Just to give y'all fair warning: this is the point in the story where this series will go very AU. I'm sure that as TF Prime continues it will contradict me, but that's okay. This is set after episode 20, before 21, and goes onto an alternate timeline that will ignore the show's plot until it's developed a bit more. I will address episode 21 and beyond, but only after the series has gone forward some so I can plan it out.

So… new characters! I think you guys will enjoy this one; I know veterans of TF certainly will. 83

Wendy awoke to the sound of an alarm.

Jarring and terrifying, the screech had Wendy snapping up, hitting her head on something, which of course made her wince and cry out before falling back down. For a long, confusing, pain riddled moment, she had no idea where she was or how she'd gotten there. It took a moment for the hurt in her head to lessen, and her tired eyes to blink, for her to see she was in a familiar and safe place – Optimus' cab. The events of the night before rushed back, but before she could think on them long, she remembered the alarm.

"Optimus?" She called, hoping (and very rightly assuming) that if he hadn't been awake before, the alarm had certainly woken him. "Whas goin' on?" Her sleepy voice slurred. The door to her right swung open, and Wendy stepped out as quick as her half asleep body could.

Optimus transformed once she was on her feet, and approached the computer terminal that was making the blaring noise. Wendy took the time to look around and take in her surroundings – they were in the command center, and all the Autobots and the kids were present. Everyone looked worried, from Ratchet's stern and hard gaze, to Miko pulling her bottom lip between her teeth. Something was up.

"What's happened? Decepticons?" Wendy found her sleepiness fading fast in the face of what must be a catastrophe. "What's goin' on?"

"We've picked up the trace of a moving energon supply, but –" Ratchet grimaced, clearly displeased. "It is not accompanied with Cybertronian life signals."

"What's that mean?" Jack asked, approaching nervously. "Have the 'cons learned to hide it, or something?"

"Or something." Ratchet grumbled. Optimus had his optics narrowed, examining the screen carefully.

"There's no way we wouldn't pick up a 'Con signal." Arcee insisted, crossing her lithe arms. "If 'cons were there, we'd know."

"And that means…?" Raf looked from Bumblebee, to Ratchet, and all the eyes and optics in the room followed suit. But it was Optimus who spoke up.

"Cybertronians are not the ones moving this supply." The leader reasoned, his grim look darkening at the implications. Wendy made the realization and her jaw dropped.

"You mean… humans are doing this?" Bulkhead gave a sputter of laughter. "What for? They don't have any use for the stuff."

"Besides baiting Cybertronians such as ourselves to go after it?" Ratchet snapped back.

Bulkhead still didn't seem to be catching on. "But why would humans use Energon as bait for us?"

Turning, Optimus faced the group again, clear concern and worry written over his face in the way of narrow optics, a stern frown, and a lowered gaze. Wendy caught his look and mirrored it with her own hard, determined stare.

"I can hazard a guess as to who might do such a thing," She muttered. Optimus nodded slowly, giving voice to her fears.


The Autobots were torn between two decisions.

On the one hand, Energon was a much needed commodity that the Autobots were running rather low on. Each battle with the Decepticons lowered their supply and put them that much closer to extinction.

On the other hand, this was clearly a trap – and as the group had just barely survived the last M.E.C.H. trap, no one was very eager to stumble into another one so soon. Optimus was just barely out of the med bay, and though no one mentioned it, it was clear the incident had bothered Wendy – she hadn't been quite as upbeat ever since. It wasn't something anyone wanted to repeat.

But, again, Energon was desperately needed. So the group was torn on which risk to take; endangering themselves fighting M.E.C.H., or endangering themselves by not going for the Energon they needed to survive?

The answer came to them, like so many things concerning the Cybertronians, from the stars.

Something was different with Optimus.

Wendy found herself somewhat bothered by the seeming switch in Optimus' attitude towards her. On the surface, everything was the same, mostly. They still talked somewhat often (she'd gotten over trying to avoid him, as it didn't help her situation, it only hurt him and made the other suspicious), they visited the cliff constantly, and Optimus came by her room each evening to bid her good night, as usual.

But there was… something… off. A look in his optics, a lighter tone in his voice, a strange way he'd talk to her. Something was different, and when she thought on it, Wendy became uncomfortable and self-conscious. Often, Wendy found during their conversations, she would begin retelling a story or explaining something, and look up to see the bot just watching her. Not like someone paid attention to someone they were listening to… but the way someone watched something with fascination for the pure pleasure of viewing it. It was… odd, from the boss bot. Especially when aimed at her. Flustered and unsure, she would try to ignore it and continue the conversation, somehow knowing Optimus knew she knew that look meant something.

