Offices weren’t precisely Skywarp’s natural habitat.
The way he worked could probably have been politely called “hands-on”, although most people recognised a euphemism when they saw one; he liked to be out there, collecting paint scrapings. If there was ever a question of “good cop, bad cop”? Skywarp was absolutely bad cop, absolutely all the time. It was a brave machine that chose to riot when he was on duty.
But, his ‘style’ (if you could call it that) tended to get results, too, and taming the unashamedly aggressive ex-’Con never seemed to be on the cards. His friends and colleagues just learned to live with the fallout. And the noise.
So being cooped up in an office with Thundercracker’s highly distracted deputy was starting to grate at his patience.
Superintendent Thundercracker had visitors – a bright, sweet-natured councillor from the next district over, and their acting chief constable. They were (ostensibly) trying to hash out a deal of some sort – Deixar Constabulary would provide officers on secondment to Tysta’s overstretched police force, and in return Tysta would provide closer support to the neighbouring New Vos.
However, if the laughter coming from behind the door was anything to go by, at least a little high-grade was involved.
And Celerity had been watching his door for a good proportion of the meeting, with an odd, wistful expression on her broad features. (Not that Skywarp had started keeping a tally, or anything, after the fifth time she’d sighed and mumbled something to herself. He felt like throwing something at her.)
“Grounders,” Skywarp snorted, deliberately baiting for a response. “Never can handle their high-octane fuels.” He knew (from somewhat embarrassing experience) that she had very big tanks to go along with the very big frame, and she usually took cool pleasure in reminding him how she could drink him under the table.
She didn’t take the bait this time, though. Must be even more distracted than she looked.
When the femme vented a little sigh of warm air and looked wistfully over at Thundercracker’s door for what must have been the ninetieth time, Skywarp finally ran out of patience. “Lara.”
Celerity jumped a tiny bit and jerked around to look at him. “S-sky-what?”
“Will you just go talk to him, already?” The ex-Con glared at her from his corner and gestured at the closed door with a dramatic sweep of one whole arm. “Instead of keep puffing and sighing and being melodramatic about it?”
Her lips moved silently for a second before she managed to get a disjointed string of words out; “He but I mean in a meeting?”
“He’s not gonna be in a meeting all orn-” Skywarp covered his optics briefly with one hand, then rocked forwards to rest his elbows on the desk. “Okay, so. Bit of advice for you.” He forced a syrupy smile. “Guys like me and TC aren’t that good at noticing subtle hints. We’ve spent most of a lifetime fighting Autobots whose idea of ‘subtle’ was ‘shoot the fraggers out of the sky’. Right?”
She gave him a small, puzzled nod. “…right?”
“So, if you wanna get us to notice something, you’ve gotta beat it into our heads with a mallet.” After a beat, he shrugged, and added; “some of us with a bigger mallet than others, granted. But all this, this…” He waved his hands aimlessly for a second. “Wistful looks behind his wings and super-subtle clues? Forget it. Either come out and say it, or fraggin’ quit it. You’re doing my helm in.”
Celerity’s brows came down in a hurt little glare and her lips parted as though to protest, but she evidently couldn’t think of a good retort because no words came out for several seconds. “I don’t think I asked you for an opinion,” she managed, at last.
The teleport spread his hands in mock despair. “No? You’re sitting there puffing and sighing, practically screaming notice me, and now you don’t want an opinion?” He leaned a little closer and gave Thundercracker’s door a meaningful glance. “Or is it just that my opinion isn’t good enough?”
Her expression darkened. Glitch, she mouthed at him.
Skywarp half-smirked and was thinking up a new extra-witty snipe when he noticed the femme straighten and fix her attention back on her workstation, apparently sensing movement towards the door some seconds before it finally clicked and hushed open. One advantage to the huge sensory bouton on the back of her head, the teleport figured, hastily trying to look equally busy.
