Author's Note (Eowyn77): This is the first in a series of stories about various humans meeting the Autobots for the first time. They will mostly be companion fics fleshing out some of what's going on in Bumblebee's blog. Hope you enjoy!f
I sat in the rocking chair, mindlessly humming to Annabelle. She'd drifted off more or less, but I wanted to give her another couple of minutes to get into a good, deep sleep before I put her down for the night.
It should have been Will rocking her to sleep, but she still was wary of him sometimes, even though he'd been home for a month now. I sighed, trying to wrap up this gut-twisting fear and pack it away until after Will left. He was being deployed tonight – his ride would arrive in a little more than an hour – and this time he couldn't even tell me where he was going. Classified. Everything was classified these days. Ever since Soccent was destroyed.
When I was reasonably sure I wouldn't break down crying in front of my soldier, I put Annabelle in her crib and went downstairs. He was in the kitchen, a bowl of limes from the tree in the back yard beside him. He was already dressed for duty, but he had his sleeves rolled up and was just finishing making a second glass of limeade. It was my favorite.
Will looked up, a heartbreakingly tender smile on his face, and he held out a glass for me. "Come on, sweetheart. Let's drink these on the back porch."
It was harder than it should have been to curl up beside him on the porch swing and fake a smile. We'd been separated by his various assignments many times in our marriage. In fact, the last month had been the longest time when he'd been home every single night. I would have guessed he had earned some sort of desk job, except his uniforms smelled like diesel and machine oil. Whatever his top-secret project was, I'd known for a while now that it wasn't some safe, state-side promotion. This deployment – for an unknown period of time – just confirmed my fears.
I was nestled up against his side, the two of us rocking together in the deep peace of the quiet night.
"Talk to me, Sarah."
"About what?" I answered, my pleasant tone deceptively light.
"I can tell you're trying to be brave, but you don't need to be. Not tonight. Tell me what you're thinking."
I hesitated, rattling the ice around in my limeade. "We thought you were dead for days. Those words just pounded in my brain over and over. No survivors."
"Bad intel," he said, and I could hear the slight smile in his voice.
"A lot of women didn't get the happy ending I did."
"Yes, but those men weren't me."
I sat up straighter to look him in the eyes. "You could have been one of the casualties so easily, Will. You almost were. And this deployment is going to be even more dangerous."
"No, it won't be." He pulled me against his side again, his hand soothingly stroking my arm. "I've told you a dozen times. There will never be another Soccent, Sarah."
"What about Mission City?" I said softly. "Will there be another one?"
He fell silent. I'd never brought up that terrorist attack because I wasn't sure he'd been there. I had hoped they wouldn't have sent him into something like that after what he'd been through in Qatar. But his silence told me what I'd most feared – that he was in the thick of things when it came to this mysterious weapon.
"I survived that, too," he finally said.
"For two days, you were dead. You wanted to know what I'm thinking, and I'm thinking that I couldn't last another twenty minutes, much less twenty years, feeling like that. I know there are no guarantees in life, not even for civilian families, but it's never going to be the same when they send you out again. And it's worse in other ways, too. I don't know where you're going or what you'll be doing or when to even expect you back. And no video-calls, either. It'll be almost like this last month was a dream and no survivors is the reality." It had felt that way when he first started working at the base again after his two-week vacation. It wasn't until he'd endured a week of hourly text messages from me that I was really convinced he was going to live long enough to come home when he said he would.
"You don't want me to go."
That finally cracked me, and the tears welled up in my eyes. He'd said that the first time he had to leave me; it was during our engagement. I'd lied through my teeth that day, telling him that he needed to go and that I was proud of him and that I'd be strong enough to survive for the short time he was gone. I couldn't find it in me to lie again.
Will kissed the top of my head. "That's what I thought."
"I'm sorry." I managed to keep from sobbing. Only the quiet tears streaming down my cheeks gave me away.
