A/N: Rest assured I haven't forgotten my Decepticon bad boys, but there's something about Optimus and Ratchet, particularly in TF:P, that you can't help but love. Sprinkle in a little G1 fun, and enjoy!
Disclaimer: TF:P and the assorted Transformers characters are the property of Hasbro and TakaraTomy. If they were mine, Ratchet would get far more love.
His main self-appointed task of the night was to check in on Bumblebee. While the yellow scout had been quick to claim full physical recovery from the trauma of having his t-cog stolen, Ratchet had been less sanguine about the long-term effects on his mental processes, and had ordered him to stay on base until further notice.
Both Bumblebee and Raf had reacted to this announcement about as well as could be expected, but a Look from Optimus had quickly silenced any rebellious intentions.
Now, standing in the doorway of the scout's sleeping quarters, the Autobot commander scanned Bumblebee's frame as he lay stretched out on his berth, face down and door-wings twitching peacefully in recharge. A quick check on his vitals revealed a steady spark-beat and although his pump pressure was slightly low, there was no sign of any leakage or any damage to indicate a bleed-out. Ratchet would no doubt want to run another of his famous full service checks in the morning, but for now, Bumblebee could rest in peaceful slumber.
Stepping back into the corridor and letting the door hiss shut behind him, Optimus turned and strode back down the corridor towards Ops as quietly as a being of his size could manage. Few background noises could be detected; Ratchet was still up and about, as was his wont when the children were not in the base. Arcee and Bulkhead were on overnight surveillance at the Darbys' and Miko's host parents' houses – the ex-Wrecker would change location on the hour to guard Raf's house in Bumblebee's place.
Walking into the Ops area and settling himself before the main computer, he turned to his final task – monitoring the upper atmosphere for any Deception signals or chatter.
He wasn't expecting much at this time of the night. Like the Autobots, the Decepticons had long since adapted their systems to recharge on the same hours as the majority of humanity. The most he would get, if they were lucky, would be a few signals from human satellites and maybe a message from Wheeljack. The ex-Wrecker had made it as far as Japan, and was having the time of his life camping next to Mount Fujiyama and learning the various Eastern martial arts.
The scanner beeped. Just as he had suspected, nothing that warranted further investigation.
The Autobot commander sat back and frowned slightly.
He would be on call now for the rest of the nightshift, should Arcee or Bulkhead contact the base, but as for what to do during that time, he was a little stumped.
Recharge was out of the question; he had already refuelled; all of his basic weapons and systems checks had been completed.
Glancing around the Ops area, his gaze settled on the TV next to the main computer. The children had lobbied hard for the set after the first space bridge incident, with more than a little support from their guardians. Ratchet had sulked for a week at the disarray caused by Jack and Raf trying to get the set connected to the base's satellite network, but even he couldn't deny how well it worked as a distraction for both 'Bots and humans between missions.
Plus, the medic could hardly complain about the set now that he had discovered human medical dramas. Optimus had been personally sworn to secrecy after awaking from surgery at 2am a few weeks back to discover Ratchet squinting at a repeat of House, intermittently cackling and taking copious notes.
Warily, he reached over and tapped the TV remote, simultaneously accessing the local listings through his internal data connection. He clicked through the channels as carefully as he could, stopping only if a scene interested him.
Cartoons...why humans would show cartoons when the children would not be awake baffled him.
A nature program flashed past, showing birds wheeling across a snow-covered vista. He watched for a few moments, intrigued at the concept of migration and how the birds' instincts would take them to the correct place on Earth to refuel and breed.
He moved on to the movie channels, stopping briefly during the last twenty minutes of Predator to marvel at how accurately humans had managed to portray the Yautja without having ever seen them in the flesh.
Another click, and the screen changed to monochrome.
Optimus's optics flicked between the screen and the remote in concern.
I did only touch the channel buttons...didn't I?
The title of the film, Casablanca, flashed up on screen. Relief shot through his system as he read the listings information. 1943, so this would have been made long before colour film or television, and the guide listed the film as a 'must-watch', whatever that meant.
Optimus studied the screen for a few more moments, and then raised his eyebrows in what, for him, passed as a shrug.
Perhaps a few minutes wouldn't hurt.
Almost two hours later, Optimus leaned back from the screen and let his optics drift out of focus as Rick Blaine and Captain Renault walked off together into the fog.
The film, as indicated, had been quite remarkable. The sacrifices made not just by Rick, but by Ilsa, Lazlo and even Renault; it was hard to see them played out and not find some parallels with the Great War. Ilsa was Elita-1, no question. Renault could be perhaps Jazz, or even Ratchet in one of his less snarky moods. As to whether he was Rick or Lazlo, maybe he was better off not speculating. Speculating would only lead to thinking of Elita, and thinking of Elita, so far away and long since vanished, would only break his spark again.
He sighed and clicked the TV off, glancing at his internal chronometer as the screen faded to black.
There had to be something to do to occupy his mind for the next three hours. Something low-key, that didn't require any equipment not on base. Something that would keep the guilt of his time spent amongst the Decepticons at bay.
Optimus drummed his digits against his kneecaps as he thought and scanned the already vast room, now made even larger through the silence and lack of activity.
He stood up, his optics brightening slightly as they fell on the rubber and metal ball gathering dust in a gap behind the CR chamber. Jack and Miko had spent a happy hour teaching their guardians the fundamentals of basketball while he was recovering from the cybonic plague. Unable to do anything except rest up under pain of Ratchet, Optimus had watched with curiosity as Bulkhead had fashioned a hoop, backboard and ball out of spare parts, while Arcee had scratched out perimeter lines on the floor and Bumblebee had sat with the children, watching assorted basketball clips on the internet and clicking happily in appreciation.
