Author's notes: My most sincere apologies to my dear, dear readers for waiting for so long. I'm so sorry for the long wait. My life has taken a sudden turn and life has been rather difficult for me. If you want to know the details, you can read it on my author's page. For now, though, here is the latest in the tormenting of our dear Ironhide. Please enjoy and review when you're done reading.

"Ok, this just doesn't make any sense," she grumbles.

Tell me about it, he silently grouses back. You're talking to me even though you know I'm not going to answer you.

He continues to watch his own personal little Pit spawn as she sits on his fender. His hood is open again, she's staring down into his 'engine' compartment and this time she has a flashlight in her hand. Behind her on the workbench is a bottle of antifreeze and he barely manages not to laugh at the absurdity of putting that chemical into his non-existent radiator.

"You don't have a battery and it appears you don't seem to have a radiator either," she rants. "How the hell do you even work!"

If I told you, would you shut up? he quietly asks, knowing full well he's not allowed to so much as let out a beep.

"You're seriously making me think I should have listened to Tommy and his crazy theories before I left," she continues and then does a slight shudder. "Goddess, you're so lucky you don't have to listen to him when he gets off on a tear."

Instead I'm stuck out here listening to you, he huffs to himself. You've given me my Energon, now please go away. I prefer to wallow in my misery in silence.

With a frustrated sigh, she turns off the flashlight, closes his hood and climbs down off of him. He cautiously watches her as she bundles back up, collects the empty Energon cube and heads back out. He expects her to leave, locking the doors behind her as she normally does. But when she just stands there staring at the chain through the door handle, he worries that she's about to do something crazy.

Now what are you up to? he quietly growls at her.

"There's really no reason to keep locking the shed doors," she states as she picks the padlock up in her hand. "No one in their right mind is going to be coming up here now."

Which says what about you since we're still out here? he grumbles.

"I nearly dropped the keys in the snow trying to open this stupid thing," she continues, completely oblivious to his internal ramblings. "But if I don't lock it shut, then the wind could blow the doors open and then snow would get in."

She stares at the lock for a bit longer and then turns towards him. Her gaze roves over the contents of the shed as if she's looking for something. He watches her, knowing she's about to do something completely insane and not liking it one bit.

After a minute of just looking, she releases the lock and heads back into the shed. She easily climbs up his back bumper and into his bed. He wonders what she could be up to and he doesn't have to wait long to find out.

She goes towards the work bench where she's moved a lot of the owner's items and starts digging through the boxes. He muses about what could possibly be in there that she could use and a moment later she's pulling out a length of rope. She stares at what she's found with a frown on her face.

"Hmmmm...," she hums to herself for a moment and then drops the rope in his bed.

She immediately goes back to the box she had been rooting through and digs around some more. After a couple of minutes rummaging around in that box, she moves it to the side and starts going through another container. For some time she goes through box after box.

He silently watches her, slightly worried that she'll do something stupid. It's bad enough being stuck in this cramped shed, but if she makes it so snow can be blown in, he's not going to be a happy bot. Thoughts of going AWOL should she leave the doors open start to sound really appealing.

"AHA!" she crows with triumph as she holds up her find.

Oh, no, he silently growls. You wouldn't dare.

He unfolds the portion of the map that he needs and makes another small red 'X' over the latest town to be hit. Even with the help of Hound and the Twins, they didn't get there in time. Another attack and another twenty-two people dead by that monster.

The people. He doesn't want to think about them, but he can't help it. That little girl. She couldn't have been any older than his own daughter...and now she never will get any older.

With a frustrated yell, he throws the map across the room, hitting the wall. As if to taunt him, it unfolds itself and lands in a heap on the floor. He ignores it as he plops down in his chair and drops his face in his hands.

He wallows in his misery, knowing he won't be disturbed in his hole in the wall office. They came back just before sunrise and he sent his men off to get some food in them and then rest. Hound and the Twins are still out there trying to find that miserable hunk of junk.

