Okay… so she was insane.

Suicidal, crazy, stupid and totally messed up.

Back in the days when she had been in trouble, Mikaela had been forced to do community service. Some of those services included trips to mental hospitals to play games and stuff with the residents. Not the violent kind of patients… but nut jobs, nevertheless.

She now knew without a doubt she'd surpassed them all in craziness. She was taking crazy to a whole new level.

"I'm back," she said loudly, her voice echoing off the walls.

With a grunt, she dropped a very large and heavy toolbox on the ground. The echoing clank sounded extremely loud in the pressing silence that had followed her sentence.

She picked up a rag, using it to try and clean the grease and grime off her hands. Her nails looked like shit. She paused, studying them. Not long ago, a little over 3 months, Mikaela had been careful with her nails. It was part of the role she played, but not anymore. She could care less now, and the same could be said about her clothes. Long gone were the tight shirts and little skirts, and in their place were a comfortable pair of overalls with a plain red shirt, both stained in oil.

She suddenly smiled as she tossed the shop rag onto an old, beat up coffee table. She still couldn't believe it; even 3 months after the fact, it still stunned her.

She was in a garage. HER garage, actually. It wasn't the normal kind of garage that most think about when the word comes up. It wasn't something one parked their cars in, attached to cute, little pink houses with flowers in front.

Like Sam's house. She shook her head, dismissing the thought before it soured her mood.

No, this was a worker's garage, and the large metal building was beautiful to her. Tools were lined up on the walls exactly how she liked them, and an air compressor the size of a Buick stood out back, insulated so the noise didn't drive her crazy. Her wonderful shop sat on fifteen acres of land, most of it densely wooded, just outside of Indianapolis. It even had a creek that drained into a large pond.

Mikaela smiled as it all made her heart sing. This was her reward.

She had done a lot to earn it. Maybe not as much as Sam, but she had helped to save the lives of Will and his men. The Government --or rather Secretary Keller-- didn't forget that.

It had come as a surprise when she had received a phone call three weeks after Mission City. She hadn't recognized the voice, but the man had pretty much asked her what she wanted. New car? New house? College education? All she had to do was ask.

Sam had gone for the education, with the prospect of more if he joined the Army like he had hinted at. His future was looking bright. A Hero like the Earth had never seen.

I bet it was him that told them I deserved something, too, her mind betrayed her by whispering softly. Rubbing her temple, Mikaela forced herself to think happy thoughts.

She had been stunned silent by the offer. College?

She had never really had a choice before. Her family was too poor, and while Mikaela got good grades, they weren't enough to get a free ride. She had always allowed herself to drift off when teachers starting talking about the next step.

College?

It was a defining moment in her life. A door to the future had opened before her, a door she hadn't even known was there. She could almost see the light shining brightly from the other side. A world, a life she had never considered until that moment.

The decision had been surprisingly easy.

She had said no. College just wasn't for her; it was something for kids like Sam. He was the smart one, the talented one, and his future was so very bright that it almost hurt to look at him. Mikaela knew without a doubt that with Sam's courage and personality, he would continue to do great things. Saving the world wasn't the peak of his life, it was merely the beginning.

And she… well, she was just a pretty face that could rebuild an engine.

It had hit her then. Perhaps she had always known it, but had denied herself for fear of what her so-called friends and Trent would say. She was a mechanic. A grease monkey, just like her father.

She had spoken then, telling the surprised man on the phone exactly what she wanted, and he had been happy to help. After all, even with the acreage, a fully loaded shop was still cheaper than several years of college.

At first Mikaela had considering opening her new shop in Tranquility, where she would be close to Sam and the Autobots. But no… the desire to leave was still too strong. She hated Tranquility, hated the small town feeling and the gossip and the people that didn't let a girl out of a stereotypical role. She felt trapped in that town. Even though she had broken up with Trent and was avoiding her friends, it still felt like a prison to her.

And so she had made a radical decision once everything was set up. She quit school, said goodbye to Sam and left.

Sitting down heavily in an overstuffed recliner, Mikaela sighed. No matter what, her thoughts always kept going back to Sam. It had been hard, so very hard, to leave him. It had hurt and burned and tore at her chest.

She loved him. He was someone who saw her for who she was and liked her anyway. He was everything a girl could want, but… he just wasn't for her. Like she said before, his future was so bright. She couldn't bring herself to hold him down. She was just a mechanic, after all.

