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Title: Belonging 1/6
Rating: M/NC-17, Slash
Universe: Transformers: Animated
Pairing: Megatron/Optimus Prime
Author's Note: Spoilers for A Bridge Too Close, follows an alternate ending into a new continuity. Warnings for dubious consent (for both parties) in Part I only.
I'm very pleased to say that the first three parts of this won the August round at tfic_contest. For which I won a TF:A Voyager-class Blitzwing. =3 *zooms around the room with him*
Thank you to my ever-suffering beta, lady_oneiros!

Part I

Megatron made a physical barrier against the pull of the space bridge, one blade driven deep into bedrock, his optics a crimson void in the cyclone whirl of wind and rubble.

“You have jammed up my gears for the last time, Autobot,” he growled, shifting his weight and lifting the great gun. He meant to fire, but Optimus had his own tricks, and as Megatron straightened his arm, Optimus flung the stasis cuffs in a sharp arc. One ring snapped shut. An electrical surge lit the air and crackled over Megatron's wrist, upward over his arm, offlining systems as it went and forcing his hand to slip from the grip of the blade. His massive frame twisted, lifted, contorted in the irresistible pull of the space bridge, and Optimus tightened his grip on the handle of his ax and felt the first shudder of relief.

Then Megatron slammed into him, the Decepticon's body paralyzed but still functional as a weapon. Optimus cried out, jolted head to foot as the other ring of the cuffs closed around his wrist. His fingers slipped. Released.

The vortex yanked at them, and Optimus experienced an instant of stillness, his hand tangled in the stasis cuffs, his optics wide, the Autobots under his care staring upward with such similar expressions of horror that he could hardly tell one from the other. Prowl tore himself free of the rest, springing forward with one hand outstretched, too slow. Trapped by equal parts suspension and shock, Optimus felt the unpleasant vibration of Megatron's low laughter through his chest plating. A bare instant later, the space bridge portal erased everything familiar in a swirl of star-spangled darkness.

A sense of space compressing around a single agonizing point.

A howl of blank eternity.

A vertigo that assaulted his entire sensory network.

Shuddering, Optimus narrowly escaped purging his fuel tanks by catching hold of something solid, something that lent weight and stability to the whirl of shattered blackness. He curled his fingers around edged metal and clung tight until the spinning eased and he dared to activate his optics again.

Of course, the only thing solid to clutch had been Megatron. With a groan of appalled fear, Optimus struggled to raise his free hand, pushing himself away from the broad expanse of Megatron's chest. Not far away, because the link between the stasis cuff rings pulled taut and then recoiled. He supposed he should be grateful; he shouldn't be capable of moving at all. The overloading space bridge portal must have deactivated the stasis-lock frequency.

Fundamental routines made Optimus fumble for his ax. Memory followed with swift despair. He had lost it back on Earth, but he still had both grappling hooks, whatever good they might do him against the force of Megatron's gun. The ghost-echo in his processors sounded like Ratchet, the voice of practicality, reason and action above all.

Get out of there while you still can

He had no leverage but the recoil of his own retreat, and he used it to bring himself around and raise his arm, snapping it taut and firing one hook. It went wide, catching at Megatron's shoulder plating before clanging against the intended target, wrapping twice around the binding between the cuffs. He activated the recoil mechanism, ready to use Megatron's frame as the axle of a makeshift pulley and use that pressure, along with the lesser strength of his own systems, to snap the cuffs apart and free them from each other.

Megatron moved at last, swifter than base programming could process. His free arm swung in an arc, fingers gripping the cord at the point of greatest strain and breaking it with a savage twist that scored the armor of his palm.

Optimus gaped. Megatron grasped the dangling end of the attached cord and used it to jerk Optimus' frame up against his, plating grinding together. “I think not,” Megatron said, collected and cold. Kicking uselessly at the Decepticon's legs, Optimus shuddered in Megatron's grip, shocked again by the simplicity of his own defeat, the physical power distributed throughout Megatron's frame. “So long as I wear this signal dampener, I am untraceable. An unexpected misfortune, in this case.” His grip relaxed by increments, but he transferred the cord to his cuffed hand, keeping Optimus uncomfortably close. In an instant, Megatron's free hand had moved to the arm above Optimus' restrained wrist, fingers digging into the plating with a blunt force so painful that Optimus cried out aloud. “Your Autobot signal, however, will bring my servants as effectively as a long-range beacon.”

Lockdown, at least, had used blades, but Megatron used nothing more than his fingers to rip the remaining grappling hook from beneath the plating, discarding it. Another horrible wrench, and it floated away into the deeper darkness, followed by the shreds of its interior mechanisms.

