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Chapter Text

There was a lot of blood.

Blood and screaming. The liquid gushed forth, like a geyser, tainting my skin. The background noise became dim as I zeroed in on the life-sucking wound, tears prickling in the corners of my eyes.

Don't freeze up. Don't freeze up. Don't.

You got yourself into this mess.

Now get out.


Indeed, I had. Flashback just a few hours — no, a day. I'd been making Izzy breakfast with the help of Cogman. We'd settled into this old, ancient English castle quite fine. I liked the remote location and the rolling hills, a good distance away from any metropolitan area.

"You have to flip them like this," Cogman took the pan from me, demonstrating how to overturn the pancakes with a flick of his wrist. I watched, teeth grit as I tried not to let my frustration show.

"I've always been terrible with pancakes. Waffles? Fine. Eggs? No problem. Hell, Drift taught himself how to make pancakes."

"It takes practice," Cogman chided. He slipped some plates from the cabinet, serving Izzy first while Sqweeks looked on.

"Thanks," Izzy said happily. She met my gaze and smiled, enjoying her breakfast. After a few bites she inquired, "When's Dad coming home?"

Dad. Shit. It took me a few moments to really remember that she was referring to Optimus. The word was foreign to me, not only because I'd grown up fatherless, but because, never in a million years did I imagine having a little girl refer to my mate as Dad and me as Mom.

"Hopefully soon. He had to search Iacon. Or, what's left of Iacon," I scowled, hearing Cogman take a seat at the table. "It's not like he has to travel a billion lightyears anymore."

I smiled at the thought, forcing myself to put a positive spin on the fact that, now, Cybertron was in orbit. Or, more accurately, part of us. Those massive tendrils had yet to retreat, and they probably never would. The hulking planet was visible all across Europe, and most of the world.

The public freakouts had come first. Then the riots. Then the protests. The planet was in a state of shock and awe, and scientists were baffled at how Cybertron's very presence hadn't torn us out of orbit or disrupted our entire planets ecosystem. It was very nerve-racking, knowing that only Optimus and I knew why. Or, at least, had some plausible idea. I had yet to share the existence of Unicron with anyone, not even Cade. The fact that he didn't know proved how incredibly serious the situation was.

I prayed that Optimus would return from Iacon with some knowledge. The residents of Earth were freaking out, now forced to question their own existence — if the knowledge got out that the dirt beneath their feet was alien in nature….

Don't even think about it.

"Has he proposed to you yet?" Izzy said through a mouthful of food. I quickly looked away, shaking my head. Izzy mumbled, "What's taking him so long?"

"I don't know," I admitted. "I mean, you know how sparkmating is…kind of. We're bonded. Human customs are important to some people, but with me…I'm happy either way. And hey, you don't even like weddings! Or dresses!"

"I'd wear one for you," Izzy pointed. "Plus, Sqweeks can be your flower girl…uh, bot."

That does sound pretty cute.

I chuckled, taking my own breakfast and joining Izzy and Cogman at the table.

"Oh, ma'am—"

"You don't have to call me that, Cogman."

"Right. Rachel. Well, I thought you might like to know that Chairman Morshower called this morning while you were still resting. He wishes to know if you'd be available to fill in for Optimus during Wednesday's press conference."

"Why me?" I said immediately. I raised my eyebrows at Cogman. "I hate public speaking. He knows that. It's why I said no, like, a thousand times before."

"He believed it to be appropriate, since you are the mate of Optimus Prime."

Shit. Okay. He has a point.

Despite how much I despised the idea of being shoved in front of a bunch of cameras and having my face broadcasted to the world, I felt almost…obligated. I'd been deemed a public menace, along with Cade. Then we'd saved the world. Then we'd been cleared before disappearing into the void.

Make a comeback. Reassure people that the Cybertronians aren't all evil, soulless monsters. Hell, you're practically one of them.

"I'm his mate, but I'm also not really even human—"

"You look human," Cogman said. "Your DNA is your business. Not a single person watching will know that you can lift a thousand pounds or talk with people using your mind."

"I'll do it," Izzy said. "I mean, if you don't want to. I'd give all those people talking bad about you a piece of my mind, tell them to take those stupid protest signs and shove them—"

"Okay, fine, I'll take his place," I raised a hand, silencing Izzy before she could say something truly obscene. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her smile down at her food.

"Good. I will call and let him know," Cogman seemed gleeful.

"I mean, I can call him. It's no biggie. I'm not used to having a butler," I scratched my neck. Cogman tilted his head in confusion, and I clarified, "You don't have to do everything, Cogman. You're family. You're not here to do whatever it is I tell you to do — you can live."

"Believe me, cleaning up after you is the last thing my good conscious wants me to do," Cogman said. "As I have said before, I find some of your habits rather…unruly. However, that does not mean that I will not honor Burton's last orders. It also does not mean that I do not feel fondness for you and Prime."

That's the nicest thing he's ever said to me.

"I mean, that's family, right?" Izzy said.

"That's right. Now eat your pancakes," I ruffled Izzy's hair. "I need to go find something nice to wear."


Press conference day seemed far away, until it wasn't. Three days passed before the event rushed up and smacked me in the face. It had only been around seven weeks since our battle with Quintessa, and for a majority of that time, I'd been healing up, avoiding the general population.

Now, I was back. And I'd forgotten how much people sucked.

Because of the sheer amount to reporters, we'd been forced to hold the thing outside — much to my chagrin — right in the heart of D.C. I wasn't happy about it, but it was something I could deal with. My entire demeanor was that of a cave gremlin being forced out of its slumber early — despite the makeup on my face and my rather nice attire.

"We're keeping you away from the cameras until it's time," Morshower said dully. He, too, looked as if he'd rather be anywhere else. But he was handling it with much more class and false enthusiasm than I ever could, so I had to give him kudos. "I'm speaking first, and then you. That's it. If people ask questions, just walk away."

"Won't that make me look like an asshole?"

"For this event, you are the asshole."

We sat in the black suburban in silence. I nearly leaped out of my skin as the door opened — it was Lennox, garbed in his uniform. He slid next to me and shut the door, looking both Morshower and I up and down.

"You to look excited."

"I'm jumping for joy, can't you tell?" Morshower replied. He gave a very small, genuine smile. "Good to see you, Will."

"Good to see you to, sir."

I smirked, staring out the window as the vehicle lurched forward once more. We drove, all of us in deep, silent contemplation. The nervousness hadn't hit, yet. I hated public speaking, dreaded it. This would probably be a defining moment that would make or break the Autobot's and their relationship with the general human population.

And, of course, the honor of facilitating that went to me. Fuck that.

"You're doing the finger thing. You're nervous," Lennox murmured. He reached out and grasped my hand, stopping my thumb and my forefinger from continuing to rub against one another. He looked into my eyes and whispered, "I know you. And I know that you can do this. You're one of the few people out there that can captivate someone with words."

"I have to captivate the entire planet, Will."

"You won't have to do it alone."

We pulled from silence into chaos. Armed guards and barricades held back the roaring protestors. The cameras and the reporters were allowed at the forefront, unrestrained as they desperately tried to do their jobs over the sounds of booing, chanting, and jeering.

Will squeezed my hand tighter as we waited for the signal. I reached through the bond and felt Optimus, over a thousand miles away.

"Remember what we talked about."

"I'm not you," I replied. "I can't…I don't do these inspiring ass speeches. I can't reassure people that it's going to be okay, especially since I know…we know what the truth is."

"Rachel. Speak from your heart. You are my hope, and these people need you to be theirs."

"Shit," I sighed, legs trembling. "Okay. Shit. I'll do it. I can talk."

"I love you."

"I love you, too," I ducked my head. "Get your ass back soon, Optimus. Izzy misses you."

The outpour of warmth and love from Prime's spark calmed my physical nerves, sending pinpricks of euphoria down my body. I closed my eyes, opening them as I managed to step out of the car with steady limbs.

"It's a Christmas miracle," I murmured. The flashing of cameras was like a never-ending strobe light, and I was glad I had Lennox next to me. Morshower approached the small podium, immediately launching into a statement prepared by the President before addressing the world as the proxy head of N.E.S.T.

I barely listened to what he was saying. A slight nudge from Lennox informed me that it was over, that I was up. My blood ran cold and I could feel my legs begin to tremble.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

I was painfully aware of my own breathing. Lennox gently eased me forward, and I approached the podium. The protestors had been forced back even further, allowing my words to carry a bit more. I was glad — now I couldn't see the hatred in their wide eyes, or the disdain.

"So…uh…how's everyone?"

Shit. Shit Rachel, shit. You don't start a speech like that!

Some of the reporters shrugged. Some looked confused, others baffled. I gave those who participated major brownie points, chuckling in an attempt to relieve some of the tension.

"Listen, I'm going to be real with you guys. I'm not a public speaker. I actually hate public speaking, and I'm really nervous. But I'm going to get through this anyway, because I know Optimus would want me to," I gulped, taking the silence as my cue to continue. "He couldn't be here right now. He's up there," I pointed to the massive outline of Cybertron peeking through the clouds. "Which, I can't believe I'm even saying. I'm in shock, too. And I've hung around aliens a lot."

More silence. I gripped the side of the podium, careful not to break it.

"We, as a species, have a choice. Stand together, or allow more bloodshed. All of those people, all the innocent ones that died, don't have to die in vain. Peace comes if we work together and set aside our differences. Optimus wants what's best for this planet. He wants to see it live, prosper. He loves it. And so do I, and so do all of you. That feeling, that unity, shows that we're not so different. Flesh and metal—"

I was vaguely aware of Morshower suddenly darting towards me, his body dwarfing mine with ease. My slow, dumbass mind stared in confusion, not recognizing that there was an immediate danger beyond Morshower, beyond the confused reporters.

It was too late.

Three loud gunshots cracked through the air. People immediately dropped to the ground, an instinct that I, apparently, didn't posses. Gunshots meant battle, and my brain was wired for that.

A male voice cried out in pain. I was forced to the floor by Morshower's heavy body as yet another gunshot rang out. This time, I felt the bullet catch me in the shoulder.

The world was on its side. Cameras dropped and feet thundered past. Law enforcement returned fire and I heard several bellows as the protestors broke past the barriers, fleeing the scene, leaving signs splattered with crude images and obscenities on the grass.

Two bodies lay on the ground - a male and a female. Some members of the press had stayed and were tending to any injured.

"Rachel!" Lennox slid to his knees. I grunted, easing Morshower off me and sitting up. The bullet was embedded in my skin, the hole tender to the touch and leaking. I was to used to the pain to care, and my mind was clear.

Morshower was limp, the front of his uniform stained, the patch spreading. I sat back as Will began CPR.

There was a lot of blood.

Blood and screaming. The liquid gushed forth, like a geyser, tainting my skin. The background noise became dim as I zeroed in on the life-sucking wound, tears prickling in the corners of my eyes.

Don't freeze up. Don't freeze up. Don't.

Lennox's hands were slick with blood. He kept going, even after Morshower was clearly dead. With my good arm I had to reach out and stop him, my voice coming out in strained stutters.

"Leave him. Leave. He's dead, Will," I tugged harder, my voice rising as Lennox didn't listen. "Will. He's dead."

"No—"

"He's dead," I said firmly and loudly. Will stopped. Fear and uncertainty swam in those blue orbs of his. "Leave him. Please. Please."

"You're hurt," Will croaked.

"I'm fine. I'm okay," I trembled. "I'm okay. Shit. I just need to rest."

You got yourself into this.

I tried not to cry, steeling myself as Will and I were whisked away by professionals.

Now get. Out.

Chapter Text

It felt almost routine. Sitting on the sidewalk while paramedics stitched up my arm, baffled that I wasn't comatose. I wasn't bulletproof, but my skin was tough — there was no exit wound. If I wanted to, I could have probably plucked the projectile out with my fingers. But even that would cause me pain, so I just left it and let the medics do their job.

Morshower's body was covered with a tarp. I couldn't stand even looking at the lump of lifeless flesh I knew lay beneath the dark covering.

Get up. Get out.

Go home.

No. Find the killer.

I stood. The medics tried to force me back down, two pairs of strong hands tugging me towards the concrete. I ignored them, simply limping forward, making sure not to disturb what was now an active crime scene. Lennox called after me, but I disregarded him, hobbling towards the familiar vehicle pulling up next to an empty cop car.

"Is Cogman waiting with the plane?" I asked. Bumblebee's doors popped open, and I clambered inside. Bumblebee did not pull away immediately — instead he waited, forcing me to confront Lennox.

"You're just going to leave me here? In all this mess?"

"I mean, what else can I do?"

He glanced around. I saw him eye the cop cars, and then raise his gaze as a helicopter thrummed overhead. He sighed, looking hesitant. "I know you. You aren't running," Lennox lowered his voice. "Look, this city is shut down. Cops are patrolling every corner. They probably caught whoever it was by now—"

"It was a sniper. Far away," I said softly. "I recognize the sound. Hound taught me—"

"There's no way you're going to find them. And if you get caught, the authorities will turn you in for questioning. Please," Lennox was begging, now. "Let this go. Let this one go."

"He has a point. There's no winnin' here," Bumblebee's radio chirped. I was a bit startled, not expecting the mech to take Lennox's side. He was usually rather gung-ho when it came to serving some good old fashioned justice.

"Fuck," I cursed. I paused, steadying my breathing. "I don't mean to leave you with all this. I don't—"

"You're fine. I can handle it. They'll need me, after all. They'll need me, but they want you," Lennox patted Bee's door. "Bee, take care of her."

"Aye aye, captain."

"Now head on out," Lennox smiled. "I'll take it from here."


There's blood on your hands, still. Lots of blood.

Is that mine or Morshowers?

Both.

The liquid had dried, caking beneath my fingernails and turning the brown skin of my hands a patchy, dark red velvet. I'd frightened Izzy on accident, stumbling in, still in shock, blood on my shirt and arms. I'd collapsed and she'd healed what was left of my jagged shoulder wound.

"I thought these days were behind us," Cogman said sadly. "I was naive. The bloodshed will never be over."

"Hey, at least we got some time to rest," I reclined on the couch. I felt Sqweeks nudge my leg, nuzzling against the fabric of my pants in an attempt to comfort me. "I knew things would go to shit eventually. But not this fast."

"Perhaps this was an isolated incident?" Cogman said. "A rogue 'patriot' consumed by hatred."

"Optimus is going to be so pissed," I groaned.

"Oh, he is."

"What?" I shot up at Cogman's words. "He knows?"

Cogman made a face, as if it were the most obvious thing is the world. "Of course he knows! I informed him — after all, he most likely felt you receive your injury. I did it to simply reassure him that you were in good health."

I almost forgot about our whole…bonding. We were connected in more ways than one, and I often didn't realize just how vast it all was. It was easier to link with him. If I focused I could physically feel the twinge as he received a blow from an enemy sword. It was all minor and, despite my strength, I was still human. We were still vastly underdeveloped compared to the Cybertronian's.

"Speaking of your mate," Cogman gestured towards the front. "He is currently approaching the estate along with Drift and Hound."

"About time," Izzy hopped from the couch. I could hear her shouting, hear Prime transform. I slowly followed, allowing the two to embrace. Izzy squealed as Hound placed her on his shoulder, allowing her to almost meet Prime's gaze. A gaze that travelled down, before settling on me.

My cheeks immediately heated up. I waved, smiling as Hound began recounting their tales on Cybertron to a curious Izabella. Just their presence made the place feel complete.

A home.


"Nothing? No data pads, no artifacts—"

"I was able to copy several ancient texts scrawled across the halls of Iacon. I have yet to analyze that — I prefer we begin that task tomorrow," Optimus nuzzled my neck. The hands of his holoform crept beneath my robe, palming the bare skin beneath. "As of now, I wish to show my mate how much I missed her."

"Studying old-ass glyphs can wait," I murmured. "I like what you're doing."

I felt Optimus maneuver his palm to my shoulder, right where the bullet had torn through my skin. The only thing left was a little raised bump that would soon disappear, leaving the faded ghost of a wound. Softly, he murmured, "Remove your robe. I wish to see you, fully."

I obeyed. Optimus stared, blue eyes soaking me in as I stood before the mirror, head turned away. I didn't want to look at my body. I was an underweight, small mess of a girl with skinny arms. I'd always found my figure unflattering, and Optimus knew that. He'd given up on reassuring me that he didn't care what I looked like and that he found it appealing. Instead he just showed his appreciation through his kisses and touches. I turned to face him, meeting his gaze.

"I will find the human who injured you, and they will pay the price," Optimus murmured. "Such an offense will not be tolerated—"

"I froze up. I could have done something," I said thickly. "If Morshower hadn't grabbed me, hadn't thrown himself at me, he…he wouldn't have gotten shot. They were aiming for me. He saved my fucking life."

Optimus let me rant. When I finished, my hands were shaking. No tears fell. I'd learned not to cry. Crying didn't help.

Optimus brushed his thumb across my cheek. "I am sorry. I was not there for you," Optimus whispered. "I should have been present for such an important event—"

"No. You can't balance all of this alone," I shook my head. "Rebuilding Cybertron is important. There are people who want to help, humans who want to help. This…this was just…humanity being humanity. We aren't ready for you, Optimus. We're not there yet, but we can get over that hill and be united. I believe it. There are still good people left in this world."

"I love you."

Those words always made my heart soar. Optimus rested his forehead against mine, his holoform inhaling, mimicking the motion of his real body cycling its vents.

I replied, "I love you, too," before grinning and tugging him towards our bed.


"Rise and shine, madame — I mean, Rachel."

Light flooded my eyes. Even with my face half-buried in the pillow, the brightness was nearly blinding. I tested sore limbs. The intricate bed beneath me felt a little wobbly, and as I sat up and air touched my bare skin, I remembered why.

Oh. Yeah. The sex.

I prayed that I could fix it. I dreaded having to explain to Cogman why the bed was broken. Knowing his sarcastic manner, I'd never hear the end of it.

"Cogman, I'm naked," I said gruffly, clutching the sheet to my bare chest. The headmaster bot was dusting, swiping the surfaces clean while simultaneously trying to usher me from bed. He didn't seem shocked at my outburst, giving me a "no shit, Sherlock" look.

"I'm quite aware of your nudity, and I am not bothered by it. I saw Sir Burton in various states of undress throughout his life - in fact, the very bed in which you lay was where he was conceived and subsequently birthed."

"That's….I didn't need to know that," I squeezed my eyes shut. "Is there a reason you got me up?"

"You received a call from William Lennox approximately thirty minutes ago," Cogman stated. He stopped at the edge of the bed, sighing. "Really, you should try and begin waking up at a decent hour."

"It's still early."

"Is is lunchtime," Cogman replied. "I know coitus can be rather exhausting, although with your enhanced strength I do not see why—"

"I'll set an alarm!" I exclaimed, hopping from the bed. I padded over to the closet, opening it as I addressed Cogman. "And you should probably go. Optimus is kind of territorial. I don't know if he'd be cool with you in here while I'm getting dressed."

"Oh, yes! Absolutely!" Cogman stammered. "My apologies."

He darted from the room, and I chuckled. I slid on whatever comfortable clothes I could find before making my way downstairs. Sqweeks greeted me, buzzing his hello. I grabbed a cup of coffee, flopping onto the couch as Sqweeks followed. The massive living room was empty, and I could slightly see Izzy outside with the Autobots. I closed my eyes.

Focus on your breathing.

"Hey, army-man."

I'd never linked with Lennox before, so I immediately snorted when I heard a shriek of terror reverberate through his skull. I picked my way through his organized, neatly filed brain until I reached the center.

"What the hell—"

"Hush. You know it's me."

"Just…Jesus Christ, next time just call like a normal person," Lennox sighed. "I don't do all this telepathy crap."

"Is it to early in the morning?"

"Uh, yeah kind of."

"Shit. Time change. Forgot about that — my bad. Cogman said that you needed to talk to me?"

"Yeah," Lennox replied. He paused for a long moment, and I could see him gathering his thoughts. "We found the guy who murdered Chairman Morshower."

I sat up immediately, nearly banging Sqweeks in the head.

"How and who?"

"Some guy from Kansas. Bryce Allen. Thirty years old, father of two…I won't go into the details. He shot himself in the head during a police confrontation," Lennox said bitterly. "Son of a bitch. Thinks he's to good for federal prison, I guess."

"Trust me, federal prison would have been the least of his worries. You and I both know Optimus would have gone after him first."

"Damn right. I heard Prime is back," Lennox said softly. "That's what the government wants. He's a beacon, a symbol for all the humans who fought alongside him."

"N.E.S.T," I murmured. I felt my body tense as I grit my teeth. "You guys are technically unofficially back in the game, right?"

"We're trying. It would be great if we had someone with superpowers to join us."

"Are you talking about me or Izzy? Because you know how I feel about—"

"You," Lennox said. "Not Izzy. And you know what, it's already to much to ask, I know. I'm sorry. It's just…"

"You miss having Epps."

"Yeah," Lennox admitted finally, after a long pause. "I do."

I didn't know what to say. A silent hung between us, and I replied, "There was no one like him, but him. Me joining N.E.S.T won't fill that hole. You're a good man, Will, and one hell of a soldier. But I don't think that I can do this. I can't."

"I'll always understand, Rachel," Lennox said softly. "I want what's best for you."

I paused, letting out a deep sigh, partially out of contentment and partially because I was fairly certain I already knew the answer to my own question. A question which I asked Lennox in a calm voice.

"Do you have nightmares, Will?"

"All the time."

"What do you see?"

Will didn't reply for a long moment. Then, heavily, he murmured, "I…see so many people dead. I saw Sam die. I saw you die. And when I'm asleep I see it all over again, the exact way it happened. And I can't do anything about it."

I'd almost forgotten how many similarities the other boy, Sam Witwicky, and I shared. I'd only seen him once, and that had been very, very briefly. He'd chosen to walk away and put his days of death-defying decisions behind him. That was a difference.

"Hell exists, man, and we've been through it," I chuckled. "You came out of it. You're one of the lucky ones."

"I am. And so are you."

Chapter Text

"I could really use some of your wise-ass comments right now. Things are going to shit. Humanity wasn't ready, and now, your planet is here…so close that I feel like I could reach out and touch it," I laughed, squinting up at Cybertron's jagged surface, where I knew Crosshairs' corpse lay buried. I liked to pretend that he was up there, still acting as a protector. A sarcastic, douchebag protector. "Dude. It kind of sucks without you."

Optimus didn't like talking about Crosshairs. I hadn't heard the mech utter a single sentence regarding the green bot's fate, and I knew why. It was like an open wound — I'd watched Optimus dispose of the retractable blade he'd used to pierce Crosshairs spark, uncaring and refusing to get a replacement.

No more.

It was a mark of shame and agony. And deep down there was an even larger wound — the fact that he'd been trying to kill me.

"These hands that caressed your small frame are the same hands that tried to slaughter you."

He'd spoken those words, believing them to be true. I didn't. Those were Quintessa's hands, not his. It had been her will, not his. Never his.

