Title- A Losing Battle 1/3
Fandom- Catch Me If You Can
Genre- slash, character study, drama, angst
Warnings- angst, language, UNBETAED CONTENT
Disclaimer- I do not own Catch Me If You Can the movie, book, or play; furthermore, this is in no way related to the real person Frank Abagnale Jr.
Summary- Carl and Frank look back on their lives, and the role each has played in the other's
A/N- My first chaptered fanfic! Yay!
Carl Hanratty shifted in his cheap coach seat on the plane. Sure, it was an aisle seat, and the space next to him was empty, but it was still uncomfortable. He glanced over at the sleeping figure in the chair seat next to him, slumped against the window of the plane. Frank Abagnale Jr. Looking at him, you wouldn’t believe he had conned millions of dollars from several countries.
Yes, the kid looked pretty innocent when he was sleeping, not like the con-man Hanratty knew he was. And that was how Hanratty thought of him– The Kid. There was no point in using one of his names; they changed too quickly to be of any use. And although Hanratty would never admit it, calling him The Kid made Hanratty feel superior. He was just a kid, after all, and there was no way he could outsmart an adult, in the end. And in the end, Hanratty had gotten him.
But he was just a kid. Not even nineteen. Hanratty glanced over at the sleeping figure again, his gaze lingering on the soft, angelic face. He still had baby fat for God’s sake! He was just a kid. He was a great con-man, and catching him was going to be the highlight of Hanratty’s career. But when all was said and done, he was just a kid.
Just a scared kid. When Hanratty had first caught up to The Kid in France, he’d been half crazy, frantic- scared. And Hanratty hadn’t been faking the concern he felt for The Kid’s welfare. Those people would have killed him, and Hanratty would do anything to stop it. He’d been scared for The Kid every day he’d been imprisoned in France. And when he’d finally gotten to The Kid, he’d been horrified by the conditions they kept him in, and scared to death when he’d keeled over in the cell. He’d exhausted every measure at his disposal to get to The Kid, and to get him out, quickly. It wasn’t about some jurisdictional pissing match, U.S. versus France. It wasn’t about staking his claim to the con-man he’d chased for years.
But he had chased The Kid for years. Picked through every detail of his lives, from the fake ones down to the real. He knew the things about The Kid that he couldn’t hide, no matter what- like how he always used his first name, Frank, and how he had to tear the labels off of containers. He felt like he really knew The Kid, as though he were a close personal friend.
Hanratty was staring at The Kid, lost in his thoughts. He snapped back into reality when The Kid stirred and began to wake.
“Morning,” Hanratty paused for a moment. He’d been about to say ‘Kid’, but that was a private name that he only used in his thoughts. It didn’t feel right saying it out loud. The next thing he came up with spilled from his tongue, “Frankie.”
“Frankie?” The Kid looked at him incredulously. “Nobody’s called me that since the second grade!” He sounded annoyed; Hanratty made a mental note to use the nickname often.
The Kid stared out the window for a moment, watching the activity on the ground. Hanratty watched him, and wondered if he’d teased too much, or if The Kid simply didn’t want to talk. He certainly looked like he had something on his mind.
“Carl,” The Kid said, turning back to him. “Carl,” Frank leaned over the empty seat between them. “You have to remember to let me call my father when we land. I just want to talk to him, before he sees me on television or something like that.”
It hit Hanratty like a punch to the gut. He looked away. He knew it was stupid to lie to a con-man, but he’d been desperate. Anything to get The Kid to come with him willingly. Anything to take him somewhere safe. And now he was paying the price for saying it.
The Kid, having spoken, was settled back in his seat, looking out the window once more. Hanratty unbuckled his seatbelt and shifted into the chair beside Frank.
“Look,” The Kid said thoughtfully. “That’s LaGuardia right there. Runway 4-4.” He seemed calm, and just a bit cheerful. Like he was glad it was over. Hanratty remembered the call he’d received on Christmas, The Kid begging him to call a truce. He probably was glad that it was over.