He's not sure how long he sits there, unable to get the image of that little girl out of his head. It's not until his cell phone beeps, letting him know he's received a message that he finally moves. Ignoring the pain in his back, shoulders and neck from staying in the same position for so long, he fishes his phone out of his pocket.

We're back.

He doesn't have to check who the sender is. Hound has sent him this message far too many times for him to not recognize what it really means. Skorponok got away. Again.

With a disheartened sigh and a groan, he stands up and stretches. He hears several vertebra pop back into place and then rolls his shoulders a couple of times. Once he's fairly sure he can walk without looking like an old man, he goes over to pick the map up off of the floor.

He shakes it out, completely unfolding the map in the process. The number of times he's folded and unfolded this thing and it amazes him that it hasn't disintegrated yet. As he gets ready to fold it back up, he notices all of the little red 'X's he's made over the past several months and he nearly stops breathing.

"No way," he mutters to himself. "No freaking way."

He carefully spreads the large paper out on his desk and turns on the desk light to make sure he's seeing this properly. The traces his finger from one 'X' to the next, not believing what he's seeing. Once he's sure he's not being delusional, he grabs up the map, not even bothering to fold it, and goes running out of his office.


A low chuckle follows that annoying sound.


Another snicker and he's trying to ignore it as best he can.

"Oh, stop tormenting him," a young female voice admonishes.

"She's locked him in with a glorified rubber band," he snickers as he reaches out with one finger to pluck at the bungee cord once more.

She sighs, shakes her head and rolls her eyes.

"Males," she mutters as she goes over and undoes one of the hooks to the bungee cord before opening the shed doors.

"Move," a voice snarls from inside.

Mikaela and Ratchet stand back as a large black truck all but flies out of the shed, throwing snow and frozen mud as he goes, and then quickly transforms into a very displeased bot.

"The only reason I'm not drop kicking your sorry aft from here to Cybertron is because you brought me more Energon," Ironhide growls at Ratchet.

"It's nice to see you too," Ratchet snickers. "Though you're lucky I came when I did. Because of that scrap headed stunt you pulled the night before you left, I had to step up my production. Between making Energon for you, Hound, the Twins and the special project Lenox asked for, I've barely had time to work on Jazz. The humans are starting to make things difficult for Sam and Mikaela because they want him."

"They can't have him," Ironhide snaps as his cannons pop out of his arms and start to charge.

"We may have no choice if I can't fix him and soon," Ratchet shoots back.

"What's taking so long?" Ironhide demands.

"Energon," Ratchet reminds him in a less than amused voice. "You. Hound. Twins. Ring a bell?"

"Ring a what!" Ironhide asks in an irritated voice.

"Uh, guys?" Mikaela quietly calls through her chattering teeth from her spot next to the shed. "Hate to break this up, but it's the middle of the night, I'm tired and cold and if we don't hurry up, Alex is going to wake up to find the truck she borrowed walking around."

"You're right," Ratchet concedes as he starts to open compartments on his body. "Let's get this taken care of."

"Don't rush on my account," Ironhide mutters while he stores his cannons and then rolls his shoulders to get the kinks out.

"We're not," Ratchet softly assures him grouchily as he and Mikaela move around to the back of the cabin. "We're rushing so we don't chance waking up Alex."

Ironhide mumbles something about miserable Pit spawns as he wanders off, trying to loosen up stiff joints after being forced idle for so long. He walks around, barely noticing the thin layer of snow on the ground. It doesn't even occur to him that he's leaving rather suspicious footprints on the ground as he enjoys his respite from his prison, even though he knows it'll be short lived.

After few minutes, Ratchet and Mikaela come back around the front of the cabin. Ironhide pretends he doesn't notice them as he continues to work the kinks out of his system. However, it's hard to ignore the cubes of Energon that Ratchet and Mikaela have just stored in the woodshed.

"Where are the empty cubes?" Ratchet demands.

