A/N: I do not own Transformers or G.I. Joe, the latter of which appear here in the background as they are portrayed in Renegades.
I always thought that Prime wasted the opportunity to see Optimus as a father figure of sorts to Jack after the Orion Pax arc, so here's a moment every parent has to face: when their child cheats in school.
Today is just not my day.
These words float through the mind of Jack Darby, as he sits in his Geometry class. First, he wakes up late for school. On the way there, Vince taunts him again (one would have thought being put in his place in that race would have stopped it- and one would be wrong).
Then, his evil Geometry teacher (seriously, not even Megatron is as mean as this old man) decided to make today a Pop Quiz day- on proofs, a concept that makes no sense to Jack.
So, Jack is stuck. He has no idea what to do- wait a minute.
Sitting right next to him, in prime answer-peeking position, is Erica. Erica has had no trouble with proofs, and she's flying through the quiz at incredible speed. Even better, the old man is dozing off up front- there's no way he'd catch Jack. The fact that three linebackers for the school football team sit in between Erica and the teacher simply reinforce the notion.
One little peek couldn't hurt, could it? Jack thinks to himself. And so, Jack begins to lean over, when-
Jackson Darby- what in the name of Primus are you doing?
Jack is, understandably, caught off guard, he looks around, but no one seems to have noticed him looking around like a lunatic. Wha-?
Do not play the fool with me, Jack. I see your mind's eye through the Key.
OH. It clicks for Jack now, who is speaking to him in his head.
Oh, indeed. We will discuss this later, after school. I will pick you up this time.
And just like that, Jack snaps back into reality, scribbles down random answers, turns the quiz in, and leaves.
What the scrap was that?
Jack awaits his ride outside the school with no small measure of anxiety. Half of him wants to think that he was hallucinating, but the other half is dreading the next few hours.
The fact that a familiar red-and-blue truck pulls up exactly at his place on the sidewalk only confirms that, indeed, he was not hallucinating.
"Hey…." Jack says, weakly.
"Get in," Optimus Prime huffs.
Jack obeys wordlessly, and says nothing on the way back to the base. His only thought is a simple one.
Please, don't let Mom be there.
Jack's bad luck streak continues, for his mom is, indeed, there, having made the usual shopping run for the base's human occupants- who have suddenly grown in number with the addition of five (no, six) supposed fugitives. The story goes, they were responsible for some medical facility out in Missouri exploding, but (according to them) said lab was conducting some rather… questionable experiments.
June isn't sure that these fugitives are telling the whole truth, but they are an amicable bunch (except the ninja- June finds that she can't fully trust someone who will not show their face), and the black guy is a phenomenal cook, so June decides to let them be.
Besides, Optimus has let them stay in the base, around the kids. She's grown to trust Optimus' judgment over the past few months, so if he says they can stay, then she can live with it, too.
Speaking of Optimus….
"Hey, Duke," June calls, climbing the staircase with some of her groceries, "have you seen Optimus anywhere?" It's a little weird calling these… Joes… by what are obviously their codenames.
"He left just a little bit ago," Duke answers, getting up from his seat on the couch to take the heaviest of the bags from June's steadily loosening grip. "Said something about picking some boy- Jack, I think- from school."
June raises an eyebrow. "Oh? I thought Arcee usually does that."
Duke sets his groceries down on the counter, and shrugs. "Optimus said he'd do it today. Looked a bit… frustrated."
At this, June can only hmmm in response. "Thanks, Duke."
"My pleasure, ma'am."
Damn your country boy charm, June thinks. If I wasn't eight years older than you, I'd totally-
Sadly, though, June's musings are interrupted by the telltale honking on Optimus' horn announcing his arrival into the base- an arrival that June notices is a little faster than normal.
Then, Optimus transforms, shifting from truck to towering robot in a matter of seconds- and in his right hand is Jack Darby himself. Optimus sets him down firmly on the table, his backpack thumping on its wooden surface. Everyone can see the frustration that Duke talked about set in Optimus' face.
