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Black Crayons

Chapter Text

Black Crayons

She always ran out of black crayons first. The box should hold two black crayons instead of just one like the other crayons, because they always ran out. Most of the other kids ran out of green and blue because of coloring the sky and grass in their drawings. She always uses the black crayon in all her pictures. Because her pictures always have the same thing. The black Truck.

Her teacher had commented on it, both to Annabelle and her parents, that all her pictures had the Truck. At first, her teacher had thought that it was kind of cute, but then she seemed a little confused.

Every picture she drew had the black Truck in it. Annabelle worked hard to draw it just right, because it was important. She was careful to stay in the lines when coloring. She looked in pride as Truck after Truck was pinned to the bulletin board next to pictures of trees and flowers and smiling faces.

Her teacher would sometimes request they draw something specific, like their house or the park. She would still put the black Truck in the picture somewhere. One time, she was supposed to draw an indoor view of her house. Her teacher had seemed so excited that her picture was Truck-free, until she saw the window. Annabelle had placed the Truck outside the window, because it was important.

Today, her teacher said to draw their best friend. Annabelle asked what she should do if she had more than one best friend. Her teacher explained told her to draw both then.

Annabelle took a piece of paper and stared at it. Suzy would be hurt if Annabelle did not draw her. After all, they did play at recess together and that is what best friends do in preschool. She just wasn't her only best friend.

Grasping a crayon with all the skill her young hands could muster, she dragged a line across her canvas. Now, with the sky and grass divided by her greatness, she began to populate her world with images from her imagination. Suzy's famous pigtails were carefully recreated onto a small stick figure. Two brown dots gave her creation sight and a grin matched the young artists, to show her friend was happy with her making. Now, the tiny stub of black crayon was selected.

As she brought her creation to her teacher, she was greeted with a look of confusion.

"Annabelle, I thought you said you were drawing two best friends."

Annabelle looked at her masterpiece. The form of Suzy stood on the empty landscape with only one other shape. The carefully drawn image of the black Truck, as painstakingly as designed as the girl. Her only response was a shrug.

The day came to an end, and her mom came to pick up the young child. Her mother praised her and the bulletin board covered in her prize Truck drawings. Annabelle was always proud of her drawings at school.

But she was even more proud of the ones at home, on the refrigerator.

Just like the ones at school, they all feature her precious black Truck. Every single one was carefully and lovingly drawn to the upmost of the young girl's skills.

However, in the pictures at home, he does not look like a truck anymore.

He has arms, legs, and a head. He has blue eyes. He has a name. Ironhide, her best friend.

Unlike the humans in her pictures, he is drawn as a series of rectangles and squares instead of mere lines. Her black crayon had drawn his form hundreds of times until she found a design that looked the most like him she could. She could even show his cannons, which took some practice to get right.

Her mom and dad had told her on the first day of preschool that Ironhide was a secret. She could not talk to her teacher or friends about him. She could not let anyone know or bad things could happen. Bad things could happen to Ironhide. Annabelle made sure that no one would ever hurt Ironhide, so all her pictures at school were him as a truck. He turns into a truck to hide from people, so in all her pictures at school he was hiding. That way no one would ever see him and hurt him.

At home, he was safe and did not have to hide. So at home, in her pictures, he did not have to hide.

When she got home, she grabbed a piece of paper and dashed to the table. She pulled out her box of crayons. Her face fell as she realized something she had forgotten.

She needs more black crayons.

Chapter Text

Drawings

He had been alive for longer than any of these humans could imagine. Time meant something different for him than the short-lived inhabitants of Earth. What for them seemed an eternity barely caught his notice.

However, he was not the most patient Autobot. He preferred action (especially action involving the use of his cannons.) Currently, his patience was running out.

"Hold still," a young voice sternly commanded the giant robot.

Ironhide mentally groaned. He would face Decepticons head on. He would take on Megatron himself, if he had to. Annabelle, unfortunately, was a harder challenge and one he would never defeat it seemed. He didn't even know if he wanted to win.

She was currently laying on the grass, stretched out and concentrating on her task. The reason Ironhide was not allowed to move was because she told him she was going to "draw" him. So he now was standing perfectly still in the yard as she used her colored wax implements to render a two-dimensional representation of his appearance. He was still in position when Will Lennox came outside. His barely contained chuckle sorely tempted Ironhide to bend the "no harm" policy that the Autobots followed concerning humans.

"What are you doing, Sweetheart?" asked the captain to his busy daughter.

"Drawing Ironhide, Daddy," she answered excitedly. "Isn't it a pretty picture?" She tore the paper loose and handed it to him. After looking it over, Lennox informed her it was very pretty and handed it back.

Satisfied with her father's approval, she turned her attention to the subject of her work. "Do you like it, Ironhide?"

She seemed to realize her friend would have trouble grasping the tiny picture easily. Annabelle held her drawing up as high as she could while he bent down close to her. He began a detailed analysis of her work while her small fingers pointed out important features.