But it wasn’t entirely over. Hanratty braced himself, knowing that he’d have to say this bluntly, without hesitation. “Frank, your father is dead. I’m sorry.”
And that was it. He tried to explain what had happened to The Kid’s father, tried to explain why he’d had to lie, but… The Kid ran into the bathroom and Hanratty tried to follow, only to have the door slammed in his face. The Kid was banging against the walls, and he could hear him sobbing. Hanratty stood patiently outside the door, kicking himself for the lie.
And then when they’d been about to land, he’d broken down the door and realized that The Kid was gone. He’d tried to chase him, but after they’d landed, he’d known they wouldn’t catch him at the airport. But he knew where they would catch him.
* * *
Then hours later he was at Frank’s mother’s house, where she lived with her new husband and little daughter. There were several police cars, surrounding the house and lighting up the night with their flashing lights. It was overkill. He was just a scared, sad kid. He wasn’t going to run anymore. All of the fight was gone from him.
“Carl,” The Kid begged. “Get me in the car, please! Get me in the car.”
“Put him in,” Hanratty ordered. He was angry, not with The Kid for running, but with the police force for this display of power. All these cars to capture a forger who had escaped from FBI custody. They must be so proud of themselves.
Never mind that The Kid just surrendered. He had lost his will to escape. He was tired of running from the law, tired of fearing for his life, tired of not being there for people he loved. There was no need to send so many cars after one broken kid. It would have been better for The Kid if Hanratty had just gone himself. Then he’d have been with someone he trusted, someone he didn’t have anything to prove to.
The Kid had always been cocky, always cared what people thought of him. Surely he wouldn’t want all these cops, who probably had the intellect of grade-schoolers compared to him, to see him surrender. Or to see him broken as he was. But he wasn’t going to fight it. He was too tired for that. Watching him sit in the van, his face alternately bathing in red light, then shadows, Hanratty felt he’d somehow betrayed The Kid by bringing these people here to witness his surrender. He hated himself for doing it.
* * *
Hanratty tried to visit The Kid as often as he could. Whenever he was in Georgia, or could swing a trip to Georgia, he was there. His case load was a lot lighter now. Nothing was as interesting without The Kid out there. It felt like his divorce had. Like something he’d always thought would be there, something he’d depended on as a constant in his life, was somehow ripped away. He could visit The Kid, the same way he could visit his daughter Grace, but it wasn’t the same.
The Kid had been in prison for a year now. He was twenty years old, not really a ‘kid’ any more, but Hanratty couldn’t stop calling him that. At least he never said it out loud. Whenever he was close to calling Frank ‘Kid,’ he’d kick himself and say ‘Frankie’ instead. The Kid seemed more amused and a little embarrassed by the nickname than annoyed.
The Kid sighed heavily into the phone, making out that he was really upset about the visit. As though he had something better to do. As though he had other visitors. Hanratty had no doubt that The Kid was keeping busy- Planning his next escape attempt? Learning from books how to impersonate a federal agent? -but he knew that there weren’t any other visitors.
“Merry Christmas, Frank.” Hanratty tried to smile. The Kid just nodded without looking at him. “Hey, I got you some comic books here.” He held them up. Trying to make a joke. Trying to make a stab at a real friendship.
“How’s your daughter?” Frank asked. “What was her name?”
“Grace. Good,” Hanratty answered automatically. The truth was, he didn’t know. But he could be honest with this man, this kid. “I don’t know. She lives with her mother in Chicago; I don’t get to see her very much.”
The Kid nodded slowly. “What’s in the briefcase?”
Hanratty started to explain about his latest case, and took note of how The Kid perked up in interest. “Got any of the checks?” The Kid asked him.
Hanratty produced the check eagerly. It felt good to talk business with someone who knew it well. His job, at least, was something he could depend on.
“It’s a teller,” The Kid asserted, and at Hanratty’s prompting, went on to explain how he knew this. He watched The Kid lean in close to the window, staring at the check intently as he spoke. The Kid knew his stuff. It was good for him to be able to talk about something that interested him. A mind like that, it ought to be put to use, not spent scamming inmates and working through prison libraries. It made him happy, to see The Kid interested in something. The Kid was brilliant. He deserved a place where he could use his mind.
