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Coming Into Focus

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Brainstorm and Perceptor were a thing . If someone had suggested that impossibility to him a stellar cycle ago, Brainstorm would have laughed them out of the room, but astoundingly—and against all of his predictions—it'd happened. Even worse, it’d happened somehow while he wasn’t looking—crept up on him slowly, but surely—and now he was still trying to wrap his processor around the information, let alone figure out what he’d do with it.

He was floundering in a sea of unknown variables and expectations, and he didn't like it.

Plus, Perceptor hadn't exactly been making it easy on him. Not in the sense that he was being pushy, or overbearing; in fact, the problem was the exact opposite. He’d been so passive about the whole affair that it’d taken Brainstorm ages to figure it out why he was acting weird.

When the realization finally came, he’d laughed aloud—momentarily stunned. Unfortunately for him, it'd come at an inconvenient time. He’d stopped in the middle of a precarious experiment to savor the moment, and accidentally dropped a crucial component in the process.

He’d still been cackling when the smoke cleared.

Percy was courting him. Or—he was very deliberately not-courting him. It was confusing, but wasn’t that just so typical of the other scientist? Nothing could ever be simple with him.

After the whole time-travel fiasco they’d had a bit of a spark-to-spark down in the brig. Brainstorm hadn’t really expected Perceptor to visit—hoped maybe, but not expected.

After all, he’d really fragged up.

But against all odds Perceptor had shown. He’d appeared awkwardly that first day to plead his case from behind the bars, and even though Brainstorm had been a little preoccupied with his failure—with thoughts of Quark, and his own misery—his spark might have fluttered a little knowing that someone still cared enough, that Perceptor cared enough to offer sympathy.

Even better, Perceptor’s main reason for coming had been to apologize—a long-winded, halting speech where he admitted that he'd underestimated Brainstorm in more ways than one, and that he’d like to make it up to him. Not just because he had recognized Brainstorm’s brilliance—because of course he had, how could he not have, he’d built a time machine—but because he regretted the overly harsh attitude which he’d adopted towards him at times.

Brainstorm’s 'yeah, you can be a real aft sometimes Perce'  had been met with a consternated expression, but no argument.

And then the kicker. He’d admitted to liking Brainstorm—dangerous experiments and ‘enormous ego’ and all, though maybe one day Perceptor would finally figure out that a lot of Brainstorm’s bluster was well, just that. He’d never admit it aloud, but his self-esteem was pretty shot these days—genius aside.

Still, the admission that Perceptor had always respected him as a scientist—had always acknowledged his intelligence, if not always his methods—went a little towards boosting it, and the admission that he'd grown used to Brainstorm’s company and missed his presence in the lab most definitely did.

Even now, Brainstorm couldn’t hold back his grin at the memory, and in the absence of self-control he was glad that his facemask helped hide it. He glanced up surreptitiously—to check that Perceptor was still occupied at the other end of the lab, and not witnessing his sappy retrospection.

Yep, still in the clear. No feelings happening here.

In the brig, Perceptor had asked hesitantly if it was too late to repair their relationship, and the way he had phrased it had sounded so business-like, like mending a relationship between colleagues—maybe friends—so Brainstorm had swallowed his disappointment and agreed. Yeah sure, they could give it a shot.

Brainstorm hadn’t really been in the best headspace down there; he’d been feeling vulnerable after his crushing defeat less than successful rescue attempt, and may have admitted a few mortifying things himself—like the fact that he didn’t dislike Perceptor, had in fact always admired his work, and just wanted to be acknowledged and appreciated in return.

Now, Brainstorm twitched just thinking about it, but at the time he’d felt a little vindicated by the guilt which had appeared on Perceptor’s face, so maybe it’d been worth it. Apparently, it wasn’t good to bottle things up. Emotional catharsis and all that. Or so he’d heard.

In the end, it all led back to this. Them having a thing.

Because while Perceptor had been ever the gentlemech—repairing their working relationship by engaging Brainstorm in experiments and heated discussion, and making it painstakingly clear that he saw him as an equal—he’d also been clumsily hinting at well, more.

