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

Epilogue: Spectrum

The ceiling in his room looked like the morning sky. Like the time between true dark and dawn when the sun was just coming up but the stars hadn't gone away entirely. Almost like someone had gone out just before sunrise the day before, taken a picture that perfectly captured the beauty, and then transferred it to his ceiling.

It was surprising. It was incredible. It was amazing.

Sam isn't sure how this had happened.

Well, that wasn't entirely true. He could formulate a theory based on Sunstreaker's presence and the conspicuous paint cans that he was in the process of sealing. Really, it didn't take Wheeljack or Percy to figure this one out. But it just didn't make sense. None at all.

For one, Sunstreaker's work was as expensive and exclusive as the mech himself. For another, he was the stereotypical temperamental artist; it was hard to get him to agree to anything without a lot of groveling or judiciously applied incentive.

Neither of which Sam had done. Hence, the complete lack of sense and the enormous degree of confusion.

The youngling was still standing, admittedly gaping up at Sunstreaker and his artwork, when the bot finally noticed him. Sunstreaker cocked his head to the side and followed Sam's line of sight with a smirk on his handsome face. It widened as the minibot continued to stare.

"Like it?" the golden twin questioned, but his tone was too smug. "Of course, you do. Sunrises are your thing." He turned back to inspect his work with a hand on his chin.

"Huh?" was Sam's elegant reply.

It was almost embarrassing how stupefied he was. But maybe Sunstreaker was too busy preening to really notice that part.

"This was what you wanted, wasn't it?" Sunstreaker repeated with a wave. "Prowl said that the two of you watched the sunrise and that he kept seeing you sneak out to watch them."

"I… Yeah," Sam agreed absently and nodded despite himself. "I do like them. They're the best. I just don't… Why?"

The mech flickered his optics in something like a blink. "Why what?"

"Why do this? I don't have anything to give you in return. I never bribed you," Sam commented, shifting his feet as the other bot glanced at him. "I couldn't get any blackmail like Bee did."

"Blackmail?" Sunstreaker asked, and he genuinely seemed surprised before he gave a shake of his head. "Who do you think I am? My brother?" He held up a hand before Sam could answer that, and he gave a frown that wasn't hostile and more annoyed with someone not even there. "All you had to do was ask. Sheesh. I would've done it earlier, but I wasn't sure what you'd like."

Sam felt his faceplates move in disbelief. It was uncharitable of him, but Sunstreaker wasn't exactly charitable either. It was just so… shocking, he supposed. Unexpected.

"I… Thanks," the youngling finally managed. "I mean it. Thanks. You didn't have to do this."

"Sure I did." Sunstreaker was watching him now, but the look was peaceful, almost serene. "I like to paint. You wanted some decoration in here. It's what friends do."

He gave a shrug before inspecting his work again. Tilting his head this way and that. Rubbing a hand over his chin.

"It's not quite dry yet," he decided then. "You should leave the door open; the airflow will help it along."

Sam made a vague sound of agreement but nodded anyway. He'd only stopped on his way down the hall because he'd seen Sunstreaker in there.

"Well, I've got patrol with Tracks in a few breems," the mech announced suddenly. "See you later."

Sunstreaker gave him a firm pat to the back in goodbye, and with that, he was gone. Sam looked after him. Turned to look at his ceiling again for several minutes. And then, just shook his head. He was still shaking his head as he turned away and went down the hall.

The Lennox family was in the rec room when Sam walked in. Most of the humans on base tended to avoid that room except for special occasions, and Sam supposed that this certainly qualified. They were sitting on the table in the center of the room, safely out of stepping range of the various bots that came over to sneak a peek. Annabelle was in her father's lap, while little Robbie rolled around between his parents with his fingers in his mouth, and Ironhide hovered around behind them like an overly large guard dog. Sarah didn't seemed bothered by all the attention directed at the tiny bundle in her arms, and Will just beamed with pride, but Sam saw Hide twitch every time someone approached.

