Strange Creatures : Just the Beginning

A/N: Thank you for the reviews. This is the last chapter, and I've rewritten it over four times... and this, though it's a bit long, I think it really is... is a good ending. I don't know if you will agree, but I hope so, because I would hate to let anyone down. Please, please Read and Review.

I

Thomas Ward woke to the unsettling sensation of being carried. He jumped, gasping as he saw bright, luminous, blue lights. He took a deep breath and realized that they were eyes. His entire chair was being carried out of the Infirmary by one man. Though, judging by those eyes, he wasn't a man at all.

"Sorry for the disturbance."

He was young, couldn't have been older than twenty. He had curly blonde hair and wore a warm smile. Thomas was set down, and he joined three other men with bright blue eyes that walked by. The one, the one with scars and bandages, nodded at him with appreciation.

Following them were a very anxious looking man and woman. Annabelle's parents...

After they disappeared into the Infirmary, a soft coughed drew his attention back to his front where the Queen of England stood tall, smiling down at him.

"You're Thomas Ward, a member of my Royal Guard, are you not?"

"I-I am, your majesty."

Her grey eyes shimmered.

"Wonderful. Wonderful..." She turned, and Tommy paled as the President of the United States rounded the corner. "Get some rest, Thomas. I believe you're due for a promotion."

"Thank you, your ma'am."

"Oh, think nothing of it. It was going to happen eventually."

She turned away, opening the door for the President. He smiled at Thomas before entering the Infirmary. She left him, and Thomas was alone. However, the door creaked open, and the same blonde haired... thing came out. He grinned.

"Guys like us aren't allowed to listen in, huh?"

His voice had an odd ring to it... but Thomas was too tired to think about it.

"Guys like us?"

"You know... peons. Low in the ranks."

Tommy relaxed, not caring that the man sitting next to him was not a human being. At the moment, it was calming to talk to someone.

"What are you?"

"I'm a... Guard. Starting solider."

"Heh, no kidding? Me too." Thomas took out a cigarette, offering one to the other being, who declined. "How long?"

"About one hundred and eleven years."

The Royal Guard coughed, trying to regain composure.

II

In under eight hours of being in England, Annabelle had been awarded the medal of honor from the President of the United States. The Queen insisted that she would be forever welcome in the homes of the Royal family and that she would like to see her during the next holiday. As the President draped the medal around her neck, Annabelle found her voice.

"Sir... I didn't do this to be a hero."

He smiled as the medal hit the glass vial.

"None of the medal's recipients ever tried to be."

The words rang in Annabelle's ears as her parents hugged her tightly. They rang through the murmured words and Ironhide's silence. They rang through the claps that bombarded her as she left the castle. They rang all the way to the helicopters.

Blue and brown eyes gazed out into the sea. The medal was heavy and cold. She slouched in the vehicle and looked at the naval fleet below them. Ironhide was there, recovering with Ratchet's help.

Her breath fogged the glass. She touched the medal, then the vial. Her eyes caught a white stripe from a plane in the sky, and, for a moment, she wondered if it was Starscream.

III

Red hands melded metal back together with a delicate grace that only a medic of Ratchet's caliber could perform. Ironhide's frame was limp, occasionally twitching at Ratchet's prodding and adjustments.

"A Spark jump... a successful Spark jump." His hands whispered over Ironhide's wounds, patching up gashes that were leaking energon. "I... I thought you were..."

Ironhide sat up when Ratchet stepped away, his hands shaking too hard. The weapon specialist smiled wearily.

"Well, I'm here, aren't I?"

Ratchet threw a wrench at his head. Ironhide dodged it easily.

"You... you..." Ratchet smiled. "You're so full of it." They both laughed, glad to see each other again. Ratchet resumed his work. "Optimus and I saw that bit of metal around her neck. He says that she must have made a deal with the Decepticons." Ironhide was silent. "Is it true?"

Annabelle's limp body flashed in his optics. Her voice in the darkness... her voice so far away as he sank deeper and deeper into the depths of the Afterlife. When she jumped him, he saw into her soul as her hands brushed over his Spark.

"It is."

Would it matter what he saw? What she did was still considered treason. Did it matter that she had not wanted anything besides his life? Did it matter that she sacrificed her own life for the continuation of his? Even Ironhide wasn't sure, his own conscious conflicted.