He had been hurt, too, but Mikaela had seen understanding in his eyes. She hadn't said why and he hadn't asked, but somehow he had known the reason.

Her mother had freaked when her only daughter had taken off for Indiana. Mikaela suspected she was more upset that Mikaela was opening a car shop than over quitting school. They hadn't spoken since Mikaela had called to explain.

Despite all the sadness, however, Mikaela found herself happier here than she had ever been in Tranquility. She had a shop and a small house by the pond, and she was quickly gaining customers. Indianapolis was a good city, clean compared to most its size, and filled with good people. Even if they were a little Peyton Manning nuts.

Standing back up, Mikaela stretched. The day was over. All the cars had been sent home and she was alone.

Sort of.

She still had some work to do, though. Work that was extremely hard and challenging… AND the reason she questioned her sanity.

"Alright, ready for another night?" she called out, grabbing her tools.

"You mean torture session, right?" a gruff voice boomed through the shop.

Mikaela felt the hairs on her arms stand up, like they always did. His voice was down right scary sounding; too deep, with that metallic grate all the transformers had.

Mikaela forced a smile as she made her way back toward the 'restricted section' of her shop. It looked like an office from the outside, but inside was totally different. For one, it was actually larger than the shop itself, although it was cleverly hidden as it had been partly dug into the hillside behind the shop. And for another, it held the bruised and battered remains of one very large robot.

"Come on. Torture's such a strong word." The voice scoffed at her, and she frowned. "Well, do YOU know how to turn off your pain receptors?"

She closed the door behind her. Of course, she already knew the answer to this question. There wasn't a way to turn them off. The best they could do was offline the mech, but he simply refused to allow that. There was the trust issue (lack of), but there was also the problem that Mikaela had never worked on a Cybertronian before.

And as it turned out, the mech currently in her shop just happened to be a medic of sorts. Not a true medic, like Ratchet, but he had told her he did most of the repairs for the injured. Something about it being in his nature to build as well as destroy.

"Alright, Crush. Are we going to work on the arm again tonight?" Mikaela asked, walking toward the giant without fear. The arm in question was partly disassembled, looking more like a gutted out car than something on a living being. Kneeling down, Mikaela dug through the mess of wires. She needed to see what had fixed itself over the day and what she still needed to help along.

Bonecrusher made a low sound of pain, the wires twitching in her hands.

"Sorry," she said softly, gently pulling some twisted wires apart. She grimaced at the melted mess. She would have to clip and splice several of them. She had hoped his repair systems would fix it and save him the gut-wrenching pain.

"So, other than the obvious…" Mikaela began, grinning at him. She usually tried to talk to Bonecrusher while she did the repairs or --as he put it-- tortured him. Bonecrusher wasn't a quiet bot and Mikaela could usually distract him somewhat during the more painful moments. "How are you feeling?"

A single red optic twitched as he slowly turned his head to look at her. "As you flesh bags say; like shit."

Mikaela nodded and cut a wire. Bonecrusher tensed; a high-pitched blast of static escaping his mouth. She quickly twisted the wire and reconnected it, minus the horrible burned and melted part. Mikaela hadn't been great with rewiring before, but ever since she had started this, her ability had been improving by leaps and bounds. Now she could do complex wiring in minutes rather than hours.

Within a few agonizing minutes she had finished, pausing to let the mech 'catch his breath.' Bonecrusher relaxed after a moment, and some sort of fan turned on inside his body. She could hear him taking in air to cool internal parts, which she had learned was a sign of intense distress… a.k.a. PAIN.

"You okay?"

Bonecrusher answered with a low, grinding sound, sort of like the growling of an angry dog.

"Okay… no, then."

Mikaela sat down on the concrete floor and brushed her hair back, studying all the wounds as well as the healed sections. When she had first started to fix him, he had had a huge hole in his head. She had heard the reports given and knew that Optimus had shoved a large blade through it. Luckily for the mech, however, his more important cranial parts had somehow survived.

Those first few days had been rough. Bonecrusher had been barely conscious; in some sort of state he called stasis lock. He couldn't talk very well and they had trouble communicating, so most of the repairs on his head were totally her work. Unfortunately, one of Bonecrusher's optics had been hanging from just a few wires. She still had the delicate glass and metal parts, just in case, but it was pretty much damaged beyond hope.

Bonecrusher had flinched when she had shown it to him.

