Chapter 28 – Haec olim meminisse ivvabit
Notes: Title translation: Time heals all things. And here it is, the final chapter. I want to thank all of you that have stayed with me on this crazy journey. It really means the world to me. Thank you. Darling beta of mine, wher would I be without you?
Iacon never slowed down. Most of the Decepticon troops lost the spark to fight without their leaders and handed in their weapons without a fuss. There were still some pockets of resistance, but they were outnumbered and without long term resources. It was just a matter of time before the Autobots had total control of Cybertron. Optimus was now putting the after plans into action, something no mech had really believed they would see happen and it was beginning to help reality settle back in. Neutrals and refugees were starting to come forward to ask when they could go home and start rebuilding. Resources were tight but Optimus could now afford to let mechs leave Cybertron to search for more. The ships were small, with limited range, but they were already beginning to make a difference. Scientists were out searching their planet for signs of its recovery. If Cybertron could regenerate on its own then they could stay here.
Hound was fully recovered from his injuries, but was still restricted from doing much as the sparkling was growing rapidly and being much more demanding than Hound remembered Silverbolt being. Ratchet explained it was from the shock of Hound nearly dying; the sparkling's own growth had been severely restricted for a good length of time and was now trying to make up for lost time.
By now everyone knew about the scout and seeker, having heard the story of his undercover work and having seen them together around the city. That led to any mechs who knew more of their past being pressed for their history, though the more forward of the bots just straight up questioned the bonded pair. Femmes were calling it an epic love story, which embarrassed both Hound and Thundercracker no end. The news about Hound carrying took longer to emerge but eventually they put the information together and congratulations were flooding in from all quarters. Apparently the idea of new life starting again was enough for many who held old grudges against Thundercracker to put them aside. Old memories resurfaced and Silverbolt and, in turn, the other Aerialbots, were suddenly being quizzed about Hound and Thundercracker. That was hard for Silverbolt in particular as he still hadn't spoken to his seeker creator and as time dragged by, it just got harder. He hadn't voiced his concerns to Hound but his lack of social calls made that abundantly clear anyway. The green mech couldn't interfere though. Both Silverbolt and Thundercracker were grown mechs and wouldn't take kindly to being prodded into meeting. That and Hound, however selfish it sounded, was just too tired to really try.
Thundercracker's own mega-cycles were curtailed by Hound's increasing berth ridden lifestyle but he never complained. In fact he secretly enjoyed the time where it was just the two them with no interruptions. It felt like before, before the war, when they were still in that first flush of bonded love and waiting for the arrival of Silverbolt. They re-learnt everything they had lost and what had changed in each other them; their more guarded nature, Thundercracker's higher tendency towards aggression and violence, Hound's quieter reactions.
Their interfacing was curtailed to gentle interactions, but for the sparkling's sake, as well as their own needs, they had to spark merge occasionally. That was often dictated by when Hound was feeling strong enough and Thundercracker happily did all of the work, teasing his sparkmate to an overload and merging their sparks in that moment of bliss. As much as he would have liked to stay basking in such closeness, the blue flyer was careful not to over expose his mate. If any mech who still doubted Thundercracker's loyalties to the Autobots had seen the care he took with Hound in moments like this, then they would have had all lingering reservations banished.
Thundercracker loved the moments after that as much as the interfacing itself. He got to just hold Hound as he recharged, allowed to touch him however he liked without being caught. It wasn't that he minded Hound knowing that he just wanted to stroke his chassis with barely there touches, but there was something the seeker couldn't explain about being able to do this in absolute trust. The flyer had hadn't realised, until the first time he found himself cradling Hound as he recharged during his recovery, that he had missed this as much the interfacing, as the conversations, as the sense of completion. He knew it wouldn't be long before this would change again, until their lives were centred around a sparkling again and Thundercracker was taking every opportunity to enjoy just them.
Right now though, there was something annoying him and Thundercracker couldn't suppress the urge any longer. He should have seen Silverbolt before when he was in Iacon but Hound had persuaded him otherwise. The blue flyer eased upright on the berth and Hound shifted restlessly. Thundercracker reached out through their bond and soothed him until the green mech calmed. For a moment he just sat, watching his mate recharge, enjoying the peace and knowledge that he, and their sparkling, were safe, but he didn't delay long.