The week droned on with no incidents. Protestors marched in Washington, the ripple effect still, well, rippling. Glenn Morshower was laid to rest in Arlington. Only William Lennox and several former and current N.E.S.T soldiers had been allowed to attend. The rest of us, the government said, would just "make a scene."

"It's raining," Izzy said nonchalantly. I was on the couch, fiddling with my computer. The huge castle was vast enough that, unless a major thunderstorm and powerful winds hit, the interior couldn't really hear the exterior.

"Where are Hound and Drift?"

"Patrol," Izzy said. She flopped onto the couch next to me. I heard Optimus lean from where he'd been standing, his head poking through the window. I could hear him stomp away, toward's one of the castle's covered courtyards to seek refuge from the rain.

A crack of thunder startled Izzy. She leaped, only settling down when she realized that I'd shot her a glance.

"You know it's okay to be scared, right."

"I've stared down Megatron. I shouldn't be scared of thunder," Izzy pouted. Sqweeks, seemingly sharing her fear of thunder, squealed and darted over to where we sat.

"I've faced Megatron too, but I'm still afraid of spiders," I wrapped my arm around her shoulder. "You're a little warrior. Little warriors can still be afraid."

"I bet Optimus isn't scared of anything."

"Trust me, he is," I said softly. Another crack of thunder. Izzy curled up against me, and I could feel her shoulders relax. I heard footsteps — expecting it to be Cogman, I turned. Instead I saw Prime's holoform slide onto the couch.

"You need to recharge—"

"I will," Prime smiled. "Izabella, would you like me to take you and Sqweeks upstairs?"

"Please," Izzy shuddered as a soften boom reverberated throughout the castle. She still managed to muster up some confidence, head held high as she went up the stairs, flinching at every little boom or crack of thunder and lightning. Optimus and Sqweeks followed as I tidied up a bit, turning off the lamp and shrouding the room in darkness.

"Aren't Sideswipe and Mirage supposed to join up with us at some point?" I asked. "Simmons said that they haven't even left Cuba."

Optimus gently shut our bedroom door, doing quietly so not to disturb Izzy and Sqweeks. If either one of them had a nightmare, I'd know — I'd become accustomed to linking with Izzy during the night without any issues. It was much easier and much safer to usher her from a hectic dream, since Izabella's powers allowed her to quite literally destroy half the castle.

For now, it was just Prime and I in a room illuminated by a single lamp and the occasional flashes of lightning in the night sky.

"They are enjoying their vacation, it seems," Optimus chuckled. "Cuba is a Cybertronian friendly island. They embrace us there," he added sadly. "I wish I could say the same for everywhere else."

"Humans are assholes," I muttered, once again finding myself standing before the rooms full length mirror, clad in my night robe. "And I know that because I am one. Kinda. Halfway."

"Not all."

"Not all, but most," I laughed. Absently I peeled my robe to the side, revealed the jagged scar in the center of my chest. The wound had been so deep that even Izzy's healing abilities hadn't been able to completely rid the evidence. There was a ridge, now, of discolored flesh marring my body. Not that I minded but…just seeing it made me remember, and remembering always hurt.

Optimus had one just the same. Though I couldn't see it on his bipedal form, it appeared on his holoform — a physical representation of himself as human. He had many scars, but the ones inflicted by Megatron stood out the most.

"We match," I said hollowly. "We both know death. He's a fucking cunt."

Optimus chuckled. "Indeed. However, death will not be visiting us again," he nuzzled the side of my neck, humming, "I am here. No one - nothing - will harm you."

I sunk into his arms, my shoulders relaxing. We swayed like a dancing couple, Optimus wrapped around me like a blanket. I finally turned to face him, neck craned as I stared into his blue eyes. He took a deep breath, reaching out to graze his fingertips across the side of my face, as if he were admiring an art piece. I could feel the familiar twang of lust and desire in his spark. But something told me he was holding back.

"Optimus?" I stepped closer. "What is it? What's wrong?"

"Everything is…fine. After a million years of war, I feel fine. Happy," Optimus' lip quivered, and I took his face between my palms. It sounded as if he couldn't speak, and like he was trying not to weep. "Primus, I love you."

His kisses were feverish and needy. I nearly tripped as I backpedalled, tugging him with me. I was halfway through yanking at his belt buckle when his pants and the fabric underneath disappeared all together.

I can work with this.

We moved like a wave. I was almost grateful for the thunder and lightning and the hammer of rain against the window, for it masked my loud, breathy moans and the hard smack of flesh against flesh. I glanced down at where our bodies connected, bedsheets twisted around us. Optimus was above me, hands braced on either side of my head. With each flash of lightning I saw those cerulean blue eyes, deeper than anything I'd ever seen before.

When we'd finished, he sat up, pulling me against him, waiting for me to steady my breathing. He stroked my cheek, coaxing me back into reality.

"Feeling better?"

Optimus chuckled at my remark. He rested his head against the pillow while I pressed my cheek against his chest, allowing his hands to trace light patterns against my shoulder blades.

"I am feeling much better."

"Good. You deserve that much," I murmured. "I don't want to talk about Unicron right now, or anything like that. I just…I want to be with you. Here. Right now."

"You have me," Optimus replied. "All of me."

"Does a holoform count?" I joked, grinning and placing a kiss against his chest.

"Only if you want it to. I take pleasuring my mate very seriously," Optimus snickered, smiling like I'd never seen him before. He was half hard, already becoming aroused.

"You horny old robot—ah!" I whimpered as his thumb brushed across my breast the gesture had tickled, and my surprised giggle only egged Prime on. "You discovered my greatest weakness! Shit!"

"You are 'ticklish'?" Optimus snorted. "What else do I not know about my mate?"

I was suddenly pinned beneath him, lips quivering as I tried not to give him the satisfaction of hearing me laugh.

"Ah, most humans are, uh — ah — ticklish," I giggled, squealing and turning onto my side. "Optimus Prime, you are being naughty!"

You like it.

"Are Cybertronians ticklish?" I kissed his jugular, adjusting beneath him as the furious onslaught of tickles ceased as quickly as it had begun. "Do you have nerve endings and shit similar that, like, make you ticklish…?"

"We have something similar. If one hereto grab the correct cable, we would experience an effect similar to being 'tickled."

"Man, I could have so used that to piss off Crosshairs," I chuckled, sighing. Prime distant gave made me hesitate, and I sucked in a breath when I realized that, oh, shit, that wound still hadn't fully healed. Softly, I said, "Shit. I'm sorry—"

"Do not ever apologize for Crosshairs' fate, Rachel. I have no right to keep your thoughts about him something you cannot openly express."

You should tell him.

It doesn't matter now.

Shit.

I nodded, glancing down the white bedsheets. I twisted them between my fingers, contemplating whether or not now was a good time to mention…

"…he was in love with me, Optimus," I said, carefully and sadly. "He told me. He was ashamed of it so I couldn't bring myself to tell anyone else. But he loved me."

"I was aware of that."

I raised my eyebrows. For a few moments I was stunned, unable to speak. I forced something out, however, when I felt the silence stretch on for to long. "He told you…?"

"He did. And I knew you cared deeply for him," Optimus said heavily. "I could never keep possession of the blade that pierced his spark. He protected you far better than I ever could."

"Optimus—"

"The act of offlining him did not pull me from Quintessa's control. Seeing him lay down his life for you is what did. It reminded me that I would do the same in a sparkbeat. I still would."

I rested my forehead against his shoulder. The tears I wanted to shed didn't come.

Empty.


Even after the debacle that was Hong Kong, Kinetic Solutions Incorporated was still up and running, albeit under heavy regulations. No more prototypes, no more transformium…

Well, some transformium.

I tugged and adjusted my dress, heels clicking against the polished, white floors. It was weird, being back in America — I'd only been in England for less than a month, and I already considered the place home. KSI headquarters lay nestled in the heart of Mission City, California, a place the Autobots knew all to well. Drift had accompanied me, acting as my chaperone. I'd practically banned Optimus from traveling, but I knew it was for his own good — he needed rest. I could see the exhaustion, the stress in his frame.

The trip would be short. Joyce had called me up, beckoning me to his headquarters. He'd been incredibly vague, which had peaked my curiosity. As long as he wasn't trying to sell me something, I'd be fine.

"You look lovely, Rachel!"

I embraced Joshua Joyce, feeling him squeeze my shoulder. He still wore that finely pressed suit and that braggadocios smile, something I'd learned would forever be part of him. I'd gotten used to it.

"Where's Prime?"

"At home," I answered. "Resting. I'm not staying long, anyway."

"You're a mom now, right?" Joyce smiled softly. "Well, sort of. That's what I heard. I haven't seen anyone since Hong Kong."

I followed Joyce down the hall, marveling at how different the place looked. Of course, he'd fixed the various structures that had been broken during our, uh, invasion of sorts. But even now, without Cemetery Wind looming around every corner, the place felt cleaner, full of fresher air.

"It's probably best you came alone," Joyce murmured. "Some of the employees still haven't forgiven you guys."

"I don't blame them," I shrugged. "We did what we had to do."

Joyce didn't respond, partially because he couldn't. There was nothing else to be said, and only guilt to be had. The fact that Joyce felt remorse was enough for me.

Joshua pushed through a set of double doors, entering what had once been the main prototype production area — I could still see Stinger, deactivated and strewn ourtacross the floor. Everything else had been shipped out, save for a few display cases in the corner. Those were new.

"Since we can't make our prototypes, we've decided to focus on more…domestic products," Joyce held out his hand as we came to a stop before the glass boxes. Inside were silver, shimmery hazmats suits — at least, that's the only way I could describe them — mounted and ready to be worn. I could only tilt my head in confusion and look at Joyce for an answer.

"You said it yourself. We have to work together," Joyce sighed and crossed his arms. "Us and them. It's not particularly fair that they can travel to our planet, but we can't travel to theirs. The air up there is toxic, even for someone like you."

"Spacesuits?" I raised my eyebrows. "Made out of transformium?"

Joshua nodded. "Woven with ballistic fibers, and anti-penetration of even the smallest amount of toxic material. Lightweight, let's you really move…" Joyce trailed off. "You're the first person outside of the government whose seen this stuff."

"Has it been tested?"

"Tested on everything from mustard gas to nuclear radiation. But it's never been used in the field," Joyce said. "The headpiece attaches to an air purifying respirator. Cybertron is rich with oxygen. It's just the fumes and ancient, alien microorganisms that will kill you, that we know of."

"Why are you showing me this, Joyce?" I asked. I wasn't trying to be rude — I was honestly baffled. Usually Joyce's requests involved weaponry, new guns for either Cade, Lennox or I to test. Never anything like this.

"I want you to be the first to test it on Cybertron's surface."

My mouth dropped open. I stared, struggling to politely decline his offer. Instead I ended up saying, "You know that Optimus with vehemently oppose this. He makes a big deal whenever I want to go with him to Cybertron and just stay on the Knight Ship—"

"Cybertron is dead, correct? No life exists on that godforsaken planet, anyway," Joyce stepped closer, adjusting his glasses. "I have no doubt that the suit works. You have nothing to worry about in terms of safety—"

"I trust you," I said. "I do, Joshua. Fuck," I cursed, squeezing my eyes shut. "I'll do it, okay. I'll do it."

You have a plan.

I did have a plan. It wasn't a very good one. Optimus would have no legitimate reason not to take me with him.

"I'll get my guys to pack it up. I'll send you an email giving you a rundown on the suit, so that way you can look at it more than once," Joyce replied. "If this thing works, I can give it the thumbs up and start mass producing—"

"No."

"What?"

"No mass production. Not yet."

"But—"

"Not until you get an okay from Prime," I raised a finger, cutting Joyce off. "This has to be a two way negotiation. I don't even know if Prime wants humans to come to Cybertron, but I do know that it would be better for all of us if we come to some sort of mutual agreement. That's what we need if theres going to be peace."

"Understandable," Joyce looked disappointed, but I could see that he agreed. "We can't just do whatever we want anymore. I get that."

"Good. I have faith in you," I placed a hand on Joyce's shoulder. "Seriously. This suit is going to change everything."

Chapter Text

"Absolutely not."

"Optimus—"

"Absolutely. Not."

We looked like a bickering married couple — which we pretty much were. I was hunched over, wrapped in my fluffy bathrobe and wearing my fluffy sandals, standing out in the grass. Optimus was pacing while, off to the side, Grimlock gnawed on a massive, twelve foot long log that he'd found God knows where.

"I have the suit, Optimus. It works. You said it yourself that the Iacon Library had another, lower floor. You and I can go alone and check it out—"

"It's what we might find on that floor that worries me."

"Optimus," I sighed, feeling my muscles tense and my nerves flare. Optimus was just as stubborn as I was, much to my chagrin. I was a trait that he only seemed to display with me. "I fought Quintessa, Megatron, Attinger, and a fuckton of others—"

"Quintessa offlined you," Prime snapped. "I saw your corpse, bloody and strewn across the grass. For that brief moment I truly believed that I had lost you. My spark felt you die."

"Optimus, you're not going to lose me again. We're stronger together. The two of us. I wouldn't let anything ever happen to you, and you wouldn't let anything happen to me. We know that about each other, and that's why we're strong."

Optimus pinched the bridge of his nose. He glanced over to where Grimlock lay, murmuring to himself before addressing me. "Grimlock will accompany us."

"I'm okay with that," I raised my hands in a placating gesture. "It's not like he knows what's going on, anyway. Or like he cares."

Grimlock, at the sound of his name, lifted his head. The log cracked in half and toppled from his maw, crashing to the ground. He had this derpy, confused look on his face and I couldn't help but laugh.

"I'll go grab some weapons," I tugged my robe tighter. "And let Izzy and Cogman know that we're going on a day trip."

I did just that. After shooting down several of Izzy's zealous requests — everything from "can I come" to "does that mean I can stay up late" along with the occasional, "so where are you two going?" — I managed to get everything ready. I simply told Cogman that I was testing one of Joshua Joyce's new inventions — which wasn't at all a lie. I just didn't bring up the whole…searching for information on Unicron piece. Those were unimportant details.

Unimportant my ass.

"Why are you taking that big lug?" Hound gnawed on his cigar as I bypassed him, covered head to toe in transformium neoprene."And what the hell are you wearin'?"

"Something that'll keep me from exploding when I get to your planet."

"Aw, hell. Let me guess — baldy made that?"

"Yeah. Baldy did, so I know it's gonna work."

Hound huffed, shrugging his shoulder and watching as I followed behind Prime, entering the Knight Ship. Grimlock trudged after, still clutching that goddamn log between his teeth.

And we're off.

Just like that. I sat on the control panel while Optimus piloted. Earth became smaller and smaller, until the ship became engulfed in clouds, bursting through the atmosphere. Cybertron's desolate surface greeted up, dull and grey with the faintest hint of a once great, thriving metal ecosystem.

Now it was…empty. Dark.

Grimlock made a low noise in the back of his throat. I glanced at Optimus, who was hyper-focused on his home planet, sadness stapled across his face.

"It's alive again. I can feel it," I smiled up at him. "It might take a while but you'll be able to recognize your home, eventually."

"Eventually," Optimus echoed. "That cannot come soon enough."

He maneuvered the Knight Ship, letting it hover for a moment, before gently setting it on the ground. The lack of color, the lack of trees and water and blue sky was a stark contrast to Earth. The clouds of Cybertron were grey, allowing barely a hint of sun through. Artificial lighting provided the rest. When my feet touched the ground, they struck metal.

You're on another fucking planet. Literally.

Holy shit.

I tried not to let the shock an awe distract me, especially since Optimus looked distraught, observing the fate of his home world with a hint of perpetual dismay. I followed after him before deciding that trying to keep up with his long strides was too difficult. I gestured for Grimlock to kneel, clambering onto his wide head, sitting between his horns. From this height I could see the spiraling structures, lifeless, but a sign that we'd landed on the outskirts of the famed Iacon.

"The library is in the heart of the city," Optimus said. "I do not wish to spend time idling. Foul creatures roam this wasteland."

"Foul creatures like…?"

"Insecticons, mainly," Optimus grimaced. "Megatron utilized them during the war, however, a majority were killed off. Those that refused to join Megatron took to roaming the energon mines, or any other dark places they could find."

Iacon was a massive city, though coming from a human, that didn't mean much. Still, everything was dwarfed to accommodate Cybertronians — meaning, to me, a building looked two miles high. I immediately felt uneasy, mainly because this was the first time I'd set foot outside of human territory. Nothing here had been made for me.

We reached the library. The doors had already been torn apart, the vast lobby ransacked. I stayed atop Grimlock head, clutching one of his horns.

"I almost totally forgot that I'm supposed to be testing this suit."

"Is it working properly?" Optimus smirked, and I rolled my eyes at his cheeky remark.

"Yes, it works," I snorted. "I'd have died instantly if it wasn't. I'm not seeing any hallucinations, which means that it's not leaking toxic fumes. I give this a ten out of ten review. This trip has been, like, a five out of ten. Maybe a four."

"I wish you could see Cybertron in it's glory. It was a thriving planet," Optimus said. "Now it is…ugly."

"War does that," I said. "Fire and fury, you know. But ashes create new life. Something new always grow out of the ashes."

Out here with the fucking inspirational quotes, I see.

Hell, yeah.

We descended, moving down a dilapidated, sloping hallway. Optimus led while Grimlock followed, not bothered by me continuing to use his head as a chair.

Iacon Library, bottom level.

Optimus struggled to pry open the jammed door, cables on his arms straining like muscly sinew. When it finally jolted loose he nearly toppled, catching himself and standing upright.

I laughed. Optimus looked embarrassed, but my laughter cause him to break out into a genuine smile.

"It would be a tragedy for me to have survived countless battles, only to be offlined by a simple fall," Prime shook his head, stepping into the room. "Come. We are almost there."

Maneuvering through the terrain proved difficult. A bomb had gone off — literally, as it had been the sight of a Decepticon suicide-bomber attack during the beginning of the war. A billion years of decay hadn't done it any good, either. The metal was straining, but still holding strong. The place was a mixture of data pads and jagged plates of metal with etchings on them that I recognized to be Cybertronian in origin. Some were text, others were drawings.

"If we don't find it I'm going to be pissed," I said. "There has to be something on Unicron."

I slid from Grimlock's head, landing on the ground. The wall had been toppled, leading into the next room — a vast storage area with even more data pads and tablets, consumed by time. I reached one, grunting as I flipped it over before remembering that I couldn't read Cybertronian and that I was pretty much useless in this scenario.

Shit. Okay, so maybe you really are collateral.

I saw Optimus pause at the far end of the room. Grimlock had stopped behind me, more interested in finding things to gnaw on than the task at hand. Optimus turned, data pad in hand.

An ear piercing shriek, like nails on a chalkboard, yet strangely rhythmic tore through the room. A thick, massive shape dropped from the high ceiling and landed atop Grimlock, tusks gorging at the Dinobot's armor. Caught by surprise, Grimlock bellowed in alarm and in pain.

Giant metal insect.

Oh. So those are Insecticons.

Optimus dropped the data pad without a second thought, thundering towards us. I ducked, narrowly avoiding being swiped by Grimlock's tail as he thrashed around, trying to dislodge the Insecticon.

Another object landed between Prime and I. And then another, this time striking my mate with tremendous force. Then another. Then another.

Oh, no.

The Insecticon's eyes were a nasty red, it's mandibles dripping. I had no clue if this thing was sentient or just another drone, and I didn't have time to find out if negotiation was a possible alternative.

Those mandibles came at me, fast. I flattened myself and rolled, narrowly avoiding being impaled. I kept rolling until my back hit metal and I realized that I was jammed between the fallen wall and a shelf, leaving a sliver of space for the Insecticon to poke it's nasty head. Moving in such a tight space was difficult, and the Insecticon was clawing, snapping and biting, each time managing to get closer and closer.

Your gun!

I gripped my handgun — a gift from Cade — and fired. The buckshot struck the Insecticon in the eye. It bellowed, smoke streaming from the wound. Yet it continued trying to inch its way towards me, but with far more vigor than before.

I think you just pissed it off.

I shot again. One of his mandibles was blown away. Flecks of energon tainted my clothing and I squirmed, trying to get away. But there was only one exit — the way same I'd come.

The Insecticon was torn away, suddenly. I used the opportunity to dart from my hiding spot, ducking beneath Grimlock's legs as he mutilated my attacker. I had no idea where Optimus was. I didn't see him.

"Prime!" I shrieked. "Optimus! Optimus!"

One Insecticon lay dead, pierced by Prime's sword. I staggered towards it in a half confused state —

The floor beneath me caved. I heard Grimlock's startled cry — I had no clue if he'd fallen too, or if he'd just seen me fall. The moment of pure weightlessness lasted about five seconds before I slammed into the ground and slid down a slope another ten yards, dumped onto the damp floor like a discarded piece of trash flung down a chute.

Ouch.

I'd taken worse falls, but this one still sucked. No bones were broken, but I'd have hella bruises tomorrow. I thanked my durability and strength for the lack of serious injuries — it had saved me in the past, so it was to be expected — but the wind had still been knocked clean out of me. I had to lay for a few moments, in a state of shock, before I felt it safe to start moving my body.

No sign of Grimlock. He was still up above, somewhere.

"Great fucking turn of events," I muttered to myself. "Fuckin' great. We're all separated now, like in the horror movies. About to get picked off one by one, all for some stupid data."

I tried to get my bearings. It wasn't like I'd find any landmarks to go by. I was a guest on this dead planet, and a visitor to this even more dead library.

A slight noise came my left, down a hallway. It could have been another Insecticon, or hell, loose debris falling. Or it could have been something else, and here I was, stupidly moving towards it. My legs and my brain had ceased all communication, the lower part of my body reacting purely out of the desire to move. Finding some way to get back up to Grimlock would be better than nothing.

A miracle occurred. I recognized Prime's armor, that familiar blue and red flame decal, immediately. His back was turned to me, three Insecticon's scattered around, offline and leaking fluids. The hall stopped at a dead end, and pressed against the wall was none other than a silver mech with a disgusting grin on his damaged faceplate.

Megatron.

Optimus was currently pummeling Megatron, the hits so loud that they echoed throughout the hallway. Each hit was like a clap of thunder, and Megatron's body seemed to have gone limp.

"Optimus?"

Optimus stopped immediately. His fist was clenched, mid strike. Megatron's smile widened, but Optimus didn't dare turn his back on his enemy. Instead, he acknowledged me with a quick glance. I saw his shoulders sag a bit, the tension in his body releasing as he briefly took in my tattered, but alive, state.

"You win, Prime," Megatron snarled. He then addressed me, that sickeningly sweet grin returning, full force. "How nice of you to finally arrive, half-breed."

"I get to punch him next," I waggled a finger at Prime, ignoring Megatron's cruel sneers. "Grimlock is fine. We're all fine. Was it this asshole who sent those Insecticon's after us?"

"I can answer that," Megatron replied. "No. Those foul beasts roar these very halls, and will devour anything that cross their path. I could not command them if I wanted to — they are driven by instinct, and instinct only."

