I Lost a World!

Chapter 24: Revelations and Goodbyes

Aria's heart had still been racing when they reached the shelled out remains of what had used to be a mechasurgeon's garage in some now decimated, nameless city.

She hardly noticed. As soon as Sunstreaker had stopped, Aria jumped out and ran over to the still untransformed Sideswipe. "Sera!" She yelled, trying to pull open the silver mech's side door, but the crack between door and body were seamless enough that she couldn't even find it.

"Hey! Cut it out organic femme," Sideswipe's voice came from somewhere near the front of the silver alt-mode.

"Then let her out!" Aria hollered frantically, her voice bouncing eerily off the broken stones that surrounded them above and to all sides, shielding them from detection, both visually and from scans. "Or let me in!"

But Sideswipe refused. "Look at her," he said instead, "Softie's still in shock. Just give her a klik." He said with surprising gentleness.

His words finally soaked into Aria's adrenaline high brain and she stopped trying to scratch her way to Sera with her fingernails. Sideswipe was right. From what she could see through the slit-like windows, Sera was just staring out the front windshield, perfectly still except for her quick shallow breathing and the rapid, REM like, motion of her eyes. Her hands were clutched tight in her lap, knuckles white and fingers starting to turn even paler then before.

She looked completely shell shocked, as if everything was just now sinking in. The reality of her circumstance, her imprisonment, her rescue.

Aria swallowed hard. "I was too late," she thought as she sunk into an inward turmoil, "I didn't save her. I just got her out. He hurt her." She cried in her mind.

And that thought just about broke her heart into pieces too numerous to count.

"Sera?" Aria asked softly as she laid a hand flat against the window next to her sister, her voice strained.

Slowly, hesitantly, as if she was having trouble tearing her eyes away from a horror she could hardly comprehend, Sera looked over at her sister.

Now Sideswipe opened the door, carefully so as not to startle either girl. Large tears filled Sera's gray-blue eyes and dripped off her long lashes before she dove at her older sister. Without a word she wrapped her arms tight around Aria and buried her face in her shoulder as the older girl sat down next to her and hugged her as tightly as she could.

Then the tears finally came, for both of them, after years and years of being held back until they were safe. But this was as close to safe as they would ever come and they knew it.

"There, there," Aria eventually murmured through her tear laden voice as she gently smoothed her sister's dirty yellow hair, "It'll be alright now. We're together again. I promise I will never leave you like that again." She told Sera as she shook with sobs. "Ever." And then Aria kissed her sister's head and held her tight, rocking slightly in an attempt to comfort her weeping sister.

Sera was still crying when half of the remaining Autobots arrived at the makeshift bunker. Aria looked up briefly as they entered, but quickly turned back to Sera once she saw that apart from Hound's injured leg there were no, new, extensive injuries. Bluestreak and Wheeljack helped the wounded mech to the back wall so the former med caste could look over his injuries. While they did that, Prowl, Chromia, Ironhide and Sunstreaker did what they could to secure their safe point.

A few minutes after they arrived, Bluestreak wandered over to where Aria sat with Sera and an unusually sedate Sideswipe.

He sat next to them, cross legged in his bipedal form. He fidgeted slightly before turning towards Aria and asking softly, "How is she?"

"Leaking," Sideswipe answered first, sounding somewhat irritated at the question. "How do you think she's doing?"

Bluestreak nodded, looking a bit taken aback. "Oh, right, of course." He said, and then fell back to silently fidgeting.

An elevated noise cut through Bluestreak's awkward silence. From the angled reflection of Sideswipe's window Aria could see Hound waving away a hovering Wheeljack.

"Tend the girl first Wheeljack, I can wait that long. I'm not about to just keel over." The officer said, doing his best to shoo Wheeljack away without actually moving.

Wheeljack looked like he wanted to protest, but then nodded. Gathering what field tools he had, he stood and joined the four sitting quietly off to the side of the main space.

Aria gave Sera a gentle shake. "Hey Sera," she murmured softly, "Wheeljack's going to take a look at you okay? Make sure you're alright after-" she chocked on her words and had to swallow them down, "after what happened."

Slowly, Sera raised her head. Her eyes were red rimmed and puffy and her hair resembled a bird's nest now more then it's usual straight-ish length. Clumsily she wiped at her eyes with the back of a hand and sniffed loudly. "Wha?" She asked stuffily. "What do you mean?"

And then she caught sight of Wheeljack coming towards them, his hands filled with instruments she recognized.

