A week after Weary and Make Your Bed. Claud is squatting in the abandoned tram station at the southern end of the island, being miserable and mentally driving anyone away who comes near. Frankie goes looking for Claud when he doesn't show up for dance lessons.
During the Flashbacks
Followed by One Drop of Optimism
When you try your best but you don't succeed,
When you get what you want but not what you need,
When you feel so tired but you can't sleep,
Stuck in reverse.
And the tears come streaming down your face,
When you lose something you can't replace,
When you love someone but it goes to waste,
Could it be worse?
Lights will guide you home,
And ignite your bones,
And I will try to fix you.
- Frankie had been dreading it all week. Dancing, reviewing reports, even during throwdowns, a small part if his mind was fretting about the lesson. Twice, he'd called Claud to tell him not to come, but hung up before the first ring. So he is quite shocked when the square fails to show. The initial rage at being stood up mingles with relief. Then worry. Frankie makes a call. Within minutes he gets his answer. <tram station>. Fuck.
- Claud fully intended to call Frankie, he really did. Just in case the mafioso still wanted to know he existed. Just in case their lesson gone horribly wrong hadn't bloodied the water enough. But every time he thought about getting up to find a payphone, a hundred different excuses and reasons not to call came up, and he remained where he was, curled fetal on a bench, hugging his bag. He was sleeping for longer and longer every day. Then two days. Probably because he didn't feel like eating. Part of him knew how childish and pathetic this was. The other part told the first part to go fuck itself.
- Frankie considers his options- get some'a the boys to bring the square in? Go find the kid? Leave him? Ugh. Options? There's only one. He sees to the club, then heads out. Frankie starts down the familiar route. His mind is in the past, but fortunately, he could find this place with his eyes closed.
<Claud >(Claud took the clothes Frankie gave him off and neatly folded them, so they're safe in his backpack in a bag. He's in jeans, a tee, sneaks, and his hoodie. Also what time of day did you have in mind? I didn't really imagine one when we started, so whatever is fine with me uwu)
<Frankie> I was imagining afternoon.. or maybe night... idk, when do you think their lessons were scheduled? maybe later, cause Claud's work?... sob. Yes late afternoon.
<Claud >Yeah, and idk where the island is located, but since it has seasons it'll probably be getting cold and dark really early. Also the Swan Song isn't open on Mondays, so late afternoon works.
- He was dreaming again--he was seven, hiding under his bed, Gladys was there too. The yelling started before his dad even shut off the motor. The car door slammed, then the front door. Claud moved deeper under the bed, the floor polished clean with frequent hidings. The yelling got louder, closer. He held onto Gladys' ankle, tried to get her to come deeper under the bed with him, he might see you, no, what are you doing!? She bolted, ran downstairs--
- Claud tries so hard to grab her he wakes up, heart pounding, arm still extended. He flopped back against the bench, eyes screwed shut against the adrenaline headache. Getting up and moving around might help work off the worst of it, but he hadn't the will to. After a few moments he was aware of an almost inaudible hum--oh no. He sits up, and then nearly blacks out, lays back down again. Nononono shit. Of course Frankie was comin' for him, thinks he ratted on him, thinks he hurt Sigurd (well, he had)--oh god oh god. He remembers his dream and his resolve gels. He wasn't fuckin' running this time.
- The feeling of dread wells up as Frankie reaches the edge of the island. There it is. The dilapidated station. Like seeing an old friend who'd let you down one too many times. As Frankie nears, he feels Claud and forces himself to radiate his genuine concern and affection, rather than the anger or reawakened despair. Ah. There he is. Lookin’ more like when they first met. Frankie raises a hand in greeting.
- Claud is somewhat calmed by the non-confrontational feeling he gets from Frankie, but he's still scared and confused, and trying to get up his courage. He doesn't move, doesn't look at him. He doesn't have to. /You shouldn'ta come here./ It's not a threat, but it's not friendly either.
- Frankie buries his pity. Claud doesn't need that right now. "So. Yer givin up then?" he calls quietly, voice empty of anger or ill will. "All that stuff about wan'in' ta be better, wan'in' ta get yerself in control? First time it gets hard, and ya go back to this? Did this work before, kiddo?"
- Claud’s stomach twists, /I wasn't pickin up every feeling and dream of other people before. I wasn't a threat to anyone before. I can't develop control in the city, I don't want nobody gettin hurt again./ He didn't like Frankie being so close, the electrical hum grating on his already overloaded nerves /... 's not like I had a choice, my lover broke up with me an' Mr. Reinhart tol' me to come back when... ifI got my vibe under control--was interfering with my work./
- "Use yer words, kid. Complainin' about yer lack’a control with yer vibe is just-" UGh. "You ain't a threat ta no one cept yerself. Even if ya were, you think this is the answer?" Dumped and fired? Of all the goddamned- A spark. He realizes he's stressing the kid and tries to focus on something positive. But with the station, and the starving Square, in this swamp of Claud's vibe, his thoughts are depressing, dark... Yet somehow, he manages to pull a memory. A song. His static stops as his vibe gentles. "Lets get ya vendied and fed. We'll talk after."
- Claud knew he was being irrational, he knew Frankie was right, that none of this would help. Didn't change the fact that he was completely miserable, and emotionally fatigued--not to mention totally convinced that he'd ruin everything he got near. He speaks, voice raspy from dehydration and crying, "You wanna drag me someplace public an' watch as people start feelin' just as shitty as I do?” he sits up slowly, “Don't seem fair." then stands, shouldering his pack. He weaves ever so slightly, looking anything but threatening, but his posture was still defiant.
oops i was gonna link a song /m\ it's ok /w\ You can still link it if you want?
(Poppy played guitar...)
- "You think I'm a goddamned idiot, kid?" he scoffs, but holds the music in his mind, soothing his hurt at the accusation. "I'm here ta help ya, not put ya on display. I know ya better than that.” It's Sweet all over again. All he can do is clean up--no. No, he can do much more. “You gotta take care'a yerself. If that makes people’a bit sad, well, they'll jus' have ta deal with it, yea?" He puts a hand on Claud's shoulder- You're not alone, not a failure, and it will be alright. "Vibes go funny all the time, remember?" he sighs, sadness creeping in.
- Claud stares petulantly at the floor, but after a moment he nods, "Alright." he sighs, lets himself believe those positive feelings coming from Frankie, "Alright," rubs his face and eyes with both hands, sighing out his tension. "Okay." Then he feels the downturn in Frankie's mood and worries that he's causing it.