“…and we’ll see about getting something hard-coded to that effect.” Thundercracker ushered his two visitors out into the office. “It’s good to have your support on this, gentlemechs; I know New Vos will appreciate it.”
“No no, the pleasure is ours, superintendent,” the councillor gushed, shaking hands for far longer than necessary. “We look forwards to finally getting crime in the district down to a manageable level. I really don’t know how we’ve survived this long without someone as competent as you providing us with a little support.”
Standing to one side and waiting quietly for his fellow delegate to finish talking, Tysta’s senior police officer grimaced and looked away, rattling his rotors very slightly in annoyance.
All three Deixar staff watched silently as the councillor wobbled his giggly way to the far door, clinging tighter to the chief constable’s arm than the helicopter looked particularly comfortable with. The officer shot Skywarp an odd look of mixed apology and embarrassment, before successfully navigating the pair of them out into the corridor and away.
Thundercracker waited until they were out of audio range before blowing a long sigh of exhaust through his pursed lips and casting his gaze to the heavens. He rolled his shoulders, trying to stretch his wings a little.
“Hard work, huh?”
Thundercracker turned and gave Skywarp a long, suspicious look, as if to ask why exactly he was lurking in the office.
“It’s been raining.” Skywarp answered the unspoken question. “I was waiting for Governor Giggles to finally clear out so I could drag you off for a proper drink. Figured you’d need it.” Then he shrugged. “Sounds like you might have survived okay without my help, though.”
The blue mech thought about it for a second or two. “You know what? I think it actually was a fairly productive meeting.” He hesitated, and added; “If not the most… conventional.”
“Yeah, we heard all the ‘unconventional’ through your door.”
Thundercracker put his hands up. “In my defence, it was his high grade. And he drank most of it.”
“If you ever need my help, you only have to holler, you know?”
“Unless you mean help drinking all that spare energon he brought with him, Warp, your ‘help’ almost invariably involves your fists, and this is the sort of delicate situation that really wouldn’t be aided by someone punching it.”
“You never know. Might help people keep focused?”
“Yeah, well. Guess I’ll let you know, on the off chance I some day need you and your violence in my office?”
Skywarp snickered, pleased with himself.
Thundercracker only got as far as his doorway. He stared in at the muddle of data-wafers and empty cubes for a few moments before letting his arms dangle with a sigh. “Actually, you know what? I am gonna take you up on that drink. Lemme just save what I was working on…” His words faded into indecipherable mutterings as he passed into his office.
“Sure; I ain’t going anywhere yet.” Skywarp rocked his chair comfortably back onto two legs against the wall. He gave Celerity a sly glance; she’d begun to rustle around and looked like she was gearing up to slip away while their attention was elsewhere.
Oh no you don’t.
“Celerity needed to talk to you,” he said, intentionally loudly.
“Oh?” Thundercracker peered back at her with a curious smile and arched brows. “You know my door’s always open, Lara.”
Her optics had already brightened to an alarmed cyan. She spluttered something incomprehensible and shook her head. “It’s nothing. It can wait.”
Skywarp kicked her under the table. “That’s not what you said to me a breem ago.”
“I did not-… I didn’t say anything of the sort! I-I said he was in a meeting.”
“And he was too busy to talk, right, I get that. Well, now he’s not, so what’s stopping you?” Skywarp turned on his best, most-practiced look of innocence, optics wide and guileless. “I’m only trying to help you, here.”
“Which I never asked-” Celerity’s flustered denials were just boxing her deeper into her corner. “That’s not the point! He’s busy and it’s not important.”
Thundercracker watched the exchange with an increasingly bemused smile. “Well, seeing as I’m ditching the office to go for a drink with Warp any time soon, how about we talk now? Take advantage of the fact we all now know you have something on your mind.”
The big femme just stood and stared at him with her mouth open for a second or two.
He gestured both hands at his open door, encouragingly.
“All right. I suppose-… I can… all right.” She covered her optics briefly with one hand and vented a little noise of frustration, before finally emerging from behind her desk. “All right.”
