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The mechanical whistle that escaped Bumblebee's still slightly damaged vocal processors simulated a credible human-like sigh. Optimus ceased his study on the World Wide Web and concentrated on his fellow Autobot. Bumblebee had been unusually patient while Ratchet checked and rechecked his vocal processors. Their medic was still trying to isolate why the smallest of their team continued to have fluctuating functional blackouts. The younger Autobot had not complained once about how long he had been forced to endure the exam. Usually by now Bumblebee would have started to whine about the time spent away from his charge.
"If you are that bored, why don't you return to Sam while I process these diagnostics," Ratchet suggested distractedly, his mind already working on the results he had just attained.
"They are 'busy'."
Optimus did not know what was significant about Bumblebee wiggling two of his digits on each of his hands when he said the word 'busy', but he knew the tone. "Is there something the matter Bumblebee?"
His question had the unfortunate side effect of drawing both Ratchet and Ironhide's attention. Optimus could tell right away by Bumblebee's expression that there was indeed something wrong, and wished he had waited until they were alone before inquiring.
"What's the matter, Bee?," Ironhide chuckled, "Is Sam trying to mate with Mikaela again?" Ratchet gave the weapons officer a hard shove with his elbow. Optimus could see by the narrowing of Ratchet's optics that he did not like being reminded of his own social misstep the first time meeting Sam and Mikaela.
Instead of defending Sam or simply ignoring Ironhide's artless comment, like Optimus would have expected, Bumblebee snorted and looked away. "Who knows with those two? They start they stop. It's yes then no. First it's 'Bumblebee let's hang at the lookout'", Optimus adjusted his optics to hide the start he got from hearing Sam's voice come from his friend's vocal processors, but was startled again when Mikaela's voice followed, "'You don't have to stay, Bumblebee'."
The silence was only broken by the whirling of rotors and gears as Optimus, Ironhide and Ratchet exchanged looks over their distraught friends head. When it was clear that neither his medic nor his weapons officer were going to say anything, Optimus gave his own sigh, wondering if the Matrix knew what would be required of him as leader.
"Bumblebee, I know that I have not spent as much time with humans as you have, but what I have seen of the World Wide Web suggests that teenagers seldom know what they want."
"Yes, there are many After School Specials on the subject," Ratchet offered by way of assistance. "It seems that young hormonal humans cannot go long without getting into trouble."
Bumblebee went from sulking to concerned in a nanosecond.
"Bumblebee! Wait!" Optimus yelled after his friend, but Bumblebee was already speeding away.
"Yeah, that was smooth," Ironhide drawled.
"I didn't mean to imply..."
"I know Ratchet. The children probably just wanted some time alone and did not want to hurt Bumblebee's feelings by saying it outright."
Since the last battle with Megatron, Bumblebee had been spending all of his time with Sam. Optimus had a feeling he knew why Bumblebee was so attached to the boy, but he doubted Sam had any knowledge of the depth of the smallest Autobots affection. Optimus made an entry to remind himself to discuss it with Sam, to forestall any damaged feelings if the human unknowingly said the wrong thing.
"Someone should go after him, to stop him, in case they are spending quality hormonal time with each other," Ironhide offered as he took a not so subtle step backward. This time his leader gave him a disapproving look. "I'm just saying..." Optimus then looked to Ratchet.
"I think I have caused enough trouble for one day."
Optimus' second sigh was drowned out during the throws of his transformation into his alternate form. Out in the wilderness that surrounded the town, the two Autobots could go full out, and in a straight, long distance, land race, Optimus was actually the faster of the two. So in short order, Optimus gained enough ground to see his friend in the distance.
"Bumblebee, you are over reacting. Ratchet did not mean for it to sound like the children were in any immediate danger." Optimus knew that Bumblebee could hear him when the unearthly fast Camaro started to slow just a bit.
