Is this The End? The last chapter? The end of the line for As We Come Together? Yep, it would certainly seem that way. Does this ending contain the end all to be all of answers for everyone clamouring at the bit to know the universe's secrets? Sadly, no. Like life, this story will end with some answers, but not all. If there is a sequel, that which is unanswered will hopefully become answered. Can't garuntee anything, since I can't see the future, but fingers crossed and all that. ^_^

So, for all the love and wonder that this story has brought, I must bid you all adieu for now~ It's been a slice of life! ^_^

Many hugs and much love to:

Flameshield- Sorry there were no nukes for you to enjoy... ^_^; I'm happy you could make due with the action scene I wrote, woefully lacking in its nuclear usage as it was. =P I can't say all your questions will be answered with this final chapter, but hopefully a few of them will be addressed. ^_^

Yoong- Oh, it's always so much fun to hear from a reviewer who has never reviewed before. =) It's awfully humbling that the chapter inspired you to review, especially since you're more of a Surface of the Sun fan. It makes your review mean all that much more. =) Whatever your guesses might be for the present and future of some of the characters of this story, I hope some answers may be found in this final chapter. ^_^

Phoebe Turner- Thank you so much~ ^_^

Juzu- Goodness, that's so wonderful to hear that you enjoyed all the excitement of the action scenes of the chapter. Writing action is a lot of fun and I was hoping that for the end climax I could have a little something with 'oomph' to bring the story home. =P

BluePaintedFreak- It's always a wonderful thing to hear from reviewers~ I'm humbled and flattered that you've enjoyed my story so much. As for your questions- the development of the story was an ongoing process. What I started with was a vague idea, and what I ended up with was a convoluted labyrinth of everything. ^_^; Nothing is ever set in stone, but I do tend to have ideas for the future. =)

Wolfhuntsmoon- Awww, I'm honoured that this story is held in such high regard~ It's wonderful that my writing style appeals to you, as well. Inserting humour into the most unlikeliest of places is a speciality (and hobby) of mine. XD And, of course, it's gratifying to know that there is yet another human on the planet who believes we, as a species, deserve to be able to do something right, even if it's only in fiction. XD

Ladyleyn- Haha, yeah, nothing says 'Get Off Our Planet!' like a good old fashioned carpet bombing. XD You seem to have touched on everything in the chapter, and sound so enthusiastic about it, too. I can only wager a guess and say you like it? Well, aside from that cliffhanger. XD Fear not, my friend, your cry for MORE has been answered!

KyuubiSango- It's great that you've picked up on the hodgepodge nature of the War Eternal series; I've watched all the Transformers series from G1 until recent and have plucked different ideas from each and tried to blend them together. I added I bit of my own spice, too. =P I can't say what Sam is without ruining the surprise, but you're welcome to read and find out. ^_^

Dramastar-Mel- I'm glad that you're all excited for this chapter! To be honest, so am I. =P There may not be as much excitement, but the mystery of Sam still carries on.

Lecidre- Oh my, you make me feel guilty that I took you away from your schoolwork just to read this story! I'm also flattered, but mostly guilty! It'll be my fault if you fail that assignment now! D8 However, your kudos to the humans have been well received. They appreciate your love. Humans don't get enough credit sometimes. =P And goodness, you, my friend, have got to be the only reader on the face of the planet upset that Shockwave died. XD I'm sorry to say, but he really needed to die. One doesn't commit all those atrocities and get to live. . Vigilante justice served Prime-style!

MysteryFighter- Thank you so much~ ^_^

Wildfire- It's interesting that you voice your opinion at the end of the story, when there's nothing to be done about anything. I realized the story was becoming too convoluted halfway through, but by that time, it was too late to change a thing. It's been a learning experience. If there is a sequel, I will take what I've learnt from writing As We Come Together and apply it.

Balrog Roike- Awww, the poor humans feel neglected over being forgotten. I hope they reminded you thoroughly that we are a mighty force of squishiness to be reckoned with! XD *whew* I'm relieved that you thought Shockwave's end was fitting. It would have been such a shame if the end came and you were like 'Seriously? That's it? Sucks!' O,o So many questions you have, though... so little answers to give. ^_^; Perhaps you will find something to appease your curiosity in this final chapter? =)

Chloo- Yes, us humans are capable of kicking some ass when we want to. =P Just ask the planet Earth- we've been kicking her ass for decades. . And my goodness, I have to say, you must be the only reader who finds Sunstreaker bashing a creature against the ground until it explodes to be hilarious. XD You either have a morbid sense of humour or are just epic like that. 8D As for what Shockwave was... Psi certainly had no hand in creating him. He was his own twisted mech. If Psi had made him, he probably would have been built with his head on backwards, his body inside out, and anything else that would make the Fallen laugh. O,o

FunkyFish1991- Me? A shameless creature? What lie is this? I'm as pure as the newly fallen snow! D8 (just after it's been driven over and pissed on...) XD Yes, Shockwave is playing 'Finders Keepers'. He's good at the game. He's been winning until now. . Oh, and yes, you know me too well. You're fresh, young, naïve psyche is too tempting to pass up. One way or another, I shall ruin you! *evil laugh* And thanks for the vile/vial thing. I knew it looked funny, but you know me- too damn lazy to bother look it up. XD I fixed it, though. =3 Oh, also, you are very welcome for the DECIDEDLY UNINFORMATIVE ENDING. I thought it was just vague enough to bother you. A lot. ^_^

Special shout outs to some wonderful friends who have helped make this story possible and served as inspiration simply by existing: FunkyFish1991, Lecidre, Litahatchee, Lady Tecuma, and Violetlight~

Thank you so much for everything, everyone! You've all been the best! ^_^

War Eternal Series:
As We Come Together
Vaguely an Epilogue

A dream? Or an out of body experience?

A hand reached out. Light danced between the fingers. Secrets whispered in the air.

Burning skin touched cold metal.

A roar of energy. The feeling of expanding... expanding onward, outward.

So vast that all the stars in the sky could be cradled in a single palm. Circling the ends of the universe, then spilling over the edges.

For a single moment in time, there were no secrets in the universe.

Only bright white light...

When Sam's eyes next opened, the first thought to occur to him was that he was in heaven.

The light that hit his blurred eyes was soft- not too bright, not too dim. It was perfect, really. Light that permeated everywhere, sunk into every surface, hung palpably in the air. It was all very calming. Reassuring. Especially when he couldn't see anything beyond fuzzy outlines.

It took a few moments for his vision to clear. Seeing as he was in heaven and had no particular urge to rush himself, Sam took his time waiting for his eyes to focus. If he had the energy, he would have lifted his hands to rub his eyes, but his current state was so heavily sated that he couldn't summon himself to lift a finger. Every bone and muscle in his body felt drained of energy, which was strange because Sam had always imagined feeling more energetic about heaven. His current state was a warm, relaxed sense of consciousness tied to a deliciously languid body.

Kind of like the afterglow feeling after a mind-blowing orgasm, Sam thought, relaxing deeper into the bed he realized he was laying on. It was a nice bed. A little narrow, the sheets starched, but still so warm. The orgasmic feeling, though? Strange.

Did that mean heaven was a giant orgasm?

...was God an orgy?

Deciding those kinds of questions were best left unanswered forever, Sam let them dissolve into the warm ether of his mind.

Eventually, his vision cleared and details sharpened. His little slice of heaven turned out to be a room no bigger than a large bedroom. It truly was as white as it first looked, though patterned with tiled floors and painted walls. For some reason, heaven resembled one of the human quarantine rooms on the Autobot base. That was a little unsettling.

As Sam continued to absorb his new surroundings, a lanky, blond version of Captain Jack Sparrow decided to walk past the foot of his bed. In that moment, Sam decided he was not in heaven. Oh no, he was in a version of hell so heinous that only the truly most fucked up people in the world go there. Like Hitler. Or the chick who wrote Twilight.

Or, nagged a little voice in Sam's head, he wasn't dead at all.

The second option sounded better.

"M-Miles?" Sam croaked, feeling like someone had taken sandpaper to his vocal chords. His tongue felt thick, mouth dry, throat raw.

At the sound of his name being called, Miles jerked straight, spinning around to meet Sam's gaze. A large, black eye patch was strapped across the blond's face, a skull and crossbones drawn on it with white out. It clashed terribly with the angry red scabs crisscrossing his face, ageing bruises blooming everywhere. His outfit looked as if he'd stripped it right off of a character from Pirates of the Caribbean.

Seeing that Sam was awake, Miles's face lit up, stretching the scabs and wrinkling his skin. The pain caused was of no consequence. There was no denying the absolute relief that was suddenly evident on the blond's face. His grin was so bright it could have been seen from space. He leaped across the short distance and grabbed Sam up in a hug that was embarrassingly exuberant.

"Oh my god, man. You have no fucking clue how bad you scared me," Miles swore, muffled into the skin of Sam's neck. "You fucking psycho! I swear to god, you ever do something like this again, I'll beat you, man. I will fucking beat you!" When Miles turned his face, his cheek brushed Sam's. It was wet with a sudden flood of tears. "I was shit-scared, you know that? Shit. Scared."

"...Scared?" It took a lot of effort to force the disjointed word out of his mouth. It hurt to talk. Nearly stole all his energy to speak another word. ""

Miles swore another explicative, hugging Sam tighter.

Sam grunted, forcing his arms up to return Miles's hug. In the back of his mind, he vaguely thought his wrist should have been broken. It didn't hurt, so he let the thought slide. Breathing in deep, Miles's usual scent of deodorant and stale pizza was overlaid with the lingering smells of incense. Casting a quick glance to the small table next to the bed revealed a clutter of stones, incense, sticks, and shells- things that Sam recognized as items the Lancasters used when doing Wiccan stuff. Miles must have been pretty shaken up if he was trying to cast a spell or pray. For all his quirks, Miles wasn't an overly religious kind of person.

Sam tightened his hug by a fraction, grateful for his best friend's gesture.

"How long have I been out?" Sam murmured as they pulled apart. It took a bit of effort, but he was able to get the oxygen tubes out of his nose, peeling off several probes monitoring his vitals. Smacking his lips, they were dry and cracked. His mouth held the lingering taste of cotton and dog breath. "Water."

