Author's Warning: Like everything else, this takes place in my series, set up by the events in my first story "More Than My Friend" where the big event is that Frankie adopts Mac as her "little brother". If you haven't read that story yet, I strongly suggest you do so now, or else you might get terribly confused.
Even though Mac was well renowned by many for being so unusually mature for one so young, his brilliance and uncanny abilities to escape many a tight spot didn't change one undeniable fact; in the end, he was still only just a kid.
Thus, when he suddenly woke up in the middle of the night, pained by a horrific stomachache, the boy instinctively did what most ailing children would do; go tell "mommy", or in his specific case, the particular redhead who filled that role for him.
"…F-Frankie?" Mac whimpered while knocking softly upon the bedroom door. "Frankie? Are you awake?"
For a few seconds, silence was his only reply. Suddenly, he heard the distinct squeak of a mattress as someone leapt from bed, followed by the clamor of something scrounging about the room frantically.
Unfortunately, the dull pain in his belly kept Mac from taking much note of this, and the second the door began to open he began mumbling apologetically, "I'm sorry for waking you…it's just that…I'm sorry, I-I just don't feel too good, and-"
The instant he spotted the undeniably panicked glint in the emerald eyes of Foster's resident caretaker as she appeared in her opened doorway, the child was immediately struck mute in blind terror. However, his pangs of fright paled in comparison to the overwhelming alarm he felt just a moment later when he realized she was in fact wielding a baseball bat high above her head.
"GO BACK TO HELL FROM WHERE YOU CAME!" Frances "Frankie" Foster shrieked hoarsely like some crimson-haired lunatic before bringing down her improvised weapon with all the force she had.
"Frankie what're you –AUGH!"
Once the young woman realized she had struck only the floor and that her foe seemed to have vanished clean from sight, she yelped in mortified surprise and hastily hefted the bat again as she took a fighting stance.
"Where are you? Where are you?" Frankie cried in a husky quaver as her jade pupils darted about wildly. "You think you can get away that easily? Think again -"
"FRANKIE! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" A disbelieving holler rang out from directly below her, nearly spooking the twenty-three-year-old clear out of her skin.
After her entire body jerked in shock, she looked down and spotted the small child quivering uncontrollably from head to toe as he clung grimly to one of her legs. Instantly her eyes nearly bugged from their sockets and Frankie went frozen with genuine astonishment as she stared blankly at the nine-year-old.
"…M-Mac?" she whispered incredulously as the bat tumbled from her hands.
"No, I'm one of Santa's elves checking for the big fat guy if you've been naughty or nice this year!" Mac snapped sarcastically. "Frankie, what do you think you're-"
"MAC!" The redhead squealed as her bloodthirsty rage abruptly transformed into unbridled elation. Immediately she burst out laughing ecstatically as she bent down and effortlessly snatched the utterly confounded boy up into her arms.
"Aaacck!" Mac gagged as she nearly squeezed the air from his lungs in a loving vice-grip. "Frankie? Frankie, what're you doing? What's going on- EW! Oh, c'mon! Stoppit! Gross!"
Frankie looked like she was on the verge of weeping with happiness as she bombarded his cheeks and forehead with a barrage of wet kisses.
"Mac!" she laughed between sloppy pecks. "I don't believe it! You're all right! Y-y-you're alive!"
"Alive?" The flabbergasted boy repeated bemusedly as he felt her entire body tremble whilst she hugged him close.
"Yes!" Frankie laughed happily. "You're alive! You're alive! You're alive! Oh God, I thought I lost you when…when…wait…wait…hold on a minute, what the…"
After pausing to wipe a tear from her eye, she seemed to recognize her surroundings for the first time, thus bringing the celebrations to an abrupt halt.
"…What on earth…" she murmured appearing genuinely stunned by the fact that she was in the hallway outside her bedroom of all places. While the dumbfounded girl let her gaze wander, she muttered in utter disbelief, "We're…w-we're… home?"
