Merry Christmas, everyone! Waaaay back in January 2016, a friend requested that I write a fan fiction story for Transformers: Robots in Disguise. At the time I was not prepared to write such a story, though I did promise to do it at some point. I had meant to do it that month, but the project never got past the promise stage.
I remembered that promise to my friend a little while ago, and I knew it was well past time to deliver. And so, without further ado, here is the story I promised my friend all those months back. I hope you all enjoy it as much as my compadre does!
Let’s rev up and snowball out!
The Mithril Guardian
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters.
It started harmlessly enough, from what Drift said later. Russell, Slipstream, and Jetstorm had been showing the newly returned Weaponizer Mini-Cons how to build a snowman. Thankfully, they had received Optimus’ warning in time and returned to Earth safely to rejoin Bumblebee and his team – just in time for the first snow of the season.
With Sideswipe and Drift sparring nearby, and Denny out with Bumblebee to pick up more energon, Drift had been content to let his students have some fun. He had not put it in those words, but Optimus was fairly sure that was what he meant.
Things had become more raucous when Grimlock, his arms behind his back, had told Russell that he had forgotten something to show the Mini-Cons. Russell looked up at him in utter bewilderment. “What’s that, Grim?” he had asked.
Grinning widely, Grimlock had brought both arms forward and thrown two giant snowballs at Sideswipe and Drift.
Neither of the combatants had noticed the projectiles coming until they were hit. There had been enough force in Grimlock’s throw to send the two flying sideways. And from there, things had spiraled completely out of control.
At least, that was the way Bumblebee seemed to see it.
“Guys, I thought we agreed – ” He had to stop talking as a snowball flew at his head. Optimus reached up and plucked it from the air before it could hit him. Bee ducked reflexively anyway.
Flicking a glance at Optimus, he muttered, “Thanks,” before turning again to try and interrupt the snowball battle.
Optimus hid a smile as he let his arm fall to his side, keeping a careful hold on the snowball. Ever since he had briefed his former scout on the preliminaries of the situation on Cybertron, Bee had been on edge. It was only natural that Bumblebee wanted his team to be prepared for the coming threats.
But according to Sideswipe, since their discussion Bumblebee had kept his team on a strict regimen of training exercises and patrols. While Sideswipe was doubtless exaggerating the severity of Bee’s change in attitude, even Optimus could tell that the young commander had his servos in a knot lately. He barely allowed himself or the team time to really relax.
Optimus felt something small and light settle on his left shoulder. He knew it was Aerobolt before he turned to look at him.
The leader of the Weaponizer Mini-Cons turned to him, cocking his head like a true Earth bird. “I do not understand this form of training,” he said. “It seems to serve no real purpose. Sideswipe and Drift could train by throwing objects of various weights at an inanimate target just as well as they throw these balls of snow at each other. Grimlock could do the same.”
Optimus turned at a human shout from the battlefield. He was just in time to see Russell pelting Grimlock’s leg with snowballs.
The big Dinobot raised his arms over his head in the manner of surrender and shouted, “Ah!! No, noooo!! Stop! Arrgh!” With a theatrical groan, he toppled onto his side. “Ahhh!!! I’m dead!” Grimlock shut his eyes and went limp, letting his jaw hang open for extra effect. Russell laughed so hard at the sight that he sat down in the snow.
Grimlock opened one eye and smiled. Opening the other, he sat up. “Was it that good?”
“Yes!” Russell gasped. “You’re a great actor, Grim!”
“Hmm,” the Dinobot replied. “I guess I am.” Taking a handful of snow, he sprinkled it over Russell’s head. The boy stood up and, quieting his laughter, stuck out his tongue in an attempt to catch the flakes.
Meanwhile, Sideswipe had decided to dump a large container of snow over Drift’s head. “Something in your eyes, Drift?” he asked, laughing as the former bounty hunter scraped the snow from his face. “Guess you’ll be having a – ”
His gloating cost him, leaving him totally unprepared for Drift’s lunge. Grabbing his arm, Drift pulled it behind the younger ‘Bot’s back and thrust his head into a nearby snowdrift. “I believe that your Christmas will be whiter, Sideswipe.” The former bounty hunter smiled wickedly as Sideswipe’s free arm flailed, his voice muffled by the snow.