"She... she did that... for you?"

"Yeah."

Ratchet closed up Ironhide's Spark chamber.

"Wow." Ratchet cleaned up his equipment, sighing. "That's incredible." It was unheard of. A being dealing the Decepticons and coming out alive was a feat. "Did you hear about the Director?"

Ironhide growled at the mentioning of the man.

"No."

"His brain is extremely damaged. He is a... 'vegetable' as the humans put it. He can't speak... he can't even eat by himself." Ratchet's optics gazed out of the portholes. "The doctors said that he suffered several strokes in a matter of minutes."

There was no response, only silence. Suddenly, there was a commotion on the upper deck. Ironhide groaned, still a bit achy.

"Primus, what now?"

A few men ran down, saluting the Autobots before speaking.

"The chopper is landing, sir, by Annabelle Lennox's request."

IV

"Daddy?"

Will jumped at his daughter's dry cough of a voice.

"Yes, baby?"

"Can I... can I stay on the ship? I... I..."

She fell silent. Sarah nodded, then looked to her husband. Will softened at the look of longing on her young face.

"Sure, sweetie. Sure." Will motioned to the pilot. "Hold on."

The helicopter dipped down and soon landed on the ship. Annabelle kissed her mother and father before unbuckling herself and stepping out of the vehicle. The propellers thumped against the air, blowing the teenager's hair back.

Will and Sarah remained on the helicopter, knowing that Annabelle would have to be alone for this.

Licking her lips, Annabelle waved until the helicopter returned to its path. Annabelle was greeted by many men and women with salutes and applause. Some eyes lingered on her face, others on the medal that hung from her neck. And, some, only a select few were able to meet her eyes. Mostly older, weathered men who had seen war and death.

A general squeezed her shoulder.

"We'll show you the way, Miss Lennox."

"Thank you, sir."

He smiled gruffly and led her down a series of stairs. He stopped, opening a large, steel door.

"They're... in here."

He left her alone. Annabelle took a deep breath before stepping inside. The doors closed behind her, a loud clang echoing in the room. Ratchet turned, and Ironhide stood, his frame groaning in protest. Ratchet whirled around, glaring at the weapon specialist.

"Sit back down! Your body is still recovering."

Ironhide groaned, his knees giving out as he lowered himself back down. Ratchet turned to the Major's daughter. She gazed past him to her Guardian. Sensing that as his cue to leave, Ratchet transformed into an ambulance and drove up the ramp to the main deck. As he drove away, Annabelle blinked and shivered.

"Do you... do you hate me now?"

Her fingers brushed over the glass vial. Ironhide held out his hand, motioning for her to come closer. Annabelle walked, hugging his index finger. He could barely speak as she shuddered against him.

"I could never hate you, 'Belle."

She climbed into his hand, letting him cradle her in his palm.

"Are you mad?"

He didn't need to think about it. He just knew.

"No."

He should be furious. He should be disappointed by the slice of metal around her neck. But, for some reason, he was proud of what she did. It was sick and wrong, but he would never chastise her for her sacrifice... her sins and accomplishments.

Annabelle shifted, stretching out. Her feet dangled over the edge as her eyes drifted shut.

"I had to get you back, 'Hide. I... I had to."

She was so warm and soft. He had almost forgotten that, though she had some inhuman abilities, she was in a human body. Delicate. Fragile. She snuggled into his palm, and he touched the side of her face with his thumb. Annabelle hummed.

This, Ironhide reasoned, was Heaven. Time melted away into silence. They listened to each other breathe and whir. He listened to her heartbeat and she listened to his Spark's whisper. It was the sigh of relief after the storm. It was the serene silence after a massacre. It was eternity.

"'Belle?"

"Mm?"

"Remember when you... started my Spark again?" He felt his sparkling nod. "Just before you did... just for a bit... I died. It was so strange, 'Belle. It was like... I was sinking down to some place that wasn't terrible, but I didn't want to go. It was nice, though, the feeling of peace. All the way down, Annabelle, I thought about you... about what I had done... about what I hadn't done..."

"You have nothing to be afraid of, 'Belle. I thought that... and I wished that I could tell you not to be scarred, 'Belle, and right then, you brought me back."

He remembered the sinking, the fading light as he made his way to... somewhere. There was no fear. There was no anticipation. There was just the fact that he was dead.

