Andy can’t help but be consumed by his thoughts as he and Ashley drive back to his house.
He’s not even sure why he drove all the way out here. This trip wouldn’t have ever happened if he was completely sober, he would’ve just settled for a phone call, but drinking always inhibits his usual rationality. He had to see Oli. The need to see his best friend, to hear his voice in real life, to just be assured that Oli was all in one piece was almost necessary.
There are odd feelings of attachment stirring in his chest and Andy has no idea what to do with himself.
“Dude,” Ashley says, “you alright?”
“Mhm,” Andy says. “Just thinking.”
“Okay. Just checking, because your nose gets all scrunched up when you’re thinking, but it also gets scrunchy when you get a little upset.”
“You... you noticed that about me?” Andy says, a little astonished.
“Well, yeah. You’re quite the person, Andy. I’d have to be blind or ignorant to not notice those little things about you,” Ashley says very casually, like it’s something that everyone knows.
Andy’s train of thought hits a metaphorical wall. It hadn’t ever really occurred to him that people took time out of their day to take notes on Andy’s personality. Usually they just shut the fuck up and listened to what he was saying, or sometimes words weren’t said at all and gunfire was exchanged instead.
He flexes his hands on the steering wheel.
Right then, he needs to be a little bit more drunk.
“I – uh – thank you,” he says, tripping over his words. This is new, and he has no fucking idea what he’s supposed to do or how he’s supposed to act.
“Of course,” Ashley says, smiling.
Andy is going to get so fucking drunk when he gets home. So fucking drunk.
Frank’s had himself locked in the bathroom for at least twenty minutes, just staring at his phone, thumb hovering over Gerard’s contact, anxiously still chewing on his fingertips, which are starting to become a little raw and bloody, and rapidly bouncing his leg up and down.
Somebody taps on the bathroom door, snapping Frank from his odd, trance-like state.
“You okay Frankie?” Kellin asks softly through the door.
“Yeah,” Frank replies, short and quick.
“Can you open the door?”
He pauses, stopping all movement. Slowly, he gets up and unlocks the bathroom door, and Kellin walks in.
“You sure you’re okay?” Kellin asks again, as soon as he can actually see Frank’s face. Frank only nods in response, knowing that his head is too scattered to properly string coherent thoughts together and turn them into words.
“I know where mom hides the valium, if you’d like one,” Kellin says.
“No, I think I’ll be fine,” Frank says, mumbling around his sore fingers, and Kellin takes Frank’s hand out of his mouth.
“What can I do to help?” Kellin asks.
“I don’t know. Distract me or something,” he says.
“Well, mom did tell me that we have to go return cans soon. It’s sorta late in the day, so I don’t think many people will be there. Would that be an okay distraction?”
Frank thinks for a moment. Returning cans is a repetitive, doesn’t demand much physically, and Kellin would be with him to make sure he can’t do anything stupid to himself.
“Yeah. Yeah, let’s go return cans. Except, how are we going to get there?” Frank asks.
“I do have a driver’s license, you know. And my mom has this crappy truck that’s sort of just sitting in the garage that we could use. If it’ll start.”
“Well,” Frank says, “Let’s go see if it starts.”
They go downstairs and Frank stands idly by while Kellin digs around in his mother’s bowl of loose change and keys for the pair he’s looking for, and after five solid minutes Kellin finds the keys and the two make their way to the garage.
To Frank’s surprise, there’s the truck that Frank somehow had never noticed. Kellin expertly navigates around the boxes and power tools sitting about, grabbing the bags of cans along the way, while Frank stumbles over things and stubs his toe on what he thinks was a chainsaw. It could have also been an air compressor, but Frank doesn’t really care. All he knows is that now his foot really fucking hurts.
“Hop in,” Kellin says, opening the driver’s side door so Frank can slide over to the passenger side (as the truck is jammed in close to the wall of the garage, probably too close to open the door of the truck successfully).
Kellin climbs in next to him and stares at the wheel of the truck.
“You better fucking start motherfucker,” he tells the car, before putting in the key and turning over the engine. He swears at the truck once, twice, and then the two cheer triumphantly when the engine comes to life.