Standing up, Grimlock whipped snow up into the air with his tail, dowsing Russell with it. Using his arms to keep the snow from his eyes, Russell did not notice his father sneaking up behind him. Denny darted forward and grabbed hold of his son’s midsection. Lifting him high over his head, Denny spun the boy around fast enough to startle a shout from him. The two toppled into the snow, where they started wrestling and laughing. Above them, Grimlock smiled.
“This is not a form of training,” Optimus explained to Aerobolt slowly. “It is a form of human entertainment called a snowball fight.”
Aerobolt cocked his head. His whole posture radiated confusion. “Humans find it entertaining to be attacked with hard balls of snow?” he asked.
“The humans I have had contact with prefer to keep the snowballs soft enough that they do no permanent harm.” Sideswipe had gotten free of Drift at last. The two were rolling around in the snow now, just like Denny and Russell.
Slipstream and Jetstorm began throwing snowballs at Grimlock. Optimus noticed for the first time that the rest of the Weaponizers were watching the fight from some distance away. Tricerashot watched the fun, a scowl on his face. But he was usually scowling. The other Mini-Cons looked as confused as Aerobolt. Only Sawtooth was watching the scene with bright eyes. He was quivering with suppressed emotion – excitement, if Optimus had to guess.
“Humans find the winters dull without some form of entertainment, much as Sideswipe finds a daily routine stifling.” Optimus hoped the comparison would suffice. It was difficult enough to explain human behavior, especially when he still did not understand some of it himself. “If the routine or the weather does not provide a change, they will find a way to make the change themselves.”
Aerobolt nodded, understanding dawning in his eyes. “Ah. With a lack of useful occupations, such as farming, humans are left only with caring for their basic needs during Earth’s winter. I can see how that could be considered…drudgery.”
“Indeed.” Optimus nodded to indicate the happy chaos before them. “It seems Bumblebee’s team has come to the same conclusion regarding their newest routine.” Bumblebee himself had given up trying to be heard over the shouting and laughter. He turned to leave, only to be confronted by Strongarm, who had just returned from her patrol. The two began talking quietly, but Optimus noticed how the young cadet’s eyes strayed to the fight every few seconds. She wanted to join in the fun.
It surprised him when the Mini-Con gave an almost imperceptible sigh. “I had not thought to see him so tense.”
He was referring to Bumblebee. “I believe it is the situation on Cybertron which worries him most. He, Strongarm, and Sideswipe left without official permission, and he already knows that the High Council is unhappy with that.” Optimus paused. “My subsequent return and involvement with him and the others here has angered them further.”
“You have not stated just why they are displeased with him.” Aerobolt eyed him closely. “If it were simply because he traveled to Earth without official authorization, then that should be easily rectified.”
“That is indeed a part of it.” Optimus did not want to tell anyone just what the situation on Cybertron was until the others had arrived. The situation may have changed since he returned to Earth.
But Aerobolt deserved to know at least the preliminaries, if not the details, before that happened. They were partners, after all, and to hide anything from the Mini-Con could destroy the trust necessary to form the Power Surge Link they had forged in their last battle with Starscream. They might need that bond in the future, if things did not change – and that was extremely unlikely. “I cannot say more here,” he told him at last. “And some of the details are still unclear. I will tell you what I know so far later on, but there are many things which may change when our reinforcements arrive.”
“You speak as one expecting a battle,” Aerobolt said, his wings fluttering in a wary manner. “We did not wish to become involved in a war.”
“Nor did I wish to involve you, since you have suffered so much during the previous war,” Optimus agreed, stifling a sigh. “If you were discovered on your own, however…” He let the sentence hang in the air. The Mini-Cons believed they could take care of themselves, and against opponents such as the Decepticon Scavengers, he did not doubt that they could.
But if what he suspected was true, they would not be able to stand against what was coming alone. Neither would he, Bumblebee, or his team.
Aerobolt was watching him. “Is it Megatron?” he asked evenly, his tone very quiet. That was not easy to manage, considering what the Decepticon leader had put him and the others through.
Optimus sighed. “Perhaps. We have no way of knowing for certain at the moment. As I said, what I know now may change when the others arrive.”
Slowly, Aerobolt nodded. “Yet what you know has obviously made Bumblebee anxious,” he observed. “I do not think mere political machinations would upset him so.”
“Unless the intrigues were more than simple games,” Optimus told him calmly, adding a little edge to his tone. If it really was as bad as Jazz had said, they were facing a great crisis, possibly another war. It was not a thought Optimus relished.
