Title:Transformers Prime: New Beginnings Part 1
Verse: Transformers: Prime
Warnings: Xeno. Language.
Pairings/Characters: Arcee/Jack. Ensemble.
Notes: Hasbro owns it. I certainly don't. I just really enjoy the series, and I'm glad for a chance to play with it. I just want to thank them for being willing to make a Transformers series that does not make me groan in pain...
I'm lookin' at you, Michael Bay.
For my fiancé.
Sweating, Jack Darby woke with a start. He blinked, swallowing hard as he gathered the sheets in his hands to lift them up and look. From the light of the moon and the street lamp in front of the house, he struggled to remember what he'd been dreaming. The cooling, sticky feeling under the fabric was distracting his train of thought. It was happening more and more frequently, and he never could seem to remember just who it was.
He shut his eyes as he tried to conjure up the dream one more time to remember her face...to savor it one more time. Girls, women, he slammed his head back down onto his bed as he struggled. He could remember pale skin against his. Her lithe body under his fingertips.
In his mind's eye, he looked up, desperate to see who it was. He tried on Sierra's face, his long time crush, hoping it was her. Her face just refused to fit. She was all sunshine and life, tanned-perfect in her own way. The girl he was dreaming of was dark and intense in the way she moved against him. It had been like a race, he decided. It was if they were trying to figure out who could blow their top first, and both of them exploded together.
Even the couple times in real life he'd gotten close enough to a woman, it was never like this. It was always awkward and full of uncertainty. None of the parts would fit together right, and he would just give up trying. At least, that what it had been like the time with Miko...
Another flash came back to him. She'd crept through the window. His heart sank as the rest of it began to play in his head... The sound came back to him of the long unzip of skin tight leather as it faded away from her body. The only thing that didn't come away was the motorcycle helmet.
He'd been dreaming about Sadie...
Rusty scrap, he'd been dreaming about having sex with Arcee!
"Fuck," he groaned quietly. His stomach tore into knots as he became more, and more aware of the cold mess in his underwear.
He looked over at the glowing red numbers on the clock radio. It was four AM. What a way to begin his eighteenth birthday.
Climbing out of bed, he decided to clean up. Stopping in the kitchen first for a glass of water, he heard a step. He closed his eyes again, counting. It didn't sound like his mother, nor was it time for her to be up for work. Arcee should have been in the garage, deep in her nightly power cycling.
Besides, if she ever tried coming into the house, he'd have heard a lot more than just light footsteps.
He blinked, seeing a half dressed man attempt to creep past him. Was it, really? Why was he in his house at... Jack turned slowly to look at the clock on the microwave before looking back at the man.
"Agent Fowler?" Jack asked.
He startled, standing straighter before dropping his shoes. He looked at Jack.
Jack stared back. As strange as it was, this wasn't the first time he'd encountered a strange man walking through his house in the middle of the night. However, this was the first time it was someone he introduced his mother to, and not the other way around during an equally uncomfortable dinner.
"Whatever," Jack stood up straighter himself. Since he'd first met the man, he'd grown. He wanted to growl.
Instead, almost for the first time, Jack Darby met the older man's eyes."You know, she hates it when men sneak out in the middle of the night, Bill."
"Right," Fowler looked back down the hall.
"We'll talk about this in the morning," Jack added, feeling like he wanted to hit something. He really hated lying. His father had snuck out on them in the dead of night. His mother still cried, even if she'd dated since then.
"Stay for coffee," Jack growled out as a command.
"Sure," Fowler turned around, and headed back down the hall.
Before disappearing completely, he added lamely. "Happy birthday, Jack."
"What the fuck ever." Jack shook his head, before taking a long sip of his water. "Some birthday present."
Times like these, he wished he still had a dad to talk to. Prime or Ratchet just didn't count, he realized. Even if he did know that if he did have a father still hanging around, he wouldn't have felt comfortable saying a word.
Damn, this sucked.
Instead of hitting the bathroom, he reached into his nearly empty book-bag and grabbed his cell. Miko was usually always up to talk to her parents in Japan. It was messed up, but he could always count on Miko for some perspective.
He frowned, looking at the new hoodie he'd picked up during orientation for UNLV. He would be starting in just about a month. He put it on, and slipped out the back door.
He shivered for a moment before walking to the other end of the yard, away from both the garage and his mother's window. He sat in his old swing, one of the few things around the house remaining from when his father lived with them.
Asshole, Jack scolded himself for thinking of Jackson Darby Sr. for the second time in a the space of a few minutes.
Fucking Asshole, he added for good measure as he passed by his mobile number.
I should delete it, he thought for the millionth time. He added it one day a few years back in his yearly birthday card. That time it had come from an address in Miami. His transient father never seemed to stay in one place for long. Jack suspected the cops would knock on their door looking for him, and that was only reason he bothered to keep the number. He doubted his mother ever even got the child support she was promised. Jack only cared during the hard times when she'd lost her job because of cut backs at the hospital.