"How should I know?" Ironhide grumbles back as he folds his arm cannons in and out of their holders, making sure that the forced idleness hasn't caused them to freeze up.

"Well, they're not in the woodshed," Ratchet growls back. "Didn't Lenox tell her not to throw them away?"

"Yeah, he did," Ironhide retorts. "I just don't know what she did with the empty cubes after she fed me my Energon. It's not like I can detect where they are once they're empty."

Ratchet grumbles something about ill begotten glitches and starts to scan the surrounding area. He finds the missing containers in short order, but is confounded about how she got them there.

"They're under the building," Ratchet huffs. "How did she get them in there? I don't see a door."

"How should I know?" Ironhide grumbles as he continues to walk around. "Not like I need to know."

Ratchet mutters something about useless slag heaps as he gets down on his hands and knees to examine the base of the cabin. He would love to turn on his spotlight, but he doesn't dare.

He's been keeping track of Alex's sleep and notes the curtains aren't blackout. So the spotlight stays off and he depends on his sensors to try and find a way in. However, if they don't hurry up, Alex is going to be in for quite the shock.

"Hey," Mikaela softly calls from the porch. "I think I found something."

"What?" Ratchet quietly replies as he moves around the building towards her.

"It looks like there's a trap door here," she tells him, pointing at the porch. "I can't see it very well, but it looks like there's a door in the floor."

Using his finely honed sensors, he keeps track of Alex and takes the chance of turning on his spotlight.

"Hey!" she hisses while she quickly shields her eyes from the bright light. "A little warning next time."

"Sorry," he mumbles. "Are you able to tell if you can get in that way?"

"Yeah, I think so," she answers.

She carefully examines what appears to be a cleverly disguised door right into the deck. It looks like the rest of the porch except that there are obvious cut marks at the top and the bottom. However, there is no handle, just a knot of rope nestled in a hole that's only a bit larger in a plank on the right hand side.

She takes a glove off and carefully pries the rope knot out of the hole that it's burrowed in. Once she has a grip on it, she slowly pulls it out only for it to stop about six inches out. Getting a better hold of it and bracing herself, she applies more muscle and the section of floor starts to move. With only a slight creak, the door swings up and to the left easily.

"It's pretty dark in there," she whispers, looking worriedly down into the dark hole in front of her.

"Neither Ironhide nor I are going to be able to fit in there," he points out. "Don't worry about arachnids. It's much too cold for them and the rodents are more frightened of you than you are of them."

"Thanks, that's real comforting," she replies, sarcasm dripping from every word.

"Do please hurry," he quietly urges. "I'm not sure how much longer Alex is going to stay asleep."

"Yeah, yeah, I'm going," she grumbles as she carefully makes sure the trap door isn't going to bang onto the porch or drop on her. "You wouldn't have a flashlight on you, would you?"

"No, I'm afraid not," he softly replies.

Trying desperately not to think of any rodents that may be down there, she carefully makes her way down the dark stairs. He tries to reposition himself so that his spotlight shines down the hole in order to help her see better. Due to the cover over the porch, the help is minimal, but it's better than nothing.

She finally makes it down to the bottom of the steps, amazed that she didn't fall and break her neck. She looks around, letting her eyes adjust to the near darkness and trying not to sneeze from all of the dust or hit her head on the low ceiling. After about a minute, her eyes have adjusted enough that she can just make out what appears to be a bunch of clear sided cubes off to the side.

She carefully makes her way over to them and picks the first one up. It's the empty cubes all right and there are dozens of them just thrown into a haphazard pile. She picks up as many as she can and takes them back to the foot of the stairs.

Not wanting to chance slipping and falling on the steps, she puts her haul down and tries throwing one of them out. Amazingly, she gets it out on the first try. She then has to suppress her laugh when Ratchet makes a startled sound as the harmless missile goes zinging past him.

