**I don't know if you guys get notified when I make changes to a chapter, but just in case you do I added something to this chapter since I realized, hours later, that I forgot to have Rob give Ari a gift. Can't believe I did that, and no one caught it either. But oh well, it's fixed now.**
Hello everyone! Another chapter done and I really like where this one went, especially the ending. It's been a while since we've had a look in Sideswipe's head.
I've gotten a lot of feedback on the whole crossover idea, people speaking up on both sides, and I think I've decided on a compromise. I'm going to continue using Coulson a little bit. I just really love Coulson and I've come up with an idea for him that I really want to use. Then, when the time comes, I am going to take the part of my crossover idea that occurs in between the second and third Transformers movies and have it be a part of Move Along instead of being separate like I originally planned. That part has Hawkeye and Black Widow showing up to help out with something that is kind of a big part with the Move Along plot and I think it would be better to keep it all together. But the main crossover, where all of the Avengers show up, I'm still going to keep separate from Move Along and I'll make it a sequel.
Okay, now for some reviews.
Alice Gone Madd: Lol, you're not the first person to ask me that this week and I'll give you the same answer. I see Ari as being like Saoirse Ronan. She has that kind of little girl look but she can be really tough when she needs to be.
Zabuzas Girl: I'll be bringing him back. Promise.
Silverdale: Thank you!
DarkshadowXsunny-sides: Well, compared to my other chapters this one is one of the smaller ones. :)
grapejuice101: I know, right? And I plan on having some more jealous Sideswipe soon.
KeepingThemAtBay: I will, don't worry.
velociraptor4659: Lol, thank you! :)
Jimmy 144: I haven't decided who the bad guys are going to be yet. But you're right, there are a lot of possibilities.
Bee4ever: I'll try for it not to be confusing and explain who everyone is, promise.
SunnySides: Well, in both the movies and in my story nothing is ever said stating what year it is. The only sort of clue that I can think of is that Obama is president during the third movie. Everyone just assumes 2007 because that's when the movie came out. So, I figured, especially since this is fanfiction and all, it can be whatever year I want. :)
ThatAwkwardCrazyAuthor: I know. I can't wait for her to meet Tony. If only it wasn't so far in the future though.
Dark Cat Food Lover: I try. ;)
eve-tsuki94: Oh, wow, I'm glad you like my story so much. But don't forget to sleep. Sleep is important.
Autobot-Bre-Lightblast: Well, hopefully whatever happens you'll still like it.
Alrighty, that's about it. Go onward and enjoy!
The beeping of the alarm clock penetrates Ari's foggy mind, calling her consciousness back to the waking world. Slowly, her eyelids flutter open. It takes a few tries, but the clock finally comes into focus, the red glowing lines becoming clearer. She allows the beeping to continue as she looks at them. It's seven in the morning on a Saturday, but not just any Saturday, she sees.
It's her birthday.
Raising a hand up she slams down on the alarm to turn it off, but doesn't get out of bed. She just lays there thinking about past birthdays.
Ari used to keep track of her birthday, getting excited as the day approached. As soon as it was a month before her birthday she would be counting down the days. And then the morning of she would be a bundle of joy and expectation. After her mom left, she thought her father would keep things going like any father should. But then the beatings started. She thought, if only on her birthday, things would be different though. Things would be normal. It's her birthday, her special day. Everything is supposed to be perfect and everyone is supposed to be happy for her, that she was born into this world.
On the morning of her sixth birthday she held these same expectations when she went bounding down the stairs. She entered the living room with a huge grin on her face. Her father was on the couch with a bottle of beer already in hand watching mindless television. She looked at him, waiting for him to notice her, and when he did he only spared her a glance. Her grin faded a little as she continued to stare. Eventually her father gave a tired sigh and asked with annoyance why she was staring. She told him it was her birthday.
"Oh, really," Ron said snidely. "Well, then, I guess you're expecting a birthday present."
He gave her an extra beating that day. Did the same thing the year after that. And the year after that. She got the idea and never mentioned her birthday again. Birthdays ceased to exist for the Witwickys. Neither of them mentioned anyone's birthday ever again.