Finally, after more self abuse, he found Miko's number. He clicked send, held his phone up to his ear, and waited. His face was slack as he stared off at the house as he listened to her hellishly loud ringback tone. It was Miko, so he was prepared for a blast of Metallica in growing twilight. His feet pushed into the dirt and he swung lightly, free hand gripping the chain links.
"C'mon, pick up," He whispered in desperation.
"Couldn't wait?" She asked, her Japanese accent slipping out.
"Ha!" He replied.
"I thought about calling, but I know how you hate being woken up."
"Right," Jack agreed, wondering how to get to the point.
"What's up?" She asked.
"Nothing, just..." He frowned and stared at the garage window. There was slight glow from Arcee's spark chamber brightened in the dark as her systems came back online.
"Nothing, Jack?" Miko pressed. "Well, fine. Guess I'll see you during the surprise party the bots were throwing you later."
"What? Surprise?" He asked.
"Yes, Jack," She said, exasperation slipping into her voice as she gained control of her accent again. "Bulk's been planning it for weeks."
"Oh," his frown deepened. He'd been hoping to just let it all slip by everyone.
"So what's up?" She asked again.
"Look, can you keep something to yourself?"
"You know I can't," She laughed.
"Seriously, Miko," he groused. "I just..."
"You're only turning eighteen, Jack. Not forty."
"I know, its not that."
"Oh," Miko replied, disappointed.
"Its more pressing things," he said. "I can deal with being eighteen. After everything we've done, I'm ready for it."
"I know," she replied soberly, her voice quieting down.
Where should he start?
An engine revved in the night as if it were an answer. It wasn't Arcee. He knew the sound of her purr like his own voice. Besides, she wouldn't because she would be too afraid to wake he and his mother. He was becoming more certain, however, the glow from the garage was the old television he stuck in there. No doubt, she was beginning her morning by absorbing Earth's early morning news. It was the closest thing the Autobot had to coffee.
"Miko, I-" His voice faltered before he considered his words. "I think I'm dreaming about Arcee."
"What?" she asked. "I dream about me and Bulk hitting the dunes and racing the boys down from Fallon all the time."
"No, Miko." He swallowed hard at the confession.
"I dreamed about me and..." He blinked back the image. "Sadie."
"Uhm, okay." The confusion was apparent her voice.
"I mean we were naked and-"
"Oh, say no more then." There was a long pause on the line as both of them waited. It was a lot to admit, and a lot to hear.
"What do you think it means?" She asked, finally.
"I don't know," he shook his head.
"Do you ever dream about me?" She asked.
"What?" Jack found himself back peddling on the swing as if he were trying to get away from his phone. "I'm not answering that."
"Then, it is a yes, or I'll just be insulted." Miko chuckled before sighing into the phone. "Jack, I don't know what it means, but it might be natural. You and Arcee have been partners for a while now. And she's got a hot rider. Some people would wonder why you haven't fallen in love with her already."
"But...but...," he frowned, trying to see past her logic. However, from his mother's tastes he knew nothing about love to be simple or logical. Darby's always fell for the wrong person-or bot-or whatever.
His shoulders sank as he looked at the garage one more time and bit his lip. How would it even work? What happens when he goes down to Vegas for college? They'd been consciously avoiding the topic and just hanging out and fighting off Decepticons since he and Miko graduated.
"You even think about Bulkhead like that?" He asked, leaning forward.
"No!" She nearly screamed before giggling. "Bulkhead's like the biggest brother any of us could have. I could never."
Miko burst into another long fit of laughter. Jack could tell she was thinking about it.
Or was she just laughing at him?
"Forget I asked," he grumbled.
"I'll try, Jack," She laughed one more time before settling down. "So, Arcee, huh?"
"Yeah," he sighed again, glad just to talk to someone instead of brooding.
"Should I be insulted?" Miko asked.
"Probably not," Jack replied.
"I half thought you might-" She started to say.
"I always half did too," he admitted before biting his lip.
"But you know..."
"I know, Jack," He thought he could hear a sniffle.
"You know, I love you too, Miko," he said with half a smile on his lips.
"We've been through a lot." She agreed. "I'm not over staying my visa just for Jasper's music scene."
"I know." He understood. "We owe a lot to the 'Bots."
"We do," she replied quietly. He listened again, hearing another sniffle and the distinct sound of crying and disapointment. "What do you want to do about this?"
"I don't know," he stood up, finally. He could honestly say he felt better talking to her. "So do you want to hear the other birthday gift I got at four am?" He said, frowning and trying to cheer her up.
"Sure," She replied.
"So after my dream, I wake up and go into the kitchen, and I see Fowler sneaking through the house."
"What?" Miko asked, becoming animated again. "Fowler, why?"
"Why do you think?" He asked. "He was coming from my mother's room."
"Oh." Jack could practically see her eyes widen to Anime proportions.
"You know, it wouldn't bother me so much if they'd told me."
"That they were knockin' boots?" She asked.
"Dating, you mean?" Jack asked.
"If someone said something, I'd be fine with it," he added. "I couldn't believe he was sneaking out. If he'd just been there for breakfast, I'd be cool."
"Really?" She asked.
"Maybe not" He realized. "But better than catching him walk slipping out on mom."