Violated, useless, Optimus reflected on the bitter blessing of Megatron's intentions. So long as he remained online, his signal would continue to transmit.

“And then you'll kill me,” he managed, after gritting his dental plates together for a cycle as his self-repair systems worked to manage the pain. “Once they arrive.”

Megatron released him, apparently convinced of his harmlessness. “I should think so.”

How reassuring. Megatron gave no particular indication of gloating—in fact, he seemed entirely unconcerned, and Optimus almost wished he could share in that disturbing serenity. They floated in the grip of unsettling silence, distant starlight casting lean reflections off armor. Sensors indicated nothing close enough to hail, very probably nothing sentient near enough to hear a call. Optimus itched with unresolved anger.

“The others will end it,” he said at last, fisting his hands. “Blitzwing and Lugnut aren't so much of a threat without you. Your Constructicons care more about your oil than your ideology, and Starscream's clones aren't loyal to anything. The Autobots will tear down that space bridge.” His bots knew space bridge repair; they could improvise space bridge destruction. “You'll never take Cybertron now.”

Tilting his head, Megatron allowed Optimus a briefly bored glance. “Spare me your vindication.”

A little stung, but unsurprised, Optimus fell silent again. Megatron barely bothered to acknowledge his existence even during battle, when lethal hostility required dedicated attention; Optimus doubted the Decepticon would pay him any greater attention now, even though he had very nearly sent Megatron alone through his own space bridge. Something in Megatron's dismissal had insinuated itself far below the surface of Optimus' self-confidence, as long ago as their first encounter over the Allspark. That resentment woke now, and flexed its wiry claws.

“The Great Wars are over.” Optimus clenched his hands into fists. “Why can't you give them up?” He loathed his own curiosity on that count, but he could mask his fascination with history under real bitterness.

Megatron buzzed out a distinctly digital snort, glancing at him and then away again. “Don't be so much a fool. I have barely begun.”

Optimus made a low, scoffing sound. “The Autobots have tended Cybertron since before I was protoformed.”

Flicking his optics in Optimus' direction again, Megatron chuckled, a darkly rough sound like oil over scrap metal. “And what a voice of authoritative wisdom you are. Barely older than that organic child of whom you are so fond.”

“I know right from wrong.” Optimus drew into himself, hunching his shoulders. He was young, but he was no longer naïve.

“And what is right?” Megatron returned, facing Optimus fully. Optimus worked to ignore the fearful thrill of those optics focused solely on him. “Tyranny is tyranny, no matter who holds sway over the masses. Autobot or Decepticon. The difference is that we do not pretend to concern ourselves with the undeserving.”

“The Autobots believe in justice. For everyone.”

Megatron arched an optic ridge. “You believe in reactionary stasis for all of society until the gaps between ideology and reality become too vast to ignore. When I reclaim what is rightfully mine, all of Iacon will be wrenched free of its rusted moorings and overturned. No one will dare deny the corruption underneath.”

“You've talked a lot about reclaiming what was yours,” Optimus retorted with level disgust. “But that's a lot of nonsense. Your kind never ruled Cybertron. It'll never be yours by right.”

They made gradual revolutions around each other, trapped in the very narrow dimensions of each other's gravity. Megatron narrowed his optics to slits, and then he laughed, low and rough and disturbingly pleasant. “What a product of Autobot propaganda you are,” he said at length, smiling into the face of Optimus' bristling pride. “What do you think you know of Cybertronian history? You're barely grown into those exoskeletal plates of yours.”

Optimus folded into himself, refusing to rise to such inferior bait. He lifted his chin, nevertheless. “I've learned whatever I can about the Great Wars.”

“Is that so.” Megatron tilted his head to one side, regarding him with dismissive interest, as he might have stared at a particularly persistent specimen of glitchmouse. “And did you learn whatever you could about what preceded those Wars, Autobot? Or did the details of the Cybertronian Golden Age exceed your attention span?”

Frowning, Optimus shook his head. An uneasy discomfort started deep in his fuel tanks, just a twinge of too-familiar uncertainty. “Those records are classified. Sealed.”

“Of course they are.” Megatron smiled. Smooth satisfaction suited him unpleasantly well. “They would rather no one remember the truth. What our society was, before they chose to suppress it according to their own desires.”

“Before you destroyed it,” Optimus said, hands twisting into fists against his hips. “According to your desires.”

