This is a standalone story, not connected with my other fic Not Alone. It's not going to be as long or as involved as N.A., either, but it's more introspective and possibly a little disturbing. I hope. Because creepy and off-kilter is exactly what I'm going for.

And as per always, this is Hasbro's sandbox, I'm just playing in it.


"Well, shift's over. Time to crawl into bed and pull it in after you."

"You don't know how much I wish I could. And when I woke up it would all be over. No more monsters, good or bad. Just... normal life."

"Normal life. Sure sounds nice."

--Gargoyles, "High Noon"


Sam Witwicky woke with the echoes of clashing metal ringing in his ears.

He didn't sit up in bed so much as explode into a sitting position, legs thrashing in tangled sheets, heart racing. He looked wildly around, gasping, shuddering from the cold sweat that covered his bare skin.

"Bumblebee--!"

How had he gotten back here? His bedroom, at home, safe and sound, and... no giant robots.

At least, no giant robots fighting, which was a mark in this situation's favor, since a few of said mechanoids had seemed intent on reducing him to a Sam-colored smear on the ground. They had managed to back Bumblebee into a dead end road in a ravine with Sam behind the wheel-- a quick shudder, an open door, and his best friend was on his feet instead of his wheels, ready to defend him. A handful of Decepticons, none of whom he had ever seen before, against one Autobot, but Bee had assured him Ironhide and Ratchet were on their way, so Sam had scrambled for a safe spot. And then...

Sam shook his head. He felt like someone had stabbed a screwdriver square between his eyes.

Home. Early morning, five-thirty-six, to judge by the clock-radio at his bedside. In bed, and apparently dressed for it, in just boxers. He couldn't remember even coming home, let alone shucking his clothes for a good night's sleep.

Sam slipped out of bed and stood. The world seemed to tilt drunkenly for half a second, and he sat down hard on the edge of the bed, screwing his eyes shut and pinching the bridge of his nose. Along with the screwdriver, someone had seen fit to stuff his head full of soggy cotton as well.

Bumblebee. Sam swayed unsteadily to his feet. Bee would be able to tell him just what had happened.

Sam found a shirt to pull on, got it backward, found he didn't care. Stumbled to the window, peered into the back yard and the end of the driveway, where Bumblebee was parked.

His dad's green convertible was sitting in Bee's usual spot. Sam made a face; he felt a little more at ease being able to find his guardian with a simple glance out the window, especially with Barricade skulking around unaccounted for, and that tangle with those new Decepticons yesterday, or whenever that was...

Bee had to be parked around the side of the house, or on the street-- the Autobot hated that, he'd said once, the indignity of parking on the curb like a visitor, being even that far away from his charge, out of sight. Sam shambled out into the hall and downstairs. As he passed the kitchen, the smell of strong coffee assaulted his nose. What day was it? Dad only set the coffee maker to start on weekdays, when he had to work.

Whatever. Find Bee, ask what the hell had happened, go back to bed, sleep off this headache. Get up at noon and consume a lethal dose of Froot Loops. Good plan.

He trundled through the living doom and crimped open a gap in the blinds, squinting into the half-dawn light. The street in front of the house was empty. Empty at least of any yellow Camaros... only a couple of soccer-mom SUVs and a slick orange mid-life-crisis Tiburon. Sam frowned and opened the front door, walking out to the curb to look up the street one way, then the other.

No Bumblebee. No Camaros of any color, nor black pickups, flame-patterned Peterbilts or ambulance Hummers.

Happily, no lurking police cruisers, either.

"Okay," he muttered into the strangely chilly morning air. "What gives?" Had Prime called an emergency meeting? Was there another attack going on elsewhere? Big sale on motor oil?

A stab of pain between his eyes made him stumble back and hiss, pinching the bridge of his nose in a futile effort to alleviate the sharp ache. Muttering irritably, he turned and stalked back inside. Maybe it was possible he'd gotten ahold of something-- beer, maybe? and had blacked out and this was what a hangover felt like. Which meant it would have been his first time getting drunk, and he didn't even remember the fun part. Of course, the fact that he was home probably meant his parents knew just how much fun he'd had, and he was in for a royal ass-chewing when his father got up.

None of that explained where Bumblebee was supposed to be.

Back up in his room, he went for his desk where his cell phone would likely be. The desk was the usual dumping ground for whatever happened to be in his pockets at the end of the day. Hopefully Bee would have left him a text message, voicemail, a damn ringtone, something.

There was nothing on his desk.

Sam blinked, clearing most of the cobwebs in his brain. No cell phone, loose change, wallet... or computer, goldfish tank, not even that model '77 Camaro Mikaela had found somewhere and painted to look like Bee's charmingly beat-up previous alternate mode. There was nothing on the desk at all.

Sam took note of the rest of his room for the first time. The clutter, the strata of a teenage boy's earthly possessions, even the TV, almost everything familiar was gone. There was a pile of neatly folded clothes near the door, some books scattered on the otherwise bare shelves. Other than the disarray of sheets on the bed, it looked like an unused guest bedroom.

There was a noise at the door. Sam looked up. "Mom? What did you do with all my stuff? Am I in that much trouble?"

"Sammy...?"

Something in his mother's voice made him look harder, and he was taken aback at how... old... she looked. As if ten hard years had attacked her overnight-- her face lined with strain, her robe-clad body thinner than it should have been. And the way she was looking at him...

"Mom? What's wrong?"

"Sammy, you know who I am, don't you?" She came into the room, cupping his face in her hands. "You remember me?"

Sam blinked, able only to offer a "guh?" for an answer until he'd managed to disengage from her grasp. "Uh, yeah, mom, I know who you are. What's with you?" He waved around the room. "And where is my stuff? How honked off is Dad? I don't know how I got home."

"Oh, no, it's okay, you're okay." She was on him like a limpet, hugging him so hard he could hear his ribs squeak. "It'll be okay, Sammy, you're home. The medication's finally working--"

The what?

Sam wrested himself out of his mother's embrace and held her by the shoulders at arms' length. "Mom. What is going on? Where's my stuff? Where's my phone? I have to go pick up my car from-- from the shop, dropped it off last night--" As bullshitting went, it was weak, but simple, she'd buy it...

But instead she touched his face again, infinitely tender, a heavy sadness weighing on her already weary features. "You've never had a car," she told him gently. "You've been sick, Sammy. For... for a long time now. You've been getting better, though, they let us bring you back home." A ghost of a smile crossed her face. "Everything's going to be all right."