Even Sam got a suspicious look when Will waved him over, but Ironhide let him move in closer than anybody else, all the way to the table's edge. From his vantage point, Sam could see a tuft of brown hair sticking up from beneath a yellow blanket, but it wasn't until Sarah shifted her arms that he could see the baby's face. She was chubby but so delicate looking, so beautiful and tiny, and Sam could only stare as her blue eyes blinked sleepily before slipping closed.

Little Mikaela Lennox. Born barely over a week before. They'd just brought her home from the hospital six days ago, but Sarah had thought it better to show her off before the bots started finding excuses to show up at their house like they had the last time. Her flowers still hadn't recovered fully.

Sam studied the newest addition to their growing family for several minutes, asking Sarah a few questions and watching her smile as she answered, before he finally wandered off for his energon. He didn't really need it, but too many of the bots had diverted their attention away from the baby to focus on Sam, and they'd snitch on him to Ratchet if he didn't get a cube. So the youngling just started on his way over to the dispenser and let out a gust of air in something that was too much like a sigh.

He was stopped halfway there, however, by Blaster motioning him to the table the mech was sharing with his symbiotes and Bluestreak along the far wall. It was out of the way of one holding the Lennoxes but still in perfect position to watch everyone and their brother come by to goggle. It even gave Sam the chance to notice Red Alert stop in with Simmons just as he was climbing into the seat that Eject offered him. Sam watched the Toyota exchange quick word with Will before he and Simmons headed off for parts unknown or probably to go watch the monitors, but he lost them when Blaster interrupted to plop down a cube of energon directly in front of him and fixed him with an edged grin that didn't suite him at all.

Mother hens, the lot of them. Particularly when Blue gave him a smile, door-wings all but flapping behind him, and used his index finger to nudge the energon closer. But it wasn't until Steeljaw and Rewind made moves to offer him a second and third cube that Sam conceded defeat.

The youngling reached for his energon and sipped it with all the good grace he could muster, listening to his tablemates blather on about the latest gossip around the base. It was the usual stuff really. Which mech was seen leaving someone else's room. Who was feuding. Sideswipe's latest prank. Even some about baby Mikaela.

Sam just let the conversation wash over him as he tried to drink down his energon and not actually taste it at the same time. It was a rather difficult thing, but he managed it well enough to finish the cube and defend himself from grinning attempts to give him more. Blue chuckled at him happily, while Blaster just tipped his head and hand in mock salute. The symbiotes laughed among themselves when Sam pulled a face, and Blaster used the opportunity to launch into a story about a recent prank gone wrong he'd witnessed just that morning. Some counterattack of Air Raid, Streetwise, and Powerglide against the twins. He'd just gotten to the part where Blades and Slingshot were dragged into the mess when Sam felt an odd tingling in his chest. The youngling puzzled over that for a few seconds until an odd sense of awareness had him glancing at the door to the rec room.

Bumblebee was standing just inside the doorway, and their optics met like opposite ends of the magnet being drawn together. Bee looked at him; Sam looked at Bee. But then, Bee's attention slid over to Blaster and then to Bluestreak. There, he froze, and Sam actually saw Bee startle in surprise. He couldn't help the way his own gaze cut to Blue then or the subsequent jolt he felt in his spark.

Sure, Blue's face was still holding an easy smile, but his optics were unexpectedly hard. Not quite glaring. But there was something unforgiving to them. Something sharp and cold. Something knowing and very, very displeased.

It was there for just an instant. Barely a flicker of time. Gone so quickly that Sam was almost certain he'd imagined the whole thing were it not for the way Bee abruptly turned around and headed back out the door, and it was long gone by the time Blue came back to the conversation. If Blaster had noticed though, he didn't even miss a beat, and his symbiotes said nothing either. But Sam had seen, and he felt a prickle of guilt creep down his back like icy tendrils. Something equally bad sat hot and heavy on the energon he'd just consumed, and even the conclusion of Blaster's story wasn't enough to ease the queasy feeling inside of him.

Fortunately, it dissipated by the time Sam had to leave for ops. He pushed away from the table with something like an exhale and a few sad noises from Eject and Rewind. The youngling offered them all a smile before heading off, sidestepping Cliffjumper as he exited and heading down the busy main hallway.

