Author's Note: I am sorry for how long this took me to write. There's been a lot going on in my life recently, and being in a creative job as a graphic designer tends to sap my creative energy for writing. I've been doing a lot more photography as a result. Many, many thanks to Omicron the IceQueen for helping me try to get my TF muse back up off of the ground and for giving the first half of this chapter an initial read-through. (Muses have been distracted by reading the Harry Potter series for the first time in the last six months.) I took some creative liberties with Hot Rod. He's mainly based off of my perception of him in the G1 cartoons.

Chapter Warnings: Character goes through acute radiation sickness, and yes, I researched what the symptoms are and no, it's not pretty. If loss of control of bodily functions in the event of severe sicknesses bothers you, skip the second scene and proceed to scene three, where there will be a brief recap of what happened without the details.


There was something quite unusual about a Seeker's programming. That much was certain. Ratchet settled back to reread the recent report that Faust's frame sent him. Everything that the kid was processing, every minute shift from being a full Grounder to the Seeker his Spark cried out for in his programming, was catalogued, noted, and sent to him via a program that Skyfire had ran by him almost a month before the old Spark finally rejoined Primus.

"So what are we looking at, old mech?"

"Your little mechling is slowly becoming a full Seeker, as we had anticipated." Ratchet glanced down at Tom Banachek, former Sector Seven head and now the co-leader of Th1rt3en, pronounced as the numeral thirteen, a cover organization that specialized in user-interface solutions for handicapped individuals. Much of the new tech developed was a hybrid between Cybertronian and Earth technologies, and the profits went back into dirt-cheap affordable rehabilitation for soldiers who had been wounded in any way through the recent wars. "And that may cause behavioral problems that we don't have the expertise or capability to handle at this time."

"So what you're saying is that Faust has to stay with Megatron until he's completed this shift." Tom crossed his arms over his chest, head bowed and voice thoughtful. "Why?"

"Remember how he got right before he was upgraded? Irritated, his mind seeming to be full, unable to really function? Multiply that by a power of ten. Megatron can handle him, as the mechling is able to be close to the Warlord's side. There's something about the mechling that agrees with that wounded Spark. Optimus could handle Faust, but he is needed to soothe your nation's recent frustrations with us. Furthermore, we simply cannot let or allied nations here learn that we are far more in number than recorded." Ratchet looked back down at the report in his hands, his voice softening as he allowed himself to show his worry at their current problems with human governments. "That . . . would just not do."

It had been too long since the last attack . . . long enough that it made the Autobots uneasy. With the arrival of the Wreckers and the rough mechs' now-grown charges, Optimus knew that it had Megatron's troops uneasy. Megatron was the only mech capable of tangling with the once-construction mechs, and even then, he only did so when it was absolutely necessary. Likewise, they avoided the former Lord Protectorate; there was only one end to any skirmish that those sides engaged in, resulting with far too many empty Spark chambers.

Because of the lull, it was unavoidable that it made the newest attack seem more organized and pinpoint-targeted.

Ratchet roared battlefield instructions while he carried his thankfully-not-fatally-wounded charge back to safe zones. Beside him was their undercover mole who had been watching over the girl since the Wreckers had landed. It was a stroke of fate that Hot Rod had landed with the Nascar-crazed Autobots. Unfortunately, he was forced to utilize his weaponry while in close proximity to the girl. She would have to be administered nanites unless she had the desire to die within the next several months.

Hot Rod was a perfect soldier for gathering unwanted attention in the absolute-zero empty space. He was brash. Loud. Brightly-colored. And he was hot.

Not hot as a human would say when in regards to physical attractiveness.

No, Hot Rod had modified his own frame, systems, design, weaponry and abilities to operate solely around becoming a radioactive streak that would light up the screens of any monitoring Decepticons anywhere within a lightyear. His only non-radioactive weaponry consisted of his hand-to-hand blades and weapons, which, clearly, he didn't use in this situation.

"RODDY, FALL BACK!" Prime roared as he whispered a prayer. He extinguished the Spark of the enemy before him, turning away and running towards the young warrior. A dispatch team would be in this area in the next week for cleanup of both empty frames and the radioactive substances. :Bumblebee is taking your place on the line. Get back with your charge!:

The young mech, angry, executed a neat backflip over Bumblebee as the young officer slid to take his spot smoothly. How dare Prime insinuate that he didn't know how to do his job on the battlefield! He was a warrior, not a babysitter! "I had—"

"Enough! Return to your charge!"