"What?" Bumblebee asked sounding confused. "Oh, I realized that, but what he said made me reprocess some of my earlier encounters with them. I think that I have over looked some irregularities in their behaviors, because I was, well sulking."
The last part of the confession was very grudgingly given, and Optimus choose not to go into it further. If Bumblebee could see and admit to how he had been acting then that was good enough, but Optimus did try and offer a logical explanation for the irregularities.
"Bumblebee, you know as well as I do that humans are in a constant state of flux, especially their young. They do not have optimal operating parameters as so much as they just have suggested normal ranges. Do you feel that these irregularities in their behaviors are a indication of illness?"
Bumblebee slowed further, allowing his leader to pull up beside him.
"Well, no, but Optimus there just something not right," the concern was easy to hear, and Optimus temporally put aside his jealousy theory to hear Bumblebee out. "Mikaela has been acting strange for a few days now, and I am certained that Sam has tried to lie to me on several occasions."
"Sam? Lie, to you?" Optimus questioned unbelievingly. If there was one thing Optimus was sure of, it was the unending devotion Sam bore for his Guardian.
"Ok, he didn't lie, but he wasn't telling me the truth either, I'm sure of it."
Bumblebee sighed, "I cannot figure her out on the best of days and now she has become temperamental and anxious… there's just something wrong, I can feel it Optimus."
"I believe you. Do you have a coarse of action?" Optimus inquired, hoping that his friend had not planned on confronting the children direct. If they were reluctant to confide in Bumblebee currently then forcing the situation would not be helpful.
"Yeah, figure out why they're at Mikaela's house instead of at the movie theater like they said."
"Is that what they told you?"
"No, not technically," Bumblebee admitted. "They said they were going to watch a monster movie marathon, and that I should go visit Ratchet for a check-up instead of waiting around for them. I thought that meant that they would be inside a theater, since I watch whatever they're watching when they are at home."
"How do you know that they are at Mikaela's?" Optimus wanted to know.
"I placed visual and audio relay sensors around their houses and at the school," Bumblebee must have taken Optimus' silence for a reprimand, because he was quick to defend his actions. "What was I suppose to do Optimus? Communication between ourselves is intermittent as it is. How would we be able to tell if they were in trouble or if something happened to them, especially if we are not to reveal ourselves to their parents?"
"It's alright, Bumblebee. I understand. But, I see what you mean. They do seem to be engaging in subterfuge."
Optimus wasn't surprised that Bumblebee had established remote surveillance of his human friend. After all, while in the city they were forced to assume their alternate forms most of the time and that diminished their sensors somewhat, and he was sure that Bumblebee wouldn't let anything fall to chance with his Sam. However, Optimus was mildly surprised that the surveillance extended to Mikaela's domicile, as the children were either with Bumblebee or at Sam's home when together. Perhaps, he had miscalculated Bumblebee the reason for his friend's attachment to Sam.
With a minor adjustment, Optimus patched into the narrow band signal that he detected Bumblebee monitoring. The connection allowed him to see and hear what was going on in the alley behind Mikaela's home. Not wanting to deal with the possibility of detection, Bumblebee and Optimus came to a stop just outside the city to conduct their surveillance.
The alleyway was small, too small for a vehicle of Optimus' size to navigate comfortably, but just big enough for the elderly looking truck that was parked up on lifts with its hood up. The human that had been lying under the engine rolled out on a wheeled platform and sat up. Optimus could hardly recognize the human female. Her long hair was twisted into a nest of hair at the back of her neck, and her feminine curves were completely obscured by a baggy dark blue suit. Mikaela swiped her hand across her brow before throwing a dirty rag at the bumper of the truck.
"Arrgh! I don't know why guys seem to think trucks are indestructible just because they have four wheel drive."
The back door to Mikaela's home slammed shut, as Sam left the domicile with a plate of sandwiches in one hand and a box in the other.
"Probably because they never show them breaking down in commercials," Sam offered as he placed the box on the top of a garbage can and the food on top of it.
