The Ickyak in the Living Room
It's Time We Had That Little Talk
"Whew!" With a small sense of triumph, Optimus flopped down on the dilapidated bench, and laced his fingers behind his head. He'd managed to get through the entire day without slagging anyone (though there had been one or two close calls) and he was more than ready to throw his rank to the Smelter.
"You said it," Megatron grunted.
The gray mech had gotten here before him – Optimus suspected his bond-brother of shunting some of the last unpleasant tasks onto his underlings, in order to cut out early and run away to what both had come to think of as 'their' spot. But it had been the sort of day where cutting out early was the lesser evil. Sometimes, he thought, the mechs and femmes under their joint command could be so pig-headed! Not, he allowed, that he or Megatron knew anything about that particular trait...
"I can tell that it's been an extra-specially glitched-up day, when all I want to do at the end of it is come sit out here with you," said Prime. He threw an arm across the other mech's shoulder. "Better the enemy you know than... uh... I forget the rest of it," he ended with a shrug.
"You've actually forgotten something?" The Decepticon feigned shock. But he swung his arm across Prime's back, mirroring the Autobot's easy camaraderie. In comfortable silence, they watched the stars swing gently across the dark sky.
They were moving again, and it felt good to be going somewhere. Optimus listened to the deep, slow throb of the living engines of Cybertron, felt the low, steady thump of the huge turbines, and smiled.
"You've mangled your cranial suspension again, I see." Megatron sounded neither angered nor surprised.
Optimus huffed resignedly. "You know me..."
"Always thinking you need to literally carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. Yup, that's you, Op's, in a kilobyte."
Optimus shrugged. After a while, he felt Megatron's restless fingers begin idly straightening the stress-jammed linkages in his neck. Smiling in contentment, he shut down his optics, leaned against his bond-brother's solid bulk, and let his head loll loosely in Megatron's hand.
If the big glitch wanted to unwind the day's frustrations by kneading the kinks out of Prime's knotted cording, Optimus was more than willing to leave him to it. The Decepticon's lack of reverence for him was sometimes refreshing. Of the other Autobots (besides Elita), only Jazz, Ultra Magnus, and of course Ratchet had ever been comfortable enough to sit him down get him to let them loosen his tension this way. Prime smiled a little at the thought of Elita. His processor slowed to a drowsy crawl.
When the familiar warmth began to spread through his systems, Prime's response to it was so habitual that he unthinkingly tilted his head to allow the probing fingers access to the deeper nodes on his neural cortex. He had almost given himself entirely over to the pleasure of their touch before he realized that something was wrong. He snapped to attention, straightening up with a jerk.
"You're not Elita."
"No, my last checkup was pretty clear on that subject," Megatron replied. "Although," he added with an amused lift of his crest, "We do kind of share the same head-mold. Primus must have been several cubes over the limit when he thought up that one..."
"No." Optimus hunched out from under the other's arm. He sat forward, elbow on knee, and began scratching his neck vigorously. "I mean you can't be Elita, Megatron."
"What's that supposed to mean?" the gray mech retorted in umbrage.
"It means-" Optimus huffed, trying to find the words. "It means that although we are bonded, there are some things we can never share." He lowered his voice. "I would have kept them from you, if I could, my friend."
Now the gray mech was angry. "Why? Because I'm not worthy? Because such knowledge of the Mysteries is too great for an oaf like me to bear?" He snarled, "Or is it because the Great Prime is too proud to let his bond-brother see him tremble?"
"No!" Prime considered for a moment. "And yes." He sighed. "It's just that these are things you ought to have been allowed to discover for yourself, with a lifemate; not gotten vicariously through the memories in another's spark. It has wakened a hunger in you that would have been better left sleeping."
"What the slag is your problem, you two-faced Autobot glitch? You never got unhinged over me straightening your linkages before now!"
"That's because up until now, 'straightening my linkages' was all you were doing. You went deeper this time, and you know it," Prime said sternly. "And I can not let you do that. Ever."
"Why? It's not like you have anything to hide..." he almost spat the word, "Brother."
