I'm still alive! I promise! (Well, by literal definition. I think I've been in mental zombie status for a while.) I AM SO SORRY FOR TAKING SO LONG. College got really overwhelming and then a lot of issues came up (that's life for ya) and I lost my motivation for this story. But then I stumbled upon my writing journal and remembered that I promised I'd finish this story no matter how long it took!
I want to thank each and every one of you for your kind reviews. It was what I really needed to get me back into gear. So finally, after over a year (*cries*) I bring you CHAPTER SIX! It's a little on the short side, but I wanted to leave the ending the way it was so that I could build on it for chapter seven. And you guys have been waiting so patiently and I just couldn't bring myself to make you guys wait another day. I LOVE YOU ALL.
Also, I do not own Fragile Dreams blah-blah-blah let's get on with it.
The following morning and those for months to come started off generally the same for Norman. His excitement for working with Crow had been completely overshadowed by the professor's behavior towards the raven-haired doll. Any interaction with the professor was bound to be short, silent, and tense. It was with frustration that Norman roughly pulled on his lab coat, haphazardly ran his fingers through his dark red locks, and huffed his malcontent on his way downstairs to the basement. It was when the pocket of his coat slapped against his thigh that Norman allowed a small smirk. A flat, square package was firmly nestled in his pocket; a gift to Crow to help him pass the time.
Norman passed through several secured doors and into the eerily lit passageways that he had come to call his second home since taking on his assignment. The security bots still creeped him out; he flinched nearly every time one of them shifted in his direction. The faster he could see Crow, the better.
He had really come to like Crow during the last few months since his "awakening." The doll had become a sort of little brother to him. When left alone Crow would come to Norman with all his questions. And with a gentle smile, the assistant would always answer the curious doll's inquiries.
It seemed like today's visit would be no exception either. Norman saw Crow's face light as the security doors slid open to reveal the taller red-head.
"Norman!" Crow gleefully shouted.
"Hey, Crow. Sleep well?" The doll rolled his eyes and crossed his arms over his puffed chest.
"I guess. Kind of a weird question to ask, don't you think?"
"I know," Norman replied as he ruffled the boy's hair with a laugh.
"Norman?" The bright-eyed boy's curious gaze captured Norman's attention. The older man could never get over the startling green the doll's eyes exhibited. It was almost human. If not for the strange feline pupils, Norman thought, he would easily mistake Crow for a typical teenager. "What happens when you- humans- sleep?"
"Well," Norman began, "Sleep is our bodies' way of repairing itself. After an entire day of-."
Crow gently cut him off. "No, I mean, something in your heads. Dreams? I keep looking through my books but I don't get it. Why don't they happen to me?"
For once, the brainy assistant couldn't offer the boy an answer. How does one go about explaining dreams to an artificial human? Sorry, but computers don't have dreams because you don't have a 'brain' or real 'feelings.' Everything is a fabrication. Yeah, that would fly over well. "Um," Very eloquent, Norman. "Well, it's hard to explain. Sometimes it's for sorting through information, but other times it's just our imaginations."
"What's 'imagination'?" Crow interjected.
Norman nervously cleared his throat. He was not prepared for these kinds of questions. "You know what, I'll get back to you on that one. Have you seen the professor yet?"
"That old geezer? Nah." Norman gave Crow a stern look.
"Don't talk about him like that." Crow just ignored Norman's chastisement and proceeded to stare at the opposite wall; his quivering green eyes were the only movements he made. "You two had another argument, didn't you?" The boy puffed out his cheeks and mumbled a quiet 'no.' "Well, what happened then? You're acting moody."
Crow glanced sideways at Norman and pouted. He hurriedly murmured under his breath as if he were embarrassed.
"I-I," he stuttered, "I zoned out yesterday with the professor during training." Norman could only offer an apologetic look. 'Zoning out' was a term the team had coined since the first incident occurred. For reasons that Norman had yet to confirm (he suspected it had to do with high levels of stress), Crow would revert back to how he was before he short circuited. His green eyes would fade back into the silver-gray they had once been and his boyish personality receded into a robotic one.
"What were you doing before it happened?"
"Stupid professor was trying to pull some circus stunt with me. Had me flipping around the room like a monkey. At least, I was trying to." Crow rested his head on his knees and sighed. "I couldn't time my flip right so I kept falling over. Every time he just shook his head at me. Like I was some broken toy."
Norman thumped his finger across the gloomy boy's forehead. "Don't talk like that-it's not like you."
Crow glared back ferociously. "I can't stand him! I'm doing my best but I guess it's not good enough. And he keeps calling me that stupid name. It pisses me off!" Norman watched worriedly as Crow worked himself up. Suddenly, the doll's gaze dropped and his eyes flickered to gray. Sighing, Norman laid him back down on the bed. He gripped the bridge of his nose in frustration. Crow only managed to zone out when it concerned the Professor. It was like the poor boy couldn't handle the stress.
Only a few minutes passed before Crow returned to normal. He looked at Norman sadly. The older man simply clasped his hand over Crow's shoulder and smiled. Crow couldn't return the gesture. Sensing the boy's perpetual gloominess, Norman decided Crow needed his gift.
"I think the Professor is rubbing off on you. How about a gift to keep your mind off of him?" He couldn't help but chuckle when Crow's face unabashedly revealed its boyishness.
"You guessed it! You really like reading, huh?"
Crow beamed. "Well, duh. And some day, I'm gonna have a room full of books. There'll be so many, they'll cover the floor!"
"No doubt! Here." the assistant slipped his hand into the oversized pocket of his white lab coat and out slid a simple picture book. "It's called 'Pirate Isle.' The pirate captain reminds me of you."
"There are pirates?!" Crow couldn't help but let his jaw drop. He all but snatched it out of Norman's hands in his desperation to get lost in the pages.
"You've probably only got a few minutes before the professor gets here, so don't get too attached. You might have to wait until after training." At the mention of the professor, Crow became disgruntled again.
"Why can't you train with me, Norman?" He pleaded. "Why does it have to be him?"
"I'm just your engineer, Crow," he stated solemnly. "They've got me working on other things since there's not much for me to be doing besides your routine checkups. The Professor is the one in charge of you now."
As if summoned, said professor silently made his entrance. His usual frown adorned his wrinkled and gaunt features. Tension seemed to roll off of the professor and collide with the two younger occupants. Norman gave Crow one last firm squeeze on his shoulder before rising to leave the room. It took all his self-control to not glare at the professor on his way out the door. The Professor followed Norman with a cold gaze. Time froze when the Professor uttered the first words Norman had heard from him since their last argument months prior in the surveillance room.
"Why do you continue to treat him like he's a human?"
"Why do you continue to treat him like he's less than one?"