His left arm had been twisted and mangled and there was some internal damage that severely limited his movements. He couldn't walk, could hardly move at all, and while he could transform, it was EXTREMLY painful to him. When he did try to move, there was a horrible grinding, screeching noise from somewhere deep within his large chest. He screamed a lot when that happened, and there was a lot of black, foul-smelling smoke that made her eyes sting.

They were waiting to work on that. Nether was ready for Mikaela to crack open his armor and go digging around some very sensitive parts. Working on wiring was painful, but it wasn't life-threatening. Inside his chest was a different story, for she could easily pull the wrong thing and instantly kill him.

"Sam called today," Mikaela muttered softly. Leaning forward, she started to put the repaired wires back inside.

Bonecrusher didn't say anything. He hadn't said much about Sam at all. The human had somehow managed to kill Megatron and destroy the All Spark in a single act. In a single second, everything he had been fighting for had disappeared. He had told her that he'd been fighting for so long, the thought of it being over was… mind-numbing.

"Spring break is coming up. He and Bee want to visit." She could actually feel Bonecrusher's anxiety, and she said hastily, "I've been putting him off. Telling him how busy I am getting my business set up."

Bonecrushers armor felt cool against her hands. Vastly different from the almost organic warmth his inners gave off.

"I'm not sure I want to see him right now."

Bonecrusher snorted. "You ARE helping the enemy that tried to kill him."

Mikaela frowned at the sarcastic remark. "If I were you, I wouldn't anger the woman that's currently holding a handful of YOUR wires, buddy!"

Said wires twitched in her hands, telling her he was very well aware of what she was holding and what she could do to him.

"It is the truth."

"Well, it's over, right? No war, no enemies. Right?"

The construction vehicle seemed to think this over. Part of his facial plates drew together, almost like a human brown furrowing. "Hmmm. I suppose. Others might not think that way."

"Do you?"

Now that was the BIG question. It was something that bothered her every night as she lay in bed. Was she doing the right thing? Bonecrusher was a Decepticon, so how likely was it that once he could move he would squish her and then go and try to kill her friends… try to kill Sam?

She stopped working, waiting for his answer.

He paused, giving the human who had so much say in whether or not he lived or died a long look. "I believe in survival of the fittest."

"Might I point out that you're not very fit right now?"

The mech's mouth turned downward in a harsh frown. He didn't much like being reminded of that. While he never outright said anything, Mikaela suspected he was uneasy about being repaired by a human. Probably had some sort of inferiority complex about Humans being nothing but insects.

"Only the strong survive," he stressed again, as Mikaela rolled her eyes.

"Or the very lucky!"

Mikaela snapped back at him annoyed that he hadn't really answered her question. Bonecrusher was like that. He never gave her a straight answer. She let it go for now, though, and forced herself to be patient. They had been at war longer than she could imagine, and she understood that some things didn't change overnight. She would give him time to decide… and hope that she wouldn't have to kill him.

Mikaela slowly stood up and stretched, her back popping loudly.

"That's disgusting," Bonecrusher said, his one red optic dimming. It always amazed her how expressive a mech's face could be. Who would have figured a giant robot could look grossed out?

Mikaela smiled. "Yeah, maybe, but it felt good."

Feeling particularly brave, Mikaela patted the armored head, near the weld mark where she had patched up the hole. She had never used an acetylene torch before, but she had managed. It was as pretty damn good job, if she did say so herself.

"You want me to turn the TV on?"

"You ain't trying to fix me. This is torture; first the wiring and now late night TV."

Mikaela laughed. She hadn't known what to expect when Bonecrusher had woken up for the first time. Something evil and cruel, she was sure. After all, he had killed a bunch of people on that bus that he destroyed. Destroyed just for the sake of destroying.

Evil? Yes. Cruel? Absolutely. However, he also had a strange sort of twisted humor. It was something to think about. The mech was in some serious pain, his life was in constant danger until he let her try and fix whatever was broken inside, and yet he still managed to crack a joke here and there. Granted, the jokes were usually smart-assed and sarcastic, but they were still jokes.

"Well, what do you want? You can't access the internet. All there is is cable unless you wanna shut down."

Bonecrusher made a strange noise, like a metal brush rasping over a grate. "I've already recharged today."

"Which translates into, 'I don't trust the human near me while I sleep.'"

Mikaela walked over to her tool box. Patting the weld mark had brought to her attention the ugly lines. They needed to be sanded down and then repainted. She knew it was just cosmetic work, but it would give the mech a break from the pain.

