Author's Notes – For TF-Speedwriting. Prompt – Scenario: two (or up to five) people feel like they're alone in a crowded room or place. The theme for the day was "Awww" (aka – "Write something for the prompts that make the reader go "Awww". Be it because it's cute, or just a sweet and fluffy situation, interaction or whatever, or make it nostalgic or melancholic and sad. Or write whatever you think will make the reader 'd'awww'! :D At what scene or conversation you'd make that sound? [wink]")

Hopefully this doesn't come across as OOC at all. Just that everyone has their off days and their down days, regardless of who they are, you know?

Disclaimer – "Transformers" and all related characters, events, and concepts belong to Hasbro, Takara, and any other related owners/distributors/producers. I get no monetary benefit from this. My benefit is the enjoyment of dealing with beloved characters.

by DragonDancer5150

Optimus Prime stepped into the mess hall, nodding as several mechs paused in their conversations to greet him. It looked like pretty much everyone was here. That wasn't unheard of after a particularly nasty fight– everyone was hollow and needed fuel. People were often in need of emotional refueling too, though it was more subconscious for most of them.

For Optimus, it was a very conscious choice. He needed to see his mechs, needed to know for himself that they were all right, that each one of them had survived yet another battle.

After getting a cube of energon from the dispenser, he was invited to several tables. Politely resisting at first, he finally settled with Prowl and Bluestreak, Brawn, Trailbreaker, and Mirage. He listened to the chatter around him – mostly Bluestreak, really – and answered when it was appropriate to. He didn't feel part of the conversation, though, or the group. Oh, not for lack of effort on the mechs' parts. He was more than welcome with them, and they kept trying to draw him into the discussion.

His spark just wasn't in it.

Battles kept playing over and over in his mind – this one and a thousand before it. How this mech had been wounded or that one, another taken straight to medbay upon return, one who almost didn't make it at all.

He loved them all, so very much. He'd always made a point of knowing the name and face of every possible mech in his command, but being here on Earth, with so few in such close proximity, it was somehow different. He knew names and faces, personal backgrounds, likes and dislikes and idiosyncrasies. He knew each mech as a very close and personal friend.

But he couldn't be their friend.

He was The Prime. Commander of the Autobots. He was their anchor, their rock in the storm, the glue that kept everyone together. He was the embodiment of their hope – for survival and for an end to this war. Someday. So long as he stood, they knew they could go on one more day.

He knew they'd go on with or without him, but he also knew they'd be diminished. Not for the loss of him so much as everything he knew he stood for in their sights.

It was enough to keep him awake at night sometimes. And it was enough to feel a rift – between himself and who he really was, and who they needed him to be. Who he was sometimes had to be buried so deeply that he felt a loss of connection with those around him.

Sometimes he wished he could just be free to be himself, like some of his mechs especially. Like earnest Bluestreak or worrier Huffer, easy-going Hound, fun-loving Sideswipe, or Pit-may-care Ironhide.

Like carefree Bumblebee, who caught his attention as the other stepped into the room.

Bumblebee slipped into the mess hall, hoping to escape notice. He'd just been released from the medbay. Ratchet preceded him in and peeled off to the right to check on some of the others before he'd head for the dispenser. With the medic's taller, wider frame, most attention went to him, missing the little Minibot. For once, that suited him just fine as he ducked left away from the majority of the crowd, a cheery grin plastered on his face for those few who did take note.

He could feel their optics on him, disappointed and judging. Or maybe he was just exhausted and disappointed in himself – he was never sure.

He was the company's espionage scout, fraggit! He should have known about Megatron's plans, should have known all of them! He'd thought he had learned everything he possibly could have when he'd found and overheard Starscream gloating about his plans to his wingmates, skeptical Thundercracker and clueless Skywarp, as they stole I-beams from that construction site. They were just leaving – or were supposed to be – when Bumblebee withdrew to a secure hiding niche to relay his findings via secure channel. Except nothing was secure when Soundwave was in the area, especially when he was well-hidden, completely unnoticed and monitoring for just such a comm.

He didn't find that part out until he woke later, from the blow he'd taken to the head when Skywarp had appeared suddenly right in front of him with a loud VOP!

He wasn't sure which part torqued him more – that he had failed in his primary mission or that he'd had to be rescued, having been used as bait to lure his fellows into a trap. Never mind that they had known it was a trap and had taken what precautions they could.

Nobody had come out of that unscathed – and Bumblebee didn't want to see the irritation in anyone's optics that it had been His. Fault. this time – and he had been no exception. Most of his wounds weren't even so much from direct battle as that he just couldn't sustain the kind of rough handling the 'Cons had used on him. They were used to larger, much stronger mechs than he. His body, made of what less-than-optimal materials had been available at the time, was more prone to breakdown and injury than most people's . . . despite the impression one might get from listening to Gears' frequent complaints about this sticking or that feeling rusted.

Bumblebee was the smallest and weakest of the Autobots. It was a good deal of why he fought as hard and pushed himself as hard as he did. He had to overcome that, had to prove that he could keep up, that he was worthy of his Brand and of working and fighting alongside his brethren.

Even if he felt, like now, that he'd never be able to live up to what he needed to be to make that a reality.

He cast a furtive glance around the room, never quite meeting anyone's gaze of those who happened to be looking his way. Would he ever fit? Would he ever actually belong? He wanted to believe he would, but there were just some days, like today, when he felt like there was an insurmountable divide between himself and everyone else.

Sighing through his vents, he slipped to the door again before anyone could catch him.

Optimus watched Bumblebee come in, get his energon, and leave without a word spoken to anyone else. That was odd. His best scout had looked worn and upset, which was unusual for the little mech. Maybe he'd wanted to stay and visit with his friends but Ratchet had ordered him to his room to rest? Or maybe he had pressing work to do?

Speaking of...

With a weary sigh, the Prime murmured an apology to excuse himself and heaved himself to his feet. Much as he'd love to stay and enjoy the company of his mechs, he had work to do.