I HAVE MISSED YOU GUYS SO, SO MUCH AND I AM SO SORRY I AM SO, SO LATE WITH THIS UPDATE. Truth be told I kind of fell into other fandoms on top of having HORRIBLE art block and EXCRUCIATING writer's block.

But I am trying to keep going, because WE ARE GOING TO FINISH THIS STORY I SWEAR TO PRIMUS.

Enjoy my lovelies, I hope it is up to scratch. Updates may be slow-going, but they WILL be updated! THIS I VOW 3 Just bear with me; my computer is on the way out and trying to get it working properly long enough to write is a long process haha

When Tess arrived in the cafeteria for breakfast, she was unsurprised to find Lennox already there, sitting with a cup of coffee cradled in his hands and a serving of scrambled eggs beside him.

She smiled at the way his hair was sticking out all over the place, and his eyes still stuck every time he blinked. True he was a soldier in every way, but that didn't make him a morning person. Laughing as she reached him she sat down beside him, glad for something to take her mind off the conversation with Sentinel.

"You look like death, Will." She teased, crossing her arms on the table and grinning at him, "I thought you were an early riser."

Lennox glanced at her with a jovial chuckle before shaking his head and sipping his coffee. There were some documents on the table next to his breakfast that he was clearly reviewing, and not for the first time Tess noticed that he was less inclined to preach at her about 'confidentiality' these days. The mechanic was as 'in' on the secret as she would ever be. "Yeah, didn't get a lot of sleep last night. We were having a briefing about the whole 'moon' fiasco, and I was on the phone to Sarah till pretty late."

Leaning casually onto her hands she looked at him with a genuinely interested expression; she knew how much Lennox missed his family, she didn't blame him. "How are they?"

He nodded, "Yeah, really good. Just feels like I haven't seen them in so long, visits are few and far between with all this war going on, you know?" Tess sighed and nodded in response, her expression one of understanding empathy.

"I know what you mean, I haven't seen my niece and nephew since maybe a few months after we came to DC. It can be hard being separated for so long, have they been coping okay?"

The soldier gave a shrug and sipped his coffee, but she knew him better than to think he was being nonchalant. Colonel Lennox just tried no the make a big deal out of it because it made him sad, and she knew it. For all his bravery and chivalry he was still a husband and father, it had to be hard to try and prioritise this war over his family.

Because his part in this was what kept them safe at night, but that wouldn't have made it any easier.

Deciding to change the subject, knowing Lennox did not want to talk about it, Tess scratched the back of her neck and placed her head on her fist, "Sentinel came and spoke to me this morning," she said conversationally, the soldier quirking a brow up for her to continue, "I woke up just before 4 this morning, so I went to the range to practice. Sides kept me company for a bit, then Sentinel asked to see me. I don't think he's really…happy with Optimus choosing a human as a Sparkmate, but I think he's kind of taking a back seat."

Lennox gave a conversational laugh, taking a mouthful of scrambled eggs before he spoke with a grin, "That makes for a nice change, seems like everyone else has an opinion to belt out."

She sighed in response, folding her arms to rest her chin on them and look up at her friend, "You're telling me. I mean, I understand, I guess. Chief and I aren't exactly white picket fence material."

"Unless it was a really big fence." Lennox offered, that characteristic smile crossing his features as he managed to rile up a laugh out of the woman. She nodded her agreement, knowing that her other half was not exactly the most subtle of men, in more than one way.

Tessa tapped the table gently and gave another short laugh before picking up her weapon and getting to her feet, "Speaking of him, I'd better go say good morning. He had a late night like you did, finding that Autobot ship was a lot to take in I think." Lennox nodded in response and waved her goodbye, returning to his breakfast as she left the cafeteria to go find Optimus.

As it turned out his was already in the command centre, discussing something with his Autobots. Tess approached quietly, choosing to go up on the walkway and wait for them to finish talking. Ironhide and Sideswipe both appeared to glance in her direction, but it seemed that Dino was not particularly interested in her; and to be perfectly honest Tess had stopped trying to make conversation with him a while ago.

