Claud pays Frankie a visit for Father's Day and it's super awkward, as is custom.
Doughy's Bakery in Square, then Frankie's penthouse
Preceded by ---
Followed by ---
(Initially, Claud and Jack get a bit sidetracked from making cake.)
- Once the distractions were through and Claud got himself cleaned up a bit, he set out towards purple straight from work, the cake box under his arm. When he was more than half way there he texted Frankie, to give him a little warning. [Mind if I drop in?] He hoped that sounded casual enough, but the closer he closer he drew to Frankie's apartment, the more worried he was that this would go wrong. Gotta play it cool then, be cool. Just bringing one of his dance teachers a cake. Specially made for him. On Father's Day. No big.
- Frankie kisses the woman as she pulls her dress back up. "Enough, I got places ta be, unlike you, ya filthy, lazy Mafia dog." The woman glares at the silent mob boss, her steely grey eyes meeting his laughing baby blues. She holds out for about three seconds before she's back on the man. "You know-" she gasps between kisses- "I gotta- go- stop it- this instant-!" She presses into him, pushing him up against a wall. All seems lost for the woman's schedule until a cheerful little chime interrupts the charged silence and soft music- "That's /it/! Enough, Valentine!" She slaps him hard across his face, and he licks his bleeding lip with obvious pleasure.
- Frankie hunts for his phone in the mess of cushions and discarded clothes once the woman has slammed his penthouse door shut.
- His content smile fades. Claud... If he left now, feelings wouldn't be hurt, and he could avoid another day of fucking the boy's life over... [Its yer place as much as mine. need somethin? I was just headin out.] He rushes to dress himself- dammit where are his pants?!
- Claud pauses in the middle of the sidewalk, chewing his lip in indecision. He didn't want to inconvenience the man, but Frankie already knew he was coming so... [I just wanted to drop something off if it's alright, I can be quick.] He resumes his brisk pace, to anyone who bothered to look he just looked like a bakery boy on a delivery errand. There were even a few flour spots on his clothes and person he'd missed in his cursory clean up. By the time he's closing in on the high-rise, his insides are doing that weird thing where he feels unnecessarily nervous and hopeful all at the same time. He feels a tad guilty he never felt like this around Jack.
- Frankie is tugging on his other shoe when he receives the second message. It... it sounds like he doesn't wish to inconvenience anyone, and Frankie tries to pretend to himself that he hadn't been considering making a getaway through the wallsocket. He hadn't seen the kid for more than the time it took to pass by one another over the last few weeks, so perhaps this wouldn't hurt... Yet Claud was doing so /well/, and their separation was undeniably the reason... Frankie wipes the bright red lipstick from his face and pours himself a drink. And sets the drink down, untouched.
Uncomfortable in his own home, Frankie sits down to wait for Claud.
- Claud climbs into the elevator and takes a deep, calming breath once the doors closed. He was at a loss, gifts were the only way he knew how to express his thanks to people—gifts, or acts of kindness—but somehow he knew that Frankie wouldn't want either. By the time the elevator dings he's barely keeping his social awkwardness at bay, the only hope he had left was that Frankie needed to be somewhere and this would probably be over quickly. Hand raised to knock, his fingers suddenly curl in hesitation. Was he supposed to just go in? He knocks anyway.
- Frankie fidgets. Sitting still without liquor was never his strong suit, and he begins to stretch- as if he needed it after the afternoon he's had. A knock startles him- he knew Claud was there, but hadn't expected the formality. "...God dammit," he mutters quietly to himself and glances one last time at the beckoning power cords. No, gotta see what the hell was up with Claud.
He opens the door with a wide plastic smile. "Kiddo! How the hell ya been!"
- Claud catches the insincerity instantly, but he tries not to acknowledge it, smiling back nervously but brightly instead. "I've been good!" It's quiet without you, "I just wanted to um," Tell you how much you mean to me, "Drop this off, since we close early on Sundays. Jack made a bunch and I thought you'd like it, so..." he smiles warmly at the box, forgetting himself for half a second. "Ah, if you don't like it, that's cool, I won't tell Jack." Conspiratorial smile.
