And Eyes That I Might See
By Dreaming of Everything, betaed by mmouse15
Author's Notes: Looking back, it's hard to imagine that this whole thing started out as a oneshot I never planned to continue... Now, of course, it's a nine-chapter series of character studies, and there's even something like a plot. I've had fun writing it! And I hope everyone's had fun reading it.
So now it's over. One last chapter (nominally for Ironhide, who doesn't get a full chapter all to himself because he tagged along with Ratchet's) to tie things up and settle all the loose edges. ...And to resolve that cliffhanger from chapter eight. (I am kind of mean sometimes.)
...And I got this chapter out reasonably fast, too! It is also the longest chapter I've written so far. I had more to say than I usually do.
Where was Sunstreaker? Amanda didn't think he was anywhere nearby. She felt afraid, and exposed. Was that him, the engine? Or was it a Decepticon? The way things were, it didn't need to be one, because she could die on accident, all it would take was a Transformer misstepping or just not noticing her, or falling if they were shot—or getting shot on accident, anything. She was helpless and she couldn't see and she could guess but she didn't know for sure how she was going to get away, or even if she should—what if she got lost, alone in the mountains at night without any warm clothes, water or food, or anyway to defend herself? There were bears and cougars, for all she knew—and she couldn't see well, she couldn't move fast, even if she tried, and that risked breaking an ankle...
Something moved, and Amanda tried to turn around too fast, tense almost to the point of panic. It wrenched her neck, and she almost cried out at the pain but didn't, biting her lip, hard, instead.
Should she say something? What if it wasn't an Autobot? What if they didn't notice her? What if it wasn't anything at all—
There were Autobot—or Decepticon—steps, slamming into the ground around her. She screamed, but there wasn't any reply, so Amanda huddled in on herself, pushing into the ground, willing herself to be gone, to be home, for this to all disappear! But it didn't, of course, because even though parts of her day had felt like bad science fiction, it wasn't. This was real, this was where she was.
There was another booming explosion, painfully loud, much closer this time: the shock ran through her body, and she felt a brief wave of heat. She screamed again, but tried to stop herself. Who would hear? If the wrong person took notice...
And now there was screaming, off in the distance. Amanda couldn't tell if it was because of pain, or something else. She didn't want to know. This way, she could decide what she wanted.
Was that an approaching engine? She eased herself up on her arms, trying to catch the noise again, because she was going to be caught unawares no matter what, but she wanted whatever advanced warning she could get—
A car. It pulled to a halt next to her, engine surprisingly quiet.
"Get in," said a voice Amanda thought was Mirage's.
"Yes. We don't have time: hurry." He sounded calm even as he sounded urgent, like this was something he'd done a hundred times. It could be, Amanda realized, and she stood up—no time to try and brush off the dirt—and moved towards the sound of the idling engine, trying to keep from tripping on the rutted dirt of the field they were in.
"Who was with you?" asked Mirage, after a period of time had passed. Amanda's heart rate was starting to slow a little; she was calming down. "Did you get out there by yourself?"
"No," she said, quiet, fingers fiddling with a fold of her sleeve, tracing the ridged hemming tucked under the cuff. "I was with Bluestreak."
"Are you sure?" asked Mirage, sounding politely disbelieving, questioning. "Bluestreak left you on your own?"
"Oh—no," Amanda said. She could see how that would sound ridiculous. "He left me with Sunstreaker when he left for patrol. Then Sunstreaker left me. ...I think he forgot about me." That was true, and if it had been under other circumstances, that would have been an unpleasant thought—but there had been (there was) a battle, and that took precedence.
There was a distinctly disapproving silence.
"Thank you," said Amanda.
"...I'm sorry you're getting all dirty."
"That's fixable." The implications seemed to be that the kind of damage Amanda could have taken wouldn't have been reparable, necessarily.
There was another long wait.
"I can't drive you any closer," said Mirage unexpectedly. "I need to return to the battlefield. Wait here. Someone will be along shortly."
"Thank you," said Amanda again, clambering out, awkwardly, when she heard the door open, a rush of bitter night air rushing to meet her.
Mirage turned, she assumed—there was movement—and then stopped.
"I'm glad you weren't damaged," he said soberly, voice much closer than she'd expected—she jumped a little, but tried to hide it. She didn't know how well she succeeded. One cold metal fingertip reached out to tap, very gently, against the back of her hand, and then there was movement again, and Mirage was walking, then running away.
Amanda smiled, but her smile faded quickly. Her teeth began to chatter.
She was happy to hear her name called out. Was that Mikaela?
