Hound lies in the desert, baking in the reflected sunlight off the sand. He’s made sure that he isn’t far from the Ark, so that he can hear Spike if Hound’s needed. But he isn’t that close, either.
He’s an easy target for Seekers, or would be if their patrols passed this close, but Ravage isn’t likely to prowl right now. His optics are too sensitive, and Hound doesn’t need to worry. Laserbeak is always a threat to a lone mech, but Rumble and Frenzy will only be here if the other ‘Cons are, and then Hound’s going to have backup. Laserbeak probably won’t fly this way.
Sometimes Hound wishes he didn’t have that quiet awareness of likely threats constantly running in his processor, but the mechs who didn’t died a long time ago, and being aware is better than offlining.
Threat-processing is just background work. It doesn’t take a lot of power. Hound is glad — he’d rather focus on the desert. Sand shifts in the wind, and a snake slithers for a new patch of shadow. Sidewinder, from the pattern of the noise its scales make as it moves. A buzzard flies high above. Probably a buzzard. A little high for Hound’s sensors to be sure, but the wing shape matches his memory files.
He loves this planet. There’s so much to see. Endless glowing gold-copper-tan of the sandy earth under sunlight or moonlight, threaded with movement from birds or reptiles or insects. Desert flowers are beautiful.
Hound thinks it’s just something about Earth. Even a place that looks lifeless has more organisms in a square mile than most of Cybertron did in ten.
And the mud. Hound doesn’t find mud in the desert, and wet sand isn’t appealing any more than dry sand is. It gets into transformation seams and doesn’t ever come out.
Dried mud in his seams hurts, too. But getting the mud there is more pleasant than getting sand. Hound grins, thinking of the last time he’d been able to thoroughly soak himself in a piece of this soft, rich, organic planet.
There's a shift behind him, sand moving, and the breeze changes direction not fast enough for Hound not to be caught by surprise by the kind of guest nobody in the Ark ever really expects.
Under Sunstreaker’s optics, Hound feels all the vulnerabilities in the way he’s stretched flat against the sand. Sprawled-out arm revealing the elbow joint, easy to crush from here, and the spread of his thighs would make it easy to blow out a line in his legs with one shot. Sunstreaker’s shadow covers his helm, Sunstreaker looming over him, optics glowing a steady blue and outline nearly glowing gold. The sun makes a bright, shimmering halo around him, and Hound can feel the temperature of the sand heating under the reflection off Sunstreaker’s plating. Can smell the way it starts to melt, fuse together, a hot dry burning edge mixing with the smell of Sunstreaker’s smooth, rich wax.
The Pits were built on sand, Hound remembers distantly, and wonders if he wants to even glance at the shape of what the twins might think here on one of Earth’s deserts.
He stays quiet, looking up at Sunstreaker, trying not to tense. This isn’t the place to look like a threat.
"What are you doing out here?" he asks eventually, low-voiced and sounding honestly vaguely curious. "I passed by four breems ago and you were here then."
Huh. Hound hadn’t noticed him. Or paid attention to his chronometer. He’s off-shift, and there’s nothing he has to watch for but enemies and organics.
"I’m watching the birds," Hound answers, pointing up at the lazy drift of wings over them. "I like the way they look."
Sunstreaker tilts his head back without so much as a whisper of creaking metal, staring up at the sky, cables taut in his throat. Hound gets his gaze off that edge of vulnerability as fast as he noticed it, optics dropping to the red gleam of the sigil painted onto Sunstreaker’s chest plate. Wonders if Sunstreaker ever hates the lines of it for marring his pretty frame, or if he loves it for being the only permanent mark he chose to get.
"You really do like it here." Sunstreaker snorts then, condescending.
Hound is used to it. He looks away, back up at the clear blue unmarred by Seekers or other ‘Cons. Endless. He’s seen Blue sit out here for hours, just staring up and up and up with a little human boom-box-thing playing next to him, singing along to any songs he knew. "Yeah."
"But there are so many humans."
Hound’s optics narrow, and his gaze goes back to Sunstreaker a little too quickly, fast as a cat’s lashing tail. "That’s not a problem. That’s half the fun."
Sunstreaker’s face twists in disgust and scorn. He’s obviously seen the shift in Hound’s expression. He just doesn’t care, Hound judges, and knows Hound couldn’t be a hand-to-hand threat to him without the holograms he won’t use on a fellow soldier.
He’ll just think about it. Not hurting Sunstreaker, not really, he’s not one of the ‘bots that can’t stand the mech, but sometimes Hound wants to shake him.