Now Ari isn't sure what to do. Mentioning her birthday won't get her a beating anymore. And mentioning it is the only way anyone's going to know today is her birthday, right? No one possibly remembered. She doesn't expect it from Sideswipe or any of the Autobots. Cybertronians don't keep track of the day they were sparked life, so they wouldn't understand what's so special about a birthday and her birthday isn't something she and Sideswipe ever talked about. That only leaves Will and Sarah. Her birthday would have been in the adoption paperwork, but what are the odds that they actually remember that? No, probably no one knows. So, what, should she tell them? And make them feel guilty that they didn't know? No, she definitely doesn't want to do that.
"Then I'll keep quiet," Ari whispers to herself. "Just like I always do."
Ari gets ready for another day at the diner. The diner opens at seven in the morning but since she lives an hour away from Tranquility Hal lets her come in at 8:30. Well, more like insists. He doesn't like the idea of her driving so far so early in the morning on pretty much abandoned roads. Even though she's not the one driving. He doesn't know that though. She tried to explain to him that it's fine, but there was just no way to do it without sounding crazy. So, she happily takes advantage of the situation.
She appreciates the delay even more on this morning, when Hal gives her a call about halfway through the drive.
"Hey, Hal," Ari says into her cell phone's receiver. "I'm on my way right now."
"That's not why I'm calling," Hall says, his voice sounding slightly apologetic. "I'm actually calling to tell you that you don't need to come in today."
That throws her, her mouth opening and closing several times soundlessly before she is able to ask, "Why?"
"When I came in to the diner I found a bunch of water on the floor. Apparently our AC unit started leaking water sometime last night. Now it's everywhere. I got a guy here trying to fix it. Between that and mopping all this up the diner is going to be closed all day."
"That's horrible. Do you want me to come in to help clean up at least?"
"No," Hal says quickly. "No, that won't be necessary. I, uh, already have someone coming in later to help. You work hard enough as it is, Ari. Enjoy a free day off."
Hal's voice sounds suspiciously…off. But she decides, again, to take advantage of the situation. She thanks Hal, tells him to call her if he does end up needing more help, and then says her good byes.
"So," Sideswipe says, "what was that about?"
"Don't have to go into work today." She sighs. "Guess we went all this way for nothing. Sorry, Sideswipe. Good thing Sunstreaker decided not to come with us today. I'd be getting an earful right now from him."
"It's alright. Maybe we should just make the most of it."
"Make the most of it how?"
"Have a day out on the town. Find a place that makes those waffle things you were telling me about the other day. Then maybe go see a movie."
Ari bites her lip. "I don't know. I should probably do some homework."
"Oh, come one, Ari. Homework would only take an hour at most and you know it."
He's right. Ever since the changes with the AllSpark and her ability to learn all of the material in each of her books permanently in no time at all, doing even the toughest of assignments doesn't take long. But it's more than just remembering what's in her textbooks like photographic memory. Everything just makes so much more sense to her now. So, really, doing homework could wait.
"Ari," Sideswipe says in a singsong voice. "Come on, Ari, can't we have a day of fun?"
Ari wraps and unwraps a strand of her hair around her finger, tugging at the lock as she thinks it over. Do homework or have a fun day, just her and Sideswipe? Homework. Fun. Homework. Fun. She nods. "I guess my homework could wait. Waffles do sound kind of good."
"Alright!" Sideswipe takes on a burst of speed and the two of them continue their journey to Tranquility.
Normally when wanting waffles Ari would just go to Hal's Diner. They make some awesome waffles. But, since the diner is closed, she and Sideswipe will have to find someplace else. Sideswipe, however, seems to have everything covered because he takes them straight to another diner across town. Instead of the retro 70's look of Hal's this diner has a homey, mom-and-pop feel to it. It's small, nice. The sort of place where the owners, an elderly couple and their son, make the time to get to know people, especially if there's the possibility you'll be coming back for a return visit sometime in the near future. The place is pretty busy when Ari and Sideswipe's holoform walk through the double glass doors but the wait for a table isn't too long. The husband of the diner shows them to a booth, gives them each a menu, and tells them their waiter will be with them shortly. And soon she is, the elderly wife with her pen poised above her pad of paper. Ari orders waffles with strawberry topping and chocolate syrup with a glass of chocolate milk. Sideswipe just orders water. When their food is brought out not long after Ari thanks her with a smile.
