Chapter 20: I'll Always Be There

Watching the ground bridge open with both eagerness and hope that nothing bad happened, Cole and Kira watched as Smokescreen, followed closely by Bumblebee trotted through slowly coming to a stop.

Hollering with giddy intent, Smokescreen held up the prize of the battle in his hand; the mystery relic that was the cause for the whole fight today. "WOOH! HA! Those 'Cons never knew what hit 'em!"

Beeping in a simple agreement, Bumblebee nodded in approval.

Coming through the ground bridge, Arcee was quick and spoke harshly. "Ratchet, have your medical kit ready. Optimus was hurt pretty bad."

"What?!" Lurching forward suddenly, Cole stared at Arcee unsure of what she had just said. "Dad was hurt?! How? Is he gonna be okay?!"

Looking at Bumblebee and Smokescreen, Ratchet spoke quickly. "Take the sparklings into the sparing room and keep them there until I call for you. "

Just then Bulkhead emerged through the ground bridge holding Optimus helping him to walk.

Seeing this, Cole and Kira immediately panicked and tried to run toward him.

"DAD!"

"DADDY!"

Stopping them from getting any closer, Ratchet held them back and looked at Smokescreen and Bumblebee. "I said take them to the sparing room and keep them there until I call for you. At the moment this is no place for them to be."

Taking Kira into his arms, Bumblebee motioned for Smokescreen to take Cole, to which he slowly obliged.

Taking Melody off the medical berth that Optimus now needed, Arcee watched, holding Melody close to her chest.

Looking at Arcee, Ratchet spoke quickly. "Give the little one to Bulkhead and have him go with Bumblebee and Smokescreen. Arcee, I need you to help me."

Doing so, Arcee quickly turned back around and started to assist Ratchet in removing some the abdominal plating on Optimus' frame so that Ratchet could make the necessary repairs.

Looking up to Bulkhead who was still watching, Ratchet spoke shortly. "Bulkhead, this is no place for her to be."

Motioning with a nod of his head toward Melody who was intently watching her sire who was fully conscious and watching her, Bulkhead slowly nodded and turned away.

With all the sparklings now gone and the room quiet, Ratchet looked at Arcee and sighed attaching a cable to Optimus that would put him into stasis. "Let's begin."

Sitting between Bumblebee and Smokescreen, Cole huffed loudly wanting answers. "What happened at the sight of the Decepticon space bridge guys?! How did dad get hurt?! Why won't you tell me anything?!"

Sighing, Bulkhead walked over slowly sitting on the ground to join them. "Kid, you don't want to know about it. All you need to know is that Optimus got in a fight with Megatron, beat the scrap out of him, sort of got beat up too and now needs just a little patch work."

Looking at Bulkhead from Bumblebee's lap, Kira pleaded. "So…daddy is going to be okay?"

Chuckling half-heartedly Bulkhead nodded. "Of course he's going to be okay. Ratchet just didn't want us around so that it was quiet and he could think. Ratchet will be able to fix Optimus up like new and I'm sure you kids will be able to be with him before the day is out."

The room for a brief moment fell silent until Cole sighed deep in thought. "So you guys got the relic from Megatron, huh?"

Smiling broadly, Smokescreen immediately perked up puffing out his chest. "yes I did! Took the relic right out from under the 'Con's olfactory sensors!"

Rolling his optics with a scoff, Bulkhead shook his head turning his attention to Smokescreen. "Oh please, Megatron dropped it when he was fighting with Optimus, and as soon as the coast was clear and all Decepticons were neutralized you grabbed it."

Looking away, feeling kind of deflated, Smokescreen huffed. "Well, I still got it, didn't I?"

Laughing softly, both Cole and Kira covered their mouths trying to hide their giggling.

Even Melody after hearing her siblings giggle had to in turn laugh herself, which made both Bulkhead and Bumblebee smile, hiding snorts of laughter.

Scowling at the two small sparklings, Smokescreen did a childish action and without any hesitation stuck his glossa out at the two…who…casually in response…returned the gesture simultaneously.

Bursting out into a roar of laughter, Bulkhead shook his head looking at the three. "Well, at least we don't have to worry about Bucket Head having the relic anymore. Now, it's going in our vault."

