Complete and utter fluff for 'Equilibrium', set between that story and the sequel, 'Provenance'. I thoroughly enjoyed writing it and I hope you enjoy reading it.

Sleep Walking

Optimus had naively thought that he'd get more recharge after Tempest was born and was no longer kicking him in the rib struts every few minutes. It had taken less than a week to confirm that he had been sorely mistaken. From the end of the wide berth he and Ironhide had come to share, the sparkling squirmed on his own miniature berth chirping a long, plaintive sound over and over again.

Ironhide groaned and rolled onto his side into his partner's chassis, bringing an arm up over his head in a vague attempt to block out the noise. He could have turned off his audio receivers but wouldn't dare – not over Tempest, or any sparkling for that matter. Still, at this hour it was getting tempting. "He can't be hungry," he groused, optics remaining dark.

"I put him down with a full tank," Optimus confirmed, bringing up a hand to rub his optics. At the sound of his Sire's voice Tempest's pitch rose, demanding attention. The mech sighed and picked Ironhide's arm off his chassis, sliding back and off the berth. Looking down at Tempest, he placed his hands on his hips. "Alright little one, you have my undivided attention. What is it you want?"

Tempest wailed louder, reaching up his hands and was picked up obligingly. Held against the Prime's spark he quieted a little though continued to whine, fidgeting restlessly. From the berth Ironhide chuckled, sensing that the nightly ritual wasn't going to stop anytime soon. "Walkies, Optimus."

Optimus clicked an admonishment back, running a thumb across Tempest's stomach and smiling when the broad digit was grasped by both small hands. "We can't keep doing this, Tempest. I can't spend half the day recharging just because I've been up all night like you can."

Tempest chattered a laugh, earning a snort from Ironhide. "Like Pest hasn't got you completely wrapped round his servos. If his first words were 'wanna fly' you'd be requisitioning a plane from NEST inside ten minutes."

Truthfully, Optimus knew that full well and didn't mind at all. Adjusting the wide-awake sparkling against his chassis, he made towards the door. "Come now, Tempest. Let's leave crotchety old mechs to their recharge."

Ironhide's 'hey!' was just heard as they stepped out into the corridor.

**** Set between Chapters 6 and 7, when Starscream has just been placed in containment at the Base after saying that he's defecting to the Autobots****

Optimus hadn't even gone to sit down upon entering the briefing room, electing to stand behind his usual chair gripping the backrest to look upon everyone else who was seated. His backstrut felt like it had been mangled and the sparkling was still seeing fit to kick it at random intervals. Sitting seemed to encourage the behaviour, caused by being more cramped in that position Optimus guessed, so he'd been avoiding doing so.

"How is our apparent defector this morning?" he asked, looking towards Ratchet whom he was fully aware had been scrutinizing him since he came into the room. The medic was always looking at him as if he were a pet project now, which he supposed was half true, much to his chagrin.

"Starscream's made no attempts to try to rearm his weapons, and after I drank some of it myself he's started to take energon in," Ratchet replied with a glance about the table. Prowl nodded his approval and Ironhide continued to look unimpressed. It was going to take a long time for him to be convinced that Starscream was here for anything but an attack.

"That's good to hear," Optimus admitted, optics shuttering briefly as he pressed a hand to his back and vaguely wondering if it was warped on the inside yet from the abuse. The sparkling twisted itself bodily, pressing against his spark casing as a brace to turn its body about with a sound that made everyone wince. As walking was the only thing that seemed to keep the little mech still, he resigned himself to starting a slow pace around the table. He'd done this in every meeting for the last two weeks, and suspected there'd be a trench worn down by the time the sparkling was born. "Prowl," he prompted firmly, grateful that no one was taking any notice of his walking.

"I stopped in on him for a talk after Ratchet left," Prowl said, folding his hands in his lap. Peripherally he was aware of Ironhide sneaking glances to the obviously uncomfortable mech, but kept his optics on the data pads between his hands. When and how the weapon's specialist opened up about his hidden feelings for Optimus was his own business. "He confirmed my suspicion that the Decepticons change their patrol habits every few days, which is why we've had so much trouble coming across lone mechs on their borders. Without much coercion on my part, he's disclosed in detail who's going to be at a specific checkpoint later today."

