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Hot and Cold

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“Why is this planet so hot?”

Skyfire looked at his partner, pausing his work.  He was taking readings on this unknown planet they were observing.  The planet was three away from this galaxy’s sun, almost completely water.  Starscream was supposed to be helping, but instead, he was leaning back on a rock formation, fanning himself with his datapad.  “My cooling fans are going to melt at this rate.”

Skyfire chuckled and returned his attention to his readings.  This planet was truly fascinating in its composition.  The ecosystems, the atmosphere.  The white-plated scientist grunted when his much smaller companion walked over and draped himself over his back.  “This can’t be helping your temperature problem,” he pointed out.

“Then stop ignoring me,” Starscream huffed.

“I’m not ignoring you, I’m working,” Skyfire insisted.  “As you should be.”

“How do you expect me to work in this sweltering heat?” Starscream whined, leaning heavier.  “We need to move someplace colder.”

“We will when we’re done here, I promise.”  Skyfire was trying not to spoil his partner in both science and spark too much.  Starscream was a demanding mech in both regards, and their comrades often told the much larger scientist he needed to put his pede down every once in a while.  “It’ll go faster if you help, you know.”

Instead of arguing or complying, Starscream simply made another whining noise in the back of his vocals.  He made himself heavier by picking up his pedes to try and drag Skyfire backward.  The huge aerial mech was too sturdy, though, and simply exvented and kept working.  When his non-articulate protests went ignored, Starscream let go and let himself fall to the dusty earth with a CLANG.

Skyfire could practically feel Starscream pouting at him.  Sulking.

Putting his pede down was hard.

After a few cycles of this, Skyfire exvented again.  “Alright, Starscream, if you’re really that miserable…”  He turned and watched his red and white sparkmate’s face light up.  The smaller mech kicked himself into a sitting position, grinning triumphantly.

Skyfire really was spoiling him.

 

-

 

The new area Starscream chose wasn’t to Skyfire’s liking.  He was never a fan of the cold.  “Are you sure there isn’t somewhere a little warmer?” he asked, heating vents working hard to keep his systems from seizing.

“We just came from warmer,” Starscream rolled his optics.  “A little cold won’t offline you.”

‘Ironic, considering why we’re here,’ Skyfire thought.  He kept it to himself as his want to indulge his partner was far more important to him than his own comfort.

Starscream activated the jets on his heels, so he was face-to-face with Skyfire’s massive height.  He smiled playfully, his crimson optics sparkling.

Primus, Starscream was beautiful.

“If you want to warm up that badly…” the red and white flier murmured softly, taking Skyfire’s faceplate in his servos.  He pulled him close until their lip components were barely brushing.  “Catch me.”

Before Skyfire could register the teasing words, Starscream let go and transformed, flying into the sky.  “Hey!” Skyfire called after him, laughing.  He transformed as well, taking chase.  The two circled and laughed in the sky, forgetting work for a while.  Forgetting hot and cold.

Forgetting they were on an alien planet with unfamiliar and unpredictable weather.

Skyfire’s HUD flared with warnings.  A huge blizzard that would be on them in less than-

Right then.  Before they could react, blinding snow, battering winds, freezing cold.  One moment Starscream was there, the next… Skyfire couldn’t find him anywhere.

“Starscream!” the larger scientist called in a panic.  He was barely able to keep himself righted.  Starscream couldn’t have been doing well in this storm.

There was no response.  The storm knocked out their comms.  Zero visibility.  Frag.

Skyfire tried to concentrate.  They’d been studying this planet for vorns.  He had to calm down.  The wind was blowing strongest in a northern direction.  Starscream would have followed the direction of the wind and looked for a place to land.

Skyfire tried doing so himself, but the storm only got worst.  If Starscream had followed this method, he would have been blown out of the sky in kliks.

This was precisely what happened to Skyfire as he was reconsidering his approach.  One particularly powerful gust of ice and wind and he found himself spinning out of control.

The scientist tried to regain it by transforming into his robot mode, but it was too late.  The ground rushed up at him, and Skyfire crashed hard enough for his HUD to go haywire with warnings that systems were knocked offline.

Including his heating.

Oh, frag.

Skyfire could feel the gradual but prominent build of cold as his vital parts started to ice over.  It built up in his joints, ran through his hydraulics and energon lines.  He couldn’t move.  His comms being out meant he couldn’t call for help.

And yet, as his remaining systems began to shut down and put him in stasis lock to preserve his spark, he wasn’t thinking of his own situation.

