Wheeljack loved demonstrating his latest creations. All of his inventions were his babies, each one a rare gift to present to the world. These brilliant jewels of the scientific community, unfortunately, had the audacity to occasionally blow up in his face. His attempt to make a more concentrated energon producer (nicknamed "The espresso machine") was one of these. After the smoke cleared, Jazz popped out from behind the turned table he and Prowl had hid behind during this presentation, brushing the dust off of each other.
"Man, Wheeljack! That was outta SIGHT! I'm switchin' to DECAF!" Wheeljack decided that sometime this week he needed to hurt Jazz. The saboteur deserved it.
Grimlock had managed to catch Optimus Prime when the blast knocked him over. Holding the Autobot leader by his arms, Optimus' optics were locked with the visored Dinobot's for a moment longer than usual as he straightened upright.
"Thank you, Grimlock," he said in that low but melodious voice he had. He turned back to a perplexed Wheeljack.
"I can't understand it, Prime. I must have crossed the power couplings when they should have stayed the way they were..." He tried to inspect the damage but there wasn't much left to examine.
"Never mind, Wheeljack." Optimus turned to the rest of the assembly as they crawled out of their hiding places. "We'll meet again next week. Prowl, a word please." The strategist followed him out as Wheeljack searched for the missing parts of his cherished machine. The others drifted out gradually, except for Grimlock. He stayed rooted to the spot, staring at the door and clutching his chest. Wheeljack looked up from his soldering to notice.
"Grimlock? Are you all right?"
"Me Grimlock feel funny."
"Funny? Funny how?" Wheeljack, co-creator of the Dinobots and father figure, grabbed his toolbox and hurried over to investigate. "I thought Ratchet FIXED your-"
The large Autobot, distressed, took a step away from the engineer. "No! Me Grimlock fine!" He dashed out of the room; hands still fastened to his abdomen.
Autobot time is consumed faster than energon cubes at a Decepticon victory party. With the repairs to his invention and a minor triumph with heavy casualties at Hoover Dam, Wheeljack was unable to concentrate on the persistent image of the Dinobot leader's strange behavior. When he wasn't repairing his fellow comrades other projects called, as well as the daily medical conversations about the rest of the Autobots' states of being. There was also the distraction of unusual pranks occurring in the Ark that no one wanted to admit guilt, resulting in a lot of gossip. When Ratchet asked Wheeljack to go check on the Dinobots for any needed repairs the mech had his chance to confirm his suspicions.
The Dinobots had run off into the desert to practice combat moves. Sky Spy found them playing tag, to Ratchet's annoyance. They always exercised that way, he grumbled, until someone got hurt. Wheeljack arrived at the canyon floor to witness Slag, Sludge, and Snarl chasing Swoop until Sludge's fire breath hit him. The Pteronadon pulled up and flew back down at them with the sun at his back, shrieking. All three ambulatory Dinosaurs ran for cover.
Wheeljack caught Grimlock at the far end of the dry chasm pounding at the rock in front of him. His strength was amazing. As his powerful arms alternated, chunks of rock flew out, creating a niche. His blank expression revealed nothing amiss, but the behavior towards the defenseless canyon wall suggested frustrated aggression. Wheeljack got his attention by firing his blaster over Grimlock's shoulder, which was a bad idea considering the startled Dinobot's aim was a lot better than his. After ducking the shot, Grimlock recognized his friend and waved.
"How are you, Grimlock?"
"Bad." The whole mien of the large mech was one of melancholy. The Lancia patted him on the forearm comfortingly.
"Me Grimlock have problem."
Wheeljack motioned for him to have a seat inside the newly punched niche's lining. It provided a cooling shade from the blazing desert sun. "Does it have something to do with the funny way you felt last week?" The Dinobot nodded miserably. "Do you want to tell me about it?" He shook his head, punching the wall of the small cave. Rocks scattered. "Should I guess?" This elicited a favorable reaction. "Huh..." Their co-creator, the human Chip, was wrong: there was nothing simple about these creatures. Grimlock's unhappiness had no elementary angles. Wheeljack guessed everything he could process, asking about something Grimlock ate, a gun firing wrong, had Sludge or Slag upset him, etc. None of these were the reason. Any intelligent factor was eliminated by the toss of Grimlock's head. Wheeljack was beginning to become frustrated. Finally he muttered "I bet Optimus Prime would be the one to know," surmising to himself that only the Autobot leader was clever enough to deduce Grimlock's attitude. The mech quickly faced his friend.