- He looks good. A bakery was a far more appropriate place for the square than the center of a throwdown. "What? A cake?" Why on earth would Claud bring a cake over? Really, he doesn't see him at all and... a cake?? What the fuck? He suddenly realizes he's been staring too long. He takes the present and gestures to Claud. "Ah, come in, come in, I'm sure I'll love it."
- It feels like old times as Claud follows him into the apartment, evoking a conflicting of comfort and extreme lonely agitation beneath Frankie's cool hospitality. He sets the box down next to join the abandoned whiskey glass. He doesn't much care for sweets, and perhaps he can put off trying the dessert until Claud and his lie detecting vibe have gone.... He turns his back on the gift with another fixed smile prepared for the square. "Sooo, how's Mister Orphen these days? An the bakery, you'll have ta tell me all about it, if ya got time! You thirsty? Stocked in more'n jus' alcohol today, if that floats yer boat."
- Claud catches himself biting his lip in suspense as Frankie stares at the small box with it's pretty little pink confection inside. There's a small scab on his lip and Claud has to stop himself from fussing over it. He probably didn't want to know, such an intimate, small injury... Finally the silence is broken and Frankie takes it, invites him in. "Ahh, sure! If, if /you/ have the time that is." He catches sight of the untouched glass of alcohol and wonders about it. Maybe it was a good sign. It was a surreal feeling being in this space again, and out of curiosity, before he can stop himself, he glances in the direction where his room—the guest room—had been when Frankie's back is turned. It was still there, as untouched as the whiskey. He wondered what that meant as well. "Juice or water's fine. And Jack's good," an involuntary smile warms his features, "We're keeping b—occupied, with the bakery. Plus Ms. Bombaert's lessons—thank you again, by the way—" he nods shyly towards him, "Keep me," oh hell, naw, this was too perfect not to make the pun, "On my toes." He purses his lips together in a futile effort to not laugh, looking both proud and embarrassed he even said it, the tension in the room only serving to augment the nervous giggles.
- If /he/ had time... What happened to the plan of just getting out once the boy did his thing? Why is he offering him drinks and smalltalk? "Ah, well.."Frankie hands Claud a glass of icy water. Why doesn't he /leave now/?! Work was a valid excuse, the Grooveline had been demolished again only last week, and the construction steppers nagged him for all the amplification he could give... "-I got'a bit of time ta spare." Frankie kicks himself mentally.
- He watches the Square survey the room. It reminds him of when he himself had come to judge Claud's new dwelling, but he would continue not to bring the the place up since then. Since the attack, and... whatever the hell else happened.
- "Good, good, glad to hear you'n Mr. Orphen'r well. Great-" Ardette. Toes. A surprised snort chips at the icy barrier of discomfort. "Pfft- Course she is, that woman'll wear through more soles than a devil at judgement day," he reposts with another joke automatically, snickering sheepishly.
Ardette. That's why he's here. Frankie's amusement flattens back into superficial politeness. "Your lessons still going well?" But that didn't explain the cake...
- For a wonderful moment they share in the laughter of bad jokes. Claud's about to counter with another pun but Frankie's demeanor suddenly changes, and he's not sure why. "Yes. Well, /I/ think they're going well, I'm not sure what she'd say but she seems pleased enough I suppose." He scratches at a nonspecific spot on his neck and smiles, "She's a, a good teacher." He realizes what that might sound like and adds shyly, "I still miss your lessons though, they were always so fun." After a small pause, "You should come by my place some time, it's really coming together!" he tries to change the subject.
- So the lessons aren't the problem... Frankie is at a loss. He could ask the man outright, but that seems so.. uncomfortable. Rude. Oh you brought me a present? Hah. What do you want? But that's all he can think. "Pfft- fun? Seriously." He knows Claud is being genuine, but his own guilt makes it feel like a sarcastic attack. Even if their last dance had been fantastic- second to last, their last Claud had nearly died and become a murderer all in the same hour.
