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Trading Spaces

Part II

 

 

 

Later in the second, Matrix returned to the small living quarters inside the Principal Office. He burst through the door,
scaring AndrAIa in the process, and smiling like a little kid. Times like these the game sprite could tell the likeness to his smaller format.

“I take it things went as planned.” she murmured, watching as her lover smiled giddily at her.

“Andri,” he said, barely containing himself. “You won’t believe…oh, it was like…man…”

“Now you’re stuttering, so it must be good.”

“It was like…” Matrix began again, then shook his head. “Let me start from the beginning…” [flashback, as told by Matrix]

“I went over to Bob’s, just to see what was going on right? Well, he’s in his garage, working on his car. I always tell him the same thing, so I didn’t bother this time. Anyways, we greet each other and I start telling him how Enzo has been blurting about him moving in. So he says…”

“No really, it’s true. I’m moving in with Dot and Enzo.”

“So I said, but I thought you guys called it quits. And he says…”

“It’s random to say the least. It was Dot’s idea.”

“And I say no way. And he says…”

“Yeah.”

So are you actually doing it? I asked and he says…”

“Odd as it may seem, yeah. I kinda don’t, but I kinda do.”

“That seems reasonable.” AndrAIa mused.

“That’s not all though.” Matrix continued.

“Right as I’m about to ask what would happen to his apartment, he says…”

“Hey Enzo, about my apartment. I was wondering if you could watch it while I’m gone.”

“I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or cry. So I say, yeah sure Bob. I’ll check in every once in a while. And he goes…”

“Well, I know how you and AndrAIa hate staying in the P.O, so why don’t you move in for a while? The construction will be going for at least another couple of weeks and if you guys can stand the noise, the apartment is yours.”

“Bob actually just handed over his apartment to us?” AndrAIa asked.

“I couldn’t believe it myself.” Matrix said, shaking his head. “It was like he already knew the plan and was going along with it, which of course is silly because only three of us know the plan.” He paused. “Right?”

The game sprite rolled her eyes. “Yes, the plan is safe between the three of us.” she sighed.

“Just checking.”

Suddenly a vidwindow popped up in front of them with Enzo’s smiling face on the other side. “Well?” Matrix asked.

“It went just as you said.” the boy began. “When I asked Dot about it, she was totally embarrassed and thought about calling Bob and taking it all back, but, as the young businessman that I am, I simply stated the good points for the ‘merger’…”

“You actually used the word, merger?” AndrAIa asked.

“Yep.” Enzo nodded. “And you should’ve seen the look of respect I got. Using big words makes people think your smart. Anyway, I’m not sure if the word impressed her or distracted her, but it worked well enough I got her to stay with the plan.”

“Alphanumeric.” Matrix said, a grin on his face. “Part one is in effect. Now, on to part two…”

 

***
 

Dot felt odd.

It felt like that second of the wedding. She held fear, knowing she was about to enter a big part of her adulthood, but yet happy because she was with Bob. Of course, there was no horror this time…or was there? She actually couldn’t believe she had actually suggested Bob move in with her.

They weren’t dating.

They were only friends.

This was only a business decision.

Yes…YES! As Enzo had mentioned earlier, this was business and nothing more. With Bob around, she could concentrate on running the system and the Diner without trying to run around after Enzo. And the boy liked Bob. With Bob there, it meant Enzo wouldn’t be alone…

The sound of the door opening alerted her that Bob was bringing the rest of his stuff into the living room. Her tidy apartment now looked like a rummage sale. The guardian was lugging two boxes in, which he placed near his other stuff. “We are going to move some of this stuff elsewhere, right?” she asked, eyeing his stuff.

“Yes dear.” he joked, missing a slap aimed for him.

“Is that everything?”

“Well, everything I can carry in my car over here.” he replied.

“So, there’s more coming?” she asked, jokingly. “I mean, your car can hold so much before falling from the sky.”

“Funny not.”

The two were caught staring at each other, each with something on their minds. The moment was short lived when the knock came on the door. Both went to open it, slightly embarrassed at their brief contact being near each other. The door opened to reveal a happy Matrix on the other side.

“Hey.” he said.

“Hi Matrix.” Dot replied, smiling at her brother. “What’re you doing here?”

“Just wanted to see how the moving went.” he said. “And to take Enzo to a quick time. If that’s cool with you, I mean.”