Amanda was given a sandwich and a seat around the fire, along with an ill-fitting coat and a slightly scratchy hat. Considering the circumstances, she wasn't going to complain.
"Are you okay?" asked someone—Phenomena? She wasn't sure. She asked.
"Phenomena? Is that you asking?"
"Oh! Yes, it is. Are you alright?"
"Yes, I'm fine. A little dirty, I guess." Some of the grit had worked its way into the gap between her shirt and jeans, and ended up caught between skin and denim. It was a really unpleasant sensation. "How are you?"
"Fine. I've had it easier than you, though—how close were you to the battle?"
"...A lot closer than I wanted to be." Amanda shivered at the memory, still far too recent. "Mirage brought me back, though."
"That's good," said Phenomena, sounding amazed and a little nervous. "You know, you're probably in shock."
"Probably," agreed Amanda.
"I am, too. Would you like another sandwich?"
"Yes," said Amanda, thankful. She felt hollow she was so hungry. She didn't even complain about the quality of the food. It hadn't improved much, but hunger really was the best seasoning.
Amanda was slightly confused when she woke up, not quite sure where she was for a few minutes before her memories of the day before reasserted themselves.
The Autobots. The mountains. The Decepticon attack.
Last night, being given a sleeping bag, and assigned a small tent. She hadn't taken off her clothes, just felt her way into bed and fallen asleep. It had taken a long time, too long, fading adrenalin bolstered by the explosions she could still hear—like thunder—keeping her awake.
What time was it? She had no idea. No use but to find out.
She struggled a little with the tent zipper but managed it eventually, climbing out into the day. It was raining a little, just a light mist. She combed her fingers through her hair and tried to figure out where she was, and how to get back. Or how to find someone to follow around, if nothing else. That was kind of pathetic, but she wasn't someplace she knew. She didn't have her cane, and it wasn't like walking around city streets. She could do that, and she was just fine when she was at home, in her apartment. She didn't need any help there.
But out here, she did.
It kind of sucked. She wanted her independence back. Even more than she wanted her apartment, her own bed, her own food—all of it. She wanted to be home.
Not much to do but wait to see if someone would show up, eventually. She didn't want to risk getting lost, not after last night.
Amanda hoped someone came soon. She was hungry.
It didn't take long for someone to show up—Amanda could hear their footsteps, probably before they saw her, because they didn't call out or anything—which was good, because it did something to knock her out of her self-pitying and indulgent mood. She complained vociferously whenever the rest of the world pulled the "poor little blind girl" routine, so she could hardly pull the same thing herself—
"Are you Amanda?" asked a voice—young, male, unfamiliar and comfortable: he wasn't on edge, whoever he was—and she jumped a little despite herself, even though she'd heard the approaching footsteps.
"Ah—yes, that is, I am," she said, sounding awkward and flustered even to her own ears. "I'm sorry. Who are you?" She really hoped it wasn't someone she'd been introduced to already. She didn't think so, but you never knew...
"Oh, right, I should have thought—I'm James Blackwell. It's nice to meet you. I'm a volunteer medic, and the, er, Autobots sent me to make sure everyone else here makes it out. Apparently they got most people out earlier today, but they left whoever was still asleep behind, because it wasn't urgent. I would have been here earlier, but I got called away for a little while—sorry about that. But I think everything else is packed up and ready to go, so I should probably start waking everyone up. And the—doctor-robot, Racket?—yeah, he said that the sleeping pills he gave to a few of them should be wearing off, so—yeah, I mean, yes, that's about the sum of things."
"Nice to meet you, too," Amanda said, a little dazed. "What's going on? We're leaving?"
"Oh, right—yeah, everything's worked out. That big fight last night? It was the other group of robots, those Deception-thingies. They rushed us, I guess, and it was—well, word was it was messy, but I don't think there were many casualties. We were lucky, the robots mostly kept us out of the thick of things. Well, there was a hairy moment when one of them made it over to the hillside we were shooting on, and then there was the whole mix-up with the plane that really wasn't, but I don't think there's more than five dead, which is damn good, let me tell you. Okay, so I'm getting off-track, but we're free to go, so you're getting shipped back home. You're probably ready for it, huh? I mean, I know I am, and I had the choice to get out here, really, when all's said and done."
"I'm ready to go home, yeah," Amanda said, feeling too-tired and—empty.
"Let's get you there," James said, voice warm. "C'mon."
