Chapter Twelve: This Moment In Time

"Well, if it isn't her royal highness, the resident Transformer Queen herself. To what do I owe the honor?"

The arrival of fall had yet to impact the southern region of Texas. The air was blessedly warm and the Sun was shining with unwavering intensity. A nearby pond was glittering in the light as the steady breeze rippled its surface. The dock, mounted on pontoons for quick and easy storage, rocked gently. Bullfrogs croaked in the tall grass and fronds. The few indigenous trees whispered as their leaves shuffled against each other.

In the distance were well-maintained fences that held grazing cattle within its parameters. It was a small-family ranch not meant to do anything else but sustain itself. The ranch boasted two prized bulls, kept in opposite paddocks, and those bulls were often used for breeding purposes. Many of the offspring sired were infamous rodeo bulls across the nation. The income from studding those two bulls alone granted the ranch owner an easy living.

If one were to meander a ways up the gently sloping hill they were assured to see a spacious ranch house, fairly recently updated, with a generously sized barn nearby. Both the barn and homestead were burnished wood with accents of local masonry and stonework.

Samantha shifted on the hand-carved bench swing imbedded into the earth beside the pond. The weatherproof pillow cushioned her back as she leaned her whole body along the bench with only her right leg hanging off so that she could push herself. The canopy of the live oak was high above her and shaded her from the midday sun.

She smiled sincerely at the man riding up beside where she lay, his brown Stetson slung low over his Icelandic blue eyes. The horse he rode was a great beast of an animal. Its muscles shifted under a velveteen coat of black fur. A single white spot marking its right eye was the only break in the obsidian coat.

"Hi Hunter," she murmured, turning back to look out over the pond. It was a good size. It was about as big around as two Olympic pools set up end to end. The water was only slightly murky and looked so welcoming she was tempted to take a dip.

Hunter dropped from the saddle of his horse, his boots crunching into the grassy expanse of his land, and strode towards her. The horse followed without a word or gesture from its master before settling to graze just beneath the shaded canopy.

He picked up her left leg and sat, depositing the limb onto the tops of his corded, jean-clad thighs. A silent gesture with his right hand had her raising her other leg to lay with its partner. From there he pushed her ankle-length blue skirts up so that he could massage the hairless expanse of her calves and feet with his calloused fingers.

He pushed the swing with his own booted feet, looking at her out of the corner of his eyes.

"How are you, Hunter?" She asked him with genuine curiosity. He hadn't appeared to move with any lingering effects of the shot Vector Prime had brought down upon him. The flannel shirt he wore displayed some of the well-defined musculature of his upper torso when he moved, but the fabric was made purposely loose so that it would not get in the way of his work. Beyond that occasional display, however, she could see nothing of the condition of his skin beneath the working fabric.

"All better," he rumbled to her, digging his thumbs into a particularly tight spot at the arch of her bare left foot. She hadn't been wearing any shoes when she'd brought herself to his home. His lips quirked up into a lopsided smile. "I s'pose I have you to thank for that."

"I could do nothing less for you, Hunter. You should know that." She ached to reach out and cup his cheeks in her palms. She wanted to pull the band from his hair and skim her fingers through the silken strands. Instead she fisted them together in her lap. "You'd have done the same for me if you could have."

"You're right." He agreed readily.

It was quiet for several minutes between them, but it was not uncomfortable. In point of fact, Sam relished in the easy silence. The sounds of nature tickled her ears while the fresh air filled her lungs to brimming. The Grid high above them sent rays of sunlight arcing down in striking patterns to the earth before them. Some of the lightshows that poured downward echoed rainbows without the necessary moisture in the air. The Grid, as it had come to be known, often acted as a suncatcher.

"I see you on the TV a lot." Hunter had ceased to massage her and instead leveled his focused gaze onto her. "You've got your hands fuller than when you just worked as their Ambassador."