Kellin doesn’t talk to him while they drive down the road, just letting the radio fill the silence, knowing that when Frank’s anxious like this, he finds it difficult to talk. And Kellin likes pleasant silences himself. He likes just sitting in silence with someone without it being awkward or uncomfortable, and sometimes he prefers that to a conversation.
The actual act of returning cans proves to be no easy feat. Well, physically it’s easy, but Frank won’t shut up about his hands being gross, and there’s this lady using the return next to them that keeps opening and closing her mouth in sync with the machine.
“I swear to god I can’t feel my hands through this layer of sticky and gross,” Frank mumbles, picking one more can out of the garbage bag and chucking it into the machine.
Kellin makes a noise in response, but he hardly takes notice of what Frank says, because he’s too busy chucking the same can into the machine over and over two hundred fucking times because the stupid fucking machine keeps spitting it back out and he is legitimately going to get a fucking baseball bat and –
“I can hear you getting pissed at that soda can,” Frank says calmly.
“I’m not pissed at the soda can,” Kellin says through gritted teeth.
“Yeah you are,” Frank says as he takes the can out of Kellin’s hand and sets it on the ground, “Destruction of someone else’s property is bad, Kellin.”
“Not in this case,” Kellin mutters, “Stupid fucking machine.”
“Well, luckily for you, this bag is the last one,” Frank says, dropping the final bag in front of them with a grating ‘clank’ sound.
“Thank god,” Kellin says at a normal volume, but he drops his tone (as well as his eyes) quickly.
The woman from earlier has left, and the can return area is like tunnel, so Kellin can see into the parking lot from where he stands. A dark colored SUV has parked just barely in his line of sight, and he can see the blurred outline of the person sitting in the driver’s seat and the person sitting in the passenger’s seat. After a moment, the driver’s side door opens and someone steps out, but doesn’t go into the store, or leave the parking lot at all. Instead they just lean against the car and stare in Kellin and Frank’s general direction, and maybe the two boys themselves, but Kellin can’t quite tell.
“Don’t raise your voice, don’t turn around, don’t do anything that could be interpreted as scared or fearful. Stay as calm as you can. There’s this guy in the parking lot standing next to his car and I think he’s watching us. Keep putting cans in the machine, Frank, we can’t draw their attention at all. They have to think that we don’t know that they’re watching,” Kellin mutters.
The color from Frank’s face has waned considerably, but he nods anyway and puts another can into the machine as Kellin had instructed.
“Should I call Gerard?” he says at a volume only loud enough for Kellin to hear.
“Actually, you probably should, and tell him to bring Oli, too.”
“I thought you hated Oli?”
“I do, but he can be intimidating as hell and that’s kind of important right now,” Kellin says.
Frank nods silently and grabs his phone and calls Gerard without a second thought, and Gerard, to put it extremely lightly, flips shit.
“What? Fucking – there’s what?”
“A person in the parking lot watching Kellin and I, now could you just get Oli and come here? Because Kellin’s pretty sure this guy doesn’t have positive intentions,” Frank hisses into the phone.
“I’m going to fucking kill this son of a bitch, no one’s going to fucking hurt you, not while I’m around-” Gerard spits, and Frank hears a door slam and a car start.
“Gerard, please calm down, you’re going to cause a car crash,” Frank says with an edge of anxiety in his voice.
“I’m as calm as I’m going to get. I’ll see you in fifteen, be safe,” Gerard says, hanging up abruptly.
Frank listens to the dial tone for a couple moments before hanging up himself. “He’s on his way,” Frank mumbles.
Gerard pulls into the parking lot like a madman, tires squealing, drawing the kind of attention they certainly don’t need right now, and Kellin swears quietly under his breath. He doesn’t know whether or not Gerard’s actively trying to get them shot.
“Frankie,” Gerard says the second he sees Frank, grabbing him and hugging him close.
“Please don’t do that to me,” Kellin says, glaring at Oli.
“I wouldn’t touch you with a fucking ten foot pole, don’t worry about it,” Oli replies, nonchalantly pulling his gun out of his hoodie and checking the ammunition.
