David’s skin tastes salty, like old sweat and tears. That fucking mouth of his doesn’t quit as Frank presses him down into the scratchy cot mattress. Keeps whining, keening, mumbling shit like yeah, Frank, yeah and oh, god, oh please while his fingers dig hard into Frank’s hips. He keeps tugging Frank closer, arches up into him, chases Frank’s mouth whenever he pulls away, like he can’t bear to stop touching, fingers grasping, eyes wide and blue against the flush of his cheeks.
The thing is, Frank’s always sorta preferred guys. He’s never made a big deal of it, it’s never been a problem, he was as surprised as anyone when it was Maria he fell head over heels for. David though, David, he’s pretty sure hasn’t done this before. He’s pretty sure is just desperate and touch starved and godamn fucked up over having lived in a basement for a year. So Frank should probably stop but David’s eyes keep fluttering shut, his head keeps tilting back as he moans, “Fuck please, Frank – please, please, please, please – oh please – ”
So Frank pushes away that little voice, gives over to how fucking good it feels to just lose himself in the heat of it, in David’s fingers coming up to curl around the nape of his neck, in the whiskey-taste of David’s tongue. Squeezes his eyes shit and grunts his fair share of bullshit back into David’s ridiculous hair.
In the morning he makes breakfast. David avoids his gaze, apologises for being an ass. Frank’s chest feels more hollow than usual, he keeps his eyes low, on his bowl. He fucked up here. He fucked up bad. But then David’s crossed the room, is standing beside him and he lays a hand against the nape of Frank’s neck, sweeps his thumb under the collar of Frank’s t-shirt and leaves it there.
Frank closes his eyes briefly. Okay, he thinks. Okay.
“God damn, Frankie,” Billy’s voice bounces around in Frank’s brain, eyes blown wide, cheeks flushed. “I love to watch you work.”
And yeah, Frank probably should have known Billy Russo would never be content to leave the violence behind them in the desert. Billy’s always needed it, always wanted it, always craved it. Before, Frank never begrudged him for it, figured it came from the way Billy was dragged up, that violence was just something he’d come to rely on as a constant, a fact.
And hell, he’d never complained when Billy came to him after a brawl or a firefight or godamned execution, climbed into his lap or shoved him up against the wall first chance he got the second they were alone, biting, hissing, bruising.
There are bruises on David’s hips, plain as day and obvious in what they are, how they got there.
Frank takes a moment before going after Billy, lets David bury his face in his neck, his arms up around Frank’s shoulders. His shirt rides up, Frank brushes a finger lightly over the bruises, “What are you gonna tell Sarah?” he asks, tone light, jokey.
David’s laugh is wet. “Doesn’t matter. She’ll know.”
Frank curls a hand through David’s hair. “Yeah?”
“Yeah.” His voice cracks a little, muffled by Frank’s collarbone. “So you better come back alive so she can yell at you or talk to you or kiss you again.”
Frank smiles, “Well, in that case…”
David thumps him on the chest, it takes Frank a lot not to hiss in pain. “You’re an asshole,” David tells him, stepping back at long last.
“Yeah, yeah, we established that a while back, keep up genius,” Frank says. “Anyway, you’re an asshole too.”
David laughs again, weakly. He spreads his hands. “Birds of a feather.” He’s looking at Frank like there’s more he wants to say, like there’s something hanging in the air between them and maybe Frank’s just good at reading people or maybe he’s just learnt a thing or two about David Lieberman from being confined in a small space together for way to long but Frank’s pretty sure what he’s about to say is, you don’t have to do this.
But Frank does. Frank does.
Even if Frank didn’t still feel in some small, screwed up way that Billy’s somehow his responsibility, even if Billy wasn’t involved with Maria and the kids. He’d still have to do this because the thought of David and Sarah and their brave little daughter and broken little son having to spend the rest of their lives moving from safehouse to safehouse, always looking over their shoulders, never really relaxing, letting old wounds fester.
David doesn’t say it though, doesn’t have to. Frank leans in, presses a kiss to his forehead and David squeezes his eyes shut.
Frank doesn’t think of it once as he’s dragging Billy’s pretty face across the mirror, as Billy howls in pain and fury and crushed glass sprays out and peppers them both in little nicks. He doesn’t think of Billy’s long legs clenched tight around his hips, doesn’t think of Billy’s mouth hanging open, lips bitten bloody or his big, deep doll eyes, so fucking mesmerising.