Just when the light began to flicker and die, he heard Annabelle's voice, and he could feel her tears. In a rush of color and agonizing fire, Ironhide came back to the place he was used to. Life.

"Really?"

"Really."

Annabelle smiled and relaxed. Approximately five hours later, the ship docked on California shores. The shipmates came down to find the two beings asleep. Ironhide was slack, whirring softly, and Annabelle was slumbering in his hand.

V

Barricade rolled up of a hill of sand to see his superior holding the clear jar. His claws turned it over, the light material inside hitting the side. Transforming, Barricade picked some grains of sand out of his optics.

"Quit thinking about her. What's done is done."

Starscream narrowed his optics and slipped the locks of Annabelle's hair back into his storage compartment.

"I was just thinking... do you think she will be cast out by the Autobots? After all, doing business with Decepticons is considered treason."

The other Decepticon rolled his optics.

"Who cares? Come on, we're charged, we're ready to go." Barricade's shoulders slumped. "If we're going to continue our fight, we'll have to find a way to get to America."

Gazing into the sun, Starscream transformed into a fighter jet.

"You will be able to handle yourself, right?" Barricade nodded. "Good. Contact me when you reach the United States."

He roared into the sky, becoming a mere glint in a matter of seconds.

VI

(Some time in the future...)

Robert Epps walked up to the college campus, trying not to bump into the students. A boy, a particular boy, was dressed in an immaculate uniform. The boy's name was none other than Randal Preston. Otherwise known as Randy.

They entered Drexel's School of Engineering, up to the advanced technology lab. They peered into the window to see a small glass creating their own programs. Near the front, partnered with the professor, was a tall, young woman. Her short blonde hair framed her face neatly, her blue and brown eyes narrowed with concentration.

Annabelle was tweaking the computer's circuitry when the door opened. Everyone looked up except the youngest person to have ever received the medal of honor. She bit her tongue and reconnected the hard drive. She let out her breath with a loud whoosh and ran her fingers through her hair.

"Done!"

Silence was her praise. Only then did she lift her head and gaze to see her old, old friends. Robert waved and Randy smiled. Annabelle pushed herself out of her chair, running to Rob.

"Uncle Rob!" She hugged him. After being given an embrace, she looked at Randy. She brushed some dust off of his shoulder. "Lookin' good, Randy." She smirked against the tears welling behind her eyes. "When did you get back?"

He trembled and pulled her into a passionate kiss. Annabelle let out a squeak, her eyes slowly drifting shut as she tried to forget that she was in front of the entire class. He pulled away, panting as he pressed his forehead against hers.

"A few hours ago." He sighed. "I missed you, Little Lennox."

"I missed you too, Randy."

Breathless silence enveloped the audience. Randy dropped to one knee. Annabelle stiffened, not able to move. Even Robert backed away, not believing his eyes as Randy, the same boy who had come to him crying when Annabelle left for England, steadied himself on the floor. The same boy who had pleaded with him to find her.

Randy dug in his pocket, his hands shaking as he produced that universally known black, velvet box. He opened it, revealing a beautiful, silver band.

"A-Annabelle Lennox... will you marry me?"

Everyone held their breath, some students pulling out cell phones and activating their video cameras. The blonde shook slightly.

"O-Of course I will, you idiot! You didn't have to ask!"

She practically tackled him to the ground, crying as he struggled to hug her. Cheers and applause rose from the students and the professor as the two lovers got a handle on the situation. Annabelle turned to the professor.

"S-Sorry, sir." She turned to Randy, crestfallen. "I, uh, got to get back to—"

"Ms. Lennox?"

Annabelle was interrupted by the professor. He smiled, his face flushed and his eyes shimmering merrily.

"Yes, sir?"

"I think you've done enough as a guest instructor today, miss. Thank you for your time." when Annabelle remained motionless, her mouth hanging open, the professor rolled his eyes, pushing her out of the classroom. "You're only young once! Go on! Get out!"

The class whistled and Annabelle was blushing as she stumbled backward.

"Thank you."

"You're welcome." He swiftly turned, barking at his students. "That doesn't mean that you're off the hook! Get back to work!"

Robert shook his head as Annabelle and Randy kissed again. When they parted, he chuckled.

