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Franz Caulder: PWP

No one’s said anything about Franz Caulder: PWP. I’m kind of worried that they hate it D:

He has a very distinctive “voice” and some of the things he thinks aren’t very nice. Like he realizes he’s mentally ill, but that doesn’t mean he truly accepts it as part of his amalgamation. He still separates things into him and into Other-Franz. He takes his medication and follows the rules as they’re given, but at the end of the day mental illness is not a part of him. It’s something he has to deal with, like acne or the scar across his face, but it’s not him.

I guess someone could say his big ol’ scar could be the physical manifestation of the mental illness affecting him. Or it could be the Kid Nitro/Franz Caulder persona overlaid atop the remnants of Other-Franz, in which case it’s hard to tell which is the scar — the ruined flesh of his face, or the body it’s carved out of? He’s this guy dealing with a life he doesn’t remember while his delusion is so strong he’s literally become someone else. Delusion Franz has taken him over, and he doesn’t want to go back.

Other-Franz had immense issues stemming from torture he experienced in childhood. He’d practiced self-harm and had shut himself off from enjoying his life. He’d been suicidal, which led to his institutionalization. Meanwhile, Franz is strong, capable, and has been a superhero for years. Finding himself in the body of his AU-self doesn’t even phase him. It’s perfectly natural that he take over and replace Other-Franz. It’s just unfortunate that he has no memories of Other-Franz. He’s winging it.

So right in the middle of Franz’s psychodrama, I threw in Franz Caulder: PWP. Which is exactly as advertised — he takes a trip into the city to visit a club and have his first sex since he found himself in a new world.

Yes, this is basically a chance for him to have a one-night stand. It’s also a sign that he’s becoming acclimated to life outside of the mental hospital. He’s accepted that he won’t be going back to his old self. He needs to keep moving forward.

Timeline B
Franz Caulder: Slipping through the Cracks
Franz Caulder: PWP

Timeline A
Franz Caulder: Behemoth
Franz Caulder: Crimson Blade

Part 10 – Slipping Through the Cracks

I can’t wait for the first time someone reads Allies & Enemies and is like “Ah hah!”

I get an inordinate amount of pleasure out of hiding Easter eggs in my stories. Sometimes it’s hard to fit them in (not in this case) but it’s always worth the absolute heel-kicking delight I get when someone finds one.

Someone out there is going to read Slipping Through the Cracks and Allies & Enemies, and I’m going to receive a message: “I see what you did there!” and it will be the greatest moment of my life (which is actually pretty sad. Yet true.)

***

Franz as a character is growing in my brain. He’s clamoring to be my star and he’s relentless in his pursuit of fame.

I’m just not sure which Franz I should focus on: Superhero Kid Nitro, or the confused Franz Caulder that is desperately adapting to his new world.

Which appeals to me the most: The demigod that brings about titanic changes, or the guy just trying to get along.

I’m really not sure. I like both of them for differing reasons.

Kid Nitro is somewhat arrogant about his metabilities. He has Nigel to be his backbone and his brain, so he somewhat coasts through life. Yet he’s got a big heart and a desperate need to fight crime and prove to himself that his parents would have loved him if they had just gotten to know him. The kid that grew up to be a superhero like them.

Franz Caulder is a guy that doesn’t realize he has any skills of his own. He constantly undervalues his worth in any given situation because he simply doesn’t see what he has to offer. He’s just a guy.


Title: Slipping Through the Cracks
Author: Harper Kingsley
Character: Franz Caulder/Ryan Wilder, Dr. Pamela Werth, Nicole Carson
Genre: mm
Rating: mature
Summary: Kid Nitro went to sleep in his own bed, and woke up on another Earth in the body of an alternate Franz Caulder. It’s a world without metabilities, which is jarring enough, but it’s also a world where Other-Franz is a mental patient grappling with some serious problems.

***

Swinging an appointment with Dr. Werth took longer than he would have liked. She had a full schedule and another patient was in the middle of a crisis. Franz held himself together until she could fit him into her schedule.

So it was two days after the awkwardness of his mother’s visit that he settled himself on “his” chair in Dr. Werth’s office. It was the one he always used.

“And what has you in such a tizzy?” She sipped her coffee, looking at him through the steam.

“I have something to admit. For the last month and a half I’ve thought I was someone else and I still feel like I am. I guess I hallucinated that I was a superhero named Kid Nitro and I was raised by a British man named Nigel Caulder. And in that hallucination I wasn’t Franz Benoit. I was Franz Caulder. I was Kid Nitro.” His throat got too tight to speak. There were tears streaming down his face and he had no control over it.

“I see,” Dr. Werth said.

Her mug was empty, but she still held it close to her mouth. Her expression was blank, but he could see the frantic thought processes taking place behind her eyes. “I see,” she said again. Her mug thunked lightly when she set it down.

Franz felt like she was waiting for him to speak. He ignored the cue.

“I’m very proud that you’ve come forward,” she said. “That was very brave of you.”

“I need help.”

Her smile was pure compassion. “And you will get it.”

/ END

There’s more to Franz’s story, but this is the end to this section.

Part Two introduces Ryan and sets the tone for the rest. I guess I just appreciate the idea of characters in an established relationship having awesome adventures and like doing stuff. Life doesn’t have to end with the start of an official relationship.

Franz Caulder: Slipping Through the Cracks


This story was part of my post for the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia. It ended May 27th, but will be back again next year :)

I’ll be sending out the Slipping Through the Cracks PDFs in the next couple of days.


