Once again I find myself having to apologize for taking so long to get this update posted. All I can do is sigh dramatically and point to that annoying thing call real-life. My work schedule has changed leaving me with only about three days a week to write/type and, as the problems with my shoulder have not abated, it is a slow process to get things ready for general consumption. (Eeek, I sound like Prowl!)

There are some important clues buried in this chapter (separate from the scene at the end) and I would be curious to see who picks up on them and what speculation there might be concerning their significance.


The next day passed like a blur. Of course, it helped that Sam chose to skip his morning and early afternoon classes – consisting of calculus II, Chemistry and Theoretical Physics in order to pack. Bee, in the guise of his holoform, had willingly assisted in the endeavor.

Once, Leo had come in just in time to see Bumblebee disappear down the stairs, skillfully juggling two boxes and a pedestal fan. The kitten-obsessed hacker stumbled into the room, still looking the direction Bee had gone.

"What's this?"

Sam looked up from where he was cramming the remnants of his clothing into another box. "Oh. My brother. He's helping me move."

"You leaving college?" Leo said with a frown, swinging his leg around a nearby chair to straddle it backwards. "The Suits finally get to you? Talking you into dropping out and disappearing into some top-secret vault like a good little sheep? What did they threaten you with? You can't let them win, man!"

"Will you chill, dude?" Sam nearly yelled, waving his hands in attempt to get the guy to shut up.

Leo blinked, surprised.

Sam took advantage of the momentary silence to speak again. "Look. I'm not quitting college. I'm just moving into my own apartment. 'Kay?"

"Oh. Okay." Leo looked dumbly around the room. "Was it something I said?"

"No! It… its… look, it's not personal. I just… I wanna have my own apartment." Sam forced a smile. "I'll come by and say 'hi' every now and then. Right? No hard feelings, right?'

"Yeah. No hard feelings. You better come say hi. Cause don't expect me to help you study for finals – since you don't do any of that any more – if you haven't even spoken to me before then and now." Leo hesitated for a moment then, with a manly sniff grabbed Sam in a brief back slapping hug. "It won't be the same, man."

Then the arms encircling Sam were gone and Sam could see his roommate flush with embarrassment. "You be careful okay? And no kissing any hot alien chicks, okay?"

Sam groaned half seriously. "That's my plan. Trust me."

"You… uh… you need any help?" Leo was still sniffing and suffering from his self-induced humiliation.

Sam shook his head, gesturing to the box he was almost finished stuffing. "Nah, this is it. Thanks though."

Both stood awkwardly for a moment. Then Sam mumbled a quick. "It's been great. See ya around." Then he all but fled from the room, box in hand.

When he made it out to Bee, the scout's holoform was already in the passenger seat. The trunk popped open and Sam placed the box inside, looking at all his stuff crammed in there, glancing at the mass filling up Bee's back seat as well.

"You sure you don't mind this?" He asked quietly. "You are not a pack-horse."

~You are my brother.~ Bee's holoform looked over his shoulder with a grin. ~No, I don't mind. Besides, I'm looking forward to the move as well.~

They made it back to the Martin's without any trouble. This time Sam carefully extracted the check out of his wallet and looked at Bee's holoform. He knew Bee could feel his giddy excitement but did not mind. He could feel Bee's excitement too.

Young man and holoform grinned at each other.

Together they climbed out of the camaro. Mr. Martin opened the house's front door when they were only a few feet from it. He smiled at Sam then looked questioningly at Bee's holoform.

Sam took his cue, slapping Bee's shoulder. "Mr. Martin, this is my older brother. He likes to go by 'Bee.' He's here to help me move in."

"Bee?" The older man arched an eyebrow, saying the word carefully as if unsure.

"A… nickname his unit gave him during the war." Sam supplied vaguely. "Actually, he can't talk, see, an injury in battle."

The man's eyes widened, then his body relaxed slightly, though there was something… more in his expression. "Oh. I'm sorry to hear that."

Bee smiled warmly but waved a hand. Sam spoke for him. "He doesn't want people to feel sorry for him. It is what it is and he's learned to get around it."

Mr. Martin nodded. "I can understand that. Still, I respect what you've done for the rest of us."

Bee accepted the older human's hand warmly, his smile saying enough Sam did not need to translate.

"Oh! Here's the check Mr. Martin." Sam produced the payment and held it out. "Thank you very much for letting us move in so quickly."

A frown ghosted across the older man's face. "Both of you?"

