Content Warning for: gun violence, blood, animal death/violence against animals
After Shark’s death, it was a terrible winter for Franco. He lost his art teacher, his beloved cousin, and the same guy who gave him a black eye on Christmas. And Annette sat down with Franco to try and sort out their feelings about him. It was okay to dislike every destructive thing he did.
“But…well, he seemed like the only good reason to call myself a Racket,” said Franco.
“Your dad?” Annette asked. Her son rolled his eyes. “You’re still hung up on him being a dirty thief, huh?”
“I just hope you learn. I wouldn’t stay married to him for fifteen years if he wasn’t a good Racket.”
And Franco could ignore that advice for a while. Bill hadn’t done much at all to redeem himself. Sure, he wasn’t the absolute monster that Shark claimed he was. His politics were sound, and he didn’t hate gay people. But he also didn’t give Franco much emotional support. Bill instead holed himself up in the nursery to bond with baby Samira, day after day.
As cute as she was, it insulted Franco deeply.
Things pertaining to Bill changed on one March afternoon.
It started in a much different way, when school ended for the afternoon. After saying good-byes and taking a leak, Franco exited the building. He was about to walk home, until a song mesmerized him.
Well I’m an asshole, sure, but that’s an assumption
‘Cause I’d be amazing, if only I was someone~
It needed some work, but Franco could forgive it for an on-the-spot performance. He watched in awe, watching the guitar player who sat up against the large willow tree.
It helped that it was Hannah too. Franco hadn’t seen her in ages! And those ages were long enough, so that she wasn’t a young child any longer. Instead, she was a mess of half-done puberty and long, sinewy limbs. But wasn’t everyone at one point? Not to mention the beautiful parts, like her silky black hair and pouty lips. Of course it couldn’t beat Carmen, but Franco couldn’t help but notice those things.
Hannah didn’t seem to notice him as she tuned her guitar, until Franco was less than five feet away. He knelt on the ground.
“You know, I think that sounded pretty nice,” he said. She gave him a bit of a side-eye.
“What, you think you can do better?” she asked him. “Doubt you can, painter boy.”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?”
She pointed an angry finger at him. “You better not be threatening me! I worked hard on that.”
Franco was taken aback by her comments. “Okay, I get it. You’re easily threatened, but I come in peace. It’s been years, but you have to remember-”
“Come on, Franco! It’s bad enough that we have you as some sad deadweight.” It sounded like Benji. He had been telling Franco the same thing ever since Shark died. Franco was moping more, and it was looking bad on him and Carmen.
He got closer to Franco, with Carmen at his other side. “You’re bad enough without her.”
“That’s rude,” Franco said.
Carmen picked up where her twin left off. “It makes us look like abusive assholes when you’re moping without her. She’s too damaged.”
Franco pouted in Hannah’s direction. She seemed to return it. But Benji scoffed at it.
“We can just pick on others without you,” he said. “You can come back when you stop being such a sadsack.”
Franco tried to appeal to his girlfriend. “You too?” he asked her.
“You’re great in bed,” she said, with a confident smirk. “But you know how it is. Your problems reflect badly on us, and we’re just cutting our losses until you feel better.”
“Whatever,” he grumbled. He looked back at Hannah as the twins ran off to feel superior about themselves. Or to get their rich lesbian mommies to boost their egos.
Hannah probably could have used him. She put her guitar in her case, and looked forlorn into the distance. But with such an awkward few minutes, fixing it seemed like a lot of work. Hannah would survive.
He hoped she would, anyways. Maybe she was at her dad’s that week.
Franco walked home, sulked, and then headed to the fridge to get some yoghurt. Bill was there too, and in a much better mood. Instead of moping, he cooed over his adorable little Samira. Franco’s social troubles weren’t on his radar. Not when there was a hot wife to plow and a tiny person to dote on.
After spooning some berries onto it, Franco put his snack on the counter, and turned towards his dad. “You know, you haven’t even asked me if it was a rough day, or something like that,” Franco said. It wasn’t like Bill even looked at him at first.
“Christ, what happened to my son?” Bill asked, turning towards him. He had Samira cradled in his arms, as she looked off into a different corner of the room. “First you want nothing to do with me, and now you do.”
“Whatever.” Franco rolled his eyes.
“I get it, I was a teenager too.”
Franco ignored him and eyed a pear that was left on the counter. There was a whole pile of them, and he didn’t see any pears at breakfast.
“I got those for your mum,” Bill said. “But you can grab one. I don’t think she’ll mind.”