Dino was the kind of Cybertronian that seemed to think of humans more like household pests than equals; but even she had to admit that he'd gotten better than when he'd first arrived. He at least obeyed orders, and generally kept his comments to himself, but it was easy to see that he preferred not to be touched by humans, although he was perfectly content to be admired by them.

Evidently Optimus was not discussing anything particularly urgent with them, it seemed he was simply checking in with them to see how things on base were running. He seemed particularly interested to know about how they felt Sentinel was settling in, and Tess found herself feeling a smile tug at her lip knowing that beneath that leader's façade was a being who was happy to have a friend back home.

It was encouraging to see him in such good spirits, and no doubt his soldiers felt the lift.

She knew that the rest of the Autobots could sense Optimus' concerns, his stresses; even when he himself was not entirely aware that they were being displayed. With his mentor safe on Earth and well within the walls of N.E.S.T's protection, he was unknowingly portraying something happy.

"Squishy!" came the gruff rasp of Ironhide's voice, causing Tess to glance over and see the Topkick taking a few large steps to where she stood, "Is there anything left of the firing after your little competition with Sideswipe?"

She looked over at the Corvette-bot and shot him a grin, "Was he bitching because he lost a round?"

"You cheated!" the silver Autobot retorted, having heard her jibe at him, pointing accusingly even though his tone was hardly serious, "She told me I had a scratch and I lost my aim."

Ironhide gave a rasping, roaring laugh and swung a hand to clap Sideswipe on the back with a loud clang, "That will show you for being vain, you over-polished slagger!" he mocked, laughing again when Sideswipe started to inspect for any more scuffs Hide might have given him. While he retorted back and began a snarky argument about Ironhide being jealous of his well kempt exterior, Optimus took the opportunity to approach Tessa on the walkway and place a hand on the rail beside her.

"Good morning," he rumbled warmly, reaching up with his other hand to cradle her into the bridge of his nose affectionately. He felt her press a kiss to the sensitive metal there as she traced her fingers familiarly against the markings on his facial plates.

"Morning, Chief." She replied happily, "How did you sleep?"

He hesitated for a moment before replying, knowing full well that she was able to tell when he had trouble with stasis fluxes; so instead he opted for the truth in a way that would not alert his soldiers. "Having Sentinel home…stirred many memories. Some good, others less."

She nodded, gently rubbing the metal of his fingers in a comforting gesture, "It will get better."

The Prime gave a gentle smile, the one he reserved strictly for her, before touching her back tenderly with his fingers and then standing back up to his full height and straightening his broad shoulders. "I will be out this morning," he informed her calmly, "I wish to speak with Sentinel off-base, to show him the richness of your planet. With some time he may come to view this as his home."

"I'm sure he will," Tess grinned, hands on the railing as she leaned back to feel her spine crack satisfyingly, "This war can't last forever; here is as good a home for him as any, you're here after all."

"Speaking of lasting wars, Lady Prime," came Sideswipe's mocking tone, the formal address of her Prime title causing the mechanic to direct her gaze at him almost immediately, "Didn't you promise Ratchet you would carry your temperature cannon on you while you were on base?"

Her shoulders slumped a fraction at the reminder, having completely forgotten to do so outside of her usual morning routine; waking at a quarter to four had thrown out her schedule, it seemed. "Hey, come on give me a break it's like 6:30 in the morning!"

"Tess is right," Ironhide said nonchalantly, bringing out one of his cannons and examining it casually as he continued. Tess was surprised to hear him agreeing, but soon found out why. "After all, Decepticons would never instigate an attack while the human mechanic is tired."


Tess shot her friend a snarky glare and pointed at him resignedly, "Okay, okay! I get it, jeez there's no reason to be an asshole, God!"

"Oh, Primus willing, there is every reason." Ironhide retorted snidely, his good optic shimmering with mirth as he mocked her amusedly, "Now off with you and your squashy little hide, I won't protect you if Megatron comes bursting through that door and you ignored orders about carrying weapons."