"What? Yes, of course we're home!" Mac yelled. "What's wrong with you? We were still here in Foster's when you first went to bed, why would it be any different when you woke up-"
"…Woke up?" the redhead repeated incredulously. "Wait…wait you mean I…I-I was just…it was all...I..."
Within a flash she finally seemed to snap to her senses, and she was so overcome with immense relief she practically collapsed against the doorframe.
"Oh my goodness!" Frankie gasped heavily as she tried to gather her shattered wits about her. "Oh, jeez…it was just a dream…only a dream…okay, okay…yikes….it was nothing more than a crazy…wow, but what a-"
She abruptly halted her sputtered self-reassurances as a hideous realization struck her like the back of a shovel to the gut.
"AUGH!" The mortified redhead shrieked as her expression distorted with immeasurable horror. "Mac, I…I-I just tried to…with the bat, and….oh my God!"
"Frankie, just what were you doing with– oh, no! Please, don't! No, wait!" Mac yelped as again she started cuddling him furiously.
"I'm sorry! I-I'm sorry! Oh my God, I'm so sorry!" the indescribably embarrassed redhead babbled regretfully. "Pal, I must've scared the living daylights out of you. Oh, jeez! Wait, wait, just what were you doing up anyway? Are you okay? Everything all right?"
The nine-year-old just whined apprehensively as she fretted over him. "Somehow, my problems don't seem that serious anymore…"
"…Hmmm…your forehead's a little warm so…hold on, just lemme….okay, now open wide…" Frankie murmured with a yawn as she inserted the thermometer into the child's mouth as he sat patiently atop the bathroom counter. "…There we go…Okay, hold it there for a few minutes, and we'll see if you're actually sick or if it's just a stomach ache, okay?"
"Mm-hmm." Mac grunted with a nod, and the young woman then promptly hoisted herself upon the countertop to wait alongside him. No sooner had she seated herself though, the child whimpered, shot her a wary glare and quickly started to scoot away.
"Come on, pal." Frankie grumbled as she wrapped a slender arm around his waist and tugged him back to her side with ease. "I told you, I'm sorry about what happened earlier-"
"Does 'sorry' really change the fact that you nearly clubbed over the head?" Mac countered while trying to unsuccessfully squirm out of her hold.
"Mac, do I look like I'm celebrating like there's no tomorrow because I almost gave you a concussion? Right, this is exactly what I need, a nice dirty secret to guilt and embarrass me for all eternity, all on top of feeling like an idiot. Oh what a lucky girl I am." She murmured sarcastically as she tightened her grip. "I'm not exactly giggly over the fact that it took me that long to figure out I wasn't dreaming anymore."
He continued to eye her skeptically, unconvinced her contrition was authentic. "If you're so torn up about it, can you please tell me what made you-"
"Pal, I swear, if I knew it was you right from the start and not the zombie I thought was wandering around in the hallway, I never would've-" she started to clarify.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" The child cried as soon as her explanation took a disturbingly unanticipated turn. "The what doing what now?"
Frankie nearly tumbled from her perch as she leaned over to barely nab the thermometer after it fell from the mouth of the stupefied nine-year-old.
"What am I, speaking Chinese here?" she snapped as she handed it back to him. "I thought you were a zombie wandering outside my room, and I thought that I had to-"
"Say that again?" Mac whined in disbelief.
As soon as she understood just how badly she was confusing him, Frankie grimaced apologetically. "Okay, okay, look…now, I'm pretty sure gonna sound a little weird when I say this, but you need to bear with me here-"
"What do you mean?" he whimpered. The girl hesitated, chewed on her lower lip for a moment as she mulled over how best to explain, then finally began,
"Okay, see, when you knocked on my door, I was having this really intense nightmare where I….well…see, while we know zombie infestation and robots are scary enough, what's probably worst of all is an alliance of the two , trying to…"
It was only after she realized the hopelessly befuddled child was gawking at her like she had grown two extra heads did Frankie realize that she was sounding like a total loony fresh out of the insane asylum. Immediately he cheeks started glowing bright scarlet as she began sputtering frantically. "Ackpth! Wait, I just…see Mac, I was only…I…I-I…"
After fumbling over her words for a few moments, she promptly gave up and covered her face with a humiliated groan. "Auuuggghh! It wasn't supposed to come out like that!"
