mrsronweasley: (MCR - Frank Iero at your service)
mrsronweasley ([personal profile] mrsronweasley) wrote2011-11-20 11:10 am
Entry tags:

Fic: "The Way They Fly", #20, NC-17, Frank/Gerard

Title: "The Way They Fly"
Author: [livejournal.com profile] mrsronweasley
Prompt #: 20
Pairing: Frank/Gerard
Rating: NC-17
Summary: (Prompt) Frank is a robot. He is in love with his genius creator, Gerard, who doesn't realize that Frank is capable of real feelings. Frank starts breaking down, getting ill, and Gerard doesn't know what to do to fix it - all his methods are completely useless, none of the programming explains why this is happening to his Frank - but it's because Frank has a broken heart. :( (17,800 words)
Warnings: none
Notes: With huge thanks to the prompter for the ~inspiration, first of all (ILUUUUUU), and more huge, ENORMOUS thanks to both [livejournal.com profile] brooklinegirl & [livejournal.com profile] mistresscurvy for cheerleading like crazy and betaing the crap out of this fic. I definitely wouldn't have been able to do this without them. ♥

Also, thank you to my FAVORITE MODS, and also everybody who has participated in the [livejournal.com profile] yobrothatssick challenge. You guys are AMAZING.



*

"Open your eyes."

Gerard watched as Frank's eyelids fluttered open. Gerard beamed.

"Good! That's excellent."

Gerard sat back and took a drag of his smoke. He'd based his droid's appearance on an old photograph he'd seen in the university archives, back when photographs were 2D. Something about the primitive image spoke to him. Sure, he'd tweaked it a bit – he thought this droid needed shorter hair, and it really did look better dark. He'd guessed on most of the body, since the t-shirt and jeans were so baggy in the original image.

Gerard twitched with the feeling of success, the wheels of his chair squeaking underneath him. "Who are you?"

"I'm Frank, prototype of Android 2300-D." Frank's voice was slightly nasal, just like Gerard had imagined it when he'd built the voice-box.

Gerard laughed and nodded. "You sure are, Frank." He squinted and tilted his head this way and that. Sitting on a bench in front of him, Frank was perfect. Gerard had left the upper left portal open for now, just to see if Frank needed tweaking, but once he was ready to close it, nobody would be able to tell, apart from him.

But first, some preliminary tests.

"How old are you, Frank?" Gerard ashed into his abandoned coffee.

"Born today, although it's taken you a year to complete me." Frank paused, and even Gerard found himself surprised by how realistic that blink was. "Also, it would have taken anybody else roughly two and a half to three years to do what you have done in one."

Gerard laughed in delight. "That's right! You're a quick learner, Frank."

"Thank you, Gerard." When Frank smiled, Gerard found himself mesmerized with joy.

He had done it. He had done it. He had completed Frank, and Frank was perfect.

Gerard reached out and touched the warm portal of Frank's left pec before pressing it closed. "How do you feel?" he asked, wheeling himself back so he could look at Frank's entire body. He'd done a hell of a job on that, too, if he did say so himself. He tried not to look below the waist, as if Frank had a modicum of modesty, anyway.

"What do you mean?" Frank tilted his head.

"How," Gerard repeated, watching his face carefully, "do you feel?"

"Cold," Frank responded immediately and Gerard watched, his mouth dry, as Frank raised his hands and crossed his arms over his bare torso. "Clothes would be awesome."

Gerard's ridiculous giggle echoed over the walls of his lab for what felt like forever.

He'd done it. He couldn't wait to tell Mikey.

*

"Did you build yourself a boy-toy?" Mikey asked from a safe distance where Frank couldn't overhear them. Although, Gerard had given Frank one hell of a range. He probably could, but he appeared too busy tucking and untucking his shirt. It took Gerard's brain a moment to catch up with Mikey's words, then he smacked him.

"Fuck you. Seriously, are you watching this?"

They both stood and stared as Frank finally seemed to settle into untucking his shirt once and for all. Gerard had forgotten to buy clothes that would fit the droid, and his t-shirt strained at Frank's shoulders, wider than his own, and the pants drooped at the bottom. It was easier to make Frank shorter than have to reach too far while building him, and there he stood, all 1.7 meters of him, blinking at his own reflection.

"I can't believe you finished him, man," Mikey breathed and Gerard bounced on his toes beside him.

"Fuck, right? I'm a motherfucking genius."

"You really fucking are."

"So, this is Mikey?"

Frank's voice startled them both. Gerard was definitely not used to a third voice in his house, much less a voice that was still so unfamiliar. Much less an unfamiliar voice that sounded so familiar with Mikey.

"Uh."

"How did you know about Mikey?" Gerard asked, taking a few cautious steps toward Frank. Frank turned and smiled a smile that was somehow ridiculously human, and shit-eating.

"You inserted your own knowledge into me, remember? Like, family and shit."