She fingered the crystal at her forehead when she caught his deliberate look at it and the circlet it was connected to. The Energon crystal warmed to her touch and glowed consistently whenever settled onto her scalp. The pattern of the circlet itself was the language of the Primes in a stylized, organic sweep. She hadn't been able to discern the words at first and unless one really focused she doubted any being outside of the Cybertronian race would be able to distinguish between the delicate arches and the symbols.

One light. One world. One truth.

"It's exhausting," she admitted to him, pivoting her body so that she could lean against his solid frame. His arm rose and fell in a singular sweep, his hand cupping her upper-arm and drawing her further into his side. She settled her temple against his shoulder and closed her eyes.

The blonde's heart panged. Why oh why couldn't he truly be hers?

"It's been a month and it still feels like day one," she mumbled, her weary body wishing to succumb to sleep. The alien medics had been hounding her for weeks to get a decent night's sleep and were on the cusp of threatening to sequester her in Simphur in order to see the shadows gone from beneath her tired eyes. "We're trying to build a foundation of trust between the humans and Cybertronians and it's, understandably, slow-going. The trades are helping speed things along. While weaponry is clearly off the table, no matter how much some power-hungry pricks may gripe about it, the medical advancements and breakthrough on a cleaner, more efficient source of power has garnered them a lot of favor."

"The way I hear it, you're the one who invented the new solo-cores. Heck, Gunshire is in the process of having one those things brought in. The mayor assured us that the power supply will reach all the way out to even my spread here and will cut our costs for electricity by nearly eighty-five percent." There was a proud smile in his voice and she knew if she looked he would be beaming down at her. "I'd say that would constitute a big 'ole thank you from the hairless monkeys of Earth."

"You're still hairy," she chuckled, picking at his dark arm hair for emphasis. He yelped before snatching his limb away from her teasing fingers.

"How's the queenly thing coming for ya?" He inquired softly, urging her back further into his embrace. He reset his arm around her when he realized that she wasn't going to pluck his arm hairs again. His tone was abruptly worried.

"Sucks," Sam groaned, scrunching up her nose as she said it. "We're still trying to figure that one out. Documents are in the works for dual citizenship when it comes to humans and Cybertronians in the instance that a human is assimilated into the Cybertronian race or vice-versa. That in itself has brought up the question of their mating practices and if any spousal rights would have to be granted should a human marry a Cybertronian. Rights in both cultures."

"They get married?" Hunter asked with shock, his head rearing back on his shoulders.

Sam sighed. "No, they don't. They will take sparkmates, another mech or femme that they tie their Sparks to for life, but it is not the same as human marriage. They don't mate outside of their own race at any rate. Without the ability to make a Spark to Spark connection, it is pointless to them."

"Then why bother with a marriage clause?"

"Because the human race has an affinity for paperwork and red tape." She rubbed her closed eyes tiredly. "The more complicated we can make things, the better."

"So you're going to have dual citizenship?"

"That's what we're striving for right now, yes. For the moment, I'm in limbo. The insurgents that have popped up since Chicago are arguing that I was never human to begin with and I must be a 'Transformer' that has staked out the Earth for years in an attempt to get an in on humans. They're determined to believe that the only thing to come from me and the Cybertronians is destruction. The governments of the world are honoring the diplomatic immunity I have held since becoming Ambassador, but they're reluctant to accept a perceived human in the position of alien authority."

"Queen," Hunter hummed in her ear, chuckling when she swatted him.

"A glorified figurehead."

"Queen," he repeated, flicking the circlet around her head for emphasis.

"Would you stop touching that," she snapped, yanking more of his arm hairs in retribution. He sneered at her, yanking his arm entirely out of her reach. The way he held himself - as though avoiding the vilest of creatures - brought a sluggish smile to her lips.

"Please, leave the circlet alone." She found herself touching the crystal again, humming at the smooth, warm surface of it beneath her fingertips. "It's more than just a pretty accessory like traditional crowns of the human variety. The crystals in this are pure Energon in a solidified form. They connect me back to Simphur and the rest of Cybertron. They...oh, how do I phrase this? They make it easier to be the Allspark because now I don't have to struggle around my human side."

