Author's Note: I blame Vivienne Grainger. We were talking about a quote at the beginning of "The Tie That Binds" which includes the phrase "Kindred Minds" and she issued me a challenge: write a friendship!fic with Optimus and Ironhide on a typical night (no catastrophes or heavy metaphysics to deal with). Somehow, this was the result. :)

If people like this ficlet, I might expand it beyond a one-shot and, if I do, future chapters will be a little more in the spirit of the prompt. Hope you enjoy!


In the eternal night of space, the Ark sped through the stars, carrying the hope of Cybertron with it as the Autobots sought the All Spark. By human reckoning, millennia had passed since the refugees aboard the Ark had last seen home, but more importantly for Optimus Prime, it had been thousands of years since he had last seen the being who was literally the other half of his soul.

He sat in his quarters, preparing a transmission to send to Cybertron and to his mate, Elita One. As the distance between his home and the ship grew, the lag between the cyber-mail arrivals also grew. At this point, they had to be in orbit around a star for a while before the transmission from his femme could catch up. It was convenient that the ship could recharge its systems while they waited.

A datapad lay on Optimus' desk, recording his dictation and transcribing it so he could edit it before sending. Lying on his berth to stare at the ceiling, the leader of the Autobots said, "We picked up the All Spark's signals again today. Perceptor has managed to triangulate the signal better, and we've narrowed it down to one of the arms of a spiral galaxy nearby. How the All Spark may have flown so far is anybody's guess, though we suspect a worm-hole. But far more important than that is the question of whether it's still there. That's the most frustrating thing about this entire endeavor. We might be homing in on a beacon that was captured by Decepticons many orbital cycles ago."

His door chimed, and Optimus paused in his dictation. "Come in."

Ironhide strode into the room, and Optimus gave his kin and self-appointed bodyguard a lop-sided grin. Their clan bond was dormant since their mates had remained on Cybertron, but Optimus still considered the grizzled warrior his friend and brother. "Welcome."

Ironhide grunted in answer. "Jazz is getting ready to send all the personal transmissions ahead of breaking orbit. Got yours ready?"

"Almost."

The weapons specialist grinned and snatched up the datapad from Optimus' desk. "Let's see what our fearless leader has to say to the troops back home."

Optimus made a grab for the datapad, but Ironhide – surprisingly agile for his size and age – jumped back and out of his reach. Hitting play, he smirked at the first few words.

"Dear spark, brighter than any star, I hope this finds you safe and well."

"You're talking up how bright her spark is?" 'Hide sniggered, waggling his optic ridges.

Optimus crossed his arms, glaring down at his subordinate. "That's mine."

"…your wisdom," the recoding continued, "I miss your strength, but mostly I miss having an equal. It might sound strange, but I miss having someone who'll put me in my place when I need it. And I most definitely need it."

Ironhide was positively gleeful at that. "You want a femme around to spank you, huh?"

Optimus rolled his optics, letting his hands fall to his side again. "More like spar with me. She never pulled any punches. Too bad Chromia's not around to beat you senseless when you need it. Now hand that over!"

Opening a compartment on his arm, Ironhide defiantly dropped the datapad in.

Such defiance was not unheard of, especially from Ironhide, who tended to get a bit…unstable if he went too long without a chance to blast something or someone with his cannons. It happened to the best of them here on the Ark – it would to anyone who saw the same mechs day in and day out, went uncomplaining through the same routine, and saw the same view out the ports for dozens of vorns. The monotony was grating, even on Optimus, but the symptoms were worse with Ironhide.

He'd been fidgety, ill-tempered, trigger-happy, spoiling for a good battle – and now this. Optimus recognized it wasn't personal – Ironhide had been trying to pick a fight with everyone on board since long before they established orbit.

Raising an optic ridge, Optimus sifted through the Ark's vast memory storage, inappropriately using his command overrides on a personal quest. Finding what he wanted, he piped it through the speakers of his quarters. Ironhide's voice, rough with emotion, said, "Chromia, my berth is empty without you, and I had to let Ratchet – Ratchet – fine-tune my cannons yesterday."

