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It doesn't really sink in until the sun goes down and he's still here, in the little park down the street from the apartment he used to live in with his mom, years before she met that fucking asshole and life went to shit.

She's been gone for six months now and Frank still misses her so bad, wants to feel her arms wrapped tight around him, telling him everything's going to be all right—

Nothing is ever going to be all right again.

He takes a drag off of his cigarette, ignoring the way it makes the cut on his lip sting. He swears under his breath and swipes at his face with the back of his hand, feeling the tenderness around his eye.

Frank has tried, so hard, in the last six months, toeing the line and following his rules, biting his lip to keep his smart mouth in check. Six months of his pillow damp with silent tears, trying not to remember the last time he'd seen his mom, ducking her kiss with a whiny "Moooom!" and dashing out of the kitchen without a backwards glance.

Six months of watching the empty liquor bottles pile up in the kitchen, and learning to dodge the slaps and off-handed blows to his head. Wearing long sleeves and scarves to hide the bruises, and retreating to his room. Half a year of being terrified and lonely.

Frank can still hear the roar of his voice, incoherent with rage, as he tried to corner Frank in the living room, determined to beat some respect into him. Frank shivers, and his hands are still shaking.

Frank is fucking lucky to get out of there with only a black eye and a split lip.

He finishes his cigarette and lights another one, even though his throat feels raw from all of the smoking he's done since he bolted from the house with nothing more than the clothes he was wearing and his backpack. He didn't look back.

He's got about six bucks to his name, and he doesn't know what he's going to do. He just knows he can't go home. Won't go home.

Home is supposed to be about people, not a place, but his mom is gone and he hasn't heard from his dad in fucking years and he doesn't have any people. Just a place, and he doesn't even have that anymore.

There's a streetlight in the park and it casts strange shadows, making Frank jumpy and tense. He's not in a really bad part of town, but there's a lot of leftover adrenaline in his system and it's fucking with him. He hunches over and rests his elbows on his knees, huddling in his hoodie and staring down at his Chucks.

He doesn't know what to do. He doesn't have any place to go.

There's a homeless shelter downtown, but he's heard that they turn away kids unless they're with a parent. Plus, it's a church run shelter, and Frank doesn't believe in God anymore, not since his mom got killed by some lady driving a little too fast and skidding through a rainy intersection. If someone tries to tell him one more time it was God's plan he will fucking scream.

He thinks that if he gets to the city, he might be able to pick up a job of some sort, something that pays under the table and doesn't ask too many questions. Maybe it'll be enough to find a place to crash, keep him afloat. He's small; he doesn't eat much, won't take up much room.

Or maybe he's fooling himself.

He's never paid any attention to the panhandlers and the homeless, just passed them by without a thought. He wonders now how many of them are kids, like him. Without a home, without a family.

Frank cradles his forehead in his hand and tries to come up with a plan, but his thoughts keep swirling around in his head. He's tired, and hungry, and the night air is chilly. He's glad it's late summer; once autumn hits it's going to be too cold for him to survive on the streets. He curls up as tightly as he can, trying to conserve body heat, ignoring the way his stomach growls demandingly. He doesn't want to waste what little money has on food. Not yet.

The sky is clear and the stars twinkle brightly overhead. Frank stares at them sightlessly, letting his eyes unfocus until his attention is snagged by a shooting star.

His closes his eyes and wishes for the impossible.

When the sun dawns, hours later, Frank gets up from the bench, body stiff and aching, and starts walking.

-fin-