"Your skin feels different," he remarked softly, lowering one hand to stroke at her bared upper right arm. His brows furrowed a little as he considered his next words. "It's still soft, but harder at the same time."

She nodded her head. "Yeah. It's part of the changes my body has been undergoing for years now. With Cybertron here the alterations of my body have progressed rapidly."

"Your eye, though..." Hunter's tone was equal parts woeful and curious. She found herself closing them again as though to make him unsee what he had.

"There's no repairing it." The pupil was as shockingly white as her sclera while only the lavender-hued iris remained the same. Where once she'd been able to see shadows and shades, she was now entirely blind on that side. Her vision hadn't come back even when she'd healed in Simphur and afterwards when Flatline and Ratchet had taken a look at it. "There's no repairing old damage. That's why the scars are still there, too. Ratchet said that he's working on something that might be able to minimize the scarring, but to truly make a go at removing the marks I'd have to have him recut the skin. Quite frankly I don't care enough about having unblemished skin to go through the process of rehealing. Not to mention that it wouldn't completely hide what happened."

"I think it makes you look sexy. Dangerous." He winked at her. "Besides, the eye's kinda cool."

"Not so cool." She handed off a sardonic smile. "I'm jumpy when someone comes up on that side and I can't see them. It gives me a horrible blind spot. I don't like not knowing what's coming."

"I doubt that you're unprotected." He was smirking faintly down at her in an attempt to lighten the mood. "I've seen those bodyguards of yours every time I flip on a news channel. They could bounce a comet out of your corner if they wanted to."

He was right. It was, regularly, Starscream and his Trine that played dutiful Guardians and Chevaliers. It had been proposed for a human team to be permitted to watch over her, but that was the one and only thing the Cybertronians seemed to disallow with a fervent passion. If the Seekers were needed elsewhere, which was rare, then the double-team of Soundwave and Shockwave took over. Beyond those five, who arguably had the strongest connection with her for one reason or another, there were others lingering just out of sight waiting to trounce on the poor fool who thought to draw too close to her.

As far as she could tell, there was never any less than fifteen mechs and/or femmes within five-hundred feet of her at any given time.

This moment was the first in the past month that she was almost entirely alone.

It had taken hours of bickering to finally come to an agreement with her guards and the faction leaders. She could feel the Seekers through the bonds, Skywarp at the ready to warp he and his Trine if he felt anything shy of nervousness from her end, and knew that there was a contingent of Cybertronian soldiers on the edges of Hunter Mason's expansive ranch. If she squinted her eyes and looked hard enough she'd be able to see one of the Warships off on the southern side of the sprawling landscape.

"I'm not alone." She agreed, pressing a palm into her closed, blind eye. "It doesn't make this any easier, though."

"I doubt any of this is going to be easy," he murmured into her hair, nuzzling his nose into the crown of her braid and barely managing to avoid rubbing against the circlet. "You're a strong woman, Sam. You've dealt with things that no one else could have sanely managed and came out on top. You'll do it again and do you want to know why? You, my friend, refuse to be beaten. You're as stubborn as they come and you're going to prove to the world that no one is going to take you down without a fight."

A heartfelt smile touched her lips and on impulse she leaned up to kiss the large male's cheek. His darker skin blushed faintly, but she caught sight of the lopsided grin that attempted to overtake him. That was the smile she was going to miss the most.

"You're a good man, Hunter."

"And you're a good woman, Samantha." He pecked her temple with gentility before growing quiet again, rocking them both in the blessed warmth of the Texas day.

It was perhaps half an hour later that she felt herself being shaken lightly by the shoulders. She'd nodded off. Hunter was smirking down at her from where he still cradled her body against his own. She chuckled lightly, absently rubbing a finger against the edge of her mouth.

"Was I drooling on you?" She queried half in jest.

"Oh no, darlin'. I just figured I'd getcha up and ask if you had any plans? If you have to head back to Washington or wherever it is you have your Fortress of Solitude now, I understand, but if you'd like some roadkill stew I'm more than happy to have some company."

