Her graduation from Middleton Law School should have been a life changing event for Bonnie, a day she should have been expecting with excitement, as it was for every other student in her year. And though she truly felt kind of proud of herself for the long way she’d come, there was a bitter taste in her mouth she couldn’t get rid of.
Bonnie wasn’t exactly the most popular girl in the campus. She wasn’t very talkative or sociable, so she hadn’t forged any meaningful relationships in her three years at Law School. Yes, she had some acquaintances she sometimes went out for a drink with on Fridays, and a couple of study groups she used to join whenever exams approached, but that was all. Her life revolved around professor Annalise Keating’s House and the people who lived and worked there, and Bonnie was okay with it. Even if things had started out the wrong way between Annalise and her -when the intimidating lawyer had destroyed her in court-, Bonnie had come to find some solace in that House. It was maybe still too soon to say the Keatings were like family to her, but she had started to feel it more and more as time went by. And it was still too soon as well, and Bonnie was still too young, to foresee how messed up everything would become in a few years time.
Anyways, the Keatings had given Bonnie a fresh start and a home to turn to whenever things became difficult or stressful, and Bonnie was grateful for it.
And there was Frank too.
Two years ago, when she had finally allowed herself to start daydreaming a bit about normalcy and happiness, Bonnie had thought her graduation would be a happy time, that she would be surrounded by the three people that mattered the most to her, that maybe they would celebrate her success together with champagne. The fact that she was having hopeful fantasies again had made Bonnie realize that she had started to heal at last. She was even lowkey dating Frank too, when something like that would have been unthinkable a couple of years ago.
But then Frank had dumped her overnight and it had hurt Bonnie more than she wanted to admit. She didn’t know whether she had been in love with Frank or not, because she didn’t know what love felt like, but the void she’d felt inside her chest when she had seen him turn his back on her and leave the House that day had been too painful and real for a simple crush. Frank had been her first after all the things she’d been through in her childhood and teenage years, and it had meant something to Bonnie.
Two whole years later, she still wasn’t sure if she’d gotten over him yet, because every time she saw Frank hit on one of the new interns, it made her blood run cold. The fact that they had to cross paths every day at Annalise’s House didn’t help her move on either, even if she was trying hard. Right after their breakup, Bonnie had stopped speaking to Frank in an attempt to distance herself from the attraction she felt whenever he was close.
Things had become quite uncomfortable in the House, in general. Some time after the car accident, Annalise had managed to slowly go back to her duties and life, but her mood shifted significantly. She became harsher and definitely more bitter toward those around her.
Sam had started to spend more time out of the House, and whenever he was there, he and Annalise had argument after argument on a daily basis. Sometimes they ignored each other for days. Then they fixed things having wild sex. Other times, it was as if nothing had happened between them, and they sought each other's sweet comfort for hours.
But everything had turned out to be an illusion, as years to come had proven. Suddenly, both became more sneaky and manipulative, and the one who suffered Annalise's breakdowns and Sam's displays of manipulative charm the most was Bonnie, the weakest link of the chain they had created.
Bonnie's only comfort in those first weeks after Annalise's accident and her breakup with Frank, had been that sometimes she had caught Frank looking at her with what she thought was longing. Her hopes of them getting back together at some point only lasted a few seconds every time, though, because he immediately looked away and Bonnie ended up thinking she had imagined it.
Those glances became less and less common as time passed, and after two years, Bonnie was sure Frank had moved on, because he had even started treating her a bit harshly and indifferently. Little she knew about his conversations with Sam or about defense mechanisms.
Life had gone on, and even if they weren’t in the best of terms, Bonnie and Frank had started speaking to each other again for Annalise’s and Sam’s benefit. Bit by bit, they started trying to figure out how to make everything work while they kept their distance and kept everything as professional as possible. Sadly, some of their dynamic had shifted automatically to an unspoken rivalry, and they sometimes behaved like siblings constantly fighting for Mom's and Dad's attention.
As for the Keatings, they seemed to have reached some kind of agreement too, because they argued less and shut up more when Bonnie and Frank were around.
So when the graduation day arrived, Bonnie wasn’t as excited at the perspective of attending as she had been two years ago. And yet, despite everything they had been through in the last two years, she couldn't wait to see both Annalise's and Sam's proud faces when she finally got her diploma, because it was their love and approval that Bonnie mostly lived for these days.