Just for fun, here’s Kid Nitro’s cameo in Heroes & Villains. The League of Superheroes are discussing the Darksters and what they’re supposed to do about them:

“The problem we’re seeing is that they have branches all over the planet. There’s even word that there’s a small Darkster cell in Iraq that’s causing trouble for the new government.”

“How are they communicating with each other?” Lady Arcana asked, her faux-Russian accent thicker than usual, clearly disgusted by what the terrorist group had done.

“On the internet,” Masque said. “They have a whole underground message system going for planning their acts, but then they post what they’ve done on the Darkstar page of BioPic after they’ve already left the scene of the crime. It’s kind of a ‘Look what we did’ type of deal. It makes it hard to track where or when they’re going to hit next.”

“Do they have Darkstar’s backing?” Bonecrusher asked. Most people took one look at his over-muscled physique and labeled him stupid, but that was far from the truth. Though he was rather quiet, which didn’t really help with his reputation.

“He hasn’t made any public announcements one way or another,” Masque said. “Though there was a recent post on the Darkstar BioPic page that called for the Darksters to stop what they’re doing or else. The poster went by ‘Darkstar3499’ and identified himself as the ‘real’ Darkstar. Most people have labeled him a wannabe and some individuals that have been identified as Darkster members have basically just told him to shut up and mind his own business or he’ll be their next victim. He only made the one post, but common opinion is that he’s just some guy and Darkstar doesn’t really care what the Darksters do as long as they don’t make him look bad.”

“They’re trying to curry Darkstar’s favor by committing ever more heinous acts,” Lightspeed said, pushing up his glasses. He snapped his fingers at his sidekick, Kid Nitro, who blurred a second before holding out a cup of fresh, steaming tea. The British superhero sipped his tea delicately, gracing the boy with an approving smile before turning back to the rest of the group. “Until he acknowledges them, whether with approval or censure, they are just going to continue killing and causing trouble. And his popularity with the masses means that their group numbers will continue to grow. So we need to do something about them before the situation gets too out of hand.”

“How much more ‘out of hand’ can it get?” the Flame Burst demanded, slapping his hand down on the table. “They’re killing people! I mean, once you’re murdering in the name of, what else can you do that’s worse?”

“Their body count can only get larger,” Lightspeed said. “They went from four victims, to fifteen, and the treatment of their victims has become ever more violent and sadistic. And with the way they’re spread out across the globe, there’s no way that the normal authorities will be able to track them all down. My suggestion is that we talk to the super groups of the other countries and come to an agreement that these Darkster fools be handled.”

“That’s your answer to everything, isn’t it?” Witch Fire sneered. “No matter who it is, you always think they need to be ‘handled.’ You probably have a bigger body count than the worst supervillain out there.”

“Now is not the time for your personal disputes,” Captain Victorious interrupted before Lightspeed could respond. The two of them had been at each other’s throats from the minute they first met. If there had ever been an instance of hate at first sight, Witch Fire and Lightspeed were the embodiment of the sentiment.

Part 9 – Slipping Through the Cracks

Slipping Through the CracksThis cover makes me unspeakably happy. Why? Because this story has absolutely nothing to do with sushi.

I was making the cover for this special PDF version and was brainstorming ideas. My brain immediately went: “Sushi!” This cover makes me think of Yummy Sushi Pajamas 🙂

I don’t know what the official cover will look like but I’m working on a list. Should I use another sushi theme or would that be too weird? It looks misleadingly cheerful.

***

This is the story of a weakened superhero, a mental patient, and a guy finding himself in a hard situation. Franz was raised by Nigel Caulder to be the kind of guy that survived any situation, so there’s no way he would ever let being in a mental hospital get him down. He adapts to the situation; adapts and prepares.

There’s a romance, but that comes later. This is mostly Franz dealing with what’s been done to him.


Title: Slipping Through the Cracks
Author: Harper Kingsley
Character: Franz Caulder/Ryan Wilder, Dr. Pamela Werth, Nicole Carson
Genre: mm
Rating: mature
Summary: Kid Nitro went to sleep in his own bed, and woke up on another Earth in the body of an alternate Franz Caulder. It’s a world without metabilities, which is jarring enough, but it’s also a world where Other-Franz is a mental patient grappling with some serious problems.

Franz Caulder: Slipping Through the Cracks

***

Caulder was Nigel’s last name. Franz had taken it after his godfather had officially adopted him. Nigel had been the most important person in his life, the only parent he had ever known. They had a great relationship of crime fighting and old movies and there was never a time when Franz could imagine Nigel not being there for him.

None of that had happened here.

In this world there was no Nigel in Franz’s life. There had only ever been his mother, the memory of a wonderful father, and the memory of an abuser. There was no stuffy British guy that knew everything and never made mistakes but treated Franz as if he were important.

He was imagining something very Invasion of the Body Snatchers having happened to him, but he figured everything had a simple explanation. Either he was crazy and had just recently gone some level of more crazy, or he was Buffy Summers.

His situation was all normal again, and he wanted to scream but he was sure he would never be able to stop.

“I… I can’t handle this right now,” he said. He abruptly stood up, the motion hard enough that his chair made a loud sound on the floor. “Will you come again soon?”

Sophia looked as though she were fighting to swallow down the emotion she felt. Finally she managed to give him a shaky smile. “Of course. I’ll bring you something good to eat. All your favorites. We’ll make a picnic of it.”