"Who tell? Me Grimlock kick butt!" He sprang from his relaxed position, fists clenched.
"Whoa! Hold on!" Wheeljack tugged at his arm to placate the irate fighter. "Sit down! Nobody told, I just guessed." Grimlock lowered himself again, cautiously. "You...like Optimus Prime?" He leaned in and kept his voice low, although there was no one there. Decepticon spies might be around. The Dinobot nodded miserably. Wheeljack was floored. "Do you know what that means?"
"All me Grimlock know is me Grimlock feel funny. Happy. Want to be his..." Here the Dinobot waved his arm to express his confusion. "Best friend. Hug him."
It was almost comical. Optimus Prime's loudest and most arrogant critic nursed a secret crush! Funnier still, he had no concept of love, except that it involved hugging. Wheeljack smothered a chuckle. What made it serious was that the Dinobots were barely a decade old, impressionable beings, and anyone feeling particularly evil could exploit this innocence and give them a crash course on what humans called "the birds and the bees." Grimlock may have complex emotions but he was not equipped to process them correctly. Being enamored with someone would do more harm than good, unless the mischief had already begun.
Grimlock gave another frustrated gesture. "Like Prowl and Jazz. Like Red Alert and Inferno. Like Sunstreaker and Sideswipe."
That left no room for the imagination. Grimlock desired a companion, and Optimus Prime was the lucky mech. "We all love Optimus Prime," Wheeljack began. This was true. Everyone either considered him a paternal figure or a friend, even those who begrudgingly accepted his leadership.
"Not like me Grimlock!" Now he was getting loud. The canyon walls echoed his indignant bellow forever. Wheeljack shushed him.
"Have you told him yet?"
Grimlock hid his face in his hands, a strange gesture for one who has no expression. Maybe Chip should look into that, he was the one who gave them their personalities-
"No. Me Grimlock try, but mess up."
"Mess up how?"
"Give him flowers."
"Flowers." They were in the middle of the desert. There was only one plant that flowered this time of year. "YOU were the one who put that fifty-foot cactus by the door to his quarters? Grimlock, he accidentally ran into that! He was pulling spikes out of his joints all day!" The twins were accused but not convicted of that particular incident.
"Me Grimlock try again. So me Grimlock ask Jazz. Jazz say, play ro-ro-romatic music for Optimus Prime. Give me Grimlock CD, tell me Grimlock 'track 5'." Wheeljack was allowed to inspect the jewel case from the pitiable Dinobot's subspace compartment and silently vowed to kill Jazz at a later date. The song was unknown to him, but no good could come from a title like "I Touch Myself." Grimlock explained that Jazz had seen a movie where a boy played a song for a girl outside of her house and she fell in love with him. That night, while everyone was offline, he played the offensive tune for his beloved. By the fifth repetition, nobody came out of Prime's quarters and Grimlock was getting frustrated and Jazz was rolling on the ground in hysterics while a sleep-deprived Gears came out and smashed the CD to pieces. Optimus wasn't even there. Jazz confessed later that Optimus had gone out to help Inferno extinguish a brush fire.
"Where is he?" Had he teeth to clench Grimlock's confidante would be doing it. Jazz would die tonight.
"Jazz SMART." Now Wheeljack was worried. Just as he feared, there were those who were taking advantage of the situation for their own entertainment. This had to be stopped, before more innocent parties got hurt. "You know Grimlock, sometimes it's easier to tell someone how much you like them if someone ELSE tells them for you."
Grimlock eyed his creator anxiously. "Wheeljack do that?"
"Yeah. Do you want me to?" The lovesick Dinobot let out a whoop and threw his giant arms around the smaller mech in relief. That was a good sign.
As Wheeljack paced in front of Optimus Prime's door he tried to formulate a speech that didn't dissolve him into giggles. "I'm sure you noticed something...no, that won't work. Optimus, you know how you think Grimlock doesn't pay attention to you? Nah." He gripped the top of his head in frustration. "Hey, OP, guess what? (snort) No!" This was going to be harder than he thought. "How do I tell him that a giant Tyrannosaurus Rex wants to be his 'best friend'?"
"You just did," came the response behind the door. "The walls aren't that thick, you know."
"Oh slag." Some help he turned out to be. Optimus' office door opened with a scraping noise. Wheeljack took a closer look at the track it was on. Maybe it needed a little more lubricant...
