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"Warped", Chapter Seventeen

Title (chapter): Warped (17)
Series: Transformers, G1-based (“Blue” AU)
Rating: PG-13
Summary: In which Starscream makes his point - and Skyfire makes a point right back - Thundercracker makes a decision, and Skywarp is sent a present.
Notes: BWAAA. Urghhh so sloooow with the updates. It's always a bad thing when I start to work on the next stories in the sequence because I lose track of the 'published' (as in, uploaded) ones. Anyway! I hope this chapter reads all right; Starscream AND Skyfire were being very reticent about what they wanted to say to each other. :P




Warped
Chapter Seventeen

“Hey, Screamer.”

If he comes over here with he sole intention of pestering me just once more, I swear I will solder his lips shut. Starscream lifted his gaze from his soldering iron and gave Skywarp his best glare, hoping to scare him away. “What do you want now?”

Far too familiar with his wing commander’s moods to be sent packing with just a sour look, Skywarp scarcely even flickered an optic; he instead rested his elbows on the desk, and fiddled with an unattended focussing crystal until a pair of blue hands irritably flapped him away. “Word in the corridors says your bestest buddy is back from wherever it is he’s been afting about lately,” he supplied, offhand.

“If you’re talking about Skyfire – and I have no doubt that you are, because subtlety never was and never will be your forte,” Starscream dropped his gaze back down to his work and got back to microwelding components into place, “then I know. He got back over an orn ago.”

“You know, and you’ve not even gone to argue with him once yet?” Skywarp planted a palm flat on Starscream’s brow in a parody of taking his temperature. “Something wrong? Don’t you feel well?”

Starscream jerked backwards, out of reach. “Look, I am not in the mood for your fraggery,” he hissed, and jabbed the heat lance dangerously close to Skywarp’s face, forcing his wingmate to hurriedly back up before he got it in his optic. “I know you’re only displacing your own oversentimental concerns onto me, and you can just stop it. I don’t need you pestering me because it’s keeping your mind off your own worries.”

Skywarp’s features had already curled into a pout. “Psh. Don’t give yourself so much credit,” he sniped, helping himself to one of the focusing crystals again. “You’re just an easy target, and I’m bored.”

“Clearly.” The ‘easy target’ plucked the component out of the purple fingers with a glare. “Primus, I never once thought I’d see the day I wished you weren’t being emotionally semi-responsible and just got back to your old aftery,” he snapped, at the limit of his patience. One more breem of this and I’m going to start throwing things. “Why can’t you just… slag off and put glue on Prime’s chair, or something? That’s your usual standard of inanity, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, and how long do you think it’d be before they kicked me out, or worse? You heard Prime, if I cause problems I end up in stasis for the rest of our stay here.”

Starscream gave him a sour smile and set the crystal back down in the support matrix. “Beloved wingmate, that was the idea,” he shot back, dabbing tiny spots of solder and securing the crystal in place before Skywarp could get his hands on it again. “If you’re in stasis, you’re not pestering me.”

“You know? It’s so nice to know my wingmate cares about me so much he’d rather I was inert and unconscious.”

“How many hints do I have to drop before you leave me in peace to work?! The quicker I get you re-armed, the quicker we can be out of here.” Starscream levelled his best glower at the teleport. “And the quicker we can find Thundercracker, and think about what we’re going to do about those ‘issues’ that need resolving.”

“So you can run away from all the other ‘issues’, right?” Skywarp leaned closer across the table. “What exactly are you so scared of?” he challenged. “That you might have to talk to him? Big fragging deal. What’s the worst that can happen, he guilts you into remembering you used to be his friend? Oh no, universe is gonna end because Screamer has proof he’s being a purge-retentive aft.” An unexpected blue fist landed square on his nose and sent him reeling, hands over his face. “Ow-… ow! Ohh, no fair, ow, what is it with people smacking my poor nose around?”

He can’t be that badly damaged if he can make that much noise about it, Starscream considered, darkly. “So stop leaving people in a position where they want to smack you around,” he snapped. “If you really want to know? I don’t want to risk our precarious position here, and I can’t guarantee that I won’t go for the big traitor’s main power regulator.” He hitched his wings and flexed his fingers, attempting to stretch a little of the tension out of his fists. His voice descended into barely intelligible mutterings. “Why the big idiot had to choose now to show up, I have no idea…”

“Well Lucy seems to be getting on all right with him,” Skywarp sniped around his fingers, still nursing his abused nose. “And I wouldn’t be surprised if he hadn’t given her a full run-down on your history together, while he was at it, so he can’t be too mad at you or she wouldn’t be going near you any more.”

This time the optics were narrower and the gaze even more scathing, blazing almost white-hot from beneath hooded brows; Starscream was up on his lopsided feet in a fraction of a second, bumping against the table and sending it skidding away, scattering half his carefully-laid-out collection of components across the floor. “If you’re trying to poke me into a violent response,” he chewed out, hotly, stabbing a finger for emphasis, “then congratulations, it’s working. Now back off before I jam this,” he hefted the half-completed weapon like a javelin, “down your intakes.”

Skywarp folded his arms, bullishly. “I’d like to see you try,” he goaded.

