Authors Note: No excuses. I was completely lazy. I've had this chapter on the back burner for way too long. I'm stupid to have waited. Please, don't lose faith in me. I love that a few of you are still recommending me to friends. That makes me so honored. Anyway, let's get this show on the road already.
Title: End and Beginning.
For a girl that had been through just about everything and anything in her life, the events of her graduation night didn't slow her down for a second. Enrolling in summer school to get a head start on her nursing program, Ella certainly didn't have much time to think about anything else. Medical books, papers, and dictionaries practically covered her floor as she tried to get absorb every detail. When there was something she didn't quite understand she went to get favorite living embodiment of the internet for information.
Ratchet, for one, was happy to help. He had seen such ambition in fellow Autobots when it came to the medical field. He could almost see a very young First Aid when he looked upon the girl studying at the end of her bed. In fact, he would have liked her very much.
Today, however, was not a day for buckling down and filling the brain. Today was for celebrating by finally getting away from the house for the first time in about a month.
"I am so happy, 'cause it's my birthday." Ella sang from the driver's seat of her car. While she did enjoy having Ratchet drive her where she wanted to go, she had to keep a lower profile. It would be very unusual for an 18 year-old to drive up in an emergency vehicle.
A beep came through her cars radio.
"I know you are very pleased with the meaning of today, but you should be aware you are reaching a speed well over the limit of the law." Ratchet's voice was flat, but stern none the less. Just because he wasn't the driver didn't mean he wasn't going to watch over her for the day.
The new adult rolled her eyes. "I swear there is nothing you'll cut me any slack on." She looked in her rearview mirror to see a dot of yellow hovering in the distance.
"If by 'cutting you some slack' means letting you break the law and end up with a ticket, then I must be the strictest Bot online."
It was so difficult to tell when he was joking.
"I haven't gotten one yet. Besides, you let me go five miles over the entire way to the mall." She snickered.
There was a minute's pause, then, "You know full well that I was having a minor complication dealing with an avian flying into my windshield."
Ella had to bite her tongue to keep from laughing again. It wasn't appreciated then, and it surely wasn't going to be now. "To be fair, that was the biggest crow I've ever seen. That thing had to be the size of Frenzy." It felt nice to have a joke at a Decepticons expense.
The day had been filled with a trip to the mall with her best friends. Of course, they were all working their summers away in order to save for school. For Ella, her scholarships helped her along enough that a part-time job on the weekends was just fine. She wasn't spoiled by not having to work much, she just couldn't find the time for it. If it weren't for the fact her birthday fell so close to the 4th of July, she wouldn't have taken it off for anything.
One of her birthday wishes was for Ratchet to spend the day with her. This was a huge mile stone for her and she didn't want him to miss it. Heck, he was the reason she had reached this birthday to begin with. Without him, she might not have gotten to buy her first lottery ticket or get into an R-rated movie without being carded. Those seemed like such mundane tasks, but they were precious moments to the two friends.
While Ella walked through the mall, Ratchet was sure to project a hologram close enough. He was still there, but not enough to be discovered. He wasn't exactly keen on using a female holoform for this occasion, so he remained with his Dr. Richards one. In keeping his distance, he wouldn't have spooked Ella's friends into thinking he was a stalker. Of course, this also meant that he had to be very careful. He couldn't accidentally run into another shopper. Humans tend to become alarmed when another person walks right through them. Yet, for all its trouble, every time Ella looked up to make sure he was still there made this entire thing worth it. She was happy. A happy Ella was a quieter Ella.
"Celine said there's going to be a surprise for me when I get back to the house." She smiled from ear to ear as she turned her music off. It was hard to hear him over the noise.
"Oh? I have seen no indication of a random event happening from the residence." Ratchet replied. He sounded a bit perplexed.
"Yeah, she texted me about it when I was in the changing room." She paused for a second. "Don't think for a second that means you're off the hook for appearing when I was in one of those."
"All vital signs pointed to you being in distress."
"Ratch, I got stuck on a hanger and couldn't get myself loose. Make sure you scan first the next time." She would never forget the shock of him appearing before her while she was in her underwear.
There was a static noise. "I believe you were informing me of a surprise Celine told you about. Would you like to share this information?"
Ella shrugged, even if he couldn't see her. "That's all I know. She sent me a message that there was going to be something big when I came about tonight. I know it's not going to be a car. I love Remy too much and Celine is a bit too cheap for that."
"Perhaps she believes I was stolen once again."
"No, it can't be that. I set up the hologram projector this time. I know I left a version of you right where you usually park."
Ratchet thought for a moment. "I am truly no good at guessing games such as thing."