Then there was the new way he treated her. He'd always been gentle and careful, but recently it was as if she were made of glass. For another it might be flattering, but Wendy was merely annoyed at the too-easy treatment. She was a human, not a porcelain doll!

Not to mention how much more attention she was getting. Usually, when she walked into a room, Optimus would nod his head to acknowledge her, and continue giving orders or looking over his work, and when a lull came about he would approach her. More recently he'd started – smiling. It was weird. Optimus and smiling was very different. Not – bad, per se, just not something Wendy had very often seen on Optimus, which had now somehow evolved into a daily thing. Something was definitely different.

So Wendy mulled over her new concerns about Optimus, sitting in the command center as three other bots argued over what to do. Arcee, Optimus, and Ratchet had been at it for a good twenty minutes, each being very sure of what they should do, and each vehemently opposed to the others plans. It was very aggravating, but made for good background noise for Wendy to think to.

But in the midst of her thinking, and their arguing, another alarm went off. Jumping, Wendy scoffed and rolled her eyes.

"What now? M.E.C.H. throwing a party and invitin' the lot of us?" Her sarcasm went unnoticed as all three bots turned to stare at the monitor with various looks of confusion mixed with elation.

"That's not the Energon alarm," Arcee muttered, a slow grin making it onto her face. Wendy's face contorted into confusion – If Optimus smiling was odd , Arcee grinning was somewhat terrifying.

"So? What is it?"

Optimus approached the terminal and did some things, pushed some buttons, and static came over the intercom. Then, suddenly, through the static, came voices. They weren't in any language Wendy could understand – and when Optimus opened his mouth to reply, he answered in the same squealing, confusingly metallic language. At first it was jarring, but in listening to it, it became almost melodic and lyrical.

"What's goin' on? Anybody gonna translate?" Bumblebee came around the corner, having heard the alarm – he chirped excitedly, chipper and elated, his fists pumping the air. Wendy couldn't hold in her laugh at the joy on his face. "Come on! Let me in on it!"

"That alarm's for incoming Autobot frequencies." Arcee explained, still bearing a big grin.

"Ah – don't get too excited yet!" Ratchet stated to them all as Optimus continued talking to the voice in the computer. "We all remember what happened when Wheeljack arrived!"

"Who's Wheeljack?" Wendy stood, approaching the railing.

"A friend of Bulkhead's who came for a visit a while back. The 'cons got to him first and replaced him with a mimic – but he busted himself out and beat the slag outta the guy." Arcee explained almost proudly.

"So – this guy on the line's another Autobot? From where?"

"Plenty of Autobots still roam the galaxy, looking for others of their kind." Ratchet began in his old-man-telling-recalling-the-old-days voice. "When we left Cybertron, it was madness. We were scattered to the stars. Who can tell how many of us are lost among the far reaches of the galaxy." The usually cynic mech almost sounded forlorn.

"But these guys found y'all. An' that Wheeljack character. So it's not all a lost cause, right?" Wendy didn't like seeing the hard edged medic look so down, but her words hardly helped. He glared and gave a 'tut', but didn't say anything because Optimus chose that moment to return to their group.

Wendy's eyes widened at the sight of him; he looked… shocked. Almost in awe; whoever he'd talked to had surprised the slag outta him. Oh, wow, I'm even using their curse words in my head now. The woman snorted.

"So? Were they really Autobots this time?" Arcee asked immediately.

"Yes… they were." Optimus spoke with an incredulous tone as if he felt he was dreaming. "I knew… know the team commander and confirmed her identification myself."

Four different reactions to those words occurred at once: Bumblebee jumped, giving a bunch of quick adorable clicks out of shock and excitement; Arcee gave that eerie grin again, almost young and cheerful looking, and let out a happy cry. "It'll be nice to have another femme around." She beamed.

Wendy didn't really appear excited or un-excited, just apathetic. She didn't know these bots, though she was glad her friends were happy. Or, at least… some of them were. Her eyes flew to Ratchet and found the medic surprisingly dark, almost morbid, gaze lowered, brow furrowed. For a moment his optics flicked to her, and then sharply flicked away. Wendy's eyes narrowed, then went to Optimus. The leader wasn't looking at her… wasn't looking at anyone. What had earlier been awe had somehow become trepidation – lowered shoulders, lowered optics, lowered mood.

