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Stay with me

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What have I done?

The only thing Bonnie could hear as she approached her home was her pounding heartbeats. 

The throbbing in her temples was so uncomfortable that she thought she might faint before being able to reach the front door. But her tiny body held on somehow and, in a few minutes, Bonnie found herself in the shower, violently scrubbing her legs to get rid of the blood stains. 

What have I done?

Her bitter tears mixed with the running water coming from above, while Bonnie kept rubbing at her feet and calves as hard as if she wanted to tear her skin off. Physical pain might help her forget the sorrow in her soul. She was so focused on the task that she didn’t hear the approaching steps, and when Frank poked his concerned face around the shower curtain, Bonnie almost screamed.

“What are you doing?”, she asked, covering her body with her arms.

Frank was visibly affected when he confessed that he had finally told Annalise about Gabriel’s parentage. He then asked Bonnie to go to Annalise’s to prevent her from jumping off the roof, but his words just slid down Bonnie’s wet body along with the running water. She covered her face with her hands and let out a sob while Frank stood there in the middle of her bathroom, trying to put another responsibility on her tired shoulders.

“I need you to stop talking!”, Bonnie shouted, unable to keep her misery to herself anymore. “Shut up so I can tell you this!”

Suddenly, Frank went quiet and Bonnie drew the curtain slightly to face him.

“What’s wrong?”, he asked when he saw her red-rimmed eyes and distressed expression.

Bonnie covered her face again and couldn’t contain the sobs.

“R-Ron is... dead”, she finally said between hiccups. 

“What?”, Frank frowned and waited for her to elaborate, because he was sure that wasn’t all. Besides, he didn’t know what else to do: it was already bad enough that he had mixed feelings about Bonnie’s boyfriend being dead, and the fact that she was standing naked right there in front of him, barely hidden by the curtain, didn’t help make things any better.

“He came to the wedding. We... had another fight. Nate saw… Nate saw him and beat him up! He thinks it was Ron… who-who had his dad killed, because he called the warden the day Nate’s dad was transferred…”, Bonnie stopped talking to take a deep breath, but it only made her sob even harder. Frank brought his hand to his face and started pacing the bathroom like a caged animal. “I found him, Frank... He was there on the ground, covered in b-blood… and Nate was in shock… and I… I...”

But Bonnie’s voice broke and she couldn’t go on. It was too much.

What have I done?

Frank stopped pacing and stared at Bonnie so intently that he could have set her on fire. Then he finally reacted and grabbed a big towel from the hanger. Drawing the curtain, he turned off the faucet and wrapped Bonnie’s body in it with a swift movement. They were definitely past any stupid formalities, this was too big.

“C’mere”, he said in a very soft, low voice while he helped her out of the bathtub.

Frank pulled a devastated Bonnie against his chest and let her cry there for what seemed like ages, while she mumbled incoherent words about how she had suffocated Ron Miller to keep Nate safe, and how Miller might have brought it on himself, and what a despicable monster she was, even so. Frank only shushed and rocked her, because he knew nothing he could say while she was so affected would truly reach her. 

After a while, Bonnie started trembling in his arms.

“It’s okay, Bon. We’ll fix this”, Frank whispered against her wet hair, running his hands up and down her back both to comfort her and to dry her.

“How?”, her voice sounded so small and dejected that it broke Frank’s heart. Seeing Bonnie like this was a real nightmare.

“We’ll figure it out. This wasn’t you.”

“I killed him, Frank. It… was me", Bonnie hid her face in his already soaked shirt. “I screwed everything up.”

“Hey, look at me”, Frank brought his hands to her face and forced her to raise her eyes to him. “Look at me, Bon. You only did what was right, okay? Nothing good would’ve come of letting Miller live after the beating. I know it hurts, but you did the right thing.”

Grabbing a smaller towel from the sink, Frank covered Bonnie’s head with it and started drying her hair with gentle motions. She still sniffled now and them, but she seemed a bit less agitated than before. Perhaps she had no more tears left.

“Where’s the body? Do you want me to take care of everything?”, he asked.

Bonnie dropped her eyes to the ground and shook her head. “Nate’s on it. He’ll call when everything’s done.”

Even though Frank didn’t like the answer, he let it be for the time being. He’d rather take care of that kind of things himself than letting Nate do it, because that was his job and he knew better than anyone how to do it, but he guessed there was nothing he could do right now.

“Fine. You alright?”

Bonnie shook her head again and Frank let his hands slid down the sides of her head to her shoulders.

“Get dressed and meet me downstairs, okay? I still need to call Annalise. There’s too much going on tonight”, Frank explained. He squeezed Bonnie’s shoulders tenderly and waited for her to nod before leaving her alone in the bathroom.