So far his strategies had included asking Brainstorm to Swerve’s for drinks on a regular basis, suggesting that they attend various scientific conferences and events together whenever the Lost Light took a pit stop, and even leaving little articles out that he evidently thought Brainstorm might find interesting.

In short, Perceptor’s methods were practically transparent.

Despite his best efforts, his wings gave an involuntary wiggle of delight.

Granted, he was still Percy. He still nagged, and scolded, and freaked out when Brainstorm did something a little too dangerous for his liking—even if it was in the name of science—but maybe asking the other scientist to loosen up was a bit much. Brainstorm was pretty sure those exasperated sighs had become fonder than they used to be, and now he was also being treated to something which more than made up for it.

Perceptor smiled at him.

There were the small, knowing smiles when he responded to Brainstorm’s banter, and the enthusiastic, blinding ones when an experiment went well. Brainstorm didn’t seem to have any resistance against them either, because every time he was treated to one his struts went a little weak, and all witty retorts flew out of his helm.

Best of all, Perceptor didn’t protest anymore when Brainstorm hit on him with increasingly cheesy scientific one-liners, and he’d been taking full advantage just to see Perceptor facepalm or stammer when he was caught off-guard.

Despite all of this, Perceptor was still clearly dancing around the idea of them—and here he took a moment to snort at the mental image of Perceptor dancing—but Brainstorm wasn’t offended by the evasiveness. He’d already figured it out.

Perceptor was going through the motions. He was courting Brainstorm subtly without actually making his intentions clear, and the why was as clear as day.

For once in his life, Perceptor didn’t know what to do.

It’s probably infuriating, Brainstorm noted with a small twinge of satisfaction. It wasn’t often that the other scientist found himself at a loss.

He’d probably wanted to give Brainstorm space after the whole time-travel shebang, but he'd also wanted to move forward, and it’d left him floundering. In the end, he had compromised—decided that stealth-dating was somehow the best option.

It was fragging cute how dense he could be sometimes, for all of his own genius.

Brainstorm actually felt a little warm and fuzzy when he thought about the fact that Perceptor—unflappable, steely, look-at-me-I-used-to-be-a-wrecker Perceptor—was flustered over him. Still, this wouldn’t do. Brainstorm was a bot of action, and they were never going to get anywhere this way, with Perceptor reluctant to even admit his interest for fear of, what—scaring him off? Please.

Brainstorm was definitely interested. Pit knows he’d had a crush on the unattainable microscope for years—hiding it all beneath bravado and feigned contempt, and ok yeah maybe he had a type, but this one could actually work out.

Brainstorm had a shot. For once in his life things were looking up, and it was obviously up to him to move things along.

The sound of a transformation sequence engaging distracted him, and he looked out of the corner of his optic to where Perceptor had switched to using his alt-mode.

Brainstorm absently trailed his optics over the expanse of glossy red plating before him. He honed in on the way the powerful scope adjusted—slid in and out as Perceptor focused intently on whatever it was he was busy with. Yeah, he definitely had a type.

Brainstorm watched for a while, unconcerned about being caught. Percy was obviously involved in his work, and facing the other direction anyway.

He dimmed his optics—imagined what the sleek plating might feel like under his servos if he were the one turning the knobs ever so slowly, adjusting the finely tuned mechanisms of Perceptor’s frame with deliberate, teasing motions, and applying delicate pressure until he warmed beneath his touch.

Would it feel good? If Brainstorm caressed the dials as he worked—tracing seams and rubbing at intricate components appreciatively the whole while. Would Perceptor cave beneath the pressure of Brainstorm’s servos, voice his pleasure—even encourage the exploratory touches?

Brainstorm could dream.

He was starting to get a little warm himself—but who could blame him? Percy’s alt-mode was a work of art. He could think of a few other things he’d like to do with it—it wasn’t like he hadn’t entertained the same thoughts about his personal collection.

“Brainstorm, I can feel your optics on me from across the room.”

