In my dreams that night, I stood on the aircraft carrier, shoulder-to-shoulder with Optimus. I knew that, in the waking world, he was on Diego Garcia and I was on a plane hurrying me back to college so I could make up my missed finals (thanks to yet another generous contribution to the school). "I could sense you still," I told him.
"Where are you?"
"When I fell asleep, we were somewhere between Chicago and Philadelphia."
He nodded his head, his approval warming me. "I could sense you, but not hear you. Your spark's power output is not very high, by comparison."
I nodded, saddened that we wouldn't be able to communicate like this all the time, but it looked like we'd at least have the bond dreams. "Maybe they'll be able to move you off of Diego Garcia eventually."
Abruptly we were on the island, imagined research labs and manufacturing facilities sprawling out over the sand. "We will have more freedom of movement here, and we'll be better able to keep our secrets."
I nodded again. "Come visit?"
"Often," he agreed. "But do not worry about me, Sam. I have been alone for a long time. That I have another brother – even one so alien – is more than I could have hoped for. And our sense of time is different. Seeing you twice a year is frequent for me. Not that I won't miss you."
"I'll come visit whenever I can, too." I glanced over at him, suddenly remembering another surprise of a visit. "You were with Elita, weren't you, during those three days."
My brother hung his head, knowing I meant the time that he was dead, and the guilt and grief and longing was barely hidden at all by the block he tried to put on our bond.
"Why didn't you tell me?" I demanded. We'd shared everything over the last several months – or so I'd thought.
"What good would come of it?" Looking up, he held my gaze. "Would you be happier knowing the price I personally paid to save your sun? Would it have comforted you to know that I left half my spark behind when I returned to you?"
I frowned and looked down. "I guess not. But…you made that sacrifice for us…"
"She's still there, Sam, and I will join her again someday." The longing swelled stronger than anything else.
"Maybe she'll be joining you," I pointed out. "She told me Jazz wasn't coming back but – "
"She told you?" His amazement almost bowled me over.
"Yeah. I met all my brother Primes, and she's half of you. If I had one foot in the grave, can you imagine her not showing up to meet me?"
His longing was tinged with eagerness, and he didn't even need to ask. I nodded and he rested his helm against my head, and he skipped backwards through my memories to that moment. Like some of our other experience-sharing, he slowed down, savoring every detail of how she looked and sounded.
Hope was coursing through his spark at the thought of Elita being reignited, on top of his other hopes about recharging the Matrix and rebuilding their home. In all the time I'd known him - in all the memories he'd shown me - he'd never been as excited about the future as he was right now.
When he finally was able to pull himself away from the memory, he asked, "What else did you see when our brothers tested you?"
I brought him to the lookout above Tranquility; it was dark out and the stars were bright above us. "It started with Orion," I said, imagining the night sky rotating above us until the constellation was in full view.
"What!" Optimus was almost alarmed.
I glanced at him, curious about his reaction, and answered, "The constellation in the vision the All Spark showed me was Orion the Hunter. Or Osiris, the god of resurrection in Egyptian mythology."
He was stunned speechless, and feeling a little insulted, I said, "Astronomy 101, remember? It's not that impressive I know all that. But anyway, we don't need a Seeker to find a star for us because the All Spark already showed me which one it wants us to use. The journey began with Orion. We just need to figure out how to get there."
And then his entire frame shook with laughter. It rumbled on for several seconds – a belly laugh almost. Or maybe an engine laugh? When he eventually caught his breath (in a manner of speaking), he said, "Before I was Optimus Prime, I was Orion."
A prickling sensation made the hairs on my arms stand up. "Huh?"
"It was my sparkling name, like a nickname that only my mother and father used." Humor made his optics bright. "There are only a handful of Autobots still functioning who know that. I am Orion."
I thought about the three stars of Orion's belt being the 'kings' that had pointed to the Matrix and Optimus' resurrection. "And apparently Osiris, too."
His humor faded into something more solemn, but there was still joy in his spark. "Apparently."
"Can you recall the vision for me?"
The meteorite streaked across the constellation above us and we raced after it. It was like I had a photographic memory of the whole thing. When we saw the blue star, though, the vision released us and we were back on the lookout.
"Fascinating." Optimus looked at me. "The journey was surprisingly precise. It shouldn't be difficult to calculate the location of that star. I'm impressed your mind could hold all that."
"All Spark gunk in the brain," I reminded him. "I think I'll always have a knack for astronomy."
His humor washed through me before there was a little tickle in both our minds. "Your flight is due to land in twenty minutes. Internal chronometer," he explained before I could ask. "The flight staff will be waking you in a few minutes."
He placed his hands on my shoulders and touched his helm to my forehead. "Thank you, Sam, for everything. I will see you again soon."
"Like tomorrow night," I wryly answered, wrapping him up in a permanent hug. "And thank you, Optimus. Brother."
I woke up a minute later, reassured that I could still feel him. The dream was over – it was time to get back to school and on with my kinda-sorta normal life. Whatever fate held in store for me and my brothers, I knew in my spark that I had a few human tests to pass first.
Author's Note: This is the end of The Tie That Binds. Its sequel (and the third story in the Kinship Trilogy) is currently in the works, but I won't start posting it for a while yet. As I did with Kinship, I'll post a notification chapter on The Tie That Binds the same day I begin publishing the final story of the trilogy.In other words, if you add this fic to your alerts, you'll get an email letting you know when I start putting up the final installment.
In the meantime, you might want to read my fic Introductions: Annabelle Lennox since some of what happens in her story influences the events in the final story. Also, the Botosphere's collaborative fic The Daily Buzz dovetails with Sam's life at school as told here in The Tie That Binds,and Undercover is all about the Spring Break I had to skim over. Our story Reunion also fills in some of the gap in Sam's story between this installment and the next. Hope you enjoy!