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Every Misstep of the Way

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            Moonracer tackled Powerglide almost the moment he stepped out of Omega Supreme. She clung to him, squealing, “Welcome back! I’ve missed you so much!”

            “Oof, careful, Moonie!” he said, bracing his pedes on the ground. “We have more delicate company with us, remember?”

            “Oh, sorry! Right!” Moonracer let go of her friend and knelt down to meet optic-to-eye with his bondmate. “Astoria Carlton-Ritz, right? PG has told me so much about you.” She was still a little confused on how an organic could bond with a Cybertronian when they didn’t even have sparks, but when she tried to ask Powerglide about it, he got really embarrassed and changed the subject. Moonracer guessed it didn’t matter so much as long as they were happy together.

            “Moonracer, likewise.” Astoria looked out beyond the landing pad and scrunched her nose. In her youth, she would have complained loudly about what a dump Cybertron was. As a woman in her forties, she was still less than impressed by what she saw, but she had mellowed enough not to say so.

            “Before you even start,” said Powerglide, “this is just the Sea of Rust. I know it doesn’t live up to your fine standards, but Starsreach Spaceport was busy.”

            “I wasn’t going to say a word.”

            “But you were thinking it.”

            “The Sea of Rust isn’t so bad,” Moonracer interrupted, turning away from them. “You just didn’t come in during the right season or at the right time. When the light of Alpha Centauri A hits the waves at just the perfect angle…Well, I’ve only seen it once, but it made a failed raid seem worth it.” Her E.M.-field buzzed pleasantly.

            Powerglide let her have her moment, but then he cleared his vents. “Can we go, then?”

            “Yeah, sure.” Moonracer shook the last remnants of a reverie out and transformed into car mode. “You’re welcome to ride with me, Astoria.”

            “Thanks,” Astoria said, “but personally, I prefer the air.” She waited for Powerglide to transform and hopped into his cockpit.

            “And a-waaaaaaaaaay we go!”

            Moonracer had to take a shuttle from Hydrax Plateau to the shore with other grounders, but she drove on her own from there.

            The path they travelled was much harder to romanticize than the Rust Sea. Once grand cities lay in ruin. Torn, twisted metal reached for the sky like lost, screaming souls. Roads were smooth, but ran past massive craters and barren wildlands.

            Thanks to the miracle the Headmasters pulled off with the Plasma Energy Chamber, the planet was in better shape than it had any right to be after something as devastating as the Great War for Cybertron, but the revitalization only repaired so much. The closer they got to the restored Iacon—now called, somewhat jokingly, New Iacon—the prettier everything became.

            Moonracer pulled into New Iacon just ahead of Powerglide. He let Astoria out, and then he and Moonracer transformed to root-mode. Astoria stretched her arms up and declared, “Now this is what I’m talking about! Not that dreadful island you had me on before. This is a city I can see myself spending forever in.”

            New Iacon really was a sight to see. Every micrometer of the city shimmered gold. Towers reached for the sky, dwarfing even some of the larger mechs. The streets and buildings were so smooth and clean they could be used as mirrors. There was a sense of hope and vitality that hung in the air around them.

            “The rest of the planet isn’t so bad,” Moonracer chirped. “It just needs a little fixing up.”

            Astoria placed her hands on her hips and looked up at the car-former. “How did you get here so fast, anyway? You had to take the long way around.”

            “She isn’t called Moonracer for nothing,” said Powerglide.

            “Oh, I’m nothing next to Blurr or Photon or Override, but I’m alright. No one can beat me with a gun, though.” Moonracer beamed. “The Autobots are holding a reception for all our returning soldiers and friends, if you’ll both follow me…”

            As it turned out, Powerglide probably only needed Moonracer to guide them for the company. It had been several million years since Iacon had been intact, sure, but he still knew the city pretty well in his memory. If nothing else, he and Astoria could have wandered until they found the open doors to a broad, sweeping ballroom. One side of the room was clear aside from a scattering of Autobots and humans, along with a table full of assorted treats fit for both beings. The other side had a bar and a number of tables.

            Spike and Carly greeted them when they walked in. “Astoria Carlton-Ritz, looking as ravishing as ever.”

