Bumblebee waited outside his door.
Skyquake stopped in the hall, staring at the small black and yellow youngling clone. The little guy’s door wings twitched, the slight movement exaggerated by the stillness of the rest of him. Bumblebee stared intensely at the door, his mind whirling loudly as an internal debate raged behind his blue optics.
Taking a step closer, Skyquake cleared his throat.
The little clone jumped, spinning around and clutching something to his chest. His eyes widened and he looked his age: young and scared, like one of the Twins with their hands caught in the goodie jar.
Bumblebee chirped, “Skyquake.”
“Did you need something?” Skyquake asked. He looked down at the bundle in the youngling’s arms. It looked like he’d wrapped a large square in a polishing cloth. “What do you have there?”
“I found,” Bumblebee stopped. He held the small bundle away from his chest, his fingers twitching on the edges. Skyquake waited, wondering what had caused the little clone so much distress. Bumblebee cleared his throat with a small click and he held out the bundle. “I found this in Dreadwing’s room. It was hidden behind the mirror.”
Skyquake stared at the bundle, making no move to take it. Bumblebee glanced to the side and back at Skyquake before he tugged off the cloth. It slipped away, revealing a large sketch book. Skyquake felt a tug in his throat, and a whine in his systems.
“I wasn’t sure if I should give it to you or not,” Bumblebee said, his door wings falling flat against his back. He straightened a moment later, holding it further out for Skyquake to take. “But after I saw what was in it, I think you should see it for yourself.”
Skyquake took the book, opening the first page. A familiar sketch of Yellowjacket stared back at him, covered in energon and shooting a Citizen. He sucked in air heavily through his intake and looked back at Bumblebee, shoulders squared and gaze intense.
“I think there are things in there that you won’t be happy knowing,” Bumblebee said, turning his head to the ground. His beeps and clicks softened, almost a whisper as he continued. “But I think it’s important you know.”
With that, the small clone turned and tapped off down the hallway, leaving Skyquake alone with the sketchbook.
“What’s got you drowning high grade?” Airachnid asked, tapping into the small dining area. The night lighting cast a small dim glow over the empty room, barely illuminating the large Seeker at his perch on the table bench. “It’s not like you to drink alone and in the dark.”
Skyquake sipped his cube, staring at the tabletop. “Did you know Yellowjacket’s real name was Bumblebee?”
Airachnid stopped, optics blinking slowly. Well, that was a topic that came out of nowhere. Airachnid walked slowly over to the table until she was near Skyquake’s shoulder. “No, can’t say I knew that.”
“I wonder if our little clone knows that,” Skyquake said, almost absently. There was an emptiness to his voice that chilled Airachnid’s spark. He paused for another moment and then snorted, but it was still empty. “I guess he does now. He found out first.”
“You’re not making a lot of sense, big guy,” Airachnid said. She gently took the cube of high grade from his hand and tugged it away. “How much of this have you had?”
“Not enough,” Skyquake said. He shoved something across the table in front of Airachnid. He leaned his head down and held his face in his hands. “Did you know my brother was fragging Yellowjacket?”
Airachnid dropped the cube of high grade. The bright blue liquid splashed over the floor, glowing brighter than the overhead night lights.
“I’ll take that as a no,” Skyquake said, folding his arms on the table. The edge of his mouth twitched. “Kinda glad. I don’t think I could take it if he told someone else and still kept me in the dark, especially after he promised to come to me if he had any problems. We were supposed to trust each other but I guess I wasn’t good enough.”
“I think you need to start at the beginning,” Airachnid said, glancing between Skyquake and the book he’d shoved across the table. “And what does Bumblebee have to do with this? Did he tell you that? That Dreadwing and Yellowjacket were fragging?”
“Not directly, but he delivered the message,” Skyquake said. He waved his hand at the book. “It’s all in there, spider-lady.”
Airachnid tapped the edge of the book cover and flipped it over. A rather grotesque picture of Yellowjacket murdering a Citizen was the first sight she met. It was a bent piece of paper, taped to the first page of the book.
The workmanship was unmistakable; Airachnid would know Dreadwing’s work anywhere (enough of it covered the walls of her room).
“Keep going,” Skyquake said.
He watched as Airachnid flipped the next page over, revealing another sketch of a blond human wearing Yellowjacket’s colors leaning against the Bot’s alt mode.