...so it was very unfortunate timing on Skyfire’s part. Starscream was already on a hair trigger, so the explosive response when the big shuttle tentatively put his head around the door and voiced his polite greetings probably shouldn’t have gone entirely unexpected…

0o0o0o0o0

Down in the desert, Siphon’s master plan was finally back on track.

Deuce was “on probation”. Siphon’s patience was painfully short with him, and since the truck had inadvertently proved Thundercracker had begun to sway his thinking, the tanker no longer trusted him even just to add the prisoners’ sedation to their energon while he watched.

Which, in turn, meant Siphon had taken full charge of doling out medication once again. Although Pulsar lay so inert that she barely even managed to flinch, Thundercracker managed to give a pretty good account of himself, scuffing trails of black paint across the tanker’s olive chassis and biting hard enough to trigger a slew of cursing. Siphon’s new badge brought with it new allies, however, and although Megatron himself had been conspicuous by his absence, there were plenty of the Seeker’s former comrades ready and willing to give their opinion of his treason. Thrust in particular took an obscene delight in ‘helping’ the tanker – although it was more for the opportunity to pay Thundercracker back for shooting him than out of any desire to be useful.

Right now, Slipstream was the only one of the three not sedated; Siphon had clearly noticed the sparkling’s determination to look after his small family, and decided that he could use it to his advantage. Why waste his or Deuce’s precious time ‘babying’ the prisoners when they had someone with nothing better to do that was perfectly willing to do it for them?

It was hard work for the little mech – particularly since the two adults were right on opposite sides of their accommodation. Dack would sag wherever Deuce put him, and Ama would settle herself as far away from him as physically possible, curled up, facing the wall. The usual purge-poor energon would get dumped just inside the doorway; the degree of care with which it was left depended on who was delivering it, and Slipstream had on at least one occasion had to make a frantic sprint to catch the cube when a careless shove had almost toppled it right over. He’d “ladle” out a little of the murky brown fuel into a second cube, so he could actually carry it, and trot across the cell first to Ama, because she was never very needy, and help her with her refuelling – she was too shaky to do it herself. Then he’d get his small back up against the larger cube and scoot it across the cell to Dack, and repeat the process of portioning the energon out into aliquots he could actually lift, and once the adults were both satisfied he’d finally fill his own small tanks.

Eventually, he’d slump against the big mech’s side, tucked up under an arm and against a wing, and let himself doze. He wanted to snuggle with Ama, to let her know they did care and were looking for a way out and would all escape, but she got twitchy at having him so close, even in that dozy half-conscious state.

It was in this subdued, dozy environment that they finally got their promised ‘visitor’, with the giant silver and black mech having to stoop very slightly to avoid his head brushing against the ceiling. To start with, he remained in the doorway, silently surveying the three; Slipstream didn’t like the way the big crimson optics stared so probingly at him, and tried to hide better behind Thundercracker’s arm. Eventually Siphon released the field, and the giant stepped through; the imposing stature and heavy black fusion barrel along one arm left no confusion over who he was.

A mech could say what he liked about Siphon’s disturbing manner, the little brute hadn’t done badly at all, Megatron considered, silently. All three were actually well under control and acting obedient.

The femme was of little interest – Siphon had torn her to pieces comprehensively enough for anyone to be satisfied with, and she looked almost dead anyway, missing several bits of her anatomy and sluggishly leaking fluids from the point of her broken shoulder – but the other two were a different matter. In spite of its odd colouration, he had very few doubts that the damaged Seeker trying vainly to maintain an air of hostile defensiveness was anyone other than who Siphon claimed it was, and as for the little one… It seemed even more unlikely that there had been more unattended younglings in grabbing distance and the tanker had somehow got lucky.

The tiny mech had drawn anxiously closer to his barely-conscious guardian as Megatron had watched, settling his small body down on the jet’s chassis – but was still not breaking eye contact. Bold little creature, Megatron considered, thoughtfully. It was hard to tell precisely who was trying to protect who; Thundercracker had a loose arm protectively mantled up over the smaller creature, but the infant was still trying to put himself in between Thundercracker and his former leader. How sickeningly adorable.

“You’re certain this is Thundercracker?” Megatron challenged, at last, breaking the silence. “My former loyalist is blue in colour.”

Siphon remained a respectful half-step behind him. “Indeed. He was blue when he arrived,” he confirmed, cryptically. “But I needed to use his services before sending my masterpiece back to her idiot partner,” he gestured to Pulsar; “as I could not get Skywarp himself.”

Megatron gave him a wary sidelong look – the same sort of look he used to give Starscream when suspicious that his Second was cooking some nefarious plot or another – then gestured into the cell. “You mean to say this waste of good spares is the Autobot we’ve all been hearing sparked off against Skywarp?” he challenged, drolly. “I must say I expected something… larger.”

Siphon chuckled; his laugh was particularly thin and unpleasant, just then. “I suspect there was either an element of desperation about it, from both parties,” he confirmed. “Or else she was just too scared to say ‘no’.” He slid his scrawny frame through the narrow gap between the larger machine and the doorframe, and casually plucked Slipstream up out of the sand.

The sparkling jolted hard in alarm, and struggled very briefly, twisting round and attempting to reach for his guardian, until Siphon placed him into Megatron’s large hands. Being trapped in the giant’s grip seemed to put a dampener on his determination to wriggle free. He glanced back towards Thundercracker just the once, as if to reassure himself that Siphon wasn’t hurting him, then looked back up to meet the stern crimson gaze above.