“Thank you.” He wanted to hug her, but the thought of being touched was bugs crawling under his skin. “I love you.”

He walked away before she could say anything. He went to his room and closed the door firmly behind him. He needed time to think.

 

Franz curled up on the bed and seriously wondered if this was where he was going to spend the rest of his life. Staring at these walls, not sure about what was real and what was fake. His memories were scrambled to the point that he felt as if his head were about to blow off his shoulders from all the eleventh hour revelations.

He’d been so sure that he was Kid Nitro. He had been slipped into the body of his alternate reality self and all he had to do was survive until Nigel got him home. Except Nigel wasn’t trying to get him home. Nigel didn’t have a clue that he existed because he wasn’t real. He was just a series of memories that never happened to *Franz*.

He hugged his knees tight against his chest and clamped his hands around his ankles. The bed was horrible, but it was where he needed to be. He had to think and consider. He needed to get his head screwed on straight.

His memories of his life felt tangled and confused, but he was remembering who he was.

Franz Benoit, age: twenty-two. He’d had a history of mental illness, including a suicide attempt when he was sixteen. That was the first time he was ever institutionalized, and it wasn’t for very long, just a few weeks. He’d straightened up after that and had gotten away without having to be medicated.

It was still kind of blurry, but he remembered the way the world had spun around his head as he stood on top of the water tower. Everything had felt so hard, just completely impossible; jumping had seemed like a good whole life plan. He was just lucky that he’d had a couple of friends with him and Mindy–tiny, pink-haired Mindy with the high-pitched little girl voice–had tackled him and screamed in his face until he froze and stayed where he was. It took him a long time to understand what was going on, and that was only partly the alcohol.

He’d asked Mindy to drive him to the hospital and he’d checked himself in for a voluntary 48-hour hold. He’d told her goodbye while inside her apple green VW bug, then walked into the hospital alone. It was something that he’d needed to do.

He wasn’t coping with shit. He needed help.

Dr. Werth had talked to him and she’d really talked up the appeal of the mental hospital until it had seemed like the perfect place to be. He’d agreed to enter long-term care until he could get a handle on some of his issues.

What happened instead? He had a massive hallucination that he was someone else and could barely remember the person that he was supposed to be. Not that he’d ever wanted to be Franz Benoit in the first place.

For as long as he could remember, he’d always felt out of place. It had just seemed as though he’d been plucked up from some place else and forcibly inserted into his life. He’d always felt that if he had just been born someone else he would have been much happier. Things wouldn’t get to him as much and he wouldn’t feel so alien in his own skin.

He wasn’t Franz Caulder. But he wanted to be.

Franz Caulder was confident, pragmatic, and had the kind of personality that didn’t know how to quit. He was Kid Nitro, one of the fastest speedsters on the planet. His mentor and adoptive father was Nigel Caulder, the superhero Lightspeed. They were one of the greatest duos on the planet.

Franz stuck his fingers in his mouth and bit down. That bit of pain centered him. It separated him from his thoughts for a moment and let him just *be*.

Franz Caulder and Kid Nitro were part of some massive hallucination he’d had. Yet even now that life felt so *real.* That was his life. That was him.

He squeezed his eyes tight shut and let the idea settle in his mind.

His real life and his hallucinatory life were tangled together. Things that he knew were true, that had *definitely* happened to Franz Benoit, felt disjointed and strange, as though they belonged to someone else. The life of Franz Caulder was so much more vivid than his own.

He wanted to hold onto that life. He wanted that life to be his.

Franz pulled his fingers out of his mouth and straightened his legs. He rolled onto his back and stared up at the ceiling. A smile was twitching the corners of his lips.

Why did he have to be Franz Benoit?

He had all of the memories of Franz Caulder. Amazing experiences that made him feel empowered just to think of them. And wasn’t that all a person was at base? A bundle of memories.

Franz closed his eyes with a peaceful smile. It felt powerful. It felt right.

“I am Franz Caulder,” he whispered.

TBC…

Franz Caulder: Slipping Through the Cracks


This story was part of my post for the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia. It ended May 27th, but will be back again next year 🙂

Part 8 – Slipping Through the Cracks

Title: Slipping Through the Cracks
Author: Harper Kingsley
Character: Franz Caulder/Ryan Wilder, Dr. Pamela Werth, Nicole Carson
Genre: mm
Rating: mature
Summary: Kid Nitro went to sleep in his own bed, and woke up on another Earth in the body of an alternate Franz Caulder. It’s a world without metabilities, which is jarring enough, but it’s also a world where Other-Franz is a mental patient grappling with some serious problems.

Franz Caulder: Slipping Through the Cracks

Leave a comment at the “Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia” post and receive a PDF copy of the complete story after the hop.

***

He approached Dr. Werth. “Is Nicole all right?” She hadn’t been at breakfast and he couldn’t help being concerned.

Dr. Werth looked at him for a long moment, then sighed. “Come with me.” She led him toward her office and closed the door behind them. “Joshua told me that you woke up last night. I just want you to know that Nicole is stable and it looks like she’s going to be okay.”

“She cut herself.”

“Yes. It was a near thing, but the nurses got to her in time,” she said.

“Where is she?” Franz asked.

“She’s been transferred to another facility for care, but she’ll be back with us later. I don’t know how long it’s going to be, but it wasn’t as bad as it seemed last night.”

