Chapter 221 - The Wayward Wind part II
A/N And here ladies and gentlemen is the conclusion of Xireana Prime's winning entry! Again a great many thanks to Xireana!
Chance was about to say something when a flicker of motion, and a little sparkle of light in his peripheral vision caught his attention. He motioned for everyone to be quiet as he stealthily followed that sparkle - Firelight close behind him as he rounded the corner; he saw a door partly cracked and looked inside. He noted his brother staring at a framed picture, and his niece on her knees trying to get his attention.
"Papa? It's really pretty outside today, the flowers in Ba Noi's garden are blooming," she quietly said.
"That's nice… why don't you go play..." Adrian replied in a dead, robotic voice. The child bit her lip and pulled out a picture.
"I made a Picture for your Papa! It has me, you and-!" she laid it overtop of the photo, but didn't get to finish her explanation before his brother snapped.
"I told you to go play!" he yelled.
Chance watched as his niece ran out of the room and down the opposite hallway. He knew it led to the back yard where the old buggy was.
"Can you go check on her? I've got to talk with my… brother," Chance growled softly, looking at Firelight's holoform.
It was clear by the look on her face that Firelight didn't like the tone of his voice, but it was just as clear that she understood his anger. She gave him a nod and seemed to rapidly scan the very nails and foundation of the family homestead before pacing to the nearer rear exit.
Chance lost sight of Firelight as she went out the door before he reached out and shoved the ajar portal fully open; crossing his arms as he darkened the threshold.
"We need to talk Adrian," he announced darkly.
"Not now Leo..." Adrian replied hollowly.
"Too bad, I'm not Leo!" Chance snarled in return; striding across the room, grabbing his brother by the shirt collar and proceeding to drag him through the house toward the front door.
"What the hell Leo! Let go! Sonovabitch," Adrian yelled, trying to get him to let go.
"Let's get this straight. One, I am not Leonardo, and two we have the same mother," Chance stated coldly, ignoring his mother's cries as he bodily threw his brother out the front door.
"Dear, I'm sorry but it needs to be done. Nothing else has worked," he heard his father try to console his mother as he followed Adrian through the door. Ben and Leo were on the porch watching them, Leo had his arms crossed and Ben had his hands in his pockets.
In the hot mid-day sun, Chance watched his eldest brother struggle to stand. Adrian glared at Chance for a long moment before he looked to the porch where Leo was doubtlessly waving sarcastically from the shaded porch.
"So… Chance. Nice to see you…?" Adrian finally stated in a deadened, emotionless tone. Chance's face darkened.
"Wish I could say the same," Chance replied flatly.
"Why the rough greeting?"
"Why?" Chance demanded. He marched up to Adrian and decked him. "WHY?! Because you just yelled at your seven-year-old daughter for what?! For only trying to make you smile!"
His brother just ignored him and swung. Chance dodged, and decked him again.
Firelight slipped out of the house and visually scanned the area for an old vehicle; target locked she caught a brief glimpse of bright, coppery red hair and a purple tutu. On quiet feet she walked up to the small, open framed vehicle and heard her gentle quarry.
"Why won't Papa ever like me again?" she heard the poor sparking whimper. Firelight decided it was time to make herself known to the femmeling.
"Hello?" she called quietly. She heard a gasp before a little helm peeked over the back of the seat.
"Who are you?" the girl asked shyly as Firelight made her way to the opposite side of the vehicle.
"I'm Firelight. I'm your Uncle Chance's... girlfriend. What's your name sparking?" Firelight asked softly, crouching down to the girl's level.
The child regarded her holoform's face for a long moment before she quietly responded.
"I'm Lillian Tein Daniels. The teacher at school calls me Lilly, Papa used to too... But I'd always wanted my friends… if I had any...to call me Tein."
Firelight smiled at the girl, noting the toy hatchling the little femmeling clutched.
"Well Little fairy, I see you have a tiny fairy with you. What's her name?"
"This is Rose!" Tien immediately smiled, holding her doll aloft. "She's my bestest friend! We go on adventures! I once went to the fairy land and found a crystal! It was glowing and had fairy writing on it."
Firelight canted her head to the side, curious about the crystal the femmeling had found. She opened her mouth to ask a question in clarification when suddenly the dune buggy in front of her spoke.
"Alright dudette, what faction are you?"
Firelight jumped; blinking her holoform's optics, she scanned the buggy and their surrounding area to be safe. It was indeed a Cybertronian.
"Designation Firelight, Neutral until the Autobot Prime grants me their brand."
"There are 'bots here? On Earth?" the buggy demanded.
"Yes. There have been for almost five annum now," she replied patiently, frowning worriedly at the condition the 'bot was in as the sparking wandered away. "However you have been in this system for far longer."
