Massive thanks to Starseeded, who Beta'd!
Reaching the midpoint of their journey, though not having caught up with Nate, Sophie, and Sideswipe, who were still a good hour or so ahead, knowing Sideswipe's compulsive need to show off, the two groups met up again in a tunnel on the interstate, along highway forty.
All eight vehicles went into the tunnel, but none of them came out the other side. Of course, other vehicles did, it was a busy road, but to anyone who may have been observing, cars' matching the description of the Autobots failed to leave the end of the tunnel.
Inside the tunnel, the Autobots skidded to a stop. Eliot climbed out of Optimus and moved over to Parker, who had just climbed out of Ratchet wearing a field dressing around her waist, just visibly under the suit jacket she wore.
"What are they-?"
"They're getting new alt modes. Ratchet said that Ironhide spotted a couple of police 'copters a few minutes ago. He hacked the frequency and they're searching for cars with their description."
The pair stood and watched as each of the Autobots scanned a new mode. Optimus chose a Peterbilt 386, dark blue, which he had to download the spec's for. The twins chose the same car, a nifty Volkswagen Up, though thankfully they chose different colours, in orange and turquoise. Arcee had also chosen different alt modes, and were now disguised as a silver BMW R32, a black Yamaha YZFR15, and a purple Suzuki GF500f. Ironhide and Ratchet had chosen Hummers, a black H3 alpha and a dark green H2 with 'search and rescue' on the side.
"Not exactly subtle, are they." Eliot commented. "I mean, a new Peterbilt, two top of the line hummers, three gorgeous bikes – the only subtle ones are the twins!"
"We are limited by those we find the best fit, Eliot," Ratchet informed the Hitter, taking objection at the 'two hummers' – why did Ironhide have to choose an alt so similar to his? "Optimus couldn't physically transform into anything small than a mode like the one he has, although he could go slightly larger. The weight distribution of the vehicles also hinders us, and it is easier to choose a model that is technologically advanced so our exposed mechanical parts do not look out of place."
Eliot nodded at the explanation. "We should get going if we want to make it to Box Springs by eight. It would probably be a good idea for us to split up again."
This time, Parker went with her original group, while Eliot went with Ratchet, who wanted to check the hitter for injuries, and the Arcee triplets. She clambered into the giant black Hummer, pleasantly surprised to find the seats already warmed up and the heating on.
"I owe you a debt, Parker," Ironhide informed her as they continued on their journey. "We all do."
"Well you saved me from wasting my explosives. It's even." She told him, never liking to leave debts with people.
"Nonetheless, if there is anything you need-"
"Don't worry about it, really." Parker cut him off.
They fell into a comfortable silence, and without conversation to distract her, Parker quickly drifted to sleep as the adrenaline left her system, leaving Ironhide to his thoughts and her puzzling last sentence before she fell asleep: "You guys aren't like horses at all."
Inexplicably, he felt drawn to the blonde thief. It could have been the way she just dropped in one them, or her lack of reaction when he pointed her cannons at her, or the way she just carried on regardless of being shot and didn't make a fuss. There were numerous reasons. He found himself hoping that he would see her again.
Parker just carried on slumbering in the driver's seat, unaware of his contemplation, or the way he turned the heating up so she wouldn't get cold, and avoided the bumps in the road.
The sun was happily rising when the last vehicle pulled into a clearing in Box Springs Mountain Park, Riverside. All eleven passengers clambered out of the cars, allowing eleven of the twelve, seemingly ordinary vehicles to transform into giant humanoid forms ranging from just over eleven feet to forty, dwarfing the humans and some of the younger trees around them.
Silence reigned for a few minutes, as no one knew what to say. For some of them, this was something they had waited so eagerly for that they just didn't know what to say. The rest felt like they were intruding on a private moment.
It was Ratchet who broke the silence by scanning the humans present for injuries. "Well, remarkably, you appear to have kept yourselves healthy while we've been gone."
After that, no one seemed to be able to stop talking.
Little Annabelle Lennox virtually through herself out of her mother's grasp and raced over to Ironhide, calling out "'Hide! Hide, miss you!"
The Mech chuckled and placed his hand on the ground, allowing her to climb onto it before lifting his hand and its cargo to his face to talk to the child properly. "And I you, youngling. Have you been safe?"
Will and Sarah followed slowly behind his daughter, though still eager to see his guardian. "We've been fine, 'Hide. It's you we've been worried about. We couldn't find you guys anywhere. Keller couldn't do anything about the situation, Galloway had presidential orders to take control of NEST and he put a tail on us. Plus, Annie was a real pain at bedtime without you to read her a story."
Ironhide looked at the girl in hand and smiled. "Well, I do read a good story."
"You're telling me," Sarah commented, "whenever I tried reading her a story, she told me I was doing it the wrong way"
"Sarah, I am pleased to find you well"
"We missed you, big fella." She told him softly.