"We're going to have to find out what's wrong inside sooner or later. It's been three months and you still can't move. Everything else --minus some melted wiring, of course-- is slowly fixing itself… but not that."

"Why are you fixing me?"

Now that was a familiar question. He asked it every single night. She always answered, too, just not in a way that seemed to satisfy the Decepticon.

"Because it didn't seem right for you to rot forgotten in that junk yard."

The mech looked confused. "What is 'rot'?"

Mikaela sighed. Bonecrusher asked questions like that often. It wasn't that he was dumb, far from it; it was just that a lot of human words didn't have direct translations. Due to some damage inside his processor that she hadn't been able to fix, he was without internet access… maybe forever.

"Decomposition. It's when flesh dies and breaks down." He frowned deeper, and she elaborated, "In the sentence I used, it means to just sit there forever and rust away."

A tiny, almost windshield wiper looking thing, went over his one optic. It kind of worked like a blink, from what Mikaela could tell, helping to keep the fragile glass covering clean.

"Not like I had a choice."

There was a bitterness to the deep voice that made Mikaela blink herself. Mikaela was silent for a long moment, and then she crossed her arms, meeting the one red optic. She didn't shrink from the cold stare.

"Me, neither."

888888888888888888888

(Three months earlier)

Mikaela entered the junkyard through the front gate.

Her little scooter just wasn't going to cut it anymore, so she had just purchased a large, old Chevy. It was a good buy, and she might even turn it into a tow truck later. Right now, however, she needed a few parts to make it run well.

She didn't have much time, since she wanted to leave in less than a week and get the hell out of Tranquility. She had even less money, but she refused to ask the government for anything else. She had a house, land and a loaded garage, so as far as she was concerned, whatever debt the government felt it had was paid for in full. She would make it on her own from here.

However, having so little money meant she couldn't afford nice new parts, so she was treasure hunting in junkyards. She was at Jim's yard now. The guy had been a buddy of her father's before the law got in the way.

"Hi," Mikaela said, smiling widely and brushing back some hair that had escaped her braid.

An older man in his 60's stood up, smiling just as wide as Mikaela. Despite how many years it was since he'd last seen her, he recognized her instantly.

"Missy Lalaa."

Mikaela rolled her eyes at the old nickname.

"How you been, girl? Haven't seen you, since…" he trailed off, frowning slightly. "Since your Daddy got in trouble."

Mikaela patted his arm. "It's alright. Dad's due for parole soon."

Jim stood back, looking Mikaela up and down, but not in the sleazy way most men did. "You've grown so much. Makes me feel old. But…I'll be glad to talk to your daddy again."

"Business doing good?" Mikaela asked, slipping her arms through one of his. Jim had been more like an uncle to her than just her father's friend. He had been there to help out when things had been at their worst. Unfortunately, Mikaela's mother had considered him a bad influence and quickly cut him off once they were on their feet.

"Same old, same old. What about you, girl?"

Mikaela hesitated a moment, and then told the truth. If anyone would understand, it would be this man. "I just quit school. I'm moving to Indiana in a few days."

"Ya quit?"

Mikaela nodded. "I got some land and money. I'm going to open a car repair shop." She paused, and then finished, "I haven't told my mother. In fact… I'm not going to."

Jim looked down. There had always been a rift between mother and daughter since the father was arrested. He could only imagine what her momma would say, but Randy would probably be delighted at the thought of his girl opening her own shop.

"I wish you luck." Jim took a deep breath. "So, what can I do you for?"

"I'm looking for some parts for a 76 Chevy."

"Hmm." Jim scratched his unshaven chin. "I think we got a couple in da back. Not sure if any of da engine parts are worth da effort of takin em out, though, ta be 'onest, Lalaa."

"I'll just go take a look. See if anything catches my fancy."

Together they walked out back.

Jim had told the truth. He only had 3 trucks that she could get parts from, and all three of them were in horrible shape. Still she managed to get a few parts, but they weren't enough to get her truck running. Perhaps she would have more luck elsewhere.

She barely noticed Jim leaving her to deal with another customer. Her mind was lost in all the things she needed to do before leaving.

Turning around to head back, something tan caught her eye. It was something in a large garage, one that she knew well. She had learned a lot watching Unca Jim and her father work on the old junkers that it had held. Now, however, there was something different inside. Twisted, tortured metal, most of it blackened by heat and god knew what else.