Careless denial etched itself through Megatron's simple shrug. “Yes. My desires. The will of something besides the High Council. The Autobot High Council, that so rarely acknowledged the existence of anything beyond the precious aristocracy of senators, alphas, and artisans.”

“Democracy.” Optimus gave a tight shake of his head. “Opportunity for—”

“For the few,” Megatron interjected, that same slow smile playing at the edges of his mouth. Something new had ignited in his optics: not the fury of plans thwarted or the cold calculation of battle, but a low-burning spark of real hate. “Choice and opportunity for the highest few. Slavery for the rest, in service or in labor. The greatest among our kind held back by the dullest, the slowest, those glitched beyond reclamation. That is the Autobot idea of equality, then and now.”

The pride and dignity and love of a thousand vorns under Autobot service coiled hot and heavy behind Optimus' spark. “And who are you to decide?” he said through locked dental plates.

“Who am I?” The deep pull of hatred in Megatron's optics intensified, burned crimson through the thin veneer of his civility, revealed the hunger of the monster beneath the mask. “I am Megatron,” he snarled, firing his thrusters and forcing them into closer proximity, his own dental plates bared. Once upon a vorn, Optimus had heard the nightmare tales of Megatron at his horrible best, a beast that had devoured the sparks of the fallen. In his protoform years, Prime had had his doubts. Now he could almost believe the worst of all the whispered legends, but he couldn't lower his gaze. “I am Megatron,” the Decepticon leader repeated, the hiss of his words making vibrations in Optimus' audio processors. “Lord of all Decepticons. Lord High Protector of Cybertron. Decision is my right!”

“Lord of all scoundrels,” Optimus retorted, and then he paused. Flickering recollections touched the billion files of his accessible memory, found a touchstone, returned scanty information. Lord High Protector. Prime Nova. Ultra caste and other legends too old, too dead to consider. Impossibilities. “You...” Static stuttered through his vocalizer. “You lie,” he whispered.

With a snort, Megatron raised his hand to Optimus' chest plates. Then he pushed away, letting their revolutions equalize again.

“Not this time.”

Reeling with more than the loss of directional reference, Optimus shook his head, denying not just the notion, but the tangle of implications behind it. He had investigated enough high-level records to know that the term Lord High Protector had once signified the balance of the Cybertronian government. When Prime had been more than a lesser military title, and the reliquary Matrix had been carried whole and holy in the frame of a living mech... The Lord High Protector had been partner, peacekeeper, consort, second only to the chosen one of Primus himself.

A creature like Megatron could never have held such a position.

If he had...

Megatron was watching him still, pensive but nevertheless diverted, and Optimus shivered inwardly under that gaze, wishing for its redirection. “What, no other questions?” Megatron drawled. No doubt that Optimus' distress amused him; he thrived on the cultivation of doubt.

Forced into unconditional retreat, Optimus withdrew into himself, shaking his head.

“Then leave the past where it belongs,” Megatron said. He punctuated the words by giving a jerk of his cuffed wrist, snapping Optimus forward and then back against the restraint like a victim of improperly-activated anti-gravity.

Optimus shuttered his optics and kept his peace for the long megacycle his equilibrium chips spent recovering.

Plainly, conversation was not an option. Optics still shuttered, Optimus tried not to think at all, instead struggling to imagine himself somewhere else. The thought of Sari and the others hurt him. Reluctantly, he remembered Blackarachnia, now in self-imposed exile from the Autobots and the Decepticons both, and he wondered painfully what Megatron had given her, couched in the rhetoric of the Decepticon cause.

At least I know where I stand with them.

Finally, he lapsed into system redundancies, weary of concentrating enough for conscious thought. He drifted on weightless unreality, anchored only by the dual stinging in his forearms. Recharge was a mild sort of stasis, and he slipped willingly into its grasp. It would help his systems heal.

With a shout of astonishment, he wrenched fully online again when agony crunched through his chest plates. He flickered his optics at Megatron, whose frame languidly untwisted from the follow-through of a single, stunning blow with his free fist. Something cracked beneath Optimus' windshields, spiderweb lines erupting through the glass before it belatedly shattered. The shards spread outward like scattering diamonds, movement so slow that time seemed frozen in the moment that Megatron had struck him.

“I need you online,” Megatron growled, breaking the spell.

Vents puffing, Optimus wavered between cursing him and simply offlining involuntarily, his systems screaming warnings. He tilted his head, examining the damage, and groaned at the sight of twisted metal, broken wiring, and the surreal glitter—unsteady blue shot through with quicksilver white—of his spark through the ragged gap in his chest. He forced up a shaking hand to cover himself.