Franz clasped his hands around his elbows. “I didn’t really see a whole lot. I was just worried because she wasn’t here this morning.”

“Well. You don’t need to worry any longer. Once it’s safe for her to be brought back, she’ll be here.”

“Was it her new medication?” Franz asked. “She made a big deal about how she was on some new stuff and she was acting kind of erratic at the time.” He tried to sound like it was no big deal, but he couldn’t help the anxiety that went through him. Maybe if he’d said something she wouldn’t have been given the time to hurt herself.

Dr. Werth seemed to read his mind. “It may have been exacerbated by her medication, but Nicole has been dealing with many different issues. You are not responsible for anything. Do you believe me?”

She was looking at him and her gaze was so warm and caring that he could almost *feel* it. He stared down at his feet to try and get away from her eyes. “I might need some time,” he admitted.

“That’s perfectly natural. Just remember that what Nicole did has nothing to do with you, okay? If there’s anything you need to talk about that can’t wait until our session tomorrow, I have a little time right now.”

He shook his head and drifted backward toward the door. “I’m good.”

He escaped her office and hurried toward arts and crafts. He wasn’t looking to expose his feelings at the moment, if ever.

* * *

The days passed one after the other until Dr. Werth let him know that his mother’s visit had been arranged. He was finally going to get a chance to see her.

It was strange to anticipate something so impossible, but he couldn’t resist. The idea of meeting his mother had always been one he’d toyed with. A fantasy about what his life might have been like if she or his father had never died.

He’d never imagined anything like this though. The idea of alternate realities had always been a bit of a joke; it wasn’t ever supposed to happen. Not to him.

Franz fought to keep his perspective, but he couldn’t help the excitement that flooded through him at the idea of meeting his mom.

On the day of her visit he showered and shaved and tried to make himself look at least slightly put together. He didn’t have a wide range of styling products and his hair was in desperate need of the clippers, but he had deodorant and toothpaste so at least he wasn’t smelly.

He pulled on the newest looking pair of scrub pants he could find and a white tee shirt. He pulled his sweatshirt over his head and looked at himself in the bathroom mirror. He thought he looked all right. It was the best he could manage with the clothing he had available. It wasn’t like she didn’t know he was a patient here.

Franz was sitting at the table waiting when she appeared in the doorway. He couldn’t help his gasp.

She looked like the woman in the photographs he had, though years older. Her long hair hung straight down her back, streaks of gray trailing through the glossy black. She was short and dressed in clothes that looked a few years out of style, but flattered her figure. She was his mother.

He licked his lips and stood up without pushing his chair all the way out. He gripped the edge of the table with his hands to still their shaking. “You’re here.”

She smiled at him and her tired face was suddenly beautiful. Life had treated her hard, but she was still enjoying her life. “I’ve been waiting for you to be ready to see me. Of course I’m here.” She sat down across from him at the table.

“Where’s your purse?” he asked. She always carried one around, a roomy leather thing that smelled of mint gum.

“They wouldn’t let me bring it in. They were worried I might bake a file into a cupcake for you.” She rolled her eyes humorously.

Franz gazed at her in fascination. She was so alive and present. He felt like holding onto this moment forever. He settled down on his chair. “I wasn’t ready to see you before. I’m ready now.”

“That’s good. How are you doing?” she asked.

“I’m better,” he said.

It felt awkward, yet strangely comfortable at the same time. He felt as though he could say anything he wanted to her and she would take it in stride. She refused to let anything throw her.

The shape of her face was familiar. The sound of her voice was soothing. And at the end of her visit he couldn’t resist reaching out to touch her hand, and a whiff of that sweet smelling lotion she always used reached his nose.

 

He was small and scared and the gag in his mouth was all slobbery and gross because he couldn’t stop chewing on it. His face hurt really bad.

Frank was at the stove heating the knife blade over the gas flame. He was saying things–awful things–that made Franzy’s ears hurt to hear. Things about Mommy and Daddy and Franzy, though he never said Franzy’s name, just called him “brat.”

Mommy was going to be really mad when she found out what Frank had done. She’d never noticed the little hurts, but she was going to notice that his face was all cut and burned.

He wondered if Frank was going to kill him.

Franzy jerked at the ropes tying his wrists to the chair arms, but they were too tight and he wasn’t strong enough.

Frank’s smile when he turned would have made Franzy wet his pants if he hadn’t already emptied his bladder earlier. “It’s always good to label things correctly.”

The knife blade was gigantic, the edge still glowing red as Frank carried it across the room. Franzy squeezed his eyes tight shut, not wanting to see, but he *had to* see so he opened his eyes back up. He couldn’t let that knife out of his sight or it would kill him.

He screamed when his face flared with lines of pain and he could hear the sizzle as he was burned. He screamed and screamed and no one heard him and he began to think he was going to hurt forever.

There was a sudden banshee scream and the knife slipped as Frank turned. “Sophia?”

Mommy was there and her face was twisted up in a way Franzy had never seen. Her eyes were white-rimmed and her teeth were bared, and she plowed into Frank and knocked him away from Franzy.

There was a torrent of profanity coming from her mouth as she punched, kicked and clawed at Frank with an inhuman strength.

Franzy slumped in his bonds and cried. Mommy had heard him. Mommy had come to save him.

 

“You killed him. You killed Frank,” he rasped. His throat felt as though he’d been screaming for hours.

Sophia gasped and covered her mouth with her hand. “You remember?”

