Well, it took about a year longer than I planned, but this little car crash of a fic is finally over. Thanks to everyone who has stayed with me till the end, and those who send me messages to prod me back into writing. Lord knows if you hadn't I'd still be mulling about chapter 4 or something. Hope you enjoy the conclusion to Prime.
Transformers is clearly not mine.
In The Prime of Your Life
They had tried several times to get Sam to change to a hospital closer, or even in New Iacon, but without avail. His family lived within commuting distance of this city, and so this was where he was staying.
Near the edge of the car park, Optimus spotted Bumblebee, still bright yellow although the car had changed design over the last several years. Some less aware of the mech's personality might have assumed he was standing guard, but from the position and the fact that Optimus could detect no hologram, Optimus knew otherwise.
Bumblebee was sulking.
He rolled into the spaces beside his scout and activated his hologram, walking alongside the car.
"You still refuse to go see him?"
Bumblebee didn't answer, and Optimus sighed, heading for the hospital.
Over the years, New Iacon had blossomed. Although acknowledged as a separate 'country', it brought Bolivia and the rest of South America thousands of tourists a year – all wanting to see the robot city - a place that was ridiculously large alien to everything they'd ever known. The first ten years to settling had been dangerous and apprehensive, but they'd survived.
When they'd stabilised, Sam had been working very closely with the American government at the time (and they had been somewhat apprehensive of the Autobots possibly gaining stronger allegiance to someone other than themselves, despite the fact that they had point blank refused to offer any non-military land), and the general feel of the public had suggested that he should run for presidency. Optimus had been one of the strongest voices for this plan, but had been vetoed by Sam, who at 50, wasn't looking to handle any more hurdles than he had to, staying in New Iacon with his family as a permanent ambassador.
At 60, he became a grandfather for the fifth time, and moved back to America when Mikaela's father suffered a stroke. Bumblebee went with him, and neither ever returned for more than a visit.
That was around the time Ratchet had begun work.
It had started out harmlessly enough, a sketchy blueprint, some schematics locked in a file at the back of his head. He'd shared them with Wheeljack, who had provided his own opinions, and then with Sunstreaker and Sideswipe, when they spotted handsome etchings in their hands. Who went on to tell others.
Sam had been 75, and sitting by Mikaela's bedside as her health failed before their plans left paper and entered reality. But by that time, there wasn't a single mech in New Iacon that wasn't in on it. Optimus donated the first piece – cybertronian alloy marked with Sam's own 'Prime' mark.
How they had kept it secret for as long as they had was still a mystery to the Prime. They had worked and toiled on this for decades, even while Sam was visiting regularly. Bumblebee had been in on it early, and, as good as the scout was at staying quiet, Sam could read the mech like a book even on a bad day.
Sam had been 98 when they finally invited him back to see the fruits of their labour. The Primes had failed in giving him longevity through his own biology, but Sam had never been anything but hardy. He'd been in a wheelchair at that point, though refusing to let anyone push him around. But when Optimus and Ratchet had invited him to the med bay, he'd stood, cane clenched in one hand, staring at the mech body in front of him.
There wasn't a mech in New Iacon that wasn't happy with the achievement. Decades of hard work, with every mech agonising over every last chip and screw. A committee had spent 2 years just trying to figure out the exact shade of blue the optics should be tinted. But that moment had made it all worth it, when Optimus watched Sam place a wrinkled, knarled and old hand on the protoform's foot, staring up at the new shell his people had made for him.
Words hadn't been necessary that day. Sam had taken one look at the frame standing proudly in Ratchet's medical bay, and understood completely. He'd walked over at his own pace, the only sound being his cane tapping the ground with each step. When he'd stopped, one wrinkled hand on the metal frame, the man had sighed, eyes closed as the possibilities shot through him.
"We've gone through every simulation without fail," Ratchet said, interrupting the silence with an almost nervous glee. "According to the Primes, you'll be up and functioning within a matter of hours. Just let us know when to start."
Bumblebee was hanging by the doorway, shifting on his feet in anticipation. Optimus had been more composed, though internally his excitement was the same.
Sam's hand dropped from the protoform and he turned to the three, optics never leaving him. "You've been planning this for a while haven't you? I suspected as much, but I was never ready to ask."
"Decades," Optimus admitted. "No, perhaps as long as we've known you, but this form began in Ratchet's hands, and infected every mech in Iacon."
Ratchet snorted. "And the amount of flailing over silly superficial details that went on...I'm almost surprised it got completed at all."
Sam turned round to stare at the frame once more. "It's beautiful."
All three stood a little straighter at the compliment.
"But I can't accept it."
The three froze.
The hologram pulled himself from his memories, staring at the girl in front of him. Her hair was unnaturally pink, and dressed in a haphazard manner the Internet insisted was the style of the moment, but looking altogether uncomfortable in them. Optimus smiled in recognition.
"Hello, Claire. How is he?"
Claire Walters gave a little half shrug, reminding Optimus so much of her great grandmother. Rachel had had intense eyes, just enough of Mikaela's sharp manner and Sam's wide optimism to make them enchanting.
"He'd be better if BB would come see him. Holding on for him. And you."
"And you," Optimus insisted, and Claire bit her lip and looked away.
"Not really. Doesn't really see me or anyone these days. Knows he shouldn't be here, shouldn't know us. Just waiting for everyone else to figure that."