"Yeah, June doesn't need that," Miko agreed. "But she needs someone."
"I know," He frowned again, rocking back and forth in the swing. "I told him to stay for coffee. I called him 'Bill.'"
"Really?" Miko giggled again. "What are you going to?"
"I don't know." He said. "What is there to really do, anyway? Why would I stop them?"
"True," She agreed. "Want to meet up for breakfast?"
"Sure," He said. "I might insist on Bill coming along."
She broke out into giggles again, "Sure, we'll tag team him."
"Happy birthday, Jack," she said, finally.
"Thank you," he said, glad to hear it from someone who meant it. "You know, I meant what I said."
"I know, Jack," She replied after a long pause. "And I love you too."
"It just doesn't work."
"Nope," she said replied. He wasn't sure if she was agreeing with him, or adding new resolve.
They'd both been dancing around each other for weeks until an excursion with Bee in Tokyo. Knockout had been harassing street racers there while he was hunting for energon. Prime sent them to investigate. Miko had been emotional with being home for the first time in months. They'd the whole night running around town, avoiding anyone who knew her, and it turned out she knew a lot of people. As soon as they were alone, they both came unglued, kissing and groping.
It happened, and then nothing happened. It just hadn't felt right and once their clothes were off, everything just felt idiotic. They realized what was about to happen and admitted that neither of them were ready yet. They dressed and held each other until the time for them to slip out of the little, rented hotel room they gotten.
They never told Raf, or even any of the bots. He certainly never mentioned it to his mother.
"I'll see you at IHOP in an hour," Jack decided.
"I'll see if Raf's up."
"You do that," He smiled, finally, beginning to walk towards his back door.
"See you soon." The line finally went dead and he heaved a bit sigh of relief.
"I love you too, Miko" was the first thing Arcee heard after transforming to stretch her internal cabling. She turned the television on and frowned. She couldn't help but listen to everything going on around the house.
Slumping down onto the cold, cement floor, she brought her knees up to her chest. So that's how it was? She looked down at the floor, part of her processing power listened to the news from Reno, making sure they and their antics with the Decepticons stayed out of the news.
Scrap! Jack and Miko were friends. They were both about the same age. They were both same species and organic. Why was it so suddenly disappointing?
She filed it away. She could deal with whatever conflicted emotions were going through her processor later. It...it shouldn't matter, she tried to rationalize. She should be happy for them. After all Jack and Miko had been through together...
After all she had been through with Jack as well, she realized with a frown. Shouldn't that count for something?
Scrap! Scrap! Scrap! She scolded herself. These were the stupidest things for her to even think about. He's organic. He is barely into manhood by human standards. However, she knew if she went by their standards, Jack wouldn't be much younger than Bee.
And really, she wasn't much older than Bee herself. She glanced at her hip and patted it. Maybe it was time...?
Scrap! It was like Cliffjumper all over again. She shook her head and buried her head in her hands. Looking up, she let the images from the television hit her, meaning lost on her processor with it being overtaxed by trying to listen to anything other than what was going on in the infernal house.
Her frown deepened when she heard something else. June was getting up, and Agent Fowler was still in the house.
"I knew we should have told him," Fowler's voice said.
"I know," June replied in hush tones. "I know, I'm sorry he did that."
"It's alright," he replied. "Jack's a man now, and he's just trying to do right
Scrap, Arcee thought again. She had been wondering how long they would let it go on before telling Jack. They had been sneaking around for a year.
"You make me happy, Bill," June said, getting louder as they approached the kitchen, and thus her garage. "And Jack will just have to accept that."
"Yes, Bill, you do."
Arcee could practically see June's shy little smile when she was caught admitting something. Despite her usual misgivings about the Department of Defence special agent, Arcee felt like she could trust Bill Fowler the man. He was certainly better than any of the men June talked about in the past. He had also been there for Jack in more ways than his own father, and that had to count for something. Arcee just hoped this didn't spoil the...
She sighed, realizing Miko had probably already spoiled the surprise party. Even the simplest of plans were complicated when it came to the damn, squishy humans. When did she get so silly?
Bee trilled in her comm.
::What?:: She asked, leaning her head back against the wall, careful not to put a hole in the wood.
::Raf's meeting them at IHOP, are you going to be there?:: He said in his blips and beeps of Cybertronian.
::What?:: She asked the scout again.
::Rafael woke me saying Miko and Jack were meeting for breakfast,::
Bumblebee clarified. ::Something's up, and they're going to mess with Fowler.::
::Oh,:: Arcee replied. ::No one's said anything to me yet.::
I will not watch the door like the faithful, pet motorcycle, she promised herself, even as she did.
::What's the word from Optimus?:: She asked.
::He doesn't have an opinion about parties,:: Bee guessed.
::I mean, about things with the Cons.::
::They've been quiet lately,:: He said. ::And he spends a lot of time staring at the big screen `with Ratchet.::
The last time she was back to base, Prime and Rachet had certainly been up to something. Their silence was worrying. Silence on both sides was troubling. Sometimes, master plans among Cybertronians could take years to fully play out.
