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2017-06-22 Changes

From Transformers: Lost and Found

Changes
Date 2017/06/22
Location Lost Light - Command: Rodimus's Office
Participants Rodimus, Ultra Magnus
Summary Rodimus and Ultra Magnus (or rather, Minimus Ambus) talk things out.

Minimus Ambus marches down the hall and across the decking to Rodimus's office. Now that he is back in command, the doors slide open to admit him thoughtlessly. He strides in with every intention of beginning a conversation only to discover-- well, things are never where you leave them.

He walks a little aimlessly through the space, scarlet gaze flicking over the signs of damage from a height that is unusual for him. His frown lingers in his expression. He waits for a minute. He waits for two minutes.

By the time the third minute passes, he has started to organize Rodimus's things.

Rodimus's things are a little extra haphazard. His original desk -- the desk he launched with, the desk with all of that character, all of those carvings -- is a holy object now. Or something like. It's in the city and an object of study, just in case something else might be revealed beyond the map itself. It has other meaning rather than serving as Rodimus's aft-holder. (Because let's be real, he sits on the desk more than he sits at it.)

So, anyway. New desk. New mess. No Rodimus, however, and Minimus very nearly has time to get bored. Finally, Rodimus wanders his way in, taking a cloth to the broad slick of engine grease that coats his hands and arms. Whatever he was doing, it was very hands on, and it's with some effort that he wipes the last trace and goes, "Erh." He means hi.

His new mess has almost completely been sorted into orderly stacks, according to a system that Minimus could happily explain. He is standing on Rodimus's chair, so that his slight minibot form is visible over the top of a desk that is far too tall for him. He looks up at Rodimus, and whatever his immediate beginning was going to be, he eyes him and the cloth that he's removing the last of the schmutz with in some consternation. "What happened to you?" is how he says hello.

Rodimus grins. He looks truly, deeply pleased with himself as he looks down at his spread fingers, widening them a moment to dig the last bit of grime out from the gaps in his joints. "I was helping sort out some of the wreckage. Getting really hands on with it all." He also looks pleased with himself for a not-very-good joke. Dropping his hands and stashing the cloth away, he looks back at Minimus over the desk. His smile wavers and falls toward an uncertain frown. "So... Minimus, huh?"

"Hands-on," sighs Minimus Ambus. He touches the thumb and middle finger of his hand against the bridge of his nose, beneath his helm, and shakes his head as he says, "At least you didn't roll in it. Probably." He drops both hands, then, framing at his hips as he looks up at Rodimus. He stands there for a moment on the chair, attempting not to be aware of the fact that he is standing on a chair (an editing of his self-awareness that meets only limited success). "I am Minimus," he says at length. His chin lifts in the beginning of a nod, and he looks intently at Rodimus for a moment before adding, "Symbols mean ... different things, depending on your subjective position. Without symbol, without pretense, this is me."

No comment. If Rodimus rolled in the dirt, he cleaned that up before getting here. He holds Minimus's gaze with a level steadiness, doing a fair job of not drawing further attention to his perch. However -- naturally -- he immediately disagrees: "This is still you even with the rest. It's not like your spark changes because of how many layers of armor you're wearing." It's a metaphor.

Shake of his head slight, Minimus says with a faint exasperation, "Yes, I know that." He considers the desk. He considers Rodimus, past the desk. Finally, he hops down from the chair. Thunk! goes his impact on the floor. He circles out from behind the desk. "Same bot, different suit. Doesn't mean there's no difference. Symbols have meaning, Rodimus. Like language." Emerged from behind the desk, he looks up the long, long difference in their heights, and says, "It means something to me to talk to you without any armor on. It's a message. I think it is even a message you understand."

"I'm not actually sure, this time," Rodimus admits. As Minimus rounds the desk, he slides into a cross-legged seat on the floor facing Minimus. Just -- plop! Down he goes! Or -- well, it's more like whunk-thunk-clang, because he's a big heavy pile of moving metal parts, but. Still. It's a fairly agile fold. "There's a lot of things that could mean right now, Mins. And I've always prefer my meanings made a little more concrete."

