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 Trading Spaces

 

Part III

 

 

 

Matrix and AndrAIa walked down the street, heading for the Diner. They were whispering, mostly about how Dot would have both their bitmaps for not bringing Enzo home sooner. As for said smaller version of Matrix, he was sound asleep, his head resting on his brother’s shoulder, as the group silently entered the Diner.

The lights were out, of course, which only made the couple even more nervous. “She’s probably sitting on the couch, waiting for us to walk in.” AndrAIa grumbled.

“You were the one who wanted to see the movie.” Matrix muttered.

“Yeah, at like 1500 this afternoon!” she exclaimed, quickly quieting her voice.

“Look, let’s just leave him on the doorstep.” Matrix suggested. “I’m sure we’ve got baskets around here.”

His girlfriend glared at him. “Don’t you even dare.”

They continued down the stairs and reached the door to the little apartment. Punching in the code, Matrix slowly opened the door, knowing the fate that awaited them. But peeking his head through, he saw nothing. He then entered, seeing nothing astray.

“Coast is clear looks like.” AndrAIa whispered.

“Yeah.” he said, taking a few more steps into the living room. “A little too clear if you ask me.”

He was about to call for Dot, when AndrAIa stopped him. “She could be in bed, you know.” she said.

“Yeah, and where’s Bob?” he asked. “He’s not on the couch.”

AndrAIa shrugged. “Maybe he’s in bed, too.” she said, giggling. Matrix gave her a look. “What?” she asked. “Now, you know that…”

“I don’t want to hear it.” he said, quickly leaving his girlfriend and going to his brother’s room. AndrAIa followed him, noticing Dot’s door was closed.

Matrix booted Enzo into his pajamas and laid the litle sprite down in his bed and tucked him in. The renegade stood looking over the sprite, his face devoid of the excitement and energy he had during the seconds to one of peace that even his brother took on at night.

He smiled and ruffled the boy’s hair, before turning and nearly running into his girlfriend.

“You’re quite good at that, you know.” she said, smiling up at him. He just shrugged.

“Good practice, I guess.” he said, knowing immediately what she was thinking. “Now if only I knew where Bob and Dot were.”

AndrAIa gave him a look, to which Matrix shook his head. “Come on, Lover,” she said. “Surely you didn’t think…”

“No actually,” he said, leading them out into the hallway. “I try not to think about those things when thinking about my sister and best friend, thanks.”

“I thought I was your best friend.” AndrAIa said, her mood changing.

“Yeah, but I’m also sleeping with you.” he said, with the wink. “There are certain things I enjoy doing with you that I can’t do with Bob. That’s…”

“That’s what Dot’s for.” she said, finishing his sentence.

“That’s not what I was going to say.” he said.

“Was too.”

“I was not.” he insisted. “You think he’s in there right now?” he asked, pointing at the closed door.

“I’m positive he’s in there right now.” AndrAIa said. “In fact, I’d bet money on it.”

“Well, I say he’s not.” Matrix replied. “In fact, I think he’s taking a walk right now.”

“He’s taking something right now and it’s no walk.” AndrAIa smirked.

“Stop it, stop it right now.” Matrix exclaimed in a hushed whisper, covering his ears with his hands.

“All right, all right.” she relented. “He’s not in there.”

“Thank you.”

“But I’m not leaving until I prove you wrong.”

Matrix raised an eyebrow. “What do you suggest?” he asked.

“Take a look.” she said, most to her lover’s horror. “Look, if he’s in there, then he’s in there. If he’s not, he’s not. Plain and simple. So go look.”

“No!” he said, scandalized.

“Shh! You’re gonna wake everybody up!”

“You’ve lost your motherboard.” he said.

“Oh, just go look.” she said, pushing him towards the door. “Dot’s a big girl, Bob’s a big boy…I guess.” she said, trying to cover a barrage of giggles.

Matrix glared at her and then turned from the door. “Well, right there. That’s it.” he said. “I’m not looking.”

“Just a peek.”

Matrix gulped and opened the door slowly. “Well?” she asked.

“I don’t see anything.” he replied.

“Nothing?”

“Nothing.”

“At all?” Matrix shook his head. “That’s weird.”