            “So’s your wife,” said Astoria. “Why don’t you keep your eyes on her?” There was no malice in her voice, just as the only flirtation in Spike’s had been jocular. The three of them had come a long way since the embarrassing memory of Spike’s first encounter with Astoria. “Nice jumpsuits. Are you hoping to bring Disco back from the dead?”

            Carly smiled. “Space fashion. I’m sure I have one in your size if you want to bring your wardrobe into the future.”

            “What I’m wearing is the future. Take a good look.” Astoria twirled, letting the skirt of her empire-line dress flutter over her knees. Carly eyed Astoria’s kinky boots and considered sniping about just who was trying to revive the eighties, but she held her tongue.

            “I think Raoul said something similar when I offered,” said Spike.

            Astoria rolled her eyes. “I’m just glad he finally got rid of that ratty, old leather jacket. I don’t know that he would have if he could still squeeze his muscles into it, but he should have.”

            Moonracer quietly detached herself from the group about that time. She waved goodbye to Powerglide and made a beeline for the bar. When she was just a few meters from her destination, she noticed Bluestreak sitting alone at the far side of the room, and her steps faltered. After a klik of staring and internal debate, Moonracer set back on her original course and sat on a barstool. “Kiss of the Sparkeater, if you don’t mind.”

            Jazz slid onto the barstool next to her. “Make that two.” He felt Moonracer’s E.M.-field tense, but it didn’t retract. Back when he first met her, he found that reaction suspicious. It usually meant a mech with something to hide. But mechs with something to hide usually reeled in their E.M.-field, while Moonracer was either physically incapable of it or felt there was no need to do so. Maybe both.

            After several encounters with her, some time observing, and a little asking around, Jazz had figured out a few things about Moonracer. Firstly, she didn’t handle physical contact well unless she was the one to initiate it or she had plenty of warning beforehand, which put her at odds with Jazz’s more servos-on style of socializing. Secondly, she wasn’t very sensitive to E.M.-fields. Unlike most Cybertronians, she relied solely on visual indicators of mood. If he had to guess, even that was because of the strength of her optics that came with being a talented marksmech. But that reliance on visual cues made it even more difficult to interact with Jazz, whose visor and training as a Spec Ops mech meant he didn’t show a lot of emotion outside of his E.M.-field, when even that.

            Moonracer knew Jazz was aware of that particular issue of hers, so their interactions had eased considerably since their first misunderstanding. She couldn’t kick all of her apprehension and confusion around him, but she could overpower it with joy and friendliness. She was pretty sure that if she said or did something wrong, she could trust Jazz to let her know. “Hey, Jazz! Great to see you!”

            “It’s good t’ see ya, too, Moonie. How’s my favorite femme?”

            “Rosanna seemed okay the last time I spoke to her.” Moonracer relaxed a little more when Jazz laughed. “I’m doing pretty good. You?”

            “Good! Plannin’ on comin’ t’ th’ victory party this evenin’?”

            “Oh, you know me, Jazz. I’d love to, but I get so drained. Maybe next time.”

            “I gotchu. Still wanted t’ let ya know you’re welcome.” Jazz caught their drinks as they slid across the counter to them. “Cheers.”

            Kiss of the Sparkeater was a sharp, bitter drink that burned down the intake. Each gulp was immediately followed by an icy-cool sensation. It wasn’t particularly intoxicating unless consumed in large amounts, but it had a flavor and intensity that could make even a seasoned drinker shudder.

            Jazz leaned against the bar. “Any idea what you’re gonna do now that th’ war is over? I’ve still got a bit of official business t’ do, but then Blaster, Rosanna, and I were gonna see about bringin’ music back t’ Cybertron.”

            “That sounds perfect.” Moonracer rubbed her thumb along the rim of her glass. “I know PG said he and Astoria were going to try to settle themselves around here. I don’t know what I’m doing just yet. Maybe help out reconstruction?”

            “Ya talk t' anyone else since resurfacin’? Tracks? Arcee? Bluestreak?”

            Her leg started bouncing at the mention of Bluestreak. “I haven’t spoken to Blue yet, no.”

            “Why not?”

            “I just thought…Blue’s lost his whole city, and now Prowl. Not even Smokescreen made it through the war. I didn’t want to intrude on…” She struggled with her words. “I thought, maybe, Blue needed time to mourn on his own.”

