-chest funny?" he spoke happily, still patting his doggie.

"Yes! It's shaped," I ventured to say.

He bent down, looking at the mental projection on his legs. "Uhm...I...I s-say it's a f-flower," he concluded.

"You're right, actually. It's a white flower!"

The following hours were hell. I didn't know what to do to keep Frank quiet. He was 'playing with his dog', jumping on his seat, laughing, giggling, for moments crawling on the car's floor, for others climbing the backrests. Once in a while calling his puppy or singing children songs to him.

"Why don't you name the puppy instead of calling him 'Puppy'?" I asked him while he waved a piece of paper in front of 'it'

"I l-like to call him P-puppy! And...and he w-wants to give you a k-kiss!" he brought his hands to my face. "Awwww!"

"He's making all my face wet! Now Frankie, would you sit down and fasten your belt? It's not safe to be moving around so much in a car, kid. Please?" I tried again, having failed all my previous attempts.

"K-kay." He obeyed this time; but before doing so he took his bag from the backseat and looked for something inside of it. After rummaging for a considerable amount of time, he came out with a red bandanna with white patterns on it. When he was zipping closed the backpack, I got a glimpse of something brown and plushy.

"Is that a teddy bear you have there?"

"Y-yeah..." He froze, flushed.

"Did you sleep with it?"

"N-no! W-well...yeah," he admitted, his nervous tic more frequent at the moment.

"Why didn't you tell me? You could have slept with it last night and feel more comfortable..."

"I...I th-thought you would l-laugh...some kids u-used to laugh."

"I wouldn't have laughed. I'm not laughing now, am I?" I noted.

Frank said 'no' with his head. "I h-have Puppy now, a-anyway," he grinned, seemingly squeezing his pet.

"Ok! But if you change your mind and want to sleep with both of them, I just want you to know that I find it absolutely normal, I'll never make fun of you because of it. Yes?" I felt the need to assure him.

"K-kay," he repeated his most used answer.

Frankie took the bandanna and folded it in a triangle. Holding it in the air at his waist height, he joined the extremes and made a knot. The hole left in the middle was a puppy's neck size. Surely, the red cloth fell into Frank's knees as soon as he let it go.

"Oh, P-puppy! Let's tr-try again," he sighed angrily and repeated the process patiently. When getting the same result, he just threw the bandanna to the floor, defeated. "Y-you'll keep g-getting rid of it with your p-paw? F-fine Puppy, you w-win, no scarf! I...I'll l-love you the s-same."

"It seems your pet's a rebel!" I laughed.

"Y-yeah he is! He...he'd l-looked so cool!"

As we reached a more populated area I casted a look around us, still smiling with a mix of amusement and sadness. Glancing up at the starry sky I thought of how lucky we had been to find such a good climate along the way.

"Oh! Do you like hot dogs, Frankie?" my tired eyes set on a small food cart.

Surprise stopped his eyes' motion and they beamed, mirroring the rest of his face. "Of c-course I do! B-but we didn't h-have them too often. C-can we?" he said hyperly.

"Yes we can, that's why I asked!"

After I talked Frank into leaving Puppy sleeping in the car, I parked and we headed for where the hot dog vendor was; an old, rusted, white structure which seemed to have endured too much rain and wind. As we got closer I could see that in spite of the precariousness, the counter was clean and shiny, same as everything behind it.

"Mmm s-smells good!" Frankie declared, putting my thought into words. It did, and only then I realised how hungry I was.

"You bet it smells good, kiddo! These are the best hot dogs in miles!" the friendly bald man behind the counter said.

"Wow, r-really?" Frank giggled, trying to sit on one of the tall stools. His legs were too short, and he was in one of those moments when his body would slightly tremble and not respond too well.

"You'll see!" the man answered.

"Let me help you." I lifted Frank and placed him on the seat. Though thin and not very muscular, he was well fed; not as light as he'd seemed.

"Th-thanks..." he whispered, suddenly becoming shyer for some reason. I fixed his hair so it wouldn't be on his face and found out that he was blushing. He gave me a half smile and looked to the opposite side. I didn't know why he was acting like that, but it was adorable.

We stayed there for over half an hour, thankfully with no trouble. Frankie behaved fairly 'normal'. He'd appeared to momentarily forget about the little people, although he did talk to the man about the pretty ladybugs walking around the counter. The vendor caught it right away and followed the conversation. He also gave the kid an extra free hot dog, seeing how hungry he was. As we left, Frankie waved to the man who returned the gesture. My newly found little friend was proving to be likable to most people.

"Gee...I'm s-sleepy. C-can I go to the b-back?" Frank used that nickname again, the weird feeling in my stomach returning.

"Yep, go ahead. The problem is that I can't go there with you right now. We can't stay here, so I need to keep on driving, you know?"

"'s o-okay, P-puppy will t-take care of me un-until you can c-come." His face -which had been at first sad- changed when he looked at his 'dog' and climbed to the backseat with it.

I first considered joining him whenever I saw a place where I could park for the night, but finally decided against it. I was afraid of oversleeping and getting us delayed again. I took several deep breaths to expel weariness and accelerated.


Many hours passed by. The sun had long ago risen and its rays were blinding me, magnified by the thick glass. Traffic had gotten heavier. Squinting, I grabbed my sunglasses and put them on, automatically relieved. However, relief brought back my tiredness. My eyes kept on closing unwittingly and I started to nod. I was finding it harder and harder to stay awake. Street noises were heard farther and farther. My eyelids were heavy as lead.

"I should have slept," was my last conscious thought. 

Chapter Text

Don't get too close,
don't move your eyes like that,
because they're deep enough to drown me.

"H-HELLO!!" I was awaken by a scream in my ear. In a matter of milliseconds I wrenched open my eyes and looked out the front. Barely remembering that I was driving, I was welcomed by bad news: we were about to collide with a huge bus in front of us. My hands gripped the wheel, my reflexes reacted and I gave it a quick turn, missing the bus by a few inches.

Still terrified and gasping for air, I slowed down and felt tears run down my cheeks. Then I heard a yawn behind me. I checked in the mirror and it showed me Frankie's big shifty eyes staring back at me.

"Good morning, Frankie," I told him, trying to conceal my nervousness.

"M-morning! Y-you okay, G-gerard? Y-you're crying? Wh-what's wrong?" Frank asked the questions rapidly, one after another. He didn't realise that we had been in danger.

"Uh no, I'm not crying, I'm just tired and the sun's bothering me," I lied. He kept staring, making me feel weird. Even when I couldn't see him I felt his eyes on me.

"I...I l-like you, G-gee," he said.

I swallowed quickly and almost choked on my saliva. He sounded...

"L-like you a lot..." he added. There was no doubt, Frank somehow I wasn't sure if he was intending to, but that's how it sounded to me.

I was trying to figure out my mixed up feelings when he did something more: he leaned over and kissed the side of my mouth. After that he climbed back into the front seat and fastened his belt, smiling at me.

Something told me this kid was going to drive me crazy, I was in no way immune to his charms. But even if he was, in fact, 'seducing me', I couldn't be certain that he meant it. Even if he meant it, I didn't know if he was 18 for real. And yet being 18 he was a mental patient; wouldn't that be illegal? Just in case I'd have to play the fool.

"W-we need to feed P-puppy," Frank stated, hugging his invisible pet.

"Oh...I already did it while you were sleeping, don't worry," I answered. That would be one less problem.

"R-really? Oh, k-kay, then! B-bad Puppy...why you d-didn't tell m-me?"

"Oh my god! Coffee!" I screamed when I noticed the small building to my right. I needed something to help me stay awake if I didn't want to defy fate again.

Frank looked at me surprised, tilting his head. "C-can I have some c-coffee too?"

"Uh..." That wasn't a good idea. "No, you can't drink coffee, you're too young."

"Wh-what? I'm not th-that young, I'm 18!" he frowned. "L-let's see...h-how old are you, m-mister 'grown-up'?" he left me mute. It was the first time I'd heard him make sense for such a long time.

"I'm 23," I responded.

Frank seemed to be counting with his fingers. "F-four years is n-not that m-much! S-so why I can't h-have coffee?"

"It's five years," I corrected him.

"Wh-whatever! T-tell me?"

"Coffee's not good for your head. For...special people's head. Do you understand?" I tried to explain.

"Uhm...y-yeah, I th-think. K-kay then 'c-cause...'cause I d-don't want my head to g-get worse. Wh-what 'bout a C-coke?"

I considered a non-caffeine option better. "I think a Sprite would be better, deal?" 

"D-deal! N-no you sh-shut up!"

"Me? Why?"

"N-no not you, h-him."

"Who?" I questioned. His sane moment was over.

"Th-the...he...wh-who th-things! L-live me...ALONE!" he tugged at his hair.

"Ok, ok! But we need to go for our drinks now."

"Y-yeah...ok," he nodded, rather absently.

I opened the door and half-dragged Frankie behind me towards the shop. He was sluggish and silent, observing everything around him with much interest.

Back into the vehicle the silence continued while we drank, or better said the silence between us; Frank was having apparently funny conversations with the gnomes and sharing his Sprite with them and Puppy.

Feeling more alert I resumed the driving. I could sense Frank's stare focused on me once again, burning holes on the side of my face. I didn't dare say anything or turn my head.

" l-like me?" he asked softly. I felt a lump form in my throat.

"Of course I like you, Frankie. I wouldn't be taking you home with me if I didn't! I think you're a very nice, sweet boy," I gave my honest answer. I was starting to fear that I might like him in more than one way, but he didn't need to know that. I shouldn't even be thinking about that myself, it was wrong.

"'s...okay..." he sounded disappointed.

"Did I say something bad?"


After that he acted down for a while, leaning against the window, though he eventually returned to his hyperactive self.

Nearing mid-day, I searched my pockets and counted the money I had left. "Yeah...I think it's enough since we'll be home by night. Hey Frankie, what about eating at a better looking place this time? McDonald's?" I consulted him happily.

"M-mac what?" he got pensive. "Uh...oh y-yeah! I kn-know! S-seen those p-places in movies but n-never been th-there. N-nope."

"Well, it'll be your first time today!"

I parked at the first McDonald's I saw, a fairly big one on a corner. It was cheering to enter a place that was clean and pleasant to the eyes as well as to your nose. The windows surrounding it filtered enough day light to not need much artificial illumination and the furniture was diverse depending on the sector you'd look at. It went from the typical built-in benches and tables to simple aluminum chairs to simile-leather coaches with coffee tables.

"Wow...n-nice!" Frank squealed and ran to one of the bright red formica seats, letting himself fall and sliding on his ass all the way to the wall. "H-here!"

"Ok, but..." I took his hand and brought him to the edge of the seat, laughing. "... first we have to get our food, I'm not letting you sit here alone."

"Y-yeah...true. F-frankie can't be al-alone. B-but what if s-someone sits here?" he doubted.

"There aren't many people so I don't think anyone will, and if that happened there are other seats exactly like this one."

"Y-yeah, guess. P-puppy will be f-fine in the c-car?"

"Yes he will, we've already left him there yesterday and he behaved pretty well."

Nothing out of the ordinary occurred during our lunch there. Frankie loved his meal and just kept on talking about random things, mostly out of his 'own little world'. Once we were done he got up and ran to the other side of the spacious room, stopping where a big playpen full of colored plastic balls was placed. He glued himself to the glass and then turned to me.

"C-can I go p-play there?" his eyes shined.

"No, Frankie...that's for little kids, they won't allow you."


"It's not me who decides, kid, you know I'd let you."

"I...I w-wanna play th-there! Th-they bringed one of th-those once and...and I w-was gonna get in and th-they told me I couldn't 'c-cause I would hurt the o-other kids. N-NOT TRUE! As-ask them p-please, Gee?" he pleaded.

"Is there any problem?" someone spoke behind us.

"Not really but...could my brother go play in the playpen?" I dared to ask.

The boy, whose name was Daniel, studied Frank from head to toes and then shook his head. "No, sorry. He's too old."


"There's no need to scream. The rules say up to 10 years, and he's obviously not 10," he talked to me, choosing to ignore Frank's rage.

"Can't you do an exception? I know he's far from ten but he is...well, special. When he wants something it's hard to convince him against it."

"I'll repeat what I said before: I'm really sorry sir, but I can't do that," he replied; and I didn't know if I wanted to punch him more for being a stubborn bitch, or for calling me 'sir'. Fuck! He wasn't that much younger!

"Y-YOU ARE F-FUCKING MEAN!" Frank shouted, kicking the floor.

"What's all this, Daniel?" the manager inquired while he approached us. The boy explained it all while I held Frankie, trying to calm him.

"There's no need to be so strict when there's almost no people. Besides, he's small. Go ahead, kid!" the man in charge concluded.

Frankie gasped and didn't lose time answering; he rushed straight to the playpen, diving in and getting lost among the colors.

"Thank you very very much, you made my brother happy," I shook the older guy's hand.

"You're welcome. I don't want to be disrespectful but... he's mentally ill, isn't he?"

"Yeah, I just took him out of the institution where he was, he's going to live with me now. I think it'll be better for him." I didn't know why I was telling him so much, even if it wasn't the whole truth. I prayed for the man not to ask what Frankie had, though.

"That's good, it sure will. I guess it's always better for them to be with their family," he assented.

For the following minutes I sat on the floor watching Frank swim in the plastic balls; jumping, throwing them in the air, or disappearing just to emerge seconds later waving at me, beaming. Was this the same boy that had been playing sexy earlier?

After one of his dives, he came out with both hands in from of him, as if he was holding something. "L-look!" he ran to me.

"What is it?"

"Wh-what you th-think it is, t-tard? A b-baby dinosaur! C-can we ad-adopt it?" he made it sound like the most normal thing in the world. Two imaginary pets? That was too much.

"A what? Oh no no no! A dog is fine, but a dinosaur? It's gonna be huge and my house is small, we can't keep it Frankie, sorry."

"B-but we can't l-leave it!" he cried.

"It belongs here, they'll take care of it. Right, mister manager?" I asked the man as he walked past us. He laughed at the name I gave him and waited for me to explain. "Frankie found a baby dinosaur in the playpen, and I was telling him that you can take care of it here."

"Oh, yes, give it to me. He'll be fine with us."

"K-kay..." the kid handed him the 'creature' after kissing it goodbye. "B-be a good b-boy!"

"He looks like one, I don't think it'll give me any trouble," the manager smiled kindly.

We thanked him and left, ready for our last hours on the road.


"Frankie, I was just thinking...I have some comics in my bag, wanna read them so you're not so bored?" I watched him braid his hair while humming.

"P-puppy, stop! I...I'm t-tired of playing!" he suddenly pushed the air with his hands. Only then he drew his attention to me. "Uh...n-no."

"You don't like comics? I have some other magazines there."

"N-no I do like th-them. I u-used to read a lot, an-anything, when I w-was younger." He looked down.

"When you were younger? And why don't you do it anymore?"

"W-well...then the l-letters became t-too small, and b-blurry and...and s-sometimes they m-move."

"Oh..." I should have imagined that after seeing how difficult it was for him to focus on small things. Although maybe his sight problems were worse than I'd thought. The poor boy had it all against him.

"I have one with really big letters, wanna try?"

"N-no...even big l-letters are m-moving letters sometimes."

"It's ok, don't worry, I'm sure there's a solution for that."

"K-kay," Frank replied indifferently. He either didn't care or he had no idea what I was talking about.

And there it was again, out of nowhere. That face. That stare, so close to me. He'd even managed to keep his eyes still. His mouth was hanging slightly open, I could feel his warm breath on my cheek.

"Wh-who lives with you?" he muttered, keeping that same perturbing distance.

"No one..."


"Well...I had found a job and it was too far from my mom's house so I moved alone."

"S-so you do h-have a job," he said confused.

"No, I lost it."

Frankie laughed. "H-how do you l-lose a job?'s n-not a th-thing..."

"Being stupid..." I replied with absolute honesty. Frank didn't seem to get it, yet he didn't questioned me.

He got closer to my ear and whispered in that unthinkable seductive voice, "Y-you won't be al-alone anymore." Then he sat back quietly and soon appeared to be falling asleep. He eventually did as the hours went by.


"N-NO! OH MY G-GOD! OH M-MY GOD! H-HELP ME! P-PLEASE H-HELP ME!" he woke up screaming, making me jump two feet off my seat.

"What is it, Frankie?"

"OH M-MY G-GOD S-SPIDERS...TH-THEY'RE ALL O-OVER ME! TH-THEY'RE GONNA K-KILL ME!! H-HUGE!" He got himself free of the seatbelt and stood on the seat shaking his legs and arms desperately, crying. His face was white as paper. To argue with him would make things worse, so I decided to stop the car. Opening his door, I carried him to the sidewalk.

"Listen to me, Frankie. I'm gonna get rid of the spiders, ok?"

"OH M-MY GOD, OH MY G-GOD. P-PLEASE I...I C-CAN'T BREATHE...I...I'M S-SO SCARED. C-CAN'T TAKE IT," he shouted, staring at his body terrified.

"Shh, you're fine. See? I'm getting rid of them," I hushed him while sweeping away the arachnids that his mind had created with my hands. Next I began to stomp on the ground. "And I'll kill them. Better?"

"S-sure that th-they're all gone? I...I c-can't stand t-them. N-no I can't. N-no spiders. N-no p-please..." he repeated gravely and sat down, his legs too shaky to support him. I lifted him from the floor and took him back to his seat.

"Are you ok, Frankie? You're still too pale."

"I...I d-don't know. Th-the spiders! They..." and before he could finish the sentence he fainted.

I quickly checked that he was fine, fearing that he could have a heart attack. He was breathing normally and his heart, though surely accelerated, kept a steady rhythm. I accommodated my hoodie in between the glass and his head and let him sleep.

I took a look at my watch. We could be home in 3 hours but I was too tired, I didn't trust myself on the wheel for that long. I meditated for a few minutes. There was only one thing that could be done. Gathering courage I took out my cellphone -which had been off during all my trip. My fingers trembled as I pressed the number on the memory.

"GERARD? FUCKING SON OF A BITCH, WHERE THE FUCK HAVE YOU BEEN FOR ALMOST A WHOLE DAMN WEEK?" came the angry, screaming voice from the other side of the line.

"I...I'm sorry, Mikey. I needed to disconnect myself from everything, I went to see dad," I babbled, expecting more of my younger brother's wrath.

"Yeah, just do what the fuck you please and have us all dead worried about you! We kept calling your house and nothing. After three days I was about to break into to see if you weren't dead in there! Luckily, I found Ray and I saw it in his face that he knew something; he finally had to tell me."

"Sorry Mikey, really...if I had told you..."

"You didn't tell me because you knew what mom and I would have thought, that's it! Look, Ray didn't give me details but I can guess what you went to do there. You could have answered your cellphone at least! " he continued, furious as I had never heard him before.

"Mikey, can we leave this for later? Right now I'm driving and I still have three hours ahead. Look...I'm too tired to drive so much and...I'm not alone," I cut him off.

"What do you mean?" he asked.

I told him about Frankie as briefly as possible. There was silence on his side, until he exploded.

"WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK WERE YOU THINKING, GERARD? ARE YOU THAT FUCKED UP?" he went from screaming to a calmer tone. "What crossed your mind when you decided to let a lost crazy kid into your car? He can be a psycho killer for all you know! Or you could get into big trouble!!"

"He's not a psycho killer, you'll see when you meet him. And about trouble...I'm prepared to take the risk, I want to help him. Are you gonna be home?"

"Mom has to work but I'm here studying with Alicia, why?" Yeah sure, studying.

"We'll be there in about an hour," I dropped the bomb.


"See you, Mikes!" I ended the communication before he could protest further.

Chapter Text

My heart has been strapped in a straight jacket love.
The therapy boys say it fits like glove.
I'm grossing the line in my brain,
the line between pleasure and pain.
It takes all I've got to survive,
this madness will eat me alive.

"I-IERO!" Frank shouted, awaking with a jolt.


" Iero," he repeated.

"Iero? What does it mean?"

"I...I d-don't know wh-what it means, d-dumb! Th-that's my l-last name. I r-remembered."

"Oh! That's awesome, Frankie! Can you spell it out for me?" I difficultly grabbed a pen and a notebook from under my seat, making sure to keep my other hand on the wheel.

"Y-yeah," he nodded.

"Ok, tell me."

"i-e-r-o," he said confidently, and I wrote it down without even looking at the paper.

"You sure?"

"Y-yep. H-heard it while I was s-sleeping.'s true. G-grace was s-speaking on the phone and I h-heard her. Th-then I woke up and r-remembered that was my n-name. Y-yes," he explained. His speech was a little messy. I couldn't completely figure out whether he meant it was a dream or something that had really happened. Or both. I didn't want to tire him with more questions.

"Veeery good! Then we should introduce each other again: pleased to meet you, Frankie Iero!"

"P-pleased to m-meet you, Gerard W-way!" he giggled.

We arrived at my family's house only fifteen minutes later than expected. I hadn't been around for the last two months, yet nothing seemed too different save for the sides of the gray stone path which were packed with new flowers. They were all either yellow or orange -the typical summer colors- and even under the pale moon light they appeared to glow. The rosebushes were in bloom and the grass was a vibrant green. Okay, maybe the garden did look completely different after all, but it was due to the usual beauty summer would always bring.

Frankie freed himself from my grasp with a tug, attracted by a bush of velvety red roses. He ran towards the delicate flowers, smelled them, and raised his hand to take one.

"Frankie, don't touch them! They have tho-"

"OUCH! It s-stinged me!" he complained, my warning going to waste.

"Roses do that! Come here, let me see your finger," I guided him to the porch light. He shuddered when I grabbed his hand to examine his thumb. Part of the thorn had clung to his skin but only superficially, so I removed it with ease. "You're ok, don't worry. Just remember to not touch those plants again."


Standing in front of the big, dark green wooden door I hesitated, causing Frank to eye me expectantly. It'd suddenly come to mind that the bell didn't work the last time I was there. Knowing my brother, I didn't think it could have been fixed. I knocked and waited.

"Coming!" a female voice answered. Seconds later the door was opened and we were welcomed by Alicia, Mikey's girlfriend. Her shiny black hair -tied up in a ponytail- was a mess, loose locks sticking out everywhere. She also seemed slightly out of breath.

"Hi, Alicia! Studying too hard?" I greeted her with a crooked smile.

"We're dedicated students, you know that. Summer courses are killing us," she grinned. "Gerard, haven't seen you in weeks! And this must be Frank..."

"Frankie," I quickly corrected.

"Oh sorry, are you, honey? I'm Alicia, Mikey's girlfriend."

"H-hello! I...I'm G-gerard's...uh...f-friend!" he took a step forward and offered her his hand. Instead of shaking it, Alicia brought him closer and kissed his cheek. I recognized her famous 'aww face'.

"Awww, he's a cutie!" she exclaimed, confirming my thoughts. Girls like her were suckers for boys like Frankie.

"Al, calm down, he's not a dog."

"Oh, b-but I have a d-doggie!" Frank commented.

"You do? Sweet!"

"Yep! H-he's called P-puppy."

"Can we come in now, Alicia? I'm drained," I interrupted their socialization.

"Of course Gerard, it's your house after all!"

We entered the house, the one that had been my home for more than 20 years. No change had been made on the inside since my last visit. Like always, everything was in order; my mother was pretty much obsessive about that, or maybe I was too careless. The beige curtains were impeccable and neatly ironed. The brown carpet was clean and kinda puffy, giving that walking-on-air feeling. The shelves, as well as the pottery on them, gleamed.

"Oh, the prodigal son has decided to finally show his face!" was the first line coming out of my brother's mouth. He was sitting on our old maroon couch; his long, thin legs stretched over the coffee table.

"Mikey please..."


"Mikey please, don't scream. Not in front of Frankie, I beg you," I told him. Frank hugged my waist trembling, seeking protection.

", you know I'm usually patient. I'm not one to snap at any stupidity, but you've crossed the line lately. Sometimes I feel like I am the big brother here. You don't tell me about your life anymore, I had to find out that you lost your job through Bob! And now you ask me to hold myself back from speaking my mind just because of what the stranger you found might think?" Mikey spat rightfully. I hadn't been fair to him.

"No, Mikey, it's not what Frankie will think. Didn't you hear what I told you over the phone earlier? He needs tranquility, not screams and fights. You are right, I fucked up big time. I'm sorry, I really am. I made this trip because I've decided to change my life. And yes, as you guessed I did ask dad for money, but I'll pay him back some day. Now please, can we have a nice night and leave these arguments for another moment?"

Mikey listened to me and his face softened. He fixed his white rimmed glasses on his nose and got up, slowly walking towards me. As if understanding it all, Frank let go of me and sat on one of the small black sofas.

"Sorry Gee, I'm glad you're okay and back home." Mikey looked me in the eyes and finally enclosed me in a strong hug, which I reciprocated. I kissed his head as he placed it on my shoulder. He had always been taller than me.

"It's ok, I understand your frustration," I said.

Mikey parted just enough to glance at me. "Gee, you look like shit. Sure it's only lack of sleep and tiredness?" he questioned worried. I knew what he was implying.

"Yes, Mikes, I didn't slept for two nights, just that. I haven't had a single drink this week, I swear. Chill, I'm not that lost!"

"Well, the last events before you left said the contrary, you know?" he insisted. Sighing, I sat down next to Frankie.

"I know, but that's in the past, I think I stopped things on time. I have little Frankie here who needs me." I caressed the boy's hair. He was twitching, visibly nervous and confused.

"Is he ok?" Mikey queried while Alicia knelt down in front of Frank.

"Yes...well, not really. For moments I think he's suffering. He needs his meds, and I don't know how much time it'll be until I have the money to get them," I explained.

"Damn, I wish we could help, but you know Mikey and I are as broke as you. That kind of medication is very expensive." Alicia rubbed Frank's arm as I held him.

"I...I...s-so messed up. D-don't feel g-good. N-not at all. W-wanna fix it...w-wanna break it. Th-this, here. N-no. F-fuck..." Frank trailed off, grabbing my arm with such force that it hurt like hell.

"What is he..." Mikey stopped to look at Frankie, who had gotten up holding his head and walked to the wall to his right. Falling on his knees, he began to hit his head against it.

"B-break, break, B-BREAK!"

"Gerard, do something!" Alicia was the first one to react and I run to Frankie, followed by me. We picked him up and separated him from the wall but he kicked us, trying to escape. "Mikey, please help me!"

"N-NO, LEMME GO! G-GOTTA BREAK IT! H-HATE IT! C-CAN'T STAND IT. F-FUCK YOU!" Frank screamed. Together we managed to take him to the couch where I did my best to restrain him.

"Frankie...shh, you'll be fine. Look, you can hit your head here if it helps," the girl of the group whispered to him, making him face the couch's padded backrest.

"N-no please stop, sh-shut up. N-no you d-don't. D-don't like when y-you're there. L-leave," he mumbled while his head collapsed against the harmless surface once and again.

"Who is he talking to?" Mikey asked.

"I'm not sure...maybe he hears voices too?" I hypothesized, certain that Frankie couldn't hear me. "I know he sees things and beings that are not real..."

"That's possible," Alicia said. "What problem does he exactly have?"

"I don't know, he couldn't tell me."

Frank quit what he'd been doing for at least five minutes and looked at me, red faced and panting. He was still shaking.

"Come here and rest for a while." I opened my arms for him to cuddle, closing them around his small curled up form. While brushing his hair out of his face I felt a protuberance on his forehead. "Ouch, he has a bump from banging his head on the wall."

"I'll go for some ice." Alicia got up and returned in a minute with some ice cubes wrapped in a napkin. I carefully placed it over Frank's swollen area. He hissed at first, but was quickly comforted by the cold and zoned out.

"Haven't you checked his bag?" Mikey questioned.


"If you tried checking in his backpack. Maybe there's something in there that could help you know more about himm," he developed his idea. How hadn't I thought of that?

" As far as I know he only has clothes and his teddy bear."

"Shh," Frankie hushed me with his index finger over his lips.

"They won't laugh either, I promise," I whispered in his ear.

"For fuck's sake, Gee! Do I always have to think for you?"

"Well, you're the one with the intellectual look after all, little bro!" I laughed. "Frankie?"


"Do you give us permission to look into your bag? We won't keep anything." I did what I thought was right. In spite of his mental issues, the kid still had rights over his belongings.

"Y-yeah. On-only clothes th-there. N-nothing else. FUCK! Argg...t-tell him to sh-shut up now!" It looked as if he was having a fight inside his head.

"Thanks. Now just close your eyes and don't listen to...him."

"I...I'll t-try."

My brother placed Frank's discolored black bag on his lap and looked inside, laying everything over the table. Two pairs of jeans, gray sweatpants, no more than five t-shirts, underwear and a single fuchsia hoodie.

"Oh, nice color!" Mikey giggled, gaining a punch from his girl.

"Don't be like that, asshole. He was surely given clothes that didn't fit older kids anymore in that place. That was probably from a girl."

"I know, sorry. Well, nothing important here. Although there's this smaller pocket...let's see."

"So?" I stretched to get a glance from where I was positioned.

"Bingo!" Mikey showed us what appeared to be an ID.

"Yay! Come near so I can see."

He sat next to me and opened the document. The first thing I saw was the picture of a slightly younger Frank smiling widely. His hair was a lot shorter, but his big eyes were as crossed as I had seen them during the scarce seconds when they were quiet.

"What the fuck?" Mikey and I uttered at the same time. That page had been mostly ripped off. Other than the picture, you could read 'Frank Anthony -hole-, born on October the 31st, 1988'; and then nothing else. No address, no ID number, no nothing. There was a big hole were all that information should be.

"Why...?" I was highly confused, this kid was becoming a bigger mystery. So, the only new data we'd obtained so far was that his middle name was Anthony -luckily he'd told me his last name- and that he had been born on Halloween -a funny contradiction for a boy with such an angelic face. "Check the other pages."

"There's only one more. The rest of them are just completely missing...oh! Here's something." Mikey was looking at the section of the ID where any extra information that could be relevant was added. I couldn't quite read the handwritten part, but didn't want to move and disturb Frank who seemed to be falling asleep.

"What does it say?"

"Psychiatric patient, main pathology being severe schizophrenia. Under strict medication. Not specifically violent, although he can be a peril to himself. Needs constant watching," Mikey read and then added. "I'm sure it said more, but the other half of the page has also been removed."

I was speechless. I finally knew about Frank's illness which, as scary as it sounded, at least left me with a solid idea. On the other hand, things were getting weirder and weirder.

"It says 'main pathology'. Does it mean he has other problems besides schizophrenia?" I asked no one in particular.

"Uh...I'd say it does. Maybe something else not so concrete that doesn't even have a name?" Alicia tried to guess. Both Mikey and I shrugged.

"Oh man, Gee, what have you gotten yourself into?" my brother rubbed his face and began to put Frank's things back into place.

Frankie stirred on my lap. "Wh-what happened?" he inquired, unaware of our discoveries.

"Nothing, don't worry. question. Did you rip the pages of your ID?" I showed it to him. I didn't know why I was doing it, those pages had been too strategically ripped. He couldn't have done that, what for?

"N-no...what's th-that? N-never saw it." Frankie took it from my hand, opened it and brought it close to his nose; then as far as his arm permitted and in the middle. He finally gave it back to me, blowing. "F-fuck it! D-damn small l-letters. Is th-there a pic?"

"Yes, it's you a little younger."

"Oh! T-too bad it d-doesn't want me to s-see it," he pouted.

"Uh, Gerard. On top of all I think the kid needs glasses," Alicia remarked.

"I know, I know. Maybe I should try playing lottery?"

"Not a bad idea!" Mikey chuckled. "But just in case...find a job."

"I will, Michael! The day after tomorrow as much."

"And what will you do with Frankie while you work?" Alicia mentioned. That was a problem I hadn't thought of yet.

"I don't know, but I'll find a solution. I need a good sleep before I'm able to think straight."


" he really 18?" Mikey broke several minutes of silence.

"It took you all this time to make the calculation?"

"Oh, fuck off! I just...remembered that detail now, idiot."

"Well, I couldn't believe it either when he told me, but it seems he is 18 after all."

"Oh wow, I'd have said he's 15, 16 as much," Alicia opined.

"Yeah I thought the same, but it's a good thing that he's not a minor."

"That for sure, Gee. You're screwed enough," my brother agreed.

During all that last part of our conversation, Frank had been just watching us with a lost expression, as if we were speaking in a different language. He didn't say a word. After a while he got off my lap and walked around the room aimlessly. I followed close just in case. Then he got on his knees and began to crawl.

"C-cat...lion! C-cow! Horse...h-horse...giraffe! R-rhino...hip-hippo..." he named, signaling the floor and smiling.

"Is he seeing on the floor or something like that?" Mikey whispered. He was perplexed.

"I think so...he'd never done that so far," I frowned.

Frank continued to 'explore'. "Oh ...el-elephant! T-tiger! S-so pretty and t-tiny! And h-here...oops! Th-they're gone. Gu-guess you got un-under the carpet, d-didn't you? Oh, PUPPY!" he clapped his hands all of a sudden and acknowledged me at last. "G-gerard?


"H-how he got in-inside?" he took his dog and came back to the couch with us.

"I don't know, he must have left the car with us and we didn't see him...and now got through a window," I made up.

"Y-yeah, g-guess so."

"Mikey, Alicia, this is Puppy, Frankie's doggie," I introduced the non-existent pet.

Alicia smiled kindly and pretended to be stroking the little animal Frank was holding. "Awww, I love it!" 

Mikey wasn't amused. "Oh, please! He should know there's nothing there," he growled.

"Wh-what he m-means?" Frankie looked at my brother.

"Nothing, sweety, he's just thinking aloud about some problems. College problems," Alicia saved the moment, throwing his boyfriend a killer look. Mikey left for the kitchen mumbling that he'd make dinner.


"What color is your dog?" she interrogated Frank, making me gasp.

He opened his mouth and eyed her, somewhat annoyed. "'re b-blind? D-don't you see wh-what color he is? F-FUCK!"

"Don't get that angry, boy! Alicia forgot her glasses and she sometimes can't tell the colors without them. Weird, uh?" I glared at Alicia who muttered a 'sorry'.

"Y-yes it is! Uh...w-well...Puppy's b-black with a wh-white spot on his ch-chest with the sh-shape of a flower."

"That's adorable! And Gee, it looks like your little friend has character..."

"Haha, yeah, I think he can't help it for moments. He's usually very sweet, though." I ruffled Frank's hair.

He kissed my cheek, leaned his head on my shoulder and stared at me closely. To my right I could see Alicia rip a piece of paper from her notebook. She wrote something on it, holding it up for me to read it.

"That boy is SO in love."

Chapter Text

All I can say is that my life is pretty plain,
you don't like my point of view,
think I'm insane.
It's not sane...
It's not sane...

"You think so?" I didn't mean to ask Alicia that question aloud, the words just escaped me.

"Definitely," she wrote on the other side of the paper.

"Th-think what?" Frank murmured, twisting my hair between his fingers.

"Nothing important, kid, don't mind me."

"Ah," he shrugged and hugged me tightly as I heard Alicia giggle, probably adding Frank's actions to her mental list of evidences.

I gestured a 'we'll talk about it later' to her, to which she nodded with a smile. This girl could be a little annoying sometimes, but she was a nice person and really good at giving advice.

"Gee," she pointed at Frank's bandage. "I was going to ask earlier but then forgot...what happened to his wrist?"

"I...I was d-doing a t-tattoo, see?" he showed her his arm. "B-but Gerard d-didn't let me finish and...and he c-covered the 'i'! N-now it s-says 'Frank' I...I d-don't like it, s-sucks. I l-like Frankie."

"Oh, how...?"

"With a pair of scissors I had forgotten in my car. He went deeper for the 'i', that's why it's bandaged," I explained, both of us sharing a concerned look.

"Geez! Frankie that's not how you get tattoos, boy!"

"K-kay," he babbled and returned to his previous position.

Mikey came from the kitchen wearing our mom's pink and white striped apron, some flour on it same as on his face and glasses. 

His index finger pointed to me and Frankie in an accusatory manner. "I'm preparing some spaghetti for dinner but it'll be a while before it's done. I don't wanna be rude and imply that you two stink or something but...don't you think you need a shower?"

"How subtle of you, bro! And you've been cooking, for real? So fast?" I questioned surprised. He did know how to cook, but didn't do it very often.

" left it half done, I finished the sauce and got it all ready. Anyway, tell me whether you're gonna take a bath now so I know how much time I have."

"Frankie's shaking, he's still too nervous. I'm afraid he might fall down or get hurt in the bathtub, I'd better have him wait 'till later. If Alicia can watch him for a while I'll go for a shower myself, though," I informed him.

Frankie was transfixed on an undefined point in the room, eyes waltzing madly. I perceived that he was saying something only because his head was still on my shoulder, although I couldn't understand the words. Alicia observed him with certain sadness.

"Of course I'll watch him, just...what do I do with him?"

"Uh..." I carefully stood up holding Frank's head with a hand and then left him leaning against the couch. He didn't notice the change. "...right now nothing, it seems he's lost in his own world. If he gets out of this state, turn the TV on or talk to him, just make sure he doesn't do anything dangerous."



On my way to the bathroom, I entered the small kitchen where my brother was back to his chef activities. He was stirring the sauce in a casserole with a wooden spoon.

"Mmm, I must say it smells good," I complimented him.

He didn't answer, as if he had chosen to ignore me. Seconds laden with tensity elapsed until he sighed, left the spoon on the marbled surface beside the stove and faced me, arms crossed over his chest and that serious look on his face; the one that made me feel like the little brother no matter that he was four years younger.

"Gerard, are you really sure?" he finally spoke in a firm tone.

"Sure about what? Your sauce? Of course, I..."

"Don't fuck with me!" he cut me off. "You know what I'm talking about, that boy you brought."

"What about him?" I wasn't feeling up for an argument.

"You're getting yourself into a big one, brother. You've never even taken care of a pet by yourself. How are you going to do with a crazy teen?"

"Don't call him that!" I tried not to raise my voice.

"Ok, sorry. But Gee..."

"Look, Mikey, I know I haven't taken real responsibilities in my life so far. As I told you, I wanna change, and that's part of what I'm going to alter. I think life, destiny or whatever you call it put Frank in my way for some reason. I don't care if it sounds silly or maybe cliché, it's what I feel," I explained myself.

He shook his head and ran his hands through his light brown hair. "I don't say this to be mean, I'm not such an asshole. But the boy stutters, sees less than me, is schizophrenic and who knows what else. He's 18, looks like 15 and acts like 10. Isn't he too much for your first 'real responsibility'?"

"He doesn't always act like 10. He lived all his life in a mental institution with kids that were as troubled as him or more. You can't expect him to act like a normal 18 year-old, don't you think?" I pointed out.

"Yeah, I guess you're right."

"Of course I am. And if you wanna add something to your list of 'defects', he's also cross-eyed. Happy?" I added tauntingly.

"Really? I thought it was just in that old pic..."

"Nope. When he manages to keep his eyes still, they're crossed. And you say he's 'too much for my first real responsibility'? I rather think that everything Frank has to deal with is too much for just one kid. I believe I can help him and I will, whether you like it or not," I concluded.

I was about to cross the door to the corridor when Mikey grabbed my shoulder. "Gee, wait. I only wanted to help you think about it a little better, see if you were one hundred percent sure of what you were about to do. I put the situation into words to make you hear the...bare truth. Now that I know you're decided, I'm not going to object to it. I'm proud of you, I really am even though I still think you're crazier than that boy," he said in a tender brotherly way this time. I couldn't carry on with my annoyance.

"Thank you, lil' bro!" I chuckled and gave him a hug. "I'll try to not disappoint you."

"This is about you, not me," he winked. "By the way, what's your guess on the missing pages and information in Frank's ID?"

"I bet his mother had something to do with it, though I don't know why she'd go that far. I'll have to find out somehow. Right now, all I can think of is that I need that shower."

"I agree..." Mikey wrinkled his nose.


 Finding some clean clothes and underwear in my bag, I placed them on the toilet seat. I turned on the shower and mixed cold water with just a tiny bit of hot to get the perfect temperature. I got naked slowly, my dusty clothes discharged in a pile on the floor.

Getting in the bathtub, I let my tired body receive the stream as a blessing. I allowed the water to run along my hair down to my feet, closing my eyes and tossing my head back. A couple of minutes were set aside for relaxation before I started to actually clean myself; inhaling the herbal shampoo my mother had always loved, feeling the creamy white soap on my skin.

I got out reluctantly when I remembered that the others must be waiting for me to have dinner. I was almost ready, just drying my head with a towel still bare-chested. Before I could get my t-shirt on I heard Alicia scream in the living room.


I freaked out, ran there in a hurry fearing the worst. However, what I saw -at least without going further into it- was more funny than anything else. Frankie was standing in a corner peeing inside one of my mom's big, elegantly decorated vases.

"Let him finish," I whispered to Alicia. Once I saw Frankie zip up his jeans I approached him.

He looked bemused and was scratching his head, yet he smiled at me. "Wh-why she was s-screaming?"

"Because...he saw you peeing there."


"She saw you peeing into something that wasn't the toilet..." I continued.

He appeared deep in thought for a few seconds. "Y-yes it w-was."

"No, Frankie..."


Alicia took his hand and walked him to the vase. "This is what you used, see? What is it?" she talked to him like you would a little kid.

"A...a v-vase. B-big one," he assured. Now I was the confused one. "B-BUT I D-DIDN'T PEE IN H-HERE, NO I D-DIDN'T. N-NO. I...I DID IN THE B-BATHROOM!"

I considered that it was enough of trying to make him see the truth, specially with this night being one of his worst so far.

"It's ok, it's ok. It doesn't matter, I wouldn't get mad anyway. Let's do something: if you need to go to the bathroom you tell me or whoever is with you and we'll guide you there, yes?"

"K-kay. B-but it was a t-toilet I s-swear."

"I know, I believe you. Just in case."

"Did I understand well? He..." I covered Mikey's mouth with my hand before he could speak it all. 

"Yes, that old vase is too dirty and needs to be washed, what I'll do right now." Alicia lifted the object. Passing Mikey by, she kissed him briefly.

He grinned and looked into the thing his girlfriend was holding. "Ewww. Next time I'll find a crap on my bed! I better go finish dinner."

"M-my boyfriend n-never let me k-kiss him like th-that. N-never kissed me e-either. N-no. I w-wanted to k-kiss like in m-movies. C-can you do th-that with an-another boy?" Frankie startled me. I didn't know he was still standing behind me.

With a smile, I remembered what he'd told me about a boyfriend, and how they didn't do many 'boyfriend things'. Their relationship must have been pretty naive if they wouldn't even kiss.

"Yes, Frankie! Two boys can kiss like in movies too. Maybe he wasn't ready for kissing. Did you...hold hands?"

"N-nope, no h-holding hands. I'd l-like that too." He grabbed one of mine. He'd once again gotten me intrigued and I wanted to find out more, but he wasn't paying attention. He was staring, though not at my face this time.

"What are you doing?"

"S-smooth..." he uttered, running his other hand along my chest.

"Oh, fuck! Alicia!"

"Yes?" she reappeared.

"Can you stay with him again? Just one minute, I need to put my t-shirt on. Now." I didn't wait for her answer to disappear, the boy was making a mess out of my mind.


Alicia, Frankie and I were watching cartoons when Mikey announced that dinner was ready.

"G-good, I'm s-so hungry!" Frank stood up quickly.

"Me too! Come with me." I placed a hand on his shoulder.

We walked to the kitchen and sat around the small square table. My brother had already served our plates. When Alicia took the bottle and poured Coke in our glasses, I noticed that Frank's was plastic. Mikey must not have trusted him with something breakable, which had been wise.

I spread some grated cheese on my spaghetti and thrust my fork into them, letting hunger get the best of me. Then I saw Frankie from the corner of my eye. His hair was on his face so I didn't know how he could even see. His hands were trembling badly, making it hard for him to get the food into his fork and up to his mouth without it falling on the way.

"Frankie? Let me help you," I suggested. I first adjusted his hair behind his ears. When I was going to take the fork from his hand he resisted.


"I can help you, really. You don't have to be ashamed. Your hands..."

"I...I c-can do it by m-myself, I'm u-used to it, s-sometimes it's a l-lot worse," he said. A strong boy, indeed. Yet there was something I didn't understand.

"Oh ...ok, but then you've always had this problem? I mean...the tremble in your hands? Even being at the institution?" I had thought it was because he wasn't taking his pills.

"Y-yep and w-worse. Y-yes. G-grace said it's 'c-cause of the meds," he responded. So, the effect seemed to linger on even though he hadn't been medicated for days.

"Ouch...poor baby," Alicia said from the heart.

I thought about how he had also to suffer from the medication and I felt a lot worse for him. On the other hand I admired him, because in spite of all Frankie smiled most of the time, he enjoyed life, he tried to adapt to his problems as much as he could. Meanwhile I, fucking selfish bastard, had had suicidal thoughts more than once; the last time just minutes before meeting him. I'd never been religious, but this kid seemed heaven sent.

"Are you sure you can, then?" I questioned Frank again.

"Y-yes but c-can I have another f-fork?"

"Sure," I gave him what he requested and waited to see what he'd do with it.

He grabbed one fork on each full hand, the way a child who's just learning would. Then he started to pick the spaghetti with both forks at the same time, nearing his mouth to the plate so not many would fall. The rest of us looked at each other smiling.

"That's a very good method," Mikey commented.

Frank grinned, the lower part of his face covered in tomato sauce.

"Mikey, you and mom are a good cooking couple. This tastes delicious!" I told him.

"Coming from you that's a great compliment!"

"What are you implying? That I'm a bad brother who never tells you when you do something well?" I joked, though it was true that sometimes I wasn't too demonstrative with him.

"I wouldn't say never but..."

"I know, I know. I'll try to include that in my changing plans."


" me d-drink? Th-the glass is too f-full and I'm g-gonna spill it," Frank whispered to me, cleaning himself with his napkin.

"Course!" I took the red plastic glass and brought it to his nearly red lips. I couldn't help staring at them, the way they wrapped around the edge of the cup. I obliged myself to remove my eyes, it would make me look perverted.

Frank pull his mouth away. "Th-thanks."


After dinner, I thought it was a good time for Frank to take a bath. Alicia offered to fill up the bathtub for him but I decided a shower would be safer. I got all ready and borrowed a t-shirt from Mikey, since Frankie had nothing comfortable enough to sleep in. I was going to fetch him when I remembered something. Grabbing a shoe box from my closet I put into it everything found in the bathroom that could be harmful in Frank's hands. I ended up with a full box, just to be sure, and placed it on top of the closet.

When I finally summoned him, he came with some black boxers in his hand.

"Well, everything's ready. I turned on the shower and it's at a good temperature. I'll leave the door semi open and wait outside. So anything you need you let me know, ok?"

"K-kay! Uh...G-gerard?"


"W-wanna shower with m-me?" he smiled innocently, eyes shining under his long locks.

Having been caught off guard, I started to play with a forgotten coin in my pocket nervously. "No...thanks. I already took a shower, remember?"

"Oh...y-yeah..." he trailed off. "I...I'm g-going then."

"Okay." I didn't know what to think. What did those insinuations mean?

I sat on the floor of the corridor next to the bathroom door to be at hand if Frank needed something. He appeared to be doing fine, though. I could hear him sing, but wasn't able to figure out the songs. In another moment he talked as if he was having a conversation. I understood something about 'washing yourself well behind the ears and between your ass cheeks' which got me laughing for a good while.

When I was close to falling asleep against the wall, Frank opened the door and stepped out. His hair was dripping water and Mikey's white t-shirt looked like a dress on him, making him look even smaller.

As soon as we were back in the living room, Alicia went for a towel and dried Frank's hair. She then brushed it, being careful not to cause any pain. He complained a lot nevertheless.

"Ready for bed?" I invited him.


"Where is he gonna sleep?" Alicia questioned.

"In my bed, it's ready. I was thinking that I'll have to sleep with him. It's the only way to know if he gets up or something and be able to sleep myself."

"I think you're right," she half-giggled.

"Al...please," I warned her. I knew what she was thinking, and it was far from the truth. I had no other intentions than what I had just told her. "You staying?"

"Yes, I think. Can I, Mikey?"

"It's not like my mom never found you sleeping with me before," Mikey noted.

"Good night to both of you, then," I told them.

"G-good night!" Frankie said too.

"Night, boys! Alicia and I will stay a little longer watching some movies. We promise to keep the volume low."

"Good night, Gerard! Night, Frankie boy!" she kissed us both and ran to the couch.

In my room, I realised that I hadn't changed my clothes. I didn't want to do it in front of Frank, and leaving him alone wasn't a good idea. I opted for just taking off my jeans and sleeping in the t-shirt I was wearing.

"W-wow! B-batman sheets!" Frank exclaimed.

"Like them?"

"Y-yes! Uhm n-no, you go s-sleep on the f-floor, Puppy!"

"He can sleep at our feet, I don't mind," I affirmed.

Frank climbed on the bed and started to jump. "G-good, good, g-good! N-no you sh-shut up! IT...IT'S M-MY DOG!" he screamed, sitting down and swinging his body.

"Frankie, let's sleep. You'll feel better tomorrow, you've had some hard days." I opened the sheets for him to join me in bed. He didn't move, still balancing and murmuring. I touched his arm softly.
"Frankie?" He raised his head. "Come on..."

"Y-yeah..." he got on his knees and hands, moved towards me and slid under the sheets.

"Good night." I kissed his forehead. He contemplated the ceiling.

I had already closed my eyes when I felt an arm across my chest. Next...soft, humid lips grazed my left cheek, sending shivers down my spine.

"G-good night, Gee," a not so childish voice said. He then placed his head under my chin, sighing contently.

I sensed him shake slightly against my body for a long time, keeping me from sleeping. Luckily he eventually relaxed, defeated by fatigue. I let my mind drift into unconsciousness, hoping for a good night of rest at last.

Chapter Text

If it's the thought that counts, you can always count on me,
I think about it all the time.
It's going to hit me like a bolt of white lightning.
Here it comes, my peace of mind.

I woke up and slowly opened my eyes. I had slept so deeply and uninterruptedly that I couldn't tell how much time had passed by. Enough, I thought, since I felt completely rested. Frankie must not have moved much during the night, or if he had I never noticed.

Glancing at the shutters, I perceived a ray of light filtering. I checked my alarm clock and saw it was 7:30. Thinking of how quiet Frank was, I turned on the lamp to look at his side of the mattress. He was not there. First fucking day and I had already failed to notice him sneaking out.

I jumped off the bed, cursing myself as I put my jeans on. I searched inside each room until I got to the kitchen, where Mikey and Alicia were having breakfast before leaving for college. Mikey, Alicia...and Frankie. He was sitting next to the girl with a big bowl of milk and cereal in front of him, eating noisily. Looking closer I saw that Frank's hair was tied up with a pink strip.

"Good morning, kids!" I greeted them.

"Morning!" the couple answered with one voice. Frank got up and tiptoed to kiss my cheek, to which I responded with a tender kiss on his forehead.

"G-good morning, G-gerard!"

"Good morning, Frankie! Why didn't you call me when you got up?"

"Uhm I...I d-didn't know," he said. He was right, I hadn't told him to do it.

"It doesn't matter, go and finish your cereal."

"K-kay," he nodded and went back to the table.

"How long has he been up?" I asked them, still blaming myself even though everything was fine. "I don't know how I didn't hear him leaving the bed..."

"Not more than fifteen minutes, actually. I found him entranced by the corridor's mirror, talking to it. So I took him to the bathroom, helped him choose some clothes and brought him here," Alicia explained.

"Gerard, don't beat yourself over it. You were exhausted, that's why you didn't realise that he got up," Mikey said.

"Yeah, I guess so. Alicia...why is that pink thing on Frankie's hair?" I questioned.

She giggled. "Oh, don't be mean! It was getting into the bowl and that pink thing was the only thing I had at hand. Maybe you should have his hair cut?"

"N-NO!" Frank screamed.

"Oh, wow! It seems the kid likes his hair too much!" Mikey laughed. "Come on, Frankie, there's nothing wrong with getting it cut. kinda look like a girl the way you have it now."

"Mikey leave him alone, it's his hair!" his girlfriend stopped him.

"Shut up Al, you can deny he looks like a girl!"


I thew a piece of bread at Mikey's face and sat next to Frank, hugging him. "Frankie, Mikey's just joking with you. No one will touch your hair if you don't want to. You're a grown boy so that's your decision. I'd never make you do it against your will, do you trust me?" I spoke.

Frank looked at me, catching his breath. He got really agitated when angry. "Y-yes."

"Good, then. If Mikey gets annoying again I'll kick his ass," I promised. Frankie laughed and I could hear my brother mumble in between his teeth.

Grabbing another bowl from the cupboard, I prepared some cereal for myself. Alicia and Mikey had already finished and were getting their stuff together.

"Hey Mikes, why isn't mom home? She should by now..."

"She called half an hour ago. The nurse who was going to take over the shift was sick, so they asked her to stay. After that she was gonna go for something to eat with her friends."

"Uh, ok...I'll have to come visit her some other time, then."

"Can't you wait?" Mikey frowned.

"I prefer not to. I want to go home as soon as possible, there are many things that I need to organize. Don't mention anything about Frankie to her yet, I'll do it myself," I told him.

"If you say so..."

I suddenly remembered my pending conversation with Alicia. I couldn't leave without knowing what had taken her to make those assumptions. It was true that Frankie acted weird towards me for moments, but she seemed to have perceived something more, even in me. I was confused, scared. It would maybe do me some good to talk to someone who was open-minded.

"Alicia, can we talk for a private?" I asked her. "Mikey, please watch Frankie."

"But...but he's angry at me, he..."

"Just keep an eye on him and call me if there's any problem."

"Ok, ok." He wasn't convinced.

Alicia observed Mikey's dramatic roll-of-eyes and my fidgeting figure with a comic expression, indicating me with a nod that she was at my disposal. I took her wrist and guided her to my room.

"What do you wanna talk about, Gee? Oh...I know...what I said last night, right? Well, what I wrote," she smirked.

"Exactly. Look...that wasn't the first time Frank acted that way with me. A couple of times in the car I...I could have sworn that he was trying to seduce me."

"Really?" her jaw fell.

"Yes...his voice kinda changes sometimes, like he's 'playing sexy'. He told me he likes me very much and almost kissed me in the mouth once. And remember when I ran to put on my shirt?"

She laughed. "Yes, I do."

"Frank was staring at my bare chest, and then touched it and said 'smooth'. What the fuck? He confuses me so much, because then he goes back to acting like a child!"

"Well Gerard, I guess that's normal for someone who's mentally ill. The changes, I mean. But I do think he's falling in love with you. I can see it. We women have a sixth sense, you know?"

"I know..." I rolled my eyes. I was worried, though. "Oh fuck..."

"What do you feel? And don't tell me about how it would be wrong or any other excuse. Forget about his condition. What do you feel for Frankie?" Alicia interrogated me.

"Wh-what? I'm not gay, Al!" I defended myself. I had never given her reasons to think that. What's more, I'd broken up with my girlfriend a couple of months ago.

"Oh come on, Gee. Again, sixth sense. I'm not accusing you, but I've always thought there's something that you haven't told us. You didn't seem to be in love with Laura even though she was a nice girl. Something else was bothering you after you broke up with her other than the ended relationship"

"Alicia...I don't wanna talk about that."

"It's ok, I wasn't going to make you tell me. But don't close yourself to a new possibility."

"But Frank is..." I cut my words short. I'd be nearly confessing my feelings without wanting it if I went on.

She gave me a smile of knowledge, reading in my eyes all the doubts I wasn't able speak out. "You'd have to be extra careful and take things very slowly, sure, but it's not impossible. Give it time, you've just met each other. See how Frank acts from now on and where this take you both. Don't completely push him away. This could be good for both of you, who knows?" she continued, her hand on my shoulder.

"Thanks." I wasn't ready to discuss the subject further. As she had said, it was too soon. "Now we should go back there, Mikey wasn't too happy."

"He just loves to complain, don't mind him."

In the kitchen everything was in order. Frankie was sitting on the floor, looking at the wall and laughing while Mikey read some notes.

"I have no idea what he's doing there, but it didn't seem dangerous so I let him be." He didn't raise his eyes from the paper.

"You did well Mikes, don't worry."

"Well, we better be going, it's already late!" Alicia rushed him, getting a grunt in return. Then she walked to Frankie and kissed both his cheeks. "Bye, sweetness! I promise to visit you soon, be a good boy."

"B-bye!" he took off the pink strip and gave it back to her.

"You can keep it if you want," Alicia offered.

"N-nah, like it l-loose!"

"You're right, so much better!"

"Bye, Frankie!" Mikey touched the boy's head.

Frank avoided him. "N-no bye to y-you, you're m-mean. I...I'm s-still angry. P-puppy doesn't l-like you either!!" he spat.

My brother eyed me, looking for help. I had to make an effort to contain the laughter.

"Your fault, Mikes!"


After they left, I collected mine and Frank's things making sure I wasn't forgetting anything. In the meantime he was crawling around the living room, rolling on over the carpet and throwing Puppy something for the dog to seek and bring back to him. I hadn't seen what the thing exactly was, but got curious after a while of hearing Frankie congratulate his pet. Whatever he was throwing, was surely not going back; so why the congratulations?

"Hey Frankie, it seems your doggie's well trained! What are you making him seek?"

"Th-this rubber b-ball!" he showed me his right hand forming a 'c'; an imaginary ball that his imaginary dog would always bring back.

"Nice! Well kiddo, time to go home, take your bag and puppy," I announced opening the front door.

"Y-yay! I...I w-wanna see your h-house!" he jumped up, ready in two seconds.

I grabbed his hand as I turned the key. "Your house too, now."



I did love driving. I usually enjoyed it. However, after all those days I had spent doing it, my car wasn't the best sight. At that moment I wished with all my might that I was able to teleport. Knowing that my wish wouldn't be granted, I opened my too-warm-for-summer machine's door and we got in.

For the first part of the ride Frankie was mostly quiet, stroking and kissing his dog. Eventually he became more restless, whispered something and bended. I interpreted that he'd left Puppy on the floor.

"H-he wanted to sleep th-there," he commented.

"That's because it's too hot for him to sleep on your lap," I tried an explanation just to converse with him.

By the time I concluded my phrase, Frank's face had changed and he didn't seem to hear me. "N-nowhere. Th-there, right? J-jumping. N-no. Or...y-yes. it?" he put some words together that didn't make any sense, just as I had heard him do before. This time, though, he kept looking at me, waiting for an answer.

I didn't want to make him feel bad but there was nothing I could say, so I assented with my head.

"O-okay, then," he said, apparently contented.

I was grateful that Frankie's incoherent talk stopped there. I knew I would have to get used to it, but it wasn't something I was willing to endure to be honest.

"Y-you looked so p-pretty while you w-were sleeping," he blurted out as I stopped the car at a traffic light. His voice was something in between shy and provocative. Or it could also be just my mind playing tricks on me.

"I'm not pretty, Frankie. Not awake, nor sleeping," I retorted.

"Y-yes you are! Y-you are so, so h-handsome." There it was that word again. "I r-really like you, G-gee," he added in a whisper.

"Uh...thanks." was the only reply I could think of.

I first welcomed the silence that followed. It was pleasurable and calming until I began to find it suspicious. Frank didn't appear to be sleepy the last time I'd checked, so that complete tranquility was alarming. When I dared to look at him -I was honestly scared after the scissors incident- I saw that his mouth was moving, yet I couldn't hear anything; at least not among the roar of the car's engine. I paid more attention to what he was doing: one hand was open against the window, the other was rubbing his crotch nonchalantly.

"Frankie...what are you doing?" I felt obviously uncomfortable.

He turned to me with a puzzled look.  "N-nothing...." His innocence wasn't faked.

"There..." I pointed to the area at issue.

"Oh...I...d-didn't...sorry, n-no..." he withdrew his hand. I was able to see a noticeable bulge in his pants.

"It's ok. Just...not here, you know?" I tried to keep my eyes off him.

"Y-yeah," he responded. I wasn't sure if he had understood what I was talking about.

Not even two minutes had passed when I heard Frankie fidget in his seat. I slowly looked and found out that he was, again, jacking off through his jeans. Strange as it might sound, there didn't seem to be any second intention in it. He wasn't doing that in front of me on purpose, I knew that. He didn't seem to be aware of anything or remember that I was there. He was evidently acting by instinct to a necessity. I didn't dare interrupt him again, maybe he wouldn't even comprehend what wrong he'd done.

I didn't want to watch, but as much as I tried to keep my eyes on the road I caught myself staring once in a while. It was too tempting, I was only human. In the beginning Frank's face was blank, not mirroring his actions. He was looking through the window, murmuring to himself. When the pace became quicker his breath accompanied. He was bucking his hips and finally threw his head back, whimpering slightly.

His climax coincided with the next traffic light, and luckily no other car was close to us. I admired his face transformed by pleasure. His eyes shut, eyelids fluttering, mouth semi opened. While staring, I didn't exactly think in a sexual way. I thought of how beautiful Frank was. How he, after all, wasn't a kid. His mind could be confused, yet his body knew better.

And sure, he was 'hot', many women and men would have said that. But for me, calling Frank 'hot' sounded disrespectful. Not only due to his mental condition, also because he was much more than that. A word with such a sexual connotation seemed far-fetched.

Maybe it was my way of thinking which kept me from getting hard myself, and I was glad of that. It would have felt wrong.

Frank had finished and was panting, still absentminded. "G-gee?" he said some minutes later.


"I...uh...I th-think I wet my p-pants," he confessed. I felt tempted to ask him what had happened to test if he had any consciousness of it, but it might have made him feel embarrassed whether he knew or not.

"No problem, we'll be home in about half an hour so you'll be able to change," I smiled, reassuring. He nodded.

"D-do you like el-elephants?" he questioned me, childishly again.

"Yes I do, why?"

"'C-cause some are f-following us. S-see?" he pointed back.

"True! Is that bad?"

"Th-they're not b-bad but c-could be bad if...if they c-crushed us! G-go faster p-please?" Frankie pleaded, a little scared.

I wasn't going fast at the moment, so I accelerated as he wanted.

"W-we're safe now," he sighed alleviated.


Our seemingly eternal ride finally came to an end and I was certain that my eyes lighted up upon devising home as much as Frank's did when I let him know we had arrived. As we stepped into the garden, his curious gaze traveled from the humble, low building and its dirty walls to the deserted ground before it. The enormous grin he'd been sporting faltered.

"I...I l-like it a lot but wh-why you h-have no plants?"

"I've never had the patience for them. If you want, we can get some in the future and you'll take care of them," I proposed. That could even be a good kind of therapy for him, something to keep him occupied and make him feel useful.

"Y-yeah I'd l-like that," he answered, though once again he wasn't showing much emotion. "Th-they let us p-plant flowers sometimes wh-where I lived."

"You liked it?"

"Y-yes. I...I d-did," he continued in that same dull tone.

My house was small and simple, with just the necessities. Upon entering you had the living room with one lonely couch that fit three people. In front of it the TV and DVD player and a wooden coffee table in between. Against the wall, a six-shelved cane shelving full of books and CDs. Then there was the kitchen with two very narrow cupboards, three drawers next to the stove and a round red table with four chairs. My room only featured a king-sized bed -the first thing I had bought when I started earning my own money, an old oak wardrobe my grandma had granted me, and a chair that served as nightstand.

It was enough for me, and I hoped it would be for Frankie too. He was smiling as we got into the house, his eyes roaming through each room, taking in every detail. Probably wanting to memorize every inch of what was going to be his home from now on.

After he got changed and we had lunch -thanks to my reserve of cheese noodles- I took a look around. Everything was covered in dust since I hadn't been there for almost a week. Even before that I hadn't been in the mood for cleaning.

"Frankie, would you like to help me clean the house? You don't have to, of course."

"Y-yeah, c-could be fun!" he said, catching invisible flying bugs.

He shared the task with me for a while until he lost interest and asked me to turn on the TV for him. He told me the ones they had at the institution were out of reach, so he hadn't learned how to operate them.

"Why are you sat on the table instead of the couch, Frankie?"

"TV's t-too small, c-can't see from th-there," he explicated.

"Could you see the ones they had where you lived?" I was thinking of how high they'd put the TVs in those places.

"N-not anymore, b-but Grace let me w-watch hers s-sometimes. Y-yes."

"Let's do something." I dragged the TV as close to the couch as the cord allowed. Frank dropped himself into it again.

"Better now?"

"Y-yes, better. Th-thanks!"

When I checked on Frankie again, he had fallen asleep. I considered that it was a perfect time to get all dangerous objects in the house out of his range.

I walked into the bedroom and glanced at the empty bottles discarded under the bed. Taking a deep breath, I collected them and shoved them into a plastic bag. Right after that I went to the fridge, took out the remaining beers and emptied them in the sink. With the last one in my hands, I felt myself crave it and I thought of having a goodbye sip. I brought it close to my lips, the smell of malt reaching my nose. Then my cellphone rang.

It was a text message from my brother: "What's Frankie's last name?"

"Why do you wanna know that?" I texted back.

"Just tell me."


"Ok. Bye."

Wondering why my brother needed Frank's last name, I set my eyes back on the green bottle in my hands. So tempting. My arm flexed, complying to my desires.

"Just a couple of sips," I shrugged.

My lips were inches from the spout when a screamed 'STOP!' made me freeze. I ran out of the kitchen leaving the bottle upside down, pouring out its contents into the sink.

"What's up, Frankie?" I called.

He was covering his head with a cushion. "Th-the gnomes are m-making too much n-noise and don't l-let me sleep," was his answer.

So well-timed again. He took care of me without even noticing.


Nearing the night, I decided to make a call. Some things needed to be arranged without delay. Frankie was using the couch as a trampoline and giggling, so I had to sharpen my ear to be able to hear the other person pick up the phone.


"Ray, is that you?"

"Yeah! Gerard? Man, I've missed you! Oh, first of all you can relax, all your debts are paid."

"Thank you so much, I owe you one," I said sincerely.

"Nah, what are friends for? And it's not like I paid with my own money, anyway! How's your new friend?" he surprised me. I hadn't talked to him at all after finding Frank.

"How do you...? Mikey," I guessed.

"Yeah, he called earlier today and put me up to date."

"Why does he always have to tell everybody about my things? Doesn't he have his own life?"

"Don't be mad at him! He thinks you're nuts, but is proud of you all the same. So how's he?"

"Frankie? He's fine I guess."

"Oh, h-hiiiii!" Frankie said into the phone, falling on his knees next to me. I laughed and caressed his hair.

"That was him, right?" Ray laughed. "He sounds...hyper."

"Very much so."

"I'll have to meet him!"

"About that...Ray, are you free tonight? I need to talk to you in person."

"Yeah sure, want me to go over there now?"

"Y-yeah come, we l-like visits!" Frankie took the phone from my hands. He had been listening to the conversation gluing his ear to mine.

"Well, there was a little intermission but yes, get your butt here and I'll tell you," I got the handset back.

"Ok. The kid already sounds at home, speaking for both of you," Ray pointed out. I didn't understand what he had meant at first.

"Oh...that! Uh...I don't think he was including me when he said 'we', actually."

"I think I get it... See you there, then!"

"See you!"


"Frankie, you're gonna leave him deaf!" I covered his mouth with my hand. He giggled and bit my finger. Badly.

"AHHH! What the fuck are you? I thought Puppy was the dog here!" I protested, examining the teeth marks Frank had left.

He burst into a fit of laughter. I had never seen anyone laugh so hard for such a long time. He rolled on the floor, shed tears, punched and kicked and appeared to be choking. His face was totally red. I tried to calm him but the attempt was unsuccessful. Several minutes later he stopped, sitting on the couch exhausted.

That didn't last. As soon as I got distracted by the TV show I was watching, he disappeared. When I found him, he was about to introduce something into a socket.

"NO!" I pulled him away from it.

"B-but there are an-ants in there!" he justified. The boy just wouldn't give me a break.

"Ants? That's a socket, it has electricity. No ant could get in there, kid."

"Y-yes they can, s-see? L-loooong file getting in and o-out. L-lemme go p-play with th-them."

"No you won't play with that. We'll leave this chair against it so no more ants will get out. Come with me."

Without letting go of Frank I called Ray's cellphone. "Ray, would you do me a favor on your way here?"

"Yeah, sure."

Would you least four of those plastic protection things you put into sockets for little children not to get their fingers or anything else in there?" I hoped he would know what I meant. "If you don't find those just buy duct tape."

"Ok! How old is he, 2?" he laughed.


"I...I'll be there in no more than 15 minutes."

Ray was welcomed by a rather out-of-control Frankie. That could make what I needed to ask of my best friend harder.

"Got you what you needed," he handed me a little bag.

"Thanks! Wait a minute, I'll go set these. He'll end up electrocuted otherwise." I got all the sockets covered and went back to my friend.

First I started by telling Ray all I knew about Frank and the things he'd usually do. I didn't have to worry for the boy hearing me talk about him, he was too busy giving a show over the coffee table; singing as high as he could or announcing the tricks his dog would perform.

"Gerard...are you sure you can take care of him?" he questioned rubbing his head, the hand lost under his profuse, curly brown hair. A few minutes with Frankie and he'd already gotten a headache.

"Yes, I'm sure. It's not always this bad. Besides....he'll be better once I can take him to a doctor to medicate him, I hope."

"Y-you have f-funny hair! B-bet there are l-little people l-living in here!" Frank played with Ray's afro.

"Not that I know, but I'll check just in case," he chuckled.

Frank returned to his 'stage', now playing air guitar. 

"How are you gonna pay for his medication?"

"Getting a job, definitely. But...that's where I need you. To look for a job, as well as to go to work once I find one, I need someone to take care of Frankie."

"Yes and...are you...?"

"You're free until late afternoon, aren't you?" I shamelessly dared to ask him.

"Yeah. I'm busy tomorrow and maybe once in a month when my dad needs me to help with the loads," he responded. He worked with his dad at a music store. His father, who had never liked me for a reason unknown to me, and who would never ever give me a job.

"I really want to start looking tomorrow, guess I can take Frank with me for a day. Would you look after him beginning with the day after? I swear I'll pay you once I find a job." I closed my eyes, afraid of Ray's answer. If he didn't accept I would be lost, I couldn't think of anyone else.

I heard him sigh loudly. "I can't promise you anything, but I'll try. I'll see how we get along, not sure if I'm prepared to look after a schizophrenic boy. And forget about paying me, you'll need all the money you'll be getting."

"Thank you Ray, you're a life saver!" I jumped and hugged the hell out of him.

"Is it contagious or what?" he laughed.

"H-human pile!" Frankie screamed, falling on us.

"Pizza?" I consulted them once I managed to escape, phone in hand.

Chapter Text

Too much, too fast maybe,
I don't know where my destiny's taking me,
so I'll go wherever it leads me.
Too high, too low baby.
I wanna know where my destiny's taking me,
so I'll go to make you believe me.

The next day started early again. It was a good thing that Frankie had been so hyper during Ray's visit the night before. He had fallen asleep quite fast -after expressing how much he liked the big bed and jumping on it. He did wake up a couple of times screaming and shaking, but I managed to pacify him by holding him and whispering to him. He was still sleeping when I got up to prepare breakfast and I only called him when it was almost ready.

Frank seemed to be rather contemplative that morning. Maybe if he stayed like this for some hours it'd be better for what we needed to do. He seldom behaved the same way for long, though.

"Do you know where we're going now?" I asked him during breakfast. "Frankie?" I snapped my fingers and he jumped, taking the spoon he'd abandoned with an unsteady hand. I repeated the question patiently.


"I need to go look for a job, and you'll have to come with me because Ray can't look after you today. Understand?" I spoke slowly, seeing as he wasn't too attentive.

"Y-yeah. S-so we're g-going out?" he was more interested now.



"Yes, Frankie. Be prepared because we might be walking a lot."

"Oh! I...I've never b-been out much. Th-they took kids out s-sometimes but only l-let me go a f-few. W-wasn't safe for me," he said while drowning sugared cornflakes into milk. White splatter was all over the table.

"Well, I'm letting you come for sure. I'll take care of you and I know you'll be a good boy, won't you?"

"Y-yes," he went back to the monosyllables.

Not without some fighting, I convinced Frank to let me fix his hair a little bit. It was soft and shiny in spite of its messy state. I straightened it with a comb, his long fringe to one side, while studying his delicate features. He was too entertained with Puppy on his lap -who was apparently biting his finger- to notice.

"W-we have to feed him f-first!" he recalled when I had finished.

"I already gave him some milk with bread." I got an amusing mental image of myself feeding a non existent dog. "We'll buy some dog food today."

"K-kay, g-good."


We left the house at 8. Since the commercial part of town wasn't far away, I considered walking as the most suitable -and economic- option.

As we walked along the sidewalks, I could see the hostile looks some people were throwing us. I figured out what the reason could be: Frankie was certainly too old to be led by the hand like a little kid, so they were probably assuming that he was my boyfriend. Therefore I conjectured some of them were disgusted homophobes and the rest were thinking me a pedophile because, again, no one would say Frank was 18.

"Frankie, remember that if anyone asks you who I am you have to tell them I'm your big brother." I wanted to stay out of trouble.

"Wh-why can't I say w-we're boyfriends?" he surprised me.

"We...we're not..." I choked.

"N-not my brother e-either!" he laughed. For moments he seemed too smart. "I...I like to h-hold hands. It's l-like you were m-my boyfriend," he added, applying pressure on my hand.

I was sweating and the day hadn't gotten that hot yet. "Frankie, I'll explain why at other moment but please, if someone asks, tell them I'm your brother, ok?"

"Y-yeah, kay...y-you're mean," he mumbled.

"Am I?" I fake pouted, making him giggle.

"J-just a little." He put his thumb and index finger together.

Our first stop was a comic shop, for it was the kind of job I had before making myself unemployed. A paper attached to the window read 'salesman needed'. We entered the place and I noticed that it was fairly bigger than the one where I used to work, a real paradise for comic geeks. I kept Frank's hand in mine while approaching the prematurely aged man behind the counter.

"Good morning, what do you need?" he greeted us.

"I'm here about the ad on the window, I need a job. My name's Gerard..."

"Ok, Gerard, fill this in and then I'll ask you some questions." The guy handed me a paper to annotate my information.

"Frankie, I need both hands for a while. Stay right here beside me and please don't touch anything," I instructed him.


After completing it, I gave the paper back to the man who read it with half-assed interest.

"It says here that you worked at a similar place until some weeks ago. What happened?" he asked. Oh, fuck.

"Well, not much really I..."

"G-gee..." Frank tugged at my t-shirt.

"Shh...wait a minute, kid," I hushed him, carrying on with my explanation. "The thing was that I..."

"G-gerard!" Frank insisted.

"Frankie, I'm talking to the man here! What do you need?" I gave in. I knew he wouldn't stop until I listened to him.

"Th-they have some of th-these with b-big not moving l-letters?" he pointed at a pile of comics on a shelf.

"No, I don't think they do. I'll read some for you at home if you want, now be quiet."

"Y-yay, p-please do!"

"As I was saying..."

"Mark," said the guy. I didn't like the look on his face.

"As I was telling you Mark, I had a family emergency that compelled me to be out of town for more than a week. My boss wasn't too happy, but I had no option. When I came back, he had fired me," I lied brazenly.

Mark didn't seem to buy my shit and was now looking at Frank. The boy was staring at the floor, whispering to himself.

"Are you two related?"

"Yes, he's my younger brother..." More lies.

"Does he live with you?"

"Yes, but someone would take care of him while I'm working. It's just that this person couldn't today," I explained.

He thought for a while. "Ok, Gerard, I'll call you if I make a decision. But you must know that we prefer people without serious home compromises. Seeing as you have an ill relative...that could affect your reliability," he warned me. Damn, it was just a stupid comic shop I was applying for, not a huge important company!

"I told you someone would take care of him," I remarked.

"That's something that could fail, like today."

"You know what? Forget it, bye! Good luck finding your perfect employee!" I waved to the man angrily. "Come on Frankie, I'm sure there must be some more understanding people somewhere."

"Y-yeah...asshole," Frankie added. I was sure that he hadn't paid attention to what we talked. Maybe he just noticed I was angry and accurately concluded it was the guy's fault.

We stepped out of shop and I was already in a terrible mood, regretting my hurried decision. It wouldn't have hurt to wait one more day to start looking for a job and it'd have spared me the questioning about Frank. Nevertheless I decided to give it some more tries.

I tried shoe stores, clothing stores, libraries, restaurants, groceries, supermarkets; at every place it was the same. Even if they were about to hire me, they'd start doubting once they noticed there was something wrong with Frank. And it was impossible for them not to notice. He drew people's attention instantly with his nervous tics, his spastic eyes, the shaking of his hands and how often he talked to himself.

It was improbable that I could manage to distract people from Frankie, he wouldn't stay quiet. He'd shout his 'hellos', ask nonsensical questions, touch things he shouldn't and snap at me when I told him not, or just talk to my potential employers about things only he was seeing.

 I then resorted to plan B: telling them Frankie didn't live with me and was only visiting me for the day. Although I did my best to expound my plan to him, it didn't work; the boy took upon the task of making everybody know that I was lying, one of the situations ending up in nearly chaos. I insisted on my lie too much and Frankie, choosing the worst moment to be attentive, freaked out at me. He screamed that I was mean and a liar and didn't want him in my house. I had to admit the truth in front of that record store's owners so Frankie would calm down, and even then it wasn't easy to get him to understand.

"I...I'm still s-staying at your h-house, then?" he questioned worried, with teary eyes.

"Of course you are, Frankie! I was lying because they say I can't take care of you and work efficiently. They know nothing." I hugged him.

"K-kay. Y-you're so nice, G-gee."

"So he does live with you..." one of the men who had mutely witnessed Frank's episode asked for confirmation.

"Yeah, sorry, I lied. He's schizophrenic and lives with me. A friend would take care of him while I'm working but of course, things happen and there could be times when I'd have to stay with him. Can't say it won't happen. Evidently, no one's gonna employ me because of a supposition."

"We understand; but if we took you it'd be unfair for other people who are more likely to have perfect attendance," the older guy noted.

I was going to reply -in a not very polite way- but something was more important: Frank wasn't there anymore. Looking through the glass door I got to see him running away and didn't waste any more time to chase after him.

Once outside I glanced around until I spotted him advancing at a rapid pace, about to cross the street.

"Frankie, stop!" I called, but he didn't hear me.

I rushed behind him, yet feeling as if I was moving in slow motion while I watched Frank walk straight into a car. I thought it was too late, I wouldn't reach him. Then a hand that wasn't mine caught him by his t-shirt.

"L-LEMME GO YOU B-BITCH, LEMME G-GO!" Frank screamed at the middle-aged woman by the bus stop, trying to escape.

"Not if you're going to walk into the traffic again, kid," she said.

"Oh, my God! Thank you so much for saving him!" I told her, my smoker lungs giving me trouble to breathe. "We were inside there and...and he disappeared. I thought he..."

"F-FUCKING L-LEMME GO N-NOW!" Frank continued.

"You're welcome. I don't think this is the way to treat someone who saved your life, though. Hold him, I had enough of his kicking," the woman spoke annoyed.

"Sorry he...he didn't mean to be rude," I apologized. She didn't answer. "Frankie, why did you do that? Why did you run out of the store?"

"I...I s-saw a butterfly f-from inside and c-came after it," he nodded happily, once again ignorant to the danger.

"Oh, can't even see the letters in a book, how could you see a butterfly from so far away?" I sounded a little cruel, but it was very tiring day.

"I...s-saw it!"

"Tell the lady here that you're sorry for being rude," I demanded.

"N-no I w-won't. I...I didn't d-do anything!"

"It's not necessary, don't worry. Just...keep him watched." The woman gave me a sympathetic look. I smiled thankfully and walked away with Frank.

At this point, I was debating whether to go home to have lunch and continue my search the next day -alone. It seemed to be the best option, specially because it being past midday, there were more people on the streets and a lot of noise. Frank was getting nervous, he wasn't used to that.

"Are you alright?" I asked him.

His free arm was folded around his head. He watched me scared. "N-no. N-no I'm n-not. T-too much n-noise and...and p-people. D-don't like. N-no," he sniffed.

"Wanna go home?"


"Ok, we'll do that now." I released his hand and put my arm around his shoulders instead.

As we crossed the street to follow the way home, I saw a big store in the corner. I'd chosen a different path in the morning, that's why we hadn't walked by it before. Under the large blue letters forming the name of the store, the sign read: 'Stationery and Art Supplies'. The kind of place where I'd be happy to work at. I thought of coming back the next day, but then I had a hunch. A need to do it right away.

I neared the building, directing my eyes to an exact point as if perfectly knowing what I was looking for and where. And there it was, neatly written on a white plasticized cardboard with black marker: 'Person with knowledge on the subject needed.'

"Frankie, do you mind if I go into this place before leaving? It's the last one, I promise. It'll be quieter inside anyway," I consulted him. As much as I wanted to do it, I wouldn't force Frank if he didn't.

"K-kay. L-last one, then h-home," he assented.

The mobile with colored transparent beads hanging from the door shook and tinkled musically as we got in. I found those objects annoying, but Frank thought differently. Being so easily fascinated, he stayed there jumping to try and reach it, contemplating it with a satisfied smile when his fingertips finally grazed it.

The store was spacious and organized. Ceiling-high metallic shelvings were placed all along the walls to the back and there was also a line of them in the middle, separating the place into two corridors. Three young employees were running from side to side helping the customers.
At the front, to the left, there was a long gray counter. The obviously most expensive supplies were displayed behind it, in a lower shelving. That's where I headed for, greeting the elderly woman who had just given a man his change.

"How can I help you, young man?" she said in a sweet voice.

"I'm looking for a job and I believe I could do well here, since I've been to art school and know about this kind of...stuff." I got nervous.

"Oh, I see. Precisely, that's the area where we're needing someone else to orientate the customers." She smiled, diverting her eyes to Frankie who was dancing to the sound of the colliding beads.

I didn't feel like hiding things anymore. "'am, first of all I need to tell you something."

"Go ahead..."


"Gerard. I like your name, a name for a smart person. What do you want to tell me?" she encouraged me to speak.

"The boy there? He's my little brother who suffers from schizophrenia. A couple of days ago I brought him to live with me...he was in an institution. The thing is, I need a job to be able to buy his meds. My best friend agreed to take care of him while I'm out, only that he was busy today. I didn't want to wait one more day to start looking for a job so I took Frankie with me. Bad decision."

"Frankie must be really happy to have you as his brother. Why do you say it was a bad decision to bring him with you?" the woman inquired.

" every place I went to apply for a job the same thing happened: as soon as they realised that Frank wasn't normal they started with the 'buts' and 'we'll call you'. They said having an ill relative could affect my efficiency and reliability. So this time I wanted to be honest from the start. I might need to stay home some days..." I confessed, surprised to see that the old lady was still smiling at me.

"You really want the job, don't you?"


"Do you feel you're prepared for it and will do your best to fulfill your duties?"

"Yes I do, I will," I assured her. I was seriously decided to do things right this time.

"Then that's enough for me. You're hired."

"Just like that?" I asked incredulous.

"Yes. Well, we'll make everything legal and in order tomorrow when you start," she explained.

I almost jumped with excitement. "Tomorrow? Sounds perfect to me!" 

"Can I meet the famous Frankie?"

"Of course...Frankie! Can you come over here, boy? This nice lady wants to meet you."

He gave the amusing object a last glance and skipped to us. "H-hi! I'm F-frankie!"

"Hello Frankie! I'm Sarah, Gerard's boss from now on." For the first time the word 'boss' didn't sound like 'monster' to me. "You liked the mobile on the door?"

"Y-yes!" he nodded frantically.

"A friend of mine makes them. I'll ask her to make one for you and I'll send it through your brother."

"W-wow, yes!"

"Gerard, your brother is just adorable. And a very handsome young man I must add. Both of you are, though you don't look very alike," Sarah commented.

"Yeah, that's because we are half brothers. Frankie had a different mom and looks just like her."

"Wh-what?" Frank got confused when he heard my new lie.

"Poor baby doesn't understand about family issues, does he?" the woman ruffled his hair.

"Nah...maybe it's better that way."

"I agree. Oh, before I forget, I want you to know that if some day you have no one to stay with Frankie you can bring him. That way you wouldn't have to skip the day."

"Are you sure? He's behaving now because he's tired, but can be rather difficult to deal with..." I let her know.

"I'm sure we'd find something to keep him entertained. Do you like to read, Frankie?"

"C-can't read. Nope. L-like but c-can't."

"Oh...he doesn't know how to read?"

"Yes, he does. He just can't see well, that's why he says he can't read. We'll solve that too once I get some money," I said.

"We'll think of something else then, don't worry. I wish I could pay you something ahead, but we just made a big purchase and won't compensate what we invested until within a month or so," she apologized, as if she had to. She'd been nicer to us than anyone else had even tried to be. Not for a moment had I expected to get the money sooner than that, anyway.

"Oh no, please don't worry about that, you've done enough for us! Thank you, Sarah, really. You're a great woman, I won't disappoint you," I told her heartily, reaching over the counter to kiss her cheek.

"I know you won't, I read it in your face."

Copying my actions, Frankie tried to get to Sarah, but his shorter stature wouldn't allow it. She inclined her body forward instead, grabbed his face and kiss his forehead.

"Bye Frankie, please to meet you!"

"B-bye. Th-thanks for b-being good to G-gee. O-other people were b-bad. Yeah. N-not good at all," he stated seriously. I felt like squeezing him, so sweet and innocent. And not always as completely unaware as it might seem.

"I almost forget!" I turned back to Sarah. "What time do I have to be here?"

"It's true, I never told you. We open at 8 am, but it's ok if you arrive a little later, anything earlier than 9 is fine to me, and your day ends at 4 pm."

"That's perfect, leaves me enough time to spend with Frankie. See you tomorrow, then!"

"See you!"


Frankie fell asleep right after lunch, exhausted from our little adventure, his unmatchable curiosity and long-lasting energy. I used the calm moment to phone Ray and tell him about it all.

"Gee! How was your search?"

"Well, the search was really shitty. No one wanted to hire me because of Frank. Can you believe that shit? What the fuck do they care? They could just fire me later if I didn't fucking fulfill their expectations! But no! They have to presuppose!" I ranted.

"Uh luck?"

"I GOT A FUCKING JOB!" I screamed into the speaker. Frankie didn't even move beside me.

"Shit, Gerard! Really, that kid's contagious! Didn't you say no one wanted to hire you?"

"Yeah, but then I tried one more place and got it!"

"Wow, congratulations man! What's the place?"

"I'll be in charge of the art supply section of a rather big store! Isn't it awesome? The owner is an old lady and she fucking rocks. She said I could take Frank with me whenever you can't stay with him!" I spoke non-stop. I was so excited.

"Oops...I'd already forgotten the detail...that I have to take care of the little monster there."

"Come on Ray, he's not a monster! He just needs some extra patience. You aren't gonna back off now, are you?"

"No, I wouldn't do that to you. I agreed to give it a try and I will. I'll watch the kid. You start tomorrow?"

"Yep! 8 am to 4 pm."

"Eight hours? I have no idea what I'll do with him for such a long time!"

"Try to arrive earlier tomorrow and we'll think about it, ok?"

"Ok...bye Gee, and I'm very happy for you!"

"Thanks! Oh and Ray, call Mikey and tell him, he can't always be the one spreading the news!" I laughed.

"Don't you wanna do it yourself?"

"Nah, he'll find a way to piss me off and I'm too happy right now."

"Okay! Bye, Gee."

"Bye, Ray!"


At night, Frank and I watched TV. I was trying to get used to the annoyance of having the screen practically in front of my nose. What's more, I didn't think it did my eyes any good, but Frankie protested that he couldn't see otherwise.

All of a sudden, I felt his eyes burning holes on the side of my face. I didn't move. I sensed hot air against my right ear, then lips brushing my cheek and he pressed his face against mine. I turned and placed my hand on the back of his head, massaging. He let out a shaky sight.

"Mmmm...l-like that. Y-yes. And...and I l-like you," he voiced, still half sighed. Afterwards, he shifted his position until he was on my lap, cuddled against my chest. His whole body was quivering and he whimpered a little.

"H-he...he's b-bothering me. I d-don't wanna talk, p-please tell him to sh-shut up. And...and h-hold me," he pleaded, his voice muffled with my t-shirt.

I turned the TV off, tightened my arms around him and began to hum gently. He was close to falling asleep when the bell rang, making him jump.

"Wh-what was th-that?"

"Just the bell, don't be afraid. Stay here while I go see who it is."

I looked through the peephole and saw the last person I expected: my mom.

"Gerard, son! You don't know how much I've missed you! Why couldn't you wait for me yesterday after disappearing for like a week?" she cut my breath with a killer hug as soon as she crossed the door.

"I know, sorry mom. I had really important things to do. I was going to visit you very soon, I swear."

"Don't worry, I know what you're up to." She looked at Frank who was half asleep on the couch. "Your brother told me everything."

"Typical Mikey style," I mumbled.

"If it makes you feel more at ease...I don't exactly think like him. I don't think you've lost your mind, I'd have done the same. However, I am worried."

"Thanks, mom," I chuckled. "And what are you worried about? Me or...?"

"Well, of course about you but...this's all too weird. That's why I told Mikey to call you and ask you his last name," she informed me concerned, flattening her blond dyed hair with both hands.

"Now I understand why he didn't even tell me the reason for his message, he didn't want me to know that he had spilled it all to you," I concluded.

"I guess, but I don't think that matters now."

"It does matter that my brother can't keep his mouth shut. Anyway, what did you want Frank's last name for?"

"To try and find out some information," she said. 

Chapter Text

Can you hear me cry out to you?
Words I thought I'd choke on figure out,
I'm really not so with you anymore
I'm just a ghost.
So I can't hurt you anymore...
So I can't hurt you anymore...

I stared confusedly at my mother as I sat on the couch between her and Frankie. He barely opened his eyes and babbled something incoherent, letting his head fall on my lap.

"Aww, Alicia was right! This boy is 'candy on two legs' -as her exact words were," mom said in a low voice touching Frank's hair.

I smiled. "Well, though Alicia's a little silly sometimes...she's right. Frankie's sure giving me a lot of work, but he's such a sweet kid that he makes me want to help him more and more." 

"I would have never imagined you doing something like this. Anyway...don't get me wrong, I'm very proud of you. That's why I wanted to help you." She kissed my cheek.

"Thanks, mom. You telling me this means a lot to me. What is it that you wanted to find out about Frank?" I asked her, completely unaware of her recourses.

"Remember that several years ago I used to work at the reception of a public mental institution?" she began to explain.

"Oh, yeah! I'd forgotten about that...maybe because you hated that job."

