The first freak-out session came a few days later. Who knew a broom closet would be the perfect setting to break down in a psychotic fit?

What survivors there were-- including, to his own amazement, Sam himself-- had been packed up aboard the air craft carrier and were currently en route to Diego Garcia via the Red Sea, making the week long journey back to the Indian island. The Autobots-- the battered, the torn, and the recently resurrected-- had all been granted ample steerage space among the cargo housed below deck. It was the only place large enough for them to move around in. There was always the deck, of course, but after the first night the brass skittishly nibbled their fingernails and requested (ordered) that they remain out of sight and away from the danger of being spotted by the very satellites that had previously afforded the Decepticons all the information they could ever want. Ever pragmatic, the Autobots had agreed.

The human left-overs were boxed into pre-existing quarters after being thoroughly poked and prodded and bandaged. Most were soldiers, and as such had elected to bunk with others of their species. The few civilians sprinkled among them (including a reluctantly rescued Galloway) received the luxury of their own private rooms. Though 'rooms' might have been too generous a term.

Sam could pace five steps from the door to the bed, which occupied the back wall, and three steps across the width. There was a tea cup metal sink and a mirror, but no toilet, and the bed itself could have passed for a slab of concrete. His parents, to his mingled relief and horror, occupied the room directly beside him. He had tried and failed to force up something approaching a laugh when he found out that they would be sharing bunk beds. The quartermaster had given him an odd look, to which he shrugged in a roundabout way and studied the walls. Not his brightest idea. There were no windows; Starscream could attack at any moment and he would never see it coming. Not that it would make much of a difference if he could-- the Autobots' powerful scanners would detect the vicious seeker long before human eyes could pick out a spot on the horizon. But nevertheless, he hated the feeling of being blind to any possible threats lurking around them. It gave him the feeling of being trapped in a metal box, slowly sinking...

Most of the time, he was left to his own devices. His parents smothered him for a day or two; at first they merely held him with a quiet, almost reverent thankfulness that was more unsettling than screaming fits or violent sobs. Although those came, as well, and once they were relatively sure that he was alive and solid enough not to vanish into a puff of air at the slightest jostle they started verbally letting loose with both guns. He humored them in silence, simply drinking them in with his eyes in a way that unnerved them both. They couldn't understand that he would take the shouting and hair pulling and empty (and not-so-empty) threats over silence and flowers and newly carved headstones. But at long last they finally calmed down a little, at least enough to let him sleep the entire night in his own bed without being awakened by a tousled head poking around his door at three am, just to be sure that he hadn't splattered into a pool of human goo while they weren't looking.

While in some ways it was a relief to be rid of the constant attention, the unwavering scrutiny, in other ways he longed for some minor disaster or other to wreak a little chaos. Having too much time alone with his thoughts was a Very Bad Thing. They kept showing him things; Blood. Splattered gray globs of brain. Severed limbs. And things the shrinks never even considered to spout off about; Bumblebee--Ratchet--Optimus--Ironhide--Bumblebee--Bee--Bee--Bee struggling, dying, parts torn away and falling off, crawling, crawling, from the laughing, twisting shadows looming above, electric wails of fear, screaming--

No, the resident shrink they had sent him to never even considered something like that. They didn't know, and he had no plans to tell them, that the whole time he was running across that desert he was less afraid for himself than he was for his powerful (fragile) friends. Especially Bee.

But for being such a large, complexly operated ship, there was distressingly little for a civilian without a college degree to do. And so his waking nightmares began to creep from the cracks in the walls.

The day of the first incident began normally enough. Well, as normal as could reasonably be expected when your temporary home was an air craft carrier and your best friends were thirty foot tall alien robots that had just finished beating the shit out of another group of alien robots to try to stop the sun from being destroyed. So yeah. Normal.

He woke abruptly from yet another turbulent dream, feeling exhausted. That was the way of it now; nights so full of dreams that he scarcely seemed to sleep at all, and not even after spending ten hours unconscious did he feel well rested. He only felt wired. ...He he. Wired.

To his dismay, his watch read 5:13am. Almost too early to venture to the galley for breakfast, yet far too late to roll over and hope for a few more hours of darkness. The numbers glared back at him, alien red, staining his sheets and arms in a bloody glow. Stolid. Implacable. Accusing.

The watch itself was not his, but rather a 'gift' from a worshipfully grateful government scrambling to cover its ass. The clothes crumpled in piles on the floor were not his either, but he would rather wear the starchy, impersonal garments than the rags he had worn when he was dragged from the desert. Once was enough to teach the hazards of keeping groty D-day gear around-- you never knew when a creepy alien artifact was going to tumble out the pockets and totally screw up your day.

Deciding he would rather face being the first one in line for bacon and eggs than another hour or so of staring at the ceiling, Sam rolled out of bed and set off on a hunt for a reasonably non-smelly pair of pants. Brown slacks. Belt. Plain white t-shirt. A bomber style jacket, a throwback to the eighties when apparently looking like a dork had been fashionable.