"A week," Miles replied rawly. He used his sleeve to wipe away any trace of tears, and then fumbled for the glass of water hidden in amongst the items of his makeshift alter.

A small thrill chased through Sam's system. "A week?" It didn't feel like a week. It felt like a minute. A second. A single blink of time.

"Dude, just drink. Don't make me pour this down your throat," Miles urged.

Sam drank the offered water gratefully, downing the glass in one go. Water had never tasted so good. As soon as it was gone, Miles got up to the small water cooler near the door, refilled the glass, and then insisted Sam drink the refill more slowly so he didn't end up projectile vomiting it.

Through sips of cool, deliciously fresh water, Sam worked hard to force out more disjointed words: "A week... seriously?"

Seeing that Sam wasn't going to let the subject go unless someone said something. Miles caved. "Yeah, like a coma or something," he admitted subduedly, picking at the sleeve of his pirate jacket. "Do you, uh... do you remember what happened?"

Sam paused, letting his mouthful of water sit on his tongue for a moment before swallowing. Now that he thought about it, he didn't remember anything. Absolute mind-wipe. Complete blank from the moment the first meteorite struck until the second he opened his eyes moments ago. Sam lowered the water glass, meeting his best friend's gaze. "You gonna tell me what happened?"

Miles shrunk away, shaking his head. "I was only told what happened. BB saw it for real. Ask him when you see him."

"Right..." Sam sighed, staring at the water glass. "Where's Bumblebee?"

Miles grimaced, shrugged. "He's around, helping Ratchet with... everyone."

Sam flinched at the sound of 'everyone'. He could only imagine what condition everyone was in. It must have been bad. God, he wished he could remember something.

Miles continued nonetheless, never noticing (or ignoring) Sam's grim look. "Bee usually takes his breaks out in the hall here- he likes to stick close to make sure you're alright. He'll be around sooner or later." What went unspoken was that Miles stayed inside the room to make sure Sam was okay. The thought tightened Sam's chest. He and Miles had been best friends forever, but never had he loved his friend more. As for Bumblebee- Sam couldn't imagine life without him anymore.

He looked his friend over, finally absorbing the bizarreness of Miles's appearance and letting it sink in. The pirate getup was... weird. But, so was Miles on a regular day. His eye patch stood out shockingly against the fairness of his pale skin, clashing with the browns and yellows of aged bruising. Guilt over what laid behind the eye patch sickened Sam. "How... how's your eye?"

"Good," Miles shrugged, resting two fingers lightly against the patch. "You know, for a non-existent eyeball and all. They had to remove it."

Sam flinched, his fists tightening in his lap. "I'm sorry... If you had never gotten involved-"

"Don't say it, bro," Miles intoned, deliberately cutting him off. "I don't regret getting to know the transformers. The whole depth perception? Totally overrated." His sudden smile was as goofy as ever. "Besides, chicks dig eye patches. I was thinking of going with a Nick Fury theme, but since we're on a military base, I totally would have blended in. Pirates are awesome anyways." Thus explaining the costume.

Sam was quiet for a few long minutes, blinking furiously to keep his tears at bay. He wasn't sure if he wanted to laugh or cry. It was just his luck that he had the strangest friends ever.

Miles shuffled to his feet, nodding to the nearby door. "I'll go get someone, okay? Everyone... well, everyone's been worried, you know? They'll want to know you're awake." He started to trot for the door, stopping only when Sam made an entreaty for him to stay for a moment. The blond turned to regard his friend with his one remaining eye, a shade of light grey-blue like shadows on snow at midnight, just a tad strange but so essentially Miles that it hurt.

"Where's Mikaela?" Sam croaked, looking around the small quarantine room as if he expected her to appear. He couldn't help but feel a little anxious with her absence. Was she alright? Was she in a hospital bed like his own?

"Um..." Miles stared at his feet, shifting uncomfortably, which did not settle any of Sam's growing fears.


"Maybe you should wait. You know, until someone checks you out..."

"Tell me where she is," Sam insisted, investing as much command as he could into his dry voice.

"I don't think it's such a good idea."

"You're freaking me out right now," Sam ground out, back teeth clenching. "If some thing's happened, I want to know. It's either you tell me, or someone else will."

Whatever look had come across Sam's face, it must have been something frightening. Miles locked eyes with him, his own face blanching a little.

"She's... gone," the blond murmured, grimacing. "Chase, too. They disappeared with all the Sector Seven agents, Simmons and the Faireborns included. They're completely AWOL. No one can find them."

"What?" Sam nearly shot off the bed. If it wasn't for the fact that he knew he'd be kissing floor if he tried to stand, he'd be across the room, out the door, and hunting someone down who could damn well tell him where his girlfriend was. "What do you mean they're gone? How can they be gone? Where'd they go?"

Clearly at a loss to deal with Sam's sudden outburst, Miles raised his hands in a placating gesture, taking several uneasy steps back. Sam might not have noticed, but Miles surely did see the small jolt of electricity that flung off his friend and burst off the wall behind him. After the crazy shit he heard went down a week ago, he wasn't about to take his chances getting fried.

"Sam, calm down. I know where the tranqs are and I will shoot you up with one if I have to."

Sam's mouth shot open for an acidic retort, but then thought better of it and settled back on the mattress. He sagged, even more tired now than ever before. His eyes were pleading as he looked back up at his friend. "Mickey's my girlfriend, man. If she's missing, I want to know about it."

Miles bit his bottom lip, considering what he should say. "I- I'm sure Mikaela's fine," he said after a fashion. "She's a tough chick, and if Chase is with her- well, you fucking know Chase isn't going to let anything happen."

Sam was marginally cheered by the fact. He fancied himself an expert in the Banes women, well versed in how ferocious they could be when they wanted to. On the occasions when Chase wanted to play mother bear, there was no place safer than behind her. "But where-?"

"Um... that's the thing about being AWOL- no one knows. They'll turn up eventually, right? The Fairbornes are supposed to be Chase's friends, and Simmons is supposed to be a good guy, so it's not like Mickey's about to be sold into slavery or something," Miles said, trying to sound hopeful, taking several more steps back. He reached the door, swung it open, and shouted down the hall, "Mom! Dr Spring! He's awake!" His summons brought a harried looking Felicity Spring into the quarantine room in a froth of white lab coat and clothes that looked like they'd been worn for several days in a row, followed by Selena Lancaster in star-patterned scrubs.

Spotting Selena, the two lives Sam had been living for the last year- the one where he was a goofy kid trying to get through high school, and the one where he was a goofy kid trying to get through high school but also happened to save the world and be friends with giant alien robots- clashed. For a moment, he wasn't sure how he was supposed to act. His surprise must have been evident, because Selena, whose utter relief at seeing him awake was evident, patted his cheek affectionately.

"They needed help with the injured, so Miles called me," she said, and that was explanation enough. She was, as always, an unflappable rock in the face of everything life threw at her.

"My, my, just look at you, Mr Witwicky," Dr Spring clucked as she bustled about in her usual clinical fashion. "You're so full of surprises, I never know what to expect next." She checked Sam's basic vitals, checked his supposed-to-be-broken wrist. She ordered him to strip the soft cotton hospital gown he was wearing so she could check for anything unusual- bumps, bruises, lacerations, evidence that Sam was a living lightning rod- and found nothing. By her frustrated expression, the good doctor certainly wanted to find something.

A moment passed as she trotted out into the hall, made a call, and a couple minutes later brought Perceptor in. The poor Autobot looked as bad off as the doctor, perhaps even more so because he sported injuries and welding marks from the battle. A very strange thing happened when the copper-coloured Autobot sighted Sam. His movements became much more cautious, though reverent was probably a better term for it. Those domed, luminous blue optics that always looked as if they saw everything peered at Sam curiously, gauging Sam with an ancient stare.

"Remarkable," murmured the transformer as he matched Sam's gaze, running a single finger down the length of Sam's face and neck. Sam shivered, spooked.

Scans were issued, blood was sampled, and swabs of every conceivable orifice were taken.

After an hour of continuous molestation by a myriad of doctors, nurses, and cold medical objects, Sam had finally had enough. Aside from the imperturbable Lancasters, most everyone avoided eye contact. They tried to avoid direct skin contact, too, which was interesting when they all wanted a piece of him. He tried asking various questions- What the hell are you doing? Why the hell are you doing it? How come you need all this? Isn't there something more important you should be doing?- finding that he was either ignored, evaded, or given such short answers that it only frustrated him more.

"Okay, you know what? I'm kinda done here," Sam announced the moment he got to his breaking point. His good humour had left him the moment he'd found out his girlfriend was missing. His patience followed suit soon after. Now all he wanted was... something else. A shower. Food. Fresh air. Bumblebee. A damn explanation for what the hell happened.

Someone tried to pipe in about him being in a coma for a week and needing to be monitored, but Perceptor, of all beings, stepped up to his defence.

"Let the boy do as wishes," he said, successfully cutting off the humans' objections. Long, spindly fingers came around Sam's wrist, attaching a small, metallic device. "This will monitor his vitals. The moment something abnormal appears, I will know." To Sam, Perceptor peered down his pointed olfactory sensor. "Bumblebee is in the hall waiting for you. Your parents are with him. You may go."

A new kind of energy infused into Sam- the kind that didn't fling off him in lightning bolts. All previous lethargy weighing down his muscles eased away, leaving him feeling strangely refreshed, even a little jittery with energy. He didn't realize how much he wanted to see his mom and dad until he realized how close they were. Perceptor procured a white t-shirt and grey sweatpants from subspace, trusting Miles to see to Sam's dressing while the Autobot ushered the adults from the room.

Wrestling the shirt over his head, Sam voiced his curiosity. "Was it just me, or was everyone treating me a little weird?"

Miles paused while tugging down the hem of the shirt. "Should of mentioned that, too... FYI- everyone's gonna treat you weird." When Sam raised an eyebrow in demand for an answer, Miles shook his head. "Seriously, I am not the person to be telling you. Let Bumblebee or one of the other Cybertronians tell you. They know what they're talking about... I think." He stepped away to allow his friend the dignity of getting his own pants on. "Everything in the right place? Okay? Go on- time to face the world."