Had something gone wrong…?

For the time being, the worry of getting more Energon was pushed to the back – though with the arrival of more bots, the need for Energon would surely rise. But concern for the new arrivals was primary, since no one wanted a repeat performance of Wheeljack's arrival.

So it was that Optimus, Ratchet, and Bumblebee drove out to meet the ship at its arrival point, a few miles outside of Jasper. Wendy tagged along, though for some reason Optimus had been reluctant to let her.

"Why not?" Wendy had asked, hands on her hips. Instead of what she'd expected – explanations of the dangers and risk, not wanting Wendy to be hurt – Optimus had merely glanced away, eyes lowered as if he felt guilty for something. After that, he'd given in, and the exchange still confused Wendy as she sat in Optimus' cab, driving towards the arrival point.

"So who's on this ship? How many new buddies are we talkin' 'bout?" Wendy asked. It was a seemingly innocuous question, but Optimus' wheel jerked beneath her hands when she spoke. Startled, she let go for a moment, watching the dash with wide eyes, before Optimus calmed himself.

"I – apologize, you… caught me off guard." Caught him off guard? Asking about the new arrivals? Cocking an eyebrow, Wendy crossed her arms.

"Uh-huh." But she didn't push it – Optimus was on edge enough as it was. Deciding to let it slide, Wendy shrugged. The rest of the ride was in silence.

Wendy had never been so relieved to get out of the cab as she was when they pulled to the sight and stopped. Optimus was being downright odd, out of character, as if he'd done something wrong. And since this was Optimus, there was no way he'd done anything; he was a halo short of a saint. So, confused and concerned for her friend, Wendy stepped out and let him transform, eyes following him even as he narrowly avoided her gaze.

Ratchet and Bumblebee pulled up, transforming quickly, and turned their gaze skyward. Wendy had to chuckle at the yellow bot – he was practically beaming, bouncing from foot to foot, arms tense and fists clenched. Ratchet nudged him and told him to calm himself, but it was no good – he was as excited as a kid on his birthday. Approaching the two, Wendy decided to ask them her question. But just as she opened her mouth, the roar of engines entered the atmosphere.

Eyes flying skyward, Wendy found herself the witness of something few humans would ever see – a large white space craft landing on the desert floor. Bumblebee keened and jumped for joy, while Ratchet resigned himself to giving an uncharacteristic smile. But Optimus… eyes narrowed in concern, Wendy turned to see their leader looking almost distraught. A sharp, jagged pain struck her heart like lightning, but she couldn't say a word to try and console him. The roar of the landing ship drowned her out.

The ship came to a halt and its engines died down as the three Autobots and the human approached cautiously. Each was still somewhat tense – Wendy could tell they still weren't sure who exactly would come out of that ship – but behind that tense fear was a desire, a want, no a need for friendly faces and old allies returned home. Only Optimus' reaction seemed out of place; why would the leader seemingly fear these new arrivals?

A sharp release of air marked the opening of the bay doors – the bots raised their arms as if ready to fight, but didn't pull out any guns yet. The lights inside the ship were so bright they were blinding, keeping all four from being able to see the forms stepping up to the top of the exit. Through squinting eyes, Wendy could see four vague shapes… and then voices came from the brightness.

"Hey! Is that who I think it is?"

Out of the corner of her eye, Wendy saw the medic stiffen suddenly.

"Huh… I think it is, bro."

A groan escaped the medic and his optics seemed to twitch. Confused, Wendy almost turned to look at him, when suddenly two forms barreled out of the ship with such sudden speed that Bumblebee jumped, summoning up his weapons in defense of his medic. Luckily for the newcomers, Optimus held his hand out and shouted, "Stand down!" That was all that kept the yellow scout from firing at the red and yellow forms leaping at Ratchet.

Wendy was almost squished by their suddenly onslaught, and likely would've been if not for Optimus' quick save. From her safe perch in his palm, she watched the new arrivals hug the medic tightly, all while Ratchet grunted and fought and gave a snarl.

"Of all the glitched bots in the universe, it had to be you two!" Ratchet grumbled, trying to shove them off.

"Aw, come on, Ratchet, we were worried about you!" The red one cooed with a falsely slick tone.

"It's been eons! Weren't you worried about us?" The yellow one asked.

