Note: This Armada fic is SLASH goes massively AU. Writing stuff like this is my catharsis during difficult times. I had an emotional crisis recently and this angsty deathfic is what came from it. Don't worry though, I'm okay now. This fic makes vague references to my other TF slash fic, "Beltane".

.o

Walls

.o

"Did we all come home, did we turn the page?

There are walls of joy, there are walls of rage.

Walls at which you weep, walls on which you dance

Walls made of regret, walls you made by chance.

Walls that break you heart, walls through which you can see.

Walls made in your mind, walls that set you free…"

--Judy Collins, "Walls"

.o

The war between the Autobots and Decepticons--a war that had gone on for millennia--ended peacefully exactly four million, five hundred thousand and forty four years after it started. Fighting became too costly in lives and economics. Peace had to be made one way or another.

Thusly, Megatron of the Decepticons and Optimus Prime of the Autobots sat opposite each other in the middle of Cybertron City for the peace talks. They sat in the same seats by tacit accord.

After months of debating, both sides reluctantly agreed to take up their own halves of the planet. No shots would be fired unless words failed to settle a dispute.

"I can agree to that so long as the new laws are followed. This time was coming--the war had to end eventually." Megatron said, his tone a tad sullen. He rapped his fingers on the tabletop and looked over, "Optimus?"

"If that is how it's going to be, I'll agree. Frankly, I'm glad it's over." Optimus replied. The Autobot leader noticed a sadness settling over his former rival. Megatron didn't hold his head as high and he leaned more on the table. It wasn't age--none of them aged. Optimus couldn't figure out what ailed him. Maybe he was just bored. Not surprising. The endless depositions were getting tedious.

More talking, speeches and politics. Optimus went through the motions, his red and blue form pacing the end of the table as he told his side of the story. Sometimes it was painful to remember comrades he lost in the past. No one knew he came close to tears--his silver face plate hid his grimacing mouth.

Megatron took his turn, telling aspects of his life Optimus never knew about. He didn't have the luxury of a face plate, making it obvious which memories pained him the most. He finished his tale and sat with his cheek resting on one palm, his lips pulled in a tight line. Sometimes he appeared ready to cry. Most of all, he just looked tired of everything. Tired of pain, tired of waiting and tired of the formalities.

The gathering broke for a twelve hour recess so all involved could rest, recharge and take nourishment. Everyone got up and mingled with their respective sides. All but one figure who sat alone at the table with his hands folded and his head bowed.

Optimus approached the seated figure. He went so far as to sit next to him. "Megatron?"

The other Transformer raised a hand. "Don't pity me."

"I wasn't. I just came to ask if you're all right."

"Well, if you must know, I'm not all right." Megatron pressed his palms to the table and stood to his imposing height.

"What's the problem?"

Megatron full lips pulled back, flashing his fangs, "You aren't a Decepticon. You'll never understand." He sighed deeply, his anger like a rocket that ran out of fuel too soon. His red optics bore into Optimus' gold ones. He reached up and poked the center of Optimus' face plate. "You don't need this anymore now that the fighting is over. Stop hiding behind it. I'm beginning to think you don't have a mouth."

Optimus chuckled to hide the discomfort caused by Megatron's abrasive words. They had been rivals for so long that standing this close seemed…unnatural. Optimus didn't mind, it gave him time to admire Megatron's tenacity--and his looks. Really, he was far from ugly by Cybertronian standards. Tall, dark and imposing.

"So…" Optimus sought to fill the lull in their conversation, "Have a nice Beltane?"

Megatron snorted at that. "I watched Unicron and Primus."

"You didn't participate?"

"I haven't for two hundred years. Not since…him…" his optics dimmed and he shook his head. "Heh, probably for the best. Knowing my luck he was an Autobot and it wouldn't work."

With that, Megatron walked slowly through the crowd of Cybertronians and out the bright doorway. Just before he stepped out, he paused to glance back at Optimus. It was a look that burned into his core. Then he smirked and resumed walking.

.o

The radicals struck at twenty-four hundred. Though the war was legally over, a few rogues still tried to stir things up all over again. Six bomb threats were posted all over the city. Officials thought they found all six bombs.

Apparently, someone planted a seventh backup.

Optimus was on his way to another round of peace talks when half of the Cybertron City capital building exploded. It was all confusion, conflagration, pain and screaming. Smoke blotted out the stars. Bodies ran in every direction, all stained so gray that nobody could tell Autobot from Decepticon.