"Yeah, you and me both." Ella bit her lip. Celine never did stuff like this. It hadn't happened before and she was so sure it wasn't going to happen again.
Tires crunched on gravel as she made her final turn into the driveway. She could see the hologram of Ratchets vehicle mode was still by the house. A short distance away, she could hear him approaching the house. Better go distract the aunt while he was trying to sneak back into place.
She made her way from the car to the front door. She wasn't too surprised when she found it was unlocked. Not too many burglars out in the country. Stepping inside, she put her bags down by the door.
"Celine? I'm back." She called. It was strange. Usually her aunt would be sitting on the couch watching TV on a day off like this. "Celine? Where are you?"
"Ella?" A voice rang through a nearby speaker. It made the girl jump a bit.
"Ratchet, she's not answering." Ella wasn't worried, but it did make her stomach flutter just a bit.
"Ella, I am not picking up any life signs besides yours within the home." Ratchet informed the girl through his temporary mouthpiece.
Ella started walking up the stairs. "That can't be right. She told me to be here at this time." Each of her steps seemed to echo a little louder. Something wasn't right.
"I am not picking up signs of any problems." Ratchet could tell the girl was in the beginning stages of stress.
Ella knocked on her aunt's door. "Celine?" Even if she knew no one was there, it was still polite to knock. When there was no answer, Ella pushed open the door. Her gasp couldn't have been any louder if she had tried.
"Ella? What has happened? Answer at once." He could see the girl's vitals spiking. He didn't need a scan to know she had been shocked.
"She's gone." Ella choked out.'
Not being able to see, Ratchet needed to get more information from his young friend. "Gone? Explain what you mean."
"Celine is gone. Just…gone."
The room that had been her aunt's was completely empty. The bed, the night stand, the dresser, everything was missing. Rushing to the closet, Ella threw open the door. All of the clothes and shoes were gone as well. Instead, an envelope hung from one of the barren hangers. She took it and closed the door behind her. Her name was written on the front.
Leaving the room, she ran down the stairs and out the door. "All of her stuff is gone, but I found something." She was trying her hardest not to panic.
Ratchet transformed and knelt by the shaking new adult. "Open it. It may contain answers."
Ella opened the envelope and grabbed the note inside. It wasn't very long and was in her aunt's very loopy handwriting. It looked like it had been well thought out, nothing so last minute to be written in a hurry. She looked up at Ratchet, with him giving her the motion to begin reading. She looked at the note again and began to read.
I know this is going to be a shock for you, but I know you will handle this maturely. When you find this note, I will be on my way to France, returning to my true home country. I know you are feeling betrayed, but allow me to explain. First off, I do truly love you. I love you will all of my heart. You are my sister's daughter, my flesh and blood. What I have done isn't out of hatred for you, but out of selfishness on my part. Since the day I entered America, I have been wishing to return home. I've missed it so much, but I couldn't just leave a child behind. I promised your parents when they wrote their will that I would watch over their children if something were to happen. On this day, I have fulfilled this obligation. You are an adult now, ready to take on the world yourself. You may doubt yourself, but I know you can take the world on. You are already on your way to becoming far more successful than I could have ever dreamed of. You are stronger than you know. I was never a great mother to you, but I hope I was a good enough aunt.
What you must know is there will be someone coming by to serve you with the final part of your parent's will. Even I don't know what it is, so I couldn't help to guess what it might be about. All I know is that it doesn't involve me.
Remember, Ella, that I still love you. I wouldn't blame you if you never wanted to see me again. I just needed to do this as fast as I could. I wanted to make it as painless as possible for the two of us. When you find it in your heart to forgiving me, I hope you will try to make contact. I will be sure to send you my new address when I arrive.
I love you, Ma Cheri.
Ella lowered the letter, looking Ratchet dead in the eyes. She felt emptier than her aunt's bedroom. Her aunt had left her behind. The last bit of blood Ella had left in the world had flown away on the next flight to France.
"Ella, I am so sorry." He held out his hand to her.
The young woman didn't move. Instead, she looked back at the note, trying to wish it away. The only human in her life that had a huge link to her past was now gone. She was alone. She felt like she was the only one left in the world.
"How could she?" Ella finally found her voice. It shook as she held back her emotions. She was never very good at that. "How could she just leave me here alone?"
Ratchet couldn't give her an answer. Everything that came to his processor just felt cruel to say to her. He was aware that many cultures left their children once they had fully matured. To him, it didn't feel so unnatural. Yet he couldn't bring himself to tell her this. This wasn't how she expected it to happen. She was supposed to be the one to leave when she was ready to strike out in the world. Celine was the one that was going to stay behind.
Their tension was cut by the sound of a car coming down the road. Ratchet quickly transformed back while Ella turned her attention to the sound. She raised an eyebrow when the black SUV pulled down the driveway.
