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Megatron was almost intolerably annoying, and almost unbearably dazzling, all at the same time. He was aiming a gleeful smirk down as he gripped the chain again with absurd ease, sunlight gleaming off his chest armor and the sharp smell of fresh lubricant and hydraulic fluid in the air from his straining pistons, and Orion both passionately wanted to punch him in the face, and with equal passion wanted to put a hand on his chest to stroke a gesture of worship over the light of his spark. He would have said he didn’t like experiencing either sentiment, and yet somehow here he was, although he could with perfect ease have said no to Megatron’s invitation. Two negatives somehow transformed into a greater positive by conjunction.

After they hauled the enormous statue back out and together heaved it onto its plinth, awaiting repairs, they left it to go have a drink together at the nearest pub. A few mechs sitting together obviously recognized Megatron from his arena days: free shots of oil got delivered to their table alongside their energon, and Megatron smiled easily across the room and saluted the table of fans with his glass before tossing it down. Orion didn’t like the sentiment he was experiencing then, either, although he couldn’t actually identify it; whatever it was, his logic unit was discarding it with impatience before it managed to reach his conscious processing, so it was undoubtedly foolish as well as unpleasant.

Megatron nudged his hand on the table. “What’s got you so quiet? Normally by now you’d have regurgitated at least seven archives about architecture, sculpture, and the cult of Primus onto me. Did you get hit?”

“No. I’m just…” Orion stopped. “Feeling dull,” he said finally, which wasn’t true, but his strategic unit had generated that response insistently, and he didn’t have anything better to say.

Which didn’t become less true when he belatedly realized that his strategic unit had come up with that response precisely because he could predict Megatron’s exact response, which was to say, “Well, we can fix that,” toss back the last of his energon, and haul him off his feet and back out into the streets.

Two hours later, after a wild and wildly dangerous run through what everyone was now calling the Threefold Chasm, Orion stopped and bent double with his hands on his knees, his ventilation systems roaring, and wheezed out, “Because you know what I love best is wasting my energon in pointless and recklessly dangerous mechanical activity,” and Megatron laughed, insufferably. He wasn’t venting hard at all himself, although he’d gone even faster down the chasm than Orion had, through the electrical storms and raging energon fires and dodging the smoke-obscured jagged ends of twisted metal. 

“No, if you loved that at all, you’d be in the arena when they put it back up, not in the stands,” he said. “Just as well: I’d hate to have to fight you.”

“I’d probably forgive you in a thousand years or so,” Orion said dryly.

Megatron snorted. “That’s not what I meant.” Orion frowned up at him, puzzled, but Megatron waved a hand over at the wall of the chasm nearest them. “But fortunately for me, the problem won’t arise, and fortunately for you, I know your opinion of pointless activity perfectly well.”

Orion looked over and straightened instantly, his system sending extra power to his cooling units to compensate for the heat instead, so he could go over at once to the exposed panel, gleaming electrum lined with chips of corundum, at just barely above eye level. It was jutting at an angle out from the wall, but not very much; that was how it had survived the crash of the Threefold Spark’s vessel, which was still smoldering somewhere deep in the thick haze down at the end of the chasm, the smoke still twenty kliks away but nevertheless producing noticeable alerts in his intake valves.

He touched the electrum panel gently and brushed away some debris to free more of the structure, enough to confirm what he already knew, and that it was intact. “The archives said all the Primal Pillars had been destroyed in the First Age,” he said with hushed reverence.

“Sometimes it takes destruction to unearth a buried truth,” Megatron answered, his harsh voice gone oddly gentle, and Orion turned around to find Megatron looking at him with his optics shining warmly, a positive emotion that seemed out of proportion to the situation. It made his own spark judder with an uncomfortable intensity in return.

“How did you find it?” he managed, trying to recalibrate his emotional subsystems.

Megatron crossed over and put his hand out onto the surface of the pillar and stroked it slowly, running his massive hands over the etched sigils of ancient Primal-Age Cybertronian. “I spotted it in passing. I went down to the vessel last week.”

“You what?

Megatron shrugged a little. “Someone had to make sure it was completely deactivated.”

“The whole thing is slagged and the smoke has been at spark-destroying levels for three months!” Orion said.

“And last week, it dropped below that level for the first time,” Megatron said. “So if a neural chamber had remained intact and shielded somewhere in that slagged wreck, that’s when it would have cracked open, and the surviving spark fragment would have come out in a preservation crawler and gone to ground somewhere below, to start rebuilding itself.”