            Jazz leaned a little closer. “He wouldn’t be at a gatherin’ for Autobots if he did. And since when d’ya know Bluestreak t’ want t’ be alone in th’ first place?”

            Moonracer turned back towards Bluestreak. Her optics roamed from the hang of his helm to the curve of his spinal strut to the droop of his doorwings. Guilt and regret permeated her E.M.-field. Without looking back at the bar, she said, “Give me a Beautiful Dreamer.” When she had the requested drink, she got up and headed for Bluestreak’s table.

            Bluestreak startled a little when a glass was set down in front of him, but he settled when he noticed Moonracer taking the seat across from him at the table. “Hi, Moonracer! I wasn’t expecting to see you because I heard you were bringing in Powerglide and Astoria today, so I assumed you would be spending most of the reunion with them. I mean, that is your best friend and his bondmate—though it’s really wild that a Cybertronian and a human can bond in the first place, isn’t it?—so it would make sense that you would want to catch up with them. Yeah, I was pretty sure I would see you eventually, but I thought it would be a little later and maybe even then you might have the couple with you.”

            “Powerglide is my best friend, but he’s not my only friend. I missed you a lot, Blue.”

            The sincerity in her field nearly blew him away. He took a sip of the drink she brought him to try to distract himself from the robotterflies fluttering in his tank. His doorwings perked up at the taste. “Beautiful Dreamer! You remembered how much I liked this. How did you remember something like that after all this time? It’s such a small thing. I only remember drinking it once while you were around, and I haven’t even had it that much anyway because I was still a newbuild when the war started and they didn’t have the substances to mix these kinds of drinks on Earth.”

            “How could I forget? I might have only seen you drink it once, but that story ends with us scrubbing the barracks together for a whole deca-cycle.” Bluestreak and Moonracer doubled over with laughter at the memory. When they calmed, Moonracer asked, “How have you been?”

            Bluestreak’s doorwings twitched. “I’ve been fantastic. The war is over and the planet is in amazing shape after spending so many millions of years nearly barren, and it’s only going to get more beautiful and healthy as time goes on. I’m—I’m—” He bent his helm. “I’m not fantastic at all. It’s been really hard to deal with everything that happened. Prowl did so much to keep me pushing on no matter how hard the war got, and I thought for sure that if anyone would survive to the end, it would be him, and it feels wrong that I’m the one sitting here talking to you instead while Prowl doesn’t even have his monument anymore.”

            Moonracer placed a servo over his. “For what it’s worth, I’m glad you’re here. It would be great if we could have Prowl back, but I don’t want to trade you for him.” She felt her spark breaking a little at just the idea of Bluestreak not making it through the war.

            Bluestreak flipped his servo over and twined their fingers together. “I’m sorry, ‘Racer. I didn’t mean to make you sad. I shouldn’t have said anything.”

            “No, don’t be sorry,” she said. She squeezed his servo. “I’m glad you told me.”

            He smiled, but his doorwings sagged again. “I’m thinking of becoming an Enforcer. You know, in his memory. I think it would be a great way to channel my observation skills and ability with a gun, now that the war is over and there’s no point in being a sniper anymore. And this way, I can keep preventing violence and stand up for the innocents, too. Maybe you could join with me, and we could work together again.”

            It was Moonracer’s turn to hang her helm. She pulled her servo away from his and bounced her leg. “Can’t. Criminal record.” When he didn’t respond, she stammered, “It’s nothing too serious, I swear. I never killed a mech before the war or anything, but it’s enough to keep me off the force.”

            Bluestreak’s doorwings swung upwards in alarm. “Oh no, no. I wouldn’t assume you had it in you to kill a mech unless you were forced to. Not that I don’t think you have the skill for it, because you do, but because you’re just way too sweet to do something like that without reason. But really, I would have never imagined you would have done something horrible, but surely there’s something that can be done. I mean, I doubt any of the records survived the war, and you’ve done a service for Cybertron, so maybe it could be wiped clean anyway.”

            “It’s probably still on my personnel file for the Autobots.” Moonracer’s optics flicked up to his for a moment before flicking away. “If it gets sent your way, Mr. Enforcer…you’re welcome to read it.”