After that there was just the hustle and bustle of departure. It was all very complicated and a little bit too overwhelming for Amanda to handle, at that moment. She sat it out as best as she could, and said her goodbyes to everyone. She managed to find a few seconds to trade telephone numbers with Phenomena, and then with Jerry, and she said good-byes to everyone, even a few of the Autobots: Bluestreak, of course, and Mirage.
She did end up stumbling—not entirely literally—across Sunstreaker, as well, but she snubbed him. Pointedly. No way in Hell she was going to talk to him, after he'd left her like that. On a battlefield. When she couldn't see.
But the rest of the Autobots and several of the normal people she'd met—Sam, Mikaela, Sarah—were busy, trying to straighten everything out.
Apparently, the government hadn't managed to suppress all of the video that had been taken during the attack, and several clips had ended up on YouTube, and been viewed by enough people that there was, essentially, no way to keep the Autobot secret quiet anymore.
In short, the shit had hit the fan.
So that made sense.
Amanda wished she'd get the chance to give her goodbyes to everyone else she'd met—excluding Sunstreaker and Sideswipe—but it looked like it just wasn't in the cards. That was alright.
Mostly, she just wanted to go home.
It wasn't until she was mostly home that Amanda realized that she was riding in Ironhide, which was kind of a shock. Not necessarily a bad one, though. She was getting used to the Autobots. Some of them had been very nice, after all.
...Ironhide was not a robot that should ever really have the word "nice" applied to him. "Gruff," maybe. "Bad with people" was a pretty good one for him, too.
"You're the human who ended up in the middle of the battlefield."
"Uh-huh." Amanda was struggling to even keep her eyes open, the rhythm of the driving lulling her into sleep, irresistibly.
That shook her awake. "Hey! It wasn't me, you know, I'm not stupid! I didn't like being stranded out there, with—with all sorts of things going on around me, and the explosions, and—and—you know, even if it was one of you and you just misstepped, I'd be dead! I didn't enjoy that experience, thank-you-very-much!"
"Huh. Why were you out there, then, huh?"
"Huh yourself. Sunstreaker stranded me, the bastard—just dumped me in the middle of the field and left. God damn it—"
"Figures." Ironhide did not sound particularly disapproving; rather, he sounded slightly impressed. "He's a violent fragger."
Amanda pointedly kept silent. She was aware that she probably had an unattractive, unladylike scowl stamped across her face, but she couldn't bring herself to care.
"But I guess if you're a broken human, it would be unpleasant. Optimus'll ream him out."
"—I'm not broken!"
"Don't you yell at me, youngling!"
"I'm a grown adult!"
"Act like it!"
"You called me broken!"
"You do not function properly! And you turned down an offer to try and fix the problem!"
"Okay, so I'm disabled! Whatever! I'm fine with that, actually! As long as I'm not being left in incredibly hazardous situations where I can't see a damn thing and—and I don't care if I'm blind and technically not functioning right! It works for me, I'm fine, I can live my life!" To her utter horror, Amanda started crying, tears dripping down her cheeks. "I may be blind, but at least I'm not an asshole!"
There was a long silence.
"...I apologize," Ironhide grunted at last, sounding unreasonably sulky.
Once more, Amanda found herself biting back hysterical giggles. Even though she was still crying.
She'd calmed down by the time they reached her apartment, so Amanda offered a subdued good-bye into the thick silence that had settled, once she'd pulled herself out of the too-tall truck and landed, unsteadily, on her feet.
She was surprised when the Autobot returned the nicety.
"I'll see you," he said, gruffly. "Maybe. Good luck. And—I'm sorry."
"You don't need to apologize," Amanda said, not entirely meaning it, although she wanted to.
Ironhide revved his engine, making her start a little—hopefully subtly, she couldn't tell—and then there were a few more minutes of awkward silence, and then he left. Amanda made her way home.
It was a huge relief to be back in her apartment, where she had her own food—and decent sandwiches, or at least sandwich makings, and hot food if she felt like cooking it, leftovers if she didn't—and everything was arranged the way it was supposed to be, so that she didn't trip over anything like, like a rock or a rut or a freaking tree. Thank God for civilization! That was Amanda's thought as she lay back on her bed, too tired to even bother changing into her pajamas. Instead she just lay there for just over half an hour, almost drifting off to sleep.
Before she was fully lost to unconsciousness Amanda dragged herself upright, crawled out of her jeans and then got under the covers, wrapping herself up in them tightly before she fell fast asleep.
Even the nightmares weren't very bad. She'd have time for them later; in the meantime, she just needed to sleep.
Life was getting worked out. It was nice but—boring, if Amanda was honest. Before, she'd been okay with boring. It meant knowing what was going to happen.
