The office looks weird, this time of the cycle.
Has it always been this dark?
It’s night, Pulse. Of course it’s dark. It’s the quiet that’s making it feel weird.
Working alone, late at night, in a poorly-lit office, was having a different benefit-disadvantage ratio to the one Pulsar had anticipated, and she wasn’t sure it was turning out to be as good an idea as she’d hoped.
Maybe I should turn a few lights on anyway.
Benefit? It was quiet, and private, and no-one was around to prod her about how she was feeling – which she considered too controversial a subject to really want to get into with anyone, right now.
Disadvantage? She had nothing to divert her attention from said feelings, so she spent more time staring off into space than actually, you know, working. And the quiet was starting to get to her.
Finally she realised that she’d been sitting staring at the same screen for almost a breem without actually parsing a single word on it.
All right, so perhaps she was a little distracted.
Pulsar vented a frustrated sigh – she’d have been more productive at home, where all the distractions lived – and stretched up just a little, to see over her console. The big office was still empty, with only the panel above her head still lit. The dirty orange of street-lighting outside streamed in and threw weird shadows into the darkened end of the open-plan desk-area.
She knew the office was empty, so she wasn’t exactly sure what she was so relieved about, but still allowed herself the luxury of a long, cooling exhale.
Not for the first time, she debated packing it in and going home. She cast the stylus down on her workstation, letting it roll away somewhere probably-inaccessible, and slumped in her seat, letting her arms dangle.
She didn’t like change. She – like most of her kind – usually found it a difficult, destabilising process. And now change had showed up and taken her feet out from under her, sweeping her along with it, whether she liked it or not. (Mostly: not.)
Only just over forty orns ago, she’d been quietly recovering from a… bereavement, she figured was the best description. Everyone had thought a miracle had occurred and they’d finally got the long-lost Skywarp back… only to find it was just some cruel trick from some faceless entity determined to take advantage of their pain.
It had left them all reeling, struggling to process it – and she’d compounded it with guilt for how wrapped up she’d got in her own thoughts and emotions, ignoring everyone else in favour of tending to her own angst. She knew she needed – deserved? – to grieve, but she couldn’t help thinking that she was being melodramatic. Her pain was a pinprick compared to the hole it had left in Skywarp’s remaining wingmates.
It felt like she’d barely known Skywarp a handful of processor cycles – and for much of that, she’d been recovering from Siphon, and couldn’t bear to let him close enough to touch her. Compared to the anguish that left his brothers reeling, how dare she try and compare her hurts to theirs?
She’d tried to convince herself that she was giving them space to grieve. That it was hard enough for them to cope without anyone intruding on their distress. That they didn’t need her forcing her way in, claiming she was hurting as much as them, and didn’t need to deal with outsiders when they were at their lowest.
That was her excuse, anyway.
If she was being honest? She (selfishly) enjoyed being on her own. Didn’t feel obliged to be the stronger party. Didn’t have to be around other mechs with painful, stressed static fields, didn’t have to endure their sorrow as well as her own. Didn’t have to be some… emotional support network, when she was barely supporting herself.
Or was that the excuse?
Pulsar covered her face with her hands, and tried to concentrate on bleeding the excess pressure out of her helm. She knew what Thundercracker’s headaches were like, and didn’t really want one of her own.
Thundercracker. “Giving him space” had hurt him more than she could have imagined. When he needed an emotional anchor, someone to help keep him stable when his brother was too traumatised to manage it? Everyone had politely tried not to bring attention to how he was falling to pieces.
We know you don’t like to look vulnerable. We don’t want to embarrass you. And we don’t want to appear nosy, like we’re only intruding on your pain to find out valuable gossip.
She came home one evening to find him sitting on his own in Skywarp’s room, close to total emotional collapse, and realised how bad it had got. Typical ex-‘Con, trying to keep vulnerabilities bottled up inside so no-one could use them against him. They’d had a very long spark-to-spark, sitting together in empty room, just… talking, until long after morning had stained the sky with threads of intense pink and gold.
And now… and now? She just… couldn’t stop thinking about him. The idea he was going to leave, to go back to Vos, and she might lose him… it brought everything into sharp clarity. Thoughts that had lurked barely-formed on the borders of her conscious mind suddenly became full-grown, high-definition, impossible-to-ignore monsters.
I don’t want you to go anywhere, you’re a good friend and I do care about you and I’m so sorry for abandoning you. Please don’t leave. I’ll miss you terribly-
She sat straighter in her chair and flattened her palms on the tabletop, annoyed at herself. No you won’t, because he’s already told you he’s not going anywhere. Primus. Stop torturing yourself over things that are never going to happen, and get back to work. These reports were due orns ago.