With a nudge from his one-eyed pirate-themed friend, Sam was urged out the door... and into the waiting arms of his wailing mother and sniffing father.

"Oh my god, Sammy!" Judy wailed, enveloping her only child in an embrace tight enough to grind bones. "You're okay! We were so worried! Baby, you've been out for so long! We didn't think you were ever going to come to!" She peppered his face with kisses, and then leaned away to trap his cheeks between her palms, scanning his face with the steadfast attention only a mother truly knew. Her eyes were red, cheeks stained with tears. Her nose was within two inches of his as she examined his face. "Oh my god, is that stubble growing in?" She rubbed his cheeks, and Sam was reminded of how easily distracted his mother could be.

"Maybe- I guess... I haven't exactly had the chance to shave all week," Sam replied, smiling, trapping his mom and dad in a tight hug. They cocooned him, their arms tight. Judy had no problem soaking his shirt with tears, while Ron remained on the verge of tears but did his best to look strong and proud. Sam knew that over the past year he'd grown taller than them both, but this was the first time he realized how small they seemed now. They'd always seemed so much larger than life before. He hugged them tighter, not wanting to let go.

Ron was the first to step away, clapping Sam on the shoulder. "I'm proud of you, son. You really are a man now, aren't you?"

Sam's chest clenched, truly feeling his dad's pride. Of course, it was their notorious Witwicky humour that came out first- "I wish I knew what I did to make you proud- I would've done it sooner."

Ron guffawed, shaking his head, His answer was serious, smiling sincerely, the corners of his eyes crinkling. "You've been a man for a while now, Sam. I just haven't had the right chance to tell you."

"I- thanks, dad."

Behind them, a little bit above them, someone twittered, then sighed wistfully.

"Bee!" Sam exclaimed, breaking away from his parents in order to run for his robotic friend. The scout had done well to blend into the background, unnoticed until he'd made a noise. Unknowing what he had expected of the scout, Sam was a little surprised to find that Bumblebee was entirely unhurt. Much unlike Perceptor, Bumblebee hosted not even a scratch to his paint.

"Hello, Sam," greeted the scout, grabbing up the boy and crushing him his chest. The embrace chased the breath right out of Sam's lungs. For Sam, being crushed to death had never felt so good. A moment later, Bumblebee was dangling Sam in front of him, looking him over thoroughly. His expression was eerily similar to Perceptor's, though not as shrewd.

"Miles said you'll tell me what happened," Sam said, deciding that he didn't want to hear what Bumblebee probably wanted to say at that moment- not while the scout was looking at him so strangely.

Bumblebee's optic ridges arched. "Of course." His gaze fell to Ron and Judy Witwicky. "Would you mind...?"

Judy sniffed, nodding. "Go on. You two have so much to talk about. Just- be careful, okay? He's my only baby."

"Don't worry, I'll protect him," Bumblebee assured.

For some reason, the words made Sam shiver.

With the utmost gentleness, Sam was brought to Bumblebee's shoulder, allowing the scout to set off in the direction he wished. They were quiet while Bee navigated his way out of the familiar confines of the medical building. Humans were everywhere around his feet, many of whom shouted salutations to Sam as they passed. It broke his heart to see that many humans, mostly the military personnel, were injured. Arms in slings, legs broken, bodies battered, skin bruised. They limped around, lounged in plastic chairs, or rolled about in wheelchairs.

"The fight must have been pretty bad, huh?" Sam said quietly, rubbing Bumblebee's audio receptor.

Bumblebee flicked him a measuring look. "It could have been much worse."

They came outdoors into the light of midday. Sam shielded his eyes, struck blind for a bit until his eyes adjusted to the unforgiving assault of light. In an unvoiced agreement between the pair, they took their time moving through the streets, saying as little to each other as they possibly could. As soon as they were away from prying eyes and ears, they would be at leave to speak.

Conscious of Sam's needs, Bumblebee stopped by the cafeteria, allowing his friend to pick up something quick to swallow down. With that gathered, they set their way for the outer perimeter of the base. The closer they got to the periphery, the more sand-blasted the buildings looked. A few windows were shattered. It looked like one hell of a fight had happened nearby.

Coming out from the shadow of the last building, Sam gasped as he realized where all of the Cybertronians had gone to. The once-empty land stretching out from the base was now thoroughly occupied by all manner of scrap metal, wandering humans, and the grand majority of Cybertronians locked in stasis. Beyond them in the distance was a massive sinkhole ringed by scattered body parts and downed aircrafts.

Heavy tarp tents had been set up in the area, each housing an unconscious Cybertronian. The bots too big to fit were sheltered in billowing fumigation tents whose bright colours added an extra surreality to the already haunting scene. Along the sides of the tents, names had been spray painted, along with faction insignias and symbols representing the tenant's condition. Many of the transformers found within were in poor form. Even though a week had passed on Earth, allowing humans to heal adequately, it was still only an orn to the transformers; they were still hurting badly, in desperate need of repairs. Not a placid faceplate was to be seen. Most were pulled down in grimaces of pain, even in stasis. Mangled frames laid heavy and limp against the carpet of tarps keeping them out of the dirt, collecting dust as the days passed.

The haunting silence and grave solemnity that hung in the oppressive air resulted in a scene that sent shivers down Sam's spine.

"Oh my god..." His hands clenched against Bumblebee's shoulder, every muscle tensed.

Bumblebee's hand closed around Sam, offering strength. "It could have been worse," the scout murmured, reminding himself and his human friend. "It could have been so much worse."

Sam took a shuddering breath, nodding.

A few paces behind them, a sudden voice shattered the silence-

"I see that tent moving! You knock it down again and I am NOT putting it back up!" Ratchet appeared at Bumblebee's side, waves of pure agitation rolling off him as he gestured to the tent currently offending him. "You're supposed to be resting! Not wrestling around like two bots half your maturity!"

A tent flap flipped up, a silver head appearing. "We weren't doin' nothin' this time!" Jazz yelled back.

"Not you!" Ratchet snapped, slashing the air in the direction of the tent with Ironhide and Chromia's names spray painted across the side. "Them." A shriek, one that most certainly was not of pain, promptly emanated from the dark recesses within, followed by a sharp flash of light. Everything was still and quiet afterwards, aside from a deep rumbling-purring noise. Ratchet harrumphed grumpily, glaring at the tent. "I hope it was worth it!"

"It was!" Chromia replied, sounded very satisfied.

Bumblebee quickly looked away, trying and failing to make his laughter sound like he was clearing his vents. Sam scratched the back of his neck, not quite sure what to do.

With a disgusted snort, Ratchet turned his attention to Bumblebee and his human charge. First the medic did a double take, as if surprised to see the pair standing there, and then his gaze turned thoughtful as he looked Sam up and down. "Samuel."

"That's my name," Sam replied, meeting the medic's gaze unwaveringly. It was getting pretty old quick, the way everyone was treating him so... strangely. He couldn't help the bite of annoyance that laced his tone.

Ratchet's mouthplates twitched. "Don't get smart with me, boy. I've had a very hard orn trying to get everyone put back together. I don't need you being difficult, too."

Sam flinched. "Sorry..."

"No, that's alright. I'm just happy to see you up and about again." A few scans absently passed over Sam, taking in the details. Gentle as a cool caress, Sam relaxed as the cool blue lights glided over him. Satisfied with the information he was receiving, Ratchet nodded to himself. He noted the metal brace on Sam's arm. "Perceptor's seen you, then?"


"Good." He arched an optic ridge. "I expect Bumblebee has a lot to catch you up on."

"Yes... sir," Sam replied, feeling less and less like he knew what to say for the occasion.

The medic looked off into the distance, slightly pensive. "You may want to get going then. Without Simmons here for crowd control, outside humans have been getting too close. Privacy will be null if they manage to cross the rifts..."

Rifts? Sam let that slide, deciding it was another thing Bumblebee would explain later. "Won't you need Bumblebee here to help? I don't want to take him away- we can stay here, if you want."

Ratchet looked sorely tempted to agree, but nonetheless shook his head. "No, this is something that I would imagine needs to be said in private," said the medic. "I will be fine here; I just managed to stabilize everyone, so now the major repairs begin." He grimaced as he looked out at the hodgepodge of tents and dull metal bodies laying about. "If you'll excuse me, I might as well get started. And be careful where you step-," he raised a hand, revealing several compact devices dangling from black wires, "-that little psycho of a medic those Decepticons have buried land mines around the tents."

Said psycho came marching by, her arms full of scrap metal destined to be welded to someone. Trojan's head dragged behind her on a frayed string tied around her waist. She sent Ratchet a supercilious look. "The humans were getting too close to my tents."

"Sunstreaker and Sideswipe do not count as part of your tents. They are my patients," Ratchet growled severely. "If I find land mines buried around here one more time, you'll be in stasis like everyone else."

Virus glared hotly. "Fine, I'll make sure you don't find them." She marched on, heading for Flamewar and Barricade's shared tent. She disappeared within, a roar rose up, and she was whipped out a second later. Collecting herself from the ground, she ran back to the flap to snarl some choice words, throwing the armful of supplies she had dutifully collected at them. After that, she stalked away.

Sam looked back and forth between the two medics, suddenly realizing something very similar between the two. He leaned close to Bumblebee's audio receptor. "Are all Cybertronian medics bad tempered, or are we just lucky?"

Bumblebee chortled, replying in kind, "From what I can tell, it's part of their programming."

Ratchet sent them an incendiary glare. "I can hear you perfectly well," he growled. "I'll have you know, am nothing like that foul-tempered, ill-mannered, inconsiderate little heap of scrap metal."

Sam and Bumblebee could barely share a glance without breaking down into laughter.

Ratchet harrumphed once more, dismissing them with a wave. "Go on, get out of here before I change my mind and make you stay to help. I can can manage fine with Virus. Go do what you must." He continued to gesture for them to leave, shooing them away.

Accepting the dismissal gratefully, Bumblebee promptly held Sam out to Ratchet, transformed, and allowed the human to take up his accustomed spot in the driver's seat. Lest they accidentally drive over a hidden land mine, Bumblebee rolled slowly through the desolate sight of his comrades' ravaged frames ensconced in all manner of tents. From within his interior, the scout could feel Sam press against the window.