"Stealth bomb," someone shouted.

"Megatron was in there!" cried someone else. "I saw him walking in! The blast…"

Debris lay strewn about the city. What remained of the capital building groaned on the verge of collapse. Optimus gave no thought to his own safety as he plunged into the dusty wreckage and began assisting other bots.

"…he jumped on the bomb. He just jumped on it…the damage could have been worse. He saved a lot of lives."

Optimus saw a circle of Decepticons pulling a body from the debris. Emergency personnel carried it away before he could reach it, but he recognized the shoulder treads and jagged antennae.

Megatron

He grabbed the nearest paramedic, whose yellow shape reminded him vaguely of Hot Shot. "Where are they taking him?"

"Autobot repair base. It's the closest. They'll just have to deal with a D-con." The medic saluted.

Optimus saluted back and transformed into truck mode so he could follow the emergency vehicle.

.o

A single white lamp illuminated an occupied table in the repair bay. Repair crews filed out bearing tools stained in oil, energon, coolant and pieces of Megatron's outer armor.

Seeing Megatron lying there like that caused pain in Optimus' Spark chamber. The blast tore right through Megatron's midsection. His legs were crippled, he'd soon lose the use of his arms and he refused any pain control despite his obvious agony. The repair crew shook their heads. Nothing could be done--he was permanently disabled. He suffered it all with a brave face. Optimus admired that. Megatron had a lot of admirable qualities. He was just too busy seeing him as an enemy to realize it.

"If you're going to stare at me," Megatron began, "you might as well come in and stare me in the face."

Optimus squared his shoulders. Of course--his reflection shone clear in the windows by Megatron's resting table. The Decepticon knew he was loitering there the whole time.

"I don't want to intrude on your privacy," said Optimus.

"Come humor an old soldier."

It was almost too painful. Optimus forced himself to fully enter the room, to see the damage done to Megatron's body. The Decepticon had been blown open. His naked circuits, coolant tubes and Spark chamber were exposed, but covered by a gray sheet. He turned his head to glower up at his rival.

"Ones and zeroes."

"What?"

Megatron sighed through parted lips. They were full, round lips with faint energon stains in one corner. That meant he'd vomited recently. Vomiting was a very bad sign, it meant his injured body couldn't take in nutrition. Fuel that couldn't be used was always expelled.

"That's what we've been fighting over all these years. Programming. Ones and zeroes. Now it's all over--the war--"

"It had to end eventually." Optimus seated himself on a stool next to the table. His blue helm and silver face plate shimmered in the lamp light.

"Mm." Megatron's red optics followed his motion. He smiled faintly. "You show up everywhere I happen to be. I'm beginning to wonder if you like me now."

"Heh, heh," Optimus chuckled, "I guess it's because we're talking like this. I like it this way. Usually, we're fighting."

"You were--an--admirable opponent, Optimus." Megatron sighed and the corners of his optics grew suddenly moist. "Now the fighting is over. I have no more purpose. I've served my programming. This--this is what I was always afraid of, Optimus. Not losing to you--or losing the whole war--not death itself--it's this moment right now. The war has ended, so what is left for me?"

He sounded so…sad. Optimus leaned forward, stretching his hand out, "Megatr--"

Megatron slapped the hand away and clenched his fist. "You can find a new purpose. You can be reprogrammed. Your whole life hasn't been fighting and battles like mine has, Optimus. You--can go on. I can't. I don't know anything other than war."

"That--that's not true. You can do more than fight. You have a brilliant mind."

"I'm crippled--and getting more crippled by the hour."

"So?" Optimus softened his expression behind his face plate. "You're still useful."

"Useful… Useful? Useful!" Megatron narrowed his optics. He raised his arm and punched Optimus in the face. The blow had about as much power as a tap, but his voice was still strong, "GET OUT!"

Optimus just stood there as the fist bounced harmlessly off his face plate. Megatron's fist came back for a second blow, then a third. The tears in Megatron's eyes leaked down his face. Optimus let the blows come. He knew he wasn't looking at an enemy anymore…this was a Cybertronian in pain.

The heat in Optimus' chest reached his throat. He caught Megatron's clenched fist and held it. Megatron struggled, spitting vulgarities so awful that Optimus winced in horror at the sheer hatred pouring from every word. Megatron ranted until pain forced him to sink back, exhausted. He finally noticed that Optimus still held his clenched fist. His purple fist opened just enough to grasp Optimus' gun-metal gray hand. He looked oddly at their entwined fingers for a moment.

