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.
"Lights out! Lights out! Lights out! Let's go, let's go, c'mon, c'mon, c'mon! Bedtime, bedtime, bedtime!"
As the nightgown-clad young woman repeatedly flicked the light switch and barked aggressively like some redheaded drill sergeant, her startled pajama-garbed charge immediately dropped his book and murmured confusedly, "Huh?"
"What, am I speaking Russian here?" she snapped. "When I say bedtime, I mean bedtime, bucko! C'mon, let's go! Let's go!"
"Okay! Okay! Okay!" Mac yelped and hastily drew up his sheets before shooting Frances "Frankie" Foster a befuddled look. "Jeez, Frankie, what's wrong-"
"What's wrong? What's wrong?" Frankie answered pushily as she left the lights off and sauntered over, gesturing wildly all the while as she jabbered. "Just look at you! You're still not asleep, and it's Thursday night, a school night, for crying out loud! What are you, nocturnal? I don't know what you think, but I'm not raising you to be an owl! C'mon, shut those eyes, time for sleep! Let's go, let's go, let's go, let's...uh...let's...um...pal? You okay?"
Once she noticed that the flummoxed child was gawking mutely at her as if she was utterly out of her mind, it was only then that she came to the shocking realization about how absurdly assertive she was being over bedtime, of all things. Once she became aware of this, immediately she ground to a halt, clamped her mouth shut, and struggled to recollect herself. After taking a couple long, deep breaths, she then tried to plant on a weak smile for his sake.
"I…I'm sorry pal." Frankie murmured shamefully, with cheeks burning with a bright scarlet blush as she leaned over to tuck him in. "I-"
Baffled out of his mind by her peculiar behavior, immediately Mac recoiled a little and sputtered "What was that all about?"
"That?" she replied, trying her best to sound calm and collected as she bounced a little in place, as if she simply couldn't control it. "Nothing, nothing it all! It's just…well, it's only…"
After taking a deep sigh and breaking out into an embarrassed frown, the inexplicably energetic caretaker began to explain, "I'm sorry, it's just…I just think it's...see, I was about to call it a night just an hour ago, when suddenly Fuzz-Butt got on my case about how I forgot to take care of some laundry I needed to get to today, and…well, I was pretty wiped out by that point, but the rabbit just wouldn't get off my back about it, so to help me get it done, I…look, it's something I've been meaning to try for a while for such situations, and today was the day I finally remembered to buy a case of 'Red Steer' so I could see if-"
"Wait, you mean you just chugged an entire energy drink right before bed?" Mac asked incredulously.
Immediately she broke out into an apologetic grimace and replied, "Well…it was only one...at first, but…I dunno, it didn't really kick in fast enough, and...I kinda got a little impatient, so…uh…"
"Hold on! You drank two energy drinks before bed?" the boy cried, wide-eyed in dismay. "No wonder you're bouncing off the walls!"
"Okay, okay, so I have a little bit of a buzz going right now, okay?" she conceded as she tucked him in snugly. "Don't worry about it, though, I'll be just fine by tomorrow. I know I'm hyped up at the moment, but you know how these things work; it'll wear off soon, and I'll probably crash in like, an hour tops."
"I hope so." Mac replied as she leaned over and planted a quick kiss on his forehead, with the reek of the sugary drink still lingering heavily on her breath.
I'm really sorry about being so snappy like that. I'm sorry, I guess I'm just way too jittery for my own good right now."she sincerely apologized as she ruffled his hair. "But I'll definitely be back to normal by morning, okay?"
"Okay…" the child agreed warily as he sat up a little to give her a tentative good-night hug. "G'night Frankie."
