Disclaimer: I, in no way, shape, or form, own the Transformers© franchise or the characters it contains. All publicly recognizable characters are copyrighted to Hasbro, and the respective artists/writers/et cetera. No infringement intended.

Continuity: TF2K7 (Transformers 2007 movie-verse)

Characters: Optimus Prime, Ironhide

Warnings: None.

Author's Note: Criticism encouraged, technical points preferable.

Yes. I really do dislike Prime.

--

"You know the Decepticons will come as well."

Prime's optics flickered briefly in the twilight. It wasn't a question.

"I know." The Autobot leader sighed, putting a hand over his weary optics. Marshalling himself, he drew forth the needed words. "I cannot leave our own to the void – not when we have a chance for a new home. A new start."

Ironhide snorted, twisting his head around to nod at the razor edge that was the horizon. "And we'll call down the rest of their forces to wipe us out as soon as the last of us arrive. A nice beginning." He stopped, brooding.

Grateful for the lapse, Prime glanced up, hoping to see his friend of old there, to see some sort of secondhand validation, that what he had done was right. Instead, he met strangely distant, hard optics, that accused vaguely of things unspoken - but knew their place. That, perhaps, was the most hurtful of all.

"Ironhide," he began, pleading his case, desperate for some sort of forgiveness for what he had done.

With cutting intuition, the grizzled soldier said, "You don't want a home. You want a battleground."

Prime remained silent, taking in the grim countenance of his last, true companion from Cybertron. Though wounded, he forced his expression into stillness, into the visage of a leader absolute, well-assured in his reasoning. His head turned, following the path that Ironhide's had followed, seeing beyond the mere curve of a planet - out into a ruined place, left abandoned and dying in space. Staring out as the last of the sun hid behind the roll of hills, guttering like a dying Spark, he nodded, confirming what Ironhide had already known.

Behind him, the shadows grew long and thick, quickly covering where his companions had stood. Did they know? Had they, too, figured out his special brand of malice? Did they hate him for what he had done, what he intended to do?

The fair and just Prime. They would follow him to the end, regardless of what further horrors he visited upon them.

"I thought as much."

Reluctantly, Optimus adjusted his optics accordingly, the gloom twisting alarmingly as the visual spectrum changed. He picked out the asymmetrical out line of a tree against the blackness of space, struck in hard relief before star and darkness, alien and strange to his mind. There was the gentle hunch of a rolling hill, furry with long grasses already withering in the coming heat of summer, scorched by the benevolent sun. Insects hummed and droned, hidden amongst the foliage, simple beings with simple lives, uncaring of wars of hate and regret.

Such a world… such a world to make a final stand.

"Optimus…" Ironhide trailed off, shifting uncomfortably, appealing to what was left of what had come before the Prime. He folded his arms before him, glancing back at his leader, then nodded to the section of sky where the sun had fallen. "Can this planet survive our war?" His voice was a gruff sort of softness, melding with the sounds of night.

Optimus looked away. Quietly, honestly, he answered. "I don't know."

Ironhide nodded to himself.

"Are there any more of us left?"

"I don't know."

"Is there any other way to end this?"

He almost answered with the truth, as he had before. But the leader, the Prime, could no afford such weakness, such uncertainty. No. He must be as he was chosen to be, as he had been. "No. It must end here." His voice grew hard and steely, a counterpoint to his earlier responses. Then, almost begging for the soldier to understand, to agree with him: "One more world, Ironhide. One more world and this can be finished."

"Mmph." Ironhide responded ambiguously, lurching free of his prop. He snorted. "Very well. You are the Prime." His engine revved, as if in warning, but his gruff voice intoned, "You have our trust." He turned to face the commander, adding with resentful bitterness at the question inherent in his leader's gaze. "You have our loyalty."

"Do I?" Optimus asked, hushed at the accusation, at the disapproval, evident in the soldier's timbre. A wry grin twisted his lips, a mockery of the meaning behind it. "Do I truly? Do I have yours?"

He felt the other mech slam his shoulder as he went by, as unwilling to change his course as the Prime was to move aside. Optimus rocked with the motion, refusing to turn and gauge his longtime companion's expression. Ironhide hesitated, wavering on his decision. Then, with a bite that sheared the larger Autobot to the core:

"It is as you will it, leader."

A war-build's words. Decepticons words.

Ironhide strode past quickly, without turning back, transforming as he went.

Then he was gone.

Optimus flinched, his head bowed low. Of course Ironhide would have seen it; he was shrewd, a Spark built for warfare, instinctively knowing every nuance of battle – be it with weapons or words. He should have realized his duplicity would not go unnoted. A heady sense of loss and sorrow gripped him, speaking of things long gone, and newly lost. So many sacrifices. So much grief. Was it all truly worth this? Was it all they had to go on for - more fighting, more wars? Where did it all end?

One more world.

A place to call home, indeed. Another planet to be shattered in a war that destroyed everything it touched.

Did they think him noble, those humans he had aided? Beyond his impressive altruism and apparent self-sacrifice, did they think him nobility personified, a being of good there to protect and guide them?

In the end… was he any better than Megatron?

He cried out softly, aghast at the traitorous thought. He was nothing like his fallen Brother! Megatron was wrong - he had destroyed their home, broken their people into shades and reflections of their former selves. They could not be alike.

Ah, but was he not bitter as Megatron had been, now? Had not the fighting gone on too long, corrupting even the best among them? How could he truly say he had not become as his ancient enemy - driven by a selfishness and a desire so intense it consumed him utterly?

Desperate, his optics swept the lip of the world, searching for some higher meaning, some way to combat what his Spark told him—

But met only the silent accusation of an innocent world, slated to die for the sake their - of his - pride.

Pride. He knew much of it. Had he not destroyed his own world, simply to keep the Allspark from Megatron's hands? Did he not – even as he strove to save them – already think how resourceful these organics were, how useful they would be toward his end of eliminating the threat of the Decepticons? He had thought of it often, watching them, twisting them toward his own ends - even as he told himself he did it out of a selflessness born of righteous intent. And to lure in the last of his fellows with promises of a home – then to turn them to battle once more, to let them lose a second world, a second chance…

Cruelty, it seemed, welled from even the noblest of intentions. Perhaps that is what had happened to his counterpart – losing himself, claiming that the end justified the means. Thus had Megatron lost his honor.

Ah, but he! He was the worst of all, the liar with false promises of peace and happiness; who spoke eloquently of freedom and justice and yet disregarded such ideals when it came to his own ends. Someone trusted and respected, thought of as a kind, fair spark. Once, he had believed it himself, had thought all he did was for the greater good, noble in his cause.

… When had he become such a monster?

Optimus stared out into the darkness, and knew despair.