I want to thank everyone for taking the time to review!
I've already gotten several questions on this subject, so let me put this to rest right now. At the moment, there is only one official pairing, this being Jack/Arcee (Jacee). Transformers itself has never put too much focus on romance in the past, so don't expect there to be much of it here either. Jack's and Arcee's relationship will be something that slowly evolves over time, with it right now still being just a budding friendship. Remember that Arcee didn't really start connecting with Jack until after the episode Predatory, and while June's death will bring them closer together, they're still a long way off from being interested in each other that way.
That said, there will be mentions of some one-sided emotions/pairings as well in the future.
Chapter 2: Nightmare
"Jack, help me!" He blinked as he took in the scene before him. His mother was reaching out for him with one hand while trapped in Airachnid's clutches. Franticly, he looked around him, hoping to find Arcee or another one of the Autobots nearby. They weren't. The only thing surrounding him was the familiar rocky formations of Nevada's wasteland. In the distance he could just see the unimposing outline of Jasper, a small beacon of light in the night. 'The base can't be too far away then!' He pulled out his cell phone to call the Autobots, only to let out a sound of dismay when he found that he had no bars.
"What's wrong Jack? No one coming to your rescue?" Airachnid taunted and he glared up at her hatefully, before letting his gaze drop as he watched his mother worriedly. "Why do you need someone to save you anyways? Can't you protect your mother on your own? You can't always expect for Arcee or Optimus to come and save you." She said while she circled around him, carelessly tossing his mom between her hands.
Jack stared back at her, numb and speechless. What could he say? Airachnid was right on all accounts.
It his reasonability to look after Miko and Raf. He had to take care of his mom, like dad had told him to do before he'd passed away. The thought of his father made his heart ache. Oh, what he wouldn't give to have his dad with him now. 'Dad would know what to do.' That was a certainty; there was no doubt in his mind that his father could have saved mom. His dad wasn't here though and Jack felt completely helpless as he watched Airachnid suddenly tighten her grasp around his mother, making her gasp in pain.
"Jack! Help!" She screamed as Airachnid continued to squeeze her tighter.
"Airachnid, please stop. I'll do w-whatever you want if you just let her go!" Jack shouted as he watched his mother's face scrunch up agony. Airachnid chuckled for a second, before she gave another squeeze, and he gasped as he heard something snap, accompanied by his mother's screams. Horror and rage fought for dominance, but it was his mother's tearstained face that stirred Jack into action.
He charged at Airachnid, wanting nothing more than to tear her apart with his own hands. One of her many legs swept towards him so fast, he didn't even have a chance to bring up his arms as he was hit in the chest. He was flung backwards through the air, limbs flailing as he tried to latch onto something, and he hit the ground hard enough to knock the wind out of him. Jack struggled to push himself up, aware that his mom had renewed her shouting, and hissed as he put pressure on his right hand. Looking at it, he saw that there was a gash on the back of it, bleeding freely.
For a second, the cut seemed to almost glow green.
"Jackson!" His mother screamed even louder than before. He looked up and had to fight back tears as he saw Airachnid's clawed finger [pierce through his mom's shoulder. Reality set-in with a sickening jolt that as he realized he couldn't save her! Self-loathing rose up inside of him, burning at the back of his throat. He felt pathetic and worth less than the dirt he was sprawled out on. It was as if he was six all over again, only able to watch and cry as his father wasted away in a hospital bed.
"Dad, please help us! I can't save mom on my own!" He begged as he dug his nails into the ground and ducked his chin against his chest, eyes clenched shut to keep himself from crying. He felt so afraid, so useless. Why couldn't he be strong enough for his mom? Why couldn't he have been enough? He'd promised to take care of her. "Please dad, I need you..."
"I'm here, Jack." He stilled at hearing a deep voice, sounding both calm and strong.
Was that– but no, that couldn't be right. His dad was dead, it had to be his imagination.
Airachnid suddenly let out a pained cry and Jack quickly looked up in shock to see the spider-bot flying through the air before smashing into a rock formation. He watched as the shady and blurred figure that had knocked Airachnid away, safely caught his mom before setting her on the ground. She rushed towards him and he, elated and so relieved, did the same.