The next few pages were similar in nature: Yellowjacket fighting or lounging about in what Airachnid assumed was his holoavatar.
She looked to Skyquake, and pressed her lips together. Okay, so they found out Dreadwing had a thing for drawing the Autobot that liked to beat up his brother. That was weird, but it wasn’t evidence that Dreadwing and Yellowjacket were fragging.
“Keep going, spider-lady,” Skyquake said. “Two more pages.”
She flipped through the next two and stopped. Airachnid pressed her finger on the edge of the page and her back legs slowly lowered to the floor. This picture was different; softer.
If it wasn’t for the red eyes, she could have sworn she was looking at a picture of their own little, sweet Autobot clone.
But Dreadwing hadn’t known Bumblebee, so it had to be Yellowjacket. The vicious, bratty little monster sat there on the page, door wings up and eyes bright. He held up a small hula-girl figure like he was showing it off, a junk yard behind him. Yellowjacket looked disgustingly young and innocent (it was wrong, so very wrong).
The next four pages were full of sketches of the Autobot looking excited and joyous, caught in candid shots of happiness. A churning started in the base of Airachnid’s energon tank, swirling as she stared at a sketch of Yellowjacket holding a chess piece she’d seen in Dreadwing’s room.
Skyquake looked away, swallowing hard against his intake. “Next page.”
Airachnid flipped it fast, like ripping off an old seal.
A simple drawing of Yellowjacket sat in the middle of the page, a wistful look in those mechanical eyes with a cube of high grade in his hand. Surrounding him in Dreadwing’s messy handwriting was the word “Bumblebee” written over and over like a mantra. It reminded Airachnid of younglings in love for the first time, writing their crush’s name into walls. In between were small, rushed notes along the lines of “He told me his real name.”
She felt sick.
“Gets worse,” Skyquake said, smiling wryly at her disgusted grimace. “He doesn’t stay sappy like that for long.”
Airachnid didn’t want to turn the page. She’d seen enough. She didn’t want to see any more. This was wrong. It was so wrong and she had known Dreadwing. He wasn’t a traitor. He wasn’t sleeping with the enemy. This was wrong.
Skyquake reached over and turned the page for her.
“I think Dreadwing’s the only mech on the planet that could make that little scrap look that wanted,” Skyquake said, finger on the edge of the latest page.
Yellowjacket leaned against a pile of human junk, wings spread out and the water in the background. His chest piece was open, a large glow covering the details and his “virtue,” but the erotic nature of the image was unmistakeable.
Airachnid was going to empty her tanks.
“I don’t think they were sleeping together yet when he drew that,” Skyquake said absently. “The later pictures are a lot more detailed, like he’d actually had a chance to look at a reference by that point.”
“Oh?” Airachnid said.
Skyquake flipped through another ten or fifteen pages until he stopped on a more risqué image of Yellowjacket sitting on familiar blue thighs, chest open and absolutely nothing left to the imagination from his open chest piece. Every line and detail of his spark recreated with such intensity, Airachnid nearly slammed the book closed so she wouldn’t have to see it.
“So he fantasized about the twerp,” Airachnid said, swallowing. They had learned Dreadwing was a pervert. Not something she wanted to know, but it still wasn’t a condemnation. It wasn’t. Airachnid said as much: “Doesn’t mean he was actually sleeping with him.”
“I thought that, too,” Skyquake said. He picked a page up, and rubbed the edge of it between his fingers. He dug his thumb down the side and collected another ten pages. He flipped them all over and stared at the page. “Up until I saw this one.”
“That’s not a drawing,” Airachnid said.
Taped in the corner was a small photograph (from that human camera Dreadwing loved; the one that made instant pictures) of Yellowjacket asleep against Dreadwing, wires still connected between them in the lazy post-overload haze. The other half of the page was filled with a loose sketch, a redrawing of what was in the picture.
It wasn’t finished.
“Rest of the book is blank,” Skyquake said, closing the back cover.
Airachnid took a seat next to Skyquake, staring at the table. She wanted to say something. Apologize. Tease him. Lift the mood. Throw the book out the window. Beat the ever living slag out of the clone for bringing this to light. Anything. But the words didn’t want to come. What did you really say to this?