The real Ironhide scowled. "Hey! Turn that off!"

Optimus just smirked as the recording played on. "Nobody takes care of 'em like you do, hot-spark. But you know what I really miss? You and me in the training room, battling like the fate of Cybertron itself rested on who won. I miss feeling sore in the morning after we've fought and 'faced each other senseless. Or better yet, I'd love to be side-by-side with you in a good firefight, blasting Decepticons to oblivion. I miss that 'job well done' feeling. There's not a 'bot on this ship I can really let loose with in a good brawl like that."

"Sounds like you're missing a femme to spank you, too."

Ironhide frowned, but before he could respond, Optimus lunged at him, catching him in a headlock. Ironhide struggled, landing several resounding blows on Optimus' side and back, but the bigger mech just dragged him out into the hall.

"LEMME GO, YOUNGLING!"

With a grunt of exertion, Optimus continued to drag his struggling friend through the halls of the Ark. "Not until I've put you in your place."

"YOUR PLACE IS A GREASE-SPOT ON THE TRAINING ROOM FLOOR, FRAGGER!" The weapons specialist tried kicking Optimus' foot out from under him.

Unfazed, Prime kicked him back and hauled him forward. "YOUR place, you mean!"

Furious, Ironhide brought his cannons online, and instinctively, Optimus' free hand transformed into his energon blade and he held it threateningly over his opponent's head. Both mechs froze, though, as two figures rounded the corner at a dead run – Jazz and Prowl.

Prowl blinked twice and keeled over as Jazz burst out in laughter. The black mech didn't say a word, just picked up Prowl's hands and retreated, dragging his prone friend behind him. His loud guffaws echoed as he continued down the side-hall.

"Now see what you did?" Optimus complained, though he was grinning behind his battle mask.

"What I did?" Ironhide growled, still struggling futilely as he was dragged down the hall. "You're the IDIOT who's making a RUCKUS!"

Optimus reached the elevator and, using his hip for leverage, swung Ironhide into the lift before pushing the button for the training level. He'd never admit it, but that kick to the back of his leg had left a few pinched wires that were already starting to sting. "Did you want a good fight with somebody or not?"

"With you?" Ironhide taunted, punching Optimus' back-strut again. "You wouldn't know what to do in a fight against me, CHIP-HEAD."

"You forget who my brother was," the bigger mech growled in answer, though he winced at the dings Ironhide was leaving up and down his back. "And I fought with him all while we were growing up."

"And he mopped the floor with ya! NOW LET ME GO!"

It was true – Megatron had won most of their sibling scuffles – but Optimus wasn't about to admit that, either. The lift doors opened, and Optimus strode forward, still hauling the flailing Ironhide. "I have no intention of letting you go until we're in a weapons-proof training room. The last thing morale needs is for you to blow a hole in the hull."

"The only thing I'll be aiming for is your SPARK and I DON'T MISS!"

"Tell that to Starscream," Optimus snarled, knowing that was a low blow but not particularly caring. The older mech had inflicted enough damage on him that Optimus was feeling well and truly angry – which had resulted in the headlock, which had in its own turn inflamed Ironhide. Elita had kept him humble, but without her around, he was worried that he might follow in his brother's footsteps. And apparently, Ironhide also needed to be taken down a peg or two.

Optimus grinned, thinking this little training session could be a very good thing.

The training room door opened, and Optimus tossed Ironhide in, finally releasing him from the headlock. Prime followed him in, and the door swished closed behind them.

Bellowing defiance, Ironhide charged right back at Optimus, catching him around the midsection and trying to slam him into the wall. Primus, but he was heavy! Optimus' solid fists pounded on Ironhide's helm, trying to get him to break off the attack.

Ironhide wedged his shoulder under Optimus' massive chassis and braced his feet on the deck, pushing up with all he had. Gears ground as Optimus struggled, Ironhide's strength and his own weight working against him.

