By the time Optimus had a moment free to wonder what had become of Rodimus, his fellow Prime had been missing for nearly a week.
The elder Prime had not intended to go so long before attending to the younger, but there had been much to clean up in the aftermath of the Hate Plague, tasks that had occupied them both. Then had come the shocking, yet joyful realization that the energies released from the Matrix had not only overcome the plague, but had also managed rekindle the sparks of many thought extinguished. (1)
Optimus had called upon his long-neglected medical protocols (2) to assist First Aid in making emergency repairs so that those who had been regained would not succumb, yet again, to the injuries that had taken them in the first place. Only when it was clear that those who had returned were stable did he have the time to turn some much needed attention to Rodimus. First, though, he was called upon to offer his (very physical) assurances to a host of Autobots that he was, indeed, back and fully himself.
It was Daniel Witwicky who ultimately gave his friend away. There were only so many ways a human youngling could sneak supplies to a hide out, especially one that wasn't all that good and where the two had long been known to hang out. The younger Prime clearly intended to be found if he was truly needed, but was staying out of sight while Optimus was reunited with those celebrating his return. Optimus waited until he knew Daniel was occupied with school before seeking out his counterpart.
"Is this what humans refer to as a 'man cave'?" Optimus asked his fellow Prime in a gently amused tone as he scanned the interior the barn that was only rickety in outward appearance. Over the years, Daniel and Rodimus clearly had done a lot of work on the place. It was completely finished on the interior and outfitted with a mishmash of human and Cybertronian technology including various screens, gaming systems, a foosball table, and the two requisite battered-yet-comfortable looking couches of the appropriate size for the two frame-types who shared the space (though knowing Daniel, Optimus doubted the human-sized couch got much use).
"Don't let Danny hear you call it that," Rodimus replied from where he was pretending to pay attention to a Deadliest Catch episode. "No grown ups allowed here. Or humans. Or Primes for that matter. You come in here, you are Orion."
"A place to forget, for a time, the weight of destiny," Optimus agreed, closing the large barn doors behind him and settling his frame on the couch, close to, but not touching Rodimus. He noted the muted, dulled look of his fellow Prime's frame. "There have been many times I could use such a space."
"Well, it's yours, any time you need it," Rodimus replied with a wave of his hand. "As long as you keep the Matrix where it belongs, I'm sure Danny will agree to add you to the access list."
"That is what I'm here to speak with you about," Optimus began. "Though perhaps we should go outside to avoid breaking Daniel's rules."
"No," Rodimus said quickly, even as he signaled the screen to go dark. "Don't you dare try to give it back. Look, I'm sorry. I fragged up and got you killed in the first place. Then I somehow managed to frag up it passing to Magnus, too. Now, it's like someone hit the reset button, and I couldn't be happier about it. I'll support you in any way I can, but, considering my track record, it's probably best if I just stay here, out of the way, so I don't frag anything else up again."
"Hot Rod, now, like it always should've been."
"Rodimus," Optimus continued, unfazed, "as I released the energies of the Matrix, I saw very clearly the most recent set of memories it contained. I think that perhaps you have done more in your short years as Prime to build a lasting peace than I did in 9-million years. Did you ever look to see what a mess I made of things my first vorns?"
"I avoided looking into that thing unless I had to."
"Understandable," Optimus replied, his primaries and secondaries all stirring in his desire to offer and take comfort with his fellow Prime. "I hated the Matrix in the beginning, and even at times, later on. I think I went a full vorn before I actually accessed it beyond a surface level, and many more vorns after that before I was brave enough to delve as deeply as you have. It was only shortly before the Ark was launched that I found a particular set of memories that I believe would be of interest to both of us... when I was longing to be rid of it, to be honest."
Rodimus was silent, his field tightly coiled as though he was preparing to flee. This time, Optimus did extend one of his several thick, flexible primaries, along with his own field. The cable wound around to caress upwards along the other Prime's back, then curved around his spoiler, exerting the gentlest of pressure. Don't go, both field and appendage said without words, but also without force – a hope, not a command.
Rodimus stiffened, and then relaxed into that touch, though his own field remained wary. Optimus continued stroking him as he spoke.
"At one point in our history, there was more than one Matrix, perhaps as many as thirteen. Our Matrix, the Matrix of Leadership, contained only the memories of the Primes who bore it, but the earliest Primes did not lead alone. They shared the joys and burdens with those who bore the Matrices of Power, Creation, Light and others whose names have been lost to history."
