Title: Backtalk

Ironhide snarled as he was cut off by a tiny car going 10mph over the speed limit. His driver, Sarah Lennox, reacted by slowing down another 5 mph. Ironhide grumped to himself, cursing the circumstances that had made Ratchet reformat his alt-mode into a mini-van.

"Ok, so at 9 we have to drop Annie off at ballet, Peter Gage off at his baseball practice, Trevor Church off at wrestling camp, and pick up Becky Paige from her nana's. At 10 we drop Becky off at swimming, take Will's uniforms to the dry cleaners and swing over to the other end of town to get little Vicky Drummond. At 10:30 Vicky has to be at the dentist's office, then we pick up Trevor, Peter, and Becky at 11:30, and go get Annie for 12. Then it's time for lunch, and it has to be someplace with ice cream, since Vicky won't be able to eat much, but it can't be a place with clowns because Peter is terrified of them. After lunch, it's back to the dry cleaners, drop Vicky at her aunt's place, take Becky back to her nana's, and Peter and Trevor to the Williams' place for a sleep over. Then we need to do the grocery shopping, and with Annie, that will take at least 2 hours. We also have to take the groceries home and pick up the propane tank for a refill, since the barbeque will probably be used a lot tonight, and we don't want to carry the propane tank around any longer then we have to."

"....why not?"

"Imagine a 2-foot tall frag grenade going off in your back end if it gets too hot. That's why."


"THEN we have a little bit of time to relax, maybe half an hour or so, before it's time to go get the beer and a few bottles of wine from the liquor store, and since I know there's a few people coming tonight who don't really care for beer, I'll even pick up some wine coolers. Then I'll need extra ice, so we'll have to get a few bags of that from the gas station, and we have to take that back to the house before it melts. Annie will need something to eat too, and since I'll be making the hamburger patties for the dinner, I won't have time to make something for her; I'll have to pick something up at a drive through. At 4 we have to be back in town to take Vicky home again, pick up a couple of movies for the kids, and head back to start cooking."

Sarah let out a sigh as Ironhide grumbled and revved his engine at a granny on a scooter who had delusions of being a biker babe and was weaving all over the road. While he concentrated on trying to pull past her, he only half paid attention to a CD being pulled out of the case and slipped into his player, until...

"Ack! No! No way, there is no way in the Pit we are listening to this-"

"Ironhide! Words!" Sarah frowned at the steering wheel as Annie clapped and hummed along to her favorite Lambchop CD, thankfully ignoring the Cybertronion curse. "If you didn't want to listen to the CD, you could have been a good little bot," Ironhide's engine nearly choked, "and you could have followed the rules, and you would not be here right now, right?"

Sarah glanced up at the rearview mirror to see the two young boys either singing along with Annie or staring out the window. She addressed her next words to the Autobot decal in the center of the steering wheel, which she gripped a little harder then she really had to.

"This is all your own fault, you know. You could be sitting around at the house resting, or in the back pasture shooting at the ground squirrels right now, or even have driven out to your base to get away from the crowd that will be at the house tonight. You could have done any of those things - if you had just followed the rules! We have rules for a reason, Ironhide!" Grumble, grumble. "And don't you mutter at me, mister! I wasn't the one who decided to shoot at the nice big ornamental boulder that happened to be 50 feet from the house, while you were facing the house."

Sarah snarled as she remembered the panic and terror-filled moments of the week before that had landed Ironhide in today's situation. Thankfully Will had been on-base at the time, undergoing some new, very intense training. She had somehow managed to arrange things so that he hadn't found out; both Ratchet and Prime were very helpful there, arranging for Ironhide to 'assist' in her 'home redecorating'. She had been lucky that she had been in the kitchen on that day, bent down putting the pots away when thousands of razor sharp rock shards had come flying through every window and even some of the walls that faced the back yard. She was also lucky that Annie had been playing out in the front yard on her tricycle. Sarah was the lucky one, because otherwise, she would have had the task of finding a way to take apart a thirty-foot tall mech with her bare hands. If Annie had been hurt, she would have done it, too.

"You're just ticked that Optimus had Ratchet remove your cannons for a week and made you help with the house repairs. 'I'm a warrior, not some low-level dirt-mover', I think you said? You know, I don't think I've ever seen you move faster than when Ratchet offered to 'fix' that little problem for you."

Ironhide shuddered slightly at the memory of the fury in the medic's optics when he had made the comment.

"Oh, and then we come to your ever-so-wonderful new shape, too!" Ironhide started cursing quietly in Cybertronian, only to stop short at a slap on his steering wheel. "Watch the language mister - I know what that means, you know!" Ironhide settled for developing a rattle under the dash that threatened to drown out the CD player.

Sarah snickered as she contemplated the grimy, crumb-and-toy littered interior of the Lennox family minivan, bought second-hand for Sarah so she could use it to get the groceries and take the kids to the mall. "You know, this is pretty darn accurate to the real thing - except for the hundreds of holes in the walls, tires and gas tanks of my beat-up old clunker that you put there. Usually it wouldn't be too much of a problem; sure, I'd have yelled and thrown a few rocks back at you, but as long as you guys had gotten it fixed, it wouldn't have been that big a deal. But to do this right before it's my weekend to take the kids...? Not a great idea there, Ironhide."