"Cool story. Wasn't talking to you," I, again, displayed incredible self control as Megatron attempted to lung, only to be forced back down by Optimus. The fact that he wasn't fighting back as hard was a bit odd — until I saw the jagged gash in his leg. I let out a breath and asked, "Okay. Maybe I was. Now I definitely am. What are you doing here?"

"I find it hard to imagine that you are here for anything other than trouble," Optimus growled.

"I seek the same thing that you seek."

"How do you know what we're here for?" I crossed my arms. "Bullshit—"

"I have no reason to lie. If I'd come here to kill you, you would be dead. I was swarmed by Insecticon's, just like you were," Megatron hissed. "I am here for information about Unicron."

Optimus and I exchanged looks. He eased back, sword still drawn, battle mask retracting. He said slowly, "How do you know of Unicron?"

"The same way you know. We were both slaves to Quintessa, Prime," Megatron snapped. "She shared with us her knowledge."

"What do you need all this for?" I asked skeptically. "Why would you care about Unicron. Hell, you should be celebrating! Your home world is here—"

"Look around, fleshling! Cybertron will never return to its former glory," Megatron sneered. He spat, easing back against the wall, not taking his optics off the sword at his throat. "It's dead metal."

"You are wrong," Optimus hissed. "We can rebuild."

"Always the optimist," Megatron crooned. "My interest in Unicron is for my own purposes. I spent many eons perusing the ruins of Iacon and, unlike you, Prime, I happen to know where to look."

"Show us," I demanded. Optimus began backing away, but his sword was still trained on Megatron. The Decepticon warlord shifted, testing some weight on his injured leg. I couldn't bring myself to feel sorry for his pain. Not after all the despair he'd caused us.

"I don't have a choice, do I?" Megatron growled.

"You don't. Start walking," Optimus snarled.

I didn't have to jog to keep up. Megatron's steps were slow and calculated. He was forced to use the walls for support, and I could feel the sheer embarrassment radiating off his bulky frame. But he couldn't run — hell, I didn't even know if he could transform properly — which gave us the advantage.

Optimus was showing him no mercy, nudging him forward, despite Megatron's hisses of irritation of pain. That scowl hadn't left Prime's face and for a moment I wondered if he was planning on outright killing Megatron, here and now.

I placed a hand on his leg. His scowl faltered when he felt my touch, sword still raised.

Megatron continued to walk, not even bothering to look back at us when he spoke. It wasn't small talk — it was just outright goading, his words laced with malice and gaiety.

"Something has changed since the last time we spoke, half-breed. Our last intimate conversation ended with your blood coating my talons—"

"Shut up," I snapped, glancing down. "And cut that shit out. Stop trying to get a rise out of us."

Optimus hadn't said a word, but I could tell that his dental were grit and he was squeezing the handle of his sword way to tightly. He'd always had remarkable self-control, but even this was pushing it.

"You've taught her well, Prime."

I rolled my eyes. This hallway opened into a vast cavern, where Megatron abruptly stopped. Artificial light poked through the glass, dome roof, providing an ample amount of illumination. The interior was remarkably intact and, once again, I was left awed by the sheer magnitude of everything compared to little ole' me. In the center, mounted on a decaying pedestal was a metal tablet roughly the size of, well, me. I didn't recognize most of the strange markings and illustrations, but what stood out to me was the clear, circular depiction of a planet that looked surprisingly like Earth being clutched by what I could only describe as a demon. Or even Satan himself.

That's his face.

I immediately felt uneasy upon looking at the picture, so I turned away.

"There," Megatron staggered forward, drunkenly stroking the tablet while Optimus momentarily dropped his guards so he could observe the Cybertronian artifact. I clambered up onto a fallen metal pillar, forcing myself to look at the swirling artwork. Every time my eyes drifted towards Unicron's face I'd refocus them on something less unnerving.

"What does it say?" I asked Optimus, craning my neck to get a better look.

"The history of the Chaos Bringer, and how your planet was formed around it's very core. Unicron remains in stasis, but if he were to awaken…"

"Destruction. For both of our planets," Megatron added. He had a distant look in his red optics, but nonetheless, he glared at Optimus and snarled, "Now do you remember Quintessa's words, brother? This why the Allspark landed on Earth, and why we have waged war on this wretched, disgusting planet."

"If Unicron is in stasis, we want to keep it that way," I stammered, glancing between the two mechs. "What would wake it up? I mean, if it and Cybertron are enemies, then Cybertron being so close surely would."

"I…I do not know."

I glanced from Optimus, to the face of Unicron. Despite my nausea at what I was about to attempt, I sighed and said confidently, "Let me link with it."

"What?"

They'd both spoken at the same time. Megatron out of disbelief and Optimus out of bewilderment. The two mechs stared at at me, and I felt on the spot. But I had no plans of backing out now.

"Let me link with it," I repeated. "I saw it's face. A face is all I need," I sighed. "I'll snoop around, maybe see what makes it tick so we know what to do."

"You are linking with the very Earth itself," Optimus warned. "Not me. Not Cade or Quintessa—"

"I can do it," I said. "And I'll come back with what we need."

Optimus nodded. Megatron smirked, stepping back. A hard shove from Optimus sent him toppling, landing hard on his rear with a sword, once again, at his throat.

"Focus on him," I told Optimus. I sat on the pillar, nestled between to grooves for support. Crossing my legs, I imagined Drift meditating next to me, whispering words of advice and encouragement like he always did.

Focus.

Focus on your breathing.

Focus on that fugly looking picture of Unicron—

Focus.

The vice grip caught me first. I couldn't open my eyes — the tug was as powerful as a black hole. Instead of memories I saw information — so, so much of it that my brain began to hurt.

That was the moment I realized that I wasn't in control. This thing was so, so powerful that it rendered me obsolete in a matter of seconds.

Unicron's mind was like a maze with a billion doors. A billion thoughts, all being processed at once. I couldn't see end of the tunnel and for the first time since I'd started pursuing people's minds, I became afraid.

Then, it stopped. I was standing before that hideous face, the monsters face.

And it spoke.

"I have been waiting for someone like you."

Chapter Text

I was currently just floating, mouth open. I had no words. Unicron didn't want me to form any words.

"You know who I am?" Unicron chuckled. "You know that I am in stasis, and you have found a way to reach me. Speak."

I couldn't talk. My mouth moved, tongue and teeth, lungs pumping air. I struggled with what to say — that demon face was staring at me.

"I just…I…wanted to check in with you."

Oh my God.

I wanted to hit myself. I wondered if Unicron could sense that, too.

"Liar. You wish to find a way to defeat me," Unicron snorted. "You are the mate of a Prime. I can see it in your memories. Yet you come to me upon your own free will - how peculiar."

"How is that peculiar?"

"You are a telepath," Unicron spat. "I can feel the energy of the Allspark within you, like a sickness."

I desperately didn't want to anger this creature. I had a witty remark prepared, but I held my tongue. Refusal to speak was sometimes better than opening one's mouth. I could give nothing away with silence, but something told me it would be fruitless.

I have to get out.

"You will go nowhere," Unicron senses my hesitation. "I have been in stasis for so long. I have forgotten the face of my ancient enemy, Primus. Yet somehow, here you are, the mate of Primus' chosen one. And a human, nonetheless."

"Is that shameful? Because I'm a lesser being?"

"You are all lesser beings. Savages, all of you. But I feed on that chaos," Unicron chuckled. "When Cain first mutilated his brother, I watched in awe."

Unicron's face was gone. There was a man pummeling someone's head into the asphalt with a rock, an endless, rhythmic cycle. The blood spread like an out of control stream.

The sound of rock against bone was nerve-racking. With each hit I felt a sharp agony in my temple, and I winced. The pain was to real. It was too real, but I wasn't waking up. My eyes would not open.

"I saw your species build weapons capable of wiping out civilizations," Unicron chided. "And use them on entire cities."

The nuclear blast singed my hair away and flayed my skin. I screamed along with the thousands who perished in the explosion. I kept screaming even when the vision ended and I was left bleeding, skinned like an animal, on a snowy road surrounded by paramedics.

But they were ignoring me.

A car was flipped upside down. A woman was being lifted onto a gurney. Strewn across the frozen road were bits and pieces of her skull.

Oh, God, make it stop, make it stop—

"I am the only 'God' in this universe," Unicron snarled. "And I do not create life. I destroy it."

Shane's corpse stared back at me.

Oh, God no. No, no, no —

"Sam — where are you—"

Megatron thrust his blade through Prime's chest. My mate sputtered, coughing before tumbling to the ground. He didn't fall still — instead he pleaded with the boy to run and keep running.

I could only watch.

He was dead along with countless others, now. I saw Cade, the talisman torn from his arms and crunched beneath Megatron's pedes. His eyes were glazed, hair and skin smoking from blaster fire. Lennox lay mutilated, cut to pieces. Viviane had been stabbed through the torso with one of Drift's blades. Bumblebee, Hot Rod, Hound, and Drift's heads were on a spike. Cogman had been torn in half by powerful hands, and Tessa, shot in the forehead with a single bullet.

Izzy lay on her back, one arm wrapped protectively around an offline Sqweeks. Her eyes were open and staring at nothing.

"I will destroy everything."


When I cracked open my eyes, I was vaguely aware of the tube running from my mouth to a machine. In fact, there were several machines.

I had zero energy and zero initiative to even care, or even attempt to sit up. I could only lay and listen to the sound of my own breathing, slowly and steadily trying to familiarize myself with my surroundings. Door? Check. Seen that before. Window? Check. I saw sunlight peeking through the blinds. A chair? Check.

Izzy?

She was curled up, Sqweeks at her side, fast asleep in one of the wider chairs in the corner. I stared, as if my gaze alone would pull her from her slumber. My throat was so dry that I knew speaking would be an absolute pain.

I felt mentally exhausted, and that carried over physically — my muscles were dead weight. The thought of even linking with anyone seemed unbearable.

I'm in a hospital room, in a bed, all tacked up to machines.

Something had technically gone wrong.

I had no physical injuries — no part of me had been shot or stabbed or both. My mind immediately went to Unicron, and I realized interacting with that devil had to have been the only possibly cause.

"Mama?" Izzy was murmuring in her sleep. One eyes opened, and then another. She lifted her head, squinting and looking around. "Mama?"

"I'm right here," I said softly. "Izzy, honey, can you grab me some water?"

The young girl nodded, careful not to wake Sqweeks from recharge. She moved with haste, disappearing into the bathroom and returning with a small paper cup. I tried to sit up, going slow. Pinpricks of pain shot through my skull the moment I moved my head.

"Lay back down," Izzy instructions. I obeyed, convinced by her concern. I probably didn't look to good — part of me wanted a mirror, and part of me, well, didn't. Izzy assisted me in taking tiny sips, pulling up a chair so she could sit next to my bed.

"Do I even want to know what happened?" I asked. "Last thing I remember, I was on Cybertron."

"Yeah," Izzy glanced down. "You got hit. That's what Optimus told me — that you guys had a fight with Megatron and he knocked you out. You've been in…in, like, asleep for a while."

Optimus…lied?

I nodded slowly, lips pressed into a thin line. I knew better than to think Optimus would give away our true reason for going to Cybertron.

"Who all is here?"

Izzy glanced out the window, gnawing on her fingernails. She said, "Cade and Viviane are coming. Tessa keeps calling, too. Optimus is outside."

Izzy glanced out the window again. I craned my neck, trying to see what she was looking at, before saying, "What's wrong?"

"Just, when I was coming up here someone said something about Sqweeks. Tried to kick him," she replied angrily. "I remembered what you told me. I tried not to use my powers on him."

"If someone attacks you, defend yourself," I said firmly. "Always. But theres also no point to try and argue — people won't change. They see that sweet little bot and all they see is something inhuman."

"I wish everyone saw them like we do," Izzy glanced back at a recharging Sqweeks. I could only grasp her hand, running my thumb soothingly over her knuckles. "They will. One day, they will. I believe it."


It was practically torture, lying in a hospital bed in the middle of London. Eventually I'd ordered Drift to come and take Izzy and Sqweeks home — after what Izzy had told me regarding Sqweeks, I didn't feel comfortable leaving them to wander amongst the general population. I knew Izzy could defend herself, especially with Sqweeks by her side — the little bot was cute but could be deadly, if need be — but a possible confrontation was something I wasn't willing to risk. God forbid someone come up with a gun and decide to take matters into their own hands.

That left me with a small sliver of time where I could do nothing. At this point, I was forced to stay in bed — Izzy's powers couldn't heal damage to the mind.

I had no idea what protocol the nurses were operating under — I wasn't really human. My DNA was foreign. I knew that Burton had an extensive list of Cybertronian friendly allies across London, and that he'd entrusted Cogman with the contact information. There was a good chance some random patron was orchestrating my eventual release from the hospital.

I didn't feel like asking questions. There were things about Edmund Burton that I would never find out, and that Cogman would most likely keep from me until I specifically asked.

"Dearspark?"

I nearly jumped. My headache returned instantly — I realized that the act of linking was causing the strain. I gritted my teeth and ignored it, determined to get some information out of Optimus.

"What the hell went down while we were up there? Did Megatron flee—"

"Megatron fled while you were incapacitated. Unicron seized hold of you — trapped you in a vision."

"I remember. I know. I don't want to think about that right now."

"Rachel, Unicron forced you into a coma. You have been unconscious for three days," Optimus said. "You were linked with that beasts for a mere minute."

"Shit," I scratched my head, wincing. "I feel like shit. My head hurts and moving sucks. Can you please get up here—"

"I cannot."

"Why?"

"I have been barred from entering the hospital due to my…aggressive behavior," Optimus replied sheepishly. "I simply forgot the mechanics of my holoform and, out of panic and concern for your safety, accidentally caused some minor injuries to one of the doctors."

"Sounds like something I would do. Don't worry — I've been kicked out of places before to," I chuckled. "Thank you for bringing me back. I'm awake and I feel okay — Izzy should be home soon."

"Cade and Viviane are coming in my stead," Optimus responded. "I believe the nurses with for you to stay one more night."

I could deal with one more day of hospital food if it meant that I got to go home.

"I can do that," I said. "Shit. That whole plan really went south, didn't it?"

"I scanned the data on the tablet, and will analyze it tonight. Unicron was not pulled from stasis when you spoke with it — him — so it is safe to assume that we are 'in the clear.' For now."

I could hear the curiosity in his voice, but Optimus did not push me to talk about what I'd seen. I'd shut that shit all the way down, for my own sake. I'd felt the pain of a thousand souls burning, and it was something I never wanted to feel again.

Someone knocked on the hospital room door. Optimus dismissed himself, leaving my mind empty once again. I called for the visitor to enter, and then did, bursting through and filling the room with shouts.

"What the hell happened to you? Why did you go to Cybertron? Are you crazy, you could have been killed—"

"Cade, shut it!" Viviane barked. I pushed myself up, embracing the woman before tugging Cade into a hug as well. I chuckled, letting out a sigh of relief as the room felt more, well, secure than it ever had before.

"Okay, okay," Cade sighed. I could still see the talisman clutched around his arm, fused with his skin, but I said nothing. "What happened? Why did you go to Cybertron?"

Shit. Shit.

Shit.

Cade was watching me, eyebrows raised. Viviane held the same expression and that was when I broke, gesturing for them to pull up some chairs.

"Promise you won't be pissed at me?" I said slowly.

"That's something someone says before they say something extremely bad," Viviane said. She and Cade glanced at each other. "I mean, we won't be pissed. We'll probably judge you."

"That's fair," I shrugged, settling in and sighing. "And to spare you the theatrics, I'll give you the short, simplified version. Okay? Here it is: when Quintessa captured Optimus, she told him why every single Cybertronian artifact under the sun lands on Earth. Why Cybertronians are drawn to this planet," I glanced at anything other than the two humans before me. "Primus' ancient enemy, Unicron, is real and the Earth is formed around his very core. Quintessa was planning on using Unicron's power to revive Cybertron — his energy would have transformed their planet and killed ours."

"What?" Cade stammered. I raised a hand, stopping him.

"Optimus and I went to Cybertron to find out how, where, and why. The whole 'testing out Joyce's suit' thing? I mean, it's not a lie, but it's not the truth. My dumbass tried linking with Unicron, and he was so powerful that after a minute of fucking around he knocked me into a damn coma."

"You're telling me that our Earth was formed around some Cybertronian god?"

I glanced at Viviane, giving a small nod. "Unicron is in stasis — has been since the Earth was formed. His mind has been alive and thriving. He's seen and heard everything, but he's weak, and he can't strike back. That's a good thing. We need to keep it that way."

"How long have you and Prime known this?" Cade said softly. His jaw twitched, but there wasn't a sign of hostility on his face — not yet.

"He told me after we defeated Quintessa. We both didn't know it Quintessa had been bluffing to scare us — that's partially why we didn't tell anyone. We wanted to confirm it, and once we did, we couldn't decide what to do," I let out a breath. "The world has enough problems already. If word got out…"

"People would go insane," Viviane murmured.

"What, you think that we would have gone insane, to?" Cade asked bitterly. "Just you and Prime know, right?"

"I didn't want N.E.S.T or anyone else deciding to launch some military operation against an enemy we hardly know," I snapped. "We don't know if Unicron is in stasis because he was forced to be, or if he's on some sort of ecological timer, or if he's all bark and no bite…"

"I'm sure he bites," Cade said. "They all do. Even the good ones."

"Cade—"

"What happened to being a team, man? Trusting each other?"

"I do trust you. That's why I telling you this now," I pleaded. Cade didn't seem convinced, but Viviane had a look of understanding on her face. "I felt him. I connected with him. He's so, so strong. Keeping him from even waking up is probably our only hope."

Cade lowered his gaze. I attempted to swing my legs over and stand, but Viviane grasped me. My hands were trembling, and for the first time I was able to see my reflection in the bathroom mirror, for the hospital bed was adjacent to the small room.

My face was gaunt with dark, purple bruises beneath my eyes. My dark skin was a pale, ashy color.

"Lay back down," Viviane instructed gently. "C'mon. Don't get stubborn on me."

"Please don't tell anyone about Unicron," I pleaded. "Not until we figure out what's really going on."

"You talked to this thing," Cade said. "What was he like? What did he show you?"

I got teary eyed. All that pain came rushing back, like a tidal wave. All the dead, all their voices, I heard. It was like being sucked into a black hole.

"He showed me death," I breathed, and suddenly, I was crying. Sobbing. "So many people dead, Cade. I saw all of you. He showed me how it all began, and how it all ends. He showed me hell."

Chapter Text

Cade and Viviane insisted that they stay the night, but I refuted — mainly because this was my punishment, not their's. Linking with Unicron had been a stupid move and I was paying the price for it.

Viviane and I were roughly the same size, so she left me an ample amount of clothes to change into before she and Cade departed, bound for her apartment on the east side of London.

One more night, and then I'm out of here.

Said night proceeded to trudge on and on and on until I thought it would never end. I lay with my eyes open, room illuminated by the moonlight. London bustled beneath, but I was in my own little haven. I couldn't sleep — sleeping seemed impossible, considering that I'd been knocked out for a decent amount of time.

I'd started walking on my own, my body still trying to regain some strength from my three days of being stuck on fluids. I was on the second floor, and I could easily bust through the window and scale down. But that would look bad, and at this point, I was fairly certain I was being contained for show and not tell.

Eventually I began to drift off, eyes fluttering closed. The noises in the back became, well, noises in the back. I was in my own peaceful world, only to be yanked out of it by a metal hand around my throat.

Her.

She wasn't dead. She was very much alive and hovering over me, one hand on my throat while the other stroked my face.

"Oh, hell no," I gasped.

She spoke. It didn't echo around my mind. This wasn't a link or an elaborate dream. This was real. Her touch was real, like a cold rope around my neck.

"Be silent. Do not speak, or I will gut you," Quintessa snarled. She reared back, lifting me from the bed like a rag doll. My skinny legs kicked at the air, hands grappling for purchase. In my weakened state, I couldn't put up a fair fight.

And she knew that.

"Unicron has requested your presence," she sneered. I stammered, hardly able to talk.

"What the fuck—"

She tossed me like a rag doll. I flew, smashing into the wall and dislodging chunks of plaster. I slid to the floor, gasping like a fish out of water.

Fuck, fuck fuck.

Get up. Get up. She's going to take you — Get up!

If Quintessa had one weakness, it was her arrogance and her desire to play. I was a toy and she was a cat. She enjoyed batting me around before making her point.

I'd taken her in a fight before. I'd nearly lost, but I'd still fought. I wasn't about to give up now and cave in.

"Stay down," Quintessa said simply. "There is no reason for you to injure yourself further. Unicron want's you delivered to him in one piece."

I was going to stomp this bitch out. I had sheer determination on my side, and even thought that didn't make up for the fact that my limbs really, really didn't want to work properly, I could still outwit her. Or out-bitch her.

"Did it hurt when Bumblebee blasted the shit out of you?" I spat. Remarkably, my left arm and right leg decided to cooperate, and participate in pulling me to my feet. I stood, a hospital gown acting as my only armor. I watched her every move, before my gaze landed on the window. A second floor leap wasn't to long, though in my weakened state I wondered if the landing would be too much.

The moment Quintessa decided to make a move was the moment I chose my course of action. I darted for the door while Quintessa lunged. I narrowly avoided her, tumbling into the hallway, knocking aside wheelchairs and gurneys. Several nurses shouted in alarm.

Run. Run, run.

My legs kicked like a newborn toddler as I got to me feet, sprinting. The nurses were screaming now, knocked to the side by Quintessa. I felt as if I were running faster than I probably was. I was unsteady on my feet, but still making progress towards the elevator. Getting as far away from that metal demon as possible was my plan. This wasn't a fair fight at all.

She's never been about fair.

The elevator was so close, yet so far away. My legs gave out, suddenly, and I slid across the tile, arms outstretched. As I used the wall for support, I glanced back just in time to see Quintessa, looming above me like some demon.

She was watching me crawl, a horrific smirk on her eerily human face.

If you can't run, fight.

I stood, looking her up and down. The moment she reached for me, I swung my fist, fully intending to knock that smug smirk away. Instead I found myself stumbling and receiving a wheelchair to the spine. I landed hard, cheek smacking hard against the floor.

"I've quite enjoyed our little game. But Unicron is waiting," Quintessa murmured. I lifted my head and saw nurses and patients alike, huddling, fear etched across their faces. None lifted a finger to help, and I was glad. The fact that Quintessa hadn't killed them on the spot was a miracle.

Cold, metal fingers gripped my hair, tugging at my short locks. I squeezed my eyes shut, hearing Quintessa speak but unable to recognize the language. The tiled floor beneath me was no more, and for a brief moment I felt open air before smacking hard against rock and dirt.

I coughed as I accidentally inhaled dust. My bare feet felt slick as I slowly lifted my head, unable to pinpoint any source of natural light. Everything around me was stone, carved by nature, ancient rock sparkling from the iridescent, inhuman glow given off by a hovering Quintessa.

No sunlight. Just her.

