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Her optics were burning. So much fire. She could hardly see. She had been pushing herself forward to the point she couldn’t feel her stabilizing servos.

She couldn’t collapse. Not now. Not when there was work to do. Research to do. Projects to do.

She inhaled the smoke. With a rasp so unlike her voice, she coughed till she couldn’t breathe.

She wished she didn’t have to.

“Help ...” She managed to say. Her vocalizer was failing her.

She could feel gravity press on her. Heat was everywhere.

Until a sudden comfortable warmth pressed against her. She struggled to open her optics to no avail.

“I’ve got you. You can trust me.”

Optimus.

The good news was her audials were still working.

The bad news was she couldn’t move. She couldn’t escape this time.

“... w—why—?”

“Shh,” he soothed. “You’ve pushed yourself far enough. Rest for now, Elita. I’ll get you out of this.”

She heard his fire extinguisher start. She tried to inhale as much oxygen as she could.

“Let’s get you somewhere safe,” she heard him mutter.

She hated him so much.

She felt him run as fast as he could through the fire, trying his best to dodge anything that could hurt her anymore.

She knew she could trust him.

Whether she did or not, she was unsure of.

Scratch that. She was sure. She did trust him. With her whole life cycle.

Finally, they reached the outside of the forest. Embers were floating everywhere. She felt them against her skinplate.

She tried to speak. “Opti—Optimus.”

Yet another coughing fit left her intake.

“Elita! Yes, I’m here.”

She frowned. “I hate you.”

A pause. “Yeah. I know. I got that.”

“Thank you.”

She finally managed to see his smile through her squinting optics. Her derma quivered. That smile. It was her everything. She despised it.

“Can you breathe?”

She nodded weakly. Blinking back tears, she could finally open her optics fully. Taking his appearance in, she raised her servo.

He grabbed it as a reflex. His optics widening, he let go.

“Sorry. I probably deserve one.” He bit his derma and turned his head slightly, bracing himself for a painful impact. She narrowed her optics.

Surprising both of them, she didn’t slap him. She simply rested her servo on his cheek.

He glanced at her with a look of shock.

“Elita?”

“Shh.”

They stayed silent for quite a while. Neither realized how much they needed it.

She trusted him. And sometimes, trust is the first sign of love.