"I cleared my schedule for the rest of the day," the blonde assured him cheerfully. She eeped faintly when, instead of standing and offering her a hand up, Hunter hoisted her up into his arms and stood while embracing her. His eyebrows waggled with mischief.

"Well then my fair Lady, let me escort you back to my domicile for a hearty meal." He hefted her smoothly, a slight frown marring his face after a heartbeat. "You've lost weight."

"Sleep, too," she agreed.

"Well, that just won't do." The big man strode confidently towards his horse, Thunder was the stallion's name if she remembered correctly, and deposited her right up against the horn. The beast didn't flinch at her weight and only raised his head smoothly when Hunter mounted behind her. His left hand settled against her smooth stomach in support while his right took up the reins.

"Let's see how long it takes them to come looking for you, shall we?"

Samantha chortled with pure delight as Hunter regaled her several hours later with a story about the most recent escapade he'd had with Hank, the feed-store owner of Gunshire, Texas. The roadkill stew had been out of this world and she'd helped herself to two heaping bowlfuls of it. She now rested on his well-worn leather couch with a hand-me-down quilt draped over her lap. A mug of sweet iced tea sat nearby, condensation dribbling off the glass.

She rested her chin on her raised knees, admiring the whole package of the man before her. He was everything she'd ever wanted in a man. He was anything any straight, sane woman would want in a man. Heck, there were undoubtedly men who desired him, though she would bet money that Hunter would be more embarrassed than flattered if she said as much.

Hunter's pale blue eyes met hers.

A breath of silence.

He leaned back into the plush confines of his recliner, crossing his moccasin-clad feet at the ankles and drumming his fingers against the armrests. His gaze was intense, but she didn't shy away from it.

"You know I'm not coming back to N.E.S.T., I s'pose?" He verbalized out of the blue, his tone somber. She hummed and nodded, not speaking. "Colonel Lennox and General Morshower along with Director Mearing offered me a generous retirement package. Lot more than I thought I was gonna get even if I'd stayed on for another twenty years."


"You didn't have to do that," he told her, his face a tad on the hard side. "I coulda kept being a soldier for at least another ten years. Wasn't thinkin' of retiring this early in the game. I know it was you that pushed them for it and that's the only reason I agreed. I just wanna know why."

"Because I love you," she responded with quiet earnest. Her grin was sardonic once more. "I love you, Hunter, and I want you to have a life outside of N.E.S.T.. I want you to do what you want to with your life. I want you to go ahead full steam – no reservations – and not have me worrying day in and day out if this next mission is going to be the one you won't come back from."

Sam wanted to get up and go over to him. She wanted to hug him and kiss that dour look from his handsome face. More than anything she wanted to stake her claim on him and call him hers.

…But she couldn't do that to either of them.

"Have a family, Hunter," she pleaded with him, her voice barely above a whisper, but filled to brimming with conviction. "Find a woman you can love and will love you in return. Commit to that love. Raise a family together and fill your home with the best memories you can imagine. Believe me when I say that you don't want to squander the time and the options you have available to you."

"What if I love you?" His jaw was tight now. She felt a distinct prickle behind her eyelids. She was on the verge of crying. "What if I want you forever?"

"You don't have forever," the blonde countered dismally. Her heart ached to say that and everything else. "I don't have forever, either, but I still have much longer than you. It's selfish of me to deny love simply because I can't have it for the rest of my life with the man I desire most, but it would also be unforgivable for me to take you as mine and be unable to give you what you deserve. You deserve a house full of children and laughter. You deserve a family. All I can give you, Hunter, is the love I have for you.

"I cannot bring children into this world because, like everyone else in my life, I'll have to watch them grow old and die well before me. No parent should have to go through that. Even if I could bring myself to have a child, what kind of life would I be bringing them into? A nearly immortal mother who now rules over a race of alien beings? Did you hear about the insurgents? They're going to come after me with everything they have. I have what they all want – time. I can look down the centuries and blink as though only a minute has gone by. I'm going to be ostracized very soon and hunted by a race which will always be mine simply because I am no longer held by the bonds of that race alone. The War between the Autobots and Decepticons has come to an end, but there is another on the horizon. The War between the humans and the Cybertronians is inevitable and I refuse to allow you to be caught in the middle of it with me."