"Great, just what I needed. Why don't they just rub a little salt in the wounds?" She grumbled.
The vehicle came to a stop right in front of her. It clicked off and a man stepped out of the driver's seat. She didn't know quite what to think of this man. He seemed to have an air of over importance about him without him ever saying a word. Behind her, Ratchet let out a rumble.
"Easy there, NBE-4. I just came to talk to the girl." He sneered, holding up his hands in defense.
Ella's head whipped from Ratchet back to the man. "You know about him?" The words just tumbled from her mouth before she could really think.
"We go way bad, him and me." The man said, not making another step toward the Autobot.
Ratchet shifted back to his robot form. He stared down at the man, his optics practically burning. "As I recall, you kidnapped two teenagers and a fellow soldier when we first met, Agent Simmons."
Ella's eyes went wide. She had heard that story many times before. All of the Autobots had stopped this man from taking Sam and Mikaela. This effort failed when they were caught once more with more of Simmons men taking Bumblebee with them. She had always felt a burning anger toward the main man of the story for hurting a Bot she considered to be a good friend.
She looked him up and down, a look of disgust displayed across her face. "I know who you are. What the heck are you doing here? Planning to take Ratchet away from me?" If word could be fire, Agent Simmons would have been burnt to a crisp.
"Sadly, NBE-4 is not the target of today's visit. I came to speak with the lady of the house." The sarcasm was dripping off of him.
"First, his name is Ratchet. Second, why would I ever want to talk to you?" She crossed her arms, closing herself off.
The man sighed in frustration before pulling a large envelope from inside his jacket. "As former members of Sector 7, your parents were giving a trust in case of any accidents on the job. Even though they had turned their backs on us long before the incident, some of the higher ups wanted to make sure their offspring were taken care of." He handed it off to Ella.
With the watchful eyes of her best friend behind her, she opened the envelope. After glancing through it, her brain couldn't make heads nor tails of all the legal jargon. "What is this?"
Rolling his eyes at the girls' stupidity, he pointed to the document. "According to that, you own the house now. Not only that, but Sector 7 is proving support for you because of your encounter with terroristic NBEs."
Ratchet listened carefully, scanning the paper at the same time. "Ella, because it was a Decepticon attack, they have had to pay for everything that came with it. Your doctor's bills, the cost of the home, and they even put extra money on your aunt's paychecks to insure you would never go without."
"You mean it's all mine? This is my home?" Ella looked back down at the paper. The language on it didn't get any easier to understand.
"As long as you want to live here, Sector 7 had to foot the bill. I guess the government thought we were putting your family in dangers way just for them choosing to work for us." Agent Simmons let out a chuckle, drawing a death glare from Ella.
"Thank you for your time, Mr. Simmons. I think we can take it from here." Without letting him speak, she turned her back on him.
"Well, looks like you still need to be taught some manners." He growled as he returned to his car.
Ella didn't bother turning back around even when she couldn't hear the wheels rolling away anymore. "This is what Celine was talking about. She doesn't know about Sector 7, so she couldn't possibly have known what they were doing."
"You own everything now. It is under your control." He was trying to make it sound a little less weighty, but it just didn't come across as light either.
The young woman put a hand to her head. "This is just too much to think about. I…I think I need to lay down for a bit. My head is starting to really hurt." She slowly made her way back to the house.
Ratchet could hear her footsteps moving through the house until they reached her room. Through her window, he watched her let her body fall onto her bed. It seemed that the weight of everything had finally pushed her. There was no cure for this. Time would have to solve this.
Evening had already fallen when Ella finally raised her head up from where she lay. Darkness was falling across the countryside. In a few more hours, her 18th birthday would officially be over. What had started out so well had ended so surreal.
'My life is just weird.' She thought as she pushed herself up. Lugging herself to the window, she sat down on the seat. Outside, she could see Ratchet had reverted back to his vehicle mode. She let out a sigh before looking into the sky. "Looks like I'm not having any birthday cake tonight." She snorted at her casual way of saying that.
It took a few seconds before Ratchet was able to look her straight in the face. "Are you feeling better?" He conducted a quick scan. Her stress levels were still elevated, but far from the levels experienced earlier.
"Yeah, a little," She looked back into the sky, "I thought about things. I don't have to take care of Celine when she is drunk. I don't have to wait up during the night hoping she'll come back from a party. It's all gone now. All of the responsibility I shouldn't have had in the first place." The look on her face was almost drained.
"Yet, you still feel guilty. I can sense it in your tone of voice." He held out a hand to her. Carefully, she climbed into it.