"Are Ratchet and Virus enough to fix everyone?" Sam asked quietly, albeit unsteadily.

"They have to be," Bumblebee replied solemnly. "They are all we have for medics. I'm no medic, so the best I can do is assist where I can. Wheeljack is around, too, but he's locked in his labs trying to rebuild everyone's lost limbs. He's our only engineer, so he might be at it for months." And though not necessarily an impediment to the engineering process, Wheeljack had unfortunately reverted to his pre-Earth mild psychosis. Ratchet and Tungsten were primarily the only beings he talked to now, with Tungsten being the sad majority.

"Could humans help?"

Bumblebee hesitated, then answered, "Yes, though without the Sector Seven agents on base, personnel is stretched very thin, the majority of which are injured anyways."

"Oh," Sam sighed. They rolled passed a conglomeration of four tents strapped together, flaps on either side open. Laying within were two mangled forms, one vaguely yellowish-gold, the other red. Their hands had been arranged so that their fingers were entwined in the space between them. For a split second, the gloom shifted, and then Sam realized Virus had sneaked into the tent and was currently... dusting sand off Sunstreaker's unconscious frame. Her expression was pensive. Their gazes met for a second, then Sam wisely looked away.

Away from the shanty town of tents, Bumblebee angled them in the direction of the bleakest looking stretch of desert. Sam said nothing, his forehead pressed to the window, feeling like his mind was on Mars. In the far off distance, two lone figures sat watching the sky. One of them, Sam recognized even at a distance; Optimus Prime. There was no mistaking that regal stance, or the flames. The little one sitting next to him, on the other hand... She was a vaguely rose-tinted smudge leaning against the Prime. A nonentity who nevertheless caused a shiver to run down Sam's spine.

The Camaro didn't play any music during their drive. They didn't talk. Bumblebee drove. Sam sat. Eventually, when it felt like half the desert had passed them by, they slowed. Then stopped. Ahead of them stretched a canyon that had not been there a week prior.

Sam squinted at new landmark. "Is this where you were taking me?"


At least that explained what Ratchet meant by 'rift'. Sam unbuckled, slithering from the comfort of Bumblebee's interior into the baking heat of the afternoon sun. His skin prickled. Helicopters circled like vultures on the other side, though never coming near enough to cross the divide. They weren't military. News copters with their cameras rolling. Ignoring them completely, Bumblebee transformed.

"Go look at it," he said lowly, gesturing to the canyon.

Sam did as he was asked, stepping up to the unnaturally clean-cut lip of the canyon. He was no great judge of distance, but from one side to the other, it was... a big jump. Looking down... Heat radiated up from the depths. With it came the feeling of power. Raw power. The same feeling that came when lightning struck nearby or a volcano blew its top; power that rocked through every molecule of a body. Sam took several steps back, vertigo hitting him hard. He couldn't see the bottom. The walls of the canyon went down as smooth as glass, soaring down at a perfect ninety degree angle. Without warning, Sam puked.

"The same thing happens to every human who gets too close," Bumblebee suddenly intoned. "It's the only thing that's kept the media out for so long. Only the AWOL agents have crossed it, and without them here, we don't know how they did it."

"What is it?" Sam rasped, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

Bumblebee arched both optic ridges. "A canyon- or, more accurately, a 1.5 kilometre wide moat, minus the water, given that it circles the area with with a 188 kilometre circumference, 60 kilometre diameter. Satellite imaging shows that is it a perfect circle. It is 15 kilometres deep, halfway to breaking through the crust into the mantle."

Sam backed away farther, feeling waves of hot and cold pass through him that had nothing to do with the canyon's unnatural heat. He didn't like the canyon. Didn't like the fact that he was near it. That it was on his planet. That it was anywhere near his solar system. It was an instinctual dislike, an intense revulsion he couldn't deny; the same kind that hit him every time he saw a human hologram that was so perfect that it looked wrong. Every primal instinct in his little organic body railed against it. A flood of adrenaline hit him, trying to force him to run.

"Where did it come from?" he managed to ask, his throat once again feeling dry and tight. His hands shook.

After a moment of hesitation, Bumblebee answered, "You helped make it."

Stunned, Sam stared. Blinked. "No, I didn't."

Bumblebee frowned. "Yes, you did."


"-I saw it, Sam. I was right there."

"I..." Sam wracked his brain for any detail that would tell him what the hell happened a week ago. Nothing came. It was all blank. He would have traded the world for a single memory. Anything that could have told him he had nothing to do with the damned canyon. Resigned, he carried himself as far from the lip of the canyon as possible, sat down, and said, "Maybe you should start at the beginning, Bee. Just tell me what the hell is going on."

The scout sighed, reaching over to stroke Sam's back to comfort him. "Try to keep an open mind about this, okay?"

Sam nodded.

"We've all been wondering about the sudden changes that have come over you, yes? Most especially your eyes."

Sam suddenly felt very conscious of his eyes, his gaze falling away from Bumblebee so the mech didn't have to look at them.

Bumblebee saw, stroking his friend's back. "Humans do not go through drastic changes like that without evidence of something happening in their bodies- a catalyst of some sort. However, no matter how hard we looked, the answer eluded us with you. Your health never deteriorated, you never showed any adverse side-effects. In fact, you have only gotten healthier since the change."

"It feels like my mental health has been deteriorating," Sam murmured wryly. "With my luck, I probably inherited the Witwicky crazy gene."

Bumblebee's mouthplates twitched. "You're not crazy. And you're not sick. Since nothing seemed wrong, aside from your eyes and your usually spectacular health, we had to turn our attentions elsewhere. Do you remember hearing about the cloaked ship?"

Sam paused, raking his memories. Something vague did come up. "Yeah. I take it that flaming portal to hell we saw in the sky was it?"

Bumblebee cast a pensive stare to the sky, a blue, clear sky with no signs of flame at all. "Yes, that would be it."

Sam paused, thinking something over, then decided to ask, "How can it be on fire in space? There's no oxygen up there."

A soft, sad laugh drifted from the yellow minibot as he shook his head. "I am quite sure the regular rules of the universe do not apply to a creature like that. He does what he wants."

Sam frowned. "That's a little ominous, don't you think?"

"Ominous, but true," Bumblebee sighed.

"You called it a creature... does that mean the ship is alive?"

"In a way..." He shuddered. "We call him the Fallen. We thought he was just a story, a monster to scare little younglings with. Very much like old, forgotten fairytales here on Earth. As it turns out, he's more real than myth."

There was a long pause as Sam processed what his big yellow buddy was saying. ", what you're trying to tell me here, is that we're supposed to be fighting the robotic equivalent of the bogeyman?"

"Yes, I do believe that is what I'm saying," the scout replied, a tad defensive.

"You're right," Sam suddenly said.

Bumblebee blinked. "About what?"

"About me not going crazy- you're right, I'm not. You are."

"It's hard enough for my kind to accept this as it is, Sam. Please don't make it worse," Bumblebee sighed, scrubbing his faceplate in a frustrated gesture. "If the stories about him are true, he's a terrible creature who sold his spark for power. He had power unlike anything we've ever known. And to make matters worse, the Fallen serves a being who devours worlds, someone a thousand times more powerful than him; a creature who currently inhabits Megatron's old frame."

Now it felt like the bottom dropped out of Sam's stomach. He swallowed a tight knot in his throat before asking, "What does that have to do with me?"

"Nothing and everything."

"Gee, that's helpful."

"Just listen to what I have to say." Bumblebee's stare was so intense now that it burned through Sam. "There came a moment at the end of the battle when the Fallen's master showed his true hand. The sky turned so black..." He shuddered, finding no other words to describe the void. "I was on base trying to get Optimus's sparkmate to safety when you came wandering out. It was like you were in a trance. I followed you to the communications tower. When you touched it, there was so much light. I was blinded by it for I don't know how long. When I came to, I was like this-," he gestured to himself, completely healed, "-and you were on the ground unconscious."

"Was I struck by lightning?" Sam croaked hopefully.

Bumblebee shook his head, dashing that dream. "You must have made a shield of some kind, enough to protect the base and surrounding area. This mote is where the Unmaker's power touched down. The Fallen and his master have not been seen since. We don't know if they've been destroyed or not."

Sam wrapped his arms around his drawn up knees, rocking gently. "I don't remember. I don't remember any of that." He stared up imploringly, his blue eyes shining too brightly in Bumblebee's shadow. "Are you sure it was me?"


Sam shook his head, shutting his eyes tight. "No."


"No." He choked back something that sounded like a sob. He had a terrible sinking feeling of what this was adding up to, and he hated the thought. Hated the possibility. It was too much. Too overwhelming. Things like that didn't happen. Not in the real world. "Please don't say it, Bee. That's just... I can't be it. I can't."

His own spark sinking, Bumblebee hunched, drawing his own knees up, wrapping his long arms around them. "I've only felt the Allspark's energy twice in my life, Sam. The first time was that day in Hoover Damn when I got to hold the Cube in my hands. The second was the moment you touched that tower."

Sam flinched as if he had been physically struck. Hot tears streaked down his cheeks. "Are you sure?"

"I'm very sure. There's no other feeling in the universe like it, Sam." The scout shuddered, recalling the wild rush that swept him. Exhilaration. Power. Awareness.

More tears tracked down Sam's cheeks. He hugged his legs tighter to his chest. The next question he asked nearly tore him apart: "I'm not human anymore, am I?"

Surprise flashed in yellow bot's optics. A moment of hesitation followed, and finally Bumblebee said, "You're still very human, Sam. As human as you've ever been, only... only with a few bonus features now." He scooted closer so that they sat side by side, enabling Bee to easily reach down and stroke a single finger up and down his friend's back. "I have your biorhythms on my sensors right now and they're no different than they were before. Everything about you is the same. Same organic materials. Same DNA. You're still Sam. Still you."

"But I'm supposed to be the Allspark, too?" Sam croaked weakly.

"We don't know for sure, but that's our best guess," Bumblebee sighed. "Maybe it's just a developing side-effect from the extreme radiation exposure you had. The energy discharges could be activated by emotional stress. There's any number of explanations..."

"You're all treating me differently anyways," Sam murmured, not able to look his friend in the optic.

