Yeah, yeah I know; loooong wait for this chapter.

But in all fairness, you guys were warned at the beginning that updates were slow for this story ;D

Anyhow, this chapter is mostly a little bit of a filler, and a little bit of an emotional reaction for Tory.

Also; she finally gets some clothes…poor thing hahaha.

For the record, the reason Tory has not yet mentioned anything in this chapter about her glasses and needing them, is because for some strange reason she can see (dun dun duunnn!) but because she can see, she automatically assumes that she's wearing her glasses.

I do something similar with mine when I don't have them on, if I go to push my glasses up my nose and forget I'm not wearing them hahaha

There will be a reason behind this, but that won't really be elaborated on until later. For now, just enjoy :)

Tory was slouched in the driver's seat of Prime's cabin rather tensely, trying to be comfortable about the idea that she was sitting almost bare-ass naked on the upholstery of a giant alien robot; one with whom she had been forced to share one of the most…intimate of experiences with. It was still very dark, and judging by the lack of traffic on their current route, she assumed it was anywhere between midnight, and the barely wee hours of the morning.

Her eyelids were heavy and exhausted, but she could not sleep; she was incredibly uncomfortable, and as the truck rolled over a pothole in the road, she decided that she needed to break her silence and get him to stop.

"Hey, uh…Optimus…?"

The radio crackled to life, sounding like there was a little bit static on the transmission, "Yes?"

"Can we pull over…?"

"Is something wrong?" he asked, concern rising up in the back of his voice. Tory immediately felt guilty of the idea that she was worrying him.

"No, nothing's…wrong…I just…I have to…" she cringed in embarrassment, "…use the bathroom."

There was a long pause, whether he was trying to gather information on the term or not, she was unsure; but after a few minutes he finally responded to her. "But we are not near any public restroom facilities…" he mused.

She shrugged, "Well, sorry to break it to you big guy, but I have to pee. Just…I don't know, pull over and I'll go behind a damn bush; there's plenty of them. Besides, it's dark; you just have to promise not to peek."

Tory gave a slight smile, trying to make light of the situation, however as they pulled over and she reached for the door, she felt the seatbelt tighten around her briefly, forcing her back into the seat gently as the radio crackled again.

"I will never take advantage of you like that again." He rumbled deeply, obviously she had hit a nerve with her playful remark.

Reactively, Tory put a hand on the steering wheel and shook her head seriously, "You didn't take advantage in the first place. Now come on, let me out; I have to pee."

A heavy hiss escaped the vents as she felt the seatbelt untangle itself from across her chest, and she found her mind flashing back to the moment that they'd been suspended in mid-air, with her sliding out the open door of the truck. It felt like so long ago…but it had only been…two days maybe? Three at the most…

"That was you…wasn't it…?" she asked gently, with her fingers on the door handle, "When I was falling…the seatbelt around my ankle…you did that."


She smiled, pressing a hand to the doorframe as she opened it, "Thanks…I owe you for that one."

Before he could he could make any form of response, she slid slowly down from the seat onto the side step and down to the ground. As soon as she had shut the door and let go of the metal framing, she felt her knees begin to tremble; and they buckled beneath her. She slammed heavily against the side of the truck with a gasping cry, holding herself upright against Prime's vehicular frame.

"Tory!" he cried in alarm, "Are you alright?"

"Yeah… Yeah…" she said softly, reassuringly as she slowly began to shift her weight, tentatively pushing herself onto her own two feet; one hand bracing the red metal of the Peterbilt, "I'm fine…I guess my body just…needs some time to recover, you know…?"

"Tory…I am so sorry…it's my fault that your body is….this way…"

"Damn it, Optimus! We've been through this already; it's not your fault!"

"Then why does it feel like it is…?" he sounded downtrodden, with an unbelievable sense of doubt in his voice, and it angered Tory; because this alien being seemed like the very epitome of everything that was good and honest with her world…and he wasn't even from her world…

"Because that's exactly what that dickless metal shithead wants you to feel! He's the rapist, not you; rapists enjoy hurting others. This is a way for him to try and control you; and you need to remember that you're as much a victim in this as I am."

