Be then his love accursed, since, love or hate,
To me alike it deals eternal woe.
((Paradise Lost, Book IV, Robert Milton))
Megatron had never placed much stock in sparkmates. Not outwardly, at least. While others would wear with pride the little numbers that marked their other half — or sometimes more, he would stand back, watching, his dominant servo curled into a tight fist. Most would think it was in defiance of the idea of predestination, a concept he had repeatedly denounced from the moment he had realized there was something wrong with the system. Most would think it was just that he didn’t seem to have a mark, which, at one point in his youth, would have been true.
No one would have thought it was because he was ashamed. Ashamed that he was a heavy laborer, a gladiator, and his supposed sparkmate was most certainly not. Ashamed that he wouldn’t have a perfect match in strength and will and ability the way that Kaonites seemed to boast. He hid away when others began to discuss it, not wanting to hear the proud shouts of “Well my sparkmate is an eight! That means they’re about as tough as me, I reckon!” He’d never met another mech whose sparkmark was below a six in his entire function, as a number that low was barely considered dangerous enough to defend oneself.
He tried very valiantly not to think about the minuscule two that marked his own palm, so small and weak and unassuming that very few mecha even realized he had been marked at all. Kaonites, the other gladiators, were quick to judge about that sort of thing, often making assumptions about the mech the number was on, as well as the sparkmate it was supposedly connected to. He remembered when the little thing had shown up, after hundreds if not thousands of vorns of his frame being blank. His supposed sparkmate had perfect timing, being forged just as Megatron had entered the Pits, a seasoned fighter, but green amongst all the Arena-hardened gladiators with their rough edges and brutal behavior.
He’d felt a phantom itch on his right palm during a spar with a mech named Sparkrender, a nasty mech who constantly crowed about his rank eleven sparkmate, the bolded, large digits proudly displayed on his shoulder pauldron, shouting to anyone who’d listen. Megatron had been winning, too, forcing the taller mech back, but the sudden heat in his palm gave his opponent an opening and he found himself on his aft, clutching his burning servo. He’d held his free digits up, calling “Wait!” and they had, Sparkrender moving back just as the burning on his palm began to take shape, forming the all-important danger rank of his sparkmate. He knew that they started off low, especially if they were forged or sparked mecha, so he wasn’t surprised to see a little zero on his palm, so small and deep grey that it was hardly visible against the black of his paint.
He’d still had the naivety to be excited, then. Smiling and excited and privately basking in the knowledge that there was someone out there sparked for him, that he could have the unconditional love that even the most desperate vagrants of Kaon could speak of. It felt a little hypocritical, for him to be so happy about proof of destiny, but it was a weakness he could allow for, if only to watch the little number hidden on his palm grow.
The only problem was that it didn’t. Another vorn passed, filled with Megatron’s quiet campaigning and championing in the Arena, but despite it all, he felt lighter than ever, his spark spinning faster every time he laid optics on the little number. It was unusual, sure, as the majority of mecha reached their average rank shortly after their final upgrades, just under a vorn. And, yes, his sparkmate’s rank was lower than average for their age, a two hanging steady on his palm, small and unassuming. He did his best to ignore the whispers he sometimes heard, wondering at his lack of boasting, the usually common display of pride in spark absent in his own speech.
Eventually, he realized, sometime quite a few vorns later, reigning supreme over the Kaon Arena, his Decepticons well on their way to being ready for a full-scale rebellion, that the little number would never change. He wondered if his sparkmate’s own weakness reflected on himself the way Kaonites believed it did — and feared the answer.
He covered the mark the next day, blaming the fusion cannon’s effect on his plating to hide the small number beneath another layer of armor. After that, the mark hidden and left on the backburner, Megatron didn’t spare much thought for it — or his weak sparkmate. The rebellion was far off the ground, almost ready to truly take flight. There would be plenty of time to agonize over the identity of his sparkmate — though he wasn’t sure he honestly wanted to know — after Cybertron fell to his army.
The Decepticons, led by himself as a show of power, raided their first energon storage facility not even a full vorn later.
It was laughably easy, gaining access to the facility. No guards, Megatron noted, ordering his soldiers to a stop as he entered the near-empty warehouse. He traipsed through the large rooms, catching sight of a dockhand transferring an energon shipment from one of the antechambers that he assumed connected to the delivery bay. The little bot’s optics went wide, an almost starstruck look about him as he rushed to set the container down and greet him — the naive fool.
“Wow! I never expected to see a mech like you here, of all places!” the dockhand blurted excitedly. “I saw your match against Sky-Viper a few joors ago,” he continued on. “The way you countered her tail mod was incredible!” The little mech seemed to be halfway to bouncing on his pedes as he looked up at Megatron, adoring, a flash of joy and some unrecognizable emotion brushing up against the gladiator’s field.