“Of course I remember. I don’t think there was ever a day that I could forget that my mother killed my stepfather.”

Because he wasn’t Franz Caulder. He was Franz Benoit. He always had been.

TBC…

Franz Caulder: Slipping Through the Cracks


link to the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia 2013 blog hop

Check out the rest of the hop and all the excellent people that have offered up some great posts and prizes. Spread the word: No more homophobia or transphobia. Equality for everyone.


Part 7 – Slipping Through the Cracks

This story is about equality and self-acceptance. It also, in some way, has become a statement about the mental health care system.

There are some places where people are treated with compassion and there’s great out-patient care available. There’s support systems in place for the patient and the patient’s family both. There isn’t quite such a stigma attached to the mentally ill.

And there are other places that come across like something out of Gothika. People in the area treat the mentally ill as though that’s all they are. They’re not people with lives they might want to get back to. They’re a dark secret to be locked away and shipped around the country because they’re nothing more than a drain on resources. Let them starve and disappear where no one has to see.

I thought Dr. Werth would be a frightening figure. Instead she’s been nothing but compassionate. It surprised me. Maybe the world is ready to retire the image of Nurse Ratchet and the terror inspired by the thought of seeing a therapist?

I guess I’m hopeful for the future. I want to see a world where people can walk into an out-patient facility and receive the help they need and have it be as casual as a spa treatment. “How have you been? Here’s your meds” and it doesn’t cost a month’s rent for a little therapy, medication, and counselors helping patients find jobs and get their lives together.

I don’t want great health care for everyone to just be some sci-fi fantasy I babble about. I want it to be real. And I don’t want it to be so expensive that only the wealthy can afford it.


Title: Slipping Through the Cracks
Author: Harper Kingsley
Character: Franz Caulder/Ryan Wilder, Dr. Pamela Werth, Nicole Carson
Genre: mm
Rating: mature
Summary: Kid Nitro went to sleep in his own bed, and woke up on another Earth in the body of an alternate Franz Caulder. It’s a world without metabilities, which is jarring enough, but it’s also a world where Other-Franz is a mental patient grappling with some serious problems.

Franz Caulder: Slipping Through the Cracks

Leave a comment at the “Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia” post and receive a PDF copy of the complete story after the hop.
***

Having his meds changed didn’t really mean a whole lot at first. He couldn’t even tell the difference, especially when he burst into tears during another group session. Though he was able to walk out of the room under his own power and he appreciated that much.

In the normal course of his life, crying in public would make him want to hide his face forever, but in this place it was just something that happened. He wasn’t the only one experiencing a breakdown and it was very different from being in real life.

It was as though he’d taken a step out of regular reality. Normal rules did not apply.

Crying in front of everyone was embarrassing, but it didn’t really count. He was back the next day, listening to the stories of people that had been desperately trying to hold their lives together while in the outside world. They’d clung to their normal lives and had things fall apart on them anyway. It made him wonder why they hadn’t gone for help sooner, before they ended up in this place.

He was used to a broken mental health system that hid people away rather than helping them. This world had more understanding available than he ever would have thought could exist, with so many out-patient options available that it made his head spin a little.

*Crazy people always say they’re not crazy,* he thought. Then, “I’m not crazy,” he whispered.

It made him laugh, and the sound of his own voice scared him. He looked around the recreational room, but no one seemed to be paying attention. He did manage to catch the eye of Joshua, who gave him a little smile before going back to whatever he was doing. Obviously he hadn’t caused a complete scene.

Franz was half-curled in an armchair in the corner of the room with a large art book opened in his lap. It was supposed to be his “time of serene contemplation,” which basically meant it was the point in his day when he was supposed to do something alone.

He’d idly been flipping through the book while his mind churned away with ideas and plans he mostly discarded.

There was nothing he could do about going home from his end. He didn’t know how he had gotten here, so he didn’t even know where to start on reversing anything. He couldn’t even go for help because they didn’t have the technology to reach into alternate realities in this world. Without superscientists they were steering blind and as a result had to be several decades behind the tech he was used to.

He was trapped here.

Franz rubbed a hand over his face and forced himself to calm down before he started hyperventilating or something. He could handle this. He could handle anything.

He was Kid Nitro.

It was the only thing he had to hold onto. He was Kid Nitro, and he’d faced all kinds of unbelievable things and made it through. His training hadn’t encompassed this particular situation, but he was sure he would be able to figure things out.

He hugged the book tighter against himself, taking comfort in the feel of hard edges pressing into his chest. It was a reminder that things were real and touchable, that the problems in this life were things that he could handle.

Nigel had always told him that the best way to approach a given problem was to break it down into manageable portions and work through everything a piece at a time. Eventually the problem shrunk to manageable size, and there was never a problem he couldn’t solve if he just stopped panicking and thought things through.

What was his problem here? He was in another world. There was nothing he could do about that. But he could do something about being locked in a mental hospital. It would be a lot easier to get a feel for the world if he was out and about seeing things happen in person.

He closed his eyes and shifted himself so his cheek was resting against the arm of the chair. He did his best thinking when he didn’t let himself be distracted.

If this had been a movie, he would have already broken out of the mental hospital and gone in search of the people that mattered: Nigel, the rest of the League of Superheroes, Edamame Rose. He would have tracked them down and tried to get some help. Then it would turn out that he was locked in some virtual reality machine or something and there would be a lot of action and breaking of stuff before he escaped triumphant.

This was real life though. He was working with his real life skill set.