"Where the hell are we?" Quintessa ignored me, instead beckoning for me to follow. I remained lying down, fingers testing the rock beneath me. When I looked up for a second time, she was closer. Again, I snarled, "Where are we? What is this place?"

"One of Unicron's many chambers. Come — he wishes to see you."

"Fuck you," I spat. "I'm not going anywhere with you."

"You do not have a choice," Quintessa said. "You will get up, or I will make you get up. I have brought you here for a specific purpose. Only you can awaken Unicron from stasis," she caught my chin with her fingers. I was forced to look into those devilish eyes. "Now come."


I trudged through knee deep water, barely able to keep my head up. My bare feet were bloody, rocks chipping away at my skin. Several times I search for an exit, and every time Quintessa would appear behind me, hand around my throat.

I had no idea how much time had passed, and my brain felt fuzzy. The closer we got to our destination, the more I was unable to tell where exactly I was, who I was…in the back of my mind, I knew it had to be Unicron's doing. I could feel his presence, like an irksome ant bite. He was preventing me from linking and calling for help — my scrambled brain could tell that much. But he couldn't reach out to me. Not directly.

Bastard!

Something tugged at me through the bond Prime and I shared. but at this I was to confused to tell what it was. I followed Quintessa like a zombie, swaying and having to regain my footing every few seconds. The cavern was getting wider and wider, the water now up to my thighs. Stalagmite rose from the ground, like fingers reaching for the sky. Quintessa stopped, tilting her head. I followed her gaze, neck craned. Then she looked down at me, and for the first time I saw…nervousness on her face.

I could hear clicking noises echoing around the vast cavern. I lifted my head, blood running cold as I saw at least a dozen Insecticons hanging from the stone ceiling. They made no move to attack, and they weren't in stasis. They were on a hair-trigger, I assumed, awaiting a command from Quintessa.

"Speak," Quintessa suddenly commanded. "Reach out to him like you did before."

No. No, don't.

Think of the pain he showed you—

"No," I breathed. Then, louder, "No."

Her hands were on my throat, the glow from her eyes drenching my face in blue light. She snarled and I snarled back.

I was flung violently. My back hit hard against stalagmite, sending showers of rock cascading down and into the water.

Don't do it.

Quintessa made a noise of disgust, hovering over the water. Heavy footsteps jolted me back into reality, and I saw a familiar, silver shape emerge from the shadows. Megatron raised his axe, resting it against his shoulder as he, I assumed, awaited orders.

I had no sarcastic remarks. Dread filled every part of me. I couldn't see the warlord's expression, for half his face was covered by his battle mask.

"I guess you found what you were looking for up on Cybertron, huh? Doing her dirty work," I sneered. "You're a joke, Megatron. Your army is gone. Now you're just her bitch."

The battle axe came down, hard, sending a spray of water in all directions. Quintessa raised her hand, a silent command for her enforcer. Panting and drenched in sweat, I watched. If Megatron struck, I decided, I wouldn't move. That way there was no possible chance of Quintessa pulling Unicron out of stasis.

"You're no warrior," I spat at Megatron. Quintessa watched with narrowed eyes as I stumbled forward, meeting Megatron's optics and refusing to tear my gaze away. "You're fucking weak. You're a coward. You're hiding behind her, because you know that you're nothing without a bunch of Decepticon thugs to back you up. And to think that Optimus once considered a pathetic asshole like you his brother."

I knew that I'd struck a nerve. I could hear the metal handle of Megatron's axe creak as he squeezed it with tremendous force. He stepped forward and it was Quintessa's turn to snarl, raising a hand and striking him to his knees with a blast of pure energy.

"Stand down, Megatron!"

"I will not!"

Megatron swung his axe, though not at me. Quintessa was caught by surprise, struck by the curved edge and sent careening through the air like a bullet shot from a gun. She disappeared into the rock, cutting through it.

I turned and ran, Quintessa's bellows of rage echoed throughout the cavern. But I wasn't as fast as the warlord. He was on me in half a dozen bounds, pedes splashing through the water, talons outstretched —

I was plucked from the ground, kicking, shrieking. My hospital gown landed in the dark water below, leaving me in nothing by my undergarments.

Yes! Do it! Kill me — that way —

I wasn't dead. I was still in Megatron's arms, and he was darting out of the cavern. My legs dangled and I continued shrieking, until Megatron lifted me close to his face and snarled.

"Be quiet. She will hear you, and she will find us. If you wish to live, for the love of Primus, stay quiet."


"Stop looking at me."

"You are in no position to make demands, fleshling," Megatron snarled. "Besides, you are still covered. It is not a sin to gaze upon you."

I was barefoot, arms wrapped around myself, clad in only my underwear I looked like I'd been wallowing in mud — which, I had, and it covered me like a layer of clothes. My dark hair was now brown with filth.

I'd been silent the entire flight to the old factory. The Decepticon's resided there — or, what was left of them. Megatron, Barricade, and two others that I'd never seen before — Knockout and Motormaster.

"Is this, like, a kidnapping situation? Are you going to torture me again?" I spat. Megatron rolled his optics while Knockout inched closer. Megatron had made several offers to have Knockout look me over, since he was a medic, but I'd declined. I didn't want him touching me. In fact, I didn't want any of them touching me, and I'd made that very clear.

"What purpose would that serve?" Megatron drawled, pacing around the factory hangar. "You are much more useful to me alive."

"Good to know you're doing this out of the goodness of your spark," I said sarcastically, crossing my arms over my chest. "I don't feel reassured."

"Is there anything I can do to ease your suspicions?" Megatron waved his hand, voice slick with false worry.

"Yeah. Let me go."

I was prepared to fight for my freedom. I'd already plotted my escape — I knew where the exits where and what tools I had at my disposal. The only thing keeping me from outright running was a sense of, well, uncertainty. I had no idea where we were, or, hell, what continent we were even on. I had yet to see the outside, but from the lack of noise I could tell that we were somewhere far from civilization.

"Should Optimus cooperate, freedom will be granted to you. I have no doubt that Prime would tear this planet apart in search of his sparkmate," Megatron settled onto his rear, lip plates parting as he soaked in my small form. "I am simply taking full advantage of that."

"You saved me from Quintessa. Why?" I craned my neck to meet his optics. "You betrayed her. She'll come after you, now."

"I attempted to form a truce with Prime. Did you know that, half-breed?" Megatron said lowly. "After Sentinel Prime was defeated, I offered Prime my hand. I offered him peace, and he cut me down like a barbarian. I am tired of having to fight for scraps. And I not a servant to some false god!" he paused, eyes narrowing. Those talons, which had once stripped the flesh from my body, stopped just inches from my chin. "You are the perfect peace offering. Prime will give me anything if it means that you are returned to him."

"He'll kill you," I said simply. "He's done it before."

"I have different expectations this time around," Megatron replied curtly. "Do not concern yourself with the musings of titans, half-breed. Now, I believe it is time for Knockout to examine your wounds."

"I'm fine. Just some scratched feet. I don't need a fucking examination," I brushed Knockout's hand away, glaring daggers. The red Decepticon returned the expression.

"Coming into contact with Unicron placed a tremendous amount of strain on you, both physically and mentally," Knockout observed. I scoffed.

"Yeah. That's why I was in the hospital before Quintessa grabbed me. Unicron fucked me over," I glanced up at Megatron. "You were there for that. You saw."

"I was not present for the aftermath," Megatron countered. He leaned in closer, adding, "You encountered Cybertron's greatest enemy, and survived."

"Is that why Quintessa wanted me?"

"You are the only one who could pull Unicron from stasis," Megatron growled. "And now that you have linked to him, the process is almost halfway complete."

"If I awaken him, we all pretty much die. Cybertron too," I said slowly. I glanced up, and saw the grave, yet subtle look on Megatron's monstrous visage. "So it's in all of our interest that we assure that doesn't happen."

"Are you suggesting some sort of alliance?" Barricade said gruffly from where he was crouched, polishing his weapons.

My response was filled with as much disgust as his request. "Hell no. I don't trust any of you. I don't like any of you. I'm just pointing out that now is not the time to pull some stupid shit."

"Duly noted," Megatron smirked. "I would not want to listen to your incessant blabbering, anyway. I don't know how Prime puts up wth it."

"He does it because he loves me. You should try love sometimes. It works," I grumbled, taking a seat on the dirty floor and tugging my legs against my chest. I listened to the sound of Barricade cleansing his weapons while Knockout and Motormaster discussed a topic in their native language, voices hushed. I could feel Megatron's gaze on me the entire time, unwavering.

"Incoming Autobot signal detected," Motormaster announced. My head shot up, followed by the rest of me. Megatron's pede slamming into the ground before me stopped my lunge to freedom.

"Is Prime one of them?"

"He is," Motormaster replied. "Him, and several humans."

N.E.S.T

"Barricade, Knockout, get the doors," Megatron instructed. As his two comrades obeyed, he reached down and wrapped those long, curved talons around my unclothed body. I knew better than to thrash, instead holding on as light flooded the factory.

"You will speak on my behalf," Megatron murmured. "Tell Prime to stand down, unless he wishes for more bloodshed. Us Decepticon's are willing to fight, and there will be casualties."

I glanced up. Prime was standing, flanked by Hound, Hot Rod, and Drift. Shuffling forward were N.E.S.T soldiers, Lennox at the forefront. When he saw me in Megatron's clutches, he very slowly lowered his weapon, gesturing for his men to do the same.

"Rachel," Optimus spoke first, taking in my disheveled and utterly fucked state. I knew I looked unrecognizable — I felt the dried layer of dirt on my skin, each pinprick.

"I'm fine. I'm not hurt," I croaked. Megatron squeezes a bit and I coughed, infuriatingly repeating what Megatron had told me. "He want's a truce or a pact or some shit like that. If not, they'll fight."

"Ze' can fight all day!" Hot Rod snarled, raising his weapon. "Hand over la mademoiselle!"

Megatron raised his free hand in a placating gesture, chuckling as if he found Hot Rod's threat amusing.

The whole standoff had me nervous. For all I knew, Megatron could have been bluffing. He could have kept me alive out of sheer pettiness, so he could end my life in front of Optimus. The mech was sick. He was sick, and I knew he wasn't above doing it.

"I propose an exchange. I rescued your mate, Prime, from Quintessa's clutches. My Decepticon's and I deserve some compensation."

"You tortured her," Optimus' optics were wide. "You brought her nothing but sorrow and agony. And now you want us to pity you?"

"As I said, we are prepared to fight. I have no qualms about her," Megatron squeezed me roughly, "being the first casualty. It does not have to end like that, Prime. You have a choice."

The only thing keeping Hound from blasting with his minigun was the fact that I was in the center, being held by Megatron. The big, green bot was furious, gnawing on his metal cigar to the point that I thought it would snap.

"What are your terms?"

Megatron nodded, chuckling at Prime's compliance. "There you go, Optimus. Now we're getting somewhere."

Chapter Text

Amnesty. Shelter. Supplies.

Megatron's terms were far from unrealistic, but I still couldn't help but mentally scold Optimus for agreeing to them. I knew he wanted me back. I knew he would have agreed to practically anything if it meant that I wound up safe. He wasn't happy — I could see the caustic glares he'd direct towards Megatron, and the rather snide, un-Primely like comments he'd throw Megatron's way.

Lennox and his men didn't relax their guard around the Decepticons. While Optimus and Megatron discussed the terms, I was released from Megatron's hold and ushered away. The sun bore down upon us, the area bathed in light and surrounded by towering, tropical trees. I finally learned where Quintessa had transported me — somewhere deep in Malaysia, thousands of miles away from London.

"Here," Lennox removed his thin tactical vest, wrapping around my shoulders, covering my bare, muddy form. He glanced down at me, placing his hands on my shoulders. "Listen, do you remember where Quintessa took you? What all happened?"

"She took me to a cave," I said softly. "Megatron grabbed me and flew out. I didn't have enough time to retrace my steps, or get my bearings but…it was underground. Deep underground. He knows."

Lennox glanced over at Megatron, then back at me. "And what about Unicron?"

"Optimus told you?"

"He had to. Why you kept this a secret from us is beyond me—"

"You know why, Will," I hissed. "That shouldn't even matter now. It's out."

Lennox stared at me for a long while, blue eyes studying my face as if seeing for the first time. I heard Prime approach, flanked by Megatron.

"Megatron has agreed to take us to Unicron's location," Optimus said. "He will lead the way."

I nodded, hearing Megatron give a low chuckle. A gust of wind ruffled my hair as the large mech transformed, boosting into the sky. Barricade and Motormaster transformed, engines revving, as we began climbing into our respective vehicles.

"Follow Barricade. Don't let him out of your sight," Lennox instructed. "If he does anything that looks remotely suspicious, take him down."

I rode in the Humvee, sitting next to Lennox. I was too tired and too, well, traumatized to say anything. It was like my brain had lost the ability to do the most mundane task, leaving me an empty husk. The ride was bumpy, the tires kicking up mud. I hopped out the moment our little caravan pulled to a stop, finally able to see the hole Megatron had pulled me out of.

The mouth of the cave opened to reveal darkness. Overgrown limbs covered a majority of the entrance. It was big enough for Megatron to squeeze through, so it was certainly big enough for Optimus. The steep slope would for sure require equipment to scale.

It wasn't hard to imagine something as ominous as Unicron making its home here.

"This is one of many entrances, Prime," Barricade sneered. Optimus didn't reply, eyes flickering towards the sky as Megatron crashed down, landing hard on his pedes. He adjusted himself, rolling his armored shoulders.

"Quintessa attempted to awaken Unicron by using your mate," Megatron jerked his chin towards me. "And she will try and do it again."

"She'll get her ass handed to her if she does," Hound snarled. Megatron rolled his optics, brushing Hound off.

"Quintessa always gets what she wants, no matter the cost, and no matter how much energon has to be spilled."

"Sounds familiar." Drift mumbled.

"Killing her is the only way to stop her," Megatron, remarkably, ignored Drift's jab. He stepped close to Prime and guns clicked, immediately trained on his and ready to fire should he try anything remotely tricky. "She is a vile creature, a deceiver. She brainwashed us both into doing her bidding, Optimus. No more."

"She said that I could awaken Unicron," I said. "Because I can talk with him when he's in limbo like this. That's why she took me."

"Rest assured she will do it again," Megatron growled. "Your mate is in grave danger, Prime. I traded your mate for shelter and amnesty, but I am prepared to offer more."

"Offer more?" Optimus questioned.

"Yes. Knowledge," Megatron cooed, extending his hand. The gesture was so bafflingly human, but intentional. "I want Quintessa dead as much as you do."

Optimus glanced down at me, pain in his optics. Megatron was waiting, hand extending, offering a truce. That same hand that had caused so much agony over a millennia, and were still stained with my blood.

I nodded subtly to Prime, confirming that he should shake Megatron's hand.

He did.


In the span of twelve hours, new of Unicron had spread across the most prominent parts of the US government — especially the military branch, which now considered Unicron a distinct threat, despite the foul creature still being in stasis.

You're the link.

I was. I'd been informed that returning to England was a no-no. I had no clue where Izzy was — I prayed that she'd remained with Cogman and that Cade and Viviane had found their way to the castle somehow. The uncertainty and the fact that I'd been forbidden to link with anyone — an order from one of the higher ups — made the trip from Kuala Lumpur to the discreet island of Diego Garcia extremely nerve racking.

"Isolation is not how we need to do this," Lennox murmured. He glanced over at me. I had yet to be given a change of clothes — one of Lennox's longtime friends and N.E.S.T soldiers, Graham, had fetched me a blanket to cover my legs as the cargo plane began its descent towards the island.

"Tell your bosses that," I mumbled. "Or better yet, don't. I don't want you getting fired, Lennox. I like you too much."

"What makes them think they can keep Quintessa out?" Hound grumbled. "If they're gonna put you in confinement, at least let someone competent guard ya'."

I smiled at Hound, chuckling at his remarks. The big bot was already adamant about not leaving my side. Out of all the bots, he and Optimus were the strongest in battle. Not leaving at least one of them with me would be a mistake.

My smile faltered when I realized something. "Morshower…he would have made a case for me. He was always on our side," I said sadly. "Who's in charge of the operation, now? It should be you, Lennox."

"I haven't gotten that promotion," Lennox said. "And last I heard, Charlotte Mearing was replacing Morshower as head of N.E.S.T."

"I don't know her."

"You're lucky," Lennox said. "But she can be reasonable. And persuasive. She knows Prime and she knows me…but she doesn't know you. That might be a problem."

The plane made a bumpy landing, coming to a stop on the tarmac. Lennox held onto my arm as we exited, and I made sure to keep the blanket wrapped around myself. The massive hangar was open and the air was warm, the sun bright, a stark contrast to England's overcast sky and mild climate. The place was bustling with military personnel and vehicles — over in the corner, I saw Sideswipe and Mirage parked in their alternate modes.

I looked out of place, half naked with a blanket around my small body, bare feet tracking mud through the hangar. Even then, Optimus' transformation caused those around to stop and stare in awe, despite such a thing being a regular occurrence. I sent a swell of pride through our bond, feeling warmth and euphoria as Prime sent something back in return.

"Cargo has arrived," Lennox murmured into his walkie. Eyes shifted from Optimus to me. A group of fancily dressed individuals were heading towards us, their leader sticking out — an older, confident looking blonde woman.

And what did my dumbass do? I slowly inched behind Lennox, trying to hide myself. Make myself smaller than I already was.

It took me a second to realize that said 'cargo' was me. I prayed the term wouldn't become a trend.

The group stopped before Lennox. Immediately, Optimus knelt onto one knee so he could have an easier time address the humans. My shoulders relaxed and I found myself creeping towards him for comfort.

"Rachel," Lennox said softly, turning his body and revealing me, standing and shaking like a wet, barely clothed dog before some of the most powerful men and women in the country. "This is Charlotte Mearing — Director of National Intelligence and Director of N.E.S.T. operations."

Mearing stared, waiting for me to say something.

I word vomited.

"Hi. Hello. I'm Rachel — Lennox just said that. Sorry. Shit. Ah, fuck — I mean, oh darn. Sorry for cursing."

"She's had a rough few weeks," Lennox said, quickly coming to my aid.

Weeks? Try life.

"I can see," Mearing hummed. She glanced at her assistant, jerking her chin. "Someone please go get this girl some clothes. I'm not going to be able to have a civil discussion with her if she smells like sweat and sulfur," she met Prime's gaze. "Optimus. A pleasure."

"The pleasure is mine, Director."

Mearing looked me up and down once again, something akin to pity flashing across her face. The expression went back to cold and she said, "Make her wash up, and then send her to my office. Justher."

Mearing turned and left, her group anxiously shuffling behind her.

She wants to talk with you alone? That's not good.

That's never good.


I spent almost an hour in the shower. Partially out of necessity — the white tile beneath me turned black and red the moment water hit my skin. Layers and layers of filth were washed from my body, the stream never ending. The warm water relaxed my muscles, helping release tension that I'd never even noticed. My coiled muscles loosened and I felt as if I could finally breathe.

Relief.

Optimus did not come and join me. He'd been whisked away into an entirely separate meeting. I was left alone, and when I turned off the water, I'd found a pile of clothes waiting for me on the washroom bench.

I dressed quickly, before hurrying down the vacant hall. I remember the directions to Mearing's office, surprisingly, and after a brief moment of contemplating whether or not this was even a smart decision, found myself pushing open her door.

"Knock before you enter," Mearing didn't look up from her papers. "Go out and do it again."

"Ma'am—"

"Don't call me ma'am. Go out and knock."

Embarrassed, I obeyed. I took another, shorter moment to really contemplate if I should just run. Finally, I mustered up the strength to knock lightly.

"Come in."

I opened the door. Mearing was acknowledging me, glasses tilted. She watched as I shuffled across the room and took a seat before her desk, avoiding eye contact.

"Proper etiquette is something you need to know. You're going to be dealing with a lot of people like me in the future," Mearing said. "The more you impress, the more likely you are to have your argument supported."

"…okay," I said slowly. "Okay. Cool. Good to know. I don't even want to go into government—"

"I wouldn't want you to. Government is messy and cruel, and from what I've heard, you've seen enough of that already," Mearing's lips quirked into some semblance of a smile. "But due to the circumstances, you're going to be surrounded by government assholes for a while."

"Like you?"

Shit.

Rachel. Shit. Shut the fuck up, oh my God-

Luckily Mearing smiled at that, a low chuckle reverberating through her chest. "Yes. Like me. But I'm also the asshole who get's to determine what exactly to do with you. You and your companion, Cade Yeager, are already international news," she sneered the last word. "Or to some, delinquents. And now you've become the government's new fixation."

"Lucky me."

"And now I'm stuck having to decide what to do with a kid," Mearing rolled her eyes. "Lock her up, or let her go free. I know I can't do the latter, so we'll have to compromise."

"Isolation won't work," I echoed Lennox's words. "You should know that. You've been told what Quintessa can do. What she's already done. And you know about Unicron—"

"Yes, and we know which one of you is more powerful," Mearing leaned forward, her words grave and laced with seriousness. "Rachel, I need your full cooperation. Unicron is unlike anything we've ever dealt with, and the higher-ups are scared. Fear makes men do stupid, stupid things. Irrational things."

"What do you mean?"

"I am on your side," Mearing said slowly. "I doubted Optimus Prime in the past, and I was proven wrong. I will not make that mistake again. But there are people with higher authority than me who don't feel the same way, and who have the ability to make life or death decisions."

No.

They wouldn't.

My blood ran cold. The fact that there were people even considering me to dangerous to be left alive made me sick.

"Mearing," I pleaded. "They wouldn't — Optimus wouldn't let them. I'm his mate. His sparkmate, we're bonded. He'd kill every last one of you."

"I'm quite aware of your relationship with Prime. I have a thirty page file detailing almost everything that has transpired from the moment you made contact with Bumblebee for the first time, to now. I know," Mearing replied. "This is not just a matter of how Optimus would react. I'm against this as well, and so are many others. You know, the sensible people," she fell silent for a moment, before adding, "So I need you to do as I say, and listen."

Chapter Text

I said nothing to Optimus about what Mearing had told me. I didn't tell anyone. I couldn't.

It's a consideration. It's not even confirmed. Mearing was vague about it.

"You will remain on Diego Garcia until further notice. Optimus is welcome to accompany you."

Those words had sealed my fate for the foreseeable future. I'd be surrounded by Autobots and the military, but left far, far away from my true home. Our little family had successfully been split in half, and I hated it.

I'd been given a secure line and about thirty minutes to speak with Izzy. I could hear Sqweeks and Grimlock in the background, confirming that she'd remained at the castle with Cogman and hadn't tried to foolishly come after me.

"When will you be home?"

"I don't know, honey," I murmured. Optimus knelt next to me, listening intently just so he could hear Izzy's voice. He was her father now, just as much as I'd taken the role of her mother. And we weren't there with her.

"Cade and Viviane are here. They're staying with me for a bit," Izzy replied. "And before you say anything, we're not making plans to bust you out. I promise."