She missed the people she'd met. She'd talked to Phenomena on the phone a little, but it was hard, because they weren't supposed to talk about the Autobots—officially, they weren't supposed to talk about the Autobots at all, but they really weren't allowed to over the phone, even if they were allowed to break the rules a little when they met up in person. In a suitably private place, of course.
It was like this big, huge secret that she was dying to talk about with someone, anyone, but she couldn't.
...Well, maybe it wasn't 'like' that because that was what it was exactly, really.
Which didn't make it any easier.
Her phone was beeping; she had a new message. With a sigh, Amanda went over to listen to it.
'Hi, Amanda, it's me—Sideswipe? Yeah, I was told to apologize and they're probably right, I guess I was a bit out of line when I—hang on, what's that? Whatever, Ironhide, I'm doing it now, shut up you slagger and—right, yeah. So, sorry, Amanda, I hope things are—'
There were the sounds of what was, presumably, a brief tussle between Cybertronians, clanking metal and a few muffled noises and a brief burst of static, then some clunking before Sunstreaker's considerably-less-carefree (and considerably more sulky) voice entered from the speakers.
'Amanda. It's Sunstreaker.'
And then there was a pause. A long one, if you considered it was a phone message.
'Sideswipe's an ass.' There was a muffled shout of 'Am not!' and then another clang.
'...I'm sorry too.' Then there was the click of a phone being hung up, and the message ended.
It was...Amanda paused, considering her emotions. She was still angry—furious—disappointed—no, angry with Sunstreaker, but his apology had sounded genuine.
...Unlike his brother's. For the most part.
"Hey, Amanda—it's Jerry. Um, you might not remember me, but that one weekend with the—up in the mountains? You know..."
"I know," Amanda replied promptly, fiddling with the phone cord. "And don't worry—I remember you. How are you?"
"I'm good, just fine—how about you?"
He sounded slightly nervous, which was worrisome, considering the circumstances they had met under. Was this somehow related to all of that...?
"Oh, I've been good—a few nightmares, but I'm settling in. It's good to be home."
"For me, too. Um, I know that we've barely met, but would you like to meet me for coffee some time?"
Amanda paused. She didn't think he meant for them to meet up like friends. Actually, she kind of thought it was almost...
"Like a date?"
And then she winced, because that had come out totally wrong.
That...explained the nerves, didn't it. He was a brave man, not hanging up on her after her comment—'like a date'? She might as well be in middle school—
"Yes—yes, I'd like to go! Um. Thank you." She was smiling, probably like an idiot. She didn't really care. "I'd love to. Do you know a good café to meet up at?"
Amanda was walking to the store, cane in one hand, and she was feeling remarkably at ease with the whole thing, because at least she was not under attack and there was real honest concrete under here feet. It wasn't always perfectly smooth, but it was a lot better than mountainsides.
She didn't even realize that anyone or anything was next to her—other than the usual traffic of the street—until someone spoke up.
"Yes," said the Autobot.
There was a slight pause.
"What are you doing here? Is something wrong?"
"Oh, no, nothing like that. I...wanted to see how you were doing."
"Oh! Well, thank you. Are you—how are you doing?"
"I am well."
"Are—are you just driving around with, with no one in you? I mean, I know you don't need anyone but yourself to drive but—but what about...?
"I understand. No, I am capable of projecting a holographic image of a human, as camouflage. All Autobots are."
"But it would probably be best if we went somewhere else to talk."
Amanda blushed. "Oh! Of course!"
"Thank you. I'm to your left, that's the passenger side door. A little bit further. Yes, that's me."
The young woman giggled a little, nervously, as she slid into the seat, for no real reason other than she needed to say something.
"This is a little strange."
"Probably," confessed Mirage, a sudden note of lightness entering his tone, and Amanda laughed again, this time not out of nerves or awkwardness but instead with surprised amusement. "How are you doing, Amanda?"
"Oh, fine—you know? Life goes on—I mean, there were nightmares for a while, but they've mostly stopped." She paused, because there wasn't really anywhere you could go with that statement. "It really made me—reorder my priorities, I guess."
There was a silence. Amanda fiddled a little, feeling suddenly awkward.
"...Um. Yeah, I guess that was kind of a weird thing to say."
"No—I, ah, I understand." There was a brief, almost sheepish, pause. "I'm sorry for the misunderstanding. My manners are—lacking. It's been a long war."
"Oh, no, I understand! It's nothing. It's, um," Amanda paused this time, embarrassed. "I'm still having some trouble getting used to. Um. You?"