Tires crunched in the gravel as his ride pulled up. Were they early, or had we really been out here so long?
I shifted to stand up, but Will held me firmly by his side. "Don't be sorry, Sarah. I asked. You answered. But I didn't ask so I could twist a knife in your heart."
A little sob broke through, but I choked it down. Later. When he was gone and my tears wouldn't be making him choose between me and his duty.
"I asked because…well, I know things that are dangerous in the wrong hands, but to you they would be a comfort, I think. But I needed to know how you truly felt because I didn't want to put you in even the slightest risk if there wasn't a need."
I sat up to look at him again, wiping away my tears. "Your top-secret job."
He solemnly nodded. "It took calling in a few favors, and my friends calling in a few favors, but we got you cleared for a few details about my assignment. Do you want to hear what I'm allowed to tell you? Some of it might seem…intimidating at first, but I promise you'll have nothing to fear."
"Yes," I blurted out without thinking. The curiosity – morbid curiosity – had been eating at me for weeks now, and I was sure that whatever was going on couldn't be as bad as my imagination.
He took a deep breath and then stood, pulling me to his side. Together we walked to the top step of the deck. "Okay," he said to the night.
The vehicle I'd heard in the drive pulled around into the back yard. I watched it warily.
"Remember, you don't need to be afraid, sweetheart. This is my friend, Ironhide."
I jumped when the hood split down the middle. I could hear the whirring and clicking of gears as the truck twisted and stretched, rising taller…and taller. I jumped again when two blue lights flipped into view. Even though they could have been anything, I knew they were eyes.
The last pieces fell into place. It was a robot of some kind.
"Ironhide," Will said, "this is my wife, Sarah."
"You have taken Will's designation?" the thing asked in a surprisingly human voice. Not nasally robot sounds like those old B movies, and not choppy like voice simulators. It wasn't even one of the overly-polite computer voices from sci-fi shows. This was the deep voice of a man ordering beer to go with his pizza.
I looked up to Will feeling stunned and confused – in shock still. "Yes," he answered the robot for me. "She's taken my last name."
"Sarah Lennox," the thing named Ironhide continued. "It is an honor to meet the bonded mate of one of Earth's heroes."
"Thank you," I managed to mumble, still mentally tripping over the odd wording and the phrase 'Earth's heroes.'
"Ironhide and I will be partners in the upcoming mission."
That got my attention. I looked urgently from Will to the machine and back. "It's going with you?" I wasn't sure if I should be more afraid for Will or the enemy.
"He, Sarah. He is going with me."
"But…why? What does he…?"
"Will and I fight on the same side," the robot called Ironhide answered. He…well if he were human it would look vaguely like he was flexing his arms, and two glowing tubes flipped up on his forearms. They were obviously weapons of some kind. I suddenly understood what Will had meant about intimidating. "I am the weapons specialist for my half of the strike team."
"Sarah." Will physically turned my torso so I would look him in the eyes. I couldn't seem to think straight if I was looking at the robot. "Ironhide is an Autobot, an autonomous robot."
"You're on the development team," I guessed.
Ironhide harrumphed. "You honestly think your government could come up with something as advanced as me? You can't even build proper solar panels."
"He's an alien," Will continued. "He's a robot, but he's sentient, thinking and feeling. There are others like him. Some, like the one that attacked Soccent, have no respect for life – not even the life of their fellow aliens."
"Decepticons." The robot spat the word.
Will ignored him. "Others, like Ironhide and a few others, have a deep and abiding respect for all sentient life. Those are the Autobots."
"But…" My gaze ping-ponged between Will and Ironhide again. "But you said you fight."
"My race is long-lived," Ironhide said, "but death finds us, too. I kill those who, in hate, would kill others. I protect the innocent."
"Protect them from the Decepticons?" I said, trying to keep up.
I looked up at my husband again. "Why do you have to go if there are these…good robots…"
"Autobots," Ironhide corrected.
"Autobots to fight the Decepticons?"