The Mini-Con caught the edge in his tone and looked at him sharply. Optimus stared back. Finally, Aerobolt nodded. “Indeed. I see now the reason for Bumblebee’s distress.”
Optimus could not stop his instinctive glance in Bumblebee’s direction. The younger ‘Bot was deep in conversation with Strongarm. He felt his spark ache with empathy as he watched his former Scout. He had been in Bumblebee’s place many times in the past.
Not long ago, he reflected, Bee would have joined in the snowball fight wholeheartedly. But watching him now, Optimus was reminded of the more embittered or uptight ‘Bots whom he had commanded during the Great War. With so many lost lives and lost battles, it was inevitable that some would come to see any form of amusement as a frivolous waste of time.
He was fairly sure that Bumblebee had not fallen that far in such a short amount of time. The younger Autobot’s personality was too buoyant for that. Even the loss of his voice box had not marred his spirit permanently.
It was a commander’s duty, Optimus reflected, to stay apart from the games his subordinates enjoyed on most occasions. Arcee had once told Jack, Miko, and Rafael that “Primes don’t party.” In part, it was because it was not expected of them. A Prime was to comport himself at all times with as much dignity as possible, according to the records Optimus had read in his youth. Besides, he had found that he enjoyed watching those under his command while they “partied” more than if he had joined in their games.
He looked at Bumblebee again and caught him glancing toward the fight as Drift kicked Sideswipe off of him and into a snow bank, sending a plume of powder into the sky. Primes may indeed have to excuse themselves from such high-spirited play, but Bumblebee was not a Prime.
Optimus found himself fingering the snowball he had caught before it could hit Bumblebee. An idea began to form in his mind.
Just then, Grimlock gave a mighty roar and dove at Slipstream and Jetstorm. The maneuver lacked his usual speed and force, giving the two Mini-Cons time to move aside. They did, and Grimlock’s head disappeared into the snowdrift behind them. Denny and Russell, having their own snowball fight some little distance away, stopped at the sight.
Grimlock brought his head up and out of the snow bank. He moved so quickly that he showered Denny and Russell with a light film of snow, making them shout and laugh. Slipstream and Jetstorm avoided the cloud of powder, flipping out of range to land one atop the other next to Grimlock’s leg. It protected them from the backwash of snow.
What they did not realize was that Grimlock’s charge had been a feint to allow him a chance to fill his mouth with snow. Bringing his head up, Grimlock twisted his neck so that his closed jaws hung over the two. Then he opened his mouth and allowed the snow to cascade onto them. The two shouted in surprise.
Their dual shout, though, was drowned out by Strongarm’s sudden shriek. Optimus looked over and smiled as he watched Sawtooth pick up a snowball with his tail. He had a pile of them near that appendage. With everyone concentrating on the others, he had been free to slip away and make his own snowballs. He flipped this new snowball at Strongarm, who managed to block this projectile.
Sawtooth paused as a thought seemed to strike him. “Did I hit too hard?” he asked, concerned.
“No,” Strongarm replied. “You just hit me when I wasn’t expecting it.”
“Oh. My apologies.”
“Don’t worry about it,” she said, waving one hand. Reaching out with her other hand at the same time, she clutched some snow from one of the racks holding Denny’s car collection and threw it at him.
Sawtooth never saw it coming. It hit him in the chest and sent him skidding backward along the ground. He shook his head, then turned to stare at her. A slow smile spread across his face.
Strongarm smiled back. In an instant, the two were going at it nuts and bolts, throwing, diving, and catching snowballs. They looked less like warriors and more like human children.
Optimus glanced at Aerobolt to see his reaction. The Mini-Con shrugged his wings, looking caught between anger and confusion. He thought, however, that he detected a gleam of delight in the other’s eye. “I had not thought Sawtooth would be interested in such a game.”
“It is in times such as this that commanders learn the most about their subordinates,” Optimus replied softly. “I have found it informative and pleasant, watching my Autobots at their pastimes.”
“Have you?” asked Aerobolt. “It does not strike you as…undignified?”
Optimus smiled. “Dignity at times may be put aside by most. In times such as this, it relieves the stress that would otherwise threaten to divide a strong unit. Also, it has sometimes provided an Autobot with the perspective necessary to win a battle.”
“Hmmm,” Aerobolt murmured thoughtfully.