It's subtle, the slight slackening of tension across Minimus's shoulders as Rodimus plops down on the floor. Even so, the frown still pinches at the edge of his helm, scarlet eyes narrowing faintly as he contemplates Rodimus's features. "'Mins,'" he sighs, making air quotes, and drops his hands to brace athwart his hips with the slight duck of his head. "Rodimus, I understand what ... shedding your badge means to you. I understand what you are trying to do. I understand the symbolic gesture you are making, or trying to make. I recognize that you don't intend to set aside the ideals of the badge, or separate yourself from Optimus. I have spent the last few days ... thinking about this, and I want you to know that I understand what you are trying to do, and I even think that your goal is admirable." He waits a beat, and then says, "I don't know that it is attainable. But it is admirable."

"I'm not sure you do, actually." Rodimus's tone is just a touch combative, faintly hostile: his shoulders hunch in a defensive prickle. "I bet you think you know what it means, and I know that I told you what I want it to mean. It has to be attainable, Minimus. Maybe not this year, maybe not in ten years, but we have to be able to move past this."

"Well," Minimus Ambus begins, and stops. "I suppose I should say I know what I think it means." He tilts his head slightly to one side. He hesitates for a long moment before speaking again. "Coming to you like this means, to me, ... that I want to be honest with you. That this is personal." Minimus hesitates for a moment, holding very still, and then says a very dreaded word, apparently: "Intimate." His frown lingers on his lips beneath his facial insignia as he looks into Rodimus's face. "But what it means to you, I can't guess. I can only know what I mean by it, not what meaning you take from it." He runs his knuckles along the inside of his arm. "You want to ... build a world where we have put faction behind us entirely," he says. "You want to lead by example, because you always did lead from the front. I can't fault that. I can't fault your courage. I never could." His brow cinches a little tighter. "Not all your crew are going to take it how you mean it."

Rodimus very nearly reaches for Minimus on reflex as he hesitates, stills, and speaks that dread, awful word, but in the end his fingers close over air and come back to rest on his ankles. He shakes his head, frustration sparking off the tips of his helm -- and there are a lot of tips. "I know they are't." He waves his hand and says, "Anyway, that's not -- I wasn't doubting what you mean, coming here like this. I get that. I, uh, appreciate that, I guess. I was talking about me." His features twist, a little wry, even a little annoyed at himself: of course he was; what else would he talk about? "Look, forget it. You go first, okay?"

"Tell me," Minimus says instead. He steps forward, and drops both his hands from his hips so that they rest, instead, atop Rodimus's giant feet, at the toes of his boots. His frown is intent.

Rodimus makes a face at Minimus, rolling his head back on his shoulder and letting it hang, weight tipping his face up as his eyes widen and go bright. "Ugh, fine." He looks back at Minimus, eyes narrower, thoughtful. "It's like you think this is easy. Everyone. Soundwave and Drift and Hound and you -- like you think it's easy! And it's already so much about me that I don't want to make it, you know, a whole bunch more about me like it's not also a big deal for you or anything, but don't you think I'm fucking terrified too?"

Minimus Ambus lifts his hands from Rodimus's feet and then drops them again, one, two. His fingers coil into a harder pressure of metal on metal, his frown deepening. His head bows, and then lifts again. There's an almost rue in his low, warm voice, mellow-dark and apologetic, as he replies: "I was too busy being upset," he tells Rodimus, "about what you were doing to me, to think about what you were doing to you."

"I know, I know." Rodimus draws his hand over his face in a sweeping gesture, rubbing away exasperation before Minimus can mistake it for being externally edged rather than turned inward. He pauses a moment, but -- with some conscious weight -- does not apologize for Minimus being upset. "And I figured all of you needed some space to be whatever about it, and also this is still a choice I'm making. It's a change I'm choosing. It's not one that any of you chose."

"Yes," Minimus says. He watches him for a moment, standing there with his hands resting on his feet. He straightens again, finally, saying, "So what does it mean to you? What ... makes it worth it?"