He was terrible with computers, which is why he always let Edamame Rose handle the tech aspects–she loved that stuff and he didn’t. He had no idea how to make himself a fake ID, and even if he did, things in this world were different from what he was used to. He didn’t know how to hot wire a car.

He wouldn’t get very far running. His picture would be plastered all over the TV and Internet: “Please help us find our lost mental patient.”

He’d thought things through and it was better to stay in the hospital. They fed him, they taught him about the world, they were trying to integrate him back into society. The drugs were annoying, but the doctors gave him some leeway in what he was taking. Dr. Werth had kept her word and lowered the dosages–he could read the pills–and she was honestly trying to help him.

It was better to wait here until they let him out, then when he was free he would be able to get a job and have some money behind his search. Go to ground, dig deep, actually pause, think, and consider. That’s what he needed to do.

He could do that. He could adapt and conform to his current situation and empower himself through the solidity of pure will and righteousness.

A giggle escaped his lips.

He opened his eyes and looked around. No one had noticed. He relaxed.

Franz mentally frowned. He hadn’t meant to come off looking that paranoid and freaked out. The body had acted on its own. It was doing that more and more lately. He wondered if it was a reaction to the drugs.

He would just have to keep an eye out on his reactions. His self-control was shot. He needed to work with the system here and wait it out.

Nigel would get him home.

He let himself fall asleep to the thought.

 

The days were slipping past and he fell into the routines of the place as though he’d always been here. It scared him a little, how comfortable he’d gotten with living in this place. It had gotten under his skin.

He should have been absolutely thrilled to wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of hurried movements and urgent voices in a room down the hall. It was excitement happening around him, breaking the routine. Except there was the worrying clatter of machinery being moved and voices calling out.

He started to open his door to peek out, but suddenly Joshua was standing there, blocking the view. “How about you just go back to bed there, huh champ? There’s some serious business happening and I think she’d appreciate some privacy.”

Franz chewed on his lip and craned his neck to see that all the action was happening in Nicole’s room. A nurse passed the open door and there was blood on her scrub pants.

Franz swallowed. “I’m going back to bed.” He saw Joshua nod as he closed the door.

He stood there for a long moment, wondering what he was supposed to feel.

He’d just met Nicole. He talked with her for the entertainment value. They weren’t friends.

So why did he feel as though someone had pulled a backyard wrestling move and slammed down hard on his lungs, knocking all of the air out of his entire body? His head was spinning and his stomach was churning with nausea.

He turned and stumbled back to his bed where he curled into a ball, his hood drawn so close around his face that his breath was sweaty against his neck. He squeezed his eyes shut and let the darkness close around him. He clamped his legs tight together, focusing on the discomfort to take his thoughts off what was happening down the hall.

Because it was obvious that Nicole had hurt herself. And he *didn’t* want to know how she’d done it. He didn’t want to picture all the ways that she could have done it in this place away from knives and razor blades.

His breath rasped in his ears and he couldn’t resist the impulse that took him to start humming. It wasn’t even a song, just this tuneless sound that vibrated up his throat to escape his lips.

He curled up in the darkness and promised himself that he wasn’t going to spend the rest of his life in this place.

“I’m Franz Caulder. I’m Kid Nitro,” he whispered, and his voice sounded young to his own ears. Young and hopeless and lost.

But he was strong. He would make it through.

TBC…

Franz Caulder: Slipping Through the Cracks


link to the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia 2013 blog hop

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Part 6 – Slipping Through the Cracks

Title: Slipping Through the Cracks
Author: Harper Kingsley
Character: Franz Caulder/Ryan Wilder, Dr. Pamela Werth, Nicole Carson
Genre: mm
Rating: mature
Summary: Kid Nitro went to sleep in his own bed, and woke up on another Earth in the body of an alternate Franz Caulder. It’s a world without metabilities, which is jarring enough, but it’s also a world where Other-Franz is a mental patient grappling with some serious problems.

Franz Caulder: Slipping Through the Cracks

Leave a comment at the “Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia” post and receive a PDF copy of the complete story after the hop.

***

Sleep had become one of his havens in this new world. Sleep was the place he went when he simply couldn’t handle anymore and he needed to get away for a little while.

To fall into a dream and feel safe and warm at home. He was thankfully free of nightmares. All he got to see night after night were the people he loved and the city he’d vowed to protect. It made it hard to wake up in the morning and face reality.

Franz was fitting into this new life uncomfortably well. He thought sometimes that maybe he was losing himself–had been losing himself this entire time–and simply hadn’t noticed.

He pulled his hoodie tight around himself and curled up on his bed. He could still see daylight outside his window, but he didn’t care. He felt exhausted, his body heavy and ungainly and his eyes scratchy so he blink-blinked them until suddenly they seemed to stay closed on their own.

Sleep felt like the easiest thing in the world.

 

Waking up was hell. He felt like he was being ripped out of the arms of his loved ones and dragged kicking and screaming into a world that was too bright, too harsh, where even the things that weren’t supposed to hurt made him feel beaten and small.

His mouth was dry and tasted awful. His skin felt pulled so tight that every movement he made was nearly painful. When he climbed off the bed he stumbled and nearly fell, his knees trying to fold up under him.

He made it to the bathroom and the sink, where he hurriedly rinsed out his dry mouth and drank five handfuls of water before saying “Fuck it,” and stuck his mouth right under the tap. He drank and drank until he finally had to stop, not because his tongue felt any less dry, but because his stomach felt stretched and he seriously worried about suffocating.