“Is she all you care about?” Franco asked.
“Like it’s bad that I spoil her. You realize that I’m just making up for lost time, right? With all you guys.”
Franco crossed his arms and scowled again, while Bill turned away to snuggle his sleepy daughter. “You don’t have much of it!”
He watched his dad go pale with wide-eyed shock.
“I know,” Bill said. He clutched his daughter close to his chest, maybe to shield her from her brother’s harsh words. “I’m…I’m just trying to do everything.”
“Well, it’s like I barely know you,” said Franco. “Or I do, but it’s all the bad things.” He pouted in the opposite direction.
“I get it. I’ve done a pretty bad job with that and…man, I am spending a lot of time trying to do it better just for this little bean, aren’t I?” Samira started to doze off sometime into the conversation. “Look, if you’re open about this, for whatever reason, then I am too. You’re my son! I haven’t tried to bond with since that time with Mark.”
“Yeah, I’m open,” Franco said.
Bill leaned in, looking mischievous. “You know, since your mum’s out fucking things up in Willowhelm, we can-”
“…I was going to suggest getting fresh cookies. We can bring Peanut with us, and I’ll just bundle Samira up. If we leave now, we might catch their peanut butter ones fresh from the oven!”
Franco smiled a bit at the suggestion. “I do love a good cookie.”
“So…I’ll get a headband to keep Samira’s head warm, and you get the gun we keep in the left-most cabinet. Your mum wants me to carry that around now.”
Franco hesitated, but he found the gun. It was a simple, loaded handgun. Bill stuffed it under his cardigan once Franco handed it to him. He assured his skeptical son that he locked the shooting mechanism.
At the bakery, they missed the regular peanut butter cookies when they came out hot and fresh. However, they had just gotten a batch of vegan ones from the oven. It would fill their need. The two men shared half a dozen between them, and no one behind the counter guessed that Bill had a deadly weapon pressed against his side.
He even treated Franco to a latte along with dessert. They found a seat outside in the dark and threatening weather. But they could talk while Samira slept in the baby carrier and Peanut watched. They would have brought Sagebear with them, but she was out protecting Annette. It was something about another meth lab raid.
“I know, you want things that are a little deeper than this,” Bill said, before Franco had the chance to chide him about it. “I’m just too used to how my mum and dad did it.”
“Keep you placated with riches and food?” Franco asked. He had one eyebrow raised in suspicion. His dad nodded yes, though. “So why not rise above it?”
“What else can I do?”
“I dunno. Mum tried to just spend time with me after…that thing.”
“I’m sorry, kid, but hey! I have all the time in the world now. At least for a few more years, if I’m doing this right,” said Bill. “So you’re not fixated on the ‘bad things’ we do now?”
“No, still am,” said Franco. He rubbed his neck and looked a little defeated. “Look, you break the law and now have to carry a gun around. And unlike mum, you haven’t done a thing to help me this winter. I don’t know what else I have to go off.”
Bill looked to the side and tapped his fingers on the table, as he fumbled for words. “Your mum wanted me to keep this one away from you…but…fuck that, you won’t listen to the other ones. She pissed off a gang by sending their leader to prison. And she’s been getting some hints that they’re closer to us than ever.”
“I guess that’s fine?”
“Jesus, Franco! What else do I have to do to convince you?” Bill asked, in desperation. “I just want my son back. Just because I thought you were an awful annoyance as a baby doesn’t mean I don’t love you to pieces now.”
“It’s just gonna take a while,” Franco said. “I’m sorry.”
He looked at Franco with a pained smile. He also picked up the cookie again. “Can’t you at least enjoy one of these? They’re not as buttery as the regular ones, but that’s not exactly a bad thing.”
Bill put down his cookie a few seconds later, and looked into the alleyway between the two buildings. “Shit,” he muttered.
“Which gang enemy is it now?” Franco asked.
“Just…you count as white when you’re with me, okay?” Bill whispered.
A strange blond man approached their picnic table, holding up a handgun. It had a silencer on the muzzle. “The name’s Gavin, and I was told to find a Racket,” he said.
Bill furrowed his brows. “We don’t have anything you want, and we’re white.”
“I don’t care about your race. That was Armstrong’s thing, and speaking of him, we’ve been trying to find whoever turned him in. Though you’d have an idea about that.”
“Even if I did, not a chance I’d tell some filthy Nazi scum.”
Gavin held his gun up, just a few feet away from Franco’s face. “Do you have an idea now, old man?” he asked.