"What?" Sam blinked, mentally reviewing his last sentence and almost face palmed. "Me. Letting me move in so quickly. I just have this habit of saying 'us' because, like, we are always together… you know… when we can be."

Bee was laughing silently at him over their bond, though his holoform was trying to hide a smile threatening to break across his face. Sam sent him a brief, sidelong glance. "Thanks bro."

Laughing openly now, Bumblebee reached out and gave him a companionable slap on the shoulder.

It was enough for Mr. Martin to smile slightly. "Do you need any help getting everything moved in?"

Both young 'men' shook their heads. Sam spoke. "No, thank you, sir. I don't have much and it's something we get to do together, so we're both looking forward to it."

The man nodded. "Very well. Have a good evening. …Bee, it was a pleasure to meet you. I'm sorry we didn't get to talk more."

Sam saw in the man's gaze that he did not expect to see Bee that much and… that he actually regretted that fact. "Actually, he'll probably be around quite a bit."

"Oh? You live in the area then?" Open suspicion was suddenly in the other human's gaze now, as if wondering why Sam was not living with his brother.

Sam desperately groped for an adequate explanation. Thankfully, Bee came up with one first. He pointed to himself, to Sam and then toward the direction of the college campus.

Sam picked up immediately what Bee was suggesting and ran with it. "We were both staying at the university dorms. He's going back to school… you know, with the GI Bill paying for everything and whatnot."

"Ah." Mr. Martin looked from one brother to the other then focused back on Bee. "And how has your dorm experience been so far?"

Bee made a face and wiggled a hand in a 'so-so' gesture.

The graying human eyed them both again then sighed lightly. "Look, there isn't much privacy up there… almost none really… but if you're interested, Bee, you are welcome to stay here as well. We have a twin bed in the guest room in the house. With the three of us, we should be able to get it up there without a problem."

He looked at both of them again. "I'd probably only have to raise your rate by seventy five dollars to cover the additional water and electricity usage and general wear and tear."

Sam looked at his brother's holoform. He did not ask, he did not need to. It was nice to have an invitation for Bee too, even if they didn't know exactly what that entailed. Someplace Bee was a welcome guest, not just a car parked outside.

They both smiled at each other then Bee turned his grin to Mr. Martin and nodded his thanks.

Sam again spoke for both of them. "We'd appreciate that. More than we can say."

Mr. Martin's eyes snapped from Bee to Sam very briefly, a wrinkle forming between his brows. But then the expression was lax again. "Come on then."

They got the bed moved over quickly and Sam wrote another check for the remaining balance of their rent. Then they finished unpacking Bee's alt mode. Together, aided by the fact Sam simply did not have all that much, they had everything unpacked and roughly organized in their new abode by six-thirty p.m.

Bee's holoform slipped behind the wheel of his alt mode and 'drove' him into the garage before dissolving.

"Hey Bee…" Sam looked over the railing at the stunning yellow and black vehicle.

Only to squeal like a girl when Bee suddenly materialized behind him in holoform to tackle him. Both were incredibly happy with their new living arrangements, though they both knew it would be a few days – time for their hosts to settle down – before Bee would transform into his base-mode.

… … …

Evening saw Sam and Bee sitting on the futon watching TV while Sam studied Ratchet's datapad. He had been inspired to resume his Cybertronian medical studies now that he did not have to worry about his nosey roommates. The two sat in companionable silence for nearly an hour before Bee shattered it.

"I think we should check out this Daniel Buadhach."

Sam jumped slightly, then blinked up at Bee's holoform. "What? Right now?"

Bee reached over and shoved him lightly. "No. Tomorrow."

"Oh." He blinked again, trying to figure out what had brought this up so randomly. "Um, Okay. That was rather sudden."

Bee shrugged. "Well, all the other schools on the list are very similar to the ones we've already been to and… well… I think Eric Wendell was right. I don't think that is what we need. What you need especially. Besides, it just… feels right."

Sam turned to face Bee more fully. Feels right? Since when has Bee used language like that?

But before he could open his mouth to ask what the deal was, Bee stiffened. His brother's sudden seriousness put Sam on the alert.

~Someone is coming…~ Bee relaxed. ~Mrs. Martin.~

Sam nodded in understanding as he quickly stuffed the datapad under a convenient pillow. Not thirty seconds later a knock sounded at the small side door and Mrs. Martin called up.

"Boys… are you decent?"

Sharing an amused glance that spilled over into a chuckle, Sam called back, standing to dart down the stairs to open the door for her. "Yes, ma'am. All decent, promise. Just watching TV. Come in."