“Hello, little one,” Megatron greeted, quietly, stepping back towards the exit. “I’ve been looking forwards to meeting you. I hope you can live up to your promise-”

“Hey-… hey…! Bring him back here,” a deep voice challenged from behind, accompanied by the low grate of ill-tended hydraulics and shifting plating.

Megatron turned to find Thundercracker had actually made it to his feet; he matched stares with the muted damson optics, for a moment or two, and gave him a long, critical visual appraisal. The smaller machine looked… woozy, almost, he was swaying very very slightly and his thrusters were spread more widely than normal for balance. Obviously he was making a valiant effort at being his usual pugnacious self, but was barely awake enough to even remain upright without effort.

“Bring him back, or I’ll come take him,” Thundercracker added, taking one unsteady step closer and waving a threatening finger to emphasise his willingness to attempt violence on his former leader.

“No, I don’t think I will,” Megatron replied, disparagingly, turning back to the door. “I’ll bring him back when it suits me. Fighting you just isn’t worth my time any more.”

The insult was clear in the heavy voice. “You just… come back here, and say that to my face-…!”

Megatron smiled, cynically; full marks for effort, but nil points for effectiveness. “You?” the tyrant repeated, advancing slowly, “Are not. Worth. My time.” He pressed a single finger against the scuffed amber glass of the jet’s cockpit, and pushed.

Exactly as he’d predicted, Thundercracker was so precarious that he couldn’t even fight against that insignificant little shove. He teetered unsteadily backwards, passed his centre of gravity, and grunted in pain as his back and wings impacted the wall.

“Dack…!” a plaintive little voice complained, worriedly, but it was already moving away.

Thundercracker listened to the low fzzt of the security field closing, and groaned to himself, lifting a shaky hand to nurse his temples. Lost him. Lost him. Oh Primus slag it to the deepest Pit. What’s the chance he actually will bring him back?

Only one thing for it. They need to find us. Got to get a message out, so the guys know where to look. Got to get a person out. He studied his fellow prisoner for almost a full breem before making his mind up. “Listen. Pulse?”

She sneaked her gaze sideways, until she could just see him, in the very periphery of her vision. “Wh-what?”

He kept still; ordinarily, he’d have wanted to look her in the eye and be sure she understood, but that would be more likely to spook her back into those deep mental hiding places – and his need to have her listen was greater. “I’m going to ask Deuce to let you out of here,” he said, softly. “Not just because you’ll be dead if you stay much longer, but our friends won’t find us if at least one of us doesn’t get out.”

“They’ll find us-” she asserted, raspily.

“It’s almost been forty terran orns, Pulse. And do you know how big this ball of dirt is? They’re not going to find us without help, certainly not before that crackpot kills someone.”

“Then get yourself out! You and Seem,” she pleaded, betraying her strength of feeling by actually turning very slightly in his direction. “Get out, hide, find a radio, something. I’ll keep him busy-”

“Oh no, you’re not going to get me agreeing to that.” Thundercracker shook his head. “Your little ones would never forgive us for making a plan like that. If we got away, how long do you think it would take before Siphon finished the job of dismantling you? He won’t just be angry, he’ll be murderous. He’ll scatter your parts all the way across the surface of this mud-ball world.”

Her dim optic looked back away. “Small sacrifice if my little one gets out alive. He’s what’s important. Not some broken-up one-of-a-million creature like me-”

“I wish you’d… just… stop keep labouring that point!” the jet scolded, and rubbed his temples, frustratedly, when she flinched and curled more tightly into a broken ball. “I understand that you’re not the most unique of models out there. I understand that you were off the production line and straight into a job. I understand that you were adult from the get-go, that you never experienced being a sparkling, that you had to learn everything the hard way. It doesn’t mean you’re disposable. Too many lives have been thrown away for nothing on this stupid war, and I’ll be damned if I let another life go down the drain because I was careless.” At least she seemed to still be listening; he pushed on. “I can look after myself, I’ve been smacked around enough in all my vorns as a Decepticon to know what I can tolerate, and Seem is too valuable for Megatron to want to harm. We get you out. You call the alarm. And in the process? You survive.”

0o0o0o0o0

…The fact that Starscream been unarmed in the traditional sense – even his careful combination of threats and bribery hadn’t persuaded Ratchet to reattach his null-rays – hadn’t seemed to impact too greatly on his ability to generate damage. The fact he wasn’t bristling with heavy firepower should have made him easier to catch, but the intensity and ferocity of his bodily assault on Skyfire left everyone struggling to come to a suitable response. His welding lance and teeth shredded their way through softer components like a blowtorch through a stick of butter, and the sharp rim of his one good thruster had scraped away great plaques of paint from Skyfire’s lower body; it looked almost like the shuttle was being attacked by an ungodly large winged feline, the way the maddened Seeker hung on and kicked.

Footloose – familiar with the idea that Decepticons could be violent, but never yet having party to some of the worst of it – had been absolutely terrified, and hidden herself away in a cupboard somewhere in a near-abandoned corner of the Ark. It took a combined effort from half a dozen machines a good cycle or two to find her in the first place, and then almost another cycle to finally coax her out into the safety of Forceps’ large arms.