They collided painfully, her tight hug making his aching ribs twinge a little, and though it was uncomfortable, Jack didn't ask her to loosen her grip. She was safe and he would never let something like this happen ever again. With his mother tucked close at his side, Jack turned back to watch the fight between their mystery savoir and Airachnid. He still couldn't see who it was, it was like a shadow itself was fighting, but he knew who it was.
Dad. Only his father had ever made him feel this safe.
Jack turned to his mom to ask her if she thought that the same thing, but he froze when he found her several feet away and trapped in Soundwave's grip. She wasn't the only captured human either. Miko and Raf were being held by Breakdown and Knock Out respectively, while Starscream had Agent Fowler. At the head of the group stood Megatron, the massive Decepticon looking all the more terrifying in person.
He turned to warn his dad and found him on the defensive of Airachnid's furious attacks. Just as Jack was starting to panic once more, he heard the approaching roar of Arcee's engine. Help was on the way. His dad had just kicked Airachnid a good distance towards the Decepticons when the Autobots rolled up and he smiled shakily as he watched his friends transform.
Arcee looked furious, her scowl focused on Airachnid, glancing at him only once before returning her attention to the spider-bot. Bumblebee had his fists up, already bouncing on his toes, and beeped something at Raf, who visibly calmed at his guardian's words. Bulkhead was pounding his fists menacingly while glaring at Breakdown and Jack could faintly hear Miko cheering the Wrecker on before she began heckling the Decepticons. Ratchet stood near the back, face grim as he glared at the Cons.
Jack quickly noticed that the team wasn't complete though, and after a desperate look around, he realized that Optimus wasn't there. He didn't know where the Prime could be, but he trusted that the Autobot leader would show up soon. He watched his father join up with the Autobots, his stature towering over the others as he stood at the front of the group.
"Release them, Megatron." Dad demanded in such a frigid tone that Jack felt chills go down his spine. Megatron merely looked amused at his father's impressive display, giving them all a jagged smile and a mocking tilt of his head.
"Very well, the humans are of no importance to me. They were simply bait to bring you Autobots out of hiding." The Decepticon leader replied with a dark chuckle as he nodded towards his men. They each gave their own wicked smiles and did as Megatron had ordered. They released their captives– letting them fall several stories. Jack's breath caught and he vainly reached out for them, catching his dad doing the same from the corner of his eye.
They screamed as they fell downward, silenced only when they smashed into the unforgiving ground.
The Autobots' shouts of dismay and disbelief were drowned out by his father's roar of anger. Jack could only stare, shocked. The two opposing sides ran towards each other, drawing their weapons, neither faction intending to let the other live. One side would lose.
Arcee used her impressive agility to dodge Airachnid's acid and unleashed a volley of blasts from her guns, knocking the Con into the ground. Bulkhead and Breakdown crashed into each other, both relying on sheer strength and endurance to win the fight. Bumblebee took on Knock Out, weaving in and out of the Decepticon's attacks before delivering an uppercut that knocked the medic off his feet. Ratchet lunged at Soundwave, chainsaws whirling, but quickly retreated in order to avoid being hit by a stray shot from one of the others.
Jack had already started to cross the battlefield, hiding behind whatever cover he could find, heading towards where the other humans were. There was a slim chance that they could still be alive, and he wouldn't just cower in the shadows instead of helping them. Briefly, his eyes roamed over the battles to locate his dad and found him fighting against both Megatron and Starscream. He seemed to be holding his own well enough, but Jack wished that Optimus would show up soon.
When he finally reached the others, Jack quickly covered his mouth in a useless attempt to stop himself from throwing up. He stumbled away from the scene and heaved his stomach contents beside a nearby rock. Wiping his sleeve across his mouth, he returned to the bloody display in hopes of finding a survivor.
Agent Fowler had been impaled by a sharp rock formation that went through the center of his stomach leaving no doubt in Jack's mind that the man was dead. He found his mother's body next and was struck by a severe sense of déjà vu, her battered corpse leaving him with a deeper feeling of dread and horror than Fowler's. Starring at her body, Jack found he was too afraid to look at her face. Quickly turning away from her, he spotted Miko and Raf a few feet away.