****

Twenty minutes later, they were both in Bonnie’s living room waiting for Nate’s call. Annalise had told Frank to leave her alone when he had called her, which had hurt almost as much as the slap at the wedding reception. But what truly pained him was Bonnie’s grief. Seeing her there on the couch wrapped up in her oversize cardigan, so small and still, hit him harder than a wrecking ball.

They drank together, sitting side by side, Bonnie’s shoulder rubbing Frank’s whenever she shifted on the couch, which sent electric shocks throughout his body. 

“Annalise was right”, Bonnie’s voice said all of a sudden, so quietly that Frank barely heard it. “Ron was playing me. I just didn’t want to see it.”

As much as Frank wanted to tell her otherwise -because witnessing how smitten Miller had been with her had really made Frank’s blood boil in his veins every time-, he was sure the guy’s love for her was genuine. Even though he didn’t want to admit it, he had even been a bit jealous of how happy Bonnie looked when she was around Miller. So when he had eavesdropped their argument from upstairs that morning, Frank had secretly revelled in the sensation of triumph he’d felt. He knew he didn’t have any chance to be with Bonnie anymore after what they had been through in their lives -he didn’t, right?-, but the old feelings had returned to his heart a short while ago and he had come to the realization that, suddenly, he couldn’t get rid of them as easily as he had in the past. That was why he had mixed feelings about Miller’s death. On the one hand, Frank knew Bonnie didn’t deserve so much suffering and he was so sorry for her, but, on the other hand, he wouldn’t have to put up with Miller’s lovesick puppy eyes anymore. Did that make him a monster too? Oh, definitely, but that was nothing Frank didn’t know already.

He loved Bonnie too much to lie to her face, though. He only wanted to make her feel better about her relationship with Miller, so, even if his heart broke a bit in the process, Frank struggled to find the right, most honest words to say.

“I saw the guy around you. No way he’s faking that.”

But, apparently, those weren’t the words Bonnie needed to hear. She begged Frank to lie to her, but he couldn't. So he just threw an arm around her shoulders and brought her closer. He hoped Bonnie could feel the warmth radiating from his body and get a bit of comfort out of it.

The wait was excruciating, so after a while, Frank got up from the couch and went to the kitchen to grab a plate from the cupboard. Then he opened the pizza box Bonnie had had the foresight to order to get herself an alibi, and took a slice of pineapple pizza for Bonnie. Too much booze and so few food in her stomach wasn't a good combination.

"I can't eat anything right now", Bonnie said when she saw the plate Frank was carrying.

"C'mon, try it at least", he begged, sitting on the couch next to her again and handing her the slice.

"Frank, please…", her voice sounded so tired and shaky that Frank almost gave up.

"Do it for me, yeah?"

Then Frank put his other hand under the slice and brought it carefully to Bonnie's lips. Her eyes were so sad when she looked at him that Frank thought she would refuse it again, but after a couple of seconds, she opened her mouth with a sigh and took a small bite. Frank saw her chew it unwillingly and he tried to give her a reassuring smile, but he was too worried for her. How would this situation affect Bonnie? After all, she had not only seen her boyfriend die, but killed him herself. What if she and Nate were wrong about Miller? Frank hadn’t even dared to bring that up, because if that was the case, he wasn’t sure Bonnie could take it. So he finished the slice of pizza himself without saying another word, while Bonnie remained incredibly still by his side.

Eventually, she rested her elbows on her thighs and covered her face with her hands to hide a yawn. Frank reached out and stroked her knee gently.

"Go to bed. I'll wake you when Nate calls", he promised, but Bonnie shook her head, and he spotted a flash of fear in her eyes.

"I'd rather stay." 

Yes, probably being alone wasn't the best way to wait for news right now. It was true she was exhausted, though. Slowly, Bonnie lay down on her side and curled up right there on the couch, careful not to brush the side of Frank's leg with her feet. But Frank didn't mind. He only wanted her to make herself as much comfortable as possible, so he grabbed her ankles softly and placed her legs on his thighs for her to lie a bit more stretched. 

For a fleeting moment, Frank's eyes met Bonnie's puzzled ones and so many questions and answers passed between them in the fake calmness of her living room, words that none of them could say right now, especially Frank, because the timing was awful. He felt that he might be pushing it too far already with all this physical contact he was seeking from her all of a sudden, but he just couldn't help it. Frank hoped Bonnie took it for the friendly comfort her long-time partner in crime would always provide her with whenever she felt under the weather. Frank needed to be right there for her, he didn't want to fail her anymore. So, as much as he wanted to cross the line with Bonnie again, he knew this wasn't the right time to push her boundaries or bring up the topic. Not when she had just lost her boyfriend and was clearly mourning him, even if she kept repeating he had it coming. Not when her soul was so damaged and confused, even if she seemed to be seeking Frank's body's warmth for comfort as much as he sought hers. 

