The prestige and calm of the Eastern kingdom was unrivalled by any city. Ultra Magnus ruled firm but fairly, allowing his capital and cities under hid rule to flourish and expand.
However, the calm of busy market streets was disrupted by a flurry of colours. Solstice sped through the crowded streets, leaping through and over surprised citizens.
"Sorry! 'scuse me! Pardon!" she called out, but the mirth in her voice betrayed her sincerity. She lived for the thrill, running full speed without a care for anything else. Eyeing obstacles and discerning a means around them. The people in the streets were no exception. Sailing over or around them to pass them left many annoyed or confused. Only those who knew her well only smiled and waved.
"You're late, Solstice!" called a shopkeep, holding his hand out with a large red apple in hand. Solstice sped past, snatching the apple with a thanks.
"I know! But I only just got back from the Northern Kingdom!" she called back, biting the apple and kept running. Seeing only more people in her way, she notices a small goods cart coming from a side alley.
Smirking, Solstice sprung up, grabbing onto a market stand and climbing up. Using the canopies as a trampoline, she bounded to the cart and, using it as a step, jumped onto the rooftops.
"This should save me some time!" she beamed, running unhindered straight to the palace.
Allowed through by the guards, Solstice sped into the open halls of the King's palace. Coming up to the throne room, she spotted another walking by. Her heart skipped a beat, her face almost broke in a blush.
Perceptor. One of King Ultra Magnus' Councilmen. He was no doubt the most regal out of all of them, in her mind anyway. Sure he was very stern and forth-right, but Solstice couldn’t help but stare at this man. The way he stood, the way he walked and spoke. He’s drawl and accent made her heart melt every time. For as long as she could remember working for the royal family, Perceptor was always polite and nice to her.
She could still recall the day she met the councilman. The day she was asked to be the Royal Courier. She remembered being in the centre of the throne room, before her king and his beautiful queen, being sworn in and giving her oath to serve. He was there. Standing by his fellow councilmen and watching. She admitted she was young then and passed it as teenage fancy, but the feeling remained.
“Greetings Solstice,” he nodded, turning from the door as she approached. “I take your mission to the Northern Kingdoms was a success?”
“As always, sir,” she smiled. It was a shame that Perceptor didn't smile often. He had very handsome features. Although, her own imagination could fill in the blanks.
"Excellent, our king will be pleased," he nodded again, opening the door before stepping aside. It always shook Solstice just how polite he really was. Like a gentleman, he allowed her through first before entering himself. Now, with Perceptor behind her, she could feel his eyes on her. She brushed it off as being paranoid, why would a councilman wish to stare at her. She wasn't special. But there was this nagging feeling of eyes on the back of her head.
Shaking her thoughts, focusing ahead of herself, Solstice could see her king speaking with Councilman Alpha Trion. Standing beside him was his Queen. Many had whispered and murmured about the young woman Ultra Magnus took as his Queen, but Solstice could only smile. They looked and worked so well together and, when no one seems to be looking, he would show that love in small gestures and long glances. It was adorable.
"Ah Greetings Perceptor, and to you Miss Solstice," Alpha Trion greeted. Perceptor bowed a moment while Solstice bowed lower and remained still. Perceptor moved around her to stand with their king, ready to give his information but Ultra Magnus turned back to her.
"What news from the Northern Kingdoms?" his asked, taking Charlotte's hand and guiding them to their thrones. Taking a seat, he allowed Solstice forward.
"Your Majesty, King Optimus is concerned with the growing presence of monsters fleeing the Western kingdom. Some have been spotted terrorising his outer cities while others are begging for asylum. Some have even been spotted by scouts moving here, my King," Solstice explained, pulling out a small scroll to hand to him. "He fears that King Nemesis will use this exodus to plant spies or assassins in the other kingdoms. King Optimus fears King Nemesis is becoming too bold, your majesty. His words."
"This is indeed concerning," the king mused, Charlotte's hand grasped his arm. She could see his own growing concern with the news. "Alpha Trion, Perceptor, gather the rest of the council. We will need to discuss measures to handle this influx of monsters," his councilmen agreed, standing again, he turned to one of the guards stationed in the room. "You, inform my guard captain of this, ensure the patrols are double and the streets are safe." The guard saluted before running from the room.
"Do you require anything more from me, Your Majesty?" Solstice asked, watching the King formulate his next step.
"No Solstice, you have served well. I will call if I have need of you," told no more, she bowed again and left. But she couldn't stop herself from turning back. Taking one last moment to look at Perceptor before leaving.