"More like worried for the poor bots forced to cope with you on their ship for solar cycles on end!" At this point, they were holding him in such a way that his arms were forced upward at an odd angle, making it hard for him to reach them and push them off. He struggled in vain, and eventually gave up, falling back to snarky words to fight with.

"Would you glitch heads get off!"

Perhaps because she was so fascinated by the strangely affectionate new arrivals, Wendy didn't notice the other two coming off the ship. One of them – large and brick red – approached the two bots, pulled them off Ratchet by the backs of the necks, and then slammed their heads together. The sharp CLANG had Wendy wincing in sympathy, as the two gave outcries of indignation.

"Come on! What was that for!"

"We're just saying hello to our favorite medic!"

"Yer bein' slag heads an' ya know it." The gruff red one muttered, before turning his gaze to Ratchet. The medic, somewhat ruffled, gave a burst of laughter and shook his head.

"Well, now that I know it was you with them on that ship, I don't feel so bad," He griped, and as he did, the red one chortled and crossed his arms.

"I'm pretty well equipped to handle those brats," He replied with a well-meaning grin as both of the "brats" stood back up.

Wendy watched the exchanged with growing humor, a grin spreading across her own face. "Friends of yours, Ratchet?"

The three newcomers turned their heads, stunned suddenly. "Whoa! What's that!" Wendy jumped when suddenly two faces were right in front of her, wide optics staring in curiosity. "A native?"

Optimus' other hand came around her, blocking her from view. "An ally – one you will treat with respect." As if they hadn't realized who'd been holding her – and they probably hadn't – the two bots jumped back, falling into military poses.



Wendy, grumbling and rolling her eyes, used the gaps in-between the Prime's fingers to climb up to the top. "Come on, boss, don't be so stiff. I wanna meet 'em!"

"Whoa… is she allowed to talk to him that way?" The red one asked.

"Yes," Ratchet answered with a smug smile.

Before anymore could be said between the group, a new voice entered the conversation, echoing out from the ship.

"Optimus Prime."

The leader stiffened, Wendy could feel it through his palm, and suddenly his sharp optics snapped up to the doorway. Coming down the ramp was a bot about the size of Bumblebee, though a tad thinner, colored in various shades of pink. Once she was out of the light, it was much easier to see her. Sharp features, bright yellow optics, and a soft smile covered her feminine face. Her gaze was focused solely on Optimus, looking very pleased. Something about the exchanged put Wendy on edge… she looked up to see Optimus looking… longingly. A sharp pain hit her right in the chest, like a bullet to the heart.

The femme grinned at his look, then suddenly spoke up. "All clear, Skyfire."

Suddenly the ship they'd been on began to whirl and grind, transforming before them into a huge mech about twice as tall as Ratchet, who towered even over Optimus. But he had a disarming smile on his sweet face, which Wendy might've noticed if she weren't so distracted by the knowing looks being traded between Optimus and this new femme. The woman forced herself to look away, focusing on the newest bot.

This one was colored red and white, and was now staring at her with wonder and curiosity. "Amazing…" The bot whispered. "I hadn't expected to come into contact with the native life so soon… fascinating…"

"If you weren't expecting it to happen, how is it you're speakin' my language right now?" Wendy asked, standing tall in Optimus' hold.

"Prime sent us a download with yer planet's primary languages in it, for yer benefit, I 'spose," The big red one muttered. "Name's Ironhide." He looked down at her with bright optics, though one was cut through by a nasty scar. Still, for all his formidable bulk and the horrific scars covering him, he seemed warm and friendly. Smiling, Wendy held her hand out.

"Gwendolyn Martin. Call me Wendy." Then she held her hand up for a handshake out of habit – but sheepishly realized that was not really plausible. Ironhide stared at her hand in confusion as she slowly began to lower it. "Right… forgot you're not locals."

Ironhide shrugged, which was a strangely human gesture that put Wendy at ease, as the mech turned and gestured to the two bots behind him. "Those two brats are Sunstreaker and Sideswipe," He pointed to the yellow one when he said Sunstreaker, though with a name like that, it was sort of obvious which one it was. Sideswipe was the red one. "They're uh… what would ya call 'em?"

"I believe the English human term would be 'brothers'." Ratchet clarified. Surprised, Wendy looked over to him.

"I didn't realize y'all had relations like that."

"We do, though they are rare." The medic had his arms crossed, and was trying desperately to ignore the two irritants standing on either side of him. Luckily for him, they soon turned their attention to the fascinating little creature in front of them.