"Because this is our country, Sarah. Our planet. We have as much duty to lay our lives on the line for our fellow human beings as the Autobots do, even if it didn't begin as our war."
"So you are risking your life to help him with his war, right?"
"The Decepticons attacked our base unprovoked. That makes it my war."
That might matter to him, but not so much for me. I wasn't having my husband with his puny body armor take to the front lines in a battle of these metal nightmares. "What good could it possibly do to risk your life trying to fight something like that?" I argued, gesturing toward the…the Autobot. "I mean, what could you possibly do?"
"That's classified," Will said at the same time that Ironhide exclaimed, "Are you kidding? In Mission City, you humans pretty much single-handedly took down the Decepticon who destroyed Soccent. Will here personally skidded underneath the thing and blew his aft off, if you'll pardon the language."
My jaw fell open, because I had a pretty good idea what the Autobot meant. "You got that close?" I demanded through gritted teeth.
"Thanks, 'Hide," Will sarcastically muttered. Then he rested his hands on the tops of my arms, squeezing just a little to keep my attention. "It won't ever be that close again. We went into Mission City outnumbered five to six. Only two of theirs survived. This deployment will be a hunt and destroy, not a battle. And like I said, Ironhide will have my six."
He heard the edge in my voice and quietly nodded.
I drew myself up to my full height and my chin jutted out as I turned on the Autobot. If this was his war, he better be serious about taking care of the people he was dragging into it. "Then listen here, Ironhide, and you listen well. If you let anything happen to my husband I will personally rip out your sparkplugs, shove a live round up your aft and scrap whatever's left. Got it?"
Now he was the one speechless, staring at me like I'd lost my mind.
I blushed but steadily held his gaze. I was 99.9% sure I wouldn't be able to do any of those things, but I was a mom and an Army wife, dammit, and this monster had better believe that, when I said something, I meant it. Especially if it was related to bringing Will home alive. "You understand?"
A slow smile spread over his face and he nodded. "Perfectly." Then he grinned at my husband. "Lennox, you've got yourself a real femme. No wonder you walked through Qatar and the Pit to come home to her." He leaned closer, and though his face was nothing but metal and those odd blue eyes, his expression was conspiratorial. "And I'll make you a promise in return, Sarah Lennox. If your mate ever comes home in anything other than one living, breathing piece, I'll want you to do all that and more. Slowly and painfully. But when I bring Major Lennox home to you safe and sound," he declared, straightening, "you'll owe me a wash and wax." Then he folded back up into a pickup truck. His return to the mundane shape was as shocking as his robot form.
"Deal," I softly agreed, unsure if he could hear me or not.
Will tugged on my hand, leading me inside to the kitchen where his duffle was waiting. "Better?"
I drew a shaky breath. "Not sure."
"I'd be fighting Decepticons regardless. We just have much better odds of winning with 'bots like Ironhide at our side. Does that help?"
I half-laughed. "Maybe a little."
Swinging the duffle over his shoulder, he hugged me tight and kissed my forehead. "I'll come home to you. Always."
As Will let me go, I asked, "What did he mean by 'bonded mate'? Anybody else and I would have assumed it was something kinky."
He chuckled. "Apparently, two Autobots can link to form a single 'bot, combining the strengths of both. They're still individuals, but it's a pretty…intense relationship. I didn't know about all that until recently, though. Anyway, when I first went to the Autobots for help in getting you security clearance, they asked why you needed it, since most military wives don't. I told them you were a part of me and that it was killing me to see you hurting like this. They asked which part."
Now I was grinning, too. "What did you tell them?"
His eyes sparkled. "The heart. They backed me 100% on getting you clearance after that."
"Aww." I pulled him into one last, tight hug. "Who knew GI Joe could be so sentimental."
One last, quick kiss. "It'll be our little secret."
"Now get out of here," I said, letting him go and walking him to the back door. "And I meant it, Ironhide. You better bring him home to me."