When a vicious and messy divorce leaves Gerard with nothing, and with Lindsey moving to take sole custody of Bandit, he's taking control.
A Way Away
The pavement was oil-streaked, cracking, rough against his worn Nike's as he catapulted himself quickly out of the car, slamming the door behind him. He fumbled for the keys as he yanked the back door open, carefully scooping the sleeping infant from her car seat.
He swallowed. Hazel eyes darted nervously. Muggy, humid night air pressed in from all sides, choking him as cicadas whined from the bushes outside the Walgreens. The city lights blocked out the stars and the moon hung lazily in the black sky. He cradled the baby closer to his chest, arm curled around her back as he moved quickly, head down, to the doors.
Harsh, fluorescent lights and cool air blasted him as he half-stumbled his way into the store. He immediately glanced left, right, left again and took off hastily, nearly running down the aisles. He paused just long enough to grab a black plastic cart.
"Hey, hey, Bandit, wake up," he whispered quietly, nudging the slumbering infant gently, voice cracking, "W-wake up baby, wake up!"
A whine, followed by a half-strangled, grumpy cry erupted from the disgruntled infant as she woke. He shushed her quickly, gently, rubbing a gentle hand across her feathery brown hair soothingly, whispering soft nonsense words. He bounced her gently in his arms, "Shhh...It's okay, Bandit, it's okay baby girl, it's okay. Daddy's here. There's a good baby, yeah, shhhhh..." he muttered in a low voice, holding her.
She calmed quickly, dulcet, as he deposited her quickly into the baby basket affixed to the cart. He swallowed again, a sticky lump forming in his throat. His palms were sticky and damp as he gripped the bar and wheeled the cart down one aisle, then another. He paused.
A large backpack. He grabbed it and threw it into the cart. A duffel bag quickly followed suit. Five men's t-shirts, in various colors were joined them, tailed closely by several pairs of athletic shorts and a package of cheap boxers. He moved down the aisle, grabbing a cheap canvas jacket. In the cart it went.
He began to talk, distractedly, to the infant, eyes darting nervously, chewing his lip as he walked faster down the next aisle. "It's gonna be all okay, I promise, Bandit," He began, rambling, spotting the children's section and heading towards it, "Daddy's gonna take good care of you, forever. I promise, no one's gonna hurt you, ever. I won't let that...woman, hurt you. No, you're gonna be okay baby, I promise."
He swept a handful of violently-red colored hair out of his eyes, tucking it behind his ear, sizing up the racks of kid's stuff. Several little boy's shirts, pants, shorts, socks and a cheap pair of shoes with Spiderman on them made their hasty way onto the growing pile in his cart.
He walked on, still talking, rubbing the baby's head reassuringly as he turned down another aisle. "It's gonna all be okay, Bandit, I promise," he said, swallowing. His legs shook nervously, his pulse pounding as he hurried even faster. His hazel eyes glanced around, pupils dilated.
Whisking the cart down yet another aisle, the infant began babbling happily, clapping her tiny hands and giggling. She leaned over the cart bar, hands reaching forward, clasping and unclasping, grasping the man's shirt as he leaned over her. She tugged happily, laughing and bouncing in her seat. A half-smile curled up his face, and he patted her head, "Yeah, it's gonna all be okay Bandy," he said, sounding surer, "We're gonna be okay. I promise you."
A sound buzzed from his pocket. He jumped nearly a foot, accidentally wrenching his shirt from her tiny grasp, knocking her back. She started to cry in earnest as the phone in his pocket continued to buzz urgently. He tried desperately to soothe her quickly as he pulled the phone from his pocket, a name flashing over the screen. Lindsey Way.
His heart leaped almost all the way out his throat, started pounding, pulse smashing its' way through his veins. He nearly choked, swallowing harder. He quickly punched "Deny", holding down the "End Call" button 'til the screen went dark and it shut off. He glanced around, eyes wild, nearly panting. He had to ditch the phone.
He threw it onto one of the racks, behind a box of power bars and moved on, patting the infant on the head. She'd settled some, and was staring, wide-eyed at him. He tried, again, to reassure her, "It's g-gonna be okay, Bandit," he lied, swallowing over and over, moving even faster, "It's gonna be ooo-kay."
He moved down the 'Health and Beauty' aisle, grabbing a package of baby bottles, nipples and dry formula off the rack. Into the cart they flew. They were followed immediately by two packs of diapers, a pack of wipes, a travel size of baby powder, some diaper rash cream. He moved down the aisle, pausing near the other end at the hair dyes. He turned, facing them. His eyes scanned nervously, he chewed his lip.