- Frankie catches that pout. He almost smiles as it brings out the youth in Claud's starved face... Frankie glows, nearly imperceptibly, but Claud's worry jabs him sharply. "What I'm feelin inside ain't you. I don't like this place, and that ain't yer fault. Stop with the guilt." Frankie doubles his efforts to focuse on the song, sure that if he can stay in a good place, it'd help Claud. He pulls the pack from the man's shoulders. "I'll take this. Till we get ya to a vendy. Come now..."
- The guitar song just makes him more sad, only reminded him of what he'd lost. "Figured nobody'd like it here, 's why I chose it." and suddenly his pack was being lifted off his shoulders? He nods, and follows Frankie out of the station and to a vendy on a semi-deserted corner.
oh nooo the song did the opposite of what he wanted X,D
- He's forgotten that the bad feelings come from Claud's vibe, too caught in memories of the station. Decades of squandered faith, replaced with helplessness and hopelessness. The hope that someone--anyone would care enough to fix this. No one had. Those in charge had been apathetic. But... Frankie isn't apathetic. He couldn’t fix the tram, but he isn't helpless here... Frankie opens the vendy door for Claud with a growing confidence. He offers an encouraging smile and helps him into the machine.
- Frankie's optimism surprises Claud, even starts to inspire a little bit of hope in him. He stands in the vendy, body propped weakly against the wall. But the fact remained that it was still an island, and he was too young when they arrive to remember how far they were from any land. The vendy helped him feel a little better at least, but he still needed food and water, despite his lack of an appetite. When the door opens he asks, seemingly out of nowhere, "You ever know anyone who tried ta build a boat and just, y'know, leave?"
- "Yep. When we were first cut off, lot'sa people tried. No reason it shouldn't work, yea? Most ended up back in a week'r two. Some didn’t, an ya can only assume, if they'd made it, they'da sent help, right?" Frankie breaths evenly, trying to stay calm. "Most tried the tunnel. Ya don’t need a fancy vibe ta hoof it, right? But it goes on forever... Eventually, yer faced with'a choice- Turn back with the last'a yer food'n water, or sit down in the dark with the corpses..." He hesitates with another painful flash. No more. All this nostalgia is sterring memories for the flashes to grab at."Sailin, swimmin, flyin? It don’t work neither. It's the island or bust, kid." He orders Claud a sandwich from the adjacent Mr. Vendy. That misery is in the past and he can work with the present. The optimism returns.
- Claud nods sadly, "That's what I thought." He'd hoped Frankie knew something he didn't, but if someone had made it, wouldn’t they have all been told? Frankie's optimism dispels his desire to pursue the subject, to whine on how much smaller the island felt now that he could feel the minds that occupied it. He takes the sandwich with a mumbled thanks and orders a water as well, gulping it down in one go. How many days had it been since he last ate? He can't remember, and with blood sugar this low his stomach squirmed at the thought of food. "I don't know what I'm gonna do for work, can't be around people." He sighs and takes a bite of sandwich. Not bad. "Not good enough at the guitar to perform either."
- "Slow down else you'll end up tossin it." Frankie nods at the thanks.. "Work... well, just hold yer horses. First and foremost, ya need’a place ta hang yer hat, 'n somethin more substantial than vendy bars. Or nothin at all," he says with the slightest hint of chastising, but nearly smiles again when Claud mentions the guitar. "Kid, you got one'a the trickiest vibes out there, and yer down on yerself fer not masterin the guitar in a handful'a weeks?? You just keep practicin. Skill'll come in time." He just stops himself from ordering a bottle of scotch from the vendy. "It's what yer vibe's gonna take too, see? Practice. Not like what we've been doin. That made it strong, but I didn't teach ya control." /It's not your fault./
- "I got money saved up. Not a whole lot, but enough til I can find a job. 's another reason why I'm living on th' streets--save what money I got. Sleepin' outside don't bother me so much as the lack of company." The sorrow of loss threatens for a second, and then is lost again in barely controlled exhausted apathy. "He was my first you know. First everything. I never really even had friends aside from my sister." Self-pity returns with a vengeance and he turns away, wiping a hand roughly across his eyes. "I didn't want people seein' me like this, until I could get a handle on things."
- Frankie's hand goes to Claud's shoulder as he turns away. "I'm sorry about yer fella... But if he's the one who left ya ta this, when ya needed him most?? He ain't worth yer time, kid." He swallows hard. It was Frankie's fault, anyhow. "Do you remember our first lesson, Mister Claud? A lot'a things were said, but I'd hope ya didn't ferget. We may not be blood, might not even share a faction, but..." Frankie stops uncomfortably... but Claud's stark hopelessness presses him onwards. "Family don't ditch ya when things get a bit tough, see? I told ya a million times, ya ain't alone on this." Frankie sighs. "And there's no fuckin' way I'll let'ya sleep out'n the cold."
- Claud takes in a shaky breath and nods his head a few times, reaches a hand up to take Frankie's, gives it a thankful squeeze. He understood. Don't mean that he didn't still blame himself, didn't mean that he wasn't still in love with Sigurd. But he was grateful. "He's hurtin' just as bad though, we may be broke up but the connection don't care about that. He's suffered a lot of loss and abuse in past relationships, was afraid I was takin' advantage." he subtly shakes his head in denial, although part of him believes it. "He's so mad at me."
- Frankie isn't asking Claud to stop loving anyone... just... Hmph. "Big secret, kid? Everyone's hurtin. You know it best, mos' likely. You think yer less important though, dont'ya? S' what ya do. He's hurtin, so it's justified, ain't it? Him turnin ya out like this?" The optimistic sparks out of him into anger. Only person who mattered turned on him after one fuckin vibe mistake? No wonder the kid'd gone out here to die. Ah...? "Kid... kid, please tell me ya din't go'n tell this fella this was all yer fault like ya said ya would??" Oh god. If Claud had--god. Of all the stupid and completely endearing...
- Claud shakes his head. "Didn't tell him anything, didn't have to. An' it wasn't this one time neither, he didn't like me spendin' time away from home, stayin out all night, gettin' intimate with other people even if there was no sex..." Now that he says it, it really does sound messed up. He hadn't wanted a total power exchange, but then again, he hadn't ever said he didn't want it... "Look, I think we were just goin into it too fast and too soon. We didn't talk about a lotta stuff like we shoulda, assumed too much." But I should'a known, should'a payed attention, should'a just talked to him...