"Gerard," Mikey whispered and hit him hard in the back. "Your droid can swear."

"Of course he can swear," Gerard whispered back, not taking his eyes off of Frank, "I built him."

"And he wrote a genius colloquial program into my speech patterns," Frank confirmed, looking away from them and back into the mirror. "Why do I look like this?" he asked, and as Gerard watched, Mikey breathing down his neck, Frank reached out and touched his hand to its mate in the surface.

Gerard took a few slow steps forward until he could lean against a wall. He couldn't believe he was having this conversation. He was having it with his droid. It took him another few seconds to gather his thoughts. "I found an old image of a student who attended SCNY, back when it was first started."

Frank, still touching his own hand's reflection, turned his head towards Gerard. Seamlessly. It was astonishing. If he hadn't spent two grueling months perfecting the movement mechanisms, Gerard would never have noticed tiniest kink in the neck turn. "Did you find that… symbolic?"

Gerard blinked, feeling like a droid himself. "Yes."

Frank smiled. "Cool! What about my name?"

Gerard felt Mikey tugging on his shirt. "Gee, this shit is crazy," he whispered into Gerard's ear, his breath hot. Gerard licked his lips and nodded.

"You should guess," he told Frank.

For a moment, Frank was a droid. He froze where he stood, and his eyes stopped focusing with mechanical movement. He was calculating. This was a tough one. Gerard really should have started with something simple, eight hundred thousand multiplied by π, or something, but this was human-level tough.

The moment stretched between him and Mikey and this – this thing that he had made. It was almost easy for him to forget that Frank was a thing, because Frank had a human face and a human voice, but Gerard had seen him - it - disassembled, watched his own two hands put all the parts together. Inside the warm, humanoid body was a complicated world of wires and circuitry.

It was still disconcerting to see Frank's face light up with the answer. "Frank, for…Frankenstein? But if that's true, then it's wrong."

"How do you figure?" Gerard asked, his voice maybe breaking a bit.

Frank pursed his mouth – Jesus, who taught him to purse his mouth, oh, right – and said, "Frankenstein was the maker, not the monster."

Gerard nodded. "Yeah. That's true. But I had no other ideas, and –"

"And Gerard is a gigantic nerd who's into pre-classic literature," Mikey piped up behind him. Even without seeing him, Gerard knew he was smirking.

"Fuck off." He smiled and watched as Frank's eyebrows drew together. "He was mocking me," Gerard explained before he could stop himself.

"Mocking. Gentle teasing? Oh, I can do that," Frank replied, and distinctly turned towards Mikey. "Your hair is weird, man."

Gerard doubled over with laughter. He was a motherfucking genius.

*

"You are a motherfucking genius." Ray beamed at him from across his desk.

Gerard nodded in agreement, not being able to stop his grin from spreading. He felt like he wasn't even sitting in a chair but hovering above the ground.

"When I can see it?"

"Hmmm." Gerard had been in such a hurry to tell Ray of his success, he hadn't considered the consequences of having to show Frank off. Something about it made his neck itch. "I don't know, Ray. Give me a week to run tests and make sure he doesn't break down on me, okay? He's still brand new."

Ray's hair shook. "You sound like you're talking about a puppy that needs to be potty trained, Gerard. You've done something remarkable, and now you're keeping it from me? Do you remember who's been feeding you grants for the last two years?"

Gerard rolled his eyes and tapped on the desk with his fingertips, barely noticing. "Of course I do. But this is huge for me, okay? I'm just not ready for what this will mean to the, uh, community. Just. Just give me a week, Ray. Please?"

Gerard's own voice rang in his head as Ray considered him. Gerard always felt the need to use veiled terms while inside SCNY, even in the confines of Ray's office. Ray was great and all, but he was still Gerard's boss, the man who held the purse strings in one hand, and the government ties in the other. Gerard didn't dislike the Trustees, so much as feeling distinctly uncomfortable whenever he felt them breathing down his neck.

Ray finally took a deep breath and pushed away from his desk. "All right, fine. A week. After that, I'm breaking down your expensive chlominum door, you got it?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Gee- "

"Sorry, sorry, couldn't resist," Gerard grinned and got up off the chair, leaving it spinning in place. "See you in a week, Dr. Toro."

"Don't let the door hit you on the way out!"

*

"So!" Gerard clapped his hands together and sat down across from Frank at the kitchen table. "What did you do while I was gone?"

"I waited," Frank replied without hesitation. Or, rather, without pausing. Gerard had to teach himself not to assign Frank's actions human motivations. It was a lot harder than he could have predicted, considering the face watching him back.

Maybe if he pretended Frank was his stuffed penguin from childhood.

Maybe that was weird.

"What did you do while you waited?" Gerard asked, reaching for his cup of coffee, only remembering it was empty when he looked inside.

