In Loco Mortis
Disclaimer: I do not own Transformers. I should think that rather obvious with my college-induced poverty and all.
Warnings: Onesided Bee/Sam
AN: Prequel to In the Shadow of Forever, Iniquity's Enigma, and Intersection. It won't make much sense without reading those first.
Chapter One: Primary Colors
Samuel J. Witwicky was not average by any stretch of the imagination. Once perhaps but definitely not anymore. Few on earth had experienced or done the things he had. Had been chased by monsters, only to defeat them. Had bleed and laughed with those older than civilization itself. Had all but died and then be reborn.
Sam also happened to not be human. Not any more. He wasn't entirely certain what to classify himself as; Cybertronian didn't fit since he had never been there. Nor was he officially an Autobot, far too young for such a thing. The suggestion alone was enough to leave Ratchet in conniptions, Bee not far behind.
Transformer worked, he supposed. Or youngling. Minibot.
A slight shudder at the last one. Eternity spent as an ant among giants, forever skittering around their feet in an attempt not to get squished. While he would undoubtedly survive such a thing, it wouldn't be pleasant. Especially the part where he'd have to explain to Ratchet. Megatron would be more merciful, not to mention quieter.
At the moment, Sam had few worries over that particular happening. He was currently perched upon one of the numerous berths in the medbay, well out of stepping ranging. Truthfully, Sam was rather preoccupied, studying the play of light over his hand. The metal of it was dark, the deepest black possible. Not at all glossy or shiny like the paint on a car. Simply dark, absorbing all light and giving none back. But purple and blue tints appeared and shifted as he waved his hand back and forth. A few hints of color on an otherwise monochrome body.
The only other contrast was his optics, bright and vivid green. Highly unusual according to First Aid. Wheeljack thought it was due to his bizarre exposure to the Allspark. Bee simply called them beautiful; everyone else seemed to agree. Sideswipe even teased that his brother had optic-envy. An accusation the exceptionally vain Sunstreaker had yet to refute.
Personally, Sam found them unnerving. He had problems meeting his own optics whenever he looked in a reflective surface. A rather unfortunate occurrence with so many shiny Autobots running around. Though the minibot was grateful that he no longer had a reason to look in the mirror every morning. Not having to clean his face or comb his hair seemed to diminish that particular need.
A bot. A youngling. No longer human. Sam who wasn't Sam. No longer made of flesh and blood, instead metal and gears. Servos in place of muscles. A processor instead of a brain. No heart. No eyes. But a spark, brilliant as the sun.
Sometimes, Sam wondered how he hadn't gone mad with it all. Though Percy – my name is Perceptor – had assured him there was only a small possibility of that. Something to do with gradual system adjustments and a slow transition from human norms. Probably why he still couldn't see in the dark worth a slag.
Poor Ratchet and Wheeljack had agonized over what had caused such a spontaneous change in the first place. Of course with no answers. Sam, however, knew but remained silent. Nothing sort of Primus himself would ever make him confess Bumblebee's sin aloud. Loyalty had its limits, but for now, Sam was too busy trying to adjust. Learning to live with his new semi-shiny self.
The youngling started as Ratchet banged into the medbay, face plates twisted into a snarl. He huffed by Sam without even a wave, mumbling about "slagging twins" with various curses intermixed. He stormed into his office but was back out within a few minutes, still sporting a snarl. The medic stomped up to Sam, somehow managing not to slam his tools on the nearby table.
"Er… Hi, Ratchet." Sam shifted on the berth. "Bad day?"
Ratchet let out a whoosh of air. "Sam. And no, not worse than usual. Just those fraggers again." He pulled out an instrument that was rather unfamiliar. Something with a wicked metal point on one end.
"The twins?" Sam questioned as he fought the urge to jerk back.
The older mech absentmindedly set his tool back down, selecting a much smaller one with a blunt edge. "How ever did you know?" He leaned forward, his strange instrument coming a bit too close to Sam's face before moving to his chest.
"Um… lucky guess?" he ventured and tried not to fidget at the odd sensation.
Ratchet humphed. "Lie back." He accompanied the command with a pushing hand on Sam's shoulder.