Mikaela and Sam were sat with Bee beneath one of the tree's, anything important they had to say had been discussed on the long journey from the safe house. All three were content for the time being to sit in silence as they enjoyed each other's presence after so long apart.
Meanwhile, Epps had approached Optimus. "Sarah's right Boss 'Bot, we missed you guys. Not the same without you."
"There was nothing any of us could have done to prevent the situation Epps. But it is in the past now. Thanks to Nate and his team, we are free to continue our mission"
"NEST has been deactivated Optimus. The base has been locked down and our men have been forcibly discharged. There's no legal way we can still help, but that don't matter. We're still gonna lend you guy's hand or two. Just point the way."
Nate and his team stood to the side and observed the reunion.
"We did the right thing by taking on this case. However disbelieving it was" he said.
"Speak for yourself, man. It just confirmed my theories." Hardison countered. "So. Cool."
"They may be 'cool', Hardison, but there are other thing to worry about." Sophie glared at him, as though asking how he could forget. "Parker, dear, how are you feeling? Are you in pain?"
"I'm fine, Sophie. Really."
"Are you sure?"
An hour or so later, Nate looked around, checking on his team. Eliot stood with Epps, Sideswipe and Jolt talking about fighting technique, while Ironhide and Ratchet fussed about Parker and her wound, who was holding the Lennox's toddler (thankfully too young to be taught how to pick locks). The child was chatting away at Ironhide. Sam was just sat with 'Bee, not saying anything, but enjoying being close with each other after the time apart. The twins were arguing about something that Nate didn't care to know about, and Hardison was perched on the back of his fan, messing around with his laptop.
Leaving Sophie's side as she chatted with Arcee, Sarah Lennox and Mikaela about something, he approached Will and Optimus, both striking figures, who looked as though they were having a rather serious conversation.
"Gentlemen, I'm sorry to interrupt, but there are a few things we need to clear up before you go."
Both leaders turned to look at the third. Nate opened the case in his hand and turned it around to show them the contents.
"Just to let you know, Hardison scoured their systems and couldn't find anything about any experiments. They kept a team of scientists on hand to monitor you, but otherwise, they were using the Dam for a whole host of things that had nothing to do with the Autobots."
The relief was plain on both Will and Optimus' face. Nate grimaced at the thought of Cybertronian technology at the hands of humans.
"We've also sorted you guys out with new identities. Some of the papers contain a full history for both of you, so I suggest that you read through them carefully and learn the details. The rest contains new accounts, driving licenses, insurance numbers and so on. Eliot's included a few of his contacts to get you weapons. If you plan on hunting down the Decepticons, you're gonna need some help. If they ask, just tell them that Eliot sent you. It should get you a hefty discount."
Will looked at him in amazement, "I don't think we can thank you enough for what you've done."
"It's what we do. Galloway is likely to be fired, so no worries there. And if he doesn't, then we have a few things that can destroy his career. But he's going to find it hard to continue at the moment anyway. His accounts had a bit of a…accident. All his money went missing, and somehow his house was sold without him knowing. As did the funding for the Hoover Dam base, actually. Rather a strange co-incidence. Especially since it untraceably ended up in the accounts we've put in your name." He finished innocently.
"You are a great man, Nathan Ford. We owe a debt to both you and your team for what you have done today." Optimus Prime spoke softly.
"It's no problem. You guys should get out of here before someone gets suspicious. Satellite imaging and all that." Nate waved off the thanks.
Around him, the Autobots broke off their conversations. Farewells were said, and they stood in front of their leader.
"Autobots, roll out!"
The sight of seven Autobots transforming into vehicles was an amazing sight, no matter that it wasn't the first, or the second time they had seen it. Will and Sam climbed into Ironhide and Bee respectively and the Autobots pulled away onto the main road, Optimus Prime in the lead.
Together, the team watched their clients drive off in silence, each contemplating what the consequences of their actions would mean for the world.
"After this, I think we should lay low for a while, man. We just messed with people high in the government" Hardison broke the silence.
"May I suggest Italy? There's a pair of the most gorgeous Prada pumps that I am dying to get my hands on, and they're only available in Italy at the moment. Naturally, I need the hand bag that matches them too" Sophie put the idea forward hopefully.
Looking around the team, Nate saw no objections. "Italy it is."
A big thanks to everyone who reviewed or added my to favs/alert. I'm overwhelmed at the fact that my little story attracted over 900 hits and 27 reviews (as of the time I uploaded this chapter)!
It will be moved to the crossover section at the end of the week – I'm slightly proud of the fact that it's the first crossover of its type and want to be the first to put it in the right section, lol.
And as a side note, since it's mostly Americans who have read this (I don't think Leverage has aired in any other country) – I'm sorry for blowing up Hoover Dam, please don't hurt me!
So a huge thanks to everyone who's read this fic!