"Your words make sense, Tory…but…I…"

"It's going to take a while for you to see it, Prime…it took me a long time too, after the first time it happened…" she looked at the truck and patted the side of the vehicle with her palm solidly, "Just remember that none of this was your fault."

He gave a deep, heavy sigh before responding. "But Tory…My Spark – ?"

" – Hey! What did I just say? No blaming yourself, so just shut up." She snapped, her fingers trailing the paint in a reassuring gesture, letting him know that she was not being harsh to be cruel. She was trying to stop him from baring himself with an unnecessary burden. "Now just stay here; and make sure nobody's coming."

He said nothing else, clearly accepting that the conversation was done; and Tory made her way a little ways into the shrubs before finding a thistle shrub that was large than the rest; it would do. Digging her hands into her pockets of her jacket to lift it as she crouched behind the plant, she found her fingers curling around a tissue-paper substance. Pulling her hand out, she found a clump of slightly damn serviettes from the KFC she'd eaten at before taking off down the highway to Jasper; the highway she and Prime had crossed fates on.

Greasy, dirty junk food restaurant, I could fucking kiss you! Talk about stroke of GOD DAMN luck!

Having found some sort of make-shift bathroom toiletry paper, she completed the task of 'bathroom' as quickly as she could, not liking the goose bumps that were riddling up her legs or the breeze she could feel on her stomach muscles in the night air. Tightening her jacket around her, she made her way shakily back to where Prime was parked, hissing out a profane curse as she stood on a sharp rock.

"Mother fucker!" she snarled, bracing a hand against the side of the red truck and lifting her leg to see a small cut on the ball of her foot. "Shit, that hurt!"

"Tory," came Optimus' voice from the very truck itself, "you said that you had footwear inside the cabin. Perhaps now would be wise for you to wear-"

"-Hey, in case you hadn't noticed, big guy; I'm sort of naked from the waist down…not much point of shoes if my baby-makers are bare, if you get what I'm saying."

"You have a suggestion?"

She placed a hand on her chin for a moment, her bottom lip gnawing between her teeth as she thought before answering. She had an idea; but she needed their location first. "Where are we exactly?"

"My navigation system is grainy…but from what I can gather, we are currently in a north-east region of Washington State. The closet town on my radar is one with the name Leavenworth."

The door to the truck popped open in a silent gesture for the slightly chilled human to climb back in, which she did; clambering into the warmer cabin and sighing heavily, her head dropping to rest on the back of the seat. "Fuck, I thought I left this place behind. Feels weird coming back…"

"You have been in this area before?" he asked genuinely, hearing the rather snipped tone with which she spoke about the town; however she shrugged nonchalantly.

"Just one of the last stop off towns I was in before leaving Jasper. Hey, speaking of which…what route are you planning to take getting there?"

Digging into the files that Ratchet had sent him, Optimus brought up the data map onto the screen in the cabin; the picture slightly jumpy and grainy, but readable. Tory inspected it with her lips pursed in thought, her eyes scanning the familiar scenery with scrutiny.

"Okay, so…looks like we're just about on Highway 2 right now. Wait…if we follow…Oh! I have an idea; there's a Thousand Trails franchise about eight miles along the road." Tory's finger followed the path on the map, tapping the screen to where the little point of landmark that she was implying.

"What… is 'Thousand Trails'?" came the Prime's voice from the stereo system as he restarted the engine and turned the heaters up as best he could, still recovering from the damage that Starscream had inflicted upon him. Parts of his metal form still ached horridly from where he had been forced to pry open his own chest to save the human from his own Spark.

"…You're a massive high-tech robotic alien, dude. You can't…I dunno…Google it or something?" she laughed, tapping the dash with her fingernail. It was only then that she realized how grubby her fingers were, and how much she needed clothing and a shower. This state of uncleanliness and undress was making her feel a horrible discomfort. She just wanted clean clothes, a safe place to sleep and a toothbrush.

