Set between scenes in Operation Bumblebee part 1
A Transformers Prime Fanfiction
"Do you, think this is the only intel you supplied to Megatron?"
The hesitation in her voice, the reluctance in her blue optics as she asked; the cycle-bot didn't want to be asking this question. But it needed to be voiced, and Arcee was his most trusted, most loyal officer, she would do what needed to be done, no matter how painful. The question burned in the processor of the leader of the Autobots as he stood in front of the main computer.
While a significant number of subroutines mulled over the conundrum, Optimus Prime devoted the majority of his processor to reviewing the logs for the past few solar cycles. They were understandably more fragmented than usual; his were missing entirely, Ratchet had managed to put something down each day, Arcee had entirely missed several days, Bulkhead and Bumblebee had more often than not only downloaded their daily biometrics and a few sparse comments. There had been no effort to file or sort the entries.
Even in their disorganized and disjointed state there was still enough to wound the Autobot to his core. The pain and confusion seeped through the terse comments. To a skilled archivist even the empty spaces where nothing was recorded spoke volumes to the state his troops, his friends, had been in. Dissention, disorder, and contention were left in the wake of what he could not help but term his abandonment of his family. To think that he had been the source of their suffering was enough to cause his spark to burn with shame and ache with grief. To think that his actions might yet cause more danger for those he loved…
"You can't let it get to you old friend," a gruff voice opinioned softly at his side. "There was no way this could have been avoided. At every step you did what you had to do, what you thought was right."
"Thank you old friend," Optimus replied heavily without turning. His optics rose scanning the last of the entries.
Ratchet was far from put off at the apparent dismissal of his attempt to comfort the Prime. His leader blamed himself for the suffering that had occurred on the base perhaps only subconsciously, but it was dragging him down. The medic knew what would remedy the situation, partially at least, and set the red and blue Autobot on the road to emotional recovery, but the medic couldn't figure out a way to administer the 'treatment'. Finally he vented a large sigh and decided to simply give his patient the prescription and let him fill it how he pleased.
The larger mech let out a quiet sigh and turned to face Ratchet. When the medic spoke in that tone there was no denying him.
"You are not functioning at peak efficiency," Ratchet growled.
Optimus smiled slightly at the ploy his friend had used more than once in the past.
"As the chief medical officer of this base I am ordering you to take care of yourself!"
"And what exactly would you have me do Doctor?" the Prime inquired tiredly.
"Find what?" Optimus asked genuinely perplexed.
"The bright spot in this mess," the medic growled waving a hand to indicate the screen full of reports. "Do what you do best and pull a victory of some sort out of that mass of sulky, resentful griping! Find something good and then act on it to make it even better." Ratchet knew he was expressing himself poorly but figuring complicated things out was the Prime's job after all. He spun on his peds and stalked off to his lab. The medic was halfway there when Optimus's voice stopped him.
A grin split the medic's faceplates. From the thoughtful tone his friend had already found the gem amidst the slag.
"In your reports, you repeatedly mention Jack," his voice trailed off, asking for and explanation of the cryptic comments.
"Yes," the red and white Autobot nodded. "I felt his behavior worth noting…"
Jackson Darby stepped out of the dim corridors of the school and blinked in the bright Nevada sun. His eyes were burning from more than the light as he pulled his ear buds out. The lanky teen glanced in confusion at the empty spot where a sleek blue motorcycle should have been waiting for him. He scanned the parking lot quickly and started in surprise. Just pulling up was a gleaming red and cobalt blue semi. The young man hefted his backpack up higher on his shoulder and jogged over to big rig. He leapt easily to the running board and opened the passenger door. A blue spark arced from the handle to his hand and he shook the appendage in annoyance. Once in the cool confines of the cab he leaned back into the comfortable seat and stretched, tossing his backpack onto the floor.
"Hey Optimus, Arcee out on patrol?"
"No Jack, I simply wished to speak to you alone." The Prime studied the human as he spoke. Jack's heart rate was slightly elevated and there was a buildup of fluids in his sinus cavity. The blood vessels in his eyes were inflamed and the skin around his lips was chapped. He had been crying the Cybertronian realized with concern.
"About what?" the human tried to keep his voice level as his brain automatically searched for what he had done wrong.
"Would you like to drive?" the semi asked after a moment of silence. It seemed wisest at the moment to let the young man maintain the façade of control he was working to maintain.
Jack started in surprise. So he wasn't in trouble. It wouldn't be the first time Optimus had trusted him with the controls and he personally thought he was getting pretty good, but he glanced at the teaming mass of kids around them. Was there suddenly more?
"Um, not in the school zone thanks."
The Prime responded by starting his engines and gracefully pulling out of the parking lot. The two rode in companionable silence for a bit longer.
