"I have a theory..."
"I promise that it's interesting."
"It's about your mother and I."
"Elita...you see...long before you were even a thought in this world, I lost someone else I loved. On those nights I'd stare into the stars and wish to find that love again. However, wishes are odd things because..."
Mikaela slipped out of bed and padded to the room next door. She peeked through the doorway.
"...your mother mentioned wishing for the same thing I did. Can you imagine? Now, here is my theory..." Optimus had Elita on the changing table and he was cleaning her up with the wet wipes while he went on talking to her. "...I think wishes like to come true in ways we don't expect. What do you think?" He shook a little baby powder onto her backside, pulled the diaper up between her legs and attached the Velcro tabs to each other to hold it shut. "Perhaps wishes come true when enough people make the same one simultaneously. A cumulative effect, basically." He eased a plain white diaper cover on over her cloth diaper. "Do you have any thoughts on this?"
Elita moved her head side to side and brought her hands to her mouth.
"Hm, perhaps your opinion will change when you're older." Optimus slipped Elita into a pink Onesie, worked white socks on her feet and then deftly swaddled her in the yellow blanket draped over the crib railing. Learning all these procedures was easy for him--Mikaela only had to show him once and he picked them right up. Every time he looked at Elita, his eyes tilted in a smile, like he couldn't help but love her. "Now, let's go see if Mikaela is--"
"Awake? Yup." Mikaela didn't bother hiding her amused smile. Seeing Optimus, somebody who knew war and pain more than anything, tending to a helpless newborn just made her adore him more. "I think she's hungry."
Optimus secured Elita in his arms and brought her to Mikaela. The awkwardness he used to have when he held her was just a memory now--he could pick her up and carry her as if he'd done it every day of his life.
"It's been four hours since you last fed her." He said, "I think during the day, she should nurse every two hours at the very least. That is what most websites say."
"She'll tell us, Optimus. Don't worry." Mikaela accepted Elita's tiny weight and carried her to the rocking chair next to the door. She sat down slowly since her nether regions were still sore from last night's birth experience. Most newborns had trouble nursing, but Elita was a natural, and Mikaela never had issues getting her latched on. All she had to do was rub her nipple on Elita's lips and she'd open right up. Then it was just a matter of holding her breast in place and pulling the baby forward. "Yow! She's hungry."
"I will never get used to that." Optimus said. He reached towards Mikaela's breast and gently supported it. She moved her fingers and let him. It was his way of participating in the feeding--it brought them closer and it freed her hand to hold Elita more securely.
"That's a good girl..." Mikaela cooed. Her breasts began to feel tight and she knew her body was letting down milk.
Optimus chuckled in her ear, "She had my finger earlier. Is it painful when she nurses?"
"Only when she slurps like she's trying to pull my boob off. Like right n-- owww." Mikaela shifted her position and petted Elita's soft cheek. "Most of the time it feels pretty trippy. Probably like it does when I suck on your ears." She reached up and poked one of his ear finials.
"Interesting," he knelt down so he didn't have to keep bending over the chair. "I didn't want to trouble you while you were in labor, but Ultra Magnus was keeping me updated on Decepticon chatter he was picking up. I have him and Ironhide increasing their patrols while Ratchet and I guard the cabin."
Mikaela felt that unpleasant lurch in her pulse and Elita detached. She helped her daughter re-attach, then soothed her by rubbing her cheek. "What should I do?"
"You might need to pack an emergency bag for Elita as well as the one already set for you. I doubt we'll need it, but..."
"It's always best to be prepared." Mikaela finished for him. She looked down into Elita's dark eyes and those eyes looked back as if they had a thousand things bouncing around behind her pupils.
Elita finished nursing and Mikaela handed her to Optimus so she could sit straighter in the chair. In the time it took her to do that, Elita gurgled and spit up all over Optimus' left chest plate. Then she smacked her lips and curled her fingers, looking as innocent as a cherub with regurgitated milk dribbling down her chin.
Optimus looked down at his chest and his face crinkled. "Ew."
Mikaela almost wet herself laughing. "Get used to it. Babies are gross."
"I cannot be grossed out." Optimus handed Elita back and offered Mikaela a tissue to clean the baby's face off. "And I am not the one who gags over diapers."
"You can't smell, that's why. Be glad you can't." Mikaela said. She draped a blanket over her shoulder and patted Elita's back to burp her while Optimus ducked out to clean up. He returned a few minutes later, wiping at his chest with paper towels.
"God," Mikaela couldn't believe how much she loved the tiny baby resting against her chest. She'd claw Megatron's eyes out with toothpicks if it meant keeping her safe. "I can so totally see why Sam wanted to walk away. Then I look at Elita, and I look at you, and I see why I didn't."
That made him smile in his typical, gentle way.
She kissed Elita's forehead and asked, "Do you ever have fits where you miss Megatron?"
