Alright, here's something unexpected!
I've been watching a lot of Rescue Bots lately, and I'm enjoying myself a lot more than I thought I would. It's surprisingly fun, and it birthed this plot bunny and potentially several others that you may be seeing sometime in the future. For now, here's a one-shot to tide you over.
This takes place immediately after "Cody on Patrol" - Episode 01x07.
Cody dropped the shovel and heaved a heavy sigh, muscles screaming with fatigue. "Boulder, I'm done digging the holes!" He panted, looking over his shoulder. It was getting dark out – dusk had settled in a while ago – but the giant green tractor Bot was pretty hard to miss.
"Nice work, Cody! I've still got a lot of trees to plant, so take a break, okay?" the Rescue Bot replied, holding up a handful of arbory in his metal gauntlets with a satisfied smile.
The boy nodded graciously. "I'll be over on that rock, got it?" He pointed to a large boulder some distance away on the edge of the park. After a quick confirmation from Boulder – the robot, not the geographical object – Cody dragged himself over to the big stone and collapsed on top of it. It wasn't exactly comfortable, but Cody didn't care.
He'd just finished two straight hours of digging. Cody was sure his dad or Kade would be up to that, and possibly Dani and Graham as well, but Cody himself clearly hadn't taken enough P.E. for the task. Muscles he didn't even know existed ached, although the cool surface of the rock provided some relief. Maybe one of his family members could give him a massage... Well, that wasn't an option at the moment. They and the other Rescue Bots had all headed home after wearing themselves out on Cody's go-kart, telling Boulder to give the kid a ride back once everything was said and done.
Honestly, Cody couldn't help but feel as though he deserved to be left behind. At least a little. Geez, things had gotten so out of hand... He'd only meant to go a little faster, to be able to do something instead of petering along in the Rolling Thunder. For God's sake, it was the Rolling Thunder. It was supposed to be fast, to be able to help people in a flash. Not petering along until it was too late. Maybe if he hadn't gotten excited and used so much of those nanites, things could have turned out differently.
Cody tried to remind himself that everything had turned out alright in the end. The generators in the power plant had burned out the nanites, nobody had been hurt – not significantly, at least – and he and Boulder had been hard at work replanting all of the trees that the Autobot had uprooted. He held onto that belief as hard as he could, but right then it was feeling rather hollow. He'd still screwed up big-time. He'd still caused a mess.
Cody looked over to find Boulder, who was still in the middle of the park diligently planting away without a care in the world (his eyes had gone blue once more, probably just to be safe). The sight made the human child smile a little bit. Boulder was such a simple guy – not stupid or anything, just simple and friendly. Cody liked that about the Rescue Bot; it made him approachable. Plants, animals, the sky... there wasn't a thing on Earth that didn't fascinate him. Replanting all of these trees, Boulder was probably having a real good time.
Of course, Cody could still remember just how pained Boulder had sounded when he'd trampled all the plants in the first place. Another reason to feel bad. The last thing Cody ever wanted to do was hurt anybody. 'Don't kill, and don't be killed,' so the saying went. And Boulder was one of his best friends...
He knew the big green Bot didn't hold it against him. Boulder didn't seem like the kind of person who could hold a grudge against anybody. And Cody was sure nobody would give him too hard a time when they got home, except maybe Kade, but Cody knew he'd back off after a little while. But none of it stopped him from feeling bad about the whole ordeal.
Man, today hadn't been a good day...
Boulder's deep voice shocked Cody back to reality. He saw the Rescue Bot looming over him, now-orange eyes filled with a sort of concern. Cody sat up, back cracking painfully as he did. "Sorry, Boulder. What's up?"
"I've been done planting for a while. I was just trying to see if you were ready to head out, but you wouldn't say anything. I was getting worried!" Boulder said. He bent down to look at the boy on a more even level. "Is everything okay, Cody?"
Cody wished that Boulder hadn't asked him that, because he honestly wasn't so sure. Most of him wanted to be fine, but some of him refused to give in that easily, and the whole thing left him confused and overwhelmed. But he didn't want to make his friend worry.
"Yeah, it's all good, Boulder," Cody said, as calmly as he could. He slid off the rock and landed firmly on his feet. "Just spacing out a little."
"That didn't seem like a little," Boulder replied. "You were acting like Graham does when he gets really into fixing something." He arched his eye-ridge skeptically. "You sure you're alright?"
Cody bit back a cross response and gritted his teeth painfully. Boulder was just trying to help. He was always trying to help. It was one of the reasons Cody admired him so much. Boulder cared so deeply about everything, without anything to get in the way like Heatwave's surliness, or Chase's logic, or Blades' skittishness.
But Cody wasn't alright. He had no choice but to accept that now, and he wasn't sure how the big green robot would react if he knew the truth. Clearly, though, Boulder wasn't going to let him go without an answer.
