Chapter Thirty-Five


It's not actually that long of a fic XD But it's taken so long to write…

Optimus and Elita's moments hugely inspired by the beautiful poem entitled Annabel Lee, by Edgar Allen Poe.

Thank you's will come later. Let's just jump right in.

I was a child and she was a child,

In this kingdom by the sea;

But we loved with a love which was more than love—

I and my Annabel Lee;

With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven

Coveted her and me.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love

Of those who were older than we—

Of many far wiser than we—

And neither the angels in heaven above,

Nor the demons down under the sea,

Can ever dissever my soul from the soul

Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

-Edgar Allen Poe

Rodimus sat patiently, just like he'd been told. His tiny legs were splayed out to both sides, hands clutching onto the thermal blanket covering the mech he loved most. Optimus Prime groaned softly, shifting slightly before sighing gently and falling back into deep recharge. Rodimus released a disappointed sigh, flopping over onto his side. He'd been waiting for his father to wake up for countless cycles now. His mother had told him that it would take time, that Papa was sick and needed to rest, but Rodimus was getting anxious.

A loud snore sounded from the corner of the room, and Rodimus swiveled his head around to stick his glossa out at the soundly recharging medic. Ratchet had made himself comfortable in the family's quarters. Elita had been insistent that she be able to care for Optimus in the comfort of their own home, so Ratchet had tagged along. He was stubborn about his out-patients, which was why he was now sprawled out over a chair that was much too small to hold a sleeping mech of his size. His head rolled onto his other shoulder, and he snorted a few times, clearing his intakes, before he fell still once more, continuing to snore softly.

Rodimus allowed his gaze to wander to a more loveable mechanism. Elita One was curled up in another chair that she had pulled up to Optimus's bedside. Her upper body was slumped forward over their berth with her aft and legs folded neatly in the chair. Her fingers were entwined with Optimus's; she hadn't once let go of his hand since he'd been brought back to their quarters.

At the very foot of the berth, Moonshadow was sleeping soundly, curled up in a tiny ball between Optimus's massive feet. Rodimus sat up slightly, peering down at his surrogate sister. Elita had been insistent that she and Optimus be the ones to take care of the little femme until Nightwing came back for her. Rodimus didn't mind; it would be nice to have another playmate. And the femme had been comforting while he was in Kolkular. Arcee and Catalyst would be delighted to have another sparkling femme on base, too.

The door opened quietly, and Ultra Magnus peered in, Arcee sitting on his shoulder with her limbs wrapped around his helm. The big mech smiled down at Rodimus before entering the room silently, pulling up a chair and setting Arcee down on the berth. She crawled across the blankets to plop her little aft down beside Rodimus, chirping out a greeting before folding her hands neatly in her lap and turning her bright optics onto Optimus's sleeping face.

Elita stirred lightly and her optics shutters fluttered. She blinked a few times, disoriented, and her fingers tightened on Optimus's as her wits came back to her.

"Magnus," she mumbled thickly, sitting up and rubbing at her optics with her free hand. "Guh…what time is it?"

"Mid-morning. Is it alright that I stay for awhile?"

"Of course. How's the arm?"

"Reattached," he replied, shrugging lightly. "The movement is still a bit off, but Ratch says it'll improve with time."

"I'm glad to hear it. Good morning, Arcee, Rodimus, sweetie," Elita added, smiling at the little bots. Moonshadow stirred, poking her head up from behind Optimus's foot and frowning at the adults. It was too early for this, and so deciding, she curled back up and promptly went back into recharge.

"How's she settling in?" Magnus inquired softly, observing the Decepticon sparkling.

"She seems alright. Probably too small to realize exactly what's happened," Elita replied, smiling sadly at the little femme.

"Why are you so determined to raise her yourself?"

"Nightwing and Barricade saved Optimus's life," the femme said, her voice steeled with resolve. "I owe it to them. Besides," she added, turning her warm gaze to her sparkmate, "he always said he wanted a big family. He'll love her, I'm sure of it."

"I don't doubt it," Magnus said wisely, reaching out to scoop up his daughter, cradling her to his chest. "I…I can't even imagine how difficult it would be. To give away a child. Even if it was for her own good…"

"I know," Elita agreed grimly. "It takes a strong bot to make such a decision. And so selfless…just when I thought I had the Decepticons figured out, Magnus…"

"Makes me wonder if Megatron is the only evil one," Magnus murmured, and they both fell silent, leaving one another alone to their respective thoughts. Elita caressed Optimus's face softly, leaning in to kiss him gently when he stirred.