            “I don’t want to pry into your business, ‘Racer,” he said. “You don’t have to—”

            “I’m giving you my permission, take it or leave it. But I trust you with my record, Blue.”

            They each turned to their drinks after that. Maybe they needed something to steel themselves after leaving their sparks so bare, or maybe they just remembered their drinks for the first time since they started talking. Moonracer suddenly found the Kiss of the Sparkeater too bitter, and Bluestreak’s Beautiful Dreamer tasted too watery to him.

            “So, are the twins going to show?” asked Moonracer.

            “Oh, yeah, they were planning on coming in closer to the evening. I would expect them to be here by the victory party. You know how Sides likes his chances to go wild and chug high grade, and Sunny is happy to be anywhere he can show himself off.” His doorwings flicked back twice. “I really hope you’ll be there, Moon. I know you don’t like parties much,” he said quickly, before she could tell him so, “but just for a few songs. I promise I won’t make you stay the whole time; I just really want you to hear this one song I requested for the playlist.”

            “I—oh, okay. I’ll be there. But if I’m going to make it to the party for even one song, I’m going to need to rest up first.” Moonracer stood up, leaned over, kissed Bluestreak on his chevron, and walked away.

            Bluestreak froze. He hadn’t noticed a change in Moonracer’s field at all when she’d left. Did it mean that she had been planning to kiss him on the helm the whole time, or had she done it completely on accident? And it was just a kiss on the chevron, so maybe it didn’t mean anything at all. It wasn’t like a kiss on the cheek or the lips. But he couldn’t deny that he wanted it to mean something, and trying to work it all out in his processor hurt.

            Jazz walking up to his table at that moment was probably the only thing that kept Bluestreak from crashing the way Prowl would have in a similar situation. “How’s it, goin’, Blue?”

            “It’s going—I just—think maybe—I’m doing pretty well.” It was the first time in a long time Bluestreak found himself at a loss for words.

            “Moonracer seemed pretty happy when she passed by,” Jazz teased.

            Bluestreak’s doorwings flapped rapidly, and his E.M.-field resonated with embarrassment.

            Meanwhile, Moonracer was cursing herself in her helm. She didn’t always know what proper behavior was, but she was pretty sure it wasn’t that. She hadn’t meant to kiss Bluestreak, and she had only managed to walk away without melting from sheer mortification because her processor hadn’t caught up with her until she was halfway across the room.

            Powerglide stopped Moonracer at the door with a servo on her pauldron. “Are you okay?”

            “Fine!” she squeaked. “I’m fine. I’m just going to…lie down for a bit.” And hope that Bluestreak just assumed she was being friendly.

Chapter Text

            “Gooooooood evening, New Iacon!” Rosanna posed dramatically and waited for the crowd to finish cheering. “We’ve got a fantastic night planned for you all! DJ Blaster’s going to blast some of the best humanity has to offer in 2007, with a few Cybertronian classics sprinkled in.

            “But first, a round of applause for all of you for making tonight possible. Without all of you, Cybertron would have been eaten by a giant demon or ruled by those vile Decepticons. Let’s give it up for the Autobots!” Rosanna tucked her microphone under one arm while she clapped. “Alright, you beautiful party mechs, let’s get this show on the road!”

            Moonracer had entered just before Rosanna’s speech and taken a seat at a table on the fringes of the dancefloor. Looking around at her fellow Autobots enjoying themselves, Moonracer felt really out of place, like her armor was a few sizes too large. She thought about leaving, but then she thought about her promise to Bluestreak and how happy Blaster and Rosanna were when they found out she’d agreed to show up. So she tried to settle in and watch everyone else dance.

            She didn’t understand the appeal of human music. The lyrics made no sense to her. There was one song about a cyclone, but the song seemed to make the cyclone a good thing! Another song shouted something about a God Tram Alms Ace, if she was hearing properly, but she didn’t have a clue what it meant. Was it some form of code? And she really, really didn’t understand why one of the singers was cranking a soldier boy. Did the soldier boy need help getting his engine started?