"I sat on the couch, then I watched TV," Frank told him. He was watching Gerard's movements, and before Gerard had a chance to respond, Frank got up and, skirting the table, grabbed Gerard's mug right out of his hands.

Gerard blinked and watched in silence as Frank went unerringly for the right unit, grabbed the nearest coffee packet, and ran his mug under the hydrator.

"Is this how you take it?" Frank asked after adding the creamer and sweetener. Gerard peered into his face as his hands reached for the steaming mug automatically. Frank was wearing a friendly, neutral kind of expression. God, it was weird. It was weird.

"Yeah," he answered finally after the first sip. "Uh, thanks, Frank."

Frank beamed at him. "You're welcome, Gerard!"

*

After the Frankenstein issue, Gerard threw the first set of tests he'd been idly preparing right out the window. Clearly, there was no issue with the mental portion of his droid.

Gerard had Frank run a mile on the nearest track.

Frank ran it in under six minutes.

Superior speed, Gerard typed, then looked up again.

Great agility, he added, watching Frank run past him for a second go-around without stopping. Gerard lost track of the timer beeping in his hand, becoming mesmerized by the movement of Frank's feet hitting the track.

When Frank ran past him at the same speed without stopping for the fifth time, Gerard finally remembered to beep the horn and decided that maybe now would be a good time to start leaving the lab for some human interaction.

Frank ran up to him, grinning absurdly. He looked the same as always, only his hair ruffled lightly by the wind.

*

"Seventy two point two kilos," he mumbled to himself, then pointed the laser from the top of Frank's head to his toes, already knowing the answer. "One point seven meters."

"And how much do you weigh?" Frank asked, his chin rising. Gerard blinked at him in surprise.

"None of your goddamn business!"

"Typical," Frank sniffed - sniffed - and went back to staring over Gerard's shoulder. It couldn't be that he was getting annoyed by the testing, but he sure was good at impersonating it, Gerard thought irritably.

"Give me cheek, and I'll power your ass down," he warned, poking at Frank's stomach.

"That's uncalled for," Frank answered and glowered. "It isn't night time yet."

Gerard stepped back. "Will you calm down? I need to do this for the committee, and it needs to be precise. Just another hour, and I'll come up with something better for us to do, all right?"

Gerard could see the moment Frank's body relaxed; or rather, let go, somehow, because there was no muscle to relax. God, Gerard thought again, he was a goddamn genius.

"All right," he said after several blessedly silent minutes. "You can sit now."

Frank sat immediately. Sometimes, he moved exactly like the droid he was, at moments when Gerard least expected it. Gerard slowly pulled up a stool across from him. Frank watched him with that passive, neutral expression again.

"I have to test your reflexes and touch circuitry," Gerard told him. He really didn't know why he kept talking to Frank, except maybe that he had gotten tired of hearing just his own voice when he was first building him. Frank was at least a humanoid face.

Gerard pushed his hair out of his eyes and reached for Frank's hand. "Now, when I squeeze your fingers, tell me your reaction, okay?" he asked, his voice growing quieter with the shortened distance between them.

Frank nodded and looked down where Gerard was grasping his hand. Gerard squeezed, marveling at how warm and human the siliskin felt, and looked up into Frank's face.

"Feels like pressure," Frank told him, looking down at their hands. "Squeeze harder."

Gerard obeyed. "More pressure. And it's warm," Frank told him. "You're sweating. That's weird."

Gerard dropped Frank's hand and pursed his mouth, laughing a bit. "Sorry. It's warm in here."

"It is!" Frank said, eyes locking with Gerard's. He looked almost excited about that. "It wasn't earlier, though. Can you lower the temperature?"

"Uh, sure. El One, lower temp to 16 degrees," he said. The immediate drop in temperature was almost like stepping outside on a crisp fall morning. "Better?"

"Mm-hmm!" Frank nodded, smiling. "Thanks."

"You know, the Els will listen to you, too," Gerard said absent-mindedly, typing into his notepad. When Frank didn't answer, Gerard looked up. Frank was frowning. "What?"

"They don't."

"What?"

Frank shrugged. "When you're away, I try to talk to them, but they don't recognize the frequency of my voice."

Oh, shit. "I hadn't thought of that. Have you had success switching the environs manually?"

Frank nodded. "Of course. I'm not an idiot."

Gerard rolled his eyes. "Well, I'm sorry. Let me play around with the settings, I'll rig it up for you, Princess."

"Fuck you, asshole," Frank replied gleefully.

Gerard just shook his head. "Let's get back to the testing, shall we?"

*

When Gerard got home after dinner with Mikey, he called out to Frank first thing.

"I'm in here!" Frank yelled. Or, well. He didn't yell so much as project his voice. It was super weird, actually, and Gerard considered twiddling with those settings a bit. It was pretty disconcerting hearing Frank's voice from the other room like he was standing right next to him.