- Frankie rubs his neck. How exactly had they ended on Claud's love life? He flushes, considers dodging the conversation... But who else did Claud have for it? "So he was a jealous, controlin’ bastard that didn't talk ta ya? Just wanted ta fuckin hug'n kiss, but the second you have a problem, it's over?" Frankie snarls. Who the hell was this guy-? Claud's regret suddenly becomes his own. This isn't what the square needs... "Ok. Hold the phone. Just. Let's focus on basics for now. Need'a place ta stay that ain't the god forsaken tram, 'nd figure out yer vibe. It's noble and all, you tryin ta stay out'a people's way, but how're ya gonna figure out yer vibe like this?" How was he going to even stay alive like this?
- Claud is glad when they drop it. He was still convinced it was mostly his fault, that there were things he could have done, but there was no point in discussing it any more. He tries to think where he could stay... Square was a horrible slum, not to mention small. Everyone knew everyone, and the chances of running into--but what choice did he have? "D'you think there's anyplace outside 'a Square what'd rent to someone like me?" Things would be so much easier if he'd just join up with one faction or another, but both options made him squirm for different reasons. Then there was the matter of vibe-control training. Sweet was one of the last hopes he had left in that department.
- Frankie sits down on the curb. "Well, yer unaligned with a powerful vibe. It don't matter that yer still gettin the hang of it. Either faction'll want ya, but I know ya ain't keen on neither... Hm.. There's abandoned buildin's n' any district, really.... But...." He doesn't want Claud on his own. Everything about the kid needed another person, from his vibe to his personality. "... How's it work anyhow? Walls don't stop it, I noticed. It's distance? Cause you could jus' live up high, or pretty low even in'a populated place, right?"
- Claud blinks a few times, a look of surprise coming over him, "W-want me?" It never occurred to him that his vibe had combative properties. Gladys had figured out how to do that, but he hadn't wanted part in any of it. "I don't... I don't really know. I got theories of course..." he joins Frankie on the curb. "Distance, yeah, if I'm not bonded to the person, bein far away from ‘em helps. If I am bonded--distance don't seem to matter anymore." He had hoped being most of the island away from Sigurd would make a difference, but it hadn't. He exhales in thought, "I dunno, in an apartment building there's folks all around you, even if yer sittin on top." he smiles and shrugs. "Look, if, if I knew what I was workin towards, if I had a purpose, it wouldn't be so bad livin' alone in a deserted area."
- "Well yea. Everyone's been desperate ta rebuild stepper numbers since the war, right? They let me in, yea?" he laughs coldly. "You'd be more'n welcome. Not even fer fightin, cause honestly, that ain't what it's all about these days, right?" Frankie's supportive smile fades as Claud explains his deeper connection. "Hah... Ain't that poetic... Do it matter when yer away from yer loved ones without vibe? Course not. They're with ya no matter how far ya go." /Even if it hurts./ The tram- Claud- everything- it all hits him- overwhelming- He can feel the flash coming- NO- Not gonna leave the kid. Frankie puts an arm around the square, his anchor. X101. Not twenty years ago. Trams been closed for decades, no matter how many trips he makes down that tunnel. "I uh- m." Claud is not one of his brothers back on the mainland. As much as he pretends otherwise, Frankie has no family. He has no right. "If you think bein alone's the way ta figure this out, I won't argue."
- Claud leans into Frankie's embrace, glad for the contact. "Were you? Gonna ask me to do otherwise? Cuz if you got ideas I'd love to hear 'em, god knows mine aren't the best." He realizes he's still holding the last part of his sandwich and finishes it off. He needed to be removed from society without being able to be physically removed from it.
- "Ideas... Ta be honest kid, right now my thought's just keepin ya from goin back ta that station. Yer jus' as bad 's when I met ya- worse, probably. One sandwiche ain't gonna fix this..." What can he do.. His club is on the busiest street in the city. His place... farther back, but still densely populated. He could just buy Claud a place, but he'd be alone... "So... how far exactly do ya need ta be for it ta feel comfortable, kid?"
- Claud rubs his arms not out of cold, but out of habit. "Ahhh, I don't know, there's so many factors; the overall emotional state of the nearby population, how much commuter traffic move through every day, stuff like that. And, you know, take this all with a grain of salt, half of this I'm putting together on the spot." he smiles and shrugs, out of his depth. ... He didn't feel worse than when he first met Frankie. Not any better, but not any worse. "Heh, you shoulda seen me when Cross scraped me off the curb."
- "Look. I donno how ya were before, but... sleepin outside an' starvin ta death? That's..." That is not how he will ever allow a member of his family to live... "Alright. You put people ahead'a yerself, right? Well look at it like this. If these month'sa lessons jus' leave ya worse off'n before, I will be very displeased." Too soft. But he can't say the truth aloud... Frankie looks up at the darkening sky, bracing himself. /I can't fail ya like that, kid. I can't bear it. I need ya ta be ok./
- Frankie was right, of course he was, there was no room for selfishness, it would end up hurting more people than just himself. /You ain't failed me Mr. Valentine, you been a wonderful help to me. An' what's done is done, yer right, it won't serve no purpose for me to wallow in my self pity. We'll figure something out./ Then he giggled in sudden realization. "Maybe an old folk's home?" It was kinda depressing, but kinda really funny to him.
- Frankie hadn't exactly wanted reassurance, just change... but he finds the words greatly comforting nonetheless. /Ah, wallow in self pity if ya like. Just don't let it paralyze ya./ Feeling guilty for feelin miserable? Familiar territory. He doesn't want the kid to deal with it- Claud's sudden joke- was it a joke?- catches him completely off guard. "Pff-aha- what?" Frankie wipes a suprised tear of mirth from his eye. /Look. Not sayin they ain't lovely people, but it ain't like they don't got emotions jus cause they seen a lot'a years./ The optimism returns to him with that brief bit of humor. /Suppose we could test a few places. No one said we had ta get it in one go./
- Claud was kinda serious though. But he smiles all the same, glad to see Frankie happy. "Well I mean, like, yeah, not that they don't have emotions, but it'd be a generally quieter atmosphere, right?" Of course, this was Step City, there were probably lively parties every night even in nursing homes. /Yeah, okay, we can do that. I can manage that./ he smiles at Frankie, desperately clinging to that small ray of hope. He knew that in the quiet hours his loneliness and sadness would find him again, but for now he felt reassured by Frankie's confidence.