            Her audial sensors were a bit sensitive, too. The loud volume had Moonracer ducking her helm as the sound rattled her plating. It was infinitely worse on some of the songs where the singers insisted on shouting every line for some reason, and the mechs on the dancefloor shouted back. Needless to say, despite hanging out with some of the biggest party mechs on Cybertron, parties weren’t really Moonracer’s scene.

            Bluestreak slid into the seat next to hers after a few songs. “Hey.”

            “Hey! I was wondering where you were.”

            He watched her leg bounce, not really matching the beat, just going at its own speed. He knew she moved her leg like that when she was anxious or unsettled. It calmed him to know he wasn’t the only one. “The song I picked out is coming up, and I was wondering if you would dance with me when it comes on?”

            “Oh,” said Moonracer as shame flashed through her E.M.-field. “I can’t dance.”

            “Ah! I didn’t even think that would be a problem, and I was going to show you a pretty easy dance from Earth, and you would just follow my lead, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to. I just thought moving might be more fun than sitting here, but we can just sit and listen, if you’d prefer that.”

            “I…If you want me to dance, Blue, I’ll dance. Just don’t be surprised if I trip up and embarrass you.”

            “You won’t embarrass me, Moon.”  He took her by the servo and led her onto the dancefloor. When the song struck up, he walked her through a simple waltz.

You've got your airplane,

and I've got the plain air of here.

You're gone; I've gone insane.

Oh, when will you reappear?

I'm just some new kid

who can't get his mind off of you,

and I know that it's stupid.

            To Bluestreak—who was young when the war started, who was still young when it ended even if he was fully grown, and who had spent four million years in stasis after last seeing Moonracer in the midst of a bombing he didn’t know she’d survived until long after waking up—the words spoke to him. He spent too much time wondering if she was alive, then another few years wondering if they would ever even be on the same planet again. And then he felt silly for thinking someone who spent four million years without him would even remember him anymore, but somehow, she had.

            Of course, if he paid attention to every single lyric, the song would have lost the connection. There were specifics of place and situation that didn’t quite fit. But that was the magic of music: the details don’t have to be exact to the listener’s life for the spirit of the song to resonate. So Bluestreak heard what he wanted to hear and left out the rest.

I don't know what you did,

but you got me to fall for you.

I know that it’s stupid.

            Moonracer tried to keep her optics on Bluestreak, tried to let his steps determine hers instead of thinking too hard, and just tried not to turn into a mess on the dancefloor. Contrary to popular belief, she was not clumsy; she was graceless. There was a difference. She didn’t trip over pockets of dense air or drop everything she set her servos on. The problem was that she was built for stability and solid motion: great on a battlefield, not so good for the lightness and fluidity of dancing.

            Relaxing into Bluestreak’s touch and following his pace, she could almost get into something passable. He was a gifted dancer, and she could only think of a few mechs who could match him in skill. In less talented servos or with someone she trusted less, Moonracer felt she would have accidentally kicked them or something. But with him, she could just rest her helm on his chestplate and let him twirl her around the dancefloor.

            She had even less contest than Bluestreak did for the song. Moonracer didn’t even know what some of the words meant, but she could get the gist of what was trying to be conveyed. She, too, honed in on the words that felt the most like her own thoughts, like…

I'd be overjoyed

if we could just hang out sometime.

I don't know what you did,

but you got me to fall for you,

and I know that it's stupid.

            Yeah, like that. Moonracer felt ridiculous for holding onto a crush from four million years ago when she spent most of that time thinking he was dead, along with most of the rest of her friends. She didn’t even recognize what she was feeling as a crush until Firestar had explained it to her. Knowing that Elita-1 had kept her feelings for Optimus Prime alive all that time and seeing Bluestreak again now made Moonracer feel a little better, but it wasn’t enough to calm her doubts.

            Bluestreak had other mechs to talk to, mechs who probably knew him better and whom he could easily find a stronger relationship with. There were mechs who shared his adventures on Earth and would understand him better than she could. Mechs who could read others’ feelings without straining. Even knowing that, she couldn’t stand the thought of him with anyone else.

…and I would feel

like I'd been shot right through the heart,

and I'd fall apart, but I'd remember

how my heart stops every time.

