In a pretty little city on a pretty little planet the Decepticons were busy trying to conquer, Galvatron found the dolls.
To be clear, he was not lost. Galvatron was always exactly where he wanted to be, or on his way there, at least, and if the other Decepticons couldn't keep up that was their fault. Yet one could be forgiven for thinking that the great Lord of the Decepticons had gone a little off course: he was in one area, the main bulk of the battle was in another, and here he was, staring at the soft cloth effigy of Rodimus Prime in his hand.
It was an extremely simplified representation of his opposite - apparently some details didn't translate well to the plushie medium. Yet it was still recognizeably Rodimus Prime: red with a yellow spoiler, flame blazon on his chest marked with the Autobot symbol, and the silvery-gray forearm blasters. Wide blue optic sensors stared sightlessly up at him, the glassy orbs faintly reflecting Galvatron's own thoughtful frown back at him. The whole package was barely larger than Galvatron's hand, perhaps the same height as a human if the plushie could be induced to sit up on its own.
As far as Galvatron could tell, Rodimus Prime was unique in the universe, yet there were two shelves full of these... representations of his rival, all alike. Galvatron lowered the doll in his hand to stare at the shelf it had come from, utterly baffled.
//My lord! We are overwhelmed!//
Galvatron snapped back to battle-rage in an instant. "Grah! Incompetents! Must I do everything myself!" He stuffed the doll in his subspace without thinking about it and turned to fly to the source of Cyclonus's transmission - but paused, turned back and leveled his cannon at the choir of Rodimii, blowing them to dust in an instant. Once again, the only Rodimus was his Rodimus.
Back in his own quarters on Charr, having thoroughly chastized his Decepticons for an underwhelming performance in battle, Galvatron remembered the Rodimus toy. He drew it out of subspace and for a few moments gazed at it as he had when he'd first found it. "Rodimus Prime," he murmured slowly, as if it were new to him - as if he'd never screamed it across a battlefield a thousand times. "Rodimus Prime... you're mine now." He gave the toy a squeeze; it deformed in his hand, then popped back into shape when he loosened his grip.
The doll couldn't bend at the knee no matter how Galvatron crushed its legs - had no knees to speak of, really - so Galvatron laid it down flat on its face instead. "Hah! Grovel in surrender, Prime!" he declaimed. "I, Galvatron, master of the Decepticons, claim you by right of conquest!" He leveled his cannon, humming with a low-level charge, at the doll's head. "Beg for mercy like the pitiful Autobot slave you are!" He nudged the toy's head with the muzzle of his cannon. When he lifted it away, there was a dark crescent-moon scorch mark left behind.
Rage seized him; he reacted to it the only way he knew how, roaring and punting the toy across the room. The doll bounced twice and came to a land in a corner, crumpled and facedown.
Galvatron stood still, shaking, for a long moment. Then he strode across the room and swept the doll up into his arms, crushing it against his chest; it deformed easily, without violence, as only cloth and stuffing could, from a crush that metal could never recover from.
"You will never leave me," Galvatron murmured, and kissed the cloth helm, to the side of the burn mark.
The Rodimus doll went everywhere with Galvatron, tucked safely in his subspace pocket alongside weapons and torture implements. Through every victory and every defeat, it was there. It listened quietly to every rant. It accepted kisses and kicks with equal patience.
The first time Cyclonus caught him with the doll, Galvatron had panicked and stuffed the doll in subspace, acting on some shred of instinct regarding such things that might have been left over from Megatron, or perhaps picked up from something he saw on Earth television. Cyclonus, for his part, had pretended not to notice. So the balance of their relationship, though strained by the presence of a soft cloth third, was more or less maintained.
Galvatron resolved to take the toy out only when he was certain of his privacy from then on, but that lasted about as long as his attention span ever did. The Rodimus doll came out in the throne room just a few rest cycles later, seated on Galvatron's knee enduring a rough hand on its spoiler with its customary patience, and Galvatron couldn't hide the toy fast enough when Cyclonus strode in. He sat frozen, still gripping the cloth spoiler, as his lieutenant snapped him a precise salute.
"The tribute shipment from Enzara has arrived, my lord," he reported. "Will you inspect it?" His optics were fixed on Galvatron's face, unwavering, betraying nothing.
"No!" Galvatron snapped out after a moment's frozen indecision. "No, you do it. I'm busy."