The paper she had chosen had blue, parallel lines stretching across, but all the sheets had similar lines. Most of the forms on the paper consisted of combinations of circles, rectangles, and triangles. Or rather, forms similar to those shapes, because the lines were neither straight nor constant enough to be true circles, rectangles, or triangles. Furthermore, the objects that she claimed the pictures were supposed to represent only had the vaguest similarity. Her "tree" was a circular green shape on top of a brown rectangular form. These colors were not consistent with the actual flora Ironhide had become familiar with, but Annabelle's assortment of colored wax implements was extremely limited in spectrum, so that was understandable. Her "house" was similarly simple: a near triangle upon an almost correct square. Most of her shapes were drawn in think black lines, as unrealistic as the rest of the picture in portraying actual objects, and color was applied mostly within these shapes. Some places had the colors outside Annabelle's black divisions.

When she pointed out "the sun," Ironhide felt extremely perplexed. A simple, yellow, round object made sense with Annabelle's simplified designs, but the lines around it was less understandable. Was she trying to demonstrate the light being created? Heat? UV rays and other invisible forms of radiation? Why did she place these lines?

Finally, she pointed to the picture, "and this is you, Ironhide."

The form she indicated was black, like Ironhide. It was also blocky and awkward. The shape was made up of long rectangles, which he assumed were supposed to represent his servos, attached to a central squarish object. On top was a rounder object with two blue dots, possibly to represent his blue optics. Overall, the similarities between Annabelle's image and his actual appearance were minimal.

Then Ironhide took a closer look. Unlike her other representations, the one of him never had the colors crossing outside of her drawn lines. She had taken more care to maintain his appearance than the appearance of the other images. He could also see that the lines were straighter than the others. He realized most of her time had been spent of perfecting his shape.

He also realized he had been silent to long. Her features twisted into a sad appearance. Her arms began to droop. Lennox's own expression gained a look of concern for his daughter.

"It's just," began Ironhide carefully, "where are my cannons, Annabelle?"

"Oh, I forgot them," exclaimed Annabelle, snatching up her drawing implements quickly. She slowly drew an addition to her picture. Her concentration was fairly surprising. When she finished, she held the picture up again. "Is that better?"

"It's perfect," he told her.

Chapter Text

Baby-Sitter's Nightmare

Jennifer figured it would be like any other baby-sitting job. First, reassure and gain the parent's trust. Next, make sure the kid will mind her instructions. Then, just keep the child alive and relax. Already, the parents seemed ill at ease, though they didn't seem overly concern with their daughter's safety. Instead, they appeared to be worried about the sixteen-year old baby-sitter.

"Are you sure it will be alright?" Mrs. Lennox asked her husband, "We don't want to give Jennifer too much… trouble."

"Don't worry, madam," the teen assured, "I can handle anything Annabelle may throw at me. She won't be a problem at all and I'll keep her safe."

Captain Lennox shook his head ruefully, "She isn't what we're worried about. This is the first time we've left her with someone else, but she does need someone to help with dinner and such. We just… Well, don't get concerned if anything odd happens while you're here." The married couple finally headed out, leaving a slightly confused baby-sitter.

"Odd," she wondered, "Odd how?"

Annabelle jumped up from where she had been coloring. Apparently the girl loved to draw, but the refrigerator was strangely bare. It was if someone pulled off all the art in order to hide her pictures. But that was crazy. Maybe this was one household where they didn't use the fridge as a gallery.

The preschooler and the teen exchanged guarded looks. Annabelle finally addressed the older girl. "Mommy and Daddy said you're taking care of me for a little while. They say I have to listen and do what you say."

"That's right. So, what do you want to do first?"

"Can I go sit in the truck?"

Jennifer looked out the window and sure enough, a black truck was parked outside in the driveway. "Are you allowed to do that?"

"Yes."

"Okay, but no messing with the controls. Your parents will kill me if you get hurt or wreck the truck."

The preschooler laughed, apparently finding the concept hilarious. Jennifer watched as she climbed in, the door opening easily at her touch. Instead of pretending to drive as one would expect, Annabelle sat in the cab, talking. The teen couldn't hear anything, but she could see the young child's mouth moving. Maybe she was talking to her imaginary friend.


In the cab, Annabelle was trying to reassure her best friend that while he was the best, Jennifer was going to do a good job at watching her.

"Ironhide, Mommy and Daddy are gone," she explained, "Until they come back, Jennifer is watching me."

"Annabelle," the truck argued, "I am perfectly capable of protecting you in your parents' absence. I am much more observant than a not-even-adult human. Why would they bring in a stranger to fulfill this important job?"

The girl, used to the disguised robots' stubbornness, knew it would be hard to convince him that Jennifer was alright. "Mommy said they wouldn't be back until after dark. Jennifer will fix me dinner and stuff." She used as much logic she could in her argument. "You can't fit in the house. You can't cook on the stove."

"I could use my cannons," he muttered. He hated it when Annabelle won an argument, which had been a common occurrence since she learned to talk. "That would definitely warm the food up."

"It would also vaperi...vapa… it would make it burn all up too," she pointed out with a giggle. He loved his cannons and she loved to listen to him talk about it.

"But it would be warm before it vaporized," he added, causing her to giggle louder, "Alright, she gets a chance. But if she doesn't watch you closely, if she does something wrong, I'll take care of it."

Annabelle laughed at her friend. She knew he meant it and that he took his protecting seriously. But the mischievous preschooler couldn't wait to see what would happen to Jennifer. Ironhide wouldn't reveal himself, which was reassuring to her, but he could still accomplish some trouble.