::Well, if there's one thing I know about Decepticons," Arcee said. "They won't stay quiet long.::
::Or Mech,:: Bee replied.
The door opened slowly, and Arcee looked up. Jack stood by and watched her. "Hey."
"Morning," She looked down, unable to meet his eyes. The boy who impulsively promised the universe that a bike like her would be his one day had grown up into a man. He'd filled out, gotten taller. He was square shouldered in a way that made her think of Prime or Cliffjumper or-she sighed inwardly from a distant memory-Tailgate. He was tough like all of them too. She'd never seen an organic who was so Cybertronian to the core.
"I assume you heard?"
"Heard?" Her optics widened. What was she supposed to have heard?
"Mom and me?"
"No," She looked over at the garage door this time. "I was checking in Bee."
Jack folded his arms and frowned, "So how long have you known about mom and him?"
"A while," Arcee admitted, glad it was that and not the other thing. She should just leave he and Miko alone.
"Long enough to know," She added. "And long enough to know it was their business to work out."
"Right," He nodded, grimacing as he accepted another hard truth. She'd seen him accept so many it made her spark ache. "Well, I've laid down the law, and we're all getting breakfast."
He looked her in the eye and smiled, "Want to come?"
Megatron always accused them of treating the humans as their pets. Sometimes, it just felt the other way around. She knew Jack cared, but she knew they were still regarded as being 'other' and not human. He'd never get past that.
"Bee's taking Raf," She sighed.
"Good," Jack walked over and spontaneously hugged her tightly. "We need a big breakfast for a long day."
"Right," She smiled, transforming quickly, turning her good side for him hop on. When his helmet was on and he had his legs wrapped around her, she manifested Sadie behind him. With the visor up, the holoform leaned in, "Happy birthday, Jack."
His eyes widened as he say straight up. "I didn't know you could do that."
"There's a lot you just don't know," she said, smirking to herself.
"Evidently," Jack whispered, staring at the garage door. He could feel the holoform holding onto his waist, and in turn, though the holoform, Arcee could feel his tight stomach. It was still silly, but it gave her a little thrill.
Any thrill that didn't involve getting shot at was just too much a novelty to ignore.
She revved her engine, made the door go up as she kicked into gear and shot them both down the street.
Miko might be human, but she was still, only human. And her boy liked bikes.
He glanced over at Sadie-Arcee, now without her helmet, sitting across from him in the IHOP booth. They had beaten the others. Jack could only guess how many were really coming. He was still startled by how his birthday was turning out in just the first two hours after waking up. Was he still dreaming? Was it going to turn into a nightmare?
It was unreal, he thought as he looked her over. He hoped she didn't mind him staring, even if it should have been understandable. She still had a sharp, teardrop face with short, shoulder length black hair, large blue eyes that only looked like holograms if he looked into them too deeply. He wanted to stare into them, but he looked away, not because of the unreality of the situation, but because he just wasn't prepared. If he was forced to guess, she looked like dangerous chick in her early twenties. She definitely did not seem like Sierra.
"Well." He rubbed at the back of his head before glancing out to see where Arcee was also outside waiting in a parking spot. For once, to his eyes, she looked just like a bike. "This is...something."
"Yes, Jack," Arcee replied. It was her voice, but not. It sounded humanized to his ears. The illusion was amazing. It-she reached out to touch his hand. Pale, soft skin brushed his own. He did not know how to describe it, exactly. "It is."
"What?" He glanced at their hands. He swallowed hard. "How?"
"Wheeljack," She said, giving him a shrug. "He developed these little projectors for when he's on organic worlds. He said it was easier to move around in. Optimus asked for a few for us to blend in better."
"Oh," Jack blinked. "It's amazing."
"They're top secret so you know...," She added.
"And soon Miko and Raf will know," Jack added. "Unless you plan on disappearing."
"No, Jack, I don't bail on my partner." Not anymore, she added to herself. "We needed to field test it anyway."
"Does Optimus know you have it?"
"I...," She looked away. "Bulk and I discussed the possibility with him."
"And?" Jack knew he did not want encourage her in doing anything that would go against one of the big man's orders, especially over something as stupid as his birthday.
"He agreed this might be a good time for a field test," She hedged.
"But?" Jack drew out of her.
"He doesn't know I've got one, and that I am using it in town."
Jack leaned in closer.
"And this is meant to be a birthday present?" He'd never thought he could have a simple conversation with her like this.
"Yes," Arcee looked down.
"It's a good one," He frowned, looking down at their hands. He did not know what he should do. He forced back the questioning thought that wondered just what she could do with this new disguise.
"Whose that with Jack?" He heard his mother's voice.
He turned back to see her standing with Fowler. They stood close together like a comfortable couple. They might even have been mistaken for being married. For all that he had been told lately, they might already be married.
"I guess we continue this later?" He asked Arcee and she nodded minutely. All of her usual mannerisms were still there. It was still just too uncanny. Sadie was definitely a disguise for Arcee.
"So who is she, Jack?" June asked, smiling broadly.
He held his hand up before she could start. He pointed to the bike. "You already know my partner from the science fiction club, mom."