"How's your bond, Elita?" Magnus asked after a moment, watching the couple with soft optics.

"It's getting better," she answered, scooting her chair closer to the berth. "Just being around him helps, I think. We're so lucky Starscream only got as far as he did."

"…I heard that Ratchet confessed to Moonracer," Magnus said suddenly, jerking his head in the medic's direction.

Elita's head snapped up, optics betraying her surprise. "You're kidding."

"Nope. Something about having a scrape with death kicked his aft into motion, I guess."

Looking over at the dozing medic, Elita felt a smile spreading over her face. "Good for him. I always though he needed someone. He always seemed so lonely."

"Moonracer will be good for him," Magnus said warmly, sitting back in his chair. "Maybe she can soften him up a bit."

"As if," Ratchet growled, cracking one optic open to glare at the duo. "I don't appreciate being gossiped about, thank you very much."

"Sorry, Ratchet," Elita giggled. "And congratulations."

"…Hmph." Ratchet sat up, stretching his old gears with a grimace. "Ah…is he awake yet?"

"No such luck. Think something's wrong?"

"Doubtful. He's just been through a traumatic experience. I'd be recharging too. He just needs rest for now."

"Mmm." Elita turned her attentive gaze back to her sparkmate, stroking his helm gently with her free hand, optics softening as she gazed at his slumbering face.

Rodimus chirped, scooting forward on his tiny aft to pat his father's faceplates before turning his enquiring optics up to his mother.

"Soon, brightspark," Elita soothed softly, reaching out to stroke Roddy's helm as well. "You've been doing so, so well. Just be patient a little longer."

"You've been doing well yourself," Magnus said quietly, and Elita lifted her gaze to blink at him, gaze full of silent questions. "I thought I was going to go insane when I found out about Blazer. Not having her with me, not knowing she was safe…" He trailed off, optics dimming, and Elita found herself reaching to grasp his hand. "I thought I was going to go mad." He lifted his optics, expression twisted into a pained grimace. "You were incredible. You stayed so strong."

"Sometimes we don't have a choice," Elita whispered, looking down at the three sparklings on the berth. "Sometimes, when you have something to protect, the decision is made for you."

Magnus smiled and nodded, petting Arcee's helm as she snuggled into his chestplates, purring softly. "You're right. I never imagined how much courage she'd give me. Arcee, I mean. While I was chasing Blazer, my only thought was how hard it would be for Arcee to grow up without a mother. I wanted to be a good father to her."

Their conversation was cut short as Ratchet abruptly got to his feet, his joints cracking loudly, and rushed from the berthroom. Elita and Magnus blinked at one another but made no move to follow.

The medic steered himself through the huge apartment and threw the front door open just as Moonracer was reaching out to knock.

"Ratchet!" she yelped, startled by his sudden and rather frantic appearance. "I…geez, you scared me."

"I apologize," he said quickly, taking a few steps back. "I…I recognized your energy signature and was eager to see you."

"…Oh?" Moonracer blinked, feeling her faceplates heat up rapidly. "Um, um, anyway! I, uh, brought you all energon. Magnus is in there too, right? I know Elita doesn't want to leave Optimus, so I figured I ought to…" She trailed off, embarrassed, and Ratchet couldn't help but to smile tenderly.

"That was thoughtful of you, Moonracer. Thank you," he said kindly, reaching out to take the tray from her hands. "Would you like to come in? I'm sure Elita would be happy if you came into visit her and Optimus."

"Oh, um, no, that's alright…I wouldn't want to disturb their privacy," Moonracer stammered out, shaking her head quickly. "I mean, their family has just been reunited, and—"

Her voice was silenced by the sudden descent of Ratchet's lips on hers. The kiss was awkward, the tray of energon between them impeding the intimacy, but it was still enough for Moonracer to go weak at the knees and for Ratchet feel really, truly young again.

"Please come in?" he requested, juggling the tray to take her hand in his. "It's getting all gooey and sentimental in there. I hate being the odd one out."

