Disclaimer: do not own Transformers.

Part eleven: in which a favour is fully repaid.

Author note: final chapter! Yay! Thanks to all who have read! Now Dialme and I are off to deal with those other bunnies : )


11: Repayment

"The Sector ain't goin'?" Jazz asked, frustrated. They were in the conference room again—just Optimus, Ratchet, Ironhide, and Jazz. For some reason, they felt that no other mech but they could be there. As if something was about to be announced—something was about to happen—and only they could stand witness to it. As if it was their right, and their right alone.

It had been several human hours since Bumblebee had wandered off to find the runaway younglings. Dewbot and Fury-9 had gotten extremely worried by the end of the first half-hour, but a transmission from Bumblebee had quieted their fears.

"I found the younglings," Bumblebee had said, his voice taking on an odd quality. It sounded…strangled, almost. Like he was in between crying and laughing. Odd, but, since no danger or trap were indicated in the tone, not odd enough to send out a rescue party. "We might take a few hours to get back to base." The voices of the younglings in the background, with the same odd strangled quality, were enough to calm the Newsparks back into a much needed recharge.

"No," Optimus said heavily, taking his thoughts away from where Bumblebee and the two younglings—the two younglings that reminded Optimus so very much of something so very precious—were and what they could possibly be doing. "The Newsparks are officially nonexistent. They did nothing in taking the Newsparks; likewise, we did nothing in taking them back."

"So what now?" Ratchet asked.

"We watch them," Optimus said simply. "One day, there will be no more Sectors. One day, the humans will see that we mean them no harm."

"You sure that isn't too much to hope for, Optimus?" rumbled Ironhide.

"A combination of discretion, caution, compassion and courage is our first weapon, my friend," Optimus answered, looking at the battle-hardened weapons specialist. "Hope is our second."

They all lapsed into silence then. And in their silence, a soft voice broke through their thoughts:

They are here.

They looked up in time to see Bumblebee come through the door, the two younglings, in recharge, safely in his arms. The younglings had wrapped their arms around Bumblebee's neck, and had nestled their heads in his shoulders.

Bumblebee did not know how bizarre he looked to the adult mechs in the room.

"Optimus, sir," Bumblebee said, but before he could get any further, Ratchet cut him off.

"Bumblebee, what the slag are you thinking? Get those younglings to the med bay this instant!" he ordered.

"I can't do that, Ratchet," Bumblebee said, looking at the angry and now flabbergasted medic with a look of…a look of sheer happiness. So happy the Bumblebee was lost to it, and was not sure what to do with himself. None of them could remember when they had last seen Bumblebee so happy.

"You should come to the med bay as well," Ratchet said in a lower volume, looking confusedly into Bumblebee's optics, as if they might indicate what in Cybertron had come over him.

"Bumblebee, explain," Optimus said patiently.

"I found them," Bumblebee said shortly.

"Yes, Bumblebee, we know that. You are holding them as we speak," Optimus said, after a pause.

"No! Not just that. Sam and Mikaela. I found them." A shocked silence greeted his words. Those two names had not been uttered in the Autobot base for nearly six years, never spoken to Bumblebee let alone from Bumblebee.

Ironhide and Jazz exchanged a look whilst Optimus and Ratchet looked at Bumblebee, and then at the younglings, in shock. The weapons specialist and the first lieutenant had the same thought: had…had all the grief finally made him crack?

"Bumblebee," Ratchet said in a rare gentle tone, coming in front of Bumblebee and putting a hand on his shoulder. "Let's get all three of you to the med bay now…"

"Bumblebee isn't crazy, Ratchet," one of the younglings said somewhat drowsily, all the hullabaloo waking her out of recharge. It was a female voice, so the adult mechs instinctively looked at Spike—only to have Sparkplug turn around and continue talking to them with the same voice. The same well-loved voice.

"Mikaela?" Ratchet whispered, his hand still on Bumbebee's shoulder. Then he let go and stepped backwards, so that the other three mechs could clearly see too.