Jennifer made the young child a bowl of macaroni and cheese. As the girl shoveled the food down her throat, Jennifer looked around. On the table laid the drawing from earlier. The topic seemed to be a black truck, possibly the same truck that was in the drive way earlier today. The baby-sitter glanced out the window, her mind on what to do with the child later. She froze. The truck was no longer in the driveway, but next to the window. It almost looked like the truck was watching the two girls at the table.

"Probably just had the parking brake removed when Annabelle was playing. It's downhill," thought Jennifer. "Nothing to worry about."

Annabelle glanced out; trying to see what had Jennifer's attention. She grinned evilly at the truck's presence. "Do you like the truck? It's special."

"Really?"

"Yes. Want to watch TV?"

TV sounded like a good idea. Away from the creepy truck staring at them. No, not staring. It can't stare. Popping in a movie, the teen settled down on the couch next to the bouncing girl. As the film ran, Jennifer felt her eyes beginning to droop. She was getting tired. Well, a short nap wouldn't hurt. When she nearly dropped off to sleep, an audio explosion sent her stumbling to her feet in shock.

The noise was so abrupt. And then it stopped when she was up right. Trying to find the source of the disturbance, Jennifer glanced out the living room window. The front grill of the truck filled the glass. The horn of the truck was what awoke her. There was no way that the truck could have rolled by itself to that position, brake or no brake. Not to mention the horn going off by itself. Annabelle had jumped at the sound, but was relaxed by the time Jennifer was beginning to freak out. That truck was bothering her now.

"You shouldn't have fallen asleep. You are supposed to be watching me," Annabelle gently commented.

"I only dozed off," she defended.

Annabelle shrugged, "I'm not the one who would have a problem with that. Good night."

"You're going to bed," asked Jennifer, a little nervously. Why would she be nervous? Why would she be concerned with being alone while the girl slept? Because of the truck?

"I'm sleepy. Can you tuck me in? Mommy and Daddy will be home soon," she reassured. "Nothing bad will happen before then."

After reading a bedtime story to the child and saying goodnight, Jennifer glanced out of the upstairs' window. Once more, the truck had relocated. This time, it was parked right under the girl's room. Almost like it was standing guard. Or waiting to pounce. She no longer tried to convince herself that it was a parking brake or that it wasn't staring. It was watching her and it didn't like her. As she was about to turn away, the headlight flickered at her. Just one, like a wink. The meaning was clear. "I'm watching you."


When the Lennoxes returned about an hour later, Jennifer's nerves were frayed. The truck was still outside, but it returned to the driveway. Like it had never even moved from that spot. She kept glancing at all the windows, trying to keep track of its changing location. When Mrs. Lennox opened the door, Jennifer jumped with a small shriek. The two entering pair stared at the baby-sitter.

"Sorry," apologized the frazzled teen, "I'm just a little… Things have been a little… odd. Annabelle is fine. She's asleep upstairs."

"It's alright," Captain Lennox told her, "We understand perfectly. In fact, we had almost expected it. Here is something extra for the trouble." He handed her ten dollars more than she had been promised. "Don't worry about it."

Jennifer hurried out, heading for her own vehicle. As she dashed away, she could almost swear that the truck had an evil grin on his grill.


"Ironhide, did you have to scare the poor girl that bad?" asked Mrs. Lennox.

"She fell asleep. Also, I'm perfectly capable of taking care of Annabelle myself. All I did was keep an optic on her."

"You did a possessed car act. Didn't Bumblebee do something like that to Sam and he freaked out?" inquired Lennox.

"Where do you think I got the idea?"

Chapter Text

Night Sky

"Ironhide, where are you from?"

The giant Cybertronian turned to look at the tiny human girl. It was late into the evening, and without the sun's glow to conceal them, various stars were becoming visible. Annabelle was sitting beside him, finally giving up on her attempt to draw with the fading light. Now, she proceeded to conversation. Ironhide understood that the young were always curious, but was also resigned to the fact that the stream of inquiries was unending. Even when they ran out of questions, they would resort to "Why?"

Annabelle elaborated on the question, "Mommy and Daddy said you are from far away. And no one's suppose to know you're here. Cause it's a secret. But where did you come from?"

Remembering to simplify concepts so she would understand, he explained, "I come from another world called Cybertron. Do you see those stars?" He stretched out a finger, pointing towards the night sky. Each point of light was clear to his optics; though some of the dimmer stars would be harder for the child to see clearly. "Each one is like your sun, and some are even larger. Around some of those stars are planets. Just as there are planets around your sun."

"Like Earth," exclaimed Annabelle excitedly, "So your home is around a star."

Ironhide nodded. Even for one so young, she was quick to understand what was presented to her. If she was Cybertronian instead of human, he had no doubt she could have become a leading scientist in time. Or perhaps he had too much pride in her quick development for his own good.

"Is it really far?" she asked, continuing her investigation into her best friend's past.

He answered cheerfully, "Farther than you can imagine, Annabelle. No human craft could possibly travel the distance in their lifetime."

She considered this carefully, "It's even farther than the moon and the sun? Wow! Is it nice?"