It was that, the desire to help The Kid, more than the need for his skills that prompted Hanratty to ask the FBI to let Frank Abagnale out of prison to work for them. He didn’t really need The Kid. He was doing just fine without him- he’d caught The Kid hadn’t he?
But he wanted to help Frank. Wanted to give him a chance to work with things that interested him, challenged him. Wanted to get him out of prison, and give him a way to put his skills to legitimate use, a sustainable career.
And he wanted to spend time with Frank. Talking to The Kid every now and then wasn’t enough; having The Kid around every day, to talk to, about work or anything really, it would be like that pillar in his life that had crumbled was being put back in place.
And then if he was being honest, The Kid was useful. There was no one in the Bureau half as smart, and Hanratty grudgingly included himself in this count. The Kid was good for business.
* * *
That was why Hanratty spent the next four years getting The Kid out of prison. And he wished he could say it was worth it, watching The Kid walk through that room full of FBI agents on the first day. Perhaps the harshness of prison life had shaved away some of his natural charisma. Perhaps it had never recovered from the night he was captured. But the person that walked through the FBI squadroom wasn’t a charismatic con-man; it was a scared kid in over his head.
“Carl, how long do I have to work here?” The Kid asked, leaning against his door. He looked tired, and Hanratty wanted to tell him to sit down and rest.
Instead he intentionally misunderstood the question. “Eight-fifteen in the morning to five in the afternoon, forty-five minutes for lunch.”
“No, I mean, how long?” Just that scared kid again. Except he wasn’t a kid anymore, he was twenty-four years old, and Hanratty knew the nickname should have gone away long ago, but it hadn’t, and it looked like it wasn’t going to. He resisted the urge to pull The Kid into the room and push him into a chair. He looked so world-weary it was hard to believe he was only twenty-four.
“Every day. Every day, Frank, ’til we let you go.” He didn’t want to include himself in the ‘we,’ since he didn’t want to be the one chaining down such a free spirit. It hurt to see The Kid still looking so broken, and if running would make him himself again, Hanratty wasn’t sure he could bring himself to stop him. But he did say ‘we,’ because he knew The Kid probably saw him as part of the FBI, part of the decision to take him out of prison, and to keep him here. And if that idea helped The Kid feel safer, like he knew where everyone stood and was on solid ground, Hanratty wasn’t going to change it.
* * *
That first week seemed to drag on, like The Kid was fighting every step of the way, and the other FBI agents were fighting him. They didn’t want to work with a criminal. Finally it was Friday night, and he had to explain to The Kid that he wasn’t going to be there over the weekend.
“So what should I do ‘til Monday?” Frank asked.
“I’m sorry, Kid, I can’t help you there,” the nickname slipped out. Damn! And he’d been trying so hard to keep that from happening.
But he knew what The Kid was going to do. After all these years, he knew exactly what The Kid was thinking.
So he met The Kid at the airport terminal, and was somewhat gratified when The Kid seemed surprised that he was there. And also somewhat disappointed. After so long, he’d hoped The Kid would know him just as well. He’d just have to convince The Kid that he was trustworthy.
“Listen,” The Kid said, “I’m sorry I put you through all this.” ‘All this’ had been some of the best things to happen to Hanratty since his divorce.
“You go back to Europe, you’re going to die in prison,” Hanratty told him. “Try to run here in the Sates, we’ll send you back to Atlanta for fifty more years.” He really didn’t want to say ‘we,’ but it was inevitable. It was going to happen, whether Hanratty personally took part or not. He needed Frank to understand that.
“You don’t know that,” The Kid insisted. Just a stubborn kid trying to deny the inevitable. Hanratty had to make him see.
“I spent four years trying to arrange your release. Had to convince my bosses at the FBI and the Attorney General of the United States you wouldn’t run.”
