It always ends the same way no matter how many times it plays out or how many different beginnings they have.
Him pleading with her to run. Listening to his pain sounds following her down every passageway she tries to put between them as he struggles against his newly given programming. Her heart hammered in her chest despite her repeated attempts to calm it as she runs from him. Not that it does much good. He finds her. He always manages to find her no matter where she tries to hide.
"Cole Reyes please." She repeats as her like, like crush of a boyfriend stalks closer. His eyes are devoid of the normal warmth and light that was simply Cole Reyes.
It was only anger. Anger toward her. Anger because of her.
Because she'd chosen to allow him to fall under WARPA's control. But she had to protect Mom. She had to keep her family safe. She just hated that doing so had such a high cost.
"What's wrong Gaines?" he growled slowing his pace while she retreats farther until he'd succeeded in backing her into a corner.
She was trapped.
Several powerful emotions wash over her but despite them, she cannot help but care for the boy her enemies had sent to shut her down for good.
Cole's full weight falls against her back after another half-strength fight between them. He holds her in place as if she would actually risk hurting him any more than she'd already had to, even now whilst he opens her main power cell to access her battery. "I'm….I'm sorry Frankie." He manages to whisper to her regret mixing with the angry edge of his rough tone before the last of her power was drained away.
The chill of wetness on her cheeks and a cold invisible grip inside her chest greet her as she once again breaks out of sleep mode. The fifth night in a row she was able to do such an unusual thing she notes as her arms automatically tightened around the pillow she'd been using to chase away the sadness and upset these disruptions to her sleep mode cause as she hides the moister from her eyes in the soft fabric only for more to follow.
Her increased strength once again busting the semis of her chosen comfort devises sending a cloud of white into the air adding to the growing mess of feathers and mangled pillows surrounding her charging pod.
The now awakened android didn't have long to ponder this newfound ability of a robot crying or how she was going to effectively account for all the new destroyed pillows littering her bedroom floor before her phone is buzzing pulling her attention.
It takes longer than Frankie is willing to admit for her to compose herself enough to answer it. Another new experience for her.
"Cole Reyes." She greets still swiping the last of the lingering moisture from her cheeks as the call connects.
Cole gives her a playful smile "Hey Gaines." He greets before his face smooths into a more serious look. "I felt a disturbance in the Frankie force. What's up?"
"The ceiling is what is up." The android answers then tilts her head as she listens again to what he'd said. "What is this 'the Frankie force'?" she asks replaying her recording of his voice making him chuckle.
"Let's just say it's something a boyfriend has where his girlfriend is concerned." Cole tells her but when she is still looking puzzled, he tries to elaborate "It means I had this feeling you needed me."
The new addition beating in her chest flutters at his thoughtfulness as she quietly adds the new term to her files. "I am grateful for your concerns, but you also have tests for math and science in the morning." She reminds
Cole sighs at the reminder but he also looks even more concerned than before as he answers. "It's Saturday Frankie. And finals for those classes are already over remember?" he adds then shakes his head and gets back on track. "but even if it was Monday already meaning we'd be graduating already this is more important. You are more important." Cole answers and it wasn't until he'd stopped that she noticed he had been on the move the whole time they had been whispering to one another.
"Cole Reyes where are you right now?" Frankie asks in an attempt to cover her failure to notice such a blatant detail during their talk. She'd have to check for a default in her programming before going back into sleep mode.
Again, Cole smiles at her "Look out your window." He instructs
Frankie carries her phone with her curious but puzzled by the request until she spots the boy she like likes standing out in the front yard just visible passed the shadow of the tree outside her window and what little light she could see from the house lights her Dad or Jenny had forgotten to turn off before going to bed.
"Mind opening the window for me?" Cole asks
"Why would the window need opening Cole Reyes?"
"So, I can climb into it once I'm finished climbing this tree." Cole answers already trying to climb onto a lower tree branch one-handed as the pair talked.
Frankie smiles as she shakes her head at her boyfriend "That will not be necessary. I will unlock the backdoor for you to gain entry if that is what you desire."
"You can do that?" Cole asks impressed still trying to climb with only one hand.
Frankie blushes a little before she answers "Of course. I can easily connect to…." She started to explain her internal programming already confirming the door in question was unlocked. "The door is unlocked." She repeats over her boyfriend's soft grumbling whispers when his grip on one of the lower branches slips.
"Great." Cole answers with a grin. "See you in a few Gaines." He ends the call and Frankie pauses watching as the boy she like likes drops down the short distance he'd managed to make in his tree climb then after a quick dust off jogs out of viewing range of her window.
Quickly the android sweeps all the feathers into a corner of her room tossing the outer covers of her pillow stack onto the window seat than did a little more tidying up before walking as quietly as she could down to the second floor.
"Hi yeah, Fra—" Cole smiles his arms already open for a greeting hug one the android was quick to step into once she was sure all the doors and windows of the house were once again locked and secured. "Hey, you're alright." He promised one arm around her back the other threading in her hair at the back of her head cradling her against his front as Frankie nuzzles her face against his shoulder taking extra care to dial back her strength when her arms wrapped around him in return.