"With all my heart! That place was chaos and it wasn't my thing, I just needed the money so I endured it as much as I could. But the important fact here is that the director of the place liked me..." she continued, and I smirked.

"He...liked you?"

"Not like that, Gerard!" he playfully slapped the back of my head.

"Sorry, mom!"

"He liked me because he said I was the only efficient person there. He was an idiot and a bad specialist from what I knew. But again, I needed the job so I always tried to act friendly with him." She stopped and gave me an annoyed look. "Not friendly in the way you're thinking!"

"I didn't say anything! Please, go on," I laughed.

"When I quit he was disappointed, almost begged me to stay. He couldn't make me change my mind, but told me to call him whatever I might need. That's what I did yesterday." Her face told me that she had no good news.

"Oh could he help? Frank wasn't in that place..." I doubted.

"No. I knew this man had access to a data base with the names of all mental patients admitted to institutions all over the country -both public and private. This is necessary to find medical records from people that are, for example, found in the streets knowing nothing more than their names. If they've been in other places before, they're on that data base," she explicated.

"Just like Frank's case," I thought aloud. "So...he looked him up for you?"

"Yes, he was actually happy to be able to help me after all these years."

"Oh mom, come on, that guy really likes you," I mocked her.

"No, please! He's disgusting!"

"Okay, okay," I laughed, then went for the important point. "But tell me, did he find out the name of the institution where Frank was?"

My mother looked down and took a deep breath, as if trying to find the correct words. What could the problem be? Was there something wrong with that place? Bad reputation?

"No, Gerard. Frank's name wasn't there," she stated.

"What? Maybe he didn't remember his last name correctly?" I guessed.

She shook her head. "I thought of that. So I told him all I knew. Name, middle name, age, pathology, that he was in a private place and in which city you found him."

"Frankie said his mother drove a lot before abandoning him..." I pointed out.

"Yes, but not enough for them to have traveled through many different states," she answered. I admired her intelligence, she always thought about all the possibilities. "That reduced the search to only a small portion of the country, and there aren't that many private mental institutions in that area. He searched for people matching Frank's data and found nothing. He doesn't exist as a patient," she concluded.

I didn't know what to say. Just when I had thought things couldn't get any more strange about this boy.

"Oh, fuck. Everything he's told me...there ain't any doubt he was in one of those places!" I raised my voice more than I intended.

"Based on what Mikey commented, I agree with you. I don't think the kid could have made it all up," she whispered, seeing Frank move.

"I don't think so either. The way he talks about's something that he really remembers. I could be wrong, but I don't think I am. Once I'm settled I'll investigate more...some way."

"Oh! With all of this I forgot to congratulate you! What a bad mother I am!" she exclaimed.

"H-hi..." Frankie said timidly, sitting up.

"Hi, sweety! I'm Donna, Gerard's mom. You have very pretty eyes, you know that?" she kissed his head.



"Th-the kids didn't l-like my eyes, th-they always l-laughed. Wh-why you said you w-were a bad m-mom?" he changed the subject.

"Because I'd forgotten to tell my son how happy I am that he found a job he likes!"

"Y-you hug and k-kiss him like moms d-do?"

"Yes, always, I still do even though he's not a little kid anymore."

"Th-then you're a g-good mom. Y-yes you are," Frankie nodded expertly.

"Well, thanks! I can hug and kiss you like a mom too, if you want."

"Y-yes! M-my mom...I th-think didn't kn-know what things m-moms do. M-maybe she didn't w-watch much TV. Yes. Th-that. N-NO YOU SH-SHUT UP, I KN-KNOW!" he suddenly screamed, startling my mother.

"What...? Is he ok?" she asked.

"Not sure...sometimes someone 'speaks' in his head."

"Y-yes he does and I h-hate it. I...t-told Puppy to s-scare him away but he w-won't! And...I...I w-wanna pee," Frank let out. My mom and I couldn't help smiling. He inspired a weird feeling; sometimes you'd laugh at the things he said and feel bad right after because frankly, it was sad to see how confused he was.

"Let's take you to the bathroom then." I took his hand. "We'll be right back, mom. Gotta guide him 'cause he mistakes places sometimes, you know?"

"Oh, ok."

"Here you are. You pee and I'll wait for you outside," I told Frankie after leaving him in front of the toilet for good measure. I couple of minutes later I heard water running and soon he reappeared, observing me in a peculiar way.

"Is there something wrong?" I asked.

"N-nope," he replied, entwining his hands around my neck. I just stared back at him.

He blinked many times and squinted, trying to focus. It was hard to tell what he was exactly looking at, and I preferred not to try to guess; he was making me more nervous by the second.

Frank tiptoed and his lips collided with the skin below my nose. I should have gotten away then, but I couldn't move. He giggled against my face, closed his eyes and slid his mouth down, finally finding mine and pecking at it. An inexpert, quick, sloppy kiss. Nevertheless the sweetest I had ever experienced. I didn't kiss him back but I smiled as he pulled away, taking my hand and dragging me to the living room.

"L-let's go with y-your mom," he said, all smiles too.

My mind was racing as I walked behind him. Should I talk to him about what he had just done? Was it wrong that I had liked it? What If I couldn't help kissing him back next time?

"Son, what's wrong?" my mother's voice brought me back to earth.

"Nothing...I was just thinking."

"Sure? Is he telling the truth, Frankie?"

"Wh-what?" he jumped, distracted.

"Do you know why Gerard has that weird face?"

"N-no! I...I l-like his face!" he replied. Luckily she didn't give that a second thought, just laughed.

"So're staying, aren't you? It's too late for you to go home." I joined her on the couch again while Frankie 'played with his dog' on the floor.

"Yes. Actually, besides giving you the news -or lack of them, I came to stay and take care of Frankie tomorrow."

"Oh, that's not necessary, Ray's coming."

"I know, but I have the day off and thought I could give him a hand on his first day as a babysitter." she insisted.

"You're sure?"

"Yes, don't worry. I've never taken care of a kid like Frank, but at least I have experience with children."

"Frankie can be harder to deal with than little children, I'm afraid," I alerted her. "Apparently, he has even less notion of danger."

"We'll be fine, you just go and keep your mind on your job," she assured me, patting my back.

"Thank you, once again. Hey, Frankie!" I called him.

"Wh-what?" he didn't turn his face to me.

"You're gonna have two people taking care of you tomorrow! Donna's also staying."

"O-okay," he muttered.

My mother seemed confused. "Is he not too happy about it?"

"You say because of the way he answered?"


"Oh no, it's not that. It's usual for him to act emotionless for moments. Kinda frustrating, I know, I'm only now getting used to it. He can be all sweet and affectionate and then the next moment rather apathetic."

Proving my words true Frank got up, walked to my mother and kissed her on the cheek. She hugged and kissed the boy back. 

"It seems as if you'd known Frankie all his life." 

"Well, I spent almost three whole days with him in a car," I reminded her.



The following morning Ray arrived when we had finished breakfast. He wasn't a morning person and it showed on his face and his curly brown hair, which looked wilder than ever. It also demonstrated how good of a friend he was agreeing to do that for me.

"Donna! It's been a long time!" he greeted my mother. Ray used to live across my street when we were younger and we'd gone to school together. He had moved with his family about five years ago. To be honest, being able to hang out with him again had been more of a reason to move to the same neighborhood myself than the job at the comic store.

"Ray! Oh boy, you've changed! I see you finally accepted your hair, it suits you," she complimented him. Ray's hair was short the last time they had seen each other.

"Yes, I did. I actually appreciate it now!" he laughed. "What are you doing here so early?"

"Spent the night here, I'm staying to help you with your task for today."

"Really? Oh thank you, Donna! I must confess that I've been freaking out about it. I'm not sure I can keep Frankie entertained for so many hours..." Ray wavered.

"I'll be here, relax." my mother encouraged my nervous friend. I felt a little bad for putting such a responsibility on their shoulders, but I knew it was for a good reason.

"Frankie, not on the backrest!" I suddenly cried out when I saw him practice alpinism on the couch.

"B-but I can! G-gotta reach the t-top! L-look, the gnomes are w-winning and they're s-so much s-smaller than me!" he excused himself.

"They're also a lot lighter than you. You're gonna turn the couch over and get hurt. So no climbing the backrest, ok?" I failed to sound mad. It was impossible as I watched him sitting there looking all disappointed, eyes hidden behind his mess of a hair.

"K-kay," he sulked. As soon as I turned my back on him he returned to his 'mission'.


Seeing my desperation, my mom lifted him off the couch, avoiding his kicks.

"N-NO, LEMME G-GO!" he protested.

"Ok, but I heard your dog crying. I think he's jealous that you're playing with the gnomes and not him..." she told him.

"R-really? N-no I...I love P-puppy! Puuuuppy! P-puppy where are y-you?" he sang. "H-here you are!"
He then sat on the floor to converse with his pet, waving his hands around and mixing the words with weird sounds. Maybe it was dog-language? Not sure.

"So, things you must remember," I announced to both my friend and mother. "never leave him unwatched. Don't contradict him when he's having hallucinations...which is most of the time actually. Act as if you were seeing what he sees, otherwise he goes mad and can get uncontrollable. Then...make sure he doesn't hit his head with his hands, against the wall, or in any other way; he has a tendency to do that when he's too messed up. Have in mind he can't see well, so reading or any other activity that requires good sight is not an option. Leave the TV where it is; I know it's not comfortable but it's the only way in which he distinguishes the images." I stopped to think. My two listeners looked scared. "What else? Uh...he likes to eat by himself, even if his hands are not steady sometimes. Might need help to hold the glass, though. He doesn't know how to handle knifes so if anything needs to be cut, do it for him. If he seems to be in his own world talking to himself, just let him be and use that moment to have a break, you'll need it." I chuckled at the last remark. "Oh sweet as he looks...he can be really foulmouthed. Don't reprimand him for that, he can't help it. And don't scream, it scares him."

"Is that all...?" Ray questioned, rubbing his temples.

"Yes, I think it is. Mom, you already know about the bathroom thing," I added and she nodded. "If you have any problem give me a call. And for the hundredth time, thanks."

"Gerard...go. You better be early on your first day! Frankie will be fine with us, I promise," mom whispered in my ear as she embraced me tightly.

"Frankie, please be a good boy and obey Ray and Donna, ok?"

"K-kay. B-but I don't w-want you to leave," he pleaded.

"I have to, you know that. I'll be back at 4, it's not that bad! Come on, change that face and give me a hug?" I waited with open arms.

He pondered for some seconds before holding my waist. "K-kay, but m-make 4 come soon."

"I will, see you later Frankie." I kissed his forehead.

"OH!" he screamed.

"What happens?"

"W-we didn't buy Puppy's f-food! C-can you?" he requested, looking like a lost puppy himself.

"Of course, I won't forget, promise."

While I left the house I couldn't help thinking about how much my life had changed in only one week. I hadn't been drinking, had a new job -one I was actually happy with- and someone under my care. Someone who depended on me.

I checked my clothes once again, wanting to make sure I looked presentable. Black jeans, clean sneakers and a white t-shirt. I had seen the other people working there, I knew I didn't need to dress formally. However, that didn't mean I could look scruffy. I had arranged my hair as nicely as I managed, tucked behind my ears so it wouldn't fall on my face.

Sarah welcomed me with a warm smile, which changed to a more serious gesture as she placed one of her wrinkled, long fingered hands on my arm.

"Gerard, you're too tense! Your brother will be fine, you'll see. And I don't bite! Come with me, we'll get all the papers in order to start with," she spoke in a soothing tone.

I chuckled and followed her behind the counter. I'd be fine too.


Ray's POV

The door closed behind Gerard. Donna and I looked at each other and then at Frankie. He was standing where Gerard had left him, staring at the wall. I could see his lips moving but couldn't hear what he was saying.

"Uhm...should we make him sit at least?" I wondered.

"I don't know." Donna neared Frank, moving her hand in front of his eyes. He didn't react.

"Is this normal?"

"Frankie?" she grazed his arm. He shuddered, moved the hair out of his eyes and contemplated us. His pupils paced at an amazing speed, he appeared troubled. "Are you ok, baby?"

"Y-yeah. N-no, maybe. Th-there...see? Th-they are. An-and many. Th-the floor, r-right. Here. Y-yes?" he mumbled, the question directed to Donna. I found no sense in his words.

She took him to the couch and made him rest his head on her shoulder. "Yes Frankie, I see. What do you wanna do now?"

"I...n-no. I d-dunno. H-head's bad now, h-hurts and s-stings and...m-mess. Y-yes...bad," he rubbed his face.

I sat down too, sighing in annoyance. I wasn't prepared for that, what had I been thinking? Well, the answer to that was clear. Gerard had been my best friend for years. He'd always trusted me as much as I trusted him. I knew him more than anyone else and therefore knew he was totally convinced that he wanted this new life he'd started. I had been so worried about him those last months that I was willing to do anything to help him get out of his self-pity. Sure, bringing home a mentally ill kid that you found in the street wasn't something exactly usual. You didn't hear about people doing that daily. But speaking of Gerard Way, nothing was too weird. He had always been one to surprise you with things you would have never expected. This last one had been the most surprising of them all, though.

"Ray...patience, it's all you need. Frankie will be better in a moment. When this happens you just wait." Donna demonstrated that patience was, indeed, one of her best virtues. 

Frank raised his head and looked at me. "R-ray, you b-bored?" he asked softly, still a little shaky but more focused.

"No, just sleepy, I don't usually get up this early." I yawned.

"Ahh. W-wanna play with P-puppy?" he offered. Play with an invisible dog? Oh shit...

"Of course we'll play," Donna said.

"How do you play with him?" I inquired.

"W-we can all t-take turns to t-throw this ball at him and h-he goes for it and b-brings it back," he handed me over a...nothing.

I took 'it' anyway, trying to use my imagination. I would have to train it a lot. It'd be a long day, and just the first one out of many. 

Chapter Text

It's got what it takes,
so tell me why can't this be love.
Straight from my heart,
oh, tell me why can't this be love.

Still Ray's POV

After minutes of throwing the invisible ball to the invisible dog, I actually started to enjoy it. It was kind of like being a little kid again. It reminded me of that period we all had while being young, when we'd be able to keep ourselves entertained for hours using just our imagination. Imaginary scenarios, imaginary beasts and monsters to fight against, imaginary partners. We most probably didn't really see all those things as Frank saw his dog and the ball; but we loved to imagine they were there.

I watched Frankie cast the non-existent object and wait, eventually grabbing it back from Puppy's mouth and patting his head. I counted the seconds, I studied his movements and copied him when it was my turn.

"Good dog!" I said, handing the ball to Donna.

Frankie clapped his hands joyfully and I began to understand Gerard; seeing this boy happy was worth the patience.

We spent the rest of the morning hearing him talk about animals, gnomes and little people; making us interact with them in some cases. Frank was so hyperactive and enthusiast that he made you tired just by observing him.

At one point he got on the coffee table and sang 'Twinkle twinkle little star', his voice sounding even more childish than when he'd speak. Besides being rather cute, it allowed me to verify something I had read: stutterers, indeed, don't stutter when they sing.
He then performed some honestly interesting rock and punk versions of the song. I was intrigued to know whether Frankie was actually into that kind of music and upon asking him, I was surprised to find out that he knew many bands. He told us a friend from the place where he used to live owned a lot of CDs. That kid would let him listen to them sometimes and he also taught him about the bands. Frank was the most strange mix between a little kid and your regular teen.

"Do you want me to bring some of my CD's tomorrow?" I proposed.

"Y-yeah! B-bring them. B-but not t-too loud, I d-don't like it l-loud. H-he doesn't like it e-either." he pointed at his head. "L-low, not loud."

"I won't turn up the volume much, it's ok."

"G-good." He seemed satisfied.

Lunch went by without complications. Donna cooked steaks accompanied by her famous french fries. I'd almost forgotten how good they were, with that distinctive special touch only homemade food could have. Needless to say, both Frank and I approved of her food choice.
As hungry as I was myself, I was amazed to see the boy eating. I'd always had a good appetite, there was no denying that I ate a lot; but Frankie surpassed me by far. Even experiencing some trouble to make mouth and fork meet for moments, his plate was already empty while Donna and I had still half to go. That's when he resorted to stealing fries from us.

Frank felt asleep short after that, a welcomed chance for us to relax and converse. I used to practically live in the Way's house when I was a kid and Donna was like my second mom, so this was a good opportunity to get up to date about our lives.

Once we satisfied our curiosity about each other, the subject veered to Gerard. Since Mikey visited us very often, Donna was informed of everything about her older son. It had been very hard for the poor woman to know that he was struggling through such a bad period of his life away from her. She'd called Gerard several times and offered to go see him, yet he would always refuse. Not giving up, she had tried showing up at Gerard's house without warning, but he didn't opened the door and told her to leave him alone. I was astonished, Gerard had never mentioned all that.

It was admirable how mothers could forgive their sons no matter what. Gerard had pushed Donna away more than once and the same there she was, helping him as soon as he needed it.

Some murmurs were heard from the couch, followed by a thud and then whimpers. We ran there and found Frankie sitting on the floor, head down and hugging his knees while sobbing. Donna sat by his side. I didn't think he had heard us approach him, and he got visible scared when she held him.

"'s Donna, calm down. What happened? Did you fall from the couch?" she asked him.

"Y-yes I...I th-think so. D-don't know. W-was sleeping I th-think," he hiccuped.

I joined them on the floor, brushing the hair out of Frankie's face. "Are you hurt or something?"

"I...I d-don't know. N-no. D-don't know." He clung to my friend's mom.

"Anything hurts?" I insisted.

"N-not really..."

"I think it was just the shock because he was fast asleep when he fell." Donna smiled. "Better now, Frankie?"

"Y-yeah." He got up and walked to the kitchen. I went after him and had to bite my hand not to scream when I saw what he was doing: peeing on one of the chairs.

"Oh my fucking God, Frankie...what did you do?" I exclaimed, unable to contain myself anymore. He fixed his clothes and watched me with big eyes. Donna had entered the room too, witnessing the occurrence with her own eyes.

"Wh-what? Wh-why are you an-angry, Ray?" Frank frowned.

"You know why! Look at what you did! Why didn't you tell us that you needed to go to the bathroom?" I spat. Patience had never been my best virtue. There had to be a way to teach Frank some things. Or...wasn't there any?

"I...I c-can find the b-bathroom myself! D-don't scream...I...I d-didn't do anything!" he pouted. I wasn't even screaming that much.

"Ray! Calm down, it's not such a big deal!" Donna stopped me and spoke in my ear. "He doesn't realise that he's doing it in the wrong place, so there's no point in arguing, you just scare him. Watch him for a while, I'll clean here."

"Frankie?" I semi-crouched to be at eye-level with the much shorter boy.

"S-swear I didn't do an-anything bad. J-just...just w-went to pee."

"I know..." I whispered, feeling terribly guilty.

"B-but you said..."

"Forget about what I said. Sorry kid...I'm not mad, I promise. Friends?"

"Y-yes, friends," he nodded.

"Wanna play something?"

"Y-YES! H-HORSE RIDE!" Frankie shouted, jumping on my back and kicking my legs not exactly gently. Maybe it was his disguised revenge against me for yelling at him, in which case I deserved it.

The presumed punishment consisted in carrying him all around the house -this including several more kicks and hair-tugs- while hearing Donna's laughter. I ended up exhausted, with a sharp back pain.

Later, just when we had managed to make Frank stay still and thought he'd watch TV for a while, he found a new activity. Donna was sweeping the floor and I'd closed my eyes for a while when she shouted.

"RAY! Get him out of there!"

"What?" I mumbled, looking around. Frank was climbing the shelving, and it was shaking dangerously. "Oh, fuck"

"I c-can, see?" he told someone who wasn't us.

"Let go, it's gonna fall down!" I commanded. I had him by the waist, but he still gripped a shelf with both hands.


"Tell them you're a person, not a monkey. Come on, let go of the shelf."

"N-NO! Th-they'll say I s-suck at this!"

"If you let go I'll make you chocolate milk," I tried to convince him.

"Mmm...k-kay, but you m-make one for P-puppy too," he agreed, finally allowing me to put him down.


" k-keep on playing. I g-got bored. G-gonna go for m-milk!" he announced to his 'friends'. And there I was, preparing an extra glass of milk.

By the time I heard Gerard's keys in the lock I was about to fall asleep. Donna was sitting in front of the fan, drained. Frankie was apparently talking to his own reflex on the glass doors of the TV table.

Gerard's POV

As soon as I put a foot inside my house I was attacked by Frankie. He jumped, grabbed my neck and surrounded my waist with his legs.

"H-HELLO!" he said, true to his style. He looked straight at the lower part of my face, and something told me to quickly turn it to one side. Wise move. His decided kiss landed on my cheek.

"Hi, Frankie!" I kissed him in the same way and left him on the couch. He seemed upset.

It worried me to think that he might have taken my avoidance as rejection, but I couldn't allow him to kiss my mouth in front my mother and my friend. They would surely disapprove, at least her. They'd object that I let that happen and would never believe that it had always been Frankie who tried to seduce me. They could think I had done something to provoke him and then see me as a monster.
Or maybe I was just exaggerating and prejudging, but I wasn't willing to take the risk yet. I hadn't even decided myself what I'd do about Frank's insinuations and affective onslaughts.

"How was your day with Ray and Donna?" I tried to get Frankie's mind out of his fruitless try. He appeared livened by my interest.

"G-good! We h-had fun! R-ray got angry and...and he sh-shouted at me. B-but then he s-said he w-was sorry and we're f-friends again. Y-yeah. And...and Donna m-made us fries and were y-yummy!" he related. Only then I glanced at the other two people in the room and noticed the state in which they were.

"Oh my, you two look awful! Was it that bad? And why did you get angry, Ray?" I asked them, sitting on the coffee table. I thought it would be better not to get too close to Frank for a while.

"Well...let's say it was tiring. The kid has a lot of energy. He's like...the Duracell bunny or something!" Ray remarked. Frankie got into a fit if laughter at that. "And it's not that I got angry, I didn't even scream, I just spoke a little louder because the situation momentarily exceeded me."

"Ray's a little dramatic, right Frankie?" my mother addressed the youngest of us.

"Y-yeah...h-he always gets n-nervous and it's f-funny!" he said, still laughing.

"But what happened?" I inquired again.

"Uh...your little friend had a little 'accident' on one of the chairs," he answered.

"You mean...he...'watered it'? Or...something worse?" I hoped it was the first.

"Nah, just...liquid." my mom relieved me. "Why? Has he ever done something more in the wrong place?"

"No, no. Never so far, and I hope he never will!" I told her. The only thought placed a disgusting image in my mind.

"Wh-what you t-talking 'bout? I d-didn't do anything to the ch-chair..." Frankie got into the conversation.

"I was just telling Gerard how I poured water on it by accident, don't worry," Mom lied.

"So besides that...everything ok?"

"Yeah, I guess. He gave us a show, introduced us to his little friends, made us play with Puppy and tried to climb the shelving. That's all," Ray enumerated.

"Th-the monkeys t-told me to!" Frank jumped to his own defense.

"I'll have a talk with those monkeys..." I said. "You look in pain, Ray...what the..."

"Horse ride," he stated, and now it was my mother who started to laugh. "Yeah, wasn't you who carried him and got the kicks!"

"It was funny, though." More laughs. The three of us were a choir of laughter and finally even Ray joined us.

"G-gee! D-did you b-buy food for P-puppy?" Frank had a good memory. Good that I hadn't forgotten this time.

"Yes. I bought him food and also a dog plate, like it?" I showed him the round, purple article.

"Yay! Th-that's my f-favorite color!" he cheered.

"Really? It was just a guess!"

"I...I'm g-gonna feed him," he snatched the things from my hand.

"Wait, I'll open the bag for you."

"I c-can!"

"It's too thick to open with your hands."

"G-gimme scis-sors then?"

"No, Frankie. No scissors for you," I said firmly, pointing at his now discovered wrist where the carved 'i' was just beginning to heal. "Stay here."


I took the bag with me to the kitchen, where I kept the cutlery hidden in a high enough place over the cupboard. It was actually hard for me to reach it when standing on a chair.
On my way home I had come up with the idea of emptying the plate when Frank wasn't looking and putting the dog food in another bag to 'reuse it' later. That way he wouldn't worry about his pet not wanting to eat. I'd have to be quick and sneaky, though.

Going back to the living room, I let Frankie serve the food. As expected, half of it ended up on the floor.

"Do you mind staying twenty more minutes with him so I can take a shower?" I asked my mother and Ray. So far I had never left Frank alone for more than five minutes, and one of those times I'd caught him trying to get into the fridge. He said it was too hot.

"Not at all. Oh, and how was your first day? You didn't tell us!" mom wanted to know. Frank's actions when I arrived had inclusively made me forget about my debut at my new job. He was messing with my thoughts.

"It was pretty good. Of course some customers are annoying, that happens everywhere, but I was able to solve all of their doubts. My boss was happy with me...and I'm truly proud of myself for once."

"You should!" Ray enthused.

"The only drawback is that I have to be standing for hours. But this job is better than I could have dreamed and found it so fast that I'd be an ungrateful idiot if I complained."

"You're right son, you've been really lucky! You better enjoy this job...and keep it," my mother advised.

"I will, trust me."

When Ray and my mom left I let myself fall on the couch, wishing to make up for the time I had been on my feet. Frankie was playing with some office sheets I had brought him, folding them in different ways. However, as soon as he saw me there, he got up and came to sit on my lap, hugging me. It'd become a habit. A dangerous, uncomfortable habit. I'd be lying if I said I didn't like to have him so close to me. I did, even if it was summer and his presence added more to the heat. I just couldn't decide if it was right to feel that way.

Not helping my situation, he got even closer -if that was possible- and started to kiss me. Little butterfly kisses all over my face. I shivered, in spite of the warm climate.

"Frankie...what are you doing?"

"G-giving you k-kisses," he responded and continued to.

"I...I know but...this shouldn't..." I rambled. I wasn't able to find the words, I didn't know how to tell him to stop. I didn't want him to stop. I had to... "Frankie, stop..."

He stared at me sadly, disappointed. "W-why?"

"I...I have to take care of you. I can''re a kid, Frankie," I searched for an excuse. I didn't think he could understand the truth.

"N-not a kid! NO! I...I'm 18...I'm b-big! N-not a little k-kid, no," Frank whimpered. He was breaking my heart and I might be breaking his.

"I know can't do those things, kiss me like that. Some people could get angry at me if I let you."

"Oh...k-kay..." he said defeated, though I saw it on his face that he couldn't comprehend. Then he pronounced the words I'd been praying not to hear. "B-but I...l-love you, Gee..."

Those last words shook my world just like his small body was shaking against mine. Those words that he had surely heard so many times on TV had found their way into his reality. I couldn't help the tears that rolled down my cheeks, and the sadness in those innocent, restless, hazel eyes pierced me.

"Frankie..." I attempted to speak. Was the boy aware of what he was saying? Did he feel that for real? Had he meant it in that way?

It wasn't over. He talked again, caressing my face with unsure fingers. "Y-you don't l-love me?" 

Chapter Text

Well, I must have come to that crazy age
where everything is hot,
'cause I don't know if the things I'm thinking
are normal thoughts or not.

I felt as if my heart was being squeezed, I couldn't breathe. The last thing I wanted was to make Frankie suffer, but what if he was just confused? What if he was only very thankful that I had taken him in, that I had cared? What if his poor head was mistaking admiration or gratefulness for love? What if...he wasn't?

He kept looking at me through a veil of tears. Since I didn't answer right away, he withdrew his hands and diverted his eyes like a scolded child. I couldn't stand it, I couldn't be so cruel to him; specially when answering 'no' would mean lying and not the other way round.

"Frankie, I do love you...."

"Y-you do? C-can we be b-boyfriends, then?" he didn't let me finish, eyes shining. I was about to extinguish that light again. What he wanted couldn't be. Not yet, if ever. I first needed to know how his mind worked under control, see if he would still feel the same way towards me after being medicated.

"No Frankie, we can't be boyfriends."

"B-but why? I...I l-love you and you l-love me and the g-gnomes like you and also th-the little p-people and P-puppy! Th-they say we sh-should be boyfriends! See? N-now they're an-angry!" he simplified, seemingly nervous. He got off my lap and lied down on the floor, conversing with his friends in a very low voice and gesturing exaggeratedly.

"Frankie..." I called him. I didn't want to leave things like that.

"Y-you'll say yes? Oh! of th-the gnomes kicked you g-good, d-did he?" he applauded.

"No...I can't say yes.'s too soon! We've only known each other for less than a week. I know that we've been together all the time so it feels like a lot more, but it's still too soon, do you understand?"

"N-nope. Y-you said you l-love me!" he insisted. I knew it wouldn't be easy. Maybe I shouldn't have said that, but I couldn't force myself to lie. Even though I may not be in love with Frank -yet, I did feel that I already loved that sweet kid.

"I do love you, but we're just knowing each other. Right now I only want to take care of you, you need to get better first." I tried to run my hand through his hair, but he shunned me.

"I...I'm f-fine!" he crossed his arms over his chest stubbornly. The nervous tic that made him jerk his head was showing more frequently.

"You know you still need to see a doctor so you can start taking your medication again."

"I D-DON'T WANT TO!" he screamed. I'd thought he did want his meds. Hopefully he was just momentarily mad at me or else it'd mean more trouble awaiting.


"N-NO! Y-YOU'RE MEAN! Y-YOU DON'T LIKE M-ME 'CAUSE...'CAUSE I'M S-SPECIAL, RIGHT? kid told me w-we were th-there 'cause n-nobody liked us," he cut me off again.

I felt like the worst piece of shit even if I had no way meant that. My inability to explain things better and simpler had taken him to misunderstand me. It was my fault.

"That's not true. People who...are special, sometimes live in institutions to be taken care of when their families can't. They're safer there."

"D-don't care, you don't l-like me," he sniffed.

"I do like you, stop that! I like you even more because you're special, actually! 'Normal' is boring, you know?" noticing that he'd stopped crying and I had his attention, I decided to go for the truth, praying that he'd understand some of it. "But...some people would not like us being boyfriends."


"It's hard to explain...they'd say it's not ok because I'm not like you. Someone could want to take you away from me, I don't want that..."

Frankie froze when I said that. He crawled to me and hugged my legs. "N-NO! P-PLEASE PLEASE P-PLEASE I WANNA S-STAY HERE PLEASE!"

"Shh...calm down, come here." I made him sit next to me, my arm around his shoulders. "You'll stay here, I want you to stay here with me. But you need to help me, you have to remember some things."

"K-kay," he whispered.

"You must not tell me 'I love you' or kiss me on the mouth in front of other people, not even in front of Donna or Ray. Ok?" I instructed him. Honestly, I didn't think it possible for him to remember that and comply. I could still hope, though.

"Y-yeah," he answered shortly. I was expecting him to ask whether he could do it when we were alone; I was glad that he didn't. As much as I couldn't deny that his words had gotten to the bottom of my heart and I wanted him to kiss me again, to officially give him permission would confuse him more and make things harder for me.


"And...c-can I hug you and k-kiss you on the ch-cheek?" he questioned with such a serious face that it made me smile.

"Yes, that's fine."

"Ev-even in front of p-people?"

"Yes, nothing wrong with that."

Frank was silent for some seconds, deeply thinking about something or maybe trying to comprehend. "Th-then...we're n-not boyfriends?" he played with his hair, still a little bit disheartened. At that moment I wished I could just tell him 'yes, we are', but life wasn't so simple.

"No, we're not. But I need you to know that I love you the same and I'll always care for you and..."

"Y-you don't like b-boys?" he asked worried. If he had only known what his innocent question did to me, the memories it brought back, the conflict it caused in my mind.

"I...I don't know. I like you."

He smiled widely. I felt satisfied with that achievement until he frowned and hit his head. "SH-SHUT UP! G-gerard loves me! And...and h-he lets me h-hug him and k-kiss him and we h-hold hands!"

I grabbed his wrist to stop him from hurting himself and, nearing my mouth to his head, I spoke. "Listen you, inside there: you better leave Frankie alone and shut up or I'll kick your fucking ass!"

Frank stared at me with his mouth hanging open. "Wow, y-you scared h-him!"


"Y-yep! I...I guess h-he'll be back but n-now he left."

"Good that I could help you get rid of him for a while," I said. I didn't know how much of our talk he'd assimilated, nut things seemed to be currently better at least.


Days went by slower than I would have liked. Ray was having some hard times with Frankie, but he'd said the balance was positive: he was exercising not only his imagination but also his patience. He was proud that he had found in his CD collection that he'd bring everyday a way to keep Frankie quiet for a while. Even though the kid had demonstrated to be more into punk by influence of that friend from the institution, he appeared to enjoy any kind of rock music -like Iron Maiden's old-school metal. Sometimes both Ray and I would have fun seeing Frank play imaginary instruments or sing along to the songs. He learned the lyrics pretty fast. However, if the volume was a single point over what was bearable for him -which was hard to control since not all CDs were recorded at the same volume- the kid would flip out. He'd cover his ears and start rocking back and forth screaming 'stop it!', needing total silence after that.

Frankie appeared to be getting farther and farther away from reality. In very truth, the moments when he was coherent were short and a few. Leaving him alone for just five minutes to go to the bathroom had become a real problem. When coming out I'd find him climbing furniture, hitting his head against the wall -he had always some bruise on his forehead, or getting things out of the fridge...just to name some of his activities. Other times I'd have to get out in a rush because he was screaming about bugs or animals attacking him.

To get him to have a whole meal without interruptions had also turned into a complicated task lately. Sometimes he was too hyper; he'd use the food as projectiles or stand on the chair to sing instead of eating. In other opportunities he'd completely space out and we had to feed him -that if he opened his mouth at all. The rest of times he'd bluntly refuse to eat.

My mom kept on coming to help me as often as she could, sometimes staying for the night. Nights...another tough subject. During many it was impossible to sleep; Frankie would constantly wake up scared or extremely nervous and couldn't fall asleep again. He would then speak nonsense for hours. Other nights he was just too overexcited to sleep.

I'd found out that a way to calm him down was to read books to him. Searching my old room, my mother had located some from when Mikey and I were pre-teens. They proved to be the right ones for Frankie, since he couldn't understand adult books and would get bored. Anyhow, he never kept his attention on the same activity for more than fifteen minutes. If he got to twenty, you could consider it a miracle.

About Frank's kisses, sexy insinuations and love declarations...they went on. I did my best to not react in a way I could regret later each time something like that happened. We had gotten pretty close though, and one day I called him 'baby' without thinking. Frank liked it and somehow it stuck. I began to use it regularly, taking care of avoiding it while others were present. I was getting slightly paranoid about some things.

I had caught Frank touching himself again a couple of times and also had Ray -who had been rather grossed out. He always did it through his jeans and seemed oblivious to it same as to my presence while it'd last. I'd never dared tell him anything about it, I had no idea how to approach those kind of conversations.

Work had been going fine. Sometimes it was a little tiring but I didn't mind because I truly enjoyed it. Sarah treated me so well that most of the time I forgot that she was my boss. She had gotten me a door mobile for Frankie, as she had promised. It had purple and pink transparent beads and had helped keep the boy entertained for several minutes at least during the first days. I wasn't exactly amused with having to hear that annoying noise, yet I put up with it.

Among all the good and bad -or more like worrying- things going on in my life, I had two big problems at the top of my list. One, that I knew I wouldn't get my paycheck soon enough. The other one was this enigma called Frank Iero. He was surrounded by a mystery that I was determined to solve. And not only out of curiosity, also because I wanted to know if he had any other family besides his bitch of a mother.
I'd been trying to find a way to get information about him without having to reveal much. I was afraid of people learning that I had found Frankie and kept him just like that, but I needed to know if the police or whoever was in charge of those things had some of the data that was missing in his ID; maybe addresses or family names that could help. I had asked several people -only the ones I knew I could trust- but so far I hadn't come up with any safe and useful plan.

The current overwhelming situations in my life had caused me to wish for a drink more than once. I remembered how it used to help me relax and forget all my problems. It was tempting, no doubt it was. I had refrained myself so far, for Frank. How long would I resist?


I'd been working at the store for two weeks when my friend Bob Bryar visited me a little before my day was over. I used to work at the same comic shop where Bob still worked. He was three years younger than me, with shortish blond hair and a heavy build. Not fat, just strong; the kind of guy that looked like he could knock you out with no effort. However, his light blue eyes and scant sandy beard gave away a hint of his true nice personality. He wouldn't hurt a fly.

We decided to go for a walk and talk. Bob was yet another person who knew everything that had been happening in my life thanks to Mikey. They had met when Bob and I still worked together and my brother would drop by to kill time.

"You know Gerard, I've been trying to find someone with enough 'contacts' to get the information you need about that boy," he commented chewing on his lip ring.

"And how are you doing so far?" I asked anxiously.

"I got nothing," he shook his head. "but I'm waiting for an ex mate from school to call me. Maybe he was luckier."

"Oh, but Bob...are you sure you can trust this person? You know that the fewer people who know about Frankie the better."

"He's totally trustable, relax! It isn't him who might get the information anyway, but a friend of his," he explained. "None of them will rat you out, don't worry."

"So...a friend of your friend?" I chuckled.

"Actually...the brother of a friend of my friend," he detailed. We both laughed then but, jokes aside, that didn't sound too convenient.

" sure it's safe?"

"Stop worrying, man!" he threw his hands in the air.

"Well, I am worried!"

"Wow Gerard, you've changed, you're all responsible now! I still can't believe you took that boy to your house. Besides the fact that he has mental problems, aren't you too young to be the father of a teen?" he joked.

"Oh, shut the fuck up! I'm not playing father! Maybe you could say I...adopted another little brother." I mentally laughed at my answer. Yeah, sure.

"Hey G-man, what about we go for some beers like in the old times?"

His invitation got me off guard and I gasped. "I uh...I don't drink anymore, Bob," I excused myself.

"Oh, come on! Just a couple of drinks, I'm not telling you to get drunk!" he insisted.

I'd never been into the 'night world' until I met Bob, he'd been who introduced me to it. I had just broken up with my first and only love -who had deeply disappointed me, so anything that could help me forget was welcomed at that point. Then it became a ritual to go drinking at least three days a week. Bob was a good guy and friend, he just loved to party too much. It wasn't even that we'd get wasted together, he never drank as much as I did. I guess I was prone to let my drinking get out of hand.

"'s 4 in the afternoon and as I said, I'm not drinking anymore. You know where alcohol led me, I lost my fucking job because of it!" I made a point.

"Let me tell you that was rather funny," he laughed. I didn't.

"It wasn't funny, it was sad. It's a no, Bob. Sorry." My own will power surprised me. He knew that I was being serious and quit the insistence.


That same will power seemed to betray me once I left Bob and headed home. He had brought back the memories and with them my craving. I was about to walk out of a shop after buying a pack of cookies when an inner force that I couldn't fight guided my steps back in and to the alcohol section. My right hand got hold of a bottle of whiskey.

"Just in case...I will probably throw it away," I said to myself.

I counted my money. My mother had been lending me some to buy food. What's more, I had gotten a tip from a customer that day. It wasn't usual at that place but she had insisted, sliding the money into my back pocket. According to one of my partners, the brunette girl only wanted to touch my ass.

I paid for the things and hid the bottle at the bottom of my bag, under some papers.

Upon entering the house, I found it strange that I wasn't welcomed by Frank's effusiveness. I couldn't even see him at first sight.

"Hey Ray! Where's Frankie?" I questioned, placing my bag over the coffee table.

He pointed with his head to the other side of the room, behind the couch. "He's been pretty quiet all day. He barely spoke, didn't seem to notice me most of time and practically didn't eat. Is he sick or something?" Ray asked worried. Frank was in a corner of the living room, sitting on the floor with his forehead against the wall.

"Uh...not that I know. I think it's because he didn't sleep well these last nights, the lack of rest doesn't help him at all." I neared the self-isolated boy.

"He's been there for about an hour. Every time I tried to make him get up he just screamed and pushed me away," Ray added.

I crouched next to Frankie and saw his lips were moving, but no sound was coming out of them. I got closer to his face to make sure that he saw me first so I wouldn't scare him.

"Frankie?" I called softly. He didn't respond.

I lowered my voice and tried again. "Baby it's me, Gerard..."

He slowly turned to me without detaching himself from the wall. "G-gee?" he whispered. His eyes were still, but he looked completely lost and tired.

"Yes, I'm here. Come with me?" I extended my arms towards him and he clung to my neck. When I tried to get him to stand, though, he wouldn't cooperate. I finally picked him up and carried him to the couch, sitting down with him on my lap.

"How is he?" Ray questioned.

"Not sure," I doubted, analyzing Frank's null expression. " feel ok, kid?"

"Y-yeah. F-fine, yes." He leaned his back on my chest.

"Ray, would you hand me the pack of cookies that's inside my bag? It's on top of it all," I requested.

"Sure, here you are," he complied. I was glad to have hidden my bottled temptation well enough.

I opened the packet and placed it on Frank's legs. "Your favorite, vanilla cookies."

"G-good." He took one hesitatingly and began to nip at it. The time it took him to finish one single cookie was disconcerting, even more if you compared it to how quickly he'd eat the first days. He seemed to cheer up a little after that and continued to eat at a more normal pace. I caressed his hair, watching the cookie crumbs fall on his lap.

"One can see how important you are to him," Ray suddenly noted.

"I know, sometimes that scares me a little bit."

I spent the whole afternoon cuddling with Frankie on the couch. As tired as he was, he never fell completely asleep. He shifted, trembled and whimpered. He looked irritated and extremely deadbeat.

My attempts to make him eat dinner were futile, so I took him to bed and read him a story. Someone should have been there to take a picture of my happy face when after three days, I finally heard him snore gently.

Frank might have been fast asleep, but I had something else in mind that didn't let me go to sleep. I made my way to the kitchen, retrieving a whiskey glass from the cupboard and setting my ass heavily on a chair. My bag was lying on the table, teasingly waiting for me to dig inside. I did so, resting the bottle in front of me, running my fingers along the label.

"Just to help me relax and sleep. Only for tonight," I encouraged myself.

I filled the glass to the middle, drinking the liquid rapidly as if that could help me pretend it hadn't happened. I felt it burn my throat while it made its way down my body. I got light headed. I poured a little more into the glass, making it disappear as soon as before. My eyelids went heavy, I started to feel sleepy.

In a sudden assault of guilt I got up with the bottle in my hand, stumbling. Lucid enough to remember not to make any noise, I steadied my steps and followed the wall to the bedroom, where I stuffed the bottle at the back of the closet. I then proceeded to the bathroom, brushed my teeth, discarded my jeans, and slid into the bed.

Frankie mumbled and opened his eyes. "H-hi."

" gotta sleep," I slurred.

He moved closer, too close. My reflexes weren't at their best. Before I was able to think about the situation, Frank's lips were on mine; timidly as always, but lingering on a little more. Enough for me to kiss him back just as softly, not more than a peck.

I would have been conscious of my possible error right away if I hadn't been a little drunk. I would have regretted it if I hadn't seen Frankie's beautiful smile as soon as our lips separated. He didn't say anything, only smiled. Afterwards he snuggled next to me and closed his eyes again.

It was good that I was lying down, because my head was spinning badly. Sleep came to me swiftly.

Chapter Text

Build my fear of what's out there
and cannot breathe the open air.
Whisper things into my brain
assuring me that I'm insane

A persistent and strident sound reached my ears and pulled me out of my slumber. I instinctively hit the alarm clock with my palm, but that didn't stop the torturing noise. It took me a while to figure out the source of it; it was the doorbell. I glanced at the numbers shining over the nightstand-wanna-be chair: 8:03 AM.

"OH SHIT! OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT..." I screamed over and over again. I had to be quick or I'd be late to work. Even though Sarah had said it was okay as long as I was there before 9, I always tried to arrive as early as possible. She'd been so nice that I felt in doubt.

Suddenly, I realised that I was being too loud. I was supposed to let Frankie sleep as much as he wanted, he needed it after days of hardly doing it.

Afraid of having woken him up, I took a look at the bed. "OH SHIT, MOTHERFUCKER! GERARD, YOU'RE A DAMN IRRESPONSIBLE DRUNK BITCH!" I insulted myself. Frank was not there. I had fucked up again, badly, stupidly. I knew alcohol made me sleep a lot.

"GERARD! WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOU?!" another voice -that wasn't mine- was bitching at me too, accompanied by urgent knocks on the door.

"Oh damn, Ray!" I finally reacted, running there.

I unlocked the door and left to go search for Frank without even waiting for Ray to get in.

"Gerard! What...?"

"Sorry Ray! I overslept and now I have no idea where Frankie is!" I explained from the distance.

"Calm down Gerard, this house's not that big, he can't have gone too far!" he caught up with me.

"It's not about where he might be, the problem is what he could be doing right now," I told him while checking the kitchen. When I opened the fridge, I gained a weird look from my friend. "He's always trying to get into...what if he managed to?"

"He wouldn't fit..."

"Uh yeah, you're right."

It was then that we perceived a familiar sound and stopped to listen better. "Isn't that..."

"...splashes! The bathroom!" I completed Ray's phrase.

The door was only semi closed, so he didn't hear us enter. The big, white bathtub was filled almost to the top. I guessed the water was cold, since there was no steam. Frankie was standing in the middle, stirring the water with his hands and dancing to the rhythm of whichever music was playing inside of his head -something that happened often. He hadn't taken off his boxers or the long t-shirt he slept in. Just when I was about to get nearer, he slid and lost his balance.

"Frankie!" I shouted, watching him fall but unable to move. I saw Ray rush to him, too late to stop him from falling on his ass inside the water, but fast enough to intercept his head before it hit the hard border. Water jumped in all directions, getting both Ray and me wet in the process. Good that it was summer.

"Oh God, Frankie! What are you doing here alone? Why didn't you wake me up?" I hugged him as I took him out of the bathtub.

"I...I w-wanted to come s-swim the l-lake," he said, attempting to get back in.

"That's not a lake, it's just the bathtub."

"N-no it's not," he replied.

"You filled it with water yourself, don't you remember? You don't fill a lake..." Ray helped me.

"N-no you don't!" Frank giggled. "I d-didn't fill the l-lake, w-was like this when I c-came."

"Ok, then. Ray...would you take care of him and help him get dry and dressed? I need to get ready to leave, now," I pleaded.

"Sure. Come on, Frankie," Ray guided the boy outside of the bathroom with a towel over his shoulders.

While I walked behind them, I couldn't help but stare at Frank's small but well shaped ass, the wet t-shirt making it stick out. This caused me to shake my head and slap myself mentally as I headed for my room. How could I be having those kind of thoughts after what had just happened? Frankie could have hit his head and died! had I been so weak? Why the fuck had I drank when I knew so well that it was a bad idea?

All of a sudden, the memories of what had occurred before I felt asleep came back to me. "Oh damn, I kissed him. I fucking kissed the boy!"

Although it hadn't been anything big, it could still confuse Frank; all because of the damn whiskey. It's not that I wouldn't have wanted to do it otherwise, the temptation had been always present. However, I'd have been more...rational if sober.

After getting dressed as fast as I could, I got the bottle out of the closet and quickly threw it into my bag when Ray and Frank entered the room. Lost in my thoughts as I was, I didn't even look at them when I passed them by on my way to the bathroom. The wet floor was an extra obstacle in my race against time, forcing me to watch my steps to avoid an obviously unwanted fall while performing my usual speedy routine.

No matter my efforts, the mocking clock in the kitchen let me know there was no time for breakfast; a glass of orange juice on the spot would have to do. Finally, I searched for the problematic bottle and, without giving myself the change to think twice, emptied it into the sink.

"What are you doing? What's that smell?" Ray startled me.

"N-nothing I...I was washing my hands and don't smell anything...what do you mean?" I dissimulated, tossing the evidence behind my back into the trashcan. Ray frowned and pushed me out of the way to look inside said plastic container.

"This nothing?" he pointed at the object I'd just discarded. I had been caught, I was in big trouble. What if Ray told my family? What would happen with Frankie?

" was only once, last night. I didn't drink much and today I regretted it, really. It just went down the drain! I threw it away!" I apologized desperately. "I'm sorry, Ray."

"You don't have to tell me you're sorry. You need to convince yourself of that. You need to ask yourself if you can quit this shit without help."

"I can! I'll never ruin it again, I swear!" I cried out.

"Don't swear. Just...try to be stronger, you're not alone now, remember? You assumed a huge responsibility with Frank. Are you really prepared?"

"Yes. Yes, I am prepared. I can do this. I know I can, Ray. Please, don't tell my family about...this..."

"I won't this time," he sighed, hugging me. "But please, ask for help if you think you can't make it."

"I will, I promise. Now I better leave, it's almost 9! Where's Frankie, by the way?" I questioned.

"He had in the bathroom. You don't expect me to stay inside with him, do you?" he smiled.

"No," I laughed nervously. "you do enough! Bye, Ray!"

"Bye Gee, have a good day!"


All the way to the store I encouraged myself, repeating some words like a command: "Gerard, you must do it. For you and for Frank you must do it."

It wouldn't be easy though, now that I had tasted alcohol again. I'd been too naive to think I could leave it behind so easily. Sure, I hadn't been a drinker for so long, and the occasions in which I drank for several days in a row hadn't been many. Nonetheless it was evident that alcohol attracted me too much. Those last three weeks I'd been so busy that I hadn't had time to think about drinking. Yet, the desire was bound to come back sooner or later. I had already surrendered to it once, I knew it was possible for it to happen again. I'd have to try and be stronger next time.


Frankie had been sulky all day. Ray told me he had screamed at him a lot and argued about everything. He greeted me normally this time when I arrived home, though; and things went alright until I tried to simply converse with him. Nothing I said, answered or commented seemed to be right from his point of view that day. Every word coming out of my mouth would make him angry, so I chose not to speak unless it was strictly necessary.

Luckily -and surprisingly- he ate most of his dinner in spite of all. I didn't think eating mashed potatoes with his fingers was the best idea, but I let him do as he pleased.

"Frankie wash your hands and face, you're all covered in food," I told him whilst cleaning the table.

"D-don't want to, F-FUCK YOU!" He stabbed the tablecloth with the fork he hadn't bothered using for what it really was.

I took the fork out of his hands. "Please, can't touch things with your hands like that, go and wash them?"  

He gave me a hateful look and it hurt. It hurt so much when he'd act like that. I knew he didn't intend to. I was sure that he didn't hate me and was just confused, lacking control of his actions; but that didn't make it any better. I missed the sweet Frankie.

"I...I D-DON'T FUCKING W-WANT TO! S-STOP! AND...AND YOU S-STOP TOO...AND...AND ALL OF Y-YOU. F-FUCK! TH-THE ELEPHANTS W-WILL CRUSH YOU ALL!" he shouted as loud as his lungs allowed, crashing his forehead on the table in front of him. The sound it made stunned me, yet he seemed to be fine. He got up, kicking the chair.

I took him by both arms and forced him to the sink.


"Frankie, please stop. I don't want to do anything bad to you, I'm just gonna get you clean. You don't need to say these things, you know how I care about you." I tried to calm him down.

Frank didn't answer and instead used his energy to fight me. I put his hands under the faucet, holding them tightly. It was pointless to even try to use soap, he was applying a strong resistance. I also got a bite on my hand when I tried to clean his face. He was impossible. I released him and he walked out of the kitchen looking furious, incensed.

"Where are you going?" I asked him.

"T-to do stuff."


"L-leave me al-alone! C-come on P-puppy, he d-doesn't want us.," he called his dog and went into the bedroom.

"Frankie...I still have things to do. Why don't you go watch TV or any other thing in a place where I can see you? I do want you both near me." I followed him.

"D-do not w-want. G-GO AWAY!" he yelled again. Something was seriously wrong. He had been in a bad mood before, but never like this. There was something abnormal in the way he moved, in his eyes.

"Come on, kid, listen...I can leave whatever needs to be done for tomorrow. Instead we go to the couch and I'll read you and Puppy a story. What do you say?" I offered. When I tried to hug him he pushed me away really hard, sending me against the semi opened bedroom door which got shut under my weight.

I looked at him in disbelief, a sharp pain in my back. He seemed worried for an instant and I thought he had took conscience of what he did. But then he threw his hair back in an annoyed manner, his features hardening. He walked to the bed and began to pull at the quilting, sheets and pillows getting them off the mattress and sending them flying across the room, aiming for the spot where I was stood.

"D-DON'T WANT YOU TO R-READ ME AN-ANYTHING! I...I D-DON'T WANT ANY-THING. D-DON'T! N-NO! SH-SHUT UP EV-EVERYBODY AND L-LEAVE ME ALONE. S-SILENCE!" Frankie exploded. His face was red with anger, his voice was harsh and his eyes moved quicker than I had ever seen them do it. He was shaking from head to toes and I didn't know how he was still on his feet.

I was afraid, Frankie was truly frightening me for the first time. He looked possessed.

"Ok, ok! Then come here and we'll stay in silence, just resting, no sound." I walked towards the despoiled mattress.

"B-back off," he uttered through his teeth, shoving me once again and making me land on the floor.

Ignoring the pain traveling from my ass to my neck, I got up and tried to hold him from behind, wrapping my arms around his and locking them on his chest.

"Arggg F-FUCKER!" he moved forward dragging me with him. His strength was amazing, unbelievable for such a small boy. Struggling, he managed to get his right arm free, and I saw him grab the glass lamp from the chair. An easy tug was enough to unplug it. Raising it over his head, he twisted within my grip. The dolorous realization landed on me heavy as an anvil: Frank was trying to hit me with the lamp. My sweet angel wanted to hurt me.

I let go of his body and grasped the hand that was holding the improvised weapon. In that moment I didn't think of me, I couldn't think of me. Besides the sadness that seeing the violent side of Frank caused me, I wasn't afraid of being physically hurt by him. I was more afraid of him getting in trouble for hurting me. I couldn't stand the idea of Frankie being taken away and locked in a shitty place, ever.

I almost didn't recognize his face when I observed him, muscles contracted by rage and madness. His long hair was plastered to his skin, soaked in perspiration. His knuckles were white from the high amount of pressure he was employing to prevent me from snatching the dangerous object from him. In a desperate move, I tightened my fingers around his waist.

"Y-you're hurting m-me," he whimpered, nearly making me loosen up. "AS-ASSHOLE, L-LEMME... N-NOW! G-GONNA KILL YOU!"

My heart ached upon hearing that and I squeezed with more force. With a whimper his hand opened, but he hit me with his other elbow and the lamp fell to the floor; millions of tiny pieces of glass scattering all over. Frankie covered his ears, emitting a high pitched yowl that froze my blood.

"It's ok...we're ok, calm down..." I whispered, cautiously approaching him.

"N-no. Nononononononoo. Th-they're here. Th-they w-won't shut up. H-he won't sh-shut up. Y-you...shut up, t-too. And...and an-animals...l-lots and...and w-walls and th-things and... n-no," he babbled and collapsed to the floor on his knees.

"Frankie, you're gonna get cut, the floor is covered in glass! Get up!" I tried to pick him up, but he didn't comply.

"N-NO! D-DON'T TOUCH M-ME. N-NO. I...I D-DUNNO. D-dunno..." he repeated the last word over and over, proceeding to crawl along the glass path.

Once again I attempted to remove him from there and he sent me on my butt for the second time. I could sense the glass fragments penetrating my palms and stinging me through my jeans.

Frank started to cry. First softly, then a little harder, in the end screaming like in agony, choking with his sobs. He was pacing rapidly around the room on his knees and hands, leaving blood trails on his way.

"Frankie please get up, you're hurt...please, please kid, stop this...I'm scared..." I began to cry too. Every time I'd get closer he screamed even louder and hit me or kicked me.

He reached a wall and sat up. Resting his palms against it he let them slide down, smearing his blood on it.

I was crying harder and harder, terrified, not knowing what to do. I tried to calm down while Frank seemed hypnotized staring at the red marks. I left the room before he could react, ran to the front door and left it unlocked. After that I returned to the battlefield, unable to stop the waterfall of tears bathing my cheeks. Frankie was now banging his head against that same wall, murmuring 'stop' and sniffing.

I came near him slowly, grabbing his shoulders. "Fran..."

"N-NO! I'M B-BREAKING IT, S-STOP...B-BACK OFF!" he jumped and shoved me, my middle back hitting the wood of the bed this time.

"Oh, fuck..." I winced but got on my feet, going for my cellphone. While making the call, I stood in the way between Frank and the walls to keep him from breaking his head. He was a mass of nerves and I guessed his legs couldn't support him in this state, that's why he was crawling.

"Hello?" came the voice from the other side of the line.

"R-ray please h-help me, he..."

"Gerard, are you crying? What's wrong?" he asked alarmed.

"It''s Frank. He...he's out of control...he's like...violent and I don't know how to stop him and...and he's hurt and there's glass and blood and...I'm fucking scared Ray, p-please..." It was hard to speak clear when I could barely breath. Frank was furiously punching my legs and shouting to get me off the wall.

"Oh fuck, Gee...I can hear him. I'm going right now."

"Y-yes please but...but could you go to a pharmacy and buy some kind of...sedative?"

"What? But..."

"Just...just any normal ones, whatever you can get them to sell you without prescription. I know m-my mom used to t-take them in a time. I...I...I'll just give him a bigger dose...please... F-FUCK!"


"H-he just...bit my leg. Please, hurry. The d-door's open," I stammered.

"Ok. Leaving!"

The next minutes felt like hours. I couldn't stop crying while Frankie carried on attacking me to reach the walls. When he gave up on that, he stopped dead and stared at the floor.

"Oh no, please..." I whispered. Not minding the glass, I launched myself on him and held him close. I let him fight, bitch, cry, scream, bite and kick. I concentrated on the only important task and endured it all, never letting him go until the door opened and I heard Ray gasp.

"Oh my God, what the hell happened here?" he exclaimed.


"Uhm...maybe we should call an exorcist?" Ray tended to make jokes when he was nervous, just when no one was in the mood to laugh. I cursed him without words. "Ok, sorry. I'm just...shocked.'re both hurt! What...? God..." he rambled.

"Ray p-please! I won't be able to hold him for m-much longer, could you buy something?" I inquired, avoiding Frank's nails that were reaching up for my face.

"Yes, the girl at the pharmacy couldn't resist my charm!" he joked again. "My aunt used to take these when he was hysterical 'cause my uncle left her. She was ok with one...but it's not like she'd get possessed..."

"Uh...get...two prepared. No, make it two and a half," I told him.


Ray disappeared and came back a minute later with the pills and a glass of water. Placing the water on the chair he scratched his head, thinking. "He's not gonna take them willingly...I guess."

"I know...can you hold him? My arms are already too tired, I'll open his mouth."

"Let's see..." Ray took Frank from my arms, and the boy started kicking and screaming with even more strength. I couldn't understand how he could still have so much energy.

My friend threw Frankie on the bed, pinning him down with his whole body. "Hurry up!" he called.

Keeping the pills in a fist, I tried to open Frank's mouth with my other hand, cursing at his bites.


"Frankie, you have to take them. These are not your pills, it's just for you to be able to calm down and sleep. Open your mouth?" I pleaded nicely.

"N-NO!" he contorted his body, desperate to escape from below Ray.

"Press his jaw, just when the teeth start." Ray gave me instructions as he kept Frank's hands in place.

I grabbed Frank's jaw with my thumb and index, searching until I found the exact spots. I didn't want to cause him any pain, but I had to do this. I pressed on both sides at the same time, having the pills ready at close distance. His mouth eventually yielded and opened a little. I quickly shoved the pills down his throat and held his face up. He coughed and couldn't help swallowing.

Then I grabbed the glass of water and, raising his head just a bit, pressed it to his lips. "Drink, come on."

"N-no, fuck you!"

"I think he swallowed them anyway," Ray commented.


As we waited for the pills to kick in, Frankie wouldn't stop cursing, squirming and crying. After some time I cautiously lied on the bed beside them. Ray was still squashing Frankie, but as minutes passed by the struggle eased.

"I think you can set him free now," I told Ray.

He got off the boy, sitting up.

Frankie was breathing heavily and his eyes were fixed on the ceiling. When he became aware that he could move, he shifted his position and got closer to me, hugging my torso. He was shaking and his heart beat so violently that I feared it was gonna break out of his chest. There was blood all over the mattress, there was blood all over my white t-shirt and Ray's green one. The whole room was a mess of glass and blood.

I caressed the poor boy's hair, feeling his heartbeats slowly go back to normal. He looked up to me with his beautiful, big crossed eyes. They were glassy and reddened. His face was also stained with blood and his forehead was swollen. Even so, he was the prettiest boy I had ever seen. I couldn't believe the sweet Frankie who was staring at me now was the same one who had tried to hurt me minutes ago.

"M-my hands h-hurt," he told me, almost voiceless.

"I know, baby," I hushed him. "Ray...would you look for the first aid kit? It's over the bathroom's cabinet."

"Sure, but why over and not inside of it?" he questioned.

"Because that way...a certain short boy can't reach it," I explained.

"Oh ok, you're right!"

Ray returned with the kit in one hand and a bowl of water in the other, a little towel hanging from his arm."I think we should wash his hands first, so we can see how hurt they are and if there are pieces of glass."

"Yeah, good idea..." I made Frankie sit down, supporting him with my own body. Tiredness, plus the effect of the sedatives, had helped him relax and he was rather feeble.

"N-no...hurts..." he mumbled.

"It's just water, don't be afraid," Ray reassured him.

"K-kay. Wh-why my h-hands hurt?" he asked as I carefully got them into the bowl, washing the blood away. He hissed and tried to free them.

"Shhh...I need to clean them, it'll be done in a moment. You don't remember what happened?"

"N-no I...I r-remember I came h-here with Puppy and he w-was talking to me and b-bothering me and...I...I d-don't know..." He spoke slower than usual. It was as if it wasn't him who had gone wild earlier. He truly seemed not to remember anything, I could read the confusion on his face. Maybe his mind had momentarily gone on overload, his system had failed and that wasn't registered in his memory.

"Well, you were holding the lamp, it fell and broke, and you insisted on playing on the floor the same," I gave him a simpler version of what had happened. It was better for him not to know. In the meantime, I wrapped his hands in the towel, trying not to cause him much pain. Fresh blood tinted it.

"Oh...I...I l-liked that lamp!" he grieved.

"Don't worry, we'll buy a new lamp, prettier than that one."

"K-kay," he nodded groggily.

"Ray, could you check one hand and see if there are particles of glass? Here you have some tweezers to extract them. I'll check the other." I requested handing him the elements.

It wasn't easy to distinguish the shards, since the multiple cuts kept on bleeding. They weren't too deep, but there were a lot. Frank's whole palms and part of his fingers were covered in little scrapes and cuts. I drenched a ball of cotton in peroxide and pressed it to his skin to help things a little. I was thankful that that I could see pretty well.

After almost twenty minutes, both Ray and I were sure there was no glass left in Frank's hands, so I disinfected them well and got the iodine from the kit. Frankie whimpered, scared.

"It doesn't hurt, I promise. See?" I applied the substance. All those wounds were gonna hurt pretty bad when dry, though.

"T-true," he admitted, a lot braver than me for those things.

Lastly I bandaged his hands, considering it necessary at least for the night; specially because they were still slightly bleeding.

By the time we finished, Frankie was falling asleep. I laid him on the bed so he'd be more comfortable, we had yet to check his legs. Again, Ray and I took care of one each. Luckily, the jeans Frank was wearing were thick and only a few pieces had broken through it and into the skin of his knees. We got them out and then took off his pants. The damage was minimum there, so I only applied some peroxide. He didn't notice anything.

Ray then obliged me to show him my hands. They were no way as bad as Frankie's and it was enough with some band-aids, though he did have to get some glass out of my ass.

Only when we were done and I lied down I took conscience of the pain coursing through my whole body.

Ray eyed me worried. "Gee, are you okay?"

"Yeah...its just that...everything hurts. I...fell and hit my ass and my back."

"More like he pushed you..."

"He didn't know what he was doing! You heard him, he doesn't even remember." I sighed loudly.

"Gerard...this time he went too far. I know it wasn't his intention, but you must admit that he got pretty violent. Maybe it's too dangerous to have him..."

"No it's not!" I cut him off. "He just needs to see a doctor and take his meds, then he'll be ok. If you're afraid and don't wanna watch him anymore, fine. I'll find another person." I regretted my words when I saw the hurt on Ray's face.

"Its not that! I promised you I would help you and I won't fail you. I'm just worried, this is getting harder than you had thought."

"I know Ray, sorry. I'm just...tired and sore. Things will get better, I know they will. Oh, fuck!" I flinched at a new wave of pain. "Good that I have the day off tomorrow..."

"Talking about that, I'm too tired myself now; I'll stay here for the night so I can help you clean all this tomorrow." He patted my arm. "Sleep."

"Thanks Ray, for everything. You rock man! Goodnight."

I brushed some locks of sweat-wet hair out of Frank's face, watching him sleep peacefully. I needed to do something for him, for us. What happened that night had scared me shitless, more than I had admitted to Ray afterwards. But not even seeing Frank's violent side had made me change my mind or love him any less. I had to help him, two more weeks was too long of a wait. Something needed to be done sooner.

I closed my eyes, an idea roaming my head. 

Chapter Text

So never mind the darkness,
we still can find a way.
'Cause nothing lasts forever,
even cold November rain.

The following day Ray and I didn't dare wake Frank up. We thought it'd be better to wait until he did by himself and only then try to fix the chaos that reigned in the bedroom after his violent tantrum.

When it was more than 1 PM and the boy hadn't shown any signs of leaving dreamland, we decided to get to work with no more delay. We started by cleaning the walls. The hand-shaped blood prints that adorned them could have been an interesting style of art if I wasn't rather creeped out by it. They were fairly easy to wipe off though, since the paint was washable. The floor, on the contrary, was the hardest part. We carefully swept all the glass fragments into a pile and then scooped them up with the help of a dustpan, placing them over some extended newspapers. It was amazing how a simple small lamp could break into so many peaces and cover the whole floor.

By the time we had wrapped the glass to be safely thrown into the trashcan, the pain in my body struck back. I tried my best not to let Ray notice. I didn't want to hear him go over about the dangers of having a kid like Frank at home and how he could have hurt me even worse. I knew he was right. From the start I'd imagined it wouldn't be easy and now I knew just how bad it could get. Yet instead of changing my mind because of that, I was more determined to help Frank than ever.

I checked up on him. He was still sound asleep in spite of the daylight illuminating the room and the noise Ray and I had been making. Was it normal for him to sleep that much? I didn't think the sedatives were too strong, specially not for someone with his problem who surely took much stronger pills. It was probably the large amount of energy he spent that had left him so tired. He'd been too tense, too angry, too out of his mind. The strength he had displayed seemed unexplainable, it was frightening.

Ray contemplated the red smudged floor. "It won't be easy to get rid of the blood, it's already dry." 

"Let me go for some cleansing stuff. Not that they're exactly made to get rid of blood, but I guess it'll work better than just water," I said.

I brought the needed elements but it still wasn't working too well with the mop, so we got on our knees and began to rub the ceramic surface. A wave of pain hit me and I frowned, straightening up.

"Are you ok, Gerard?" Ray asked.

"Yeah I'm fine, just a little sore, told you."

"Sure? I can do this by myself..." he offered.

"No way Ray, you shouldn't be even helping me. Frank and whatever he does is my responsibility," I insisted.

He opened his mouth to say something, but reconsidered when I went back to my task; he knew how stubborn I could be. Soon, the pain in my back was unbearable and I stopped once again.

Ray rolled his eyes at me. "Go sit there and stay quiet, for God's sake. I'll finish this."

"But Ray..."

"No 'buts." He signaled towards the bed with his index finger.

"Ok..." I lied down slowly, not wanting to disturb Frankie.

More than an hour later, Ray left and Frank was still sleeping. I was worried, I was really worried. Should I try to wake him up? Should I call a doctor?

I got closer to him. He was breathing normally and his features denoted peace. Nothing appeared to be wrong with him. The idea of waking him up when he was having the most pacific sleep since I met him sounded like a crime, so I resolved to wait a little longer.

In the meantime, I needed something to do or I'd go crazing worrying over Frankie. I thought back to an idea I'd had the night before when all the chaos was over. I got up with difficulty, growling as my beaten bones complained. Bringing a chair from the kitchen, I stood on it to reach the top of the closet.

I wondered why lifting my arms also hurt so much. "Oh, right...I held Frankie while he was fighting like a beast for more than fifteen minutes until Ray came," I answered myself.

Ignoring the discomfort, I took a big box from the last shelf, sitting at the edge of the bed with it. I rummaged through the items inside of it, mostly things from when I was younger. I had wanted to have some memories with me for those days when I'd get nostalgic. Toys, plushes, children books and even some notebooks from my first years of school; only a few, since the rest was still at my old house. Reaching the bottom of the blue box, I pulled out a rectangular, black and gold wooden case. I opened it. Inserted on the velvety red material that covered the interior, rested an old watch. Steel, with some parts made of gold. Apart from those details it wasn't too sophisticated, but it'd been in my family for several generations. It was one of those traditions where the father was told to pass it to his oldest son -or daughter if there were no sons- on their 18th birthday. That's what my father had done, though I had never known what to do with it. It still worked, but it was so old fashioned and ugly that I could never used it. Besides, antiqueness made it valuable, so it wasn't safe to show it around and my dad would kill me if I lost it or even sold it. But, what if it was just a temporary thing? What if I...pawned it?

Yes, I'd do that, he didn't have to know. As long as Mikey didn't find out I had nothing to fear. I needed money immediately, Frank had to see a doctor. His episode had scared me and not just because he'd gotten violent against me. It also worried me that being so messed up and nervous most of time could affect his health in other ways. At one point during the agitated previous night, I had feared that he would have a heart attack.

Fuck family traditions, I needed the money. I'd think about how to rescue the watch later on. For the moment I shoved it into my bag and got everything back in the box, repeating the painful process of the chair.

I was planning my future actions when I heard a faint cry behind my back. I turned and saw that Frankie was finally awake and sitting, looking at his bandaged hands where blood had made its way through the white material. He tried flexing his fingers and whimpered even more.

"Hey, I was missing you already. How are you feeling?" I asked in a low voice, though judging by his face the answer was clear.

"N-not good. h-hands hurt a l-lot. All m-my body h-hurts. H-head also hurts, and m-my throat. I...I d-don't feel g-good, no," he rasped, tears escaping his eyes.

I sat over the pillow behind him and held him by the waist. He leaned on me and I hid my nose in his hair, kissing it briefly.

"I know what can make you feel better, a bath," I proposed. He'd sweated a lot and didn't smell exactly good, but was too worn out to stand in the shower.

"B-but my hands h-hurt! H-how will I d-do to wash m-myself?" he questioned. I hadn't thought of that. Frankie seemed strangely coherent so far.

"'re right. Let's do something: if you promise to stay right here I'll fill the bathtub and then I'll help you, ok?" I needed to think about him before anything else, even if I knew my offer could bring some problems.

"R-really? K-kay. I...I'll s-stay here, p-promise," he sniffed, this time smiling weakly.

Once it was all prepared, I assisted Frankie to the bathroom. His legs were shaky and didn't respond too well, so he accepted my support and walked slowly, keeping his head low. I had set the water to a tepid temperature, the day was too hot to have it any warmer.


"I know. Let me help you with this." I tugged at his t-shirt. He raised his arms and I got it off, that leaving him in only his worn off, white with green dots boxers.

I knew I shouldn't stare, I didn't want to stare but my eyes disobeyed and went directly to his underpants. They were sweet and sexy at the same time, just like Frankie. I looked at his face instead, meeting a timid smile.

"Can you take these off yourself?" I asked. He didn't hear me, just kept on staring at me zombie-like. "Frankie? Your boxers, can you take them off?" I repeated.

He brought his hands to the waistband and lowered them a little. "C-can't! M-my hands...h-hurt," he yelped.

Right at that moment, I thought I saw something inside his pants that wasn't so noticeable seconds ago. Shrugging it off I stood behind him, pulling the boxers down all the way to his legs where he kicked them off. I did that with my eyes closed, not wanting to find myself checking Frank's ass like a perv. When I opened them, though, Frank had turned to me completely naked and it didn't seem to make him shy. Maybe he just wasn't aware that there could be something wrong or weird about it, same as he couldn't recognize danger.

"I...I g-get in there, th-then?" he asked childishly. Betrayed by my man instincts, my eyes fell bellow his belly, confirming that I hadn't been wrong before. I quickly looked away, back to Frank's face. He evidently wasn't registering this happening in his own body, which made me feel worse. "G-gee! C-can I?"

Deep inside I knew it was normal for me to feel tempted to watch Frank. I was an adult man and he wasn't a kid -even though he sometimes acted like one. What's more, he was absolutely beautiful. Nevertheless, seeing him so innocent and unaware took me to blame myself for being so weak.

"Oh, wait..." I added a little more of cold water. "Now you can."

All the time while I was bathing him he looked me right in the eyes, at least as much as his unfixed ones allowed. It wasn't until I was washing his hair, massaging it slowly, that he closed his eyes and smiled relieved, comfy. Of course, I wasn't going to wash his private parts, and he said he couldn't do it, so I told him it was okay to skip that for the day.

"G-gee?" he spoke after a while.


"I...I dreamed s-something. I th-think I dreamed it, n-not sure."

"What was it, Frankie?" I made him throw his head back to rinse his hair.

"I h-had the lamp in my h-hand. Th-the one that b-broke? And...and I w-wanted to hit you!" he recalled confused. I swallowed. Had he actually dreamed of it? Had he suddenly remembered? "Th-that's how it h-happened, Gee?"

I didn't want to lie to him anymore. "Well...yes. But you hadn't been feeling well yesterday, it wasn't your fault. I know you didn't mean it and you didn't hit me anyway, so don't worry."

Tears joined the water that decorated his soft skin. "N-no...that's wrong. Wr-wrong. Wh-why I did th-that? I...I w-would never n-never hurt you G-gee, really!"

"I know, Frankie, you..."

"I...I d-don't remember, b-but he...he maybe t-told me to d-do it. Y-yes. 'C-cause sometimes...he t-tells me that n-nobody likes me and...and y-you don't like m-me either," he sniffed loudly. "Y-you do like m-me...right, G-gerard?"

When I heard him say that I couldn't stop my tears. All the same I was glad that he realised what he had tried to do was wrong. Even if he didn't remember what he was thinking at that moment, only images as flashbacks. Even if he would probably do it again because he had no control over that. At least he knew that what had happened was bad and something he'd never do consciously. That was enough for me.

"Of course I like you! Please, don't think so much about it, I know you're a good kid." I kissed his bruised forehead softly.

He lifted his wounded hand -I'd removed the bandages once wet- and touched my lips, feeling them like a blind person would. Then he clung to my neck to bring me nearer, closed his eyes and went right for my mouth; a kiss a little more powerful and needy than the previous ones. I stayed quiet, but didn't push him away. I felt him retreat and saw a regretful expression on his face; he was unsure of whether he had acted right or wrong.

I couldn't help what I did next: I held his face and kissed him back, very delicately as if I was afraid of breaking him when really, I think it was his mind what I didn't want to damage any further. I had doubts about every thing I did, and my fear had duplicated after the night before. But I loved Frankie.

His smile was so wide that it seemed to reach his ears. "Y-you're my b-boyfriend now?" he asked.

I wanted to say 'yes', I wanted to see that smile grow even bigger; hold him and kiss him again, longer and more passionately. But...there were priorities. I couldn't risk fucking things up, it was too soon. Frank's mental health was first, I needed to wait until he was medicated. And that wasn't all. If I told him we were boyfriends he would want to tell everybody. That couldn't happen.

"No, we can't be boyfriends yet. For now we are...friends that need each other too much and like to cuddle and kiss to demonstrate it. But this is a secret between us, ok?" I replied. My answer might have been silly, but I was looking for words that Frankie could understand. Something that wasn't a lie and didn't sound like a cruel 'no'.

He nodded happily and kissed my cheek. "I l-like having a s-secret with you!" he cheered.

How could this boy get so violent? While I wrapped him in a big towel, I hoped I'd never have to see him like that again.

Afterwards, I applied a creamy ointment over his cuts before bandaging his hands again; that would keep them moist so it'd hurt less. Lastly, I offered him an aspirin and a glass of water.

"N-no..." he covered his mouth with a hand.

"It's just an aspirin, for your headache and body pain..." I tried again.

"I s-said NO! N-no pills. Th-they're eww."

I didn't think it prudent to insist. "You like honey, don't you?"

"Y-yeah!" he responded.

I ground the white pill with the bottom of a glass, mixed it with honey in a deep spoon and handed it to Frankie who had been observing me curious. "Try this."

"K-kay..." he first tasted it with the tip of his tongue and shuddered. I thought that he wasn't going to accept it, but then he licked the spoon once and again until it was clean. "B-better, but s-still kinda ewww."

Frank was quiet for a couple of hours until he gradually went back to his usual self; the one who talked a lot, jumped around and played with Puppy indefatigably. He'd complain about his hands once in a while, but then something would distract him enough to make him forget. On the negative side, going back to normal also meant drawing away from reality. It wouldn't be so bad if he was always happy in his imaginary world. Sadly, it wasn't the case.


The phone rang while Frankie was taking a nap. I practically jumped on it when I saw it was Bob's number, desperate to finally hear some good news.

"Bob! Did the brother of the friend of your friend or whatever find out something?" I didn't bother to breathe in between words.

"Calm down, man!"

"Just tell me!"

"Sorry, no. This guy works for the police, so he tried to sneak into the office. The problem was that someone caught him and he had to make up excuses to save his ass. It wouldn't be too smart of him to try again..." he said. It wasn't my lucky week.

"Oh, no, I understand."

"Don't get your hopes down yet, though! A friend of his who now works in another city is gonna give it a try. He'll give me a call this week and let me know if he succeeded," he continued. More friends of the friend of a friend? This was going too far...

"Bob, I told you I didn't want more people involved!"

"And I told you that none of them will give you problems!" he asserted. I wasn't so sure, but I was too tired and sore to argue.

"Thanks anyway, call me if you know something else, ok?"

"Ok! Bye, Gerard!"


I felt suffocated, overwhelmed, lost. I needed something to go right for once. I wanted to be able to relax with a sense of security. I also needed some fresh air, to escape those walls for a while and allow my brain to oxygenate. Frankie acted very eager to go out when I mentioned it, though there weren't many possibilities I could think of. We weren't in the best condition for long walks and I wanted to avoid noisy places.

I finally came up with an option that could cover more than one of my needs: we'd walk a few blocks to a near Pawn Shop, taking it easy, maybe having a soda on our way. There was no rush to get there, although I did have the urge to pawn the watch that same day. The more I waited, the more I'd doubt

"Now please stay quiet and don't get too far away from me," I told Frankie as soon as we entered the Pawn Shop. While I retrieved the watch from my bag, I saw him shuffle towards the desk.

"H-hi!" he greeted the owner. Frank was always incredibly sociable unless there were too many people. That scared him.

"Hi, there!" the man attempted to shake his hand, but stopped when seeing the bandages. "Hey, what happened to your hands?"

I paid attention to Frank's answer. "I c-cut, with g-glass. A...a l-lamp broke. If...if the gn-gnomes tell you th-they threw it to the f-floor, don't b-believe them. Th-that's not true. N-no. Th-they're too small, c-can't move it! I...I d-did, but w-wasn't on pur-pose. P-promise." He sounded so sadly adorable.

The guy looked at me smiling kindly, his eyes showing compassion. "What did he do to cut both his hands?"

"Mess," I responded. "this little buddy makes some big messes sometimes!"

"Oh, I have I small kid, so I kind of know about it!"

After that, the shop's owner examined the watch thoroughly and made me an offer that was fairly higher than I'd expected. It crossed my mind that Frankie might have worked his magic again; I was almost convinced that he put a spell on everyone who could leave their prejudices aside. Whatever the reason, all that mattered was that I would have the money.

The man took my silence as vacillation. "Don't worry, I'll take good care of it until you can come get it back. I understand how hard it can be to make these kind of decisions. Family tradition, isn't it?"

"Yeah, but I need the money!"


That night, I talked Frankie into taking another aspirin with honey to ease his general soreness. I was tempted to give him a sedative, but I didn't want to medicate him on my own account if it wasn't strictly necessary.

After I read him a fairy tale and heard him ramble incoherently for a whole hour, he finally dozed off. I tiptoed out of the bedroom and painfully plopped down on the couch phone in hand. The next step of my plan was to call my mother.

"Mom, are you busy?"

"I'm free right now but gotta go back to work in a few minutes. Is there something wrong, son?"

"No...I'm calling you because my boss was able to pay me in advance," I lied.

"Really?" she sounded incredulous.

"Yeah, Sarah knows about my situation -though she thinks Frankie's my brother, of course. So...she got some money and wanted to help me."

"Well, I guess you earned it."

"Guess so. And well, Frankie has been doing worse lately, I don't want to wait any longer to take him to a doctor."

"I know..."

"The thing is...I need to find a good specialist who can be entrusted with the truth. This person will need to know everything we can tell about Frank to be able to help him. I can't introduce myself as his relative and then say I know little to nothing about him. How would I explain that? And I'll have to give them Frank's complete name! I can pay, but I need someone who'll be discreet and won't tell anybody that I have Frank. Oh my God..."

"Calm down, Gerard! Breathe! If you shut up for a while I'll be able to think, ok?" mom interrupted my desperate monologue. She took like an hour to think, or maybe it was just a couple of minutes that felt like an hour to me.

"There isn't any psychiatrist in the hospital I work at. As you know, it's a small one. But I have many good friends here, and some work or have worked in other places. I'm sure someone will be able to help us, I'll ask them."

"Can you?"

"Of course, son."

"But please do it soon! And...don't tell your friends everything because..."

"Gerard, stop it! I'll go ask them right now. And don't worry, I won't give them any details. I'll only tell them that I need a doctor who can keep his mouth shut. It's that enough for you?"


"Relax, we'll find someone! You have the money, it's not that we'll be asking for free favors!" she raised her voice on the phone, making me flinch.

"You're right, sorry. I'm just very worried about Frankie, I want to help him."

"Something else happened that you're not telling me?" she suspected. I couldn't tell her.

"No...well, last night he was too nervous and hurt himself a little. He's fine. I scares me, I want him better," I gave her the mild version.

"Oh God, poor kid. Don't worry, I'll take care of this and call you when I have something, ok? They need me here now. Bye Gerard, love you!"

"Ok...bye, mom! Love you too, thanks."

I hung up the phone and thanked life for the mother I had. I would wait for things with Frank to get better and then I'd have a serious conversation with her. I hadn't treated her well those last months, I'd been an asshole and she obviously didn't deserve that. She was only worried about me. Now I understood how it felt.

I heard footsteps coming from behind the couch and saw Frankie appear. I could 'see' that he was holding his doggie, only that he was doing it with just his arms, as if his injured hands could actually hurt if he touched him. More importantly, he was trembling. It wasn't the normal slight tremble he'd sometimes have. No, his face gave away that he was scared, troubled.

I walked to him and grabbed his chin, gently pushing his face up. "Frankie? What's wrong, baby?"

"I...I w-woke up were th-things whispering in the b-bedroom and I w-was alone and I was so s-scared and c-can't sleep. Th-they won't stop wh-whispering!" he related in a barely audible voice.

"What do they say?"

"D-don't know...can't un-understand but it's s-scary. P-puppy heard them t-too, see? H-he's shaking," he showed me his pet. Maybe it'd been only a bad dream?

"I guess you dreamed it. Come on, I'm ready to go to bed now so you won't be alone," I guided him.

Frank stopped dead when we crossed the bedroom's door. "N-no I didn't d-dream it! Th-they're still f-fucking whispering, s-stop them!" He covered his ears and started to cry.

I got in the bed and patted the spot beside me."Come here."

He lied down and hugged me so tightly that it was hard to breathe. "H-hear th-them? Y-you understand wh-what they're s-saying?" he murmured.

"No, Frankie, I can't hear anything," I answered honestly.

"Wh-why? Wh-why can't you hear th-them?"

"I don't know baby, I guess they don't want me to hear them. But I'm sure they won't hurt you."

"I d-don't wanna h-hear them!" he sobbed.

"Then I'll sing into your ear until you fall asleep so you won't hear the whispers anymore," I told him.

His crying ceased and he brought his head closer to mine. With my lips almost grazing his ear, I sang.

When I look into your eyes
I can see a love restrained.
But darling when I hold you,
don't you know I feel the same?
'Cause nothing lasts forever
and we both know hearts can change.
And it's hard to hold a candle
in the cold November rain...

Those were the times when Frank wasn't happy in his own world, the times when I wanted to get him out of it more than ever, rescue him.


The next afternoon, when I arrived home from work, Ray told me that my mom had just called. 

"Ah, thanks! I'll call her back right now then. How were things today?" I asked as I hugged Frankie, who was determined to kiss my mouth. I avoided it at all costs. "Not now, Frankie." I muttered.

"K-kay," he whispered back.

"Not bad, nothing I couldn't manage. He acted a little rebellious and we had another wet chair and a broken egg, but mostly a good day compared to others," Ray commented, ignorant to mine and Frank's secret matter.

"Good to know!"

"He didn't eat much, though."

"'s ok, he had a good breakfast this morning. I'll call my mom and then try to make him eat some cookies," I said going for the phone.

"Mom! Did you find a doctor?" I threw the question as soon as she answered.


"Yeah I know, I'm calmed, now tell me."

"Ok. I don't have much time, so I'll be quick. Frank has an appointment in three days..."

"Thursday?" I interrupted.

"Yes, Gerard. At 6 p.m. This man's one of the nurses' old friend. He's both a psychiatrist and neurologist and lives near your town. She said we can trust him. I already talked to him and told him all we know about Frank so you don't have to do it in front of the boy when you go."

"Wow! Thank you, mom! What would I do without you?" I felt nervous but happy to be closer to helping Frankie.

"You'd get even more desperate, for sure! Now...write down the address just in case -though I'll try to go with you. Hurry up, I have to leave!"

"Ok, tell me." I grabbed a notebook and a pen. "Frankie, let me listen! Sorry, he was singing. Yes mom, ready now."

Before I could thank her, Frankie snatched the phone from me. "L-lemme sing her the s-song I made up!"

As I smiled at the singing boy, I felt content and hopeful. A more normal life for Frankie was on its way, I'd make that sure. 

Chapter Text

Sometimes I give myself the creeps,
sometimes my mind plays tricks on me.
It all keeps adding up,
I think I'm cracking up...

The next three days felt like months, as it usually happens when you're desperately waiting for something. But as anxious and willing as I was to take Frankie to the psychiatrist, I was also scared. Scared of what that man would say, scared of whatever else could be wrong with Frank -because that note in his ID implied there was something else, scared of him telling me that Frankie needed to be in a specialized place. My other fear was that I had no certainty that this doctor wasn't going to denounce me. No matter what my mother said, I couldn't be so sure. I knew, however, that I had to leave all my fears aside for the moment and think about Frankie's health.

The multiple cuts on the boy's hands had begun to slowly heal and he was using them more, though he still complained about the pain; mostly because he refused to have them bandaged anymore. My mobility remained limited, but the soreness in my back and ass was also diminishing with the help of an awfully-smelling unguent Ray had stolen from his mother.

Ever since his violent episode, I'd been rather afraid of doing or saying something that could trigger Frank's anger. I hadn't exactly done anything to induce that behavior back then, it had just been a very bad day; yet I tried try to be cautious, just in case. He hadn't reached such a level of aggression again, but had been remarkably nervous and edgy. His tics where very frequent and he wasn't very communicative, having more conversations with his imaginary friends than with us. He found it hard to stay quiet and couldn't concentrate long enough to do anything. Then he had periods when he went motionless and nearly completely unresponsive.

Regardless of this, both Ray and I managed him well and things hadn't gotten out of control. We basically let him do whatever he pleased as long as it wasn't dangerous; interacting with him only when he allowed us or it was necessary, and otherwise just watching him closely.

Frank's sleep pattern was totally altered too. He slept more during the day -for shorts periods of time- than at night. He rarely ate real food and had been mostly living off snacks and sweets that we gave him during his few coherent moments. If he didn't get help soon his overall health would be affected.


That afternoon, I arrived home to find Frankie watching TV sitting on my mother's lap. Or more like blindly staring at it.

"Hello, sonny!" mom greeted me. "I made it here earlier than I'd thought so I told Ray to go home, he looked tired. How was your day?"

"Poor Ray..." I thought aloud. "My was ok, I've been a little distracted thinking about today, you know?"

"It's gonna be ok," she assured me.

" 'hi' for me? My mom's lap's too comfy?" I joked kissing Frank's head. He smiled sleepily, keeping his eyes on the screen.

"Poor angel isn't exactly 'on earth', are you baby?" my mother touched his cheek. He shuddered and observed her confusedly. "Ray said he was restless for hours until he ran out of energy. I brought him here with me because I couldn't stand leaving him on the floor looking so lost."

"Uh...t-two...two ch-chairs and...and a g-goat there," Frank mumbled.

"Yes, I saw them. But Gerard's here, aren't you going to say hello to him?"

"Oh...y-yeah," he said with a little voice and lifted his eyes. They looked clouded, not by anything tangible but the reflection of what was happening inside of his head. "H-hi, Gee."

I knelt down and he embraced me loosely, resting his head on my shoulder. "Hi, Frankie. You're gonna be better soon," I whispered.

A little more than an hour later, we were ready to leave. I'd made Frankie wear a pair of blue jeans that didn't fit me, since he didn't have many clothes of his own. They looked pretty well and not even too tight on him. As top he chose his Jack Skellington t-shirt, which was the only one that seemed new and evidently his favorite. He completed his attire with his sole pair of red fake-Converse sneakers. I'd certainly have to buy him more shoes, mine were too big for him

He had become more alert as soon as he heard that we'd be going out. His happy smile didn't falter when I told him that we were taking him to the doctor, which made me think that he'd either not understood or been okay with it.


Due to the intense traffic at that hour -when most people left their jobs and hurried to get home- we arrived to the doctor's office just in time.

"He's Frank Iero, we're here for an appointment with Doctor Goldberg," I told the girl who opened the door.

"N-no! Frankie!" he tugged at my sleeve.

"Please to meet you, Frankie," she smiled ruffling his hair. Everybody was tempted to. "Very well! Follow that corridor to the last door, you can sit there to wait. I think the doctor will be free in only a couple of minutes, anyway."

The three of us headed there; my mother holding Frank's hand and I following behind. The place was surprisingly nice, with walls painted pale yellow and a lot of pictures with childish colored motifs hanging from them. The bright colors instantly attracted Frank, though I could guess by the way he tilted his head and squinted that he couldn't distinguish much in them. When we were reaching the indicated door, it opened to make way for a red haired woman, who detained her steps to put something inside of her purse. As my mom walked past her, Frank reached up for the woman's chest, seemingly grabbing something out of it.

