Well folks, it looks like we've finally made it. The final chapter. Man I really hope you like it! :3 I just want to thank everyone who thought my story was worth reading. Without you guys I never would have made it this far and as hard as life feels like right now, it means more than I can say that you guys stuck with me this long. And I really hope to see you guys again when I post my future works!
Speaking of future works, Aria and the others still have lots of life left ahead of them and I'm working hard to get their story written down, but honestly? I'm tired. I didn't expect Long Road Home to be this long. I just need a little breathing space. My family and I are going on vacation at the end of the month so I'm going to give myself until then to just...relax and try and get my head together. I'll probably post some writings that have accumulated on my computer over the past two years (such as an TF Animated story I started to doodle up like, a year ago, hopefully some more bits for Skyangel and Sing Me to Sleep, and probably Dovetail's spin-off story that I mentioned before) so in the mean time hopefully none of us will be bored. ;)
The next story in Aria's Sparkfinder Saga is more of a bridge story called Across the Bounding Interstellar Waves and will (hopefully) be rather short. And it will be followed by the longer and more tentatively titled Planet Hoppers. Just a heads up for what to expect in the future.
Other than that all I have to say is a great, expansive, all encompassing THANK YOU! You guys mean so much to me and I'm grateful for every review, every hit, every fav and alert that y'all saw fit to give me. Thank you for having patience with me when my procrastination and perfectionist ways got in between me and deadlines and I can hardly wait to see all of you again as the story continues! Bless you all and I really hope you enjoy the conclusion to The Long Road Home!
Also L.M.L.? Is there some way I can contact you without having to use these chapters? I don't want to be creepy and ask for anything too direct so are you on Tumblr or Deviantart or some other website that has a messaging system you don't mind using? I enjoy talking with you, but it's kind of difficult doing it this way...sorta like sending up smoke signals and just hoping that the other person got the message. n_n; Anyway, if you don't want to give me that sort of thing I understand. And hopefully I'll see you when I start posting Dovetail's story in the near-ish future! Til then! :)
The Long Road Home
Epilogue – One Last Loose End – Epilogue
Their wedding was as strange and unexpected as the rest of their relationship and almost none of the guests that came understood what was going on.
"I don't get it."
"Yeah, if they want to be sparkmates-"
"Married, Sideswipe, humans call it being married."
"Pfft, whatever. If they want to be married – don't give me that look Mirage you know I don't really care – then what do they need Prime and us for?" Sideswipe spread his hands out to indicate the two beaming humans standing near the front of the long room with Prime. "I mean, all they gotta do is find somewhere quiet and remember to lock the door. Forget all this complicated courting stuff." He grumbled.
Sunstreaker snickered. "Like Ironhide." He muttered with a grin at the mech standing nearby.
That didn't go over too well. Ironhide whirled around and jabbed a digit at the snickering twins. "Mute it sunshine! I didn' ferget nuthin' courtin' Chromia and if you say otherwise again I'm gonn break yer precious voicebox."
The twins just tried to smother more laughter at Ironhide's threats. They hadn't heard him drop that many g's since Sunny had made that comment about Chromia's backside before anyone had known she and Ironhide were a single item. Needless to say, it had been an interesting way to find out...
Hound leaned backwards on his heels slightly where he stood in front of the arguing mechs. "If the three of you don't mute it soon I think we're going to have another Daycare Disaster on our hands."
The lot of them looked over Hound's shoulder and saw that whatever was going on at the front of the room had paused, not because of them, but because Aria was sending them a look that Wheeljack probably could have weaponized with the proper energy source.
All three of them froze like permafrost. They hadn't seen that look in awhile either.
"I think we'd stand a better chance on that Decepticon ship." Sides muttered to his brother when Aria finally turned away.
"Only if you ruin this for them." Mirage muttered back with a sideways glare at his neighbors. He knew he should have sat on the other side of the aisle...
"Yeah, whatever," Sunny grumbled, touchy from all the threats to his glorious person, "I still don't get why we have to be here at all."
Mirage shrugged one shoulder but didn't look away from Aria and Nat. Prime had stopped speaking now and Nat was saying something to Aria, but with the twins chattering like servo-monkeys it was hard to tell what. "It's a bonding ceremony. They need witnesses for it to be official."