Ah. A fan. He was a master at dealing with those. Megatron summoned up his patented charming smirk, arching a brow at the smaller mech, “I thank you for your patronage, but I seem to be at a disadvantage, as you seem to know me quite well. Might I have a name to put to such a devoted face?” The gladiator was gifted with the image of the dockhand’s faceplate purpling with energon. He shoved down a wave of shame at playing such a guileless mech, knowing that the Cause had to triumph over anything and everything else — his own emotions were of no consequence when weighed against the good of all Decepticons.
“I’m Orion,” he said, holding out a servo to greet Megatron fearlessly, “Orion Pax.” The gladiator tried to control his expression as he caught sight of a bright red fifteen standing out starkly against his blue palm. As their servos touched, he could swear he felt a jolt of electricity pass between them, leaping from the blue and red mech into the extra plating that covered his own servo and the number hidden beneath it. Orion seemed even more excited after he released Megatron’s servo, digits rubbing over his own sparkmate’s rank, “Sorry for the shock!” he apologized, “Energon sometimes leaves residual electrical transfers on plating when you work around it.” He looked away, embarrassed and eager all at once, “But you didn’t come here to listen to me spout off about energon containment, is there something I can do for you, sir?”
Megatron felt a niggle of guilt pull at his spark but pushed it down. He hadn’t come this far to be defeated by a single sweet face. “Yes, in fact, there is,” his servo ran along the rows of energon storage containers, feeling all that precious power beneath his digits. “This is a big warehouse for one bot… do you work here alone?”
“Ha! No, I’d never be able to handle all these deliveries myself. There are two other bots on duty — my friends, actually,” Orion supplied easily, still wide-opticked and happily watching him. The guilt grew.
“Oh, is that so? Well, I certainly wouldn’t mind taking some of this work off your servos,” the gladiator began, sending the all-clear to his soldiers, who were swarming the building near-immediately. He hardly saw the look on the dockhand’s face twist to something horrified before he was raising his fusion cannon, pointing it straight into the center of the mech’s chestplates. A quick and painless death, the best he could do for the helpful little bot. “I’m very sorry, Orion Pax, but I cannot afford to have the knowledge of my troop movements become public information. I’m sure you understand, of course. Running a rebellion isn’t exactly easy.”
Those blue servos shot up, grasping onto the rapidly-heating barrel of the cannon as soldiers swarmed around them, collecting the infinitely-valuable energon. Fear and horror lashed out against Megatron’s field as the hum of the fusion-reaction generator grew louder. “Please!” Orion pleaded, digits scrabbling for purchase on the weapon as Megatron backed him into a wall. He managed to offset the weapon slightly, shifting from the all-important position just over his spark to somewhere far less instantaneously fatal. Megatron tried to shift the weapon back, but the small bot’s digits wouldn’t budge — a stronger grip than he had thought the slip of a mech could muster. Not strong enough to save him, though. He wondered where pretty little Orion’s impossibly strong sparkmate was right now, wondered if such a mech could deliver him from his fate now. The dockhand’s optics widened, feeling the cannon heat enough to singe the paint on his servos, the bitter smell of scorched paint rising as purple light radiated from the barrel where it pressed just below Orion’s spark chamber. Something in those blue optics shifted, too hurt to be a look given to a random stranger, “I - you don’t understand! I think-!”
He didn’t get a chance to finish his sentence, instead making an odd, choking noise as the fusion cannon fired off at point-blank range. Megatron wrenched himself away from the dockhand, wanting to be free of the pain of his guilty conscience. Without support from the weapon, Orion slid to the ground, landing in the rubble where the shot had broken through the wall and a growing puddle of bright pink energon that slipped from his mangled chassis. His servos felt at the edge of the wound, dead center on his chestplates, tremoring as a tendril of agitated sparklight lashed out from where it had been exposed.
He was as good as dead, and Megatron turned his back, trying to remove the shocked, sharp betrayal in flickering blue optics from his processor. What did he care for a civilian dockhand? He clenched his fist, ordering his soldiers around as the little mech started greying. A lance of pain shot up Megatron’s right arm, emanating from his servo. In all likelihood, it was damaged from firing his fusion cannon at a target with so little distance between them. He ignored it, watching his army load up enough energon to fuel their rebellion for orns. What were a few deaths in the name of revolution?
He didn’t even notice that his sparkmate’s number had faded into a near-invisible zero until over an orn after the raid had concluded, with the war already picking up the pace. He’d removed the extra plating on a whim and felt his fuel tank drop as he realized what the change meant. The sudden wave of grief for a mechanism he’d never met surprised him, the knowledge that he’d never have a ‘perfect other half’ hitting hard and fast out of nowhere. Some buried and deeply romantic part of his processor springing loose now that he’d lost all chance at happiness.
Megatron wondered what had happened, when, exactly, his sparkmate had been offlined. Had it been during the initial invasion? Before? At the servos of the Autobots or his own Decepticons? His digit traced the number, guilt overwhelming him as he realized he’d hidden the little mark away and forgotten about his sparkmate enough that he hadn’t even been there for the mystery mechanism as they had greyed out.
Megatron clenched his fist, forcing the thoughts away as he refixed the plating that covered his palm. He’d pretended not to have a sparkmate before, he could do it again.
