Chapter 36

Stalkers just wanna go shopping

It wasn't the first time Starscream had been inside another mech, or indeed, an Autobot for that matter. But such situations weren't normally a cause for discomfort, or for disgust, as this particular instance was proving to be.

Perhaps if Wheeljack didn't drive so slowly, the trip may have been a little more pleasant; then at least he could have opened the window and let the wind play in his hair as it did when he rode his motorcycle at speed. But instead the insufferable fool drove carefully through the streets, obeying those stupid, human speed limits like his Autobot honour depended on it. It was nauseating.

And speaking of nauseating, the words spilling from Carly's mouth as she consoled her pathetic boyfriend over the phone...eechh. Anything more sickly sweet and he'd be the one needing to stay home in bed due to illness.

He found himself doing the thing he had done the most since his transformation into a human insect: missing his true, Cybertronian form. Only that this time he didn't do it for pure nostalgia; this time, he longed for his audio receptors, so he could shut them down and spare himself from the pathetic display of emotions that made his stomach churn.

"Yes, I'll see you tonight, Spike… Please don't forget to take your medicine. I love you too."

Starscream rolled his eyes. Were all humans this ridiculous concerning their interfacing relationships or were these two the worst cases of the disease? Cybertronians functioned differently concerning their affections, especially Decepticons. Feelings were calculated, controlled impulses coming from their sentient processors, at least for those who had the coldness to keep focused on the things that were really important.

Such as power and greatness… those were the things that made Starscream feel aroused, such was his lust. He had never been in a relationship with anybody and his interfacing partners had never seen his berth twice.

Except for the human Stella.

Starscream frowned. He hadn't taken the time to analyze his unexplainable obsession with that ugly female, but it had something to do with his human condition and the wreck of an organic brain he had instead of a cybernetic processor. He blamed the thing that hung between his legs the most, though; it always seemed to have a mind of its own and didn't give a slag about his dignity.

There was no other way to explain such weakness.

Although, he had to admit that it was good to have someone under his control again, someone he could dominate and pull the strings for instead of being the one forced to dance. That's why he had to keep her around, despite what she did to his common sense. After all, what was the point of power if there was no one beneath you to command?

And yet, already there was someone on those streets that would dare challenge his place above them all. Pathetic as she was, that hideous creature he had found at Stella's apartment – Joan, Jane, Jhiaxus...whatever – had proven useful for something; advising of Kane's actions against Stella, and in turn him.

Starscream sneered as he looked out of Wheeljack's tinted windows, feeling his hands clench at his sides.

"Are you okay, Sean? I registered an increase of adrenaline in your systems."

Starscream tried not to frown, much less to punch Wheeljack's console. Who the frag did that Autobot scum think he was to invade his intimacy that way?

"I'm fine. I was just remembering all the things I've lost recently," he said, as nonchalantly as he could. He had to be smart and remember that a Cybertronian could detect a lot about a human's mood just by their internal functioning. He couldn't afford to have his emotions reveal who he really was.

"It must have been very hard to lose your house and your belongings, but the purpose of this shopping day is to correct that, if only partially," Carly told him, grabbing his arm softly.

He wasn't displeased by her touch, but if the human really wanted to help him, she could have grabbed another part of his anatomy instead.

"Remember that we also need to acquire the supplies I need for my experiment," Wheeljack said, his console lighting up as he spoke.

Carly smiled. "But of course. I heard that Sean has been a great assistant to you, Wheeljack."

The female kept her hand on Starscream's arm. He wondered if she would be so kind if she knew who she was touching.

The Autobot laughed. "He learns very fast! Not even Sparkplug was this enthusiastic when he first came in contact with Cybertronian technology."

Learn? From you, you pathetic comedy of a scientist! Starscream would always remember being Wheeljack's assistant as one of the most embarrassing moments of his life, and not because of alliances but because Starscream himself was, by far, a much better scientist than that clown.

"I… have a way with machines, I guess," he said.

"Don't be so modest," Wheeljack scolded jovially. "It's been good having your help in the laboratory, Sean, I think I will make considerable progress on my experiment with you around."

Oh yes, considerable progress will be made, Autobot. But not on your stupid, worthless experiment. It made Starscream's stomach churn with repulsion to think he had to play such a charade in order to advance his plans; it was so utterly beneath him to have to actually rely on an Autobot for something.

