Love Is Patient
(11 June, 2006)

Horse's note: I read a quick blurb written by MCat (how the heck does one create a link on this thing?), and the bug bit me to write what sort of amounts to the Autobots' side of the same coin. To MCat: Mad props, G. ;)

"Oh, yes, retreat," Starscream griped as the Decepticons sped away into the skies. "What a brilliant maneuver, mighty Megatron."

"Shut you guzzler, Starscream," Megatron snapped. "And stop calling me that, or I will have your head on my wall."

Prime chuckled as he watched the Decepticons wing away, and turned to make his way down to the road, shaking his head all the while. "You know," he said, his rich voice rife with stoicism, "I don't know why he lets Starscream get to him."

"Perhaps," Prowl put in from his side, "it is because Starscream is annoying."

"Ah, but Prowl," Prime held up a finger, optics full of mirth, "patience is the virtue of any great leader. And if Megatron cannot summon the patience to endure with grace one of his underlings, then perhaps he doesn't have what it takes to win this war."

"Ah yes," Sideswipe nodded sagely from Prime's other side, "well said, mighty Prime."

All three laughed at that.

But it didn't stop there.

"Sideswipe," Prime hailed the Lamborghini ahead of him.

"Yes, mighty Prime?"

Ignoring him stoutly, Prime simply commanded, "You and your brother scout ahead and make sure that ambush has been cleared through that canyon pass."

"Oh our way, mighty Prime," Sideswipe cheeked back, and Prowl watched from Prime's left as the two colorful warriors sped off with a whoop.

"Sideswipe," Prime barked. "What is the meaning of this?"

Prowl shifted his flat gaze to the quivering tower of Spam, which had been roughly shaped into the likeness of the Autobot commander. At the foot of the 'statue' was a placard that read: For Our Great Leader. Prime was standing nearby, looking rather sickened at the ghastly mass. Arms crossed, he stared down at the brothers, who had been summoned to explain.

Sideswipe merely shrugged. "In effigy to your greatness, O Mighty One."

"Sideswipe –" Prime raised a finger, optics smoldering. But at once he seemed to remember his own advice regarding patience, and instead of launching into the lecture, merely uttered one sharp sigh, and said, "Clean it up. Now."

"Yes, mighty Prime," Sideswipe bowed, and backed away.

Sunstreaker, to his inestimable credit, kept a straight face.

Prime strolled in to the watch station after a night of catching up on paperwork. Prowl knew he'd gotten only the barest scraps of cycle-down time, and his defenses were at their lowest ebb.

Too bad for him, because Sideswipe was just ending his tour of watch duty. And missing a night of sleep never seemed to affect the warrior in the least.

"Report," Prime muttered automatically. Prowl winced.

"All quiet, mighty Prime," Sideswipe crowed with the hearty enthusiasm of a bright, sparkling rooster.

Prime stopped in his tracks. This had been going on for weeks, and by the crusty look to his face, he was one snort shy of falling into a comatose heap. Which pretty much meant that his sense of humor was buried somewhere up the deep, dark recesses of his aft. "Sideswipe," he grated, without even deigning to look at the warrior, "don't you think…that this little joke…has gone on long enough?"

"Oh, yes, mighty Prime," Sideswipe agreed readily.

"Then cut it…the slag…OUT."

"Yes, mighty Prime!"

Cleanup had gone well, and the camera crews were just getting a shot of the mayor thanking the Autobots in person.

"And so," the mayor was saying, "it gives me great honor to once again extend our thanks to the hard-working efforts of you brave and noble Autobots."

Cheers and clapping sounded from all around, and Prime extended a hand to gingerly shake hands with the mayor of Portland. In turn, Prowl did the same.

"But," the mayor squared his shoulders, looking beyond the two Autobots before him, "we should thank some of your troops themselves." Beaming, he invited, "Let's get them over here! I'd like to shake hands with them as well."

"You're very kind," Prime said graciously, "but most of them are busy. Of course, we might be able to spare one…Hey, Sideswipe!"

Prowl winced. Noticeably.

So did Prime, when he realized what he'd just done.

The red warrior dropped the rubbish he'd been carrying, and traipsed over to where Prime and the humans were standing, jaunting and beaming like someone with a time bomb in his back pocket. On cue, as he neared his leader, he swept into deep and decorous bow, complete with flourish, and said, "Yes, O Mighty Prime?"

Slowly, ever so slowly, Prowl closed and then opened his optics in, a long, excruciating blink.

The mayor chuckled, though he gave Sideswipe an odd (yet, to his credit, still quite polite) look. "They're very civil, your Autobots," he said generously.

"Of course," Sideswipe nodded a graceful and courtly bow in the mayor's direction. "We all endeavor to one day be like our mighty, magnanimous, magnetic leader."

Magnetic? Primus almighty, and he was being alliterative, too. Prowl made a mental note to kill the warrior later for this. Perhaps mutilate him. That would alliterate nicely enough.