“You're malfunctioning,” he whispered. The blow could have killed him. “You're insane.” Had that been retaliation for his earlier questions? A minor example of how Decepticons dealt with frustration? Or just sadism beyond all possible measure?

Megatron narrowed his optics into slits. “Be silent.”

Fingers flexing uselessly over shredded components, Optimus shook his head and ground his dental plates together. “If you need me alive, stop trying to kill me yourself!”

“Shut up,” Megatron repeated, a gradual frown moving over his faceplates as he studied the damage he had done. Another moment, and emotion disappeared into disinterest. “You will survive. Stay online. In recharge, you transmit a far weaker signal.”

His apathy sent shudders of horror through Optimus' cabling. They sizzled like acid against the wounds in his chest and the bare flicker of his spark.

“You're worse than anything I ever imagined.”

A snort. “I highly doubt you have much imagination.”

Optimus pressed his dental plates together and grimaced like something caught and broken in a trap, still clinging to the spare dignity of sentient life. “You're a lunatic.”

Savagery ignited in the depths of Megatron's optics, burning them brighter. “I might be monstrous,” he growled. “But there is no madness to it, you simple-cycled fool.”

Optimus curled his fingers and raised his battlemask in something like organic instinct. “You're psychotic,” he whispered. “If you ever really were the Lord High Protector of Cybertron, you were the one who destroyed it. Your insanity would have put the Autobots in control.” Too far, and he knew it the moment he spoke. Megatron wasn't a creature of reason. Just action.

And reaction.

Megatron snarled, faceplates distorting, dental plates bared, a true abomination barely contained in a cage of seething metal. He wrenched his fingers into the hole in Optimus' chest plates and dragged the two of them together, frame to frame. The broad angles of his chest plating rasped and groaned on interior gears and parted thinly down the center.

The spark was the strongest source of energy a mech possessed. Attacking with that power remained a viable, if discouraged, battle tactic, as spark exposure always involved vulnerability. Optimus had witnessed Megatron using his own spark as a weapon in the past, of course. Against Starscream, atop Sumdac Tower, effectively committing a singularly ineffective—if probably deserved—sort of murder. And against himself, the power of the Allspark channeled horribly through Megatron's essence, cracking Optimus' armor against the wall of the Ark.

The immediate difference between this attack and that one was the broken plating over Optimus' chest.

The only difference, Optimus imagined, and since he had faced death once before, this scenario seemed so much more pointless, so much less convenient. Dead by Megatron's hands not for protecting something worth the sacrifice of his life, but for the inability to keep his mouth shut when someone dangerous threatened his idea of the truth. The personality flaw had burned him once before, ending his role in the Elite Guard. This would be a little more permanent.

Agony as the flare of Megatron's spark energy struck fangs through his chest.

A flood of power that his body couldn't contain, secondary systems shutting down, cascade failure, errors numbering in the millions, circuits blowing out with traumatic surges.


Deep in his interior, something shattered, barriers and boundaries dissolved. The power overwhelming him fluctuated, skipped and shuttered, and then it became his lifeblood source of energy, his spark pulling at Megatron's with inexorable force and insatiable hunger. Distant in Optimus' sensory awareness, Megatron shouted in equalized pain and karmic distress. The Decepticon shoved back, losing his grip, and something extraordinary swallowed them both.

Spark merging remained the ultimate choice of Cybertronians seeking intimacy. Two sparks in proximity shared emotion and memory, but nothing necessarily more permanent. Even two mechs who professed themselves spiritually bonded could dissolve that union without ill effects, find new partners, attach and reattach in a natural cycle.

For the majority, easy attachment was enough.

The poets spoke to a deeper longing, however, and since the beginning of recorded history, spark bonding had reigned supreme as the ideal of romanticism in Cybertronian culture. Philosophy suggested—and physical science confirmed—that rare sparks existed not only as part of the greater Well of All Sparks, but as part of each other. In proximity, such sparks joined not just eagerly, but permanently and inextricably. They bonded, and death for one meant death for the other.

The promise of eternal companionship spoke louder than the danger to many Cybertronians. In the undercurrents of Iacon, self-proclaimed oracles made a swift and shady profit describing which legendary figures an individual's supposed sparkmate might once have been, might yet be. Even so, bonded sparks were largely the domain of poetic license and unusual circumstances; Optimus knew of only two genuine, uncontested bondings in all of Cybertron's unguarded history files. Solarflare and Draft, the massive Guardian warriors of the Great Wars, had died together at the Battle for Optrix Aeon. Sideswipe and Sunstreaker, twins created by the rare division of a single spark, had followed a vorn behind Optimus at the Academy. He had led them in a training exercise, once, when still a Minor. They had been close in a way he couldn't possibly have understood.