So they stayed silent as they held each other’s gaze for a split second. Eventually, Bonnie looked away, rested her head on a cushion and closed her eyes, but she didn't remove her legs from Frank's thighs. With gentle movements, he took the fluffy slippers off her feet and discarded them on the floor. Then he started massaging the soles of her feet and running his fingers up and down her shins absentmindedly, as he leaned back to let his head rest on the back of Bonnie's couch.

Of course, they ended up falling asleep in that weird but intimate position, none of them truly conscious of the exact moment it had happened. So when Frank woke with a start half an hour later, his neck sore and his arms quite numb, it took him a couple of seconds to remember where he was and why he was there. Bonnie’s feet were incredibly cold in his lap, so he grabbed the blanket she kept on the back of the couch and put it over her tiny body to protect her from the chill of this December night. Lying there with her eyes closed, Bonnie seemed younger and at peace. Frank’s still drowsy mind recalled other times when he’d seen her fall asleep in his arms, in his bed, so long ago, when she still was innocent enough and he still believed in redemption. How had time gone by so quickly? How the hell had they ended up in this situation?

When Bonnie’s phone finally buzzed, she woke up with a start and sat up brusquely. Having her there so close to him and being able to smell her clean and sweet skin all of a sudden made Frank a bit dizzy. He offered his help and, though Nate seemed a bit reluctant to accept it at first, Frank was determined to do it for Bonnie. So he threw his blazer over his shoulders and left the house to pick up Nate from wherever the hell he were. Although Frank knew the most sensible thing would have been driving Nate straight away to his apartment, he insisted on taking him to Bonnie first.

“Tell her it was all you”, Frank tried to conceal the anger in his voice while he drove them back to Bonnie’s house. “You started this, and she only intervened to save you.”

Nate nodded silently in the passenger seat while he rubbed his wounded knuckles. Frank knew Bonnie was still in shock for what had happened, and sorrow would really hit her full force in a couple of days, but he needed Nate to give her something that could help her forgive herself at some point in the future. After hearing Nate’s explanation of what he thought Miller had been up to, Frank wished he were right about the DA’s implication on Nate senior’s death, because if he weren’t, it would be Frank the one to beat him up to death for what Bonnie would go through.

Bonnie was up when Frank opened the front door and let Nate in. Her eyes filled with tears when she saw Nate there. Fortunately, the former police officer did what Frank had asked him to and, though Bonnie fought him a bit and insisted on sharing the guilt, she was too weak and sad to keep going. Perhaps, at some point, she would manage to convince herself that her actions had been an act of pity toward Miller’s suffering, or a way to protect Nate, a member of this messed up family they had created under Annalise’s wings. But her grief and guilt were too deep right now to even consider that possibility. 

After agreeing on meeting the next day to set up an alibi once they had had some sleep, and giving her a comforting hug, Nate left the house, leaving Bonnie and Frank alone again in the silent living room. Slowly, Frank approached her and ran his fingers up and down her forearm.

“Hey”, he whispered so as to draw Bonnie’s attention back to him without startling her. “No point in staying up anymore. Let’s get you to bed.”

With a nod, Bonnie let Frank take her by the elbow and lead her upstairs to her room. She pulled back the duvet as if there was no strength left in her body and then she got into bed. Frank stepped closer to the bed and tucked her in.

“I’ll be next door if you need me”, he said, placing a hand on her shoulder.

Bonnie didn’t say or do anything that made him think she had heard his offer, so Frank squeezed her shoulder gently and turned around to leave the room, but suddenly, a small hand grabbed his and made him stop in his tracks. He looked back and saw Bonnie’s huge, pleading eyes staring at him. Her face was so expressive that Frank understood her request without words, those words that she couldn’t say out loud but that were written all over her features.

Stay with me .

Slowly, Frank sat on the mattress next to Bonnie, his eyes never leaving hers, and held her hand while he ran the fingers of his other hand through her short hair soothingly. Bit by bit, after some time of sobbing, sniffling and tearing up, Bonnie’s watery eyes started to close, and with a last sigh, she finally fell asleep curled up around his sitting body.

Before leaving to let her rest, Frank let his eyes roam over Bonnie’s sleeping frame for a few seconds in the semi-darkness of her bedroom. It always shocked him how the whole world instantly made more sense when her hand was in his, or when he had her in his arms. He had never dared to acknowledge it, but deep inside he'd always known that this woman before him, with her broken soul and slender body, was the true love of his life.

And, at that moment, Frank knew he would do anything to make her happy, even dying for her.