She screamed, loud and high, and then shot back away from Aria and Sideswipe's open door. Her back met the other door with a loud thwack and she pressed herself against it like it was the only thing keeping her from shaking into a mass of quivering jelly.

"No! Nononono!" She said so fast her words eventually blended together. "No more! Please! Don't let him do this! I swear I'll behave! I didn't do anything! I didn't!" She shrieked her words growing in volume as her frenzied panic grew.

"Sera!" Aria shouted, holding out her hands in a placating gesture. "Sera it's alright! He's a friend! I promise you're safe now!"

But no matter how loud she yelled Sera couldn't hear her.

"Alright, that's it," Sideswipe suddenly said, "everybody back up. You, organic, out of the alt-mode." He ordered, and then as if to prove his point, his frame shook Aria right out of the cab and onto the dusty ground.

"Sideswipe, what are you doing?" Sunstreaker asked, clearly as confused as the rest of them by his brother's actions.

"Not now bro." Sideswipe said, his attention clearly on Sera rather then his brother at the moment.

There was a quick shift of metal and the silver alt-form disappeared, Sideswipe's legged frame taking its place, Sera held carefully in his hands.

"Sera," he said firmly, "Sera it's alright. You're safe." He told her, his voice decidedly calm as he brought her close to his chest.

"I didn't do anything," she kept saying, tears streaming down her face, "I didn't do anything." She insisted.

"I know," he said sorrowfully, "I know you didn't Softie. But you're safe now. You see these bots here?" he asked as he gestured to the bots surrounding them, "theses are Autobots, like me. They would never hurt you." He told her.

For a moment Sera stared wide eyed at the bots, her eyes moving swiftly from one to the other as she slowly took in Sideswipe's words. "But-" Sera started, regaining some of her lucidity now.

"But nothing," Sideswipe cut her off. "You're just as safe with them as you are with me." But then he tilted his head and gave the girl a lopsided grin. "Well, almost," he added cheekily, "granted none of them are as good as I am, but they're pretty good."

"And just who do you think taught you all the good stuff you brat?" Ironhide asked sarcastically from across the way.

Sideswipe winked down at Sera once the older mech had turned away. "He's just jealous." He whispered to her.

A rock suddenly smacked into Sideswipe's head, showing just what Ironhide thought of that.

Sideswipe rubbed at his head and glared at the black mech, but Sera gave a short burst of strained, but still musical, laughter, so he decided not to retaliate.

"Now I know it's frightening after Shockwave, but Wheeljack here is a good guy, and he just wants to take a quick scan or two to make sure that Shockwave didn't do anything," Sideswipe's optics turned hard, "life threatening to you. And if you get too scared, you can just tell him to stop and he will. I promise that he won't hurt you."

Sera was quiet a moment. She looked over at Wheeljack, who was standing a good distance away to keep from frightening her again, and then back up at Sideswipe.

"Solemnly?" She asked him in a strange voice, raising her left hand and putting the right over her heart in something like a private signal.

Sideswipe raised his left hand, the one Sera wasn't sitting in. "Solemnly." He promised her.

Sera nodded slowly. "A-alright," she finally whispered.

Sideswipe gave her a nod of his own and then carefully lowered his hand so that she could step onto the ground. Aria was at her side in an instant, one arm wrapped around Sera's shoulders instead of an all out hug. Sera leaned close to her sister, arms wrapped around her middle as Wheeljack knelt down to explain that he was only going to run a basic scan to see if there was any leftover damage that may prove harmful in the future. Sera nodded when he was done.

"Just be quick before I lose my nerve please." She whispered as she squeezed her eyes shut.

Wheeljack nodded briefly.

"Done." He said a second later. "And I am glad to report that you are in remarkable health." He said, sounding slightly confused. He hadn't been expecting such good news.

But Sera didn't seem so surprised, or even very relieved. She gave a sour laugh instead as she stared down at the ground. "He was always very careful to put me back together again." She explained, her voice distant. "He didn't want to mess up his toy."

Nobody had any answer to that. Aria just held her sister closer.

Eventually Sera shook herself out of the lingering memories that haunted her and she looked around for the first time since they had gotten there.

"You," she looked up uncertainly, "you said your name was Wheelock?" She asked in a small voice.

Wheeljack looked unblinking at her, the glow of his optics creating a blue halo around the two girls in front of him. "No, it's Wheeljack. Although sometimes my friends just call me Jack." He told her, and then without needing any further prodding, introduced the rest of the bots she didn't know. "That's Prowl over there, he's second in command after Optimus Prime, the tall red and blue mech from earlier-"

"The one Aria was arguing with?" Sera asked.