Sitting in the afternoon sun, from the best vantage in the whole city, Solstice felt peace.
Well, for as long as it had lasted. Looking down, she smiled as two of her best friends scaled the temple walls. Speedzone already cleared the spanning placements while Turbocharge struggled to keep balance. He was still one of the newbies within the guild but she could tell he was making progress. Better this than running around the streets as a common thief and trickster. How he fell into a crowd like the terror twins was anyone’s guess. Scooting across, Solstice helped Turbocharge up while Speedzone jumped around to claim her seat.
“What are you guys doing up here?” Solstice knew the King tolerated her insistence on climbing up the large temple from time to time, but he was certainly going to have a word with the guild about Speedzone and Turbocharge joining. If he found out anyway.
“Oh come on! Just cause our best friend landed a permanent gig in the palace doesn’t mean we won’t hang with her,” Turbocharge smiled. She smiled at how he thought the lives of nobles and the higher castes were this Eden of joy and happiness compared to his own humble beginnings. She was gladdened by what he said however. She was often times scared what many in th guild had thought when the King asked for her services. Crashmeter had practically kicked her out on her ass, including anyone who defended her. Others felt cheated and kept their distance. She shouldn’t be surprised, given the company the guild welcomed but even she was shocked by how many she had worked with in the past instantly turned to hating her.
“Hey hey, come on Sunshine,” Speedzone wrapped an arm around Solstice’s neck, pulling her close. “You know those stuck up pricks don’t hold a candle to you. They’re just upset that the only one who gave a damn about the job is gone, and now they have to pick up their own slack.”
“Like you?” smirking, Solstice and Turbocharge giggled at Speedzone’s reaction. She, unlike the pair, was born into a life of wealth and privilege. She lived without a care nor idea of strife but she was born a rebel and took to the streets rather than be baby fed her birthright. Solstice recalled it was mainly because her family found out she was more interested in women than men, and after she almost rendered her ‘betrothed’ unable to have children after receiving the news. Befriending Solstice and joining the guild was her way of making it on her own.
“Oh you know I’m a great messanger. I can run circles around you!” Speedzone preened, turning to only find disbelief. “Oh come on you can’t deny it! I can’t out run both of you!”
“Yeah, when running a straight line,” Turbocharge deadpanned. “You may have speed, but Solstice has agility too.”
“Oh this coming from the guy who likes eating our dust,” Speedzone smirked, watching her friend prickle and stiffen.
“Ha! This coming from the girl who can’t jump for crap! I can easily reach holds neither of you can reach! Like on the Estate job! That wall was at least twelve feet tall, you needed me to pull you up!” grinding his teeth, Turbocharge and Speedzone growled and hissed before a chorus of giggles caught their ears. Turning, both watched Solstice laughing.
“You realise how stupid you both look right?” she giggled, smiling at both. Arms looped around their necks, pulling them in close. “No one is perfect, not in this world. But working as a team, no one can catch us,” smiling, Speedzone and Turbocharge joined in her laughter. It was how their friendship turned out; Solstice always seemed to balance out Turbocharge’s immaturity while mellowing out Speedzone’s conceited ego. But both of them knew, they brought out her true self.
“So, did you see your councilman today~?” Turbocharge wiggled his eyebrows in emphasis, causing Speedzone to freeze handing out their dinner while Solstice stiffened, a small blush crossing her face.
“What?!! Since when?! Who is it?! Spill it, loose-lips!” Speedzone demanded, deepening Solstice’s blush.
“Please no~” she whined.
“Councilman Perceptor of course,” Turbocharge smirked. “I still hang with Sides and Sunny some times and they told me that they saw Solstice staring at the Councilman during a meeting they were spying on.”
“Okay One; I’m going to forget I heard that because I will tell the king,” Solstice listed, glaring at her friend. “Two; those two over-exaggerate everything they think is important… and Three; I was not staring at Perceptor.”
“No ‘Councilman’?” Speedzone smirked, watching the slow realisation cross Solstice. “aHA!! I can’t believe my poor and prudish friend is pining over a Councilman!”
“Not just any, the one with a stick up his ass,” Turbocharge cackled, slipping slightly as Solstice tried to slap him.
“He does not! Per… I mean Councilman Perceptor takes his position and duties very seriously. Unlike some I know,” Solstice growled, not enjoying her current place in the spotlight.