"I--can't believe you--didn't walk out."

"You're hurting," Optimus replied. "You needed to get it out of your system. That much hate isn't good for you."

"We walk a fine line. Love and hate…sometimes I think--they're one in the same." Megatron shifted his gaze to Optimus' gold optics.

"It's too easy for love to become hate, isn't it?" He stroked Megatron's knuckles with his thumb, only stopping when he noticed Megatron glancing again at their hands.

"And vise versa."

Sighing, Optimus nodded in agreement. He pinched the bridge of his nose, what little of it poked above his face plate. The gesture was one he picked up from his time among humans.

Megatron watched him curiously. "You know, in all the years I've known you, I don't think I've ever seen you without your face plate. Seriously." He pulled his hand free and reached up to touch the silver plate covering Optimus' face, "What are you hiding behind that foolish thing?"

Optimus shifted uncomfortably, "I don't look…military…without my plate."

"Don't lie. You use it to hide how you feel."

That made Optimus avoid his gaze. At the same time, he mentally kicked himself for letting his body language reveal his unease.

"Oh, I hit a nerve, didn't I?" Megatron smirked, "Come on. I want to see if my imagination is any good."

"Why ruin a perfectly good mental image?"

"Stalling, Prime? Typical."

Optimus hung his head and resisted the urge to swear.

Megatron clearly took enjoyment of his reluctance. "Interesting--you never struck me as the self-conscious type."

"I'm not."

"Then retract your plate."

Sighing, Optimus turned away so Megatron couldn't see him and let his silver plate retract into his helmet with a metallic click. The solid blue face beneath it was absolutely angelic. His nose tipped up and he had a heart shaped mouth--nearly a spitting image of the Primus statues seen in history footage.

"Let me see you," said Megatron, now more insistent.

Optimus trembled and leaned down into the light. His face plate had been a wall between him and the world for millennia. It let him hide his emotions. Without it, he felt naked and exposed. Megatron would see everything.

The tears in Megatron's eyes skittered down his cheeks. The awe on his face was evident. Optimus felt cold fingers brush his cheek and trace his full lips. He made no move to stop them. Megatron didn't know it, but this wasn't the first time he'd touched Optimus this way.

"Oh…it's--better--than I imagined…" the Decepticon leader forced himself up onto his elbows, his face inching closer. His eyes were faraway, seeing the past.

"M-Megatron?"

Next thing Optimus knew, Megatron's smooth, luscious lips were pressed to his mouth. Heat spread through his circuits. He relaxed and slowly returned the kiss. Maybe he didn't have to hide anymore. Maybe he could tell--

"Your lips feel familiar. How strange…I swear I've seen a face like yours somewhere before. Oh…I think I know. Beltane…"

"Megatron." Optimus sighed, his mind flashing back to a Beltane festival two centuries ago. Everyone always covered their Autobot or Decepticon insignia to symbolize unity. Some disguised themselves with temporary paint so they wouldn't be recognized as they went out for a night of sexual pleasure.

That night…two hundred years ago…Optimus disguised himself and sought out Megatron. The Decepticon leader always stirred his circuits. His face, his voice, his fierceness and his strength were everything Optimus looked for in a lover. So he painted himself completely black, removed his faceplate and put on a red visor to disguise his optics. He found Megatron and they ravished each other in a back alley. It was the only time Optimus had the courage to touch Megatron the way he always wanted to--but he was ashamed that he hid his identity when he did it. It was Beltane…it wouldn't have mattered!

"Optimus," Megatron whispered between lip locks, "You're so perfect--it's a shame you hid your face for so long. You are stunning, Prime. Stunning enough to stop a war."

Optimus drew back and looked away. He wanted to tell him his secret, but would he be believed? Maybe if he heard the experience from Megatron's perspective, he'd know how to tell him the truth.

"Megatron?"

The Decepticon turned towards him. He kept his face composed despite the streaks on his gray cheeks.

"What happened at Beltane two hundred years ago?"

