Title: Forever – Light and Dark

Author: pl2363

Series: Transformers AU/G1

Rating: T+

Notes: Optimus Prime x Prowl. The past and present collide in an unexpected way. Will Prowl and Optimus' love for one another endure, despite the huge obstacle that the Matrix poses for them?

Primus story is based in part from Marvel comics, but altered to fit with Regardless Universe. The concept of the Matrix making bonding impossible already used in my previous fic 'A Little Love to Ease the Pain'.

Title taken from "Wandering Star" by Portishead:

"Please could you stay awhile to share my grief,
For it's such a lovely day,
To have to always feel this way,
And the time that I will suffer less,
Is when I never have to wake."

Thank you to Mirage Shinkiro & Starfire201 for taking the time to beta for me.

Also... Transformers belong to Hasbro, I am just playing with them


"Primus looked to his brother and asked, 'Why do you lurk in darkness? Why do insist on bringing chaos to this universe?' Unicron answered, 'Without darkness, dear brother, no one would ever see the light.' Primus knew his brother was right, but he still distrusted him. Primus wanted light to shine in all corners of the universe, even the one his brother occupied." Mirage paused his story telling and smiled down at Miles, who was staring up at him with wide optics. Jazz sat on the rec room couch beside his mate and sparkling, also listening to Mirage as he recited the old Cybertronian myth about Primus.

Prowl found a nearby seat on the facing couch and watched the young family, feeling both happy and sad as he took in the scene before him. Jazz was his best friend. They had fought side-by-side and endured a lot together over the eons, cementing a very close-knit friendship. Unlike other mechs in Prowl's life, Jazz had remained a true friend through everything, accepting Prowl just as he was while also pushing him to be his best. When Jazz announced he bonded to Mirage, Prowl was happy for his friend as well as a little jealous. For Jazz and Mirage, it had been an easy path to walk from lovers to bondmates to parents. For Prowl, his path was riddled with pitfalls that prevented him from ever having a bonded relationship with the one he was in love with, Optimus.

"They parted ways, each taking a different path through the universe. Primus saw a great many things that were both beautiful as well as curious. He also saw the trail of destruction, chaos and darkness his brother left behind. Wanting to protect the universe and all the things he loved in it, he challenged his brother to a battle. Even though they were twins, Primus was no match for the brute strength darkness lent his brother. Just before he lost the battle, Primus formed a brilliant plan, using the power of light to transform both their forms."

"What did they turn into?" Miles asked as he grabbed hold of Mirage's arm and hugged it to his chest.

"He transformed them both from star-sized beings with heads, arms and legs into round metallic planets," Mirage replied.

"Whoooa, really?" Miles sounded quite impressed.

Prowl smiled, enjoying Miles' reactions to the story.

"Primus formed our home world, Cybertron," Jazz explained.

Miles swiveled his head to look up at Jazz. "That's awesome!"

"A-hem—Unicron was angered by his brother's trick and vowed to bring darkness wherever he went, even in his new form," Mirage politely interrupted, taking back the reins as storyteller. "In order to continue protecting the universe, Primus then created 12 beings and placed a piece of his spark inside each one to bring them to life. Since he couldn't give more of his spark without perishing, he made sure they had the ability to procreate. These 12 Cybertronians all had families that in turn had families, creating generations upon generations of new sparks. Exhausted from his creative process Primus fell into a deep stasis, but before he did he told his original creations that his body was theirs to care for, offering it to them to provide sustenance and a safe place to live while they fought on his behalf to keep the light in universe safe from the darkness. That's how our species was created."

"Wooow," Miles replied.

Prowl remembered his adoptive parent telling him the same story when he was small. It triggered such a sense of awe and wonder to him back then. He used to sometimes crouch down in the backyard of their home, pat the ground under his feet and thank Primus for giving him a place to live. In retrospect it seemed rather silly, but seeing Miles have such a similar reaction reminded him what it was like to be a sparkling. The world still seemed so fresh and new. Anything seemed possible.

A small spike of pain pulsed within his spark. To Prowl, the tangible hope for the future he once held had slipped out of reach. No matter how much he loved Optimus, it didn't change the fact they could never bond to one another. That he would never know a life like the one his best friend had with his family. Not that he should be surprised; after all, very few things in his life had ever come easily to him.