The mechanic stuck her tongue out, "Yes you would." Tess jeered back, "Even if you are an asshole." She turned to Optimus with an amused smile, noticing the way he gave a rumbling chuckle at his soldier's jibing, "I'll see you when you get back?"

A soft look crossed his features before he reached up and tenderly touched her chin with the very tip of his finger, "Always," he replied fondly, to which she planted a kiss on the digit before swinging playfully on the rail and grinning at him like a giddy high-school student.

"I love you, Chief," she smiled earnestly, "Have fun."

She could feel a sense of great love in the air which was no doubt brought on by the connection of the bond. Tess had noticed that while his emotions came across to her as subtle, niggling feelings in the back of her mind, but Optimus had informed her that he often felt her emotions with great accuracy. According to Ratchet this was because of the Prime being an actual Cybertronian, whereas Tess was not.

Her body was not attuned to accessing the finer points of a Sparkbond, so the most she got was the occasional subconscious feeling of whatever emotion Optimus might be having at certain times.

As the Prime left to go and find Sentinel, the mechanic made her way to the medical bay to see Ratchet about having her weapon on her.

She knew that Ironhide and Sideswipe were right, she needed to carry it on her at all times, even in the early hours of the morning. It wasn't even the fact that she disliked carrying a weapon, because she was well-trained in firearms basics now and was not exactly a novice with her cannon anymore. It was laziness on her part, and she needed to be smarter than that.

War was unpredictable, and she was always telling herself that she was not going to be the Autobots' weak link; that she was going to be stronger for them.

'Start acting like it then, Tess!' she scolded herself, clenching one of her fists before releasing it with a sigh. As the med bay came into view she ran a hand through her hair, pushing her minor moment of self-frustration aside when she spotted Ratchet.

"Morning, Doc." She called, giving him a smile and a wave, "Sleep well?"

The Hummer-bot looked down at her from his holo-pad with a somewhat surprised expression, seeing as Tess was not normally in the medical bay until perhaps the mid-hours of the morning. Her earlier morning duties usually had her repairing military trucks and working on upgrading engine parts before she was scheduled to work for him.

"Well enough," the gruff medic replied, "you're early."

Rubbing the back of her neck sheepishly she smiled at her friend, "Yeeaaahh, I need my charge cannon off you. Ironhide was getting ready to chew my ass about not carrying it, I think."

Nodding simply, Ratchet placed his workpad down on one of the large berths and made his way towards a set of large steel cabinets with an electric lock. He placed a finger to his forehead and the human mechanic watched knowingly as the red light on the cabinets beeped and turned green; Ratchet had a personal code for it that only he or the other Autobots could access.

"I still think you should keep this in your chambers with Optimus," he said, beginning a lecture that she had already guessed was coming. The med-bot had a tendency to give his professional opinion even when nobody asked for it, and it was something Tess loved about her friend and mentor because he often called people out on their bullshit, "Should the Decepticons manage to locate and attack the base, you would be defenceless if you could not get to it."

"Duly noted, boss." Tess smiled, letting him drop the weapon into her hands.

He watched her strap the cannon over her chest and let it hang down over her back, the weight of the weapon somewhat familiar against her spine. The mechanic rocked back on her heels and watched as Ratchet picked up his datapad once more and started to continue his work.

"So what's on the schedule today?" she asked, climbing up the ladder onto one of the walkways so that she was eye-level with her mentor. The bipedal emergency vehicle gave a very slight huff and lowered the pad to his side as he shot her a familiarly irritable look.

"Work." He stated shortly, "I'll be repairing the grounded Apache, provided you will let me get back to it."

She snorted at his attitude, knowing perfectly well that he didn't mean anything by the terrible bedside manner; Ratchet was one of the Autobots that she knew had never really compromised his mannerisms to fit in better with humans. He was cranky as a Cybertonian medic, and he was cranky as an Earth military medic too; but after so many years under his tutelage Tess had learned to take it in stride, he didn't mean it.