Ops was a hive of activity when he arrived. Sideswipe was manning the comm. station with Jazz at the one right next to him. Prowl stood behind them both, looking at something on a datapad. Optimus was off to the side as he spoke in soft tones to Fireflight and Hound. Various other bots were interspersed throughout the room, and as Sam glanced around, he realized that he'd never seen so many in there at one time.

"Hey, guys," Sam greeted and received a veritable chorus in response. "What's going on?"

"Jus' getting' ready for Kup an' his crew. They'll be here soon," Jazz told him with an excited wave to come over. "He's got a lotta bots with him. A lotta friends we haven't seen in a long, long time."

Sam meandered up to stand between Jazz and Sides, squinting at the work station. It was still a confusing mass of buttons, displays, and diagrams, and not even Prowl's lessons had done much to clarify any of it. Luckily though, Jazz seemed to realize his complete befuddlement and pointed to a screen directly in front of him. Sam could only assume that the green and blue colors were a good sign.

"Sweet. Anyone you know?" Sam questioned as Prowl shifted closer to him.

Jazz gave a low chuckle. He was thankfully interrupted by Prowl before he could even respond.

"Indeed. There are several bots among our personal acquaintance and a few I know through reputation only," the police car cut in, giving an odd flutter of his door-wings. "Among them are Grapple and Hoist, two mechs very experienced with construction. They will be overseeing the new base we plan to build."

Sam made an interested noise. "The one on the East coast?"

"Indeed," Prowl replied with a hint of satisfaction. "They will be in charge of that project."

"Pff," Sideswipe interrupted then, and he turned in his chair to fix them both with a grin that was very wide. "Who cares about them? Tell Sam about the femme."

Prowl lifted an optic ridge, but a frown tugged at his metal lips. His head was held high, chin lifted, and his optics were a shade too blue.

"I hardly think Arcee is of much concern to him," the lieutenant stated in a clipped tone. "Besides, I believe she is rather out of your league, and her sparkmates would undoubtedly dislike any attempts on your part."

That only made Sides laugh.

"Awwwwwwww, Prowl. Are you jealous?" he questioned, smile turning pleased. His hand snuck out to rest against the cop car's side, and his fingers gave a subtle stroke. "You know you're the only one for us, and I didn't even mention trying for her. I just thought Sam'd like to know. He's never seen a femme before. It'd be awkward if he stared."

Prowl's door-wings fanned behind him. That more than anything gave away his embarrassment. Still, he didn't push off Sideswipe's hand or even step away from it. He made a noncommittal sound that Sam didn't bother to translate; the youngling honestly wasn't sure he wanted to know. Instead, he turned his attention to getting the conversation back on track.

"So they'll be here soon, right?" he asked the room in general, and yes, he was studiously not looking at either mech in front of him.

Optimus fortunately provided the perfect distraction as he stepped over to stand by Prowl.

"Yes," the boss bot inserted without a glance at either of his subordinates, but it was quite obvious he noticed when Sideswipe finally pulled back. "The other vessel won't be here for a while, however."

Sam felt his optics flicker in surprise. "There's another ship?" He tried to remember if he'd heard them mention it before but was drawing a blank.

"Yep," Jazz piped up from the left. "Arcee won't be 'lone fer long, but it's still far out there. Won't get here fer a couple years at least. Maybe two. Could be three." He made a vague gesture with his hand.

"Really?" the youngling couldn't quite keep the incredulity out of his voice. "But you've been talking with them?"

"Not directly," Optimus answered instead. "Kup relayed their message, but once they land, we'll be out of contact for several months until the second vessel moves closer."

Sam considered that. "Wait, you mentioned… um… Arcee, was it? That she won't be alone? Does that mean there are more femmes onboard?"

"A number of them if I understand correctly. Including their leader," Optimus replied, but there was something odd to his tone. Something that was almost but not quite uneasy.

Sam was still pondering on that as he watched Jazz and Sides exchange a grin. Prowl just stood there, but his weight shifted imperceptibly.

