Optimus watched from the shadows, waiting for the signal. He could see Bumblebee fighting to keep still from the corner of his optics. The young mech was very excited to see his friends again. He had missed the twins.
Of all of Optimus' team, Bumblebee had had the hardest time adjusting to life as a Decepticon. The change hadn't been easy for any of them, but their youngest teammate had taken it the worst. He had been jerked from his comfortable black and white world where the Autobots were good and the Decepticons were evil, into a world that was much grayer. Leaving Earth – and Sari, for a time, although she was back with them now – had been difficult, especially once they had learned that they were going to reside on the Nemesis for the foreseeable future. Bumblebee, who had fought hard against taking the Decepticon symbol, had rebelled. Blurr's appearance had helped convince him to stop fighting against their new comrades, but it had taken several decaorns, and a stint with the Stunticon Team, before Bumblebee had acclimatized. He still didn't agree with all of their ideals, but making friends with Wildrider and Drag Strip, and seeing how happy Bulkhead was in his new environment, had helped him settle in. Learning about the way his old friends had been treated by their so-called comrades was going a long way in destroying any remaining respect he had for the Autobots.
Optimus let his optics drift over Prowl and Jazz, nearly hidden on the roof of the building across from him. The pair was keeping an optic on their approaching targets. Prowl would signal when they got within range, and Jazz would cut off their escape. Both ninjas had slipped into the roles of Decepticons with surprising ease. Jazz had explained their easy transition by informing them that ninjas had served as the Emperor's body guards and assassins in the cycles long gone. That training had continued through the ages, and though each ninja chose his own path, the many vorns spent ingraining honorable and less-than-honorable ways of dispatching a target never disappeared. Jazz and Prowl could turn off their easy going and tranquil attitudes respectively, when the need arose. The Decepticons had discovered early on the pissing off the ninjas was a Bad Idea™.
Bulkhead had had the easiest time, Optimus remembered as he examined the giant's hiding spot farther down the street. He had done his initial training with Team Charr, who he enjoyed spending time with. Although Bulkhead was a space bridge engineer, and Oil Slick was a chemist, the pair loved to talk about science and math with another mech who understood. They could chat for hours about subjects beyond the rest of the team's understanding. Also, it turned out that Cyclonus had an interest in art, and although he was unwilling to talk about art for hours on end he would on occasion critique Bulkhead's work, which the engineer appreciated.
Ratchet, who was waiting on the ship for any injured, and had grumbled extensively about coming on this mission, had been reunited with an old lover. Apparently, he and Hook had been roommates in medical school, but had gone their separate ways at the start of the First War. After a few awkward meetings the pair had picked up where they had left off, much to the chagrin of Hook's brothers. The Constructicons hadn't been sure whether to be elated or horrified when they were transferred to the Nemesis. Apparently, Ratchet and Hook were rather…loud. And now they were living on the same ship.
Optimus himself had grown in leaps and bounds, but it hadn't been easy. It had taken him a very long time to fully accept the betrayal, and so he hadn't immediately embraced the Decepticon lifestyle. He had sworn his loyalty, and he kept to his oath, but vorns of conditioning against Decepticons had made him wary about the entire faction. And Megatron had done nothing to make the transition easier. It had seemed like every time Optimus turned around, the Warlord was there, taunting him with words about his former life, or making subtle innuendos that left the smaller mech shivering in anger, fear, and lust. After decacycles of such torment Optimus had lashed out, verbally tearing into his Leader. When Megatron had simply smirked that infuriating, smug smirk, Optimus had decked him. In the resulting tussle Optimus failed to wipe that smirk off Megatron's face. In fact, when the pair emerged several hours later, disheveled and dented, the smirk had only gotten wider.
And now, here they were, vorns later, getting ready to retrieve the unofficial members of their team. Jetfire and Jetstorm had not fared well in the time since Optimus' team had defected. The Council had turned its attention to the youngling flyers when the others had escaped, declared them a danger to Autobot society because of their Decepticon coding, and had shipped them to the Stockades. Word of their imprisonment had only recently gotten back to the Decepticons. The Autobots had gone to great lengths to keep it quiet. Megatron had paused only long enough to organize an ambush before sending Optimus' squad to free the twins. Flyers were a valuable commodity after all, and these two in particular had had access to Autobot secrets before their incarceration. While the secrets were likely out-of-date and useless now, they would gain insight into the tactics of the Autobots. That they were important to one of his Elite Teams was a factor too.
The ambush could have taken orns longer to plan, but luckily the twins were being transferred to a more secure, unknown facility this cycle, and the rescue team was in position, lying in wait.
