I am so sorry this took so long to get out! I had to go to Texas for a week to help my father come home from a very long business trip. I was pretty sure we'd have internet where we were staying…Wrong! None. Zip. Zilch. Zero. :x Also, the evening before we planned to leave for home, one of the cars died on us. Dx We had to call a friend to come fix it, and it took a few days. We had to wait 'cause it was the only car with a hitch, and we had a huge trailer to bring home. x.x But anywho, it's good to be back. I truly hope you enjoy this chapter. And thank you so much for all of your lovely reviews.

For those of you who have stories that have been updated. I will be reading them asap. I cannot wait to read your latest chapters and will get my reviews in as soon as I finish reading.

Disclaimer: I own nothing of Transformers, but I do own the greatest pair of fuzzy socks. I can slip across the room like Tom Cruise did in those sleek sunglasses. :o –air guitars-

Taking Care of You

I had never felt so unnerved. It was one thing to be attacked by Eric, but at least I knew he was crazy. This…this was an entirely different thing. Adrianna continued to clutch me as Ironhide drove us out to the countryside. He said we were going to meet up with the others.

Sighing, I thought over the events. Why are they after us? Was it just a random car jacking? Deep down inside I knew that wasn't true. Why would they waste their cars for mine? It just wasn't logical. A cold chill ran through me as memories of them approaching the car flashed through my mind.

I felt the car pull off the road and onto rougher terrain. Focusing once again on the view ahead, I could see everyone parked out in the grass, waiting for our arrival.

As soon as Ironhide stopped, I popped open the door and hopped out. Turning around, I reached for Adrianna, helping her down. When her feet hit the floor, she was running off towards the others. I stepped back and watched as everyone transformed. I saw Ironhide walking over to Optimus, and he began explaining the situation to everyone.

Every now and then Adrianna would fiddle around near Optimus' foot. I had to shout to Adrianna to stop bothering Optimus while he was talking, but the Autobot just knelt down and picked her up, my heart lurching at the thought of her falling down. But, Optimus had a good grip on the hyperactive girl and rested her on his palm.

I stood on the ground, waiting for them to get caught up on the situation when Ironhide nudged me with his finger. I stumbled then turned around, only to be greeted with his outstretched palm. Taking the hint, I crawled on, making myself comfortable between his middle and ring finger, wrapping my arms around them.

Ratchet ran a diagnostic on Ironhide to make sure the damages weren't going to be a problem. He did seem a little nitpicky about scratches and dents. The last time, I fell in the chicken coop and was cut by a dangling wire, he held me up for an hour just to make sure I hadn't gotten any bacteria in it. I got to hear a lecture about the inner workings of an infection. It was a complete snooze-fest.

My feet dangled as I kicked them back and forth, back and forth, just staring at the ground as the meeting progressed. I know I should be listening, but everything just seemed to come out as "blah blah blah." I sighed as I closed my eyes, relaxing a bit.

I wasn't sure how much time had passed, but a light, 'ahem' brought me out of my reverie. Looking up, everyone was staring at me. It felt like my face was up in flames. I knew I probably looked like a tomato. "Uh…I'm sorry. What was that?" I could hear Adrianna laughing at me. I gave a slight cough and grimaced.

"As I was saying, Carlie, do you have the faintest idea as to why you were targeted earlier?" Opitmus leaned in to make sure he'd catch all of my response.

I leaned back a little uncomfortable with his proximity. "Um…Well to be honest, no. I mean, when I started to think about it, I only came up with a few reasons, but the more I thought about it, the more preposterous they seemed. First, I thought it could have just been a random car jacking, but then…why would they have busted up two perfectly good cars just to get to mine? Then, I thought, maybe they were after us? But that wouldn't' make sense. What could they possibly want with two country girls? And the only person who I know of with a grudge would be crazy ol' Eric, but he's in a mental ward. And I doubt he was sane enough to hire someone to come get us, especially so quickly. Maybe they just wanted to kidnap Adrianna and hold her for ransom? Or perhaps they wanted to ship us off to some foreign country to be sold as slaves. Then I thought what if they knew who and what Ironhide is and wanted to go after him? But that would be stupid because well…" I looked up at Ironhide then back to Optimus. "Who would be stupid enough to take on a giant, heavily armed robot with just two people with puny handguns?" I shrugged when I finished. "Seriously, I have no firm idea as to why those men attacked us."

Optimus nodded when I finished. Standing straight once again, he motioned to the others. "I suggest we keep an eye out. Try to stay nearby. We don't know if these people will come back or if more will come." Optimus gazed at Ironhide, " Ironhide, please keep watch over both Carlie and Adrianna when we are away. I'm enlisting you as their temporary guardian." Ironhide gave him a nod and a quick, "Yes sir."