The youngling took the hint, the back of his head making a low plunk against the metal of the berth. Ratchet's fingers were unsurprisingly soft, almost a caress against Sam's not-skin as he examined the surface circuits and parts in his joints. His fuel lines were probed in a similar fashion, but Sam shuttered his optics as the medic scanned over him with a variety of colored lights. Ratchet then ran a leading hand over his outer surface, pausing for a moment to hover by his optics before very lightly scanning them with a touch that would've left most of his patients speechless. The mech for all that he yelled and thumped the others was always gentle with Sam. His voice and tone might be harsh but in degrees softer than to anyone else. And he had never once hit him with a wrench.
A part of Sam wondered if it was out of pity. If it was because of his origins. Or that fact that he was an orphan in all but name. That he had no real family to speak of besides them, even his one-time girlfriend now gone. The Lennoxes tried, but he was too far beyond their reach now.
Or if it was because of what he had become. If Ratchet – like the others – saw him as a youngling. A halfhearted replacement for the ones they had lost so long ago.
That morbid thought was interrupted as First Aid entered the medbay, degrees quieter than his mentor. He walked over to them, normal mask missing but a pleasant smile on his face.
"Hey, Aid," Sam greeted by turning his head.
Ratchet immediately turned it back. "Keep still. You know it interferes with the scan."
Sam fought the urge to squirm. It didn't help that First Aid was practically smirking at him from behind Ratchet's shoulder. He really wished that he could roll his eyes, rather difficult now that he lacked them. Not to mention, optics simply didn't move that way.
Ratchet stepped back then and allowed his patient to finally sit up. Sam did so slowly, twisting his head this way and that. Scans always made him feel strange, like bugs had been crawling across his skin, only not as pleasant. And the urge to scratch was almost overwhelming. But Aid caught his hand before he could, optics flickering to his boss. Ratchet seemed to have missed that, too busy mumbling to himself in low tones as he reordered his instruments.
Sam gave him a sheepish grin. "Well, what do you think, doc?" he redirected.
"I'm not a doctor," Ratchet responded automatically as he glanced up. "I'm a medic. Get it right. Especially if you wish to continue learning from me."
Sam wisely refrained from saying that First Aid was the one to normally help him. Before her death, Ratchet had usually been too busy arguing with Mikaela to teach him much of anything. Sam, in the meantime, had often wandered off to speak with the medic's assistant. Many an argument had been weathered at Aid's side, trying his best not to laugh as Ratchet lectured and forced his human student to unlearn everything she knew about earth machinery. Even as she vehemently retorted that they weren't all that different.
The thought of Mikaela was a pang in his spark. And had he still been human, he would've swallowed passed the sudden lump in his throat. Sam instead made a noncommittal noise but otherwise remained silent.
"You'll live," Ratchet pronounced. "Your joints are still stiff, but that's normal in the newly built."
"Yeah." Sam flexed and curled his fingers as he snapped his mind back to the here and now. "It's getting better. I'm almost as flexible as I was before."
Aid took his hand and gently pried it open. "Does it hurt any?"
"Not really." Sam shrugged, the metal of his chassis objecting to the motion.
Ratchet was quickly to lean down. But Sam shook him off.
"It's fine. Really," he added at their disbelieving looks. "I just forget that I can't move that way anymore. At least not yet."
Neither bought it, but both refrained from comment. Instead, First Aid tried a different track.
"Have you talked to Smokescreen lately?" he asked with a false sense of casualness.
Sam sighed, a distinctly human behavior that most of the bots seemed to have perfected. "Yeah. Hard not to with the way he corners me all the time." He had the sudden recollection of the blue and white mech catching up with him in the rec room and had to repress a shudder.
"It's for your own good," Ratchet admonished with a curt look. "The transition from human to our kind is not an easy one. It will help to have someone there to speak with."
Sam could feel the metal plates on his arm twitch in annoyance, a habit he had already picked up from Optimus. "I don't need a shrink. There's nothing wrong with my brain, new form or not."
He watched as the older medic forcefully bit back a retort. A not so small part of the minibot twinging as he did.