"Oh," June looked out the window before looking at the Sadie hologram. Quickly, surreptitiously, their hands slid apart.
"Well, all be damned," Fowler said. "Just when I thought I had you bots figured out, you never fail to add another trick."
"That's us," Arcee replied.
"So Sadie here called up and wanted to be here," Jack said a bit louder when the waitress came near enough to hear their conversation.
"Right, Sadie," June said, extending her palm out.
Jack moved around the big booth, moving his coffee with him, "I've got other questions for you both."
"I know, honey," June looked away. "We wanted to tell you, but..."
"But what?" Jack looked between them.
"If it didn't work out, we didn't want you to be hurt by it."
"So sneaking around?" Jack asked and glanced at Arcee.
"It wasn't my place to say anything," Arcee reminded him.
"Fine, whatever," Jack finally picked up a menu. "No more lying."
"Sure," June glanced at Bill, uncertain herself. She had never really been around both of them together like this.
"Agent Fowler," Arcee whispered quietly. "Hurt her, and I run you down in the street, and even Optimus won't be able to stop it."
"Right, I'll consider that noted." He glanced at June. Having seen Arcee in action before, he knew it was possibility. Somehow, he'd heard the story of how she'd had Starscream set for an execution, but stayed her hand because of her loyalty to the big man. Unhinged, she would do a lot of damage.
"So, can we get back to how I'm talking to you looking like a person?" Fowler asked.
"No." The bot said with a firm finality to her voice. "I'm just Sadie, Jack's..." She glanced at him. "Lab partner."
"You don't look like no high schooler I've ever seen."
"Well, I'm still perfecting it," Arcee grimaced, almost snapping.
"Hey," Jack smiled meekly. He wanted to grab her hand again for reassurance. "It looks good."
"You look gorgeous," June said, beginning to frown. She moved out of her seat.
"In fact, why don't you come to the bathroom with me, and I'll give you a few pointers."
Arcee cast a glance at Jack who shrugged minutely.
"Sure," She said. She was in their world, and she might as well try to learn how to blend in properly.
She wound through the restaurant, first following June, then figuring it out on her own. Instinctively, she checked the room. This was what a human bathroom looked like, she realized. She'd always imagined they would be cleaner, and not so much like an old oil drum...
Her head snapped up and eyes widened when she heard the soft click of the lock. Wheeling around, she backed up towards the wall. She knew she knew nothing more than the projection could be destroyed while she was walking around this way, the bulk of her consciousness still inside her silent motorcycle form outside.
June advanced on her, finger in the air accusatorially. It was hardly the cool cruelty of Airarachnid, or the malice of Megatron, but it still frightened Arcee nonetheless. It was something else entirely. Her fingers tips touched the cheap wallpaper. She was solid enough for her to have the basic four senses by way of the projector.
This was June, unarmed, always caring June...always much smaller than her June, she grasped. Scrap! She realized that June must have been one of those mean girls she had seen referenced in Earth movies.
And Arcee had just walked into her trap.
"Just what the hell is all this?" June spat out.
"All what?" Arcee asked.
"This body," She glanced at the door. Arcee followed her gaze. "His birthday."
"I don't think I had anything to do with the second part," Arcee countered.
"No, but you're sure up to something looking like that."
"Looking like-" Arcee looked at herself in the mirror. By local standards, she was not just pretty or cute, but- "Oh."
The affect was a lot different than it looked when she had been sculpting it based off her own template in her spark. Wheeljack explained that he had programed them to work a bit off how they would look if they had been born as part of that particular species to avoid copying another sentient being and risk running into the original.
"Oh," June folded her arms, guarding the door. "So explain."
"Explain what?" Arcee asked.
"Explain why suddenly today," She demanded.
"A surprise?" Arcee hoped that would be explanation enough. She had been treating Jack like a partner for months. She had been growing to depend on his steady nature. She counted him as a friend. She should not have to explain herself to his mother. Her son had been thinking and behaving like a man for a lot longer than the few hours he was legally declared one.
"Just a surprise?" June gave her a sidelong glance and frowned before unlocking the door.
"Fine. I'm not going to believe you, so we'll leave it unsaid." June added. "Mess up, and yours wouldn't be the first tires I've slashed."
"Right," Arcee heaved a sigh when June smiled and walked out. She would let the human woman have her victory, even if it was a prime insult to turn your back like June did. She was not beaten!
She steadied her hand, noticing how the nervous ticks carried over. Some things must have been deeply ingrained in her programing. Arcee had never gotten along well with other femmes of any species.
"Happy Birthday!" Miko exclaimed when she and Raf arrived at the table moments after June and Arcee left. Jack sighed, beginning to feel tired and strained already. If anything, he was glad to see her, not sure what he had to say to Fowler. If he could pick to save an awkward conversation for another time, it would be that one.
"No Bee?" Jack asked, looking over his shoulder.
"Outside, next to Arcee," Raf said, looking down unsteadily at the table. He slumped down next to Agent Fowler. He looked at tired as Jack felt, if not a whole lot more.