"Yep, I landed some time in the 60's and was brought here in '78 after the Vietnam war ended. My comm has been busted since touchdown, I'm so low on energon that all I can do is talk through my radio," he explained. "Oh, I'm Beachcomber, by the way."
"Well Beachcomber, I can call base and have a pick up for you?" She offered. The mech voiced a soft hum of regret.
"Sadly, I would, but I can't leave the little sparking all alone - she's had only me for the last three orn since her carrier offlined. I fear her sire is not long for this world: He yearns to follow his mate," Beachcomber reported gravely.
Firelight sighed, understanding the mech's care for the little sparking.
"Can you go check on her?" Beachcomber asked then. "I've got a bad feeling in my protoform."
Giving the dune buggy a nod, Firelight went after Tien.
She did a quick scan of the house and found her in a room by the living-room. She found it strange however, that Tien's signal would register as Cybertronian… it was faint, and she clearly was framed in the human's fragile form… Firelight decided she'd have to take that up with Ratchet later. Following the hall and passing three bedrooms, she found the little Fairy in a tiny fourth, looking out her window in fear and confusion.
"Little Fairy?" Firelight called softly from the doorway.
Tien glanced her way before her attention was drawn back to the window.
"Why...why are papa and uncle Chance fighting…?"
Firelight walked her holoform over to the human sparking and held her as they both watched the battle. "I think it's because your uncle Chance is trying to 'beat the hope back into him,' as a friend of mine once called it."
"Papa lost his hope?" Tien asked softly, relaxing somewhat and squirming into a more comfortable position closer to Firelight's spark.
"It would seem that when your carrier left for the Well, your Papa lost his hope when she passed," Firelight stated in the gentlest manner that she could. It did not do to lie to a hatchling, far kinder was to support them through the difficult truth.
"You sound like 'Comber," Tien murmured. The little girl seemed about to ask something when they heard Chance yell at his brother.
"Why? Why can't you see she just wants you to smile for her?!" Chance shouted, throwing his brother on the ground and backing up slightly to survey the man. "You're her world!"
"I...I can't..." His brother struggled to say the words as he lurched to his feet.
"YOU CAN'T WHAT?!" Chance bellowed, stepping closer to get into his brother's face. Adrian suddenly decked Chance in the jaw.
"BECAUSE SHE LOOKS TOO MUCH LIKE HER!" Adrian howled in the tone of a wounded beast.
Chance straightened from the blow, rubbing his jaw and glowering.
"Every time… every time I look at her I see Lydia," Adrian panted out. "And I'm reminded again and again that she ISN'T HERE! And she NEVER WILL BE!" Adrian finished in a bellow.
"So what then? Push her onto the others and waste away? Run out into the bush and kill yourself?" Chance snarled.
"...All of those have crossed my mind at one point…" The eldest admitted. Chance couldn't believe what he was hearing.
"So you're saying you'd just throw her away? Your own daughter?" he demanded, praying he was hearing lies, praying the 'exercise' and screaming fit would snap the man out of it.
"YES! YES, I WANT HER GONE! AWAY FROM ME SO I CAN'T SEE HER! I CAN'T DO IT! NOT WITHOUT LYDIA!" Adrian bellowed, he glanced over Chance's shoulder and scowled, turning and storming toward the outbuildings.
Chance watched his brother in disgust for a long moment before he made an about face and strode back into the house; Ben and Leo silently following him inside. He looked to his mom tucked into their father's arms on the couch, strode over and took her other side; winding a bracing arm around her shoulders as she cried.
"I didn't think he was that far gone…" His father whispered.
"Neither did I..." Chance replied softly. "If I'd known I'd have handled it differently…"
Ben looked to the family and asked. "What now?"
"Your father and I could, but we're already over the hill and have Abe and Ba Noi to care for…" Maria sniffled and rose to stand beside the eldest presiding, Ba Noi reaching out to comfortingly grasp her wrist.
"Both me and Ben don't have stable income yet, we're still basically living off of Ma and Dad…" Leo sighed, his shoulders drooping somewhat.
"You work the ranch," Alfred grunted in their defence.
Chance looked around the gathered for a long moment before he straightened.
"I'll take her," he announced calmly. "The Colonel's wife and daughter just moved onto base; I don't think another girl running around base would make much difference." The moment he said it aloud, a weight of certainty settled into his chest.
Chance then walked past his family and into the room Tien had been staying in. Hey knocked on the side of the door frame.
"Hey girls… Mind if I come in?" he asked.
Firelight looked down at the girl in her lap and then back at him before offering a nod. He walked in and crouched by the bed they were sitting on.
