Optimus was dead, to begin with.
And to end with, too, whispered an insidious voice from within his mangled, aching spark. Wouldn't it be easier just to go out with him, and not to have to face a life alone?
But he wasn't alone.
Elita-One curled against his frame, her arms wrapped tightly around his back, her legs gripping his waist, her head tucked into his chest, as if to hide away from light and life and the pain they both brought with them, now that her lover had been killed.
Megatron looked down at the spark-torn femme in his arms, and stroked her awkwardly. He could not allow himself to die now, no matter how much living hurt. He had to be here for Elita. With Prime gone, he had a responsibility to take care of her. And he would not let Prime down by shirking that duty.
Elita told herself over and over again that she believed no spark-energy was ever lost. Didn't the laws of physics prove that energy could not be created nor destroyed, but was merely transmitted into another form? But she couldn't help reaching out to him. And every time she felt after him, the only thing that greeted her was an empty, ragged blackness.
Optimus was dead.
And he wouldn't be coming back this time, no matter how much she wanted him to.
So she turned to the only other being who had known him as she had. And he had turned to her. Each of them had only half a spark remaining, the torn and tattered fragments of themselves which had not been ripped away when Prime's light within them had been violently sucked out.
Or at least, that's what it felt like. Elita told herself that she still held a remnant of Prime within her chest, that Megatron did as well; that it wasn't possible for parts of his essence which they had assimilated into their very beings to be ripped out of them when he died.
But she felt torn open, just the same. And so, she knew, did Megatron.
Which was why she was here now, instead of holing up in her own private sanctum of grief. She had to help hold him together. Without someone who needed him, the big mech, she knew, would self-destruct.
And so she clung to him, limbs wrapped around him like a bandage, trying to hold him against the creeping dark. They held each other, chest pressed to chestplate, each trying to feel within the other some remnant of the Prime they both had known and loved.
Megatron rocked back and forth, stroking the back of Elita's bowed head, and listening to the rhythmic wailing that rose and fell within Optimus's abandoned, darkened quarters. At length, he realized that it was his own voice he was hearing. He shaped it then into the cadences of the oldest expressions of grief, the songs sung by the first bereaved sparkmates who had looked out from their private cavern of darkness into the blinding light of life, and had faced it in the only way they could.
In time, Elita wound her own thin tremolo into his wavering, unlovely keening, and together they formed new stanzas so that the best of Prime, the light of his spark that had guided all of Cybertron for so long, would never be forgotten.
For three days and nights, they clung together, and none dared to intervene.
Cybertron was not Cybertron without a Prime. But Optimus had embodied that office for so long that its inhabitants hardly knew what the title meant any more without him. The society he had built with Megatron now teetered on the brink of collapse. He had not named a successor; the ancients who had ordained him to the post had long ago fallen into dust; and every mech who stepped forward to fill his place seemed a poor substitute by comparison.
But everyone knew that it would mean war, if the succession could not be ratified quickly.
Elita loosened her stiffened limbs, and stood. Beside her, in the darkness, Megatron did the same. The time for grieving was exhausted. The future had to be faced.
On a little table, retrieved from Prime's lifeless body, lay the Matrix. It had no Bearer now, but still it glowed with its own independent will. Waiting.
"You take it," she said. Her voice was raw, and her frame hung limply on her protoform. "It has to be one of us."
He shook his head, vehement.
She sighed. "You know the Prime has always been a mech. Its programming is probably incompatible with that of the femmes."
"Please..." Megatron did not try to meet her gaze. He was just too damn tired. "Please don't make me."
He'd known this question must come, and he had given it a lot of thought. It was tempting, but in the end, he knew he was not cut out to wield this kind of power. "I can't do it, Elita. I'm just not the spiritual type."
He reached out, and took up the glowing, faintly-humming crystal encased in its imperishable chamber. Optics lowered, he held it out to her. "Please," he repeated. "Please try." His voice sank to an aching whisper, for he would not have wished this fate on anyone, much less a femme he loved. "I'm not worthy, Elita," he whispered. "I can't."
He knelt before her, and presented the artifact formally in upraised hands. "I'm sorry, sweetheart."
"I don't suppose that anyone ever really wants this," she sighed. "Not when it truly comes down to it. Optimus certainly didn't."
Somehow, she couldn't quite believe all this was really happening. She certainly couldn't seriously consider herself as Prime. If she were made the leader of Cybertron, Elita would simply continue to do what she had always done – take care of her people as best she could. The only difference would be in numbers. She could never be as awe-inspiring a leader as Optimus had been.
With a reluctant sigh, she put her hands into the glyph-carved handles. "Well," she said, more to herself than to anyone else, "We'll find out, I guess."
Elita-One opened her chestplates, placed the Matrix awkwardly into the empty space, and closed up her armor over it. She was vaguely surprised to see that it fit, but that was the least of her concerns now. She put out a hand to take Megatron's, and the two of them waited for the Sign.
"You know," she remarked afterward, "I'd really hoped never to have to go through another major upgrade again. Ratchet is going to throw a fit."
"I like it... I think," said Megatron hesitantly, trying to get used to this new, taller Elita-One. "It's stronger, but still feminine..." He broke off, since the words sounded unforgivably meaningless, even as he spoke them. He hugged her instead, a little self-consciously. "It... it is still you under there, isn't it?" he asked, tentatively.
She nodded, and would have smiled; but it seemed that a mask often came with Primeship. She could neither smile nor frown, now.
But Megatron understood. He pulled her close. "We'll do this together, Little One," he murmured, using the pet name he'd given her on that first day, long ago. "I will be behind you, wherever you may lead."
She laughed, but it was without mirth. "I suppose it's not unprecedented." Bitterly, she added, "Optimus had a consort, after all."
Megatron drew back, angry and afraid. "I'm nobody's consort!" he flared. "And you know you were always more than that!" He looked at her more closely. "You can't mean-?"
"No," she said, sounding a little bit sad. "If Optimus had lived, perhaps, one day. But now that he's gone..."
She shook her head. "I'll never bond with you, Megatron. Not with anyone." She looked into him, blue optics deep over the new obscuring mask. "But I'll love you the same as I always have." Taking the one liberty she always had with him, she pressed a hand against his chestplate. "And I'll need you," she said. "Please."
"You won't be able to get rid of me," he replied dryly. He moved closer, and seemed unreasonably gratified when she stepped into his arms. "You are my link," he said heavily.
"And you are mine."
They held each other for some minutes.
Then Elita Prime spoke her first order. "Let's go out and face them, shall we?"
Megatron nodded. He took her hand; and the two of them stepped out, squinting, into the light.