And yet, there he was, playing the willing assistant despite how insufferable the situation. Once again he felt his anger rise, but this time he made an effort to swallow it down. Last thing he needed was to raise suspicions before he'd achieved his goals.

Starscream hadn't realised they had arrived at their destination until he heard Carly opening Wheeljack's door and climbing out.

"Are you coming?" She asked as she leaned into the car. The ex Seeker couldn't help but notice the low cut of her shirt and the flesh she exposed to him. "The sooner we find you some new clothes and personal items, the sooner you'll start to feel better about things."

Starscream controlled the need to laugh. Feel better about things? Yeah, right… As chaotic as it had been at the beginning, it had seemed simpler as well. Use the water from the Well of Transformation, and have his body back. Simple.

But as the days went by, everything got more and more complicated. So many things had happened, each one of them taking that return to normality one step further from his reach.

He sighed and accepted the hand that Carly was extending to him. He focused on her breasts as a shallow, temporary way to evade reality. It worked, if only slightly.

It wasn't often that Johanna wasted her money on cab rides, especially long ones like this. She had never felt comfortable beyond the dirty, unkind streets of her own neighbourhood and besides, why spend money on wheels when high heels could do the job just as well?

But, every now and then there was cause for exception, a reason so urgent that money and the judging eyes of richer streets were of no issue. This was one of those instances.

Johanna eyed the shiny new pistol that sat cradled within her red handbag with a mixture of anger and disappointment flowing through her veins. She hadn't gone looking for him, hadn't wanted to find him, in fact, and yet, there he had been, standing right there across the street from her.

But that wasn't what had made her temperature rise, not his good looks nor the luxury car that he was climbing into. It was the woman that was with him.

A tall, curvy young thing, glowing blonde hair bouncing playfully over her shoulders as she walked... and pretty. Too pretty for those mean streets.

And Sean... The way that prick looked at her, with such lust in those piercing, green eyes – like the woman was all he had ever desired.

Johanna knew that, despite what Stella seemed to think, he would never look at her that way. It was the proof she had needed, the truth she had been afraid to find, right there, written all over that handsomely arrogant face.

There had been no second thoughts in stepping out into the street and hailing the cab as the luxury car pulled away from the kerb, no regrets in offering to pay double if the driver followed said car to its destination without being detected.

After all, she had promised her friend that she would find out all she could about the little shit, and she always kept her word.

Her initial conclusions were not promising, much to her friend's disgrace.

First, it had been the car. A white Lancia Stratus Turbo 5, if the little part of her that remained a man remembered well. Well, not so little, she thought with a frown as she cast a disdainful look downwards.

But she had quickly forgotten about the car and even the intruder between her legs when she saw a certain handsome bastard parading through the shopping mall whilst the blonde chick paid for absolutely everything he chose.

Fucking free-loader, male bitch…

In a way it was understandable. Who in their right mind would dare to deny anything to that dream in blue jeans? Still, it pissed her off when he so obviously lived an easy life, unlike those he abused.

She watched them closely as they moved from store to store, selecting only the most expensive of items. Johanna kept her distance as she took it all in; his arrogance and open flirtation, his opulent tastes…

And the way his piercing green eyes never left his pretty little companion's breasts.

It wasn't until they reached one of the larger department stores and headed for the designer clothing section that Johanna decided that her time for action had come.

Luck seemed to be on her side – for once – when the pretty blonde got caught up looking at some new make-up – Johanna could understand that – whilst Sean proceeded to try some clothes.

As she walked behind her, Johanna could appreciate the beauty of that young woman, just the kind of perfection Johanna would have loved to have, had she been born a female. In a way she felt sorry for her; most likely she didn't know that her boyfriend, or whatever Sean was to her, procured the company of prostitutes, certainly not the kind of acquaintances that Blondie had in her social circles.

She slipped through the men's change room without being noticed – a prodigy, considering she never went unnoticed – and found the one she was looking for by following the trace of English cologne.

"Girlfriend or wife, asshole?" she said, carefully opening the curtains and putting the barrel of her gun on the bare skin of Sean's back.

The young man froze momentarily before turning slowly to face her, his mouth twisting into an angry sneer as he realized who she was. Johanna kept the gun trained on him.

