All's Fair. . .

Chapter 1

Disclaimer: I don't own Transformers. They belong to Hasbro and Takara. I am merely taking them for a short spin.

He wasn't sure how the secret slipped out. He couldn't remember much because of too much high grade, but considering the night, it wasn't a surprise. The Autobots hadn't had much reason to celebrate anything in a long time, but two events taking place relatively close together gave them a much-needed opportunity to forget the war for a few hours. The first was the arrival of reinforcements from Cybertron--Ultra Magnus showed up with his crew and the second was the birth of Spike and Carly Witwicky's first offspring.

The appearance of old friends feared dead, new friends and the addition of a new life proved too much temptation for the Autobots who were overworked because of the construction of their new city and the ongoing threat of Decepticon attacks so Optimus Prime did what he had to and gave in, apparently in more ways than one.

The Autobot leader remembered parts of the evening, like the normally reserved, quiet, dependable Ultra Magnus face down on the floor after the twins challenged him to a drinking game, the fiery femme Arcee threatening Ironhide and something about Bumblebee dancing on a table. But for the life of him, Optimus Prime could not remember why or when he'd opened his mouth.

Unfortunately, the next morning, Ratchet was the first to have something to say about his verbal gaffe. The medic wouldn't wouldn't let it go until after a discussion in *his* office.

"So. . ." Prime said, hoping to get out of what would probably be an unpleasant conversation. And he was proven right when Ratchet launched into his spiel.

"As chief medical officer, it is my duty to see to the physical and mental well-being of those under my care. That includes you," Ratchet said.

Prime sat back, resting his hands on his knees. Looked like Ratchet was just getting warmed up.

"Whatever you say is just between us. Without patient-medic confidentiality, there is no trust, despite the contrary to what the twins say," Ratchet continued. "You've never interfaced? Not even once?"

"I think I'd remember if I had. . ." Prime said.

"You're more than 9 million years old. That's a long time, Prime," Ratchet said. "Seriously. Never? Are you sure you haven't thought about what you're missing?"

"It doesn't matter what *I'm* missing. I've had other matters to attend."

"Only you could make the great war sound like such an understatement," Ratchet said. "And no matter how much you deny yourself, I bet you do wonder about what you have been missing. You may be our leader, but you're no ascetic. I'm sure there's someone out there who would oblige you."

Prime sighed.

"It's not about finding someone who would 'oblige.'"

"Then what? Are you afraid?" Ratchet said, leaning back in his chair, steepling his fingers.

Prime stared at the floor. In a way, he was. The only way he'd retained his sanity over so many years was by not letting anyone get too close. Even those he considered his closest friends he held at arm's length. He enjoyed their warmth and camaraderie, but held himself apart. He was with them, but not necessarily one of them. He would die himself before he let someone die for him. He was the leader of the cause, not the cause itself, despite what any of them believed or thought. He was one of them, only he rarely showed his weakness.

He looked up when Ratchet cleared his throat.

"Now that we've talked about it, I'm sure you'll do something about this. . .matter," Ratchet said. "If not, it will be dealt with for you."

Ratchet said it with a smile. The one he wore when he was getting ready to let fly with a wrench at someone's head, or work on the twins. Not good, Prime thought.

"I'll see to it," Prime said, standing to take his leave.

"See that you do."


A few days passed without incident. Prime sat at his desk, looked at the chronometer on the wall, stretching. Most everyone else would be coming off shift right now, and he decided to wait, just in case. There'd been a few looks his way, a few whispers, but nothing like the furor of the first few days. He was pulled back from his thoughts by the appearance of a familiar face. Ironhide came walking in.

"What can I do for you old friend?" Prime asked, smiling behind his battle mask.

Ironhide hmphed. Prime always managed to get a rise out of him by calling him "old."

"Just came to see what you're up to," Ironhide said.

Prime shrugged.

"So, you want to talk about it?"


"The. . .your. . .uh. . .problem."

Prime sighed, settling his head into his hands in frustration.