"Goodnight, Mac," she replied as she returned the embrace and took care to reassure him one more time, "Don't worry, I'll be fine…"
Mac had to be fair about this; after all, she didn't mean to lie right to his face. In all honesty, the night before she most likely thought she was telling him the straight truth. Unfortunately, this acknowledgment did little to ease his horror when he arose that morning and headed into the kitchen to find-
"Frankie!" the child shouted inadvertently in dismay the instant he walked into the kitchen and saw his guardian's frighteningly pitiful condition. Immediately, the young woman glanced up from the cereal boxes she was unloading from a cabinet with a start to show off a pair of revoltingly bloodshot eyes, highlighted by deep circles and complete with bags underneath that almost sagged all the way to her chin.
"Huh?" the exhausted caretaker muttered wearily as recognition took a few moments too many to set in. "Oh, hey! G'morning, pal, how are-"
Before she could get another word further as she set the boxes upon the nearest countertop, the horrified little boy bolted over to her side and demanded, "Did you get any sleep at all last night?"
"Yeah, course I did!" she instinctively answered to try and reassure him before correcting herself with a slight frown, "Uh…well...maybe…"
"No, no you didn't!" Mac quickly saw through the outrageously obvious lie. "Those stupid energy drinks kept you up all night, didn't they?"
"Well…" she muttered as she averted her gaze like a guilty child and scuffed the floor with a blue sneaker. "Kinda, but-"
"They did!" the child accused as he jabbed a finger at her. "Just look at you! You're a total mess!"
"All right!" she finally admitted crankily to the nine-year-old prosecutor. "I get it!I get it! Yesterday wasn't one of my best ideas, okay? So I really didn't that much sleep-"
"You look like you didn't sleep at all!" he protested. "You can barely keep your eyes open! Frankie-"
"I'm sorry, this is seriously the first time I've tried using energy drinks at all! I had no idea this stuff would totally whack out my system like this!" she replied defensively. "Seriously, why it kept me up for so long, I don't know, but-"
"Don't apologize about it! Frankie, please," Mac actually begged as he grabbed hold of her sweater and gazed pleadingly into her eyes. "Just stop, and go take a nap, or something, at least.You look terrible."
After stifling a yawn, Frankie swiftly understood it was rather stupid to try and argue with someone who was only caring for her health; and after her basically sleepless night, she did feel like death warmed up, to put it delicately.
"Okay, okay, you win." She replied with a weak grin as she tousled his hair. "As soon as breakfast is cleaned up and you're out the door, I'll lie down for a bit, all right?"
"Promise?" he asked imploringly as he tugged on her jacket.
She chuckled and nodded sincerely. "Cross my heart, and hope to die, pal…"
Once the clocks struck three o'clock in the afternoon, it didn't take long for a certain child to enter through Foster's front doors with his usual announcement of, "I'm home!"
"Hiiiiiiiiii, Frankie!" Mac's pigtailed companion squealed excitedly after she skipped in along and quickly noticed the familiar caretaker sweeping up in the foyer. "Howya doing? How's your day so far? Huh? How's everything?"
As soon as she heard the children, Frankie glanced up and erupted into a toothy smile that swept across from ear to ear before she bolted over to greet them. "Oh, hey guys!"
"Hiya, Frankie!" Goo chirped as she bounced up and down excitedly, as she was apt to do after standing anywhere for more than a few seconds. "So how are you? Good? Not good? Okay? Sorta okay? Anything crazy happen here during the day, or just a totally boring day of mopping and dusting and washing and-"
"Fine, fine, just fine!" Frankie burst out chattering like an over-caffeinated squirrel. "Well, okay, actually, because you just wouldn't believe the day I've had! After Mac left for school, almost immediately, like literally five minutes later the rabbit was totally on my case about library, the living room, the TV room, you name it and according to him they were so filthy it made him sick to his stomach, y'know how he gets his underwear in a knot about these things, and he gave me the whole spiel about how it was my duty as resident caretaker, conditions in those rooms were unacceptable, like…"
As the words gushed so quickly out of the unusually energetic woman's mouth she was barely comprehendible, Goo actually clammed up and went completely mute with confusion as she struggled to figure out if the usually kind-hearted redhead was openly mocking her. The uncanny imitation however wasn't intentional, as Mac unhappily concluded swiftly once her saw that her emerald eyes were nearly the size of saucers, and still disturbingly bloodshot to boot.