“I bet it’s the accent. I’ve seen other women keen every time he makes an address,” Turbocharge pondered, recalling seeing some market women swooning at the last public address.
“Nah, it’s how he so well kept and presentable. He certainly knows his way around proper dress,” Speedzone could recall the last noble function her parents dragged her to. Perceptor had been there, clean cut and constantly trying to flee a gaggle of women complimenting his dress.
“Can we change the subject, please,” Solstice whined, trying to eat her small wrap. Crunching into the crisp lettuce and chewy meat. Her friends, however, had other plans.
“No way! You ripped on us when we came out about our partners, your turn!” Turbocharge smirked, Speedzone agreeing.
Solstice groaned as she recalled those memories. Speedzone had surprised them when she introduced her girlfriend, Arcee. What surprised them more was the fact Arcee was a girl, rather than her being a fairy. Not to mention she was well-mannered and polite. Solstice and Turbocharge both laughed and joked about the idea of Speedzone going soft on them and rolling back to her old self, gaining them a few giggles from Arcee and a lot of punches from Speedzone. But when Turbocharge came out, during a small party the guild had planned, admitting he had feelings for the Kitsune Rodimus, Speedzone and Solstice cracked up. They joked how the kitsune would steel his heart and make him his bitch, to which the young runner shouted and angrily promised bodily harm if they ever spread the rumour.
“Okay, that’s it. I’m going home. Goodnight and have fun,” Solstice pouted, finishing her meal before balancing on her perch.
“Goodnight lover girl! You know we love you!” Speedzone smiled, waving her goodbye.
“Don’t get too lost on Perceptor! Don’t wanna get jumped!” Turbocharge added, it was meant to be playful but there was a true warning to it. Many in the noble quarter of the city had been getting mugged as of late, and since Solstice now lived on its outskirts anything could happen.
Despite her grievance, Solstice smiled back. She knew they were only having fun with her. Nothing was ever over boundaries. Speedzone hated being put down for her love for women. Turbocharge hated being treated like a child or as inexperienced in spite of his age. Solstice, both of them knew her boundaries varied but the most common was her self-esteem. Sure she was sure of herself and cared little what others thought of her. But they were strangers. The opinions of her closest friends always weighed heavily on her. Which was why she never approached Perceptor about her feelings, why she would ache and hurt over the very idea of telling him and what he might do. Just thinking about his rejection brought her tears.
Shaking her thoughts, she focused on scaling down the temple walls and traverse the rooftops home. Avoiding the streets were easy enough with how close some of the buildings were.
However, tonight was not her lucky night as the rooftops she would normally use were currently occupied. It appeared some damage had been done and the repairs had dragged into the coming night. Sighing, Solstice jumped from the low roof she leapt to and took the main streets. Guards patrolled still this time of night before they changed shifts, it would discourage any brigand or thieves from trying anything.
Passing a pair of guards, smiling and waving to them as they recognised her, something grasped her arm and yanked her into an alleyway. Before she could scream, a calloused hand wrapped around her mouth and a cold kiss of steel tickled her neck. Dragged back into the alley, more shadows rose up around her and her captor.
“Alright Bitch, turn out your pockets,” breath stinking of decay rolled over her cheeks, forcing herself not to gag. Most would just comply and hand everything over but Solstice was anything if not stubborn. She hated the idea of being forced to do something she didn’t want to do, and she would come out fighting.
Shifting to hand something over, her captor eased his hold to allow her but got nothing but a head-butt to the face. Solstice could feel his nose break on her skull, reeling back to release her. She had to focus, keep her mind off the sting of the hit. Keep her focus so her sight didn’t shift. Another shape moved, she ducked and threw a punch. She could feel her fist land on a chest, not hard enough to put down but hard enough to stagger. She thanked her luck for taking some of Crashmeter’s defence training. Making her opening, she bolted for the alley entrance.
Then, something the shadows, something long and covered in scales wrapped around her leg, pulling her back. Gasping, hitting the ground hard, left winded she could feel the strange appendage coil fast around her, keeping her arms pinned down and legs immobile. Looking back, her sight cleared enough for her to make out her attackers. The street light illuminated enough for her to see most were monsters; a Naga held her down while another looked like a werewolf. Beside him was what looked like a troll and the human who grabbed her still held his knife and nose.