"I didn't say that," Ratchet all but snapped, tone very exasperated. "It's merely normal to be… confused. Unsure. It has only been a few orns since your transformation. All of this is still very new. You're only recently released from my care. I don't want you to have come back here to stay."
There was bait, but Sam didn't bite. "I'd be worried if I wasn't worried. Or confused." He glanced away. "But I am. And I have plenty of other people to talk to."
"Bee and Jazz's in-stasis body hardly qualify as professional help," Aid inserted with a perceptive lilt. "And yes, we know you've been sneaking in to see him again."
Sam started to reply, but Ratchet cut him off.
"No, Bluestreak doesn't count either. You can hardly get a word in edgewise. And that's on a good day." His voice was a mixture of annoyance and concern, something only a medical professional could perfect.
The youngling defended, "I talk to Jack. And Prowl." He mentally patted himself on the back for that one.
It was obvious that Ratchet was battling the urge to hit something. "You just go to watch Wheeljack blow himself up." He crossed his arms over his chassis. "And Prowl has the emotional range of a toaster for this sort of thing."
Sam couldn't argue those points. "Optimus?" he finally suggested.
Ratchet just glared. The minibot grimaced.
"We're not doing this to embarrass you, Sam," Aid cut in diplomatically. "Or to make you uncomfortable. We just want to help." He patted the smaller bot on the shoulder but noticed him wince.
The youngling shifted away. "I know, but…"
"You can talk to us, if you'd prefer," First Aid offered. "We'd be more than happy to listen." His face was earnest and open. Honest.
But something inside Sam told him to reject the offer. Too much of a chance. Too big an opportunity to let something slip.
Sam leaned even further from his touch. "I… um… well… Maybe Smokescreen's not that bad."
Aid almost seemed crestfallen as the two medics traded a look over Sam's head. A wordless exchange passed between them in seconds, not even needing the comm. system. And it didn't take Prowl to notice the way Sam shifted uncomfortably on the berth.
"Yes," Ratchet allowed, "but it helps to actually talk to him." He thankfully didn't mention the last two times Sam had run away.
"I will," the minibot promised, already thinking of a way to get out of this.
But the older mech was on to him. "Oh, you will. In here. Right after you online next. I'll make sure that Smokescreen is here, too."
There was finality in his voice. Firm and unrelenting. The tone that made his patients simply lie down and let their punishment commence. Sam didn't even think to argue. It was impossible when Ratchet got that particular gleam in his optics. And even the twins listened to him when he was like this. It was better to simply submit. Easier that way. Not to mention less painful.
That decided, Ratchet pulled out yet another unnameable instrument. "Stay sitting up," he ordered as he poked and prodded something in Sam's abdomen. "Hm…" He poked again and made an odd noise, like a hum mixed with an exhale. "Just as I thought. Your transformation cog is as stiff as your joints."
"Is that bad?" Sam could feel himself tremble ever-so-slightly. Most likely a reaction to the prodding and not psychological.
First Aid shook his head. "No. Just expected."
"Too early for it to be fully functional," Ratchet responded belatedly. "It's exactly as it should be. Don't screw it up." He shook his finger in Sam's face.
The youngling really wished he could roll his eyes. "Will I ever be able to transform?"
"Of course. You're simply too young yet," Aid inserted before his mentor could reply. "Just give it some time. You should be able in a few earth years, probably a decade to be on the safe side."
Sam nearly goggled at him. "A decade? That long?"
Ratchet let out a rush of air from his intakes in the Autobot equivalent of a snort. "Be glad it's that short. If you were Cybertronian born, it would still take vorns to get you to that level. And you wouldn't even have the option of ground-based or flyer. The fact that you were human and nearly grown seems to have short-cut the process some."
Sam made a face. First Aid laughed.
"Flyer… right." The youngling folded his arms over his chest, much to Ratchet's displeasure.
Aid, however, was amused. "Silverbolt and his brothers still on your case about that?" he questioned slyly. "You don't have to be a flyer, you know."
"Oh, but they'd love that," Sam replied with irritation. "Keep going on about how fun it is and that I'd love the freedom of the sky. Besides, what ground-based form could I take? I'm big for a motorcycle but a bit too little for most cars. And Skyfire thinks I could pull of a small helicopter."
