Author's Note:

Oy, sorry, it's been a good long while since I've updated... I'm still going to finish, don't you worry. Just been busy as hell and lacking initiative to write, but I was in a mellow mood so I finished this chapter tonight. ^^

"Look at him! It's disgusting! He doesn't even care about her!"

Hot tears were streaking down Rochelle's face, but she tried to hold them back for the sparklings. They had been in a tizzy of worry when Shockwave and Optimus and she had made it back, and there was a brief, joyous greeting for Shockwave before they demanded of him to know what was going on. Shockwave had merely passed a hand over his children while keeping his optic pinned to Pebble. Ratchet worked frantically, Knockout hovering over despite his wounds.

Her lips trembled. She was crying hard, struggling to hold it back. She knew she had to be strong for her sparklings, she knew—!

Finally, Shockwave's cold voice cut through the silence. "Enough." When Ratchet failed to stop trying to revive Pebble, his voice snarled, "Desist! It is useless. She is dead."

The Decepticon leader strode up and snatched Pebble's lifeless form from the medical table, a sharp hiss making Ratchet back off, and he stilled then, cupping the tiny sparkling with one hand. His mandibles flared softly as he looked down at her, optic dilating.

"See?" Cliffjumper continued to hiss to whoever was listening. "He doesn't even care about them! Not one tear!"

Rochelle stiffened. "Cliffjumper, if you say one more God-forsaken thing I am going to rip out your voice box and then I finally won't have to listen to your fucked up accusations, got it?"

This time, what made her threat so effective, was that she didn't shout but kept her voice level. Cliffjumper fell silent then, and Shockwave slowly turned to the restless sparklings and knelt down.

A pop and hiss of his gears sounded as he knelt, and he extended Pebble out and low for the sparklings to see. Cuddling around, they cooed and looked up questioningly. Drexel nudged his sister, saying something in Cybertronian.

Shockwave's response was also alien, but it was clear what he said because the sparklings began to cry, wailing and weeping and clinging to Shockwave. Rochelle felt herself hug attacked by Nova, and she wrapped her arms around the sparkling, hiding her tears and transforming her skin into metal so her tender skin wouldn't get hurt.

"Shh, baby, it's going to be okay . . . Shh, shh, Mama's here . . ."

A sweep of Shockwave's arm brought the sparklings close to him, and they hugged his waist and hips and legs. The great Decepticon leader scooped Pebble close to him, and his optic dimmed in brightness. His helm dropped, and he held his daughter against his beating spark, silently offering his comfort to his distressed sparklings by being more affectionate than Rochelle had ever seen him, allowing them to hug him, cuddle him, stroking his fingers over helms and antennas and wings.

It felt like an eternity before the crying stopped. The sparklings gave awkward hiccupping beeps and kept their faces pressed into Shockwave's body. Shockwave let nothing of his grief show; he only kept Pebble possessively clutched to his chassis, and save for the periodic, heavy vent, as if the world was stealing the strength from his body, he showed nothing.

Quiet Cybertronian words lifted up from Nitrostreak. A heavy decompression, and Shockwave responded in kind. No, Pebble was not coming back.


She has become one with the All Spark.

I thought the All Spark was destroyed?

Its power siphoned into the Matrix of Leadership.

So the Matrix has Pebble?

Shockwave had to pause and consider logically Nitrostreak's question. The Cybertronian conversation started again in the silence. Yes, Pebble is one with the Matrix.

So if the Matrix has Pebble, can't it give her back?

Shockwave's helm lifted then, and his optic dilated to focus on Nitrostreak. The wise sparkling's red optics were blinking curiously at Shockwave, trying to understand with simple logic inherited from his father.

The Matrix brought back Sentinel. Can't it do the same for Pebble?

Shockwave's chest tightened with painful hope. Brashly, Shockwave stood, disentangling himself from his slew of children and walked directly towards Optimus. The Prime stood at attention as the Decepticon leader came, but Shockwave lowered himself to one knee and, cupping Pebble with both hands, extended her little lifeless body to the Prime.