Speaking of whom, even Forceps – who had already made a reputation for herself by being famously unimpressed by any of what she defined ‘stupidity’ on the part of the Seekers – had looked somewhat taken aback by the sheer determined violence in Starscream’s actions. You can take the Seeker out of the Decepticons, but you’ll never quite take all the Decepticon out of the Seeker. She and Ratchet – the only two strong enough to make an impact, right now – finally managed to wrestle the wailing mech off his prey and down to the brig to ‘cool off’ after a full breem of noisy violence had ensued.

In comparison to Skywarp, who could be just as explosive but never really hung onto a bad mood for too long, Starscream was the acknowledged expert when it came to nursing the embers of a bad temper. Even the most minor of infractions could be counted on to provide a hostile undercurrent to his manner for far longer than was necessary.

So this little tantrum was going to take him a while to get over! It took a good terran orn for the irate former Air Commander to even stop pacing and threatening and swearing – although being confined in a little cell in the bowels of the mountain with no windows and barely enough room to turn full circle didn’t help his mood one iota. When he finally settled – and the Ark vented a collective sigh of relief that he had – he parked himself sullenly on his narrow berth and refused to acknowledge anyone, not even Skywarp. (Not that the teleport went out of his way to check on him. He looked around the door just the once, prodded for a response, endured a few astro-seconds of his wingmate’s best hostile silence, then gave up.)

When Jazz went down to check on him (and assess his mood), Starscream hadn’t moved at all for cycles. His temper was still running hot, but it wasn’t spitting quite so much ichor out around him.

“Yeah, Skyfire,” Starscream heard him say. “Looks like he’s cooled down a bit now. You miight be able to get through to him.”

The red Seeker folded his arms a little tighter across his chassis, ground his denta a little harder together, found a good interesting spot on the wall to stare at. Not going to respond. Not going to say a word. Don’t HAVE a word TO say. Not to him. Traitorous lump of old purge-sludge.

“Thank you, Jazz,” Skyfire acknowledged, polite as ever. “I have the suspicion this may be a short conversation anyway.”

Starscream couldn’t help it. In spite of the way he’d assured himself that he wouldn’t respond, that nothing was worth stooping to Skywarp’s level and name-calling-… he couldn’t help it. “Nice to see you’re still hanging around like a bad smell,” he sniped, not looking up – not needing to look up at the big white blob in the periphery of his vision. “You know they only keep you around to be their willing taxi.”

Outside the cell, Skyfire inclined his head, sadly. “Better a welcome taxi in the company of friends than an unwelcome punching bag in the company of those who want him dead,” he replied, softly.

Starscream narrowed his optics a little further; crimson blazed out hotly enough to make a little scarlet pinpoint on the wall opposite. “What do you want, anyway? Come to gloat? If you’ve got any told-you-so-s, you better get them over and done with, because I am not talking to you.”

“If you’ve come to think of me as the gloating sort, then you truly have forgotten our friendship,” Skyfire replied, softly. “I just wanted to talk to you, a little. See if we could patch things over. I’m prepared to forgive and forget, if you are. We used to just talk quite a lot, as I recall.”

“What could you possibly have to say that you think I would want to hear?!” Starscream grated out, finally jerking his head angrily around to glare at the shuttle; seeing the great scraped silver plaques still on his lower body wasn’t quite as satisfying as he’d hoped it would be. “After you… betrayed me! After everything I went through because of you, and then you still betrayed me, abandoned me…!? I dug you out of the ice, I insisted they keep trying when you didn’t immediately come round, and when you finally woke up? You dumped me so fast it may as well have been because I was electrified!”

Skyfire rubbed his brows, tiredly. “Have you never once stopped to consider my side of things, Star?” he wondered. “I had been in stasis lock for the entire duration of the war, and you expected me to throw my hand in immediately with the side that stood for almost everything that was opposite of what I stood for?”

Starscream bristled. “Don’t you take that tone with me! This is important and I will not-”

“All right, this has dragged on far enough. Just for once, will you shut up and let me speak, Starscream?”

Suitably startled by the unfamiliar outburst, Starscream actually did just that, protests dying unspoken in his vocaliser. His optics had widened to big crimson pools of surprise.

“That you feel betrayed, I understand. And please accept that I deeply regret making you feel that way!” The gentle giant went on, softly. “But your bruised feelings are not solely my doing. You had as much a hand in this as I did.”

“Oh please,” Starscream scoffed, folding his arms and glaring at the wall, but there was a strange, uneasy discomfiture lurking just beneath the surface of his manner.

“When you asked that I joined you in the Decepticons?” Skyfire pushed to secure his advantage. “You betrayed my trust. You, who knew me better than anyone, knowingly invited me into a faction that would root out every last one of my so-called ‘weaknesses’ – if respect for life can be called a weakness – and exploit them to the detriment of my health. I suspect you also knew deep down that I could not have changed to fit in, and would have quickly ended up dead at Megatron’s hand, or have at very least been beaten into servitude. So before you labour too heavily the point of my supposed betrayal, how about we discuss yours?”

Starscream glared horribly, and huffed, but even with all the smarts in his head couldn’t come up with a suitable retort. The shuttle’s scolding words had actually stung! And for no good reason. Perhaps he was so used to thinking he was the one in the right, that the shuttle had simply thrown their friendship back in his face and turned his back on him, that it was a genuine shock to see things from the other’s point of view. If Skyfire had asked that I join him, before he ‘betrayed’ me, would I have? Could I have given up everything to pick up an old friendship?