"Very good, Mighty One." Cyclonus bowed and turned on his heel. He strode out to carry out the order, and the doll remained unacknowledged between them.
Galvatron was in fine form in the berth that night. Cyclonus had always been the only Decepticon who ever had a chance of keeping up with him, but even he had a moment over the course of things when he wondered whether he would survive the force of Galvatron's passion.
But even the hottest fires spent themselves eventually. Galvatron pulled his mouth off Cyclonus's throat and propped himself up on one arm to gaze down at him, his optics dim with low energy and with thought. Cyclonus cycled his vents, taking advantage of the brief respite, and when Galvatron stroked two fingers down his cheek he roused himself enough to lick them with a purr of invitation.
Something in Galvatron's manner eased. The warlord sank down against him and slipped into recharge, his cannon a warm and inescapable weight across Cyclonus's middle. Cyclonus sighed softly - he loved these moments, though he never profaned them with the label 'cuddling.'
Unbidden his optics fell to the Rodimus doll, laying where it'd fallen at the beginning of the night with its optics staring glassily up at the ceiling. Since Galvatron was asleep at present, Cyclonus allowed himself to indulge in a moment of entirely-unbecoming smug triumph.
"Cyclonus! Subdue that Autobot!"
The throne room again; Cyclonus turned immediately, weapons charging to slay the Autobot invader. No one was there - no one, he discovered, except that damnable doll, laying facedown in the middle of the floor. Judging by Galvatron's impatient point, that was what he'd meant.
Sighing to himself, Cyclonus knelt and gently grasped the doll's arms between his fingers, pinning them behind its back. "The Autobot is subdued, my Lord," he reported.
"Excellent!" Galvatron tossed his head back in triumph and Cyclonus's spark panged - this is what he will look like when I finally lay the universe at his feet. When I subdue before him the real Rodimus Prime. "Bring him here," Galvatron commanded, beckoning, and Cyclonus picked the doll up by its restrained arms, just as he would with a real Autobot, and brought it forward.
The doll had clearly endured much. Its bright colors had been dulled by Charr's dust, scuffed and worn with the evidence of Galvatron's rough affection, and bearing a burn mark on its little round helm. Hyper-aware of Galvatron's impatient glare, Cyclonus hedged, "Lord Galvatron, this Autobot is... dirty. It... he should be washed before he is fit to be presented to you-"
Galvatron lashed out, delivering a blow that sent Cyclonus staggering. "I don't care how dirty he is, he's mine! Give him to me!" He snatched the doll from Cyclonus's slack hands; Cyclonus watched dizzily as Galvatron clutched the dusty little doll close.
Abruptly he turned. "Come," he ordered, and Cyclonus straightened his antenna and marched determinedly after him.
Galvatron led Cyclonus to the lavish bathing chamber. Confused but willing, Cyclonus ran a hot bath, and firmly kept his mouth shut when Galvatron plunged in with the toy. "Wash," he commanded, but when Cyclonus approached him with the cleansing cloth he smacked him away. "Not me!" he snapped "You're the one who said my Rodimus was dirty - wash him!" Engine rumbling with embarrassment, Cyclonus allowed Galvatron to fold his hands around the doll.
He had to use only water to clean it, even the Decepticons' mildest cleanser solutions far too harsh for cloth. He buffed at each dusty patch and stain and that dark burn mark, infinitely careful, always aware that this was Galvatron's property he handled. As he worked, he glanced up to gauge his leader's mood. Galvatron was watching him intently - no, his hands, wrapped around the Rodimus doll. His optics smouldered darkly, and a wicked, proprietary smile flickered on his features, lightening the strain of his powerful, wild emotions.
Cyclonus purred. Suddenly his chore seemed less a punishment than a gift.
The doll was soon as clean as he could make it. It lay in his hands, limp and heavy and sopping; Cyclonus resisted the urge to wring it out, guessing such rough treatment would be reserve for Galvatron alone. "Your... Autobot is clean, my Lord," he said instead, offering it to him respectfully.
"Ah, so he is!" Galvatron lifted it from Cyclonus's hands and crushed it to his shoulder; water was squeezed from its stuffed body, spilling down Galvatron's chest. "Do you weep, Prime?" the warlord crooned, while Cyclonus tried not to look away. "Hush. Hush, you are mine."
He lay the doll tenderly down on a towel placed by the tub. Then he turned to Cyclonus, all deadly beauty and passionate heat.