"Frankie! Don't bother the lady!" I moved him away from her.

"B-but...she had a b-butterfly on her sh-shirt!" he peeped inside of his hands that formed a sort of cocoon.

My mom turned to see what had happened. "Oh! Sorry, I wasn't watching him," she apologized.

"Nah, don't worry, I understand. He's schizophrenic, isn't he?" the other asked. I nodded, watching Frank near his hands to my mom's eyes so she could spy the imaginary insect he'd trapped. "So is my son, you can say I'm used to it. I came for a prescription. But...this kid's so young...must be even harder for someone his age."

"He's 18, though he looks younger," I commented.

"Really? Well, that's still too young. From what I've learned, this illness usually develops later. My son's 35 and only started to show symptoms five years ago," she continued. I had no idea of that and it made me feel even worse for my poor Frank.

"Frankie has been ill since he was a little kid."

"Oh God, life can be cruel sometimes." She gave out a sad sigh, looking at Frank compassionately.

"Son...I'm going out with Frankie so he can let the butterfly free," my mother informed me.

"Ok, but come back quickly. We'll be called in at any moment now," I advised her, smiling as I saw Frank walk slowly while he concentrated on not letting his hands separate.

"Will do."

"You seem to be very patient people," the woman patted my back, getting ready to leave. "that's the most important thing they need. Good luck."

"Thanks, same for you."


Doctor Goldberg appeared at the door. He was somewhat tall, with thick grayish hair and gentle green eyes. If I was to speak about first impressions, it had been a good one.

"Frank Iero?" his voice was soft and perfectly matched the way he looked.

"Uh...he went to..."

"F-frankie!" he came back just in time to correct the man.

"I'm Mark. You can come in, Frankie," Goldberg invited him with a warm smile.

Frank stepped back doubtfully and shook his head. "I...I d-don't want to..."

"Baby, you need to see the doctor, it's going to be fine," my mother encouraged him.

"N-no. No d-doctor, no."

"Listen, do you want to get rid of the voice inside your head and all the mess you sometimes have in there?" Mark questioned Frank.

The boy scratched his head compulsively. "Y-yeah...guess. D-dunno," was his ambiguous answer.

"I promise I won't do anything bad. Nothing will hurt, I'm sure you've had this all done to you before."

"B-but sometimes...they g-gave me shots and th-that hurt. I d-don't want shots," Frankie murmured, clearly not feeling at ease with those memories. I glanced at the doctor, worried.

"I'm not going to give you any shot."

"P-promise? I'll s-send all the l-little people to attack you if y-you do..."

"I promise, I don't want to be attacked," Goldberg laughed.

We all got into the room. It was painted the same color as the corridor, but instead of the pictures you could see several posters with different cuts of the human brain. On a corner, over a small table, there was also a plastic replica of a brain. At the opposite corner, a machine connected to a monitor and surrounded by many other elements I had no idea the names of. Close to that and against the farthest wall, a steel stretcher with a thin mattress covered by white sheets. To the right, a desk with three chairs.

As expected, Frankie ran to the replica and picked it up, grimacing as his harmed fingers made contact with it. He was like those little children who couldn't keep their hands off every thing they saw. Objects of many colors were his soft spot, and that was the case of this plastic brain: one color for each lobe.

"Frankie, leave that where it was, kid," mom said to him gently.

"He can have it for a while, it's not breakable," the doctor stated.

"N-no it's not like th-that. Sh-shut up! L-leave me alone. N-no...wrong. S-see? F-fuck you, you kn-know nothing." Frank had taken seat on the floor and was arguing with his inner voice.

"Frankie, what's wrong?" Mark sat next to him.

"H-he knows n-nothing. S-says I c-can't dis...dis ...d-disassem..." he grunted, smacking his head.

"Disassemble?" Goldberg helped him. I assumed that he referred to the replica, which pieces could be taken out.

"Y-yeah, that! H-he says I c-can't do that with m-my brain."

"Well, he's right, you can't."

"Y-yes I can! I'm g-gonna dis...d-dis...that my brain and k-kick him out of th-there!" Frank assured. I held his hand to stop him from hurting himself.

"You don't need to do that. Let me help you and we'll get rid of him, ok?" Goldberg smiled.


"Well, even though the diagnosis is clear, I'd like to converse with Frankie alone for a while, and also do some tests. Mostly because there might exist, as the ID implied, other problems besides schizophrenia."

"How bad can it be?" I got alarmed.

"Gerard...let him do his job first," my mother tried to calm me.

"I can't say yet. But from the information your mother gave me about the kid, I gathered that some symptoms are increased, and others might not even be due to the main problem. What's more, schizophrenia cases among young children are not so common, so I want to be extra careful about it. I prefer not to tell you anything more until I check him."

"Ok, then," I agreed, unsure. "Frankie...we're gonna leave you here with the doctor for a while, ok? It's gonna be alright, I promise. Donna and I will be outside."

"N-NO! D-don't want you to l-leave!" he got up and hugged me.

"Just for a little while, sweetheart, If you're a good boy it'll be even quicker. Just do everything the doctor says and answer all he asks. We'll be waiting for you and go for an ice cream afterwards." my mother rubbed his back to comfort him.

"K-kay. B-but I want th-the ice cream."

"You'll have it," I added.

We left the room and waited outside. During all the time I didn't even speak to my mother. I couldn't stop thinking, fearing. What if the doctor said Frankie couldn't stay with me? I didn't want to lose him, I couldn't be without him. He had given sense to my formerly meaningless life. He was my reason to keep going. He was my company, my love?

Those last days we had randomly kissed several times while being alone. Always short kisses, pecks; yet they made me feel all warm and funny inside and I could see it was the same for Frankie. The way he'd grin and shudder, how he'd get goosebumps or slightly blush. He was so cute and innocent.

How would things be from then on? How much would he change with the medication? I was about to find out and I had to admit that it scared me.

While Frankie was inside, we could hear him scream 'no!' a couple of times, but things had gone quiet pretty soon. My mother said I shouldn't worry, that he was with a professional who knew how to deal with people like Frank. Yet I wished I could be there with him.

"You can come in now." Goldberg opened the door for us. Frankie was sitting on the stretcher, touching his hair and frowning.

"How are you, Frankie?" I asked.

"H-hair's sticky...eww. W-we fed P-puppy?" he changed the subject rapidly.

"Yes we did, don't worry."

"His hair is sticky because of the substance I used to fix the electrodes to his head. I did an electroencephalogram," the doctor explained. "It'll go away with water, Frankie, trust me."

"Want me to take him outside so you can talk?" mom offered.

"Yes, I think it's better for the moment," the psychiatrist assented.

Once they left, he sat down and indicated me to do the same. I was too nervous to utter a simple word so I waited for him to speak.

"First of all ...since we're alone now, is there anything else you think I should know about Frank's behavior?" he interrogated me. Just when I was waiting for answers, he gave me questions.

I thought for an instant. "Well yes, there's something my mother doesn't know. Three days ago Frank had a very violent episode, that's how he hurt his hands, I guess you saw them," I started.

"Yes, he told me something about it when I asked, but said he can't remember much." Mark nodded and waited for me to continue. I told him everything that had happened and he wrote things down on a notebook. He didn't interrupt me, all he said meanwhile was 'aha'.

"Ok," he spoke when I finished my report. "I must tell you that most patients with this level of schizophrenia are hospitalized. They require constant care and attention. It can be complicated, time consuming, and -as you witnessed- also dangerous. Even under medication they can be hard to deal with and might have episodes. The possibilities are reduced, but it can still happen. However, it's your decision. Are you sure you feel prepared to have him at home?"

"I'm sure. I was able to do it so far, it can't get worse from now on..." I replied without any doubt. Even though he'd made me panic, I would not give Frank away. "What about the...extra problems? What could they be?"

"I'm not one hundred percent sure, but I think Frank might have some kind of brain damage," he simply responded. I hated how doctors found everything completely normal and forgot what those kind of news could cause in people who were medically-ignorant like me.

"What? How...?"

"It could have been caused by either a serious illness when he was younger, or head trauma. Having a part of the brain not fully functional forces the rest of it to work harder to make up for the failure. That stress could have made his schizophrenia develop earlier than it would have otherwise. It also maximizes the symptoms since his brain is weaker," he explicated.

My head was about to go on overload. "But...will the medication work the same? Well, from what Frankie says it used to, he was better with it..." I rambled.

"It'll work. I can't tell you how much because each patient is different. Sometimes several medications must be tried on some people to find the best one. But he will do at least better with it. However, if my presumptions are correct, some symptoms that usually disappear -not all of them do- might persist."

"Oh..." I babbled, not knowing what to say. Then I suddenly remembered something. "Now that I think about it, I saw a scar on his head while brushing his hair. I didn't think it important at the moment."

"Oh, let's call him then so I can see it."


"Wh-what you d-doing to my h-hair? L-leave it!" Frank protested as I fought his wild mane to access his scalp.

"I won't do anything to your pretty hair, relax! Here it is." I showed the doctor the largish scar on the left side of his head, towards the back. Hair was missing around it.

"Yes, it could be it. It's a very old scar, he probably got it when he was a baby or not more than a couple of years old." He meditated for some seconds after examining it. "I'll give you the prescription so he can start taking the medication, but I'd like you to bring him again for a brain scan. That way we'll know what to expect. Talk to my assistant before leaving to get an appointment."

"Ok. Do you think the stuttering has something to do with that lesion?" I inquired.

"It's very possible, the scar's around that area of the brain."

"Wh-what stut-tering?" Frankie questioned. We'd never talked about it. He didn't seem to have a problem with it and it didn't stop him from talking a lot when he was in the mood.

"The...little problem you have when you speak? That you get like...kinda stuck in some words, you know?" I put it as simple as I could.

He looked down, saddened. "I...I s-speak too badly? K-kids there never b-bothered me 'bout it much. N-nope. 'C-cause there was an-another kid who spoke l-lot weirder."

"No, you don't speak badly. You do pretty good, actually. Everybody can understand you and that's enough, so you don't have to worry about that," Goldberg told him kindly, making him smile.

"Frankie...come here and show me that plastic brain, so Gerard can keep on talking to the doc," mom called him from the other side of the room. Frank appeared to like the idea. He took the replica again and began to 'explain' things to my mother. I was too curious to know what he was saying, trying to strain my ears to hear, but I finally turned to the doctor.

"Sorry, tell me."

"Ok, here's the prescription, and in this paper I wrote down the instructions. Since he's been many weeks without medication we'll start with a lower dose and then gradually increase it. This third paper contains all the potential side effects. Antipsychotics are strong drugs, even more so for someone this young, and some of those effects can be rather irksome. One that is almost always present is the shaking, specially on the hands. Something else could be administered to alleviate that, but your mother explained your economic situation. It can wait for now."

"You sure it can wait? I...I feel bad for Frank, but I really can't..."

"Yes, don't worry. I deduced that Frank has never had help with that, so he's used to it. Then...he might also get dizzy at moments. It's better if you carefully read this, that way you won't get scared if any other thing happens -which I'm not saying it will. Any doubts?" He obviously noticed my terrified face.

"No...can I call you if I have any after reading all that?"

"Of course. Now let's talk about some things to have in mind while dealing with Frankie."


"Never fight or argue in front of him, he needs a serene environment. That's usually one of the weak points about institutions, but it's easier to achieve at home. Integrate him to daily activities whenever possible if he feels like it. Let him help even if he doesn't do things correctly, thank him and congratulate him for it. Never criticize what he does wrong. Patients with his pathology have trouble to concentrate, and Frank in particular might have extra difficulty to comprehend some directions, but it's just a matter of patience. He'll eventually learn by watching and repetition," he listed. I was going to say something, but he went on. "About the pills, he should start tonight. We'll divide the dose in two intakes per day for now. From the start you'll notice him calmer, and most probably the nervous tics and continuous eye movement will diminish or even stop. The hallucinations or hearing of voices will take days to go off -sometimes even more than a week- and in many cases they don't completely disappear. As I said earlier, each patient is different. Other symptoms as apathy or lack of emotion -which your mother told me occurs sometimes- and disorganized speech will presumably continue. Same with the inability to grasp the meaning of danger and recognize it, which has a different origin. It'll always be necessary to keep him watched."

"Understood," I nodded. I could now hear Frank talking to my mother about gnomes and bugs. "It'll be enough if Frankie can at least acknowledge reality a little more. He's been out of it most of the time lately..." I trailed off with sadness.

"He will, you'll see that you'll be able to have coherent conversations with him more easily. His case is severe, that's why he's so lost after near a month unmedicated."

" that all?" I asked timidly. 

He laughed. "It is. We'll talk again after the brain scan, ok? And you can call me if there's any problem."

"Ok, thanks." I shook Goldberg's hand. "Frankie, we can go home now."

"N-not home...i-ice cream! Sh-she said!" he pointed at my mother who was grinning.

"Oh, it's true! Frankie has a very good memory, no doubt about it."

"He behaved very well, I say he deserves an ice cream." Goldberg did what everybody was bound to do: ruffled Frank's hair. "Bye kid, see you soon. It wasn't that bad, was it?"

"Uh...n-no but h-hair's sticky!" he complained once again.

"Oh...Gerard, here you have the number of an oculist for Frankie. It would help a lot if he could see better and was able to read. I know this specialist and will talk to him to make you a discount. What you're doing for this boy is admirable, you could use some help."

"Thank you very much." I couldn't believe there were still so many good people in this world.

Finally, we headed for the front desk to pay the assistant. Having taken into consideration that the medication was expensive, the doctor only charged us for the electroencephalogram and not for his services, making the amount a lot smaller. We left with an appointment for Frank's brain scan set in four days.

At the pharmacy we found out just how expensive the medication was. I could only hope that the money I had left would suffice to pay for the scan and do something about Frank's sight. I knew my mother and Ray would help me with the basic needs, they'd insisted on it.

After that, I drove us downtown for the promised ice cream. My mom held Frankie by the hand and I decided to take his other, not caring about what people could think of our strange trio. Frank looked at me smiling widely and started to skip while singing.

Do you have the time
to listen to me whine,
about nothing and everything
all at once...

Chapter Text

Let me take you down,
'cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields.
Nothing is real, and nothing to get hung about.
Strawberry Fields forever.

My mother and I entered the house and went straight to the sink. Our hands that had held Frankie's on our way back were covered in ice cream. Frank's t-shirt was also stained with it and smelled like strawberries. He had gotten distracted all the time, contemplating the nightly town lights and the cars passing by. We'd needed to keep on reminding him that he had a cone in his hand and was supposed to lick from it. Half of the ice cream had ended up melting, running along his flexed arm and over his clothes.

"Frankie, do you wanna wash your hands?" I asked, not wanting him to feel obliged. He was still standing near the door, whispering to himself. I grazed his arm. "Frankie?"


"Don't you wanna wash your hands?" I repeated.

"Y-yeah...they're s-sticky. H-hair's sticky t-too..." he touched his head.

"Oh, kid...your hair's gonna be even more sticky if you run your sticky hands through it!" my mom laughed.

"Yes, maybe you should go take shower instead?" I suggested.

"K-kay," Frank answered, indifferent.

I imagined he must be tired. He was used to being at home and only around Ray, my mother and me. Getting to know different people and places was an interesting experience for him, although somewhat stressing at the same time. The visit to the doctor could have also brought back some memories, bad and good. It was hard to discern some feelings in Frankie, but I was sure he missed the place where he had lived for so many years, even if he never said it or cried about it. He had to miss his friends, or that woman that would take care of him; maybe even the doctors.


Once Frank was clean and out of the bathroom, I took conscience that the moment to give him his meds had arrived. The problem was that I didn't know how to do that. When I met Frankie, he'd talked to me about the pills and how much he needed them. He had, in fact, asked me to buy them for him. Later on, however, he'd stated that he wouldn't take any pills, and had even refused to have an aspirin in the normal way. What would I do if he didn't agree to take his medication? I wouldn't dare force him every single time like Ray and I had done some nights ago to give him the sedatives; I didn't like that idea at all. In my stupid state of nervousness I had forgotten to consult the doctor about it, and calling him so soon was unwise; it would make me sound useless.

My mother had left a while ago because she was late for work, so I found myself alone with the boy trying to think of something. One possibility was to try the honey trick again, though I doubted Frank would go along with it this time. Another was to just ask him, which sounded absurd yet fairer.

He was watching cartoons, eyes glued to the screen, when I approached him. A huge, blue t-shirt on together with black boxers that were also too big for him.

" need to begin to take your meds, baby. It's only half a pill for now, would you have it with a glass of juice?" I tried. The schedule said I should give him one half that night and two halves the following day in two intakes; then the same with two thirds to finally keep it at two whole pills per day if everything went alright.

"N-no! No I d-don't want to! C-can't! N-NO!" he cried out.

I took a deep breath. "Want me to mix it with honey like I did with the aspirin?"

"N-no...want no p-pill, S-STOP IT!" he screamed, moving to the other side of the couch and hiding his face. I needed to be patient, I couldn't lose it, this was only the beginning.

I sat close to him without making contact. "Baby, I know you don't like pills, no one likes them. But you need them, you know you need them. Didn't you feel better at the institution?" I spoke as gently as possible, doing my best to hide my anxiety.

He turned to me with a puzzled look. "I...I d-don't know..."

"Did you hear that voice in your head when you were there?" I asked.

He meditated his answer. "N-no...or...or m-maybe just a few t-times. Al-almost never."

"See? That's because you used to take your pills there, they make him go away. You want him to go away, don't you?"

"Y-yeah! He...he b-bothers me. I...I d-don't like what he s-says."

"Then you need to be a good boy and take your pills. It will also make your head feel clearer, it won't be such a mess like you say it is now. Will you?" I insisted.

He hugged his knees and rocked back and forth for a while. "K-kay but I don't l-like them. N-not even with h-honey. N-no." He frowned.

I sighed in frustration. "You once told me that you knew the pills were white. If you saw them, that means they didn't hide them in anything when giving them to you," I remembered our first talk.

"Th-they were wh-white, yes."

"Ok, but how do you know?"

"Th-the assholes g-grabbed me and...and p-put them in my m-mouth. An-and...once I s-spit-ted it. W-was white. Th-then he got an-angry and gave me a sh-shot. H-hate shots," he related, giving me chills. Knowing that made me regret having forced him that night. He didn't seem to remember Ray and I doing that, though, otherwise he would have said something about it.

"They would force you to take the pills? That's how it always was?"

"N-no...only wh-when I didn't w-want the candies."

"Oh, then they'd give you the pills in candy?"

"Y-yeah. Ch-chew-able candy. B-but sometimes they on-only had l-lemon and...and I don't l-like lemon. N-no. H-hate lemon." He shook his head. That was it?

"Well, we have chewable candy. Strawberry are your favorites, right?"


"Will you take the pill if I put it in one of those?" I caressed his face.

"K-kay. Y-you're so an-annoying, Gee! A l-lot, he s-says too."

Laughing, I went to the kitchen and took a strawberry candy out of the can. Before unwrapping it, I rubbed it in between my hands to melt it a little and make it softer. Then I cut a pill in two and one of the halves into even smaller pieces. I pressed the candy to them, collecting them all, and finally made a ball out of it. I went back to the living room and gave the pink ball to Frankie.

He examined it. "L-looks the s-same."

"Same as the ones they'd give you?"

"Y-yeah." He put it in his mouth hesitatingly.

"Don't chew it too much. That's enough, swallow it and drink this." I handed him a glass of orange juice.

"D-done. See?" He opened his mouth big for me to look, moving his tongue up, down and to the sides. He had evidently been taught to do that to prove that he'd swallowed the pills.

"Good! I'm so proud of you, Frankie!" I hugged him tightly.

He smiled, his face so close to mine. I gave him a short kiss and he gave me one back, giggling. I placed my hand on the back of his head, massaging, my fingers getting lost in his long locks. My mouth neared his in slow motion this time. I saw him close his eyes, still smiling. I closed mine and kissed him again, with more passion than ever, pouring my feelings into it and also my fears. What if once medicated Frank didn't feel the same for me? What if he was just confused after all? Maybe I was being selfish, but I needed to seize the moment. I needed to do what I felt without thinking of what might happen later.

Frankie carried on smiling against my lips, trying to follow me though he had clearly no experience. I didn't mind, it was perfect to me. I stopped only to stare at him, he appeared to be shining.

"W-wow! L-like in movies!" he whispered.

"Yes, like in movies. You know I love you a lot, don't you?" I pecked at his smooth cheek.

"Y-yes I do and I l-love you too. L-lots," he nodded, then suddenly seemed far away. "L-look!"


"Th-the gnomes are d-dancing! N-no, there! O-over the sh-shelf!" he laughed.

It wasn't the perfect ending for our most romantic moment, but the poor teen hadn't done it on purpose. Hopefully, I would soon not have to pretend to be seeing what he saw anymore, or at least not so often.

I made myself more comfortable on the couch and Frankie climbed onto my lap. "I think I won't cook tonight, we can call for pizza later. Now I'm gonna stay here with you watching the gnomes dance." I circled his waist with my arms.

"Th-they do it w-well, d-don't they? Oh! P-puppy came to s-see them, too!"

An hour passed by and Frankie had fallen asleep. I called the pizzeria and then just stayed there watching him. He seemed to be more relaxed than usual, his expression was calmer and he wasn't continuously moving. The bell rang, but he didn't wake up. He would normally do it right away, startled. I carefully moved him from my lap to the couch to go get the pizza.

"'s here," I called him, caressing his hand. He murmured something and changed his position. "Frankie come on, you have to eat."

"Uh?" he turned to me, though his hair was covering his face.

"Food's here, wake up." I tucked it behind his ears.

He looked at me and smiled faintly, his head thrown back against the backrest. His eyes were quiet, completely crossed. "K-kay."

"How do you feel?" I asked. I was still afraid of how he'd react to the medication, since we had no idea of which one he used to have before.

"F-fine, little s-sleepy," he rubbed his eyes.

"Sure you're ok?"

"Y-yeah. I...I'm h-hungry too. L-like pizza."

"Good then, come to the kitchen and we'll eat," I offered him my hand.

Frank kept his eyes on me, yawned, but didn't move; too comfortable and slightly sedated out of tiredness and being back to the pills after many weeks.

"You know what? We'll eat on this little table. Let me go for the glasses and juice," I decided. He nodded drowsily.

When I came back and arranged everything over the coffee table, Frankie sat up to get closer to it. He blinked and got visibly pale. "Oops..."

"Are you ok?" I made him lean back again.

"Y-yeah, I think. R-room was s-spinning. F-fine now," he told me, the colors returning to his cheeks.

"It's ok, that's normal. Now sit up slowly...that's it, take it easy."

Besides his pupils not being in constant movement anymore, the other difference I could notice while watching him eat, was that the nervous tic of his head was practically imperceptible. I knew it'd take some time to see more changes, and we wouldn't know how much we could expect until finding out how serious the damage in his brain was.


Not long after we'd finished our meal, when our tired bodies were demanding us to put an end to the day, the phone rang. It wasn't too often that someone called at that hour. I went from irritated to worried in a matter of seconds, impatience replacing both feelings when I knew it who it was.

"Bob! What's up? Got something?" I shot.

"Sorry for calling so late, I had to work extra hours today and..."

"It doesn't matter, it's not that late. Tell me."

"Woah...'hello' would have been more appropriate, don't you think?" he faked annoyance.

"Hello, Bob. What news do you have?"

"That's better! Anyway, I'm sorry to tell you I have no news."

"No news?"

"No, sorry. This guy did try, but said he couldn't get access to the information. They blocked the computers or something, only the bosses know the passwords."

"Shit! Well, thanks anyway, Bob. I'll find another way, I just need to think. It'll be easier once I have some other things worked out," I said, watching Frank pat Puppy. I really wanted to know something more about him and his family.

"Is everything ok?" Bob questioned.

"Yeah it is, Frankie began to take his meds today, so we'll see how that goes."

"Did your boss pay you earlier?"

"Yeah...well, not exactly. I'll tell you about it some other day." I knew Bob wouldn't buy my lies. He always knew when someone was lying.

"Oh, ok. Talking about that, what do you say I come see you tomorrow after work? I have the day off."

"Bob I told you that..."

"I know, I know. I won't force you to drink alcohol, you can have a soda. I just miss you, man!"

"Aww...sometimes you're such a pansy, Bryar."

"It's good that we've shared too many nights at bars and you can testify that I like girls!"

"It's true, I have no doubts about it!" I laughed. Bob was really lucky with women, he'd always find himself a pretty lady to have a good time. He said he did believe in love, only that he needed to try many until he found 'the' one.

"What about you, Gerard? I know you haven't been in the mood, but it's time you get over it. Two relationships didn't work? So what? It's not that bad. They just weren't the ones for you," he simply stated.

Well, there were many details Bob didn't know, although he was correct: they weren't the right ones for me. Even when thinking about that first person I had loved so much, time showed me that things had happened that way for a reason. I was destined for something different. Then Laura...that relationship had been an error from the beginning. She was a good girl and I had gotten to love her as a friend, but because of wanting to give myself a new chance I had made her lose her time. Now I felt like I was on the right track, with the right person. Full of doubts and fear, yes, but at least sure of what I wanted. Whatever role life had saved for me in Frank's life -whether it was the one I was dreaming of or that of an older brother- I was going to fulfill it the best I could. It was my place in the world, beside him.

"You're right Bob, but now Frankie's my priority. I'm fine the way I am, really," I answered truthfully as the boy came to hug me with a begging look. He wanted me to leave the phone and go cuddle with him. He always gave me that look when he felt sleepy and I was busy with something. That look was even more irresistible now, focused on me. His eyes were the prettiest, no one would convince me otherwise.

"If you say you're fine, then you're fine! What about my invitation for tomorrow?" Bob mentioned again.

"Uh...I'm gonna have to pass for this week. I wanna be home early to see how Frankie's doing. Maybe next week, ok? I promise I'll take up your offer soon."

"Ok, fair enough. See you, man!"

"Bye Bob, thanks again for trying!"


The following two days were tenser for me than for Frank. I had been constantly checking on him to see if there was any new change, if he was feeling alright or if any side effect had appeared. Frankie, on the other hand, obviously used to being on medication, hadn't shown any preoccupation and would look at me intrigued every time I asked how he felt or similar questions.

So far I hadn't had any more problems to make him take the pills. He either had them inside of a candy or over a toast with -also strawberry- marmalade.

As I increased the dose, he became a little more controllable. Less stubborn, as Ray had put it. He wouldn't argue or get angry so easily, which was a great thing. He was quieter, though still more active than a 'normal' person. He had been sleeping very well, which was another thing I was thankful for.

On the bad side, he seemed more apathetic than before for moments, though he still reacted normally to affection. However, he hadn't kissed me again; he hadn't even tried. I wanted to convince myself that it didn't mean anything, that he was just slowly adapting to the medication. But I was worried, very worried. I had decided that I wouldn't try anything until he demonstrated that he wanted it. I wouldn't force things.

Since the day before, his hands had started to shake rather badly once in a while. Even if it sometimes interfered with what he was doing, I still let him try by himself and only helped him when he asked me too.

That Sunday morning, Frank had taken a whole pill for the first time. By the afternoon he was kind of clumsy, but he didn't seem to mind. He had been in a very good mood.

"G-gee..." he called me. I was about to clean the windows while he watched TV.

"Yes? What do you need?"

"D-don't like this. B-boring. H-help me change th-the channels?" Frankie requested, his speech more spaced and unhurried now. He couldn't see the remote control's buttons to know where the ones he needed to press were, so he'd either ask me to flick through the channels until he found something he liked, or tell me to put his finger on the correct button so he could do it.

"Sure." I fixed the remote -which was upside down- in his hand and then guided his thumb to one of the 'channel' buttons. "Here. And remember, if you wanna go back just move your finger a little to the left and there's the other button, ok?"

"Y-yeah." He moved through the channels rapidly as I went back to my task. It was a two-leaved wooden window, and each leaf had four glasses. I had barely done one when I heard Frankie talking.

"N-no I don't l-like it, it's all sh-shit. N-no, I...I'm n-not gonna l-leave it on f-for you all." He got up and turned the TV off. That would happen very often, Frank had no real patience to find something he liked.

He tried to half-run to where I was, but stumbled and fell on his knees and hands. "Oh...f-fell again!" he giggled.

"Told you not to run!" I helped him up. "Here you are. It didn't hurt, did it?"

"N-nope. Wh-what you d-doing?"

"Washing the window, wanna help me? You could do the bottom part of it," I suggested.


"Ok. Let me get other cloths," I said, going to the kitchen to fetch them and back. "Take this one."

"K-kay." He stayed in his place, staring at me.

"Uh, what you do is...get it into this bucket, and when it's soaked you have to squeeze it like this. That way it won't drip water on the floor. Then you clean the glass and finally grab this other cloth to wipe the water away. Easy, isn't it?" I showed him the steps as I gave him the instructions. He appeared to be paying attention.


The first time, he did exactly as I had told him. When he was going for the second glass, he removed the cloth from the bucket as drenched as it was, getting all the floor below the window wet, same as the wall. I didn't say anything.

"G-gotta get you w-well cleaned, y-yes. 'C-cause I'm the s-super cleaner!" he whispered against the window. I had to suppress the laughter. By the time he finished the remaining glasses, a mini lake surrounded our feet.

"Very well, Frankie! You did an awesome job, look how the windows shine!" I wasn't lying, they shined. So I did the right thing and congratulated him for what he'd done right, never mentioning the water mess.

"Y-yay!" he exclaimed happily. "Wh-why can't I clean th-the ones up th-there?"

"I already cleaned those."

"B-but...but wh-why can't I?" he asked again. "I c-can reach them if I s-step on the ch-chair like you."

"Because you can't get on the chair, you could fall."

"I d-don't care..."

"I do care, I don't want you to get hurt. You did pretty well, anyway! Thanks for helping me, baby."

"W-welcome!" he chirped, quickly forgetting about our little argument.

We went to sleep early that night, since Frankie's appointment for the brain scan was the following morning. I had talked to my boss and she'd allowed me to arrived at the store later. The only thing worrying me was how Frankie would behave, how he would react. He'd probably only had his brain scanned when he was a kid, if ever. Even though the medication had calmed him down a little, that machine might seriously scare him. I could only trust the doctor to know what to do.

Chapter Text

Doctors want to check me,
poke me and dissect me.
What do they expect,
feelings from a wind-up toy?

We arrived at the psychiatrist office -more like a small mental clinic to be exact- at 8 am. My mother hadn't been able to come with us, which added to my already nervous state. She was good at calmly managing those situations that would get me desperate. A quality that -I guessed- came together with being an experienced mother, though mine had a little advantage thanks to her profession.

"Hello, Frankie! How have you been?" the same girl that had greeted us the first time opened the door. Instead of answering cheerily as he'd always do, Frankie clung to me and hid his face on my shoulder.

"Hey...what's wrong, Frankie? You already met her the other day, don't you remember?" I questioned caressing his hair.

"Y-yeah, I kn-know," he whispered.

"Then why are you hiding?"


"Did he start taking the medication?" the girl asked.

"Yes, four days ago."

"Well, I'm not a doctor but I see patients all the time here, and many of them are a lot more uninhibited while they're not medicated. Maybe Frankie's naturally shy and it's now showing," she theorized.

"I think you might be right, thought I liked it better when he'd say 'hi!' to everybody..." I didn't want him to isolate himself from people, to lose a personal trait that was positive. "Come on Frankie, she's a nice girl."

He raised his head only to look at me doubtfully.

"You have nothing to be afraid or ashamed of," I told him.

Frank turned to her without completely letting go of me. "H-hi," he waved timidly.

"Hi! Hey, I hadn't noticed how big your eyes are. They're really pretty!" she complimented him, as if knowing it was one of his biggest insecurities. Not that she was lying anyway; Frankie had beautiful, huge eyes.

"Th-thanks..." he said, a little more confident.

"You're welcome, sweety. You may go wait for your turn if you please. It's the second door to the right. Doctor Goldberg won't be doing the scan himself, but he'll be here to prepare Frankie in a while," the girl informed us.

I walked slowly to accompany and guide Frankie who was dragging his feet, still sleepy and slightly befuddled. After waiting for only five minutes, Goldberg came out of one of the rooms and headed towards us with a friendly smile.

"Gerard, are you?"

"We're fine, but he's a little shy today it seems." I looked down at Frank who had once again found shelter against my chest.

"It's normal, don't worry. He's more aware of reality and that must feel strange after weeks, specially when being away from the place where he grew up. Let's not force him to be sociable for now," the doctor recommended. "Besides that, how has everything gone?"

"I guess okay. He's been definitely calmer and in a better mood. More...stable. Little dizzy and clumsy, and his hands started to shake again, but that was all expected. I haven't noticed any other side effect, so far," I answered hugging Frank.

"Good," he nodded. "Follow me into this room and I'll get him ready."

"Uh...isn't he going to get too scared inside that thing?"
"Wh-what thing?" the boy asked. At home I'd tried explaining what was going to be done to him, but I had never gotten his full attention.

"You'll see now..."

"K-kay." He yawned.

"He seems rather serene," Goldberg observed. "it might go well. I could sedate him, but I don't think he'd like me doing that any more than being into the machine..."

"N-no! S-sedate me means sh-shots! I...I kn-know! D-don't let him G-gee please, don't l-let him!" Frank pleaded, grappling my shirt in a fist. He wasn't screaming, though, which was a progress.

"Shh...don't worry, the doctor said he won't," I hushed him.

Goldberg led us to a room that was dimmer than the rest of the place. I didn't bother scanning it all; upon entering my eyes fell on the stretcher in the middle, an IV stand beside it with a bag already hanging from it. I tried to keep Frankie looking to the other side, just in case he knew what that was.

"Frankie...I'd like you to lay here for a while, ok?" the psychiatrist said to him. Frank didn't move, squeezing my hand with such force that it was cutting off my circulation.

"Don't be afraid, he just wants you to relax while he checks some things," I let out the white lie.

"K-kay, but no sh-shots."

"No shots," the doctor promised.

Once Frank was lying down, Goldberg indicated me with a hand gesture to distract him. I ran my hand through his hair and tried to make some conversation. Just when he was talking to me about the tricks he had taught Puppy, I caught a glimpse of Mark with the IV needle in his hand.

"Look at me and keep talking, he's just feeling your pulse. Oh, and you'll have to show me all Puppy can do when we get home, then!" I didn't allow him to turn his face.

"Y-you don't pay at-attention to Puppy, that's wh-why you didn't s-see him!" he accused me with his finger. Goldberg smiled while searching for a vein on his other arm. The trembling was making it harder for him.

"Yes I do! But I've only seen him chasing balls so far."

"Th-then you d-don't look at him en-enough! H-he's the best!" Frank declared. It was for moments scary how much he loved a dog that didn't exist. If the meds worked as expected, he could stop seeing him soon. What would happen then? Would he remember Puppy? Would he look for him?

Snapping out of my thoughts, I was about to answer Frank when I saw Goldberg introducing the thin needle into the boy's arm. I averted my eyes, terrified of needles myself. I knew I had to carry on talking to Frank so he wouldn't notice, but I suddenly felt nauseous. It was my own aversion plus the fear of how Frankie would react if he saw what was being done to him. He would feel scared as much as betrayed. My sight got blurry and I closed my eyes for a moment.

"N-NO! GET IT O-OUT!" Frankie's scream startled me. He sat up shaking and, with a strong jerk, he freed his arm and sent the IV stand to the floor.

"Frankie please calm down, you didn't even feel it when he got the needle in!" I tried to push him back down.

"Y-you lied to m-me...both of y-you! Y-you said no sh-shots!" he cried, jumping off the stretcher.

"No! We didn't lie to you, this wasn't exactly a shot!"

"Gerard is right, Frankie. It's not a shot. I just need to get this colored liquid into your veins that will help me see your brain later. It doesn't hurt, I promise," the doctor helped me.

"D-DON'T PROMISE! Y-you lies," he spat, sobbing.

"Please kid, I..."

"N-NO!" he interrupted me and stormed off, closing the door behind him.

Out in the corridor, I spotted Frank attempting to run towards the entrance. He didn't get too far before his legs failed him and he fell forwards. Even though I didn't think he could get up quickly enough to escape, I hurried to hold him to make sure he wouldn't.

"N-NOOO, L-LEMME GO P-PLEASE!" he struggled. "D-don't take m-me there..."

"I just want to get you off the floor right now, we'll go sit."

"N-NO! T-take me home!" he sniffed. I felt tempted to do so. I didn't want to make him suffer anymore. In his mind we were just torturing him, even if I knew it was all really harmless and necessary.

"I can't, but we'll go soon." I carried him in my arms and sat on one of the beige couches.


"Try to calm down, I'm here and I wouldn't let anyone do something bad to you. Do you trust me?"

"Y-yes," Frank whispered, wiping his nose with the back of his hand. He rested his head on my chest and stayed in silence as I rocked him like a baby.

"I...I f-fell again," he mentioned after a while.

"Yes, you did."

"Al-always fall."

"I'm always telling you not to run! Are you hurt?"

"N-not much. Kn-knees hurt a l-little." Frankie wasn't one to complain much about pain when falling, which came in handy considering it had been happening a lot.

"N-NO! N-not h-him, tell him to g-go!" he exclaimed all of a sudden.

Goldberg was standing in front of us. "Frankie? I want us to be friends, so I brought you this," he handed him a candy. It had the wrap on and everything, but I knew there was something about it when I caught Goldberg's blink. "I promised I wouldn't do anything painful to you and I'm not lying."

"'s s-strawberry?" Frank asked.

"Yes." Mark grinned.

"Th-then I'll h-have it. B-but still an-angry and don't want sh-shots, kay?"


"Argg f-fuck...un-unwrap it, Gee?"

"Of course." The sweet didn't look like it had been manipulated in any form, Goldberg had probably injected it from the outside. After getting rid of the red wrapping, I gave it back to Frank who ate it right away, luckily not tasting anything abnormal in it.

"About thirty minutes," the psychiatrist let me know before disappearing into the nearest room.


Twenty minutes went by. Frankie couldn't keep his eyes open and was slurring his words.

"Wanna go to the other room? There's less light there..." I suggested.

"N-no no, there's b-bugsss the-there. L-lotsss," he mumbled drunkenly.



"Ok, we'll stay here then."

Fifteen minutes later we were back at the dim room, only this time Frankie was asleep. He never realised that the needle was into his vein again. I, of course, didn't look. When I dared to glance at him, the greenish contrast agent was entering his body. We had then another wait to endure; or I did, since Frank was still passed out.

It wasn't until Goldberg came back along with another man that I took notice that the tomograph had always been in that same room. The fact that I'd failed to see such a big machine was proof of just how tense and worried I was.

"Doctor Carter is going to do the scan," Mark introduced his companion.

Everything was settled and Frank was moved to an examination table where a frame was placed around his head. When Carter was sliding the table into the tunnel, Frankie opened his eyes.

"G-gee? Wh-where are you? G-get this out of m-my head?"

"I'm here, don't be afraid. Close your eyes and try to sleep again, it'll be easier that way." I held his hand for a moment.

"I...I'm s-sleepy. V-very." He kept trying to stop his eyelids from falling.

"I know, that's why you should sleep. Don't worry, I'll stay here and nothing bad will happen," I assured him.

"B-but this s-scares me. D-don't want.." he babbled.

"Oh no, don't be scared. This is just...a spaceship," I improvised.

He smiled groggily. "S-spaceship?"

"Exactly. Imagine it's a spaceship with a weird computer inside that will take pictures of your brain. It can get a little noisy in there, but that's normal in space machines, isn't it?" Goldberg spoke to Frank softly.

"G-guess so..." he responded, barely awake.

"What you need to do is close your eyes and try to sleep, or just remain really quiet. It won't be too long, can you do that? Then you can go home," he instructed him. Goldberg's tone was lulling, it worked perfectly for Frank's sedated state.


The table was at last slid into the tunnel and the scanning began. The spaceship idea seemed to work, because Frank endured the procedure pretty well.

"Here we are, the spaceship has landed." Goldberg announced while Carter took Frank out of the tomograph. The boy's eyes cracked open just a bit, searching for me.

I got close to the table, grabbing one of his hands in both mine. "I'm here, you were very good."

"W-wanna go h-home...still s-so sleepy," he rustled.

"Just a little longer. We'll go wait in the corridor in the meantime." Once again I carried him in my arms and took a seat.

Goldberg and Carter were going to study the scans and then fill me in on what could be seen. I was praying that the lesion wasn't too serious so Frank would be able to have a normal life. I would take care of him whatever the case, but it saddened me that he had so many problems.

Finally, the psychiatrist walked to us with a report in his hands. I was glad Frank wasn't awake. At that moment, I thought Mark's face looked as serious and nearly tragic as doctors' would on TV. They always seemed to be about to tell the characters that they were going die soon. I couldn't help my dramatic nature.

Goldberg sat beside us. "Ok. First of all, the problem is evidently related to the scar on his head. It's not worse than I had imagined, which is a relatively positive thing. The language area is the most damaged. Actually, it's amazing how good Frank can speak and express himself having in mind the importance of the lesion. There are other areas that were also affected. Not directly, but big impacts can cause the brain to shake violently and collide against the skull walls, getting damaged," he explicated and then waited for me to say something. I was feeling so tired, also wondering how Frank had gotten hurt. I couldn't get any word out. "Uh...I think it'll be better for me to tell you the effects rather than the technical matters."

"Yes, please."

"Judging from the way it looks I'd dare say that, indeed, the injury occurred before the age of two, maybe even earlier. Kids with this kind of brain damage usually present learning retardation. It takes them longer than normal to learn basic things like speaking and walking, among others. However, in many cases the problem becomes less noticeable with time, and with patience and dedication it's possible for some of them to catch up with other kids. Frankie seems to be a smart boy, but he might need some extra support to help him concentrate. The damage might also affect the understanding, both when listening and reading. Do you have any idea of how much education he received?"

"No, we've never talked about that. I only know -or at least that's what he said- that he can read and write. He won't be able to until he can see better, though, so I'll take care of that very soon. All I've seen him write was his name on a wall with a coin...and on his arms with scissors," I remembered Frank's 'idea of art'.

"Try asking him about all that, the possibilities vary a lot depending on how early he was stimulated to learn. The more information we have, the more we can help him," he pointed out. "Now back to the medication and Frank's progress: so far things seem to be going alright. You must have in mind that severe cases of schizophrenia are not easy to treat, medication helps improve the patients' quality of life but it doesn't make all symptoms disappear. Most patients still say things that make no sense, mix words or have unexpected or apathetic reactions once in a while. And as I've said, Frank's brain is weaker and some abnormalities can be due to the brain damage. It's hard to tell at the moment, antipsychotics take some time to act to their maximum. I want to see Frankie again in a week to work on a more solid base."

"Oh...ok." It wasn't the best comment after everything he had explained to me, but it was all my brain could process.

Thinking of the several impediments he dealt with, Frank was truly amazing. I wondered how his childhood had been, how much help he had gotten, at what age his mother had abandoned him the first time. I had the urge to find out about all that, to know him better. But in order to achieve that, I needed a plan B. 

Chapter Text

But I see your true colors shining through,
I see your true colors and thats why I love you.
So don't be afraid to let them show.
Your true colors,
true colors are beautiful like a rainbow.

Before we left the clinic, I called Ray. He'd come for Frankie and take him home so I could go straight to work.

I waited for him to arrive sitting in my car. Frankie was soundly asleep on my lap, though you could see that the restless morning had left him nervous. He had unconsciously grabbed one of my fingers tightly with his shaky hand. It had started to hurt, but I couldn't free it. I observed his long eyelashes flickering, eyeballs moving rapidly under closed eyelids.

 " en-enough...don't w-want..." he mumbled in dreams. I began to trace circles over his cheeks and forehead with my thumb. He sighed and loosened up.

"Here I am!" Ray's sharp voice made me jump about three feet in the air, my reaction waking up Frankie who gasped and embraced me.

"Oh, sorry! I thought you had seen me coming, Gee," my best friend apologized, scratching his furry head.

"It's ok, Ray, I was just distracted.'s only Ray, boy, relax!"

"Ahh...h-hi Ray..." he yawned.

"Hello, kiddo! Let's go home and I'll make you lunch." Ray opened the car's door for him, but Frank didn't get out or even attempt to move from where he was, holding onto me as if his life depended on it.

"Frankie? Come on, you know I gotta go to work..." I said.

"I'll let you choose what to eat, whatever you want," Ray offered.

"N-no. W-wanna stay with G-gee," he demanded firmly.

"But Frankie, Gerard needs to work. It's already much later than it usually is when he leaves, so you'll see him again soon."

"D-don't care. S-staying with him."

"You and Ray get along well..." I pointed out.

"Y-yeah but...d-don't wanna s-stay with him t-today!" Frankie cried.

Ray and I looked at each other, wondering what to do.

"I can't go home with you now, kid." I told Frank sadly.

"Th-then take me w-with you?" he smiled, tears sliding down his pale face.

"I guess I..."

"Gerard, are you sure you can do that?" Ray interrupted my pondering.

"Well, Sarah said I could bring him along if necessary. And I honestly don't wanna argue, he's had enough stress for today."

"W-will you, Gee? P-please please? I...I'll be g-good!"

"Ok. But only for today, understood? From tomorrow you stay with Ray again as always." I retrieved a tissue from my pocket and wiped his wet eyes and cheeks. He nodded, satisfied. Frank was so similar to a little kid sometimes that it scared me. Similarly stubborn, mostly. It wasn't that bad now that he was medicated, but he had his moments.

After apologizing to Ray for making him drive there for nothing, I headed for the store with Frankie. He was still rather unsteady, so I had to help him get there from the car.

"M-mine's prettier!" he pointed at the famous mobile that tinkled at our entrance.

"Well, that's because it was made exclusively for Frankie."


"Stay here until I think of something for you to do," I made him sit on the floor, since his legs weren't supporting him too well. "Don't try to get up by yourself."


Sarah walked to us with a pile of printer paper under her arm. "Good morning, Gerard! I see you have company today." 

"Yes, he had a difficult morning and insisted on coming with me instead of staying with my friend, sorry..."

"It's ok, don't worry. I said you could bring your brother, didn't I?"

"Yes, thank you. They had to sedate him to do the scan, I don't think he'll be a problem." I turned to check on Frank, but I couldn't see him. "Where's Frankie?"

"He just crawled behind the counter," Sarah signaled.

We found him on his knees in front of the small showcase that contained the most expensive supplies. The glass door had been recently cleaned and was almost like a mirror. Frankie appeared to be highly amused, raising a hand and moving it around slowly, as if giving the twin image time to follow him.

"Sh-shadow!" he whispered. I could see him perfectly reflected there, but I guess all he saw was a shadow.

"Sarah, do you know of a place I could call for food? We came here right from the clinic and Frankie needs to have lunch," I suddenly remembered. I'd packed a sandwich to eat later as I did every day, but I preferred Frank to have real meals if possible.

"I have a little kitchen here in the back room and was preparing something for myself. It's at least enough for two. Do you like noodles with cheese, Frankie?" she asked him. This woman was one in a million.

"Frankie..." I called him, since he hadn't heard Sarah.

"Y-yeah? W-was playing with the sh-shadow that f-follows me," he said. It wasn't the right moment for explanations, so I played along.

"I see, but Sarah asked you if you like noodles with cheese." I knew he did, but wanted him to answer.

"Y-yeah, a l-lot!"

"Perfect! Then come with me." She took his hand. "Gerard, I'm sorry that I don't have enough for you today. One of these days I'll invite you and the other boys for lunch."

"It's not necessary! I must warn you that Frankie's a little messy when he eats sometimes."

"I don't mind," she shrugged. "Go to your section and don't worry about your brother, he'll be fine."

"B-bye!" Frankie waved as they disappeared through a narrow sliding door.

'Brother'. That word sounded so weird, so out of place considering my feelings for Frank and -at least until four days ago- his feelings for me as well. Were those feelings still there? The thought was sad and I was refusing to address the truth, but Frankie had been acting more like my little brother than anything else. I had to be prepared because if that was the case, if that's how he felt and what he needed, I would have to accept it and adapt. For him.

Around forty minutes later -during which I had to assist the biggest number of annoying clients in a row- Sarah and Frankie came back. He kissed my cheek and sat on the big, quilted chair the woman had brought for him.

"You look happy, I guess you liked Sarah's food."

"Y-yep, she's v-very good. A...a l-little better than y-you," Frank commented.

"Oh, really?"

"Y-yeah, really!" he giggled, and it was music to my ears.

"Did he give you any trouble?" I asked Sarah.

"Nah, he just got a little angry when I tried to help him..."

"Because of his hands?"

"Yes, they were shaking so I thought of feeding him, but he firmly made it clear that he could do it," she related, chuckling.

"Sorry, I forgot to tell you that detail. Frankie likes to eat by himself even if it gets complicated, he always finds the way."

"Well, that's a good thing. In this case he grabbed the fork with both hands and it seemed to work."

The rest of the day went better than I would have expected. First, Sarah made Frank sit beside her and hand her things from a box for her to place them on the shelves. None of them were breakable, so it wouldn't matter if he dropped them once in a while. Frankie was happy to feel useful and acted visibly comfortable around my boss. However, he became shy every time anyone else tried to speak to him.

Later, as not many customers were showing up, we took a break to share some cookies while Frankie sang a few songs for Sarah. They weren't whole songs but fragments, and the repertory went from childish ones to punk rock. When the show concluded, she clapped her hands and Frank made a reverence that almost got him falling on his head.

At the end of the evening, Sarah declared Frankie her friend. She said he was a very sweet, good boy and I should bring him there some other time.

The exhausted boy crashed on the bed as soon as we arrived home. After using the opportunity to have a quick shower, I called Ray to tell him about the brain scan. My friend had grown very fond of Frankie -even if he usually gave him a hard time- and was upset with the news. Poor Ray even felt bad for being too insistent or slightly losing his temper a couple of times when he'd tried to explain things to Frankie.

"Ray, it's ok, we didn't know what else was wrong with him. I've had those moments after a bad day when you out of patience. I once screamed at Frank because he wouldn't understand that dirty dishes needed more than water to be clean. He was drying them without having used detergent at all." I recalled. "I guess it's not easy to put ourselves in Frank's place, we must remember how complicated it can sometimes be for him to understand simple instructions."

"Yeah. What makes it hard to imagine is that he's obviously smart. Like, for example, he knows a lot about animals and can remember some things people have said word by word!"

"Yes, he's a smart boy and has his talents," I agreed. "but also limitations that we'll have to deal with. Sometimes he just lacks concentration. It's like...he hears the words but doesn't comprehend them."

"I know...I'll try to be more patient. He needs us to be, and I won't die from repeating things twice or more," Ray said.

"Ray, you've been great. I don't know what I'd have done without you, man! I'm sure Frankie thanks you too."

"It's also a good experience for me, believe me. I never thought I'd be able to do this, to take care of someone like Frankie. I surprised myself and it's so rewarding, he's a real sweet boy." I could hear the smile in his voice. And I knew the feeling, I knew it so well. When you saw Frank laugh or talk lively, happy to have someone's full attention, all the bad moments were swept away.

"He is..."

"Oh, Gee...were you able to find out something about the kid?" Ray inquired.

"No, Bob got some people try to get into the police's databases, but none succeeded."

"Ah..." the line went silent for a while. "Have you tried phone calls?"

"What do you mean?" I had no idea what he was talking about.

"Well, I've been thinking about something: Frank's last name -if it's correct- is not a common one. Maybe you could grab a directory and call all Ieros?" he explained.

"And what would I say to them?"

" could ask them if they know an 18 year-old called Frank?"

"Frankie's been locked up almost his whole life, apparently. If he has any other relatives they most probably don't know him," my negativity showed up.

"Maybe some do! You lose nothing by trying," positive Ray counteracted.

"You're right...I'll think about it."

"It's a good chance. I know you don't like the idea of calling strangers, but I can't think of any other option right now."

"Neither can I, honestly. I'll consider your idea," I said. Could that be my plan B?

After hanging up, I turned the TV on and leaned back. I wasn't really paying attention to what was being shown on the screen. It was just random images flashing before my eyes while I dived in my own thoughts about that day's news, about Ray's idea, about my first payment that I'd get the following day and if it would be enough. I hadn't even made the calculations, I hadn't had the time or the guts. But mostly, I was thinking about Frank. Just Frank. Frank and how I was missing his lips.

"Hi, baby!" I greeted him as he came walking slowly and carefully. His chocolate hair messy and curly, his bright eyes reddened with sleep. He was holding Puppy against his chest, his hands shaking but never losing the proportion. The dog was always the exact same size in his mind.

"P-puppy woke m-me up. L-licked my face," he laughed. "And...and th-the little people are h-hungry. S-said if they can e-eat with us." He hadn't mentioned the little people in weeks, so I found it ironic that he did again now that he was medicated. It had only been five days of that, anyway.

"Well, they don't eat too much so I guess they can," I assented.

"Yay!" Frank acclaimed and, previously leaving Puppy over the coffee table, he threw himself onto me and kissed my cheek. He then separated his body from mine and sat next to me, though his arms lingered on my neck; his pupils as close to his nose as physically possible because of the proximity. I was a statue, he got me bewitched.

"L-love you very...v-very much," he whispered in that tone I hadn't heard in days. That tone no one would believe Frank could use. That tone that reminded me that he wasn't a kid.

Inches diminished. Perfect pink lips approached me. I waited without doing anything, without moving. But just when I thought I would get back what I had been missing he receded, sitting up at the edge of the couch and looking at his feet.

"Hey, what's wrong Frankie?" I moved some hair off his face.

He blushed. "I...I w-was you d-don't want to," he rambled, nervous and confused.

"What did you want to do? Tell me..."

"N-no...'cause...maybe y-you..."

I made him look at me. "Please, tell me." 

"K-kiss your m-mouth," he murmured, now completely flushed.

So that had been the problem all along. Frankie was more conscious and that had turned him shyer and more insecure, but his feelings were intact. If he had only known what his words meant to me, how they liberated me from the oppressing weight in my heart.

"That's no problem, sweety. Come here." I indicated him to sit on my lap. He did, but seemed still unsure.


"Of course I want to kiss you," I added. He grinned, his arms around my neck again.

And I kissed him. Softly and tenderly, delicately but needy. His lips accompanied my lips a lot easier this time, but his smile was present as the previous times. I let my hands slowly run along his back, testing, stopping by his waist. He shuddered, and a short sigh escaped his mouth.

"You ok?" I asked him. He nodded, catching his breath. 

My fingers brushed his dark waves of hair aside and I deposited mini kisses on his neck, following a way to his jaw and back to his lips. He giggled and sighed again, clearly enjoying it. Suddenly, I felt the tip of his warm tongue against my lower lip. Frankie drew back, laughing behind his hand.

"Oh!" I exclaimed amused. He must have learned that watching movies.

I entwined our fingers and kissed him once again; the tip of my tongue now running along his lower lip. More giggles, and the butterflies in my stomach were having a party. He let his tongue come out and meet my thankful one. We rubbed them for a while and Frankie never stopped giggling, for moments adding to that a short whimper. As a temporary conclusion, we sealed the moment with one more meaningful kiss, as if we had agreed on that, and stayed with our foreheads together.

Frankie smiled widely and then brought his index finger to his lips. "Shh." he hissed. "'s our s-secret." 

Chapter Text

And he starts wondering what it's like to be liked by everyone,
and like everyone be just like anyone,
and just wants to be so just like anyone.

Frankie's words transfixed my soul. He seemed to understand more than I had thought. He remembered what I'd said and repeated it in such a sweet way that I felt like an ogre. After what had just happened, one would suppose that there would be no problem in telling him we could be boyfriends. However, I was still too afraid of what my family and friends would say, or more of what they could do. It wasn't shame what stopped me, but the fear of losing Frank. I didn't intend to keep it a secret forever, yet I needed time to think of how to tell them.

I smiled imitating Frankie's 'silence' gesture, my index finger across my lips. "I'm gonna go make dinner now, be a good boy." I gave him an extra kiss before getting up.

"Al-always," he nodded. "D-don't forget the p-plate for the l-little people!"

I watched Frankie's little battle over his dish of boiled potatoes with eggs and mayonnaise. In vain he tried to get something with his fork, only succeeding in pushing the food around with it and sometimes even missing the plate. Annoyed, he sighed and left the fork aside, resorting to eating with his fingers.

"Want me to get you a deeper plate and a spoon? It could be easier..." I offered.

"N-nope. I c-can," he grinned, stuffing his mouth.

"Go ahead, then." I didn't mind him eating like that, so I brought my attention back to my plate.

I let Frankie do things in any way he liked or managed as long as it couldn't get him hurt. I had bought him a fancy purple straw to drink his beverages, so he didn't need as much help when his hands weren't responding well. At most, I had to assist him to get the straw into his mouth.

Frank knew he was different; he knew he was special, as that woman Grace had called him. Nevertheless I always tried to make the differences less noticeable because I didn't want him to feel inferior. Whenever he encountered problems to do something, I'd find a way for him to do it by himself the same. Sometimes he just adapted when facing complications, like it happened with the food case.

He was an incredible boy, so easy to love. I already knew I could spend my whole life with him. I was ready to take care of Frankie forever, to make him happy the same way he made me happy. Because he did, specially after showing me that he truly felt something deeper for me. He had apparently always known what he was doing when he said he liked me, when he said he loved me; when he'd innocently seduce me and kiss me. I didn't know how far our relationship could go, but at the moment I didn't care. I'd enjoy what we had and take it step by step.

I kept in mind that would have to be careful. At night, before going to sleep, I never tried to go farther than some little goodnight kisses and then cuddling. The fact of being in bed together made the situation feel bolder, and I didn't want to push things much. What we had was perfect to me, and seeing Frankie happy was all that mattered.


"Hi!" Frankie exclaimed when I got home the following day, jumping on my back while I was closing the door. Then I noticed the white marks his hands were leaving on my black t-shirt.

I walked to the couch and carefully placed Frank there. His face and clothes were white, too. He got up and took my hand, dragging me behind him.

For moments he walked as if he was drunk, and he almost fell twice as he guided me to the kitchen, but I held him. I was sure his equilibrium would get better with time; he probably used to take a different medication and his body needed to assimilate the new one. At least Frankie wasn't complaining at all, everything seemed normal to him.

"What happened here?" I questioned what greeted me in the kitchen.

"W-we been making c-cookies!" Frank said.

I saw that my mother was there too, though she hadn't arrived when I left that morning. The kitchen was kind of a disaster: the whole dark floor was full of flour, and cookie dough was covering the table and dripping from it. Ray was wearing a blue apron, his afro also adorned with both flour and dough.

"Frankie said I'm a human cookie now," Ray chuckled, shaking his head.

"I thought it'd be a good activity for him..." my mom shrugged timidly, probably responding to my wide-eyed expression. "He seemed bored."

"Oh, I agree. Good idea, thanks mom and Ray!" I let them know I wasn't angry. "Now, if after eating these delicious cookies I get some help to clean this...then we'll go to the supermarket."

I had finally gotten paid for real, though everybody thought it'd happened weeks ago. I hoped they wouldn't ask where the money had come from now.

"M-means I can g-go?" Frank asked wishfully.

"Of course!"

"Then I better go too..." my mother decided.

"Oh! Gerard," Ray spoke while trying to get rid of everything that was entangled in his curls. "I called the oculist as you asked."

"Thanks, Ray! I knew you had a better memory than mine, I kept forgetting."

"Frankie has an appointment this Friday, I wrote it down and left the paper near the phone together with the address."

"Wh-what's an oc-oc...that?" Frankie inquired.

"It's an eye doctor, he'll help you see better. You'll most probably have to wear glasses like Mikey," mom explained to him. Hopefully, Frankie's main needs would be fulfilled soon.

"Ahh..." he spaced out and took a cookie out of the pile.


Frank had never been in a supermarket before. You could tell by how amazed he looked as he eyed everything with his mouth hanging open.

"Wow's b-big!" he declared, stumbling towards the fridges.

"Frankie! Don't touch anything, let Gerard pick what you both need." My mother took hold of the boy and made him walk in between her and the shopping cart. That way Frankie had something to steady him and his hands occupied at the same time; but she was the one really pushing the cart.

"Wh-what do the l-little signs s-say?" he pointed at the huge fridge by his side.

"Well, different things. Yogurt, milk, cheese..." I named. "...and the prices."

"Ahh. C-can we get ch-cheese? I l-like cheese!"

"But this is cheese to spread on toasts or cookies."

" no. W-want real cheese."

"I'll get some as soon as I see it," I promised.

Many more times Frankie wanted to know what the signs said, several times he tried to touch everything and my mother had to tell him to stay quiet; but he was really happy to see something new. That happiness only left him every time people would look at him -some even stared- or just stand too close. He would then hide his face against me and stay like that for a couple of minutes.

"T-too many p-people...d-don't like so m-many people," he mumbled.

"Don't worry, they won't do anything bad to you," I calmed him.

He detached himself from me, but brushed his extra-long fringe forward so it covered his face.

"Frankie...get your hair out of your face, honey," mom demanded, yet in a kind tone.

"N-no, they'll s-see me!"

"They see you the same," I said.

"B-but they don't s-see my face," he clarified.

Without a word, I took him to the clothes section. I chose a red cap and put it on his head, making sure it kept the hair out of his face. "Next time you do that, you're getting a haircut." I menaced him, near to losing my patience.

"N-NO!" he screamed.

"Then show your face, kid! You're very pretty, so you have nothing to be afraid of," my mother assured him.

" if someone l-laughs?" he doubted.

"If someone laughs, I'll kick their asses," I whispered my answer in his ear.

He hugged me and whispered back. "L-love you."

"What's all this secrecy?" mom got curious.

"Uh...nothing important. I told him that if someone makes fun of him I'll kick their asses and Frankie...he said 'kick them hard'", I lied. My mother just chuckled.

"G-gee...can I go w-with them? W-wanna make f-friends," Frank asked.

I glanced to where he had pointed and saw two boys about 15 years old talking to each other. Something told me it wasn't a good idea; but as my mother and I looked at each other questioningly, I considered that it wasn't fair to stop Frank from being sociable when he felt like it.

She escorted him there and stayed rather close. I observed the scene from far away, too worried to continue with my task of grabbing the needed goods.

The kids were laughing when Frankie approached them. He greeted them and they seemed to be conversing for a while. More laughs were heard and my blood was boiling. My mom raised a hand, telling me to wait. Suddenly, we saw Frankie jump into one of the kids throwing him to the ground. When we got there, he was biting that boy while the second one had Frank by the hair, his cap having fallen off. A woman -who I presumed was the mother of one of the kids- showed up cursing. I didn't pay attention to her, I was trying to separate Frankie from his rival.

"That savage attacked my son!" were the only words I could make out.

"He's not a savage, he's mentally ill," my mother tried an apology.

"Then keep him away from public places," the woman retorted.

"What you just said...was out of place and idiotic," mom spat angrily, making the other shut up.

"FRANK, STOP!" I demanded.

"B-BUT TELL HIM TO L-LET GO OF MY H-HAIR!" he screamed. Once the kid complied, Frankie stood up and kicked his leg before he could get on his feet.

"Oh my God, I'll call security!" the boy's mother cried out furiously.

"Don't call anyone, we'll leave. Anyway it was their fault. They made fun of Frankie. I heard them laugh at the way he walked, at his eyes and how he speaks. So shut up, you have no right to complain." My mother took Frank's hand and walked away.

I picked up the cap and followed them to the next section. Again, I admired my mother.


Once we were home and my mom had left, Frankie went to the bedroom and, reaching into his backpack, he retrieved his teddy bear. It was the first time since I'd met him. So far his 'puppy' had seemed to replace it. He hadn't stopped seeing the dog yet and had even 'fed him' that same morning, but he hadn't talked so much about him lately.

I wondered what had triggered that sudden need for his toy. Was it what had happened at the supermarket? Did those kids remind him of the ones at the institution who'd make fun of him?

He turned the TV on and sank into the couch quietly, hugging the shabby bear tightly and without speaking a single word.

"Are you ok, Frankie?" I asked.

"Y-yeah," he simply responded. Unwillingly, I decided not to bother him for a while.

Since we had brought prepared food, I didn't need to cook. I thought of what I could do to kill time and Ray's suggestion came to my mind. What if I made those phone calls? I had always been rather shy. The thought of calling people I didn't know to ask them about a boy most of them probably didn't know either, wasn't something I was desperate to do. But trying wouldn't hurt me.

I seized the directory from below the coffee table and went right to the 'i' section. I skipped the pages until I spotted the last name 'Iero'. With a pencil, I made a small mark next to each person. I sighed in relief when I saw there were only six Ieros there and I nervously grabbed the phone, determined to do it.

The first two calls were futile, for no one answered. I drew crosses as a reminder to try those again later.

"I know no one by the name of Frank," said an unfriendly man voice on the other side of the line. Name number three was ticked off.

For call number four a woman answered, a young one from what her voice told me.

"Uh...hello. Do you know an 18 year-old boy named Frank?" I repeated my question.

"Well, my uncle and cousin are both called Frank, but one's 50 and the other's 27. So I guess I can't help you," she replied politely.

"Thank you anyway. Bye!"

The fifth Iero family only included a 5 year old Frank. So far, I was thankful that no one had hung up on me.

When I was about to call the last name from the list, I noticed Frankie sitting in front of the wall. From where I was, I couldn't distinguish what he was doing. I went to check, alarmed that he could hit his head -something he hadn't done again since medicated. But no, he'd been drawing on the wall with a coin again, scratching the light paint and revealing the much darker, brown red that had once decorated it. Highly noticeable.

But it wasn't the doubtable style-sense of who used to live there before that froze me. It was what Frankie had drawn: a big heart -or at least something that resembled one- inside of which it read 'Frankie and Gee' in shaky, irregular capital letters.

Frank perceived me looking and turned to me smiling, proud of his work. I was deeply moved, yet at the same time worried.

"Oh my God, Frankie...that sweet. But...why so big, baby?"

"'C-cause this b-big I can r-read it too!" he explained.

"You know we'll have to cover it, right? Otherwise we won't have our secret anymore." I hoped I wouldn't hurt his feelings.

"Y-yeah, I know," he nodded understandingly. He surprised me too often. "B-but only if someone c-comes!"

"Only if someone comes."


Later, I called the last Iero. The man told me with a painful voice that Frank was the name of his recently deceased father. I apologized, feeling like shit. Why was it that every Iero family seemed to have a Frank? I went back to the first name, and this time a woman answered. And old, tired voice with an Italian accent.

"Sorry to bother you, ma'am. Would you happen to know a boy called Frank? Frank Anthony?" I let out the question. I heard her make a sound at the back of her throat. "Do you know him?"

"How curious. It's the name of the little bastard that my son accepted as his. Sad coincidence..." she spoke.

A weird sensation filled me. "How old is he?" I pushed.

She took a while to reply. "Well, he'd be 18 if he was alive, but he died when he was 4. Maybe it was better that way, I didn't want my son maintaining a kid that most probably wasn't his. That girl was a whore, and I'm sure the child was retarded or something," the woman commented. Hearing all that told me that she could be the right person, as much as the facts didn't exactly made sense. Dead at 4?

I was going to ask more, but the woman appeared to have a sudden need to spill it all out. Some old people had that habit of not being able to stop once they'd start talking. Sometimes, for example, they would relate their whole life to strangers on the bus. Maybe this person lived alone, with usually no one to converse with.

"That girl broke up with my son when the baby was born, so he'd only see him once in a while. But one day he managed to snatch the kid and he brought him here for some hours. I don't know what for, I didn't want to see him. That creature was 2 years old and hadn't even attempted to walk. All he did was cry, not a single word." That last thing she said convinced me even more, thinking of what the doctor had told me about Frank's brain damage.

"When should I call to find your son?"

"He doesn't live here anymore," she answered.

"Would you tell me where he lives?"

"No idea. After that single time when I saw the little rat my son had town for two years. It was when he came back that the bitch told him the kid had died. Then my son disappeared. I was told he started a band somewhere and they travel to play, but they're not really known. He's never called me again." She sounded annoyed already.

"Could you give me some kind of information to find that woman? The kid's mother?"

"Why do you care?" she questioned rudely.

"Oh in a hospital, and we found something about the kid in a database. I have some things to ask her. Your son's not gonna get involved in anything, I promise," I lied. I had been doing that a lot lately.

"I gave you enough information already, young man," she stated and hung up. Just when I was on the track.

I tried the second name of the list just in case, but found nothing of help.

"FUCK!" I screamed angrily, walking past Frankie -who stood in the middle of the corridor- and into the kitchen.

No qualms this time. I opened the fridge and my hands gripped a can of beer greedily. Opening it and starting to drink from it didn't take me much longer. I knew I should have never bought it, but I was weak and had thought that one wasn't bad. It made me feel safe. In my reasoning, this single can assured me that I'd have something to resort to if I got too desperate, instead of running out to maybe buy something worse.

"Wh-what's that? C-can I t-try it?" Frankie asked childly, sitting on a chair beside me. His voice made my frustration relent.

"No baby, you can't drink from this," I banned him.

This held him back for a second, but then he surprised me by kissing my lips and licking his afterwards. I couldn't believe how sexy he looked doing that.

"T-tastes...funny..." he shuddered. "Ew."

"You know what? Yes, it does taste funny. Let's do something..." I got up and threw the half-full can into a trash bag, taking a can of Coke Zero out of the fridge this time.

"Y-yeah, gimme!"

"Wait..." I added the straw. "Here you are."


"Frankie...have you been to school?" I inquired while we shared the Coke. "You know how schools are like, don't you?"

"Y-yeah, s-saw them in m-movies. D-didn't go t-to one. No," he shook his head.

"But you know how to read and write..."

"Y-yes. A...a m-man came and t-teached us." He made me smile.

"It's taught us," I corrected him.

"Oh, y-yeah...he t-taught us."

"How was that?" I was willing to know.

"W-was in the s-same room where we a-ate and most kids w-were younger than m-me. And...and h-he teach...t-taught us how to w-write and r-read and then c-calculations but I was b-bad at it. C-couldn't do them."

"That was it? He didn't teach you anything more?"

"T-to other k-kids, but n-not to me. d-day he t-told me to go to my r-room 'cause couldn't learn an-anymore," he recalled. Not even in that place they had the patience?


"I...t-told Grace and she as-asked him." Frank chewed on the straw distractedly. "H-he's not only c-crazy, he's also r-retarded," he added monotonously, his voice sounding kind of different.

"That man said that?"

"Y-yeah. I...I'M N-NOT! J-JUST SPECIAL, F-FUCK!" he shouted, punching the table.

"Of course you're not, baby. That man was an asshole, he knew nothing. Shh, we won't talk about that anymore, it's ok." I held him and kissed his cheek.

"G-grace taught me s-some things with b-books...'bout an-animals," he whispered.

"I'll buy you a big book with lots of pictures and information about animals and we'll read it together when you can see better. You'd like that?"


The phone rang, interrupting the moment. I felt that it was important to answer, though.


"We talked earlier...about that Frank kid?" it was the old woman. Why was she calling back?

"Yeah, what...?"

"I've been thinking. It sounds like that whore might be in trouble from what you told me?"

"Well...I'm only in charge of calling and trying to find out, but I guess she might be if something's not too clear about the kid's death." I made up, catching the woman's intentions.

"That's what I thought! And I'd actually love to get her in trouble. Got a pen? I'll tell you where she used to live. I don't think she's still there, but someone might help you find her. All I know is her first name: Linda."

"Ok, tell me," I tried to hide my excitement, paper and pencil in hand.

The woman hung up right after telling me the address. The place was approximately a three-hours ride away. If that had once been Frank's home, it was a real mystery how he ended up in a mental institution so far from it. But I'd find out.  

Chapter Text

Born into somewhere unseen and unknown,
just like a wonder so small and alone.
Take me away into your innocent dreams,
maybe I'd see what it all means.

If I had followed my impulses, I would have left right then and gone to the address the woman had given to me; but I took a moment to think instead. That day was discarded, since it was already night. If I went the following day after work, it would be night by the time I got there. That wasn't a good idea idea if I expected to find someone who could help me; it's a fact that people trust strangers even less at night. Therefore I decided that the best alternative was to wait until the weekend.

I only hoped that my anxiety wouldn't lead me to do stupid things. I was finding it hard to not give in to some alcohol once in a while. Even with just a little beer that wouldn't get me drunk -like a moment ago- I was still putting myself in risk and Frankie together with me. I needed to be more careful, because my actions directly affected the boy.

"G-GEE!" Frank screamed, touching my shoulder. I had totally forgotten that he stayed in the kitchen while I was on the phone.

"What's it, baby?"

"C-come to the k-kitchen...there's b-bugs! K-kill them?" he pleaded and pushed me in that direction.

"I'm coming!"

"O-open it slowly," he referred to the door, which he had left closed. I complied and we both entered, Frankie hiding behind me.

"Well, I see no bugs...but I smell pee." I smirked, following my nose to the trashcan whose bottom was, in fact, filled with the yellowish liquid.

"P-pee? N-no, no pee. B-bugs! The-there, silly, not in the f-fucking trashcan!" he pointed under the table.

"Ok, let's see."

"K-kill them, Gee! If...if you d-don't...then bats w-will come e-eat them. D-don't want b-bats here!" he hurried me while he tried to get on a chair.

"Oh, no no...I'll kill them, but you better not climb anything. Wait here." I lifted him and sat him on the table.


After 'killing the bugs' with a broom, I stood in front of Frank and kissed his lips briefly. "Now tell me, what happened to the trashcan? You should have told me you needed to pee, even if I was on the phone, it doesn't matter." I wasn't reprimanding him; but since it seemed that problem wasn't going to change, I wanted to insist on him telling me when he needed to go to the bathroom. 

Frankie frowned, evidently confused. "I...I didn't p-pee there. I kn-know where the b-bathroom is!" he defended himself.

"Of course you know, you just get confused sometimes, that's all. See the pee here?"

" w-was Puppy! Gu-guess I forgot to t-take him to the p-patio. Yep. I'll s-slap his ass. B-but not h-hard, he's a b-baby," he went on, waving his hands around.

"Puppy's too short to reach the trashcan..." I remarked.

He swung his legs and thought for some seconds. "Y-yeah, you're r-right. So...I d-did that?"

"Yes, baby..."

"D-didn't know! I...I th-thought it was the b-bathroom. R-really, Gee...d-don't be mad?" he bit his lip, twisting the hem of his t-shirt.

I threw my arms around his small body and kissed his cheek repetitively. "I'm not mad at all."  

"R-really?" he looked up with wet eyes. It had been his first time accepting that it could have been him who peed in the wrong place. Not exactly admitting it, though, since he didn't know how it had occurred.

"Really. I know you didn't mean to do it, don't worry about that," I calmed him down. "But...try to remember telling me when you need to go? It doesn't matter if I'm busy, I'll leave what I'm doing and guide you, ok?"

"K-kay. I'll t-tell you." He grabbed my face and kissed me sweetly. "Y-you're very nice, l-love you!"

"And I love you too, very very much!" I replied. "Before cleaning that I'm gonna prepare your special candy."

"C-can I have t-two? One...n-non special?" he asked me.

"Well, we're having dinner soon but I guess you can for today." I was unable to say 'no' to those eyes.

I made sure that he had swallowed the candy with the pill and then gave him the promised extra one. Next, I emptied the trashcan into the toilet and washed it in the sink. Frankie was silent, maybe still a little worried because of the accident.

"G-gee..." he broke the silence.


"C-can we make c-cookies some day? Y-you weren't here wh-when Ray and D-donna and I m-made them. W-wanna make c-cookies with you!" he said happily.

"I'd love to. But you'll have to teach me because I've never made cookies," I told him.

Frank got serious. "I...d-dunno if I r-remember," he whispered.

"Next time you see my mom, tell her to write down the recipe. You'll have your glasses soon, so you will be able to read it to me."

"Y-yes! We c-can do that," he agreed grinning. It was good to see him so interested in something, so happy to be able to do it. I could make cookies with him everyday just to see him smile like that.


As days went by, Frankie's hallucinations became more sporadic. Puppy seemed to be the most resistant one, although he didn't remember the dog all the time; only when he was too bored or about to go to sleep. Then he'd call him and hold him in his arms, or place him on the bed at our feet. Deep inside I was hoping he would never stop seeing his imaginary pet. I was afraid of how he could react.

On the other hand, Frank's improvement had a downside for me. I was suddenly having trouble to keep him entertained. He used to spend a good part of the day talking to the gnomes and the little people, or arguing with the voice in his head. If not, he'd be amused watching butterflies on the ceiling or ladybugs that -according to him- walked along the walls. That without mentioning the bad hallucinations. Now he seemed to have a lot of free time, and in many occasions I'd find him just sitting on the floor or the couch looking at nothing, like in a trance. It wasn't easy to get him out of that state, so we tried to avoid that by talking to him or thinking of things for him to do. There weren't many given the fact that his sight was very poor.

Our relationship was slowly growing. We kissed randomly, cuddled as often as possible and had make out sessions on the couch. Frankie had gotten really good at kissing without losing that innocence and tenderness. He still smiled all the time while we kissed and giggled while our tongues danced together. I always stayed focused on not going too far while touching him; I didn't want to scare him. 

From what Frank had told me about his boyfriend, they'd only say they were boyfriends but had never really done anything. When we were together, hr didn't do much more than caress my hair, entangle his fingers in it, or just stay with his arms around my neck; yet he seemed to enjoy my soft touch.

Another thing I noticed was that he hadn't touched himself anymore since he was on his meds. I knew that one of the side effects could be lack of sexual desire, but I didn't give that much thought. Sex wasn't something in my mind when I thought of Frankie. At least for the moment, it seemed out of place. I couldn't say I had never imagined it, I had; but I knew it wouldn't happen any time soon. Maybe it would never happen -it was a possibility. Either way I would wait. I would never try anything without being totally sure that he was prepared for it.


It was Friday already, and by the afternoon I took Frankie to the oculist. The office was at the man's house, a pretty chalet with terracotta brick walls and a colorful garden.

"G-gee, you t-told me you'd b-buy me f-flowers to plant at h-home," Frankie reminded me.

"I know, I will soon, I promise." That was something that I definitely wanted to do with him, so I would get to it as soon as I could.

While we were waiting, I was told that Frankie needed to have drops applied to dilate his pupils. I said I would do it myself and though it wasn't easy to convince him to stay quiet, I finally won. Even if he looked really weird -his eyes almost completely black- when the drops worked, he didn't seem to feel anything. I had heard people see blurry with dilated pupils, but maybe it had always been like that for him, because he didn't complain or comment about it.

When the ophthalmologist indicated us to enter the room, Frank gasped and clung to me. The rather young man -not more than 40- was extremely tall and had a strong voice, which intimidated the kid.

"Frank, right?" he asked. "I'm David."

"W-wanna go h-home," Frankie whispered to me.

"He likes to be called Frankie," I told the doctor. "Would you give us a minute?"

"Of course," David assented.

I took Frank outside again and, sitting him on my lap, I tried to explain everything the oculist might be doing to him and that there was nothing to be afraid of. I also made him think about how many more things he would be able to do once he had his glasses and could see better. He finally didn't seem so afraid and agreed to go back into the office.

"Sorry for the wait, David. He's a little scared," I apologized.

"Don't worry, I understand," he said while preparing some instruments. "It doesn't hurt, Frankie."

"B-but...but you h-have to see m-my eyes?"

"Yes, I need to examine them."

"N-no...don't w-want! M-my eyes are all w-weird and f-fucked up. D-don't look at th-them!" he closed his eyes tight.

The doctor and I smiled.

"I'm an eye doctor, I've seen a lot of people whose eyes are like yours, it's normal to me."

"R-really? N-never seen one!" Frank opened them wide again "C-can you f-fix them?"

"I'm not sure, anyway you shouldn't be ashamed of it."

"K-kay." He seemed convinced this time, knowing that there were many cross-eyed people.

"Oh, can be a little hard to make him follow instructions, hope it's not a problem," I commented.

"Not at all. I've worked with some of Doctor Goldberg's patients before, so I know how to proceed with them. He called a couple of days ago and told me about Frankie. He also assured me there's no damage in the sight area of his brain, the problem is most probably just genetic."

Frankie behaved very well during the examination. Sure, he needed to be told some things more than once, but the doctor was patient. The boy was interested in knowing what each instrument was for and asked a lot of questions, reminding me of a child again. It got a little frustrating for him at one point when, as much as he forced his eyes, he couldn't distinguish most of the letters from the chart. Then David began to try different lenses on the machine and Frank's mood lightened back. He applauded, squealed and screamed joyfully every time he was able to read a letter. It was amusing to see.

"Ok, we're done Frankie!" David said. 

I nodded, waiting for the report on Frank's sight condition while he ran to investigate the office.

"Frankie has high myopia and astigmatism. It could have been early stopped and corrected had he worn glasses when he was much younger. Now correction can be very slow -if even possible, although thanks to the glasses he'll be able to at least see close to normally. Laser surgery is an option but he's still too young for it, it's advised for people older than 25," he explained.

"What about his eye deviation?" I asked.

"That has to do with the muscles of the eyeballs. I guess the problem always existed and got worse after years of forcing his eyes to see. It can be treated or operated in some cases, but I wouldn't recommend it now. I think it's more important to control his sight problem; two more years and he'd be nearly blind. Make sure Frankie wears his glasses all the time so it doesn't get any worse," he continued.

I swallowed, almost choking. "I understand, I will."

David wrote down the prescription and the address of an optician he recommended to get the glasses done. Not wanting to waste any more time, that's where we headed afterwards.


The optician was a woman in her fifties, not even nearly as nice as Goldberg or David. I didn't care about her personality though; as long as she was good doing her job it would be alright.

She read the prescription and informed me that for such a high graduation like Frank needed, there were two options of eyeglasses: one was the classic bottle-bottom glass, which was rather ugly and made eyes look tiny. Then you could also have the same graduation in a much thinner, not distortive glass. However, that second alternative was considerably more expensive.

I observed Frankie, who was dragging his feet along the store looking at the numerous frames exposed. People could be cruel, I knew that and had witnessed it. What's more, there were already many reasons for those idiots to discriminate Frank or laugh at him. Why add a new one when it could be avoided? Some assholes made fun of kids just for wearing glasses -my brother knew of that. Condemning Frank to wear horrid, thick-glassed ones was almost a crime. My dad's watch would have to stay in the pawn shop for a little longer.

"Thin eyeglass, please," I made up my mind. "Which frames can he choose from?"

"Whatever he wants," the optician answered shortly, not even looking up from what she was reading. "And tell the kid to keep his hands off the windows."

People who had to interact with others everyday should at least try to be more friendly...

"Well Frankie, choose the frame you'd like for your glasses," I told him.

He smiled and clapped his hands, quite enthusiastic. I hoped the enthusiasm would last him for when he had to wear them.

After wandering through all the displays, he tugged at my t-shirt and pointed to his selection. "Th-this one!"

I stared at the biggish, black, thick rimmed frame. "Are you sure, Frankie? Don't you prefer some thinner, colored ones?" 

"N-nope...want th-this!"

I communicated the decision to the woman, who reluctantly took the frame out of the display and gave it to Frank to try it. Whatever doubts I might have had about Frank's choice, disappeared when I saw him wearing it. The thick black rim perfectly framed his beautiful hazel eyes and amazingly, it made his little face even cuter.

"You look very handsome," I whispered in his ear.

He shuddered, giggling. We left after being told that the glasses would be ready for Tuesday.


It was late at night. Since we weren't too tired, we had been lying on the bed just talking. When Frankie turned his back to me and I heard no more from him, I assumed he had fallen asleep and grabbed a magazine to read while I waited for sleep to come.

All of a sudden, I felt his lips behind my ear, kissing lightly. Caught by surprise, I dropped the magazine. When I rolled to look at him, he had returned to his previous position and I could hear him giggle. I got closer and, supporting myself on an elbow, planted kisses from his shoulder to his temple. He shivered and laughed, but remained quiet. I kissed the side if his mouth, hovering above him, yet not touching him. He looked at me sleepily but inviting, my lips drawn to his while my hand petted his hair. He responded to the kiss and hummed softly. My elbow gave up and I fell to the bed, my chest against his back. I wrapped my arm around his waist, intending to turn him over to face me. Frank jumped and sat up.

"N-no...I d-don't think I wanna d-do that."

"Frankie, what's wrong baby? Do what?" I questioned worried.

He looked scared. "D-do...that...that th-thing boyfriends do...m-make love?"

He left me perplexed. "What? No! I...wasn't going..."

"G-grace told me n-not to accept th-that again. N-no. N-not again," he whispered.

Had I understood well? Frankie'd had sex? Besides the fact that I had never thought it possible, the way he said it and what Grace had told him made me think something was wrong. Frank was sitting on the pillow, his knees folded against his chest and his head down. He seemed embarrassed.

"'ve had sex? Or...made love?" I rephrased my question, thinking he might not understand otherwise.

"I...on-only once. W-with my b-boyfriend," he replied.

"But...didn't you tell me he wouldn't even want to kiss or hold hands?" I was confused.

"Y-yeah. H-he always said n-no kissing or h-holding hands. B-but then once h-he said we'd do s-something boyfriends did, th-that we'd m-make love. I...I d-didn't know if I w-wanted, didn't kn-know how it w-was but he said 'w-we're boyfriends, so we h-have to'," he recalled, and I let him talk. "T-told him it h-hurt, but he s-said it'd pass and didn't w-want to stop. Th-then felt kinda g-good but...but I d-didn't like it an-anyway. H-hurt a l-lot and...I w-was bleeding."

He was barely sniffing while telling me all that. I made a fist of my hand, fighting back tears.

"Did you tell Grace?" I tried not to show how concerned I was. That guy had practically raped him and Frankie talked about it as if it was normal.

"N-nope. J-john said not to t-tell 'cause everybody would kn-know and make f-fun of us. H-he cleaned me up and...and p-put some cream...d-down there. Ev-every time I said it h-hurt he was n-nice and put the c-cream and said 'g-gonna be fine'," he went on, saying the guy's name for the first time.

"How did Grace find out, then?"

"J-John wanted to d-do it again one d-day and I d-didn't, so I g-got angry and s-screamed and Grace h-heard. W-we were n-naked and she kn-knew. And...and I t-told her we had d-done it before. Th-then they took my b-boyfriend to an-another place, d-didn't see him any-more," he spoke messily. "'D-don't let anyone d-do that to you a-again'. She s-said that."

I was left frozen. I felt cold despite the high temperature. I couldn't speak, I didn't know what to say.

"Ar-are you mad? I l-love you Gee. D-don't like John an-anymore. B-but...Grace said n-not to do th-that. N-no."

I heard his voice and raised my eyes. He was looking at me, waiting for me to tell him something. He wasn't crying. He didn't realise the meaning of what he'd just confessed to me. The poor sweet boy was just afraid that I would be mad at him for not wanting to make love!

I needed to say something.

Chapter Text

So nobody ever told us baby
how it was gonna be.
So what'll happen to us, baby?
Guess we'll have to wait and see

I desperately grabbed Frank's face, wanting to get his main concern out of the way. "Oh no baby, I'm not mad!"  


"No, Frankie, I'm not. I wasn't expecting us to make love, I wasn't even thinking of it. I just wanted to kiss you, I swear." I caressed his cheeks.

He gave me a confused smile. "K-kissing is o-okay. I...I l-like kissing a l-lot."

Leaving his face, my hands took his shaky ones in a firm grip the way he liked it, obliging them to stay quiet. Sometimes he even came to me and ask for it, sitting on my lap and usually falling asleep.

"Frankie," I looked him in the eyes. "you know what John did was wrong, don't you? No one should make you do that if you don't want to."

"B-but we were b-boyfriends...he s-said boyfriends make l-love."

"That... that's not making love, that's having sex. Two people who love each other and take the decision together do make love. It wasn't making love if you didn't want to do it," I explained, but Frank didn't seem to understand much. I knew I wasn't good at explaining and this situation had caught me off guard.

"I d-didn't know 'cause...'cause I d-didn't know how it w-was. B-but he said we w-would make l-love and it was o-okay..." he continued.

I wasn't sure of how much I should tell him. He probably wouldn't even grasp the meaning of rape. What's more, I didn't want to add any other fear or trauma to his list.

"Baby...did Grace say something more to you about that after she found out?" I asked.

"Uh...h-he said. S-said he was my b-boyfriend. would be g-good but...b-but...dunno. N-no." Frankie appeared to be distracted, lost.

"But did Grace have a conversation with you?" I repeated.

"I...I d-don't remember. G-grace...she t-talked to me but I d-don't remember. T-too weird...w-words...n-no dunno wh-what else...I..." he battled with his thoughts, jerking a hand off my grip and slamming it against his temple. I realised I was pushing him beyond his brain's limits.

"Shh, no...easy, don't force yourself. I'm sorry Frankie, you don't need to remember anything else. Come here, close your eyes and try to sleep." I motioned for him to lie back on the bed. He positioned his head on my chest, his right arm across my waist. The tips of my fingers covered his mouth when he tried to speak. "No more speaking, you need to rest. Everything is fine, you're fine and I'm fine. Just...know that I'll never ever make you do anything if I'm not completely sure that you want it too. Never, so don't be afraid, please trust me. I'd never hurt you, Frankie."

"P-promise?" he murmured.

"I promise. I love you, kiddo." I kissed the top of his head, moving to his lips when he looked up smiling warmly.

"M-muah!" he giggled, then let his eyelids fall. "G-good night, G-gee."

"Good night, doll."

He was dreaming in no time, but I couldn't sleep. I was pondering about the reason why some things happened. Some people would say 'you get what you deserve' or 'you harvest what you sow'. I was convinced that was bullshit -or at least it was in many cases. What could Frankie have done to deserve all that? What wrong could that poor boy have done before even being born to receive blow after blow? What punishment could that angel deserve; he, who didn't even complain about his luck?

Maybe it was for the best that he didn't understand the gravity of what John had done. He didn't need any more worries to mess up his mind. On my part, I'd do my best not to scare him. I would pay extra attention to my actions and make sure I didn't cross the line. I liked to make him feel good, loved, wanted. Touch, kiss, caress him; because I knew that he enjoyed that when I saw him smile and sigh contently.

I wouldn't lose sight of his eyes, his gestures. He was like an open book sometimes, you could read it all by looking at him. All he couldn't say, all the words his head couldn't process, it was all there nonetheless. You only had to learn to see it.

We would be fine. If destiny had put Frankie on my way, if it had made us fall in love with each other, now it had to make things work. This ought to be something good to stop all the shit life had thrown at him and all the shit I had thrown upon myself.

"We'll be fine," I voiced, and shut up my mind for the night.


