Chapter Nine: The Crush, Part Three
"Sari…Sari, please, don't cry. I'm so sorry; I didn't mean to hurt your feelings." I'm on my knees and nearly begging now for Sari to end her sobbing. She's been crying like this for ten minutes now, squeezing her stuffed rabbit and refusing to look at me. She hasn't run off yet, not that she would have any place to go—this is her room, the place she always hides in. I don't know what to do this time. All of her other crying fits had an easy solution, but this one…
She sounds like her heart has been metaphorically ripped out. I feel horrible, and I try hard to let her know how sorry I truly am for snapping at her. Her sobs reach my teammates' audios, and all four of them enter her room to see if they can mediate the problem.
"Sari, what's wrong?" Optimus asks as he kneels down next me. Sari just cries louder into her toy and ignores the question.
"Prowl, what the frag did you say to her?" Bumblebee growls angrily, "Every time we leave her with you she ends up upset. What is wrong with you?"
"I snapped at her when I shouldn't have," I admit, looking at the floor, "I didn't mean to, it just slipped out."
"Well," said Optimus, "I think you should go. Sari, do you want to be left alone right now?" She nods, squeezing her rabbit ever tighter. Optimus places a hand on my shoulder as an indicator to keep my mouth shut, let's leave the room, Sari needs some alone time. I reluctantly obey, getting back to my feet and exiting the room, followed by Ratchet, Bumblebee, Bulkhead and Optimus, who stays back just to ask what happened.
Sari speaks so quietly that I couldn't hear it even if I tried to eavesdrop on them, so I just go to my room and sit down at the base of the tree. Moments later, Optimus enters without knocking, closes my door and sits down beside me. He's wearing a stern, concerned face, and I can only think he has some bad news for me.
"Prowl," he begins, "Sari's very upset right now. She told me what happened, and I don't blame you for getting frustrated with her. She can be a little…hard to deal with, trust me, we all know it. I asked her why this hurt her so much, but she didn't answer. She just showed me a book she had hidden in her bed, under the mattress. It's a diary. I asked if I could show you what was in it."
"Apparently Sari is in love with you."
Ah. The crush, of course. I explain to Optimus what Fanzone and his wife told me, using a few examples of her recent behavior to illustrate the situation. Optimus listens intently, trying to gain a better understanding of the problem and most likely searching for a solution. After my little lecture is done, Optimus hands me the little pink and yellow book and tells me to look inside.
"Optimus," I protest, hands up to avoid holding the book, "I can't. She told me no one is allowed to look in it. I do not know what will happen if I open it. Humans consider these as sacred books, they—"
"Prowl, it's a diary. We have them on Cybertron, just not in book form. Didn't you ever use one?"
"Well, no, I never—"
"Just look." He's wearing that look on his face, the one he uses often when he's being serious and annoyed at the same time. I have a history of getting on his bad side, and I'd rather not start a little war between the two of us, so I take the diary, open it up and begin to flip through the pages, trying not to actually pay attention to what I'm seeing. But despite my best efforts to not pry into Sari's personal thoughts, I can't help but notice all the little crayon drawings, the millions of floating hearts, the impossibly large smiles on our illustrated faces.
Passages and passages of love-struck idolatry sprinkled with exclamation points and still more hearts flood this little book. A few photographs have been sloppily glued to some of the pages, some cut up, some with little captions above and below them. I vaguely recall a day where Bumblebee had obtained a human camera and had snapped pictures of everyone during a day at the park. One of the photographs in Sari's diary is of her and me, hanging upside down in a tree. I was trying to teach her endurance and patience, but now that I'm looking at the photo, my optics were off and she was staring at me with a huge grin on her face.
Sari didn't have just any crush on me; she was head over heels infatuated. Optimus waited patiently for my reaction, as though he could read my thoughts and was just waiting for me to say them out loud. I handed him the diary, then said,
"She's too young to feel this way about anyone yet, let alone a robot. Why me, anyways? I'm quiet, antisocial, withdrawn…"
"You take good care of her," interrupted Optimus, "You take her to school, pick her up, feed her, read to her, help her with her homework. You're even training her to defend herself; what's more protective and loving than that? You spend more time with her than the rest of us, even more than Bumblebee and Bulkhead! Sari comes to you in the middle of the night after having one of those nightmare things. Not even her own father had time to do these things. You're all she has right now, and she needs you. None of us know how to do what you've been doing."