My face scrunched up at the thought of being babysat, but I bit down my pride. After all, my safety wasn't as important as that of Adrianna's. Did I really want to throw a tantrum over being watched when Adri's life was as much in danger as mine? Giving out a rough huff of air, I crossed my arms over my chest and set a small, angry pout on my face to make up for the lost 'battle'.

Ironhide stared down at me, eyebrow raised.

I just continued on with a little grunt and shifted in his hand, my legs no longer dangling. Adrianna started laughing again then tried to crawl up Otimus' arm. "Heeeeeeeey!" She shouted as he plucked her up. He had her by the back of her shirt, she lay there spinning slightly. Starting to flail in frustration, she jerked this way and that. Optimus stared on in wonder and raised her right up to his face. "Yes?"

Her lip hung out in a pout, upping the twinklie factor in her eyes. Optimus just continued to stare.

I couldn't help myself as I busted out laughing, my previous attitude forgotten. "That's, the first time your puppy face has failed." I laughed on long after she glared at me. The others just looked on in confusion, quickly looking up the word, "Puppy face" in the World Wide Web.

When Optimus realized what the look meant, he gave out a simple, "What is it you require, Adrianna?"

She smiled the brightest of smiles. My eyes rolled playfully, and I smiled as well.

"Can you play with me?" Adrianna lifted her arms out, scrunching her fingers at him. "Please?"

Everyone sort of paused at that. "Play with you?"

No one had ever asked him to play with them before. It seemed a bit odd to be asked such a question. Optimus kept staring at Adrianna.

I thought it was awkward. How would a giant robot play with a little girl without squashing her? That, and did he even know how to play? Slowly, my eyebrow lifted. This ought to be interesting. I wondered if I should have brought my video camera. It's not everyday you get to see a robot frolic with a child as they played house or sipped tea. Maybe they would even play a game of tag.

My face paled at the thought of that. God forbid if he squished my little Adri. I would never forgive him for that. I mean, I doubt he would really squish her. Optimus hasn't squished a human before, why would it happen now? Especially since all of the Autobots had taken such fine care of us already. I scratched my head as I further pondered how Adrianna meant to play with her latest friend.

I saw Optimus' optics blink and then he gave her a nod. Adrianna's squeal of delight was ear piercing. She started to flail violently as a loud "Yay!" filled the air. I admit, I didn't expect him to transform back into an 18-wheeler after he set her down. His door swung open and Adrianna climbed in. And what I saw next had me speechless. Adrianna was at the wheel, honking the horn like mad and yanking the steering wheel as she pretended to drive. The window rolled down and she began to hoot and holler. I was so baffled at the sight. I turned to look at the others. Ironhide gave me one look and I burst into fits of laughter. Some time had passed and I was still laughing.

In fact I was laughing so hard, I never noticed Ironhide setting me back on the ground. Tilting his palm, I slid down his fingers and to the ground. I kept laughing till my rear landed on the floor and I gave an, "Oof!"

"Hey! What was that for?" I got up and rubbed my rear. "That smarts."

A rumbling laugh came from him. "Well, you refused to listen to me earlier. I called out to you five times. I figured a little nudge would snap you out of it."

"Nudge is a gross understatement."

Continuing to rub my rear end, I walked over to Opitmus' driver side window and hoisted myself up by the step, completely ignoring Ironhide. My arms hung inside to keep me from falling back. Adrianna was still playing around with Optimus' dash board as he instructed her on how all the gears worked and what buttons did what. She was just as happy as could be.

I felt a deep grumbling come from behind me. Turning my head ever so slightly, I gave a nonchalant look towards Ironhide. "Yes?"

He gave out a strange 'harumph' "Are you even going to listen to what I asked?"

I turned a little more and drew out my arm, placing my pointer finger at my lip. I looked up, feigning thought. "Mmmm….No." Spinning back around, I gave him the cold shoulder.

"Hey!" He shouted so loudly, I squeaked and lost my balance, once again managing to fall on my back side.

"Hey, yourself!" I managed out as I recovered from the fall. Eyes squinting, I used my arm to cover up the sunlight and looked up at him. "You don't take rejection very well." A small smirk appeared on my lips and I gave a short laugh. "What is it?"

He knelt down next to me. "Don't' we have a car to pick up?"

I gasp as I jumped up from the ground in mild panic. "Oh crap, I totally forgot! We've gotta get there before they close up shop!"

Jumping up onto the door, I touched Adrianna on the shoulder and rushed my words. "Sweetie, we've gotta go. We still need to pick up the car."

She pouted and latched onto the steering wheel. "Aww, but it hasn't even been an hour! Can't we stay just a little longer?"

Frustrated, I pulled my hand roughly through my hair and let out a heavy sigh, "Darlin, I really need to go pick up the car. I promised Larry I would stop by to get it. Those boys aren't even supposed to be workin' today. We need to go."