I had to work for some hours on Saturday, so my trip was postponed for Sunday. My initial idea was to go by myself and leave Frankie with Ray; but the boy had eavesdropped us both speaking about it and said that he wanted to go too. He'd actually only heard that it was going to be a rather long ride, which had been enough to spark his interest. The problem was that I couldn't go alone with Frankie. I didn't know what I would find there, who I would find there. I didn't want Frank to be seen until I was certain that he wouldn't be at risk, so I needed someone to stay with him inside the car.

I wasn't going to ask Ray, he'd done too much for us. However, he noticed me doubting when Frankie was begging me to take him. My afro-haired friend guessed what the inconvenience was and offered to come with us. He said it was decided and didn't let me argue. Frankie's celebratory dance around him left me with no more words to say.


While I was trying to leave the house somewhat clean before departing, the phone rang. It was Ray with a preoccupied voice. He apologized, telling me that his dad had just let him know that he would be needing him that afternoon. Ray couldn't say no to him if he wanted to keep the job, yet he was very concerned and felt like he was failing me. I assured him it wasn't that important.

Still, the option of going there with no one to keep an eye on Frank didn't appeal to me. The only other possibility was my mother, but she would be working all day.

"Who else...who else...think!" I spoke to myself, rubbing my temples.

" h-he in your h-head now?" Frankie asked worried "N-not in mine an-anymore!"

"Eh? baby, there's no one in my head. I was just...thinking aloud." I smiled.

"Ah...'b-bout what?"

"Ray can't come with us, neither can Donna. So I'm thinking of who else could."

"Ah. C-can Puppy c-come?" he semi ignored me.

"Yes, no problem."


"Oh, I have it!" I suddenly exclaimed, startling Frank. I got up and dialed the number.

"Bob! Oh, good that you're home! Do you have something to do the rest of the day?"

"Uh no...did you finally decide to accept my invitation? Will we go on a day-long bar rally or something?" he chuckled.

"Shut up, I told you that wouldn't happen!"

"Ok, ok! What then?"

"I found out something about 'that' and I need to go somewhere to know more.'s a 3 hours ride, it'll take me almost the whole day and I don't have anyone to leave Frankie with..."

"Want me to stay home with the kid?"

"No!" I hurried to say. He might be my friend, but he wasn't the kind of guy I'd trust to take care of Frankie all day. "I was gonna ask you if you could come with us. You know, to stay with him in the car if needed and so..."

"Yeah, sure! I'm pretty bored and have nothing to do until late at night so...that's the best offer I've had so far. Do I move my ass over there now?" he sounded excited.

"Yes, please, wanna leave as early as possible."


"Where's the crazy little buddy? You've never let me meet him!" Bob blurted out as soon as he crossed the door. I hoped Frankie hadn't heard him.

"Shhh! Don't you ever call him that again, understood?" I told him, not really joking.

"Oh...sorry. I didn't mean it in a bad way, I swear!"

"I know, but it's not nice and he hates it. Let me find him, he was here a minute ago." I looked around until I spotted Frankie hiding behind the couch. "Hey, what are you doing here?"

"N-nothing," he murmured.

"Then come here and meet my friend Bob, he's going to come with us." I lent him my hand to get up.


"Come on..." I lifted him from the floor and walked towards Bob, Frank moving backwards hugging my waist.

"I don't bite, kid!" Bob touched his head.

"He's been shyer since he takes his meds," I explained.

Frank turned to him slowly. "H-hi," he muttered.

"Hi, Frankie! Please to meet you. Gerard talks a lot about you," Bob tried to start a conversation, seeing as Frankie was still reticent. "I like your hair." He ruffled it. "Maybe I should let mine grow, what do you think?"

Frank let go of me and stood in front of Bob, seeming to examine him. He tilted his head to the right and then to the left, his eyes wide and attentive. Then he squinted, getting even closer and touching Bob's face with both hands. The blond one stayed quiet, intrigued. Finally Frankie sat on the couch, laughing. "Y-you'd look kinda f-funny with l-long hair!"

"Yeah?" Bob scratched his beard.

"Yes Bob, I think Frankie's right." I patted his arm. "I'll leave you both alone for a while so you can get to know each other better. I'll go change and get some last things ready."

"Ok!" he nodded.

When I came back minutes later, Bob was sitting on the coffee table in front of Frank. They were singing something I couldn't get, playing one of those games where you had to clap your hands at certain parts.

"It seems you're getting along?" I laughed.

"Yeah, this kid is fun! He's just so small and cute...can I have my own to play with?" Bob replied with a stupid grin. I knew he wasn't joking, though. He could be really immature at times.

"Bob...Frankie's not a toy."


We still had half the way to go and my head already felt swollen. I was starting to regret having called Bob. He and Frankie hadn't stopped talking, singing and having tickling wars. I joined them for a while -minus the tickling of course- but then I got tired. They didn't, though.

" long till we arrive?" Bob questioned. I couldn't believe it.

"Bobby...Frankie asking that once and again is one thing, but you?"

"Well, it's hot here!" he protested.

"Sorry, buddy...the air is broken and I don't have money to get it fixed. Besides, if you both stayed quiet it wouldn't be so hot."

"Oh, and what's a car trip without some fun? Frankie agrees!"

"Y-yep, it's f-fun!" I saw him smirk through the rearview mirror.

" the windows more, but make sure Frankie doesn't stick any part of his body out of the car, ok?"

"Yeah..." Bob said tiredly while quickly lowering the windows.

"I mean it Bob, he's very capable of." I sent him a serious look.

"Uh yeah, sorry, understood."


It was a while after that when nature called, and I decided to make a stop at a gas station. 

"I need to go to the bathroom and get my hair wet to refresh myself, too. You coming?" I asked them both.

"Nah." Bob shrugged, causing me to roll my eyes. Didn't he want to get out of the car so badly twenty minutes ago?



"Sure you don't have to pee?" I didn't want any accidents in the car.

"S-sure. Gee...d-do you think P-puppy's ok?" Frank had said that he couldn't find his dog when we were about to leave. I'd told him I saw him under our bed and that he probably didn't want to go because it was cooler in the house. Then we had left before he could think more about it, but I knew we may have some trouble when back home.

"He is, don't worry. Ok, behave while I'm gone...children." I specially glanced at Bob.

The visit to the gas station appeared to have taken me more than I thought. By the time I came back, they had evidently left the car to buy some snacks and sodas and were now eating voraciously, spreading crumbs all over the backseat and the floor.

"BOB!" I screamed, opening the door. "Frankie's supposed to eat lunch in a while! And normal sodas make him hyper."

"Come on, G-man! Live a little, it's just for today!" He hit the back of my head playfully.

"G-man! Th-that's so f-funny!" Frankie laughed, spilled the Coke he was drinking.

I was resigned. "Ok...have something for me? At least we won't have to lose time stopping again to eat."

"Of course." Bob threw me a pack of Doritos and a soda -that I didn't catch.


"But you let me drive now," he demanded.

"I don't know, Bob, it's only a little more than an hour until we're there, so what for?"

"I just want to, please? My car's been dead for months," he insisted.

I finally accepted with the hope that things would be quieter if he wasn't in the back with Frank. However, when I raised my head after picking up my can, I saw Bob opening one too, only that it wasn't a soda. 

"What the fuck? Oh, no no. If you're driving, you're not drinking."

"Gerard, you've turned into something worse than my mom! It's only a fucking can!" he excused himself.

"I don't care, not here." I reached for the beer and snatched it from his hand. I was going to throw it out of the car but, tempted by the smell, I drank from it.

"Now that is unfair! Didn't you say you had stopped drinking?" Bob said indignant.

"Fuck off, it was just some sips. And you're the one who's gonna drive, aren't you?"

"C-can I t-try it?" Frankie waved at me.

"No!" Bob and I retorted at the same time.

"K-kayy...evil m-men."

"Fuck..." I ended up getting rid of the beer, tossing it through the window.


"I think it's here, right?" Bob stopped and pointed at a small house with cracked white paint, a little ahead from where we were and across the street.

I checked the paper with the address. "Yep, it is. I don't want to visit that exact house, anyway. What if she still lives here? I don't think she'd be much help," I meditated. Then I got distracted by Frankie who had his head out of the car, looking around intensely with an odd expression on his face.

"Frankie, do you recognize this place?" I tried, pulling him inside just in case a car passed near us.

"Uhm...d-dunno...yeah. M-maybe. Yes, m-maybe I do?"

"Bob, keep him inside for now," I instructed him, getting out of the car and heading to one of the houses next to Linda's. They all looked pretty similar, although that one was better taken care of.

A woman around her middle thirties, with short black hair, answered the door. "Yes?" she waited for me to talk, but my nerves were acting against my will.

" looking for a woman called Linda. I was told she lives around here?" my voice trembled a little.

"She doesn't live here anymore, moved like ten years ago, you're...late."

"Well really, I only need to know some things about her...or better said about her son, Frank."

"What? Oh no...I can't help you, sorry. Her son died when he was a little, so I don't know what you could need to know," she spat, attempting to close the door.

I stopped it with my shoe. "But he's not..."

"Get off, I don't want problems. Eh...try two houses from this one, that woman will be leaving the country soon, so I don't think she'll mind talking to you." She closed the door violently, barely giving me time to withdraw my foot.

Why did she look afraid of talking? Why did the fact that the other person would be leaving soon make things any different? Oh well, I'd try.

The other woman was just a little older. Her hair was light brown and curly, and she was wearing no make-up. As she opened the door I could see lots of big cardboard boxes piled up inside.

"Hello, how can I help you? I don't wanna buy anything..."

"Hello, ma'am. Don't worry, I'm not a vendor," I told her. "First of all, I want you to know that I don't work for the police or anything similar. I just need information for a good cause, I promise."

She looked at me as if I was crazy. "You're not telling me what you want, boy."

"I need to know something about who used to live next door, Linda. Your neighbor two houses from here told me to talk to you..." I explicated.

She shook her head. "Oh, what a coward...I don't understand what she's afraid of, that bitch Linda's been gone for a long time now." It'd all started to slightly scare me. 

"What can you tell me about her son Frank?" I asked the question once again.

She seemed nervous, but also kind of sad. "The poor kid died when he more than 4, I think."

"Stop that! I know he's not dead!" I lost my patience and spoke without thinking.

She gasped, surprised. "Oh, you do? Do you happen to know where he is, too? How do you...?" she trailed off.

"Yes I do, but I can't say anything else without having some answers first."

"Ok..." she sighed, sitting on a long bench on the porch. "I like you, so I guess I can tell you what I know."

I sat next to the woman, anxious as I had never been before. "Anything you can tell me will be helpful," I encouraged her.

"Linda moved here when she was 17, alone. Her mother had kicked her out of her house, or she'd escaped, not sure. We overheard it from a fight she had with a friend that came looking for her, but we couldn't make out the details. It was something about drugs. We'd talk to her once in a while, but we never became real friends. As soon as she got here she started to hang out with the worst pack. Then this guy Tony began to frequent her house too often, though he wasn't the only one. A friend told me he was on hard drugs too, and he eventually became a dealer."

"Was his last name Iero?" I interrupted her.

"Uh...I don't remember, really. As I said, my friends and I weren't too close with them. I know his family was Italian."

"It's ok, continue." I smiled politely.

"News run fast here, and a few months later everybody knew she was pregnant. She stopped seeing her gang and would speak to us more. She told us she'd broken up with her boyfriend because he wouldn't quit drugs and that wasn't good for the baby. Honestly, I don't think she had quit them either, maybe she just needed an excuse."

"But that guy gave the kid his last name..." I noted.

"Oh, I see you're well informed. Well yes, Tony accepted Frank as his, even if Linda probably didn't know herself who the father was. She only allowed him to see the baby a few days a month, though." She took a moment to drink from a bottle of water I hadn't even realised she had in her hand. "Linda's 'friendship' with us didn't last much. Even pregnant she was dating other guys, and she never talked to me again until one day when Frank was...5 months old maybe."

"What brought her to do it again?" I felt that it was awkward to let her speak alone.

"She knocked at my door desperate, I'm sure she was drunk or on drugs -maybe both. When I followed her to her house I saw her baby on the floor, bleeding and unconscious. She explained that she was changing his diaper and left to get something. The poor creature fell from a tall table, on his head. He had a huge cut. I wanted to call an ambulance, but she disconnected the phone. Just...ripped off the cord. I tried to get out to ask for help, but she pushed me to the floor and told me to stay there with her. I washed the baby's head, stopped the blood as much as I could and bandaged it. Also applied some ice because it had swollen up, but Frank wouldn't wake up. Almost two hours later he did, then Linda took him away from me and urged me to leave."

I couldn't even breathe as she told me all that; I felt a rush of pain inside me.

"Oh my God...and you never called the police or anything? No one denounced her?"

"Believe me, I wanted to. But she menaced me, told me that if I opened my mouth my family would get it. She knew many dangerous people, you know?" She seemed ashamed. I nodded, not having a better answer. "I don't know how that kid survived. Anyway, Frankie was never too normal after that. We'd hear him cry practically the whole day, and he wouldn't pay attention when someone talked to him like he used to. Months went by and he wouldn't say a word, not even half a word. I advised her millions of times to get him checked at the hospital, but she'd just tell me to shut the fuck up, that the kid was ok and was just too young. Tony noticed something wasn't right too, though I don't think she ever told him what had happened. When he left, Frank was more than 2 years old and he still wouldn't attempt to speak or walk..."

"Do you know why Tony left?" I interrogated her, feeling like a cop.

"Yes...he was in jail. Something drug related for sure, he was there for two years."

I wanted to know more. "But what happened in the meantime? Why was he told that Frankie died?" 

"A year after Tony disappeared, Linda's relationship with the kid got worse. She had never been the type to have patience with kids, and even less one with problems. She'd scream to him all the time and though I never saw her doing it, I'm afraid she maybe did something more than that. The child wasn't easy to deal with, but who could blame him? When he was 4 and had finally learned to walk well enough rid of him," she let out, clearly moved by the memory.

"Any idea of where she took him?" I asked, hopeful.

"Yes, it's like a...public home or shelter for kids with any kind of disability. The people there don't ask many questions, they say those children are better there than in the street and that's all that matters. We saw Linda leave and come back without the boy, so she had to tell me and the other woman you met what she'd done with him. She knew we wouldn't buy her lies, but Tony did. When he was released, she told him Frank had died."

"How didn't you tell him he hadn't? I know you said you were afraid but..." I was aghast, I couldn't understand how they could keep something like that unsaid.

"Around that time she was dating a new guy who worked for the government and had 'connections'. He was the one who got Linda a fake death certificate to show Frank's father. He also threatened us in person, said we could lose everything. They lived here together for four more years until he was promoted and they moved."

"Oh my God...oh my fucking God..." I couldn't stop repeating that.

"I...I'm aware that we did wrong, but we were too scared. Can you understand...?"

"Uh...I just realised we haven't introduced ourselves. I'm Gerard, sorry, I'm too nervous." I seriously couldn't believe I had been so rude.

"I'm Clare and what I told you is all I know..." she drank from the water bottle again.

"That was a lot, just one more thing...could you tell me where that shelter is? Maybe they know something..."

"Sure, but they won't receive you today, they're closed on Sundays," she pointed out. The search would be longer. "Do you have something to write it down on?"

"Yes." I got out my notebook and a pen and took note of the address.

"Now it's your turn: what do you know about little Frankie and how?" she requested.

I bit my lip, not knowing if I should talk. Then I heard someone scream.

"Frankie! Come back here, boy!" Bob came running behind him. Frank fell a couple of times but got up as nothing.

He got to me and hugged me. "M-missed you, Gee!"

"Sorry, Gerard...I got distracted just one minute and he opened the car's door!" Bob said panting.

"Oh! This is Frankie? The Frankie?" Clare asked. I nodded.

"Wh-who's her?" Frank whispered in my ear. He was sitting on my lap and had hidden his face as soon as he heard the woman talk.

I signaled for her not to answer. I didn't want to tell Frankie anything until I collected more definitive information and decided how much it would be good for him to know.

"She old friend of mine, Clare"

"H-hi!" the boy looked at her.

"Hello Frankie, you're so pretty!" she touched his cheek. Frank recoiled a little, blushing. "I'm glad he's at least fine and healthy," she added eying me.

"I'm doing all within my reach for him to be as fine as he can," I said.

"You know? Now that I see him I have no more doubts about a certain thing," Clare spoke in a cryptic manner. "His eyes are exactly like Tony's."

"Wh-who's Tony?" Frank blinked. His attentive moments were rather inopportune sometimes.

" a boy who used to live in this neighborhood," Clare replied.

"Ahh...and wh-why you said m-my eyes are l-like his? Th-they're crossed t-too?" Since the oculist had told him that there were many people with his problem, he was waiting to find one.

"No, but he has the same eye color and shape."

"Y-you know? G-gonna have glasses s-soon!" Frank commented with more confidence.

"Yes? That's cool!" she brushed a lock of hair out of his face.

"Y-yeah. I...I c-can't see well. C-can't read n-nothing, but n-now I will!" he went on cheerfully.

"Then I'm sure you're gonna love your glasses. And you'll look very good with them." she smiled, though I could see pity behind that smile.

"Bob, could you take Frankie to the car again for a while?" I presumed Clare had things to ask, and I didn't want to speak in front of the boy.


"N-no! S-staying here!" Frank refused.

"Come on, Frankie! I saw a place where we can buy some ice-cream." Bob stood in front of him and crouched, offering his back.

"Y-yeah! I...I want i-ice-cream!" he changed his mind and climbed on Bob.

"Please Bob, don't let him fall and don't go too far!"

"Won't and won't!" he waved.

"He's so sweet..." Clare breathed out as soon as they left.

"He is..."

"Is he...oh damn, I know this word is hideous. I don't want to sound offensive, but I can't think of any other way to say it..." she rambled. "He's like...retarded, right? Sorry again, I..."

"It's ok, I know you didn't mean it wrong. And no, he's not. Well, he does have some mild brain damage -which I now know the cause of, but it's not that serious."

"Only mild? He's a lucky boy, I thought he wouldn't even survive that day...he was so small and his little head was so swollen and bleeding..."

"Considering that, I guess he was indeed lucky. Nowadays he has the speech impediment and difficulty to learn or understand certain things. He's childish, yes, though that might also have to do with the fact that he was in a mental institution most of his life until a little more than a month ago, when I found him," I mentioned.

"You found him? Where?"

"In the street. Linda got him out of the institution and then abandoned him," I clarified.

"Oh could she...but why was the kid there to start with? From what you said there was no reason enough to..."

"Well, there kinda was. Frankie has a more important problem that's not directly related to the head trauma. He's mentally ill, schizophrenic. He's medicated, but it's a severe case."

"Oh poor kid, but it's obvious that you've taken good care of him! So, you found him and took him with you?"

"Yes, I just felt like I had to. Anyway, I'm interested to know if he has any more family apart from his bitch of a mother, and why he was in a mental institution at the other side of the country..."

"I wish I could help you more, but I don't know about that. I never knew where Linda's mother lived or saw any other family visiting her," she said, pensive.

"It's fine, I'll pay that shelter a visit soon."

We talked for a little longer and then Clare gave me a telephone number where I could find her once she moved. She wanted me to communicate with her if I found out something more about Frank. She also handed me some cookies for him before we left.


"So?" Bob inquired when I got into the car and started it. I tried to ignore the hand shaped marks of ice cream on the headrests.

"So...I got some answers, convinced myself even more about certain people's assholeness and added a next stop to my search."

"W-want ice-cream G-gee? S-still have s-some!" Frankie shoved the cone in front of my face. His innocence and sweetness made me feel angrier about what I'd learned.

I smiled at him and gave the ice-cream a try. "Mmm, it's good!"

"Then...we're going for the next stop now?" Bob questioned.

"Nope, just home. It'll have to wait until next weekend, the place's closed on Sundays."

As I drove, I thought of how someone could make a movie out of Frankie's life and his 'family'. And I was sure there was still a lot more waiting to be revealed.

Chapter Text

When you were here before, couldn't look you in the eye.
You're just like an angel, your skin makes me cry.
You float like a feather in a beautiful world.
I wish I was special, you're so fucking special.

"Frankie, put your head inside!" I heard Bob tell him.

"N-no, it's hot and I l-like the air!" Frank retorted.

"Frankie do as Bob says, I'm serious," I intervened, now and then spying them through the rearview mirror.

"'t want!" he whined, trying to reach the window again.

"I know you don't want to, but it's dangerous. There are a lot of cars passing by and I'm sure you like your head where it is, don't you?" It was hard sometimes to stay cool at his stubbornness. What's more, after learning all I did from that woman, I wasn't in the best state of mind to be patient.

"Come on kid, Gerard's right!" Bob's strong arms held him in place, but Frankie wouldn't give up so easily.

"D-DON'T CARE, L-LEMME!" he twisted his body and kicked.

"FRANK, ENOUGH! If you even try to stick your head out one more time I'll close all windows, understood?" I said firmly.

There was silence followed by sniffling. I turned my head and saw him staring at the window, tears falling down his cheeks.

"Y-you screamed to m-me. And...and c-called me Frank. Y-you're angry, d-don't like it."

"Nah, Gerard's not angry, he's worried about you getting hurt. Come on, let's sing some songs?" Bob invited.

"N-no. I l-like when G-gee kisses me, not wh-when he gets an-angry at me," Frank uttered in a low voice, though not low enough as to not be heard by me -and therefore Bob.

"What does he mean by...?"

"Frankie, I'm not angry, really," I spoke before Bob could finish his question, hoping I would distract him at least for the moment. "I just don't want anything bad happening to you. I'm sorry...don't cry, please. We can sing together, the three of us!"

"K-kay," he answered softly.

Once we began to sing random songs, Frankie seemed to cheer up and Bob appeared to forget about what Frank had said. Hopefully, the boy's unintentional hint would not bring any trouble.


"'re overexciting him," I warned him, listening to Frank's chocked laughter.

"Don't be a party pooper, Gerard! The boy's having fun," he replied, mercilessly tickling Frankie.

"P-please I...ahhh s-stop! Hahahahahaha s-stop!"

"It seems to me he's telling you to stop, already!"

"Ok, ok! The Master of Tickles will allow you to keep your life for today, young lad!" Bob announced. I got a glance of Frankie sitting up, breathing heavily.

"Here, have some water." I passed him a bottle. "Drink slowly."

"Let me help you hold it, better now..." Bob could act as immature as Frankie for moments, but he was being really nice to him. "Gerard, I was gonna ask...why do his hands shake like that?"

"It's because of the medication, a side effect," I explained.


"H-hands always d-do this," Frankie shrugged. "D-doesn't hurt."

"Well, that's good to know," Bob said. I bet he was as surprised as I got day by day at how naturally Frank reacted to those problems that seemed such a big deal to us. It was kind of funny that while people usually felt sympathy -or even pity- for his condition, he just talked about it like it was nothing and smile right after saying the meds made it better.


The first thing Frank did when we got home was look for his pet. I waited in the living room, afraid, expecting him to come back crying because he couldn't find it and thinking of how I'd manage the situation. To my relief, he reappeared looking totally calm. He said Puppy was still under the bed and he didn't want to wake him up, so he had left him a plate of food there.

I was aware, however, that it may be just a matter of time until Frank's mind stopped projecting the dog. I knew how important Puppy was for him and I hadn't been able to come up with any potential solution that wasn't going to hurt him. I had considered getting a real dog, but then Ray would have to take care of two kids while I was at work. No idea sounded good to me, I'd have to improvise when the moment came.

That night Frankie fell asleep right after we finished dinner. The car ride had left him tired and more so Bob and his games. In spite of my car being hot as hell, my friend had said that he enjoyed the day a lot and I could count on him for next weekend.

I tended to be overprotective of Frank, sometimes I even acted like a grumpy old man; but rethinking it, it was maybe not so bad for him to have someone to play with in a more child-like way. I imagined that he missed playing with other kids. Bob might not be exactly one, but he was about Frank's age and his inner child was always willing to come out.

As I sat there with Frank's head on my lap, brushing his hair with my fingers, that hairless spot was left uncovered. Now it meant more, it caused my heart to ache. I slid my fingertips along the pink, wrinkled scar. It must have been deep enough for stitches, although it'd been left to close by itself. There was a slight depression on that area, which made me think of what a miracle it had been that he survived. A baby's cranium is so tender...

 Frankie stirred and smiled in his sleep, exerting his unconscious contagious power on me. You just couldn't avoid smiling when Frank did. I would never understand his mother, nothing I could find out would help me understand what she had done to such a sweet boy.


Next morning I woke up to the phone ringing. If it wasn't that I had to go to work that early anyway, I would have killed my brother.

"Gerard, are you there?" he asked, since all he had gotten from me was a grunt.

"Yeah, I'm here. I was sleeping before you called, you know?"

"Sorry bro, I wanted to call before leaving for college."

"And what for, Mikey?" I wasn't friendly when I'd just woken up, to anyone but Frankie. My morning mood would magically disappear at the sight of him.

"To let you know that Alicia and I are gonna go visit you this afternoon. You get outta work at 4, right?"

"Yes, but Frankie has an appointment with his psychiatrist at 5."

"Oh, when should we be there, then?" he seemed determined to come over this day.

"Uh...I'd say 7 to be sure. You have the keys, so if we weren't home yet you just let yourself in, ok?"

"Ok! Gotta go now, bye Gee!"

"Bye, Mike!"

"M-morning!" Frankie stretched. "Wh-who were you t-talking to?"

"Good morning, babe!" I kissed him. "My brother Mikey, he's gonna visit us with Alicia later today."

"M-Mikey doesn't l-like me."

"That's not true. He was a little angry at me and having a bad day when you met him, but you'll see he's rather nice." I tried to hide my own worries. Though definitely a nice guy, my brother had always lacked patience for kids. Frankie was dangerously similar to one.

"K-kay," he yawned indifferently.


The appointment with doctor Goldberg went well. He spoke to Frank alone for half an hour and then called me in, telling his assistant to watch Frankie for a while. The teen only agreed when promised some sweets.

Goldberg said the improvement had been as good and normal as expected in a little more than a week. Considering that, and no serious side effects having appeared, he opined that it would be better to stick to the same medication and dose for the time being. About Frank's hallucinations, it was time to try telling him that it was all in his mind.

" do I do it?" I questioned.

"Frankie is more able to understand it now, and he must be aware that some of his 'friends' visit him less often when he's under medication. So, whenever you notice that he's hallucinating, inform him as simply and delicately as possible that what he's seeing is not real. It's important for him to hear that you believe him. Those hallucinations are as real to him as this chair is to you. Question what he sees, not the fact that he's seeing it. He knows he has an illness, so use that. Explain that his head makes those things up and that's why only he can see them. However, if Frankie becomes too nervous or upset, leave it for the moment. Don't insist much," he concluded. I was looking at the floor. "Do you have any questions?"

"No, it's just makes me a little sad to tell him his gnomes or the little people are not real, he likes them," I confided honestly.

"I understand, but Frank needs to know, he has the right to. He won't stop seeing them because of that, but he'll at least learn to discern reality from what it's not. The way they use that information varies from one patient to another, though."

"Ok then, I'll try."

When I commented that Frankie would be getting his glasses the following day, the doctor thought that it could be of great benefit to him. It would bring him more in contact with his surroundings and give him wider possibilities to entertain himself. 

In a clear contrast to the good news, Mark's expression changed considerably when we touched the subject of Frank's education. I told him all I'd gathered from my conversation with him and the man looked sad, worried, as shocked at the lack of tact and professionalism of that teacher as I had been when I heard the story from Frank.

This evidently changed things, yet the psychiatrist didn't appear to give up hope on Frank. After being deep in thought for a moment, he smiled reassuringly and suggested something to help improve his attention span and comprehension skills. Doing so was of great importance for him to be able to learn new things. I'd have to ask Frankie to read something -easy and not too long- and then tell me what it was about. If he wasn't able to, he would have to try reading it again. He might need to do it several times to actually understand what he read. We were supposed to work on that for short periods of time each day to start with, not to force him; and even stop before if he wanted to.

Lastly, Goldberg said that he would be seeing Frank once every fifteen days, and recommended taking him to a hospital for a complete checkup in a month. The medication could affect his health in other ways besides the visible ones, so it was advisable to be in the know just in case he needed something to balance that. I hated how his physical health might have to suffer for him to be mentally better.


We were back home at a little past 6:30, meaning our guests hadn't arrived yet. I followed Frankie to see what he'd do, a knot in my stomach. He headed for the bedroom and reached under the bed, standing up with Puppy in his arms. He kissed him, placed him under his chin, and left for the living room. There, he lied down with the imaginary pet apparently on his chest and turned the TV on. I knew I was supposed to tell him his hallucinations were not real, but I couldn't...not with Puppy. I didn't have the heart to tell him the dog didn't exist.

I went for something to drink and though it only took me fifteen minutes, Frank was asleep by the time I looked at him again. He was on his side, with his arms still placed as if he was holding his pet.

"Frankie..." I kissed his cheek. " wake up, Mikey and Alicia will be here soon."

"Uh...n-no, lemme s-sleep," he mumbled.

"Pleeease...will you get up if I do this?" I crouched to peck his lips and he smiled, eyes still closed. He seemed to forget Puppy -or maybe the doggie had left- and hugged my neck. I took the chance to make him sit up, our lips staying locked until the doorbell was heard.


"Oh, guess I must go get it but...would you open these pretty eyes first?" I grazed his eyelids with my thumbs.

"Th-they're still s-sleepy but kay," he obeyed.

"Where's the handsome little boy?" was the first sentence dropped by Alicia as soon as I let her in. Mikey followed her rolling his eyes.

"You'll find a groggy version of Frankie on the couch, he'd fallen asleep," I pointed.

"Aww! You woke him up, bad person?"

"I knew he'd want to see you, he falls asleep all the time anyway."

"Alicia...stop speaking of Frank as if he was a baby," Mikey whispered.

"Shut up, Michael!"


"Hi, Frankie!" she greeted him, shushing her boyfriend. Frank was only half awake, laid back on the couch; but at the sound of Alicia's voice he got up on his knees and embraced her.


"Let me look at you...I think you're prettier than a month ago. Yes, are!" my brother's girlfriend continued to fangirl over Frank.

The boy giggled and then glanced at Mikey. "H-hi, Mikey," he voiced in a murmur.

"Hello kiddo, how are you?"

"G-good, just s-sleepy. I...I t-take my pills n-now and tomorrow I...I'll have my g-glasses. L-like you," he commented, still shy in front of Mikey.

Alicia got closer to speak in my ear while Frankie kept talking to my brother. "It surprised me to see his eyes. I think it's cute, but they're like...really crossed. Doesn't he see double or something?"

"I know, I guess only when he looks at something from too close. I'll know better once he has his glasses, he can't see much at all now."

"G-gee...can we d-drink something? Th-thirsty!" Frankie interrupted our whispering.

"Oh, of course! I'll go for the sodas now."

While we all had our drinks I observed Frank. He was sitting in between Alicia and Mikey, staring at the last one intensely. Mikey had noticed and was visibly uncomfortable.

"'s to w-wear glasses?" Frankie asked him.

"Uh...I've worn them since I was a little kid so I'm used to it. You might feel weird at first, but then they won't bother you," he responded without looking at the boy.

"Y-you see w-well with them?"


"Ahh...g-good." Frank's eyes remained fixed on the side of my brother's face. "M-mikey?"

"What do you want now?" he sounded irritated.

"Wh-why you don't l-look at me?" Frankie pouted.

"I...I gotta go get something from the kitchen, be right back." Mikey got up and left, me close behind him.

I found him in the kitchen, sitting on a chair and playing with his cell phone. I walked to the cupboard, got Frank's pills from the box above it and a candy off the can. Mikey ignored me.

"Would you tell me why you have to behave so distant with Frankie? Why can't you even look at him?" I talked to my brother while preparing the strawberry ball.

"I...uh...he makes me uneasy...didn't you see how he was staring?"

"Oh come on, Mikey! He's curious 'cause he's gonna have glasses too, that's what he was looking at!"

"Still, his eyes make me feel uncomfortable..."


"It's not to be mean or anything, I swear I have nothing against him, he's a nice kid. But Gerard, are you gonna tell me you don't find it odd to look a cross-eyed person in the eyes?" he explicated. I felt like slapping him.

"I don't find it odd, it's no problem for me to look Frankie in the eyes."

"Sorry, but I do. I didn't mean to make him feel bad or ignore him."

"I figure that, Mikey...but he's very self conscious about his eyes, only now he's getting over it. So could you please try to get over your...discomfort?"

"Ok, I'll try," he nodded.

We returned to the living room in silence.

I gave Frank his undercover pill, which he swallowed obediently. Goldberg had told me that most patients had some periods when they'd refuse to take their pills. It hadn't happened so far and I hoped it never would.

"What did you want to ask me, Frankie?" Mikey's eyes shifted a little, nervously, but he was looking at Frank's. The boy smiled widely and I could see my brother relax and mirror him.

"G-gimme your g-glasses to see them b-better?" Frank pleaded timidly.


"Mikey! Let him have them for a second!" Alicia reprimanded him.

"I'm afraid he might break them..."

Frankie looked down. "Oh...y-yeah, maybe, m-my hands are c-crappy. H-hold them c-close and I won't t-touch them?" he proposed lucidly.

"Ok, here." My brother complied and Frank examined the glasses, seeming satisfied.

"C-can I try th-them?"


Mikey's glasses did look good on Frankie, but I liked him more with the frame he had chosen for his.

He grabbed a magazine from the coffee table and frowned when he tried to read it. "Th-they don't w-work," he stated, giving them back to Mikey.

My brother said something into Alicia's ear, gaining a punch from her. That girl certainly knew how to educate her boyfriend.

"It's not that, Frankie, you just need your own, they're different," I told him.

"Ahh, k-kay."

After that, things were fairly normal. We just talked about random things, laughed, and ordered pizza. Mikey appeared a little more at ease with Frankie, though he still tried not to give him much conversation. Alicia, on the other hand, wouldn't stop asking him things, kissing his cheeks and braiding his hair.

"Al...again, he's not a Barbie doll, you know?" Mikey chuckled.

"Not a Barbie, but he's cute as a doll. Shut up, you're jealous," she dismissed him.

"Yes, sweetheart." He grinned at her. "Oh, bell! Must be the ice cream!"

Mikey got up in a hurry and attempted to run to the door, but accidentally kicked the smaller, dark green couch on the side.

"FUCKING SON OF A BITCH! WHERE DID THIS FUCKING COUCH COME FROM?" he screamed rubbing his feet. Alicia left her boy to his pain and went for the ice cream instead.

" was already there when you arrived. I had it in the attic and this week I decided to bring it here." I had taken that decision -even though there was barely enough room to walk in between- because I needed something to cover the wall where Frank had drawn the heart.

"Well, I'm not used to it being here and it doesn't match and the room's too fucking small for it and..." Mikey stopped in the middle of his rant and only then I noticed something. When tripping over the couch, he had moved it, separating it from the wall.

"Oh..." I practically threw myself at it to move it back, but Mikey was quicker and got the couch completely out of the way.

"What the fuck...?" he exclaimed at the same time that Alicia was back inside, staring at the same wall.

Silence filled the place and it was as if time had frozen. 

Chapter Text

Give me light to see my inside,
give me light to see my sin.
I'd never do what I regret,
I've never done anything bad.
You must be joking when you point at me!

"Mikey..." I wanted to speak, but words weren't coming out right.

Mikey took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose with two fingers. "Please tell me it's not what I'm thinking."  

I was still staring at the wall when I heard the sound of feet being dragged towards us. Frankie stood in the middle of Mikey and me, looked at his uncovered work and brought a hand to his mouth. "Oops!" he gasped. " w-was our s-secret!"

I growled out of desperation. Frank's naive comment had most probably buried me. Now Mikey surely thought I did dirty things to the kid and had told him to keep it secret. My mind traveled far away for a long time, imagining all the terrible things my brother could be considering.

"Gerard...tell me now what this is and what Frankie meant." His tone was louder.

"Mikey calm down, it's definitely not what you're thinking!"

"Oh, I think it is, don't give me that shit."

"Mikey, please!" Alicia tried to stop him.

"No, Al. I need to know, stay out of this!" he pushed her away, gently yet firmly.

"Frankie and I have been in each other's company almost permanently since I found him, and I'm the one who takes care of him. He's just...very attached to me, that's all! I hid the drawing because I knew others would interpret it wrong..." I improvised in a desperate attempt to convince him that there was nothing else.

However, when I looked at Frankie -who was peeping from behind Alicia, scared- in the eyes, guilt struck me. It was one thing to keep our relationship secret while possible, but denying it when being asked felt as if I was denying him.

"Don't lie to me, Gerard! I can see the way you're looking at Frankie! I noticed the kid's face when he saw the drawing! I just...can't believe it! I need to hear it from you...fuck!" My brother was almost screaming now. His gestures were harsh, his voice commanding. He seemed mortified, thinking of me as some kind of monster.

Frank whimpered, covering his ears.

"I think I better take him to the kitchen, this is frightening him," Alicia said softly, her arm around the boy's shoulders.

"N-no but th-they...are f-fighting..." he whispered.

"They'll be fine, sweety. We'll go to the kitchen with the ice-cream so they can talk here alone, ok?"

"K-kay," Frank eyed Mikey before walking away. "but d-don't fight." Stumbling, he leaned on the wall not to fall and continued his way supporting himself with his open palms.

"Please Alicia, watch him. He sometimes feels dizzy for a couple of hours after taking his pills," I asked her. Mikey puffed impatiently.

"Will do, and you two behave like adults, ok?'s your brother you're talking to, you know him."

Once I heard Alicia close the kitchen's door behind them, I sat down and sighed loudly.

"Well?" Mikey impelled me to speak.

I patted the couch, inviting him to sit with me.

He shook his head 'no'. "I'm fine, and waiting."

" is what you're thinking, let me finish!" I raised a hand before he could interrupt me. "...but it's not how you think."

"So you know how I think it is? You're inside my head?" He wouldn't take his eyes off me.

"It's evident that you're thinking the worst, or you wouldn't be accusing me like this! " I replied.

"Let's start with the main thing: you're admitting that you have something with the kid, something more than a brotherly or...fatherly relationship..." Mikey struggled a little to find the correct words, his nerves were unconcealable. He kept walking from side to side in that reduced space and wantonly fixing his glasses on his nose.

"Yes, but it's not..."

"That's enough! How do you want me to react? Frank...he...he's like a little kid, for God's sake!" he refrained from shouting.

"He is not a little kid! He's 18!" I told him.

Mikey rolled his eyes. "He's mentally ill, Gerard. He can't completely know what he's doing. I don't think he can be even counted as an adult, which makes you a pervert. How can you? I...I didn't even know you were gay to start with!"

"Are you at least gonna let me talk and try to defend myself, or do you expect me to sit here quietly and hear you throw shit at me?" I got up and stood in front of him.

"Ok, let's see what you have to say, though I think this situation is unjustifiable." He let himself fall on the small couch, his arms crossed over his chest.

"I'm not a fucking perv, and Frank took the first steps. Yes, don't look at me like that, he did." I related how things had gradually evolved since I met Frankie. I expressed as clearly as I could what I felt for him, how patient I'd been; that I had waited until Frank got his meds to be sure that he was aware of his words and actions. "He loves me, Mikey, and I feel the same. that boy." I paused and waited for him to say something.

"God, Gerard...this is so fucked up," he mumbled, head down in between his hands.

"Mikey...Gerard's telling you the truth." Alicia appeared by the door. "The first time we met Frank, he commented with me about how the boy was acting weird towards him for moments, that he seemed interested in him. After that he called me a couple of times and I can swear to you Mikey, your brother fought a lot with his own feelings."

"You knew it? You fucking knew about my brother's...perversion and said nothing?" he spat at Alicia furiously.

"I knew part of it and imagined you'd take it the wrong way, that's why I didn't tell you! I never thought you were capable of calling your own brother perverted, though. You're so wrong, wrong. Now excuse me, I gotta go back to Frank." I could perceive in her voice that she was about to cry.

"You happy now? You even made your girlfriend upset because you are incapable of listening. You just make up your own story in your mind and no one can fucking get you outta it." I was sick and tired of that discussion. At this point I had no doubts left, there was nothing wrong about my relationship with Frank. Not even my brother, my own blood, would convince me otherwise.

"But Gerard, even if you felt something for him you should've used your head a little more! This head!" he uttered pointing at his. That was enough.

"Do you ever listen? I love Frank. I don't...lust over him! This isn't about sex, I'm not perverted I'm..." I lowered my voice, realising that I was losing control. "...I'm not fucking Frank, Mikey! I haven't fucked him or touched him and I won't unless I know he's prepared for that and wants it too. Even if that means never. It's all just kisses and caresses, you moron! Now you can act like a brother and believe me, or you can get the fuck out and forget we're family. I won't allow you to think that of me. I may be nearly an alcoholic -fighting against it, but you could call me that. I lost my job, I've been a mess, I've made lots of mistakes and damn...yes, I'm gay! But I'm no way a pervert."

Mikey stared at me with huge eyes. He wasn't expecting me to talk to him like that. We had argued lots of times, but I had never been so determinant. Sometimes I'd let him win just because I got tired of fighting. Not this time, I would not let this one pass.

"I..." he faltered. "...don't know what to say. I guess...I guess I went a little too far accusing you like that."

"A little? A little, you say? Calling your own brother perverted is going a little too far?" I cried, unable to stop the tears anymore.

He raised his eyes and his expression changed. "Ok, incredibly far. I just...freaked out. I'm still not sure of what I should think'll have to give me some time to process all this. I felt disgusted with the idea, but I'm also worried. Worried about you, terrified that you might get into big trouble. And worried about Frankie. Yes, I may act like an asshole to him, but it's only because he annoys me. I can't help it, I've never had patience with kids."


"Yeah, you'll say Frank's not a kid, but he does act like one, you can't deny it. Anyway I'm not insensitive, I know all that boy's been through and just thinking that you..."

"Mikey, no. I'd never..."

"I believe you, I choose to believe you though as I said, I'll need some time to get used to it."

"Fair enough." I took a deep breath and rested my head on the couch. None of us spoke for several minutes. I could hear Frankie and Alicia chatting, but couldn't figure out what they were saying.

"You...Laura...I don't get it," Mikey suddenly broke the silence, more to the air than to me.

"Big mistake, I wanted to give myself an opportunity with girls. My first serious experience was with a boy and didn't go very well," I answered tiredly, not giving real importance to my confession.

"So...that person who cheated on you, the one who'd left you so heartbroken...?"


"Oh...and how come we never knew?" he inquired confused.

"Only Ray did. I'm good, uh?" I chuckled, trying to make fun of the situation. Those memories weren't helping my post-fight mood. "I don't wanna talk about it now."


"Hey, pair of idiots! Well, one more so than the other..." Alicia returned with Frank. "While you were having such a nice conversation here, I had Frankie's version of the matter."

"What?" I questioned. Frank was hugging his teddy bear and looked like he had been crying, but he was now smiling.

"It's not that I had any doubt, he just wanted to explain something to me about the secret. Mikey...I can assure you, there's nothing to worry about. This boy's absolutely happy with the way Gerard treats him, your brother does nothing out of place. Frankie's perfectly fine with him," she told him.

Mikey nodded, giving her an embarrassed smile. "I'm sorry Alicia, I really am. I didn't mean to be so rude..."

"It's ok, but we do need to talk about your reactions and your annoying habit of not letting the other person speak."

"Ok," he assented like a little boy that had been reprimanded. Sometimes Alicia appeared to be his mother.

Frankie came to sit on my lap and I observed Mikey, who was slightly tense. "Th-they know the s-secret now, r-right?" he asked.

"Yes, they do," I responded, caressing his cheek.

"Th-then we can d-do this," he giggled. Leaving the bear aside he hugged me, closed his eyes and kissed me. He usually missed my mouth if he was looking, yet got right to it if he wasn't.

With a hand on his back and the other one on his neck, I reciprocated the kiss. During the few seconds it lasted I felt my heart melt. When I peered at Frank again, I knew he was thinking the same as me: it was better when not having to hide.

Mikey didn't seem exactly comfortable. He got up and left the room saying nothing.

"He just needs time, it'll be ok." Alicia kissed both our heads. She was gonna leave, then came back and pinched our cheeks. "And you two are just adorable."

"Ouch, h-hurtss!" Frankie protested.

"Sorry...couldn't resist." She went after her boyfriend.

Once we were left alone in the room, Frankie and I took advantage of our new freedom and cuddled on the couch. He seemed troubled, though. My fight with Mikey had scared him and he asked me some questions about it. I only explained that Mikey was angry because I hadn't told him that we loved each other; the rest of the conversation wasn't appropriate for Frank.

After that, he luckily changed the subject and talked about the ice-cream; what flavors he had chosen and how 'yummy' it was. I'd gotten used to Frank's changes and had learned to love everything related to him. He could act like a loving boyfriend and then in seconds go back to speaking like a child. It had become normal to me.

We were kissing again, wrapped up in the moment, when we heard someone cough behind us. Mikey. "We...are leaving now."

"Oh, ok!" abandoning our love bubble, we got up to say goodnight to them. They were about to step out of the house when it dawned on me how dangerous it was to have my brother knowing of my relationship with Frank. "Mikey...I know it's hard for you to keep your mouth shut but please, don't tell mom about this. I want to do it myself when I'm ready."

"I think she should know," he stated gravely, sighting as he caught my menacing glance. "Alright, I won't tell her. But you better not take too long."

"I won't! Thanks, brother."


The following morning proved my cowardice. I totally failed at telling Frank that the little people were not real, I didn't even dare try. I watched him smile and talk to them on the table, I saw him separate part of his cereal and put it on a little plate for his friends, acting so cheerful and amused. I suddenly remembered how I'd felt when my parents told me that Santa didn't exist. The disappointment, the sadness, the gloomy feeling that life had lost its magic. I imagined it could be a similar shock for Frankie, or even worse having in mind his problems. Therefore I couldn't, I was not prepared, I needed more time.


Before I went to work, I took Frank to pick up his glasses. I had to make a big effort to not cry while seeing his little happy face when the unfriendly woman reappeared from the back of the shop. Frankie practically ripped them off her hands.

"What manners..." she grumbled.

"He's just happy, can't you see?" I sent her an angry look.

"H-how I look?" Frankie grinned. He was too adorable for words.

"You look gorgeous, baby. As pretty and cute as ever, or maybe more!" I kissed his lips briefly, not caring if that odious woman was seeing it. She wasn't, though, she had disappeared through the back again.

All of a sudden Frank froze, his mouth open as he stared at my face. I realised that he was seeing me properly for the first time and it made me feel kind of self conscious. He took his time to analyze me, raising his quivering hands to grab my head and move it to both sides. He freed my hair from behind my ears and brushed it a little with his fingers. His surprised features transformed into a smile. His eyes, behind translucent glass, were smiling as much as his lips.

"W-wow. Y-you're a lot more h-handsome, now! Al-always said you w-were, b-but now you're m-more," he declared and squeezed me.

"Thank you, honey. But are you sure those glasses are ok? I'm not pretty!" I hid my nose in his hair. It smelled like strawberry shampoo, it smelled like Frankie.

He slapped my arm playfully. "Sh-shut up, silly! G-glasses work f-fine 'cause I s-see you pretty and y-you are pretty. I kn-know that! Th-they agree, always t-told me, d-didn't you?" he asked to the floor. "S-see?" he stuck out his tongue to me. "P-pretty!"

"Sorry, are you gonna pay already?" the bitch disrupted us. I bet she had been hearing us and was not exactly pleased. Too bad that I didn't give a fuck.

"Yes, yes..." 

I also bought Frankie a purple strip that would keep the glasses in place, knowing he usually moved a lot. You couldn't even see it though, since it was hidden under his hair.

When we left that place, I looked at my watch. Ray was probably at home, already waiting for us. "We need to hurry, I have to leave you home with Ray and then go to work."

Frankie had taken his pill a little more than an hour before, so I knew he wouldn't walk too fast. And that wasn't the only problem I encountered. We hadn't advanced much when he began to look around entranced.

"What..? Oh, I know. Everything looks different, doesn't it?"


I gently tugged on his hand, urging him to keep walking; but he'd stop by every shop-window, read every sign and admire every garden with flowers. It was as if he was beholding it all for the first time. The sight of Frankie being that marveled and eager was so moving for me that I wished I could spend the whole day with him, share his emotions.

"Come on, baby. I know you wanna see it all, but it's late. Everything will be right here waiting for you next time you come," I insisted while he was reading a restaurant's menu of the day.

"Ewww m-mushroom? P-people eat th-that? Th-they smell b-bad!" he opined on the gravy, ignoring my pleads.

"Well, I don't like it either, but some people do."

"Ewwwww," he screwed up his face in disgust.

When we finally arrived home, Ray was there watching TV. He didn't seem mad at all, it wasn't easy to get Ray mad, still I felt bad for making him wait.

"Sorry, man. Frankie got distracted by everything on the way," I apologized.

"No problem!" he glanced at Frank. "Come here kid, let me see you. Oh, I like them a lot, you look smart! Well, you are smart, but these glasses make you look even more so."

"Th-thanks!" Frankie smiled widely and ran to the corridor mirror. He touched the surface -seemingly wanting to touch his reflection- and giggled.

"See how beautiful you are?" I whispered in his ear.

He became red as a tomato and hid his face. When he withdrew his hands, his expression mutated to worried. "B-but eyes still f-fucked up," he pouted.

"The glasses are just for you to see better which is more important, maybe they'll be able to fix your eyes when you're older. You don't have to worry about it now, I love them."

"K-kay, then."

"Ray...after lunch, could you take Frankie for a walk? He's desperate to see it all through his glasses," I wavered in front of my friend.

"Sure, we'll have fun. Right, Frankie?"

"Y-yes!! Pleeeeease!" he applauded.

"Thank you, Ray. Bye Frankie, be a good boy while  in the street!"

"W-will be!"


On my return, Frankie dragged me to the coffee table immediately. My heart was invaded by tenderness when I spotted the big box of color pencils and a pile of paper sheet. He had been drawing.

"You bought him this?" I asked Ray.

"Yeah, I couldn't convince him to go back home. I think he didn't leave a single thing unseen," he laughed. "Then I saw these pencils in a shop and thought it'd interest him and give him something to do here. He only agreed to go back so he could use them."

"Excellent idea, indeed!"

I knelt beside Frank and looked at the drawing on which he'd been working. It was childish and simple, with stick figures; although colorful and good nevertheless. The lines were wavy, but his hand must have become steady by the time he had applied color, because it was neatly done. You could clearly tell the people in the drawing were Ray, me and himself. Frankie was in the middle -much shorter than us- and he was holding my hand. The only thing that was off were the colors he had chosen: the sky was pink, the grass blue, Ray's hair was green and Frankie's purple. My hair was accurately black, though. I'd always thought that he knew the colors, now I would have to recheck it later.

"L-like it? I...I'll d-draw the others l-later," he said. "Al-also gotta d-draw Puppy!"

"Yeah, it's good, I love it! We could put it on the bedroom's wall, what do you say?"


Frank grabbed a new piece of paper and looked in front of him, laughing. "N-no! S-stop, I'm d-drawing, see? C-can't if you d-dance all over the p-paper! Y-yes, the dance is g-good and f-funny but get off!" He moved his hands like scaring something away. The gnomes I guessed, since he said they were dancing. 

Ray eyed me, signaling Frankie with his head. "Shouldn't you...?"

"Uh..." I knew I had to. Could I? If only Frankie was having one of the negative hallucinations -which he hadn't in days- then I would have no problem telling him it wasn't real. The gnomes, on the other hand...wouldn't that be cruel? 

Chapter Text

You know, they come here every night...
I see them, don't you see them?
Uhm....That's odd, isn't it?

"Come sit here with me, we need to talk about somethingl," I told Frankie, motioning for the couch. Ray sat on the smaller one and nodded to reassure me that he'd be there just in case.

"'bout wh-what?" the boy asked. I noticed that the novelty of being able to distinguish all my features still amused him.

"About...the gnomes, for example," I began. I had no idea how I would go on, though. Frank was staring at me expectantly, a half smile planted on his face. He was happy.

For moments he seemed unaffected by everything that was negative. Some things he luckily ignored, some he didn't get to comprehend, and others he just didn't give importance to. He had a home, people to take care of him and plus, he could finally observe the world with more detail. That was enough for Frankie. His hallucinations, however -at least the positive ones, were something he also appreciated; they kept him entertained, they were part of his life. A part I was about to crush.

"Th-the gnomes annoyed me a l-little today. Y-yeah, they d-did," he giggled.

"Why?" I didn't want to rush the conversation.

"'C-cause I was d-drawing and they w-were telling me wh-what to do. Th-think they t-told me some things w-wrong..." he frowned.

I looked at the drawing again and decided to postpone a little more what I was going to tell him. I did it for myself as much as for him; I had come up with an idea.

"Frankie...before we continue to talk I need to know something. It'll be kinda like a game, ok?" I knew it wasn't good to interrogate him in a straightforward manner. He tended to try too hard to answer properly, and would usually end up confused and not making much sense.

"Y-yeah! I l-like games!" he smiled.

"Ok. You have to answer my questions, even if they sound too stupid," I instructed, leaving the paper with the drawing face down on the table.


"What color is the sky?" I asked.

Frankie bit his lower lip, thinking. "Wh-when it's day's l-light blue. If n-night then d-dark blue or....or b-black. M-more black," he replied with security.

"Very well. Now pick up the pencils that match those colors."

Frank examined them carefully, running a finger through them all. "B-black..." he chose the first one. "And...l-light blue." He gave both to me.

"Excellent." he had gotten them right, but I'd do some more tests anyway. "Now...what color are the grass and the trees?"

"G-green, duh!" was his instant answer. Then he appeared to be suddenly lost in thought. Had he realised that he colored those things wrong? After some seconds he looked back at me, waiting for instructions.

"Could you choose the right pencil? Any green, it doesn't matter if it's darker or lighter."

"H-here!" Frank quickly grabbed a bright one, correctly again. He didn't seem to have a problem with recognizing colors.

"Good. Uh...what color is your hair?" I tried one more.

He took a lock of it in between his fingers and studied it. "Mmm...b-brown! Y-yes, brown," he responded. Before I told him anything, he had the matching pencil in his hand and handed it to me proudly.

"Awesome again! How about Ray's hair?" I kissed his cheek dearly, happy to know that he wasn't color blind too. Frankie got up laughing and went to my friend. He seized one of Ray's curls and put it close to his own long mane, comparing them.

"Watch out for the cooties!" Ray poked Frank's belly, making him jump.


"Nah, I was just joking. So what's your conclusion about my hair?"

"'s...b-brown, too. B-but lighter than m-mine. Y-yes." He sat in front of the box of pencils and searched. "L-like...this p-pencil!"

It was evident that Frank had it clear about colors. What's more, he was rather smart and very capable of deducing things by himself. Maybe only simple things, right, but no one expected him to be Einstein with a not fully functional brain. I was proud of how strong and willing to learn he was, and I knew he'd get better with help.

"You did pretty well, but now I have a doubt..." I headed for my main goal.

"Wh-what?" Frank said among giggles, watching the gnomes dance for him again.

"If you know the colors of things perfectly, why did you use different ones for your drawing?" I inquired.

He turned the drawing over, looked at it, and smacked his forehead. "T-told you!" he exclaimed, although not addressing me.

"You told them what?"

"Th-the gnomes started s-saying which c-colors I sh-should use. T-told them they w-were wrong. B-but they s-said I was, and in-insisted and...con-fused me!" He next reprimanded the gnomes with his index finger. "S-see? Y-you made me r-ruin it!"

"Oh no, Frankie! I like it a lot the same, I was just curious. You don't need to listen to the gnomes, though. You can do it without their help, trust yourself next time, ok?"


"You got the color of my hair right, the gnomes agreed with that one?" That detail intrigued me and I'd been left thinking about it.

"N-nope, they s-said it was r-red. B-but I told them I w-was sure it was b-black. L-love your h-hair, I kn-know it...veeery w-well," he whispered the last part. I hoped Ray hadn't noticed the kid's sexy tone and the dreamy eyes he made.

Luck was on our side, and my friend's phone rang at that moment.

"Oh shit!" he read the text message. "My dad wants me home, he needs help with something. Do you think you can handle things alone?"

"Yes Ray, don't worry. Go man, really!" I patted his back. I wasn't sure if I could, but I wouldn't make Ray stay and risk having a fight with his father just because of my cowardice.

"See you both tomorrow then, keep up the good work, Frankie!" He kissed his head and left.

"G-gee? Y-you feel kay?" Frankie questioned. I had been staring at the same humidity stain on the ceiling for several minutes. He was worried about me! Meanwhile, I was gathering the needed courage to face my responsibility.

"Yes baby, I'm fine. I was just thinking, remember I told you that I wanted to talk about the gnomes?"


"Well, it wasn't about the drawing."

"N-no?" He raised his perfect eyebrows curiously.

"No. know you're ill, don't you? That you're special because your...head is ill?" I made my tone as soft as possible, to somehow smooth the words I was pronouncing. As much as I had tried to find the correct ones, as much as I didn't want to...I felt like I was being too blunt.

Frankie's face saddened a little, yet he wasn't mad. "Y-yeah, I kn-know. G-grace told me and...and d-doctor Gold-berg too. illness w-with a weird n-name I can't say..."


"Th-that, yes. B-but I'm a little b-better 'cause I take m-my pills. I...I I, G-gee?"

"Of course you're better, you're much better with the pills. However, the meds can't totally cure you, you also know that. of the things that happen to people with schizophrenia, is that their heads make things up. It causes them to see things that don't really exist." I paused to think of what else to say.

Someone had most probably explained this to him before at the institution, but he didn't seem to remember. Maybe his head had erased all rational explanations after being exposed to weeks of total confusion while off the meds, or maybe he had never understood.

"Wh-what? D-don't understand..." he shook his head.

"There are things that you see but no one else can. They're not real."

"Wh-what things? I...I d-don't understand, G-gee. N-no, nothing..."

"Many things you see don't exist for real, you imagine them." I was so nervous and worried that I could hardly breathe.

"Wh-what things? EX-EXPLAIN TO ME B-BETTER, GERARD! I D-DON'T GET IT!" he screamed, disconcerted.

"The...the gnomes, for example." The words fell from my lips like knives.

Frankie blinked, his glasses didn't conceal the tears accumulating. "Wh-what you m-mean? The...the g-gnomes exist! Th-they're real 'cause...'cause I c-can see them! S-see? TH-THEY'RE THERE, G-GEE!"

"Shh, love..." I kissed his lips and felt him relax only slightly. "I know you see them, I believe you."

"Y-you see them t-too!" He twisted his hair, reclining against my chest. I was feeling worse with every second that passed.

"No, Frankie, I can't see them." I rubbed his back, trying to keep him calm even thought I knew I had just dropped a bomb.

"B-but you s-said you could! Y-you lied to m-me!"

"I know. I was afraid of hurting you, I wanted to wait and ask a doctor what to do," I explicated.

He started to cry, anguished and confused. "Y-you...YOU L-LIED!"

"I didn't want to, I swear. I know how you like the gnomes and..."

"I s-see them, G-gerard!I P-promise I see th-them! An-and...and they t-talk to me, they ex-exist!" he sobbed desperately.

"I know Frankie, I know you see them, they're real for you, but not for the rest of people. Do you understand?" I kissed his forehead. He was flush and agitated, and I still felt like an asshole.

"D-dunno. Wh-what else is l-like that?" he mumbled.

"You mean other things that only you can see?"


"Well...the little people, the butterflies or ladybugs you sometimes see inside the house..." I didn't want to name anything else. No way I'd include Puppy. "Oh please Frankie, don't ask about him." I prayed in my head.

" Th-they...I...the l-little people s-speak and they e-eat and...I s-see them..." he faltered. It was too much for him, I wanted it to stop but I couldn't go back now.

"Yes, you hear them and see them eat. They exist for you, so everything they do seems real. But we can't see them. There are also ugly things you see that are not real. You were never attacked by spiders, and there aren't free elephants on the streets that follow cars or people to crush them."

"Y-YES THERE ARE! I kn-know if things are r-real or not?" Nerves were making it hard for him to control his feelings and reactions. One moment he was in total denial, the next one he was reconsidering what I said and asking questions.

"Don't worry about that, I'll let you know. You don't have to ask or anything."

"K-kay...but h-how? N-no...NOT T-TRUE!" he insisted.

I meditated for a while. "Did you use to see all those things when you were at the institution?"

"Uh...n-not much...I th-think. S-sometimes. Gu-guess they l-like your house m-more!" There he was being so childish and innocent again.

"No, that's because you always took your medication there. Then when you..." I stopped, not knowing how to phrase it. "...when you were out of that place and didn't have your pills for weeks, you began to imagine all that again. Now you're back on your meds, that's why you don't see them so often..." I didn't dare add that he might completely stop seeing some of them.

Frankie spent some time crying in silence, shaking and sweating while I just held him. "G-gee...I h-have to stop t-talking to them? I s-see them and they s-speak! I...I h-have to do as if th-they're not there, n-now?" he murmured with sadness.

That was when I set my limit. I didn't care if Goldberg would like my decision or not, I would not torture Frank any more.

"No babe, you can keep on talking to them. It's ok."

"Y-you don't m-mind?"

"Nope. Just remember that other people can't see them, ok?"

"K-kay." His lips curved up faintly. "G-gee?"


"I...I'm c-crazy like some p-people say? Y-you said the f-first time..."

"I know I did, but that was wrong. You're not crazy, you're just ill. It's not that bad, though. It makes you special, as Grace told you. Just think of it: you can see things no one else can!"

"Th-that's true!" He suddenly seemed content, the stressful moment forgotten. That was it? Had I worried so much for nothing? Had Frank really understood it all and accepted it as long as he could still talk to his imaginary friends? I hoped so, but wasn't that sure.

"We 'normal' ones are boring." I sometimes wished I was like him to share what he felt, to see what he saw.

"Y-you're not." he whispered in my ear. "I l-love you." He sat up and moved around until he was straddling me, now smiling widely.

Tempted, I stole a quick kiss from Frankie, and his laughter filled the room together with my heart. Naughtily, he stole the kiss back from me, and I felt complete. At that exact second I needed no more. Those crossed, hazel eyes in front of me were a view of pure bliss.

Frankie raised his hands, the back of them caressing the sides of my face. Gently, barely perceptible. His bright orbs behind black rim still fixated on mine, while his fingers traveled down. They reached the hem of my white t-shirt and slid under it. He was experimenting, feeling me for the first time. He bit his lip shyly, and I smiled to let him know it was okay.

Fingertips grazed my nipples. He giggled, amused. I threw my head back; liking that too much, but afraid at the same time. I had to stay in control, not let pleasure completely win me over. He would feel it, I could scare him. Since Frankie told me what had happened with that boy John, I was terrified of scaring him.

My arms that had been limply hanging out of surprise, were finally lifted. Fingers found their place into my sweet boy's entangled hair; then going down. Palms roaming along his back, cautiously stopping by the small of it. As always, the most I dared to try. This time, though, Frank moved his body slightly up to kiss behind my ear, my hand accidentally sliding further down. I heard him gasp and I withdrew my hand, checking on him worried. He was still smiling.

"Is it ok if I touch you there? Did you like it?" I needed his verbal agreement.

"Y-yes..." he blushed.

Slowly, my hands returned to their last position. Frank's were now on my shoulders, as he exhaled lengthily. I attacked his mouth; a non violent attack, one loaded with love and passion. His everlasting smile only dissolved when he returned the kiss with the same intensity. It was the most heated ever, and the room got warmer. I was lost in place and time, only aware of his lips on mine, both our tongues joined as one. Unconsciously, I squeezed him.

"Uh...sorry baby..." I apologized, then realising that he was humming contently, pecking at the sides of my mouth cutely. I rubbed his hips as we kissed again.

All of a sudden he broke the kiss and fidgeted, trying to find a more comfortable pose. I waited. He tugged at his shorts a little, got closer to me and whimpered. That's when I felt it, against my groin and through his pants, and I saw the control of my own body peril. I touched his cheek with my nose, forehead to forehead.

"It's ok," I whispered.

I turned and lied on the couch, Frank on top of me. I took off his glasses, hugged him tightly, and the kissing was resumed. He seemed more at ease. I was losing my battle, feeling him so close to me was too much. I instinctively jerked my hips up. Frankie opened his eyes wide and stared at me. It wasn't a look of fear but of discovery; he had liked what he felt.

John had only fucked him, nearly brutally. With no feeling, no previous contact or sweet words. Frankie wasn't a virgin, yet he knew nothing about many things. He hadn't experienced anything of what we had been doing.

As we continued kissing and mildly touching, Frank began to rock his hips. A reflex, his body acting by need. Although he was enjoying it, I was unsure if it was alright. I wondered if I was crossing the line by allowing this but really, I wasn't doing anything. I had done nothing wrong.

"I...I l-love you," he said breathless. I started to move with him, I couldn't help it.

Frankie scarcely made any sound, and I tried to keep myself quiet too. I wanted to be able to hear his sighs and little whimpers once in a while, listen to his heartbeat accompanying mine, our chests so close that it burnt. Our dressed bodies went on with the dance, our swollen mouths missing rhythm. I exploded inside of my boxers after not too long a while. For the first time in months.

Since I took Frank home, he'd always been by my side; and even when he slept I had never pleasured myself. I couldn't think of him to get off, neither had I felt the necessity. Now it was both of us enjoying and it didn't feel that wrong. Not wrong at all, actually.

 I was done, but I kept on moving, helping Frank reach his climax. Sensing him freeze and grip my shoulders hurtfully. Watching him close his eyes tight and allow his jaw to fall, relaxed, while his body shook. Then it all went silent and quiet, and his head collapsed on my neck. I didn't speak, I didn't want to ruin the moment.

"I n-need to go ch-change," he spoke secretly. "I...I'm w-wet."

"Nah. I want you, pretty babe, to stay here with me. Besides...I'm wet too, so I don't mind."

"Y-you? Really?" he smirked.

"Shh, really!" I traced his little nose with a finger.

Frank laughed. His eyes were sleepy but he seemed happy and as innocent as ever. He was fine, I was fine.

Glancing at the black watch on my wrist that read 6:30 pm, I set the alarm for 8:30 -when Frank had to take his pill- and we fell asleep, exhausted. I didn't need anything else. Even if we never did more than that, even if we didn't even do that again, it would be enough the same. We had our love, we had each other. Who cared what the others thought? Who cared whether my family would accept it? Not me.  

Chapter Text

Hell is living without your
love ain't nothing without your
touch me, heaven would be like
hell is living without you.

"G-GERARD! G-GEE!" Frank called me loudly. I had gotten up first that morning to have breakfast ready for when he did.

"I'm here in the kitchen, baby. What's wrong?" I asked. He came in shaking, his hair a mess and his face stained with tears. "Frankie, are you okay?"

"I...I w-was looking for P-puppy but...c-can't...I...d-dunno wh-where..." he sobbed.

I had prayed for this moment to never come. Bracing myself for what was next, I inhaled deeply and tried to pour the security I didn't have into my voice. "Ok...first you have to try and calm down. Come here, let me wash your face."

I brought Frank to the sink and he just kept on crying, without saying a word. Feeling the cold water on his reddened skin seemed to sooth him a little, so I moistened his hair to refresh him. The temperature was incredibly high for that early hour.

"Better. Now you'll sit here and take your pill." I deposited him on the table and handed him the candy, waiting until he swallowed it. "Finish your juice. I'll go for your glasses and then we'll talk, ok?"

"K-kay..." New tears rolled down his cheeks, which I kissed before leaving.

Once he had his glasses on, I looked at his sad face. His eyes were slightly shifting, as they always did when he got too nervous; even more if many hours had passed since his last pill.

"Now tell me what happened again. Take it easy, don't try to speak too fast."

"I...w-was looking for P-puppy," Frank took a deep breath. "b-but could n-not find...him. N-not here. He...h-he's not h-here, Gee!" He was crying even worse now, choking with the tears and coughing.

"Frankie...Frankie look at me. Breathe slowly, like this, follow me...good. Now drink a little more juice, small sips." I held the glass to his lips, he was a bundle of nerves at the moment.

I needed to keep my calm, one of us had to and it was clear who. My own fears didn't matter. I hopped on the table and embraced him, rocking him gently. "Remember what I told you yesterday about the illness you have?"

"Y-yes..." his voice was hoarse and unsure.

"You know how I explained to you that there are some things your mind makes up, and now that you're better you sometimes can't see them?"

"Y-yeah but...b-but Puppy's real. Ev-everybody sees him and...he...y-yeah he's r-real and I c-can't find him!" He appeared to suspect what I was going to tell him, and the possibility was unthinkable to him. Anyone could see that Puppy was the most real of all his hallucinations. He was his friend, his mate.

I knew what was the right thing to do, but it didn't match what I felt like doing. What could I do, anyway? Letting Frank think that his dog had ran away wasn't much better.

"Baby, no. Puppy...he's not real either. I know he seems so to you, more than any other thing. I know you can see him, hear him, feel him when you hold him. I truly believe you can..."

"N-NO!" Frank pushed himself off the table but stumbled, falling on his knees. He crawled to a corner and, facing a wall, started to hit it with his fist. "Y-YOU...ARE...A...L-LIAR!! S-STOP IT! I W-WANT PUPPY! G-GIVE HIM TO M-ME! M-MINE! HE...H-HE EXISTS, L-LIAR! YOU S-SEE HIM, HE E-EATS ALL HIS F-FOOD. Y-YOU...S-STOP IT!"

"Frankie please, you're gonna hurt your hand..." I approached him carefully, barely touching his flexed knee. He instantly extended it and thrust it forward against my chest, violently making me apart.

"G-GET OUT, L-LIAR! O-OUT! G-GIMME MY D-DOG!" He stabbed me with his screams, his harsh words.

"I don't have your dog, he's not..." Again I tried to touch him and he kicked my stomach, causing me to double over in pain. However, the emotional pain and confusion Frankie was going through hurt me even more. It reminded me of the time when he had gone wild and practically attacked me. I didn't want that happening again, mostly for his own sake I needed to avoid it, I needed him to relax.


"'re right, you're right. Puppy is real," I conceded, not getting any closer.

He raised his head and glanced at me, panting and weeping. "Y-YOU SAID...L-LIAR!"

"I know, I know what I said. I thought you couldn't find him..." I wanted to improvise, but I was too scared to use my brain properly. "What I told you doesn't matter, Puppy exists...don't cry. Please let me get close to you, Frankie, I love you."

"Y-you lied! Y-you said s-something horri-ble! Th-that's mean!" He lowered his tone, the angst and hurt still present.

"I'm sorry, I'm s-sorry...I saw you so worried for Puppy that I didn't know what to say..." I cautiously made my way to him on all fours. He cried louder, yet didn't stop me.

"Wh-where's Puppy?" he asked, his voice imperceptibly if I hadn't been so close.

"I don't know...maybe he's just hiding very well?" I guessed.

Frank meditated while he played with the cords of my sneakers, tears falling endlessly on them. "Uh...h-he becomes in...inv...invi-sible. In-invisible, that...m-maybe?" He met my eyes and I saw it in his face that he was being serious. It was a perfectly coherent, reasonable theory for him.

Goldberg would probably kill me for using it.

"Yeah, it could be that! Maybe Puppy can get invisible once in a while."

"Y-yeah I th-think so..." he whispered with a little smile.

I closed the scarce distance between us and kissed his forehead. He moved ahead and hugged me.

"You'll see your doggie again, don't worry. We'll leave him food here and I'm sure he'll eat it. Now we better have breakfast before Ray comes." I got up with him in my arms and dropped him on a chair.

"Y-yeah, or he'll e-eat all my c-cereal!" Frankie giggled. He looked tired and still a little troubled; but the invisible-dog hypothesis had made him feel better and the medication had just kicked in, so he was at least calm.


The following day Frankie saw Puppy several times, feeling immensely happy that he hadn't lost him. He didn't seem worried anymore. Whenever he couldn't find his pet, he just scolded him and ordered him to become visible. Of course Puppy didn't always obey, and in those cases Frankie had some long arguments with the air. I knew it wasn't the most normal situation and it'd probably only work until Frankie didn't see the dog at all, but I could breathe for a while and have more time to think of a better solution.

Ray wasn't in complete agreement with how I'd managed the problem. He said I should have insisted with the truth. Nevertheless, when I explained how angry Frank was acting, he could understand why I had been afraid of going on with the original plan.

About Frank's other hallucinations, I noticed that he still talked to them when alone and stopped as soon as he saw me appear. It was as if he was ashamed of being caught doing it now that he knew they weren't real.

Nothing like what occurred that afternoon on the couch had happened again, only the usual kisses and touches. We did grow more comfortable on that last area since then, though never going too far. The only premeditated thing when it came to us was my decision to let Frankie lead the way. I didn't know what would be next. Ours was a spontaneous, slow paced relationship. It was romantic.

Frankie spent a lot of time looking at magazines, sometimes reading some random parts to me. He had also been drawing a lot more, using the correct colors now. He'd drawn us all -including Bob- except Mikey. I supposed Frank was still angry at him after he heard us fight. While watching him draw, I often wondered why he never included his imaginary friends, but I didn't think it was convenient to mention it. It was maybe better that way and I had disregarded Goldberg's advices enough.


I was cleaning the kitchen after being back from work while Frank played in the living room with some wooden building blocks that I'd found in my closet. I had been placing them into a new box to give to a little neighbor next door when Frankie saw me and his eyes lightened up. He had begged me to let him keep them and I'd had no reason to refuse. If he enjoyed children toys, I wouldn't oppose it. What's more, I believed anything that fomented creativity was good for him.

Hearing Frank talk, I tiptoed to the living room and observed him from far away. A house of blocks had been built over the coffee table, and he was now having a conversation with someone near him on the floor.

"N-no!" he laughed. "Y-you can' him like th-that! I'd g-get into t-trouble! Y-yes, I would! And...and b-besides...Gee s-said you're not r-real and the o-others can't see y-you."

"What the..." I flinched when hearing that, continuing to listen on the sly.

"I kn-know!" Frank rolled his eyes. "I kn-know you're real. I s-see you, s-silly people! Duh! D-dunno why they c-can't. B-but it's l-like that, only I c-can 'cause I'm s-special," he nodded proudly.

Following a sudden urge to kiss him, I made myself noticeable. Frank returned to his blocks, dissimulating.

"Hi baby, that's a pretty house! You were talking to your little army there?" I asked him casually after crashing my lips against his.

"Uh? N-no I wasn't."

"Frankie...I saw you." I didn't intend it to sound like a reprimand, and hoped he wouldn't take it like that.

" were...I m-mean I s-saw them and..." he looked down embarrassed.

I sat beside him and grabbed his face, forcing him to look at me. "The other day when we talked about it, you asked me if you could keep on speaking to them. Do you remember what I answered?"

"Y-yeah...that I c-could, that it w-was okay."

"Then why are you ashamed? You don't have to, really. Do you like talking to them?"

"Y-yes, th-they're funny and m-my friends." He smiled.

"Then everything's fine," I assured him. "You can still have them as friends and talk, I don't mind. Please, don't stop if someone enters the room. Just remember they're not real, that's enough."

"B-but people will n-notice and say I'm c-crazy."

"And then I'll be there to kick their asses! I'll always take care of you, anyone who makes my beautiful special boy upset will end up with a sore ass."

"Y-yay! Th-the little people s-say they'll k-kick them too!" he laughed.

My curiosity resurged. "How do they look? I know they're similar to normal people tall? And how do they dress?"

We were on the floor, my back leaning on the couch and Frank reclined against my chest. I knew he adored conversing with me about his things and certainly enjoyed when people paid attention to him. He had once told me that not many did at the institution, because they said he took too long to speak and it bored them. I had never found the way Frank spoke boring or annoying, and he luckily didn't have any complex about it.

"Th-they're this t-tall," he showed me with his thumb and index finger. "And...m-most of dress normally. L-like...jeans and sh-shirts. B-but sometimes, if th-they get an-angry they d-dress like...l-like...fuck, h-how's the word? S-solders?"

"You mean soldiers?" I reached for a magazine where I remembered to have seen a certain pic.

"Like this?"

"Y-yeah!" he nodded.

"Then it's soldier, yes. They were dressed like that now? I heard they wanted to attack somebody..."

"Uh...y-yes. T-told them they c-can't." He looked up biting his bottom lip.

"Who do they want to attack?"

"M-mikey," he murmured. "Th-they're angry 'c-cause he made you s-sad."

"He didn't make me sad. We had a little discussion, but everything's fine now. Tell your army that they don't have to attack," I reassured him. He tended to transfer some of his insecurities and worries to his hallucinations.


"Yep. Anyway, how do they attack?"

"Th-they have s-swords. B-but they're so l-little that if they p-pinch you,'s like b-big mos-quitos. On-only that it b-bleeds! Th-they like to kick asses m-more, but th-they're too small so they c-can't reach as-asses and have to c-climb people," he expose enthusiastically, moving his hands around a lot to emphasize his words.

"Oh, that must be something funny to see!" I laughed.

"Y-yes, it is!"

"You know? I bought you a present," I announced. 

He quickly got to his feet and his eyes opened up huge as plates. "Sh-show me!"

"It's hidden here." I retrieved a large hard covered book from below the couch's cushion. "Tell me if you like it."

He took it from my hands, placed it on the table and touched the cover with a giant grin on his lips. When he opened it, I would have sworn the grin reached his ears. "W-wow, animals! L-love it!" he applauded.

It was an encyclopedia for kids. It had lots of big, detailed pictures and simple facts and information on each animal. I thought that to start with, it would be better for him to practice reading and comprehension with a subject that he was passionate and knew something about already.


He hugged me and kissed my cheek so hard that it hurt. "Th-thanks Gee!" 

"Glad you like it, baby. Don't read it all at once, so we can use it to practice as the doctor suggested."

"B-but we can p-practice now!"

"Oh, if you want to...of course! Then choose an animal and read what it says. Don't rush, take your time time because then you'll have to tell me about it. Do you understand?"

"Y-yeah!" He searched through the pages back and forth several times until he finally chose the dolphin. I waited patiently, admiring how pretty he looked concentrating on his reading, frowning now and then.

"R-ready!" he declared fifteen minutes later. Even though there wasn't much to read, I still thought it might be a little soon.

"Ok, what did you learn about the dolphin? You don't need to use the words from the book, tell me with your own."

"D-dolphins are..." he doubted, scratching his head. "I...I c-can't. D-don't know, don't r-remember. Gu-guess I'm r-retarded like people s-say," he pouted.

"Oh no, Frankie! Never say that word again! You're not. Some things are a little more difficult for you, it's all. That's why you need to practice. This is the first time, so it's ok. It's totally normal." I smiled to him.


"Read it again each sentence many times, slowly, until you're sure that you understood what it says. Only then go to the next one. And if you don't understand some word you ask me, ok? It doesn't matter if you can't remember everything, we're just starting, even if it's just some little facts it'll be fine."

"Y-yes, kay."

While Frankie went back to his task, I entertained myself with a music magazine. Less then five minutes had passed when the bell rang.

I was surprised to see my mother at the door. It was almost night and she had to work. "Mom...what are you doing here?"  

"I came for Frankie," she scarcely answered.

"What the fuck...?"

"D-donna!" The boy ran to her and was welcomed by motherly arms and tender kisses.

"Hi, pretty! I came to take you home with me," mom informed him. What had she meant? Something about the way she acted was odd, it didn't give me a good feeling.

"Yay! G-gee, we're g-going to her h-house!" Frank celebrated. "W-we're gonna go in the t-train?"

"Yes, Frankie, we'll go by train. But Gerard's not coming, only you and me. You're gonna stay with me for some time."

"What are you talking about, mom?" I didn't understand anything.

"N-NO! I w-wanna go with G-gee! N-no...why? D-don't want to, th-then!" Frankie cried out.

"Mom...please tell me what this is about..."

"It's better for him, Gerard," she replied, going straight to our room. I followed as she picked up Frank's backpack and began to stuff it with clothes.

"STOP AND FUCKING TALK TO ME!" I snatched it from her hands and threw it towards the other side of the room. "Mikey told you, didn't he? That bastard had to tell you and he surely gave you his own mental version of it!"

She calmly went for the discharged bag and continued to fill it while she responded. "No, he didn't. I accidentally heard him talking about it with Alicia, they didn't know I was home. Of course then I asked him and yes, he had to tell me." I couldn't stand her serenity, I felt like I was being part of a big, cruel prank. 

"And your mind is as dirty as his? Do you also think I'm a monster?" I spat, trying not to scream.

Frankie stood by the door, watching us and crying in silence. His expression was one of total commotion, inner turmoil awaiting to be released.

My mother sighed and finally looked at me. "No, son, don't get me wrong. I know you, I'm your mother. I'm sure there's no bad intention and you'd never force Frankie to do anything..."

"Then why...?"

"I still think you two having some kind of...relationship like this will not help Frankie. It'll confuse him even more," she spoke as low as possible."Of course he feels things, he's 18 after all. But he can't fully understand them. So at least until he's a little more stable, I think it'll be better if he doesn't live with you."

"N-NO! Nonononononono...p-please wanna be with G-gee! H-he takes c-care of me and l-loves me, D-donna please!" Frankie pleaded on his knees, clutching her long skirt.

"I'll take care of you too, and you'll be able to see Gerard some days, I promise."


"Mom, you're crazy. You work, you can't even watch him all the time!" I tried to get to her from another perspective.

"Alicia can help me, and also a friend from the hospital that has a different schedule," she solved my doubt without hesitating.

"But Mikey doesn't..."

"Mikey will have to accept it, I don't care," she cut me off.

"Mom please, don't do this. We're fine here, he's doing fine!" I chased her to the kitchen where she grabbed Frank's pills.

My mother stopped and put a hand on my shoulder, staring into my eyes. She didn't seem angry, just deeply concerned. I felt like dying, she was about to take my life away from me. My heart was breaking and so was Frank's, I knew it. He clung to me and we cried together, helpless and hopeless.

"Gerard, don't make this any harder, it's worse for Frankie. He'll be ok, I won't hide him from you!" She caressed my hair.

"Please...p-please no...I need him, he n-needs me..." I sobbed.

"Maybe some time in the future. I don't think anything bad of you son, I swear. I love you. I might even reconsider it, but right now this is the best thing to do. Don't fight, please."

"Ok...d-don't forget the book I bought him," I muttered defeated. Fighting would only make the situation more stressing for the boy. "Frankie baby...go with her, she'll be very good to you and will cook all your favorite meals. I'll see you very very soon, don't be afraid. We'll be together again..." I kissed his lips one last time. My mother didn't say a word about it.

Tears kept falling from Frank's eyes, fogging his glasses. His look was blank, as if someone had taken away his soul. He didn't seem to register anything; he was deaf, mute, gone. My mom took him by the hand and he walked behind dragging his feet like a zombie. 

Same as Frankie I didn't see anything more, didn't hear anything more.

Two hours later I was still lying on the floor, in the dark, with no more tears to cry and no more brains to think. Like Frankie had done earlier -only this was my own decision- I left my house like a living dead. Only God knows how I wasn't killed by a car. I couldn't see where I was going, my legs had a life of their own. All my senses were numb.

The next thing I registered, I was back at home with two bottles of whiskey and no reason to stop me from drinking them. I was alone, I was useless, I was meaningless.

Nights get longer and colder,
I'm down and begging to hold ya.
On my own and I feel like
hell is living without you.

Chapter Text

I don't have plans and schemes,
and I don't have hopes and dreams
I don't have anything
since I don't have you.

As a pathetic replay of that whole week before I met Frank, I half lied in bed with one open whiskey bottle in my hand. The same bed that had been our bed for more than a month, the bed that kept his strawberry smell. How would I be able to sleep on it by myself? How would sleep come to me without having him in my arms, without feeling his soft hair in between my fingers, without watching him breathe peacefully and smile in his dream until my own eyes give in?

And then...who would I wake up for, work for, go back home for? Yes, I could still do it for myself, but that's easier said than done. At the moment I wasn't able to find any reasons. I had been living for Frankie. It wasn't that I had stopped my own life for him, no; I didn't have one before I met him. He became my motive, my strength, my support.

Without even knowing it, he helped me more than anyone had ever done. Whenever I felt down, just seeing his smile would light up my day. Thanks to him I'd learned that we could be happy with very little. He had taught me what true love was; love that wasn't born from lust, love without the need of sex.

Just when I had reached that divine realization of having everything I needed, of my life being very close to complete, it was stolen from my hands. At that point when I was feeling that no difficulty -and I knew we had several ahead- would be too hard to go through as long as we were together...I was left alone again.

I needed Frank and I knew he needed me. I could see that he was fine when we were together, our relationship hadn't caused him any harm. He was better, happier. Why couldn't the others see that too? Why hadn't my mother paid attention to the facts instead of using the infamous 'this could be bad for Frank'? Our love couldn't be bad, love can never be bad.

Why hadn't I fought more? Why hadn't I been able to stop her? I wanted to, but that would have meant arguing longer in front of Frank. That, for sure, wouldn't have been good for him. Now I wondered...what was worst?

Questions kept revolving in my mind as the clear liquid in the bottle disappeared.

By the second bottle my head was a blur, light and confused. Nevertheless my body felt so heavy that I thought it could make a hole through the mattress. My emotions were mixed up, I had begun to question it all again, to wonder if my mother may be right after all. The alcohol hadn't taken away the pain, though; it was still there, deep inside my heart. Pain, anger, desperation. I had tried to drown them, but I only succeeded at numbing my reasoning; and even being nearly incapable of thinking anymore, those feelings wouldn't leave me.

I lost count of how much time I stayed like that, feeling although no longer thinking. No idea of when it was that all my senses abandoned me, giving me the sweet relief of sleep. I knew nothing more until a sharp pain in my stomach woke me up. I was drenched in cold sweat and had an awful taste in my mouth. Just to open my eyes hurt like fuck, and my legs threatened to not support my weight as soon as my feet touched the floor.

My head spun as I stumbled my way to the bathroom, finally collapsing in front of the toilet. Embracing the comforting coolness of the porcelain, I emptied the contains of my stomach. I grasped the sink and helped myself up, washing my mouth and my face, feeling one pain subside and the other, deadlier one, come back to life.

As I entered the kitchen to hide the evidence from the previous night, the clock welcomed me with its hands signaling 10 a.m. It was Friday, I was very late to work. Where was Ray? Why hadn't I heard him calling? Why hadn't he gotten into the house if he had the keys?

"Oh, mom must have called him." I voiced to the air. How would I survive the silence?

Again, I started to think of all the things I'd usually do with Frankie, and I wasn't able to stop the new tears falling. I knew, however, that I had to be strong; Frankie couldn't see me like this the next time we saw each other. Because I would see him again, I had to see him again. They couldn't ban me from spending time with my sweet boy, my love. That thought, that hope, was the only reason to go on, but it wasn't enough. I needed him here, with me.

My head hurt too much and I didn't feel like having breakfast, so I just sat there, staring blankly at the wall. Seconds, minutes, hours? I couldn't tell.

Through the mental mist of my pitiful hangover, an unmistakable sound hit my eardrums. A sound I had never liked before, yet I learned to love because it was Frankie's. The purple beaded mobile was tinkling in announcement, and I ran to the door as fast as my sore body allowed.

Was I the one hallucinating now? Next to the entrance and placing a soaked umbrella -soaked by a rain I didn't know was falling- against the door, was my mother. Beside her, struggling to get rid of an ugly blue raincoat, was Frankie. My Frankie. His hair unbrushed, his semblance pale, his windowed eyes puffy, red and restless.

"Oh my God,'re here!" I strode towards him and hugged him tightly, lifting him off the ground. He didn't respond at first, but then I felt his short legs cling to my waist and his shaking arms to my neck. His sweet lips crashed desperately against my cheek.

"I...I m-missed you Gee, s-so so m-much. I w-wanna stay with y-you, p-please tell h-her..." he spoke with a half voice that wasn't easy to hear.

Frank had never talked about missing his friends, or the institution, or even Grace. Now here he was telling me that he missed me during the only night we had been apart.

"You don't have any idea how much I missed you, Frankie..."

I looked at my mom, still standing there in silence with glassy eyes. I read the regret, I perceived it; a shadow towering above her. I didn't want to reproach her and cause another argument, but my eyes must have betrayed me because she lowered her face, distressed.

"I'm sorry Gerard, I'm so sorry, I acted following my first impulse. When I saw how Frankie is when he doesn't have you...that made me question myself completely. I won't deny that I still had some doubts while coming here, I was afraid that I might regret bringing him back; but now that I see you I know I won't. You've suffered too and it's all my fault...I'm sorry, son..." she said caressing my cheek.

I flinched and receded.

Could she notice that I had been drinking? I prayed that she would only think I'd been crying all night -which was also true after all. I didn't want to disappoint my mother like that, I needed her to trust me and believe that I was reliable to be in charge of Frankie.

"You...then you mean...Frankie can stay?" That was all I cared about.

"Yes, he can," she nodded with a weak smile. "I don't know how you two are gonna handle this situation, what you're feeling for each other. I still find it hard to believe and it'll take me some time to get used to it...but you deserve an opportunity. Last night...all along the way while we were on the train Frankie didn't say a word or look at me, he just followed like a robot. When we got home and he finally reacted, he just started to cry and repeat that he wanted to go back to you. He never stopped crying. He didn't eat, didn't sleep, didn't want to take his pill. Early in the morning I gave him some ice cream and managed to calm him down long enough to talk."

"What did he say to you?" I asked, wanting to know and at the same time a little concerned. I hoped the boy hadn't commented on what happened a couple of days ago on the couch. Probably not, or my mother wouldn't be giving me Frank back.

"He told me what that John kid did to him," her voice trembled. "and the conversation you had about it. Said you weren't angry and explained things to him. I'd never seen Frankie so serious...the way he kept the eye contact all the time honestly surprised me. He assured me that you take care of him very well and would never hurt him."

"I...t-told her that I l-love you. A l-lot, and you l-love me, and we w-wanna be b-boyfriends." Frankie was almost voiceless, and now I knew it was due to crying for hours.

"He's right, mom. We love each other and want to be boyfriends. You can be sure -and you should have known- that I'd never ever do anything that could hurt Frankie, physically or mentally. We could have discussed it here if you had only listened, you know?" I spat with refrained anger. "You just came and did what you considered better and you never thought of me! You say you thought about Frankie? Well, you didn't listen to what he was telling you either!"

"I know..." She covered her mouth, suffocating a sob as she became aware of how wrong her whole proceeding had been. "...I should have trusted your words instead of thinking so much. Frankie made me see my mistake. He could never hide anything, this kid's transparent. Everything should have been clear to me just by looking into his eyes and listening to both of you, but I guess I was blind and deaf with the surprise. It's evident that you've changed for good since you have taken care of Frankie, and he's so happy..."