It was Annalise who gave it to her when they called out her name and Bonnie climbed the steps that led to the temporary stage they had built in the campus grounds. She saw Annalise up there waiting for her with a beautiful smile on her lips, and then Bonnie forgot all her cutting remarks and nasty comments, Sam's weird power games and Frank's indifference.
Annalise handed her the diploma and then hugged Bonnie proudly while the crowd -teachers, fellow students, significant others, parents- clapped politely. With tears in her eyes, Bonnie hugged her back briefly and then they pulled apart. As they called out the next name on the list, Bonnie walked away from Annalise and headed for the stairs that were on the other side of the stage, while she searched for Sam's face in the crowd. He was smiling at her and clapping too, which made Bonnie's heart swell with emotion.
There was a face missing, though, and she felt a pang of sadness at the thought. Two years ago, she had imagined Frank would be in the crowd supporting her too, maybe falling a bit more for her after seeing her glow up there, but now she knew he wasn't. He would likely be hitting on some naive brunette at some bar or handling Annalise's stuff twenty miles away from there.
But she was wrong. Frank's green-gray eyes had followed her up the steps and onto the stage, and back down again in the distance from behind a tree. He felt envious and proud of Bonnie at the same time for what she had achieved. Frank couldn't help but feel quite bitter about the fact that it wasn't him the one up there graduating. But he was also ecstatic for Bonnie, because she deserved all the happiness she could get after everything she'd been through, after what he'd contributed to put her through against his will.
The butterflies in his stomach came alive when he saw her honest smile and bright eyes, a sight he had stopped being used to since he had broken up with her. The black mortarboard and gown totally suited her, since they brought out her pale natural beauty.
Frank sighed and wondered when he would stop caring for Bonnie. Even though their relationship was now ruined -which meant he was doing his job of keeping her away very well-, Frank hoped they could still go on working around each other cordially for the rest of their lives. He enjoyed her presence in the House, her shy contributions, her silent support and her shocking strength. That was what had made him fall for her and something he would definitely want to keep in his life, even if his interest for her finally waned at some point in the future.
Before all the students gathered back onstage together to toss their mortarboards, Frank turned around and walked away, trying to go unnoticed as he hid the heartbreak in his eyes.
He needed to find some hot chick who could screw the pain out of his soul.
That evening, Bonnie and her fellow graduates -and what seemed like half the students of Middleton Law- took the campus hostage and celebrated their well-deserved success with rivers of alcohol. They occupied bars, fraternities and sororities and the university grounds.
Bonnie didn't know a lot of people, but the music, the nice weather, the euphoria and the booze helped her socialize a bit more than usual. Her group chose the campus grounds to throw their party. Bonnie danced and jumped between shots, she let the alcohol running through her veins take control of her body and she sang stupid songs at the top of her lungs without even batting an eyelash. The cars that passed by honked their horns and cheered the uninhibited students, who yelled happily and made Mexican waves at them.
Some random guy made a move on Bonnie that evening too, and even if she still didn't feel ready to move on, she was so full of alcohol that nothing seemed to matter much at that point. She didn't know the guy, but he might be the answer she had been looking for. So Bonnie let the guy kiss her senseless while a little voice in her mind kept yelling at her that she was stupid.
The kiss didn't last long, though. When the bloke realized Bonnie was crying, he took it very badly and pushed her away, which made her fall to the ground. As he called Bonnie nasty names, he walked away from her and left her alone on the grass. She swallowed hard and brought her knees to her chest. Hiding her face in her arms, Bonnie let the tears fall. She promised herself that she would never drink again, because alcohol clouded her mind and didn’t let her think straight. And made her overly emotional, which was even worse.
Bonnie could still hear noises around her, but she didn’t pay attention to them anymore. Her group had disappeared at some point and she wasn’t in the mood for more partying. She felt lonely and miserable and, as the tears kept coming, she considered the possibility of going home, but she felt too dizzy to get up. Slowly, she lay down on the grass and sobbed staring at the few stars that were visible up there in the dark sky. She should have never showed up at the party. What a dumb idea.
Suddenly, a face appeared in her visual field right above her and Bonnie’s survival instinct made her flinch. Then, despite her cloggy mind and red eyes, she recognized the person and sighed, both with relief and annoyance.
It was Frank. With his ridiculous bangs and his stupid beard.
He was staring down at her with his full lips pursed. Bonnie closed her eyes. Her intoxicated mind kept telling her that Frank wasn’t really there, that booze was making her imagine things. So she closed her eyes to get rid of the sight of him. If she couldn’t see him, he would disappear and leave her alone.