Doesn’t think about it as he pounds Billy’s head over and over and over into the mirror. Doesn’t think about it as Billy goes limp and slumps against the wall. Doesn’t think about when the EMTs show up and flinch, shoot Frank looks caught halfway between disgusted and terrified, doesn’t think about as they load Billy and Dinah into separate ambulances and Frank’s ears start to ring as the adrenaline runs down.
He wakes up in a hospital bed, David snoring in a chair beside him, head tilted back against the wall. He thinks about it then, briefly, about Billy’s quick easy smile, about his fingers digging firm into Frank’s shoulder, Frank’s wrists. Easy, Frankie, easy whispered in his ear like Frank was a godamned attack dog or something. He should have known better than to trust a face as pretty as Billy Russo’s, should have listened the first time Curtis met him and whistled long and low and said, come on, Frank, that boy’s a knife same as you’re a gun.
He gets that now. Frank was always dangerous but he could be held steady, could have the bullets removed and locked away carefully until they were needed and that might be different now but then, then Frank had a safety switch. Billy was always dangerous. Pretty, honed. Sure, he could be dulled, blunted, but Frank knows by now that a damaged blade can do way more damage than a fresh one, sharp and shiny and new.
The door to his room opens and Frank tenses instinctively. It’s just Sarah though, holding a Styrofoam coffee cup in her hand and looking deep in thought until she realises Frank’s awake. Her eyes go wide, her mouth goes slack for a moment but then all that’s reeled back in, shuttered away and replaced with something cautious and concerned. “You’re awake,” she says. “Are you okay? Do you need anything? Should I fetch a nurse?”
Frank’s mouth is dry, it takes him a few moments to get the words out. “’M fine. Water’d be good, though.” His eyes flick to the pitcher on the sideboard just out of reach. She follows his gaze, steps into the room and sets her coffee down to fill him a glass.
“Thanks,” he rasps, when she hands it to him.
She hums in response and lingers for a moment, waiting for him to hand the glass back to her. She runs a hand through David’s hair while she waits and he leans into it, mumbling in his sleep. “Thank you,” she says, looking at David rather than him. “For everything.”
Frank swallows down the last of the water. “I didn’t do shit. It’s him you should be thanking, saved my life and yours as well.”
She sighs, takes the glass from him and crosses to sit in the other vacant chair in the room. She sits leant forward, hands folded together in her lap, worrying at her bottom lip. Her gaze is still on David, forehead creased. Frank knows what she’s thinking, the anger she feels, the fear, the ache, the fucking relief. Maria looked like that every time he shipped out, every time he skyped her from some blood soaked desert, dark eyes screaming how could you do this to us?
“Hey,” Frank says, gently and she looks up at him startled, like she’d forgotten he was there completely. “Everything he did, he did for you.”
“Pete – Frank – please, don’t,” she says, burying her face briefly in her hands. “Don’t defend him, okay? I have a right to be angry at for what he did. What he did to our family, to our kids.”
The to me goes unsaid and she looks away, blinking hard.
“I know,” Frank says quietly. “Believe me I do and – listen to me here – I’m not saying your husband’s not a fucking moron, alright?” And she laughs there, a little shaky, and Frank feels this warm curl of affection in his gut. “But he’s also a hero and I get the feeling he doesn’t really deal all that well with conflict, or stress.”
She laughs again. “Yeah. Yeah, you could say that.”
Frank smiles at her. “So maybe lay off him a few days. At least until they clear his name.”
At that she pales but she doesn’t look back to David, it’s him she keeps her gaze on.
Frank’s laugh is bitter, “I’ll be alright,” he lies. “You just worry about you and your family.”
The look in her eyes shifts then, this slow look of confusion bleeding into surprise. Frank looks away quickly. He doesn’t need to consider that look.
He walks out of Homeland a free man – or, rather, Pete Castiglione walks out of Homeland a free man. David, released a few hours earlier than him, waits out front, hands dug low into his pockets. He shifts awkwardly under Frank’s gaze, rocks back and forth on his heels.
“So, are you gonna grow your hair and beard all out again? ‘Cause I gotta say man, I feel like if you do that again you gotta really commit this time, you know? Get yourself a record player, start vaping. You gotta make it believable.”
