Epilogue: Back In Black (and Yellow)

The aftermath of the battle was not so terrible as it might have been.

Humans had died, as they inevitably would have in such a populated place, but it didn't seem the actual death toll was as high as it might have been. Inevitably the people that wrote the news reports Bumblebee had read day in and day out appeared at the outskirts of the city by evening and demanded to report on the disaster. Hundreds of walking wounded were being treated by hundreds of emergency medical personnel, and those who could not walk were being flown out as quickly as the humans were able. The media were calling it a 'second 9/11'. The government of the United States was 'investigating'. Wild stories about giant robots were flying around everywhere, but it seemed that no one had conclusive proof of their existence except for the accounts of dozens of eyewitnesses. The rumors were sped along by the sudden revival of the human satellite and cyber network just hours after the attack on Mission City.

Bumblebee knew all of this by second-hand accounts, since he spent his time trapped in an auto body shop's garage with Ratchet. Ratchet, by any measure, was not very pleasant company at a time like this.

"Slagging Ironhide and his slagging 'plan'," the medic growled, brutally ripping some frayed wiring out of Bumblebee's legs. "He should have called me! Not the slaggin' light mech!"

Not that Bumblebee didn't wish he hadn't had his legs blown off, but Ratchet wasn't outfitted with the sturdiest armor himself (even if he was bigger); the situation where the medic bot was the least injured of them all was still ideal. He started to say as much before the other Autobot snapped, "And don't you say a word! I don't care what the Allspark did or didn't do – your voice is still a glitch and a half!"

He wasn't wrong about that, either. Even though he could finally (blessedly!) speak real words again, Bumblebee suspected that he had best not push it. It was progress, not a fix-all, as his (finally reporting) diagnostics had indicated. (Specifically, they put his operation at 22.23% and falling. At least he knew that much!)

"I just can't wait to open you up and see what you've done to your central systems," Ratchet groused. "I'm sure that's delightful too. Move that piston and I'll throw you back to the Ark," he added when Bumblebee's knee twitched under Ratchet's hands. Bumblebee couldn't help a protesting whine, and he cringed at the caustic look the medic sent his way.

It was uncomfortable, the 'surgery' of cleaning out damaged servos and circuits and coolant lines. The functional self-repair nodes in the region were all disabled to prevent exactly that discomfort, but other nodes, further up Bumblebee's legs and into his hips, still registered every involuntary movement and provoked a negative response. Ratchet swore creatively in Cybertronian. Bumblebee turned on his commlink in desperate hope for a distraction when the medic descended to comparing Bumblebee to Sideswipe; the kind of vocalization-lashing that could engender was far beyond anything Bumblebee believed he deserved to endure.

But both Ironhide and Optimus had offlined their commlinks, probably to avoid Ratchet. Smart move, the Autobot thought. Unfortunately, lacking legs to outrun Ratchet's creatively profane vocals, Bumblebee was first in line for treatment.

Mikaela had said it was 'obvious triage' to repair Bumblebee first, but Cybertronians, being necessarily far different from humans in terms of make, didn't have a triage system quite like that of humans. Of course those who were in danger of losing their spark came first, just as humans placed those most likely to lose their central vital systems first in line for treatment. However, after that, Cybertronian triage turned human triage on its head. Those least grievously injured were the second in line for treatment – the sooner they could go back into their function at one hundred percent performance. The last to be repaired were those in Bumblebee's proverbial shoes: out of commission, but not in danger of spark-extinguishment. The theory went that medics could then devote their time properly to the heavily-damaged, but in reality it was simply practical: the useful came first. The useless came last, or were discarded.

Rumor held it that Decepticons usually extinguished the sparks of their heavily damaged. Bumblebee wondered if and ultimately doubted that was the case, except when swift retreat was called for. Nobody wanted their intel falling into the enemy's hands, after all. (Which reminded Bumblebee of Barricade, and also reminded him to wonder where the Decepticon had disappeared to after the 93 exchange. He made note to ask Ironhide – or Ratchet, when the medic was not inclined to rip the remains of his vocal processors out for trying to speak.)

Triage was why Ratchet had stopped fighting the Decepticons for Jazz, and for Ironhide, but not for Bumblebee.

