Stepping Stones

By: Felina Fullstop

Borath has been reading this for the past few days and encouraged me to post this up…

There will be more later

Text in italic is OPTIMUS

Regular text is IRONHIDE

OptimusXIronhide Slash Takes place after 'Choice' But can stand alone.

The water is calming as it washes over the plates of my body. I shift marginally to move the spray over a few neglected areas. I groan, if I could stay under the warm torrent for the rest of the day I would.

However I cannot, I have a meeting with the secretary of defense and a conference with NATO. I shake my head and turn off the water. Looking down I flex the plates on my body this way and that water spilling and splattering away from myself.

As I am mostly dry I step out of the wash rack and into my quarters. In the main room my data terminal is lit, I was up all right reading reports and organizing myself for these meetings today. My berth is undisturbed and made from the day before.

Beside my berth is the small containment berth. Laying torso down on the small mat within, my adopted daughter Slickdrift laid in quiet recharge. I smile and hear a ping from my door. Turning I press the button and the doors slide back with a hiss. "Arcee…" I smile softly "I was not expecting you so soon."

"Prowl suggested I arrive early just in case." She offers me a small smile and I nod closing the doors behind her. "She's still recharging?"

"Yes…" I reply softly "She awoke an hour ago and I fed her and returned her to berth."

"You're managing yourself quite well." Her optics are soft as she nods slowly "getting a lot of help I assume." I turn gathering the datapads slowly as she speaks to my back. I nod slowly. "And what of Mirage?"

I stop dead and sigh outwardly. This should not be spoken of I made that clear. "Mirage has been transferred to Ultra Magnus, he signed her over to me, and I am her Sire. The records will always state I am her sire." I reply evenly, my tone is not amused.

She lifts a hand to my forearm stepping up to me. "I am sorry…that was too forward of me…forgive me."

"You had my forgiveness before you asked for it." I state, and that is true. I was never one to harbor ill feelings. Not like this, I am not upset at Mirage. He gave me the greatest gift, and I am thankful for her spark every day.

Slick moves slowly rolling from being face down on her torso to her side, she's been doing that more lately, moving. I lock my optics on her and stare a moment as her vents sigh and she settles back slowly. I release a sigh I didn't know I was clinging to.

"She's getting big optimus." Arcee says sitting down on my berth leaning over the small high walled berth she's laid in. "so beautiful." She's talking to Slick now and I move slightly away.

"Indeed." Is all I can say as I gather up my data files quietly. "If you need help call…"

Her hand lifts "Ratchet I know." she laughs cutting me off.

"And if you need me directly…"I pause. "Call Ironhide he'll comm. me." I say turning around to face her. "He has my personal comm frequency."

Arcee lifts an arch and I can see she wonders why Ironhide has my frequency and I won't just give it to her but she nods. I smile back and look down at the berth the backs of my fingers move softly across Slick's back. "Rest well little one I'll return soon." I look up at Arcee meeting her deep blue eyes. "I'll be back before nightfall." I take one look down again before I leave the room.

"She'll be fine…go." Arcee says touching my arm softly. I look down at the Pink Femme Affectionately and pet her helm.

"Thank you." I turn making my way out the door confident she will be safe.

I turn down the nearest corridor knowing I'll ether meet him at the door or in the command center. Looking up I see him as he exits his quarters waving his servo as the door seals shut. I'm the early one it seems. I make my move, it's now or never and my target, the glitch, is alone. "Optimus." It's almost a greeting as I step beside him. I try to wipe the smile off my face, this is serious to me.

"Ironhide." He shifts to face me now looking down to meet my optics. We're quiet for a long moment; yeah this is uncomfortable. I motion my servo for him to start walking and I keep a steady pace with him. For every four steps he takes, I take five.

"So…" I hate trying to break silences like these. "NATO huh?" I am granted a smile and a nod and he tips nudging me. I keep balance enough to not hit the wall and move to push him back. We use to do this kind of thing as younglings. Between my chuckles at our horseplay, I put a hand on his upper arm strut; moving back to serious territory. "Still not recharging?"