"Leader?" the youngling couldn't help but ask. "Someone you guys know?"

Optimus tilted his head, but his expression was hidden behind his battle mask. Jazz's grin though was a truly devious thing. Far too knowing and more than a bit wicked. His gaze was firmly on his Prime, who was studying the screens over their heads like his life depended on it.

"The lovely Elita," the Pontiac responded. "And Optimus knows her very well."

Sam wasn't the quickest on the uptake, but even he could see where this one was going.

"Ex-girlfriend?" he put in shrewdly.

The plates along Optimus' arms twitched, and beside him, he heard Jazz smother a laugh. Prowl shifted again on his other side, the only indication that he was equally amused. Sideswipe chortled outright but quickly turned back to his work with a lingering smile the only sign that he'd been paying attention at all.

Sam suspected that there was a story there. And judging by their reactions, it was a doozy. Now probably wouldn't be the best time to ask. But he'd get Jazz or Sides on their own later or just ask Blue. Either way, he was sure to find someone willing to share.

Optimus made a sound almost like clearing his throat then.

"I trust your recharge was restful today."

Smooth, Optimus. Real smooth.

But Sam was feeling generous enough to let it slide. Sideswipe though let out a snort, and Jazz at the seat next to him gave a similar noise. Prowl tipped his head in resignation.

Optimus was saved only by the fact that the comm. station chose that instant to beep. Which effectively distracted Sides at least. The red twin turned to the console in front of him and tapped a few buttons, while tilting his head ever so slightly.

"Ratchet's looking for ya, Sam," he announced after a second, Prowl now leaning forward to read over his shoulder.

As a human who'd barely remembered his cell at the best of times, a radio in his head was still daunting. Ignoring his comm. in general also gave him a built in excuse when Bee pinged him and Sam chose not to answer. Not to mention that he could still pretend that he couldn't tell who was messaging him since half the time he really couldn't.

Besides, no one bothered to admonish him for not answering anymore. If he hadn't listened by now, they all figured there was no real point. Or they could just ask Blaster since he knew the trick to hacking someone's line and forcing them to listen. But he'd only done that the one time. They probably thought Sam would learn eventually or just drive them all completely nuts trying to reach him.

Like now for example.

"What does he want?" Sam asked with something like resignation. Ratchet knew that today was his day to be in ops, so it couldn't mean anything good for him to be pinged.

Prowl was the one to reply though. "He… requires your assistance," the lieutenant managed with a vague pause.

The minibot was already suspicious. That only doubled it. Tripled it even as Sideswipe cast a look behind him with an odd expression on his face.

"Ratchet requires or Aid says he requires?" Sam questioned skeptically.

Sides said nothing. Prowl's face was completely blank, but his optics were a tad too bright. That was answer enough.

Sam couldn't decide if he should smile or sigh. There were only so many reasons Ratchet would request him on a day he knew that Sam was with Prowl, and there hadn't been any battles. But Sides was here. Jazz was, too. Sunstreaker didn't usually instigate things on his own. Blades and Slingshot were still going strong, and the other troublemakers were still cowed by their latest pranking debacle.

Hm… Interesting.

"Tell him I'm on my way," Sam said as he turned for the door but not before earning twin grins from Sideswipe and Jazz along with a nod from Optimus.

Sure, he could've sent the message himself. But where was the fun in that?

Prowl flicked a door-wing in response, and Sam gave a wave as he slipped out the door. The journey to Ratchet's domain was short, but he was delayed when he followed a theory and took the shortcut by Wheeljack's lab. Aside from the black smoke that lingered in the corridor, there were several mechs milling through the hallway, some of whom Sam swore had just been in ops but he'd apparently not seen leave. The youngling peaked in the door as he passed by to see Hot Spot and Silverbolt working their way through ash and debris, but there was no sign of an active fire. There was that at least. Still, it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what had happened. Nor to realize the reason for Ratchet's sudden need of him.