"I guess I'm pretty bad at first impressions..." Chance sighed. "Lil-"
"She likes being called Tien," Firelight quietly corrected him. Chance nodded.
"Tien," he murmured. "I know you don't know me very well, and a lot of bad things have happened… But I need you to answer a very important question for me."
Tien rolled over to face Chance, still laying in Firelight's arms; he saw the large resemblance between Tien and Lydia: The bright, un-tame-able curly hair, pale skin, and to his surprise: Vivid, almost Autobot-blue eyes.
She sniffled a bit. "Yes…?"
"Grandma and Pop-pop are getting too old to take care of you, and Ben and Leo don't have the money to support you, or they'd be right behind me asking the same… So what I'm asking is: Would you like to come live with me for a while? There will be some scary times - and some secrets to keep - but I'll always be there for you. Even when I have to go off to work, I'll only be a phone call away. Firelight will be there too," he added, looking up at the femme for the confirmation already showing in her optics. He let his thanks flash in his eyes in response to the calm support in hers.
The little girl looked to Firelight and then back to Chance. "Will I ever be able to come back? Will Papa ever want me back?" she asked softly. Chance looked into those big blue eyes and felt his heart break, he had a feeling that she had a thought process similar to Bell's, and opted for the truth.
"Tien, your Papa loves you very much, but he's sick in his brain right now; sometimes it can go away; sometimes it doesn't. All we can do right now is get him to a doctor. He might be able to see you again and not be sad, or mad one day, but right now it's too much for him," Chance took a deep breath and continued, gently reaching out to take the girl's hand. "We can come back and visit everyone anytime you want."
Tien surveyed him for a long moment, then got up and pulled on both their hands. "Before I decide… I need to show you both something..."
Chance obediently followed as his niece lead them back to the dune buggy and pulled a stone out of her pocket.
"This is my Fairy Ember Stone; it does magic, but only to things like Beachcomber," Tien announced seriously. She turned to her long-time hideaway. "Ready Comber?"
"Hey hey, sparking!" warned the buggy. "No need to give me a jump, I've already told your friend Firelight about me - and she's friends with my friends, remember them?"
"The Autobots?" Tien asked curiously.
Chance felt his jaw drop. The family's long time dune buggy was a Cybertronian? And not just that but a Bot!? Worse yet-
"So… you know all my dirty secrets, don't you," Chance stated in a wary, resigned tone.
Beachcomber snickered. "Every last one dude. For my silence, I need you to watch over my little fairy, right?"
"But 'Comber what about you! I can't leave you alone here with nobody to talk to!" Tien cried out as she clung to the side of the buggy.
"Don't worry, Tien," the mech laughed. "I'll see you real soon. Firelight here will have a friend of mine to come pick me up. Now you go and get yourself ready to go, okay?"
Tien sniffled. "Kay... miss you Comber…"
"I'll miss you too Little Fairy. And don't forget to give the Fairy stone to the one called Optimus Prime, okay?" Beachcomber coached her gently.
"'Kay," Tien replied, rubbing at her eye for a moment. She then began pulling Chance back towards the house.
"Firelight, could you comm the base? Let Kae or Lena know what's going on and that we'll need a ground bridge here in a half hour or so?" he called over his shoulder.
"Don't worry Chance, I got it. You take care of Tien," Firelight replied with a smile.
Chance followed his niece back to her room to pack, his father and two brothers came in with some bags. "Thought you could use some help," his dad stated.
"Hows ma?" Chance asked, folding up her blankets as Tien grabbed her favourite toys and stuffies.
"She's whippin' up a really big batch of her famous cookies - figures it'll be years before she see either of you again," Leo chuckled.
"Yeah, you'll have a bag of 'em in like 30 mins," Ben added with a laugh.
"That will be perfect. With your guys help we'll have her favourite stuff ready to go and be off," Chance replied.
Alfred gave a frown. "What about the legal paperwork?"
"We'll cross the bridges when we get to them," Chance shrugged before he gave his father a shit eating grin. "Besides, I'll be back tomorrow with the paperwork for her passport."
Tien looked up from her bag and then to her Uncle Chance. "Ready!" she said, still clutching her fairy doll and the stone.
Chance looked to his brothers and father and saw they all had a container filled with some of Tien's belongings. He decided it would be best to have Firelight move her Alt-mode to the back yard, seeing as Adrian was still out front near the chopper hangar. Thus the men moved the bags and boxes through the house and set them by the back door. He followed everyone back to the kitchen where his mother had just finished packing up the still-warm cookies for them.
"Thanks Ma. I also had a few questions: Is Tien allergic to anything, and how was she grade wise in school?" Maria hummed, nodding to herself and bustling about again.