When Optimus came into view, old wizened eyes smiled in recognition, and Optimus paused at the doorway, unsure if he was happy or sad to see the man bedridden in such a way. He forced himself forward, sitting the hologram in the chair recently occupied by the man's youngest descendant, unable to stop thinking of his brother's last visit to Iacon.
It had almost been funny. In all of the meetings, looking at all the prototypes, after all of the possible dangers, it had never even occurred to them. Never even crossed their minds.
The idea that Sam might say no...
The keening whine from Bumblebee's voicebox could have easily filled the room had Ratchet not immediately interrupted, choosing to feign ignorance on what Sam really meant.
"Is it not to your liking? Height? Colour? You wanted wings? I can fix any issues you have within a few..."
He trailed off as Sam shook his head. "You didn't misunderstand me, Ratch; I know why you did this, why you wanted to do this..."
The man trailed off as he locked eyes with Prime's optics. "But I'm a human Prime, and whether you realise it or not, I can't be the mech you want me to be. I just can't."
"Sam," Bumblebee whined, anger strongly mixed with pain, but Sam held up his hand, a silent command to calm down.
"This isn't about confidence, or fear, or any other hang-ups going through your head, Bee," he explained. "It's about doing what's right for the future of Autobots and the humans of earth."
Bumblebee stared at the man for a long moment, before turning back and storming out.
"Bee..." Sam started, readying to follow but stopping at the last second. He sighed, glancing at the two remaining in the room. Ratchet was looking at anything but him and the frame in the corner, hands clenched into fists, while Optimus...
He turned away, and walked out the door, parting words whispered just loud enough for the mech to hear.
"I'm sorry, brother."
"I heard the news."
Sam's smile never left his face. "Well, we all knew it was only a matter of time right? Humans don't live forever."
'But you don't have to be human,' hissed a little voice in Optimus's mind. 'You don't have to do this.' Thoughts Optimus would never let anyone know he had. The hologram sat down, taking in Sam's image, well aware it could be the last time.
"You still haven't figured out why I'm doing this have you?" Sam asked, humour still in his voice, deepened with age.
"I have...suspicions," Optimus admitted. "Our brothers are angry with the choice, but they seem to understand."
Sam nodded. "Bumblebee figured it out a while ago. Didn't make him any happier. Don't think the Primes ever really understood what being a human prime entailed either."
The man winced, fighting an invisible enemy, and Optimus felt his spark clench.
"Optimus," Sam began. "Everything I've done, everything I've worked for...it happened because I was human. Because I wasn't Cybertronian. People...they're afraid of anything new – I made it easy for them to trust you because I was one of them. I come back as a mech...Everything will shatter."
"We don't have to say it's you..." Optimus pleaded, and Sam laughed.
"Optimus, every government and fanboy has their eyes on the sky now. A bird flies too high and it's over the net in a matter of minutes. How would you explain another mech, another Prime just showing up?"
"But you're ours," Optimus insisted, flinching at just how childish it made him sound.
"I'm the human you respected, and treated as one of your own," Sam corrected. "At least, that's how it is for other humans. And that's how it SHOULD be. With me, Autobots can see humans as equals and vice versa. You start turning humans into mechs, and everything falls apart. And don't say it would just be me, Optimus. You've been in politics too long not to know there's no such thing as 'just one time'."
The hologram grit his teeth, eyes glancing to stare at the wall.
"You understand, right, Optimus?"
No. He didn't understand. And a part of him, a part that he kept locked in the deepest darkest part of his processor wanted to yell at Sam. Yell and scream and make him understand what he was doing to them. Or better yet, transform – rip open the wall and yank the man from his bed, drive to New Iacon and force Ratchet to perform the transfer. Even if Sam hated him for 100 years, even if he hated him for 100 thousand years, even if it ruined everything they had worked for on earth, it would be better than letting the man...the boy carry out his last decision as a Prime.
But he didn't. Because he'd promised. Promised to stand by Sam no matter what.
And as much as he hated to admit it, just because he didn't understand didn't mean he didn't comprehend. At the end of the day, Sam was right. He could only pray that his brother was cybertronian enough that Optimus would one day see him again in the matrix.
He couldn't stay much longer – Sam was clearly tired, and fighting to stay awake. The hologram said his goodbyes, promised to visit again soon, and headed back out, nodding to Claire as he passed.
Bumblebee stayed silent as he passed, and the Peterbuilt collapsed on his tires as the hologram faded from existence. He stayed in his spot for a few minutes, before sending the scout a message.
'Don't let your last memories be angry ones, Bumblebee. You have a chance to say goodbye. Take it.'
He didn't wait for the Camaro to answer, instead he drove off, mulling over his visit.
He wondered if Sam really understood what he was giving up. How much the Autobots had been waiting for the day he decided would never come. The day when Bumblebee could hug him and not hold back in fear he broke bones, the day Mirage could salute to a mech whose form finally matched his spark, the day Ratchet would be allowed to throw a wrench when he got hurt to show his relief without fear of killing him...
The day Optimus could stand optic to optic with the last family he had, to usher in their people's future...
In the hospital car park, a boy dressed in yellow hesitated at the door of the building, before collecting himself and striding in.
'And in other news, New Iacon held a memorial service today for Sir Samuel Witwicky, the former ambassador for the Autobot City. Sir Witwicky died last Thursday of cardiac arrest in Oakfells Hospital.
His involvement with the cybertronian force began in 2007 when an Autobot Scout arrived to locate...'