I am participating in the Holiday Flash Fiction Blog Hop Thorny and Kris have put together. Yay!! Stories were to be inspired by the picture below and include the following items:
* A winter holiday theme,
* A “bad boy” character, and
* A gift of some kind (author’s choice).
(It was also supposed to be under 3K but my boy was so angsty I went a little over. Sorry! )
I loved the picture immediately. The first thing that struck me was the loving embrace by the two beautiful boys, but how the young man in front doesn’t look all that happy. He was obviously sad or wistful, or any number of emotions.
The combo of the photo and the “bad boy” requirement made me think of two boys I wrote in another story called “Pretty Boy and Frankie.” It is part of the Project Fierce anthology that was released earlier this year by Less Than Three Press. All proceeds from the anthology go to help support Project Fierce in Chicago, an organization trying to buy housing and start a center for homeless LGBT teens. If you haven’t read or purchased it yet, I encourage you to check it out, a wonderful way to help out our LGBT youth this holiday and get a ton of short stories from a lot of very talented authors.
Buy links: Less than Three Press, Amazon, ARe, BN
You don’t need to have read the original to enjoy this new fic, it is completely standalone. This story is a future-shot into where the boys are two years after the first one ended.
I’m sure everyone has read everyone else’s wonderful stories, but if not, just click the present below to visit the blogs of all of the other authors participating.
* * * *
Home and the Heart
by C. J. Anthony
“Mommmmmy Pleeeease!” Frankie cringed at the loud screech that followed from the little girl upset at whatever she wasn’t getting. What the fuck, he thought, growling inwardly. It was Sunday afternoon and his only ambition had been to spend the next twenty-four hours home with his boyfriend in their apartment doing absolutely nothing. Well…maybe not exactly nothing, as he and Connor could always find something to do to keep themselves occupied.
Instead he was being assaulted from all directions with blinding lights, hordes of people brushing past him and the tinny caterwauling of yet another rendition of Jingle Bells blaring from overhead speakers. Connor had Christmas shopping to finish and had begged and pleaded until Frankie agreed to join him. Actually he had been bribed with the promise of a mind-numbing blowjob after they got home.
But going to the mall five days before Christmas—along with every other man woman and child in the entire city of Columbus—might not even be worth a blow job, now. The worst part was, he was blindly following Connor like a puppy dog, empty-handed while Connor carried two full, bright red store bags. Because Connor had friends and family to buy presents for. Connor’s relationship with his parents was still tense and awkward, but he and they still exchanged gifts like the perfect Stepford family. And Connor had numerous friends he’d met in his classes and various college activities.
Frankie had…the guys he worked with at the garage. And while they all grudgingly got along, they weren’t exactly the type of guys you gave a new pair of socks wrapped up in pretty paper and bows.
The nearness of Connor was the only thing keeping him sane in this holiday tsunami of people and holiday cheer. His whole body warmed as Connor wrapped an arm around him and nuzzled his face close to Frankie’s ear.
“Baby, you’re doing so good,” Connor whispered in his ear.
Frankie grunted. “Are you done yet?”
“Almost. I still have to get you something. Come over here and look—”
“Frankie, come on, let’s just look okay?” Trapped by Connor’s arm around him, Frankie had no choice but to turn in tandem with Connor to face the front of the jewelry case.
“They have some nice stuff. This ID bracelet is gorgeous. A nice brushed platinum. Or look, they even have some nice braided leather cuffs—”
Frankie sighed. Connor was involved in a campus gay alliance that had done a lot of work fighting for Marriage Equality. It still wasn’t legal in Ohio but it was only a matter of time. Ever since he’d started working with this group he’d been pushing Frankie for this commitment symbol bullshit. That he and Frankie should wear some reminder of each other that they both could keep with them at all times. Not a ring—thank God—but something that represented their relationship. Something that showed they belonged to each other.