‘Starscream… please be safe…’

 

-

 

Starscream had been lucky.  When the storm hit, one incredibly well-timed gust of wind threw him to the earth.  But instead of slamming into the ground, Primus seemed to be smiling upon him.  He was perfectly whisked into a large cave that had been formed in the frozen ground.  He transformed into his robot mode, rubbing his helm and looking around.

“Skyfire?” the red and white scientist called over his comm.  He was greeted with static and swore.  Fragging storm and its interference.

Starscream sat down on a boulder and huffed.  They were actually having fun before this stupid planet, and its stupid weather had to interfere.  And getting Skyfire to forego his work for fun was rare and painful, like pulling dentae.

As soon as this weather passed, Starscream would appeal to the mostly white scientist to leave the mudball behind.

Good riddance.  There was nothing of value here, anyway.

Starscream wasn’t worried about Skyfire in this storm.  Sure, it was powerful enough to easily knock Starscream out of the sky, but Skyfire was twice as large.  He was made for extreme conditions.  So when the storm passed Starscream would call Skyfire to meet up with him again.

 

-

 

“Skyfire?  Skyfire, answer me!  This isn’t funny!”

Now Starscream was worried.  The storm was long since over, and he was flying anywhere he could think Skyfire would be.  The other scientist wasn’t answering his comm, either.  He wasn’t the type to tease Starscream, so something had to be wrong.

Starscream wouldn’t stop until he found his sparkmate.  He refused.

 

---

 

“Starscream, you must come back.”

“No!  He’s here somewhere!”

The mech on the other end of the exploration ship’s comm bristled.  “Starscream, you are wasting time and resources that don’t belong to you.  We’re sorry Skyfire was lost to an alien planet, but that is the risk of your job.  Either you’re coming back on your own, or we’re sending someone to get you!”

Starscream grit his dentae in anger but bit his glossa.  This was why Skyfire usually dealt with the higher-ups.  Starscream and the Chief Science Officer had little patience for each other.  “Fine,” he finally snapped, cutting transmission before he said anything that would get him suspended.  Without resources, there was no further looking for his lost sparkmate.

After rerouting the ship’s auto-navigation for home, Starscream moved to one of the windows and watched the planet his partner was lost on receding into the distance.  He clenched his servos into a fist and punched the wall next to it.  “I’m coming back for you, Skyfire,” he muttered.  “I promise.  I’ll come back and find you.  I need you…”

 

---

 

Millions of years later would find Starscream succeeding in that promise without even meaning to.

It wasn’t that he ever gave up.  No, he joined the Decepticons to use their resources to find Skyfire.  But his abilities launched him through the ranks, and the higher he went, the more responsibilities he had.  The more responsibilities he had, the more he realized how woefully underqualified Megatron was as a leader.  So more of his time then went into plotting and concentrating on overthrowing his leader.

Who would have ever thought that the mudball planet they were stuck on (which was also absolutely Megatron’s fault) was the same one they’d explored millions of years ago?

Who would have imagined that the part of the arctic circle where they dug for energy crystals would be the same place they were separated?

None of that mattered.  They were together now.

“I’m still not sure about this whole ‘Decepticons’ thing…”

Starscream rolled his optics.  He didn’t remember Skyfire being this whiney.  “Stop worrying about it,” he huffed.  The Seeker commander sat next to his sparkmate in the ice cave while the scientist continued to regain all of his functions.  Being shut down for a few million years made coming back online a slow process.  He leaned into Skyfire’s massive side, comfortable there still after so long apart.  Skyfire stroked his backstrut softly, which felt nice.  “We’re in a war.  Neither side is going to look very nice.  We’re the right one, though.”

“I know,” Skyfire exvented, though he still didn’t sound sure.

“You’re not thinking of leaving me?” Starscream asked warily.  “After all of this time?”

“Of course not!” Skyfire said, alarmed.  “I love you, Starscream.  To be honest… it’s Megatron I’m not too sure of.”

“Well, that part I don’t blame you for,” Starscream smirked.  “But you won’t have to worry about it too long.  Soon I’ll be overthrowing that fool.  Then I’ll be the supreme leader of the Decepticon forces.”

Skyfire was silent for a moment.  He finally asked, “Since when do you have aspirations of domination?”

“Don’t be so dramatic,” Starscream said.  “It’s for the best.  We’ll never win this war with him at the head of it.  They need someone with an actual CPU in their helm.  And who better than someone who used to be a scientist?”