"Jack, I am most disappointed in you. Take out your notebook."
Jack does so, opening it to a blank page, pens and pencils scattering about.
Optimus opens his mouth to speak next, but June interrupts him with a loud "What's going on?"
"What's going on, June," Optimus says, waving his hand over Jack's backpack, "is that I caught Jack cheating on a Geometry quiz."
June is stunned into silence for a moment, before asking "How?"
A flash of silver and blue zings out of the backpack and into Optimus' hand, transforming back into a larger version of itself. "This Key," Optimus answers, optics flicking to Jack, "serves as a connection between a Prime and whoever he chooses to carry the Key, in this case Jack and myself. As such, I can see into his mind thanks to the unique connection we share through the Key. I have used this to periodically check on Jack from time to time, and today, I caught him leaning over to peek at another student's quiz." Optimus' explanation serves to calm him somewhat, but the look of disappointment remains.
June is aghast and turns to berate Jack, but Optimus interrupts her this time. "It seems, Jack, that I was wrong to give you this Key to keep even after its purpose had been fulfilled. Cheating, as I understand it, carries serious consequences in your academic career for a long time afterwards, including expulsion. Such behavior is far beneath one who is worthy to keep a sacred relic of an alien race. Until such time as your punishment has been completed to my satisfaction, I will be keeping this."
"Yes, sir," Jack mumbles, ashamed.
"Now, I believe it is a human custom for parents to discipline their children by writing the same sentences over and over, yes?" Optimus turns an optic to June, who nods. Optimus had made anything she was about to say utterly redundant.
"You will write 'I will not cheat on my schoolwork ever again- I shall study and prepare myself well' a hundred times. Only after this will I even consider giving this back."
Optimus marches off, presumably back to his quarters, while Jack exhales and almost comes close to crying. Almost.
June herself is more than a little shaken- it had been a long time since Jack's father had been in her life, but Optimus' reaction was almost exactly what hers had been, with one exception- Optimus had forgotten than Jack and June weren't the only humans in the base.
All of the Joes had watched the exchange in shock. It was the one called Tunnel Rat who spoke up first.
"Wow… never expected a giant alien robot to have a Dad Voice."
Some time later, Optimus is alone in his quarters, looking fondly at an old image of himself and Elita One, his beloved sparkmate, who Optimus hopes is still alive and out among the stars somewhere so that she could receive his message and maybe make her way back to him. It is a fool's dream, Optimus knows, but hope has kept him going for all these years.
A small knock on his door interrupts his musings. "Come in," Optimus calls.
The large door slides away, revealing none other than Jack himself, notebook in hand. Optimus can't help but smile warmly at the boy, all anger and frustration having washed away.
Do not let the sun set when you are angry, Optimus muses, recalling what Alpha Trion had once said to him.
"I finished, Optimus," Jack says, as he holds his notebook up for inspection, sounding very much like a child a quarter of his age.
Optimus takes the notebook with the gentlest of grasps, and combs through it even gentler still.
"Excellent work, Jack," Optimus finally says. "Your handwriting has improved."
Before Jack can say anything else, Optimus holds up the Key he had confiscated earlier. "I believe this is yours."
The Key transforms once more, shrinking again and again until it fits neatly in Jack's palm.
"Do not do that again," Optimus warns, but his tone changes with his next words. "Cheating carries serious consequences, but is usually an act of desperation by the ill-prepared. What was it that troubled you today?"
"Proofs," Jack answers.
"Can you go and grab your book? I may be of some assistance," Optimus offers.
Jack nods eagerly, and returns very soon with his Geometry book in hand.
"Show me," Optimus says, and Jack is soon flipping through the pages.
It is sometime later when June finds them, Jack's face locked in concentration, Optimus gently guiding the boy- a far cry from his earlier ill-contained anger. It was a picture-worthy moment, and so a picture was taken- a picture that hangs up on June's wall to this day.
'Til All Are One, friends!