She pressed her cheek into his thumb. "I can't help it. Maybe it I were just a little bit better, maybe she would have stayed. The maybe my house now, but I would have let her live here. I would have still let her be the authority."
"Wishful thinking does not lead to anywhere." He said, holding himself steady so he wouldn't knock her over.
"I know, I know. My brain just doesn't like me very much." She said, a hint of a smile playing across her lips.
"That is impossible. The brain is merely…" Ratchet started. Suddenly, a soft, high pitched sound came from the front of the house. Both turned to look.
"What the heck was that?" Ella's eyes were the size of silver dollars.
Swiftly, Ratchet started a scan. The sound howled through the night once more, allowing the Autobot to pinpoint exactly where it came from. "It appears there is a canine by the front door. It appears to be small." He set the young woman on the ground.
"That would be the usual term for this creature, yes."
Ella slowly made her way around the corner, motioning for Ratchet to stay still. If the animal was dangerous, he would still be there to grab her, but just far away enough not to scare the daylights out of it. Coming to the porch, she looked around the corner. The poor animal let out another mournful whine as it sat by the door.
"Hello?" She whispered.
The little dog turned at the sound of a voice. The poor thing wasn't the most attractive thing anyone had seen. It's fur was brown and matted, tiny black spots leaping from it. There was no fur on the top of the dog's head, only fiercely red skin. It was thin, but not too thin to show it was starving to death. It's panting mouth revealed a couple missing teeth. The canine hadn't seen very many good days on its own.
"Ratchet, scan it for rabies. It doesn't look so good." Ella's voice was barely above a whisper.
Running a more thorough scan, the Autobot CMO could see the animal was clean from any illnesses, forgive the fact it was covered in vermin. "It appears the canine is in a health state within. The outside does not show this truth."
Ella moved a little closer. The dog's tail started to wag. Soon, it was bounding towards her.
"Oh god!" She raised her hands up to catch herself as about 20 pounds of furball knocked into her legs. Before she knew what was happening, a wet tongue was covering her face in kisses. It didn't even seem bothered by the fact a giant robot was in the company of the human.
"I do not think this canine will harm you. It appears to enjoy your company." Ratchet held down a hand, allowing Ella to grab a finger and boast herself to her feet.
"Gee, what was your first clue?" She laughed, wiping dog slobber off of her face. She looked down at the happy mutt. It was a dirty looking thing, but it was kind of cute from this angle. "It really needs a bath. Look at all the fleas jumping around." In truth, this was pretty disgusting.
Ratchet opened his subspace, pulling out a small tube. "Here, use this when you bathe her. It is originally intending to kill parasites on humans, but it does not appear to be too high of a dose for a little canine." He handed it to the young woman.
"Her? It's a girl?" She smiled down at the little creature. "I think there might be some clippers in the basement. Never knew why I didn't just get rid of those, but I guess I knew they would come in handy. Those mats look like they hurt." She lowered a hand to the dog, allowing it to lick it.
"Come, this could take a while." Ratchet said as he opened the garage door. They would have to work from the garage sink so the house wouldn't become infested.
Picking up the small animal, Ella gently scratched her behind a sore looking ear. "Don't worry. We'll take care of you."
It was early in the morning when Ella finally finished making the dog more comfortable. A shave, a good bath, and a bit of food were enough to make it feel very welcomed. What was thought to be a brown dog turned out to be a very light blonde beauty. Her fur was a little wonky from Ella's lack of experience with shaving, but the mats were gone.
"Ratch?" Ella called from her bed. She couldn't fall asleep quite yet.
"Yes, Ella?" His voice floated from her computer speaker.
She looked down at the little dog sleeping on an old blanket. The little creature, now dubbed Lily by the young woman, snored quietly in its sleep. "Something bad happened today. Something I'd like to take back with every fiber of my being."
Ratchet took a moment to think. "This is not why you wanted to speak."
"Darn you and your observations." She snickered, rolling over a bit. "I just wanted to say that, for once, the good outweighed the bad. I had a fun day with my friends, I found out that I own a house that I don't think I can lose, and I found a lovely little pet. I think God and Primus finally thinks I'm worth of having a good day."
A huff of static came from the speakers. "It would appear so."
"Plus, you're still here. I'll have Joey when he gets back too."
"I will always be here. I am quiet the difficult one to get rid of."
Ella laughed again. "I know." She rolled over and closed her eyes. "Thanks for that."
With that quiet little moment, Ella drifted off to sleep. She was finally seeing the good things happening to her. Celine may be walked away, but Lily had walked to her in return. The aunt's job was finished. It was now Ella's turn to take care of someone that needed her. What used to be lost was now found. She had been given a chance to feel what Ratchet had felt all of those years ago. It was a sense of grief which led to a sense of hope.