Frank smiles. “Fuck you.” He turns, starts heading round to the driver’s side of the van.
“Yeah, you’re right,” David says. “You did kind of play out that look already. So what’ll it be this time? Maybe you could bleach your hair. I dunno if you could pull off blonde but we could always experiment. Blue, green. Purple. It really - ”
They’re in the van by this point, Frank shakes his head, “Yeah, yeah. It goes with my eyes.”
The rest of the drive is kind of tense, David fidgets with his hands in his lap, hair all slicked back and shirt hanging off of him like a nervous kid on his way to prom. He rubs his palms on his thigh, laughs nervously and all Frank can think about is how fucking easy it would be to break him. To break Sarah, Leo, Zach.
If there is a god up there he’s a cruel son of a bitch to send David and his picture perfect family into Frank’s life and just like that he’s thinking of Red. Thinking of Matt fucking Murdock and his tangled up Catholic guilt laughing somewhere in the back of Frank’s mind and saying some bullshit like, everything happens for a reason.
Yeah, Red, Frank thinks back. Guess that’s why you got a building dropped on top of you.
“David, I’m not coming,” Frank says, when David steps out of the van. “You know why I can’t.”
David lingers. Frank wills him to go. When he’s halfway to the door he stops, and turns back to look at Frank one last time. He opens his mouth, closes it again and shakes his head. Frank watches him amble up the steps, watches Sarah open the door, watches David hug his family tight and crumble.
Sarah meets Frank’s gaze over David’s shoulder.
What are you going to tell Sarah?
Doesn’t matter, Frank hears. She’ll know.
His phone buzzes as he pulls away from the curb and starts up the street. He doesn’t check till he’s at the community centre. We’ll save you some pie, whenever you’re ready – S.
After the meeting, he goes to see Karen. Wanders the streets for three fucking hours looking for somewhere to buy flowers and then dithers over exactly what kind to get, what combinations of colours best encapsulates everything he wants to say. I’m sorry your friend died and I’m sorry I’m an asshole and I’m sorry you ever got caught up in this and got blood on all the clothes you own at this point.
He settles for carnations, hyacinths. The flower seller recommends roses when Frank’s dithering starts to get unsettling and she asks if he needs help, splashes out for a pretty vase and keeps his eyes low as he counts out the cash. He’s halfway to her apartment when he realises she might be out, might have gone home or something for the holidays, might have found a nice guy or gal to treat her right. But no, she’s there. Opens the door and folds him into a hug look strong and delicate all at once and then calls him an asshole.
She sets the flowers out by the window and orders Chinese food. They eat it in front of the tv in semi-comfortable silence. Some old movie is playing, the kind Maria loved, Karen stares at it without really watching, without really seeing. She’s being very careful with her movements, taking care their hands don’t brush when they reach for things, keeping her legs tucked close together.
Eventually it gets too suffocating to ignore.
“You made at me, or something?”
Karen doesn’t look away from the TV screen. “I don’t see the point in being mad anymore, Frank,” she says.
And Frank swallows because he figures this is only half about him. The other half is buried under half a tonne of brick dust and twisted metal. They haven’t found the body yet, she said, the first time he called her after, voice tight and steely. He knew she didn’t really think Matt was still alive down there, didn’t really think he’d gotten out, but if she said it out loud something would break and she’d go plummeting down, down, down so he’d kept quiet, told her to stay strong, stay safe.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “And I need you to know that I’m done, Karen. Really, I am.”
Karen sighs. “I’ve heard that before Frank. I – ”
Frank goes to reach out for her but she jerks around, meets his gaze and his hand falls short, fingers spread wide and empty. “Karen, I’m not him,” he says, softly.
“I know,” she says. Doesn’t look away. “But you’re just like him. He knew it, you know it. I just – God – ” she breaks off angrily, looking away and shaking her head.
“Do you want me to leave?” Frank asks.
“No,” she snaps, but from her expression she’s more angry at herself than at him.
“Okay then,” Frank says. He can work with that. With this. “What do you want me do, then?”
Karen sighs. “I don’t know. I’d say prove to me you’re done but – ”
“You’d never really know,” he finishes for her.
She smiles at him grimly. Tiredly. “Yeah.”
“Okay,” Frank says, eventually. “Okay. You know what, I’ll work on it, alright? I mean, I’m going to group now and – ”
Karen interrupts him, “You’re going to group?”