Aria glowered lightly at her sister. "I was not arguing."

"You were so."



"Yes," Wheeljack quickly cut in, looking back and forth between the two sisters. He had never seen Aria act so childishly before. Well, almost never. "That was him. The mech in black who was throwing things at Sideswipe is Ironhide, our weapons specialist, and then his femme Chromia. And then there's – Hound!" Wheeljack suddenly cried, somewhat startling the skittish human in front of him. Then before anyone could ask him what was wrong, he quickly got up and rushed over to Hound.

In all the excitement of trying to calm Sera down, Wheeljack had forgotten about Hound.

"Yep, that's Wheeljack for you." Bluestreak said as they watched Wheeljack tend the injured mech.

Sera looked over at the tall blue mech. "Will he be alright?"

Bluestreak blinked down at her. "Who Wheeljack? Sure, I mean, he's been like that for ages and he hasn't managed to blow himself up yet, quite the accomplishment if you ask me but then-"

"No, no," Sera somehow managed to get a word in edgewise, "I mean Hound. Isn't he hurt?"

"Oh," Bluestreak said looking back over at the two mechs out of the way by the back wall. "Yeah, he should be fine. Wheeljack may not be as good as Ratchet – who is? – but he knows what he's doing."

"Oh," Sera said, following Bluestreak's gaze to Hound and Wheeljack just in time to see the former jerk in surprise.

"Ow! Dangit Wheeljack, watch it!" Hound yelled as Wheeljack tried to keep Hound's injured leg still so he could at least try and get some emergency first aid on it.

Bluestreak gave a half shrug. "Generally." He amended.

Sera looked back up at the tall blue mech. "And who are you?" She asked.

"Oh! Sorry about that, I'm Bluestreak, and you have no idea how glad I am to see that you are online and functional Miss Aria's sister. She's been worried about you for a long time after all."

"You have no idea." Aria thought but didn't say anything as she smiled at Sera.

The girls held tighter to each other a moment before Sera realized that there was one more name she didn't know.

"And who's that over there?" She asked pointing over at Sunstreaker where he stood keeping an optic on the surrounding landscape.

"Who him?" Bluestreak asked, pointing just to make sure they had the same mech in mind, although how he could be mistaken when there was only one stranger left, Aria didn't know. "That's just Sunny, Sideswipe's twin brother. Don't pay him any attention." He told her, grinning at the nickname.

Unfortunately, Sunstreaker heard him. "It's Sunstreaker! I am not Sunny!" The gold painted Autobot nearly yelled.

Sera shuddered at the angry shout and burrowed closer to Aria's side, taken by surprise by the mech's raised voice.

Aria glared up at the shouting mech and stepped in front of her sister, crossing her arms over her chest. "Well no duh." She snapped at him, "You've got about the un-sunniest disposition I've ever seen, without being downright mean that is." She said wrapping a meaningful arm around her sister. Sera decided to stay out of this one as she tried not to stare at the irritated gold mech.

Sunstreaker glared at the taller human, growling low in his chest, but Aria refused to be intimidated.

Instead she shrugged offhandedly. "It could be worse." She pointed out, not wanting to get into a shouting match with the irate mech right now.

Sunstreaker glared down at her. "How?" He demanded sourly.

A wicked idea came into Aria's head. Sunstreaker narrowed his optics suspiciously as the organic femme tried her best to hide her smile, but it still showed around the edges of her mouth. "They could just call you Streaker." She pointed out with a half hidden laugh.

Behind her, both Sera and Sideswipe bit back sudden laughter.

Across the way, Hound didn't bother to try and hide his. "She's got ya there Sunny." He yelled out. Then cussed again as Wheeljack told him to hold still.

The gold painted mech deflated into sulky glaring at Aria, but conceded the point, however grossly unhappy he was with his new nickname, or the way the rest of the bots were snickering at him mercilessly. Ironhide especially was having a hard time concentrating on what he was doing.

They were all quickly interrupted by the soft sounds of someone approaching their hideout. The laughter evaporated as guns reappeared in hands, or sometimes in place of them, and were leveled at the entrance of the bunker where the sounds were loudest.

But then a deep voice called out, "Stand down Autobots, it's just us."

A wave of relief went through the group as guns were lowered. A second later, the remaining six Autobots filed into the bunker, Optimus at the lead.

"Prime," Prowl greeted the Autobot leader, "no Decepticons snooping around so far. My guess is that they're waiting for us to come out into the open again when we head back to Iacon."