Until now.

Compatible sparks resonated, their energies concordant. Sanitized by two thousand stellar cycles of High Autobot culture, poetic approximations of spark bonding compared the experience to music: a lasting, fully interior harmony that dissolved the barriers between chosen individuals and fully united them. Bonded sparks' energies combined completely, like those of sparks returned to the Well; all sparks longed to bond, irrevocably or not. Synergy was the ending and beginning of Cybertronian essence.

What Optimus was experiencing was nothing like music.

Instead, it was screaming, wailing light, overwhelming sound reducing his frame of solid steel to so much strained and shivering glass, all the parts of him oscillating with a single note so high and sharp and pure that in a moment more he would shatter, scattering bits of wire and shreds of flame. He had never imagined such a frequency, destruction in its glory and dissolution in its grandeur. Caught alone in the maelstrom of it, he was dissolving like exoskeletal scrap under acid rain.

Under the burden of such brilliant noise, the other presence that reached for his own seemed so sheltering, so suitable, that he discarded the fragile structures of himself to become a part of it.

Something vast and ancient and frightened wrapped velvet hooks around him and clung to him in return.

Equilibrium shifted. Then kept shifting. The weight of self and spark overbalanced, metaphysical to merely physical again, and noise faded from purity to the raw cacophony of metal on metal, the background static of restless, shared yearning. Merged sparks wrenched them chest to chest, their plates scraping together, and Optimus recognized Megatron again. He felt the Decepticon's fingers wrenching tight into his shoulder joint, and he understood the horror and hatred and hunger burning somewhere beneath his chest as emotions both foreign and familiar. Clawed possessiveness dug furrows through him. Acrid tendrils of thought followed, memory blending, bleeding, and then shearing into razored shards.

Optimus struggled deeper into that hold. He wanted nothing to do with it, but he was helpless in the face of wanting so much more of it, and he had never guessed that complete synchronization could be absolutely involuntary.

Megatron pressed into him. Too much, too much of him, too much memory and presence and personality compressed into a single space, trying to force its way through a psyche that had never contained so much of anything in its far briefer period of consciousness. Seven million stellar cycles of existence pounded against Optimus' shattering defenses and tried to enter him with desperate, brutal force.

Hurting me you're hurting me you're hurting us

Pain devolved into a primal scream. Individuality was ripped apart, discarded, reformed around a central core. Megatron groaned as something inexplicable ripped free of him and joined them. The terror in Megatron's flickering optics was surreal.

Stop. Stop

The assault eased because Optimus fought back against it, because Megatron felt the same pain aching outward into all his circuitry. Hands clenching at lateral plating; Optimus dug his fingers into the cabling between the plates of Megatron's back. Terror mounted, and their struggle translated to friction, sending hot bursts of flaring sensation through their shared spark. “No,” Optimus whispered, doubting what he truly meant. Denial was impossible, in any case. “No, no...” Their cuffed hands twisted and gripped, fingers interlocking, Megatron's hand dwarfing his own. Nothing else was solid.

Despite the pain, this was spark merging as Optimus understood it: bright and bittersweet, sensory impulses tangling in memory between them and drawing new connections of energy and emotion. But the intimacy offered no escape, and when Optimus struggled to raise his firewalls, he discovered all his natural defenses in pieces.

They tried to ground each other and sank deeper into chaos, instead. Pleasure sparked memory, and Optimus thought of Sentinel first, Elita second—the way they had bolstered him, one on either side, one and then the other inside him, exploring him, possessing him. Struggling against him, Megatron responded sharply to possession, and Optimus panted, subject to the snarled strands of more interfaces than he could readily imagine, a hundred more or less meaningless partners. Shrieking passion—Megatron had shared this with Starscream, more than once, in early days when loyalty had been simpler and both of them had less to prove and more to experience. Megatron had shared himself with someone else, earlier yet, a power and presence so vast and severe that even he had quaked beneath it, hating it more with every subsequent merge, despising the obligation to a leader that never heard him and ignored his voice except in pleasure or in pain. Prime Nova blazed with incandescent light, bleeding gradually to gray in Megatron's memory. Optimus yelped and gritted his dental plates and writhed away from the imagery, hearing Megatron's shout of violation.