“Yeah, I – Yeah.” Frank ducks his head. It’s stupid to be embarrassed, he knows that. Curtis has been drilling that into him since they got back. Since before then, even. What Curtis doesn’t get, what none of them get, is that if it had just been shit that happened to him, if it had just been getting sent to war and spat back out all twisted up and broken, Frank woulda signed up his first day back stateside.
It’s always been a little murkier than that though.
Karen smiles at him then. A real, genuine smile. “Frank, that’s great.”
Frank’s cheeks grow hotter. “Yeah, well. Like I said, I’m done. I don’t need that anger no more. I don’t need to carry it around with me – I don’t – ” and he breaks off because that’s the other thing. Moving on has always felt like letting go.
Letting go of Maria. Of Lisa. Of little Frank.
Karen must see that in him because she leans forwards, takes his hands in hers and gently pries his fingers away from where they’re clenched into fists. “It doesn’t mean you’re leaving them behind,” she says. “You’re still alive, Frank. You deserve a life.”
“So do you,” he tells her firmly.
And she swallows and nods.
Curtis says he can stay as long as he needs to and sets him up on the couch, makes Frank coffee every morning and bullies him into helping him set up for meetings. Frank spends a lot of time wandering around, a lot of time thinking. It’s like the first time he was Pete only this time there’s more of an absence, there’s more silence pressing in on him.
His first night at Curtis’, Curtis hands him this old family album from when Frank’s kids were little and Frank ends up dog-earing every page thumbing roughly through it, yanking pictures out too roughly to run his fingers over smiles and memories that feel all together too close and so fucking far away.
One batch, two batch.
In his dreams, Maria still calls to him, still croons. Frank, baby, won’t you come home?
But every now and again her hair bleeds blonde and it’s Sarah standing there instead, arm in arm with David – David’s head tucked under Frank’s chin, beard scratchy against Frank’s bare chest. Lisa and Frank become Leo and Zach or chase each other screaming through empty hallways and bombed out buildings and fairgrounds.
All the while Billy Russo stalks them, dressed all in black, sometimes a mess of white bandages stained bloody, sometimes a mess of glass chips and flayed flesh, always chanting Frankie, look what you’ve done to me, Frankie.
Billy catches him sometimes, laughs high and terrible and pulls him down into this dark world of blood and sand and gunpowder. You belong here, Frankie. You belong down here with me and you fucking know it. Men like us, Frank. Men like us. He tastes like blood. He tastes like decay.
Sometimes, Frank wakes up to find Curtis sat on the arm of the couch, head bent, hands clasped together as if in prayer. “You never cry out, you know that?” Curtis says, one evening. “You just sort of twitch and mumble.”
Frank props himself up. “Pissed you can’t blame that fact you can’t sleep the whole night through on my nightmares?”
Curtis laughs. “Something like that, yeah.” He rubs at his eyes, “You dream of Bill?”
Frank sighs. “Sometimes.”
Curtis nods. He dreams of Billy too, Frank figures. Went to see him a few times not out of sympathy or obligation but out of anger. He hasn’t said how it went and Frank hasn’t asked. Doesn’t really care anymore.
“What’s he say to you?” Curtis asks.
“That I’m not better than him.”
Curtis nods again.
“Same old bullshit.”
He’s been at Curtis’ two weeks or so when he opens the door to find Sarah waiting out front. It throws him, shorts out his brain completely and she stands there angry and slightly unsure of herself until she realises he’s not going to say anything and sighs, “Can we talk?”
He steps aside so she can come in, shuts the door behind her. He’s recovered by now - mostly anyway - and leads her through to the kitchen/living room, stands awkwardly by the kitchenette while she wraps her arms around herself and takes in the room. Her eyes linger on the sleeping bag on the couch, the photo album he’s left open on the coffee table. Lisa’s fifth birthday, princess themed, all pink balloons and confetti and a huge chocolate cake. Frank had been on deployment, had skyped in later wearing a tiara the boys had found for him in town. Billy had laughed himself hoarse.
“I don’t even know what to call you anymore,” Sarah says, eventually and she sounds exhausted. Looks exhausted.
“Frank is fine. Here, anyway.”
“Okay.” She nods, lips pursed and stands, staring down at the photos of a little girl she’s never met. Frank finds himself wondering what Leo’s fifth birthday party was like.