“Dumb bitch!” he hissed, spitting blood. The naga hissed, throwing Solstice into a wall. She tried to catch herself but the werewolf threw a punch as she recovered. Had she not tried to redirect the punch, he would’ve shot clean through her but the punch still landed. As she redirected, he changed course and slammed into her side. Air burst from her lungs as did her last meal, leaving her open to the naga’s tail. Like a whip, the naga slapped where Solstice couldn’t block, still winded and gasping from the werewolf. The troll cackled, stumbling into his barrage of strikes before a blow to her face sent her down gasping.
“Should’ve stayed down,” the human growled, grabbing the collar of her shirt. “Think just ‘cause you work for the king you think your tough? well now we have your coin,” the man growled, cutting her coin purse from her belt. Thrown back to the ground, Solstice tried to gather her breath and stand. If she could just get to her feet, push back the pain and run, she could get away and get help.
“The bitch doesn’t have anything!” the werewolf growled. “How are we supposed to bribe the guards now?” he hissed.
“Wait look!” caught, Solstice took a breath and pushed further down the alleyway. It wasn’t ideal but she could make it to the rooftops this way. Finding something, anything, that she could use as a boost, she didn’t count on was the dagger slashing her leg. The sudden pain pushed her off, tripping and falling to the ground.
She was set upon. She tried to protect herself and fight back but she opened herself for another attack. She could feel bruises crawling along her skin. A black eye swelling her eyelid shut while her jaw, arms and stomach ached from the blows.
"What the?!" one of them cried suddenly. What had happened? Solstice felt the others shift before shouts and cries echoed through the alley. Struggling to sit up, Solstice looked around but couldn't make much out in the darkness. With one eye closed she couldn't see much to begin with, but a hard thump pulled her back to the street alley she had fled from.
Coming into the light, she gasped at the sight of another monster. This one was an Yokai; she knew they congregated around the western kingdom or up in the northern mountain ranges in some strange temple. He wore strange white and red robes, one arm out of the long sleeves and left to hang at his side while two swords hung from his hips. Another was strapped to his back, a long and ornate sword with a strange blue jewel at the hilt.
Who was this monster and why did he help her?
"Are you alright?" his soft voice broke Solstice from her thoughts, looking up to his offered hand.
"Y-yeah, I'm okay," she stubbornly reached her feet, shaking a moment before grabbing her stomach. It hurt to stand upright and her twisting gut meant she might throw-up again if she tried standing. The Yokai was on her in an instant; legs caught out while he cradled her back.
"No you're not. Those thieves roughed you up, you need a doctor," clearly there was no arguing with the monster, and she had to admit she was nervous about refusing his statement. She had known a few decent monsters but unfortunately the social norm was 'Humans good, monsters bad'. Many didn't trust the monsters who frequented or visited the cities. But this Yokai couldn't be all bad if he had saved her and was prepared to take her to a doctor.
"Fine. I know a doctor nearby," she replied, shifting only to get comfortable as the Yokai followed her directions. "And thanks...for helping me. You didn't have to," she added, turning away somewhat embarrassed. Even with the cut on her leg she should've been able to scale the wall and escape.
"Simply returning my debt, I have not seen you in years as it were," the Yokai smiled, sprouting confusion in Solstice. Once back on the lit streets, she gasped. She recalled this monster once before.
One of the very few missions she took on for the King to travel into the Western Kingdom to deliver a message and gift, Solstice recalled the only time she liked being there was after helping a street addict. Having started in Nemesis' kingdom, a very strong and addictive drug had been distributed through the drug trade. It was made illegal in all the realms except his, meaning there were more addicts reciding in the streets. Returning from that mission, Solstice had found the same Yokai about to overdose on the drug in one of the smaller outer cities. Panicking, she flew to help the monster. No one deserved to die by such a fate. She knew of a doctor who treated such addicts a village over and made the side trip. She kept the monster hydrated and conscious before leaving him with the doctor.
That had been years ago, the last time she saw her doctor friend the Yokai had already left.
"You're...you're okay!" she smiled, glad to see he was in fact alive.
"Thanks to you," he replied, approaching the small hospice. Solstice felt her face flash red. She hadn't expected the comment nor the manner it was said. Had this Yokai been holding on to...this debt since that day? But it had been years, and she never expected anything from it.
The clinic was still open despite the hour, walking in a young man looked up. Shock and surprise flashed across his face, running up to the monster to tend to Solstice.
"Solstice! By Primus what happened?" he gasped, ushering the Yokai to a bed.
"I'm afraid she was mugged," the Yokai stated, stepping aside to allow First Aid to treat Solstice.