"We should make use of the opportunity to destroy it if it's one of the more renegade mechs, rather than waiting for a new attack on the human populous," Ratchet suggested as Optimus passed behind his chair.

"Who's annoying you most this week?" Ironhide grunted with an underlying chuckle, splaying his fingers on the table as he pushed himself to his feet.

"Skids and Mudflap," came the immediate reply. "Might as well send Hot Rod and his attitude too." Optimus paused when he came about the head of the table to see Ironhide on his feet. "What're you doing?"

Ironhide made a show of stretching his arms, plates shifting into a grin. "Felt like getting some air. How about you two? Fancy a walkin' meeting?"

Optimus's vents grumbled and his optics narrowed. "That's deeply patronizing, Ironhide."

Completely undeterred, the dark mech came about the table and brushed a hand across his shoulder. "Come on, Prime. I just don't see a lot of sense in sitting in the briefing room when you ain't sitting, and there's no reason why we can't walk and talk."

"It does seem to settle the little one," Prowl supplied with a thinly disguised smile, gathering the pads into a stack as he stood.

"And I'd rather not need to completely replace your internal plates once the mechling's out," Ratchet added as he tucked his chair back in, following Ironhide to the door.

Optimus watched with a vague sense of bewilderment and no small degree of gratitude as the three mechs filed past him out the door, leaving him to follow in order to partake in the meeting. Pinching his optics, he looked down to his fractionally distended chassis with a smile. "Do you have any idea of the disruptions you cause?"

In answer the sparkling delivered a hard kick, settling again when Optimus finally stepped out into the corridor and moved to catch up with the walking mechs. With his chassis now rocking gently as he moved, he was almost sure he could sense the mechling's contentment.


The corridors of the Base were lit only with emergency lighting at this hour, leaving any humans who chose to wander using torches or finding an Autobot's optics to navigate by. NEST had given them four warehouses on an old military airfield for their use, and had permitted them to build to connect the areas into a more cohesive living space. Traversing the area devoted to individual living quarters first, Optimus headed towards the rec room as a destination with the dim hope that just a short jaunt was all Tempest wanted tonight.

When the sparkling saw the communal notice board pinned up just down the corridor from the mess hall he started to squirm anew, chirping brightly and clapping a hand against his Sire's chassis. Optimus rumbled a soft laugh, brushing his fingers across Tempest's helm. "No, Tempest, Sam and Mikaela won't be in there at this hour. You'll have to wait until tomorrow afternoon to see them, when Bumblebee brings them back from their music festival."

Tempest uttered a low series of disappointed clicks, sensing that he wasn't going to be seeing the humans right now from his Sire's tone. Optimus left the light off as he stepped into the kitchen, flinching at the sparkling's alarmed chirp when his foot sent an empty energon cube skittering across the floor and under the Cybertronian-sized tables.

"That's why we put things away," Optimus told the sparkling with a sigh, moving back to turn on the light. Tempest was huddled into his chassis, vents cycling hard as his optics flickered about the room. Optimus gave him a brief squeeze. "It's alright, little one, there's nothing here, see? Just an errant cube. Here, I'll show you."

Finding the cube to have made it past four rows of tables, Optimus sat Tempest on a bench and reached under to retrieve it. Holding it out for the sparkling to see, he smiled when the little mech took it clumsily and peered inside, optics filled with great scepticism. Looking up again, he chirped quizzically at his Sire before simply putting the cube over his head. In the dark of the energon mug, he giggled.

Still kneeling, Optimus feigned a sigh at the display. "I'll have to tell Sam and Mikaela that you've found something more fun to play with in here than them. They'll be most disappointed."

**** Set in the middle of Chapter 5, after Optimus and Sam come off the flyover and before Tempest starts kicking ****

Two days after Sam had taken a thirty foot dive inside Optimus's cab in the rain, the teen was still lingering at the Base to see for himself that the mech was alright. Ratchet and Mikaela had assured him as much, but after having seen how long Optimus had remained offline and the roadside repairs Starscream had needed to perform to bring him around, he was only going to be happy once he saw him for himself.