“My brother loved that fragger,” Skyquake said, soft and quiet. “You didn’t see all of the art, but a lot of it’s telling. I never got his art thing, but even I can tell you don’t draw Yellowjacket looking like that if you aren’t crazy about him.”
Airachnid had nothing to say to that either. Her witty tongue had abandoned her.
“You know what the worst part of all this is, spider-lady?” Skyquake said, something wavering in his voice. He turned his head to Airachnid, voice choking. Her spark ached for him as his intake hitched. “No one actually saw Yellowjacket kill my brother. They just found him with the body.”
“Oh, Skyquake,” Airachnid said.
“I don’t think Yellowjacket killed my brother.” The larger mech turned back to the table and leaned over it. His voice choked. “Dreadwing wouldn’t have gotten involved if if that fragging scrap didn’t feel the same way. He wouldn’t. He. He wasn’t like that.”
“Are you going to tell anyone else?” Airachnid asked, not wanting to hear another word. If Skyquake was right and Yellowjacket, the little scrap, hadn’t actually killed Dreadwing than that meant two things: They had killed the wrong mech, and that the mech they killed had been precious to Dreadwing. No wonder Skyquake was shaken. She put a hand on his arm, feeling his body tremble under her touch. “Skyquake?”
“Should I?” Skyquake said. He pulled the book over, laying his hand flat on the cover. “Would you?”
“No,” Airachnid said. She looked straight ahead and leaned her head back to stare at the one working light. “It would put Dreadwing’s character into question, for starters. Adn then there’s Megatron, who would be devastated to think he killed your brother’s apparent sparkmate, enemy or not. And lastly, I wish I didn’t know and that you hadn’t told me, so I wouldn’t dare wish this on anyone else.”
Airachnid got up from the bench and turned away. “Do your brother one last posthumous favor and keep his damn secret for him.”
She walked out of the room after that, ashamed to leave Skyquake alone but too shaken to say anything else. It wasn’t until she was alone in her room with her spiders that she slid down the wall and debated making that Autobot Clone disappear for causing Skyquake all this grief.
Skyquake found Bumblebee watching the fish from the observation deck through the glass. He hadn’t looked like he’d left that spot for a while; like he was waiting for the aftermath of the package he’d delivered.
He didn’t disappoint, and Skyquake sat next to the tiny mech on the bench, arms on his knees. “Did you show that book to anyone else?”
Bumblebee shook his head. He beeped quietly. “It seemed private.”
“Then why’d you show that to me?” Skyquake asked. He clenched his fists and sucked in air through his intakes. “Why wouldn’t you just put it back and forget you saw it?”
“The truth is too important,” Bumblebee said. His eyes focused on fish in the distance, something sad settling over his form. “Even if it hurts.”
“I’d rather he have told me himself,” Skyquake whispered.
“I’m sure he wanted to,” Bumblebee said. The little clone stood up and moved in front of Skyquake. He dropped his head to the side, door wings down and face pensive. “But it wasn’t only your brother’s life on the line, was it?”
“Yellowjacket was an Autobot, right?” Bumblebee said. His door wings flexed, rising and falling as the bot shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “If Dreadwing would have been in trouble for this relationship, how much worse do you think it would have been for Yellowjacket if the Autobots knew what he was doing?
“The more people know something, the harder it is to keep a secret,” Bumblebee said. He twitched his door wings back up and placed a hand over the Autobot insignia at his waist. “But now that they’re both dead, I’m sure he can be relieved that it’s no longer a secret to you.”
“Maybe,” Skyquake said.
Silenced settled over the two of them for a few moments. The sound of the creaking ship covered their soft intakes.
“I am sorry,” Bumblebee said, breaking the moment. He stared hard at Skyquake, something odd in his eyes. “But I don’t regret telling you.”
Skyquake nodded his head and only trusted his voice to let out a soft, “Thanks.”
The smaller mech walked away after that, leaving Skyquake alone to his thoughts. He watched the fish as they swam by, and pulled the sketchbook back out. He flipped through the pages one last time.
Megatron looked up from his desk at the soft knock at his door. He approached, opening the door, surprised to see Skyquake outside his quarters at this late hour.
“Are you alright, my friend?”
“Megatron,” Skyquake said. He looked like a worn gladiator, resolved to a lost fight. Skyquake met his gaze. “We need to talk.”