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All Or Nothing

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Blue optics shot wide, and a pale face shifted from a neutral expression to a mask of disbelief and shock in the space between spark pulses. Barricade smirked and that shock twisted itself to rage before smoothing out to something condescending just as quickly.

“I thought you were dead,” Prowl said, his tone hitched with the fury that didn’t show outwardly in any other way. Even his doorwings settled back, angled up only slightly in a way that was common for most Praxians to hold them when not experiencing any great emotion.

Barricade struggled for a moment to keep himself from reaching out and flicking the edge of one like he would when they were younglings. “Those reports have been greatly exaggerated.”

“There were no reports,” Prowl replied. “It was an assumption and hope.” The blue had brightened, gone white around the edges as the stoic, calm, upstanding Autobot Second in Command resisted the urge to wrap his hands around Barricade’s throat and squeeze.

“Brother,” Barricade purred in admonishment. “I didn’t know Autobots were so bloodthirsty.” He glanced around the office, then dropped into the chair in front of Prowl’s desk and slung a leg over the arm of it. It was a practiced, lazy sprawl meant to infuriate, and it worked.

Probably a little too well.

Barricade was surprised enough to yelp as Prowl simply launched over the desk and tackled him. He’d been away from other mechs for far too long, he thought as his brother’s hands closed around his throat. They crashed to the floor in a loud clatter of limbs, and Barricade hissed as a hinge protested the angle of his doorwing. Prowl was screaming. There were curses and demands for answers too, but mostly just a wordless, maddened screaming as he lifted and slammed Barricade by the neck over and over and over.

Stars and light burst through the static in Barricade’s vision, and he knew he was losing consciousness, uncoordinated and unwilling to attack his brother back. I misjudged how angry he still is, he thought, a particularly hard blow whiting out everything.

~ | ~

Barricade was surprised to wake up at all, and even more so to blink open his optics and see Optimus Prime leaning over him. “Where’s Prowl?” he asked.

One blue optic brightened. “Confined to his quarters as I’m unwilling to put him in the brig despite his assertions that he attacked unprovoked,” Prime said.

Barricade chuckled, wincing as his neck pulled and a pulse of pain spun his processors. “Not exactly unprovoked,” he said. “My brother likes to stuff his emotions down like they’re a weakness. I never have liked when he does that slag with me.”

“Did you threaten him?” Prime asked, his voice hard. “What did you say? What did you do?”

“I lived,” Barricade answered with a shrug. “Can I see him?”

Prime straightened, standing to his full height, and if Barricade hadn’t been around Megatron, witnessed the atrocities Shockwave committed, he might have been a little intimidated, but Optimus Prime just didn’t scare him. Even with that narrow-optic scowl and anger in his energy field. “It’s your funeral,” he said after another moment of silence.

~ | ~

Barricade followed Prime to Prowl’s quarters once Ratchet released him from the medbay, and while he was loathe to admit it, he was nervous. Not that Prowl would hurt him because they’d already killed one another a number of times with mere words. No, he had come in because he wanted his slice of the new peace. With the war over there was a chance of a real life again. If his presence was going to cause Prowl this much strain, then he couldn’t stay. Barricade antagonized. Prowl reacted. It had always been that way. When they were young it was fun. When they were a little older, it was ecstasy. When they chose separate sides of the war...

The door was keyed open, and Barricade stepped into his brother’s quarters.

“I’ll be right here,” Prime said, and Barricade didn’t know if it was a warning or support, and whether or not it was meant for him or Prowl.

Prowl stood from the chair he had been reading in as the door shut. He fiddled with the datapad in his hands for a moment, then said softly, “I apologize.”

“Not the first time you’ve tried to kill me,” Barricade said. “Not even the closest you’ve come to succeeding.”

Blue optics paled and doorwings drooped low. It might’ve been shame, but Barricade realized he couldn’t read Prowl as easily as he used to. Which is, of course, what led to his most recent throttling.

“I’m sorry too,” Barricade said. “For what it’s worth. It’s been a long time since I’ve been around other mechs, and I pushed like I would have before.”

“You have always enjoyed making me react.” Sad amusement, there and gone in a spark pulse. Prowl sank back down, unable to meet Barricade’s gaze. “How did we get here?”

“I don’t hate you,” Barricade said- blurted really. He crossed the room, figuring that if he was going to die, even after all this time, he’d rather it be at his brother’s hands.

“Nor I you, but then that has always been the problem.” Prowl set the datapad aside and looked up. “I have no idea how to deal with you. They’re dead because of you. I want to hate you. You left me!”

“You left me,” Barricade countered. “I told you what was going on in the world, and you chose to support Sentinel.” He shook his helm, biting back words that would really just turn this into another fight. “Then you stuck a gun in my face.”

“They’re dead. Our city destroyed.”

“I had no part of that, and I didn’t want it. I learned about Praxus the way the rest of the world did and I mourned.” Barricade stared hard at Prowl. “Not like you’re innocent anyway, so let’s not pretend all the blood’s on my hands.”

Prowl opened his own hands, gaze dropping to them as they curled back into fists. “Leave it in the past? Just forget?”

Barricade snorted. “Us? Are you fragging kidding me?” He waved a hand in dismissal and slouched back in the chair. “No. Ain’t gonna work. We can hash it out if you want. Try to get past it. Or I can leave. Go back out there where I’ve been for vorns since I figured out what Shockwave had in mind for me. Up to you, but you’ve got two minutes to decide. You’re either all in and we really work to work it out, or I leave. Not gonna play games with you wobbling back and forth and wrestling with your conscience.”

“I can’t forgive you so easily.”

“Work, Prowl. We honestly work at it, or I leave.”

Panic lit Prowl’s optics, and Barricade figured that was answer enough for him, but he also knew that if his brother didn’t say it out loud, it would eventually be brushed aside as merely a wasteful bout of emotionalism. “We work. If you think we even can.”

Barricade grinned, then leaned forward to slap Prowl’s shoulder. “We’re us. Of course we can.”

One corner of Prowl’s mouth lifted and he knocked Barricade’s hand away. “Then we will work.” He reached out and tugged over the datapad, and nostalgia hit Barricade so hard he felt his optics mist. “We need ground rules and a goal besides simply ‘peace’ between us.”

Barricade shook his head. “Primus, you nerd.” He hooked a hand into Prowl’s collar faring and pulled. The kiss was short and hard, but it was more than enough to make Prowl’s respiration hitch and Barricade’s spark slam in its casing. “What did you think the end goal would be?” He released his brother, his one-time would-have-been bondmate, and dropped back into the chair. “All or nothing, Prowl.”

Blue deepened, the datapad clattered to the table, and Barricade was once again knocked to the floor. He heard the door open, heard Prime’s gasp of surprise, but then all his focus was stolen by the sharp thrust of spark energy. It flared bright and perfect against his own, and Barricade smiled into the devouring kiss.

Well. He’d wanted Prowl to react.