27 July 2016, 5:47 a.m.

Maybe it was the heavy shuffling of her feet or the shrieking crash that followed them upstairs that brought Bertha to look up worriedly, but Frankie wasn't alarmed. He merely nodded at his fellow co-worker and stepped up the stairs calmly, raising an eyebrow as he watched the light spill out of her opened bedroom.

In a second he was standing in her doorway, staring on as she scathingly glared at him and tried to wipe off the tears already staining her cheeks. "What?"

He shrugged. "It's unbecoming when you start throwing books and CDs all around the house." His eyes darted down to the slumped articles of clothing and the shattered bottle of perfume. "—And your birthday presents as well, apparently."

Alison's cheeks flushed a wee pinker as she joined his gaze at the remnants of what her father had lovingly given. "No," she growled back, sniffing slightly. "It's unbecoming when your own father trapped you inside a mansion." And she threw herself onto the bed, kicking the ruined tangles of gift ribbons down onto the floor.

He sighed – made his way in, pausing in the space by her side before reaching out to brush the top of her head lightly. He could feel her shiver underneath his touch, and the satisfied smirk that sprang out to his lips was almost unavoidable.

"I mean—" she muttered. "I'm 18. I saw those movies – I know that when you're 18, you get an ID, full recognition as an adult—"

"Age doesn't have anything to do with the cure, Alison," he breathed softly, sitting down beside her.

She scowled. "Bullshit – you keep telling me how I wasn't grown enough for it—"

"Grown. As in mentally," he countered, letting the tip of his fingers rush down to the bare skin of her cheek. "Your father has his own reasons."

Alison looked up at him, and felt only the rush of suffocating warmth as he leaned in close and granted her a soft kiss on the forehead. It could've only been an illusion of her head, a mess up of her chaotic mind, because a second passed and he was gone from the room. But Alison cupped one hand against the spot on her forehead and she could still feel the rough skin of his lips against her – cold like the dead, but very much alive.

And it sent shivers down her spine.

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27 July 2019, 6:23 p.m.

"Mr. Bromley, it's time, sir."

Charles needed no indication from the soldier to know that it is, indeed, time. When Alison was little he used to worry in the slightest sense that she would forget about him. But 14 past years had taught him that he had a loyal, loyal daughter. His perception as a higher state in the food chain crudely explained this blind loyalty as a result of her being human. So weak and unknowing. So naïve and easily brainwashed.

That's why he had so patiently waited all these years to get her transformed. Gathering his most loyal subjects, bribing them, devising a safe mechanism so his human daughter to be guarded by a series of vampires were not easy tasks, but he had to get it all done for an eternity with Alison. He had longed to transform her three, two years ago, but soldier's constant hindrance to the decision simply put him off.

"She's not ready yet," he would convince the older vampire, and then supported the whole argument with a string of – truth be told – very persuasive reasons. Things like 'Alison's not mature enough' and 'I don't think Alison's development will be enough to brace her against the vampire society.'

Bromley trusted the soldier – but not wholly. He had learnt over his years that no one could be taken lightly when it comes to loyalty. There are dogs that would lap anything for their boss like Frankie Dalton – but tweak a few factors and any military dog would've broken off their leash. Bromley only took his advice because he saw how his daughter reacted to the outbreak many, many years ago, and he didn't want it to happen again. He didn't want to bother himself with erasing all the taming she had gone through in that secluded mansion. And he saw reason, too, to wait. As the prime CEO and an unofficial leader of the country, he was exposed to many reports and news. The thing that particularly concerns him is the increasing deaths of physically young vampires, having been stuck in the depression that they will never be able to grow and experience new things. As much as he wanted his daughter to stay the little girl that used to cry when he drove away to work, he didn't want to limit her opportunities. Much less drive her to suicide.

He had to give it to his loyal subjects down at the mansion, though, for keeping her in check for fourteen long years and answered all her critical questions. Why did daddy keep me here? Why can't I go out in the sun anymore? Why does no one grow older? What's this 'cure' daddy keeps talking about?

Bromley would love to sit down and explain it all, but he just didn't have the time. Business calls. The whole society begs for his presence in the high office. Little sacrifices have to be made, but he keeps check that his goal remains intact. He prided himself by telling Frankie and Bertha to fabricate a story about the world going to hell and the environment abolished into a dead, hot spit of dirt – the sun this dangerous ball of fire that scorches everything in its sight. The only thing saving humankind is the cure – the vampire strain. Alison started getting suspicious as she grew up, but she's still human. And humans are very easy to manipulate.

It was ironic how Bromley found himself occasionally appreciating his daughter's lesser state.

"Sir, the monitor's online."

Charles shifted in the black leather seat as the vehicle started to move. "Connect it to Mr. Dalton."

"Yes, sir."

It was time for another yearly evaluation.

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27 July 2019, 7:42 p.m.

"Twenty one years old!" she whooped in the kitchen. The music was blasting in full volume in the background, and though Bertha grumbled about it, she didn't turn it off forcefully. That'd be a first time.

"I get it, the mistress is all grown up," she mocked, but Alison saw that she was smiling. "Who am I kidding. Happy birthday, kiddo."

Alison grinned. She still couldn't believe that it had been, what, 14 years since she lived in this mansion? 14 years living with Bertha, Frankie, and the occasional tutor that came around to teach her. Sure it had been hard – she felt lonely and all that, but it always turned out okay. They always back her up, keep her company. Especially Frankie.