"Oh, no!" he clapped a hand to his forehead and moaned dismally. "No, no, no, no, no!"
"What? What's wrong? What's the matter, pal?" Frankie turned his way and inquired fretfully. "What, did you have a bad day at school? A tough test today? Did-"
"You had more of those stupid energy drinks, didn't you?" Mac accused with a fierce glare. Instantaneously she fell silent for a second, chuckled nervously, and began searching for an excuse as her jade eyes constantly darted about, never still for an instant.
"I…well, I just…um…I…I-I only…" she stammered before admitting guiltily, "Yeah...a couple…"
"She what?' Goo, totally new to this dilemma, asked as her head spun in bafflement.
"A couple?" Mac meanwhile repeated in horror. "Why? I thought it was clear that those things make you go totally haywire! If you didn't get an ounce of sleep last night, then why would you-"
"I know, I know, I know!" she acknowledged shamefully. "I'm sorry! It's just…like I said before, as soon as you walked out the door this morning, Mr. Herriman unloaded like, a truckload of chores on me and…I know I badly needed some rest, but see it's just so hard for me to catch up even if I fall behind only a little, and…I had so much to do, but I was so tired, I thought I was going to keel over any second unless I-"
"Whoa! Frankie, you're...you're twitching an' stuff!" Goo yelped as she pointed out the erratic tick the woman now possessed.
Frankie grimaced and responded hesitantly, "Uh…yeah…that's been there for about…the last hour, I think, and-"
She tried to put it as gently as possible to keep them from worrying, but to no avail whatsoever as Mac erupted furiously, unable to take it any longer. "Frankie, you need to settle down! You need to get some rest!"
"Mac, please, I-" she tried to protest before he swiftly cut her off.
"Nuh-uh!" he scolded. "You need to knock it off with those stupid energy drinks, and just lie down! You're totally out of control, you can't sit still for a minute, not to mention getting this hyped up makes you way too aggressive-"
"I remember what happened last night just fine, thank you very much! Look, I know that wasn't pretty, but I don't get that bad when-" she tried to defend herself before a familiar voice echoed over the house loudspeakers, abruptly interrupting the argument in the foyer.
"Miss Frances? Miss Frances, quickly! I need to see you in my office right this-"
At the very sound of Mr. Herriman's voice, in an instant the young woman suddenly seemed to transform into a bloodthirsty beast right before the children's very eyes. Suddenly she clenched her knuckles, narrowed her jade eyes, curled her lips and barred her teeth into a vicious snarl before she whirled about and shrieked furiously at the top of her lungs.
"DO YOU EVER SHUT UP?" she screamed ferociously like a raging maniac while she shook a tightly clenched fist furiously. "CRAM IT UP YOUR CRAMHOLE, RABBIT!"
Dead silence followed for near ten seconds straight afterwards in reply to her outburst. Finally though, Mr. Herriman could be heard answering in an uncharacteristically timid manner, "Uh…n-never mind…carry on..."
Breathing hard, and looking like she was ready to maim someone, Frankie turned back to the mortified children. Once she read the terror stamped over their expressions and saw that they had scuttled back to a safer distance, as if by magic her anger instantly dissipated as horror began coursing through her.
"Oh…oh, God!" she yelped in panic. "I just…oh you're right! These stupid energy drinks are turning me into a total psycho!"
"N-no, not that!" Mac cried as he bravely took a few steps forward. "It's just…well, see what we're talking about? Frankie, you really, really just need to lie down, or-"
"Nuh-uh, you just saw what happen! Not when I'm this wired, I can't!" Frankie countered as she trembled uncontrollably from the copious amounts of energy surging through every ounce of her body. "I-I…I just…oh wait, guys, please, don't freak or anything!"