"Ah, yes," he smiled a real, genuine smile and his voice took on a purring quality, "I was on Cyber two, watching Primus and Unicron celebrate the ritual joining. And this wonderful fellow found me…he laid me down and we--it was the best I'd had in my life. I overloaded three in a row because of him. Once with his mouth on my access port and twice during a linkup. He held me, I like to be held…but he left. The festivals before it were just--eh--but that one! He was good…so good. I never saw him again, and I never forgot him. He didn't have sex with me…he made love to me. He touched me like he knew and loved me. I stopped prowling the alleys after that, I couldn't let anyone else touch me. Once in a lifetime, I guess. But, heh, I can dream. I wonder if he dreams of me."

"It wouldn't surprise me if he still thinks about you." Optimus replied.

"Now you're a flatterer." Megatron chuckled. "Did you ever experience a Beltane like mine?"

"Yes."

Memories flashed to Optimus again. His hands on Megatron's chassis, their lips and tongues meeting in fiery kisses--kneeling before him and shoving his tongue into his open port-- the hot metallic taste of the circuitry--and Megatron baring his fangs as he climaxed from the oral stimulation. He remembered lying Megatron down, climbing on top of him and locking their ports together. The second time, they overloaded together while tightly embracing. Megatron was a fierce kisser during orgasm. Optimus felt himself warming up inside as he recalled the last round--Megatron's full weight pressing him into the ground and how he established a feedback loop that set them both off--Megatron's hands clawing their way across his chest plate, his fangs biting his bottom lip and, finally, lying side by side, embracing him immediately after they finished.

Yes…lying there with Megatron in his arms, softly kissing him in the dark…that was Optimus' most favorite Beltane memory.

Then Optimus recalled how, afterward, he stumbled into the shadows before Megatron came out of his sex daze. He was afraid of being recognized. But he stayed long enough to watch…Megatron was so aroused by the experience that he masturbated right there in the alley. It wasn't the act that made it memorable, it was what he said as he brought himself to a last, powerful overload: "Whoever you are…I'll never forget your touch. I love you, shadow bot. Find me again someday and let me see you in the light."

Ever since then, Optimus could never really look into Megatron's optics with complete hatred. Each time he tried to, he remembered him rocking in ecstasy in that alleyway. How could he hate someone who spoke so beautifully?

"My best was two hundred years ago for me, too. I--" A slow smile lit up Optimus' entire face. He had perfect, straight teeth, but no fangs. Knowing Megatron remembered that night with such love gave him courage. He traced Megatron's bottom lip and brushed his knuckles across his cheek. "--made love to someone in an alleyway. He said he'd never forget my touch, that he loved me. He wanted to see me in the light."

Megatron's mouth dropped slightly.

"That all-black fellow--that was you?" he asked, incredulous.

"I never touched anyone else after you. I--was off-world last time, but I thought of you." Optimus felt the last of his fear melt away. The reaction wasn't disgust, it was surprise. Pleasant surprise. He bent over and ravished Megatron's mouth the way he did at the festival. "Megatron, I've had feelings about you for so long. That night--it was my chance to show you--I'm sorry for hiding my identity from you."

He heard a moan, but whether it was pleasure or pain he couldn't tell.

Suddenly, Megatron gasped and fell back. He would have smacked his head on the table if Optimus wasn't holding him. His hand went to his mouth. Understanding, Optimus sat him up and held a metal bucket under his mouth while he vomited bright violet energon.

"Blech! Sorry--" Megatron heaved into the bucket. "I'm not trying to insult your amazing kissing abilities."

"It's out of your control." Optimus patted Megatron's back and wiped his face clean with a rag. He eased him to lie back again, pulling the sheets up around his wounds. They, too, were starting to leak energon. Megatron began to pant, which meant his coolant pumps were damaged and forcing his body to regulate heat with air flow.

"You were amazing that night. Why didn't you reveal yourself? Why did you run off? Primus, Optimus, all these years I spent hating you…"

"I--I was a coward."

Optimus expected Megatron to be angry. Instead, the Decepticon smiled a sad, wistful smile up at the ceiling. He took Optimus' hand. He had this weird, sensual way of stroking down the length of his fingers. "I had a feeling when you bent down into the light…I was hoping, even, that I was right. Now I know." He faltered, "Yes, now that I'm touching you, it's coming back to me. Your hands are a dead giveaway. How foolish of me not to notice when I grabbed them in battle. It aroused me…I was puzzled for years because of that. Your stupid hands caused me to spend a lot of time alone."

That made Optimus laugh. Megatron joined in, though laughing caused him to gasp in pain. He calmed down and relaxed until he fell asleep. Seeing him sleep was strange--he snored a little--and he kept one hand up next to his cheek.

