He’d been home maybe two weeks when he got a call from Lisa’s school.
Correction: he’d been home two weeks when Maria answered a call from Lisa’s school while Frank had been out back playing with the kids.
When she’d come to the back door, phone held to her collarbone as she called out to him, he’d immediately felt himself feel with dread.
Was that the call that meant he was leaving again? Or was it one saying that one of his brothers in arms were dead, made only because they were all stubbornly determined to be there for each other’s families in the case of a death?
He was sure the kids had felt the shift in him, because they let him up without a single complaint.
He’d immediately pulled the phone down to muffle sound from his end to let out a relieved breath when he’d found out it was just the school. That was more of relief than it should be.
Of course, the next moment, a gruff ‘is my girl in trouble for something’ escaped him, dread filling him again - different now that he knew he wasn’t leaving and no one was dead.
Somehow, he was more surprised by the mention of a career day, the request that he come in and speak for it, than he would’ve been about Lisa being in trouble.
And maybe that was why he’d agreed so easily despite knowing he’d have to be in uniform for the entire day, around a bunch of kids when he’d barely started adjusting back to domestic life.
He’d never been good with surprises when they didn’t come followed by blood and bullets and screaming.
If he were ranked lower than he was, Frank was sure he could have gotten away with not wearing his formal dress blues to career day. But as it was, he’d been made a Lieutenant and that required more than his fatigues out of him.
Besides, the look of awe that flashed in his boy’s eyes when he came out dressed up in ‘em brought a grin to his face.
Yeah, he would’ve worn them anyway just to see that look.
Breakfast was an interesting affair following that, and damn the rules, he was getting a hug and kiss from Maria before he walked out the front door that morning. If anyone found out and had an issue with it, they could kiss his ass.
He’d followed it up by pressing a kiss to Frankie’s forehead, mumbling a soft ‘be good for your mom’ to the boy before turning him over to Maria.
Walking in beside Lisa, he could see the stares he pulled his way with his uniform.
He placed a guiding hand right between his girl’s shoulder blades, giving her a nod when she looked up at him.
He smiled faintly once she darted off to find her class before turning to find out exactly where he was going.
It was going to be a long day if the looks he kept getting were any indication from the faculty.
They’d invited him there, though, so it was on them if he looked too formal, too intimidating. He was just doing his job.
His favorite age group by the time lunch came around had been the third graders. They were old enough to know what he was talking about easily enough, but not so old that they’d start asking him questions they didn’t really need answers to.
So far, he’d had a fifth grader ask him how many people he’d killed, had separated a pair of kids and had a word with their teacher because one of the kids had started crying after an insensitive comment from one of the others, and had had more than his fair share of repeated remarks from kids’ parents.
God, he couldn’t stand kids sometimes.
Once lunch came, though, he sought Lisa out and joined her, pausing only long enough to meet her teacher, offer a handshake, and return to the too-small seats to eat with his baby girl while he listened to her tell him all about her day.
And damn, they must have made quite an image, considering the awed looks some of the kids nearby gave. He knew he looked every bit the intimidating image that most people tried instilling in their kids when they tried teaching them to respect military personnel, and he knew exactly how different his expression was when he was working than when he was talking with Lisa.
He was fine with that. He was perfectly fine with people knowing just how careful he was with kids, and he would never regret showing just how much his daughter meant to him.
Even if it meant hearing the same story about the firefighter that was there three times before she was sure he’d heard every single detail . It was just second nature to prompt her to keep talking, a small grin showing, even as he looked around the room for any sign of a threat.
Which, there wasn’t one and he damn well knew it, but it’d become instinct during the 15 month tour he’d just come off of not a fully month ago.
He was the last one that his daughter’s class came to that day, and he’d given her a small smile and a nod as soon as she’d seen him, but shook his head when she started forward to hug him.
As much as it killed him, he had a job to do, and she’d get in trouble if she came forward to hug him right then.
Kindergartners were an interesting age group, all terrified looks until he’d knelt down to be on eye level before he started talking.
After that, it’d been all smooth sailing - questions about medals and the nicer things, because like hell was he about to tell these kids he killed people for a living.
His girl knew, but he figured she had every right to know. The rest of these kids didn’t need to worry about that reality yet.
He’d laughed as he let one of the boys try his cap on - and damn if that wasn’t breaking all kinds of rules too, but it was a kid, what could it hurt?
At the end of it all, as Lisa talked her way through the entire day to Maria and Frankie at dinner, he’d settled back to listen with a fond expression showing.
Much as he hated the official bullshit, he’d had fun. And he wasn’t sure the next time he’d get the chance to do something like that, so he had every intention to enjoy the one he’d gotten for all it was worth.