“You really don’t consider yourself one anymore?”

Starscream sat a moment, thinking over the question.  He knew Skyfire wouldn’t understand.  “Things change,” he muttered.  “I changed.”

“I’ve noticed.”

The words actually struck Starscream in the spark.  Skyfire sounded so… disappointed.  The red and white Seeker wasn’t the person he sparkbonded with.

No, he’d come around.  The Starscream that he was now was stronger.  Better.  He would be able to protect his sparkmate from getting separated and hurt.

Skyfire would see that the changes were for the best.

 

---

 

Skyfire felt torn, almost sick, that he had to turn against Starscream.  But… he couldn’t do it.  What the Decepticons were doing was wrong, and somehow Starscream didn’t see it.

It was too much.  Starscream was almost nothing like he was before Skyfire had gone into stasis.  The only things he still had intact were his haughtiness and his spoiled nature.  The larger of the sparkmates had thought he might be able to live with that for a while.  That maybe it wasn’t so bad that he had changed.  After all, a few million years was a long time.  Starscream was right, people change.

And then Starscream shot him.

Skyfire wasn’t sure what he felt more at that moment.  Anger.  Surprise.  Sadness.

The Autobots were the ones who picked him up and dusted him off, though.  Offered him his real purpose again.  To be a mech of science, instead of expecting him to simply change into being a weapon like Starscream and his ilk had decided.

Months passed like that.  Every once in a while Skyfire would see Starscream out there on the field of battle, and his spark would ache for the sparkmate he once had.  It hurt to watch the mech he’d become.  Sometimes they’d even lock optics.  It seemed like everything around them was insignificant for those few moments as each seemed to beckon each other to the other side through their stares.  But after those seconds of staring helplessly, they would turn away and find someone else to fight.

They never fought each other.

Maybe Starscream still felt at least enough loyalty in himself that he couldn’t shoot at Skyfire again.

“Skyfire, are you alright?”

The massive scientist reset his optics, looking down at Perceptor.  “Yes, I’m sorry.  What was that?”

“I asked if you could go over the readings one more time, Skyfire.  We’re receiving some abnormal anomalies when we reach 500 feet,” the microscope said patiently.

“Right, sorry about that,” Skyfire apologized again, turning to the computer and going over the numbers there.  There had been an energy spike in that area of Africa.  An expansive, dry piece of land that seemed to go on forever.  Their sensors indicated that the spike was coming from underground, so they were sending scanners as deep as they could.  They had to find the source before the Decepticons inevitably showed up.  If there was a battle here, they could lose whatever was causing it.

Luckily, if it came to battle, the two scientists had a team of Autobot warriors guarding the area.  With Ironhide leading them they could trust that if nothing else the Decepticons weren’t getting their servos on it.

After a few minutes of silence, Perceptor finally asked, “Skyfire, are you sure you’re alright?”

“I’m fine, why?” Skyfire asked, still not looking at him.  He jumped a bit when the red, black, and green microscope’s servos touched his arm.

“You seem awfully distracted,” Perceptor said gently.  “You know that if something is bothering you, you can talk to me about it, right?”

Skyfire looked at him, stopping his typing.  He exvented.  “It’s nothing I want to concern you with, Perceptor.”

“Is this about Starscream?”

Skyfire’s optics widened in surprise, staring at him.  “How…?”

“I’m a scientist, remember?” Perceptor chuckled.  “Observation and conclusion are what I do.  I may have arrived not long ago, but I can see the way you look at him during battle.  You always seem so sad afterward, as well.  The others have told me you and Starscream were friends once.  I feel you were more.”

The larger scientist tapped the console before him, seeming unsure if he should tell.  He had kept the true nature of their relationship a secret because he was afraid what the Autobots would think.  There was no way they could look at Starscream as he was now, as the backstabbing and devious second in command to their mortal enemies, and understand how he ever fell in love.

“Don’t be afraid,” Perceptor encouraged him, leaning on the computer.  “I won’t judge you, I promise.  If you desire me to keep it a secret, I can do that as well.  But you need someone to talk to, I can tell.”

Skyfire exvented again, knowing the much smaller scientist was right.  “Starscream and I were sparkmates before I was trapped below the ice,” the jet admitted.  “Believe it or not, there was a time before now when Starscream was a scientist like us.  He wasn’t like he is now.  He studied in pursuit of the truth, and his spark was truly in the right place.  Yes, he was huffy and demanding then as well, but it was never malicious.  It was partially my fault; I spent too much time spoiling him.  All I wanted was to see him happy, though.  It seems now, however, the only thing that will make him happy is to betray and overthrow the very mech he works for.  I don’t know what happened over the last few million years, but that mech isn’t the one I loved.”