            Bluestreak felt sadness creep into Moonracer’s E.M.-field, and he panicked. He didn’t know what he’d done wrong. Was it the song? Should he have just let her sit instead of asking her to dance? All he knew was that the night was not going like he’d hoped, and he just wanted Moonracer to be happy.

You are so special;

I just hope that we can be friends.

I'll wait forever,

but I guess that it all depends

on you and yours,

so come on and dance with me.

You are so special.

            As the musical interlude hit, Moonracer lifted her helm. Bluestreak was giving her an odd look that she couldn’t decipher in the dark. Was he not enjoying himself? She knew she wasn’t having the best time—there were a few too many mechs in a little too little space, and the song had just introduced a particularly annoying high pitch—but, with him there, she wasn’t having a bad time. This was his suggestion in the first place!

            Moonracer tried smiling, hoping maybe that was all he wanted to see. Bluestreak smiled back. Then he spun them around faster a few times before dipping her low. Her optics went wide. She was still staring like that when Bluestreak straightened their frames out again to the time of the next line.

I hope this makes you smile

and you might stay that way for awhile

            Bluestreak took a moment to just stand and savor being there with Moonracer, their frames pressed close together. He admired the slightly dazed look in her optics, the alert and awed expression on her faceplate. Then he led them back into the waltz, picking up the speed as the music built back up.

‘cause you deserve every grin that you get,

and you’ll get ‘em a lot from me!

            The faster pace, even without adding any new steps or sudden flourishes, still rattled Moonracer’s processor. She was barely keeping up, and she felt like she was being whipped around in a wild cyclone. Bluestreak was the only hold she had in the storm, and she clung to him. Her helm thunked against his chestplate as she warred with the motion and feelings and the return of the annoying high pitch.

You are so special;

I just hope that we can be friends.

I'll wait forever,

but I guess that it all depends

            Bluestreak couldn’t read Moonracer’s E.M.-field anymore, though it was still as open as always. It was whipped into a frenzy. But she had smiled at him, and she was still keeping up, and leaning her faceplate on him seemed like a sign of affection, so it all seemed like a good sign. Overjoyed, Bluestreak moved his servos down to Moonracer’s waist and lifted her up into the air.

on you and yours,

so come on and dance with me.

You are so special.

            She held onto his arms, servos digging painfully into his elbow joints. Suddenly, it clicked that something was really wrong. He couldn’t tell that her reaction had anything to do with the sadness from before, but it occurred to him that the awe he saw was probably closer to shock. The dazed look might have been disorientation. But now? Moonracer was in pain, and Bluestreak could feel it. He set her down immediately.

And my heart stops every time!

            Moonracer pulled herself out of Bluestreak’s servos and stepped away. He couldn’t read her expression, and when her lipplates moved, no sound came out. Then, she abruptly turned on her heels and dashed away, ducking under arms and kibble, twitching every time she accidentally touched someone. Bluestreak stared after her, but he didn’t dare follow.

            Sideswipe ran out of the mass of mechs on the dancefloor, grabbed Bluestreak by the servos, and swung him around. “There’s our lover-mech! How’d the dance go, Romeo?”

            Bluestreak sighed and settled into a new dance with Sideswipe. “I don’t think it went too well, seeing as she just ran out of here as soon as it was over. I think I royally fragged up this one, Sides, and I didn’t even notice until it was too late. I need to find a way to win her back, if I ever had a chance with her in the first place.”

            Sideswipe smoothly handed Bluestreak off to his twin. Bluestreak was a little surprised because he hadn’t seen Sunstreaker get on the dancefloor with Sideswipe, but he shook it off quickly. “Why’d you have to make it up to her anyway?” Sunstreaker scoffed. “What did you do? Slap her? Scream insults in her audial?”

            “Of course not!” Bluestreak’s doorwings swung up in alarm. “Why would I do something like that? I don’t even know what went wrong; all I know is that Moonracer ran out of here in distress.”

            “Then who cares? It’s not your fault the femme has problems.”

            “But what if it is my fault? What if I did something awful to offend her without even noticing? I just really wanted tonight to be special for Moonracer, and I was hoping this could have been the start of a relationship between the two of us. Now, I just feel like scrap, and Moonracer probably hates me.”