Glad that it appears she won't have to go traipsing up and down those stairs, she starts chucking the empty cubes out. Once the pile at her feet are gone, she goes back to get more. She silently wishes she had a large bag or something to carry them. While they aren't heavy, they are bulky and she can only carry a few at a time.

For the most part, she's getting them out of the basement with only a few misses and she's glad to have an activity to keep her warm. It doesn't take that long to get the large pile whittled down to a scattered few. She goes to collect the cubes she can easily spot and as she picks up one from a rather dark corner, she barely muffles her scream.

"What!" Ratchet demands, barely managing to keep his voice down. "What's the matter!"

"Something just ran up my arm and down my back," she grinds out between her teeth.

"You must have disturbed something," he quietly states. "I'm sure it's long gone by now. Please hurry."

She mutters under her breath about over grown trash compactors with delusions of grandeur and kicks the cube at her feet over to the stairs. She grabs a couple more of the nearly transparent containers and gets ready to throw them out to Ratchet. Just as she lets one loose, the lights go out and the trap door is quickly, but quietly, shut.

Before she can ask what's going on, she hears the floor boards above creak as if someone is walking across them. She quickly hides under the stairs, hoping that there's nothing in the creepy or crawly department living under there. There's the sound of a quickly transforming robot and she's pretty sure Ironhide is getting back in the shed.

She huddles in the dark hoping a praying that they're not discovered and that nothing else decides that it needs to run over any part of her body. The creaking of the floor boards continues for only a little while and then there's the sound of a stream of water being poured into another body of water. She blushes furiously and hopes the woman doesn't have a huge bladder.

What seems like an eternity later, the waterworks finally stop. She mentally urges the woman in the cabin to please just go back to bed and kindly hurry up about it. As if she can hear the teenager's mental plea, she turns on a faucet.

Mikaela softly groans as the running water reminds her she hasn't seen a bathroom in a while. The water turns off a few moments later and she gives a sigh of relief. However, the respite is short lived as the water turns on again not half a minute later.

She's washing hands? In the middle of the night? What is she planning on making herself a sandwich or something? Mikaela wildly thinks to herself. Go back to bed already!

The running water seems to go on forever. She desperately tries not to think about her bladder, but instead on the muscles that are starting to protest about being crouched down behind the stairs. That discomfort is quickly superseded by realizing that she's starting to shiver.

She had started to overheat while she was getting the cubes out and had opened up her jacket. She quickly zips it back up and puts her gloves back on. However, it only helps a little as the sweat she wasn't even aware that she had produced quickly starts cooling down and her teeth start chattering.

At long last, the water stops and the sound of creaking boards starts up again. Fortunately, the overhead footsteps continue only for a short time and then there's the sound of a bed squeaking as Alex lays down again. With a sigh of relief, Mikaela carefully comes out of her hiding spot.

However, she's not sure what she should do now. It's pitch black in this small storage area and she doesn't know how far Ratchet went or when he'll be back. Plus, she's not too wild about the idea of being down there with who knows what type of creepy crawly things.

She's standing there, hoping that nothing crawling critter variety falls off of the ceiling and lands on her head, when her phone vibrates and lets out a little jingle letting her know that she's received a text message. She quickly gets a glove off and fumbles around in her pocket to get the little device out. She barely manages to not drop it on the ground as she checks the message.

Get out. - Ratchet

She doesn't need any further instructions as she goes around to the foot of the stairs. She startles herself as she accidentally kicks one of the empty cubes. She briefly wonders if she should try bring more up, but decides that even though they got most of the cubes, there are still too many for her to carry out at once.

She crawls up the steps, being mindful of where the trap door is. Once she's got to a spot where she can't go any further up, she carefully starts to push on the heavy door. It resists her at first and then starts to move.

She follows it up and sees Ratchet moving towards her as she gets to the top. In that inattentive moment, the door gets away from her and slams down onto the porch. She freezes in fright.