Mirage was just leaving the medbay when Sam entered. He offered a soft greeting and trailed a hand over the minibot's shoulder as he walked out the still open door. Sam just smiled at him and made his way over to First Aid as he set out tools and equipment on a tray. Aid's mask was up, but there was something in his demeanor that seemed torn between amusement and annoyance and settled for vague exasperation. It was his usual look when dealing with stupid patients or his brothers when they were being difficult. Only this time, no other Protectobots were in sight.

Jack and Skyfire were sitting on nearby berths, however, both looking sooty and scorched. But Perceptor, who was standing off to the side, seemed to have escaped relatively unharmed aside from the scent of burning plastic that hovered around him. All three were on the receiving end of a tongue lashing that would make any angry mother proud. Though admittedly, Ratchet looked less maternal and more like an avenging angel as he jerked his finger at each of them in turn and hefted his favorite wrench with his other hand.

It was almost comical to see Wheeljack and Percy cower; they were both taller than the medic by several feet. It was funnier still with Skyfire, who was easily twice Ratchet's size and then some. But all three had their proverbial tails tucked beneath their legs as Ratchet simultaneously scolded, inspected, and fixed their injuries. Of course, the first of those three options took the longest, and Ratchet didn't seem anywhere near done by the time that First Aid and Sam had finished packing everything away. All of which was done quietly lest the dragon turn his attention to them.

The three science geeks were tossed out shortly after that with promises of divine retribution if Ratchet saw them for anything short of the Unmaker's return for at least a week. Aid and Sam continued cleaning up, while Ratchet glared around his medbay like it had personally offended him, but he let out a gust of air and actually seemed to relax once everything was put away. First Aid was in the process of updating their files, and Sam was putting the last spanner into place when Ratchet came over to him.

"Good work both of you," the medic said in a much nicer tone than the one he'd used for the last few hours.

Sam glanced up at him. "But I didn't do anything."

"You did plenty," Ratchet assured him. "And you did it well."

He reached forward with the same hand that had all but jabbed Jack in the face, but his fingers were warm on the junction between Sam's neck and shoulder. Warm and gentle even as he gave a squeeze. Sam couldn't help but lean into the touch.

"You should get some rest," Ratchet decided a few minutes later. He gave another squeeze and then released. "We'll undoubtedly have even more to deal with tomorrow. I'll see you then." He took a small step back to rest his hip on the nearest table. "Now shoo."

Ratchet made a motion with his hands that Sam had seen his own parents use time and time again. It should've made his chest hurt from the sheer familiarity, but somehow, it didn't. It only made Sam grin, toss a wave at Aid, and beat a hasty retreat.

The walk back to his room was done in contemplative quiet. Sam greeted the bots and humans he passed along the way, and the door was still open when he arrived. He closed it behind him though and could barely detect the scent of fresh paint as he ambled over to his berth. It was early yet, but he was surprisingly tired for all that it hadn't really been a stressful day. Truly, in the grand scheme of things, he hadn't done much. But it still somehow felt like a lot as he flickered his optics in something like a sleepy blink and lay down.

The ceiling above him was still just as beautiful as before, and Sam marveled at it for a moment. Mikaela in her picture frame nearby smiled at both it and him, and Sam had to agree that it was just as good as the real thing.

He offlined his optics some minutes later when it became difficult to focus. He didn't dwell. He didn't think. He just slept.

He had to be up early after all; he didn't want to disappoint Ratchet or Aid. And he'd promised to have some morning energon with Blaster; he couldn't be late for that either. Not to mention that he had training with Red Alert in the afternoon. Followed by movie night with the twins, Jazz, and Blue. Then up again the next day for lessons with Prowl and maybe some with Optimus. Expanding his scientific horizons with Skyfire and Jack if the lab was repaired by then or helping them clean if it wasn't. And afterwards, learning quatra from Mirage. Followed the next day by more time in the medbay.

Rinse and repeat.

All in all, a busy full schedule. No time for moping. No time for pity or remorse or regrets.

Life, after all, went on. And it was past time for Sam to move on with it.

Even if it killed him.


End of Transmission

Ever Hopeful,