“That said?” Skyfire backed off a step or two, accepting Starscream’s silence as him having accepted the point. “It is good to see you again without exchanging blows. I know you may not believe me – make that, probably won’t believe me – but I am glad you are out of the self-destructive spiral you had got yourself caught up in.”

Starscream pursed his lips, and elected not to comment. He watched as the shuttle sighed, finally despairing of making his point, and moved away towards the exit.

Skyfire hesitated in the doorway. “I’m not going to leave my home just to satisfy your selfish hostility,” he said, just loudly enough that the current monitor could hear and be witness to it, if needed. “If you don’t want to talk civilly, I accept that. I’m quite happy to ignore you too, if that’s what you want. But please, for the sake of your family, if you can’t bring yourself to make it for my sake? Don’t be quite so quick to deal out violence. Next time I will be ready, and I would hate to damage you any more than you already are.”

Starscream listened as the footsteps departed, and huffed to himself, folding his arms a little more self-comfortingly across his chassis. Stupid big white blob, he consoled himself, although his words weren’t quite so reassuring as they used to be. Never understood, and still doesn’t.

A breem or two passed before – at long last – there was the sound of footsteps and the bips of fingers keying in the sequence to release the security field.

“Prowl says I can let you out if you’re gonna be on your best behaviour,” Jazz explained, with a lopsided smile, when Starscream finally appeared in the space left when the bars retracted. “But that little incident in the medical suite was your one and only opportunity to express your true feelings, so to speak. You go for the jugular again-”

“-and I get to spend the rest of our stay in stasis, I know,” Starscream interrupted, grimly. “Trust me, I don’t plan on losing control like that again.” He wrinkled his lip in a sneer. “Certainly not where you lot can see it.”

The instant he was out of the transmission-muffling cell-block, Starscream pinged Skywarp for a positional reference and got a wordless reflex response; galley. Should have known he’d be slacking off somewhere. He followed it along the corridors, reassured by the lack of riot-noises.

The galley/rec-room was fairly busy, when he arrived. There was a cluster of Autobots watching television and making impolite small-talk about some inane human chatshow – it surprised him that Skywarp hadn’t taken over the couch and remote, actually, but then he was sorely outnumbered – and two playing chess (well, arguing across the top of a chessboard, but that seemed no different to normal). The viewing windows had been rigged with holoprojectors so instead of staring at rock, a machine could look out on views of Cybertron.

Starscream studiously ignored all the stares at his arrival; he kept his nose snootily elevated and pretended there was no-one there except himself and his wingmate, although there was a trace – just a trace – of humility in his manner. He fetched himself a flask of energon, swapped a hideous glare with Sunstreaker, who was using the computer terminal nearby, and turned away to find Skywarp in his usual corner, next to the largest viewscreen and actually looking semi-intellectual with a news-sheet laid out in front of him.

Starscream drew closer to find Footloose tucked in under Skywarp’s wing, apparently trying to mould herself to his flank. She wrapped her little fingers around his arm and pulled it in front of her, hiding herself from full view and peeking out around it. Her little green optics were bluish in alarm.

Skywarp glanced up and met his gaze very briefly; the dark Seeker looked sorely peevish. -gonna say sorry or I’m not talking- he instructed, darkly.

-don’t be a sparkling- Starscream scolded. -no big deal and she’ll get over it-

Good to his word, Skywarp didn’t even respond to the ping. He had his gaze fixed upon the news sheet on the table (although Starscream sensed he wasn’t even attempting to read it), nursing half a flask of energon with his free hand.

-oh grow up, Warp…-

Skywarp flashed him a sneer, but remained silent.

Starscream grimaced, visibly, and – looking like he’d rather take a wrench to the sensitive edges of his wings – crouched down beside where Skywarp was sitting, bringing him to eye-level with Footloose.

“I’m sorry I scared you, Footloose,” he gritted out, struggling to get the words out with so many optics turning to watch. Primus-damned Autobots could at least give us a smidgen of privacy, here! “I didn’t mean to get so angry.”

She peered hesitantly out from behind Skywarp’s arm. “Not make hurt more now?” she wondered, in a voice that was barely above a whisper.

“No. No more.”

“Not make hurt at Ska’fie?” she chased, giving him a long, beseeching look.

He groaned inwardly, and offered his hands, and she (thankfully) elected to climb out of Skywarp’s arms and settle into the blue palms. “I suppose I could stand to keep from walloping him any more,” he agreed, dryly, tweaking her antennae and making her chirp softly in appreciation. “Provided people don’t keep poking me into reacting.”

Skywarp made a dismissive noise but didn’t rise to the bait.

“Why make hurts?” she wondered. “Ska’fie nice, says was friend?”

“Hmm.” Starscream settled into the chair next to his wingmate, and let Footloose tuck herself into her usual spot in the crook of his arm. “It’s… complicated.”

“Ska’fie say also,” she agreed, grumpily. “What make complicated?”

“Well… we, ah… have ‘history’ together.”

“Ska’fie say make science together? Until Ska’fie lost.”

“That’s right.” Great, what else has he told her…? “It was on this mud-ball world that he went missing.”