"Good," I smiled softly. "I'm not even really in prison. Just…an island. The island is pretty much the entirety of the prison. I don't know what to even call it."

"Forced relocation?"

"Yeah. That," I said. "Keep Grimlock in line for me, okay?"

"He misses you."

"I know. I miss him," I gnawed on my lower lip. "I miss all of you. So does Optimus."

"Tell Dad that I love him. And I love you to, Mom."

"Love you to, honey," I was gnawing on my lower lip so hard that it split, trying to push down the tears. A few of them squeezed past as I said raggedly and as calmly as possible, "I have to go now. Be good, okay? I'll see you soon. Promise."

We hung up and I slumped down, burying my face in my hands. I was vaguely aware of Optimus picking me up, walking with me to his designated quarters. I was placed on his berth, where I sat, staring up at the ceiling until I managed to speak.

"Unicron showed me a vision of everyone I care about. You were all dead," I took I harsh breaths, my voice hoarse. "Izzy was dead. I couldn't do anything — how the fuck am I supposed to protect her when I'm on this fucking island in the middle of fucking nowhere?"

I screamed the last sentence. I didn't even realize the volume of my voice until is bounced off the walls.

"Rachel," Optimus said in that overly calm baritone. "You are overtired. You need rest—"

"Rest is the last thing I fucking need, Prime! Fuck off with that bullshit," I snarled. Optimus didn't reel back or say something crude in reply. Instead he just nodded, sliding from the berth.

We were rarely on the same wavelength, I'd noticed. When I'd go up, he'd go down. When I'd go down, he'd go up. Each of us would be the better person for each other. It had become a cycle, almost, and I wondered when it would end. When we'd get to be normal.

You had normal, back at that castle. Even with the nightmares, the flashbacks, you'd been the closest thing to normal one could possibly get in this fucked up world.

"Rachel, what Unicron showed you was a hallucination. It was not reality, nor will it ever be," Optimus said softly.

A sudden anger flared up within me.

It was just a vision.

It wasn't real. It never will be—

"Bullshit," I murmured. Then, louder, "Bullshit, Optimus. Bull. Shit," I was shouting, now. "It was reality for me! For all of us — you saw it! You saw it happen! Crosshairs, Ratchet, Shane, Epps, Canopy — I couldn't protect any of them! All dead! I died! You couldn't protect me, Optimus! Stop saying that it won't happen when it already has!"

Now he was reeling back, my words like a punch in the gut.

You couldn't protect me.

I was panting. I still hadn't process the harshness and gravity of my own words. I was just focused on coming down from my anger.

"You are right. I couldn't protect you—"

"You shouldn't have to," I tried to correct myself, but the damage had been done. I could see the hurt in Prime's optics. It seeped through our bond. Still, I said, "Optimus. I'm sorry. When I fought Quintessa, I was trying to die. I was supposed to die. It was a suicide mission—"

Optimus choked on his next words. "Y-you what?"

"I don't know why. It just…was. I saw how she hurt you. I wanted her dead, and it didn't matter if I died, too. I felt like a had no purpose back then. Like I…like I wasn't worth your time or anyones time—"

That's the farthest thing from the truth, Rachel."

"I know. It's just my stupid, fucked up brain that needs convincing," I wiped my tears away, ducking my head so that Optimus wouldn't see me cry. After a moment, I felt his metal finger gently lift my chin so I could meet his sorrowful gaze. I said, "I'm sorry about what I said. I'm sorry. I shouldn't take my anger out on you."

"I know. I wish to help, Rachel. Any way that I can."

"I don't want to be locked in here, stuck on this island. I want to go home and see Izzy and Cogman."

"I'm doing everything I can to ensure that your stay here is temporary," Optimus said. "Your government is, understandably, being cautious…but they fail to see the bigger picture. No amount of locked doors or ammunition will stop Quintessa."

"Optimus," I leaned forward. "We have to kill her. What Megatron said…I hate to say it, but he's right. There's no other way to stop her."

You just don't know how.

Quintessa's strength and powers seemed infinite. If she happened to have a spark, tearing it from her body was the only way I could see her death being guaranteed.

"When she brainwashed you, do you remember if she mentioned having any weaknesses?" I asked. "Any vulnerable spots? An off button?"

"She only shared slivers of information with me, and none were intimate. I have a feeling that those were reserved for someone like Megatron — someone who she thought would be loyal to the bitter end."

"He agreed to share his knowledge with us," I went to climb down from the berth, feeling Optimus grip me and place me gently on the floor. I glanced up, adding, "We can take advantage of that. Now, where is he?"

"On the far side of the island," Optimus answered grimly. "He and what few troops he has left. They have set up a temporary camp and are under constant surveillance."

"I need to talk to him. I don't care if I get into trouble. I can go, and then come right back. You go to your meeting, and if get caught, act like you're surprised."

"Please, be careful around him," Optimus crouched down. He dipped his head, saying, "I still do not fully trust him. Not after what he did to you."

"I'll have a walkie. I'll radio Lennox if shit goes south," I scoffed at my own words. "Radio. Hah. Still not used to being forbidden to link. Like they'd even know if I did, anyway."

"Troublemaker. Though in these circumstances, it is forgiven," Optimus smirked, brushing his thumb across my cheek. I chuckled at the touch, heading towards the door. "I will inform you when the meeting has ended."

"Good. I'll be back by then," I called. "And hopefully I'll have some answers with me."


I really, really wished that my mental powers extended past being able to simply force myself into someone mind and speak. If I'd been able to choose, I'd have modeled my abilities off Profession X — mind control, mind transferring, mind whatever. It would have made the process of sneaking from the base so, so much easier.

Instead I was stuck having to look as innocent as possible, informing the higher ups that I was simply going to take a stroll. They allowed it, giving me the parameters, with no knowledge that I was about to break those rules, hard.

The entire island was monitored 24/7, and it would be naive to think otherwise. Nevertheless, I had a pretty good head start on whoever had been sent to fetch me the moment I stepped from my given route. To avoid being spotted by any military passerby's, I slipped into some woods and began walking until I reached my destination.

The Decepticon's were hunched around a small pit, right in front of an old, worn down and moss covered storage building. I saw tabs of energon scattered around the grass, along with other basic supplies that a Cybertronian would need. For the first time, Megatron had an almost peaceful look on his garish face. I almost felt bad interrupting the moment by making myself known.

"Gentleman," I waved a hand, stepping from the shadows. Motormaster and Barricade instinctively stood, stopping when they noticed that it was little ole' me. I said, "How do you like the new home?"

"It reeks of oil and seawater," Megatron glanced up, eyes trailing around the outline of Cybertron hovering in the sky, shrouded by clouds. "I'd much rather be on my dead planet."

"No one is stopping you. Go on up there," I shrugged. "But not before you give me what I want."

"And what would that be, hybrid?"

"Am I a hybrid or a half-breed? You're going to have to pick one," I rolled my eyes. Megatron snarled, standing and looming over me. His talons twitched, as if they were itching to get ahold of a weapon. His axe had been confiscated, as had all their other firearms.

"You are whatever I want you to be, but above all else, you are an insect. An insect who is wasting my time by coming here to antagonize me—"

"That's not what I came here for. We made a deal. Knowledge for shelter and supplies — right now, I need that knowledge. Pay up. Tell me about Quintessa."

"You know of her, already—"

"I don't," I bypassed Barricade, arms crossed over my chest. "You know stuff that Optimus doesn't. Quintessa trusted you. Even if you did fuck her over in the end, it took a hell of a lot longer for you to come to your senses than it took Prime."

"Do you wish for me to congratulate Prime on his stellar accomplishment? Or are you actually here with something important?" Megatron sneered.

I resisted the urge to make a crude comment, instead steeling myself and mentally chanting "be the better person, be the better person, pettiness will get you nowhere." It worked, and instead of a curse I said, "Quintessa has to die. You were right about that. But how?" I stepped closer, having to crane my neck even more to meet his red optics. "She's strong. Bumblebee blasted her apart, but she survived. If that doesn't work, then what will?"

"You are meddling in something you don't understand, girl."

"Then help me understand. I need to — I have to," I pleaded. "I'll fight her again, one day. And I'd prefer to not get my ass kicked."

I heard Barricade snicker, but say nothing. Megatron made a facial gesture very similar to raising ones eyebrows. "That is…fair. My knowledge stems mostly from what I have seen. She calls herself the Prime of Life, but her Knights called her the Great Deceiver."

"Knights?"

"Her twelve guardian Knights. They were slain, one by one, by the wretch. They were the only beings capable of defeating her," Megatron growled. "However, you are in luck, for your companion, Cade Yeager, possesses one of their weapons."

"The talisman?" I breathed. "Is that why you — Quintessa — wanted it so badly? That thing can actually, for-real, kill her?"

"Yes," Megatron nodded, smirking. "Cade Yeager and the artifact he possesses will be your salvation. I suggest you go to him."

"I can't leave this island," I said slowly. "I'm not even supposed to be talking to you. I guarantee you that a dozen men with guns are on their way here, right now."

Megatron snorted, kneeling down on one knee. He growled, "And you believe that these humans can keep you contained? Despite the powers you have, you are going to allow them to treat you as their property—"

"I'm not property. And I'm not escaping. I can't. We've finally made amends with the government, after everything that's happened. I'm not going to jeopardize our success by going on some mission."

"You are blinded by your allegiance to your government. Tell me, do you consider yourself one of them?" Megatron leaned closer. "Despite your outward appearance, you are far stronger, better, than they will ever be. Do not act like these gifts are a burden."

"I'm not. And don't act like I chose to be this way, I didn't. I was forced and grown in a test tube but some crazy people in a dam. But I can make choices now. And I'm choosing not to compromise everyones safety by doing whatever it is you propose."

Megatron rose to his full height, smirking. It wasn't one of his usual, slimy smirks — it seemed forced. "I have shared with you my knowledge. Now leave my sight — I've grown bored of this exchange."

I watched as Megatron stomped towards the crudely put together shed just by the tree-line, disappearing inside. Motormaster, Knockout and Barricade watched him go, three pairs of red optics then shifting down at me.

"Now look what you've done. You've pissed him off," Knockout sighed, glancing back and forth between me and the shed, as if debating whether or not to stay or risk it by going to check on his leader.

I responded with a nod, not wanting to say another word. There was nothing else I could say — "I'm sorry?" No. Megatron wasn't good enough for an "I'm sorry." Not yet.

A caravan of armed Humvee's met me halfway back to the base. Men clad in army vests, tactical gear, and armed hopped from the cars and went to restrain me. I obeyed, letting my arms go limb as I was forced into a vehicle and escorted back.

However, I couldn't help but smile, just a bit.

I had what I needed. Finally.

Chapter Text

"What part of 'do exactly as I tell you' do you not understand?" Mearing's elbows were braced on her desk, the veins in her neck pronounced as she tried to keep herself composed. "What you did was the exact opposite of that. I know you remember what I said — it wasn't even a day ago."

"I remembered," I shrugged somberly. "I just didn't care."

"Do you remember the part where I informed you that our government, if all else fails, will not hesitate to put a bullet between your eyes?"

"You know how many times I've been threatened? After the third time you get used to it. It rolls off your back like water. It becomes familiar, like a 'hello' or a 'see you later.'"

"I am serious," Mearing grit her teeth. "You know what's at stake, here."

I stared into the woman's dark eyes, lips set. She as unwavering, unmoving. Hell, she could have probably stared Quintessa down and not flinched. I slouched in defeat, deciding that appeasement was my only option.

"Mearing, you know that keeping me here, keeping the Autobots restrained, is useless. We have to take the fight to Quintessa. And we need Cade to do it—"

"Cade? Cade Yeager?" Mearing raised her eyebrows. "What does he have to do with all this?"

"Megatron told me that he can kill Quintessa."

"And you trust Megatron?" Mearing scoffed. "The Decepticon warlord? Listen to yourself, Rachel."

"We made a deal—"

"Megatron is leading you and Yeager straight to Quintessa. He knows that the moment you leave this base, you'll be at risk. That's what he wants," Mearing stressed. "Oldest trick in the book."

"What if he's not lying? What if it's real — you can't hide me away forever. Every moment we spend not going after Quintessa, she finds more and more ways to get past security or, hell, awaken Unicron. Inaction is the same thing as action. We're wasting time—"

"No. Absolutely not. If Yeager truly is capable of defeating Quintessa, he will have our support. But you are to stay on base," Mearing cut me off. "Do not let me catch you wandering the island. If I do, you'll be placed in solitary confinement."

I raised my hands in a placating gesture, pushing down my bubbling anger. I almost couldn't be mad at her — I understood her caution. The situation was fucked, no matter how I viewed it.

You can't stay here.

I let out a breath, relaxing my shoulders. Mearing watched as I nodded slowly.

"Good. You're dismissed."

I left with my head hanging, a fire in my stomach that I'd never felt before. It had taken everything in me not to snap back at Mearing. I instead settled for silent, seething ire.

But I was also planning.

I had no intention of honoring Mearing's request. I instead headed back to the quarters that Optimus and I shared. I found him waiting for me, lying on the berth, drifting between reality and recharge. Immediately he reached down to scoop me up, placing me on his chest.

"Was Mearing rough on you?"

"Yeah," I replied softly. "I took it. It wasn't that hard. I'm not worried about it."

"You have a plan. I can see it in your eyes," Optimus said. "Do not worry. I have learned that I cannot stop you."

I slid from him, lying on the berth and gathering the blankets and pillows I'd been given. I remained sitting, however, musing to myself. After a long stretch of silence I heard Optimus activate his holoform.

His mouth ventured from my shoulder to my neck, arms wrapping around my waist from behind. I relaxed, letting out a sigh. His kisses became more aggressive, prompting me to turn and press my own lips against his. The moment his fingers twisted my clothes I felt a surge of need in my belly.

"There is a micro camera mounted in the top left corner of this room," Optimus murmured against my mouth. "We are being observed."

"I don't care. Fuck em' — let's give them a show."

I lifted my arms, allowing Optimus to gently and slowly slide my shirt above my head. My pants went next. I rested my head against the pillow, craning my neck. I noticed exactly what Optimus had been talking about — I could see the faint outline of a circular lens on the wall, right in the corner.

I boldly gave it the finger.

"Please don't antagonize them," Optimus said, his head buried between my legs. His breath ghosted over my center, teeth nipping at the fabric of my underwear. I giggled at the sensation, tearing my gaze away from the camera to look down at him. He hooked two fingers beneath my underwear and tugged them past my ankles. Then he dove back down, nose brushing against the small patch of hair. The squeal I let out was certainly loud enough to be caught on camera.

The camera didn't bother me. I'd never done anything like this before, and I never thought I'd be able to. In my lust-filled state, however, all I could think about was the fact that whoever was watching would know. They'd know that I belonged to Prime and he belonged to me.

All coherent thoughts dissipated the moment Prime inserted a finger inside me, tongue lapping away at my wetness. When I looked down once more, his back was bare, his clothes gone. The muscles on his back rippled like waves, and I could only imagine what they looked like on his true form — cables stretched like sinewy, powerful muscles capable of crushing steel…

Optimus removed his finger and lifted his head. A rare smirk flashed across his face as he watched me, still writing beneath him and yearning for release. He kissed up the length of my body, stopping when he hovered over me, hard length pressed against my slick folds. He was taking satisfaction out of watching me beg for him, and he deftly fisted his cock in one hand, easing the tip inside me.

"Don't tease," I groaned. "Don't — fuck — tease me, please."

"What do you want? Be specific," Optimus caged me with his body. "Tell me what you want me to do."

"I want your spike. All of it," I lifted my head to kiss him, but he turned to the side. My breathing was ragged, words laced with every sort of need imaginable. "Please, put your spike in me!"

"Not like this. Get on your knees," Optimus said darkly. I obeyed, rolling over as he sat up, head tilted to the side. I heard his growl with content, adding, "Yes. That's it. Right there."

He eased his cock back in, going painfully slow, his hips flush against my rear. I moaned at the intrusion, trying to wiggle my hips, only to find Prime's strong hands grip my waist.

"Optimus," I was back to begging. I didn't care. "Please—"

"Hush. You are so tight and wet," Optimus savored it all, rocking his hips very, very slowly, like it was the first time he'd had a chance to explore my body. I knew he remembered what I liked and what I didn't like. He was just being a teasing asshole. "You are mine. Say it!"

He deftly jerked my head back, running fingers through my inch long locks and palming my scalp. I gasped, mouth open as he increased his pace.

"I'm yours. I'm yours," I chanted. "Yes, yes, I'm yours, Optimus—"

"My sweet, soft little human," Optimus groaned against my skin, caging my body with his once more. He placed kisses against and between the blades of my shoulder. "All mine."

His voice had turned animalistic, the deep baritone laced with grunts and snarls. It turned me on, sending jolts of raw anticipation and pleasure from my brain to my toes. I moved to meet his thrusts — everything became nothing. No cameras, no berth, no base, no Quintessa. Just the two of us.

"Overload with me," Optimus pulled my head back again, slowing his thrusts. I obeyed, gritting my teeth as waves of release washed over my body, the force and intensity like a hurricane. Optimus' hips stuttered as he did the same, grunting through his overload.

I lazily sunk against the blankets, thoroughly fucked, my entire body like a bowl of jello. One push and I'd flop around — I looked back and saw that Prime had deactivated his holoform. He shifted on the berth next to me, bringing a finger down to gently stroke my bare back.

"We just contributed to history," I murmured. "First time a robot and an alien having sex has been caught on camera. I'm okay with this being my legacy."

"It will be studied for years to come," Optimus said mockingly. We shared a laugh, the sound drifting off as I felt the urge to fall asleep.

"You require recharge. It has been a long day," Optimus gingerly slid a blanket across my lower body. "I will be right here, should you suffer a nightmare."

"I'm not worried about nightmares. I'm worried about him," I grit my teeth. "What if I think that I'm waking up, but I'm not, and it's just…him standing over me?"

"He has no reason too," Optimus said softly. "He cannot get to you. Not while I am here."

I stroked the side of Prime's faceplate, smiling. Those big, blue optics dimmed, softening as I touched him.

"My big, strong mech," I murmured. "I don't deserve you. I never did."

"But I am here, and I am yours," Optimus replied. "Now rest. If you are going through with your plan, you'll need all the strength you can possibly possess."


Utilizing Prime's help allowed me to sneak from the base, this time. I had a backpack slung over my shoulder as I darted behind the trees, observing the glow of the main hangar through the thin veil of rain. No alarms had been sounded, so I made my way towards the Decepticon's measly campsite like I'd done before.

This time, I only made it halfway before I was stopped. The trees rustled around me and I saw a figure emerge.

It was Lennox. Out in the rain, a poncho draped over his uniform. He stopped abruptly, shining a flashlight, eyes narrowing when he saw that it was me.

Over the sound of the rain, he said, "What are you doing out here? You're supposed to be inside—"

"Why do you think?" I gripped the straps of my bag. "I can't stay here, Lennox. You know I can't."

"So you're going to trust Megatron? Trust what he said about Cade?" Lennox stepped forward. I didn't move, feet planted firmly on the wet grass. "Rachel—"

"You have to help me — help us, Will—"

"Does Optimus know?"

"Yeah," I replied. "He knows. But everyone else is going to think that I did this on my own. That's what I want everyone to think," I tilted my head up, meeting his gaze. "I'm going, Will."

I tried to step forward. I found myself staring at the barrel of a gun.

Laughable.

The safety wasn't even off. I could see it. It was a weak attempt, and the pleading expression on Will's face would have made a much better weapon. I slowly reached up and tilted the barrel towards the ground, brushing past Will.

"You could always come with me," I called. When Lennox didn't move I spun, spreading my arms wide. "I mean, you're down with danger, right? What's more dangerous than walking right into Megatron's hands?"

"If I get fired for following you, you lose one of the only people at N.E.S.T capable of swinging this all in your favor. I'll stay back, work on providing support," Lennox replied. "I want that bitch dead as much as you do, Rachel. I need you to get the job done."

"Will do, Colonel," I gave a salute, returning the small smile Lennox shot my way. Then he was gone, and I was darting towards the Decepticons.

Megatron was standing outside the warehouse, alone. In the dim light he looked like a statue, armor dripping, rivulets of water falling from his frame like a small waterfall. A year ago, I would have been terrified. Now, seeing him was a relief — it meant that he hadn't been apprehended or moved somewhere else. He was my only source of transportation off this island.

"Did Prime give you any grief?" Megatron growled.

"A little. But he understood. He trusts me," I side eyed the warlord, following him into the warehouse. It was a joy to finally get out of the rain, and the high, wide and empty space around us made it seem less cramped than it probably was.

"You're leaving us here? With the fleshlings?" Knockout made a noise of disgust. "Lord Megatron, please allow me to accompany you—"

"What? You can drive on water, now?" I raised an eyebrow. "Plus, we're going to get more fleshlings. They're everywhere. It's almost like this planet is full of them."

"Insufferable wretch—"

"Silence, Knockout," Megatron raised a servo. "All of you are to remain here, until I return. Do not engage with the Autobots — do not engage with anyone."

"If we come back alive, I'll have Prime serve you up five bottles of high grade. Each," I added. "That's on me. Deal?"

Motormaster shrugged, and Barricade nodded. Only Knockout seemed on edge, silently fuming at the prospect of being stuck on a human infested island.

Megatron glanced down at me. Mustering up the rest of my courage, I followed him into the downpour. My bag was soaked, but the contents inside were safe. Megatron transformed into a silver Cybertronian jet — I'd never ridden in a jet, period, much less one modeled off something from a distant planet.

"Get in, human, before they send their own jets after us," Megatron snarled. "I'd hate to have to retaliate."

"You'd love it," I murmured, clambering up the side and into the cockpit. It was spacious, due to Megatron's size, As the walls closed around me, I tried relaxing my muscles. I was still on edge, not liking that I was so, so close to Megatron. I still didn't trust him entirely.

Yet here you are.

There's no choice. That's why.

There were no windows. I couldn't see where we were, how far away from the base we'd flown. After looking around I determined that there was no way I'd be able to tell how much time had passed without asking Megatron — the ride was smooth, no bumps, no sudden jolts.

"Don't act as if you are frightened. You could break free from here anytime, and you know it."

"Yeah, but I know you. You wouldn't let me throw a punch."

"You know me? After we've spent such a short time together—"

I winced, biting back, "Shut up, Megatron."

He didn't. He pressed on, voice echoing around the cockpit, "You humans are so ungrateful. So disgusting," he sounded hoarse. "It would have been fruitless, had I managed to conquer this planet. Your species would have shown the same naivety, ignorance, and weakness regardless."

"You agreed to this, to. Kick me out if you don't want a human in your cockpit. I'd survive the fall," I spat.

"We both share a mutual enemy. The fact that you are intolerable will not deter me from my goal."

I paused for a moment. As gingerly as possible, I said, "Quintessa made you her bitch. So what. You could leave, go back to Cybertron—"

"Cybertron is dead, and Prime is foolish to think that he can rebuild it," Megatron said fiercely. "Unless we can find another, less…organic infested planet, we will have to settle for Earth."