"Let me know if you need anything else," the woman says and then she gives them a wink. "Enjoy your date."
As the woman walks away Ari blushes bright red. Sideswipe looks between the retreating waitress and Ari with confusion.
"What did she mean?" he asks. "We didn't order any dates."
Ari covers her face with her hands, her elbows propped up on the table. "Not 'date' as in the fruit. The other kind of date."
"There's another kind of date?"
She sighs heavily. "Yes, Sideswipe, there is. Just…L-Look it up."
As he does so Ari quietly freaks out to herself. Do she and Sideswipe really look like a couple on a date right now? All they were doing was making small talk before the waitress arrived. Sideswipe was just saying how he and Sunstreaker were thinking of pulling another prank soon to "break in the new base." She had laughed and told him not to do anything to cause Ironhide to blow a gasket. They were just acting like they normally do.
"Hey, Ari," Sideswipe says, sounding totally calm despite Ari's mortification. He pokes the back of her hand. "Hey, Ari, come out of hiding, would ya?"
She groans. "No, I'm not coming out of hiding."
"Because, it's embarrassing."
"There's nothing to be embarrassed about," he says with a laugh. "Going on a date is just two people who like each other hanging out and that's what we're doing."
Ari's hands jerk down and she stares at him with wide eyes. "Oh, no, Sideswipe, two people going on a date means a lot more than that."
He rolls his eyes at her. "Yeah, I got that much, but that's the basics of it, isn't it?"
She nods slowly. "Yeah, I guess so."
"Then don't worry about it. We may not be boyfriend and girlfriend or whatever, but you like me, right?"
She feels her cheeks get a little hotter if that's possible. "Of course I do. You're my best friend."
"Good, cause I like you, too. And that's all that matters. So, you going to eat that or what?" he asks nodding towards her food.
"Uh," she blinks in surprise at the sudden shift in topic and looks down at her plate. "Yeah." Perfectly fine with just dropping it, Ari picks up her fork and digs in, making sure to get a good slice of homemade waffle, strawberry, chocolate syrup, and a bit of the dollop of whip cream they put on top all on her fork, taking a big bite. It tastes like heaven in her mouth and she smiles as she chews.
"Is it good?"
"Oh, yes," she says after swallowing.
"Mind if I try some?"
She looks at him skeptically. "You can eat human food with your holoform?"
Without saying a word Sideswipe takes his own fork, cuts off a piece of waffle, and puts it in his mouth. Ari stares at him, wide-eyed, as he chews and then swallows.
"Of course I can," he says as he grabs another bite, this time with some strawberry. "Ratchet designed the holoforms to allow us to be able to better blend in with whatever life we found on the planet we ended up on. No matter what species, someone would have noticed eventually if we weren't eating. We just can't eat that much."
"We can chew and swallow the food just fine. We even have taste receptors in our mouths so we can taste it, too. It's just that we have no way of actually digesting the food."
"How do you get rid of it then?"
"Holoforms are made up of energy from our sparks so that they can be the best representation of ourselves. That's why when you touch me, if you pay close enough attention, you can feel the thrum of my spark. That same energy burns the food when swallowed until nothing's left. Thing is, if we eat too much, then we'd start smelling like something's burning." He takes another bite of her waffles.
"Hey," she slaps at his hand as it retracts with his stolen bite. "You just said you can't have too much and unlike you, I'm hungry."
"Sorry, but this stuff is really good. Better than that reprocessed energon slag we've been having to eat lately."
"What does energon taste like?" Ari asks as she continues with her breakfast.
"Well, normally it tastes pretty good. Kind of…sweet, I guess you would call it. But since we have no energon source here we've been having to make do with what we've brought. Ratchet's found a way to make it last longer but the process is degrading the energon a little. We can survive on it fine but, like I said, it tastes like slag."
"How long will it last?"
"A couple of stellar cycles."
Ari frowns. "And when it runs out?"
"Well, hopefully by then either one of our ships will have arrived with a store of energon or Wheeljack will be here. He'd be able to invent an alternative no problem."