Was it really so much to ask?

"Many of my communication links were jarred by the Decepticon's interrogative…welcome whilst you were unconscious; that includes my access to your planet's wireless internet devices." He sounded somewhat bothered by this, and she supposed it was like being blinded in a way.

"Oh…sorry…" she said sheepishly, tucking her knees to her chest and tapping the screen where the landmark was, feeling Optimus pull back onto the road and keep driving, "Well, Thousand Trails is basically a camping facility; they're all over the United States…it's what we call a franchise. Anyway, I used them a lot when I was on the move; they have camper parks for families, and free use shower facilities for people just stopping off during travel. Usually have some form of Laundromat too – that's somewhere humans can clean their clothes. If we can make a stop off there, I can check to see if they have any lost property clothing I can take."

"…Is that not stealing?"

Tory snorted, and Optimus did not miss the genuine amusement in the gesture; it felt good to know that she was still able to hold small joys after what had happened between them…she truly did not blame him…

"You kidding? It's all discarded, nobody ever comes back for it; it's guaranteed to all be fucking ugly shit anyway." She found herself smiling at the thought, knowing that she was probably going to be dressed in some of the ugliest clothes she'd ever see in her life. But then again, beggars could not be choosers.

Optimus shifted the gears of the truck with a crunching, grinding sound; trying to mask the pained growl that rumbled through his chassis interior. Tory noticed the suppression, especially when he obviously tried to cover it up with a question. "You are certain that I will not stand out in this site? You said it was for human families to congregate at…"

She shook her head and gently patted the dashboard with a ginger expression, "Truckers use them all the time; even if anyone was awake, they wouldn't even take a second glance at you. Besides…from what I can guess I think you need a little rest, big guy."

A heavy sigh sounded from the speakers, but she noticed that he did not actually deny his need for rest; the plates that had been ripped on his chest had to be hurting something terrible, she imagined what tearing open her ribcage would feel like. She couldn't even bare to think it.

"This will put us behind…you do realize that Ratchet will not be pleased?"

Awkwardly she scratched the back of her neck, watching the road fly past them in the dark; only one of Prime's headlights lighting up the bitumen ahead of them. "Yeah well…then he's probably not going to like what else I have to say about his choice of route…"


She looked at the screen that still had the grainy view of the map lighting it up, trailing her fingers over the path that the alien robot's medic had lain out for them. "Because the way your doctor told you to go…it will take us through too many busy places, and Weight Stations that check over every rig on the highway; making sure they're road-safe and functional. Heaps of them on the main highway, you know? Here, we should be going this way…"

Playing around with the screen, she readjusted to course beacon, altering the path to a more deserted highway, the old one that had been forgotten in the wake of the new one. Obviously Optimus could either see it, or had a copy somewhere in his 'brain' if that's what they called them, because he gave a rumble, clearly weighing up the options.

"That will take several hours longer, we cannot afford delays…"

"I know…but trust me, those Weight Stations and the busy towns will add more hours than if we go this way; no offence intended, but you're not exactly…subtle."

"I can contact Ratchet and ask him to acquire a pass from our military liaison; it will allow us to bypass the Stations." The pass that he was referring to was one that Fowler had acquired for him a few times before when travelling; it was designed for military vehicles carrying bio-hazard wastes or armed military personnel for whatever reason. He did not like exercising such 'privileges, but on those few occasions speed had been paramount and quick travel was required. "Ratchet will not allow–"

"-Listen, Optimus; I get that you can access a military pass, but that won't stop us from having to go through the busy towns. The cops will pull you over; a lot of them are corrupt in those areas…trust me…I'd know." The rig noticed the way her eyes darkened at the words, her brow furrowing into a creased scowl as she watched the screen; looking as though it had offended her in some personal way.

"…Tory…" he rumbled warningly, "…Are you alright?"

She gave a heavy sigh and shook her head to clear her thoughts. "Memories." She said simply, refusing to elaborate, "Anyway, just tell your doctor to meet us along this route instead. Trust me when I say it's better."