She was smiling at him, a Tupperware box in her hands. "Hello Sam. I missed you when you got here. I just wanted to give you this," she indicated the container, "as a house warming gift. They're peanut butter."

Sam's eyes brightened and he felt Bee chuckle in the back of his mind even as the holoform started walking down the stairs.

"Thank you, Mrs. Martin." He gestured toward his brother's holoform. "This is my brother…"

"Mr. B." She smiled. "Richard told me about your voice. I'm sorry. It's good to have you here as well."

Bee nodded, smirking at Sam who rolled his eyes. Mrs. Martin smiled at their interaction and easy familiarity, but there was something in her eyes – a brief flash that was gone just as quick – but it made Sam's stomach lurch. It was almost pain.

Then she smiled again, freely this time. "Is Friday a good day to have you over for dinner? I know it is short notice since tomorrow is Thursday, but if it works for you two, say about six-thirty?"

Sam and Bee glanced at each other again, then nodded simultaneously and were rewarded by a brilliant expression. She then bid them both good night and was gone, picking her way back toward the main house.

Sam closed the door and looked at his brother. They stared at each other silently for a moment, neither one really knowing exactly what to say or do with the unexpected gift.

Finally Sam spoke. "Can you even eat in that form? 'Cause I'm kinda thinking its gonna be hard to avoid you going to dinner if you can't."

Bee grimaced. "Um. I can. The nannites in this form can even convert the organic matter into a usable power source. But…"

"It's an uncomfortable and messy process." Sam finished with a grimace of his own.

"Something like that." Bee confirmed. Then gestured back up the stairs. Once they were both situated back on the futon, Bee picked up their previous conversation, the one Mrs. Martin's arrival had inadvertently interrupted. "It is a thirty minute drive from the university to the address we were given. Forty-five minutes from here. Following the driving laws."

Sam nodded, fishing his datapad out from under the pillow. "And it wouldn't be good to show up after dark – not a good first impression…"

"Right." Bee paused and Sam felt his shifting feelings across the bond. "We can wait 'till Monday…"

But Sam could tell Bee did not want to wait. He could feel the subdued urgency to make this contact. He might not understand exactly why it was suddenly this important to Bee, but he trusted and respected his brother too much to brush his concerns away. He shook his head. "Intro to foreign relations is first thing in the morning. That's really the only class I'm worried about. Calculus I and the science classes aren't a big deal. Lets go after Mrs. Hawthorne's class."

He could feel Bee lighten up, even as the holoform's expression became excited. Then, without missing a beat, the Autobot reached over and plucked a cookie out of the Tupperware container that was now sitting on the futon between them.

Sam hid a smirk he knew his brother could still feel as Bee took a timid, exploratory bite and… froze. He looked at the cookie again and then took another bite.

"What is in this?" He inquired softly, in something that almost sounded like awe. "It has a very interesting chemical signature."

"Taste, Bee. It's called taste. And it's pretty much sugar, peanut butter and butter." Now Sam did laugh, snagging a cookie for himself as Bee took another bite. "You are going to have to at least look like you're chewing, you know Bee. At least in front of others."

"Oh. Right." Bumblebee looked appropriately chastened and started making the appropriate motions with his mouth. "The nannites do not require mechanical breaking up of food items. They start working on it the moment in is in my systems."

Sam just smiled, grabbing a second cookie. He was halfway finished with it when a rather random and disturbing stray thought struck him. He grew still, looking from the cookie in his hand to the container holding at least a dozen more just like it.

He felt Bee's gentle poke over their bond at his sudden concern. "Um, you did scan these, right? I mean, we don't even know her or anything and…"

"Of course I did." Bee confirmed, sounding teasingly insulted as he popped the last morsel of his cookie into his mouth. "Before you even accepted the box. Old habit, you know: guardian first and all. I've scanned everything you've eaten, well whenever I was in range at least, since you picked me up at the car dealership."

"Eh. I bought you." Sam teased, making sure Bee could feel that clearly.

He felt Bee's initial inclination to tease back, but then felt him shrink back from what he was going to say as if afraid Sam would take offense and physically sagged a little.

"Sorry Bee."

"No, it's…" Bee looked away.

Sam huffed. This was silly. They had a long time to live with each other. They had to get past this. It obviously didn't bother Bee that all the other humans considered him to be Sam's property simply because Sam had 'bought' him. Just like Sam did not care that by strict interpretation he 'belonged' to Bee under Cybertronian laws.