"You know...a second here or a minute there where you feel horrible that he's not with you anymore?"
"Occasionally, yes." Optimus' answer was honest. "The difference now is that I don't concern myself with trying to turn him back into who he was. I know that is impossible. Besides, I have two lovely ladies in my life now." His hand brushed over Elita's sparse hair. "And I made you a promise, Mikaela. I will be the guardian of everyone who comes after Elita."
"Even the ones running around on another planet after this Sun bites it?"
He chuckled. "Let me make you another promise."
She looked up at him, her smile slipping a little.
"If I'm still alive, and if Earth still exists after the Sun is gone, I'll return to this spot," Optimus pointed to the floor, "and place a picture of you on the ground as a memorial."
Mikaela could imagine it--a desolate landscape like the moon and Optimus standing all alone in the harsh light of a cheerless dawn. Every scenario she played out in her mind ended in him standing all by his lonesome in the dark. How did he deal with living such a long lifetime without going insane?
"Take me with you," she whispered to him. "When I get old and wrinkled and die, cremate me and keep me with you. I want to go where you go. Okay?"
She could see how discussing the subject hurt him by the way his eyes flinched. He hated reminders of her short human lifespan. But, bravely, he took her hand and touched it to his warm mouth plates.
"When that time comes, I'll keep you in my glove compartment. That way, you'll be right next to my Spark no matter what form I take."
Something hot swelled in Mikaela's throat. "Perfect."
Elita let out a wail. Her eyes moved back and forth, blinking as if invaded by bright light.
"She might be seeing symbols." Mikaela kissed her daughter's cheek, adoring her, and handed her to Optimus. "I think she needs you right now."
"Oh, my." Optimus said, accepting the day-old form in his arms. "Shhh, shhh...I'm right here." He carried Elita to the window and shifted his weight from foot to foot, rocking her in his own way. Then he adjusted his hold so her bottom was cupped tenderly in his hand and her head came to rest on his shoulder. "Don't fear, Elita. I'll always be right here."
Elita stretched out a hand and touched the glyph on his right cheek. Her crying stopped instantly.
"There." He nuzzled his lip plates against Elita's forehead. "This will get interesting when you learn how to talk."
"I know what you mean." Mikaela giggled, watching Elita grab onto the windshield wiper on Optimus' chest. It obviously didn't hurt because he made no motions to stop her pulling on it.
Sobering, Mikaela just stared in awe. A few short years ago, Optimus was a strange, distant robot crashing into her world. Now, here he was, the love of her life and the father of her child. Where he came from didn't matter anymore--he was perfect. He fulfilled everything her heart desired. She couldn't imagine loving anybody else.
Mikaela joined Optimus by the window and laid her head against his shoulder, which brought her face to face with Elita. Optimus eased Elita into her arms before embracing them both. One hand on Mikaela's back, the other on Elita's chest.
"In however many billion years...if you see a great-great-great granddaughter of mine," Mikaela swallowed and pulled down on the armor over his Spark chamber. She eyed the engraving of their names. "...will you tell her about me? About us?"
"Yes." Optimus rubbed his mouth against the top of her head. "You will be as immortal in spirit as I am in body."
"Good." She looked up to meet his kiss. The ring he gave her for Christmas gleamed in the sun when he clasped her hand. "Good."
They were quiet for a moment--and then Optimus suddenly touched his audio. His optics widened. "Bumblebee is here..."
"Yes, he's alone." He frowned, then smiled. "Apparently, Sam caught trouble having his car on campus, so a mysterious blonde boy came to pick it up for him."
"Gotta love the timing." Mikaela sighed, amused.
She listened to Optimus' Spark pulse as she gazed out at the clear spring sky. Everything appeared so bright and peaceful, but she knew looks were deceiving. Elita's future wouldn't be easy. It was full of danger and uncertainty, but she didn't let herself worry too much. For however long the Spark in Optimus' chest burned, he'd be there for Elita and all the lives yet to come.
Optimus petted her shoulders. "We should take Elita outside to meet the others."
"Yeah." Mikaela said, leaning on him and smiling. "Let's."
"I'll meet you there," he said in her ear. Then his hologram disappeared and all around the cabin was the cacophony of vehicles changing shape.
Mikaela made her way downstairs with Elita gurgling in her arms. She twisted the doorknob and gazed at the scene outside.
The Autobots were waiting for her, their bodies glistening in the sun filtering through the trees. Ultra Magnus and Bumblebee stood two deep on the left. Ironhide and Ratchet did the same on the right. Their legs formed a short pathway leading to Optimus, who held something cupped in his hands.
"Autobots," Optimus said, and everyone stood at attention. He beckoned Mikaela forward.