The Autobot felt a great sense of homesickness and sadness at the thought of what Cybertron had become. Battle after battle had scarred the land while the two factions of Cybertronians combated for an artifact lost for eons. Cybertron had once been a bright beacon of all that was good for their people, but now it was a tarnished shell of its former glory. Without the Allspark, there was no reason to return home. Their race and their planet had no future.

"A long time ago, it was," he finally told her quietly, "but not anymore."

He stared at the stars until he heard her moving towards him. A concerned expression on her young face greeted the weapon specialist. She went over to where his servo rested on the ground. Gently, her tiny hand patted his.

"Sorry, Ironhide. You miss your home, don't you?" the preschooler observed.

"Yes, at times," he admitted, "but your planet is very nice too. It is much more organic than Cybertron though." He saw a puzzled look from her, so clarified, "Cybertron doesn't have plants and animals like Earth. More metal than anything."

"Everyone is a robot, like you? So everything is robotish and metal," she worked out logically.

"Right. Just like everything is organic here, everything on Cybertron is metallic."

"Which star is Cybertron at?"

Ironhide scanned the sky, his optics flashing from star to star. Eventually he pointed to an extremely distant and dim point of light. "That one. Can you see it, Annabelle?"

She stared into the dark, shielding her eyes from all other light sources. At last, she excitedly shrieked, "I see it!"

"Sweetheart," called Captain Lennox, using one of the various alternate nomenclatures that he gave his daughter, "It is bedtime. Tell Ironhide good-night and come in."

"Good night, Ironhide," Annabelle obediently complied. "I'll see you tomorrow. Sleep good."

"Sleep well also, Annabelle," he answered.


"Ironhide," the young girl shouted towards the disguised truck, "I've got something for you."

She ran up to where he sat parked. Even though it was still morning, she had awakened even earlier so she could finish her project before she left for preschool. Now, all she had to do was give it to her friend.

He was in truck mode because Annabelle had to leave soon. But at her insistence, he transformed in order to look at her creation. Using as large piece of paper she could find so he could hold it, she had drawn another picture. This one, she told him, was for him. He delicately took the drawing from her.

This time, most of the page was covered in black with yellow, five-pointed shapes that he had earlier learned was her representation of stars. In one corner, a yellow round shape with lines around it: the enigmas image of the sun. He still didn't understand why, but her suns always had those lines. In the middle was a fairly large perfect circle. She had obviously used a round object to obtain that level of correctness; likely a container that usually held ground beans used to prepare a high caffeine substance called coffee, judging by the size of the circle. The form was silver and grey. On it, smaller shapes in various colors occupied the space. The one on the top, Ironhide could recognize by the color and care put into the creation as her representation of him. She always put the most effort into drawing him, a fact that warmed his spark.

"I know you miss your home, Ironhide," explained Annabelle as he examined the paper. "You said it's really far away, so you can't go there a lot. So I drew Cybertron. That way you can see it and not be so sad."

The Cybertronian didn't know what to say. The thoughtful preschooler had taken it upon herself to help him any way she could. She wanted him to be happy.

"Does it look right? You said it was all metally and has other robots," Annabelle stared at him hopefully.

Ironhide smiled at the sweet girl, "It's wonderful. Thank you, Annabelle."

She grinned back at the giant robot, "I'm glad you like it. Mommy's going to have to get me more black crayons though. Outer space is really dark and big."

Mrs. Lennox came out at this point, carrying the backpack Annabelle had left in the house. This was Ironhide's cue to turn back into the black truck for the trip to Annabelle's school. As he changed, the picture was carefully transferred to the glove compartment, safe and sound.

Chapter Text

Bully

Annabelle loved coloring time; it was her favorite part of the school day. Even if Mrs. Johnson sometimes asked them to draw something specific, she still had the freedom to do as she liked as long as she still accomplished the teacher's goal. Today, they were supposed to draw something made-up. It could have once been real, like the dinosaurs she was doing, but it still had to be something unusual they didn't normally see. Currently, her T-rex was standing by a self-portrait of herself and a very special black truck. All her pictures had that truck. No one knew why she put the truck in her drawings, but it was important to her.

Her best human friend, Suzie, was doing a unicorn. Judging by the added pigtails, her own image was riding said unicorn. Beyond her sat Carl. He was mean, always trying to scare everyone with his stories. Last week, he tried to convince everyone that goblins would sneak into their house and eat them. Annabelle hadn't worried. No one got into her house: neither monsters, bad guys, nor goblins.

The red-haired boy held up his present drawing. He had waited until Mrs. Johnson had crossed to the farthest corner of the room. Bright yellow stars stood out on the page. In the middle was a roundish shape with red dots around it. On the green grass at the bottom was a person. It looked like a normal stick figure person, but it was green and had two lines on top of the head.

"This is a flying saucer," he announced to the surrounding children, "and aliens travel in them. If they get the chance, they'll get you and abduct you and you'll never go home again."

Some of the young kids looked upset at this and a couple even looked scared. Annabelle wasn't afraid. She was confused and a little angry.

"Not all aliens are mean," she defended. "Some are good guys and are nice."

Carl looked at the girl. He tried to appear haughty and knowledgeable, but with the freckles and frizzy hair, he only seemed cute. At least, adults saw him this way. "No way. All aliens are evil. That's why guys in suits and sunglasses catch them and throw them in Area 51. It's an alien jail where they cut them up and stuff, cause they're evil monsters."

