Author's Note (Eowyn77): Firstly, many thanks to my collaborators, DarthIshtar and Kateydidnt, for their patience and indulgence with me and this story. Even though most of this story is mine, they have been invaluable sounding boards and without them this story wouldn't be worthy to be the successor to "Kinship." Take a bow, ladies! :)
This is the sequel to my story "Kinship," which focused on Sam starting to accept that he is a Prime. (As per G1 canon, the Matrix of Leadership was the Autobot equivalent of the Sword in the Stone. It only activated for a Prime and was often the means by which the next Prime was revealed. Sam was able to activate and use the Matrix; ergo, he is also a Prime.) Hopefully that will jog everyone's memory.
As with "Kinship," the only romantic relationships will be between canon couples (and some hinted-at BumblebeexArcee), so don't even bother squinting at the other intense relationships. Love comes in many incarnations, and this is a story that focuses on familial love. "Kinship" established that a brother bond was forged between Sam and Optimus when Sam reignited Optimus' spark.
Also, to complete the story begun in "Kinship," I'm going to have to write two sequels, making a trilogy. This being the middle fic, it'll be a little more somber in tone and won't have the resolution of the last one. Just so everyone's forewarned and knows to not flame me. :)
Blessed be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.
~ John Fawcett (1782)
In retrospect, it should have been Optimus' first warning, the first foreshadowing of the War that was to come. Cybertron had gone to war before, but civil war – the turning of brother against brother – was a concept as alien to him as organic life.
Megatron had been blocking his brother more and more. He knew Optimus disapproved of his plans to expand the size and role of Cybertron's planetary defense forces, and he worked hard to hide them. If that was all it was, Optimus would have left well enough alone and given Megatron the privacy he seemed to want. After all, he still loved and trusted his brother, even if they were having a falling out. But Megatron was genuinely alone – no other spark-bonds to tie him to his fellow beings. If Megatron had a mate or their parents still lived, Optimus wouldn't have tested the strength of the block his brother had put on their bond.
It frustrated Megatron to no end that Optimus could break through every time.
The first blow of Cybertron's civil war struck home in the quiet dark before dawn, while Optimus was in recharge. Memories of the reports he'd received the day before mingled with visions of how the discoveries and incremental advancements could be put to use. His dream-self was in the lab with memories of Ratchet, Arcee, and Jazz when Megatron strode in.
"Brother," Optimus greeted him.
"You no longer have the honor of addressing me so familiarly."
Puzzled for a beat by Megatron's haughtiness, Optimus let him feel his wry amusement. "You are in my dream, brother." What better evidence could there be than a shared bond-vision?
"We are brothers no longer. Bonds are a weakness, a flaw that holds back those who are bound and makes them vulnerable. My spark is my own. Our fraternity dies today."
In the waking world, Optimus' optics on-lined and flew wide. The sharp sensation in his spark, so intense it was physically painful, had him curling in on himself, his hands clenching into fists. No! He reached out across the bond, trying to stop the imagined knife that was slowly, deliberately, carving a piece out of his soul. Why? This is hurting you as much as me!
Because you are weak, Megatron answered, his voice a hiss of pain. You think small and run around with your spark open to all like some embarrassing youngling, and you're the firstborn brother. Pathetic! he snarled. You poison me with your weakness. No more!
The knife in his soul viciously sliced deeper, making Optimus convulse with the pain. You're killing us both!
Don't worry, coward. The patronizing voice was quieter, fading with the dying bond they shared. I've been weakening the bond for a long time now. I, at least, will survive. If you grow up and harden your spark, you will, too. Consider this to be one final favor, brother. The last word was an insult, a slap in the face, as their bond slowly severed.
The pain was changing, less sharp and more aching, but no less vivid. Optimus was trembling under the weight of it, and deep down, fear chilled him. As the bond was a constant, so would some degree of this pain be. He had no other brother to soften this blow. He couldn't move, not even to uncurl from his protective position.
Dawn found him shaking on his berth in agony and grief from the first loss suffered in the War.
Elita One, on the opposite side of the planet for a research project, had sensed her mate's turmoil and had commed Ratchet with the entry code to the quarters she shared with her bond-mate, begging him to hurry. Optimus couldn't even answer when Ratchet called his name, certain he'd cry out in pain, but the medic quickly found him.
"Optimus," he exclaimed and immediately ran a scan. The damage to his leader's spark was obvious. "Is your brother – "
/No longer my brother,/ Optimus sent, still not trusting his voice. His fisted hands clenched tighter, straining the struts. /He chose to sever our bond./
"Primus in the Pit!" Ratchet knelt beside Optimus' berth and dug his servos into his patient's chassis, finding the relay he sought and turning off every pain sensor in Optimus' frame.
The big mech vented hard in relief. It left him disoriented when half his sensors were offline, but it was far better than the alternative.
"I need to get you to an infirmary," Ratchet began, but Optimus shook his head.
"I have duties…"
"You have a damaged spark," Ratchet growled.
"I have a…protector of Cybertron to face," Optimus answered, his optics hard. "We meet before the Council today to discuss allotments for personnel. If I am not there, he'll get a larger percentage of the newly-matured younglings for his ranks. He said he severed the bond because I am weak. I will not prove him right."
It was calculated, Ratchet realized. What kind of cold-sparked Pit-spawn would sever a brother-bond to gain tactical advantage? The kind that was currently charged with protecting them and the All Spark. A little shiver ran through his energon lines.
Optimus gingerly sat up and, finding no pain, rose to his feet.
"Infirmary," Ratchet insisted.
Optimus sized him up and then slowly nodded. "I'll give you until the time I must appear before the Council."
Optimus was purposely early for the meeting, so he was there when Megatron entered the foyer where they were to await their turn to address the Council. The harsh words that had been running through Optimus' wounded spark died before they could be vocalized. It was clear no medic had attended his brother and he moved carefully, the light in his optics dim as he crossed the threshold. Optimus' spark ached anew at the sight, longing to reach out over the bond to his brother and comfort him.
Megatron's optics blazed brighter when he saw Optimus present and standing in relative ease, and then he scowled as he leaned against the far wall, venting air in a hiss of pain.
"I'm glad to see you here and functioning…" Optimus stopped himself just short of saying the word 'brother.' The new-forming scars on his spark would forever attest that they were brothers, but in public, to his face, that term of address was forbidden. Still, Optimus couldn't bring himself to address him like any other mech, as though there was nothing between them. So he chose a term he hoped would placate and soothe his brother. The bond could never be restored, but perhaps friendship might be. "…sir."
Megatron gave him a guardedly curious look, and finding no sarcasm or anger behind the word, nodded once, accepting the courtesy and fealty it represented but offering nothing in return.
With a spark-broken sigh, Optimus also leaned against the wall behind him, waiting in silence for their summons before the Council.
The first blow, the first loss, the first battle.
Looking back, Optimus felt he should have realized what was happening that day. The thought crossed his processor tens of thousands of times in the war-torn orbital cycles that followed. Elita eventually helped him learn to forgive himself, though, recognizing that even broken love blinds.