The Ties That Bind Us

Chapter One

Plenoptic

This story came to me out of the blue. One would think my imagination would get tired after writing all day, but no. This will be a major break from my romance streak, and will be published in large parts over long periods of time. This focuses on Megatron and Optimus, brothers that they are. Where did things go wrong? Please enjoy, please review, in that order.

Note: This takes place years and years and years and YEARS before the events of TF:TM, during a time during which Ironhide, Magnus, Kup, Prowl, and Ratchet were all young officers within the Autobot ranks. And I realize that yes, at this time there were no Decepticons, but I'm using rebel forces as substitutes. Hope you understand, please and thank you.

. B E G I N . T R A N S M I S S I O N .

The youngling stirred very slightly in his sleep. His cerebral processor had begun to play back dreams more and more often lately, occupying his hours in recharge and haunting the hours he spent awake. What these dreams meant the poor little creature couldn't piece together; they showed light suddenly plunging into darkness, a laugh turning to a sob, one breaking into two. As hard as he tried he could not explain these dreams rationally to any of his caretakers, and they all worried about the youngling. He was fragile as it was, small for his age, and such trauma during the time he was supposed to spend resting couldn't be good for the little one. Ironhide in particular seemed disgruntled by it; he and the child had been close ever since the youngling's creation, though the gruff weapons officer would never admit to his affection openly—not that it wasn't obvious anyway.

In truth, the entire military feared for the youngling. He was precious, one of the few living younglings amidst the battle-scarred planet. The rebel forces were increasing in strength, desperate to overthrow the High Council, desperate to place Cybertron under different rule.

That youngling alone could bring balance. That youngling alone could bring peace.

He whimpered and rolled restlessly over onto his side, his small fingers clutching at the flat surface of his recharge bed. In his dream, he was falling. It seemed an immeasurably long distance to the ground, then he realized he was falling upwards. How? How did one fall upwards? What about gravity? the youngling wondered, even in his unconscious state. You can't fall up! Suddenly he wasn't falling up, he struck the ground and moments before the pain hit he awoke.

He cried out. He hadn't meant to; he tried desperately to quiet his own voice, but another cry followed the first, slowly developing into shaky, almost silent sobs. The youngling clutched his head, his Spark clenching painfully. It was so confusing! The dreams of falling up and hitting the ground, the dreams where the sun was black and the moons shone on their own, the nightmares where some indomitable, awful evil threatened to collapse upon him…no, no….it was too much, too much…!

"Shhh…it's okay, lil' one. Ah'm here. It's okay…"

Giant arms lifted him up, his small body pulled and cuddled into a huge chassis. His own childish instincts took over and he buried himself in Ironhide's embrace, searching for and finding the warmth of his giant guardian's mighty Spark. Getting a hold of himself, he felt his faceplates redden with embarrassment; he was barely out of his sparklinghood, yes, but he was, in his mind, too old to be coddled.

"I'm okay," he sniffled, trying to pull away, but Ironhide's grip only tightened, suspending the youngling to his chest.

"No, yer not," Ironhide growled, rocking back and forth slightly in an effort to calm the little one's squirming. "Settle down. Ya had anothah nightmare, didn' ya?"

The youngling froze, and Ironhide felt the small head bob up and down against his chest. "But I'm okay now. It was nothing."

The giant mech sighed and ran gentle fingers down the youngling's back, a low hum purring within his chassis. The child relaxed slightly, soothed by his guardian's touch. "Hey. Listen ta me, lil' one. Yer just a kid. Ya don' have ta take on all th' pain by yerself. It's okay. Ah'm here for ya. Ya don' have ta be so strong, Optimus."

The youngling curled into a tight ball against the warm chassis, his small sobs escalating slightly. "I was so scared. I was so scared! I was falling up…I was falling into the sky, then I hit the ground. It was…how do you fall up? How? It's not…what about gravity? What about the laws of attraction?"

Ironhide laughed, knowing full well that his levity was out of place. "Optimus, ya're th' only youngling in th' slaggin' universe who worries abou' th' laws o' attraction."

"They're important!" Optimus argued indignantly, turning his bright blue optics upwards to glare reproachfully up at his guardian. "If we didn't have gravity, we'd all fly off into space and…" he trailed off, and his optics widened very slightly at the thought of drifting helplessly into space. Seeing the momentary alarm, Ironhide wiped the tears from the youngling's face, his thumb caressing his cheek gently.