"Yes, all that should have been enough!" I cried out. Frankie's scared expression told me to hold myself. "So he didn't have any pills since last morning?"

" after we talked he began to cry and plead again. It was impossible to get him to do anything at all so I decided to come over here without delay."

"Thank you." I sobbed. "Thank you, thank you, thank you."

" you, Donna! B-but...for wh-what? Wh-why you crying, G-gerard?" Frankie was suddenly confused. We laughed, finally relaxing.

"You know, boys?" My mom glanced at us, Frankie still in my arms. "You look like shit. Gerard, give Frankie his medication and then go to bed. I'll prepare breakfast and serve you both there."

"But...oh fuck! The store! Sarah! And what happened to Ray?" Everything came back to me at once.

"I called Ray last night and told him Frankie was with me. And don't worry, I'll phone your boss to tell her you overslept because you're sick and that I don't think you can work today," she answered smiling. "Now go, poor Frankie has been unmedicated for more than 24 hours. My fault, I know."

Minutes later we were hugging each other in bed. The previous night seemed only a bad memory and the idea of sleeping alone was unthinkable. My mother had understood, she had seen what was obvious to me: there can be no wrong where there's love.


Sarah told my mom that I didn't have to work the following day either. It was my chance to do another three-hour trip and visit the shelter where Frank had first lived. Bob had said to count him in, so I called him. After those last days' sad moments I was willing to laugh, and with Frankie and Bob in the same car you had your fun guaranteed.

We left the house as soon as Bob arrived. I handed him a portable mini fridge with sandwiches and sodas and we got in the car, Frankie beaming with happiness. His voice still sounded a little weird while he sang some random tune from some even more random TV show for kids. He watched a lot of those when he wasn't seeing cheesy love movies. The innocent, preteen-first-love ones, since any others were too boring for him. Sometimes he watched horror movies with me, though 'watch' was only a saying; he always ended up hiding his face in the crook of my neck for most of the movie.

"Those glasses are really bad-ass, Frankie!" Bob told him.


"That they're cool, you look great with them," he explained.

"Ahh, y-yeah! And...and n-now I can s-see everything!"

"That's even cooler! What do you think of my ugly face now?" my friend interrogated him.

I had just started the car and couldn't see Frankie, but the silence indicated that he was examining Bob's face.

"Uh...y-you're not ugly! Y-you're...funny!" he giggled. "And...and your h-hair's yellow and you h-have pretty eyes l-like the color of...of th-the sky. Yep! B-but gotta shave, you l-look like a b-bear. B-bob the bear!"

"Well, that's not so bad. Maybe I'll shave next time I see you, so you can tell me if I look better," Bob said. "Your eyes are prettier, though. They're sometimes green and sometimes brown. Mine are boring, always the same color."

"B-but yours are not f-fucked up..." Frank stopped and I saw his head appear at my side, looking at something in the front part of the car's interior.

"Frankie, why did you unfasten your belt?"

"I d-didn't, just m-made it looser."

"Well, make it tighter again..."

"J-just a minute!"


"Wh-what are you d-doing here? N-no, I know you l-like Gee's c-car so much but n-no one said you could c-come! N-not even Puppy c-came and he w-wanted to!" The receiver of his talk changed. It seemed the gnomes were back in the glove compartment. He had been seeing all his imaginary friends again since the previous day, probably because of the stress provoked by the last events and having interrupted the medication.

"Who are you talking to, kiddo?" Bob asked.

"Th-the gnomes, they're m-my friends. I kn-know you c-can't see them, G-gee told me. 'C-cause I'm s-special and you're n-not."

"Hey! This kid stuck out his tongue to me!" Bob protested playfully.

"Oh, don't get me into your fights, you're grown up kids already!" I laughed.

"Can I ask the gnomes questions and you tell me what they answer?" Bob proposed.

"Y-yeah, ask." Frank liked the idea and I wasn't going to object to it.

"What do they think of me?"

"Come on, Bob! Can't it be something not related to yourself?" I chuckled. He always wanted to know what everybody thought of him. Not even the imaginary gnomes where safe from that.

"Shh, G-man! Wanna know!"

"Th-they say your b-beard's ugly and...and th-theirs are b-better and c-can't be a g-gnome 'cause you're too b-big!"

"Oh, no! I was hoping to become one!" Through the mirror I could see Bob grab his head dramatically. He was such a clown, but Frankie was laughing a lot and so was I; healing through laughter.

They continued with the questions and answers -the most absurd ones imaginable- for a long period of time; and all of the gnomes' replies according to Frank were so hilarious that they brought us to tears. 

When we got to the route, the landscape distracted him. "W-wow! I c-can see all the an-animals now! Th-the cow, the o-other cow, and m-more cows th-there, and m-more but black...and th-the horses and a wh-white horse and a h-house and also p-people and..." he listed everything. "...Gee!"


"C-can't we g-get out and...and go see the an-animals?"

"No, we can't do that here."

"Wh-why? 'C-cause the cows can c-call their f-friends and...and th-then a lot m-more come and then th-they call all th-the animals and they...r-run over us 'cause they d-don't want us to g-go see them?'s th-that, Gee?"

"Oh my, I love this kid!" Bob laughed hysterically. "He owns so much!"

"No Frankie, it's not because of that, only that I can't stop the car here, it's not safe," I explicated, chuckling at his random idea too.

"Ahh," he said seriously. "B-but I wanna see th-them."

"One of these days I'll take you to a farm."

"Th-there're elephants there?"

"No...but there are cows, pigs, sheep, chickens... Elephants are in the zoo, have you been to a zoo?"

"N-no, saw them in m-movies. S-some kids went, b-but they said I c-couldn't."

"Why was that?" Bob questioned.

"N-not safe for F-frankie," the boy answered in that odd tone he used to quote other people.

"He doesn't have any notion of danger, he doesn't seem able to understand it or recognize it," I filled Bob in about one of Frank's mental alterations.


"It's not such a big deal, you only have to keep him watched. But I guess it was easier for them to leave him out of the visit to the zoo than have someone taking him by the hand all the time to make sure he wouldn't get in trouble. Classical incompetence," I spoke bitterly.

"Classical assholes!" Bob exclaimed.

"Y-yeah, assholes! I...I'm a g-good boy!" Frankie added.

"Of course you are, Gee-man and I will take you to both a farm and a zoo one day, you'll see."

"Y-yes! B-bob is awe-some! R-right, Gee?"

I laughed. "Yes, he is!"

We finally arrived to the place. It was an old two-story house; big, though not huge. Its walls, that had once been white, were gray and moldy. There was no garden and not even much grass, the soil too dry and cracked for something to grow on it. No sign could be seen telling it was a shelter. It was probably one of those places that weren't exactly legal. The government knew about them and even sustained them because it meant less abandoned kids to care about; but they usually kept them undercover.

The three of us got out of the car this time. I considered it'd be no danger if Frankie was seen by someone. When we got closer, the boy froze and looked at the house scared, taking in the details without blinking. Then he began to walk backwards, his eyes still fixed on the building.

"Frankie...what's wrong? You remember this house?" I inquired.

"Y-yes...I...d-don't't take me th-there, no. I D-DON'T WANT TO!"

"Ok, ok, you can stay in the car with Bob. Wanna tell me why it scares you? Were they bad to you here?"

" m-man. H-he hit me s-sometimes and..and it h-hurt! H-he was evil. S-screamed at us and b-beat us."

"Why would he hit you?" The more I knew about Frank's past, the more people I added to my black list. I couldn't understand how someone would want to hit Frankie, even less when he was not much older than 4!

"'C-cause I peed in my b-bed or...d-don't know what el-else, d-don't remember. B-but he was an as-asshole. D-don't wanna see h-him!"

"Baby," I put my hands on his shoulders and looked right into his eyes. "if he was so bad I don't think he's still here. And even if he you're with us, he can't do anything to you. We're just going to ask some questions and then we'll go home, I promise. Anyway, you can stay here with Bob if you want to."

"If...if y-you're not g-gonna let him h-hurt me, then I'll g-go," he whispered.

"Bob and I will kick the ass of whoever tries to hurt you."

"Super Bob will give that guy what he deserves!" my blond friend gave his word.

As we entered the building, the stench of urine made my nostrils sting. I saw Bob cover his nose, uncomfortable about the same thing. There was dirt and spider webs everywhere, and it hadn't been repainted in years; it was impossible to make out the color of the walls. You could hear lots of children crying and screaming, while others were singing together with an adult. Frankie walked so close to me that I had to be careful not to trip over his feet.

We neared a very messy desk, behind which a girl was copying something from a very old, shattered notebook to a more modern agenda. There was no computer in sight, technology hadn't reached this forgotten shelter.

"Sorry, may I ask you a question?" I addressed her.

The brunette eyed me with her bored brown eyes, chewing on her gum like a cow. "Yeah?"

"Is there someone who's worked here for fifteen years or more?"

"Uh..." she scratched her head thinking. "...yeah, I think there are at least two women. My mother worked here for ten years before she left me her place, and they were already here when she started."

"Could I talk to them?"

"Only one works today. HEY, GENE! Watch over here while I go find Maria!" she asked a guy who was fixing a window. As if she had something valuable there that we could steal...

The secretary came back ten minutes later with a slow-walking woman who was no more than 50, though her hair was prematurely gray and her eyes showed the tiredness of years. Maria smiled warmly at us as she shook our hands, and I did remember to introduce myself this time. I could see Frank -who was hidden behind me- looking at the woman intensely, probably finding her familiar.

"How can I help you, young men?" she asked.

"Did you already work here fifteen years ago?"

"I've been working here for exactly sixteen years, why?"

"I'm collecting information about Frank Iero, I know he was brought here around then when he was 4. Not sure of how many years he spent in this place, though," I said. Frankie was still gripping my arm with both his, but he wasn't hiding anymore.

"Oh yes, I remember him." Maria meditated and then suddenly looked at Frank, smiling. " it you, Frankie?"

"Y-yeah, I'm F-frankie."

"I'm Maria, do you remember me? I'd take care of you sometimes and I also helped you learn to speak...together with another woman who used to work here before, Martha." She ruffled his hair.

"Y-yes, I r-remember you! Y-you kicked the evil m-man once 'cause...'c-cause he hit m-me."

"Yes, I did! He deserved it." She then looked at me. "Did you...adopt him?"

"Something like that, better said I found him, long story. Would you tell me as much as you know about him?" I felt a little impolite, but I was anxious.

"Of course, follow me."

She guided us to an even dirtier room with no windows. The only illumination was an antique lamp in a corner. She grabbed it -its cord conveniently long- and aimed it towards a shelving full of cardboard boxes, each one labeled with a year. The heat was unbearable, and it was too humid.

"Uh...which year would that be?"

"Let's see...either...1992 or 1993." I reasoned, feeling drops of perspiration running down my face.

"Yeah...I think it was winter, so most probably '93. Let's see." she took out that box, the smell of the old moistened cardboard more perceivable. Then she rummaged through the alphabetically organized files inside. "I wanna be sure I'm not mixing his information with any other kid's in my head, you know? It's been a long time. Here it is!"

"Oh, good!" Bob, who had been in silence so far, exclaimed. He was as curious as I by then.

Maria motioned for us to follow her out of the room; it wasn't a place to stay long. We took a seat on a greasy, green bench against a wall.

"Frank Anthony Iero, 4 years old. His own mother brought him here, she alleged she couldn't cope with his problems," she read the file.

"And you don't do anything about parents like that here?" I asked indignant.

"No, that's how things are in this place. Parents that otherwise would leave their kids in the street, come here because they know we won't ask much; only a voluntary money donation and the kid's ID to take note of the whole name and date of birth," she explained, still studying the paper before her. "We don't even keep the ID's, unless they choose to leave them, but it wasn't the case."

"Tell me whatever you can find there or anything you remember, please," I begged her.

"Ok...when Frankie arrived here he had just learned how to walk. He'd still fall down rather often, though he was very hyperactive and rarely stopped moving anyway."

"You mentioned that you helped him learn to speak..."

"Yes, he only spoke a few random words, the rest of the time he would just scream or cry when he wanted something. It took us nearly two years to get him to speak enough to communicate. We had to teach him or make him practice during the scarce moments when we'd manage to get his attention, so it wasn't easy. After that he attended kindergarten for at year and a half, maybe a little more, until he left. He enjoyed it very much, back then we had a lovely teacher who volunteered here," she related.

"Did Frankie really have schizophrenia since so early?"

"He did. His mother mentioned how he'd act weird sometimes, and here we noticed that his nervous episodes were a lot worse than you could expect from a child, even an hyperactive one. Other times he seemed absent, or he'd touch the air and smile as if he was seeing something. He was examined by a psychiatrist like all children here, this is the diagnosis..." she handed me a paper that had been attached to the file.

"Frank Iero presents early Schizophrenia, to which he was surely propense to; but probably developed symptoms at a younger age due to brain damage caused by head trauma. Said lesion is also the causative of learning retardation, speech impediment and other possible problems that might or might not make themselves evident with time, since it's not easy to know at such a young age. Antipsychotics are not recommended for small children if not strictly necessary, although mild sedatives could be tolerated," I read.

"They gave him sedatives for three years, though the 'mild' part was only occasionally respected. I always tried to stop them from sedating him too much, but some days when the kid was more nervous they'd leave him drooling like a zombie. Then when Frankie was 7, he started to have like...panic attacks over things only he could see, so they changed to antipsychotics," Maria recalled. It was a sadly usual thing to do in many public places.

"No one could do something more against that?"

"Sadly, no. It's the same as with that jerk who used to hit the kids. The rest of us tried to get him fired, but no one pays attention to simple employees. And...these children were either found in the streets or abandoned here. They don't have parents to look after them and denounce when things are done wrongly. All we could do was to implant some justice by our own hands. He finally decided to leave." She smirked remembering something. "The only reason why I keep working here, same as another friend of mine, is to ensure that at least someone treats the kids as human beings."

I observed Frankie who was playing to catch a paper ball with Bob, not succeeding much but laughing all the same.

The woman followed my gaze. "It's so good to see him well and happy. When Frank left this place I thought about him for a long time, wondering what would be of him. Developing a mental illness like that at such a young age is never good. I was afraid, to tell the truth."

"Yes, his case is pretty serious. Luckily the medication does help. And now that you mentioned it, there's a point I'm especially interested to know about: who took him out of here?" I couldn't think of anyone, his mother was out of the question.

"During his..." she searched through the papers in her hand. "...fourth year here, his grandmother came for him."

My eyes opened wide with surprise. Grandmother? The one I had talked to? It couldn't be, she thought Frank was dead. "His father's mother?"

"No, his mother's." 

Chapter Text

I was standing.
You were there.
Two worlds collided.
And they could never ever tear us apart.

"His maternal grandmother?" I asked in disbelief. Every answer I got brought up even more questions.

"Yes, I remember everything as if it had happened yesterday, it was rather peculiar. The first time I talked to Frank's grandma it was on the phone, she'd just learned that she had a grandson who lived here and called us desperate. The name and date of birth she mentioned matched Frank's..."

"How did she get to know?" I interrupted Maria while trying to figure things out. "From what I found out, after bringing Frank here, his mother told everybody that the kid had died..."

"Aha, this poor lady was shocked and spilled everything to me. It was like this: her daughter talked to a friend and confessed that she'd had a son who died at the age of 4. Though that girl was asked not to tell anybody, she found it too important to keep it secret, specially from her friend's mother. As soon as Frank's grandmother was given that information, she traveled immediately to talk to her daughter."

"And Frank's mother admitted the truth just like that?"

"No...she told her mother that the boy's health had always been poor and he finally died from a virus or something like that. But...when the woman was leaving, a neighbor passed her bye in a rush and put a piece of paper in her hand," she recounted mysteriously.

"What did it..."

"It said: 'the kid's not dead, insist. Just forget that you knew this from me.' Seems out of a movie, uh?" Maria chuckled.

Someone could have thought that she found the situation funny, but I understood that wasn't the case. She did care, she cared a lot for the kids -or she wouldn't have paid attention to us. Maria didn't find Frank's story funny, it wasn't that; she was only a tired woman who had worked in a dark, sad place for years. She particularly remembered those stories that had been interesting or out of the ordinary, maybe a doleful replacement for the TV shows she didn't have the time to watch.

I didn't reply right away since I was, again, thinking; attempting to connect that new fragment of information to what I had previously obtained. Who had given Frankie's grandma the note? It couldn't have been the neighbor I had talked to, or she would have commented about it.
Then I came up with another hypothesis: it may well have been the other neighbor, the one who had refused to help me; and that could be the reason why she did. She had spoken enough already, presumably even gotten into trouble because of it.

"Yes, so far everything related to Frankie seems out of a very sad movie. What happened then?" I asked impatient. "Did Frank's grandma go back to her daughter after reading that note?"

"Not right away. She waited until the following day to face her daughter and then told her that she knew Frank wasn't dead. The grandma pushed and pushed until the girl confessed, and threatened to forget about their blood bond and denounce her if she didn't tell her where the kid was. I suppose the woman forced Frankie's data out of her daughter too, and that's how she got to us," Maria completed, massaging her neck and making it crackle. She didn't notice me flinching at the annoying sound and continued to do so.

"But there's one thing I don't understand: if Frankie's grandma came for him, why did he end up in a mental institution?" I questioned, rather confused. Bob and Frankie were still playing with the paper ball, now sitting on the floor. Frank appeared to have momentarily forgotten about the bad memories that place hid for him.

"That first time after we talked, I put the psychiatrist on the line and he explicated all about Frank's condition to her. She was devastated before hanging up. A couple of days later, she showed up here crying. An old woman with a cane, I remember that. She told us how she'd have loved Frankie to live with her, that she would have tried if she was healthier or the kid didn't have so many problems. But she was very sick, and Frankie needed to be constantly watched and taken care of -have in mind he was only 8 at the moment. His grandma lived alone, and was thinking of getting herself into a home for elderly people."

"So she just moved Frankie to a new place?" I reckoned.

"She said she had found the best private mental hospital in her city, very close to where she was planning to move so she could visit Frankie as often as possible and make sure he was fine."

"Damn...the only person who cared for Frank and she was too ill to take him with her? Poor woman...and poor Frankie." I sighed, trying not to cry.

Frankie came skipping and sat next to me. "Wh-what you talking a-about?"

" you remember when you left this place?" I inquired.

He skewed his mouth to both sides, concentrating. "N-no I don't. d-day I...w-woke up and wasn't h-here anymore. W-was on a p-plane, with an o-old woman who s-said was my g-grandma and... and w-we got out of the p-plane and then she t-took me to the o-other place. Y-yeah! Th-that happened!" he celebrated joyfully, satisfied with having recalled something.

"Your memory is good, Frankie!" I kissed his cheek.

"He can't remember when he left because apart from his medication, he was also heavily sedated that day. Who knows what had been their excuse that time. Maybe Frankie had a nervous fit, or it was just that some idiot here didn't feel like putting up with him," Maria explained sadly. "Frank's grandma wasn't exactly happy to see the child like that, and I suggested that she waited until he was more lucid; but she said it'd be better to leave right away. Frank would be easier to manage and wouldn't get scared on the plane."

All I could do was listen to her and nod, taking it all in. The idea of Frankie being overmedicated at such a young age was barbarian, although I knew that's how things were in those places.

Maria stopped talking and searched for something among the papers in her hands.

"Oh, here!" she smiled. "On a happier note, wanna see why I knew he was Frankie?"

"Sure, what is it?" I got closer, Bob and Frank peeping over my shoulders.

Maria handed me an old photograph, its edges a little frayed and yellowed. It showed who -no doubt- was Frank when he was about 6. His hair was flatter and cut straight, with a dense fringe falling above his naturally sculpted eyebrows. His eyes were only slightly deviated, but it was the same sweet, innocent look. He had the same sincere smile, the same small nose; it was like looking at the exact same Frankie in miniature.

"Th-that's me?" Frank pointed at the picture.

"Yes, you at 6!" Maria confirmed that I had guessed the age correctly.

"You haven't changed much! The same little face," I opined.

"He's not even much bigger now..." she pinched Frankie's cheek.

"H-hey! I am much b-bigger than that n-now!" he pouted, crossing his arms.

"It was a joke! Of course you are, bigger and prettier."

"One thing was better, you used a brush back then." Bob laughed tousling the boy's hair.

"Sh-shut up, silly! M-my hair hates b-brushes! L-leave it al-alone!" Frank shot back.

"Oh, but it hated them back then too! It was like three of us against this little boy to get him to brush his hair for the picture," Maria related. "By the way, you can keep the photograph."

"Oh, thanks!" I exclaimed gratefully. I was already thinking of framing it to place it somewhere in the living room. It was such a cute photo.

When I was about to say goodbye, I realised I had yet to ask an important question. "Oh Maria..." I spoke, most probably failing at pronouncing her Hispanic name. " you know which mental institution Frankie was transferred to?"

"Let me search, it must be somewhere because I know his grandma gave it to me. Also, people from that place called several times to consult us about Frank and what kind of medication he was on here." She looked into the box that had been discarded on a side. "Here!"

I shoved the little pink paper into my back pocket and thanked Maria once again. I was finally getting closer. Although I wouldn't be able to travel there any time soon, I could at least look it up in the phone directory.

The woman told Frankie to take care and then gave us all a good-bye hug before we left.


Back in the car the three of us chatted about several random things, laughed, and for moments sang when some song on the radio would tempt us to. I was trying to get my mind off the things I had found out, it hurt me to think of all the shit Frankie had been through. He was smiling and having fun now, and I didn't want to let my feelings show, didn't want him to notice my sadness. That was all in the past after all. He was with me, with us, he'd be fine. We would do everything within our reach for him to be a happy boy and have a life as normal as possible. The love we had for each other would help, I knew it would. It would help us both.

As I thought that, hearing Frank and Bob talking in the background, my lips formed a spontaneous smile. In that instant their voices went quiet and my eyes set on the rearview mirror. In the free space left by my own face, I spotted Frankie's. He was watching me and grinning, knowing I could see him too. We kept staring at each other, communicating without words. A mutual thanks giving, a love declaration, a trust statement.

"Gerard, the wheel! You're supposed to keep it centered! Boy, and you say you don't drink anymore!" Bob spoke from behind. 

Those last words shook me more than the rest of his speech. Guilt, remorse, fear of my weakness. Yet I didn't say anything about it, no one would know that I had gotten drunk again two nights ago. I'd had a reason to do it then, but now Frankie was back with me. That couldn't happen again.

"Uh, sorry, I was lost in thought."

"It's ok man, just be more careful, you know? Keep your eyes on the road," Bob said. For a moment I thought I had perceived some sarcasm in his advice. Had he noticed us staring at each other? Honestly, it was very probable.

"What about you, Frankie? Hey, boy! Are you here at all?" Bob called him. When I looked up, I saw Frank was still looking at me through the mirror.

"Y-yeah," he responded. I wasn't able to spy him anymore, but then I felt something rubbing the back of my head. I knew it was his face when I heard him sigh.

"I l-love you, G-gee." The tone wasn't childish, wasn't 'brotherly'. It was whispered and seductive, though not soft enough to be secret.

"Oh, Frankie..." I closed my eyes tight for second, as if that could make me invisible.

"D-do you, too? G-gee?" he added, his cheek against mine.

"Yes, Frankie, of course I love you," I replied, knowing the truth was out anyway. Bob was humming, tapping his fingers on the glass. "Bob...I...we..."

"Yes? Go ahead Gerard, you can do it!"

"Well, as you must have realised we...Frank and I...feel something for each other. We...I don't know how to call it. We love each other, we love each other very much," I hesitated. Frankie had sat back, and was nodding.

"Congratulation, boys!" Bob told us happily, the last reaction I was expecting. Was he mocking me? Was he being ironic?

"'re ok with it?"

"Why wouldn't I? It was about time you said it!" he laughed.

"You mean you already knew it?" I tried to calm down and focus on the road.

"I kinda did, intuitively, since those first times when you told me of him. It was something about the way you did it, I hadn't seen you that moved and interested in something or someone in a long time."

"You didn't think anything wrong of it, did you? You know...since I mentioned he was 'special' and all that..." I was trying to remember our talks, worried that he might have a wrong idea of how my relationship with Frankie was. I didn't want that, even if he was fine with it. Bob was an open-minded guy, but I liked things clear.

"What? No, man, chill! I'm gonna sound cheesy and probably make you blush -knowing you- but you sounded in love," he remarked with a camp voice. "not like a perv!"

"Wh-what's a p-perv?" Frankie chimed in.

"Uh...a person who...I think you're too young to know, but it's bad," Bob stammered.

"I...I'm n-not too young! B-but if it's s-something bad then G-gerard's not that. N-no, 'cause he's the b-bes-test boy ever! And...and he's my b-boyfriend. Or w-well, I c-can't say that w-word but we're like b-boyfriends," he concluded. Hearing him say all that, I considered rethinking some things.

"I was telling you..." Bob picked up the thread. "...I already suspected something, even more after last Sunday when I met Frankie. The way he looks at you, the way you care about him, it was more than brotherly. I didn't say anything because there was a possibility that I was wrong. Then, when the kid got angry at you and said something about liking when you kiss, that was pretty obvious!"

"But you still didn't say anything!" I pointed out.

"You changed the subject and I understood you weren't ready, so I decided to wait. You thought I hadn't noticed or I had forgotten? No way, Way! I'm always aware of my surroundings, remember I'm Super Bob!" he finished with a joke, as usual, and laughter exploded from Frank's side of the car.

"And," I wanted to get rid of all my doubts. "you're not surprised that I'm in love with...a boy?"

"Gerard," Bob chuckled. "I've never seen you interested in a girl. I know you had a girlfriend, and in the beginning I thought you were just too hurt because you had broken up with her. But...time went by and even being completely wasted..."

"Shh!" I hushed him.

"Sorry. Not even when you...couldn't remember your own name did I see you accept a girl's proposal. And man, all girls were crazy for you!"

I laughed. "Ok, ok. Then I guess that not even in that...state I was able to fool myself anymore. You don't mind, do you?"

"Not at all. Free will, G-man!"

"Thanks, Bob. I'm glad there's someone who seems to know me and has trusted me from the beginning. I had enough with my brother, and I even my mom finding out about me and Frankie gave me some trouble. I still have to tell Ray which could be hard, he's like my conscience..." I whined tiredly.

"Your brother took it wrong? What the fuck? See, I'm not a saint, I'm far from being innocent, but my mind is not that dirty!" Bob was astounded.

"Yeah, I prefer not to talk about it. We had a conversation and things are better now."

"It's ok, then. And really, Gerard, everything's fine. Frankie's obviously happy with you, and totally in love. I look at your ugly face...I see the same. Enough." Bob patted my shoulder.

"G-gerard's not ugly, you as-asshole!" Frank jumped.

"It was a joke, you're both very handsome. I'm the only ugly one in this car." Bob faked a sniff.

I turned and saw Frankie hugging my friend worriedly. "N-no Bob, don't c-cry! Y-you're not ugly, t-told you. Y-you're just not as p-pretty as Gee."

"Really, Frankie?" Bob winked at me.


"However...I might be prettier than Bob, but there's a certain boy with long brown hair and glasses that's prettier than me, so he beats us both," I threw in.

Frankie loosened his belt one more time and kissed my cheek quickly.

"Can one die from excess of cuteness in a reduced space?" Bob questioned.


When we arrived home after dropping Bob off, it surprised me to hear music coming from inside. "Is it Rod Stewart?" I wondered aloud.

"R-rob who?" Frankie frowned.

"Oh, he's an old...rocker. You do hear music, don't you?"

"Y-yeah." He put his ear on the door and snickered. "S-something 'bout 's-sexy'."

Upon entering, we found my mom sweeping the house while dancing. I stopped dead and glanced at Frank. His expression was priceless.

"What are those faces? Do I dance so bad?" She grabbed Frank's hands to pull him into the 'dance floor' with her, and he laughed as if someone was tickling him. I was glad the boy hadn't kept any grudge towards my mother.

"N-no I...I l-like it. Y-you're funny!"

I shook my head, amused "If he says so..." The situation was so opposite to the one we had lived two nights before...

"Oh, shut up! Come and dance with us!" she invited me.

"No, I don't dance!"

"Y-yes you c-can! P-pleeease!" Frankie insisted, still giggling non stop as my mother made him turn with her hand.

"Nooo, I'm really bad, I'd be embarrassed...maybe next time," I politely refused. "Why are you here, mom? Didn't you have to work?"

"I have the week off. I'd asked for it when I thought of having Frank home, you know? So...since now I have nothing to do, I wanted to come help a little, maybe cook something for you." She carried on dancing while she answered. Frank was loving it, and it brought a reminiscence of that first time I had seen him, dancing happily among the cars.

"Ahh...ok! Thanks, mom." I smiled.

I knew deep inside that one of the reasons why she was there was to keep us watched. She had said she was sorry, had agreed that it'd been a mistake to take Frankie away from me, and had apparently understood how much we needed each other. However, I felt that she wasn't completely cool with it. She was still afraid, she wanted to make sure Frankie would be fine with me. I didn't mind, we had nothing to hide. We rarely did anything that we couldn't do in front of her. Well, not intentionally at least.

"I saw Ray on my way here, he told me where you'd gone. Any luck?" She was rather breathless, trying to keep up with Frank's rapid moves.

"You could say so, I have the name of the institution. There are other things, but we better talk later." I inconspicuously signaled towards Frank.

I watched them dance for at least half an hour. I only laughed and sang along; they couldn't convince me to join them. The few times I had danced in my life, I was very drunk. The only way I'd dare do it.

Finally exhausted, my mom announced that she would go clean the kitchen. Frankie took the animal book from the little table and stared at it.

"Wanna practice for a while, like we were doing the other day?" I proposed. His face denoted annoyance as he swept a lock of sweaty hair out of his face. "You prefer to do it tomorrow?"

"Y-yeah, I'm t-tired to think n-now. C-can I read s-something to you?"

"Of course! Come here." I guided him to my lap and positioned myself so he was lying on top of me, his head under my chin. I loved to have his back against my chest, to feel his warmth, just to hold him close. Frank yawned while he searched through the pages. He had been too entertained in the car to sleep and had skipped his daily nap.

"El-elephants!" he enunciated.

"Awesome! Go ahead."

"El-elephants are...the l-largest mam-mals..." he began to read slowly. "M-mammals are the...the ones th-that drink m-milk from the t-tits of their m-moms, Grace t-told me. W-we're mammals t-too."

"Yep, very well, that's correct!" I nuzzled his hair. "What else?"

"Th-they can w-weigh up to..." he interrupted and looked at me."Wh-what's this number, G-gee?"

"Fifteen thousand."

"Oh! I...I d-don't know h-huge numbers. J-just ' h-hundred...I th-think."

"Well, that's a lot anyway. I'll teach you more some other day, don't worry," I told him. That was surely enough for someone who hadn't been to school or had a family to learn from.

 "K-kay. Th-then it says: 'They c-can weigh up to f-fifteen th-thou-sand pounds'. Th-that's a lot, right?"

"Yes, certainly a lot."

"S-see? They could c-crush us!"

"They could if they wanted to, but elephants are nice so they wouldn't. And you won't find them anywhere the street. The ones in the zoo can't get out, they're in cages. And the ones who are free live very far away from here," I illustrated.

"B-but what if m-many many birds h-help them es-escape from the c-cages, uh?" he exposed with his best serious face.

"I don't think they could lift them!"

"Y-yes they c-could!"

"Ok, but they wouldn't crush us anyway, I promise. Keep on reading." I knew an argument like that wouldn't go anywhere. He was very convinced of those things he said.

Frankie continued to read until the book fell from his hands, indicating that he was falling asleep. I restored the encyclopedia to the table and hugged him, closing my eyes too. I sensed him turn, and when I opened my eyes his face was glued to mine.

"Oh, hi there! Thought you were sleeping."

He smiled groggily. "W-want some k-kisses first." 

"I have many of those..." I placed my hands on his cheeks and kissed him deeply. He tasted like orange, contrasting with his strawberry smell.

The kissing became lazier but not less heartfelt. He was slightly shaking, hands around my neck. I massaged his scalp with my fingertips, for I knew it helped him relax before sleeping.

"Boys...oh sorry! I was gonna ask you if you wanted something to drink...chocolate milk perhaps?" My mom appeared from behind the couch.

I was already praying that she had other plans for the rest of the week.

Chapter Text

Light a candle, blow the world away,
table for two on a tv tray.
It ain't fancy, baby, that's ok.
Our time, our way.

When my mom said she had taken a week off, it seemed she really meant off everything. Everything but us. I hadn't been wrong about her wanting to keep us watched. During the following week, there wasn't a single day when she didn't come over early in the morning. She ended up telling Ray to take a break from babysitting Frankie and, not content enough with that, she'd always stay until the night.

My mother allowed me and Frankie to kiss and cuddle, but maintained a close surveillance. Whenever our kissing got deeper, our hands started moving, or our position was too horizontal for her liking, she coincidentally had something to tell us; or some baked goods to offer. She never admitted that it was on purpose and would say she 'didn't know' or 'didn't want to interrupt', but I knew those were no coincidences.
Once she even stayed over and offered to sleep with Frankie, alleging that in that way I would have a carefree night for a change. Needless to say, Frank didn't like the idea.

Somehow I understood her, I guessed it was a natural maternal instinct. Good mothers like mine could be overprotective with those who seemed weaker or vulnerable, even if they were not their own kids. Anyway, I would have preferred her to be more direct instead of using that badly concealed vigilance.

Finally and luckily, the week was over and she reluctantly announced that she wouldn't be able to visit us for some days. In my opinion, I hadn't given her any reason to worry about Frankie or me, and I hoped she felt the same. I needed her to trust me, to understand that I loved Frank and love was all our relationship was about.

Frankie was evidently never aware of my mother's real intentions and it made him sad that he wouldn't see her so often anymore. He had enjoyed having a mom for once. This was also why I'd chosen to put up with her always being around without protesting. Frank deserved to know what it was like to have a mother.

Another positive side to my mother's presence was that even though I had felt the urge to drink numerous times, the fear of her finding out had always stopped me. It had been hard and painful, specially late at night when she wasn't there. The temptation was enormous. I'd get tense, my palms would start sweating and I'd pace the house in circles; Frankie watching me puzzled or sometimes amused. His face was the main thing keeping me from leaving the house to buy alcohol, then. It got a little easier and better to endure as the days went by and the memory of those last two bottles of whiskey faded away.

The previous day, Frankie had seen Goldberg again. I was afraid of what he could say about the way I'd handled some matters. I had given Frank permission to still talk to his imaginary friends and told him Puppy was real, only sometimes invisible. However, the doctor said it was okay. The only important point was to have Frank know that those things or beings were not real, and the boy appeared to understand it well enough. Then it was the patient's family's choice whether to allow the conversations to go on. About Puppy, he agreed that it had been the best thing to do at the moment considering how Frank had reacted; but I'd have to think of a way to tell him the truth. I could either do the same as with the gnomes and the little people, or try getting him a real dog and see if he forgot about the non-existent one. A dilemma that wasn't easy to resolve.

Frank's condition hadn't changed much during that last week. He still had hallucinations once in a while and the psychiatrist said they probably wouldn't go away entirely, since the medication had already been acting long enough. He was satisfied with the improvements nonetheless, and noticed Frankie a lot happier and more talkative now that he could see better. 

He opined that trying a different medication could be risky and unnecessary unless the current one caused any serious health problem. Increasing the dose to see if that stopped the hallucinations was an option, but Frank would be more sedated and maybe less responsive.

I didn't need to think much about it, I instantly refused. I didn't mind Frank talking to his imaginary friends, it wasn't a problem for me at all. I would not have him completely drugged up like they'd do in that place he had lived in. Goldberg was actually glad I thought that way; but he informed that it was okay to give Frankie a quarter or even half a pill more if he got too nervous or aggressive, which could sometimes happen.

The reading and comprehension practice hadn't gone too well so far. Frankie would either refuse to do it, get tired pretty soon or feel frustrated because he couldn't tell me much about what he read. The doctor told me to insist and be patient. Reading aloud -which Frank loved to do- was very good for him too.

I was, in general, happy with the visit to the doctor and the way things had been evolving.

On the subject of my investigation, things were stuck. I had called the institution one hundred times through all the week asking for Grace. Every time I was told that she was busy with patients and they couldn't get her at the moment. I didn't want to speak to any other person than her, so I'd continue to try.


That day I woke up with an idea in my head. It could have led someone to say I was the crazy one, but I didn't care.

I was supposed to separate a little part of my payment each month to try and gather the money to get my father's watch back. It would take time, since there were bills to pay and expensive medication to buy. What's more, we had to eat; and even with my mother's help things were tight. For this reason, thinking of using that watch-destined money for an extra spending didn't seem like a good idea; yet it was worth it. It was something I had to do, I needed to do.

I arrived home with some bags that, in spite of Frank's pleas for me to show him, I hid in the upper part of the closet. "Later, I promise. It's part of a surprise."

"I l-like surprises, but t-tell me?" he insisted.

"Frankie, love, if I tell you then it's not a surprise anymore! Just...three more hours and I'll give you what's in the bags."

"K-kay, you're a m-meanie." He pouted and went to watch TV.

After some chocolate with cookies, some reading and a quick house cleaning, it was time to get ready. "Frankie, go take a shower but don't get dressed," I told him. I had showered before Ray left, as usual. I didn't trust Frankie alone for too long if I could avoid it.

"D-don't want to!" he protested. Sometimes he was a little averse to baths.

"If you don't do it, there's no surprise."

"B-but...not f-fair!"

"Yes, it is fair. It's summer, you're sweaty, and your feet are all dirty from walking around barefoot. Shower or no surprise!" I commanded. I hated to act like a father, although on occasions it was very necessary.

"K-kay. B-but then...I t-take a shower and...and s-stay naked?" he asked, making me gasp.

I realised how bad what I had said sounded. "No! I meant, only put on your boxers. Then I'll tell you why."

"Ahh k-kay." He nodded .

When Frankie left the bathroom, I guided him to our room. The two bags I had brought home were on the bed. 

I handed him one. "Yours, you can look now."  

Frank peeped inside and then at me, disappointed. "C-clothes? Th-that's a boring s-surprise!" he complained, reminding me of when I would get clothes instead of toys for my birthday, or Christmas.

"I told you this is only part of the surprise. We're going out tonight, that's why I bought us some new clothes." I kissed his pouty lips.

His eyes lightened instantly. "Y-yay! Wh-where we g-going?"

"Fraaankie! Stop asking! Surprise, remember?"

"I...I th-think I don't like s-surprises anymore." He crossed his arms, angry.

"Oh, come on...let's get dressed so we can leave?"


I had bought clothes that I thought would be comfortable enough for him and at the same time make him look less like a kid. I needed him to look his age, just in case. I didn't give a fuck about homophobes, but people thinking me a pervert could get me into trouble. More important, it could make me lose Frankie.

I watched him put on the black jeans and spy himself in the mirror, grinning. Then he picked up the short-sleeved, white buttoned shirt. After studying it for a while, he came to me with it in his hand. 

"C-can you help m-me? D-dunno how to p-put it on."

"Of course, just a second." I zipped my own jeans and then assisted Frankie. I found myself lost in his sweet stare, buttoning up the shirt blindly. I fixed it inside his pants on the back and sides. Since the jeans were low cut, I didn't dare stick my hands in the front. "Now finish yourself while I put on mine, ok? Just get the shirt inside your pants."


My shirt was black same as the jeans, and I completed my outfit with a red tie. I had also gotten us two pairs of similar black tie-up shoes.

"You look so handsome!" I exclaimed admiring Frank. He seemed, indeed, more grown up. "Let me add this as a last detail."

"N-no don't w-want to! are t-tight and it's h-hot!" he slapped my hand which was holding a thin black tie.

"No, it won't be tight, I promise. I have it ready, see? Now I just have to pass it over your head...and...adjust it just a little." I left it loose in a very casual style that fitted him perfectly. "Is it tight?"

"Uh...n-no it isn't. Y-you were right." He walked to the bigger mirror in the corridor and contemplated his own image. "I th-think I look g-good! And...and you t-too. S-sooo handsome! S-see?" He grabbed my hand and forced me to stand in front of the mirror with him.

I normally hated that. I didn't like to look at myself, but this time it was different. I didn't see myself, I saw us; and we looked perfect together.

"I see." I caught him in my arms and kissed him deeply, stopping soon so our clothes wouldn't wrinkle before even leaving. "Now there's one last favor you have to do for me to get the rest of your surprise. Let me brush your hair and fix it a little?"

In spite of my fear of his reaction, he looked calm and happy, that huge smile still present. He rolled his eyes and puffed, but went for the brush that was inside a drawer himself. "D-don't make me h-hurt, un-understand?" He delivered it to me.

"I'll do my best not to," I promised.

It wasn't easy at all to sort the entanglement Frank's hair had become after days without brushing it. Anyhow, I managed to do it causing him to whine only once.

I watched him and felt like kissing him all over. He was so pretty. His beautiful, rather feminine features glowing. His soft, now tamed hair being blown by the air of my old fan; the ends grazing his shoulders and curling stubbornly. A rebellious lock fell over his left eye and I moved it aside with my fingers before setting the glasses over his little nose.

"Perfect," I simply stated, kissing him one last time. "I'll give you your pill and then we can leave."


"Good evening, sirs. Follow me, I'll lead you to your table," the waiter welcomed us solemnly when we arrived.

It wasn't that we were in a fancy restaurant, only that the waiter was Steven, a boy who used to work with me. I had talked to him earlier and he assured me that the owner of that place appreciated him, so we'd have no problem there.

We didn't have a reservation, there were always enough available tables in this restaurant; but Steven knew at what time we would turn up and had set one for us.

"Thanks Steve!" I winked and gave him a thumbs-up.

Acting like a gentleman, I separated the chair from the table, inviting Frankie to take a seat.

He clapped his hands with the most gigantic grin I had ever seen. "W-wow! Th-this...this is l-like boyfriends d-do in m-movies!" 

"Make yourself at home, boys. I'll bring you the menu right away!" Steven said before heading for the back room.

I sat and enjoyed my cute boy's happiness. He first looked around him to finally set his eyes on the small table.

There were no romantic candles -it wouldn't have been safe- or dim lights; and we weren't alone at the restaurant. However, our table did have a neat white cloth. Three red roses in a blue plastic glass adorned the center.

"Do you like the surprise?" I rubbed Frank's cheek with my thumb.

"L-love it! B-best sur-surprise ever!"

"I'm so happy to hear that." I reached over the table to meet his lips. Some murmurs could be heard from the other tables and Frank turned to look at them.

"Wh-why they're w-watching us like that? M-maybe they never s-saw boyf- uh...t-two boys who l-love each other on a d-date? Th-this is a d-date, Gee? Like in m-movies?" he bombed me with questions. I didn't know if I should answer or squeeze him.

"Yes, baby, it's a date." I smiled. "And those people are watching us because you're the prettiest thing they've ever seen and...because we look great together!"

"Oh..." He giggled and kissed my nose. There were more murmurs that I ignored, while Frankie chose to respond by waving at everybody.

Steven reappeared. "Here's the menu! Don't pay attention to any idiot, the boss is on your side," he told us.

The menu, of course, didn't have a leathered cover with golden letters. It was just a single computer printed paper, however laminated.

We chose chicken thighs with an onion sauce and potatoes, and our meal was served pretty soon. Yes, that restaurant was humble; but the attention was great and the food delicious. Why would anyone prefer a fancy, expensive one?

"Oh, y-yummy!" Frankie smelt the dish in front of him and then passed it over to me. "C-cut the ch-chicken?"

"Of course, babe." I had never taught him how to cut his food; his doctor said it was better to keep knives away from the boy. There was always the possibility of him having a nervous episode, and it had been proved that he could get aggressive. I had specially instructed Steven to include only one knife and not too sharp forks.

I cut all the chicken and gave the plate back to Frankie. When he grabbed the fork to start eating, he noticed his hands were shaking a lot.

"Oh-oh," he whispered. Perseverant as he was, he tried to use the fork the same, but finally eyed me helpless. "G-gee...can I...?

"Yep Frankie, use your hands." I guessed what he meant to ask.


He seemed pleased and appeared to be enjoying the meal, humming softly and swinging his legs under the table. All of a sudden, that annoying whispering returned louder than before. I raised my eyes and saw their disgusted faces. I heard them 'eww' at Frankie and he did too.

"Oops...I th-think they d-don't like me eating with m-my hands..." he commented sadly, his chin stained with food. He stopped eating and stared at me, mutely asking me what to do.

I did the only thing that was logical: I left the cutlery on the table -over a paper napkin- and began to eat with my hands. Frank observed me in amazement and I grinned, showing my sauce covered teeth.

"Eat boy, it'll go cold!" I spoke with my mouth full. He wasted no more time.

I was sure that the complaints went on. I even thought I saw some people leave. I didn't care; busy as I was exchanging love stares with the boy in front of me while our hands kept picking up the food hungrily. Manners? What for?

"Bah...they'll come back," I heard someone say.

Once we were done, we went to the bathroom to clean ourselves and I couldn't stop looking at Frankie. I had seen him happy many times. He was a very positive, optimistic boy who got easily happy. Simple, little things could provoke it. Even so, I had never seen him so radiant as this night. I didn't care about the money I had spent, I didn't give a damn about my father's watch, and other people's opinions didn't exist. All that mattered was Frankie. All I wanted in my mind was his smile. All I needed were his soft lips -which were traveling along my face- to land on mine at last.

When we returned to the table with wet clothes and swollen lips, a big cup of ice cream was waiting for us. "On-only one?" Frankie questioned, sitting back.

"Yes, so we can share," I expressed my much more romantic version of the 'it's all I can afford' line.

"I l-like that! B-but...hands are still sh-shaking. H-how...?"

"Come here." I beckoned him and sat him on my lap.


"Will you let me feed you the ice cream? I know you'd find a way to do it by yourself but...I don't wanna help you because you can't do it, I want to feed you because that's what boyfriends do." I let it all out -stressing the 'boyfriends' part- and waited.

Frank's jaw fell and his eyes grew bigger than they already were. " s-said we...we ar-aren't b-boyfriends yet..." he stammered more than ever.

"Oh, you're right!" I hit my forehead. Although at that moment I felt observed like a fish in a bowl, I didn't look at anyone but Frankie. "I think I have to do something first, then."


"Frankie, would you be my boyfriend?" I pronounced those words and thought his eyes would fall out of their sockets.

"Y-YESSSS!" he screamed. "I L-LOVE YOU, G-GERARD!"

He hugged me very, very tightly and the voices around us could be heard again. Not all of those people were disgusted. Some were squealing and going 'aww', and when I turned I could distinguish several smiles. Behind a window that communicated the main room with the kitchen, I saw Steven, his boss and two girls applauding while we kissed. No, the world wasn't completely lost.

"C-can I tell ev-everybody?" Frankie whispered in my ear.

"Only the people we know, for now. But don't tell Ray, I want to do it myself." I still hadn't dared.


"Can I feed my boyfriend this exquisite ice cream before it melts, now?" I requested with the spoon in my hand.

"Y-yep, now you c-can, b-boyfriend."

We shared, we hugged, we kissed, we didn't care about anything else.

On our way home, Frankie fell asleep in the car. I carried him inside and took him to bed. Only half awake, he got a hold on me and made me fall beside him. Morning found us in each other's arms, still in our new clothes. It was a perfect ending.


That afternoon I came back home singing, remembering the previous night, Frank's overjoyed facial expression carved into my memory forever. I had gathered courage and intended to tell Ray about us. My best friend had to know what had gotten me so happy.

I suspected a change of plans when before opening the door I heard Frank screaming and crying; Ray's voice trying to calm him down.

"Shit...what the fuck now?"

Chapter Text

Trust I seek, and I find in you,
every day for us something new.
Open mind for a different view,
and nothing else matters.

I hurriedly unlocked the door and stepped inside, scanning the living room. Frankie was sitting on the floor against a wall, one of his hands holding his right leg which was crossed over the left one. He was screaming and crying, tears falling endlessly. Ray was crouched near him, though at a safe distance from the punches Frank's free hand was providing.

"I just want to help you, Frankie..." Ray said softly.

"N-NO! D-DON'T TOUCH ME IT H-HURTS! G-GO A-AWAY!" Frank cried out.

"What happened? Ray? Frankie?" I asked, kneeling beside the boy.


"He...was having a fight or something with his little friends and then suddenly kicked the wall really hard. I'm not sure how bad it is, he won't let me touch his foot. It happened just a minute before you arrived," Ray told me.

"H-hurts. H-hurts very m-much..." Frank sobbed, his face red from the effort.

"Fuck..." I muttered. The problems seemed to never stop. "Frankie...listen to me. I know it hurts, but I need to take off your sneaker to see. I'll do it as carefully as possible, ok?"


"I know. We want to help you, calm down." I caressed his wet cheek and motioned for Ray to approach him. He caught Frank's hands in his while I sat over his uninjured leg.

"G-GET OFF! D-DON'T TOUCH M-ME! G-GET OFF ME F-FUCKERS!" He twisted his body so violently that it was extremely hard to hold him still.

I quickly untied his cords and then completely took them off, removing the shoe easily.


Ray hugged Frank and kissed his head. "It's done. Shhh...calm down, boy."  

I took a look at the boy's foot without touching it. Its instep was red and swollen. "Let's take him to a hospital, it could be broken," I murmured in Ray's ear. He nodded.

"Where? The nearest one is a children hospital..."

"It'll have to do." I shrugged. "After all, he's only 18 and looks younger, so I don't think we'll have any problem."

Frank was still crying loudly when I carried him in my arms, aiming for the door. "N-NO! P-PUPPY!"

"Puppy's fine, Frankie. He can stay here till we're back," Ray assured.

"N-NO, I W-WANT PUPPY TO C-COME WITH M-ME! H-he takes care of m-me..."

"Ray and I are with you, baby. You'll be ok." I held him closer, not minding that I had called him that in front of Ray.

"I W-WANT PUPPY..." he whimpered louder. I wasn't sure if he was really in so much pain or he was more scared and nervous than anything else.

"Ray...would you look for Puppy?"

"Will do!" He disappeared through the corridor, calling the imaginary pet, and came back a couple of minutes later with Frank's teddy bear. "Your doggie chose a bad moment to make himself invisible, but I found this other friend who wants to go with you." He offered Frankie the toy.

The distressed boy extended one arm doubtfully and took it, snuggling it against his chest.

"Where are his glasses, Ray?" I asked.

"Over there on a shelf, I put them on a safe place 'cause I was afraid that he'd break them." 

"Oh, ok. Grab them just in case."


I'll drive, he'll feel more secure with you," Ray said as we climbed into my car.

I occupied the back passenger's seat with Frank on my lap, my blue t-shirt already soaked in his tears.

"H-hurts..." he repeated, burying his face into his plushie.

"It'll stop soon, I promise," I whispered. "Why did you kick the wall?"

"I...I w-wanted to k-kick a little m-man. H-he said...he s-said I was s-stupid 'cause...'c-cause I said s-something. I sh-should not have s-said that. I d-did...but d-didn't want to! And...and he s-said that, and I g-got angry and k-kicked him and...and it h-hurt. A l-lot..." He began to weep again. I thought of asking him what it was that he had said, but it wasn't the right moment to insist on that.

"Frankie, you know they're not real..."

"I kn-know but I s-see them and h-hear them and he s-said I was s-stupid and I'm n-not!"

"Listen, the next time they say something like that to you, you just tell them they don't exist. You'll make them angrier that way than by kicking them, trust me," I suggested.

He looked up at me through flooded eyes. "Y-you think?"


"I agree with Gee, that will make them furious!" Ray added.


"Sh-she gave it to m-me," Frank spoke again after minutes of silence. Ray and I shared confused glances through the rearview mirror.

"What are you talking about, Frankie?" I inquired.

"Th-the bear. Sh-she gave it to m-me."

"She...who? Grace?" I guessed.

He shook his head. "N-no, the o-old woman. Th-the one that t-took me on a p-plane and...and to the place wh-where I lived be-fore l-living with you. M-my grandma?" he answered unsure, sniffing in between words and trembling. .

"Yes, she was your grandma. Did she use to visit you?"

"Y-yes...I th-think before when I was l-little. D-don't remember...f-foot hurts, Gee!"

"We're almost there, hold on," I hushed him, leaving the past in peace for the moment.

We arrived at the hospital and took a seat in the waiting room. It was fully replete of kids. Some visibly injured, with casts or bandages; others crying in their parents' arms, cheeks flushed with fever or bloody compresses being held to their head or limbs. I flinched as I saw a little girl vomiting into a trash can. The screams and the mixed smells didn't exactly make that place pleasant. Frankie intensified his grip on my neck, his teddy bear still resting on his chest.

"G-gee I w-wanna go h-home..."

"A doctor needs to see your foot first."


"You're not gonna kill anyone because you're a good boy. Your foot won't get better if you don't let a doctor see it."

"I'LL K-KILL THEM...K-KICK THEIR AS-ASSES TO D-DEATH! H-HATE DOCTORS! F-FOOT HURTS AND TH-THEY WON'T... t-touch it!" He hit me with his fist and screamed so much that he lost his voice at the end of the sentence and started coughing. Everybody's eyes were on us.

"Frankie please, you need to calm down." I rocked him while he kept on punching me. Ray eyed me worriedly. "He's too agitated, this is not good for him. What if he has an attack?"

"Want me to go get a doctor?" Ray proposed.

"I...I don't know, we're supposed to wait for our turn here. I'm sure many of those kids' cases are more serious..."

"Yeah...but maybe if I explained the situation?"

I was pondering over my decision when I saw a young blond nurse walk into the room. She stopped in the middle and looked around, finally coming towards us.

"Someone told me there was a kid who seemed in real pain or something. They said the oldest one, so I guess it's him?"

"Yes...he's too nervous, sorry..." I apologized for Frankie.

"Oh no, that's normal here. I was sent to ask if it was urgent, we can let you in first if it is," she communicated.

I thought for a moment, contemplating all those poor kids waiting. Frankie's foot didn't seem to have gotten any more swollen, so the main problem was his nerves. I didn't think it was fair to go into the doctor's office sooner than the people who had arrived earlier. "No, I'm sure his foot can wait but...would you do me a favor?"

"If I can... Tell me." She bended over, resting her hands on her knees.

"He's schizophrenic, and so much stress is not good for his nerves. He's very scared and it'd also be hard for a doctor to check his foot in this state. And they'll want to do an x-ray...?"

"Yeah, most probably," she assented.

"Could you find out if it's possible to give him some sedative while we wait?"

"Ok, I'll ask the doctor and then be back myself or send another nurse if he agrees. How old is the kid?"

"He's...18. Is that a problem? This was the closest hospital," I responded sincerely. Maybe I had unconsciously grown tired of lying.

"Nah, I don't think anyone will object in this case."

I shook her hand smiling. "Thanks."  

About ten minutes later, a tough-looking male nurse showed up with a syringe in between his thick fingers. Frankie didn't see him; he was shedding tears on my shoulder. His breath was agitated and I could sense his heartbeat on my neck through the pulsating vein of his temple. I was really worried about him, and not because of the injured foot. I was rubbing Frank's back to comfort him when I saw the nurse scan the room like the girl had done before.

"Oh please, tell me this is not..."

"Is he the kid that needs a sedative?" the guy's words cut off my thoughts.

Upon hearing that Frank jumped, his muscles stiffening. "N-NO! N-NO GEE D-DON'T LET HIM GIVE M-ME A SH-SHOT!"

"Yes, he is but...isn't there any other way? He hates shots..."

"Well, tell me of someone who likes them!" he scoffed roughly. "No, there's no other option, so take it or leave it. Come on, I have a lot of things to do."

"Can you please have a little bit of consideration? He's mentally ill and not exactly okay right now," Ray spat at him, standing up in front of the man to look more menacing.

"There's no need to get combative, you know? I'm just doing my damn job. You have any idea of how many patients we receive -for free- each day? Now, do I give him the sedative or not?"

"Yes..." I consented. "I hate doing this to him, but if there's no other choice... I don't think he'll allow you to find his vein, though."

"Not necessary, it's intramuscular. Guess the doctor supposed it'd be easier," he replied.

"It isn't gonna knock him out completely, is it?

"No," he puffed, rolling his eyes. "it's just to calm him down."

As soon as he touched Frank's arm, the boy started to yell as if someone was killing him, attempting to hit the nurse at any cost.

"Keep him quiet, FUCK!"

"I'm fucking trying, don't you see? I told you it wasn't a good idea," I uttered angrily.


"Frankie, NO!" I wasn't fast enough to stop Frank's 'good' leg which projected forward, his heel colliding with the nurse's balls.

"FUCKING SON OF A BITCH! Now I'll teach you all how one should proceed in these cases," the guy fumed. He grabbed Frank's arm forcefully and thrust the needle with no mercy.

In a quick sequence I heard Frank's screams of pain, saw his teddy bear falling to the ground and Ray's fist hitting the bestial nurse's jaw once he withdrew the needle. It didn't give me time to think of my own fear of needles.

"And don't even think of complaining to anyone, because I have many more fucking reasons to complain about you, ok?"

I listened to Ray's voice while I focused on Frank. He was holding his arm, shaking and crying so hard that it looked like he was about to have a seizure. I was nearly as panicked as he was, not knowing what to do. I could only imagine what Frank was feeling; how terrified, confused and in pain he was. How close that had been to what would happen to him at the institution when he 'wasn't a good boy'.

"Baby I'm sorry. I just...I was afraid because you were so nervous and...please believe me, Frankie, I didn't want that fucker to do that to you." I held him, sniffing.

Ray picked up the bear and handed it back to Frank. He hugged it under his chin, wetting it with his tears.

"I revenged you, kiddo. I bet his jaw is hurting more than your arm." My friend grinned.

"Th-that's...g-good but...but m-my foot still h-hurts, too..." Frankie mumbled in between sobs.

"It'll be better soon..." I kissed his warm forehead. "Are you mad at me?"

"N-no I'm n-not. On-only at that as-asshole. B-but Ray r-rocks so b-bad and..." He made me lower my head to add something in secret. "...l-love you."

"Love you too," I whispered back. "Please try to relax a little, everything's gonna be alright, we'll go home soon."

The sedative kicked off in no more than ten minutes, but my anxiety and concern multiplied them. I was only able to cool myself down once Frank's breathing normalized and he stopped crying.

"You better, little one?" Ray moved Frank's hair out of the way to look at his face.

"Y-yeah. I...I'm t-tired." He made himself more comfortable, leaning on my chest. Frankie was pretty small for his age and not very muscular, but he had put on some weight since he took his medication. Not that much, though he was heavy enough for me not to feel my legs after that long while.

He observed everything, maybe noticing for the first time that there were a lot more people in the room.

"Let's put on your glasses so you can see better and don't get so bored." Ray retrieved them from his bag.

"K-kay. f-foot's break-ed?" he slurred slowly.

"It's said broken." I smiled. "I'm not sure...I don't think it is. The doctor will probably want to do something which is like taking a picture of your foot's bones, then we'll know."


"Don't worry, it doesn't hurt at all."

"Oh...k-kay, then..." He trailed off and fixed his eyes on the people who had just sat next to us a couple of minutes before. A young woman with a -maybe- 10 years old kid who had a blue plastic cast on one leg.

"What are you looking at, weirdo?" the kid cockily addressed Frank.

"Danny!" his mother reprimanded him.

Danny then talked to her in a lower voice that I could still hear. "But mom, he is weird, look at him! His eyes are like...super crossed and he's too old to be sitting in someone's lap like that!"

"I...I'm n-not weird, I'm s-special...t-tell him, Gee!" Frank watched me with sleepy eyes before turning to the kid. "F-fuck you."


"Oh no, don't say anything to him, my son was really rude. Sorry." The woman blushed, embarrassed. She got up and dragged her son behind to go sit on the other side of the bench.

Half an hour later, we were finally called in. I had to ask Ray to carry Frank while I took some time to recover the feeling in my numb legs.

"It seems the sedative worked, didn't it?" the young bald doctor ascertained. Frankie was very quiet in Ray's arms; and when he sat him on the stretcher I had to stand behind to support him.

"Yes, it did. What doesn't work is your idiot of a nurse." I couldn't help myself.

The doctor turned to me bewildered. "What? What nurse?"

"The big guy?" Ray hinted bitterly.

"Oh, yes...what happened?"

"He was very rude to Frankie -even knowing that he's mentally ill- and scared him more than he already was. Then because the boy hit him as self defense, that beast gave him the shot in the most savage way I've ever witnessed," I related, caressing Frank's hair.

"Oh, shit...I told the manager I didn't like that guy working with kids, but he asked me to give him a chance. Don't worry, he'll know about this. I'm really sorry." He seemed sincerely upset. "Now, what's wrong with our little friend here?"

"He kicked a wall, not sure how badly injured his foot is. It's swollen, but he didn't let us touch it," I explained.

"T-told you. H-he was calling me s-stupid." Frankie pouted.

"Who, the wall?" the doctor asked him smiling.

"N-no, silly! W-walls don't t-talk! A...l-little friend that on-only I see. G-gerard told me."

"Ahh, ok. Can I see your foot? Just a second..."

" h-hurts..."

"I want to know what's wrong so we can get it to stop hurting. Please? I'll be gentle." He spoke to Frank in a calm tone. It was obvious that he was used to working with kids, who very often acted like Frankie.

"K-kay but...if it h-hurts too much I'll k-kick you too."


While the doctor took Frank's ankle, Ray helped me restrain him. We knew he'd react at any moment. The man started to move his hands down along Frank's foot, asking whether it hurt. The answers went from negative to 'just a little' until the intrusive fingers reached the instep area.

"S-STOP IT H-HURTS!" he shouted, trying to free his limb. Ray let me know that he could take care of Frank's arms, so I immobilized his legs.

"Almost over, Frankie." The doctor palpated the swollen zone. "Alright. I don't think there's anything broken, but just in case we'll x-ray it."

"N-no, wanna go h-home, Gee..." Frank whimpered.

"This won't hurt at all, I promise," the doctor said. "Come over to the room next to this one."

Once there, the x-ray procedure was done with no major obstacles. Frankie was scared at first; but he soon realised that the man hadn't lied this time. The doctor was very good at convincing frightened patients.

"Well, everything's fine in fact. Frankie's foot's just stubbed. When you hit that spot you hit just bones, since there's barely flesh to protect them; and now the tendons are also compressed by the swelling, so of course it's painful."

"What can be done to alleviate the pain?" I questioned.

"Bandaging it would only make it hurt more, so we'll leave it like this; just make sure he doesn't step on it for two or three days depending on how the swelling goes. I'll give you a prescription for anti-inflammatories. Oh, and have him submerge the foot in water with ice at least three times a day."

"Could you give him something now? He still has to take his usual meds, and I don't think I'll be able to make him swallow any more pills at once today..." I knew that Frankie would be too exhausted by the time we got home. However, requesting that meant another shot.

"Yes, of course. I can't give him anything too strong because of the medication he's on, but some milder analgesic and anti-inflammatory will do."

I saw the doctor prepare the syringe and winced, avoiding the view. Frankie had his face hidden in the crook of my neck, too tired and sedated to take notice of everything that was being said or done. The man put the syringe in his pocket and took a can from over a shelf.

"You know, Frankie? I always have lollipops to give to the kids, but you might think you're too old for that and I didn't want to offend you," he mentioned casually.

Frank looked up and smiled faintly. "N-no I'm n-not too old for l-lollipops. G-gimme one?"

"He usually gets mad if we tell him he's too young for something. Of course, things change if it's about sweets!" I laughed.

"H-have s-strawberry?" he inquired, yawning and sliding his fingers under his glasses to rub his eyes.

"Let me see...yes, I have one left. Yours." The doctor handed it to the groggy teen. As Frankie struggled with the wrap, he positioned himself to give him the shot.

"H-help me?" Frankie kept staring at me while I unwrapped the lollipop, and the needle penetrated his skin in a smooth motion. So carefully that it didn't even freak me out.

"Ouch!" he yelped, the needle gone when he looked at his arm. It proved that things could be done with delicacy when wanted.

"Mosquito?" the doctor smirked.

"Uh...m-maybe a h-huge one!" Frankie responded, frowning in confusion.

After leaving the hospital, we paid the pharmacy a visit and then headed home. Frankie fell asleep with the lollipop in his mouth, so I wrapped it back and saved it for later.

"Can I come in? I need to talk to you about something," Ray said once we got out of the car.

"Of course you can, Ray, but what's wrong?"

"It's not that...or well, I hope it's not," he doubted, scratching his curls. I felt a little uneasy.

We stepped inside and while Ray closed the door I left Frankie on the ouch, going to the kitchen for his pill.

When I had everything ready,  I shook him slightly. "Frankie...boy, you need to take your meds. Come on, then you can go back to sleep." 


"Please, here's the a good boy ," I insisted with my best puppy face. I was sure I wasn't good at that, yet Frankie seemed to like it. He was smiling.

"K-kay." He sat up.

"How's your foot? Does it hurt?"

"N-no. Al-almost nothing n-now," he answered.

"Good. Let's have this done so you can rest."

"K-kay..." He took the pill and fell asleep again as soon as his head touched the cushion.


I sat at the edge of the couch, Ray doing the same on the single one. "What is it, Ray? You said you needed to talk and it seemed serious..." 

"You know Frank kicked the wall because he was having an argument with one of his little friends, right?" he began.

"Yeah..." I had no idea how that could relate to anything.

"And...he said one called him stupid because he said something he shouldn't have said?"

"Aha." I suddenly had many possibilities in mind, or maybe many versions for the same one.

"Well, I know what it is that he said. We were watching a movie and he made a comment..."

"About a movie? Which comment?" I was really worried, now. Frankie sometimes lost himself while watching TV.

"There was a scene where the characters were having a date, at a restaurant." Ray eyeballed me, pursing his fleshy lips like he always did when feeling unsure. "And Frankie said: 'that's like my date with Gee last night, now the boy will ask her if she wanna be his girlfriend.' He covered his mouth right after."

I stared at Ray mutely. There was no way back after that, I knew my face was saying it all. "I...we..."

"I asked Frankie. He said he couldn't speak about that, then started to talk to the little people and ignored me. Will you explain this to me, Gerard?" Ray sighed. He looked more worried than angry.

"Ok...let me tell you everything first, then we'll talk."

I told him all about me and Frank, from the beginning. How it started, my feelings, my struggle, my doubts. How at one point I was unable to reject Frankie, having the certainty that he was as capable of being in love as I was; knowing he loved me as much as I loved him. I made it clear to Ray what my relationship with Frankie was about, how I was determined to concede, how I would never force him in any way.

I also let my friend know what Mikey thought of it all, what had been my mother's reaction and even Bob's. I spoke from the heart, the bare truth, with tears in my eyes. He listened to me patiently and silently, not interrupting me at any moment.

"And that's all....which is a lot," I concluded.

He looked straight into my eyes and I endured it, unashamed. I knew he would have a lot of things to tell me. I had always said Ray was like my conscience, helping me rethink things when I'd throw myself headfirst into something. I was going to hear him, respect his opinion, take his advices if I agreed with them. But no way I'd feel ashamed; I had no reason to.

"See, Gerard. Call me naive, but I'd never suspected any of this. Even thought I'm the only one who's known you're gay since long ago. I've always thought Frankie admired you because you had taken him in, that he thought of you as his big brother. And that, really, speaks well of you. Besides the fact that I've known you since we were kids and I'm sure of your decency. And it's not only that. I've taken care of Frankie for like a month and a half, I've spend many hours with him. If there was something wrong with the boy, if this relationship you two have was bad for him, I'd notice. But he's absolutely happy, he's all smiles when he talks about you and he's still as innocent as the first day I saw him. So don't worry, Gee, I'd never think anything bad of you. That would be impossible. You're a good, decent person and nothing could make me think otherwise."

"But..." I cut him off. I knew there was a 'but'.

"But...I can't just congratulate you and say everything will be alright. That wouldn't be realistic, you know? I could tell you many things about Frankie, but I think Mikey and Donna have said enough. You know you have to be careful, you know you'll need to be discrete because you could get yourself into trouble. You know that even though Frankie's 18, his mental condition could change things. So I won't preach about all that anymore. However, I do need to tell you something about yourself." He poked my chest with his index finger.

"What about myself?" I questioned, watching Frank sleep peacefully.

"You're forgetting about yourself."

"I'm not forgetting about myself, I'm doing what I feel. I love Frankie and want to be with him. Isn't that thinking about myself, too?" I retorted, trying not to raise my voice.

"Yes, it is. You're just not thinking about all this deeply enough. You're not thinking about the future. Most of all, you're not thinking about yourself as a man. A man with needs, physical needs. I know it's not the most important thing, that when you truly love somebody feelings transcend sex. But Gerard, when you talk about being ready to wait...have you considered the possibility of that moment never arriving? I don't doubt Frank's capability to feel love and understand his own feelings and yours. I know him, I know he's a smart boy in spite of all. But let's be honest: he's like a kid most of the time, he's really innocent. Not even what that boy you told me about did to him could kill that innocence. I'd say he's still essentially a virgin, in my opinion."

"I know Ray, I know and I agree. But I only want to be with him, I don't care about sex!" I whispered.

"You say that now. Are you sure you'll be able to maintain that opinion? Are you sure you'll be able to neglect your body's needs? You know that there's a possibility that Frankie will never be ready to go farther, don't you? A first experience like the one he had would leave a mark in anyone. He might not have been totally aware of what happened, but the memory remains the same," he went on, with that special way he had to speak of serious matters. Choosing the correct words, using the suitable tones. And it was effective. He always made you think, it was unavoidable.

I understood Ray. A good friend must make sure that his suddenly enthusiastic buddy put all things into consideration before making an important decision. But this time I had. I had thought about it all, many times during sleepless nights and hard situations. I was sure, I was prepared.

"I'm sure, Ray. I truly thank you for caring so much about me. You're the best friend a fuck-up like me could have. But I've considered it all. I have no doubts." I looked at Ray with a sincere, convincing smile on my lips.

Ray stood up and hugged me, sighing louder than before. "I trust you, and I'll support you whatever you decide. But just in case, give it one more extra thought before going on with this," he said into my ear. 

Chapter Text

The loves you lost were all in vain,
the past is all inside your brain.
I don't think you need those memories hangin' round.
Yeah, goodbye, kiss your past goodbye.

The following day, Ray didn't have an easy job with Frankie. The boy spent the whole morning and afternoon complaining that his foot hurt and that having to stay sat was boring. That last complaint was rather funny considering that his usual activities included drawing, reading, or playing games on the coffee table. He hadn't been so restless and hyperactive since he started taking the medication. He did have his moments, but surely knew how to entertain himself quietly. Ironically, now that he was supposed to stay quiet, he was dying to run around the house.

Getting him to put his foot in ice was another hard task. He was convinced that his limb would completely freeze, turn transparent and then break into millions of pieces. He'd said that to me the previous night; and even though I assured him that it wouldn't happen and he'd finally complied, he manifested the same fear to Ray the next morning. And again in the evening. Ray had patiently explained to Frankie that he had nothing to fear, but we would surely need to repeat the same lines many more times.

Ray had already left and Frankie was sitting in front of the TV, boredom painted all over his dollish face. He was constantly shifting, not finding any comfortable enough position.

"Let me help you." I placed a cushion over the table and then carefully grabbed Frank's leg, resting his bruised foot there. The injured area had acquired a purplish coloration. "Better?"

"A l-little. I'm s-so bored," he protested.

I cupped his face with my hands and kissed him, succeeding at making him smile. "Is this any better?"

"Y-yeah is."

"Then give me a couple of minutes to get things done in the kitchen and I'll come back to amuse you. We could play something, too." I pecked his lips one more time.

"K-kay." He nodded. "H-hurry up."

"I will. Before I leave...sure you don't need to go to the bathroom?" I asked. He didn't have the required equilibrium to jump around on one foot.

He thought for a moment, leaning his head lazily on the backrest. "Uh...n-no."

"Ok. But if you need to, please call me. Don't try to get up on your own, understood?" I remarked.

"I...I kn-know. I'll c-call you."

I began to put everything I had brought from the supermarket in place and then went about my culinary tasks. I wanted to have dinner at least half ready so I would only have to cook it later. In the meantime, I'd be left with some free time to spend with Frankie.

I had endeavored to get better at cooking, wanting Frank to eat properly and not to live -like I'd done so far- on just junk food, pre-cooked meals or frozen stuff. My mother had kindly handed me many of her recipes, together with some expert advices.

I had gathered all the needed elements and was going over the ingredients, when I heard a yelp followed by the sound of something falling...or someone. I turned round and saw Frankie sprawled on his stomach on the corridor's floor, just in front of the kitchen's door.

"Oh, fuck! Baby, are you ok?" I ran to check on him.

"Y-yeah...fell." he answered, seemingly unhurt. He was supporting himself on his elbows, not making any attempt to stand up.

"Why did you get up from the couch?"

"N-needed to p-pee."

"Frankie! I told you to call me, I don't want you getting hurt again!" I sighed, my hands under his arms to help him up. "Come on, I'll take you to the bathroom."

"N-no, l-leave me!" he pushed my hands away and rested his head on his crossed arms.

"Babe, I'm not gonna leave you on the floor and...didn't you say that you needed to go pee?"

"N-not anymore," he mumbled.

"You'd already gone when you fell? I didn't hear you..."

" me," he repeated, sniffing.

Disregarding his request I lifted him, one of my hands under his right knee to keep that leg from touching the floor.

"N-noo," he pleaded.

"Why, Frankie?" I kissed his head, pausing to see what was wrong. He looked down at himself, so I did the same. Then I understood why he wanted me to leave him lying there. There was a large wet spot at the front of his pants and a little puddle on the floor.

"S-sorry..." he murmured, shaking.

I fully carried him in my arms, rubbing my cheek against his head. "Oh no, Frankie. You don't have to apologize, it was just an accident. You fell and couldn't get to the bathroom, that's all." I wasn't even going to reprimand him again for not calling me. He felt embarrassed enough.

"I...I'm s-sorry Gee, p-please don't b-be mad...s-sorry," he kept saying in a whisper, not listening to me.

", look at me." I waited until he did. "I'm not mad, never said I was. I'd never get mad about something like this. I know other people used to get angry at you 'cause of these kind of things, but I'm different. I love you. You understand?"

"Y-yes. I...I d-didn't want to. when I fell..." he insisted.

"I know, it's fine. I'll help you get changed now."

"K-kay." He hugged me, kissed my lips, and hid his face under my chin.

I told him to stand by the bed and grip the headboard while I lowered his pants and boxers, always looking at his eyes not to make him feel uncomfortable. Then I sat him on the bed and got the clothes off his feet.

"I c-can put th-that on," he pointed at the dry clothes beside him.

"Alright! Tell me if you need help with something." I knew it was safe to let him since he had the bed to hold on to.

"Y-yeah, kay."

I turned my back to him, collecting everything that needed to be washed and throwing it into a wicker basket.

"G-gee?" he called.

When I looked at him he was on his feet -or well, foot- with jeans and boxers by his ankles. It was really awkward for me to see Frank naked. Ray was right with part of what he had said to me: I couldn't totally kill my natural instincts, normal human instincts. Frankie was my boyfriend, I loved him and I couldn't deny that I felt tempted to look at him. It wasn't a dirty feeling, I just loved everything about him. Yet, staring seemed kind of wrong considering that he was so innocent. A huge battle was taking place inside my head.

"G-gee...why you ar-aren't looking at me?" he questioned, worried.

"It's just that...can you finish getting dressed by yourself? If you can't I'll help you. I just...don't want to make you feel bad, you know? Looking at you with no pants..." I babbled.

"Y-you're my b-boyfriend. B-boyfriends can see e-each other n-naked, c-can't they?"

I stared into his inquisitive, beautiful bright eyes and smiled, unsure of what to answer. "I...I don't know, baby."

"Y-you don't kn-know?" he frowned and sat on the bed. "Y-you never had a b-boyfriend? Y-you're older..."

"Yes, I did have a boyfriend before," I confessed, sitting too. Frankie was the only person to know it besides Ray. I knew I had to tell him, it was only fair. Besides, I felt secure with him; at ease, in peace.

"Oh. An-and then why you ar-aren't with him an-anymore? Wh-what happened?" he inquired. There was no jealousy in his tone, no ill feeling.

He touched my face softly when he saw me look down; and when I glanced back at him he appeared worried. The boy was kind-hearted beyond belief. His honest concern made my eyes water. It didn't matter anymore if he was naked or not because I was seeing him deeper, I was seeing his soul. The most beautiful soul I had ever known. And I spoke, I told him what only my best friend knew.

"His name's Gabriel. We met when I moved here and soon fell in love. I'd never had a real boyfriend or girlfriend, though I'd always known I liked boys a lot more."

"M-me too!" he commented grinning. "Wh-what else?"

"I was so in love that I didn't mind it if everybody knew I was gay. I wanted to proudly introduce him to my family as my boyfriend. But...Gabriel didn't think the same. He'd only had girlfriends so far and didn't want people to find out that he was with a boy. So he told me not to tell anybody. He said that he loved me and didn't want to lose me, but we could only be together if we kept it a secret.

"Y-you couldn't t-tell your family and f-friends?"

"No...he didn't want anyone to know. He was afraid that if I told my family and friends then his people might hear about it too. It was like...he was ashamed of himself!"

"Wh-why? Grace s-said it's okay to l-like boys."

"I know, it is. I didn't understand him either, it was stupid, but I liked him so much that I did what he said. We'd only kiss and...all that when we were here at my house. He lived with his parents so we never went there." I said that part selecting my words carefully. Of course Gabriel and I would also have sex, everything was fine in that aspect; I just didn't want to include details that could incommode Frankie. "Once, Ray accidentally saw us sharing a quick kiss at the door. Only I noticed. When Gabriel left I told Ray everything because I knew he would keep the secret. He promised, even though he wasn't too happy. He was always telling me to leave Gabriel, that a relationship under those kind of conditions wasn't good for anyone. Ray was right, but back then I got angry every time he'd say it."

Frankie paid attention silently, only making some short comments here and there. " l-left him, 'c-cause you're n-not with him n-now!"

"Yes, I did. What happened was that Gabriel had a copy of my house keys. One day, I came back home from work a lot earlier because I didn't feel well. When I got in, he was...kissing a girl on my couch." Again, I chose to make the story lighter for Frankie. In reality, I had caught Gabriel doing more than just kissing.

"Oh!" he gasped. "H-how could he k-kiss someone with t-tits? Ewwww I'm s-sure she w-wasn't any p-prettier than you. N-no."

"Well, true," I chuckled. "she wasn't even that pretty!"

Back then I hadn't laughed, though. When I witnessed that scene my heart broke in such a hurtful way that I thought I'd never get it fixed. No attempt at mending it had truly worked until I met Frankie.

"Wh-what you did?"

"The girl left embarrassed and I screamed at Gabriel; and all he cared about was that the neighbors would hear me. He said his parents had begun to suspect since he hadn't been with a girl in so long, so he needed a girlfriend to make them happy. He swore that he loved me and we could still be together if I accepted him having a girlfriend at the same time. Can you believe that, Frankie?"

"As-asshole! S-so you k-kicked his ass?"

"I didn't kick him. I told him to give me the keys, leave my house and never come back."

"C-cool!" Frank cheered. He brought me closer and held me tight, my head against his chest as he caressed my hair and spoke sweetly. "'s okay, G-gee, that boy w-was mean, you h-have me now. I'd n-never kiss others 'c-cause I'm your b-boyfriend! And...and I d-don't care if p-people know I'm w-with a boy. Y-you can tell ev-everybody you're with me, I d-don't mind, r-really!"

He kissed my forehead and stayed like that, his lips against my skin, rocking me in his arms. It was the sweetest thing someone had ever told me. If something from that past was still hurting, Frankie's words -together with his soft touch- made all the pain disappear. I wished so much that things were that simple and I could actually tell the world he was my boyfriend.

I lifted my head to reach his lips. "Thank you, baby. Thank you lots...I love you so much. You're my angel, you know? Anyway, we can't tell everybody. As I've told you before, some say that it's wrong for 'normal' people to love 'special' ones this way. I know that's not true, but I'm afraid someone might try to separate us."

Many times I had tried to explain that to Frankie, yet he never seemed to wholly understand it. I couldn't blame him. It really made no sense to declare a person incapable of loving just because of being different, and judge the other as a pervert.

"Th-that's not t-true! It's n-not wrong that you l-love me 'cause...`cause I l-love you too. F-fuck them! B-but kay, I w-won't tell 'cause I don't w-want them to s-separate us." He kissed my nose and giggled. "Y-your nose's so s-mall and cute!"

"Your whole self is small and cute!" I pushed him down on the bed and tickled him, making him laugh loudly. Only then I realised -or remembered- that he was still naked from the waist down. "Ok, we better get you dressed."

I was certain that the conversation we'd had would bring us even closer. I could tell Frankie everything. It didn't matter if he didn't understand it all perfectly. He listened, he cared, and that was far more important. We would always be there for each other. We were a real couple, like any other or even better. If the world couldn't accept it, then I felt sorry for the world.


The following day I was walking home when I stopped at a record store, remembering the times when I would spend my extra money on CD's. Now I had even sold many of mine to have some spare savings. But despite that moment of nostalgia, I didn't regret it. Frank's happiness and our life together was well worth it.

Suddenly, my mind made an unexpected connection: Cd' "Frankie's grandmother told me that her son was traveling with a band," I whispered to myself. How hadn't I ever considered trying to find out something about him? The poor man thought his son was dead!

I entered a cybercafe and sat at a computer. Cursing at the poor speed, I opened Google and stared blankly at the screen. What was I going to look for? I knew it wasn't a known band and had no idea of the name. However, I knew Frank's dad was called 'Tony', which I guessed came from 'Anthony' -as was Frank's middle name.

I typed in 'Anthony Iero' and looked at the results. Although there were only two pages, I decided to shorten the search. I entered 'Anthony Iero + band', now getting just four results. Three of them showed my searched words in the preview, but when I checked the pages I saw nothing related. Typical.

The last one was about a bar's inauguration, so I clicked it. Curiously, the bar was in my old town, where my mom and brother still lived. The small article, dating from two months ago, was in a local site. I read it hoping to get some information out of it. "As many of you must know, a new big bar was inaugurated in town last night. Named 'Black Bird', the place includes a stage for local or guest bands to show what they can do. In this opening night, the surprise was a traveling blues band -as they describe themselves- named The Homeless Souls. Its members are Jake Barker (voice and harmonica), Paul Stillson (bass), Anthony Iero (guitar), Greg Thomas (drums), Victor Dees (piano) and Trevor Weizak (sax). These guys in their late thirties caused even the younger customers to clap hands enthusiastically at their professionalism and talent."

"The Homeless Souls," I repeated the name of the band, entering it in the search bar. Nothing interesting appeared besides other similar mentions and compliments. No phone number or any other way to contact the band, which was really odd. 

I searched the first site again, going to the 'links' section. Under 'Bars and Discos' I found Black Bird and wrote down the phone number before leaving the place.


"Black Bird bar. How can I help you?" a man's voice addressed me.

"I am looking for information about a blues band that played there two months ago, The Homeless Souls. Did they happen to leave a number for contracts?" I asked.

"Oh, I remember them. Very good band, pretty particular too. I asked them for a number, but they said they don't work that way. They're a 'free' band that travel the country randomly, choose places to play and then offer a demonstration out of compromise. They appeared when we were adding the last details to the bar, plugged in their instruments and started to play. They also showed me recommendations from several towns around the country, so I doubted no more and hired them. They rarely play more than one night in a row at the same place, so they told me," the guy said. It was very interesting indeed, but didn't help me at all.

"So...there's no way to contact them?"

"No, that time they only gave me the number of the hotel where they were staying. And they don't do big cities, so I guess it's hard to know when they're going to play next."

"Oh...ok, thank you anyway!" I sighed and decided to go home. Why was everything about Frank's family so weird and difficult to figure out?


Later, I was watching TV with Frankie when he started to complain. "G-gee...I'm b-bored!"

"What do you wanna do, babe?" I tightened my arms around his waist.

"W-wanna go out."

"You can't walk yet, it's been only two days," I told him.

He turned to me pouting. "B-but I w-want to. I...I'm t-too bored and c-can't find Puppy and...and the g-gnomes said they're t-tired of dancing and I al-already did ev-everything and...please!" he put his hands together like praying.

"Uh...ok, we'll go in the car, but only to sit on a sidewalk with some milkshakes. Is that good?" I proposed.

"Y-yeah that's very g-good!"

I stopped the car in front of a milkshake parlor and then helped Frank out, slightly bending so he could throw an arm around my shoulders. We were half way from there when a boy with long, black wavy hair stopped in front of us, eying Frankie. The observed one looked up, feeling the other's gaze.

"J-Johnny!" he gasped

"Frankie! I knew it was you! I just wanted to be sure because you look different with glasses, and your hair's longer. How are you, kiddo?" he hugged Frank happily.

Johnny? The only John Frankie had mentioned was the boy that... No, this one seemed older than Frank, even older than me; and he was being too affectionate to be that John. Still...what if he was the same one anyway?

"F-fine, and my g-glasses are great 'c-cause now I can s-see a lot b-better! But h-hurt my foot the o-other day. Y-yes." I heard Frank's voice again and I faked a cough to draw Johnny's attention.

"Oh, sorry! I was just surprised to find Frankie here. I'm John, music teacher at the Institution where he used to live." He extended his hand and I shook it alleviated. I wouldn't have known how to react if he had been the same John that practically raped Frank.

"I'm Gerard. I...uh..." I though of a good lie. " mother works at the institution where he's now and I help. Sometimes I take some of the kids for a walk. Frankie insisted though he isn't in the best condition today."

"B-but Gee..." Frank began. I squeezed his hand and he looked at me confused. "...y-you're my..."

"Your friend? Of course I am!" I interrupted him again, blinking in complicity.

He finally caught it and blinked back. "Oh...y-yeah!" 

"We better go sit," I invited, guiding Frankie to one of the plastic chairs while John and I occupied the others.

"You talked about Frankie's insistence." Johnny laughed. "I remembered how he'd insist on trying all the instruments I had in the classroom. He specially loved to hit the drums mercilessly."

"Did he learn to play any?" I asked. He watched Frank before responding. The kid was entertained reading a list of the different milkshakes available.

"Not really. I tried to teach him all I could and he loved it, but it seems he doesn't have the needed coordination...and sometimes his hands shake too much. Anyway, I always allowed him to play around with the instruments as much as he wanted," he told me in a low voice that Frankie didn't register. "He liked to sing very much though, he does it rather well."

"Th-the kids said I s-sang bad. They d-didn't like my v-voice, but I d-don't care. I...I d-don't care if my v-voice's ugly, I l-like to sing," Frank spoke, still looking at the list.

"I've heard you, and don't think your voice is ugly. But you're right, what matters is that you like to do it." I smiled, fighting my desire to kiss him.

"Exactly!" the teacher agreed.

"John...I have a doubt, so excuse my curiosity. I know the institution where you work is on the other side of the country...what are you doing here?" I questioned. I'd been thinking about it since he introduced himself.

"Yeah, I should have clarified that point. This was a big, crazy coincidence! I came to visit some relatives, my uncles and cousins. I'm flying back home tomorrow morning, actually."

"Then this was a huge coincidence for sure! How many possibilities were there?" I was honestly shocked. Oddities kept occurring.

After ordering our milkshakes, the conversation went on. John told me more anecdotes involving Frankie and interrogated me about his health. Luckily, he never asked the name of the institution where Frank was now.

"You know, mother and I have been calling the place where you work all week. We want to talk to a nurse called Grace -or at least I think she's a nurse from what Frankie said. We're always told that she's busy and they can't go for her," I presented my problem to him, realising that he could help me.

"Ah yes, she's a nurse and a very sweet lady. All the kids love her, though she did have a preference for Frankie. But's a pretty strict place, employees are not allowed to receive personal calls during work hours, so I'm sure they didn't even tell her that someone wanted to speak to her. Why don't you give me your phone number? I have to be back at work the day after tomorrow, I can tell her to call you when she's free," he offered.

"That would be great, thanks!" I patted his arm, trying to keep my extreme joy from showing much.

"You're welcome! I might give you some calls too, to see how Frankie's doing. He's such an awesome happy kid." He shoved the paper I gave him in his back pocket.

"Sure he is. And no problem!"

Once home I began to think about Grace. I imagined her like a very kind, lovely woman. Nevertheless I had a lot of things to tell her, and Frank would most probably want to talk to her too. How would she react to the news? How much should I disclose? Could I trust her to tell her the whole truth? 

Chapter Text

Little by little we cross the line,
little by little the ties that bind,
Little by little by little by little.
little by little tonight.

Familiar, yet new sensations pierced my body. Hands caressing, hot breath being blown on my face, soft kisses, the warmth of another body pressed against mine. I felt it all yet couldn't see it; I realised I could see nothing.

"This is a dream," I said aloud, although I was sure my lips hadn't moved.

I tried to open my eyes, but it was as if an extra pair of eyelids were still keeping me from seeing. That warm, almost burning sensation descended and centered on one spot. I could sense it pulsate, come to life when those hands came to a halt there, rubbing,

The land of dreams mixed with the awake world for a moment. I was still unable to see, but this was too real; this feeling was too real to be part of a dream.

I finally opened my eyes, this time distinguishing our room lightened by the street light peeping through ajar shutters. I turned to my right and there it was: Frank's silhouette on the bed, beside me.

Without moving, I reached back and turned on the lamp, as an involuntary moan escaped my lips. Frankie was watching me with half opened eyes, lips slightly separated. His right arm was slowly moving, and when my gaze traveled to his hand I understood the source of that sensation I'd been experiencing. His palm was touching me through my boxers, and he was also stroking himself in the same way with his other hand.

"F-Frankie...what...what are you doing?" I asked alarmed, lost between morality and pleasure.

He stopped all movement but kept his hands in place. I hated myself for how I wanted him to continue.

"I...I w-woke up 'cause...'c-cause I f-felt weird down th-there, k-kinda hurt. An-and then I t-touched it and felt g-good, and l-looked at you and y-your pants l-looked like mine so I th-though you'd l-like it too," he explained timidly. It was the first time I had seen him pleasure himself really acknowledging it. Had we gone through a a similar wet dream or what?

" don't have to do that, to me I mean..." I spoke whilst fighting the need to jerk my hips up.

He seemed disappointed. "Y-you don't l-like it?" 

"I...I do like it, but I'm not sure if this is right. I don't know if it's ok to allow you to do this..." I doubted.

Frankie appeared absent for a moment, and he couldn't help but conduct his hand over the bulge in his underwear, gasping. "'s 'c-cause of what you t-told me? Th-that I'm s-special and you're n-not?" he questioned, breathing quicker.