Dot was about to say no, when something occurred to her. “Actually Matrix, that’s not a bad idea.” she said. Turning to Bob, she replied, “We can finish those reports from the other second.”

“See?” the renegade replied. “Aren’t you glad I came over? I figured you guys would want to get busy. With those reports, I mean.”

Enzo bounced into the room, just as Bob and Dot gave Matrix a look for his last, though seemingly unnoticed, comment. “Matrix!” he exclaimed. “What a pleasant surprise! I was not expecting you at all tonight.”

“Well, I figured Bob and Dot could get some work done and they didn’t need you driving them up the walls.” Matrix smirked.

“Aw…” Enzo whimpered. “I wanted to spend time with Bob.”

“You’ll get to see Bob plenty of times, especially now.” Dot replied, ruffling her youngest brother’s hair. “Bob and i really do have a lot of work ahead of us, with these reports and clearing some of his stuff out of the living room…you’ll have a much better time watching a movie.”

“I guess.” the boy sighed. Looking up at the guardian, he said, “I’ll see you when I get home, Bob.”

“Sure will, Little Man.” he said. “And we’ll do something tomorrow. Promise.”

“Alphanumeric!” Exclaimed Enzo. “Having you live with us is going to be the best!” He happily jumped outside, while Matrix smiled and closed the door. Outside, Enzo stopped his jumping and looked up at his double. “How was that?” he asked.

“Not bad.” Matrix replied, as the two starting walking away. “I thought the last part was a little much, but it played well with the scene.”

Enzo smirked. “And you thought the acting classes weren’t helping.” he mocked.

 

***

 

It had been just a few seconds since Bob had moved in with Dot and Enzo and already the system of Mainframe was buzzing with the news. Dot had to do two press conferences in order to dispel rumors. She was currently talking to AndrAIa about the news, almost knowing full well who leaked it.

“So what did you tell them?” Andri asked.

“Like I told everyone else.” Dot said. “This is strictly a business merger between Bob and myself. Nothing else. I’m not happy about it being known and all but at least I can take comfort in one thing.”

“That being?”

“Mouse and Ray being gone.” Dot smiled. “If she ever found out…”

“Dot Matrix!” came an exclamation. Both women turned to see the purple hacker, a sly grin on her face, as she headed towards them.

“I think she just found out.” AndrAIa whispered, much to Dot’s horror.

“You sly little mink.” Mouse replied, hand on her hip and looking at the commander.

“Mouse, what a surprise.” Dot said, trying to pretend she didn’t know what was going on.

“Don’t try to lay the sugah, Sugah.” she replied. “I can’t believe you and Bob are shacking up together.”

“We are not!” Dot cried, scandalized. “This is strictly business!”

“Oh sure it is.”

“Of course it is.’ Dot insisted. “What makes you think otherwise?”

“Oh, gee, I don’t know.” Mouse countered. “Maybe cause you got the cravin’ for the blue guardian and he’s got that itchin’ for you.” Mouse shook her head. “You sure are the last sprite i thought would be living in sin.”

“We are not living in sin!” Dot shouted.

“All right, all right.” The hacker said, surrendering. For the moment. “I just came to get a little refuel before heading back out. See y’all.”

Dot stared at her back, watching as her best friend left. “AndrAIa,” she began.

“Yes Dot?”

“Am I living in sin?” she asked, a petrified look on her face.

“What?”

“I mean,” she continued, her words starting to connect together. “What if I kinda jumped the gun with this whole moving in thing? I mean, Bob and I aren’t dating and so of course people are going to think that we’re shacking up, but I don’t think we’re shacking up because this is business, although Mouse has a point…”

“Dot, you’re not living in sin.”

“Because Bob and I do like each other, well I’m sure it’s a little more than that, but how can I possibly face him after what I did? I mean, it was a terrible thing and feel absolutely dreadful about it and…”

“Dot listen to me,” AndrAIa replied, trying to interrupt the ongoing monologue. “You are not living in sin.”

“But what do you think?” Dot barreled on. “You and Matrix have lived together for hours upon hours, but then again you really didn’t have much of a choice, so of course you ended up being together, which of course I’m happy for but…”

“Dot!” she screamed. “You are not living in sin!”

Dot looked at her with a blank look on her face. “Well User, AndrAIa,” she said. “There’s no reason to scream.
I’m standing right here.”