"Ah'll have ta talk ta Ratchet abou' wha' he tells ya," the trigger-happy mech said softly. "Scarin' ya like tha'…"

Optimus pressed his small face back into Ironhide's chest, instinctively curling into a tight ball. The giant mech hugged the youngling, allowing the warmth of his Spark to seep into Optimus's small body. It never ceased to amaze the weapons officer how fragile Optimus truly was; how small, how delicate, how weak, how easily he could be broken. That such a feeble creature could have such an impact on headquarters was incredible. From the time he was a sparkling every mech on base had been charmed, even touched by the child's sincere efforts at making peace, at growing stronger. And for those select few Optimus came into regular contact with, he was as much a part of their Sparks as the military itself. He was precious, a living blessing. He was loved, even adored by the usually gruff Autobot officers. He was coddled by the few femmes on base, but seemed to prefer tagging along with the mechs on all of their ventures about headquarters.

He was usually so happy, so energetic, despite his unstable condition. The smile never faded from his faceplates…except on nights like this, when all lights were out and the darkness was allowed to pervade the deepest corners of his mind.

"Why me?" Optimus whispered, his tiny voice shaking as he spoke. "Why me? Why…why do I dream like this, Ironhide? Why?"

Ironhide sighed, resuming his rocking motion. "Ah guess Primus jus' has yer numbah, lil' guy."

"…Guess so," the youngling mumbled, his optics feeling heavy once more. It was so warm…wrapped in Ironhide's colossal arms, he felt so safe…he didn't have to be strong…not yet…

Not yet…

Med bay

"Hey, Ratchet. I think I'm taller now."

The medic looked up and smiled at the youngling seated across from the med bay table. Optimus grinned widely. "I mean it. I think I've gotten taller."

"In the past two days? Well, aren't you an amazing little mech."

"C'mon, will you measure me?"

"I don't think even your skeletal makeup grows that fast, Optimus. It takes time, little one."

The youngling sighed heavily and rested his chin on the steel surface. "Fine. I guess I'll just have to go for another few weeks wondering if I'm any closer to growing taller than Ironhide. I guess I'll just have to spend the next few weeks wondering, wondering, if I'm really getting any better. I guess I'll grow up and remember Ratchet, who deprived me of the one thing I ever, ever asked from him. I guess…"

"Alright, cut the theatrics," Ratchet sighed, rolling his optics. "Butt to the wall, I'll measure you."

With a squeal of delight Optimus leapt from his seat and stood soldier-straight against the med bay wall, just next to the door. The wall was lined with scratch marks, each one a record of another inch or so on the youngling's small frame. Ratchet bent down on one knee—even in such a position he was much taller than Optimus—and frowned slightly. Of course two days wasn't enough for a sickly young mech to grow even a centimeter. Optimus's head met the previous scratch mark exactly. Biting his lower lip, Ratchet made a mark an inch higher; if there was anything the little bot needed now, it was a victory, not another disappointment.

"Look at that," Ratchet said, smiling as Optimus stepped away and spun around to look at the wall. "Another inch. You really are an amazing youngling."

"I grew!" Optimus said, his little face lighting up. "I actually grew! Hey, Ratch—maybe I'm really getting better, huh?"

The medic looked down at the tiny mech, looked down at the bright, hopeful blue optics. Optimus was far too small to be fitted into armor; splashes of red and blue hid amongst the mess of wires that made up his body. Plates had begun to form along his chest and thighs, and the wires had strengthened into cords along his shoulders. Once out of sparklinghood most mechs were ready to be fitted for armor, but the youngling before him was years and years behind. Whether it was a glitch in his system or some strange illness Ratchet had no way of knowing. Lost in his thoughts, he absently ran gentle fingers down the side of Optimus's soft faceplates, his optics darkening slightly. Optimus caught his older friend's large hand in his own tiny grip, his face crossed with worry.

"Ratchet?"

The medic snapped out of his reverie, brought back by the child's tentative plea. "Hm? Oh, sorry, sorry…well then. What are you up to?" he asked, standing and going back to his med table. Optimus followed him loyally, a bounce in his step.

"Ironhide says I can go to the shooting range with him," the youngling said proudly, squirming back into his seat. "I only get to watch, though," he added quickly as Ratchet released a low growl at Ironhide's irresponsibility. "Iron's not so careless to let me hold a gun yet." There was a touch of resent in the small voice, and the medic smirked.