Getting up from Bumblebee's lap only to fall down into Bulkhead's, Kira laid in a sprawled out manner staring up at Bulkhead. Looking down from Bulkhead's arms, Melody squawked looking at Bulkhead.

Looking down, Bulkhead was met with Kira's gaze watching him intently.

"Bulkhead, why do you call Megatron, 'Bucket-Head'?"

Looking away for a moment, the green bot gently chuckled and shrugged. "Well, if you ever get a chance to look at Meg's headset closely, which I hope you never do, it actually does kind of look like an upside down bucket. That and it's a nickname he REALLY doesn't like…so whenever I get the chance, that's what I call him."

Looking away only to indirectly meet the gazes of Bumblebee and Smokescreen, Kira huffed. "Well, at least Megatron isn't like Ratchet and spanks you every time you call him by a mean nickname."

Snorting a laugh suddenly, Bulkhead shot a look down to Kira, who was still looking at Bumblebee, Smokescreen and now Cole too.

"Ratchet did WHAT to you?!"

Covering his mouth to quiet his own laughter, Cole stared up at Bulkhead, smiling from underneath his hand. "Ratchet spanked Kira after she accidently called him 'Dr. Grumps-A-Lot'."

Quickly pulling her finger up to her mouth and 'shh'ing Cole, She looked around Bulkhead and the others wearily. "If Ratchet hears you, he'll spank ALL of us!"

Just then all male bots present burst out laughing.

Kira huffed folding her arms in a pout. "It's not funny! My butt still hurts!"

That only made them laugh harder.

Looking away pouting, Kira jutted out her bottom lip plate. "You guys are big meanies."

"Well it's nice to see that you guys are keeping their spirits up, not they should have been down in the first place."

Just then both Cole and Kira peered past Bulkhead to see Arcee standing in the entrance of the sparing room.

"Arcee!" Jumping up from his place between Bumblebee and Smokescreen, Cole stopped just inches in front of Arcee, with Kira close behind him. "Is dad going to be okay?"

Looking at the two, Arcee smiled warmly nodding. "Yes, he's going to be just fine. Ratchet just had to fix a few things that had been damaged in his mid section and the rest will heal on its own with time."

Standing on the tips of her stabilizing servos, Kira held onto the armor on Arcee's hip. "Can we see him?"

Laughing softly, Arcee nodded. "Yes of course you can. He's actually asking for you."

Almost immediately, Cole and Kira fought each other briefly to be the first out of the room; then, at a much slower pace, the other bots followed.

He was sitting up on the medical berth talking to Ratchet when the duo sparklings came blazing into the room shouting his name.

They were met with a warm comforting smile.

Both scrambled onto the medical berth and practically threw themselves onto Optimus.

This, much to Optimus' amusement, displeased Ratchet. "Hey! Don't be jumping all over him like he's some kind of human 'jungle-gym'! He needs rest and does not need you two to break open the welds I had to make."

Looking at Ratchet for a brief moment, and then to Optimus, both Cole and Kira closely inspected the large solid metal plate braced around Optimus mid section; a brace that which restricted him from bending and made it difficult for him to sit or stand.

Gently caressing her fingers over the protective metal sheeting, Kira looked up at Optimus with worry. "Daddy, does it hurt?"

Looking down at Kira, Optimus' gaze was warm and gentle, showing no indication of the aching that lay beneath. "With you, your brother and your sister by my side; it doesn't hurt at all."

Gently leaning against him, Kira rested her hands and face against his chest, to which Cole did the same.

With much care, Optimus slowly leaned into their caressing touches and wrapped the two in his arms in a tight embrace, ignoring and bypassing the pain receptors being triggered by doing so.

Letting them go after a moment of two, Optimus' gaze drifted up to meet that of Bulkhead and Melody.

Eagerly awaiting her sire's hands, Melody giggled and cooed, happy just to be in Optimus' arms again.

Letting Melody's probing digit's run over his face, Optimus gently nuzzled into the touches, just thankful to be able to have them.

Clearing his vocalizer with the indirect purpose to bring Optimus back to the reality, Ratchet groaned softly. "Optimus…"

Looking up, Optimus watched Ratchet with simple intent, not saying a word.

Taking that as a signal to continue, ratchet groaned softly taking the relic from Smokescreen. "What do you intend to do with this? We all know that it is much too dangerous to keep on base seeing as how it's only a matter of time before the Decepticons trace its location here."