Behind Thundercracker’s wings, she gave Skywarp the blackest of glowers; he grinned back, totally unapologetic, wearing a huge innocent smile that made his nose crinkle, and wiggled the fingers of one hand in a wave.
Satisfied – for now, at least – Skywarp laced his fingers across his chassis and let his brain slip into idle, lulled into a pleasant light doze by the murmur of indistinct speech through the wall.
The sounds that re-emerged not even a full breem later didn’t quite have the light, carefree cadence he’d been sorta half-hoping half-anticipating. Not quite fully alert, but awake enough to be aware that something hadn’t quite followed his little mental plan, he onlined a single optic and watched a grim-faced Celerity appear in the doorway.
Thundercracker emerged from his office behind her, looking concerned and disappointed. “Well, um. Let me know if you need a reference?”
Skywarp sat straighter, inviting himself back into the conversation. “Hey, what?”
Celerity was already making for the door, arms stiff at her sides, not looking at him. Her lips were pursed and a frustrated frown dug deep furrows into her brow.
Thundercracker didn’t move to follow. “Celerity was just explaining to me that she was considering taking a post over on Quayside, to work closer with her twin. Obviously that wouldn’t be my preference, but.” He folded his arms and forced a disappointed smile. “Not my decision to make, I guess. I’m not going to force anyone to stay where they’re not comfortable.”
Skywarp was up on his thrusters surprisingly quickly for the lackadaisical slouch he’d adopted around the office. “Oh no you don’t.” He grabbed Celerity firmly by the arm, and ducked when she made an aggravated noise and swung a fist at his head. “Would you excuse us a moment, TC? Thanks.”
Before Thundercracker could voice a challenge, both the teleport and his unwilling passenger disappeared in a slap of collapsing air molecules.
Skywarp returned in less than half a breem, immediately making a reach for his wingmate’s arm.
Thundercracker backed off, just out of grabbing range. “Want to tell me exactly what’s going on?”
“You’re gonna go talk to Lara because she is seriously upping the pressure in my helm right now.” Skywarp pursued him across the office.
Thundercracker put a desk between them. “We just did-?”
“No, I mean properly talk to her. Not... accept her stupid excuses at face value. She ain’t that good at lying. Will you stand still, already?”
Thundercracker put his hands up in defeat and allowed Skywarp to take his arm.
There was the immediate chill of displacement and the weird sensation of being in two places at once, then an astro-second of freefall before they landed with a thump on a rooftop out in the old industrial zone, close to the District Rift.
“Right. So.” Skywarp stood just a little behind Thundercracker, as though to impress visually how he was going to back up his wingmate, and addressed Celerity; “If you want down, you’re gonna have to talk. So get talking.” And with one last aggressive finger-point for emphasis, he was gone.
Thundercracker quirked a brow at her. “I won’t pretend I have the first idea what this is all about. Have you two argued?”
“Not… precisely.” She shuffled her large feet against the dirty roof and vented a little sigh. “We’ve had a differing opinion on how to proceed with something.”
“And that’s involved us ending up on a roof… how, exactly?”
“I’m not sure. I imagine I can’t just claim I have something else to do and hide until you’re gone, if we’re up here.”
For several seconds, he just stared at her. “…why would you need to hide from me?”
She half-smiled, embarrassed, and shrugged, but still wouldn’t meet his gaze. “Because some situations are easier dealt with by avoiding them.”
“That’s probably not the healthiest of mindsets.”
“Maybe not? But it’d worked for me for vorns. Probably would have continued working, as well, if it hadn’t annoyed Skywarp. Who shouldn’t even have been in the slagging office, but there we go.” She folded her arms and glared at her dusty pedes. “Some mechs just have a knack for being incorrigible fragheads, I suppose.”
The rainclouds finally loosened their grip on their cargo. The drizzle was no longer as catastrophically acidic as it had once been, but it was still strong enough that both could feel it sizzling against their autorepair nanites.
