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On A Clear Night

Author’s note: Thanks and a big round of applause go to Indigo for thinking up this title. ’Tis a good one, no? And as always, thanks to Threnody, Timesprite, Laura, Jim, and anyone else I forced this on. Pretty simple story here, rated G and everything. :) I didn’t use any time scale; all time references are human time. Enjoy!

The crowd spilled out of the theater and into the dusk of the streets. Dot gazed up at the setting sun and let out a sigh of contentment. They’d earned this peace; tonight’s show had been an all-too-clear reminder of that. She knew this calm wouldn’t last, but she pushed the thought from her mind. Whatever the future held, she was happy now. For the moment, that
was enough. She turned to lead Enzo home when a voice at her back stopped her.


“Yes, Bob?”

“I was you want to...I don’t know, go for a drive or  something?”

Dot took the opportunity to tease him a little. “In your car?”

Bob blushed slightly. “Well...yeah.”

“I’d love to,” she answered with a smile. “Enzo, will you be ok by yourself for an hour or so?”

“Sure, sis.”

“We’ll keep an eye on him for you, Dot,” AndrAIa offered.

Dot nodded. “Thanks, AndrAIa.” This would be a good chance for the two Enzos to get used to each other, she told herself.
Soon, Bob’s car was cruising over the streets of Mainframe, and Bob and Dot were alone -- truly alone -- for the first time in a very long time. They rode in silence for a few minutes, just taking in the view of the streets in the fading daylight. The silence quickly lost its magic, however, as both Sprites felt increasing pressure to say something. Anything.

“So...” Bob started.

“So...” Brilliant, Dot, she thought bitterly. What’s the matter with me? It’s Bob! I can tell him anything. One kiss and now we don’t know how to act around each other.

“You lo...” Bob began.

“It’s ni...” Dot said at the same time. They looked at each other and laughed. “You go ahead,” Dot prompted.

Bob looked a little embarrassed. “I was just going to say that you look really nice tonight,” he said, keeping his eyes on her as long as he dared  before turning back to the road.

Dot blushed under his gaze. “Thank you.”

“What were you going to say?”

“Hmm? Oh...just that it’s...I’m really glad you’re home. I...missed you.”

Bob smiled. “I missed you too,” he returned, giving her hand a quick squeeze. Dot felt a shiver travel through her at his touch -- and laughed to herself. Just like a couple of teenagers, she thought. The silence returned, but this time the urge to break it wasn’t as great. For the time being, they were content just to enjoy one another’s company.

Several blocks later the silence began turning awkward again. Bob stared intently at the red light in front of him, racking his brain for a conversation starter. Dot stared absently down the road, softly singing along with the radio. The light finally changed, and Bob stepped on the gas. The engine revved loudly, but the car didn’t accelerate past 20 miles
per hour. Bob frowned and let off the gas, then tried again, with the same results.

“Feels like a transmission problem,” Dot said.

“Yeah. It doesn’t always want to shift out of first; I have to coax it a little. Once I get out of first gear it’s fine. There we go,” he added as the car jerked and accelerated.

Dot ran a hand along the door frame. “How long have you had this car?”

“Ten years.”

Dot looked at him in surprise. “That long?”

He nodded proudly. “Yup.”

“Where’d you get it?”

Bob sighed, remembering. “I had a job at an auto body shop during high school. Mostly I did paper work, and the occasional oil change or fluid check -- stuff my boss was positive I couldn’t screw up,” he said with a laugh. “Then I go into work one day, and there it is. It looked like hell --”

“And it was love at first sight,” Dot finished, grinning.


“So how’d you end up with it?”

Bob laughed. “I went into the office to clock in, and my boss says: ‘That red convertible out want it?’”
Dot looked at him in disbelief. “He just gave it to you?”

“Yeah. The guy who brought it in didn’t want to deal with it anymore and sold it to the shop for scrap. My boss didn’t have the time or the patience to fix it up, so he gave it to me.” Bob smiled nostalgically. “I spent my entire senior year restoring this thing. The first time I drove it was to my high school graduation.”

