He had been told they were there waiting for him, and the first thing he noticed as he entered the room was how quiet it was. Both of them were known to be gregarious, but both were unnaturally still.
Only joors had passed since the crew had been misbehaving and joking with each other, celebrating a recent minor victory and making outrageous claims that the war might soon end. Only joors but it felt like decaorns. Vorns, even.
Neither Bluestreak nor Smokescreen had been physically harmed in the battle any more than he had: their roles and skills were supportive rather than directly combative, and there had been no reason to change that in this encounter any more than in any previous one. If they had found their comrades slightly more protective than normal, well the fighting had been fierce.
Neither showed any hint of accusation in their expression as they looked at him now, no anger, no blame, just exhaustion and grief.
He felt incapable of dealing with that. Perhaps he should have sent Jazz in his place? Yet Jazz had been insistent that he come personally.
"We could not have done more." he explained.
The words were inadequate. It was the truth, but sometimes the truth was not enough.
The truth was that the fledgling Neutral community had been underprotected. The truth was that he had deemed it an unlikely target and had relegated it to a low priority. The truth was that they had heard too late, reacted too late, arrived too late, and done too little.
The Neutrals had all been massacred, and the choice to throw their own forces in at the end had only resulted in unnecessary casualties and wounded. It had been the wrong choice. So why had he made it?
They moved towards him, Bluestreak cuddling close, Smokescreen putting a hand on his shoulder.
He froze in surprise. Were they trying to comfort him? They were the ones grieving friends lost. He had not known any of the civilians personally.
"Their deaths aren't your fault." Smokescreen told him hoarsely.
He was well aware of that - his responsibility was to the Autobots, not to Neutrals. He opened his mouth to say so, but all that emerged was a sob.
He muted his vocaliser, overcome, and they stood silently together trembling. The last of their model left alive.