“Oh, Skyfire…” Perceptor vented lightly, looking up at him sadly.  “I’m sorry.  I can’t even imagine how you must feel.  Perhaps-”

The red and black scientist didn’t get to finish his sentence.

“Decepticons, attack!”

The inevitable was truly that as there was an explosion, rocking the platform Perceptor and Skyfire were on.  The larger scientist grabbed Perceptor and braced himself against the computer, more out of impulse than anything else.

It wasn’t long before the entire area was an all-out brawl between Autobots and Decepticons.  Seekers flitting about shooting anything that moved, soldiers on the ground trying to shoot them out of the air.  Explosions and laserfire filled the desert, buffeting the mobile platform like a ship at sea.

“Are you alright?” Skyfire shouted over the cacophony.

“I’m quite alright!” Perceptor answered, bracing himself on Skyfire’s arm.  “I am far more concerned about our equipment!  We must get it out of here!”

“I’ll call back the scanners, and-”

A laser-shot tore through the computer they’d been using to monitor the scans.  Perceptor pushed Skyfire out of the way, tumbling after him as the console exploded magnificently, hot metal peppering their armor.

The scientists both looked to where the laserfire had come from, spotting Starscream hovering in his robot mode.  The look he was giving was… pure fury wouldn’t even give it justice.  His entire faceplate twisted in rage, dentae grinding and crimson optics narrowed.  For once in his lifecycle, he was completely silent, unable to articulate through his ire.

It took Skyfire a moment to realize that Starscream was glaring at the position they’d landed in.  Perceptor was sprawled across Skyfire by the blast, something that would certainly look compromising if not for the situation.

The situation didn’t seem to matter to Starscream as he aimed straight for the smaller scientist and fired.

Skyfire all but threw Perceptor off of himself, the twisting of his chassis causing the laserfire to tear through his own back.  He cried out and fell forward onto his servos.  Despite the pain searing through his backstrut, he’d be okay.  He was made of sturdier stuff than that.

At least, until several tons of Cybertronian metal landed on top of him, Starscream making sure to dig the heelstrut of his pede into the laser wounds.  This drove Skyfire completely onto his front, the air rushing from his vents.  He didn’t even know someone that much smaller than him could knock him flat that easily.  Those same vents caught anyway when he felt Starscream kneel on his back, the tip of his null-ray blaster pushing against the back of Skyfire’s CPU.  He could feel the Seeker’s frame tremble in rage.

“How dare you…” Starscream hissed, barely audible over the sounds of battle.  “How dare you abandon me, and then replace me?”  His vocals quivered as much as his chassis was.  “You said you loved me…”

“I did,” was all Skyfire could answer with.

That was apparently the answer Starscream didn’t want as his shaking went ridged.  He screamed, “You liar!”

Skyfire braced for the shot, but instead, there was a flash of light and Starscream was blasted clean off of him.  The Seeker rolled across the hot, dry earth before he finally skidded to a stop, smoking where he’d been hit.

The white-plated scientist looked to the other side of himself as Perceptor ran towards him, kneeling by him.  “Skyfire!  Are you injured?” he asked worriedly.

Skyfire looked from his faceplate to the smoking end of the microscope on his shoulder.  It was easy to forget the pacifistic red and black scientist had a light cannon attached to himself.  “Nothing that Ratchet can’t fix,” the jet answered, pushing himself up with Perceptor’s help.

When Skyfire was standing again, they both looked to where Starscream had landed.  He was recovering as well, though.  “You little…” the Seeker commander growled as he righted himself onto his pedes, though he was wavering.  The blast from Perceptor’s cannon must have scrambled his stabilizers.

Before Starscream could retaliate, Skywarp appeared next to him in a flash.  “Sorry, Screamer, but things are goin’ south!” he announced, grabbing his trine leader’s arm.  “Megatron’s orders, we gotta go!”

“Frag Megatron’s or-!”  It was all Starscream got out before Skywarp teleported them away.

There was a moment where Perceptor and Skyfire looked to where he had been standing, then each other.  “Well, that was exciting,” the microscope managed.  Despite his joking words, he reached up and put a hand on Skyfire’s arm.  “Are you alright?”

“I told you, Ratchet can-”

“That’s not what I meant,” Perceptor cut him off.  “That couldn’t have been easy for you.”

