"First Aid says they're going to be fine." Hot Spot said insistently. "Come on, you're just underfoot here. He'll comm when you can go see them."
Silverbolt rubbed his optics tiredly. "I still can't believe they did that. Thank Primus- and I can't believe I'm saying this- for Sunstreaker. If he hadn't been there-"
"He was there, and they're home now. Fireflight and Dive will be out this afternoon, Air Raid's stable, and maybe being grounded while they refabricate his scoops will teach Slingshot to think for once. Come on." Hot Spot took hold of Silverbolt's hand and towed the other mech out of the tiny waiting room at the entrance to the medical bay. It was midshift, and the corridors were mostly empty, although Hot Spot smiled and waved at Blaster as they passed him.
"This isn't the recc room." Silverbolt said as they turned the corner into the hallway that led to the Protecotobots' shared quarters.
Hot Spot shrugged. "I didn't think you'd want to put up with everyone. Don't worry, Blades is covering your patrol for this afternoon with Powerglide- Prowl shortened the route - and Groove pointedly commed to let me know that he and Streetwise were going to the range. Groove never goes to the range." He smiled at Silverbolt. "So it's just us."
Silverbolt made himself comfortable on the sofa while Hot Spot retrieved two cubes of energon from Groove's room. They glowed a pale blueish green rather than the usual pink, but it wasn't a type of high grade that he'd seen before.
"Not actually high grade, it's a mix Groove has been playing with." Hot Spot correctly interpreted Silverbolt's expression. "I know you're going to have to pick up their shift later; relax, Air Commander." He handed one cube to Silverbolt and sat down next to him on the lounge.
Silverbolt sighed as he accepted the cube. Hot Spot wrapped an arm around his shoulders, slowly enough to give Silverbolt a chance to pull away if he wanted. He didn't. The sofa was soft enough to allow his wings to sink comfortably into the back, and Hot Spot's EM field was sympathetic, reassuring, and affectionate, washing over his sensornet in a way that felt good, almost good enough to let him ignore the numbness that came from having half his brothers offlined in stasis while the medics worked on them.
"How the slag am I supposed to do this, Spot? I thought they were doing better! Flight's been on time for his patrols, Slingshot hasn't gotten in a fight in three orns, and Air Raid's only prank in the last month was on Sideswipe." Silverbolt asked after it became evident that Hot Spot was content to allow him to decide where things would go.
Hot Spot's engine rumbled, a comforting purr. "I can't tell you that, Bolt- I wish I could, I want to help. My guys make it easy, though. I mean- I can just tell you something trite, like be a leader and they'll go with you, but your guys- well, they're not like mine." He stroked one of Silverbolt's winglets comfortingly. "You're a good leader, Bolt. Don't let them convince you you're not."
Silverbolt forced himself to relax, slowly leaning into Hot Spot's support. The fire truck wrapped an arm around him, they were alone, no one would see if he accepted it. His fans spun up as he half turned to bury his head in Hot SPot's shoulder, wrapping an arm around the other mech. "What kind of leader lets his unit decide to randomly torment a Decepticon for no good reason?" He tried to keep the despair out of his voice, not very successfully.
"Grimlock, for one. Heck, Sunstreaker and Sideswipe do it in basically every battle. Brawn. Gears, that one time last month when Wildrider was taunting him. Have you talked to Prime about it?" Hot Spot hugged him closer.
"I don't want him to think I can't handle it." Silverbolt said.
"Bolt, if this is how 'handling it' makes you feel, you're going to stress yourself into sparkfailure before you're a vorn." Hot Spot tried to make a joke out of it, but his EM field betrayed how worried he was about his fellow commander. "Prime won't hold it against you, you know he won't."
Silverbolt sighed, leaned against Spot for another moment, and slowly sat up. Hot Spot let go of him, reluctantly. "I know he won't, Spot. But I still feel like I'm letting him down."
"You should talk to him." Spot urged. "You'll feel better, and I bet he'll have some good advice for you. Or, if you won't talk to him, talk to someone."
"I'm talking to you, aren't I?" Silverbolt leaned in again to lean his forehead against Hot Spot's, smiling slightly. Hot Spot smiled back, but refused to be diverted.
"Yes, but I mean someone with more command experience than me. I'm the youngest officer in the Autobot Army, Bolt, I don't know how to help. We're not supposed to know how to do this stuff off the bat, they're supposed to teach us command."
"You're not going to leave me alone until I do, are you?" Silverbolt asked wryly. Bolt gave one of his slow, sweet grins, rubbing his hands gently over Silverbolt's wings.
"I can sic Aid on you if you'd rather, and he can use the turbopuppy optics."
"Pit, no. I'll do it." Silverbolt sighed and turned to flop against the back of the sofa with a groan. "But later."
"Later." Spot agreed with a nod. "Drink that, and we'll find something mindless to do until Aid has an update for us."
Chapter 2: Chapter II
Actions have consequences.
“You're cleared to leave- and you're to report directly to the brig now that I've cleared you.” Ratchet folded his arms and looked down at Slingshot who stood, stretching his arms to settle the freshly welded parts along either side of his torso. “Do I need to call someone to escort you down, or can you find your own way?”
