A/N: This is a rather short chapter, but after all the positive reviews I have received (Thank you all so very much! ::bounces around in happy circles::) I was inspired to write the next chapter. This one is completely un-beta'ed. So if there are any problems, bad spelling, or strangeness in how it sounds, it is all my fault. Please don't blame my beta's.
Disclaimer: I own nothing but my OCs. Please don't sue. This is purely for fun!
I was going to meet Optimus Prime soon, the one being in the entire universe that I truly feared.
I could process nothing else in the cycles that followed. Charlotte had kindly refused to comment on the despondent and depressed way I carried myself. Perhaps she thought it was the sorrow that had lead to my sobbing during our first meeting. Perhaps it was a strange human custom to leave others alone in their misery that I had yet to research. Regardless of the reasons, she offered quiet sympathy, gentle friendship, and cup after cup of a concoction called 'hot cocoa.'
I drank each one, pretending to savor the flavor of it as I had seen her do with her first sip. A quick internet scan showed that the liquid was a delicacy among human females, and scientific research supported the notion that a chemical within the piping hot substance activated certain neural receptors within the organic female brain. The portions stimulated had to do with pleasure and joy, and as such I allowed my mood to climb by degrees with each cup she handed me.
The result was a lot of trips to the ladies room to purge my holding tank. The other side effect was at least my supposed better mood appeared to elevate Charlotte's attitude as well. And, oddly enough, watching her smile and laugh had a way of truly elevating mine. How odd, that the joy of another creature could inspire joy in myself as well. It was a new sensation and an entirely new theory to test.
Perhaps there was something to the small smiles on Hound and Bumblebee's faces when I was released to return to my dorm. At first I had assumed it was just a standard facial expression they had adopted when their plates were not in motion. Like Megatron's perpetual glare, or Thundercracker's stolid and emotionless visage. Had they truly found delight in helping me?
It was another thing to ponder as I browsed the racks of clothing.
"How about this one?"
Charlotte held up an article of clothing made of pure cotton fibers, the color of which was said to complement a 'summer' complexion. I had to stop myself from replying before I turned my head to view the item. Humans did not possess three hundred and sixty degree scanning capabilities. As she was standing behind me at the moment, the appropriate reaction would be to turn my head and view the item first, then comment.
It was a slightly annoying habit, but one I was going to have to learn if I was to fit in with the humans.
"Or this one? I think this will be better on you," she continued, holding up a second dress before I could comment on the first.
I obliged her, turning enough to see what was called a 'little black dress.' Another quick scan of the internet told me the item was considered essential to a woman's wardrobe. Though the material and cut made it less likely for an evening's festivities, and more appropriate for a daytime trip. I shrugged a shoulder, and made my lips form into a smile.
"Do you like it?" I asked.
Charlotte rolled her eyes and grinned. "Zoe, for the last time, I'm not shopping for me. We are shopping for you. These are going to be your clothes. You need to have an opinion on them. For goodness sake, I've never met a girl that had so little interest in her own appearance. Now come on, do you like it in black or do you like it in this dark green?"
Charlotte held them up one by one and my hologram narrowed her eyes as if trying to decide. Inwardly, my optics spun with mingled dread and delight. I had not thought about colors before. Was I supposed to like one more than the other? Was that even allowed? As I examined the two garments carefully, I noted that one was not fully cotton fiber, but had a synthetic plastic-like weave through the cloth. Spandex, it was called.
That just added more fuel to my agitation. What about the fabrics? Was I allowed to not like one fabric over the other? Was one bad and one good? And if I selected that one fabric, was I allowed to change my mind and wear a different fabric later on? There were too many choices, too many decisions that had to be made, and Charlotte seemed to make them without a care in the world. Could it be that her organic brain processed these things at a much more rapid speed than I thought possible for her race?
Again, I didn't have time to ponder further as Charlotte grabbed my arm and drug me before a three-way mirror. "You can't decide just by staring at them, either, huh?" she laughed, slipping the hangar over my head so that the gown rested on top of my current clothing. "Let's see what color works better against your skin. Maybe that will help."
I stared at my reflection, and felt my eyes going wide. "This one," I found myself saying.
The dark green made my eyes pop against the color, my reddish hair glowed like someone had poured liquid copper down the fine threads of it. I didn't need to try the black one. This was the gown that I wanted. It was soft and supple, with a fitted waist and a scoop to the top that showed just the right amount of flesh to be considered flirty but tasteful.
It was not the death-by-sex dress that Thundercracker and Soundwave had designed for my Alice image. This was something I had chosen, and I wanted it with a passion that defied my logic center.
I could tell by Charlotte's reaction that she had the same feeling. "This one is it," she nodded somberly, and then her trademark kind smile returned and she threw her arms around my neck, pressing a kiss to my cheek. "See? This isn't so bad. We are building some great memories already. You aren't alone Zoe, not with me by your side. Now we just have to get you a boyfriend and I'm sure you'll forget all about the bad stuff."
Boyfriend… Could I have one of those? From what I had seen in Sam's memories, it was considered a great and sacred honor to be a boyfriend to a girl. It was something he cherished. I thought back to the boys I had seen on and off campus, and for reasons I really could not understand, I could not stop thinking of one human male in particular.
Leo. Sam's roommate. Or more to the point, how Leo had reacted to me.
I rubbed the material of the dress between my thumb and forefinger, wondering if Leo would look at Zoe the same way he had looked at Alice. Wondering if I would know the thrill of kissing him. I shuttered my optics, my holoform closing her eyes, imagining what such a kiss would feel like. I knew the feel of Sam's lips already, and delightful as that was, I could not risk a repeat of it at this point. Not if Bumblebee would detect any trace of him on my form.
That would mean certain death. I was not ready for that. I don't think any mech ever was.
And yet, as I let my processors spin out computations of what kissing Leo would be like, I was surprised that I thought of yet another male altogether… Hound. My memory banks pulled up the image of his optics glancing at me, the feel of his armored shoulder as I sat there, leaning against his helm. His energy patterns were warm and tingling, his spark thrumming with a steady strength that I envied…
"You have got to tell me what you're thinking about," Charlotte giggled, bringing me back from my memories.
"What do you mean?"
"That look on your face a moment ago," she smiled, flipping her hair over her shoulder in a way that caught the light, making it shine like strands of ebony silk. "Something tells me you already have plans for this dress, and they involve more than just going to class in it."
She wiggled her eyebrows at me in a suggestive way, and I felt my cooling fans kick in. Obediently, my holoform blushed a dark scarlet color. Anticipation raced through my systems, wanting so much to see Hound again and… well, if it couldn't be Samuel, wanting to see Leo's eyes light up instead at the sight of me in this article of clothing. Looking at me, not at some wet dream brought to life.
"Maybe I do," I replied cheekily, winking an eye at her through the mirror.
Indeed, maybe I do.