“Come on.” Thundercracker held out his hands. “We can’t stay out in this. Let me fly you down. Whatever you wanted to talk to me about can’t be important enough to risk taking our lacquer off over.”
“Eh. Perhaps? Except Skywarp picked this roof, and this rainstorm, to force my hand. We don’t have the luxury of taking forever talking about it.” The big femme fidgeted her feet, awkwardly, and cast a suspicious glance into the sky, but couldn’t spot the black-winged target of her ire. “Besides. I know he’s watching, and if we don’t talk, he’s going to fly me straight back up here when your back is turned, so. I’d rather… get it out of the way, and get off the roof.”
The blue seeker smiled and spread his hands. “You have my undivided attention. Not that you should need such drastic measures to get it.”
She took a hesitant step closer. “I’m just not really sure how to explain. I've spent long enough avoiding the question that I neglected to think about what I'd do if anyone ever actually asked-..." She swallowed the rest of the statement. “Please don’t be offended.”
The space between them was less than an arm’s length. Her proximity forced him to look up to meet her gaze.
“Why would I be offended?” he asked.
She made some noises that didn’t seem to match any words Thundercracker was familiar with, then leaned down a tiny fraction closer, and brushed a kiss over his lips. Then stepped back, looking like she’d have appreciated it if the roof had opened to swallow her, staring fixedly at her feet.
For several seconds, he just stared at her. “Is-… that…” He waved his hands, but the words refused to be magicked up. “…what you wanted to… ‘talk’ about?”
“I think so.” Celerity’s lips curved up into a grimacing half-smile on just one side. She seemed to be focusing mostly on his knees, now. “Sorry to be a disappointment. I wish I had something more profound.”
For several seconds, both seemed stuck for a response. The intensifying drizzle slanted down in uncomfortable curtains, beading against their plating and creeping like cold fingers through joints in their armour.
Celerity finally looked up and shot him a bared-teeth sort of grin. “Can we get down now? I have enough trouble with paint-transfers, I don’t need acid-spots to polish out as well.”
Thundercracker gave himself a little shake out of his stupor, and opened his arms to her. “Come on, then.”
She froze, apparently only just recognising what getting back to the ground involved.
He gave her a friendly glare, gently reprimanding. “How else were you planning on getting down, Lara? We’ve flown together before, and you can hardly climb down the exterior of the building.”
“Yes, but you didn’t know, back then, either.” She stepped cautiously closer, and let him put his arms around her. “Pit. This feels so weird.” They were almost touching cheeks. Her voice had gone oddly thin. “May-maybe I should get some-someone else to give me a lift.”
“…Before you say it, you’re not that heavy. And I’m not going to drop you.” He stepped out over the edge of the building and fell for an instant, before the wind caught his wings and he soared back up into the rain-drenched sky, little vortices of drizzle curling in his wake.
She rebooted her vocaliser with a little khuff. “For the record, that’s not what I was worried about-!”
“Also for the record, I know. I think we ought to find somewhere private to talk. Agreed?”
She made a small glum noise before replying; “Good idea. I’d rather not have spectators.”
A conveniently derelict skyscraper on the Rustig side of the district rift loomed up in front of them. The decorative glass walls had long since been blown out and most of the bare concrete floors were saturated, except for a narrow access corridor close to the top, just deep enough for two machines to take shelter from the elements.
It wasn’t really big enough for either of them. Celerity settled awkwardly under the ledge, cross-legged, just out of the gusting rain. Thundercracker joined her after a second or two, slotting his wings in behind her.
For a breem or two, they just sat, watching the fine curtains of drizzle misting down over the district. The horizon had already vanished behind the soft grey clouds.
Neither seemed to really know what to say – or even if saying anything was the right thing to do.
It… probably shouldn’t have come as such a surprise.
Thundercracker knew there’d been friendly jokes about it, but he’d assumed that was all it was. The big femme would smile politely, field going prickly, clearly embarrassed, but mostly would just wave it off.