Sitting in the human-sized corner of the kitchen within the Autobot's own mess hall area, Sam snagged another cookie from the plate in the middle of table despite Mikaela's droll expression. He held it up in protest. "What? It's only my fourth, and it's not like the NEST guys sit around here eating the cookies."

"So you're doing them a favour by making sure they're all gone before they go stale?" Mikaela asked, folding her arms and sitting back in the chair.

"Absolutely," he replied firmly, grinning that disarming grin that he knew could let him get away with anything. As predicted, Mikaela rolled her eyes with a smile, allowing him to savour his sweet victory.

Thunderous footsteps sat him up before Optimus appeared in the doorway, seeming far healthier than when Sam had last seen him. "Hey big guy! How're you feeling?"

Optimus paused, considering whether he should give the honest answer that if anyone else asked about his wellbeing and or Starscream's presence this morning he'd shoot them without remorse. Moving towards his small stack of doctored energon cubes, he took one and popped the seal, answering as he lent against the countertop. "I'm well, Sam. Ratchet was quite satisfied when I left him. What about you? Did you sustain any injuries from the fall?"

Sam waved the question off with a smirk. "Nah, you're a good bot to get thrown around in. Soft seats and strong seatbelts. And it takes a lot more than that to leave a bruise on me."

"Oh yeah?" Mikaela retorted, taking a cookie for herself whilst Optimus retracted his faceplate and took a sip of energon. "What about a few weeks ago when Bumblebee pulled that emergency stop because he didn't want to run over that squirrel? Face it, Sam: you bruise like a peach."

"I meant no slight to your durability, Sam," Optimus added with an apologetic note. "But your bodies are more fragile than ours, and from that fall I didn't land in-" He cut himself off abruptly with closed optics, setting the cube down on the counter and pinching the space above his nose.

Mikaela and Sam exchanged a look. "Are you okay?" she asked, noticing thanks to Ratchet's tutorials on Cybertronian biology that that the parts in his chassis were churning.

Optimus nodded, optics remaining closed as he attempted to will away the cold wave of nausea bubbling up from his tanks. He'd had half a cube of energon and somehow it had been enough to trigger his over-sensitive tanks to back up. "It'll pass," he finally replied, though left his faceplate open just in case. It was a prudent precaution as within seconds the sickly sensation abruptly quadrupled in intensity and he found himself purging what little he'd swallowed into the sink.

"I'll get Ratchet," Mikaela said as she started towards the door, leaving Sam watching helplessly as he cleared the last of the rejected energon from his tanks.

When the fit seemed to have passed, Sam moved to stand alongside Optimus and looked up at the grimacing mech with a sympathetically matching expression. "Guess puking isn't much fun whatever your species."

"Most definitely," Optimus agreed, his hands still pressed against the sides of the sink as he waited for his systems to stop churning. He reached for the oversized faucet to drain the energon away but recalled Ratchet's instruction to leave it so that the medic could check it, settling to turn and sit back against the counter instead. Rubbing his optics, he heard Sam move to stand beside his hip, elevated heartbeat suggesting his concern. "It's alright, Sam. Sparkbearing is frustratingly paradoxical in that it takes a lot of energon to do but also over-sensitises my systems to it."

"So even though you really need it, the little bot isn't letting you keep it down?" Sam asked, nodding at the sound of confirmation that rumbled from the slumped mech. "Sounds like what happens to human women whilst they're pregnant. They get morning sickness."

Optimus breathed a laugh, resting his head back against the metal counter with a raised brow. "Is it morning or –mourning- sickness that the symptom is labelled? Certainly I'm mourning my ability to intake enough energon to run my own systems, let alone build a sparkling protoform."