Optimus nodded and thought this over. Aria couldn't help but notice the way his blue eyes flicked towards her and Sera before moving to take in the rest of the busy Autobots filling the shelter.

"Then," he eventually said, slowly as if he was still thinking through the consequences his words would cause, "we will just not go to Iacon."

Every Autobot stopped what they were doing and turned to stare at their leader.

"What?" Prowl asked, voice flat.

"What are you talking about Prime?" Treads asked sounding as if he thought Optimus finally had gone and lost it.

"Now is the perfect time to go for the Space Bridge." Optimus Prime insisted quietly but firmly. "They'll expect us to head straight for Iacon, not the bridge." He was looking at Aria and Sera as he spoke now and the oldest human girl began to feel a great boulder of dread enter her stomach. It couldn't possibly be time to leave, could it?

Aria wasn't sure if that frightened or comforted her more.

Before Aria could snap out of her daze, Optimus turned to the others, meeting each of their optics as he went. "I won't make this a mandatory mission. Those that don't wish to join us can follow an indirect route back to Iacon with Hound and report to Alpha Trion what has happened."

"Hey!" Hound exclaimed, somewhat upset at not getting the chance to go with them to the Space Bridge.

Optimus Prime ignored him as he continued to speak to his listening bots. "I must keep a promise I made a very long time ago and I won't force anyone to help me. But if anyone cares to volunteer I won't turn you away either."

There was a thoughtful moment of stillness on the other bots' part.

Then, offering no explanation, Sideswipe stepped forward.

Ironhide and Chromia followed him. Then Bluestreak, Treads, and Cliffjumper stepped forward almost simultaneously.

"I'm going." Wheeljack announced with a slight nod of his head.

One by one they stepped forward, indicating their desire to go, or possibly just their cussed stubbornness to see this through to the end, until only one surly mech was left.

Finally, with a disgusted vent of air, Sunstreaker stepped forward too. "If we die because of this Sideswipe, I'm going to kill you." He grumbled to his brother.

Sideswipe just grinned.

"We're all with you Prime." Jazz told him before the twins could start their usual pointless arguing.

Optimus Prime looked around at the brave bots in front of him and nodded his thanks. All he said was, "We'll leave after moon set, before the sun is up."

There were a few nods to show they understood and then they all went back to what they had been doing before; tightening their limited security, seeing to injuries.

Aria was still staring into space.

"Aria? Aria what happened? What's going on? Aria!" Sera nearly whined as she shook her sister. "What's wrong with you?"

"What?" Aria managed to ask, barely turning her head. Then Sera's questions finally sunk into her mind and she shook herself out of her stupor enough to answer her. "They're, they're going to take us to the Space Bridge tomorrow. We're going to go home."

Sera stopped breathing for a second. Then she gasped, almost a sob, before a shaking smile pulled at her mouth. She covered it with one hand. "Oh God, we're actually going to go home? I can't believe it!" She said with a hysteric giggle.

Aria vaguely nodded. "Neither can I." She mumbled.

"You alright there Softie?" Sideswipe asked as he crouched down behind them.

Sera turned around, looking like she might start crying again at any moment. "Yes," she said breathily, "I'm finally going home!"

Sideswipe smiled somewhat sadly at her, but fondly all the same. "Good." He said, keeping it short.

Before he could say anything else, Wheeljack came over from where he had been talking quietly with Optimus. He was fidgeting nervously, rubbing his hands in front of his white and green chest, looking solely at the dirt as he knelt down in front of the humans.

Aria felt her eyebrows come together in a worried look. "What's wrong Wheeljack? Is something the matter with Hound?" It was all she could think of that would make him so nervous. But then why was he talking to them? Why not comm. Ratchet?

"Hmm? Oh, no. No. Hound is fine. Since he refuses to stay out of the way tomorrow, I've managed to patch up his leg. It should hold until Ratchet looks at him, as long as nobody else decides to stab him in the leg with a vibroblade. No, no. He's not the one I'm worried about."

Wheeljack's clarification, and nervous repetition, did nothing to reassure Aria. Unable to understand what was being said, Sera turned to Sideswipe and asked him what a Space Bridge was and how it would get them home.

"Then who are you worried about then?" Aria asked slowly.

Wheeljack's optics flashed to the dirt, then the surrounding rocks, then back down to his twitching hands, but never to Aria herself. Her suspicions mounted.

"I found something, well, possibly unsettling in my scan earlier…" he said hesitantly.