"Wow, you're tiny. And you're a femme!" Sideswipe leaned down so his face was close to her, and she jumped back in retaliation. "I could squish you with my smallest digit!"

"And I could spit in yer eye from here, do ya mind?" Putting her hands on her hips, she cocked an eyebrow at the mech, who only laughed.

"Fiesty and small. Reminds me of you, Bee!" Sideswipe stood up and looked to the yellow bot, who spat out a fast paced line of squeaks and beeps that didn't sound polite. Meanwhile, the other twin leaned down to her, scrutinizing her with a dark look.

"You've got our symbol on your arm…" Remembering her tattoo, Wendy's hand instinctively flew to touch it, as she suddenly grew more self-conscious. "Never heard of a native from another planet joining the cause." He didn't really sound very thrilled about her joining up, either.

"Wendy is a special case – I owe her my life." Surprise and awe flew across the faces of the bots, who now looked down to Wendy with widened optics.

At that moment, the femme, who had thus far stood quietly smirking, hands on her hips, stepped forward. The mechs around her parted, making way for her to walk to Prime. Through his palm, Wendy felt him straighten up almost self-consciously, a nervous look coming over his face, and another pang of sharp agony hit her right in the chest. She didn't like this… not at all.

"Optimus… it's been a very long time." The femme stopped a mere foot from the taller mech, looking up with a broad smile. Uneasy, Wendy stepped away from her, until she hit Optimus's chest with a light clang. That drew the femme's attention downwards. "Wendy, was it? It's a pleasure to meet you." Then, to the human's great surprise, the femme raised her hand in the same way Wendy had earlier. She likely had no idea what it meant, but did it anyway because it was what Wendy had done. The pain from earlier lessened some, in the wake of surprise that this stranger was trying to make her feel at ease. "My name is Elita-One."

Slowly, Wendy lifted her hand back up, and took hold of one of Elita's slim fingers. Then, she moved her hand up and down, and the femme copied her. "The pleasure's mine." Wendy smiled, and she found the sentiment wasn't fake. Though the femme might make her uneasy, she seemed very kind.

When they lowered their hands, Elita looked back to Optimus.

"I have much to tell, sir, but perhaps this isn't the place to tell it."

Optimus nodded in reply. "We have a base not far from here, but we will have to take our alternate forms to keep from being seen. Our presence here is a closely guarded secret from the general public." As he spoke, Ratchet approached Ironhide, and then the others, one by one. "We've taken the liberty of choosing alt-modes for you that will blend in. Skyfire," He turned to the mech, who straightened as his name was called. "I'm afraid vehicles of your type are very rare and mostly unseen in this society – you will have to follow us from high above to avoid being seen or detected."

"Of course, sir," He nodded. "I will follow your beacons to the base." Then he leapt up, transformed, and flew up into the clouds.

With a little more hustle bustle, everyone eventually transformed, and Wendy took her place in Optimus' cab. The mech still seemed extremely nervous, almost uptight, which was odd given how relaxed he'd come to be around her in the past few weeks. It made Wendy anxious, and she couldn't help but think it had something to do with Elita-One… worried and confused, she spent the ride back to base in deep thought, unsure of what to do or think…

"Hey, look bro! Another femme!"

"This 'femme' has a name."

Arcee crossed her arms, optics narrowed at the two red and yellow Lamboghinis as they came to a halt and transformed within the base, having barreled in at alarming speeds. The humans reactions were mixed – Raf was taken off guard, and would've fallen off the walkway if Bulkhead hadn't caught him; Jack jumped in surprise, but quickly was in awe of the gorgeous vehicles; and Miko gave a cheer at the speed demons as they raced in.

"Cool!" The teen raced to the railing to see them, eyes bright and wide. She was the one the twins turned to first.

"Another femme… there's a lot of them around here." Sunstreaker commented. "Humans must have a lot more of them than we do."

"What's a femme?" Miko asked, scrunching her face as if the term might be harmful.

"A femme's a female transformer – Miko is a 'girl'," Bulkhead explained both to the human and to the bots.

"Oh. Hello, 'girl'." Sunstreaker grinned.

"I am not 'girl'! My name is Miko!" Both the twins chuckled.

"Human femmes are really fiery." Sideswipe murmured in a way that sounded complimentary.