- His gaze shifts from Claud to the glass of alcohol, then the cords. So many means of escape, but the thought of needing to escape from Claud makes his chest ache.
- "Ahah, yea. Glad to hear it's commin along." God, how many times has he used that phrase now?? Fuck. And like hell is he dragging the kid back into danger though. "I'll see if I can find some time."
The apartment fills with the soft tuneless hiss as the recording shifts to the next song, making the silence tangibly uncomfortable. He can't stand it, and spills the lingering question. "So. You're busy wit' yer fella, yer job, yer house'n yer lessons... what brings ya ta this ol' hellhole?" Why today? Why at all? And why the cake??
- In that moment Claud wished he'd never thought of this whole damn plan. Nervously rubbing at his arm he lied, or at least omitted part of the truth, "I just, y'know, wanted ta do something nice fer you's all." He picked up and tried not to fidget with the sweating glass of water, "An, an' well, since I've been so busy what with work, an' yer kindly sponsored classes, an' /sometimes/ I get ta play that gorgeous guitar, well, cake's about what I've got time fer." He makes a point of casually focusing on the gifts that Frankie's given him, "An, since ya done so many nice things fer me, why shouldn't I get ta do nice things fer you too?" The smile fades and he pales when he realizes how Frankie will answer, "That was rhetorical," he mumbles.
- "That's real kind'a ya, kiddo," he responds automatically and stops himself as he begins to mirror Claud's fidgeting. He flaps a hand dismissively as Claud goes on about things Frankie had done- all of it to repair the damage he himself had caused, of course. He's opened his mouth to explain exactly why he didn't deserve this,but Claud preempts him.
- He realizes that his distrust for the present is entirely wrapped in his own negative view of the situation and not Claud's intentions, and he very aggressively attempts to calm down. It's not very effective.
- He wants to ask more questions that had been plaguing him since he'd started avoiding his student. Had the Square has had any steppers bother him since the incident? Was he alright, after connecting with men as they had died? Was the bakery safe? No one watching it? Was his vibe behaving? No losing himself? No sleeping for weeks on end, or wishing he were dead? What exactly happened when they had gone home that night... '
"How'bout I cut'a slice'a that cake for the both'a us."
- Claud can feel the press of unasked questions until finally Frankie breaks the silence. "Yeah, alright," he smiles agreeably, glad for the distraction. When he catches himself thinking about when would be a polite time to excuse himself from the situation he feels horrible, ungrateful. When had things become so cold between them? For that matter, had things ever been good? Or was that his wishful thinking again? "How've you been? by the way." He wanted to tell him the truth, he wanted to just make things plain between them, but he couldn't be sure what effect that would have on the other man, and so for his sake, he keeps his mouth shut.
- Frankie cuts into the pretty decorated sugar icing and thinks of Phoenix and shoves a fork and full plate in front of Claud. "Don't got milk'm fraid, though there's some fresh coffee." He pours two cups of the bitter smelling black drink and sits down across from Claud with his own unappealing slice.
- He sips his coffee- swallowing too much when Claud asks about him. "It's... same ol' same ol'. Business as usual..." Can't remember most nights, sometimes days. Fill the time that he's sober with work and dancing and women that he may or may not know the name of. Mourn those that died every week by moving on as quickly as possible. Pray the flashes are truly over. Ensure Sweet eats during the week at least once. And Vivi... well.
- But Claud is his student. Ex-student, essentially, now that he's actually found someone who knows what she's doing. Frankie stares at the fluffy dessert on his plate, feeling as guarded as he has ever been in his life. "I'm doin alright."
