Gerard's sick, Frank's babysitting, and there's a kitten on the loose. Oh me, oh my.
The voice on the other line sounded hoarse, straining. Frank stopped chewing the gum in his mouth, leaning closer into the ear piece. He listened. Perhaps he had simply just woken up?
"Ugh..." there was a pause before the hoarse voice returned, and it sounded worse, much worse, as the voice continued to speak. "...I have the flu."
"Oh, shit dude." Frank responded, now spitting out the gum that he had been chewing. "Yeah, you sound like it. That blows."
There was another pause. Frank waited for Gerard to say something else, because surely he hadn't called him to just inform him of that. As he waited, he could hear Gerard wheezing through the line, and he wondered if Gerard was pausing so much because he didn't want to say what he had to say, or if he was so sick that he was physically struggling to speak.
Finally, scratchy as imaginable, Gerard said "I need you to come here and watch Bandit for me. I'm too sick to get out of bed."
"Why? Where's Lindsey?" Frank asked.
"At her mothers."
"He's busy with Alicia."
"Look, can you do this for me or not?"
Frank sighed. He scratched his head and recalled all he had to do later in the day, but truthfully, that surmised to not much of anything. Plus, he had missed Bandit's last birthday party two weeks back, due to a case of sheer laziness. He did sort of owe them both.
"Okay Gerard, I'll be there in thirty or so minutes." he resigned.
"Thanks." Gerard rasped out, and seemed to rustle with the phone. Frank heard a beep, and looked at his own screen to see that Gerard had hung up. He sighed again, got out of his own, bed, and began to get ready.
It was nearly an hour later when Frank found himself pulling up into Gerard's driveway, which was packed with more cars than the three person Way family really needed. He unloaded the cardboard box he had in the passenger's seat -- a belated birthday gift he had gotten for Bandit.
He went up to the homely looking porch and rang the doorbell. Once, twice. He took a moment to stop pressing the small white button because he remembered that Gerard was not feeling well, and getting the door would take some effort. He wondered if Gerard was going to be able to get the door at all, and cursed himself for not bringing this issue of how he would get inside while they had been on the phone.
But finally the door knob twisted, and with a few loud clicks, the door came slightly ajar. Frank had to push the wooden door in the rest of the way, with the present tucked under his arm. Revealed to him was Gerard, sulking on the other side of the doorway. His skin had an abnormal pallor, and was pasty with sweat. His nostrils look rubbed a raw pink. His long cherry red locks fell unkempt around his face, looking in need of a good wash. He swayed, as though ready to fall over at any moment. Frank had to shake off a bit of shell shock before he found that he could say anything -- he had not seen Gerard so ill in a very long time.
"Wow." was the first word he uttered, "You look awful."
"Shut." Gerard muttered, which Frank suspected was supposed to be followed with the word 'up', but Gerard couldn't seem to bring himself to continue. Instead, he beckoned Frank to follow him upstairs.
They walked up to Bandit's bedroom, which could be distinguished from the other rooms by the brightly colored stickers of animals all over the door. When they let themselves inside, Bandit was sitting on the carpet floor, playing with a red bouncy ball that was nearly half her size. She looked up, a grin blossoming on her face.
"Hi B." Gerard cleared his throat, and seemed to be forcing his voice to sound as normal as it possibly could. "Uncle Frankie is here. He's going to be watching you today -- so if you need anything, call him, okay? He'll check on you from time to time."
Bandit, who Frank doubted understood most of that, waved at them. "Hi Uncle Fwank!"
"Heeey Bandit." Frank smiled back at her, before setting down the box he had with him on the ground. "I'm sorry I couldn't be there for your birthday. I brought you a gift anyway."
Bandit visibly perked up at the word gift. That, at least, she surely understood the implications of. She abandoned her ball and began to waddle over to the box. Frank stepped away, excited, as Bandit used her small hands to open it. Gerard watched warily.
Suddenly, it seemed like the whole room jolted. The box opened, but whatever had been inside it was no longer. A tiny, grey colored thing sprung away from the box on four tiny white paws. It took a moment to look up at the little girl hovering over it before it scampered away, past Frank and Gerard, into the rest of the house.
"Kitty!" Bandit squealed with delight, not at all deterred by the fact that the cat seemed to have run away in apparent fear.
"God dammit Frank..." Gerard mumbled, or more like hissed above him. Frank frowned up at him, ready to explain that the kitten was in need of a new home, but Gerard was already walking away from the doorway, out into the hall.
"Where are you going?" Frank asked him.
"To find the damn thing." Gerard answered without looking at him. Frank felt a pang of annoyance at Gerard's obviously irate reaction. He figured he would at least be a little more grateful. This kitten was a purebred maine coon, just born a few weeks ago. On the market, she would have been quite expensive.