She couldn't stop the smile from spreading across her face. "Yeah," she consented, returning the gentle pressure on her fingers. "Yeah, okay. I've been wanting to see Optimus anyway, and—"

"Look, I'm sorry."

"Huh? What for?"

"For putting you on the spot like that," he mumbled, kicking the doorjamb irritably. "For blurting out how I felt about you in the middle of a crowded med bay, and for kissing you like that, and…"

"What are you, stupid?" she snorted, punching him lightly in the side. "I'm standing here holding your hand and I came all this way to bring you energon. Elita was right, mechs are morons."

"But…but I'm up there in age, Moonie," he said weakly, too stunned to realize that she was shoving him back into the apartment. "You're so young, you've got so many other options, and let's face it, any mech would kill if it meant he could have you…"

"Not you, though," Moonracer retorted, removing the tray from his hands and placing it on a table. "As a medic, you're sworn to save lives. It's your job. But it's also in your spark, Ratchet. You've given everything you've got to save each and every patient, and not because it's what you're programmed to do, but because you want to do it." Ratchet yelped when her small hands suddenly pressed against his shoulders, knocking him flat on his back on the nearest couch. She followed him, planting her frame over his and taking his face in her hands.


"But then, that's what I've always loved about you," Moonracer said thoughtfully, her thumb gently tracing his lower lip. "You're grumpy and irritable and you have one Pit of a temper on you…but you're the kindest mech on base." A bright smile lit up her faceplates, and she leaned down to kiss him briefly, gently, just a brushing of her lips over his. "And I love you for it."

Ratchet stared up at her in frank disbelief, mouth agape and optics wide. "You…you mean that. You mean that, don't you?"

"Of course I mean it. I've got more smarts in me than Firestar and Chromia give me credit for, you know, and I don't like wasting words."

Moonracer yelped when Ratchet suddenly gripped her upper arms, flipping her over so he pinned her with his weight, looming over her powerfully. "Then don't expect me to ever let you go, femme," he growled, then sealed his mouth to hers.

"Oh, for the love of—could you two possibly get a room that's not mine?" Elita demanded, and Ratchet and Moonracer both looked up to see the femme commander standing in the doorway to hers and Optimus's berthroom, fuming, arms crossed over her petite chest. "Look, I'm very happy for the both of you, but that's our lovemaking couch and I'd appreciate it if you didn't-"


"Optimus and I made love on that couch regularly after we bonded and before Roddy came along," Eltia responded smartly, smirking. "So interface all you want, just not there. But don't forget that the interfacing is going to be a problem at first, seeing as Ratchet is getting rusty and Moonie's never interfaced before in her life—"

"Lita!" the younger femme screeched, faceplates darkening dangerously. "You swore you'd never tell!"

"Oops," Elita said innocently, before turning turning her heel and sashaying her way back to her sparkmate's side.

It was dark when he awoke.

The room came into focus slowly, so slowly, leaving him blinking around for several breems before he could finally identify just where he was. He panicked for a moment, half expecting to have woken up back in Kolkular, with Starscream looming over him and Megatron smirking, one hand stroking the barrel of his fushion cannon, Soundwave's monotone voice announcing that Prime's spark was ready to be split again—

Optimus Prime shuddered visibly, his whole frame trembling against the berth. No. No, wherever he was, it wasn't Kolkular. His internal alarms were quiet, but he felt peculiar somehow, almost numb. It took him a good deal of time to realize that it was simply that he was no longer in pain.

He sat up slowly, carefully, feeling welds pull all across his body, but not painfully. His helm felt heavy and his vision was a little fuzzy; there was a strange tingling in his legs that reminded him strongly of Frenzy's prying little fingertips. He'd have to give the little bot an extra kick the next time they crossed paths.

Blinking in the darkness, he swiveled his head around. The berth was comfortable, too comfortable for him to be in the med bay. He was detecting several other bots in the room with him, but it was too dark to make them out properly. There was a weight on his left, and something warm to his right. Blindly he groped out, and something in his spark seized violently at the familiar armor beneath his fingertips.