Whoops.

His first instinct was to protest.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Ah, frag. Strike one for defensive tone, and two for a completely unoriginal denial.

Perceptor transformed back to root mode and swung around to look at him—clearly unimpressed.

“You’ve been staring at me for approximately 5.47 breems. Would you care to enlighten me as to what has garnered your attention? Because frankly I am beginning to grow uncomfortable.”

You could always count on Percy to get straight to the point.

Brainstorm fumbled, but with the weight of that raised optic-ridge upon him—not to mention the difficulty he was having keeping his fans offline—it was understandable.

“I like your alt-mode,” he admitted finally. Go big, or go home right?

Whatever Perceptor had been expecting, it obviously hadn’t been that. He cycled his optics.

“What?”

Surprisingly inarticulate for the scientist. Yeah, Brainstorm could work with this.

“Your alt-mode. I like it,” he repeated enthusiastically, and if anything, Perceptor looked more consternated.

“You’ve been observing me for no other reason than the fact that you find my alt-mode... appealing?” asked Perceptor dubiously, as though he still suspected Brainstorm of having an ulterior motive.

Alright, fair enough.

Brainstorm shrugged, unoffended.

“Honestly Percy, I just like watching you work. It’s sexy.”

Go really big, or go home. He’d been found out anyway, maybe confessing would actually speed things along—get Perceptor to finally make a move.

Perceptor sputtered.

Excuse me?

He was pretty cute when he was flustered. His mouth opened and closed a few times, as though he wanted to say something else, but couldn't quite find the words.

Brainstorm vowed to make more of an effort to get this kind of reaction from the stoic scientist—as if it wasn’t already one of his ongoing goals.

“Gee Percy, if I knew a compliment was gonna rob you of your impressive vocabulary I mighta held that one back,” he ribbed, with a good-natured grin that he hoped translated to his optics.

“I fail to see how a microscope would prove arousing in any capacity,” Perceptor finally managed.

“Oh please, Percy. You’re a microscope; you’re like, literally the personification of science. What’s not to like about that?” he asked. “Plus you’re all smooth and shiny. I just wanna run my fingers all over your plating.” 

The admission was a bit much maybe, but Brainstorm had long ago given up on his processor-to-mouth filter and decided that it was just best to commit to whatever came out.  

“You... are sexually attracted to my alt-mode,” deadpanned Perceptor.

Brainstorm sidled a little closer. Perceptor was already backed up against the table, but it didn’t look like he was ready to run away just yet, so he pressed his advantage.

“Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about it. Letting someone else tweak your knobs?” he wheedled.

The look Perceptor shot him was imperceptible, but Brainstorm liked to think that he was at least entertaining the idea.

"...for science?" he added.

“I’ve volunteered the use of my alt-mode on many occasions, in order to assist with joint projects. It’s hardly something out of the ordinary,” responded Perceptor flatly.

Good thing Brainstorm wasn’t one to give up that easily.

“You know perfectly well what I meant. What’s a bot gotta do to get your attention, hm? How does one gain the privilege of... handling your equipment?” he insinuated with an exaggerated wink. Perceptor looked taken aback, as if he’d never considered that Brainstorm might be the one to proposition him. Not seriously at any rate.

“Well, I—”, stammered Perceptor, and Brainstorm forged ahead.

“C'mon Percy, let me have a go. It’ll be fun.” He paused for a moment. “Unless I’ve got the wrong idea, in which case you’re gonna want to clarify right now. There’s only so many times you can ask a guy out before he starts to get a certain impression, and I think we’ve hit that point.”

Perceptor’s expression had shifted to something closer to abashment.

“No, your reasoning is... sound. I have indeed been attempting to express my interest in you in a more than platonic fashion,” he admitted.

The combination of relief and excitement which flooded Brainstorm was almost palpable.

“Great! So, whaddya say? Tell me you don’t wanna see what these hands can do.” Brainstorm wiggled his fingers for emphasis.

“The thought isn’t entirely without appeal,” Perceptor conceded with a cough.