Ratchet's optics narrowed. "Even he's in on it now?" He glanced at his tools, seeming to be contemplating which would leave the biggest dent in the errant scientist's head.
Sam, sensing danger, was quick to correct him. "No! No, he was just giving me some possibilities. I asked him what he thought. Skyfire merely made a few suggestions." He tapped his fingers together. "Bee still out in the hallway?" the minibot redirected, even though he already knew the answer.
Something strange flickered across Ratchet's face, but it was Aid who answered.
"He was when I came in." The mech shifted, head cocked to the side.
"And he was wise to stay out there," Ratchet added gruffly. "Stupid glitch knows better than to interrupt my examinations." He glanced at Sam, expression softening. "Alright. On with you. Go on. Get out."
The youngling was scrabbling off the berth in an instant. He was half-way to the door before the others could even speak.
"You. Smokescreen. In here. First thing. Don't forget. Or I'll haul you in here personally." Ratchet threatened, "Don't make me have to weld you down. I promise that I'll enjoy it more than you." He smiled at the mere prospect.
Sam just waved over his shoulder and was then out the door. The two medics only had a brief glimpse of yellow in the corridor before Bumblebee and his charge were gone. But they stared after for several long moments, optics thoughtful. Never knowing that Sam had doubled back and was even now standing outside the medbay.
"How are things really?" Aid asked very softly when he finally looked away from the closed door.
Ratchet let out a whoosh of air. "Physically? As well as can be expected. It's not like I have a baseline to judge by." He shook his head. "Mentally? That's an entirely different manner. Sam really does need to talk to someone. He's been through too much and refused help for too long."
"His parents. Mikaela. She hasn't even been dead a year… and then this?" Aid shuttered his optics.
The older mech was in complete agreement. "From an organic to one of us. And Allspark built? The first since the original thirteen. That alone would be enough to make him extraordinary. Never mind everything else." He turned to his former student.
"Like the fact that he is the first known sparkling in well over a hundred vorns?" First Aid suggested.
"More than that," his boss corrected. "Much more." One hand rested on the berth in front of him.
"How do you think the others will react?" Aid questioned. "Mirage and Hound aren't that far out. They should be here in several orns, and Kup's ship is right behind them."
Ratchet considered. "Like the rest of us, I suppose. Excited. Awed." His hand gripped the berth tight enough to leave finger indents. "Perhaps more so. They didn't see Sam as he was before. Don't know what he's lost."
"They'll only see a youngling. A new youngling." Aid was as disturbed by the thought as the implication itself.
"Maybe. Maybe not. We – the ones of us already here – seemed to have handled it well enough."
First Aid glanced at him, face plates tightening. "But we all know what happened. Saw it happen. And even then, it's not like we can explain it. I'm not certain how well the others could take it. Particularly when they learn that Sam--"
"Don't even say it!" Ratchet cut in, gaze flickering to the door. "Best if we keep that to ourselves. Especially since Sam doesn't know yet. I haven't even told Swoop or Wheeljack. And we're not even sure. There is still a possibility we were wrong." He slowly released his grip on the berth, hand clenching spasmodically.
The younger mech looked at him with an unreadable expression. "Are we ever going to tell Sam?"
"Not until we're certain. Absolutely certain." Ratchet glanced away. "We hardly need everyone to get all worked up if it turns out to be a false positive. Besides, there's always a chance some of them survived."
"We can certainly hope," Aid replied with complete honesty
"That's about all we can do," Ratchet admitted at last. "Just hope for the best."
Even after all this time, Sam was still amazed by the base the Autobots had built in the desert of Nevada. Or rather, under the desert of Nevada. Metal woven together like a tapestry of angles and colors with enough rooms to accommodate their ever expanding population. And all that more impressive for the lack of materials. They'd had to convert or refine most of what the government had given them, but the result was more than worth it. Though how something so large could be considered cozy was beyond him. Yet another baffling thing he'd yet to understand.
The room he shared with First Aid was along similar lines, not extravagant but suiting their needs. At first, Sam hadn't exactly been pleased at the idea of a roommate, especially since he managed to avoid one in college, but the necessity was rather apparent and enforced by Ratchet. It wouldn't do for him to have a sudden meltdown during the night with no one the wiser, after all.