Things settled into a lull. Optimus dozed on and off, waking occasionally to feel Megatron stroking his hand. Sometimes he awoke long enough to kiss Megatron's fingertips. The monitors beeped around them. It was so calm, dark and still in the room.

Then, out of the blue, Megatron whispered, "Shut me down."

"What?" Optimus jerked awake as if struck. Did he hear that right? "I--can't do that! You can't fight back! I can't kill you like that."

"Don't make me beg, Optimus!" Megatron growled. Pain and desperation showed in his eyes. "My arms are going to fail soon. I don't want to spend my days helplessly pissing in tubes and being carted around by nurses. I don't want to be pitied and I especially don't want to forget who I am. Cascade failures happen with injuries like this. Why go like that when I can just get it over with now? If you really love me, you'll do this." He looked up, his lower lip quivering. "Please--Prime, help me die while I still have my dignity."

He wanted to die like a warrior, with his mental faculties intact. Optimus understood his reasoning. Megatron deserved a dignified death.

Optimus bent and reached under the sheet. He found the switch beside Megatron's Spark chamber. Flipping the switch would extinguish the Spark and painlessly end his life.

Megatron stretched his hand out to brush the tears off Optimus' cheek. "Don't cover your face anymore. You're too stunning to hide behind a mask."

"I won't. For you."

Another faint, tired smile. "If my mouth falls open when I go…do me a favor and close it for me. I--don't want to look like I died screaming." Pain made him groan. Once upon a time he moaned like that in pleasure.

"Shh, I'll handle it." Optimus cupped his cheek. "Take it easy, soldier."

"Soldier…" snickered Megatron, "Old habits die hard." The smirk he wore became a grimace. "Let's finish this."

Optimus heaved a heavy sigh. This was undoubtedly the most painful thing he'd ever do in his life. He stood up and gave Megatron a stiff salute. Megatron lifted his shaking hand and returned it. Their eyes were locked, both seeing memories of war, anguish and pain. Then Megatron's hand reached up, taking hold of Optimus'.

Dimming his optics, Optimus bent down to kiss the fallen Decepticon leader again. Megatron opened his mouth. Their tongues touched and danced like their bodies did at Beltane. It was passionate, feverish, an expression of the words they were too proud to say out loud until time ran out.

"Do it." hissed Megatron, "I'm tired and in pain. End this pain. End this war."

"Megatron…I--"

"Flip the switch, Optimus. Don't tell me when you're going to do it. Just do it. Please, Optimus…"

Optimus steeled himself and pressed a fierce kiss to Megatron's open mouth. He flipped the switch and immediately felt Megatron's internal systems grind to a halt. Megatron wouldn't feel a thing. He didn't even know his switch had been flipped and he only had thirty seconds to live. Optimus kept his hand under the blanket.

Thirty, twenty nine

Megatron shuddered. "I feel so cold…"

"It's going to be okay," Optimus gasped between lip locks. He brushed his mouth side to side against Megatron's bottom lip. Touch was the last sense to fade when a Cybertronian died. Optimus wanted Megatron's last conscious memory to be their lips pressed in love. Megatron still responded, the movements of his lips and tongue growing slower and weaker.

Twenty four, twenty three

The monitors beeped more erratically. Optimus reached over and turned off the alarms so they wouldn't startle Megatron. A second after he did that, they flashed warning lights.

twenty one

Megatron grabbed his hand, "Hold me--like--Beltane."

There was just enough room to climb onto the table. Optimus stretched out next to Megatron and embraced him, ghosting soft kisses across his forehead and cheek. Megatron brushed the tears off his face with the back of his index finger. Optimus interlocked their fingers. Without his face plate, he was completely unable to hide his pain. Primus, this tore him apart inside!

eleven

Megatron squeezed his hand. Optimus brought that hand to his mouth and kissed it. He put Megatron's arm around him and leaned forward. Their mouths found each other and locked together again. Optimus took Megatron's face between his hands and looked straight into his flickering optics. In them, he saw a reflection of his own tear stained face.

The way Megatron's eyes shone burned itself into his memory forever. That look--that same smoldering, loving, passionate look he saw at the Beltane festival two centuries ago--was being offered to him again.

seven, six, five

Optimus didn't think when he said the next three words. They just spilled out in a rush of emotion between kisses.

"I love you."

three, two, one

The monitors began to flat line.