"I have been examining the reports from the time I was," the Autobot hesitated and Jack flinched, "away. Certain aspects of your behavior have come to my attention." Immediately Optimus sensed he had phrased his opening wrong. Jack's heart suddenly accelerated and he felt the young man stiffen.
"What'd I do wrong," the young man asked resignedly.
Humility was an excellent trait the Prime mused, in the proper doses. In reply to the question he disengaged control of his steering. Jack let out a gasp and before the big rig had drifted to the center line he had unbuckled, jumped into the driver's seat, and regained control of the semi. With a sigh of relief the human rebuckled himself in and glanced down at the flickering display. He knew this silence. It meant Optimus was expecting him to figure something out. The young man's eyes flicked over the houses all around him. The Autobot had never pulled a stunt like that in a residential section before.
"You trust me," Jack stated with no little surprise in his voice. "I, I guess I'm not in trouble?" a glance at the dash display.
"Far from it Jackson," the Prime said warmly as he let himself relax a bit. The Autobot was still alert for any threat that might arise but over the months he had grown to enjoy being able to simply roll along for the ride. What had started as simply an opportunity to teach a useful skill to a promising youngling had turned into a rare kind of relaxation for the warrior. "Your contribution to Team Prime in my absence was critical and I wish to thank you."
"I didn't really do anything," Jack protested awkwardly. "I just suggested the obvious thing about using the Decepticon's groundbridge. And if you had given the Key to someone else I wouldn't even have gone to Cybertron."
Optimus was quiet as he ran Ratchet's observations through his processor. According to the medic Jack had been a constant source of strength at the base. Whenever there had been tension that might break out in a fight he was there to diffuse it. If there was any task he could do he did it, no matter how menial.
"You should have seen him Optimus. He would walk up to one of us and just smile up and it felt like, like we had a piece of you back with us. Primus, I don't think Arcee could have made it without him. It showed the most when he wasn't there," the red and white Autobot's voice had grown grave. "We would be snapping and barking at each other. Then he would roll in on Arcee and the problems seemed almost manageable again."
The Prime returned his attention to the human who was currently driving him down the dusty highway towards base. When he had justified his actions to Ratchet and June he had simply stated how impressed he was with Jack's growing maturity and resourcefulness as his reasons for entrusting the Key to him. That had been true as far as it went. But there was another reason.
The very first time he had encountered the boy, blue-grey eyes wide with wonder as he stared up at the alien before him, the matrix had responded. It had been faint at first. A pulse so soft the Autobot had barely noted it at the time. It had been stronger the first time he had touched Jack. Optimus had wondered at this strange sense of resonance. As the months had passed the connection had only grown stronger. When the sparklings had imprinted on the human the resonance had increased to an almost distracting level, only subsiding after their untimely off-lining. When the time had come to choose a matrix bearer there was no question in Optimus's processor. He had not chosen Jack, the Key itself had. Now the sensation was only stronger.
"Jack, you may not think your presence was vital, but I assure you that my soldiers have come to depend on you in many ways. Your optimism and level headedness, your steadfast strength did much to lighten everyone's burden." The Cybertronian could sense the human glowing under the attention but still shifting uncomfortably. He understood. There was no doubt a little voice in the back of Jack's head whispering all his failings to him, telling him he wasn't worthy of the praise. The same voice that had haunted him from the moment the council had named him Prime. The same voice that tormented him now. He focused anew on the human.
"Were you a soldier under my command an official commendation would be in order."
Jack shifted again, a pleased grin warring with embarrassment across his face.
"Therefore I have requested Agent Fowler note in your official record not only the courage and resourcefulness you displayed on Cybertron but the compassion and steadfastness you showed on the base."
The human drew in a quick breath and Optimus felt his hands tighten on the controls.
"Thank you Optimus," he said softly, otherwise at loss for words.
"So I was kind of like a, moral officer?" Jack asked after mulling over Optimus's words for some time.
Another aspect of the human Optimus admired; the way he took the time to consider things and didn't jump to conclusions or feel the need to constantly talk.
"Perhaps, that and more," the Prime replied. He retook control of the driving and gently reached up a buckle to touch the cool metal against the puffy skin under Jack's eyes. "One of the duties of a moral officer is to make certain that his own mental state is conductive to supporting others."
Jack closed his eyes and leaned into the caress slightly. He knew what Optimus was asking and after everything they had gone through together he wasn't going to deny the Prime an answer, but he also knew the Autobot leader would grant him as much time as he needed to form that answer.
"I am fine Optimus," Jack finally said. "Yes, I was crying before you picked me up but that was just because I was listening to a song on my mp3 player." He indicated the offending device in his pocket.
