Title: What Love Means
Summary: Sam struggles for a definition of the instinct. Bumblebee already knows.
Sam felt the familiar warm glow in the pit of his stomach as he watched his girlfriend smile at him over her shoulder before she disappeared into the house. This had come to be a Saturday night routine. They would go out to a movie or a club, and Sam would drop Mikaela home shortly before midnight. Having such a curfew imposed by his parents would perhaps have made Sam feel belittled and embarrassed, but Mikaela had never complained about it, so he had never had to confront it, and he was thankful to her for that.
Clubbing hadn't been a hobby of his previously, but then, a lot of things had changed from the picture of how things were only several months ago. There was something about battling metal giants and saving the world that tends to give one confidence, Sam decided. Like driving a sleek Camaro of Class Superior around the streets of Tranquility, and really feeling like he belonged in it. No, this wasn't Daddy's Car. This was his.
The fact the Camaro was also seventeen feet of conscious alien robot soldier perhaps put a bit of flawed logic in that claim to ownership, but the sentiment was still there. And with a stunning girlfriend to go with the stunning car, Sam decided life was definitely looking good.
It was a mindless drive home. It always was, on Saturday nights, with not much traffic about. Bumblebee always let Sam drive now, whenever he and Mikaela went out. Perhaps it was the bot's way of trying to be unobtrusive. He never spoke, either. Not even through cleverly selected radio tunes. Unobtrusive. Yes, that must be why. After all, dates aren't meant to be for three.
Sam almost jumped at the break in the silence, but quickly recovered himself from his musings to reply, "Yeah, Bee?"
There was a hesitant silence before Bumblebee's voice came again from the radio, "What does love mean?"
Sam certainly wasn't expecting that. "Uh..." he started eloquently. "It's...well...it's... Don't you have web access to learn about that sort of thing? I mean, definitions, and...stuff?"
"I have tried," Bumblebee said, "but there are so many different interpretations resulting from my searches. It is one word - it must have singular meaning."
"But lots of words can have different meanings," Sam said. "Like, say, 'star'. It's a glowy thing in space, and also someone in a movie lead role, or with some other accomplishment. Plus, it's a shape."
"Yes, but it all comes from one concept," Bumblebee said. "The shape represents the appearance of the space matter from the perspective of your planet, and the person with the accomplishment is titled as a star to metaphorically symbolize their distinction from other people - as space matter is distinct from the surrounding blackness."
"Okay, bad example. But...why does this matter? It's just a word." Even as he said it, he felt like he had made a mistake.
The Camaro was quiet, before he responded, "...I am just trying to understand."
Sam felt bad. It was just a question. Why shouldn't he answer it? After all, he loved Mikaela, didn't he? He should know the answer. "Love is...the feeling you get in your gut when you see someone...really important to you. No, wait, it's more than that. It's...it's like..."
Bumblebee was obligingly silent while Sam struggled to find words of adequate description.
"It's surrendering yourself," Sam continued. "Knowing that you'd do anything just to make that person happy."
"That is one interpretation," Bumblebee said. "But you said you love mocha ice cream. How can you make that happy?"
"That's different," Sam said, and flustered as he realized that was the whole point of this conversation. "I mean, I really enjoy it, that's all."
"So to love something, you must simply enjoy it?"
"...No," Sam replied, thinking of his mother when she discovers he hasn't taken the trash out despite her asking twice. "Not necessarily. Sometimes you can love people without even liking them."
"This is a very illogical process."
"Yeah, it makes no sense really," Sam admitted. "People have puzzled over it since the invention of the word. Even before. To say I love ice cream isn't a strictly correct use of the word, I guess. I mean, it's like the star metaphor. People aren't stars. Ice cream can't be loved."
"Love is largely described as a feeling," Bumblebee said, "yet human feelings and emotions are so changeable. Circumstantial."
"Yeah, but love is more than just a feeling. It's just...more. Other feelings, like happiness, anger, frustration...they're all dependant on someone's own circumstances. But love is beyond that - it's about someone else. It's when someone else becomes more important than yourself."
"It's feeling with a natural consequence of sacrificial action, then."
"Yeah, I guess," Sam said. "After all, that's what Romeo and Juliet got famous for."
There was a still silence in the car, and Sam presumed Bumblebee was referencing the famous tale online. This was confirmed when the Camaro said, "So one will die for it."
"If it's strong enough. Lesser degrees of love, like crushes, fondness, affection...they're all emotionally significant, but if love is strong enough...yeah, people will die for it."
"Surrendering yourself," Bumblebee repeated Sam's earlier explanation.
"Right, that," Sam said. Now it looked like they were getting somewhere. "Like, if someone would give up everything, just to see someone else happy...if that other person's life was the highest priority...that is love."
"So..." Bumblebee began, "if someone is prepared to commit their life to another in ceaseless devotion, protect them at all costs, prioritize their happiness, even if they must see that person happy with another, and this is the most valuable thing to them...that is love."
"Yeah, that would be the real thing alright," Sam affirmed. "Do you understand what love is, now?"
"Yes, Sam," Bumblebee said quietly, as Sam pulled into his driveway and brought them to a slow stop. "I believe I do."
A/N: This was written with the intent of being a one-shot, but the story continues now. Still, this works as a stand-alone, I think. I'll be posting the follow-up fics in here as new chapters.