"Op…ti…mus…" Megatron whispered against Optimus' lips. It was a benediction rolling off his tongue, three fragile syllables that spoke of forgiveness, love and desire. Then he sighed as if releasing a heavy burden. His hand went limp, his red optics faded like molten steel doused in water and his mouth relaxed completely.

Optimus froze, wide-eyed, his lips still touching Megatron's, searching for a response, a flutter, a twitch, but there was nothing. It took him a moment to realize Megatron's mouth was shut because his kiss held it that way. He trembled and drew back. Death was nothing new to Optimus, he'd seen it a million times, so he knew exactly what he'd see. Megatron didn't look like himself anymore--his optics were black and his mouth gaped open, baring his fangs in a silent scream.

He was gone.

Out of all the deaths Optimus witnessed, this one hurt the most. He slipped his arms around Megatron's neck, resting cheek to cheek against him. It was strange to feel Megatron lay so still when he'd been moving and talking a few seconds ago. Talking with that beautiful, deep voice. Now he was silent. Forever.

"The war is over for you, Megatron," he whispered. "It's all over."

It didn't have to be over now. They could have ended it two centuries ago. But no--he had to hide behind black paint or a silver face plate because he was an Autobot and Megatron was a Decepticon. He'd listened to the masses instead of his own emotions. If he'd just spoken up that Beltane night…if he hadn't run away…

Wasted. A wasted love, a wasted opportunity.

Mech-fluid tears flooded down the face of Optimus Prime. He shuddered until, finally, he broke down and sobbed. He cried for the first time in--in--he couldn't even remember. His tears merged with the ones on Megatron's cheeks, turning them into larger blobs that trickled away.

Optimus cried until Cybertron's sun shone through the window to cast white patterns on the opposite wall. All the crying in the universe wouldn't bring Megatron back, but he cried anyway. He cried and cried until Megatron's face was soaked in his tears. He cried until he couldn't make a sound.

Three hours passed before he regained anything resembling composure. Three painful, agonizing hours before he realized he couldn't hold his dead lover forever. He had to put him down and let him go.

Optimus laid Megatron back down on the table and placed his hands at his sides.

"If my mouth falls open when I go…do me a favor and close it for me. I--don't want to look like I died screaming."

Sighing, Optimus slipped a hand under Megatron's jaw and pushed it shut. He tucked a rolled up towel under his chin to keep his mouth in a dignified state of closure. It was the least he could do.

Megatron looked more like his cool, calculating self. No, not quite…he looked even better--he looked happy, as if in the middle of a wonderful dream. Optimus touched his lips to Megatron's forehead and mouth, looked once more at his calm face and drew the sheet up over his head. He smoothed it down until he was sure it wouldn't slip off and expose his horrible wounds to unprepared eyes.

Finally, there was nothing more to be done.

Optimus wanted to scream. He left the room, banging the door shut on his way out. Anguish at the loss curled his delicate lips in an ugly sneer. Everyone in his path gave him a wide berth.

At the doorway, he paused to say, "Megatron is dead. Take care of him--and don't let his mouth hang open."

That was all he said before he transformed and drove away.

.o

Optimus found the radicals responsible for the bombing. Witnesses said he burst in on their hideout, screamed Megatron's name and executed them on the spot. No trial, just five quick deaths. It was so ruthless and unlike him. People cheered when he did it…which disgusted him once he came to his senses and realized what he did. He vowed that those were the last five lives he would ever take as long as peace remained on Cybertron.

The government actually paid him for the executions. The bodies of the radicals were put on display as a deterrent against further terrorist activities. No reports of bombings came once the bodies went on public display.

Megatron's remains were disassembled seven days after his death. Optimus didn't watch the procedure, but he saw the aftermath pass on a conveyor belt. He wished he hadn't looked. Seeing Megatron looking like a pile of useless junk made his Spark ache. The parts fell off the belt and into a pile of other deceased Transformers who willed their bodies to be used as parts. More parts piled on top of his remains, burying all but his two serrated antler-like antennae and one shoulder tread. His smaller parts--optic lenses, servos, turbines, tubing and bolts--would be saved and transplanted to Cybertronians who needed them. The rest would be either melted down, recycled as building materials for ships or used to create new Cybertronian bodies.

The pile didn't discriminate. Autobots and Decepticons were stored together. One couldn't tell which part was what unless someone happened upon an identifiable sigil.

"Optimus Prime?"