"How did she get you?" I asked. "Did she come to you in a dream?"

"Yes," Megatron admitted after a long pause. "She poisoned my mind, just as she poisoned your Prime's. She gave me a new body. I was no longer Galvatron. I remembered everything, from the start of the war, to now."

I glanced down, swallowing thickly at the implications. His torture had been Quintessa's doing, not his.

He made no moves to fight it.

"Fleshling — Rachel," Megatron said softly. My head snapped up — I'd never heard him say my name before. "We Decepticons are not monsters. Had I been in control, I would have spared you a slow death."

"Gee, thanks. Still pissed off," I sighed. "The fact that I'm even here with you, though, shows that I might be able to forgive you in the future."

"I do not want you forgiveness — in fact, I don't really care for it. I was not not in control when I tortured you, and for that, I ashamed," Megatron growled. "I do not need your pity."

"You seriously think that I pity someone like you?" I raised my voice, scoffing at his words and brushing them aside. "After everything you've done? You don't deserve pity, Megatron. Not from me, not from anyone."

We flew in silence. The air was heavy, Megatron's irritation palpable. It was, what, an hour? An hour before either one of us spoke again.

"You're lucky Optimus didn't kill you back on Cybertron. He really, really wanted to."

"He displayed self control, something you don't seem to have," Megatron sneered.

"I don't know why he didn't. We could have found Unicron without you."

"Perhaps he couldn't bear the thought of slaughtering his brother a second time," Megatron replied. "Or, perhaps he wanted the honor to go to you. An eye for an eye, as you humans say."

"Quintessa is the one who offed me, not you," I fiddled with my nails, glancing around the dark cockpit. "I'd have strung you up and beaten you until you forgot your own name. That would have been an eye for an eye."

"You would have made a fine Decepticon. A shame you chose Prime as your mate," Megatron sneered. "While I am not at all fond of your species, I believe I could had made an exception for a half-breed such as yourself."

"You wouldn't have been able to love me like Optimus does. Or like Crosshairs did," I grimaced, squeezing my fist together. "I don't even think there's love in you. I don't even think you know what love is—"

"Do not speak to me about 'love,' half breed!" Megatron's entire cockpit jolted, sending me slamming against the reinforced steel side. I grunted, feeling the aircraft dip before it righted itself. "You have no idea what I am."

"I've seen enough of you to know what you are, Megatron."

I was partially glad Megatron wasn't in his bipedal mode. I imagined his garish face twisting into something unrecognizable, something foul.

Izzy's parents were killed because of this monster.

I felt my nails pierce the skin of my hand. I kept my composure, head ducked as Megatron sped through the open air.

Chapter Text

We landed in front of the castle gates, which were wide open. I dug my feet into the gravel driveway, steeling myself and praying that Grimlock wouldn't see Megatron and immediately mistake him for a large, ugly chew toy.

We began walking, Megatron following behind as I led.

"What the hell is that?" Bumblebee's voice floated across the courtyard, followed by the short wail of a siren. I nearly leaped out of my skin, raising my hands and Bumblebee rolled between Megatron and I, shielding me with his body. I saw Izzy, Cade and Viviane burst outside, all armed.

"Hold on," I raised my hands higher, shouting, "Bee! Stop it! Stand down!"

Megatron hadn't flinched. A smirk danced across his face as he stared the scout down, dwarfing the little bot with ease. Bumblebee was still on guard, guns raised, but at my command he stepped back.

"Rachel, what's going on?" Viviane kept her eyes on Megatron. "Why is he here?"

"He's with me, unfortunately," I said. Before I could say anything else, Izzy had her arms wrapped around me, Her hug was tight, her eyes squeezed shut as she buried her face in my chest. I returned the gesture with just as much vigor. "Hey. Hey, it's okay. You're okay."

"Where's Optimus?" Cade asked me. "I thought you were under base arrest or something? Did Lennox help you slip out?"

"No. Megatron did," I jerked my chin towards the warlord. "He's here on a contract. Sort of. A deal was made, he's clean now. Good. He won't hurt anyone."

"I'm not sure if I believe you."

"Believe me, Yeager, if I wanted to kill you I would have done it already," Megatron touched a servo to his chassis. "For now, we are allies."

"We'll see about that," Cade murmured, holstering his gun and pulling me into a hug. He kissed the top of my head and whispered, "You okay?"

"i'm good. Optimus is back at the base," I said, reaching out to grasp Viviane's hand. "I know you want to retire from the whole 'world saving' business, Cade, but we need you help. Again."


An hour later, I'd debriefed everyone — Bumblebee, Cogman, Izzy, Cade, Viviane and Sqweeks. We sat in the courtyard, Bee and Megatron looming over us.

"So this talisman can kill her?" Cade grazed a finger over the metal slithering over his arm. "And then that's it? No more Unicron?"

"Unicron won't have her as a resource. He's practically powerless, since he's in stasis. He relies on her to do all the heavy lifting," I explained. "That talisman belonged to one of her Knights. They were her protectors, and the only ones who could kill her. They knew all her secrets — when they betrayed her, she killed them. That thing on your arm is all that's left."

"Okay, so I doubt Quintessa is going to let us waltz up to her uninvited," Cade said. "It was already hard enough getting a swing in the last time we fought."

"Leave the military tactics to me, Yeager," Megatron said smugly. I saw Cade roll his eyes, but allow Megatron to speak. "An ambush would be our best option. But we will need bait — enticing bait."

Megatron's optics darted towards me. Viviane was the first to notice, nose wrinkling in disgust.

"No," she said firmly. "Absolutely not."

"Hold on," I said softly. "Let him talk."

Megatron snorted, cocking his head to the side. "I will present the half-breed to Quintessa as a sign of good faith. I will beg for her forgiveness, and pledge my loyalty once more."

I looked around. Expressions ranged from anger, to disgust. Izzy's eyes were narrowed and her nails were biting into the stone slab that she sat on.

"I find your entire proposition risky and foolish," Cogman crossed his arms. "Not to mention stupid."

"Will she come, though? If you have me with you?" I craned my neck to look at Megatron. "If we can catch her by surprise, she might not have time to react and we can—"

"Is Optimus okay with this?" Viviane crossed her arms. "Does he even know that your here?"

"He does, and he and Lennox are trying to convince the military to provide support," I snapped back. Viviane raised her hands in a placating gesture, and I quickly shot her an apologetic look. "Look, none of you have to follow me. None of you have to come — I certainly don't want Izzy coming—"

"I'm coming. You can't stop me."

"Izzy—"

"I sat and waited for you. You're not leaving and getting yourself hurt without me to back you up," Izzy crossed her arms. "Sqweeks and I are going to be there. You need someone who can hold Quintessa down and keep her from running."

"She has a point," Bumblebee shrugged.

"We're all coming," Viviane said, shooting a glare at Megatron. "Don't think that we're going to leave you alone with him."

"Your distrust is disheartening, fleshling. After all, whether you like it or not, we will be working together on the battlefield."

Viviane could only continue glaring, because Megatron's words rang true. I stood, wiping my hands on my pants. "Tomorrow, then?"

"Tomorrow. I require recharge," Megatron brushed past Bumblebee. "Are there any berths in this wretched estate?"

"It's a sixteenth century castle. Of course we don't have giant alien beds," Cade scoffed. "You can survive sleeping on the grass for one night. You don't even deserve to sleep comfortably."

Megatron huffed, but did not retaliate. I watched him stomp around towards the less decorated side of the castle. When he disappeared from view, three humans and three very, very confused bots were staring at me.

"So we're trusting him, now? Just like that?" Cade raised his eyebrows. "Didn't he tie you down and torture you, Rachel?"

"It wasn't him. It was Quintessa," I said shakily. At Cade's incredulous look I said, "I was the one he hurt, Cade. And trust me, even now, I'd like nothing more than to see him die. Hell, I'm hoping he and Quintessa off each other tomorrow. Kill two birds with one stone."

"Or have one bird kill the other, and then have me stab the bird that's left alive," Cade said. "I think this whole plan is a mistake."

"You're kind of the centerpiece to all this. But you don't have to come. We can find some other way—"

"No. I want another shot at her, and I want to get the job done this time. It's just…Megatron is the last person I want watching my back."

"He won't be the only one," I said. "I'll be with you."

Cade smiled.


Quintessa had agreed to meet Megatron in an old abandoned amusement park deep within Louisiana. The place was vacant for miles and miles, making it the perfect spot.

I flew with Megatron while Cogman readied the plane and followed close behind. I was silent the entire ride, surprised that Megatron only made one attempt at getting me to talk. I was silently letting him know that I wanted nothing to do with him outside of killing Quintessa. The more distant we were, the better.

The amusement park was filled with overgrown grass, weeds bursting through the concrete. Buildings that had once been used to entertain were now vacant, left to rust and rot. A roller coaster and a ferris wheel dominated the skyline.

Cogman landed the plane a ways away, forcing Megatron and I to wait.

"We had places like these back on Cybertron," Megatron mused. "They were much more impressive, of course."

"Cool," I shuddered at the surreal image of Megatron enjoying himself on a rollercoaster. I wasn't even sure if the word "fun" existed in Megatron's vocabulary, at least, not anymore.

Megatron huffed at my response. I rolled my shoulders, hearing footsteps — Izzy and Cade rounded the corner, and I waved.

"We're all set up. Cogman is on the ferris wheel with the sniper," Izzy said. "Bumblebee is with Viviane and Sqweeks."

"Are you sure you can do this, Izzy?" I caught her by the arm. "You don't have to. You can go home—"

"I'm staying, and I'm fighting."

I nodded. I pulled her into a hug, ushering her towards her hiding spot.

"If you try anything," Cade glared up at Megatron, pointing, "I'll have Izzy hold you down so I can kill you myself, understand?"

Surprisingly, Megatron said,"I understand."

"Good," Cade darted to where Izzy was hiding, checking over his shoulder as Megatron and I were left, standing on old, downtrodden concrete.

Ten agonizing minutes passed before Megatron rumbled, "she's here."

I heard the squeal of the Insecticons. Four of them dropped from the sky, talons biting into the dirt. Then Quintessa, emerging as they parted like the red sea.

I ducked my head as Megatron drew his axe, lightly nudging the bladed end against the small of my back, forcing me forward. I stumbled, keeping my face as neutral as possible.

"Megatron," Quintessa hissed. She tilted her chin up, sneering, "You've come to your senses, I see."

"I have. I made a grave error, a lapse in judgement," Megatron slowly knelt, dipping his head down in a submissive bow. The act pleased Quintessa, and she beamed. "Forgive me. I allowed my rage to control me."

"You are forgiven. You have brought the girl to me," Quintessa's face fell, though her anger wasn't directed towards Megatron. I stood still as she rushed forward, gripping my cheeks between her fingers, lurching my head back as she stared into my eyes. "Unicron will be pleased."

"Go to hell."

Quintessa's slap was like a thunderclap. My head snapped to the side, but I did not fall.

Wait for the signal, Cogman, wait for it…

Megatron rose to his feet as Quintessa hovered, her Insection's hissing. The moment Megatron sheathed his axe was the moment Cogman fired from atop the ferris wheel, a perfectly aimed shot from his rifle that shattered through Quintessa's shoulder.

"Now!"

The Cybertronian grenade sailed over the empty buildings. I could only turn and haul ass, the concussive force of the explosion flattening me against the concrete. The Insecticon's howled as the night sky became alit with orange fire.

Quintessa went to lunge but was stopped, hand outstretched and trembling. She was unblinking, mouth open and stuck between a bellow of rage and sheer confusion.

Hold it, Izzy, hold it…

She was. I could see her, hair framing her face like a halo as she focused intently on Quintessa.

Two Insecticon's had survived. One shrieked and headed towards me while the other made a beeline towards Cogman — only to both be held back by an unseen force.

Oh, no.

Izzy was sweating, the veins in her temple pronounced as she struggled to keep the three entities from moving any further. Cade rushed past her, sword in hand.

Go Cade, go Cade.

One of the Insecticon's broke loose, forcing Cade to roll our of the way as it mandibles swept up anything in its path. I scrambled to my feet, bracing myself and meeting the Insecticon head on, wrapping my hands around its two mandibles and shoving, praying that I wouldn't be shaken around like a rag doll.

My back hit the ground as the Insecticon's mandibles were forced open. Sticky green saliva dripped from its open maw and onto my face and neck, causing me to squeeze one eyes shut. It's front two legs kicked and thrashed, attempting to impale me but struggling due to the awkward angle. All the while I could feel the concrete begin to crack as my body was pushed harder and harder against it's surface.

I heard Izzy scream as Quintessa broke from her hold.

Shit. Shit.

Cade still had a chance. Cogman, Bumblebee and Viviane were dealing with the second Insecticon while Izzy had collapsed in exhaustion.

"Sqweeks! Grab her!" I shouted. The blue bot zoomed past toward's his companion.

The Insecticon was tugged from me and subsequently turned its attention to my rescuer — Megatron. I found myself staring up at flickering stars, which were descending down faster and faster —

Those aren't star.

Six more Insecticon's impacted the ground. I met Quintessa's gaze and she smirked.

Asshole.

I rolled to my feet as Megatron decapitated his attacker before being jumped by two more.

This plan has gone to shit.

You think?

I wiped Insecticon saliva from my face, frantically looking around. Quintessa was in the thick of it all, unwavering, having regained her composure. Her injured shoulder didn't seem to be bothering her, and she was setting her sights on Cade.

Shit.

I'd never tried anything like I was about to do before. Control was the only thing I wasn't able to have over someone while linking with them, but I could always distract. After making sure that I wasn't about to be flanked by Insecticon's, I closed my eyes, fingers digging into the ground.

Focus on her. She's right in front of you.

Focus. Breathe.

I opened my eyes and only saw Quintessa, a stark contrast against the dark void of her mind. I wasted no time in rushing her, catching her by surprise. I did the only thing I could think of — I began punching.

Don't stop don't stop—

She shrieked, arms flailing. I dug my fingers deeper into the ground, muscles tensing. I prayed I'd incapacitated her enough for Cade to get a hit in—

"Rachel! N.E.S.T is here! We have backup!"

I swung harder until Quintessa parried one of the hits, closing her mind off as quickly as I'd entered. I was thrust out, back into my own conscious. My eyes opened and I was painfully aware that my hands were cut and bleeding from the Insecticon's mandibles as I swayed on my hands and knees, brow slick with sweat.

"N.E.S.T is here! Let's go!" Viviane, gun and hand, frantically began tugging me by the shirt. She was right — a barrage of missile fire destroyed an Insecticon, the sound of jets streaking overhead deafening, followed by the repetitive thunder of Hound's minigun. I finally managed to get up, ducking as the sounds of battle raged around us. We slid behind an old concrete structure that had once been used as a carnival game.

"Where's Izzy?" I immediately asked.

"She's with Bumblebee. Cogman and Sqweeks are with them," Viviane answered. "I sent them away."

"Thank you," I let out a breath, taking a moment to gather my thoughts. Quintessa's bellows were loud and angry, her streaks of lightning cracking through the sky.

"Don't go back out there," Viviane said firmly, practically reading my mind. "Don't."

"I can fight. I have to help—"

"Rachel! It's over. We're done," Viviane stopped me, placing a hand on my shoulder. "We missed our chance. Don't do something stupid, something that could get you killed.

I slouched back before peering around the corner. Quintessa was gesturing wildly, ordering her Insecticon's to retreat. I could see Cade adjacent to us, ducked behind the operating panel of the ferris wheel. There was no way he had an open shot at Quintessa from his position, and all I could do was silently hiss.

"We'll fight another day," Viviane said softly. "Let it go."

I did, taking several breaths as I heard Quintessa and her Insecticon's get farther and farther away, leaving the amusement park eerily quiet.

Viviane and I rose, emerging from cover. I saw several N.E.S.T vehicles approach, followed by Optimus. Hound rolled into view, gun raised.

Lennox hopped from the front car, armed and ready. He dropped his guard when he saw Cade, Viviane and I approach, only to raise it when Megatron dropped from the sky, landing in a crouch.

"Did you get her?"

I could only shake my head, ashamed. The amusement park around us had been razed to the ground, the dirt black, the buildings around us singed and destroyed, some burning. We'd destroyed a shitton of property and we hadn't gotten Quintessa.

"Thank you for the air support," I watched Optimus transform out of the corner of my eye. He approached warily, looking Megatron up and down. I said, "Lennox, I'm not going back to Diego Garcia—"

"I'm not making you," Lennox said.

"What about Mearing? What about—"

"What about it?" My eyes swiveled as Charlotte Mearing slid from the car. She looked as composed as usual, standing at attention next to Lennox. "I pulled some strings."

"I'm free?"

"Not exactly. But we'll get to that later," Mearing turned, dressing Cade. "I don't think we've met."

"Cade Yeager. Although I'm guessing you already knew that."

They shook hands, a glint in Mearing's eyes. She said slowly, "I did. But formalities never hurt."

"What are you doing here?" I asked.

"I'm here to give you an an ultimatum," Mearing said gravely. "Six weeks. You have exactly six weeks from today to dispose of Quintessa. To kill her."

"Or what? And this was decided by who?" Viviane asked.

"The President," Mearing replied, pinching the bridge of her nose. I could tell that delivering the news pained her, as did the news itself. "That's how much time you've been given until all of you are…deported. To Cybertron."

"All of us?" I raised my eyebrows in alarm. "Wait, so if we don't kill Quintessa we're being kicked off the planet? Even though half of us are native to here? They can't just…exileus—"

"I'm afraid they can. I was the one who convinced them to give you time," Mearing replied.

"Izzy is a kid. She didn't have a choice — Decepticon's killed her parents —"

"Trust me, I tried to make that case. But these people are afraid," Mearing said. "They've been pushed into a corner, and this is much better than the alternative."

"The alternative being…?" Cade probed.

I met Prime's gaze. He shifted, his stance going from casual to aloof.

"Death. There were talks of…euthanizing the girl," Mearing nodded to me, and I froze, fists clenched as I felt almost a dozen pair of eyes swivel to look in my direction. "Had it come to that, I would have given you sufficient warning. But it didn't, and this was the best deal I could work out."

"Thank you, Director," Optimus said coldly, though his seething, silent rage wasn't directed towards her. "Your loyalty has spared us a great deal of misfortune."

"I told you Prime, I never make the same mistakes twice. I didn't trust you before — I do now. Always will."

Chapter Text

Six weeks.

Six weeks to find a solution to this.

The clock is ticking.

Optimus was silent almost the entire way back to England - we had a military escort, and we were accompanied by Cade and Viviane. Their presence made things better. Being surrounded by familiar faces made things better. I wouldn’t argue against that.

But there was still that awful, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Going home should have felt much better than it did, and I could tell Optimus was feeling the same way.

Even our drive back to the castle was quiet. It was dark, and our little caravan was led by the hulking red and blue semi. I sat up front, simply staring, watching the steering wheel move on its own accord. An object streaked overhead, a jet - a large jet.

“Megatron,” I murmured. I glanced back down at the steering wheel and said softly, “You’re...have the two of you talked about things?”

“No. However, I have a feeling w e will. I...do not know how to proceed with such a conversation.”

I shrugged. “It’s awkward. I get it.”

Optimus hummed. I glanced in the side mirror - Hound was on our tail, Drift and Bumblebee behind him. I briefly wondered if Megatron would make a case for his men to join us. From what I’d overheard Mearing say, I was being stacked with protection. Just in case.

I guess even Decepticon’s count as protection now.

When we arrived at the looming castle, I immediately shuffled upstair, leaving Optimus to assign Cade and Viviane their room. I barely felt Cogman gently walk up and ease my coat from my shoulders.

“You need to rest. Tomorrow is a new day - we can contemplate our next move then.”

I nodded, waving him away before showering, scrubbing my skin clean, and changing into some night clothes. As I bypassed the glass doors leading to the balcony, I paused.

I could see Optimus, out on the wide lawn. His armor glistened in the moonlight, and he was talking to someone - I could hear his deep baritone, faint, but there. I realized that I’d missed another figure.

Megatron.

I considered going outside, but I didn’t. I didn’t need to know what they were discussion. I knew whatever wounds they’d inflicted upon each other wouldn’t heal after one talk. That sure wasn’t the case with me.

I crawled into bed. Half an hour later, I heard the door open and Optimus holoform entered the room. I watched out of the corner of my eye as his clothes dissolved into thin air, and he slid into the bed and held me close.

“Megatron said that I owe his men high grade,” Optimus murmured, “Since you made it out alive.”

“Yeah...we’ll have to work that out once we get back to Diego Garcia. His men aren’t coming here, are they?”

“They are still considered rogue, dangerous Decepticon’s. The deal was amnesty. We can’t ask anything more from them.”

I snorted. “They’ll come if Megatron needs them, I’m sure. Just like you came for me. Just like Viviane and Cade…” I fell silent, closing my eyes. “We have a lot to do tomorrow.”

“I know. It shouldn’t worry you. You need sleep.”

“What if I can’t sleep?”

Optimus’ hold on me tightened, and he nuzzled the back of my neck. He then pressed soft kisses against the skin, murmuring, “You are exhausted. I can feel it in your frame. You’ll sleep fine.”

“We’ll see.”

Prime was right.

I lasted ten more minutes until I fell into a deep slumber.


 

“Let’s do a status check on everyone...we still don’t have Sideswipe and Mirage in the U.S, right?”

“Right. They’re still in Cuba.”

I saw Cade shift in his chair, toying with the talisman on his arm. The outdoor table itself wasn’t packed, but the space around it consisted of Autobots, Sqweeks, and Cogman.

“Hot Rod headed back to be with Tessa,” Cade said rather softly, and I snorted. “He misses her.”

“So he’s out, for now,” I glanced down at my notepad, before taking a look around the room. Bumblebee, Hound, Drift, Optimus, and Megatron all stared down at me quizzically. I sighed and said, “I’m just...keeping inventory of everyone. Seeing how much firepower we have. We’ve got a short window for this shit. Do you realize that-”

“We all realize that, fleshling. Fretting over it will not make it go away,” Megatron crossed his arms. “I say we take the same approach as last time. Bait, and then ambush.”

“Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is called insanity, Megatron,” Viviane said curtly. “Besides, we’re not risking Rachel’s life again.”

“Yeah. To be honest, you shouldn’t even be fighting this battle,” Cade said, and I scowled. He shrugged, shooting me an apologetic look before explaining, “Quintessa is after her. That we know for sure.”

“I’m not going to sit here and let you have all the fun,” I murmured. “I’m in on it no matter what.”

I saw Cade look up at Optimus, almost as if searching for backup. My mate just dipped his head and said, “While I agree with your concerns wholeheartedly, you know there is no deterring her.”

You’re goddamn right.

“What about Joshua Joyce?” Izzy suddenly said. I perked up, and I heard Hound groan in annoyance at the mention of Joyce’s name.

“What about him?” I said slowly.