"I still don't even know what 'it' is!" Mac yelped.
"Okay, okay, do-over! Do-over!" the flustered young woman announced and took a deep breath. "Okay, now in my nightmare, I was…okay, I told you this is going to sound really weird, but…I…I apparently was in the midst of a..."
Frankie grimaced as she quickly became all-too-aware that what had been terrifying to her now sounded like one of the dumbest things she had ever heard of. Nevertheless, she continued on, hoping Mac would understand. "A...a war between humanity and an alliance of…well, like I said robots and…zombies, and-"
"You were what?" Mac cried, swiftly deciding that he had liked it much better when he hadn't a clue what she was talking about.
"Look, you want to know what happened in my dream, right? Well, like it or not, that's what happened." Frankie countered. "Okay, see, the human race was on the verge of extinction, and midway through the dream I joined the resistance so-"
"Why was there a zombie-robot alliance to begin with?" he demanded.
"I don't know, okay?" she admitted snappily. "Maybe because they're both unfeeling and emotionless? I didn't ask to have a that stupid crazy dream! All I know is that I had this whacked-out nightmare where civilization was crumbling, I got recruited into what was left of the US army, and by the end of this god-awful, messed-up dream, I found myself co-piloting a giant four-legged robot through a whole legion of-"
"Huh? I thought you were fighting the robots along with the zombies!" Mac protested.
"Yeah, but to fight the zombies, we had to capture the robots so that we could use them against the…uh…"
It was about then that she unhappily understood the fact that yet again she was sounding like an utter lunatic. Once this nasty truth dawned upon her, she immediately banged a fist in frustration against the bathroom countertop and lamented miserably, "There's no good way to describe a bad dream without sounding crazy! Mac, I'm sorry, this all seriously made perfect sense when I was asleep, but-"
"This is why you tried to attack me out in the hallway?" Mac inquired.
"I know it sounds like something Bloo would make up, and I know its' probably the stupidest thing that you've ever heard. But crazy as it was, it also seemed so real. Too real, honestly! And don't act like you've never had an ultra weird nightmare that intense before!" she shot back. "What about a couple of weeks ago when I let you stay up and watched that cheesy slasher movie? When I had to wake you up from your nightmare later that night, for a second you seriously thought I was-"
"I know I freaked out and tried to get away, I remember! But did I go after you with a baseball bat?" he countered, forcing her to wince uncontrollably.
"I'm sorry about what happened Mac, but you woke me up at a really bad time!" She argued in her defense. "I was frightened and totally confused out of my mind!"
"Does that still really give you any right to-" the nine-year-old doggedly continued to object.
"Crowds upon crowds of zombies, Mac!" she reminded. "Like you wouldn't be freaked-out after that? I know what I almost did to you earlier was awful, and I can't even begin to describe how dumb I feel for not realizing sooner that I wasn't dreaming anymore! I'm sorry, but I was spooked and only half-awake! I couldn't figure out that my dream was over…and I…"
"…And?" Mac repeated as she suddenly trailed off with a violent shudder.
"A-and when the flesh-devouring freaks have taken everything you loved, you'd be a little thirsty for some revenge too!" Frankie tried to snarl, but only managed to force out a half-choked sob.
As she suddenly hugged him a little closer, it rapidly came quite apparent to Mac her absurd nightmare had left her somewhat traumatized, or at least more so than he thought.
"Uh….Frankie?" he whimpered as he could feel her lanky frame start to shake. "Are you okay-"
"I'm sorry…I-I know it was just a dream, but…it was just so real, I don't think in my entire life…I mean very beginning of it was…it w-was awful!" the twenty-three-year-old suddenly blurted out. Once it was obvious how upset she was getting all of a sudden, Mac yelped in panic and hastily tried to calm her.