She only had to take another glance at the alarm in their bulging eyes, before her motherly nature and urge to reassure took hold of her as she struggled to stay in control. "Look, look, I know I'm a little hopped up, okay? But…uh….okay, okay, how about this? How about we go into the kitchen, take every energy drink left in the house, and then dump them all down the drain. How about that? Then I'll be okay-"
"Okay? You'll be okay? Not like I haven't heard that before!" Mac snapped as Goo asked the twitchy redhead nervously,
"Do we…uh…do we call a doctor, or…I mean…not that you're mean at all or anything, usually you're supper-super nice and stuff, but…like Mac said, you're being totally way over-aggressive here…like, even for you, 'cuz now you're all super-super mega cranky and-"
"No, please, I'm telling the truth this time!" Frankie begged as she dropped to her knees. "I mean, let's be real about this; how much longer can I possibly keep going at this rate without anymore sugary drinks to keep me going? I'll probably be down and out early tonight, at the latest."
"But…" Mac argued, not sure whether he could trust her at this point. "I…I don't know…"
"Pal, check out these bags under my eyes." She demanded. "I'm working off precisely zero hours of sleep here; do I look like I have it in me to stay up another whole night?"
"I…I guess not…" he agreed extremely reluctantly, unable to peel his eyes off her unsettling twitch. "But-"
"Mac, it's only a couple cheap energy drinks too many, not a magic elixir or anything. These things are gonna wear off at some point, aren't they?" she pointed out.
"Yeah, but…" Mac murmured before inquiring warily, "You sure?"
"Mac, I mean it this time." She declared firmly as she gave each intensely concerned child a reassuring pat on the head before leading them into the kitchen. "Everything's going to be all right…"
If seriously he had to deal with just one more broken promise, just one more, Mac honestly thought he was going to go absolutely insane. It didn't really help that he had barely gotten a wink of rest that night so far either, as the numbers on his alarm clock reminded as they blared some God-forsaken hour after midnight. Try as he might to doze off, someone continued persistently to keep him wide-awake, and he was unfortunately too sure who it was as it paced about in the hallway outside his room, tried to watch some TV in her own bedroom, or did whatever on earth she was up to at the moment. Finally, after trying to ignore it all for Lord knows how long with his jaw clenched tightly in frustration, it was just too much to lie down and bear.
"Please…don't be what I think it is…" he groaned as he ripped his sheets off, leapt to the floor, and exited his bedroom, only to immediately confirm his suspicions.
"Hiya, pal! What're you still doing up?" Frankie greeted calmly with an uncharacteristically perky smile and prominent bulging veins in her eyes, making it clear she was officially out of her mind with exhaustion. At first, Mac was only able to gawk slack-jawed at the bucket by her side and the mop in the nightgown-clad young woman's hands.
"...What are you still doing up?" he demanded, bug-eyed with horror. With an almost crazed chuckle, the dangerously sleep-deprived yet over-energetic caretaker answered in a fast-paced babble.
"Just a little pre-bedtime cleaning, that's all, seeing as I'm having a teensy bit of trouble falling asleep, just more energy than I know with what to do with, I guess! It's okay, it was just a bit of an accident because...well, funny thing, really, because I thought I was drinking a soda, but it was only by the time I was almost done that I realized we missed one of the energy drinks…or two or…well, I didn't check the can because I was so sure we had dumped them all out, and I was pretty thirsty-"
"Oh….no…." Mac groaned wearily in deep dismay. "Frankie…"
"It's okay, so I'm a bit buzzed again!" she jabbered on, still smiling brightly like a maniac. "At first I was a little cranky, but then I thought to myself, or maybe it's the energy drinks talking, but anyway I was all hey, seeing as I'm still up, why don't a get a bit of a head start on my chores for tomorrow? I mean, that's a good idea, isn't it? So, first I laid out everything for breakfast in the dining room already, then I remembered how dirty the floors were getting here, and I…"
It was plain to any fool that the exhausted young woman had more than enough energy at this point; whether she had one ounce of sanity left at that moment however was a completely different story. This was getting absolutely ridiculous...no, scratch that; this had already gotten ridiculous after two energy drinks had managed to keep her up the entire night before. Now, it was just heartbreakingly pitiful, for at this rate it looked as if the resident caretaker was never going to sleep a wink ever again. As she continued babbling on, Mac's last shred of patience vanished into oblivion as the cranky little boy could take the torment she was herself through no longer, and finally, he snapped.