"Targets on approach," Prowl's voice was quiet over the comms. "Zero point five decakliks until they are within range. Ten Guards, the twins are in the center of the formation wrapped in heavy duty stasis chains, with Sentinel Prime following the formation."
"Bumblebee, prepare. I want those guards taken out before they have a chance to retaliate. Bulkhead, get those chains off of the twins and then get them to Ratchet. Prowl, Jazz, cover them. I will deal with Sentinel."
"Got it, Boss."
The Elite Guard squad clearly wasn't expecting an attack. They were caught completely by surprise with a yellow blur struck from the side. Two of the guards dropped with strangled screams, energon boiling as electricity raced through their circuits. Stunned by the ambush, two more guards fell before they could pull their weapons. The other six were quicker, and managed to draw their blasters. They attempted to track the yellow menace, and failed to take note of one mech dropping down from the roof behind them. One guard found out he was there rather quickly when a nunchuck struck him hard in the neck, breaking the struts and killing him. Shurikens embedded in three of the other mechs told of them about the presence of a third mech. The last two guards moved to stand back to back, attempting to track their enemies. Jazz dealt with them swiftly. The small blade he carried sliced through both mechs' throats, one after the other. Bulkhead moved in, massive arms easily hefting the weight of the small flyers. He broke the chains securing them to the transportation platform, and took off for the ship.
Optimus had moved when the first two guards had fallen. He had quickly isolated Sentinel from the fight, making sure that the blustering fool couldn't come to his guards' aid. Fool though the other Prime was, he was still a Prime for a reason. Sentinel's optics darkened in anger when he recognized his attacker.
"Traitor!" He bellowed. Optimus regarded his former friend calmly.
"How dare you show your face here, traitor! You will submit to the will of the Elite Guard, and your pathetic team will be taken into custody."
"No, I don't think so. We're fine with remaining where we are, thank you very much."
"If you will not come quietly, I will force you!" Drawing his blaster and shield – what had happened to his sword? – the mech lunged for Optimus, firing wildly. Side stepping the blasts, Optimus drew his axe. He moved in from the side, waiting for Sentinel to make the next move. Snarling, the Autobot Second-in-Command attempted to press the Decepticon back against the wall, and growled when Optimus evaded him. He was so focused on eliminated his ex-friend that he didn't notice as the smaller mech herded him further down the darkened street. He was caught completely by surprise when the red and blue mech darted forward, axe raised high. Sentinel took advantage of the opening the move had left, intending to shoot the charging Decepticon through his spark. He never got the chance. Optimus released his axe, the weapon spinning through the air before smashing into Sentinel's shield. Distracted, Sentinel dropped his optics to examine the shield for damage. He never saw Optimus draw an energon dagger. The blade was shoved through his throat before he realized that he was in danger.
The lifeless shell dropped to the ground. Optimus spared it a disdainful glance. He pulled his blade from the corpse and cleaned the energon off on a cloth he took from subspace. Then he retrieved his axe, and turned to head back to his team.
"Report," he ordered curtly.
"All targets have been eliminated. Bulkhead has returned to the ship with the twins."
"Get your afts back here ASAP. These two are driving me up the wall!" Ratchet barked.
"Ah but Ratchet, you is loving us anyway!"
"Get off the comm!"
"I'm en route, ETA is 2 kliks," Optimus said, amused as Ratchet cursed.
"Relax, Ratch," Jazz chuckled. "Me'n Prowl will be there in one klik. You can handle them until then, right?"
"Cheeky brat. Yeah, I can. Hurry up. Ratchet out."
The trip home was rather uneventful after the excitement of the cycle. The small ship they had used on the rescue mission had met with the Nemesis and docked with no problems. Now they were heading back to Decepticon territory. Jetfire and Jetstorm had no problems with leaving Cybertron and were chatting happily with Bumblebee and Bulkhead at a table in the rec room, but the haunted look in their optics didn't fade entirely. The young leader knew that it would take a long time for the twins to heal completely, and silently berated himself for his failure. They had freed the twins, but it had taken him far too long even discover their captivity. And, he was ashamed to admit, there had been so much going on in the past vorns that he had barely spared them a thought. He had assumed that Sentinel would look after them. But then, he had assumed that he and Sentinel would be able to work out their differences. He should have checked on the flyers.
Megatron watched his favorite team commander from the shadows. Years of experience had taught the warlord how to read both his enemies and his soldiers. He was very good at quickly determining their flaws. If Optimus had a fatal flaw, it was his inability to let go of his perceived mistakes. The young mech took everything so personally, and the fate of the jet twins hung heavily on his shoulders, Megatron knew. That they were safe now and would eventually recover meant little to the former Autobot, and the silver tyrant knew that he was blaming himself. Well, that would end now.