That was why she'd funneled some of her enormous financial resources, her personal stash, into creating a more than generous severance package for the soldier. After seeing him be struck by Vector Prime while he protected her, she'd felt something in her break. She couldn't allow him to stay in N.E.S.T. where he would be in so much more danger. Anything could happen out in the real world, but if she could pull him from the front lines and reduce the risk of permanent injury, she would. She did.

If he hadn't accepted the early retirement she would have pulled strings and had him removed from the special operations team. It was selfish and wrong of her, but she just couldn't bear it if something happened to him because of her.

Hunter's expression was dark and partially closed off. He was positively miserable. She could taste his bitterness on her tongue. She could feel it in the air. She didn't break eye contact, however. She scarcely blinked in the proceeding moments until, eventually, he sighed gustily.

"I already took the retirement. I'll spend the rest of my days on this ranch, I wager." He ran a callused hand over his scalp tiredly. "Y'know, I'm doin' this for you. I appreciate what you've done for me and the extra funds. It'll help me get this ole place up to snuff again. Not to mention that whatever you did to me after Vector Prime filled my back full of buckshot has revved me up. I ain't felt this damned good in years!

"But Sam – I want you to know that if things coulda been different, you'd have been mine as much as I'd have been yours." His grin was wistful at best. "You're some woman, Samantha Jane Witwicky."

"I think we've covered this one already," she joked in an attempt to lighten the acrid mood.

"I s'pose we have." A pause. "You won't be comin' back, will you?"

"No, I won't."

"Can't say as I blame you. It'd probably be as hard on me. Seeing you as beautiful as you are now thirty years down the line while I'm turning into a crotchety old man like my father was." Hurt shone in his striking eyes. "No, probably won't be as hard on me. I can't imagine seeing you grow old without me. Seeing you slip out of my hands like that."

"Please don't talk about it," she choked on tears, suppressing the frantic inquiries hurtled her way through the comms and bonds. Her anxiety was nerving the automatons up. If she didn't calm herself down, there would be a battalion of cybernetic Warships descending upon the main house within moments.

Several deep breaths later, she'd brought herself back under firm control. The primary crystal hanging from the circlet dimmed as her tumultuous emotions stuttered back to normal. The crystal acted like a mood ring when she was piqued.

"Sorry I missed Megatron's inauguration." Hunter snickered flippantly. He waggled his eyebrows at her teasingly. "Think it was a good idea to make him and Optimus bigger bastards than they already were?"

"I didn't do it purposefully, you ass." She threw a throw pillow at him with a hearty laugh, remembering clearly to the day not two weeks prior he referred to.

There were select filming crews scattered across the expanse of Simphur's primary courtyard. Ten human news channels had been granted permission to step onto the sacred Temple's precipice, though the entrance was guarded heavily against their entrance. The Temple of Simphur was not to be breeched by non-Cybertronian feet. The purpose of its existence was to house the Allspark and allow the granting of new life to the ancient race. It wasn't a museum for tourists to trapes around in.

This matter, however, had been debated and discussed in heavy detail for weeks. Cybertron and Earth were now One and that meant that certain allotments would have to be made in regards to the sharing of cultures. Neither race could shut out the other completely without harming whatever chances they had at coexisting.

It had been deemed necessary for a heavily screened selection of journalists to be present on Simphur for the Honoring. They were escorted by a handful of N.E.S.T. personnel and Cybertronian soldiers from both sides of the previously warring factions. The journalists came from each of the continents and were highly respected for their professionalism and discreetness. It was agreed upon before the permission to film was granted that they would withhold questions until a later date – two days later – and that they would not move from where they were instructed to stand.

If one human stepped out of place all of them would be escorted immediately off Simphur and never allowed to step upon the sacred grounds again.