"Yep!" he—she proclaimed. She looked carefully at Ratchet, Jazz, Ironhide, and finally Optimus, all of their optics wide in shock, and unable to speak. There was something in her optics…"It's me—it's us." She looked over at the still-recharging Spike. Faintly annoyed, she smacked the white youngling's shoulder.

"Wha—whosere?" Spike said, using Sam's voice, and jerked into wakefulness. Bumblebee swiftly shifted his grip so that Spike wouldn't go toppling to the floor.

"Sam…we're here already," the youngling with Mikaela's voice said, in a very weary Mikaela-tone.

"Sam?" the four mechs asked, each breathing the word, as if saying the names aloud would wipe them away again.

There were logical explanations to this…well, more logical than the dead-humans-turned-to-mechs-and-femmes explanation anyway. It could have been that they were playing a trick…but none of them would ever be so cruel, and besides, Bumblebee would never use his dead friends' memory in such a vile manner. It could also have been that Spike and Sparkplug had suffered processor injuries during the battle, and that Bumblebee had succumbed to grief…but that didn't sound right either.

The only other explanation was…it was…

It is, said a small voice. Believe it. It is.

And all those illogical explanations were thrown away with Sam's next word. "Yeah," he said, looking at them in contentment. The green optics met each of theirs, and, like with Mikaela's, they were lost to them. He seemed at a loss for words, as if this moment eluded even his babbling abilities. "So…did you miss us?"

The answer was lost in the scraping of chairs and in the harsh clanking of metal as Ratchet, Ironhide, Jazz, and Optimus went to embrace them.

After much hugging and much tearful babbling from the parts of Sam, and, surprisingly, Jazz, Optimus managed to get the younglings and placed them on the table.

"What happened?" he asked, clearly unable to articulate a more profound sentence in the face of such an event.

Spike/Sam looked and Sparkplug/Mikaela, then back at Optimus. Ironhide, Jazz, Ratchet, and even Bumblebee, whom they had spent the better part of the last few hours recounting the tale to, looked at them for an explanation, pinning them with their gazes, as though making sure that they were there, and that they were there to stay.

"Well," Spike/Sam finally said, "the short of it is that a friend needed a favour, and went to great lengths to return it. The long of it is…"

X x X

The children—for they were still children in Newspark, in Autobot, and in Bumblebee eyes—had gone back to using their original gender titles. Autobots and Newsparks were not sexual beings like humans were, so it mattered little that Spike had stopped answering to words like 'she and her' and Sparkplug had started answering to them instead. Though femmes were shaped more similarly to human females and it was convention for femmes to use female titles while conversing in human languages, it was unusual but not unheard of that a femme and a mech switched gender titles, the femme answering to 'he' and the mech answering to 'she.'

"Besides," Spike had said, "I was a guy when I was human, and in a femme body I never really felt like a girl."

But they had agreed that, for their safety, they should continue using their Newspark names. The older mechs didn't want any still-angry Decepticons getting any funny ideas about those two, and Spike and Sparkplug weren't too keen on the idea either. One death-by-Decepticon attack and one death-during-Decepticon attack was enough, thank-you very much.

The Newsparks knew too—they were their family, the deserved to know—and still loved them fiercely, some going on to proclaim that Spike and Sparkplug were Newsparks all along, even in human bodies. Kitten, Dewbot, and Fury-9, added that the source of their sparks did explain many things. Like how they only matured to Newspark equivalent of preteenhood—they had not yet hit adulthood in their human lives—and why they slept in bipedal form instead of alt-form.

Spike and Sparkplug, though not knowing what they were going to do now, did agree on one thing: their human parents and friends had to know, somehow, that they were okay.

Driving into Tranquility, they passed Spike's former house. The garden was in complete disarray, with weeds coming out in clumps. The house's paint was flecking. The place where there used to be a path was overrun with flora that even Sparkplug's Internet search engine couldn't identify. The only being there to greet them was an old dog.