"Hey." Frankie pulls back at Cole's soft coaxing voice. "Let's get you back to bed alright." He offers tracing his thumb over the drying traces of his girlfriend's tears.
"I do not use a bed; Cole Reyes I have a charg—" the android teenager starts to remind bringing a soft laugh from the boy she was still hugging onto.
"I know, I know you have a charging chair thing." Cole nodes hiding a yawn behind his hand.
At this Frankie is both saddened and nervous. "You shouldn't have come here, Cole Reyes." She whispers the pain in her chest creeping into her voice as her eyes find his own sleepy ones "I am grateful for your presence but you being here isn't helping your sleep pa—" she continues talking just a little louder when it seemed he wasn't able to hear her.
Cole opened his mouth to argue back only for his girlfriend to press a delicate finger to his lips as her head tilted a little toward the stairs listening to something he couldn't catch in his drowsy state. "Hide."
They'd just made it into the safety of the kitchen when a dazed-looking Jenny Gains ambles down the steps from the second floor.
"Hello, Jenny Gains." Frankie whisper greets as her younger sister pauses in surprise at finding the android was also awake.
"Frankie, it's-" Jenny pauses squinting at the nearest clock to check the time but her robot sister answers for her "The current time is '3:45 a.m."
"Yeah, that." Jenny agrees in a yawn she tries to hide behind her hand as she trudges over to take a seat at the breakfast bar built into the front of the kitchen. "So why are you up this late?"
"Why are you?" Frankie parrots while Cole ducks down even lower to try and keep out of sight.
Jenny gives her a strange look then shrugs resting her elbows on the counter her head in her hands. "Couldn't sleep." She admits with another yawn.
Her android sister's eyes unfocused whilst she quickly scans the internet for suggestions on a way to help the human girl picking out one that seemed to be the most effective in cases where younger children were involved. She would have to take a chance of Jenny scolding her about not being a child anymore if she wanted to successfully finish sneaking her boyfriend into her room. "A disruption in one's sleep pattern might be due to a late-night food craving." She diagnoses in a soft tone sending Cole a reassuring smile noting a worried uptick in his heart rate as she crosses to the refrigerator.
After setting out only a few of Will Gaines's homemade chocolate chip cookies along with a quickly sliced up banana for some added nutrition Frankie warms the mug of freshly poured milk between her hands rather than risking putting it into the microwave and having the loud ping alert Dr. Mom or Will Gaines of the girls awareness so late at night.
"Frankie you're the best." Jenny praises with a smile as her sister sets both the mug and the plate of cookies and banana slices in front of her.
It only when Jenny starts to take a seat at the kitchen island that Frankie begins to properly worry over her choice of 'distracting her younger sister' idea.
"What's wrong?" the perceptive human girl wonders after a few sips of her drink.
Despite her considerable processing capabilities, Frankie wasn't able to come up with a single answer that wasn't a lie in one way or another, so she remained quiet as she dropped her eyes to the table to hide behind her hair.
Jenny's eyes narrow as she studies the teenager for a few long seconds while from his hiding place hunkered down behind the cover of the breakfast bar Cole does the same as he reaches out to slip a hand into Frankie's in quiet reassuring comfort.
"Come on Frankie. I'm your sister. Talk to me." Jenny prods after swallowing a few of the banana slices reaching out to rest a hand over the one Frankie had resting on the countertop. "Or at least have a cookie. It might help." She suggests using the other hand to slide the almost empty plate toward the android. She'd been right it had helped the human girl's nerves and was already starting to make her a little drowsy, but she refused to go back to bed just yet.
"I have been having-dreams."
The cookie Jenny had been about to take a bite of falls into the countertop in her shock while Cole also has to fight to keep from making any sound that would draw attention to his presence.
"Frankie that's-." Jenny starts while Frankie continues analyzing the patterns of the kitchen counters. "Wait but if you're up that would mean-" again Jenny lets her words taper off.
"Not all of them are bad." Frankie confesses without lifting her head "Just some nights are better than most."
"Oh, Frankie." Jenny whispers sending Cole scrambling for better cover when the younger girl rounds the corner into the kitchen to give the android a hug.
"I do not know what is happening to me, Jenny Gaines." Frankie confesses allowing herself to be held while moving just enough so the human girl wouldn't notice her boyfriend peeking out at them from the kitchen's walk-in cabinet.
"What's happening is you're becoming human Frankie," Jenny says her voice a mix of excited and worried as her hand rubbed at the taller girl's back just like their mom would do when they were upset. "It means that soon WARPA will stop trying to steal you away to make you a weapon."
The very mention of WARPA has the android's fingers clenching too tightly onto the sides of her chair rather than risk harming her younger sister with her enhanced strength.
"But if your dreaming then why hasn't Mom-" Jenny starts to wonder while also taking note of the fact the pantry door was now open more than it had been when the family had gone up to bed. She'd remembered clearly that the door hadn't been open at all.
Someone had to be hiding there.
"I have been moving my dream files into a secure file, so Mom won't make me relive them while I am awake." The android cuts in once again moving her body to shield the pantry door from Jenny's sightline. "it isn't really lying considering Mom has never once asked if I dream."