The only difference now was that it was true.
He didn’t take the plating off throughout the duration of the war. He had thinned the metal out, a barely-there covering on his palm, invisible over the little faded number. It got easier to ignore as the vorns passed, a phantom ache in his servo that often flared up after he fought on the frontlines. It was probably punishment, well deserved for letting his sparkmate die.
When the proof of his weakness acted up, he only threw himself into the fray with more fervor. Soundwave called it unnecessary risk-taking, but Megatron knew better. Some days, the scrape of Prime’s energon-axe against his plating was the only thing that granted him any measure of contentedness with his function. The young leader of the Autobots always seemed to put himself on the frontlines more often than not, making him the ideal target for the warlord’s ire, a match for Megatron’s strength and skill in such perfect complement that sometimes he caught himself thinking about his sparkmate. That perhaps that was the spark he’d been meant for. The thoughts were always banished, shamefully hidden. Others got second chances, a rare few received second sparkmarks after their mate’s death, but it would be worse to find his other half within the Autobots than it was to simply be alone.
There was no reason to think about the strange buzzing feeling beneath the secondary plating on his palm.
Until suddenly there was. It had happened during a grapple with Optimus, the infuriating mech throwing him bodily into a wall before following after him, tackling Megatron to the ground with enough force to briefly steal the vents from his cooling system. The warlord had punched up, aiming for Optimus’s battlemask, as that usually made the other mech withdraw from battle immediately, even if it was only a little crack. The Prime seemed to have expected it, because the blow didn’t land, a blue fist closing over his own to halt him before he could do damage. Megatron fought against the grip, lacing their servos together to try and roll them, but Optimus didn’t budge, the grip of his digits surprisingly strong as they dented the metal beneath them easily. Luckily for the grey mech, the grapple hold had put his fusion cannon at the perfect angle to punch a hole straight through his erstwhile nemesis’s helm.
“Watch yourself, Prime, or you may end up with a face full of fusion-reaction energy,” he sneered, the purple glow of his cannon’s power-up sequence casting a veil over Optimus’s faceplate. Curiously, the Prime flinched away from the weapon, putting his strength into his arm at the last second to budge Megatron’s arm, the shot going wide and vaporizing a section of the concrete wall they’d tumbled through. “Scared, Optimus?” he teased, trying not to focus on the fact that he’d never seen the Autobot display fear before. He should be scared, terrified even.
Whatever had startled Optimus seemed to wear off, because he dropped Megatron’s other arm, delivering a punch to the warlord’s jaw that landed with a sickening crack. He wasn’t sure if it was the Prime’s digits or his own faceplate that had broken. Optimus hissed, shaking his servo, and Megatron seized the chance to escape, bringing his pede up to kick the blue and red mech in the abdomen, sending him sprawling. He surged to his pedes, putting some distance between himself at the Autobot, feeling something wet slide down his faceplate. When his servo rose to check the wound, he could feel dentae through the ruined mess of his cheek, a fragment of metal digging into his servo.
Well, Optimus certainly wasn’t pulling his punches.
It had taken him long enough. Megatron ducked as the other mech activated his energon-axe, taking a swing at him. The sharp edge missed his helm by centimeters, but Optimus was quick to rebound, more brutal than normal, a hard, cold look in his optics since he’d stared down the barrel of Megatron’s fusion cannon. The warlord only just managed to block the blow from cleaving his faceplate in half, slamming both servos down onto the axe’s sharp edge, halting it just as it brushed his nasal sensor. The cutting, plasma edge seared the metal of his palms, burrowing into the thick plating that protected his digits. He pushed back, hissing as the axe burnt his plating away, his joints groaning as he forced Optimus back enough to jump to the side, out of the deadly blade’s reach.
Optimus stumbled away, and Megatron took the chance to bring the cannon up, cycling several rapid, low-power shots to knock him back. His servos burned, the left stripped halfway to its protoform. He looked down at the right one, seeing where the attaching pieces for the extra plate on his palm had been burnt away. Megatron had looked down only to check the damage, tearing away the sharp edges of metal so they didn’t further injure his servo. His optics flicked over his silver-grey sparkmark, pointedly moving on before he stopped dead, staring at his own servo.
That was not a zero. He was distantly aware of Optimus picking himself up off the ground, but his gaze was fixed, unable to move away from the silver and very much alive rank of his sparkmate, a fifteen. It burned, and he curled his fist, his field going bright and shocked. Optimus should have attacked by then, but when Megatron glanced up, the mech was right in front of him, just… staring, his optics fixed on the warlord’s closed fist.
“What?!” Megatron snarled, praying to an entire pantheon of gods that he didn’t believe in that Optimus Prime, bearer of the Matrix of Leadership, bestowed with the power of Primus wasn’t his apparently incredibly powerful sparkmate. The odds didn’t seem to be in his favor, as there were very few Cybertronians left to pick from, and none of them as capable as the mech before him.