Basketball sounded remarkably like the Cybertronian game basketrek, or at least, it shared a number of similar rules. He had, on occasion, watched a couple of matches at Maccadam's and played a few rounds with Jazz before the war, but not enough to claim any real expertise.
But...he had been merely Orion Pax back then, and probably the first to admit that he wasn't the most sports-inclined mech in Iacon. As Optimus Prime however...
Bulkhead hadn't removed the hoop and backboard, so he simply adjusted it to a more suitable height before retrieving the ball and spinning it in his hands a couple of times to remove the dust.
Glancing over his shoulder, he carefully let the ball drop out of his hands and winced slightly at the loudness of the contact between the floor and the ball.
Not quite right, but getting there...
He caught the ball with both hands and hesitated for a moment before bouncing it again. As the ball rebounded upwards, he stopped it with one hand and pressed the yellow and silver sphere back towards the ground.
Again the ball bounced. Again Optimus caught it.
A tiny smile crept across the Autobot leader's face. He felt his frame slide into a half-crouch as he began to alternate his hands with each rebound, each bounce gaining enough speed to crush a human in one blow. Slowly, he began to edge his way across the room, glancing up every so often at the hoop.
The humans had a term for this motion. Drooling...no, dribbling, that was it.
Catching the ball in his right hand, Optimus paused and stared at the hoop. It didn't look so hard. Simple momentum and physics would ensure a basket...
He launched the ball at the hoop.
It rebounded off the backboard, soared past his right shoulder, bounced off the far wall and rolled into the gap behind the main computer.
If Cybertronians could blush, Optimus was certain his faceplates would be a wonderful shade of fuchsia. Retrieving the ball, he stared up at the hoop and frowned. If the humans could do this without a targeting system or even servo boosters, surely he could manage it...
Whatever the slightly rhythmic thumping noise coming from the control room was, Ratchet was fairly certain it was unhealthy to Cybertronians and other living things.
Or irritating on the audials at the very least.
He checked his internal chronometer and rolled his optics. 4.30am. Optimus was still meant to be on duty, and Bumblebee wasn't supposed to come out of recharge until 6am, so what or who was making that infernal bouncing?
Wait a click...bouncing.
The only thing on base that could bounce (apart from wrenches propelled by the medic's own flame-assisted temper) was the basketball that Bulkhead had insisted on making a few months ago, and he was certain he'd hidden the fragging thing where neither the children or their guardians could possibly find it.
Feeling the aforementioned temper starting to boil, Ratchet stomped towards Ops, feeling his hands curling into fists. If Bumblebee was up and trying some ridiculous human sport again, forced sedation would be bliss compared to what he would put the scout through...
His left optic twitched with each reverberation as he rounded the corner and strode into the control room, a lecture of epic proportions steadily brewing in his CPU...
...and which died before it even had a chance to reach his vocalisor.
The medic blinked a few times and stared.
Optimus Prime, the galactically vaunted leader of the Autobots, the spokesmech for their race, and the champion of freedom, justice and truth, had just taken a run-up to the basketball hoop on the far wall, dribbling the ball with one hand so fast that it was almost a blur. His optics were narrowed, bright glimmers of blue light flicking left and right as he moved, but a smile almost wide enough to be a grin was fixed on his face-plates as though it belonged there.
He clutched the ball with both hands, crouched and leapt up towards the hoop, the servos in his legs hissing with the sudden pressure release.
Ratchet's optics were wide as Optimus grabbed the hoop with one hand, and slammed the ball through it with the other and letting out a triumphant roar.
The ball bounced off the concrete a few times before it rolled towards the doorway. Optimus turned his head to follow its progress, the wide smile still on his faceplates.
It became slightly fixed as he spotted his oldest friend in the doorway, staring at him as if Primus himself had made a personal visitation.
Ratchet raised an eyebrow. "And what in the name of the All-Spark was that meant to be?"
The Autobot commander blinked, looking for all the world like a fledgling with his hand caught in the energon goodie-jar.
"I believe the technical term is a 'slam-dunk'."
The medic grumbled under his breath as he trudged over to the main computer and took up his station, subtly kicking the ball back towards his commander mid-step. "Well, whatever it is, the bouncing is getting on my last coolant line."
Optimus let himself drop to the floor and scooped up the ball when it tapped against his foot. "My apologies, old friend. I needed to...blow off a little steam, as the humans would put it."
Ratchet shook his head. "All well and good, but landing on that concrete's not going to help your knee-joints."
"If Megatron has been unable to destroy my frame after three thousand millennia, I doubt that a few rounds of basketball will send me to the Matrix."
The Prime turned around and began to dribble the ball once again.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
Ratchet's left optic twitched, but he resisted the urge to turn round.
Thud. Thud. Whump. Thud.
A hiss of air.
Ratchet felt his entire face cringe at the noise.
Another hiss of air...
The sudden sound of creaking metal wasn't lost on the medic. He started to turn around, ready to lecture his leader again about overstressing his joints...
Ratchet settled with exhaling and steepled his fingers together in front of his chest as Optimus disappeared in a cloud of concrete and rock dust. He raised an eyebrow as the dust cleared to reveal the Prime sitting squarely on his aft, a look of slightly embarrassed surprise on his faceplates, and the basketball hoop and backboard still clutched in his hands.
"Enlighten me. What are your conclusions about partaking in human sports?"
Optimus simply blinked, glanced at the hoop in his hands, and gave his friend a small but contented smile.
"It's harder than it looks."