The walk through the corridors of the Iacon base was disconcerting. A lot of bots were giving him suspicious looks, knowing who he was on sight, but his wings were emblem free now and the war was pretty much over. He had walked around Iacon before, but never alone and he refused to slink like he felt he should. The seeker strode down the middle of the corridors confidently and was left alone. He had a lot of practice doing that, looking like he belonged when he was never sure he did.
Thundercracker hadn't had the chance before now to seek Silverbolt out; a combination of his and Hound's injuries and the fact that Silverbolt was in charge of over seeing all aerial transfers of Decepticon prisoners, which were increasing by the mega-cycle. For once the head of the Superion gestalt was actually in Iacon for some time.
Thundercracker rang the door chime and waited for a moment before it slid open to reveal Skydive, who appeared momentarily surprised to see him. His expression soon turned to one of annoyance. "He's only just got into recharge. He's been on the go for mega-cycles."
Thundercracker knew that was a risk he ran by calling unannounced. "I'll leave…"
"No," Skydive interrupted, shaking his head. "He'd never forgive me if I made you go." With that the grey and red jet stepped back and gestured for Thundercracker to enter. The blue flyer noted, absently, that he was a fair bit taller than the other mech, a fact he had not really noticed when they had fought in aerial combat. He found himself within in a communal area which the individual berthrooms linked to. Fireflight was the only other Aerialbot present and he looked up, startled and anxious, from where he sat on a large couch. Skydive motioned for Thundercracker to stay where he was. "I'll go get Silverbolt."
"But he only just got…" Fireflight began in protest, but his gestalt brother interrupted, though not unkindly.
"I know 'Flight, but you know what he'll be like if he doesn't see… him."
The red and grey jet disappeared into one of the rooms. Thundercracker didn't try and make conversation with Fireflight and the younger jet seemed too on edge to start one by himself. When Skydive reappeared he swiftly moved over to red and white jet and urged him to his pedes and into another room, but honestly, Thundercracker barely noticed. His optics were fixed on the other flyer entering the room. From Silverbolt's expression Thundercracker could tell Skydive had told him who was waiting for him. The seeker could also see just how tired the young mech was and he realised, with something akin to shock, that his youngling was now taller than him.
"You've grown," he blurted without thinking.
Silverbolt glanced downwards at himself before giving Thundercracker a small smile. "Not in awhile."
"I'm sorry…" the blue flyer took the gentle rebuke with all the guilt from the past that it brought up. "I should have seen you before. I…"
"No, it's okay," Silverbolt held up a hand. "Dad explained why. I'm not sure I understood entirely, but he got away with it."
Thundercracker frowned at him. "Got away with what?"
"It's hard to argue with someone when they tell you you're gonna have a little brother or sister soon," the Aerialbot leader shrugged.
"Oh, you know…" Thundercracker blinked for a moment before searching Silverbolt's face. "And that's alright with you?"
"Dad said exactly the same thing," it was Silverbolt's turn to frown. "Why wouldn't it be?"
"Because you didn't have both of us when you should have done and you might feel…left out." Thundercracker shifted uncomfortably.
Silverbolt moved to sit on the couch to hide his expression. It wasn't that the fact Thundercracker hadn't been there when he was a youngling didn't hurt, it did, it was more the fact that Silverbolt didn't know what to do now Thundercracker was back in his life. He'd spent more of his life without two creators that having another was hard to adjust to and his gestalt family had filled up a large hole in his spark. Silverbolt didn't want to hurt Thundercracker by saying that. "Another sparkling would be good for you two right? I mean, you've lost out on so much, this is a chance to start over."
The blue seeker cautiously sat down beside his adult youngling and said warily, "Yes, but I want you to be a part of that too. Hound and I having a new sparkling doesn't mean I want to spend any less time getting to know you."
Silverbolt couldn't help the genuinely pleased smile that crossed his face, "I'd like that. I want you to get to know the other Aerialbots as well. They're my family too now and…" Silverbolt shot the blue seeker an embarrassed smile. "They've always been in awe of your flying skills."
"Well, when you've got a free moment, maybe we can all go flying together," Thundercracker offered.