"But look at this!" Mikaela continued, pointing accusingly at the truck. "The carburetor is full of muck, so is the oil pan, and there's grass in the air filter, how the hell did they get grass in the air filter?!" Mikaela exclaimed as she kicked the low-wheeled platform.
"She sounds a lot like Ratchet, doesn't she?" Bumblebee asked and Optimus had to agree. Their medic did not suffer foolishness when it came to maintenance. While Sam's girlfriend had been complaining about the condition of the vehicle, Sam had walked back into the house and was now dragging a bright orange cord behind him.
"Talent?" Sam offered by way of an explanation for the trucks condition. To Optimus it seemed to only anger the female more. Of course if Ratchet was to be believe human females only had two weeks of clear rational thought during their reproductive cycle.
"If you're not going to help…" Mikaela threatened with a newly acquired tool in her hand.
"I'll help, I'll help, just give me a minute…" Sam told her, his focus on the box in front of him.
Sam fiddled with the cord and the box until suddenly it flared to life and revealed itself to be a portable television. The picture was colorless and rolled at a consistent rate upward. Optimus failed to see how it could be much entertainment if it did not function properly.
"What are you doing?" the human female demanded, but most of the heat of her anger was already evaporated.
"We told Bee we were going to watch the marathon," Sam replied, hitting the side of the box and succeeded in slowing the flipping to something more tolerable, "and we're going to watch the marathon."
"So they did intentionally mislead you," Optimus commented.
"But, why? They are not doing anything that human's would consider private."
Mikaela smiled at Sam's back as he continued to adjust the human device with taps and shakes. The forgotten plate of sandwiches would have slid to the ground if Mikaela had not have rescued it.
"I don't think you're going to get it to come in any clearer than that, Sam."
Sam shrugged his shoulder in something that could have been interpreted as agreement before taking the plate from Mikaela and choosing a sandwich. "Doesn't matter as long as we can truthfully say we watched the marathon."
"Well, we're going to have to listen to most of it if we're going to get this truck done before Bumblebee gets back." Mikaela told Sam as the boy devoured his food item.
"Do you think they believe that I would be upset that they are working on that earth vehicle?" Bumble asked with surprise.
"It is possible that they think that you would feel jealous of the attention being given," Optimus suggested.
"But it's just a truck! It doesn't even have a radio Optimus. It would be like being jealous of a toaster."
Optimus had to chuckle at that. "Bumblebee, until very recently those children had no knowledge of life beyond their own planet, let alone non-organic beings such as ourselves. Who's to say what they think would offend us?"
"Well, if that is all it is. I will clear it up with them at the first opportunity."
During his conversation with Bumblebee, Mikaela had walked back to the truck and had attempted to remove a bolt from a section of the vehicle. She had made several valiant efforts to remove the rusted part. When she exerted too much force on the unmovable bolt, her hands slipped and Optimus saw her injure her fingers on a near by piece of engine.
"Well, are you going to help or watch the TV the whole time," she demanded angrily as she examined the damage to her hand.
"I'll help, as long as you promise not to yell at me for not knowing what to do," Sam said quickly, with what Optimus thought was a bit of fear in his voice.
"I don't do that."
"Yeah, and Bumblebee's a tricycle," Sam muttered almost too low for the audio to pick up. As occupied as Sam was with the last of his sandwich and the TV, he didn't see Mikaela's face fall.
"Have I really been that bad?" She asked her boyfriend as he continued to fiddle.
"Nah, but you could give Ratchet a run for his money," the expression in Mikaela's eyes went from meek to furious in a spark jump, but Sam was oblivious. "Never seen anyone as Teed off as he was when Bee didn't show for his diagnostics."
"Don't compare me," Mikaela started, bringing her wrench down on the rusted bolt like a hammer, Optimus winced in sympathy, "to that holier than thou," sparks started to fly when the rust was beaten away and clean metal was exposed, "poor excuse for a…"
"Hey, hey, calm down! I think it's already dead!" Sam exclaimed as he snuck behind his girlfriend and wrestled the wrench from her grasp. Now deprived of her weapon, Mikaela stomped a few steps away only to come storming back.