He and Connor had been living together for two years and they’d met a year before that. Connor volunteered at the Sunshine Center, a homeless shelter in Chicago that Frankie often frequented. When he wasn’t spending nights in a park or an abandoned building, that is. At first Frankie just thought Connor was a spoiled little rich kid forced to slum it with the gay homeless kids. He tagged him Pretty Boy, meant as an insult, although in reality Frankie thought he really was beautiful. Then he found out Connor was gay. And then they spent time working together at the Sunshine Center. And then there was the night Connor came looking for him at the abandoned building he was staying at…and one thing led to another, as they say.
Except Frankie screwed it all up by skipping town the next day. Frankie’s uncle had got him a job working in one of his car-repair shops…in Detroit for a while, then Columbus, Ohio. It was a chance for a real job and a way off the streets…and his uncle didn’t really give him a choice. The mistake had been leaving Connor and not telling him he was leaving. He’d felt like a heel for doing that to Connor. And as much as he hated to admit it to himself at the time, leaving Connor had hurt like hell. Frankie had let his guard down and let himself fall for the guy even though he knew it could never work out. He was Cinderella living in squalor and Connor was the rich prince—but real life was hard and dirty and definitely no fucking fairytale. So he left. End of story.
Except it wasn’t. They must have had some kind of Fairy Godfather working behind the scenes, because a year later Connor came walking into the garage he was working in. Turned out Connor was attending Ohio State for college. They had been living in the same city for nine months and didn’t even know it. Frankie freaked. He initially tried to push Connor away for about five minutes. Connor was used to getting what he wanted, though, and he wanted Frankie. And damn if he understood it, but Frankie wanted Connor too.
They’d been together ever since. Every night they slept in the same bed. To Frankie that was commitment. What more did Connor need?
Frankie forcibly entangled himself from Connor and pushed away from him. He glowered at Connor. “Did you get all the stuff you wanted?” The hopefulness lighting up Connor’s face disappeared and Frankie’s heart broke. But right now in the middle of a jillion people was not the time or place to discuss this topic again.
“Yes,” Connor replied quietly.
“Then let’s get the hell out of here.”
They both were silent as they made their way through the maze of people and the endless rows of cars in the parking lot. Once they were in their vehicle, shut away from all the noise, Frankie paused before starting the car.
“What are you waiting on? You were in such a hurry to get out of there, let’s go.” Connor pressed, an edge to his voice.
Frankie banged his fists against the steering wheel. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Connor flinch.
“What the fuck is with you and this stupid idea of making me wear some fancy bracelet or necklace or whatever the fuck? I told you I don’t want nothin’ and I can’t wear that kind of shit anyway when I’m working on cars. So I’d just have to take it off anyway and then I’d probably just lose it or something stupid and then you’ll get all mad.”
When Connor didn’t answer Frankie turned to him. “Why the fuck is it so important? You know that kind of shit isn’t me.”
Connor let out a breath and closed his eyes briefly before looking straight at Frankie. “I just…” he paused and reached inside the neck of his shirt. “I still have your St. Michael’s medal. I wear it every day. It’s a piece of you I carry with me all the time. I just…I wanted you to have something similar, to make you think of me, to not forget me.”
Frankie’s eyebrows furrowed. “I see you every day, how could I forget you?”
Connor turned his head away and looked out the window. “Just forget it. I won’t bring it up again.”
“No, I’m trying to figure out why this is so important to you. I gave you my St. Michael’s medal to protect you, like my mama gave it to me.” Frankie’s Catholic upbringing was still with him even though he hadn’t been to church since his Catholic parents kicked him out of their house for being an abomination.
“Right. And it’s important to me because you gave it to me. I’ll always have it to represent you and me…no matter what happens.”