Gerard found him in the lab, scrolling through the main screen. "Why don't you have a dog?" Frank asked, eyes rapt on the screen.

"Uh."

"A dog, a human companion, why don't you have one? Do you not like dogs? Why wouldn't you like them?" Frank watched the projection, his hands busy waving picture after picture of puppies in front of his face. Gerard was pretty happy to see El Two responding to Frank's touch, but what the hell?

"Why are you suddenly so interested in dogs?" he asked, dropping his jacket on the drafting desk.

"Everybody owns one, why don't you?" Frank finally paused his slideshow and turned his gaze to Gerard. The room was dark, and Frank's face was illuminated by the holo-glow of the screen. There were times when he blinked less often than usual. Those times kind of freaked Gerard out.

"I – I don't know?" he stammered out and reached for his smokes. "I don't have time to take care of one, I guess."

"Why?"

"Because I've been a little busy!" Gerard replied a little hysterically, flailing his arms. He couldn't believe he was having this conversation with his droid, for fuck's sake. "I mean, you're here, you know? I –"

"Exactly!" Frank beamed, the glow reflecting off his grin, making him look a little crazy. Gerard had a fleeting thought that he'd created a monster, after all.

"What do you mean, exactly?"

"Well, if you don't have time for a puppy, I can take care of one. And I'll remember better than you, anyway, I've got a built-in alarm system. I don't suffer the same memory lapses as humans, either, so -" Frank trailed off. Gerard forgot he hadn't yet lit his smoke and almost bit the end off trying to inhale.

"You – you want a puppy?" You want anything? Gerard finally fumbled to get his cigarette lit.

Frank just – beamed at him, letting the slideshow start up again. "I like that kind." He pointed as a particularly butt-faced mutt scrolled past.

"Seriously?" Gerard wasn't sure what he couldn't believe more – that Frank wanted a dog altogether, or that he wanted that dog. Frank just nodded, grinning in a way most people would call "happily."

Gerard shook his head and couldn't help but laugh. "All right, well. We'll see what we can do about that, I guess."

"Cool!" Frank turned back to the screen, zoning out on the images scrolling by.

Gerard sat down and took notes as surreptitiously as he could.

*

Gerard tossed and turned and finally gave up. He stumbled out into the living room and planted his ass in the chair Mikey had given him for last year's birthday. It was fat and didn't go with anything else in his apartment, and it was his favorite. It sat facing the glass wall Gerard loved so much, and he stretched his legs out on the coffee table, watching the view.

He had blackouts, but he couldn't remember the last time he'd actually touched them at all. He loved his view. He could see the entire city, from the old part to the new. Blue lights twinkled at him, unperturbed by the fact that most people were sleeping.

The apartment was too quiet like this. Everything powered down, right down to Frank.

Frank. Gerard turned until he could see the couch, with the moon lighting it faintly, like in a movie. Frank, it turned out, liked to sleep. Or, not sleep, of course.

He'd power off every night, after Gerard went to sleep. He'd asked Gerard for permission to bunk on the couch, which was a weird request on so many levels. Gerard had obviously let him, and now Frank lay on his back, with Gerard's old afghan thrown over him, like he needed it. He slept in a thin t-shirt and shorts. Gerard found himself realizing that he hadn't considered much at all while working on Frank all that time.

Gerard turned away and settled deeper into his chair. He was asleep the next moment.

*

After his monthly meeting with his underlings, Gerard always wanted a drink, a dose of something. It was a rare case when at least one of them wasn't hopeless, and that was stating it generously.

Gerard didn't drink, but he smoked the entire way, starting in the elevator, then outside, in the skywalk, back outside again, all the way until he was trailing fallen leaves down his own hallway.

Today, he was on his third smoke when he opened the door and Frank walked out before he even called him. "Cigarettes kill," he informed him.

"No," Gerard answered, not taking the smoke from his mouth as he shrugged off his jacket, "cigarettes used to kill, back when they were made out of fucking – tobacco and whatever the hell else." Gerard still couldn't believe that, either, but hey, that was how progress was made, after all. You try something once, it fails, you try something new and different.

"Oh." Frank's smile dropped off, and he frowned, looking at Gerard's reader in his hand. "This told me cigarettes kill." Gerard watched with interest as Frank's eyes went droid-still, searching out his database. The speed really was astonishing – it only took about six seconds for Frank to get back to reality. "Oh, right. I should have remembered the Public Health Act of 2167." He paused. "Duh."

Gerard giggled and patted him on the shoulder before passing through to the living room. "You trust what you read. That's not the worst thing in the world, unless you never check your sources."

He flopped down onto the couch and looked around him. "Have you been – cleaning?"

"Reading and cleaning, yes," Frank confirmed, sitting down on the opposite end of the couch. "You haven't gotten me a puppy yet, so I have to use my time up in other ways."