“It might have something to do with the fact that my eyes are closed.” he responded. AndrAIa huffed and pushed him out of the way. A few nanos later, she closed the door and smirked at him.

“You owe me money.” she said, walking past him and heading towards the door.

“You mean…Bob and Dot…they…no way!”

 

***
 

The next morning, Dot awoke and stretched. She sighed, remembering last night and trying to hide the smile that came to her face. He was gone, of course, probably in the kitchen to avoid Enzo peeking in. She stretched again and rolled over to her side.

That’s when she saw the hologram card on the pillow.

She looked at in amused curiosity before opening it up. Mike the TV immediately popped up, talking about how the card had brought to her by the Holomark Company. Then there was Bob, smiling at her.

“Hey.” his image said, smiling. “Sorry I couldn’t be there when you woke up, but Phong needed me to close a tear. I already got Enzo off to school so you could have a nice peaceful morning and sleep in for a change.” He paused slightly, before grinning. “Last night was incredible.” he whispered. “You have no idea how long I’ve waited…” his voice trailed off.

“I love you, Dot.” he said finally. “I’ll see you later today.”

With that, the image disappeared and Dot closed the card, smiling to herself. They had waited, skirted around their feelings, just so she could push him away. But last night, she had pulled him in and showed him just how much she loved him and needed him with her, feelings and desires he echoed. She lay back, holding the card to her and sighed.

Things seemed to finally be going right.

 

***
 

Later that second, Dot was seated in her favorite booth, finding the time to go over figures from her various ventures. “Hey Tiger.” said a voice, interrupting her thoughts. Dot turned to see Matrix, his arm slung loosely around her shoulder and resting on the back, and AndrAIa seated across from her, trying to keep from laughing.

“Hello.” she said, giving the two looks of her own and then going back to her work.

“Sorry for bringing Enzo home late last night.” Matrix began.

Dot’s eyes widen some and then went back to their normal size. “Oh, that’s…that’s okay.” she stuttered. She hadn’t even noticed they were late, seeing as she was involved in…other things.

“Yeah, that’s what we figured.” Matrix said, smugly. “So…how was dinner?”

“Fantastic.” she sighed, then catching herself, said, “Dinner was fantastic. It was really good.”

“I bet.” AndrAIa said, her fit of giggles beginning.

Dot looked between the look her brother was giving her and his girlfriend’s hysteric laughing. “You know, don’t you?” she asked, a slight reddening appearing on her cheeks.

“Know what?” Matrix asked innocently and was slapped on the arm for it. “Ow!”

“Don’t you dare tell a single solitary soul!”

“Dot…Sis…” he said. “I’m not one to kiss and tell, am I, AndrAIa?”

“Oh no.” she said, a few giggles escaping.

“Don’t worry.” he said, winking at her. “Your secret’s safe with me.” With a small smirk, the renegade got up and walked over to the bar counter.

“You…didn’t hear anything, did you?” Dot asked in a hushed tone.

“Oh no,” the game sprite replied, shaking her head. “You two were totally asleep.” Her eyes widen, while Dot’s narrowed.

“Matrix did it.” Andri blurted. “It was his fault. He tried to get me to look and I said no. I was very firm about
it.”

Dot looked at the game sprite, knowing there were still some things being hidden. But it also brought up something else. “Speaking of which,” she began, leaning in closer. “Are you and Matrix okay?”

“Yeah, sure.” she said, looking at her friend in confusion. “Why?”

“Well, you’re spending a lot of time with Enzo and just the other second when I asked, Matrix said you two weren’t getting along.”

“When did he say that?” she asked.

“The other second, when he came to see Enzo.” Dot repeated. “When I said you two would probably like sometime to yourselves, he said that Enzo was good company and that you two didn’t even like each other all that much.”

“Really.” AndrAIa said, her laughing fit turning to an anger management course in the making. She cast an evil look towards her lover and then a smile at Dot. “He’s just joking. she said, calmly. “In joke. You had to be there in order to understand it.”

“Couple joke.” Dot said, with a grin.

“Yeah.” AndrAIa muttered.

“Besides,” Dot said, laughing herself. “It’s not like the three of you are planning something.”

AndrAIa started to laugh when she stopped. “What?”