- /Yea... Them bein old ain't gonna fix nothin. But if yer up for experimentin../ Ah... that rare smile. The contrast to earlier is almost tangible. He sits on the curb with the square, watching the last of the sunlight fade behind the towering buildings. The distant boom of music drifts to them. This is going to be ok. /So. We could call Cross, I 'sposse./ He has a vague, ineplicable dislike for that option... There's one more solution... /If that don't work, well, how would ya feel'about goin a bit more purple?/
- Cross... Purple... He didn't like either option, but beggars aren't choosers. /I don't want to string ya along makin' ya think I'm gonna join the mafia, because I'd really rather not, no offense to your occupation. And while I am grateful for all you don fer me, and I doubt yer doin this to get me to come over to yer side, I also don't want to indebt myself in such a way that I am unable to repay. But as far as just livin' in the area, no I don't mind, as long as people are okay with an outsider in their district./ He really hoped Frankie wouldn't take this the wrong way, he really did mean this in the most respectful way possible.
- Frankie The answer is not easy. He can't even vocalize it, even through the connection. How could a boss take an unaligned stepper into their home? Not even a dame... /I ain't tryin'a recruit you, ya know that./ Frankie never brought it up. It was his job to bring it up, but for Claud... he'd allowed himself to slack. /And I jus' told ya. If you end up starvin an alone.../ This is too much vulnerability for one week. Claud can finish the sentence. /We'll get ya cleaned up, fed a bit. Then? Well... you dance, you play.../ He'd be purple, in everything but name. Just needed someone to vouch for him. Frankie looks at his hands. No one would care. Too busy with their own problems. /We could.../ It might not even work... "...if ya wanted..." He can't seem to spit it out...
- Claud isn't sure what Frankie's trying to say, so he keeps on blundering ahead. "I just don' wanna get anyone in trouble. I don't know how strict yer Don is but, well. There's gotta be a solution what doesn't threaten yer job." Or your status. Even if something was considered allowable by law, there were the social mores which often held more sway than law. Claud didn't have an image to uphold, but Frankie did.
- "My job's safe. God." Hadn't seen Bo in months. Everyone he'd relied on, just floundering, slowly dying of misery from the flares and flashes. He is the boss. Who would fire him? The confidence again. It's been a while. Frankie smiles. /I'm a trend setter, and one'a the most powerful beings in the city, kiddo./ He kept forgetting, with the constant bullshit he was so powerless to stop. "We'll give it a try at my place. No accidents. Just plain ol' roomates, see?"
- His place. His place? Claud continues smiling, but less confidently so. "You, you sure? But it, it's your home, I don' wanna--I mean I'm flattered but--" he looks at Frankie, and then at the ground. Gift horse, man. "If you think it'll be okay, then, then we'll try it." He really hoped this wasn't a terrible idea.
- Yea, it's his home... but who else is gonna make sure the kid doesn't end up back like this? Not the asshole that kicked him out... and really, it's Frankie's fault. Boss or no, he can't ask Cross to take the kid back after Frankie's fucked him up. He's a lot of things, but he is not that kind of man. "It's fine. And if it don't work, it ain't like we can't try some other place, see?" It'll be fine. Yea.
- Claud nods and is reassured. "Okay." he smiles. Just one step at a time Claud, you can do this, it'll be alright in the end. /Please don't think poorly of him, everyone's got different breaking points, different amounts of stress they can handle./ he virtually pleads. /He was good to me, patient, but the flares were very hard on us, they changed a lot about our relationship./ It's hard to be mad at someone when you can see it from their point of view so well.
I think I found a possible title, lemme know what you think owo<3
- "Flares were hard on everyone goddamit!!" Frankie had literally been murdered. Seen Poppy... Gone mad... Fallen in love. If he could survive them? In Frankie's books, the flares were no excuse... yet Claud's opinion still manages to eat into his own, and he unwillingly feels himself relent. "Just- Fine. Fine. Jeezus kid maybe you should reassess that whole dominant personality thing," he says with frustration.
- Claud looks at the ground while Frankie speaks, grateful when he drops the subject. "Nah, I'm just stubborn sometimes." he smiles a little. Not nearly stubborn enough often enough, though. "... So where do we go from here?" He needed rules, structure. It was going to be weird enough being in someone's house again, let alone Frankie Valentine's home. He was still ambivalent about the whole ordeal, but he wanted to believe Frankie, believe him when he said it's be okay. He really was a sucker in more ways than one.
- Frankie feels marginaly better now that he's antied up.. "First things first. Get you cleaned up, dressed..." Not all mafia dressed to the nines... "Clean clothes, at the very least." Would have done that even if he wasn't hoping for the square to blend in. Frankie smiles. Easy. "We can pick ya up some things from the vendy if ya need em.There's some dance studios on the outskirts we can go to for all this, yea?"
- Claud nods, agreeable. "O-Okay, sure." He smiles, then remembers, "Oh! Talkin of which..." he gestures for his bag, takes out the clothes Frankie'd lent him about a week ago. They were folded meticulously and wrapped in a few plastic bags for protection. "These're yours. I'm sorry fer runnin--" Looking at the clothes, remembering everything that had happened, every bad feeling that surrounded these clothes... He was just starting to feel a little better when he takes an emotional nosedive. He wasn't expecting such a strong reaction, and shakes with the effort of trying to control himself. "I'm, I'm sorry, I--shit--" the reality of his situation finally starting to really sink in.
- Frankie stares at the clothes. He'd rather Claud had burned them. Anything but this. He'd been feeling pretty decent, but the sight of that incredibly cared for bundle... Why did he have to yell at the kid last week?? The world hadn't ended for Frankie, since Claud had told whoever the bastard was. It had ended for Claud. And all the shit done to try to make up for it didn't excuse the fact that Frankie Valentine had ruined Claud's life after the square had worked so hard... God he needs a drink- "Ah. Kid, I think I'm sendin ya some bad emotions. It ain't yer fault, never was." His earlier optimism is washed away by Claud's vibe, but he believes himself the source.
- Claud shakes his head, /If it weren't you it woulda' been somebody else. I missed dancin' so much, and learnin' from you these past few months has been amazing, I'm glad it was you bein' my teacher./ He takes a few deep breaths and wipes at his face, this was no time to freak out, he could do that later. "It's just been so surreal you know? Like I wake up every day and gotta remember, I ain't there no more."
- Frankie chokes at the kind words. His own happiness fights with the vibe misery. /I- I swear ta god, kiddo. Seen ya improve's been one'a my greatest pleasures,/ he sends proudly, wiping his face in tandem with Claud. "Here, just-" He hands Claud his silk handkerchief. /I understand kid./ No details, but he sends Claud a vague feeling of changing everything about his life after the war. Where he lived, how he lived, who he knew, how he behaved- Frankie rubs his eyes. /You can get through it. Just takes some time... sittin n' doin nothing, n wastin' away? Don't fix nothin./
- Claud accepted the handkerchief gratefully, lets Frankie help lift him out of this hole he was so at risk of slipping into. He nods, "Yer right." If anything he needed to get his vibe under control just so he could be around people again, help people again. And if not for his own sake, then for everyone else's. "Thanks." He looks doubtfully at the used hanky, never sure what etiquette was in these situations... "Um. I can wash that."
