Disclaimer: I own nothing.
AN: This has started to form its own universe.
It had happened years before his birth. If he had been anyone else, it wouldn't have mattered to him. So a boy was killed in a car accident five years before he had even been conceived, big deal. Why should he care? He never knew the boy. The only thing that connected them was that they shared a mother.
And that the other's death allowed him to be born.
His mother never would have left her first husband if the grief of their loss hadn't driven them apart. She wouldn't have mistaken comfort for love and married his father if the other had lived. She realized her mistake soon enough. His youth at the time of his father's death may have painted his memories with that golden sheen, but he remembered his father's moods well enough. Honor had bound his mother to his father after that, her pride forbidding her to seek her freedom until her husband's death.
Who was the other? Really? The way people spoke of him, he would think he was an ethereal being, walking the Earth while lifting up those around him to prosperity and happiness. It was a lot for him to live up to if he had a mind to. Luckily, he had no intention of following in the other's footsteps. He had his own path to follow. If those watching were disappointed by his decision they never said as much to him.
He grew up in the other's house. The other's father converted an unused office so that he could have a bedroom of his own rather than desecrate the shrine that had once been the other's room. He attended a different school, a better school with a record of turning out the best. He studies hard and excels. Nobody there ever met the other, so there are no comparisons.
Just before he starts high school, he meets the Autobots. They don't know who he is, as he bears his father's name even though his mother reclaimed her first husband's. He forges a friendship with them which flourishes unimpeded by the other's shadow until they discover his connection to their departed friend. It takes a while until he feels that they're no longer looking at him and seeing the other.
One pain he could have done without was their habit of telling him stories about the other. They tell of the adventures they had, the jokes and confidences they shared. They tell of the other's courage, facing Megatron himself fearlessly. They told of the other's strength, standing strong against the grief and worry for his father. They told of the other's hope that he would one day see his father rescued. After speaking of the other's greatest hope they always fell into silence. They were all very aware that that hope had gone unfulfilled as the other's father had only been rescued after his death.
A small mercy is that the other's best friend hadn't bothered to return to Earth. The brothers, an odd pairing of a cop and a Jeff Foxworthy impersonator, worry much about their younger brother. They say that the other's death changed him. They were probably right. The other's death had changed everything.
The war rages on and he bristles sometimes, wondering if he's merely stepped into the other's shoes, doing his job. He wonders if the longing looks the AI sometimes gives him are for him or for the other.
His mother and the other's father re-marry when he's seventeen. It's a small service with none of the complexity or elegance of their first wedding. Afterwards they go by the cemetery and spend an hour talking to the other's headstone. Then they leave on a short honeymoon, leaving him to stay with the Autobots, who are particularly nostalgic. He almost asks if they would rather call him by the other's name, but decides it would be too cruel. They aren't to know how he feels about the other. It would hurt them to know anyone thought less of the other.
His mother and her husband worry about him. Eventually he meets someone. Her name is Sonia and she has no connection to the other whatsoever. He loves her completely, though for the first year he can't be sure that it isn't just because she's his only and the other's shadow will never touch her. Eventually he decides it doesn't matter, his feelings for her are as real as anything and he asks her to marry him. She says yes and they do so with little fanfare. Within the year they are expecting their first child, a son.
The Autobots are thrilled, though it seems more because the child will be the other's nephew rather than simply his son.
His mother makes one request about her grandson, his name.
Finally, after years of hiding his animosity for the other, he breaks and asks Optimus what it was about Koji that so enamored the Autobots. Prime's answer surprises him in its simplicity.
Koji was their friend.
Optimus tells the story about how he met Koji and for once he listens. The story of a terrified child forced to trust a complete stranger after witnessing his father's abduction. He befriended them when he had no more reason to trust them than he did the Predicons. He made Sideburn laugh and T-Ai smile. He worried Optimus when he was caught up in one of their battles but at the end of the day he came through without a scratch. Koji listened to Prowls lectures and X-brawn's tall tales without complaint.
He'd forgotten, or maybe just never acknowledged, that Koji had barely been twelve when he died. He'd only been a child.
Not some great hero, not an angel given human form, not a saint. Just a kind, lonely boy with a friendly smile and a kind word when needed, until the day fate cruelly ended his life many decades to early.
He found that after that, he couldn't resent his brother anymore.
AN: These keep sneaking up on me. R&R.