The dog, with a limp that came from a broken paw that hadn't healed properly, promptly ignored the holograms and tried cuddling up to the motorcycles. "Hey, Mojo," Spike crooned as the dog attempted to lick his wheels. "I've missed you. Where are Mom and Dad, huh, you rehabilitated pill moocher?"

"What day is it today, Spike?" asked Sparkplug quietly. Spike told her. "Then I know where they are."

X x X

"Banes," greeted Ron as the fathers came across one another in the cemetery.

"Witwicky," answered Daniel, just as curtly.

"Alexis," Judy said more warmly, though just as sadly.

"Judy," said Alexis in the same tone.

"Miles," Miles said brightly. The four older adults turned to look at the young man. "Sorry," he muttered after an uncomfortable silence, "just trying to ease the tension…"

Ron suddenly heaved a sigh, and all the animosity vanished in the air as Daniel did likewise. They put trembling hands to their children's gravestones. "Been six years, you two," Ron said. "We've really missed you. Mojo too."

"The lawn's just not the same without you trampling in it, Sammy," Judy said.

"And I really miss my little girl helping me with those engines," Daniel said.

"And helping me with the cookies…so many people didn't know it, but you were a real girly-girl, Mikaela," said Alexis tearfully.

"And you'll be proud to hear that I've climbed one hundred more trees since our last visit," Miles said.

Any further discourse was stopped by the sight of two motorcycles rolling past the cemetery. They stopped just beyond the gates. The riders looked at them, smiling. There was a young woman on top of the red one, and a young man on top of the white one. They looked achingly familiar. They waved at them. Not knowing exactly why, the five people in the cemetery waved tentatively back.

With a final smile on part of the young man, and light laughter on part of the young woman, the two riders drove past them, into the road, scattering the fallen leaves. Miles was the first to speak. "You don't think—"

He couldn't finish the sentence. But all five people looked once more at the headstones, and once more where the riders had waved to them. "You always gave weird signs, you two," Ron said, affectionately giving a pat to the headstones.

"Thanks for telling us that you're okay, wherever—or whatever—you are," Daniel added lightly, not really paying attention to his truthful words. Judy, Alexis, and Miles could only look at the gravestones with something almost like cheer. They left the cemetery with gentle smiles on their faces.

"Ron, I really think it's time to install a new gazebo in our yard, don't you think?"

"Fantastic idea. I'll get on it right away."

One day, when there were no more Sectors and no more alien wars, Spike and Sparkplug would call them Mom and Dad again, and they would shake their heads embarrassedly at Miles' attempts at humour again. That day would come, they were sure of it.

X x X

A few weeks later, when the Newsparks were all patched up and sporting their new insignias (Ratchet would not let them leave the med bay without having them, otherwise any crazy Sector people could try to pull the same stunt again), they went to a nearby canyon to wait for the sunrise. They weren't surprised to find Bumblebee there waiting for them.

"Hey, Bee," Spike said, before climbing up one of the mech's crossed legs and sitting there, looking up at Bumblebee's faceplate. "Not staying at the base for 'the talk'? Not for 'the birds and the bees'? Seems right up your alley."

Bumblebee made a noise of disbelief. "No, thank-you."

"But Fury-9 explains it so well," Sparkplug said innocently, perching on Bee's other leg.

"I'm sure she does. How's Dewbot doing?"

"He's a new mech, ever since Fury-9 tempered his armour."

"She did well, after only the process one time."

"Ratchet is a good teacher."

"Does that mean your mischief is going to go up?"

"You know it," the younglings chorused.

"So the peace talks are going okay?" Spike asked. They were still avoiding Decepticon attention, so Dewbot had banned them from attending, going so far as to threaten them with four months of being watched by Kitten. Optimus had been slightly more imaginative, and, with prompting from Bumblebee, had threatened them with a mix of Jazz and Blaster's music. Spike and Sparkplug made themselves content with being locked in the Autobot base, though dutifully ignoring the high-grade.