"I would really like that," Silverbolt nodded. "I'm sure the others will too. I…" he paused, glancing at his hands before he swore. "Frag this." Thundercracker abruptly found himself being hugged as Silverbolt lunged at him across the sofa and he stiffened momentarily, unused to physical affection after so long without from anyone but Hound. The Aerialbot felt it and hurriedly tried to back away, but the seeker didn't let him go as he gripped him back.
"I'm sorry," he murmured, unsure why he was apologising. "I'm not doing any of this right."
"Don't," Silverbolt returned. "You're here now."
Thundercracker leant back to regard Silverbolt, who gave him a tentative smile and he sat back a little, pulling out of the embrace. "When I was a Decepticon, when I saw you in the air, being fired on, I always had this strange, misplaced worry about you. I had always thought you were all too young to be fighting and being a Con never changed that, but it was just when you were being fired at by others, I wanted you safe out of the air."
Silverbolt's hand curled around his and he held on far too tight, the metal of both their hands creaking under the pressure. "I'm scared of heights." The blue seeker blinked at him and the Aerialbot shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "I know you're probably disappointed but I wanted you to know and…"
"Don't Silverbolt. I'm not disappointed. You've achieved so much and we're all afraid of something." Thundercracker shook his head and gave him a wry smile. The bigger flyer stared at him for a moment, clearly doubting, before a pleased expression broke out over his faceplates. "I did want to ask you something. When the sparkling is due we - I'd like you to be there."
"Really?" the Aerialbot asked before his wings twitched, a sign of barely suppressed joy at the invitation. "I would love that. You really don't think I'd get in the way?"
"It's not that complicated. You and I will basically just stand there until it's over. Hound and Ratchet do all the work between them," Thundercracker shrugged one shoulder. "I felt awkward and, well, overwhelmed when it was you."
Silverbolt gave him grin, clearly wanting to tease him, but unsure how Thundercracker would take it. The blue seeker smiled back, appreciating that this would take time and it grew deeper when Silverbolt optics flickered as the need to offline crept up on him. He squeezed the fingers still held loosely in his. "I know I've stopped you getting the recharge you need."
"No, it's alright. I…"
Thundercracker interrupted, "You're important now and busy. You need the recharge and I need to get back to Hound."
"Well, alright," the Aerialbot agreed reluctantly. He didn't want to let Thundercracker go now they were talking. He was half afraid he wouldn't come back again.
"Come and see us some time," the blue seeker instructed. "Hound would love to see you more, when you're not so burned out."
Silverbolt promised and he kept it. At first he just visited them by himself, but gradually Thundercracker met all the other gestalt members properly. The young jets were loud, vaguely obnoxious sometimes, but beyond close and Thundercracker found himself enjoying their company. On a day when Hound was feeling up to it, the blue flyer took to the skies above Iacon with the Aerialbots and they just flew; racing each other around the towers and from one end of the city to the other. The green mech watched them, Trailbreaker keeping him company and offering up amusing commentary when the flyers did something reckless or silly. Hound could feel his bonded joy at the freedom. He hadn't flown free like this since before the war and even longer before that with any other jets. Some of younger flyers were faster, some more manoeuvrable but Thundercracker had vorns of experience over them and utter faith in his abilities. He didn't feel a pull to them as he did other seekers, but that didn't matter when he was cutting up vapour trails with his wingtips, thrust vectoring and stalling deliberately.
When they eventually landed, they were tired but full of smiles and chatter. They collected Hound and Trailbreaker, sweeping them up with them and making sure they had seen all the Aerialbots had done, just like the young mechs they still were, before the war had made them grow up too fast. Thundercracker's hand slipped into Hound's as he talked with Fireflight and there was nothing but contentment between them.
Hound shifted, a slight frown coming and going across his faceplates, before he settled again. Thundercracker watched for a moment, reassuring himself the scout was fully in recharge once more, prior to taking up the datapad he'd been reading. His sparkmate's recharge patterns were highly disturbed as he neared the end of his carrying period. This time it had not been the smooth ride as it had with Silverbolt. Hound had struggled with upset systems, lethargy and some cycles, sharp pain in his chest. He had, at later stages, not been able to do much and for the past two mega-cycles had been confined to their quarters. The seeker hated seeing him so listless, but the green mech had never once complained about carrying and Ratchet had merely reiterated that this was all down to how serious Hound's injuries had been and that he had never regained his reserves to cope with the disruption of a sparkling. The scout was strong enough to see the period through without worry, but he had to take it carefully.