Checking traffic, Sarah pulled into the ballet school's parking lot to look for a parking spot as Ironhide finally stopped the rattling long enough to answer her.

"I still don't see why you have to pick up all these younglings every month just to ferry them around. I thought your 'weekends' were supposed to be times for you to relax. I especially don't see the reason for you to force me into this kind of servitude! I did apologize, after all."

Sarah sighed and rested her forehead against the steering wheel for a moment before gritting her teeth. "Yes, you did, and very sincerely, too. However," she took a deep breath, "simply saying you're sorry does not explain to Will why my house and van are both shot to pieces when there has been no Decepticon activity in a month, and even when there was, it was nowhere near our home! So unless you want to be the one to tell Will how we got the new window in our bedroom," Ironhide shuddered slightly, "you might as well replace the minivan for a weekend. It's only fair, Ironhide."

Sarah opened the door and got out to help Annie undo her seatbelt, then walked her to the door of the ballet school. Once she was inside, Sarah returned.

"Besides, you know that since we live so far out of town, the local moms got together and made a weekly rotation for taking care of the kids on the weekend - that way, we all get a few days off in a month. It's just my luck that Will wanted to throw a barbeque on my day to do the kid-watching." Sarah sighed again, then stiffened at the silence. She turned around -

-and looked right into the eyes of the two little boys in the back seat who had clearly been listening to the entire conversation. Both sides of it.

"Hey guys, ready to go? Um, sorry about that, was just talking to a, uh, friend on speakerphone. You know, got it hooked up to the dash and everything, so safer driving, right?" She smiled weakly at the boys, then let out a sigh of relief as they started clapping to the music that suddenly began playing.

"Nice save, Ironhide. Let's just hope they don't remember too much of that."



Later that evening, as Sarah was taking trays of snacks to the little kids before taking bottles of beer to the big ones, she paused ouside the door to the tv room at the conversation taking place inside.

"-yeah, and then she was totally yelling at him, 'cause he somehow broke the van, 'cept we were in the van, so I don't know how that works, unless it was a magic van.."

"Oh yeah, yeah! And she kept talkin' about throwing rocks and stuff, and how she was gonna punch a hole in a wall, and... wow, Annie, your mom is so cool! My mom never lets me throw rocks or punch stuff, and your mom really does it!"

Sarah stepped inside and called out, "Snacks are here! Anyone want some more juice?" She was relieved at how quickly the trays were mobbed and the topic of her 'magic van' seemed to have been forgotten.


"Oh, Sarah! Could I talk to you for a minute?" Julia, one of the local moms, waved her hand to get Sarah's attention, then smiled as she sat down next to her on the bench. "So I hear that you've got some fancy new technology in that van of yours - a new talking GPS system? One of those would be so handy in our little car, my husband can get lost going from our house to the end of our driveway! So, what I wanted to ask was..."


Late that night, when everyone had gone home, Sarah was tidying up the last dishes in the kitchen when she spied Ironhide grumbling and rocking on his tires in the back yard. She grinned, and decided that he did deserve to get the 'good news' tonight after all. Making her way out the back door, Sarah walked up to the faded tan minivan and patted the hood.

"Hey Ironhide."

"Hhn. What?"

"Oh, just wanted to say goodnight... and pass on a bit of good news." Sarah's smile was too cheerful, Ironhide decided, for the news to truely be 'good'.

"Unless it's a message from Ratchet telling me when he's giving me back my regular alt form, I don't want to hear it." Ironhide grumped and ground a little rock under one tire.

"Are you sure? I happen to think it's good news, are you certain you don't want to hear it?" Ironhide was now certain that the news was definitely not good. He sighed and would have rolled his optics if he'd been in root mode.

"Fine. Tell me."

"Well, maybe you don't want to hear it after all, I mean, you don't sound too happy about it, so I guess it can wait until morning." Sarah walked back to the house, only to pause at the door when Ironhide revved his engine at her.

"Just tell me, femme."

"Well, alright then. I just wanted to let you know that Julia Gage, the mom who was supposed to take next week's rotation, is going to be out of town. And, since the kids can't stop talking about my 'magic van' that talks back, she's asked if I would take her slot next weekend, and she would cover my next shift." Ironhide started to shake with frustration as he realized just what this meant. "Of course, I already asked Prime and Ratchet if that would be okay with them, and said it was, so... Anyways, goodnight, Ironhide!"

Sarah went in and shut the door, giggling, then peeked out the window as she heard Ironhide's engine redline. She watched in amazement as the battered minivan went careening over the rough ground of the back yard, rocks and dirt flying as he headed for the remotest part of the property. A few minutes later, she grinned as she heard the roar of outrage, muted by distance, but still quite recognizable as Cybertronian in origin.

"What are you grinning about?" Will asked sleepily as she slid into bed next to him.

"Oh, nothing much. Have a good sleep, love." Remember Ironhide, she thought with a smile, you never, ever, backtalk a mom. They can make your life miserable in ways you haven't even dreamed of.