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Student/Leader/Youngling/Teacher

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“Yet another flawless transportation procedure! Gentlemechs - you may disembark.”

The Autobot landing party filed out of Sky Lynx with exultant expressions of gratitude that had less to do with Sky Lynx’s trumpeting than with finally, finally being back on Cybertron again. It had been a long week, they were dirty and battered and tired and everything that could have gone wrong had gone wrong. For Kup, whose familiar aches and pains had only been intensified by a slag-crazy maneuver that had finally broken the enemy’s defensive line, it was time to crawl to his quarters and soak in a hot oil tub for the better part of a week. He staggered out of Sky Lynx’s hold behind the others, rotating the one shoulder that always complained and grinning ruefully at the boisterous so-tired-we’re-giddy energy of the young ones.

“Good work, everyone.” Rodimus Prime’s voice startled him - the lad had been pretty quiet the whole way back. “Blades, escort the wounded to medbay, I’m sure First Aid is already expecting you. Blurr, get those recordings up to the briefing room, I’ll be right up to review them. The rest of you, rest and refuel.” The Autobots were quick to follow the commands of their leader, Kup among them until a strong hand landed on his shoulder.

“Not so fast,” said Rodimus Prime. “You, brig.”

Kup turned, instinct and long association with his ward priming him to bring him back in line with a snap. He faltered, though, at the sight of Rodimus’s heavily-lined face, the brittle set to his mouth. Although Hot Rod had been among the youngest of the Autobots, Rodimus Prime in that moment looked as old as Kup himself.

The realization dumbfounded him, and all he could do was repeat the order stupidly. “Brig?”

“Brig.” Rodimus nodded firmly. “Two megacycles, for disobeying a direct order and reckless self-endangerment.”

Kup couldn’t help an arch expression, or a dry, “Now that’s a rich vein of energon coming from you, lad.”

Rodimus didn’t smile. “Every time you brigged me, it was justified. Now it’s justified for me to do the same.”

There was nothing to be said to that. Kup’s actions had been ill-advised, and the Prime had given a reasonable command. With a heavy sigh, Kup turned to obey.

*

At least he’d been supplied with energon while he served out his sentence. Kup took some time to wallow in resentment and affront - I gave that young punk his first oil change, I taught him everything he knows about battle, he’s got some bearings brigging me! Kup thunked the cube down on the bench beside him. “Smartaft kid,” he muttered, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “Grew up way too damn fast.”

It’d been barely four months since Hot Rod had ascended to Primacy. Four months was a slagging short time to run through officer training, but although sometimes he seemed even more of a pain in the aft to teach than he had been before the new Prime had put his wheel to the road where it counted and come through for his Autobots. Still, part of Kup missed the young mech who’d been his ward all these vorn - the bright, irrepressible soldier who charged out without thinking and pulled pranks on his squadmates and thought everyone who didn’t have a Decepticon symbol on was his friend. The young mech who Kup was always pulling out of danger, if only to toss him aft-first into the brig or punishment duty. And now that little mech was all upgraded and tossing his teacher in the brig.

I guess I oughta be proud, Kup admitted to himself, and took another long swallow of his energon. Slag, I am proud. Don’t mean I gotta be happy about it.

He was composing a letter of apology in his processor when quiet footsteps alerted him he was not alone. Suspecting who it was, Kup got to his feet to face his Prime, a formal apology on his glossa.

Rodimus slapped the energy bars’ controls, killing them in an instant, then took a long stride forward and wrapped his arms around his old teacher, clinging to him tightly just as he had when he was small. And just like then, Kup gently folded his arms around his lad.

“I’m sorry.” Rodimus’s voice was muffled against Kup’s shoulder. “I shouldn’t have done this.”

“You were right, lad.” The words came easily, though they weren’t so easy on Kup’s pride. “You’re my Prime now, I shoulda listened to you and I didn’t. You had every right to brig me for that.”

“But that’s not why I did it.” Rodimus pulled back a little, though he didn’t look Kup in the optic. “I was just - I was mad at you, because you scared me.”

A laugh escaped Kup’s vocalizer, and he waved a hand when Rodimus looked hurt. “Sorry, sorry. I was just in here remembering all the times you scared the slag out of me.”

“And you brigged me in retaliation?” Rodimus’s face broke into a grin, making him finally look as young as he was.

“Brigged you because it was the only time I knew for certain you weren’t out flinging yourself into ‘Con gunfire,” Kup retorted with a retaliatory poke. Rodimus twitched and batted at his hand.

“Hey, I wasn’t that bad!”

“Or off cliffs.”

“Okay, that was once.

Kup cackled, and Rodimus surrendered with a rueful headshake. “Come on, old-timer,” he said, slinging an arm around his teacher’s shoulders. “First Aid wants a look at you to make sure you’re intact after that slag-crazy stunt of yours.”

“Ah, I’m fine, I’m fine! First Aid worries too much. Why, I remember the time we were attacking that Decepticon base on a planet so barren it made Charr look like Polyhex-”

“Primus, not this again!” But Rodimus was laughing, and that was enough encouragement for Kup to keep going.