Likely he would have continued his wild ideas about aliens and government agents in an attempt to look smart and scare people. However, he was interrupted by a small fist. Annabelle was beyond furious. She was lacking in technique, but it is amazing how much power a preschooler can muster when properly motivated. Her next swing made contact with his nose. The final punch, before a panicked Mrs. Johnson who had been across the room pulled her off, knocked the wind out of the boy by hitting his stomach. Annabelle was still trying to keep smacking the boy even as her teacher dragged her away. Carl was whimpering slightly as he tried to get back his breath.


"Thank you for coming down, Mrs. Lennox," began Mrs. Johnson.

Annabelle was sitting outside the room as Mrs. Johnson and her mom talked. She ignored it for the most part. She couldn't tell Mrs. Johnson why she attacked Carl. Some things are secret and have to stay secret. Even if it means more trouble. Finally, her mom spoke.

"I'll speak to her. This won't happen again, I promise you."

Her mom came out and Annabelle jumped up. Holding each other's hands, they began walking out. Eventually, Annabelle broke the silence.

"Mommy, are you mad at me?"

"Sweetie, I am upset you hit that boy," she explained, "but I 'm going to let you explain why you did so before I decide on your punishment."

"Carl was being mean again and trying to scare us. This time, he made me mad."

"Why this time?"

Annabelle stopped walking and looked down, "He was saying all aliens are evil monsters and they get taken to Area 51 and cut up. He was lying, right?"

Her mother gave the girl a tight hug at these words. "I know what he said was mean and I know why you would get angry about it. But you can't hit every person who is mean. Sometimes, you have to ignore them."

They were walking again, moving around the parked vehicles. "And about the stuff he said, you know the first part is a lie. So why would the rest be true?" As she declared this, they reached a black pick-up truck. This one was not like any of the others in the lot. Annabelle had learned that this truck was different a long time ago.

"Hello Annabelle," greeted the truck, "Your mother informed me that your instructor contacted her about a problem in today's educational session."

"Hi Ironhide," she replied, happy to see her friend, "Mrs. Johnson and Mommy were mad I beat up a boy. He was mean, but it wasn't good for me to hit him anyway."

"They are correct," he answered. "Combat of any form is not an activity for sparklings to participate in."

"Thanks for the support," Annabelle's mother responded in surprise at the weapon expert's opinion.

Ironhide ruined her enjoyment at his unexpected support by adding, "That's what my cannons are for. What does the boy look like?" You could tell he was joking, but her mother wasn't laughing. Annabelle was though.

Chapter Text

Parent-Teacher Conference

Parent-teacher conferences are always interesting. Some are a chance to praise a high achiever memorization of the alphabet. Some are a chance to inform parents of behavior problems that need to be corrected.

But this particular meeting was one of the odder ones she had ever participated in.

The parents of this specific child were upstanding members of society. Her father, Captain Lennox, had even served in the armed forces. Everything suggested that Annabelle should be a well-adjusted girl. And for the most part, she was. There were just a few oddities that attracted Mrs. Johnson's attention.

As the adults spoke, Annabelle was coloring. She appeared oblivious to her parents' conversation with her teacher.

"Thank you for coming, Mr. and Mrs. Lennox," the teacher began, "Annabelle is an incredibly sweet girl. She always finishes her work and usually gets along well with the other children." It was always good to start out on a positive note. It makes later criticism easier to accept.

"Usually?" asked Mrs. Lennox, catching the key word.

Mrs. Johnson continued, "There are a few things I'd like to discuss. First, there was the 'incident' I spoke to you before of. Happily, there has not been a repeat. I just need to know it has been taken care of."

As she spoke, she remembered the incident vividly. Everyone had been coloring when Carl had held up his picture. It showed a flying saucer in the night sky. He then told the class that aliens would get them all in the middle of the night. He obviously was trying to scare his friends, but Annabelle started yelling at Carl. She told him not all aliens were mean and some were nice. When he had shot back that all aliens were evil, she attacked him. Annabelle got in several punches before Mrs. Johnson could pull them apart. It had been so surprising an assault because Annabelle was usually so nice.

Her father assured, "Yes, we told her it's not good to hurt people, even when they make us mad. It's shouldn't happen again."

"Alright," answered Mrs. Johnson, wanting to know why Annabelle would have gotten so angry, but unable to think of how to ask without sounding nosy. "Next, there is some of her language. All children her age use made-up words, but some she uses seem especially odd."

"Slag," announced Annabelle, "Can I please have another black crayon, Mrs. Johnson?"

Handing the requested crayon to the girl, the preschool teacher noticed the Lennox couple exchanging a look. Watching over small children had sharpened her observation skills and being married had increased her understanding of silent messages. This one clearly said "Oh dear."

What was actually said was, "She has always been creative. Just look at her pictures."

The final and in some ways strangest topic. There was nothing wrong or anything that could be truly worth bringing up about it. It was just… odd. There was no other word for it.

"That's the last thing I wanted to ask about," she told the captain. "All her pictures, while creative and beautiful, always have something in common. Annabelle, could you bring your drawing over here, please?"