Frankie’s head whipped up. No matter what happens? What the hell did that mean? Shit. He got hot and his heart started hammering against his chest. Frankie had been expecting this moment for two years…and now it was here. He knew Connor wouldn’t be his forever. It was just a matter of time. Connor was almost done with school; he’d be graduating in the spring. He could go wherever he wanted then—find a job somewhere and make a new life with someone who had more education than a GED. Someone who didn’t come home every night dirty with grease under their fingernails. Fuck. Connor had been working a lot of late nights, maybe he was gone already. Maybe this gift thing was his guilty conscience trying to compensate.
“No matter what happens? What the fuck does that mean?” Frankie didn’t mean to sound so hard but he couldn’t help it.
Connor bent his head down and refused to look at Frankie. “If…” Connor paused and Frankie couldn’t breathe while he waited for Connor to finish.
“…you left again. If you had something to remind you of me, maybe you wouldn’t leave.”
Frankie blinked and tried to keep down the anger that boiled up in him. But when he opened his mouth the words just flew forth before he thought.
“Goddammit Connor. I thought we were over this. It’s been Two. Fucking. Years. Two years of coming home to you every night and waking up every morning next to you. Isn’t that enough? No, you think some pretty little bauble, some chain around my neck is what’s going to make me stay? I know I fucked up the first time but haven’t I proven myself? Shit. Shit Connor!” Frankie pounded the steering wheel again. “Why the fuck do you think I’m the one who’s going to leave? You’re the one who’s getting all smart and going to school and then you’re going to graduate and take off and rip my fucking world apart.”
You could hear a pin drop in the car. Connor and Frankie stared at each other, the cold air in the car seeping through their heavy coats into their bones. Frankie wanted to kick himself for what he’d just said. He couldn’t believe he’d just revealed himself that way. Frankie was tough from living on the streets, he knew the score, and he knew how to keep the wall up. But Connor just shattered it every damn time. And Frankie felt like he had just carved open his chest and let his heart bleed out everywhere.
Connor still stared at him with his mouth open. But the real truth came in his silence and Frankie’s heart sank. Connor wasn’t denying anything Frankie had just accused him of. Frankie faced forward, and started the car, blinking away the wetness in his eyes.
* * * *
When they got home, Connor made a grab for his arm as they got out of the car, and Frankie knew he wanted to say something but it was too late. Frankie stomped up the stairs to their second-floor apartment, slamming the door behind him. Connor came in a few minutes later, more quietly. And again Frankie could tell he was building up to say something until his phone beeped. It was one of his study groups, they were meeting and Connor was late. So without a word he grabbed his backpack and rushed out the door.
Frankie grabbed a beer from the fridge, slammed himself down on the couch and fired up the most violent video game he owned, the one Connor refused to play with him. He gripped the controller in his fists and jabbed at buttons, killing and smashing every object and person in his path.
* * * *
When he opened his eyes next it was pitch black. He blinked, and saw the TV was off. Rubbing his hand over his face, he winced as he moved, a painful kink in his neck from the position he was in. He’d apparently fallen asleep. The blanket from the back of the couch was partially covering him, which also explained the TV being off. Connor must have come home. As he sat up more fully his body urgently reminded him of the beers he’d had earlier. Standing, he shuffled as quietly as he could through the darkened apartment toward the bathroom. He had to walk a few steps through the bedroom to reach the bathroom and when he got there he stopped in his tracks, his body’s needs forgotten. Enough light shown from the window for Frankie to see Connor, asleep and curled up on his side in their bed. Normally he would have been curled into or around Frankie’s body.
Frankie’s heart twisted and he leaned against the doorframe for support, sliding down until he was sitting on the floor. Connor was a heavy sleeper so Frankie knew he wouldn’t wake him. He took advantage of the time to watch Connor, in the quiet stillness. Connor’s blond hair was mussed across his forehead and he looked as sweet and innocent as the day he had walked into the Sunshine Center. He was beautiful and perfect and it was going to kill Frankie when Connor left.
Frankie’s anger from earlier was gone, replaced now with only sadness and resignation. Connor was all he had and when he left, Frankie would be alone in the world again. He’d survived when his parents abandoned him, and while hurtful, that had been somewhat expected. The Catholic Church was starting to bend a little more in their beliefs, his staunch Catholic parents were not. He knew they would not accept him when they found out he was gay.