"Not you too," he said.

"Well, look, if you want some advice or something, I'd be glad to help out. Not that you need help, but. . ."

"Ironhide, shut up while you still can."

The red mech took a step back hearing the tone in Prime's voice. He decided to try a different tactic.

"What about Ratchet then?"

Prime's optics narrowed.

"Did he send you?"

"No, but if you don't do something about his orders, it won't be pretty. That's all."


"Well, I figured he probably said something like that, considering how you've been spending almost all your time by yourself either here or in your quarters."

"You've been keeping track?"

"Not hard, when everybody's noticed."

Prime looked up.


Ironhide nodded. He felt a momentary pang of guilt, but it passed quickly. Even he'd been surprised at Prime's little secret. He'd know him longer than almost anyone besides Kup and the rest of the Ark crew, in a way, it made sense. Prime had always been a little reserved when it came to some things, but Ironhide chalked it up to keeping his private life private, and now, suddenly, one of his most private details was public.

"Want me to see what I can do about helping quiet things down?"

"It would be most appreciated."

Ironhide smiled, watching Prime relax, but not much. Hell, he needed it, and bad.

The red Autobot passed Ultra Magnus as he left the office. Ironhide's promise stood--he'd do what he could to quit the others from gossiping about their leader's private life, but he couldn't stop them from making bets.

Prime gave his other old friend a glance as he walked into the office. Ultra Magnus sat down, data pad in hand.

"I think we need to go over a few things," he said.

The Autobot leader's optics narrowed. Surely Ultra Magnus would not broach the subject also.

"Go over what?" Prime asked, suspicious.

"Just how we're going to handle the rash of insubordination in our ranks," Ultra Magnus said.

Prime relaxed. That he could deal with. The city wasn't even near completion yet and the Ark was more cramped than before with the addition of more Autobots. It had prompted a shake-up in the duty schedule to try and accommodate the additional inhabitants to give them access to quarters, even if it was just a few hours of recharge. Some Autobots, like Bumblebee, had been more than willing. The scout was now staying at the Witwicky's; Prowl and Jazz's willingness to cohabitate had finally turned into a relationship that everyone had seen coming. Prime himself had taken to spending his recharge time in his own office, further freeing up space, much to Ratchet's annoyance.

But back to the matter at hand. Insubordination and pranks. Easy.

"Who this time?" he asked.

"Jazz, Bumblebee, the twins, Springer, Hot Rod, Silverbolt, Wheeljack and Mirage," Ultra Magnus said.

Impressive, Prime thought. More than the usual suspects, although he knew most of what had gone down, even witnessed the aftermath of the prank pulled off by the Aerialbot commander with help from Wheeljack and Mirage.

"I understand Springer will be out of the med bay tomorrow?" Prime asked.

"Yes," Ultra Magnus said. "Much to Ratchet's relief. He's driving him crazy, but I believe Springer will think twice again before insulting the intelligence of any of our gestalt teams, special ops or the Dinobots."

"We can hope," Prime said. "But I think his stay in the med bay, along with monitor duty for the next two weeks should be sufficient punishment."

"Yes. And what about the shrink wrap incident?" Ultra Magnus said.

"Bumblebee, Jazz and Hot Rod apologized to the twins," Prime said. "And I'm leaving their punishment up to Prowl."

Ultra Magnus nodded. "And what about the twins?"

Prime leaned back in his chair, crossed his arms. "If you have any suggestions. . ."

"Ran out of ideas on how to punish them?"

"You have no idea," Prime said. "Possibly Kup can come up with something?"

"He'll be more than happy to make some suggestions," Ultra Magnus said, standing. "Oh, there is something else. . .the next time the high grade comes out, I wouldn't play truth or dare if I were you."

Ultra Magnus watched as his friend leaned forward, face buried in his hands.

"So that's how. . ."

"Everyone knows? Yes," Ultra Magnus said. "And don't worry about Ratchet and the others. I'm sure this will die down soon."