“We...we don’t have to ‘kill’ Quintessa. I mean, we do, but I could barely hold her last time. She was too strong. And she had those...bug creatures with her,” Izzy ran fingers through her dark hair. “What if we have Joyce make something that could help us restrain her?”

I raised an eyebrow. “Keep going.”

“I’m talking about, like, a weapon strong enough to hold her. One she can’t get out of, or teleport away from,” Izzy continued. “That way, we can work on taking out those insect creatures and then deal with her.”

“Enlisting Joshua Joyce’s help might be a wise idea, regardless,” Optimus said, though he didn’t sound as enthusiastic. I knew deep down Optimus still held a grudge against Joyce and against KSI for how they’d defiled the corpses of his fellow Autobots. I couldn’t blame him.  

“He did create my former body, Galvatron,” Megatron sneered. “I’ll take pleasure in visiting the little maggot.”

“Yeah, you’re not going anywhere,” I said. “If anything, I’ll go.”

“And me!” Izzy’s hand shot up. “It was my idea, so I call dibs! I never get to go anywhere with you.”

“I might as well go too,” Cade reclined in his chair, fingers itching at the metal covering his arm. “I’ll have him look at this thing...maybe he can give it some upgrades or something. I sure haven’t had any luck trying.”

I snorted, jotting a few things down on my notepad before standing. Cogman rushed past and I heard him say, “I’ll give Mr. Joyce a call and let him know that you’ll be visiting soon.” 

“We still really don’t have a plan,” Viviane said.

“Once we see what Joyce has for us, we’ll think of one,” I said. I met Prime’s gaze, and the big mech quirked his lips into a smile. “I have a feeling Quintessa isn’t going to know what hit her.”

Chapter Text

“Are you sure you do not wish for me to accompany you?” Optimus rumbled. He ducked his head, focusing on me as I adjusted sifted through my bag. Cade, Izzy, and the others were still inside having breakfast - the minute they were finished, we’d go. The less time we spent messing around, the better.

“I...want you here. With Megatron. Just in case he tries anything,” I craned my neck to look up at him. “I’m...glad you guys got to talk. I hope it helped.”

“One simple discussion will not solve the millennia we’ve spent fighting. I am unsure if he truly wants peace,” Optimus said softly. “Circumstance is the only thing that has brought us together, and his hatred for Quintessa is what drives him. Should we defeat her…”

“Should Quintessa be defeated, I will leave this wretched planet.”

I glanced over. The silver mech was approaching, footfalls heavy. I ducked my head, avoiding his gaze.

“And for the record, human,” Megatron continued, “I will not ‘try anything.’ I have been nothing but cooperative this entire time, and I intend to continue being cooperative.”

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” I replied bitterly. I extended a hand, and Optimus did the same. We touched fingers for a brief moment, a short, quick goodbye. Megatron blanched and turned away, but I ignored him. “I’ll be back.”

Then, it was time to leave.

It was me, Izzy, and Cade. The mutants and the last knight. We had a pretty good chance - any attackers would be in for a surprise, and I doubted Quintessa was dumb enough to attack so shortly after our fight. Hopefully, while she was somewhere licking her wounds, we could plan. Strategize. Put together something before it was too late.

Mission City was bustling, and we arrived on schedule - Joyce greeted us at the entrance of the sprawling headquarters, suit pressed, smile wide. He embraced Izzy and I before shaking hands with Cade and clapping the man on the back.

“It’s good to see you,” Cade said genuinely. “How have you been?” 

“Busy, but not busy enough for you guys,” Joyce waved a hand, gesturing for us to follow. “Cogman told me everything. My company isn’t authorized to make heavy weaponry, but I do have a few knick-knacks in development that you might like.”

He was right - the place was busy. We weaved through bustling workers and crossed through offices and workspaces. Finally, Joyce led us into a room with glass walls and several display cases. My eyes flitted to the array of devices, impressed by what I was seeing.

“We have everything from stealth suits, energon detecting glasses, easy to use grappling hooks…” Joyce glanced around, reading out expressions. I smiled, glancing around to be sure that we weren’t overheard.

“I know you, Joyce. Not being ‘authorized’ to do something hasn’t stopped you before.”

“You’ve always been so clever,” Joyce waggled a finger. He looked between the three of us, shrugging his shoulders in admittance. “I have been dabbling in some more….dangerous devices.”

“Dangerous. We like dangerous,” Izzy glanced up at me. “Right?” 

“Yeah, right,” I snorted. “When you say ‘dangerous’ do you mean...guns, bombs, etcetera?” 

“We have a prototype cryo-grenade launcher that hasn’t been tested on any live subjects before, along with the cryo grenades themselves,” Joyce looked immensely proud to be able to share this information with someone. “Transformium shock batons, a few blasters...to name a few.”

“Any armor?” 

“Shock absorbent and fireproof,” Joyce said. “I based it off the suit I gave you.”

“A suit that worked beautifully,” I grinned. “Next time Prime and I go up to Cybertron, you should throw one on for yourself and come test it.”

“I would, if I wasn’t so afraid of space.”

“You? Afraid? Preposterous.”

It felt nice, being able to hear Joshua Joyce ramble on about his work. Cade, Izzy and I followed, listening to him explain how to use, and how not to use each device. The weapons were hidden in the back rooms, stocked away from prying eyes.

“So these do what now?” Cade began, raising an eyebrow.

“Cryo grenades, and a grenade launcher. It releases a blast of extremely cold air. We noticed back during our, uh...initial experimentations on the Cybertronian bodies recovered from Chicago, that they’re sensitive to cold temperatures. It won’t kill them, but it’ll daze them, cause they’re systems to be all out of wack for a bit.”

“Making us little humans harder to detect, probably,” I licked my lips. “Okay. Okay, I can work with that.”

“This...Quintessa creature, is she Cybertronian?” 

Cade and I glanced at each other. It was a good question, one that I hadn’t really stopped to consider. Quintessa was….Quintessa. That’s how I saw her. Her metallic features seemed to alien to be human, but sometimes to human to be alien.

“She’s something,” Cade responded, rolling his shoulders. “We’ll take the launcher anyway. Won’t hurt to have it.”

“Good. Bring it back in one piece,” Joyce chuckled. “I’ll have it shipped to you, urgently, that way you won’t have to lug it around.”

“Thank you, Joshua. You’re a life-saver.”

“I’m just here to help. You’ve done enough for me already.”

We left KSI with a newfound sense of revival. I felt like we had a chance - or, at least, I felt like the percentage of us possibly dying while fighting Quintessa had gone down. We were just as prepared, now. Just as armed. However, I wouldn’t truly be at peace until Cade’s sword pierced Quintessa’s spark. Or heart. Or whatever it was that she had in there.

Our destination wasn’t to the airport, where Cogman would pick us up on one of Burton’s old private jets. Instead, after a lengthy phone call with Tessa, Cade insisted that we head out to visit her. The campus wasn’t at all too far from Mission City, and I enthusiastically agreed. It felt like we were on vacation, for the first, real time.

“She’s the cool girl on campus, apparently,” Cade beamed. “Since she has a Ferrari. That I didn’t have pay for.”

“How many of them do you think know that she’s dating said Ferrari?” 

“Hopefully none of them.”

I snorted, reclining in the passenger's seat of our rental car. It felt weird, riding in a vehicle that I knew couldn’t and wouldn’t transform - I’d spent so much time around the Autobots that I’d almost forgotten what that felt like. If I talked to the steering wheel, it wouldn’t respond.

I ended up dozing off for a bit, and was woken by Izzy gently nudging my shoulder. I peered out the window and saw Cade pull into our meeting point - a small cafe that Tessa had recommended. I stepped out first, stretching my legs and looking around until I spotted the familiar red Ferrari, and leaning against it, a familiar figure.

“Dad? Rachel?”

Tessa launched herself at her father, embracing him before tugging Izzy and I into the group hug. Hot Rod revved his engine, and I flashed him a smile.

“We’ll eat, and then Hot Rod and I want to take you guys to the beach! That way he can transform,” Tessa held me, looking me up and down. “You look good!” 

“So do you,” I grinned. She did - her face was fuller, eyes brighter. She looked happy. Genuinely happy. It was nice to see, especially after everything that had happened. “There’s...a ton of stuff we need to catch you up on.”

“Good or bad?” 

Cade met my gaze, and he grimaced. He said, “Both.”


We picked a spot in the corner, ordering our food before, at the request of Cade, I launched into the long tale of everything that had happened. I knew Cade had fed her bits and pieces over the phone, but I knew she hadn’t gotten the full story. It was better - and safer - to tell her in person.

“Why does Unicron want you?”

“My powers. He’s in a deep stasis, and I can reach into his mind and pull him out,” I scratched the back of my neck. Tessa peered at me curiously, brows furrowed. After a long pause, she spoke.

“Why doesn’t Quintessa just do it?” 

“What do you mean?” 

“Quintessa is a telepath, too. She manipulated Optimus and was able to talk to you from across the galaxy,” Tessa said slowly. “Unicron could just...have her yank him out of stasis. He specifically wants you , even though he already has someone who could do it.”

“I….you’re not wrong,” Izzy shrugged, leaning forward.

“There has to be something else he wants. From you. That can’t be everything.”

Tessa was right. The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind - Quintessa could easily awaken Unicron and send the world into chaos, yet she hadn’t.

Maybe she’s not as strong?

It wasn’t a matter of strength, I knew. Unicron had a plan, and it involved me, one way or the other.

I didn’t dwell on it. I couldn’t. Tessa shot me a saddened look, but I was still having trouble shaking the feeling of uneasiness, even as we headed to the beach. It was one of Tessa’s favorites, and somewhere that she and Hot Rod visited often so that he could transform. Due to its seclusion, nestled at the bottom of a cliff, nobody ever visited. Most didn’t even know it existed.

The smell of salt hit my nostrils as we romped through the sand, Izzy and Tessa talking enthusiastically with Hot Rod while Cade and I hung back.

“This is nice. I’m glad we did this,” I said. I took in the scenery, relaxing. Cade did the same, the fine lines on his face less pronounced. I absently reached out and flicked his ear, saying, “When we get back you’re letting me cut your hair.”

“I like it long,” Cade mumbled.

“I know. I’m just saying something before Viviane does,” I winked. “Maybe next time we can bring her. She misses Tessa, too.” 

“I’ll plan on it.” 

Izzy voice caught my attention. She waved me over, and I joined her, Tessa, and Hot Rod near the water. She and Tessa had lined up some seashells, and she was curiously looking each over. I watched as Izzy slowly levitated them towards us, using her powers to turn analyze them.

“We should each take one,” Izzy said cheerfully. “All the girls. And we’ll bring one back for Viviane, too.”

“Like a sisterhood thing?” Tessa laughed. She held hers up, letting it catch the light. She glanced up at her boyfriend and said, “How about this one?” 

“It is  tres’ belle ,” Hot Rod said sweetly. “Much like you!”

Tessa flushed a deep red, and I laughed. The bot almost reminded me of Optimus. They were both affectionate flatterers.

We stayed on the beach for a bit longer, before deciding to call it a day. Cogman would be waiting with the jet, and I didn’t want to keep him waiting. We had weapons to test out, things to do. It made me happy knowing that Tessa and Hot Rod were both safe, away from any danger. That was the important part.

I still couldn’t shake what Tessa had said, even as we began to part ways. Cade and Izzy hopped into the rental car first, while Hot Rod transformed and popped his door open for Tessa. She didn’t move, reaching out to grasp my hand.

“Is everything okay? Be honest with me. Are you doing okay?”

“I’m chugging along. Still a little bit...I’m still adjusting. Everything that’s happened, it’s been a lot. I haven’t really had time to rest and just...be me.” 

Tessa looked guilty. She ducked her head, pushing away a strand of hair.

“I haven’t been calling as much as I should. I’m sorry-”

“No, no. You have your life to live. School is time consuming, and important,” I squeezed her hand. “This is nothing I can’t handle. Optimus and I...we’ve got this.”

“You know where to find Hot Rod and I,” Tessa smiled. I pulled her into the hug, and she said, “It was good seeing you. I’ll call soon. Make sure my dad doesn’t do anything dumb, okay?” 

“I’ll try,” I beamed.

We parted ways and then began heading back to England with a newfound hope.

Chapter Text

“Joyce is sending the weapons,” I flopped my tired body onto the couch. “They should be here soon, a full shipment of knick-knacks to play with.”

“Excellent. That checks that,” Cogman nodded. Izzy had retreated to her room with Sqweeks while Cade and Viviane had gone out for the night. We’d taken a day to recover from our trip, and I knew that soon, we’d have to put some sort of plan into motion. “You also have several missed calls from William Lennox.”

“I’ll let Optimus deal with that,” I pinched the bridge of my nose. “Fuck.”

I had a headache coming on, most likely from all the stress. I thanked Cogman, opting to head upstairs to my room.  I showered, my moments rather lethargic. When I stepped out, Prime’s holoform was waiting.

We didn’t need to exchange words - he could feel exactly what I was feeling, and it was amplified by out bond.

“I’ll sleep in your cab tonight,” I mumbled against his mouth, my towel discarded somewhere near the bathroom door.

“You need your rest. A bed is more comfortable,” Optimus replied.

“I just...I want to be close to you.” 

“You are.”

“No, close to you ,” I mumbled.

Optimus paused for a moment, tugging me against him. His hands travelled to my face, down past my throat to to the curve of my bare chest. His eyes were heady, lidded, and blown out with lust. I hummed, wrapping my arms around his neck and letting him hoist me up by the backs of my thighs. My legs looped around his waist, and his mouth found the warm, flushed skin of my throat.

It wasn’t until I lowered myself onto him that, gasping as he filled me, that I noticed the balcony door was slightly open - I tilted my head, mouth ajar as Optimus bucked his hips and took hold of my throat, his other hand palming my breast. I only felt him - his hands, his cock, the metallic scent of his holoform as I peered out into the sparkling sky.

A flash of red optics caught my attention. It took me a split second to connect to and two, but by then, Megatron had stalked off.

I didn’t say a word. I rolled my hips lazily, eliciting a deep, drawn out moan from Optimus. I was tugged against his chest, and I buried my face against his neck as I rode out the last waves of pleasure, clenching hard around his dick and crying out as he overloaded with me.

“My star, my love,” Optimus shuddered. “How I missed you.”

We lay in a tangle of flesh and sheets. I didn’t say anything about Megatron - I couldn’t bring myself to even care that he’d been watching. He didn’t matter - not when I was with my mate.

“I’ve missed you too. I’ve missed us,” I chuckled. “I didn’t like being at Diego Garcia. That isn’t home - this is, with Izzy and Sqweeks and Cogman and the rest. And we might lose it…”

“We won’t,” Optimus murmured. “Charlotte Mearing is negotiating on our behalf. I have pure faith in her - she is nothing but resilient.”

He was saying words that would make me feel better, and I appreciated it - it was what I needed. Optimus was just as much of a realist as I was.

“Still. I just want this all to be...over. I want Izzy to have a somewhat normal life. I want Tessa to be able to stop worrying about her dad.”

Optimus was tracing light patterns against my back. He hummed softly, contemplating his next words.

“It will happen.”

“God, I hope. It’s all I can do.”


It was later, deep in the night, when I was awoken by screams and thuds.

My fevered mind didn’t really understand what was happening, and I didn’t leap into action. Instead I lifted my head, pushed my hair away from my face, and called out to Optimus - while his holoform had long dissipated, I knew he usually recharged right outside my window.

There was no answer.

I staggered up, ducking my head as a bright, bright light passed through the room. I emerged onto the balcony, hands braced on the railing as I called out for my mate.

Instead, there was an Insecticon.

Oh, no.

It hadn’t yet hit me. My addled mind, for a very serious moment, thought that it was Megatron - the red eyes had me confused. It wasn’t until the thing screeched and swatted me like a fly that I realized what was happening.

We’re under attack! 

I was launched back across my room and through my own door. My back hit the wall, and I landed, hard , on my rear. Splinters of wood fell around me, and I could only sit, stunned for a moment.

“Quintessa is attacking! Quickly, Rachel,” Cogman slid to a stop, hauling me to my feet. He dusted me off with the speed of a hummingbird before half carrying me away from the busted door. The entire castle was shaking with the sound of gunfire, from both bot’s and humans alike.

“How the hell did they find us?” 

“I have no idea,” Cogman admitted. “But we cannot let her find you-”

A shriek tore my attention away. It had come from back behind us - and it was very clearly Izzy’s.

I bolted.

“No,” Cogman tore after me. “You can’t-”

I ignored him. I nearly tripped over my own feet trying to reach Izzy’s room, and I shouldered my way through the door - it swung inward, splintering the wood and denting the wall - before stopping, frantically searching around the dark.

Nothing.

Glass shattered. I heard another scream, and before Cogman could stop me, I was heading towards the kitchen. The castle trembled, and I caught a glimpse of the courtyard - flames were licking at the intricate bushes. The fountain was destroyed. The air was alit with gunfire, bursts of light as Optimus led the Autobots into battle.

You have to find Izzy -

I nearly ran smack into Cade. Viviane was hot on his heels, clad in her nightclothes. Cade’s talisman had transformed into a sword, and the long blade was dripping with a blue liquid. A drop hit the carpet and began to sizzle through the fabric.

“Where is she?”

Cade knew exactly who I was referring too. He gestured to his sword, face clammy, sweat-drenched hair plastered to his forehead.

“She took Izzy outside. She’s hurt - I think she’s headed down to the water-”

I darted past. I heard Cogman exclaim and Cade curse. The castle rumbled once more, and plaster and rock began tumbling from the ceiling.

Shit, shit, shit -

I threw myself out the door and into the fray. Bumblebee leaped over me, guns blazing. I narrowly avoided being hit by Grimlock’s sweeping tail, and as an Insecticon lunged at my small form, Strafe swept down and plucked it right off the ground. I could still hear Cogman protesting, yelling at me to stop. I wasn’t thinking. Wasn’t thinking about anything but Izzy.

The castle, our home, had become a warzone, and none of that mattered.

I followed the trail of sizzling, hot blood towards the beach. The minute my foot hit the sand I was tackled, thrown to the ground by Cogman.

“Stop!”

I inhaled a mouthful of air and thrashed. I was stronger than Cogman, and he landed, hard, but righted himself and grabbed my ankle.

“Let go of me!”

Cogman’s strong hands gripped my shoulders. I was looking into his optics, suddenly. Big, blue optics, wide and pleading, peered down at me. He shouted louder than I’d ever heard him.

“You will stop !”

I stopped. My limbs went slack.

Cogman’s chassis was heaving, fans whirring. After a long moment, he ducked his head and said, “Pursuing Quintessa will result in your capture. I cannot allow that. As your protector-”

“You aren’t my protector, Cogman.”

“I was instructed by Burton to protect you. To serve you. To ensure that no harm will come to you - I intend to honor Burton’s final wishes and keep you out of danger.”

I went to move but Cogman pinned my wrists to the sand.

“I do so,” Cogman continued, “Because not only is it my sacred duty, but because I...I can’t...I don’t know what I would do if something happened to you. Burton was my family. And so are you.”

“So is Izzy.”

A gut wrenching, high-pitched shriek pierced the air. Farther away, now. Towards the small cave nestled in the corner of the cove. Cogman’s head snapped up, optics narrowing at the sound.

“You’re protecting Izzy, too,” I said. He allowed me to roll out from under him and stand. He followed my motion, angling his body towards the cave Like he was going to stop me if I tried to run. “That’s your job.”

“I won’t let you get yourself killed.”

“Then don’t. Come with me. If she’s hurt, we might have a chance.”

“No. I will go and confront Quintessa-”

Cogman,” I bared my teeth. “I will fight you. I will physically fight you. Please do not make me do that. I don’t want to do that, but I will. And I’ll win.”

Cogman’s optics met my eyes. He held my gaze, but finally, after a long moment, he fell into step beside me.

The trek towards the cave was heavy and silent. My bare feet splashed through frigid waters, and I kept my eyes peeled. Light shone from Cogman’s eyes, illuminating the vast area. The water stopped at my ankles, and I braced myself as we finally laid our eyes upon Quintessa.

“Let her go.”

Quintessa held Izzy from behind, one spindly hand wrapped around the girls throat. Wicked sharp talons scratched at Izzy’s neck, drawing pinpricks of blood. There was an iridescent glowing liquid streaming down her face, and I realized that Cade had managed to scratch a long, jagged wound from the top of her forehead to her jaw. It was deep, slicing across one of her eyes and sealing it shut.

The soft slosh of sea water was the only sound, save for the harsh pounding of my own heart.  My entire body was in overdrive, but I didn’t move. I couldn’t. Quintessa’s smirk was enough - Cogman seemed to get the message as well, and he fell still the moment he assessed the situation.

“Let her go,” I repeated, “And we’ll talk.” 

“No. Let’s just talk,” Quintessa cooed. Her good eye narrowed and she seemed make a noise of disgust, raising her free hand. “ Privately .”

A jagged bolt of electricity struck Cogman and blew a hole clear through his stomach. Izzy screamed and I screamed, but the minute I went to leap towards Quintessa, she squeezed Izzy by the throat.

Cogman is dead. She just killed him-

Izzy was restrained, unable to use her powers - one move and her throat would be slit. It was the three of us, now. Cogman lay, optics dark, at my feet.

“I will call off my Insecticons,” Quintessa began, “And she will live. All I need is you. ” 

The walls of the sea cave blocked off any noise. I wondered whether or not the battle had concluded, or if Optimus and the others were still struggling. Still fighting.

“Mom! Don’t go with her!” Izzy yelled. Quintessa reached up to yank her hair, and she hissed in pain.

“So naive. So young. You have a decision to make.”

Quintessa raked her claws across the sliver of exposed skin below Izzy’s neck.

Izzy shrieked.

“Don't hurt her. Please. Not anymore. Don't hurt her and I’m yours.”

The decision was immediate and simple. I didn’t have to think about it, and I saw Izzy thrash wildly as I stepped towards Quintessa. The creature extended her metal hand, beckoning for me to take it - my eyes were focused on the droplets of blood running down Izzy’s chest as she strained against Quintessa hold.

“Mom-”

Quintessa threw Izzy to the ground and grabbed my wrist. My feet, which had once been touching soft sand, touched grass.

We were far, far away. Quintessa still held my wrist, a wistful expression on her alien face as she peered out across the vast English countryside where she’d teleported us. She still kept a firm grip on my wrist, squeezing so hard that my bone began to strain. Her blue blood dripped onto the grass, killing the blades and turning them into ash. 

“After all the death, all the destruction, you give in to me?”

“You don’t get to threaten a child. My child,” I spat. “I swear I’ll fucking kill you.” 

“Only a Knight has that privilege,” Quintessa tilted her head towards the vast expanse of Cybertron above. “ You are no Knight.”

“But I know one. That’s better than nothing. As long as I get a few whacks in, you putrid sack of shit-

Quintessa knocked me over the head, and I felt nothing.