She didn't know why, but she couldn't look away from it.

"Lalaa?"

Mikaela nearly jumped out of her skin. "Jeez, Unca, don't scare me like that."

Putting a hand over her heart, Mikaela tried to catch her breath.

Jim chuckled. "Sorry, little girl."

Mikaela turned back to the unrecognizable mountain of metal. "What's that?"

Jim scratched at his chin. "No sure, ta be honest with ya. Some sorta construction vehicle, we think."

Mikaela walked up to the metal, placing a hand on it. Something… seemed very off with this.

"Came from Mission city, actually."

"WHAT!" Mikaela said, her eyes narrowing.

Jim was taken aback by the sharp explanation. Holding up his hands, he explained more. "Buddy of mine towed it out here. Said he found it at a construction site-- totaled. The company wanted it gone. Kind of weird, actually…he said none of the other buildings or vehicles were messed up, just this one."

Mikaela could feel her heart racing, and her palms were starting to sweat. There was no way this was what…WHO she thought it might be. All the Decepticons had been dropped into the ocean.

At least… she thought they had been.

"Something the matter?" Jim asked, seeing how white Mikaela had gone.

Mikaela ignored him, instead opting to walk around the mess of metal. Her eyes had gone hard, looking for anything that would confirm or deny what she thought she was seeing.

"Oh, god," she whispered softly, hands tracing across a familiar and utterly terrifying symbol. She wiped some of the dirt away. There was no denying it now.

But what to do? She needed to call someone. Sam for sure, so he could tell Bumblebee what she had found and get Optimus and the others out here.

"Don't have any room here. Gonna have it smashed, sell the metal for scrap."

"You're going to destroy h… IT?" she asked, her eyes darting back to the mech. A horrible feeling jolted from her chest to settle in her stomach. "How much?"

"Huh?"

Mikaela wasn't sure what she was thinking. She had to be insane, but she couldn't let a living being get crushed like any old car. "How much for it?"

Jim blinked, like he couldn't wrap his mind around why Mikaela wanted to buy the tower of twisted metal in front of him. "Well, Lalaa, I didn't pay anything to get it. So how's this; just tell me why and you can have it."

Mikaela stared up at the metal. The transformer was in his vehicle mode, which was probably the only reason he hadn't been gathered up with the rest.

"I want to fix it," she said, her voice distant. It was the truth. She didn't know why, or even if she could. But…the thought of leaving him in this junkyard felt so wrong it was making her sick.

Jim shook his head. "Why? This is junk. It doesn't run. It's messed up like nothing I've ever seen."

Mikaela turned toward Jim. "Unca Jim…" She paused. She wasn't allowed to say anything about the transformers, not even to her family. But she needed to stress how important this was… and how important it was not to tell anyone about it. "I was in Mission city."

Whatever Jim was going to say died a quick death. His eyes had gone very wide with a disbelieving, 'holy shit' look.

"Don't believe the news," Mikaela said, turning back toward the destroyed construction vehicle. "I'm sorry, Unca, I can't tell you what really happened. Not yet. But this…" She reached out and touched the cool metal again. "There's more to it than meets the eye."

Jim narrowed his eyes, glancing uncertainly at the vehicle.

"And the thought of it being destroyed… like common junk…" Mikaela took a deep breath. "I can't tell you why, but it ain't right."

"This'll be an oversized load, so not just anyone can move it. We need permits and stuff. I gotta buddy that can haul it for you. Indiana, you say?"

Mikaela nodded. "Unca…can you do me a favor?"

"Sure, little girl."

"Don't not tell anyone. If we can, I don't even want the driver to know what this is. And please… PLEASE don't tell anyone that it came from Mission City."

Jim nodded slowly. "You got it."

88888888888888888

The silence stretched on. Mikaela didn't back down from staring at Bonecrusher.

It had been a fluke to find him. Fate, really. Jim was going to have him crushed, and then melted down for scrap. It was hard to believe she had been there just at the right time to save him.

Hell, it was a miracle she had even recognized him. She'd only seen Bonecrusher for a few fleeting moments right before his fight with Optimus.

"You're going to have to trust me," she said, breaking the tense silence. "Unless… you want me to call Ratchet."

She swallowed. The thought of telling the Autobots what she had done left a bad taste in her mouth. She didn't want to see their looks of shock and betrayal.

She knew they wouldn't kill a downed mech, but what would happen afterward? Would she stay out of jail? Mikaela had a pretty good idea she must be breaking some sort of law hiding a hostile alien robot in her garage.