Gerard rolled his eyes. "Like going through my shit?"

Frank shrugged. "Your shit is messy. I am really good at uncluttering. You should really give it a try sometime."

Gerard yawned and reached for his next cigarette. "So you found my reader?"

Frank hefted it in his hands. "I didn't have to find it, it was next to your bed."

Somehow, it had never occurred to Gerard that while he was absent, Frank just rattled around his apartment like a lost puppy. Maybe he should get one of those, after all. Somehow, the thought of a real dog pacing his place was less unsettling than Frank doing the same, his droid brain collecting and storing info on Gerard, like where he left his dirty clothes at night, or what he read before going to sleep.

"So, you've been…reading?"

Frank smiled and his fingers went to work on typing something in the reader until he was holding it up for Gerard to see. "I read these today," he announced.

The list of novels was definitely long, and not all of them were familiar. "Have you been shopping for reading material?" Gerard squinted as he skimmed the twenty-odd titles.

Frank blinked. "Your books didn't interest me when I scanned them," he told him. "So I got others."

Gerard sighed and leaned back, closing his eyes. "I have to pay for those, Frank. You know, with money?"

"Oh!" Frank's eyes widened. Damn, was he realistic-looking. For a second, Gerard even forgot to feel annoyed that his droid was, apparently, reading him out of house and home. "Should I stop? I'm –" His eyes did that pausing thing again. "I'm sorry, Gerard."

Gerard froze with his cigarette halfway to his mouth. "You're –"

"I'm apologizing. I shouldn't have bought those novels with your money," Frank said, in a voice that simply acknowledged what happened, but even with that, it felt… It felt like a genuine apology.

Gerard shook his head and stood up before he even made the decision to do it. "No, don't – don't be sorry," he mumbled and escaped out onto the balcony, where he leaned against the railing and breathed in cool air until the unsettling panic receded.

Maybe –

Maybe he was –

Maybe he was somehow in over his head. He had no idea what he was doing.

Toro had given him until Monday, and it was Friday night.

Gerard turned his head slightly and watched over his shoulder as Frank set down the fucking reader on the coffee table and sat back against the corner of the couch. His eyelids lowered, nothing moving.

Gerard turned back to the city in front of him. "Fuck." What the fuck was he doing here?

*

"Are we going outside again?" Frank asked when Gerard herded him towards the door the next morning.

"Yes, yes, we are. You have to learn how life works. I'm taking you shopping."

"Shopping?" Frank stopped, and if he'd been a real person, Gerard would have been able to pry him loose and get him to move, maybe, but as it was, Frank stood immovable, his head tilted towards Gerard in a question.

"Yes," Gerard nodded and tried to nudge him towards the door again. "I'm going to teach you to buy shit."

"Oh, cool!" Frank gave him a sudden grin and immediately bounced up to the door. He pressed the exit button and when the door swished open, turned towards Gerard. "Well, are you coming?"

*

Gerard bought Frank his own reader and then loaded it up with a hundred new novels. "These should keep you entertained for the next three days or so," he said.

Frank nodded vigorously, sarcasm whooshing right over his head as he scrolled through the contents. "This is awesome, thank you, man," he said. "Have you read these?"

Gerard took a quick step back when Frank looked up at him. He'd been standing close while Frank was hunched over the reader, trying to make out what Frank was looking at, but something about the closeness weirded him out and he looked away, shrugging. "Some, but not too many. Haven't really had time."

"Because you were busy making me?" Frank asked, tilting his head in a way Gerard had come to learn meant he was interested.

"Well… Yeah." Gerard couldn't stop himself from looking at Frank askance. It was strange, the connections Frank made. Gerard supposed that it was a natural A to B route, the kind that he himself would have made without any prior knowledge, but it was just. It wasn't a droid connection to make.

"You should tell me about that sometime," Frank said, then gave him a smile and went back to scrolling through the contents of his reader. He, apparently, was not troubled by his own mind at all.

*

"You should let me buy this," Frank told him as they approached the check-out guy. Gerard gave him another look.

"You think you can do it?"

"You bought eight things before now. I've got it," Frank answered and turned a sudden smile to the silent check-out guy, who was giving them the side eye. Gerard supposed it had been a weird conversation to overhear. He probably sounded like an overprotective brother or – or a husband.

"Can I help you?"

"Yes!" Frank chirped. "I would like to buy these groceries, please." He thrust the basket at the guy. "They smell delicious."

"Uh-huh," the guy – named Steve, apparently – didn't even look at Frank as he scanned the bag and came up with the total. "That'll be thirty-four dollars, fifty-five cents. Will it be cash or charge?"

"Charge," Frank replied before Gerard could even decide. Then he grabbed Gerard's bag and came up with his ID card, which the guy proceeded to scan without even pretending to look at Gerard for appearance's sake.

"Your receipt will be emailed to you," he mumbled and turned toward the next person in line.

