to love other people, that love is the answer, yes. I think that's
true, because in my own messed-up life the one thing that made it
bearable was my brother and the
closeness that I felt with him." Alphonse Gatano
"So when are you meeting with them?" Frank handed Joe a small pair of pliers, watching as he twitched the final wire into place. Their father had taught them years ago how to make a bug. Frank had three of the tiny devices in front of him and Joe was just finishing a fourth.
Joe pushed the bug over, scattering Frank's careful piles of supplies. "After school, I think."
"You think or you know?" Frank threw the question out before he even realized that it had been one of their mother's favorite things to say. Joe cringed a little at the sound of the familiar words but otherwise made no comment on their origin.
"I know, Frank." Joe ran his fingers through his hair, a sure sign that he was worried, and began thinking out loud. "Okay, so if today's Tuesday," Frank snorted at the if but fell silent at a glare from his younger brother. "Fine. So today is Tuesday. I have football practice everyday this week because of the championship on Friday." Frank grinned, even though he'd already heard this, and patted Joe on the back. He knew that his brother was proud that he'd helped the football team get to the State Championship.
Joe looked up at him, a half-smile on his face. The most Frank could get out of him now. "Yeah, well, if I have practice tomorrow I'll have to cut in order to go with these guys. Coach will freak. I think that this gang's planning to do...something...over the weekend, so if it's Friday I'm screwed. Oh, and next week's Thanksgiving." He looked at Frank, eyebrows drawn together. "What are we doing for Thanksgiving?"
Frank had given a little thought to this matter and had discussed it with Chet and Callie. Chet didn't want to be alone for his first Thanksgiving without his sister and Joe wouldn't want to be alone for their first Thanksgiving without their parents. So Frank had something in the works. Kind of.
Frank tousled Joe's hair, drawing out a cry of resentment from the younger boy. "Sorry, Little Buddy, I kind of forgot," Frank lied, hoping to surprise his brother the following week. "But I'll think of something, don't worry."
He was actually surprised when Joe's expression cleared up and marveled, once again, at how much faith Joe put in him. He always believed, no matter if they were cornered by a gang of grave robbers or alone for Thanksgiving, that Frank would bail them out.
And, whether in spite of or because of this, Frank usually did, sometimes pulling through by the skin of his teeth, but he always managed to get out. Somehow.
This train of thought brought him back to what Joe was doing. He had already met with these people once and found out the name of their little band or group or whatever. They called themselves The Cavaliers, for a reason so obscure Frank neither knew nor cared about it. They also managed to find out what these people were into ― trafficking black-market drugs, sometimes picking them up, sometimes selling them, and sometimes just stashing them to be picked up later.
It wasn't until Joe had come back from the last meeting that Frank realized how deep they were. He had been in the can, listening to everything they did, one hand of his cell phone (the police station was on speed dial) the other hand on the door handle, ready to leap to Joe's recue the second he suspected something was up.
When Joe had returned, Frank nearly wanted to kill him. Over the one-way radio, he'd figured out everything he could about these Cavaliers, including the fact that the leaders seemed to be older (twenty or twenty-five) and that one of them seemed to hate Joe.
"What was that about?" Frank had shouted at his brother as soon as they were far enough away to talk. Joe looked at him, one eye swollen, the knuckles of his right hand bleeding.
Joe winced a little at the sound of Frank's voice and Frank had to physically remind himself to calm down. One thing he had learned over the months acting as legal guardian to Joe ― you couldn't yell. It got him nowhere but into a shouting match, which would eventually turn into a wrestling match and even though Joe was three years younger he could still pin Frank in less than four seconds.
So Frank took a couple of deep breaths, thinking that this must have been how their dad felt whenever one of them got hurt. His heart had been pounding out of his ribs at the sound of the fight that the bug picked up. He had wanted nothing more than to get out of the van and run to his brother's rescue. Now he was sitting in a van with Joe and he could do nothing but yell. What was wrong with him.
Joe wouldn't meet his eye and his fists were clenched. Frank looked at him and sighed, melting. He ran a hand through his hair distractedly before putting it over Joe's bruised and bleeding knuckles. "I'm not mad at you Joe. I just wish you'd think before you say stuff like that."
Joe mumbled something that sounded like "He started it" which made Frank smile a little. "Joe..." he sighed, feeling his heart rate go back to normal. "Joe..." he began again, trying to get it out. "Just...just be more careful. Your hot head will get you killed one of these days and..." Jeeze, what a wimp he was. "And I don't know what I'd do without you."
Joe cast him a fleeting smile, a rare occurrence these days. He turned his hand so that Frank's palm was in his and squeezed. "I know Frank." His eyes sought his brother's, trying to convey without words that he thought the same thing.
Frank cleared his throat slightly before launching into a spirited discussion about the many illegal aspects of the Cavaliers, which Joe joined in immediately. They both wanted to leave the awkwardness of the previous conversation behind.
Later, Frank wondered if he'd said those things because he knew, somehow, that he wouldn't have much more time, if he had known, before it happened, that Joe was being thrown into something that would cost him his life.