AN: This was a bunny over on the LJ community TF bunny farm. I snagged it because…well because I wanted to, I guess. I've never read the end of the Animorphs series, but I read most of the books. I love them to pieces and I'm in the process of re-reading them to finally get to the end. I'm sorry if this doesn't work with the end of Animorphs, but I tried.

Disclaimer: Sadly, I don't own either series.

--

Optimus saw the boy hanging back looking unsure of himself. It wasn't an altogether unusual experience for Optimus. Many people reacted that way when meeting the Autobots. But there was something about this boy that made Optimus pay attention to him. He would make sure to speak with the boy once the crowds died down.

Jake fidgeted, unreasonably nervous. It would be a natural question to ask. The Autobots were in a war themselves. Plus, the Yeerks couldn't control computers the same way they controlled people, so there was no worries about a Controller understanding the question. Part of him, though, couldn't help but want to kick himself for all of this.

When the Autobots and Decepticons first appeared, they'd all been worried that the Yeerks would convince the Decepticons to join them. They'd very nearly gone to the Autobots themselves to ask for help. But the Yeerks hadn't counted on one thing: if the Decepticons didn't see an immediate use for you, they would sooner step on you than look at you. And they didn't care to pay attention to the fact that Hork-Bajir and Taxxons didn't belong on this planet. The Yeerks also had no intentions of sharing any kind of victories. Visser Three wanted it all. He didn't want to share any piece of the glory with the Decepticons. The Decepticons were actually hindering the Yeerks by taking resources from the planet and killing people. All of which the Yeerks thought of as theirs to be taking over and exploiting.

Rachel and Marco had both commented at one point on the irony of how the Decepticons were helping and hurting the human race.

Jake shook himself as he heard Optimus shift. The crowd had thinned out considerably. Most of the people left were people that had either come with the Autobots or were the organizers of the function. Even though he wanted to talk to him, Jake was still shocked when Optimus made his way towards him, carefully stepping over people.

"Do you have a question?" Optimus asked gently, cutting straight to the point.

Jake nodded. "Yes," he answered. He looked around warily, still feeling a little antsy about the people in the room.

Optimus noticed and transformed down to his alt form. He popped open the driver's side door. "We can go somewhere more private, if you'd like."

Jake's shoulders sagged in relief. "Thank you." He climbed up into the cab and sat silently as Optimus drove them out of hearing range of both humans and Autobots. Jake slipped out of the cab and Optimus transformed back into bot mode. Optimus sat on the ground, trying to be more level with Jake.

"What's your question?"

Jake was quiet for another few moments. "How do you do it?"

"Do what?"

"Lead. You've been leading for a long time, right? How do you keep on when it seems so impossible?"

Optimus felt like there was a lot more behind this question than he knew. "I believe in what I'm fighting for. I fight to protect my home, my friends, this new planet we have brought our battle to. I keep on because I don't want anyone else to have to face what I do."

"Why don't you ask for help? I mean, I'm sure the Army or whatever would help you if you asked."

Optimus shook his head. "It's our battle to fight. I cannot justify dragging another species into fighting our war. I feel bad enough that we have brought it here, but I won't allow needless death. We can handle the Decepticons."

"What if the Decepticons outnumbered you?"

"Still we fight. We have no other choice."

Jake looked away from Optimus and up at the sky. "What if you had the choice? What if you could save yourself and your friends and start over on a new planet?"

"If it would mean abandoning this planet and ours to the Decepticons, I could never do it."

Jake smiled wryly. "Have you ever had anyone offer?"

Optimus was well and truly confused. "No."

Jake nodded. He turned around and faced the woods. "Do you fear dying?"

"I fear dying needlessly."

"I think you'll be fine," Jake said quietly. "You're pretty evenly matched with your enemy." Jake looked down at the ground and clenched his fists. "Maybe if you win, things will be different." Without giving Optimus a chance to say anything else, Jake walked into the woods.

--

"My name is Jake. Jake Berenson."

Optimus watched the screen, disbelief written all in his optics. The past few weeks had been a torrent of activity in the human world. All out war waged between a parasitic race of aliens and the humans.

And the boy that he had spoken to years ago rose out of the battle a hero. A hero according to the press and the people he had saved. But Optimus recognized the bleak look in the human's eyes.

Six warriors had gone into that battle. Five came out victorious.

Optimus turned away from the screen and started for the exit. "Where are you going, Optimus?" Prowl asked. "Ratchet will have your head if he finds out you're leaving without his medical release."

"It doesn't matter," Optimus answered. "I'll be back in a few days."

--

He drove nonstop. Guilt made him move faster than he normally would have, disobeying all speed limits.

But when he got to the area, he could do nothing but sit outside city limits. He didn't know where to go from here. He didn't check his chronometer to find out how long he'd been there when a grey wolf came striding out of the forest.

The wolf let out a soft whine then began changing. Optimus initiated his own transformation, but couldn't help but want to cringe at the sound of the shifting body parts in the human.

Jake didn't bother to stand after he morphed. He shifted around to sit Indian style. He kept his eyes on his hands as Optimus sat across from him. "I did the best I could," Jake said. "Technically we won."

Optimus didn't know what to say.

"I didn't want to do it. I knew what would happen." Jake's voice started turning desperate, needing someone to understand. "But I didn't have a choice. I didn't know what else to do." Tears slipped down Jake's face. "I never meant for her to die."

"Jake-"

"I feel like I lost. We may have won, but I lost." Jake looked up at Optimus. "I hope you don't lose too, Optimus." Jake closed his eyes and morphed back into the wolf.

"I'm sorry, Jake," Optimus said.

Jake tipped his head back and let out a mournful howl. It echoed long after he left.

It would echo in Optimus' mind forever.