Gerard let Frank walk out of the store ahead of him, the bag of groceries clutched in his hand, and smoked.

*

The puppy was an ankle-biter, her droopy face lighting up at the sight of Frank dropping down to his knees and reaching out to her right there in the store.

"We're getting her," Frank announced, his voice mumbled by all the fur. Gerard had maybe already figured that out, but he still cracked up at Frank getting hit in the face by her wagging tail.

She yipped when they got her through the door, and Frank scooped her up and carried her the entire way home, smiling like a lunatic.

"Mama," he said, when Gerard asked what he wanted to name her. "It's the world's most common first word."

Gerard almost walked into a pole. Frank just laughed at him and kissed Mama on the nose.

*

Frank hummed. It was strange, whenever Gerard needed to test another function and had to take hold of Frank's wrist or shoulder, he didn't feel a pulse, but a faint, consistent humming.

Gerard had noticed it the first time he'd checked Frank out, and thought of it now only because he wasn't sure if the humming was the same. Something about it seemed a little strained.

He checked Frank's vitals again, for lack of anything better to do, and decided he was imagining things.

"You're good," he told him and smiled, dropping Frank's hand.

"I am." Frank met his gaze silently and his lips tilted up in a tiny smile, dropping back down again after a second. Gerard scratched his neck, feeling sticky despite the room being cool and pretty dark.

"El One, lower temp by two degrees, please," he mumbled and went back to re-typing his notes, while Frank left the room. Gerard heard him settle onto the couch and then nothing at all, which meant Frank already powered down for the night.

*

When the doorbell rang, Gerard almost sloshed his coffee onto his shirt. His already-stained, sleep-sweated shirt, and that was the thought that was running through his mind as he gave Frank and Mama a quick look and walked out into the hallway.

He breathed in deeply in the dark, then shook his head to clear it.

This wasn't the inspection. This was Ray. Ray was a friend, no matter their titles or positions.

Of course, Ray was also the person next to Gerard most invested in this, for reasons Gerard never actually wanted to contemplate.

"Gerard," Ray nodded.

"Ray!" Gerard forced a smile and stepped aside to let him in.

He hadn't had anybody over to his place besides Mikey in the last six months. Besides Frank, really, but Frank had come from this place. He was part of it.

Ray had dressed well. It was clear that one of them was way more prepared for this meeting than the other. Ray smiled at him – he always looked genuine when he did it, which reassured Gerard despite some paranoid rumblings from his brain – and preceded Gerard out into the living room, where he stopped dead at the sight.

Gerard couldn't blame him. No matter how used he'd gotten to Frank's presence in a mere week, Frank was not to be discounted as something to see, especially while he clutched a panting Mama to his chest.

"Wow, you'd think that…that with everything we've already done, a humanoid robot wouldn't be that far-fetched," Ray breathed over the song Frank had going in the background.

"Mm," Gerard replied noncommittally, and turned to Frank. "Hey, Frank, this is Ray."

Frank let Mama down, and ordered El Two to pause the music. Gerard watched his every movement like an outsider, assessing the agility with which he strode over to Ray and avoided Mama running in between his feet, tilting his head to see the natural curve of Frank's smile. Gerard had already memorized all these things about him; he wondered what it must have been like for Ray to see it for the first time.

Then again, Ray wasn't the one who'd created Frank in the first place. Gerard had a sudden flashback to a night, two months ago, when he covered Frank's wires and circuitry with the siliskin. Seemed like forever ago.

Gerard snapped to when Ray reached out and shook Frank's hand, his mouth kind of gaping open.

"Nice to meet you," Frank said, letting go of Ray's hand.

Ray darted a quick look at Gerard before licking his lips and nodding. "You, uh. You too, Frank. I've heard, well. I've heard a lot about you."

Frank grinned. "I bet! Gerard told me you're the one who financed his project. Right?"

Gerard perched his ass on the couch arm and decided to take some kind of evil pleasure in watching Ray squirm in front of his droid.

"That's right," Ray nodded, and Gerard could tell he was fighting not to talk to Frank like he was a child.

"Cool! Why did you do it?" Frank asked, surprising even Gerard, who thought he was more or less used to Frank's mercurial shifts by now.

"Uh." Ray darted another look at Gerard and slipped down until his ass hit the couch. "Well. I believed it was important, I guess."

Gerard didn't know who to pay more attention to. He sat quietly and waited for whatever would come out of Frank's mouth next.

"Important to what?" Frank settled down on the floor and watched Ray expectantly. Gerard tried not to squirm, a tiny bit of dread building in the pit of his stomach.

Ray shot him a look before answering. "Well, it's an incredibly, uh, important step in human sciences, of course. Artificial, uhm. Artificial Intelligence is a field that is, uh. Uhm." Gerard really could sympathize with Ray tugging on his collar like it was cutting off his circulation.