"NO!" he said, surprisingly loudly. "Do not tell the Autobots, you slagging pile of meat!"

Mikaela's eyes widened as a familiar, high-pitched squeal came from within the mech's body. "What are you doing! Don't move!"

Too late; the black smoke was back. Bonecrusher fell back, a hoarse scream forcing its way out of his throat. Mikaela forced a frustrated growl past her coughing as she was driven back by Bonecrusher's flailing. She had no idea what was in the smoke, but she hoped it wasn't to dangerous, 'cause damn, it smelled horrible. It irritated her skin, made her eyes sting and left her throat sore for a day or so after inhaling it.

"Calm down! Stop moving, for crying out loud! BONECRUSHER!" Suddenly, Mikaela screamed herself. Turning, she quickly ran and got the fire extinguisher. "You're on fire! STOP MOVING!"

He completely ignored her, but then again, he might not have been able to hear her over his own pained screams.

Her eyes narrowed as Mikaela took a deep breath, and then she jumped onto Bonecrusher's left arm. She almost fell off until he suddenly stopped moving, making Mikaela fear for his life. He wasn't screaming anymore, which meant he was either unconscious or dead. As fast as she could, she climbed up the mech's arm and onto his chest. Without hesitation, she sprayed the flames that flickered from holes inside his armor.

"Jesus," she muttered, looking at the mess.

"That's it, big boy!" she suddenly said, with a determined flash in her eyes.

She had been respecting Bonecrusher's wish to stay out of his chest before, but fuck, this was getting ridiculous. The familiar sounds of machinery inside told her he was still alive, but for how long? He could have died just now.

Taking a screw driver out of her tool belt, Mikaela started to work. She would do what she could and then wait until he woke up to finish the rest. Fuck his insecurities. She wasn't going to let him die because of something so stupid!

88888888888888888

Sam sighed as he stared at the phone. He had tried to call Mikaela again, and again she hadn't picked up.

"What did I do wrong, Mojo?" he asked the small brown Chihuahua. "She just up and left everyone and everything."

He hated the fact that she hadn't told him exactly why she broke up with him, but he wouldn't ask. Something had told him not to press the matter.

Still… it hurt. He had loved her, still loved her.

Petting Mojo absentmindedly, Sam laid back in his bed. So much had changed in such a short amount of time. Before the Autobots, Sam hadn't known what he was going to do with his life. Go to college for a few years, maybe, and find some sort of job. He hadn't really given it much thought. All his time and energy had been on getting a car and a girlfriend.

Now he had the car, lost the girl, but was a lot surer of his future.

"Going to join the Army," he said softly to Mojo. "Captain Lennox says that he'll get me transferred to his unit after basic."

Sam smiled. He knew he'd get special treatment from the Captain, but also knew the guy wouldn't go easy on him. In fact, Sam looked forward to all the training Lennox had promised. He hoped that someday he would be more useful to the Autobots. He knew they would never forget his role in the battle, but that had been more stupid luck than anything.

He wanted his skills to be more. He wanted to be more. And like those damn commercials said, he wanted to be all he could be.

"Just gotta tell my parents," Sam said, patting Mojo's head. The cast was gone now, although the junkie still begged and whined for the pills. "They're going to have a fit."

Suddenly, Sam sat up. Mojo barked, annoyed that his pillow had moved. "You know what, Mojo? I'm going to tell them now. If I'm really going to go to Qatar with Will, I can't pussyfoot around this. This'll be easy compared to the stuff they'll have me do."

Sam stood up. "Besides…" he said with a smile. "Dealing with my parents will keep my mind off Mikaela."

Taking a deep breath, Sam opened his door. He knew exactly where his parents were. In front of the TV, watching the news and making snide comments about it. It was a ritual of sorts for them. His dad was rather sarcastic so it got nasty sometimes, which was the reason Sam didn't watch the news with them. His dad always tried to get into a debate with him over the latest report.

Walking down the stairs, Sam felt his mouth go dry. He hadn't told them about Mission City or Bumblebee yet, although he had permission from the Secretary of Defense to do so. The man said that since Bumblebee was going to live in their garage and that their son could possibly be in danger of revenge attacks, it was within their rights to know. He had left the decision to Sam, though, to tell them if he felt he needed to.