Strongarm and Sawtooth’s snowball fight seemed to give Grimlock an idea. Leaning down, he picked up some snow and began packing it into a ball. Slipstream and Jetstorm, excavating themselves from the snow he had dumped on them, looked up at him.
“Do-de-do,” Grimlock hummed. “Da-da-da.” He looked down at the two, then over at the Weaponizers, who were watching Sawtooth and Strongarm in confusion.
The Mini-Cons understood him. Reaching down, they began packing their own snowballs. “Hey, Tricerashot!” Grimlock called.
“What?” the Dino Mini-Con growled. His growl morphed into a gasp as he saw the snowball arcing through the air toward him. Before he had time to move, it hit him in the head. “Arrgh!” he shouted.
The other Weaponizers started and stared at him in shock. Slipstream and Jetstorm’s battle cries therefore caught them unawares. Before any of the other Mini-Cons had time to move, Drift’s students began bombarding them heavily with snowballs. They turned the remains of the pile Grimlock had dropped on them into a fort to defend against returning snowballs.
Denny and Russell shared a look. Then they ran over to join Slipstream and Jetstorm. In a few seconds, both sets of Mini-Cons and the humans were trading snowballs at a furious rate.
But Tricerashot, having cleared his eyes of the snow, had a bigger target in mind. As Grimlock watched his handy work in action, the Dino Mini rolled a large ball of snow with his horns. Carefully picking it up on his snout, he lobbed it a Grimlock’s shin.
The Dinobot grunted with the impact, then turned to look at Tricerashot. “Fair is fair!” he called smugly. “You wanted a snowball fight – well, you’ve got one!”
Grinning widely, Grimlock picked up some more snow and packed it into a ball. Tricerashot rolled another ball, picked it up on his horns, and threw it at Grimlock…
…Just as the bigger ‘Bot lobbed his own snowball at the Mini.
The results were comical. Tricerashot’s projectile hit Grimlock in his snout, obscuring his vision, while the Dinobot’s snowball covered Tricerashot completely. It took them a few minutes to burrow out of the snow. They looked at each other and started laughing.
Aerobolt cocked his head. Optimus caught the smile which flitted across his face. “I’d no idea Tricerashot could laugh,” he muttered.
Optimus smiled a little himself. “As I said, a commander often learns more about his subordinates at play than in battle.” He looked back at the battlefield and saw a snowball coming toward him. Shifting to the left, he let it pass. “Well aimed, Sideswipe,” he complemented.
“Daw – you weren’t supposed to move!” the younger ‘Bot lamented. He grunted as Drift hit him in the back with a larger snowball. “Hey, Bee! Give a ‘Bot a hand?!”
“We’re supposed to be studying battle tactics, not playing,” Bumblebee retorted.
“Come on. Snowball fights are all about battle tactics!” To prove his point, Sideswipe feinted left. Drift blocked his real punch from his right, but Sideswipe used his still-moving left hand to snatch a handful of snow and shove it onto the samurai’s head. Sputtering, Drift backed up, allowing Sideswipe to knock him over with a well-placed kick. “See?” he said.
Drift’s response was to kick his legs out from under him from his position on the ground, and Sideswipe landed with a loud “Ooomf!” in the torn-up snow. Strongarm and Sawtooth laughed as he scrambled to his feet and lunged at the other Autobot.
But Drift was ready for him. Throwing loose powder in Sideswipe’s eyes, he ducked behind him and kicked him into a snow pile. “He is indeed correct, Bumblebee. I am now engaged in lecturing Sideswipe to avoid gloating over his opponents before they are unconscious.”
“I’ll show you unconscious!” Sideswipe growled playfully as he pulled himself free of the snow, one hand clutched tightly on a white something. Pivoting on his right foot, he threw a malformed snowball into Drift’s chest. There was enough force behind the throw to send the other ‘Bot skidding backward.
Bumblebee sighed as the two continued to spar. “He has a point, Bumblebee,” Optimus remonstrated gently. “The surrounding territory can be an advantage in a battle, and it is unlikely our opponents will have had experience with snow or snowball fights.”
The former Scout closed the distance between them. “Optimus, if you’re right, snowballs aren’t going to help us.” He glanced at the laughing, happy scene, and Optimus recognized the fear in his eyes. Bumblebee was wondering if he would lose any of his teammates in the coming conflict.