"Sir, I—"

"Now!" Optimus barked, shoving the flame-encrusted mech behind him as he took aim with his weaponry again.

"I'm not decontaminated yet! She'll die if she's around me right now!"

"She's going to die if you don't get your aft over there like I had ordered you and provide cover for Ratchet to work! Now farking fall back!" Optimus turned away, expecting to be obeyed without further questions, taking aim and firing his carbine in quick bursts.

Growling curses in several languages, Hot Rod darted back towards where Ratchet sat protected by Sunstreaker-disguised-as-Sideswipe, Ironhide, and Arcee. The femme shared responsibilities for Mikaela Banes, and as such, all were required to be around her, even as her molecular structure was starting to fall apart. Ratchet was trying to keep her cleaned up while he rushed antibiotics and fluids into her system intravenously, but Hot Rod knew as he fell to his knees, trying to get his decontamination system up and running so that he was at least contained, that she was showing immediate signs of acute radiation poisoning. Traces of vomit and diarrhea were sticking to her skin, and she was trying to stay alert as she looked around herself. Unfocused brown eyes latched upon the bright paint job that Hot Rod sported.

"Oh, Mik," he whispered, barely heard above the battle.

She smiled . . . or tried to, getting only halfway there before coughing and wincing. "Roddie . . . head hurts . . ."

"I'm so sorry, Mik," the mech wailed, feeling the cool wash of containment run from his spine outwards along his limbs to all his extremities. "I'm so sorry, babe. I thought you had ran. Why didn't you run?" Head dropping into his hands, the young officer felt his auxiliary vents open up to begin the cooling of his weaponry cores.

Mikaela smiled again, and then looked up in shock at seeing Ratchet lean over his hand and peer down at her. "Ratch? Am . . . I in . . . trouble?"

"Yes, Sparkling, you are. The question is if you wish to live or die in the next few days."

"Live. Duh."

The impertinence of her tone made the old medic smile as he nodded and prepared a syringe, glad that he carried the solution around with him everywhere. "If you live . . . it will be for a very, very long time."

"Mm. Like Sam?"

"Yes. Like Sam."

Silent for a long while, the dying young woman tried to think through all the pros and cons, but she kept getting stuck on one thing. Sam.

Sam be damned.

Smiling at the rhyme, she looked to her Roddy, her sweet ride, her brother-in-arms, her Guardian. "Wanna live . . . Roddy . . . show 'im was my fault . . . f'r not runnin'."

Something cold was injected directly into her abdomen and she groaned at the sensation, too fatigued, too hurting, to yell or squirm. Somewhere far away, she heard yells, followed by a very large mech that she hadn't seen in far too many years. "Op . . ."

"Mikaela," his deep voice rumbled as he joined Hot Rod in kneeling beside Ratchet, who held the fragile girl in his hands. "Is she safe to move, Ratchet?"

"Yes," he whispered, relief in the CMO's voice as he kept a continual report feed of what the nanites were working on. "As stable as she'll be in the immediate time frame. I want to get her to the base. Tell Lennox to prepare the kid." He transformed around her carefully, settling down on all four wheels and activating his holoform to comfort the girl while she traveled between awareness and delirium. Holding one of her hands in both of his now human-like ones, Ratchet pulled it up to his face and heaved silent, Spark-tearing sobs of relief and fear while he drove out of the Pennsylvania forest, sirens blasting.

Hot Rod didn't move as he watched the medic take off like a bat out of hell. He looked up at Optimus, then down at his hands. "I failed her."

Standing, resting a hand on the young mech's helm, Optimus murmured, "We all must make our own decisions, Hot Rod. She made hers." They waited together, knowing that within an hour, Hound, First Aid, Wheeljack and Que would be along to help clean out the localized radioactive contamination.

Hot Rod bowed his head and sobbed silently, the gentle hand of the Prime running along his back in soothing motions as if he were a Sparkling. A rush of green and Springer was settling in front of him, bumping foreheads together and keening in sympathy. Almost-indigo optics looked up at the bright, hopeful cerulean of his elder brother's. Vents hiccupping, Hot Rod clambered onto Springer's lap as if he were still a Sparkling, curling his head away from the leader he continued to fail.


Sam watched through the glass as medics and Ratchet's holoform worked around his ex-girlfriend's body. He had gotten text updates from Bumblebee since the battle had been concluded, knowing that the mechs needed cleaning up on more than just the physical level from this latest excursion. He looked to the Army Colonel beside him, then down at his hands. "How come she was targeted?"