Dot grinned. “Wow. No wonder you don’t want to have a professional look at it.”

“Mm-hmm. I’ve put so much work into it myself...letting someone else fix it just wouldn’t seem right,” he said, giving her an appreciative glance. There was a pause. Then Bob asked, “What was high school like for you?”

“Oh, I had a great time in high school,” she answered.

“Wait - let me guess,” Bob held up a hand, an amused expression on his face. “A million activities, a bunch of honors classes, honor roll all eight semesters...”

“Oh, stop it,” Dot chided.

He responded with a knowing smile. “I’m right, aren’t I?”

Dot’s tone was both embarrassed and slightly annoyed. “Yes.”

“I thought so.” He grinned at her. “All your teachers liked you, never got in trouble...”

A laugh from his passenger cut him off. “Hardly.”

“You got in trouble?”

“Not exactly. I just caused a little.”

“What’d you do?” Bob asked, punctuating his words with a smirk.

“Nothing bad,” Dot answered defensively. “My friends and I just liked to play the occasional prank. They were all harmless -- detergent in the fountain, that sort of thing. It was always funny because the teachers never knew who to pin it on, and they never thought of us.”

Bob snickered. “Detergent in the fountain. The old classic.”

Dot nodded. “Yeah, we did that one a lot. Kool-Aid in the fountain was another. But my favorite one -- there was a sign in the girls’ locker room that said ‘This is a high theft area‘ we stole the sign.”

He burst out laughing. “You came up with that one, didn’t you?”

“Yes I did,” she answered proudly.

“Oh, that’s great. And you didn’t get caught?”

“We never got caught, thank you. Well, except the time we got kicked out  of the basketball game.”

Bob stopped for a red light, grateful for a break from driving. He turned to face Dot fully. “You got kicked out of a basketball game. You.”

“Well, not just me.”

“What did you do?”

Dot giggled. “I had a friend that played JV basketball. One night we went to a game to cheer him on. It was a big game, I remember -- I think it was the last game before the playoffs. Anyway, there was a ton of people there -- parents, kids -- and in the middle of the third quarter, me and two of my friends held up this big sign that said ‘Glenn Kicks ASCII’.” She waited
for Bob to stop laughing, then continued. “The instant the vice principal saw us, he came charging up the steps, and we stuffed the sign under the seat -- as if that was going to do any good. He just stood there and yelled at us for about five minutes for using ’that word’ in front of the ’good kids of this school’, and then he escorted us out.” She grinned. “We were trying so hard not to laugh the entire time.”

Bob shook his head. “What’d your parents think of that little stunt?”

Waving her hand dismissively, Dot replied, “They thought it was funny. They knew about it beforehand, though.”

“They did?”

Dot gave him an amused look. “We made the signs in my kitchen.”

Bob laughed again. “I wish I could have met your parents. They sound great.”

“They were,” Dot said quietly. After a moment, she turned to him. “They would have liked you.”

Bob looked over at her, surprised at the emotion in her voice. “Yeah?” Dot nodded, holding his gaze the entire time. Then, without a word, she covered his hand with her own.
    It took all of Bob’s power to turn his attention back to the road, but not before Dot saw the grin he couldn’t hold back. The weight of her hand on his was spellbinding; to think he could find so much happiness in such a simple gesture. If this moment never ended, he thought, it would be too soon.

“So where are we headed?” Dot asked softly.

Bob thought for a minute. “I could go for some ice cream. How ‘bout you?”

“Sounds good,” she answered with a smile.


“What’d you get?”

“Something with brownies in it. You?”


Bob grinned at her. “You are a traditionalist, aren’t you?”

“I know what I like,” Dot answered simply. “Is yours good?”

After swallowing a spoonful, he replied, “Very. Want a bite?”