Then he peed for a worryingly long time, and his urine was dark and cloudy yellow and he wondered if there might be something seriously wrong with him. Would he even know if his kidneys were shutting down?

“This place is driving me crazy,” he said, slathering toothpaste on his toothbrush. His mouth still tasted horrible, though it wasn’t as bad as when he woke up.

He brushed his teeth and there was a little blood and he added it to his list of things to ask the doctors. The last thing he wanted was for the medication he didn’t really need to make his teeth all fall out.

At least it was something he could use as proof to show himself that none of this was real and he didn’t belong here. Other-Franz would have been hardened to the drug combination, yet here he was reacting badly.

He needed to switch back. He *needed* to go home.

It felt natural to pull his hood up over his head. If he’d had some goggles or something to hide his eyes, he would have worn them too. Walking around with his face uncovered was unnatural and strange. He felt exposed.

Breakfast was spent with Nicole again. She had become his de facto friend and he wasn’t fighting it. Even when she was being her most acerbic, she always seemed glad to see him when he came in. Even if it was only because he gave her someone to bitch at. He didn’t mind listening to her angry babble, not when it was so easy to see that she was on the raggedy edge of something.

Terrible things had happened to her, the kinds of things that he didn’t even want to imagine, and she’d been damaged by them. Yet she still got up each day and she still found things to be passionate about. He had to give her respect for that.

From what he understood, the things that had seen her locked up in this place were the kinds of things people wrote horror stories about. Her family had screwed her over in their attempts to change everything about her from her sexuality to the clothes she wore. Like being a dress up doll was going to make it better when they were killing *her* to make her into someone they could love better.

It made him wish that Nigel was here, because Nigel didn’t take any kind of crap and he always knew the right thing to say. Franz just had to stumble around figuring things out for himself. Badly.

“Hey playa,” Nicole caroled when he approached the table with his tray. She gave him a smile that stretched across her whole face like Gumby and there was a disturbing amount of sparkle in her eyes.

“Good morning,” he said cautiously. “You seem really cheerful this morning.”

“They gave me some of the new stuff. New stuff. Its like fucking a rainbow with my brain. I don’t know why they never gave me this before. It’s complete assballs, dude. I feel like if I wanted it enough I could totally fly. *I believe I can fly*,” she sang, tossing her head back and forth.

Franz took a careful bite of his eggs, chewing slowly to keep his mouth from hurting. “Please don’t try to fly. Or if you have to try, follow the rules of people taking acid or shrooms for the first time: Fire is hot. The ground is hard. Water is wet and can’t be breathed. And if you absolutely have to fly, test it out from the ground first.”

“You are a major buzzkill. Seriously, you sucked the fun out of the room so fast I think you gave me herpes.”

“Hm.” Franz opened his juice box and took a sip when really his dry mouth wanted him to suck the whole thing down in one go. It seemed that it was going to be another one of *those* days with Nicole.

He buttered his toast and settled in to be the silent listener. If he said anything she didn’t like, he would be listening to a spittle-flying rant. Better to be quiet and eat his breakfast, never mind that he had very little appetite and had to force nearly every bite.

He was surviving this place, he was. One day at a time he was making it through and it wasn’t as horrible as he’d imagined it would be. There was no shock therapy at least and the food wasn’t too bad.

Franz calmly ate his toast and half-listened to Nicole. She had a habit of dropping information he could use in the flow of her conversation.

TBC…

Franz Caulder: Slipping Through the Cracks


link to the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia 2013 blog hop

Check out the rest of the hop and all the excellent people that have offered up some great posts and prizes. Spread the word: No more homophobia or transphobia. Equality for everyone.


Part 5 – Slipping Through the Cracks

So Franz is spinning out into being this whole series of stories kind of guy. Would anyone be interested in seeing that? (At least half as interested as I am in writing it, because I am totally willing to write the fok out of this. Serious business.)

When I started, it was something different, but it’s been steadily evolving. Not so much a romance as a life story. What’s posted here for the hop is pretty gen. It’s just him dealing with this giant mental shift while powerless and locked up in an asylum. Plus there’s the whole deal with his mom, the giant scar on his face, and the stuff with Nicole.

And you all know that if you go to the “Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia” post and leave a comment I’m giving out free copies of this story. Like, to every single commenter.

Plus one lucky commenter will win a copy of my Allies & Enemies short “Psychotic.” Remember that cut scene I was tossing around? Yeah, it became a thing of angry/fearful/exultant/life affirming emotional displays and violence against some bad people. Kind of darkish, but with a happy ending.


Title: Slipping Through the Cracks
Author: Harper Kingsley
Character: Franz Caulder/Ryan Wilder, Dr. Pamela Werth, Nicole Carson
Genre: mm
Rating: mature
Summary: Kid Nitro went to sleep in his own bed, and woke up on another Earth in the body of an alternate Franz Caulder. It’s a world without metabilities, which is jarring enough, but it’s also a world where Other-Franz is a mental patient grappling with some serious problems.

Franz Caulder: Slipping Through the Cracks

* * *

Another groggy hangover day. He felt rundown and as though he couldn’t handle anymore. He wondered if this was what dying was like, a slow sleepwalk through a mental hospital with people moving in and out of his peripheral vision like ghosts.

Lifting his head seemed impossible. So he trudged around with his hood pulled up and his shoulders slumped, and the sight of his own slipper wearing feet became familiar.