"Is pointing guns at me going to become a habit?" He spat nastily, dropping the pair of jeans he had been about to try on and taking a more aggressive stance. "What the fuck do you want?"

"I want an answer, actually," Johanna replied, reaching around to draw the curtain closed again. Her eyes roamed freely over Sean's athletic body, lingering on the tempting bulge of his underwear. "The blonde out there. Who is she?"

Sean let out an arrogant laugh. "What, are you jealous? I don't see how it's any of your business, woman."

That magic word again… combined with his nudity and close proximity, Johanna suddenly felt as if she might melt. Surely he had an idea of what his presence did to a woman?

Still, now wasn't the time to fall apart. She tightened her grip on the gun.

"I told you why it was my business, asshole. Don't make me repeat myself."

"And I think I made it clear that hurting your friend is not exactly my main priority. Did you have to come all the way here just to show me the kind of psychopath you are?" he said, grabbing a blue shirt from the chair. "I'm going to tell you this once, woman, so make sure you understand it: I hate being followed."

Johanna tried to ignore his amazing body as he started to try on the shirt nonchalantly.

"Answer my question and I'll leave. Who's that woman?"

He didn't reply immediately, instead standing in front of the mirror and admiring himself. Johanna was close to dropping the gun.

"Neither of those things you mentioned," he said, his evil twin giving her a twisted look from the mirror. "Now are you going to put away that gun or do you want me to do it myself? I don't think I need to demonstrate just how easily I can disarm you again?"

Johanna kept her arms raised, contemplating the meaning behind his so-called answer. She was certain it was bullshit; she knew that woman wasn't a hooker – there wasn't a whore on her streets that she didn't know, and even a high-end prostitute wouldn't spend her money on a client like that – and there was no way she was a relative either, judging by the way he looked at her.

So Blondie remained either girlfriend or wife, and either option wasn't good news for Stella. Still she lowered the gun, watching as Sean pulled on the pair of jeans he'd dropped earlier.

"Ok, honey," she finally said, reluctantly taking a step backwards. "I believe you. But remember what I told you the other day: you mess with Stella and I'll mess with you."

"So you said," he replied, returning his attention to the clothes hanging to his right.

With that, Johanna opened the curtain and left the cubicle, taking a moment to watch as the Adonis in blue jeans removed the shirt and reached for another to try on. Damn, even his scars were perfect.

She found Blondie virtually where she had left her, still by the make-up counter but now inspecting the store's range of mascara rather than the lipstick. Again, Johanna could relate to that, although she did wonder how the young woman had managed to resist the gorgeous blue dress hanging on the sale rack just a few feet to her left. It would likely fit the little bitch and look fabulous on her too; if only the same could be true for her.

Still, Johanna was used to the disappointments of expensive department stores, and there was no point in fretting over her limited choice in clothing sources when more important things were at hand. She flicked her long, brown hair playfully over her shoulders and put on her best smile, taking a moment to check that her pistol was safely hidden away in her red handbag before strutting confidently over to stand at the make-up counter beside her blonde target.

"Hmm…that mascara's okay, honey, but if I could offer my advice, I'd go with this one," Johanna said, picking up a pink and black tube and handing it to the young woman. "It adds a lot more length to the lashes, and lasts a lot longer too."

"Oh, ah, thanks," Blondie replied a little awkwardly as she took the mascara and looked Johanna up and down. Still, it didn't take long for a smile to break through. "I've been looking for something like that, they stopped stocking my usual brand here and I haven't been able to find a new one that I like."

"Tell me about it, honey."

Johanna watched as the woman opened the tester and inspected the brush, trying the bristles on the heel of her palm only to leave a black stain. She seemed even younger than Johanna had first thought, early- to mid-twenties perhaps, and had a light in her that someone like herself or Stella would never know. Obviously, this girl had had an easy life.

Still, Johanna couldn't help but suspect that her relationship with Sean – in whatever form it took – was going to take its toll on Blondie sooner rather than later. In a way, Johanna felt guilty that she would play a small part in that, but then again, why was it always the good looking women that had the happy lives? Didn't Stella deserve to be happy too?