The only other company in the garage was what Sam had called 'morbid': Jazz's protoform, stretched out on the floor in the two pieces Megatron had rent him into. Being near the shell of his teammate was not so much disturbing as saddening – knowing that protoform would never stand up again, would never crack a joke over the commlink, would never walk Optimus Prime down from a bad mood. Jazz was hardly the first friend Bumblebee had lost in the war, but he was the closest. Soon he would be closer, in a sense; Ratchet had already announced his intention to salvage Jazz's legs to build Bumblebee's new ones. It was the sort of provenance that sobered the scout and upset the humans. Bumblebee had noted their revulsion to the concept with slight detachment, although he was hardly surprised by it: humans buried their dead, or occasionally turned them to ashes, but it was all done with great ceremony. Then again, biological organs rapidly decomposed and compatibility was low or rare. No one would suggest strapping a man's dead legs to a living man's body. It simply wasn't possible for them.

(On the other hand, humans had a disturbing tendency to use the vital organs of a 'brain dead' human to save the lives of other humans. Bumblebee could compare 'brain death' to nothing so much as stasis lock, and no sane Cybertronian would salvage another Cybertronian in stasis. It would be like organ theft.)

But there was a reason that the whole remaining team was keeping to themselves as much as possible, and it wasn't to avoid Ratchet: the Autobots had a lot to mourn. The loss of the Allspark weighed heavily on Bumblebee, as he was sure it weighed on them all. Illusions and optimism aside, it was highly unlikely that the destruction of the Cube would actually end the war: the Allspark had never been the final objective, merely the focus of some of the most intense and vicious battles. It had to be destroyed, because the Allspark in Decepticon hands was absolutely unacceptable, but the driving force behind the fighting had really been …

That was hard to say, actually. Bumblebee's optics dimmed as he took time to consider a question that had simply not come up in his processors: what would happen now that Megatron's spark was extinguished? What kept the Decepticons driven for domination? Of course the fight would not end immediately no matter what, since so few could know of the former Lord High Protector's demise, but what when they all knew? Optimus Prime would have answers, perhaps: answers that would explain why he had (obliquely) granted Bumblebee's request to stay with Sam, when realistically they should leave this planet. But if they all grieved for the Allspark and for Jazz, Optimus grieved for one other fallen Cybertronian: Megatron himself. For the relatively young Autobot the idea was preposterous, but even he knew the histories, that Megatron and Optimus Prime had long ruled Cybertron peacefully together. Surely vorns of vicious opposition couldn't fully outweigh vorns of friendship.

And so he sat there and said nothing, his grip denting the tow truck's flatbed in turns as Ratchet methodically took apart what was left of his lower legs.

He already missed the humans in some ways, perhaps because he was worried about them. Both Sam and Mikaela had been waylaid for medical attention around midafternoon: hard as it might have been to believe, Bumblebee's chronometer informed him the final battle over the Allspark had raged for barely an hour, ending roughly at ten o'clock in the morning local time. The early hour of the battle had helped keep the death toll down. After the two adolescents had consented to medical care, both had been swept up for debriefing by the military with alarming swiftness. No doubt the Sector Seven humans would have words with the children as well. Bumblebee had desperately wanted Optimus Prime to accompany them, but Optimus had seen no reason to go when he could be of more assistance here in the aftermath, and Lennox had assured the disabled scout they would come to no harm. With little choice but to trust him, the Autobot held in his cerebral processors their perfect health back in Hoover Dam: no matter what they had done to Bumblebee, they had not harmed their young.

The whole repair process had been delayed by a lengthy and careful diagnostic of Bumblebee's debuggers. The last Ratchet had heard from Bumblebee before the crisis had been upon them was the scout's personal assessment that he was at risk of viral infection; it was no surprise the medic doubted the Allspark had rebooted him clean. Bumblebee, done with misfortune and muteness for as long as possible, suffered the exam with relative grace.

It was now going on fourteen hours since the battle. Bumblebee knew Ratchet could keep going like this, muttering quietly to himself and scattering in frustrated complaints to his captive audience, for roughly 50 hours straight before having to recharge. Bumblebee, on the other hand, was on the last legs of his capacitors. The Allspark had recharged him after the spark damage incurred, but there was nothing quite like losing massive amounts of electrical discharge from battle, destroyed circuits, and attempts to self-repair to put a Cybertronian to offline.