Suddenly, Optimus' voice filled the cab. "I could watch over her till you return. It would not be a problem. Perhaps it would even be safer for her. Since, your assailants are not aware of our existence; she would be out of danger."

My face scrunched up at the notion. "Mmm, I don't know." I looked to Adrianna to see what she thought of it. Her hands were clapped together in a sign of prayer with her eyes closed. A little 'please please please' could be heard from her lips.

Optimus continued with his reasoning. "It will be much easier for Ironhide to deal with any dangers when there are fewer humans to watch over, if something serious were to occur."

An unsure look crossed over my face. I never liked leaving her behind. Perhaps it would be ok, after all, these weren't complete strangers, and Optimus is a giant robot. That has got to be, the best protection any parent could hope to find for their child.

Someone trying to harm your kid? Sic an alien robot guardian on him. Brings a whole new view to 'Sic 'em, boy!'

It does seem like an excellent idea, but I'll never admit to that without a little complaint. With a teasing glance, I pushed my look of insecurity.

"I'm still not sure….I mean-…" Adrianna broke in with her pleading, just as I was expecting. "Please! Please! Please! I promise I'll be good! Please!"

I gave a little smirk. How predictable. Her little lip jutted out and trembled as she softened her eyes at me. I swear this girl could be an actress. I laughed.

"Alright, alright, you can stay."

The second 'yay!' of the day came from her as she threw her hands up in the air. Then, she leapt forward and wrapped her arms around my neck in thanks. I started to choke. This kid is so strong.

"Ok, ok, can I breathe now?" I exaggerated as I gasped for air. She immediately lifted herself off my person and sat down with her hands in her lap.

"Just make sure you behave. Optimus is in charge while I'm away, so you had best listen to what he says. If you give him trouble young lady, I'll find out." I pointed my finger and shook it in warning. Then I smiled and nodded my head. "Ok, I've gotta head out now. Take care of her Optimus. I won't be long."

Hopping down, I turned towards Ironhide and looked up at him, "Ready?"

He gave a nod and transformed back into a truck. I walked over and started to climb in when I heard Adrianna shout a quick 'bye and Love you!' to me. I smiled and repeated her words just as the window was rolling up. Just before I closed the door, I heard a squeal and resounding laughter come from the truck bed. I shook my head and smiled. "Kids…"

--

I took a deep breath and slowly let it out as I slid my hands up the steering wheel. I didn't move to start up the engine. Static went over the radio, and Ironhide's voice floated out of the speakers. "Something wrong?"

My eyes closed for a second, and then, I readjusted myself in the seat. "No, nothing is wrong. I guess I just…needed to take a moment to myself. Today wasn't exactly normal…well, as normal as usual with a group of robots disguised as cars living on my ranch for the weekend."

Ironhide was silent for a while. I started up the engine and made my way through the field, back to the paved roads.

We drove on in silence for a while. Ironhide was the first to break it.

"That man who attacked you the other day, you knew him?" I tensed at his question. It seemed so random for him to ask now. Thoughts of Eric ran through my mind.

"Yeah, I know him pretty well." There was another moment of awkward silence or at least it felt that way to me.

"Why was he so hostile?" I gave out an exasperated sigh, but Ironhide chose to ignore it and waited for my reply.

"I used to work at a mental institution. In my years as a teenager, I volunteered there to get in some community service hours. I figured it would look good on my college résumé; nothing says 'pick me!' like a student who likes to give back to the community. Anyway, I spent my time with a group of five people, Eric was one of them. The tasks I was assigned were never difficult. Most of them were just things like, playing simple board games, painting, taking them out for a walk around the building's gardens.

They really liked it when I would read them stories, Eric most of all. He would run up to me everyday I came to visit and give me a big hug. All of the people I spent time with weren't as mentally disabled as most people usually think. They categorize the patients by stages. Eric's IQ was the lowest of the group, or so the nurses working there told me. He appeared to have a more childish demeanor. They say he barely made it into the stage that he was in. I thought of him as the sweetest one of them all. We would go out to the gardens and pick flowers. He really liked it when I made garlands."

I laughed as I reminisced in a good memory. "I remember one time, when spring had just come and the flowers were blooming everywhere, we had made enough garlands for the whole wing. He dashed around the room putting garlands over everyone's head. He was so happy then."

My voice started to choke as a few tears spilled from my eyes. I quickly rubbed at them.

"What changed?"

I felt Ironhide take over driving as my arms fell into my lap. I started to wring my hands together.