“That’s a lunatic reason to take a nearly suicidal risk,” Orion said. “The odds of a neural chamber surviving were—”

“Roughly those of a Primal Pillar surviving from the First Age, only to be exposed again by the crash of a planet-devouring hivemind?” Megatron said, smiling at him slightly.

Orion glared at him. “Lower, I’d say. There were nine hundred and ninety-nine Pillars.”

“So just about equal, actually,” Megatron said.

“What?”

“There were nine hundred and ninety-nine neural chambers,” Megatron said. “Probably not coincidental.”

Orion stared. Megatron was speaking so matter-of-factly— “Megatron,” he said very levelly, “was there an intact neural chamber?”

“Just one,” Megatron said. “I went up and down the whole neural chain line to be sure.”

“And you just—you—” Orion found his vocal unit choking on his own eruption of wildly confused emotions: horror and relief and furious indignation— “You went in alone—”

“I told Soundwave where I was going,” Megatron said. “He’d have alerted everyone if I didn’t come back. Almost no one else could have gone in,” he added, with almost a tinge of irritation. “Anyone but a deep miner would probably start suffering permanent intake damage ten kliks out. And like you said, the odds were small. It wasn’t worth risking more than one mech.”

“Why didn’t you tell anyone after you got back?

“I’d taken care of it. Why distract them from the rebuilding?” Megatron said, with a shrug. “Anyway, I’m telling you.” He gave Orion a cheerful smirk. “You can put it in the archive as a footnote.”

“I could gladly rip this out of the chasm wall and hit you over the head with it right now,” Orion said, which was so true, despite the vehement protests of his logic unit, that part of his brain actually began evaluating the structural integrity of the surrounding material. 

Megatron didn’t seem to realize it; he just laughed. “Why, Orion, I could almost think you cared,” he said, with a sly tease, leaning in towards him.

Orion snarled at him, “Is that supposed to be funny?” in real rage, and Megatron’s optics cycled two shades over in visible surprise, and then actually incandesced up to red-violet with intense anger of his own, and Orion was glad, he couldn’t wait for Megatron to hit him, his fast-reaction tactical unit was already calculating out three dozen different moves he’d make in response to whatever Megatron did, and then Megatron reached up and caught his face between his hands, shoved Orion’s faceplate down with his thumbs, and kissed him.

Orion hadn’t yet evaluated potential responses to that particular action, but his tactical unit switched over without the slightest difficulty. He had the access panel in Megatron’s left side open and was jacked into him before his strategic processes even caught up long enough to point out that this was extremely inappropriate behavior for a chief archivist and would introduce massive levels of bias into his emotional subsystem, probably prohibitive ones given that Megatron was absolutely going to be a significant historical figure even just based on his actions of last week, last week when he’d nearly gotten himself killed sailing into a deadly maelstrom to personally confront the last remnants of the monstrous being that had nearly destroyed all Cybertron, the self-destructive reckless idiot—

“I think someone’s a little too late,” Megatron purred against his lips, full of enjoyment: he was delighted to find out just how badly Orion was already biased. Relieved, even: he’d been running out of ways to impress him.

“Ways to—have you been doing this on purpose?” Orion said, trying to generate indignation. Megatron knew he’d been planning to become the chief archivist, Megatron knew he was needed—

“You’re needed for other things more,” Megatron said, and slid a hand straight down to Orion’s primary valve cover and rubbed his palm meaningfully over it, as if he was proposing they jettison all restraint and go straight to spark-level interfacing, as if his lust was more important than preserving Cybertron’s history, dispassionately, accurately; more important than Orion’s entire life’s work, and Orion could have hit him with a neural disruptor blast, and he could also have opened up his valve right then and there, but he couldn’t; he couldn’t do both at the same time; he could only choose one or the other—

Megatron paused and stroked his cheek. “Come in from the stands, Orion,” he said, with a rough, unmerciful sympathy. “Let someone else write the story. Live it with me, instead.”

Orion put his hands around Megatron’s head and kissed him, because after all he couldn’t do anything but that; he kissed him, and then braced himself against the chasm wall, the shining ancient pillar up against his side providing a useful support as his torso and hips shifted into perfect alignment so Megatron’s spike could extend up through him to the spark chamber, both of them gasping, Megatron’s mouth smiling triumphant against him, still infuriating even now, and Orion laughed helplessly and let him in.

# End