Sam grinned and scrubbed a hand through his hair, relaxing a little. It was reassuring when Optimus was sat on the floor looking faintly pathetic after puking into the sink that he could make light of it. He briefly considered using the opportunity whilst it was just the two of them to ask about Starscream, and to perhaps even confirm his suspicion that the reason the Seeker had helped was because he was the other sparkling's creator, but cut off the thought when he heard Mikaela arrive with Ratchet.

The medic ran a quick scan of the contents of the sink before squatting in front of Optimus, optics bright. "Not even an iota of the makeup absorbed this time, despite my modifications. I think the sparkling's growing more resistant to something in our energon rather than less."

"Like a contaminant?" Mikaela asked from beside Sam, lacing her fingers between his.

Ratchet glanced to her with a reassuring smile, pleased that she'd suspected it. "No, more likely a sensitivity to the balance of particles in the batch. I've been experimenting to try to find an acceptable mix, as the sparkling has come to take complete precedence on deciding what quality energon will be allowed into its Sire's systems."

"And it has quite refined tastes," Optimus commented dryly, watching as the medic reached for his chassis and parted the plates obligingly for the sensor to reach inside.

"I'm going to make an analysis of what the sparkling has in its own lines and try to match the chemical consistency this time," Ratchet informed, scrutinizing the woven bundle of cables that had formed around the small body deep inside the mech's chassis. Despite the slenderness of the probe, his fingers lacked the dexterity to get it between the lines without rupturing one. "Mikaela, do you think you could assist me in getting this to the sparkling through this encasement?"

"I'll do my best," she replied, already slipping off and pocketing her watch as Ratchet produced her protective welding gloves from a compartment in his shoulder. Stepping into his hand, she put one the gloves and took hold of the fist-wide tube he extended to her. Perching on the edge of his outstretched fingers just inside Optimus's chassis, she peered at the bundle of cables for a gap. "Is it going to hurt if I try to push these about a bit?"

"I'll be still," Optimus assured, idly wondering when he got used to a human female poking around in his chassis. Over the last few weeks her small size and engineering skilled had become an asset to Ratchet, and one frequently being used and trained on him.

"He shouldn't be able to feel it, and the lines won't return to shape right away. If you make yourself a gap to reach through, it won't close around you whilst you put this into one of the sparkling's lines," Ratchet instructed softly, ignoring the sensation of her hand tightening thoughtfully around the line extending from his wrist.

"Okay, if you're sure," she replied with a note of concerned uncertainty, reaching a tentative hand to the silver cables and pressing between them. They slid apart, a film of lubricant peeling open between them as she pressed and pulled the humming tubes wider. Wordlessly Ratchet turned on the headlight behind her, casting a strong white light into the space.

Mikaela gasped, momentarily forgetting what she was even doing. Curled upon itself and slick with lubricants to prevent it from scratching its body on the metal around it, the sparkling shimmered before her. Where its protoform was expanding, it was being constructed in layers formed from bare materials harvested from its Sire's body. The naked alien metal shone as a liquid silver, shifting as it was shaped and grown.

"Can you see an energon line?" Ratchet asked, frowning at the human's stillness.

"What? Oh, yeah. Yeah, there's a good one right here," Mikaela replied, shaking her head a little to break off her stare.

"Good. Just touch the end of the probe to the line and I'll examine its contents and reseal the breach. Gently now."

Taking her lower lip between her teeth, Mikaela knelt and put her arm through the gap in the cables so that her covered elbow rested on the warm metal. Feeding the probe through her guiding hand with the other, she manoeuvred it under the sparkling's thin arm to a purplish cable that ran down its backstrut.

As the probe made contact and clicked with the connection, the sparkling shifted. To her astonishment, its head turned to face her and its optics took on a faint milky white glow. Completely colourless but definitely watching her.

Mikaela froze. "Uh, Ratchet, it's looking at me."

The medic paused in his analysis of the energon passing over the end of the probe. "Pardon?"

She blinked, muscles locked in shock. "It turned its head and its looking right at me."

Optimus exchanged a look with Ratchet, mindful to remain still. Even the smallest movement could destabilise Mikaela's position without him knowing until it was too late. "Are it's optics on?"