Finally, he grabbed two boxes of some L'Oreal shit, one light brown, one a muted blond. Into the cart. He walked on, wheeling down the men's aisle. Travel-size deodorant, shampoo, a cheap pair of reading glasses, a brush, a comb, toothbrush and little toothpastes all flew into the cart. He moved on quickly, then stopped just long enough to grab a pair of safety scissors that were on sale for "Back to School!" sales. He threw them in the cart as well.
He knew he needed more, needed to prepare more thoroughly. But there just wasn't enough time. The infant's eyelids were growing heavy; she looked ready to fall asleep. He bit his lip and moved on to check out. He thought quickly, and grabbed a Trac-Fone from a hanging display, followed by several of the "Unlimited Talk and Text" minute cards. Into the cart.
A display of granola bars, on sale, caught his eye as he moved up to the register. He grabbed six boxes, dumping them in the cart before finally moving to pay. The old man behind the register looked exhausted, looked ancient, looked ready to die. His eyes were bleary, and he moved slow, scanning each item.
"How are you this evening, sir?" the cashier wheezed, pausing for breath between every word, coughing.
"Fine," the man replied curtly, eyes snapping back and forth between the cashier and the cart full of items impatiently. He cursed silently to himself. He bit his lip. He silently willed the man to move faster.
Finally, after what seemed an eternity, but what could only have been about five minutes, all the merchandise had been rung up. To his credit, the old man didn't question for a second why he was buying so many things. "Your total is two-sixteen, twenty-four," the cashier informed him, "And would you like me to bag these for you?"
"No, no, I've got it," the red-haired man replied, handing over two hundred-dollar bills, and a twenty, "Keep the change."
Moving quickly, he stuffed everything back into the cart, and wheeled everything out to the car. After securing the baby into the car seat, with more soothing murmurs of "Everything's going to be okay"s, he threw everything into the backseat and slammed the door. Sliding quickly into the front, he started the car, backed out and sped out of the lot.
The motel room was musty and reeked of old cigarettes and mold. He crinkled his nose, frowning as he walked further in, balancing Bandit's car seat, complete with baby, on one hip, holding the door open with foot, bags gripped in his other hand.
"It's only for one night," Gerard muttered quietly to her, pressing a soft kiss to her head, "I promise baby, it gets better from here."
Depositing her car seat on the bed, he dropped the bags next to her. Ripping the safety scissors off their packaging, he made quick work of the tags and packaging on everything, folding and stuffing everything into the duffel bag, filling the backpack with baby bottles and clothes.
Grabbing the boxes of hair dye and scissors, he carefully scooped Bandit, seat and all, up on one arm and made his way to the bathroom. Setting her on the toilet, he straightened up, facing the mirror.
What faced him across the silver expanse was a ghost of the man he remembered being. Bruised rings of sleeplessness framed his raccoon eyes, lines of exhaustion slashed down his cheeks, his Raggedy-Ann hair hung in greasy curtains, long roots growing out horribly. His skin was pasty, shallow and gray, cheeks and sockets sunken, stubbly and rough. Five months of vicious divorce had left him a shell.
Snatching the scissors from the edge of the sink, he wrenched a handful of hair away from his head and, gritting his teeth, began hacking violently. Clump after bloody red clump rained into the sink as he sawed off his hair. Standing back five minutes later, he was staring at himself, sans hair. Reddish brown chunks stuck up in every direction, woefully short.
"How's it lookin', Bandy?" He questioned of the wide-eyed infant, turning and throwing her the ghost of a smile, "Do I still look like Daddy?"
Not expecting a reply, he moved to the stained porcelain tub past the toilet, dropping to his knees, grabbing the box of brown hair dye, leaning over the edge, pulling out the knob, unleashing the water, and flipping the switch. Water rained from the shower head, soaking the neck of his t-shirt as he scrubbed his weary hands through his filthy hair.
Grabbing the tiny bottle of cheap hotel soap, he doused his himself, lathering furiously. Finally, he rinsed off, turned off and sat back, away from the tub, on his haunches. Shaking sudsy water off his neck, he studied the box in his hands for a moment before tearing through the flimsy cardboard, grabbing the nozzled bottle and leaning back over the tub. He'd done this enough; he knew how.
Pouring it liberally over his hair, he worked it in thoroughly, fingers threading through what remained of his decimated locks. He straightened up, letting the brown goo run down his back, turning to Bandit. "Your turn Bandy," he said, trying to smile, "I know you probably don't want to, but it'll be over before you know it."
As gently as he could, he extracted the infant from her car seat. Stripping her down to her diaper, he set her on her feet in the tub. She braced herself against the edge, giggling and babbling happily, reaching up for him. He grinned in spite of himself, turning the water back on, cupping his hands and gently dousing Bandit's silky brown hair over and over till it was totally soaked.