“Is everything – ” he starts but she doesn’t let him finish, interrupts him with a bitter laugh.
“No, Frank. No. Everything is not okay.”
Frank swallows hard, shoves his hands in his pockets so she can’t see how tightly they clench.
“My kids have nightmares,” Sarah says. “David hardly sleeps and when he does he does too and I – ”
She looks so tired, so desperate and lost and unhappy.
“Sarah,” Frank starts. “Sarah, if you don’t feel safe for any reason – ”
“It’s not that,” she snaps. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, being taken prisoner by a man pretending to be a police officer who wanted to burn my son and I alive hasn’t exactly been easy to get used to but we can deal with that. I can teach my kids self defence and I can learn how to shoot and we can buy security cameras and panic buttons and Zach’s always wanted a dog anyway but what I can’t do is promise them you’ll be okay. What I can’t do is make David stop hacking into CCTV networks so he can make sure you’re not putting yourself in danger again.”
“Oh,” Frank says.
Sarah slumps slightly, looking defeated. “Yeah, oh,” she agrees, faintly.
Frank stares at her. He has no godamned idea how he’s meant to respond to that.
Eventually she sighs. “I’m not asking you to move in with us. David told me about your family, I understand that it must be hard but Frank, hiding yourself away isn’t going to help you. Just show up, please. Come for dinner, just once.”
“I – ” Frank says but Sarah’s already turning to leave. He follows her out to the front door and she pauses, turns back to him. He thinks about David, the day they were cleared by Homeland, turning away without a word. Sarah holds his gaze instead, “Be safe, Frank,” she says.
Once she’s gone Frank drifts back into the living room, sinks down onto the couch. He can’t keep the image of David sat up in front of a computer, blanket around his shoulders, eyes red rimmed, clicking desperately through footage, out of his mind. The image of Leo shaking her way through nightmares and putting a brave face on, Zach getting quieter, angrier, Sarah there trying to keep them all together.
He looks down at the photo album.
One batch, two batch.
He slams the album shut.
He meets Karen for coffee every now and again and he thinks she’s smiling more these days. Christmas is rolling around fast, she keeps ordering him things like gingerbread lattes and peppermint mochas in some kind of passive aggressive campaign against him.
“You got plans for the holidays yet?” She asks lightly a week or so before Christmas.
Frank shakes his head. “You?”
“Yes, actually,” she drops her gaze briefly. “I’m – uh – going home.”
“Oh,” Frank says. It’s pretty clear it’s a touchy subject.
“Yeah, it’s been a while,” Karen says. She doesn’t elaborate.
Curtis is going home for the holidays too, has already asked if Frank wants to come with. Frank turned him down. He’s met Curtis’ family before, he knows they won’t rat him out or anything but he doesn’t want to intrude. Curtis deserves a break from the shit Frank’s put him through.
Karen is watching him carefully. “You talked to Micro yet?”
“David,” he says. “Please.” He can’t deal with all that hacker bullshit. “And no, not yet.”
“Well,” she says, decisively. “You should. It’d be good for the both of you.”
Frank sighs, “Karen.”
She shakes her head, stands and gathers her things. “We’re supposed to be getting better, remember?” she says, tilting his chin up so he’s forced to meet her gaze. “Don’t spend Christmas alone, okay?”
He thinks about Sarah’s offer.
“Okay,” he promises.
He spends two full days agonising about whether or not he should buy Christmas presents for the Lieberman’s, for the kids at least. It feels wrong to show up empty handed after all this time. Curtis laughs at him, points out that with a name like Lieberman they might not even celebrate Christmas. The sensible thing to do would be to ask, it’s not like he doesn’t have Sarah’s number – David’s even, but after a few unsent drafts Frank settles for driving past their house one evening.
There’s a menorah in the window, seven of the eight candles lit, but behind that he can make out the dancing lights of a Christmas tree. It doesn’t really help and Curtis laughs at him again, tells him to just buy presents. It’s not like they’ll be mad at him for it. Then he claps Frank on the back, tells him he’s proud of him and that he’s pretty glad Frank’ll have someone to keep an eye on him while he’s out of town.
“They haven’t invited me in yet, Curtis,” Frank points out.
Curtis smiles. “Yeah, they’re not going to send you away, Frank. I’d be surprised if they even let you leave.”
Frank snorts. “Well that didn’t sound sinister at all.”