"I understand." Mirage's voice sounded very—composed. Always. But Amanda almost thought she heard resignation.
"—What's it like on Earth?"she asked, abruptly. "For you."
"It's good," replied Mirage, noncommittally.
"That's to be expected, right?"
"But it shouldn't be!"
"Well, thank you. Not everyone feels that that's true."
"Oh. I'm—sorry, then."
There was a long pause. "I have a harder time forming connections than many other mechs do," Mirage said suddenly, voice matter-of-fact. "I don't reach out easily."
"Oh," said Amanda, eyes wide. Because—that was what he was—
"If you'd like, you can get out, now," said Mirage politely. "We're at a park, and there's nobody here to see anything."
"It's okay," said Amanda, slowly. "If you don't want me to leave, I don't need to. I'm—I'm happy? If you are?"
"Thank you," said Mirage again. "I feel the same. You're free to do as you please—I'm happy either way."
"That's not very helpful," murmured Amanda, clasping her hands slightly nervously, but she didn't really mean it.
The silence dragged on a few minutes more.
"I'm sorry you were pulled into our war," said Mirage finally. "That's largely why I sought you out again. I wanted to apologize. It's not your fight, and you should not have been involved."
"I'm not," Hope said slowly. "Sorry, that is." She paused for a brief second, lips pressed together into a thin line as she concentrated, struggling to find the words. "I—think it was good, in the end. I got to know you. And the others, too—some of them. Most of them. I—cliché though it may be, I'm probably a better person for it, now. I mean, you can't go through life-threatening ordeals without having it affect you at least a little, right? I—I think so, at least. And I mean, there's been some nightmares, but...but it could be a lot worse. And you did it saving me, too! So there's that."
There was a brief silence. Amanda felt a blush start to bloom on her cheeks, until they were burning with embarrassment. "...That...that sounded kind of stupid, didn't it?"
"No," said Mirage immediately, not that Amanda was convinced that that meant anything. He seemed to be the sort of person—robot, mech, whatever, he was still a person, just not a human one—either way, he was the sort of person to be polite no matter what, for whatever reason, which did absolutely nothing to make her feel like she hadn't just made a ridiculous, blathering idiot out of herself...
Not, she was forced to admit, that that was anything new.
Ohhh no. In fact, what with all the practice she seemed to be getting in around the Autobots and all, she could probably earn an Olympic medal in ridiculous, idiotic blathering. Several of them even because she seemed to be using untapped depths of uselessness and also finding inventive and innovative new ways to humiliate herself and really if she could do this on her own, well then she would probably be incredible if she ever found herself a teacher and—
—and her brain really needed to learn to shut the fuck up and how did she say what she needed to without making even more of an ass out of herself?
...Yeah. She had no idea.
"Actually, I'm glad you feel that way," Mirage continued, which made Amanda pause in her internal rant, freezing up. "It is...lonely, to be an Autobot right now. Our race is dying, and while Earth is a very nice planet, it's not home."
"I understand," Amanda whispered. "A little. I think." She'd done a little traveling—not much—and she'd liked it, but Mirage was right: it hadn't been home. And she'd just been in another culture, not another world... Everyone around her had been human...
"You can find a place here, though. You're...you're making friends." Amanda forced herself not to turn the final part of her statement into a question, and instead made it all rush together into a probably incomprehensible tangle of syllables, and also her face was burning and she was probably utterly ridiculous to look at and it wasn't like there was anything she could do about it and oh God there was no way to avoid the implications in her sentence, because she was as good as saying that she was his friend which was just so blatantly, bald-facedly presumptuous and what—
"I...I would like to make friends," and was it just Amanda's imagination, or was he maybe implying that he'd like to be her friend? "Here on Earth."
...And why was this giving her flashbacks to the third grade and "making friends," which at the time meant going up to someone and asking, in so many words, if they wanted to?
Gah. It was embarrassing.
"I am your friend?" This time, Amanda couldn't help but make it a question.
"...If you'd have me?"
"I'd be honored," she said, reflexively, and that was true.
Amanda was happy. She really, really was. Maybe her life wasn't normal—Sunstreaker was going to pick her up in an hour, she was going to meet up with him for the first time since she'd returned home, and after that she was going to have dinner with her maybe-boyfriend, who'd she met while hiding from evil giant robots—and it certainly wasn't perfect, but—
But she was happy. Really, really happy. Her life wasn't normal, but she didn't want it to be. She didn't even want it to be perfect.
She liked things being just the way they were.