"He thinks just because we're 'organic'", Optimus took note of the wiggling of her two digits on each hand and found it very interesting that Bumblebee must have copied the gesture from Mikaela and not Sam, "that we don't have anything useful to contribute, that our puny little human minds couldn't possibly understand Cybertonian internal workings." Having been relieved of her wrench, Mikaela went to a large tool box beside the truck to attain another one. "If he's so perfect, why does Bumblebee still play Billy Ocean every time he wants to go for a ride."
It amused Optimus to see Bumblebee shudder at that revelation.
"Bee does that on purpose because it makes you blush. Besides, in Ratchet's defense, wouldn't one of us working on one of them be kinda like doing open heart surgery with only a merit badge in first aid?" Sam commented, adding an extra silent editorial by looking pointedly at the broken bolt. It was lost on Mikaela.
"But that's my point! I know I can't possibly know as much as Ratchet does no matter how long I work at it," suddenly it seemed like all the energy left her, and she turned away from Sam and towards the visual surveillance, "But what if he's not around or not functioning, and... and one of them needed a robotic tourniquet, or a transfusion, or CPR…"
"Mikaela, you are not giving mouth-to-mouth to my car," Sam told her with a very amused chuckle. "You're just jealous that there's someone around that knows more about cars than you do." Mikaela actually flinched at that comment, and Sam noticed too. He walked over and placed his hands on her shoulders.
"Ok, sorry. Griming up, becoming as serious as a heart attack," Instead of comforting her, Sam's attempt at humor upset her further. Optimus could see the start of tears down her face. Sam didn't notice she was crying until Mikaela let out a choked sop. Sam turned her around to face him.
"Hey, whoa, stop come here. This is more than just Ratchet giving you the cold shoulder the other day."
Optimus recalled the incident that Sam was referring to. Ratchet and Mikaela had gotten into a heated discussion over the events of the final battle. In short, the Autobot's medic had reprimanded the human girl and Bumblebee for returning to the battle in the condition they were in at the time. Optimus had thought he had settled that issue, but apparently he had not.
"Tell me what's really wrong, Mikaela?" Sam entreated, folding Mikaela's head under his chin and rubbed his hands along her back. With out her height enhancing footwear, Sam was actually the same height as his girlfriend.
"I really thought that they were going to kill him right in front of us," she mumbled into Sam's chest.
That seemed to surprise Sam, and he stood still for a few moments before responding.
"You mean Bumblebee? Yeah, me too," Sam also seemed to be on the verge of an emotional release himself, but Optimus observed him straightening himself and pushing Mikaela away enough to look her in the eye. "But he was all right. Ok, maybe not all right but he wasn't permanently damaged."
Again Sam's slight attempt at humor did not sooth the girl.
"And then, in the city, and his legs…" Mikaela's voice failed her and she pulled away from her boyfriend completely. She hugged her arms around herself and wouldn't look at Sam. "I didn't know what to do. He was in so much pain and still wouldn't give up, and there wasn't anything I could do. I couldn't even tell if he was dying or not."
"Hey, hey, stop that," Again Sam grabbed ahold of her shoulders but this time he have her a gentle shake as he had done the television. "The way I remember it, I was the one that fell apart and you were the one that kept your cool and got Bee out of there."
"That is true Optimus," Bumblebee stated with no small about of pride. Optimus resolved himself to observe his friend and the children's interactions with more detail in the future. It would seem that Bumblebee was in a far more a complicated situation than Optimus had originally deduced. But the leader of the Earthbound Autobots attention was drawn back to the audio/visual surveillance by Mikaela's bitter retort to Sam comforting words.
"Yeah, then I turned around and put him right back into the line of fire, endangering him further."