"Yeah, that's how I know it's looking at me. They're white, though." Mikaela watched as the dim optics wavered on her before finally dimming, and the sparkling shifted again as the probe dislodged. Creeping back out onto Ratchet's palm, she held onto his thumb as he moved to replace her on the ground. "Was it really looking at me?"

"Only out of instinct," Ratchet replied, though his face plates were still arranged with surprise. "It won't remember though. Its processor isn't developed enough to retain memory." Looking back to Optimus, he nodded to his open chassis. "You can close now. It'll only take a moment to process the scan."

Whilst Ratchet's optics flickered, Sam nudged Mikaela and grinned. "Guess we'll know if it remembers you when you hold out a stick to prod it with and it runs."

"It would likely be wary of such a motion anyway," Optimus said, frowning. "And no one is going to be prodding my sparkling."

"I beg to differ," Ratchet replied flatly. "As the chief medic I can prod, poke and weld whomever I want if I feel it's in their best interest." Something in his helm chirped and his optics returned to normal, ending the almost-threatening tirade. "Ah, yes. I believe I can match this, Prime. Give me an hour and you shouldn't experience any more purging."

Taking the offered hand as Ratchet stood, Optimus got to his own feet. "If you could manage that, Ratchet, I'd consider it a miracle of the highest order."

The medic folded his arms. "No, a miracle would be getting that sparkling out without any problems. I knew a sparkbearing mech would be a challenge, but with how you've managing to overclock and overrun your systems, at this rate you'll be the end of my processor."

After Ratchet had stalked off from his scolding back to the Medbay, Optimus gave Mikaela and Sam a reassuring smile. "Don't worry. He's threatened everyone here a thousand times over that they'll be the end of his processor."

Mikaela offered Sam a shrug. "It's how he shows he cares."


Optimus allowed Tempest to sit with the energon cube on his head until he stopped giggling with a delight he couldn't comprehend, plucking it off and smiling down at the sparkling's bright optics. "See? Not so scary after all. Come on now. It'll do neither of us any good for you to stay up playing."

Briefly squawking in complaint at being picked up, Tempest watched his Sire place the cube into the sink before continuing back through the mess hall towards the rec room, turning off the light as they left. Hot Rod was sprawled recharging on the oversized sofa, the remote for the television Wheeljack had built still in his hand. Tempest mimicked Optimus's finger to his mouth, remaining silent and still as his Sire turned off the set from where it had fallen into quiet static before they passed through the door on the other side.

Back in the corridor, Optimus tapped the sparkling's stomach for being so good. "See now, Tempest, -other- bots who fall asleep outside of their quarters or the Medbay do so on the job – in their office or off the Base, like Bumblebee." Suddenly mindful of the direction they were wandering in, Optimus turned left at the end of the corridor towards his office. "Speaking of which, there may be a few reports I can sneak past Prowl. Just don't tell Ratchet. He thinks I should be lying still encased in packing foam for the next month."

Tempest offered a quizzical chirp before falling quiet again, happy to be on the move again. He batted his hand out as Optimus keyed in the code to his office, squeaking when the lights came on. The sound became even more insistent when he spotted his toy bear on the floor beside the desk.

"So that's where you left him." Kneeling to put the sparkling on the floor, he held out the large teddy and smiled as it was grasped from his fingers and hugged with a trill of delight. "Yes, I'm certain he missed you too. Just stay there a moment, Tempest."

Straightening, he surveyed the orderly array of data pads on his desk. "Prowl brought you in here today, I see." A chirp brought his attention back down to the floor, where Tempest was crawling to get under the desk with his bear. Optimus shook his head a little, sifting through the pads and setting aside the most urgent ones. "I don't see why you like my office so much. You haven't got anything to do here. But then, you've spent quite a lot of time in here." A quirked smile. "Not necessarily whilst I was working."

****Set at the beginning of Chapter 7, once Starscream has told Optimus about the attack on the power plant but before the general briefing***

Bumblebee stood at restful attention in front of Optimus' desk once he'd handed over his scout report, knowing that it was short enough to remain for whilst the commander read it. It had been a last-minute mission to check on the whereabouts of the key Decepticons, no doubt prompted by Prime's meeting with Starscream yesterday.

