Disclaimer: I do not own Transformers. I should think that rather obvious.

Warnings: Implied Bee/Sam (if you squint)

All characters are depicted as legal age in this chapter and subsequent ones.

AN: Sequel to In the Shadow of Forever and Iniquity's Enigma.

"What should we do?"

The question resounds in his processor, flashing through at light speed. They all look at him anxiously, expectantly, hoping that he'll have an answer for their impossible dilemma. However, Optimus is just as confused as them, just as uncertain. He knows that they have to do something; they cannot simply keep quiet on a subject of this magnitude. Moral implications aside, it is bad for unity, slowly dividing them as their subordinates start to sense that trouble is looming.

Already, Red Alert is deeply suspicious, but when isn't he? Yet, he is just the first. Some of the others are beginning to question, to put the pieces together. It is only a matter of time before they figure out the truth, and from there, one of them will assuredly tell Sam.

And then, what? Then, what shall they do? Perhaps the better question is what can they do? Go on as they are? Pretend that it never happened? Punish Bumblebee in some manner?

There are only questions. No answers. And as the silence stretches out, Optimus only becomes increasingly troubled.

How did it come to this? How did it come to this place, this point? Where, even now, they are forced to have Ironhide watch from a discreet distance, just to be certain?

Obsession, Optimus supposes, is a dangerous and frightening thing. And he wonders if this… if what Bumblebee feels borders on it. He loves Sam, dearly and truly, but love is also about compromises. About being willing to let go.

He is just so young, the youngest of their group, even counting all the newer arrivals. And Sam is the first real friend he has ever had. They, the other Autobots, filled the role of caretakers and superior officers in the war. Sam is an equal, someone he can easily relate to. Someone he does not need to sensor himself or put up a front around.

Sam is special. Singular to him.

The bond between them is as powerful as any he has ever seen, for all its relative newness. They are more than guardian and charge, but Optimus is hesitant to intrude. Hesitant on asking just how far it goes. It is really not his place, not any of their business.

But with the way things are--

"Sir?" Prowl prompts.

Optimus snaps back to himself, and he gazes at each of them in turn.

Prowl is stoic, but it is obvious that he is uneasy. They are venturing into dark and unknown territory. A place none of them ever thought to tread.

Jazz is subdued. He is deeply fond of both Sam and Bumblebee, probably the closest to either of them outside the other. He does not wish to see them hurt, but that seems inevitable.

Ratchet is... lost. He is lost, feels that this is his fault. That he should have realized sooner. His optics are a dull blue, normal shine long gone. And his voice is soft, tired. Defeated.

"What should we do, Prime?"

But Optimus doesn't have an answer.

Ever Hopeful,