Arcee pulled into KO Burger casually, the occasional flicker in her hologram turning the occasional head. She cared little for this outing. No, she reminded herself. This was essentially a date. Or the closest thing one could call a get-together with Optimus Prime. Y'know, her leader, her commander, the glue that kept their little family together, and-

For all intents and purposes, she was rather nervous. The Prime had requested they rendezvous to "discuss the status of the team's social development." Great, she had thought, he wants to talk about our 'feelings'. For all the wisdom the Matrix carried, it must not have the basic instructions for asking a femme out.

She pulled in near the back of the parking lot, right next to a large red and blue eighteen wheeler. Shutting off her hologram, she waited there several moments, and after several awkward moments of silence, she decided to initiate the conversation.

Opening up a private comm channel, she began. "Optimus..." she paused, giving him time to acknowledge her presence. When he didn't, she continued. "I know things have been a little... weird since the Arctic." If she were in bipedal form her faceplates would have crunched up in both embarrassment and frustration. "And I know you're not good with... feelings and stuff." That was an understatement. The Autobot leader was the epitome of stoic. "So I just wanted to let you know, whatever feeling your having about me, you... us..." The word was alien. Us, as if they were an item, as if there was something actually happening.

The thought was terrifying... and inexorably exciting.

"... It's okay. I understand. We don't be need to be on edge with each other." This was also a bit misleading. Whatever conversation they had that didn't involve relaying orders and battle strategies always had an underlying connotation, one of suspicion. Optimus was curious about what had happened with Airachnid, and he also worried about her (he worried about all of them, but after what had happened with Starscream...). Arcee, on the other hand, was suspicious of the Prime's motives. Yes, she had complete faith in him as a leader. Yes, he was her Prime. But during their less-than-casual conversations she was always on the defensive.

She continued. "We... we all need to be more honest and open with our emotions and... are you listening?" Optimus hadn't said one word the whole time. He had done nothing at all, and here she was opening up to him! So much for being open. She thought, embittered.

"Arcee?" Her comm channel flared up. She angrily glanced up at the semi, only to find an identical one pull up right next to her. "I apologize for my tardiness. I had not anticipated the five o'clock traffic."

"...Wha?" was the only response Arcee could muster. "So... that... wasn't..."

Optimus chuckled heartily to himself after hearing Arcee recount how she ranted at an empty vehicle for several minutes (she spared him the details of said rant, more for her own dignity than anything else). "I suppose you would not mind detailing what exactly it is you wanted to, ah, get off your chest?" Optimus enquired.

"Oh, I-" her throat* tightened. Suddenly, talking to the real Optimus was a much scarier prospect than conversing with a lookalike. "I-I...!"

Optimus understood. She was nervous. And despite how he behaved, he was nervous too, about a lot of things. Living day by day with the weight of so many lives on your shoulders was taxing for him. This was why it was important for him to be so serious, so emotionally detached. He could not give up his guard for a second. He had to be vigilant. It was his duty, his sole purpose in life. Protecting what was left of Cybertron was all he could do to keep from collapsing into a pit of despair.

"It is alright." Optimus, blunt as ever, proceeded with the conversation. "I arranged this meeting so I could discuss the children and there behavior."

Arcee composed herself for a moment before speaking. "Why, is something wrong with them, with Jack?"

Optimus would have chuckled at her overprotectiveness had he not feared Arcee's wrath. She was very concerned about her young charge. "No, no. I just wanted to get your opinion on the... social health of the children."

"Huh?"

"They are not... afraid? They experience no social anxiety?"

"What exactly are you saying Optimus?"

The Prime's engine rumbled anxiously. "I... do not want our problems to become their's."

"They practically live with us Optimus. It'd be impossible for them not to worry."

"I know. But no youngling should be exposed to war, and Primus knows these three have gotten far to close to the battle."

"Especially Miko." Arcee intoned.

"Especially Miko." He agreed.

"Well, you don't need to worry Prime. I know Bulkhead and I have been less than responsible when it comes to keeping a close eye on the children, but we've got a handle on it."

"Thank you Arcee. It is good to have my fears dissuaded. Now, what was it you were trying to, er, recollect?"

Arcee stuttered, scrambling for her words. "I, uh... yeah." She cleared her throat. "I was just saying... rambling about how we should be more open... and stuff." Optimus inclined his driver's side mirror at her, the vehicular equivalent of raising an eyebrow. "Err, y'know we've been a little..." She tried to remember the phrase she had used when talking to the truck. "... on edge. Y'know, after the Arctic. And the hug." Optimus inclined even further, showcasing his interest. "If... y'know, you have feelings," Did the Prime have feelings? Arcee didn't know, but for some reason... she wanted to find out. ", its okay to talk about them. To me, if you'd like."

Optimus went silent for a moment, apparently in deep thought. "Thank you Arcee. To be completely honest I... I do not know."

What? The almighty Prime admits his knowledge is limited? "You don't know what?"

Prime hesitated again. "I do not know what I feel. It has been a while since I have had to deal with matters of spark such as this." A silent interim followed, with both parties deep in thought.

Arcee edged up to the semi in a comforting manner. "We don't have to talk about it now. Just remember I'm here if you want to talk."

"Arcee, I am over here." Arcee backed up in surprise and embarrassment. She was talking to the Earth car again.

Optimus backed out and headed to leave, before offering Arcee one last consolation. "Thank you again Arcee. For everything."

Arcee's spark skipped a beat. Not at any overture of emotion. Fact was, this whole situation was weird. Could she... could she and the Prime... really?

"Err, if you would like to, we could go for a drive."

"I would very much like that Arcee."

…...

*I used throat here because frankly using vocoder would sound stupid.

That's all for this go round. I know, I'm a bad author for ignoring my readers. But I've got a (lazy) life to lead, so updates may be regrettably sparse at times but I never forget my fics. And I think there are lots of stories to tell with this one, so stay tuned! I promise I won't make you wait 4 months again!