Optimus made a thoughtful sound, shifting a little in the chair. "This is very thorough, Bumblebee. Well done." He switched the report into his left hand to press his right to his side, touching over where the sparkling was fidgeting and scraping its heels. "Did you encounter any problems not detailed here?"

The small mech shook his head, bringing his optics back up. "No Sir. I had to temporarily activate my hologram when a highway patrol car indicated for me to stop. I'd neglected to signal at a turning."

"Not a significant omission from your report," Optimus commented with a smile which flickered away upon a sharp clang in his side. The sparkling had stopped scraping and resumed its favourite activity. Looking back to Bumblebee, he was already anticipating the bright-optic expression that had lit up the yellow mech's face. Sliding his arm back onto the armrest of the chair, he picked up the report again. "Go ahead."

Bumblebee grinned and came about the desk, touching a hand to where Optimus's had been against his side only a moment ago. "Thank you, Prime. You've been very… tolerant with me."

Optimus made a low sound through his vents, scrolling back up the pad and picking up Prowl's report from yesterday to compare it with. "And I will remain so if you remain silent about the fact that I let you." He glanced down to the mech, smiling at the enraptured expression. "This is a greater novelty to you than the rest of us, Bumblebee, and you're entitled to your curiosity."

"And it's nice," Bumblebee replied softly, grinning again when there was a kick against his hand. The metal didn't flex from the force of it, only vibrated. He tapped his finger over the spot and was rewarded with another kick, softer than the first. "Sam was telling me how he had struggled before to comprehend that he had grown from the size of a human infant, but that thinking of us as coming from sparklings has outweighed that incredulity."

"I understand what he means," Optimus replied idly, setting aside Prowl's report to revisit Mirage's.

Bumblebee cocked his head, bringing his audio receiver closer to the big mech's side. "Can you tell in what way it lays?" he asked, trying to hear past the powerful systems to those of the comparatively tiny being inside.

Optimus shifted a little, feeling how the weight in his chassis moved. "The body is upright, back to you, though I doubt it'll be that way for long."



Bumblebee made a thoughtful sound, optics flickering as he thought. After a moment he found the sound file he was looking for, playing the music quietly through his speakers and directed to the hidden sparkling.

Optimus looked back down to him quizzically, the reports momentarily forgotten. "What is that?"

"Mozart," the mech replied with something of a sheepish smile. "I read that his music reportedly improves intelligence in unborn infants as well as acting to soothe. I… do not know how much awareness the sparkling may have, but I thought it may be worth a try."

"There's definitely some awareness of the outside world," Optimus confirmed with a thin smile. "If I pass Jazz's room whilst he's playing his 'techno' music, he kicks as if he's trying to reshape my ignition."

A digital chirp interrupted the gentle music. "He? It's a little mech?"

"Yes, and it seems to have surprised everyone. It is not always wise to take the tactician's word as gospel."

Bumblebee smiled despite the credits he'd lost from that bet, calculating that Sam had come off quite wealthy given how everyone else had followed Prowl's lead in the pool. "Evidently." A tinny rattle from inside and he tapped back, pleased at the silence it brought about as if the sparkling were somehow contemplating his response. "I think I'm glad it's a mech. I wouldn't know what to do with a femme." His optics narrowed, bright with mirth. "But then, I won't know what to do with a sparkling in general."

"How do you think I feel?" Optimus murmured beneath his vents, setting the pads down for the time being. "For most of us, you yourself were the closest any of us had come to living with a youngling, and you were in your third frame when you joined my unit."

"That didn't stop Ironhide from calling me a mechling on the firing range," Bumblebee replied dryly, sitting back a little now that the sparkling had stopped moving.

"I suspect you'll be losing all the nicknames associated with youth." Optimus sat forward experimentally, braced for the admonishing kick but finding it absent. "I think the music worked."

Bumblebee nodded with a thoughtful croon. "Yes, he's gone quite still. Do you think he's asleep?"