He gave a perturbed 'hmm' as he mulled over her words, not liking the wall that he could feel her putting up. True, they were still strangers to one another and by all aspects, he had no right to her privy information; but he could not help but feel the want to aid her. She was human, so young and undeserving of the horrors that had been forced upon her; some of which had been caused by her very brief connection to him…by simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Silently, he sent the map route to Ratchet, along with an urgent request to get him to have Fowler call ahead to make arrangements at the 'Thousand Trails' that Tory had mentioned; after all he had no doubt that the human did not possess any money or valuables. She had lost everything in the abduction, having seen it topple from his cabin to the earth below. It was only moments later that he received a very…irritated communication back from his medic, who was evidently still bothered by the lack of information that Prime had provided him about his travel companion. But Optimus would not elaborate, the medic would see soon enough; besides, Tory did not deserve to be spoken about like a victim…the term seemed unfitting of her. From what he had gathered of her in their short time together, he could easily tell that she did not like to be weak; the fact that she seemed to have spent so long taking care of herself was evidence enough of that.

Just as the camping grounds came in to view, Prime received a communication from Fowler, notifying him that the signal for them to gain access to the grounds was simply to mention Agent Fowler's phone call to the office. Obviously he'd called ahead an made arrangements, and Optimus found himself much appreciating the human liaison; even if sometimes he was a tad overbearing in his nature.

As they pulled up to the lodge's entrance, it was something like a toll booth with a human sitting in the office by the window. He rolled up and lowered the window only a fraction, not allowing the human in the booth to see Tory's face; the girl clearly did not want to be in this area in the first place, and he would not jeopardize her safety. Instead, he allowed his voice to rise up from the speakers so that the man in the office booth could hear him.

"I am the representative of Agent Fowler; I believe that he has made arrangements in your lodging facility."

The man, obviously either too tired or bored to really give much thought to how rude it was to address someone through a wound up truck window, reached over on his desk with a nod and picked up one of the chip cards. "Yeah, he did; you military folk are real pushy too…Here, this'll give you access to the electrical supplies and this is the key for the toiletries cupboard in the shower facilities. Just do us a favour and park the truck up back, okay? This is the family camper side; there's a free space for a truck this size down near the back of the property, should be free for use. Here."

He held the card and the key out the booth window, and Tory took the cue to reach out through the gap in the window to retrieve them. The assistant's eyes widened a little at the sight of a slender, clearly feminine hand reaching out to take the offered items, he had clearly heard a male voice…shaking his head he sighed, deciding that perhaps he needed to have a nap on duty; it was too late for his brain to be working properly.

"Thank you." Optimus said simply, before the boom-gate was lifted and he headed forward into the grounds without another thought to the human at the booth. His concern was for Tory, getting her clothed and safe; he owed her that at the very least. Following the path to the more deserted area of the campsites, he parked outside what was clearly the bathing facility, right out the front of the entrance to the 'Laundromat' that the human had described to him earlier. There were large machines that humans obviously used to wash and dry their coverings all easily visible through the glass sliding doors, the showers were built on the opposite side of the small block, much more private than the clothing facility.

Optimus felt Tory stretch her aching limbs in the cabin before sighing heavily, resting her hand on the dashboard.

"Okay, so here's the plan…" she said slowly, squinting in to the well-lit laundry room to locate what she needed to; the lost property basket in the corner of the room, "I'm going to run in and go through the lost and found box to get some clothes…anything that might fit me; then I'm going to use the showers on the other side of–"

"-I do not think that last option is a good idea, Tory." Optimus said sternly, "Ratchet will need to make sure that nothing-"

"-Fucking hell, Prime! If you start bullshitting me about needing to 'examine' me I will stuff a whole fucking potato up your tailpipe, got it? I'm dirty, I'm half-naked, and I'm fucking sore! We know what happened, and I know that doctor of yours is going to check out that everything is okay and intact…but I need a shower, dude! I feel like I have fur growing on my teeth for God sake; I promise not to damage anything that your doc-bot might need, okay?"