Sunny and Sides jerked back with comically wide optics. "Oh eww!"
Mirage's right optic started to twitch. "Not like that you morons!" He turned around and shouted at them.
Everybody froze again. They could practically feel Aria trying to melt their armor with her eyes.
Mirage's shoulders slumped as he finally gathered enough courage to turn back around and face the bride. "...sorry Aria." He mumbled.
He shot the twins a furious glare of his own when Aria finally went back to ignoring them.
Sunny and Sides weren't phased. "Well what do they need witnesses for then? Just to see 'em make all these doofy promises?"
Mirage stubbornly kept his optics forward, although he still scowled at their question. "I will not be sucked in." He repeated stubbornly in his head. "I will not be sucked in."
Ironhide was not as strong. "They are not doofy." He grumbled, thoroughly annoyed now. He wanted to hear slaggit! "This is a big deal you dolts. Like those family contracts they used to make way back when before the High Council was founded."
Sunny and Sides shared a confused look. "Like those what now?"
Mirage sighed in complete frustration. Of all the- "Family contracts." He repeated, albeit very quietly. "In the time after the Breaking of the Thirteen but before Prima was found and became the first Prime, Cybertron was ruled by the descendents of the Thirteen."
Sideswipe's optics grew round. "The Thirteen had kids?" He breathed.
Mirage nodded. It was astonishing how little the youngling centers had taught anyone in the final days. But then, most outside the noble houses had written off stories of the Thirteen as nothing but myth and fabrication, so perhaps their ignorance was not entirely Sunstreaker and Sideswipe's fault. "Not all of them, but yes. And when Liege Maximo and the Fallen shattered the bond of the Thirteen, the break sent out a shockwave that shattered all their descendents' bonds as well."
Sunny frowned. "That's not how it works." He griped. "Your bonds don't break just because someone else's does."
Mirage wasn't sure, but he thought Sunstreaker looked nervous that he could be wrong. As annoying, selfish, and downright narcissistic as Sunny was, Sideswipe was still his twin. He was all he had. And if he lost that because of someone else...well Mirage didn't want to test the popular theory that Sideswipe was the only thing keeping Sunstreaker from being an honest to Primus psychopath.
"Not now," he tried to reassure the gold mech, "but the Thirteen's bond was the first bond. All of their creations' bonds were built off of that. When it broke, everything else collapsed."
They had managed to disrupt the ceremony again, and even Nat was starting to look furious now. "As fascinating as that all is Raj..." he tried to say.
But Mirage held out a hand. "Hold on I'm almost done."
Aria and Nat shared a frustrated scowl. "Yeah, so were we." The organic femme grumbled, but listened in reluctant fascination nonetheless.
"They were alone..." Sideswipe mumbled, ignoring the organics entirely now. Sure he'd been alone lots of times – in the old Pit rings, when he had been off trying to ambush Decepticons while the rest of his team got into position – but he'd never been alone alone. Since he'd first crawled out of the Well, Sunny had been there. He couldn't even imagine the horror of having their twin bond just disappear on him like that...
Mirage nodded. "Helpless, open to sparkshock and attack from aliens and the Chaos-Bringer, and alone." He clarified. "That's where the contracts came in. Bots would make a contract between two parties – sometimes more but that was rare – and the contract would be sealed by the parties forming a bond. Sometimes sparkbonds, like the noble houses still did before the war, but mostly sibling bonds like we have today. In the end large 'family' units formed as the contracts began to attract more and more bots.
But since secrecy was what destroyed the Thirteen, the oldest creations like Gamma and Adjutrix Vale– my own ancestor of course – decreed that for a contract to be recognized, it had to be witnessed by others who could vouch that it was true."
Sunny was eyeing the former noble suspiciously now. "What was the catch?" He grumbled. "I mean you had to give 'em something to let you into this contract, didn't you?"
Mirage shrugged again. "Some contracts were based more on mutual alliances, yes. However no matter what kind of physical trade was involved, if any, all of them ended with the different parties recognizing the other as family. They would promise to look out for each other, support and protect each other when they were attacked or fell ill, no matter what happened." Mirage shrugged and gestured at Aria and Nathanial before them. "That eventually evolved into the bonding ceremony we have today."