Leaning forward, Rodimus allows his head to hang forward now, shoulders bowing in a curve around his core. "You know, Hound's been an Autobot for like -- I bet twice as long as I've been online. And I thought -- what's that even mean anymore? And I was like, well, he's just an Autobot because he's always been an Autobot, but I was there, I made the choice, I chose to be an Autobot when it meant something--"

"Except so did Hound," Rodimus admits, a little sheepish in the wake of this confession. "I was there. I saw how much Zeta disgusted him. And I saw that split second when Hound looked at the Decepticons and wondered if they were right, after Nyon fell. But Hound and I made that same choice. We saw past the promise of Megatron's words to the brutality of his actions. We turned away from that. And when Prime stepped forward, we chose a better way." He pauses, mentally retracing his words back to Minimus's question, and scrunching his nose as he realizes that doesn't really get close to an answer.

Minimus starts to say something and then holds it in abeyance, a little stutter of a noise on the tip of his tongue. He watches Rodimus for a moment longer, and then walks up to his side. He folds his arms loosely as he stands beside him, a quiet glow of heat and staid sternness at his elbow, angled at a diagonal to his spoiler, and he says, "And now you're choosing again?"

"I mean -- yes, but not really a connected thought," Rodimus says with a shake of his head. He shifts, leaning back and looking over at Minimus. "I don't even know if I know what it means anymore to me that I'm an Autobot, Minimus. It's too big. It's all of me, everything I've chosen to be. But I know that half the time, if you put an Autobot and a Decepticon in the dark, and asked them to tell you what it means to be -- whatever. I bet you wouldn't be able to guess who is standing on which side of the room."

"Hah." Minimus does not explain what is funny, but he looks, for a moment, extremely struck. He moves again, turning his back with a sliding scrape of his foot over the floor, pacing through Rodimus's office. "That is certainly true," he says as he prowls, restlessly, over the floor. "Soundwave was ... was ... telling me about what the Decepticon badge means. Preaching freedom." He glances back at Rodimus with a tautening of his jawline and shares in a statement otherwise quite flat affect, "He believes you should be congratulated for throwing off the sigil of his oppressors."

Rodimus shifts, unable to quite follow Minimus without looking ridiculous, but at least reflecting the restlessness of his pace in the forward tilt of his lean as he watches him. "Oh, what a load of scrap." He taps the Autobot face right in the center of his chest and says, "This stopped being a sigil of any oppressor when Optimus turned away from Zeta."

"Oh, but Optimus Prime is just as much of an oppressor as any other Prime, Rodimus." Minimus growls this out without even an attempt at making it sound like he means it. He is not quite vibrating as his prowling step takes him back towards his Captain again. "And every Decpticon on the ship--" He snaps his teeth hard on the rest of the sentence and merely finishes it with a wordless, "Hrrf." His eyes flicker in a blink, a flare of brighter red and then their normal scarlet glow. "Relatedly, I apologize for the dent in the Incident Room wall."

"I kind of figured." Rodimus glances down at Minimus's smol lil fist and then up again. "You know we like just got that fixed, right?" He unfolds his legs and stretches them out, wiggling his overlarge puppy feet in a back-and-forth jiggle. "S'funny. Of all mechs, Soundwave would have to be the one who could see it the clearest, right?" He taps his helm. "But even he's going to see what he wants to see, instead of what I say. I'm not rejecting the Autobots. I'm choosing something that includes both."

"He thinks you're rejecting the Autobots, and that is what he says his Decepticons will see, too." Minimus returns to Rodimus's side. He rubs his thumb along the inside of his palm, his frown weighted. "How will you ... do you have a plan to ensure that the Autobots don't see it that way?" His lips thin a little, and there's a wry edge to his voice as he asks, "Is that what I am for?"

"In part," Rodimus says, tipping his head down. "I wasn't thinking of this when I asked you to come back, to be Ultra Magnus -- but you gotta admit, it's got to be reassuring for them to be able to know that Hound's still there, that Ultra Magnus is still there. That it's Autobot voices I turn to first. Hound's not really excited about the idea of being the Autobot commander. I thought maybe I could talk to you both. Figure out how to handle that. But -- I'm also really counting on Drift to have an amazing speech." No pressure.