Megatron had opened to them, had touched others, but had shared his spark so rarely that Optimus felt an uncomfortable kinship—the realization that both of them lacked trust and preferred privacy. They were far past apology, but Optimus still trembled with a certain horrified regret.

Heat shuddered beneath his chest plates, their broken edges straining painfully open. Megatron touched him deep with unwilling hunger and reluctant lust for a sensation the Decepticon had avoided since long before his rebirth in this new frame. Optics shuttered, Optimus puffed through his vents in short, silent groans, responding to that need with the sort of implicit understanding that demanded sympathy. Desire deepened, pleasure spiked on a new note of vibrating resonance. Something between them swelled and burst and overflowed with electrical bliss.

Too distraught to shout, Optimus crushed Megatron's cabling under his fingers and made a low frequency wail as sensation dragged him into overload.

Megatron snarled in raw static, not yet ready, following in helpless ecstasy nevertheless.

Battling his own broken components, Optimus clung to consciousness, wracked with aftershocks and experiencing a peculiar physical echo as Megatron shuddered against him. He pressed his forehead against the heavy plating of Megatron's neck, optics still offline, frame trembling from struts to spark because he had nowhere else to turn.

If rumors and theories proved correct, he would never want anyone else, anywhere else. The horror of that likelihood struck through him like needled shafts, and gave him the will to unlock his hands. Pulling his fingers free, he untangled himself from his unwanted bondmate and pushed as far away as the stasis cuffs would allow.

For an instant, Megatron actually clung to him. Then their sparks separated with a wrenching ache, and Megatron released Optimus' hand.

They stared back at each other, two victims without a perpetrator—or a complicit perpetrator, at least—because Megatron had begun this, and Optimus trembled in the flux of a shrieking, unspeakable fury within the ashes of his despair.

He found his voice beneath the weight of all his broken expectations. “How could you—do this to anyone—” And perhaps he wasn't so selfless, after all. “How could you do this to me—”

“Shut up.”

Lifting a trembling hand, Megatron brought his fingers to his chest and cupped them to cover the unsteady glow of his spark. He hooked his fingertips into the metal and forced the chamber plating closed again. Too late, Optimus screamed in silence, too distraught for speech. Spark shut away or not, he could sense the shuddering pulse of Megatron within him, a forceful and foreign throb that made his fingers clench to claw out his spark—their spark—barehanded.

Megatron pulled at the edges of his chest plates, manipulating raw cabling until the components began to fold reluctantly together again. “Close up,” he hissed at Optimus, his words snarling together with a panic both belated and ultimately useless. “Close up.”

He repeated it until Optimus growled in return, curling into himself with his unbound arm flung across the cavity of his chest. He was too hollow to feel so full. “If I could, I would.”

“Do it or I will do it myself,” Megatron said, threat clear in every word, but he hesitated just on the brink, shying away from touching Optimus with an outstretched hand.

Wounded in every possible way, Optimus mutely shook his head.

Silence stretched between them for a moment or a millennium. Beneath Optimus' fingers, the ragged gap in his chest plating stretched immeasurable and left him exposed. He could imagine no greater injury than the one he'd already suffered, but he wanted to be alone in himself again, concealed behind his armor, and he gritted his dental plates because nothing could grant him either wish. He tried to assimilate everything he'd experienced through Megatron's spark, but the excess of data left him reeling, sick with the syrupy satiation of overload and the sting of informational backlash.

“I would rather you'd killed me,” he whispered. “Rather than this.”

Megatron silently smoldered, nursing his own wounds. Unease rebounded in the uncomfortably narrow mental spaces between them, impacting on memory and impulse, stronger with every echo. Trying to steady himself, Optimus watched Megatron press a hand to his chest plates again as the Decepticon's features twisted in something stronger than simple discomfort. Optimus satisfied a self-destructive but vengeful impulse by concentrating on his nausea, bolstering the feedback through the raw channels of their new bond, forcing Megatron to activate his vents and fire his equilibrium boosters to keep from purging his fuel tanks.

Growling, Megatron yanked Optimus closer with their bound hands. “I could kill you yet.”

“You could kill us both.” Optimus thought that maybe he should worry about that, but he had gained a new understanding of Megatron's dedication to self-preservation. “I don't even have myself left to lose.”

Faceplates twisting, Megatron shook his head with savage disgust. “Would you ever, in any grand Autobot delusion of faith and fate, have assumed I wished for this? Have supposed that I wanted not just bonding, ludicrous enough, but bonding to the most pathetic of my many enemies?” With a snarl, he struck Optimus across the face, an open-handed blow that made them both wince. “I do not believe in fate,” he hissed. “I do not believe in this.”