Before more could be said, more vehicles piled through the base entrance; Ironhide and Ratchet came next, transforming and continuing a conversation they must've been holding by comm link on the way there. Then Optimus arrived, then Elita, and lastly Skyfire, who had already transformed and was walking in instead of flying.

The twins, meanwhile, had turned their attentions from Miko to Arcee, who was glowering at them. Sideswipe let his optics run up and down her form, before leaning onto the human walkway, which gave a violent creak when he did. With a quirked eyebrow he greeted her. "How you doin'?"

Scowling, Arcee glared. "You've been here for a matter of hours, how is it you've already encountered the dredges of human culture?"

"The internet." The yellow twin offered helpfully behind his slightly more obnoxious brother.

"It was a long drive over here; we were online the whole way!" Sideswipe grinned even as she scoffed and walked past him.

Ratchet, meanwhile, had heard their conversation and turned to glower at Ironhide. "You let them on the internet!" The bigger mech, for his part, looked befuddled.

"What's the internet?"

The twins laughed loudly. "No matter what planet we're on, Ironhide's too old to keep up!" The kept laughing even as the mech grimaced at them and crossed his bulky arms.

It was odd just how quickly the new comers acclimated to the group as a whole.

The humans were thrilled to meet new Autobots; Miko, unsurprisingly, took best to Ironhide, and all of them seemed to enjoy his elaborate war stories, even Fowler, when he was around for them. Jack spoke quite a bit with Elita – maybe it was because he had the most experience with Femmes, maybe because he was the most mature of them and Elita respected that. Whatever it was, the two spoke often, and Arcee was also included. It seemed she was rather relieved to have another Femme on board.

Raf, by being best pals with Bumblebee, found himself with the twins the most. The young bots knew Bumblebee from Cybertron, and the three related most to each other due to how close they were in age. Raf, though somewhat overwhelmed by the two's exuberant personalities, was thrilled to be the center of attention, since both of them were very curious and had plenty of questions for him.

As for Skyfire, the shy mech seemed to prefer watching the others interact rather than joining in. The night the group arrived found them all partying into the night, divided up in the command center. Ironhide, Bulkhead, Arcee, Jack, and Miko were all listening to more of Ironhide's stories; Raf and Bumblebee were introducing the twins to the wonders of video games. Skyfire, having stood near Ratchet, was speaking with him quietly; and in the very back, away from the others, Optimus and Elita stood leaning against the wall, drinking energon.

Which left Wendy standing in the hall, watching.

Arms crossed, mood sour, face twisted into a reluctant grimace, Wendy watched her friends enjoying themselves, much too irritated to join in. The woman herself would never admit what had gotten under her skin, of course, but for most everyone in the room – save perhaps the newcomers – the reason was obvious. Every so often, Ratchet would glance over at her, examining as if to look for clues to her mood. Miko kept looking back and forth between her and the boss, frowning, and a few times it seemed Jack kept her from shouting anything unintelligent and perhaps damaging to one or the other.

Wendy, for her part, didn't really care. Yes, she was moping, and she knew it. But she felt she had the right to mope. She'd be over it in the morning of course… or maybe the next day. In a week? A month? Eventually she'd move on, but for the moment the woman was cursing her pit-forsaken luck, trying to ignore the burning sharp agony that was her heart at the moment.

Disappointment's part of life, girl, she thought dryly to herself as her gaze fell to the ground. Suck it up.

With a sigh, she turned and walked out of the room, down the hall towards her bedroom.

Elita watched her crew interact with Optimus', a smile on her face. It had been a long time since they'd been able to celebrate anything – turning to Optimus to state her thoughts, she found his optics glued on her. Smirking, she asked, "Like what you see?"

Immediately the mech became flustered and lowered his gaze, though he gave a soft smile. It was a followed by a sigh, heavy and mournful, which surprised the femme. "I just… I never thought I'd see you again. After we left Cybertron and lost contact with your team… I thought I'd lost you."

Raising her servo, Elita trailed her fingertips over the mech's handsome face. "Never, Optimus. I'll be here for as long as you need me." Her hand lingered on his chin, lovingly.

His optics glanced away in nervousness – but not the kind she'd come to expect from him. Nerves from intimacy, from sincere closeness with another, she expected; but this was much harsher. This look was the one of someone keeping a secret. Frowning, she slowly lowered her hand, feeling a little disturbed, but did not mention it.

"It's been so long. I've dreamt of this but now that I am here… I can hardly believe it." Giving a sigh of her own, she leaned back and looked over her crew.

"I understand completely."