"He's a crazy genius inventor among our kind, even better than Ratchet though he's not too bad himself. Likes to blow things up a little too much when he's experimenting though."
Ari laughs. "Do we know if he's on his way?"
"Don't know," Sideswipe says with a shrug. "We haven't been able to get in touch with anyone else yet. Your human satellites have picked up on a couple of objects heading towards Earth, but they're still too far out to tell who or what they are." Sideswipe's eyes get a far away look as he stares off into space. "I'm sure if anyone made it out of there, Wheeljack did."
Ari stops eating for a moment as she looks at Sideswipe, wondering what he's seeing right now. The kind of destruction and chaos the war brought about, just Sideswipe and the others telling her stories, it sounds more horrible than anything she could ever possibly imagine. She reaches across the table and takes his hand, drawing his eyes out of the past and back to hers.
"I'm sure he made it out," she gives him a reassuring squeeze. "And a lot of the others, too. I'm sure they'll all start showing up soon."
"Yeah," he says softly. "You're probably right."
Ari finishes up and they leave the diner soon after to head to the movie theater. She and Sideswipe are looking over the movie choices when she says, "You know, this will be my first time in a movie theater."
"Yeah, me too," Sideswipe says completely serious.
She elbows him in the side. "Smart aft."
He chuckles. "Why thank you. So what movie shall we watch for our first movie in a theater?"
"Not a chick flick," Ari says right away. "Definitely not."
Sideswipe's shoulders sag a little in relief. "Thank Primus. Will told Sunny and me about chick flicks. They don't sound fun to me."
"Me neither. Just…too much drama blown out of proportion for an hour and a half. What about an action movie?"
"Meh, we get enough action in real life as it is."
"Murder mystery then?"
He grins. "Sounds perfect. Bet you I can guess who did it first."
She gives him a sly grin back. "You're on."
They get their tickets and settle down in the plush chairs of the theater. It's a nice sized theater with huge stadium seating and the biggest screen Ari has ever seen. There are a few other people who join them in the theater but not many since it is a Saturday morning and this particular movie came out two weeks prior.
About fifteen minutes into the movie Ari makes her guess on who the murderer is, whispering her suspicions to Sideswipe. He makes his own guess as well and they both sit anxiously as they watch events unfold, waiting to find out who is right.
Ari's guess turns out to be the right one. She flashes him a triumphant grin when it is revealed and Sideswipe just huffs in disappointment. When the movie ends he asks her how she guessed it right and she just shrugs, telling him she's always had a knack for telling how a story will go.
As they exit the theater Sideswipe says they should probably get back home so they head back to his alt mode, Sideswipe making a big show of getting in before letting his holoform blink out, and they hit the road towards home. During the drive back Ari can't help but think how the elderly waitress was right. This did really feel a lot like a date. She can understand how the waitress thought it was, looking at them. Even now, she feels like Sideswipe is her boyfriend driving her home after a date. But she shakes those thoughts away. There's no need to be thinking thoughts like that. Still, this did turn out to be the best birthday ever.
When they reach home Ari, with Sideswipe's holoform, head back inside. As they enter the house she runs through the list of the homework assignments she needs to do in her head. It isn't until she closes the front door behind them and turns around that she notices that the house is completely dark.
"Will?" she calls out. "Sarah? You guys here?" There's no answer. She looks at Sideswipe worriedly. "That's odd. Sunstreaker was out front, so it's not like they went anywhere."
Sideswipe shrugs. "Sunny says they're still here. Maybe it was just a power outage or something."
"Maybe…," but Ari isn't totally convinced. She heads towards the living room, Sideswipe close behind her. She's glad he came inside with her. If something really has happened, then she knows she'll be safe. She steps into the living room and it is completely dark, which is strange because the curtains are usually always drawn open in this room. But now they are closed, keeping the sunlight from filtering in. Feeling along the wall beside her Ari finds the light switch and flicks it on. The fan light on the ceiling above flares to life, temporarily blinding her, but she catches the briefest glimpse of movement.