"Yes, kinda..." I answered honestly.

Again he was silent for a while. I couldn't tell if he was pensive or just as distrait as I was because of the situation. I hoped my sincerity hadn't hurt him.

"Oh...I kn-know what we c-can do!" He took my left hand and guided it to the front of his boxers. They were already humid. It felt strange, I couldn't decide if it was something positive or negative.

"Frankie...I don't..." I tried to free my hand but he held it there, closing his eyes tightly and sighing. I was sweating profusely, wanting to comply but terrified of committing a big mistake

"Y-you touch me and I t-touch you. F-fair that way, r-right? W-we're boyfriends so I th-think we can." He smiled and brought his index finger to his lips. "And...and w-we don't tell an-anyone."

He let my hand go; but before I could even think of withdrawing it, his was palpating me again. Not grabbing, only grazing. 

Suddenly, at that particular instant, everything felt right. We were boyfriends, we loved each other. I was not using him, I knew I wasn't and that sufficed. To start with, Frank had been the one who proposed to do things this way. He had taken the initiative and his explanation made total sense to me. Nothing could be wrong when we were giving each other pleasure. It was mutual.

It was an intimate, sensual moment; though it still kept that barrier of respect. The clothes interposed between us were a symbol; one of patience and understanding. We were touching, yet not conquering. It was adequate and perfect for the time being.

I looked into his lovestruck eyes and kissed him relaxedly. He responded as well as he managed, slightly out of breath as he was. I struggled to liberate my other hand from under my body and placed it over the pillow, running my fingers though Frank's hair. He leaned into my touch, murmuring contently.

For a while I limited my actions to copying Frankie's. As we both felt progressively more confident, I dared to go a little farther. I grabbed him softly, continuously observing his face intently. I wanted to be sure whether he liked it. A whispered moan was followed by his body moving forward, seeking for more. He kissed me again with opened mouth, and I felt his fingers circle me, applying a small pressure.

"Oh..." I vocalized, breaking the kiss.

He stared at me questioningly.

"It's ok baby, I liked that," I reassured him.

Frankie smiled and kept the pace. Even though our labored breath made it difficult to maintain our lips together for long, our foreheads were permanently in contact; our gazes fixed on each other. I did my best to keep my eyes open so I wouldn't miss a second of his face. Not a kid's but a young man's face; enjoying with no guilt, telling me without words to do the same: just feel instead of thinking so much.

Frank rocked his hips more rapidly and I quickened my movements. He had lost his rhythm on me but reacted then, the proximity of the culmination giving him new strength. I reached my cuspid first, literally seeing stars with closed eyes. My load confined, my fears sent away.

Not wasting any more time I devoted my attention back to Frankie, being careful not to abandon him in favor of my own satisfaction. His hand was still holding me and he looked surprised. He had felt it, what he caused in me. At that point his eyelids fell and he threw his head back, his whole body shaking as I felt him release too.

Then silence and quietness, only exalted heartbeats and exhausted pants breaking it, soon gradually slowing down. After that a longer, uninterrupted kiss. With no rush, only love. Finally, those three unique words were pronounced straight from the heart.

"I l-love you."

"I love you."

Minutes and minutes lapsed just holding each other, and weariness was about to beat me.

"Just a second," I whispered. I lazily headed for the closet, searching our drawers for boxers and climbing back into the bed. I helped Frankie discharge the stained ones and used them to clean him. "Lift yourself a little, don't push with your hurt foot!" I instructed, pulling his clean underwear up. Standing again, I changed myself.

"Y-you have a n-nice ass!" I heard Frankie giggling. Everything was so normal, so natural.

"Oh, thank you, love!" I lied back down, inviting him with open arms.

It was still night and we fell back asleep pretty soon, tired but content. Against all odds, we had taken a step ahead. Surprisingly -having in mind all my doubts- it felt just right.

The following morning Frank didn't talk about what had happened, so neither did I. I didn't think it was necessary. He had been pretty comfortable with it and I felt no remorse. There was, however, something different in the air, positive. Frankie seemed to be in a real good mood and also more affectionate than ever, calling me every five minutes while I was getting ready for work to hug me or kiss me. Since he still needed to be quiet to rest his foot, I had to go to him whenever he required me. Not that I minded.

"G-gee! C-come here?" he called me once again when I was about to cross the front door in a hurry.

"Frankie, we just said our goodbyes...properly as you wanted!" I laughed. "I gotta go baby, it's too late!"

"I kn-know but...again? G-gonna miss you!"

"Ok, last one." I knelt in front of him -who was sitting on the couch watching TV- and he clung to me lovingly while I noisily kissed his cheek several times.

"Someone is very clingy today, it seems," Ray chuckled. "What happened?"

My cheeks burned. "I don't know..."  Ray caught my blushing and arched an eyebrow, suspecting something. "Not that much, Ray! Relax!"

"Wh-what?" Frankie asked.

"Nothing, pretty." I pecked his lips. "I was just telling Ray here that he'll have to pamper you a little today. He gives very good bear hugs!"

"I don't think it'll be the same, Gee. The boy wants to hug his boyfriend, not me!" Ray pointed out. It made me happy to hear him use that word, it meant he was okay with it after all.

"Well, I guess. But I have to work and he knows it, and I'm sure he loves his babysitter Ray very much." I glanced at my friend, aware that he hated to be called that.

"R-ray hates that w-word, told m-me so. And...and I'm n-not a b-baby!" Frank declared.

"You like me to call you baby, though."

"Y-yeah but...but I'm n-not a...a real b-baby, kay?"

"Ok, I understand!"

"I...I do l-love Ray. B-but in a...d-dif-ferent way. H-he...he's like...un-uncle Ray!"

"Hey, kid! 'Uncle' makes me sound like an old man! I'm as old as Gerard, which makes me only 5 years older than you," he protested.

"'re b-both old!" Frankie giggled.

A look at the clock on the wall made me quit the laughter I was sharing with them. "Oh shit, I'm leaving now." I kissed Frankie's lips one last time. "Be a good boy, stay quiet, obey your uncle Ray and please tell him if you need to go to the bathroom, ok?"

"Y-yep! Oh G-Gee...saw P-Puppy? Can't f-find him!"

"He must be playing invisible again, doll. I'm sure he'll appear," I told him. Ray looked at me demandingly. "I know Ray, I know. But I can't..."

That scene repeated itself almost every day. Frankie had been seeing his dog only once in a while, even less often than he saw the gnomes and the little people some days. He was worried about it. Sometimes he'd get very angry and scream at Puppy to stop getting invisible because it wasn't funny anymore. I knew I had to tell him the pup wasn't real, but I couldn't bring myself to do it after how he had reacted the first time I tried.

I arrived at the store lost in thoughts, walking in like a zombie without even checking where I was going or who passed me by.

"Hello Gerard, dear. Is there something wrong?" Sarah touched my shoulder.

I jumped, jolted by the sudden contact with the outside world. I'd been too lost inside my head. "Oh...sorry, I was totally distracted. Sorry for being late, too. Frankie was a little...demanding today and wouldn't let me go," I apologized.

"You know it's fine. You're a good employee and are usually on time. I can imagine it's not easy to tell that sweet brother of yours 'no', is it?" she smiled.

"It's not..." I shook my head, busy thinking of how weird it was to have Frankie called my brother.

Sadly, I couldn't let anyone else know the truth. Although Sarah was lovely, just by telling her part of the truth I would be admitting that I had previously lied to her. Besides, I would be also risking many things. I wasn't sure of what her opinion could be about me taking home a boy I had found in the street; let alone about my real relationship with Frank.

"You still didn't tell me if you were fine," she added.

"I was just...thinking about Frankie and his imaginary puppy. He's pretty upset because he doesn't see him too often, and I can't seem to gather the guts to tell him he's not real."

"Again with that, Gerard? I've told you what I think, more than once."

"Yeah but...who would take care of a real dog while I'm working? I can't burden my friend with a dog to babysit too!" I argued, arranging some things on their respective shelves.

"Haven't you considered that Frankie might be fully capable of taking care of a dog himself? You told me he treats his imaginary pet as if it was real, so what's the difference?"

Sarah did have a point there. Still, I wasn't certain whether I was ready for that. We'd had dogs when Mikey and I were kids, but I had never owned one myself. I didn't know if I could be responsible for both a person and a dog.

"I'll think about it, I promise." I smiled warmly at the old woman before walking towards a customer.


I was walking home later when the blood-chilling sound of brakes startled me. I stopped dead and turned my head towards the street. There was a small, black dog playfully running across the bustling avenue. It eluded a car out of luck -totally ignorant of the danger- and began to chase its tail. A couple more cars hit the breaks. I stared wide-eyed from the sidewalk, having a sense of deja-vu.

As those first cars continued their way and being close to the sidewalk, the dog suddenly gave up the chase and decided to return to where it had come from: towards the moving traffic. My legs moved before my head consciously gave them the order. I darted to the street, crouched in front of a car and picked the little animal up. Only then I realised what I had done, where I was. I heard the scratchy noise of tires and felt something push my shoulder. I fearfully looked up with the doggie in my arms and faced a car's bumpers.

"ARE YOU STUPID OR WHAT?" a furious man screamed from inside of it.

"S-sorry...the dog...I..." I stammered, getting up and desperately running towards the safeness of the sidewalk.

My legs were trembling so badly that I had to sit down. I stared at the dog's big, round brown eyes sticking out from its ebony fur. Completely black fur, not a single hair of a different color. The puppy was presumably three or four months old, not more than that.

I lifted it, looking at his belly. "So you're a boy! What do you say about living with two human ones? I won't leave you here after risking my life for you, little one. You'll love Frankie, you'll see," I talked to him, following an impulse. I could swear he was able to comprehend what I was saying.

A woman walked past me, shaking her head. "Crazy people..."

"Don't pay attention, my furred friend, we're just misunderstood." I kissed the dog's nose and got up to finally go home.


"Frankie...look what I got you!" I announced as soon as I entered the house.

"P-Puppy! You f-found him!" Frankie exclaimed and jumped from the couch, being caught by Ray just in time.

"Hey, hey! Where are you going?" he made him sit back and Frankie stayed there pouting, reaching out with his arms like kids would do.

I walked to him and deposited the dog on his lap. Ray eyed me as if I had lost my mind, but I grinned confidently.

We waited patiently for Frankie to carefully examine the animal. I was wondering -and fearing- what the boy would do or say once he noticed it wasn't his Puppy. He had no white spot and was slightly bigger than I imagined Puppy to be, judging by the position of Frank's arms when he'd 'hold' it.

"Wh-where you w-were, uh?" Frank spoke to him angrily, confusing me. "G-gee, look! He got b-bigger! And...h-he doesn't h-have his w-white flower spot! H-he must h-have losed it in the s-street."


"C-could you l-look for it t-tomorrow?" he requested, straight-faced.

"I...I guess. I'll see if I can find Puppy's spot, of course." I smiled at Frank's strange idea.

"A dog's spot can just...fall off and get lost?" Ray asked amused.

"Of...of course! Y-you know n-nothing, Ray!"

"You're right Frankie, I think there are many things you need to teach me. But then you should be careful when you're on the street, you could lose your freckles!" my friend joked, tracing the sides of Frank's nose with a finger.

The boy looked alarmed. "Y-you think?"

"Yeah, but that won't happen unless you shake your head like dogs do when they're wet and want to dry themselves," I threw in, laughing.

"I n-never do th-that!"

"Then don't worry Frankie, you won't lose your little freckles," Ray concluded, making a big effort to not laugh too much.

"G-good! Th-they're mine!" Frank said relieved. "P-Puppy, I l-love you the s-same without your wh-white flower."

The dog appeared to smile. Placing his front paws on Frank's chest, he licked his face and even his glasses, leaving them all cloudy. Frankie was convinced that it was the same Puppy, and the dog had immediately adopted Frankie as his owner. Anyone could think they were two friends that had known each other forever. It was incredible.

"S-stop, I c-can't see, P-Puppy!" Frankie giggled, cleaning the glasses with his t-shirt.

"He loves you too, you can have no doubt about it!" I kissed the dog's head and felt Frank kiss my cheek.

Sitting beside him, I placed my hand on his neck and went for his lips, kissing him slowly and deeply, forgetting Ray was still there.

"Uh...I gotta go, boys! See you tomorrow," we heard his voice as he hurried off and waved at him, unwilling to break the kiss. Puppy spoke for us, barking at Ray with a cute baby voice and waggling his tail.

It was so weird to actually be able to see and hear Puppy. However, it felt unquestionably good to know one problem was solved. I only had one concern: had Ray realised that he would have two kids to watch now? 

Chapter Text

With time the child draws in,
this whipping boy done wrong.
Deprived of all his thoughts
the young man struggles on and on he's known
a vow unto his own that never from this day
his will they'll take away.

After a couple of days, I had to admit that Sarah was right all along about getting Frankie a real dog. I was even regretting not having done it before. Honestly, I'd barely noticed any difference in the way Frank treated Puppy now. The boy was certain that it was the same dog, so he took care of him the same way he had done since the day he 'found' him. He brought him to the backyard many times a day so he could do his things, played with him, brushed his fur and fed him. Now I was actually going to have to buy food regularly, though; I couldn't recycle it over and over because this animal did eat it.

Frankie was extremely happy that his pet had decided to not make himself invisible anymore. For the dog's sake, I bought them some toys and balls to play with, so he wouldn't be confused when his owner threw invisible balls at him -which Frank still did sometimes.

Things seemed to be working just fine, and Ray assured me that not the human, nor the four-legged kid were giving him much trouble.

Frank's foot was already much better. He still limped a little, but was able to step on it and walk without help. When my mother knew about what had happened and why, she instantly came up with some suggestions and Ray agreed with her somehow. They told me that maybe I should consider increasing Frank's medication; since even knowing his hallucinations were not true, he still saw them and interacted with them. They said it could be dangerous because next time his imaginary friends might provoke him to do something worse than kicking a wall.

I understood their point of view, it was a valid concern, but I didn't want Frankie turned into a zombie. Therefore, I told them I would leave things as they were for the time being; that having a full-time dog would distract him from his other friends. I didn't mention in front of my mom that I hadn't seen any change so far. Ray, of course, knew that. He'd seen Frankie playing with Puppy and the gnomes all at the same time. However, he had it clear that I would not yield that easily, so he didn't insist on his idea.

Those last days Frank had made a little progress in his reading comprehension. Even if for short periods of time, he had been more willing to cooperate and make the effort. I was trying to stimulate him as much as I could. I sat with him to draw together, I patiently listened to him read and then asked him questions, or I dictated sentences to encourage him to write. He had a rather bad orthography, but accomplished a decent block-letter writing when his hands weren't shaking much. I also gave him some simple calculations to solve, even if he hated them and found it a hard task. Goldberg had said it was helpful to make him exercise his brain as long as it was moderately. It was important to not tire or stress him too much.

I greatly enjoyed sharing those moments with Frank, knowing I could help the person I loved in so many levels. The feeling of being so important for someone was overwhelming.

Things were better in other aspects, also. The night before, something similar to our first sexual approximation on the couch had occurred. We were in bed and supposed to sleep; but some kissing led to caressing. Then it became playful and we were rolling and laughing, and the created friction had been finally too tempting.

It was good to see how those kind of things had become something natural, a lot more relaxed and free of guilt on my part too. Frankie completely trusted me now, and no longer was it a problem for him to get more intimate while being on the bed. He knew we'd go only as far as he wanted to. We had never even done anything with our clothes off.


I was close to home after work when my cellphone rang. I didn't recognize the number, but I had an idea of who it could be. With my voice a little shaky with nerves, I answered.


"Hello. Is it Gerard Way?" a female voice asked.

"Yes, I'm Gerard. Who's this?"

"I'm Grace Neil, please to meet you. I've been told you wanted to talk to me about Frankie? Frank Iero?" Her tone was kind, but urgent. She was evidently very interested.

"Uh yeah, you've been told right."

"John said you help at the institution where he's now?" she questioned.

I looked around, annoyed and deafened by the street noise. "Sorry, Mrs.Neil? I'm in the middle of the street right now, and I'd like to talk about this calmly. I'll arrive home in fifteen minutes, do you have time?"

"Sure, I have three hours off, save there's an emergency. And please, call me Grace."

"Alright then, Grace. I'll call you when I'm there. Thank you for contacting me!"

"Thank you. I've been desperate to know something about Frankie. Talk to you later, then." She hung up. I turned off the phone and sped up, the urgency getting to me.

Just like the days before, I was welcomed by Frankie jumping onto me and Puppy biting my ankles. I had to be prepared and stand with my feet well placed on the ground to not fall down on my ass.

"Ouch, Puppy! Let me walk!"

"D-dunno why h-he likes to do th-that now!" Frankie laughed still perched on me while I tried to difficultly hold him with my free hand.

"He's imitating you!"

"N-no, I don't b-bite ankles!"

"You've sometimes bitten my hand!" I chuckled. My arm had given in, so I left him on the floor.

"N-no I didn't. D-don't remember!"

"It's ok." I kissed him. It was likely that he really didn't remember; he was too messed up back then. "Ray, could you stay for a while longer? That person called me, and I have to call them back now."

"Sure, I still have time."

"Thanks! You can go to the kitchen with Frankie and have some chocolate with cookies. I'll let you know when you can join me."

"Yeah, no problem. Come on, Frankie! Gerard has to make some boring calls, so we'll go to the kitchen and find something more interesting to do. What do you say?"

Frank pouted. "K-kay. B-but just f-for a while, I m-missed my b-boyfriend today and want to be w-with him." 

"Just for a while, baby." I kissed the side of his mouth softly.

I flicked through my cellphone's memory for Grace's number, but decided to use my house's phone. I was afraid that the other little fucker would run out of batteries in the middle of an important part of the conversation. 

The woman answered at the first ring, like she had been waiting by the phone. "Gerard?"

"Yes...hello again, Grace. First of all I'm gonna answer your question. I lied to John. I didn't know him and the thing's a little...complicated."

"What...what do you mean complicated? Is Frankie ok? John told me he was!"

"Oh yes, don't worry! He's fine. I just lied about knowing him from a mental institution, he's in none. Frankie's been living with me since I found him," I said, and it was so quiet on the other side of the line that I thought she had hung up.

"You found him?" She sounded confused, surely ignoring what had been of Frankie after the last time she saw him.

"I did, two days after he was taken out of the place where you work."

"But...his mother picked him" She appeared to be clueless, indeed.

"I'll explain what happened, or at least all I know..."

I detailed everything to Grace about the day I met Frankie. Where he was, what he'd told me, and how I had decided to bring him home with me. Then I related my investigation and what I had been able to find out. All I could hear on Grace's side were gasps, exclamations and muffled curses.

"Damn! I regret so much not having insisted..." she whispered.

"Insisted on what?"

"I told our boss that I didn't trust Frank's mother and we shouldn't let her take him. But he said that she was Frankie's only other known relative and he couldn't stay there for free..."

"Then you couldn't have done anything, so don't worry," I tried to make her feel better. I didn't have anything to reproach her. The thought that was occupying my head at the moment would only be labeled as selfish: if she had done something to stop Linda from taking Frank away, I would have never met him. I was thankful that Grace couldn't read my mind...

"I guess..." she doubted. "That girl seemed regretful when she came for Frankie. She said she felt really bad for having neglected her son and would do her best for him. At a point even I believed her!"

"Fucking fake bitch!" I muttered. "Sorry..."

"It's ok, there's no other word for her, or at least no better one," she spoke with anger. "She can't even be called human. What human being refuses to take a baby to the hospital after he fell on his head? And then...who leaves their mentally ill kid alone in the street? Why couldn't she just say that she didn't want him? I would have tried to look for a solution. Not sure what, because I live here and own no house or enough money but...something!"

"Honestly, I don't get it. Just like you, I wonder why she accepted to take him with her if she was going to abandon him. For that reason I've been trying to collect information. Maybe if we join what we both..."

"Ok, I'll tell you all I know about Frankie first, just in case I'm interrupted. If I'm not, then you'll tell me how he's been doing and let me talk to him...please? I miss him too much." She sniffed. I was sure that she was crying now.

"Of course."

"Well...Frankie's grandma brought him when he was 8. The old lady felt miserable for having to leave him here. She didn't specify what was wrong with her health, but explained that she was very sick and couldn't fend for herself anymore. Walking was becoming harder and harder for her and she was about to move to a nearby home for the elderly. The only possible way to have Frankie living with her was to hire a person to take care of both at her house. She had the money, but she didn't want such boring, depressing environment for her grandson. The woman thought Frankie would be better here with other kids and professional care. She did promise to visit him while she could, and she did. She'd bring him presents and play with him for hours. Frank might not remember much because that only lasted three years. After that she got too sick to leave home, so she'd only call; until that stopped too."

"Was it then that Frank had to leave?" I asked.

"No, no. This was 5 years ago. I learned that Frank's grandma had died, but we kept receiving the money for that period of time.

"One more question: if Frank's grandma knew her daughter didn't want the kid, why did you even have Linda's data there?"

"Requirements of the institution. They asked the woman if Frank had any other relative, just in case they needed to communicate something about him and they couldn't find her. She made the big mistake of mentioning Frank's mother. Even though she emphasized that her daughter didn't want anything to do with the kid, they still demanded that she told them Linda's name and number. However, Frank's grandma begged for them to never call her daughter."

"Did they ever do it? I Frank's mother, before the last time."

"Yes...but she'd rarely answer, or she'd say she was too busy. I called her several times telling her Frank needed to see an oculist. In this institution they only take care of the patients' mental problems and of course, medical emergencies or minor illnesses. For any other case, their relatives are in charge. I was really worried because I'd noticed Frankie's sight was getting worse with time, and there was no one else I could call. His mother didn't care and I wasn't allowed to take Frankie anywhere myself," she told me, fighting the constant need to cry.

"Don't worry, I took care of that. Frankie has his glasses, now."

"Yes, John told me Frankie had glasses! It makes me really happy!" Her voice's tone changed to a cheerier one.

"He's very happy too! And we were just in time, the oculist said that he could have gone nearly blind in a couple more years."

"Oh, dear..."

"Tell me, Grace...did something weird happen while Frank lived there?" I started to play Sherlock again.

"I don't what?"

"Weird calls, or visits?" I didn't know why I was asking this. I suddenly felt, more than ever, that there was something darker behind Frank's case.

Grace was in silence for a while, probably meditating her answer. "No calls...but there was a visit. Yes, how could I forget! About two years ago, I think, a guy came and asked to talk to the person in charge. I played fool and stayed to see what it was about. He showed us some documents and credentials proving that he worked for the government. The strangest part was what he wanted: he ordered us to delete Frank's data from all the records and never ever call the kid by his last name or mention it in front of him. He added that if we didn't comply or if we told someone else about it, the institution would be closed down." She left me frozen. That guy had been, no doubt, Linda's boyfriend -or husband. But why?

"Why?" I said aloud. "Going so far only because Frank's mother was ashamed of her son seems stupid and unnecessary..."

"I agree, so you know who that man was?"

"Linda', not sure if they're married. I know he works for the government and has threatened people before," I explained.

"Oh, shit. This is all so complicated...poor Frankie, what kind of mother does he have?" Grace whimpered.

"The worst. Frankie, however, was able to remember his last name. I was glad he did because as I said, his ID was all ripped off. He told me that he heard you say it on the phone in a dream he had, though he didn't seem too sure about it being a dream."

"His ID was in perfect condition when I handed it to his mother, she must have ruined it. And Frank might have heard me on the phone, a couple of weeks before he left. I already knew he would have to and I was desperate. I wanted to find out why we kept receiving his grandmother's money for years after her death and then it suddenly stopped arriving. A friend contacted me with a judge who was going to do some research on the matter. One of the times I was in my room talking to him, Frankie walked in."

"And did you get to know something else from that judge?" I questioned, fidgeting on the couch.

" boss caught me, he knew what I was doing. No idea how! He didn't fire me right away because we've known each other for a long time and he appreciates me, but he said nothing would stop him next time. He's been clearly scared and edgy since that strange guy paid us that visit years ago. When Frank left, he even stated that it was maybe safer not to have the boy living here anymore. I didn't dare do anything else, it feels like the walls have eyes and ears in this place."

"Let's change the subject," I proposed, noticing that the memories were upsetting her. "tell me something about Frankie."

"Frankie..." she uttered the name with love. "...I had this urge to protect him since the first time I saw him. He was so small that no one would have said he was 8; he looked like 5, as much. He also spoke with much more difficulty than now, pronouncing the words like a little child would besides the stuttering. It was hard to understand him sometimes, and I was basically the only one who always did. I think that brought us closer. I started to give him conversation and soon his speech improved and became clearer. I know it's still not perfect, but very good considering his brain lesion."

"It surely is and man, he loves to talk!"

"He does!"

"I'm curious: how's the institution? How is it...divided?" I needed to know more about the place where Frank had lived for so many years.

"It consists of two large buildings placed together. One is for the girls and the other one for the boys, though they all eat at the same dining room. So if Frankie ever mentioned fights with girls, that's why." She laughed for the first time, while I did the same recalling Frank telling me how mean girls were. Grace continued. "Each building is divided in areas according to ages. The last one where Frank was, included 13 to 17 year-old boys."

"But Frank was already 18..."

"Yes, they made an exception with him. The psychiatrist didn't think it'd be good for Frank to be with older boys. He's always found it hard to make friends among boys his age, and it got worse as he grew up. If kids in general can be cruel, imagine these with all kinds of mental or serious behavioral problems. Not all of them are mean, of course. Some are very sweet just like Frankie, but many had a liking for making fun of him for any reason. He seemed to get along a lot better with younger kids, so we'd let him play with them. He was happier and there wasn't much of a difference in size, anyway."

What Grace told me could be one of the reasons for Frankie's childish behavior; though I wasn't sure whether his environment had caused that or if it was his nature and he had only searched for his equals. Either way I would never try to change that or force him to act his age. Maybe he'd get more mature with time, being in contact with adults. If that never happened I would not mind. I loved Frankie the way he was and it's how I had met him.

"Anything else you'd particularly like to know?" she asked kindly. I guessed I'd been quiet for a while without noticing.

"Yes...Frankie told me something about a teacher who didn't want to teach him anymore and called him retarded, he thinks he was 11 when that happened," I brought back.

"Yes, I'm sure he was 11. That...piece of shit of a teacher. Frankie took around three years to learn how to write and read, he had only gone to kinder before coming here. I had to help him a lot, because that guy was never very patient. I don't know how he was hired and kept here for so long, where patience is one of the main requisites. He wasn't usually mean to the children, but he didn't have enough consideration. For moments he seemed to forget they were 'special'. One day he just took Frankie out of the class, brought him to me and told me that he was incapable of learning any further. He said the boy was not only crazy but retarded and would just bother the other kids. He fucking told me all that in front of Frank! No one heard my complaints about the teacher. They said he was a professional and knew each child's limits; that we should just let Frankie play with his toys and not force his brain anymore. Although I didn't have much time, I wasn't going to give up on Frank so easily. I knew he could learn more. Since he loves animals, I'd make him read books about them or tell him some facts myself. I taught him how to count, some calculations...then he began to lose his sight and the possibilities got reduced. But he loves to learn..." she trailed off. "He just needs some extra patience, you know?"

I smiled to myself. "I know, he's a smart boy. I'm helping him all I can, too." 

"Now, tell me something about Frankie nowadays. His health, how he behaves..." Grace almost implored.

I resumed the most important facts, happenings and experiences I could remember; making her giggle, laugh and cry in a short span of time. Even though I couldn't see her and there was a vast distance in between us, I could feel her love for Frankie. Her reactions and the way she spoke about him were enough to let me know how important the kid was to her.

I told Grace the name of the medication Frank was taking, and she said it was one of the only two that worked sufficiently well for him. She commented that she'd always insisted that Frank could do fine on a similar dose to the current one; but they usually kept it higher to suppress the hallucinations.

She then recommended having Frank's blood checked. Those meds tended to lower the number of white blood cells, and he often needed some supplements to regulate that. I promised to do it before fall, when he'd be more propense to get sick. It worried me to think of all the things I would need to have in mind and the problems that might show up along the way. But I hid it in order to sound secure for Grace.

She also confirmed what Frank had told me about being forcefully injected when he 'wasn't a good boy'. There were days when he'd refuse to take his pills; specially if Grace or the other nurses who were the nicest to him were not available, or if they didn't have the flavor of candy he liked. In those cases Frankie would bite whoever tried to get the pills into his mouth, so they'd resort to shots.

"I stopped them many times, but others I'd be too late. They used to give him sedatives together with his normal medication when that happened, which was absolutely unnecessary. Poor angel...they left him looking like a living dead."

"Did they ever put him in isolation? Well, if you have something like that there..." I had only seen those places in movies, and it froze my blood to imagine Frank there.

"Only once. But what we have here is not that bad, really. It's luminous and airy, and there are plushies to play with and a TV that shows cartoons," she said, guessing where my doubts came from. "The only thing in common with those rooms you see in movies is that it's padded for the patients not to get hurt. For some of them it's a good option, it calms them down. We never leave them there more than one, two hours tops. Frankie...he's never liked to be alone, so it just made him desperate and more nervous than he was. After that first, fruitless attempt, I told them that I'd take care of Frank's nervous episodes from then on."

"Oh, good..." I was really relieved to hear that, even if the room wasn't as creepy as I'd imagined.

More than an hour and a half went by and we were still on the phone sharing memories and stories. I was telling her about Puppy when Frankie came into the living room and plopped down on the couch beside me.

"He was too quick, sorry," Ray apologized.

"B-booored. W-who you t-talking to?" Frank neared his ear to mine.

"It's Grace, I'll let you talk to her in a while," I told him.

He widened his eyes in surprise. "G-grace? M-my Grace?"

"Yes!" Frank's smile was gigantic after having the confirmation.

"Frankie's there?" she whispered.

The boy held the handset, trying to snatch it from me. "L-lemme!"  

"Just a minute Frankie, I told you I'll let you talk to her!"

"N-no... NOW!"

"Frankie, just..."

"G-GRACE!" he screamed close to my face. "G-Gerard's my b-boyfriend, I h-have a real boyfriend n-now!"

Ray looked at me mutely. I looked at Frankie, my mouth falling open. The hand that was holding the phone rested on my lap, I was terrified. Frankie was smiling and jumping on the couch.

"Hello? HELLO?" Grace's voice reached me and I had to gather a lot of courage to bring the phone back to my ear and speak again.

"Grace I...let me explain it all before you form an opinion, please," I faltered.

She sighed loudly, irritated. "Let me talk to Frankie first. No 'buts'. Now."

"Grace wants to talk to you, Frankie." I handed him the phone and felt myself near to crying. Ray squeezed my shoulder, trying to give me strength.

"Wait...." he said.

"G-grace! M-missed you! Y-you know? I...I l-live with Gee and...and I h-have glasses and can s-see better now and r-read and all th-that! Oh and I h-have a dog that's c-called Puppy! H-he was in-invisible sometimes but n-now he's not an-anymore but...b-but he lost his s-spot. It w-was like a f-flower. T-told Gee to see if he f-finds it in the s-street. Y-yeah. An-and I'm a g-good boy and take my p-pills and the d-doctor said I'm b-better and Gerard's v-very very nice and also R-Ray that takes care of m-me and then D-Donna...y-yeah?"

Frankie chattered non-stop, barely breathing in between sentences, wanting to fit almost two months into a minute. Then he suddenly made a pause, listening and nodding as if Grace could see him.

"K-kay. Yeah." He got up, walked to the smaller couch, and sat down on it Indian style facing the wall. "Y-yes."

"What the...?" Ray and I exchanged confused looks.

"Y-yes, I am. N-no he can't. N-no, he didn't t-tell me to say an-anything! Yep, p-promise. I kn-know, lying is b-bad!" I heard Frank answer while playing with his hair.

It made me desperate not to know what Grace was telling him, and now I couldn't even see Frank's face. I assumed that she had instructed him to sit like that, far away and turning his back on me; so I could not hear her or indicate Frankie what to say.

I stayed there, isolated, and listened to Frank's monologue trying to get something out if it. Ray went back to the kitchen.

"Y-yes he's my b-boyfriend. F-first he said we c-couldn't be, 'cause people d-don't like it when s-someone special l-loves someone that's n-not special. B-but one n-night we...we had a in m-movies! And h-he asked me to b-be his boyfriend! I s-said yes!" he related excitingly and stopped to listen..

"K-kay. T-told you I n-never lie! N-no. NO! N-no never!" he gasped. "W-we kiss a l-lot, I like th-that very much and we h-hold hands! Y-yes...caress-es, yes. A....a l-little. B-but he as-asked me if it w-was ok, and I t-told him it was 'cause f-felt good. Uh..." He seemed to be thinking about something Grace had asked him. Meanwhile, I was hyperventilating.

"N-no, I'm here! N-no, not t-talking to Gee! C-can't see h-him from here! K-kay. I kn-know. W-we...yeah, once. N-no, not n-naked! W-we had pants! And I t-touched him t-too. No, r-really! Y-yes I liked it!" I almost had a heart attack hearing what he had said. He moved his face a little to the side, and I could see that he was blushing.

This couldn't be happening. Grace would hate me.

 "N-no, Grace! I l-liked it a l-lot! N-no told you he d-didn't. N-no, d-didn't try! I t-told him 'b-bout John and wh-what you said. He s-said it was f-fine and he w-would never make me d-do anything if I didn't w-want to. R-really, he's g-good and I l-love him and he l-loves me and takes c-care of me...and is the b-best boyfriend ever!"

The conversation went on for at least ten more minutes. I was sure that Grace had asked Frankie the same questions once and again to see if he would answer identically each time. Apparently, he did.

"I s-swear I won't t-tell him. Y-yes, tell me. Y-yes, I t-told Gee that...aha. Y-yes I'm sure, I l-love him." He made the longest pause. "K-kay, but...n-not sure if I w-want to do that. B-because when John...oh...k-kay. Y-yes, I do. Y-yes I un-understand!" He nodded several times. "An-anything I don't like...I t-tell him to stop. Y-yes, get it." He seemed to be getting some advices from Grace. "L-love you too. K-kay."

He then came and gave me the phone, grinning. "G-grace said she w-wants to talk to y-you now."

"Hello?" I said timidly, expecting her to call me every existing insult.

"Gerard..." surprisingly, she didn't sound mad.

"I...I don't know what to say, I swear..."

"Look: I know Frankie, I can tell when he's lying or hiding something. He's a bad liar and rarely even tries. As you must have imagined, I asked him lots of questions; and I believed him, I know he answered them all with the truth. Let's say that you passed the test...for now. have extra points in your favor because of the way you've helped Frankie and how you talk about him. However, I'll be calling Frank often to check on him, so you better behave because if you mess up...I'll know it. Now let me hear your version." She sounded firm, but still amazingly kind.

I poured all my feelings for Frankie into the phone and answered all her questions, even some that were rather intimate and made me feel embarrassed. Anything to leave her satisfied and put her mind at ease. I seemed to have achieved it since she wasn't bitching at me.

"Could you tell me something else about what happened with that boy John?" I asked her, motioning for Ray to entertain Frankie.

"Ok. It wasn't too long ago, almost three months before Frankie left. John's two years younger than Frank, and they were in the same room. That boy had been in the institution for two years when the...incident with Frankie occurred. When he arrived, his family had just found him after six months of being missing from home. Someone had spotted him walking around aimlessly. His case was very similar to autism, though he hadn't presented any symptom before. He wouldn't speak or pay much attention to anything or anyone and he didn't like people touching him. No one knew what had happened to him in the street or where he'd been, we still don't know for sure. Frankie started to get close and talk to him, and John for some unknown reason trusted Frank. The director saw their friendship as a good thing for John's recovery, so he moved him to Frank's room. Soon John was speaking to Frankie, and then he began to communicate with us too. One day, during dinner, John declared that Frankie was his boyfriend. As you must have noticed, Frankie has seen many love movies, so he was extremely happy to hear that. I don't think he really loved John -like I can feel he loves you- but it was exciting for him to have a boyfriend. We didn't think anything bad of it, it was like a childish game. John still wouldn't let Frank touch him, neither would he touch Frank and they'd never kiss. The only 'boyfriend thing' about them was the word itself, like kindergarten kids or less. Frankie felt a little frustrated by that, because he'd dreamed of doing romantic things with John, but he had a lot of patience and accepted him the same."

"Frankie said that the first time know, did it, no one found out." I hesitated, permanently afraid of offending her.

"No, we didn't. Later on I thought back and realised that Frank had acted a little weird for some days at the time, but with kids with his problems you don't suspect...they're always very changing. One day, I went to their room and heard Frankie screaming at John to stop, that he didn't want to. I entered and they were both naked, John on top of Frankie. I sent John outside and had a talk with Frank. It was then when he told me they'd already had sex once. I swear we had never imagined that John could be capable of that, many of us still blame ourselves for it. Luckily, Frankie didn't completely understand. I mean, he knows what they did, but not that in most cases that's considered rape. I think it's better for him."

"Yeah..." I flinched imagining the scene. "No one has ever had a conversation about sex with Frankie?"

"Yes, many times, but he doesn't always pay attention or understand everything. He also tends to forget some things. And you know how he doesn't recognize danger? Maybe that counts for these cases too, I'm not sure. We had told Frank what making love was, and that he shouldn't do it if he didn't want to. I guess John said the right words to convince him. It's really easy to do that with Frank, sadly. That's why I'm being so insistent with you."

"What happened to John?" I deliberately ignored her last line, I was too nervous and also sad with the talk about Frank's past.

"Nothing, he's a minor and mentally unstable. He was just changed to a different area. He always asks for Frank and doesn't seem to think he did anything wrong. After that I chose to tell Frank to not let anyone do that to him again, because I thought it would be safer than a new explanation."

"I understand, really. I think you did well, all the more in a place like that when one can't totally control what happens," I agreed. "And please don't worry, I'd never hurt Frankie in any way, I truly love him."

"I know," she said. "Thanks, Gerard. Thank you very much for everything."

"Thank you for protecting him all those years like a mother would. Now I know why Frankie loves you so much and always talks about you. I'll let you speak to him until you have to go back to work. Bye Grace, please to meet you!"

"Ok! Oh but first, please write down this number."

"Whose number?"

"Remember the judge I told you about?"


"Well, you should call him, mentioning me. He had no way to get in touch with me and I never called him again, maybe he'd found something. His name is Alexander Hawkins...and Frank's grandmother's was Alice Caravaggio. Got it? Ok, now the phone number..."

"Yes, tell me." I wrote everything down, adding Grace's whole name too before I forgot it.

"Thanks, Grace! I'll let you know what he said next time you call."

"Bye, Gerard...and please to meet you too!" she expressed.

I gave the phone back to Frankie and went to join Ray, allowing them some privacy. I was calmer now.

While in the kitchen, I felt something tugging at my pants.

"Hey, Puppy! What are you doing, buddy? Want some milk? Yes, you do...oh, with cookies in it? Uh...ok, but just for today!" I talked to the small dog. He was sitting in front of me, wiggling his tail and staring with shiny eyes. I somehow interpreted that look as a 'cookie look'. Grabbing a plate, I poured some milk and broke three cookies into little pieces. Puppy waited impatiently; wet, pink tongue sticking out of his mouth. "Here you are...easy, boy!" I advised. He attacked his meal, splattering loudly. Behind that noise, I distinguished Frankie's laughter.

I was unsure of how much things would change now that Grace knew about Frank and me. Would she really call often and interrogate Frank? Would Frank tell her everything we might do? How would she react if we went farther? Would she accept it as long as Frank was fine?

My only certainty was that I didn't regret contacting her. I had understood that Grace was the mother that Linda had never wanted to be for Frank; they needed each other. It was a pity that we lived so far away, though at least they had the phone.

I was washing Puppy's plate when Frank tapped me on the shoulder. "Oh, you scared me! I didn't hear you enter..."

He giggled. "I...I'm m-mysterious!"

"Yep, you definitely are. Did you want something?"

"G-grace told me to g-give you a m-message."

"What is it?" I asked.

"W-watch out, I'll kn-know it all."

Chapter Text

We got something to believe in
even if we don't know where we stand.
Only God would know the reasons
but I bet he must have had a plan...

Sarah had a sudden family obligation to attend that day. She closed the store earlier and told us all that we could leave. I wasn't expected home for two more hours, so I decided to go somewhere else. Of course it wasn't that I didn't want to go home. Each day while working all I longed for was the moment when I'd be back to Frankie. I loved to be welcomed by him; see his smile, feel his hugs, taste his kisses. But I was conscious of how long I'd gone without some time for myself, and I knew it was necessary. Some hours on my own to think without distractions, to listen to my own thoughts and see where I was standing.

I walked slowly, enjoying the sun on my face instead of trying to hide from it. With fall being still a month away, the air was humid and warm. I wasn't used to being out at that hour, when the day was so clear that you needed to squint; when everybody was -same as I would be in any normal day- working or just escaping the summer heat. There were no rushed cars or pedestrians in sight. It was an enjoyable view and the town offered that needed silence.

I made a recount of the past days and of how much more I had learned about Frank. It had been strange. I gave myself permission to doubt and be scared, since there was no one there to act strong for. I was still decided to go on with my investigation, but I couldn't deny my fear; it existed and had become stronger.

Quickly, I shook my head to push the fear aside. My dad had once told me: 'When you dedicate too much time to think about your fears, is when they win you over.' It was true.

I realised that my feet were leading me to a familiar part of town. It was the path I'd take every day until two months before. Spotting the Comic Shop, I thought of paying Bob a visit.

I froze as I contemplated the entrance, taking notice of the important connection that place held with the life I had left behind. A big part of what had affected me and shaped me along those last years of my life was related to that building or its people.

It had been around the time when I was hired that I met Gabriel. Many times he'd come pick me up, making sure that it wouldn't look suspicious. He was always so careful, too careful. Exaggeratedly concerned about what people could think.

It was when my relationship with Gabriel ended that I met Bob, who was the new employee. I helped him get used to the job and he'd hear me rant about my broken heart; never mentioning names or gender, most probably a matter of habit and not of shame. I had gotten accustomed to being discreet by Gabriel's request.

Then came the afternoon or nightly escapades to the bar, in which Bob would only drink to reach a 'happy state' while I would try to get wasted enough to stop thinking.

My brother and Ray knew something was wrong, though I had only told Ray about Gabriel. I swore that everything was alright and I just needed some time to get on my feet. I kept avoiding them. They knew me too well and if I was often around them they'd eventually find out.

It was at that same comic shop that I met someone else and it again, didn't work.

Maybe there was something wrong with that place. Maybe I was bound to leave and only then find my real path in life. I didn't pay attention to those kind of things at that time, but lately I had learned to believe in fate; even trust it.

I bravely entered the shop, casting a nervous look around the place. Bob was behind the counter typing something into the old computer. It was really, really old, yet it sufficed for what it was needed. Before I could say hello to him, my old boss appeared. He glared at me, wanting to set the fact that I wasn't welcomed. As if I needed more proof.

"What are you doing here?" he asked. Bob looked up from his task and waved.

"Just visiting my friend. Don't worry, I won't stay much," I replied just as bitterly. I hated rancorous people. The man turned his back on me and walked away.

I leaned on the counter. "Isn't he ever going to forgive me? I'm not fucking asking him to hire me again, just to stop looking at me like I'm the worst piece of shit!" Bob only laughed at that, going through the pages of an old Superman issue. He was a superhero-freak, no surprise he loved to call himself 'Super Bob'. "It's not funny, Bob."

"Yes it is...or it was." He snickered. 

I knew what he was talking about, and that is why I was so annoyed. "No, the way I lost my job wasn't funny either."

"Oh, come on! It so was!" he insisted. I was not amused in the slightest. Bob finally got it and sobered up. "Ok, ok. Maybe it wasn't funny at the moment. But now you have a new job and a new life, so it doesn't affect you. Have that in mind and think about it again..." 

I did. I let the person I now was rethink and reconsider that past situation. Two months later and from my brand new point of view it was, definitely, funny.

"You're right." I nodded, smiling.

"That is what I wanted to hear!" Bob pointed at me and then got lost in thought, chuckling again. "Oh just had to puke all over the pile of new comics when the boss came to talk to you!"

"I couldn't have chosen when to do it. I felt like shit, man!" I laughed now, as if the experience wasn't mine anymore.

"Well, I would have felt like shit too...anyone would! Who drinks so much whiskey at 10 in the morning? I still remember when you entered the shop, you could barely walk," Bob recalled.

I remembered too, and it all replayed in my head as I sat on the floor.


The night before I was fired, I had broken up with Laura. Laura, who I had met in that same comic shop almost three months earlier. At that point in my life, I was sure that I wasn't interested in girls. However, my first serious experience with a boy had gone so wrong, that I was determined to neglect my own feelings and give a girl a try. Perhaps it would mean less problems, there would be nothing to hide. I honestly didn't understand what the point in hiding who you liked was and I didn't need to; but I knew that not everybody was prepared to share their sexuality with the world.

Laura was a nice, pretty girl with dark blond hair and gray eyes. Very smart, too. She used to visit the shop to buy some comics for her little brother. Bob had noticed her looking at me -so he told me- and he was the one who closed the gap in between us and encouraged us to talk. Soon after that we started dating. I slowed down on my drinking, having someone to distract me from my dark thoughts and Gabriel's memory.

My friends and family had loved her as soon as they met her. They were so happy for me -thinking that she'd be the love of my life, that I ended up feeling guilty. Sometimes I would feel like I was using Laura for a trial, an experiment; just because I was afraid of being alone again. In my own way I did love her. Laura was excellent company and we got along very friends.

As weeks passed by she wanted more. She didn't ask for anything unusual, just the normal things any couple would do once they got to know each other enough. But I couldn't go past the stage of kisses and caresses. In Frank's case I had chosen not to go farther. I wanted to wait until he was ready and I didn't feel the necessity to do anything else. With Laura I just couldn't, the desire wasn't there, I didn't feel sexually attracted to her. I had noticed that she was feeling rejected. She was beginning to think she'd done something wrong or that she wasn't attractive enough.

One night, I drank some beers with Bob to gave myself courage and went to pick her up. We spent the night out and wound up having sex. I had never felt so weird and out of place in my life. Embarrassing and low as it might sound, I resorted to thinking of Gabriel to get turned on. Still, it hadn't been the same. I had done my best to hide all the negative feelings and not let my face give them away. I'd concentrated on not moaning the wrong name -a cliche I was afraid of- and mostly tried to forget the fact that it was my first time.

Gabriel and I had made love several times, but I had always been the passive one. I had made myself believe that we always did it that way because it's how we both liked it most. The truth was -and now with the memory gone cold I could admit it- that Gabriel had never wanted us to try it the other way round; even if I had proposed it. To him, it would have meant graduating as a fag. That was something my ex had always been very afraid -and ashamed- of.

Laura hadn't noticed my pondering or if she had, she hadn't let me know. Nevertheless I felt very uncomfortable after that night. I had started to drink more again, visiting bars almost every night. I was never in the mood to go out with Laura, yet I'd never be mean to her. All the contrary, I would always look for a polite way to reject her invitations, find the perfect excuse so she wouldn't know the truth.

She put up with me for one more month, maybe even longer. She had assumed that I was depressed and needed support. Finally, we took conscience that things weren't working. I knew that I would only hurt her if we persisted and it wasn't fair to her. We resolved, by mutual agreement, to break up.

As soon as my friends and family found out -or better said after I commented about it to Mikey and he told everybody- the phone calls started; all of them blaming me and asking what I'd done to her. That's why I had left my phone home and spent the whole night drinking.

The following morning I only went home to take a shower and then headed for work. I hadn't walked more than a couple of blocks when the gloomy sensation returned. I didn't give a fuck about anything. I felt like I had fucked up my opportunity to have a normal life. I entered a bar, drank two bottles of whiskey and then went on my way.


Now with my mind back in the present, I looked at Bob who had stayed in silence, respecting mine.

"I was really...really fucked up," I answered at last, remembering my poor state when I crossed the shop's door that dreadful morning.

"Oh, yes you were! I made you sit down right away so the boss wouldn't notice," he threw in. "A new shipment had arrived and we took advantage of that. We were supposed to separate all the magazines to then place them on the shelves, so that explained us being on the floor."

"Dunno. I had no idea what I was doing, I'd never been so drunk in my life -I guess because I hadn't given myself the chance to recover from the previous night. Then I suddenly felt sick, too sick. I didn't have time to tell you anything or try to get up or move because...I wasn't able to. A minute later I was feeling a lot better, but the pile of comics in front of me was bathed in vomit and reeking. I raised my eyes and there was Richard, looking at me disgusted," I related the episode.

"And you made it worse when you tried to speak and only managed to slur 'Sooowy, boss...maywe I can wash them?' That was...classic!" He was laughing hysterically and I couldn't help but join him. It was the first time I had allowed myself to talk about it; and now that it was history I found it just hilarious.

"What the fuck are you doing? Even without working here you cause me trouble, Gerard?" Richard asked gravely. Bob and I shut up, trying to keep a straight face but failing.

"Sorry, we were just talking and suddenly remembered something funny. I'm leaving now!" I told him half giggling.

"Ok..." he disappeared again.

"Oh, Gerard...wanna go for a drink? You can have a soda," Bob invited.

I meditated my answer. "I think a glass of beer won't kill me," I replied convinced.

We went for it and I kept my promise, drinking only one glass. I had this idea that giving myself permission to drink some beer once in a while helped keep my yearning for something stronger under control. On the other hand I knew that I was playing with fire.

When I was leaving, chewing on a mint gum to get rid of the alcohol smell, Bob stopped me. "I have nothing to do this Sunday. Wanna go to the Zoo with Frankie?"

"Yeah, let's do it! Maybe I'll tell Ray too, he deserves some fun."

"Ok, I'll call you to set up the hour, ok?"

"Ok! Bye Bob!"

At home, I found Ray cleaning the couch. Frankie wasn't there, only Puppy ran to me barking happily.

"What happened there? Was it you, Puppy? Don't tell me you peed on the couch!" I talked to the dog, picking him up. He licked my face and made that grimace that was so close to a smile.

" wasn't Puppy, it was Frankie," Ray replied, sounding worried. I was intrigued now. It wasn't the first time Frank had mistaken something for the bathroom. He had never mistaken it for the couch until then, but it wasn't something to worry about. We were used to it.

"Wrong place again?"

"No...he peed on himself while sleeping. He looked distressed, like he was having a nightmare. I went to see if he was fine and he had awakened. When he realised what had happened, he ran to the bedroom and closed the door," Ray informed me. Now I knew the reason for his face, that had never happened before.

"Are you sure Frank's fine?"

"Yes...well, at least he was calm. I didn't dare enter, I was afraid he'd get nervous. I spied through the door lock and he had changed his pants and was curled up on the bed."

I entered the room, trying not to make much noise. When Frank saw me his eyes went big with fear. He plunged to the floor, grabbed the wet clothes and hid under the bed.

I lied down on my stomach to be able to look at him. "Frankie, why are you hiding, baby? I've missed you, come give me a hug?"



"'C-cause you...m-maybe you'll be m-mad and h-hit me," he whispered.

"What? Do you hear what you're saying, Frankie? I won't hit you! I've never done it and I never will! Why would I?"

"I...I p-peed on the c-couch...d-dunno why, I was s-sleeping. And h-he...he'd h-hit me when I did th-that on the b-bed...." Frankie sobbed over his crossed arms.

"I know, you told me. But I'm not him, babe. Is that what you dreamed of? With that man?"

"N-no...but he d-did that. I d-dreamed other things, w-was in the o-other place, was ol-older."

I took him by the elbows and pulled him out, sitting him on my lap. He tried to get away, but I didn't let him. "Shh...I'm not angry at all, you don't have anything to fear. Tell me what you dreamed, it'll make you feel better."

"K-kay..." he relaxed and hugged my neck, kissing my lips very lightly. Then he stayed quiet, staring at me. He didn't have his glasses on and when I looked into his eyes I saw love, but also hurt. "Th-they were h-holding me, three of th-them so I c-couldn't escape or k-kick them. I s-screamed but G-grace didn't hear m-me. And...and it h-hurt! Th-they were g-grabbing me too hard and it h-hurt, my w-wrists and feet. An-and one had a h-huge sy...syr..."

"Syringe?" I guessed.

"Y-yeah, that. And I c-couldn't do anything and h-he gave me the sh-shot and it h-hurt so much and...then they t-took me to that r-room again. Th-the one that's all a biiiig m-mattress. I d-didn't want to be al-alone there. W-wanted out. I f-felt so dizzy and c-could not walk. I w-wasn't bad, really! I...I was on-only crying 'cause c-couldn't find G-Grace! Th-then I screamed a l-lot and I think I f-fell asleep and then I w-was in my bed," he described his dream which was evidently about memories from when he was in the institution. They had probably come back to him after talking to Grace. Only one thing left me thinking: Grace had told me that Frankie was in isolation only once. However, Frankie had just said 'again'.

"Frankie, you had been in that room before, hadn't you? The one that looked like a mattress?"

"Y-yeah, once."

"And that second time that you dreamed of, it happened too? In real life?"

"Th-think it did. Y-yeah...I'm s-sure." He nodded, a single tear rolling down his cheek.

"Grace never knew about it?"

"Th-they told me not to t-tell her or they'd use a b-bigger needle next t-time," he confirmed. Not even expensive private places were free of assholes.

"And did they ever take you there again?" I questioned, concerned.

"N-no, 'cause G-Grace was th-there and never let th-them." I was glad to hear that answer.

"You know what? Now we're gonna forget about all those bad things and you'll also forget about the little accident you had today. No one's angry. I already forgot and Ray already forgot!"

"K-kay, I'll f-forget."

"And...I love you so much and I'm so proud of the good, sweet, smart boy you are, that I have a surprise for you," I announced.

"T-tell me! T-tell me tell me t-tell me! N-no surprise, w-wanna know now!" he grasped my t-shirt and shook me.

"Ok! But you'll have to wait until Sunday, anyway. You, Bob, Ray -if he accepts- and I are gonna go to the Zoo!"

"Y-YES! L-LOVE YOU!" he kissed me deeply and feelingly, our tongues playing for a while and acting like the best distraction. Another one of those times when we'd have two very contrasting situations in a row. For anyone else, something extremely odd. For me, the most normal thing in the world.

As if having been spring-propelled, Frankie got up and ran out of the room. I followed and found him talking to Ray excitingly with rapid hand movements. "W-we're going to the Z-zoo on S-Sunday! S-say you'll c-come with us! P-pleaseee. P-please please p-please come!"

"Uh...I guess I can't say no, can I?" Ray looked at me laughing.

"N-nope you c-can't. 'C-cause if you s-say no...the ar-army of little p-people will kick y-your ass. D-don't care if you d-don't see them, they'll k-kick you the s-same!" Frankie menaced.

"Then more than ever. I say yes, I'm going!"


When I opened the door for Bob that Sunday morning, I noticed that something was different, though I couldn't put a finger on what. Frankie and I had stayed up watching movies until really late the night before, so I wasn't with all my senses on. As Bob stepped in, I stared at him numbly. He smirked, clearly enjoying my confusion.

"B-Bob! You sh-shaved!" Frankie screamed from behind me. So that was it.

"It's true! How come I couldn't figure out what was different about you?" I scratched my head.

"Maybe if you tried fully opening your eyes, sleepy head?" he patted my back and went to hug Frankie, lifting him and making him stand over the coffee table.


"Now you can appreciate me better. What do you think, kid?" he interrogated him.

Frankie adjusted his glasses with an intellectual gesture and studied Bob's face from every angle. " l-look...weird..."

"That for sure!" I interrupted.

"Shh...he's the expert here!" Bob shushed me. "Ignore your boyfriend and continue, Frankie boy."

Frank touched Bob's chin. "W-weird but...b-but good, and your f-face's soft now. Y-you look young!"

"Hey! I look young because I am young! I'm only 2 years older than you!"

"H-how old?"

"Fraaankie..." I pinched his belly, making him giggle. "He just told you. Don't be lazy, it's no huge calculation!"

"Mmm...y-you're...20! R-right, Bob?"


"Oh! I th-thought you were old l-like Gee!"

"What? You think I'm an old man, baby?" I simulated annoyance.

"Y-yesss! Y-you and Ray are o-old." He doubled over with laughter and almost fell from the table, but Bob caught him. "S-super Bob saved m-me!" he continued laughing.

"Did I hear someone calling me old?" Ray, who had been drinking coffee in the kitchen, appeared.

"Y-yes! O-old uncle Ray! And...and p-papa Gee!" Frankie was on the floor now, having a serious laugh attack.

I picked him up and sat down with him on my lap. "Oh, yeah? I'm your papa now? Too old to be your boyfriend?" I joked.

He suddenly stopped laughing and looked up at me, catching up his breath. "N-no, it was a j-joke! Y-you're not too o-old for that!'s on-only..." He put his open hand in front of his face and touched each finger while murmuring, "N-nineteen...t-twenty...twenty one...t-twenty two...twenty th-three. Th-that's...five! On-only 5 years, so n-not much. N-nope."

"You're not gonna change me for a younger boy, then?"

"N-NO! NEVER!" he shouted.

"Uff! I was scared for a while! Then I guess I can do this..." Placing my hand on his neck to support his head, I laid him back a little, kissing him passionately in a Hollywood-style. He followed the scene perfectly, his hands over my shoulders as he responded to my actions with equal intensity. Our two friends completed the moment adding the soundtrack, only that instead of a love song it was a duet of 'awwws'.

We broke the kiss and with a quick move, I brought Frankie to a sat up position, his long entangled hair flying around and falling on his face.

"You're just too pretty, you know that?" I brushed his hair back.

"Y-yeah but you're m-more!"

"No, you are!"


"Boys! What about this is a tie and you're both the prettiest boys around and we leave already?" Bob suggested.

"Yes, I think this was enough Saturday-evening-cheesy-love-movie time for a Sunday morning!" Ray added.

"Jealous bitches!" I spat, getting up together with Frankie. The boy just laughed again. "But ok, let's go."

Although Ray and Bob obviously knew each other, they weren't exactly friends. Not because they didn't want to, but because they'd never had the chance. They had only met a few times when I invited them for my birthday or random get-togethers. Other than that, I'd always hang out with them separately. Maybe because they were so different from each other, I had needed those two points of view to not mix.

For this opportunity, they seemed to get along considerably well. They talked about music, instruments, comics and even jobs. It was when Frankie complained that he was bored that they began to disagree. Bob -like always- went for the loud, crazy, somewhat physical ways of fun. Ray, on the other hand, reprimanded the blond one because he believed that it wasn't good for Frankie to get so worked up and hyper. I chose to just listen and have fun, they made the car ride rather entertaining.  

"Oh, day of fun is one day of fun! It's not like we're gonna visit a boring historic museum," Bob claimed.

"I know, but I wanna see you control Frankie if he's too excited by the time we get to the zoo," Ray returned.

"No problem, Super Bob can handle hyper short kids like nothing!"

"S-super Bob can d-do it all! He r-rocks!" Frankie intervened.

"Yeah? You don't even care that he calls you short?" Ray questioned.

"N-nope, I like b-being small 'cause ev-everybody carries me and's n-nice!"

"And then he gets angry when we call him a baby!" I snickered.

"D-don't be mean! N-not a baby but...but l-like it the s-same."

"Then stop eating so much, or we won't be able to carry you anymore!" Ray's voice was heard and right after the mirror showed me something passing fast over Bob and landing on Ray. I turned my head and it was Frankie, sitting on him and punching his chest.

"Frankie! What are you doing?" I called him.

"H-he's mean!"

"He was joking, babe!"

"Y-yeah? You w-were, Ray?"

"Of course I was joking! You're not too heavy at all, really. Stop beating me?"

"K-kay." Frank went back to his place and we spent the rest of the ride singing, an activity everybody agreed with.


We entered the zoo, me holding Frank's hand. Everything was fine until I let go of it for a second to search for my wallet. Big mistake. He took the chance to shoot himself out of my reach and ran away.

"Shit," I muttered. "Guys, would you please go get him while I buy the tickets?"

"Let's go, Ray!" Bob caught him by an arm and sprinted off.

When it was my turn to pay, the girl in charge observed me weirdly and then looked past me. My friends had returned with a sulking Frankie secured in between both their grips.

"He'd gone to see the monkeys," Ray informed. "Good that we found him before he was mistaken for one!"

"Don't worry, they won't mistaken Frankie when you are with us." Bob chuckled.

Ray puffed. "Veeery funny." 

"M-monkeys don't have a f-fro..." Frank shook his head.

"See? The boy knows better than you." Ray pushed Bob playfully and they chortled. Was I suddenly surrounded by little kids or what?

"Excuse me..." the girl at the entrance addressed me. "I've notice you have a...special kid with you."

"H-heard, Gee? She s-said it right. D-didn't call me c-crazy or...or r-retarded." Frank stood in front of the cabin. "Y-you're a good g-girl."

"Aww, thanks!" she responded. "And you're a very pretty boy! Now, what I was gonna tell you..." She redirected her attention to me. " that you have to be very careful and be sure you have him securely held and watched. The Zoo has fences in front of the cages for better safety, but they're not too tall and kids are rather skillful when it comes to climbing or sneaking into places."

"Don't worry, what you just saw won't happen again," I told her.

"Ok, then. Sorry, I have to tell you this because if something happened, the zoo's staff wouldn't acknowledge any responsibility."

"I know you're just doing your job, no need to apologize."

"Have a good day!" She smiled.

We finally walked in, Frankie dropping Ray's hand to take mine, his other one still on Bob's. 

Ray changed side and came to walk beside me. "Maybe he's still a little angry at me," he whispered.

"Nah, I don't think so. It's just that he's grown very fond of Bob 'cause he's like a big kid too, you know?"

"Yeah, I've noticed that. Hey Gee, have you called that guy Grace gave you the number of?"

" I'm a coward, haven't had the guts to. My detective self needed some days off," I said. My notebook had been resting next to the phone for two days, so I wouldn't forget; but so far I had never felt like it was the right time.

"I can understand that, it's been all very weird and...dense," Ray supported my case.

"Wh-what's dense?" Frankie demanded to know.

"Himself, of course!" Bob spoke to Frankie secretively, though loud enough so we would hear it.

"Got a problem, blondie?" Ray faced Bob, his hands on his hips making his marked biceps very visible.

"I mean...that your afro is extremely dense, you didn't let me finish!" Bob mended his error.

"Chicken," Ray labeled him.

"Ch-chickens? Where?" Frank got into the conversation once again, bringing up general laughter.

"Bob's the only one here, Frankie. There ain't chickens in the Zoo. Wanna see the monkeys first, then?" Ray propounded.


We got to the monkeys' cage and Frank started to jump up and down, tugging at our hands. I had never liked monkeys, but kept the comment to myself.

"L-lemme go!"

"We can't let you go, you have to stay here behind the fence," I explained.

"I w-will. But l-let go of m-my hand!"

"Ok, I'll trust you."

"Are you sure?" Bob questioned.

I nodded, freeing Frank's hand but holding him by his belt instead. He instantly climbed to the middle of the fence. Only his legs, up to his knees, rested against the horizontal bar. He stretched out with both arms, trying to reach the cage.

", you're just gonna fall," I warned.

"N-no I won't, l-lemme."

"Frankie you..." before I could finish, I saw his upper body move forward as his feet were in the air. Thankfully, Ray's reflexes were enviable good. He got a handle of Frank's shirt and we both pulled him back just in time.

"Hand," Bob simply said to Frank, acting like an adult for once.

"Yes, you lost your opportunity," I stated.

"N-nooo pleease! I'll b-be good!" he pleaded. As much as he usually convinced me when he did that, I knew that there were some promises he just couldn't keep. It wasn't even his fault.


"Let's do something, at least for a while." Bob crouched in front of Frank. "Get on, is it better?"

"Yep, b-better!" He got on Bob's back and we continued with our visit.

"Ray's right, boy. You're getting heavy, I might need some unguent for my back tomorrow. Ouch, don't kick, it's a joke!"

It would be a hard, long day I could tell; but it'd be worth it.  

Chapter Text

I'll give you all I got to give
if you say you love me too.
I may not have a lot to give,
but what I got I'll give to you.
I don't care too much for money,
money can't buy me love.

On our next Zoo stop, we headed for the tigers. It was a huge, fenced area with lots of vegetation and even a fake lake, trying to recreate their natural habitat. Three adult tigers, a young one and several cubs were slugging under the sun.

"," Frankie exclaimed. I had problems deciding whether I should stare at those magnificent animals or Frank's ecstatic face. He was in a trance, eyes wide open as if blinking could be a crime because it would make him miss important seconds. For the first time he was seeing in the flesh those animals he had always admired through books.

"Beautiful, aren't they?" I asked.


"I guessed you'd like to have some reminders of this day and brought this." Ray retrieved a digital camera from inside his backpack and offered it to Frankie. "I'll teach you so you can take pictures yourself."

"Are you sure, Ray?" I stopped his hand.

"Yeah, why?"

"He might drop it..." I signaled Frank's hands that were laced together over Bob's chest. They were shaky, as usual. I hated having to make those warnings, but I thought it necessary.

Ray sighed, thinking for a moment. "Shit, I should have thought of it before speaking. If it was mine I'd take the risk, but it's my brother's." He seemed to feel guilty, while Frankie was looking at him disappointed. However, the boy didn't complain, sadly used to people not trusting fragile objects in his hands.

"It's ok, Ray, Frankie understands."

"I know what we'll do," Ray spoke to Frank again. "I'll hold the camera here, in front of you. You look at the screen. What you see, is what will be in the pic, right?"


"So, you'll guide my hands with yours until you like what you're seeing. When you're satisfied, say 'now' and I'll take the pic. Ok?"

"L-like this?" Frankie made Ray move the camera to the right.

"Yep, just tell me when."

"L-let's see...t-tigers look very s-small here! Oh! Th-the babies! I w-want the babies w-with their mom! Th-this, now!"

Ray clicked the button and then showed Frankie the photo. "Do you like it? It was a very good choice."

"Y-yes! It's c-cute!" Frank squealed watching the little screen.

"When I get home I'll print the pics for you, so you can have them bigger," Ray promised.

"Yay! C-can we take m-more?"

"Of course."

"Oh, you two are a great photographing duo!" I commented. It was a real good picture, even well centered.

"They are! Later we should take some pics of Frankie near the animals, don't you think, Gerard?" Bob suggested.

"That's a good idea." I nodded, and Frank grinned wider.

We visited lions, hippopotamuses, zebras, gorillas, and all kinds of birds. Ray and Frankie managed to get fantastic pictures of them all. What's more, they were exceptionally lucky to have a peacock display his tail for them. That didn't happen too often, those animals could be vain greedy fuckers and leave you waiting for hours.

At one point, noticing Bob's painful expression, I told him to rest for a while and I carried Frank on my back instead. Of course he could walk, but every time we let him do so, he would complain about our restrictions and try to liberate himself from us. Using us as his personal horses appeared to amuse him enough to forgive the lack of freedom.

When we got to the giraffes' sector, one of those incredibly tall animals stretched out its long neck, its head getting pretty close to mine and Frank's face. The boy emitted a short shriek and hid against my back.

"It won't eat you, babe!" I laughed. "I think it wants you to feed it."


Ray pulled out a handful of grass from beside the fence. "I agree. Here you go, show it this."  

Frank grabbed it and offered it to the giraffe, extending his arm up as far as he could. I wasn't able to see his face, but I imagined he was still scared. The giraffe tested the situation first, sniffing Frank's hand and what it held. Finally, it separated its lips and slowly made the plant disappear, seemingly sucking it in.

"W-wow..." he muttered again, releasing the air he had been keeping in.

Very proud of himself, Ray showed me the pic he'd gotten of that moment. Frank's half panicked face in it was priceless.

"That's so good!"

"G-gee...g-giraffes make any n-noise? L-like dogs or...or l-lions or m-monkeys?" Frank questioned.

"I don't know, never heard them."

"Y-you?" he asked Ray and Bob. Both boys shook their heads.

"Gu-guess they're m-mute, then. Y-you think the o-other animals make f-fun of them?"

"I don't think so. Animals are not as mean as some people, I'm sure they accept giraffes the way they are," I told him, relating that to human beings more than I had intended. I suspected that Frank had unconsciously done the same.

He took my words as a total confirmation. "Th-that's cool."  


"'ll have to walk for a while. My back's hurting and Ray can't carry you and take pics at the same time." I flexed my knees so he could get off.

"I...I'm too h-heavy?"

"No, love, you're not too heavy. Just as heavy as a grown up boy can be." I took his hand firmly.

"Ah." He didn't walk at first, pouting like a stubborn little kid.

"Baby? Don't you like walking hand in hand with your boyfriend?" I tickled his armpit playfully.

He giggled and looked up, catching my mouth in a quick kiss. I brought him closer and paid him back with a longer one. For once, I didn't bother to check if someone was watching us.

"L-let's go see m-more animals" He tugged at my arm, practically running and dragging me behind.

"Ok, but slower!"

"S-see? You're o-old!" He laughed.

"Have I said today how much I love this kid?" Bob chuckled. "Seriously, he's like my idol!"

"Really funny, Bob...really funny." I punched his arm.


"W-wanna pee," Frank declared a couple of animals later.

"Ok...let's search for the bathrooms, then." I looked around for signs. Soon, we saw some green arrows everywhere pointing towards the diverse facilities of the zoo.

The boys' bathroom presented many cubicles, but the main area wasn't too big. Embedded into the left wall were the urinals, and on the opposite one laid three sinks, a small marbled looking surface and a mirror.

There were a lot of people there. Adults talking loudly while their kids emptied their soda saturated bladders, and children commenting about everything they'd seen or screaming and laughing as if they were at a playground. An inexpert looking parent was struggling to change his little baby's diaper over the sink counter. The diminutive infant wouldn't stop crying his lungs out and kicking his chubby legs.

Frankie glanced towards the urinals -where a young man was doing his thing- and flinched.

"You don't have to use those. Come on, we'll look for the cleanest toilet," I whispered in his ear. He didn't move. Instead he looked at the floor, covering his ears with his hands. "Frankie, are you ok?"

"T-tell them to sh-shut up," he murmured. This place was too packed and noisy for him.

I hugged him. "I can't do that...they're mostly kids, and a baby. Just go pee and we'll leave quickly." 

"T-tell them to sh-shut the fuck up," he repeated louder, slightly trembling. A couple of boys turned to us curiously.

"Frankie calm down, everything's okay, you don't have to be scared," I tried again. He was breathing more rapidly.

"I C-CAN'T CALM D-DOWN. T-TOO MUCH N-NOISE, I D-DON'T LIKE IT, M-MAKE IT S-STOP GEE, MAKE IT S-STOP!" he screamed and hit my chest with his fists. Now everybody had stopped their current activities to behold the show. I wasn't embarrassed at all, I could never feel ashamed of Frankie; I just hated people staring at him like he was a freak. He noticed their eyes on him and hated it too. "D-DON'T LOOK AT M-ME, ASSHOLES. SH-SHUT UP!"

"'s ok, we'll go out now, come with me." I throw my arm around his shoulders, guiding him to the door.

"Th-they won't sh-shut up. Th-they won't. N-no. T-too much noise, G-gee...too m-much," he kept on babbling.

"I know, baby, I know. We're leaving." I kissed his head. "Sorry..." I said to no one in particular before stepping out with Frankie. Ray and Bob looked worried.

"What happened? We heard Frank screaming and were about to enter," Bob asked.

" scared because there were too many people in there, and they were all talking and screaming and a baby was crying..." I related.

Grace had told me that Frankie was never able to endure loud noises -whether it was voices, music, or the TV- unless he was the one making them. He would run and isolate himself in a quiet room whenever other patients started screaming. Also, the only places where he'd accept to be surrounded by more than five people close to him were the classroom -when he used to attend- and the dining room. He explained to Grace that it was okay in those cases because the kids were sitting and in order. He didn't like it when it was a mess of people. Grace believed -and I agreed- that it could have to do with past experiences; maybe even from the short period of time when he lived with his mother. She must have screamed at him a lot, or maybe many people used to visit their house and they'd listen to loud music. Kids with Frank's problems were very sensitive and more likely to get scared in a stressful environment.

"Damn, never thought a bathroom could be so noisy!" Ray expressed surprised.

"It w-was! S-still have to p-pee." Frankie crossed his legs tight, looking desperate.

"Let's see..." I led him behind that same structure. There was a narrow corridor in between it and the wall surrounding the zoo. "You can pee here, no one will see you."

"K-kay. Y-you can s-stay 'cause you're m-my boyfriend, I d-don't mind."

"Ok," I responded, only staying to make sure he wouldn't run away after that.

Because of wanting to respect Frankie and give him some privacy, I was too slow. When I heard him zip up his pants and before I could snatch his hand back, he started to run. I had never been a runner, so it could be hard to catch up with him even if he wasn't that fast. I screamed for Bob and Ray to help me, but Frankie was already way ahead.

We chased after him, panting like dogs, until he stopped in front of a cage we hadn't visited yet: the elephants'. Several kids were standing in front of it, jumping and screaming to try and get the huge animal's attention. Frank froze, looking at the kids and then at the elephant with terror in his eyes. The elephant raised his trunk and walked towards the fence. Frankie walked backwards and then turned on his heels, running to us as soon as he saw us. He held my torso trembling from head to toes.

"'s g-gonna escape n-now. Y-yes...we h-have to l-leave, please..."

"No, Frankie, it can't escape..." I caressed his hair.

"Y-yes it can! Th-the children are m-making it an-angry and w-will escape and c-crush us all! Y-yes," he insisted.

I had never figured out where that fear of his came from. Neither had Grace. Frank wasn't scared of stepping into moving traffic, climbing things or playing with sharp objects. He didn't fear wild felines and would get into their cages if allowed. He would try to pet every dog he found on the street without ever considering one could bite him. However, he was terrified of being crushed to death by animals that you would never find in your everyday life. Animals that you would only see there, in the zoo, confined to their poor simulacrum of a jungle.

"The elephant's not angry, it's used to seeing kids. It's just greeting them with its trunk, see?" Ray helped.

"N-no it's not! An-angry!"

"You know how we told you that you weren't really heavy?" Bob intervened. "Well, elephants are heavy. Very very heavy. They can't jump fences. They're huge, heavy bastards!"

"Th-there are b-birds, they'll h-help it."

"Birds can't lift an elephant, Frankie. Come on, let's get closer so you can see it's harmless." I tried to make him, but he was rooted to his place. I walked the same, obliging him to move and overcome his fear.

"Gerard, are you sure you should force him?" Ray inquired.

"I don't know...I just want to make him see that there's no reason to be afraid of elephants."

"N-NO! L-LEMME! IT'S G-GONNA ESCAPE AND C-CRUSH US FIRST! P-PLEASE, NO!" he shouted desperate, causing the caretaker to come see what was wrong.

"Th-the elephant is g-gonna escape and c-crush us all! Ch-children screaming m-make it ner-vous!" Frankie told him.

The man smiled to me sympathetically, then spoke to Frank. "I know they're huge and you're small, which can be pretty scary. But I can assure you, that big boy wouldn't hurt anyone. He's lovely as a dog! And he can't leave his cage, anyway."

"Frankie says the birds can help him..." I added, hoping the man would dissipate all of his doubts.

"Not even all of our biggest birds could lift Billy one inch off the ground!"



"H-his name's B-Billy?"

"Yes. Follow me."

The caretaker guided us to a farthest side of the fence, out of the people's sight, where he opened a small section of it with a key and let us in. We were now in between the safety barrier and the actual big fenced area. The man entered a small building to the side and came back with a red purplish fruit, probably a large plum. He gave it to Frankie.

"Would any of you help the boy up so he can get closer to Billy? I'd do it myself, but he doesn't know me and I don't want to scare him."

"You're the tallest, Ray!" Bob pointed at my curled friend, hinting that he should compensate the fact that he hadn't carried Frank yet. Ray didn't object and I helped my boyfriend get as far up his back as possible.

"Wh-what if I m-make Billy mad?"

"You won't, Billy loves visitors," the man answered. "Now offer the fruit to him, he'll grab it with his trunk."

"K-kay..." Frank did as he was told, as I took the camera out Ray's pocket to catch the moment.

Billy gently accepted the plum and brought it to his mouth. After that, he extended his trunk again, reaching out for Frankie.

"Wh-what's he d-doing now?"

"Wait and see." The man smiled.

Billy's trunk first rested on top of Frank's head, then slid down along his hair. Lastly, the end with the opening touched Frankie's cheek -or better said half his face- as if giving him a kiss.

He shuddered, giggling. "Aww th-thanks, Billy! Y-you're a g-good boy. N-now I know you w-won't crush us."

Ray put him down. "No elephant will crush us, Frankie." 

"Y-you don't know all el-elephants! N-no one does, not e-even him!" He pointed to the elephant carer.

"No, but I know a lot about them, and they don't go around crushing people, trust me," the man ensured.

"S-still not sure. B-but Billy's cute, I l-like him very m-much. B-bye, Billy!" Frank blew the elephant a kiss, and I nearly jumped on him to eat him. He could be overwhelmingly sweet sometimes.

Frankie had maybe not completely conquered his fear, yet he had faced it which was an important step.

Feeling hungry, we went for some burgers. It was the speediest meal of our lives, since Frankie finished his in a minute and rushed us to do the same, not wanting to waste any second. He said that we could eat at home or anywhere, while it was only there that we were able to see so many animals. He was right after all, my wise little man. Frank wasn't less intelligent than anyone; he just had a different, simpler, more practical intelligence.

After roaming around the whole zoo, making sure that we hadn't deprived a single animal of our visit, we decided to snap ourselves. We tried telling Frankie to stand alone in front of the cages, but he insisted on climbing the barriers to get closer; so we ended up taking turns to pose with him.
I had always hated pictures as much as I hated to look at myself in the mirror. This time, though, I was excited to see us together. Our first photographs together.

I refused to look at them in the camera. I'd wait to see them bigger, to verify if the happiness I was feeling at the moment could be seen on my face, if it reflected in my eyes. I would choose the best ones to frame and this day would live forever in them. I wouldn't feel bad about myself, because I knew that I looked better when with Frank.

I photographed Bob, Ray and Frankie playing around and being silly, laughter making it hard for me to hold the camera still. When they began to imitate the animals I had to get them on video too, so we'd be able to laugh at the noises later.

Before leaving, we went to the Shop of Souvenirs. The plushies were so damn adorable that none of us could resist. Bob bought a camel which Frank said looked like him with beard. Ray, after hearing many monkey jokes, chose a little one and announced that he would adopt it as a brother. I settled upon a tiger and Bob call me too predictable, because almost everybody bought tigers. I didn't care, I liked my tiger. Since Frankie was the guest of honor, we allowed him to pick two plushies. A giraffe and an elephant were his choices, and we all smiled to each other without saying a word.


Having driven for a while, I found it strange that I couldn't hear anything coming from the back seat. I adjusted the mirror to be able to see, and what I witnessed made me literally squee. The three boys had fallen asleep. Ray against the car's door, Bob drooling over Ray's shoulder, and Frankie lying down on Bob's lap. An exciting, active day ending with the calmest, most peaceful image.

I parked on a side of the road. I knew it wasn't permitted to do so, but it'd only be for a few seconds; just the time it took me to turn the camera on and capture that moment forever. A perfect Kodak moment.

Even though Frankie woke up when we got home, that didn't last. After talking like a machine about everything we had seen and asking nearly one hundred times when Ray would bring us the pics, he passed out on the couch. Puppy was curled in between his arms. I adjusted a cushion under Frank's head and took off his glasses so he'd be more comfortable. I sat down beside him and soon fell asleep too, smiling to myself while I remembered his happy face. It wasn't only about having seen all the animals that he loved so much. It was also the fact that he wasn't left out of outings anymore.

Honestly, he was difficult to control and rather unruly and adventuresome; yet not much more than any other kid. He hadn't done anything as bad as to make me think that he couldn't be taken to a similar place again. Sure, he had his issues; but it wasn't such a problem if you knew him well and were practiced at managing certain situations. I still couldn't understand why those people at the institution, who were supposed to be a lot more experienced than I, would always make Frank stay.

Like it'd usually happen when I knew I couldn't sleep much, I woke up after no more than two hours. Stretching, I looked around thinking of what I should do first. I had already cleaned the mess Puppy made -having been home alone for so many hours. Then I saw my folded notebook next to the phone, showing that judge's number.

"Why not? Come on, Gerard, don't be a coward!" I encouraged myself. Not giving me time to doubt, I picked up the handset and clicked the numbers.

A young female voice answered. "Hello?"

"Hello...could I speak to Alexander Hawkins?"

"Wait a minute," she said coldly, returning after a while. "He asks who it is that wants to speak to him."

"He doesn't know me, but tell him that Grace Neil gave me his number."

"Ok..." she sighed. Again I had to wait, feeling pointlessly nervous. "Hello? He told me if you could call again in twenty minutes?"

"Of course! Alright then, thanks!" I answered.

"Bye." She hung up. I imagined that was Hawkins' house's phone number, and the girl was maybe his daughter. She didn't seem to enjoy doing secretary work.

I knew my nerves wouldn't let me do anything besides biting my nails and shaking my legs during those twenty minutes that I had to wait. I turned the TV on, keeping the volume low not to wake up Frankie. It wasn't of any help; going through all the existing channels at least five times only made me more anxious.

I spent the remaining minutes sauntering the room and glaring at my watch. When it finally signaled that it was, indeed, twenty minutes later, I practically jumped to the phone. However, when I was about to call, I felt a pair of arms holding me from behind and a pair of lips kissing behind my ear.

"Hey, pretty babe!" I turned to kiss him. He stared at me with sleepy eyes, his shin on my shoulder. "I just have to make a call and then I'll be all yours, ok?"


I hadn't even found the redial button -nerves blurring my vision and screwing up my pulse- when Frankie grabbed my face, kissed my cheek and then the side of my mouth.

"L-love you," he whispered seductively.

"I love you too, Frankie, a lot. But I really need to make this call, just a minute..."

"K-kay, meanie!" He sat up quietly, his eyes still fixed on me.

Again I turned my attention to the phone and pressed the button, but Frankie suddenly climbed on my lap, making me drop the handset to the floor.

"Frankie...ENOUGH! I told you to please wait, I'm busy! We have the whole night, so why the rush? I love you, but you have to understand when I'm being serious!" I spat annoyed, guilt hitting me like a huge piano on my head as soon as I saw his face. He withdrew from me to the opposite side of the couch and his eyes filled with tears.

I truly hated myself in those situations, when I let my nerves dominate me and I forgot who I was talking to. Of course he didn't mean to disobey, even less bother me. He was only showing his love for me and I had pushed him away like the worst asshole.

"S-sorry. N-now you're an-angry and don't l-love me," he murmured sadly.

"I am the one who's sorry, Frankie, I was a jerk. Of course I love you." I reached out for his hand but he didn't take mine. I heard a voice coming from the receiver and I picked it up.

"Hello?" a man asked.

"Oh yes, sorry...I dropped the phone, just a minute!" I explained.

I stared at Frank imploringly. "Please?" I mouthed, beckoning for him to get closer. When I saw him move, wiping away his tears, I patted my lap. He got the sign and rested his head on it.

"I'm here now. Sorry again, I just had a little...problem. Mister Hawkins?" I spoke on the phone as I twirled Frankie's hair with my fingers.

"Yes, I am. And don't worry, who am I speaking to?"

"I'm Gerard Way. Do you remember a woman called Grace Neil?" I asked, a little more relaxed hearing Alexander's friendly voice.

"I do, my cousin contacted us."

"She wanted to find out about Alice Caravaggio and Frank Iero..." I continued, demonstrating my knowledge on the subject. Upon hearing his name, Frankie looked up at me. With my index finger on my lips I told him to be silent.

"Aha. I consulted some colleagues and got some information about the woman, but I didn't have Grace's number and she didn't call me again."

"Oh, I know. She got in trouble at work due to using the phone for personal matters. She lives there and doesn't have a cellphone at the moment." I didn't give out many details. I couldn't tell him Grace had been nearly menaced if I expected the guy to speak. "That's why she told me to call you now. What could you find out?"

"Well...this woman, Alice Caravaggio, was in a very good financial situation. She died about two years ago and had written a legal testament, a will, establishing the destination for her money and possessions."

"Oh..." was all I managed to voice, many things already making sense in my head. All of the ideas I came up with were baleful. "Do you know anything else about that will?"

"She bequeathed her last house to her daughter. Any other properties had to be sold and the money kept in the bank with the rest. All that she left to her grandson, Frank Iero. However, it was stated that this relative is mentally ill. For that reason he can't dispose of the money, even after turning the legal age."

"And what did she decide then?" I interrupted, interested but confused. Frankie was still giving me that same questioning look.

"She designated a procurator who would make sure that the institution where her grandson was received the payment every month, for life, plus some more money for extra needs or spendings."

"But...why did they stop receiving it after two years of her death?" I asked.

"I don't know about that, I'd have to investigate further and locate the procurator. Since this woman Grace never called again, I didn't venture more into it."

"I understand. Could you try now? It's really important," I requested. It was a great chance to get to the truth. I had an hypothesis, but it wouldn't be of any use if I couldn't prove it.

"I'll try, I can't promise anything. Would you give me your number? It's a lot easier when I can contact people."

"Of course." I gave him both the numbers of my house and my cellphone. Then Alexander excused himself politely, saying he had things to do.

I was left overburdened, feeling like my brain was so swollen that it didn't fit inside my skull. Too much information, too many words. Specially one word bothering me; the one that would always complicate things, the one that could drive some people to do the unthinkable: money.
When money was involved, anything was possible.

"G-gee...can I k-kiss you now?" Frank's soft voice chased my bitterness away.

"Of course you can, my love. Come here." I sat him on my lap, closed my eyes and kissed him. Not thinking, only feeling. His lips on mine, his skin under my fingers as I caressed his face. No amount of money could ever replace that. What we had was invaluable.

Money, so they say,
is the root of all evil today.

Chapter Text

But every time I look at you,
no matter what I'm going through, it's easy to see.
And every time I hold you,
the things I never told you seem to come easily...
cause you're everything to me.

That Monday morning I left in a hurry. The day at the zoo had left me very tired, and the news I'd gotten through the phone hadn't helped either. It had been hard to fall asleep even if my body was imploring me to do it.

Ray had felt tempted to stay in bed too. He'd fought the temptation and won, but the battle was hard and long. He arrived later than usual -too late to save me from oversleeping, looking as if the pillow was still stuck to his face. There was no time for talking, so I decided to wait until my return to fill Ray in about what Hawkins had told me.

Frankie hadn't been awake at the time I left for work, so when I came back in the afternoon he almost threw me to the floor. He and Puppy seemed to have plotted against me. While I was trying to maintain my balance with Frank clinging to me like a koala, the dog painfully bit my calf.

"Uh...hello, love!" I greeted my boyfriend.

"M-missed you, m-meanie!"

"Woah! Why am I a meanie?" I asked, not understanding. "And tell Puppy I'm not a bone for him to gnaw on!"

"Frankie got angry because you weren't home when he woke up, we had a little huff here. He wanted me to take him to see you, but I finally explained things and he understood," Ray said.

"S-still angry and s-so is Puppy!"

"You didn't seem angry when we made hamburgers and fries..." Ray laughed.

"Oh! So that's how you really convinced him. Though...hamburgers again, Ray? Isn't it too much junk food?" I questioned. Ray gave me a funny look. "I know, I sound like my mother but...I think it's enough for this week."

"S-see that you're m-mean?" Frank punched me.

"How mean?" I trapped him in between my arms.

"V-very! L-lemme go!"

"Sure you want me to let you go?" I whispered in his ear, and he shuddered. I loved when he did that.


"I think someone's anger is evaporating too fast..." Ray sang.

"Do I let you go? Do I hold you tighter? Choose now!" I kept him in my arms, but spun him so he was facing me.

He bit his lip, the annoyance far gone. "H-hold me t-tighter, w-wait!" he pushed us apart a little with his hand. "K-kiss me too or...or I w-won't forgive you!"

"As if you needed to ask him that..." I heard Ray murmur. He was always saying that we were 'over-sugared'.

"Shh...shut up, Ray! Anyway he's right, Frankie. You didn't need to ask me that. The 'hold you tighter' option already featured a kiss."


"Yep! Like this one." I pulled him closer until our bodies were fully touching and we shared one of those breath taking, slow, long kisses.

"What about that call last night?" Ray asked once Frankie and I broke apart.

"I have some news but..." I signaled to Frank with my head. He'd turned the TV on, but appeared to be more interested in our conversation.

"Oh, leave it to me, I'm always well equipped!" Ray grabbed his backpack and took a small game console out of it. An old Nintendo, together with a legendary Mario cartridge.

"He knows how to play that?" I inquired.

"Yes, he does. He didn't tell you?"

"No, he didn't...that's weird."

"Oh, f-forgot!" Frank smiled. There were things or situations he would remember every detail of, while he'd totally forget others.

"I found my old consoles last week and brought them. We tried them all, but Frankie got a little frustrated with the newer ones. The magnificent, old Nintendo was the best option," he commented triumphantly.

"Y-yeah didn't un-understand the others, th-this one's e-easier. I d-die a lot, an-anyway, but it's f-fun." He nodded. "P-plug it, Ray!"

"I'm doing it!"

As soon as it was all plugged in, Frankie got lost among bricks, coins and pipes. The look of concentration on his face was something very amusing to behold, same as the random way in which he'd press all the buttons when he didn't know what to do.

"Let's go to the kitchen, we don't have much time," Ray suggested. "He loves it, but gets tired of it fast."

"That's good, at least he won't become addicted to it, don't you think?" I laughed, even though it was sometimes a problem how soon Frank got tired of most activities.


After I told Ray everything, he remained silent, thoughtful. He hadn't liked what he heard. " should stop now. Just live your life and take care of Frankie, forget about his past," he said shortly.

"What? I can't stop! I need to know why things happened the way they did, why there was so much shit against the poor boy! I want to do it for Frankie."

"I know Gee's about money. When there's money involved, there's danger. Especially with that mafia-man Frank's mother has on her side," he justified his opinion.

"I'm not going to do anything, at least for now. I'm just trying to find out, nothing's gonna happen by just asking around. Linda and that asshole must be hiding somewhere far away," I replied.

"You can't be so sure. See...I know you're a stubborn bastard, and probably nothing I could tell you is going make you change your mind; but please be careful. Don't go too far, you can't fix the past. You're helping make Frankie's present better. That's more important, don't ruin it," he insisted.

"I'll be careful, I promise. I'm only going to wait for this guy to call me again, that's all."

"Gerard..." Ray sighed, but said nothing else.

"G-gee, Ray! I...I'm b-bored already, come h-here?" Frankie called us. I was glad to end that conversation. Even if I knew that there could be some danger, I felt like I had to know more.