He paused at the door and retraced his steps to the small desk rammed into one corner of the room. In order to facilitate interactions with the literally hundreds (thousands?) of people needed to staff something the size of an air craft carrier, everyone accompanying them from the Egyptian desert had been presented with a security clearance card. Though it provided no amount of clearance whatsoever, it did prevent him from being tossed over the side on suspicion of being a stoleaway/spy. And it allowed him to get as much food as he wished, no questions asked.

He scooped the credit card-sized badge off the desk and stuffed it down one pocket. No need to advertise that he didn't belong.

Despite it being an ungodly hour of the morning, the halls were far from deserted as he moseyed off to find some food. Some of those he passed recognized him and waved-- he pasted on a smile in return, hoping to ward off those dreaded repetitions of 'are you okay?'. No, he wasn't okay. Okay described the opposite of whatever he was. But of course, he couldn't simply come out and say that. So he smiled and nodded and danced to whatever tune they played for him, praying that the next person to come around the corner would be a complete stranger he could ignore without seeming rude.

He wanted to scream. He wanted to bang on the walls (walls closing in so tight). He wanted to jump up and down and throw a tantrum and pull his hair out and bite his hands until they bled. How could they act so normal? There were things out there that wanted to KILL them, kill them ALL and had nearly done the job TWICE! How could life go on as though nothing had happened when mere days before the entire human race had nearly been wiped out? They nodded like puppets and smiled like dolls and only Sam could see their strings, so many strings pulling them through life and into death, pulling them helplessly into death, and he knew they would keep smiling and nodding even if blood began to pour down their faces because that's the way the puppet master pulled their strings, smiling and nodding--

He blinked. He found himself outside the mess hall, simply standing there contemplating a blank wall. Enticing, mouth watering smells drifted from the doorway, but suddenly he wasn't the least bit hungry. Need— nameless, festering need—began to prickle beneath his skin.

Abruptly he turned away and started down another corridor, not knowing where he was going but knowing he needed to get there. He descended deeper and deeper into the ship, down stairwells and around corners, following the siren song of restless, aching need. Only when he found himself staring down the hallway to the cargo hold did he realize what he had been searching for.

Two guards stood sentry outside the door. In another time, another life, the guns they held at the ready would have seemed impressive, and maybe more than a little intimidating. Now they just seemed pathetic. He had been shot at with guns larger than their whole bodies. Their G.I. Joe replicas just seemed silly in comparison.

Not in the mood for arguing with the pair of grunts (trembling fear that he might start screaming and never stop if he opened his mouth) he flashed his security credit card thingy and continued striding towards the door without pause. Just let them try to stop him. Just let them.

Luckily they seemed to have been forewarned that he might come to visit and let him pass without a fuss.

He didn't know what he expected to find on the other side. A bunch of robots lazying around, sitting on crates and gossiping in that dial-tone language of theirs? A giant alien robot orgy? (A slightly hysterical giggle).

Instead he discovered a scene reminiscent of the infamous Trashing Of The Backyard night; a veritable truck stop. He hesitated in the doorway, wondering if he was interrupting their recharge cycle or something. Did robots dream of electric sheep?

Of course it had been stupid to think they might be waiting for him. They had just emerged from the figurative pit of hell and deserved a few days to sleep it off without being bothered, not to mention the fact they had no way of knowing that he was coming at that exact moment to see them, to assure himself that they were, in fact, all in one piece. Just glimpsing the familiar, if a bit worn and dirty, shapes eased the coiling monster in his chest that had tried to choke him on the entire walk (sprint) down to the cargo hold.

He didn't want to leave. He wanted to continue to bask in their calm presence, even if they were not aware of him. It had been so close, so close. A miracle, really, that they weren't hauling at least one giant hunk of scrap metal. His eyes were drawn to the imposing presence of Optimus Prime who managed, even when in truck form, to radiate an aura of power and authority (and kindness, sadness...). He winced at the visible damage to the exoskeleton, sending up another thankful prayer for the shining moment when the alien leader had coughed back to life on the desert floor, resurrecting hope and light with him. He would still have to live with being a murderer, but somehow the knowledge of his crimes hurt less now.

Natural shyness had him withdrawing into the doorway. They were his friends, yes, but they were also nearly immortal aliens with unimaginable power and intelligence. They could smash through buildings like they were cardboard boxes and pull up hundred-year-old oak trees to use as clubs. Their day dreams could probably put Einstein to shame. Heck, even Bumblebee, the youngest of the group, made the pyramids seem like shiny new toys!

They certainly didn't need a twitchy, all-around-average human breathing down their necks.

He turned to go.


The familiar, gentle voice stopped him in his tracks. He turned slowly to face the heavily scratched Camaro.

"Hey, Bee," he answered softly.