            “Frag Moonracer,” growled Sunstreaker as he narrowly missed stomping on Bluestreak’s pede. “There’s no use stressing out over anyone but yourself. No one else’s worth your time. If it’s not working out, either drop her or punch her in the faceplate.”

            The next spin found Bluestreak back in Sideswipe’s arms. “Well, there’s one idea of merit in Sunny’s advice: frag Moonie. Frag her into the berth. Worst case scenario, you find out it means nothing to her and you get her out of your systems. Best case scenario, you find out it does mean something, and you’ll live happily ever after.”

            “I don’t know, Sides,” said Bluestreak, looking everywhere but his friend’s faceplate. “I think you might be oversimplifying things a lot. How do you know it won’t mean something to me? How do you know she would be interested in interface in the first place? What if she was disgusted with me for even asking? What if she didn’t even want to be friends anymore because she thought I was only being friends all this time because I wanted to frag her? What if she was interested in me romantically, but the fact that I jumped straight to interface made her feel like I wasn’t taking the possibility of a romantic relationship seriously and she lost interest because of that? And even assuming that she would still be okay with me after all that, how do you know it would be as easy as asking her in the first place?”

            Sideswipe handed Bluestreak back off to his brother, then indicated that they should watch him. Sideswipe shimmied his way across the dancefloor to Blurr and whispered something in the racer’s audial. Blurr looked offended. He started prattling about something they couldn’t hear, then Sideswipe replied, and then Hardhead stepped up and punched Sideswipe in the jaw. Sideswipe stumbled back, clamping a servo over his jaw, but with his free servo, he held up a finger to indicate he was going to try again on someone else.

            Bluestreak’s doorwings twitched with surprise. “Is he really going to try to flirt with Ultra Magnus of all mechs? Does he really think that will work?”

            “That’s my idiot brother for you.”

            When that attempt turned out about as well as expected, Sideswipe moved on to other targets. He evidently thought better of flirting with Arcee, now that she was sharing helm-space with Daniel, but he struck out with Springer immediately afterwards. Not one to be defeated, Sideswipe made sure they were both watching, then set off for the head of the room.

            Rosanna seemed much more receptive to Sideswipe’s advances. They couldn’t hear anything from there, especially with Rosanna angling her microphone away, but she looked to be laughing at something Sideswipe said. Within a few minutes, she had handed the microphone off to Blaster, taken Sideswipe’s servo, and crossed half the way to the door.

            Blaster chuckled directly into the microphone. “Rosanna’s abandoning ship, folks, but don’t sweat! We’re keepin’ it groovin’ until the sunrise…”

 

            The moment Moonracer was out of the room, she just kept going without looking back. She just needed to get somewhere quiet, somewhere away from everyone else. When she finally stopped, she found herself back in the temporary room she had taken up in Iacon. Moonracer headed straight for the berth and sat on its edge.

            Her leg bounced furiously, almost by its own will, and she rubbed her servos over it a few times before pressing down. She wanted to stop her leg from moving. Or, no, that wasn’t exactly it. She always felt better when she let her leg jump, but she felt like she shouldn’t let it when other mechs could keep still. Why couldn’t she just keep still? Chromia always yelled at her when she couldn’t stop moving on a mission.

            Not that it really mattered now that the war was over and she was sitting in her room alone, but it wasn’t helping her guilt any. Moonracer wanted to explain everything to Bluestreak, about the noise and the crowd, to make him feel better. She was scared he thought she didn’t like him anymore after all the mixed signals she must be sending him. But if she tried explaining, that would involve telling him that dancing with him messed her up, and that didn’t exactly help.

            Besides, what was telling him going to do anyway? The war was over, but that didn’t mean everything could just start up again like nothing ever happened. There weren’t even enough mechs to fill a city, setting aside all the cities that still needed to be rebuilt. There were bigger issues to worry about than her love life, and she had issues to worry about other than her love life. Over four million years of crushing was hard to set aside, but she should set it aside, shouldn’t she?

            By the morning, Moonracer felt no closer to an answer. So, she turned to the one place she believed she could reach one. She slipped out of the building before anyone else could rise from recharge and hurried down the street. The grand skyscrapers of New Iacon could be imposing, but they all barely seemed like anything next to her destination: the Grand Temple of Solomus, God of Wisdom.