And now, with Connor—even though he’d known the day would come—every day Connor walked in the door lulled Frankie into the belief that maybe, just maybe Connor would stay with him. Until tonight.
The only thing that didn’t make sense was this need Connor had to get him something, to want Frankie to wear something to “think of him.” If he were leaving Frankie why would he care? And why would he be so sad when Frankie refused? It was a silly piece of chain and metal. Frankie was glad Connor still wore his St. Michael’s medallion. But Frankie didn’t need something like that to make him think of Connor. The feeling in his chest every time he thought of Connor did that for him.
Frankie sat for a while on the floor until the chill wrapped around him and then he finally got up. After finishing in the bathroom he carefully climbed into bed next to Connor and watched him sleep. It was a long while before he finally fell asleep himself.
* * * *
The next morning, Frankie woke up to cold sheets. Connor was already gone—he had early classes on Monday. Normally Frankie was the one up and gone before Connor but on Mondays he didn’t have to go in till noon. When he stumbled into the kitchen to make coffee he found a note from Connor on the fridge—I’ll be home late, deadline at the paper.
Frankie pulled the note down and crumpled it in his fist. His anger spiked but mostly he just felt numb. Yet another late night, imagine that. Connor had been accepted for an internship for a local city arts paper and all semester it had been the same thing—late nights, deadlines. Add in Connor’s classes, his study groups and extracurricular groups and there had been a lot of notes left on the fridge lately. Or voicemails. “Sorry babe, can’t make it…gonna be late…eat without me…” Frankie knew the internship was important for Connor; he’d been so excited when he got it, and Frankie tried to be supportive and understand all the time it took. In fact one of those late nights Frankie had decided to stop by with a pizza for Connor…only to find the place closed up. When Connor got home (later than Frankie) he said they had unexpectedly finished the issue up early and everyone had gone out for a celebratory drink. Frankie had been suspicious but let it go, wanting to stay in his happy little bubble for a while longer. Fuck, was he an idiot.
* * * *
Frankie made it through work on autopilot. But he couldn’t stop thinking of Connor and their argument yesterday. And how he’d left this morning without saying a word. Frankie checked his phone a few times during the day but there were no texts or voicemails from Connor, and normally there were several texts or calls from him in a day. Come to think of it, Frankie realized, those had slowed down too, lately, he just hadn’t realized it. Fuck!
He cursed several times under his breath as he left the garage and headed home. He and Connor lived in a small, cheap apartment Frankie had rented when he first got to town, it’s only important feature being that it was within walking distance to work. When he and Connor got together, Connor was still living in the dorms and when the semester was over they moved him in without question. Frankie had wanted to look for another, nicer place but Connor swore the apartment was fine. It was just off High Street and close to both campus and Frankie’s job. And the price was right, since Connor was paying his own way through school. He actually saved money by not having to stay in the dorms.
Frankie slowed his pace, not really wanting to get home to an empty apartment, not wanting to face the evening alone. Although, he probably was going to have to get used to being alone again, he couldn’t face it tonight.
Muffled music and the blinking neon Miller sign in the window caught his attention. Lucky Spades, a total hole-in-the wall dive bar that he and a couple of the guys stopped in once in a while for a drink after work. He stopped, staring at the blinking sign, and before he knew it he was pulling open the old wooden door. A beer and an excuse to not go home was exactly what he needed right now. Why rush home when no one was there?
There were a few other lonely souls inside, a couple guys and a woman playing pool in the corner. Two other men at the bar, arguing about if Ohio State could win the next championship game. Frankie chose a stool away from anyone and downed his first beer before the bartender had a chance to go help someone else.