Optimus spoke with such dire heaviness it seemed out of place with the conversation – as if a weight was laying on him, forcing him down. Confused and concerned, narrowed optics turned back to him. "Optimus… are you sure you're all right?"

Slowly, he looked up to Elita, and nodded. "I will be."

For a moment, she simply watched him, then nodded and looked away. Her optics caught the sight of a human in the hallway. "Why is Wendy not participating?"

At the name, his head snapped up, looking where she was looking. Wendy turned then and walked down the hall, and Optimus quickly stood to follow her.

"Excuse me, Elita, I must… Wendy seems… I should check on her." With that stumbling excuse, the bot rushed away down the hall, leaving Elita to stare in shock after him. Her spark tightened, feeling the pain of something, some wall rising between them, and she gave a bittersweet smile.

"Of course… Optimus."

Optimus rushed after his human friend, catching up quickly with his much larger steps.

"Wendy. Wendy!" She didn't seem to hear him, or was ignoring him. Optimus couldn't decide which. Finally she slid to a halt, still facing away from him, shoulders stiff.

"Whatcha need, boss bot?" She mumbled, head low. Optimus's optics trailed over her, worried, brow furrowed.

"Are you feeling all right?" He finally asked. In response, the woman shrugged.

"Just tired. Think I'll head to bed." She began to walk again. Optimus, watching her go, found himself torn between following her, and returning to Elita. He glanced behind, then ahead, again and again. As he did, Wendy went further and further away. "Wendy!"

The woman didn't pause, but called back. "Yeah?"

Feet shuffling as if unsure whether to stay or follow, Optimus finally paused, and simply raised his head. "Good night."

Wendy hesitated for just a moment; glanced back over her shoulder. Her eyes were narrowed, dark, almost wearisome. "Night, boss." Then she turned and left.

Optimus stood in the hall, his pose so unlike his usually regal stand: shoulders slumped, optics narrow and low, mouth downturned. He stood in the middle, between Elita and Wendy, unsure of which one he should go to, unable to decide which one he wanted most.

Time did not make things better.

In fact, the wound seemed to hurt more and more as time went on. Whenever Wendy walked into a room and saw the two together – be it for strategy meetings or just meeting for lunch – her heart squeezed tight to bursting, and she found a quick excuse to leave. She hadn't been alone with Optimus in days, and made a point not to be. If Optimus noticed she was avoiding him, he didn't say.

He's too caught up with his girlfriend to notice, the woman thought somberly. She tried not to be bitter – she was happy that Optimus was happy. Really she was.

The others definitely noticed she was down though. The woman took to avoiding them, too. Eventually, she found she was spending most of her time in her room or at the cliff she and Optimus went to in the evenings.

Sometimes she still had hope that Elita and her crew would leave and things would go back to normal. Maybe she was imagining the closeness between them; or maybe Cybertronian society was different. Maybe she was his sister or something. In the dark of the night, Wendy would comfort herself with these weak hopes and thoughts, until the day she went to the cliff and found Optimus there, with Elita, watching the sunset.

Whatever slim hopes she'd had faded into darkness then.

"You're avoiding him."

Wendy snorted at Ratchet's words. She was sitting in the med bay, having been called there by Ratchet. She'd tried to get out of it, but after some creative threats of what he'd do to her if she didn't come, the woman huffed and gave in. So she sat on the nearest berth, watching the medic work, unsure of why she was there.

If he's trying to cheer me up, he might as well not bother. The woman lowered her gaze.

"Took you this long to notice?" Ratchet glared over his shoulder at her, and she just shrugged. She didn't feel like being nice.

Returning to his work, Ratchet fell silent for a little while. "I… apologize."

Wendy jumped. "What for?" Surprised by the statement, she watched as the medic gave up his work and turned to her, leaning his back against his desk.

"I knew of his history with Elita – but it never occurred to me she might return. It's been so long… I had assumed, like him, that she had been lost. And though I am very glad she is not… I am sorry I did not warn you." Ratchet looked surprisingly concerned and empathetic, unlike his usual sour disposition.

"So they're really… some Cybertronian equivalent of lovers? Husband and wife? Girlfriend, boyfriend?" The woman found her tone growing darker as she spoke.

"For a time, they were… I suppose you would say engaged. The war interrupted that." Pausing, the medic seemed to lose himself in memories for a moment. "I truly believe that Optimus feels something for you – but his past feelings for Elita are now, to him, an obligation which he will not turn aside."