"You abandoned Mario?" I sat with him.

"Y-yeah, wanna d-do another th-thing."

"I'm gonna go take a shower now, maybe you'll play a little longer if Ray plays with you? It's more fun that way..."

"Oh about that, I can't stay until you shower today, Gee. My dad just texted and he needs me now. I'm sure Frankie will behave in the meantime, right boy?" Ray ruffled his hair. The random thought of how long Frank's hair was crossed my mind. I loved it, but he rarely accepted to brush it so it was a real mess.

"Y-yes, I'll be g-good. B-but...Gee takes t-too much time, he sh-should hurry up."

"I will, I will!" I protested. Now Frankie was the one sounding like my mother.

When Ray left, I went for clean clothes and got into the bathroom. Frankie was watching some cartoons and I knew I'd have to be quick. He did behave a lot better than before, but I still didn't trust him alone for too long. It was better to prevent accidents when possible.

I turned on the water -barely warm- and got under the shower. I was soaking my hair when I heard the door open. Poking my head from one side of the curtain I saw Frankie standing there, clean clothes folded against his chest.

"Do you need something, Frankie?" I asked.

"C-can I shower w-with you? P-Please?"

"Uh..." I had no excuse. There was no reason to tell him 'no', especially after how he had asked for it. It might even be something good, it could help us feel more comfortable around each other. On top of that, we'd save time and I'd have one less problem -or two: no more asking Ray to stay while I showered, and no more worrying about Frankie getting hurt in the bathroom by himself.

"Ok, come in."

"I'm d-dressed, silly. W-wait!" Frank laughed.

He left what he was holding over the toilet together with his glasses, and quickly took off his clothes. As he walked towards the bathtub, my eyes didn't wait for permission. He was so pretty, so...delicate. Angelical face, slender shoulders and chest, slightly rounded belly and feminine hips. He was mostly hairless except for the thin trail of hair that started under his deep belly button and ended there, where I diverted my glance, looking at his legs instead. They were short, but well proportioned. Small feet, just like him. Small, beautiful, and naked in front of me.

Looking into his eyes, I opened the curtain and offered him my hand. He didn't move at first, and I could sense that he was watching me too. I felt so weird, even more naked than I was, my old insecurities coming back all together. Then he smiled and took my hand, stepping into the shower with me. Everything was alright again.

We froze under the falling water, our eyes locked until Frank's hair got wet and fell on his face, interrupting his view. He raised both hands and ran them through his locks, fixing them back. His perfect features became visible, adorned and highlighted by the cascading drops. Hazel orbs spying me through dripping eyelashes, eyes as perfect to me as everything that surrounded them. Frankie knew that and never avoided my look; he always returned it, unashamed.

He tiptoed and kissed my nose, grinning like a little child. Next he grabbed my face and kissed my lips. I placed my hands on his hips, loving the sensation yet trying to stay cool. Instead of bringing him closer, I kept my arms semi extended so our bodies would not meet. It was the first time we were totally naked together, and I didn't think it convenient. I didn't want a nice moment to turn awkward.

After a tender, moist kiss, things were completely normal. We washed ourselves while singing some random tunes, having fun and laughing. I shampooed his hair, he lathered my back. I stepped aside every time Frankie went under the shower to flush the soap and shampoo away, avoiding accidental grazes.

When we were done, I left the bathtub first and helped him out; throwing the big, white towel over his shoulders. Then I took a smaller one and dried his hair. He could perfectly do it himself, but I needed to coddle my boyfriend. He giggled and seemed extremely happy, and I knew that I wanted it to be like this forever.


All along the week we shared the shower. When I told Ray that he wouldn't need to stay any longer once I was home, he didn't like the reason much. He opined that I was putting myself in a very compromising situation, that I'd have to be twice as strong. I had, so far. There had been some days when Frank and I explored each other a little more, since that was still something new for us; the feeling of the other's skin under our fingers and how different it tasted. It was sensual, inviting. Yet my infallible self control had persisted. I didn't know how I'd succeeded at having such dominion over my own body. It wasn't such a struggle anymore, it didn't mean suffering to me. It didn't matter how far we'd get, I always enjoyed our intimate moments and it always felt enough in the end.

Frankie, on the other hand, never tried to control his feelings or sensations. He was spontaneous. He was discovering a new world, feeling things he had never felt before and couldn't even fully understand. He didn't attempt to, he just followed his instincts. Other times he was oblivious to his body reactions. It had happened a couple of times that week, and I'd pretended not to see while we kept playing around with shampoo bubbles.

Before this change in our routine, Frank would often complain about showering. He wouldn't do it everyday because I didn't want to force him. Needless to say, he never refused to shower again.


Ray had printed out a lot of the pictures from our day at the zoo. When Frank saw them, his happiness was so immense that it didn't fit into his small body. He kept jumping, shrieking, clapping hands and laughing. He'd ran for transparent tape and adhered some of the photos to the closet door. I kept one that showed Frank and me together and another one with the four of us -which we had asked someone to take. I bought some fancy, colored frames to put them in display over a shelf, for everybody to see as soon as they entered the house.

I'd had no news from Hawkins and was about to agree with Ray; it might be better if the guy didn't call me again. Maybe I should take it as a sign and forget about it all. Curiosity, as well as that need for justice, were still inside of me; but if Alexander didn't call I would not insist.

It was Saturday and for the first time -apart from when Frank and I had stopped there for a night- we were going to visit my mother's house. Of course, Mikey and Alicia would be present too.

We arrived and Frankie ran to the door, ringing the bell before I could even get out of the car. Once I caught up with him, I saw Alicia hug him so tightly that Frank's feet were in the air.

"Hey babe, you're getting heavier!" she told him, treating him like a baby as usual. The funny thing was that Frankie liked to be treated that way. Or at least he liked certain people doing it.

I flinched. "Ouch, shouldn't have said that." 

"Wh-why you're all s-so mean? I...I'm n-not fat!" Frank protested.

", Frankie! I didn't mean that! Of course you're not. You were a little too thin before, now you're more...adorable and cuddly...and pinchable!" She kissed his cheek.


"Really really! And boy, you look prettier every time I see you. Gerard takes good care of you, uh?"

"Y-yes! He l-loves me lots. I l-love him a lot t-too. Y-yeah. L-like my g-glasses?" He stood in front of her with the biggest smile. "Y-you hadn't seen th-them!"

"They're lovely! Don't tell Mikey, but your glasses are so much cooler than his!"

"L-let's not t-tell him, yeah...he w-would get angry and...and he d-doesn't like me m-much."

"Mikey does like you, he's just a little grumpy." My mom appeared, attacking Frank's cheek with motherly kisses.

"H-hiii! B-brought you this." Frankie handed her one of our photographs. He'd refused to buy a frame. With a little help from me, he had made his own out of pink colored cardboard and drawn flowers all around it.

My mother stared at the handmade gift in silence. Her eyes watered as a meaningful smile formed on her lips.

"G-gee helped me c-cut it 'cause I can't use s-scissors, but I g-glued it and m-made all the d-drawings," Frank explained thrilled. When he saw that my mom had tears in her eyes, he worried. " d-don't like it? W-want me to m-make it again?"

"No, Frankie! It's perfect, I love it!" she answered, sitting down and pulling Frank on her lap.

"Th-then why you c-crying?" he ran a shaky finger under my mother's eye.

"Because...I'm a silly old woman who cries when she's too happy!" She studied the frame again.

"You both look so pretty here. I'm sorry that I was too busy this week and we couldn't talk about the zoo! Did you enjoy it?"

"Oh, true! I want to hear about it too!" Alicia jumped into the scene.

"Be prepared, you're in for a long report!" I laughed. Frankie loved having an audience and something interesting to tell them. It took him some time due to his speech impediment, but he was enthusiastic and it was pleasant to hear him.

"Th-the Zoo w-was so so so g-good! L-lemme tell you all!"

He related every detail about that day to them; everything we did, everything he felt. He moved his hands a lot while talking and if you looked at his face, he seemed to be reliving it all.

At one point of his zoo review, Mikey entered the room. Frankie didn't see him and my brother didn't want to interrupt him, so he just stood where he was. Once in a while I'd take my eyes off Frankie to set them on Mikey, who was listening to him with his lips curved into a sincere smile; really paying attention to what Frank was saying. He suddenly saw me watching him and looked down. I waited for him to look back up and I arched my eyebrows, getting a giggle as response. Brotherly mute language.

Frank finished his story and turned to Mikey, only then realising he was there.

"Hello, kiddo! You're good at relating outings!" Mikey petted his hair.

"H-hello, Mikey." he replied timidly, looking at his own hands.

"What's wrong, Frankie?" My brother tried to grab Frank's chin, but the boy eluded him.

"Why don't you want to look at Mikey, baby? I told you, he does like you." My mom talked to him who was still on her lap.

He shook his head. "M-mikey doesn't like m-me looking at h-him." 

"Oh...I'm sorry, Frankie...for real. I know I was a little too moody last time you saw me, but it's fine. Of course you can look at me." Mikey knelt in front of them and waited until Frank raised his eyes. "That's better. Friends? Well, you're also brother in law now, since you're my bro's boyfriend..."

"Y-YES, FRIENDS AND B-BROTHERS IN...WH-WHATEVER!" Frank screamed and kissed Mikey's cheek, who got up to speak in my ear.

"I still kinda think you're a crazy, mindless fucker, but the boy's not to blame."

"If you say so..." I chuckled. I knew he wasn't angry, and I was sure that he trusted me. He just wouldn't admit that he worried about Frankie, even if it was obvious. Mikey loved to play tough.


We were sitting at the table, waiting for my mother to serve lunch. She had expressed that she felt bad for not having had time to cook a more elaborated meal, but we assured her that it wasn't important. It was about having a good time together after all. The menu was grilled chicken breasts and smashed potatoes and pumpkins. The smell coming from the kitchen told us it'd be delicious.

Among the regular bread over the table, there was a lonely cheese bun. I had been observing amused how Frankie eyed it, not daring to make a move. Eventually, he wasn't able to resist anymore and reached out for the same time that Mikey did.

"M-MINE! GIMME!" Frankie shouted at him, both tugging at the bun.

"No way, saw it first and it's my house, dwarf!"


"Mikey...please," I said, hoping my glare was enough for him to get the idea.

"DON'T 'Mikey please' me, that boy can't have everything he wants," he retorted.

"You eat them almost everyday, come on!"

"No I don't, mom made them for a neighbor and only left a couple here and I wasn't home," he excused himself childishly, still fighting for the prize.


"Yeah we are, but you must learn that you can't get everything you want, kid!"


"Mikey, give me that!" Alicia tried to snatch it but they got up from the table, still not releasing the bun.

My mother entered the dining room. "Can you tell me what's happening here?" 

"M-mikey doesn't w-want to gimme the ch-cheese thingie and...and I s-saw it first!" Frankie accused my brother, while trying to force open his fingers with his free hand.

"It's my bun, and he's a spoiled brat," Mikey said furious. "AND FUCKING LEAVE MY FINGERS ALONE!"


"MICHAEL! Can you behave like an adult, please? This is...unbelievable."

"Donna's right, you realise the way you're acting?" Alicia hit the back of her boyfriend's head.

"I have to behave like an adult? For your information, I'm only one year older than Frank!"


"You know you're not making sense, Mikey. You understood what I meant, don't play fool with me." Mom was really serious now.

"Whatever, take it. Happy?" He let go of his prey and Frankie ran back to the table, beaming.

Mikey sulked like the immature kid he sometimes was. One moment he was bossing me around and saying that I made him feel like the big brother. The next one he could be fighting over any stupid thing like a 5-year old. Annoying, to say the least.

Frankie was about to bring the bun to his mouth, when he stopped to look at Mikey.

"Don't mind him, he'll get over it," I whispered to him.

He nodded, but kept staring. Suddenly, he parted the cheesy bread in two and after studying the halves, he left the slightly bigger one on his plate. "M-Mikey?" he called him.

"What?" Mikey mumbled.

"Y-you can h-have this 'cause..'c-cause maybe we s-saw it at the s-same time." Frank offered him the other half. "An-and...Grace said sh-sharing is good," he added blushing, seemingly ashamed. Surely not as much as Mikey.

"'s ok, Frankie. Sorry for wanting to keep it."

"T-take it?" Frank insisted.

"Ok, thank you."

"F-friends again?"

"Yes, kiddo, friends again." Mikey smiled showing his teeth and both kids ate their bun in peace.

It was evident that Mikey felt guilty after that, since he kept trying hard to be nice. Food was served and he cut the chicken for Frankie. When Frank started eating, grabbing the fork with both hands, the other boy was dubious.

"We could help you, you know? You don't need to be doing such weird maneuvers to eat..." Mikey let out.

"N-NO. I c-can, see?"

"Ok! Jesus! And I am the moody one!"

"Don't take it personally, Mikey, he always gets angry whenever we offer to help him. He's a grown boy and likes to eat by himself, which is very understandable," my mother told him.

"Oh, now he's a grown boy?" Mikey snickered.

"Don't start again..."

"I was joking, mom."

"Sure you were..." Alicia glanced at him.

"Ouch! Stop hurting me, woman!" he yelled. I wasn't sure of what she'd done to him under the table.

"Then start acting your age or I'll make you wear diapers, bib and a pacifier...then take pics and post them all over the net," she menaced. Frankie, my mom and I exploded in laughter just imagining that.

"Ok, Miss maturity." Mikey kissed Alicia's lips and grinned like an idiot at her. I wondered if I had that same silly face when I looked at Frank.

"Oh b-but...but I w-wanted to see b-baby Mikey!" Frank pouted.

"Maybe one day...maybe one day!" the girl laughed witch-style.

"Would you eat before it gets cold, children?" Donna asked, hitting the fork against her plate for attention. I bet she felt like a kindergarten teacher.


A while after lunch, helpful Mikey attacked again. "Hey Frankie, want to do something? I could bring some board game or we could play video games?"

"L-later," Frankie answered softly. He had his arms crossed over the table and was resting his head on them.

"Are you still angry at me?"

"N-no, I'm a l-little sleepy."

"Oh, come on! You didn't wake up so early today, did you?"


"No, but he sleeps a lot because of the medication, always passes out after lunch. I think the only day he skipped his nap was when we went to the zoo. He was too excited to think of sleeping." I carried Frankie. "Let's take you to the couch, later we can all play something together."


While Frank was sleeping, I took the chance to tell my mom all about Hawkins. Knowing how Mikey could react, I chose for him not to be present, though it wasn't much better in my mother's case. She told me practically the same as Ray, only crying. I promised that I would stop my investigation if the guy didn't call again, and she begged me to quit even if he did. I could not promise that.

Before we went back to the others, my mother let me know that she would make an appointment for Frankie to have his blood and general health checked in two weeks. We had agreed that it was better to do it at the hospital where she worked, even if it wasn't close to home. She'd make sure Frank had the best attention.

The day ended with a big Mario-party, all of us taking turns to play. It was true that Frankie would never last long alive, but he was a master compared to my mother. She had never ever played before, not even when Mikey and I were little. Seeing her try for the first time was so hilarious that we came up with the idea of having a Mario-meeting at least once a month from then on.

When we were getting ready to leave, I found it weird to see Frankie saying goodbye to Mikey almost as effusively as to my mother or Alicia. However, it was weirder to not see Mikey getting annoyed at that. A good change nevertheless, even if he was still doubtful about me. As Mikey had well put it himself, Frankie was not to blame.


The first thing I saw when we got home, was my cellphone on the floor. I hadn't realised that I didn't have it while at my mom's. I checked for messages and there was only one. I didn't recognize the number until I read it.

"Sorry to keep you waiting. I think I'll have the information in two days." Hawkins. No way I'd stop now.

Chapter Text

Feel the paranoia creeping in,
like a cancer eating at the skin.

The store I worked at wasn't far from home, so I preferred to walk there. It gave me that needed time to completely wake up and also saved me from parking problems. There were mornings when it got too late for me to go by foot, though, and I felt obliged to use my car.

This particular Monday morning I didn't overslept or take longer for breakfast. Neither did I have to wait for Ray to arrive, since he was there promptly. However, when I was gathering my things to leave, Frankie came to me talking about something that had him pretty interested. According to him, there was a climbing plant all over our room's ceiling, and it bore both watermelons and oranges. I tried telling him there was nothing there, that it was just an hallucination; but he didn't buy it. He said I was bringing up excuses to get rid of the poor plant. I explained that a plant like that didn't even exist. Frank replied that it was maybe from Mars. I finally gave up on reasoning with him -since he'd have a comeback for every one of my arguments- and granted him permission to keep the vine if he liked it. He laughed at my remark about not wanting the plant all over me and kissed me happily, running back to the room.

Ray didn't utter a single word, only looked at me reproachingly. Thoughts of what he and my mother had opined about Frank's meds came to mind. I knew what he was thinking, therefore I ignored his hints and turned away. I glanced at the clock and saw that I didn't have much time, yet I decided to walk the same. It always lightened my mood.


As I hurried up -realising that it was later than I'd thought- a feeling of uneasiness hit me. I didn't think much of it at first, attributing it to me being worried about Frankie. After a while, though, I knew there was was something else; I felt observed. I looked towards the street and a big, black car which moved oddly slow caught my attention. The windows were dark, so I couldn't discern any faces.

I tried to convince myself that it meant nothing. I cursed Ray and my mother under my breath for making me think that I could be in danger. Those people were probably just having problems with their car and weren't able to speed up. There was no reason to be afraid, they couldn't be following me.

I did my best to shrug it off and stay calm. I attempted to keep a normal pace, but I felt my feet move faster and faster and suddenly, I was running. I thought I heard the black car match my speed, although I didn't dare look back again. I arrived at the store out of breath and as I stood there recovering, I saw the suspicious vehicle pass me by.

"See, Gerard Chicken Way? You're just paranoid!" I spoke to myself.

When I entered my place of work, Sarah noticed that there was something off about me as soon as she greeted me. She frowned while she kept me at arms length.

"You look flushed, Gerard. Do you feel fine?" she asked. Of course, to see me with some color on my face wasn't an every-day thing.

"Yeah, I'm fine. It's just that I was late so I had to run here. Frankie was feeling up for a conversation." I smiled, concealing.

"You know there's no need to push yourself so hard, I understand your circumstances. Go wash your face and drink some water before you start working," she told me with serious motherly concern.

"Ok, thanks Sarah." I flashed her another smile before heading for the bathroom. I was really lucky to have her as my boss. Even without knowing the truth, she'd given me the support I needed after a difficult morning,

On my way back I couldn't help looking around me all the time. I jumped with every noise of breaks, I flinched whenever a person walked too close to me. I felt like everybody was watching me. I had never experienced something like that before and I didn't like the feeling at all.

I suddenly remembered that Hawkins might be calling me later that day and panicked. I considered unplugging the phone and keeping my cellphone off, but that would be coward and idiotic. I certainly couldn't quit now just because of my stupid paranoia. Not when I was about to discover something important. If whoever was in that car had wanted something with me, they would have acted on it. They hadn't done anything, so I had no real reason to be scared.

I reached our house without encountering any abnormal sighting, yet I wasn't at ease. I had to make sure one last time that there was no strange car or person roaming the neighborhood before opening the door.

I had momentarily forgotten about my little problem at home until I saw Frankie. He and Puppy came running with the same joyful expression on their faces. It was maybe true that dogs ended up resembling their owners. I lifted Puppy with one arm, circling Frank's waist with the other.

"Hello, furry version of Frankie!" I kissed the dog's head. "And hello to you, original Frankie! How was your day?"

"H-hi!" his mouth was attached to mine in half the time it would have taken me to think of it. I didn't complain. Instead I allowed those pink, moist lips to cover my dry ones and help me forget all my worries. Tongue met tongue and that continued until a third tongue was felt on the corner of our mouths.

"P-Puppy! Y-you were not in-invited!" Frankie giggled, taking the dog from me.

"I think he was just jealous because we were ignoring him," I guessed, checking on Ray. Even though he laughed with us, he was as silent as in the morning. He seemed to be lost in thoughts, slightly worried.

"Y-you know, Gee?" Frankie tapped my shoulder."I as-asked Ray to g-get some or-oranges from the p-plant in our r-room. I...I c-can't do it m-myself 'cause I'm t-too short. R-Ray's tall, he c-can. B-but he said he couldn't at th-that moment and...and l-later when w-we went to the b-bedroom, the p-plant wasn't there an-anymore!"

"See? I told you that..."

"'s M-martian! I'm s-sure, yes. I...I kn-know that." He nodded expertly. "M-martian plants can c-come and g-go. Y-yeah, it'll be b-back."

"I didn't know that, sounds interesting. So they can move like us?" I was more marveled than freaked out at the things Frank would come up with. He had probably stopped seeing the famous vine a while after taking his pill, while the effect was stronger.

"Y-yep! B-but they t-try to not be s-seen when they're m-moving. If...if s-someone's stick themselves to a wall or s-something. Qu-quiet, like n-normal plants," he explicated.

"Oh, wow." I heard Ray's voice for the first time. "That's really interesting, Frankie. How do you know all that?"

"I kn-know...b-because once I h-had a Martian friend and...and he t-told me. H-he had to leave, th-though," Frank answered. Once in a while he remembered some other 'friends' he'd had.

"A Martian friend? Now that is cool," Ray declared, and Frankie grinned.

"Now I understand. You could tell me more about Martians, then! I'm sure your friend taught you many things about them." I followed the conversation naturally as I held him in my arms.

"I w-will. N-now I'm gonna s-see if the plant's b-back!" He let go of the embrace and disappeared.

"Gee, really..." Ray spoke as soon as we were left alone. "He keeps imagining things...he's added new ones. Even after being told that they're not real, he's not convinced. You could at least try increasing the medication a little and see what happens?"

"No way, I don't mind his hallucinations. He hasn't had any bad or scary ones in a long time, and the rest are harmless. Why over-medicate him?"

"It's not over-medicating him, Gerard. It'd be just finding the dose he needs," he corrected me.

"Same, I think he's fine now. He can perfectly follow a normal conversation most of the time, doesn't hear voices in his head and apart from some limitations he's having a pretty normal life. Enough for me, I can cope with the remaining problems," I spat annoyed.

"I can too, you know that. But I've been rethinking this and...his hallucinations are not always harmless. What about the time he kicked the wall? He listens to his imaginary friends, does what they say, argues with them..."

"He'll be fine, Ray," I whispered as Frankie reentered the living room. Ray nodded, defeated by my stubbornness as usual.

"'s th-there again, G-Gee! C-come see?" Frankie didn't wait for me to answer. He grabbed my hand and dragged me behind him.

"I better get going. Gerard...please think about what we discussed," Ray advised, walking to the door. "See you tomorrow, Frankie!"

"B-bye Ray!"

We got to the bedroom and Frankie signaled to the ceiling, jumping and smiling. I didn't see the point in telling him once again that there was nothing there. Maybe he'd forget in a few days anyway; it had happened with other things he imagined.

"Oh, it's really pretty...and large! Are you sure I won't wake up with a branch curled around one leg?" I inquired looking up.

"N-no, silly! It d-doesn't grow, it's al-always the same, on-only if you take the f-fruits, m-more appear. P-plants from Mars are l-like that."

"Ahh, ok! If it's not going to get any bigger then it can stay."

"Y-yay! C-come here, you c-can look at it b-better."

He lied down on the bed and invited me to do the same. Once I did, Frank retook my hand and we stayed like that, looking at the ceiling while he admired the plant. He talked about what beautiful blue flowers it had, how green its leaves were, how big the watermelons, how bright the oranges.

At one point I didn't see humidity spots and chipped off paint anymore. My eyes stayed open, but I wasn't using them. Frank's words entered my mind creating the images and I saw it: the vine in all its splendor. I beheld the climbing stalks, the leaves, the flowers, the oranges and watermelons dangling. I turned my face to look at him. He sensed my stare and watched me too, and sharing that experience made me feel so close to him that I cried. It had been like magic.

What if we, the supposed normal people, were the handicapped ones? What if we were too blind to see and called the ones like Frankie crazy just out of jealousy? The thought made sense at that moment.

"'re c-crying. Y-you're sad? S-something hurts? T-tell me?" Frankie questioned, the back of his fingers tracing my face so softly that it tickled. He was concerned.

", Frankie, I'm not sad or hurting...all the contrary. I feel so happy right now that it makes me cry..."

"Y-you're weird, G-gerard. Y-yep. B-but don't worry, I l-like you lots the s-same." He giggled and pecked my temple.

"Thank you for accepting my weirdness, love."

"W-welcome! Uh...I'm h-hot."

"You're very hot...besides being cute and pretty and..."

"N-no, you...d-dumb!" He punched me, chuckling. "M-meant it's hot h-here. F-feel all sweaty."

"Wanna go take a shower?" I proposed, succumbing to the urge to taste his lips.

"Y-yeah!" He jumped off the bed, not looking up again. He seemed to suddenly forget about the extraterrestrial vine. In a minute he had collected everything he needed and was gone, surely waiting for me in the bathroom.

When I joined him, Frankie was already naked, sitting over the toilet with his knees against his chest. He smiled widely when he saw me, and got up to turn on the shower while I took off my clothes. The boy had learned how to make the water reach the ideal temperature for a summer day, and he enjoyed taking care of that task. As always, he motioned for me to get into the bathtub first, loving when I'd offer my hand to help him in.

We kissed unhurriedly after washing our hair -or better said after I washed both our hair- as the shampoo ran along our backs. We carried on with the routine then, singing and shaking our butts. No problems existed during the time our showers lasted; it was a sweet, temporary amnesia that I surrendered to willingly every day.

I dived under the water curtain for a last rinse while Frankie wrote love messages with his finger on the wet tiles. He usually did that when I wasn't watching so I could read them later.

I closed my eyes, welcoming the artificial rain on my face. I felt observed. Eyes were on me but the feeling was completely different from the one that had assaulted me in the morning. This stare warmed my insides, made my heart skip, caused me to smile.

Those unmistakable lips I knew by heart were on me again. A hand touched wet skin and slid to rest on the small of Frank's back, bringing him closer; closer than we had ever been there. I would have sworn that I felt something against my leg, but it was just a second. Frankie emitted a strange noise and separated his body from mine.

My eyes opened. "What...?" I interrupted my question to follow his look down. I had been right.

I lifted his face with my finger. He was blushing. I kissed behind his ear and shifted to his cheek, nose, finally his mouth. His arms were wrapped around my neck but then he lowered one hand and moaned faintly. Again he stepped back, doubting. I waited, afraid of making him feel pressured. His own hand grazed his member; barely, timidly, and he screwed his eyes shut. Although I didn't want to watch, I couldn't help it. He'd always be my sweet, innocent, childish boy; but sometimes he looked so sensual, sexy.

He caught me off guard when those shaky fingers grasped my hand; his scared, crossed eyes asking for answers...or approval. I didn't know which until he guided that hand. I resisted, unsure, millions of thoughts infesting my head.

"C-could you...t-touch me there?" he whispered.

"Frankie I...I'm not sure.'s not the same, you know? We're naked and...maybe it's too soon and ...what about...Grace?" It was improper to name her in that kind of situation, but I needed Frank to be certain of what he was asking me and I knew that could do the trick. I was also looking for a way to stop things without making it seem like rejection. It was so far from rejection.

Things occurred differently.

Frank smiled. "B-but we're b-boyfriends.G-Grace won't be an-angry 'cause...'c-cause I want to.'s f-fine if I w-want to. She s-said."

He made it sound so simple. And maybe it was. It would have been easier for me if he had said he would not tell Grace, though there was really no difference; that woman would find out at any rate. On the other hand, I didn't know everything they had talked about.

Frankie was still watching me, holding my hand near where he wanted it, expectant. I felt myself getting hard too, and I was trembling. I didn't know in which moment I yielded, but all of a sudden I touched something warm, firm. I closed my fingers around it and Frank rested his head on my shoulder, giving out a shaky sigh. My free hand massaged his scalp and when my first one began to move, his knees slackened. Supporting him, I made him sit down on the bathtub's floor, against the wall. I sat on the opposite side where the curtain was, the border being tall enough to lean on. The space was reduced, which left us very close, facing each other. Butt to butt, knees to knees; legs semi flexed, spread and interlaced.

I inclined forward and kissed him deeply. At the same time I resumed the movement, stroking him gently, the water making it all smoother. Frank broke the kiss, panting, watching me with half-closed eyes. He gave me a weak but satisfied smile, telling me everything was alright. Then he threw his arms around my shoulders, kissing my face all over. I moaned this time, one of my hands caressing his hip while the other one kept the rhythm. Due to us being cramped in that place, my arm would now and then generate some accidental but pleasuring friction for my own. I tried to make it more frequent as I quickened my pace, Frankie jerking his hips up.

Everything was so intense. Frank's tongue waltzing with mine; his wet, warm skin under my fingers, touching him in such an intimate way without any fabric interposing. It was overwhelming. I was totally turned on, painfully turned on.

Suddenly, one of Frank's hands left my shoulder and went down my chest and abdomen, stopping hesitantly when making contact with its final destination. I forced my eyes open and looked at him. Even amidst pleasure, there was worry on his face. He withdrew his hand and then attempted to put it back on me, as if obliging. I understood that he wasn't ready. I didn't want him to have his own satisfaction ruined by doing something that would make him feel uncomfortable.

"You don't have to. It's ok, baby. I'm fine," I spoke into his ear, taking his hand and returning it to my neck.

I began to stroke him faster as we made out again, sloppily and intermittently since we were too out of breath to keep up. I knew Frankie was close. I finally gave in and attended to myself properly. I didn't need much. The situation, the rub and those scarce seconds when Frank's hand had been on me had brought me to the edge. My head fell back on the bathtub's border as the release shook me.

I came back to my senses just in time to see the beauty in front of me; back arched against the wall, his eyes two thin lines, mouth in a perfect 'O' while he exploded with a sharp little yell. I waited for his hazel eyes to be revealed, watching the product of our orgasms being carried away towards the drain. The water had turned colder, but it was welcomed.

"Oh...w-wow." He looked exhausted, dripping wet hair plastered on his face.

"I guess...that means you enjoyed it?"

"Y-yeah, f-felt so g-good! B-but I...I'm t-tired, Gee. An-and dizzy."

"I know, wait here." I left the cubicle, dried myself quickly and put on my boxers.

I helped Frankie get up and out, wrapping him in the ample towel and rubbing him dry. He swayed a little, so I sat him on the toilet and assisted him to get his underwear on. When he was ready, I carried him in my arms and left the bathroom, depositing him down on the bed. I climbed after him and he clung to me, kissing me shortly yet sweetly.

"Do you feel fine, pretty?" I asked him.

"Y-yes, and l-love you so so very m-muchly."

"I love you so very muchly more!" I replied, expecting him to go on with the game. But he was yawning, unable to keep his eyes open anymore.

"S-so tired, Gee," Frank mumbled, and he didn't speak again.

Although it wasn't even 7 pm and I obviously had things to do, nothing seemed important enough to abandon Frankie at that moment. Everything could wait. 

For minutes and minutes I just watched him sleep, the peaceful view making me sleepy too. The first part of the day had been hard, but one more time I had that compensated at home. It was always like that, just being with my boyfriend brightened my mood no matter what I'd been through.

Each step Frank and I made, everything we shared, it all brought us closer and closer to each other. What had last happened between us was, without a doubt, good. Not only in a sexual way -although it'd been highly enjoyable in that aspect, but mostly because it had been a demonstration of trust. I felt for once relaxed and positive that I had acted correctly throughout it.


I still hadn't completely lost awareness when I heard the phone ring. The first thing I did was to check on Frankie; it hadn't woken him up. Instead of instantly leaving the bed to answer the call, I stayed there thinking. I speculated about two options: it could either be Hawkins calling to finally tell me the last piece of information, or Grace -whose strong mom-like powers had alerted her of our activities- wanting to make sure that Frankie was fine. Honestly, I was scared either way. I took so long to consider the possibilities that the ringing stopped.

When I thought I was safe, the beginning of 'Run to the hills' by Iron Maiden sounded; my cellphone. I quickly picked it up, fumbling with the cover tensely. It was 'option number one'.


"Mister Way? I was finally able to locate the procurator. What I found out doesn't make much sense having in mind what Mrs. Neil had told me, but this is the farthest I'll go." Hawkins made that point clear before disclosing what he had to tell me. 

Chapter Text

I don't know but I've been told
the streets of hell are paved with gold.
Crazy, crazy.
You told me that nothing's free
except my own insanity.
Crazy, maybe.

"Don't worry, I won't ask you to find out anything else. We only need this information," I told Hawkins. I understood that the man wasn't a private investigator. He had helped us out of kindness because his cousin -Grace's friend- asked him to.

"It's fine. I didn't want to sound rude, but I prefer to avoid getting involved in money affairs save I am hired for that."

"Fair enough. So...why did you say that what you found out doesn't make sense?"

"Well, by the time Mrs. Neil called me, that kid Frank Iero was still at the mental institution. However, the money to pay for the place wasn't arriving anymore, right?" he rhetorically questioned.


"I talked to the procurator that his grandmother had assigned before dying. He told me that the daughter of the deceased went to see him about four months ago and notified him that her son, Frank Iero, had just passed away too," Alexander said.

Rage pulsed wildly through my veins. That piece of shit had virtually killed her son twice? "What the fuck? How could she?" I let out louder than I should have. "Sorry, I...but that man believed her just like that?"

"Of course this woman's words didn't suffice," he replied, ignoring my outburst."The procurator assured me that all the required documents were presented. They all confirmed that the youth Frank Iero had died from a heart attack after a nervous episode."

"But that's not true! Didn't he call the institution?" I felt an irrepressible urge to get to the truth; to understand all that shit and make sure the culprits paid. It wasn't about the money, it was about dignity, respect towards a human being. You just don't fake your own son's death two times and pull it off like nothing.

"He couldn't get into details, but based on how those legal procedures usually are, we can safely assume that he did call the institution," Hawkins stated. Did that mean that someone in that place was also implicated?

"Then they lied too! Is everybody fucking corrupted here?" I exclaimed angrily.

Frankie stirred beside me, blinking. "Wh-why you s-screaming, Gee?" he spoke huskily.

I covered the phone with my hand, keeping it as far as possible, and smiled at him. "It's nothing baby, go back to sleep."

"K-kay." He yawned and hugged my waist. I rubbed his back to help him relax.

"Yes, sorry." I apologized to Hawkins. "People who seem capable of anything for money just...get on my nerves."

"I understand. But as I said...I know nothing else about that and I don't want to go farther. It's up to Mrs. Neil if she wants to do something."

"I'll let her know. Just one more thing: did Alice's daughter receive the money that her mother had left for Frank?"

"She did. Mrs. Caravaggio didn't specify a second option in case her grandson died, so the money was transferred to the closest relative."

"SHIT! Oh...excuse me again. Thank you very much, mister Hawkins. You were of great help."

"You're welcome. And if you permit me an careful," he concluded before the line went dead.

I was so shaken by the news that I couldn't just sit there. I carefully slid from under Frank's arms and replaced my body with a pillow. I went to the living room and began to walk in circles, trying to figure out what I should do; but my brain was not functioning correctly. I was a bundle of nerves. Angst, anger, fear, and that need. The need for something to slow down my accelerated, chaotic train of thought.

I was walking towards the kitchen when the phone rang again, startling me so much that I almost fell backwards. I neared the device cautiously, as if it could bite me.

"Hello?" I mumbled into the speaker. Silence, no response. "Hello?" I repeated, hearing nothing at all. I hung up quickly and realised that I was trembling all over. Had it been a simple wrong number? Had it been something else? Should I be scared? Regardless of what the answer to that query might be, I was already scared.

I practically ran to the fridge, snapping open the door and clutching a can of beer with desperation. I knew it wasn't the best idea, but I needed to calm down. Frankie couldn't see me like this. It wasn't until both my hands were required that I took conscience of my left one still holding the cellphone. I had never let go of it. My eyes traveled from the beer to the phone back and forth and I finally decided to make a call instead of drinking.

"Hello? Gerard?" I heard Ray's voice and everything I was keeping inside poured out of my mouth. I needed to vent.


"Gerard...please fucking calm down and lower your voice!"


"GERARD, STOP IT!" Ray screamed into my ear. I shut up, starting to cry instead. It was hard to breathe, my chest felt tight. "Do you want Frankie to hear you? He's not there with you, is he?"

"S-sorry, Ray. No...Frankie's not here, he's sleeping. I stressed right now."

"Don't tell me that you hadn't imagined that it was about money..."

"I had, but hearing it from Hawkins made it more real, more terrible. Isn't there anything that could be done?" I asked, trying to stop crying.

"Gerard, don't. Leave it there, it's just money. Forget about it and let them drown in it."

"It's not about the money! It's about Frank!'s about his identity. It hurts to think that someone so sweet and full of life as him is dead to the world. And it hurts me even more to know that it was his mother who did that. She's now enjoying the prize somewhere when she doesn't even deserve to fucking live! There has to be s-something to do, to prove Frank's alive," I choked, sobbing loudly.

"Gerard, breathe! You need to calm down, seriously. There is nothing you can do. If you went to the police to claim that Frank is alive, you'd be asked lots of questions. Frank is mentally ill so sadly, no one would care about what he thinks. The law would not allow him to decide who to live with, and you're not his relative. They could not only take him away from you, but also lock you up for keeping a person who was reported dead. Is that what you want?"

Ray's words scared me, yet they had their effect on me; I finally understood that it was better to quit my investigation. As much as it hurt. As much as I wanted to avenge Frank. In spite of the anger I was holding inside. Nothing was worth risking it all. Nothing was more important than Frankie, having him with me and knowing he'd be fine.

"Y-you're right, Ray. And this time I mean it, you're right. I won't do anything, I promise I won't try. I don't want to lose him, I don't wanna fuck up, I swear I don't...I don't..." I sniffed.

"I'm glad to hear that, at last. Now please, forget about it, don't let it end your sanity. Frankie needs you."

"I...I know. I'm scared right now, what if I already fucked up? That call I got a while ago I..." I suddenly regretted telling him, but it was late.

"What call? Did something else happen, Gee?"

"I d-don't know. I picked up the phone and no one answered. Do you think it means something?"

", I'm sure it's nothing, wrong number probably. Don't give it importance, you have enough to worry about," Ray reassured me, though I could sense the doubt in his voice.


"Gee, do you think you'll be fine? It could be bad for Frankie to notice you so nervous. I would offer to bring him here for the night, but my parents would interrogate me. You could ask Bob, though, he lives alone. I know he's not the most serious guy, but one can see that he adores Frank. Maybe it's better if..."

"NO!" I interrupted him. I couldn't bear the idea of Frank being away from me, not even for a night, not at the moment. "I need Frankie with me, I'll calm down for him."

"Alright, then go with him. Even if he's sleeping just stay with him all the time and get away from that can of beer. Drinking's not gonna help you at all," he reprimanded me.

I gasped, highly astonished. "How do you...?"

"It's been years, I know you. And I know what your escape is as of late." I could 'hear' him smirk.

"Don't worry, I won't touch it. I feel better already...thanks, Ray"

"Take care, Gee. We all need you in one piece." He ended the communication.

"Enough, no more detective Way," I muttered as I put the beer can back into the fridge. 

A wave of craving hit me once again, and I contemplated the cans for a while until I was able to close the door. I returned to the bedroom and lied down with Frankie, hugging him close to me. I couldn't stop the tears that fell one after another on the pillow.

"G-gee, you're c-crying again? Wh-what happened?" he asked softly, kissing my forehead.

"I just...I had a nightmare, that's all."

"Oh, wh-what you d-dreamed?"

"I don't remember, I guess I was crying in my dream," I made up.

Frankie looked at the ceiling and stood up on the bed, one hand on the wall to keep his balance. He reached up and appeared to grab something. "F-for you. Th-the alien plant l-let me reach it!'ll m-make you feel b-better." He nodded, handing me the imaginary item. I guessed it was an orange by the position of Frank's hand.

I simulated removing a little piece of the rind and brought the invisible fruit to my lips, squeezing it and pretending to suck the juice out of it. I concentrated enough, pushing any other thoughts off my mind, until I could actually savor the orange.

" it y-yummy?" Frank inquired smiling. I smiled back, even though I knew Ray or my mother would kill me if they saw me playing along with Frankie's hallucinations.

"The best orange I've ever had. And you were right, I feel better already." And I did, momentarily at least.


Everything came back to me the following day. All the information, the nerves, the indignation. As soon as I woke up that awful feeling inside my chest had returned. I tried to hide it from Frankie as much as I could; however, something told me he had registered it. He didn't ask or speak about it, yet he was unusually nervous. Unusual since he had started taking the medication.

When Ray arrived I was trying to make Frank eat his cereal, though all he did was stir it around inside the bowl as he slightly balanced his body and swung his legs that hung from the chair.

"Frankie, stop playing with the food. Eat, babe," I told him.

"Y-yeah, kay," he answered monotonously, still not bringing anything to his mouth.

"Hello, boys!" Ray greeted us. "What's wrong with our little man here?"

"I'm not sure, he seems anxious. He won't stay quiet and is too distracted, he hasn't even tried his breakfast."

"Did he have his meds?" he questioned.

"Yeah, that he did, luckily. Hopefully he'll be better in an hour or so."

"Let's see..." Ray sat on the nearest chair and moved the hair out of Frank's eyes. "Do you feel fine, Frankie?"

"Uh...h-hi Ray. Y-yeah, fine," he spoke in a low voice, rubbing his face compulsively. It reminded me of how he was two months ago, which caused me sadness and guilt; maybe my own stress was getting to him.

Ray's stare told me that he was thinking the same. He grabbed Frank's hand and kept it in between his until the boy stopped fighting to get it free. "Ok. Now you need to eat your breakfast because you just took your meds, it's bad with an empty stomach. Want me or Gee to help you?"

"N-no. H-hands are n-not shaking now, s-see?" Frankie showed him. "I c-can."

"I see. Then start eating, your cereal is gonna get dizzy if you keep pushing it around like that!" Ray smiled. Frankie giggled and began to eat slowly.

"Thanks." I patted Ray's arm gratefully. "It seems Frankie doesn't want anything to do with me today."

"It's not that, Gee. He can feel that you're tense and worried, and since you two are so close it disturbs him too. Of course it'd be hard for you to help Frankie calm down if you can't do it with yourself."

"Guess you're right. I'll be better by the time I'm back from work, some distraction will do me good." I kissed Frank's head. "Bye pretty, we'll do something together later, ok?"

"Y-yeah. Th-that's good. And...and d-don't be sad, kay? L-love you." He hugged my neck and kissed my cheek before going back to his meal.

Frank always knew how to make me feel better. He was really concerned about me, and that was another reason why I had to forget and let go of my revenge plans. He needed tranquility, and I couldn't ruin it by chasing a most probably lost cause. Ray was right, there was nothing I could do without putting us both in danger.


That day, although I cowardly decided to drive to the store, the paranoia continued. I couldn't help looking at the rearview mirror permanently, fearing someone might be following me. When nothing happened, I gradually began to feel more relaxed.

During lunch break I had an idea to draw my and Frank's minds away from worries, so on my way back home I made a stop to get what I needed.

"A lawn mower? Since when are you into gardening?" Ray mocked me when he opened the door, after I let him know that I'd forgotten the keys.

" I borrowed it from a neighbor. I need to mow the grass first if I wanna plant some flowers, don't I?" I grinned.

"F-flowers? Really? W-we're gonna buy f-flowers?" Frankie appeared with Puppy in his arms. He looked kinda tired, but his face lighted up when he heard me.

"Yes, we will! What were you doing, babe?" I pecked his lips, Puppy licking us both in the meantime. "What a jealous guy you are, doggie!"

"N-nothing," Frankie answered shortly. He left Puppy on the couch and squeezed me needy.

"Hey! What's wrong, love?"

"N-nothing," he repeated. I could see that he was still acting weird.

"He's not been very communicative today. He spent most of the time in the bedroom playing with Puppy and his...other friends." Ray got closer to me and whispered in my ear. "During one of the few times that he left that room, I'm pretty sure he was whispering to himself like he used to."

"Damn..." I was now hoping that Frank's behavior was just my fault and he'd be better once I stopped stressing about everything. I certainly didn't want to feel obliged to increase his medication.

"Wh-what you t-talking in secret? Th-that's bad!" Frank tugged at my shirt.

"We were talking about old men stuff, that's why you couldn't hear. It was very boring, anyway," Ray said.

"Ahh, k-kay then. C-can we go b-buy the flowers n-now?"

"First let me go change and mow the grass, then we'll go. It'll be quick, the front yard's not too big.

It took me less than ten minutes to find some old, comfortable clothes that I wouldn't mind getting green stains on. Satisfied with having found an extension for the machine's cord, I turned it on to execute my task. Honestly, Ray had a reason to laugh at me. Even while living with my parents -where we owned a huge garden- I hadn't taken care of the grass more than a couple of times; and never after I moved. My mom would come and do it once in a while when it got too overgrown. Not like it was such a difficult challenge, anyway; and thinking of how happy it would make Frank was the best incentive to help me get rid of my chronic laziness.

Frankie was sitting outside with Ray on the door's step. My friend was in no hurry to go home, so he'd decided to seize the opportunity and have some fun at my expense. As I started the lawn mower's motor, I found it kinda therapeutic. The noise invaded my brain and made it impossible for me to think of anything else. Just what I needed.

Then another sound reached me, one that I couldn't figure out at first. I looked towards the house and saw that Frank was screaming, pulling at his hair and pushing Ray -who was trying to hold him- away. I turned the mower off and walked to them.

"What's wrong, Frankie? to me..."

"D-don't like, no. D-don't like," was all he said. I was thankful that he let me hold him.

"I think the noise scared him," Ray commented.

"Shit, I'm so stupid sometimes, I should have thought of that. Sorry, Frankie, I forgot that you don't like loud noises. Ray will stay with you inside until I'm done, ok? It'll be just for a few minutes, I promise."

"K-kay. I...I d-don't wanna h-hear it."

"I have a better idea. Why don't you and Frankie go buy the plants now? I'll mow the grass," Ray proposed.

"Y-yes! L-let's go now!"

"No, Ray...I feel like I'm abusing your kindness. You do a lot for us, man." I doubted.

"Oh, come on! It's a tiny yard and I love doing this, really!"


"Go NOW!" he pushed us away.

Frankie didn't give me permission to go change again. I only managed to get some money while he was dragging me outside in my ugly green shorts. Before getting into the car, I instinctively casted a look around us. There was a black car parked at one corner that seemed to take off as soon as I glanced in its direction. I thought of going back and warning Ray just in case, but then I reconsidered it. I had to control my paranoia. There were hundreds of black cars, and I hadn't seen it well enough to tell if it was the same one that had followed me that morning. Besides, I couldn't even assure that I had been, in fact, followed.

We arrived at the nursery and garden supplies place and Frankie went straight to where all the flowery bushes were, touching and smelling them. I took his hand so he wouldn't escape anywhere.

"Frankie? Listen, baby. I don't have enough money for big plants, so we'll only buy some little ones with pretty flowers, ok?" I explained to not give him false expectations.

"It's f-fine, I l-like little plants with f-flowers too. B-but lemme s-see these?"

"Of course, you can see all you want. Just...don't touch them!" I stopped his hand. "Some of them have thorns, see? They could hurt you, so look without touching."

"K-kayyy, grumpy! N-not touching!" He hid his hands behind his back and smirked.

We wandered around the place and Frankie observed every plant. He examined them at close range from every angle and smelled them all. At one point I wondered if he could still smell anything at all after inhaling so many different aromas. Finally, we sauntered towards the section where small plants were held. A vast, multicolored spot among the green.

"L-look! I w-want with f-flowers of all c-colors!" Frank jumped excited.

"Choose the ones you like and put them here." I pointed at a plastic basket I had picked up at the entrance.

"K-kay...I want m-many!"

He chose petunias, impatiens, daisies, gazanias and even some early purple pansies. We already had a rainbow inside our basket, but Frankie went for more. "L-look, blue! I d-don't have blue y-yet!" he signaled some lobelias. 

I left him to pick up the ones he wanted while I searched the near garden tools section for a scoop. I got distracted for some minutes until I suddenly felt Frankie cling to me from behind, hiding his face against my shirt.

"Oh...hi, there! You're done choosing?"

"N-no, but d-don't wanna go th-there," he mumbled upset.

"Why? What happened?"

"S-some boys were l-looking at me so I t-talked to them about th-he flowers."

"You wanted to make friends? That's good, Frankie!"

" but...but th-they didn't answer and they l-laughed and...and one s-said 'I th-think the poor k-kid's retarded' and they l-left and d-didn't want to t-talk to me." He sniffed. "I...I'm n-not fucking r-retarded!"

"Of course not. Ignore those boys, they don't mean to be rude. Some people don't know how to talk to others who are different, that's all. If they tried, they'd see you can perfectly have an interesting conversation, they're the ones missing it! You have to keep trying, though; don't give up on talking to people, ok?"

He scratched his head nervously. "K-kay."  

Sometimes I hated people, but I knew there were many things I couldn't protect Frank from. He would have to endure situations like this for the rest of his life, and I didn't want him to become antisocial because of it.

"So, if the kids left...why don't you wanna go back?"


"Come on, let's go for the lobelias and then home." I grabbed his hand and guided him. "I don't think I can afford more plants now, we can come back in a couple of months for some winter ones."

"Y-yay, yes! Th-they'll have m-more pansies, then? W-we had a lot wh-where I lived when it was w-winter."

"Yep, I'm sure they'll have lots and of many more colors." I kissed his mouth. He looked so pretty that I couldn't help it. I didn't give a damn about the old ladies that huffed with disgust.


On our return, we found a neat but bare garden, waiting to be adorned with some touches of color. Ray was still there, watching TV and drinking a soda.

"Is everything alright here?" I asked my friend, who diverted his eyes from the screen to look at me.

"Does it look like something's wrong?" he frowned

"No, I just..."

"Everything's fine, Gerard. Give your mind a break, please!" He got up and, depositing the glass in my hand, headed for the door. "I'm leaving now. Enjoy the gardening, boys!"

"Thanks for everything, Toro!" I guessed that if he didn't leave, he'd end up kicking my ass.

"B-bye, Ray!" Frankie gave him a hug and followed him outside.

"Hey, hey, hey! You stay inside, mister!" I caught his arm.

"B-but we gotta g-go plant the f-flowers!"

"I know, let me go pee first and then we'll go."

"I'll w-wait outside."

"Nope, you can't be outside alone." I locked the door and took the keys with me.

"Aww m-meanie..." I heard him protest.


With the help of a shovel, I stirred the soil next to the house's walls, creating a grass-less strip. In the meantime, Frankie collected little stones in our backyard and brought them in a bucket. As I dug up an extra, circular space for planting in the middle of the garden, he bordered the first area with the rocks, making it look like a nice flowerbed. Then he did the same with the rounded zone in the center, greatly improving the garden's appearance. We finally sat on the ground surrounded by all the plants we'd bought.

"Ok, now you take this scoop and make a hole where you want a plant to go. It doesn't need to be too deep," I instructed him.

He complied and began to dig, carelessly tossing the removed soil and covering us both in it.

"Eww, I think I have soil in my mouth!" I spat to my side.

Frank turned to me, stared at my surely dirty face and burst into a fit of laughter. After all the stress we'd been through -even if indirectly in his case- Frank having a laugh attack was an amusing sight and the best sound I could have wished to hear. I thought back to my childhood, when my mom, my brother and I used to take care of the garden together. I remembered how I enjoyed it and how she would get angry when Mikey and I threw dirt at each other and made a mess. I had lost interest as I grew up, but now I was happy with this chance to do it again with Frankie. It was a pleasant activity to share, one of those that somehow gave you peace.

"Now tell me which flower you wanna put there and I'll take it out of the container," I told him once he stopped laughing.

He took a time to think and then chose an impatiens with red flowers. I removed the flimsy plastic flowerpot -carefully to not break the compacted soil- and handed Frankie the plant.

"L-like this?" he placed it inside the hole.

"Perfect! You like it like that? You can turn it if you prefer a different side facing the front."

"N-nope,'s f-fine like that." He nodded."Wh-what now?

"Push the loose soil from around the plant towards it, so it fills the empty spaces. You could do it with the scoop, but I believe it's a lot better with your hands. It feels pretty good when you touch it." I showed him by doing it myself and he joined me right away, smiling from ear to ear as soon as his hands felt the humid material. "Now we apply a little pressure with our palms, like this."

As he pressed the ground, I covered his hands with mine. He turned round, neared his stained face and kissed my forehead, nose and mouth in a quick motion.

"Can you still see with these?" I laughed, snatching Frankie's smudgy glasses without waiting for an answer. I cleaned them with the inside of my t-shirt and gave them back to him.

"B-better!" he giggled.

The moment was magical, special; and he looked radiant. I found myself pushing him down and we kissed for several seconds, lying on the grass. If I had been more conscious I would have avoided that display, afraid of our neighbors seeing us. But Frankie's beauty and my love for him lost me, therefore it wasn't too soon before I thought about it.

"Alright, guess we should continue before night comes," I suggested sitting up. No one seemed to be around.

"Y-yeah! W-wanna plant them all n-now!"

We followed the same work pattern with each of the small plants. Frankie made sure that the colors were well mixed, making the pansies the main attraction in the middle of each flowerbed. When it was done, we stood hand in hand at the entrance to admire the result. Even though it was already sunset and the sky was darkening, our garden seemed to have its own light. It shined, it gave me a warm feeling inside. Just like Frankie.

The last step was to irrigate our new colorful friends, water droplets landing on our dirt-clad skin and creating mud.

There was no discussion about whether we needed a shower; the gardening was the perfect excuse to have an urgent one. There was no second intention behind it. In spite of what had happened the night before in the bathroom, I wasn't expecting anything. I just wanted to be with Frank, relax in his company, let the water wash away all worries together with the dirt.

"It's over, I have nothing to worry about," I told myself. 

Chapter Text

Talk to me softly,
there's something in your eyes.
Don't hang your head in sorrow,
and please don't cry,

It had been two days since Frankie and I worked together to beautify our front garden. Two days that hadn't been exactly easy. I had tried to keep my cool and forget about my fears; but more often than I would have liked my mind went back to that mysterious call and that creepy, black car. As much as I wanted to hide it, I was still afraid

Frankie had been very affectionate and clingy, but clearly unstable. Some old tics had come back, and he could hardly concentrate to read or even listen to us reading. Together with his new 'Martian vine', he was seeing his usual invisible friends more frequently; and although Ray and my mother didn't approve, I had chosen to let him play with them in peace. He seemed to be calmer and at ease while doing it. On the other hand, I did my best to spend the largest amount of time possible with him. Kissing him, caressing him, or sharing activities like watering our renewed garden or even watching TV and commenting about it.

Everybody had something to opine about what I should do with him, and I wasn't so sure anymore. Ray insisted that I needed to at least stop worrying and then both of us would feel better, but I could see that he was worried too. The previous day, he had given Frank a metallic tag with a string to put around his neck. It said 'Frankie' together with his pathology on one side and had Ray's phone number on the other; so Frank would have it at hand in case of an emergency. I agreed that the idea was good, but at the same time it proved that my friend was also considering the possibility of something bad occurring. Even if we hadn't noticed anything else suspicious during those last days.


Whenever I had enough time before work, I liked to stay until Frank finished breakfast, so we could have another meal together besides dinner. That morning, however, I had needed to abandon my own cup of cereal to help Frank with his. He had been very absentminded since he woke up, and when we finally got him to acknowledge the bowl in front of him, his hands were shaking so much that it angered him. Before he could succeed at throwing everything off the table, I had sat him on my lap and convinced him to let me feed him.

I brought the spoon to his mouth while kissing his cheek "Last one!"

After swallowing, Frankie leaned against my chest whimpering and scratching at his arms.

"What's wrong, baby? You don't have to feel bad, you know I don't mind helping you. I enjoy it, actually. Shh...don't do that, look at me." I held his hands together and he raised his eyes.

"D-dunno," he murmured. Ray, who was sitting in front of us, just shook his head concernedly.

"You don't know what's wrong? Is that what you mean?" I asked Frank.

"Y-yeah. I...I'm...d-dunno." He frowned, looking really confused.

"It's ok, I won't ask then. Take your pill now, I gotta go."

"K-kay." Frankie did as I told him obediently, as usual opening up his mouth afterwards for me too see there was nothing.

"Very well. Now...give me a big kiss to take so I won't miss you that much?" I encircled his waist.

"M-muah!" he voiced, kissing my lips eagerly. Then he stared at me with sadness on his face. "I...I d-don't want you to l-leave. P-please stay?"

"I can't stay, Frankie. We've talked about this, we need the money..."

"Th-then take m-me with you?"

"He'll take you some other day, Frankie," Ray told him. "You haven't been feeling too well lately, so you better stay here and rest."

"D-DON'T WANT TO! I'M F-FINE!" Frank screamed and pulled at the tablecloth, sending everything that was on it to the floor. After that, he took off his glasses and threw them at Ray -who caught them just in time. 

He finally stood up and stormed to the couch, diving onto it. He kicked, punched and hit his head while screaming out incomprehensible words.

My head fell on the table and I started to cry, completely lost and desperate. "It''s all my fault, Ray. He had a regression because of me, I did that to him. You know I did."

"It's not your fault, Gerard, your intentions were good. You just didn't think of the consequences. And now of course, you can't help being nervous and scared. And I know you hate to talk about it, but I don't think the way Frank's been acting is just because you transferred your nerves to him..." Ray held me.

"I don't know Ray, I don't know what's the best thing to do."

"For now you just go to work. I'll clean this and..."

"But Frankie? He is..." I looked at my boy who was red faced and crying, discharging all his rage, frustration and confusion on a piece of furniture.

"Frankie will be fine, it'd be worse if we tried to near him now. He won't hurt himself there. In a moment he'll be tired and probably fall asleep. You go, we'll talk when you get back." Ray handed me a tissue.

"Thanks." I grabbed my things and walked to the door, giving Frankie -who was still throwing a tantrum- a last look. Maybe Ray and my mother were right, again.

"I love you, babe," I said aloud before parting.


I was giving a customer some advice about oil painting when the mobile over the door tinkled, signaling that more people had arrived. I didn't have a view of the entrance from where I was, but I saw Sarah leave her place behind the counter to greet the new comers, so I went back to what I was doing.

"Linseed oil is the most used, but then you..."

"Gerard?" I was interrupted by my boss.


"I'll help this lady here, you have visits." Sarah smiled.

I headed towards the front of the place and there stood Ray with his arms around a very untidy Frank. The boy's hair was messier than ever, his clothes were wrinkled and stretched and his eyes were red and puffy. However, he smiled as widely as always and ran to my arms when he saw me.

"Oh, Frankie...what happened?" I mostly asked Ray, embracing Frank and kissing his head.

"I had to bring him. He wouldn't stop crying and screaming every time I tried to get close to him. He didn't want to eat or do anything at all, just stayed there lost in his own world. Only when I suggested coming here he reacted well, we are. I didn't want to stress him any more." Ray sighted.

"N-needed you," Frank rasped.

I smiled with certain sadness. "It's fine, you did well."

I sat Frank on the counter, trying to fix his hair a little. When I could see his face better, I noticed he had a lot of scratches.

"He did that to himself, I couldn't stop him. I tried to get his nails cut but he wouldn't let me," Ray explained, realising what I was looking at. "Oh, and I bought him a sandwich on our way here, maybe he'll eat it now."

Frank touched his face. "D-didn't do an-anything. Th-the...the l-little people h-hurt me. T-told them to f-fuck off 'cause...'cause I w-was angry. Th-they made me ug-ugly now."

"No, they didn't. You're still pretty, and you did this with your own nails, it wasn't the little people. They're not real, remember? They can't hurt you." I told him while I unpacked the sandwich, offering it to him. He took it without paying attention.

Sarah, who had been close for the last couple of minutes, disappeared through the side door.

"W-well...they h-hurt me the same!" Frank insisted.

"Ok, but now eat this. I'll find you something to drink."

"K-kay. B-but...but they d-did it!"

Right then,  Sarah came back carrying a first aid kit and little scissors. "You, mini-man, eat that. I'll take care of the rest in the meantime. Keep the sandwich in one hand and give me the other."

"N-no, Gee s-says can't touch s-scissors! T-told him nothing can h-happen but same, h-he doesn't let m-me."

"Gerard's right, but you won't touch them, I will." Sarah laughed. "I'm just going to cut your nails, that's all. It won't hurt, I promise, I'm an expert."

"K-kay. B-but see what the l-little people did to m-me? Th-they'll do the s-same to you if it h-hurts!" Frankie menaced.

"Deal," the woman assented.

She seemed to be a real expert as she'd said, because Frankie continued to eat his sandwich and never complained. He even offered her his other hand without being asked as soon as Sarah finished with the first one.

"That's not fair," Ray whispered to me. "He almost sent me flying through a window when I attempted to do the same!"

" Maybe Sarah reminds him of Grace and that's why she calms him down?" I guessed.

"Yeah, could be."

After the manicuring session, Sarah cleaned all of the scratches with infinite patience and suavity. She gave me permission to go home earlier, but Frankie wanted us to stay so he could help. I agreed, thinking it might be good for him to get distracted. I told Ray to go home and enjoy some extra free hours for once.

In spite of his plans, Frankie only got to help Sarah arrange a few things before quickly falling asleep on a chair. We carried him to another room where there was a little bed and I returned to my tasks, giving him some time to rest. He hadn't been getting much at night.


"C-can we go h-home now?" I heard Frankie ask behind my back nearly two hours later. I turned round and found him yawning and rubbing his eyes under his glasses.

I grabbed his hand. "Of course. Let's go tell Sarah that we're leaving." 


Seeing how tired Frankie was, I suggested to take a taxi, but he insisted that we walked. He was in no mood to withstand an argument so I complied.

At one point, half way home, I began to experience that sense of being observed again. The way Frankie squeezed my hand told me he was feeling it too, or he was at least perceiving my uneasiness. Without stopping our march, I looked in all directions. I could see nothing weird. Neither were there many people on the street, which on one side scared me even more. I was hoping for a taxi to appear, but there was none in sight. I wasn't going to risk waiting there for one.

"Let's walk a little faster, we'll be home soon," I whispered to Frank and he nodded.

Suddenly everything seemed to me unusually silent, creepy. The late summer air appeared to change, and a cold breeze made the little hairs on my bare arms bristle. I thought I was imagining it all, but then Frank wrapped his free arm around his body, shuddering.

"Come on, Gerard. A sudden change in the weather doesn't mean anything bad, fall is close after all!" I encouraged myself. I knew, of course, that the weather wasn't the problem; but it wasn't helping at all. It made me more nervous and I wanted to be home already.

My breath was caught in my throat as we reached a corner crossed by a dead-end street. I doubted, yet kept on waking. When we got to said corner and were about to pass it by, we heard footsteps out of nowhere. I intended to look back, but a strong arm held my head in place, a sweaty hand covering my mouth while a second arm grabbed me firmly by the waist. I tried to scream, but my screams where stifled. With a violent tug that made all the bones in my fingers hurt, I felt Frankie's hand being separated from mine. His cries were also suppressed.

As I was forced towards the deserted alley, I could catch a glimpse of the man that was holding Frankie in the same way I was being held myself. He was completely dressed in black; black shirt, black suit, black tie and shoes. Even half of his face was covered by huge, black sunglasses. Only his hair was lighter; brown, brushed back with gel.

Frank was kicking and punching. I just allowed my captor to take me wherever he was going to. Fear had paralyzed me and I didn't want to die. Four months ago I would have begged them to kill me, and to do it quickly. Not anymore. I didn't want everything to end like that. I had a life now; something - and even more important someone- to live for. And I didn't want Frankie to end up hurt because of my gigantic mistake. I should have never stuck my nose into those kind of matters. Now it was too late, it was maybe the end after all. I knew too much. Not for a moment it occurred to me that those guys could just want to rob us. I knew that wasn't the case, I felt it. And thinking of how scared Frankie must be made my heart shrink. Why did it have to happen this day? Why when the boy was with me? Were they waiting for it? Did they want to make sure that they'd get rid of both of us?

They took us behind a dumpster at the back of the alley, the main street on the distance. Too far for people too notice, any potential noise completely suffocated by the incessant parade of cars barely a block from there.

The brown haired guy violently pushed Frank against an old factory's wall. His back collided with it and he fell to the ground, sobbing loudly. Something awoke in me, and I twisted in the other man's arms. He was dressed exactly like his partner, but was much taller, bigger and stronger and it was impossible to get myself free. I watched Frank's terrified eyes and I cried, tears blurring my vision.

"You better stay there quiet and silent. I don't want to have to hurt you, but I will if you're not a good boy, ok?" the man spoke to Frankie in a deep voice.

"D-don't h-hurt him. D-don't hurt G-gee, p-please," he murmured. My knees failed me and I fell, but the guy obliged me to stand up again.

"Are you going to be quiet or not?" Frank's abductor raised his voice this time, kicking his legs.

"Y-yes," Frankie whined and made a ball of himself on the floor, hugging his knees, his eyes fixed on me. He was too scared to fight back as he would on a different occasion. I cried harder, choking and gasping for air.

"Now, you." The guy pressed me roughly to the wall. "One word and the little retard gets it."

He uncovered my mouth only so he could use both his hands to immobilize me. He didn't need much to do that, he looked like a gorilla rather than a man. His robust hands were gripping my shoulders, and his body was so close to mine that I thought he would crush me. I wasn't even able to expand my chest enough to breathe properly, and I was starting to feel dizzy.

"Listen, faggot. Here's the message for you. If you wanna live, stop playing detective. No more calls, no more questions, no more investigation. Keep the brainless rat if you please, but make sure no one else knows who he is. Forget about everything else," his stinky mouth spat at me.

I wanted to punch his face so much. I wanted to retort because I couldn't stand people calling Frankie names. But I didn't. I swallowed hard and kept everything inside, I had fucked up enough. What I'd been fearing so much had become true, and I was the only one to blame.

"Understood?" he added, shaking me.

I nodded slowly, completely blinded by tears now; the salty liquid penetrating my mouth, making my tongue sting.

"That's better." He smirked, and for a moment I had hope. I thought that maybe that was it, that they would leave us in peace. Hadn't he said that I could live if I agreed to stop investigating?

Sadly, they had something else in mind to make me learn my lesson. I knew it when a hard-as-stone fist met my stomach and made me slide to the ground in pain. I panted, contorted, and desperately looked around for Frankie. He was still lying on his side, no sound coming out of his pursed lips as his eyes watered endlessly. Always staring at me. Those eyes gave me strength and I tried to get up, but the simian pushed me back down.

"Do your job," he instructed the smaller man.

The addressed one shoved his hand inside of his jacket and retrieved a gun.

Frankie let out a terrified shriek and I reached out to touch him, even if barely. "Shh."

I saw the guy point the gun at me and I closed my eyes tightly, crying harder than I had ever cried in my life, my hand still on Frank's leg. As I waited for my fate I prayed, something that I hadn't done since I was a kid. I prayed for my life, for our life, I prayed for Frankie to be fine if I didn't get out of this alive.

There was a small explosion that I had barely time to register before a sharp, dull pain invaded me. I didn't even know where it had originated, but I could then feel it spread through my upper body at the same time that something warm and sticky ran down my left side.

"NO! Not the kid!" I heard the big man's voice.

"But the boss said..." his partner argued.

"I don't care what the boss said, I'm not letting you shoot this nutcase. I don't go that low."

After that I must have blacked out for some seconds, or maybe minutes. When I opened my eyes Frankie was kneeling beside me, his tears falling on my face; and the two guys were nowhere to be seen. The pain was now even more intense and I couldn't move.

"G-gee? Th-thought you w-were d-dead. Y-you can't. C-can't die, n-no." Frankie shook his head, crying harder. His eyes were moving rapidly, same as that first time I saw him, and it took him a while to set them back on me.

"Ar-are you fine, Frankie? Did they h-hurt you?" I asked him, making a big effort to raise my right hand and touch his face.

"Y-you are h-hurt. Y-yes, you. Th-there's blood...l-lots..."

"I'm fine, baby, I'm fine. Don't be scared." I tried to sound convincing although I was feeling weaker and weaker, fighting to keep my eyes open.

"N-NO YOU'RE N-NOT, TH-THERE'S B-BLOOD! L-LOTS OF B-BLOOD, S-SEE?" he screamed, showing me his hands that were covered in it.

I was aware that I wouldn't be able to hold on much longer, so I had to do something. No one would usually step into that alley, I would definitely die if I just stayed there waiting. But I couldn't get up, I had already lost too much blood. I made a last desperate attempt and Frankie even tried to help me, but it was useless; I felt myself faint. I also realised that they had taken away my cellphone.

I motioned for Frankie to get closer, since I couldn't do more than whisper. "F-frankie, listen. You can help me."

"Y-yes...I...I h-help."

"Let me t-talk. Go back to the street where we came from, the one you can see there?" I pointed. "D-don't go far, just s-stay in the corner and wait until you see someone, anyone. P-please baby, stay in the sidewalk!"

"S-sidewalk, yeah." He nodded.

"When you f-find someone, tell them what h-happened and where I am," I added. He stared at me, confused and doubtful. I wasn't sure if he had understood, but everything was spinning and my vision was turning black. There was no time. "G-go now, I'll be fine."

I let my eyes close to try and regain some strength, still struggling to stay awake. Everything seemed silenced, all the noises reached my ears in a very different way than they normally would. I felt isolated from the whole world, absolutely alone, completely frightened. My mouth was dry, my body cold and aching but slightly numbed at the same time.

I didn't have a real notion of how many minutes had passed; it felt like an eternity. I began to worry about Frankie. He hadn't been fine those last days, and what had just happened surely made things one hundred times worse for him. What if once at the main street he didn't know what to do? What if he walked into the traffic again? What if the police found him? I hadn't considered the perils, and now I wished that I hadn't sent him. My eyes filled with tears again, and the street hustle grew farther and farther.

Then one sound among the rest became a little louder. Just a little, enough for me to sharpen my ears to grasp it. Voices, two voices. I recognized one, it was Frank. My Frankie. Somehow I managed to open my eyes again. There he was, in the company of a woman, both crouched by my side. She had a cellphone in her hand and was talking to someone.

"Hold on, an ambulance is on its way," she told me.

Frankie was rubbing his face with both hands, and I saw his lips move though I couldn't understand what he was saying. He wasn't looking at anything or anyone, just blankly into space.

"Frankie? Th-the tag, show her the tag on your n-neck, Frankie..." I gasped.

He snapped out of his trance and touched the woman's arm. "L-look," he pointed at the tag. She looked at it and took out her phone again.

"F-frankie can't be al-alone." He sniffed and fell on my chest, hugging me, making me warm again.

"T-take care of him," I told the woman. I lifted my arm one more time, closing it around Frankie's shaking form, and then silence and darkness won over me.


I opened my eyes only to shut them close again, dazzled. I gave it a second try, this time slower. The intense whiteness that had made my eyes hurt didn't come from the light -which was rather dim- but from the walls surrounding me. The next thing my senses caught was the smell, antiseptic. That was enough to know that I was in a hospital.

As I casted a panicked look at the needle connecting my right arm to the IV bag on a stand, I recalled what had happened. The fear, the pain, the blackness. My boyfriend's eyes. I was alive thanks to Frankie. He had done everything I instructed him and had gotten me help. I couldn't remember anything else after that last moment when I had closed my eyes feeling Frank's warm body against my cold one. 

Thoughtlessly, I tried to use both my arms to sit up on the bed. A piercing pain shot through my left one and I realised that I couldn't separate it from my body. Lifting the sheets, I saw that my limb was attached to my torso with bandages, a red stain next to my shoulder.

"Oh fuck, damn motherfucker!" I cursed, lying back down. My stomach was also sore from the punches I had received.

"Gerard! Oh my God, son, you're awake!" my mom -who was standing next to my bed- exclaimed. "How do you feel?"

"Uh...everything fucking hurts, but fine I guess. What's the time?" I questioned. My mouth felt pasty and dry. She noticed and pressed a button that caused the bed's headboard to raise a little, then handed me a glass of water from the nearby table. I muttered a 'thanks', still waiting for her to answer my question.

"10 am."

"Wh-what? How...?" I didn't get it. The last time I had been conscious, it wasn't more than 5 pm.

"It's Friday, honey. You've been out for 17 hours, you lost too much blood," she explicated.

"Oh, fuck! What exactly happened? I mean, I know what happened am I?"

"Well..." She sighed, dragging a chair that was in a corner to my bedside and sitting down.

"You don't have to worry, you're fine. Your main problem was blood loss, so a transfusion was needed. Then about your arm, you were shot in your shoulder. Luckily, no bone or important artery was hit, but they had to operate to remove the bullet and seal some blood vessels. The bullet was located on a muscle, that's why you might be in general pain for several days."

"And when can I go home?" I hurried to question, not really meditating about the information she had given me. It was so natural for her -being a nurse- to talk about those subjects. I wasn't fond of them.

"Gerard, you'll have to be patient. You just got here yesterday evening! I guess you'll have to stay for at least two days, if everything goes alright."

"WHAT? I can't! I need to take care of Frankie!" I froze. "Oh my God, where's he? Is he fine? Those...those pushed him and kicked him, and they called him names and...I swear I wanted to do something but I couldn't! And I was also afraid they'd kill us both if I attempted to do something's my fault. I got us into this"

"Gerard, baby, you have to relax now, none of this was your fault. It's..."

"Yes it is my fault!" I lowered my voice. "Those guys...they sent them, they told me to stop investigating. was my fault, mom..."

"Shh, we're not going to talk about that now, ok? It's done. Frankie and you are alive, that's all that matters." My mother kissed my forehead lovingly, and I was crying again.

"I won't try to find out anything else, this time I mean it mom, never again."

"I know."

"Please tell me how Frankie is," I pleaded.

"Frankie...he's fine. His back hurts a little, but nothing was really wrong with him physically. He was left pretty scared and nervous, though and..."

"I need to see him, let me see him...please..." I sniffed. "As if I didn't love him enough already, that boy saved my life, mom! He asked for help."

"He did, Frankie's an amazing kid for sure." Mom smiled. "He's outside with Ray, your friend brought him as soon as he woke up. I'll go call them."

She left and seconds later the door opened again. Ray entered the room with an arm around Frank's shoulders, who was walking very slowly, dragging his feet. Frankie smiled weakly when he saw me and tried to take quicker steps, but tripped and almost fell over.

"Hey, easy, you'll get there the same." Ray held him.

I used those seconds it took Frank to reach my side to look at him. He was wearing clean clothes -shorts and a sleeveless shirt- and everything matched, which told me that he hadn't dressed himself. His hair was well brushed and shiny, combed to one side and in a ponytail.

"Hello baby, who did that to your hair?" I inquired, knowing that he had never liked his hair tied up. I preferred to speak of any random subject other than the last evening's event.

"Uh...h-hii." he whispered.

"He said it was too hot this morning, and he was sweating, that's why I tied his hair up. I think he looks good, actually." Ray rubbed Frank's back. "Do you wanna sit, Frankie?"

"Babe?" I called him.

He looked at me and his eyes looked different. Not only were they red and swollen because of so much crying; they were also glassy, sleepy, distant. He lifted a knee and tried to climb my bed, but his body didn't seem to respond very well.

"Let me help you." Ray picked him up and placed him on the bed, by my unhurt side. Frankie crawled closer, staring into my eyes. He kissed my lips very softly and lied down facing me with his mouth semi opened, without saying a word.

"Ray, is he ok?" I asked. There was something abnormal about Frank, I could see it.

"As fine as he could be after what he had to go through, I guess. He was extremely perturbed and nervous when I got there yesterday after that woman called me. The ambulance arrived at that same moment and they had to sedate him to be able to separate him from you. Once at the hospital, after we knew you'd be alright, I called Goldberg. The sedative had already ran out, and I was worried about Frankie. He was murmuring, trying to hit himself all the time, crying, screaming. We couldn't get him to actually notice us."

"Oh baby, I'm so so sorry." I moved my arm so Frank could put his head on my chest, and I kissed it while my fingers played with his ponytail.

"Goldberg was very helpful, he came here to see Frankie," Ray continued. "He said his condition had been aggravated due to stress and the traumatic experience. It might be only temporarily, though. He injected him with an increased dose of his medication and told us to keep it like that. One more pill per day, so that's one and a half each intake."

"Oh, that's why he's kinda...zombified." I watched Frank's dreamy eyes.

"Yeah, he's not very lucid, I know. Goldberg said he'll get a little better as his body gets used to the new dose. Right now it's necessary, he needs to be as serene as possible. The doc will be also seeing him once a week for some time. And he recommended not to force him to do anything, even the reading practice and all that, because it might be harder and it'd only frustrate him."

"Well, babe, after all I doubted about your seems destiny decided, uh?" I caressed his face and he smiled more heartedly this time.

"L-love you."

"I love you too, my brave savior. Don't worry, I'll get better veeery soon and take care of you," I promised. I wasn't sure how much he remembered of the previous day and how much it had affected him, but I supposed that he'd need a lot of patience, a lot of love. Nothing I couldn't give him.

"Gerard?" Ray drew my attention.


"I know it's maybe not the best moment, but if I don't say it I'll explode..." he paused and I frowned, intrigued.

"Say what?"

"About your 'investigation'...I told you so."

Chapter Text

Lay beside me, tell me what they've done.
Speak the words I wanna hear, to make my demons run.
The door is locked now, but it's open if you're true.
If you can understand the me, then I can understand the you.

Sure, 'I told you so' wasn't a line I wanted to hear from anyone; but I expected it, I deserved it.

"I know Ray, I know. I think that's the first thing I told myself as soon as those guys appeared," I responded tiredly.

Frank tightened his grip on me, and Ray brought his index finger to his lips. "Gee..."

"Yeah, you're right, not the moment," I whispered. "How did you do with Frankie last night? Did my mom take him with her? Oh, you said he was with you this morning..." I rambled, just trying to find a slightly different subject.

He caressed Frank's hair. "Goldberg thought that at least for the first night Frankie would be more comfortable in his own house, that he'd miss you less that way. So both Donna and I stayed there with him, only that she came to the hospital earlier this morning." 

"Where is she now?" I asked, noticing that my mother wasn't in the room anymore.

"Oh, I finally talked her into going to the diner. Last night she didn't want to eat at all and today she left without having breakfast. Now that you're fine she has no excuse!"

"Well, you can guess where my stubbornness comes from..." I laughed and regretted it right away as I was attacked by pain. Everything from my chest to my waist -minus my right arm- was aching.

Ray saw me grimacing and flinched, alarmed. "Gerard...are you ok? Want me to call a nurse?"

"No, it's fine. The pain is not that much if I stay quiet. I'll ask them to give me something later, I don't want to fall asleep just now. I already lost several hours of my life." I shook my head and again, that hurt. "Ouch!"

"I...I'm h-hurting you?" Frankie questioned, looking up. He did add more pressure on my sore chest, but at the same time it felt so good to have him close to me.

"Not at all, babe." I continued to rub his neck.

We remained like that for near an hour, Frankie dozing off every now and then while Ray and I did some small talk. The nurse came and added something to the IV line, assuring me that it wouldn't put me to sleep right away. Ray had told me that the girl was very nice to Frankie the night before, which became evident when, knowing the boy was there again, she brought him some orange juice and a pack of cookies. 

Accepting the food eagerly, Frank sat on the edge of the metallic bed. He gave Ray and me one cookie each and ate the rest without saying a word.

"At least he seems to be hungry, uh?" I commented while Ray collected the crumbs from Frankie's lap on his hand.

"Yep, and he had a complete breakfast at home! It must be the medication that's making him hungrier, not sure. Anyway, I guess it's a positive thing."

"It sure is." I briefly kissed Frank's lips as he lied back with me.

He appeared to sleep for a good while -or at least his eyes were closed, but then he began to stir beside me, making me groan in pain.

"Hey, something wrong, kid? Stay quiet, remember Gerard's hurt," Ray hushed him.

"I'm fine." I forced a smile. "What's wrong, babe?"

"Th-think I g-gotta pee."

"That's it? I better take you now, then. We don't want any accident here, do we?" Ray tried to get Frankie out of the bed, but the boy resisted and hid his face against the pillow.

"Why do you say that? Was there any 'accident' at home?"

"Yeah...while asleep. Totally normal under the circumstances, I'm sure," Ray said. I realised that things might end up being a little harder than I thought.

"It's understandable, of course. He was also given sedatives plus a higher dose of his meds last night, that could have added to his...not being able to control that," I voiced my reasoning. "It's fine Frankie, don't be ashamed. Now go with Ray."

"N-no. W-wanna stay with y-you."

"You'll have to go with him to the bathroom, you can't send your pee there by mail!" I tried to make him laugh, only gaining a weak smile.

"D-don't want t-to."

"Come on, it'll be quick." Ray made him sit. "Since you can't walk too fast I'll carry you and we'll get there sooner, ok? We'll be back here in no time."

"K-kay," he simply replied, allowing Ray to lift him in his arms and leave the room.

I was so sorry. I regretted everything so much. Wished with all my heart that time machines existed so I could go back and do things differently, better. I would have forgotten about Frank's past and just cared about giving him a good present, a promising future. It was too late for repentance, or I at least knew that I wouldn't get anything out of it. Yet I was still here to make things right from now on.

Ray came back clutching the hand of a slow, pouting Frankie. I presumed that my friend's back had refused to do any more carrying. I was smirking at that thought when I suddenly discerned the obvious concern on Ray's face. My first impulse was to glance at Frankie, thinking that maybe they hadn't made it to the bathroom in time; but his pants didn't seem wet. 

My mother entered the room behind them and hugged Frankie, while Ray walked towards my bed.

"Two guys from the police are out there," he murmured.

"What? What the fuck do they want?"

"You know...when someone's shot, the hospital reports it to the police. They only want to ask you some questions, routine," he replied. Just what I needed.

"Oh fuck, whatever. Tell them to come in, the quicker this is done, the better."

"Ok. But...have you thought of what you're gonna tell them? You can't..."

"Yeah Ray, don't worry. I won't tell them the truth," I reassured him.

"I just...don't think it'd be convenient. I hid your wallet before they rolled you into the ambulance, I'm sure nobody saw it. So you can tell them you were robbed."

I assented. "Thanks, I'll do that then." 

When they were all going to leave the room, Frank began to scream, trying to get to me. "N-NO...W-WANNA STAY!"

"Those men outside need to talk to Gerard for some minutes, Frankie. Then you'll be able to come back here," My mother spoke to him gently.

"N-no...NO P-PLEASE LEMME S-STAY!" He was fully crying, although too sedated to fight.

"Baby, I promise we'll come back," mom insisted.

"N-no! I s-stay with him..." Frank sobbed, his legs failing him.

"Mom, let him stay, arguing will only stress him more. Explain the situation to those guys," I pleaded.

"Are you sure? Frankie will listen..."

"I know, I'll try to avoid going into details. Maybe they won't bother me that much if Frankie's with me."


My mother helped Frankie sit back on the bed. He instantly clung to my stomach and I had to be strong to refrain from screaming in pain. He was still sobbing, but eventually calmed down as I let my hand run from his head to the small of his back in a slow motion.

"Shhh, just try to sleep. I'm here."

Some minutes later, two middle-aged agents entered the room. One of them, slightly younger, seemed to be in a good physical shape. The other one presented a very prominent abdomen -probably because of too much free donuts and pizza- which made you wonder how he could run after criminals and actually reach them if obliged to. I didn't mean to be scornful with my thinking, I wasn't exactly that thin myself; but my job didn't require me to be in line or somewhat athletic. That was the difference.

I was mentally laughing -still amazed at how many weird, random ideas I was able to come up with in abnormal situations- when the pudgy man put his identification badge in front of my face. "Good morning, Mister Way." His voice was too high-pitched. Even more than Ray's, which meant really high-pitched, annoyingly so.

"Good morning," I responded. The other cop followed the same procedure as both of them informed me of their names, but I didn't pay attention.

"We were told that the kid was with you when you were attacked. Is that right?" the thin one asked, even though he had evidently learned the answer already. His voice, as opposed to the first guy's, was grave and solemn, which didn't make it any less annoying. Extremes were usually bad, specially in such an unamusing circumstance as I was.

"Yes, he...he's my youngest brother. We were both attacked actually, though luckily they didn't go that far with him," I said, hearing Frank whimper a little. "He's still very nervous, so I'll be thankful if we cut this short."

"Will do. Your mother filled us in about the boy's situation, it'll only be a couple of questions. How many attackers were there? Do you remember something relevant about them?" big belly questioned. He took a deep breath and I was afraid that one of his shirt's buttons would eject and leave me blind.

"Two, and all I know is that they were completely dressed in black, black suits. Also big sunglasses, so I couldn't see their faces; I didn't try much, honestly. One guy was big, the other one much smaller. I can't add anything else." I revealed the only true facts that I thought couldn't get me into any more trouble. Frankie was silent, but I could hear his heart beating faster and faster against my chest. He was hearing it all, and probably remembering.

"Could you describe those men's actions?" the same cop inquired.

"Is it necessary? I don't want to talk about it with my brother present." I had to be more careful than ever while in front of the law, even if calling Frankie my brother felt too unnatural to me. I hoped they wouldn't require to see his ID, though something told me my mother had taken care of that already. She was good with white lies.

"It is, sorry."

"Ok. They trapped us at the corner of that alley, and dragged us behind a dumpster. There was some pushing, kicking and punching....and lastly, before leaving, they...well, did the obvious to me," I related it as fast and simplified as I could, praying that it'd be enough.

Frank's breathing was growing more agitated. "S-so s-scared..." he muttered.

"I know, don't think about it." I kissed his head. Then I glared at the two police officers. "Are we over? He needs some peace, don't you see?"

"Hey! No need to get aggressive, young man, we're helping here!" 'fit one' reprimanded me. If my good arm hadn't been holding Frank, I would have punched him. "Just one more thing. Do you have any idea of what the reason for the assault could be?"

"Well, they stole my wallet and cellphone, so I guess you have your answer there. I'm sure they shot me to stop me from running for help soon after," I answered cockily and shrugged. Bad decision when you've been shot in the shoulder. "Awww, fuck!"

"Wh-what? Y-you ok?" Frank asked groggily.

"Yes. I'm fine, Frankie, I just made a bad movement and it hurt." I sent the men a killer look again.

They moved away from my side and talked to each other for a couple of minutes. I tried to hear what they were saying, but I could only catch loose fragments of the conversation: 'simple robbery', 'not the usual outfit', 'part of the sham' and 'the kid doesn't look alright' among other mentions. It didn't sound like they suspected that there was something else behind what happened to us.

"Thanks for your help, mister Way. We'll let you know if we arrest anyone who could match your description. You can rest now, have a good day." the fatter one said before leaving. They gave the impression of having certain speeches engraved into their minds that they replayed over and over like a tape. It didn't make much sense in my case, what I had told them wasn't enough for them to get their hands on anyone.

As soon as the policemen left, Ray and my mother returned to the room, anxious to know how it all had gone.

"Fine, I think. They appeared to be satisfied with what I told them, didn't press farther," I told them.

"Good. And how is he?" My mom pointed at Frankie.

"I don't know," I lowered my voice since he had fallen asleep, calmer now that there were no unfamiliar voices."he got nervous every time we mentioned something about yesterday. The shock's still too recent I guess."

"It is. These kind of things are hard for anyone, I imagine it must be even more so for someone who's not mentally stable." Ray took Frank's glasses off his face and placed them on the small table by the bed.

"Yeah, I hope he'll forget about all this soon. It'd be easier if I could get the fuck outta here, though," I spat. I wasn't exactly in the best of moods.

"You're not going anywhere, son. And Frankie doesn't only have you, we'll all cope with this."

"I know mom, it's just that...arrrgg! Why did I have to be such an idiot, uh?"

"Stop that already, it won't help. You..." She was about to give me a lecture, but was thankfully interrupted by the nurse.

"Sorry, but I was told that only one person can stay here for the moment. The rest will be able to visit him again later."

I looked at my mother and Ray, then at Frankie who was peacefully sleeping on my chest. They got the hint and smiled.

"Is there any problem if Frankie stays with Gerard like this?" Ray asked the brunette girl. She was pretty and very casual looking; her hair back in a short braid and no make-up on. Nothing like the slutty nurses you'd usually see in movies. Maybe I, like Frankie, had watched too many movies.

"Uh..." she doubted, scratching her head and contemplating the sleeping boy beside me. "Usually, this wouldn't be permitted but...I'll let him stay. If someone says something, tell them that Lissa gave you permission."

"Are you sure it won't get you in trouble?" mom double-checked.

"Nah, they'll understand."

"Thank you." She patted the nurse's back.

"Gee...I'm gonna go home for some hours and be back later," Ray announced. "Oh, and I talked to Bob, he'll come before the night. Same with Mikey and Alicia. They were here yesterday while you were asleep."


"See you, take care and behave!"

"As always Ray, as always," I ironically replied.

"I'll be outside, honey. Stop talking and get some sleep!" mom waved.

I was finally left alone with Frankie and the curtains were shut, leaving the room in an appeasing dimness. I was starting to feel sleepy, so I decided to not fight against it anymore. Although I wasn't able to choose a different position, I tried to relax and get as comfortable as possible. My right arm was not in pain, but was now stiff from holding Frank for so long. I let it hang from the bed for a minute, feeling my fingers regain their circulation. Next I flexed it and wiggled my fingers repetitively, considering my limb recovered.

At that moment Frank's hand reached back, seemingly searching for my arm, missing my embrace. I surrounded his shoulders again and he sighed, his face under my chin. I didn't mind whether it was comfortable or not, I could spend my whole life like that.


I couldn't tell what woke me up first, if it was the screams or the pain coursing through my torso as something moved violently against it. Someone.

"N-NO! N-NONONO...C-CAN'T...C-CAN'T DIE N-NO. P-PLEASE...D-DON'T LEAVE M-ME!" Frankie was crying out asleep.

The room was luminous enough for me to see his eyes squeezed, his hands in a tight fist, his whole body tensioned as he twisted on the bed still half over my chest. I was too paralyzed by pain and fear, having been woken up like that and seeing Frankie so desperate. I wanted to speak, to do something, but I couldn't move.

"G-GERARD...NO P-PLEASE! N-NO, AS-ASSHOLES!" tears managed to escape from his eyes.

The lights went on and my mother came running in. "I heard the screams! What's wrong...? OH!" Probably seeing my painful expression she sped toward us and, pulling out extra strength from unknown sources, she picked up Frankie and took him away from me.

While I tried to get over the pain, I watched my mother sit on the chair with Frank on her lap. He was sobbing loudly, arms flailing and legs kicking around.

"Shh...Frankie, Frankie! Wake up, baby, wake up!" she spoke in his ear, caressing his messed up hair. He had lost the band that kept it tied up. "It was a dream, calm down."