Skyfire looked at the sand and stone earth, clenching his servos into fists.  “It wasn’t.  But that’s how things are now.  I told you, that wasn’t the mech I loved anymore.  The Starscream I bonded with would never have attacked like that.  He wouldn’t have come that close to shooting me in the back of the CPU.”  He looked at the smaller scientist and his worried expression.  “I’m sorry he attacked you like that as well.”

“It wasn’t your fault,” Perceptor assured him.  “He obviously has many of his own demons regarding your past relationship he must work through.  Let us hope he finds a less destructive way to do so.”

 

-

 

“How dare he?!”

There was a crash in the shared living quarters the trine stayed in as Starscream threw one of the shelving units and its contents across the room.  Thundercracker and Skywarp watched warily, trying the best to avoid being a target.  They didn’t usually outright fear Starscream.  In fact, both didn’t consider him worthy of any of the respect he demanded most of the time.  But they’d never seen him like this before.

“Replace me?!  With a microscope?!  He’ll pay for making a fool of me!”

Skywarp and Thundercracker cringed as Starscream’s desk took laserfire.  He simply blasted through it over and over.  They looked at each other for a moment before the blue Seeker decided to take the risk.  One of them had to do something before they didn’t have a room to recharge in anymore.

“Hey, Screamer,” Thundercracker said, putting a hand on his shoulderplate.  “Calm down.  I mean… I know you’re angry, but the furniture never did anything to hurt you.”

“You know I’m angry…?” Starscream echoed, shaking.  He slapped Thundercracker’s servos away before grabbing him by the top of his cockpit.  “You know absolutely nothing!”  He shoved the Seeker soldier away from himself, causing Thundercracker to trip over his own pedes and all but land on top of Skywarp.  “Get out, both of you!” he screeched, pointing at the door.

“Whoa, boss, no need to-”

Skywarp was cut off when the pair found themselves staring down Starscream’s null-ray.  “NOW!

“We’re goin’!” Skywarp yelped, grabbing Thundercracker and teleporting away.

The Seeker commander stood like that for a moment after they left before letting out a scream and shooting the air where they’d been anyway.  He finally backed up until his legs connected with his berth, falling back on it and covering his face with his servos and letting out another strangled cry.  At least he’d been able to hold back the cleanser that now flowed from his optics until he was alone.

Starscream couldn’t stop the sob that escaped him.  He felt so sure Skyfire would eventually realize their bond was more important than whatever stupid Autobot values had caused him to abandon his sparkmate.  Every time they saw each other across the battlefield, he could see it in Skyfire’s optics.  He wanted them to be together again.

At least… that was what Starscream had always thought.  He was so sure he could get the scientist to come back to him.  And then… and then he saw the two of them together…

The way Skyfire protected Perceptor when the Decepticons attacked.  How unperturbed they were by how close their bodies were.  Even before that, when the Decepticon forces had been spying on them.  The contact they made with each other, the low, secretive vocals, the way they smiled at each other.

“How fragging dare he…?” Starscream muttered to himself again, pounding a fist against the berth with a loud clang.  “Skyfire is my sparkmate.  He loves me.”

“I did.”  Those words rang in Starscream’s helm, paralyzing any ability he had to think rationally.

Did.

Past-tense.

Skyfire didn’t love him anymore.  Why didn’t he love him anymore?

“I changed.”

That shouldn’t have mattered.  They were bonded.  Sparkmates.  They were supposed to love each other no matter what.  And so what if he changed?  It had been more than five million years since they’d last seen each other.  Stagnation would have been more worrying.

No, this wasn’t Starscream’s fault.  No matter what everyone thought, not everything was his fault.

“You’re a joke, Starscream.  A failure.  I only made you my Second in Command so I could keep an eye on you.”

“No… no, no, I’m not a failure…” Starscream growled.

“You’re nothing.  Worthless.  You think you can be a leader?”

Starscream tried to block Megatron’s vocals from his mind, but they wouldn’t stop.  Constantly reminding him, criticizing him, accusing him.

“You’re pathetic.”

“I’m not-!”

“You’re beautiful.”

Starscream stared at the ceiling, more cleanser making trails down his faceplate as Skyfire’s vocals returned.   He ran his memories of the way Skyfire used to talk to him through his CPU over and over.

“You’re a genius! … You’re so brilliant… … You’re magnificent, my love.”

Skyfire had always been the only person who ever truly appreciated him.  But that was gone, now.