"Yeah, that was funny. Is Arcee not talking to us or something?" Miko asked, sliding into the booth next to Jack. She slid in close, thighs touching before leaning in to plant a peck on his cheek. He could feel her right hand searching for something before it found his. Not knowing what else to do, he took it.
Fowler caught his eye and a brow went up. Jack could only shrug. Fatigue was struggling with his emotional confusion. Eventually, someone had to come along and take an order, he hoped.
"So the man with his own helicopter finally found his own helicopter momma?" Miko said, at last, grinning viciously.
"What?" Raf looked at Jack, confused even as Fowler spit out his coffee.
"Miko!" Jack sat up straighter, even as she leaned her head on his shoulder.
"Fine, fine. I'll leave it alone," She said. "But you should have asked permission first."
"Whose?" He looked at Jack. For his part, he only raised his hand, not wanting to get into it.
"Can we talk about something else?"
"Sure, what did you do to Arcee to put her into one of her sulks?" She eyed Jack.
"Nothing-ah," He glanced at the hallway for the bathrooms. "I think you'll figure it out when you see."
"See?" Miko scrunched her nose, getting close to his face.
"Oh, the projectors," Raf realized. "She's using one?"
"You know about them?" Jack asked.
"Ratchet was playing with them," Raf explained.
"Ratchet?" Jack asked with surprise.
"I don't know," Raf shrugged. "Then Bulk asked for help getting one to work."
"And he didn't ask me?" Miko asked.
"Oh," Raf's eyes widened as if he remembered something important. "It is a surprise."
"Smooth one, kid," Fowler laughed, giving him a friendly pat on the shoulder.
"You look like you need to be sleeping more and not staying up all night with Bulkhead and Ratchet. If you're going to be camping out there, they need to remember you aren't like them."
"Oh, its not like that at all," Miko laughed. "Tell, them Raf."
He blushed, looking down.
"There's a girl," Fowler guessed.
"We don't need to talk about it," Raf said.
"It's fine," Jack rubbed his own eyes. He stretched his arms out, letting go of Miko's hand finally. His arms went out over the booth. Miko guessed it was time to sit closer, like he was subtly putting his arm around her. He looked at her, wondering if he was.
Was he? He wondered. He glanced at Fowler, frowned, and looked down. Miko felt right, like she belonged there with him, but she didn't all at the time. It was like his arm knew someone else was meant to be there. Times like this he really wished he had a dad. He looked at Fowler one more time, and decided why not. He'd do as long as he treated his mother right.
"You know that song by Jay-Z," Fowler asked, guessing at his thoughts. "'99 Problems'?"
"That ain't you," Fowler barked a laugh and took another gulp of his coffee.
Jack looked down and laughed uneasily himself, glad Miko did not know the song, and Raf was lost in his own little world.
"Hey," Fowler winked, finally catching a waitress when Arcee and June returned.
Eventually, they managed to settle in and order. Arcee kept to the coffee for the illusion, fairly certainly that a lack of internal organs meant eating and drinking were out. After all, what were the free floating nanites that made up her solid form going to do with it the matter. And if they did process it, will they defecate? Would she have to shed her pants and sit on one of those dirty things the humans use? She'd been tempted to shed her pants for other things, but that would be later-She glanced at Jack, and the warning glance Miko gave her-Instead of later, maybe not at all.
Wheeljack should have written a manual. Wondering what to do with this form was infinitely better than watching Miko fawn over Jack, and Jack return the attention.
::He's going to be so mad,:: She heard in her comm. She glanced outside to see Bumblebee sitting next to her. Poor guy would be lonely, she thought. Usually, they had their long talks and debates during times like these.
::You took one too, you could come inside,:: Arcee projected.
::Not supposed to,:: Bee said. ::It isn't an appropriate time.::
::When will it ever?:: Arcee snapped back. ::And you could try using English with them. It won't hurt you.::
::My vocals...:: He maintained. ::It won't process it right, you know that.::
::But these little things take the burden off our main processors. It's actually freeing to not have so much mental bulk weighing everything down. It's almost like having something the speed of a human's brain and limitations.::
::Is that a good thing?::
::I'm finding out,:: She decided.
::Why?:: Bee finally asked. ::Why do you need to know, or are you considering...?::
Arcee could tell the shock conveyed in his tone. She had been hoping to keep some of her intentions to herself. Metal and organic were not necessarily unheard of in the galaxy, but definitely not always approved. To creatures like Airachnid, organic life was lesser life, but Arcee had spent too much time on Earth now to realize her options were limited.
Cybertronians live a long time, she reflected, and her human pet was good by any civilized standard. She glanced at Jack again. She could protect this one. This one won't be stupid like Tailgate or Cliffjumper and get caught by a Con.
It was also freeing to be consciously away from her aching spark, she realized.
::Fine, I'll be in there." Bee comm'd in a huff. ::I just hope this isn't the day Mech passes through Jasper looking to raid Fallon.::
::Whatever,:: Arcee replied. ::I ordered you to use it as part of your training to adapt to changing situations.::
She sighed when his driver's side door opened. A skinny black guy climbed out of the seat and she smirked.
"Agent Fowler, I think your cousin is here," She said, getting his attention.