Optimus turned to the cadet. He was blue with a pointy head. No, it wasn't Thrust, he was too short to be Thrust. Optimus swore he saw that cadet before--he was the little guy who turned into an old-fashioned biplane. The cadet gave him an equally surprised look. It must have been the missing face plate. Not wearing it always threw people off because he just didn't look fierce without it.

"Yes, I'm Optimus. But I don't believe we've met."

The cadet gave a quick salute, "Cadet Propeller, sir."

"At ease," Optimus said. "What can I do for you?"

Propeller reached into a panel on his side and produced an object wrapped in cloth. "When I downloaded Megatron's Will from his mainframe, I was instructed to give this to you. His exact words were, 'This has and always will belong to Optimus Prime.'" When Optimus accepted the offering, Propeller saluted again. He reminded Optimus of his cadet years, back when he had more spunk in his Spark.

War tended to erode that spunk away pretty quick. This cadet wouldn't have to worry about that.

Optimus smiled slightly, his blue face gentle. "Thank you, cadet. Dismissed."

Another salute. Then Propeller hurried away. Anybody could see his eagerness to tell his friends he just talked to Optimus Prime. That happened a lot among youngsters.

I wonder if Megatron got the same thing from Decepticon cadets, Optimus mused as he unwrapped the metal box. He lifted the lid and his optics instantly misted over.

It was Megatron's Spark chamber, polished clean and pure.

A small lump grew in Optimus' throat. His lips quivered as he turned the golden object over in his hands. Spark chambers were the Cybertronian heart. It held their essence, their soul.

Few had gold chambers. Perhaps one in one million.

Without another thought, Optimus flipped his chest plate open to expose his innards. Then he opened the front of his dirty, war-filthy steel Spark chamber, which rested just below his Matrix of Leadership, and pressed the open side of Megatron's chamber against it. His Spark transferred without incident. He pushed the new Spark chamber into his chest after removing the old one and closed the panel. He took the dirty, used case to the conveyer belt.

The belt jolted into motion with a mechanical whine. Optimus watched his old Spark chamber get whisked away, taking his pain, sorrow and anguish with it.

Optimus turned away to see a small gathering of cadets eagerly watching him. Their excited eyes and curious smiles were like solder on an aching battle scar. Optimus smiled back at them. "Who wants to hear a war story?"

Shouts of "Me!" nearly drowned out the mechanical noises of the scrap area.

"Tell us about your fights with Megatron!" someone else called.

"Which one?" Optimus laughed and wiped at his optics. Tears had no place in front of cadets. "I have a million."

More excited chatter.

Optimus seated himself on a transport crate and decided to start from the beginning. His tale spanned the long history of the war. He answered questions and explained details for whoever came late and got dragged into the tale. He finished the entire story in just under five hours. His closing words were, "If you ever come to love someone, just tell them. Don't wait until the last minute."

Looking around, Optimus realized Decepticon cadets were sitting amongst the Autobot cadets. He wouldn't have noticed if he didn't spot their sigils. The two groups were sitting together, united by the tale of a war spanning longer than their lifetimes. A war of hate that ended in love.

All are one… Optimus felt his emotions running away with him again. We don't have to segregate, Megatron…I wish you could see this. Your life wasn't wasted or worthless. It's teaching them what we learned the hard way. I swear that I'll make it my life's work to tell the younger generations our story. I'll--

It was too much. Optimus let his face plate slide out and put a hand over his optics. All the years of maintaining a straight face were catching up. Too many emotions battered a wall he couldn't keep up any longer.

Hiding behind masks…that's what causes wars. No more hiding.

He lowered his hand and retracted his mask again. He let the cadets see his tears, let them see how much he loved Megatron and how badly he grieved for him. The youngsters instantly surrounded him, some climbing on his lap, some hugging his arms, others embracing his neck and still more asking him if he was all right.

"I--will be," he said, looking up.

Optimus felt suddenly at peace with the loss of Megatron. They only got to love each other for a few hours…but he got his true feelings out and discovered they were reciprocated. He couldn't imagine a more beautiful final moment--to die while being kissed and held by the love of his life. Optimus would remember that precious moment for the rest of his life.

His mind flashed to the image of Megatron as he looked the day he walked out of the peace talks. The image glanced over its shoulder, chuckled and resumed walking until it faded through a doorway high in the blue sky.

The war…it just ended for me. Optimus turned towards the cadets' touch and smiled. His tears wicked down his face and onto their hands. It's over and I'm going to be okay.