"Not a nano-click." He says almost disappointed. "These meetings are far too important I have to be ready to answer any questions the humans may have." As we draw closer to our destination I stop. After taking two steps ahead of me he turns. "Ironhide? Is something the matter?" I don't know how to answer this question so I try not to skirt around it. My servos ball into nervous fists.

"When you are done with your meetings today…" My glossa licks my lip plate nervously and I look up "Would you have a drink with me Prime?" I look up to meet his optics. There's a flicker behind them and I'm not sure if he's excited or freaked out. I start to think it's a bad idea but his mouth opens and he speaks taking a slow step back in my direction.

"When the meetings are over I'll let you know …half a Joor after I contact you …bring them to my quarters." My intake halts in shock he just said yes. "It would be irresponsible for me to leave Slick alone for recreation at this time…however if you bring the drinks to my quarters I can watch her there and we can spend time together." There's guilt now; I had not considered his child, the newest autobot. "Will that suffice Ironhide?"

I stammer slowly "Uh..yeah…that's great." I have a grin on my face. Ratchet would describe my smile as smug, and maybe it is.

As we start to walk the tension from those last moments melts and we are old friends again. "Trying to ask me for weeks haven't you?" Optimus looks down at me. There's a peak at the end of his question. He sounds like a teacher asking questions to which he already knows the answer. I hate answering these kind of questions. Especially from him the one mech that can read me like a youngling's story file.

"Pit." I curse and look up glancing at his helm. "That obvious huh?" I won't answer him I just give him another question on the crest of a chuckle.

"You're like a glass windshield." Is the response I get as the doors to the command center hiss open. I offer no reply moving to my workstation. I log into my terminal and turn my head watching him step up to the two large monitors. "General Mooreshower." He smiles and then turns to the left screen and I know distain in vocals when I hear it. "Mr. Galloway." I shake my head chuckling and sit down and hope to Primus this meeting doesn't kill him.

As I trek back to my quarters I groan looking down at a Data pad and wonder for the final time why I put up with Galloway. In good faith I put up with him; in all honesty if I could send him to Mars, I would. His requests are beyond what I am able to provide.

I enter my quarters to digital screams; Arcee stands holding Slick to her torso bouncing slightly. "Darlin it's fine." I step past them to my desk. "Look there's your sire." She says softly as I set the items in my hands down and reach over to lift her up.

"Slick." My voice calms her sobs into soft chirps and chitters. "That's better." I press her to the left side of my torso plate over the windshield glass and look down. "Thank you Arcee that will be all." I smile as she gathers her thinks taking her leave of us.

"Good night sir." She gives a small wave and is gone through the doors without another word. I look down to bright blue optics looking up at me angrily. She clicks at me rapidly. "I know I was gone." I say as if it's some excuse to make up for making her upset. Reaching back behind the shield I pull a line. Lifting it to my lips I suck softly getting the energon to flow and offer it down to Slick's mouth, she latches on firmly and I hold her as she feeds. "We're having company soon." I smile, she doesn't understand yet but I hope she will. I'm nervous about this, open, but nervous.

I sink back into my chair and shutter my optics. I feel the energon course through my system as she feeds from the filtered line. I know I have to feed her before Ironhide shows up with the energon he's got. I have a sneaking suspicion it's high grade, and if I feed her now I can get to tomorrow without the high grade filtering down into her systems; from the feeding tubes. I can feel the flow slow marginally and I open my optics peering down.

She's fallen into recharge against my body, the tube hanging from her mouth. I snatch up the tube and slide it back behind the glass hooking it back up to the underside of my spark chamber. I shudder as my servo grazes the matrix while I press the tube back into place.

After I have moved her to her berth I decide to head to the wash rack, I need something to ease my body. I am completely exhausted and almost prepared to tell Ironhide not to show up. The water begins to fall and I look up stepping into the warm spray. "Primus." The word melts from my lips and I just stand there, frozen under the assault of the water. It pours over me and drips down into my systems falling over my protoform bringing me calm.