“Where is this fucker, I’ll blow his fucking brains out, I swear to god-” Gerard says, looking past Frank and into the parking lot, but Oli grabs his shoulder.
“Calm the hell down. We’re only here as security, if they try anything, you can go right on ahead, but until then, you need to fucking not get so worked up,” he says. Gerard clenches his jaw and pauses, shooting one last loathsome look to the parking lot before turning his back.
“You done?” he asks, gesturing to the empty garbage bag on the floor.
“Yeah. I’ll take the receipt in, Frank, you can go wait in the car,” Kellin says.
“Hang on a second,” Gerard says. “I think – and this is just so everyone is safe – That Frank should ride back with me, and you can ride back with Oli. Just so both of you are safe.”
Oli makes a face of complete disbelief. “You’re asking me to ride in a vehicle with that?”
“Hell no. Hell fucking no,” Kellin protests. “I’d rather chop my own arm off and eat it.”
“I know it’s not what either of you would like, but it lowers the chances of anyone getting hurt dramatically. It’s a safety precaution,” Gerard says, and Oli exhales heavily and rubs his face.
“Unfortunately, he’s right. Guess I’m fucking stuck with you,” he says.
“Fucking great. Well, let’s go get the money and get this the fuck over with,” Kellin says, absolutely exasperated.
“We’ll wait for you guys to get into your car before we leave, but we’ll be in our car,” Gerard says, grabbing Frank’s hand in what he probably thinks was an inconspicuous manner, but it’s really so painfully obvious that Kellin wants to retch then and there.
Oli accompanies him silently while Kellin collects the fifty two dollars he and Frank earned (over a span of what was close to two hours) and just as silently climbs into the truck alongside him. Gerard pulls out of the parking lot first and Kellin follows as closely as he can, a slight tremor in his hands.
“This shit’s got me high strung, fucking hell,” Kellin mutters. Oli shrugs next to him.
“That’ll happen when you’re not used to this kind of stuff,” he says matter-of-factly.
“Well....” Kellin says, allowing his words to trail off.
“Well?” Oli asks, surprised.
“Uh..... Before Frank’s dad and my mom got together, I was alone a lot. Like, a lot. And I would get really fucking bored. At the time, there was this kid lived next door to me, and he was mixed up in some really bad shit. And everyone knew he was not the kind of kid that you wanted hanging around your children. But I was willing to do almost anything to be less alone and less bored. So I started running with him and his crew. We did some really stupid shit, one time we stole a car, another time we shoplifted something like $500 worth of shit from Wal-Mart, just stupid, petty things. I’ve been arrested like ten times,” Kellin says very calmly, “He moved away a while ago, went to live with his dad I think, and then we moved too, and I haven’t heard from or seen any one of those boys since.”
Oli is in some kind of awestruck state, words almost completely failing him.
“That..... That is not something I expected,” he says.
“Most people don’t, especially not with the way I present my personality. By the way, that jackass from the parking lot is tailing us,” Kellin says, and Oli immediately tenses and grabs his gun.
“You’re sure?”
Kellin nods. “Definitely. I memorized the license plate number. It’s them.”
“Fuck. Fuck. I’ll call Gerard, we’re going to split up, they can only follow one of us,” Oli says.
Frank is the one to answer, and Kellin knows that this is going to fuck him up, big time.
“Gerard, are you listening?” Oli asks.
“That son of a bitch from the parking lot is tailing us, and Kellin memorized the license plate number, there’s no way it’s not them,” Oli says, his voice slowly increasing into more of a shout than a normal vocalization. Kellin can hear Frank’s sharp intake of breath, and Gerard swears.
“I’ve got a plan,” Kellin interrupts. “Frank, you head to your house, Oli and I will bait them into some kind of chase and lose them, and we’ll meet you at yours as soon as we’re safe.”
“Works for me,” Frank says. “Be careful, you two.”
“We’ll do what we can,” Oli says, saying goodbye and hanging up.
“How confident do you feel in this plan?” Oli asks the second the phone call is over.
“Just confident enough. It’s full of holes, this truck is a pile of junk, and I’m out of practice, but I’m pretty sure we can pull it off.”