Minimus considers for a long moment. Air cycles through his systems. He comes around the other side of Rodimus to lean up against the desk. He says, arms folded across his chest, "I really resented it. That you made me confront this. What it means to be Ultra Magnus. What it means to be Minimus Ambus. You asked me to put the armor back on, because I was more than I was pretending to be. But you wouldn't leave well enough alone. You made me face this." He looks at him with a new, steady weight of his scarlet gaze. "Now I find that you have been here, yourself, confronting what it means to be an Autobot. What it means to be more than an Autobot."

Rodimus looks ... cautiously optimistic. He rises to his feet and steps toward Minimus -- just one step, cautious, so that he doesn't feel cornered or backed against wall. He is very small, and the desk is very ... normal-sized. "I kind of noticed I was taking it for granted right there that you're not like -- quitting again," he says. "And I don't really mean to take you for granted. But -- am I wrong, or did your tone change a little? I know it's hard to believe, Minimus, but sometimes I think about things before I do them. There's a lot of time for panic in that gap between the decision and the action, after all."

"It is a little hard to believe," Minimus says. He looks up at him gravely. He straightens away from the desk. "I thought about it," he tells him quietly. "I thought about leaving. If I couldn't do it-- if I can't do this, it isn't enough to step off command. Ultra Magnus should not be about half measures." His gaze drops. Then it lifts again. "Rodimus ... I don't like this. But I understand it. I think. And I'm ... not ... Ultra Magnus. Not really. Not anymore. I am what I choose to be."

Rodimus looks annoyed -- how dare Minimus tease him!! -- but, as Minimus's gaze lifts, offers his hand. "You always have been." He doesn't ask again. He waits.

Minimus reaches out with his hand and places it across Rodimus's palm. It is an unhesitating reach, warm and firm, for all that in his miniest frame, an actual clasp is a point of difficulty. He says, "I can be your Autobot commander, Rodimus. Obviously, the positioning will need to be discussed with Hound..."

Rodimus's spoiler twitches and then eases in pleased -- relieved -- surprise, and he vents nearly hard enough to undo some small part of Minimus's sorting. "Scrap, I wasn't sure you would. I was pretty sure I'd fragged up for good. Uh -- what about. Us?"

Minimus's shoulders slump. He lets go Rodimus's hand, but only so that that his fingers can scrape over his features. He pins the bridge of his nose between thumb and middle finger. "I knew you'd ask and that's part of why I took so long to come back," he says. "Do you--" He pauses, starts again, and looks up, not at Rodimus, but higher up, towards the ceiling. "Do you understand why this is so hard?"

Oh no that's not a yes. Rodimus's twitchy spoiler goes dreadfully still. "I want to say yes, sure, of course, but honestly -- I don't know. But I know that it is. I don't know if I understand everything that makes Ultra Magnus so complicated for you in this, but I know that it does, and I can fumble my way along to thinking I know," he admits. "So ... maybe if you explain it to me. Again, maybe."

Minimus cycles air through his systems. His eyes linger on Rodimus's face for a moment, and then fall away again, fixing on a point just ... at his shoulder. He frowns. He says, "When I became Ultra Magnus, I did it for the legacy of a great bot, and for order, and for law. Tyrest ... I don't know if he was always what he became. Perhaps he was manipulating me even then. I'll never know. The fact of the matter is, the law was everything to me. It was order in a universe that lacked order. I buried Minimus, because he could never measure up, and became someone else." He rubs his thumb along the inside of his palm, and the narrowing of his gaze becomes a glare, although it's not clear at whom, exactly. "When Tyrest ... became what he became, when he chose his own way over the law, I chose again. But I still chose... /inside/ structure. Inside what Magnus would have been. I've never... /been/ anything else. I have measured myself against impossible standards all my life and the only religion that ever made sense was law and code, chapter and verse."