“Why’d you do it?” The Kid asked, as if he didn’t think he was worth the time and effort. Hanratty wanted to shake him and tell him he was worthy of the effort, he did deserve a family and people to take care of him, however screwed up his childhood had been. He wanted to tell Frank about the pillar Frank had become in his life, and how he felt he knew him after all this time.
But he couldn’t say that. “You’re just a kid.”
“Not your kid,” Frank snapped, angry. “You said you were going to Chicago!”
“My daughter can’t see me this weekend; she’s going skiing.” Honesty. Frank was probably the only person he always answered honestly.
“You said she was four years old. You’re lying.” Maybe not always. But it was a half-truth, and Frank told him the like all the time. Couldn’t two play at that game? Besides, he was going to be honest now.
“She was four, when I left.” Hanratty noticed that The Kid had turned back a bit. “Now she’s fifteen. My wife’s been remarried eleven years. I see Grace every now and then.”
“I don’t understand,” The Kid grumbled.
“Sure you do. Sometimes it’s easier living a lie.” They were both liars, then. Both of them trying to run from reality, trying to pretend things weren’t the way they were. Maybe it was time he took off his wedding ring.
The Kid paused at the exit of the tunnel, and Hanratty caught up to him. “I’m going to let you fly tonight, Frank. Not even going to try to stop you. ‘Cause I know you’ll be back on Monday.”
It wasn’t knowing; more like a wish, a prayer. He didn’t want The Kid to feel chained; he wanted Frank to be in the office because it was what Frank wanted, not because he feared the consequences. As for the consequences… he really hoped he wouldn’t have to hunt Frank down again. The Kid obviously was still recovering from the first time.
“Yeah?” The Kid challenged. “How do you know I’ll come back?”
“Look, Frank.” Hanratty pointed to the empty tunnel. “Nobody’s chasing you.” Not that it would be like that for very long, if he did run. But maybe if he didn’t feel cornered, he’d be more likely to come back of his own free will. And then Hanratty wouldn’t have to put the poor kid through another brutal chase.
* * *
Then on Monday, he was worried when The Kid wasn’t there at the start of the work day. Not worried that Frank hadn’t trusted him; he was disappointed if that was the case, but it wasn’t what he was worried about. He was worried that he’d have to send out people to search for The Kid. Again.
That wasn’t what The Kid needed, when he was starting to heal from the last time. Perhaps this, giving him this choice, was too much too soon, and The Kid had gotten scared and run.
Scared. Frank Abagnale didn’t scare easily. He wasn’t scared of the law; he wasn’t scared of the consequences of his actions. What he was scared of, was people. He didn’t like to trust; he didn’t like to open himself up. He liked to look out at people from behind a mask, and control everything they knew or thought about him. It made him feel safe.
Hanratty had long ago gotten past that mask to see the real Frank. And he didn’t know if Frank could handle that.
So he threw himself into his work, trying not to look at the clock, or wonder what The Kid was doing now.
And then as he was examining a forged check, an elegant hand took the eyepiece away from him. “Mind if I take a look?”
Hanratty could only stare at him stupidly for a moment, internally rejoicing in The Kid’s presence. He handed over the check and began explaining its origins, and the two briefly discussed ways it could have been made. The FBI agents gathered around scattered to their respective desks.
“How did you do it, Frank?” Hanratty asked after a moment. “How did you cheat on the bar exam in Louisiana?”
Frank looked up. For a moment Hanratty saw a flash of hurt in his expression. Then he just looked smug. “I didn’t cheat. I studied for two weeks and I passed.”
“Is that the truth, Frank?” Hanratty tried not to sound too eager. He definitely wanted to believe it. He wanted to believe that the brilliant kid was just that good, and that he valued himself enough as a person not to take the easy way out in something when he was capable of doing it the right way. “Is that the truth?”
“I’ll bet this guy steals checks out of mailboxes,” Frank said. “He washes off their names and he puts on his own.”
Typical Frank- changing the subject whenever someone got close to seeing the real him. Hanratty hoped it would be happening less and less. He leaned back in his chair and ran with the change in topic.