He thrust both hands out wildly, gripping the form beside him tightly, ignoring the start she gave and the small, startled cry she released when he dragged her onto the berth. There was a snort from the corner of the room, and two nearly identical squeaks from the little bodies to his right, but Optimus was far too caught up in the other bot to notice. He was touching her frantically, running his hands over her, feeling her, confirming that she was there, that this wasn't another wild prison hallucination…

"Optimus," Elita squeaked out, squeezing her optics shut when his hand made a blind pass over her face. "Optimus, calm down…" She choked off with a gasp when she felt him pushing at his end of their bond, struggling to open up the spiritual pathway between them. She grasped his wrists firmly, dragging herself into him and pressing her foreplate to his, whispering frantically as they struggled to find one another.

She couldn't describe it, exactly—it was rather like being in a long, dark hallway, and knowing he was there with her, but being unable to find him, unable to reach out and touch him…And then she felt him, felt him brush up against her spark and then recede some, but that brief connection lingered between them.

"There!" she gasped wildly, her hands lifting to grasp the sides of his helm, squeezing his head almost painfully. "There, there, Optimus…!"

They touched again, and he gave a sharp cry, his chest arching into hers, trembling on the precipice of intense agony and intense joy.

From the corner Magnus climbed slowly to his feet and turned on the light, blinking at the scene before him. Both commanders were upright and scrabbling wildly at one another, clutching every bit of the other they could find, Optimus snarling softly and Elita whimpering.

"What on Cybertron…?" Magnus began, taking a step forward, but Ratchet reached out and threw an arm into his path.

"Leave them," the medic advised quietly. "If they don't get their bond back now, they never will."

Magnus considered for a moment before nodding, stepping forward to quietly scoop the sleepy Rodimus and Arcee from the berth; Ratchet followed suit, picking up Moonshadow and cradling her to his chest.

"We should probably leave," he intoned, arching an optic ridge when Elita began to frantically pry at her mate's chestplates.

"Good idea," Magnus agreed hurriedly, and they all but sprinted from the room when the couple collapsed onto the berth in a tangle of passionate limbs. They were doubly sure to lock the door behind them.

It was nirvana, being together again. Just having the other so close, being a mere handwidth away from their other half… Elita couldn't help but to release a small sob as Optimus pulled her into his frame. Magnus had shut the light off in a hurry before departing; the only light in the darkened room came from Optimus's exposed spark.

Their bond was opening again—slowly, painfully slowly, but it was opening nonetheless. They were no longer reaching to each other but into each other, plunging their astral beings into the bond and trying to drag their other half through. Their only connection to the physical world lay in the hands of their partner, touching and caressing and holding in a sort of frenzied dance.

"Where are you?" she gasped desperately, not really meaning to say it aloud but at that point definitely not giving a frag.

"Here," he panted weakly, pressing his mouthplates to her audio and pulling her into his frame. "Here, here, I'm right here!"

She threw herself into the bond again. It was as though the hallway had been illuminated somewhat; she could see his shadow dancing on the wall, but still couldn't find him in the dark.


"I know, I know! Lita, Lita—open," he said breathlessly, placing one large hand over her chestplates. They parted without any inhibitions, and with a soft groan he pulled her close, brushing his naked spark to hers.

The hallway—their bond—burst open with hurricane force, flooding their connection with light, dragging them into one another with a pull equivalent to that of a black hole. Their sparks writhed and came together with a flash so intense they were both blinded for several moments. At that point they were too deeply immersed in one another to care. Sobbing, gasping, laughing and crying all at the same time, they wrapped around each other physically and mentally, emotionally and spiritually, becoming one again, becoming whole. Their sparks surged together, melting and blending until there was no distinction between them. Minds open and laid bare for the other to see, they plunged into one another's memories.

Rodimus, crying, Elita, holding him in their darkened quarters—

Nightwing, crouched behind Optimus's fallen body, carefully rewiring his head—

Ironhide, roaring and spitting with rage, Elita fighting back her own, as well as her tears—

The electric current, tearing him apart from the inside out, the agony piercing through him, pulling screams from the deepest nooks and crannies of his core being—

Her helplessness, the joors she spent tossing and turning on an empty berth, feeling his pain in her spark, not being able to comfort, to soothe—

The feeling—being torn away from her, feeling his spark literally pulled in two, feeling their bond being stretched and then broken…

It was several breems before their sparks separated, complete once more, Optimus's in one piece and healthy again. Elita didn't realize she'd been crying until she felt thick, blunt, warm fingers brushing at her cheekplates.