A gasp escaped him as he stumbled away from their entangled bodes. Miko had curled herself around Raf in order to protect him, but her thin body hadn't been enough of a cushion for his given how mangled his small body looked. Miko wasn't that much better, her eyes wide and blank, blood smeared over her face. Jack collapsed to his knees and buried his face into his hands, a shrill yell leaving his mouth.
They were all dead and he knew that it was somehow his fault.
The ground suddenly shook tremendously, causing him to fall over, the legs of his pants and hands instantly getting soaked by the combined blood of his friends and family. Pushing himself up unsteadily, Jack blearily looked towards the battles that were taking place. His eyes widened as he saw the dire states of the Autobots. Ratchet was being held up in the air by Soundwave, who was preparing to stab his blade-like arm straight through the unconscious medic's chest. Bumblebee was screaming as he writhed in pain on the ground while Knock Out prodded him with his electric staff. The scout's beeps and whirls coming out louder and more human than Jack had ever heard.
Bulkhead was trapped in Breakdown's hold, forced onto his knees and grunting as Breakdown held him in place by pressing his foot into the Wrecker's back. He could hear the sound of Bulkhead's arms being slowly torn away, the sharp piercing sound of shrieking metal echoing over the area. A glance showed Arcee's legs were trapped under a mountain of fallen rocks and Jack could see Airachnid slowly staggering towards his fallen protector. He was pleased to see that the spider Decepticon was missing a few limbs of her own, but Arcee wasn't getting up, she wasn't even moving. He desperately searched for his dad, praying that he'd already won his fight and was going to be able to save the others.
His father was still fighting, but he seemed to be hurt. He struggled to dodge Megatron's attacks and was completely thrown off course whenever Starscream would attack him from the sky. He cursed and rubbed his eyes, hoping to clear his dad's blurry image. Suddenly, his father stumbled and Jack could see the victorious smirk on Megatron's face. With a quick lunge from the Decepticon warlord, Megatron stabbed his sword through his father's chest, the blade continuing through and piercing out of his back.
"No!" Jack screamed as he raced towards his father. He rushed past Bulkhead's armless corpse and a grinning Breakdown. He slid on the Energon that was leaking from the gaping hole in Ratchet's chest. He dodged Bumblebee's still twitching hand, a reflex leftover from a dead body. He let out a sob and cringed as he saw Airachnid cut off Arcee's head, claiming it as her trophy.
"…Dad…" Jack panted as he finally reached his fallen father. The rest of his words got caught in his throat when the blurry appearance of his dad finally cleared. He stumbled back in surprise. It wasn't his father at all, it was Optimus! How had he managed to confuse the two? Jack hesitantly placed his hand onto Optimus's face and exhaled heavily, feeling absurdly disappointed. He'd been so dumb to think that his dad was alive again. He knew dad died ten years ago.
"Jackson." His head snapped up to look at the Prime in surprise and Jack felt his breath hitch. Optimus looked so much like his father when he had last seen the man, giving him the same broken down, apologetic look. He could still remember one of the last things his dad had ever said to him. "I... I don't think I'm gonna get better, Jackson." The teenager gritted his teeth and leaned forward, placing his forehead against Optimus's cheek, just below his fading eye.
"It's okay… dad." He whispered back, saying the words he'd wished he'd said ten years ago. It was a lie though, and nothing would ever be okay again. He heard Optimus let out a weary sigh and he knew that the leader of the Autobots was dead.
"As touching as this is, I think it's time we finish things, don't you Jack?" He heard Airachnid say from behind him. He turned around just in time to see a foot come crashing down towards him.
Jack screamed as he rolled off the couch and fell onto the floor. He sat up quickly, panting and shivering, searching the room for Airachnid. He sighed once he realized that it had all been a dream and that everyone was okay. 'Except for mom.' His sleep ridden mind had to think about why he'd thought such a thing for a few moments before he finally remembered.
Right, she'd died last night.
A lead weight seemed to fall into his stomach, making his body feel heavy and sick; his mind immediately conjuring up a mental image of her corpse. That was why his mom's death in his dream had felt different. Some part of his mind must have subconsciously realized that she was the only person who wasn't going to be alive when he woke up. Jack's stomach lurched suddenly and he did his best to ignore his dream's gruesomeness.