He was silent for a few moments, genuinely taken aback by her insistent rant; obviously she had been hiding more discomfort than she had been letting on…they both had.

"Very well…" he sighed finally, "But you must hurry."

"Deal." Looking around, she opened the door to the truck and took a deep breath, "If anyone shows up, your horn is the signal. I'll have to hide before anyone can see me."

Jumping down, the little human dashed into the laundry area, making a beeline for the basket in the corner and beginning to rummage through it with evident haste. Optimus could see her, and while keeping close watch on their surroundings, he was finally able to take in her appearance under the lights.

Her skin was pale, somewhat sallow under the fluorescence of the room's halogen lighting and her ash blonde hair was tangled, messy; clearly a little matted at the ends from the downpour that she had been caught in. Her legs were slender, and a little on the malnourished side, her hip bones sticking out a little from beneath the hem of the bulky khaki jacket she wore. The lighting also made visible the marks on her body; stark angry inflammations of red streaking across her white skin like some form rope-burn or whip marks. He felt his guilt rise in his tanks as he noticed them, coupled with the long gash along the top of her thigh where Starscream had torn apart her undergarments.

Inside the laundry, Tory was cringing at some of the things she was finding in the lost property. So far there was a pair of jeans that looked like they would be too big for her; seeing as they were obviously men's pants. The bottoms were frayed to the extreme and the knees had holes in them all the way to the seams. A fabric sleep bra was in there as well, a rather dim grey colour that had probably once been white; and she'd been lucky enough to find a pair of underwear as well…although the threadbare, pale blue panties had most definitely seen better days and would probably give her an incredibly annoying wedgie. But she had no luxury of being choosy here…

The shirt was the last thing she was able to find, being a very tatty scrap of fabric that had obviously once been a child's shirt. It was lavender purple with a pink, cartoon unicorn on the front, flying over the top of a rainbow. Tory groaned at the selection, but it was either the unicorn shirt, or a low cut red singlet with an exposed back; and that was not the sort of attention she wanted to draw to herself, even with a massive in-hiding alien robot watching her back.

Collecting the items, she exited the glass sliding door and looked up at the truck sitting there in front of her, "I'll be back in a minute, the showers are on the other side."

He made no response to her, but instead followed slowly as he circled to the other side of the building to guard the door as she entered the bathrooms. The cubicles were all private, with metal doors that could be locked from the inside; in which they had a small bench with space for dressing. There was a steel cupboard to one side of each cubicle, which Tory was able to use her key in to get access to soaps, shampoos and there was even an almost empty tube of travel-sized toothpaste! She groaned in relief at the sight. There were no toothbrushes, but using her finger made a decent enough substitute; and she began to furiously scrub her teeth in the mirror over the sink, glad to finally be able to clean her teeth. But the girl had to hiss in protest as the toothpaste touched her tongue, the muscle in her mouth feeling like she had drank boiling water.

Memory flashed across her eyes of being trapped inside Prime's chest, the Spark's electrical tendrils forcing its way into her mouth; demanding to be gratified by her body. She froze as the familiar burn seemed to crawl up her throat and make her skin break out into terrified goose bumps from the memory. With an angry hiss, she ignored it and finished brushing her teeth, spitting out the toothpaste in disgust at the memory. It wasn't Optimus that she was angry with…it was not his fault. She blamed Starscream, and his dark capability to exploit the Prime in ways that he could not help.

With a heavy sigh, she placed the clothing on the sink counter, turning the shower water on as high and as hot as she would be able to stand it. She stepped under the water and gave a groan at the wonderful sensation it provided; the feeling of warmth, cleanliness and purification. It was as though the water and soap would wash away all the memories and experiences, but as the water ran grey from the dirt that coated her body, and she began to wash the filth from her hair, she found herself distracted by the marks upon her skin.

The whip-like marks on her would heal, and they did little more than sting like a carpet burn under the hot, sanitizing water, but it was the memories and feelings behind them that hurt her the most. Viewing the marks and wounds on her body now, made her think back to the old ones…the wounds that had long since healed; and the ones that had not.