"We don't know." Crossing arms over his chest, the soldier kept his gaze upon the unconscious girl in the clean room. "You okay?"

"Not really," Sam replied, grumbling. "I told the girlfriend that I was taking a walk. If she finds out—"

"Bring her here to show her just what kind of antics Mik can get up to while recovering from radiation poisoning. Dare you."

"C'mon, Will. No joking."

"I'm not! Bring her in."

Shaking his head, but considering it, Sam leaned against the railing, eyes still trained on the ashen young woman on the other side of the window. "What did this?"

Sobering, Will rested his hip against the window, facing Sam. "Hot Rod's weaponry. He had told her to get out of the fallout zone while he took on the 'Cons. She convinced Arcee to turn around to help out."

Sighing, Sam shook his head. All the women in his life, from his mother to his adopted femme creator in Elita, to Arcee, to Dana, even to Carly and even further on from that point . . . they were all headstrong, stubborn, self-sacrificing warrior-women who wouldn't take "no" for an answer or an option. "Ratchet said that he administered The Cure."

Lennox nodded slowly, eyes trained on the young Prime before him. He was the Ironhide to Sam's Optimus; warrior and elder, friend and trainer, guard and brother. As such, Sam often came to him through texts, through calls at odd hours, whenever the boy was processing something, or trying to figure out an emotion that wouldn't let him sleep. Because of their long talks, he knew what Sam meant by the code term for the nanites. "He estimated that she would have passed away within days of exposure."

"Huh." Looking back into the room, he caught the unnatural blue gaze of his medic. Mikaela had been cleaned up, reclothed with simple strips of fabric covering sensitive areas, and Ratchet looked as if he had been inspecting a radiation burn on her arm. His words were soft. "Are we too loud, Ratch? We can move."

Shaking his head, the holoform placed Mikaela's arm back down over the sheet, and gave another gentle electric jolt to the nanite-infused gel that composed the mattress. He was glad for the ability to make the equivalent to a restoration tank, as he hadn't wanted to place Mikaela upon her back on sheets. Ratchet adjusted the temperature in the room remotely before shooing all but one medical attendant out of the room, barking at them to clean up and get rest; a shift schedule would be posted shortly. Turning to the young Prime and refreshing the nanites making up his holomatter to clean them from whatever radiation they had absorbed, Ratchet sighed. "She's going to live, and thrive. I do fear that Carly will be displeased at this news, however."

Knowing the answer to the inevitable "why," Samuel Witwicky shoved hands into his pockets and huffed a long breath of air. "Lennox came up with the idea that I bring Carly in, just to show her that it's not like I'm about to reconnect with an old flame. Wheelie's still pissed as hell at her for leaving us, and he'll feel betrayed that I'm concerned, you know?"

"It's a complicated matter, Sam, but you know what you have to do."

"Yeah, the right thing." Pulling his cell phone out and leaning against the wall, Sam wasted no more time. The call connected on the third ring and a happy and teasingly-sultry voice whispered a hello into his ear. Smiling, he whispered, "Hey, Carly. There's . . . been a situation."

"Are you all right?"

"Yeah. And no casualties among my brother's regiment." Hearing her sigh of relief, he continued. "But there was an altercation up in Pennsylvania. One of the fringe crew got in a tangle. No deaths, but . . . it's a close thing."

"Do I need to be there? Who was it?"

Wincing, knowing that Ratchet was hearing every word, he whispered, "It was Mikaela and Roddy."


Swallowing, he whispered, "Babe?"

"Who was injured?"

"Kaela was."

"Where is she?"

"Back here at HQ."

"And you're there, as well?"

"I came in before the attack was registered to try to interview with one of the higher-ups. They changed their schedule on me last-minute, I was already here when the guys took off to get to where Roddy was." Leaning back against the glass, Sam whispered, "She looks like someone dripped coals along her arms and back."

"Does she know you're there?"


"Wrong," Ratchet said, pointing into the room.

Sam turned and his gaze was drawn to his first love's. Sighing, he muttered, "Well, she does now."

There was a beat of silence before Carly's voice carried over a sigh. "I'll be right there. Send Bee."

"Bee's still hot."

"Of course he is; he's your Camaro."

"No, like radioactive hot."

"Of course he is; he's your Camaro!"

Finally breaking into a smile, Sam looked down and shook his head. "He's not around, Carly."

"I'll go get her," Lennox announced, clapping his hand to Sam's shoulder. "I'll be there in fifteen minutes."

