The Autobot leader collapsed to his knees, staring at his young friend gravely. "I am...I am sorry, Bumblebee. Please, I do not...I do not know what came over me." His apology was desperate, begging for forgiveness that he did not deserve.
The two young soldiers watched their leader carefully, sheer terror still in Bumblebee's eyes, whilst Mirage remained cautious but ready to pounce if need be, only for the sake of protecting the yellow 'Bot.
"It is...alright, Optimus." Bee rasped softly in his natural voice.
"It is far from 'alright' my friend. I have...been far from myself, therefore I should not be graced with your forgiveness." Optimus responded softly.
Mirage shifted uneasily on his feet and returned to his vehicle form. "Come now, you two. We should return to the shop, lest Ratchet get worried."

Prime and Bee followed Mirage's lead, transforming and beginning their way back in silence. Optimus took the rear, trailing behind the pair by quite a distance. His processors raced, desperately trying to understand. The war had molded Optimus into something far different from what he used to be on Cybertron. Nothing more than a mech of science and knowledge. And now?

He was a monster.

Scouring through his nearly endless stores of information, Optimus remembered the symbol on Nicole's hand. In the way it was written, it had much more meaning than a physical connection. ...Why hadn't he thought of this before?

Primus, was he that much of a fool? Why had he not realized it yesterday? Before he had absolutely destroyed the relationship between his Autobots and the Witwicky family?

This was something he would have to discuss with Ratchet as soon as they returned.

Family dinners were always the most lively part of their time together. But all week, they had eaten their meals in silence. And all week, Nicole had been coming home early due to her skull shattering headaches.

Sam, as always, sat at the head of the table, Carly directly across from him. Scott and Colton on either side of him, and Nicole by her mother. Mrs. Witwicky was always particular about seating arrangements, almost to the point of obsessing over them. But it wasn't without reason. With Sam's position, it gave him the quickest access to defend the family against a Decepticon attack. The same went for the boys, though they never knew just what exactly the plan was.

Propped on the kitchen counter was an Energon detector, one that flashed a frantic red and screeched like a banshee if a Decepticon's signature was found. It worked for Autobots in a similar fashion, but flashed blue and didnt scream. The little device sat directly in Sam's line of sight at the table. Nice and simple.

It was Carly who had decided to try and break the awkward silence at the table, directing a simple little question to her daughter. "Are you feeling better, dear?"

Nicole looked up from her plate-which she had barely touched once more- and gave a slow nod. "Yeah, a little."

Sam quirked an eyebrow at his wife. "Better? Did something happen?"

"I found her here when I came home this afternoon. Seems she left early." She gave her daughter a side glance then smiled at him. "Since she never beats us home, I could only guess she was unwell." She neglected to say that their child had been doing this

"Hm. Good point. You sure you're alright, Nicole?"

"I've been better."

"I'm going to trust that you haven't gone to see the Autobots

She flinched slightly, and although she had in fact obeyed him, was a little hurt that he had almost assumed that she wouldn't listen to him.

"I've been coming straight home...You can even check with Cas to make sure I went to school at all. She nearly broke my back in the hallway this morning." A very slight lie, seeing as that happened on Monday, but it made no difference.

The twins chuckled to themselves, resulting in a piercing glare from their older sister. Their mockery was hardly something she wanted.

Sam let out a simple 'Hmph', and resumed eating.

After Annabelle had-reluctantly- been brought back to her home, she couldn't help but keep on thinking about everything that had happened on her visit to the city. Not only had she gotten to meet more of the Autobots, she'd made a new friend. The Lennox girl had always been a little on the abnormal side, which was made more than clear by her manner of dress. Nothing exactly matched whenever she went out, and she was always sure to wear a pair of her fathers dogtags.

She was a military child to the core, with a few little quirks thrown in.

Plopped on her bed in her little apartment, she was on a video call with her father. Despite the time that had passed since NEST was closed down, he still retained that sort of youthful air to him.

"You're sure you're alright over there, sweetheart?" He asked, always concerned for his little girl. His pride and joy. She was so grateful to have the father she did, especially seeing the sharp contrast between him, and what Samuel Witwicky had grown to become.

"Everything's fine, dad," She replied with a slight laugh. "The lead you gave me on the Autobots was perfect by the way!"
His smile widened, "Oh? Is that so? How're they doing?"
"Fairly well. I spoke with Ratchet for a while. They'd grown bored with the lack of activity until a Decepticon attacked the city."

He perked up, eyebrows raised. "Oh right, I heard about that! Caused a news chopper to crash, right?"

Belle nodded, "Yeah. Optimus, Bee and Mirage went to intervene and get him out of the city, but something happened and the 'Con ended up leaving."

"Ah. I see. Well, if y' get a chance to see them again tell them I said hi, alright?"
She smiled, "Sure, dad."

The following day, Colton and Nicole had been given the task of getting a handful of groceries for their mother. A simple task, but per his punishment, Sam had demanded that Nicole not drive. Unaware of the little pact the pair had made, he had given the boys the chore of driving her around.

After successfully obtaining everything their mother wanted, and Nicole having fallen asleep in the passengers seat, Colton headed straight for the shop. Time to meet some giant robots.

The car shuttered as it worked its way through the gravel driveway up to the building, snapping her awake in a panic. Looking around quickly, eyes wide, Nicole let out a cry. "Col! What the hell are you-"
"Oh relax! We're just at the shop! I won't tell dad, alright? Calm down. You're gonna introduce me to your friends."

"Damn it..."

The pair emerged from the car after leaving it to settle in a parking spot, and entered the main garage.

"This is an ancient glyph, Optimus. From long before you or I were created." She could hear Ratchet's gentle tone as he addressed his leader. Before the two vehicles, Optimus had drawn the symbol on her hand onto the cement beneath them. "It speaks of the most sacred and precious connection our kind can form. That of the Spark itself. Though...what brings you to ask about it?"

Optimus didn't respond, only let out a thoughtful little noise to himself. The two hadn't noticed Nicole and her brother approach, though when she gave a little knock on the hood of a car she knew for sure wasn't a robot, did they realize their presence and immediately go still.

Colton was beyond excitement at this point, desperately trying to contain himself as he stared at the vehicles.

"It's alright you two. I'm sure you know my brother." She introduced, nudging him closer to the two Autobots. "Colton, meet Ratchet, and Optimus Prime."

"A pleasure," Ratchet began, "And an honor to meet you," Optimus finished.

The boy nearly let out a shriek of delight, hardly able to properly comprehend what was going on. He had so many questions to ask!
Just looking at the expression on his face, Nicole knew that they would be here for quite some time.

"You better have a good excuse for mom and dad."