Bumblebee put a fist to his faceplates and made a coughing noise. Ratchet glared up at him. "I hope you realize your vocal processors are next," he pointed out, jabbing a finger at the scout.

The smaller Autobot shrugged slightly and released a series of sounds like a dial-up modem. I need a recharge cycle STOP.

Ratchet's features softened slightly. "Then offline yourself if you need to."

Bumblebee hesitated slightly. Do you need another diagnostic QUERY?

"If I need one I'll hardline you in—"

"No!" Bumblebee protested, a surge of ridiculous panic and a jolt of neck pain making him jump. Ratchet's brow ridges shot up; the scout hastily backtracked, reverting to morse code. Please don't hardline my systems STOP. Sorry about using my voice STOP.

"Any reason why I should know about?" Ratchet asked in an arch tone.

Bumblebee remained silent for a long moment. It felt silly to admit that he was uncomfortable with anything other than his own central systems having control over his protoform because of the actions of a few humans, even if it was true, and of course he trusted Ratchet, but if he woke up from recharge hardlined … Bumblebee was not certain how, in that brief moment of confusion between offline and online, he would react. It made him want to speak in euphemisms – 'Let's just say …' – a very Jazz-like thing to do, and highly impractical in digital code.

He cycled his vents and answered honestly. The humans hardlined me and hijacked protoform control from my central processors STOP. It was unpleasant STOP.

Ratchet sat back and met Bumblebee's optics for a long moment, his faceplates expressionless. "I suppose it's to be expected," he said after a long moment, cycling his own vents loudly. He didn't specify what was to be expected – Bumblebee's reluctance or the humans' actions. "All right. I've got plenty to work with for now and I can get started on disassembling Jazz's relevant parts. You take ten hours recharge, and if you short yourself you'll hear about it. Got it?"

Bumblebee nodded.

&

He didn't short himself – much. At 9:24:06 the next morning Bumblebee's onlining subroutines kicked in from the external stimuli of recognizable voices near his audio processors. Lying in a prone position across the floor with his head resting on his forearms, he shuttered his optics a few times as he came online and lifted his head.

A heavy metal hand whacked him across the back of his cerebral plating. "What did I tell you about shorting yourself!?"

Bumblebee grabbed the abused plating and clicked irritably, but the sight of two familiar humans quickly distracted him. "Bumblebee!" Sam exclaimed; Mikaela echoed him eagerly. "Ratchet said you wouldn't be awake for like half an hour."

"He wasn't going to be, but it seems he decided to ignore the medic's advice," Ratchet grumbled.

Bumblebee pushed himself up on elbows and gave Ratchet a doubtful look before asking aloud, "What-t-t are you doing heeere?"

"We came to see you, duh," Sam answered. He was in a fresh set of clothes and his skin was no longer coated with dirt and dust. Mikaela, too, looked refreshed. Her clothes were suspiciously similar to those of Sam's.

"I thought Sector Seven was never going to be done asking questions," Mikaela groaned. "The SecDef came too, though, and …" she glanced at Sam. "Basically we're not in any trouble unless we tell anyone about you guys."

"Your government is still going to try to keep us a secret after this disaster of a battle?" Ratchet demanded. "How do they intend to do that? Your 'media' is everywhere out there."

"But they're not in here," Sam pointed out, gesturing around the auto shop. "Until they get clear video of, like, Optimus Prime standing around, there's no real proof. Mass hallucination, or something." He shrugged. "You feeling okay, Bumblebee?" he asked.

"Don't encourage him," the medic snapped. "This little glitch gets a couple of words out and he thinks he's going to be giving dissertations on gestalt minds. His vocal processors are nowhere near full recovery and if he thinks he can keep talking whenever he wants he's going to break them again." This last part was mostly directed at the back of Bumblebee's head, and the scout hunched his shoulders sheepishly. "In any case, he'll be fine." The medic finally came two steps around the prone Autobot so he could deliver the verdict to both the humans and the subject himself: "Virtually everything you managed to get slagged is interchangeable with Jazz, so count yourself lucky. I've collected most of the servos that need replacement or repairs, but unless you managed to fix something in recharge, I'm still dealing with an incomplete diagnostic. Your coolant is backing up, one out of every ten thousand pulses is a misfire, and you've leaked energon. Lucky for you I know what I'm doing."