"I can't wait to see Will's face when you tell him."

VII

Will had retired in the last year, but that did not mean that he wasn't doing anything. Currently, he was repairing and repainting the fence that he had recently put up at the start of their driveway. Ironhide drove up, projecting himself as a holoform.

"Can I help?"

The former Major held a nail between his lips as he picked up a hammer. After he spit the nail into his hand, he grunted.

"You can sand those boards, if you don't mind."

Smiling, Ironhide picked up the sandpaper and began to rub down the plank. He was no fool. He saw the grey hairs that were sprinkled around Will and Sarah's temples. Ironhide was a major helping hand around the property, doing everything he could for the humans that were gracious enough to let him stay with them.

Will wiped sweat from his brow and gazed up at the sky.

"Would you look at that." Ironhide followed the human's gaze. "A jet. We don't usually get jets, but now we get more and more."

A white streak sliced through the sky. Ironhide narrowed his bright blue optics, but then shrugged and returned to sanding the wood. The worked together in a comfortable silence.

The sun beat down on them, and all was calm. Then, they both looked up when they heard an engine rumbling down the dirt road. An army jeep came to a stop, kicking up pebbles and dust.

"Hey, come on, man." Will waved the dust out of his face. "You're gonna ruin my pain jo—" Robert's smiling face emerged from the dust. "Robbie? Come here, you son of a bitch!" Will wrapped up his friend in a bear hug. "You could have called."

"Eh, you never pick up."

They both laughed heartily. Epps walked up to Ironhide. The weapon specialist gave him a firm handshake, his optics crinkling as he smiled.

Friendship. It was a beautiful thing, no matter what planet you hailed from. Ironhide let Robert's hand go and was about to start sanding again when he ward a familiar sigh and intake of breath.

'Belle...

It had to be her. He turned, and, Primus be praised, there she was. She had grown into a beautiful young woman, and Ironhide found it hard to believe that she had once been the dribbling infant whose incessant crying almost drove him mad. It was even more difficult to believe that the tall, graceful young woman before him had once harnessed all the power in England to give him life.

"'Hide?"

She waved the dust out of her eyes, jumping out of the jeep. Ironhide grinned as she ran towards him in the same worn-down sneakers that she had worn when she first set off to college almost six years ago. He swept her up in a loving embrace, spinning her around.

"My sparkling." He set her down, smirking wickedly. "You've gotten out of shape."

"You wish!" She threw him a punch, and the weapon specialist caught it easily. The two sparred shortly, their very own unique greeting. She stopped, panting. "God, I've missed you."

"Likewise."

Annabelle laughed, brushing some stray hairs out of her eyes. Sudden movement caught their attention.

Randy carried a large bag.

"Randy?" Will shook his head, walking up to the young man. "Christ, you've grown."

They shook hands, and they all began to walk back towards the house.

VIII

"Any luck finding the Decepticons?"

Randy shook his head after graciously accepting a cup of tea from Sarah.

"No, sir." Ironhide had to conceal a chuckle at the formal title. "We seem to... just miss them."

Ironhide frowned, but remained silent. Will seemed to sag in his chair, the few wrinkles on his face getting deeper. Sarah gripped her cup tighter, and Robert Epps got that far away look in his eyes. Randy's face turned a bit pink with shame. Annabelle put down her tea loudly, sighing with exasperation.

"Come on, let's not talk about work. This is a time for celebration!"

Annabelle popped open a bottle of champagne, spilling some froth on the floor. Ironhide and Will rose their eyebrows as Sarah laughed at her dancing daughter. Randy flushed as the young engineer began to pour it into flutes. Her Guardian's gravelly voice broke the stunned and amused silence.

"What on Earth would we be celebrating, 'Belle?"

"My engagement."

The reactions of the room's occupants varied greatly. Robert crossed his arms smugly. Will sputtered, spitting up tea. Sarah's breath left her in an airy flurry. Randy smiled. Ironhide's holoform flickered.

"Engagement?" Will was the first to regain his voice. "To who? Tell me so I can kill the bastard."

He was half joking. Ironhide clenched his projected fists.

"I second that motion."

Before Annabelle could scold either of them, Randy stood.

"Annabelle's engaged to me. I proposed to her today."

More silence. Sarah raised her glass.

"Congratulations."