"What?" He looked around, seeing Bumblebee stagger for a moment like he drunk before finally stepping onto the sidewalk.
"Cassius?" Fowler asked, his eyes widening as he realized.
The others turned to look themselves.
"Bee?" Raf asked, worry evident. "Optimus didn't say any of you could use those yet. Ratchet is still checking them out."
"Oh," Arcee shook her head, finally getting up to go help Bumblebee inside. He was staring at the door.
::For Primus sake, you've seen them use it,:: She scolded him before rushing to push it open for him.
"Cassius, you shouldn't drive this tired." She leaned in closer to whisper, "We're scouts, we're going to be using these a lot soon, I think. And Fowler's calling you Cassius."
"Sure?" He looked up, surprised to hear his own voice translated into English.
"The local dialect detectors programmed in. Something we should copy and weld into you." She walked slow beside him as Fowler rose to get a chair for the new holoform.
"But we can speak Cybertronian when it is just us," She added, still in a whisper.
"Yes," Bumblebee replied after he sat in the chair. He stared at the rest of them as they stared back.
"Bee?" Raf asked, wide eyed.
"Rafael," he mustered. "This is an awkward language."
"Oh, don't I know it," Miko agreed.
"Like you've got room to talk," Fowler commented, pointing at her with a fork before June pushed it away. "When I was stationed in Japan, I tried to learn the language, but it was always a mess."
"It's a clever language for clever people," She crossed her arms and turned her head. "Can't imagine an oaf like you being able to understand."
"Is that why you're here?" Jack snickered at her scowl.
Playfully, she elbowed him, "You should thank me for setting you up like that."
"Cybertronian isn't that hard," Raf said, changing the subject. "We just can't make the right sounds."
"Right," Jack looked at Arcee as she looked away from he and Miko.
"We could," Raf replied. "It's like speaking in a programing language or binary."
"No offense, but I don't think even you could...," Arcee started.
"I don't have the right mouth, but-" He pulled out a pen and started scribbling in their glyphs on a napkin.
"Oh," Arcee replied, sitting back.
Bee leaned forward and looked at the paper himself, "Raf, I don't think Arcee wants to hear that she looks funny as a human being."
Raf scribbled more glyphs, smirking.
"And definitely not that," Bee replied.
"How...?" Arcee asked.
"Your computers taught me," Raf replied. "But I can't really make the sounds. I can't really call them words like we use."
"Like ancient Egyptian or something," Fowler guessed before snatching up the paper with the glyphs. He tucked them into his jacket. "Another discussion not for the public, either. No dictionaries or Rosetta Stones either."
"Yes, sir," Raf sighed.
"That's not to say that this isn't impressive, Raf," he added.
"Right," he looked down. "But what if more of them come?"
"We're just supposed to be careful of their secrets. We can let Ratchet worry about a dictionary." He added. Fowler looked at Arcee and Bumblebee both. "Right?"
"Very careful," she said, wondering if there was a hidden message in his tone.
"Especially if Optimus doesn't want something getting out," He added.
There it was, Arcee shook her head. Fowler did not command her. She also wondered just how long Optimus would be as well. She glanced at Jack.
Could she walk away from being an active Autobot?
"You okay?" Jack leaned into Arcee when they were well on their way to the Autobot's bunker. By the time they were racing out of town, Sadie's projection had flickered away and the projector was safely stowed on her hip storage compartment. She'd been silent the whole time, and the amusement and fun of the whole morning was starting to run out with fatigue and stress. Miko was disappointed he decided to ride out with Arcee instead of what passed for Bumblebee's back seat.
Miko had never come on that strong before, even after a couple drinks at a party after graduation. They'd went together, thinking they might try a date or two after Japan to see how it worked for them. Still, it just never did. Something kept holding them both back, or Sierra would pop up and he'd be tongue-tied. Then Miko would make fun of her, and it'd put him off.
After that? And then the dream with Arcee? It wasn't like that was a real possibility. There were just too many differences for Miko to be threatened...
Then again, if Miko wanted something, she went for it, and damned the consequences. He just could not tell what she wanted. She never said she wanted to actually date. They'd talked about it, but with her student visa, she never wanted to tie Jack down. He always drew the line before becoming friends with benefits.. Even if it was too tempting.
What he wanted was his girl, his Arcee. In the dust, Jack remembered a time when he tried to wash her in front of the garage to impress Sierra. Arcee had balked at first, but relented. He could only smirk when he watched her turning to look in a mirror to look at the shine he'd put on her paint job. She'd even thanked him for the hand wash and buffing...
"Yeah...," She turned off into the desert, taking them away from the base. "Look, can we talk?"
"Yeah," he replied. She'd never before done anything like this. She had certainly never asked to talk. He had a million times, but never Arcee. It worried him.
They followed an old, worn out dirt trail that passed a few struggling shrubs and stopped in front of a big boulder. They had been out there before. With the view, and the litter, it was clear to Jack that quite a few people in Jasper knew the spot, but somehow, it was always deserted. From the condom wrappers, cigarette butts, and empty beer cans, he could tell people did more than talk at that spot. Tire tracks led everywhere around the bushes.