Optimus said nothing at first, still locked on the warlord’s flexing servo. “All intelligence said that you didn’t have a sparkmark,” he said lightly, stepping back and away from Megatron. He had a pinched look to his face, like he would be rubbing his nasal bridge were it not for the battlemask.
“I don’t,” Megatron replied, already pulling back to issue a retreat. There was too much running through his processor to continue on and expect a successful battle. “I don’t know what trickery this is. My sparkmate perished before the war ever began, before we met.” He didn’t put his back to Optimus, though he trusted the mech’s nobility enough to know he wouldn’t be shot. As he issued the command, Decepticons taking off with pilfered fuel, he heard Optimus, just barely above the roar of anti-gravs and thrusters.
Staring at the little mark on his servo made him feel odd inside, his spark spinning. He had researched the idea of receiving a second sparkmark before, so he knew it wasn’t impossible, but the chances of it showing up in the same place as his former one had been? Sometimes bots who were reformatted didn’t even get their sparkmarks in the same place. It wouldn’t be the first time that Primus had made his life harder than necessary. His digits traced over the small number, trying to figure out when it had appeared. He couldn’t even begin to puzzle it out. The last time he’d seen his own palm, they had still been fighting on Cybertron. There was no hint as to who it could be, other than the very limited amount of mechanisms that ranked so highly. Shockwave would be considered dangerous, but he had Soundwave’s mark upon his chestplate. Starscream was similarly removed, bearing more than one mark, which, presumably, belonged to his trine. Among the Decepticons, there were few who ranked so highly, and they were all systematically removed.
Which left him with the Autobots. It almost didn’t bear thinking about.
If the Decepticons’ highly dangerous mechanisms were limited, the Autobots were barely a servo-full. Ultra Mangus? Definitely not, he bore an eight upon his brow. Perhaps Jazz? But no, that was impossible as well, he remembered agreeing to a temporary ceasefire vorns ago for the mech’s bonding ceremony to Prowl. His options narrowed considerably. Who in the Autobots didn’t bear a visible sparkmark? He tried to ignore the obvious, but he had eliminated all the other designations, all the other Cybertronians he could think of who could have that tremendous power, both physically and socially. He pressed his helm to the desk in his quarters, counting his vents before he considered his first last choice.
Optimus Prime had no visible sparkmark. Intelligence had never revealed a mate or even a lover. Optimus Prime was powerful, both in frame and in influence. A religious and military leader — someone dangerous, if he so chose to be. Primus, it was him, wasn’t it?
On one servo, Optimus Prime was the most infuriating, irritating, utterly pious mech he had ever had the dubious pleasure of meeting. He often saw good where there was none, placed his trust in fleshy humans over his own species, and wrote off Cybertron’s dark history with a hypocritical wave of “we aren’t them,” all while perpetuating the same outdated slag the villains of the Primacy had been stating for decavorns. On the other, however, he was utterly magnificent. Honorable to a fault, even sometimes to his detriment, and Megatron couldn’t help but admire his seemingly easy kindness. The Decepticons did not value mercy, but there was a part of him, a part that bore the spark of a young gladiator-revolutionary, who deeply respected the Prime’s dedication to second chances, even when the beings in question didn’t deserve them.
Perhaps especially then. Megatron tried to shake off a shiver of grief, a longing for a sparkmate both new and old.
The more he ruminated on it, the more likely it seemed that his spark had been twinned with Optimus Prime’s. He didn’t know the mech’s exact age, but reports said that he had entered the conflict and ascended to the Primacy only a few orns after the war began. It was possible that Megatron’s sparkmark had appeared at that time, he certainly would have been too busy to notice it. While privately researching Optimus (again), he paid more close attention to the sections of intelligence reports that focused on his personal life. It was all rather speculative — mostly blank, in fact. When Megatron approached Soundwave about it, the mech had seemed distinctly disapproving of the warlord’s choices, intoning a short: “Information: not considered vital to Decepticon cause.” After prodding his reticent Third, he finally broke, shaking his helm slightly, “Additional facts: files of Optimus Prime greatly altered, sections missing or heavily edited. Conclusion: Autobot intelligence desires to keep the origin and personal life of the Prime secret.” Which was all well and good, but it wasn’t that useful to know that the Prime favored human poetry and prose and had a partiality to going on drives in the early morning.
His attempts to find more information proved fruitless, as even after contacting Shockwave for reports from what little of Iacon’s archival database remained, he learned that there was nothing on the mech prior to the war, as if he’d simply walked out of the ether and into the command of Autobot forces. Megatron set aside a time to ask Soundwave why they had never notified him of such a large gap in knowledge about the enemy leader, but he found himself thinking more about what little data there was on the mech.