Footloose hummed and clicked anxiously. “Like Dack and Seem?”

“Oh Primus, no, nothing like how they’ve gone missing,” he was quick to reassure. “It was an accident with Skyfire. The weather got bad, and I couldn’t find him.”

“That why Sta’zim angry with?” She looked puzzled. “Said was accident.”

“No, it’s not why we fell out. That’s, um... that’s the bit that’s hard to explain. See, he went missing before the war, and didn’t know anything about our different factions when he woke up.” It was hard to remain neutral on the subject, especially while he was still stinging from their 'conversation' a few breems ago. “When he decided to join the Autobots, I took it personally. If he was my friend, he should have stayed with me.” He lowered his voice, and muttered, softly; “not that the Autobots have ever treated him better than we would have, anyway.”

Footloose grumbled, perplexed, and butted her little head against his shoulder. “But why argue?” she insisted.

He gave her a look. “I told you why. We made our choices, and have been glaring at each other from opposite factions ever since.”

“So Day and Ama am different factors,” Footloose challenged. “Why big matter?”

Of course, you’ve never been party to their arguments. He winced. “You’ll understand when you’re older.”

“Want understand now,” she grumbled, folding her arms, but didn’t push it any further.

Starscream was just reaching for his flask when something gave him a firm swat around the back of his head; he ow!-ed and glared irritably sidelong as Forceps slid into the next chair along. “What was that for?”

“For all that afting about, earlier,” she replied, dryly, as Footloose – apparently back to her usual self – squeaked a greeting and climbed between laps. “You’ve forgiven him then, hmm, Button?”

Footloose clicked happily and scaled her aunt’s broad chest to rub cheeks. “Sta’zim say not to make more hurts,” she confirmed.

“Well, that’s good! I’d hate to have to weld him to a medical berth or anything to keep him under control.”

Starscream gave her a dirty look, but didn’t argue it, while Skywarp snrk-ed in the background. A strange sort of peace was maintained for approximately half a breem, until Skywarp got an unexpected delivery-

“Yo, Skywarp! Catch!”

“What?” Skywarp turned to find Sideswipe had already thrown whatever he was carrying, and it was only Seeker reflexes that prevented the big brown paper-wrapped box from smacking him in the face.

“Someone’s sending you stuff!”

Sending me stuff?” Skywarp frowned, examining the brown parcel and pinging at the twine that tied it shut; the irritation melted off him and was replaced very quickly by curiosity. It was clearly for him, because it had his name printed in both Cybertronian and Earthly letters on the top of it, followed by a clumsy but understandable rendition of the Ark’s address. “Who’d be sending me stuff? Who even knows I’m here?” he wondered, mostly to himself, hooking his thrusters comfortably up on the table.

“I hope there’s nothing dangerous to anyone’s health in there,” Forceps gave the red twin a wary look as he passed.

Sideswipe gave her a withering look. “Oh please. Prowl made us run it through the analyser first,” he retorted. “There’s no unstable chemicals, no vapours, no incendiaries, nothing. Just a bit of fabric, and paper, some inert alloys and a trace of lubricant. Harmless!”

“I don’t recognise the handwriting,” Starscream pointed out, watching as Skywarp slit the tape and pinged the twine at Footloose.

“Me neither,” Skywarp agreed, distractedly, scattering shreds of slightly-sparkly rumpled white tissue paper around his chair. “There’s fragloads of paper in here. Who in Primus sends a box of paper?”

Starscream turned his attention to Skywarp’s newspaper, and prodded his thrusters in an effort to slide the sheet out from under them; Skywarp surreptitiously pushed down harder against the table. “Come on, Warp, don’t be an aft. If you don’t want it, I do.” He gave the sheet a quick tug, and-

“Primus!”

The angry yelp blared through the comparative calm with the insistency of a fire alarm, and there was a resounding crash from Skywarp’s corner. There was a snicker or two of impolite amusement at the recognition that the teleport had finally asked his chair for just that little bit too much, and had gone right over the back of it…

The expression on his face as he staggered to his feet and lurched angrily for the door wiped the smirks clean away; Footloose squeaked anxiously, and gave chase. Forceps gave Starscream a look.

“Hey, I didn’t do that!” the red Seeker asserted, irritably, quick to absolve himself of blame, and took charge, snatching the discarded box up off the floor to work out what had triggered such an outburst. “Oh holy Primus-”

Starscream stood and surveyed the murmuring crowd with a baleful expression on his dark face. “Who in Primus name gave him this without checking exactly what the slag was in it?” he demanded, loudly, lifting the box.

There was an array of pointing fingers, all pointing at everyone else.

“Then you’re all a bunch of idiots!” He relinquished the box to Forceps. “Honestly. Do none of you pay attention to the environment you live in, or do you just hope the gist of a situation will make its way through your thick heads by osmosis?”

Forceps rumbled her engines, as though clearing her throat, and gave his arm a tug, coaxing him to sit. “You’re making a scene,” she pointed out.

“I think I’m entitled,” he argued, sniffily. “So, um…” He lowered his voice. “Is it hers?” he wondered, quietly, watching as the surgeon carefully took the box and examined the contents… bringing out a small piece of royal-blue armour, edged with a scuffed trim of pale blue and yellow chequering, trailing wires and part of a rotator cuff, wrapped in mocking lengths of gaudy primrose and pale blue silk ribbon.