"Who would have thought such a thing would happen in our city," First Aid sighed, gathering a few things from a nearby table. Solstice relaxed, looking back to the Yokai.
"After everything, I still don't know your name," smiling at the watchful Yokai, he returned his own.
"Drift. And yours?"
Ultra Magnus was infuriated of the very idea of common thugs mugging his citizens. Guard patrols increased during the nights and efforts were made to find those responsible.
Forced to remain in the hospice until she recovered, by order of the King, Solstice was surprised Drift would come and see her. Keeping her company, they spoke of times after their first encounter. How Solstice became the royal courier, how Drift turned over a new leaf and trained at the Yokai temple in the North. Funny and memorable stories wanned away the long hours before Speedzone and Turbocharge took a turn.
Both had been horrified to hear what had happened, Turbocharge repeating his warning from that night. But they both were relieved she wasn't seriously injured. At times they would sneak in 'proper food' while First Aid wasn't looking; sweet breads and fruits as small treats to keep her spirits up before being shooed away by the long medic.
It was that night a real surprise occurred, Perceptor came to visit her. Once her shock subsided, he had explained receiving the news of her attack and becoming concerned. Solstice couldn't believe what she had heard! Perceptor worried about her! Did that mean he would reciprocate her feelings? Did he feel the same way for her or was he concerned because she was a minor member of the King's service?
However, it was the attention he offered her, coming to see her warmed her heart. But it left a small twinge of confusion and insecurity. Spending so much time with Drift, all the days he came to see her and the hours he spent speaking with her caused something to take root within her. She could feel her heart swell every time he came to see her, just as it did with Perceptor.
Was she falling for another? Or were these feelings just from the concern and care he was showing her? She had become so conflicted with these feelings that she never noticed Speedzone and Turbocharge walk in.
"Hey Solstice? Are you okay?" Speedzone asked, sitting on the bed beside her. Shaken out, Solstice looked at the pair.
"Oh hey guys," she smiled, trying to hide her concern and worry. But she should know her friends better. Turbocharge jumped on the bed and stared right at Solstice.
"Something is worrying you. Spill," his gaze remained hard, trying to pry the truth from her. Solstice knew she couldn't keep it from them, not under any obligation to tell them but they would make her spill sooner or later. She knew they wouldn't ask unless it was needed to be...or they pestered her enough to talk. She trusted them...she just wasn't sure if she trusted herself.
"He came to see me," she admitted, turning the others confused. "Perceptor came to see me." Her friends gasped, but not in shock or surprise. Speedzone almost squealed while Turbocharge cheered, both of them happy for her.
"This means he cares! Now all you need to do is go in... for... " Speedzone paused, looking to Solstice keeping her gaze down. "Solstice?"
"Come on Solstice, you've been pining for this guy. He shows he's worried about you and you act like someone kicked your dog," Turbocharge whined. Solstice just shook her head.
"She's concerned because I work for the king..."
"Bullshit," Solstice turned to Speedzone, her hard glare staring back. "Did he actually say why he came?"
"Did he ask if you were okay? How you were coping? If you needed anything?" Turbocharge pipped in, mimicking Speedzone's glare. It left Solstice in silence, answering their questions. "Then why are you moping! If my crush showed such care I'd be head over heels!"
"I like someone else."
Speedzone and Turbocharge paused, surprised by her responce.
"Wait, what?" Turbocharge quirked his head to the side, confused and concerned.
"Since when?!" Speedzone gasped, inching closer.
"I mean...I think I do," Solstice whispered, becoming really uncomfortable talking about this.
"You think?" Speedzone and Turbocharge shared a look. Solstice missed it in the hope they would drop the subject but turned back when Speedzone crawled beside her and Turbocharge sat cross-legged infront of her.
"You can tell us, Solstice. We're here for you," he smiled, taking her hand.
"If you're so worried about this it must be serious, and you always tell us talking about it helps," Speedzone smiled, hoping it was as infectious as Solstice often gave them. Solstice looked at them both, surprised and unsure how to proceed, her own lips turned around and a smile grow. Speedzone brightened seeing her smile worked.
“I still have feelings for Perceptor, strong feelings. But, recently, I’ve been talking with the monster who saved me and… I’m starting to feeling the same around him as I do with Perceptor.”
“A monster?! Really?” Speedzone gapped. “You’re the last person I’d think would fall for a monster.”
“Oh come on, Speedzone. Not all monsters are bad,” Turbocharge argued.