There’d been plenty of signs that should have clued him in, if he’d been paying attention. When Siphon had launched his campaign of torture, Celerity hadn’t even hesitated to volunteer her help, going all the way to a whole different planet, one she’d never visited even once before, to help look for him. He wasn’t sure if she’d ever gone up against a genuine Decepticon in her life, either, but she’d still used her own shielding as a shelter when Dirge had fired on them.
But she was always ready with the justifications to avoid discussing it – she was big, she was physically strong, she had inbuilt protective forcefields. It was logical. She was just doing her job.
And after that, he’d been distracted, he told himself. Getting his trine back to full health had been a priority, then Skywarp had vanished, then he’d just… got so habituated to having her around, quietly making sure the work was getting done, the officers were happy, keeping reports filed and off his desk, that he stopped noticing it, really.
“Why didn’t you say anything?” he wondered, at last. There was a subtle hint of challenge in his voice.
She laced her fingers over her ankles, and shrugged. “I thought it’d probably go away.”
“…and how long have you been annoying Skywarp by sighing?”
She wouldn’t meet his gaze, and he could feel a little frisson of embarrassment shimmer up through her field. “Not long.”
“Well he’s not been back for that long-”
“All right. I suppose I’ve had slightly… mostly?... pink optics since you helped us deal with the Blue problem, that time.”
Thundercracker was silent for several seconds. “That’s nearly forty vorns, Celerity.”
“Like I said.”
“…you’re defining that as not long?”
“Pff.” She wafted a hand, with an artfully casual manner. “Barely long enough to notice.”
He jabbed her carefully with a gentle elbow. “Stop that.”
She finally smiled at him, sadly. “It made sense. I like working with you. We’re a good team; all of us. We work well together. Why would I want to force a change in all of that, just so I could be selfish?”
“I don’t think that precisely counts as selfish?”
“…mm. Maybe not? But there’s got to be a rule somewhere about not having a romantic liaison with your direct superior. Risks conflict of interest, or something. Bad practice to work in the same office. Plus it would make life awkward for both of us. One of us would have to leave.” She shook her head. “Some things just don’t need thinking about.”
He vented a little huff of amusement. “I’m pretty sure unrequited pink optics are just as distracting.”
She sighed and glared out into the drizzle. “I’d got used to ignoring it.” She lowered her voice to a mutter. “Fragging… Skywarp.”
“I’d rather you didn’t. You’ll upset Squeaky, if nothing else.”
She spluttered, straightening in alarm. “That wasn’t what I meant-!”
He laughed. “Relax, Lara. I’m teasing.” He bumped her with a wing. “It’s got to be better for you, now you’re not avoiding the subject.”
She managed to regain her composure. “I suppose it’s a weight off my shoulders,” she admitted, at last. “There’s just a different sort of weight there, now.”
He watched her for several seconds, waiting for her to elaborate, but she didn’t seem inclined to volunteer the information.
“Joking aside, I guess this means I’m going to need that reference, after all.” She gave him a little elbow. “I’ll swap with Vecks. You’ll never notice the difference, and I can guarantee she won’t be interested in pursuing anything.”
“Hey! I… all right, I might not have noticed forty vorns of pink optics, but I’m not that unobservant.” He gave her an instant of intense scrutiny. “Your heads are different shapes, to start with.”
Celerity found a laugh. She sounded… almost relieved. “I’m glad you’re not upset.”
“I’m still not sure why you thought I would be. Am I really that feroci – actually don’t answer that.” He punctuated the sentence with a little finger-waggle. “I feel… somewhat blindsided, maybe. And confused. And… not completely sure where this is going to take us?” He drew in a long, cooling draught of damp air and stared out over their rain-slick home district. “But we’ll figure something out.” He covered her hand with his, and squeezed her fingers, lightly. “Something that doesn’t involve dismantling the office.”