"You wanna join us, Prowler? We're gonna have some energon and play a board game after," Jazz asked, putting on his most charming smile for Prowl.

"Yeah! Stay and play with me Prowl!" Miles added as he bounced where he sat.

Prowl canted his head at them, then nodded once. "Of course."

Optimus stared blankly at the datapad in his lap, finding himself too distracted to focus. He kept glancing at the door to his new quarters on the Earth base, wondering where Prowl was. They had established a pattern of spending their evenings and nights together, and it well past the usual time Prowl would arrive. Optimus considered contacting him over the comm. frequency, but he didn't want to appear over-eager to see Prowl. He already felt like he was walking a fine line, trying to not crush Prowl under the immense love he felt for him. He often worried that his inability to offer his spark to him would eventually lead to their relationship ending, just like it had with Elita. When she had called an end to things, Optimus had been hurt; there was no denying that. Comparing his feelings for Prowl now against what he had felt for her back then, though, he knew that the love he felt for Prowl was far more intense than anything he'd once felt for Elita. He honestly didn't know how he would handle it if Prowl left him for the same reasons.

He pressed a hand to his chest, silently wishing he could be free from his obligation to the Matrix. It stood in the way of a 'normal' life by preventing him from ever spark bonding to Prowl.

The door to his quarters suddenly whooshed open, interrupting his thoughts, and Prowl entered. A small subtle smile played across Prowl's lips as they locked gazes.

"I apologize. Miles begged me to play a board game with them." Prowl strode over to the couch Optimus occupied and gracefully sat down beside him.

Optimus snaked an arm around Prowl's waist, pulling him to press against his side. "Miles, hm? He's a hard sparkling to say 'no' to."

"He certainly is." Prowl relaxed against Optimus as he turned sideways to allow his doorwings to swing behind him. He then fingered the edge of the datapad Optimus held. "Interesting reading material?"

Glancing at the datapad, Optimus found his focus shift to the striking white color of Prowl's fingers. His optics' gaze trailed up the black and white arm to the star emblazed shoulder, eventually coming to a halt as his and Prowl's gazes met once again. "You are far more fascinating."

Prowl raised an optic ridge. "Am I now?" he said in a disbelieving tone, his doorwings perking up to give away the playful nature of his reply.

"You certainly are," Optimus replied, a broad smile pulling at his exposed lips.

Prowl reached up to rest his hand on Optimus' chest, staring at it as his fingertips lightly pressed against the plating. Guessing at Prowl's thoughts, Optimus lay his hand over Prowl's. "You know I'd give you my spark if I could."

"I know." Prowl pulled his hand away and shifted to curl up against Prime's side, resting his head against Optimus' chest.

A thick silence then filled the room. The playfulness of the moment evaporated, leaving Optimus to silently contemplate the situation they found themselves in. His mind wandered, remembering how honored he once felt to carry the Matrix that now stood between him and a bonded relationship he so desperately wanted with Prowl.

o.o.o

"Do you know why we have called you here, Optimus?" an elder from the high council asked from his seat at the opposite side of a large conference table.

"No, sir," Optimus respectfully replied.

"Sentinel Prime has been killed by Megatron's forces. We convened an emergency meeting to consult the oracle, and your name was the one given as the successor. You are the chosen one to carry the Matrix of Leadership. This is not a duty to be taken lightly." The elders all nodded in agreement with the one that spoke.

"I understand the dire nature of the situation and will do my part to ensure the Matrix will be safe," Optimus replied.

"There are two conditions you must agree to in order to be the next Matrix bearer. One, you must protect the Matrix at all costs. And two, you are not allowed to spark merge, ever," one of the other elders explained.

Optimus frowned, unsure why he would be forbidden to bond. He had been seeing Elita for sometime now, and knew at some point the subject of bonding would probably come up. "While I understand the first condition, I cannot see how bonding would affect-"

"The Matrix can only be carried by an untainted spark. If you bond, it will reject you as its carrier and all hope will be lost," another of the elders interrupted.

"I see." To never bond to Elita or have life with a family was a bitter thing to swallow, but if the war continued to deteriorate their lives further he'd never know that kind of life anyway. Optimus put aside his disappointment, deciding that if it were for the greater good, then he would accept his fate as the Matrix bearer and leader. "Then I agree to the conditions and accept my calling to become the next Prime."