“Coming from the guy crushing on a kitsune prince,” the mocking wasn’t meant for Turbocharge however. Speedzone hoped their usual bickering would lighten Solstice mood. Bring her back around.
“It… doesn’t matter to me that he’s a monster. He saved my life, just like I did. He’s funny and cultured but mysterious and dark. I get all giddy when he’s next to me… like I do with Perceptor.” Sighing, Solstice was no closer to an answer to her dilemma.
“Well, maybe you’re feeling like this ‘cause he saved you,” Turbocharge suggested. “I bet once you get out of here, get back into the swing of things, it’ll sort itself out.”
“Yeah! He’s here more than Perceptor is right? Maybe once you get back out and see Perceptor more then you’ll realise you were feeling happy your saviour was visiting you. Not forming a crush,” Solstice wanted to think they were right, that everything was just because she was here, cooped up and that she saw more of Drift than Perceptor now. She felt so silly thinking it was something more than that. He did save her life, maybe she was only feeling thankful he was concerned.
“Yeah. Maybe you’re right,” Solstice smiled, looking between the two.
“We know, besides without us around, how in the pit would you work out all your awkward emotions,” Turbocharge beamed, laughter erupting around them.
Solstice giggled, happy that her strife was explained and all she needed to do was work through their plan. Nothing could go wrong!
Everything was going wrong.
Tensions continued to grow between humans and monsters. The flooding of refugees from the west had congested the remaining kingdoms, filling the slums and outer walls. The city guards couldn’t keep up with the number to house and many citizens were unwilling to welcome them into their homes. Some were offered money in order to entice cooperation but many still refused to help.
This caused many monsters to go unregistered and unaccounted for. With the growing rumours of the exodus being a plot by the dragon king, many feared for their lives. Some monsters had taken their strife on those who wouldn’t help them and only fuelling the rumour.
Concerned with the growing tensions, Solstice had yet more problems to keep her worry and stress high. Even with the added time she had spent with Perceptor, her feelings had not changed for Drift. In addition, her feelings hadn’t changed for Perceptor given the time she would spend with Drift. She knew of couples consisting of three or more partners but she couldn’t fathom either of them agreeing to it. Perceptor, from her interactions, was rather conservative while Drift didn’t seem to show an interest.
Shaking her thoughts, she had a job to finish. Coming back from the North and South kingdoms, she carried reports and information from King Optimus and King Megatron for her king. Both North and South kingdoms had become increasingly concerned and angered by the western kingdom, but all three had to unite in order to accomplish anything.
Running through the market, sliding behind stalls and leaping over obstacles to get to the palace as fast as she could. Leaping from the streets to the rooftops, a sudden loud bang shook everything. Catching herself on the roof, she looked up in the direction of the blast.
Her eyes widened, her breath froze in her throat at the sight of the council chambers. Despite the stone masonry, the entire building erupted in flames.
“Solstice!!” Calling her back, she spotted Speedzone and Turbocharge on another rooftop. Pointing to the flames, they ran on. Following, Solstice hoped no one was hurt.
Everything was in chaos around the council chambers. Those injured by the blast were dragged clear and treated while other ran about with water to try and contain the blaze. Others skilled with magic tried to quell the tower of flames but to no avail.
"Is everyone clear?!" Called a guard, shouting over the screams and commotion.
"No! Councilman Alpha Trion says someone is still inside!" another cried out, aiding a citizen aside.
"Did he say who?!!"
"No! But I haven't seen Councilman Perceptor!"
"No one has! He might still be inside!!"
Solstice felt her heart drop. Perceptor was still inside?! Her breathing shallowed and her mind raced. No, he couldn't be dead. There was no way. The very idea of Perceptor being dead... and she was never able to tell him...
"Solstice!!" She ignored Speedzone and Turbocharge's cries, throwing her pack at them annd running across the rooftops. She couldn't run through the front with all the guards out front but she used the larger buildings to get a better vantage.
This was stupid. This was crazy. But her mind blanked as she approached the edge. Taking a deep breath, she propelled herself from the rooftop into the building.
Landing hard, she caught herself before she could roll into the flames. Quickly lifting a loose part of her shirt, she pushed through the flames.
"Perceptor!!" she coughed, ignoring the burn and sting of the flames. Where could he have been now? Making it into the larger chamber, she gasped seeing a hand sticking out from a pile of stone and wood. Moving quickly, she used the unburnt wood as a lever to pry the larger stone off. Moving to the smaller stones, she managed to pull the body free. Her head dropped at the sight of Perceptor, chest splattered with blood and burns covering parts of his exposed skin. In her panic, she checked his pulse and where all the blood was coming from. Burns across his chest had cauterised what looked like stab marks but his side was gushing the most blood. His arms and legs had minor burns while a long cut crossed his right eye.