- "Keep it. We'll get you and it washed up." Hm... studios around here.. As a boss, they'd all bend over backwards to accommodate him, but he needs a place that isn't full of gossipy busybodies.... Hmmm. Dance Magnificat. The cat-vibe owner stuck their nose in everything, but he'd never known anyone as good at keeping a secret. "Come along. There's a studio down the street we can get ya showered in." How to get Claud up to his apartment without overwhelming him was a whole other problem, but Frankie's gonna take one step at a time.
- Claud pockets the handkerchief and stands, following Frankie. The deeper they went into the city proper, the more skittish and embarrassed he felt. He didn't want to be seen, he was ashamed of his generally 'homeless looking' state, not to mention the denser population felt like it was pressing in on him, tighter with every step. By the time they arrived his heart was pounding, and he was walking so close behind Frankie that he bumped into him when the other stopped. He squeaked out an apology and took a hurried step back, then looked up at where they were. Huh. It was a good thing he liked cats.
(He actually really likes cats, and if there are a few hanging around, he's gonna get distracted by them XD )
- Frankie had chosen the club on the outskirts of the district, but he can feel Claud's discomfort just as he can feel the electricity throughout the city. He takes the other's hand when Claud runs into him, the emotions distracting him from a lifetime of manly bravado. "Comeon boyo," he says softly as he tugs the square into a shady building. The atmosphere inside was just as dim, and a dark figure separates from the shadow, along with a swarm of cats. They immediately go to Claud, sensing his discomfort and desire to avoid people, though the man- or woman?? stops in front of Frankie. "Showers. This here's a square, and that's all you need ta know, Dolly." He grins at the owner despite his attempt to be professional and cool. This stepper's vibe was hard to resist...
(Spoilers, Frankie likes kitties too)
- Claud immediately calms a little when Frankie takes his hand. The gesture was almost always reassuring to him. He looks around with suspicion as they enter the dimly lit building, the smell of cat was very strong. When the owner steps towards them, he peers with interest at him.... her? Realizing he was probably staring, he looked down at the floor, remembering his place, awed to see dozens of cats moving towards him. He'd never seen so many in one place before, it was surreal. Still holding onto Frankie's hand, he reaches out his other to pet one of them.
- Some of the cats scatter when Claud actually wants them to be there, but the majority stay to swarm him for affection. Frankie manages to get away from the studio owner without giving up any more info, though he’s unable to stop himself from petting… them when they purr and rub against the Mafioso affectionately. “I know, I know, I love ya too sweety,” he says in a sappy voice he only used on animals and very young children, and even then, only privately… Stupid cat vibe. “Alright. Showers.” The owner’s eyes dart in a direction, and the suddenly turn an stalk away from the two men. The cats, beholden to no one, even a stepper who’s vibe theoretically controlled them, stick to Claud. “Less’go, kidoo,” he says quietly, trying to wipe the smile from his face.
- Claud smiles a little back at Frankie; he wondered if Frankie's affection for cats came before or after being one for a while. As they walk further into the building Claud seriously begins to worry that the cats would try to follow him into the showers. He's suddenly struck with a thought, he wasn't focusing as hard on the humans in the area with all the cats around. Granted it was a little weird being more than vaguely aware of dozens of non-human minds, but it did give him a small foothold in working out his vibe. Also he was hoping this didn't mean he was going to be a crazy cat person. They arrive at the showers and he wastes no time getting in, turning the water on, and letting his mind go blank under the stream of hot water.
- The cats scatter at the first hint of water. Frankie takes a seat in the hallway, and gets swarmed as a result. They are a good distraction, demanding he pay attention to them rather than think about the situation, and inevitably blaming himself for the thousandth time. He does need to take care of business though, specifically, his apartment being outfitted quickly and quietly with another entire room. He call the people that would make that happen while petting the wonderful little creatures that seemed to judge him only based on his ability to feed and love them. After about ten minutes, arrangements are made, the cat swarm is purring loudly, and floofed with static-y fur.
- Claud, meanwhile, is feeling clean after far too many days of neglecting himself. He sighs at his reflection and starts to shave off his week attempt at scruff, contemplating getting his hair cut. He sighed again, Frankie was right, he had to find out who /he/ was, not just who he was in relation to other people. He settled on loosely braiding his hair best he could; he usually relied on someone else doing it for him. He stowed the hoodie, wearing a plain grey tee instead. Hopefully that didn't say 'homeless' quite as loudly. He steps into the hallway where Frankie was waiting and is immediately mobbed by tiny, shedding bodies. Bending down to pet one he actually gets a small static shock when he moves his hand near, and can't stop the small surprised laugh that escapes him.
- Frankie feels some kind of resolve from Claud, even with his kitty distraction. He stands when Claud appears, shedding protesting cats and fur everywhere with the briefest of apologies. “So. Much better-?” Oops, he hadn’t realized his vibe had gotten so carried away. Frankie pulls back the electricity from the feline herd. “Whoops.” His sheepish expression turns businesslike. “Well now. You almost look like’a respectable person, dontcha?” he laughs, looking at his own pitch-black tux and tails- that are covered in layer of cat hair. “So lessee about clothes now- if’n yer up ta it, a course. The trip ta my place ain’t gonna be no picnic. Whatever’s easiest fer ya, see?”
- He smiles, "It'll be the latest fad, wearing completely cruelty-free fur. We'll invest in roller-tape and when the fad implodes on itself, we'll make millions. Brilliant." he speaks with affected self-importance. When Frankie suggest shopping now, he falters a little, not because of the threat of crowds, although there was that, but because of surprise, he didn't know shops were open this la--oh. Right. Step City: the city that never stopped dancing. Or shopping, apparently. "May as well get it over with, yeah? Clothes shopping was never my favorite, so it couldn't be much worse now, right?" he grins and cringes in what he hopped was an 'I don't mean to offend' way.
- Frankie is once again caught off guard by the joke, and snorts at the plan. The collected static is forced back into the air as sparkles, and Clauds surprise and dread catches him of guard. “I uh. I did’na think it was sucha problem.” He’d actually been quite looking forward to buying Claud all the new things, hadn’t even occurred to him that the act itself would be uncomfortable. “Look. Look this is easy as pie. We’ll stop by’a Mr. Vendy. No sweat. No crowds. No…” He can't think of why the kid would have an aversion, what with the cost covered. “No nothing. Just a machine, an’ we’ll get’ya settled, yea?”