Samantha stood upon the ground wearing a billowing white skirt and short-sleeved blush-hued blouse. Simphur had drifted to hover over Southern California during the last several weeks. Despite the high elevation, the raw Energon around them radiated heat. The other humans had removed their jackets shortly after arriving due to the unflappable seventy-eight-degree temperature. The circlet lay heavily over her scalp, the dangling crystals chiming when the wind caught her braid and blew it out behind her.

Optimus Prime and Megatron kneeled before her, their right forearms over their bent right knees and their helms bowed. They'd been in that position for close to thirty minutes, their processors having opened a comm line between them that would be unshakable in its entirety until their dying days. She herself had, fueled by the Allspark's knowledge, opened that rift between them.

Their memories and emotions flooded between them both like an echoing tidal wave. A bond was solidifying between them. It was similar to the one she held with all of her mechs and femmes, but different at its core. This bond had not been shared for millennia. A bond such as theirs had not been in existence since the Thirteen Primes had walked the stars.

She waited with calm serenity for their Sharing to complete, knowing that the film crews were recording it all. The hundreds of Cybertronians in attendance, too, were streaming a live feed of the happenings to all others of their kind. In a way, this was opening the door for humans to work their way into Cybertronian culture – at the very least not be mere befuddled bystanders – but it was also going to bring about a wealth of animosity. On this day she was going to be setting herself irrevocably apart from her birth-race.

There was no going back after this.

With an electronic whine, both helms raised and bright optics, one set blue and the other red, trained onto her. Awe bombarded her from the two. She'd triggered the Sharing without their prior knowledge and the titans clearly had an inkling now of what she intended.

The crystal to her forehead flared as the power rose within her. Energy poured from her in waves. The filming equipment of the humans hummed as the batteries were supercharged, though fortune smiled upon them when the overload of power didn't cause circuitry to blow. Her voice boomed across the courtyard.

"In the earliest times of Cybertron, there were the Honored Dynasty of Primes. These were the warriors of Primus himself. They were the first, the Elite, the greatest of all. In those times, it was understood an acknowledged that only Primus himself or the Allspark could Honor a mech or femme to Primehood. The children of Cybertron lived by their Primes and understood their worth, as it was the Primes that safeguarded the Allspark and the sanctity of life.

"With time, dissention grew. The children allowed themselves to move from the old ways. Self-importance became a way of being. False Primehood was given by those not Honored to do so. Generations of leaders carrying a title not rightfully bestowed and passing on falsehoods to the newer generations.

"On this day, a grievance from a time long forgotten shall be rectified." Her voice lowered a fraction as she looked to the two kneeling mechs. Optimus and Megatron gaped at her, though their faceplates maintained stoic indifference. She fought the urge to smile encouragingly at them. She could not make light of this moment.

"Orion Pax, leader of the Autobots. You have proven yourself a wise and just master. A brave fighter and brilliant tactician. You place yourself above no one, your humble beginnings granting you a rare, but precious insight into the lives of those you seek to protect. You are the voice and the eye of your people. You are the Great Leader.

"Megatronus, leader of the Decepticons. You have fought your way from the dregs of lower society. Your strength and determination is irrefutable. Despite the affliction of The Fallen's will upon your own, you have come back to yourself. Your steadfast belief in doing what is best for the future of your people, though sometimes misguided, and indomitable will make you one of the most powerful sons of Primus to ever exist. You are the backbone of your people. You are the High Protector."

Samantha raised her hands, palms outstretched and facing towards the two gob-smacked behemoths. Energy whiplashed from her, striking them in an invisible wave against their chassis directly above their Sparks. Their bodies shuddered and grunts echoed as their frames morphed and expanded.

She felt her eyes glow and heard several of the humans present gasp.

"From this day forward, the two mechs known as Orion Pax and Megatronus are no more than a memory of what was and will no longer be. Under the Optic of Primus and the Power of the Allspark, Optimus Prime and Megratron Prime shall lead their brethren forward in this new world. May they bring us to a time of Unity and Peace. May they rule well in their Primehood. May Primus watch over them."

It got fuzzy from that point onward.