Whispering goodbyes for the moment, Sam hung up and shoved his phone back into his pocket. He felt Ratchet's solid shoulder rest against his own as he leaned his full weight upon the railing outside of the window-wall of the clean room. "Dammit, Ratch, how come we're magnets for this level of slag?"

"Because you're seen as vulnerable targets to us." He looked in at Mikaela, pinging the nanites for a readout of her mental faculties. She was still fuzzy, everything seemed dreamlike. After several years of learning the psychology and mechanics of a human's mind, Ratchet was able to decipher that she was focused on Sam's face . . . thinking that he wasn't really there. "She's not really alert right now, Sam."

"Huh." And yet, it was hard to tear himself away from the sight of the young woman almost pleading with him to stay close. "I'm gonna meet Carly down at the entrance."

Sam just couldn't handle the pleading look that Mikaela had trained upon him. It was as if her subconscious was in full control . . . and wished that she had never let him go.

He couldn't deal with that. Not now.

Bowing his head and breaking eye contact, the man looked down at his hands. There was far too much to do, too many things that needed his personal touch upon since Egypt, things that the American Government didn't know one whit about. His mind was a repository of the Matrix-AllSpark's wisdom, swirling benignly in the background of his constant thoughts. It was a fortress impenetrable by human interrogation.

Epps and Lennox had hated testing that theory out, but Sam had needed to know that what was in his head couldn't be tortured out of him by another human. Unfortunately, the neural probe that Ratchet and First Aid had finally agreed to using on Sam to see if his mind was safe from Cybertronian attack, unlike what the Doctor had done to him . . . well, that had been scheduled for today. Clearly, plans had been put off.

Sam rubbed at his face again, unable to process. AllSpark. Primes. I need your strength and wisdom.

William Lennox had been around the 'Bots for long enough to know when silent communication happened. Furthermore, he had been around Prime for long enough that he could tell when that communication was answered from another dimensional plane. Suppressing a shiver as he saw Sam's eyes blank out and felt the vague feeling that he could only describe as eldritch, the Army Ranger shifted his mind into guarding and protecting. Sam was vulnerable, not here nor there, when he felt the need to consult the other Primes, the Primes-Beyond as Optimus had come to call the brothers whose Sparks had moved on.

Samuel Prime, little brother, well met. We see what has happened, but what will happen will depend entirely upon her will to live, which she has in abundance.

In his mind's-eye, the graceful, artistic frames of the old Primes no longer towered over him. He sat among them, an equal in some ways, but still a child to be mentored in many others. I'm at a loss. My people don't accept what I am, since they don't know what it is I am. To many, because of the nanites alone, I am no longer "human" to them, thus, not to be trusted. He paused, forming his thoughts and concepts into words. I need to find a way to be closer to Optimus and the rest of the Autobots that doesn't require risking my ass any more than I have to. Bumblebee and Ironhide would sit on me if I thought about enlisting.

Is there no place for a civilian cultural interpreter?

No. I've tried.

Wordless murmurs rose in sympathy, for his words were wrought with imagery of every angle he had attempted to join in ranks with his family, the family of his soul. One large hand, larger than Optimus', rested along his back. The silence stretched on, and Sam understood that the Primes were, by omission of words or advice, admitting that they were out of their depth. He was alien to them, his people and all the cultures of his world virtually unknown.

But they could comfort him, and warmth filled his chest as he leaned into the metal hand behind him. He could feel the Creator around them, peace soothing his pain.

When he opened his physical eyes again, metal knuckles were resting along his back and Carly was curled up in his arms. Lennox glanced at him and smiled, nodding. They would continue to move forward. Sam sighed and gave voice to what he had come to realize while sitting with the Primes. "Optimus, Mikaela can't stay here while she recovers. It wouldn't be fair to her."

"She is as much my charge," Ratchet snarled from somewhere to Sam's right.

"I'm not saying that we're sending her outside of our influence, Ratch." He kissed Carly's forehead. "There's too much hurt that she's caused. I'll talk with her when she's more awake, see what it was that caused her to . . . to do what she did. I don't want Wheelie knowing that she's here; he wouldn't be able to contain himself, and I'm working on self-control with the little scraplet."

A moment of silence passed, broken only by the sounds of Cybertronian bodies.

"Sam, where should she go?" Optimus' voice soothed from behind, tones pitched perfectly to convey that he agreed with his brother Prime's suggestion.

"Dana and the ranch," was the swift reply. "She has never been there, and it's a place of healing."

"And Barricade."