"I'm sorry," she mumbled, wiping at her optics, but he shushed her gently, stilling her hands.

"Don't be. You can cry."

She moved closer to him, entwining her body with his, shuttering her optics and breathing in his scent, listening to the rhythmic drumming of his fuel pump. "I thought I was going to lose you," she breathed. Death would have been one thing—she could have followed him into the Matrix after setting their affairs in order and finding Roddy a good surrogate family—but a broken bond? To be forced to live on, knowing what a sparkbond was like and knowing that she would never have it again? Had Starscream succeeded in breaking their bond, their sparks would have been more than broken beyond repair. She would have been forced to trudge on, with Optimus but not with him, or maybe without him altogether. The mere thought made her spark constrict so tightly it hurt.

"Stop thinking like that," Optimus ordered, his arms tightening around her as panic swept through him from her end of their new bond. "It's okay, I'm right here, we're together…nothing will hurt us now, nothing…"

"It could have been over," she whispered, her fingers curling against his chestplates. "Just like that, it could have been-!"

"But it's not!" he responded desperately, rocking her slowly, trying to quell her fears. "Our bond—Elita, reach to me, you can feel me, can't you? We're alright, both of us, and Rodimus is as well. We're okay."

"Stop comforting me, Optimus!" she growled, burying her face into his neck. "You told me I could cry!"

"Oh, well, so I did, but—"

"Then I'm going to cry!"

He sighed gently, leaning down to gently press his lips to the crest of her helm as she began to sob against his neckplates. He kept his promise, allowing her to sniffle and cry for a good few breems, staining his armor where her scrabbling fingers hadn't already stripped the paint.

"Never again," she groaned once she'd settled down some, content to let him hold her. "Never, ever again, understand me? If you stay, I stay, and if you pull out, I'm going with you. We're not going be apart again, understand?"

"I understand," he assured her, stroking her back with gentle hands. "I love you, Lita…"

"You idiot. I love you too."

A long time passed in silence after that, he holding her and she occasionally hiccupping against his neck. It just felt so fragging good. He was there, and she was there, and they were there, and there was nothing broken between them. Nothing in their bond except their sparkmate, and…

"Roddy!" Optimus yelped suddenly, making Elita jump violently in surprise, her helm colliding with the underside of his chin. They paused momentarily to groan and grumble to the other about keeping their body parts to themselves, and then Optimus was scrambling to get off the berth, his spark jumping and leaping, trying desperately to reestablish the connection to its offspring.

"Optimus!" Ultra Magnus said in surprise, jumping when his commander all but kicked down the door to his room. "It's good to see—"

Optimus cut him off midsentence, leaping towards him and snatching his sparkling from his best friend's arms. Rodimus squeaked as he was abruptly crushed against his father's chest, burly arms wrapping tightly around his tiny frame in a smothering hug.

"Primus," Optimus breathed, sinking to his knees, rocking his sparkling unsteadily. "Primus, Primus, Primus…I'm so sorry, Roddy, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to upset you…Papa didn't mean to make you worry…"

Rodimus whimpered, squirming in discomfort as his bond with his father strengthened itself again. Optimus pressed his mouthplates to the little mech's helm, shuttering his optics tightly. His son. His beloved little mech. It astounded him that it was possible to love anything so much.

"Papa," little Roddy mumbled weakly, optics filling with tears, tiny fists clenching on his father's broad chest.

"I know, Roddy, I know…I'm here now. I won't leave you again, I promise…"

Elita stepped from the room, leaning against the doorway and watching her bondmate and son reunite, optics glowing happily.

"Optimus," she said quietly, and he turned to look at her, his son still hanging off of his neck. "Circumstances have added another bot to the family."

"Oh?" His optics blinked at her in surprise, and he cocked his head. "What do you mean, Lita?"

"Me!" Moonshadow squeaked brightly from the corner, where she was perched cheerfully in Ratchet's lap. "Me, me, me!"

Optimus stared for a moment, stunned, before gently setting down his sparkling and approaching the little femme cautiously. She giggled, sticking a finger in her mouth, watching him shyly as he knelt before her.

"Hello there," he said softly, reaching out to her, and she hesitated only a moment before taking his hand in both of her tiny ones. "Where did you come from, little one?"

