A/N: I'm still not in the mood to update ShadowStrike Rising or Pheromone, but I thought this little one-shot might help. It's inspired by one of Foxbear's earlier stories, "Girl Talk". I hope you enjoy.
Within the Autobot base, Optimus Prime walked down the corridors on his way to the command center. His right knee servo gave him a little trouble thanks to the injury he sustained at the hands of Megaton a few days prior. Since then, he'd been ordered by Ratchet to remain at base until his leg fully healed. While he did not like the idea of his men being shy one warrior, especially their leader, in the battlefield, the Prime relented, knowing that the sooner his injury healed, the longer he could stay out on the battlefield. In the meantime, Ratchet had taken his place aiding the others during energon runs.
While the medic may not have been most suited to the battlefield, he could certainly provide ample support when needed (especially when the only other Autobot alternative was Wheeljack). This left Optimus to handle monitoring duty, a task the others disliked. They preferred to be out on the battlefield or spending time with the children rather than watch for any activity. Optimus' feelings on the matter were quite the contrary. He enjoyed working on the monitors whenever he could.
It reminded him of a more peaceful time during Cybertron's Golden Age, when he was merely the historian: Orion Pax. He would spend countless hours sorting through data, looking for any impurities or notes of interest. Some called it boring, but as Optimus would come to learn during his many years of battle, boring was good. While confined to the Autobot base, Optimus saw fit to look over any impurities among the technology. He could tell from the looks of it that were quite a few.
Indeed, Optimus was certain that the humans were not as technologically inferior as Ratchet made them out to be. But as the Autobots saw fit to deny them access to energon and the designs in weaponry, it seemed humanity saw fit to deprive them of a more adequate form of computer. Sadly, both sides would remain at this stalemate until one gave into the other. Optimus simply hoped that it would not take the loss of a life on either side to the Decepticons or MECH to force the other's hand. Upon entering the slio command center, Optimus was met by a rather peculiar sight.
Sitting on the edge of the concrete area were the humans interacted was Jack Darby, one of the first human civilians to discover the Autobots presence on Earth. He was watching the currently deactivated ground-bridge intently. Optimus walked over to him, "Jack."
The boy jumped and turned to face the Autobot leader, his cheeks tinted with a slight pink, "Hey Optimus."
"Is something wrong?" the Prime asked.
"No," the boy answered. "Why would you think there is."
"I noticed you were watching the ground-bridge intently. Did Miko run through and follow the others on their search for energon?"
"No," Jack replied. "She and Raf are out of town on a school field trip. I decided not to go because I've already been a few times before. I've been hanging around here all day. Where have you been?"
"Ratchet insists that I rest as much as possible in order for my injury to fully heal," Optimus explained. "While I do not make it a habit to disagree with my Chief Medical Officer, I felt it best that the others have someone to monitor their progress from here."
"That's why I'm here," Jack said. "Ratchet told me to stay here and wait for when the other call for pick up. It's kinda boring without someone to talk to."
The pink on the boy's cheeks grew into a dark red, "Well, I do spend more time with her than I do with any of the others. We talk about a lot of things. I tell her about school, work, and human culture in general, and she tells me about, Cybertron before the war, her sisters, and how she met Tailgate and Cliffjumper."
Optimus noticed Jack's expression fall slightly; the Prime knew all too well how painful it must be for Arcee to speak of her fallen partners. The worst part about losing a friend is the reminiscing. Remembering all of the good times as if they had only happened yesterday and having to deal with the reality that such times are now beyond one's grasp. For Arcee, it would always be hard to speak of Tailgate and Cliffjumper in passing, even now that she was "partners" with Jack. A sudden realization hit the Prime.
The reason Jack was watching the ground-bridge so intently was not because he was waiting for a signal, but because he was worried for Arcee's safety. Indeed, the femme was known for pushing herself well beyond her limits. This resulted in near constant trips to med bay, much to her chagrin, especially when Ratchet found an injury on her. She would often argue about how they could not afford to be resting while the Decepticons scheme, but Ratchet always silenced her by reminding her of his position and threatening to bring Optimus into the argument. This would always cause Arcee to reluctantly obey the medic's command, but during her recovery, she would bite the heads of anyone who would try to cheer her up.
There were times when even Cliffjumper could not get through to her, resulting in a brief, but exhausting, tension. When Arcee would be cleared to return to battle, she would often go out for a drive to make up for the hours confined to med bay. Her reckless behavior not only made her a danger to herself, but to other around her. Optimus had spoken with her many times on this matter, but the femme often ignored him. Most of her previous commanding officers expressed frustration when it came to her rather insubordinate nature.
It was made even worse by the deaths of Tailgate and Cliffjumper. The loss of her partners awakened a cold-blooded side within Arcee, which she wasn't afraid to display towards her own allies. When it came to the Decepticons, she was ruthless, cutting them down one after the other. Her merciless attitude further alienated her from her fellow Autobots, but not from Jack. The human teen stood by Arcee no matter what, even when she tried to turn him away.
When she brooded in med bay, Jack would often sit there with her, ignoring her demands that he leave or threats of what she would do. He knew she would never intentionally cause him any physical harm, so she just sat there moping for an hour or two, eventually striking up a conversation with her human charge. Jack seemed to have a gift that not even Tailgate and Cliffjumper possessed; he could easily read Arcee's emotions and counteract them. Perhaps Arcee didn't even realize this (even if she did, she would deny it). A gift like that was useful in many situations.
Realizing there had been a long silence between the two, Optimus spoke, "Jack. Are you worried for Arcee?"