- Claud scrambles to word an explanation, he had just assumed a lot of people didn't like clothes shopping as he didn't. But with the way Frankie was always so finely dressed he shoulda' figured otherwise. "Ah, w-well when we was young, we didn't have a lotta money, right? So I never asked for new clothes or nothin, but mom saw how the neighbor kids'd make funna us for dressin' in hand-me-downs, so she tried to get us nice things anyways. I hated it, cuz I knew how ashamed she felt, an how little money we had. Guess I never grew outta that." he sadly smiles up at Frankie, "I trust you, you know what'll help me most." Come to think of it, the only person he liked to let dress him up was Sig-- "Gotta wear something to work, right?"
- Frankie stares. For a brief moment, he is ten, mending the hole in his oldest sister's dress. Trying to make the tiniest stitches possible, so the other girls wouldn't make fun of her in school the next day. Like they had yesterday, when Francis had beat the little shits to pulps. Like they had the day before that, when she'd come home crying. Francis- Frankie shudders violently as he comes back to the dark hall, the cats, and Claud. Feeling an intense love for the square's unknown mother. "That's..." That made him want to buy Claud things all the more. But perhaps... not today. He winces when Claud again expresses his faith in Frankies judgement. "Well, I'm thinkin we'll get'ya situated first, how'a bout that. You can get some mighty fine things from'a vendy in these parts, see? 'Nd we'll think'about work once we'seen that'yer vibe's ok and you got'a place ta call home, alright?"
- Claud nods, not sure how he should feel right now. What he had said, the effect it had, and whether or not that was intentional--he couldn't be sure. Looking at Frankie, for the briefest of moments, he saw the boy within the man, began to understand how similar their circumstances were. Are. The amenities offered by the STEP project... there were probably hundreds if not thousands of people here just like him, who's families emigrated for a chance at a better life. As his mind spins outward from himself, he realizes Frankie is speaking, he answers vaguely but no less truthfully. "Alright, sounds good to me." he smiles, coming back to himself again. The moment of clarity slips away from him and the disorganized background buzz of minds around him comes pressing back.
- Frankie is slightly disconcerted with the connection feedback of his flash, hitting him while he's trying to shake free of the real thing. Claud's vibe threatens to send him back, but his voice keeps Frankie in the present. "Alright. Jus... follow me..." Frankie starts strong, but nearly falls over a cat as Claud's disorientation tries to pull up memories from Sweet. "Ok. Ok jus." He looks at a cat. He blinks in a certain way he'd learned when he'd been connected to them, and it leaps into his arms at the invitation. "Here. Take this gentleman here. Focus on him. Not his head, jus... everythin else. Least get ya out'a the building... If that's alright with you, a'course," he says politely to the tom.
- Claud shifts the backpack a little and takes the cat, unsure as to how far he was to take him from his home--but then confident the creature could find his way back should he choose to. He does as Frankie says, tries to focus as much as he can on only tactile sensation: running his fingers through the purring cat's fur, pressing his cheek lightly against his body. Before he knew it they'd walked out into the night air. He tries 'looking' at Frankie, and found that by 'looking' more 'indirectly' he could get a sense of where the other was without getting overwhelmed by borrowed emotions. Now if only he could figure how to do this with the other some thousand souls pressing in on him...
- Frankie nods a polite goodbye to the owner as they return to the freezing night air. He's almost thrown with how well the cat ploy was working. No more sudden jabs of emotion, or the flashes that had been coming since the kid had returned from his shower. All he's left with is a vaguely odd and very strong assurance of where he is... and a weird, heightened appreciation of cats. Frankie laughs softly and glitters with the success, smiling as he plans the rest of the night. For now, a Mr. Vendy. After that?... Dragging Claud through the city was not ideal. No cars... Vibe transport? Frankie could get around, but he's never carried anyone before.. and with Claud's vibe... Hm. It's a bad idea, though the thought of pushing himself keeps eating at him. Now's not the time... Frankie quietly debates with himself all the way to the Mr. Vendy. Still on the outskirts, the sound of the ocean drowns out the music from the city. "Anythin ya need ta be comfortable, alright kid?"
- "Mm, thank you." Between the purring cat and the roaring ocean, Claud was feeling almost at ease. But the farther they walked the less sure he became, and the closer he held the cat--until it let out a warning growl. He immediately eased up on the animal, but stayed close behind Frankie. He probably looked like a crazy person, following the mafioso way too close and holding onto a cat for dear life. He tries standing up straighter, but finds it harder to avoid people's glances and curious looks, so he goes back to staring at the ground. The 'sound' inside his head was slowly growing to a fever pitch, despite his efforts to concentrate on the cat. "How much farther?" he asks quietly. For all he knew they'd walked into the middle of the city. Or they could have gone a block, he'd lost track of time.
- Frankie had assumed farther away equated safety, but they’re only a block away from the perimeter of the island when the yowl and his own growing panic warns that all is not right with his student. Frankie fights his paranoia, which is telling him to either electrify himself or else find cover, NOW. Every sense heightened, he stops a few feet from the Mr. Vendy, ready to talk the kid through it- but the square’s discomfort spikes. Frankie tries to muscle through it, but Claud speaks and his concentration breaks. The target’s going to hear them, why is his partner talking so damn loud?? “Sshut up, what the hell’sa matter with you??” he hisses in a barely audible whisper, pulling Claud away from their destination to the nearest shadowy doorway. In the darkness, Frankie listens desperately for any sign that their cover’s blown- but there is only crashing waves and soft purring. Frankie lets out the breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding, then looks at his idiot partner with silent rage.
- Claud was scared--his stomach twisting up in knots, the hair on his body standing on end, not sure if this was a fear reaction or because of Frankie's electricity. He'd done something wrong, and now Frankie was mad at him. Whadid he do wrong? He gropes in the darkness for a wall and finds it, leaning heavily against it. His career was over--no, Frankie's career...? No, stop--he grabs at the thoughts racing through his head, panic making him clumsy. This wasn't--he wasn't--these weren't his thoughts. He tries pushing against them, but it's as effective as pushing against the wind. But he was still somewhat solid, hadn't been eroded away completely. He reaches a hand out to grab Frankie's arm, "We ain't being followed and we ain't f-following nobody, I'm sorry--jus, jus gimme a minute to get m-myself under control." An involuntary shiver runs through him and the cat sinks its claws into his arm. The pain brings him back and he focuses on it as hard as he can.