The game sprite glared at her.

“Let’s talk somewhere less audience maintained.” Dot suggested. “My office?” Her friend nodded and the two headed for the small office in the command room.

“So?” Andri asked. “How’s living with Bob?”

“It’s…nice.” the commander replied.

“Nice?” she asked. “Like living with Little Enzo nice or living with Mike the TV nice?”

“Well, both can be annoying as a null sometimes.” Dot joked. “What I mean with Bob is…it’s only been a few seconds and it seems we’ve already gotten in a routine. A weird, married routine.”

“Must be fate talking.” the game sprite giggled.

Dot shook her head, trying to hide the smile she had. “How’s the apartment you’re in?” she asked.

“It’s great, even though technically it’s not ours.”

Not yet, they both thought. They both looked at each other, almost embarassed to be thinking along those lines. “Well,” Dot said. “Time to go dispel some rumors.” she laughed nervously, as AndrAIa just smiled. She then left to do her tasks.

 

***
 

Bob sat on the couch, or rather his makeshift bedding, flipping through the channels on the small apartment’s non-talking television set. Every once in a while Bob would miss Mike and then he’d shake his head, saying he was losing it.

He perked up when he heard the key code beep and the door opening, as Dot walked in. “Hey.” he said, jumping up and walking over to her.

“Hi.” she said, facing him. She turned away quickly, hiding her blush from staring. “Where’s Enzo?”

“Matrix and AndrAIa took him circuit racing.”

“Again?” she asked. “That’s the fourth time this cycle.” She frowned in concern, then dismissed it. “So, what’ve you been up to?”

Bob shrugged. “Nothing much.” he answered. “Just waiting for you.”

“Me?” she squeaked, then cleared her throat. “Me?”

Bob fought to control the smile that was fighting to get to his lips. Even when she was embarrassed, she was cute. “Well, Enzo’s gone and that kinda left me and I was kinda bored and lonely…”

“Oh.” she said.

“I was hoping we could do something tonight.” he said. “No business stuff either. That’s for…well, business time. This is fun time now and I wanna see you have a fun time.”

She looked at him and shook her head. “Bob, I would love to, really,” she began. “But I do have…”

“Blah, blah.” he said, taking her hand and pulling her towards the couch. He sat down and made her plop down next to him. “Just try having fun for a millisecond and I’ll let you go to that boring stuff.” he said. “Just one millie. Okay?”

She rolled her eyes and turned to say no to him. She was caught by his pleading face and gorgeous brown eyes. How could she possibly say no?

“Okay,” she agreed. “Just one, but after that, it’s work.”

 

***
 

The seconds turned to cycles and the cycles started to end the minute, and with each passing cycle, Bob and Dot grew closer and closer into the couple they had originally dreamed about. And while they drew closer, Matrix and AndrAIa drew more attached with living in Bob’s apartment, and Enzo spent more time with them at night while Bob and Dot stayed by themselves.

Dot had conflicting feelings as she grew closer to the blue sprite. On the one hand, she was thrilled they were getting so close. Their short and sweet pecks goodnight had already started to become deeper kisses and soon, their time alone was perfect opportunity for make out sessions, which always threatened to become more if they weren’t careful.

But Dot wanted that, didn’t she?

The other hand was the business side and scolded her for taking this simple business arrangement to a personal level. If this continued, it would be hard to convince Bob to move back to his own apartment. The other hand also told her to keep her distance, that all this was leading Bob on to something they, or at least she, wasn’t ready for.

So she sat on the couch, home earlier than Bob for once, and read a small note from him about taking Enzo jet bowling. As she read, there was a knock at the door. Still lost in thought, she opened it. “Hey.” replied Matrix, leaning against the door frame.

“Hi Enzo.” she said. “If you’re looking for Bob…”

“Nope,” the renegade said. “Little me.”

“Ah.” she said in understanding. A frown came to her face though, as she continued. “Actually Matrix, I think Enzo should stay in tonight.” she said.

“No!” he cried, then calmed himself. “No.” he said more gently. “I mean, he’s a handful, as you know.”

“Yeah,” she sighed. “But I think I want him to spend some time here. Not that I’m not thankful for you and Andri taking him for this last minute. It was very sweet, but I’m sure you two would like a night to yourselves.”