Lifting his head, Minimus says, "I can see what you want to do. I can think you're wrong and still respect you for making that choice. I don't know what a long dead bot whose image I was cast in would have done or thought. I'm sure there were times he, too, could act outside the law when his instincts told him it was right, or he could never have followed Optimus Prime in the first place. But I'm not Ultra Magnus. And I'm..." He trails off, thinks about it, and then says: "I'm not the Autobot Code, either."

"Okay, but I'm right." Rodimus just can't help himself. He looks at Minimus, then reaches for his hand again to intercept his thumb doing all that rubbing, so that he can replace it with his hand instead. "What if we do this the right way? Find out how we do this inside the law, by the Code. Choosing something new has never meant abandoning everything we were."

"Oh, Rodimus." Minimus Ambus does rub his thumb over Rodimus's hand as he sighs. "That's not... the mechanism to do what you want would need to be invented. It doesn't exist." His mouth thins a little. "Pioneering the law is ... well. Tyrest decided to do that when he thought he was right, too." His voice has gone very dry. He shakes his head, and then pulls back. He frowns up at Rodimus for a moment. Then he ducks away, circling around behind the desk, climbs up onto the chair, climbs from the chair onto the desk, and stands on the desk. It's a process. Rodimus could easily interrupt it at any time.

Rodimus does not interrupt. He seems much too curious about where this is all going, other than the obvious, which is on his desk. He stands in a hipshot lean against his desk, watching. "So you're not Ultra Magnus, you're not the Autobot Code. Pretty sure you are Minimus. Still figuring out the rest?"

"I mean, not everything needs figuring out." Standing on Rodimus's desk, though, Minimus says, "I love you. That hasn't changed." He hesitates, and then says, "I don't even know if it could change. It feels very ... permanent, and steady, and real." He thumps a foot against the desk as though to indicate solidity, even though this is a totally different desk. Gazing intently at Rodimus's face, he tells him, "But you have also inspired me to new heights of frustration. Heights that I have never experienced before." Heights. What a terrible joke. He reaches over to slide his hand over Rodimus's back, up the angle of his neck to touch the curve of his helm. He tilts his head so that he can, very gently, touch the brow of his helm against Rodimus's cheek. Bump. "I didn't even know that was possible, you know, I thought you must have reached the pinnacle before, but no."

Rodimus straightens and reaches for Minimus. The weight of his hand on Minimus's side feels very permanent and steady and real -- and warm, fingers curling to draw them closer. He lifts his other hand to draw it gently along the curve of Minimus's helm, thumb brushing down the plane of his cheek, as he looks at him with a dazed and foolish surprise painted over his wide grin. His eyes only dim as Minimus tips his head, and he leans to rest his cheek against his helm. "I plan to spend the next four million years figuring out new ways to drive you crazy, you know."

"It's not that difficult," Minimus grumps. The touch of his fingertips is still very light, almost uncertain where it lingers at the back of Rodimus's head, and he sighs in another cycling of air that bears the low grumble of his engines in it. Much smaller than the deep basso rumble of his idling carrier engine, but a famiiar echo of that sound in miniature. "It's not-- I can't just say it's fine with me, Rodimus. I won't lie to you." He finishes with a, "But."

"That's okay. I'll show you," Rodimus says, with all the raw, full-sparked power of his usual off-the-cuff convictions. One month ago, not so much as a glimmer in his processor. Now? His mostly deeply held belief. "I'm just glad I don't have to do it without you."

Minimus makes another grumpy noise, and hits Rodimus's cheek a little harder with his head, a more aggressive bonk. "Obnoxious," he mutters. He has apparently relearned how to say this word.

Pressing a laughing kiss against Minimus's helm, Rodimus says, "I know. Let's go find Drift. See what his draft is looking like. I bet you could give him some tips." Also, implied: Drift has been stressed the hell out about the tension. He deserves a little chill.

"All right." Minimus is a little broody about this, but still willing enough; Drift has suffered enough. "Help me down. If you throw me, I retract everything I said about helping you."

"I would never." Rodimus does, however, look deeply tempted now that Minimus has put it in his head. Still, he helps him down -- no throwing -- with a lingering touch, already turning the topic to what they can do to give the future a gentler welcome.

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