Optimus snorted, a faint buzz of static. “Let me know how that works out.”

Megatron drew back his hand, a fist this time, but Optimus only gave him a wry glance in return, and the Decepticon snarled and let his arm fall back to his side. So long as violence against one of them only resulted in pain for them both, Optimus supposed he was safe enough from the less pleasant aspects of Megatron's personality.

“I don't want this,” Optimus said, an undertone of wretched agreement. “I hate you.” Primus. “I hate you in all the ways that matter.”

Refusing to look at him, Megatron made a noncommittal grunt. “You hardly know me.”

Optimus reflected for a moment on the bitter irony of their situation. “I do now.”

“Shut up,” Megatron said, but without heat. For the first time, he seemed weary, not in aspect or expression, but in the tangled impressions of their new bond. Nothing stretched between them but astringency and acid, the unbearable longing for something better, and a shared hatred that buckled under the weight of undeniable understanding without compensatory sympathy.

Optimus shuttered his optics, shutting himself off as completely as he could, and he tried not to consider the ramifications of this atrocity. Misery moved through him in uncomfortable knots.

He eventually drifted into an erratic level just above recharge, and this time, Megatron made no protest. After restless megacycles, he began dreaming in fragments of pain and pleasure, longing for familiar companionship until he finally let the unhappy fullness in his chest soothe the ache. Something stalked him through the darkness, a trusted form wearing Starscream's hateful face, and it caught him in razored claws and shook him until he broke back through the surface of consciousness with a protoform chirp of fright.

“Online, Autobot,” Megatron said, releasing his shoulder with a last shake.

Optimus flickered his optics, dragged back into unwilling awareness. He wondered what would be necessary for Megatron to call him by his designation. “Optimus,” he muttered. “Same number of syllables. Not exactly hard to remember.”

With a snort, Megatron let them drift apart to the limit allowed by the cuffs. Those optics stayed online in narrow slits, pinpoints of crimson in encroaching shadow, but Megatron slid away behind them and established himself somewhere else. Optimus felt the pull of the Decepticon's thoughts without understanding their direction, a binding thread with a certain amount of elasticity as his thoughts resisted, pulled back in return. When poets had described the sharing of thought between bonded sparks, he had never quite imagined this struggle, this shifting balance.

“Where do you go?” he finally asked, seeking a distraction. Recharge tugged hard at his systems. The nudge and retreat of his thoughts made his meaning clear enough.

Megatron focused on him and took a moment to curve his lip components. “Somewhere more important than this.”

Of course. Optimus shuttered his optics again and gave up pleasantries. Instead, he drifted inward along the invisible strands connecting them, subtle and slow, slipping easily into the other half of his spark and peering into thoughts not his own. He caught glimpses of old Iacon as he had seen it in holo files: the straight twist of a tower, the vast dimensions of a private room, and then heavy metal beneath his fingers, plating that opened on a vibrant, vibrating glow. Megatron hissed and shoved him back hard with a sting of mental recoil.

“Mind your own business.”

This time, Optimus obeyed. Some knowledge wasn't worth the price paid in privacy. And they both held their privacy very, very dear.

Time passed in the slow revolution of his frame around Megatron's. His systems made gradual repairs to all the damage he had suffered since his sojourn through the space bridge, but the gap in his chest plating remained open, too severe for simple nanite recovery. Without the arrival of help, he supposed the exposure of his fuel lines would require the rerouting of his systems. Lack of energon would eventually require imposed stasis, unless they could discover and derive another fuel source—extremely unlikely, here in the dark with no equipment.

Something flickered on his internal readouts. It popped and hissed across his sonar, and then spawned into a shrill, rhythmic beeping that set Optimus' audio sensors to vibrating. According to all his systems, something was coming. A ship. Megatron's optics flickered, then fully ignited. Optimus gave him a smile full of weary bitterness. “Your friends are coming. Still want to kill me when they get here?”

Megatron tilted his head in consideration, but ignored the rhetorical question. “That is not one of mine,” he said instead, at some length.

A flicker of hope blended with resettling dread in Optimus' spark.

“And not one of yours,” Megatron continued with grim amusement, gone in a moment as his features shifted into wary preparation. Optimus' proximity sensors chirped in warning; he saw the blue gleam of plasma drive engines approaching impossibly fast. Afterburners engaged, sending the vessel sliding into a tidy arc around the two of them, before thrusters reversed and spun and set the ship steady in space without the benefit of a dock. The ship was small and dark and patchworked like overlaid metal angles over a broken core. It was also horribly familiar.