Confused, the woman crossed her arms. "… what?"

The medic rolled his optics. "Optimus cares for you – but now that Elita has returned, he will not turn her aside because he is, as far as they are concerned, still engaged to her. But he does care for you!" He insisted.

Cold, bitter pain sunk her chest in. "That's supposed to make me feel better?" She mumbled.

Ratchet sighed, looking aside. "No… I suppose not."

The med bay doors opened, interrupting their conversation, and both turned to see the tall form of the Prime stride in.

"Ratchet, I need your… Wendy." His gaze had shifted from the medic to her as he spoke, his voice slowing as he saw her. The woman tried to smile at him, tried not to let her pain seem to obvious.

"Sorry. I'll get out of your way." She stood to get down – Ratchet reached out and helped her to the floor. Then she left the room, hands in her pockets, unshed tears in the corners of her eyes.

Optimus and Ratchet watched her leave – and once she left the room, Ratchet turned angry eyes on his friends. "You are a fool!"

"You think I do not realize that!" The quick response surprised Ratchet, who had not expected that much anger and pain from his friend. Optimus quickly calmed himself down, sighing and looking away. "Forgive me, my friend. … I am… at a loss." He slumped against a nearby berth, head low. "… not a week ago I learned of Wendy's feelings for me. I was honored, and I was happy. But not a day after, Elita returns to me." Somber eyes looked up to his friend, sharp pain hidden behind walls of denial. "How can I love one and not harm the other?"

Slowly, Ratchet approached, sitting next to his friend in a rare show of comfort. A hand covered Optimus's. "You can't."

They sat in silence for a little while. Optimus let Ratchet hold his hand, sitting side by side, taking a comfort he rarely allowed himself to have. "Then what do I do?"

"You could look at it logically." Ratchet offered. "Wendy is human. Elita is Cybertronian. With Elita, you could have sparklings. You could spend the rest of your lives together. You could be intimate. With Wendy, there is no chance of progeny – and perhaps no ability to be intimate together. Not to mention the fact that she will die given sixty or seventy years, leaving you alone for eons to come."

"I know all of that," Optimus sighed, and in a strange show of emotion, scrunched his face in pain, optics closed, mouth crumpled, as if he'd been physically hit. "I realize that. But why does my spark still ache for her?"

The medic watched the emotions run over his usually stoic's friends face, feeling his own spark tighten in realization. "Wait… your spark wants Wendy? But… she doesn't even have a spark!"

"Does she not?" Optimus looked up, weary eyes opening. "Perhaps not a Cybertronian spark… but humans speak of having souls. Perhaps that is what my spark reaches out to – her human soul." He lifted his hand out of Ratchet's hold to touch his chest. "I feel her here… I want her. My spark once ached this way for Elita, but now… all I can think of is her."

"I didn't… I never conceived that a Cybertronian spark could reach out to a human being…" Ratchet was clearly shaken. "But… but all of the issues standing between you…"

"I could very well die long before her," The leader admitted, glancing down. "This war… Megatron… I am likely to be killed in battle long before old age takes her from me."

"Don't speak like that!" But even as he protested, Ratchet knew there was a grain of truth in what the mech was saying.

"But Elita…" Sighing, the mech looked away. "I…"

"It seems, to me, you have already made your choice."

The two fell silent, Optimus still staring holes into the floor, as Ratchet sat patiently by, acting as the rock of support that Optimus so often was for him. The switch in roles was disconcerting, but it was good to know his friend still needed him sometimes.

"How am I to tell her?" He didn't specify which female he was speaking of, but Ratchet seemed to understand what he was asking.

"You'll have to speak privately to both of them. And quickly, since I believe Wendy is having a trying time of it at the moment. The sooner you tell the truth, the better." Ratchet stood, giving his friend some space. "I can't tell you how to tell them… you know them best."

He nodded. "I do." A resolute frown came over him, determined though pained, as he knew what he had to do and though he didn't like it, he was going to see it through.

It was then the alarm sounded.

Sorry this one's short and bittersweet - hope to get the next one out quickly!

As for the newest episode (which I'm sure we've all seen~) - I really love the new developments, but I don't want to address them just yet. I haven't decided how to use them. Either I'll take the final episode and go my own way with it, or I'll wait until some of season two has come out, so I can follow the series plot. Any suggestions from the readers? If you have an idea I'll certainly take it into consideration.

Thanks for reading!