"Enough of this foolishness, Optimus." If the fire truck was startled by the sudden appearance of his leader, he gave no sign. He kept his gaze on the bay window, intently studying the stars.
"What foolishness? You know as well as I do that I could have prevented this. Yes, I am trying to undo the damage, but it can never really be undone, can it, Megatron?" Megatron growled lowly.
"One could argue that you are no omnipresent and had no way of knowing what the council had planned."
"They were going to force them to breedMegatron. Mechs would have used them until the offlined all for the sake of sparking more flyers. They are younger than Bumblebee! Do you really think that whether or not I could have known makes any difference? I did not even try to check on them. I assumed they would be safe. If we hadn't intercepted that transmission we never would have known what happened to them!" Optimus turned to face his lover, fury and guilt burning in his deep red optics.
"They were not yours to command! You did what any good commander would, and saw to the needs of your people first. I know the Elite Guard is despicable; I am aware of how low the council will sink when they want something. Even knowing how they act, my intel network discovered no signs that Jetfire and Jetstorm were being held captive. So sitting here and brooding about whether or not there was anything you could have done differently is a waste of time."
"How dare you!" The rage that had built up inside the younger mech finally had a target. Optimus was not one to lose control easily, but Megatron had a way of getting under his plating. And the heliformer liked pushing Optimus until he lost all of his careful control. The young commander launched himself at Megatron, not caring that the mech was far larger than he was. He aimed a powerful blow at the Decepticon's face, but Megatron easily caught his fist. Moving quickly, he jerked the smaller mech into his arms, pinning him in a tight hold. Optimus struggled, cursing and hissing and trying to break free, but Megatron held fast. Eventually, Optimus became too tired to keep struggling, and went lax in his lover's grip. Megatron didn't release him, and instead pressed silky kisses to the younger mech's neck cables. Moaning softly, Optimus relaxed completely, pressing into the surprisingly gentle attention his lover was showing him. They stayed like that for quite some time, exchanging kisses and stroking plating, until Optimus asked,
"What if it happens again? What if I lose one of my teammates, but can't get them back? I know what the Magnus and the council will do to them. I can't let that happen." And that, Megatron knew, was the crux of the matter. Optimus, despite being a powerful commander, feared losing his team. He feared not being good enough to protect them. Their first brush with betrayal had shaken him deeply, and he had yet to regain all of the confidence he had lost.
"You will train them, Optimus, so that they never end up in that situation. And if they do, they will have the skills to survive until we get them out." Optimus said nothing; he simply pushed further into the comforting embrace. Eventually, they would have to go back out and return to their duties – Megatron to meet with the Constructicons about building a permanent base on one of the moons they controlled, and Optimus to check on the twins and his team – but for now they were content to stay wrapped around each other. Moments such as this were rare with an army to run, and intimacy tended to be passionate, but rushed. Unfortunately, it couldn't last forever. Optimus pressed a deep kiss to Megatron's lips, glossa sliding into the other's mouth, tasting and stroking softly before pulling away. It was a silent thanks, and Megatron understood. He nipped his mate's pouty bottom lip before letting him go and stepping away.
"I will see you at the beginning of the dark cycle. Make sure that the twins are assigned appropriate barracks. They will begin training with Starscream's fleet in the morning. And make sure that Sari stays away from Blitzwing. If they start singing "One Hundred Cubes of Energon on the Wall" one more time…" Optimus smirked. He would never tell Megatron that it had actually been him that had taught Random and Sari the annoying song.
"Yes, Lord Megatron. I will see to it." The silver tyrant nodded once, before striding from the room. Optimus turned his gaze back to the stars, reflecting on all that had come to pass in these last few vorns. He never would have imagined that he would be betrayed by the Autobots, only to be rescued by his mortal enemy. He never would have guessed that he would end up sharing a berth and more with said mortal enemy. The war was not won, and would likely not be for groons to come, but he was content. He had his team, his lover (and hopefully bondmate), and the loyalty of his troops. No, life had not turned out the way he had expected when he dreamed about it with Sentinel and Elita so many vorns ago.
"Boss bot!" a voice hollered over his comm. "The twins stole my x-box!"
"He is to be lying, Mr. Optimus Prime sir!"
"Yes! What is we wanting with the x-box? We is no good at the games."
"Liars!" Optimus chuckled, listening to the young bots snipe at each other over their comms. He left the solitude of the mess hall to deal with the latest crisis of his teammates, the door swishing shut behind him.