“More sinister than driving past their house in disguise to spy on them rather than picking up the phone?”
“Yeah, yeah, point taken, asshole.”
He shows up late. It’s Christmas Eve, almost 10pm and he hadn’t intended on this, he’d just gotten stuck sat in Curtis’ apartment and thinking I’ll leave now. Now. Now. Then Karen had called, then Curtis. Then fucking Medani. Then he’d stuck again.
Anyway, long story short, he ends up standing outside in the freezing cold on the Lieberman’s doorstep way too late and he should probably just leave. They might be in bed already. He could come tomorrow except tomorrow is Christmas and if they do celebrate it they might not be all that thrilled to have him turn up out of the blue to ruin their day. So he hesitates, spends five or so minutes trying to talk himself into knocking when the door swings open and Sarah’s standing there with a baseball bat looking slightly alarmed.
“Oh,” she says. “Frank.”
There’s a clattering from further inside the house and Frank hears David say, “What?” And then he appears in the hallway, looking slightly unsteady on his feet. “Frank,” he says, eyes wide.
“Sorry,” Frank says. “I uh – probably missed dinner, huh?”
Sarah sets the bat down. “There’s leftovers in the fridge if you want.” She holds the door open slightly wider but cautiously, tentatively. Like he’s a stray dog that might bolt.
Frank’s gaze flicks to David. He’s watching him with this fucking wounded look in his eyes that Frank needs to fix. “Yeah,” Frank says. “Yeah, that’d be great.”
Sarah lets out a sigh of relief and lets him in and David comes towards him, stumbling slightly.
“David, I – ” Frank starts but David reaches him and punches him squarely in the jaw. Frank’s had so, so much worse but it catches him off guard, has him stumbling sideways. Sarah claps a hand to her mouth, David swears and shakes his hand.
Frank puts a hand up to his lip. It’s not bleeding but it feels slightly warm. He looks back up to find David glaring at him like an angry child. “Fuck, David,” Frank says. “Didn’t anyone ever teach you how to punch?”
“No,” David says, miserably and then he’s sort of falling against Frank, pulling him close and saying, “You asshole, you asshole, you asshole,” over and over.
Frank holds him steady. “Alright, David, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I deserved that. Alright, come on now.”
Over David’s shoulder Sarah’s watching with this soft sad smile. “I’ll make you up a plate,” she says. “Wine?”
“Sure,” Frank says.
Turns out, Sarah’s a real good cook. Frank’d ask for seconds but he’s so damn full. She kept plying him with little extras, desserts and left over canapés from parties and family meals. Frank ends up slumped between them on their couch, warm and full and feeling better than he has in years, honestly. David’s laugh, Sarah’s smiling, telling him stories about Hanukkah and their ongoing battle to convince Leo that getting a dog is a good idea.
Frank smiles, “What kind of kid isn’t crazy about dogs?”
“Exactly, Frank, exactly,” Sarah says, leaning over to top all their wine glasses up.
David shrugs. “Maybe she prefers cats. Like her father.”
And Frank turns his head to frown at David. “You don’t like dogs, David?”
David’s real close, whole body turned towards Frank. “I – ” David starts but then he leans in to kiss him, slow and deep. He tastes like wine, sighs into Frank’s mouth and his hand comes down to rest on Frank’s thigh. Frank closes his eyes, is half way to yanking David closer when he remembers where they are, who they’re with.
He pulls away so quickly that David pitches forwards, ends up sprawled across Frank’s lap.
“Sarah,” Frank says.
But Sarah doesn’t look shocked or angry or jealous or anything. She just reaches out, strokes Frank’s cheek. “It’s alright,” she says, eyes dark, voice heavy with something. She leans in slowly. David has rolled over, still half across Frank’s lap. He makes a noise half-way between a moan and a gasp when Sarah kisses Frank.
Frank raises one hand to cup her face, drapes his other arm across David’s chest, holding him close.
They break apart for air. Frank keeps his eyes squeezed shut, frightened that if he opens them he’ll realise this was all some stupid dream. Sarah keeps her forehead pressed against his, David’s hands are deftly undoing his jeans. “We have a spare bedroom if you’d prefer,” Sarah says.
“Nah, I’m good,” Frank says and leans down to kiss David again.