-no, wait… that wasn’t just a piece of armour. It was a foot, and not a very gently excised one, either. There were groans of mixed disgust and horror from the assembled Autobots, and one or two of the more sensitive sparks actually staggered out of the room, trying not to purge their tanks.

Forceps nodded, tightly. “No doubt about it.” She glanced up, met his gaze. “I don’t like the implications of this.”

“Me neither,” Starscream agreed, grimly. “Although we could see if we can extract any clues from it…” He sighed. “I better go see if I can track Skywarp down. Primus only knows who he’ll try to kill while he’s in this frame of mind.”

He followed Warp’s positional fix as far as he could; it was somewhere up in the clouds, and – he pinged Skywarp again to be sure – was departing. He grimaced up at the bad weather, and sighed. It was something of a relief to be grounded, actually, because it meant he didn’t have to feel obliged to go chasing his errant wingmate through this murk.

It spoke volumes about his mood that he’d even left Footloose behind. She sat cross-legged on the dirt outside, accumulating her own little mud puddle, and gave him a sad, tired look.

“Where’s that silly pain in the aft got to, hmm?” he wondered, settling down on the ground just under the shelter of the Ark, out of the rain; Footloose promptly climbed into his lap, spreading her mud onto his chassis. Oh well. Looks like we’ll be bathing again soon.

“Day am up,” she explained, sadly, pointing into the rainclouds. “Wouldn’t take, even when made please!”

“Wouldn’t take you with him, hmm?” He hunched his shoulders and rested one elbow against his knee, hitching his battered wings forwards, and pinging at her antennae. “Probably for the best, Lucy.”

She butted her head into his palm, and grumbled tiredly. “Why best? Wanted to go with!”

“He’s in a grumpy mood. He wouldn’t have been good company.” ‘Grumpy’ was probably a contender for misnomer of the vorn, but then Footloose probably wouldn’t have grasped the context behind ‘murderous’.

“Could have helped make happy,” she pointed out.

“Ahh… no. I don’t think it’s anything you could have helped with.”

She was quiet for a minute or two. “Didn’t like present and sparklies?”

“Ah, again, no. Not all presents are good.” Please, don’t ask what was in it…!

“Am trick? Like when Aunnie Ausep make medicine in energon candies?”

He seized on the analogy. “That’s right.”

They sat together in silence for a few breems, watching as the rain got heavier and the light diminished. Eventually, there was the low tramp of a single pair of heavy footsteps, and Silverbolt emerged from the Ark’s main corridor. “Oh, you are still here, after all,” he half-greeted. “We were worried you’d run off.”

“Pish. I wouldn’t get very far with this leg,” Starscream sniped, grimly.

The Aerialbot settled a respectable but hopefully-companionable distance away. “Where’s Skywarp?”

“Primus knows. Up there, somewhere.” Starscream waved an arm at the gloom.

“Did you want us to go and try and coax him down?” Although he looked more at Footloose than at Starscream when he spoke, Silverbolt wore a gentle, concerned expression, and sounded fairly genuine. “The weather’s supposed to get worse and I don’t want him getting in trouble up there.”

The Seeker made a face and shook his head. “Don’t bother,” he demurred, surprisingly affably. “Of all the places he could be right now, up there is probably the place he’s least likely to come to harm. Down here he’ll only pick fights with people to work his frustration off, and there’s only so many times a mech can skate through by the shine on his skidplate without getting the bolts trounced out of him.”

“…voice of experience?”

“You have no idea.”

Footloose clicked very quietly. “What if bad weather make lost, like Ska’fie?”

Starscream chuckled in spite of himself. “Oh, he’ll be all right, Lucy. When Skyfire got lost, he and I were alone. There’s plenty of us here to go look for Warp if he gets his silly aft in trouble.”

“…haven’t found Dack yet.”

“No, not yet. But we will. All right?”

Footloose chirped sadly, and nodded.

Silverbolt watched the little exchange with a quiet admiration. Maybe all we need to do to end the war is infest Nemesis with sparklings. “Any idea what your brother will be doing, up there?” he wondered.

“Knowing Warp? It’s best not to ask.” Starscream smiled, wryly. “If you don’t know, you can’t get dragged in to help take the blame.” Beat. “I imagine he’s off rousing the Pit with some poor squishies somewhere.”

Silverbolt gave him an alarmed look. “Surely you’re not condoning his actions-”

Starscream maintained his dry grin. “I think you overestimate his ability. He’s unarmed and angry, he’ll be about as co-ordinated as an energy-depleted Menasor and probably get his aft handed to him.”

When he finally elected to return, well after the storm had descended like fury onto the Ark and turned the ground outside to mud, Skywarp was filthy and scorched and had a beautiful crack running full length up one side of his cockpit. At least he looked a little calmer than he had done before heading out.

“Feeling better?” Starscream wondered, not getting up just yet. Footloose stayed in his lap, watching out of wide, sad eyes as Skywarp approached over the mud.

The teleport grimaced, and kicked at a rock. “A bit,” he groused, but didn’t sound better.

Footloose squelched over the mud towards him and held up her arms; this time he didn’t need persuading, and indulged her with a long, tired hug before helping his wingmate to his feet. “Will make things fixed for Day,” the little femme promised, clicking and rubbing cheeks.