Optimus's mouth quirked in a kind of shrug. "I don't know. Perhaps. I may actually catch up on things today if he's this still."

Deciding that he'd imposed enough on the commander's patience, Bumblebee straightened on his feet. "I hope so, Prime. I'm glad the music helped, and thank you again."

"You're most welcome, Bumblebee."

Once the scout had left with the music still playing, Optimus spent a moment searching for and downloading a range of classical music from the Internet. With a cautious disbelief that the sparkling was keeping still he made a start on the requisitions reports, Pachelbel's Cannon in D major filling the room.


With a short stack of pads to peruse and compose responses to in one hand, Optimus knelt to reach under his desk for Tempest. The sparkling was sat with the stuffed bear in his lap, manipulating its limbs as he chattered to it. Unperturbed by the large hand that scooped him out and up, he squeezed the bear's arms as he was set back inside the crook of his Sire's arm against his chassis.

Feeling that the sparkling's systems were finally beginning to slow towards recharge, Optimus made a quick visual sweep to make sure things were in order before heading towards the door. "Come now, Tempest. I think you might be ready to settle now."

A soft chirp and Tempest moved to look up into the mech's optics, brows furrowed. He made a vague gesture with one hand, pointing down the corridor towards a door that would take them outside the Base. Considering it for a moment, Optimus relented under the sparkling's stare. "Alright, but just for a few minutes. Then you're going back to berth."

Given his fragile frame and the fact that Megatron was still intent on taking Tempest to raise as a Decepticon, the sparkling had only seen the outside world a handful of times and always from either Optimus's or Ironhide's arms. The enormity of the world – the endless expanse of sky and land, its sounds and the freshness of the air were wondrous to the little mech who spent all his time within the same gray walls. It was a treat to go out, even briefly.

Knowing full well that the sentries would have alerted them if there was a Decepticon presence in the vicinity, Optimus still took a moment to run a scan of the area before sliding open the door and stepping outside. This was the first time Tempest had seen the night sky, and he was pleased to find that the sparkling met it without trepidation. The small mech sat up and looked about with an inquisitive whine and appreciative chirps, finally turning his optics up to the sky. A small hand reached up, attempting to bat at the points of light arranged above them.

"You can't quite reach them," Optimus said with a smile, watching as Tempest continued undeterred, optics wide. "We came from there, you know. From a very old planet orbiting a star that may not exist anymore."

The sound of wild dogs barking companionably abruptly silenced the sparkling. Tempest sat up, head tipped as he listened to the sounds with a smile. Optimus ran a finger down his helm, making the enraptured mech jump with a chirp. He offered an apologetic smile. "I'm sorry that I cannot show you to the world, Tempest, and it to you. Not yet anyway."

**** Set at the end of Chapter 9, after Optimus and Ironhide have interfaced for the first time and before the battle at the power station ****

Neither of them were scheduled for sentry duty and both of them should have been recharging, but Optimus suspected that Prowl was out here for the same reasons he was. Moving across the yard to where the tactician stood looking up at the stars, he quietly came to stand alongside him and followed his gaze upwards.

"Enjoying the peace before the fight?" Optimus asked, though it was also a statement. This wasn't the first time they'd come across each other restless and contemplative on the eve of battle, and there was something comforting in the familiarity.

Prowl made a soft sound of agreement, his gaze unmoving. "And the little one is due to arrive in five days." An arched, metallic brow as he gave his commander a sidelong look. "You sure know when to pick your battles."

Optimus shunted a short, dry laugh through his vents, clarifying, "I'd have preferred it if Megatron would wait a few weeks, too. But it is as it is. We can only do our best."

"I'm surprised Ironhide's letting you go at all," Prowl replied softly, cautious to encroach on that new development in Prime's personal life.

A thin smile. "He respects my wishes, though he may not agree with them."

"The sign of a good partner."

Silence fell between them and the constellations , interrupted briefly by a quiet series of clicks as the cramped sparkling shifted about. They paid the sound no mind, finding that it had become normal at some point over the last month.

Thinking of the dark mech whom would likely be covertly making his way to his quarters later tonight, Optimus looked to Prowl again. "How long had you known?"