"That does it! That does it!" he threw up his arms and shouted in his frustration before stomping right by the young woman.
"Where are you off to?" she asked confusedly, never pausing her frenzied cleaning for an instant.
"Bathroom!" the child snarled as he stormed off out of sight.
"Oh, all right!" she chirped before striking up humming a slapdash tune as she went back to work, mopping away vigorously like a redheaded machine as the minutes seemed to fly by in her stupor.
Thus, to her it felt like only a brief moment had passed before a low growl interrupted her. "I'm sorry about this, but... look, you've left me no choice, you know that?"
"Huh?" she murmured in puzzlement at the sudden threat. "Mac? What on earth are you-"
She spotted the half-filled spoon of tiny white crystals in the boy's hand, and immediately she went temporarily dumbstruck with horror; although she couldn't exactly think straight in her exhaustion, at least she was able to remember that her charge and pure sugar simply did not mix, period.
"M-Mac?" she whimpered as she dropped her mop and cautiously began to approach the grim-faced little boy as if he were a ticking time bomb. "Pal? What are you-"
"Trust me, this is for you own good." The child announced. Rather than go straight ahead and execute his plan, he paused to ponder one last time whether this really was a wise decision or not. After all, when the idea entered his mind a few hours before, right then and there he decided this particular plan was to be used only as a last-ditch effort. Then again...considering the situation, he really didn't have any other options. After unhappily concluding though that desperate times called for desperate measures, he shut his eyes, opened his mouth wide and unceremoniously gulped the spoonful of sugar all down at once, much to Frankie's indescribable terror as she lunged for him.
Needless to say, the caretaker's hoarse screech of dismay, plus the sudden burst of commotion that immediately followed, nearly gave the Head of Foster's herself a heart-attack as the horrendous racket echoed all the way down several floors to the main staircase, which Madame Foster had just started to ascend with her midnight snack in hand.
"Oh good gracious!" the old woman exclaimed her entire body jerked violently in surprise at the clamor. "What in the world is going on up there-AUGH!"
She quickly let loose with a piercing shriek of shock as she was nearly plowed over by the two blurs that blasted by her and right into the foyer. Quivering from head to toe, Madame Foster shakily turned around, and almost instantly became frozen in outright horror once she laid eyes on the spectacle below.
She sincerely had no clue what was more alarming; the fact that a certain little boy was hopped up on sugar, or the fact that while the temporarily crazed child raced around like a maniac, for the first time he actually seemed to have finally met his match. Usually, whenever such a catastrophe occurred, there was little to do other than wait out the storm, for trying to catch Mac was an impossibility at best when he was rocketing about and effortlessly mowing down anyone foolish enough to get in his way. That is, that's how it usually was until now.
"You get back here! You here me? Now! Now! I mean now! Now, Mac Foster! Now, now, now, now, now!" Frankie jabbered furiously as she zipped about in pursuit, with only a few inches separating them.
As she grabbed wildly, with her arms temporarily transforming into a pair of blurs, Mac only turned around and snarled like a rabid beast as he tried to flee. However, she if anything had just as much superfluous energy burning in her veins as he did, and immediately she picked up the pace and continued the epic chase. All the while Frankie jabbered like a madwoman, with the words pouring from her mouth so quickly she was barely comprehensible.