The picture in question was like any other a child would draw. Green grass with puffy clouds and the sun above it. A house with a red roof stood next to an apple tree. The only feature that Mrs. Johnson was concerned with was in the middle. A black pick-up truck.

"Every picture she draws, no matter the assignment, has this truck," she informed the parents. "Every single one. Even when drawing indoor pictures or of her best friend, she has a black truck."

"What's wrong with that?" Mrs. Lennox asked.

Mrs. Johnson admitted, "Nothing. It's just a little odd. And I was just wondering if you might have some insight."

"It's important, Mrs. Johnson," Annabelle answered. The parents remained silent, so apparently that was all the response she was going to receive.

"Well, that's about it," the teacher sighed, "Thank you for coming."

As the three Lennoxes left, Mrs. Johnson watched out the window. Annabelle ran ahead to a black truck, one that looked exactly like her drawings. The girl then hugged the front fender. The door opened, before she touched it. Must be one of those automatic doors you can open with the key from a distance. Before he climbed in, Lennox stood near the hood for a moment.

Because of the distance, she couldn't be sure, but Mrs. Johnson could have sworn he muttered, "I can't believe you are teaching Annabelle that kind of language, Ironhide."

And even stranger, she thought she might have heard a gruff voice apologize.

Chapter Text

Everyone Needs a Birthday

Annabelle looked up at the tall, metallic shape of her best friend. He had always been there. For as long as she could remember, the transformed truck had been part of her family. Currently, he was examining his cannons. He loved his cannons so strongly and always maintained them. Annabelle loved the noise they made when her giant companion manipulated them.

"Ironhide, when is your birthday?" she asked. "I have a birthday. Mommy and Daddy have birthdays. All the kids at school have birthdays. When is yours?"

The Autobot stared down at the child. After a moment, he answered slowly.

"Annabelle, Cybertronians do not really celebrate 'birthdays' like humans do. Besides, our measurement of time does not really match up with yours."

The girl tilted her head as she considered his words. She understood that he was from very far away. She knew Ironhide's home was so different than Earth. It made sense many things would be different. But birthdays?

"Everyone needs a birthday, Ironhide. Otherwise you can't have a birthday party. And those are fun. You get to see all your friends and family. They give you presents and cake." She grinned as she remembered her robotic friend didn't eat cake or things like that. "And you get to play games and have fun. You need a birthday."

Ironhide apparently was beginning to recognize the start of a losing fight. He was never one to back down from a challenge. Even one against a determined preschooler.

"I have seen a few of your 'birthday parties,' and I can see a few problems with me having one. You represent the years of your life with the lighting of small wax primitive light devices and extinguishing them. As your age increases, so does the number of these devices on your baked food covered in a sweet glaze; 'cake'. However, the number of such devices that would be required to represent my lifespan thus far would be far too great to fit upon any 'cake' your mother would be able to prepare."

"That's okay," Annabelle grinned up at the Cybertronian, enjoying the fact she could find a good argument for his objections. "On Grandma's birthday, we put one candle on the cake instead of lots. We can do that for you too."

"Alright," he conceded that point, but Ironhide wasn't done yet. "But your 'birthday' is always on the same day each year. If I did convert to your calendar, what day would I select since the length of Earth's revolution does not match with Cybertron's?"

The girl was used to puzzling out Ironhide's more elaborate phrasing and understood after a moment her friend's new excuse.

"You can share with me! I don't mind if you have the same birthday as me. That way you can have a birthday and no one will forget when it is cause it will be on the same day as me."

The robot, trying to find another way to get out of Annabelle's determined plan, reasoned, "But on your 'birthday,' your mother said your classmates would be attending your party this year. How would I be able to have my 'birthday' at the same time as you?"

This slowed Annabelle down. Before she started preschool, the only people at her birthday parties were her parents and Ironhide. Now she would be inviting everyone in her class. Suzie would be fun to have. Carl would be less so. She was still mad at him for her scary stories about how aliens were evil monsters. She got in trouble for hitting that boy, but it was worth it. She still didn't tell Ironhide why she was so mad at Carl. Annabelle loved her giant robotic friend too much to let him know how mean that boy was. Still, the kids at school wouldn't slow down her enthusiasm to include her best friend.

"My party with my friends from school can be in the morning and yours can be in the afternoon after they leave. Don't worry; we have some time until it's my birthday. And your birthday too. We can figure it out later," she giggled as his head dropped in resign.

"Everyone needs a birthday?" he asked carefully.

Annabelle nodded happily, "Of course. Even you, Ironhide."

"And there is no way you will consider letting me get out of it, is there?"

"Nope."

The giant Cybertronian, the Autobot weapon specialist, felt himself bend to the will of the small, human child. He shifted his cannons slightly, and shook his head slightly. Decepticons have nothing on preschoolers. Annabelle smiled sweetly at him.

"Very well. I will share your 'birthday,' Annabelle."

Chapter Text

Baby-sitting, Take Two

"Ironhide, we know you are fully capable of guarding Annabelle," an exasperated Captain Lennox tried to reason, "but she needs more than that. She needs someone to watch her in the house, makes sure she gets to bed on time, and even to fix her dinner. And no, you can't use your cannons. Annabelle already told me about that plan of yours."