"Although these times are indeed a dark, it is not yet the time for the power of the Matrix to be unleashed. Within it is the power to light our darkest moment. When the time is right, you will know when to use it or else it will be passed on once you pass from this world," the elder in the center explained.

"I understand."

Optimus was led out of the elders' chambers and through a series of hallways to a small room where the Matrix was being kept on a small podium only a few meters away from Sentinel's deceased form, lying on a table.

The elders gathered around the Matrix, each bowing their heads to it. "Take the Matrix and place it within your chest just over your spark chamber."

Optimus did as he was instructed, walking up the small podium the Matrix sat on and lifting it up. A sense of awe overtook him as he stared at it in his hands. Light glowed from deep within it, spilling out the recessed center as it glimmered. This relic was the most powerful item on Cybertron, and it fell to him to look after it. He mentally vowed to the Matrix that he would do what it took to protect it, then opened his chest plates and carefully placed it over his spark chamber. His spark vibrated and shuttered within its chamber from the waves of energy that pulsed from the Matrix. He softly grunted at the vaguely painful sensation.

"The Matrix is syncing to your spark, the uncomfortable feeling will pass in less than an orn," an elder said, noticing the slight grimace on Optimus' face.

He shut his chest plates, hiding away the treasure within his own body.

"Behold, you are now the leader of Cybertron. Lead us to victory over Megatron's dark force, Optimus Prime."

"I will do my very best to lead us out of these dark times," Optimus replied.

He rested a hand over his chest, wondering what kind of leader he was really going to make. He just prayed to Primus he had the strength to lead them to victory over Megatron.

o.o.o

"Optimus?" He glanced over to see Prowl watching him, concern written across his face. "You all right?"

Optimus reached up to cup Prowl's face and gently run his thumb down Prowl's smooth cheek. "Just caught up in old memories."

"I see." Prowl's optics dimmed as he pressed his face into the hand touching it, then he took hold of Optimus' hand pulled it to the center of his chest. "I love you."

Optimus leaned forward, pressing their helms together. "And I love you."

He angled his head and caught Prowl's lips with his own, initiating a soft-mouthed kiss. Prowl parted his lips, and Optimus took his cue, slipping his glossa past them and delving into Prowl's mouth. Their glossae entwined in the heated space and danced together. Prowl's hand ghosted up and over Optimus' arm, eventually resting at the center of Optimus's chest again. Their long kiss eventually broke, leaving Optimus feeling dazed and happy as he leaned back and stared into Prowl's light blue optics.

"Perhaps we should change locations. It would seem relaxing and talking isn't on the agenda at the moment," Prowl said in an officious tone.

Optimus chuckled, recognizing Prowl's special brand of humor. "Did you have an item you'd like to add to the agenda?" he asked, playing along as he let his fingers lightly trace the curved shape where white paint met black along Prowl's chest.

Prowl canted his head and allowed a small smile to curve his lips. "I propose some quality time on the berth with you and some much desired attention to my doorwings," Prowl replied in a completely dry tone.

Laughing, Optimus leaned back and grabbed the datapad in his lap, tossing it onto the nearby table. "Your request is approved," he replied as he got to his feet.

Before Prowl managed to stand up, Optimus scooped him up off the couch, holding him in his large arms bridal-style. Prowl's optics grew very bright for a moment, betraying his surprise, then dimmed as he relaxed in Optimus' grip. "It's not often I am caught-off guard," Prowl said with a half smile.

Optimus grinned. "I know."

Prowl gazed up at him with nothing short of pure adoration in his optics. Words failed to convey the love Optimus felt for him. If only they could merge sparks, then Optimus could show him. Until he found a way for them to become the bonded couple he wanted them to be, he had to settle for words and actions, hoping that would be enough to ensure Prowl remained by his side.

Taking long strides, Optimus swept into the adjoining room, carrying Prowl to the berth where he gently deposited his love onto its surface. He leaned over Prowl, while still standing, to steal a quick kiss. Pulling back, he stared into Prowl's optics. "I never knew I was capable of loving anyone this much," Optimus said in a hushed voice. Worried that Prowl might one day tire of being a lover and not bondmate, Optimus often repeated himself over and over, telling Prowl how much he loved him.