He was on number three and starting to feel pleasantly fuzzy, when he noticed another guy in a red scarf who’d came in sometime between beer number one and beer number two. He’d sat down at the other end of the bar but had been watching Frankie for a while. Frankie turned his head to get the bartender’s attention for beer number four and when he turned back around he found scarf guy smiling at him with a very wicked grin. He was bald, with a couple days’ scruff, nice full lips and a very fit body hiding under his leather jacket. Frankie glanced away and counted to ten before slowly turning his gaze back. Scarf guy’s eyes roamed down Frankie’s body. He wasn’t obvious at all when his eyes shifted pointedly toward the restroom sign and then back to Frankie, a heated question in his eyes. Frankie’s eyes lingered on him for a few moments longer than they should have. The guy was hot, and interested. Clear in his intentions. Back in Chicago Frankie would have already been halfway to the bathroom. It had not been unusual in his old life to trade a blowjob for some food or some other necessity. A few times he’d done it for money. But this guy was so hot, Frankie would have gone just for the hot sex and his dick would happily be leading the way.
As he stared at the guy he gripped the cold beer bottle, running his fingers up and down it’s wet surface, and found his beer-soaked brain actually contemplating the man’s offer. Why the fuck not? Connor was not home, and he was here alone… Connor. His chest constricted as the vision of Connor’s beautiful face swam into his head. Fuck. In an instant he was furious and sickened that he’d even briefly entertained the thought of a cheap, quick bathroom fuck with some random stranger. He knew that his relationship with Connor may already be on its way out, but he wasn’t going to be the one to kick it out the door.
He drained the last of his beer, threw some money on the bar, and stumbled out of the bar on shaky legs. Outside he leaned against the side of the building, letting it hold him up while he gulped in lungfuls of bitter cold air. The guy hadn’t even made him hard; Frankie had no physical interest in him at all. He couldn’t believe he’d almost…fuck, he had to get a grip. Whatever Connor was going to do, he was going to do. And Frankie was just going to have to deal with it, right? He wasn’t going to beg or grovel. He didn’t want someone who didn’t want to be with him.
The cold air sobered him up just enough to get him moving again toward home. His brain was still woozy and sorting through a million different thoughts. He passed a pawnshop and saw rings and necklaces in the window, which just circled his brain back to the jewelry fight with Connor. They’d gone round and round on this for a few weeks. He frowned. Surely Connor wouldn’t throw Frankie away for something so silly? Because he didn’t want to wear some trinket to prove he loved Connor or that he belonged to him?
It hit him then so hard that in his booze-buzzed state he physically staggered on the sidewalk. How had he missed that before? God he was an idiot. Is that what all of this was about? Did Connor want some proof from Frankie that he loved him? Frankie was not exactly a romantic type of guy. He didn’t do flowers and he didn’t voice his feelings much. Instead, he took care of Connor—he made sure Connor’s car was running good and had it’s oil changed. He wasn’t much of a cook but he tried to make mac and cheese or order pizza for dinner when Connor was busy studying. He gave him some money a couple of semesters when Connor was short on tuition. They’d had to eat ramen noodles for a week until Frankie got paid again but they’d survived. Hell, he even went to that freaking mall yesterday because Connor wanted to.
He had told Connor he loved him a few times—the first time being one of the most terrifying things he’d ever done. Connor, of course, said it all the time, but that’s just who he was. He knew how Frankie felt about him, right? But Connor’s words from yesterday filled Frankie’s brain—“If you left again. If you had something to remind you of me, maybe you wouldn’t leave.” Frankie had gotten pissed off without even considering why Connor still felt that way. Frankie was so sure he was going to lose Connor some day he never even considered Connor might feel the same way.
Jesus, this relationship stuff was hard. Why did it have to be so hard? Why couldn’t he just wrap Connor up in his arms and go to bed and everything be fine?
By now he was almost home. Voices made him look up and he saw a couple of giggly girls coming out of the tattoo shop, and he stopped before he almost ran them over. Looking in the shop window, Frankie had an idea. He needed to prove how much Connor meant to him—even if it was too late. Maybe he could convince Connor to stay. Taking a deep breath he turned on his heel and entered the tattoo shop before he changed his mind.