"Are you too hot? El One, please lower the temp by three degrees," Frank said and grinned at Ray. "It listens to me now. Sometimes I just ask it to do shit for me just because I can."

Ray shot another look at Gerard and laughed. "I do, too. My wife gets pissed at me, but it never gets old."

"Right? It wouldn't respond to me at first, but Gerard re-calibrated it. He's a fucking genius."

"He really is," Ray agreed, smiling at Gerard. "You did good, man."

Gerard shrugged like it was no big. He didn't know why he was so wound up, but something about this whole scenario was setting his teeth on edge.

"Seriously, the Trustees are gonna shit themselves," Ray told him, grinning. "This is unprecedented, I mean – he looks and sounds real."

Gerard screwed up his face and looked at Frank. Frank's head was tilted to the side, watching Ray with interest.

"Who are the Trustees?" he asked. "Are they in charge?"

"Uh. Well. Yeah. They were, uhm. Really interested in Gerard's work, so they commissioned – you, I guess. Or, for Gerard to make you," Ray explained. Gerard chewed on his cuticles as he watched Frank take it in.

"So, they're the ones in control, then."

Ray shot Gerard a look, and Gerard looked miserably back. "Ki- kind of. Yes."

"Okay," Frank chirped. "I can make you both coffee. Do you want coffee?"

*

"Wanna watch a movie?" Frank asked as soon as Gerard pushed his bowl away from him.

"Do – do you?" Gerard asked, not knowing why he was surprised, exactly. Frank had already proven himself to be a glutton for all things entertainment. Maybe Gerard was surprised because he had somehow never once watched a movie since Frank had been made.

"Uh, sure."

He watched as Frank popped out of his chair, side-stepping a yipping Mama who promptly jumped up to take his place, and went over to the screen. He scanned the titles for only a few seconds before ordering El Two to start Phoenix Riders and flopping down on the opposite end of the couch. "You'll like this one, it's really good," he told him, eyes already on the screen.

Gerard just stared at him. "You've already seen it?"

Frank nodded, squirming until he settled into a comfortable-looking position in his corner. "Yeah, and it was awesome. You've never watched it, I checked the history. You should really watch it."

Gerard hadn't seen it, it was true. Mikey had given it to him for his last birthday, but Gerard couldn't remember the last time he'd watched anything besides the occasional news on in the background. He could barely remember the last time he'd spent time on anything but building Frank.

He tore his gaze away from Frank just in time to see the credits start up and the sound fill his apartment. He tried his best to un-tense his shoulders and at least appear as comfortable as Frank seemed to be, and forget about anything else.

*

"Oh, shit, I'm sorry…" He wiped drool off his cheek and blinked over in the darkness to where Frank was sitting and staring at him, Mama snoozing under his hands. Gerard made a move to sit up and felt the afghan tumble to the floor. "Wait, uh –"

"You fell asleep an hour ago, so I figured you'd probably want a blanket," Frank said. "You missed the best part, man. Want me to start over?"

Gerard blinked again and groped for the afghan. "Uh, sorry. Guess I was tired? Uhm." Or pathetic. He couldn't believe he'd just fallen asleep like that.

Frank shrugged. "It's cool. I don't mind watching it again. Or watching something else. Wanna watch something else?"

Something wiggled against Gerard's shins and he nearly jumped from surprised. Frank's toes touched him again and Frank continued watching him, his head tilted to the side.

Jesus, he was. He was.

Gerard rubbed his eyes, shook his head, and forced himself up, up, off the couch, right now.

He had to. He.

"N-no, sorry, Frank, I'm just gonna – I'm just gonna crash, ‘kay?" he mumbled, looking anywhere but at Frank. "You should. You can watch whatever you want, though, all right?"

When Gerard finally looked at him, feeling ridiculous and out of place, the afghan still clutched around him, Frank's face was unreadable. "Okay."

Gerard nodded and, gathering the afghan so he wouldn't trip over it, legged it to his room, shutting the door firmly behind him. His bedroom was as dark as the living room, and he didn't bother to turn the light on, or shut the curtains, or do any one of a hundred things he could do to act like a human fucking being, and instead fell into bed in his jeans and t-shirt, the blanket covering his feet.

It was 7:48, and all he knew was that he couldn't be out where Frank was, and his head was swimming from sleeping at a weird time, and all he needed was the dark and the quiet.

*

The sun hit him square in the face, which felt quite a bit like his hangovers used to, only worse.

By the time he staggered out of his room, his mouth tasting like death, the apartment was flooded with light, and empty.

The surge of panic almost knocked the breath out of him. "Frank?"

Not in the kitchen, or in the lab. Just for the hell of it, Gerard checked the bathroom.

It wasn't until he was almost out the door when he noticed the message on the e-board. Out with Mama, Frank

Gerard sagged against the wall and rubbed his eyes with the heel of his palm until he saw stars.