"Boulder," Cody began, drawing the robot's full attention. "I..." He stopped. What should he say? He'd simply intended to apologize again, but that didn't feel right in the moment. It felt insufficient, like he would only be addressing one part of the problem. Cody knew what the rest of the problem was, but it wasn't something he talked about, even to his family. At least, not anytime recently.
Cody's sudden silence earned him another concerned look from Boulder. "What's wrong, Cody? You can tell me anything," he spoke gently. He meant it, and the boy knew that.
Cody took a deep, calming breath and began anew. "I do stupid stuff sometimes, Boulder. I don't like it, but it happens."
Now Boulder just looked confused. This wasn't something he'd been expecting. "Hey, don't feel bad about that, Cody. From what I've seen, lots of humans do stupid things," he tried to reassure his little friend.
Cody chuckled softly. "Thanks, Boulder, but that's not what I meant." His face grew gloomy once again. "I just... today I did something really dumb, and I know I shouldn't have done it now, and I feel really bad about it!" He blurted the whole thing out in one breath with an intensity that caught Boulder off-guard, and he could hear his own voice catch toward the end. "I just... I'm sorry, Boulder." Cody hung his head in shame.
"Cody..." Boulder murmured, kneeling down and placing a hand on the boy's shoulder. "I told you, it's fine. I'm okay, and so's the town. No one blames you for anything. It was just a big accident." The Autobot's voice was gentle and soothing, and it really did make Cody feel a little better. It was different, hearing someone else say it instead of himself. It was easier to accept that way.
Cody looked up into Boulder's eyes. Still orange-colored, they were filled with a tender kindness, and focused on him and him alone. Normally, Cody would have liked that. Now, it just made him feel colder.
"I guess... I guess that's fine for the big picture," Cody began slowly, still trying to piece together exactly how he felt inside. His voice was soft, quiet. "But... it's bigger than that to me. More personal."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm..." It had all fallen into place by now. The truth stared Cody right in the eye and wouldn't relinquish his gaze no matter how badly he wanted it to. "I wanna help people, Boulder. Like Dad and the others." He shook his head sadly. Tears were pooling in his eyes, but Cody willed them back. "But I can't, and I'm just – I'm sick of waiting."
"What are you talking about? You help lots of people," Boulder said, still not fully understanding but trying to help anyway. "Without you at the command center, we couldn't pull off nearly as many rescues. We'd be half-blind."
"I doubt that," Cody sighed, shaking his head again. "And it's not the same anyway. You guys, my family, you're all out there saving people in person. And I'm always back at the firehouse, watching everything on TV." The boy's voice quivered. "Everybody sees you guys. They never see me. And I just... I just wanted to change that." Tears were spilling down his cheeks now. There was no point in trying to keep them dammed up anymore.
Boulder's eyes widened in alarm. "Cody, you're leaking! What should I do?!" He gasped.
The human in question let out a sobbing chuckle. "It's called crying, Boulder," he hiccuped. "It's what humans do when we're really sad."
"Oh... Oh!" The weight of that statement hit Boulder rather abruptly. Immediately he felt something switch on inside him, that sheer protective instinct that kicked in whenever someone he cared about was in trouble. He couldn't stand the idea of Cody being sad – Cody was meant to be a happy kid, the kind of person you couldn't help but smile around.
He placed both hands on Cody's shoulders now, and the human looked up at him with tear-stained eyes. Boulder could see very well the pain within them, and he had to fight to keep himself calm. "Cody, it's okay. I'm here," Boulder murmured. "I'm listening."
Cody continued sniffling but kept his eyes on the Rescue Bot. "Boulder, it's – it's hard having a family full of heroes," he admitted. "I mean, I wouldn't trade any of them for the world, not even Kade." He chuffed in faint amusement. "But everybody looks at them and not me. And when they do look at me, sometimes I – I think they just see me as the extra one. The less important one.
"And Dad always says that I'll be able to join when I'm older, but I'm just... I'm just tired of waiting, Boulder," Cody sobbed. "I want to be able to help people now! I don't wanna be that kid in the toy go-kart who can't help people anymore, and I just – I wish I could get there faster!" He descended back into inarticulate sobbing, even as Boulder watched in silence. He couldn't bring himself to look up at the Bot, so he looked down at the ground, instead.
He was still so small, and the ground was still so close. It was still too close for him.
Suddenly, Cody felt himself leave the ground as Boulder scooped him up in both hands. He yelped in shock. "Boulder, what-" He was cut off as he felt the Rescue Bot press him against something cool and smooth and metallic. It took a second for Cody to realize that Boulder was holding him up against his own chest, cradling him like an infant. The young boy could hear the low humming of Boulder's mysterious inner workings, feel the vibrations that resonated across his frame. It made him feel... oddly at peace, actually.
Boulder didn't know if anybody was around to see the display. Primus, he didn't care. Helping people was top priority. Chief Burns had said so himself, and even if he hadn't Cody was hurting. He'd never forgive himself in a thousand vorns if he didn't do something right this minute.
"Cody," Boulder whispered. The boy could feel the robot's frame rumble with that single word. "I had no idea you felt this way. Does your family know?"