"I'll ask Jazz to show me her reaction. Can't be any worse than what I did." The young man chuckled ruefully, pressing his nose into golden locks and breathing in. "But she needs what Dana and Tom can provide . . . and she and Hot Rod need time together to talk out what happened."

Bumblebee leaned around Optimus, golden yellow plating catching Sam's gaze. Reaching one hand out, he was rewarded by the boy's instant reaction to touch the metal skin. It was stressing Bumblebee out that his "old flame" was in close proximity as well.

Ironic, that.

Optimus seemed to have come to a similar conclusion. "Very well. Ratchet, we will move her when she's stable and not a moment before." Silently, he added, :And slaggin stop glaring at me. My hands are tied and I cannot allow the humans to gain control over Mikaela's movements or motivations. She is one of us. Sam understands this, which is why he wants her on the ranch.:

:I will follow your orders on this, Optimus, but note that I am not in agreement.:

:Would you have her used as a weapon?:

Silence from the CMO.

:I thought as much. Get her back on her feet, and we will see what happens from there.:


Carly watched from the other side of the glass two days later as Sam moved a chair to Mikaela's bedside and settled down. She had awoken the day before, according to Bumblebee, but with Sam out interviewing and trying to find a job in Washington DC, he hadn't been here to talk to her as soon as he had hoped. His tenor, soft on healing ears, filtered out through the speakers.


"How can you stand to look at me," she hissed in reply, not even looking at him.

He graced her with a long up-and-down glance along her sheet-covered body. "I suppose the same way I'd look at anyone else who has been seriously injured. Your mind is clearly still whole."

"Oh ha. Very much ha."

"This doesn't need to be an argument."

His words finally caused the young woman to look at his face, sizing up his expression. "Who is the girl waiting outside for you?"

"Carly, my girlfriend."

"Doesn't trust us together? That's classic."

"Yeah, because clearly, I'm gonna get myself sat on by Ratchet because I'm so unable to keep my hands off of you," came Sam's sarcastic retort. "Look, I want to talk to you, all right? I want to know two things, and then I'll leave you alone, since you find me so repulsive. Can we be civil for five minutes, or will I just leave knowing that I've wasted my time trying to see if there's something that . . . that can be worked out." He let his hands rub at his face before he settled back and sighed. "Mick, we're in the same circle, with the same friends, the same family, damnitall, and we're going to be around each other for a very long time."



She hissed a curse, closing her eyes and looking away, warring with herself before finally asking, "What do you want to know?"

Sam pinched at the bridge of his nose. "What really happened . . . back then? When you broke up with me and left Wheelie with me?"

"Dammit. Why ask me now?"

Thinking over his answer to her own question, Sam leaned back. "The . . . the knowledge I've been gifted with has been circling around that point for months. I can't tell you why it feels that something important is going on there, but I need to know your motives, and why then, and why abruptly."

The AllSpark, Mikaela realized, her eyes flashing open. The AllSpark was indicating . . .

"There's a Decepticon loose. A dangerous one. And he wants you dead. Slowly. He wants you in agony the way that you've caused him agony."


"No. I don't know his name. He's landbound, though, some sort of fancy car. Silver or gunmetal grey." She sighed. "He hid all the make logos when he had trapped me. He . . . he hacked my mind, Sam. Like . . . like what happened with you."

The warehouse.

Closing his eyes, the nightmares flashing through his mind and his gorge rising again, Sam ruthlessly shoved that experience into the back of his mind. Swallowing sour bile before it reached any further than the back of his throat, he asked, "What did he do to you?"

"Read my mind . . . and then made sure I obeyed him. A strip of metal along my spine. I had to obey . . . or I would be tortured. Pain . . . worse than this, but all in my mind."

"Oh, God, Kaela . . ."

"I couldn't do anything. I had to leave you, don't you understand? I had to cheat on you to prove to him that I was going to go through with hurting you. I . . . I'm so sorry, Sam. I'm so sorry."

Nodding, finally seeing some sort of reason behind the once-seemingly-random hurt, Sam rubbed at his face again before whispering, "It . . . it's not all right, and it won't ever be all right, since the pain just . . . it's there."

"I know."

"But I don't hold it against you. I understand."

Helpless tears fell down the young woman's face and into patchy hair. Sam pulled a tissue from the sidetable, gently trying to catch more of the tears. Once, he would have kissed those tears away. Once. But never again. "Mikaela, I have one more question, then I'll . . . then I'll go."

She nodded, trying to gain control over fraying emotions. His touch, even though he still was hurt by her betrayal, was tender and had undone a knot sitting in her chest for years.