Excellent.

Brainstorm stepped even closer, now within reach of the other scientist. He knew that his optics were probably blazing. Primus, had he really gotten this far? Was this actually happening?

“Well then, let’s do this thing,” he crowed, before his doubts could get the better of him. Like the pit he was letting this opportunity slip away from him.

“Here?” Perceptor asked incredulously “Brainstorm, it’s an entirely inappropriate venue for the kind of activity you’re suggesting.”

There he was. Pragmatic Perceptor.

“It’s a lab! No better place for a microscope. I’ll even lock the door,” Brainstorm insisted.

Perceptor still looked a little baffled, but now uncertainty had begun to cloud his face as well.

Gah. What now?

Brainstorm was itching to get his servos on that gorgeous frame, and it didn’t seem like any of Perceptor’s hang-ups were due to lack of interest—so what gave?

“While I’m… flattered that you enjoy my form so much, are you positive that this is the best course of action? I had intended to take this slow,” explained Perceptor.

Brainstorm resisted the urge to laugh.

“Yeah, yeah I know. You’re trying to give me space or whatever. Trying to be proper and ask me on dates so I feel like a special bot, but not actually admitting it—which, let’s get one thing clear here, is super counterproductive, and not at all effective, so you should seriously review your methods—but I don’t care about that Percy,” he said exasperatedly. "I mean, I’ll gladly take the dates and it’ll be awesome, but right now I just really wanna frag you.”

His bluntness must have caught Perceptor off-guard, because judging from the wide optics the other scientist was still nowhere close to regaining his composure.

“I was trying to be considerate,” he said a little stiffly, but it seemed born more out of awkwardness than anything else. “I didn’t wish to infringe on your period of mourning, and thought it prudent to give you time—rather than rush into a relationship and hurt you in the process.”

Brainstorm wondered once again how someone so smart could be so dense . Had Perceptor ever considered asking him?

“Percy, give me a break. I know you, and more importantly I know what I want. I’m a grown mech—you don’t have to treat me like I’m delicate just because I had a bad month,” he countered.

Ok, fine. Understatement. Brainstorm was still pretty upset about the whole thing, but he was trying to move on, damn it.

“Look, it’s not like you’re every mech’s dream. I mean Primus knows you’re a killjoy, and I’m not gonna lie, your badgering makes me want to chuck beakers at you on a regular basis. You’re stiff, you’re awkward, you’re blunt; you go off on tangents which devolve into lectures that most people in the room can’t even understand, let alone want to,” he ranted, throwing his servos up into the air.

Perceptor was starting to look affronted, and Brainstorm elected to hurry things up.

“What I’m saying is, you’re all of those things, but I still like you. You don’t have to hold off on account of me being a—a grieving widow or whatever,” he insisted. “I’ve been carrying a torch for you for ages. And yeah, fine—I’m not over the Quark thing, but it just happened and it was fragging traumatic, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be over it, but I’m not gonna let it hold me back.”

If Brainstorm wasn’t mistaken—which he rarely was—that was the corner of Perceptor’s mouth quirking up. He rushed to finish.

“I still want you,” he offered, quieter this time. “Quark and I weren’t ever a thing—as much as I wanted to be—but you? You’re here, and this is real, and I wanna see where it goes.”

“...even if you’re an aft,” he added for good measure.

Perceptor mulled that over for a few seconds.

“You really would like this? To simply explore my form, and not receive pleasure in return?” he asked.

“Well now, I never said anything about that.”

Oh no, if this was happening, then Brainstorm had plans.

Perceptor raised an eyebrow, and that sardonic gaze put them back in familiar territory.

“Hey, you know me. If there's anything I am—besides brilliant of course—it's creative. Have a little faith Percy,” said Brainstorm with another jaunty wink.

Apparently it was enough to make up Perceptor’s mind, exasperated huff aside.

“Alright,” he agreed cautiously. “What is it that you propose?”

This time, the grin that spread across Brainstorm’s face was nothing short of devious.