Looking at Ratchet and then at the others, Optimus was slow in handing Melody to Cole. He then slowly rose to his full height, refusing Smokescreen or Bulkhead's aid in getting up.

Very cautiously, Optimus approached Ratchet, taking the relic from his hand.

Turning it over in his own hands, Optimus was quiet for some time until finally looking up at Ratchet.

"Ratchet, with the use of this relic, could the ground bridge be reconfigured to access any dimension?"

Nodding simply, Ratchet sighed. "Naturally. That was one of the relic's intended purposes."

Growing quiet again, Optimus' attention drifted back to the relic.

Watching Optimus do this, Bulkhead moved toward Optimus slowly, watching his optics study the relic. "Optimus, what are you thinking?"

Looking up from the relic in his possession toward Bulkhead, and then to Cole, Kira and Melody…Optimus sighed bringing his optics back to meet Bulkhead's as well as the optics of every other Autobot present. "I was a fool."

The room grew quiet as Optimus very gradually made his way over to Ratchet's work bench, setting the relic down on its surface. "Megatron now may be detained from conquering other dimensions, however now he will undoubtedly be seeking revenge against me for his defeat. I have no doubts that he will try to achieve that form of revenge by attempting to take away something of higher value to me than a relic."

Coming up beside Bulkhead, Arcee watched. "What do you mean?"

Resting against the work bench, Optimus watched the group with strained, arduous optics. "I have no doubts now, that Megatron will be even more determined than ever to apprehend Cole, Kira and Melody, and use them as leverage against me; if not just kill them to inflict punishment for his failure."

Looking down at Cole, Kira and Melody who now stood motionless between his and Bulkhead's leg, Smokescreen huffed. "So they stay here in the base to keep away from Megatron and the Decepticons. That's not really a big deal."

Standing up to his full height, Optimus' optics were harsh with serious intent. "Yes Smokescreen, I could have them stay here locked away in the base for the remainder of their lives, never be able to go outside and experience what they should be able to have."

The room was quiet as Optimus moved to stand in front of the ground bridge; staring into it with uneasy intent. "Cole, Kira and Melody should not have to be denied the rightful life they deserve. Living here would only confine them; ultimately destroying what little childhood they have left. I was a fool who was selfish in thinking I was doing the right thing for them as well as myself by bringing them here. I was too emotional in letting them convince me that this scenario would have worked, that everything would have been all right, when ultimately I was only sealing their fate to tragic demise…"

Optimus bowed his head slowly, not once turning away from the ground bridge. "Ratchet, use the relic and activate the ground bridge to the coordinates upon which Cole, Kira and Melody's home dimension resides. I am taking them back to be with their rightful family upon which where they will be out of danger."

Watching Optimus, none of the Autobots could believe what their Prime was doing.

Was he really giving up?

Looking at the others, mainly Cole and Kira who were watching with wide, horrified optics, Ratchet looked to Optimus. "Optimus…you…you cannot be serious? After everything you and the children have been through—?"

"Ratchet—." Looking over his shoulder, Optimus' optics were heavy and exhausted. "This is something that I have to do. For the good of everyone who is involved…this is the way it has to be. For them…and for me..."

To much of Ratchet's dismay the children indeed proved to be somewhat annoying to him from time to time, but even so he too had to admit that they were beginning to grow on him. In most respects, along with the presence of Jack, Miko and Rafael; they made the base feel like a much brighter and warmer place to return to. Even Optimus had proved to have a much gentler, easy going attitude with them around. They honestly brought out a better side in him. They brought out the better side in all of the Autobots. They gave them all just a little bit something more to fight for.

So how could Optimus choose to do this to them? How could he choose to do this to himself?

"Optimus—." Ratchet reached forward trying to talk some sense into the Prime.

Just then out of nowhere, the sound of shattering metal screamed through the room.

Everyone turned around only to see Kira standing by ratchet's work bench with remnants of what WAS the relic by her feet. Sucking air heavily through her intakes, she gasped for air trying to fend off the urge to cry out.

Moving past the other's Optimus practically fell to his knees if front of Kira, holding her shoulders, his optics were wide with stunned bewilderment.

The relic had been destroyed.