Aria felt her eyes grow wide and her pulse pound harder in her throat. "Sera-" she swallowed convulsively.

Wheeljack finally looked at her, hands waving wildly in front of him. "No! No, it, it had nothing to do with Miss Sera."

Now Aria was just confused. Anxious and afraid and very confused. "Then...me?" She asked, pointing a finger at her chest.

Wheeljack didn't answer her right away. "Do," he started tentatively, "do you remember what Shockwave said before he took Sunstreaker and me away? About you living past your time and putting your sister in stasis to keep her from," he paused, "from decaying?"

Aria's pulse turned hot now, as well as fast, and she distantly felt her hand ball into a fist at her side. "Yes." She answered sharply.

"Well," Wheeljack said, looking away from her again, "well I think what he meant," there was that pause again, "what he meant was that you age much more rapidly then us."

Aria was completely blindsided. She tilted her head and squinted up at Wheeljack. "What?" She asked, sure she was misunderstanding him. He was really worried about how old she was?

Wheeljack just nodded.

Aria took a moment to process this. "Well," she tried to think this through with some clarity, "how rapidly?"

Aria heard the inventor's intake of air. "You should've died from old age before Bumblebee and the others even received their first frames." He said quickly.

Aria literally reeled backwards. "But that was ages ago!

Wheeljack nodded, slower now. "Yes," he told her solemnly, "but even longer then that. It appears," Wheeljack said very slowly, "that the changes we made to your medicine when you first arrived here greatly slowed your aging process. Possibly by stellar cycles, mega-cycles." He told her as gently as he could.

Aria felt like she had just been hit by a truck. Numbly she dropped to the ground, her legs finally giving out. From what she had gathered over the time she had been here a stellar cycle was like a year. Mega-cycle was more like fifty of them.

Wheeljack was quickly becoming concerned by the look of stupefied shock on his long time friend's face. "Aria?" he asked timidly, "are you alright?"

Aria's mouth opened, but it was a few seconds before she managed to answer. "I, I think I need to lie down."

And then she let herself fall backwards onto the dirt.

The last things she heard was Sera's worried shout of, "Aria!" and Wheeljack's muttered, "Oh no, not again."

When Aria woke up next, she was sitting in Sideswipe's cab again. Sera was curled up tightly on the seat next to her, her head in Aria's lap, sleeping soundly. Outside was dark and still, those Autobots not on watch were getting what recharge they could.

"Glad to see you firing on all pistons again." Sideswipe's voice murmured through his internal comm. "Must've been some shock to lay you out like that."

Aria rubbed at her neck. It was stiff from its awkward position, most likely from when someone just shoved her in here because they didn't have the strength to actually lift her. "You have no idea." She murmured back.

Sera moved in her sleep, a small whine escaping through her nose before she settled deeper into the first real rest she had had in ages.

Aria stayed very still. She made sure Sera was still really asleep before carefully putting her hand on Sera's head, moving stray strands of shiny yellow hair out of her face.

Aria let herself smile. Her sister was safe. So what if they were over a hundred, or maybe hundreds, of years old? They were finally together again. At least now she knew why Sera looked like a teenager rather then her old nine-year-old self.

With a tangled up sigh, Aria leaned her head against the seat behind her. So many things to think about. It was all happening at once. First they were leaving, in like, a few hours, and then it turned out that what she had thought had only been a handful of years on this strange planet had actually been centuries and centuries. What kind of effect would this have on her lifespan now? What about after she left? Would it just snap back to normal, pick up where it left on, and let her go along her merry little way? Or was it already so built up in her system that she wouldn't start aging again for a long time? Long enough that her whole family would die from old age before she even looked thirty? Or maybe it would have the opposite effect and she would age rapidly to catch up with how old she had already lived? She would be nothing but dust in a few days, or maybe just minutes, or seconds. Or…or…

She just didn't know.

She squeezed her eyes shut and opened them again. Looking out the window, she saw the large frame of Optimus Prime sitting not too far away, his broad back to her.

As if he was reading her mind, Sideswipe suddenly said, "Go on, I can look after her right now," he told her, making sure to pitch his voice low so as not to wake Sera. "You just promise to take care of her once you two get back to your own planet. She's going to need you big time after this."

Aria nodded, at once touched by the mech's concern and anxious at the certainty in his words. Then, carefully, she slid Sera onto the seat bench and stiffly rose to her feet, murmuring her thanks. Sideswipe just quietly closed the door behind her.

Optimus was staring out at the surrounding ruins through a gap in the stone as Aria approached him. For a long moment she just stood close to his leg and stared out with him.