"What on..." Solstice couldn't explain just how he got injured, certainly not from the explosion otherwise he'd have broken bones too. But the growing flames were their first concern. "Come on Perceptor, you can't die on me now!" she hissed, pulling his weight onto her back.
"W-wha..." Perceptor moaned, managing to move his head only a little.
"Everything will be okay Perceptor," Solstice coughed, squinting through the smoke and flames for an exit.
"S...s-sol..." he groaned, his breathing becoming laboured. Solstice had to move faster, the longer he was there, the worse his condition would become. Her own body wasn't holding well against the flames. She tried to avoid the more violent whips of the flames but more burns crawled across her skin. Suddenly, distracted by a falling pillar, Perceptor grew limp.
"No, no no no come on Perceptor, stay with me," Moving to a corner still untouched by the flames, she eased Perceptor down. Coughing, she tried to find a pulse. It was faint but it was getting harder to find it. "Perceptor please, don't die on me. Not now!" she begged, tears threatening to fall but evaporating from the heat surrounding them. "You can't die, please!" a sudden cough pulled her back, rubbing his back as a splatter of clotted blood oozed from his mouth. Her panic hastened her steps, looking around for an exit.
"I-it's not far now!" she smiled, getting Perceptor back on her shoulder and half dragging him toward the exit. Her hope grew the closer they came to the exit, seeing the crowds racing around outside. Just as they were about to cross it, a loud crack resounded above them. Solstice spotted the roof falling from a broken beam, forced to jump back. Landing on her side, Perceptor cushioned from the fall, she gasped at the sight of the exit blocked.
"No!" she screamed, looking around them as the flames drew closer to them. Grabbing Perceptor, she pulled him clear but had no idea where to go. Their only exit was no blocked and any other exit they could take was blocked by flames. Breathing harder in her panic, she began coughing harder. By chance she glanced up, seeing hope in a long untouched drape of tapestry. Grabbing the heavy cloth, she wrenched it from its holders and drapped it over them both. "I'm getting you out of here Perceptor."
"S-sol...stice..." he groaned, hissing and panting from the pain.
"No, I'm getting you out, I promise," she coughed, sagging a moment before picking them both up. She had to get them out. She had to. If he died, she had no idea what she would do if the unthinkable happened. But again, Perceptor fell limp against her back. Struggling to get her own breath back from under the heavy drapery, Solstice dropped to the ground.
"No, no come Perceptor stay with me!" panting, Solstice started compressions. Mindful of his injuries, she tried to keep his heart beating. "Come please, please," tears rolled harder the more she compressed and breathed into his lungs. "Please don't die, I...I've never..."
"Solstice!" a voice called, the drape pulled away from them. Blinded by the light, Solstice managed to make out a large form infront of them.
"Please! H-he's injured! A-attacked...I...I..." Solstice couldn't keep her body awake, she couldn't keep her mind focused, waving on her knees she collapsed. The world around he went black as something grabbed her. Wisps of white caught her waning sight before going black.
Feeling was slowly crawling back her up her arms, eyes twitching as Solstice fought to awaken. Slowly, pushing herself up from her bed, she could feel the bandages on her arms and chest. First Aid would not be happy that she was in his hospice again after only just leaving before.
Looking up, she jumped at the sight of Drift. Why was he here? But she did remember something white in the burning chambers. Was it Drift who come for them?
Something then caught her eye. Drift hadn't noticed she had moved yet but the way he was staring at Perceptor, the way he held his hand, the way he leaned over him. Solstice couldn't jump to conclusions, but her heart was already wrenching with the one conclusion this scene screamed at her; they were together.
She had to wrong, right? Or the reality of the matter was thus. She had lost her chance to confess. She had no idea that either of them were together, nor had she asked. But the way Drift looked at Perceptor, the way he held and cradled his hand.
"Solstice," drawn away, she turned to Drift. He turned and smiled, drawing her into a hug. She moved on instinct, moving her arms as best as she could to return Drift's hug. She didn't know how to feel, or what to feel. "Thank you, once again you have saved something precious to me."
"You and P...Councilman Perceptor are...together?" she asked, numbed by her indecision and confusion.