Sam's eyes had gone wide and unfocused, but Mikaela stepped forward, touching Ratchet's arm. The medic didn't notice immediately – unusual for him, since he had a medic's touch sensors. And what about you? Bumblebee thought archly. Of course, whatever damage the medic had sustained would likely wait on Bumblebee's recovery: out of the team, the scout came closest to knowing anything near the amount Ratchet did about Cybertronian anatomy. He was a former maintenance bot, after all, and in a pinch could function much as a human nurse might.

He made a querying noise in Mikaela's direction, drawing Ratchet's attention down and towards the relatively diminutive human. "What is it?"

"Ah, well – I know a little something about cars—"

"We're hardly like an automobile," Ratchet snapped. "Although we might appear like one at times."

Mikaela drew herself up, scowling. "Okay, I get that. But if you could teach me, maybe I could help."

Ratchet gave Mikaela a long, doubtful look. Bumblebee, shamelessly eager for the company, chirruped his approval. "Your parental units, they are surely worried about you. Have you notified them of your whereabouts?"

Sam and Mikaela exchanged glances. "We, uh, we can't exactly get back up to Tranquility right now," Sam explained, glancing nervously at Bumblebee. "Technically we're still in Sector Seven's custody."

"It's not really your business anyway, is it?" Mikaela asked. "Anyway, I want to do something. Everyone here is doing something and they won't let me leave or do anything."

She actually knew what my distributor cap was STOP. She's small enough to get where you cannot STOP, Bumblebee told Ratchet.

Both of the humans jumped with surprise at the burst of modem-like sound from Bumblebee. "Wha-did he say something?" Sam asked, his eyes wide.

Ratchet eyed Bumblebee distrustfully, but he got to his feet and started to move back to the Autobot's legs. "Find some gloves and come down here," Ratchet growled. "Do exactly as I say, and we'll see what can be done."

Mikaela straightened. She gave Bumblebee a brief smile, squeezed Sam's hand, and started across the garage to do as Ratchet ordered. "…. S-sam-m?" Bumblebee inquired at a near whisper, which unfortunately was not quiet enough to spare him from a gentle bang across his back plating.

Sam shook his head (he had been staring at Mikaela, of course) and met Bumblebee's optics. Once again he seemed to catch the scout's meaning without having to hear a real or complete sentence. "They're making me go to my parents' debriefing," he said mournfully. "It's going to be the most fun conversation of my life." But he offered a brief smile right afterwards. "I, uh, I … the whole thing … it freaked me out – it freaked both of us out," he confessed, indicating Mikaela. "But, uh, me too – I'm glad I decided to, uh, ride with you."

"Me too." Bumblebee's voice clicked into silence and he cringed, but Ratchet was busy explaining something-or-other to Mikaela and not paying attention.

Sam grinned at him. "Guess seeing the doc is just as un-fun for you guys as it is for us."

Bumblebee nodded. A metal hand clamped down on his thigh to cut the residual movement the motion caused. "Bumblebee, lie still."

"I'd better get going. I told the agent guys I'd meet them outside here in like a minute," the boy added. "But – well – I'm expecting you in my driveway sometime, okay? If I don't get to see you again before you come back." He turned to leave.

The Autobot chirruped his answer at Sam's back. Wish you could stay and keep me company, too!

&

Mikaela proved excellent help. Bumblebee was somewhat gratified to see his prediction that Ratchet would love Mikaela held true; he wasn't sure if Mikaela realized, though, given how the medic barked at her to be careful, watch that circuit, don't touch that liquid. His patient explanations for each and every servo and pump gave away his affection. One memorable hour was wiled away by Mikaela's naïve 'what ifs' and Ratchet's increasingly warm reception to the idea of human cybernetic limbs.

Still, the scout was grateful when Ironhide rolled into the garage. Mikaela stopped tinkering with whatever servo she was working on when the weapons specialist unfolded gracefully to protoform. "Ratchet, would you answer your commlink once in a while?"

Bumblebee's commlink had barely stirred since two in the afternoon the previous day, and then only because of a false Decepticon alert. The mech in question had turned out to be a creation of the Cube, and formerly a Mountain Dew vending machine. Although it spoke rudimentary Cybertronian, it was rather like having found a rabid dog: no higher cerebral function and violent to the end. Ironhide and Prime had destroyed it with little trouble but not without disappointment. It had been, according to the last of Optimus' transmission on the matter, a very long time since he had seen a raw creation of the Allspark.