“I mean,” she continued, having her own fit of hysterics. “What’re you doing? Trying to keep Bob living with me so you and Matrix can have his apartment?”

AndrAIa’s mouth dropped. How in the Net…? She knew Dot was good at finding out stuff, but the information hadn’t even gotten past anyone except the three of them, so how in the Web could she possibly…Dot looked at AndrAIa’s astonished face, before it break into laughter as well.

“That’s…that’s funny, Dot.” she said, laughing along with the joke. “What an utterly ridiculous idea. We…we would never think of that….how in the FAQ did you?” The last part was under her breath.

“What was that?” Dot asked.

“Nothing.” AndrAIa gulped slightly, somehow knowing their perfect plan had been corrupted.

 

***
 

AndrAIa stormed into Bob’s…almost theirs…apartment and saw Matrix immediately. He was sitting on the couch, smiling, but seeing her expression his smile quickly faded. “Something wrong, babe?” he asked, tentatively.

“So we don’t like each other all that much, huh?” she asked, her arms folded across her chest.

Matrix’s eyes widen, knowing the statement. “Andri, now I didn’t mean that.” he started, standing and walking towards her. “She wanted to keep Enzo there and we couldn’t have that. It just came out!”

“I bet.”

“Aw, come on Andri.” he said, rubbing her arm. “She’s getting kinda suspicious, I had to say something.”

Her features softened. “I know.” she sighed. “Speaking of which, I think Dot knows more than we gave her credit for.” She repeated their conversation to the renegade, who sat down on the arm of the chair.

“You really think she knows?” he asked, quietly.

“You said she’s getting suspicious.” AndrAIa replied. “But don’t forget. Bob and Dot have a more…intimate relationship now. We could just be overacting.”

That seemed to perk him up a bit. “Yeah, huh?” he said. “They aren’t exactly friends anymore, not really. There’s no she’d make him leave now. That means he can stay there and we can stay here,” He took her in his arms and hugged her. “Man, AndrAIa, this plan is going better than I thought.” He pulled back and looked at her. “And you thought it wasn’t going to work.”

 

***
 

Dot was in her restaurant office, trying to go over figures, but having a hard time concentrating. The look AndrAIa gave her when she made up that plan made Dot wonder. It did seem a bit odd that those three spent so much time together, especially with Bob living with them. If anything, she would think Enzo would want to stay home.

The more she thought about it, the more she figured it could happen.

And the more she figured it could happen, the more she figured it was happening.

As Dot thought, she suddenly felt a pair of hands on her shoulders, scaring half ot deletion. Turning around, she saw Bob backspacing away. “Bob!” she exclaimed.

“Hi to you, sweetheart.” he said, keeping his distance.

“You scared me.” she said, relaxing back in her chair. Bob approached again, massaging her shoulders. “How did you get in here in the first place?”

“I can make portals and the like, you know.” he whispered, planting a kiss on her neck. “I missed you. I wish I could’ve stayed this morning.”

“Me too.” she admitted, slowly coming under his control. She snapped out of by pulling away from him and turning to face him. “Bob, there’s something I have to tell you.”

“I kinda wanna tell you something, too.” he said. “Ask you something really…”

“Bob, this whole thing has been a set up.” she said.

“Dot, will you…what?”

“I was talking to AndrAIa today and in no uncertain she basically told me she, Matrix, and Enzo planned this whole thing.” she continued.

“What’re you talking about?” he asked, confused.

“This whole thing!” she cried, standing up and pacing about. “They wanted you to move in so Matrix and AndrAIa could have your apartment.”

“But…you asked me to…”

“I know,” she sighed. “But I was having second thoughts and Enzo was right there to talk me out of it. I should’ve known something was up when he actually used the word ‘merger’.”

Bob stood, slightly confused….perplexed was more like it. “But that’s okay.” she continued. “I just got word from the foreman that they’ve moved the construction to the other side of the building, so you can move back in. Don’t worry.” she said, seeing the look on his face. “I’ll get AndrAIa and Matrix an apartment.”

“So…” he started. “That’s it? I move back in?”

She looked at him and was suddenly at a loss for words. “Bob…” she started. “You knew you couldn’t stay. Didn’t you? You have to go home, Bob.”