Bee blinked at him. "Sam…"

"Stop it!" Sam looked at him. "You need to let it go, Bee. We are brothers now, regardless of how things started. Yeah, I know it started off as a pet-master thing, and I told you it's fine. If it makes you feel any better, according to human laws you belong to me because you're my car."

Bee blinked again, but Sam did not give him a chance to speak. "But that has never mattered between us because we became friends. Just like it doesn't matter that I might be called your 'pet' by Bot's that don't know any better because we are actually brothers. I thought I'd never be able to forgive myself for thinking of you as nothing but a car – an inanimate slave..."

"Sam, that is not fair to yourself…"

"I know." Sam smiled, reaching out to put a hand on Bee's shoulder. "But it took you nearly a year to talk me into believing that. I still say that was the best deal I ever made."

Bee smiled slightly, self depreciatively. Then he nodded. "I get your point. I'll try. But it took you a year and your initial belief was out of true ignorance. Don't expect me to do any quicker. Relatively speaking of course. Perhaps in a vorn or two I'll be able to joke about it that easily."

"A… vorn… or two?" Sam's jaw dropped. "But that's… like a hundred and sixty years."

Bee only shrugged, though his mental touch was softly teasing. "Vorn, year – same difference. Relatively speaking."

"Agh!" Sam launched himself at Bee, wrestling the older 'man' to the floor. They tussled for several minutes, but it degraded into a mutual laughing fit quickly.

Finally regaining his breath as he disentangled himself from Bee's holoform, Sam flopped back onto the couch. "I think I needed that."

Pulling up the datapad again, Sam popped another cookie into his mouth. Chuckling, Bee settled back down as well, continuing to watch the movie though he willingly let Sam use his language files to translate Ratchet's medical texts.

Just that, using Bee's language files real time to translate a text that his brother was not actively reading himself took some mental gymnastics that stretched Sam's ability to multitask effectively. That, simply because not only was the text in Cybertronian, it was a highly technical form of the language.

It was fascinating really, language issues not withstanding. This particular volume was a diagnostic manual that went into detail how specific problems manifested themselves in each form a Cybertronian could take: cometary, protoform, formatted and alternate. The diagrams were even interactive, where he could rotate or even move pieces aside and/or magnify them to get a better view of a detailed segment.

It was much more effective and much more engaging a learning process than what he was spending his days doing at the university. Perhaps Ratchet had been right in his critique of his schooling aspirations.

As he kept a quarter of his attention on the movie Bee had selected and the rest on the information he was busy processing, Sam had to admit that for all the time he had been back in college, it was really nice to actually be learning something again.

Bee just chuckled, grabbing another cookie for himself. A moment later, Sam echoed him. Neither one looked at the other and neither one needed to. They smiled in tandem.

By the time Sam went to sleep and Bumblebee powered down to recharge, the box of cookies was completely empty.

… … …

Sam was seriously trying not to let his mind wonder as Mrs. Hawthorne continued with the review. They had a test next class period – a Tuesday – and Sam had forgotten that. Never before had it so annoyed him that professors would use a whole class period to go over everything they had just spent weeks going over. Either all the students were that desperate and somehow were not able to get it all the first time or he teachers could have covered it all that quickly to begin with and for some reason chose not to.

Which ever it was, Sam found it to be a galactic waste of time. But now he was stuck in the middle of the room with no escape.

Well, not entirely. He could get up and leave, but Mrs. Hawthorne seemed to look for everything she could to call him out on. He was not about to hand her something like that.

Thus he had no real choice but to sit there listening as his fellow students showcased just how much difficulty they were having with such relatively simple concepts.

~I think you are being too hard on them, Sam.~ Bee's gentle rebuff interrupted Sam's dower mental tirade and he realized he had been broadcasting. ~They don't have a perfect memory like you. But that doesn't make them 'losers.'~

Sam swallowed. Yes, he had thought that, had he not? ~But, comparatively…~

~No! ~ Bee's mental voice was suddenly quite firm and Sam abruptly felt like the little brother being sat down for a lecture from his elder relative. It was such a different feeling from Bee than Sam was used to, that he shut up and listened, actually sitting a little straighter in his chair.

Bee continued, satisfied that he had Sam's attention. ~Just because we have abilities and strengths that are different and greater than those around us does not make us inherently better than them. If we believed that, we would be no better than the Decepticons.~

That made Sam pause, his stomach dropping in horror. Bee was absolutely right. If Optimus or any of the other Autobots had thought of him and the other humans like he was tempted to think of his classmates…

"Mr. Witwicky."

Sam's attention snapped back to his professor. "Yes, Mrs. Hawthorne?"