Optimus forced himself to stay calm. "Think about it, Megatron. How would it change things if, as you put it, you did make me tremble?"
Megatron gave the Autobot his most evil grin.
"There," said Prime, pointing. "That's precisely what I mean." He sat back, and tried to explain. "Our precarious friendship is based on equality. We've always been very careful to maintain that balance of power, both in our administration, and in our personal interaction. But the moment we disrupt that balance – the instant we let any element of domination or submission into our relationship – that element will begin to undermine our bond."
Megatron crossed his arms and hunched away. He was angry, Prime could tell. And hurt. "Like slag, it would," the gray mech muttered. "You're just trying to come up with plausible reasons..."
"No! The reasons are right in front of us, Megatron." The red mech peered sternly into his bond-brother's red optics. "This isn't really about giving or taking pleasure. It's about control."
"Control-?" Megatron spluttered, enraged. "What in the Pit are you yammering about?"
Prime raised a hand. "Just hear me out, please. This is important. We both know you love to manipulate me, no matter what the method. It'd be a high for you – the high you've been missing. But what about reciprocation? Could you ever put yourself into my hands? Ever let me tweak your sensors in return?"
Megatron looked away. He didn't answer.
Optimus barreled on, misunderstanding the other mech's silence. "We'd never be able to look each other in the face again," said Prime firmly. "Trust me on this, Megatron. I've seen this kind of thing ruin friendships before. It can take two bots as enmeshed as two gears, and tear them apart." He sighed, and pressed his palm against his bond-brother's scarred gray chestplate. "I do not want that for us, my Brother."
"But you let Elita," Megatron accused quietly.
"Yes, I do. And she lets me. As you know, having sojourned more than once within my spark. She and I have been conjugal counterparts almost since our first assembly. But we didn't discover we had compatible wiring until-" he snorted. "Until that second time you tried to kill us, you old monster." Optimus put an arm around the gray mech's shoulders and drew him in, seeking to soften the harshness of his words. "It's just that... that kind of relationship takes more than the usual measure of trust, Megatron."
The big mech pulled away. He sat silently for a long moment, his hands clenched between his knees, his optics on the ground. At last, in little more than a whisper, he muttered, "I trust you..."
Prime's vocalizer clicked. In a flash, he understood. This wasn't about him at all. With that simple admission, Megatron had turned his whole argument on its head. There could be no adequate response to that unspoken request. In the end, he pulled the gray mech into a rough hug, and held him close. "Don't think I haven't been tempted, you big lump," he said eventually.
It would be so easy, he thought as he stroked a thumb absently back and forth across the back of Megatron's bared head. Their schematics were so similar. And after a lifetime of trying to tear each other apart, Optimus knew every rivet, every diode in the other's heavy frame. On the face of it, his bond-brother wasn't asking anything unreasonable. Why shouldn't the big mech receive fulfillment, after giving up so much?
Optimus gave the other's thick neck a squeeze, and sighed. "I've given this a lot of thought," he said. With a snort, he added, "Too much thought, probably. I tried all kinds of ways of convincing myself that it could work. Because it's something I would love to be able to do for you, my Brother." He smiled into the other's red optics. "For all kinds of reasons – some worthy, and some less so..."
"And even if I shut down my audial receivers, you're going to find some way to make me listen to the list," grumbled Megatron.
"Darn right," said Prime. He ticked a point off on his fingers. "First of all, I can't do that to Elita. I've already asked far too much of her."
"I know – It must be awful having an unwanted bondmate dragging at your ankle all the time, never letting the two of you be alone..."
"That's not how we feel, and you know it," Prime retorted.
"What's wrong with letting her join in? It's not as if I have anything to hide from her any more," the Decepticon snarled.
Optimus just looked at him.
"Forget I asked," the gray mech grumbled.
"Elita is not actually my main reason for telling you no," said Prime quietly. He sighed heavily, and drew back. "I am." Optimus gave a dry, self-deprecating laugh. "We're too much the same, Megatron. I'm no better than I've accused you of being. There's still a part of me that would love to wield such power over you, to feel you melt into my hands..." He grimaced. "To hear you beg..."