"Except the Prime had nothing to do with it a'course since there wasn't one yet." Ironhide added. "And he still doesn't have any authority over any kind of bonding. Yer supposed to just stand in front of the Covenant of Primus."
He frowned over at Aria and the twins got the impression he'd mentioned this many times before.
"Be quiet, he's the closest we've got." Aria reminded him for the umpteenth time.
"Hey!" Sideswipe suddenly yelled, an incriminating digit swinging wildly between Ironhide and Mirage. "They interrupted you too! Why don't you yell at them? Yell at them femme!"
"Because they don't whine as much as you do." Nat groused.
"And so far Raj is the only one that even sort of gets it." Aria added, and then sniffed and wiped something out of the corner of her eye. "And that last part was beautiful."
Sideswipe groaned. "Oh come on..."
The humans were already ignoring him again.
Sideswipe rolled his optics and huffed a frustrated sigh. "Alright fine. Important ceremony, got it. But why do they want us for-?"
"They're throwin' some kind of party after." Ironhide grumbled before he could finish. "If ya don't stay, ya don't get to go."
Sideswipe stopped and perked right up. "Oh, well why didn't you say that earlier?"
"If the lot of you don't shut up and let us finish I'm going to cancel the party and toss all your afts out the airlock." Aria hissed.
The twins felt their joints lock up in nervous fear. "I think she's serious Sunny." Sideswipe whispered.
Aria finally snapped. "Of course I'm serious now shut up!"
There were no more interruptions after that.
Sideswipe was hardly disappointed. What followed after Aria and Nat finally were allowed to speak their final I do's was the biggest party the Ark would ever see. Bigger than when the femmes returned for the first time. Bigger then when they found the lost bots of Alpha Centauri. Bigger then when they finally went back to Cybertron.
Okay, well maybe not that big, but it definitely had more high grade. They were there to celebrate after all. Not just their organic friends' formal union, but the fact that they had all made it through. They'd survived so many battles; the Battle for Hydrax Plateau, the skirmishes to keep the Kalis-Iacon power conduit going, Tyger Pax and the Last Battle for Cybertron; not to mention making it through that stupid space bridge. They had made it through all that and even though they had so much to do ahead of them, impossible tasks like finding their AllSpark in a galaxy they knew nothing about, they would worry about all that tomorrow. Because tonight was a night to celebrate that they were still alive.
Some mechs celebrated longer than others (and some celebrated so much they had to be half-dragged back to their bunks by their roommates) but Bumblebee wasn't one of them. He left with Cliffjumper when Ratchet started singing (rather terribly) one of the old celebratory ballads he remembered from when the Quintessons had finally been driven back.
"Man," Cliffjumper was saying, his words only slurring slightly, "Docbot couldn' carrya note if he had it ina storage bin."
Bumblebee wheezed a laugh, the sound a rush of white noise and static, but he'd had his own fair share of high grade and didn't care as much as he would tomorrow and the next day after that. ::I know. Next time the Decepticons show up, we should just get him to sing. That'll scare 'em off right quick.::
Ceej belted a laugh when he got Bee's pulsewave. It had been a little strange at first, learning to talk with Bumblebee. But he was a smart kid, and just because he couldn't talk didn't mean he couldn't communicate. It was just harder now than it had been before.
The two mechs continued towards their shared quarters, stumbling only occasionally as they went. Ceej would talk and then pause as Bumblebee said something no one else could have heard even if they'd been around. And then he burst out laughing while Bumblebee wheezed amusement through the rough vocorder patch Ratchet had cooked up for him.
They were just passing the second hall of barracks when they caught sight of Aria and Nathanial in one of the main hallways. They were doing that 'kissing' thing again and Ceej and Bumblebee didn't really want to interrupt.
Ceej leaned closer to Bumblebee so the organics wouldn't overhear him. "Is it me," he asked quietly, "or have they been doing that today more than they usually do?"
Bumblebee gave an exaggerated shrug. They always seemed to be doing their little organic affection rituals so he hadn't really noticed a difference.
"Euch," Ceej made a face that was more mockery than disgust when Aria and Nat didn't stop. "Squishy love. Am I right Bee?" He winked and nudged the yellow mech in the side before turning back to the organics and shouting something he'd heard one of the twins tell the organic couple before. "Oh go get a room!"