"You looked lost there, Mr. Witwicky. Is there something about the importance of treaties that you don't understand?"

There were some titters of laughter throughout the room, as there always were when one of the professors made a scene with him. But then… he had been treating everyone, including his teachers, as if he were better, even if only in his attitude or the deep recesses of his mind.

He swallowed, realizing he had brought this on himself. "Um…" He flailed mentally for something. Ah. "Actually, I do have a question about the treaty ratification process and how it affects the US's interaction with other governments in relation to foreign governmental structures. I was wondering what happened with areas like the Balkans where the government officially recognized by the US is not the one currently in power."

The laughter died down, replaced by nervous coughs. Mrs. Hawthorne's expression narrowed. "We haven't covered that in class, Mr. Witwicky."

Sam stared, flailing even more now, licking his lips. "We didn't? I… uh, I thought I might have missed it. Um, you know, during the classes I missed? I, uh, mean it's covered in chapter three… page sixty seven, I believe…"

The professor relaxed slightly as Sam frantically flipped through the textbook to back up his point. Then a smile tipped her otherwise severe expression. "So, you did read the text Mr. Witwicky. That is good to know. Lucky for you that isn't on this test, though it will be on the next. Maybe by then, you will better understand."

Sam sighed as she went back to her review session, ignoring the now nervous laughter that was had at his expense once again.

~That was close.~ He sighed.

~No kidding.~ Bee was offering sympathy this time and a hint of apology.

But Sam brushed aside Bee's apology, letting his brother feel his own affection. ~Look, you're absolutely right Bee… Thanks.~

Sam felt Bee's mental touch soften again. ~It's part of being young Sam. Some of us learn faster than others. But the same thing that makes us stronger, faster, smarter… it's a responsibility. We have a duty to use our strength and our skills to protect and build up those who are not our physical or mental equal.~

Like Bee subconsciously used their bond to build him up and make him…'more' Ratchet had said… rather than break and dominate him. What if Bee had not considered Sam to be his equal in all the ways that mattered?

Bee's wisdom surprised Sam. As much as he acted like a young adult at times, Sam sometimes forgot just how old and comparably wise his big yellow brother could be.

~Yeah.~ He 'said' softly after a moment. ~Thanks, Bee.~

Bee just embraced him over their bond.

"Study hard and have a good weekend." Students immediately began charging for the door.

Sam sighed again, leaning back to watch them go. Then a familiar scent caught his attention and his gaze snapped up as the fingers of a finely sculpted hand brushed across his desk.

"You're pretty smart too." Alex winked at him, smiled and then was gone.

Sam blinked… Alex was in his Foreign Relations class too? She was in his Chemistry class, that was where he had first met her. But Foreign Relations? What were the odds of that?

Exactly 15.369 in 100, his mind provided automatically, making him groan quietly.

"I gotta get some air." He muttered and made his own break for the door.

"Mr. Witwicky."

He skidded to a stop, looking over his shoulder at the professor. "Yes, Mrs. Hawthorne?"

She nodded to the open textbook on her desk. "You were right. The impact of governmental structure on treaty ratification is introduced in chapter three, page sixty-seven."

It was a statement, one Sam was not sure how to respond to. "Ma'am?" He winced.

She leaned back, crossing her arms over her chest. "I must say you surprise me, Mr. Witwicky. All this time I believed you did not take this class seriously. However, I am still surprised, that you could remember the page number too. That is remarkable."

"Um… it is?"

She smirked at him. "It all makes sense now, actually."

"Uh… it does?" He fought the urge to face palm.

"Of course. You have a photographic memory, don't you?" She smiled at him. "That explains why you don't take notes, never open your books and yet… somehow you can answer the questions on quizzes perfectly." Her expression hardened. "Either that or you're cheating."

Sam's eyes widened in horror. "Mrs. Hawthorne I…"

She waved a hand to silence his protests. "Such a photographic memory would be more rare than cheating. But something tells me you wouldn't be stupid enough to cheat so boldly. Have a good weekend, Mr. Witwicky."

Sam swallowed. "Um… You too, Mrs. Hawthorne."

He dashed out the door.

… … …

The address Daniel Buadhach resided at ended up being located in that nebulous area between the suburbs and true rural territory. Bumblebee enjoyed the drive. He always enjoyed seeing the bright green living landscape that was earth. Every place had its own beauty, from the flat, almost featureless plains of the gulf coast that seemed to highlight the arching, brilliant sky to the stunning natural rock spires of the mountains that served as a testament to the raw power of the natural forces that shaped the planet. He was not overly fond of deserts, but that was more due to recent experience than a lack of other appreciable qualities.