They could hardly help being what they were.

Ratchet didn't even look up at the other Autobot. "Unless it's urgent, I don't see any reason to allow myself to be distracted."

"Hm. You haven't recharged for close to sixty hours. Bumblebee won't be laughing if you hook his rear pistons to his pivot gears because your capacitors were low," Ironhide shot back.

"I think I know when I need to offline myself," Ratchet said tightly.

Ironhide glanced in Mikaela's direction and let out a burst of Cybertronian speech. Bumblebee tried not to cringe. "Not like you to freak out over someone losing their spark." He gestured at Jazz in a vague manner.

Ratchet dropped a laser scalpel on the floor. He met Ironhide's optics, answering in the same language. "Jazz's death was completely preventable. But that aside, this is not about him."

"Then get some slagging rest!" Ironhide snapped.

Mikaela's eyes were darting back and forth between the arguing mechs; not speaking a single word of Cybertronian herself, of course, she couldn't accurately gauge their anger.

Ratchet's jaw shifted his faceplates around, but he did not respond aloud again. Bumblebee was not privy to their argument, doubtless over a private commlink, but it was bound to be as explosive as anything else the two of them argued about. He whistled to Mikaela while the two older Autobots glared at one another.

"Uh … is everything okay?" Mikaela asked, her gaze shooting to Bumblebee. The yellow Autobot nodded and gestured with one arm to the servo in her hands, but Mikaela looked over her shoulder at Jazz's supine protoform; the shell's legs had been disassembled and lay neatly spread out across the back corner of the garage. "You all seem tense. He's … is he mad about …?"

"We aaall are … sad-d," Bumblebee managed. "But-t-t we canno-no-not cry."

Mikaela nodded, swallowing, and looked down at her hands. She nodded again, this time to herself.

Abruptly Ironhide dropped back down into his alt-mode, turned, and squealed out of the garage. Mikaela and Bumblebee both watched him go, and Ratchet cycled his vents. He settled back down to a seated position and resumed his work without a word.

Mikaela and Bumblebee held one another's gazes for a long moment. Then Mikaela turned back to her work and Bumblebee resumed being bored.

"Mikaela," Ratchet said after exactly six minutes of silence, calling the girl's attention. "I need to recharge soon, and I imagine you need sustenance. Ironhide will assist you around the city if you need it."

The young woman bit her lower lip briefly. "Um, yeah. I – that would be great. Thanks."

"No; I thank you for your help today, and yesterday," Ratchet answered. But he didn't look up from where he hunched over the tiny processors he worked on.

&

When Ratchet went offline at 3:08 PM, Ironhide showed up no more than two minutes later to pick up Mikaela. "Is Bumblebee going to be all right here by himself?" she asked as she climbed up into the Autobot's cab.

"Bumblebee will be fine," Ironhide said gruffly. "Prime's on his way, just in case. 'less you just sprouted some double-action grease-pounders or something, it's not like you're gonna do much to protect him from Barricade or the like anyway..." the Autobot's voice faded with his distance as he drove the human away.

And Bumblebee was alone with his thoughts for a short while – just as he had been for years. There wasn't, he reflected, much to be said for being alone. With luck, Bumblebee wouldn't be alone much at all for roughly a vorn, busy guarding Sam Witwicky.

He understood that young humans could gain and lose interest in one another very quickly, but Bumblebee hoped Sam had the good sense to keep his sights on Mikaela. She was intelligent, strong-willed, and brave; the Autobot adored her, as much as he could adore anyone he had known for so short a time.

A familiar Peterbilt truck rumbled into the garage.

Optimus couldn't stand up straight in the building without hunching over; even Ironhide and Ratchet came close to brushing their heads on the ceiling. Still, the leader of the Autobots unfolded into his protoform, crouching next to his smaller teammate. "I am told by Ratchet that you are not to talk," Optimus said gravely by way of greeting.

Bumblebee nodded before resting his chin on his forearms.

"I am also told I am to get my rear chassis in here for maintenance on the double, so you'll have some company tomorrow morning," Optimus added, a smile crossing his faceplates.