"How is she?" Optimus asked after a stretch of silence between them.

Aria nodded, but didn't tear her eyes away from the moonlit stone beyond them. "Good," she said, "ecstatic. She can't wait to get home."

Optimus nodded twice, slowly. "And you?" He asked eventually.

Aria sighed. "I don't know." She admitted, feeling the tangle of emotion in her chest pull tighter. "Of course I want to go home but…"

"But?" Optimus prodded after a moment where she didn't answer.

Aria looked up at him with lonely blue eyes. "But I would miss you guys." She murmured softly, her voice slightly strained.

Now it was Optimus' turn to sigh. "Ariah," he murmured quietly in his strong voice, "we will miss you deeply as well, but it is your home. It is where you belong."

Aria looked up at him, slightly panicked now. "Is it?" She asked desperately, "I've been here so long Optimus. Even longer then I thought since apparently I'm suddenly old, although I don't feel any different. How do you even know that Earth is still there? I mean, how long have I even been here?"

Optimus hung his head and closed his optics briefly. "I do not know. We never were able to correlate our definitions of time. However I can tell you that the Space Bridge was originally meant to transport objects through space and time. It is well within the realm of possibility that we can transport you back in time to the day you came here. Or it may even be that your time is in the future, and you originally traveled backwards in time to reach us." He told her, hoping it would help.

Aria nodded, clearly dazed. They fell back into another space of silence, each caught up in their own thoughts.

Then, suddenly-

"Come with me."

Optimus looked down at Aria, somewhat confused. "What?" He asked.

"Come with me." Aria said again as she looked up and met Optimus Prime's gaze. "To Earth. All of you. If we move in time like you say then the war won't have even started. Or it could already be over. I'm tired of watching you getting hurt or killed. Please," she begged, "come with me."

Optimus saw the loneliness and fear of leaving everything she had come to know and love swimming in her organic optics. And he wished he could have taken her offer; leave this life of war and save the Autobots by transporting them to a whole new planet where they could start over.

But he also knew he couldn't.

"Thank you Ariah, but no. We cannot leave. Cybertron is our home like Earth is yours. We must fight against the evil trying to consume her, consume us all. We can't let Megatron destroy it."

Aria's face crumpled under his words and she didn't bother to hide it. After all, he knew her better then anyone, even Sera. He would have seen it anyway.

It tore at his spark the way the first few tears spilled down her face, so he leaned down and nudged her gently with a finger.

"Please do not despair Ariah, it will be alright. We will see each other again. Do not doubt it." He told her, just knowing it was true.

Aria sniffed and rubbed at her eyes with the back of a hand. "But how can you be so sure?" She asked, voice raw.

Optimus smiled gently at her. "Because I can feel it, right down to my core." He told her, placing a fist to the armor just over his spark.

Aria nodded and sniffed again. "Will you at least tell 'Bee that I love him? And that I'm sorry I didn't get the chance to say goodbye in person." She asked him.

Optimus inclined his head. "Of course."

Another tear coursed down Aria's cheek. Optimus saw her lower lip start to tremble. "I-I'm going to miss you so much." She said in a chocked off voice.

He knew how she felt. "I will miss you too Ariah." He said. And then he leaned down as far as he could, his chin almost touching the ground, and wrapped a large hand around the small organic that had been his friend for vorns too numerous for him to count.

Aria leaned forward and spread her arms as far as she could, although she couldn't possibly wrap them around his face, and pressed herself against his cheek in as close to a hug as she could manage.

What they didn't know was that Bumblebee wasn't safe back at Iacon. He couldn't even see the city anymore, just the dim glow of its lights out on the horizon. It had taken him almost all day and night, but he had made it. He was here. This was where the bad thing would happen.

He had to stop it, he knew he did. If he didn't, then nothing would ever be alright ever again. He could already feel it, the bad thing in the future trying to tear a hole so big in his spark that it would break. He couldn't stand it.

But there was nothing he could do right now. The bad thing wasn't here yet. It wouldn't be until tomorrow.

Bumblebee felt his frame slow, his feet heavy from lack of recharge. He was so tired. He looked at the empty landscape around him and after some searching, found a piece of curved metal that would hide him from immediate sight. He got down on all fours and crawled under it before curling up tightly into a ball. He fell into a fitful recharge almost immediately.

Behind and beyond him, the constant light of the Space Bridge threw long, distorted shadows all across the landscape that was devoid of life except or the tiny, yellow youngling.

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