"Mom… Dad?" Sam said as he entered the living room. Both parents looked up, his mom seeming to be delighted that he had come downstairs, while his Dad looked surprised.

"Hey, Sammy, I thought you'd be in bed by now," his mother said with a warm smile.

Sam shook his head. "Can I talk to you guys?"

"Of course, sweetie!" Judy said, her smile widening, although there was a hint of worry in her eyes as well. She patted the couch beside her, but Sam didn't sit. He just stood there, trying to find a place to start.

"Something wrong, Sam?" his father finally asked, breaking the silence.

Sam shook his head. "I've decided something. About… after school."

Mother and father shared a look. "Well, son, let's hear it."

"I've decided to join the army."

Judy choked, and her husband sat there blinking in surprise.

"What?"

"Are you nuts, son? We're in a war. They'll send you to…"

"Qatar," Sam said, interrupting his father. "After basic I'll be assigned to Captain William Lennox for special training."

Ron frowned harshly, but forced himself to remain seated. This was the first time in a long time that Sam had really talked to them. His boy --while a good kid-- had stopped really talking to them at about thirteen. He never told them anything that wasn't forced, but Ron knew his boy wasn't doing anything wrong. It was just a teenage thing, he was sure.

And yet… here he was. Actually talking to them, telling them what he wanted to do after school. He was looking at them straight on, without the normal stutter he usually got when nervous. His son was serious.

"How do you know that, son?" Ron asked. He'd never been in the army himself, but he knew how it worked. Sam shouldn't know something like that. And what was this about 'special' training?

"Dad…" Sam took a deep breath. He knew it was time to tell his parents. He wanted them to understand why he was joining. He wanted to learn how to protect them, how to protect everyone. They had beaten Megatron, but there were other Decepticons out there.

"I've lied to you," he finally started, "about what happened a few weeks ago."

Sam rubbed his side. He still was covered in bruises, the worst being on his left side. He was lucky nothing was broken from his fall. Optimus had saved him, but a metal hand wasn't exactly the softest surface to land on.

Ron shared a worried glance with Judy. His wife opened her mouth, but stopped when Ron squeezed her hand softly, asking her to remain quiet.

"Dad, I was almost killed last week." Sam ignored his shocked parents and continued, "I was useless when things got their worst. All I could do was run."

Sam clenched his hands. "I almost broke down, and I don't want that to happen again. That's why I've decided to join. Will can teach me how to help… how to make a difference if things get bad again."

"What are you talking about?" Judy asked, unable keep quiet anymore. What was this talk about her son being in danger?

"Son…" Ron began, "not to disregard what you're saying, but what kind of danger could you have gotten into?"

Ron crossed his arms. He simply couldn't see his son getting into the kind of trouble he was hinting at.

Sam sighed again. He didn't blame his father for not believing him. Without a word, he slipped his shirt off, showing both his parents the horrible, ugly bruises that still covered his body.

"SAMMY!" his mother cried out, instantly on her feet. "Who did that to you! I'll kick his ass so hard his own grandchildren will feel it… NO, I'll kick his ass so hard some stranger that just happens to look a little like him will feel it!"

Ron stayed, sitting and blinking. Those… looked horrible, but not like any bruises he'd ever seen. He'd seen his fair share of bruises from fist fights and the like, but these weren't fist-sized bruises. They were the size of watermelons, marking his skin in ugly shades of green, blue, purple and red.

"We need to take you to the hospital now!" Judy continued.

"No, mom. It's fine. I've already seen a medic."

Granted, the medic wasn't human, but Ratchet had done scans and said that nothing was broken. Nothing internal was damaged.

"Alright, son. You have my attention. What happened?" Ron was not a happy camper. His son was injured AND had lied to them about what happened.

Sam opened his mouth, but closed it with a snap. Okay, now how to tell his father?

He might as well go with the simplest way.

"Giant alien robots were at war with each other, fighting over a cube thing called the All Spark. Grandpa found one… the ice man. His glasses held the clue to finding the cube."

"Huh?"

Judy and Ron blinked at their son.

"A look-alike cop car almost killed me, but my Camero saved me." Sam shivered as he quickly continued to talk, not letting his parents interrupt. "Sector Seven took us to the Hoover Dam, and the Decepticons --AKA bad guys-- attacked. Will Lennox gave me the cube and told me to run. I did… and Megatron almost got me."

Sam shuddered violently, remembering Megatron's red eyes and his sharp teeth, the loud bellow and his words, 'that's so unwise.' He still had nightmares of falling. The shock of the building collapsing underneath him.