Aria and Nat still didn't notice them, even with Ceej shouting, but they did break apart. They looked happier than Bumblebee had seen either of them in a long time.
Then in a peculiar gesture Bumblebee had never seen them do before, Nathanial swung Aria up in his arms and actually carried her through the door. He said something neither mech heard as they disappeared and a giggle slipped through the door before it fully closed behind them.
"Huh," Cliffjumper mumbled, "they actually got a room. Didn't expect that." He looked over at Bumblebee as he scratched at one of the red horns on his helm. "What do you suppose that was all about anyway?"
Bumblebee thought, cocking his head slightly at the now closed door. It was awfully quiet in there now, but he had this funny feeling they weren't recharging...
Bumblebee shook his head, clearing it of the slight fog left by the high grade. ::I don't know and I don't think I wanna know.:: He finally sent.
He started walking again as Ceej processed this. "Yeah," the red mech said as he sloppily jogged to catch up with the younger Autobot, "that's probably for the best."
Things were inordinately quiet the next morning as most bots slept off the high grade from the night before. But it was ruined quite spectacularly as a furious Aria crashed out of her room, hair wild, eyes furious, and shoulders heaving as she breathed so hard that it was a surprise steam didn't shoot out her nose.
"IT'S BACK!" She screamed in what was part fury and part pathetic groan. "Why now? Why the frack now?!" She whined.
A sleepyk groan came from the room behind her. "Whut're you talkin'bout?" Nathanial grumbled from the bed.
Aria was outside in the hallway now, pacing furious in front of the door. "The noise!" She told him loudly as she paced back in front of the open door. "That stupid frickin' noise! The one that sounds like a turtle in a blender being tortured by tone deaf alien monkeys!"
Nathanial lifted his head out of the pillow and blinked at her. "If it's in a blender isn't the turtle already being tortured?"
Aria appeared in the doorway and then disappeared again as she paced, one hand holding up the sheet she had wrapped around herself before charging out into the hall. Her voice came from around the frame. "That's not the point!" When she passed by again she looked in and sent her new husband a confused look. "Can't you hear it too?"
Nathanial listened for a moment, but all he heard was the rattle-clank of the vent on the opposite wall. He shook his head. "Nuh-uh," he let his head flop back down onto the pillow, "must be a techno-organic thing."
From the growl of frustration she made, Aria obviously wished it wasn't. "Stupid, frickin' alien turtle!" She grumbled loudly.
"I thought it was alien monkeys." Nathanial mumbled without opening his eyes.
"That's not the point either!" Aria shouted from farther down the hall. "The point is that it's awful and I don't know where. It's. Coming from!"
"Mmf." Nathanial grunted. Despite the fact he was trying to get back to sleep, a thought still snuck into his head. He lifted his head again and frowned out the door. "You've heard this thing before?"
Aria gave a very unhappy yes as she appeared in the doorway again. "Before you got here." She grumbled. "I haven't heard it since then either. Obviously some lunatic is messing with me." A manic gleam suddenly entered her eyes as she fisted her free hand in front of her chest. "Oh ho when find out who it is they are not going to be happy."
Nathanial distantly wondered if it would be worth the repercussions if he found a way to warn the lunatic responsible...and then decided it wasn't and let it go.
Aria's head suddenly snapped up and she twisted her head back and forth just outside the door. She went still for a long minute...
Nathanial frowned at her. This was...disconcerting to say the least. "Aria...?"
Aria didn't move from the door, and then abruptly heaved a deep, relieved sigh that made her whole body relax.
"It's gone." She mumbled, closing her eyes and putting a hand to her head as she sighed again. "Thank goodness."
Nathanial grunted an agreement. It was too early for any of this. He disentangled a hand from the blanket Aria had left behind when she'd shot out of bed and waved her towards him. "Come back to bed." He mumbled.
Oozing relief, Aria did. She was about to close the door behind her when her head snapped up again and that manic gleam reasserted itself.
"So close..." Nathanial thought.
"Ah ha! AH HA! There you are you little-"
Nathanial didn't hear anything more of her crazed ranting as Aria took off down the hall, the tail of her sheet trailing behind her on the floor.
"Well that can't be good." Nat murmured.
Ironhide had no warning before Aria came careening down the hall. One minute he'd been letting himself into his assigned office in the quiet as most bots dealt with a 'morning after' complex, and the next he'd come face to face with a semi-crazed Sparkfinder.