"Optimus…" Prowl's hand clutched at his own chest as his optics dimmed. "I love you so much."

Sadness pulsed deep within Optimus' spark, knowing that the pain of not being able to bond wasn't his alone. He could see it in Prowl's face at moments like this one. The desperation and desire for something unattainable. His selfish side would often clash with the part of himself that wanted the best for Prowl when he saw that look on his love's face. This was all so unfair to Prowl. He deserved better than this. Someone that could offer their spark to him freely, not like this tortuous love Optimus was starting to feel he had trapped Prowl in. At the same time, Optimus didn't want to let go of Prowl for all the energon in the universe…

He crawled onto the berth beside Prowl, and they both shifted to lie on their sides facing one another. Optimus reached out to trace his fingers along Prowl's sweet face. "I hate that I am hurting you," he whispered.

"I understood the consequences of involving myself with you. Please don't blame yourself." Prowl scooted closer, tucking his face in the crook of Optimus' neck. Optimus wrapped his large arms around Prowl's waist and rolled to his back, pulling Prowl over top of him. The agenda had shifted once again as silence took hold. Their chests pressed together, allowing the vibration from the pulsing of their star-crossed sparks to ripple over their dermal plating where their chest plates touched. So close and so far away.

This can't go on… I can't stand hurting him like this. But I can't let go of him, either. I love him too much, thought Optimus as he hugged Prowl tightly. If only there was someway to free his spark from the Matrix inside him. A way to be free to love Prowl the way his spark so desperately wanted to.

Jazz leaned in too close, invading Prowl's personal space. It was bad enough they were crammed into the back of a human's 18-wheel truck trailer, having their battle-damaged frames hauled back to base after helping to end a raid the Decepticons initiated at a nuclear power plant. Now Jazz had his face shoved so close to Prowl's that their noses were practically touching.

"What is it, Jazz?" Prowl asked, not bothering to hide his annoyance.

"When the frag are you gonna tell 'im?" Jazz asked, his visor flashing.

"Tell who what?"

"Tell Prime how ya feel."

Prowl allowed a frown to pull at his lips.

"Look. The 'Cons are not lettin' up. You wanna die never havin' never told him?" Jazz's visor dimmed as he spoke this time.

Jazz was a romantic. Prowl was not. He stared at his friend, attempting to find words to fend off Jazz's good intentions. "We are anything but dead, Jazz. Besides, it's better to not cause Prime any undo stress."

Flicking at a piece of Prowl's gnarled armor, Jazz shook his head. "Listen Prowl, really listen to me. I've seen how he looks at ya. It's not one sided. And time is slippin' away. We already lost stellar cycles of time from being in stasis, and the stakes are higher than ever now. Just tell 'im!"

Prowl resisted the urge to huff air from his intakes in irritation. Jazz had recently bonded to Mirage and was now on a one-mech mission to make sure Prowl also confessed his feelings to the one he was secretly in love with. Prowl could only surmise that Jazz wanted him to be in a happy relationship just like he was, but Prowl didn't agree that Optimus looked at him any differently than he did the rest of the command staff, no matter how much he wished Jazz was right. "I would prefer we drop this subject."

The truck trailer tipped to one side as it took a turn and Jazz's frame crashed against Prowl's, knocking him over and crushing him against the wall of the trailer. Exposed wires in Prowl's hip were pinched between two pieces of misaligned plating thanks to the jarring turn, causing him to yelp out in pain.

"Whoa, hey!" Jazz pushed himself off Prowl as the truck stopped turning. "What's hurtin', Prowl?"

The pinched wires in his hip seared with heated pain, and Prowl winced. "My hip—Fraggit."

With nothing less than a feather-light touch, Jazz quickly located and pulled the wiring free for Prowl. "Better?"

"Much." Prowl relaxed his battered frame against the floor of the trailer, gazing up at Jazz.

"Look. I know I am pushin' hard. Maybe I shouldn't. But Prowl, yer like a brother to me, and I want ya to be happy," Jazz said, his sincerity ringing in his voice.