Optimus summoned all his energy of spark, and did his best to open the bond between them, so that he could communicate his feelings in more than words. "Look at me, Megatron," he said. "I understand, better than you think I do. I wish to Primus that I could." He sighed. "But I dare not. I value your friendship too highly, my old nemesis."
Megatron snorted, and shook his head. "Of course you can't. Far too holy, and all that." But despite his attempt at being hard-shelled, he found that he could not let go of Prime. "It looks to me like I should have let Starscream hook me into his rust-licking machines vorns ago," he muttered bitterly. "I abstained! I am pure! And my reward for that is... a small fanfare, please... More abstinence!Hooray for Megatron! I am mighty! Behold my glory, and tremble!" He waved an admonitory finger. "But not that kind of trembling, please. It seems we're only interested in fear around here."
Optimus smirked. But he was no fool. He knew the Decepticon was seeking to cover a deep and ancient pain with his flippant words.
"If I may make so bold-" the Autobot began.
"Oh, by all means." Megatron waved a hand. "Enlighten my darkness, great Prime."
"I suggest you look among the new femmes," Optimus said gently. "Find someone who's not just a carbon-copy of yourself, someone free from all the bugs and glitches of constant warfare. Find a bot who honors you, but is willing to stand up to you when she disagrees." He smiled, imagining the possibilities. "Find yourself a challenge, Megatron. Then..." he shrugged. "See where it leads. Give yourself time, my friend."
"Time." the gray mech chuffed. "You do remember who it is you're talking to? I have many strengths; but patience has never been one of them, Optimus."
"It's going to take time," replied the red mech simply. "Elita and I have only been experimenting with this kind of thing for a few hundred vorns. But we met so long ago that I can hardly remember the circumstances." He smiled, his vacant optics focused only on the distant past. "But I do remember the way it felt," he reflected. "There was a kind of arcing energy that danced between us, a kind of link that bound us together long before our sparks were joined..."
"And you've lived happily ever after," snarled Megatron.
Optimus didn't bother to disagree. They both knew it had been anything but easy, due largely to Megatron's constant harassment.
"Your processor must be more fragged than I thought, if you think I'll find a lifemate among the newling femmes," Megatron went on doggedly, determined to have his say."They're practically unwritten! What in Cybertron makes you think that one of them could possibly understand me?"
"Maybe that's the point," Optimus mused. "I think you might need someone new. Someone who'll see you not as the Mighty Megatron, the great Tyrant, Warmonger, and Destroyer of Worlds; but only as the tall gray mech with the abrasive voice and the amusingly inflated ego..."
Megatron shoved the red Autobot away with a gruff curse, surged to his feet, and began pacing angrily.
But Prime was just getting started. "...And the propensity to use certain favorite words entirely too often..."
"-And an annoying bond-brother who thinks he knows everything and won't ever fragging shut up," the Decepticon interrupted with a snarl.
"That's me," Optimus replied with a grin. He stood, and put out a hand to still his bond-brother's frantic pacing.
"Someday, Megatron – and soon, I hope – there will be someone who can give you everything I cannot." He touched his helm to the gray mech's dark brow. "I almost envy that bot," he mused. "For I have been lucky enough to have had a share in your love. Until then..." Once more, he placed his palm against the other's chest. "I'll love you as I always have."
"Oh!" said a high, unfamiliar voice. "I'm sorry – I didn't see you there." A thin, nervous figure hunched back into the shadows. "I didn't mean to interrupt your, um-" the light silver-gray femme was fumbling, her hands fidgeting as she backed away. "I didn't know you two were-" She looked from one mech to the other. "I'll just... go now, shall I?" And with that, she turned and fled.
"Wait!" Megatron called after her. "We're not-!"
As his bond-brother tore off after the disappearing femme, Optimus broke into full-throated laughter. The whole situation was almost too pat to believe.
"That's right," he murmured, still smiling. "We're not."