Differences 5

A Transformers Prime Fanfiction

Set Before "Trickster"

Jack was beginning to wonder if it was possible to crawl out of your own skin. He had finally managed to force his attention back to his school work as long as the music was coming through his headphones, but at the pause between every song the steady grinding of the Optimus's chewing came over the silence, reminding him of the severed limb and its fate. Minutes stretched with agonizing slowness into hours as the low sound continued to fill the silo. The intermittent breaks when the Prime chose a new fragment only seemed to make the noise worse. But all things must come to an end and eventually he heard Ratchet stride up to the Prime and gruffly request the remains for final processing. The human was about to relax back into his chair when he sensed a presence standing over him.

"Optimus," Jack greeted the Prime with a bit of trepidation in his voice.

The sound of Bulkhead and Bumblebee pulling back into the main silo provided an odd background to the searching look the Autobot was giving him.

"Jack, there are certain supplies I need to acquire for the base and it would be useful to have a human along to handle the documentation."

"I'm on it," Jack said with a sigh of resignation. "I'll get my Private Smith costume."

The youth knew that though his presence did make things run more smoothly he was far from necessary to these little missions. Optimus was trying to get him alone for one of their talks and was making no secret of it. The human pulled out the army fatigues that Fowler had procured for him and quickly changed.

"Why are you worried idiot," he muttered fiercely to himself. "There's nothing to be afraid of. This is Optimus."

He forced himself to stride out across the cracked concrete of the silo floor and leapt up into the waiting red and blue semi. Jack was expecting the Prime to wait for him to open the conversation as was his custom but to his surprise as soon as they hit the highway the deep voice spoke.

"Why?"

"Excuse me?" Jack asked in surprise.

"You were clearly just as disturbed by the reabsorbtion process as were your peers. Why did you stay in the silo?"

"Ah, I mean, why not? I'm sure it's all a perfectly natural part of life for you all," the youth stated in a rush, his hand once again wandering up to rub the back of his neck.

"Perhaps natural for us," the Prime conceded, "but even a cursory search of your culture shows that it is far from natural for you. Why did you subject yourself to something that was so clearly uncomfortable for you when there were other options available?"

Then the silence fell. Jack knew that Optimus would give him as much time as he needed to answer so he leaned back into the seat and let his mind go blank simply drinking in the harsh desert landscape rolling by.

"I, I don't want to be a burden," he finally stated with a sigh.

That earned a disapproving rumble from the mighty engine as he felt the seatbelts tighten a bit. The human gripped the belt buckle in front of him and smiled. The Prime's meaning was clear enough. None of the Autobots considered him a burden.

"I am not certain I follow your reasoning," was all the semi said.

"You lost your home, your world," the raven haired youth murmured softly as his fingers traced patterns on the door beside him. "You ended up here; in an alien culture. You have to sacrifice so much on a daily basis. You put up with our weirdness because you really have no other choice. The least we can do is be accepting of any differences that might bother us. I mean in all the time that I've known you there been nothing that I could say I found really weird."

"And so you wanted to prove to yourself that you were capable of accepting something that was extremely 'weird' and repulsive?" Optimus asked. "That is why you subjected yourself to observing me eat my own hand?"

The human shuddered in the seat at the reminder and the Autobot's chemical receptors picked up increased levels of stress pheromones. Jack squirmed and glanced down in embarrassment. It sounded almost selfish when the Prime put it like that.

"Jackson," the human glanced up at the tone; Optimus sounded almost amused. "Do you know how long I have traveled from star to star?"

"A very long time," the youth responded.

"Indeed. I have seen many worlds countless cultures, and while there are times your people surprise me there is little left in this galaxy that could truly shock me, but were I to find some aspect of human culture unpalatable, would you insist I experience it when unnecessary?"

"Of course not!"

"Then why do you subject yourself to this standard?"

"I want to be with you," Jack finally replied as the truth solidified in his mind. "I don't want to be separated from Arcee, from Bee, or Smokey, or Bulk, or even Ratchet. Not by physical distance or differences and especially not some petty cultural misunderstanding. I guess it just got driven home to me today. You guys are aliens but you act so human, I forget what changes you must have had to go through to become like that, what sacrifices you had to make."

Optimus felt a warm glow at the words and the intent behind them and sent a gentle vibration through the seats.

"It is true we have had to make many adjustments to live in your world Jack. However this is in our nature and we have done it many times before. The process of transformation is not a physical matter alone. That you are willing to take part in this transformation yourself despite your lack of experience shows that there are perhaps more similarities between our species than differences after all."

"You really think so?" Jack asked.

"Never on any of the worlds we visited were we welcomed as we have been here. This is the first world in these many eons that my warriors have allowed themselves to consider a home. Listen to what you are saying Jackson. You were expecting, demanding that your physical and mental reactions change to accommodate mine. Without even thinking about it you were holding yourself to our standards and attempting to mimic us. That is a transformation as extreme as any physical rearrangement my kind can make."

"But I failed," the human muttered slumping.

A low chuckled filled the cab making Jack blush.

"This was the first time you have faced such a difference young one," the Prime rumbled. "Perhaps one of the hardest lessons a leader must learn is to know his own weaknesses. There will be differences between us, perhaps some that will always be uncomfortable to address, but the mere fact that we are trying tells me that it is worth the effort. You might in time grow used to seeing us eat our own body parts but that is not necessarily the best outcome. It would be an entirely different matter for a human, whose needs are all met by the planet you live on, and it is not always wise to fight your instincts. Before the war such things were done subtly, in private. It only became common place to see it done in the open when the war had stripped away the more polite traditions of society. I will inform the rest of the team to restore those traditions."

"I don't want to cause you any trouble," Jack offered.

"Then perhaps next time the issue arises you will take my advice and relocate before your stress becomes obvious enough to distract me."

Jack's face grew red in embarrassment but a small smile pulled at the corner of his mouth. There was an undercurrent of humor running through the Primes voice; one that was rare enough that it had to be appreciated when it appeared no matter the circumstances.

"I guess that's a good compromise," the youth replied, "as long as you try to avoid this kind of thing in the first place."

"Then it is settled," there was definitely humor in the Prime's voice. "For your sake I will strive to avoid serious injury and for mine you will indulge your baser instincts."

Jack couldn't hold back any longer and burst out laughing and to his astonishment a deep basso rumble joined him. The human let his own voice fade and simply listened to the rare and wonderful sound of a Prime's laughter.