"Wheeljack?" Optimus had enough time to sit back at his desk and move a stack or two of datapads out of the way while the engineer allowed himself to be distracted. Shaking his head in annoyance, the smaller Autobot took a seat at the guest chair available. He was so nervous he found it difficult to get comfortable. Neither spoke as the new arrival squirmed. Optimus, ever the patient mech, rested his arms on the desk in his most approachable pose and waited for Wheeljack to relax.
"You see, Optimus...um, I was talking to Grimlock, and he...well, he..." This was even more difficult than he anticipated. "He..."
"Likes me?" the commander supplied. Wheeljack nodded. "I already knew that."
"You did?" Grimlock's tricks hadn't been too obvious, unless the malevolent Jazz had decided to cause trouble. That mech was DEAD.
"I figured it out when he couldn't pass me in the hall without hugging me." Optimus tried not to chuckle. "Have you ever been hugged by a Dinobot?"
"Yeah." They had a tendency to throw their prey against the wall and practically flatten them in their joy to express affection. "None of them knows his own strength."
"I might have dismissed it as youthful exuberance, or even a quirk, but then THIS was taped to the outside of my office door." Optimus Prime held up a giant drawing, done in crayon (the human Sparkplug melted several hundred Crayolas to make Dinobot-sized drawing tools last Christmas). Crudely shown were the two leaders walking around the ark holding hands.
"I like the squirrel," was all Wheeljack could think of saying.
"I thought the flowers were a nice touch," Prime comment wryly, tucking the picture in a drawer in his desk. The drawer slid with a clang that clipped the pair's laughter, turning the conversation serious.
"What are you going to do?" Wheeljack asked apprehensively. "Please don't hurt him, Optimus, he's so naive. I'm really worried about him."
"I have dealt with this before," Prime answered, standing up and wandering around his office. Opposite the desk was a shelf with personal affects: an image of Elita-1, the schematics of Iacon's largest building, even a rifle Optimus no longer carried but kept around for sentimental reasons. The red and blue mech stared at these things as he carefully chose his words. "Usually I can appeal to them with answers that make my position clear. I tell them I'm taken, or that I don't feel that way, or that I'm just not interested, or the most effective; I'm your commanding officer. Reactions vary. I think that it's safe to assume that none of these responses will suit Grimlock." Wheeljack nodded numbly. Optimus stood at the door, stroking his facemask in thought. "He's not ready for any of this," the leader murmured, thinking out loud.
"It'll break his heart," mourned his audience. This sent Optimus Prime into action. He turned on his intercom and paged Ironhide.
"What am I doing tomorrow?"
"Ya have a meetin' with everyone an' their creator ev'ry hour on tha hour, 'cept for a gap 'tween three-thirty and four."
Optimus Prime tiredly rubbed his optics. "Thank you. Schedule a conference with Grimlock and Wheeljack tomorrow for three forty-five."
"Affirmative, Prahme." The intercom clicked off and Wheeljack stood up.
"We'll get this straightened out Optimus, don't worry." The red mech did not show any desire to be comforted, merely nodding dismissal. Wheeljack decided to find Grimlock and tell him the news.
Three forty-four found Wheeljack again pacing the floor in front of Optimus Prime's office. Grimlock arrived in Dinobot form with a shiny coat of wax and a small sand-colored object in his tiny hands.
"You're in your alt mode."
"When robot me Grimlock get weak in knees around Optimus Prime."
"Try not to tell him that. What's in your hand?" Grimlock proudly held up a heart-shaped rock.
"Find outside, make me Grimlock think of Optimus Prime."
"It's nice." Wheeljack hastily returned the rock and rapped on the office door before he could burst into tears. The poor guy, this was going to be brutal. The non-greased door angrily slid open and Grimlock galloped in.
"Grimlock, Wheeljack, welcome." Their leader graciously rose and moved his chair over to their side, giving his guests each a seat. The shiny Dinobot eagerly hurried over to the newest addition. Upon discovering his tail an impediment, Grimlock shoved the rock back into Wheeljack's hands and transformed, flopping into the chair. He accepted the stone and presented it to the intended recipient.
"For you, Optimus Prime. I found it." This was the most grammatically correct statement he'd uttered since his birth. Wheeljack was amazed. Optimus held the rock, admiring its shape and color.
"This must have taken you a long time to find."
"It did," the Dinobot bragged proudly. "Me-I Grimlock search for long time." As hard as he tried, his vernacular slipped, although his confidence didn't. Optimus thanked him for his thoughtfulness and placed the rock on his desk, topping the crayon picture seen yesterday.