"I blame his change solely on the new nurse recruit." Venom came from my voice as old memories flashed. "He was a complete bastard. I don't know why they let him in the institution. From the moment he walked through the door, I knew he was bad news. At first, I thought I was wrong in my assumptions. He acted so kind and caring in front of the other workers, but over time I started to notice a change in the patients. I sensed so much fear in their eyes every time he approached. I had made my suspicions of him known when I found bruises on one of his charges. I found the poor old man in a wheel chair in the star well. He was in the corner, severely beaten and crying. I was so appalled. It's bad enough that we have elderly people being abused in nursing homes, but to abuse a mental disabled person."

I shook my head violently, the anger seeping off me in waves. "I tried to help him, but he was in so much shock that he fought against me. After talking to him soothingly for an hour, he finally calmed down. He just kept saying, "I don't' understand." Even long after I got him to the head nurse and after the investigation, he never stopped saying it.

I think the saddest part was, that nurse was never punished for the crime. There wasn't enough evidence to prove he did it, so they kept him there. I swear to you he had the gall to laugh in my face over it. After that, we never got along. We always managed to do anything in out power to make each other's life miserable. From throwing objects at each other to the point where he pushed me down the stairs."

Under my feet I could feel the engine's vibrations as it revved indignantly. "Yeah, it took me a while to recover from that. I had noticed even more change when I was finally able to return. Everything was so dark. No one smiled anymore. It's amazing how one bad person can destroy the lives of so many…"

This time Ironhide snorted. "I can agree to that."

"Mmm…" I nodded my head in understanding.

"I figured I would be able to get back to work with my old friends and try to stay away from that blasted man. But when I visited them, no one wanted to have anything to do with me. It was like a mass depression had taken over the ward. And I noticed the worst change of them all. Eric had become so violent. So hostile. Every time I would try to get him to go take a walk outside with me or play a game, he would spit out vile words. Words that I know only one person could have taught him. It was like his whole being had switched to hating me. The last day I had spent with him is one of the most memorable events of my life.

It was the first time he tried to kill me."

My left arm clutched my waist as my other hand covered my eyes. Tears slipped down my face and my body shook. Trying my hardest, I tightened my hold and mentally berated myself for crying.

A shaky breath escaped me. "

"I'm sorry."

It was so sudden and unexpected. For a minute, I thought I hadn't heard it. "What are you sorry for? It's not your fault. The only one at fault is the man who turned Eric against me. How terrifying of a person, to manipulate such an innocent mind. Eric was ruined by him, but that nurse got what he deserved even though it was at the cost of my dear friend."

"I don't understand. What do you mean?"

"A year after I had left the institution, I found a picture of Eric and the nurse in the front page of the newspaper. There had been a struggle between the two in one of the empty rooms. They believe he had initiated the attack against Eric with the intent to shoot him, but after all the manipulation and scheming, he truly had turned Eric into a monster. Eric won out and shot the bastard point blank. As terrible as it sounds, that man got what he deserved. And I will always be grateful to Eric for ending that nightmare and saving the others from facing an end similar to his own."

I held my breath as I waited for a reply. I didn't know how he would react to my feelings on the matter. Wishing such a fate on someone could never really be a good thing.

"Your reasoning is very interesting."

I released the breath I had been holding.

"Indeed."

--

We finally pulled up to the parking garage. A sense of disappointment filled me as I noticed the garage doors closed and the lights to the office looked off. I could see my old beat up '84 Chevy pickup resting behind the fence, a lock and chains tightly securing the gate.

"Damn, it doesn't look open, but I'll check anyways. I'll only be a few." I got out of the car and slammed the door shut, a little upset at being so late. A gruff, 'hey!' was shouted and I winced. "Sorry."

I whipped my hair behind my back as I walked up to the office door. With a quick prayer, I reached for the handle and twisted it. "Come on, be open." The knob turned all the way and with renewed happiness, I swung the door open and stepped in. My eyes were closed but I sported a huge grin as I shouted a "Hey guys, I'm here!" The door slammed behind me from its heavy weight. I opened my eyes…

And screamed.

There was blood….everywhere. Bodies were strewn across the room. One was sitting in a waiting room chair, blood flowing from his chest as it pooled around his feet. There were two more bodies lying on the ground. My heart was racing and my breath was hurried. I looked up at the counter and noticed bloodied hand prints smeared on the wall with bullets lining next to them. I was frozen in place.

Suddenly, the roof was ripped from its hinges and I screamed in surprise. When Ironhide's head appeared I started crying and ran out of the building. I closed in on Ironhide as I fell to the ground and clutched his leg. "Oh my God. Oh my God." I gripped him even harder and buried my face into him as I released the most pain filled of screams.

"This—is a nightmare. It just—It just has to be," I wailed out. I started to shake violently, barely hearing Ironhide. Though I couldn't understand the words, I knew he was trying to comfort me.

I gave another ear piercing scream, "This is all wrong!"

--

Hope ya'll like it. I deem it another one of my iffy chapters. x.x

(07/23/08: Havent' given up on this story, just stuck in a writer's block with it.)