Despite his best efforts though, he couldn't help but focus on at least one aspect from his nightmare: Optimus.
He'd never even thought of the Prime as a father figure before, and yet his dream had taken it a step further. He'd been so sure that the mystery savoir was his father and even when he'd found out otherwise, he'd still called Optimus dad. Did he really feel that way about the Prime, an Autobot he could barely speak two sentences to before losing his nerve? Jack looked around the room, as if checking to make sure that no one was there to hear his thoughts and he suddenly felt very embarrassed.
'Ugh, I need to get a grip. It's just a side effect from trauma or something. Yeah, that's it. I lost mom so my subconscious was trying to... to fill the void or something." Though why his mind had decided to focus on Optimus, he still had no idea. His embarrassment quickly turned into self-irritation. He knew he was hurting, but he wasn't going to latch on Optimus like a little kid. That was an unhealthy coping mechanism that could be just as damaging as pushing others away.
"Huh, guess mom was right, psychology can be helpful." Jack mused out loud, wincing as his speaking made his throat itch terrible, making him wonder when he last drank something. His mom had made him take a psych class as an elective in ninth grade and he'd continued to dabble in the subject since then. Becoming a psychiatrist had been a future career he'd seriously considered. Now, he couldn't even imagine doing such a thing. It just felt... unimportant.
His mother's biggest regret when he'd been choosing electives was that there hadn't been a course focusing on first aid. Of course she'd taken it upon herself to teach him whatever she could, whenever she could, and while Jack didn't have enough knowledge or skill to perform an operation, he could certainly handle the basics. Now that she was gone, he'd have to put those skills to use.
The teenager stared at the hand that had been burned by Airachnid's acid apprehensively. He poked at the area that had once been melted, testing his skin, muscles and bones. He twiddled his fingers, checking for any sluggish movement or tremors. He lifted, pushed, and pulled anything that he could get his hands on. There didn't seem to be any pain nor was there any deficiency in his motor skills. His muscles looked to be as strong as ever. and as far as he could tell, there seemed to be no damage done to his bones.
He sighed as he studied his hand, genuinely stumped. By all accounts, it should be nothing more than a stub of melted flesh and bone. He shivered at that image. A part of him knew that he should talk to Ratchet about this, but on the other hand, he didn't want to cause a fuss if it really wasn't an issue. After all, he was healed right? Who complains about being healthy?
Jack yawned while he stretched and rubbed the back of his head. There was no way he'd be able to go back to sleep now.
"Lights." He said, giving a small smile as they turned on overhead, and paused to look over the command center of the Autobot base. It looked a lot bigger when there were no Bots to fill the space. Gaze dropping to the insignia painted on the floor, Jack couldn't help but feel very alone in that moment. Pulling back his sleeve, he glanced at the battered watch on his wrist that had once been his dad's, seeing that it was only 4:23 in the morning. Raf and Miko wouldn't show up for another four hours at least. The thought of looking for Arcee crossed his mind for a moment before he remembered that she'd left the base last night.
Had she even come back yet?
Sighing tiredly, Jack grabbed his duffle bag and rummaged around inside to get a towel, shampoo, deodorant, his tooth brush, and a comb. He paused when his hands found something far more precious. Carefully, he pulled out the small picture frame he'd taken from his mom's bedroom. It held an old photograph that had been taken almost eleven years ago. Jack smiled half-heartedly at the happy family of three. His dad had one hand on his head while the other was wrapped tightly around his mom's waist, pulling her closer to him.
Joshua Darby was handsome, as he had often liked to claim, always claiming that the only reason mom had married him was because of his good looks. He had black hair, like the rest of the family, but Jack had remembered it usually being covered up with a baseball cap that he'd rarely taken off. He'd been a relatively tall man, a few inches shy of six feet, and he'd had a muscular physic. In the picture he wore a black leather jacket, a white T-shirt, blue jeans, and black biker boots. His dad had been brave, protective, but a bit thick at times, hardworking, loving, and happy. He'd also never had any qualms about having desert before dinner. Jack could still recall when his dad would pick him up from kindergarten and sometimes take him to get ice cream before they went home, both promising not to tell mom.
