How it Is

By: Nightelfcrawler
Disclaimer: Obviously Transformers is not my own, and is property of Hasbro. Be gentle.

"Are you certain you won't stay for dinner, Sam dear?"

"Thanks mom, but we really need to get going."

"But you're looking so thin and so pale! I'm certain that they haven't been feeding you properly on that alien base…"

Sam couldn't help but exchange a wry grin with Mikaela who simply rolled her eyes in response. "Don't worry mom, I'm doing just fine. It's just been a long few weeks."

"Goodness gracious yes." Judy Witwicky harrumphed. "I still can barely believe those photos in the paper… an alien ship over Mission City."

"It really happened mom. I was there."

"Yes dear, I realize that." Despite everything that had happened, she still had the ability to sound condescending. "I suppose I should really get used to all this… aliens and space ships…" She bit her lip. "Dear me…"

Sam laughed and approached his mother and gently pulled her into a warm hug. "You'll get used to it eventually. After all, some of them are going to stay here to help fix the damage from the battle, and to keep an eye on any Decepticons that decided to hang around."

Judy sighed and patted her boy's hand lightly. "I know…" She turned back around and placed both hands on his shoulder to look him square in the eyes. "I just want you to promise me one thing when you're traveling. You make sure you eat properly. No excuses that you're light-years away, you hear me?"

"Judy…" Ron chuckled. "He's going to be traveling to another planet. I think he'll have to make do with space food."

"I have the right to worry about his health! Look at him!" She smacked his chest. "All skin and bones!"

"It's called 'toned', mom."

Sam smiled as he embraced his mother once more, feeling a tug of regret as she returned the tight grasp. As he had promised Mikaela, he hadn't told them the full truth. He just didn't have the heart. Besides, thanks to Wheeljack's success, albeit at the cost of a limb or two in failure first, he'd managed to almost perfect his holographic self. He had even the rare ability to actually cloak it around himself, as his mass was more human sized. He still came across as a bit taller than he should, but his parents seemed to have passed it off as growing pains. It wasn't quite the same as before, but it was close enough to at least allow the semblance of normalcy.

"Just be careful out there…" Judy said in a quiet voice, lifting her eyes to her son, trying to hold back the tears threatening to reveal her concern. "And make sure you write… er… transmit a message… now and then."

"I will. I promise."

She gave him another fond pat. It took some time to finally finish the farewells, but eventually Sam slipped out of the house with Mikaela's hand in his, bag over one shoulder, with one final glance back at his childhood home.

"Admit it, you're going to miss them."

"Shut up." He grumbled irritably, a look of annoyance flashing over his face, before it softened again. "You're right… I will…"

She smiled and squeezed his hand gently as they stopped on the lawn where the bright yellow Camaro sat calmly beside the pair of flashy Lamborghinis. Miles was standing there with a very wide grin on his face, looking clearly pleased with himself. "Hey! Come on! We're bored of waiting for you guys over here!"

Sam smiled, but it was slightly strained as he turned to gaze at the quiet blue eyes watching him. "I'm going to miss you… You're sure you won't come with us?"

"You know there's no place for humans on that space ship of yours." She said quietly. "And I really don't trust Wheeljack to invent any food dispenser for me."

"Good point."

"Miles is disappointed his parents wouldn't let him go."

"I still don't get that… how many kids get the chance to travel across the galaxy, and he gets himself grounded for being involved in a 'secret alien war' behind their backs?"

"Well, they ARE Miles parents… you wondered where he got his eccentricities from."

"I guess."

"Just…" she lifted an arm and lightly slung it around his neck, pulling him down closer to her. "Don't take too long…"

"Does this mean you'll wait for me?"

Mikaela gave him a quiet secret smile. "As long as you bring me back some kind of Cybertronian souvenir."

Sam grinned. "I'll see what I can do."

"Oh crap, there they go again…"

"I still don't understand the attraction to sharing bodily fluids with one another in such a…germ-filled exchange."

"Sunny, remind me to send you a few websites…"

"Please DON'T."

The Ark was one impressive feat of engineering. It had taken nearly the entire war to construct it. At first, it had been merely a precautionary feeling that had sparked it's conception, a thought that it could become invaluable at a later time if a disaster ever plagued their planet.

As it turned out, it became a necessity.

The Ark had been built as a warship, however it had ended up becoming a refuge for those fleeing Cybertron. Before Optimus Prime had left with his squad of fighters to pursue the Allspark, he had ordered his Second in Command of the Autobot fleet to the most important job of the entire war. Ultra Magnus was to take control of the Ark and flee with all the refugees, protect their lives with the power of the ships' defenses, and wait until the time came when it's fortified armory would be needed at a critical time. As unhappy as Ultra Magnus had been in accepting the duty, he knew his responsibility to his people and had taken control without hesitation. Under his command, they had not lost a single mech, and had in fact added a few to their numbers.