Mikaela glanced at everybody as she walked between them. Ultra Magnus struggled to keep his face composed. Bumblebee's door-wings shivered in veiled delight. Ironhide spared only a quick glance before staring straight ahead. Ratchet 'accidentally' nudged Ironhide and winked at her.
Elita never even cried at the sight of them. She squinted, moving her wrinkled fingers against the yellow blanket.
"As you all know, Primes are born, not made. My ancestors told me the Matrix of Leadership does not lie." Optimus knelt, his servos flexing and whirring.
"Wasn't it destroyed when you blew up that...machine thing?" Mikaela asked.
"I found it in the wreckage after the fight." Optimus slowly opened his hands to reveal a silver, dagger-like artifact. The Matrix of Leadership rose and hovered inches above Elita's head. Mikaela leaned back, alarmed, but Elita twitched and her tiny fingers wrapped around the tip of the Matrix like she knew exactly what to do. Something blue in the center glowed like a Spark until she let go.
"I present to you my daughter. Elita Prime." Optimus held one chest plate open and guided the Matrix into a compartment beside his Spark chamber. "And when she is ready, the Matrix will be hers."
Elita grimaced and began to fuss. Mikaela moved the blanket and checked her. She was wet.
"Optimus...I need to change her."
Optimus smiled and nodded. "Her needs come first."
The second Mikaela closed the door, she heard an explosion of excited chatter outside.
"A human Prime!" Ultra Magnus said, "Only a day old and she recognized the Matrix..."
"Hmph. Can't argue with the Matrix..." Ironhide huffed. "She's still annoying until she stops leaking."
"Stop grousing, Ironhide. If we find a new source of energon..." Ratchet's voice dropped too low to hear.
Mikaela had just undone Elita's diaper when she saw Bumblebee's face outside the nursery windows. She waved to him. He waved back and disappeared to join the others.
Dim light from the kitchen lit the living room while Mikaela made sure every door and window was locked. Upstairs, Optimus' footsteps made the floor creak.
Mikaela helped herself to the sour green apple Optimus left sitting out on the counter. Then she headed up the stairs to dress down and prepare for bed. Some after pains made her pause and touch her lopsided belly. Being able to feel her own uterus through the skin was weird. She just hoped she'd be able to lose the baby weight.
The floor kept creaking. Optimus' voice rumbled faintly in the quiet. Mikaela tip-toed down the hall and peeked through the nursery door.
Optimus was sitting in the rocker and cradling Elita in his arms. He was too tall for it, so he sat with his legs stretched out and used his heels to gently rock the chair. The only light in the room came from the dancing teddy bear light on the dresser.
"Stars are special, Elita." He rocked the chair once, twice, his voice soft in the dimness. "They twinkle like jewels, but each one is more than meets the eye. Life comes from their light and power, and dreams are born in the wonder they instill. Stars offer us hope. Stars guide us. And faith is knowing they're there, even when the sky is too cloudy to see. That is why stars are precious treasures. And it took meeting you to understand what my father meant by that. If faith is love...then I have two of the brightest stars right here."
Mikaela's heart welled over in her chest. She watched Optimus stand up and lay Elita in her crib. The baby sputtered and voiced her protest. Chuckling, Optimus bent down and started to sing:
"Twinkle, twinkle, little star..."
As Optimus' low voice crooned, Mikaela thought back to the positive pregnancy test nine months ago. She was lost and afraid, and the only person she could turn to was the one she'd nearly cast away without ever knowing the past they shared, the now she lived in or the future still unfolding.
Elita finally fell asleep. Optimus slowly straightened. His optics were two blue glimmers that shone a little brighter when he noticed Mikaela there. He cracked a small, sheepish smile and joined her in the doorway.
"So that's the story your dad used to tell you?" she asked.
"Yes." Optimus brushed a fingertip over her jaw. "It seemed right to pass it on."
She toyed with a strand of her own hair. "Would you mind telling it to me?"
He scooped her up bridal style and started towards their bedroom. "I'd be glad to." He winked, setting her down on the bed, "But first, I must say something very important."
Optimus leaned so close their lips nearly touched and whispered, "I love you."
She blushed and kissed him. "Say it in Cybertronian."
He did, and the sound of her name in his real voice made her heart shiver.
"We don't say 'I love you' on Cybertron...we just say 'love' while gazing into the eyes of a lover or bond mate. But the meaning translates into 'I love you' here on Earth."
If Mikaela's face got any warmer, she swore it'd burst into flames. How in the world did she find someone so sweet?
"So that's why you were a little shy about saying it when we met."
He nodded, laughing softly.
"You are a dork." Mikaela grinned, toying with one of his ear finials. "But that's why I love you."
"Fine, I'm a dork." Optimus rolled his eyes, pretending to be annoyed.
Mikaela kissed him between the optics and pulled him down into the bed with her. There was no safer place than his arms.
Maybe those two lines hadn't slashed her life apart after all.