"I like the humans," Hound says before Sunstreaker can get in whatever he wanted to say. "Spike is my friend. They’re clever sometimes, and they’re fun."
Sunstreaker’s mouth twists, not in scorn this time. Disgust, maybe, Hound thinks, maybe fear. Not that he’ll accuse Sunstreaker of beng scared of anything without a whole slagging lot of backup. "They’re such undependable creatures, though. Inferior lifeforms."
Hound’s backstruts tense, metal creaking under the pressure. "Spike’s only a sparkling, and he saved my life when Rumble trapped me in the river. Sparkplug’s helped Wheeljack more than once."
‘Sparkling’ makes Sunstreaker’s mouth soften just a little, Hound notices, and his snort isn’t quite disagreement.
Hound’s enjoying his day. He doesn’t want to fight with Sunstreaker. So he looks away again, back up to the blue. "I like the humans. They’re my friends, and ‘Bee’s, and Prime’s. They’d be yours if you let them — Spike thinks you’re gorgeous."
Maybe Sunstreaker doesn’t feel like fighting with him today, either. He just looks away, light glinting on his plating as he shifts.
"Why are you bothering to watch the birds, anyway?"
"I like looking at beautiful things," Hound tells him, trying to keep his tone civil. Prime hates it when they pick fights with the twins, even though Sunstreaker picked it with him first. "Earth has more than Cybertron. And they have museums that don’t charge — most of Cybertron’s were for Tower folk, not me. There was a gallery once that I wandered into… there was a sculpted turbocat there, seemed I could nearly see it venting. I always wondered how the artist got that shade of blue for the optics."
"Carved benitoite," Sunstreaker says abruptly, and sits down. Hound blinks at him, and Sunstreaker scowls. "I knew the artist. If you’d looked at the cat under UV, the optics would’ve flouresced."
"Huh,” Hound says, and looks back at the sky, points up at a streak of silvery-white cloud shining in the sunlight. “What about that color?"
"Barium,” Sunstreaker tells him after a quick, dismissive glance.
Sunstreaker looks at him, optics narrowed. Hound looks back calmly. He’s curious, and he thinks this is the longest civil conversation they’ve had. He can’t forgive what Sunstreaker said about humans, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to mock Sunstreaker, especially not about his looks. Hound likes his plating the way it is.
"Golden beryl,” he says finally. "Or yellow anglesite, but that’s too brittle to work with. Calcite, if it has sulfur adulterating it. Golden beryl would be best, but it requires iron in the makeup to be the right shade and there wasn’t a lot left on Cybertron to adulterate stones with. Honey citrine, maybe. Not heliodor, that’s too green."
Hound laughs. "That’d be my plating?"
"No," Sunstreaker tells him emphatically, scowling again, and gets up, stomps off.
Hound blinks at his back, narrowing his optics, and then drops back down, settling into the grass again. Sunstreaker’s temperamental tantrums aren’t his problem.
Watching the sky isn’t quite as nice as it had been before.
There’s a package outside his quarters. Hound blinks at it, then double-checks Red’s stamp signifying the package is safe.
There’s a greeny-yellow, shiny, squared-off rock inside, and another olive-green lump, and a beautiful pale yellow-green crystal. Hound picks the shiny one up first, turning it over and over between his fingers carefully. He nearly drops it a couple times. It’s small, and it’s slippery somehow, smelling of some preserving agent. The crystal stays in his hand more easily. Hound still sets it down just as carefully before he reaches for the lump, laughing a little. It looks kind of like him in the color. He’s keeping this one, Hound decides, and moves to put it next to his berth before he goes back to the package.
One of Prowl’s datapads is tucked in at the bottom. Hound lifts it out, reading the message’s clear writing.
Autunite would work best, but it’s too easily dried out and has to be lacquered. Lacquer would change the finished piece. Feel the texture shift. That’s wrong. Heliodor has too much yellow for you and too much green for me. Olivenite has to do.
In smaller characters, scribbled out like a careless nearly-forgotten afterthought, Autunite is mined as uranium ore; it’s radioactive.
Hound nearly drops the package when he yelps before he remembers — Red Alert checked this. If it was dangerously radioactive, it wouldn’t have made it to his quarters.
And he’s almost sure Sunstreaker wouldn’t have given him something dangerous. Mostly sure. Hound smiles, tucking the datapad back in with the other rocks. Why he’d given him the package…
That’s something for Hound to ask if Sunstreaker ever wanders past while he’s bird-watching again.