“Gonna take more than hugs to fix, Spark,” he sighed, tailing Starscream own the corridor, dragging his feet and deliberately making hideous scraping, squalling noises as his thrusters grated across the plating. “This is such a load of smeltery, Screamer. I swear, he’s spraying his marks up all over our territory, and I’m gonna kill him for it.”

“Nice to know that’s all friendship is, to Decepticons,” a little voice commented to another little voice, just a fraction too loudly, in the background. “A pissing contest over who has more of something.”

Skywarp flared up; he wasn’t sure what it meant, but knew it was derogatory. “Do you want to come over here and say that again, Auto-slag?” he challenged, loudly, tensing into a fighting stance. “Or would you rather I came over there to kick your slagging aft into the middle of the next vorn?!”

Bumblebee looked like he’d have been happy if the ground had opened up and swallowed him, and he’d already been cringing and looking like he’d been ambushed in the corridor by the speaker, Cliffjumper. In turn, the red minibot looked like he was regretting speaking quite so loudly, and he was never one to turn down the opportunity of kicking Decepticon skidplate.

“Not now, Warp,” Starscream despaired, latching a hand around his wingmate’s arm and dragging him away down the corridor.

Skywarp tolerated it only until he got over the surprise. “Since when do you back away from a fucking fight?” he snapped, jerking his arm free, looking like he was almost at the point of assaulting his wingmate instead. Footloose squeaked in alarm and clung to his shoulder vent to avoid falling to the floor.

“Since I just got out of their fragging brig, that’s when,” Starscream rounded on him. “I don’t want you putting yourself straight into the cell I just vacated.”

They were almost optic-to-optic. “I’m not having them spreading rumours about me, Screamer. Might not be any gloss off your nose but I don’t want that bunch of losers thinking its nothing more than a meaningless squabble-”

“What does it matter,” Starscream said, lowering his voice, “if they do think it’s all just some stupid dispute over territory? It’s not as if we need their help, we just need a base of operations, and energon. Our business is our business, let them believe what they like. All right?”

Skywarp backed down, sullenly. “It matters if they decide our ‘pissing contest’ is unimportant enough they can kick us out,” he grumbled, folding his arms. “What does that mean, anyway? Stupid Autobots.”

“There’s sparklings involved, and these soft-sparked liberals will do anything for little ones,” Starscream reminded him. “They won’t kick us out until the sparklings are safe, and at that point we don’t need their sympathy any more. Once Lucy and Seem are safely back on Cybertron, we don’t have to worry about them any more. The three of us can conclude our own business at our leisure.”

Skywarp actually looked disappointed. “Yeah,” he agreed, reluctantly, unconsciously tightening his gentle grip on his little girl; she clicked and rubbed cheeks. “I guess.”

Starscream pursed his lips, but didn’t challenge it. It was hard to maintain an air of lofty, hostile superiority when you had such a devoted aficionado that made it very clear you could do nothing wrong, and… Pit, he figured even he would miss the little brat, in a way.

They rounded the corner, and almost ran smack into Jazz. The saboteur gave them an affable smile and slipped on past them.

“How much of that did you hear?” Starscream challenged, and the smaller mech paused.

“How much of what?” Jazz wondered, over his shoulder. “I didn’t hear anything.” He offered a smile. “Even if I did, it’s none of my business, right?” He spread his hands, affably. “I know when to keep my mouth shut.”

Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
cmdrtekk
Feb. 21st, 2009 08:12 pm (UTC)
Another wonderfully done chapter. Detail careful.

So much easier to read in LJ.

Thanks for sharing.
keaalu
Feb. 24th, 2009 06:56 am (UTC)
Yeah, I think I prefer LJ as well. If only coding all those italics wasn't such a pain.

Thanks. :)
_silverfox
Feb. 21st, 2009 10:37 pm (UTC)
Well, Starscream and Skyfire always had problems communicating, so this isn't really surprising. (I actually think Starscream was almost as cute as Lucy in this chapter, but don't tell him that. ;) )
keaalu
Feb. 24th, 2009 06:57 am (UTC)
*lol* I'm not sure he'd believe you anyway; probably more likely to just think you're being facetious. ;)
_silverfox
Feb. 24th, 2009 10:32 pm (UTC)
You know, as a child I never dared tell my parents I wanted Transformers toys, because I'd promised Mum never to ask for something that disgusting again when I'd talked her into getting me Skeletor. Over a decade later Mum saw a picture of Starscream on my computer.
Mum: Oh, what is that cute thing?
Me: The toy I've always wanted, but Amazon won't deliver to this country.
Mum: We've got to find a way to get it. It's so cute, you must have it.

(And I did get him in the end.)
gogglehead84
Feb. 21st, 2009 11:03 pm (UTC)
Aww, Lucy is so innocent. XD I love the way Screamer interacts with everyone.
keaalu
Feb. 24th, 2009 07:02 am (UTC)
Heh, el Screaming One is alllllways a pleasure to write... ¬_¬ (I had to coax bully blackmail him into co-operating for this chapter.)
catraven
Feb. 23rd, 2009 05:18 pm (UTC)
This is so very good. I'm thoroughly enjoying every chapter.

Thanks!
keaalu
Feb. 24th, 2009 07:04 am (UTC)
Thanks. :D I'm always glad to hear words like those. :)
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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