The towering robot gave a quiet chuckle, and then turned serious again. "I still believe that I would make a better 'baby-sitter' than any half-grown human you can find. I guess I will have to keep an optic on whoever you selected, just to be safe."

Mrs. Lennox came out to join her husband, "Planning another 'haunting' scare, Ironhide? Poor Jennifer still won't return our calls. We are not having a repeat of that. We hired someone less like to freak over your antics."

"Who did you call?" he asked, but was interrupted by the sound of an approaching vehicle. He recognized and realized who the Lennoxes had hired.


Annabelle was in the front yard while her parents spoke to Ironhide in the back. She was getting another baby-sitter tonight, and they didn't want to have any problems. The preschooler giggled as she remembered last time.

Suddenly, a car pulled into the driveway. Hardly anyone even came near here, so it had to be her baby-sitter. The car was as yellow as the sun with black lines on it. She thought it was pretty. She also remembered Ironhide, while still out of sight, wasn't a truck.

Annabelle dashed so she was standing between the newly parked car and the new arrivals' access to the backyard. Opening the vehicle's doors, a pair stepped out. She could tell they were older than Jennifer, but younger than her parents. The boy had brown hair and the girl's hair was almost black. They smiled at the young child baring her way.

"Hi Annabelle," the older girl greeted, "You probably don't remember me. Last time we saw you, you were just a baby. My name's Mikaela and this is Sam." She pointed at the guy with her.

"You can't go back there yet," the panicked youngster cried as she tried to block their progress. "Mommy and Daddy are busy. Please wait."

"It's alright, Annabelle," Sam soothed, "We just need to tell them we're here. They probably want to get going."

"No!" the preschooler was desperate to keep her friend safe. She tackled the boy around the back of his knees. Her timing couldn't have been better because he was taking a step. Balanced on only one foot, her determined hit caused him to crash to the ground, face first. She then clambered across his fallen form until she was resting on his neck. "You are staying here."

Mikaela tried to pull the angry child off her boyfriend. Annabelle dug her fingers into the boy's hair. Trying to dislodge her resulted in shouts of pain from Sam. The struggle was brought to a halt by a commanding voice.

"Annabelle, what do you think you are doing?" asked her mother.

The child explained, "They were trying to go in the backyard. They can't."

"Annabelle," this voice was even more surprising to her. Ironhide had come around the building and was in plain sight. She was upset at this because he was supposed to be hidden from people. But his next words reassured the girl. "They already know about me. We met a few years ago."

Sam, with Annabelle still on him, requested, "Okay, we know about Ironhide already. Now could you get off me?"

"Sorry," Captain Lennox laughed as he helped the slightly squashed young man up, "We were so concerned with Ironhide's reaction that we forgot about Annabelle's."

"It's okay," he answered, "I've done some extreme things trying to protect Bumblebee before. Which reminds me, should you warn Annabelle about him?"

"Don't worry," the older man assured, "She'll handle that just fine."

Annabelle turned towards her favorite robot, "Ironhide, is it really okay?"

"Yes, you can trust them. But thank you for trying to protect me. Now, there is someone else to meet." He indicated the parked car. "Annabelle, this is Bumblebee."

With the introduction, the yellow and black vehicle shifted and changed. In the end, the transformed car loomed overhead. The size and changed form didn't bother her, after all her time with Ironhide. It was still interesting to see another giant robot.

"Does he live with Sam and Mikaela like you do with me?" asked Annabelle as she stared at the newcomer.

"He lives with Sam," Mikaela answered. "Sam and I aren't married or anything. Bumblebee is really nice, but can't talk the best. So be nice."

Annabelle grinned cheerfully, too excited by everything to speak.


"How's the coloring coming?" a curious Sam inquired of the busy preschooler.

Annabelle held up her paper. On it, she already had drawn her two human baby-sitters, herself, and Ironhide. Now she was working on Bumblebee. So far, he looked like her drawings of Ironhide, but with yellow and less polished in appearance.

"That's so pretty," Mikaela complimented. They were out on the porch, that way the Autobots didn't feel left out. The preschooler had convinced the older two humans to participate in the drawing. Mikaela was working on a sunset view with her crayons. Sam's own picture was his attempt to portray Mikaela's face.

Bumblebee was staring at Annabelle's displayed drawing with a curious amount of intensity. Annabelle recognized the expression as being similar to the first time Ironhide saw one of her pictures. The prolonged silence was also familiar. Mikaela and Sam looked concerned by the lack of reaction from the robot and how she would react to it, but she was more confident this time around that just because it takes a while to respond doesn't necessarily mean they don't like it.

Eventually Ironhide gave the smaller Cybertronian a nudge. Bumblebee then quickly reacted to her picture. Out of his radio came a line from a song she once heard.

"I like it like that!"

Annabelle nodded in acknowledgement to the praise. She then told the young couple, "I have to get something from inside."

Left alone with just the robots, Sam asked Mikaela, "Do you think it will stay this calm?"

His girlfriend laughed slightly, "Trust me, you need to stay on your toes with this one. She apparently already picked a fight at school once. By the way, Bumblebee, whenever a young child shows you something they made, you tell them it's great. It's nice if they try to draw you and they are proud of it."