But two big, strong hands grabbed her under the arms and pulled her up to a sitting position before helping her to her feet.
“C’mon, drunky. Let’s get you outta here”, Frank’s deep voice said very close to her ear.
Bonnie felt dizzy when she stood up and, even if she was very pissed at Frank for showing up, she internally thanked him for being there to hold her up.
“Leave me alone”, she blurted out, her tongue suddenly clumsy and slow.
Bonnie tried to wriggle out of Frank’s embrace, but he was much stronger than her. He kept both arms around her waist in an attempt to prevent her from falling.
“Of course. I’ll put you back down for any moron to take advantage of you.”
His remark hit her hard and made her sober up a bit. Bonnie didn’t know why Frank knew her so well, but he did. Despite his harsh comment, he didn’t move or let go of her. He kept holding her there until Bonnie relaxed a bit in his arms and could start focusing on walking without staggering too much. Bonnie’s drunk mind wondered how Frank could have known where she was going to be when she needed to be rescued from herself. And she suddenly realized that he would have likely been following her all night waiting for the breakdown to happen.
Bonnie didn’t know whether she should feel grateful or irked, because right now she was too tired to think. So she leaned in and pressed her forehead against Frank’s shoulder. His breath caught in his throat at her unexpected reaction, but he didn’t shake her off. He knew Bonnie was too strong to do something like that while sober -she was so strong that she had respected his wishes and had been avoiding him for two whole years, indeed-, but her behavior while drunk just made it clear that she still craved his touch and warmth.
Sighing, Frank told himself that he should just pull away and drive her home. But he also wondered what harm could do to hold her for a bit. After all, it was dark, Bonnie was really wasted and she would probably remember nothing the next morning. So Frank pulled her closer and tightened his grip on her body. Bonnie sniffled into his shirt and ran her hands up his arms until she reached his neck. They had missed this closeness so much…
After a couple of minutes of holding each other, Frank pulled back and looked down at Bonnie, whose eyes were as big, bright and forbidden as the moon above them.
“Time to go home, okay?”, he whispered softly before the emotions overwhelmed him.
Bonnie lowered her eyes to the ground and simply nodded. She leaned on Frank and let him help her walk all the way to his car. Once in the passenger seat, Bonnie fastened the seatbelt and made herself comfortable. The ride home was silent. Bonnie might have even fallen asleep at some point, because she didn’t remember how she had gotten to her bedroom. She wondered if Frank had carried her all the way there from his car.
Bonnie was lying on her bed when she opened her tired eyes, while Frank was right there at her feet with a knee to the ground, taking off her shoes and socks. Bonnie sat up slowly and rested her elbows on her thighs to watch him, her auburn hair falling over her shoulders with the movement.
“I can do that myself, you know?”, Bonnie told him, feeling a bit lightheaded.
“Sure”, Frank teased. He raised his eyes to look at her briefly and Bonnie spotted a mischievous glint in them.
God, she wanted him so much.
When he finished with her socks, Frank patted her knee gently and left his hand there for a moment. Bonnie’s gaze was so intense and sad on him that Frank felt his heart break all over again. They stared at each other in silence for a few seconds, while Bonnie played absentmindedly with the fingers Frank kept on her knee.
“Frank”, Bonnie whispered with her eyes full of tears once again and then she leaned in.
The kiss didn’t catch Frank unawares. He knew it was coming, and yet he had done nothing to stop her. Bonnie’s lips tasted like alcohol, but felt like heaven. They kissed slowly in the semi-darkness of her room, tentatively, as if they feared this was just a dream that could shatter if they rushed. None of them tried to deepen the kiss, just were content with the amazing sensation of being able to feel the other’s lips on their own after so long.
But a voice inside Frank’s head -a voice that sounded exactly like Sam’s- kept shouting at him that this was all wrong. That he was a sociopath and that Bonnie deserved better than him. So, holding her by the shoulders, Frank pulled back. Bonnie was so confused and cold all of a sudden that she blinked twice, as if she had just woken up from a long dream. Bit by bit, when reality hit her, her expression changed. Her expressive eyes roamed over Frank’s face, searching for a sign that explained the situation they were in: why he had kissed her back, why he was rejecting her now.
Things were too complicated, though. Not even sober Bonnie, with her sharp mind, could have ever deduced what was happening in Frank’s head. Unable to bear the sad look in her eyes anymore, Frank got up as he stroked Bonnie’s cheek tenderly with his knuckles.