Sam was just blown away by the Ark. In his entire life he had seen recreations of space ships all over the place, heck Miles had his own imagination to add to the mix. However the Ark wasn't just a warship or a mobile fortress… it was a haven, a second home.

It gave him a whole new perspective to see small mechs running and laughing through the hallways, to see families, to see smiles and warmth instead of battle-trained soldiers. The Ark was built to house EVERYONE, not just soldiers. Sam had spent so much time around the Autobots that he'd just assumed every Cybertronian was involved in the war. Despite the numerous retellings of the history of their planet, it had just never occurred to him that there would be civilians, those that chose not to join up with any faction, but lived under the protective wing of the Autobots. Seeing the faces in the hallways as he was led through the ship with the others was about the most amazing thing he had ever seen. There were mechs of all sizes, small as him and smaller even, to taller and more massive than Skyfire. There were femmes and sparklings, and even some creatures that appeared to be created pets.

And all of them apparently knew of Optimus Prime.

It was a strange procession as Sam walked proudly alongside Bumblebee and the others following their leader through the ship. Their armor was polished, battle scars mended, and their pride strong as eager faces watched them, applauded enthusiastically from all sides.

They were HEROS.

Until this date, Sam had never felt like a hero, nor considered himself to be one. Admittedly, he had done a great deal for the war, perhaps his influence had been more than anyone else in some respects, but he had always felt as if it were simply what was required, what the war demanded of him, and he would be selfish to deny the world the protection and defense he could offer in the fight. He had fought hard, alongside his friends, but none of them had ever gotten adoring recognition for all their hard work and sacrifice.

This was a parade of honor. This was a hero's welcome. This was home.

"Don't let it go to your head, kid." Came a gentle reminder at his ear as they passed through another corridor, on their way to the bridge. He glanced over at Ironhide who was smirking at him, Chromia linked through one arm looking satisfied herself. "It ain't all fun and games most of the time."

"Hey, don't spoil our fun." Sideswipe protested, leaning forward to hang onto the weapons specialist's arm, his brother smirking behind him. "It's not every day we get showered by adoring fans and drooled at by the femmes. Give us a break, just cause you've GOT one doesn't mean the rest of us do. This is all for the ladies, right bro?"

"Frag yeah."

"The day you two get femmes of your own, I will turn in my commission." Ratchet said wryly from behind them. "Because that is the day the world will end."

"Aw, someone needs to get overcharged."

There was a loud reverberating clank that echoed through the halls. "OW! WATCH IT HATCHET!"

There was a unified chuckle of laughter from the group as all their spirits felt lifted high and cheered for the first time in ages. For Sam especially, he felt suddenly as if a tremendous weight had been lifted from his shoulders and heart, knowing that everything was over at last… Sure it wouldn't be easy, and it would be a long journey back to Cybertron… but it would be worth it. Traveling to a distant galaxy was not as glorious or flashy as the movies showed it. There was no cheating, no hyperspace or light speed to whisk them across the galaxy in mere days. This was going to take years… Fortunately once they arrived they would be able to go back with much less convenience, thanks to a new technology that Skyfire and Wheeljack had collaborated on at the drawing board.

It was called a space bridge. And the Autobots who had volunteered to remain on Earth were busy building the Terran Gate.

As the parade of heroes reached the large doors at the end of the hall, they slid open smoothly to reveal an enormous space that opened up into a complex network of terminals and controls, all backlit by the largest window Sam had ever seen. Below them serene and peaceful was the open expanse of the Nevada desert, a painted picture of serenity. In the far distance he could just make out Mission City.

"Autobots…" Optimus Prime said, stopping in the very center of the bridge to face the gathered assembly of mechs. "We have fought long and hard, traveled distances we never have seen… Though our war is not over, we have at least reached a turning point in our battles… From here, we see hope… from here, we finally can see the end in reach. Our lives exists now towards one purpose… to return to Cybertron."

His kind smile gazed across the gathered forces, both familiar faces whom had fought side-by side, and those new ones who had come to their rescue at last.

"Our home awaits."

Thank you all for sticking through this story to the end. It was a blast to write. It went through many revisions, and totally took on a new life to what I expected at it's onset, a small drabble I never intended to publish at all, but thanks to a friend who convinced me to give it a try, this fic has completely surpassed any of my previous attempts.

Now… how do I top this?

Never fear, though the sequel will come I'm taking a break from this story to work on the five others I have been working on between chapters… so look for more interesting stuff soon!