"True, but give us some credit. It will take some time to become accustomed to something so... unusual. The Allspark was everything to my kind, Sam. Everything. And now there's a possibility that we could have it back? It's mind-boggling."

"Yeah..." He was sure feeling the mind-boggling right that second.

"Plus," continued the scout, "it's not every day that we meet a creature who has the ability to single-handedly repel a world-devouring monster and his demon ship servant. Allspark or not, it was the second most amazing thing I have ever seen."

Curious, Sam peered up with one eyebrow raised. "Second?"

Bumblebee's smile was warm and affectionate as he gathered Sam in his hands, bringing him close to his chest. "Yes, second."

A barely there smirk appeared on Sam's strained, ashen face. "I may be on the verge of a panic attack right now, but you gotta tell me the first most amazing thing you've seen. How do you top saving the world with super powers?"

"By saving the world without them." A low, calming hum vibrated through the scout as he thought of the day. "There came a moment during Mission City that I thought we would lose, that Megatron would take the Allspark and it would be the end of everything. But then there you were, a tiny human a fraction of Megatron's size, no powers whatsoever, and you risked everything to save your world and a race of aliens you had just found out existed a few days before. I've lived a long time, Sam, but I've never seen anything like that. It was the most amazing thing I've ever seen." Bumblebee's hug tightened a fraction. "I've called you my brother since that day."

Flattered, humbled, Sam hugged his best friend... brother in return. He pressed his cheek to the warm metal, so wonderfully comforted. "Guess that makes you my big brother, huh?"

"Well, calling me little would just be strange," replied the scout, laughing.

Sam felt the corners of his mouth curl up. He leaned away, catching Bumblebee's optics. "I don't want anyone to treat me differently, okay? Even if I might be... you know, the Allspark-," he whispered the word, unable to truly embrace the immensity of the idea. "I still want to be Sam. I want to live my life. Be human. Don't let me become some smudge on the bottom of a petri dish that everyone gets to look at through a microscope."

"You'll never become a smudge on the bottom of a petri dish," Bumblebee vowed. "I can't make promises that things will go back to being the way they were, but I can promise you that we'll figure this out. I won't let them turn you into a science experiment. Nothing will happen that you don't want to happen."

"I didn't want any of this to happen," Sam sighed.

Bumblebee's optics dimmed, his shoulders sagging. "We'll figure this out, Sam."

Neither one quite willing to return to base just yet, they remained for a while more at the rift. It might have been a long shot, but Sam kind of hoped that if he sat around long enough, his brain might actually be able to wrap around the idea of him being the Allspark. Sadly, it didn't work. He got as far as visualizing the ancient, strange cube, and then his brain turned off. He tried working himself up, trying to see if he could get a lightning bolt or something, but he couldn't even summon a static shock. He felt utterly the same as he had before.

To fill the silence, Bumblebee spoke of all that had happened during Sam's coma:

Optimus had made a formal statement to the people of Earth two days after the battle. There had been no sense in putting off something as important as that. The Cybertronians' stance on Earth had been laid out bare; they were refugees looking for a home, victims of a terrible war that had ravaged their planet. They weren't looking to freeload, nor looking for charity. They were willing to seek an agreement with the people of Earth, hopefully find an exchange that would allow them to stay. As for the Fallen... Optimus had been forced to become selective with his truths. Instead of informing their hosts that their planet was now under siege by extraterrestrial-mythological monsters, it seemed more prudent to introduce Earth to the fact that, thanks so the Cybertronians landing, other beings in the universe now knew Earth was here and they would be curious of the planet. Not all of them would be benign. If the people of Earth were willing, the Cybertronian people were more than willing to help with the transition between being a self-contained planet into an open one. From what Bumblebee could gather, thoughts on the matter were still being wildly debated.

One of the energy leeches that had been under Shockwave's command was now in their care. It was locked away in the highest security cell they had in the deep subterranean brig. Not that it really needed to be, since it hadn't bothered to move since it'd been thrown in there. For all intents and purposes, it was as much a corpse as it looked to be, aside from the fact that it sucked in all available light in its vicinity. Punch, after he had been brought back online and heavily sedated after several dangerous post-traumatic breakdowns, had vehemently insisted the being was Nightbeat. While the frame was, indeed, Nightbeat's old frame, all likenesses after that were null. The leech held only basic intelligence; manging simple words, recognizing faceplates. Most of the time, it only made it's awful moaning sound, though recently it had started to refer to itself as "Gloom." Perceptor insisted on studying the creature to find out exactly what it was. Find out what made it tick. Perhaps they could design some better defence against them for future reference. Some wanted to believe that there was a possibility that Nightbeat, the real Nightbeat, could be brought back, but it was a failing hope. One look into those dark, dark optics was enough to know that Nightbeat was gone and he wasn't coming back.

As for the living, Dr Spring had been as attentive to the Cybertronians as she was to her human patients. She was currently in the process of putting together a curriculum for group therapy sessions as soon as the transformers were able to sit up and attend. If Wheeljack and Punch were any indication of the ragged mental-emotional state of their species, then there was no denying that they needed help in a bad way. They had to be helped as soon as possible, made as stable as possible, if they were to have any hope of making a good impression on the people of Earth... Well, a better impression than what had already been given. Any free time that Dr Spring had, she could be found shadowing Ratchet's every move, coordinating with him to decide the best structure for the therapy sessions. Bumblebee even admitted to speaking with the doctor one-on-one for a short session, looking forward to when the actual program got underway.

Last but not least, Bumblebee described in reverent tones the mate of Optimus Prime. She was doing well, all things considered. Thanks to the same power that had granted Bumblebee instantaneous repairs, Elita One's frame had been restored to its former glory. She was once again a beauty so stunning that sparks would skip a beat when they saw her. Her armour was unique, the last remnants of the territory she hailed from, Crystal City. There was no other frame in the universe like it anymore. For many Cybertronians, just to look at her now was to be reminded of the orns when Cybertron was a place of beauty. Bumblebee, sadly, had not been alive before Crystal City's destruction. He had never known Cybertron as a beautiful place. He simply knew that he adored Elita One above all else. Optimus Prime was attentive to her, rarely leaving her side. They stayed apart from the main, immersed in each other as only two sparkmates could be.

Bumblebee was cautious, sad, and quiet as he related the damages that Elita still carried. Her frame was repaired, but so many traumas remained unseen, and perhaps untreatable. Her processor was severely scrambled, fraught with every manner of corruption. Memories were twisted, large sections deleted. She didn't like physical contact. If anything approached her too quickly, or surprised her in any way, she would shrink away or shut down. Hours could passed before she would move again. Her repaired frame didn't appear to register fully with her mind, as she could often be found limping, letting the arm she had lost in the Fallen hang limp at her side. An acute development of claustrophobia made treating her for anything difficult; she couldn't enter anything that vaguely looked like an enclosure. No buildings whatsoever. Underground was out of the question. If she could not see the sky, she would begin to panic. Four walls made her uneasy. Even sitting in a tent with all the windows and flaps open had her shuddering.

Elita One's spark was the greatest mystery of all. Though her frame was repaired, her spark stayed as it was. Wrong. That churning yellow mass of puss that pulsed like an infected wound in her chest. Ratchet saw to her daily, trying to figure out what to do. All he tried failed to relieve the poor femme of any discomfort. The medic could only surmise that the yellowish mass was some kind of scar tissue for a spark. Until further tests were done, there was little else he could do.

Sam listened silently, letting the words wash over him, sink into his skin. He never realized how much he liked Bumblebee's voice until now. It was a soft, smooth voice, mildly accented. The metallic twang that accompanied the words was hardly noticeable anymore. When Bumblebee tapered off into silence, Sam finally snapped out of his light doze, looking about for the cause of Bumblebee's silence.

"Oh my," breathed the scout, standing up to get a better look at what was approaching from the distance. It was a large armada of C-17 cargo aircrafts heading straight for the rifts. Bumblebee's hand flew to his audio receptor, probably making several called at once- one to contact the planes, one to contact the Prime, and one to contact the humans on base to see if anyone knew who the hell the planes belonged to. Moments later, a strange look passed over the scout's faceplate. He transformed, door swinging open for Sam. Needing no more incentive, the human dove in and hung on as the engine roared to life, wheels spun, and they shot off across the desert like yellow lightning. Shooting a glance out the back window, Sam watched as the C-17s crossed the rift. They waggled in the air, their pilots obviously affected by the negative energy. Beyond that, the planes kept coming.

The pair made it to base just ahead of the C-17s. Behind them, the planes were already making their descent to the empty tarmac. Ratchet was suddenly at Bumblebee's side, Perceptor standing on the other. Prime completed the group, stepping up silently. They watched the human aircrafts roll to a halt, watched the large hatches crack open and slowly descend.

An excited cry rose up from the nearest of the C-17's-


Sam's head shot up, eyes wide, heart instantly in his throat, as he watched Mikaela bolt down the steep ramp and make a beeline for him. She looked a mess, poor thing. Her skin pale, deep bruises ringing her exhausted eyes. Ageing bruises blotched her skin. The jumpsuit she was wearing was several times too big, dark blue with the Sector Seven crest emblazoned on the front pocket. All Sam could do was open his arms as his girlfriend launched herself at him, arms coming around his neck, legs wrapping around his waist. She held on for dear life, clearly with no intention of letting go. Her whole body was shaking.

Sam hugged her back fiercely, struck by the sudden surge of protective possessiveness that swept him. Here Mikaela was, in his arms, shaking like a leaf, and he wanted to do everything in his power to make her feel better. The strength of it nearly knocked him on his ass. He'd never been particularly protective or possessive of anyone in his life before, mainly because there hadn't been anyone, but he was definitely feeling the urge now. He wanted to cart her off to someplace quiet and secluded and kiss the breath right out of her. Throw her clothes off and kiss her everywhere. He couldn't hug her tight enough, have her close enough. In the back of his mind, he was reminded of the fact that Mikaela didn't have the advantage of über-freaky-awesome superpower/healing factor. Hugging her so tight was probably hurting her. He tried to ease his embrace, only to have Mikaela double her efforts to crush him like a boa constrictor.

Two shaking hands rose up, framed his face. Their eyes met.

"I. Love. You." Mikaela said, unequivocal determination in her voice. Then they kissed. Mikaela wasn't giving him an option otherwise. Not that Sam was about to resist or anything.

"I love you, too," Sam replied dazedly the moment they parted.

"Good." She snuggled into his body, her face pressed into his neck.

Deciding that he wasn't quite ready to let his girlfriend out of his arms yet, and she definitely wasn't letting go, he shifted her weight and got comfortable. He rubbed his cheek to her soft, tangled hair.

Above them, the Cybertronians smiled knowingly, though were wise enough to allow the two humans their moment.

"Where have you been?" Sam sighed, rocking back and forth. He had a thousand questions to ask and not enough time to ask them all. "Are you okay? Did they hurt you? How did you cross the rift?"

Mikaela's soft body shuddered against him, her warmth breath tickling the skin of his throat. "I'm fine, they didn't hurt me. Getting across the rift is pretty bad the first time, but not so bad the second... I guess you have to get used to it." Her tone of voice spoke of how much she was loath to the idea of getting used to crossing the rift. "Jaye and Flint kidnapped Chase to help her- they wanted to keep an eye on her. They took me to help out. We've been everywhere, Sam. It's been crazy." Bone-deep exhaustion layered her words. She leaned into him, absorbing everything about him, ignoring everything else. "You'll never believe it, though. Simmons and all them were getting help."

Sam looked up, realizing for the first time the number of humans now pouring from the cargo planes. There were so many of them! "Are they all Sector Seven?"

Mikaela wrinkled her nose, shaking her head. "I can't remember- we were to so many bases. I think a lot of the are Sector Seven, but others are... I don't know. Different agencies, I guess. You'll never believe how many 'secret government headquarters' are laying around this country. I stayed with Chase through most of it, though."

"How is she?" Sam asked carefully, feeling the slight shudder that ran through Mikaela's body.

"She's..." Mikaela flinched, looking away.

A hard hand clapped down on Sam's shoulder, hard enough to almost buckle his knees.

"I'm just fine, boy," Chase growled. One look at her was enough to decide that was an outright lie. She looked anything but fine. However, there was such a contained violence about her dull black eyes that Sam had a feeling anyone who tried to say otherwise was going to end up being carted away in a matchbox. Wisely, Sam avoided eye-contact and clung to Mikaela for safety.

To their left, Optimus was kneeling as he addressed the Fairbornes and Agent Simmons over their disappearance and subsequent reappearance with reinforcements. Whatever was being said between the four seemed to be of some reassurance to the Prime. His faceplate relaxed a fraction, his shoulders releasing some of their pent-up tension. Simmons held his walkie talkie close, barking into it every once in a while to dispense the agents now swarming the tarmac.

Ratchet said a few words to the agent, surprising the human for a moment. As soon as Simmons understood what was being asked of him, from Ratchet the Hatchet of all mechs, he dutifully ordered a large contingent to assemble for the medic to use as assistants. Humans were better than nothing. Surveying his gathering forces, Ratchet nodded once, and then knelt so that he could see to the two human women near his feet. He placed a finger beneath each of their chins, lifting so he could peer into their faces.

"You two look horrible, but you'll do," he sighed.

"Don't go easy on us or anything, Ratch'," Mikaela smirked wryly.

"What the fuck do you mean 'we'll do'?" Chase growled, jerking her chin away from Ratchet's touch.

Ratchet rocked back on his heels, one optic ridge arching. "I have one mech who's been refusing to go into recharge all week because he's been worried sick about you two. He's been running himself ragged scanning the internet looking for you. The only thing that's going to get him to rest is knowing you two are alright, so I suggest you go see him. Now." He helpfully pointed in the right direction, clearly expecting to be obeyed.

Chase rubbed the heel of her hand against her tired eyes. "That idiot."

Mikaela smiled softly, nudging her aunt. "Go ahead, I'll give you a head start."

Shoving her hands in her pockets, Chase slouched off.

Sam watched the woman wander off, his arms tightening around Mikaela. "You think it's smart to just let her go off like that? She'll probably eat Hound alive or go psycho-postal on someone if she hears a loud noise."

Mikaela swatted him hard enough to sting, heartily insulted for her aunt. "Don't be an idiot. Chase isn't going to do anything stupid; she's wanted to see Hound all week, too."

Hound swayed where he sat in the confines of his personal pit. Correction: tent. It only felt like the pit.

The flaps were open. A dead breeze was drifting in as evening settled. He wished he could go outside to watched the sky turn black, but knew he'd get only get distracted and upset when he realized the black of night was nearly the same shade of one particular human's eyes. A human he'd been trying to find all week.

Of all the scans he'd run throughout the entire virtual world, he could not find evidence of either Chase or Mikaela Banes being anywhere on the planet. Despite all the moral and legal repercussions, he'd even zipped through private databases and hacked into high-security surveillance systems in attempts to locate them. He turned whole virtual domains upside down in his search. There were probably several hundred pissed off humans in the world wondering what the pit was wrong with their internet. For the first time in a long time, Hound couldn't bring himself to care. He didn't care how long it took him, he would find his humans.

Not that the internet was being very accommodating to his needs. It hadn't been the first time, and it still wasn't his twenty-seventh time scanning it. The repeated failures were pit on his ego, not to mention doing nothing to sooth his increasingly tense nerves.

It had been months since he accepted the fact that he had humans. Not like an infestation. Not even like owning them. He simply had them in the same way that made Mirage and Smokescreen his brothers. It was the same connection that made the Autobots his family. An affinity that could be felt but not easily described. It was a phenomenon that his kind were starting to notice the longer they stayed on the planet. Not just that they were beginning to see past the organic-inorganic barrier, but truly being adopted into families like they belonged there.

Bumblebee had the Witwickys. Ironhide had the Lennox family.

Hound knew the Banes women belonged to him.

He knew it the same way he knew his paint was green. He accepted it as a fact of life. Embraced it. He actually liked the idea of having a family, even a human family, to belong to. And because the Banes belonged to him, it was his responsibility to find them and make sure they were alright.

He just hoped the effort didn't kill him first.

For the thousandth time that orn, he sighed. Sagged. His vision fuzzed for a moment, then cleared, but didn't come back as bright as before. Warning signs blared in his vision for a thousand things at once: he needed repairs; he needed recharge; he needed energon; he needed oil; he needed coolant; he needed a Primus-damned sign that Mikaela and Chase were all right or he was going to go crazy!

"Ah'm already crazy," he sighed to himself, scrubbing his faceplate with his palm.

Pure, unadulterated exhaustion weighed his every move. Coupled with his still-fresh wounds from the orn prior, he was an absolute wreck. Ratchet had already threatened to force him into stasis several times. The medic had even attempted to actually enforce the threat once. Though not many bots knew it, Hound could be stubborn when he wanted to be. And he wanted to be damn stubborn about staying awake until he found his humans! So, with some quick thinking, he'd erected several firewalls strong enough to keep Ratchet away from his recharge subroutines for the time being.

He heard shuffling in the dirt approaching, though he lacked the strength to scan the spark resonance to see who it was. Since the bot sounded small, it must have been Virus. He didn't bother to turn around for her. A long, tired, put-upon sigh drifted through the hot air.

"Just look at you, Hound. What am I going to do with you?"

Hound jerked straight, optics flashing wide. He knew that voice- that low, raspy, growl of a human voice. Faster than what was smart, he spun around to face the small figure now standing in the tent's entrance. She sported her own injuries, ageing bruises and healing cuts. Her skin was pale and ashen beneath its copper hue, her eyes turned haunted and strained, circled by dark rings of exhaustion. Although she wore a loose jumpsuit, Hound could tell she'd lost weight since he'd last seen her. Despite all that, in that very moment, nothing in the universe had ever looked better to Hound than Chase Banes standing in front of him.

Chase smirked up at him, her eyes taking on a light that had been missing all week.

"Well? I'm here now and you're a wreck. Isn't there anything you have to say for yourself?" she goaded.

He needed no more incentive. In a flurry of kicked up dirt, Hound dove for her. Before he could even think about bruised ribs or other hidden injuries, he crushed her to his chest. He needed to hold her. Needed to feel her warmth. Her soft fleshiness. She groaned as bones ground together. The strength of his embrace made her stomach churn, threatening sickness if the vice-grip did not let up. She never told him to loosen up, though. Never told him to let go. If her arms hadn't been pinned to her sides, she would have hugged him in return.

"Missed you, too," she grunted, pressing her sweaty cheek to his chassis.

"Missed you?" Hound suddenly wrenched her away and shook her as hard as he dared. "Missed you? ! Have you any idea how worried out of my damn mind I've been? !"

Chase gripped her ears as his voice boomed around the inside of her skull. Those tar-black eyes turned diamond sharp. "Oh, my god, I am right in front of you! Don't yell at me!"

Hound reared back, a little too high-strung for the moment. "Don't you yell at me!"

"You started it!"

"You worried me!"

"I know!"

"Then don't do it again!"

"I WON'T!"

They glared at each other for nearly a full minute. Hound cracked first, his temper disappearing with the rest of his energy. He never could hold on to his anger very well. Chase, on the other hand, could stay angry until the universe imploded. She glowered rottenly from Hound's hands, watching him with a predator's gaze. He sighed and set her down.

"I'm sorry," he breathed, sitting back. "I didn't mean to yell... I got caught up in the moment."

"Ya think?" Chase sniffed, rubbing her left side gingerly. "Fuck, Hound, I think you cracked a rib."

Hound, predictably, cringed, looking guiltier than any living being had the right to. "Did I? Aw, Chase- I'm really, really sorry. I'll go get Dr Spring. She'll fix you up." Even though he looked like he'd rather cut out his own spark than leave, he turned to crawl out of the tent.

"No, wait, don't go, you idiot. Stay, please," Chase sighed, dropping her hand from her ribs. "I was just fucking with you. I'm fine, really." Actually, no, she wasn't. Her ribs really did hurt. Hound could see the truth clear as day; it made him sick thinking he'd hurt her, even accidentally. He could also see in her eyes that she wanted him to stay as much as he wanted to.

"All right." He settled back on his aft, cycling air through is vents to get rid of the lightheaded feeling suddenly striking him. He couldn't take his optics off her, drinking in the sight of her. Everything in him screamed to pick her up again, hold her again, make sure she was alright, but this time he didn't dare touch her. He was afraid to.

Reading him too easily, Chase held out her arms. "Pick me up," she ordered stubbornly.

Hound jerked forward, but then fell back, shaking his head. He even twiddled his thumbs nervously.

Chase's eyes narrowed. "Pick. Me. Up. Now."

Jolted into action by that particular tone of voice- to be quite honest, he was rather scared of what would happen if he didn't obey- Hound scooped his human up and brought her close to his spark. All the tension in Chase's body melted away. She turned toward him, pressing as much of herself as she could against the contours of his armour. Her whole body turned lax, comforted to be somewhere where she knew she was safe.

"See?" she murmured tiredly, yawning. "You're not gonna hurt me. You'd never hurt me." Her forehead came to rest against him, rubbing against the warm, gritty metal. "God, it feels so good to be home."

Hound's spark fluttered, knowing she wasn't referring to the desert. He cradled her a little closer. "I'm glad you're back," he said quietly.

Her nose wrinkled, peering up at him. "Where'd your accent go?" she asked accusingly. "You don't sound right without it."

"Was too worked up to think about it," Hound replied, laughing softly. He made a noise like he was clearing his throat, and then said- with proper accent intact, "Ah thought ya hated this accent?"

"I do. I hate it with a passion." She shrugged. "You're not you without it, though."

Hound nodded, content. He was careful as he moved, settling onto his side while keeping Chase cradled against him. She didn't have the strength to move away, so she let herself be moved. Trusting him to hold her safe. The tarp beneath them crinkled and crackled obnoxiously. Once settled, he remembered how tired he was and nearly slipped off into recharge. Resisting the urge, he focused on his friend, noticing that she walked the fine line between consciousness and oblivion as well. She was resisting for his sake.

"When Ah came online an' realized you an' Mikaela weren't here, you have no idea how scared Ah was," he murmured. "If Ah had lost you two, Ah don't know what Ah would've done."

Something flickered in Chase's gaze, then she smiled softly, brushing her knuckles across his armour. "Sorry we worried you. Next time I'm kidnapped, I'll make sure to tell you exactly where I'm going."

Hound snorted lightly. "Ah'm sensing sarcasm."

"Only a little."

They were quiet for a little while before Hound was brave enough to ask, "Why did they take you?"

Chase slanted him a stubborn look. "What makes you think they wanted me? Maybe they wanted Mickey."

"Ah know you too well, Chase. If they had wanted Mikaela, ya would've dragged her here, too, just to make sure she stayed safe. You're too much of a mother bear to do anything else."

Chase blinked up at him. "I can't tell if I should be complimented or insulted."

"Complimented, definitely." The thumb of his free hand brushed down her face, down the side of her body. "Why'd they take you?"

"Intervention," Chase sneered, looking away. "Jaye and Flint have been my friends for years. The lying, sneaking, rat bastards that they are, they're still my friends. They wanted to make sure I finally got the help I needed, whether I wanted it or not. Before something worse happened."

"Worse?" Hound wondered worriedly.

"You know, kind of like that stupor you found me in once, except that I don't wake up from it. Ever." She shook her head again, her tangled hair becoming a matted mess against the slate of armour she used as a pillow. She missed the horror that crossed Hound's faceplate. The unadulterated terror that came with the thought of one day walking into her house as a hologram and seeing her dead on the floor. Chase continued, completely oblivious- "I've seen more doctors and drugs this week than I ever want to see for the rest of my life."

"Were they able ta help ya?" he croaked weakly.

Chase cast him a curious look, one eyebrow arching. "It's an ongoing process." She wrapped her arms around herself, rubbing her upper arms with her palms.

Hound, too sharp to miss any detail, noticed her hands shook. Her entire body was too weak. Too thin. "Have you eaten anything all week?"

"Nothing that didn't come back up an hour later."


She grimaced. "You're kidding, right?" Nightmares were just as bad as flashbacks; yet another chance to relieve the worst moments of her life. Chase, for the most part, was not about to subscribe to self-torture. She'd go without sleep for as long as she had to.

"Ya have ta rest sometime," Hound sighed, his spark aching.

"Look who's talking," she huffed. "I'm not the one who wasted an entire week looking for two humans when he should have been recharging."

Hound pursed his mouthplates. "Ah don't know if you've noticed, Chase, but you and Mikaela are damn important ta meh. Ah'd never call lookin' for the two of ya wastin' mah time. Ah would have done it until Ah found ya. And now that Ah've got ya, Ah'm thinking of stickin' microchips in the both of ya so this don't happen again."

He watched as a ruddy colour bloomed across Chase's cheeks. If there had been a nasty retort on her tongue, it melted away at Hound's sincere tone. She scratched the back of her neck uncomfortably. "Aw, see, when you say things like that, you almost make me think you care."

"Ah do care. A lot." He was completely earnest. Entirely honest. He cared more than he could say in English.

Chase sucked in a surprised breath, held it, then let it out as a hiss between her teeth. She couldn't bring herself to look at him.

"Ah'll make ya a deal," Hound said, shaking his head. "If Ah agree ta recharge, then you gotta sleep. You'll stay right here, with meh, where Ah can keep an optic on ya. No one is gonna kidnap ya on mah watch. If ya have a nightmare, wake meh up. Ah'll be here for ya."

He watched surprise dawn on Chase's face. Watched emotions run the gamut through her eyes. The more he watched her, the more his spark broke. She was such a strong creature, used to taking care of everyone around her in her own way. She didn't accept help unless she had no choice. Constantly trying to act like an island who needed no one. And he could see behind all that, could see that all she wanted was to go to sleep and not worry.

"I can't," she sighed, shaking her head.

"Why not? Don't ya trust meh?"

Chase tensed, scowling. "Of course I trust you!" she snapped, insulted that he'd think otherwise. "If I had it my way, I'd sleep like the dead right here, right now. Unfortunately, trauma-induced insomnia doesn't care about what I want."

Hound frowned lightly. "Did they give you something to help?"

With a sour look, Chase dug into her pocket and pulled out a small bottle of pills. "To help me sleep," she said, shaking the bottle. "I hate them."

"Take 'em, for meh."

She bristled, glared, lips pressed into a hard line. Their staring contest lasted until Hound won. Chase reluctantly popped the cap and swallowed one of the prescribed sleeping pills. She made a face at the taste.

"It takes a little while for them to kick in," she said, shifting around to get comfortable in the cradle of Hound's arm. Not an easy thing to do. The scout shifted as well, turning onto his back. His whole frame gave one great big sigh, hot air rushing out from every vent. Chase gave a yelp, rolling off his arm into the hollow of his side, cushioned by tarps and turned up dirt. "Jerk."


A yawn suddenly took her. Black eyes blinked slowly, each time taking longer to open. "This has been bugging me all week, since I don't know if I hallucinated or not.. Did you, by any chance, rip the roof off my car?"

Hound stilled, recalling that wild moment when all he could think of was getting Chase to safety. "Um... maybe."

"That's the second vehicle of mine you've ruined." The human's voice was as flat as her stare.

"Ah know." He made a face, hoping she didn't expect him to pay her back for this one as well. "Would 'sorry' help?"

"Only if you mean it." She yawned again. Then chuckled a little. "Wrecking two cars in less than a year... If I didn't know any better, I'd say that was some kind of cry for help." A mock gasp. "Are you jealous of the dinky little Earth-cars I drive, Hound? Is that it?" She was teasing him. A fact that delighted him. It meant that she wasn't as pissed off as he feared.

Hound blew a jet of air across the human, enjoying her sleepy laugh. "And if Ah said I was jealous?"

"Oh dear, whatever will I do?" Chase sighed dramatically, rolling her eyes. "I guess you'll just have to suffer, seeing as it's my job to tweak everyone's engines." She slanted him a playful look. "Does that make me a whore?"

"Ah prefer the term 'courtesan'," Hound laughed, loving that Chase laughed along. He nudged her lightly. "Ah'm a reasonable mech; you can tweak engines so long as you're paid. In your free time, though- if you're gonna be handling anyone's engine, it's gonna be mine." He flinched. That came out a little more possessive than he meant to let on.

Predictably, Chase stilled. Her breathing stopped. She knew that tone. Understood it. "Is that so?" she asked lowly. Her voice was a little slurred now, the sleeping pills kicking in.

Hound levered himself up to look down at her. She met his blue gaze with clouded eyes. "Ya know what Ah meant," he replied quietly.


For a moment, Hound didn't know what to do. Should he ask to take back what he said? Deny it? Or maybe say everything on his spark in one giant deluge of confessions? He chose the least smart of his three options. The one which he had the most to risk, but maybe the most to gain. He gave into the urge to reach over and stroke the strength of the human's body. She closed her eyes, her expression a mix of relief and pain.

"There is something Ah wanted ta tell ya, though," Hound intoned quietly.

Chase's eyes snapped opened. She didn't like the premonition she was having of the moment.

Hound leaned a little closer. "It's just, well... Ah wanted ta say... Ah lo-."

"Don't." She held a hand up, palm out, keeping him at bay, silencing him. Her eyes were pleading, her voice soft. "Please. Don't say it."

He tried not to feel hurt. "Why?"

"Because." Now she sounded bitter. "I'm human."

Hound arched an optic ridge. "So?"

She glared, mouth thinning mulishly. "I'm sick. You're hurt. This definitely is not the time for crap like that. I have to get things sorted out for myself, for my family, first. Mikaela's all I have and I've really been fucking things up for the last couple of years. I wanna make things right, and that's all I can handle right now. You understand that, don't you?"

Hound nodded. "Yeah, Ah understand." He really did. It still hurt, but he understood where Chase was coming from. She wasn't pushing him away, only drawing a boundary they shouldn't cross. He could live with that. "If ya ever need anything, though..."

She closed her eyes, smiling tiredly. "I know exactly who to go to." She didn't have the strength to open her eyes anymore. Her body felt as heavy as lead. She turned her head and brushed her lips to his side, and Hound would have given anything to be able to feel it. "I don't know what I would've done without a friend like you." Her words trailed off, sleep finally taking her under.