"That's not true!" both Bumblebee and Sam exclaimed at once, but knowing that he could not be heard, the Autobot fell silent and the human continued.
"You heard what Optimus said. The two of you did the right thing. If it weren't for you and Bumblebee a lot more people would have been killed. And Ratchet knows that too, no matter what he said the other day, but now that the danger's past, he has the luxury to complain about the things that didn't go right."
If it was possible for a semi-truck to sit up and take notice, Optimus did then. He had not realized how cognizant the boy was to Ratchet's personality. In two neat sentences Sam had quite neatly summed up the situation. The Autobot medic was a soldier out of necessity. If it were up to Ratchet's will alone, he would have never allowed himself to be fitting with weapons. But Ratchet knew that if he was ever going to see an end to the number of patients he would see or the number of friends he would loose, this war had to end. And with that end now so close at hand, Ratchet was more protective than ever about his patients.
But Sam was not done comforting his female, and this time the humor that was so centrical to his nature showed through with the correct results.
"Let's just call it Ratchet's feminine side."
Bumblebee chuckled himself as Mikaela pulled completely away from Sam and gave him an amused glare.
"You know I was this close to admiring your insight and sensitivity." Sam only shrugged and grinned. Mikaela turned back to the truck she had been working on and quickly wiped the tears from her face.
"Wait a minute," Sam asked in stunned realization. "Is this why we're working our collective asses off for a present for Bee? Because you feel guilty about strapping him to a tow truck and racing around the city backwards saving the world?"
"For me? But..." Bumblebee stuttered to a stop before he could even get going.
"It would seem to me that you have worried yourself into ruining your own surprise," Optimus told his friend.
"The way I remember it," Mikaela told her boyfriend, smiled knowingly, "you were the one that saved the world."
Sam did not take the admiration gracefully, and Optimus was again astounded by the boy's humility as Sam blushed and tried to hide his discomfort by shrugging and laughing weakly. There were many who would bask in the glow of their victory, but Sam seemed to wish that it be forgotten.
"Yeah, well, let's just call it a team effort." He gave Mikaela a hug. "Feeling better now?" She smiled and nodded. "That's my girl, well why don't you finish up here and I'll…"
Sam didn't get more than two steps before Mikaela pulled him back by gripping his ear between her thumb and finger. Sam protested loudly, but made no attempt to escape.
"Oh, no you don't Witwicky you promised to help."
From his comically bent over position, Sam looked up at his girlfriend pleadingly and Optimus knew that Sam's trademark humor was back to its fullest.
"You did actually see what happened when I tried to put the new grill together, right? Flames, fire trucks, mass hysteria on a cosmic scale."
"It was not quite that bad," Bumblebee grumbled defending Sam against himself. "They only needed one extinguisher to put out the rose bushes."
Mikaela let him go with a fake huff.
"I see your point, ok then you're going to have to do the parts run while I work on taking this apart."
"Gottcha, I'll just contact Bee, and…"
"Do the words 'surprise party' mean nothing to you?" Mikaela's voice was starting to take on the edge of real exasperation. A tone that the alien autonomous metallic life forms had learned in sort order to be wary of, but somehow the human male seems to be completely ignorant of.
"I think he'll be surprised enough seeing as he doesn't actually have a birthday," Sam tried to reason, but Mikaela's stance remain stern and unmoveable, she even tapped her wrench against her shoulder as she glared at Sam. "Ok, ok, I'll borrow my dad's car, just put the wrench down slowly."
"I think it would be best if we leave the children to their activities," Optimus suggested as he pulled away to return to Ratchet and Ironhide's location.
"But," Bumblebee protested even as he followed, "I still do not know what they are planning."
"Let them have their surprise Bumblebee. They only wish to show their fondness in their native way. You should be pleased that they feel as though you are one of their own." Optimus pushed aside his own feelings of melancholy. It had been a very long time since anyone had included him in such a frivolous act of affection.
"I wonder what they're going to get me," Bumblebee wondered out loud.