"Son… I'm sorry. But maybe…" Ron looked pained. "Maybe we should have you see a doctor."

Sam laughed, startling both his parents, and then met their eyes. He let everything show through them. No more lies. He wouldn't lie to them anymore.

They both were stunned to silence again by the strange… hardened look in their son's eyes. They had never seen this part of him before. He suddenly looked so grown up, so adult…

No… Ron thought to himself, feeling slightly sickened. He looks like a soldier.

"I know it's hard to believe. I have proof, but I want you to believe me. Believe me just because I'm telling you it's the truth."

Sam looked at his father, not blinking. He knew his parents would believe; all he had to do was take them outside and have Bumblebee show them. But… he didn't want to do that. He wanted them to believe in him, without proof.

"Ron," Judy said, placing a hand on her husband's arm. She smiled at him before turning to Sam. "I believe you, Sam."

Ron closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Sam could see him struggling. "Sam, this is… it's impossible. But okay, I'll believe you."

Sam slipped his shirt back on and smiled widely. "Good. Follow me."

He paused a moment to make sure his parents were following and then went outside. His car…the yellow Camero, sat silent in the driveway. Ron frowned. His son honestly couldn't believe this car was an alien.

"This is Bumblebee," Sam said, patting the hood. "He's my guardian."

"Sam… please," Ron started, only to stop as the weirdest sound he ever heard came from the car.

"Roooon," Judy said, her voice breaking as suddenly the car shifted and stood up.

Ron swallowed, his mind going back in time to when his son got arrested and he told the officers that his car had just stood up. Sam had been accused of using drugs, and now Ron kind of wondered what had been in that sweet tea he'd been drinking.

There was a giant… robot standing in his driveway, and Ron could only blink.

The robot --Bumblebee, as his son had called him-- knelt down. Ron realized the robot was trying to look smaller, maybe to help calm them.

"Hi." The sound of its voice was strange. Metallic, with a buzzing harshness to it.

Sam glared at the robot, which kind of surprised Ron. He sure as hell wouldn't glare like that at something that could step on him.

"Hey, Ratchet said no talking! You're still healing!"

The robot actually looked sheepish as it sat down in the driveway. It lifted its hands in an 'okay, okay' gesture.

"Bumblebee, this is my mom and dad." Sam smiled, turning his head slightly toward his parents.

"That's…" Ron started. "A big ass robot!"

Sam laughed, as did Bumblebee. "Actually, compared to the others, he's kind of short."

"Others?" Judy said, her eyes not leaving the alien sitting in her driveway.

"Yeah, there are three other Autobots on Earth right now."

"And the… what did you call them, Decepticons? What about them?"

Sam shifted nervously. "Only one left that we know of. Barricade, the cop car I told you about. He escaped."

Bumblebee made a worried sound, but didn't speak.

"Sam…what happened?" his mother asked.

Sam sighed as he sat down on Bumblebee's foot. His parents noticed this, as well as the utterly trusting, comfortable attitude their son showed toward the giant alien. It made them relax a little. If their son trusted this thing, then they could as well.

Speaking quietly, Sam told them the whole story. Everything he remembered; seeing Bumblebee for the first time, as well as his confrontations with Barricade, Frenzy, Sector Seven… and Megatron.

"He told me… he'd let me live as his pet." Sam clenched his fists. "When I refused, he hit the building. It collapsed, and Optimus caught me."

Judy squeaked in fear, and Sam smiled a little. "No sacrifice, no victory."

At those words, Ron felt something explode in his chest. Pride.

His son… he was a real hero. He had stood up to unimaginable odds. 'No sacrifice, no victory' was their family motto, and his son… he understood it. Ron had tried for so long to show his son the true meaning of those words, but it looked like he had discovered it on his own.

"I'd like to meet the other Autobots," Ron suddenly said, surprising his wife. He stood up and held out his hand without fear. "Thanks for looking after my son."

The robot looked surprised, as if he didn't expect to be welcomed so quickly. However, he smiled brightly --at least Ron thought it was a smile-- and reached out with his massive hand. Despite the difference of size, the robot was surprisingly gentle as it shook Ron's hand.

"Son," Ron said, still looking up at the large robot, "I'm so very proud of you."

Sam felt his breath catch.

"The Army, huh?" Ron muttered as he scratched the back of his head. "Well, you'd better take care of yourself."