"I am an audacious scoundrel to ask this of you after millennia of war, after the deceit I showed to you these months with the kidnapping of your spark mate," Shockwave said quietly to him, "but I am what I am. And I am a father. This is my daughter." A painful hitch in his systems interrupted his words. He bowed his helm. "I ask of you . . . to please utilize the Matrix of Leadership and revive my daughter. And if you cannot do it for me," and he lied Pebble at Optimus's feet, "then for her brothers and sisters. For her. She was not meant to die before living her life."

Absolute silence coated the hangar walls. Even the most outspoken were wiped free of words as they stared at the kneeling Decepticon leader, Rochelle most of all. This wasn't the Shockwave she had come to know for so long being held captive in his clutches. Shockwave knelt meekly, still, optic blinking down at the tiny Pebble who was no bigger than his index finger.

Optimus stood, the final verdict falling to him. Yes, it was unfair that the child's life had ended so young. Yes, the sorrow this death inflicted on the other sparklings, and even on Rochelle, was so palpable he could feel it in the air, but he felt his spark seizing with muffled anger as he looked down on Shockwave. The sheer . . . AUDACITY the mech had to come before him and ask him this? He couldn't fathom it! He had stolen his spark mate away from him, an action that caused Optimus's energon to boil at the mere thought, had twisted so many lies about their affiliation that he had all but given up, screwed with his central processor, and had taken the life of Mirage. That was a short list. Optimus could go back millennia to the hundreds of thousands of evil misdeeds that the Decepticon had done over his lifetime, the many unforgivable things that still festered deep in his spark and hardening him to the core. But this? Optimus felt his fingers twitch with the urge to finish the Decepticon kneeling at his feet and the flat answer of no. He deserved it. Every foul emotion he could feel, Shockwave deserved it and more. He shouldn't even have allowed to let him see the sparkling.

But, Optimus's chest felt heavy as he looked down on the tiny sparkling not yet a year old. His spark seized with pain. A mere sparkling . . . and a femme at that. He could barely remember the years where femmes freely walked Cybertron, few and far as they were. She was so young . . . He breathed in a slow intake.

That was their evil plot: creating sparklings. Optimus had no right to accuse the Decepticons of evil deeds under Shockwave's commands. Human casualties had been few and far between. Even Autobot casualties had been low—the Decepticons had kept their peace until the Autobots attacked. The Autobots had been the aggressors.

A soft hitch splayed through his systems. Had he truly become so blinded with hate that he had became what he swore he would not? Had he somehow turned the Autobots down the wrong path, focused solely on destroying the Decepticons? A guilty weight settled above his spark. Whatever had happened to the days where he would have tried for a peace treaty above anything else? He had forced the Decepticons to attack, to defend themselves. The rest of this war weighed on his shoulders, not Shockwave's. Shockwave had been, for the majority, peaceful. The only time he had been remotely aggressive in his attacks was when he sent out his cronies on energon raids, of which no human life had been forfeit. And, clearly, while that energon was for his troops, it was mainly for supporting his sparklings. As Shockwave knelt at his feet, tensing with suppressed anger now because he believed the Prime was going to refuse him this act of kindness, Optimus realized that he would have let all the troops die a thousand deaths and starve of energon before he would have let the sparklings run dry.

A whip of guilt lashed across Optimus's spark. And who was he to even HESITATE to grant this last wish? Shockwave was not asking this of himself—he wanted his sparkling to live. If Optimus gave him the option that he would kill Shockwave and only then he would revive the sparkling, Shockwave would accept those terms without hesitation.

Primus, forgive me, for I have been a fool . . .

Tapping into his private comm. link, Optimus asked Ratchet, :Even if I revive her, would you be able to keep her from dying?:

Ratchet started from across the room, and he turned briefly to his computers. Eventually, he pinged back, :I think I can. I managed to repair the greater majority of damage to her spark chamber, but still . . . A sparkling is all bio mechanics until they reach the age of maturity. As she continued growing, we would not be able to properly repair the damage done to her chassis. We could make a mold to cover the wound, but as she continued growing, we would have to replaced the mold to suit her size. I could easily see the surgery happening every year. And, beyond that, sparklings are not my greatest forte . . . :

:Ratchet, you should never doubt your skills as a medic:

The medic harrumphed under his breath. :All I'm saying is that there are no guarantees. I'll need her immediately after you revive her. I want to get her stabilized:

Optimus gave a nod in the medic's direction and looked down on the bowed head of the Decepticon leader. "I will grant your plea," Optimus stated. Shockwave's helm whipped up, one hideous optic dilating at his enemy in surprise. Optimus narrowed his optics, stating very clearly, "I do not do this out of the goodness of my spark for you, but for this child, and her siblings."