- Frankie snarls and pulls away from Claud- he'd made if perfectly clear when the Don sent this sorry sack of dead weight along, no fucking touching him- But his partner speaks, and it isn't the cold voice Frankie had been resenting all night. "...Nobody...? B-but- The Don sent us- they're poisonin' the family, don't you...remember." Frankie's angry whisper grows fearful. He wants Poppy. He wants to go home right now and forget that she's gone, and that he can't even keep one minute from the next straight anymore. But the Don needs him to take this.. who..? Frankie studies Claud, unable to recall... Not dressed well enough for a higher up, or any of the family for that matter. A square. But new recruits aren't his area. Escorting someone's weak family member? Possibly jamdeaf. Top secret. Only explanation left. "I am very sorry about that outburst just now, Mister. Bit of a dizzy spell, won’t happen again." Where is he supposed to take this person? He tries desperately to recollect his memories... There. The square needs a place to stay....? Oh. Oh god. Why had Bonita ordered that??? Why had he fucking agreed?! Frankie manages to appear calm as he pulls his phone out. "We're a bit of a ways. We'll need a car." He offers a razor thin smile. And his jacket. He can't remember his orders, but they couldn't have included letting his charge freeze to death.
- "F-Frankie--Mr. Valentine--" Claud's panic spikes. A car? Out of the question. What if he confused the driver and caused a wreck? As his discomfort grows, so does the cat's, and it had had enough. It takes a swipe at Claud's face and hits the ground running. The pain and concern for the animal bring Claud back to the present and he takes a few stumbling steps after it, out of the alleyway and towards the--ocean? He looks around, confused. When had they--? They were back where they started, the present coming back to him as the press of the city's minds fall into the background again. Deep breaths of sea air further clear his head, and he turns around to see Frankie still standing there, staring at him, his jacket in one hand, his phone in the other. He tries to form a coherent explanation but just ends up shrugging and looking exhausted. "Call the car if you want, I think I gotta idea." He goes over to the Vendy and brings up some sleeping pills.
- Frankie's startled when the kid calls his new first name, like he knows him or something. Just how much had he gotten mixed up?? Well, one things certain, he's earned his drinks tonight. He watches the cat disappear into the night- he's about to chase after, but the square doesn't seem too bothered by the loss of his pet. He does seem upset by the thought of taking a car, though Frankie can't understand why he's so certain. "Look, Mister, we'll just walk, don't sweat it." He avoids looking at the kids purchase. Not his business.
- Why wasn't Frankie coming back? What if... what if he broke him? Not only that, he could feel himself being pulled into the past as well. "Look, it's obvious the only way you'll get me where you need me to be is if I'm knocked out." he holds up the box of sleeping pills. "Go ahead and call the car, I'm gonna take enough of these to put myself out cold for a while, an' you'll be able to get me back home. Hopefully my mind and vibe will quiet an' your confusion will stop." It was a long shot, and he didn't relish the thought of being shlepped around like a bundle of sticks, but at this point what choice did he have?
Lol idk, the flashbacks weren't specific, & the longer they go on, the more crazy stuff I wanna do with it... I mean, no one said flashes /don't/ physically change the person experiencing them too...8)... But playing w/ flashes can really derail the rp (already has I'm sorry) so if its annoying please tell me /c\
- Frankie stares. Maybe the Don asked him to handle this not because the kids jamdeaf, but crazy? The mafioso feels the smallest tinge of empathy. It's.. Odd. Out of place, after so long without. Maybe this is why he'd agreed? "Mister, if you wish to be knocked out, then by all means, feel free, but do not assume I cannot deliver you safely while you are conscious." That’s established... good. But. How does the kid know he's confused?? A telepath? Frankie taps a foot and shield his mind immediately, heart racing, but remaining professional. Professionalism's all he has left.
eheheehe /w\ Idk, do what you want, I'm pretty much up for anything, especially if it makes Claud's life harder.
- Alright, this was getting ridiculous. And worrisome. But then Frankie's mind shifts somewhat and Claud cannot 'hear' him as clearly, and he hopes it worked both ways. "Listen, I think we've both miscommunicated, but lemme ask ya this--who is the current Don and what year is it?" He suspected Frankie had mentally reverted to an earlier time in the mafia. He hoped it wasn't a more violent time.
- "Bonit-ta. Szince the war. You forget that t-too?" he asks, without judgement in his voice. This is rather sad. Frankie feels sadness. He doesn't like it. He hasn't felt anything for anyone for... a long time. What year?? "X100.." But he's less sure, with the kid asking like Frankie's the crazy one. Well he is, but he's pretty sure of where he is. Poppy's nowhere to be seen, so he's feeling fairly confident about his mental state. "Here, if yer done with the Vendy, let'szz get-t outa here."
- Claud pockets the pills and follows, hesitant, not wanting to dive back into the ocean of minds just yet, but not wanting to allow Frankie to wander the city confused. "I think you're... maybe a year behind the current date--it's November, X101." He bites his lip, starting to feel unsure of even things that he knows he knows. "C-check yer phone, it should say." Another thought hits him: when he was focused on the well-being of another, he found it easier to exclude stranger minds. But then his heart sank, he didn't really want to bond to Frankie, or encourage the bond to strengthen, or--whatever. He didn't want to bond to anyone right now, the heartache was still too fresh. But he might not have a choice.
- Frankie goes silent. He'd gotten weeks mixed before now. But he was getting better, he'd thought. The square has to be lying, or else... He's still fucked up, worse than he remembered, losing months, so long after 99... Was it?? Felt like yesterday. Frankie fights a shiver. He can't trust his memory. Can he trust this square?? Frankie hesitantly checks his phone. He doesn't recognize the model, and yes, it confirms the date. Is it even his?? Is this all a trick? He can't think through the white noise in his head. He doesn't have to though. When nothing makes sense, at least there's orders. Bo wanted this square off the streets, and that's what Frankie will do. "It doeszzn't matter. Let-t-sz go, if you do not mind, Miszzter."
- Claud swallowed, looks like he was going to focus on Frankie then. He nods and starts walking, almost next to Frankie, but a little behind. He hadn't realized how cold it was, and it still didn't bother him, but he felt bad about making Frankie wait for him. He didn't even have anything to offer him in his backpack. As they move towards the city again, at least he hoped they were this time, he sort of 'latches' onto the general consciousness that was Frankie. Like mentally holding his hand. The static was there and that was good. He buried himself in that static, hoped it'd keep any other mind from trying to invade his. It was almost peaceful. His eyelids droop, and he falls into a semi sleep-walking state.