Robert snickered, raising his glass. Ironhide and Will grudgingly followed suit. Will shook his head, tears leaking out of his old eyes.

"Jesus, kid... when did you grow up?"

IX

When Randy was inducted into the sector that dealt with the Decepticons, she knew their relationship would change. After he met Ironhide, the real Ironhide, she remembered how astonished, embarrassed, and still he had been. She knew that he saw the night before Annabelle left for college.

The night when he leaned across the consol and kissed her, crawling over to embrace her. When the first few buttons of her blouse came undone, she had forced him away, red and stuttering like a fool.

Oh yes, that was a vivid picture in his mind. Ironhide had been seconds away from making it so he could never reproduce.

But... the day when he had told her that he was going to be tracking down the Decepticons, she asked him if he loved her. He said yes. Annabelle tried to smile as she touched the side of his face.

"Take your time and think about it. Really think. Do this, Randy, and if you still love me than... than I will believe you."

He took her advice to heart, and three years ago, he vanished into the obscurity that was the government. Every time she saw a white streak in the sky, she hoped it was Starscream fleeing the scene. Every time she heard a police siren, she held her breath until it passed.

One day, when she was walking down the streets of Philadelphia, a man had grabbed her wrist. Annabelle had turned, ready to use pepper spray, but then she saw those bright red eyes.

They stared at each other, and then his optics shifted down to the vial around her neck. She could never take off that vial. He released her, vanishing.

She never saw Starscream again.

X

Randy struggled to adjust his tuxedo. Ironhide assisted him, dusting him off.

"Did Annabelle ever tell you what she did in England?"

The young human frowned.

"A little. She... she rescued you, right?"

"Right." Ironhide narrowed his eyes, his hologram perfecting his projected image. "Did she tell you that she got the medal of honor?"

Blood trickled out of his face.

"No... no she didn't."

They waited for the other to make the move. Ironhide's optics dimmed slightly.

"She loves you... so you... you are trustworthy." Ironhide heard urgent knocking on the door. "Take care of her, Randy. She deserves all you can give and more."

Will opened the door.

"Come on, we've got to get ready."

Randy nodded. Ironhide and the groom walked out, getting into position while Randy jogged up the aisle. Ironhide was paired with some woman that 'Belle had played soccer with. They walked down the aisle when they were cued. The last pair had parted, and the music changed.

All eyes and optics turned to see Will and Annabelle. Ironhide's Spark flickered painfully at the sight of her. The white dress, she couldn't have picked a better one. Pearls laced the edges, and it left her shoulders bare. Sheer material draped across her back and was connected to her wrists. She looked like an angel.

Her father left, and it was just her and Randy. As the priest spoke, Ironhide's memory banks brought up images of her as a child, getting the chicken pox, kissing him, and getting swallowed by the ocean. She was more than a sparkling to him. He was imprinted on her, and her on him. There was no word for what they had. Every time they had gotten close to one, one of them found it too painful to continue.

Then... the oddest thing happened. His holoform had... well... it might have been a projection, but his holoform began crying. Not loudly, but softly. Tears rolled down his scarred and weathered face. The select few who knew him gasped.

"Do you, Annabelle Lennox, take Randy Preston as your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, until death do you part?"

Blue and brown eyes shifted from the priest, to Randy, but landed on her Guardian. Ironhide froze, and time stopped. Annabelle smiled reassuringly, silently consoling him.

"I will always love you. There is nothing for me without you. Should this love fade, I'll have you, right?"

Smiling despite the tears rolling down his face, Ironhide's Spark swelled with... with the strangest sensation. It was painful, but he wouldn't have it any other way. Agonizing love. Spark-stopping love.

"Always."

"I do."

Randy's part flew by and sooner than Ironhide expected, they kissed. Everyone gushed. Ironhide clapped his holoform's hands together. Annabelle and Randy ran down the aisle, but she cast a long glance over her shoulder. A look that Ironhide lived for.

Love was a strange creature, and no matter how pained and fierce it was, love was, and always will be, beautiful.

The End

XI

A/N: Well... wow. I hope you liked it. PLEASE, please tell me if you enjoyed it, or were disappointed. I don't know if you guys wanted Randy and Annabelle together, but you know, this really isn't the end, the story always goes on. Well, I hope to hear from you all soon! Read and Review!

-mia