Frank opened his eyes big as plates, breathing heavily. He only registered my mother first, panicking once again. "N-NO...NO! B-BLOOD...L-LOTS...WH-WHERE'S GEE? WH-WHERE'S GEE, D-DONNA?" he shook my mother by her shirt.

"Hey! Everything's fine, Frankie! Gerard's there, see?" She guided his head to where I was, and he seemed to pull himself together for a moment. He tried to get off my mom's lap, but she didn't let him. "No, you stay here a little longer until you feel better. Gerard won't escape."

"N-no...lemme...s-so scared. S-so, so s-scared," he repeated, lost in himself. Mom held him close and rocked him. He hugged her waist and began to cry aloud. "Th-there was so m-much blood, s-so much. An-and I t-touched him and...and b-blood was on my h-hands and G-gee...he d-didn't answer an-anymore. I c-called him and called h-him and n-nothing! And...and th-they t-took me away and g-gave me a shot and it h-hurt and...s-so scared. B-blood, on my h-hands, see?" he sobbed, raising his head and showing my mother his hands, both she and I crying with him. "S-see? T-TAKE IT AWAY! T-TAKE IT A-AWAY TAKE IT A-AWAY!"

"Frankie," she held his face. "there's nothing on your hands, honey. Gerard's fine and you're fine, you just had a bad dream. Look at Gee, see him there? No blood."

"N-no blood h-here?" he asked me, hands still extended and tears running freely.

"No blood, and I'm fine." I smiled.

"K-kay." He got into a zombie state, his eyes open but blind.

"Bring him back here, mom."


"Yes, he'll sleep now."

"Ok." She carried him not that easily this time.

"Here we are. And now that you know everything's ok, you better try to go back to sleep." I kissed his lips and he responded, still tearing and shaking all over. His trembling hand grabbed my face with desperation and he deepened the kiss.

After that, he drew apart and stared at me blinking all the time; it was hard for him to focus from so close. "N-never die, k-kay?"

"I promise," I replied, and with that his face fell back on my chest.

My mother blew me a kiss, waved, and silently walked away.


Long past midday, Lissa came into the room to change my bandages. It was good for her that I was already awake, otherwise she would have met my grumpy side; the boredom of being in that place had duplicated it. Frankie heard us talking and opened his eyes, peeping around confused. He still looked tired and his cheeks were tear stained.

"Hi, Frankie! Sorry that we woke you up." The nurse petted his head affectionately. Frank turned to her and forced a smile, but didn't say a word. "Your mom told me that he had a bad dream..."

"Yeah..." I nodded, brushing Frankie's hair with my fingers. She got the hint that I wouldn't talk about it in front of him.

"Ok. Frankie, you're gonna have to get off the bed for a little while, so I'll have enough space to check Gerard's wound and change the bandages." Lissa attempted to separate him from me.


"Just a moment, baby," I whispered.

"N-no," he repeated.

"Is my mother still outside?" I asked her.

"Yes, she is."

"Then you should go get her, she's good at convincing him."

"Alright!" The young girl did as I suggested and came back followed by my mom.

"We have another case of stubbornness here?" mom singsonged playfully, tickling Frankie.

However, he didn't react, he didn't even smile at all. Frank was worrying me more and more. I couldn't decipher which things about his behavior should be attributed to the increased medication, and which ones to the impact the attack had on him. Either way it was breaking my heart. My mother eyed me equally concerned.

"Frankie, listen...Lissa's not going to hurt Gerard, all the contrary. She's gonna make sure his shoulder gets better. You can stay here, you only have to leave the bed for some minutes," she tried speaking to him in a soothing voice, as she rubbed circles on his back.

"K-kay, but I s-stay," he answered, his face still immutable.

"You stay, of course. Come on, I'll help you get up. Do it slowly so you don't get dizzy." She assisted Frank and made him sit up on the bed.

He grabbed his head with both hands. "D-dizzy the s-same."

Mom waited, supporting his back until he appeared to feel better. When she was going to get him off the bed, Frank pushed her away rudely.

"Frankie! Mom's just helping you!" I scolded him.

"I...I'm n-not leaving the b-bed."

"Frankie..." she approached him again.

"D-don't want."

"It's ok, he can stay here," Lissa, extremely patient, changed her mind. "Just sit a little bit more to the end of the bed, Frankie."

"K-kay." He moved along the bed in all fours and sat back.

"I'm gonna go buy something to eat. What about McDonald's, kiddo?" my mother invited.

"Y-yes! With l-lots of f-fries!" Frank cheered, finally showing enthusiasm.

Lissa giggled at that. "I'm gonna bring Gerard his food in a little while, too."

"W-wanna eat w-with Gee."

"He'll have to eat the hospital's food for now, but you can eat yours here with him," the nurse assured.

"Th-thanks. Y-you're nice."

"Aww, you're nicer!"

My mother left and Lissa began to do her job. It hurt a lot when she had to sit me up to get rid of the old bandages, but I did a great job hiding it. Frankie had put on his glasses and was monitoring everything; sitting indian style on the bed, his eyes following the nurse's movements carefully. I was afraid of how he might react if he thought that she was causing me pain. Even though he probably wouldn't go that far -being now more medicated- I knew what he was capable of. So I bit my tongue, breathed deeply, counted in my head, grasped the sheets and any other imaginable method to keep myself from yelling, crying or bitching. Lissa noticed and gave me some amused looks.

Frankie didn't say anything and only kept staring with the most serious face. He suddenly gasped. "B-blood! H-he's bleeding, L-lissa! F-fucking bleeding, see?" he exclaimed terrified.

"That's not blood, it's this." Lissa showed him a small bottle in her hands and made him look inside. "It's to disinfect wounds, keep them clean so they heal better. See that it's the same color as what Gerard has?"

"Ahh. Y-yeah, I r-remember Grace put m-me that s-sometimes when I g-got hurt." He nodded. I did have some blood mixed with that, but Frankie was better without knowing. I guessed I preferred to think it was antiseptic too, not being exactly fond of blood myself.

Lissa continued with the healing and Frankie became more curious than tense from then on. "C-can I help next t-time?"

"Yep, next time I'll let you be my assistant," the girl approved.


Seeing that we were done, Frankie went back to his previous spot, but stayed sitting and began to run his fingers along my hair. He looked rather groggy and drugged up, his movements slow and sloppy. The scratches on his face had gotten darker, some with scabs, making his appearance more miserable. Still, he was beautiful to me.

Besides all that, there was something else in his stare that I knew too well and hoped the nurse would ignore. As I saw him bend down, I placed my hand on his chest to stop him.

"Are you dizzy again? Wanna lay down?" I randomly threw.

"N-no, h-hungry."

"Oh, talking about being hungry...I'm gonna go for your launch, Gerard. I'll be back soon." Lissa disappeared just in time before Frank's lips crashed on mine in a wet, messy kiss. I kept an eye on the door and complied, I had been needing that too much.

Chapter Text


But now I'm all smiles.
the good little shots must be winning.
Yes, they crank my dial,
my motor is stalled, but my wheels are still spinning.

The mashed potatoes I was served at the hospital weren't that bad, I had to admit. However, as I watched Frankie devour his McDonald's meal over the tray Lissa had brought him, I couldn't help but envy him a little. I had always loved junk food and I could live on french fries and hamburgers.

Frank ate as quickly as he had eaten the cookies earlier, and he didn't speak or even raise his eyes until he finished. After that, he whispered in my ear that he needed to go to the bathroom again, so the nurse took him outside for my mother to escort him. Several minutes passed by until they came back; probably because Frankie walked very slowly and she couldn't carry him like Ray would.

I understood that the change in the medication was needed, but that didn't stop me from feeling sad about him. He moved like in slow motion, and apart from when he was angry or scared, he barely talked. I was already missing my hyper boyfriend, though I knew that I'd have to be patient. He was still too shocked after what had happened to us and would need time to get over it. We'd both need time.

Frankie padded into the room and climbed back on the bed with Lissa's help. Then he kissed my cheek and snuggled against me. "I...I'm s-sleepy," he said in a shaky little voice.

"Sleep, kiddo, I'm gonna do the same." Once again I placed his glasses on the bedside table, and rubbed his back for as long as I managed to stay conscious.

Later when we woke up, I thought of something that could help distract Frankie and hopefully cheer him up. I could accept him being quiet, but he was too straight-faced for my liking. Looking for conversation, I ended up relating anecdotes from my childhood. I listed my favorite toys, told him about the games Mikey and I would play, some of our mischiefs and adventures and how we'd stand by each other at school. Frank listened with sincere interest, his head on the pillow and his eyes set on me. Nevertheless, he didn't do more than smile faintly and ask a couple of shy questions.

All of a sudden the door opened and in stepped Mikey, Bob and Alicia. While the boys came to greet me -filling me with questions- Alicia sat beside Frankie and he got up to hug her.

"Guys...I can't tell you about it here, Frankie gets too nervous when I mention what happened, you know? I'll recount everything once I'm out. But yeah, it had to do with that...stuff I was into," I cryptically told Mikey and Bob to fill in some of their curiosity.

"Damn, bro! You're always the same..."

"...stubborn bitch, I know. That's what Ray told me, too," I completed my brother's line.

"Well, if everybody calls you that it must be because you are one!" Bob laughed. "Is the kid hurt?"

"No, he hit his back but nothing serious," I whispered. "It's more about the shock it caused him."

"Poor little thing...but here's Super Bob to cheer you guys up!" He patted Frank's leg, who was still curled up in Alicia's arms.

"Are you ok, Frankie?" she asked him.



"Y-yes, fine," he replied in the same lifeless tone. Alicia looked at me with questioning eyes.

"His doc told us to increase his medication, that's why he's so quiet."

"Oh, ok," she muttered, seemingly feeling the same sympathy I felt for him at the moment. It hurt to see him so...lackluster.

"What..." she made Frankie look at her and frowned. "...what happened to his face? Did they do it?"

" was before, he scratched himself with his nails."

"N-no I d-didn't," Frankie stated. "Th-they did."

"They...who? Gerard said that..." Alicia was now rather confused.

"Th-the little p-people. B-but they d-disappeared now. M-must feel bad f-for what they d-did to me."

"Ahh! I bet they must, then." She kissed his head.

"If those little bastards do something like that again you have to tell me, kid. Super Bob will kick their asses!" Bob performed a super hero pose in front of Frankie, making him laugh for the first time that day. I was going to complain that he shouldn't foment Frank's idea, but upon hearing his laughter I refrained. Besides, I had done the same with the imaginary climbing plant.

"Sure you're fine, Gee?" Mikey asked for the tenth time. He wasn't speaking much and just kept staring at me with that dramatic expression.

"Yes, Mikey. I'm sore all over, sure, but I'm ok. Relax! You're not gonna get rid of your big brother so easily."

"Shut the fuck up, Gerard! That joke's not funny, I almost had a heart attack when Ray called," he expressed louder.

I could notice that Mikey was holding back the tears. He would not cry in front of us, of course not. Sometimes I wished he let his feelings show a little more. That he allowed himself to cry if needed instead of bitching at the reason that had caused that need. But that's how Michael Way was, and I loved my brother.

"I'm sorry Mikey, I'm so sorry for frightening you. Trust me, I'll be fine." I took his hand in mine and he nodded, slowly withdrawing it right away. He retired to a corner and as he searched for something in his pocket I knew what he was going to do. He would dry the tears before we could see them.

"Y-you kay, M-mikey?" Frankie called. He had been leaning on Alicia -who had her arms around his waist- and watching it all in silence.

"Yes, Frankie." He walked back towards the bed. "I just have a cold. Oh! I brought you a lollipop now that I remember. Want it?"

"Y-yeah. I al-always want l-lollipops," Frank answered a lot less thrilled that he would usually be.

"Let's see! Al told me strawberry is your favorite." Mikey rummaged through his small backpack until he found the candy. "I'll unwrap it for you are."

"Th-thanks." Frank began to lick the lollipop and seemed to become absentminded again.

Alicia had to do something about it. "Did I tell you today what a pretty boy you are? I don't think I did! Well, you're very very pretty and cute," she spoke to Frankie in a foolish way, making him giggle.

I shook my head. "Al...he's 18, not 2. Don't treat him like a baby!"

"I don't treat him like a baby. I treat him like the sweet, little boy he is, just like everybody else does." She stuck out her tongue.

"You're worse."

"Yeah love, Gerard's right. You act like a spoiling grandma!" Mikey added.

"Seems that they're all against you, girl," Bob chimed in. "I'll be good and won't comment on the matter. I don't know you enough to give my opinion, anyway."

"Thanks, Bob."

"Oh, but you'll soon be convinced that Alicia is like a spoiling grandma know those aunts who pinch your cheeks every time they see you? Both put together," I joked.

"Oh my God! And add a fangirl to the mix!" Mikey cracked up, hitting his knees with his palms. As we all conversed and laughed, Frankie looked from one to another like in a tennis match.

"Oh! That's what you two Ways think?" Alicia faked irritation. "Then we'll ask the interested one. Frankie, does the way I treat you bother you or make you feel bad?"

"N-no, I l-like it. Y-you're like G-Grace, only m-much younger. Yes."

"Oh, my. Ok, if my boyfriend loves to be treated like a baby, then I won't object anymore." I chuckled.

Everybody laughed and I joined them; that moment had turned into the brightest of the day.

We continued to talk about any random subject we could think of, our chat now and then interrupted by silent gaps. I could sense that the three of them had a lot of doubts, worries, and thoughts they needed to vent; but they knew that they couldn't with Frank present.

Bob did a great job filling those voids, when all of us would exchange glances thinking of a good next issue to discuss. He was a real clown, bringing up topics like: 'Don't you think Super Bob has a bigger amount of awesomeness lately?' I firmly believed that reading so many comic books was fucking up his brain, but at times like that some healthy insanity was welcomed.

Even if he was still quiet and looking permanently sleepy, Frankie's eyes had regained some shine and laughter escaped again from those pink lips. Mikey also did his best to entertain him, punishing me at the same time. He considered that it would be a good idea to tell Frankie some embarrassing facts about me, like how I used to run and dance around the house naked or just in my underwear to piss our mom off.

"Why don't you confess that you joined me many times?" I teased him.

"Not true!" he got defensive.

"Skinny little Mikey running around naked? Oh man, that must have been a very funny view!" Bob laughed grabbing his stomach.

"You shut up! Gerard's lying!"

"Are you sure, honey?" Alicia inquired, pretty amused.

"G-gee don't l-lie!" Frank declared with a finger in the air.

"Of course I don't! This is the pure truth!"

"It's not!" Mikey insisted, though it was true and I was certain that he did remember.

"It is! Only, Bob, that Mikey wasn't that skinny back then." I'd been trying not to laugh much because it was painful, yet I was having such a good time that I didn't give a damn anymore.

"Shut the fuck up!"

"Shh, Mikes! You lower your voice. This is a hospital, boy!" I grinned.

"You son of a bi...hi mom!" Mikey's rage dissolved in a second when he suddenly saw our mother enter the room, and he displayed a perfect angelic face.

"You do know this isn't a recreative place, right? I could hear you gabbling and laughing from the corridor. You better quiet down if you don't wanna be kicked out," she reprimanded us, her eyes instantly falling on Frankie who was blinking at her numbly from Alicia's lap. "Frankie, Frankie. You're surrounded by four grown-ups and none of them was capable of noticing that you've been without your glasses all this time!"

"Oh...f-forgot." He looked down.

"It's ok, baby, they should have remembered." She gave him a hug after sliding the glasses on his nose.

"I didn't think it was necessary, he was just lying here listening to us, mom," I alleged. It appeared that nerves and tiredness had also gotten the worst out of her.

"I thought that if he didn't have them on, it was because you were all ok with that..." Alicia said, followed by Bob and Mikey's 'same here'.

"You know that as long as he's awake he needs to wear them. I understand it's easy to forget among Frank's other problems and all the things that have happened lately, but his sight issues are serious too," she replied.

"I know, sorry, I can't think straight yet. Don't be so hard, mom!" I protested.

"Damn..." she sighed. "Excuse me, son. I practically haven't slept and the waiting room's chairs are destroying my back. Guess I overreacted. It's just might be Frank's boyfriend, but I'm still the one who plays the mom here." She smiled as she pronounced that word, demonstrating that she already felt Frankie as her son.

The boy moved away from Alicia and beckoned for my mother, throwing himself into her arms as soon as she got nearer. "L-love when you're l-like my m-mom."


Bob and Alicia left half an hour later. Mikey insisted on staying with me the whole night, even though I -and the doctor- had assured him that it wasn't necessary. My mother was still outside waiting for Ray to come drive her and Frankie to our house, and Frank was sitting on the bed looking at a magazine mom had bought him. It only contained pictures of animals and insects with little to no information below, so he wouldn't have to stress about understanding anything. Once in a while he emitted sounds of admiration and shoved the magazine in my face to show me something.

At one point my mom entered the room to give Frankie his meds. It was a little earlier than usual, but we were hoping that once they kicked in it would be easier to convince him to go home. He had been glued to me the whole day, so we knew it could be a difficult task.

 By the time Ray arrived Frankie was still awake, although he didn't register much of what was happening around him. One moment he'd be lying next to me, and the next one he'd be sitting on the edge of the bed looking at the wall or eying the magazine without paying real attention. I had tried talking to him, but he either answered with monosyllables or smiled childishly. He didn't seem bothered, weirded out, or annoyed by the state he was in, as if it was totally normal for him. And I guessed it was; he had spend practically his whole life in institutions after all. I had hoped to never need to have Frankie drugged up like they'd do there, which was what made me feel worse. Now I was praying that it wouldn't have to be like this forever.

"Ready to go home, Frankie?" Ray approached him. 

The boy quickly lifted his face from his reading. "Uh...wh-what?"

"We're going home so you can shower, have dinner, and sleep more comfortably," Ray explained.

Frank first began to move his head slowly from side to side, gradually accelerating until he was shaking it violently.

"Hey, babe...calm down," I managed to sit up -thanks to the painkillers- and I held him from behind.

He stopped and looked at me. "D-don't wanna go h-home," he whined.

"I know, but you have to. You've been here the whole day, you need to rest better. I'm fine, you'll see me again tomorrow, I promise."

"B-but I always s-sleep with y-you."

"You slept with Donna last night," Ray reminded him. "you know how much she loves you too."

"Y-yeah...but Gee's my b-boyfriend. I w-wanna sleep with h-him." He pouted. In spite of my cavils, it was evident that the new dose of medication had started to have its good effects. Frankie was still refusing to go, but he was arguing peacefully which was surely a change.

"Puppy also misses you a lot, he told me so today," my friend tried.

"P-puppy doesn't s-speak and...and I ex-explained to him th-that I had to t-take care of G-gee."

"Listen, love." I placed my hand on his cheek, caressing his damaged skin with my thumb. "Nothing's going to happen to me, Mikey will be here. You know how I need to stay at the hospital a little more to get better?"


"And you know about the problem you have in your head?"

He nodded. "Y-yes, I'm ill th-there, and th-that's why I'm s-special." 

"Well, that problem in your head got a little worse lately, for that reason Goldberg said you needed more pills. You also need to be calm and rest well at home to get better." I got closer and our foreheads touched. I kissed his lips and he took some seconds to respond. After kissing back he stared at me sorrowful. "You understand, baby?"


"So...I think we should both be good boys and do what our doctors recommended to get better. What do you say?" I questioned. Frank remained silent, looking around while a few tears rolled down his cheeks. He finally hugged me, making me jump from pain.

"Not so tight, Frankie, Gerard's hurt!" Ray stopped him.


"So, are you gonna be a good boy like me?" I repeated the question.

"Y-yes, I w-wanna be b-better too. B-but tomorrow I c-come here again," he requested, arms crossed over his chest.

"I'll bring you here tomorrow morning, uncle Ray gives you his word," Ray promised.

"K-kay, then. I'll m-miss you, Gee," Frank murmured.

"I'll miss you too, prettiness! Do what Ray and Donna say, ok?"


Ray went outside to give us some privacy, which we spent melted in a close embrace. We kissed enough for our mouths to memorize the feeling of the other's lips and for our brains to retain it.

"Are you done yet?" Ray joked.

"Yes, for now!" I was glad that Frankie and I had reached an agreement, I hated when we had to employ force with him. It felt extremely cruel.

"You think you can walk, Frankie?"

"'C-course I can w-walk, Ray," he replied offended.

"I'm not that sure..." I mumbled.

Ray helped him out of the bed and made him stand on the floor, yet holding him. Frank swayed and went pale, and we thought that he was going to swoon. He laid his head on Ray's chest and stayed like that for about a minute.

"Are you okay, Frankie?" I questioned worried.

"Y-yeah, better. R-ray...carry me? L-legs feel w-weird."

"Of course."

Ray left the room with Frankie in his arms, but motioned for me to wait. He came back only seconds later and closed the door behind him.  

"I left him with Donna because I need to tell you something before I leave." 

"What's wrong, Ray? Don't scare me more!"

"Oh no, it's nothing bad really. While I was in your house feeding Puppy, Grace called."

"Fuck! I'd completely forgotten that I never got to tell her what I found out. Well, I couldn't even if I'd wanted she called me."

"She said they were full of work, many new patients that gave her a lot of trouble."

"What did you tell her? Oh, God! Now that I think of it...those fuckers might have...hacked my phone or however you call it when they do that!" I panicked.

"Maybe the judge's phone was 'hacked' and they got to you through him...but anyway, I thought of that too. I let Grace know that you were at the hospital due to something related to that situation, so I preferred not to talk about it by phone. She was fucking worried about you and Frankie and begged me to at least tell her how you were doing. And most important...she bought a cellphone and gave me her number, so now you can call her."

"Oh, better! I guess I can inform her that way, and tell her to stay away from it all. But house phone's not safe and my cellphone..." I doubted, paranoid again.

"I'll lend you mine when you're back home. And yes, please, make sure Grace doesn't do anything either, it was enough with you."

"I will, now I know what those guys are capable of."

"Ok, that's all. See you tomorrow morning, Gee. I'll tell Mikey to come in."

"Good night Ray, and tell Frankie I love him."

 Ray laughed. "You think he doesn't have it clear yet?" 

"You just do!"

"Ok, ok! Love..." He rolled his eyes. Ray really needed a girl.


As days went bye Frank got even quieter, but we at least didn't need to get into a fight every time we wanted him to do something. He was less combative, which was a good thing.

I was still in pain, but it was mostly my shoulder and arm, and not my whole upper body like during the first two days. It was a tolerable pain as long as I didn't try to move my arm -a pointless attempt since it was still fastened to my torso- or have Frank squeezing me.

The previous day had been very similar to the one before: Frank had spent the whole time with me and Lissa had spoiled him with cookies and juice. The nurse had also let him help change my bandages as she had promised. Frankie kept the gauze in place while she wrapped the white cloth around my body, and even told her that he wanted to be a nurse when he grew up.

I was soon released after they gave me a prescription for antibiotics and painkillers, and Ray drove us home. When we got there, instead of helping me out, my mother told me to wait. What the fuck? There was nothing I wanted more than to finally be in my house, in my own bed cuddling with Frankie.

"What do I have to wait for, mom? I'm tired, I need my bed!"

"I'll only go for Puppy and his things, then we'll go home," she semi screamed, as she was already heading towards the house.

"WHAT THE FUCK!" I fully shouted, startling Frankie. "Sorry, baby but...Ray...what did she mean with 'home' if she's not letting us out?"

"W-wanna get in t-too," Frankie groaned.

"Well Gerard, use your brain. Do you think you're in the right condition to take care of the house, Frankie, Puppy and yourself? I don't think so."

"Oh, fuck..."

"Your mom will try to work less, but she still has to do it, and I can only be here half a day. So we thought it'll be better if you three stay at your old house for some weeks. This way you'll always have someone to help you since Mikey and Alicia are having some days off from college."

"Can't they come here?" I grunted.

"You don't have room for them to stay. Why make them travel here every day when you can just stay there and stop being so grumpy?"

"Ok, fine! I'll stay there!"

"W-we're staying with D-donna? C-cool!" Frankie cheered. At least one of us was happy.

"What about my things?"

"They're in the trunk, I picked them up earlier."

"My cigarettes?"

"Yeah, saw a pack and threw it in too. I thought you didn't smoke anymore?" Ray turned to me frowning.

"Only sometimes, and I'm afraid I'll need it."

"I d-don't like the s-smell. Eww." Frankie wrinkled his nose.

"Don't worry babe, I won't smoke in front of you."

"Back! Here's your doggie, Frankie!" Mom handed him his pet.

"I told Gerard what we decided," Ray snickered.

"Oh! That's why he has that face!"

"One week! One fucking week and not more than that!" I announced. They ignored me.

I hated the idea of living under my mother's rules again, and specially now that I was with Frankie. I knew that she would be controlling everything we did and constantly finding failures in the way I acted with him. That's how most mothers were, and now she was Frank's mom as much as she was mine. In addition, moms become even more of a nuisance when their kids are hurt or ill. And I was not to forget that Alicia would be fangirling over Frankie the whole week and Mikey just complaining because it was his favorite sport.

As I thought about all that -lost in my bad mood- time flew by and we were already in my old neighborhood.

"Oh, joy! The week from hell has begun!"

Chapter Text

I'm taking my ride with destiny,
willing to play my part.
Living with painful memories,
loving with all my heart.

Still slow but feeling steadier, Frank walked from the car to the house with Ray following close just in case. My mom insisted on helping me, no matter how many times I told her my legs were perfectly fine.

She kissed my cheek. "You better go sleep, son...or to bed at least." 

"Ok," I grumbled. I was tired and kinda weak after all, and my terrible mood didn't make me feel like being in anyone's company other than Frankie's. I headed straight for my old room, but my mother stopped me.

"I set up my room for you, I'll sleep in yours, or on the couch. You'll be more comfortable on the double-sized bed, specially knowing Frankie will want to sleep with you as always. Oh, and the mattress is wrapped in plastic, so it won't be a major problem if there's...wetness." She smiled.

"Thanks." I gave her a one-arm hug, feeling a little guilty for acting like an asshole; she was only caring for us.

As I turned to leave, Frankie entwined his fingers with mine, silently shuffling behind me.

"Not you, Frankie! You come with me and I'll make you some milk with cookies first," mom told him.

He looked at both of us, pensive. "L-later. H-have to take c-care of Gee n-now."

"Aww babe, I'll be fine. Go with Donna and when you're done you can come join me."


"You haven't eaten anything since breakfast, boy," my mother added.

"Y-yes, Lissa g-gave me c-cookies."

"That's true, she did." I laughed. "He always seems to find someone to spoil him."

"Oh, but those were not homemade cookies," mom pointed out. "It's not the same! Come on..."

"N-no, later."

"Alright." She sighed. "But I'll go for you in an hour or so."


"Don't worry mom, once you have it all ready he won't refuse. Frankie's been unable to decline food these last days." I laughed as we walked towards the bedroom.

Getting on the bed with such caution proved to be pointless. As soon as my body touched the mattress Frankie landed on me clumsily. It hurt a lot, but for an instant I forgot about that to look at him. His cloudy eyes stared back at me like hypnotized. Once again I was assaulted by that doubt about whether he had too many things in his mind or it had gone completely blank. I couldn't tell, I couldn't read him at that moment.

Wanting to break the awkwardness, I slapped his ass playfully. He shuddered -a not less weird reaction- and then smiled. Still clambered on me, he crept forward and kissed me. I tried to follow the kiss, but the pain in my shoulder made it impossible for me to concentrate. As much as I loved to have Frankie like that, it hurt significantly. However, I knew I'd have to be careful not to hurt his feelings. He shouldn't feel rejected.

"Frankie, you know I love you very much and I really like to be this close to you, but my shoulder hurts a little. Would you move to the side? It's a huge bed so there's no need to be piled up!" I intended to be funny so it wouldn't be so harsh.

I was relieved to hear Frankie laugh and roll off me, lying down to my right like he had learned to do at the hospital. Deep inside I was hating myself and my damn shoulder because, leaving the pain aside, I was enjoying the position in which we were. Luckily, my lower body hadn't reflected my enjoyment.

I faced Frank and kissed him all over the face before getting to his lips, his eyes already closing. He had been sleeping a lot and even when he wasn't, he looked sleepy nevertheless.

"Sweet dreams," I whispered.

I woke up several hours later, realising how much I had missed sleeping on a real bed. It was already night and Frankie wasn't there with me. After a visit to the bathroom, I made my way through the house searching for him. I found him drawing on the kitchen's table, Alicia sitting in front of him.

"Hi, Gerard! How are you?"

"Hi, Al. I'm fine, I guess. I'd just want to get rid of these bandages, they're more annoying than the wound itself," I said. Having my arm stuck to my chest as if they were one piece was driving me crazy.

"Oh, maybe you can take them off and hang your arm from a handkerchief instead. We'll ask your mom."

"Yes, please! Anything will be better."

"Men...all sissies." She rolled her eyes.

Frank hadn't turned to see me, so I got on my knees in front of him. He still kept his eyes on the paper.

"How are you feeling, Frankie?"

"F-fine," he answered in a very low voice. He was abstracted by his task and I noticed that his mouth was semi open, a thin trail of drool running down his chin.

That image broke my heart. It was too similar to how I'd always pictured patients in mental institutions; just like I had seen them in movies. Yet this was Frankie, my Frankie and he was with me. Something had to be wrong for me to think of that.

"Oh, baby..."  I kissed his head and, ignoring whatever Alicia was telling me, I went to find a tissue.  

"...he took his pills like an hour ago. I didn't see that he was drooling again, sorry," she went on while I gently rubbed the tissue over Frank's mouth.

"Sure you're fine, baby? Tell me the truth," I asked him again.

Just then my mother entered the room. "Gerard, stop asking him that every five seconds. The kid's fine. We had some chocolate with cookies together, watched TV and now he's drawing here with Alicia as you can see. Just because he's quiet it doesn't mean that he's not fine, son!" she said.

I gave her an 'are you kidding me?' look. "He's not just quiet. Don't you see that...argg nevermind." I gave up. I knew that no one would be on my side in this case. I chose not to fight with my mother -since that was the last thing Frankie needed- and sat on the chair next to my boyfriend.

"Where's Puppy?" I questioned.

" the p-patio playing with the l-leaves. I'll p-play later."

"It's fine, you could fall down if you went now. What have you been doing? Can I see?"

"I d-drewed her," he pointed at my brother's girlfriend.

"He's good!" Alicia handed me the drawing. Though his style was simple and infantile he was, indeed, good at it. Even if he only drew stick figures, he always added details that made it easy to guess who was who. The hair, the clothes, the attitudes.

I smiled looking at what he had drawn this time. The Alicia on the paper had a huge smile, so huge that it didn't fit her face. She seemed to be dressed in the same way as the real one, or at least the colors were very similar. A caption cloud above her read 'awww', and she was hugging somebody who was shorter than her. You could only see that other person's back; but the messy, long, dark brown hair showed that it was Frankie. At the bottom of the paper he had written 'Alisia' with big letters.

"This is so cute, Frankie!" I told him.

Mikey's head popped up from behind me, spying the drawing. "Good work, Frankie! You portrayed Al as the annoying fangirl she is!"

"Shut up, Mikey. You heard Frankie when he said he likes the way I treat him."

"Sure, sure. That's what he says." My brother chuckled. "Only one thing, boy. See here? Alicia is with a 'c', not an 's'."

"Ah." Frank stared at the sheet.

"Michael! Leave Frankie alone!" mom intervened.

Mikey frowned. "I just thought it'd be a good thing to tell him so he can learn, what's wrong with it? Jeez, mom!"

"Really...I think it's ok," I supported my brother. "I often correct him when he says or writes a word wrong, too. It's a way to help him get better at it."

"I understand that, but Goldberg said we shouldn't press him at the moment," she argued.

"I didn't press him, it wasn't a big deal. It's not like I made him figure out what was wrong by himself, I just told him the right way to write it!" Mikey continued, not willing to let her win. He hated when she exaggerated.

Not knowing what else to say to sustain her point of view, our mother left irritated.

Without a word, Frankie snatched the drawing from me and took the rubber. He erased the 's' and replaced it with a 'c', showing it to Mikey. "O-okay now, M-Mikey?"

"It's perfect!" he answered.

Frank smiled satisfied and returned to what he was currently working on.

I observed him; and as he applied more pressure with the black pencil to make the hair look darker I knew it was me. What caught my attention was the fact that the figure wasn't smiling like the ones Frankie would usually draw. This character's mouth was a straight line. He was having trouble giving the picture the last touches since his hands had started to shake. It had gotten worse lately and sometimes his legs also trembled, though fortunately it hadn't been very noticeable or frequent so far.

That was another reason for me to hate that medication, but it was the best one I could afford -which reminded me that my father's watch was still at the pawn shop with no possibility of being recovered any time soon. Anyway, talking about side effects, not even the most expensive meds were much better from what I had been told. Grace had assured me that the ones Frankie was taking now, even being slightly cheaper, were among the best ones. My only conclusion was that I'd have to get used to how things were and put up with the problems. I had seen Frank without medication, and that was real suffering for him.

Frankie suddenly threw the black pencil across the table rather rudely and took hold of the red one. At first, he painted a red spot on my stick version's shoulder. Alicia, Mikey and I all looked at each other, but waited. Then he remarked the strokes, making the spot bigger and bigger to end up just tracing red lines all through the drawing while sniffing softly. He moved his hand faster and faster, his lips pressed together so tight that they went white. Without speaking, I detained him and I retrieved the pencil from his grasp giving it to Alicia, who hid it in her pocket.

"Would you give me an extra hand? Just hold the paper in place," I instructed her.

Taking care not to touch the main image, I passed the rubber over the red lines trying to make them disappear as much as possible. Frankie stared, sobbing. I knew that I couldn't fix it perfectly, for color pencils are hard to erase; but I hoped Frank would get the idea, the meaning behind what I was doing. Holding the black pencil I retouched some parts of the little Gerard-guy that had been left blurry. Instead of the straight line on his face -which I had purposely erased- I drew a smile.

Frank wasn't crying so loudly anymore, but I could hear him hiccup. I produced another tissue to dry his tears and wipe his nose and mouth, then placed my hand on his chin, pushing his face up.

"There's no blood. Look at me. No blood, baby."

"B-but there w-was and...and it can c-come back. Y-yes, can," he muttered.

"No, it can't and it won't. There's no more blood. I'm fine. I'm smiling because I'm with you and we're both alive and we love each other. So no more sad drawings, ok?"

"K-kay," he assented.

I kissed him and when he kissed back we both cried, but I knew those tears were tears of love. Tears of relief because in spite of all and besides the fear and the pain, we still had each other.

We were still kissing lazily, with wet faces and a strong need for mutual support, when I heard Mikey cough. "Uh...don't mind me, too late," he said, looking past us. 

He confused the shit out of me. I was about to curse at him, but my mother magically showing up explained it all. Mikey was trying to warn us.

"Gerard, let the boy breathe."

"Donna...I don't think Frankie is complaining." Alicia giggled.

"I do think they're going too fast. I try to get used to it, it's just that...Frankie's like a kid!"

"But he's not, mom." Mikey got up and touched her shoulder. "When it comes to certain things, your new youngest kid is like any other teenager."

I was pleased to have Mikey defend us, though I couldn't help noticing the tone in which he said 'new youngest kid'. He was jealous, even if he was trying to hide it. As if we didn't have enough problems, now my little brother was jealous because he wasn't mom's baby anymore.

Our mother just sighed. "Still...Gerard, slow down." 

"B-but I like to k-kiss Gee and...and I l-like when we t-touch and also wh-when we..." I covered Frank's mouth before he went too far, sending my mom an apologetic, embarrassed look.

"Mom, you know me. Do I need to tell you again that I'd never do anything that Frankie doesn't want to?"  Withdrawing my hand, I gave my boyfriend one more short kiss.

Mom shook her head 'no' and disappeared. I was certain that she trusted me, she just needed time to digest our relationship. It wasn't so much about me, it was more about Frankie. She had to assimilate the idea that he wasn't a child.

"Well, what about you draw something nice and happy now?" I suggested Frank.

"Y-yeah, kay," He agreed. He grabbed a pencil and tried to start, but his hand would not stay still. He held that hand with his other one with the intention of controlling it but of course, they were both shaking equally badly. "C-can't." he pouted. "'s g-gonna be ug-ugly like th-this."

"Come here." I made him sit on my knee and took his right hand firmly in mine. "What do you wanna draw?"

"A h-house."

"Ok, leave your arm loose, I'll guide you."

Not without difficulty, I led Frankie's hand across the paper and drew everything he requested. After the house it was a tree, tall and with profuse foliage. Then came big mountains, cottony clouds, birds flying everywhere, an enormous smiling sun and a little spotted dog.

"Y-you draw so p-pretty," Frank breathed out.

"Nope, you drew this, it was your hand!"

"N-no I didn't. I th-think my h-hands move like th-this 'cause...'c-cause they don't w-wanna do what I t-tell them. Th-they're mean and d-don't like me. G-gonna buy n-new ones. Y-yes."

We all laughed at his witticism, but he didn't; he had spoken seriously. It was sometimes hard to know whether he was joking or really believing what he was saying. It was the second option this time.

"Your hands do like you, how could they not? You're the most likeable person ever! The shaking is because of the meds, remember? And you can't buy hands, baby."

"Y-yes you can. Y-you buy th-them in a hand sh-shop."

"There's no such thing as a hand shop, Frankie," Mikey said still laughing.

"Y-yes, th-there is. Y-you go and ch-choose the hands you l-like."

"Ok, next time we go out you show me where it is," I proposed. Even hearing him talk nonsense was a lot better than having him lethargic and silent.


After dinner, I decided that I needed a shower. I hadn't had a real one in more than three days. I knew that my mother would say it was too soon, so I locked myself in the bedroom and cut the exasperating bandages off, leaving only the gauze over the wound. My arm felt even more sore after being freed, but I could at least move it a little from the elbow down. Next I covered the gauze with a piece of plastic bag and fastened it with duct tape. Once ready, I went to search for underwear and clean pajamas. I was doing this when someone knocked at the door.

"Who is it?" I asked, fairly sure of the answer I'd get. I was wrong , though.


"Wait a second, babe." I opened the door and he shuffled into the room, looking around.

"Wh-what you d-doing?"

"I was gonna take a shower."

"M-me too, then." He slowly walked to his bag and got on his knees to look for clean clothes, just like I was doing.

"Mom! Gonna go take a shower!" I called once out of the room. Bad move.

She came to us in no time, looking concerned. "Oh, sure you can? Maybe you shouldn't get the wound wet yet..."

"I already took care of that, it won't get wet. And I'll be careful."

"Guess it's fine, then. are you gonna do to...?"

"Mom...I have two arms. I can perfectly wash myself with my right one. Please, I'll be fine!" I tried to spare me any more objections.


"G-gonna shower t-too," Frankie announced.

"Nonono, if you wanna shower you wait until he finishes."

"W-we always sh-shower together," Frankie commented, my mother only now finding out about it.

Her glare let me know that she didn't like it at all. I was thankful that she saved her opinion for another moment. "Now you can't. It's gonna be more difficult for Gerard to take a bath using only one arm, and he needs more space to be comfortable. Besides, you've been dizzy and he can't help you properly. It's dangerous," she explained to Frankie. However, I knew that wasn't the real reason for her negative, or it wasn't the only one. She just hated the idea of Frankie and me being naked together and alone. I did understand her; that's why I didn't complain anymore and told Frankie to do as she said. But I was getting sick and tired of all that.


Two days later I was already desperate, exhausted. Frankie was a complete zombie half of the time. He wasn't exactly too animated the other half, but he at least moved and spoke a little more and had somewhat normal reactions. He'd not had any more crisis or panic attacks related to my shooting while awake, although he sometimes got very agitated in his sleep. He twisted, turned, whimpered and even screamed about blood before waking up frightened. During the last night he had peed the bed again. We all acted as if it was completely normal, behaving as naturally as possible because we didn't want Frank to feel worse than he already did. He always cried every time it happened, saying he was too old to do that

My mother and I didn't seem to agree on anything. She complained if I helped Frank eat, but also disapproved if I let him do it with his hands or in any way he could manage. I didn't know if she was out of her mind, or I was too out of mine to understand her.

As expected, she didn't allow us to take a shower together, no matter how much Frankie begged for it. While he showered, mom sat and waited inside the bathroom to be near in case he needed something. The previous afternoon she had even bathed him, since Frank was too out of it to do it himself. It was no big deal for her, being a nurse and having raised two sons. Frankie didn't seem ashamed either and I imagined that Grace probably used to bathe him on some occasions.

Anyhow, as much as I strove to be understanding with my mother, I was enraged. I missed those moments together that Frankie and I always shared at home a lot. We hardly had any privacy there with my mother in the middle. Thankfully, her days off were over. She'd be still working fewer hours than usual, but that would give us some Donna-less time.

Alicia practically lived with us. She only went to her house to sleep, though I knew that would change that night with my mother being out working. Al was truly annoying sometimes, but on the other hand she helped me a lot with Frankie and was the only one who shared my way of thinking. I had to accept, against my will, that I was happy to have her there. 

Mikey was just...Mikey.


I got up from my nap, fighting to fix the bandana holding my arm in a way that it wouldn't fuck up my neck. The first thing I encountered in my way to the kitchen, was my brother complaining to me about Frankie.

"Could you tell your little freak to get off of my bed? I tried to talk him into it, but he started to say things that made no sense. I have no fucking idea what he's talking about! I thought he was medicated?"

"First, don't fucking call him a freak. Second, Mikey, the medication only suppresses or reduces some symptoms, it can't fucking repair his brain. It's normal for him to say things that make no sense once in a while. In those cases you only have to play along, say yes or just nod. Or, if you wanna be nicer -which I doubt coming from you- you could ask him a question including any random word he mentioned and let him answer. He usually feels satisfied if he gets someone's attention," I nearly growled my lecture.

Mikey wasn't intimidated. "Ok, ok, very interesting. But now you do something. I want to study on my bed and I'm not in the mood for this."

"Fine, you...lazy assholish fucker."

"And also make sure that the dog stays out of my room. I like dogs, but not on my pillow, you know?" he screamed. Puppy was used to doing that, and I wasn't going to change his habits for a week.

"Oh, shut up already!"

I found Frank sitting on Mikey's bed looking up. When I got closer, I noticed that he was holding scissors as if they were a knife, absently running them over his other arm. He hadn't caused any damage yet.

"Fucking Mikey! Didn't he see the most important matter here?" I said to myself. "Frankie, know you can't play with these things."

"Uh?" He loosened his hand when he heard me and I easily rescued the scissors. "I w-wasn't playing. J-just had th-them."

"The same, you're better off not touching them."


"What were you looking at?"

"W-was waiting," he mumbled.

"Waiting for what?"

"Th-the Martian p-plant. I...I th-think it'll come here, b-but now I s-sleep in a mom's r-room and...and the p-plant won't look f-for me in a m-mom's room. N-no boyfriends r-room here. B-but...but Mikey's a b-boy and has a g-girlfriend, m-maybe it's the same and it'll c-come here,' he rambled.

"I'm sure the plant can find you in any room. Come on, Mikey needs his bed now."

"H-have to wait. Y-yes..." Frank looked suddenly absent, astray. He kept speaking but the words didn't match each other anymore. "M-maybe...yeah walls and s-sideways and th-they can't s-see. B-but I do. L-last time w-was not."

"Yes, I know," I replied. "But we'll go watch TV now. You can't sit here waiting for the plant, if it comes we'll smell the oranges."

"Y-you're right. Y-yes." He got up and followed me out of the room.

"Frankie, I need to ask you something again, just don't tell Donna that I did, ok?"

"K-kay." He nodded. "S-secret."

"Tell me the truth: have you been feeling fine lately?"

"Y-yes, I'm f-fine. M-my head's a little s-sleepy," he told me, strangely grinning.

"And that's not bad?"

"N-no...kinda f-funny.'s b-bad when it's a m-mess. Y-yeah, too b-bad. N-now it's not."

"Did your head feel like this when you lived at the institution?" I asked. He clearly took things much better than I did.

"Y-yes. I...I d-don't like when I'm d-dizzy's on-only sometimes wh-when I get up."

"Ok, that's all baby. If something was wrong or you felt bad you should tell me."

"K-kay," he answered as he grabbed the remote control and turned the TV on.

I needed to stop worrying so much and understand once and for all that Frankie was used to psychiatric medication and all that came with it.

We were still flicking through the channels, trying to find something good enough to watch, when Ray arrived. "Hello, boys! I have the night off so thought of paying you a visit and...yeah, Gerard. I'll let you use my cellphone," he read my expression. Every time we talked that week, I'd reminded him that I needed to call Grace and told him not to forget his phone when he came.

"R-ray!" Frankie hugged him. "S-saw my plant? D-didn't appear here y-yet."

"See your plant? What...?" Ray saw me grab my head. "Bad day?"

"Frankie? Nah, he's a saint. Too much so, lately," I responded, distracted.

"I meant you."

"I'm ok, just wanna go home, my family is pissing me off."

"S-saw my al-alien plant or n-not?" Frank insisted.

"I didn't, but I'll be alert and tell you if I do," Ray told him smiling.

"D-dunno if you'll s-see it. M-maybe not."

"It'll let me see it because it knows I'm your friend."

"Ahh, k-kay."

"Gerard," Ray addressed me again. "Take it easy, it'll pass. Here you have the phone, go call somewhere else and I'll stay here with Frankie."

"Thanks, I'll be back in a while."

The first time I dialed Grace's number, I barely got to tell her who was calling. She said that she was in the middle of chaos -which seemed evident by the screams that could be heard- and she'd call me back in fifteen minutes or so. I was going to return to the living room, then opted for staying there, lying on my old bed with my mind blank for once. No thinking, no worrying, no stressing. I just closed my eyes and shut down my brain. That, until Iron Maiden's music startled me -Ray was as much of a fan as me- and I picked up the phone in a hurry.


"Yes, things are calmer now. How are you, Gerard?"

"I'm fine, still sore but it wasn't serious."

"God, boy! Of course it was serious, just the fact that it could have been worse makes it serious. And the terrible moment you and Frankie had to go through! Are you sure it had to do with Frank's mother and all that? When your friend told me what had happened I felt really bad, because in some way I encouraged you to investigate, I told you to call the judge..."

"Oh no, Grace. It's not your fault, I was already obsessed with trying to find out. And yes, I'm sure what happened had to do with it, sadly."

"I still feel responsible, I never thought that the people involved could be that dangerous! I should have...Can you tell me how things exactly were? I've been deadly worried."

And again I recalled everything that had occurred that unfortunate afternoon, painfully putting it into words for Grace. She was shocked and kept apologizing while I kept repeating that it wasn't her fault at all; it had been all mine.

I told her how Frankie was and the changes that had issued after that episode. About the meds, she said that he was usually on that same dose while there, though once in a while they'd reduce it temporarily -or raise it, if they wrongly thought it necessary. They had been using a different medication during the last couple of years, but the components where very similar.

"Frankie will be fine, Gerard. Be patient, he's a strong boy."

"Yeah, he's stronger than me for sure."

"I'm sure everybody told you the same thing already but...forget about Frank's past and family. Just take care of my sweet kid and enjoy your life together," Grace whispered. She must be hiding from someone. " boss was in sight, he left now. Promise you'll do that?"

"I do, I promise. I have Frank with me, I don't care about that money or anything else."

"That's great. Could I talk to Frankie?" she requested what I had been fearing.

Frankie and I had made some progress in our relationship since the last time he talked to Grace, and I wasn't sure if she was going to like it. I knew she would ask Frankie lots of questions related to our...sexual life; and Frankie would always be honest. The mere idea was making me feel uncomfortable, exposed. However I couldn't refuse to let her talk to Frankie or come up with any excuses. That would make it seem as if I had something to hide.

"Of course, just a minute."

Chapter Text

When you walk you walk higher than the others,
when you talk you talk merciless the bothering truth.
Everyone seems remote-controlled nowadays,
only you have a frequency far beyond their ways.

Ray noticed my nervousness when I handed the phone to Frank. He guided the boy to my mother's bedroom, pushing me out and closing the door.

"But Ray..."

"No but's Gerard, let him talk to Grace in peace."

" leave him alone there? Don't you think...?"

"He'll be fine. There's nothing dangerous in that room and he'll only be speaking on the phone. But his safety's not what is worrying you now, is it?" Ray asked me as we entered the kitchen.

"I don't know what you mean."

"Yes, you know what I mean. Gerard..." he made me sit down. " you regret something you did with Frank? Do you think you did something wrong?"

I cradled my head in my hands and thought of the last intimate situations between Frankie and me. I didn't recall the actions themselves and instead remembered the emotions. What I felt, what I knew Frank was feeling judging by his facial expressions and his reactions. Those details had been engraved in my mind much deeper than the visual memories. It wasn't about what we had touched or how we had moved, it was all about what it'd made us feel.

"No," I stated shortly. "I did nothing wrong, we did nothing wrong, and I'm sure Frankie agrees."

"Then what's your problem?"

"She's gonna interrogate him, Ray! I know how things were and Frankie knows how things were but...what if Grace thinks of it differently and gets mad at me?" I hit the table furiously, the sudden jolt reverberating through my body and reaching my injured shoulder. "FUCK!"

"Gee, did you...?" Ray doubted, and I understood what he was implying.

"No! We didn't..." I realised I was rising my voice too much. "...we didn't have sex, of course not! We just, know how we now take showers together? Well we...he..."

"No...please, Gerard, I don't want details," Ray interrupted me. "From how you answered my first questions I'm sure you did things the right way. Frankie will tell the truth, don't worry."

"Still! Frankie must be confessing everything to her now, it''s so weird. Like...things that should be kept private are being...publicized!"

"Stop with the exaggeration, will you? It's only normal for Grace to do that considering Frank's condition, and even more having in mind that he was once...well, practically raped. That boy John could have not known what he was doing, but that didn't change anything for Frank. Or for Grace when she found out. Just imagine how she must have felt...Frankie's like her son!"

"I know! I fucking know! But I can't get rid of this discomfort!" I got up and stomped to the fridge, fuming as soon as I opened it and looked inside.


My brother came running. "Hey! What the fuck is wrong with you?" 

"Where's the damn beer? I know that you, Alicia and your friends all drink when you get together here."

"Gerard d-" Ray tried to speak, but I motioned for him to wait.

"Are you kidding me, Gerard?" Mikey said.

"No. I'm asking you where the damn beer is."

"Look, we sure drink some beer once in a while, but it's not like we need it, it's not a must. You expected us to stock the fridge full of beer just before bringing you boys here? What's gotten into your rotten head to make you think that your own family would have alcohol within easy reach for you? And...while you're taking pain killers! Are you sure those guys didn't kick your head? Shit! Even Frankie would reason better than you!" he spat at me, forcing me back onto the chair.

"I don't wanna get drunk, I just want a damn beer! And don't fucking mock Frankie!"

"I'm not. I'm mocking you, you're an idiot. Make yourself a fucking tea and calm the fuck down." He left without looking back.

" I guess I made my little bro really mad." I sighed, slightly shaking.

"Do I need to answer that?" Ray chuckled. "I'll make you that tea, seems like a good idea. Are you ok, Gee? Gee? Where did you go now?"

"Couch!" I shouted. I took the pack of cigarettes I had left over a shelf and sat sprawled on the padded surface. My crippled arm's hand held the stick while my other one operated the lighter, switching hands right after. 

The first inhalation seemed strange, out of custom. For some reason I had rarely smoked since I found Frankie. Only in a few occasions when I'd be too anxious, usually while not at home. No one understood how I had managed that when I was, at the same time, struggling to keep myself away from alcohol. I didn't have an answer, I just wouldn't feel the need to smoke. I had never been a big smoker, anyway.

So, this being my first cig in weeks, my body proved to be more sensitive to it. I could sense the noxious smoke making its way inch by inch until it got to my lungs. It filled them; and as I slowly released the whitish fume my muscles gradually relaxed, my hands became steady again. I regained control of my body and my mind. I hated how something so unhealthy could make me feel better, I didn't want to depend on it. It was for that same reason that I'd tried so hard to put a stop to my drinking problem before it became even worse. However, the circumstances had brought me the need to indulge in some kind of vice; and smoking seemed the lesser damage in the short run. If it kept me from leaving the house in search for alcohol, then I could live with it.

The fag shortened, ash accumulated on the ceramic tray before me, Frank's voice could be heard now and then from down the corridor. Only random, louder exclamations. Nothing that could suggest what was happening, and I wasn't sure if I wanted to know. 

Ray brought me my tea and I thanked him with a smile and a nod, but continued to suck the life out of that tubular, thin object between my fingers. I knew that he had stayed, that he had taken a seat on the smaller couch. I knew he was observing me, worrying about me, wondering what I was thinking. But my eyes were closed and I waited, smoking.

As Frankie was barefoot, I didn't hear him shuffle toward us. I hadn't even heard him open the bedroom's door. He sat indian style beside me and gave me Ray's phone, smiling sweetly. His eyes were reddened, and he was still drying some tears with the back of his hand. I guessed he and Grace hadn't only talked about our relationship.

"Hello?" I spoke on the cellphone. No one answered. "Did you press any button, Frankie?" I asked him. He shook his head. "Grace's not on the line anymore..."


"Didn't she want to talk to me?"

"Sh-she had to go w-work. S-said she'll c-call you on your ph-phone," Frankie told me.

I partly felt relieved for not having to listen to whatever Grace thought; but it wasn't that good to be left with the doubt. "Didn't she say anything else?"

"Uh...y-yes. Sh-she said...she s-said...she t-told me to t-tell you k-keep behaving, th-that!"

"Oh, ok. Thanks, baby." It didn't sound so bad. If she said 'keep' behaving, that meant that she thought I had been behaving so far. Or so I hoped.

"D-don't like that s-smell. S-smoke sucks, s-stop." Frankie brought me back from my thoughts, trying to steal the cigarette from my hand.

"Alright, wait, let me put it out." I pressed the stub against the tray, watching its light die. "Done." I kissed Frank's lips.

"N-no ewww, s-smells."

"The kid's the anti-vice patrol." Ray laughed.

"He is! Wait a minute, Frankie." I went to brush my teeth and then returned to my quiet boyfriend. "Come here." I patted my lap.

"I...I'm g-gonna make you h-hurt."

"No you won't, here, that's ok." I made him lean on the right side of my chest.

"Gee, ain't it time for his meds?" Ray reminded me.

I looked at the clock on the wall. "Oh, shit, yes. Just when I..."

Ray detained my attempts at getting up. "Nah, stay there, I'll go for them." 

"Thank you, savior Ray! The can of candy is over the right counter."

While Frankie gulped down the tricky candy, I remembered how I had been told by many people that it was usually pretty hard to make mental patients take their pills. We could considered ourselves lucky because Frankie had rarely given us any trouble with it. It was all about administering the medication in the way he liked it. Right now I felt like it was an abuse to give him more pills when he was already so appeased, but I had given up on arguing.

"Would you tell me something, babe?" I took the chance to talk to him before he became knocked out.


"I know you probably told Grace all that we did. Wasn't she angry?"

"C-can't tell you wh-what we talked. G-grace says it's a s-secret," Frankie whispered as if the woman could hear him.

"It's fine, you don't have to tell me what you talked, just answer that little question. Was she angry?"

"Gerard, enough," Ray mumbled from the magazine he was reading.

I didn't reply. Frankie also stayed silent, playing with my hair.

"N-no she w-wasn't angry," he finally said. "'C-cause I told h-her I l-liked all we d-did." He neared his mouth to my ear and added something more in that sudden seductive voice I had been missing. "I...I l-liked it very m-much."

Ray jumped from his couch and stared at Frank thunderstruck. "What the...Frankie? Little Frankie?" He had never heard him do that.

I smiled to myself, thinking that now my friend surely believed everything I'd told him about Frankie.

"Wh-what?" Frank asked innocently.

"Oh, nothing, don't mind me."


"Is your mom coming home for dinner?" Ray questioned later.

"No, she's working tonight, so she'll eat there. Was really sorry for not being able to be here and make dinner. That woman's been a cooking machine this week, she says Frankie and I need to have some more homemade meals."

"Poor Donna is always worried because you eat too much junk food." Ray laughed.

"That's not true, I've learned a lot of cooking these last months. You know that I prefer Frankie to eat healthy too," I retorted.

"I know, and I've told her, but she's not that convinced. I'm amazed that she didn't leave something prepared tonight."

"Oh, she wanted to! But Mikey and I told her to go take a nap before leaving, since she wouldn't be getting much sleep later." I chuckled, checking to see if Frankie was listening; but he wasn't. He was still on my lap and his eyes were glued to the TV screen. His glasses were somewhat lowered, and from above I could see his long, dark eyelashes flickering. I didn't think he was paying real attention to the cartoon, more like watching the images move. Sometimes he appeared to sleep with open eyes.

"You were right, uh? He's not always the innocent little kid." Ray nodded towards Frankie, knowing that he would not register our conversation.

"I knew you didn't believe me! How would I lie about that, Ray?"

"I didn't think you were lying, I thought you had maybe imagined it. Still not sure if Frank knows what he's doing when he does...that," he said.

"He does know, I can tell you. He may have taken that from the movies he's seen, or maybe it's just natural; but he can definitely be...well, sexy." I grinned at Ray and kissed the top of Frankie's head. He let out a sigh, but still didn't move.

"Uh...still not relating those kind of words to him! Let's change the subject?" Ray scratched his scalp uncomfortably.

It was understandable. Even though he was -like me- only five years older than Frank, he truly felt like his 'uncle Ray' and saw him like a kid. He was conscious that Frank was my boyfriend and therefore mature enough in some aspects; but he acted like a child the rest of time which confused him.

"Ok, what do you want to talk about?" I stifled a laugh.

"Food. I'm hungry, I say..."


"How did you now?" he asked frowning.

"Come on! What else could you come up with? You often brag about being a good cook, but then when you're with me you always want to order pizza!" I accused him.

"Oh, don't complain. I'll cook you a meal next time, I promise. Too tired today"

"Y-yeah pizza," Frankie spoke for the first time in more than an hour, yet he kept on looking at the TV. "L-like it, and I d-don't need f-fork. E-easier, yes."

"Pizza, then," I gave in. I loved it too anyway. Plus, that way I would not need to tell anyone to cut my meal for me, which I hated.


Dinner time was weird and kind of tense. Mikey was mad at me for 'yelling and being a general asshole' -according to Alicia. I was angry at him for making a big thing out of nothing. So we basically ignored each other. Alicia kept nudging us, encouraging us to apologize; but we could be two complete stubborn bastards when we wanted. And proud of it. Ray tried to converse a little with each, showing no favoritism. I was sure that he wanted to kick both our asses. Frankie was lost on his plate, having no knowledge of the silent battle taking place at the same table. He had, at first, grabbed a portion of pizza as everyone else; but he kept on dropping it when he'd get absentminded. Then he opted for leaving it down, taking little pieces out of it with his fingers. That didn't stop him from eating more than the rest of us, though.

And that's how the whole week proceeded, each day similar to the previous one. Mikey and I made up only to have a new argument some hours later. I guessed we just weren't mean to live together anymore, and Mikey was definitely not prepared to live with Frankie. He did try, he was being a lot more patient and admitted Frank was much less annoying than before; but even with the best of intentions Mikey didn't know how to deal with him most of the time. Nevertheless, he never screamed at Frankie or treated him bad again, all the contrary he was rather sweet with him. When something about Frank bothered him or confused him, he'd just come to me. I did appreciate that, although my brother had a way of saying things that didn't get along with my edgy mood.

My mother continued to overprotect Frankie and to always be in the middle whenever we were getting close. Also, she never stopped asking me if I was fine and if my shoulder still hurt. It did hurt, but it had turned into a bearable pain, even when I didn't take any painkillers. In those last days, I had smoked more than I did in four months; but at least that had kept my craving for alcohol under control. I was careful not to smoke in front of Frankie, since he had made it clear how much he hated it.

To say it shortly, I was waiting desperately for that week to end. Unfortunately, there was one more obligation to face before that happened: Frankie had an appointment for a medical checkup on Friday. Friday had arrived.

We needed to be there at 10. Frankie had taken his meds not long ago so he was pretty off, just following whatever we said. Hopefully that would be a positive thing in this case and he'd be a good boy with the doctor. Still, I had a different worry. Even though Frank seemed to be healthy, I was afraid that the doctor might find that something else was wrong with him. He didn't need any more problems.

Neglecting my protests about entrusting him my car, Mikey drove Frank, my mother and me to the small hospital.

"Call me when you're done, I don't wanna bore myself to death waiting here," he told us.

I saw my car disappear along the street and cursed under my breath.

"What's wrong with you now?" mom asked.


"Come on, cheer up or you're gonna scare Frankie."

"Yeah, sorry mom," I apologized, taking Frankie's hand. "Let's go, babe."

"K-kay," he whispered and began to walk slowly beside me.

"You know why we came here?" I questioned him.

"N-no. D-don't want you to s-stay here."

"What do you mean, Frankie?" my mother inquired.

"L-like he did at the o-other place."

"Oh...the hospital where Gee stayed at when he got hurt?"


"No baby, we didn't come here to leave Gerard! We came for a doctor to see you," she explained.

"B-but...but I d-don't want t-to. I...I'm not h-hurt."

"No, you're not. He's just going to check that you're strong and healthy. Don't worry, it'll be very simple and not painful at all. Donna works here, so everybody will be very nice to you." I tried to keep him calm. He didn't really look nervous, but that could be just the meds inhibiting him from showing it.

"K-kay," he answered. It was so unlike him to not argue at all that I missed his old self. I knew it wasn't very normal of me to miss that part, but I did.

We only waited for fifteen minutes before the doctor called us -privileges of being one of the hospital's favorite nurses' relatives. I had seen that doctor many times when visiting my mother there. He was around 50, of average height and had a thick, black mane spattered with white hairs. His name was William and he was a pediatrician, but my mother thought Frankie would feel more comfortable with him. 

William seemed to be a nice man. He greeted us all with a smile and then stopped in front of Frankie. "So...this is the famous Frankie, uh? Donna speaks a lot about you," he commented. Frankie cowered behind me.

"It's ok, Frankie. He's Donna's friend."

"Yes, she's the best nurse around," the man added.

"Oh, thanks!" my mother smiled. For a moment I thought I saw some special interest in her look, but I shrugged it off.

Frank showed himself again shyly and offered his hand for William to shake it.

"That's better. Nice to meet you Frankie, I'm William."


"Well, I already have all the information I need to have in mind," the doctor informed us. My mom had talked to him a couple of weeks before and filled him in about Frank and the medication he took. "You can wait outside. Donna, I'll call you if it's necessary."

"Ok," she replied. "Frankie's rather sedated at this hour, so I don't think you'll have any problem with him. But if you do just...ask for help."

"N-no...Gee! S-stay!" Frank reached out for me.

"Do what William says, Frankie, you'll be fine. We'll be behind this door."

"K-kay, assholes."

"Frankie!" my mother exclaimed, blushing. William and I just laughed, Frankie eying us confusedly.

"Let's go outside, Gerard," mom mumbled.


"Son, can you please stop walking in circles and sit down? William's not killing Frankie in there. You know that, right?" We had been in the waiting room for at least 10 minutes and she had gotten tired of my pacing.

"Yes. But what if something's wrong with him, something else!" I moved my hands tensely while talking.

"Gerard, I'm sure whatever the doctor might find is gonna be completely normal under the circumstances; and it's all treatable. What's more, you shouldn't worry before time, since there's a big possibility that nothing is wrong at all."

"You think?"

"I do, relax. Don't you think Grace would have told you if Frankie had another health problem?"

"I guess, but who knows, maybe she didn't want to scare me and..."

"Everything will be fine." She got up to hug me and I followed her back to the seat, snuggling against her. Those were the moments when my mom did make me feel more serene.

More minutes -that felt eternal- went by until William opened the door and asked her to come in. She was going to be the one to take the blood sample, which was the part of the exam that concerned me the most. Frank hated shots and now, after the incident, he got also terrified when thinking of blood.

"Can I go in too?" I requested.

"Of course," the doctor assented.

"How did you find him?" I needed to know right away. In the meantime, my mother headed towards a little table in a corner, preparing a syringe.

"He appears to be healthy, there's nothing too out of normal for a psychiatric patient. There could be a certain grade of anemia, which we'll know for sure in about an hour with the test. Then, his heartbeat is slightly accelerated, but it's not enough to be considered an arrhythmia. It may be due to the nerves from being here, or that he's still recovering from a strong shock. I'll check that again in a couple of weeks just in case, but you should pay attention. If you see him too agitated with no reason or having problems breathing, bring him here."

"What?! But...could it be serious?" I blurted out, alarmed. I hated doctors, I hated them all.

"Calm down, Gerard. I don't think it's serious, it's most probably nothing. But since antipsychotics can cause those kind of irregularities it's better to be alert," the doc answered with that same annoying tranquility.

"Anything else?"

"Not so far. As I said, we should wait an hour for the basic test results. Then I'll send the blood to be further analyzed. It's advisable because we don't have access to Frankie's medical record."

"Oh, ok. Sorry for being so insistent," I muttered ashamed. The idea of them looking deeper into Frank's blood terrified me.

"Wh-what blood? Wh-where? N-no, no m-more blood, you s-said, Gee." Frankie suddenly reacted upon hearing that word.

William walked to the examination stretcher where he was sitting. "Look, Frankie. To be sure that everything's right with you, we need a little bit of your blood. Just a little." I almost screamed when I heard the doctor tell Frank the truth. Terrible idea.  

"N-NO! I...I d-don't wanna b-bleed, don't w-wanna see b-blood!" Frankie whimpered.

"Shh, no. You won't bleed. Donna's going to do it, you know she wouldn't cause you any pain. And I promise that you won't see the blood. Right, Donna?" he asked her.

"You won't see a drop of it!"

"B-but how you d-do it?"

"Don't be scared. It'll be like a shot but..."

"N-no shots!"

"Let me finish, it's like a shot, but I won't inject you with anything. It won't hurt, really. Do you trust me?" my mother grabbed Frank's face and caressed it.


"Ok, then. Let's do it quickly, don't look," she instructed him.

I held him with his face against my chest. He was trembling, but didn't try to escape. Just in case that Frankie suddenly turned his head and looked, my mother had covered the syringe with white tape. She had enough experience to know when it was enough without having to see. She found the vein, carefully inserted the needle and pulled. I couldn't believe that I was still watching and didn't feel like fainting. I didn't want to abuse of my second of braveness, though, so I buried my face into Frank's hair and inhaled the strawberry scent.

"Uh..." he voiced.

"What, Frankie? Does it hurt?"

"N-no...feels w-weird."

"Almost done....and...done!" my mother announced, but Frank still didn't dare look. She pressed a cotton ball against the puncture and finally applied a band-aid over it.

"You can look now." I whispered in Frankie's ear.

"Oh! has b-butterflies!" he pointed at the band-aid.

"Yes, I knew you like them." Mom kissed his cheek. "Oh...Will, I was going to ask you about his weight. He's been eating a lot more since the dosage change, do you think we should control that?"

"Certain medications make patients hungrier sometimes. But I measured and weighed him and he's only a few pounds over his, let's say...ideal weight. It's nothing to worry about for the moment, just take care that he gets normal portions of mostly healthy food. That should be enough."

"Oh, ok. I think Frank's perfect the way he is, but it's always good to have a professional opinion," I said, realising that my adoration for Frankie might have sounded too evident.


Frank slept for nearly the whole hour that we waited for the first results of the blood test. They only found -as William had suspected- that he was slightly anemic. As a result, the doctor prescribed him a complex of vitamins. He recommended it in the powder form, which could be easily incorporated into food or beverages so he wouldn't have to take any extra pills.

When I didn't speak for a while, my mother presumed that I was thinking about the costs, and asked me to let her pay for that. I swallowed my pride and agreed, I certainly needed some help in that area.

And that was all for the day. About the in-depth blood test, they'd notify my mom as soon as the results were back from the lab, but it could take some time.

After phoning Mikey and knowing that he was on his way to pick us up, we left the hospital. 

When we were about to get into the car, I got distracted by a toy shop on the corner. I made my way to it and stood in front of the window, hand in hand with Frankie.

"L-look, so c-cute." He signaled several carebears exhibited over a shelf, each one with its name below.

"Cheerbear," I read the bold, back letters under one of the bears; the pink one, with a rainbow on its belly. "Just like you, you're my Frankie cheerbear."

"I...I'm n-not pink and...and d-don't have any r-rainbow here!" He lifted his t-shirt giggling.

"No, but you're cuddly and cheer up my life," I told him.

He smiled one of those giant smiles of his. I heard Mikey complaining and my mother telling him to shut up. I blocked it all and walked into the shop with Frankie.

Don't stop being crazy.
Wherever you go,
don't stop being crazy.
It's a lie,
It's a lie,
It's a lie we could not learn to fly.
Oh no, don't stop being crazy. 

Chapter Text

I used to feel your fire,
but now it's cold inside
And you're back on the street
like you didn't miss a beat, yeah.

Unwillingly, I consented to stay at my mother's house until Monday instead of leaving on Sunday as I'd first wanted. Their countless attempts at talking me into waiting a whole more week had obviously failed. No way I'd sacrifice my freedom and my and Frankie's privacy in exchange for motherly care, as much as I appreciated it. I loved my mother, but the price to pay was getting too high for me. I considered that I was ready to do things on my own. Though my shoulder still hurt, I was able to move my arm well enough and I would be fine as long as I didn't try to lift it much. 

There was, however, something that made me rethink my decision at one point. Frankie enjoyed having a mom take care of him, and I felt selfish for not granting them more time together. On the other hand, I wasn't sure if the baby treatment my mother was giving him was actually good for him. I concluded that some things were good only to a certain extent


After lunch, we were prepared to go home. Mikey offered to drive us so we wouldn't have to bother Ray. My mother escorted Frankie to the car. He had his backpack on; one hand holding Puppy while the other clutched the carebear I had bought for him. It seemed to have replaced his old Teddy for the time being. Telling Puppy not to bite the bear, he first left both in the backseat and then turned to my mother.

"B-bye, Donna!" he hugged her.

"Bye, sweety, I loved having you here."

"I l-like it here b-but miss our h-house, too. And...and my p-plants."

"Ray watered them every day, don't worry," she said.

"I kn-know, but they m-miss us," Frankie replied, kissing my mother's cheek. I couldn't deny I was glad to hear that he wanted to go home as much as I did, whatever the reason.

"Gerard, are you sure you're not forgetting anything?" mom asked me as I got into the car after Frank.

"Yes, I'm sure, I have everything here." I pointed to my bag.

"Frank's pills, vitamins? Antiseptic to clean your wound?" she leaned on the car's window.

"Yes, mom, I got all of Frank's stuff and we have antiseptic at home." I grabbed her hand, squeezing it a little. "Relax already, we'll be fine."

"I still think you should stay here longer. Or...want me to go and stay there with you? At least for some hours each day? I think I'll go right now because..."

"No, mom. It's not necessary, you're not going anywhere. You have to work tonight so all I want you to do is rest, ok?" I smiled.

 She sighed. "Ok." 

"Enough exaggeration?" Mikey questioned. "I'm starting the car, we're gone, bye mom."

"Thanks for that Mikey, she was getting too annoying." I chuckled, watching our mom wave at us as the car drove away.

"D-donna's not an-annoying,

" Frankie whispered, his head against the window. "She...she's a m-mom. M-moms ask lots of qu-questions. Y-yeah, s-saw it in m-movies."

"He's right..." Mikey stated, unconcealable emotions showing through his voice.

"Yes...that's right, Frankie. She's our mom and she loves us, so I shouldn't speak like that about her. I'll try not to do it anymore," I promised, once again realising how accurate Frank's simple way of saying things was. Mikey and I were two spoiled brats.

"K-kay. I'm s-sleepy now."

"Then lay your head on my lap and sleep, baby."

Frank didn't answer, he just made himself comfortable. When he was set with the pink toy pressed against his chest, Puppy looked at us indecisively. He tilted his head blinking a few times and barked lowly.

"Wanna take a nap too, you black furry ball?" I invited the dog, seeing him make that grimace that I was sure was a smile. He reminded me of Frankie sometimes.

Puppy walked all over his owner, making him giggle; the doggie wasn't too heavy but his paws tickled. He placed himself on my legs -using the space left by Frank's head- and yawned, tucking his little snout in the crook of my boyfriend's neck.

"Awww," I couldn't help but voice.

"Can you get any gayer?" Mikey laughed. "You just sounded like Alicia."


", we're home." I gently shook him, Puppy helping me by liking his face.


"We're home. Sorry, love, you'll have to get up 'cause I can't carry you."

"K-kay." He rubbed his eyes.

I got out first and held out my hand for him to take it.

"Oh, you're such a gentleman, bro!" Mikey mocked me.

"Shut up. Don't you see that he was lying down sleeping until now and could get dizzy? And anyway, what if I wanna be a gentleman for my boyfriend? You should try it, I'm sure Alicia would like a change."

"She likes me as I am."

"You're lucky..." I retorted amusingly. In the meantime, I held Frankie close to me until he seemed to feel stable to stand on his own. "You ok, babe?"

"Y-yep, fine." He picked up Puppy and waited beside me, looking around.

"What did you mean?" Mikey continued.

"Nothing, Mikes, nothing. Tell mom I'm sorry for being an asshole, will you?"

He got out of the car and helped me with my bag, accommodating it on my right shoulder. "Will do. But...don't you want me to stay for a couple of hours just in case you need something?" 

"Nah, we're fine. We'll probably just sleep. Keep the car, I won't use it for the moment." I suddenly felt generous. " careful!"

"Thanks! And don't worry, I won't kill your car. Bye bro, bye kid!"

"B-bye, Mikey! Th-thanks for sh-sharing your mom." Frankie took advantage of my brother's quick hug, attacking him with a loud smack kiss on the cheek before he could escape.

"Anytime!" Mikey went back to the car shaking his head. "Effusive kid you are..." 

When I was guiding Frankie towards our house I noticed that he looked worried, or rather scared. He clung to me and stopped, refusing to walk any further.

"Frankie...come on, we have to go inside."


"You don't want to go in?" I asked, not understanding.

"Y-yes I want to be in-inside but...but d-don't wanna walk th-there," he mumbled. I still couldn't get what he meant. Mikey, who still hadn't left, was eying us weirdly.

"You know I can't carry you..."

"It's n-not that. S-safe here, and in-inside. N-not while g-going," he went on, not really making much sense to me. Maybe he was confused and didn't know himself what he was saying.

"Everything's ok, it's a short distance, come on." I began to walk, at first almost dragging Frankie until he eventually complied and took small steps, his face buried in my shirt and never looking up.

He seemed to feel at ease as soon as we were inside, though I was wondering what the problem had been. I'd have to wait and ask him again when he wasn't so tired.

"Wanna go sleep a little more?"

"D-dunno," he spoke apathetically.

I thought of something that could provoke a reaction. "What do you say if we take a shower?"

"T-together?" his face popped up.

"Of course." I smiled and kissed him.

"Th-then yes."

In the bathroom, Frankie got rid of all his clothes rapidly while I had only managed to take off my jeans. He stared at me, appearing to have something in mind.

"S-sit," he commanded, patting the toilet seat. I obeyed. He lifted the back of my t-shirt and then meditated for a while before stretching the fabric on the right side. His serious, concentrated expression was adorable. So much that I was frozen staring at him.

"P-put your ar-arm out, G-gee!" he requested, and I understood what he wanted. He was helping me undress like my mother would do while we were at her house. I could do it, but it took me some extra time and pain.

"Oh...yes." After I set my unhurt arm free, he passed the shirt over my head and finally -and very carefully- took it past my sore side.


"Thank you very much, honey." I brought him closer, my fingers making contact with that smooth, bare skin they had missed so much. "I love you."

"M-me too, l-lots."

As soon as I had gotten completely wet under the shower, Frank made me sit on the edge of the bathtub and grabbed the shampoo, lathering my hair.

"Feels so nice," I exclaimed, closing my eyes to enjoy it. The fact that it was Frankie doing it made it ten times more pleasurable. It was a different love and care demonstration from that provided by other kind of physical contact, and he being naked in front of me was an unimportant detail.

It had been a while since Frank said anything at all, so I looked up to check on him. He was fighting to keep his eyes open while he continued to massage my scalp. Giving me a tired smile, he staggered.

"Got ya," I said, my arm around his waist but still keeping some distance between us. "I can do it, better wash yourself so you can go lie down."

"N-no, wanna h-help you," Frank insisted. And I knew he would get away with his plan.

After he was done with my hair he soaped my back, my neck and my shoulders; delicately moving the cloth around my patched wound. He only allowed me do the rest when it was evident that he was too tired to stay standing. He then washed his own hair while sitting, and gave up before he got to do anything else.

"D-don't wanna wash m-myself, sleepy."

"I can help you..."

"N-no, you c-can't help me 'c-cause...'cause y-you are hurt. I h-help you. B-but now I w-wanna sleep."

Even though he looked exhausted, Frankie amazingly got part of his strength back once out of the shower -or he at least wanted me to think so. He permanently observed me and assisted me every time I had trouble with something. His concerned behavior was so meaningful, so admirable. He was visibly worn out and not feeling exactly great, yet he was helping me.

We collapsed on the bed after that, falling asleep in seconds.


I woke up craving a smoke. I lazily slid off the bed and rummaged through my yet-to-unpack bag. Nothing. I next explored my jean jacket, but all pockets were empty.

"Oh, shit!" I smacked my forehead, remembering that I'd smoked my last cigarette that morning. My initial idea had been to stop somewhere on our way home to buy more. Maybe the fresh hair blowing on my face had made me forget about it. Now I urgently needed a cig.

Although awake, Frankie was still slugging in bed, petting Puppy who had proudly taken his usual spot on the pillow.

"Hey, babe." I surprised him with a kiss.

"H-hi!" He got on his knees and hugged my neck. His look was clearer and there was more color on his face, signs of an apparent good repose.

"Feel better?"

"Y-yes. I...I'm th-thirsty." He snatched the glass of juice I was holding. When he was inclining it to drink, he glanced at the balled candy I was displaying on my open hand. "Oh..." He took it with a resigned puff and threw it into his mouth.

"The best, most obedient boy ever." I grinned. While Frank finished his juice, I sat behind him and brushed his hair. It was shiny and silky, since he rarely objected to us combing it now.

"Frankie, I need to go two blocks from here to buy something..." I informed him, knowing that he loved to go anywhere with me.

His reply was unexpected. "N-no, I'm not g-going."

"Why not? You can bring Puppy along."

"N-no." He began to tremble.

"Frankie, you know I can't leave you here alone."

"D-don't care. N-NO," he shouted. He didn't look angry at all, he was scared.

"Ok, but would you tell me why?" I questioned.

He raised his head, crying. "A-afraid."

"You're afraid of what?"

"B-bad guys," he murmured.

"What...oh...the ones who did this to me?" I deduced, pointing to my shoulder.

"Y-yes. Th-they could f-find us ag-again. I...I'll s-stay." He hugged his knees and kept crying.

I couldn't believe how much I had hurt Frankie with my actions, how many consequences my stupid desire of revenge had brought. Thinking back, Frankie had refused to go anywhere with my mother while we were at her house, but we had assumed it was because he wanted to stay with me. Now I knew the truth.

"Baby, those guys won't hurt us again. The police are looking for them, so they surely left town," I lied. I couldn't tell him the real reason why I thought we were safe. Or at least hoped we were.

"S-same. I'm s-scared, d-don't make me g-go, p-please. P-please Gee," he wept.

I couldn't oblige him, I didn't want to. I knew, though, that I'd have to eventually. He needed to overcome his fear and besides, it'd be a real problem if I wasn't able to take him with me whenever I needed to go out. I couldn't be calling Ray every time I had to leave for a few minutes.

"I won't, Frankie...don't cry. Come here," I called him, wrapping my arms around him protectively.

I held him like that until he was pacified, the medication accomplishing its part too. I got up and he curled up on the bed, only half alert. I stared at him, trying to decide what to do. Knowing how affected Frank was had made me more desperate for a smoke.

"Baby, I really need to go out for a little while..."


"You don't have to go. I'll leave you here and go running so I can come back very quickly, ok?"

"D-don't go, they c-can hurt you," he spoke shakily.

"No one will hurt me, I promise. I'll be back."


"I do."

"K-kay. F-fast, F-frankie can't be al-alone. N-never, no."

He made me feel very guilty. I didn't want to go, it terrified me to leave him alone, even if for five minutes. What if he found a way to hurt himself, what if he fell? What if something did happen to me and he was left there alone? But I needed something to calm myself down, and it was either smoking or drinking. I knew there was beer in the fridge -that is if Ray hadn't thrown it away. I wanted to be strong and smoking would help me.

I thought of the perils. Frankie was rather doped at the moment, but what if he walked around the house the same? That was dangerous, especially if he went to the kitchen. He always saw me operate the stove and oven, so he most probably knew how to do it. He might even try to stand on a chair to reach the cutlery, which would be a double risk. However, the kitchen didn't have a door, only our room did. The only solution to keep Frank away from danger was to lock him in there, but it felt so wrong.

"I'll be back very very soon, be a good boy in the meantime and stay quiet. I love you." I kissed his lips and left the room. 

He was watching me, sitting on the edge of the bed with a lost semblance. "B-bye," he waved.

It hurt to turn the key, it really hurt nearly more than being shot. "It's to keep him safe," I whispered to myself, grabbing my wallet and running out of the house.

I made the two blocks in less than one minute, avoiding people along my race. I thought of how ironic it was to be buying cigarettes when I could hardly breathe. The vendor probably had the same thought, because he stared at me oddly.

On my way back, I decided to walk fast instead of running. Unable to wait any longer and knowing that Frankie didn't want me to smoke in the house, I lit up a cig forthwith. My ineptitude to control two activities at the same time showed up, and I found myself slowing my pace every time I inhaled.

I was halfway home when my eyes randomly fell on a couple across the street. It wasn't any random couple, though. I stopped dead and hid behind a tree to spy on them, thanking my good vision. I ignored the girl and centered on the guy. I knew that short, lank, black hair. I knew that thin silhouette, a little taller than me. I knew that leather jacket he'd wear even under high summer temperatures. I saw him smile at the girl. I knew that smile, and I remembered how his eyes -blue eyes- would also seem to laugh. It reminded me of why I had fallen in love with Gabriel.

But then I watched the blond girl shorten the distance between them, flirtatious. He hesitatingly placed a hand on her hip and gave her the coldest, least heartfelt kiss I had ever witnessed. She brought her hands to his head, trying to deepen the kiss, but he avoided her and went for her cheek. He smiled again and I realized that it was a fake smile. This reminded me of why I had fallen out of love with Gabriel.

It wasn't because of the girl I had found him with that day, but the way he had fooled himself. It was due to his cowardice, to the confirmation that our relationship was a cause of shame for Gabriel. I would have been okay with him not directly telling his family about us, but I wasn't going to live hiding. I would have even consented to him asking a friend to pretend to be his girlfriend once or twice in front of his parents. But I couldn't be with someone who was capable of hitting on a girl and making her think that he liked her when he was one hundred percent gay. It killed me to imagine him fucking her while thinking of me. He'd disrespected her and what we had just to save himself. He was determined to keep the farce. That's when I had made it clear that he wouldn't keep me.

"Frankie." The name resounded in my head, like a call. Frankie was home alone and I was there, wasting my time, letting the resentment against my ex surface.

I resumed my walk wondering why Gabriel had to reappear just now, after months without seeing him around. Although...maybe he had never gone anywhere and I'd been just lucky all that time. He was bad memories, and I didn't need them. I felt bad for his new girl, but it was better for me not to meddle.

The cigarette had consumed in my hand, so I retrieved a second one, expelling the bad mood together with the smoke.


Home again and with my vice satisfied, I hurried to the bedroom. "Frankie, I'm back!" I announced prior to opening the door so I would not startle him.

There was no answer, not a sound could be heard from where I was standing.

I went in and Frankie was nowhere in sight. "Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck..." I panicked, afraid that he might have swooned or fallen and could be unconscious.

I climbed on the bed to look at the other side of it, and my worried frown turned into a smile. Frankie was sitting on the floor playing with his wooden construction blocks. He didn't just have the ones from when I was little. They had multiplied, since Ray had bestowed his huge collection too.

Some wondered how seeing my boyfriend playing like a little kid could be such a natural thing to me. Well, if we were to be honest, deep inside we all feel like playing with our old toys once in a while; only that the stupid rules and ideas imposed to us by society -or even our own family- always refrain us. Frankie didn't know about that, didn't care. He did what he felt, he was freer.

Sometimes it scared me, nevertheless. When seeing Frankie act like that, most people wouldn't believe that there was a different side of him. They wouldn't believe that he could love me in the same way I loved him. To the world, he could be a kid trapped in a teenager's body who was being taken advantage of. I knew that wasn't the case. My family and friends -even if some of them were not entirely in agreement- knew it too. But what about the others? I didn't care about what they could think, I feared what they could do as a result.

Frank stuck to working on his creation, not hearing me enter the room. He had built some sort of compact, not too tall, square fence. In the middle sat Puppy, immobile as a statue but looking accomplished. When the dog saw me, he couldn't help waving his tail, hitting the blocks and demolishing the fence.

"P-puppy, look wh-what you did!" Frankie whined.

The pet jumped on him and licked his nose, wanting to say that he was sorry. My laughter caused Frankie to finally spot me.

"Y-you're back!" he instantly came to sit with me, his failed construction forgotten. He was chemically slowed down, but the haze didn't reach his eyes. He pecked my lips and then changed his tone. "M-missed you. N-now you s-stay with me to do b-boyfriends things."

You could say that Frankie was two people in one, yet they were both the same and couldn't exist without each other. It was a sum I loved.

Chapter Text

And after all this time that you still owe
you're still a good-for-nothing, I don't know.
So take your gloves and get out,
better get out while you can.

My hand slid along Frank's cheek and went to rest at the back of his head, my fingers digging into his hair. Fingertips found the old, raised scar and caressed it; as if that could erase it together with the past, the damage. Frankie was staring at me quietly, smiling, his whole face speaking of love. Maybe I'd already managed to suppress part of that past.

I tried a Eskimo kiss, his glasses jumping on the bridge of his nose. He laughed, and his eyes sparkled. Those eyes, so tender and demonstrative. I couldn't imagine them any different; couldn't picture those pupils, those hazel irises far away from each other the same as I couldn't envisage myself far away from Frank. I accommodated his glasses up on his head, that giving me a better view of not only his eyes but his whole face. A doll.

I kissed him and while his lips responded contently, his hands acted doubtful. He wanted to make sure that he wouldn't hurt me. One hand ended on my neck, his right one landed on my chest, arm flexed in between us so we could still be very close. He slightly opened his mouth and my tongue invaded it, tasting that usual mix of strawberry and orange that I loved so much. We only made a short, necessary pause to breathe. As we continued, my hand left its spot. I didn't want it to. I liked to touch that scar, I liked Frank's hair, I liked how he'd sigh under my touch. But my other arm was still kinda useless.

I lifted his shirt, exploring under it. His shoulders, his back, his side and the perfect curve where his waist joined his hips. Frankie intensified the kiss and the hand that was on my chest went past the restraining fabric, snaking underneath it. It roamed confidently over my chest and stomach, causing my body temperature to rise. It moved to my belly, played with my bellybutton and went even lower. It even dared to venture into my jeans, though not far. It came out right away to go up again, but that had been enough to turn me on. It was, perhaps, the fact that we'd barely been able to kiss -let alone touch- for more than a week. I had caught my mother spying on us even while we were just sleeping -thanks to my insomnia. I had missed that closeness, I had longed for it.

During a new breath-pause, I looked down at Frank's lap. Just an impulse, my mind reminding me that I had to pay attention to Frank's needs. He would always be first for me.

"Wh-what?" he asked, panting. His cheeks were flushed and his lips swollen, beautiful.

"Nothing babe, I was just...taking a breath!"

I was glad that he hadn't seemed to notice the growing bulge in my pants. There was none in his. That was a signal for me to not go any farther and for the little friend inside my boxers to forget and cool down by itself. And honestly, for the moment being it was better if we took it easy. Frank was still rather off with the medication -which probably kept his body from reacting normally- and I was still sore and having trouble finding comfortable positions. Thinking of how we pathetically matched in spite of all made me laugh.

"Wh-what you l-laughing at?" He failed to peck at my lips and giggled, fixing his glasses back into place.

"I'm just happy. You are...uhmf." My answer was muffled by a new, sudden lip-attack. He moved to my lap, straddling me.

As we carried on kissing, probably marking a new record, I ignored what was happening in my lower body. Doing something about it wouldn't be fair if it wasn't mutual. It was maybe another thing to blame those meds for, but not something I particularly cared much about. I could handle it. I felt in heaven just kissing Frankie and having him so close.

"C-can you make d-dinner now? I...I'm h-hungry!" Frank got off me after leaving a last kiss on my cheek. He suddenly looked like a pleading little kid again.

"Of course, wanna help me?"


"Let's go, then." I took his hand and we walked to the kitchen. Both a little sweaty, clothes disarrayed and hair messed up. But oh so happy to be home.


After dinner, as always, we cuddled on the couch to watch TV -or better said to try to. Frankie was in charge of the remote control and didn't seem to find anything of his liking. He wouldn't stay on the same channel for more than one minute, whimpering annoyed before changing it.

Bad luck wanted him to catch a movie scene where a man was aiming a gun at another. Frank made a strangled noise at the back of his throat and fumbled with the buttons, desperately trying to change the channel but unable to achieve it. He was shaking too much. Yet, he was holding the remote so tightly that it wasn't easy for me to get it out of his hands. I couldn't do it on time. The weapon was fired and he gave out such a long, loud scream that my eardrums hurt. Suspecting that there would be more shots, I clicked two random numbers and then collected Frankie in my arms. He made himself even smaller than he was, looking for shelter, trying to disappear.

"Just a movie, just a movie. It's gone now, see? Only a silly ridiculous woman selling silly ridiculous things." I pointed at the screen. It was one of those 'Call now!' shows, and someone wearing a weird old fashioned dress was trying to sell some even weirder implement with a long stick I couldn't figure out the use for.

Frankie looked, smiled a little, and hid his face against my chest again. I was expecting him to say something, to voice his feelings; but he didn't. I didn't want to insist on the subject until talking to Goldberg -who would be seeing Frank in two days. All I could do for now was to try and replace the awful image in his mind with something more cheerful.

"We better watch some cartoons before going to sleep." I turned to Nickelodeon.

"Y-yes. I w-want no guns. N-no guns," he whispered.

"No guns, love. But you don't need to be scared, it's not real. They're actors, no one really gets hurt on TV shows or