I'd call this a semi-tie in with the events of another one-shot I have, God Blood, but not really. This can be a stand-alone one-shot as well.
He Still Stands
"Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. Love still stands when all else has fallen."
They gathered in the dead of night.
Autobots by the dozens came, all bearing the marks of mournful contemplation. They heeded a call that was as silent as the grave, tugging at their sparks to draw them forth through the night. They came by creeping paces, their feet barely making a sound through the halls. Their optics glowed with only dim light, heads hung low, expressions grim. The only noise in corridors came from the hushed swish of pneumatic doors opening and closing as more Autobots heeded the call that summoned their sparks from recharge, drawing them from their berths to the place where they needed to be.
They came in a trickle- one by one. Slinking, shuffling figures wrapped in a cloak of silence. Some came in groups, their arms around each other for support. Work stations were abandoned by even the most diligent of bots, the call too strong to resist. The courtyards emptied of late-night walkers. From the nooks and crannies and the very bowels of the base came the bots who were rarely ever seen. Autobots of all ranks came, from commander to the lowest frontline warrior.
They came to the place where they were all made equal.
There had been no announcement of his arrival. No one had dared risk a transmission for fear of the Decepticons intercepting it. An attack on such precious cargo would have been devastating. Radio silence surrounded the whole affair. Not a single bot in Iacon had known.
Yet they came.
They all came.
Like the Allspark and the Matrix that he was connected to, they were drawn to him in a way that they did not understand. It was the connection of knowing that he was the first one to hold their sparks the orn they were drawn from the Allspark. He brought them to life, held their lives in his hands, and he was the first to smile for them and welcome to the world. Even if it was one that came before him that brought them to life, bots were still connected to him. All it took was a touch from him, to look into his optics, and you knew that he was a spark unique unto his own; a bot could live a thousand lifetimes and never feel more connected to all the secrets of the universe than they did standing in his presence. He was the spark of Cybertron. A symbol of everything they fought for.
His presence was like pure gravity, pulling them in.
There were few who could put the feeling into words, but all Cybertronians felt the attraction.
Autobots woke from restless recharge, guided into the halls by a whisper in their minds. A strange urge. A need. They followed blindly while their sparks pulled them in the right direction.
They gathered in the hangar. Frames pressed close. So close that their armour whispered against one another. So many came that they spilled out into the hall, pressing into one another, grasping hands, exchanging worried looks. The hangar doors opened and bots spilled like a tide on to the ground outside. No words were spoken. Barely a breath of air was cycled.
They did not need to be told to watch the skies. All optics were turned skywards.
The first utterance in the room was Elita One, who had been the first to answer the call. She stood at the front of the crowd, one hand raised to her spark. A small sound drifted from between her mouthplates. A barely-there sigh, yet it was the catalyst that started a ripple through the ranks. Optics flashed. Armour shuddered. Bots prayed.
Between the stars came a dark shape. It moved silently, intent on a procession of its own. There was a mournful air about the ship, as if it were capable of contemplating its precious cargo. Through the open hangar doors it came, extending sturdy landing struts. It touched down, groaning one long, tired note as its weight came to rest. The air drained of heat and noise as the engines powered down.
The Autobots waited.
Along the side of the unmarked ship, a hatch cracked open. A ramp collapsed outward. Shadows of bots appeared in the hatchway.
He was here.
The one that called them.
Down came the first bot, his back to the crowd. He was managing a hovering gurney with a second bot.
Laid upon the metal berth was the figure of Optimus Prime.
He was silent. His optics dark. He was alive, but barely. They could feel him. But he was weak. Primus, the room was so silent, they could almost hear the pulse of his sputtering spark.
Elita One moved. So did Ratchet. They came to Optimus Prime's side. Elita One held his hand. Ratchet did his duty. The procession made their way across the hangar in solemn silence. Where they moved, the crowds parted. Optics remained glued to the sight of their leader. Hands reached out, but none could bring themselves to touch. Someone started crying, the sound of their quiet sobs echoing mournfully off the grey walls.
His once beautiful paint was gone. Sandblasted off of him by the looks of it. From beneath the paint came exposed dull grey metal, scarred deeply. So many scars. Too many wounds to be counted. Dents. Gouges. Burns. So much torture. There was not a place upon him that did not bear signs of abuse.
His battlemask was gone, his jaw dislocated and thrust to the side at a grotesque angle. The familiar audio antenna that used to stand on either side of his head were missing, like a crown had been stripped from him. One of his audio dials was completely gone, leaving a dark hole gaping in the side of his head. Energon slowly oozed from that hole, staining the berth he laid on. His faceplate, once one of the most handsome known on base, was now a mangled mess. Deep gouges marred the surface. Metal peeled away, exposing twitching pieces beneath. His dark optics leaked energon down the sides of his faceplate- two trickling rivers likes tears.
As he passed several Autobots, they covered their mouthplates. Some covered their sparks as if in physical pain for him. They bowed their heads. Some went to their knees. They turned to their neighbour and sought comfort in an embrace.
There were no optics that looked away.
Despite their horror, they beheld their leader and the sacrifices he paid for them.
His arms were broken. In places, armour was stripped away so that they could see the hydraulics underneath. The glow of internally bleeding energon illuminated the extensive mutilations from the inside out. Loose wires spilled from gaping wounds, sparking and hissing at strange intervals.
His legs faired no better. Mangled feet. Severed tension wires. His armour had saved him in some places, but in others it had caved inward from abuse. Sharp, jagged edges of metal curved into his innards like claws, digging into sensitive places. Energon congealed in dull, greying blobs clinging to him like a vulgar slime.
Elita One held his hand, staring down at her sparkmate with unwavering loyalty. She would not leave his side until she could see his optics light up again. Despite his many injuries, he was still beautiful to her. The most beautiful mech she had ever seen.
By the blackness of his chest, the soot and ash covering him like a cloak of shame, the Decepticons had set him on fire. The metal of his chest was warped and blistered. Slates of armour fused together. One poor vent still worked on his side, wheezing tiredly as it tired to cycle needed air through the frame to cool the innards down. A crack worked its way down the center of his chest, radiating downward like a fork of lightning. His sparkcase must have been damaged as well, light from his spark pulsing through that open crack in his chest. The glow was desperate, sputtering and guttering like a candle in the wind fighting not to be extinguished.
Ratchet looked nowhere else but at the Prime. He worked with determination and skill unmatched by anyone to come before. The Prime would not fade on his watch, not after he had done so much for them.
He'd given himself up to Megatron in hopes of finding peace.
He'd been willing to sacrifice his life for the sake of all the lives he cared for so dearly.
As Optimus Prime was taken from view, the vigil of silent bots remained. They stayed because they loved him. From the smallest to the largest; least armoured to walking weapons; Optimus Prime was loved by the weak and the strong, by the low-ranking and the high. They stayed gathered together in the hangar, offering their silent support, until dawn drove them away, their duties forced upon them.
Even as they moved elsewhere, their sparks stayed with Optimus Prime.
No matter what happened, they would continue to stand for him because he stood for them all.