            The sensation of being in a temple is unlike any other. Oh, there was the feeling that came with every spiritual experience: her sensor-net came alive, while her frame became so light it was like her armor had completely fallen away from her spark, and her spark swelled with the energy in the air around her. But there was something greater to it than that, something grander. If Moonracer could get the same experience from meditating in her room, she wouldn’t have come there. Just stepping into a temple filled her with an overwhelming sense of wonder and vulnerability and the feeling that a god really had touched this place.

            There was also a difference in how individual temples felt. Temples devoted to Primus connected the visitor most with their spark and their emotions. Temples for Epistemus quickened the processor, working with the mech to inspire new ideas and innovative studies. But temples devoted to Solomus, in particular, animated the connections between the two, encouraging the visitor to explore everything they knew and everything they felt and to draw conclusions from the truths they could find in both knowledge and feeling.

            Moonracer set a small offering of energon and a chip of plating that was shorn off during the war by the altar, then stepped back and took a seat on the floor. She shuttered her optics and pulled a cycle of air through her vents. Her frame relaxed, and she let herself drift into a state of deep introspection, not quite disconnected from the physical realm, but with the outside world muffled near to mute.

            Which is why she didn’t notice that another mech had arrived until a servo landed lightly on her helm. Moonracer might have jolted with fear if she hadn’t recognized the touch before she even opened her optics. “Elita-1, how did you find me?”

            “I know you, Moonracer. If you were not here, you would be in the temple of Adaptus.” Elita smiled serenely at her. “Some of the Autobots were worried about you. They said you seemed upset last night.”

            “I just have a few things to figure out.” When Elita didn’t say a word and just kept looking at her patiently, Moonracer said, “I don’t know what I’m doing with myself, Elita. I barely had a purpose before I became a warrior, and now, there’s not even a war to fight. I know that was the point in the first place, defending the planet so that peace and justice could live. But everyone else knows what they’re doing now that it’s over, and I don’t.”

            “And that is why you ran out of the victory party last night,” said Elita. It was not a question, but it demanded an answer all the same. It was clear that she didn’t believe that what Moonracer told her was the reason for her leaving early, but Elita also knew how to coax the truth from her former subordinate. Moonracer could never lie to her.

            “I ran out because the music and mechs became too much.” Under other conditions, Moonracer might have squirmed. Under the influence of Solomus, she stayed utterly still. “I might have been overwhelmed by conflicted emotions, too. I was dancing with Bluestreak, and while I wanted to believe it meant something, I couldn’t help thinking…maybe we don’t get each other, and being with him wouldn’t solve my problems, and Bluestreak has mechs who know him better anyway.”

            The light bouncing off of Elita’s plating gave her the appearance of a halo, and Moonracer was struck by the memory that this was the Prime’s consort, his equal in every way and co-bearer of his spiritual blessing. She was just as much a mech of the gods as the Prime was, yet she stooped to help one insignificant ex-gunner find her way. Few thoughts seemed as humbling and as baffling to Moonracer.

            “I think you already know what you want and where you are going, if you just let yourself see the road and start driving down it. Let the fog be a warning against recklessness, not a sign to avoid the journey completely.” Elita took the Moonracer’s servos in hers. “My sweet, daring young femme, we all have suffered pain and uncertainty long enough. What we all need now is stability.” She kissed Moonracer on the helm and made her way out of the temple.

            When a piece of wisdom is left to the recipient to interpret, it must be expected that the recipient will interpret it any number of ways, and it is entirely possible for two opposing conclusions to both be correct. For Moonracer—who had spent so long fighting with the other femmes in the underground, slogging through wrecks and ruins, never knowing when the next scrap of energon would find them—she just couldn’t see herself settling down with a mech when she still had no idea what else she was doing with herself.

            But Elita’s words also got Moonracer thinking beyond that decision, and she worked out a solution to her problems. Parts of Cybertron still needed to be rebuilt. Mechs were needed to rebuild them. If she volunteered, she could return a little stability to Cybertron and give everyone returning somewhere to live across the planet. She could worry about herself when she had a few shanix to her name.

            So Moonracer recruited Greenlight and Lancer, arranged their cooperation with Grapple, and set out before anyone had the chance to talk her out of it.