The rest of the Autobots stood back and watched as Optimus watched Kira, dumbstruck. "K-Kira?!"

Looking up Kira heaved herself into Optimus' arms, trying hard to hide the pain and regret of knowingly having done something so awful and so wrong. "I could let you send us back daddy, I just couldn't! You say that you want to do what's best for everyone, but sometimes what's the smart thing to do isn't always the right thing! You say that you love us, but doesn't loving us also mean that you're never willing to give up on somebody even when the odds are stacked against you?! Daddy, we're a family! All of us! And no matter what we HAVE to stay together!" Looking away Kira held her hands to her face, trying to hide the hurt. "Daddy, I would rather die than lose you! And I'm certain Cole and Melody feel the same way. I know I may be small and may not know a whole lot…but I do know that in my spark…I need my daddy."

Burying her face into her hands, Kira couldn't bear the thought of having to face up to Optimus who no doubt-ably was furious with her for breaking such an important and powerful device just to stop him from making a horrible, fear-driven mistake. However, much to Kira's surprise, her hands were pulled away from her face by large, gentle caressing digits, and her moistened optics were met by that of warm, gentle understanding optics.

Optimus' smile could not hide the amount of warmth, love and pride he felt toward Kira right now. Even though she had done something that in any other circumstance might have greatly hindered the Autobot cause; she did so out of one thing that all decisions should be based off of…she destroyed the only chance they had at returning to their rightful dimension…out of love.

And nothing in that gesture could be even remotely punished.

Holding her face in his massive palms, Optimus rested his forehead against Kira's and purred. "You…are the most…ignorant, stubborn, foolish little girl I have ever met. You're filled with the same ingenuity, spunk and determination of your mother and that of which any Cybertronian needs to be a great warrior. Though you may be young, you are still wise beyond your years and have more than enough capability to understand what is the right thing to do…even if the right thing isn't always the easiest."

Looking up at Optimus, Kira couldn't help but hide a small smile. "So does this mean we can stay?"

Looking down at the shattered relic, Optimus raised a playful brow. " I suppose you somewhat have to…now that the relic is destroyed."

Walking up and kneeling beside the two with Cole and Melody coming around to Optimus side, Ratchet chuckled. "Well, at least with the relic's destruction, it also destroys the energy signal being emitted and once again allows are base to be fully protected."

Laughing, Smokescreen grinned. "So I guess this means that everything for now is going to be okay?"

Looking between Cole, Kira and Melody, Optimus' chest immediately filled to capacity with the warm sense of pride and reassurance. Though they faced a rough road ahead with the ongoing war, Optimus knew that things were going to be all right. Even though the future ahead was still unclear and had yet to be written, Optimus couldn't help but feel the assurance that this was the way it was meant to be…this was always the way it was meant to be.

No matter what challenges lay ahead, Optimus, Cole, Kira and ever other bot present knew that with hard work, courage, determination and just a little bit a faith, the idea of a better more promising future lay ahead…

iMany years passed since that moment in the old Autobot base, and many things had changed.

Standing high above landscape in a remote portion of the Colorado plains, a massive being stood surveying the scene. He was tall, broad-built, wide in the chest and stood with the world on his shoulders. He emanated the very feeling of pride, honor and nobility, but equally reflected the qualities of humility, truth and equality.

His dark blue armor reflecting in the burning rays of the setting sun, only further illuminating the orange lining on his armor.

With a heavy, deep sigh, the machine watched as the night's cool hand began to lay down over the land.

"Cole! Hey!"

Turning, the mechs burning blue optics softened, seeing a tall petite young femme of pink and purple armor approach, her heavy duty long-range energon rifle resting lack on her shoulder as she strolled up next to him.

Chuckling with a deep tone in his voice the bot looked away. "Only you still call me that Kira."

Laughing with a forceful nudge to his shoulder, the femme huffed. "Oh I'm sorry…Mr. Coleus Prime sir! I didn't mean to disrespect you SIR!"

Sharing a laugh, the two stared off into the setting sun, watching the stars begin to shine through the atmosphere.

"To think that only ten years ago, dad actually chose YOU to become the next Prime." Looking up at the tall blue mech, Kira smirked. "I think dad was just a little bit crazed in his weakened state, that he actually chose YOU to be his protégée."