Jack turned to look from his beaming father to gaze at his younger mother. She had on a smirk and was giving his dad a sideglance filled with amusement. Her hair had been cut short at the time, barely brushing against her shoulders. Instead of wearing her usual outfit of scrubs, she had on a red tank top, blue jeans, and sneakers. It was the attire of a woman who worked a normal number of hours, instead of the ones she'd later have to work to keep up with the bills. She had less worry lines on her face and she looked more relaxed than Jack had seen in years.
In those days, she was still very much the same person as she was now. She smiled a bit less though, and after dad had died, she'd become obsessed with his safety. Jack had always been annoyed before by her overprotectiveness, but now he understood her reasons better. It was unbearable to lose the only family you had left.
His eyes drifted to that of the young boy standing in front of his parents. He wore a white T-shirt, a thin black polyester jacket, blue jeans, and sneakers. It was obvious that Jack had wanted to be exactly like his father, going so far as to dressing up just like the man. His younger self was holding up a small toy plane and was giving his biggest smile to the camera, showing everyone that he was missing a tooth. Jack stared at the five-year-old version of himself forlornly. He couldn't even remember those times with his parents all that well anymore.
He had long since forgotten what his father sounded like and he'd come to rely on his mother for most things when it concerned their time with dad. Now, he'd have to rely on his own fading memories to hold on to those happier days. He wondered how long it would take before he would completely forget his dad. Would he forget about mom too? He shook his head at such depressing thoughts.
Still lost in his memories, Jack picked up the bundle of toiletries and carried them under his left arm while his right hand firmly held onto the picture frame. He occasionally looked at it as he walked down the long hallway towards the bathroom, determined to fully recall the memory behind the old photograph.
Jack yawned again as he placed his things back into his bag. While the bathroom here in the Autobot base wasn't the most glamorous, it still had everything he needed to get clean. The phantom feeling of blood covering his hands had yet to leave him completely, making him itch at something that was no longer there. With every step he took, Jack felt a small pinch of pain in his toes. A constant reminder that he now had to wear his old shoes since his new sneakers had been left behind at home since he hadn't known how to clean them.
Looking back at his watch, he sighed as he realized that it was only ten past five. He eyed the couch wearily, before turning away. He was not going to suffer through another nightmare. With nothing to do, he decided that it would be best to explore. He'd never seen all that much of the base, besides the time that the Scraplets had attacked and he'd had to fix that Energon leak. Even then he hadn't really had the chance to take in his surroundings. Jack turned to go walk down the stairs, but paused as the old family portrait caught his eye. Deciding that it couldn't hurt, he brought the picture with him.
He stilled for a moment as he passed the tunnel for the Groundbridge, finding that the floor was clean of the bloody footprints he'd made last night. Had Ratchet done that? When? Bowing his head, Jack gave a visible shudder as he turned away from the cement floor, trying not to let his memories or emotions get the better of him.
He walked down the first new hall he saw aimlessly and spent his time thinking about his parents. He wondered what they would have thought about the Autobots, had they had the chance to meet them. Mom would have blown a gasket if he'd told her about all the times he'd somehow been dragged into their fights by accident or by chasing after Miko. Probably would've grounded him for life if she'd learned about his brief street racing escapade with Bee, or how he'd attempted to steal the Energon Harvester from a museum. Jack had a feeling that his dad would've been surprisingly cool with it all, though he'd have been terribly jealous of Arcee.
Eventually he became so immersed in his thoughts, that when he finally paid attention to his surroundings, Jack realized that he was completely lost. 'Okay note to self. Next time bring bread crumbs.' He took a left turn at the next intersection and walked a good bit before he hit a dead end as the hallway had led him to a door. He didn't know what was behind the door, and he hadn't bothered to check if the Autobots had labeled any of the rooms, but he figured that if he wasn't supposed to go in there, they would have placed a "Do Not Enter" sign. He didn't really expect the door to open for him anyway.
Surprisingly, the door did open for him and Jack knew right away that he shouldn't be in there, at least not without knocking first. Though there were some stark differences, he could tell that he was in a bedroom, and if the size of the metal bed was anything to go by, then he was in Optimus' room. Speaking of the Prime, where was he if not in bed?