He had faced that same fear and lived through it many times over the years himself. Often the Autobots he had watched having fun moments before lay dead within the opening phase of a battle. Some of them had been friends of his and others had been friends of Bumblebee’s. Neither of them wanted to see his team suffer the same fate as so many units of Autobots had in the War.
Optimus hoped fervently that they could in fact survive this situation without casualties or another war. He had seen enough death and destruction over the eons; he did not wish to see more. And these young Autobots, who did not know what it was to truly lose a compatriot, would hopefully never have to learn the grief that came with the loss. Sideswipe’s near-miss in the battle against Starscream was the closest they had come to true injury and death. He desperately wanted that to be as close as they came to actually losing someone.
Shaking the phantoms of fear away, Optimus turned his head slightly to avoid another snowball. This one had been a stray; Sideswipe had his hands full with Drift and was in no position to think of throwing snowballs at anyone but him. “Excessive stress from too much training is not helpful either, Bumblebee,” Optimus chided gently. “I learned that in the War.”
The other sighed. “You’re right, of course. It’s just…”
“It is never easy waiting for a battle.” Optimus put his free hand on Bumblebee’s shoulder. The younger ‘Bot looked up at him, and for a moment, Optimus saw the eager, trusting young Scout he had commanded for so long staring back at him. Bumblebee had grown and strengthened during his absence. But a part of him was still that hopeful, never-give-up young ‘Bot who had dared to face down Megatron at the price of his voice box.
But the rest was the grown Autobot who had saved Optimus’ life by running Megatron through with the Star Saber, whose sense of righteousness and commitment to what was good and true in the universe mirrored his own. Optimus knew he could have asked for no better successor than Bumblebee. Nor could he ask for a better subordinate. “You, Bulkhead, and the others needed rest and relaxation during the War from time to time as well. Do not begrudge your own team the freedom to enjoy themselves while they can.”
Bumblebee’s eyes turned to regard the fight still raging in the midst of the scrap yard. He sighed, and as his shoulders slumped Optimus felt the tension leave him. “You’re right.” He shook his head. “I don’t know what I was thinking.”
Smiling slightly, Optimus hefted the snowball he had caught earlier and held it out to Bumblebee. “Perhaps it is best to think only of the present moment. I believe this belongs to Sideswipe, does it not?”
The younger ‘Bot looked at the snowball for a long minute. Slowly, a smile spread across his face and he took it from Optimus’ grasp. “I do believe it does.” Switching the projectile to his other hand, Bumblebee cocked his arm and threw the snowball.
It splattered on Sideswipe’s head, startling a yell from him. Shooting Optimus a playful grin, Bumblebee transformed, raced forward a short distance, and then swung to a stop. The maneuver threw snow over Grimlock, the Weaponizers, Denny, Russell, Slipstream, and Jetstorm. Strongarm and Sawtooth both ended up with a face full of snow courtesy of the slide as well. Sideswipe was too busy brushing snow from the top of his head to notice some had landed on his feet. Drift was far enough away that the snow Bumblebee kicked up did not touch him.
“You guys gonna sit there all day?” Bumblebee asked. “Or are we going to go show Fixit how to have a snowball fight?”
The others shared a look. Grimlock grinned, to be answered by similar smiles from Strongarm and Sideswipe. Drift did not grin, but Optimus could see the corners of his mouth turning up in a smile.
“Then let’s rev up and roll out!” Bumblebee shouted, peeling out of the yard. Grimlock chased after him as Strongarm and Sideswipe transformed to follow, Strongarm pausing only long enough for Sawtooth to climb onto her roof. Drift transformed and drove over to Denny and Russell, who hopped in as soon as his door was open. Slipstream and Jetstorm jumped onto his roof and he raced toward the Command Center.
The Weaponizers shared a look. As one, they turned to Aerobolt.
Flicking a glance at Optimus, he nodded once to them. The band took off after the other Autobots. All of them were smiling, even Tricerashot.
As the roars and shouts began in the Command Center, Optimus’ partner turned to look at him. “Shall we watch the festivities?” he asked.
“I believe we shall,” Optimus answered. Transforming to vehicle mode, he let Aerobolt fly ahead of him. Smiling privately to himself, Optimus drove toward the Command Center. The threats they faced were as dangerous as any they had known in the Great War. But this was a new era, with new soldiers who had already proved that they were worthy warriors and true friends. Though the road ahead would be dangerous and dark, with Autobots such as these at his side, Optimus knew in his spark that they would succeed.
But for now, they were going to have a little fun.