"Yes, we have been mates for some time now," Drift nodded, but he turned concerned when Solstice seemed down. Hearing that they were mates, it felt like a dagger had periced her heart. She knew this was going to hurt her in the end. Allowing herself to become emotionally invested always led to her getting hurt. "Solstice? Are you okay?" he asked, turning her back. But, to his surprise, tears rolled down her cheeks but a small smile grew across her lips.
"Y-yeah, yeah I'm fine," she smiled, wiping her tears. "Just...everything is coming back now. And...I'm glad the councilman is alright."
"I-indeed," Drift nodded, still unnerved by her responce. "It was thanks to your quick thinking, but why did you leap into the flames?"
"B-because..." what could she say? Drift was a Yokai, a monster. He would no doubt tell she was lying. But her want to keep her friends, despite her own feelings, reared up. Right now, her feelings took a back seat. "Perceptor and I are friends, and the idea of him getting hurt...I couldn't bare the thought. And if I could do something, often times I'm too stubborn to think of a better alternative," she smiled, looking over to Perceptor. She could see his uncovered eye twitched, slowly opening.
Drift noticed her look, turning back to see Perceptor move. He smiled, turning back and cradled Perceptor's cheek. Slowly, Solstice watched as a smile crawled across his face and Drift placed a chaste kiss on his forehead. Solstice felt her heart tighten again, but hid the pain with a smile. She was just glad Perceptor was alright. He was alive. It was all that mattered.
"S-solstice?" Perceptor choked, catching her off. Looking back, that same smile pointed at her, Perceptor managed to sit up as well. "I...I can't thank you enough, you saved my life."
"Well..." the tightening twist and strain her heart wrenched was forced back, her eye lightening with her smile. "I couldn't let one of my friends get burned, now could I?" she had to play it off. She had to make it seem like she was happy. For their sake. "But what happened?" she asked, trying to change the subject.
"I..." Perceptor took a moment, thinking over the events leading to the fire. "I will need to tell our King. I was attacked for stumbling on a plot to assassinate him," trying to move, Drift pulled Perceptor back.
"No love, rest," Drift cooed, holding his cheek and petting his hair. "You need to recover."
"I-I'll go," Solstice added, standing from her bed before either could object. "Besides, delivering info is my job. You need all the rest you can get, sir," she smiled, readjusting her outfit over her bandages. "I'll even bring the king to you." Leaving with a wave and a smile, Solstice ran from the hospice. First Aid missed her as he tended to others crowding the clinic, tears running unhindered the faster she ran.
It was what she did. When upset or stressed, she would run until the pain stopped or the worries were left behind. And now, with both of the men she had found feelings for, she cursed her feelings from growing to this point and regretting she didn't act sooner. She pushed harder, ignoring the scream from her injuries until she reached the palace.
Stopping at its gates she paused. Catching her breath, she could still feel her heart sting but the run drained what little energy she had to worry. Able to focus now, she would figure out a solution to her pain later, more important matters took priority.
Walking into the throne room, she was greeted by the guards while another announced her. Almost in an instant, her majesty Queen Charlotte approached her. A look of concern held her while King Ultra Magnus just looked confused.
"Oh Solstice, you should be resting," Charlotte cooed, looking over her injuries.
"I am humbled by your concern, my Queen, but what I've learnt from Councilman Perceptor, as well as his own request, needs to be heard by the King,” Solstice bowed low, returning to her feet as Ultra Magnus approached.
“What have you learnt? Has Perceptor awoken?” Ultra Magnus questioned, placing a hand on Charlotte’s shoulder.
“He is, my King. He requests your presence for he was attacked, not injured in the blast. He states the explosion was to cover up his attack, one caused because…he interrupted a plot to assassinate you,” Solstice remained professional, and seeing the King turn and curse only deepened the concern in Charlotte.
“Then the correspondence from Optimus and Megatron confirms it,” he hissed. Solstice looked confused then recalled she had left her delivery with Speedzone and Turbocharge. They must’ve given it over to him while she was out. Ultra Magnus pondered this new information, turning back to Solstice. “Solstice, thank you for bringing this to my attention. You are dismissed, you may return to service once your wounds are healed.” In a startling turn, for Solstice at least, Ultra Magnus placed a hand on her shoulder. “Despite the restlessness and questionable actions you took, you risked your life for another and saved a life. You deserve time to rest and shall be rewarded for your service.”
“Just doing what I good at, your majesty.”
No matter how much it hurts.