"Yes. There were more former Decepticons there than were anticipated—Barricade among them, believe it or not—though some had scorned to come."

"You think it could be a trick?" Sparkplug asked.

"It could be," Bumblebee admitted. "We are prepared for such an event. But it never hurts to hope."

"You sure it's not too much to hope though?"

Bumblebee looked down at them, an equivalent of a gentle smile on his faceplate. "In the past few weeks, I've learned that it's never too much to hope."

The two didn't say anything in response, but, showing their satisfied agreement, settled themselves deeper in Bumblebee's lap. The exchanged some more news—like how a completely healed Kitten invited a rather flustered Arcee for a drive along the beach—before all three lapsed into companionable silence.

Spike let his thoughts wander, rubbing the marks on his shoulders unconsciously. The Sector attack had made the Newsparks more wary, more cautious, but less prideful and less fearful. Like all the other Newsparks, Spike proudly wore the Autobot insignia on his right shoulder, and the newly-minted Newspark insignia on his left. In his alt-form, the two insignias rested side-by-side at the front. The Newsparks were officially registered as Autobots as far as the government was concerned. The Sector could never touch them again.

The Newsparks made it clear that Optimus Prime was not their leader. Their allegiance lay with Dewbot and with Fury-9. But they also made it clear that Optimus and the other Autobots were their friends.

They would be helping the Autobots construct a nursery-like structure soon, for the sparklings that were sure to come…and for the sparklings that could have come already. That morning, while Spike and Sparkplug were waiting for their turn to have insignias placed on them, they saw a femme they knew only by name and sight—Chromia—saying something to Ironhide (who had gotten a preview of Fury-9's 'The Talk' two weeks before) that made the weapons specialist actually drop his cannon in shock.

And Spike and Sparkplug, being around nurseries for so long, knew what a sparkling-infused mech and/or femme looked like. And since it was the femme Chromia being infused this time…needless to say, Ironhide was going to have his hands full when the femme youngling came.

Officially, only Optimus, Ratchet, Jazz, Ironhide, and Bumblebee knew exactly what and who Spike and Sparkplug were and who they had been, and what they had done and why. But those five mechs and the humans-turned-Newsparks knew that every Autobot knew. They knew in every relatively harmless prank that Sideswipe and Sunstreaker (who had found their body transfer accident highly amusing but had the grace/mercy to ignore it) pulled on them, they knew in every quirky smile that came their way from Prowl, they knew in every long and affectionate greeting from Bluestreak, they knew in every attempt Red Alert tried to hide a "I-must-not-freeze-my-logic-processors-because-of-human-younglings-being-turned-to-mech-younglings-impossibility" look from them, and they knew in countless little acts from all the other mechs in the Autobot base. The 'Autobot humans' knew too; Lennox, Glen, Maggie…They knew, and they did not have to say a thing. They belonged.

In a sense, Spike was Newspark, but he was also Autobot, and he was also human. He was metal, but also flesh. He was a friend, he was a spark-mate, he was a charge, he was a child, he was a youngling, he was a teenager, he was a femme, and he was a boy. He was Spike, and he was Sam.

He was happy.

He was…he was…

He was really getting tired of all this reflecting.

"Race you!" he challenged Bumblebee and Sparkplug, transforming before the two bots could reply.

"No fair!" shouted Sparkplug, before transforming and racing after him. Their laughter echoed through the canyon.

Giving the younglings, his found-friends, a head start, Bumblebee realized that, for the first time in a long time, he finally felt at peace.

And racing around under the brilliant sky, embraced by the gentle light of a new day, the three reunited friends thought that they heard a small voice. It was neither male nor female, neither Cybertronian nor human, neither young nor old. It was the voice of life, the voice of sadness, the voice of mothers and fathers and daughters and sons. It was the voice of wisdom and kindness, and above all, truth. It said, in kind contentment:

I guess this makes us even.