"Wait, Frankie, it's okay, I didn't-" he sputtered, but he was far too late as her eyes began to tear slightly as she began babbling. "The undead just started storming into Foster's right in the middle of dinner, and…and I tried to help hold them off at first, honest! But…b-but they were everywhere in like, minutes! They were all over the house like flies on a chunk of rotting meat, devouring everyone they could grab with their decomposing hands! Mr. Herriman was the first to go…th-then Grandma as she tried to beat them off with her cane…I-I tried to get to you and Bloo, but…but you guys were standing too close to a window, and…"
It was about this point during her gruesome reminiscence Frankie's mind finally registered the fact that she had not only disintegrated into a distraught wreck over the ludicrously silly dream, but she had forcibly dragged Mac into her lap and wrapped him in a tight squeeze. As if that wasn't bad enough, she had been practically weeping into the bemused child's hair for God only knew how long, making her appear more legitimately insane than ever. As the unpleasant realization dawned upon her, she promptly stopped in mid-sob, and the two descended into an agonizingly long, awkward silence.
"….Are you done yet?" Mac whined as he squirmed about uncomfortably.
Even though her entire face was practically lighting up the room with a brilliant scarlet glow, the thoroughly embarrassed caretaker quickly went to work trying to salvage whatever bit of dignity she had left. While wiping furiously at her slightly puffy red eyes, the young woman sat up straight and removed the thermometer from Mac's mouth, all the while trying to act like nothing enormously absurd had just occurred.
"But it was all just a dream…nothing to go to pieces over, just a dream…a stupid, stupid dream…" she murmured while checking the child's temperature, though whether she was trying to reassure him or herself was really anybody's guess.
"Well…" she sniffled. "It doesn't look like you have a fever or anything… it's probably just a stomachache. You still not feelin' too good, pal?"
Mac didn't utter a single word in protest about how she had so abruptly put an end to any talk of the undead or their robotic collaborators. After all that he had been put through already, the nine-year-old actually sighed in relief as the caretaker tried to bring a sense of normalcy to an otherwise immensely awkward moment.
"Well…" he answered with a gaping yawn. "Kinda, actually…"
Relieved that he had appeared to forgive her, she grinned gratefully and stroked his head as she cooed softly, "Aw, ready to go back to bed? Hmm?"
The question had been unnecessary though, for she hadn't even finished speaking before she had already scooped him up into her arms. Mac however felt no need to argue, as at this point all he wanted was to go back to sleep. As exhaustion swept over him, the boy allowed her to carry him off, and just a minute or so later, she was depositing her half-asleep charge gently into his bed.
"There we go, nice and cozy…" Frankie whispered as she tucked him in. "You want me to stay 'til you fall asleep?"
Mac welcomed the offer with another yawn and a nod, earning him a weak smile and a quick affectionate pat on the head.
"Okay, just lemme take care of something first….be back in a sec." She reassured before carefully tiptoeing back to her own room, temporarily leaving the little one alone.
As his eyelids started to droop shut though, Mac couldn't help but let one lingering concern get the best of him. As he finally closed his eyes, he inquired sleepily as soon as he heard the patter of footsteps, "Frankie?"
"Yeah, pal?" she replied with a yawn as she saunted back into the room.
" …You're not still freaked out at all over that weird dream anymore…are you?" the child murmured cautiously. As soon as he uttered these words, the redhead froze dead in her tracks and paused for a moment.
"Um…" Frankie stammered as she hastily tried to hide the baseball bat behind her back. "N-no, of course not…th-that'd be stupid…what would give you that idea?"
This particular (and undeniably weird) idea unfortunately is based entirely off personal experience.
No one was almost clubbed thankfully, but I did fearfully wield a lamp for a few seconds until I fully woke up and snapped back to my senses. Of course, there came the trouble later when trying to tell others what happened. Sheesh, it always feels like what's terrifying in one's dreams only makes one look like an absolute nutcase in front of others.