Rather than become further embarrassed, the boy merely sighed, "Is it that obvious?"
"Contrary to the beliefs of others, I do watch you, Miko, and Rafael. I have witnessed you forge strong bonds with each of your guardians, you and Arcee especially."
"I guess we do go well together," Jack smiled. "I just wish she would talk to me more about Airachnid and Starscream."
Again, Optimus became lost in thought about Arcee's connection to the now rogue Decepticons, the formers, Airachnid, locked in stasis within their base. Airachnid had captured and tortured Arcee to gain information on vital battle coordinates. True to her word as an Autobot, she remained silent and took whatever punishment the spider-bot could think off. Finally, Airachnid resorted to more drastic measures. She revealed that her troopers had captured Tailgate and tortured him for the information as well.
Under threat of Tailgate's life, Arcee confessed that she did not know coordinates. Dissatisfied (or unconvinced), Airachnid still took the life of Arcee's partner right in front her. This act would forever change Arcee into the distant femme she was now. Even with Cliffjumper, it was hard to open up. Eventually, the Autobot found a way into her spark and formed a close bond with her, only for him to share the same fate as his predecessor.
This time, Arcee would lose a partner to Starscream, the treacherous SIC of Megatron. Ironically, it was his death that brought caused Jack, Miko, and Rafael to discover the Autobots' existance. And the rest was history. Now, Jack was Arcee's "junior partner" and she often confided in him things that she wouldn't tell anyone else, not even Optimus. But this partnership was fragile due to Arcee's thirst for vengeance.
When the opportunity presented itself, Arcee would go after Airachnid for revenge, often coming up empty handed in that endeavor. This would later be the case with Starscream when the Seeker attempted "join" the Autobots. Despite the objections of the others, namely Bulkhead, Optimus had agreed to the Seeker's terms of surrender in exchange for any information he might have. Hoping to teach Arcee a lesson about the pitfalls of revenge, Optimus left her in charge of Starscream's imprisonment, only for her to discover that the Seeker was the one responsible for Cliffjumper's death. Arcee would then attack Starscream, sustaining injuries in the process.
Thanks to Bumblebee's timely intervention, Starscream escaped. Ironically, the very lesson Optimus had hoped to teach Arcee had been learned through this experience, as she blamed herself for the loss of information they could have gained from the Seeker's cooperation. Even so, she still went after Airachnid when the opportunity presented itself. She always argured that Tailgate deserved justice and that none of them were thinking of that while they reprimanded her for her actions. But one thing Arcee often failed to notice was how her actions were affecting Jack.
It could not have been easy to for boy to have to listen to Arcee talk about her failure to exact revenge on Airachnid, but he listened all the same. It was this trait and many others that caused Optimus to bestow the Key to Vector Sigma Jack.
This time it was Jack who broke the silence, "I know she cared for Tailgate and Cliffjumper, but I don't want to risk her getting killed over revenge. I don't want to lose her."
"You care for her deeply, Jack."
"I love her."
Optimus' optics widened slightly, "When did you feelings for her turn romantic?"
"They didn't," he replied.
"So you meant 'love' in the familial sense?"
Optimus eyed the boy with a look of confusion on his face, not knowing how to respond. Jack had just said he loved Arcee, but did not mean it in the sense of family, or in the sense of a lover. While the Autobots may not have been experts on human emotions, the Prime was certain that the only love that could be shared between two people was that of family and those of lovers. Finally, he spoke again, "I am afraid I cannot interpret your meaning Jack."
"Optimus," he looked up at the Prime, a rare form of confidence in his voice, "How do you define the love between two people when it can't be defined by kisses, passion, or lust, but can't be simply brushed off as a brother and sister kind of love?"
"I am afraid I do not know the answer."
"Moments," he said simply.
"Moments?" Optimus repeated, looking at the boy suspiciously.
"I cannot define my love for Arcee by kissing her, or through our bodies. I can only define through small moments, like sitting on the cliff and watching the sun set, or going for long drives through town. Sometimes, we go to a drive in, other times, we just sit together and don't say anything. It's moments like that where I can define my love for Arcee."
"Yet you feel as though you may lose these 'moment's if you confront her on the issue of Tailgate and Cliffjumper?"
"Sometimes," the boy sighed.
"Jack," Optimus let a small smile appear on his face. "Being partners means to trust one another to do things the other might not like, even if it causes tension between them. You have managed to make a place for yourself in Arcee's spark and I entrust you to mend the wounds around it, just as I entrusted you with the Key to Vector Sigma."
Jack looked up at Optimus and smiled, "Thank you."
Before Optimus could respond, Ratchet's voice came through the comm-link, "Jack, bridge us back." Without another word, Jack activated the ground-bridge. Ratchet, Bulkhead, Bumblebee, and Arcee stepped through the vortex. The medic quickly caught sight of the Autobot leader and sighed, "Optimus, I thought I made it clear that you should be resting. Don't tell that you're going to start disobeying my medical advice now, too."
"Not at all, Ratchet," Optimus chuckled. "I was merely stretching my leg as to avoid any stiffness." He looked to Jack, who gave a small wink before Arcee approached him.
"Hey partner," she smiled warmly at him. "Wanna go for a drive?"
"Sure," he smiled.
"Shouldn't you report for a medical check before you do any-" Ratchet was cut off by the sounds of Arcee's transforming and speeding out of base with Jack.
"Oh for Primus' sake," the medic pinched the bridge of his "nose".
"Moments, indeed," Optimus chuckled to himself.
A/N: I hope you all enjoyed. I'll try to update Rising tomorrow and Pheromone this weekened.