“You should sleep”, he advised, his low voice barely audible. With gentle movements, he helped Bonnie out of her jacket and into bed. Without even looking at Frank, she lay on her side with her back to him. Frank felt the temptation to reach out and touch her shoulder, her arm, then her back, but he just swallowed and took a step back. “Be back in a minute with a glass of water and some pills.”
Bonnie’s voice sounded so weak and vulnerable all of a sudden that he stopped in his tracks, unable to leave the room.
The pause that followed was so long that Frank even thought that Bonnie had fallen asleep, but yet he waited. After a while, he heard her sniff and then she went on.
“Say you loved me?”
The request was so naive, yet so serious that he didn’t know how to react. Frank would have wanted to get in bed with her and hug the hell out of her tiny body. He would have wanted to kiss her till morning broke and found them naked in her bed, to tell her that he had not only loved her, but he still did.
But he felt so guilty for what he’d done to Annalise and was so scared of what Sam could do to him if he didn’t comply with everything he was asked for, that Frank wasn’t his own person anymore. He couldn’t keep Bonnie in his life like that, risking her career, burdening her with his bullshit.
He approached the bed slowly with a pained expression on his features. Her breathing was becoming more and more even, which meant that she was finally falling asleep. Brushing her auburn hair with his fingers, Frank swallowed hard to get rid of the lump he had in his throat.
“Bonnie...”, Frank whispered. He knew he shouldn’t say this in front of her after all he’d suffered and made her suffer throughout those two years, but he needed to get this off his chest. “I did, and I still do. To be honest, I’m not sure I’ll ever stop. But I screwed everything up. I told you: it’s not you, it’s me. I’m a bad person, Bon, and you need to get away from me. I’ll make it easier for you when I can, I’ll keep being harsh on you, I’ll keep throwing you under the bus in front of Annalise, I’ll keep rubbing all my one-night stands in your face. I hope that at some point you’ll realize I’m not the guy who can make you happy. And I also hope that at some point I’ll start believing it myself.”
Clearly, Bonnie was already more asleep than awake, which Frank was glad for, and he was sure that the booze that clogged her mind would make her forget anything she could have heard.
Rubbing his eyes with the back of his hand, Frank stepped out of Bonnie’s bedroom and went to the small kitchen. He turned on the fawcett and splashed some water on his face before filling a glass. With the glass and a couple of pills in his hands, Frank went back to Bonnie’s bedroom and put them on her nightstand just to make sure she’ll find everything when she woke up. She was very still and her breathing was calm and even, so Frank dared to bend over and plant a soft kiss on her temple.
“Goodbye, Bon”, he murmured against her hair.
And then he left.
The next morning, Bonnie wasn’t sure about what had been real and what a dream. Rescues, kisses, confessions, tears. And all things involved Frank. But when she finally showed up at the House the next day, everything was back to normal. Frank was the same dick he had been since their breakup and her illusion shattered once more.
It took Bonnie eight damn years to realize that Frank’s confession hadn’t been a dream. It took her a trip to Coalport, her father’s murder, a steamy night in a motel room and seeing Frank point a gun to his head to realize he had really said those things the night of her graduation day.
Bonnie was still as vulnerable and needy of love as she had been back then, but now she was older and a bit more scheming. All was fair in love and war, and if she didn’t act quickly, Frank would kill himself in front of her in Annalise’s living-room. So she bet everything and dropped the bomb to save him.
“You love me”, Bonnie said with certainty because she knew it, tears running down her cheeks, and kept repeating it until a very messed up and confused Frank let her take the gun from his hands and discard it on the table, far away from his reach.
That love might have changed over the years. They might have ended up believing that they had to hate each other or that they had to compete for Annalise’s favor on a daily basis. But both had known all that time without a doubt that they had each other’s backs no matter what. They were now completely sure that the feelings they had been forced to bottle up all those years ago would always keep coming back at them, resurfacing when they were more vulnerable and didn’t have a hold of themselves.
And when Annalise left them alone in her couch, Frank sobbing in Bonnie’s lap, she hated herself and Frank for it, because she had wanted to get over him, she didn’t want to love him so much. Because Frank was indeed the twisted guy he claimed to be, the guy with the weirdest moral compass in the world, the guy who had left her alone in a motel room after offering her to run away together; and because Bonnie wasn’t the cute, little flower everyone thought she was. And yet she would die for him and kill for him, and she knew he would do the same for her.
Love could be a strange thing.