Chapter Text

When I awoke, we were back in the cave. I recognized the formation of the stalagmite, and the vast cavern. The ground beneath my feet was dry, and I realized Quintessa had set me upon a rock. Dark water sloshed around the edges, and I had to scrunch up to avoid getting wet. The air was thick and stuffy.

When I glanced around, I had to do a double take. I’d almost missed the Insecticons. They were nestled in the shadows, surrounding the cavern like bats.

“Unicron, my master. I have brought you the tribute.” 

Tribute. Nice.

I followed the voice up. Quintessa was hovering, addressing the ceiling.

The ceiling, which was shifting. Moving. Like skin.

Like it was breathing .

The scope of Unicron was too vast for me to even comprehend. The planet itself was alive , even more so than anyone had ever thought. Unicron’s reach had to extend everywhere, to Mission City, Diego Garcia, Hong Kong. Everywhere.

“She offers you her mind.”

I closed my eyes. The cavern air was dense with something - an energy I’d never felt before. Unicron wanted to come out. He wanted inside my mind - I was vehemently denying him access.

“Let my master in!” 

Quintessa dove like a hawks, swooping down and clasping both hands against the sides of my face. I screamed as talons drew lines across my skin, and blood began to trickle from the wounds. Quintessa stabbed at my mind, her attacks like a rusty knife reopening a healing wound.

“Let him in.”

“Let him in.

“Let him in.” 

I started to scream.


I screamed until my throat went raw and my vocal cords were so drawn out and tired that they could only produce high pitched squeals.

Everything hurt.

I wanted to die.

The hole Quintessa had managed to poke in my defenses was allowing Unicron to slip through, bit by bit.

“You’re mine.” 

“I’m not yours. I’ll never be yours.”

“You’re mine.”

He showed me death. He showed me my worst fears - everything I didn’t want to come to fruition.

I was in hell. I witnessed hell.

This creature was hell.

The cavern around us rumbled as bowed over, pressing my head against the rock. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Quintessa look around, startled by the noise. Then, a smile touched the corners of her lips.

“Yes. It is working. ” 

A voice that wasn’t mine said, “She won’t last much longer.”

I clamped my mouth shut. I didn’t sound like that.

Quintessa started talking. I didn’t know if they were lies. If she was trying to get me to give up, give in.

“Finding your home was simple. Joshua Joyce had all the information I needed,” Quintessa analyzed her nails. “And getting him to disable your tech was even simpler. A shame I had to dispose of him.” 

I glared at her with bloodshot eyes.

She had to be lying.

“She isn’t.”

“Shut up!” I swung my arm in a wide arc, catching Quintessa in the head. The impact dented her metallic skin and she howled, baring her teeth, advancing on me like an avenging demon. Her claws sliced at my exposed skin, drawing blood. I held on for dear life as my feet left the ground and Quintessa, her grip on me unbreakable, slammed me hard into the jutting stalagmite. The stone cracked and groaned, rocks tumbling from the ceiling. My feet dangled and kicked at the air.

“How I’ve longed to spill your blood, slice you limb from limb,” Quintessa snarled. “It deeply pains me that I can’t.”

“I need you,” Unicron hissed. “I need your body. I need a vessel.”

It all clicked.

I was to be his pawn. His avatar, so he could traverse the world above instead of being stuck, confined to this cave.

Quintessa released me. I fell for a harrowing several seconds before landing, hard, against the ground. The shallow water barely broke my fall, and my head smacked hard against the rock. Blood gushed from the newly formed wound and I grit my teeth, hissing in pain as the water became dark.

The fall had broken my focus, allowing Unicron to slip through, disguised as waves of pain, farther into my psyche. I squeezed my eyes shut, letting out quick breaths.

Get out.

“No.”

Get out.

“No!”

GET OUT!

“NO!”

I looked up. Quintessa was hovering above the water, eyes blown wide, a sick smile on her face as she watched Unicron creep closer and closer to total control. She was so entranced, in fact, that she failed to notice the sharp tip of a sword pierce the air until it was too late.

The blade emerged from the center of her chest. Eyes that were once wide in wonder became wide in shock and pain. She looked down, gave a little croak, and then sagged like a pile of bricks when Cade yanked his sword free.

Unicron roared.

The cavern shook, the stalagmite cracking and crumbling. The Insecticons leaped from their perch, only to be blasted away as Optimus and the other Autobots stormed the caverns, shouting orders, waving for Cade to grab me and run. I saw William Lennox, gun in hand, gesturing for Cade - I was lifted, delirious and barely able to move.

How long have I been down here? 

This time, Unicron didn’t respond.


Awake.

Awake.

“Wake up.” 

My eyes shot open. A monitor next to my head began beeping, rapidly. A tube was in my mouth and another in my arm.

My legs kicked and the bed moved. Something clattered to the floor, and I heard a door open. Hands began to steady me, force me back - I tried to move again but I couldn’t. Something was restricting me, something strong enough to hold me down.

“She’s awake!”

“Keep her stabilized. We don’t know - we don’t know if she’s still all in there-”

“Rachel?” Cade’s face appeared above me. I narrowed my eyes. “Rachel, can you hear me? Do you know me?”

I didn’t move. I couldn’t bring myself to answer.

“Shit. You need to get this tube out of her mouth-”

“We’re working on that.”

“Well work faster-”

“Cade, please, step away and let them work.” 

I moved my head to the side and saw several feet. The room was so unbelievably bright, sterile and clean. The walls were white and the floors were white, save for the dark scuff marks, evidence that this room had been visited many, many times. I found myself fascinated by them, until a voice tugged me out of my trance.

“We’re going to take the tube out now, Rachel.”

Again, I said nothing. Something lurched from within my stomach and I gagged, limbs stretching, my gag reflex reacting as the long plastic tube was removed from the depths on my core.

I could speak.

Yet I felt as if I couldn’t.

Cade’s face reappeared. I studied his features - tired eyes, unkempt hair. His calloused hands gripped my shoulder and he squeezed, a smile tugging at the corners of his lips.

“You okay?”

I didn’t reply.

“Please say something. Don’t leave me hanging. Please.” 

“I’m okay,” I said softly. “Where am I?” 

Cade exhaled, letting out the breath he’d been holding all this time. My eyes drifted upward, and I saw another man - a familiar man - standing over me. It took a moment to put two and two together, as my mind was fuzzy. It was Prime’s holoform, looking just as relieved as Cade.

“Sweetspark .”

“Hey,” I croaked. “Hey, where am I? What happened? I don’t remember. I don’t...know.”

Optimus shifted. He seemed uncomfortable.

“The medics believe that you somehow forced yourself into stasis - a coma. You have been unresponsive for a number of weeks. Unicron has been silent.” 

“Quintessa is dead,” Cade said. “Everyone is alright. Cogman is alive. He’s banged up pretty badly, and he’s been in...stasis too. He should come out of it. He will.”

“Joyce-”

Cade shook his head. My heart sank.

“Shit.”

“The funeral has already passed,” Optimus said grimly. “It is a miracle that he was the only casualty.” 

“The weapons he gave us don’t work.” 

“I know,” Cade replied. “Listen, we’ve got everything under control. Nobody knows that you’re awake - everyone was...relocated back to Diego Garcia. Everyone. That’s where we are right now.”

I glanced up at Optimus. He stood, rigid. I could tell that he was about to ask Cade for some time alone with me, but luckily Cade took the hint and pulled me into a hug.

“I’m glad you’re back. Vivian was worried sick. She wants to see you, when you’ve gotten some of your strength back.”

There was no mention of the restrains. I could sit up, but one wrist and one leg were attached to the bed, keeping me tied down. I could see Prime’s eyes linger on the chains, and I heard him murmur something to Cade.

Then, we were alone. Just the two of us in this white room with an observation window that allow others to see in, but wouldn’t let me see out.

“This isn’t a regular hospital room, is it.”

“It is not, sweetspark,” Optimus said softly. I watched as his holoform pulled a metal chairs from the corner. He sat at my bedside, lacing his fingers together against my thigh. My free hand absently began stroking his hair.

“What happened, Optimus?”

“When we retrieved you, you lashed out. Several of the soldiers were injured.”

“I don’t...remember-”

“I know. It was Mearing’s decision to place you in solitary confinement. You were screaming in a voice that was not your own,” Optimus’ voice sounded hollow. Like he didn’t want to relive the memory. “You were restrained for your own safety.”

“Can these things hold me?” 

“These are Cybertronian metals. They will hold, yes.” 

I gave an experimental tug. As I predicted, the restraints did not budge. I flopped back down, squeezing my eyes shut. Memories were coming back to me, slowly. Little flashes of my battle with Quintessa and the cold, dead look in her eyes.

She’s gone.

It isn’t over.

“Can you just...stay with me for a bit?” I murmured.

“Of course,” Optimus placed a hand on my cheek, and I melted into his touch. I had no clue what was behind the one-sided glass, no idea who . I didn’t care - Optimus’ touch was so familiar, so warm and loving and kind. It was a touch I knew all too well, and I touch I never wanted to forget.

The illusion of peace was shattered when I felt something creeping into the corners of my brain, like an unstoppable plague.

I wasn’t alone.

Chapter Text

“Sweetspark-”

“I’m fine, I’m fine,” I lied. I squeezed my eyes shut and shook my head. I was restrained, I told myself. I couldn’t hurt anyone. This was good. This was right. Whatever monster was inside my head had slowly retreated. I was here, with Optimus. My Optimus. My mate. My love.

The doors banged open. Mearing strolled in with Lennox in tow - her lips were set into a thin line and her eyes darted over to Prime’s holoform. It was a silent warning and a silent command: get out. 

Prime nodded respectfully, as if he recognized that arguing with Mearing would be tedious and ultimately fruitless. As his holoform dissolved into the air, Mearing planted herself right in the chair where he’d been sitting. Lennox just stood, twiddling with his fingers, looking exceptionally nervous. 

“You injured four soldiers,” Mearing pursed her lips. “Four men who had to be hospitalized-”

“No serious injuries,” Lennox interjected. 

Mearing paused, pinching the bridge of her nose before opening tired eyes. “Four soldiers. Four Americans . This does not look good for you-”

“You think I hurt them on purpose? I don’t even remember-”

“You think my superiors know that? Or care? Harm due to a lack of control over your abilities is worse than a deliberate assault,” Mearing said. “My superiors don’t like unpredictability.”

“Yet you’ve been able to deal with Decepticon’s all these years?”

“You get to know your enemies after a while. They still don’t know you.”

“I’m not an enemy. Lennox,” I peered up at the soldier. “You know I’m not an enemy. I wouldn’t hurt anybody - I can’t hurt anybody.”

Lennox said nothing. There was no outright distrust in his eyes, but I could see something different. He was hesitant to speak or respond or even look at me. 

I couldn’t remember a thing. Sure, flashes of Quintessa and Cade had come flooding back to me, but there were still gaps in my memory. 

“Lennox,” I said slowly. “Talk to me. Please. What happened down there?”

“You were speaking a different language when you attacked us all,” Lennox said quickly. “That’s what Optimus said. Pre-Cybertronian. Something ancient.”

“Pre-Cybertronian?” 

Lennox shrugged. I tried to sit up further but my restraints kept me pinned. I shot a glare at Mearing, and she raised her eyebrows and simply said, “Protocol.”

“Quintessa is dead. The main threat is dead. We have a lot less to worry about now,” I sighed. I closed my eyes and reclined, letting my muscles relax and trying to block out Mearing’s presence, as if doing so would make her go away. “Tell your superiors that. Cade got the job done.”

“Are you feeling alright?” 

“What?” 

“Are you feeling alright?” Lennox repeated. I opened my eyes - he was standing over me, a concerned look on his face. “Just...I don’t know. It was weird. You were acting weird. It was...scary. It scared all of us.”

“I’ve never known you to be scared of anything, Will. Haven’t you stared down Megatron? Didn’t you take down Blackout?” 

“That was different. This was…this was you . I had a gun in my hand and I had it pointed at you,” Lennox said tersely. “So please. Please talk to us if...if something is wrong. Tell us. I don’t ever want to have to do that again.”

“You won’t,” I smiled.  “I promise.”


“They don’t care about you. They would have left you to die.”

My hands curled into deadly fists and I felt my toes twitch. The voice wouldn’t go away. It kept talking. Deep, gravely, and vibrating through my body.

“Shut up.”

“Coward!”

The voice boomed in my head and I cried out. The room was pitch black - I was still chained, though Mearing had allowed for some slack in the restraints. 

“Stand up.”

“I can’t. I-”

“Stand up!”

I tumbled from the bed. The chain went taut and caught me halfway to the floor. The bed screeched and was pulled across the ground - I was certain that whatever device was monitoring me would be blaring, alerting the guards of my sudden movement. 

“Get up.”

I got up. 

I obeyed.

“Good. Listen to me carefully. Those chains cannot hold you. Break them.”

“I can’t.”

“Break. Them.”

My hand moved. I wasn’t in control. I wasn’t moving my own limbs. I felt my fingers curl around the restraints and squeeze. 

“There.”

Somewhere in the distance, an alarm blared. Light suddenly flooded the room and I heard shouts. I was free, the remnants of chains dangling from my wrists. My bare feet shuffled across the floor and I approached the door, spurred on by some invisible will. 

Unicron’s will.

No. No, no, no. 

Stop it!

Get out of my head!

I slammed my shoulder into the one-way glass. It shattered instantly. Several armed men were on the other side, faces concealed by tactical masks. 

“They have weapons. Their going to kill us.”

Unicron had pushed me under, but I was clawing my way back to the surface. The doors to the observation room boomed open and several men entered.  I found myself staring into the barrel of a gun. 

Lennox’s gun.

“Stand down, Rachel.”

I looked at him and growled.

“Kill him.”

“No! No, I won’t,” I clawed at my hair. Thrashed around. Guns clicked and boots crunched against shattered glass. My back slammed into the bed.

“Hold your fire!” 

“Shoot me!” I screamed. I had control. It was only a matter of time before I lost it again. “Will, shoot me. Please. Do it. Kill me-”

“Rachel, talk to me. What’s happening?” Lennox’s hold on his handgun didn’t let up. His fingers were trembling. I could feel the frustration and hesitance and fear in him. 

“He’s weak.”

“Unicron. He’s in my brain. I can hear him he’s talking...making me do things please, Will. Kill me. Do it please-”

“We can help you-”

“No you can’t!” I bellowed. “You can’t fix me. You have to end him - if you kill me he won’t have a vessel anymore, he’ll be powerless-”

“Restrain her,” Lennox snapped. Two of the men rushed forward. I reacted - I slammed my palm against the chest of one approaching soldier. He flew and hit the wall. The other grabbed me and I twisted his arm until it snapped. 

“Don’t shoot!” Lennox screamed. 

“Shoot. Please. Please do it Will. You have to do it,” I sobbed. I pitched myself forward, towards him. 

“Kill him!”

“I won’t, I can’t-”

“Kill me!”

Will Lennox roared and unloaded six buckshots into my chest. I felt nothing. No pain. Only blood as it seeped from my body, yet it did not deter me. 

I reached him and yanked the gun from his hand. My fingers curled around his windpipe -

An invisible force slammed into me so hard that I flew through the observation room wall and into the adjacent room, landing hard on a mahogany office desk and sliding across it until I hit the ground. Office supplies and papers fluttered around me. I rolled over onto my back, my fingers brushing across the holes in my chest. They were healing. Stitching themselves back together rather quickly. I could feel Unicron working to heal my wounds and keep me alive.

“Get up!”

I groaned, but I obeyed. Once again Unicron was pushing me beneath the surface. He’d taken control and I was watching, through my own eyes, as I turned and peered through the hole in the wall at Izzy. 

“Do not fight her. Run. Leave.”

I ran.

Chapter Text

I was tripping, stumbling over myself like a drunk. Alarms blared, the flashing lights bathing everything in alternating flashes of red and black. I could hear soldiers shouting, roused from their sleep. 

I could hear everything. 

It was as if Unicron had enhanced my senses. Every nerve was on fire. I could feel every speck of dirt on the tilted base floors, taste every speck of dust in the cool air on my tongue. My chest ached - the bullets were oozing from my body and falling to the floor, the flesh repairing itself rapidly.

I very briefly saw Cade emerge from his room, hair disheveled. I streaked past him, heedless.

“Keep running!”

I shouldered past double doors and into the hangar. I skidded to a halt, overwhelmed by the wide open space that was dominated by hulking figure - Autobots and Decepticons alike. 

I stumbled. Dropped to a knee, clasping my head as Unicron growled commands.

“Say what I say. Do as I say.” 

No!

My other knee buckled. I moaned. It felt as if my head were going to split. As quickly as Unicron had gifted me enhanced senses, he’d taken them away and was directing all his rage and ire right into the back of my skull. 

“You will listen!”

“Okay, okay,” I moaned. “Okay. Ok-”

“Rachel?”

A soft, feminine voice sounded from behind me. I whipped around, growling -

It was Tessa. 

The sight of her rocked my entire frame. I swayed, blinking. Unicron seemed very distant. 

She was clad in her nightclothes, blonde hair pulled away from her face. Barefoot. Clutching her hands together as if she were unsure whether or not to approach me further, although her feet seemed to move on their own and she came to kneel next to me, one dainty, manicured hand feeling my forehead.

“Jesus, you’re freezing!”

“Tessa, you need to back away,” I managed.

She didn’t budge. “You need help,” she said. “Let me help you-”

Cade and Vivian both came speeding around the corner, Lennox in tow. My eyes darted upwards as several Autobots, Optimus at the helm, gently approached me. Sideswipe had his weapon drawn. 

They’re going to kill you.”

“No they aren’t,” I snapped. “Shut up!”

“Who are you talking to?”

“Nobody, nobody,” I shook my head. “Nobody - Tessa, please. You shouldn’t - I’m not-”

“Shouldn’t what? Help you?” Tessa smiled. She glanced up at her father, who gave an uneasy nod.

“I hurt Cogman. I don’t want to hurt you.”

“You won’t hurt me,” Tessa said soothingly. She stood, grasping my hand and pulling me up with her. Slowly, but surely. It was the first time I’d noticed how shaky my limbs were, how sweaty I was. How dirty. How tired. 

Hurt her.”

I began to squeeze.

Tessa gasped. I was crushing her hand but I couldn’t let go. She gave a wail - it was a wonderful sounding wail of pain, and I could feel Unicron relishing in it.

I’m so sorry Tessa, I’m so sorry-

I narrowly dodged the sweeping blade of Cade’s talisman. Tessa leaped back, sliding across the floor and clutching her shattered hand. I heard her sobs but paid her no mind - I was busy dodging, parrying, and ducking around Cade’s frenzied assault.

“I told you she was too dangerous to live, Prime!” Megatron bellowed. I hissed as Cade cut a long slice from my elbow to my palm. Stumbling back, I finally took the chance to look around. 

Dozens of weapons were trained on me. Megatron’s blaster was whirring, charged and ready to fire. 

Only Optimus had yet to draw his blade. He seemed frozen, stuck. Stoic. 

Panting, I stared at Tessa as she crawled towards Viviane. The woman held her, eyes wide with horror. I heard thundering footsteps as Megatron stomped forward, ready to fire.

“No!”

A flash of blue and red. Optimus intercepted Megatron mid-strike, forcing the mech’s blaster towards the ceiling right as he fired. Debris rained down and Megatron bellowed, retaliating by striking Optimus in the head. 

“She’s too dangerous to be left alive, Prime!” 

Optimus groaned as Megatron planted his foot against his chest, forcing him to the floor. 

Unicron roared.

The noise echoed through my mind. I felt the ground beneath my feet begin to shake, and then everything, everything began to shake. More debris rained and the hangar lights flickered, and then blew out. 

Through the chaos, through the earthquake, Unicron forced me to run. Ducking and dodging as soldiers fell and rebar and tiling crashed to the ground. My feet slid across glass and I could see the hangar exit, see the stars and the fresh air and the -

A mechanical bellow pulled me out of my trance. I felt Unicron bristle, and I glanced over my shoulder just in time to see a silver, clawed hand descend towards me.

No!

Megatron caught me in the side. The solid hit sent me flying through the air, slamming hard into the passenger door of a parked military Humvee. The impact shattered the glass and sent the car sliding across the floor. 

“Get up”

My head was spinning and the ground was still shaking. Or, maybe it wasn’t. Maybe it was just me. 

“Get up!”

“My legs,” I said to no one in particular. My mouth was filled with blood. I didn’t want to look at the carnage below my waist. I could see Megatron walking across the hangar, through the smoke and fire. The ground had stopped shaking but the base was in ruins - I could hear distant booms, explosions, and the blare of sirens in the distance. 

“You are weak.”

Megatron drew his blaster. 

Unicron was seething. His host, his new body, was injured - I could feel him slipping back into the recesses of my mind, watching, waiting. 

“I will take no pleasure in offlining you, fleshling,” Megatron said. “Optimus is was not strong enough decision. But I am. You know what has to be done.”

“It doesn’t! No, Megatron!” Optimus was hobbling forward, one arm twisted and damaged. “We can find another way-”

“There is no other way!”

Optimus collapsed, one big hand landing next to my head. His large body hovered over me like a protective shield, optics wide. 

“You are stronger than Unicron,” Optimus breathed. “Do not let it consume you. Please.”

“I already have. I already belong to him-”

“You belong to yourself.”

“No. You belong to me.”

“I can’t get him out of my head,” I sobbed. “I’ll keep hurting people...doing what he says I have to do-”

“She’s accepted her fate, Prime. Why can’t you?” Megatron snarled. His blaster whirred, and he put it away before drawing his axe. “Do you wish to die with her?”

Optimus thought for a moment.

Yes.”

Megatron barked a laugh. I coughed, finally mustering the strength to sit up. When I looked down, I nearly vomited - I could see deep, pink flesh and stark white bone poking through my left leg. Yet, I felt no pain - Unicron was stifling it, keeping it from reaching my brain. My eyes traveled down at the bloody skin. It was moving, ever so slowly. Healing, just like before, with the bullets.

“A fool willing to die with his mate,” Megatron chuckled. “I have always admired your spirit, Prime. But it blinds you.”

Optimus closed his optics as Megatron clutched his axe tighter, preparing for a swing. The chest plates above me opened slightly revealing the pulsing blue spark inside. I caught a glimpse of my mate’s spark, his soul, for what I believed to be the final time.

“I’m sorry,” Optimus murmured, and for some reason I knew those words weren’t for me.

Chest plates snapped shut. Optimus drew his sword and pitched himself backwards with the grace and poise of a dancer. Before Megatron could land the killing blow, Optimus did so himself, driving his blade through Megatron’s chest. 

Megatron stammered and dropped his weapon, the massive axe clattering to the floor inches from my prone body. 

Optimus pulled his blade free. Megatron fell to the floor. I saw his optics flicker, and then dim forever.

“Get up.”

“I can’t-”

“You can. You are healed. Get up, and run-”

“No! No, I’m done listening to you! I’m done! Fuck off! Get out of my head! Get out, get out, get out, get out, get out, get out, GET OUT !”

The ground beneath my hands cracked, and everything went dark.