"It's Barricade and Nightwing's daughter, Optimus," Elita explained quietly, picking up Rodimus and walking to her sparkmate's side. "Nightwing entrusted her to us. As payment for your treatment, it seems."

Optimus was quiet for a moment, watching the little black femme exploring his hand. A soft smile broke over his face, and he took the femme gently into his arms, holding her against his chest as he stood.

"And what is your name, little one?"

"Moon," she chirped, patting a hand against his shoulder guards. "Moon…shadow."

"Beautiful," Optimus murmured reverently, passing a hand over her sleek helm before turning his beaming gaze upon his sparkmate. "She's beautiful, Elita. I'm happy to take her in."

"I thought you would be," she laughed, bumping her hip playfully against his. "You're a sucker for sparklings, aren't you?"

"Isn't she wonderful?" Moonracer cooed, stepping up to tickle the little femme. "Oh, Ratchet, we'll have sparklings, right?"

"What?" the medic yelped, jerking his head up to stare at his new lover. "S…Sparklings?"

"Of course," she replied, as if it were more obvious than the noseplate on her cute face. "I want three or four…"


"What's this, Ratchet?" Optimus inquired, looking from Moonracer to his stunned CMO and back again. "Don't tell me you've gone and won yourself a femme?"

"He has, sir," Moonracer said happily, seating herself in her mech's lap and entwining loving arms around his neck. "Finally worked up the ball bearings to confess to me."

"Don't poke fun at me, femme," he growled, poking her in the abdomen before leaning in to nip gently at her throat, making her squeal.

"Ratchet! There are sparklings in the room!"

"Eh, they'll learn from Commander Aft Head and his femme soon enough…"

Optimus chuckled when his femme shielded Rodimus's optics and turned to the second family standing in the corner. Ultra Magnus met his best friend's optics and nodded warmly. Blazer was hovering just behind him, her bright pink little femme clutched in her arms.

"You're looking well, Magnus," Optimus said warmly, stepping forward and placing a hand on his friend's shoulder. Magnus returned the gesture on the opposite side, smiling.

"I am. Everything reattached. I can't tell you how good it is to see you back on your feet, Optimus."

"I'm glad to be here." Optimus turned his gaze to the red femme standing nervously behind her mate. "Blazer. Please, no more of this distance between us. You protected your sparkling, and you saved my mate and son. Don't blame yourself for any of this."

Blazer hesitated, but nodded, smiling shyly. "Yes, sir. I'm so glad you're well, Optimus."

Optimus beckoned her forward, and she yelped in surprise when he enveloped her in a back-breaking hug that only a mech of Optimus's incredible girth could even hope to pull off.

"Alright, alright, enough of that," Magnus growled playfully at length, snatching his femme back and cradling her against his broad chest. "You have your own femme to snuggle with, let me have mine at least. Oh, hello, dearspark," he added, smiling warmly down at the tiny femme waving her arms up at him, attempting to get his attention. "I'm sorry, little one, was Optimus squishing you?"

"Shut up," Optimus grumped, crossing his arms over his chest. It was a moment before he was aware that he was being watched intently, and he glanced sideways to see Elita observing him thoughtfully. "What is it?" he asked, a little uncertainly, unnerved by the intensity of his gaze.

She was quiet for a breath longer before smiling, stepping forward to frame his face with her hands. He shuttered his optics, captivated by the sweetness of the touch, accepting her gratefully when she pulled him in and kissed him tenderly.

"I missed you," she murmured, words muffled a little when he captured her lips again. "I love you…"

Rodimus and Moonshadow, sitting side by side on the floor, shared a look and a huff, already impatient, even at their young age, with their caretakers' romancing. The femme elected to scamper up onto the couch and seek attention from Moonracer and Ratchet, who were all too happy to oblige her (Moonracer was, at least), while Rodimus proceeded to attack his father's foot. Optimus pulled away reluctantly from the beautiful femme in his arms and turned his attention downward to the little mech chewing on his pede.

"Apologies, little one—was I not paying you enough attention?" Optimus asked with a laugh, bending down to scoop his little son into his arms. Rodimus chirped his answer, patting his father's chestplates and attempting to chomp on the finger Optimus rubbed affectionately against the tiny noseplates. The Prime smiled when the sparkling curled up against him, growling at first but settling quickly, and he lifted one immense hand to gently stroke his child's fragile helm.