"Jesus."

What had he even thought?

So many possibilities, of course. Ray, taking Frank away with no warning.

The board, after hearing Ray's testimony.

Frank. After Gerard was an idiot to him.

The list just got worse from there.

It was stupid, of course. Frank was a robot. Humanoid, a genius creation, but still a robot. Absolutely none of those possibilities had to have dire consequences, and one was completely impossible.

Of course, now that Gerard could think straight, he could also remember the panic button, the one that activated the tracking on Frank that, had Gerard not been an utter moron, he would have remembered in the first place.

He was standing barefoot in his hallway, clutching at his hair, and his heart was still hammering. It was eight in the morning. Maybe he was going crazy, and maybe all he needed was a cup of coffee.

He made his legs move and trailed his way into the kitchen, just barely avoiding walking into Mama's feeding bowls. He made himself coffee, smoked half a pack of cigarettes, and watched the sun move leisurely over the city in silence.

*

"Hey," Frank called out. Gerard hadn't adjusted his voice register yet. He'd gotten used to Frank projecting his voice so that it tickled Gerard's ear from any distance, any barrier.

Mama's clacking little paws preceded Frank into the kitchen. Gerard turned away from the window and watched with a certain amount of awe as Frank started putting away the groceries. "Hey, yourself. You went shopping?"

Frank shrugged without turning around. He was wearing a long-sleeved shirt, but Gerard could still make out every movement of his arms lifting, his back shifting as he worked.

"Did you, uhm. Did you have a nice walk?" Gerard attempted, because the silence was weird, somehow. Strained, now there were three of them.

"Mama likes the park," Frank said after sliding the last cupboard shut and getting down on his knees to let Mama off the leash. His fingers worked expertly, but maybe a bit too slowly, like they were stiff from the wind. "Have you been there?"

Gerard nodded distractedly, watching as Frank's fingers continued working in the same movement even after Mama was released from her leash and on her way to the water bowl, fingers moving faster and faster over nothing. Frank didn't seem to notice, but Gerard had. The problem was, he could barely make himself move.

"Fr- Frank –" His throat was tight and raw when he finally managed to make a sound, and then he heard the chair skidding out from under him.

He was on the floor in front of Frank the next moment, hands clamping over Frank's. Frank was slow to meet his gaze. "Frank, what happened," Gerard demanded, unsure whether his hands were shaking on their own or if it was Frank's regular hum.

"I don't know," Frank said slowly. He sounded normal, but now that Gerard was close, he could hear something – else. An irregular kind of hum.

Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck, that didn't sound right.

"All right," Gerard whispered. "All right. It's all right."

He let go of Frank's hands slowly, and just as slowly staggered up. He led Frank to the lab in silence, Mama trailing them until she settled between Frank's legs with a quiet huff.

Gerard didn't think he could stand, so he forced a silent Frank down onto his work bench across from him.

"Okay, I am. I'm gonna have to, uhm." Why hadn't he picked the back of the neck, or… or the arm, or some other accessible place for a primary panel? His hands were clammy, and he wiped them on his jeans. "You'll have to take off your shirt, okay? I need to open, uhm. Open you up."

Frank stripped off the next second. Gerard watched his every movement like a hawk, but nothing out of the ordinary happened. When he pressed his hand against Frank's peck, the siliskin jolted him with its warmth and vibration.

"Uh, do you – I just have to look under here, do you want to be asleep for it?" he asked belatedly.

Frank shook his head.

"You okay?" Gerard had no idea why he was asking, but watching Frank's droopy head, his fingers resting calmly on his thighs, made him wonder.

Frank finally looked up at him and nodded, giving him a wan smile. "I'm fine."

"Okay."

Mama huffed at their feet. Frank stared ahead of him as Gerard clicked the panel open.

*

Frank wouldn't wake up the next morning. Gerard had stumbled out of his bedroom only to find Mama whining from where she'd beached herself over Frank's chest. Frank wasn't moving. Mama's weight should have been enough to set off his internal wake-up call, but his face was impassive, eyes closed, hands resting on the couch like he was -

"Frank." Gerard nailed his shin on the coffee table as he ran towards him. "Frank." Frank stayed still. He didn't wake up until Gerard shook him hard enough to almost overturn the couch, and when he opened his eyes, they looked completely blank.

"Frank, Frankie - can you hear me? Do you understand me?" Gerard heard his own voice rising, sounding weird and hysterical, but he couldn't stop. "Frank, look at me. Look at me."

The next moment felt eternal, until Frank finally gave a slow blink and turned his head. "Gerard? Why are you mad?"

Gerard gasped and sank to the floor, legs giving out. "Are you okay?" he managed. "Move something, move your hand-"

Frank lifted his hand and petted Mama, who'd been licking his arm for the last minute. "I'm fine. Was I not okay?"


Part II

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