- He wants to say something, call him on the obvious lie. Claud knew he wasn't alright from an answer like that, and he realizes with sadness that he didn't know if the man would ever be alright. He can't think of anything, not one thing to say as means of comfort, because nothing he says ever comforts Frankie Valentine, and he actually wants to just get up and walk out the door right that instant, but whether the impulse was born of selfish frustration or love he's not sure. He opts for working a forkful of cake into his mouth instead. Tasted like flowers. Not sure what he was expecting, but it wasn't unpleasant. "I think it's the first time Jack's made this recipe so it might be a bit odd." He washed the mouthful down with bitter coffee and then picked at the small frosting roses, enjoying the texture rather than the subtle floral flavor. It wasn't so much that Frankie was living the same old reckless, self-punishing lifestyle that bothered him. What bothered him was Frankie was totally closed to him now. There was a definite barrier there, and it wasn't just Claud's newly exercised ability to control their connection. He tried to think of any secrets between them, something he could say that would show he still trusted the mafioso. He thought of the Swan Song, that recent shock, he thought of Sigurd and how Frankie still didn't know about their relationship. He had nothing to say.
- Frankie doesn't look at Claud, because what is the point? Conversing through emotionless platitudes, it's as if they are in different rooms. Which is how it should be. If he was not emotionally invested in Claud, the boy would never be a target. Let him get close to the baker. Let him connect with someone /healthy/.
- Frankie begins to spark the instant he picks up his fork, though he makes no comment on it. He will appreciate the gesture though. Manners were indispensable when you had nothing of yourself to offer. He obligatorily digs into the cake, then shoves the small bite into his mouth. Frankie's eyes shoot open.
- "This is- Jesus this is... incredible-! Did I tell ya i liked this or somethin??" He doubted, but maybe during a flashback? ...No, he hadn't even told Poppy or his crew. So how...?
The sliver Frankie had cut himself disappears in a single bite- "Ah, 'scuse me if ya don't mind..." He cuts another slice- the plate can't even be seen under it's size. He closes his eye as he takes his first bite.
- Claud's face practically glows with his grin; he wanted to cry he was so relieved. The joy of success is short-lived, however, before it turns bitter sweet, a sharp pain hitting him in the gut—he wanted this moment preserved, he wanted to be able to fade from the scene and just leave the man to be happy with this one simple pleasure. But he knew it wouldn't last, and that's what saddened him. He just smiled and shrugged in answer to Frankie's question, not daring to make any sudden moves in the conversation lest it shatter this delicate joy like thin ice. Although they eat in silence, there's a warmth in the room that had been missing since he'd got there.
Yaaaay something finally went right ;<;
- Frankie misses the shrug, too enraptured with the soft richness against his tongue. It was not a very masculine flavor, and he had always kept his preference fairly guarded. Add to that that hardly any places carried it...
- Frankie opens his eyes at last. The coffee cuts through the delicate rose is a enhancing way that makes them both taste... "Mmmh.."
- Every surface of the kitchen is dusted with gold, and Frankie realizes he should not only pace himself, he should not ignore his guest to eat.
"I ain't had anythin this good since Christmas- god, ya know the las' place tat sold this kinda stuff closed, what, a year ago??" Frankie takes another bite..
- Claud had finished his small slice, and sat back in the chair, quietly sipping his coffee. Frankie mentions Christmas, his eyes sparkle in amusement—at least things were going better this time than they had that day. "Shall I relay your satisfaction to Mr. Orphen then?" he asked, still smiling, knowing full well the answer, judging by the gold that was coating everything. He also wonders what it was that he had liked so much at Christmas, and could he make it again? Or was it the fact that everything tastes amazing when you're high?
- "Mm-hm- ah, yeah. It's.. Heh. Most adequate," Frankie grins at the understatement before licking an escaped bit of the floral icing from his fingers. He looks down sheepishly at the quickly dwindling cake. How had he not known there was a bakery that made this kind if stuff?
- Things are far more comfortable now that Frankie is completely distracted from trying to be a cold and proper host. Even the paranoia and guilt over Claud's intention melts away. "I think I could eat this every single day," he confesses happily. This is one of the reasons he didn't request it, when by all rights he had the power and cred to do so frequently... although it is possibly a healthier diet than he had now. Frankie snorts at the thought- then looks back to Claud, who he has again neglected for cake.