Cody laid his head against Boulder's broad chest. "I don't know. I've never told them anything, but they're not stupid. They've probably got some idea," he confessed. He wasn't sure whether he liked the idea of the others knowing or even suspecting anything just yet. "It's not usually this bad, but today was..."
"A really rough day," Boulder finished. "I get it."
Cody nodded, still not moving. "It's been better ever since you guys showed up, actually. Getting to hang out with you makes me really happy. I feel like I'm actually doing something for once," he sniffled. His tears had finally started to dry up. "And I don't want anything to happen to you guys."
Boulder gently pulled Cody away from his chest and looked down at him fondly. It really hadn't been too long ago that Cody had stumbled across the Bots, right as Heatwave was dead set on leaving Earth behind. He'd had no reason to help them out with anything, but he hadn't even thought twice about giving them his aid. Cody had taught them so much – he was still teaching them to this day. Even when they had a hard time understanding things, he never stopped trying to help them. Boulder loved him for that.
And he certainly couldn't stand the idea of Cody putting himself down like this.
"I don't think you're giving yourself enough credit, Cody," Boulder said firmly. "I've seen you help lots of people, and I haven't even known you for that long. Remember the T-Rex, the night we met you? Or the volcano, back when we'd just met the others?"
"Uh, sure?" Cody replied, confused.
"You helped us a lot during those rescues. And all the other rescues we've been on, too," Boulder stated, as though it were an irrefutable fact. "We couldn't keep nearly as many people safe if we didn't have you to guide us." His gaze softened. "And when we're off-duty at the firehouse, you're there to keep us company, and teach us about humans and everything else we need to know. We love having you around, Cody. I love having you around. So cheer up, okay?"
The pride and admiration in the Rescue Bot's eyes stunned Cody. The only other person he'd ever seen look at him that way was his dad, and not often. It was bewitching – the Bot wasn't just looking at Cody, he was seeing him. The way people saw his family, and the way he'd always wanted to be seen. Like there could be no acceptable substitutes for him.
It was warm, and it filled up every part of him, melting all of the ice deep inside. Cody could feel tears welling up again, happier ones. "You really... you really think of me like that, Boulder?" The boy asked, sounding almost mystified.
"We all do. Me, Chase, Blades. Even Heatwave," the robot nodded. "And Cody, you remember what I told you? More speed isn't always the answer. You may want to skip ahead to the part where you're old enough to get out there yourself, but me and the others like that you're so young. If you weren't..." Boulder's expression saddened. "Then we wouldn't get to spend so much time with you. You'd be busy all the time, and we'd really only get to see you when we're all in the field together. We'd miss you."
"...I hadn't thought of it like that," Cody admitted quietly. He'd been so focused on his end goal – that point on the horizon where he'd finally get what he wanted so badly – that he never once stopped to consider how other people would feel about it. The Rescue Bots, his best friends... how close would they be if Cody was always away on patrol? Would he only be really close with one of them, like his dad and siblings were? He couldn't imagine missing out on knowing one of them, let alone three. Heatwave, Blades, Chase, and Boulder were meant to be together. That was how he'd always thought of them – as one team, not just four Bots.
Boulder gently lowered Cody back down to the ground. They would have both been fine staying as they were for a while longer, but it was getting dark. Cody felt himself shiver. Apparently, it was getting cold too. The Rescue Bot chuckled. "Here, hop in. I think Graham keeps a blanket behind the seats." With a whirring of machinery, the large green robot had been replaced with a smaller, but still plenty large, green tractor. Cody hopped into the passenger seat and fished around behind the seats as Boulder had suggested.
He hit pay dirt quickly, pulling out a woolen red blanket. Of course Graham would keep something like that nearby in case somebody needed it. The boy buckled up and wrapped the blanket around himself. It was so warm and cozy, and Cody could feel himself becoming a little drowsy. He stifled a yawn.
Boulder noticed that too. "Tired? You worked pretty hard today," he laughed. "Go ahead, you've earned a nap. I've already sent a message saying we're on our way, but I don't think they'll mind if I take it slow."
Slow. That felt really good right about now. "Thanks, Boulder," Cody replied, then added after a moment of thought. "And thanks for listening. I think I needed to get that off my chest."
"Don't worry about it. That's what best friends do, right?" Boulder smiled, then frowned. "Are you gonna tell your family sometime?"
"...Probably," Cody replied. "I want to, but I think I still need a while to deal with it myself." With that, he reclined in his seat and felt himself start to drift off. "Goodnight, Boulder."
"You too. And Cody?" Boulder asked, causing the human to turn toward him slightly. "Cheer up, okay? I mean it."
Cody closed his eyes and exhaled deeply, letting out a final reply before falling asleep fully. "I'll try."
And as Boulder began the journey back home, they both realized that that was all they needed to hear.
And that's it for that. Hopefully I'll have a couple more chapters of After Hours and Simple Acts up soon. See you all around!
Tomorrow's Hero, signing out.