Gerard shut the front door, and it made a small clicking sound as he did so.
Bandit's head popped up suddenly as she was startled. She was curled up on a chair, homework books littered around her on the kitchen table. She quickly brushed a lock of dark hair out of her face, and it fell back behind her shoulder.
Gerard smiled at his daughter.
"Hey there, kiddo."
He set down the box he'd been carrying.
Bandit involuntarily clutched her pen a little tighter.
Her voice was low and soft, and it seemed to go well with the warmth of their home, the warmth of the golden light that shone on her skin and skillfully modelled shadows into her face which managed to value her beauty even more. She tilted her head to the side, as if she were listening to distant muffled voices.
That was her quirk, her little thing. She'd always do so whenever she was thinking or trying to concentrate on something or just losing herself into her own fantasies and imagination.
"What's in the box?" she finally asked, curious.
"In here?" and Gerard slightly nudged the cardboard with the tip of his toe.
"It's something for you."
Bandit arched an eyebrow, head still cocked to the side.
"Come here, kiddo."
She stood up. He bended down and picked the box up, ever so delicately. Something inside of it moved, and there was the distinct sound of tiny claws scratching against cardboard. A curious and tentative smile blossomed on Bandit's lips.
He gave her the box. She stared at it for a few seconds.
"C'mon, Bee. Open it."
She pulled the lid up, and all of a sudden her eyes shone and she smiled wide as she put the box on the table.
"Oh. Oh wow."
A kitten, tiny and shaking, peered at her from inside. Bandit giggled, trying to pet it as the animal shied away from her.
Gerard couldn't help but grin seeing his daughter's joy.
"I found it on the road while I was driving back home from the hospital."
Bandit's smile faltered for a fraction of an instant.
Gerard suddenly debated wether to lie to his own daughter or not. He looked at her from the corner of his eye as he nearly instinctively poured himself a drink. She glared at him as he did so, but didn't say a word.
"No, nothing's new, Bee."
Gerard immediately sensed that she was mad at him because of the drink, but he shrugged the guilt away and drowned it down with a sip of whiskey, trying to ignore how immature he was acting.
"Your mom's asleep?"
"She said she had a headache, so she might."
"I should go and check on her, no?"
"I shouldn't be the one making decisions here. You're the grown man."
She'd involuntarily spit out the last sentence, carefully measuring the bitterness and spite with which she said it. She picked up the kitten.
"Is it a boy or a girl?" she asked, as the tiny animal struggled to break free of her grasp.
"I don't know" Gerard replied as he started going up the stairs "I'll take it tomorrow to the vet's, first thing in the morning. I promise."
Bandit could hear her father pacing up and down the hallway above her and correctly guessed he'd at least had the decency to finish his drink before talking to Lindsay.
She tilted her head to the side as she listened to his pacing as it stopped and the squeaking of a door being opened - the bathroom's. Then came the sound of water flowing and of her father rinsing the glass out. Silence after the water flow stopped.
More pacing, and then another door was opened.
Gerard slowly and quietly opened the bedroom door.
The blinds were shut, the lights switched off. He could barely make out the shape of his wife sleeping on the bed, and an infinite sadness took over him when he noticed how small she'd become over time.
He'd already shut the door when Lindsay's voice - low and raspy - asked him to stay.
Gerard stopped in the doorway.
She turned the bedside lamp on.
"Come in, Gerard."
He tentatively stepped inside, somehow intimidated (ridiculously so) by the massive amounts of medicine and pills and syringes that had seemingly cluttered the room overnight, when it had actually been over the course of three long harrowing months.
"They got the last tests results." he finally managed to blurt out as he stood in front of her, fidgeting with his sleeve. The alcohol hadn't helped: everybody knew two inches of whiskey weren't enough. Not for him, at least. He still felt uncomfortable and he still felt like crying, because he'd finally come to the realization that he'd never really hated Lindsay, that she'd never deserved the pain he'd put her through.
His throat closed up because he knew she was about to ask, and he knew he could've never told her because it meant admitting that their world, albeit it being messed up and pain-stricken and broken, the world that they'd created together was inevitably coming to an end.
But she asked anyway.
"How did it go?"
He swallowed and shook his head.
"Bad. Real bad."
He looked up and their eyes met.
"It's terminal, Lyn."
Her mouth hung open for a few seconds as she blinked and let it set in.
She smiled, bitter.
"Well, we knew it was going to happen, Gerard."
After that, they were both quiet for a while.
He sat on the edge of the bed. She rested a hand on his shoulder. They both stared out of the window, as the leaves fell quietly.
Gerard's thoughts were screaming and churning and running all over the place. He bit his lower lip as he listened to Lindsay's breathing and tried to memorize the sound of it, knowing he would've lost that (and so much more) horrendously soon.
Gerard ran a hand through his hair as he thought of the box hidden away in his studio, as he thought of the secret he'd kept hidden for so many years. As he thought of the pros and cons of telling Lindsay about it, as he weighed the different possibilities and in the end had them all boil down to one: that he owed Lindsay the truth, he owed her the reason their lives - but especially hers - had been destroyed and doomed right from the start.
He owed her all of that, and so much more. He owed her happiness: something he hadn't been able to give her and he knew all the alcohol would've never snuffed the guilt out, and all of the love Frank could've given him would've never made him feel better.
She leaned her head against his shoulder and started running the palm of her hand along his back.
"We should tell Bandit."
He shook his head.
"I found a kitten while I was driving home from the hospital, so I brought it to her."
Lindsay kissed Gerard's shoulder. He didn't push her away like he'd always done.
"That was a sweet thing to do."
"The kid deserves some happiness. Since we weren't able to give her that much of a rosy life, y'know?"
"Yes, I know."
"We--I owe her some peace of mind. For once."
Lindsay didn't reply. Gerard felt his stomach drop as he prepared himself for the next few words he was going to say - words he should've said years and years before.
"There's something I need to tell you."