She leaned forwards onto her elbows, and after a moment or two of swearing quietly, managed to extract her stylus from the nook it had rolled away into. She twiddled it between her fingers, distractedly chewed on the end of it while she tried to get her attention back on her screen.
Besides, that’s not what’s bothering you. Is it. What’s bothering you is the fact you’re really, really charged, and you want him here to help you with it.
And that is highly inappropriate, Pulse, so stop it. She pursed her lips, frustrated, and tried to concentrate instead on the words dancing around on her screen.
She couldn’t help thinking that perhaps she’d taken having him around for granted? She knew cohabiting with a bunch of noisy, aggravating grounders wouldn’t have been his first choice, if he’d been in control of his own destiny. But – he’d never left. Something had made him want to stay, and it couldn’t have been Starscream’s (usually very loud) election campaign.
Perhaps – perhaps – he just liked it, where he’d ended up? Perhaps he just got on with them? Perhaps, in spite of everything, because everyone accepted him and he accepted them back, he was just… comfortable here? Among friends.
Fundamentally, he was a good mech. Not even the ‘Cons had managed to destroy that. He’d made some bad decisions during the war, but hadn’t they all? And-
A familiar big hand dropped unexpectedly onto her shoulder. She almost bit clean through her stylus.
“What are you doing here so late?” Thundercracker rumbled, softly.
“Working?” The words emerged as an odd, strangled half-squawk. She rebooted her vocaliser and tried again. “Just-… catching up. What are-… you’re late, too?”
“I know. Having trouble going dormant. I figured I should try and be productive instead.” He squeezed her shoulder, lightly. “But thanks for staying with me, the other orn. It helped a lot.”
His palm felt electric where it rested against her. At least half her computing power must have gone towards dealing with the contact, leaving her unable to formulate a good response. She spluttered out the first words that her processor managed to catch hold of. “I it was nothing I just you were on your own and needed someone and I shouldn’t have ignored you its nothing just what anyone would have done, right?”
She knew he could feel the way her field had dramatically unspooled. There was no way in Pit he wouldn’t have noticed how suddenly desperately charged she was, right now. And in a way, she was almost… relieved? It was getting exhausting, trying to behave normally, trying not to let him know that she was uh, well, maybe developing slightly more than just platonic feelings for him…
One brow quirked, and his expression eased into a smile. “Everything all right, down there?”
“Fine. It’s fine. Shouldn’t it be?” She suddenly felt very conscious of how loud her fans had got, struggling to clear all the heat that had suddenly accumulated in her core. “No problem at all. You?”
His fingers brushed lightly up the back of her helm and lingered just a little too long in contact. “Fine.”
That couldn’t possibly have been unintentional. Tiny sparks seemed to follow his fingertips the whole way up. She offlined her optics for an instant, only just managing to restrain a shiver.
“I better let you get on.” His hand vanished. “See you later, all right?”
“Uh, TC, wait a moment-… listen, would it be strange if, uh.” She ran her hands up her antennae, self-conscious, to try and clear some of the static accumulating up them. Normally she could ground herself nicely, but this time it just made her cortex fizz, distractingly.
“Would what be strange?”
“Hold on a moment-”
He watched (somewhat perplexed) as she scrambled untidily to stand on the seat of her tall desk chair; it wobbled precariously under her weight, and he put out his hands to steady her. She took advantage of his closeness – leaned into his touch, pushing up very close on tiptoe. She caught the vents on his dark helm to pull him closer to her level, and brushed a kiss over his lips. Almost chaste, almost reluctant.
She felt rather than heard his fans stutter – a flutter of heat wafted over her.
OK, that was a bad idea. She opened her mouth to speak, not sure what she was going to say – apologise? Explain?
Before she could get the words out, she felt his hands come up to cup gently around her jawline, big thumbs resting against her cheeks. His forehead bumped gently against her own. He murmured something she suddenly didn’t have the processing power to understand and couldn’t figure out how to work her vocaliser to ask him to repeat it-
-his kiss was magnetic. Not some hasty, stolen little peck, from someone not sure if being forward was the right response, not wanting to take a chance and spoil a friendship. More like a flower that had suddenly found the confidence to bloom. His generous touch invited her closer – she pushed up with unexpectedly-wobbly knees, pressed tighter against him, felt the fire in their intersecting fields and lips and arms and bodies-
Loving Skywarp had been a little like loving a sentient magnesium flare – intense, demanding, and very very hot, but burnt out fast. Thundercracker had a different sort of heat – slow but building, like a furnace. The sort of heat that started slow, but could melt titanium.
She gave herself up to it, and let herself melt.