Grabbing the second box of blond dye, he scanned the box and physically winced where it mentioned 'Not for use under the age of 12', but tore into it anyway. "It's gonna be okay Bandy," Gerard muttered, dabbing some of the bottle's contents over her head, careful to avoid her eyes, massaging it in, "It's not gonna hurt you. Daddy's gonna be very, very careful."
Bandit whined, shaking her head, but he held her as gently as he could in place, rubbing the dye in all the way. He let it sit the mandatory ten minutes, soothing and distracting Bandit the whole time. As soon as his watch beeped at the ten minute mark, he promptly rinsed it out.
"See, see, that wasn't so bad, was it?" Gerard cooed, scooping her out, drying her with a towel off the back of the toilet, wrapping her up as he stood and traipsed back to the main room, standing her up on the bed, "That wasn't so bad at all, was it Bandy?"
Bandit giggled, towel around her tiny shoulders as she stood on the bed's squishy surface, clapping her hands as Gerard dug quickly through the new backpack. Emerging with a tiny t-shirt with a soccer ball, a pair of shorts, socks and the Spiderman shoes, as well as a fresh diaper, powder, wipes and diaper rash cream, Gerard moved back over to Bandit.
"Bandit Way down!" Gerard laughed, pushing her in the center of her chest with one finger, sending her toppling back amidst a hail of joyous giggles. She fell back, kicking her legs, waving her arms at the old joke they shared. This was what they used to do after every bath back before weekend visits, case workers and divorce attorneys.
Gerard laughed, moving in, dropping everything on the bed, tickling her tiny stomach, blowing air at her giggling cheeks, making silly faces and poofing out his lips. She laughed and laughed, waving her arms, eyes twinkling. Eventually, he pulled back, smiling fondly at her as he grabbed the diaper, powder, wipes and cream.
Making quick work of her current diaper, he moved with practiced ease in quickly wiping and powdering her, fastening a fresh diaper over her tiny hips. She giggled, clapping her hands as she gazed up at him. He couldn't help grinning, tickling her again as he pulled the shorts on over her diaper, followed by a moment of minor discomfort on her part as he pulled the shirt over her head, helping thread her arms through the holes. Socks and shoes followed suit, laced up quickly.
"Alright Bandit," Gerard sighed, standing back, running a hand through his newly browned hair, "I know this is gonna be weird for you, but, from now on, at least until Daddy's got everything all fixed, you're gonna be Brandon, okay?"
Bandit stared blankly up at him, grinning sweetly, clapping her hands. With her freshly blond hair, soccer shirt and Spiderman shoes, she was a perfect rendition of a little boy. "Does that sound okay to you, Brandon?" Gerard asked, arching his brows, chewing his lip, "Do you think that'll work?"
Bandit didn't respond, but he didn't really expect her to. Instead, he flipped the television on, setting her on the ground, quickly making sure there was nothing within arms reach that could be dangerous, and he headed back into the bathroom with duffel bag in hand.
After a quick shower, change of clothes, a pair of reading glasses and combing, Gerard looked at himself in the mirror. He could barely see himself anymore. The man with light brown hair looking back at him wasn't the failure Gerard remembered. Wasn't the man who'd fucked his marriage up. Wasn't the man who'd fallen so far they were going to take his only child away from him. This wasn't that man.
He moved quickly, throwing everything, boxes and all, into the trash can, and hustling back into the room. Bandit had pulled herself back onto the bed and was snoozing on her belly. He felt a small grin tugging at the corner of his mouth, his chest swelling up. He swallowed, glancing out the window at the lightening sky. He needed to move quickly.
Slipping Bandit, Brandon, back into her, his, car seat, Gerard was back behind the wheel, and was out of the parking lot quickly, blasting down nearly deserted roads on his way to one destination.
"It's gonna be okay, Bandy," He reassured again, voice cracking as he kept glancing over and over in the rearview mirror, paranoid, "It's gonna be okay. Daddy's here for you, I promise. No one's ever gonna take you away from me. I love you, baby girl. I love you so much. I love you."
In the backseat, Bandit, Brandon, slumbered on, blissfully unaware, even as the silhouette of L.A.X rose in the distance, casting long shadows in the light of the rising sun. The dull roar of jet engines were muffled as she slept, Gerard's voice lulling her into a deeper sleep.
"It's gonna be okay, Bandy," Gerard whispered, pulling into the airport's parking lot, scanning for a space, "It's all gonna be okay, I promise. Daddy's here for you, I promise."
Thanks so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed. This is only the first part, and I'll update soon on all my stories! This is a non-slash story, FYI, and I appreciate all reviews and ratings! Thanks. :)