Slingshot scowled, but you didn't mouth off to Ratchet, who not only wouldn't put up with it, but hadn't had any part in this decision anyway- and Slingshot believed in laying blame squarely where it was due. “I know where it is.” He looked over at the berth where Air Raid was still out.
“Don't worry about him, he'll be reporting soon enough.” Ratchet groused, turning away from Slingshot to begin powering down the monitoring equipment on the berth he had been occupying. Slingshot frowned, and headed for the door to the medbay.
The brig was on the lowest level of the ship, between two cargo bays- the Ark's original brig had been a tiny two-cell unit located in the security center and meant more for separating the occasional crew brawl than housing Decepticon prisoners, and no one wanted prisoners that close to the command center. Slingshot made his way downward, which involved changing elevators once and a quick detour to avoid the Dinobots' preferred hang out in one of the port-side cargo bays. The door opened automatically when he approached- there were no Decepticon prisoners, so the lockdown was minimal. Ironhide was on duty, sitting behind the console and frowning at something on the monitor.
“Good to see you're out of medbay.” Ironhide said. “You're down here for a shift. Think Bolt's tryin' to make a point to your brother. He's down here for another two days.”
“Raid's still in the medbay.” Slingshot replied automatically. He couldn't even think of the last time Skydive or Fireflight had ended up in the brig.
“I know.” Ironhide said. “Fireflight's in three. You're in two.” Slingshot made a face. He turned to go into the corridor where the cells opened, Ironhide opened the cell door from the console behind him.
Cells two and three were across from each other, and there was nothing Slingshot found more irritating than having a chatty neighbor to add insult to injury when he was feeling agrieved and persecuted (rightly or otherwise). Uncharacterstically, though, Fireflight didn't greet him when he stepped into cell three and the forcefield snapped down behind him. The red and white jet was flopped morosely, chest down, chin resting on crossed arms on the bench in the cell, wings drooping. Slingshot sat down himself and leaned – carefully- against the wall, crossing his arms over his chest and staring at his gestalt mate.
It was almost a breem before Slingshot gave up and couldn't stand it any longer. “What's the matter with you?”
Fireflight rolled over and sat up, wings still drooping. “I got everybody hurt, and Bolt's really, really mad at me. I'm sorry, Slings. I'm glad you're okay, I didn't mean to!”
“Yeah, well. Maybe if you used your processor as something other than deadweight once in a while, it wouldn't have happened.” Slingshot rolled his optics and scowled at Fireflight through the forcefields. Fireflight cringed, and Slingshot looked away. “Why'd you jump him, anyway?” He asked idly. Fireflight usually patrolled with Skydive or Air Raid, and while everyone knew he couldn't navigate his way out of a paper bag with a map, it wasn't like him to start a fight without permission.
Fireflight leaned forward and shrugged. “I don't know.”
“You're a dumbaft, you know that right?” Slingshot huffed. “I'm gonna be grounded for another week because of you don't know? I thought he at least insulted you or something!”
“Like you don't go around starting fights for no reason!” Fireflight retorted, a hint of irritable breaking through. “You cause Bolt more headaches than the rest of us put together!”
“That's because Bolt's a slagger who takes everything way too seriously. And you're a suckup.”
“Better a suckup than all the trouble you start! I don't know why I bothered!” Turning away, Fireflight flopped back down on the berth.
“Slagger.” Slingshot replied, although it was without much heat. He leaned back, trying to get more comfortable on the hard, narrow berth and stared at the ceiling tiles.
Ironhide came in twice per hour to check on them, as was apparently routine for brig duty. (Slingshot had never stood it, only mechs in the security division ever die, but he'd spent enough time in the brig to know the routine.) Fireflight stirred a few times, changing position or staring at Slingshot, but he didn't try to start another conversation, either. Slingshot offlined his optics after a while and powered down to recharge through the rest of the shift.
The next thing he knew, Hound was calling his name. The forcefield was already down, and the chime for shift change had already sounded. When he glanced over at the other cell, Fireflight was still sulking- or recharging-, on his side with his back to the outside of the cell. Slingshot shook his head and nodded at Hound before marching himself back up to the living levels of the Ark and out to where he could see the sky and just breathe again. He climbed up the steep hillside a few hundred yards to a ledge just the right size and shape to sit on while looking out over the view below.
The sun was glowing blood orange, painting the rocks outside the Ark's entrance the same color as the walls inside. The Dinobots were milling around a bit further down the hillside, and the sound of an argument carried up to Slingshot on the evening air, along with the distant sounds of the highway far down the slope of Mount St. Hillary.
He didn't notice when Silverbolt joined him, only gradually becoming aware of his brother's silent presence, sitting on the ledge next to him. Slingshot glanced over, but Silverbolt was staring down at the Dinobots below, looking up himself only when Slingshot sent him a quiet inquiring ping.
“What do you want?” Slingshot asked.
Silverbolt shook his head. “I just wanted to get out for a while.” Down below, Sludge roared and Slag turned to stomp away from the rest of the group. “It's quiet out here.”
Slingshot nodded. “Good enough reason, I guess.”