"Jack? Is there something wrong?" Optimus spoke from the shadowy alcove in the corner of the room that Jack hadn't noticed. 'Scrap, busted!' He flinched as the Autobot stood and moved towards him, his stride slow and steps heavy. Glancing past Optimus, he saw that the Prime had been sitting at a makeshift metal desk, apparently working on some sort of Cybertronian doohickey that glowed with a soft blue light.
"Oh… um… No, no problem. I was just wandering the halls and kind of let my curiosity get the better of me." He answered in a rush, feeling embarrassed as he forced himself to meet Optimus' gaze. "I'm sorry for coming into your room without permission." Jack continued, his tone taking a nervous edge. His dream came back to him in a flash and he felt even more uncomfortable as he shifted his feet, suddenly very anxious to leave.
"It is alright Jack. It is natural for one to explore their new home." Optimus replied calmly as he crouched down. Jack couldn't help but cringe at the Prime's choice of words, not only because his old home wasn't home anymore, but because Omega Outpost One wasn't going to be his home either. He knew what happened to orphans.
Jack would get a social worker to be his legal guardian and then be sent to live in a foster home, but he didn't have the heart or the guts to tell the Autobots that just yet. Hopefully Fowler would be the one to deliver that upsetting truth to the others. So instead of saying anything, Jack stared down at the floor, hoping the Autobot wouldn't pick up on the fact that he was keeping secrets. From what Raf and Miko said, Optimus had a way with wheedling information out of someone easily.
He was startled slightly as the Prime's large hand appeared in front of him and Jack, taking the hint, cautiously climbed on. Miko and Raf might be used to their guardians picking them up, but this would be a first for him. Arcee could carry him if she needed to, but he certainly wouldn't have been able to stand in the palm of her hand. Jack balanced on shaky feet, resisting the temptation to latch onto of one of Optimus' fingers in a vice grip. The Prime carefully carried him across the room and set him gently onto the desk while easing himself down onto a couple of metal crates that must have been in the base before the Autobots had moved in.
"Jack, what are you doing up? It is not yet six and Miko has informed me that it is normal behavior for the young to sleep-in on weekends." Optimus questioned, not in the interrogating way that his mom would have, but in a gentler kind of tone.
Jack could have brushed him off easily. He could've given a shrug and said something along the lines of not being able to sleep. He knew Optimus wouldn't pry for more answers, but nod solemnly. But for some reason, the teenager decided to give him a straight answer.
"...I had a nightmare." He answered tiredly, a simple answer that anyone would understand. However, he'd forgotten for a moment that he was talking to an alien, which showed as he saw Optimus tilt his head in confusion. Despite the subject, a small smile made its way onto Jack's face. He was very familiar about having to clarify something considered to be common knowledge. He enjoyed the little moments with Arcee when she would get confused by some human thing and he'd try to explain it. "A nightmare is a bad dream and a dream is sort of like a movie that your mind creates when a person is asleep." He continued and even though it wasn't the best description, he hoped it helped. Did the Prime even know what movies were? Thankfully Optimus nodded his head in understanding.
"Is it natural to have nightmares and dreams? Do humans get them often?" He asked and Jack shrugged his shoulders in response.
"I guess so. Not everyone has dreams, or even remembers their dreams. It's different for everyone."
"And what purpose do they serve?" The question made him stumble for a second and he bit his lip in thought.
"Well some scientists believe that dreaming is a way to help relieve stress?" He said unsurely and Optimus' eyes lit up in recognition.
"We experience a similar process called defragmentation. Depending upon one's emotional state, our processors will play memories to observe while in stasis." Jack blinked and leaned back a little, nodding slightly in agreement. 'Huh. The more I learn about the Autobots the more I realize we're not that different.'
"It can be like that sometimes, but dreams aren't always based on our memories. They can reflect on things that we've experienced, seen, interacted with, or they can be about things that wouldn't happen in reality, like being able to fly. Nobody really knows where they come from or why we even have them in the first place." Jack added in thought, taking in the attentive look on Optimus' face before shrugging again. "When I put it like that though, our form of, uh, defragging seems a lot more irrational than yours."
"Indeed, but it also sounds as though the process can be… pleasant. However, from your description it stands to reason that your dream was not a joyous one." The Autobot leader said, his voice turning somber at the end of his sentence. "What was your nightmare about?"
