Authors note: Sorry I've been away for so long, real life and all that. I've just watched the new movie, TF4: AOE. Hmmm. I'm still processing what I think of it! Optimus is awesome, as always, (SPOILER ALERT) and he did make an off-hand comment about how he brought up Bumblebee – which is an obvious nod to us fanfic writers, going by all the fanfics whitch have Optimus as a father figure to Bumblebee – and the Bee-as-a-sparkling fics. Anyway, on with the fic… (Oh, and big hellos to Plenoptic, Optimus Prime 007, Borath, Hummergrey, CMOHatchet, Steelcrash, and everyone else! I haven't forgotten you).

Chapter 20

Optimus Prime - supreme commander of the legendary Autobot forces, defeater of the mighty Megatron, and the most awesome being that had ever graced the known universe - lay flat on his back, staring up at the ceiling of his private quarters and making a note to himself that he really needed to send a cleaning bot up there. Earth spiders had made a total mess of the place with cobwebs strung haphazardly everywhere.

The quiet whimper of the femme who was currently splayed out over his broad chest, caused him to smoothly sweep his hand up and down repeatedly over her hunched shoulders, offering comfort and reassurance. She went silent, sinking back down into the welcome and known territory of her recharge programs.

Arcee, the femme he had willingly mated with in order to produce a new Autobot (an Autobot from his own Prime line, no less), snuggled with him on their berth. Recharging. Such a simple thing for a female to do, but to him, it was so utterly beautiful and innocent.

As the proposed date of birthing their little sparkling approached, she seemed to require more and more recharge time. Prime, as always, dedicated himself to staying with her, especially since she seemed to obtain a better quality of recharge when she was wrapping herself around his massive physique. And she often needed him for 'other' things. Things that only a mech could provide for a needy femme.

At the moment, her slender hands had inserted themselves into access points on his chest under his armor, with her head resting on one side of his split windshield. Her knees were lying loosely together to lie across one of his narrow hips. She was a small and dainty picture of femininity perched upon his overwhelming maleness.

It seemed to him that she was after the comfort of the big blue spark that lay deep within his chest. He guessed that her behaviour was simply the long forgotten ancient desire of a sparked femme to be close to the spark that had merged with hers. And perhaps it was also in some way the desire of the tiny little sparkling within her chest that it wished to be near that of its male creator.

He absently wondered what some of his long lost friends on Cybertron would think of him becoming a parental unit. The thought made him feel yet again the heavy sorrowful weight of his missing fellow Cybertronians, and his hand tightened momentarily on Arcee's shoulder. He hoped they would be happy for him. It was a very rare thing for a Cybertronian to reproduce. Not at all common like it is with any of the Earth species.

Someone like Ultra Magnus (a stoic, brave warrior who had been one of his oldest friends and one of his executive commanders) would nod gravely and begin planning and organising everything for him down to the smallest detail.

Someone like Wheeljack would begin frantically inventing the best and most advanced 'sparkling stuff' their sparkling would ever need.

Someone like Jazz…. Well, Jazz would've thrown the biggest and best party ever know to Cybertronian-kind, and then spent the next few years giving the sparkling pony-rides on his hands and knees around and around the common room. Poor Jazz.

Letting his thoughts begin to wander freely around his processor, Optimus turned off his optics and slid into a recharge that matched that of the femme using him as a bed.

In the medbay…

"Have you told him yet?"

"Told him what," Ratchet responded absently, kneeling on the ground and rummaging through one of his deeper storage cupboards in search of a spare solar energon filter. He knew he had one of the silly things stashed somewhere. Just had to find it.

Ironhide grunted, "That his life as he has ever known it is completely over. That he won't HAVE a life anymore, and Arcee will definitely stop interfacing with him forevermore once the little one is here." The black mech scratched at the dirt under his chest plate, "No more wails of ecstasy, no more early morning bumping groin plates, no more fun."

The solar energon holder suddenly went sailing through the air to collide with Ironhide's smirking faceplates.


"Oh look, I found it," Ratchet said triumphantly, getting to his feet with a whirr of ancient gears. "Hand me that, will you?"

Snarling, Ironhide plucked the filter off the floor from where it had bounced off of him, and tossed it hard back at the CMO. "You. Should. Warn. Him. He deserves to know."

Ratchet deftly caught the filter and began cleaning it with a silver cloth, "Oh, shove it, 'Hide. Arcee will do no such thing. She hasn't been able to keep her hands off of him for more than thirty nanoseconds at a time. She won't stop. He is a 'Prime' after all, femmes can't leave him alone, it's in their programming." The CMO put the filter down on the bench and directed a penetrating stare at the black mech stinking up his medbay. "Now, what's really getting up your skidplates, hmm? You've been moping around a like a cranky black skidmark for the past few weeks. Out with it."

Ironhide clamped his arms defiantly over his chest. "Nothing."

"Nothing?" Ratchet cocked an optic ridge up high, "Unless you've suddenly developed a menstrual cycle like the earth femmes and have a terminal case of PMS, it's not 'nothing'. Tell me."

"What on Cybertron is a menstrual cycle, and since when have you been a psychologist?" the Weapons Specialist snapped.

"I don't need to be a psychologist to read the few chips you've got rattling round in your head casing." Ratchet placed his five-fingered hands palm down on the bench in front of him and leaned forward into Ironhide's faceplates, "Why are you so concerned about Prime's interface-life? What's it to you if he does or does not, get any?"

"He should be prepared to face reality, that's all," Ironhide said sullenly. His black armor was doing a superb job of framing his black mood. "He's been having his fun with Arcee, and I don't think he knows that it will stop eventually."