"Yeah? What happened to them?" Rodimus asked with a slight tremble in his voice, clearly attempting to avoid sounding too interested in the history lesson even as he leaned into the stroking touch along his spoiler. Optimus smiled behind his mask as he saw Rodimus's own ample primaries begin to peek out from between his plates.
"Some were destroyed by the Quintessons during the occupation and war. Others ceased to function when the Primes who bore them extinguished, or in some cases, both Matrix and Prime disappeared without a trace. There were only three known to remain at the time of Guardian Prime, when forces unknown stole the Matrix from Nexus, one of his two fellow Primes. After that, Nexus shared with Solus the Matrix she bore, and both continued to lead with Guardian, who extinguished first. Those who followed do not know what became of his compatriots."
Rodimus stiffened and brushed the metal cable off of his spoiler, leaning away from the embracing field. "I know where you're going with this, Optimus, and the answer is hell no. I was an accidental Prime, and everyone knows it. Look how relieved they all are that you're back. For good reason! You honestly believe anyone would accept us sharing the Matrix, even an empty one?"
"I think, Rodimus, that the decay of our kind began when there was only one Prime bearing this burden. You know what it is to carry it alone, as do I. I have carried it for over a hundred thousand vorns. Would you truly ask for me to carry it alone again, knowing the toll that takes?"
"Please don't..." Rodimus's voice trailed off.
"Rodimus, let me ask this bluntly. Do you still have your primaries and secondaries? Has your frame changed in size? How large is your spark? Did anything shift when I took the Matrix from you? "
"Yes, I became Hot Rod again," Rodimus objected.
"You always were Hot Rod, and you were always Rodimus Prime, just like I never ceased to be Orion Pax. We both are Primes. I spent ten vorns in private denial of that when I first onlined as Optimus. You accepted and embraced your gifts far more quickly. Perhaps the burden shared will be far lighter for both of us."
Rodimus stood up and began pacing, gesturing wildly with his hands even as several of his lithe secondaries began waving around him. "What, just trade it back and forth? Flip a coin for who gets weekends and holidays?"
"I'm sure we can work something out that gives us both time to pursue some hobbies and recreational activities," Optimus said dryly. "And there are other ways burdens can be shared," he added, his primaries and a multitude of secondaries extending, reaching out wide in invitation, their tips crackling with charge. "You can't tell me you haven't considered what it would be like not to be the only one with these."
Rodimus wavered, staring down at the quivering mass of cables, a multitude of emotions passing over his face and through his field. Then he extended the remainder of his own with a whine that sounded almost like a sob. He crashed into the frame of his fellow Prime, their primaries and secondaries weaving together, stroking one another even as his mouth crushed the now unmasked mouth beneath his in a searing, glossa tingling kiss.
They lost themselves in the tight embrace of arms and cables, a tangled mass of charged tips and highly conductive sensuous lengths mapping every node, crevice, and seam of the other. If someone had entered at that moment, it would have been impossible to say whose writhing cables belonged to whom, but Rodimus knew that it was his primary pumping enthusiastically into his fellow Prime's valve, even as several of Optimus's secondaries returned the favor.
A wriggling bundle of their smaller secondaries wrapped both of the spikes together, squeezing and rubbing them in concert. Both Primes groaned even as the crackle of charge along their plating became both audible and visible beneath the slide of their cables and desperate work of vents and fans.
"Can't... can't hold on much longer," Optimus groaned.
"Me neither, don't have to, let it go," Rodimus crooned, his spark swelling with the ecstasy of caring, in the way only a Prime could, for a fellow Prime, and having the same done in return.
As overload crashed into them both, several of their longest wound entirely around their frames, binding them firmly to one another as spikes erupted, valves clenched, and a seemingly endless web of cables spasmed in bliss.
"So, is that a yes?" Optimus finally asked before nibbling the neck cabling their tightly bound frames only just allowed him to reach.
"You might have to do a little more convincing," Rodimus admitted, his primary wagging happily within Optimus's valve like it had found the most comfortable, happiest of homes.
"That is a challenge I'm willing to accept, Prime," Optimus said gravely, the bundle of secondaries in Rodimus's valve echoing that sentiment even as a primary slithered its way between his fellow Prime's lips, to be licked and sucked on with Primely enthusiasm. "As many times as it takes," he added, before one of Rodimus's primaries muffled all further verbal persuasion.