He wondered later that evening, as he sat quietly in the sparklings' room, watching them recharge in their boxes, how he'd managed to live without a family there to guide him. Meeting Elita, coming to know her, falling in love with her—it had changed him, for the better, irrevocably. He'd been blind before in comparison to the life he was living now—he'd been blind to what was important. Looking at his recharging young ones, he felt something swelling within him, growing, taking shape, rooting itself down in his spark—the desire to fight for what he had, for the beings that were so precious to him. They were worth fighting for, and he was wroth to ever forget it.

He stood silently, pressing a gentle kiss to the helm of each sleeping sparkling—it was remarkable that he'd already come to love little Moonshadow as one of his own, he noted afterward, smiling when her tiny hand curled around the finger he offered her.

"I'm happy to have you, little one," he whispered, speaking close to her audio receptor, his voice low and warm. "I owe both of your creators a great deal. I swear I shall keep you safe for them."

She yawned and rolled over, whacking his noseplates with a balled fist as she went, which he took as her accepting him as well, and he left the sparklings in peace, closing their door quietly behind him—leaving it open just the tiniest bit, if only so he could enjoy the soft noises they made while in blissful sleep.

Their quarters were dark, but he found he didn't need any light to find her—he felt oddly in tune with his sparkmate, more so than usual. He sensed where she'd be, and found her just there—her rosy red form leaned up against the railing of their outside balcony, silently watching the sparkling city below. He halted beside her, bracing his hands on the railing and leaning his considerable weight upon his arms, facing the city but watching her out of the corner of his optic. Even in comparison to the splendor of Iacon's bright night lights, Elita was stunning—ethereally beautiful, so kind and compassionate that the warmth absolutely shone in her optics.

Almost in a trance, he reached out with one hand to trace the soft curve of her cheekplate. She said nothing, leaning into the tender touch, shuttering her optics when he moved closer and enfolded her in his arms, pressing his mouthplates to the top of her helm.

"Thank you," he murmured reverently, tightening his arms around her. "Thank you, Lita. For seeking me out, for loving me, for bonding to me, for our sparklings. Thank you. For all of it."

"It's not as if you didn't do the same for me," she reminded him quietly, touching, lightly, the prominent scar on his side. How many times now had he risked his life to keep her safe? How many times had he been willing to give up everything to protect her? "Optimus. From the moment Chasm enlisted, everything I've done, I've done in order to be close to you."

"You've come a long way," he noted, smiling at the memory of the anxious young femme he'd met that day in the recruit office. "You've evolved, become so much more than the sum of your parts. And I'm proud of you."

"You've grown too," she replied, poking one accusing finger into his chestplates as she tilted her head back to look at him. "You're not the brash young idiot I met that day."

"Aren't I?" he asked with a grin, and she sighed heavily.

"I didn't say you were finished. You've got some growing to do yet. You've got to outgrow this self-sacrificing tendency of yours, Optimus."

"I'll do my best."

She laughed, resting her head against his chest. "It's never going to happen, is it."

"Probably not," he answered, his chuckle reverberating deep in his chest.

They held one another in silence for a time, enjoying the pulse of the other's spark, so alive, so whole. She held on to him and tried to remember what it was like to be without him. Unsurprisingly, she couldn't. He was everywhere, a piece of her every thought and feeling, a perfect, irreplaceable, integral half of her very existence. The thought made her spark flare and strengthen—that was how it was meant to be. They were sparkmates. Inseparable, whole, together.

"Optimus, can you feel it?" she asked quietly.

"Feel what, sweetspark?"

"I'm not sure." She bit her lower lip. "I can't shake the feeling that something is ending."

Optimus tightened his grip on the femme he so loved, contemplating her words. He could feel the past so acutely in his stolen moments with her—the Ellipses program, the Matrix, his capture, his return.

"Not an ending, love," he decided at last, turning his cobalt gaze to the stars, blazing fiercely against the blackness of space. Oddly enough, in that brief moment, he could have sworn he heard echoing voices, voices from the stars and beyond, calling to him.

"Only a new beginning."

And so it ends.

Or begins.

Planning a sequel. You'll be receiving one more chapter update for my thank-you closer.

"When one door closes, I hold one more open."

Thank you for everything.