He hoped up on the large rock as she transformed. He watched her, glad to see the Arcee he knew and loved rather than the holoform he just did not know how to deal with. There was an elegant, coiled beauty to the way she moved, nothing ever wasted. She was Angelina Jolie in robot form, not an imitation. He did not think there was anyone he knew or trusted more, not his mother or Miko. Certainly not Sierra, which seemed silly in hindsight after graduation, like he had been clinging to something ridiculously normal in the midst of so much insanity in saving the world from aliens, and men who wanted to use those aliens to take over the world themselves.
"What's wrong?" He asked after a few moments of silence as they both observed each other.
She folded her arms and looked away.
Right, Jack thought. She wanted to talk and she was the one giving him the silent treatment. "Or should I ask Ratchet for a ground bridge?"
Arcee's optics widened. "No, Jack."
She sat down on the ground, low enough so they could both look each other in the eye. "I know I don't have any right to ask, but what's going on between you and Miko?"
"Miko." He looked away himself. "I don't know."
His head snapped up again, his gaze settled on hers. "Why?"
"Nothing, just in the restaurant...," She frowned and looked down.
"Was, I don't know what. It was all, mostly Miko." He shook his head.
"Sometimes, she's as easy to be physical with, like a bad habit. I should have known better than to call her like I did," he added after a moment's hesitation.
"Why did you call her?" Arcee asked.
"Fowler," he said, holding back.
"That warrants a call at four in the morning?"
"It was pretty messed up, Arcee," he said.
"You're holding out on me."
"So what if I am?" He jumped down off the boulder and began to pace. "I don't have to tell you everything."
"No, you certainly don't." She agreed. "You don't have to tell me anything."
"I'm leaving soon." He swallowed hard. "What happens then?"
"Am I still your protector while you're in college?"
"Are we still partners? Am I still part of this?"
"Prime hasn't said anything," Arcee admitted. His lack of attention to their growth always worried her.
"Jack." Her long arm reached out for him. Scrap, this was painful."I don't have all the answers."
"Well, when someone has them, they need to let me know," He shook his head.
"I..." She gasped before saying it. "Jack, I'm going to ask Optimus to let me go with you."
"What?" His eyes widened.
"How, what will you do? I...I can't just keep you hidden in my dorm room. You saw the pictures, they're tiny. Or what, you'll sit in a parking garage?"
Sadie flickered into existence. She walked towards Jack slowly. Her aged morphed carefully so she matched Jack's a bit closer.
"A good scout learns the terrain. They study it. The best live on it and become as good as a native." She learned as much from her own teachers, and she had passed that same information on to him time and time again as they poured over maps.
"So this is what? You fighting the war better?" He refused to budge.
"No, Jack," She sighed. "We have to stop mourning Cybertron and start thinking about the rest of our existence. And no matter what Megatron thinks, this planet is too populous for him to hold it with the few hold outs he has, either. Especially if they're all as fickle as Knockout and Airachnid."
The old buckethead had his chance to wipe out the human race too many times over, and he passed it by desperate to rule something.
"We have to start living again," She said before she grabbed him by the shoulders. Her lips pressed against his. His eyes widened before he kissed her back. He did not know what to do other than what he wanted.
And he wanted to give in, give into this silly dream. It was too intense for him to process. It wasn't fun like kissing Miko. It wasn't anything like he imagined. He just wanted it. He wanted her.
Finally, he staggered away and stared. His mouth fell open. "I called Miko because I had a dream about you and me.
"Oh," Arcee's eyes widened.
Her comm buzzed.
"This better be important," She snarled.
"Arcee, it is," Ratchet sounded like he was out of breath. "There's a Cybertronian warship coming to Earth."
"What?" The projector dropped to the ground as he body came back to life.
"One of ours or theirs?" She asked.
"Ours," Ratchet said, his excitement was pouring through the comm.
"Which one?" She ask.
"Scrap," Her eyes widened.
"Does Prime know?
"For days now," He said. "But they're coming in a little hot and fast. It looks they've already encountered Nemesis, and taken on damage."
"What do we do?" She asked.
"We meet them see if they will need treatment."
"Where?" She looked up, seeing a shadow pass over them. "Oh. Scrap."
"Indeed," Ratchet replied. "We'll be meeting them there shortly."
"A warship?" Jack asked.
"Captained by Elita One herself," Arcee said with a mix of pride and amazement. "Prime's girl, with another fifty or so bots on board. Some of the best."
"Scrap," he agreed.
"So what do we do?" He asked.
"We meet them," She said, already kicking into gear.
He looked up into her optics, "I meant us."
"We're partners," She said. "We can work out details later."
Leaping, she landed on both tires. "Now, hop on before the gate opens up and we get run over by Optimus."
"Right," He said, uneasily. "Arcee?"
"Jack?" She said.
"I think I love you."
"I think I love you too," She said, her engine revving.
He leaned over and kissed her Autobot symbol. "Always knew I'd have a bike like you someday."
"Happy birthday, Jack," She said finally before they sped off to follow the shadow streaking across the desert floor, making a bee-line for a nearby hill.