- Frankie focuses on the buzzing, keeping track of Claud with his vibe only vaguely. The inner static drowns out most everything else in his head, and he never notices Claud's company up there. The two entranced men walk through the freezing night in silence. As the close in on his apartment, the crowds grow thicker, but Frankie doesn't think twice about the unusual amount of respect the mafioso show him.
- Claud's doing well--he can feel the press of other minds against his own, but it was mostly contained, like the wind blowing against the walls of a tent. Doing well, until he falters, jostled by the crowd, bumping into people, attracting stares. His focus is shifted from Frankie, he panics, and loses sight of him. /Mr. Valentine!/ he tries to call out through the connection, but it met with the persistent static. "M-Mr. Valentine--" he squeaks out before he's roughly shoved aside by a group of drunk party goers. He couldn't see, the bright lights were too bright, the dark sky too dark. He puts a wall to his back and clutches his bag to his chest, tries to squint, get sight of his teacher. The static grows distant at the murmur of a thousand minds starts to press in again.
- So many heartbeats- their chorus mixes beautifully with the static. He fails to notice when the important one falls behind, simply keeps walking, only stopping at his building. He turns back to the square, who is not there. Frankie chokes with panic, the mental shield expelling into agitated tendrils. "God dammit-" He can fix this. Did the kid have a number to call? Frankie looks at his phone, full of names he doesn't know... Fuck. He doesn't even know the square's name. Frankie charges back the way he came, eyes darting around desperately for a sign of red hair.
- Panic and fear settle like cold water in his stomach. He won't cry out, won't scream, won't disgrace Frankie any more than he already had, he'd be found eventually... he hoped. Rubbing at his eyes he scans the crowd again, tries to catch sight of the well-dressed man. He props himself against his wall, tries to stand up straight--someone makes a grab for his bag. Jeering, taunts, he can't understand their words but their intent is more than clear. Outsider, nobody, Square, don't belong here--he tries to push them away, mentally shouts /Leave me alone!/
- Heartbeats guide him- the general calm of the uneventful night ripples with panic. He catches a glimpse of red just as a group of ravers dart past him in terror. Frankie's hit by the same fear. He finally manages to stop himself about half a block from his place. The streetlights fizzle out with the mafioso's frustration and confusion. What was that?? Furious, he storms back, internal static back on. There. Surrounded by angry mafioso with stronger tolerance to Claud's influence. A few have even started dancing- But all hesitate when the angry boss appears in their midst. He haughtily ignores them as he struts confidently to the square's side. "Almoszzt there, boyo. Jussz calm down." He says softly, lifting Claud up over his shoulder. The gesture is met with murmurs from the onlookers.
- Claud is curled on the ground, shaking and still clutching his bag when Frankie finds him. Consumed by shame he lets Frankie do what he will with him, doesn't resist, can only hope that maybe now people won't think he's weak, won't think that Frankie's foolish for bothering with a nobody. He tries his best not to limp, but one of the little twerps got him near his ankle. Some of the spectators at least were compassionate towards his situation, most were just curious, a few were not pleased. But no matter their disposition, they overwhelmed Claud's mind so that the next thing he knew they were ascending in the elevator. He hung his head, choked out a dry, " 'm sorry."
- Frankie's static fades in the safety of his building. In the quiet elevator, he realizes that he's failed Bo utterly. Whether the boy is safe or not, he's drawn attention. The square has become a show for half the goddamned district. He needs to call her. He isn't fit. He'd tried so fucking hard not to disappoint her, but he's just too broken. She'd understand. She had to. Frankie startled when the square interrupts his thoughts. "... What." ... "I-I am afraid I do not understand you, Mister." Claud. When had he gotten a name...?
- "I'm sorry I lost sight of you--" he wipes at his face, "We were so close an' I fucked it up--" he can feel the disappointment and the dread pouring off of Frankie and he knows it's all his fault. He pulls out the handkerchief again, thankful for it, thankful for the arm supporting him, thankful for the second--third? Fourth? Chance he was being given, and how wasted these efforts were on him.
- "You?" he looks incredulous. "Boy, it was not your job to stay with me. You have behaved acceptably." Frankie was the one that forgot his entire briefing, forgot the entire fucking year. It wasn't the square's fault he's been given subpar assistance. "Do not trouble yourself over it." To his utter suprise, he finds himself patting the kid's shoulder. A single sparkle appears for Claud's benefit. Frankie looks at it in amazement. He'd thought his enhancement vibe was dead. Frankie chokes down the beginnings of an overwhelmed sob and hurriedly opens his penthouse door. The usual friendly shock greets him.
- The shock of Frankie's statement cuts into his crying and he can only stare at the man who's acting like that whole fiasco outside didn't just happen. It's just then that he notices that the comforting static was back and he finds rest and support within it just as he received physical support from the body holding his. They shuffle inside and he feels that he could collapse anywhere and be comfortable. There's nothing that every fiber of his being craves more at this moment, and if Frankie had deposited him on the floor, he would have been content.
- The liquor cabinet screams at him to attend to it. Soon. "Here we are. Got a room all prepared." He heads towards his bedroom, but stops coldt. Frankie stares at a door that had not been there before he left today. Or... a year ago? Regardless, his private space has been violated. He keeps his agitation from activating his vibe for Claud's sake, but he won’t manage it long. Someone's been in his house. He opens the hateful thing. A fully furnished room. A quick vibe scan reveals no ambush or trap. So it's something else he's forgotten. But of course, if this was ordered by the higher ups... Frankie sets Claud on the bed. "Bathroom's to yer right, kitchen down the hall." This cannot be happening. "I request you do not make a mess." And that’s it. The failure of a mission is over. Frankie can hide in his room with a bottle of scotch now.
- Confused, exhausted, and mortified, he manages a quiet "Thank you" before the door's closed on him. Laying on top of the covers he falls asleep before he can even get his shoes off.
- Frankie closes the door quietly. When he turns around, Poppy is there. He sobs with relief and hugs her. No pulse, of course, but she's still comforting after everything tonight. "Thankya for commin," he says softly. She simply holds his hand as he selects a bottle and enters his own room. He undresses mechanical, his thoughts are all on her. She still loves him, even though he's broken. He lies with his drink, and she leans on him comfortably, as she always did. "It was bad today, love," he starts, softly. "I thought I was done seein ya, 'n losin' time." He drinks. "m? No. I really don't think it's gonna be ok- No- I ain't sayin' yer wrong, just- a year later an I'm still- I ain't feelin sorry-" He gives up at the force of her tone and nods in begrudging agreement. She grins victoriously and begins singing softly to him.
- When Frankie finally sets aside the bottle, she's asleep, curled around him. He continues murmuring to her, easing gently into his well deserved blackout.