“What? No.” he said, chuckling. “We love it, we enjoy it. We don’t even like each other all that much, so Enzo’s good company.”

At Dot’s look, Matrix faltered, realizing his choice of words. “What I mean is, Andri and I have always been together, so the break…I mean…” he stopped for a moment, then said, “We like having him over.”

Dot just nodded, then sighed. “Well,” she said. “He’s out with Bob right now, so I’ll have him call you when they get back, okay?”

“Cool.” the renegade replied, before turning to leave. “See ya later, Sis.” he called over his shoulder.

Later of course when Bob and Enzo returned, the little sprite just turned around and headed over to his brother’s “apartment” while Bob and Dot stayed there. Bob couldn’t help but smile. He knew what happened when Enzo left… but this time, Dot didn’t seem as eager as she usually was. She held a look of concern on her face as she watched her youngest brother leave.

“Something wrong?” he asked. “Dot?”

“You’ve seen AndrAIa and Matrix, haven’t you?” she asked, still staring at the door.

“I see them occasionally.” he began. “Why?”

“Do they seem…happy to you?”

“As happy as Matrix can get.” the blue sprite laughed. He soon stopped when he noticed the joke got no reaction from Dot. “Why?” he asked. “Is something wrong?”

“Don’t you think they’ve been spending a lot of time with Enzo lately?” she asked.

Bob shrugged. “You told me you thought they should.” he said. “They’re brothers after all.”

“I guess…”

“Listen,” he said, taking her in a hug. “How about you take a shower and get all fancy and I’ll take you out for dinner?”

Dot looked at him in surprise. “Really?” she asked.

“Yeah.” he grinned. “Unless you want to stay home…” his voice trailed off into a mischievous smile.

Dot smiled back. “I’d much rather stay home, just in case.” she added, seeing his smile get bigger.

“Well, offer still goes.” he whispered. “I’ll make dinner.”

“You can cook?”

“Yes, I can cook.” he said, feigning hurt. “I didn’t become a guardian to look pretty, you know. There are definite advantages. One standing before me as I speak.”

Dot blushed, trying to hide her amused smile. She gave him a quick peck on the lips before heading towards the back. Bob watched her move, never getting tired of seeing her walk away. He then heard the shower starting and the door to the bathroom close.

That’s when he panicked.

Of course he couldn’t cook! He could barely make toast, hence why he always ate at the Diner, that and seeing Dot, but he was completely hopeless in the kitchen. He gulped and turned towards the room of dread. To her or even Enzo, this was probably a place of familiar ease. Even after a minute of living there, he still didn’t know his way around the place.

Did they have pans? What about utensils? Did they have utensils? What about pots? Did they own pots? Bob sniffed, knowing he was on the verge of tears.

 

***
 

“Bob, I can’t believe you did this.” Dot raved, as she and Bob sat down for dinner.

“Told you I could cook.” he said, matter of factly. Of course, Bob had gotten help. After standing there and crying for a few nanos, he wiped his tears and tried calling Mike the TV. It was a desperate act, but Bob was a desperate man. But of course, of all the times the guardian would need the annoying set, he couldn’t get in contact with him, so he called Matrix and AndrAIa.

The three were watching a quicktime when Bob appeared before them in a vidwindow. “Hey Bob.” they all said, turning back to the movie.

“You guys have got to help me.” he pleaded.

Instantly, Matrix was alert. “What’s wrong?” he asked. “Is something wrong with Dot? Bob, I swear if you…”

“What?” he exclaimed. “No! Nothing’s wrong and I would never…Matrix…now, I love your sister, hence why I’m on my hands and knees pleading with you to help me!”

“All right, all right.” AndrAIa said, bringing calm and ration as always. “Stay frosty here. What’s the file?”

“I need the name of a really good, but so very inexpensive local restaurant.”

They all looked at him in confusion.

“You’re kidding, right?” Matrix asked.

“No.” he said.

“Hmmm, let me think.” Enzo replied, sarcastically. “Have you tried…the DINER?!”

“The Diner is too obvious.” Bob retorted. “Besides, Dot would know in a nano that dinner was from the Diner and therefore my whole thing about me being able to cook would be ruined.”

“But Bob, you can’t cook.” Matrix said.

“You can barely make toast.” Enzo added.

“I know!” He exclaimed, exasperated. “That’s why you need to help me!”