"Surprise!" a bunch of voices shout at once, causing Ari to jump back slightly and into Sideswipe's chest. Blinking several times, Ari can't believe what she sees. Everyone she knows is in the living room, Will, Sarah, Annabelle, Rob, Optimus, Ratchet, Ironhide, Jazz, and Sunstreaker. They must have been hiding in the dark, waiting for her to get home. And the living room is decorated with balloons and streamers everywhere and on the back wall hangs a banner with "Happy Birthday Ari" written on it in big, bold letters.
Ari covers her gaping mouth with her hands, disbelief clearly written on her face and she can feel her eyes starting to brim with tears."
"Do humans usually cry on their birthdays?" Sunstreaker asks.
Rob shakes his head. "No, we don't. Seriously, Ari, what's with the waterworks?"
"Ari?" Sideswipe moves to stand beside her so he can see her face, his own face marked with worry. "Ari, are you okay?"
"Yeah," she says though it comes out in a horse whisper. "It's just…you guys remembered my birthday. You actually remembered. How did you even know?"
"We're your parents," Will says. "We found out when we adopted you and Sarah marked it on the calendar right away. When we saw it was coming up we told the Autobots and decided we oughta have a party."
"You didn't think we really wouldn't remember," Sarah says, "did you?"
Ari wipes at her tears with the back of her hand. "Kind of, yeah. It's just…I haven't had a birthday in a really long time."
Ironhide's brow furrows in confusion. "I do not understand. The anniversary of your birth occurs once a year. Is it something that can be caused not to happen?"
"I think what she means is no one bothered tah remember her birthday before," Jazz says.
Ari nods. "Basically."
"That will not be the case," Optimus says. "Not anymore. You are our ally and friend and we care about you, Ari. You will never be forgotten by us."
"Yeah, never," Sideswipe agrees. "Right, Sunny?"
Sunstreaker snorts. "I couldn't forget a squishy like her even if I tried."
A chuckle ripples through everyone and a huge grin splits across Ari's face. They remembered. They actually remembered. And they threw a party just for her. Never before has she felt such happiness as she's feeling right now. It's almost as if it's threatening to burst out of her chest.
Sarah claps her hands together. "Now, how about you open these presents and then we can break into the cake."
Ari is led over to sit on the sofa in front of a coffee table covered with presents. She can tell which are from the humans and which are from the Autobots. The Autobots apparently had varying success at gift wrapping. One or two look more like bundles of wrapping paper and tape. But just the fact that they actually got her something and actually tried to wrap the presents…as she's opening up them up she feels the tears threatening to return. Ratchet got her a $100 gift card to Books-A-Million. Optimus got her a 40 inch T.V. Ironhide got her a PS3 to go with the the T.V. Jazz her some games to go with the PS3 with some extra remotes for multiplayer. Ari is completely baffled by the gifts, especially with how they possibly could have afforded it all.
"The World Security Council is providing us with an allowance of human currency," Optimus explains, "for if we ever need anything we cannot get on our own that has nothing to do with N.E.S.T."
"Which isn't a whole lot," Jazz adds, "so we figured, might as well put the money to good use. Cause we don't really need it."
"Guys, you really didn't have to do this," Ari says, looking between the Autobots. She should tell them to take it all back, that this is too much for her, but by the stern looks on their faces they're already way ahead of her in her thinking and they are not going to back down without a fight. So she just shuts her mouth.
"It was our pleasure, little one," Ratchet says with a smile. "Please do us the honor of accepting our gifts."
"Thanks, guys," Ari says, looking down at all of her presents. "I can't believe you got all of this for me."
Ironhide grins wickedly. "We also got some things for the recreation room at the base."
Will laughs, "Oh, the recruits are gonna love you."
"But," Sarah interrupts, "we're not done yet. Sunstreaker, how about you go next?"
Sunstreaker nods once and motions for Ari to follow him. Puzzled, she gets up from her seat, following behind him upstairs. He leads her to her room, opening the door and then stepping back. "It's in there," is all he says. Ari pokes her head inside, curious but a little cautious. This is Sunstreaker after all.