“I thought I was home.” he whispered, looking at her. Dot looked away, not wanting to see the look of hurt on his face. “How long are we going to do this, Dot? This little dance of ours? What about last night or was that part of the ‘merger’ as well?”

“Bob!” she exclaimed, turning to face him again, his accusation stinging. “You know that’s not true, but now that you mention it, this was supposed to be just a business venture and then things got personal…”

“Dot,” he said, taking a step towards her. “Things between us have always been personal. At least to me anyways.”

“To me, too!”

“Oh?” he asked, sarcastically. “Is that why you almost married Megabyte?” He regretted it as soon as it came from his mouth, but a part of him felt satisfied seeing the look of pain that flashed across her face momentarily.

“That was low, Bob.” she growled.

“You’re right.” he said. “Maybe things between us just…you’re right, Dot. I should go home. I’ll get started packing my things.” Instead of portaling out, he used the door and slammed it shut behind him.

 

***
 

Matrix and AndrAIa were just starting to pack their things when Enzo walked in and sat with a sigh on the couch. Matrix looked at his counterpart and went back to packing. “Come on guys,” AndrAIa pleaded. “It was a good try, so don’t feel bad. Things just didn’t work out this time.”

“I guess.” the boys said, the same depression in their voices. Andri sighed. At any other time, the two would look at each other, surprised they’d been thinking the same thing. But this time….she shook her head. She wasn’t sure if it was the news of the moving or if they had just gotten used to it by now.

Bob soon walked in, seeing Enzo ruffled his hair, and then walked into his bedroom. The group stopped to watch as he returned a few nanos later, suitcase in hand and headed for the garage. The trio followed him slowly as he checked his classic car and looked at the keys.

“Um….hey Bob?” Matrix asked. “Whatcha doin’?”

Bob walked over to AndrAIa and handed her the keys. “You’ll take care of my car, huh?” he asked.

“Sure Bob.” she said. “What’re you doing?”

“I just wanted to let you guys know you can keep the apartment.” Bob said, with a smile.

“Yes!” the boys cried.

“We knew you’d convince Dot to let you stay.” Enzo said.

“I knew you weren’t moving out, Bob.” Matrix replied.

“Actually guys, I am out.”

“Oh, you found another apartment?” Andri asked.

“You could say that.” he said. He looked at the three, trying to find some way to tell them. He just decided to them straight out.

“I’m leaving Mainframe.”

 

***
 

Bob was preparing for his departure from Mainframe later that afternoon. He hated seeing the looks in the Matrix brothers’ eyes when he told them he was leaving. They looked crushed almost. He knew once he left, Dot would take the heat for it and that was something he really didn’t want to happen.

The guardian sat in the driver’s seat of his car, saying his goodbyes to the classic 262. He loved this car, but he knew in AndrAIa’s hands it might actually work. He looked up and said, “I didn’t think I’d see you.”

“I thought you had left.” she said.

“I was about to.” He looked over and saw her standing there, her eyes pleading with him to probably stay, but he had made up his processor to leave.

“Bob, you don’t have to do this.”

He sighed and stood from the car, closing the door tightly. “I have to, Dot.” he said, picking up his bag.

“Bob, if this is about the apartment…”

“It’s not the apartment, Dot.” he said, his voice cracking slightly. “Turbo offered me my old teaching gig at the Academy. It’ll be great going back.”

“Bob…”

“I just…I just have to think about a few things.” he said. He was quiet for a time, trying to hold his emotions. “I love you, Dot. So much it hurts. I forgave you a long time ago, but there’s still a little part of me that just can’t.”

She laughed a little, biting her bottom lip. “I guess I deserve this.” she said. “I finally pushed you to the breaking point, huh? Now it’s my turn.”

Bob shook his head. “Dot…”

“You’re coming back, aren’t you?”

He closed his eyes and turned to look at her. “I don’t know.” he said. He held out his hand for her to take. “It was nice knowing you, Dot Matrix.”

She grabbed his hand. “Likewise.” she whispered. In an instant, he had pulled her towards and their lips met passionately. Pulling apart, she finally let the tears fall. “Don’t go.” she said.

Bob fought to hold on to his own tears. He kissed her forehead before turning, opening a portal, and stepping through it.

 

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