Disclaimer: I don't own the Transformers, obviously.
AN: This bit presented itself to me while I was listening to 'Small Hours' by Rob Thomas.
Also, belated thanks to everyone who favorited or reviewed my past works.
None of them was feeling up to celebrating just yet.
It was getting late – darkness had fallen outside several human hours ago, and the temperature had lowered a little. All their human allies had left. Sam and Mikaela had been carted off to a hospital along with Captain Lennox and his unit. John Keller, Secretary of Defense for this country, had dropped by, ostensibly for a debriefing and thanks, but actually to find out what the Autobots wanted.
In the late afternoon, several transports had arrived at the warehouse the Autobots had been asked to hide in and unloaded the corpses in one corner. Ironhide had gone and extracted both Jazz and Megatron from the mess before kneeling, and perhaps praying, in another corner.
Optimus knew that Ironhide would feel vaguely responsible to say the ritual, sending the sparks of the dead to the Matrix with the blessing of the callous gods.
By unspoken consensus, Ratchet had taken whatever parts he needed to reconstruct Bee's legs from Bonecrusher and Blackout, and some time after midnight, he'd been done with the operation. Bee had fallen asleep immediately after that, and Optimus had moved to sit near him, stroking his son's head carefully. He hadn't grown used of the idea of losing him, despite all the times he had thought he had, beginning with Tyger Pax.
As always after these incidents, he had to fight the urge to just gather Bee close and hold onto him, preferably forever, protecting him like a creator should. And perhaps, some day soon, now that the war looked to be over, he'd finally have the courage to tell Bee.
"Ironhide has drifted off, too," Ratchet said eventually. "You should sleep some as well."
Optimus just tilted his head. "And when are you going to take your own advice?"
Ratchet turned his head to stare at the wall. "I need to make Jazz and your brother look presentable so that Ironhide can say the Homecoming."
"Of course." Ratchet would do it for Ironhide's and Bee's sake, and maybe for Jazz's, too. For those that hadn't lost faith. "Ratchet… it's not your fault."
Ratchet made a noise of irritation. "One second, Optimus. If I had connected the main power line one second faster, his spark wouldn't have given out and he'd still be alive."
"You did what you could, Ratchet," Optimus said, knowing that the words wouldn't offer comfort. He'd heard them too often himself.
"Well, I just hope Prowl is too far away to feel it."
They'd lost two of their best with this. Ratchet would heal eventually, would stop beating himself up, as he always did, but there would be so much pain between now and then. Optimus would do anything to spare them.
Optimus felt a gyro on the side of his head whirr as a terrible, terrible thought occurred to him.
"I…" He couldn't say it. Instead, he opened that small compartment in his side and presented the All Spark shard on his flat hand.
"Oh," Ratchet said. "Does it still work?"
Optimus considered it. "It's fading, and fast. But maybe there's enough power for one or two left."
"You know it won't be Jazz."
"No, not if I do it the regular way."
Ratchet cocked his head. "What you are considering is sacrilege."
"I know," refraining to point out that Ratchet was an atheist. "But there's so few of us, and I couldn't possibly let Prowl die, too… It's worth a try."
Ratchet was absolutely still for a breem. "By all means, do some black magic. I'll boot up the reactor and put the body in stasis."
"Tell when you're done."
Optimus went to kneel and to contemplate what he was about to do. Only fiction had ever dared to think on this concept, had offered more or less subtle horror stories or insightful drama. No one else had ever touched this taboo, not officially.
Ratchet woke him from his reminiscing when the sky outside was turning a light gray. "The reactor and all systems are stable."
Optimus groaned from the breems of inactivity, but resumed his position beside Jazz's body despite protesting knee joints. He let his hands with the All Spark rest loosely in his lap and led his mind into the meditation exercise that would take him into the Matrix…
… after so many vorns of absence he was back to the featureless black plane with all those souls blinking above him like stars. It hadn't been quite as many the last time he'd ventured here.
Jazz, he called. Jazz.
Three time's the charm, boss-man, didn't ya know?
Optimus turned to find Jazz standing next to him, only it wasn't the Jazz he remembered, it was every form of Jazz he remembered and so many more he'd never seen. Jazz.
That would be me… They're all slightly confused. 's been long since someone's come to visit someone here.
Optimus hid his surprise at that fact. Jazz, he repeated. The All Spark is not completely destroyed… there is a chance to bring you back.
Back to the living world… Jazz stared off into space. Prowl refused to follow me, ya know, he said, and his sadness was almost palpable. Betcha he just thought I was going into stasis. Or maybe it's his damn sense of duty… maybe he's gonna stay alive for Bluestreak's sake. Kid is probably still unstable enough without losing both his adoptive parents.
It was good to hear that Prowl hadn't given in, even if Jazz sounded vaguely miffed about it. Will you try to come back, for them?
It's hard even remembering what his voice sounds like, here.
Jazz. Optimus was on the verge of losing his patience. I understand if you need to think on this, but please tell me so instead of just rambling on.
Ah, boss-man. Making the dead talk is difficult. In a few breems' time I probably wouldn't even have remembered I was ever bonded. And I've missed him for so long.
I'm to tell you that such magic has consequences, Jazz said, sounding unlike himself.
I am aware of these. Sentinel Prime had left Optimus with a few instructions, after all. So?
Take me home, Optimus.
As you wish. And so he concentrated on Jazz here and on the feeling of the All Spark shard in his hands there and coaxed, as he'd done so often before, then with yet nameless beings…
And then everything went black.
He awoke slowly, and the warehouse was lit brightly by the sun. There was a flurry of voices around him… him lying flat on his back.
"He's awake. Go be nosy somewhere else," Ratchet ordered them.
"What happened?" Optimus turned his head to look at the medic.
"There's a spark in Jazz's body again. Maybe it's even him. Must have been the proximity to the piece of All Spark that was left." And thus he had created a legend they could stick to.
"Hmm." Optimus felt for said piece, but there was nothing. Lifting his hands to inspect them, he found them covered in a very fine layer of ash. Consequences, indeed. He wondered if the gods would feel tricked. "Can't you tell who it is?"
"No, Optimus. He's in stasis, we'll have to see what he's like when he wakes up."
"Good. Now, how do you feel?"