"Lilly's Celiac, meaning she's allergic to wheat and gluten, so watch out for modified food starch and anything that's been produced on machines which also process wheat," she stated, throwing another tray into the oven and setting the timer. "These are Little Flowers, special gluten-free cookies for her, and I have a cookbook for you as well," she handed him the book and the cookies.
Chance watched as his mother cleaned up the kitchen faster then he's ever seen her move, he set the items down and caught his mother in a hug. "Ma, we'll be back tomorrow, don't fret. I love you. He pecked a kiss to her temple and handed Tien a cookie.
"Here sparking, you deserve it after today," he said to the girl.
Tien happily munched on her cookie as he made his way to the back door.
"Oh! Chance!" his mother called.
"Yeah ma?" he replied.
"Her school had called yesterday, they've said she should go to a private school better capable of dealing with her intelligence levels. We didn't know what to do about it since the closest one is in the next state…" she trailed off softly.
"No worries ma. I'll have that handled," Chance smiled, he then looked to Pops. "Oh and Pops? I'll be commandeering your dune buggy since there's grass growing through the hubs. I can't let the old guy rust away."
"I figured you'd want it," Abe chuckled "You did everything in it when you were a whelp to an ankle biter. He's yours. Just get him back to his glory eh?"
"You got it Pops. I'll have some of my Base buddies come by to pick him up. Just don't get too snappy if you see a fancy-looking semi come driving up," he warned.
Chance turned to find his twin and older brother had both snuck behind him to put away Tien's things into Firelight's alt-mode. With a laugh he gave everyone a last hug as Tien did the same.
Once buckled in, Firelight the drove out the front yard. No one, not even Tien, looked to see Adrian's face as they drove off. Firelight made a turn onto the old abandoned dirt road not far from his home, when they were out of sight he gave Firelight a nod.
"Ready for the ground bridge," Firelight stated aloud. Tien looked at her Uncle. "Who's Aunty Firelight talking to?" Chance couldn't help but grin at what his niece had deemed Firelight to be.
"She's talking to our boss. Now I need you to listen Little Fairy, you see, Firelight is like your friend Beachcomber. But she can change into a plane. See when he's all fixed up, Beachcomber will be a big Robot from outerspace." Tien gave a nod.
"Uh-huh. Comber told me!"
"Did he show you?" he asked.
"No. He said he couldn't 'cause he's sick," Tien replied, solemnly shaking her head.
"Well you'll see a lot of big bots - and a couple tiny ones no bigger than you - but you have to keep it a secret no matter what okay? Otherwise I won't be able to live with you and Firelight," he stated in a kind but stern tone.
"I promise Uncle Chance!" Tien replied with a solemn nod.
Then, the swirling vortex of the ground bridge appeared in front of them, and after a moment Firelight drove through.
"A Fairy portal!" Tien whisper-yelled.
This only made Firelight and Chance laugh at her antics.
"Welcome to the N.E.S.T. Base, Tien," Chance smiled at his niece before disembarking and quickly pulling her gear free.
"Chance where have you been?" Lena demanded.
"Australia," Chance shrugged, catching the final bag and setting it on the floor. Lena rolled her eyes at him.
"Colonel's just about ready to slap an AWOL on you," Lena informed him gravely.
"I've only been gone a few hours!" Chance protested immediately, whipping around to try to catch view of the man in question.
"Chance you disappeared on Tuesday," Lena stated intently.
"Yeah? So?" Chance asked.
"Tuesday the third," Lena stated in a hinting tone.
"What day is it today Lieutenant?"
"The fifth?" Chance hazarded. Lena lifted a digit and gestured toward the ceiling.
"The sixth?" Chance asked in a wary tone.
"Chance the clock just rolled over, it's Friday the Thirteenth," Lena stated gravely. "Will's pissed. You're just lucky Chromia managed to cover your newbie seminar, and Ratchet decided on an impromptu 'spring cleaning' and reorganization of all the storerooms or there would be an AWOL with your name on it."
"You've been neglecting your duty for me?" Firelight demanded in a worried tone, collecting Tien with her holoform before stretching back into her root mode.
Chance glanced around and winced. Timezones.
"Oops," he muttered.
"You leave my Uncle Chance and Auntie Firelight alone!" Tien piped up indignantly.
"And you're bringing in unread civilians?" Lena added in that tone.
"I am not insane," Chance announced with a scowl, defiantly crossing his arms.
"Of course you are, we've been over this," Ratchet's voice stated in an amused tone. Chance whipped around to witness the medic holding Lena's optics for a suspiciously longer duration than a simple greeting before the greying, kindly-eyed medic's holoform flickered into being in front of their little group. "Just not dangerously so," the holo finished cheerfully. "What's your name, little spark?" Ratchet asked gently, kneeling down to bring himself to Tien's level.