"Sorry," she replied sheepishly, tapping the railing and squaring her shoulders professionally, "Okay then, let's get to work!"


Tessa and Ratchet were halfway through the repairs when the medic made a chirping sound from the gears of his helm. It was usually the sound of an alert or a report, and it made Tessa look up from the exposed engine of the copter. Ratchet raised a hand to his head gears as it gave a repeating chirp, the medic becoming silent as Tess suspected he was activating the Com-Link.

The mechanic turned her attention back to the engine, focusing on the physical repairs while Ratchet was not working on the computer system update. It was something that she had noticed, he enjoyed doing the work with updating military system computers and GPS products; because it was something he did not have to use a Holoform for. The medic was not a fan of the 'false body' which she completely understood.

However it seemed Tess was not able to get back into the thick of her work, because Ratchet's address of her name gave her another reason to look up.

He seemed…perturbed.

"What is it, Ratch?"

The medic paused for a fraction of a second, but maintained his gruff composure to speak. "It…was a report from Arcee."

The mechanic dropped her socket wrench with a clatter and leapt to her feet, "Arcee?! Are they okay, did they find anything?!"

"It is a pre-recorded message, Tessa. Not a live feed; they are too far away for a connection of that calibre, it seems." Ratchet knelt down to hold his hand to the ground, allowing her to climb onto his palm so that he could lift her onto the walkway. He forwarded the transmission to one of the computer screens that she stood in front of. "They have sent me these when they can, and I inform Optimus when new information is reported."

"What's the message? Is everyone okay?"

Ratchet wirelessly accessed the system and played the message on the single terminal so that Tess could listen for herself; he had already assessed it in milliseconds upon receiving the relay. Arcee's voice came through the speakers, there was no video attached to the message this time (seeing as occasionally they sent him clips for his diagnosis on) and the medic did not fail to notice the way his pupil's mouth stretched into a smile and her eyes lit up upon hearing their comrade's voice again.

"Outgoing to base," she heard Arcee say, sounding slightly crackled in the transmission with a rather fed-up undertone, "Feels like slagging metacycles that we've been out here; but there have been some changes in the last few hours. Found a crashed ship on a dead planet, but it's definitely one of ours. So far no signs of 'Con activity in the area, but Jolt and the Twins found a crash vault. It's been sealed up tight, going to try and crack it open; we're prepping emergency beacons if it goes wrong.

Hope to update within another Earth day or so, depending on how long it takes, our tools weren't ready for an excavation of this magnitude. Arcee out."

The transmission cut and Tess looked up at Ratchet with an expression that he could only assume was joy, which he found strange given that the file was literally just a basic report; there was not any specific 'good' or 'bad' news delivered.

And yet she grinned at him like someone had promised her a mountain of Skittles.

"What is so amusing?" he asked vacantly, receding the transmission and returning to his work on the chopper's computer system. As he'd expected she was climbing down the gangway and jogging over to join him with work on the air vehicle.

Tessa could not hide her smile, even as she delved into the guts of the engine she couldn't. "Because, Doc," she said firmly, "It means that something could go right for once! There could be Autobot civilians in there; or more soldiers!"

"Or it could be a dead crash vault," Ratchet interjected grimly, his tone sounding almost business like which made Tessa realise he was probably trying not to get his hopes up too much, "It could be an empty site of nothing but bodies and dry Energon."

Tessa poked her head out from the engine and shot him a foul look, her brows furrowed seriously, "Way to keep things on the up, Mr. Positivity," she snarked at him, "I dunno I think you just…need to look on the bright side. I have a good feeling, Ratch, I really do."

The cantankerous med-bot took in a deep cycle of air before releasing it with a hiss, his optics focusing down at the mechanic as she returned to her work, expression still stern even though she was no longer looking at him directly.

Lady Prime, he thought to himself, I hope to Primus that you are right.