"Ah, hah, yes," the mayor nodded genially in return. He extended a hand, which Sideswipe took with such a look of charm that the crowd burst into its loudest round of applause yet. Damn him for being so naturally good looking.

"We—ell," Prime attempted a ghastly smile. "Thank you, Sideswipe."

"Anything for our fearless leader," Sideswipe bowed in Prime's direction.

"Perhaps we'll let Sideswipe get back to work," Prime suggested gently toward the mayor.

"Ah yes, go," the mayor agreed, though he stuck out his hand once more. Apparently Sideswipe's charm worked on humans, too, and Prowl watched mirthlessly while the mayor shook the warrior's hand yet again, smiling all the time. "Thank you, thank you for all of your hard work," he said sincerely. "And please tell your comrades that, on behalf of the entire city, I extend my thanks."

"You're too kind," Sideswipe replied, shaking his hand once more, and smiling that damned smile. "We're just doing our job." Ah, the mock humility. It was more than Prowl could bear. Primus only knew how Prime was holding up.

But the mayor only laughed, sounding as indulgent as a father over his favorite son. "Yes, well, don't let me keep you from your work."

"Yes," Prime attempted one more horrible smile in Sideswipe's direction. "Go back to your duties now, Sideswipe."

"Yes, mighty Prime," Sideswipe grinned and bowed, and was gone in a flourish of red and black.

He was so dead.

"But Prime," Sideswipe quoted merrily, "patience is the virtue of any great leader."

Coiling behind his desk, the pistons in his arms and legs wound so tight that Prowl could all but hear them popping, Prime regarded the warrior standing before him with the half-maniacal gaze of an angry cobra. "Do you…" he grated through a clenched jaw, "…have any…idea…how important…our relationship with the humans is? Do you?"

Hands clasped behind his back in the position of parade rest, Sideswipe nodded happily. "Yes, Prime."

Prime regarded him for a long, long time, and Prowl thought that if this went on any longer, the Autobot Commander was is serious danger of finally and remorselessly murdering one of his own soldiers. Funny, he'd always thought it would be Sunstreaker.

But it was not to be today. Somewhere, somehow, Prime seemed to find his last and most precious dregs of fortitude, and though Prowl observed that it was costing him the last few shreds of his sanity, the CO raised a shaky finger toward the door. "Just…" he started, then let out a strangled sound that was somewhere between a rasp and a growl, "…just…go."

"Yes, mighty Prime!" Sideswipe sang out, and made a mad dash for the door.

Good thing the warrior was quick, was all Prowl had to say.

"Sideswipe," Prime snapped, tired and dirty from a long day on the battlefield, and in no mood to talk nicely to anyone.

"Yes, mighty Prime!" Sideswipe all but skipped over to where Prime and Prowl were standing with Megatron, Starscream, and Soundwave. They'd just formed an impromptu negotiations party, and Prime had wanted to round out the Autobots numbers to match the Decepticons'. Unfortunately for him, Sideswipe was the closest and least damaged of his choices.

For a moment, Prime held Megatron's gaze, as though about to continue their talks, but at once the great Autobot turned on the red warrior with a snarl. "Would you stop that!"

"Yes, mighty Prime!" Sideswipe crowed, complete with salute.

The Decepticons watched with what Prowl could only describe as a kind of bizarre look.

"Oh, for the –" Prime clenched and unclenched his fists, obviously one short-circuit away from firing, "—for the love of—SIDESWIPE, for Primus' SAKE, would you stop that!"

Sideswipe grinned.

He wouldn't.

"As you wish, mighty Prime."

He would.

And it was more than Prime could take.

With a roar, and a complete abandon of reason, the Autobot commander turned on the red warrior and grabbed him by the throat. Optics flashing white, Prime bellowed an insensible string of profanities as he thrashed the warrior through the air like a ragdoll, his faceplate transformed into a mask of rage, and it seemed to Prowl quite suddenly that Sideswipe was about to get his mutilation after all.

As for Megatron, Prowl could have sworn he heard the Decepticon commander giggle.

"Come on, Starscream, Soundwave," Megatron said finally, his face alight with the pure satisfaction that for once, Prime was having a much worse day than he was. "We got what we wanted. Let's go home."

With a sigh, and making no attempt to pry his commander off of the hapless warrior, Prowl quietly watched them go.

"You know, Starscream," Megatron noted once they were airborne, "it only marks what I've been saying all these years. Any commander who lets his underlings get to him like that is clearly weak, and will never win this war."

"I agree, mighty Megatron," Starscream put in nicely.

"Well, it's only common sense," Megatron came back, "that patience is the virtue of any great leader."

"Clearly, Mighty Megatron."

"Too bad the Autobots will never learn."

"Yes, mighty Megatron," Starscream sighed, as he banked for home, "it's too bad."