“Okay, okay,” Matrix said. “No need to get a twist in your bitmap. We’ll think of something. Now, where’s Dot?”

“In the shower.”

Matrix inhaled slowly. “Cutting it kinda close, Bob.” he muttered. “Okay, no probs. I got Enzo here, he can tell me what’s in the fridge and we can get something going here.”

“Make your chicken parm,” AndrAIa said. “That’s good.”

Matrix made a grimace, saying, “Yeah, but it’s Dot’s favorite too. She’d know.”

“Ooh!” Enzo said. “We could make angel hair pasta, with clams and creamy sauce.”

“That sounds like a romantic type dinner…”

Bob just stared at the two, listening as they rattled off delicious, yet complicated sounding food items, all in which they could make in the time Dot showered. “How do you do that?” he asked in awe.

“Bob.” Matrix chuckled. “Do you know how long Dot’s had that Diner?”

“We’ve been working in there since we were little.” Enzo added.

“I think we’d know a little something about cooking.”

“Duh.

 

***

 

Dot smiled, glancing every so often at the blue sprite seated across from her. Of course she knew he hadn’t made the meal, he could barely make toast, but the idea that he’d go through so much trouble in order to make her favorite – four cheese Alfredo, something both her brothers were masters in making – made her heart soar even made than it already did.

“It was sweet of you to make dinner, Bob.” she continued.

“Hey,” he shrugged. “It was sweet of you to let me stay for so long.”

“Not that I haven’t enjoyed it.” she blurted, her face turning crimson.

“I’ve enjoyed it too.” he whispered, taking her hand in his.

“Um…” she started, clearing her throat. “How was…how was jet bowling today?”

“Good.” he said, knowing a change of subject when he heard one. “Enzo’s getting good. He beat me twice today.”

“I think it’s because Matrix’s been giving him tips.” she giggled. “Or you’re getting rusty.”

“Rusty?” Bob asked, raising an eyebrow. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that was a challenge, Ms. Matrix.”

“You wouldn’t stand a chance against me.” she said, smugly. “The Matrix gene pool are just that damned good.”

“Not to mention competitive.” Bob mumbled under his breath.

“I heard that.”

 

***

 

After dinner, the two were content to lay on the couch, Dot using Bob as a pillow. The television was on, but the volume turned down low, as neither sprite was watching in the first place.

Bob looked down at Dot, once again noticing how beautiful she was. When he was gone in the Web, all he could think about was her and how if…no, no WHEN… he returned to Mainframe, he would tell her, show her how he felt. It seemed things were going well. Their kiss on the P.O steps seemed like his hopes and dreams were coming true.

And then the Daemon War started and he couldn’t even get close to her anymore. He had seen a rare change in her. She was someone who was taking bigger risks than even he had and it slightly scared him. And then when she almost married Megabyte…he closed his eyes. Even though he said he forgave her, there was still a little part of him that still hurt, still couldn’t believe what had happened, how their dreams could be ruined so quickly.

Dot rested her head on Bob’s chest, listening to his heartbeat. How many times did she wish they would spend times like these? Instead of taking the chance and being together so many minutes ago, she pushed him away like she had before, still afraid to open her heart, even though she’d already lost it to him.

And even after she had almost lost him completely, asked him to marry her, finally took the plunge, a better, more safer looking Bob comes along and she dumps the true one into the gutter. A small sniff came from her, an overwhelming amount of grief and guilt just crashing down on her. She had done her duty to the best of her abilities, tried to keep the personal and private from the business and leadership responsibilities and it was finally coming together.

“Dot?”

She buried her face in the crook of his neck and he could feel hot tears dropping from her eyes. He hugged her tightly, soothing her. “Shhh.” he whispered. “Everything’s gonna be all right. I promise, Dot. Thing’s will be okay.” She looked up at him, her version slightly blury. He dried her eyes and smiled slightly at her, before kissing her gently on the lips.

Like most of their kisses, it started out sweet, then became deeper, more urgent. Breaking it, Dot looked at his face, his brown eyes, inwardly cursing herself for recognizing the real guardian in the first place. His eyes showed concern, but most of all love and a hint of desire and wanting, something that Bob could see reflected in her own eyes.

Not wanting to back down again, but taking the null by the stripes, she stood up and held out her hand to him. Bob got up, flipped the tv off and followed her down the hall.

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