* * * *
As soon as he stepped inside the shop his whole body flushed and his pulse started pounding. Did he really want to do this?
“Hey man, what can I do for you?” He looked up at the guy behind the counter, swallowed hard and started describing what he wanted.
The man nodded, casually. “Yep, I can do something like that. Come on back.”
They discussed the details and colors as Frankie took his jacket and his shirt off and settled into the chair. He tried to calm his breathing and his heart rate but it was impossible. He was hot and shaking and gripped the handles of the chair to try and steady himself.
The man turned around, and paused as he glanced down at Frankie’s white knuckles and his white face. “Chill out, dude. You’ve obviously been through this before,” as he nodded at Frankie’s arm and neck. “Nice dragon by the way.”
Frankie nodded. “This one’s just… important.”
He settled on a stool and leaned closer to Frankie, grinning. “Yeah these kinds of tats always are. Don’t sweat it though. I’ve got lots of experience at covering them up when it all goes south.” He laughed out loud then and Frankie gripped the chair tighter.
He gritted his teeth as the needle hit skin. He knew it shouldn’t be so painful and wasn’t in reality, but he knew he would feel every bit of this one, because he just couldn’t relax. He felt stone cold sober to the tenth degree if there was such a thing, hyper aware of everything around him.
The guy stopped and sat back. “Okay man, you have got to loosen up. You want a Xanax or something? Or a smoke? Your chest is moving up and down so much I’m gonna fuck it up if you don’t seriously calm the fuck down.”
Frankie took a few deep breaths and tried to settle himself, closing his eyes. “No…just do it. Now!”
An hour later Frankie was on his way again, nervous energy, and happy endorphins coursing through him. The guy had done a great job, and Frankie was thrilled with it. He finally understood what Connor felt like wearing Frankie’s St. Michael medal. He couldn’t wait to show it to Connor, hoping he would be just as happy as Frankie.
* * * *
Connor was already home when Frankie walked in the door of their apartment. He jumped up from the couch with a worried look on his face. “Where have you been? I though you got off work hours ago.” As he stepped closer he raised an eyebrow. “Have you been drinking? Are you drunk?”
“I just stopped off for a couple beers. I’m cool. I thought you were going to be late.”
“I was, but I got off sooner than I expected. Did you eat yet?”
Connor headed into the living room and Frankie saw an open pizza box on their makeshift coffee table. There were plates and two glasses and a cheap bottle of champagne.
Frankie furrowed his brows. He wasn’t sure what was going on. The pizza made sense but the champagne…?
They both sat down on the couch and Connor turned toward him. He looked nervous.
“So I know I’ve been working all of those late hours at the newspaper and I know you haven’t been real thrilled with me being gone so much.”
Oh shit. Was this it? Was he—but wait, people didn’t buy champagne when they were dumping you did they?
“I had to though, you know. I needed to make a good impression.” He stopped and finally broke out into a grin. “And it worked! They offered me a job. One of the regular writers is leaving next month. I’m going to keep working with them part-time through the next semester and when I graduate they’ll bump me up to full-time. I might even get my own column!”
Frankie’s heartbeat sped up. “You got a job? After graduation? Here?”
Connor took his hand and his smile dimmed. “I’m sorry I didn’t say anything sooner, I’ve been hoping for it all semester but didn’t want to get my hopes up. Until yesterday and your speech in the car, I had no idea you thought I was going to leave. I had no idea you were even worried about something like that or I would have told you. Frankie, I have never had any plans of leaving here. Or you, God, especially not you! If I had to move somewhere else for a job, I never would have done it without talking with you first. Wherever I go, you’re coming too, or I don’t go.”
Frankie’s breathing hitched and he took a big gulp of air, causing the tape from the bandage on his chest to stretch and pull. He didn’t even feel the pain.