Thundercracker had taken those words to spark and watched his bonded closely, without trying to seem like he was hovering or suffocating him. At this point, Hound was often in restless recharge, but he enjoyed the company in the moments he was online. Silverbolt came and went as regularly as he could, but ended up basically just spending the joors chatting to Thundercracker, often with some plea from Fireflight to check that the seeker would go flying with them again.
Hound muttered in his recharge and Thundercracker hauled himself to his pedes. He crossed the floor and crouched down next to the berth, reaching out with a hand to trail fingers gently over Hound's forehead. For a klik he just stroked his bonded's face, but when that didn't have its usual affect of quietening him, Thundercracker spoke softly, "Hound, come on. You want to wake up for me?" Gradually the green mech came online, optics barely half their normal brightness. The blue flyer smiled warmly. "You weren't recharging properly. How you feeling?"
"Tired," the scout murmured, nudging his face into those fingers still stroking his face. "And my chest aches."
"I'm sorry love, but you're nearly there. Ratchet thinks you've got another half an orn left."
Hound pressed his own hand to his chest, pushing at the grill and Thundercracker hooked his fingers away, knowing that Hound would keep it up until he ached more, just trying to find some relief. "No, it really hurts this time," the green mech tugged at the seeker's grip.
"How badly? Do you want me to call Ratchet?" Thundercracker asked, concerned, but keeping his voice level.
"No, I think I…" Hound frowned, pushing at the berth until he was sat up a little before he winced sharply. "I need to go to Med Bay."
Thundercracker blinked at him, real worry flooding through him. Anything could be going wrong. Was it Hound's systems? Were they failing? Was it the sparkling? Was it in distress? Was it…
"Oh," Thundercracker pushed down their bond a little more, towards Hound and their offspring. "Oh, now."
Hound laughed softly, a broad smile crossing his face. "When I have heard that before?"
Thundercracker managed to summon up a half grin. "Now you find the energy to tease me. Come on, we've got to get to Med Bay. Do you think you can walk?"
"Won't know until I try." The green mech let the seeker draw him off the berth to his pedes. He wavered a little before Thundercracker got him secured against his side, arm tight around him, much like they had been before when the blue mech had rushed Hound to the shuttle when Silverbolt had been due. This time Hound didn't argue and he clung a little more. Thundercracker sent a comm to Ratchet on their way there, so by the time they made it to the Med Bay, the medic was ready for them. The tiny protoform was laid out next to a berth, just like it had been before and Thundercracker helped get Hound settled as Ratchet chased the Twins out of the door. No one could have failed to notice their increased presence in and around the Medical Area of Iacon, nor Ratchet's increased time actually spent away from the centre.
Silverbolt arrived at nearly the same time that the bonded pair did, having rushed over at Thundercracker's urgent call. He left his gestalt members at the door to the Med Bay, despite their protests, promising they could come in as soon as it was allowed. The Aerialbot reminded them what Ratchet would do to their wings if they dared to try and sneak in. Silverbolt hovered at Hound's side, nervous and excited, much like Thundercracker, but he didn't get in anyone's way because he could see the way his seeker creator was wearing a glazed, stunned look that was so out of place. He knew it was Hound and Thundercracker's place more than his, to see what was happening, but he felt like a real family like this. It was a moment closer than most of the others they had experienced up to now.
As it turned out Thundercracker could remember as much, or as little really, as Silverbolt's transfer to his protoform and realised he would never get used to it. There was that intense, overwhelming emotional outpouring from the moment Hound cracked open his chest to the instant the sparkling powered up his blue optics for the first time. Ratchet made Thundercracker take the sparkling this time, too concerned for the exhausted Hound to let him hold him yet. The CMO ran a series of tests whilst Thundercracker cradled the newest member of his family, staring down at the squirming bundle; another little mech that carried Hound's blue optics.
Unlike Silverbolt, he hadn't wailed or cried. He just seemed determined never to lie still. He kicked his legs up, pulling at the thermal cover until it was barely covering him and chewed messily on his own fingers, making Thundercracker smile. They were both testing out their bond, watching for reactions in one another. A wave of affection from Thundercracker had the sparkling squeaking up at him in delight, fingers still jammed in his mouth.