“Sure.” Dot poked her spoon into the chocolate mixture, digging for a brownie chunk. Bob watched as she tasted it, her expression becoming pleased. “Mmm... that is good.” She offered him a bite of her Blizzard, which he gladly accepted.

“Can’t go wrong with the classics, can you?” he mused. The two sat on the hood of his car, which was parked on a bluff overlooking the energy sea. The last rays of the sun sent a golden-red cast over the water; over their heads, the stars were just beginning to emerge in the deep blue sky.
    Conversation was flowing easier now; the initial awkwardness had eased. Both felt a genuine connection; there were still uncomfortable pauses, but they were becoming fewer and farther between. At last Bob scraped the remaining mouthful onto his spoon and set the empty cup on the ground in front of the bumper. Dot’s cup soon joined it. With a satisfied sigh, Bob slid back on the hood and leaned against the windshield.

“Can that hold you?” Dot asked with a slight smile.

“I sure hope so,” he replied, then laughed at her doubtful expression. “It’s fine,” he said, gesturing for her to join him. She did, and after a moment’s hesitation, Bob put his arm around her. Dot tensed briefly, but quickly relaxed into his embrace, resting her head against his shoulder.
    They stayed that way for several minutes, each lost in thought as the twilight deepened around them. Then Dot spoke; her voice was low and gentle.

“Do you get the feeling it was supposed to happen this way?”

Bob sighed heavily. “I don’t know,” he answered bluntly. “A lot of things have happened that I really could have done without.” After a pause, he added, “Can’t argue with the end result, though,” tightening his arm around her shoulders.
At this, Dot turned her eyes to him. He smiled down at her, then leaned in  and kissed her.

Their lips parted after a time. Then Bob blurted out, “I love you.” Dot’s eyes widened; it was the first time he’d actually said the words. But before she had time to react further, he laughed and said, “Do you have any idea how good it feels to finally say that?”

Dot had to laugh at that. “I’d guess about as good as it feels to finally hear it.” She leaned her forehead against his. “I love you, too,” she said -- then giggled again. “You’re right, that does feel good.”

Bob smiled broadly at her. “Doesn’t it?”

She grinned back at him, then returned to resting her head on his shoulder. The sun had set completely now; the only light came from the lavender-edged ripples of the energy sea. Bob slowly realized that they had probably been gone long enough, but he couldn’t bring himself to end the evening. Not yet.

“So...” Dot whispered. “What do you want to do now?”

Bob sighed. As much as he hated to suggest it, he had to. “I - I think it’s  time I took you home.”

“Oh.” The note of disappointment was evident. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. Enzo will be wondering what happened to me.”
There was a long pause. Neither of them made any move to leave.

“Well...we’ll see each other tomorrow, you know,” Bob stammered out.

Dot nodded. “I know.” She smiled up at him. “I can’t wait.”

Bob grinned back, then slid off the hood of the car and offered his hand to help her do the same.


Bob piloted the car up to the curb in front of Dot’s house and shut off the engine. “Well...goodnight,” he said, wishing he could think of a better way to say it.

“Goodnight,” Dot answered. Her hand went to the door handle; then she added, “Um...will you be coming by the diner tomorrow?”

Bob smiled at the mention of it. Coming by the was so familiar. It almost seemed odd to be slipping back into his normal life after so much time spent simply struggling to survive -- but it was a welcome feeling all the same. It had been far too long. “Absolutely,” he said.

Dot gave him a smile and opened the car door. She shifted her weight to step out, but suddenly turned back around and kissed him. Bob was caught a little off guard to say the least, but he was only too happy to return the kiss. When it was over, Dot pulled away slightly and whispered, “Goodnight.”

Bob smiled as he watched her make her way up the walk and into the house. After she had given him a final wave and shut the front door, he took a deep breath, started the car, and drove off toward his apartment. He had been back in Mainframe for a full three days; but, as he thought back over the night’s events, it was now that he finally felt home.

The End

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