Sam remembered feeling power flow from her and into the two mechs. She felt true Primehood take root in their very frames and Sparks. The Other hadn't spoken, but she'd heard his acceptance and approval of what she'd done in her heart. When the exodus of energy had ceased, her body had collapsed.

When she came to she was in 'her room' on the alter/bed of Simphur with an Honored pair of warrior 'brothers' bowing to her. Optimus and Megatron had grown in sheer mass. The alloy that they were comprised of had shifted and metastasized. The two had grown several feet in height each and were considerably more built in their frames. Optimus was nearly as brutish, despite the sleek aerodynamics of his multicolored frame, as Megatron had been before his own change. Newer formations of armor made him appear bedecked in Middle-Aged knight's armor. For his part, Megatron was a veritable powerhouse of alien machinery. They were each stockier and packed with a heavier arsenal. Megatron's thigh region had widened considerably and the jagged armor of his plating intensified. A finely-carved battle mask retreated to either side of his helm and was reminiscent of upward-curving warthog tusks.

The two had genuflected to her to the point that she had to order them off. There was still too much that needed to be done and when she discovered she'd slept through an entire day she knew she needed to meet with the journalists about what had transpired. The footage release was to be broadcasted whether she got the necessary interview in with the humans or not. She couldn't let the film be shown to the rest of humanity without explaining to them what they were seeing.

"The Cybertronians need true Primes now more than ever." She told Hunter, pushing the quilt off of her lap after receiving an urgent request through the comms. She'd finagled it so that she could have the remainder of her day off to spend with Hunter, but like everything else in her life nothing seemed to go as planned. A dignitary's work was never done no matter how much she wished it so. "Those two are destined to work together. They will help their race – and ours – to coexist and thrive."

"It's going to take a lot of time," Hunter quipped unnecessarily, rising to stand beside her. The comms pinged in her mind once more, more forceful this time. She could hear one of the Warships breaching the quiet of the house as it drew closer. She had an armed escort coming to retrieve her.

"I have nothing but time now," she murmured sadly.

On impulse, she launched herself into his arms, stretching up to hug his neck. He held her back nearly as tightly, one hand cradling the soft swell of her back and the other diving into her braid at the base of her skull. She kissed his cheek chastely, unwilling to subject herself to the mouth-to-mouth embrace she desired most from him.

That would have been a torture she couldn't survive.

"Take care of yourself, Hunter. Please?" She pecked his cheek again, backing out of his reluctantly relinquished hold. The droop of his shoulders told her exactly how much this goodbye hurt him as well. "If you ever have need of me, you know how to find me."

"Goodbye, Sam," Hunter muttered with regret as she backed out the front door.

"Goodbye, Hunter."

Outside, the Warship dropped down fifty feet from the house. The gangway appeared from the underbelly of the ship, a single mech striding out to meet her on entry. The yellow scout gazed at her sorrowfully, his Spark hurting for her pain.

She forced a smile for her first Guardian and best friend. "Don't worry, 'Bee. It's all going to be okay. Just give it some time."

Striding up into the ship, her bare feet uncaringly trailing dirt and grass up into the pristine hull, she knew that this moment wasn't going to be the last of her hardships. She had an eternity that she was looking down the barrel of and countless lives she would have to say goodbye to. Humans fought for time, which was an unachievable goal to begin with as time is an incorporeal thing; wished and prayed for an abundance of it so that they might better enjoy their lives, not understanding that living fully in the time one has is all that mattered in the end. She wished to parcel it away, knowing in her heart that the yawning expanse of eternity had the power to destroy her soul if not her body because the human condition carried the weight of ten thousand lifetimes in the course of a single century.

Perhaps, however, time would be its own cure.

Because 'time is what keeps everything from happening at once.' -Ray Cummings.

Notes: This is the End of Eclipsing the Stars. I know I took you all in a completely different direction than the movie and even the fandom, but I hope you've enjoyed the ride! The next installment will be called 'Dawn of Eternity' and is coming very soon. I hope to see you there! If not, I hope your days are Blessed from now until the end of your eternities.