A/N: I live! Apologies for being away for so long. Life has a funny way of interjecting itself when you least expect it. Thank you again to everyone that sticks with this story and enjoys watching how the mystery unfolds. It has been a joy to write and I'm glad that others find it enjoyable to read as well.
Many thanks to my two betas: Razorgaze and Hummergrey. I couldn't do this without your help and honesty when I need it. Please read their stories. I have the links in my profile page. They are fantastic!
Disclaimer: I own nothing but any OC I put in there. I am not making any money from this. Please don't sue.
She couldn't remember all of their names. There were just too many faces in that crowd that had changed, too many new people to mix in with the old specters that haunted her sleep and her memories almost as much as her grandmother. Mikaela remembered Mrs. Hutchenson, the head cook, or more to the point the heavy wooden spoon that used to smack her fingers when she'd try to sneak a snack as a child. She had always been hungry, she recalled, due to Grandmother Lorilai's instructions that a lady of quality should always eat lightly. Just like a lady of quality should always leave something behind on her plate. And a lady of quality should finish or abandon her meal in perfect harmony with their host or hostess.
Which translated, at least in the Banes home, to eating in tandem with her Grandmother. And Grandmother Lorilai always ate like a bird.
Instructions had been given to the wait-staff that, due to Mikaela being 'unfashionably tall' that she would have to compensate by being lithe and very slender in order to attract a proper husband. So no cookies or sweets could be handed to her like all the other children of the servants. No sodas or candies or even a snack of nuts or fruit. Nothing for the tall and ugly child that had to be turned into a princess somehow, someway.
That face peered back at her from the crowd of servants, peering at her with shrewd eyes that the passage of time had done little to soften. It was her name that had faded, at least in Mikaela's mind, until the butler had reminded her of it. But Mrs. Tavers's name was clear and sharp in her brain, bringing with it the tingling flash of pain at how those bony fingers could grip her arm with unrelenting strength, dragging the child Mikaela towards that hateful bucket of too-hot water and ghastly-smelling cleaning rags. Her fingertips and knees stung as her vision filled with the memory of scrubbing floors as punishment for something she did wrong but couldn't remember doing.
Others were there, too, though thankfully not as many as there could have been. It seems as though much of the monsters that had plagued her childhood at either moved on… or preceded Lorilai Banes to the grave.
"Madam," the butler said again, a questioning look in his eyes. "Are you sure you are feeling well? If you do not mind me saying, you look pale. Perhaps you need to rest…"
"I need Sam," she heard herself mumbling, her lips stiff with fighting the need to let loose the sobs in her heart. "I need 'Bee."
The questioning look vanished, replaced by something akin to joy that at least he had an answer for her. "Master Samuel and Master … um… 'Bee' as he called himself, are awaiting your pleasure in the Tudor Morning room. They have been here for the past ten minutes."
She was running before she knew what she was doing, Wheelie held so tightly to her chest that she barely heard the little squeak of protest. It couldn't' be helped, not in her panic, not in her mad dash throughout the house. Shouts ranging from alarm to outright contempt at her 'hysteric antics' followed in her wake as she plowed her way through the throng of gathered people, shouts that barely registered in her thoughts. Her pulse pounded thickly in her ears, the rushing of her blood in her veins sounding like rapids.
Pure panic had set in, the dam of her emotions shattered by the though that Sam and 'Bee were there. Sam and 'Bee had beenthere for over ten minutes while she had wallowed in her misery. They could save her. They could help her make this nightmare go away. They could take her to her real home, to Diego Garcia with the Autobots, where her enemies had solid forms that bullets could hurt.
Where her enemies were not the ghosts of her lonely past.
It was unnerving to say the least.
