People had teased him for saying it too often in the past. Pointed it out, taken bets -- “five seconds, it counts!” -- about how quickly he would work it into a speech.
Optimus says it, he had argued.
Optimus doesn’t say it whenever he wins a chess game, they had argued back.
It was still a damn fine chess match, Rodimus thought as Minimus Ambus strapped him into the device. His chestplate was exposed, cradling his empty half of the Matrix, and briefly, he remembered the last time he’d had this experience:
He’d stolen the Ultra Magnus’ ship -- Minimus’ ship, though he hadn’t known that little detail at the time -- and broken into the Decepticon base in space. He’d made it to Starscream and with luck and daring, stolen the Matrix from his very hands, only to bump into Megatron around the next corner.
He didn’t remember much about being dead, and probably, that was for the best. He didn’t know what being One With All felt like. He didn’t have a vision of the Primes of old. No one had come to him to tell him that his time was not yet over. He’d just been dead, until he hadn’t been.
He’d woken up as a battery, with the Matrix embedded in his chest, to be used by a group of organic aliens to get their ship moving again.
I don’t know what that says about me, Rodimus mused. If it means that I was never supposed to get the Matrix, and it just needed a sturdy pair of legs and a flashy set of wheels to get itself back to a real Prime or what.
He’d escaped, in time. He’d found his friends, in time. He’d returned the Matrix, in time. It had stuck with him, though, the time he’d spent as nothing.
Why do you always say that? people had asked him. Do you think you sound like Optimus Prime?
He knew he didn’t. He knew he never would. He’d made too many mistakes, screwed up too many people’s lives to ever be Optimus, but perhaps, if he survived this, he could make amends. He could turn over a new organic leaf. He could be better than he was.
Then he truly would be like Optimus.
“Are you ready?” Minimus asked, and it was almost unsettling to hear Magnus’ booming voice from such a small frame. “You understand the risks, don’t you?”
“I am and I do,” Rodimus confirmed. “But look, I hope I survive this. Dying, self-sacrifice, is cheap. I made mistakes and I understand that. I want to make amends.”
Minimus looked over at the Autobot drones, writhing on the ground in pain. Chromedome, Getaway, and countless others, out of sight but never out of mind. “You usually do.”
Rodimus smiled thinly. “I’ll see you on the other side. ‘Til all are one.”
~ * ~
There was no light in the Afterspark. No spirits waiting for him, no promise that his life was not over, that he could still make amends, still find his best friend, still be someone others could admire.
All were one, in the darkness.