If Prime was his sparkmate — a shiver ran up his struts at the thought — perhaps he wasn’t worth destroying. He briefly entertained his past fantasies, of breaking Optimus, making the last Prime and Bearer of the Matrix bow to him in supplication, but found they filled him with unease, the mark upon his palm burning at the less-than-pristine line of thought. Curse the sparkmark, unconsciously affecting his thoughts — what if Optimus wasn’t his? He wouldn’t spare the mech in that case, but there was really only one way to confirm a sparkmate… Megatron pressed his marked servo to his chest, feeling a thrum of something in his spark as he did so. A sparkmerge. With Prime. It was unthinkable. The mech would have access to every thought he’d ever had, every memory. It was as much, if not more dangerous than hardlining, because at least you could hide things in a hardline. The alternative, of course, was not confirming his hunch and watching his number fade out as he let Optimus die in the dirt. Megatron couldn’t even really imagine that — Optimus dying. The Autobot was Megatron’s erstwhile nemesis, a mech he met in battle so often he felt he might know him better than anyone else, if only because he had been on the receiving end of the most honest force known to any living being — he’d seen the violence in Optimus’s spark. He wondered if the reverse was true about himself.
Did Optimus know him best, above all others?
Perhaps he did, as when Megatron’s forces raided a mostly-defunct mine only a few days later, the Prime was there to meet him, blaster drawn as he ducked through the narrow tunnel’s passageway to where the warlord had been overseeing the collection of palladium to be sent back to Cybertron. It would have been an excellent time to fight, were it not for the apparent instability of the mine. Megatron had known the second he entered it, his deep range scanners coming online automatically as he went belowground — multiple layers, shaky foundations, shoddily supported passageways — it was a veritable deathtrap. The idea had been to get in and get out before the Autobots even had time to react, which had been going splendidly until Starscream had let one of the miners slip containment for just long enough to call for reinforcements, which led him to their current predicament.
He couldn’t fire his cannon in such an unstable environment, not when every other step made dust rain down onto his armor. The Constructions startled every time rocks clattered against their plating, and Bonecrusher let loose a most humiliating squeak when Optimus entered the multi-layer cavern, leveling his blaster at Megatron as he bypassed the others in favor of keeping the warlord in his sights. The ground beneath them shivered at their combined weight, and Megatron tried to keep his discomfort from showing.
“Prime!” he cried, “Watch your footing or you may bring the ceiling down on all of us!” A few other Autobots flooded in and the Constructions jumped to engage them, leaving Megatron with Optimus on an increasingly unstable bit of ground.
“Scared, Megatron?” Optimus taunted, harkening back to the grey mech’s words the last time they’d met. His digit tightened on the blaster’s trigger, and Megatron’s optics widened.
“One of us has to have a sense of self-preservation, you fool, seeing as you seem to be in haste to bury us both in a million tons of dirt and rubble,” he responded, moving to more stable ground. Optimus’s blaster followed him, and Megatron lamented the fact that he couldn’t use his damned cannon, because sparkmate or not the mech was going to get them killed.
Of course, he had been so focused on Prime’s idiocy that he missed the Constructicons deciding that a miles-underground, unstable mine was the perfect place to combine into Devastator. Before he’d even seen the combiner form, before he’d heard the shouts of Autobots as rock and debris rained down, Megatron felt the tremble beneath his pedes and a cold fear in his tanks. His origin as a miner had lanced the fear of being trapped underground deep into his CNA, and it was that split second of hesitation that prevented him from moving as the rocky floor gave way beneath his pedes, sending him sailing down several stories of the multilevel mine. His left arm snagged on something that had him crying out in agony as the limb was ripped from his frame, too much rock and dirt cascading on him for the offending appendage to hold up against. There was another voice mixed in with his own surprised shout — Optimus, who seemed to have fallen into the pit as well. He landed heavily, enough rock piling on top of his frame to push the air out of his vents, leaving his engine to stall out and jump painfully in his abdomen. Somewhere to his left, he heard another metal-on-rock clang. Optimus. He tried to move, failed, tried again, this time bringing his energon-starved processor back online as his engine finally restarted.
Megatron rose slowly, pushing the heavier rocks off of his chassis, with his single functioning arm, battered and damaged, the cannon looking almost defunct, but still thankfully capable of movement. He heaved himself to his pedes, taking in the sparking wiring beneath his armor and pierced protoform. The pain seemed muted still, adrenaline taking over his processor as he tried to analyze the situation. Above him, there were surprised shouts and a sizable amount of yelling from Devastator. Why, he asked whatever deity was listening, why is it that merging five mechanisms' minds into one decreased their processing power?
As expected, no deity answered him. There was a groan from somewhere in the wreckage where Prime had to be buried, a peek of bright red armor, now scraped and dusty, showing from between the rocks. The mech was struggling to pull himself from the wreckage, strong in battle, but not quite meant for the crushing weight of rubble like Megatron’s own frame was. Megatron didn’t bother pointing a weapon at Optimus, seeing the crushed remains of his blaster a few meters away. Instead, he waited for the other mech to pull himself out on his own, taking the time to manually shut down the energon flow to his now-missing arm.
Prime finally freed himself from the last of the boulders, struggling upright to lean against a bit of non-collapsed wall. He looked up, but they had fallen too far to see the action, well and truly stranded from the battle, which was getting more and more precarious by the second. After several seconds of pointless observation, Megatron cleared his vocalizer, making Optimus jump, almost as if he’d forgotten the warlord was there.