Even the way human cities seemed to spring up from the ground as if a part of it while simultaneously being undeniably artificial was beautiful in a way unique to Earth. While the haze of brown that often blanketed the larger cities was disturbing, the cities themselves, the intricate mazes of ground and elevated roadways were impressive tributes to the human spirit and, because humanity was part of their planet, so were their creations.

It just fit together, organic and artificial. Much like humans and Cybertronians were able to work together.

"Bee… you actually think buildings and roads and such are natural?"

Bumblebee buzzed softly has he realized he had been broadcasting his thoughts and then again as he considered his reply. "When you look at a beaver's lodge, do you think it is natural and normal and supposed to be there? Or is it unnatural because that isn't how trees look like in their natural state?"

Sam blinked. "Well, yeah. I mean, beavers are animals and you know… part of nature. So, whatever they do is, by definition natural."

Bumblebee warbled in agreement. "Even if their techniques are destructive to the surrounding environment, they are part of the natural order of your world."

"Riiiight." Sam drawled.

Bumblebee chuckled. "Is this not the world of humanity's origin?"

"Of course it is."

"Just like it is for the beaver."

Sam paused and Bumblebee felt his brother's touch strengthen over their bond. "Wait… you're saying that just because humans originated on earth, whatever we do is just part of nature too? But we, like use cement, and metal and wood and stuff."

Bumblebee chuckled again. "The metals you use are all naturally occurring elements on this world, which your kind has simply learned to refine for your needs. Like wasps take tree bark and make a form of paper so they can build their hives. Even cement is a mixture of natural elements. Humanity's greater intelligence and reasoning ability simply allows you to alter your environment in a more complex manner. But that does not make your alterations any less natural.

Sam was silent for a long moment, which prompted Bumblebee to offer: "At least that is the perspective of someone on the outside."

"An alien, you mean?"

"Something like that."

After another moment of silence, they both laughed.

When he caught his breath Sam shook his head. "I'm still not sure about all that."

Bumblebee poked him playfully over the bond. "Well, you'll have to think about it more later. We're almost there."

So saying, Bumblebee turned off the main highway onto County Road 89.

The gate, when they drove up to it, was rather intimidating. The fence resembled something that was used to keep large game inside hunting reserves, though the gate was open. Rather, it was not that the gate was open, per se, but that the game fence followed the drive on one side. Bumblebee slowed as he turned onto the well-maintained gravel road. A dense forest hid whatever was behind the fence, but Bumblebee could tell Sam was uneasy about it, even though his sensors showed nothing but expected local wildlife.

A short way up the drive they came to a house, at least both brothers assumed it to be a house, though it looked more like a metal garage with an apartment attached to one side. The fence went behind the apartment but attached to the garage-looking structure in such a manner that half the building was behind the fence, the other half was not. A quick scan confirmed that the fence continued on the other side and incorporated at least 20 acres.

"This is… interesting." Sam breathed softly as Bumblebee initiated his holoform, parking in front of the house a respectable distance away.

The two 'men' glanced at each other and then slid out of Bumblebee's alt mode. Bumblebee kept enough passive sensors active that he would know what was going on around him, but transferred most of his consciousness to the holoform in order to best imitate human behavior.

No sooner had they both stood, than the door to the garage opened on nearly silent hinges. Sam and Bumblebee both turned to look at the man now purposefully striding toward them. He was bald, though it appeared to be by choice not by age, even though he sported a neatly trimmed white and gray goatee. His frame was undeniably muscular, his carriage that of a well-trained warrior. The man's eyes were alert, confident and observant as he took in the situation.

He addressed himself to Bumblebee, probably assuming he was the elder and therefore the responsible party. "What brings you to my home?"

Bumblebee blinked, feeling Sam was equally taken aback. Thankfully, the young man recovered quickly and moved forward cautiously.

"Um, sir…" He swallowed, freezing when the man's sharp brown eyes focused onto him, almost as if daring him to step closer. "We, uh, we met Eric Wendell at his dojo in town and he said he didn't think any of the schools like his could offer what we needed. And, well, he gave us your address and told us to come to you."

The older man's head jerked back slightly and he looked at Bumblebee again. Assuming a response was expected, Bumblebee just nodded.

With a ghost of a frown, he turned back to Sam. "And you have a name."

"Sam. Witwicky." Sam nodded toward Bumblebee. "And this is my brother. He goes by Bee."