Had this been in earnest, Optimus would have just whipped out an energon sword and decapitated his opponent, but since that wasn't an option – yet – he had to use less drastic measures. Bracing his own feet against the wall behind him and his hands on Ironhide's head and free shoulder, he lifted himself off Ironhide's pin and twisted, sending the slagger head-first into the wall.

Optimus scrambled to his feet, initial diagnostics confirming that Ironhide's stunt hadn't damaged anything near his spark.

Ironhide shook his head as he staggered to a standing position, trying to unscramble his processors. Grudging respect grew as his thinking cleared. Optimus was one of the few 'bots – mech or femme – who could break one of Ironhide's holds.

They circled each other warily, battle protocols active and sparks blazing. A fierce sort of pleasure filled them both, and while Optimus would be much more reluctant to admit it than Ironhide, it was only during times of personal combat like this that each of them felt truly alive.

Knowing Ironhide would not back down, Optimus took a sudden stride forward, and as expected, Ironhide lunged, preemptively striking out. The bigger mech easily sidestepped the blow, but Ironhide whirled, clobbering Optimus with the other cannon, and the leader of the Autobots grimaced as something crumpled in his side. Most 'cons feared Ironhide for his firepower, but those cannons made effective melee weapons, too. The older mech's spark could have easily supported a frame as large as Optimus,' but Ironhide had opted for a smaller, more compact build, freeing up extra power for his cannons and for sufficient motor strength to handle his ridiculously heavy armor. When 'Hide landed a hit, a mech felt it.

If he was going to play dirty, he left Optimus no choice. His right hand transformed again into an energon blade – blunted this time and slightly bent at the tip.

Ironhide smirked. "Energon pry-bar, Prime?"

His expression was unreadable behind the mask, but Ironhide could hear the twin to his own smirk in Optimus' voice. "Just going to lighten your load, old mech. Gotta pull that cannon off to get to the datapad in your arm."

Annoyed, Ironhide began charging his cannons with a grunt, and Optimus lunged again. The pain in the Prime's side was aggravating, but he'd fought with worse damage. He caught Ironhide's arm and twisted – hard – ramming the older mech against the wall and holding him there with his side braced against Ironhide's torso. The cannon's anchor was heavily reinforced front to back to withstand the recoil, but was less sturdy along the shorter axis. Methodically, Optimus dug his improvised pry-bar into Ironhide's arm and forced open the compartment.

'Hide howled in pain and fury and beat Optimus over the head with his free cannon, snapping one of Optimus' antenna.

The Prime withstood the blows, doggedly intent on the datapad, transforming his blade back into fingers to snatch the precious piece of technology back. Ironhide continued to struggle, frustrating his attempts. Finally, with a fierce, frustrated growl, Optimus head-butted Ironhide in the face and sprang away.

The black mech let loose with a string of curses, covering his smashed nose with his uninjured hand.

It was one of 'Hide's few weak spots – vanity. Where other mechs used battle masks to protect their faces, Ironhide reveled in each scar and proudly left his face exposed in battle as a taunt to his enemies. Behind his own battle mask, Optimus grinned and he dropped the captured datapad into a compartment in his hip.

"Had enough, 'Hide?"

Fatal mistake – Optimus had forgotten that 'Hide's cannons were already charged and primed. The older mech wordlessly stretched out his good arm, and the concussion hit Optimus squarely in the face.

Optimus' auditory sensors registered Ironhide's footfalls, but his processors were too scrambled by the blast to do anything about it. Not for the first or last time, Optimus was glad that his mate was sister to Ironhide's. It forced the two mechs to maintain some level of civility – like stun-strength weapons fire.

"Had enough, youngling?" Ironhide rumbled.

In answer, Optimus' hand transformed into a glowing hook, and he swung up at the nearest available target – Ironhide's knee.

They staggered into the infirmary leaning on each other. Ironhide was cradling his left cannon, which was practically separated from his arm, and limping. Optimus was carrying a section of his hip armor in one hand and a crushed datapad in the other. Ratchet turned at the sound of their entrance and threw his hands up in exasperation. "AGAIN?"