Like almost everything else important in the world, the abrupt improvement of Cybertronian/Earth relationships was a result of a series of events. Unlike most important things in the world, it started with homework. Jackson Darby’s failure to complete his English homework, to be specific.
June Darby had always thought well of Jasper High’s English department, given that they did tend to go somewhat off the beaten path when it came to assigned reading. Certainly, the classics were assigned, but so were a lot of other books, ones Mr. Banks, the English teacher, thought would interest his students far more than the usual course of assignments. She was, of course, prejudiced. The inclusion of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice on the assigned reading list had solidified her high opinion of Mr. Banks for once and all.
So when she got a note from him that Jack hadn’t been turning in his assignments pertaining to said work, she had to take action.
For his part, Jack couldn’t have imagined a worse outcome. Not only was his mother going to make him sit through six hours (count them, six hours!) of what was basically a chick flick with all of the characters in nightgowns and talking like Ultra Magnus, but she’d decided that Miko and Raf would be joining them, and Miko was never going to forgive him.
Worse still, Agent Fowler was going to be joining them, and he did not need to watch them flirt. No thanks. This was going to be the worst attempt at education his mother had ever inflicted on him, including that frog in first grade. At least they were holding it at the base. At least he and Arcee could make faces at the sappy bits. And maybe Miko would forgive him enough to text. That would make it bearable, at least.
Most of Jack’s expectations were borne out. The characters all sounded like Ultra Magnus. His mother and Agent Fowler did flirt unbearably. Arcee made faces, became bored, and wandered off (traitor! Jack texted—she glanced back over her shoulder and smirked), and Miko was indeed amenable to passing notes. Raf, the goody-two-shoes, was of course interested and asking Agent Fowler and his mother questions about the period, which neither was prepared to answer. Jack was willing to bet that Raf’d be the one going home with his textbook.
At least his mother had brought cookies. And an attempt at tea, which no one drank.
He leaned forward for another cookie, when Optimus’s voice made him freeze.
“What, exactly, is Gretna Green?”
Jack and the rest of the occupants of the couch looked over their shoulders with a start. There was Optimus, a datapad in one hand, looking at the screen with some concern. Given the way that Ratchet had shifted around to accommodate him while he worked, he’d been there for some time. Behind him, Ultra Magnus was trying to pretend interest in his work while paying attention to the conversation. Key word, trying—subterfuge was not Magnus’s strong suit.
June explained. Optimus moved closer. Ultra Magnus did too.
Ratchet let out an annoyed huff and hunched his shoulders, peering into a microscope.
OMG, Miko texted, check it out Prime is TOTALLY into it!
On the screen, Elizabeth rejected Mr. Darcy, telling him of her sister’s indiscretion. Jack snuck a glance over his shoulder.
Optimus’s eyes were wide, his mouth very slightly open, as close to an expression of dismay as he ever got. Miko was right. Optimus Prime was indeed totally into Pride and Prejudice.
It was probably an indication of how totally into it Optimus was that he didn’t notice the kids—and Agent Fowler—sneaking glances over their shoulders at him for the rest of the film. It was definitely worth it. Especially when he smiled, actually freaking smiled, at the end.
Jack’s textbook went home with Optimus, not Raf.
And was returned the next day. “Do not concern yourself with Ultra Magnus,” Optimus said. “He has obtained his own copy, and several other works by the author, so I will not need to trespass on your time any longer.”
“Trespass all you like,” said Jack. “I mean, you actually enjoy it.”
Optimus frowned at him. “I would not take the literary accomplishments of your species so lightly, Jack,” he said. “If Nurse Darby has time, I would be pleased if she would offer a suggestion on which work to read next.”
“Uh, sure,” said Jack, and retreated. As Miko had said, Optimus was totally into it. He hoped Cybertronians didn’t have an idea of cosplay. Optimus in those weird tight pants was wrong on levels he didn’t have words for.
Miko had plenty of words. “Can you imagine him in one of those dresses? He’d look completely pregnant.” She flopped on the couch. “Oh, and Wheeljack’s not talking to your mom. Magnus has started reading that book...out loud. He says it fosters interspecies understanding. Wheeljack says it fosters helmaches. I say it fosters headaches.”
“You got that right,” said Jack, leaning back. “Man, I hope they get over it soon.”
For a while, it seemed like they did.
Until, that is, Optimus had an encounter with Megatron.
It was a standard fight over an energon mine. The Autobots turned up and raided the energon, Megatron showed up, Optimus engaged him in battle, and Megatron began to taunt Optimus about the absence of his Autobots.
Optimus remained silent.
“So where are they, Prime?” snarled Megatron. “Tell me truthfully, did they run and leave you here all on your own? Like the last time we met?”
“That does it,” said Smokescreen, stepping forward. The base had been listening over Optimus’s open comm.
“Optimus’s orders were clear,” said Ultra Magnus, and Smokescreen fell silent as Optimus responded.
“I do not pretend to possess equal frankness with you, Megatron. You may ask questions, which I shall not choose to answer.”
There was a moment of dead silence over the comm. It as good as painted a picture of Megatron’s complete confusion. It was obvious that Optimus was quoting something. What that something was, however, was quite literally alien.
“What are you playing at, Prime?”
“If I am ‘playing at’ something, I shall be the last person to confess it.”
A snarl and a clash of metal. “Do you think this is some kind of joke, Optimus? Allow me to remind you of the gravity of your situation!”
“I am only resolved to act in that manner which will, in my own opinion, constitute my people’s happiness, without reference to you, or any person so wholly unconnected with me.”
“Enough of this, Prime! I am not in the habit of enabling such absurdity!”
“That will make your situation at present more pitiable; but it will have no effect on me.”
Another snarl, and a cacophony of blows. The sound of Optimus’s chain gun overrode all else briefly, then Megatron again. “I leave you to your folly, Prime!”
“I take no leave of you, Megatron,” said Optimus. “You deserve no such attention.”
The sound of a fusion cannon bolt briefly fuzzed out communication, though Optimus’s vitals remained steady.
“Did he seriously just—” started Miko.
“Yeah, I think he did,” said Jack.
A few seconds later, Optimus’s voice, “Ratchet, I require a groundbridge.”
“Man,” said Miko, as she and Jack watched Optimus walk into the hangar, slightly scorched but otherwise not much the worse for wear, “I guess there is something to be said for chick flicks after all.”