Bumblebee chirruped his amusement, but otherwise said nothing. It was difficult to assess his leader's mood. He was genuinely startled when his commlink blinked with a notification: UPLINK REQUESTED. ACCEPT Y/N?

The Autobot immediately accepted, strongly reminded of the first time the Prime had initiated such a request. He blinked up at Optimus gratefully. Thank you, he wrote.

"I have not taken an occasion to speak with you since your capture at the bridge," Optimus answered.

Bumblebee shuttered his optics upon that statement. I … cannot say I was happy with your decision, sir, but I trust your judgment. My own assessment was that there were too many humans to provide assistance? He appended a query to the statement.

"That was my assessment, yes." Optimus gazed down at Bumblebee with an inscrutable expression. "Nonetheless, it was a difficult decision to make. Jazz especially lodged protest."

Bumblebee's faceplates twitched into a grimace at the comment. And yet, it may be my capture saved us all. Would the Autobots have arrived in time to keep the Allspark out of Megatron's slowly thawing claws? Bumblebee still did not know how the Decepticons had learned of the Cube or Megatron's location in the first place. Too many variables lay between that moment and the present, and many of them were unknown: an intelligent guess as to the outcome if the circumstances had been any different was impossible.

"Yes," Optimus said. "And on that matter: I commend you, Bumblebee, for your bravery and initiative, which saved the lives of the humans Sam and Mikaela and brought the Allspark into our hands."

Such formal words were not to be taken lightly. The Cube had erased all evidence of what Bumblebee had endured in Sector Seven from his protoform if not his memory banks, but autonomy recommended itself by allowing the scout to keep that torture to himself. It was not the first time he had endured such a thing, nor would it be the last: he was not the only Autobot to endure things of that nature, either. Time had a way of taking the edge off memories, even if they did not dim for a Cybertronian as they did for a human. Thank you, sir, he said reverently.

"I doubt very much it will be the last time such bravery is asked of you."

It won't be the last time you ask it of any of us, Bumblebee protested. We swore our allegiance to you and your cause of our own free will, and I, for one, continue to give that service freely. He shifted on his chestplates, feeling that perhaps his fervent answer was a little too much like offering comfort that hadn't been asked for. Also, I apologize for, er … my panic at the bridge. His fear had been reflexive, but hardly befitting a soldier.

"Forgiven." Optimus smiled. "You could not hear us."

Bumblebee fell silent. He wished he knew what words of reassurance his team had offered, if there had been any – what orders he might have lost to Frenzy's virus – but he brushed that aside. Optimus, he wrote, what happens now?

The Prime did not answer immediately, his optics dim with inner contemplation. The scout waited nearly two minutes for a reply. "Now, we stay. We defend the humans from Decepticon retaliation." Optimus cycled his vents, a rush of warm air that made Bumblebee flatten his sensors slightly. "That which we have destroyed was the greatest weapon the Decepticons know to wield, but war drives each side to ever greater heights. Do not take your guardianship of Sam Witwicky lightly."

Never, sir, Bumblebee promised. He hesitated. Then the war will not end here.

"I'm afraid nothing will end this war but the end of our race," Optimus admitted.

A heavy thought, but the smaller Autobot could hardly imagine peace with the Decepticons: it seemed unlikely that the Decpticons could then imagine peace with the Autobots. The trust bonds were too long broken.

"I should not burden you with such thoughts."

Bumblebee shook his head. I don't mind, sir.

But Optimus was apparently done sharing his innermost thoughts on the matter. His optics shifted towards Jazz's shell. "When the time comes, we will mourn him properly," the Prime stated. He glanced at Bumblebee. "Use his parts well, friend."

Naturally, Bumblebee agreed, with the barest uplifting of his faceplates in a smile.

&

One week later

Surely it was a most unusual caravan. Led by a sporty yellow-and-black-striped Camaro, a Peterbilt truck with red and blue flames painted across it, A GMC Topkick rolling on overlarge wheels, and a chartreuse-red H2 Hummer topped with fire and rescue lights weaved through the traffic of Tranquility. Behind them followed three smaller GMC SUVs, all sleek, black, and glowing with cleanliness. (By comparison, the more flashy cars leading the way seemed downright dull and scuffed.)

"Why do those rust piles have to follow us again?" Ironhide demanded.

"Look on the bright side," Ratchet broke in. "This is their last act as Sector Seven."

