"Ooooh, you're here!" Hex cooed as Mouse, Ray and Dot found themselves in front of Hexidecimal in the main chamber of her lair.
"Ah can never get used ta that," Mouse said aloud.
"Hey Hex. Thanks for inviting us here," Dot greeted her pleasently, although she felt increasingly uncomfortable in the ex-virus' presence.
"It's quite alright my dear. Now- oh the rest of my guests have arrived!" Hex exclaimed delightedly, and with a wave of her hand three more figures appeared in the chamber.
"Hi Hex, how's it going?" Bob asked her.
"I feel great, Guardian." She replied in a low voice, moving close enough to put an arm round his neck. "Even more so for seeing you here," she added quietly. Bob found himself glancing at Dot, who seemed to be avoiding the sight and looking decidedly uncomfortable.
"I'm glad." Bob replied, trying to gently remove Hex's arms without causing an even bigger spectacle of himself. When she didn't let go he glanced at Dot again and caught a look on her face that looked suspiciously like a mix of jealously and longing. Bob smiled apologetically at her, making her realize he had seen her and she flushed a deeper green.
"Anything we can do, Hex?" Dot asked awkwardly, trying to break the embarrassed silence.
"No it's alright my dear. So sweet of you to ask though," she replied warmly, but the look she gave Dot made her want to shiver.
If this is karaoke, ya can count me out right now. Mouse spoke up, earning herself a curious glance from Ray.
"I bet you've got a great voice, love," Ray told her, which in turn got her grins from both Bob and Dot.
"And Ah dunno what you're lookin' so smug about, honey. Ah take it you'll be first up 'cause of experience, will ya?" Mouse directed her irritation at Dot, who flushed again at the thought of last time.
"No, it's okay." She replied quietly, and then caught Bob giving her a sympathetic look and she glanced away.
"Now now, dears," Hex clicked her fingers to get their attention. "It's much better than that."
"What is it?" AndrAIa spoke for the first time since they'd arrived, sounding a little anxious.
"I think some nourishment is in order before the games begin." Hexidecimal went on, ignoring her question, obviously enjoying the mystery she was creating.
"Games?" Came the simultaneous echo from Bob and Matrix. Hex didn't reply, instead she waved a hand in the direction of the left side of the platform where her throne stood. A long, dark red table appeared, complete with a rather fancy looking buffet.
"I wonder what this lot's made from," Ray mused, intending his comment solely for Mouse. Dot heard and had to stifle a laugh with her hand.
"What are you laughing at?" The red virus narrowed her eyes, venom obvious in her voice.
"Nothing. Sorry," Dot apologized quickly, but couldn't keep a smile off her face.
Hexidecimal seemed to dismiss it after that, but Dot kept catching Hex giving her looks that would defiantly kill when she said the wrong thing. Just as Dot moved away from a conversation with AndrAIa- something to do with Matrix's inability to think things through, she saw Mouse and Ray looking cosy to the side of the room. Unfortunately, Bob came up beside her just as she turned in time to see Matrix bending down to kiss AndrAIa. Feeling a whole cluster of emotions she didn't want just then, Dot recognized the familiar sensation of tears as she turned away. She'd already scolded herself once that second about crying so much- it's pathetic, she told herself.
Bob watched as Dot caught sight of her brother and his girlfriend, trying to work out what she was thinking. Not having seen Bob approach her, Dot turned and bumped straight into him.
"Oh, sorry Bob." She said quietly, brushing some of her jet- black hair out of her face and looking flustered. "I'm just gunna go..." Dot darted round him and headed for the doors, hoping she could find her way out without the place 'shifting' and sending her all over the place.
"Dot wait!" Bob put his glass down and hurried after her.
"Thank goodness she's gone!" Hex was saying, then seeming to notice Bob's intended exit, she snapped her fingers and the open double doors disappeared.
"Yes, oh dear," a pair of voices came from behind Hex. Hack and Slash were looking around worriedly at their sudden new surroundings.
"What? I did not do that!" Hex fumed.
"Mebe ya power's givin' out on ya, sugah." Mouse suggested innocently, but smirked at Ray.
"Hey Hex, put the door back will you?" Bob asked sounding annoyed.
"I do not think we are meant- " Hack started.
" To be here." Slash finished.