“If I thought I wouldn’t need your questionable assistance getting out of here, I’d kill you where-” Megatron cut himself off as his optics focused on his nemesis’ faceplate as the Prime turned to fully face him. “What happened to your battlemask?”
Optimus’s scratched and dented servos reached up to feel his helm, and face, digits brushing over a jagged tear on one side where his ever-present mask had once been. Megatron was drawn to the scene, his ultra-attuned optics making out, even in the dark, a smudge of something red directly in the center of Optimus’s lips. The lighting from the mineshaft above them was just enough for the Autobot to see through the gloom, apparently, as he had no problem escaping to the other end of the pit they’d fallen into. “I must have lost it in the fall,” he explained matter-of-factly, careful to keep his helm turned away from Megatron.
“Come now, Prime, surely I’ve seen worse than your bare faceplate before,” Megatron ribbed, moving with ease in the darkness to corner the Prime. Optimus’s engine growled in response, and he turned, lips parting to defend himself from the warlord’s joking when the ominous sound of Devastator crashing into something above them echoed through the cavern. Megatron and Optimus looked at each other, and he got the barest glance of a bright red fifteen on the other mech’s lips before he heard the ceiling above them start to cave in. Megatron had been about to wrench himself away from the mech when Optimus caught sight of something behind them. He could only follow the Autobot’s lead when he pushed the warlord backward with a cry of “Look out!”, sending them both careening beneath a sturdy overhang as the rockfall reached them, this time with the added weight of reinforced steel beams.
Megatron had sailed into the wall, a victim of Optimus’s divinely-gifted Primely strength, so he’d been spared much of the hail of rock and boulders. Optimus wasn’t so lucky, twisting on his back to try and curl beneath the safety of the jutting rock. He must have missed his safe exit by a millionth of a second, and Megatron felt time seem to slow as one of the ceiling’s supports landed on top of the Prime, punching a hole through his armor with deceptive ease. Optimus didn’t even scream. The mark on Megatron’s remaining servo began to throb.
After the rocks had finished falling, it was eerily quiet, the noises of Devastator and the Autobot troops muffled by layers of rock, assuming that they hadn’t all been flattened. Megatron moved forward, almost crawling in the small cave formed by the overhang, his audials straining to hear the wheezing of Optimus’s engine.
The mech’s optics were dimmed but flickered back to life at the warlord’s approach, his marked lips turning up in a wry smile as he coughed, energon flecking the red number on his lips. “Going to finish the job? I think it may be rather unnecessary.”
The mark burned. “You will not offline from this, Prime. You’re better than this.” The thought of Optimus dying now, just as it seemed that Megatron had found his spark’s twin in him, was unthinkable.
“I don’t think that’s up for you to decide this time, Megatron.”
Well, that was absurd. “Like the Pit, it’s not!” he snapped, crawling forward through the rubble to approach Optimus’s side. He had to know. “I didn’t spend four million years fighting you for a cave-in to kill you.” He looked at the wound—it would kill him if he didn’t clamp off whatever was ruptured in his abdomen. He nodded to himself, a big hand gripping the support beam.
He would save the Prime, and then he would find out if the mech was his sparkmate.
Optimus’s servos shot up, weakly grabbing for his own, “What are you doing?!” He was upset, a little scared, flinching away, but there was plenty of time for him to be fearful when he wasn’t looking at Megatron with flickering blue optics. He didn’t have long. The warlord tried not to think of what his past self would have thought of him now.
“I’m saving your Primus-forsaken life, you ungrateful glitch, now stop talking before you panic into an early grave,” he replied testily, before tugging on the support beam. Optimus cried out, a wet gurgle escaping his lips. Not a good sign. Megatron kept pulling, his single servo on the beam, wishing he had the other so he could pin the Prime’s chassis down while he writhed and bucked against the pain.
The beam pulled free with a sickening squeal of metal-on-metal, energon speckling both of their frames in its spray. Megatron tossed it aside, pushing Optimus flat again, “I need to see what you’ve pierced, if it’s still damaged I may be able to stop the flow.” He didn’t wait for a response, not expecting one if the glazed, surprised look in the Prime’s optics was an accurate view of his mental state.
Using his superior dark vision, he peered into the wound, digits probing the edges. The hole was ragged, the kind he expected from dull metal, but he couldn’t see the place where the bulk of the energon was leaking from. Cringing at Optimus’s plaintive whine of pain, the sensation of a servo digging into his chassis was unpleasant. If he had been the type, he would have apologized. But Megatron wasn’t, so instead, he gripped the Prime’s shoulder briefly with his bloodied servo, grounding the mech with a raspy: “Quiet now, it’s almost over.”
Optimus settled at the attempt at comfort, one of his servos coming up to grip at Megatron’s forearm. A sense of deja-vu struck the grey mech, just as the Autobot smiled wryly, energon dribbling down his lips, masking the fifteen that marked them. “This will be the second time I’ve died with your servo on my chassis while I grabbed at you,” he said simply, sounding surprisingly sad about it for a mech who reacted so violently to him.