Bee, of course, had immediately volunteered to share. But the head medic himself had vetoed that idea. Putting their two youngest together, one of whom was little more than the Cybertronian equivalent of an infant, might sound fine on the outside. However, Ratchet had only released Sam under the auspices that he be constantly monitored, and Bee wasn't exactly known for his medical expertise or rational thought when it came to his charge. Besides, the Protectobots had an odd mech out anyway, so in Prowl's twisted but oh-so-logical mind, it made perfect sense.
Still, Sam supposed it could be worse. They could have put him in with Red Alert. Or Grimlock. Or Cliffjumper. Or the twins. Or Smokescreen. Or any of the Aerialbots.
At least Aid was quiet. And his stuff didn't have the tendency to randomly explode – Wheeljack. And he didn't talk Sam's nonexistent ears off – Bluestreak. Or have a shrine to himself and about ten thousand bottles of car polish – Tracks. Or mumble nonsense words during recharge – Ironhide and Skyfire. Or stay up all night writing scientific theories on his walls in washable marker – Perceptor. Or have so much crammed into his room that he could hardly fit – Trailbreaker. Or insomnia so bad that he had worn a groove in the floor from pacing – Prowl and Ratchet.
So yeah, it could have been a lot worse. Besides, if Bumblebee had his way, the arrangement would only be temporary. But Sam himself wasn't so certain. He didn't know if he could live fulltime with Bee, not after what he had done. It was bad enough just seeing him every day, having to put on a smile and seem pleased.
But he shook that thought away as he climbed onto his berth, grateful that Wheeljack had made him one proportional to his size. He was offline in seconds, a normal occurrence since his transition and apparently for younglings in general. Unfortunately, his rest was short-lived.
It was always strange to wake up with someone hovering over. Especially when it was pitch black and the only thing visible were a pair of very bright, blue optics. As such, it was no surprise that Sam jolted out of recharge with a yelp. He fumbled for a moment, wincing when his limbs refused to fully cooperate. But at the sound of a chuckle, he paused.
That wasn't First Aid. Despite how often he checked on Sam during recharge, the minibot was still aware enough to know. And this certainly wasn't his usual m.o. He at least turned on a light first.
Sam peered out and took a stab in the dark. "Bee?" The question was soft and sleep-fogged. "Is that you?"
There was the noise of someone stepping back. "Yes, Sam."
"I… I thought you were on patrol," the youngling mumbled as he sat up. "Shouldn't you be on patrol?"
Bee shifted guiltily but didn't answer.
"What're you doing here?" Sam asked instead, swinging around to face his visitor and checking his inner chronometer. "It's the middle of the night." A part of him wondered where his roommate was but figured the medbay was the likely culprit.
His friend was completely unperturbed. "I'm merely checking on you before I make my report, Sam. It's not a crime."
"I didn't say it was." Sam flexed his joints to remove the lingering stiffness. "As you can see, I'm just fine. A bit tired though." He studied Bee in the darkness. Well, as much of him as he could make out. "Was there anything else you wanted?" he prompted and heard Bee move again.
Another minute or two ticked by in silence. Sam still strained to see in the dimness, internally cursing his still all-too-human vision. He could barely make out Bee's outline somewhere between his berth and the exit, but that was about it.
"Well, goodnight then," Sam said at last, having had enough. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Of course." But Bee still didn't move, just watching. "Tomorrow."
Sam twitched under the scrutiny. Though honestly, he should be used to it by now.
"Night," the youngling repeated and bonelessly plopped back on his berth.
Bee thankfully took the hint. "Goodnight." He back away but hesitated by the door. "Everything I do is for your best interest, Sam," he murmured softly. "I hope you remember that."
With that said, he turned and left. Sam stared after him, and he shifted on his berth but couldn't get settled. Simply thinking. Remembering. Spark coiling in a distinctly uncomfortable fashion.
"Sometimes," he said, "I honestly wonder."
But there was no one but himself to hear.
AN: Here's to the start of another TF semi-epic. However, updates are going to be rather irregular. I am a med student, so free time is at a premium. I will write whenever I can, but I make no promises.