Chauffer duty STOP, Bumblebee snickered. He might have been a tad uncomfortable alone, but surrounded by his teammates the idea of Sector Seven agents escorting the far more powerful (although gentile) extraterrestrial robots was almost funny.

Of course the scout had other reasons to be giddy at the moment. The team made their last turn onto a residential street (all using their turn signals, of course) and Bumblebee surged ahead for a moment, squealing into a hard right to roll up a particular driveway.

Optimus' engine revved with amusement. Ironhide let loose a rush of cycled air. "He got an overhaul. He wants to show off."

"Shut up. I want to see the boy's reaction," Ratchet growled. The three Autobots parked awkwardly behind Camaro and all over the road, blocking oncoming traffic heedlessly.

"BACK IN BLACK! I HIT THE SACK! I BET YOU KNOW I'M GLAD TO BE BACK!" the Camaro's speakers blasted through its open windows.

A familiar human practically hurled his upper body out of his window on the top floor, his eyes wide as he stared at the culprit.

"YES I'M – LET LOOSE! FROM THE NOOSE! THAT KEPT ME HANGING ABOUT!"

"Hey!" Ratchet snapped.

"Bumblebee!" Sam shouted. He disappeared from the window. It took him twelve seconds to get through the back door and on the driveway. The scout didn't let up on the music until Sam had burst through the porch door. "You're – holy crap, you look great," Sam breathed, running his hand over Bumblebee's hood and over the roof.

"Hellooo Sam-m." Bumblebee clicked.

"Haha, yeah, hi, uh, wow," Sam strung together a long series of interjections. "And everyone else, uh – wow." His eyes grew wide. "Is everything okay?"

Seeing as last time the Autobots had all gathered on his lawn they had been under the wire and mid-crisis, it seemed like a valid question. It was Optimus who answered. "Everything is fine, Sam. We simply came to escort a friend."

Sam beamed. "So he's all fixed?"

"As much as he's going to be," Ratchet replied.

"And he can stay with me?" Sam didn't wait for an answer. "What are you guys all going to do?"

"Oh," Ironhide put in, "we'll be around."

"Hiding," Optimus finished, "In plain sight."

&

Over the following months Bumblebee would find out the other uses of cars for adolescents (namely, a nice, secret place to 'make out' in or around). Ironhide, having found a sort of companionship with Captain Lennox, was sent to his home to act as liaison and guardian. Optimus and Ratchet both continued to act autonomously. There were bad days (when Barricade popped up on their collective radar), and there were neutral days (wasted idling in the school parking lot or house driveway). But mostly there were just a lot of good days.

For a while, there was peace.

Fin

Song credits go to AC/DC ('Back in Black').

For a better post-movie fanfiction, read 'Bridges' by Dwimordene here on ff dot net. It's simply amazing. I wanted to cover some new material but that which I felt couldn't be left out was heavily influenced by Dwim's work. There's another story in here, but I think I'll save that for a standalone – the 'Bumblebee meets Sam's parents' story. Or you could just read Dwim's take (also amazing).

This story has been a blast to write. I've never churned out so many words so quickly. Judging from the novel adaptation of the new movie, the sequel might be almost as fun. (Canon note: Bumblebee is still kinda-mostly mute in the new movie.)

Thanks to everyone who reviewed the last chapter: Hellfirefanatic (thank you, hope you enjoyed!), leleana (sorry nothing exciting happened in this chapter), Anita H (I have to thank my friend Moonsheen for the MSDOS code version of the torture scene. It ended up being really chilling, so I'm glad you noticed!), Geekgirl (my pleasure!), Rena1 (that's really high praise. Thank you so very much!), and FinalFantasyNovel (I really wanted to get in that special Bumblebee and Mikaela stuff; I'm glad it came through. Sam is a savior on some levels, but Mikaela is almost even more like a friend. Sorry this last chapter wasn't very exciting – not much you can do with a crippled mech – but I hope you enjoyed it anyway!).

This story is COMPLETE. For those who would like to read my take on the second movie, please go to my profile here on ff dot net and click on the story entitled 'Finding Destiny'. (I know the title is cheesy but I figure that the second movie was cheesy enough for it, plus there was a lot of talk about destiny in it. Ahaha?)

Thank you to everyone who reviewed or reviews this story, and thank you so much for reading!