A second later she's grabbed by a giant robotic hand as another reaches over and flips the trap door closed, making another loud 'BANG!'. She flinches at the sound just as he starts to run away. A few moments later, they're hiding behind the shed just as the flood lamps come on, lighting up the area in front of the cabin.

In few moments, they hear the front door open and someone come out onto the porch. Ratchet crouches down even further, holding Mikaela closer to his chest. She's nearly in tears as she keeps quiet, not daring to tell the large robot that the side of his hand is pushing into her bladder.

"What the hell...?" they hear a woman's sleep groggy voice say from the other side of the shed. "What happened out here?"

Mikaela forgets about her pressing need for a moment and takes a look at the ground that's been lit up. The once fairly smooth ground is all churned up in a mixture of snow and frozen mud. She can practically feel Ratchet's chagrin as he realizes that he and Ironhide are responsible for the blatant evidence that someone's been here. Someone very large

"Moose," the voice states. "Rutting moose. Monster big rutting moose. Monster big rutting moose who didn't make any sounds except a couple of bangs that shook the house. Ok, so I haven't seen any moose around here, but that's the only thing I'm coming up with beside monster robots. Better go check on the beast."

Mikaela nearly stops breathing when she realizes Alex is heading down the stairs which she's headed towards them. If they move, she'll spot them. However, if they don't move, she'll spot them anyways when she comes to check on Ironhide. In a near panic, she looks up at Ratchet who's worriedly looking back at her.

"Ok, stupid," the voice suddenly continues in a grumble. "Shoes before traipsing through the snow and muck."

She gives out a silent sigh of relief as the footsteps can be heard going back inside. Suddenly, she finds Ratchet moving towards the front of the shed. She's wondering if he's gotten a glitch since there's no way Alex will miss seeing them if they take off in front of the cabin.

"Reattach the cords," Ratchet softly orders when he stops moving.

She's now in front of the shed doors, still in Ratchet's hand, staring at the bungee cord hanging down loose. She reaches out and fumbles around with the thing, nerves, her gloves and shaking hands making it near impossible. She almost drops the blasted thing and just barely manages to catch it.

"Hurry," he hisses.

"I'm trying," she softly snaps back.

She finally get the bungee cord through the handles and rehooked with a sigh of relief. Then she looks down as he starts to move away.

"Look!" she whispers, pointing at the ground.

He looks down and as clear as day are fresh tire tracks going into the shed. With a frustrated growl, he reaches out with his spare hand and obliterates the marks, but leaves more turned up snow and dirt.

"More moose?" she softly asks.

"Monster big rutting moose," he quietly answers as he heads around to the back of the shed and cabin.

They no sooner get out of sight then they can hear Alex come out of the cabin again. They silently listen as she makes her way down the steps and goes to check on Ironhide. By some small miracle, she didn't take a flashlight with her, so she never sees the fresh mud and snow dripping onto the dirt floor of the shed.

A while later, Alex returns to the cabin, turning off the outside lights. They wait a little while longer before Ratchet cautiously moves out, giving the small buildings a wide birth. It's not until they're further down the mountain do they cross back towards the dirt road that brought them up there.

He finally puts Mikaela down and transforms back into his vehicle mode. She gladly gets in and straps herself in. A second later, his engine roars to life and his headlights turn on.

"Aren't you worried that she'll spot your tracks?" she asks as she tries to get into a more comfortable position.

"Not really," he calmly replies as he carefully makes his way towards the paved road.

"Why not?" she questions, barely managing not to wince at every bump and dip in the road.

"Because it's already starting to snow," he points out and she finally notices the big white flakes drifting down. "By dawn there will be several inches on the ground and by the storm passes, she'll need to dig to get to Ironhide."

"Ok," she says as they reach paved ground and she gives a sigh of relief..

"Go ahead and sleep," he instructs. "We have several hours to go before we get home."

"Not until you find me a bathroom," she nearly growls.

"Ah, ok," he replies, gently increasing his speed in hopes of finding a restroom before the young female human accidentally lubricates while inside of him.