Optimus let out a rumble of understanding. Music was one of the things that amazed him about this world. That their species were similar enough to have the same concept was amazing enough. That each could recognize the others art for what it was and be similarly moved by it was nothing short of a miracle in the Prime's optics. Jack's taste in music he had found particularly interesting; some were the popular type favored by the majority of human youth but many were old even by Cybertronian standards. Although, because the young man most often deferred to the wants of the other two humans in the base the Autobots were far more familiar with Miko's tastes.
"It was a mournful song?" he asked, touching the hot cheek once more.
"No," Jack said catching the buckle in his hand and absently running his thumb over the Autobot shield. "It's actually kind of an uplifting song."
"Then why did it make you weep?"
Again the human hesitated. Finally he took a deep breath and held the buckle with both hands.
"It reminded me of our situation over the past days, with, with you gone and us together back at base just waiting helplessly, and," tears began to slip from Jacks closed eyes and he gripped the sliver and red square of metal even tighter, "and the relief and joy when you came back. When I saw you there in the cave and knew you had been fighting Megatron even without your memories, that you were still ours. I, I'm sorry," Jack breathed out rubbing the back of his wrist over his blurring eyes.
"Do not apologize Jack," Optimus said softly. "Pain is nothing to be ashamed of."
Jack flinched at the shame he heard in the deep voice. Clearly Optimus blamed himself for any suffering the human had undergone. Which was exactly why Jack had gone to some lengths to hide the mood swings he'd been having. But now that Optimus had noticed the young man knew better than deny the Cybertronian's sense of culpability outright.
"Optimus, human tears aren't just for pain," Jack offered instead. He placed a steady hand on the dash. "We cry for joy as well. When I was listening to this song some of the details might be a little off but the heart, the spark of the song was perfectly like what I'd been feeling, it resonated with me and well, you are here. We got you back. That deserves a few tears of joy."
There was such faith evidenced in that last statement the Prime found himself humbled anew at the trust place in him, even after what could only be termed a betrayal. They were approaching the base now and the two drove through the silo gates in silence. Once inside Optimus let Jack out and transformed. Ratchet gave them both a curt nod and returned his attention to the monitor.
The deep voice called out as the young man was about to head for the computers to start his homework. He stopped and turned.
"Would it be possible for me to hear this song that you found so pertinent to our situation?"
"Ah, sure," Jack said in surprise, "Just let me pull it up."
Optimus held out his hand and Jack climbed in as he fiddled with the buttons on his mp3 player. The Autobot stood to his full height and lifted the human to his shoulder as he patiently waited Jack slipped one bud into his ear and offered the other to Optimus. The human hesitated unsure of what to do with the small device, but the Cybertronian tilted his helm slightly to one side so his audio receptor, easily itself as big as Jack's head, was presented to the human. The center of the organ shifted and a circle opened just the size to hold the bud. Carefully, Jack placed the ear piece in the slot and the tiny gears closed delicately around it. With a grin Jack hit play.
Roll on highway, roll on along
Roll on Daddy till you get back home,
Optimus's optics shuttered closed as he focused on the simple rhythm and melody. The words spoke of a beloved father working to earn a living for his family. Told of how he drove an eighteen-wheeler, a task that constantly took him away from the very loved ones he was striving to provide for. Despite these challenges he did everything in his power to support them. Then came an accident. The frightened family waiting praying at home for word of their father, the joy they experienced when they discovered him safe and whole.
Roll on eighteen-wheeler. Roll on….
Roll on eighteen-wheeler. Roll on….
The Prime was smiling softly as the song came to a close. Once again he felt both the warmth and the burden of bearing the trust this human placed in him. Jack was equating him to a father, not just to the Autobots under the Prime's command, but to the human youth as well.
'I will strive to be worthy of your faith young one,' Optimus vowed silently to the human perched on his hand as the last strains of the music faded out.
"So that was it," Jack said a little sheepishly after the music ended. "I guess you need to get back to work?"
The Autobot leader's optics settled on the face of the youth sitting on his hand. Optimus sensed that Jack didn't want the exchange to end. His processor flicked briefly over the long list of tasks that was waiting for his attention, but the part of his processor responsible for measurement stretched out before the Prime the painfully few stellar-cycles he had left with the human, compared it to the solar-cycles Megatron had already stolen from them, and came to the only truly logical conclusion.
"Actually Jackson, I would like to listen to the song again."
The human nodded and restarted the player. As the first strains of the music rang out the Prime shuttered his optics and let the simple melody fill his processor. He felt Jack lean into him slightly and his smile widened a bit at the gesture.
This fic was inspired by the painting done by goddesmechanic on DeviantArt here .com/art/Music-285011334 and the song "Roll on Eighteen-wheeler," by Alabama. .com/watch?v=hRhFPpmJiDw
I own nothing!