Connor picked up a piece of paper from the table and unfolded it. There was a picture of a house on it. “I’ve been looking at houses, thinking that now that I have a permanent job maybe we can move. I mean, I won’t be making a big salary, but with both of us working full-time we can afford a little more, right? It’s still a rental, I know we can’t afford to buy yet, but it’s in good shape and it’s bigger than this place and it has a yard…” He touched Frankie’s cheek tenderly. “You can finally have a real home again.”
Frankie was overwhelmed. He was happy and relieved and bursting with so much emotion. Connor was staying. Connor wanted a home. With him.
Connor pulled his hand away and tilted his head. “Is that okay? Can we move to a house? It’s not set in stone and we can look at others…”
“No, Pretty Boy, it’s okay…it’s fucking fantastic.”
Connor climbed on top of Frankie, straddling his hips. “Merry Christmas, baby.” Leaning in for a kiss, his chest pressed into Frankie’s, causing Frankie to hiss. Connor pulled back in concern. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” Frankie protested, his face growing hot. Connor placed his hand on Frankie’s shirt, right on the spot above his bandage.
“Nothing? What is this under your shirt? Are you hurt?”
Connor began reaching under the shirt hem, forcing the shirt up and over Frankie’s head. Frankie hurriedly placed his hand over the bandage, shielding it from Connor. “Did something happen to you—oh. Did you get another tattoo?”
Frankie looked down, not wanting to meet Connor’s eyes. What seemed like a fantastic idea an hour ago, Frankie wasn’t so sure about now. To prove his love for Frankie Connor had given Frankie a promise that he was here to stay and put down roots. To prove his love for Connor, Frankie…had gotten a tattoo. He felt embarrassed and silly now. Of course, it’s not like he could hide it forever; Connor would see it eventually.
Connor tried to push Frankie’s fingers aside. “Well let me see! I didn’t know you wanted another tattoo. What’s wrong with it? Come on…” Connor would just pester him until Frankie showed him, he was a persistent little shit.
Frankie, still not looking at Connor, pulled his hand away. His whole body tensed while Connor carefully pulled the bandage off.
There was silence…seconds, minutes, hours of fucking silence. Connor stared at it for a while before reaching out to graze the tips of his fingers against it, so lightly Frankie barely felt it. Anxious and nervous, Frankie finally looked at Connor.
Connor’s face was impassive but his eyes were shiny.
“What…what does it say?” Connor croaked out.
The tattoo, right above Frankie’s heart, was a simple but beautifully scripted series of words. Decorative, swirled lines linked the words into the subtle shape of a heart. Connor’s name was the largest, linked with the Italian phrases, “Caro Mio, il mio cuore.” Frankie swallowed nervously. “It says ‘My pretty one, my heart.’”
Frankie couldn’t stand the silence and wanted to run. He started to shift, trying to move Connor off of him. “It was silly…” he mumbled under his breath.
“No!” Connor loudly exclaimed. He restrained Frankie’s arms to keep him from moving and pinned Frankie’s legs down with his own. “It’s not silly, it’s…beautiful.” Connor’s eyes glittered as he stared at it.
“You wanted me to have something that reminded me of you.” Frankie said quietly. “You’re always with me now.”
“Yeah, that’s…permanent.” Connor said quietly.
Frankie barked out a laugh. “Well the tattoo guy said he was pretty good at covering things up if I ever needed it…”
Connor frowned in anger. “Never. You are never covering that up!”
“I hope not,” Frankie whispered huskily.
Connor took Frankie’s face in his hands and kissed him, thoroughly and deeply, bruising Frankie’s lips with all of his emotion. When they finally pulled apart they were both breathless.
“So you like it?” Frankie asked.
Connor met Frankie’s eyes. “I love it. I…never thought… Oh Frankie, it means more than you know. I love you so much.”
Frankie’s heart filled and for the first time in twenty-four hours he could really, truly breathe again. “I love you too, Pretty Boy.”
* * * *