Oli looks at him and shakes his head. “Who the fuck are you and what have you done with the hyperactive bitchy little shit that we all assumed was Kellin?”
“I’m a fucking alien and I killed Kellin. Now,” he says, looking in the rearview mirror, “Would you do me a favor and shoot at that guy?”
“You want me to do what?”
“You heard me. Shoot at him. Just hit the windshield, or one of the side mirrors, or whatever, just enough to get their attention away from Frank and Gerard and onto us,” Kellin says.
He mutters something about Kellin being fucking crazy, but complies anyway, firing one shot and knocking out their passenger side mirror, and it works like a charm, the car speeding up and getting much closer to them.
In front of them, Gerard and Frank begin to turn onto the exit, and Kellin can almost see the driver trying to decide who to follow.
“One more shot Oli, we’ve almost got them.”
“You’re an idiot,” Oli says, but he does it anyway.
“Now all we have to do is lose them.”
“And how are we going to go about that?” Oli asks sarcastically.
“Like so,” Kellin says, easing his foot forward on the gas pedal, slowly gaining speed and weaving his way through traffic like it’s no problem at all.
The car behind them does what it can to follow them, doing pretty well for the most part, but occasionally falling behind them by one or two cars. It always catches up though, making Oli’s heart beat harder in his chest.
“Should I shoot at them again?” he asks.
“No. I’ve got this,” Kellin assures. “Think I can run this red light without getting pulled over?”
Oli drops his head on the dashboard. “I’m actually going to die.”
“Nah,” Kellin replies, letting go of the steering wheel with one hand to pat Oli’s shoulder, even though they’re cruising at a speed of eighty-some-odd miles an hour.
By some sort of miracle, they manage to run the light without crashing and getting pulled over. From there, Kellin turns recklessly through the streets every time the other vehicle shows signs of gaining on them, making a sharp right every time a street shows up without a ‘dead end’ sign on it.
“Are you even sure where we are anymore?” Oli asks, sincerely doubting that Kellin has managed to keep track of where they are throughout this entire escapade.
“Um,” Kellin says, looking around them and then checking the rearview mirror. “Nope. Not a clue. But I should be able to find our way to Frank’s. If we can get to an area that I even sort of know, I can get us back.”
“Actually – wait a second,” Oli says, turning around in his seat to scrutinize the street they’ve just turned down, “I know where we are!”
“Really?” Kellin asks, kind of astonished. “Hell yes, and we’ve lost those jackasses too. Is there any possible way we could switch vehicles? Do you have a car or something?”
“Take a left. I’ve got just thing,” he says, grinning like a child that’s just found out what he’s getting for Christmas.
‘Just the thing’ happens to be a BMW M3 in perfect condition, hidden underneath a tarp in the garage of a condominium complex.
“This is yours?” Kellin asks, absolutely dumbfounded.
“Hell yeah it is. It was a gift from a friend,” Oli says, “But we need to go and get the keys from my place upstairs, so cross your fingers that my key still works and the building manager hasn’t kicked me out yet.”
Thankfully, his key works, and if Kellin thought the BMW was surprising, Oli’s place is even more of a shock. Although it’s not the biggest, it certainly is spacious and well decorated, with a large flat screen television mounted to the wall and some expensive-looking pieces of art fixed to the wall parallel to it.
“You live here? In this apartment?” Kellin asks, stunned tone still apparent in his voice.
“Condo,” Oli corrects, “and yes, even though I mostly stay at Andy’s. This place was a gift from the same friend that gave me the car.”
“Whoever this person is, I want their money,” Kellin says.
“The only reason I even have all this in the first place is because I literally had nothing, and my friend said she ‘owed me’ because I’d taken care of some shit for her. Shit I’m not proud of and shit I’m not going to talk about,” Oli says, rifling through various coat pockets in the closet to find the keys to the BMW. “All of it boils down to why I live alone and not with my parents or brother, and that’s all you get to know.”
Kellin understands that pressing the conversation further would be useless, so he refrains from asking the questions that are begging to jump off the edge of his tongue and falls silent.
“Aha!” Oli exclaims, emerging triumphant with keys in hand, and they leave the truck in the parking garage where the BMW had been with intentions to come and pick it up later.