"Don't be so eager to pull the trigger, my friend. It's a dangerous, dangerous thing. And don't let that trigger-happy drone tell you otherwise," he said, poking the little mech's stomach and smiling in satisfaction at the delighted giggle it ensued. "Where's your brother?"

Optimus shrugged. "I dunno. I haven't seen him in a few days."

Ratchet frowned; the sparkling rarely left his older brother's side. "Who do you suppose he's with?"

"I'll bet Magnus has him," Optimus replied, bending over to tinker with a strange, whirring piece of equipment. "I think Megatron likes him best."

Ratchet nodded thoughtfully; the quiet little mech did have a tendency to tail the senior warrior. Ultra Magnus never seemed to mind. On the contrary, he quite enjoyed the company.

Megatron. Still a sparkling, but already the pride and joy of the military. Unlike his older brother, he was ahead of his development schedule; in a few years he'd be ready for armor. The little mech was intelligent if quiet, a deep thinker, but certainly not modest. The sparkling had the annoying habit of relapsing from his silence and boasting loudly if he made a great accomplishment. Most of his talk was garbled, as his voice transmitter was not yet fully developed, but it was obvious he was expecting praise once that little mouth got going. His incessant bragging was enough to drive even the patient Sentinel Prime up the wall, and the best of mechs couldn't keep the sparkling quiet.

Only Optimus could ever get Megatron to shut up. A gentle "hush" was all that was required, a raise of the optic ridges, and the sparkling's jaw snapped shut. The brothers were close, they always had been, and at times Ratchet wondered just how close they really were. It was as though they could communicate without speaking; it was as though they could sense the other's presense even if they were a hundred miles apart. At times Optimus would leap from his perch in Ratchet's med bay and charge down hallway after hallway to some secluded part of base to find Megatron trapped under something or other, having played where he shouldn't have. The few times this occurred had been very serious indeed; developed as he was a sparkling was still a sparkling, and sparklings don't do well when crushed beneath a few hundred pounds of steel supplies. Optimus's "feelings" of his brother's status had more than once saved Megatron's life.

Of course, the favor was returned both ways. On several occasions Megatron had woken the older mechs, insisting that something was wrong with his older brother; indeed, when a disgruntled Ironhide or Ratchet was dragged out of recharge it was to find a writhing Optimus in a traumatized fit, nightmares pulsing through his small mind. Ratchet knew enough about younglings to deem that recurring, intense terror wasn't good for the cerebral processors…Megatron's equal "feelings" for his brother had more than once saved Optimus's very sanity.

The little mechs were special, undoubtedly. There was something about them. Primus seemed to have both their numbers.

"I'm gonna go find him," Optimus said abruptly, sliding from his seat. "I found something cool yesterday, I want him to see…"

"Optimus?" Ratchet said worriedly, peering after him. "Hey, Optimus! What is it? Optimus!"

But the youngling was out the door.

"Brother…w-wait…"

Optimus turned and sighed impatiently. "You're so slow, Megatron. Move your aft."

Megatron's bright blue optics widened. "Y-You said a bad word."

"So what, are you gonna tell on me? Just move a bit faster, okay?"

Megatron's lower lip trembled slightly, but he quickened his pace, struggling to keep up with his older brother. Optimus turned and felt a slight twinge of regret; sparklings kinda did have little legs. With a sigh, he extended his hand, which Megatron took gratefully, his small fingers closing tentatively around his brother's.

"Trust me," Optimus whispered, a smile lifting his lips. "It's worth it."

The sparkling's optics brightened; his brother was good at finding interesting little pieces of history lying around base. They'd once found a chamber below Ratchet's med bay containing living core Sparks, each perfectly preserved within a translucent plexisteel case. When they leaned close, both sparklings swore they heard the Sparks whispering their names; it had scared them so badly they'd both run out in hysteric tears, but had gone back nearly every day for weeks afterwards just to hear their ancestors speak as if they knew them.

"Hey, we're here," Optimus said quietly, releasing his brother's hand as they approached a tall steel door. Megatron frowned; there was a digit pad high above their heads.

"How do we get in?" he asked anxiously, tugging Optimus's fingers. "Brother?"

"You gotta climb on my shoulders," Optimus instructed. "I know the password, I saw Prowl put it in once."

Megatron's optics widened. "You memorized it?"

"Yup," Optimus said proudly, tapping his head. "It's all up here. Hurry, climb up, it's cool. Go on!"

He crouched down, and the sparkling tentatively placed a foot on each of his brother's shoulders, his legs trembling. Optimus stood slowly, his hands supporting Megatron's ankles to help the little mech keep his balance.