Jack gulped and hoped it wasn't too audible in the suddenly too quiet room. The only person who'd ever asked about his nightmares was his mom. She used to say that talking about them would make them seem less scary and helped to calm the person down somewhat. He didn't know if he wanted to tell anyone about his nightmare though, especially Optimus. But he also couldn't imagine blowing the Prime off, not while the Autobot stared down at him so intently. How would he even begin to describe that he'd confused the Autobot with his father? Jack nervously rubbed the back of his neck. What if he told Optimus most of his dream, but not the parts about his mistaken identity? That could work, right?
"Well I found myself standing somewhere outside of Jasper, so far away that I couldn't really see it. Just the lights, cause, uh, it was night." He took a shaky breath and looked down. "Airachnid was there and she had my mom." He paused, thinking this time, not of his dream, but of last night. "Dreams… can seem so real sometimes. I had no idea that it was just a nightmare. I forgot that mom already d-died." Jack stopped for a second and cleared his throat as his voice broke a little. "I tried to call for help, but I couldn't reach anyone. I thought Airachnid was going to– but then mom was saved at the last second... by you." He turned to discreetly glance up at Optimus who seemed startled to learn that he was in Jack's dream.
"We were reunited for a moment and I turned to watch the fight between you and Airachnid. When I tried to talk to my mom, she was gone again, trapped in one of Soundwave's tentacles and it wasn't just her either. Knock Out had Raf, Breakdown had Miko, and Starscream had ahold of Agent Fowler. I was just about to start freak out when the other Autobots arrived. You told Megatron to let everyone go, and he did." Jack continued quietly, fear of such a scenario ever happening making his stomach clench in dread.
"The Cons dropped them, and they all died like mom did." Optimus' face changed again, his glowing eyes hardening as his mouth pulled into a deep frown. "You and the other Autobots charged the Decepticons. You took on Megatron and Starscream by yourself. Arcee fought Airachnid and Bulkhead took on Breakdown. Bumblebee fought with Knock Out while Ratchet went after Soundwave. I went to the others, hoping that maybe someone survived. They didn't of course." Bile began to build at the back of his throat, but he took a large swallow and forced it back down. "When I looked back at the battle, the others had been killed and I had turned just in time to see Megatron stab you in the chest. You died and Airachnid taunted me one last time before she stepped on me, then I woke up." Jack quickly finished so that he could stop talking. His throat had suddenly gotten sore and itchy; he knew what the sensation meant. It happened every time he refused to cry.
Jack didn't even know why he wanted to. He hadn't cried after his nightmare, but now that he had said it out loud, it seemed a hundred times worse. Mortified, he felt his eyes fill up with tears and knew that they would fall if he blinked. His nose was starting to get runny and he couldn't help but sniff. He stared down towards the table and hoped that from Optimus' height, he wouldn't be able to see his blotchy face. His eyes had become so full of tears that everything was blurry. Jack wondered if he could get away with wiping them away with his sleeve and risked taking a second sniff. Maybe he could play the situation off as allergies?
Jack's second sniff had been one too many though. Optimus had quickly realized that something was wrong. The Autobot placed his hand in front of Jack's feet, but he stubbornly kept his head bowed. He hated crying and it appalled him that his body had decided to breakdown in front of the Prime instead of somewhere private. He didn't want Optimus to see him like this!
That did it. That broke the dam. Only two people had ever called him by his full name, his parents. And felt as if he'd lost his father all over again in that moment, along with his mom. He crumpled to his knees and buried his face into Optimus's hand, hoping to hide his stupid tears, but wanting to be comforted just the same.
"That won't happen, will it?" He sobbed, his words muffled. "Everyone's going to be fine, right? I couldn't bare it if I lost anyone else." Losing mom hurt so much, he didn't know what to do with all this pain, but the fear of losing everyone that way? That was unmeasurable. Jack felt the moment Optimus' other hand began to stroke his back as gently as possible. It reminded of when he was little, how his mom used to rub circles in his back as she held him close while trying to calm him down, humming softly.
It made his heart ache even more to know she'd never do that again.
