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Up the Wolves

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Frank Delfino has always, in the words of his older brother Nicky, been a nosy sonuvabitch. Its what, as a kid, made him friends with half the shopkeepers in the neighborhood and enemies with the other half. It’s what got him a second and third date when a guy like him wouldn’t usually even warrant a first. It’s what’s made him pretty damn good at his job and indispensable to one of the best criminal defense attorneys in the country. And it’s also what makes him agree to spend Christmas in Palm Beach, Florida, when Frank doubts they’ve ever seen a snowflake and the idea of eating turkey in 70 degree weather makes him kind of sick.

But he’s pretty much hopelessly in love with Laurel and has been for some time, and though he knows her, knows the big things and the little things and all the other things that make her so uniquely perfect, he’s still only got an incomplete picture. He knows her, knows who she is and what she thinks and feels and likes, but he feels that that may not be enough. He has the facts, but he doesn’t have the reasons. Why Laurel hates flavored coffee, the story of the strange little scars on the fingertips of her left hand, why she claims to hate kung fu movies. So he agrees, feigning reluctance, to Christmas in Florida, in the hopes that being back in her childhood home will get Laurel to spill some of her secrets. Or, at least, that her family will be more forthcoming.

Because in the two years or so he’s been with Laurel, she’s been characteristically tight lipped about her family, to the point where Frank feels half bad that he actually knows far more than just the basics, and has since long before they got involved. He’s never said anything about investigating her for Annalise back when she was a 1L, but he thinks she probably knows. She knows Annalise was aware, and is nowhere near obtuse enough to think Frank didn’t have something to do with digging up that information. But she’s never asked about it or given him any information about her family that would imply she felt he should know any details beyond the few crumbs she herself had supplied. Instead, as far as he can tell, she treats Frank’s knowledge like she treats most everything to do with her family, by attempting to ignore it completely.

And even when she invites him to come to Florida with him over Christmas, looking at him like she’s half hoping he rejects the offer, Laurel barely tells him more than he needs to get through introductions. Which is why, as he steps out of the airport into the muggy South Florida heat, his shirt and waistcoat instantly sticking to his skin, Frank tries desperately to remember which brother Laurel had told him is picking them up, and what he’s supposed to know about that brother, trying to forget the somewhat less legitimately obtained information about Adrian and Hector Castillo.

Frank begins to head towards the curb with his bags, glancing back to ask Laurel what her brother’s car looks like when he realizes she’s not behind him. He turns around, head twisting to find her in the crowd. She’s still inside the terminal, just inside the sliding doors, practically slumped against the wall with her bags at her feet.

He gives her a look and stalks back towards her as Laurel just shrugs.

“Hector’s always running late,” she tells him grudgingly after a moment.

“Which one’s Hector again?” he asks, setting his bags down next to hers and taking her hand, giving it a brief squeeze.

“The chef,” she says after a moment. “He lives here in Miami. He’s four years older than me. Adrian is six; he’s the one that works with my dad.”

He knows this, knows all of this. Know about her sister, Vanessa, seven years older and a housewife in Texas with four kids. Knows about her oldest brother too, even though Laurel has never mentioned him and, as far as Frank can tell, never will, even though she keeps a picture of him taped to the side of the bookshelf next to her desk.

He tries to remember what else she’s told him about Hector, whether he has a family, where he works, so that maybe the conversation in the car from the airport to Laurel’s parent’s house won’t be any more awkward than it has to be. He is, after all, nearly a decade older than Hector, who, as Laurel just reminded him, is four years older than her. He is, also, an obvious blue-collar, east-coast Italian and he’s not sure what, if anything, he’ll have in common with a moneyed, Latino chef who doesn’t seem to have ever left Florida. Catholicism, he thinks wryly, and a connection to drug money.

He almost says this to Laurel, but one look at the tense cast to her jaw and the sullen slump of her shoulders makes him reconsider. That and he realizes, almost too late, that he doesn’t actually “know” the source of her father’s money; not from Laurel at least. He knows she has a pretty shitty relationship with her father, knows her family’s money is a source of not only embarrassment but of something approaching shame, and that, in two years, he can count on one hand the phone conversations she’s had with the lot of them.

But he doesn’t know why and Laurel doesn’t seem at all inclined to tell him, even now that they’re practically at her parent’s doorstep. He thinks maybe she’s just going to let him walk into this blind, which, he supposes he deserves after he sprung his family on her all that time ago.

Laurel grabs his hand again then, lacing her fingers through his. “Hector’s ok,” she tells him, not looking at him, eyes fixed firmly on her toes. “It’s the rest of them you’ll have to worry about.”

He gives her a lopsided smile. “You sure they’re not gonna be worried about me? I’m probably a bit poorer than the last boyfriend you brought around. Older too.”

The side of her mouth quirks but she still doesn’t look at him. He nudges her shoulder gently. “C’mon princess. Wanna help me case the place after dinner?”

That gets a roll of her eyes, and Frank can’t help the little swell of pride that blooms in his chest. It will never not make him grateful that he can do this, lessen the heaviness that sometimes seems to settle over her like a mantle. “I love you,” he tells her. “I don’t care about the rest of them.”

She smiles, but it doesn’t quite reach her eyes yet. “You want to skip the inevitable Castillo family Christmas disaster and just go to the Keys? I was looking at Kayak last night and we can get a room in a beachfront B&B for like $125 a night in Key West. I’ll promise you all the beach sex you want.”

He chuckles a little and smooths his thumb across hers. “As tempting as that is, I was kinda looking forward to some illicit sex in your childhood bed with your parents down the hall. Much hotter than beach sex.”

“Only if I’m willing to have it with you,” she warns, though a teasing grin slowly slides onto her face. “Plus, they converted my bedroom into a guest room like six years ago.”

“Then make that looking forward to some sad, desperate self-love in the shower. Unless you take pity on me.”

Laurel looks like she’s about to reply with something sarcastic when her phone chimes shrilly. “That’ll be Hector,” she tell him. “Inevitably running late.”

She fishes the phone from her back pocket and hands it to Frank without glancing at it. “So, more or less than half an hour behind?” She asks him with a weary edge to her voice.

Frank slides her phone open and checks the text. As she predicted, its from Hector. Its in Spanish of course, and he can’t see anything that looks like a number. He shrugs and passes it back to her. Frank watches her face as she reads the text, trying to piece together the mystery of her thoughts. “He says he’s pulling in. Blue Civic,” she sounds surprised and only a little amused. “I think this might be the closest I’ve seen Hector be to on-time in a decade.”

She slips her phone back into her pocket and hefts her bag up onto her shoulder, pushing herself slowly off of the wall. She turns and pauses, waiting for Frank to do the same.

“You sure you’re ready for this?” she asks, just as Frank sees the promised blue Civic pull up to the curb and begin blaring its horn.

He briefly considers backing out, telling her, yeah, they should just blow the whole thing off and spend the holidays fucking and getting sloshed in the Keys. But if there’s one thing Frank Delfino is, it’s a sucker for information, and a sucker for Laurel in particular. So instead he pushes himself off the wall and follows her out towards the waiting car.