"I know you do." Prowl laid his dirt-smeared hand on Jazz's. "If the opportunity presents itself, I will tell him."

Jazz smiled. "Promise?"

"Promise."

They soon arrived at the base and were unloaded by their comrades from the battle who were still able to transform, Hound and Bumblebee. Prowl made sure to thank the kind humans who transported them back before the whole group proceeded to medbay, where the CMO wasted no time knocking Prowl out once he saw the extent of his damages.

Coming out his stasis much later, Prowl was relived that his body no longer ached from its formerly mangled state. He ran a systems check to find Ratchet had already made most of the repairs and that his autorepair system was working to mend the rest of the scrapes that covered his frame. He lit his optics and to his surprise saw Prime sitting in a chair beside his medbay berth.

"Sir?" Prowl stared at him for a moment, confused by his presence. He then glanced around, seeing he was the sole patient in medbay. He looked back over at Prime. "Where are the others?"

"Released. Ratchet kept you in stasis, since your readings indicated that you haven't had a full recharge in several Earth weeks." Prime furrowed his brow as he rubbed one thumb along the center of his battlemask. "How are you feeling?"

"Fine, sir." And also aggravated at the forced recharge time, he mentally added. Ratchet could really go overboard with his 'care' sometimes. Prowl may have cut back on recharging, but he wasn't improperly functioning and it was his call, not Ratchet's, as to how much rest he got.

"Hm." His commander glanced down for a moment, then back up at Prowl. "I… need to speak with you, Prowl."

Momentary panic at Prime's grim-sounding tone spiked through him, but he hid his reaction as best he could. Had something truly horrible happened while he was unconscious? "What is it, sir?"

Prime retracted his battlemask, revealing his strikingly handsome face. Prowl felt his fingers slightly twitch and was eternally grateful that he was lying down, since he knew his doorwings would have surely perked up on his back in response to the rare glimpse of Prime's face.

"This is something I have been reluctant to say anything about. I planned on never telling you, actually." Prime lowered his gaze to the edge of berth as he laced his fingers in his lap. "After waking from our eons-long stasis, though, everything seems to have taken on a new urgency for me." He looked back up at Prowl, dimming his optics. "This maybe the most selfish thing I ever do, but I feel like I might say something at the wrong moment unless I just go ahead and say it now."

Prowl stared at Prime, his panic only rising as Prime spoke. What was his leader alluding to? What was he trying to say?

"I…I have been harboring feelings for you for sometime. Feelings that are of a personal nature." Prime suddenly looked a little embarrassed. "Feelings of affection and attraction. If you don't feel the same, I certainly understand. I just needed you to know how I feel about you, in case the next battle ends up being the last battle for either of us."

Dumbstruck, Prowl could do nothing more than stare at Prime as his processor ground to a halt at the revelation. Prowl had been secretly in love with Prime since he first came under his command. Prime was everything Prowl wanted in a potential partner, he was large and strong, but also kind-sparked and a thinker. The more time he spent around Prime, the more he fell for him. Back then it had also been a safe crush to have since Prime had been seeing Elita One when Prowl first took his position as SIC. But shortly before leaving Cybertron in search of energy, Jazz informed Prowl the two split up. Having never had a single relationship work out for him in the past, though, Prowl found he was gun-shy, deciding it was better to not let his secret attraction show, preferring to keep himself emotionally safe.

Suddenly, Prowl frowned as it occurred to him that Jazz had been right. Primus, he was never going to live this down. And I promised Jazz I'd say something, too, he thought to himself.

Prime's optics dimmed as he bowed his head looking downward. "Like I said, please don't feel obligated to return my feelings. I just…needed you to know. It's completely selfish of me to tell you like this, and for that I am sorry. I also don't want this to affect our working relationship. As I said, I worry I might act or say something at an inopportune moment if I kept trying to hide how I feel." Prime's whole body seemed to tense.

"I cannot break my promise," Prowl said and then paused, waiting for Prime to look back at him, but his commander kept his head bowed and gaze fixed on the floor. That's when it occurred to him…He thinks I am going to reject him? Seeing Prime as vulnerable was an unexpected and humbling moment for Prowl. No one, no matter who they were, was immune to the pain that came with interpersonal relationships it seemed. "I've been in love with you since you promoted me to be your SIC." The words had tumbled out of his mouth in a rare moment of exposing his true feelings. It felt like he had just tossed out an emotional grenade, and he hoped it landed where he was aiming.