Megatron, to his credit, only froze for a second. “You’re not going to die,” he replied forcefully, feeling what he thought was a hole in a ruptured fuel tank. He ignored Optimus’s statement, chalking it up to shock and pain-induced delusion. “I’ve found the wound, Prime, I believe I can patch it.”
Optimus stilled beneath him, “So you’re actually going to save me?” Static laced his words, the effects of steadily draining fuel. The grey mech snorted, saying nothing as he rummaged through his subspace for the repair kit he’d taken to keeping with him since Starscream had tried to assassinate him alone in the jungle. One could never be too safe, and he had never been so glad for his so-called paranoia as when he had used the kit to patch up the Prime, fueling him and watching as the energon stayed where it was supposed to go.
Optimus had dropped into stasis at some point, a small mercy given the unmedicated and highly agonizing patch he’d just received. He’d stayed offline as Megatron dragged him away from the unstable entrance to the overhang, where twisted metal and rubble had blocked them in, and hadn’t so much as stirred while Megatron tried to put in a comm to Soundwave. There was no intelligible response, just static, but at least his signal was being broadcast—if the Constructicons survived, they would dig him out. He rested with his back to the wall, fully intending to drop into low power mode, when he looked over at Optimus, seeing the red on his lips.
Curiously, he swiped away the energon, looking at the number, a match to his own. He flipped his servo over, staring at his palm. The same size. The same font. The same rank. A match. A mate.
His mate. Megatron looked away, forcing himself to focus on one of the cave walls, trying very valiantly not to make the connection he knew to be true.
He didn’t have long to avoid the truth, however, as Optimus’s engine roared to life, loud in the quiet of their shared tomb. He tried to sit up, too fast, and Megatron was quick to push him back to the ground, his single functioning arm forcing the Prime back. “Move and you’ll strain the welds, I’m not working with a medic’s proficiency.”
Mercifully, the Autobot didn’t try to move, frozen beneath Megatron’s servo. “I didn’t expect to be waking up,” he said weakly, sounding pained.
Megatron huffed, “I told you you wouldn’t offline, Prime.”
“You’ll forgive me for thinking I would, Megatron. Optimus’s optics were cold, his exposed, full lips set in a frown, “Why would you save me?”
The warlord cycled his vents, before tapping Optimus’s lower lip, “I saved you because of that. I saw the way you looked at my mark when we last met.”
He flinched away from the touch, caught, “It could mean nothing.”
“It could mean everything,” Megatron fired back.
There was no response, only Optimus’s hazy staring, his optics dimmed from low energon. Silence reigned between them, so oppressive in the small space that Megatron could almost feel it on his plating. It was claustrophobic in ways that mining had never been. Finally, the red and blue mech broke contact with him, turning his helm away from the bright beacon of Megatron’s optics to look into the darkness of the cave. “When did you start caring about fate, Megatron?” he asked, almost accusingly, “You never cared about frivolity like that before, it was a sticking point of your old speeches.” Optimus’s optics rolled to focus on the ceiling, “And that aside, what would you do,” he began quietly, still not looking at Megatron, “if we are… sparkmates?” He seemed to barely be able to bring himself to say it.
“I don’t know,” Megatron replied, just as quiet, his rough voice as honest as it had ever been. “I missed a chance with— with my first sparkmate. I don’t want to let it happen again.”
Optimus seemed to tense up, his frame locking, not caring that it strained the ragged hole in his side. “Your first sparkmate?” he asked, barely audible. “You said they died… did you know them?
“No,” he said, “I didn’t. I hardly knew anything about them other than the low rank of my sparkmark.” He sighed, staring up at the rocky ceiling, “I covered the mark after it faded, I didn’t even know I had another beneath it until the day your axe melted my armor. And yours? Have you always borne that mark?”
There was only silence for a moment, and Megatron swiveled to look at Optimus again. He very nearly reeled back when he saw, in the gleam of their optics, twin tracks of coolant running down his faceplates. “Prime?! What—?”
“I’ve had this one my whole life, not always in the same place, of course,” Optimus said carefully, reaching a shaky, injured servo up to touch his lips, wipe at his face. “But I’ve had this sparkmark since before I was Prime, and I think I’ve always known it was you.” He laughed, a harsh, bitter noise, one Megatron had never heard him make, “I was so—so excited to see you that day, on the docks.” The warlord felt a creeping sense of horror as he remembered the only other fifteen sparkmark he’d ever seen, blue servos pressing frantically at his fusion cannon. Something in his spark twisted. Maybe there were others, maybe Optimus was confused—
“Do you remember me, Megatron? Did I make a lasting impression on you? I was so happy, and then I was dead. I woke up in a body that wasn’t mine and had to look at the proof of what you murdered staring back at me every time I passed a mirror. It was a cosmic joke, it had to be, that I had your mark across my lips, where I couldn’t hide it from anyone. I used to wonder what I had done, what had angered Primus so terribly that he thought I deserved this.”