It was tempting to simply ask the question – wife or girlfriend? – and be done with it, but the answer would only crush Stella and no further details of the Adonis-in-blue-jeans' life would be discovered. At least if she could find some evidence that Sean was worse than just some cheating, arrogant asshole, then perhaps she might be able to abate some of Stella's heartbreak.


"What did I tell you, doesn't it just feel divine?" Johanna asked of the blonde woman as she put away the tester and added an unopened tube to her small collection of make-up, all of it expensive.

"Yes, I definitely think it's worth trying, thanks," the woman replied, starting to edge away towards the cash register.

"Before you go, I couldn't help but notice you were with Sean earlier," Johanna said, scrutinizing the slight look of surprise on the young woman's face at the mention of his name.

"Yes, we came shopping together. Are you a friend of his?"

"An acquaintance, really; a friend of a friend. My name is Johanna."

"Carly," Blondie replied, extending a dainty hand.

Johanna took it. Soft, clean, feminine, delicate… Yes, definitely the kind of hand that had had an easy life, but also the kind of hand that wouldn't do the kind of things that Stella or Johanna's hands would do, and definitely the kind of hand that couldn't satiate her cheating boyfriend's naughty needs.

Johanna supposed that was one of the reasons why Sean kept returning to Stella's bed; no doubt this Carly chick would be disgusted by what Stella did to him. Johanna, on the other hand, was simply envious.

Still, exploring Sean's perversions wasn't the aim of the game that day, as much as the concept excited her. Johanna let her smile grow.

"A pleasure. Now, you must forgive me for being so bold, but I was wondering if you'd mind passing on a message to Sean for me? I was hoping to catch him myself, but he disappeared into the fitting rooms before I could grab him and I really must be going."

Carly looked slightly taken aback, but still her pretty face continued to smile. Johanna couldn't help but wonder if that girl knew any other expression.

"Of course," she replied, "although I'm sure he won't be too much longer."

"Oh you're doll!" Johanna responded, choosing not to acknowledge Carly's invitation to wait. "I really appreciate it, Carly. If you could just let Sean know that Stella's arm is healing up okay, but she's gonna be left with a nasty scar… I just know Sean must have been worrying about her."

The smile faltered slightly at the mention of another woman's name, but still it remained on her coral pink lips. Wife or girlfriend, Johanna was now certain that Stella was Sean's little secret. Not that that actually proved anything; what man would tell a woman that he was spending time with a prostitute, anyway?

But it did sew a seed of doubt, which would hopefully grow into something far more fruitful…or fun, at least. That would teach the little prick.

"Yes, I'm sure he must have been worried. I'll tell him as soon as he's done," Carly said.

"Thank you so much, I really do appreciate it," Johanna continued, glancing over in the direction of the changing rooms. "She was very lucky, really. Kane has been known to do a lot worse…"

There was one clear answer, at least; Carly's smile disappeared, suddenly replaced with a frown. There was recognition in her eyes, she knew the name Kane, but there was surprise in that blue gaze too. So, Sean's association with Kane was also one of his secrets? Interesting, but not shocking.

Still, it was another seed planted, and another piece of information to exploit later on. Cruel as it probably was, Johanna could see opportunity in her chance meeting with Carly; she couldn't help but feel that they'd be meeting again soon. And if she had to walk all over her to protect Stella, well, so be it. Johanna would never be ashamed of the things she did to save her friend.

"But now I really must be going, I'm running very late for an appointment. Thanks again, Carly, and a pleasure meeting you."

"And you too."

Johanna turned to walk away, allowing Carly to make her way to the cashier. Pulling a pen and notepad out of her handbag, she quickly wrote down her address in long, flowing cursive, before returning to Carly's side.

"I have a store, if you're ever in the neighbourhood. There's this top I think would look fabulous on you," she said, handing over her details. "You can come with Sean."

Johanna couldn't help but smile as she turned and walked away, flicking her hair. "Oh, and let me know how that mascara goes," she called over her shoulder.

She didn't wait to see the reaction on Blondie's face. It was unnecessary; she was sure the Disney princess had never been so out of words.

To be continued.

Have you noticed how interesting it is to mix the pieces of a puzzle, especially if that causes double trouble for our villain in disguise?

Many thanks for reading and for all your support. Your comments and insight are pure fuel for the jet – no pun intended.