Mumbling to himself, Frank set off in a different direction to find the maine coon. And the search began.
As Gerard's house was relatively large, Frank and Gerard did have much ground to cover. They looked in closets and in bedrooms. Underneath beds and sinks. In bathtubs and cabinets. Beneath chairs and in baskets. Lindsey had an art studio that was a goldmine for places for a small kitten to hide, and Frank had to be careful not to touch much, fearing that he might ruin any of her gorgeous works. Gerard and Frank searched every room, and even the back yard, but could not seem to find the kitten anywhere.
Meanwhile they did not speak at all. At first, Frank suggested to Gerard that he lay down and rest while he would continue to look for the kitten. But Gerard would not respond to any of these suggestions, and Frank got the idea that he was being given the cold shoulder. This miffed Frank slightly, and Frank ended up storming away from Gerard after snapping, "Fine! Have it your way."
It came close to dinner time when Frank and Gerard next met up, both of them kitten-less. He found Gerard in the guest bedroom, sitting on the floor and looking both exhausted and defeated. He frowned as he entered the room, approaching cautiously.
"I'm sorry." he said for the first time that day, "I should have been more prepared about it. Cats usually do run off and hide when they're in a new home. I should have taken more precautions."
Gerard heaved a great sigh, although for a moment it looked as though he was about to blow chunks. "It's okay. I know you meant well. You and your damn animals..."
Frank smiled weakly at that, "C'mon lets..."
And then they heard it. However faint, they heard it. The softest, squeakiest chirp. Gerard looked confused, but Frank knew who it was instantly.
"Is that...?" Gerard began.
"Yes, it is! Maine coons don't meow... they chirp or make a trill-ish noise. I think I heard it from the hallway..." Frank stuck his head out of the doorway, but saw nothing. Behind him, he heard the sound of Gerard getting up to help him look.
They heard it again, and Gerard pinpointed, "It's coming from our bedroom..."
Together they headed to Lindsey and Gerard's bedroom, being soft with their footsteps so they wouldn't scare the kitten off.
When they first entered, they couldn't see the kitten at all. The first thing they saw was their dog, Susan, in her usual spot on the king sized bed. But the mewling still emitted from nearby, so they kept creeping forward. Gerard turned on a lamp.
And there, at last, was the kitten, bundled up in Susan's stomach. The dog had curled itself around her, as it licked her head affectionately with its massive tongue. The kitten mewled up at the dog, then up at them. Frank had to suppress an "Awww".
They brought the kitten back to Bandit, allowing her to spend time with it. Frank unloaded the kitten toys that he had brought with the box. Bandit looked thrilled with her new friend, and even the kitten seemed less afraid. This time, they made sure to close the door quickly behind them.
"Be sure to check on them in like half an hour." Gerard mentioned as he and Frank left the room. "I don't want to have spent all this time finding that cat only to have Bandit accidentally strangle it."
"G, I don't think she's the one who needs to be looked after right now." Frank patted Gerard on the shoulder, and Gerard didn't argue.
The rest of the night was spent in Gerard's room, watching the show Trailer Park Boys. Frank made occasional checks on Bandit, who, thankfully, did not strangle or murder the new kitten. But his eye mostly remained on Gerard, for whom he conjured many bowls of chicken noodle soup and buried in three different blankets.
"Sorry I was pissy earlier." Gerard said in one of his very few moments of speaking that night, "You know I'm allergic to cats, right?"
Frank's eyes went wide, that piece of information suddenly dawning on him. "Oh shit that's right... I totally forgot. I'm so sorry G, I can take it back -- "
Gerard held up a hand to silence him. "It's okay Frankie. We'll make it work. Bandit already knows she has a new cat... you know I can't take that away from her. Susan seems to like her too, I guess."
"I'm sure Bandit will take good care of her." Frank assured him, "If she's anything like you."
Gerard said nothing to this, but reached over Frank to the nightstand where the soup stood. Frank got the bowl for him, and took the liberty of spoon feeding him a batch of pasta.
Gerard laughed. "Or you."
"Hopefully." Frank smirked as he tipped another spoonful into Gerard's mouth, "She'll grow up to be exactly like me."
Gerard smiled. "Now that, I wouldn't mind."
Frank laughed before he scooped up more soup, and turned to feed it to Gerard. But a fatigued Gerard had already fallen asleep, his head rested on Frank's shoulder. Frank fixed the blankets so that they covered him securely and proceeded to drink the rest of the chicken broth from the bowl. He watched television for the remainder of the night, considering his day's mission of babysitting to be a success.