Shockwave gave a curt nod. "I expected no less from a Prime," he stated blandly, understanding his circumstances completely.

Optimus gave a curt nod to the Decepticon before kneeling down, chest plates retracting and the glow of the Matrix spreading in the room. Optimus caught Rochelle's gaze a moment, and her lips were quivering, silent tears slipping down her cheeks, but her eyes were so full of love and pride over him that he thought his spark would shatter. Ratchet came to hover at the ready as Optimus lowered the tip of the Matrix to Pebble's ravaged chest.

A spark and a violent jolt raced through the tiny sparkling. The body jerked spasmodically, and with a raspy keen, Pebble came back to life with a thin wheeze.

Optimus barely had time to remove the Matrix and his hand before Shockwave's hand was scooping the coughing child to his chassis with a protective rumble. His mandibles flared, and a tremor shook through his frame as he clutched Pebble close. He was closer to crying over the relief of her being brought back to life than her death.

"Give her here," Ratchet said impatiently, reaching for the sparkling. Shockwave growled threateningly, and with a last stroke to her wheel-wells, allowed the medic to take her from him, logic arguing that it would be fruitless for Optimus to have brought the child back to life just for her to die again.

Rochelle choked a little on her tears. Brushing them away, she ran up and hugged Shockwave's ped. The great Decepticon leader started, staring at her, but she didn't say anything, just comforted him with a silent hug that spoke more than her words ever could. Then, she proceeded to do the same for Optimus, kissing his ped and hugging so tightly the edges of his metal nearly broke skin.

As he looked on Ratchet's feverish work over Pebble and Knockout's nagging, Shockwave felt a heavy depression of air escape him, and with a last bolster of will, straightened his weakened shoulders. "Thank you," he finally rasped to the Prime.

The words died in Optimus's vocals—cruel or amicable, he wasn't sure. The sparklings were chittering excitedly now, scampering around and shouting up supportive things to their weak sister and millions of thank-yous all over. Rochelle was watching from his feet, wiping her teary eyes and laughing weakly with relief and motherly love.

Shockwave watched tensely, attentive for even the briefest drop in Pebble's health, but she seemed reenergized with the power of the Matrix, stronger than she was before, and more resilient. Ratchet and Knockout argued like cats and dogs, but they managed to get the job done by use of Ratchet's servos—though, this angered Knockout to the point of no return as he quite literally bitched about his unsteady servos because of that wretched Dirge and his cronies. When Ratchet finally cleared Shockwave to come see Pebble, he was with her in one stride, sparklings trailing at his feet.

Shockwave touched Pebble's cheek gently, and the sparkling cooed, nuzzling him happily before she asked for her mother. Without preamble, Shockwave picked up Rochelle—to which the Prime gave him a severe warning glare—and he placed her on the berth with Pebble. When the rest of the sparklings whined, Shockwave picked them up too and allowed them to fuss and kiss and hover over their sister.

Pebble drank in the attention tiredly, squirming here and there as she tried to get into a comfortable position from the covering that kept her spark from beating in plain view. When she asked for a lullaby, Shockwave startled minutely, optic dilating down on his content-to-be sparkling. After a moment, he rubbed her helm softly and vowed to ignore the scrutiny of all the astonished Autobots in the room and treat them as he had always done. Piano notes played out first, and then, true to his usual choice in music, heavy guitar strums started in a slow ballad. It faded back to piano as the singer began to sing:

Well I know the feeling

Of finding yourself stuck out on the ledge

And there ain't no healing

From cutting yourself with the jagged edge

I'm telling you that, it's never that bad

Take it from someone who's been where you're at

Laid out on the floor, and you're not sure

If you can take this anymore

So just give it one more try to a lullaby

And turn this up on the radio

If you can hear me now, I'm reaching out

To let you know that you're not alone

And if you can't tell, I'm scared as hell

Cause I can't get you on the telephone

So just close your eyes

Well, honey, here comes a lullaby

Your very own lullaby

Shockwave grumbled softly, stroking her cheek with an uncommon public display of affection. He accounted his frivolous actions to the stress of thinking he had lost Pebble, but it just wasn't logical for him to show such weakness in front of the Autobots. But, perhaps . . . It was logical to show his love to his sparklings who needed to know he cared more than anything in the world. They wanted, needed his support. Pebbled yawned tiredly, nodding off as the song played on. The other sparklings got themselves comfortable around her, Drexel pulling Rochelle down with them so she would sleep with them.

Please let me take you
Out of the darkness and into the light
'Cause I have faith in you
That you're gonna make it through another night

Stop thinking about the easy way out
There's no need to go and blow the candle out
Because you're not done
You're far too young
And the best is yet to come

Not yet . . . She couldn't die yet . . . Pebble half-mumbled something about a goodnight kiss, and Shockwave followed her words instantly, bending over and giving a clumsy, ticklish kiss with his mandibles. She squirmed, a little smile coming to her face at the tickles as she settled back down into a recharge.

So just give it one more try to a lullaby
And turn this up on the radio
If you can hear me now
I'm reaching out
To let you know that you're not alone
And if you can't tell, I'm scared as hell
'Cause I can't get you on the telephone
So just close your eyes
Oh, honey here comes a lullaby
Your very own lullaby

Optimus felt his spark aching as he looked at Shockwave, Rochelle, and the sparklings. They . . . looked like a family. A family in which he didn't belong. Shockwave's fingers played over the sparklings as they kissed his fingers in a gesture of saying goodnight, and at an innocent question from one of the sparklings, Shockwave proceeded to nervously rub the side of Rochelle's head so she wasn't left out of the goodnights. Optimus felt himself seethe in jealousy.

So what if she was the mother of the sparklings, and he, the father? She was HIS spark mate! His!

Well, everybody's hit the bottom
Everybody's been forgotten
When everybody's tired of being alone
Yeah, everybody's been abandoned
And left a little empty handed
So if you're out there barely hanging on . . .

Optimus felt burning envy curdle in his chassis as Shockwave bent over his sparklings protectively. Why hadn't he thought to try to bring life back to Cybertron? He held in his chassis the very life-bringer of Cybertronians themselves, and he hadn't even thought to do something like that. He had been too focused on destroying the Decepticons. And, it took a Decepticon to take the first step of restoration.

He felt his spark wan away as Rochelle curled into several of the sparklings, cuddling them in her sleep. Despite Optimus's aggressions to Shockwave ever since he had professed his love of Rochelle, Shockwave's one optic dilated a little, softening just enough to be noticeable.

He was smitten. There was no denying that. And, Optimus didn't doubt the lengths that Shockwave would go to just to protect her—he had seen it when Grimlock had attacked him. He had seen the lengths Shockwave would go to just to protect Rochelle, and the lengths he went to just to protect the sparklings. He had abandoned vast stores of energon to save his sparklings when the Autobots had discovered where he kept the sparklings. His feelings were real.

Just give it one more try to a lullaby
And turn this up on the radio
If you can hear me now
I'm reaching out
To let you know that you're not alone
And if you can't tell, I'm scared as hell
'Cause I can't get you on the telephone

Optimus felt his spark sink in its chamber. The loving song played on, a testimony to how deep Shockwave's feeling truly ran. His spark pulsed heavily. Rochelle was his. No matter what happened, he wouldn't let her go to that Decepticon without a fight. She was his . . . His spark mate . . .

So just close your eyes
Oh, honey here comes a lullaby
Your very own lullaby

And yet, he couldn't stifle the feeling that things would never be resolved until either the Decepticon or Autobot leader was removed from the picture.

Oh, honey here comes a lullaby
Your very own lullaby