Heavy brocade draperies, their finely woven gold threads glimmering like jewels in the muted light from the Tiffany lamps, covered what had to be more window that a building had a right to own. The entire length of one wall of the room rectangular room was covered over with the wine-and-gold curtains, the fabric so thick and heavy that it required mammoth-sized ornately carved rods to hold them in place. An even those were heavily gilded with the precious metal. Sam couldn't help but realize that the gold on those rods was age darkened to a dignified glimmer instead of a high-polished shine. He also couldn't help but realize that one of those curtain rods could probably have paid for his entire college education. And that was just the curtain rods in the room.
That didn't count the Tiffany lamps, the Tiffany clock on the mantle of the fireplace, nor the Queen Anne antique chairs the seriously looked old enough for Her Highness, Herself, to have sat in them.
"I don't think anything from a department store has ever graced an inch of this place," Sam murmured, glancing around again.
"I don't think anything from this century has ever graced an inch of this place," Bee replied, shaking his head.
Sam's head whipped around, staring at the young man who was in turn staring at one of the many paintings on the wall. The wall that wasn't covered in drapes, that was. It was still a shock to hear Bee's voice, though; the English accented-flavored words flowed so effortlessly from those holographic lips.
Bee's chosen form was that of a youth around the same age as Sam, himself. Though with light blond hair kissed here and there with streaks of sun-bleached white. Bee's skin was a golden tan that would make most models glare in envy, his build that of a pro-surfer, all rangy high and whip-like muscles. He'd chosen a simple pair of kaki paints and a short-sleeved button-down shirt, though, both loose enough on his frame to be polite and yet the untucked shirt lent casualness to the look. Simple loafers completed his human guise.
It was the eyes that gave him away, though. Eyes too blue to be natural. That was a pitfall of the holographic program, and the singular reason why the Autobots did not use it unless in extreme emergencies. Those eyes stood out more than a driver-less car heading down the street, believe it or not. As Ratchet had explained it, most people will gloss over the car. Most people will not gloss over the eyes. It was one of the main attractive aspects of a human, one of the first items noticed. Until Wheeljack managed to fix that flaw in the projectors, they would maintain their alt modes in public.
Sam had to agree about the eyes, however. Though Mikaela's body had caught is attention, it was her eyes that had hooked him. He sighed, restraining the need to get up and search this eerie house room by freaking room until he found her.
"You'll do more harm than good if you don't calm down," Bee said into the silence, turning to stare at another painting. "You're too tense and we don't want to put these people on edge."
"You'll do more harm than good if you don't put those sunglasses back on," he snapped irritably. "And I have a right to be tense. You heard the conversation Wheelie sent us."
Bee nodded. "I want to get her out of here as well. But we have to do this carefully. Optimus has too much going on in the Nation's Capital to smooth over our mistakes if we 'bust her out' as you put it."
"This is taking too long."
"It's only been ten minutes, Sam."
He got up to pace. "Then it's been ten minutes too long. I don't see why we can—"
Sam cut off as Bee's head whipped towards the door. "She's here. Sam, you might need to brace yourself."
"Brace myself? For wha-"
The door of the morning room flew open as if the force of a blast was behind it. There was a streak of brown hair, the sound of Wheelie screeching as he was tossed into the air, and then Mikaela barreled into his chest, knocking them both to the ground. Sobs wracked her body, great hiccupping sobs that seemed without end. Sam wrapped his arms around her, felt her latch onto him as if he were the only thing holding her to the world. When his eyes made it back to the door, they burned with raw anger at the man filling it.
"I think it would be best we all had a little talk," Bee put in, ushering the butler into the room and closing the door behind him. He set Wheelie onto a chair, having—apparently—caught the poor little bot when Mikaela tossed him in the air. "We need a few things explained to us before things start to get out of hand."
Holding Mikaela to his chest, Sam pushed himself up to a sitting position, pulling her into his lap. "I think things have already gotten out of hand. What did you do to her?"
The butler sighed slightly, and then folded his hands behind his back. "Perhaps it is best if I start at the beginning. My name is Bartholomew Worthington, and I have had the honor of serving the late Madam Banes for the past seventeen years…"