Though the question came from nowhere the tactician knew exactly what was meant, the memory of meeting Prime at his office door with Ironhide recharging by the desk very recent. "Not long," he replied after a moment. "I found out by mistake, and his denial wasn't convincing or attempted for long." A glance to the mech watching him. "How long had you felt that way?"

Optimus's mouth quirked in a grimace, the question touching on something he hadn't quite figured out himself. "I don't know. I've only ever seen him as a comrade and close friend, and hadn't expected things to change as they have." Hesitating, he found his gaze drifting to the smudged surface of the moon, partially obscured tonight by thick clouds. "I fear… I'm not sure if this is because of the sparkling, or if I genuinely return his feelings." It was a difficult admission to make, but also a relief to release it.

"You seem a good match for each other," Prowl replied, his gaze turning to where the sun had set only a few hours ago. The sky there had turned from purple to black. "I suppose you'll just have to give it time and see what happens after the mechling is born."

"You're right, of course," Optimus conceded with a thin smile, sighing as the wind began to pick up and seek a path between his plates.

On the horizon, Prowl noted flashes of light pricking between the sky and the land. "Storm's coming," he murmured, not missing the irony of coming events.

Unseen, Optimus pressed a hand to his grill to where the sparkling was shifting again, turning to curl its back to his side. The future seemed so uncertain for the first new mech to be born amongst them in millennia: filled with potential and unavoidable danger. He struggled to imagine what a mixture of his attitudes and Megatron's would create in the sparkling's processor, wondered at the outcome of such a dichotomy in parental temperaments. The only thing any of them knew for certain was that it would be powerful, and that his existence alone would bring about a tumultuous change in the Cybertronian species as he embodied a unification of their warring factions. A tempest of change and possibility.

To Prowl's comment Optimus made a soft sound of agreement, also looking to the lightning in the distance. "We'll weather it. We always do."


Finally, Tempest slumped back against his chassis with a soft sigh through his vents, hugging the toy bear close to his chest. Optimus took his own gaze down from the stars and smiled at seeing his sparkling finally on the verge of recharge. Ghosting back through the Base, he bypassed Hot Rod still recharging in the rec room and was soon back in his quarters. Leaving the pads he'd taken at the end of his desk, he moved into the adjoining berth room.

Tempest didn't stir as he was laid back on the small berth, rolling when the large hands left him to spoon his body about the soft toy with a sleepy squeak. Optimus watched him for a moment, tapping a finger to the mobile Sam and Mikaela had made to make it spin before moving to the larger berth where Ironhide still lay. The broad mech hadn't moved since he'd left, but his optics flickered online when he eased himself back onto the padded surface. As much as he'd deny it, his chassis still ached from the forced birth a week ago.

"Get Pest to sleep in the end?"

Optimus nodded with a smile to the muzzy mech, settling on his back with a sigh. "Yes. Finding his toy and taking a walk through the Base finally settled him."

"You know you're only encouraging him. He'll be having you taking him for walks in the middle of night for the next decade at this rate," Ironhide replied, shifting to rest a hand on Optimus's chassis, thumbing the wide grill thoughtfully.

Vents cycling down towards recharge, Optimus lay his own hand over the one on his chest. Between the quiet murmurs of the three engines in the room, he found a warm kind of peace. "And I'll never mind it."

Ironhide smiled, optics beginning to dim. "I know you won't. You've got too big a spark to."

Optimus breathed a laugh, wondering which occasion he should remind the older mech of when he'd demonstrated exactly the same thing as he drifted towards recharge himself. When Ironhide had sat on the floor in the rec room and played blocks with Tempest for two hours whilst he'd spoken to the NEST officials; when he'd threatened Jazz into playing Bach or Pachelbel instead of techno if the mech simply had to play –something- whilst Tempest was in the room; or when the old mech had taken Tempest outside when he thought Optimus was recharging.

Just to show him the sunrise.


There's nothing like sparkling schmaltz sometimes, is there? ^_^

Thanks for reading – a review if you enjoyed it would be lovely.