*Only they’re not my feet,* he reminded himself. But it seemed hollow and far away.

He’d been in this place a week and he already felt worn down. He was losing bits and pieces of himself to the drugs and the worried faces and he couldn’t stop it. Not once he was caught trying to hide his meds and earned himself a constant presence when it was Happy Fun Pill Time.

It wasn’t even his fault, not really. Whatever they kept shooting into his hip to knock him out had really messed with his brain. His hands felt as though he were constantly wearing mittens, or maybe even boxing gloves, and any kind of fine motor control was right out the window. So of course he was going to be spotted palming his pills when he couldn’t even get his fingers to close properly.

At least the nurses were cool about it, disappointed to a painful degree, but cool. They just shifted things around so he was observed to be swallowing his pills and kept on like everything was normal.

Which meant he was getting a full dose of the meds, and getting used to being zombified was a bitch.

“I think my meds are too strong,” he announced at his first session with Dr. Werth.

“You do, do you?” She sounded vaguely amused, but also as though she was listening.

Franz nodded. “Yeah. I feel like my head is a giant watermelon on my shoulders and… and I haven’t been able to get an erection.” He blurted out the last part and his ears felt hot enough that he thought they might explode from the pressure. Still, it was something he felt was important.

He’d never tied his self-worth in with his sexuality, but sometimes he wanted to jerk off and not being able to get it up *at all* was about to make him seriously lose his mind. Especially knowing that the cause was all the pills they kept jamming down his throat.

“Is that why you stopped taking your medication?” She was looking at him over the edge of her glasses and he had to shift away from her lightning gaze.

He pulled his hood closer around his face. “Maybe.”

Dr. Werth sighed. “Okay, Franz, here’s the deal: You keep taking your meds as directed, and I’ll lower the dosages. We’ll play around a little and see what works.”

“Why are you being so nice to me?” he asked.

She smiled sadly. “Because you deserve to have someone be nice to you. Besides, you’ve been more outgoing lately. You’ve really been trying, so I’ll try my best too. Your dosages might have been a little strong for you. What do you say, you keep taking your meds and talking to me, and I lower your dosages and maybe in a few weeks we can arrange a visit from your mother?”

“My mother?” *But she’s dead.* He felt nailed in place and would have stopped breathing all together if she wouldn’t have noticed.

“I know you’ve wanted to see her for a long time and I think you’re ready now. You’re stronger than you were and she’s been making all the NAMI meetings and receiving her own therapies. This could be good for you. Both of you.”

“Okay,” it came out a whisper.

The idea of seeing his mother — who had become more myth and legend in his mind than woman — was huge. She’d died so long ago that he had no real memories of her, just the things that he could cobble together from stories and the vague feeling he got when he ate certain chocolates or smelled certain flowers: “She’s been here. This was what she loved.” And that was it.

But she was alive in this world. He could actually see her and talk to her and it was one of those things he’d always half-dreamed about.

*Except she’s not YOU’RE mother.* He shoved that traitorous voice down deep. He didn’t want to hear it. Not when he had a chance to meet his mother in person, something he’d never thought would happen.

All he’d ever had were old videos and photographs. A series of images to encompass the entirety of a person.

“Good.” Dr. Werth rubbed her hands together and lounged back in her leather chair. It didn’t even squeak. “You’ve been making great progress recently, Franz. I’m very proud of you.”

“Thank you.” It seemed like the thing to say.

“Now, would you like to discuss what happened with Bertie? Are you feeling safe enough to talk about it?”

This wasn’t how he’d thought talking to a therapist would go. He’d imagined lying on a couch while someone nodded and “uh hm’d” at the proper points. It would be some painful process of sobbing and self-hatred. Instead, this was just a casual conversation between two people; Dr. Werth came off more as a nosy aunt than a figure of authority.

“He didn’t do anything to me. I knew he wouldn’t do anything to me. Yet I still freaked out. I don’t know why.” He twisted his fingers in his lap, the sleeves of his red sweater covering most of his hands. “I felt like I couldn’t breathe.”

“It can be frightening, can’t it? I remember my first panic attack — it’s not something you can ever forget — and the way it felt as though I were being crushed. It’s very frightening.” She took a sip of her coffee. He could smell it, hot and sweet. “You’ve always been very brave about how you handle things. You’re one of my heroes.”

He didn’t know where the blush came from. It just seemed to happen by itself.

“If you don’t want to talk about it now, that’s fine. You know I’m always here and ready to listen,” she continued. “I worry about you and like to see that you’re doing okay.”

“I’m okay. I just had a rough patch. Bertie just caught me when I was in a bad head space.” The words came as easy as breathing and sounded completely natural. He was a little stunned by how good he was at filling the silences without sounding like he was just babbling.

“That’s really all that happened?”

Franz shrugged. “Seems like. Can I go? I’m feeling really tired.”

She gave him what might have been a disappointed look on someone else. “You go right ahead. We’ll change up your medication, so don’t worry.”

“Thanks doc.” He stood and gave her a little wave before leaving the office.

Sleep had become one of his havens in this new world. Sleep was the place he went when he simply couldn’t handle anymore and he needed to get away for a little while.

TBC…

Franz Caulder: Slipping Through the Cracks


link to the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia 2013 blog hop

Check out the rest of the hop and all the excellent people that have offered up some great posts and prizes. Spread the word: No more homophobia or transphobia. Equality for everyone.