Megatron was silent, stiff where he sat close to Optimus because there was no room to get away and he was trapped and the Prime took his silence as an invitation to continue. “I wanted to hate you. I did hate you, for so, so long. You took everything from me, after all,” he sounded tired, weary. “But I think Optimus Prime couldn’t hate you any more than Orion Pax could.” There was nothing really left to say, with that out in the open. Megatron’s vocalizer clicked, bleating static as it reset and tried to reorient itself. He didn’t speak, not for a long time, not until he could hear the faint noises of what had to be the Decepticons digging him out of the pit he’d been trapped in. How could respond? How could he rectify this? A thousand vorns of war? A million different conflicts? They would have been child’s play to deal with because war had a chance of being forgiven, there could be justification in war. Was there forgiveness for an unprovoked murder? Could he ever justify himself? The noise of shifting rock grew louder; there wasn’t much of a chance to speak left, so he gathered himself, still reeling.
“After this,” he asked, his voice weak, “could there be anything but hate between us?” He thought of the look on the dockhand’s face, the betrayed optics that had never left his processor, even thousands of vorns later, and felt a detached sort of horror as all the pieces slid fully into place. Optimus Prime was his sparkmate. Optimus Prime had once been Orion Pax. He had killed Orion Pax. He had killed his own sparkmate. He stared down at the strange, silvery fifteen on his palm, scarred and pale against his dark plating. He had killed his sparkmate.
Optimus’s brow arched, “I hardly think you’re the one with the right to get emotional, Megatron. It wasn’t you who died.” Energon was still sluggishly leaking out of the partially patched gash in his side. “Besides, clearly there are things other than hate between us. We’re speaking right now, aren’t we?”
“You seem remarkably calm about this, for someone who was so angry a klik ago,” Megatron commented.
“I’ve had a long time to get over it,” Optimus replied, a wry smile pulling at his lips. Something in him seemed tired now that he’d gotten his grief out, and Megatron hoped that he’d patched the wound fully—that it wasn’t energon loss addling his neural circuitry. “So, what are you going to do, Megatron? Now we’re on equal footing. You know everything I do.”
There was no good way to answer, no neat and tidy way he could organize his rioting thoughts and gift them to the Prime. Maybe there would never be a way for him to say it. Megatron laughed, a bitter sort of vindication running through him, “Say, Prime, you’re spiritually connected,” he cast a servo over Optimus’s chest, where the Matrix lay. “So maybe you can tell us why Primus has played this joke on us—is he truly that cruel of a god?”
“I think it may simply be you who is cruel,” came Optimus’s slow response, optics tracking the motion of Megatron’s servo.
The rubble at the mouth of the cave crumbled, interrupting whatever he had been about to say, and Bonecrusher’s face appeared in the gap. “Found them!” he called gruffly, and there was a scuffle of some sort from out of sight before the Constructicon was pushed aside and Jazz’s relieved faceplate appeared in the gap as the other bots worked to free them.
Megatron pulled his servo back like it had been burned, guilty, leaving the newcomers to stare awkwardly after the movement. “So…” Jazz began awkwardly, “how’s everyone doin’? Lotta bots were gonna lay money down on y’all slaggin’ each other before we dug you out.”
Optimus struggled to sit up, shaking with pain and loss of energon, “I’m—we’re both fine, Jazz. Though I will need Ratchet’s assistance with this patch-up,” he motioned to his punctured chest plating, and that had his Third struggling through the narrow gap, pushing Megatron aside with such worried ferocity that the warlord couldn’t even get angry about it. Optimus seemed to weather the saboteur’s mother-henning with grace, even as he smiled, thinly, repeating “I’m fine, truly,” over and over again.
“Prowl ‘n good ol’ Sounders decided we could put aside our differences for a joor to get y’all outta here, so we’re just gonna grab you and go, boss,” Jazz informed them, already supporting Optimus as he struggled to rise to his pedes. There wasn’t quite enough room for a bot the size of Megatron or the Prime, so they stood, stooped oddly as they left the little cave.
Outside it was an interfaction mess, a dozen soldiers on both sides running around to stabilize the mine, rubble, crushed equipment, and twisted, broken steel beams making a morbid point of how close they had both come to death. Another Construction approached Megatron, clutching his mangled arm in his servos. “Found this for you, Lord Megatron,” Scrapper said, hefting the limb. The grey mech nodded numbly, watching Jazz lead Optimus away. He was whisked away promptly, with only a nod shared between the two of them, Optimus’s sparkmark on full display and catching a fair bit of attention from both factions.
There was really no reason to stay, after that.
Oh! we, who have known shame, we have found release there,
Where there’s no ill, no grief, but sleep has mending,
Naught broken save this body, lost but breath;
Nothing to shake the laughing heart’s long peace there,
But only agony, and that has ending;
And the worst friend and enemy is but Death.
((Peace, Rupert Brooke))