Sharp brown eyes narrowed as they turned back to Bumblebee. "You do not speak for yourself."

Bumblebee squared his shoulders, refusing to look weak to this human, even as he shook his head, pointing to his throat.

Daniel Buadhach regarded him a moment longer. "So, you cannot speak. But clearly you can communicate."

Bumblebee nodded.

"And Eric Wendell, sent both of you to me."

Bumblebee nodded again.

It was then that Bumblebee realized that though they had answered him, this impressively intimidating human had never asked an actual question. He spoke only in statements that demanded an answer.

Shrewd organic eyes continued to consider him and Bumblebee felt like he was under the scrutiny of none other than Prowl. Then that penetrating gaze was turned back to Sam and Bumblebee was proud of his young human as the college student straightened his own shoulders.

Then a short snort of laughter burst from the man, his shoulders relaxing just a hair, the hint of a smile tugging at one corner of his firm mouth. "It has been a long time since one of my former students has sent someone to me. A very long time. And now one sends me two."

Sam and Bumblebee glanced at each other, but their attention was reclaimed by the older man as he gestured them toward the garage-like structure he had recently exited. "Come."

Neither one truly sure about what was going to happen, they did as they were bid, moving closer together.

The garage turned out to be a well furnished training area. A large mat dominated the floor in the center. A row of mirrors lined the wall to the left, various weapons – wooden and metal – were artfully displayed opposite the mirrors. The far wall was actually a window with a large sliding door that led out into something that looked like a carefully manicured garden, though it was not clearly visible from the entrance. A Rope, a set of bars and some platforms, erected in a way that resembled some of the obstacles the NEST soldiers used on their confidence course, took up the far left corner from the entrance.

"Shoes off." Daniel Buadhach commanded suddenly. "You are entering the training area. You will treat it with respect. You will also treat me with respect if you wish for me to train you." Both Sam and Bumblebee nodded quickly, feeling very, very out of their element.

Perhaps seeing their complete bafflement, he pointed to the door. "You will bow upon entering. You will refer to me as Master Baudhach and bow when you step onto the mat and when you leave after training. Also, any other time it is appropriate. You will not wear shoes on the training floor or in this building. Shoes are allowed when utilizing the out door training field if you wish."

Bumblebee and Sam nodded, though now they were both aware of a sudden problem. Sam tentatively raised his hand, even as he hastily took his shoes off. "Um… sir, uh, Master Buadhach, do we have to use shoes, you know, outside?"

The man's eyes narrowed. "If you choose not to, I will not stop you."

Sam stared for a moment, the nodded, Bumblebee felt him thinking quickly. "Hey, Bee, could you take these back to… uh, the car?"

Catching onto his brother's idea, Bumblebee nodded, already writing an alteration to his holoform's programming that would allow him to appear unshod. He took the proffered footwear and made for the exit, remembering just in time to bow before backing out the door.

He could feel Sam's growing unease at being left alone and hurried to deposit Sam's shoes in his alt mode. He just finished the appropriate coding and activated it as he stepped back into the dojo, remembering to bow again.

Master Buadhach nodded slightly, that almost-smile still on his lips as he gestured both would-be students onto the mat. Both bowed as they stepped onto the gray surface, noticing how it gave under their weight without being soft.

When they were both facing him, Master Buadhachlooked them over again. "If I am to train you, I must determine if you are capable of being trained." He looked at Bumblebee. "You, have received training elsewhere, you carry yourself as a warrior." He looked at Sam. "You, have not. Though you carry yourself as someone who has done more than his age would imply. You both do."

Bumblebee had to resist the urge to glance at his brother, though they shared a surprised 'look' through their bond.

Suddenly Bumblebee found himself staring into nearly mesmerizing brown eyes. "I do not expect you to forget what you have already learned while you are in here. I expect what I teach you to be added to what you already know. It will become clear soon enough where your experience lies."

Then Sam was the subject of the intense stare. "Surely you must know something of fighting. No one is completely ignorant. I will test your knowledge. Defend yourself."

Bumblebee felt Sam's horror as he took a hasty step back, raising his arms for an attack that never came. Master Buadhachstepped back, lifting a hand placating. "Never mind, it is clear you know nothing."

A quick shake of a bald head forestalled any rebuttal Sam might have tried. "Ignorance is not unworkable, so long as it is acknowledged and there is drive and determination to rectify it. Though it would have been easier on you if you had come to me at a younger age. But courage is necessary. Do you have that, Sam Witwicky?"

The man's voice was almost dismissive and it heated Bumblebee's systems on his brother's behalf. He felt Sam's irritation as well and was pleased when Sam stepped forward with a challenge of his own.

"I can handle it."

Master Buadhachconsidered him for another moment. "Courage is not the same as foolishness, boy. It is unwise for you to challenge me at this juncture. Courage is displayed in showing the proper respect to others because you are confident in who you are that you do not need to prove superiority to anyone. How much do you know?"

Sam swallowed and Bumblebee could sympathize with him as Sam managed to choke out a very humbling. "Nothing, Master Buadhach."

"Nonsense. Surely you know something. You are in college after all right? You simply are untrained in any of the martial arts. Say only the truth, only what you mean and know to be true. Only what you intend to actually say. How much do you know?"

Sam took a moment to think, though he was still clearly dealing with a bruised ego. As he hesitated, considering his answer, Bumblebee could see the older man's expression change into something decidedly pleased. Any doubts were removed when Sam finally spoke: "I have never been trained in martial arts, Master Buadhach, I have never been able to fight and only just recently desired to learn."

The goatee framing the man's mouth stretched into a smile. "And how badly do you wish to learn all that I can teach you? It will not be easy, this is a change in lifestyle, not just a hobby to pass the time."

"I am willing to do whatever it takes." Sam said with more seriousness and more earnestness that Bumblebee had heard for some time. "This is something I want more than I can put into words and for reasons I cannot disclose."

Master Buadhach's bows arched at that. "And if I refused to teach you if you did not tell me those reasons?"

Sam's head jerked back. "Then, with respect, Master Buadhach, we would have to leave."

The two humans continued to regard each other, and Bumblebee was sure there was more going on than just a staring contest. They were continuing to communicate, he knew it, even if he could not distinguish what was being said. His bond to Sam was lightly blocked so that they could both concentrate and he was unwilling to dismantle that block and risk fouling whatever was happening before his optics.

At length the older man nodded. "Very well. You have demonstrated respect and so I shall do the same. I will not ask what you are clearly honor-bound not to divulge. I am not ignorant to recent happenings and I recognize your name, Sam Witwicky and I do not doubt that your reasons for seeking me out are indeed numerous and equally subject to secrecy."

Sam blinked. "You… you know who I am?"

White-rimmed lips quirked again. "Indeed. Your face was broadcast on every television channel available. I am sure that there are many secrets," Brown eyes drifted briefly to Bumblebee, "that you must keep. I will not ask you to divulge them. In return I ask you to be as honest as you can and not make up lies. Agreed?"

Clearly still in shock, Sam nodded. Bumblebee did likewise.

"You will train at least twice a day, with one day a week off. You are in college, correct?" Sam nodded. "Then you will be here for an hour's training before your classes. Then you will come back for at least two hours after your classes are completed. What will those times be?"

Sam thought quickly, Bumblebee feeling the dread growing at the answer he had to give. "Five thirty in the morning and then three thirty in the afternoon."

Master Buadhach nodded once. "Dress comfortably. Not all that I will teach you is physical. You must train your mind as well or the skills I teach will be more of a liability than an asset. You are allowed to quit at any time, do not expect me to hold your hand and offer false encouragement. You have shown yourself to have the heart to be a warrior, you do not need codling."

Bumblebee's own surprise at the praise mingled with Sam's as the older human clearly saw their reaction and smiled slightly. "I shall expect you here at five thirty tomorrow to evaluate your physical conditioning. You cannot be effective in a fight if you are too flabby in the muscle. You are dismissed, sleep well."

Both brothers were stunned for a moment, then quickly bowed, Sam mumbling something about 'good night' before both moved toward the door, stopping to bow again before actually exiting.

Well, the guys have finally met Master Buadhach. Don't know if he was what anyone was expecting or not. While he is an OC, he is not entirely my creation. I am basing his character and most, if not all, of his physical description off of a character in another SciFi fandom. I am curious to see if anyone can guess who he is based on. I'll give three hints:

1) The character is an alien warrior, fighting to free his people from the evil aliens that have enslaved them for generations.

2) The character, while not a main character is a returning supporting character of the TV show in question and was the master/mentor for one of the main characters.

3) The character's name starts with the same letter as mine and has the same number of syllables. (Remember Buadhach is pronounced 'Boo-och.)

We will be seeing more of him in the next chapter, so if no one figures it out from this, it might be easier then. :) I haven't decided what the prize will be for whoever figures it out.

I know this chapter was not as long as the last one, but this was the best place to end it for the time being. Other than that, I can't wait to hear what you guys think!