The ride to Frank’s house is quiet and uneventful, the only real conversation taking place being when Kellin tells Oli which way to turn, the radio otherwise filling the silence. When they pull up to Frank’s house, Oli grabs his arm.
“I’m going to continue to pretend that I hate your fucking guts again, but you’re actually not as bad as you could be. I mean, you’re annoying as fuck pretty much all the time, but other than that you’re pretty alright.”
Kellin smiles. “You’re not too bad either. But no one else can know that I think that.”
“All this is top secret. If you say anything, I’ll punch you in the face,” Oli says, partially joking, and partially serious.
“Ditto. Except I don’t want to go anywhere near your face so I’ll just shove you down the stairs. Deal?”
Almost immediately after they get out of the car and approach the house, they’re bombarded by Frank and Gerard, who are both, to be blunt, freaking the hell out.
“Where the hell were you? We almost thought you died, you were gone for so long!” Frank shouts, grabbing onto Kellin and hugging him tightly.
“Well we had to lose them, and that can take a while,” Kellin explains calmly. “We happened to wind up in the area where Oli lives, so we switched out cars and then came straight back here.”
“Are you sure you didn’t steal that car?” Gerard asks, eyeing the BMW suspiciously, and understandably so.
“Nope, it’s mine,” Oli confirms. “Now can we get inside? All that stress from being in the car with this psychopathic fuck has worn me out.”
“Oh, like you’re such a fucking picnic to deal with,” Kellin retorts.
“Shut the fuck up.”
“I’m staying with you two now. I decided,” Gerard says the second they’re all sitting down and in some semblance of comfortable.
“What? No,” Frank protests, “What about your brother? You need to be with him, somebody has to look after him.”
“Mike is doing pretty okay on his own, and Vic lives with you two. And I mean, if all else fails, I can just have him stay with Pete. Even though that’s not my favorite option, it’s viable.”
“Gerard, you’re making this decision kind of rashly,” Oli says. “You’re still freaked out and you might not be thinking completely clearly right now.”
“I don’t care if I’m not thinking clearly, what happened today is preventable and if I know I can do something about it, I want to do something about it. Mikey is capable of being on his own, and I’d still call him and whatever to check in and all that.”
“I’m against it,” Kellin says from the floor where he has currently situated himself, wrapped in a couple blankets, leaving only his face visible.
“Were you ever going to be for it?” Frank asks.
“Well, no, but that’s not the point. Even if I could be for it, which is impossible, I still would think it’s a bad idea. Mostly because Mom is going to have no idea what to do with five teenage boys suddenly living with her.”
“She’s hardly ever home though,” Frank counters.
“She still has to feed us all, somehow.”
“I can pay for my own food, if that’s what it takes,” Gerard says.
“You just might have to. Look, I don’t know, I didn’t ask mom’s permission for Vic and Oli to move in last time and that didn’t go over too well, if Frank hadn’t been there to back me up my ass would’ve been handed to me on a silver platter, and doing that again seems like a really unwise move,” Kellin says.
“So ask her,” Gerard says, shrugging.
“It’s not that simple! I can’t just ask my mother, who works two jobs and is gone almost all night and half of the day to sacrifice more room and more provisions that she can’t afford to sacrifice just for some over-protective borderline paranoid boy who has a stupid crush on her stepson! Have some fucking respect, it’s not all about you!”
Silence falls over the room abruptly and thickly.
“That.... that was a little harsh,” Oli says.
“Oh shut the fuck up, you’re one of the fuckers mooching off of my mom, you don’t get to tell me what’s harsh.”
“Kellin’s right. Asking mom to take in any more people is selfish and rude,” Frank concurs.
Gerard stares at his hands silently. “I’m sorry.”
“Damn fucking right you are. Look, I get that you’re worried about Frank, I am too, but you can’t just decide that you’re going to move in with somebody without asking, or thinking ahead, or about anyone else in the situation. Frank has Oli, Vic, and I. The three of us should be able to keep him safe, which I doubt he will need, because he can handle himself.”
“Yeah... I’m.... I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay Gee,” Frank assures, leaning into Gerard’s side. “I’ll be alright.”