While it was true that she had put her guilt and doubt behind her a long time ago with what had happened to her; there was still no amount of therapy that would ever take away the memories…or the nightmares. As her fingers traced one of the marks on her arm, she squeezed her eyes shut in the memory of it being his fingers…his marks…

Why did everything in her life always come back to this…? Why did it come back to people using her as nothing more than a sexual object to gratify their own animalistic purposes? All she wanted was to move forward…to be free and loved…to be safe!

Was it really asking so much…?

As a painful memory tingled across her skin, Tory gave a sob beneath the water spray and dropped her face into her hands, sinking to the floor of the shower as the water rained over her. Her hair hung about her face in much silkier tendrils, given the detangling conditioner in them, and her now clean nails dug into her scalp as she gripped her skull, crying out in anguish and hurt as the thoughts drowned her.

It all came flooding to the surface in the wake of these new wounds and memories; ones that it felt like she'd had before. How could one person be the target of so much hurt…? Had she done something to deserve it? Was she not strong enough, not fast enough; not brave enough? Her father had been a Marine, and she was on the path to follow him…why did these hurts insist on beating her down; wanting her to stay locked away in the darkest places in her mind and not overcome the things she had faced?

Anger surged through her at the thought.

No, she thought to herself, feeling her teeth grit in defiance and her brow furrow into a determined scowl. This was not her fault, nor was it Optimus' fault; he'd had no intentions of hurting her even from the beginning, nor would he…she believed that; well and truly.

With a heavy, chest wracking sob, Tory hung her head and clasped the dog-tags hanging around her throat, clutching them tightly as she bared her teeth in emotional anguish; the water streaming heavily over her battered body.

No…I can't let you down…I owe it to you both…Mom. Dad. Her eyes snapped open to the marks on her body; not the ones that Optimus had given her, but the faded, almost non-existent marks that had once mottled her body. They were marks that only she could see, because she'd felt every strike, every bruise, every cigarette burn; every fractured bone and each stinging slice. Her voice slid to a whisper as she closed her eyes, every fibre in her body trembling with the promise that she had made to herself.

"I won't break."

Tears welled in her eyes as the words flooded assurance through her, feeling her heart break at the memory behind them as a wailing sob escape her. She slammed her fist into the floor of the shower and braced her head against the tiled wall beating her fist repeatedly on the ground as she hissed through her teeth, trying to reaffirm the belief to herself.

"A Marine doesn't break, a Marine breaks the enemy, a Marine. Doesn't. Break."

Memories flooded her, the ones of her father; the memories of her desire to follow in his footsteps. Her goal of doing as he did; becoming a Marine…she would do it. For him.

Certainty washed over her, and Tory's eye narrowed in personal determination. She was already on her path, following her dream…

This would not break her.

Pulling herself shakily to her feet, Tory finished showering quickly, knowing that Optimus was waiting for her; she had kept him waiting out there long enough.

There were no towels in the bathrooms, they were more than likely somewhere in the laundry building, and Tory cursed herself for not having really thought that far ahead. Instead, she had to dry herself off by standing awkwardly underneath the hand dryer that was on the wall; which despite being uncomfortable and weird, it did the job well enough.

When she was cleaned and dried, she put on the mismatched, disgustingly ugly clothing that she'd found for herself. The jeans slung too low on her hips, a thin strip of skin on display between the hem of the pants and the too-short kid's shirt that she wore. It was a little too small, and the shortness of its hem left a slight section of her navel showing, but in a stroke of rather…disgustingly gross luck, she found an old hair elastic on the floor of the bathroom, and she managed to tie a 'tail' into the hem of the jeans; bringing them up to a more appropriate height on her hips. The underwear was thin and not very comfortable, but it would do for now; at least until she could get out of this horribly unusual mess involving weird giant aliens and the sexual appetites of their 'Sparks'…

Locking the cupboard and managing to dry her hair off a little bit underneath the hand dryer on the wall, Tory slowly made her way back to the exit; seeing Prime parked next to the building. In the light of the new moon she was able to observe the sight of the 'truck-bot' who had both harmed her and saved her.