"You don't want to leave yet do you?" Hex asked airily, batting her eyelashes.
"Sorry Hex. Dot looked upset, I got to go find her."
"Fine." She replied, sounding bored again as the doors reappeared.
" Why does my Guardian bother with her?" Bob heard Hex say before he left, and paused long enough to hear Matrix reply haughtily:
"He's not 'yours'. He's already in a relationship with Dot and you know it."
Bob smiled inwardly. Matrix didn't know much about the relations between himself and Dot since the restart, so he must have assumed they were together after that kiss. That's what he thought too...
Bob searched for ages but between getting teleported to different places if he stepped wrongly, and not being able to get an energy trace- he wasn't having much luck. Half a second passed and he was about to give up when he heard something clatter to the ground.
"Dot? Is that you?"
Stepping forward carefully, he was able to make out a figure in black sitting on the floor. He took another step forward but was encased in light and teleported.
Muttering something, Bob found he'd only been moved about twenty feet from where he had been, and was now standing in front of Dot. She was huddled up on the floor, knees drawn up to her chest defensively, her face buried.
"Dot?" He crouched down beside her, noticing she was trembling and resisting an urge to embrace her. As she lifted her head, the soft moonlight from above lit the tear tracks that stained her face.
"Why did you follow me?"
"I was worried about you." Bob answered, not sure why she'd asked. He reached out to rest a consoling hand on her shoulder, wishing desperately that she would let him comfort her.
"Why? Why do you give a damn about what happens to me? I've done nothing but hurt you and the rest of Mainframe!" Dot stood up, violet eyes blazing. Her voice was raised and she was deadly serious.
"Dot, that's not true. You know it's not."
"Do I? Well it's me who let Megabyte send you through that portal! It's me who let my 1.0 brother go into games!"
"Don't say that! None of that was down to you. Surely you know that!"
"I don't know anything anymore. I should be one of the happiest sprites in the Net after the last hour- but I'm not. Everyone else copes perfectly alright and I've not been through nearly as much as them- or you." Dot turned away from him, fresh tears glistening in her eyes.
"Hey, stop putting yourself down. You had to run the whole of Mainframe_ defenceless, and stop a virus taking over the system. I'd say that was going through a lot." He reached out to place his hand on her shoulder again but thought better of it, brushing her arm as he brought his hand down. "Besides, they've got someone to share it with." Bob stated sadly, remembering the two couples together in the throne room.
"You've got Hexidecimal." She replied with a half smile.
"I'm in love with someone else," Bob replied seriously, staring at the back of her head and then into her eyes, as she turned round. He couldn't believe the expression on her face- complete surprise. Maybe because he'd just come out and said it.
"I don't deserve you, Bob. I'm not good enough for you.... I mean you're a Guardian and I'm just a basic data sprite!" Tears unwillingly spilled down her cheeks as she turned away again. Bob moved round her, placing himself in front of her again, and reaching out to touch her cheek tenderly.
"One thing you are not, Dot Matrix, is basic."
Dot smiled slightly at that and looked down, not sure what to say. Bob hesitated a moment, then pressed his lips against hers gently, not wanting a repeat performance of earlier that second. To his surprise he felt her return the kiss and circle her arms round his neck as it became more heated.
'Please, please don't change you're mind now!' Bob thought desperately as she pulled away. Dot smiled through her tears and closed her eyes, looking tired now. Bob cupped her face in his hands and wiped away all traces of crying.
"Bob.... I.... I didn't mean for any of this. I'm sorry if I hurt you. I didn't mean..." Bob stopped her, placing a finger to her ruby red lips.
"I love you, Dot. I don't want you to ever think any of those horrible thoughts ever again, okay? None of what happened was in any way your fault, understand?" Bob said in a stern tone.
Dot opened her mouth to reply, but was silenced by the look on Bob's face. She nodded and whispered;
"I love you too."
"Good," he grinned and gathered her up in his arms, hugging her tightly to his chest.
"I'm really sorry, Bob." Dot repeated again, feeling fiercely guilty now, as she returned his embrace.
"Hush. It's forgotten." Bob looked down at her, unable to overcome the giddy happiness exploding in his heart. Dot tilted her head back as he bent to kiss her again.
After that, all time and surroundings were forgotten, neither caring enough to notice a figure that shifted in the shadows just to the edge of Hex's lair.
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