He shot her a grin when he saw her come around the far corner. "Hey Aria, didn' expect to see you up this early-" he had started to say.
He stopped as his office door swished open and Aria immediately stalked in before him, looking around with narrowed eyes like a hell-hound on the scent.
Ironhide blinked down at her. "Uh, alright then, come on in..." he muttered. With her strange behavior he thought twice about following her inside the enclosed space.
She started grumbling when she didn't find what she was looking for. "-stupid obnoxious alien rap-" Ironhide managed to make out from the string of what was either nonsense or profanity.
The older mech raised optic ridges at her. And folks thought he had an impressive vocabulary.
"Hearing things again?" He asked as he edged around the organic femme and sat behind what passed for a desk.
The look Aria shot him could have melted Megatron down to scrap. "I am not hearing things. It's there!" She frowned. "Or at least it was a minute ago." She grumbled so low that Ironhide had to strain his audios to hear her.
Ironhide swallowed down the chuckle that wanted out as he watched Aria poke her nose into the corners of the room, peering through the miscellaneous stuff that had accumulated over time, for what Ironhide didn't know. He thought she didn't either.
"If ya got sumthin' to say might as well get it out in the open." He finally told her when she started shoving aside datapads to peer under the gun crate he used as a desk.
Aria's head snapped up and she frowned at him for a klik before her brain caught up with her. She closed her eyes and sighed, some of the angry creases on her forehead smoothing themselves out.
"No," she murmured, rubbing at her temple with a hand, "sorry Ironhide. Of course you wouldn't do this," she snorted a laugh and forced herself to give him a smile, "not to me at any rate. Right?"
Ironhide chuckled. "What're ya goin' do to the bot when you find out who it is?" He asked her, leaning elbows on the crate to watch her better.
Maybe it was the sleep deprivation, maybe it was the fact that whoever controlled the noise had put a miserable end to her wedding night, maybe she was just more twisted than anyone gave her credit for.
Either way, Aria grinned real big and told Ironhide in a cheerful, chipper voice, "I'm going to slag them and turn them into spare parts!"
Ironhide blinked down at her. "Erm..." he muttered.
He was saved from having to think of a response by the noise starting up again. At least Ironhide assumed that was what happened when Aria's head snapped up and the mania from before appeared in her eyes again.
"AHA! I hear you now you little-" she started yelling as she scrambled for the open door, feet almost slipping out from under her twice before she made it to the hall. Ironhide stared after her as she shot out of sight, thinking that the show was over. But a moment later a breathless – and partially dressed – Nathanial stopped in front of the still open doorway to catch his breath.
Ironhide stared at the bare-chested human, actually shocked at his appearance.
Nathanial groaned at the mech's blatant staring and quickly continued after the outraged femme. "Aria wait! For heaven's sake you are wearing a bed sheet!" He yelled after her, waving the clothes he had brought with him over his head.
Ironhide went to the door and peered out after the two yelling humans. He shook his head, stunned at their bizarre behavior.
He watched them go from his office door, and then once he was sure they weren't about to come back, he pulled a small remote out of his subspace, letting it drop into his waiting hand.
With a rare, mischievous grin on his faceplates that crinkled the scar around his one optic and made it more noticeable, Ironhide lightly pushed the remote's single button.
Despite the distance, he stillheard Aria scream, "WHERE THE FRACK DOES IT KEEP GOING?!"
He couldn't hold it in anymore. Snorted laughter escaped the black armored mech that quickly grew into loud, wheezy, guffaws that shook his entire frame. He had to lean his hands on his knee joints just to stay upright.
"Hoo boy," he muttered when he was finally able to stand upright again, "Aria's gonna laugh so hard when she figures it out."
He was deluding himself. She didn't laugh. It wasn't funny. And he spent four whole days in the medbay when she found out. But that came later.
For now Ironhide just laughed to himself as he watched Aria come running down the opposite arm of the cross section, ranting as she searched or the source of the alien noise. Nathanial appeared a few kliks behind her, still waving her pajamas over his head and trying to get her attention.
Ironhide snickered as he leaned a shoulder against the doorjamb and watched the organics run rampant through the Ark.
"And they say Ah've got no sense of humor."