I fall into such comfort; I recharge on my feet for a moment but am drawn out of it to the chirp of my door. I turn off the water moving my hand out of the wash rack I press a few buttons on the wall control. "come in." I say and turn to try to shake off some of the water. I check my chronometer and find I have recharged for five minutes standing in the wash rack; now I know I'm exhausted.

As I exit the rack Ironhide stands knelt down over the little bed looking down at her. Leaning against the wall I stay quiet watching for a moment. He is awestruck; his finger moving over her face and helm slowly. "beautiful." He smiles down at her and runs his digits over her back-strut.

"She is." My statement causes him to stand tall. I can see the few cubes in his hand as he turns to me. I've startled him, he had no idea I was there.

"Optimus." He smile and shifts his arms out slightly "Got some high grade." He's as nervous as I am.

"I thought you might. You said as much." I say as I push off the wall stepping forward keeping my composure. I don't want him to see how drained I really am. I suppose if anyone should see it, it should be him, but right now I'm just glad he's here. "I lift a cube from his right hand my fingers brushing his servo joint as I do and I feel his temperature rise. "Easy Ironhide." I say softly turning to sit in my chair.

I motion for him to sit on the berth as it's the only place left in my small quarters. "Why aren't you in the command quarters off the command center Prime?" he asks shifting back on my berth his back against the wall holding the cube but not drinking it.

I take a sip of the warm fluid and I look up at him "It's too loud for her over there…so I chose to take up this room." I say softly "It's not far, and it serves my purposes."

"I understand all that …but those quarters are bigger has its own berth room and lounge …you wouldn't be so crammed in here." I think about what he's saying and it's logical. "Slag my quarters are bigger." I hold up a hand and he chuckles as though he's forgotten himself, and he has. I don't want to expose slick to such language. "Sorry."

"It's fine really." I say "she's not old enough to start saying things like that but …soon we will all have to be careful about what we say …do …" I look into his optics "and where we do it."

"Primus." Ironhide breathes and I know his intent. I tilt my head to the side and wonder if he has the courage to do something about this. Not that I mind but If he wants to make a move he should. The uncomfortable silence looms. "This was a bad idea." He stands gathering his cube and turns to the door.

"Ironhide." I say but it doesn't stop him "Hide." He stops at this shortened version of his name, the nick name I have never called him, and waits. I stand setting the cube down beside my chair. Walking up behind the black mech I place my hands on his shoulders and I rub the struts there. Taking a moment to think of how to speak to him; what to say and how to say it. "Ironhide." I breathe slowly "This will continue to be an endless waltz if one of us does not do something….we cannot….dance around this forever." The human terms sound foreign in my mouth but they are the best and most clear way to describe what is going on between us.

The topkick turns breaking my grip on his shoulders and drops his cube. His servos clasp around my helm tightly and he kisses me. I am surprised by his forwardness but don't move away. After a long tense moment it's over. I have nothing to say it was a soft simple thing. His optics linger on my lips, before he looks up to meet my optics. I can see the longing in them as he searches me to judge my mood.

"Might I come by again tomorrow?" he asks. This was tradition amongst our people starting relationships. I fumble my hand to grasp his and squeeze hard. "I would like to formally see you." Now I know we're both old; older than we seem. "I wish to start courting you. If you wish."

The word is curt and quick "yes." I manage and let go of him looking down to the shattered cube and the pink mess on the floor. "I'll uh clean this up…thank you for, uh, stopping by…Ironhide." I look to him as I stammer and he slowly closes the gap between us for one more kiss. As he backs away from me my optics remain shuttered. I vent my intake and open my optics to catch his grin as he looks down shuffling his feet walking away from my room. I reach over and hit the button sealing the door behind him. "Primus." I utter softly, it comes out on the tail end of a sigh. Looking at the floor I move to the wash rack to find something to clean up the spill.

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