"I need to know that you can and will keep a secret again. The nanites will help keep your mind safe from most hacking . . . Ratchet and Jazz's work."

"Jazz?" she interrupted. "Jazz is dead."

And Sam grinned. "No. He's not. So. Can you keep a secret?"

"Yes," she breathed, eyes lighting up for the first time since she had been brought in to Autobot Headquarters.

Sam leaned closer, brown eyes bright with mischief. "It's the same secret I had guarded when we were in High School."

"The road trip."


"Oh my God. What haven't they told me? Why?"

"You'll see when you get there. But I promise you, you'll understand and you will thank them for not telling you. If you had known when you had been 'hacked,' and if that knowledge had gotten to the Decepticons, nothing would have stopped Optimus, not Primus nor Elita, from extinguishing every Spark of every 'Con who had dared to blemish his personal sanctuary." Sam smiled, the expression making his face look as if he were still a brash teenager. "And you're going there to recover."

"Jazz is there."

"And many more."

"How many?"

"You'll see." Looking up and catching a glare from a grumpy holoform, Sam stood. "Ratchet's pissed that I went over how long I said I was going to talk with you. Something about not exhausting you." He turned away, picking the chair up and returning it to the corner.

"Will you come back?"

The hope in her voice made him wince, but he straightened. "I don't know if I can. I'm not supposed to be in this facility at all, but the guys sneak me and Carly in."

"But Bumblebee . . ."

"He's stationed here, thanks to Mearing." Drawing in a deep breath, Sam sighed and turned to face her. "Mick, I'm in a really bad spot. By the American government's standards, I'm not part of this organization, and I'm not allowed even to be around them. They think that I'm a weak link, and can be easily exploited."

"Are you?" she asked, matter frank and curious.

Sam's grin was infectious. "Not anymore. Ratchet will tell you more about things, I promise. But I have to go before any of the higher-ups decide to make a surprise visit. Most of them were on vacation this week, which is why I was able to get in. But I promise you, we'll meet up again. Just might take some creative planning."

Cracking a grin, Mikaela shook her head and settled back against the soft pillows. "Just don't get yourself killed."

"Again, you mean?"

"Yeah. Again. Because the first time wasn't nearly as traumatic or tragic enough."

Snorting a laugh, Sam turned to the door. "Yeah, I wish that I didn't have to ever see those sands again."

"But you do?"

"Every so often."

"Tell me more?"

"Later, Mick." He chuckled and walked out, shaking his head. He knew that she was watching as Carly took his hand. Kissing his girl's temple, he turned to Ratchet, voice low. "She was hacked."

"She's and organic biolo—"

"They did it to me before I got nanites. They did it to her."

Grimacing, the CMO looked back into the room. "She never said anything."

"I don't think she had the words or the will, Ratch."

They stood in silence for another minute before the holoform thumbed over his shoulder. "Get, brat. Don't want to be here if Mearing gets back ahead of schedule."

"Yeah. I'll be at the ranch in two weeks."

"Bee told me. Scram."

Clapping the solid form on the shoulder and walking out, Sam shook his head. When he and Carly stood out in the sunlight, he looked up into the sky, feeling the heat soak back into his bones.

"She really hurt you, more than you or Wheelie let me know," the soft, British tones lilted next to his shoulder.


"And yet you found the courage to love again."

"I had some great motivation."

"Oh?" she teased, laughing when Sam picked her up and kissed her neck teasingly before landing a razz on the sensitive skin. "Sam!"

"I'll give you some motivation. Let's go home. Wheelie and Brains have been getting into more trouble and feeding off of each other's energy."


"Us, or them?"


"God, no. They're too young. Thank God. I'd give them to Ratch for The Talk. Or Ironhide, just to get the bastard back for our last training session."

". . . us?"

"Yes please."

Giggling, Carly walked home with her man.

Even if he was infuriating at times with his secrecy, even if he was tugged in so many more directions and she wasn't the only one laying claim to his heart . . . she would always walk home with him.


Author's Note: I'm not dead. I am thankful for every new watch and every new review that come in on this story. I don't know if I'll ever get the chance to update as frequently as I had before, but I am determined to get this story through Dark of the Moon and completed.

This chapter is dedicated to everyone who reads it. Thank you so much for your patience. Please ignore any typos; I just wanted to get this up for you guys.

Song is: "Castle of Glass" by Linkin Park. Every time I hear Chester sing, every time I hear the music, I feel like I had back in 2007, seeing Transformers for the very first time at Botcon. They never cease to bring the magic alive again for me.