Ratchet flexed an optic ridge up again. Staring the black mech in the face. "Reality."

"Yes," Ironhide insisted, "Like the rest of us have to."

The CMO cocked his head to one side, becoming thoughtful as a realisation spread through his sharp CPU. "….You're missing Chromia."

The expression on Ironhide's faceplates turned as cold as the metal he was made of. "This isn't about her."

Ratchet put on his 'Greatest CMO on Cybertron' hat to explain the situation at hand, "You're talking about a reality where all of us have lost our friends, our loved ones, and more particularly, our personal mates. You're talking about Prime needing to 'deal with' suddenly losing his interfacing rights with Arcee because she'll be too busy with the sparkling to be on her back being pounded into the berth by him. You want Optimus to be prepared for this, because you never got the chance to be prepared to never see Chromia again."

Metal can't suddenly turn a paler shade of gray all on its own, but Ironhide's metal was doing a brilliant imitation of it. Black to dull gray.

"She may not be gone, Ironhide." Ratchet's voice softened, "Don't let your thoughts defeat you."

Ironhide was no longer looking at him. He was staring remorselessly at a far corner of the medbay and doing his best imitation of 'I'm not listening'.

Ratchet stayed silent for a moment. Why hadn't he realised this before? Of all of them, Ironhide was the one who had been spark-bonded to a femme. He had allowed Ironhide to deal with this by himself with only the occasional warm hand on his shoulder or sympathetic silent presence.

"Okay then. Let's forget you for a moment. What about Bumblebee?" Ratchet said smoothly, looking down and busying himself with cleaning his solar filter with a soft cloth.

"Bee?" Ironhide snorted, "What's wrong with him that we haven't discussed already?"

"No, no, I'm talking about him and the new sparkling. He's going to be jealous that Prime will have a new little one to protect and fuss over. A little one that isn't called 'Bumblebee'." Ratch poked his protruding noseplates into the air, giving Ironhide the evil optic. "I think you should do more to help him out. Be more of a related progenitor to him."

"We're not related."

"Neither is Optimus. You're related by proxy because you and Prime have been sharing the task of bringing him up and looking out for him. Yes, he's mature now, but he's going to need some emotional and physical support from someone he is close to while he adjusts to not being Prime's number one sparkling anymore. I think you are perfectly capable of doing that, old mech."

The expression on Ironhide's face was priceless. "Emotional support?! Me?! HA! Haha! You're funny, medic, you're funny…." The black warrior turned and left the medbay giving out the odd chuckle and whistle that anyone would think that he would do 'emotional stuff'.

Ratchet nodded happily to himself. Ironhide may laugh about the suggestion, but he knew he would act on it – somehow, someway. And it may just help 'Hide to cope with missing his femme mate.

Later that afternoon in the rec room…

Arcee frowned as she stared at the data disc she had just dropped by accident on the floor. "Oh crud." She turned her body to the right and reached out with one hand. Nope, nope. She tried turning to the left and stretching down with the tips of her fingers. No way. Who made floors so far away anyway?! What a stupid design.

She was having trouble bending over because of the mass of the spark in her chest. It hurt to bend over, to twist, to do anything which required her to contort or flex her chest. She had been unable to transform into her sleek Lotus car form for the past few weeks. Even if she had wanted to, Ratchet had forbidden it, and she didn't want to spend the rest of her time carrying this spark strapped down to a medbench with Optimus spoon feeding her solar energon.

…which is why Optimus had gotten very inventive in the ways in which he interfaced with her (when she requested it) so that he did all the work, and not her. She smirked to herself. She was more familiar with what Optimus' chest looked like than with what the ceiling of their quarters looked like, since whenever she was on her back, the only view she had was of him, since she was always 'wanting it'. Or she was lying on her side and he was behind her. Coaxing her, stroking her, and giving her what she needed. She had a very co-operative Commander.

She had read about some pregnant organic humans having a higher than normal desire for pleasure interfacing – sex, as they called it. Some of their data literature suggested that it was a primitive way of making the sire (father) stay around to protect and shelter the female while she was carrying, instead of abandoning her. Arcee liked to think of it as developing and deepening the relationship between a mech and a femme. That, and the interfacing was just sheer explosive fun.

Unlike organics, Arcee did not have the body of her 'baby' in her chest, it was merely a spark. A spark which had started smaller than the size of a grape, and was now approaching the size of a soccerball. The spark had been developing its own code, its own personality, its own traits, according to which parts of Arcee and Optimus Prime's code it had absorbed when it was brought into existence on that never-to-be-forgotten night.

The spark was surrounded by a plexi-metal sphere which both protected it and supported it. It drew minerals and energy from Arcee to develop itself. The sphere was also what would enable Ratchet to safely handle it to remove it from Arcee when it had stopped progressing and finally wanted to be out of her chest.

Which would be any day now.

Any day.

Pain suddenly burst across her chest like a spreading wave. Strong and unstoppable.

"Oww." Arcee pressed one hand to her chest and grimaced. "Primus, that hurts." She patted the part of chest which protected the sparkling. "Stop that, little one."

She sometimes experienced isolated twinges of pain and discomfort as the size of the sparkling increased. She presumed it was one of those.

Another flare of pain had her rapidly cycling air through her intakes and her core temperature rising.

"Uh…" Arcee braced her arms on the table next to her, gasping. This pain was strong. This will go away; it's a passing twinge, just a twinge.

She panted some more. Shifted her weight from one hip to another.

Go away twinge. I'm not ready for this.

A sudden frantic streaming of errors across her internal HUD made her realise – with shock – that this was NOT a passing event. It was a staying event. An event that hurt. An event that meant –

"OPTIMUS! Get here NOW!"