"Can I hold him?" Hound's voice was soft and the seeker looked up to see Ratchet had stepped back from his sparkmate. The green mech looked like he was barely online, but he was smiling. Thundercracker sat down on the edge of the bed and carefully passed the fidgeting sparkling over. "Hey there little one." The mechlet gurgled up at him, pulling his fingers free of his mouth finally. Hound pressed a kiss to his forehead, not minding the wet hand grasping at his cheek as he did so, and leaning into his bonded as the flyer settled in closer to him.
"He's a healthy little mech," Ratchet interrupted. "He's suffered no ill effects from the carrying period as far as I can tell. Hound, you need to take it easy for the next couple of orns or so."
"Thank you Ratchet," the green mech nodded.
"I'll leave you alone now," the CMO replied. "I will tell your 'guests' outside that all is well."
With that the red and white headed out the door, leaving the four mechs alone. The little mech wriggled around within his blanket, optics bright, clearly in not in any hurry to recharge. It didn't matter if Hound or Thundercracker held him, everything was too interesting for him to stop trying to look at it. The room was filled with little warbles and chirps of nonsense sparkling words and Hound noticed Silverbolt had a soft smile on his face. He almost looked like he wanted to touch the newest member of their family, but daren't, so Hound turned the sparkling around and held him out to the Aerialbot.
"Here, you can hold him."
Silverbolt's optics widened dramatically. "I don't know how. I mean, he's the first sparkling I've really seen or been this close to."
"Now the war is over, you'll be seeing a lot more, so you better get some practice in now," the green mech smiled. "It's easy, just put your arms together." Silverbolt did as he was told, though he looked as scared as he'd ever been and Hound gently slid the mechlet into the cradle of his elder brother's arms. "That's it." Silverbolt slid his hand to where Hound's had been behind the sparkling's head and stared down at his sibling. Big blue optics watched him back and little arms waved up at him, fingers grasping at the air between them.
"Primus, he's so tiny," Silverbolt whispered, unintentionally lowering his voice.
"You were that size once," Thundercracker smiled warmly, still pressed up to Hound on the berth.
The tall mech could feel his sibling's tiny presence on the edge of his spark, nothing like his gestalt or creator connections, but unmistakably there nevertheless. The sparkling let out another loud string of clicks and chirps before wriggling again, hands closing into tight fists as he snuggled down into the thermal blanket, optics dimming. The three grown mechs watched, identical smiles of love on their faces as the little mechlet gradually fell into recharge. They were still when there was chime on the door and Optimus entered slowly, unsure about interrupting the family moment.
"Ratchet just passed on the good news. Congratulations."
"Thank you," Hound said and Thundercracker nodded.
The big mech came further into the room to get a better look at the sparkling and Silverbolt finally took his optics off his brother to glance upwards at the Prime. The Aerialbot realised that their leader, the mech that everyone looked up to, had an expression on his face that he had never seen before: One of disbelieving hope, leaving him looking a little vulnerable.
"Would you like to hold him?" Silverbolt asked without stopping to think.
Optimus blinked at him rapidly. "This is your family moment, I don't want to intrude."
"He's in recharge now," Thundercracker spoke up. "He won't know the difference."
Silverbolt carefully held out the sparkling and Optimus hesitantly took him, though he knew how to hold a sparkling without being told. If Silverbolt had thought the mechlet looked small before he seemed miniscule now in Optimus' broad hands. The big mech was motionless as he gazed down at the tiny life that he held and felt utterly lost. This was a symbol of what he had been fighting for all these vorns but now it was here…
"You are our future, little one," he said softly. "The first sparkling born in far too long, born to loving creators who have fought through the worst this war had to offer and come out the other side stronger. Everyone will look to you, our symbol of peace, and know that finally we can build a better Cybertron and we will, so that you can grow up without knowing war, pain, suffering, inequality or anything else that led to me standing here today saying this. Don't let it be a weight on your shoulders though, let it be the road beneath your pedes or the wind beneath your wings." Optimus stopped, looking up with a half embarrassed smile. "What is his name?"
"Welcome to the New Golden Age Lightspeed. Welcome to Cybertron."