- He sets down his fork for the first time since tasting the rose, trying to be hospitable, though the lingering flavor is making his mouth water."Wouldya lookit me losin' my head over a bit'a sweet! Did ya want more kiddo?"
- Claud tries to contain his smile as Frankie's unbridled mirth melts a few years from his face and restores the light to his eyes. He gives a small shake of the head, still smiling, "I'm good thanks, that's your cake. An' besides, the way Jack's feeding me I'm sure I'll be seeing a lot more of it in the future." Plus it made him happier to see the man enjoying himself more than actually eating a bite of the sweet confection, as nice as it was. "But I'll take more coffee if you got it?"
- "Well I don' mind sharin, o'course," but he realizes he doesn't feel the need to push the matter, because the starved look that Claud so often carried, the one that made him ache with the need to help, is absent. Frankie's vibe brightens further. He'd been so stuck on how horrible he'd made Claud's life that he hadn't noticed that right now, the boy is happy. Food, shelter, and someone to love him- What he'd wanted for Claud since they'd met.
- Frankie takes one of the few remaining bites before pulling himself away to pour the square a fresh cup.
- "It really is impressive, how well yer doin, kiddo." Frankie smiles easily as he hands Claud the steaming coffee. His gaze lingers momentarily- he had missed the square sharply, even he'll admit to himself. But with the correct perspective, that loneliness was really a reward in it's own right. Proof to himself of discipline, of his commitment to the boy. Willingness to do more than just fret as he dragged him down.
Frankie polishes off the second piece in record time, sighing just to taste the lingering flavor that evokes pleasant memories without the pain of clarity." Damn. Thankya that was the /tops/."
- "Thanks," he says shyly, taking the cup. He looks down at the drink, then realizes Frankie is staring, he looks up just as he turns away and cuts another slice of cake. He wanted to tell him, thank him; his success was due to Frankie's help just as much as it was due to any of the others who had helped him on his way. With a stab of guilt he realized that he owed thanks to Sigurd as well. Frankie finishes another piece of cake and Claud comes out of his reverie. "Anytime! Seriously, drop in or gimme a call, I can even deliver if you like." Guess this was where he was supposed to make a polite exit, not over stay his welcome. "I really am glad it worked out, first time with the recipe and all." His eyes prickled and he didn't know what more they could even talk about but he didn't want to go, not just yet.
- Ah... the invitation. Frankie's smile fades almost imperceptibly. He can't take the kid up on it, obviously. "Ahhah, now I see, yer jus' tryin ta promote yer fella's restaurant, aren't ya?" he jokes conspiratorially. "First time recipe my foot~" He takes pause to drink when the terrible realization hits him- if no one bought the rose cake, Orphen wouldn't bother selling it, and once again he'd lose causal access to this perfect dessert. Memories of 'oho, sorry Francis, customers just weren't buying', and 'chocolate is the name of the game, kiddo,' haunt him. But he isn't going to break Claud's life again just for some cake.
- Frankie's grin brightens, though the spangle of vibe begins to wink out. "So, is there anythin' else ya wanted, kiddo?"
- "Yes, you got me." Claud smiles and rests his chin in both hands, elbows on the table. The poster child of delinquency for sure. "Well, he might have practiced before he let me know what was going on, he's secretive like that sometimes..." realizing he's just filling blank space, he falls back into silence. There's a pause, then Frankie speaks, and even Claud couldn't miss that obvious cue of 'speak now or it's time to leave.' "Uhm, no," yes, "No I guess that's it. I'll tell Jack the cake was a big hit, he'll be so pleased." Coffee cup aside, he stands and automatically checks to make sure he has his stuff in his pockets.
- "He ought'a be, makin quality goods like that. Heh. And glad ta hear he's a proper businessman'n not jus'a cook," Frankie laughs with airy arrogance. How the hell did the man know Frankie's preference? He had a water vibe, didn't he? So... Ugh. "Alright then kiddo!" He stands up with Claud. "Thanky'a fer stoppin' on by" As the square checks himself in his usual way, Frankie has the sudden intense desire to embrace him, as he had when... when their boundaries weren't well established. When everything was bad for the kid. "Always'a pleasure!"