Optimus is right. If I left Sari in his or Ratchet's hands, she'd be dead within a week. Don't even get me started on what would happen if I left her with Bumblebee and Bulkhead.
I sighed, realizing just how much of a mess I've made with my sudden outburst, and make the decision right there to go and talk to her. Clutching the diary close to me, I give Optimus a quiet nod and get up to discuss what needs to be discussed.
I knock three times on her door and await her answer, but she never gives one.
"Sari, I'm going to wait another ten seconds, and if you don't let me come in with your permission, I'm going to come in on my own."
There's no sound, no permission at all. I silently count to ten, then open the door to her room and find she's hidden herself under all her blankets and is pretending to be asleep. With her lights still on, of course.
"Sari, I know you're awake. Let's talk, all right? I don't want to argue, or fight, I just want to talk. I'm sorry I snapped at you, I shouldn't have. I got frustrated, it happens all the time."
"Whatever," Sari mumbles, turning over in her bed so that her back in facing me, "I wanna go to sleep. Lemme alone."
"No, Sari," I answer, "We're going to talk now. I don't want us to fight."
"Yeah, well you should have been nicer."
"Sari, I'm always nice to you. I take very good care of you, and you know it. Would you prefer it if I let Ratchet take care of you? How about Bumblebee? Do they know how to cook, or when to pick you up from school, or would they care enough to help you with your homework?"
Sari is silent, because she knows they don't and they wouldn't.
"How about if I let Optimus take over as your caretaker? How often do you think you'd be able to have a sleepover with him in charge?"
"Exactly. Sari, this is a normal part of being little, and a normal part of being a guardian. It's normal to feel frustrated, it's okay to get upset, and it's fine to be mad. But it's not okay to suddenly hate someone for having feelings. Do you know why I was frustrated with you?"
"Because I was being rude?"
"Yes. Do you think I appreciate it when you act rude?" Sari answers quietly,
"So," I ask, starting to relax, "what do you think we could do to make sure this never happens again?"
"…I could be less rude, and you can count to ten every time I end up saying something wrong."
"Sounds good. Now, what are we going to do about this crush you have?" Sari is quiet again, not ready to discuss the subject just yet. But I am, and I want to get this out of her system as soon as possible. I want to be like her parent, not her boyfriend.
"Sari," I say as gently and non-judgmental as possible, "this is important, for both of us. I've known about your crush on me for a little while now, it's not a surprise to me. You don't need to be embarrassed, this is totally normal."
"No it isn't. Humans are supposed to have crushes on other humans, not robots. It's weird. It means there's something wrong with me." Oh dear. I press my servos against my face as I try to come up with a way to fix this, bit all I can do is sit and think. Moments later, a soft sob comes from Sari's bed. I remove my servos from my face and find she's weeping quietly into her pillow.
"Oh…oh, Sari…sweetheart, come here." I reach down and scoop her up into my servos carefully, bringing her as close as possible to a hug without squishing her. She wraps her own little ser—arms around my neck and sobs for a while without any explanation. I sit as still as I can and let her get it all out of her system.
When she's done, I place her back on her bed and ask,
"Sari, what's wrong? Why are you crying?"
"Because I'm weird," she cries, "I'm a total freak! I have a crush on a giant robot, I live with giant robots, there's no record of my existence, I have no human friends, and I'm just weird! BWAAAAAAAAAA!"
The tears come back, and again she's in my arms.
"Sari," I say in between outburst, "you are not weird. I'm sure your existence is documented somewhere. That Powell man most likely photocopied your image onto a blank document, anyone could do that. You have Avani as a human friend, and she loves you. And just because you live with us does not make you weird or odd in any way. You're safe here with us, and not at some home for children without parental units. Would you rather be amongst strangers than with us?"
"*sniff*…No…." she agrees, wiping her opt—eyes with her hands."
"Sari, I hope we find your father. But right now, you're here with us, and you're safe. We all love you, I love you, but I want to love you like a parental unit. Will you love us as a family?"
Sari wipes her eyes again and nods silently. She's had a rough night, it seems, and she's ready to go to sleep. I lay her back down and tuck her in gently, humming a lullaby she taught me a while back. She shuts her eyes and starts to drift off.
"I'm glad we had this talk, Sari," I whisper as I turn off her lights, "good night, sweetheart."
Oh my goodness. This might be the cutest, most sickeningly sweet thing I've ever written. Please review. Next up: The Sleepover From Hell!