“Well, well,” Lockdown said, his unmistakable voice purring on Optimus' internal communication frequencies. Judging by the way Megatron's head twisted to the side, he was hearing the same unwelcome message. “Who could've guessed. Two for the price of one.”

Megatron had opened a channel before Optimus could even think of doing the same. “If it is not the best of the worst of the universe,” he replied, even his binary voice slow and smooth in a way that sent an unwanted shudder through the center of Optimus' spark. “Lockdown. You are an...unusually pleasant surprise, here at the ends of the galaxy.”

“Ain't I just.” The ship settled into a tight and modified orbit, keeping the two of them to portside. Optimus realized after a moment that the angle would make a correct shot nearly impossible from Megatron's gun.

Megatron kept the weapon casually raised, nevertheless. “And however did you know where to find us?”

A chuckle made gravelly by poor communication lines filtered through Optimus' audios. “Word was that you and the little Prime did a disappearing act together. Thought maybe you'd end up in the same pocket of the universe. Sure is nice to be right. Familiar, though. Kind of repetitive.” A pause made Optimus grit his dental plates together in steadily mounting tension. “You both gotta lot of mechs asking after you. Yours're offering a better price, of course. No offense, Prime, but Autobots don't pay slag. Even for information.”

Megatron pressed his mouth into curving line before answering, “Is that so. In that case...I might be willing to orchestrate an especially lucrative deal in your favor. Provided that you do intend to show some hospitality.”

The ship floated by in constant turns, and Optimus liked the look of it less every moment. “You can't really be thinking of trusting him,” he hissed to Megatron in a static undertone.

“Don't be so much of a fool.”

“I've gotta admit, that all depends on whether or not you two can keep your servos to yourselves,” Lockdown crackled, sharp edges underscoring his words. “Can't say I'm really set up for houseguests. Or faction wars.”

Megatron laid a hand over his spark. “Why, I give you my word. Best behavior. Keep your word, and I will keep mine.”

They endured another pregnant pause, the ship still circling, before its movement slowed and flashes of sparking electricity laced along the seams of one outer lock, breaking the safety seals. “Guess that'll have to do.” The seals broke with a starburst, an aborted explosion feeding on the incidental oxygen of the ship's interior, and Lockdown was silhouetted in unpleasantly flat light as he engaged a rudimentary retrieval system. Plainly, the bounty hunter preferred to pursue his targets personally—not with the technological advantages offered by a high-end ship.

The hooked end of the system caught beneath Optimus' siren array after a cycle or two of failed attempts. He flexed his back plating as the attached chain winched tight and hauled both him and Megatron through the last empty decimeters of space and into the cargo hold.

After so long in weightless limbo, Optimus' systems struggled with the readjustment to artificial gravity. He offered little resistance when Lockdown insinuated his hook beneath a chest plate, lifting him off the cold mesh of the cargo bay floor. “Don't suppose I could garner some kind of agreement—a little extra reward—for his capture,” Lockdown said with a careful grin.

Megatron smiled unpleasantly in return, and lifted the hand joined to Optimus' by the stasis cuffs. “As you see, bounty hunter...I've already caught him myself.”

(To be continued.)


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 2nd, 2008 02:18 pm (UTC)
Great start, was waiting for someone to open this can of worms, theres just not enough on this continuity. lol
Nov. 5th, 2008 04:02 am (UTC)
This was a wonderful start to the story...loved your descriptions of the bonding process.
Jan. 15th, 2009 03:49 am (UTC)
Awesome! I love how this is written so far. Gonna go read the next chapter
Feb. 9th, 2009 06:09 am (UTC)
O.O The first thing that popped out of my mouth when I hit the end of this? "Oh my gosh... this is really good."
XD So anyway. Wow. This looks like it'll be loads of fun to read... already has been! (Hahaha, I'm sure it would have been interesting listening to me as I read... "Oh no. Not Lockdown. NOT Lockdown. Primus, ANYONE but Lockdown. Not Lockdown." XD I really have nothing against Lockdown...)
Oct. 1st, 2009 03:29 am (UTC)
Your whole story is wonderful, but what caught my eye the most in all of the chapters is the take on spark-bonding. It's poetic, lyrical, and very original.
Jun. 3rd, 2011 05:16 pm (UTC)
Шикарный блог
Хорошо! Все бы так писали :)
May. 4th, 2012 12:09 am (UTC)
I am very very late to the game, but am finally reading this. What a brilliant start. I loved the description of the bonding *whimpers*
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )