Disclaimer: Transformers; do not own. His Dark Materials/Golden Compass; do not own.

Summary: Semi-crossover; oneshot series. Optimus; But while they could almost visualize the dæmons of their intergalactic friends, Optimus' remained hidden inside him. Optimus was an enigma.


After

Optimus

It had been a few months since Mission City. The government frenzy, covering up the fact that they were not alone in the universe, had begun to settle now. There were still plenty of questions and too little answers, and they were resigned if not content with the fact that there would likely always be. Prowl's group had settled in comfortably without too many trips to the med-bay, despite what Ratchet said. The humans and the Autobots alike were awkward, but that awkwardness lessened each day as they figured out how to live with one another; humans and Autobots, sparks and dæmons.

Sam and his dæmon were walking through the corridors of the Autobot base, Bumblebee having giving them a five minute head start to find a suitable hiding place. Unfortunately, with Ratchet's ban on "Extreme hide-and-go-seek," they had to find more tame locations, like closets or behind the furniture. It wasn't as fun, but, unfortunately, they were under pain of Ratchet, so they had to make do.

Mikaela had separated from them already, right after they had passed Keller, Simmons, and Banachek. Keller's barn owl had nodded at them as they passed, Banachek's coyote was ever cool and calm, and Simmons' road runner was a puff ball of ruffled feathers on his shoulder. They had been in some sort of meeting with Optimus.

"Wasn't Simmons sacked? What's he doing still around?" Sam had asked Mikaela once all three were out of earshot.

Mikaela had shrugged. "Things like Sector Seven don't disappear overnight. Sure, it got dissolved, but there's still someone pulling strings in power. I'm pretty sure that things just got moved around—in the end, Sector Seven's still there."

Tristanne had given a low growl at that, but they all knew that it was true. Anti-giant-sentient-robot feelings didn't go away at the drop of a dime.

"So where should we go?" Sam asked his dæmon. "Bumblebee will be looking any minute now."

"Let's see…we've already been through most of the rooms on the ground floor, including the shooting range…"

"So…roof?"

"Roof."

They bounded up some escalators and, with some difficulty, got up a set of overgrown stairs, and finally reached the roof. They surveyed the scene before them, the Nevada desert greeting them with a blast of warm air. The sun was just beginning to set. Tristanne stretched luxuriously to be out in the open, and Sam spun around for no reason, laughing.

She heard someone coming before he did, and pulled him aside, hiding in a shadowed corner of the roof.

"You think that's Bumblebee?" he whispered.

"Could be, but that was sure fast. Usually we manage to give him a good run-around," she whispered back.

"The footsteps sound…heavy. And I'm pretty sure Bumblebee walks quicker than that."

"Damn. Who do you think it is?"

"I don't know. Hope they leave soon though."

"We'll only have to worry if it's Ironhide or Red Alert. They'll totally rat us out."

They relaxed marginally when they saw Optimus coming out on the roof.

"Hi, Optimus," Sam said loudly, he and his dæmon coming out into the light, and then stared. It was so odd to see an Autobot…jump, for lack of better word. He and Tristanne exchanged a baffled glance.

"Greetings, Sam," Optimus said, recovering. "I apologize. I was not aware that you were there."

"That's okay," Sam said lightly. "I mean, uh, I get that a lot, so you don't have to apologize."

There was a pause, and Sam coughed uncomfortably as Optimus missed the admittedly weak joke. Tristanne pressed herself against him.

"Er…um…enjoying the view?" Sam blurted out.

"Yes, I am," Optimus said.

"Yeah, um, so am I."

"Can you see properly from where you are standing? The setting sun is behind you from that angle."

"Um…"

Optimus chuckled then, though it was enough to shake his entire frame. Sam could only stare, for it was like watching a mountain laugh.

"Don't worry, Sam. I will not give away your hiding place," Optimus said pointedly. Sam blushed, and Tristanne's fur bristled.

"So…um…you heard?"

"The entire base knows when you and Bumblebee play this game," Optimus said simply, and Sam blushed deeper. Tristanne growled in anxiety, and curled around behind his legs.

Optimus sat down then, one leg propped up and the other stretched out, looking out into the desert. The remains of the sunlight glinted off his entire body. He didn't look distracted, exactly, but he did have a far-away look on his faceplate. They looked at the Autobot leader, and felt each other's awe and something akin to pity, though they didn't know where the pity came from.

It must have been hard, they thought. To be a leader of a crumbling planet, to chase after their only hope through eons and eons of stars and strange planets…and now, to try and pick up the pieces in a new world.

Sam wasn't that close to Optimus, not like he was with Bumblebee, or, with many of the other Autobots. And he knew that most of the humans felt the same way.

They were no longer perturbed by their intergalactic neighbours' lack of dæmons. Indeed, they could just see, in their minds' eye, how Bumblebee's Camaro dæmon revved her engine disapprovingly when they did something dangerous, how Sunstreaker and Sideswipe's shared Lambourgini dæmon primly held herself, how Ratchet's hummer dæmon raved and ranted alongside him…But while they could almost visualize the dæmons of their intergalactic friends, Optimus' remained hidden inside him. Optimus was an enigma.

But hadn't they all been an enigma at first? Sam and Tristanne to Bumblebee, Bumblebee to Sam and Tristanne?

Maybe we have to make the first move…

Tristanne padded out from behind Sam, heading towards Optimus, and Sam followed. They didn't look up, but Optimus did not protest, as they settled on top of his kneecap.

"Hide us?"

"Always."

"You think it's kind of weird? Playing hide-and-go-seek again?" Sam said, not realizing that he said it aloud. Tristanne pressed herself against him.

"No," Optimus said, either not noticing or choosing to ignore Sam's obvious embarrassment. "Rules change when the seeker is not human."

"Guess so. Makes hide-and-go-seek look like an extreme sport."

Neither said anything, but they knew that there was a method to their madness. Though some things that the Autobots did with them were silly and sometimes downright cracky, hide-and-go-seek being a great example, they all had a point.

Like when someone would enter Ratchet's med-bay at the precise moment that they were there, so that they could see and even practice on how to fix an energon leak or how to bring optics back online.

Like when Ironhide allowed them inside the shooting range and let them handle some cassette-sized Autobot weaponry.

Like when the twins gave them snide, caustic, but useful advice on looking out for two bodies in a battlefield, because everyone knew that if one being in the person, either the human or the dæmon, died, the other being would die with them.

Like when Bumblebee "played" hide-and-go-seek with them, so that they would better learn how to hide from a Decepticon who was looking for them.

Or…or like when Optimus put up with people like Simmons, because he wanted to keep the human populace as safe as possible from the Decepticons.

They stayed still for a long time, it seemed, the only sound coming from the soft whirrs of Optimus' inner workings and Tristanne's soft purring. They could not tell what Optimus was thinking, whether he was merely contemplating the beauty of the earth or remembering with mixed feelings the planet they left behind.

Sam thought about asking Optimus…many things. About the Autobots, about Cybertron, about why, when the Autobots thought that they weren't looking, they looked at the humans with a mixture of sadness and confusion.

He held his silence though, and only Tristanne's ceased purring showed his confusion. Optimus doubtless noticed it—he watched the dæmons' actions more closely than any other Autobot—but did not remark on it.

Optimus broke the silence.

"When a person dies," Optimus said quietly, "what happens to their dæmon?"

Sam and Tristanne looked up, startled. Tristanne gave a low growl at the question, pressing herself against Sam, and he placed a comforting hand on her head, stroking her behind her ear.

"Um, well, they fade, big guy," Sam said clumsily, looking up at Optimus. "They drift and fade away, like…like—"

"Like atoms of smoke," Optimus rumbled slowly and quietly, as though he was talking to himself.

"Yeah. Yeah, that's one way to put it," Sam said after a pause. "How'd you know?"

"That is what happens to a dying spark," Optimus said, still looking out into the sunset.

"Oh."

"In many ways," Optimus said carefully, "humans and Autobots are very much alike." He looked at them then, and what they thought was a quirky half-smile graced his features.

Sam and Tristanne stared, surprised. They had never thought about it that way—a lot of the time, they had thought about the differences between the two races, and rejoiced in them. But…for Optimus to say that the human race was akin to the Autobot race…it was comforting, in a strange way.

Tristanne purred, and Sam took a deep breath. "Yeah, guess so." Okay, not exactly the most eloquent sentiment of all time, but oh well.

Sam still wondered why the Autobots looked at the humans and their dæmons strangely, some times. He wondered why their…their almost sadness was most evident in Optimus. But both he and Tristanne knew that now was not the time for such questions.

Optimus was an enigma, they were okay with that, for now. After all, he was a friend.

Sam settled back, resting on top of Optimus' kneecap and Tristanne resting her head and forepaws on top of his thigh. Silence pervaded again, but this time, it was a companionable silence.

The humans and the Autobots alike were awkward, but that awkwardness lessened each day as they figured out how to live with one another; humans and Autobots, sparks and dæmons.