"I called you here because I wanted to ask you about a couple of things, since we don't get to talk much." Here Prime paused as Grimlock sat up taller. "One is how the Dinobots are doing."
"They fine! Love to play tag, very happy."
"That's good. Are they getting along with the other Autobots?"
"Yes! Us Dinobots nice to them! They nice to us!" Here Grimlock was lying a little. Some of the Autobots objected to the Dinobots running free without supervision. Grimlock himself had been in a brawl or two protecting his troop when the masses were annoyed with them and their faux pas. It seemed to Wheeljack that Grimlock was desperate to prove himself worthy to Optimus Prime by making these assertions. His voice, posture, and wording all claimed 'See, I'm a good leader, too.'
"Great!" Optimus never revealed that he had spent half of his day in meetings with others complaining about the Dinobots. Wheeljack had been in a few of those gatherings defending them. Now Optimus leaned over the desk, voice tone changing. "How are YOU, Grimlock?"
Grimlock's whole position adjusted. He leaned over, too, as though it were only the two of them. Their faces were inches apart. "Me Grimlock in love."
It was all the engineer could do to keep from smacking himself on the forehead with the palm of his hand. Didn't Grimlock know how to be even a LITTLE subtle? He shifted uncomfortably in his seat, re-crossing his legs. Optimus watched him, waiting for the apprehension to dwindle. When Wheeljack finally settled, Prime turned back to Grimlock, positioning himself with some distance away from the Dinobot.
"That's what Wheeljack told me," he replied, nodding. "He said you want to be my best friend."
"Me Grimlock do." Here the giant mech leaned back, indicating that now that the obvious was revealed he could relax. Optimus Prime stood upright, hands behind his back, as though he were ready to wander the floor to think.
"I'm worried about the other Dinobots."
Grimlock watched Prime walk next to the desk and drift to the wall where his personal belongings sat on a shelf. The gray mech rotated the chair to better suit his observance. "What about Dinobots?"
"How would they feel about you being my best friend?"
Grimlock huffed. "They fine."
"You don't think they would be...jealous?" Now the idea was being mulled over in silence. Optimus moved back towards the desk, blue optics never leaving his addressee. "We are great Autobots, Grimlock. Many would not like me favoring you over them. They would say I'm being a bad leader for not treating all of my Autobots that way."
The image of a giant Autobot orgy popped into Wheeljack's processor and was stuffed down as quickly, but not before the idea of Omega Supreme landing on all of them with a loud crunch played.
"Think of your fellow Dinobots, Grimlock. Are they not your best friends? Would they like you, their leader, having another best friend?"
It was as though the energy in the room changed. In accordance to the rigid ferocity of a warrior Grimlock had no facial expressions, yet when he needed to declare an emotion he had ways of letting you know. As the realization dawned on him Wheeljack sensed the aura around the Dinobot switch emanations as contrasting as nightfall and sunrise. "No! Me Grimlock KNOW they hate it! Dinobots no need best friends! We ARE best friends! Me Grimlock not bad leader! Me Grimlock treat all Autobots same!" Grimlock stood up from his chair and faced his commander. "You Optimus Prime and me Grimlock FRIENDS. Not best friends! Just like other Autobots!" He patted the blue head of the slightly smaller mech as he rudely walked out, calling for his group to assemble. Wheeljack leapt to his feet in exhilaration.
"Optimus! That was fantastic!"
Wearily Prime moved his chair back to the spot it came from. "I'm glad I remembered Silverbolt's crush on me," he sighed, sinking down and placing his elbows on the desk. His fingers rubbed his optics as though he were removing a foreign object.
"The gestalt excuse...that's amazing! And you made it look like it was HIS idea!" Prime quietly dismissed him, now looking as though he'd been through the ringer. Wheeljack zinged out, suppressing the urge to call for Jazz (seeing as how he was in desperate need of vindication for a certain prank). Instead the mechanic raced back a few seconds later to oil the door that sluggishly operated. He jubilantly relived the event while his leader fiddled with something on the shelving unit nearby. "Prime, I'm really glad you knew what to say to Grimlock." Wheeljack tried his handiwork and the door shut with a businesslike bang. Before leaving the Lancia paused to bid Optimus good day. "Thank Primus you didn't have to tell him something harsh. You telling him you don't feel the same way would have been sad."
Optimus looked up from the two latest additions to his shelf with a poignant expression above his battle mask. "Who says I don't?"