Jenny nodes allowing her sister her privacy after a subtle sniff of the air brought out the fresh scent of a boy's body spray. The same one Cole uses if she remembered right. "Smart." She praises draining what was left of the milk.
"Would you like me to accompany you back to your room, so you do not injure yourself by going alone?" Frankie offers noticed how frequent her sister's yawns had become. Along with being an indicator of lack of oxygen intake in humans she could also see who much Jenny's eyes had been drooping the longer she tried to stay awake.
"I think I'll be okay, but thanks for the offer." Her younger sister smiles giving her another light hug while keeping a close eye on the widening gap of the pantry door.
Honestly, it was hilarious that Cole thought he was being stealthy with moves like that, but Jenny held back on actually laughing at him as she snatches all but one of the last of her cookies from the plate (she had to leave at least one for Cole as a thank you for coming over in the dead of night just because her sister was having bad dreams) as she hopped down from her stool to take the empty milk cup to the sink to wash later.
Her older sister gives her a warry smile as she too notices just how much the pantry door had been opened since Jenny's arrival into the kitchen.
"And no more bad dreams tonight okay?" Jenny adds honest worry in her voice as she pauses halfway up the steps to look back into the kitchen.
"I will try." Frankie nodes her eyes drifting toward the darkened pantry as the start of a blush creeps over her cheeks.
Jenny rolls her eyes as she heads back toward her room. Just for tonight, she would keep Frankie's secret of having a boy in her room. In the morning however, all bets were off.
"Well, that was close." Cole sighed grabbing the forgotten cookie then setting the now empty plate into the sink along with the milk cup. "I thought she really had me for a few seconds."
"Indeed." Frankie agreed as she leans her head against Cole's shoulder once again drinking in his comforting presence still tracking her sister's footfalls toward her room wanting to be 100 percent positive they wouldn't be caught again before feeling safe enough to tug her boyfriend toward the stairs to the upper levels of the house.
"So," Cole says in a low whisper once the door to his girlfriend's bedroom had been properly closed behind them. "How do you want to do this?" even when he had no intention of leaving, he hadn't given much thought to what the sleeping arrangements would be.
"Well given the available spaces I'd suggest the window seat." Frankie murmurs pointing toward it.
"But." Cold coaxes seeing the unease written all over his girlfriend's face in the limited light of the full moon creeping in the window.
Frankie looking at him then away again her teeth finding her lower lip worrying to a little as she thought over her next few words. "but I do not wish for you to be so far away after coming all this way to check on my wellbeing."
"Easy fix." Cole promises as he looks around her room for something suitable "See." He comments untangling from her to drag the bean bag chair from the corner of her room into the open space beside Frankie's charging station.
"That won't be of adequate…." Frankie starts to point out analyzing the size of the makeshift bed he'd picked out relative to his size and coming up with a growing list of problems he would face after sleeping in such a folded up way the rest of the night but Cole quiets her by pressing a finger to her lips.
"Like I said this is about you." He reminds running his free hand in her hair. "You want me closer than I'll sleep closer." He shrugs. "It's not a big deal."
She still looks unconvinced but doesn't say anything more as she sits back down on her charging pod.
"Um. Is this going to be alright?" Cole checks in once Frankie's head was more properly pillowed against his arm.
His android girlfriend gives him a reassuring nod of her head "Even with the obstruction I will still have more than enough battery power for acceptable functioning come morning." She promises reaching out to tuck his borrowed blanket tighter around his almost pretzel-like form on the beanbag beside her.
"Hey, I'll be okay too." He promises reading the uncertainty once again clouding her eyes
"Goodnight Cole Reyes."
Cole smiles at her with a whispered "Goodnight Frankie Gaines." Followed by a light brush of his lips against her forehead before turning his attention to the tablet she'd given him to send her back into sleep mode.
Sneak Peek for Chapter 2
Sigourney mumbles in answer but mostly she ignores the whispered call in favor of just a few more minutes of sleep before her alarm goes off.
It was Saturday she could afford to sleep in a little longer on a Saturday.
"Mmmooommm." Jenny tries again shaking her shoulder with more insistence. "Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom."
Sigourney sighs into her pillow then rolls over onto her back with a defeated huff. The sound of insistent knocking from downstairs pauses any farther conversation when Will answers the door and they both note just how panicked Dayton's voice was as it floated up from the lower floor.
"Cole wasn't in his room this morning when I went to get him for breakfast and he isn't answering any of my texts or my calls and then Frankie wasn't answering her phone either and I know she'd normally up by now too so…"
The mention of her android daughter has Sigourney hurrying out of bed.
Frankie wasn't up yet? How was that possible? Her internal settings surely would have kicked in by now.
Maybe there was some kind of wide-scale power failure in the middle of the night?
"Uhm I'll take some milk thanks," Dayton answers her voice much calmer than Sigourney's spiraling thoughts on the not so happy reasons her second daughter wouldn't be awake to answer her BFF's calls or texts on what should have been a normal Saturday morning.
"Well, this is going to be interesting." Jenny mumbles to herself as she watches her mother hurrying to at least untangle her hair before heading down to greet their early morning company.