Prime's gaze snapped upward, his optics brightening and mouth gaping slightly. Prowl's spark pulsed wildly as he felt his words hanging in the air between them for the longest astro-second of his life.

"You…what?" Prime asked, clearly shocked.

Furrowing his brow, Prowl rallied his courage. It was funny; facing four flying Decepticons in an all out battle didn't seem frightening at all compared to having to confess his feelings. "I, too, have 'feelings of affection and attraction'."

"Prowl…" The soft glow of Prime's optics and look of sheer joy that overtook his face was enough to melt away Prowl's remaining fears.

"Prime."

His commander straightened his posture. "Please don't call me that unless we are on duty. My name is Optimus."

Prowl smiled. "Optimus."

Optimus reached up and took hold of Prowl's hand, gently squeezing it. The touch of that large blue hand meant the beginning of what Prowl believed in his spark could potentially be a lasting relationship. One that could be as strong as the one Jazz had with Mirage, and he realized this was the happiest he had ever felt in his life.

o.o.o

Prowl's optics flared on as he woke from his recharge. His optics focused on the red paneling of Optimus' chest in his line of sight, as he mentally sorted through the replayed memory file. He had learned shortly afterward about the complications that the Matrix posed but had assured Optimus that he'd stay at his side.

Allowing Optimus emotionally close to him hadn't happened over night, though. Attraction and love aside, he had to work at dropping the high emotional barriers that he had been erected around his spark and without the ability to bond to Optimus, he knew part of him would always remain somewhat distant out of fear that the floor would fall out from under them. No matter how logically he looked at the situation, reassuring himself that Optimus wasn't the type to ever abandon him, he couldn't change those base, irrational emotions surrounding his fear of loss that was deeply ingrained in spark.

Prowl was acutely aware his behavior had been molded by his sparklinghood and the loss of his creators. It left him always feeling unsure if what he had would remain. Those fears had been made worse when the parent that adopted and cared for him shortly after losing his parents also passed away just after he went away to the Academy. Then the war took over their lives and the only way he could cope with sending those under his command out to possibly never return was to grow distant and try to remain detached. The only reason Jazz managed to push past his emotional barriers had been his persistence coupled with his unrelenting optimism.

He gazed up at Optimus' face from where he lay. He wished things could be simple. Nothing in my life has been simple, why in the world would this be any different? he silently thought.

He shifted his frame, pressing it flush against Optimus' side to allow the warmth of the larger frame to radiate over his dermal plating. The feeling made his sensory net tingle slightly, and he relaxed. At the very least, he needed to enjoy what he did have, not waste his time yearning for something out of his reach. They loved each other. Of that there was no doubt. He just needed to accept that this was as close as he'd ever be to his love, even if it pained his spark.

Miles pushed his toy cars around the floor of Optimus' quarters. Prowl had been asked to watch the sparkling for the evening since both Jazz and Mirage had obligations elsewhere. Jazz had the command deck for second shift, while Mirage was off at a car show with the twins and Red Alert, busily working to maintain friendly relations with the humans.

"Vrrrroooom…" Miles rolled a small black and white police car towards a yellow sports car that looked suspiciously like Sunstreaker's alt mode. Prowl found Wheeljack's tendency to make toys for the sparklings that resembled the adult mechs around them rather endearing. "Prowl! You be the yellow one! Make it like he's trying to make a get away, 'kay?"

Prowl smiled, then sat forward in his position on the floor beside Miles, pressing his fingers to the yellow car. Playing wasn't something he was good at, but Miles never seemed to mind. Prowl proceeded to push the yellow car along, and Miles crawled around making various engine noises as his police car gave chase.

The door to the cabin suddenly opened to reveal Optimus' looming figure. "Hello, you two."

Miles sat back on his heels and grinned at Optimus. "Hi! We're playing!"

Optimus triggered his battlemask to open, exposing the smile beneath. "I can see that."