His form was beat, the metal dented, twisted and clawed to the point where it looked like he'd gotten into a fight with a cube-crusher and lost. She saw slash marks across the bonnet, as well as the indentation of fingers on the plating at the front of the truck; clearly where he had ripped open his own chest in a vain attempt to rescue her from himself. Tory found the irony of their situation almost poetic in a way; two complete strangers from two completely different walks of life, who unless for the sake of a rainstorm, might never have crossed paths. If she had not been abducted with him, the sick creature he'd called 'Starscream' might not have had any need to be distracted, or toy with her; he'd have simply tortured Optimus and gained the information that he'd needed without delay.

In a way, her presence had saved Optimus just as much as his efforts had saved her.

Did this make them even?

She sighed heavily and shook her head, trying not to think back on her breakdown in the shower; she didn't want to have those memories. She could still hear the sounds of his pain in her ears, the sound of his metal body screeching in violently harsh pain; the sounds of their own pleasures and cries as their bodies were driven by a forced sense of lust for release. Tory felt a full body tremble strike through her as she reached him, pressing her forehead to the side of the bonnet on the truck; his voice echoing through the grill as he felt her touch.

"Tory…? …Are you alright…?"

She gave a sigh against him as she closed her eyes, trying to brace against the memories between them that were unfortunate and circumstantial. She slid her hand to the set of deep grooves on the truck, knowing them to be the marks of his own fingers; the ones that had violently ripped open his own chest plating.

"I'm sorry that it hurts…" she whispered into the dark, her chest aching to cry again but her will keeping the tears in check, "…We don't deserve this…"

A heavy sigh rumbled from him as he comprehended her words, she was trying to ease his pain as well. Two strangers seeking comfort from one another, having been forced into one another's lives.

"No… Indeed we do not."

In the only gesture of support he could offer her in this alternate form, he popped open the door for her to climb in, and as she gripped the side of the truck to pulled herself up into the cabin; feeling a strange sense of familiarity about the vehicle now.

"Let's sleep for an hour or two, okay? …there's a long drive ahead of us."

"You can sleep in the back, I will get you there safely; I promise you, Tory." He reassured her, starting the engine gently, but he was surprised to feel her hands on the steering wheel, halting his turn circle.

"No." she said softly, "I meant sleep, for both of us. Look…I know that you're some kind of…leader to these good-bot things…but Optimus…I know what you went through these last few days, I was there man; I went through it too. Stop trying to be strong when you don't need to."

"But I–"

"-Prime, you need sleep. Just let yourself rest…please…?" she implored, tracing her fingers tenderly along the steering wheel and resting her head against it exhaustedly. A defeated, resonant sigh sounded through the speakers as the entire truck seemed to sag, his voice sounding as tired and exhausted as she felt.

"Very well. But you must move to the sleeping cabin, I wish for you to be as comfortable as possible. Please, you need the opportunity to rest and be safe. Just a few hours, then we must continue on to Ratchet."

Nodding in agreement, far too tired to argue his point, Tory clambered into the back and laid down on the bare, cot in the back; laying her head on her arm as a pillow and resting on her side to face the front of the cabin. Her eyes were heavy and her body still ached as a reminder of their trials together, but it was overridden by an innate sense of gratitude, of safety in knowing that he would not allow anything to get to her through him. Feeling sleep pulling at her, she let her eyelids slide closed, and her voice dropped to a whisper as she finally, finally began to drift away.

"Optimus…" she murmured exhaustedly.

"Mm…?" he responded lightly through the speakers, his voice sounded just as weary as her own; clearly sleep would not be long in claiming both of the weary victims.

Tory gave the tiniest hint of a smile, finally feeling the most sense of warm protection that she'd experienced in a very long time.

"Thank you…for everything…"

Hope you guys liked the chapter.

Tory and Optimus have a long path ahead of them to get past this, thanks to Starscream; and it's going to take a lot of healing. But that's all part of the process.