Frank dreams that Billy’s standing at the foot of the Lieberman’s bed. He’s not bandaged or bloody, for once he’s just old pretty Billy Russo. Frank has one arm around David, the other around Sarah but he’s not scared, there’s an absence of the terror he usually feels. Billy’s unarmed, stares down at Frank looking slightly lost.
“You’re not really there, Bill,” Frank tells him.
Billy tilts his head. Like a lizard. Like a cat appraising a bird before crushing it’s neck. “I could be though. I’m not too far away. How hard d’you think it’d be for me to break out of a joint like that, anyway?”
“You’ve got no godamned idea who you are,” Frank points out.
And Billy blinks, has this far away look in his eyes. “And you never had any godamned idea who I was in the first place, Frank.”
“Yeah,” Frank agrees. “Yeah.”
Billy turns. “You’ve never thought that maybe you might have been able to save me though,” he says. “So maybe you always had some idea.”
Then he’s gone.
Frank wakes up to David drooling all over his chest and a smart phone in his face. “What the hell – ” he mumbles, blearily and someone laughs. Lisa, he thinks for a moment but no.
She laughs again, coming into focus against the bright daylight spilling in through the window. She’s kneeling on the bed beside them, scrolling through something on her phone. “Sorry,” she says. “Mom said not to come in here so I had to peek and you guys looked really funny. See?” She holds out her phone, scrolls through a few photos of him and David asleep.
In the background, Frank can hear the sound of a shower running.
“You better not post those online or anything,” Frank says.
Leo rolls her eyes. “Don’t worry. I’m not a complete moron.” She takes back her phone from him and locks it, sets it down beside her on the mattress, shifting into a more comfortable position. “So are you staying?”
“Uh – ” Frank says.
“Mom says she’s not sure but I think it’d be nice if you did,” she goes on. “We might not have to get a dog then. You look mean enough.”
Frank stares at her. “I thought you meant am I staying for dinner?” He says just as David mumbles, “Don’t call him mean-looking, Leo.”
Leo smiles. “He is mean looking.”
David shifts and stretches, props himself up to look at her. “He’s intimidating.”
“Which is another way of saying mean looking,” Leo insists.
“I’m right here, you know,” Frank points out.
“Sorry,” Leo says but she’s still smiling. Looks kind of like her dad when she does.
David’s flopped back down on top of him, presses his face into Frank’s neck. “Better be,” he mumbles but Frank’s not sure whether he’s talking to Leo or him.
The sound of shower shuts off and Frank hears a door open.
“Leo!” Sarah calls. “I told you not to go in there young lady.”
“It’s fine!” David yells back. “She’s just being a pest.”
Frank feels David smile against his collarbone. “Back me up here, Frank.”
“You did wake me up,” he says and Leo gasps, looking betrayed.
Sarah appears in the doorway, wrapped in a two towels, hair sopping wet. “Go and start breakfast, young lady,” she says very loudly and sternly.
Another door opens from somewhere behind her and Zack calls, “Would you guys please stop yelling? It’s so early.”
“Zack’s up,” Leo says. “He should help me.”
“Zack hasn’t pissed me off before 10am,” Sarah says.
Leo huffs dramatically and leaves. Sarah shuts the door behind her. “Sorry about that,” she says to Frank.
Frank smiles. “It’s fine,” he says, honestly and Sarah smiles back, moves to the one of the wardrobes against the far wall to retrieve her clothes.
Frank’s starting to get restless. “You gonna let me up at some point, David?”
David hums sleepily. “In a minute,” he promises. Then he says, “So, you’re staying, right?”
Sarah has sat down on the edge of the bed to towel dry her hair. She pauses to look over at him. Frank sighs. This isn’t going to magically fix everything, you know, he thinks at her. He thinks she nods, almost imperceptibly. David is very still against him.
“Well,” Frank says. “I suppose since you asked so nicely.”
David laughs, leans up to kiss him. When he pulls away, Sarah’s moved closer, smiling at them both. Thank you, she mouths. Frank reaches out, grasps her wrist loosely and raises her hand to press a kiss to her palm.
“No thanks necessary,” he says to her, when David’s left to shower.
Sarah smiles at him, leans into to press her forehead against his and Frank breathes in the soft floral scent of her shampoo. Downstairs, he can hear Leo and Zack bicker as they clatter about in the kitchen. David’s singing in the shower.
Frank closes his eyes.
One batch, two batch.