"I don't know about this," Megatron moaned nervously. "Optimus…"

"Shhh, it'll be okay," the youngling coaxed. "Listen, ready to put in the combo?"

"Yeah…"

"Okay, listen up. It's five…two…seven five one zero…"

"Huh?"

After several tries and much groaning, the digit pad beeped and a monotone announced that the doors were unlocked. Megatron climbed hurriedly from his brother's shoulders; Optimus was already pushing against the door.

"Help me, don't just stand there!" he grunted, pushing his shoulder against the door. "You're stronger than me…"

Megatron hurried forward, pressing the palms of his hands against the steel; with much grunting and more groaning yet the door swung open enough to admit them both enough room to squeeze through. Once inside, Optimus grinned proudly and pointed; Megatron followed his brother's finger and gasped.

It was a mech. He was huge, giant, and perfectly still. Wires ran from various circuit openings in his arms and legs, but his optics were offline and his head was bowed.

"He's in terminal lock," Optimus whispered, clutching his brother's hand. "Isn't he cool? Wonder who he is…"

Megatron shook his head wordlessly, curling his shoulders inward as Optimus led him forward. "I-I don't like it here…brother, let's go back…"

"Aw, quit being such a baby…we might not get to come back…ha ha, he's got a beard…" Optimus sniggered and walked right up to offline mech. He reached out with small fingers and lightly brushed the bot's foot. He and Megatron both cried out as the foot twitched; there was a whir, and the optics flickered online. They backed into the wall, Megatron's face torn with terror and Optimus's with wonder. The giant mech's lips moved, and after a few failed attempts a gravely rasp was emitted.

"Optimus…you've grown."

The smile slipped from the youngling's face like a drop of energon off of steel. He knows my name. He reached instinctively for the door, pulled his younger brother protectively behind him; Megatron had begun to cry. Optimus hushed him quickly, but the sniffling continued. "Brother, I'm scared…"

"Optimus," the mech said hoarsely, and the youngling jumped, panic wracking his Spark. Gotta get Megatron away… "No…do not be afraid, little one. You needn't be afraid…not of me. Come here…"

He stretched out a giant hand, and Optimus had the sudden, crazy urge to run forward, to be cradled in the mech's huge chassis… he heard Megatron squeal, felt little arms clench around his waist with a whispered "No!" but before the youngling had moved two steps a voice erupted from the door.

"Trion! No! Optimus, you stay where you are!"

Three heads snapped around, and relief swept through Megatron. Sentinel Prime stood in the doorway, flanked by Ironhide and Ultra Magnus. The Autobot commander's optics were alive with fury, his face contorted with anger. Optimus blinked, confused by his father-figure's hostility. There was no time to ponder it further, however, for the next moment he was swept into Ironhide's strong arms, cradled against his guardian's chest. Megatron was similarly lifted by Magnus, though was much more compliant.

"Yer ah lil' trouble maker, ya know tha'?" Ironhide growled, embracing the struggling youngling tightly. "Primus, Ah was worried 'bout ya…don' do tha' ta me ever again, ya hear?"

Optimus stopped his squirming to look up at Ironhide's somber face, and confusion tugged at his Spark. "Iron…what'd I do?"

The weapons officer shook his head, stroking the small face looking so angelically up at him. "Nah, don' worry 'bout it…c'mon, we're leavin'," he added, shooting a reproachful glare at the mech across the room. Optimus began to argue but at a single cold glance from Sentinel fell silent. He pressed tight against Ironhide's chassis, reveling in the warmth of his guardian's Spark. He felt, in the back of his own, a tentative touch; Megatron reaching out, searching for his older brother's reassurance, which Optimus was only too happy to give.

The door swung shut, hiding Trion and Sentinel from view.

. E N D . T R A N S M I S S I O N .

Aaaah, so nice to have chapter one done…. it took me an awfully long time to finish, truthfully. It's actually quite fun, writing about a young Megatron… I spend many math periods wondering about his and Optimus's relationship before war tore them apart.

I must add, for those of you who aren't familiar with him, that in the comic series Sentinel Prime was Optimus's predecessor and idol. He's much like Optimus as an adult, so if you need help picturing his character picture our favorite femme magnet. I believe Sentinel was killed by Megatron…oooh, wouldn't THAT be an interesting turn of events…well, in the meantime, please enjoy, please review, in that order.

Plenoptic