- Sometimes Claud was a graceless thing, and now was definitely one of those times. He mentally groped for something to say to make turning away so prematurely more easy, eyes darting over Frankie's face, as if the answer were there. He choked out a small laugh—as if he couldn't believe what he was about to do—and then hugged him. "Thank you, okay? You're too damn hard on yourself, an I know what yer gonna say, so just shut up and lemme say thank you, cuz I mean it, arright?" The language was rough but the affection was sincere, and he radiated it openly. Getting out of the hug was going to be as awkward as hell, but he'd be damned before he didn't say at least one of the things he'd been planning to say to the man today.
- Frankie stiffens, then relaxes very slowly into Claud's arms. This is all wrong. This wasn't supposed to be what happened today- This was just as bad as the things that led to the confusion, Claud calling him babe and Frankie wanting nothing more than to lose himself in the confused haze, to allow himself to love and ruin the square, as terrible as any drug-! The mafioso gasps at Claud's blunt order that interrupt the intense rush of those thoughts that had been lying just under the surface of this entire encounter. "...A'right," he mutters weakly.
- Claud smiles, happy at least they'd gotten this far, happy Frankie wasn't trying to zap him off. He gives him one last squeeze then lets go, standing before him again, thumbs awkwardly hooked in his pockets. "Seriously, come by some time. It's... quiet." He briefly considers telling him about the sleepless nights when Jack wasn't there, when he wanted to talk to someone else, when all he could do was pace his studio and smoke and dance, working through a thousand alternatives to solve the regret that had piled up around him... He turns and takes a small step towards the door instead. No need to worry the man unnecessarily, god knows he had enough of that for both of them. "Or call, or something..." Really, it was time to go.
Frankie, it's ok bro, it's totally heterosexual. =<=/
- Frankie is very conflicted, but he obediently shuts up, and really the affection from the man who he knows cares for him means more than the entire pleasant fluffy afternoon with the woman who's name he isn't sure of, who is either UG or maybe a Bandito, and who, if his gut instincts were correct, would try to blackmail him sooner than later.
- "I would'a thought... after all my noise, quiet'd be a real good change..." His laughter dies and his vibe flickers like a candle guttering out as Claud moves to leave. He can go to work and dance with some strangers and that loneliness will be his badge of honor for doing the right thing. "Anyways. I'll see ya around."
- Claud wavers a little when it looked like Frankie, who was quickly developing the look of a kicked dog, wasn't going to see him to the door.
- "Yeah, well, some things you never get used to not having around," he admitted quietly, shyly, the full truthfulness of that statement hitting him seconds after he said it. Alright. Yes. Leaving. "You will see me!" he says with renewed enthusiasm. "And I will see you, and we will not be strangers."
- He moves towards the door, trying for causal but looking more stupid than cool. "Take care of yourself, okay?"
- His heart sinks as the icy atmosphere returns. He should have returned the kind gesture, he should have... done exactly what he's doing, because Claud is going to be healthier for this. "Well, jus' turn to a mainland radio channel and ya can get all the static ya like," Frankie keeps grinning hollowly, nodding at Claud's enthusiasm. "I will. You too, alright? Don't let Madam run ya too ragged!"
- He feels sick when Claud passes through the electrified doorway, the bellyfull of the amazing treat churning threateningly. Frankie grabs the long waiting glass of whiskey and downs it before the door's even closed.
- "I will," he nods and smiles, then passes through the door before he has a chance to shame himself. He takes the stairs, alternatively hyperventilating, choking down sobs, regretting everything he hadn't said, and feeling grateful that that /hadn't/ gone as poorly as it might have. They might have been acting more civilly towards one another than they had in the past, but the whole experience left him feeling unfulfilled. Well, no, not the whole experience. For a small but wonderful moment, Frankie had been happy in an uncomplicated way. Claud tries to focus on that, but the aching in his chest kept ruining his focus.