"I cannot promise you that you will never suffer losses again Jack, but I do promise that I would give up my life to prevent that from happening." Optimus said quietly, his smooth baritone voice almost as pleasant as his mom's humming had been.
New tears made their way into Jack's eyes and he felt like he was sobbing harder than before. He shook his head and buried his face deeper into Optimus' hand. It hurt a little, but the metal was warm and felt too much like embracing another human to resist. Optimus paused in his stroking, probably confused as to why he was crying worse than before, but patiently waited for him to calm down.
"I know that you'd sacrifice yourself if it would help someone, but you dying wouldn't make anything better you know." He mumbled into the Prime's hand as he tried to regain some of his bearings.
"Perhaps, but would you not have given your life to save your mother? I'm I not allowed to do the same?" The Prime asked gently, making his head shoot up in surprise before his face set into a grimace.
"That's not fair." Jack said as he glared up at Autobot leader.
"No, it is not, but it does not change the situation any, Jackson." Optimus replied, his voice hard yet somehow gentle at the same time. "Why do you object when you know otherwise?" Jack flinched from both his tone and the full use of his name. Feeling an odd combination of hurt and embarrassed, he tried to pull away from the Prime, but Optimus' other servo held him firmly in place. The leader of the Autobots was silent, and it took Jack a few seconds to understand that he was waiting for an answer. The teenager felt his stomach drop, countless emotions brewing inside him, and clenched his jaw, refusing to voice any of them.
"Answer me Jack." Optimus said after five minutes of silence. Another five passed before he repeated himself. Three more followed just as quietly before he'd finally used up Optimus's patience. "Jackson." Optimus didn't shout, he didn't need to, not with the steely undertone he'd used.
"I don't want to lose you too!" Jack, on the other hand, did shout. Silence rang over the room, accompanied by his renewed sobs. "Please don't d-die. Don't s-sacrifice yourself for some noble c-cause." Jack hiccupped in a weaker tone. He felt almost all of his energy died with his outburst, leaving the teenager to slump wearily against the Prime's hand, fighting to keep his eyes open.
Optimus sighed softly. They'd have to finish this conversation at a later point. He knew part of the reason for why Jack was so emotional right now was because of how exhausted he was. The boy continued to mumble things as he curled up in the space between his digits. Optimus, after a moment of hesitation, brought his other servo to rest gently over Jack to act as a blanket. The human yawned and spoke one last time as he closed his eyes.
"Please don't leave me, dad." He whispered and Optimus felt his processor stall.
He understood what a 'dad' was. It was a creator, a sire to a sparkling. He had once overhead Miko explain what parents were when Bulkhead had asked her about the difference between her parents and her host parents. Jack had never mentioned his sire before and Optimus was under the assumption that he'd passed long ago. So why then, had the human called him that?
Perhaps he just was over thinking things. Jack had stated for his sire not to leave, he had not necessarily been referring to the Prime specifically. He'd been entering stasis too, meaning that the boy was not likely running at full capacity. Optimus nodded at his sound logic. He had simply misunderstood.
Jackson did not view him as a sire.
Okay before anyone complains about Jack being too weepy, or out of character, please remember he saw his mother being murdered only hours before. He's basically on the edge of a mental breakdown. Such acts often affect people severely, but instead of withdrawing, he's starting to create a strong attachment with Optimus in order to cope. Jack realizes this and will try to fight it, knowing that forming a relationship that way can be as damaging as pulling away from others like Arcee does.
I want Optimus and Jack to have a father/son relationship. I think that's one of the main reasons I even wrote this story. Jack is the first human that the Autobots met that doesn't have a father. I know Optimus may not seem like the best choice because of his lack of emotions, but having Jack around may soften the big guy up a bit. I think it also helps that the show gave us all those nudges in comparing Jack and Optimus together.
As for those of you who are here strictly for some Jack/Arcee scenes, don't be too disappointed that she wasn't in this chapter. Jack and Arcee's relationship took up a good bit of attention in the show and I totally plan to own up to that. However, as I said, my main focus for the moment is setting up the father/son dynamic for Jack and Optimus. You'll be getting a little bit of Arcee and her place in all this in the next chapter, but it's Chapter 4 where she and Jack will really sort some things out.