Lightly pushing her away, Cole huffed. "Oh shut up. Why do you constantly have to pick on me? I'm technically your superior officer you know!"

Laughing Kira beamed. "Maybe so…but I'm still you sister…and that alone gives me grounds to pick on you!"

Sharing another small chuckle, Cole and Kira fell quiet for some time before Cole spoke again. "I miss dad. Even though it's been about ten years since his death…I still feel like maybe this war would be over already if he was leading instead of me."

Looking up with solemn optics, Kira sighed resting his hand on Cole's much higher shoulder. "Maybe so big brother…but dad's tragic demise could not be helped and the war continues on. He did the only thing he could have done in what little time he had left and chose who he thought would lead the Autobots to victory."

Sighing Cole shrugged. "Maybe so—." Lifting a hand, Cole rested his palm on his chest, just above where the Matrix of Leadership now since resided within him. "-but I still have to wonder if dad made the right choice in choosing me."

Rubbing his shoulders encouragingly, Kira laughed. "Of course he made the right choice. If you ask me, I think he had you picked out for the job while we were still kids."

Smiling, Cole closed his optics, remaining to himself. "Oh those where the days. Things were far more simple back then."

Nodding, Kira smiled and shrugged. "Maybe so, but we aren't kids anymore. And this isn't Jasper."

Nodding in agreement, Cole shared an agreeing smile. "Oh how right you are little sister."

"Commander Prime sir…"

Turning away from Kira, Cole stoop unfolding his arms over his massive chest, taking in the sight of a somewhat smaller approaching blue and white Autobot. "Mirage, what have you to report?"

Standing before Cole, the Autobot rolled his optics and sighed tiredly. "Its Lieutenant Melody sir, she's just lead one of our strike teams into a Decepticon energon stronghold and now is facing heavy enemy fire and is requesting backup."

Unfolding his arms, Cole frowned letting an evident displeased growl escape his vocalizer. "Oh Primus almighty! What am I going to do with her?!" Looking to Mirage, Cole huffed. "Do we have any Autobots within close proximity?"

Nodding Mirage lead the way back to the base. "Yes, Sunstreaker and Sideswipe are about two clicks due north of her position. Arcee and Firestar are enroot now and Bumblebee and Smokescreen are awaiting orders to roll out from the ground bridge."

Looking back to Kira and then to Mirage, Cole sighed stiffly. "What about Bulkhead and Ironhide?"

Looking to Cole, Mirage shrugged. "They have yet to report in from their energon scouting mission sir."

Calling from behind, Kira huffed. "What about Wheeljack? Any news as to where he and the Jackhammer are at?"

Scoffing Mirage smiled. "Come on Kira, you should know better than that. Wheeljack, no matter how noble he can be at times, is a rouge. He fights when he wants to fight."

Stopping suddenly, Cole turned to Mirage straightening his stature. "Comm. link Bumblebee and Smokescreen; tell them to wait for me at the ground bridge. Instruct Sunstreaker, Sideswipe, Arcee and Firestar to engage the enemy upon arrival only enough to relieve our forces already in the mine. Also advise Ratchet to have the medical bay ready in case we need it."

With a quick nod of his head the blue and white Autobot transformed and drove away back down the hillside.

Following close behind Cole, Kira grinned. "So what do I get to do 'Coleus Prime' sir?" the tone in her voice, mischievous and playful.

Smiling at her over his shoulder, Cole huffed. "Simple Kira, do what you do best. Be our eyes and ears and strike without warning."

Laughing Kira transformed into a sporty pink and purple muscle car revving her engine loudly. "What can I say? I didn't learn how to be a sniper for nothing."

Kicking up the dirt under her tires, Kira peeled away from Cole racing down hillside with the destination of the base hot on her radar.

Watching Kira for but a moment, Cole turned his attention back to the fiery orange and pink sky. Then turning away, he transformed into a large blue semi, with orange racing stripes winding up his hood.

Starting his engine, Cole pealed down the hillside in pursuit of the battle that now lay ahead. "I will fight as you did father…and I won't stop fighting until all is one."

For Cole knew as being a Prime, and from the teachings of his father…it was his sworn obligation to protect and defend the innocent and the weak, and that was once made by his father to him and his sisters was now his promise to humanity…no matter what the case…no matter what the outcome…

He as a Prime…would always be there…