Prowl felt his doorwings twitch upward at the sight of Optimus' handsome face. "Thank you for allowing me to bring Miles to your quarters. My space isn't very sparkling-friendly." Prowl had a collection of Cybertronian natural crystals he had managed to keep from shattering over the eons by storing them in a special container that padded their delicate shapes. Now that the war was over, he was finally able to display them. He found out on Miles first visit to his new quarters that the crystals were not only extremely delicate but also very intriguing for a young sparkling, making for a bad combination that had resulted in a natural crystal casualty.

"These could be your quarters, too, if you so chose," Optimus replied as he canted his head.

Prowl held his love's gaze. "I know." Truth was, he had seriously considered moving in. He already recharged in Optimus quarters and never his own, so making this space his home did seem like the natural progression. That quiet fear deep inside held him back, though. Moving in might be nice, but without being able to bond it felt almost like a hollow act. A lot of what he had with Optimus felt like motions toward a close relationship and yet they weren't ever actually growing any closer, having been blocked by a relic of the past.

"Prowl?" Miles asked as he stared up at him.

"Yes, Miles?" Prowl glanced down at the sparkling in his care.

"I'm hungry," Miles said with a small pouty frown.

"Let me," Optimus replied as he walked over to the corner where the energon dispenser sat. He carefully poured some of the ultra pure energon into a small container for Miles, then walked over and knelt down to hand it to him.

"Thank you!" Miles smiled brightly at Optimus.

"You're more than welcome," Optimus replied as he settled in on the floor with Miles and Prowl. Miles wasted no time once Optimus was comfortably sitting to crawl up onto his lap and curl up against him as he drank his energon.

Prowl stared at the two of them together, seeing just how easily Optimus seem to take on a parental role with Miles and how well the sparkling responded to him. It wasn't surprising, though. Optimus' style of leadership was much like a parent's, caring about his troops like a father would. A spike of pain radiated through Prowl's spark, knowing that the Matrix was robbing him of much more than just the ability to bond. He had never really thought he'd want a sparkling until Miles came into their lives. At moments like this one he would feel strong pangs of desire from deep in his spark for a sparkling of his own, especially one with Optimus.

Not wanting this domestic moment to pass him by, Prowl moved to Optimus' side and leaned against him. Miles finished his energon, holding out the empty container to Prowl. "Done!" he announced proudly.

Prowl couldn't help smiling at how cute Miles could be, and just how much his personality mirrored Jazz's. He took the empty container from the sparkling and set it on the nearby end table, then settled against Optimus's side again. He gazed down at Miles, whose optics were dimming as Optimus lightly patted Miles' back in gentle rhythmic motions. Is this what it's like to have a family? Prowl wondered. Is this how Jazz feels? At peace? Whole? Miles looked up at Prowl with flickering optics.

"Tired?" Prowl asked quietly.

Miles nodded, then cuddled up against Optimus' chest, letting his optics go black as he slipped into a recharge.

Prowl felt a small kiss placed to his helm, and glanced up. A warm, loving smile curved Optimus' lips.

"This is nice," Optimus said in a whisper, trying not to disturb the recharging sparkling.

It was nice. Prowl nodded in agreement, then leaned his head on Optimus' shoulder. He knew he should feel happy, but instead a wave of sadness rolled through him. Jazz had it all. A bondmate, a sparkling, a life filled with so much light and love. Meanwhile Prowl was left in the darkness. Unable to connect his spark with Optimus', incapable of moving forward when his internal fears held him back, and not knowing if things would ever change for better, while fighting off the sense that things could take a turn for the worse at any moment.

"Optimus…" Prowl said in a hushed voice.

"Yes?"

"I think I'll pack up my crystals again, and take you up on the offer to move in here." Prowl glanced up at Optimus just in time to watch a broad smile spread across his lips.

"I would very much like that, Prowl."

Prowl smiled back, then rested his head against Optimus' shoulder again. He might not have the ideal life Jazz had, but he did have someone he loved and that loved him, which was more than a lot of others could say. Prowl decided in that moment to find the joy he could in the shared love they had for one another, to shine the light on the good parts and ignore the darkness around them.


A/N- I hope you enjoy this last part to the Regardless universe. There are 2 more chapters that I will post over the coming weeks. This story is more on the mythos side, but the next chapter will have an actual interface scene (it's been a while since I wrote one. ^^;) Thanks again for reading!