"Must be excited to see your father today," Bertha said.

To be honest, Alison hadn't really thought of that. So far his father's visits had ended in quite teary endings, with her either crying in front of her father, or with Frankie having to step in because she wouldn't stop cursing at her father's selfishness. She still wondered until now how her father managed to keep a straight face along all the commotion.

"I guess I do miss him," she muttered, and realized it was true. You can't really shake off the filial bond even when you can only see your only parent once a year. The only thing she dreaded from his father was that solemn look as he softly rejected her attempt to get the 'cure', turn his back on her, and drive off to infinity. The infinity she was starting to lose hope of ever seeing.

But it's okay, she cheered herself. Even if he left you again, you still have Frankie. And Bertha. Living in your own little infinity.

The footsteps that resonated through the staircase broke her train of thought. In a flick of a moment the noise had been replaced by a very impeccably uniformed Frankie, as always holding his loyal black bottle and sipping the liquid carefully. Alison quickly noticed that Bertha had gone to the pantry for God knows what. Having breakfast, perhaps – she always was strict about privacy.

"When will dad come?" she asked the soldier.

"Eight," he answered curtly, taking another huge draught of his liquid. He seemed acutely aware of her feelings. Then again, when was he not?

"I'm nervous," she declared anyways. It was a wonder how he managed to coerce everything out of her without a single word. "I know, I know – he'll give me the cure, blah blah blah…" She raised her hands up in resignation. "I just don't know how to react, no matter what his decision is."

Frankie's face remained indifferent to her statement. The glass that was glued to his lips, though, now left its loyal position and she watched as he slowly moved to the radio blasting in the background and pressed a button. For a second she thought he had switched it off, but the speakers started humming again soon afterwards with a drumming upbeat tune.

"You used to dance to this," he said, quirking an eyebrow at her. His hand made a subtle 'shooing' gesture, probably indicating that she should do so again.

Alison stared at him in mock disbelief. "Are you commanding me to dance here like an idiot?"

He shrugged. "It used to cheer you up."

She almost laughed at this. "Well, Mr. Dalton, I hardly think that ordering me to do some chicken dance is going to cheer me up," she said, jumping to her feet. "Besides, if I am to dance, you're coming with me."

He merely blinked, but she knew she had caught him slightly off-guard. With one hand she grabbed him (slightly marveling that he wasn't struggling back) and slid his arm around her waist while she entwined hers around his neck. The soldier didn't seem too happy, but he didn't complain.

"It's a fast-paced song," he mumbled as she rocked them into a slow, waltz-like movement.

"I thought you wanted to cheer me up," she grinned. "I get to do what I like."

He sighed, but complied to several more minutes of the routine, moving around the kitchen awkwardly asynchronous to the beat of the music. It made Alison laugh a few times, and she was delighted to see that he could let go of his overbearing mask and smile too.

"It'll be fine," he muttered, glancing down at her.

"You always say that," she countered, eyeing him skeptically. "It was never fine in the end."

"If it wasn't fine, you wouldn't be here dancing in the kitchen," he retorted. "You'd still be in your room moping and bashing the entire house furniture until I was forced to tie you down."

"I'm not that bad," she hissed.

"Says you."

"Says factual observation."

Frankie uncoiled her arms from around his neck, and smiled crookedly as his fingers dug into her palms. "Are you talking back to me now, little girl?"

The sting of the last two words pounded her in the chest, but she was willing to ignore it over the stone cold face that was now implicitly taunting her. She had always lost in his mind games, forced to duck down her head until he smirked victoriously and sauntered away. She'd show him how much she'd grown.

"What – afraid you can't think up of a comeback, soldier?" she said, returning the smirk. She noticed that the music had long ended, replaced by a pregnant silence tinged occasionally by the frequent noise of dishes clanging in the pantry.

Frankie took a step forward, never dropping his steely gaze, and Alison bumped back against the dining table, still resolutely holding her gaze on his. She momentarily stole a glance at the contours of his lips, and the spell of the moment took her.

She leaned in, took advantage of his apparent absence of mind, and claimed his lips.

It was the first kiss she had ever experienced, and truthfully she couldn't quite put her finger on how it felt. It was over very quickly; she only leaned in for a peck, in fear of angering the soldier. He looked shell-shocked, she observed. And he wasn't smiling anymore.

The buzz from the intercom broke the tension, and Alison exhaled, in relief, as Frankie looked away and left without a word. She hadn't even realized that she had been holding her breath all that time. Immediately she sagged against the edge of the table, trying to absorb what she had done. Ruined her relationship with him? Looked like an idiot in front of him? God, he's not going to tell her father about this, is he?

She started nibbling on one nail, as she always did when she's nervous. Bertha sprung out at that moment, hobbling hurriedly.

"What are you waiting for?" she said to Alison, perplexed. "Come on! Your father's here."

Only then did her attention come back to senses, and she realized that her chance of escaping the mansion was, once again, here.

She couldn't decide which of the two matters she should be more worried about.

A/N:

Long time no see. Yes, I am still alive. I've actually written this chapter many, many months ago during school. When I re-read it, though, I find it overwhelmingly wordy and kind of… awkward to read? I don't know. There's one deleted scene that I spent hours on, though, and I'm going to post it once this fic has ended.

I'm not proud of this chapter, but it's all I can do with school and SATs looming in the future. I hope this doesn't disappoint you. Chapter 3's halfway done – I'll make sure to post it soon.