Franco stood up and held up his arms in surrender, while Bill just gave Gavin a disgusted look.
“Dad, can’t we just give this man something?” Franco asked.
“Franco, grab your sister and run. I’ll handle this.”
Before Gavin could stop him, Franco scooped his baby sister out of the carrier and bolted as fast as his fat legs could take him. While he ran down the alleyway, his dad drew his gun. And Franco realized that he needed to call Peanut to follow him. That battle was no place for an innocent dog.
But was it a place for his dad? Franco didn’t have a weapon, but he realized how a fight between a quick young man and an elderly one could end.
If Bill was trying to better himself, he deserved the chance to.
Franco hugged Samira with one arm and tried to motion to Peanut with the other, but the dog didn’t notice. So he watched how the fight unfolded. Maybe he could jump in. Maybe demons could take bullets? There was a bigger chance of that than Bill doing the same.
Bill looked his opponent straight in the eyes, with a gun pointed at Gavin’s liver. It was a deadly spot full of blood vessels, after all. “Fine, you want a tip? My brother put in an anonymous hint, and he’s dead now. Now put down the gun, or I can use mine.”
“It feels a little complex than that, sir,” Gavin said. “I just want a few more answers.” His hand shook a bit, as he kept the gun positioned at Bill’s forehead. He turned around when something furry touched his legs.
Gavin looked down at an aggressive Peanut. The small dog’s teeth were bared at the strange man, and he was poised to leap up and bite him.
“Is this one yours?” Gavin asked Bill.
“He only growls at the asshole criminals, asshole,” Bill said.
He pointed the gun down, right for the dog. “Whatever. I can deal with those kinds.”
Franco watched the gunfire in horror. It was a legitimate storm of bullets. Two into Peanut’s chest, right through his lungs.
One into Gavin’s chest, through the back. It sent him to the blood-splattered ground.
From the ground, one through Bill’s gut. It penetrated close to his stomach. He screamed and crouched down in a pool of his own blood.
Franco put Samira down on the concrete and sprinted towards the scene. Both men were trying to get their guns back to finish the job, but they both struggled. Bill’s was close but on the ground, and Gavin’s was in an unsteady hand.
Franco grabbed his dad’s gun, looking at his injured father with horror. He coughed and tensed up with pain, and tried to stem his bleeding wound. Half his cardigan was soaked. Franco had never seen his dad cry, but the injury drove him to that. Bill’s face was contorted and damp. And his son couldn’t help but cry along with him.
Gavin looked up at Franco with begging eyes, and struggled to raise his gun. He stared down the barrel of the one Franco held.
“I know it would kill your good heart to do this to me,” Gavin said, with a choked voice. “Just let me go. I’m a mook! I’m not the big villain.”
He never wanted to have to do that. Although he still grimaced at the enemy, Franco sniffled and sobbed as he fired the shots. He never wanted to be the man holding a gun, but there he was with a finger on the trigger. He pulled it in.
One bullet near Gavin’s clavicle, so that he was laying on the ground and bleeding out.
One into Gavin’s head. Judging by the splatter, it was the kill-shot. He stopped twitching after a few seconds.
Franco turned his head, to his dad’s weak smile. Although Bill was curled up on the ground and losing consciousness, he was lucid enough to notice the carnage for a second. But Franco was still crying as he sat by his dad’s side. He placed two fingers on Bill’s jugular and sobbed. He was out cold, but there was still a heartbeat. Franco used a free hand to apply pressure to the bleeding hole, trying to preserve whatever blood the man had left.
Bill was still alive when the paramedics took over. But Franco still cried, doubled over on the ground.
“You didn’t have to do that for me,” he sobbed. “I didn’t ask for this.”
The paramedics tried to coax him into the ambulance with him. After all, if they lost Bill, it would stink if he died alone.
A/N: I usually try not to let myself get too wrapped-up in complaining about my past in this story, but a lot of Carmen’s dialogue to Franco was taken almost verbatim from one of my ex’s. Me being a depressed self-harmer was bad because it made him look bad! Thanks for letting me see the light, ASSHOLE-
Uh, I told myself I wasn’t going to kill an animal in the story, but look where I am now. I’m so sorry.
2-8-2017: When I wrote this chapter, I thought I was about to lose my real-life dog. Who is basically the IRL Peanut. It was to the point where I wished I could end his pain, but he kept having good days. It was so conflicting.
Now every day is a good day. He’s gonna be 15 next month. It does make me regret this chapter a lot…I hate a lot about this one tbh.