"And Ironhide," teased Sam, "Never pictured you as a nanny. But here you are with such a sweet, innocent, little…"

He was interrupted as his back became soaked. Annabelle had exited the house silently and armed with a water gun. Now she was firing on her next target: Mikaela. The two baby-sitters shouted in surprise at the assault. Annabelle was laughing as they struggled upright.

"Oh you are so dead," Sam threatened. She squealed as he started chasing her. Mikaela watched the two reenact a scene from "Tom and Jerry." Annabelle, in her role as Jerry, was winning with her water gun. When she ran out of ammo, she once again shrieked.

Sam almost had her when suddenly she jumped. Annabelle quickly rose out of her pursuer's reach, courtesy of Ironhide's hand. The young man glared up at the preschooler.

"That's so unfair," he informed her, "You have a giant robot on your side."

"You have Bumblebee," she pointed out.

Sam then addressed her metal protector, "Someone who is willing to attack, even when outnumbered and out sized, armed and dangerous. Now it makes sense why you get along so well. She's a miniature you, Ironhide."


When the Lennoxes returned that evening, they found the two baby-sitters in much better shape than Jennifer had been. Not only were they not freaking out about a "possessed truck," they even seemed relaxed, if slightly damp. Bumblebee was near Ironhide, watching the returning couple.

Captain Lennox addressed the young pair, "So who won?"

"Well, Annabelle was, but I think we came up ahead when Sam started tickling her," Mikaela answered. "Bumblebee was not nearly as helpful to our cause as Ironhide was to hers."

Sam smiled, "Yeah, after all she couldn't be that much trouble. She's not that old yet." This statement about her harmlessness was ruined by a pair of water balloons dropped out of her bedroom window on the young pair below. Even if she was supposed to be asleep, she couldn't resist.

"Definitely," muttered Sam as he dripped, ignoring the laughter from robots and parents alike, "a miniature Ironhide."

Chapter Text

When I Grow Up

Mrs. Johnson was slowly working her way down the tables, asking one person at a time what they wished to be when they grew up. Annabelle listened half-heartedly as her classmates listed doctors, astronauts, and baseball players as their dream jobs. Several girls just said they wanted to be mommies. Many kids also wanted to do whatever job their parents did. Carl, who had been moved across the room from Annabelle after the "incident," said he wanted to be a government agent. This earned him a glare from the girl, but it did send her pondering.

Most of the jobs that had been named so far either belonged to a family member or was just a cool job. But they didn't really consider their options carefully. Annabelle had gone through a stage where she wanted to be a princess and a movie star. But now she didn't know what she wanted to be.

She might be a mommy like hers someday. But what else? Daddy and Ironhide would go away for long periods of time for their job. Sometimes up to a week or more. Mommy would be worried the whole time they were gone and would be so happy when they came back. Annabelle knew what they were doing.

They were stopping bad guys. Ironhide had finally explained that there were good robots, like him and Bumblebee, and bad ones. Him and Daddy would go out and stop the bad ones form hurting people. According to Ironhide, "No Decepticon scum could take them."

And that was true. Daddy was Daddy and Ironhide was Ironhide. It was impossible for bad guys to beat them. Mommy was always worried when they left, but Annabelle wasn't. Daddy would protect Ironhide, just like Ironhide would protect Daddy. Nothing bad could happen to them.

They would save lots of people. Daddy and Ironhide had an important job. Just because lots of people didn't know about it didn't mean it wasn't important. It was just secret. It almost became not a secret once, Mommy and Daddy said, but the world thought it was just a trick. One of the bad robots had been on TV, but not everything on TV was real. So people thought it was all fake. It was easier for people to believe that than to believe the truth. So Daddy and Ironhide's job was still secret.

Sometimes they would come back laughing, talking about what great shots they were. At those times, she would try to talk them into telling about it. They wouldn't always, because Daddy didn't want her to have nightmares. Ironhide could sometimes be convinced to share part of it, if she caught him alone.

Other times, they would come back mad. The bad guys sometimes get away. Then she would cheer them up. Annabelle would tell them they would find them again and Ironhide would shoot them with his cannon. She would then pretend to be a mean Decepticon, begging for mercy and to be rescued from "awesome Ironhide and the great Lennox." She didn't stop until she had them laughing.

And sometimes they would come back sad. Daddy would hug Mommy really tight. The bad guys would sometimes hurt Daddy and Ironhide's friends. When that happened, they would be quiet and sad for a while. She would give Daddy lots of kisses and hugs until Mommy said she wanted to talk with him privately. Then, Annabelle would make sure Ironhide would be okay. Those times, Annabelle would just end up curled up in Ironhide's cab. Just like Mommy stayed close to Daddy when he was very sad, the girl couldn't leave her best friend alone. So she would sit with him and was silently glad that nothing bad could ever happen to him or Daddy.

Her classmates kept naming jobs. Some were pretty amazing. President, pilot, and ballerina were all chosen. Finally, next to Annabelle, Suzie decided on being a vet. She always did love animals.

"And what about you, Annabelle? What do you want to be when you grow up?" asked Mrs. Johnson.

The young child considered. Of all the things she could do, what did she really want? She wanted to make a difference to the world. Just like Daddy and Ironhide when they went out to protect people from the bad guys.

"I want to be a hero, Mrs. Johnson."