Hound remained watching her for a little while longer, feeling so many things at once he felt like he was sinking and floating at the same time. A small noise outside the tent broke his concentration, drawing his gaze up. Mikaela stood silhouetted in the entrance, a younger mirror image of her aunt.

"Can I come in?"

Hound nodded, watching her closely. He had no idea how long she'd been standing there, or how much she had heard. By the look on her face, she clearly had heard enough. Her steps were careful and quiet as she wandered over to her sleeping aunt, crouching down to sweep hair away from her face, laying a kiss to Chase's cheek.

"She's like a mom to me," said the younger woman. "I'd never say it to her face, but you know...She's the only family I have, and I love her." It was a statement of fact meant just for Hound to hear. Standing, she walked around until she stood near Hound's looming faceplate. When she motioned for him to come close, he did. Her hand was gentle as it brushed his faceplate. "I just want to say thanks for everything you've done for her. You're one of the best things to happen to her in a long time."

Hound's spark fluttered, touched by the youngling's words. "She's one of the best things ta happen ta meh, too."

Mikaela's smile practically lit up the tent. "I know." Her lips pressed to the side of his faceplate, as much a blessing as any verbal statement. She then quickly ducked away, her cheeks stained pink. With one last warm smile, she wandered away to Sam, who stayed at a respectful distance outside the tent.

With Mikaela's blessing warming his spark and Chase's sleeping body tucked safely next to his own, Hound happily fell into recharge.

Optimus groaned expansively as he eased to the ground, mindful of his injuries. He was careful not to move too quickly or to be too loud. Even though the femme he intended to sit next to knew it was him, knew he meant no harm, she still startled easily.

Luckily, Elita One did little more than shift to the side to give him more room to sit. Better than two nights ago when she froze up stiffer than a block of ice and refused to budge for nearly two joors. Tonight, she even flashed him a smile, her optics lighting up briefly with a warmth he craved. Optimus felt his spark shiver, much in the same way it used to when they were both young and unmated. So long ago when he used to trip over his own feet every time he saw her, his spark would dance whenever she was near. The moment of nostalgia caught up with him; he fell the rest of the way to the ground, landing on his aft with a loud 'thud!'

Elita covered her mouthplates with a delicate hand, giggling quietly at him.

A little embarrassed, and ridiculously happy to hear his sparkmate's laugh, Optimus scrambled to sit up. Being with Elita gave him the joy of not being a Prime; he could be himself, just Optimus, with her. A relief he had not felt for a long time. The moment he was comfortable in the dirt, he was further gratified when Elita scooted closer. When close enough, she hesitated, looking him over once, and then leaned in to let her weight rest against his side. A dim thread of blue light passed between them. Subdued, but definitely there. Evidence of their bond. By the way his spark was soaring from such a simple gesture, one might have thought Elita had reached into his chest and fondled his spark. She chuckled quietly again, clearly picking up Optimus's current ecstasy.

Instead of saying something that would surely embarrass her mate more, Elita tilted her head back to regard the endless sea of stars above her. "The sky is so lovely tonight," she said. "The stars seem especially bright."

Optimus regarded his sparkmate with all the love he had to offer as he said, "You are the brightest star I see tonight." His arm came around Elita's slight form, drawing her near and tucking her close. She did not object to the contact. Tonight, she seemed content to be near Optimus and to be touched. She almost seemed like her old self. Almost.

"Still such a romantic," Elita admonished fondly, never once taking her optics off the sky. After so long of being within the Fallen, open spaces fascinated her. At one point, after being locked up for so long, she'd convinced herself they didn't exist. Now she couldn't get enough of them. Day and night, the sky called to her, not just because of what lay hidden in the unseen, but because of the wonder of what could be seen. There were no boundaries in the sky. No walls. No cages. Only freedom.

"I am romantic only for you," Optimus replied softly. "Anything for you." With his free hand, he brushed the side of her faceplate, revelling in the feel of his mate. So real. So solid. She shuttered her optics and leaned into his touch. A soft purr drifted from the depths of her chassis, so quiet that it was almost mute. Optimus felt her purr more than heard it. The gentle vibrations that passed into his armour delighted him, soothed him, and made him love her more. If she could still make such an innocently seductive noise after everything she'd gone through, then there was still hope in the universe.

"Anything?" Elita repeated, one optic ridge arching. She looked as if she would try to tease him, perhaps ask that he bring her a star in a glass bottle or something as equally silly.

"Within reason," Optimus moderated, chuckling.

"Ah, then stay with me tonight," Elita asked softly. Her small hand closed around a slate in his armour, begging him with a touch to not leave.

"I wouldn't never dream of leaving you." Ever. Never again would he leave her. Elita asked the same thing every night; stay with her until dawn. Rest with her for a few joors. Enjoy each other for as long as they could. Almost as if she expected it all to be taken away at any moment.

She sighed, utterly relieved that she had yet another night with her Prime. "Good."

They shifted a little closer to each other, absorbing the warmth radiating from each others' frames. Little sparks of blue energy danced between them, tickling their plating with every touch. Elita kept her optics on the stars. She rarely ever looked away from the heavens. Optimus, on the other hand, kept his optics on his mate. Likewise, he rarely ever looked away from her. It still astounded him that one creature could embody so much beauty. Not just her frame, as miraculously restored as it was, but in every detail of Elita One. The way she sat, the way the air stirred around her. She was beautiful simply in the way she existed. If his spark wasn't already hers, then he would have given it to her a thousand times over just to bask in her presence.

"Those planes that came earlier..." Elita murmured, trailing off.

"Sector Seven agents, among other humans," Optimus replied. "Agent Simmons, it seems, is making a habit of coming to our rescue when we most need it."

Elita's smile was soft as she thought of that particular little alien. The one that bowed for her. "He is a very kind human."

"In his own way, I suppose," Optimus said, musing over the idea.

"And how is the other human- Samuel? Has he come online yet?"

"Yes, he's online," Prime nodded, his tone far more affectionate now. "We saw him earlier when he drove out with Bumblebee."

"I had a feeling that was him," the femme murmured, her expression suddenly pensive. "Is he alright?"

"He's as healthy as any human," Optimus moderated.

For the first time, Elita's pale gaze travelled from the stars to meet her sparkmate's optics. "Do you really think he could be...?"

"There's a strong possibility," the mech said. "Of course, you would never be able to tell just by looking at him."


Optimus inclined his head. "I spoke with him earlier and he's utterly normal in every sense of the word. There's not a shred of the Allspark's energy around him. It's very well camouflaged."

Elita nodded, now back to contemplating the sky. "Perhaps it is for the best," she sighed. "He's safer being as unspectacular as possible. They-," a vague gesture upwards filled in who she was referring to, "will never be able to use him if they can't find him."

This was the first time all week that Elita had acknowledged her former captors. Optimus's arm tightened around her of its own accord, although it made the femme a little uneasy. He loosened his grip, though refused to move away from her.

"They are still alive?" Prime wondered grimly.

"It will take more than that to kill them," Elita sighed. She was grateful that Optimus never questioned how she seemed to know little details without being told. It made accepting the gift easier. "They're weak now, though. That attack drained them."

Now Optimus turned his gaze to the sky, a small frown pulling his mouthplates down. "Do you think they will leave?"

"I doubt it," Elita sighed. "Samuel may have saved us from being devoured, but he let them know the Allspark is here. They will stop at nothing to possess it- to possess him."

"Sam will be protected."

"What good would that do when the bots guarding him can be possessed at any moment?" Elita asked, sounding so much like her old self that it hurt. "Let him keep his humanity and we will watch from afar. If we treat him like a human, no one will ever know otherwise."

"True," Optimus conceded. "Bumblebee is more than willing to retain his guardianship duties. That should be enough."

"Yes, hopefully." Elita nodded, thinking of the minibot. She'd asked about him a few days earlier, curious to see if she could rouse any memories of him. It became obvious soon enough that no memories existed to be roused. There was only that strange black hole in her head whenever Bumblebee was mentioned. Her memories had been deleted. Her entire life from the moment Bumblebee entered to the last moment she knew him had been wiped clean."I wish... I wish I knew more about the mech, to be sure that he will be enough..."

Optimus saw the flicker of wistfulness cross Elita's optics, the same sad thoughtfulness that came every time she thought of Bumblebee. He cupped her faceplate, drawing her gaze. "He is enough and more, Elita. You'll be able to make new memories with him, and you will see how extraordinary he is," he assured soothingly, knowing exactly what sad regrets lingered in Elita's mind. Even before Elita One had known of Bumblebee's unique origin, he had been the sparkling she never had. Deleting him must have broken her spark. She had sacrificed such a huge part of herself in order to protect Bumblebee's origin, and that in turn awed and humbled Optimus.

"Will you tell him?" the femme wondered carefully. "About where he comes from, I mean."

"Soon, but not now," Optimus replied on a sigh. He had been thinking of it constantly, ever since Shockwave had stated what his mission had been with all his captives. "It's best to let the dust settle from one battle first before jumping into another."

"Fair enough," Elita conceded. To her, it seemed oddly fitting that the one spark in the universe to not come from the Allspark was protector and friend to the Allspark's current living incarnation. Details like that tended to make her think there was some kind of order in the universe. Perhaps someone with a sense of humour or a love for irony was pulling all the strings?

"We know that Bumblebee will stay with Sam no matter what, but what of Earth? Is it still in danger?"

Elita fell out of her reverie, blinking. "This planet? It's very much in danger, yes. There's no doubt about that." She gestured to the vast scenery around her. "Even without Allspark, Earth's natural energy resources are too rich to pass up. They-," again she motioned skyward, "will drain every drop from the planet before they move on, with or without Sam. The humans will not be able to defend themselves. We must stay to help."

Having expected as much, the news still struck a painful chord with the Prime. "We have a hard battle ahead of us, then."

"Harder than you can ever imagine," Elita murmured. Her hand grasped his, squeezing. "You know the stories. The Fallen is a very powerful creature- absolutely ruthless and utterly sparkless. He will do whatever it takes to drive each and every single one of us insane. Worse yet, he's nothing compared to his master."

"Primus," Optimus hissed, taking the name in vain when he could think of no other word to say.

Elita shook her head sadly. "Not Primus, Optimus. His brother, Unicron."