Ari gasps at what she finds. The walls and ceiling of her room have exploded with color. Having once been plain white they are now freshly painted, and very freshly considering the open window airing the room out. The heavy smell of paint still lingers on the air. Her walls are now a deep, dark blue and the ceiling. Well, the ceiling is no one color. It is the clear night sky with the stars carefully made to shine with whites and yellows and the constellations that she, Sideswipe, and Sunstreaker have been stargazing at for months now fully mapped out with connecting lines and their names written in a neat calligraphy she finds hard to believe came from Sunstreaker's hands. And curving around her ceiling fan is a crescent moon with even the craters given some shadow and depth.
"Sunstreaker," she says breathlessly, "did you do all of this?"
He nods. "Yeah, while Sideswipe was keeping you out of the house."
She tears her eyes away from the ceiling to give him a big grin. "It's absolutely beautiful. Thank you."
Sunny shrugs as if it's no big deal but she can tell he's a little happy and proud she likes it.
Sideswipe slings his arm around his brother's shoulders. "Yep, Sunny's a real talented one. He likes to do a lot of stuff like this, painting and crafting and whatnot. You know, he even made our blades."
"Wow." Ari looks back up at the ceiling again. She feels like she could stare at the masterpiece for hours. "That's really amazing, Sunny."
"Alright, alright, come on, we still got more presents to get to." Will corrals them out of Ari's room and back downstairs.
"There's more?" Ari asks.
"Yep." Will reaches the coffee table and picks up the second to last box to hand to her. "This is from Rob."
She glances at Rob as she opens the box and he has a wide grin on his face. The gift turns out to be a video camera.
"Oh, wow," Ari says as she slips the camera onto her hand and holds the eyepiece up to one eye. "Thank you, Rob."
He shrugs. "I figured, this is a pretty crazy life you got now with a lot of crazy moments coming your way. Some of them might be worth putting on camera."
Will then goes for the last box. "And this is from Sarah and me. And I guess Annabelle, too. Since, you know, she still can't actually get you anything yet."
Ari tears into the paper, opens the box, and is…confused. She pulls out knee and elbow pads and a helmet, the kind of gear someone would use if they went roller skating, biking, or skateboarding. "What's all this for?"
"It's what you'll need for my present," Sideswipe says as he takes her hand and pulls her outside with him. Leaning against the porch rail rests a brand new bicycle that had not been there before when they entered the house. Ari approaches it slowly, reaching out a hand to caress the handlebars.
"This is for me?" she asks softly.
"Yep, it's my present to you. Do you like it?"
Ari bites her lip nervously, keeping her eyes trained on the bike. "I…don't know how to ride a bike."
"Don't worry," Will says. "We'll teach you."
Sideswipe leans his head down close to her ear so only she can hear. "Of course we will. You'll need it as your getaway for when you help Sunny and me with our pranks."
Ari laughs. "Sounds like a plan."
"So, who wants cake?" Sarah calls out and they all head back inside to enjoy some good food, good company, and to break in the new PS3.
By the time the party winds down and Optimus, Ratchet, Ironhide, and Jazz head back to base, the night has fully descended. Sideswipe, Sunstreaker, and Ari head out into the field again for their nightly stargazing, lying out in the cool night with Ari curled up on top of Sideswipe. Sideswipe covers Ari with his hands, making sure his charge is nice and warm.
He didn't understand the significance at first, when Will approached him and Sunstreaker with the topic of Ari's upcoming birthday just a couple of weeks ago. But as soon as Will said it holds great importance among humans Sideswipe knew he wanted to do something special for her. Birthdays are a yearly celebration for humans to give thanks and cheer for a person's continuing existence. He knew Ron would not have cared at all for Ari's continued existence. But Sideswipe does. He is very grateful for the human resting in his arms right now. She's become so important to him in ways few ever do. He always thought that so long as he has Sunstreaker, that's all he'll ever need.
But she has proven him so wrong.
"Hey, Sideswipe?" Ari asks, her voice sounding sleepy. He should probably get her inside soon. But not yet.
"The AC didn't really break at Hal's, did it?" It sounds more like a statement than a question.
Sideswipe chuckles. "No, it didn't."
Like I said, I'm really happy with the ending.
Okay, not much else to say. Just that next chapter we get up to some mischief. :)
Hope you enjoyed, PLEASE REVIEW, and see you all next time!