"Now means now, mister! Not later, not whenever you feel like it, not when the Queen of Denmark says so, I mean now or else I swear I'm gonna…"
Astonished by the awesome sight, Madame Foster at first could do little other than gawk wordlessly as the pair raced around the foyer, going around and around and around until finally with a howl Frankie pounced and caught the hyperactive child in a spectacular flying tackle. Hyperactive to the point where he was out of his mind, Mac howled his displeasure heavenwards before he began fighting like mad to free himself as if his very life depended on it. However, for once the sides were even, and thrash, kick, scream, and swipe as much as the child might, Frankie just battled equally furiously to hang on as she chattered angrily.
"Stay still! Stay still! Stay still, stay still, stay still, stay still, stay still! You're out of your mind if you think I'm going to let you run amuck like some psychopath, you hear me? Oh, you're so gonna get it by the time we're through here, uh-huh! I thought this completely clear, you're never allowed to have sug-OW! Why you little-OW! OW!"
Growling and spitting like a rabid gremlin, Mac only started tugging furiously at her ponytail, earning him a couple fierce slaps on the hand as the clash of titans raged on with no end in sight.
While they continued battling, Madame Foster finally attempted to cry out, "F-Frankie? Dearie?"
"I got it, I got it!" her granddaughter immediately snapped as she attempted to restrain the boy in a headlock while they rolled about, locked in combat. "It's okay, Grandma, he got a little sugar in his system, but I got him! I got him! I-YOW! No biting! I mean it Mac, if you don't-OW! Okay, now you're asking for it! I swear, I'll snap right back, you hear me? So help me, I will!"
While the young woman tried to restrain the nearly lethally hyper child from snapping at her again, her ashen-faced grandmother tried to inquire, "Frankie dear, why on earth is-"
"I SAID EVERYTHING'S UNDER CONTROL!" Frankie erupted into a ferocious spine-chilling roar, even though Mac had now started to drag her across the floor as he howled like a wild beast, despite the fact she had wrapped her legs around a chair to try and anchor herself.
Immediately, the terribly spooked old woman began clumsily backing up the stairs, muttering timidly as she fled for dear life, "Er…g-good night, then!"
"….Aw, now isn't that precious?" Madame Foster couldn't help but gush sweetly at the sight.
Scratching his head, her frankly bemused creation tentatively agreed, "Uh…if you say so, Madame."
The two continued on observing the odd spectacle they had found smack in the middle of the foyer. At the moment, it was rather difficult to believe that the pair slumbering at their feet while bathed in the warm daylight had been locked in fierce combat just the night before. For now, Frankie lay curled up tightly into a ball, sleeping as deeply and soundly as could be, as did the snoring little boy lying snuggled up against her and wrapped securely in her arms.
Grinning, Madame Foster leaned over and gave Mac a gentle pat on the head. "Such a daring little creature; it at least he finally get her to settle down."
"That I won't argue, and I for one am quite glad that Miss Frances won't be so frightfully temperamental anymore. Nor will we hopefully see that horrendous twitch anytime soon." Mr. Herriman added thankfully, before inquiring, "Um, Madame? Don't you think that maybe we should finally rouse them from-"
His wizened creator was quick to respond with stern glower and a prod to his foot with her cane. "Oh Herriman, really! Can't you just let them catch up on their rest finally? Besides, you were the one who kept piling on that work upon Frankie in the first place-"
"Yes, yes, I know, but…well…" he protested gently as he checked his pocket watch. "But ma'am, it's…well…we've checked on them numerous times already since we both awoke, and...well, it's almost noon. Shouldn't we at least try and wake them up now?"
He did have a point. As Madame Foster paused to mull this over for a moment, her gaze wandered to a nearby a vase of flowers resting upon a small table. At least, what had been a table and vase of posies before it had all been nearly smashed into shards and splinters at some point during last night's pitched struggle. She gazed at the wreckage for a few seconds before her granddaughter suddenly stirred a little in her sleep.
Immediately, Madame Foster stumbled back a little with a start, warily peered at her grandchild, glanced back at her imaginary friend, then finally answered, "You can try…"