It pleased his Lord to bring Cyclonus to overload after howling overload, there in the bath with the Rodimus doll quietly drying out at tubside. Cyclonus gave himself up in joyful submission.
The encounter was inevitable; the only surprise was that it had been so long in coming. Mid-battle, Galvatron rounded a corner and came face-to-face with Rodimus Prime.
The real Rodimus Prime, shining in metal and paint, one arm clutched painfully to his side. Galvatron jumped back and stared at him, so caught by surprise that he had no idea how to react.
Rodimus, by contrast, didn't hesitate. "Galvatron!" he roared, and charged with every weapon ablaze. Pain bloomed over Galvatron's chest and torso before the Prime hit him shoulder-on. Too late Galvatron lifted his cannon, firing wildly into the air as Rodimus hit him every he could with only one good arm.
Galvatron's second and Rodimus's two closest friends reached them in the same moment. Between the exchanged shots and brawling, they somehow got the two leaders apart. Rodimus leaned against Springer's shoulder, vents heaving with pain and exertion, while Cyclonus held Galvatron upright while trying not to look like that's what he was doing.
"You won't keep me from conquest!" Galvatron shouted, staggering forward a step.
"It's over, Galvatron," Rodimus answered, bright and hard as steel. "You've lost."
Arcee stepped forward at Rodimus's other side, rifle trained on Galvatron's optic; around him, the Decepticon assault was falling apart. Galvatron could do nothing but call the retreat.
Galvatron allowed no one to touch him back at the base; he would not go to the medics. Still leaking smoke from his wounds, he stormed to his quarters, whipped the Rodimus doll out of subspace, and dashed it to the floor.
"How dare you deny me!" he snarled, advancing on the toy. "I am Galvatron! The universe belongs to me!"
He pounced on the toy, pummelled it, and wrapped his hands around the yielding throat. "I will crush you," he growled, "as Megatron crushed Prime," and his hands tightened as he sank deeper into his rage. The doll lay quiescent, glassy blue optics staring without expression into Galvatron's own.
Waves of trembling hit the warlord, exhaustion and damage catching up with him at last. He slumped, still clutching the doll, and blacked out.
He awoke in the medbay, his energy low but rising, his servomotors cut to fifteen percent of his normal output. He turned his head slowly, until Cyclonus - of course he was there - was in his field of view.
"My lieutenant," he rasped.
Cyclonus straightened, optics flickering in his only outward sign of relief. "My Lord. Please don't try to move. Your repairs are still new."
Galvatron waved the words away. "Where is - my Autobot?"
"In your quarters, Mighty One."
"Bring him to me. Bring me my Prime."
Rather than send a Sweep on the errand only to have to shoot him before he could go carrying tales, Cyclonus went himself. He fetched the doll from where he'd hidden it before summoning Long Haul to carry Galvatron to the repair bay, and ferried it to Galvatron in his own subspace pocket. He made sure the doors were locked and all the cameras disabled, even the unofficial ones. Then he presented the doll to his Lord, tucking it into the waiting violet hands.
Galvatron's hands curled around the doll. His optics dimmed; his engine audibly downshifted. Cyclonus allowed himself a smile, mostly hidden.
"Rest well, my Lord," he murmured, but Galvatron was already deep in recharge.
The stars turned; battles were won and lost; and somehow, Rodimus Prime found his way into Galvatron's berth. In many ways it was more tumultuous a time than when they were exclusively enemies. Rodimus would not submit quietly to abuse (though at times he submitted quite loudly). He challenged Galvatron's expectations every chance he could. He set the Decepticon base, and Galvatron's psyche, on its audial on a regular basis. Galvatron couldn't get enough.
Their relationship eventually settled into a routine of sorts, and Rodimus spent as many nights in Galvatron's berth as out of it. On one such occasion he discovered a lump in the thermal-regulator blankets, investigated, and drew forth - to his shock - a plushie effigy of himself. The doll had obviously seen better days - there were stains, marks and inexpert patch jobs in evidence - but it wasy obviously well-loved, its cloth faded and soft.
"What's this?" he murmured. Galvatron roused himself just enough to pluck the toy from his hand.
"Just something I picked up on my travels, Prime," the warlord murmured playfully, and pulled the real Rodimus close.
Rodimus chuckled and traced kisses over his lover's helm. "Can't fault your taste in playthings."
"Mmm." Galvatron let the doll fall to the floor and focused all of his attention on his Autobot lover, taking his time laying claim to every inch of Rodimus Prime.